Commentary Magazine


Topic: Yale University

How Are University Presidents be Judged?

Yale University President Richard Levin has announced that at the end of the school year, his twentieth at the helm of Yale University, he will step down. The New York Times coverage outlined his achievements:

Under his presidency, the university has greatly expanded its academic facilities, including new quarters for science and medicine and a new business school campus; has overhauled its buildings, including all 12 undergraduate residential colleges; has started construction of two residential colleges to make room for the first major expansion in undergraduate enrollment in decades; and has embarked on new programs overseas. “Rick’s presidency hasn’t been revolutionary,” said Anthony Kronman, a former law school dean. “It’s been a steady, persistent accumulation that, I would say, add up to a massive set of achievements.” Dr. Levin’s administration has increased Yale’s endowment faster than those of its peers, despite heavy capital spending; as of mid-2011, it stood at $19.4 billion, second only to Harvard’s.

Levin has certainly between a master fundraiser, and he has increased the quantity and quality of university facilities that had deteriorated after many years of deferred maintenance. He has also improved relations with both the city of New Haven and the local unions, largely by giving into their demands, in a sense another type of deferred maintenance.

When it comes to intellectual leadership, however, Levin’s epitaph should not be so sunny.

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Yale University President Richard Levin has announced that at the end of the school year, his twentieth at the helm of Yale University, he will step down. The New York Times coverage outlined his achievements:

Under his presidency, the university has greatly expanded its academic facilities, including new quarters for science and medicine and a new business school campus; has overhauled its buildings, including all 12 undergraduate residential colleges; has started construction of two residential colleges to make room for the first major expansion in undergraduate enrollment in decades; and has embarked on new programs overseas. “Rick’s presidency hasn’t been revolutionary,” said Anthony Kronman, a former law school dean. “It’s been a steady, persistent accumulation that, I would say, add up to a massive set of achievements.” Dr. Levin’s administration has increased Yale’s endowment faster than those of its peers, despite heavy capital spending; as of mid-2011, it stood at $19.4 billion, second only to Harvard’s.

Levin has certainly between a master fundraiser, and he has increased the quantity and quality of university facilities that had deteriorated after many years of deferred maintenance. He has also improved relations with both the city of New Haven and the local unions, largely by giving into their demands, in a sense another type of deferred maintenance.

When it comes to intellectual leadership, however, Levin’s epitaph should not be so sunny.

First, Levin has presided over a contraction in the embrace of free speech. In 2012, the university came in fifth on a list of the top 12 university violators of free speech. Compromises inherent in Yale’s overseas branch in Singapore are only the latest in a series neatly summarized by recent Yale graduate Shaun Tan. Levin also presided over unprecedented editorial interference in the Yale University Press to prevent publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in an academic work about the controversial cartoons. Levin has also presided over an increase in punishment for controversial and offensive speech, such as some students’ crude ridicule of the university Women’s Center.

Infantilizing students has been an even greater and more deleterious Levin legacy. Rather than let students sink or swim on their own merits and excel on their own initiative, Levin has built a formidable support structure to coddle students at almost every level. There’s nothing wrong, of course, with providing tutoring services for those who require and request it, but monitoring a student progress at every level to blur the distinction between hard word and entitlement does both students and employers a disservice. The infantilizing has expanded into the extra-curricular and even off-campus spheres. While bureaucratic logic can explain the requirement for student organizations to register their activity, big brother management runs roughshod over student initiative and increasingly inculcates students to the idea that they must always rely on larger government structures. The university’s most recent initiative to regulate off-campus student activity and parties is questionable at best. Lawyers might explain university actions in terms of the concept of in loco parentsis, the idea that the university is legally required to act in place of parents to protect students, but a true leader would have defended individual liberty in court instead of constantly taking the path of least resistance in the face of cynical litigiousness. Yale—or any other university—could not do better for its matriculants than inculcate the notion both of individual liberty and its inherent responsibilities.

Eviscerating donor intent is a third Levin legacy. Levin has capped student prizes and awards to equalize them across departments, diverting any excess into the university’s general fund. Never mind that Levin’s salary has continued to increase, even as funds for student opportunities have been cut. No longer will top Classics majors, for example, be able to study in Greece because their funding has been cut to less than that of roundtrip airfare, a move meant to demonstrate fairness to other groups like sociology majors, whose alumni hadn’t given equal amounts to enable such scholarships. Likewise, Levin has moved to equalize experience among Yale’s 12 residential colleges to whom alumni sometimes feel closer than to the central administration. Those like Pierson College Master Harvey Goldblatt undertook rigorous fundraising which enabled graduating class trips to Italy, for example, while other master—like those I lived under during my undergraduate years—were content to do little unless they could get handouts from Levin. This understandably bred some content. But rather than channel that content into a healthy competition to promote college experiences, Levin seized control of the funding to redistribute and equalize it regardless of donor intent. In a sense, his was a microcosm of Obama’s philosophy to redistribute wealth rather than promote the mechanism to grow it. As for Goldblatt—not surprisingly Yale’s most popular master in a generation—Levin ordered him forcibly retired so as to no longer break the curve.

Universities have become a big business. If Levin is judged just by the financial balance sheet, then perhaps he succeeded. If he is judged, however, by the inculcation of liberty, individual responsibility, and a willingness to stand up for intellectual principle, than, alas, he has failed.

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Will Yale Fire Fareed Zakaria?

There is now little question that Fareed Zakaria is guilty of plagiarism. He has admitted copying a portion of a New Yorker essay and apologized. Time, where Zakaria works as a columnist, has suspended Zakaria for a month, and CNN—owned by the same parent company—has suspended him pending an investigation. This represents a mere slap on the wrist for someone whose standard speaking fee is $75,000.

As Yale University lecturer Jim Sleeper notes, however, Zakaria has a perch not only at CNN and Time, but also at Yale University, where he sits on the Yale Corporation, the University’s governing board and policy-making body. There is no greater academic sin than plagiarism. Students can be expelled for plagiarizing papers, and professors can be fired. To let Zakaria off the hook on his own recognizance would be to eviscerate the principle of academic integrity for which Yale says it stands.

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There is now little question that Fareed Zakaria is guilty of plagiarism. He has admitted copying a portion of a New Yorker essay and apologized. Time, where Zakaria works as a columnist, has suspended Zakaria for a month, and CNN—owned by the same parent company—has suspended him pending an investigation. This represents a mere slap on the wrist for someone whose standard speaking fee is $75,000.

As Yale University lecturer Jim Sleeper notes, however, Zakaria has a perch not only at CNN and Time, but also at Yale University, where he sits on the Yale Corporation, the University’s governing board and policy-making body. There is no greater academic sin than plagiarism. Students can be expelled for plagiarizing papers, and professors can be fired. To let Zakaria off the hook on his own recognizance would be to eviscerate the principle of academic integrity for which Yale says it stands.

Whether Yale President Richard Levin will do the right thing, however, is another issue. While Levin has distinguished himself as a master fundraiser, he has also shown a disturbing willingness to undercut free speech (ironically, with Zakaria’s acquiescence), compromise academic integrity to foreign interests, and embrace fame over principle. Seldom is an issue as cut-and-dry as Zakaria’s plagiarism. Unless Yale seeks to demonstrate that cheating is acceptable and that there is no principle to which it will not turn a blind eye, then it really has no choice: It is time to give Zakaria the boot.

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Foreign Money Compromising Universities

Much has been written here and elsewhere about how American and British universities take foreign money. University presidents say their institutions retain academic independence and intellectual integrity, but evidence suggests otherwise. Sparked by Yale University’s decision to establish a program in Singapore, a country where free speech and political criticism are limited, Shaun Tan, a student currently completing a master’s degree at Yale University, has penned an important article in The Politic examining the phenomenon. Tan describes several cases. For example, there is China:

The Chinese government… has financed Confucius Institutes at universities including Columbia, Stanford, and the University of Chicago. Ostensibly meant to promote study of Chinese language and culture, something many Westerners rightly perceive as important, the cash comes with strings attached. Affiliated universities must sign a “memorandum of understanding” endorsing the “one-China policy” that precludes recognition of Taiwan as a state. Confucius Institutes have also been known to act as lobby groups in universities, attempting to block guest speakers who they perceive as anti-Beijing.

