Rouhani: The Bogus Moderate

• November 5, 2013 17:44pm • Uncategorized

The claim that Hassan Rouhani, the new president of Iran, is a “moderate,” with whom Western leaders can do business on the basis of mutual self-interest, brings to mind an earlier fantasy common among elites in the West after the death of the Soviet dictator, Leonid Brezhnev, in 1982: that his successor as General Secretary, Iurii Andropov, was a closet liberal eager to reduce the tensions of the Cold War, then nearly four decades old, and thereby make nuclear war less likely.  The evidence of Andropov’s moderation was his supposed fondness for scotch whiskey, the novels of Jacqueline Susann, and such icons of American popular music as Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra, and Chubby Checker.  By some accounts a witty conversationalist conversant in German, English, and Hungarian, the new Soviet leader was even reputed to dance the tango gracefully.

Trumpeting this information – which in reality was Soviet disinformation — with the breathless intensity of those who think wishing hard enough for something makes it real, Time, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times and other pillars of establishment opinion in the West didn’t bother to consider whether Andropov’s personal preferences bespoke a loss of faith in Marxism-Leninism or a diminution of the ardor with which the Soviet leadership sought to spread communism.  In fact, Andropov, when he succeeded Brezhnev, was the same man who, as Soviet ambassador in Budapest in 1956, oversaw the destruction of the Hungarian Revolution; it was Andropov who, after the revolution was suppressed, falsely promised its leader, Imre Nagy, who had taken refuge in the Yugoslav embassy, that he would be treated leniently if he turned himself in.  Foolishly Nagy did so, was flown to Moscow, imprisoned and hanged two years later.

As General Secretary, Andropov almost certainly issued the order for Soviet fighter planes to shoot down Korean Airlines flight 007, in which all 269 passengers lost their lives, over international waters and in violation of international law.  And Andropov’s treatment of Soviet dissidents was no less cruel and repressive than it was from 1967 to 1982, when he headed the KGB and in that capacity ordered dissidents imprisoned, incarcerated in labor camps, exiled abroad or internally to cities far from Moscow or, worst of all, declared insane and committed to psychiatric hospitals, where they were given mind-altering drugs that reduced some to a vegetative state.

Rouhani’s record is even worse: he planned the bombing of a Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires in 1994, which took 85 lives, and of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in1996, in which nineteen American soldiers were killed.  He refuses to acknowledge that the Holocaust happened, and claims that in any case it is something only historians should be concerned with.  He has also called Israel “a wound” on the Middle East that must be removed.  His boast about deceiving the West into believing that Iran, from 2003 to 2005, had stopped enriching uranium is well known, and there is no evidence of his having the slightest objection to his own government’s savage persecution of Bahais and others in Iran professing a religion other than Shiite Islam.

One can only hope that President Obama and his counterparts in Europe, now engaged in yet another round of futile negotiations with Iran, will recognize that men like Andropov and Rouhami who acquire positions of power share the beliefs, objectives, and policies of the repressive regimes they lead, and are not about to repudiate them because of any personal habits they have or because they talk in tones suggesting they are amenable to reason.  The potential consequence of not doing so – the detonation of nuclear weapons as an act of war for the first time since 1945 – would be catastrophic.

(The article above was published in the Jerusalem Post on November 5, 2013)

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Agit-Prop Masquerading as History; email to Mitch Daniels

• August 2, 2013 8:42am • Uncategorized

Dear Governor Daniels,

I support enthusiastically and unreservedly your condemnation of Howard Zinn’s disgraceful piece of agit-prop that too many academics consider a legitimate history of the United States.

As you have stated clearly and eloquently, academic freedom is not license for professors to indoctrinate their students instead of teaching them, and it certainly isn’t violated by an entirely understandable concern that K-12 students not be fed a farrago of lies and distortions intended to generate the ridiculous conclusion that America’s history is an unbroken tale of imperialism, racism, sexism, and homophobia..

