Archive for August, 2008

GDP Suggests American Ingenuity Is Alive and Well

Posted in 1966, asia, Barack Obama, blogging, Blogroll, breaking news, ceo compensation, cyberspace, election, environment, Higher Education, history, immigration, internet, journalism, Law, Law and Justice, leadership, mccain, media, middle east, obama, pennsylvania, Politics, president, Presidential Election, professors, relationships, science, science fiction, technology, Uncategorized, universities, war, war on terror, world affairs, writing on August 29, 2008 by castagnera

Recently I had a couple of beers on a Friday afternoon with an old college chum, who now owns and operates a small, high-tech manufacturing company in Exton (PA).  Bill made two intriguing comments.  The first was an assertion: “If you’re not making money as a manufacturer in this country, it’s because you’re dumb.”  The second was: “Container ships bringing goods to the U.S. from China used to travel back home empty.  Today, if you want to ship overseas, you have to reserve a container well in advance.”
Bill’s words came echoing back to me, when the NPR six o’clock news reported, even more recently, that America’s gross domestic product (GDP) had grown by 3.3 percent during 2008’s second quarter. “The overwhelming story is that the export numbers have offset… domestic weakness in consumer spending and business investment,” John Silvia of Wachovia Corp observed elsewhere in the media.
That very night, Barack Obama, accepting the Democratic nomination, commented, “Change means a tax code that doesn’t reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it.  Unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America. I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.”
I liked the sound of that.  By the time this column is in print, we’ll know what John McCain has to say on the same subject.  Let’s hope it’s something along the same lines.  Clearly, small-business entrepreneurs like my friend Bill are key to our future.  This has always been the case in America.
Many years ago, when I was a Coast Guardsman on the Great Lakes, I visited a maritime museum that featured old photos of ice harvesting.  Intrigued, I researched the subject and learned that in 19th century New England, ice harvesting was big business.  Crafty Yankee merchants cut blocks of ice from lakes, ponds and rivers, packed it in saw dust below their ships’ waterlines and shipped it all the way around the world.  A website called “The Heart of New England” [] confirms my memory: “The birth of America’s large scale commercial ice industry began in
New England in 1805. Frederick Tudor, a Boston merchant, created the first
natural ice business in the United States. He shipped ice harvested on a pond in
Lynn, Massachusetts to the West Indies. Over the next thirty years Tudor made
a fortune shipping ice around the world to places like Charleston, New
Orleans, Cuba, Calcutta, South America, China and England. British records
show that Queen Victoria purchased some ice from Massachusetts in the 1840’s.”
Who but an American entrepreneur would conceive of a scheme such as this, and then work out the technology to make it a reality?  In his famous trilogy, “The Americans,” historian Daniel Boorstin wrote, “Between the Revolution and the Civil War, America flourished not in discovery but in search.  It prospered not from the perfection of its ways but from their fluidity.  It lived with the constant belief that something else or something better might turn up.”
Obama’s acceptance speech captured Boorstin’s sentiment: “It is that American spirit — that American promise — that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain… that makes us fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.”
In the 1890s another famous historian, Frederick Jackson Turner, worried in a famous paper and a book that the official Federal announcement of the closing of the American frontier during that decade might start the decline of the American democracy.  He didn’t know that Americans would continue finding, or creating, new frontiers.  In the 1960s the New Frontier was in outer space.  In the 1990s it was in cyberspace.
The surprising vigor of our economy from April through June had many causes, some surely beyond our control and purely serendipitous.  But it wasn’t all by accident, as my old college buddy, Bill, would be the first to tell you.
[Jim Castagnera is the Associate Provost and Associate Counsel at Rider University.  His novels and columns are available at ]


Where to find my novels and a collection of my columns

Posted in blogging, cyberspace, history, internet, Law, Law and Justice, media, Politics, technology, Uncategorized on August 29, 2008 by castagnera

Tenured Faculty: A Disappearing Breed?

