Saturday, May 10, 2003

My late grandmother, Fay Bernstein, born Frejda Jozefson, arrived in the United States from Szczuczyn, Poland, in 1921. She describes her life in Szczuczyn in a fascinating memoir, posted on the Szczuczyn website. While many Jewish immigrants wrote "making it America" autobiographies, far fewer seem to have written "what life was like in the Old Country" memoirs. As grandma wrote, her life there was not particularly pleasant. Her father died when she was less than a year old, leaving her mother with five daughters and no visible means of support. The poverty they lived in, however, was nothing compared to the terror she, her mother, and her sister (the older sisters having since left for America) went through as refugees during World War I, with the memoir providing only a glimpse of the horrors she experienced. Grandma loved to tell stories of her childhood, and I think she would have been pleased to know that people were reading her memoir, so give it a look.

Friday, May 09, 2003

The Associated Press reports: "A Baltimore fire captain and a firefighter have been suspended without pay for most of the past month for using a racial slur. That's despite an internal investigation that found the 'n-word' was not used to demean or slander anyone." The firefighters have filed a union grievance. If they lose, they would have an excellent First Amendment case. There are situations when the government can regulate the speech of its workers, but this doesn't seem to be one of them. Link via Best of the Web. Chapter 2 of my forthcoming book, You Can't Say That! The Growing Threat to Civil Liberties from Antidiscrimination Laws discusses how government-imposed antidiscrimination rules are threatening freedom of expression in the workplace.

I'm busily editing a paper for a Social Philosophy and Policy Center conference on freedom of speech. The conference was in April, and I'm getting the paper ready for publication in the Center's excellent journal, Social Philosophy and Policy. My paper deals with expressive association rights after Boy Scouts of America v. Dale. The paper was written in Bluebook format, and I am now being asked change the book citations to Chicago Manual of Style format. Which leads to the question: why do standard citation manuals require authors to state the city in which a book was published? Does it really help in locating a book to know that the book was published in "New York" or "London"?

Update: Jacob Levy of the Volokh Conspiracy provides three reasonable explanations. I must admit that these never occurred to me, perhaps because I've written tens of thousands of words of heavily footnoted academic books and articles, and have never found place of publication helpful in locating a source. Then again, my historical work starts after the Civil War, and I've done only a bit of cross-national comparative work. As for the bluebook, when I was in law school it still required citations that omitted the first name of authors of books and articles. Given how many Bernsteins there are in academia, if this rule had not been changed it would have created a lot of unneeded confusion for me.

Why do people who would never, ever, eat cake for breakfast, happily eat fatty and sugary muffins? And why do some conference hosts think that blueberry muffins, coffee, and fruit=breakfast?

Thursday, May 08, 2003

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