The worthies at the American Historical Association and the Purdue professors who obviously don’t know the difference between education and indoctrination should be embarrassed by the nonsense they have written about your emails.

Don’t let the bad guys get you down. There are many like me in academia — more than you might imagine — who are rooting you on.

With best wishes,

Jay Bergman
Professor of History
Central Connecticut State University
New Britain CT &
Member, Board of Directors,
National Association of Scholars

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Letter to Justice Kennedy

• July 5, 2013 9:17am • Uncategorized

June 27, 2013

Anthony Kennedy

Associate Justice

The Supreme Court of the United States

1 First Street, NE

Washington, DC 20543

Dear Justice Kennedy:

Smearing opponents of gay marriage as bigots, as you did in your opinion in the DOMA case, is despicable.

If you have any integrity, you will apologize to the millions of good and decent Americans whose opinion on gay marriage, while different from yours, is no less sincere, no less heartfelt, and no less borne out of a sense of public morality and a concern for the common good.

I and other Americans disgusted by your intolerance await your apology.

Sincerely,

 

Jay Bergman

Professor of History

Central Connecticut State University

New Britain CT 06050

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Email to Lee Bollinger, President of Columbia University

• June 26, 2013 8:49am • Uncategorized

Dear President Bollinger:

I have read your op-ed in today’s NY Times defending the use of race in college admissions.

To give preference to some on the basis of race is necessarily to discriminate against others on the basis of race.

Your advocacy of racial preferences means that you are an advocate of racial discrimination — which is despicable.

Racial preferences hurt people. Sometimes they hurt people badly.

But you obviously don’t give a damn.

I suggest that in the name of consistency and common decency, you resign your position as president of Columbia so that you can be replaced by a member of an “underrepresented” minority.

Sincerely,

Jay Bergman
Professor of History
Central Connecticut State University
New Britain CT

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The IRS Was Targeting Conservative Groups a Decade Ago

• May 14, 2013 11:17am • Uncategorized

With news that the Obama administration has used the IRS to target conservative groups applying for nonprofit status, I thought a look back at the experience of Democracy Project’s founders would be instructive. In 2003, the Dallas office of the IRS required us to answer 26 questions that were clearly designed to trip us up, at most, and harass us, at the very least. I wrote over 4,000 words in reply and critiqued the IRS in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, reproduced below, that ran on October 31, 2003.

Plato and the Taxman
By Winfield Myers
The Wall Street Journal
October 31, 2003

I once taught the Great Books in the honors college of a large Midwestern university. My colleagues and I lamented that careerist students demeaned the wisdom of the ancients by elevating the practical arts over humanistic studies. We drilled freshmen on the classics and stressed the efficacy of the knowledge students gained from foundational works. Knowing the origins of Western myths, history, philosophy and drama inoculated them against half-baked ideas or the schemes of demagogues, I assured them. I’ll never know how many believed me, but if I returned to the classroom, I could offer a contemporary case study on the practicality of Plato that would astound Allan Bloom and leave Leo Strauss speechless. For it seems that at the Internal Revenue Service, Plato rules.

This will perhaps surprise fans of the Service, who could be forgiven for assuming that IRS personnel come only in shades of CPA gray. But a recent encounter with the Dallas office of their non-profit approval division suggests that the IRS sees accounting not as a practical art but as a search for philosophical knowledge, or episteme. What’s more, they hold mere opinion, or doxa, in low esteem.

No doubt the source for this business model is Plato’s Republic, in which Socrates teaches that knowledge is superior to opinion in the same way that the universal idea of an entity is superior to any manifestation of it. Inasmuch as one comes to know the idea of justice or the good, one grasps the universal order and can live a happier, more complete life.

My own quest for happiness currently involves launching, with a few like-minded colleagues, a new nonprofit to educate Americans about democratic institutions and traditions and the foundational ideas of liberty, and to critique the intellectual sources of cultural relativism and multiculturalism.

