Saturday, July 28, 2007

Exchange with John W. Epperson, Ruth Harp Professor of Political Science, Simpson College

Professor Epperson wrote the following in response to my recent Frontpagemag article. My response follows.

Dear Mr. Langbert,

I read with interest your article on the possibility of the IRS changing the tax status of some universities because of their alleged political activities including anti-Semitism. Your evidence for anti-Semitism on the part of the various educational institutions or the educational establishment is extraordinarily thin. For example in one paragraph you cite as evidence two events: a student running for student government was spit upon and called an epithet when she ran for student government and secondly an emeritus professor wrote a letter attacking Judaism that was published in a student newspaper. In the latter instance I would point out the professor was “emeritus” which as you should know means she is retired. Secondly newspapers, even student ones, publish letters. How does either of these events indicate a consistent (or even episodic) pattern of anti-Semitism? As for the student, who attacked her--Official representatives of the university, outsiders on campus, or other students? Is this something that happens all of the time? Did it happen more than once or was this just one incident of very bad behavior? As regrettable as these incidents are neither of them comes anywhere near supporting your argument. You have erected a “straw-man” to support what is an extremely weak argument for propaganda purposes. You have to do better than this.

John W. Epperson
Ruth Harp Professor of Political Science
Simpson College
Indianola, Iowa

My e-mailed response was as follows:

>"Hi--thanks for your interest. I think I referred to Gary Tobin et al.'s Uncivil University in the article, which is a book-length treatment of anti-Semitism in universities that came out last year. My article was targeted at the tax issue, and I had just read Uncivil University, which as I had e-mailed to Gary Tobin, shocked me, so I included a few examples. There is hardly any shortage of evidence.

Moreover, my article was focused on the more narrow subject of tax implications. You might be interested in my blog here:

which is a review of Uncivil University. You might be interested in further information from Dr. Tobin at the Institute for Jewish Research. Their website: has information. I have copied Dr. Tobin of the Institute for Jewish Research on this e-mail. You might be interested in reading Uncivil University, sold at at

and raising any questions with Tobin, as he is much better qualified to discuss his book than I am.

As well, you might take a look at David Horowitz's book, < 101 Most Dangerous Professors also available at at:

There are so many examples of the politicization of universities that my 1,000 word article on tax issues could not have reviewed them all. This has already been done in several well-known books, to include:

Kors and Silverglate, The Shadow University
Dinesh D'Souza, Illiberal University
Roger Kimball, Tenured Radicals

The idea that universities engage in political activity is not something that requires new evidence, as there has been so much available for so long that I am surprised that (you) are unfamiliar with the extensive literature. The point of my article was to discuss the tax implications of the political university, which is virgin territory.

Why don't you read the above material, and then get back to me if you are still surprised at the idea that radical activisim, (e.g., "peace studies"), propaganda, political advocacy and one-sided chanting of extremist views, to include anti-Semitism, are common in universities. Frankly, I (was) surprised that you're surprised.

Mitchell Langbert

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Quality versus Accountability in The Ward Churchill Firing

The University of Colorado has fired Ward Churchill. The New York Sun reports:

"Three faculty committees had accused Mr. Churchill of plagiarism, falsification, and other misconduct. The research allegations stem from some of Mr. Churchill's other writings, although the investigation began after the controversy over his September 11 essay.

"The decision was really pretty basic," the university's president, Hank Brown, said, adding that the school had little choice but to fire Mr. Churchill to protect the integrity of the university's research."

In today's Wall Street Journal online Hank Brown adds that:

"While no action was taken by the university with regard to his views on 9/11, many complaints surfaced at the time about his scholarship...three separate investigative panels -- which included more than 20 of his faculty peers and which worked for over two years -- to unanimously find a pattern of serious, deliberate and repeated research misconduct.

