Letters

 
 
   
Eye on Pakistan

I found “The Promise of Pakistan,” the cover story of your Winter issue, quite interesting and perceptive. Saeed Shafqat was my teacher at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad. We have been in contact since then and have had quite rich discussions about various issues. Each time it was a great learning experience.

Abdul Wajid Rana
Economic Minister
Embassy of Pakistan
Washington, DC
--

Brown’s Legacy

I am writing to applaud the Winter issue. I am particularly pleased by “The Great Debaters” about William Neal Brown, whom I met when we were students at the Columbia School of Social Work. I was aware of the debate with Malcolm X and was delighted to get such a full description. It is an event that warrants attention, and it was a very thoughtful decision to feature it.

I enjoyed the other articles as well.

Salvatore Ambrosino ’51SW
San Diego, CA
--

I want to thank Columbia magazine and Paul Hond for “The Great Debaters.” William Neal Brown is a man whose commitment to excellence has been evident throughout his illustrious life and career.

Brown was my professor at Rutgers University Graduate School of Social Work in the early 1970s. His oratory was clear and colorful, always leaving me with the desire to further my studies and help my fellow man. Until reading your article, however, I had no idea of the kind of social advocate and courageous thinker he was.
Brown needed to be acknowledged along with men like Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a leader and educator in the black man’s struggle for equality in this country. He dedicated his adult life to opening minds.

Thirty-five years after my first encounter with Brown, I again have the pleasure of a weekly get-together. Brown attends the senior center where I’m employed. Even now, in spite of the ravages of old age and illness, his positive outlook and perseverance are examples for us all. It’s an honor to know him and to continue to be a part of his life.

Ellen Greenwald
Summit, NJ
--

Paul Hond’s article on the historic 1961 debate with Malcolm X is a wonderful and fitting tribute to William Neal Brown’s life and career. I learned quite a bit about the debate itself and its greater significance.
The excerpts you published demonstrate that Brown’s argument was as persuasive as his words were eloquent. I wholeheartedly agree with Hond’s assessment that “history will note that in the end it was Malcolm X who moved closer to Brown’s point of view, and not the other way around.”

Shaun Illingworth
Assistant Director
The Rutgers Oral History Archives
Newark, NJ
--

Misplaced Mukasey

Why was a whole page of the “News” section (Winter 2007–08, page 40) devoted to that sophist and repulsive apologist for torture, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey ’64CC, and not a word appeared about the senator from Illinois, Barack Obama ’83CC, one of the most brilliant and inspiring individuals to graduate from the College in my lifetime?

Ralph C. Stephens ’58CC, ’60BUS
Chevy Chase, MD
--

The news item about Mike Mukasey indicated that both he and David Alpern were members of the Columbia College Class of ’64. According to my yearbook they were both members of the Class of ’63. Contrary to rumors, Sachems meetings for the Class of ’63 did not discuss the merits and pitfalls of waterboarding, but at least we should correct the class to which Mukasey belonged.

Rich Eisenberg ’63CC, ’67GSAS
Rochester, NY
--

License to Bill

According to “Fiscal Discipline” (Winter 2007–08), which deals with subprime lending, Columbia Business School assistant professor Tomasz Piskorski “insists that the federal government . . . should instead require Americans to take training seminars and pass tests proving that they understand how [option ARMs] work before they obtain one.”
Perhaps Piskorski should develop a complete list of required federal exams. How about requiring people to pass an exam covering FDIC Regulation Z (Truth in Lending) before they are allowed to obtain an installment loan to buy a car? How about having them pass an exam on real estate loan-closing requirements before they are allowed to buy a home? The possibilities for new government controls are limitless.

Piskorski’s line of thinking is better suited to a socialist dictatorship than to our free, capitalist republic.

James E. O’Brien ’66CC
Maitland, FL
--

Fountain of Youth

You cannot imagine my delight upon reading your profile of Linda Fried, newly appointed dean of the Mailman School of Public Health. I was thrilled to learn that she has “published widely on geriatric health care and prevention.” I always knew Columbia affiliates to be intelligent, innovative people, but I never imagined that we would one day call our own the person who discovered a way to prevent aging! Surely this sort of news should be covered by CNN, the New York Times, or at the very minimum, Scientific American. I eagerly await the press release.