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Much has been written here and elsewhere about how American and British universities take foreign money. University presidents say their institutions retain academic independence and intellectual integrity, but evidence suggests otherwise. Sparked by Yale University’s decision to establish a program in Singapore, a country where free speech and political criticism are limited, Shaun Tan, a student currently completing a master’s degree at Yale University, has penned an important article in The Politic examining the phenomenon. Tan describes several cases. For example, there is China:

The Chinese government… has financed Confucius Institutes at universities including Columbia, Stanford, and the University of Chicago. Ostensibly meant to promote study of Chinese language and culture, something many Westerners rightly perceive as important, the cash comes with strings attached. Affiliated universities must sign a “memorandum of understanding” endorsing the “one-China policy” that precludes recognition of Taiwan as a state. Confucius Institutes have also been known to act as lobby groups in universities, attempting to block guest speakers who they perceive as anti-Beijing.

And Abu Dhabi:

Clinched by a $50 million donation to NYU, and the promise of much more to come, NYU-Abu Dhabi opened in fall 2010, making it the first liberal arts college outside America… [University President John] Sexton warned students and faculty at the new campus that they couldn’t criticize Abu Dhabi’s leaders and policies without repercussions. However, he denied that such restrictions would betray the spirit of a liberal arts college. “I have no trouble distinguishing between rights of academic freedom and rights of political expression,” he said.

He provides many other examples. His well-researched piece is a must read.

Foreigners flock to American universities because of their freedom and opportunity. How sad it is then, as Tan describes, that so many American university presidents are willing to compromise basic values in order to make a quick buck, often padding endowments which already reach billions of dollars. That will not bring progress; it is simply intellectual prostitution.

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Yale Should Stand Up to Feds and Stop Babying Students

Yale University and its sister universities have grown increasingly paternalistic over time, infantilizing their student body and saddling them with increasing regulation. Litigiousness has led the university to take the concept of in loco parentis to an extreme. Few universities any more allow the faculty to create policies. Just as university presidents have become fundraisers rather than intellectual leaders, university policies are now crafted in rapidly expanding general counsel shops. Lost is both a culture of accountability that allows students to fail or that hold students responsible for their own stupidity and also a culture that prizes individual freedom and liberty.

A little encouragement from the federal government can be a dangerous thing: A bit over a year ago, some fraternity pledges shouted silly things in front of Yale’s Women’s Center. Their words were stupid, but so too was the Yale Women’s Center’s response which, in effect, sought to criminalize speech—a truly noxious concept at any university. The Women’s Center’s response surprised no one: For decades, the group has marginalized itself by conflating women’s issues with leftism and then staking out positions which even many progressives would find extreme.

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Yale University and its sister universities have grown increasingly paternalistic over time, infantilizing their student body and saddling them with increasing regulation. Litigiousness has led the university to take the concept of in loco parentis to an extreme. Few universities any more allow the faculty to create policies. Just as university presidents have become fundraisers rather than intellectual leaders, university policies are now crafted in rapidly expanding general counsel shops. Lost is both a culture of accountability that allows students to fail or that hold students responsible for their own stupidity and also a culture that prizes individual freedom and liberty.

A little encouragement from the federal government can be a dangerous thing: A bit over a year ago, some fraternity pledges shouted silly things in front of Yale’s Women’s Center. Their words were stupid, but so too was the Yale Women’s Center’s response which, in effect, sought to criminalize speech—a truly noxious concept at any university. The Women’s Center’s response surprised no one: For decades, the group has marginalized itself by conflating women’s issues with leftism and then staking out positions which even many progressives would find extreme.

The University sought to take a middle line—reprimanding the students but also reminding everyone that “the results of free expression are to the general benefit in the long run, however unpleasant they may appear at the time.”

Enter the U.S. Department of Education, which a year ago announced that it would investigate the University for creating a “hostile sexual environment” based on the university’s “inadequate” response to the frat pledges’ chants. In response, Yale University panicked. It has since doubled down on its infantilization of students, instituting ever more workshops about consent and communicating with people of the other sex. Mind you, the target audience for these workshops is adults. The university also sought to increase its control of campus culture by more strictly regulating student groups. To register, group leaders would have to submit themselves to further workshops. Now, Yale is going from the sublime to the ridiculous, as the administration considers a policy which would forbid freshmen from attending off-campus fraternity-sponsored events during their first semester.

Now, when I was an undergraduate at Yale back in the early 1990s, fraternities were not my thing, although I did go to a few fraternity parties here and there. Many friends, however, were in fraternities, and despite university administrators’ Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, or Old School fantasies, they focused more on mentoring, community service, and networking. Yale prided itself on attracting students with varied interests, and if some wanted to make fraternities an outlet of their extracurricular time, so be it.

It’s bad enough that Yale administrators seek to so closely regulate student speech and activities on campus, but the idea that they would now try to regulate what students can and cannot do off-campus is deeply troubling: Simply put, it is not the university’s job and it certainly is not the U.S. Department of Education’s job. That a federal department which at most, should administer grants and at least, should not even exist, can bully universities in pursuit of its own social engineering goals is deeply troubling. That university administrators refuse to stand up and fight back is even more so.

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The Shocking Rashad Hussain Interview

A friend of COMMENTARY calls my attention to this interview with the controversial Rashad Hussain, the U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. You will recall that his nomination raised concerns when his comments alleging a “political” motivation for prosecuting Sami Al-Arian and his attendance at CAIR events came to light. (He then attempted to cover up the comments.) As our friend notes, “This must be read to be believed … it cannot be parodied.”

We start from the context — a foreign, Arabic publication. It is to this audience that he skewers — without justification or basis in fact — the Bush administration:

Q) Do you think it will be easy to overcome the hostility in the Islamic world towards certain US policies, especially in light of the actions taken under the previous US administration?

A) We are concerned about this but we are determined to move forward, without looking to the past and the negative effects of this, in order to erase the hostile feelings caused by the administration of former President George W. Bush. There is now a suitable opportunity to overcome the past, and open a new page in relations between the US and the people in the Islamic region.

This is not, to say the least, what we expect our envoys to communicate to foreign audiences. And then there is the substance of his remarks. Hostile feelings caused by the Bush administration’s policies, he says? Which were those — the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which Obama has continued? The focus on human rights, which Obama has ignored? And notice the assignment of blame to the country he pretends to represent, not to the bad actors — Syria and Iran, for example — that continue to promote terror and brutalize their people. It appears that Hussain is telling the Muslims that the real source of trouble in the Middle East was George W. Bush.

But it is obsession with the peace process as the key to ending such “hostility” and the conviction that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the source of our woes that are the most jarring — and perhaps revelatory of the administration he represents. He offers this:

Q) How do you intend to impose your strategy to develop relations with the Islamic world?

A) By implementing the recommendations made in the speech by US President Obama in Cairo, which represents a clear strategy to promote relations with the Islamic world, as this speech covered all political, social, and economic aspects. We have already begun work to implement what was said in the speech, whether through political action to solve the Palestinian-Israel conflict through the efforts exerted by the Obama administration’s Peace Envoy George Mitchell, and we will also promote health services such as combating polio in the Islamic world, and promoting educational programs and cultural exchange between the two sides.

And this:

Q) Many Muslims are critical of bias US policies towards Israel. How can we reconcile what Obama said in his Cairo speech and the US political approach in the Middle East?

A) The United States does not operate solely according to its own interests, and it seeks to safeguard the interests of both the Palestinians and the Israelis, which has made it a top priority for us to engage in genuine peace negotiations between both sides. As you know, the US is committed to its role as an effective mediator in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. We have not waited until the last minute to become involved in this; rather we did everything we could to urge the concerned parties to enter negotiations. President Obama [also] appointed George Mitchell Middle East Peace Envoy, and he appointed me as an envoy to promote US relations with the Islamic world, and we are all working to implement Obama’s strategy in the Islamic world to achieve stability in this part of the world.

