A federal district judge on Monday blocked President Obama’s 2009 executive order that expanded embryonic stem cell research, saying it violated a ban on federal money being used to destroy embryos.
The ruling came as a shock to scientists at the National Institutes of Health and at universities across the country, which had viewed the Obama administration’s new policy and the grants provided under it as settled law. Scientists scrambled Monday evening to assess the ruling’s immediate impact on their work.
“I have had to tell everyone in my lab that when they feed their cells tomorrow morning, they better use media that has not been funded by the federal government,” said Dr. George Q. Daley, director of the stem cell transplantation program at Children’s Hospital Boston, referring to food given to cells. “This ruling means an immediate disruption of dozens of labs doing this work since the Obama administration made its order.”
In his ruling, Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth of Federal District Court for the District of Columbia wrote that his temporary injunction returned federal policy to the “status quo,” but few officials, scientists or lawyers in the case were sure Monday night what that meant.
Dr. Daley was among those who said they believed that it meant that work financed under the new rules had to stop immediately; others said it meant that the health institutes had to use Bush administration rules for future grants.
Steven H. Aden, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, which sued to stop the Obama administration rules, said the judge’s ruling “means that for now the N.I.H. cannot issue funding grants to embryonic stem cell research projects without any further order from the court.”
Officials at the health institutes said that lawyers at the Department of Justice would interpret the ruling for them. Tracy Schmaler, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, wrote in an e-mail, “We’re reviewing the decision.”
The judge ruled that the Obama administration’s policy was illegal because the administration’s distinction between work that leads to the destruction of embryos — which cannot be financed by the federal government under the current policy — and the financing of work using stem cells created through embryonic destruction was meaningless. In his ruling, he referred to embryonic stem cell research as E.S.C.
“If one step or ‘piece of research’ of an E.S.C. research project results in the destruction of an embryo, the entire project is precluded from receiving federal funding,” wrote Judge Lamberth, who was appointed to the federal bench in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan.
The issue of research involving stem cells derived from human embryos is back in the news after a federal judge clarified that the government cannot use federal funds for such immoral research. Although the debate has been ongoing for almost ten years, the complexity of the issue and the peculiar terminology used often prevents many citizens from developing a fully informed opinion on the matter. To help, in some small way, redress that problem, I’ve compiled a brief primer, a “least you need to know” guide, that helps clarify and explain the questions most frequently asked about stem cell policy.
To those unfamiliar with the topic, this should provide brief non-technical answers to many of the important questions surrounding the policy. For those who are well versed in the controversy, I hope this will be a useful reference source to help you explain the issue to others.
What are stem cells?
The term stem cells refers to a diverse group of primitive cells that are themselves relatively undifferentiated and unspecialized. These cells are multipotent, meaning they can give rise to several other differentiated and specialized cells of the body (for example, liver cells, kidney cells, brain cells). All specialized cells arise originally from stem cells, and ultimately from a small number of embryonic cells that appear during the first few days of human development.
How are stem cells different than other types of cells?
Stem cells have two unique characteristics: (1) an almost unlimited capacity for self-renewal (they can theoretically divide without limit to replenish other cells for as long as the person is alive) and (2) they retain the potential to produce differentiated and specialized cell types. As stem cells within a developing human embryo differentiate within the cell, their capacity to diversify generally becomes more limited and their ability to generate many differentiated cell types also becomes more restricted.
Why are stem cells so important to research?
Stem cells are of interest to both scientific and medical research. First, stem cells provide a valuable tool for studying both normal and abnormal cellular processes. By learning how stem cells differentiate and become specialized, scientists hope to gain a better understanding of how cells in general work and what can go wrong. Second, stem cells may prove to be an indispensable source of transplantable cells and tissues for repair and regeneration. If stem cells can used to produce new and differentiated cells that are damaged because of disease (e.g., Parkinsons) or injury (e.g., spinal cord damage), it would transform regenerative medicine.
What are embryonic stem cells?
Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are stem cells taken from from the inner cell mass of a blastocyst, a preimplantation embryo of about 150 cells. (Embryos are humans in the stage of development between fertilization and the end of the eighth week of gestation whereupon it it referred to as a fetus until the time of birth.)
Where do the embryos for ESC come from?
Currently, all embryonic stem cell lines have been derived from “spare” embryos created from in vitro fertilization (IVF) (i.e., embryos that have been conceived by a combination of egg and sperm occurring outside the body). However, because there are not enough embryos in existence to carry out the research, some scientists have been pushing for the use of human cloning (somatic cell nuclear transfer) to create the embryos that will then be killed and harvested for their cells.
