A great human being and scholar of immigration has died, Larry Fuchs (1927-2013)

What is the measure of a life well lived?  Larry Fuchs' life might be one where there are no doubts.  He embodied great scholarship, public service, and basic human decency. My favorite quote about Larry is from former Senator Alan K. Simpson (R-WY) who said, "Before Larry Fuchs came along, we didn't know the difference between xerox and xenophobia."

Larry was my undergraduate mentor at Brandeis University.  I graduated with my B.A. in Politics in 1992.  I just spoke to Larry by phone a few weeks ago.  So when the tribute to Larry in Brandeis' alumni magazine, the author wrote, "At Brandeis, Fuchs built close, enduring relationships with students and fellow professors alike. It was not unusual for him to stay in touch with students for years – even decades – after they had graduated", I was not surprised.  I'm sure there are many more of his students out there like me who kept in touch with him long, long after we graduated.

Larry's career highlights are well known.  He started his career as a political scientist but then founded the American Studies department at Brandeis.  He is a pioneer of the field of immigration studies.  His two major books were The Political Behavior of American Jews (Free Press 1956) and The American Kaleidoscope (Wesleyan Press, 1990).  He was one of the original faculty at Brandeis University.  He co-taught a class with Eleanor Roosevelt.  He took two leaves of absence from his teaching at Brandeis for public service:  first as was the overseas director of the Peace Corps in the Phillilpines, then as Executive Director of the Selection Commission on Immigration Reform.  He was also a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform aka the Barbara Jordan Commission.  He was on the National Advisory Board of the Commission on Law and Social Action of the American Jewish Congress and many other social justice organizations including MALDF.

But I will forever be grateful to Larry for talking me into getting a Ph.D.  I was fortunate enough to take two seminars with him in my last 2 years at Brandeis.  He asked me senior year what I was planning to do upon graduation.  I told him that I was considering law school but was not thrilled about it.  He talked me into going to get a Ph.D.; he claimed I'd be bored in law school.  I remember laughing and telling him I wasn't smart enough to get a Ph.D.  He corrected me and also noted that good scholarship is not about blowing people away with intellectual firepower.  Rather, scholarship is created with patience, perseverence, and creativity.  Over the years, he took great joy and interest in my career. 

It was fitting that my first published peer reviewed article on the diversity visa lottery  as an academic originally began as a research paper in his seminar.  I am grateful and fortunate to have known such a mensch and I will miss him very much.

Do you really want to hurt me? The biggest insult to a scholar or a reporter.

Ouch.  If you really wanted to hurt a reporter what would you say?  h/t Allen McDuffee who alerted me to a mesmerizing read on a very public rebuke of famed Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward.  The article, written Tanner Colby at Slate was not about Woodward's political reporting, but of all things about, John Belushi.  Belushi and Woodward had grown up together in the small town of Wheaton, IL and Belushi's wife had asked Woodward to investigate his death, which is how the book Wired about Belushi's life came to be. The book painted a portrait of Belushi as a perpetually drugged out, boorish  sloth, that was unrecognizeable to his many friends and coworkers who had given interviews to Woodward for the book.

But in the Slate article, Colby takes the extraordinary step of reinterviewing all the people that Woodward originally interviewed for the Wired book.  He did so at the behest of Belushi's widow who commissioned a biography of him.  Colby finds that although Woodward has gotten the quotes and stories factually correct, he's missed widely the significance of key vignettes or the context of a quote or situation.  As Colby writes, it's not that Woodward was willfully manipulating information, rather:

Like a funhouse mirror, Woodward’s prose distorts what it purports to reflect. Moments of tearful drama are rendered as tersely as an accounting of Belushi’s car-service receipts. Friendly jokes are stripped of their humor and turned into boorish annoyances. And when Woodward fails to convey the subtleties of those little moments, he misses the bigger picture.


