Nicholas Katzenbach on the Judicial System
Nicholas Katzenbach taught Law at Yale University and the Universityof Chicago, and served in the Kennedy and Johnson administrationsbefore becoming senior vice president and general counsel for IBM. He was witness and participant to some of the most challenging events inUnited States history, including the Freedom Riders, the desegregationof the Universities of Mississippi and Alabama, the fear of communistinfiltration during the Cold War, the Bay of Pigs fiasco, theassassination of JFK, and the Vietnam War. His memoir is entitled"Some of it Was Fun: Working with RFK and LBJ."
Question: What damage has been done to our judicial system?
Nicholas Katzenbach: Well, the specifics of what I didn’t like in the administration? I didn’t like the way they were treating people in the war in Afghanistan and in Iraq. I thought that the Guantanamo business was really outrageous. I may have felt that way in part because I was a former prison of war. I spent 27 months in a German prison camp. Nobody treated me in that German prison camp in anything like the fashion that we were treating people at Guantanamo, and I was ashamed of that. These were Nazi Germans, and here we were treating people worse than them. And I was proud of the Department of Justice, where I worked with Bobby Kennedy, whom I loved, and what I think was a great department, and the idea of making the administration of justice political is just more than I could stand. And I think that the third and important reason for wanting to write the book and for writing it was to try to tell young people that it did not have to be the way it is today, that there is nothing more satisfying, in my view, than working with others in the government to accomplish things that you want to accomplish for people and to do it in a non partisan way, because it’s right to do, not because it’s politically advantageous to do it.
Question: What should the president do about it?
Nicholas Katzenbach: As far as the justice system is concerned, I think that the main thing that he needs to do is to appoint an Attorney General who has stature and who will depoliticize the administration of justice. I think he needs to make that person his adviser and to follow that advice. I think he needs to close Guantanamo and I think he needs to do what a good leader can do, and that is to try to lead by persuasion rather than by fire. That’s difficult, but I think it can be done and the point is the major accomplishments that we have made in our history have all been made not for purposes of one political party or the other but made because there were people in government of a stature and belief who wanted to do what’s right for all of the people.
Question: How do you characterize where today’s judiciary is?
Nicholas Katzenbach: When I was in the administration, the justices or the judges are essentially picked by the senator from your own party, if there was one, and all that we could do is what the Republicans had done before us in the Eisenhower administration and that was to set standards of qualification for those people. But I think that what you didn’t want was people who were partisan in their views or who would stretch the law for any kind of political purpose, or, really, do anything political. Once you went on the bench, you are non political and that was the end of it. You may have worked in politics to get there, but once you’re there, you’re there for everybody, not for one group of people. I think it’s perfectly natural for the president who is appointing Supreme Court justices to want to appoint somebody who he thinks is extremely highly qualified and whom he thinks is basically sympathetic to the beliefs that he has. I don’t think it’s necessary to interview people, to ask people questions to do that. I think you can know who those people are. There’re always a short list of those people who are qualified and it’s important for the president to remember that an appointment of that kind will go on for 20 or 30 years, and what you’re looking for is somebody who has the intellect, the competence, the devotion to law and the lack of ego to be able to make decisions that are in accordance with the Constitution in the fairest way he can and in a collegial way, with his 8 colleagues.
Question: Where would you find the next Attorney General?
Nicholas Katzenbach: I don’t really… I really wouldn’t want to say. I think there’s a number… I would probably appoint, if I were president, a very well known Court of Appeals judge who had a reputation, non partisan, non political reputation, to straighten out the department, and I would try to get somebody of a relatively younger age so that he could contemplate, or she, the possibility of going from the Attorney General’s job to the Supreme Court if a vacancy should occur. That should be the kind of motivation that you would want because it will keep you non partisan.
Recorded on: 10/22/2008
Katzenbach describes why the past eight years have been horrible for justice in the United States and what the next President can do about it.
A new method promises to capture an elusive dark world particle.
- Scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) devised a method for trapping dark matter particles.
- Dark matter is estimated to take up 26.8% of all matter in the Universe.
- The researchers will be able to try their approach in 2021, when the LHC goes back online.
Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.
- Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
- They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
- The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.
The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?
But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.
What's dead may never die, it seems
The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.
BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.
The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.
As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.
The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.
"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.
An ethical gray matter
Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.
The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.
Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.
Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?
"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."
One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.
The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.
"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.
It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.
Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?
The dilemma is unprecedented.
Setting new boundaries
Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."
She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.
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