What are adult stem cells?
The term adult stem cells simply refers to any non-embryonic stem cell, whether taken from a fetus, a child, or an adult. Adult stem cells are also referred to as somatic stem cells.
What is a stem cell “line”?
A stem cell line is a stem cell culture that can be grown indefinitely in the laboratory.
Why is there a controversy over ESC research?
The process of obtaining stem cells leads to the destruction of the human embryo from which the cells are taken. For those who believe that life begins at conception, embryo destruction is immoral even when it leads to beneficial research. Even those who do not believe that human embryos are deserving of full moral status worry about what the effects of normalizing such practices may have on society.
Advocates of ESC research, however, argue that it is unethical to impede potential advances that could heal disease and relieve the suffering of fully developed human beings. They believe that the moral status of a 150-to-200-cell early human embryo should not take precedence over scientific inquiry.
Didn’t the Bush administration ban funding of ESC?
No, but the Congress implemented its own ban. In 1995, Congress attached language to an appropriations bill prohibiting the use of any federal funds for research that destroys or seriously endangers human embryos, or creates them for research purposes. This provision, known as the Dickey Amendment, has been attached to the Health and Human Services appropriations bill each year since 1996. This law only prohibits federal funding of such research and does not affect either private funding efforts or private research that involves the destruction of embryos.
Half of all pregnancies end in miscarriages, usually in the first couple of weeks, before a woman even knows that she is pregnant. A miscarriage destroys an embryo. If you believe that every embryo is the moral equivalent of a fully-formed human being, miscarriages are like a perpetual natural disaster like a flood or an earthquake, and you should be urging a massive effort to reduce miscarriages as the best way to save millions of human lives a year. As far as I know, there is no such effort going on in the United States or elsewhere.
But perhaps your concern is not the number of slaughtered embryos, but rather the morality of intentionally killing them or—worse, in your view—intentionally creating and then killing them. In that case, your attention should be directed to fertility clinics, which routinely create multiple embryos for each human baby they wish to produce. They pick and choose among the embryos that seem healthiest, and typically implant several in the hope that one—and not more than one—will survive. Every year tens of thousands of human embryos are created and destroyed (or pointlessly frozen) in the everyday work of fertility clinics. There is no political effort to stop this work. President George W. Bush even praised the work of fertility clinics in his speech announcing the policy that virtually halted stem cell research for eight years. Advanced fertility techniques have brought happiness to thousands of couples who otherwise would probably be childless. They are a godsend that no politician would dare oppose.
Of the tens of thousands of embryos discarded by fertility clinics every year, a few are used for stem cell research. Extracting the stem cells involves destroying the embryos, which would be destroyed anyway. True, the destruction of embryos used for research is purposeful, whereas the destruction of embryos in the everyday work of fertility clinics is incidental. But is that distinction really strong enough to support the difference between cavalier acceptance of tens of thousands of embryo deaths in fertility clinics and a legal ban on using a small fraction of these embryos to help develop ways to save lives? (Conflict-of-interest note: My life included. I have Parkinson’s.)
The result: It’s Congress’s move now. They can either clarify Dickey-Wicker to okay funding for research on stem-cell lines derived from killed embryos, or The One and NIH can put their heads together to try to draft more clever language that will comply with the statute. Given the likelihood of a much redder Congress next year, they’d better hurry up either way. One thing I don’t understand, though: It sounds like the court’s decision would have found even Bush’s policy in violation of Dickey-Wicker. Bush didn’t cut off all funding for ESC research, remember, just for research on embryonic stem cells created after the date of his executive order. Weren’t the stem-cell lines already in existence on that date also based on killed embryos and therefore in violation of the statute?
Both the Clinton and Bush administrations had thought that they had artfully gotten around this restriction by regulatory interpretations. The National Institutes of Health concluded that while the government could not pay for the creation and derivation of embryonic stem cells federally funded researchers could use such cells once they had been derived.
The case had been brought before the court by the conservative Christian Alliance Defense Fund and Nightlight Christian Adoptions which wants to put embryos left over from fertility treatments up for “adoption.” Both argue that deriving human embryonic stem cells kills pre-born people.
Given that about 60 percent of Americans support stem cell research using embryos left over from fertility treatments, this ruling will surely spark the stem cell wars anew. While researchers eager to get federal funding will be disappointed and the confusion over the ruling will likely further delay research, the good news is that there is a lot private and state funding available for stem cell research.