Posted in blogging, cyberspace, history, internet, Law, Law and Justice, media, Politics, technology, Uncategorized on August 29, 2008 by castagnera

When CUNY Graduate College Professor Stanley Aronowitz published The Last Good Job in America: Work and Education in the New Global Technoculture in 2001, reviewer John Marsh observed that the radical-left author was referring “to Stanley Aronowitz, tenured sociology professor.  His is a job that pays relatively well, not only affords but rewards time off for reflection, ensures job security, guarantees intellectual and political independence, and, while by no means uncluttered, nevertheless remains largely self-directed.”
By contrast, continues Marsh, paraphrasing Aronowitz, “For… most workers, the weekend is more endangered than some California condors.  We check our email six times a day.  We own enormous homes that need to be repaired and remodeled. We commute hours to work and hours back home….  We live in an age… that has subsumed the human spirit — and all its social spaces and work and leisure time — to the imperatives of alienated work without end.”
Aronowitz/Marsh seem to be describing millennial American lawyers.  When, as a young attorney, I joined the Philadelphia mega-firm Saul Ewing in 1983, the managing partner boasted at a new-associate orientation that hourly billing was “the best thing that ever happened in our profession.”  In one respect, he was absolutely right.  Hourly rates have soared, surpassing inflation by a country lawyer’s mile.  According to the August 22nd Wall Street Journal, “The hourly rates of the country’s top lawyers are increasingly coming with something new — a comma.  A few attorneys crossed into $1,000-per-hour billing before this year, but recent moves to the four-figure mark in New York, which sets trends for legal markets around the country, are seen as a significant turning point.  On Sept. 1, New York’s Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP will raise its top rate to more than $1,000 from $950. Firm partner Barry Ostrager, a litigator, says he will be one of the firm’s thousand-dollar billers, along with private-equity specialist Richard Beattie and antitrust lawyer Kevin Arquit. The top biller at New York’s Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP hit $1,000 per hour earlier this year. At Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, also of New York, bankruptcy attorney Brad Scheler, now at $995 per hour, will likely soon charge $1,000.”
What has hourly billing meant to lawyer’s clients?  In the words of one maverick law firm, Traverse Legal, PLC, “Lawyers who bill by the hour typically spend their time thinking about hours rather than results. Few hourly billing attorneys tell their client what they will be delivering and the costs upfront.  Once deliverables are defined, a value billing attorney simply asks himself/herself the same question each moment of each day: ‘How do I deliver the deliverables I have promised the client?’  Instead of cases just meandering forward, each day the lawyer’s required to think strategically….  The lawyer has tremendous incentive to achieve that result sooner, rather than later. This is because hours of time now count against him/her in contrast to the hourly billing approach where hours count against the client.”
An analogy might be drawn to the classroom, where one might argue the tenured professor worries about delivering the best possible educational product, while the contingent faculty member focuses on getting in, getting out, and getting on to the next gig.
What has hourly billing meant for law firm partners and associate attorneys?  Indiana-Bloomfield law professor Bill Henderson reported last May that “many firms are actively thinning the ranks of equity partners.”  This perception was confirmed for me by Eric Gouvin, associate dean for academic affairs and a full professor of law at Western New England College’s law school.
“Sometimes it’s pretty unceremonious,” he says.  In many firms “partners have given away almost all their rights.  Running the firm is delegated to a committee, which runs the firm like a business.  Underperforming partners are given a warning and then shown the door.”  He adds that “the EEOC has been watching this.  The agency’s position often is that so-called partners have ceded so many rights that they are really employees.  They are no longer partners, the way they actually work on the ground.”
If many law firm partners are in this difficulty, what of the associate attorneys?  University Professor David Luban of Georgetown recently drew an analogy between big-firm associates and classic “exploited workers,” as Karl Marx might have called them.  “With overhead, an associate costs a law firm double her salary….  Thus an associate must bill 1,500 hours simply to pay for herself.  Because not every hour can be billed, that is about 1,800 hours of work… six hours a day, six days a week….   The rest of the day is the ‘unpaid labor’ generating the surplus value — value that the partners appropriate.”
Lest this sounds too onerous, let us remind ourselves that we are talking about 26-year-olds earning upwards of $150,000 per year and billed out at $200 or more per hour.  Little wonder that big firms have no trouble recruiting top law school graduates.