"...But his case is about far more than academic misconduct. It is about the accountability that public universities must demonstrate. Mr. Churchill's difficulties in facing up to his academic responsibilities are in many ways emblematic of higher education's trouble with accountability. Too often, colleges and universities tend to insulate themselves in ivy-covered buildings and have not been as diligent as necessary to ensure that the academic enterprise is conducted rigorously and honestly..."

Mr. Brown is right that the granting of tenure to Ward Churchill reflects a lack of accountability in higher education. As David Horowitz blogs today in Frontpagemag:

"The firing of Ward Churchill for academic incompetence and fraud is long overdue. The fact that the chairman of the Colorado University regents said it was "not an easy decision to make" reminds us how this scandal lifts the lid on the vast corruption of the academic process that tenured radicals have accomplished in the last several decades."

Horowitz also notes that:

"The entire Ethnic Studies department at Colorado U is composed of Churchill clones and worshippers".

The problem with Colorado's response to Ward Churchill is that it views Churchill as an exception. David Horowitz is right that the problem is systemic, not the fault of Churchill alone. As Jonah Goldberg noted in National Review in 2005, Churchill holds no Ph.D. Yet, he was granted tenure and permitted to serve as departmental chair. He was not only granted these rewards by the University of Colorado, but was invited to speak at numerous other colleges, such as Hamilton College.

There are two interpretations of the idea of quality. The first is that quality is at least equal to a tolerance or a standard. If a unit's dimensions are within tolerances then it is of acceptable quality. This is the concept that Hank Brown is implicitly suggesting. Lack of accountability means that there has been failure to perform at a given standard. This is true of Ward Churchill's appointment, but it may be the wrong question if such decisions are symptomatic of systemic causes.

The second definition of quality is that quality is a target or goal that is never perfectly attained. The way to get closer to the target is to continuously improve through the removal of sources of variance. Two excellent books on this subject are Taiichi Ohno's Toyota Production System and Edward Deming's Out of the Crisis. Ohno was the production genius behind Toyota and created Toyota as the world's quality leader in manufacturing. Deming was the creator of total quality management. Ohno's emphasis on just in time inventory management likely has many points of analogy to universities, but it is his overall passion for ever-improving flexibility, responsiveness and reducing waste (his absolute passion for eliminating waste) that is most relevant. Deming argued that all waste amounts to deviation; and that the way to improve quality is to end variation. He would ask whether Churchill was appointed for special or systemic reasons.

That is, there are two kinds of variance, special and systemic. Variance due to special sources, such as failure to advertise faculty job openings, hiring of cronies, or the substitution of political ideology for education (a concern about which I write on Frontpagemag this week) are managerial problems that need to be eliminated before systemic quality issues can be addressed. Clearly, these problems characterize much of higher education. Once the special sources of variation are eliminated, then systemic sources such as poor human resource management systems (e.g., the collegial or tenure systems may result in poor quality decisions that deviate from quality targets) can be addressed.

David Horowitz is right that the Churchill firing is not the way to attain quality in Ohno's and Deming's "total quality management" sense. In fact, I would argue that by sacrificing Churchill the University of Colorado might be avoiding more important questions than Churchill, such as whether its graduates are better able to write than its freshmen; whether its graduates have attained skills; and whether the research that the faculty produces reflects an honest effort to seek the truth. These are the questions that need to be asked, and firing Churchill is not the way to ask them. In fact, firing Churchill may be a way to avoid such questions.

I would prefer to see more fundamental reform in higher education than the firing of Ward Churchill. Martyring a second-rate buffoon may be a mistake.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Will Taxing Colleges Save Them

My article "Will Taxing Colleges Save Them" appears in the July 25 Frontpagemag" at:

>"David Horowitz’s The Professors offers many examples of campus indoctrination. Evan Coyne Maloney’s forthcoming film “Indoctrinate U” offers still more. Universities have had trouble distinguishing between education and propaganda. The trouble intensifies each year. In the 1980s, City College’s Professor Leonard Jeffries was a lone example when he claimed that whites are “ice people.” Today, anti-Semitism and propaganda increasingly dominate college campuses.

