Columbia’s ‘Takeover’ of West Harlem Via Eminent Domain
New York City recently approved the university’s extensive expansion into Harlem. Real estate attorney Michael White accuses Columbia of using “the threat of eminent domain … quite as destructively as eminent domain itself.” Few understand, he writes
that a private owner who covets the property of another can, outside the scrutiny of the public eye, start the condemnation process by writing a check to the self-funding government agency — to finance costs, including government staff salaries — so that agency will put together materials advancing the condemnation. In that vein, Columbia University, interested in acquiring a swath of West Harlem, wrote a $300,000 starter check to [NewYork’s Empire State Development Corporation ] in 2004, years before any public hearings. (The New York Sun)
Christina Walsh of the Institute for Justice excoriates New York officialdom:
Worldwide, New York City is regarded as a beacon of hope and endless opportunity. Yet it routinely uses eminent domain for private gain.
This sends a message, loud and clear, that in the Big Apple, the American dream is subject to the whims of a tax-hungry government and land-hungry developers.
Private-property rights shouldn’t depend on where you live or whether your land could make more money as something bigger and newer – or, in this case, whether you happen to own property that a prestigious, wealthy university wants.
Surge Working, Says Prof
Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, a professor of international security studies at West Point, recently toured Iraq. He says there are “profound changes in both tone and substance” and that we must “press our advantage.” (The Wall Street Journal)
Thanks at Christmastide to Our Troops
Seth Gitell pays tender and deserved tribute to our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan in a meditation on the World War II song, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” He taps into an account of the song’s origin on the St. Lawrence University Web site.
This year the “Merry Christmas” salutations and farewells were more numerous than ever. A few years ago, it seemed, even in Christian churches and among Christians, a “Merry Christmas” might be met with embarrassment or disapproval, because if a non-Christian happened to be passing by, he might feel excluded. But this year I gave many Merry Christmases and received even more, even in the supermarket and at the newsstands, and even from clearly non-Christian folks! This is how it should be. It spreads holiday cheer to all. And it shows what a little pushing back against multi-culti and PC can do.
Free “Death” From Yale
For the first time the university is offering its “Death” course and other popular undergraduate classes for free online. Using the Internet to share offerings is a growing trend growing at top-tier U.S. campuses. (The New York Sun)
Said’s ‘Dime-Store’ Pedagogy
In a fine review of Ibn Warraq’s seminal new work, Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism, Michael Weiss summarizes the author’s account of what went awry with postcolonial studies — the academic discipline largely created by Said, which, in an attempt to analyze the relationship of conqueror to conquered, entrenched (as Weiss says) “a dime-store psychology of empire at the center of every discussion of ‘East meets West.’” (The New York Sun)
The Academic Ghostwriter Scandal
Here from Jacob Hale Russell is a rather shocking piece about how celebrity academics abuse their reliance on student researchers/writers.
N.Y. Court Paves the Way for ‘Libel Tourism’
The New York Court of Appeals has passed up a chance to protect American authors from the libel judgments of foreign courts. Harvey Silverglate says that the court “could have done a better job of protecting our constitutional rights.”
Libel law in Britain, far more plaintiff-friendly than U.S. libel law, has spawned what has come to be known as “libel tourism,” a practice by which American writers have been sued by non-British nationals in British courts over works published in the U.S.
The case in question here involved Rachel Ehrenfeld, who had asked the court to declare the British ruling against her unenforceable under the First Amendment.
At issue was Ehrenfeld’s important book, Funding Evil: How Terrorism Is Financed — and How to Stop It, in which she accuses a Saudi billionaire of backing organizations with alleged ties to terrorism. He brought suit against Ms. Ehrenfeld and other researchers who have made similar allegations against him in court in London. (The New York Sun)
Enlightened Self-Interest vs. Service Learning
John Egger, professor of economics at Towson University, argues cogently against awarding academic credit for community service, a widespread practice today in colleges across the country. Egger is responding to Towson University president Robert Caret who has pompously touted “service learning” as a way to deliver students from self-absorption and get them involved in the community. Egger points out that a good liberal education would instill an appreciation of the needs of community better than spending college credits on “service.” Also, as Adam Smith said, one of the best ways to get people to co-operate with others is through an understanding of the beneficent mutuality of self-interest. Enlightened self-interest can also boost equality in a way that a helping-the-unfortunate approach cannot. Service learning, on the other hand, according to Egger, “weakens respect for society by implying that other people, less fortunate in some way, are owed one’s time and effort. Teaching that others are morally entitled to a part of one’s life — people one does not know, may not like and whose misfortune one had no role in creating — is the surest way to engender a sense of resentment and disdain, not benevolence, toward one’s fellow human beings.”
Constitutional Moral Telos
Being a longtime admirer of Amherst Professor Hadley Arkes, his review of Uncovering the Constitution’s Moral Design, by Paul R. de Hart caught my eye: This is a remarkable, scholarly achievement … de Hart makes the case for the moral telos of the Constitution in the most compelling way … [and] manages to show how the logic of the Constitution must lead back to an understanding of natural law … The writing is precise, flowing, clear. And the conclusions come with an accumulating force. (The Claremont Institute)
B.U. Biolab Criticized
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino says a controversial, $178 anti-bioterrorism lab being built by Boston University on its medical campus “will go forward,” despite a recent scathing report by the National Research Council. The NRC asserts that said a past safety review of the facility was inadequate and border-line incompetent. (The Boston Herald)
CIA Draining Iran’s Brains
In 2005 the CIA kicked off “the Brain Drain,” a secret program intended to degrade Iran’s nuclear weapons program by persuading major officials, such as scientists and military officers to defect. Intelligence gathered as part of that campaign provided much of the basis for the recent NIE report that concluded the Islamic Republic had halted its nuclear weapons work in 2003.