Perhaps the same may be said of higher education.  The American Association of University Professors bemoans the decline of tenured and tenure track faculty as a percentage of the total professorate.  In December 2006 the AAUP reported that since the seventies the representation of tenured and tenure track teachers at some 2600 institutions tracked had declined from 57 percent to 35 percent, while the comparable figures for full- and part-time contract faculty reflected an increase from 43 percent to 65 percent during the same period.
However, caution knowledgeable observers, it would be a mistake to assume that these contingent faculty are all “exploited workers.”  To the contrary, comments Eric Gouvin, “I’ve been at my law school for 16 years.  For faculty of my generation, this is unusual.  There has been a generational shift about how much loyalty is owed to a place.  Many young faculty feel, ‘I’ll do what I contract to do, but don’t expect a long-term commitment.’  Some also feel, ‘I’d rather get paid at market value, then get tenure.  I’ll trade some security for salary.’”  Others, he adds, may stick around until they attain tenure, then transport that job security to a better-paying or more prestigious venue.
Dr. Anthony Liuzzo, a JD/PhD who runs the MBA program at Pennsylvania’s Wilkes University and who at 60 is a generation ahead of Gouvin, agrees.  “In some ways this is reflective of the larger economy,” he contends.  “I’m not even sure junior faculty want tenure.”
He continues, “Older faculty appreciate loyalty and longevity.  Our parents worked for the same companies all their lives.  I ask my MBA students would they be interested in working for  a company for 30 years and they laugh at me.  This may be true of newly minted Ph.D.s as well.”
Furthermore, the professorate has its counterparts to law’s $1,000/hour mega-partners.  Some law professors at top schools now earn upwards of a quarter-million dollars per academic year, while top medical professors, such as at NYU, have long been earning in excess of a million dollars annually.
Predicting that the tenure system “will be dented on a number of fronts” in the coming decades, he demurs that “exploited is an over-statement” when it comes to considering the roles of contingent faculty.  Describing himself as a “free-marketer,” he speculates, “The decline of tenured faculty and the tenure system may not be such a bad thing.  There will be more mobility.  If tenure somehow went away, there’d be a lot of openings… 20-25 percent might be forced out.  This would drive up wages.  It might be good for both individual institutions and for (competent) faculty.”
On the other hand, he wonders if it might be “bad for the industry.  The benefits of tenure include shared governance.  Without tenure, all power would be transferred to the administration, which is primarily interested in the short term, while the tenured faculty tend to take the long view.  Higher education would wind up with the same problems that plague corporations which quest only for short-term profits.”  His comments echo the concerns expressed by Traverse Legal about hourly billing.
Western New England’s Gouvin takes a different tack on these points:  “The broadest trend I see is how philanthropy is administered.  It’s all about accountability.  Administrators turn to the for-profit playbook.  An institution’s biggest cost is people.  Lots of institutions are aggressively paring down their people costs by cutting tenured faculty to the bare minimum.  The problem for administrators is that there’s no comparable private-sector playbook for managing tenured faculty.  Tenure protects dead wood.  That’s the terrible side of it.  Administrators have to turn to the ‘soft side’ in order to try to make these folks more productive.”  Thus, he says, the trend toward trimming down the tenured ranks.
In the last analysis, it seems that while both life-time law partners and tenured faculty are declining as percentages of their respective professions, neither category is likely to vanish in any reader’s lifetime.  And while both associate attorneys and contingent faculty are working harder than ever, the monetary rewards are often commensurate with the demands and the insecurity… at least so far.
However, if the parallel paths being pursued by these two professions are destined to converge a bit farther down the 21st century road, the point of convergence might not bode well for either contract faculty — or even tenured professors below the level of the well-endowed mega profs — or for the lower ranks of law partners and associate attorneys.  Outsourced legal work, primarily to Indian lawyers and paralegals, has been estimated at $163 billion — yes, that’s billion — for calendar 2006.  The higher education analogy would seem to be distance learning, which some disgruntled faculty have labeled “prof in a box.”  In other words, the majority of practitioners in both professions may be destined to endure the hard side of globalization, and as a result of much the same technological advances.
But that’s for tomorrow.  What of “the last good job in America” today?  Here Eric Gouvin probably should get the last word.  “I certainly think I do have the best job in the legal world.  Every day I wake up and thank God.”