Dr. Irving L. Weissman, director of the Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, said the ruling was “devastating to the hopes of researchers and patients who have been waiting so long for the promise of stem cell therapies.” Amy Comstock Rick, immediate past president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, struck a similar note, calling yesterday’s news “absolutely devastating.”
“We were really looking forward to research finally moving forward with the full backing of the NIH. We were really looking forward to the next chapter when human embryonic stem cells could really be explored for their full potential. This really sets us back,” Rick said. “Every day we lose is another day lost for patients waiting for cures.”
Others can speak to the legal proceedings with more expertise than I can, and it was at least somewhat heartening to see one lawyer weigh in describing the judge’s order as “quite vulnerable; it’s not on solid ground at all.”
I’d just note as an aside, though, that the breakdown in the Senate’s ability to fill judicial vacancies often has sweeping national and international implications — in the matter of medical research, possibly even issues of life and death.
This kind of came out of nowhere. It doesn’t overturn the funding rules but allows the case to proceed, with a temporary injunction against implementation until the completion of the case. This ensures that a case on the high-profile issue will continue through the election, though in recent years, stem cell research has not been among the high-profile hot-button issues.
The Anti-Defamation League, which describes itself as “the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry,” released a statment this morning opposing the building of the 13-story mosque near Ground Zero.
“In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right,” says the ADL. Full statement here:
We regard freedom of religion as a cornerstone of the American democracy, and that freedom must include the right of all Americans – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other faiths – to build community centers and houses of worship.
We categorically reject appeals to bigotry on the basis of religion, and condemn those whose opposition to this proposed Islamic Center is a manifestation of such bigotry.
However, there are understandably strong passions and keen sensitivities surrounding the World Trade Center site. We are ever mindful of the tragedy which befell our nation there, the pain we all still feel – and especially the anguish of the families and friends of those who were killed on September 11, 2001.
The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location is counterproductive to the healing process. Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found.
The Anti-Defamation League has issued a statement opposing the construction of the Islamic community center a couple blocks from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. (Earlier this week, a community board recommended that the Landmarks Preservation Commission allow the project to go through.) The release goes out of its way to grant Cordoba House’s organizers good intentions and to condemn the bigotry of some who oppose it. So what is the problem? “The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location,” the ADL argues, “is counterproductive to the healing process.”
Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain—unnecessarily—and that is not right.
Founded in 1913, the ADL, in its words, “fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all.” Except when it does the precise opposite.
I have explained my support for the Lower Manhattan mosque project before, but let me restate two points:
1) The organization behind the project, the Cordoba Initiative, is a moderate group interested in advancing cross-cultural understanding. It is very far from being a Wahhabist organization;
2) This is a strange war we’re fighting against Islamist terrorism. We must fight the terrorists with alacrity, but at the same time we must understand that what the terrorists seek is a clash of civilizations. We must do everything possible to avoid giving them propaganda victories in their attempt to create a cosmic war between Judeo-Christian civilization and Muslim civilization. The fight is not between the West and Islam; it is between modernists of all monotheist faiths, on the one hand, and the advocates of a specific strain of medievalist Islam, on the other. If we as a society punish Muslims of good faith, Muslims of good faith will join the other side. It’s not that hard to understand. I’m disappointed that the ADL doesn’t understand this.
This is basically a concession that some of the opposition to the mosque is grounded in bigotry, and that those arguing that the mosque builders harbor ill intent are misguided. Yet ADL is opposing the construction of the mosque anyway, on the grounds that it will cause 9/11 victims unnecessary “pain.”
But look: The foes of this mosque whose opposition is rooted in bigotry are the ones who are trying to stoke victims’ pain here, for transparent political purposes. Their opposition to this mosque appears to be all about insidiously linking the mosque builders with the 9/11 attackers, and by extension, to revive passions surrounding 9/11. To oppose the mosque is to capitulate to — and validate — this program.
On this one, you’re either with the bigots or you’re against them. And ADL has in effect sided with them.
So let’s try some comparable cases, OK? It causes some people pain to see Jews operating small businesses in non-Jewish neighborhoods; it causes some people pain to see Jews writing for national publications (as I learn from my mailbox most weeks); it causes some people pain to see Jews on the Supreme Court. So would ADL agree that we should ban Jews from these activities, so as to spare these people pain? No? What’s the difference?