It’s not that Woodward is a manipulator with a partisan agenda. He doesn’t alter key evidence in order to serve a particular thesis. Inconsequential details about rehearsing movie dialogue are rendered just as ham-handedly as critical facts about Belushi’s cocaine addiction. Woodward has an unmatched skill for digging up information, but he doesn’t know what to do with that information once he finds it.

The article is just devastating.  It is like telling an artist that he knows how to paint in terms of physcially getting paint on canvas, but the painting lacks texture, depth, feeling, subtlties, light, and its missing a soul, and by the way, he's missed half the canvas and a bunch of paint is now on the floor. 

But it got me to think about what insult to a scholar would be equally damning.  I suppose the scholarly equivalent of such an attack would be that one made claims they could not support with the data, misinterpreted existing data, did not collect enough data to adequately answer the question, collected the wrong kind of data that does not answer the question, asking unimportant/unoriginal/wrong questions, or passing off your own personal views as "research".  Still somehow I think I'm missing it.  Maybe my scholarly friends can tell me what they regard as the most damaging critique of a scholar's work. 

Weekly roundup of Unlawful Entries 3/10/13

Jeb Bush's immigration book and numerous flip-flops dominated the week in immigration, but so did Justice Kennedy's speech in which he worried that the discrete and increasingly insular Supreme Court was deciding hot button issues for our democracy.  Highlights of the week are here.

3) "9 unelected people from a narrow legal background" deciding for all.

2)  Face it, Jeb Bush has no position on immigration.

1) What would Rosa Parks have thought of the 2013 VRA challenge?

Jeb Bush endorses permanent noncitizen underclass

As he was making the rounds of TV shows this week  to pitch his book while retracting some of his ideas from the same book, Jeb Bush made the following statement on NBC's Today show: “Many people don’t want to be citizens of our country. They want tocome here, they want to work hard, they want to provide for the families, some of them want to come home, not necessarily all of them want to stay as citizens.”  His statement was made in justifying his flip-flop on providing a path to citizenship for the undocumented. He is suggesting that citizenship really isn't that important for most people.  He has no data to support his claim, but more disturbingly, why, in a democratic society like ours, do people like Jeb Bush feel so free to champion a program to create a permanent underclass of non-citizens who can never gain full citizenship rights and privileges? What parts of Bush's truths are self-evident that not all men are created equal and that some are not endowed with inalienable rights given the permanent caste status he is recommending?

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks Debuts on NYT list

So this is my friend in the Brooklyn College department, Jeanne Theoharris' book, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks. The reason why this is super-awesome is that academic books take years to produce but often don't get a wide readership. Here's a book that is scholarly, compelling, and being widely read. It's a travesty Jeanne is between Stanley McCrystal and Max Root--go buy her book!

Highlight and lowlight of 2013 Black History Month

Although there are a full eleven more days until Black History month comes to a close, I'm going to go out on a limb and name the highlight and lowlight of the month.  First the lowlight:  His timing was impecable and the fact that it occured in Black History month underscored the ridiculousness of the statement.  Emory University President James Wagner said the following in an alumni magazine article  about the odious 3/5 compromise in the original U.S. constitution:

Some might suggest that the constitutional compromise reached for the lowest common denominator—for the barest minimum value on which both sides could agree. I rather think something different happened. Both sides found a way to temper ideology and continue working toward the highest aspiration they both shared—the aspiration to form a more perfect union. They set their sights higher, not lower, in order to identify their common goal and keep moving toward it.

More shocking than the words is that they appeared in print in the Emory alumni magazine--not that it would have been much better as an unscripted, off-the-cuff utterance.  He couldn't name a compromise like the CT compromise between the populous and less populous states?!

The highlight is easy: my friend Jeanne Theoharris has published a new book The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks.  Here is Jeanne talking about her book on the PBS Newshour.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpORxvkZ6qs] 

Go Jeanne!  Go Rosa Parks!  Happy Black History month to all.