>"Although agenda-driven groups like the American Association of University Professors and the New York State United Teachers claim otherwise, universities no longer defend academic freedom as the freedom to debate ideas and theories based on scientific deduction and evidence. Instead, today’s professoriate defines academic freedom as the academic collective’s freedom from external expectations. But no institution ought to enjoy complete freedom from legal and social norms. Universities have no freedom to harass Jewish students; to propagandize; or to support liberal political candidates. These limitations on are not just ethical. They are enshrined in tax code section 501 (c) (3) and related regulations that grant universities tax exemptions worth tens of billions of dollars and allow donors to deduct their donations...."

See the rest at:

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

National Center For Public Policy Research Opposes Maurice Hinchey's Fairness Doctrine

I just received the following e-mail from the National Center for Public Policy Research, a free-market-oriented think tank. Maurice Hinchey is my Congressman in West Shokan, New York. His anti-civil libertarian interest in the "fairness doctrine" saddens me.

>..."Despite Congress voting to oppose reinstituting the Fairness Doctrine in June by an overwhelming vote of 309 to 115, Representative Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) intends to re-introduce legislation "to restore the Fairness Doctrine" in coming weeks.

>"Introduced in 1949 when there were relatively few broadcast outlets, the Fairness Doctrine was administered by the Federal Communications Commission to ensure that no single political viewpoint dominated the airwaves. In 1985, the FCC determined that "a multiplicity of voices in the marketplace assured diversity of opinion" and the Fairness Doctrine was no longer achieving its intended goals and was possibly creating a "chilling effect" on free speech. The FCC rescinded the Fairness Doctrine in 1987.

>"Recently, liberal lawmakers and their special interest supporters have raised the possibility of reinstituting the Fairness Doctrine because there are more conservative talk shows than liberal ones among profit-driven radio stations. FCC chairman Kevin Martin has publicly opposed bringing the Fairness Doctrine back, telling Broadcasting and Cable magazine that the absence of it "has made a lot of opportunities like talk radio." President Bush has made it known he would veto any legislation that seeks to reimpose the Fairness Doctrine.

>"Project 21's Massie added: "With Hispanic media outlets such as Telemundo and Univision carried on almost every cable system and strong ratings for Hispanic radio stations nationwide, along with unprecedented media choices through television, radio and the Internet, it is disingenuous in this day and age to say there is no way to voice an opinion. The Fairness Doctrine is just a tool for people to force their ideas where they are not popular. Would Telemundo and Univision like to be forced to broadcast in English because a large cross-section of Americans do not speak Spanish?"

>"Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research, has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11 or, or visit Project 21's website at

Sunday, July 22, 2007

New York Real Estate Bubble

The New York Sun reports that commercial real estate prices in New York are escalating rapidly. Eighteen months ago the highest commercial price ever recorded was $1,000 per square foot. According to the Sun the highest price is nearing $2,000 per square foot.

"Investment sales for 2006 reached an all-time record of $34.8 billion."

With a plummeting dollar, spikes in real estate prices and the Dow Jones and S&P 500 at or near all-time highs, it is time to "break out the bubbly". Sometimes you just got to party like it's 1999!

Left Wingers To Murder Christian Missionary

The July 13 New York Sun says that:

"Efforts to save the life of Son Jong Nam, a North Korean evangelist who faces a death sentence from the communist regime for practicing Christianity, will reach the State Department today."

Son converted to Christianity and fled North Korea to China after his wife was brutally beaten and murdered. The Chinese socialists returned Son to the North Korean socialists, where he has been arrested and sentenced to death for the crime of evangelizing.

Let us pray and voice support for Mr Son. I have written the following letter to President Bush:

I urge you to speak out on behalf of Son Jong Hoon who has been sentenced to death in North Korea for practicing Christianity.

