Wednesday, May 24, 2006
The speech was nothing new. There were the congratulations, there were the words of advice, there was the central theme of informed discourse, and of being open to change. To my surprise there was also mention of the Iraq War and McCain's support and continued support of the administration's handling and carrying out of the US' involvement in a war torn Iraq. It was immediately obvious from just a casual reading that the speech was out of place, it echoed more of a 2008 Presidential candidate stump speech than it did as a commencement address. After a few anecdotes, personal history, validation of the Iraq War, and another anecdote, one had to wonder when the graduates were going to be given their validation for the hard work of four years immersed in academia. Once or twice I read mention of social responsibility and discussion, but that was the extent of any pertinent message to the graduates.
This is not to say that McCain's speech was not good. In fact I thought it was very pertinent to current affairs and he was absolutely correct in his promotion of discussion (although I would argue, discussion about the Iraq War rings hollow as the very reason we are in Iraq is due to a fundamental lack of dialogue on the part of the Bush administration).
Many commentators have been pressing that those who have criticized McCain are stifling free speech. It could not disagree more. The entire issue of the commencement speeches given at Liberty University, the New School, and Columbia University has nothing to do with free speech. It is a celebration of our work as students; it is not a forum for policy debate and war justification. If our sole goal was to encourage free speech, any number of people could have made a speech; I would imagine that we would not invite the late Milosevic to our graduation, simply because he is a high profile figure that will make us question our outlook on the world.
May sixteenth, I woke up from a late night haze to a rainy early morning. It was an hour before my classmates were to convene and pass through a hurdle towards the next step in their lives. I read the Liberty University speech online; I knew it was going to be given again. The rain poured and I crawled back into bed, I was displeased with my University's choice of speaker and I was displeased at the virulent atmosphere that it had created amongst friends and classmates. Most of all I was displeased with our passivity.
John McCain came and went. Our protest was small and insignificant. Columbians were more interested in walking across the stage and being a step closer to getting our diplomas than preserving any sense of justice that the university had hopefully instilled in us. This is not surprising given that we are living in a society where we tolerate infringement on our rights as American citizens. We are afforded a Constitutional right to privacy from the government (if there is no suspicion of wrong doing); it is and should be troubling to all that government can use terror and security as a free pass in every scenario. If we can justify wire-tapping with possible terror, the same justification can be made to overstep rights to due process, rights to life and liberty. We should be troubled, we should not be passive.
New School mounted a tremendous protest from students and faculty alike. They should be commended in their exercise of constitutional rights. Students like Jean Rohe should neither be attacked nor intimidated by congressional aides like Mark Salter (who should know better). John McCain is no Milosevic, but his character is one that I do not believe should be extended to graduates, to myself. There is no question that McCain served bravely in his time of military service (likewise it is ridiculous that people have been criticizing Kerry and Murtha's military service). What I question is his loyalty to himself and sacrifices he makes of his character for political gain. Perhaps he believes that it is necessary to light the fires of friendship with the members of the Bush administration. Perhaps he forgot the 2000 election where he was slandered to embarrassing levels by Bush's team, allegations of illegitimate children, questioning his becoming a naval aviator by merit, questioning the legitimacy of his being awarded war medals, rumors of mental instability, etc etc. Perhaps it was a courageous display of forgiveness, but McCain has positioned himself to support those who sought to hurt and tear him down the most. He has been a stalwart of the Republican Party even in times of personal hardship and disloyalty.
What is the message towards the graduates of 2006? It is not that we should promote discourse. The reason we went to college in the first place was to participate in intelligent discourse. It is not that the War in Iraq is necessary. The message that we received is that if you want to succeed in the world, you need to bend over backwards and kiss the ass of even those who hate you. That is the message; it is one that I will not embrace on my life's journey.