The response to our February 2003 application to become an educational charity with 501(c)(3) nonprofit status not only demonstrated the agents’ philosophical bent; it left us wondering how best to answer the 26 questions demanded of us.

Aside from some queries about our finances, most centered on our opinions — or is it knowledge? — of the quality of American higher education, the wisdom of curricular trends in universities or the best environment for disseminating information.

Take question No. 2: “You also state that ‘advocates of multicuralism [sic] wreak havoc on the curricula of universities and within ethnic communities.’ Is this your opinion?” No. 11: “You state that higher education doesn’t teach American history to every college student. Is this your opinion? How many college students are taught American history?” No. 12: “Do you have proof that the teaching of literature, political science, European history, and other disciplines (?) [sic] have [sic] declined? Or is this your opinion?” Or my favorite, question eight: “What is ‘an environment free of academic cant or prejudice?’ How will your conferences be free of academic cant and prejudice? Why do you want your conferences to be free of academic cant and prejudice? Explain in detail and give examples.”

The Dallas agents didn’t make this stuff up. Attorneys with experience in the nonprofit sector weren’t as surprised by such questions as were those of us whose livelihood depends upon getting our organization up and running. While one noted that the response to our application had more “bite” than most, they’ve seen plenty of similar cases over the years.

IRS code for establishing 501(c)(3) nonprofits (Chapter 3, page 21) expressly forbids granting nonprofit status to organizations promulgating unfounded opinion rather than factual knowledge: “The mere presentation of unsupported opinion is not educational.” Furthermore, nonprofit classification may be denied to an organization if “the facts that purport to support the viewpoint [advocated by the organization] are distorted.”

At first glance such requirements appear logical, since taxpayers have no obligation to fund political or propaganda groups masquerading as educational corporations. As the revenue-gathering arm of the federal government, the IRS has a responsibility to ensure that unscrupulous individuals aren’t allowed to beat the system by constructing Potemkin villages designed to funnel assets to entities or individuals that don’t qualify for nonprofit status.

Closer examination, however, reveals the intellectually problematic nature of these rules, which can be interpreted so broadly as to proscribe the establishment of virtually any nonprofit educational entity. Scholars, statesmen and citizens have debated the nature of knowledge, the efficacy of education and the design of the ideal polity for centuries. Their conclusions across time and cultures may be rigorously derived and widely supported, yet mutually exclusive.

Is Aristotle or Thomas Jefferson correct on the nature of democracy? Who is the better literary critic, Harold Bloom or Michel Foucault? Which authority on college curricula is right, Charles Eliot or Mortimer Adler? To attempt to prove one’s answer, whatever it is, is to enter the realm of debate upon which academic life rests. It is not, however, to prove conclusively that the position of one’s opponent is based on mere opinion rather than knowledge.

More questions follow naturally: How much proof is needed to convince an IRS agent of the validity of one’s positions? If it must be demonstrated that one’s positions on key issues are correct in order to win nonprofit status, are educational or charitable organizations holding competing positions illegitimate and illegal? (That is, must we choose between the Heritage Foundation and People for the American Way?) Do Americans want IRS agents to wield broad interpretive powers over complex scholarship, or would they prefer that such conflicts be decided in the marketplace of ideas?

I’m happy to report that once our case was referred to the Washington office of the IRS, it was resolved in our favor professionally and quickly. For Dallas we compiled answers totaling some 4,000 words, including a decidedly non-Platonic four-page bibliography listing authorities from Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Nathan Glazer to Lynn Cheney and Jacques Barzun. We established that we deserve the chance to seek supporters who share our belief that democracy needs strengthening. And we demonstrated that knowledgeable people can hold differing opinions and that persons sharing opinions may know different things. At least that’s my opinion.

Mr. Myers writes from Wilmington, Del.

 

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A Tale of Two Synagogues

• May 4, 2013 14:27pm • Uncategorized

FrontPage Magazine published my article on the lead up to the great speeches of Pamela Geller and Greg Buckley, Sr. at Chabad of Great Neck and Congregation Beth-El of Edison, NJ on April 14, which was a victorious day for truth and freedom.

