“We’re … subsidizing wealthy organizations sitting in the middle of poor towns. Yale University has an endowment of about $25 billion, yet it pays very little to the city of New Haven, which I (as a resident) can assure you needs the money. At the prep school I attended (current endowment: $175 million), faculty houses, owned by the school, were tax-exempt, on the theory that teachers sometimes had students over for dinner, where they talked about history or literature or swim practice.”

And there’s more.

Conservatives are footing the bill for taxes that Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit, doesn’t pay — while liberals are making up revenue lost from the National Rifle Association. I could go on. In short, the exemption-and-deduction regime has grown into a pointless, incoherent agglomeration of nonsensical loopholes, which can allow rich organizations to horde plentiful assets in the midst of poverty.

Readers who’d like to (re)visit UD‘s long-running amazement that Harvard University, sitting on close to 36.4 billion dollars (No, that’s silly. That’s crazy. “[W]hen it comes to these fancy universities the official endowment figures are a drastic understatement of the real wealth of the university. Harvard’s real-estate assets are mind-bogglingly valuable, for example, but not part of the endowment.“), continues to enjoy non-profit benefits, can click on the category harvard: foreign and domestic policy. You’ll find it at the bottom of this post.

America Votes.

Sen. Ted Cruz’s [father told a crowd]: “Did you know that the Bible tells you exactly who to vote for?”

… [One audience member said that] Sen. Cruz rose to the top of her list of 2016 GOP candidates: “I’m a real follower of Jesus, and when you have someone quoting the Bible, ‘This is what you do,’ you do it.

Baez in Bethesda

When Joan Baez received Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award this week, it made me nostalgic.

Baez hates nostalgia as only someone who has lived long enough to be the object of every old hippie’s nostalgia can be. For a lifelong pacifist, her language about it is positively violent: “I think I’m trying to strangle people into coming up to the present so much of the time, because people tend to live aeons ago.” But there’s nothing wrong with being knocked back to the past now and then, and the occasion of her award knocked me back.

It knocked me back to 1968, to after-school afternoons I spent in the biggest bathroom in my parents’ house in Bethesda (good acoustics), playing my nylon string guitar and singing Child ballads the way she sang them, the way I learned them from listening to her. Geordie, House Carpenter, Queen of Hearts — they were all songs of doomed lovers, all fraught tales set in the darkest of keys. Matty Groves, an adultery and murder ditty, had twenty three verses. I knew them all, and went into long trances, chanting them in my little echo chamber.

There are certain soprano voices – Kathleen Battle’s, Julia Lezhneva’s – equipped with an absolutely eerie high-piping perfection, a radically original and expressive force. Joan Baez was my first encounter with this type of unsettling sound. Long before I knew anything about the operatic voice, I was haunted by the folk treble, and spent hours trying to produce it myself. “Beauty brings copies of itself into being,” writes Elaine Scarry in her book, On Beauty and Being Just. Beauty inspires imitation. Wherever Baez was when those notes streamed out of her, I wanted to be there too.

Almost fifty years later, I still pursue that treble. I’m at my baby grand in the living room now (the guitar leans on a wall nearby), but the tattered Joan Baez Songbook remains my favorite thing to play. W.H. Auden called music “the best means we have of digesting time,” and I think that’s because – for me, at least – the making of music never changes. It’s always in some ecstatic way the journey back to tonal paradise.

Think of that whole “lost chord” idea in Arthur Sullivan’s famous song. The chord he keeps searching for was “the harmonious echo / From our discordant life.”

No doubt Baez will receive the Amnesty International award for her political work with a sense of irony. “I’m a little concerned about offering hope,” she said in a recent interview. “But one has to bash on regardless.”

At a young age I sensed the serene concord Baez had somehow made all the discordance of life yield; I sensed the way she summoned that harmonious echo again and again. And that’s also a form of bashing on – keeping the long song going, verse after verse, whatever the circumstance.

Having heard Baez, how can I (to quote the great old American folk song) keep from singing?

“Talansky sat on the board of Yeshiva University until last year.”

Morris Talansky: Yet another glorious chapter in the history of the board of trustees whose members include Bernard Madoff, Ezra Merkin, and Zygi Wilf (Wilf remains a board member).

Embarrassing. But at least Yeshiva’s finances are in order.

Mandatory Death Panels NOTHING.

Get ready for mandatory church panels.

Ten Bucks A Speech

Ten bucks to miss
Ted Cruz on campus,
A bargain at
Twice the price.

Ten bucks to stay
Clear of his presence
And do something
Much more nice.


Students were aware of the rule. One of them posted about it on her Facebook page. Citing another student, she wrote, “Students will either attend Convocation and lend to the illusion of widespread support for Sen. Cruz, or they will be subject to administrative punishment — specifically, four reprimands and a $10 fine — if they are absent.”