‘A Donkey At Berkeley’
…is the title of a provocative speech on the college curriculum by Herb London (Minding the Campus).
NCC’s Mono-Faith Meditation Room
From Katherine Kersten:
Last week, I visited a Muslim place of worship. A schedule for Islam’s five daily prayers was posted at the entrance, near a sign requesting that shoes be removed. Inside, a barrier divided men’s and women’s prayer space, an arrow informed worshippers of the direction of Mecca, and literature urged women to cover their faces. Sound like a mosque? The place I’m describing is the “meditation room” at Normandale Community College, a 9,200-student public institution in Bloomington. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
This physics professor at MIT proves that all is not wrong with higher ed.
UNC Students Rewrite the Constitution
In this week’s Clarion Call, my colleague Jay Schalin writes about a recent mock constitutional convention held at the University of North Carolina under the sponsorship of a sociology professor.
The students dutifully crafted a new constitution giving people all kinds of rights — affordable housing, health care, to the arts, leisure time, and so forth. Schalin attended the convention and tells me that there was no argument over any of this stuff. In this whole supposedly academic exercise, not once did any faculty member, student, or invited guest question whether there might not be adverse consequences to giving the state so much power. For instance, the conventioneers approved of giving government officials the authority to dictate “just” prices for agricultural products, but no one stood up to point out that setting prices through the political system is certain to lead to shortages or surpluses.
We’re told over and over how higher education is all about teaching students to “think critically.” This event belies that. The students were herded along to produce a “constitution” enshrining all the statist shibboleths without the slightest hint of any critical thinking.
Jonah Goldberg Catches Flak
A small item on Inside Higher Ed today mentions that in a forthcoming book, Jonah Goldberg mistakenly says that Swarthmore has an education major. Apparently he just assumed that it did in a reference to the kind of people he’s writing about, namely those trained to be teachers in the nation’s ed schools. Naturally, the comments are filled with rage — over a book that hasn’t even been released yet.
Another point of contention is over Goldberg’s use of the word “fascist.” The hard-left often uses that word as an all-purpose epithet (e.g., Wal-Mart is “fascist” for not wanting to unionize), but can’t stand it when the word is turned against them.
The distinction between fascism and communism is this: the communists favor government control over society through outright confiscation of property whereas fascists favor government control through a vast number of laws and regulations that leave property owners nominally in charge but actually as puppets of the state. The U.S. has been on the slow boat to fascism for a long time.
Whether Goldberg’s book makes a valid point about the fascistic ideas of graduates of education schools, I don’t know. I haven’t yet read the book.
Howlers at the Expense of Ancient History
You’ll have to laugh – although such intellectual disorder is not really a laughing matter – at the following student errors on a final exam sent to me by an English professor at a branch of SUNY:
- “Athene helps Telemachus and Odysseus to be reunited and restore order to Troy. This all took place around 450 B.C. but it was not written down until 800 B.C.”
- “Much like Odyssus Augustine, who at one time was reared as a saint in Hippo, is tempted by pretty women as well as by a pear tree. But later he loses his self-control problem and converts into a Christian.”
- “Odysseus, the main character, though having the hand of Venus (Venus-Isis) right on his side, is faced with much despair when he has to leave his wife and sons behind before he goes on many ‘adventures’ and encounters things. He defeats the Cyclopse after barely being eaten and meets Nausicaa while naked then stumbling over Calypso who holds him prisoner and gives him all of the winds.”
- “Beginning with Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’ written down around 800 BC, when infact the events took place in the 4th century. There are many examples of order, tragedy, and some triumph.”
- “A large wooden horse is brought by Aeneas from Troy, which Queen Dido thinks is a sign of appreciation. When the wooden horse is opened up and a number of Greek soldiers jump out, Dido is in shock. Thankfully, Aeneas and his men show up and promise to restore her disorder.”
- “In Homer’s Odyssey while Odyssus is gone for ten years trying to get home from Calypso’s isle about 700 B.C. and enduring the many abstacles he faces along the way, the entire time’s he’s trying to restore order with in his selfs life.”
- “The Odessy, written down around 800 B.C., its events are said to actually take place around 500 B.C.”
The exasperated professor comments:
What really gets me is the chronological befuddlement of so many of those enrolled in my class, for whom Colin McEvedy’s New Penguin Atlas of Ancient History was a mandatory text required in class at every class-meeting — to which I constantly referred. One would think that they would notice that the dates count down until 1 A.D. and then count up. But this would imply that they actually glanced now and then at the Atlas.
Another Home-Grown Wannabe Terrorist
A 23-year-old college student, Gregory Patterson, who took courses at El Camino College and California State University at Northridge, pleaded guilty this week to charges of conspiring to wage war on the United States, including planning terrorist attacks on military sites and synagogues in Southern California. Raised a Christian but drawn to terrorism after attending an Islamic center, Patterson admitted his culpability regarding two counts: conspiracy to levy war against the U.S. through terrorism and conspiracy to possess and discharge firearms. (Orange County Register)
More on the Princeton Student’s Self-Inflicted Assault
From the comments at Chronicle:
Some black and feminist activists have been engaging in these deceptive tactics for years. And when they are revealed as hoaxes, the standard line is, “It doesn’t matter that it didn’t happen, because the prejudice (racism, sexism) is still there.” Is it any wonder that some flaky conservative kid will try the same thing? (Ergum Soloff)
A better approach to dealing with such cases came from Ryan Anderson at firstthings.com.