Bill Maher's The Decider : Affirmative Action for Liberals

HBO produces several good shows, such as the Sopranos, Entourage, Big Love , Curb Your Enthusiasm and the unbelievably talented Jemaine Clement 's and Bret McKenzie 's Flight of the Conchords. But most television has been a disappointment in recent years. The supply of good programs has been slowing to a trickle. After Law and Order, CSI, 24 and several others there isn't much, even if you spend $140/month and get every channel.

Last night my wife and I watched Bill Maher's Decider reluctantly, since when watching Bill Maher programs I feel like I'm being victimized by an affirmative action program for left wing liberals. HBO's ideology only permits liberal humor, and Bill Maher is the best that they can do given the HBO quota system of 19 liberals to zero conservatives.

Maher's inability to develop a range of material and his tiresome, ill informed harangues are about as entertaining as a traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge. Blog impressario Larwyn watches Maher to laugh at him, not with him. Perhaps with the limited supply of talent Maher is the best that HBO can do. Maybe they would be better off going to New Zealand to find more talent like Clement and McKenzie.

The Limits of Anti-Kelo Legislation

Ilya Somin has written an article in Reason Magazine's print edition about legislative reaction to Kelo v. City of New London, the Supreme Court case that allowed eminent domain for economic development purposes. The Kelo decision publicized the expansion in the definition of eminent domain that has occurred in recent decades. Under private use eminent domain, well-connected developers can contribute to politicians' campaign funds and request that the politicians steal property and transfer it to the developer in the name of "urban blight", "economic development", or any other "purpose" that the politicians and developers concoct. There is no reason to believe that governments are competent to assess economic projects, so in Kelo the Supreme Court legalized property theft by the states. Particularly laughable are the "cost/benefit" analyses used by agencies such as New York's Empire State Development Corporation and toasted by ESDC clients like the New York Times.

Somin, an associate of the Institute for Justice, which brought the Kelo case, points out that better than 80 percent of the public opposes Kelo and that opposition crosses party and racial lines. Somin adds that although many states have responded by enacting laws that seem to limit eminent domain, most of the laws have been false pretense. Somin estimates that only 14 states have passed meaningful eminent domain laws. Somin adds:

"Seventeen state legislatures have passed laws that purport to restrict eminent domain, but in reality accomplish very little."

The reason that 17 states have been able to pretend to pass anti-Kelo legislation when in fact they are passing laws that give pro-Kelo forces the nod, and Congress has failed to pass anti-Kelo legislation in deference to pro-Kelo forces in Washington, is in Somin's view an application of group interest theory.

Mancur Olson has written several books, such as Rise and Decline of Nations, that explain why it is difficult for law to reflect public purpose. It is too expensive and too difficult for non-specialists to track developments in a field such as eminent domain. Legislators have financial incentives to pander to special interests such as real estate developers. Courts are similarly corrupt. By cloaking legislation in terms that most people, including most journalists, do not understand, politicians can pretend to take action when in fact they do not. Laws such as the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), the Securities and Exchange Act, and real-estate regulation in New York City are examples of the many laws that pretend to protect the public when in fact they facilitate special interests, typically with the support of the federal courts.

Group interest theory suggests that the interest group with a gain per member that exceeds the cost of getting a law passed will be the one that triumphs. In the case of Kelo, although many small property owners have considerable equity in their homes, the right to steal is worth millions to developers. Hence, the courts' and Congress's pandering to wealthy developers; the mixed results from the public outcry; and the public indifference to the legislature's indifference to the public's wishes are all consistent with Olson's theory of special interests.

Besides the Institute for Justice, the Castle Coalition has been fighting eminent domain abuse. Real estate is a corrupt business; and press coverage of eminent domain is undoubtedly influenced by the fact that the New York Times has been one of the largest beneficiaries of private-use eminent domain taking.