Yeshiva University’s Ira Rennert: Another in a Long Line of Looters.

It’s official: We can add Rennert’s name to fabled YU benefactors like Bernard Madoff, Ezra Merkin, and Zygi Wilf. Today the man who endowed YU’s Entrepreneurial Institute (it’s named after him), has been found guilty of looting one of his companies. But he did it in a good cause!

[The jury agreed that] Rennert [was] a willfully negligent tycoon who looted MagCorp to subsidize [his] sprawling Hamptons estate while turning a blind eye to pollution [the EPA’s suing him for the pollution; this trial verdict was just for the looting]. [The] Brooklyn-born billionaire’s Italianate home boasts a 164-seat theater, 100-car garage and 39 bathrooms, and is valued at $500 million.

What an inspiring entrepreneurial example for the eager young business students at the Rennert Entrepreneurial Institute! A junk bond campus whose business philosophy comes straight from Ira Rennert! And don’t forget – Yeshiva is a religious institution.


There’s Rennert Hall at Columbia University and the Rennert chair in finance and entrepreneurship at New York University. There’s also the Rennert Entrepreneurial Institute at Yeshiva University and the Rennert Mikvah, a ritual bath, at the Fifth Avenue Synagogue, where he’s an honorary chairman.

Hm. Those ritual baths have been awfully pesky lately… If they’re not being overseen by someone filming naked women, they’re being named for looters…

No less a person than Jonathan Sacks, who calls himself a “moral voice for our time,” is the Rennert Professor of Judaic Thought at NYU.

UD is going to guess that it’s not going to bother the moral voice that he’s bopping along on … uh… let’s be delicate and call it breach of fiduciary duty money…

University of Westminster Currently on Pander Alert…

… for having spent years pandering to dangerous ideologues.


Getting huffy (“Jihadi John Went to My University – So What?”) isn’t going to solve your problem.

Put away the broken glass, gals. But keep it in a handy place.

Rev. FGM’s talk at Westminster University has been postponed (awkward timing).

I’m sure he’ll be back soon, with some self-mutilation tips.

‘[University of Delaware Professor David] Legates is a signatory of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation’s “An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming.” The declaration states: “We believe Earth and its ecosystems — created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence — are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception.”‘

See there? Nothing to worry about.

London’s Westminster University Hosts a Female Genital Mutilation Extravaganza!

Hold onto your happy button! Guest speaker Haitham al-Haddad, an expert in the best ways to chop off clitorises, will address Westminster students and faculty tomorrow.

Jay Michaelson on Rabbi Professor Freundel

When I lived in Washington, I attended Kesher Israel regularly. It was a thrill to sit behind Senator Joseph Lieberman, Leon Wieseltier and other luminaries of the American Jewish scene. They and many others took pride in articulating a literate, intelligent Modern Orthodox Jewish sensibility – and Freundel was an exemplar of it…

All this time, he was a sex offender, a fraud and a pervert.

… [T]he Freundel scandal looks a lot like the Madoff* scandal. There are questions that should have been asked, suspicions that should have been raised. But the self-reinforcing loops of elite power — X likes him, X is powerful, therefore I should like him — blinded those entrusted to keep watch.

And then there are the nonsexual allegations. One of Freundel’s victims, Bethany Mandel, told The Daily Beast that we’ve gotten Freundel wrong. “People keep calling him a pervert and yes, he’s a pervert, but he’s also a power hungry sociopath,” Mandel said. “It wasn’t about porn. It was about power, and this was additional power no one knew he had.”

This, too, should have been visible in plain view to anyone who worked closely with Freundel.

… It can seem, downing a shot of whiskey with someone of influence, that you are in the presence of greatness. Really, you are only in the presence of power.


* Board Chair, Sy Syms School of Business; Honorary Degree recipient; Treasurer, Board of Trustees — all at Yeshiva University.

“From thrust you came; to thrust you shall…

… return.”

“After Mr. Rennert defended his actions concerning his estate, his attorneys immediately demanded that photos of it not be shown, arguing that doing so would inflame the jury.”

The man whose name emblazons Yeshiva University’s Rennert Entrepreneurial Institute (plus there are several Yeshiva business school professors walking around with his name on their title) once again shows students at that junk bond campus how it’s done: Entrepreneurship is about finding yourself in a courtroom, accused of looting one of your firms to pay for a private residence so ostentatiously vile that a judge agrees to keep jurors from seeing it lest they become “inflamed” against the accused.

Madoff, Merkin, Wilf, and Rennert: Just a handful of Yeshiva’s remarkable cadre of entrepreneurs.


chilling effect.

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