Oh. I did not crawl back into bed during John McCain’s speech as a form of protest. I chose not go because I felt his speech was irrelevant, it was raining, and I am a proud graduate from the school of engineering whose graduation was at two o’clock that afternoon.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Well, Hamas didn't. But it did get a Russian offer of 50 Armored Personnel Carriers and two helicopters to continue its fight against Israel. That's progress, for Hamas at least, which is used to making its own weapons. But for peace?
Yet it doesn't end there. Instead, Reuters reports, Hamas "political leader" Khaled Meshaal -- and do notice that Reuters lists him as a political leader rather than a leader of Hamas' supposedly separate militant wing -- was recently in Doha, Qatar, urging supporters to send weapons, fighters, and money to the Hamas government to fight Israel -- not food, medicines, and supplies to help the Palestinian people.
This is all while Hamas asserts to Western audiences that it should be treated as a legitimate government. When will it learn that the only way to help its people is to pursue the peace process and accept a two state solution? More importantly, when will those in the West who favor continuing aid to Hamas start to see through Hamas' two-faced rhetoric? Probably never. But one can hope.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Columbia v. Veterans
man and the thinking man will have its fighting done by fools and its
thinking done by cowards."--Sir William Francis Butler
Below is a letter by Shane Hachey, currently 2L at Harvard Law and a Columbia graduate, to the Columbia administration and faculty. Despite being an underrepresented minority quite progressive politically, Shane like many veterans at this school has felt alienated by the administration and the faculty for their unwarranted and ignorant attitudes towards the military:
Dear Senators and former Senators,
I would like to take this opportunity, on the 1 year anniversary of the
Senate vote against ROTC, to say a few words regarding that vote and
its subsequent effects.
To begin with, in addition to and perhaps more-so than my
disappointment with the outcome of the vote, was my disappointment with
the almost show-trial atmosphere of the Senate meeting. The back rows
of the room were lined with jeering members of Columbia's socialist
organizations, and the only Senator who had the audacity to actually
defend ROTC and the military in general was loudly booed and hissed
down while the rest of the Senate, including the Executive Committee,
sat and watched. In a decision that I now regret, I refrained from
speaking up and telling these hecklers to let the man speak, feeling
that because I was not a current student or a Senator, it was not my
place to try to bring order to this meeting. Apparently, no other
senator, nor even the President of the Senate himself, thought it their
place either. Of course, it was another matter entirely when Provost
Brinkley brought down the house with his anti-ROTC speech.
Almost as disappointing was the uninformed nature of the discussion
amongst the Senate. It appeared that most senators, at least the ones
who spoke, had not thought the issue through ahead of time, and we
wasted valuable time while people asked and answered questions that had
been gone over numerous times in the year leading up to the vote. And
of course, the impassioned statements made regarding President Bush,
the war in Iraq, and general U.S. "militarism" strayed the discussion
even further off track. In such an unprepared, unprofessional, and
politicized environment, it is little wonder that the vote was so
I want to be clear about this. It seems quite apparent to me that
reasonable people can disagree about whether ROTC has a place on
Columbia's campus, and I believe that the 5-5 split vote on the Senate
ROTC Task Force is a clear example of reasonable people disagreeing.
However, a lopsided 53-10 vote, taken in a meeting conducted in the
above manner, clearly evidences not reasonable people disagreeing, but
a group of people supposedly representing a diverse student body (who
are at least evenly split on the issue) casting an ideological vote
against our military, against our service members, and, I imagine in
some minds, against our current administration and its military
It is difficult for me to say in a restrained manner the way such a
vote affects the way I as a veteran and son of a veteran feel about
Columbia University. Despite my great educational experience at
Columbia, this vote and the way it took place cast an official stamp on
the sort of anti-military and anti-American sentiment common among the
most radical of Columbia students. As if I wasn't distanced enough from
this school, my experiences dealing with the opponents of ROTC and,
more to the point, the University Senate, have left me feeling almost
entirely alienated from Columbia. I'm sure there are people who cast a
carefully considered and well thought-out vote against ROTC, but I
believe that they were significantly outnumbered by people using their
vote to cast an ideological protest or to make some sort of
"statement." In concrete terms, what those votes have done is to push
myself and a number of other veteran (as well as some non-veteran)
alumni even farther away and create in some of us a certain animosity
towards our alma mater.