Q) Do you think the Israeli settlement building in Jerusalem complicates your mission to improve US relations with the Islamic world?

A) Of course, there are fears that any action or provocation will negatively affect feelings, and as a Muslim I know full well that the Al Aqsa Mosque was the first Qibla [direction in which Muslims pray] and is the third holiest site for Muslims and it is revered by Muslims. President Obama is committed to calming the situation in the city of Jerusalem, and finding solutions that are both acceptable to the Palestinians and the Israelis. There is also a clear position by the president to reject any settlement building in east Jerusalem, and there is a statement to this effect from the US administration, which has many ways to settle the conflict in the region that has lasted for 60 years. However, it is not easy for this to be settled overnight so we must bridge the differences between the conflicting parties. Over the last few days we have heard good news to the effect that indirect negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis have begun, so I think we are making progress in this regard, and we must not take a step backwards.

Now, he does mention polio programs and educational outreach, but plainly this man is convinced that the key to ending “hostility” against the U.S. is resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. What is missing? Ah, mention of the Iranian nuclear threat. Oh yes, the brutalization of women and the repression of Middle East despots. And how exactly has the arrival of Obama ended that hostility? Last time we checked, Syria was supplying Hezbollah with Scuds and Iran was moving toward acquisition of a nuclear weapon. Still seems pretty hostile. Maybe it wasn’t all Bush’s fault.

And as the crowning touch, we have this exchange:

Q) You studied law at Yale University, during which you criticized the prosecution of Sami Al-Arian, describing it as “politically motivated.” Do you think the American legal system unfairly links Islam and terrorism?

A) To be clear, I have no connection to such terror trials, and these cases are subject to the deliberations of the US courts. The US legal system is one of the best in the world and enjoys great confidence.

Where is the emphatic repudiation of his view that Al-Arian was the victim of a political show trial? Where is the simple declarative, “No, he was convicted, and we will continue to investigate and prosecute terrorists and those who facilitate terrorism”? Nowhere. This is shameful.

There is a reason that Obama appointed Hussain: he is the perfect embodiment of the mean-spirited (toward Bush, Israel, and those who doubt Obama’s sincerity), warped view of the Middle East that allows despots to go unchallenged, brutality to remain unremarked upon, and the region to inch ever closer to a deadly nuclear-arms race.

A friend of COMMENTARY calls my attention to this interview with the controversial Rashad Hussain, the U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. You will recall that his nomination raised concerns when his comments alleging a “political” motivation for prosecuting Sami Al-Arian and his attendance at CAIR events came to light. (He then attempted to cover up the comments.) As our friend notes, “This must be read to be believed … it cannot be parodied.”

We start from the context — a foreign, Arabic publication. It is to this audience that he skewers — without justification or basis in fact — the Bush administration:

Q) Do you think it will be easy to overcome the hostility in the Islamic world towards certain US policies, especially in light of the actions taken under the previous US administration?

A) We are concerned about this but we are determined to move forward, without looking to the past and the negative effects of this, in order to erase the hostile feelings caused by the administration of former President George W. Bush. There is now a suitable opportunity to overcome the past, and open a new page in relations between the US and the people in the Islamic region.

This is not, to say the least, what we expect our envoys to communicate to foreign audiences. And then there is the substance of his remarks. Hostile feelings caused by the Bush administration’s policies, he says? Which were those — the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which Obama has continued? The focus on human rights, which Obama has ignored? And notice the assignment of blame to the country he pretends to represent, not to the bad actors — Syria and Iran, for example — that continue to promote terror and brutalize their people. It appears that Hussain is telling the Muslims that the real source of trouble in the Middle East was George W. Bush.

But it is obsession with the peace process as the key to ending such “hostility” and the conviction that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the source of our woes that are the most jarring — and perhaps revelatory of the administration he represents. He offers this:

Q) How do you intend to impose your strategy to develop relations with the Islamic world?

A) By implementing the recommendations made in the speech by US President Obama in Cairo, which represents a clear strategy to promote relations with the Islamic world, as this speech covered all political, social, and economic aspects. We have already begun work to implement what was said in the speech, whether through political action to solve the Palestinian-Israel conflict through the efforts exerted by the Obama administration’s Peace Envoy George Mitchell, and we will also promote health services such as combating polio in the Islamic world, and promoting educational programs and cultural exchange between the two sides.

And this:

Q) Many Muslims are critical of bias US policies towards Israel. How can we reconcile what Obama said in his Cairo speech and the US political approach in the Middle East?

A) The United States does not operate solely according to its own interests, and it seeks to safeguard the interests of both the Palestinians and the Israelis, which has made it a top priority for us to engage in genuine peace negotiations between both sides. As you know, the US is committed to its role as an effective mediator in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. We have not waited until the last minute to become involved in this; rather we did everything we could to urge the concerned parties to enter negotiations. President Obama [also] appointed George Mitchell Middle East Peace Envoy, and he appointed me as an envoy to promote US relations with the Islamic world, and we are all working to implement Obama’s strategy in the Islamic world to achieve stability in this part of the world.

Q) Do you think the Israeli settlement building in Jerusalem complicates your mission to improve US relations with the Islamic world?

A) Of course, there are fears that any action or provocation will negatively affect feelings, and as a Muslim I know full well that the Al Aqsa Mosque was the first Qibla [direction in which Muslims pray] and is the third holiest site for Muslims and it is revered by Muslims. President Obama is committed to calming the situation in the city of Jerusalem, and finding solutions that are both acceptable to the Palestinians and the Israelis. There is also a clear position by the president to reject any settlement building in east Jerusalem, and there is a statement to this effect from the US administration, which has many ways to settle the conflict in the region that has lasted for 60 years. However, it is not easy for this to be settled overnight so we must bridge the differences between the conflicting parties. Over the last few days we have heard good news to the effect that indirect negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis have begun, so I think we are making progress in this regard, and we must not take a step backwards.

Now, he does mention polio programs and educational outreach, but plainly this man is convinced that the key to ending “hostility” against the U.S. is resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. What is missing? Ah, mention of the Iranian nuclear threat. Oh yes, the brutalization of women and the repression of Middle East despots. And how exactly has the arrival of Obama ended that hostility? Last time we checked, Syria was supplying Hezbollah with Scuds and Iran was moving toward acquisition of a nuclear weapon. Still seems pretty hostile. Maybe it wasn’t all Bush’s fault.

And as the crowning touch, we have this exchange:

Q) You studied law at Yale University, during which you criticized the prosecution of Sami Al-Arian, describing it as “politically motivated.” Do you think the American legal system unfairly links Islam and terrorism?

A) To be clear, I have no connection to such terror trials, and these cases are subject to the deliberations of the US courts. The US legal system is one of the best in the world and enjoys great confidence.

Where is the emphatic repudiation of his view that Al-Arian was the victim of a political show trial? Where is the simple declarative, “No, he was convicted, and we will continue to investigate and prosecute terrorists and those who facilitate terrorism”? Nowhere. This is shameful.

There is a reason that Obama appointed Hussain: he is the perfect embodiment of the mean-spirited (toward Bush, Israel, and those who doubt Obama’s sincerity), warped view of the Middle East that allows despots to go unchallenged, brutality to remain unremarked upon, and the region to inch ever closer to a deadly nuclear-arms race.

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The Problem with Law Schools

Ed Whelan dismantles bit by bit the argument by former Harvard Law School dean Robert Clark in support of current Harvard Law School dean Elena Kagan’s barring of military recruiters and signing on to an amicus brief contesting the Solomon Amendment. This raises a larger issue — yes, even larger than a single Supreme Court nomination — what’s the matter with law schools? After all, lots and lots of their deans and professors hadn’t a clue what the law was in the case challenging the Solomon Amendment. George Mason University Law School was the proud exception and at the time reminded us:

The amicus brief filed by the dean and two professors at George Mason’s law school was the only one submitted by a law school that took the side of the armed services. Many amicus briefs were filed on the losing side (including briefs in behalf of Yale University, Harvard University, Columbia University, New York University, the University of Chicago, Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania), arguing that the Solomon Amendment’s requirement of equal access for military recruiters was unconstitutional under the First Amendment. In addition, professors at Columbia and Harvard law schools submitted briefs arguing that as a matter of statutory construction the law schools had in fact complied with the Solomon Amendment. The constitutional and statutory arguments were all rejected by the Court.