 “A Tale of Two Synagogues” 

This is the story of the glorious miracles that happen when freedom-loving people stand up, refuse to be intimidated and fight back. It all began back in February 2013, when the Men’s Club of Great Neck Synagogue on Long Island, NY, planned a quiet informational breakfast on Sunday morning April 14, with Pamela Geller speaking on the “Imposition of Shari’a in America” and Greg Buckley, Sr. giving a first-hand accounting by a father of his son’s tragic insider “Green on Blue” murder at the hands of jihadists in Afghanistan. But astonishingly, a raging firestorm of intimidation, threats and harassment erupted against Geller’s invitation to speak that eventually forced the synagogue to cancel the event. This is an account of the events which ultimately ended in a victory for freedom of speech and conscience, which sent the profound messages of Pamela Geller and Greg Buckley Sr. reverberating across the nation.  Read more…

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The Desert Within Each of Us

• April 1, 2013 7:07am • Uncategorized

Immediately upon reading new Pope Francis’ Easter speech in St. Peter’s Square, I tweeted, “Read the beautiful #Easter message from #PopeFrancis for inspiration on what this day is really about.” Within Pope Francis’ speech, he stated:

How many deserts, even today, do human beings need to cross! Above all, the desert within, when we have no love for God or neighbor, when we fail to realize that we are guardians of all that the Creator has given us and continues to give us. God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14).

One aspect of Pope Francis’ speech reminded me of my own readings in the Desert Fathers (Father Joseph Lucas’ Prayer of the Publican and Father John Chryssavgis’ In the Heart of the Desert), when the Pope said [h]ow many deserts, even today, do human beings need to cross.” The Desert Fathers — the earliest of Christianity’s monks — understood this and set out to the Scetes Desert in Egypt to model themselves on Jesus’ forty days in the desert living an austere existence, fasting, and praying to the Lord. Through this experience in the desert, came Christian monasticism and the Apophthegmata Patrum (Sayings of the Desert Fathers), which are some of the most delightful of all writings in Christendom. One wonderful example comes to mind:

The same Abba Theophilus, the archbishop, came to Scetis one day. The brethren who were assembled said to Abba Pambo, ‘Say something to the Archbishop, so that he may be edified.’ The old man said to them, ‘If he is not edified by my silence, he will not be edified by my speech.’

Human beings are strengthened by the deserts we travail. As the Apostle James said in his beautiful Epistle, “Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him (James 1:12) (RSV).”

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Nassau County Human Rights Censor

• March 24, 2013 0:08am • Uncategorized

The fraudulent interfaith community has launched a coordinated attack to shut down the April 14th breakfast event at Great Neck Synagogue featuring Pamela Geller and Greg Buckley, Sr.  What makes this so appalling is that this wonderful event was planned and executed to enable Greg Buckley, Sr. to tell the story of his son’s tragic insider murder by jihadists in Afghanistan, to shine the spotlight on the plight of our brave young soldiers and military families and their demand for respect and justice from our government, which has so far been denied.

First Vice President of the Islamic Center of Long Island, Habeeb Ahmed has been mobilizing a lynch mob of local liberal activists and community organizations to harass Rabbi Polakoff from Great Neck Synagogue with 100’s of phone calls, demanding he cancel the event or protests will ensue. Mr. Ahmed is also Commissioner of the Nassau County Human Rights Commission. It is an absolute disgrace that a man of public office should roll out a campaign of intimidation and censorship because he objects to the viewpoint of one of the speakers.

See the explicit email documentation at Atlas Shrugs and TrentoVision. This is proof of the devious tactics that the enemies of human rights and free speech are using. Commissioner Ahmed is using the imprimatur of his public office to censor Pamela Geller’s and Greg Buckley, Sr.’s freedom of speech as well as those who wish to come and hear them!