Let's make no mistake: This vote had no tangible effect on the Don't
Ask, Don't Tell policy. It did not "send a message" to anyone in
Washington except that our university is hostile to the military (quite
the point for some of you, I'm sure). It did not start any movements or
get any balls rolling towards changing this unfair and impractical
policy. All it did was express a vote of no confidence in our military
and those who serve in it, further isolating Columbia and its students
from the people who serve our country and those who support them.
As it stands in light of the Supreme Court's recent ruling on the
Solomon Amendment, this whole debate is a nullity if the federal
government decides to force the issue. For those who take issue with
the existence and use of the Solomon Amendment, consider this: besides
the implicit logic that an entity that provides money, especially in
amounts of hundreds of millions, has the right to attach conditions to
the receipt of that money, you might recall that the same threat of
losing federal funding is what provides the teeth for important
non-discrimination codes, including Title IX (gender discrimination)
and Title VI (racial discrimination). Therefore, I find it quite
disingenuous for President Bollinger and others to lament the
government's use of the "power of the purse" to pressure universities
to adopt particular policies. I doubt that anyone at Columbia would
seriously question the ability of the federal government to use the
"power of the purse" to enforce the above sections of the Civil Rights
Act, or the morality of such force. Since the means of the purse are
generally agreed upon as legitimate, the real objection President
Bollinger and others who take his view must have is the ends of the
Solomon Amendement, i.e. allowing military recruiters and cadets equal
access to university facilities.
Also disingenuous is the President's assertion immediately after the
vote that the vote itself reflected a "consensus of the Columbia
University community" considering that the single poll we have
suggested a 65% majority of students in favor of allowing ROTC to
return to Columbia. Day to day experience also bears out this sort of
proportionate sentiment. The sort of statement made by President
Bollinger is at best unverified and at worst patently false. Again,
this just points to the inadequacy of the entire process that led to
last year's vote. It makes me wonder who exactly the Senate represents.
Some might respond that the senate was protecting a minority from a
majority. As I have stated before, this vote did nothing to quicken the
death of Don't Ask Don't Tell, nothing to protect gay students at
Columbia, and indeed, a compromise could have been reached that would
have allowed ROTC on campus yet financially protected gay cadets. Yet
this was not even discussed. Again, I hold this professed "minority
rights" motivation to be highly suspect considering the circumstances
surrounding the vote.
On another note, considering how many personal stories we heard last
year that had nothing to do with ROTC (I'm thinking particularly of
Nate Walker's emotionally charged and completely irrelevant story
presented to the final task force meeting that effectively
short-circuited debate), I thought I might share a few of my own.
In the very beginning of the spring semester of 2003, mere months after
the formation of the Columbia veteran's group, and in a political
climate leading up to the war in Iraq, I attempted to set up a brief
meeting between President Bollinger and our group through his office.
This was not going to be a meeting whereby we issued demands, made
proclamations, or the like. We simply wanted to have a quiet talk about
some of the military-related issues affecting the campus and to answer
any questions he may have had regarding our group or the military in
I still have the emails from his staff expressing his willingness and,
indeed, his enthusiasm to meet with us. For the entire semester, I and
his staff played a game whereby I would be told to wait for his office
to contact our group, I would wait approximately two weeks to hear
back, knowing how busy the President and his staff must be, I would
send another email inquiry or visit the office again, again be informed
of his desire to meet with us and to wait for a response, and on and on
until the end of the semester. I wanted to give President Bollinger the
benefit of the doubt, especially considering my admiration for the way
he stood his ground in the Michigan affirmative action cases. In my
mind, however, he lost all benefit of the doubt on the day I read about
a fireside chat that he had with dorm residents about the future of
varsity and club sports at Columbia.