One thing I thought Jews were supposed to understand is that they need to be advocates of universal rights, not just rights for their particular group — because it’s the right thing to do, but also because, ahem, there aren’t enough of us. We can’t afford to live in a tribal world.
But ADL has apparently forgotten all that. Shameful — and stupid.
Update: Times staff briefly removed the link to the ADL statement, because it seemed to be dead — but it was apparently just a case of an overloaded server, and I’ve put it back.
Humorist Will Rogers once said about the repeal of Prohibition, “Repeal is all right, but the wrong people are for it.” In this case, the wrong people are against Park51, and if Abe Foxman and the ADL can’t keep their personal feelings out of the issue, they should have just kept quiet instead of handing the Bigot Brigade a public relations gift. What a disgrace.
Let’s be clear. This is not about the proposed Islamic Center. There is already a masjid in the neighborhood, and it’s been there for decades. This is about giving political cover to right-wing politiciansusing anti-Muslim bigotry as a political weapon and a fundraising tool. By doing this, the ADL is increasingly eroding its already weakened credibility as a nonpartisan organization.
I learned a very important lesson in Hebrew School that I have retained my entire life. If they can deny freedom to a single individual because of who they are, they can do it to anyone. Someone at the ADL needs to go back to Hebrew School.
Today, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami released the following statement:
The principle at stake in the Cordoba House controversy goes to the heart of American democracy and the value we place on freedom of religion. Should one religious group in this country be treated differently than another? We believe the answer is no.
As Mayor Bloomberg has said, proposing a church or a synagogue for that site would raise no questions. The Muslim community has an equal right to build a community center wherever it is legal to do so. We would hope the American Jewish community would be at the forefront of standing up for the freedom and equality of a religious minority looking to exercise its legal rights in the United States, rather than casting aspersions on its funders and giving in to the fear-mongerers and pandering politicians urging it to relocate.
What better ammunition to feed the Osama bin Ladens of the world and their claim of anti-Muslim bias in the United States as they seek to whip up global jihad than to hold this proposal for a Muslim religious center to a different and tougher standard than other religious institutions would be.
During the high-tide of anti-semitism, and then again during the civil-rights movement, and often since, the Anti-Defamation League transcended its Jewish origins to stand as a courageous American voice against prejudice. But now, it’s making a mockery of its original mission and, in the process, it has sullied American Judaism’s intense tradition of tolerance and inclusion. I miss the old ADL and so does America. Foxman should be fired immediately. (Meanwhile, hooray yet again for Michael Bloomberg.)
Had the ADL genuinely tried to apply its universalistic mandate to the Jewish state, it would have become something like the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) or B’Tselem (full disclosure: I’m on B’Tselem’s American board): Israeli human rights organizations that struggle against all forms of bigotry, and thus end up spending a lot of time defending Muslims and Christian Palestinians against discrimination by Jews. But the ADL hasn’t done that. Instead it has become, in essence, two organizations. In the United States, it still links the struggle against anti-Semitism to the struggle against bigotry against non-Jews. In Israel, by contrast, it largely pretends that government-sponsored bigotry against non-Jews does not exist. When Arizona passes a law that encourages police to harass Latinos, the ADL expresses outrage. But when Israel builds 170 kilometers of roads in the West Bank for the convenience of Jewish settlers, from which Palestinians are wholly or partially banned, the ADL takes out advertisements declaring, “The Problem Isn’t Settlements.”
For a long time now, the ADL seems to have assumed that it could exempt Israel from the principles in its charter and yet remain just as faithful to that charter inside the United States. But now the chickens are coming back home to America to roost. The ADL’s rationale for opposing the Ground Zero mosque is that “building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain—unnecessarily—and that is not right.” Huh? What if white victims of African-American crime protested the building of a black church in their neighborhood? Or gentile victims of Bernie Madoff protested the building of a synagogue? Would the ADL for one second suggest that sensitivity toward people victimized by members of a certain religion or race justifies discriminating against other, completely innocent, members of that religion or race? Of course not. But when it comes to Muslims, the standards are different. They are different in Israel, and now, it is clear, they are different in the United States, too.
I don’t have any real problem with those who take offense at the decision to build this project a few blocks from Ground Zero, and particularly those who take such offense having had deep ties to New York on 9/11/01.