There is a reason why the Chief Justice, among other justices over the years, has said that he doesn’t pay too much attention to law-review articles. Why? Law professors don’t really have a great grasp of what the law is or a decent track record in predicting where it will evolve. They operate in a largely isolated academic setting in which, in their minds, there are nine Justice Stevenses on the bench. And in this case, they didn’t even get Stevens’s position right.

As Ronald Reagan said of liberals, it’s not that they are ignorant. It’s that they know so much that isn’t true. So I can see the argument for looking outside the appellate bench for justices. But I think law professors are the last place you’d want to look for unbiased, accomplished legal analysts. Let’s hope Kagan picked up some actual law, not law-school law, in her last year at the solicitor general’s office.

Ed Whelan dismantles bit by bit the argument by former Harvard Law School dean Robert Clark in support of current Harvard Law School dean Elena Kagan’s barring of military recruiters and signing on to an amicus brief contesting the Solomon Amendment. This raises a larger issue — yes, even larger than a single Supreme Court nomination — what’s the matter with law schools? After all, lots and lots of their deans and professors hadn’t a clue what the law was in the case challenging the Solomon Amendment. George Mason University Law School was the proud exception and at the time reminded us:

The amicus brief filed by the dean and two professors at George Mason’s law school was the only one submitted by a law school that took the side of the armed services. Many amicus briefs were filed on the losing side (including briefs in behalf of Yale University, Harvard University, Columbia University, New York University, the University of Chicago, Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania), arguing that the Solomon Amendment’s requirement of equal access for military recruiters was unconstitutional under the First Amendment. In addition, professors at Columbia and Harvard law schools submitted briefs arguing that as a matter of statutory construction the law schools had in fact complied with the Solomon Amendment. The constitutional and statutory arguments were all rejected by the Court.

There is a reason why the Chief Justice, among other justices over the years, has said that he doesn’t pay too much attention to law-review articles. Why? Law professors don’t really have a great grasp of what the law is or a decent track record in predicting where it will evolve. They operate in a largely isolated academic setting in which, in their minds, there are nine Justice Stevenses on the bench. And in this case, they didn’t even get Stevens’s position right.

As Ronald Reagan said of liberals, it’s not that they are ignorant. It’s that they know so much that isn’t true. So I can see the argument for looking outside the appellate bench for justices. But I think law professors are the last place you’d want to look for unbiased, accomplished legal analysts. Let’s hope Kagan picked up some actual law, not law-school law, in her last year at the solicitor general’s office.

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Freedom Fighter Called “Terrorist” by INS

Karen DeYoung published a story in the Washington Post that ought to embarrass anyone making decisions about who deserves permanent residence in the U.S.

Saman Kareem Ahmad is an Iraqi Kurd who worked as a translator with the Marines in Iraq’s Anbar Province. He was one of the few selected translators who was granted asylum in the U.S. because he and his family were singled out for destruction by insurgents for “collaboration.” He wants to return to Iraq as an American citizen and a Marine, and has already been awarded the Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter and General David Petraeus wrote notes for his file and recommended he be given a Green Card, but the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) declined his application and called him a “terrorist.”

The INS says Ahmad “conducted full-scale armed attacks and helped incite rebellions against Hussein’s regime, most notably during the Iran-Iraq war, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom” while a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

The KDP is one of two mainstream Kurdish political parties in Iraq. Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani is a member of the KDP. The KDP fought alongside the United States military as an ally during Operation Iraqi Freedom. After Operation Desert Storm the KDP fought the Saddam regime after President George H. W. Bush called on Iraqis to do so. During the Iran-Iraq War, the KDP fought the Ba’athists because they were actively resisting genocide in the Kurdish region where Saddam used chemical weapons, artillery, air strikes, and napalm to exterminate them. And he’s a terrorist?

The Kurds in Iraq–unlike the Kurds in Turkey and the ever-popular Palestinians– did not use terrorism as a tactic in their struggle for liberation. They fought honorably against Saddam’s soldiers, not against Arab civilians in south and central Iraq.

The INS revealingly refers to the KDP as an “undesignated” terrorist organization. Which suggests it’s aware that the KDP isn’t a terrorist organization but has unilaterally labeled it as one regardless. The blogger Callimachus thinks it may be because the Patriot Act defines terrorism as “any activity which is unlawful under the laws of the place it was committed.” He correctly points out that Jews in Hitler’s Warsaw Ghetto were “terrorists” according to this brainless definition.

This is an absurd inversion of the already absurd “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” slogan. Usually this sophomoric claim is made by terrorists or by leftists who make excuses for terrorists. This time, the INS is calling an actual freedom fighter a terrorist.

Somebody should tell Vice President Dick Cheney. He met with the KDP’s Barzani himself just a few days ago. “That was a unique and interesting opportunity,” he said, “to go look at what’s happened in a part of Iraq that was obviously freed of Saddam Hussein’s influence when the U.S. went in there and established the Operation Provide Comfort at the end of the Gulf War, and then set up the ‘no fly zones,’ and so forth.” Someone might also want to inform President George W. Bush, who invited Ahmad to the White House in 2007.

It’s worth comparing this case with two others.

Sayyed Rahmatullah Hashemi was a spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan, yet he was admitted to Yale University in 2006, though he wasn’t given a green card, as far as I can tell. And just a few days ago, drug-trafficking prostitute and Brazilian national Andreia Schwartz was offered a green card if she would reveal what she knows about former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. But Saman Ahmad faces deportation to a country where actual terrorists threaten to kill him? The law (to say nothing of the INS) truly is “a ass,” as Mr. Bumble once observed.

Karen DeYoung published a story in the Washington Post that ought to embarrass anyone making decisions about who deserves permanent residence in the U.S.

Saman Kareem Ahmad is an Iraqi Kurd who worked as a translator with the Marines in Iraq’s Anbar Province. He was one of the few selected translators who was granted asylum in the U.S. because he and his family were singled out for destruction by insurgents for “collaboration.” He wants to return to Iraq as an American citizen and a Marine, and has already been awarded the Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter and General David Petraeus wrote notes for his file and recommended he be given a Green Card, but the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) declined his application and called him a “terrorist.”

The INS says Ahmad “conducted full-scale armed attacks and helped incite rebellions against Hussein’s regime, most notably during the Iran-Iraq war, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom” while a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

The KDP is one of two mainstream Kurdish political parties in Iraq. Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani is a member of the KDP. The KDP fought alongside the United States military as an ally during Operation Iraqi Freedom. After Operation Desert Storm the KDP fought the Saddam regime after President George H. W. Bush called on Iraqis to do so. During the Iran-Iraq War, the KDP fought the Ba’athists because they were actively resisting genocide in the Kurdish region where Saddam used chemical weapons, artillery, air strikes, and napalm to exterminate them. And he’s a terrorist?

The Kurds in Iraq–unlike the Kurds in Turkey and the ever-popular Palestinians– did not use terrorism as a tactic in their struggle for liberation. They fought honorably against Saddam’s soldiers, not against Arab civilians in south and central Iraq.

The INS revealingly refers to the KDP as an “undesignated” terrorist organization. Which suggests it’s aware that the KDP isn’t a terrorist organization but has unilaterally labeled it as one regardless. The blogger Callimachus thinks it may be because the Patriot Act defines terrorism as “any activity which is unlawful under the laws of the place it was committed.” He correctly points out that Jews in Hitler’s Warsaw Ghetto were “terrorists” according to this brainless definition.

This is an absurd inversion of the already absurd “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” slogan. Usually this sophomoric claim is made by terrorists or by leftists who make excuses for terrorists. This time, the INS is calling an actual freedom fighter a terrorist.