Allow me to reiterate: Columbia's president could take time out from
his busy schedule that semester to meet with students and discuss the
future of Columbia basketball and rugby, but could not find 30 minutes
during the entire semester to meet with a group of active and former
service-members attending Columbia during a time of war, some of whom
were facing the possibility of being recalled to fight. To me this is
as wrong as it is preposterous. I think I need not go into detail to
describe how that shaped my opinion of how Columbia generally and
President Bollinger specifically views the military and those who serve
Another fond memory I have from that semester at Columbia is of
standing by a friend who was tabling for signatures and was wearing his
Army field jacket. One of my favorite professors, William Harris,
walked by us, and with a clearly disgusted tone and look on his face
asked my friend something along the lines of "How can you wear that
thing?" He seemed to be in a hurry, but I made a point to catch up with
him and engage him, both because I remembered his class fondly and felt
he could be reasonably engaged, and because I was offended by his
public disrespect of my friend's service. I said something along the
lines that my friend was wearing his jacket because he was proud of his
service, to which Professor Harris replied "Well, my father was in the
Royal such-and-such, and was proud of his service, but he never served
in a fascist organization." He promptly sped off. Again, I think I need
not describe how hearing one of my favorite professors compare the
pride of having served in the United States Army to being proud of
having served fascism, affected me.
I could go on and on, but the point is clear. The leadership of
Columbia University simply does not respect the military or those who
serve in it, and indeed, largely holds them in contempt. Last year's
vote against ROTC was merely the most blatant and publicized example of
I have tried to accommodate, listen to, plan and cooperate with people
who have different viewpoints and opinions about military issues at
this university and have watched repeatedly as the same courtesy has
been refused myself and my colleagues, and while our gestures of
friendly dialogue and mutually-agreeable solutions have been met with
oily, two-faced political maneuvering, placating administrators, and
outright hostility. I feel more alienated from this university every
time something like this happens, and quite frankly am tired of trying
to affect change at Columbia from within.
I hope that someday the Columbia student body, faculty, and
administration will step away from their Vietnam-era hostility towards
all things military. Until that day, many people such as myself are
going to feel like "alumni non grata" at our own alma mater, and will
continue to view ourselves in opposition to this university, which is a
truly sad and entirely preventable state of affairs.
US Army 1993-1998
Sunday, May 07, 2006
In our lives, we should welcome diverse opinions, if not to open our eyes to new truths then to reinforce our own. Columbia College Class Day is different, graduation is meant to be a celebration of the work we have put in during the last four years. The speaker is a reflection of those values which we as a group hold nearest to us. At Columbia, if those values were not progressiveness and diversity, I would be embarrassed to attend the school. When the news about McCain first came out there was an initial petition circulating, damning McCain for his affiliation with Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. Jerry Falwell is an extremist for the far-right, it was ludicrous to put John McCain in the same boat or to argue that his presence represented his endorsement of Falwell’s beliefs. One could argue that McCain’s presence at Columbia was an endorsement of our generally liberal egalitarian views on the world.
Recently a friend of mine, Kate Mahoney began circulating a new petition. The central point is, “John McCain does not speak for us”, that he holds very conservative viewpoints that are completely at ends with our student body. Many have spouted off that the university setting is the perfect forum for diversity of ideology and they are correct, but protesting the choice of McCain as graduation speaker is no issue of free speech. What it reflects is a terrible decision by the administration and student governing board to extend an invitation to a controversial political figure, especially one far to the right of the majority of the university. Graduation is a time for celebration, not controversy and political activism. While I look forward to McCain’s speech and do not anticipate anything other than “you are the best and the brightest, go forth and make our country proud with your contribution, bye bye”, his selection has brought out the worst in us.
