Julie L. Kessler
lawyer traveler writer

News

Beijing International Book Festival 2014

Aug. 16, 2014

I am pleased to report that my book Fifty-Fifty: The Clarity of Hindsight will be on offer to Chinese publishers at the Beijing International Book Festival taking place in Beijing at the end of August.

Cambodia’s and California’s awful traffic…of humans

Jul. 17, 2014

My article entitled “Cambodia’s and California’s awful traffic…of humans” appeared in today’s edition of The L.A. Daily Journal and The S.F. Daily Journal. The stories and statistics are shocking, human trafficking is a $150 billion annual industry. Far more in revenue than IBM and Microsoft. Combined.

 

Full article off copyright and now available:

https://www.vagabondlawyer.com/uploads/News/Cambodia’s_and_California’s_awful_traffic…of.pdf

Health care in Cambodia

Jul. 10, 2014

I’m currently traveling in Asia on a writing assignment. My article “The hopeful cadence of Cambodia’s health care struggle” appeared in the Los Angeles Daily Journal yesterday, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. If you are a subscriber to the LADJ, you may wish to have a look at it. And remind yourself of how fortunate we in the U.S. are, whatever the state of the health care debate is right now.

 

Full article off copyright and now available:

https://www.vagabondlawyer.com/uploads/News/Health_care_in_Cambodia.pdf

The divorce of free speech from community standards

Jun. 19, 2014

My article “Free speech and community standards” appeared in today’s edition of The LA Daily Journal. The article discussed the recent hosting by Facebook of a Photoshopped image of Adolph Hitler in bed with Shoah victim Anne Frank, in what appears to be a post-coital embrace. Facebook initially refused to remove the image stating that it “reviewed the photo reported for containing hate speech or symbols and found it did not violate its Community Standards.”

 

Seriously?

 

The image has since been removed. Apparently, the Community Standards of the audience are higher that the standards of Facebook administrators. Shame on Facebook.

 

Full article off copyright and now available:

https://www.vagabondlawyer.com/uploads/News/The_divorce_of_free_speech_from_community_standard.pdf

The speech that never was

Jun. 4, 2014

My article “The speech that never was” appeared in today’s edition of The LA Daily Journal. This article discussed the disinvitation of intellectual heavy hitters Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Christine Lagarde, Robert Birgeneau and Condoleeza Rice from delivering commencement speeches at Brandeis, Smith, Haverford and Rutgers, respectively. It reflected on the increasing and frightening lack of tolerance on university campus’ today, aided and abetted by social media. The article also delivered a slightly tongue-in-cheek commencement address of my own to the 2014 graduates.

 

Full article off copyright and now available:

https://www.vagabondlawyer.com/uploads/News/The_speech_that_never_was.pdf

The new normal of Shoot first – ask questions later

May 30, 2014

My article “Shoot first – ask questions later” appeared in today’s edition of The LA Daily Journal. The article discussed the recent Isla Vista mass murders, the NRA’s outrageous unofficial slogan that “Guns don’t kill, people do,” and the incredible sadness of mourning those victims instead of honoring over the Memorial Day weekend those fallen soldiers who fought to preserve our freedoms. The new normal.

 

Full article off copyright and now available:

https://www.vagabondlawyer.com/uploads/News/The_new_normal_of_Shoot_first_–_ask_questions_la.pdf

The rape myth

May 8, 2014

My article "The ‘rape myth’: alive and well?" appeared in yesterday’s edition of The LA  Daily Journal. This article discussed in detail the underlying Montana rape case in which a 47-year-old teacher raped a 14-year-old student multiple times, then was convicted and sentenced to just 30 days in jail, in contravention of Montana’s sentencing guidelines. The judge in that case, G. Todd Baugh, also made several outrageous comments from the bench, including that the 14-year-old victim was “as much in control of the situation” as her rapist and that the victim was “older that her chronological age,” both of which go against the foundation of statutory rape laws. Last week the Montana Supreme Court decided the appeal and overturned the 30-day sentence and ordered the rapist to be resentenced by a different judge. Baugh is retiring at the end of the year.