Where to find my novels and columns

Posted in blogging, cyberspace, history, internet, Law, Law and Justice, media, Politics, technology, Uncategorized on August 28, 2008 by castagnera

My Kind of College Professors: Anthropologists Put Their Boots on the Ground in the War on Terror

Posted in blogging, cyberspace, history, internet, Law, Law and Justice, media, Politics, technology, Uncategorized on August 28, 2008 by castagnera

By James Ottavio Castagnera

(Jim Castagnera is the Associate Provost/Associate Counsel at Rider University.  Author/Co-Author of 13 books, he is writing a new book on the impact of the War on Terror on higher education for Praeger.]

Anthropology’s involvement with the U.S. military and intelligence establishments began with a 2004 pilot project, the Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program.  The CIA and other American agencies funded the graduate educations of students, unbeknownst to their faculty and fellows students.
Even more controversial was the appearance of anthropologists in uniforms.  The controversy was jump-started early in 2004, when investigative journalist Seymour Hersch published “The Gray Zone” in The New Yorker.   The most sensational aspect – the news peg – of the story was the shocking interrogation techniques that took place at the Abu Ghraib Prison, photos of which would soon circulate around the worldwide web.
However, the aspect of Hersh’s scoop which ignited an academic controversy was his assertion that,
The notion that Arabs are particularly vulnerable to sexual humiliation became a talking point among pro-war Washington conservatives in the months before the March 2003, invasion of Iraq.  One book that was frequently cited was “The Arab Mind,” a study of Arab culture and psychology, first published in 1973, by Raphael Patai, a cultural anthropologist who taught at, among other universities, Columbia and Princeton, and who died in 1996.  The book includes a twenty-five page chapter on Arabs and sex, depicting sex as a taboo vested with shame and repression.

Hersh quoted from Patai’s book.
“The segregation of the sexes, the veiling of the women… and all the other minutes rules that govern and restrict contact between men and women, have the effect of making sex a prime mental preoccupation in the Arab world.  [Homosexual activity] or any indication of homosexual leanings, as with all other expressions of sexuality, is never given any publicity.  These are private affairs and remain private… [T]he biggest weakness of Arabs is shame and humiliation.

It was not long before Hersh’s article drew responses.  In fact, they were almost instantaneous.
This mention of Patai’s book (on the sole authority of “an academic [who] told me”) sent journalists scurrying to read it – and denounce it.  Brian Whitaker, writing in The Guardian, called it a “classic case of orientalism which, by focusing on what Edward Said called the ‘otherness’ of Arab culture, sets up barriers that can be exploited for political purposes.”  He quoted an academic  saying, “The best use of the volume, if any, is for a doorstop.”  Ann Marlowe, in, called it “a smear job masquerading under the merest veneer of civility.”  Louis Wermer, in Al-Ahram Weekly and elsewhere, embellished Hersh’s account with a made-up detail: The Arab Mind, he wrote, “was apparently used as a field manual by U.S. Army Intelligence in Abu Ghraib prison.”… Only Lee Smith, writing in, suggested that critics had misread Patai, whom he described as “a keen and sympathetic observer of Arab society,” a “popularizer of difficult ideas, and also a serious scholar.”

The controversy festered, then bubbled to the surface inside the walls of academia in 2007.  This time it was not a dead anthropologist’s reanimated book that set the kettle boiling.  This time a news story about living anthropologists was the catalyst.  On September 7, 2007, a story in The Christian Science Monitor asserted,
Evidence of how far the U.S. Army’s counterinsurgency strategy has evolved can be found in the work of a uniformed anthropologist toting a gun in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan.  Part of a Human Terrain Team (HTT) – the first ever deployed  – she speaks to hundreds of Afghan men and women to learn how they think and what they need.

This piece was followed by one a month later in the International Herald Tribune.  Datelined, “Shabok Valley, Afghanistan,” it stated,”
In this isolated Taliban stronghold in eastern Afghanistan, American paratroopers are fielding what they consider a crucial new weapon in counterinsurgency operations here: a demure civilian anthropologist named Tracy.