Somebody should tell Vice President Dick Cheney. He met with the KDP’s Barzani himself just a few days ago. “That was a unique and interesting opportunity,” he said, “to go look at what’s happened in a part of Iraq that was obviously freed of Saddam Hussein’s influence when the U.S. went in there and established the Operation Provide Comfort at the end of the Gulf War, and then set up the ‘no fly zones,’ and so forth.” Someone might also want to inform President George W. Bush, who invited Ahmad to the White House in 2007.

It’s worth comparing this case with two others.

Sayyed Rahmatullah Hashemi was a spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan, yet he was admitted to Yale University in 2006, though he wasn’t given a green card, as far as I can tell. And just a few days ago, drug-trafficking prostitute and Brazilian national Andreia Schwartz was offered a green card if she would reveal what she knows about former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. But Saman Ahmad faces deportation to a country where actual terrorists threaten to kill him? The law (to say nothing of the INS) truly is “a ass,” as Mr. Bumble once observed.

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Thoughts From a Fellow Yalie

For what it’s worth, here’s my brief remembrance.

I first met William F. Buckley, Jr., as a freshman at Yale University. It was at the 125th anniversary celebration of the Yale Daily News (which Buckley had edited, stirring all manner of controversy) and I was sitting in a large hall listening to a panel of former Newsies riff on their college days. Buckley and his son, Christopher, sat next to me by sheer chance.

After the panel, I introduced myself to Buckley and we chatted briefly on the state of politics on campus. He gave me his email address and requested that we stay in touch (we would keep up a very informal and infrequent correspondence). Later that evening, I bumped into Buckley at the News building, where he was inspecting old black-and-white photos of previous editorial boards, including his own. He mentioned that his wife was unable to attend the celebratory banquet that evening and that he had an extra ticket for a seat at his table. Would I care to join him? As Joseph Lieberman–a former editor of the News himself–said today in remarks on the Senate floor, Buckley took a “warm, brotherly interest” in those working for the paper, but I never expected this sort of gratifying and flattering attention. Sadly, I was in a theatrical performance, and there was no understudy. But, I assured myself, there would be other such occasions in the future.

Sadly, there weren’t.  But a different sort of opportunity to become acquainted with Buckley arrived my sophomore year, in the form of a position as a research assistant to Sam Tanenhaus, the New York Times editor who is working on what will be the definitive biography of the godfather of American conservatism. Buckley had deposited hundreds upon hundreds of boxes of personal correspondence, press clippings, and his own written work at the library of his alma mater, a collection that he updated on a continual basis. My job was to research his 1965 run for mayor of New York City, one of the most entertaining political bouts in recent American history and the subject of this 2005 Times Magazine essay by Tanenhaus.

Through that experience, it became clear that Buckley was what most of us writing for political magazines hope to be: a change agent. While it’s wrong to suggest that the conservative movement would not have existed without him, it surely, without his influence, would not have been the force–judged by both intellectual and political heft–it eventually became. It might seem paradoxical that the most influential conservative writer of the 20th century (standing athwart history yelling “Stop”) would be a “change agent.” But that’s what he was.

For what it’s worth, here’s my brief remembrance.

I first met William F. Buckley, Jr., as a freshman at Yale University. It was at the 125th anniversary celebration of the Yale Daily News (which Buckley had edited, stirring all manner of controversy) and I was sitting in a large hall listening to a panel of former Newsies riff on their college days. Buckley and his son, Christopher, sat next to me by sheer chance.

After the panel, I introduced myself to Buckley and we chatted briefly on the state of politics on campus. He gave me his email address and requested that we stay in touch (we would keep up a very informal and infrequent correspondence). Later that evening, I bumped into Buckley at the News building, where he was inspecting old black-and-white photos of previous editorial boards, including his own. He mentioned that his wife was unable to attend the celebratory banquet that evening and that he had an extra ticket for a seat at his table. Would I care to join him? As Joseph Lieberman–a former editor of the News himself–said today in remarks on the Senate floor, Buckley took a “warm, brotherly interest” in those working for the paper, but I never expected this sort of gratifying and flattering attention. Sadly, I was in a theatrical performance, and there was no understudy. But, I assured myself, there would be other such occasions in the future.

Sadly, there weren’t.  But a different sort of opportunity to become acquainted with Buckley arrived my sophomore year, in the form of a position as a research assistant to Sam Tanenhaus, the New York Times editor who is working on what will be the definitive biography of the godfather of American conservatism. Buckley had deposited hundreds upon hundreds of boxes of personal correspondence, press clippings, and his own written work at the library of his alma mater, a collection that he updated on a continual basis. My job was to research his 1965 run for mayor of New York City, one of the most entertaining political bouts in recent American history and the subject of this 2005 Times Magazine essay by Tanenhaus.

Through that experience, it became clear that Buckley was what most of us writing for political magazines hope to be: a change agent. While it’s wrong to suggest that the conservative movement would not have existed without him, it surely, without his influence, would not have been the force–judged by both intellectual and political heft–it eventually became. It might seem paradoxical that the most influential conservative writer of the 20th century (standing athwart history yelling “Stop”) would be a “change agent.” But that’s what he was.

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Light, Truth, and the New Republic

At the beginning of my sophomore year in college, I decided that a part-time student job at Yale University Press would be a good line-item on my resume. At the interview, the editor, in a proud voice, told me that the “Yale Press is the second-largest university press, after Oxford. But Oxford’s not really a university press, of course.” This assertion—with its implied disdain for the black-fingernailed tradesmen at Oxford University Press—stuck, to the point that it’s been part of my table talk for eight years.

Now, it’s true that in November of 2005, a small crack appeared in the wall of separation: Yale launched a new imprint with the New Republic. But the books slated to be published were serious works of free inquiry: TNR‘s EIC Martin Peretz on Zionism, foreign policy expert Joshua Kurlantzick on China, historian Michael Makovsky on Churchill. Books, in other words, meeting Yale’s high standards. But no more. In today’s mail came Election 2008: A Voter’s Guide, by Franklin Foer and the editors of the New Republic. No! Is it possible? Is a “university press”—my university press, not those trade traitors at Oxford!—publishing a collection of magazine articles? A volume of unremarkable, tawdry candidate profiles, complete with illustrations and essays on Newt Gingrich and Chuck Hagel, neither of whom is running for president, and Sam Brownback, who is no longer doing so? And publishing it as a “Voter’s Guide,” no less?

I imagine Election 2008 is intended to be a “special gift” included with subscriptions to the New Republic. Is this what Yale University wants as its copyrighted intellectual property? The book is a compendium of the New Republic’s usual doses of too-clever-by-half partisan shtick. With the publication of a gift-offer book, Yale University Press has abandoned the proud claims made by the editor. And Yale has tarnished itself as a school: can you imagine the hysterical outcry that would result if a collection of articles from, say, the National Review, was published under its auspices?

At the beginning of my sophomore year in college, I decided that a part-time student job at Yale University Press would be a good line-item on my resume. At the interview, the editor, in a proud voice, told me that the “Yale Press is the second-largest university press, after Oxford. But Oxford’s not really a university press, of course.” This assertion—with its implied disdain for the black-fingernailed tradesmen at Oxford University Press—stuck, to the point that it’s been part of my table talk for eight years.

Now, it’s true that in November of 2005, a small crack appeared in the wall of separation: Yale launched a new imprint with the New Republic. But the books slated to be published were serious works of free inquiry: TNR‘s EIC Martin Peretz on Zionism, foreign policy expert Joshua Kurlantzick on China, historian Michael Makovsky on Churchill. Books, in other words, meeting Yale’s high standards. But no more. In today’s mail came Election 2008: A Voter’s Guide, by Franklin Foer and the editors of the New Republic. No! Is it possible? Is a “university press”—my university press, not those trade traitors at Oxford!—publishing a collection of magazine articles? A volume of unremarkable, tawdry candidate profiles, complete with illustrations and essays on Newt Gingrich and Chuck Hagel, neither of whom is running for president, and Sam Brownback, who is no longer doing so? And publishing it as a “Voter’s Guide,” no less?