On the newly formed http://www.mccainatcolumbia.com , the site was intended to serve as a forum for discussion. This is what it has to offer.
Oh Kate, you also come from a spoiled upbringing. You also got indoctrinated in the ways of elite. And to make yourself feel good you oppress others with your intolerance of other ideas. but keep up the work, because of people like you the voice of liberals is subdued and you hate is evident.. \Shame on you... Hater
Bob Kerry (CC '06)
You come from wealthy family. You are pampered and have no idea what the real world is like. Ive got an idea, give up all your money and get a 60 hour a week job. But please stop preaching you spoiled BRAT who has nothing better to do...
-- Laur is spoiled rich girl (CC '06)
Please dont "enter the world". Please spare us your agenda on hate.. You hate all who disagree with you. You hate all who speak up for what they believe but you dont.... KIM SUE YOU ARE A HATER
-- KIMSUEHATES (CC '06)
Laura Cordetti - GET A LIFE and get a job too. You poor thing!
-- Tom (Contributor)
I don’t understand how voicing your opinion became such a call for hateful speech to come out of the woodwork. The hypocrisy that runs amuck in these comments is almost appalling, but not surprising. Perhaps it is the liberalism that dominates the campus that causes those of the more conservative persuasion to act out in desperation with ad-hominem and irrelevant personal attacks. This reminds me of my friend Laura being physically threatened after voicing her pro-choice sentiment. That was two years ago, we clearly have moved very far. The overarching sentiment in these website comments are that the some of the other comment writers are unqualified to make a judgment on the speaker because they are rich, don’t speak up for what they believe in, aren’t in the “real world”, etc. The fact of the matter is that many of the individuals being attacked have had a history of standing up for what they believe in and embracing their activism as a forum to make others more aware of domestic and global injustice. Their involvement is completely independent of monetary wealth and it is sad that anonymous commenters somehow equate privilege and economic stability as factors disqualifying one from participating in the public forum of ideas. Columbia’s liberalism continues from one generation to the next as it is obvious from the comments, the other side doesn’t have much to offer.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
William Buckley, Jr, the conservative stalwart, questioned the government's strategy a few weeks ago.
Buckley. Predicting a life sentence, he suggested that the government was setting itself up to look like it "lost" in the case the death penalty was not chosen. The avenging bloodlust of the prosecutors, Rudy G, and others who want Moussaoui to be a proxy for all the men on the plans is in fact detrimental to the government's image, the institution of the death penalty (leading to another high profile case where death penalty opponents could publicly question its use), and is also a misuse of the death penalty, which, for whatever reasons invoked, should punish only the most severe actions, not intentions.
Moussaoui lost, but so did the government by pushing hard for the death penalty. Luckily, the legal system got it right by recognizing that the emotions of 9/11 should not color the judgments of a man who was guilty of plotting, not doing.
Monday, May 01, 2006
The Catholic Church is a huge financial power that controls more than a few hospitals across our nation. As the largest non-profit provider of healthcare, they have the financial resources to keep hospitals afloat that other organizations could not. More and more hospitals are either selling to the Catholic Church or affiliating themselves with them. Does your hospital provide EC? It's hard to know these days.
Lieberman justifies the Catholic position saying that there are plenty of other hospitals in Conneticut you could goto. That's fine for Conneticut, that's not fine for the many counties and cities where the Catholic hospital is the sole provider of healthcare and residents have no alternative.
Furthermore, what an insensitive comment. If you are a rape victim, I'm sure the last thing you need is to drive to the hospital in a state if duress only to be turned away. What are Americans to do when there is no procreative freedom, our morals are being governed by an organization that represents about 25% of our population and less than 10% in many of the states where the Catholic hospital has been deemed a "sole-provider". America was founded by those seeking to escape religious oppression, look around though, here we are again.
Follow the link: CLICK ME! 12 page paper I wrote for "Ethics and Medicine" examining the ethics of the Catholic healthcare.