 

Full article off copyright and now available:

https://www.vagabondlawyer.com/uploads/News/The_rape_myth.pdf

More speech, not less

Apr. 16, 2014

My article “More speech, not less” appeared in today’s edition of The L.A. Daily Journal. The article discussed at length the shocking “disinvitation” by Brandeis University of Ms. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born Muslim turned Athiest, feminist and former Dutch Parliament member, who was originally invited to speak at its commencement. That an American university with a history such as Brandeis – a school that was founded as a direct result of anti-Semitism prevalent in this country post WWII – would cave to the pressure of a vocal few who were disinterested in the free exchange of ideas and theories was a stunning display of total disregard of the freedom of speech tenets so central to our notions of democracy. If the exchange of ideas and critical thinking don’t occur at universities, then where should they? If not then, when?

 

Full article off copyright and now available:

https://www.vagabondlawyer.com/uploads/News/More_speech,_not_less.pdf

The 2014 L.A. Times Festival of Books at USC

Apr. 9, 2014

The 2014 L.A. Times Festival of Books at USC.

A very, very busy weekend at The L.A. Times Festival of Books at USC. Perfect weather, lots of books sold, and many interesting people. Especially satisfying were previous readers of Fifty-Fifty who stopped by the booth to tell Julie how much they enjoyed reading it. Thanks to The L.A. Times for their continuing support.

 

A bad weekend for air travel and safety

Mar. 12, 2014

My article “Stolen passport use exposes lax security” appears in today’s edition of The LA Daily Journal. This article discusses the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the issues surrounding the two passengers traveling on stolen passports, the problems of the lax passport security in general  in Malaysia and several other Asian nations, and the thriving black market for stolen passports. It also notes that only the U.S., Britain and the United Arab Emirates are regular users of Interpol’s stolen passport database.

 

Full article off copyright and now available:

https://www.vagabondlawyer.com/uploads/News/A_bad_weekend_for_air_travel_and_safety.pdf

It’s a date: your physician and big pharma

Feb. 27, 2014

My article entitled “Its a date: your doctor, big pharmaceuticals” appeared in yesterday’s edition of The Los Angeles Daily Journal.  In it I discussed the recent trend of physician-speakers being paid by big pharmas to impart vital information to other physicians respecting new technologies, new drugs, new devices, new indications for old devices and new safety issues. These meetings often occur in restaurants during the dinner hour. The Food & Drug Administration tightly controls what information can be disseminated to physicians and pharmas can only transmit such FDA-approved information. Frankly, I would far prefer that physicians get their data from similar trained colleagues in a relaxed setting than from some sales rep interrupting the physician during busy patient appointment hours. So what if the physician-speaker is being paid? That does not make him or her less of a scientist, or a professional. It is only means that the physician-speaker is being paid for his or her time; basically like everyone else. Who cares where such vital information is obtained. Is a hospital cafeteria with largely lousy food really so superior a learning environment to a relaxed restaurant setting over a decent meal? While big pharmas (and their shareholders) have millions on the table, our physicians have our health and very lives at stake.

 

Full article off copyright and now available:

https://www.vagabondlawyer.com/uploads/News/It’s_a_date:_your_physician_and_big_pharma.pdf

Controversial books meet different fates

Feb. 20, 2014

I recently wrote about censorship and the fate of Adolph Hitler’s notorious Mein Kampf. That book was originally published in 1925 and highlighted the ravings of a poisoned mind. Now, in 2014, the spectre of censorship–which I feel should not cast a shadow even over trash like Mein Kampf–is appearing again in relation to a book. But this time, it’s a book of serious scholarship that has been successfully suppressed in India by a religious pressure group. The Hindus: An Alternative History, by Wendy Doniger, a University of Chicago historian, has been withdrawn by its publisher, Penguin Books India. My latest article in the LADJ which appeared on February 19, 2014 deals with this chilling development.