I imagine Election 2008 is intended to be a “special gift” included with subscriptions to the New Republic. Is this what Yale University wants as its copyrighted intellectual property? The book is a compendium of the New Republic’s usual doses of too-clever-by-half partisan shtick. With the publication of a gift-offer book, Yale University Press has abandoned the proud claims made by the editor. And Yale has tarnished itself as a school: can you imagine the hysterical outcry that would result if a collection of articles from, say, the National Review, was published under its auspices?

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Bring Back Sarah

The legacy of France’s Nazi occupation is manifold and enduring. In culture, nowhere is it more central and blatant than in the very name of a major public performance space in the heart of Paris, the Théâtre de la Ville, facing the famed Châtelet theatre. Operating on an annual budget of 13 million euros, of which around 11 million come from the municipal government, the Théâtre de la Ville attracts 220,000 audience members to evenings of music, dance, and theatre. Originally called “Théâtre Lyrique” and later “Théâtre des Nations,” the theatre was then renamed “Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt,” after the fiery, majestic actress who starred there, beginning in 1899. Bernhardt (1844-1923), who was partly Jewish, was admired for her artistic daring, despite being castigated in French anti-Semitic books like Les Femmes d’Israël (1898) for being “neither more nor less than a Jewess and nothing but a Jewess.” When the Germans arrived in 1940, the “Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt” was renamed the “Théâtre des Nations” and later, “Théâtre de la Ville.”

From 1945 to this day, no French politician has dared to advocate returning the theater’s name to its former dedicatee, “la divine Sarah.” The reasons for this are complex and peculiarly French, as may be gathered from the well-documented study from Yale University Press, Sarah Bernhardt: The Art of High Drama by Carol Ockman and Kenneth E. Silver, which accompanied a multifaceted 2006 exhibit at New York’s Jewish Museum. These are only two instances of the ever-burgeoning interest in Sarah’s captivating mystique and legend—everywhere except in her native Paris.

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The legacy of France’s Nazi occupation is manifold and enduring. In culture, nowhere is it more central and blatant than in the very name of a major public performance space in the heart of Paris, the Théâtre de la Ville, facing the famed Châtelet theatre. Operating on an annual budget of 13 million euros, of which around 11 million come from the municipal government, the Théâtre de la Ville attracts 220,000 audience members to evenings of music, dance, and theatre. Originally called “Théâtre Lyrique” and later “Théâtre des Nations,” the theatre was then renamed “Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt,” after the fiery, majestic actress who starred there, beginning in 1899. Bernhardt (1844-1923), who was partly Jewish, was admired for her artistic daring, despite being castigated in French anti-Semitic books like Les Femmes d’Israël (1898) for being “neither more nor less than a Jewess and nothing but a Jewess.” When the Germans arrived in 1940, the “Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt” was renamed the “Théâtre des Nations” and later, “Théâtre de la Ville.”

From 1945 to this day, no French politician has dared to advocate returning the theater’s name to its former dedicatee, “la divine Sarah.” The reasons for this are complex and peculiarly French, as may be gathered from the well-documented study from Yale University Press, Sarah Bernhardt: The Art of High Drama by Carol Ockman and Kenneth E. Silver, which accompanied a multifaceted 2006 exhibit at New York’s Jewish Museum. These are only two instances of the ever-burgeoning interest in Sarah’s captivating mystique and legend—everywhere except in her native Paris.

Born Marie Henriette Bernardt to a Jewish courtesan, Sarah was an international phenomenon during her lifetime, touring America nine times in roles from Racine’s Phèdre to Hamlet (in French). Her dauntless tours, which extended to Cairo, Tahiti, and Istanbul, were not halted after doctors amputated her leg at age 70. Sarah fearlessly performed patriotic plays at the front for World War I soldiers. Her funeral in 1923 featured a vast outpouring of public emotion, especially when her coffin passed before the “Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt.” A few short years later, she was a non-person in France, much the way Mendelssohn was treated in Germany by the Nazis, with the exception that after World War II, the Germans re-embraced Mendelssohn, whereas Sarah is still left out in the cold.

Postwar Paris, eager to forget its recent history, was looking forward artistically, not to the surviving legacy of Bernhardt, which amounted to some stagy silent films and a few trembly-voiced recordings from her old age. It is to be hoped that this ignorant attitude will soon change. Two months ago, a future new director was named for the Théâtre de la Ville. Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota, a young Parisian director, will take over the reins in June 2008. A lively character and amateur race-car driver who is Portuguese on his mother’s side, Demarcy-Mota should shake things up at the Théâtre de la Ville. His first act should be to return the theater to its former name, the “Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt.”

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Remembering Kitaj

The Cleveland-born artist Ronald Brooks (R.B.) Kitaj (1932-2007), who died on October 21, has a new book out from Yale University Press, The Second Diasporist Manifesto. Kitaj’s 1989 First Diasporist Manifesto preceded it as a collection of scattered fragmentary musings about being a Jewish man and artist. Both books declare the author’s principles, as any manifesto should, but neither is a poem, as Kitaj alleges.

The Second Diasporist Manifesto contains 615 numbered observations, which Yale University Press describes as “deliberately echo[ing] the Commandments of Jewish Law.” Of course, 613 and not 615 is the traditional number of commandments in the Torah. Like the Torah’s commandments, Kitaj’s book may be divided into “positive commandments,” about reading authors like Kafka, Gershom Scholem, Benjamin Fondane, and Lev Shestov, and “negative commandments” about those he loathes, like the anti-Semitic T. S. Eliot. There is also the occasional unexpected juxtaposition, such as when it is pointed out that the Baal Shem Tov, Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezer (who founded the Hasidic movement), was a contemporary of Sir Joshua Reynolds, the fashionable British portrait painter.

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The Cleveland-born artist Ronald Brooks (R.B.) Kitaj (1932-2007), who died on October 21, has a new book out from Yale University Press, The Second Diasporist Manifesto. Kitaj’s 1989 First Diasporist Manifesto preceded it as a collection of scattered fragmentary musings about being a Jewish man and artist. Both books declare the author’s principles, as any manifesto should, but neither is a poem, as Kitaj alleges.

The Second Diasporist Manifesto contains 615 numbered observations, which Yale University Press describes as “deliberately echo[ing] the Commandments of Jewish Law.” Of course, 613 and not 615 is the traditional number of commandments in the Torah. Like the Torah’s commandments, Kitaj’s book may be divided into “positive commandments,” about reading authors like Kafka, Gershom Scholem, Benjamin Fondane, and Lev Shestov, and “negative commandments” about those he loathes, like the anti-Semitic T. S. Eliot. There is also the occasional unexpected juxtaposition, such as when it is pointed out that the Baal Shem Tov, Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezer (who founded the Hasidic movement), was a contemporary of Sir Joshua Reynolds, the fashionable British portrait painter.

Kitaj himself, as a figurative artist whose images are chock-full of historical and literary content, depicting celebrities from Einstein to Philip Roth, was defiantly unfashionable. Although he was honored with major retrospectives in London and New York, these sparked controversy when critics reacted vituperatively. A 1994 Tate Gallery show enraged the London press, which the artist himself attributed to English “low-octane anti-Semitism.”

Yet Kitaj could appreciate some art critics, like Clement Greenberg and Meyer Schapiro. When the show traveled to the Metropolitan Museum a year later, the New York Times was equally condescending, calling Kitaj a “painter whose ambitions outstrip his art . . . his paintings can sometimes be abstruse and pretentious, and there are too many weak recent pictures on view to come out of the Metropolitan with more than mixed feelings.” As recently as 2005, the Times arts section was still scolding Kitaj, telling him to “calm down and do nothing but paint still-lifes for a while.”

In Kitaj’s art and manifestos, content is hugely important, especially when compared to the work of his friend and colleague David Hockney. Kitaj admired still lifes by his idol Cézanne or the modern Italian painter Giorgio Morandi, but his mission was to express Jewish culture and history in images. As he told one interviewer, “I’d like to do for Jews what Morandi did for jars.” Critics who bash Kitaj because of his content are forgetting E. H. Gombrich’s dictum, “There is no wrong reason for liking a work of art, only for disliking it.” The death of Kitaj’s wife Sandra Fisher (1947-1994), whom he had married at London’s venerable Bevis Marks Synagogue, a Sephardic landmark, was a permanent loss. Also a gifted painter, Fisher was honored last year with an exhibition at the New York Studio School. Whatever critical bile has flowed in the past, the art of Kitaj and Fisher surely will be admired by posterity.