 We promise you that the Great Neck Synagogue Men’s Club will not stop this event for the nefarious agenda of a few local thugs and bullies. In response Rabbi Polakoff has issued the following statement:

“Great Neck Synagogue rejects the categorizing of any religious majority based on the actions of a minority. It does though believe that it is absolutely appropriate to speak about the actions of such a minority and to evaluate their impact on the perception of the majority of their co-religionists, and on the community in general. It is within such a framework that the Men’s Club has invited Pamela Geller to speak. She will be joined by Greg Buckley, Sr. father of Marine Corporal Gregory Buckley Jr, who was murdered by Jihadists”

To all our freedom loving friends, the word is out now. So now you’ve all got the go ahead! Please feel free to spread this message far and wide, of this malfeasance and censorship, and let’s gather in force at Great Neck Synagogue on April 14. We need to assemble a big crowd inside as well as outside with flags and signs: “We will not be silent against jihad,” “Commissioner Ahmed must resign!” “We will not be censored!” “Support Israel, Defeat Jihad,” and “Justice for LCpl Buckley”  etc.

We also need to call Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and tell him that Commissioner Ahmed of the Nassau County Human Rights Commission is calling on the public to harass the Rabbi of Great Neck Synagogue and shut down the event honoring the grieving father of a U.S. Marine murdered in an insider terrorist attack in Afghanistan.

Please call Executive Ed Mangano – 516 571-3131 – and demand that he investigate and dismiss HRC Commissioner Habeeb Ahmed now for his reprehensible actions as a public official!

Stay tuned for more to come as we unite and organize for this decisive event!

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The Battle for Chavez’ Legacy

• March 23, 2013 18:35pm • Uncategorized

Perhaps nobody can write of the despicable legacy of Hugo Chavez better than DP friend and Human Rights Foundation President Thor Halvorssen. As a member of the Venezuela diaspora, Halvorssen has been battling Chavez’ thugs since he came to power, and his mother was even shot by them. In this excellent article in Reason Magazine, Halvorssen states that the battle for Chavez’ legacy rests on the political point of view of the individual doing the reviewing. As Winston Churchill famously stated, “History is written by the victors.” Truth is with the intellectual victory of Marxism in the West, particularly in South America, Chavez’ legacy will definitely be a hard fought battle and one that likely depends on the future course of history in the Western hemisphere.

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Open Letter to CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein

• February 24, 2013 4:06am • Uncategorized

I sent the following letter to Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, Brooklyn College officials, and local Councilmembers calling for Brooklyn College President Karen Gould, and Political Science Dept. Chairperson Paisley Currah to be fired. It was also published as an open letter on FrontPageMag. As one reader astutely pointed out “Larry Summers was fired as President of Harvard several years ago for dropping an innocent comment about gender and math ability.” But another commented that the real reason was his support of Israel. Friends, we have a real war on our hands in academia. Please keep the pressure on the CUNY Chancellor to investigate and fire these inept anti-Semitic ideologues.  

Open Letter to CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein

Chancellor Matthew Goldstein
Office of the Chancellor
535 East 80th Street
New York, NY 10075
Phone: 212.794.5311
Fax: 212.794.5671
chancellor@cuny.edu

I write this letter calling for the resignation of Brooklyn College President Karen L. Gould and Paisley Currah, chair of the political science department for their unscrupulous actions in violation of students’ First Amendments rights, sanctioning blatant viewpoint discrimination, and promoting biased political propaganda under the auspices of the City University of New York.  As a former adjunct instructor in the CUNY system and a New Yorker concerned with how my tax dollars are spent in our publicly-funded City University system, I add my voice to the growing concern  incurred by the college president and political science department chair over the irresponsible manner in which they handled the virulent anti-Semitic event on February 7 co-sponsored by Brooklyn College’s political science department, entitled “BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Movement Against Israel,” which serves to promote a global boycott of Israeli businesses, academics and institutions, and deny the legitimacy of the State of Israel. Read more.

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