What I do have a problem with is those who have determined that this is an appropriate issue for political activism, and particularly those supposed advocates of “small government” who view it as appropriate that government would step in here to restrict the property rights of a private organization. What I do have a problem with is those who claim to advocate for “states rights” and federalism insisting that it is the job of the federal government to make sure that what is effectively a zoning decision of the New York City government is overruled. What I do have a problem with is those who are using this proposed building to stir up anti-Muslim sentiment by branding it a “9/11 Victory Mosque,” and who presume to know more about Muslims than Muslims themselves and in the process create an “inescable trap” wherein all Muslims are either lying about not being jihadi terrorists or are just “bad Muslims.”
The left continues to feign confusion (it is hard to believe its pundits are really this muddled) as to the reasons why conservatives (and a majority of fellow citizens) oppose the Ground Zero mosque. No, it’s not about “religious freedom” — we’re talking about the location of the mosque on the ash-strewn site of 3,000 dead Americans. The J Street crowd and the liberal defenders of the mosque seem very bent out of shape when Americans want to defend the sensibilities of their fellow citizens and when they look askance at an imam whose funding appears to come from those whose goal is anything but religious reconciliation. Again, no one is telling Muslims not to build or pray in mosques; we on the right are simply asking them not to do it in the location where Islam was the inspiration for mass murder.
It is interesting that the word mosque is not employed by those excoriating the mosque opponents. As a smart reader highlights, why is it described as a “cultural center”? Pretty dicey to articulate exactly what position the left clings to — namely, that we must allow a mosque at Ground Zero. Well, when you are that precise, it does highlight the vast gulf between the left’s perspective and that of average Americans. (And for the record, my objections to J Street obviously aren’t limited to the Ground Zero mosque. And I certainly do believe “you are either for us or you are for them” — when it comes to Israel and to America. That this notion disturbs the left tells you precisely why it is estranged from the vast majority of Israelis and Americans.)
Dan Senor is not confused in the least. He pens an open letter to the Ground Zero mosque imam, which gets to the heart of the matter. Recalling the 9/11 attack “committed in the name of Islam,” he explains:
We applaud and thank every Muslim throughout the world who has rejected and denounced this association. But the fact remains that in the minds of many who are swayed by the most radical interpretations of Islam, the Cordoba House will not be seen as a center for peace and reconciliation. It will rather be celebrated as a Muslim monument erected on the site of a great Muslim “military” victory—a milestone on the path to the further spread of Islam throughout the world. …
Rather than furthering cross-cultural and interfaith understanding, a Cordoba House located near Ground Zero would undermine them. Rather that serving as a bridge between Muslim and non-Muslim peoples, it would function as a divide. Your expressed hopes for the center not only would never be realized, they would be undermined from the start. Insisting on this particular site on Park Place can only reinforce this counterproductive dynamic.
This is not some right-wing, extremist view. It represents the views of a large majority of Americans and of mainstream Jewish leaders like Malcolm Hoenlein — as well as Juan Williams. But the left – which has become obsessed with universalism and finds particularism and nationalism noxious – thinks it unseemly for Americans to look after the interests of Americans, and Jews to look after Jews (as to the latter, we can only be grateful that so many pro-Zionist Christians do as well).
“I’ve also read some things about some of the people involved that make me wonder about their motivations. So I don’t know enough to reach a conclusion, but I know enough to say that this thing is only going to create more division in our society, and somebody ought to put the brakes on it,” he said. “Give these people a chance to come out and explain who they are, where their money’s coming from.”
9/11 remains a deep wound for Americans—especially those who experienced it directly in some way. They understandably see the area as sacred ground. Nearly all of them also reject the equation of Islam with terrorism and do not blame the attacks on Muslims generally or on the Muslim faith. But many believe that Ground Zero should be reserved for memorials to the event itself and to its victims. They do not understand why of all possible locations in the city, Cordoba House must be sited so near to there.
A couple things are striking about this argument. First, Senor claims that “Ground Zero should be reserved for memorials.” But the Muslim center is not being built on Ground Zero. It’s being built two blocks away, in a site that doesn’t feel especially connected to Ground Zero. Senor is suggesting that nothing but memorials should be built within (at least) a two block radius of Ground Zero. Forgive me for feeling skeptical that such a standard is being applied to any other proposed construction.
Second, there’s a very weaselly relativism at work here in his not-prejudiced plea to relocate the center. Senor is arguing, I support freedom of religion, and I believe that your group doesn’t support terrorism, but other Americans don’t feel this way. Of course this is an argument for caving in to any popular prejudice or social phobia whatsoever. Hey, I’m happy to let a black family move into the neighborhood, but other people here think you’re probably crackheads who spray random gunfire at night, so in order to prevent racial strife you should probably live somewhere else.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has emerged as the unlikely but passionate defender of the planned Muslim community center near ground zero, today traveled to Governors Island off the tip of Lower Manhattan to deliver a stirring plea for sanity in what he called “[as] important a test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetimes.”