Andrea Kalish ’07GS
Riverdale, NY

This will teach you never to underestimate the capabilities of CU faculty and administrators! — Ed.
--

Careers in Modeling

Near the end of the science article “Divisions of labor” (Winter 2007–08) on the work being done by some Columbia researchers into how “cells create the so-called contractile ring,” Professor Ben O’Shaughnessy lauds “the power of computer modeling” for having enabled him and his colleagues to reach their findings. I’m sure we’re all glad to join the team in raising a glass and toasting that power, and yet the professor’s next comment testifies, I’d say, to the inherent hubris of the human mind: “It’s as if evolution has fine-tuned the mechanism to use reaction rates nearly identical to what is ideal.”

The image that his remark conjures in my mind is that of the absurdly magnanimous human giving a head pat to his trusty sidekick Evolution (aka Nature or God), while murmuring that if the dogged little tyke just keeps on fine-tuning his decimal places he, too, may someday arrive at that “ideal” already made manifest by our computer modeling!
I guess we all have to decide for ourselves which ideals we’re going to place our greatest trust in. Will it be those that look a bit rough-edged, when viewed through our overly well-ground human lenses, but that do vital work within the actual warp and woof of the universe? Or will it be those seemingly more perfect ones that keep us staring, enraptured, for hours on end, at our computer screens?

The choice is indeed ours, and probably doesn’t matter much. We might at least acknowledge, though, that whenever we make the latter choice we implicitly give the nod to a humanly created beauty, over a divine preexisting truth.

Peter C. Roberts ’76CC
New York, NY
--

Gold’s Standard

Dore Gold, in his review of Michael Makovsky’s book, Churchill’s Promised Land (Winter 2007­–08), asserts that Winston Churchill exhibited a “fundamental sympathy with the restoration of Jewish sovereignty” and “never diluted his faith” in Zionism or the State of Israel.

Churchill should be judged not by his pro-Zionist rhetoric, but by how he responded when the chips were down. The fact is that during the Holocaust, when British Mandatory Palestine was one of the few countries to which Jewish refugees might have fled, Churchill upheld the 1939 White Paper policy that kept Palestine’s doors almost completely shut to Jews. In my view, closing off the Jewish homeland to refugees trying to escape from Hitler hardly constitutes an expression of “fundamental sympathy” for Zionism.

David A. Miller ’89SEAS
Silver Spring, MD
--

Dore Gold, Israel’s ambassador to the UN from 1997 to 1999, makes a hero out of Churchill. According to Gold, he “never lost his fundamental sympathy with the restoration of Jewish sovereignty. Realpolitik tempered many of Churchill’s public statements, but never diluted his faith in Israel’s cause.” However, the reality is that Churchill was infamously anti-Semitic in the 1920s and hailed Mussolini and Hitler when they came to power.

In a February 8, 1920, article, “Zionism Versus Bolshevism: A Struggle for the Soul of the Jewish People,” Churchill declared that “we owe to the Jews in the Christian revelation a system of ethics which, even if it were entirely separated from the supernatural, would be incomparably the most precious possession of mankind.” But “it may well be that this same astounding race may at the present time be in the actual process of producing another system of morals and philosophy, as malevolent as Christianity was benevolent.”

While assuring readers that “nothing is more wrong than to deny to an individual, on account of race or origin, his right to be judged on his personal merits and conduct,” and praising “National Jews,” he warned:

“In violent opposition to all this sphere of Jewish effort rise the schemes of the International Jews. There is no need to exaggerate the part played in the creation of bolshevism and in the actual bringing about of the Russian Revolution by these international, and for the most part, atheistical Jews. It is certainly a very great one; it probably outweighs all others. With the notable exception of Lenin, the majority of the leading figures are Jews. Moreover, the principal inspiration and driving power comes from the Jewish leaders.”

He patronized Zionism as an antidote to bolshevism:

“Nothing could be more significant than the fury with which Trotsky has attacked the Zionists generally, and Dr. [Weizmann], in particular. The cruel penetration of his mind leaves him in no doubt that his schemes of a worldwide communistic State under Jewish domination are directly thwarted and hindered by this new ideal, which directs the energies and the hopes of Jews in every land towards a simpler, a truer, and a far more attainable goal.”