The commander of the 82nd Airborne Division was quoted as claiming, “We’re looking at this from a human perspective, from a social scientist’s perspective.… We’re focused on the enemy.  We’re focused on bringing governance down to the people.”  He added that combat operations had been reduced by 60 per cent since the anthropologists’ arrival.
Yet, the article continued, “criticism is emerging in academia.   Such criticism is not hard to find.  Just two days after the Herald Tribune piece, which also appeared in the parent New York Times, Professor Marshall Sahlius posted on the blog “Savage Minds” a piece he styled “an open letter to the New York Times.”
To the Editor:
The report (Oct. 11) of the killing of two Iraqi women by hired guns of the State Department whose mission was “to improve local government and democratic institutions” bears an interesting relation to the story of a few days earlier about the collaboration of anthropologists in just such imperious interventions in other people’s existence in the interest of extending American power around the world.  It seems only pathetic that some anthropologists would criticize their colleagues’ participation in such adventures on grounds of their own disciplinary self-interest, complaining that they now will not be able to do fieldwork because the local people will suspect them of being spies.  What about the victims of these military-backed intrusions, designed to prescribe how others should organize their lives at the constant risk of losing them?  What is as incredible as it is reprehensible is that anthropologists should be engaged in such projects of cultural domination, that is, as willing collaborators in the forceful imposition of American values and governmental forms on people who have long known how to maintain and cherish their own ways of life.

The open letter quickly drew dozens of replies.  One of the more expansive and thoughtful responses came within hours of Sahlius’s posting.
This question is not simply about anthropologists who work with the military (although, of course, their intrusions put peoples [sic] lives in peril and are therefore much more likely to evoke emotion and passion from us).  Some anthropologists who work for development organizations, non-military government agencies, conservation organizations, and the like transport Euro-American ideas about how people ought to live in the world and provide data that ends in cultural domination all the time.  I keep wondering how these anthropologists working for the military are any different from anthropologists I know who work for conservation organizations that have as a goal the full-scale transformation of people’s socio-ecological ways of living and being in the world.

It was only a matter of weeks before the American Anthropology Association

weighed in with its own hefty report on the issue.

The AAA Commission’s Report

The final report of the American Anthropology Association’s cumbersomely christened Commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with the U.S. Security and Intelligence Communities was released on November 4, 2007.   The report opened with candid recognition that “The longstanding habit in anthropology of making a divide between applied/practicing anthropological research and independent/academic anthropological research is challenged by their increasing meeting on the same grounds and research terrains.”
Looking back over their shoulders, the commission members noted that the relationship between anthropologists and the military/intelligence services “varied, partly depending on the character of USA wars; World War II (a ‘good’ war) evoked patriotic service by anthropology while Vietnam (a ‘bad’ war) evoked condemnation by anthropology of service” by practitioners of the discipline.   Analogizing the War on Terror to the Cold War – both being periods of “low intensity but sustained conflict” — the commission described Anthropology’s challenge as being “to define ethically defensible research in complex environments of collaboration.”
The commission rightly spun off a Practitioner Subcommittee charged with ascertaining just what anthropologists working with military and intelligence organizations are doing.  The subcommittee identified 35 potential subjects and interviewed 18 of these. Some of the report’s resulting recommendations are:

• Encourage continued openness and civil discourse on the issue of engagement with security institutions, among AAA members. It is unacceptable to demonize people who have chosen career paths in the national security community, simply because of their political viewpoints, choice of employer, or other affiliation. In a professional academic society like the AAA, civil discourse and respectful exchange should be the norm, while closed minds are unacceptable. We encourage members to continue thoughtful and long-term public discussion of the ethical nuances of engagement in print fora; for example, by publishing articles in such venues as Anthropology News.

• The concept of informed consent including multiple settings in which it may be compromised, undermined, or rendered impossible to obtain: In particular, develop specific language regarding work with vulnerable populations and contexts in which consent may not be free, voluntary, or non-coerced.

• Work transparently: Everyone involved needs to know who you are, what you are doing, what your goals are, and who will have access and when to the information you are given (and what form this information will be in). Do not participate in funding programs that will not publicly disclose sources of funding.

• Do no harm: Take the actions you need to take to make sure your work harms no one directly and, to the extent possible, indirectly.

