Letters to the Editor

Letters: The Rules on Rules

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Regarding “Parenthetical Habits,” November, brilliant—I’m still laughing. The Bluebook‘s (like all) “rules” are “made to be broken,” not just because they’re often silly and misguided pronouncements by the students proliferating them but because they are rules.

As I’ve taught my students for years, break any rule you wish, any time you wish—provided you meet two requirements: (1) know why the rule exists (that is, what purpose it serves and the risks of not following it) and (2) have a good enough reason for breaking it. What’s “a good enough reason”? Any reason that’s good enough for you—if you know what you’re trying to accomplish, who you’re writing to, and how you’ve chosen to come across.

Andrej Thomas Starkis
Milford, Massachusetts



Thanks for “Turmoil in the Pacific,” as the subject matter has been largely ignored by a mainstream media that would rather report the latest Kanye/Kardashian fiasco.

However, you may want to add that a negative side effect of an investor-state dispute settlement decision within the U.S. is that the legislature may end up repealing a federal law in response to an ISDS action or settlement—often counter to the well-being of the electorate. 

You may also want to add that an ISDS settlement is not appealable within U.S. courts, thus requiring the U.S. to live with the decision (i.e., pay penalties) or repeal the law as discussed above.

David Gottardo
Oak Park, Illinois



Bryan Garner’s tribute to the eloquence of Justice Robert Jackson (”Powerful Eloquence,” November) as revealed in his June 1943 opinion in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette appears to credit Jackson with a kind of divine prescience that allowed him to anticipate the Holocaust—an event that Garner claims was generally unknown (to Jackson and to others) at the time of the opinion. Garner characterizes as “haunting” Jackson’s statements that “those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters” and that “only the unanimity of the graveyard” is the eventual product of “compulsory unification of opinion.” He asks readers to recall that “it was 1943, and nobody in America knew anything about the horrifying extent of Hitler’s death camps.”

This is an egregious error on Garner’s part, unfortunately repeated by many others. Distorted histories of World War II and poorly taught modern history courses have caused many of us to believe that our government was unaware of the horrors of the Holocaust until concentration and death camps in Germany and Eastern Europe were invaded by Soviet and American troops in 1944 and 1945. The intelligence is to the contrary.

The U.S. government was one of the major participants in the public declaration of Dec. 17, 1942, which stated: “German authorities ... are now carrying into effect Hitler’s oft-repeated intention to exterminate the Jewish people of Europe.” The Allied Declaration describes the deportation of Jews to Eastern Europe and ominously observes: “None of those taken away are ever heard from again.” Regrettably, the press and the governments of both Britain and the United States largely suppressed or minimized information about the ongoing annihilation of the Jews at the hands of the Nazis.

Garner’s oversight does not detract from his other astute observations about the texts he analyzes or the eloquence of the Supreme Court justice he so aptly extols. But his misstatement nonetheless demands correction. As the Allies themselves acknowledged, they knew precisely what the Nazis were doing while the Final Solution was a work in progress. Indeed, given what they knew, a legitimate and robust debate continues as to whether the Allied response to the ongoing Nazi exterminations of Jews—as well as their ex post facto response at Nuremberg and in other judicial proceedings—was morally or legally adequate. This is the question we should be addressing in the 70th anniversary year after the first phase of the Nuremberg trials.

Tony J. Tanke
Davis, California



Regarding “Children of the Tribe,” October: Perhaps the fault lies with the dependency system, not the Indian Child Welfare Act. There is almost nothing I can see, other than venue, that implicates the ICWA.


Photo Illustration by Brenan Sharp

This situation is played out daily in dependency courts for non-Native American children. There is a preference for kinship options and especially those with other siblings. I have no doubt that foster families become attached to the children in their care, but they are given clear boundaries. The state caseworker apparently failed to enforce them. A foster family cannot be allowed to decide when or if a child gets to visit family members. That is the agency’s job. This isn’t about tribal connections or race—this child is reportedly being raised in a non-Native American household either way and is not being raised with native traditions. The adults involved need to realize this should be about a little girl’s welfare, not about adults staking out an ideology or political agenda.

Teresa Bliley
Meadville, Pennsylvania

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