Wednesday, May 08, 2013

We Just disagree

It is a natural instinct for people to become upset when someone disagrees with them.  This is the instinct that led the human race to try new things and move on from caves to mud huts to cities.  It drove empires to expand and republics to blossom.  I have, however, noticed it is  increasingly difficult to have a rational discussion with people, especially about politics.  Everyone wants to get off the subject or point to some past incident to justify their position.

There is an exception to this rule that I have found recently.  My friend, Paul Levine, whom I speak to on a regular basis, not only can present a rational argument, but, except other points of view without immediately dismissing the person as an idiot or completely out of touch with reality.  And, for the record, I did ask him if it was all right to make our private discussion public.

The most perfect example of this was our recent discussion about the hiring of a convicted domestic terrorist by Columbia University.  This story and a separate letter tell the tale better than me.

From the National Review:

People who ask how it is possible that a convicted killer — a participant in a failed plot to blow up a social dance attended by 18-year-old draftees and their dates; a murderess who abetted the cold-blooded massacre of three law-enforcement officers, including the first African-American on the Nyack police force; a woman whose actions left nine children fatherless and who has shown no genuine remorse for that — should be hired as an adjunct professor at an elite school like Columbia University haven’t been paying attention to what’s happened to our educational system from kindergarten to the university level, which has long been under the academic thumb of a Left that is comfortable supporting Islamic supremacists and anti-American terrorists both at home and abroad. After all, it was at Columbia that, in the wake of 9/11, Professor Nicholas De Genova told 3,000 Columbia protesters against America’s war on terror that he wished for “a million Mogadishus” and that a peaceful world would have no place for America.
The prestige of Columbia derives from its scientific and professional divisions (Social Work and Education excepted), in which traditional standards drawn from the Enlightenment and the scientific revolution and including two sides to controversial questions are still observed. Over the past several decades, the liberal-arts divisions and the aforementioned professional schools have reverted to their religious origins, except that the doctrines being rammed down students’ throats without the benefit of opposing views are Marxist rather than Christian.
Conservatives have been lame in opposing this ominous development. They have abdicated responsibility at the trustee level, they have had little or nothing to say about it at the policy level, and they have been inattentive to it at the political level, despite the fact that 85 percent of college students attend state universities whose curricula and liberal-arts faculties are as monolithic, intellectually deficient, and politically perverse as Columbia’s. For example, a course at the University of California, Santa Cruz, is described in the official catalogue in these exact words: “The goal of this seminar is to learn how to organize a revolution.” The course description goes on to explain that this would be an anti-capitalist revolution. Kathy Boudin would feel right at home there. In fact, her colleagues Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, who organized the terrorist Weather Underground in which Kathy Boudin was a soldier, were not adjunct faculty members like Boudin but full-fledged professors (at Northwestern and the University of Illinois). Ayers, a Columbia graduate, is an iconic figure at Columbia’s Teachers College (a third professional school at Columbia that is an ongoing disgrace) and has edited its series of classroom guides on how to use subjects like Mathematics to teach “social justice” — which, as Ayers understands and articulates it, is indistinguishable from the principles of the Communist gulags that the Cold War disposed of.
But of course it is terribly outr√© to mention all this, and those of us who do are marginalized not only by the academic profession but by the editorial supporters of political bomb throwers at institutions that function as the arbiters of the intellectual culture — such as the New York Times, which played an active role in securing Boudin’s undeserved release from a federal prison. These are sad times for our country, and the hour is late.
 David Horowitz is author of Radicals: Portaits of a Destructive Passion.

(For the record I don’t care about Bill Ayers or anti-capitalists.  My issue is with this nasty woman.)   --- JB

This is a letter written by a PBA member with a slightly different view.