The Daily News’ Adam Lisberg reports that Bloomberg choked up at one point as he delivered the speech surrounded by religious leaders of different faiths, with the Statue of Liberty in the background.
Rather than attack the bigotry of the opponents of the so-called “ground zero mosque,” Bloomberg made several positive arguments for building the center. He traced the struggle for religious freedom in New York and affirmed the rights of citizens to do as they please with their private property:
The simple fact is, this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship, and the government has no right whatsoever to deny that right. And if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here.
It’s worth noting that three Jewish leaders — Rabbi Bob Kaplan from the Jewish Community Council, Rabbi Irwin Kula from the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, and Cara Berkowitz from the UJA Federation — were present with Bloomberg during the speech, despite the Anti-Defamation League’s opposition to the project
Few events in recent memory have called up the resonant ideological debates of 9/11 as forcefully as the mosque being planned near the former site of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. It appears these are debates we will keep having, as New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission has voted to let the Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement proceed with their plans. Along with those plans will come more discussion of religious freedom, taste, and the specter of a Western/Muslim cultural World War
Writes the NYT, reporting the city’s 9-0 vote against designating the building on the site a landmark. Now, as a matter of freedom of religion, it really was crucial not to let religion (or political ideology) affect the question whether that building should be classified under the law as a landmark, thus limiting the property rights of the owner. The requirement of neutrality in decisionmaking like that is fundamental to the rule of law.
One by one, members of the commission debated the aesthetic significance of the building, designed in the Italian Renaissance Palazzo style by an unknown architect.
That is clearly the way it had to be done. But what should not be lost, in understanding that, is that the owner’s freedom means that the owner has a choice. The owner is certainly not required to build a Muslim center and mosque on that site. Because it is a choice, it’s not wrong for the community to ask: Why are you making this choice? Why are you doing something that feels so painful to us? The community isn’t wrong to plead with the owner to choose to do something else with that property. It’s not enough of an answer to say we are doing it because we have a right to do it.
A huge cache of secret US military files today provides a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, Taliban attacks have soared and Nato commanders fear neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fuelling the insurgency.
The disclosures come from more than 90,000 records of incidents and intelligence reports about the conflict obtained by the whistleblowers’ website Wikileaks in one of the biggest leaks in US military history. The files, which were made available to the Guardian, the New York Times and the German weekly Der Spiegel, give a blow-by-blow account of the fighting over the last six years, which has so far cost the lives of more than 320 British and more than 1,000 US troops.
Their publication comes amid mounting concern that Barack Obama’s “surge” strategy is failing and as coalition troops hunt for two US naval personnel captured by the Taliban south of Kabul on Friday.
WikiLeaks’ release of a 2007 Apache gunship video sparked worldwide outrage, but little change in U.S. policy. This massive storehouse has the potential to be strategically significant, raising questions about how and why America and her allies are conducting the war. Not only does it recount 144 incidents in which coalition forces killed civilians over six years. But it shows just how deeply elements within the U.S.’ supposed ally, Pakistan, have nurtured the Afghan insurgency. In other words, this has the potential to be 2010’s answer to the Pentagon Papers — a database you can open in Excel, brought to you by the now-reopened-for-business WikiLeaks.
Now, obviously, it’s not news that the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligences has ties to the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e-Islami That’s something that pretty much every observer of the Afghanistan war and the Pakistani intelligence apparatus has known for the better part of a decade.
But as the early-viewing New York Times reports, WikiLeaks presents a new depth of detail about how the U.S. military has seen, for six years, the depths of ISI facilitation of the Afghan insurgency. For instance: a three-star Pakistani general active during the 80s-era U.S.-Pakistani-Saudi sponsorship of the anti-Soviet insurgency, Hamid Gul, allegedly met with insurgent leaders in South Waziristan in January 2009 to plot vengeance for the drone-inflicted death of an al-Qaeda operative. (Gul called it “absolute nonsense” to the Times reporters.)