 

Full article off copyright and now available:

https://www.vagabondlawyer.com/uploads/News/Controversial_books_meet_different_fates.pdf

The FATCA fallout

Feb. 14, 2014

My article entitled “The FATCA fallout: soaring expatriatism” appears in the February 12, 2014 edition of the LA Daily Journal. The article summarizes the unintended fallout of the Foreign Account Taxation Compliance Act (FATCA) and summarizes the Department of the Treasury’s just-released statistics, which reported that in calendar year 2013, 2,999 Americans voluntarily gave up their U.S. citizenship. This is an enormous increase over the years prior to FATCA’s implementation, and is no doubt partly a direct reflection of the onerous reporting requirements mandated by FATCA, as well as of the extreme difficulties many Americans who live overseas face in their day-to-day dealings with local banks that can’t or don’t want to comply with FATCA.

 

Full article off copyright and now available:

https://www.vagabondlawyer.com/uploads/News/The_FATCA_fallout.pdf

Fifty-Fifty launched in India!

Feb. 14, 2014

My publisher, Strategic Books, is in India this week for the New Dehli World Book Fair; Fifty-Fifty will thus be launched into the Indian market, which makes me happy! The Fair has a Facebook page, if you’re interested in following happenings there:  https://www.facebook.com/NewDelhiWorldBookFair

The state of rape in India

Feb. 5, 2014

My article entitled “Addressing India’s epidemic of violence towards women“ appeared in today’s edition of The Los Angeles Daily Journal. This article details the recent increase in rapes, gang-rapes and other violent crimes against women, both Indians and tourists, which has come to the world’s attention during the past year. It has resulted in a tarnishing of India’s reputation as a tourist destination and ignited widespread alarm. The first wave of legal change, including the death penalty for rape, seems to have come about mostly because of economic concerns and the resulting significant drop in foreign tourism dollars to India. Whatever the impetus for change, change must happen. This change must include actual, uniform enforcement of laws protecting women, in tandem with education to combat India’s pervasive, cradle to grave gender discrimination, along with a massive literacy campaign to bring India in line with the literacy rates of Sri Lanka, Burma and China.  If not, then all of the otherwise impressive progress India has made since its independence from Britain in 1947 will be ultimately destroyed.

 

Full article off copyright and now available:

https://www.vagabondlawyer.com/uploads/News/The_state_of_rape_in_India.pdf

What is the expiration date on hatred?

Jan. 29, 2014

My article "Hitler manifesto cleared for republication" appears in The Los Angeles Daily Journal today.

 

As some of you know, I was in London last week for the awards gala honoring winners of The London Book Festival. As the Holocaust Memorial Day occurred in the U.K. this past Monday, the British press had several lengthy discussions concerning the upcoming expiration of the German copyright of Mein Kampf, one of the most racist, bigoted and morally bereft books to appear since humans put ink to paper.

 

My article discussed the historical context of Mein Kampf’s original publication in 1924, Neo-Nazi revisionist history and the implications of suppression of books and ideas, regardless of how offensive, in the context of free speech that we in this country enjoy.

 

Full article off copyright and now available:

https://www.vagabondlawyer.com/uploads/News/What_is_the_expiration_date_on_hatred?.pdf

Foreign Book Sales

Jan. 28, 2014

I am happy to report that my book Fifty-Fifty: The Clarity of Hindsight is now available in China as well as through two additional distribution channels in India. It’s a small world after all!

Our man in Afghanistan

Jan. 22, 2014

Last week in the very center of Kabul, just a few blocks from both the British and American embassies, in an area known to be heavily frequented by foreigners — aid workers, diplomats, and journalists — a Taliban suicide bomber and some gunmen attacked a popular restaurant, killing 21 people. Of those murdered, 13 were expatriates, two were American academics from the American University of Afghanistan, and four were women. One of the expatriate victims was the country chief for the International Monetary Fund.