Rockland County Police Benevolent Association President James Kelly has written an open letter to Columbia University’s President Lee Bollinger, asking him to fire Kathy Boudin, the former American terrorist the Ivy League university currently employs as a professor.
Boudin was convicted in a Rockland-area robbery that left two police officers dead.
President Lee C. Bollinger,
Last week we learned that Kathy Boudin was recently employed by Columbia University as an adjunct professor at the School of Social Work.  On behalf of the hundreds of police officers serving in Rockland County and the thousands of police officers residing in Rockland County, I feel compelled to comment on this very poor decision to hire Kathy Boudin.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Kathy Boudin was a radical member of the terrorist organization called Weather Underground. This terrorist group was, among other atrocities, responsible for the bombings of the Pentagon, US Capitol, the New York Police Benevolent Association and the New York Board of Corrections.
In 1981, Kathy Boudin along with several members of the Weather Underground and the Black Liberation Party robbed a Brinks armored car at the Nanuet Mall and killed Sgt. Edward O’Grady, Police Officer Waverly Brown, and Brink’s guard Peter Paige. Boudin was the operator of the U-Haul getaway vehicle and her actions immediately following the car stop directly led to the murders of O’Grady and Brown and changed the lives of these two families forever.
Boudin exited the vehicle with her hands raised under the ruse that she was surrendering. She was able to distract the officers attention long enough to let her six cohorts, exit the rear of the truck armed with automatic weapons,  and murder Sgt. O’Grady and Officer Brown. Kathy Boudin was sentenced to a term of 20 years to life under a plea agreement which included one count of murder.
Mr. Bollinger, my question to you is why? Why would you employ a radical terrorist who was directly responsible for the deaths of two police officers? Why would you remotely believe that letting a convicted murderer not only revel amongst your students, but guide and shape young, impressionable minds, to be a responsible decision for a college administrator?
Why do you feel it necessary to tarnish the memory of these heroic men by hiring a murderer? Why would you needlessly cause the families of these brave men any more pain and suffering than they have already endured?
I implore you to do the honorable thing and fire Kathy Boudin. If you won’t do it for the family and friends of these true American heroes then at least do it for your student body. Please do not let the future leaders of this great country be subjected to the brainwashing of a radical, murdering terrorist!
In conclusion Mr. Bollinger, I wish to extend to you an invitation each and every October 20 to attend the memorial honoring Sgt. Edward O’Grady, PO Waverly Brown, and Brinks guard Peter Paige. I would like you to attend and after over 30 years, witness the pain and grief still etched on the faces of their family, friends, and co- workers.
Please come and hear the stories from the men who were there that fateful afternoon speaking of the truly heroic efforts Sgt. O’Grady, PO Brown, guard Peter Paige.  Finally come to the memorial to hear of the absolutely deplorable acts that your newly hired employee committed that directly led to the murder of these three men, and ask yourself ” Would I want my child being taught by this or any radical, murdering terrorist?”
James J. Kelly
Rockland County PBA

To bring this point home, here is a photo of the two dead police officers:

Perhaps it was because police officers were killed during this action that I am so sensitive to it.  Paul asked if the woman had actually “pulled the trigger”.  But being a lawyer, he immediately caught his mistake and realized it didn't matter.  There is a law called "felony murder," which makes it murder to be involved in any way in a crime where someone is killed by violence.  So in a bank robbery it doesn't matter if someone pulls the trigger or drives a car, they are both guilty of murder should someone die as a result of that attempt.

People like to point out the technicalities and law about how criminals walk free, but that is a two-edged sword.  There are technicalities that swing in favor of the criminal justice system and public safety.

Paul then asked me if I would care if this convicted felon were hired to work in the cafeteria of Columbia.  It was an interesting and unexpected question, to which I had to give a little thought before I said, "No, I would not care if she were to the cafeteria."

Of course he asked me why.  And my gut reaction is that I don't want this convicted killer being able to influence young people in the classroom.  But there is more.  Here is a person who did something terrible.  I am sure there are Social Work PHds who are qualified and have lived lives of great sacrifice and never have been arrested let alone convicted.  Why aren’t they used as an example? 

Paul's response was that he liked the idea of her bringing a completely different perspective to the school of social work where she teaches.  I get it.  That is valid, I just disagree with it.

The conclusion of this discussion did not make me dislike Paul or raise my voice, or call him a Nazi or Communist or racist or moron or any other nasty term.  We just disagreed.  What happened to just disagreeing with each other?  There are so many subjects today we can't even discuss because they are too sensitive and people would immediately jump to crazy conclusions.

Before we restarted this blog, the six of us had a discussion about the pros and cons.  I said that it was time consuming and I didn't think I could contribute on a regular basis.  The fact that this is only my second post since we restarted shows that I was right. 

I was going to close with my typical wise cracks, but the heart of the this blog is too serious.  People died.  They were murdered.  I was raised to have good manners and respect women.  That is the only reason I am not using some vile term for this woman.  She may be a mother and grandmother, but there are too many kids who didn’t have the benefit of their fathers because of her actions.  Sorry to turn so serious, but sometimes that’s what life throws at us.  If Boston didn't remind us of that, nothing will.