• Be clear about your responsibilities: Work through and communicate to all involved to whom you are primarily responsible, and for what.

• Publish your work: Make sure to share the results of your work publicly to the extent possible

There’s No Place Like Home

Posted in blogging, Blogroll, breaking news, cyberspace, election, environment, history, international, internet, journalism, Law, Law and Justice, leadership, mccain, media, obama, pennsylvania, Politics, president, technology, Terrorism, Uncategorized, war on terror, world affairs, writing on August 27, 2008 by castagnera

Can you see her?  Judy Garland in her red shoes, clicking her heels and repeating the mantra: “There’s no place like home.  There’s no place like home.”  Voila!  She wakes up in her very own little bed in her very own little shack out on her very own little Kansas farm, surrounded by family and farm hands, all safe and sound.  Kitsch doesn’t get any more All-American than that.
What would happen, do you think, if John McCain clicked his heels together and mumbled, “There’s no place like home”?   Apparently he might wake up in any one of about eight different places.  I’ll bet none of the eight is located in Kansas.
Obama hopes to make political hay out of McCain’s inability to remember exactly how many houses he has.  This is reminiscent of the elder George Bush’s expression of amazement about bar codes in a local supermarket during the 1992 campaign.  Both gaffs make the candidate seem out of touch.
Obama boasts of having only one home.  He hasn’t mentioned that his crib set him back a reported $1.65 million.  That amount just about equaled the Obamas’ combined income for the year they made the purchase.  The Chicago Tribune reported in November 2006, “They were drawn to a 96-year-old Georgian revival home that has four fireplaces, glass-door bookcases fashioned from Honduran mahogany, and a 1,000-bottle wine cellar, according to real estate listings and an interview.”
Obama’s book deals and his wife’s $300,000 a year vice presidency with Chicago University Hospitals together accounted for their seven-figure gross annual income.
Well, heck, Olympian Mike Phelps is expected to gross $30 million in product endorsements during the year ahead.  So what’s the big deal about Obama and spouse pulling down $1.67 mil? Phelps no doubt will start accumulating real estate, too.
Meanwhile, he’s taking some heat for adding Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes to his list of clients.  Writes one web pundit, “The deal has earned Phelps harsh criticism from some doctors, such as nutritionist Rebecca Solomon of Mount Sanai Medical Center. In a Daily News article posted this morning, Solomon said, ‘I would not consider Frosted Flakes the food of an Olympian.’ That’s the understatement of the day. I would consider Frosted Flakes to be the food of a generation of obese, diabetic, ADHD kids who need real role models they can follow, not sellout junk food promoters who trade fame for unethical profits.” (
This guy’s rap on fatties reminds me of the last time McCain got into trouble, but not for anything he said.  A McCain advisor, Phil Gramm, created the flap by calling America “a nation of whiners.”  Well, sorry folks, but I tend to agree that the overweight whiner has become an American archetype.  If the shoe fits (and the pants don’t), I say wear it.
But let’s stop whining for a minute here and take a reality break.  McCain is rich.  Obama is rich.  Even a kid, whose only apparent distinction is the ability to move from one end of a swimming pool to the other faster than anybody else, is rich.  If you’re rich, too, then more power to you.
The simple truth is, ain’t no poor folks likely to run for president, or senator, or most any other important post.  The last poor president, I guess, was Harry Truman.  As a sitting U.S. Senator seeking reelection, Truman sometimes slept in his car while on the campaign trail.  Once upon a time he had gone bankrupt.  When his term in the White House was over, he and wife Bess moved back to the home in Independence Missouri that they had shared for years with her mother.
They just don’t make ‘em like old Harry any more, folks.  Senator Obama may play the “poor mouth” card against Senator McCain, but in reality his feet are just as firmly planted on the Yellow Brick Road as are his opponent’s.
[Jim Castagnera is the Associate Provost and Associate Counsel at Rider University.  His novels and columns are available at ]

Where to Find My Books

Posted in high education, journalism, Law, literature, novels, universities on August 26, 2008 by castagnera

1. Ned McAdoo and the Molly Maguires
2. Why My Dad Hates Ice Cream
3. Attorney at Large: 75 Columns and Movie Reviews
4. Handbook of Student Law for Academic Administrators