 

With seemingly never-ending strife in the region, the public has, over the years, become somewhat inured to news of suicide bombers in general and Taliban suicide bombers in particular. However, this attack was especially shocking, not just because it brazenly targeted a restaurant known to be popular among foreigners during the busy dinner hour (and when the initial blast didn’t do enough damage, gunmen entered and simply gunned down patrons at their tables), but because those foreigners were in Afghanistan specifically to aid it or bring the world news about it. President Hamid Karzai, in a statement issued almost a day later, condemned the attack, but also made a clear reference to a NATO airstrike a week earlier in a province north of Kabul, saying that foreign troops must “know the difference between victims and terrorists.”

 

It is, from my vantage point, very, very difficult to comprehend either the attack or Karzai’s comments.

In the mid-2000’s, I sought out some pro bono work to add an emotional counterweight to the dizzying profits being made by clients on the commercial real estate financing deals I worked on by day. In early 2005, I came across the Afghan Dental Relief Project, a 501(c)(3) organization whose mission it was to provide dentists, dental care, dental supplies, and education to a war-torn country that did not have a single dental school. The ADRP was the brain child of Santa Barbara dentist James G. Rolfe, a singularly dedicated man with an undeniable soft spot for the less-fortunate.

 

After a few telephone conversations with Dr. Rolfe, I drove up to Santa Barbara one afternoon and met with him, his long-time girlfriend, and a handful of other ADRP volunteers. The meeting took place off a dirt road just north of the city on a spit of barren land, where I found Dr. Rolfe and his volunteers all working together on various aspects of renovationsof donated shipping containers. This was hard-core manual labor in which both the skilled and unskilled helped in the process of converting the shipping containers into a multi-room dental clinic, including laboratory areas and x-ray machines. The goal was for the containers to be shipped to Kabul along with several thousand pounds of dental supplies and sit on land to be donated by the Afghan government. The plan was that it would be staffed by a roving roster of ADRP volunteer dentists and staff. These were goals that were far loftier than anyone could then have imagined. After this meeting (as well as a few blisters and an impromptu beer-laden barbeque on the dirt road), I became counsel for the ADRP.

 

For the next eighteen months, I went to a host of meetings in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara attended by various volunteers, fundraisers, American Afghanis, and traveling Afghani diplomats. I worked on a variety of contracts whose end game was the establishment of the ADRP’s clinic and dental school in Kabul. One of the contracts was a land use agreement for vacant land in central Kabul, land which, ostensibly anyway, was to be donated by the Afghanistan Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, in concert with the Afghanistan Ministry of Health and the Afghanistan Ministry of Education.

 

Starting in 2003, Dr. Rolfe made several trips to Kabul at his own expense, and donated countless hours of his time. He was, and remains, an utterly tireless man who has stayed the course true to his convictions, often in the face of odds that would have stopped most mere mortals cold.

 

Once the land use agreement was signed, finishing touches were put on the outfitted containers. Inside these old containers was now a state-of-the-art dental clinic. With tens of thousands of dollars of supplies amassed, and with dentists, dental assistants, and hygienists lined up to volunteer on a rotating basis, the containers and supplies were shipped to Kabul. Once there, construction of the surrounding structures could be commenced and the real work could begin — providing dental care and dental education to Afghanis at no or nominal charge.

 

It was, in three words, an unmitigated disaster. As it turned out, the Afghani officials Dr. Rolfe had negotiated with were more interested in baksheesh (bribery money) and expensive trinkets than in establishing a Western-style clinic, even one that would not have cost them a cent to build and would have provided free, quality dental care to Afghanis. Once the Afghani officials reneged on the land provision, there was nowhere to house the containers and supplies while Dr. Rolfe attempted to secure an alternative site for the clinic. As security was, and remains, a major issue in Afghanistan, Dr. Rolfe then made the heartbreaking and costly decision to have the containers and all of the supplies shipped back to the U.S. It was around this time, in late 2006, that I left the ADRP. Not because I no longer believed in its mission — I will always believe that the provision of healthcare is the cornerstone of any just society — but because trying to do this in Afghanistan at the time, it seemed to me anyway, was utterly futile. If we couldn’t trust the government officials who signed the negotiated agreements, I believed it was hopeless to try to go forward.