But Paul is still my friend and I value his opinions. 

What do you think?  Should Columbia have hired this person?


  1. Difficult issue to be sure. I guess we have to ask ourselves as a nation if we believe in forgiveness and redemption or if some crimes are unforgivable regardless if the perpetrator has served her time in prison. What these articles don't say is anything about her current attitude toward what she did. Did she try to make amends to the family or society by any means other than her prison stay?

    Provocative post, James O.

  2. If you want your children educated by anarchists, send them to Columbia. If you want them self-reliant, God-fearing, and freedom loving, instill your values at home and you will never have to worry about them...unless you were educated at Columbia, too.

  3. patty, I do believe in redemption but not and rewarding bad behavior. And GP, I couldn't agree with you more. At least about instilling values in your children.

  4. these replies are from my phone so please forgive any typos. Thanks both of you for not using the cliche of, "paying her debt to society" my issue goes far beyond that. This is a reward and kept other people from getting that job.

  5. from Jacqueline

    I believe this woman should not, ever, be in a position of influence, other than perhaps over a mop and water and a dirty floor. I love to know there is a tradition of rich, diversified dialogue in our halls of learning, at any level - but at the same time, this candidate is flawed beyond measure. I see no point in putting those who work in such positions through drug and background checks, when someone who has taken life quite deliberately in such a manner is rewarded with a position normally reserved for those who deserve respect and reward. There is nothing a terrorist of any stripe can say that I would really want to listen to. Not even their apology. I think "sorry" has become far too easy a word to say, rather than thinking before the event. And as for disagreements, well, we live in a democracy, so the whole idea is we don't get clapped in jail for disagreeing, or ostracized in any way - it should be a case of "Let's agree to disagree" when our opinions go in separate directions.

  6. I'm not expressing an opinion on whether or not Boudin should be an adjunct prof at Columbia, but rather I want to fill in some facts. Her co-conspirators went to trial and got life sentences. She was the getaway driver and plead guilty to one count of felony murder. She served about 20 years and was paroled on her third try in 2003. In prison, she worked with AIDS patients and in adult education. After being released she worked in an AIDS clinic in New York and received her doctorate in education from Columbia. She's been a consultant to the state of New York and Vermont corrections departments. Leaving aside the moral conundrum for a moment, I am sure she has a perspective to bring to students that very few, if any, professors have. Having worked as an adjunct myself (University of Miami Law School), I know the pay is de minimis. You have to do it for the love of teaching. And that's all I'm going to say, except it's always fun discussing/arguing with Jim Born.

  7. from Jacqueline

    Thank you, Paul, for throwing more light on this subject. Perhaps I was a bit hasty with the mop and bucket. My mother, who worked for the prison service (in administration, but with close contact with prisoners) for some thirty years, would agree with you, I am sure. So, there's the conundrum - how we see both sides before forming an opinion, which I hope I can. I think, though, that we might examine what our feelings might be if another former terrorist - who had been through a process of rehabilitation and had a record of sterling service to the community - were given a similar position in an academic institution. It's worth pondering. We could all name a few such terrorists, some with a more recent destructive track record than others. Think of that person and then consider who might be upset and shocked at their appointment, years down the line, to one of our most prestigious universities - and how the victims might consider this a dishonoring of their loved ones who were maimed or killed in the terrorist event. Perhaps that's being naive, but I think respect for the victims is crucial in cases such as this. At the end of the day, it's all such a tragedy, for all concerned.

  8. I'm not saying the other information doesn't matter. But the initial fact remains that she pleaded guilty to a murder charge that involves the death of police officers. I have a hard time getting past that. The money she is paid is completely irrelevant , it is the position she is in.

  9. Initially I thought "No, she shouldn't be teaching". Then I did a slight bit of research and found a letter which appeared in the Bryn Mawr Alumnae Newsletter in 2001 (when she first came up for parole) (Completely unrelated, I also graduated from BMC. We don't talk about her much). Her letter, reflecting on the life lessons of the last 20 years, her remorse, her careful rebuilding of her life, her continued education all speak to me of true reform. I doubt she is still espousing the anarchist values of her early days. So, yes, she has gained a right to have a meaningful job.

    Sorry I had to choose to post as "anonymous" I don't have any of those things to log in as.

    Kate Randall BMC '80