Other reports, stretching back to 2004, offer chilling, granular detail about the Taliban’s return to potency after the U.S. and Afghan militias routed the religious-based movement in 2001. Some of them, as the Times notes, cast serious doubt on official U.S. and NATO accounts of how insurgents prosecute the war. Apparently, the insurgents have used “heat-seeking missiles against allied aircraft,” eerily reminiscent of the famous Stinger missiles that the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Pakistan provided to the mujahideen to down Soviet helicopters. One such missile downed a Chinook over Helmand in May 2007.
I’ve now gone through the reporting and most of the selected documents (though not the larger data dump), and I think there’s less here than meets the eye. The story that seems to be getting the most attention, repeating the longstanding allegation that Pakistani intelligence might be aiding the Afghan insurgents, offers a few new details but not much greater clarity. Both the Times and the Guardian are careful to point out that the raw reports in the Wikileaks archive often seem poorly sourced and present implausible information.
“[F]or all their eye-popping details,” writes the Guardian‘s Delcan Welsh, “the intelligence files, which are mostly collated by junior officers relying on informants and Afghan officials, fail to provide a convincing smoking gun for ISI complicity.”
The Times‘ reporters seem somewhat more persuaded, noting that “many of the reports rely on sources that the military rated as reliable” and that their sources told them that “the portrait of the spy agency’s collaboration with the Afghan insurgency was broadly consistent with other classified intelligence.”
Der Spiegel‘s reporting adds little, though the magazine’s stories will probably have great political impact in Germany, as the Wikileaks folks no doubt intended. One story hones in on how an elite U.S. task force charged with hunting down Taliban and Al Qaeda targets operates from within a German base; another alleges that “The German army was clueless and naïve when it stumbled into the conflict,” and that northern Afghanistan, where the bulk of German troops are based, is more violent than has been previously portrayed.
Otherwise, I’d say that so far the documents confirm what we already know about the war: It’s going badly; Pakistan is not the world’s greatest ally and is probably playing a double game; coalition forces have been responsible for far too many civilian casualties; and the United States doesn’t have very reliable intelligence in Afghanistan.
I do think that the stories will provoke a fresh round of Pakistan-bashing in Congress, and possibly hearings. But the administration seems inclined to continue with its strategy of nudging Pakistan in the right direction, and is sending the message: Move along, nothing to see here.
Under the headline “Pakistani Spy Service Aids Insurgents, Reports Assert,” a team of Times reporters summarize and analyze a huge batch of secret U.S. intelligence reports on the war in Afghanistan. Those reports show, in compelling detail, that Pakistan’s ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) has been actively – and regularly – aiding insurgents fighting Americans in Afghanistan.
The central claim in the piece is not new. Tom Joscelyn and Bill Roggio have written about ISI’s duplicity for years. See here, here and here for examples.
The Times report – along with the public examination of the trove of WikiLeaks documents – will almost certainly reignite the public debate over the war in Afghanistan, and the Obama administration’s strategy there. The president’s already soft support in his own party will probably soften further. The key question is whether nervous Republicans will join them.
The White House has reacted in full damage control mode to the release of classified documents detailing the U.S. military’s struggles in Afghanistan, which the New York Times calls “in many respects more grim than the official portrayal.”
To see the New York Times summary of the documents, click here. To see the Guardian’s coverage, click here. (Advance copies of the documents were provided to both the Times and Guardian, on the condition that they not be released until Sunday.) For more on Wikileaks and its founder, read this excellent New Yorker profile here.
In response, the White House press office is emphasizing two facts. First, the documents concern a time period (2004 to 2009) that precedes the Presidents latest new strategy for Afghanistan. Second, government officials have not exactly been secretive in the past about the connection between the Pakistani ISI and radical elements in the region that are working against U.S. interests. “In the past, there have been those in Pakistan who’ve argued that the struggle against extremism is not their fight, and that Pakistan is better off doing little or seeking accommodation with those who use violence,” President Obama said, when he announced his latest strategy in December of 2009. (Indeed, in recent months, as TIME has noted, there has been some good news on this front, with the Pakistan government, including the ISI, taking more aggressive actions.)
“It is important to note that the time period reflected in the documents is January 2004 to December 2009,” National Security Advisor ret. Gen. Jim Jones said in a statement Sunday.”On December 1, 2009, President Obama announced a new strategy with a substantial increase in resources for Afghanistan, and increased focus on al Qaeda and Taliban safe-havens in Pakistan, precisely because of the grave situation that had developed over several years,” he continued. “This shift in strategy addressed challenges in Afghanistan that were the subject of an exhaustive policy review last fall.”
Some 180 of the war logs and raw intelligence reports concern previously reported allegations that the Pakistani intelligence services have been providing covert support to Afghan insurgents.