Churchill ran various British cabinet ministries from 1917 to 1920. His priority was intervention against his imagined “worldwide communist State under Jewish domination.” An estimated 28,000 Jews were murdered in pogroms by Russian czarists, supported by Britain. Yet he brazenly claimed that “wherever General Denikin’s authority could reach, protection was always accorded to the Jewish population, and strenuous efforts were made by his officers to prevent reprisals and to punish those guilty of them.”

Churchill’s anti-bolshevism was fanatic. In 1927 he told Italy’s Fascist Party, “If I had been an Italian, I would have been entirely with you from the beginning to the end of your victorious struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism.”

After Hitler came to power, Churchill proclaimed that “if our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion as indomitable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations.” When the Spanish civil war broke out, Nazi pilots helped Franco overthrow the Left-led republic, armed by Stalin. Churchill announced that he “will not pretend that, if I had to choose between communism or Nazism, I would choose communism.”

Eventually Churchill realized that Hitler was a danger to Britain and fought him. And the madness of Hitler’s holocaust cured Churchill of his own anti-Semitism. But even then he must be condemned for doing nothing to specifically help the Jews of Nazi-occupied Europe.

That Churchill was initially a fan of Mussolini and Hitler is well known in Britain. However, most Americans know nothing of his pre–World War II career. Many construct an ideal Churchill out of his wartime speeches. Gold built on their ignorance, adding wonderful patronage of Zionism to their fairy-tale hero’s résumé. But Gold doesn’t even mention that his pro-Zionist was, simultaneously, also a supporter of czarism, Mussolini, and Hitler. What does that tell us about Churchill, Gold, and Zionism?

Lenni Brenner
New York, NY
Lenni Brenner is the author of Zionism in the Age of the Dictators.
--

It was refreshing to read Dore Gold’s review of Churchill’s Promised Land. Many have been mistaken in thinking that during World War II, Churchill would not allow planes to bomb Auschwitz on their way to attacking Romanian oil fields. In reality, it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Democratic southern senators who blocked the bombing. If Auschwitz had been hit in 1943, the German annihilation program would have been disrupted and thousands of lives would have been saved.

Jerome V. Blum ’49CC, ’55PS
Los Altos Hills, CA
--

The photograph accompanying Dore Gold’s review reminded me of an interesting point. In the picture, Sir Herbert Samuel is shown walking with Winston Churchill in Jerusalem in 1921. That same year, Samuel appointed Haj Amin al-Husseini as grand mufti of Jerusalem, overruling Muslim religious leaders who had submitted other names for the position. The mufti would later instigate massive attacks against the Jews and eventually became involved with Hitler’s Reich. He aided the pro-Nazi revolt in Baghdad in 1941 and after its failure, fled to Germany. He broadcast anti-Jewish propaganda from Berlin during the war and recruited Muslims in the Balkans to fight with the Waffen SS Hansar division. He was captured after the war and was to be tried, but he somehow managed to escape from the French in 1946, and from Cairo, fought against Israeli independence.

The interesting historical point is the fact that Sir Herbert was a Jew.

Harold B. Reisman ’56SEAS, ’65GSAS
Carlsbad, CA
--

Grand Hotel

I read Samuel McCracken’s review of Hotel: An American History (Winter 2007–08) with interest, and the old Statler Hotel advertisement really caught my eye. I had recently attended a meeting at state government offices in Buffalo at the old Statler Hotel — and I mean old. I was struck by the architectural beauty and simple stature of the building, so much so that when I noticed “Statler Hotel” carved in the facade, I was prompted to research what this place was. While now the interior is dated and borders on creepy, one could envision a day long gone when the hotel was spectacular. Our meeting was in one of the old ballrooms — you would have thought it was 1950, perhaps the last time the interior of this grand building had been updated.

Buffalo has many challenges. As a historic preservation junkie, I hope that some group will be able to save this grand place and someday restore it to the simple grandeur Mr. Statler envisioned.