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Why Wasn’t Ahmadinejad Arrested?

Under the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stands guilty of incitement to genocide. According to Article 3 of the Convention, both “Conspiracy to commit genocide” and “Direct and public incitement to commit genocide” are “punishable” offenses. Ahmadinejad, in his calls for the destruction of the Jewish state and in his attempt to construct a nuclear weapon to accomplish that genocidal goal, clearly stands in violation of the Article.

So why wasn’t Ahmadinejad arrested this week in New York City? Surely, whatever claim he might have to diplomatic immunity is outweighed by his inarguable violations of a United Nations convention on genocide. Imagine the bloodshed that might have been averted had Hitler been arrested or killed in the 1930′s. This is not to make an out-sized claim in favor of The Great Man Theory of history, which would assert that the Holocaust and World War II could have been averted entirely had Hitler been removed from the scene, or that our problems with Iran would disappear were the same to happen to Ahmadinejad. But apprehending Ahmadinejad and holding him accountable for his crimes would be a step in the right direction.

The call for Ahmadinejad’s arrest came from Dr. Charles Small, Director of the Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at Yale University. He lays out the case convincingly and forthrightly:

Given Mr Ahmadinejad’s consistent statements over the years, and in accordance with the Convention, he ought to be arrested and given due process as stipulated in the Convention. This clearly overrides any question regarding free speech. It is myopic to remain focused on some domestic philosophical debate when the facts on the ground violate international law in a flagrant manner. In terms of freedom of speech, Ahmadinejad has conducted many interviews with American and Western media outlets over the years. Unlike in Iran, it is easy for people in the U.S. to access such interviews and video footage of speeches, as well as the text of his policy positions.

Let us hope that we do not rue the day the international community failed in its obligation to arrest this international criminal.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stands guilty of incitement to genocide. According to Article 3 of the Convention, both “Conspiracy to commit genocide” and “Direct and public incitement to commit genocide” are “punishable” offenses. Ahmadinejad, in his calls for the destruction of the Jewish state and in his attempt to construct a nuclear weapon to accomplish that genocidal goal, clearly stands in violation of the Article.

So why wasn’t Ahmadinejad arrested this week in New York City? Surely, whatever claim he might have to diplomatic immunity is outweighed by his inarguable violations of a United Nations convention on genocide. Imagine the bloodshed that might have been averted had Hitler been arrested or killed in the 1930′s. This is not to make an out-sized claim in favor of The Great Man Theory of history, which would assert that the Holocaust and World War II could have been averted entirely had Hitler been removed from the scene, or that our problems with Iran would disappear were the same to happen to Ahmadinejad. But apprehending Ahmadinejad and holding him accountable for his crimes would be a step in the right direction.

The call for Ahmadinejad’s arrest came from Dr. Charles Small, Director of the Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at Yale University. He lays out the case convincingly and forthrightly:

Given Mr Ahmadinejad’s consistent statements over the years, and in accordance with the Convention, he ought to be arrested and given due process as stipulated in the Convention. This clearly overrides any question regarding free speech. It is myopic to remain focused on some domestic philosophical debate when the facts on the ground violate international law in a flagrant manner. In terms of freedom of speech, Ahmadinejad has conducted many interviews with American and Western media outlets over the years. Unlike in Iran, it is easy for people in the U.S. to access such interviews and video footage of speeches, as well as the text of his policy positions.

Let us hope that we do not rue the day the international community failed in its obligation to arrest this international criminal.

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Crying Wolf

The case of Andrew Meyer, the University of Florida student tasered by campus police while resisting arrest for disrupting a speaking engagement by Senator John Kerry on Tuesday, has provided excellent fodder for the Left’s paranoid nightmares about the cryptofascist United States. Finally, they tell us, the ugly, brutal face of Amerika has been revealed to all.

At the Huffington Post (which collectively reads as if it were written by the ensemble from Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), the feminist writer Naomi Wolf declares that this “shocking moment for society” is the “iconic turning point and it will be remembered as the moment at which America either fought back or yielded.”

No, it was not September 11—when 3,000 Americans were killed in spectacular terrorist attacks and the nation girded itself for war—that marked the decisive moment in America’s recent history, but rather the tasering and subsequent arrest of a deranged and self-promoting college student in Gainesville, Florida. And in the dreams of Naomi Wolf—where she, Andrew Meyer, and the rest of the crew at the Huffington Post represent some sort of Leninist vanguard—it is not Islamic terrorists whom America must “fight back” against, but rather our very own government. “It is time to rebel in the name of the flag and the founders,” Wolf, our latter-day Abigail Adams, pronounces.

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The case of Andrew Meyer, the University of Florida student tasered by campus police while resisting arrest for disrupting a speaking engagement by Senator John Kerry on Tuesday, has provided excellent fodder for the Left’s paranoid nightmares about the cryptofascist United States. Finally, they tell us, the ugly, brutal face of Amerika has been revealed to all.

At the Huffington Post (which collectively reads as if it were written by the ensemble from Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), the feminist writer Naomi Wolf declares that this “shocking moment for society” is the “iconic turning point and it will be remembered as the moment at which America either fought back or yielded.”

No, it was not September 11—when 3,000 Americans were killed in spectacular terrorist attacks and the nation girded itself for war—that marked the decisive moment in America’s recent history, but rather the tasering and subsequent arrest of a deranged and self-promoting college student in Gainesville, Florida. And in the dreams of Naomi Wolf—where she, Andrew Meyer, and the rest of the crew at the Huffington Post represent some sort of Leninist vanguard—it is not Islamic terrorists whom America must “fight back” against, but rather our very own government. “It is time to rebel in the name of the flag and the founders,” Wolf, our latter-day Abigail Adams, pronounces.

Having recently graduated from Yale University, where such self-obsessed, imaginary political martyrdom is de riguer, I have very little sympathy for Meyer. He wanted this to happen, giving a digital camera to a woman before he rose to the microphone, asking her, “Are you taping this? Do you have this? You ready?” Meyer wanted a show, with, naturally, himself as the star. In a matter of months, I predict, he will be touring the country speaking at antiwar rallies and campaigning for Dennis Kucinich.

For much of the Left today, protest has become a form of therapeutic self-aggrandizement. Publicly demonstrating one’s most sincerely felt political commitments (to as many people as possible) has long been an underlying, motivational aspect of leftist movements.

This incident reminds me of the 2004 arrest of then-Yale junior Thomas Frampton, a classmate, who cunningly feigned his way into a volunteer usher position at the Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden. The first night of the convention, Thomas chose an opportune moment to start screaming antiwar slogans and, according to the criminal complaint, “did forcibly assault, resist, oppose, impede, intimidate, and interfere with Special Agents of the United States Secret Service, in the performance of their official duties” by charging the VIP box in which Vice President Cheney sat with his wife and grandchildren. As befitting a liberal activist believing in equality before the law, Frampton posted the $50,000 bond and his father, a wealthy, high-powered Washington attorney, hired excellent legal counsel. Frampton got a slap on the wrist.

Neither Meyer nor Frampton rationally could have believed that his antics furthered a “progressive” political cause. On the contrary, these two young men must understand that most people—especially political moderates whom, presumably, Meyer and Frampton hope to persuade—will look at them as mere fanatics. But both Frampton and Meyer clearly think of themselves as modern incarnations of John Brown. And what they think of themselves is, in the end, all that seems to matter.

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A Coup for the Clark

The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts pulled off an audacious feat of showmanship last Friday. As it announced its acquisition of the Manton collection of British art, it simultaneously unveiled that collection in a surprise exhibition, startling even the institute’s own employees (they had assumed that the closed galleries were being prepared for this summer’s Monet exhibition). One can pardon the Clark’s showmanship; the Manton bequest is truly remarkable. It comprises over two hundred paintings and drawings by the luminaries of early 19th-century English painting, with particular emphasis on the work of Thomas Gainsborough, John Constable, and the incomparable J.M.W. Turner. Moreover, it comes with an endowment of $50 million, a bequest of extraordinary generosity.