 

Fortunately for the Afghani people, in the face of nearly insurmountable odds and having spent nearly all of the ADRP funds and his own personal savings on this endeavor, Dr. Rolfe’s personal ideals and professional goals never waivered. In November 2007, the container clinic and 120,000 pounds of dental supplies arrived once again in Kabul. And in May 2008, the new Dental Clinic of Kabul opened its doors on land next to the Kabul volunteer center, and included a dental training school. However, about a year ago, the ADRP was summarily evicted from this land and at the same time, coincidentally, most of its equipment was stolen. The ADRP then leased temporary space when, six months ago, the municipality of Kabul finally gave the ADRP an acre of land in central Kabul. The new clinic is now ready, except for electricity; the necessary ditches are currently being dug through the brutal Afghan winter, and electricity should be available in the next couple of months. One hopes.

 

What the future holds for the Dental Clinic of Kabul and the volunteer expatriates who serve there on a rotating basis remains to be seen. Of course, I wholeheartedly applaud Dr. Rolfe and the other ADRP volunteers. They are a selfless, completely apolitical group whose sole goal is to make life better and healthier for those far less fortunate than they are. But they and other expatriates need to be guaranteed a reasonable degree of safety while they work and live in the host country in which they choose to serve.

 

This is perhaps what makes this most recent Taliban terrorist act so awful and so disheartening. Becoming yet another casualty of jihad, any jihad, anywhere, serves no humanitarian purpose whatsoever. What is does, though, is to remind us of the most base evil of which humans are capable: indiscriminate killing.

 

Without a doubt, there are far too few men like Dr. Rolfe, and indeed, he shows no sign of slowing down his efforts to bring quality dental care to Afghanistan. In the end, however, expatriates generous of spirit may understandably decide that the personal risks far outweigh any potential good they may accomplish, no matter how desperately they are needed by an impoverished, grateful and war-weary people. And that may be the biggest humanitarian tragedy of all.

You’ve come a long way baby, Part II

Jan. 15, 2014

My article “You’ve come a long way, baby, Part II” appeared in today’s edition of The L.A. Daily Journal. This article discussed the great strides women have made in the U.S. military, specifically, the first three women to complete the grueling U.S. Marines combat infantry course. It also discussed the fact the rate among women for heart disease and heart attacks now equals that of men, though women receive less aggressive treatment. Perhaps more importantly, it included an analysis of several other women who have recently become famous and infamous: “Jihad Jane,” “Jihad Jamie” and “The White Widow.” Proof that women will, when given the same opportunities as men, not only engage in precisely the same conduct (with equal number of attendant heart attacks apparently), but also do equally as good a job as men will. To include the good, the bad and the very ugly.

 

Yes, we’ve come a long way, baby. A very long way indeed.

 

Full article off copyright and now available:

https://www.vagabondlawyer.com/uploads/News/You’ve_come_a_long_way_baby,_Part_II.pdf

Book Review of The Partner Track

Jan. 9, 2014

Instead of my regular Wednesday weekly article on Cultural Commentary in The L.A. Daily Journal, California’s largest legal daily newspaper, today appeared my book review of The Partner Track, a debut novel by attorney Helen Wan. Wan has done what every first time writer dreams of: written a smart, engaging, fast paced and well-written novel that seeks to educate and enlighten with entertainingly page-turning prose that any reader will enjoy. I would not be at all surprised if this novel gets optioned. Enjoy this good read.

 

Full article off copyright and now available:

https://www.vagabondlawyer.com/uploads/News/Book_Review_of_The_Partner_Track.pdf