Lisa McMurdo ’88PH
Albany, NY
--

Fission Hole

I read with extreme interest “Gone Fission” by Paul Hond. As an undergraduate I worked as a laboratory assistant in the cyclotron unit in the basement of Pupin Hall. It was my privilege to meet and talk to Dr. John Dunning on several occasions.

I spent many interesting afternoons and Saturdays with the device and am saddened that it will be destroyed. It does have historical significance since it was part of the Manhattan Project, which led to the development of atomic power.

John Swieconek, MD ’53CC
San Rafael, CA
--

At age 90 I’ve become a victim of creeping antiquity, but as one of Professor Dunning’s students many years ago, I’m reasonably certain that in the photo on page 64 of the Winter 2007–08 issue of Columbia, the gentleman on the right, not the left, is Dunning. Putting his hands in his pockets seemed to be a habit of his.

Victor Streit ’40CC
Tequesta, FL
--

Reading for Pleasure

It’s more than time for me to express my great admiration for, and pleasure from, Columbia magazine. It is a sheer joy to see and to read. Thank you very, very much.

William M. Carson ’49GS
Forest Grove, OR
--

It’s Not All Greek

Pat Boone’s intention to study Ancient Greek in order to read the New Testament was misplaced (“Pat ’n Leather,” Winter 2007–08). When I started my Ancient Greek course at Columbia, the professor pointed out immediately that this was a course in Attic prose, and we would not be able to read the New Testament. I had not intended to read the New Testament, but rather, the poetry of Euripides.

Gary D. Chance ’69GS, ’73BUS
London, England
--

A Couple Gripes

I am a self-confessed nitpicker, and I will not for a moment dispute that given the parlous state of the world, the nit I am about to pick with you rates in importance somewhat below the determination of the maximum count of angels that can be supported on the head of a pin.

However, on page 42 of your Winter issue, someone on your staff has committed a sin that I count among the most offensive on my list of grammatical no-nos: the omission of “of” following “couple” in the expression “a couple years.”
There is no basis for such an expression. It defies both logic and common sense in the same way as would “a pair shoes” or “a flock geese.”

I am aware that this sin is nowadays frequently committed in common speech and increasingly in the daily press — all the more reason why a university-affiliated publication should make an effort to resist.

I cringe at “to each their own,” but when it is a matter of offending those feminists exquisitely conscious of gender, I can grudgingly forgive. Yet at some point one must draw the line lest our precious language deteriorate into a meaningless morass of confusion.

Vance Weaver ’44CC
New York, NY
--

We’re Getting There

Why does Columbia magazine’s online version not allow readers to e-mail articles? Why would you not want the magazine shared beyond the Columbia community? You’re on the trailing edge of information sharing. I greatly appreciate the print version, but how do you expect us to spread the excellence of what you produce, given you provide us no obvious means to do so electronically?

Howard Whitaker ’73BUS
Gold River, CA

We agree entirely: The online version of Columbia magazine is far behind our print version.
The alumni Web site is currently being redesigned, and the enhancements you mention will be part of the magazine section. Please stay tuned.

In the meantime, we would be glad to send a PDF or a copy of the magazine to anyone you think would like to see a particular piece. — Ed.


 
 

Key to Abbreviations: Each of the following school affiliation abbreviations refers to the respective school's current name; for example, GSAS — for Graduate School of Arts and Sciences — is used for alumni of the Graduate Faculties, which became GSAS in 1979. The only code not associated with a particular school is HON, which designates that person the recipient of an honorary degree from the University.

Code
BC
BUS
CC
DM
GS
GSAS
GSAPP
JRN
JTS
KC
LAW
LS
NRS
OPT
OT
PH
PRM
PS
SCE
SEAS
SIPA
SOA
SW
TC
UTS

School
Barnard College
Graduate School of Business
Columbia College
College of Dental Medicine
School of General Studies
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation
Graduate School of Journalism
Jewish Theological Seminary
King's College
School of Law
School of Library Service
School of Nursing
School of Optometry
Programs in Occupational Therapy
Mailman School of Public Health
School of Pharmaceutical Sciences
College of Physicians and Surgeons
School of Continuing Education
The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science
School of International and Public Affairs
School of the Arts
School of Social Work
Teachers College
Union Theological Seminary