The collection was assembled by the reclusive Edwin A.G. Manton (1909-2005), the longtime president and chairman of the American International Group (AIG). Though the British-born Manton (born, in fact, only a few miles from Constable’s own Suffolk birthplace) took up residence in America in 1933, he remained deeply appreciative of the English landscape and began collecting paintings in the 1940’s. He was a great supporter of London’s Tate Museum, for which he was knighted in 1994, although his gifts were invariably anonymous. According to the Daily Telegraph, his reasons for anonymity were strictly pragmatic: “I made my gifts anonymously to protect myself from people importuning me. It was not a noble feeling. I was simply protecting my purse.”

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The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts pulled off an audacious feat of showmanship last Friday. As it announced its acquisition of the Manton collection of British art, it simultaneously unveiled that collection in a surprise exhibition, startling even the institute’s own employees (they had assumed that the closed galleries were being prepared for this summer’s Monet exhibition). One can pardon the Clark’s showmanship; the Manton bequest is truly remarkable. It comprises over two hundred paintings and drawings by the luminaries of early 19th-century English painting, with particular emphasis on the work of Thomas Gainsborough, John Constable, and the incomparable J.M.W. Turner. Moreover, it comes with an endowment of $50 million, a bequest of extraordinary generosity.

The collection was assembled by the reclusive Edwin A.G. Manton (1909-2005), the longtime president and chairman of the American International Group (AIG). Though the British-born Manton (born, in fact, only a few miles from Constable’s own Suffolk birthplace) took up residence in America in 1933, he remained deeply appreciative of the English landscape and began collecting paintings in the 1940’s. He was a great supporter of London’s Tate Museum, for which he was knighted in 1994, although his gifts were invariably anonymous. According to the Daily Telegraph, his reasons for anonymity were strictly pragmatic: “I made my gifts anonymously to protect myself from people importuning me. It was not a noble feeling. I was simply protecting my purse.”

It is known that the Tate hoped to receive Manton’s collection and that Yale University courted his heirs as well. But it makes sense that Diana Morton, Manton’s daughter and head of the Manton Foundation, would in the end choose the Clark, a much smaller institution where the gift would be that much more prominent. In acknowledgment, the Clark is renaming its library and study center after Manton and his wife.

The current exhibition shows roughly a quarter of the collection and eminently deserves a visit. Here are England’s three greatest landscape painters, represented by works spanning their careers, and hung without the sort of didactic program that forecloses on happy, accidental comparisons. The highlight is easily Turner’s Off Ramsgate (1840), a hazy coastal reverie from the crescendo of his career (although I kept returning to his brooding image of the Prussian fortress of Ehrenbreitstein, looming over the Rhine and Mosel rivers). Gainsborough’s landscapes are not as celebrated as his splendid portraits (several of which the Clark already has), but they are enchanting in their own right, their 18th-century picturesque sensibility contrasting palpably with the romantic turbulence in Constable’s work. Today’s art world offers few occasions for unqualified celebration; this is one of them. (And should a viewer prefer his encounters with art to be of the more troubled sort, he can still forge on to the tarp-covered vestiges of Christoph Büchel’s abortive exhibition at MASS MoCA.)

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Bookshelf

• “For God’s sake, don’t fill the paper with Bach in B minor,” one of George Bernard Shaw’s editors warned him back in the days when he was writing music criticism. I sympathize, but sometimes you can’t get around it, which may explain why I’ve never read a good book about Bach that was fully accessible to non-musicians. The problem is that we know a fair amount about the details of Bach’s life but very little about his personality, since he left behind no diary and next to no correspondence. Like Shakespeare, we can only “know” him through his art, which is hard to talk about intelligibly (much less intelligently) without at least some resort to the kind of technical language against which Shaw’s editor warned him.

Martin Geck’s Johann Sebastian Bach: Life and Work (Harcourt, 738 pp., $40) is unapologetically written for musicians, but laymen will be able to make sense of most of it, and I commend it to anyone in search of a deeper understanding of Bach and his world. Geck does an admirable job of summarizing what is known about Bach’s life without overstating the extent to which it sheds light on his music: “Whichever way we turn in hopes of discovering more intimate, ‘personal’ information about Bach, we encounter obstacles, because few opportunities existed for expressing the private life of a kapellmeister and cantor in the first half of the eighteenth century . . . Bach no more composed for us than he lived for us. His music comes from far away; it speaks a language that we understand yet in which we hear echoes of another language, outside our expressive range.” That’s well said, as is the rest of this fine book. Don’t let the musical examples throw you—Johann Sebastian Bach is full of good things from start to finish.

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• “For God’s sake, don’t fill the paper with Bach in B minor,” one of George Bernard Shaw’s editors warned him back in the days when he was writing music criticism. I sympathize, but sometimes you can’t get around it, which may explain why I’ve never read a good book about Bach that was fully accessible to non-musicians. The problem is that we know a fair amount about the details of Bach’s life but very little about his personality, since he left behind no diary and next to no correspondence. Like Shakespeare, we can only “know” him through his art, which is hard to talk about intelligibly (much less intelligently) without at least some resort to the kind of technical language against which Shaw’s editor warned him.

Martin Geck’s Johann Sebastian Bach: Life and Work (Harcourt, 738 pp., $40) is unapologetically written for musicians, but laymen will be able to make sense of most of it, and I commend it to anyone in search of a deeper understanding of Bach and his world. Geck does an admirable job of summarizing what is known about Bach’s life without overstating the extent to which it sheds light on his music: “Whichever way we turn in hopes of discovering more intimate, ‘personal’ information about Bach, we encounter obstacles, because few opportunities existed for expressing the private life of a kapellmeister and cantor in the first half of the eighteenth century . . . Bach no more composed for us than he lived for us. His music comes from far away; it speaks a language that we understand yet in which we hear echoes of another language, outside our expressive range.” That’s well said, as is the rest of this fine book. Don’t let the musical examples throw you—Johann Sebastian Bach is full of good things from start to finish.

The Yale Book of Quotations (Yale University Press, 1067 pp., $50) is the first all-new reference book of its kind to come along in years, and the first ever to make systematic use of what Fred Shapiro, the editor-in-chief, describes as “state-of-the-art research methods,” meaning the searchable online databases that are revolutionizing scholarly research. It has a strongly American bias (Ambrose Bierce has 144 entries, Karl Kraus two) and an equally strong pop-culture slant (Woody Allen has 43 entries, Emily Dickinson 29). It also has an introduction by Joseph Epstein, who approves of the fresh tack taken by Shapiro and his collaborators: “Although I am normally conservative in matters of culture, I think Mr. Shapiro is correct to make these changes in emphasis . . . Even though, as Henry James well said, ‘It takes a great deal of history to produce even a little literature,’ cultural leadership usually follows political power, and for the past fifty or so years it has become apparent that the United States has been playing with far and away the largest stacks of chips before it.”

Far be it from me to disagree with Epstein, so I won’t—much. Having read The Yale Book of Quotations from cover to cover, I found a number of suspicious-looking attributions, one or two outright errors, and many glaring instances of the variegated forms of bias one expects to find in any book produced by a team of academic scholars (somehow I doubt that George W. Bush’s slips of the tongue really deserve as much space as Shapiro gives them). As for the countless snippets lifted by the editors from pop-song lyrics of the past couple of decades, I doubt that many of them will be long remembered (indeed, a goodly number of them are already forgotten). I should also note that Raymond Chandler, Noël Coward, Johnny Mercer, and P.G. Wodehouse are all severely underrepresented, though G.K. Chesterton, Mark Twain, and Satchel Paige receive their due. All these quibbles notwithstanding, The Yale Book of Quotations is useful, diverting, and full of surprises, and while I don’t plan to throw away my well-thumbed copy of H.L. Mencken’s invaluable New Dictionary of Quotations, I’m making space next to it for this satisfying piece of work.

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