“Taken together, the reports indicate that American soldiers on the ground are inundated with accounts of a network of Pakistani assets and collaborators,” the New York Times reports.
But, the paper cautions, many of the raw intelligence reports and field threat assessments “cannot be verified,” while “many … rely on sources that the military rated as reliable.”
“The records also contain firsthand accounts of American anger at Pakistan’s unwillingness to confront insurgents who launched attacks near Pakistani border posts, moved openly by the truckload across the frontier, and retreated to Pakistani territory for safety,” the paper said.
This is going to be huge. And Wikileaks’ strategy to collaborate with mainstream media this time around should heighten the impact of this data. The Guardian is using the log to argue that it presents “a very different landscape” than the one put forward by coalition leaders. Meanwhile, the Timespicks out military concerns that Pakistani intelligence is directly aiding insurgents. That “real” journalists are in charge of these reports should move focus off the biases of Wikileaks and Julian Assange—as happened with their “Collateral Murder” video—and onto the leak itself. (Wikileaks agreed to not have any input into the stories built around their leak.)
It’s unclear at this time if this leak is related to the case of army intelligence specialist Bradley Manning, the alleged source of the Apache video. But this leak should cause a similar-sized uproar and deliver a more pointed impact than even that graphic video did. The elaborate packages put together by the Times, Der Spiegel and The Guardian are only the beginning of this story.
The leaks are unlikely to affect the course of events on the ground. However, they may well affect the debate over the war here at home. In that regard, the effect is likely to be pernicious, intensifying the already existing inclination to focus on peripheral matters while ignoring vastly more important ones. For months on end, Washington has fixated on this question: what, oh what, are we to do about Afghanistan? Implicit in the question are at least two assumptions: first, that something must be done; and, second, that if the United States and its allies can just devise the right approach (or assign the right general), then surely something can be done.
Both assumptions are highly dubious. To indulge them is to avoid the question that should rightly claim Washington’s attention: What exactly is the point of the Afghanistan war? The point cannot be to “prevent another 9/11,” since violent anti-Western jihadists are by no means confined to or even concentrated in Afghanistan. Even if we were to “win” in Afghanistan tomorrow, the jihadist threat would persist. If anything, staying in Afghanistan probably exacerbates that threat. So tell me again: why exactly are we there?
The real significance of the Wikileaks action is of a different character altogether: it shows how rapidly and drastically the notion of “information warfare” is changing. Rather than being defined as actions undertaken by a government to influence the perception of reality, information warfare now includes actions taken by disaffected functionaries within government to discredit the officially approved view of reality. This action is the handiwork of subversives, perhaps soldiers, perhaps civilians. Within our own national security apparatus, a second insurgent campaign may well have begun. Its purpose: bring America’s longest war to an end. Given the realities of the digital age, this second insurgency may well prove at least as difficult to suppress as the one that preoccupies General Petraeus in Kabul.
How’d I get screwed into going to this dinner?” demands Gen. Stanley McChrystal. It’s a Thursday night in mid-April, and the commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan is sitting in a four-star suite at the Hôtel Westminster in Paris. He’s in France to sell his new war strategy to our NATO allies – to keep up the fiction, in essence, that we actually have allies. Since McChrystal took over a year ago, the Afghan war has become the exclusive property of the United States. Opposition to the war has already toppled the Dutch government, forced the resignation of Germany’s president and sparked both Canada and the Netherlands to announce the withdrawal of their 4,500 troops. McChrystal is in Paris to keep the French, who have lost more than 40 soldiers in Afghanistan, from going all wobbly on him.
“The dinner comes with the position, sir,” says his chief of staff, Col. Charlie Flynn.
McChrystal turns sharply in his chair.
“Hey, Charlie,” he asks, “does this come with the position?”
The general stands and looks around the suite that his traveling staff of 10 has converted into a full-scale operations center. The tables are crowded with silver Panasonic Toughbooks, and blue cables crisscross the hotel’s thick carpet, hooked up to satellite dishes to provide encrypted phone and e-mail communications. Dressed in off-the-rack civilian casual – blue tie, button-down shirt, dress slacks – McChrystal is way out of his comfort zone. Paris, as one of his advisers says, is the “most anti-McChrystal city you can imagine.” The general hates fancy restaurants, rejecting any place with candles on the tables as too “Gucci.” He prefers Bud Light Lime (his favorite beer) to Bordeaux,
(his favorite movie) to Jean-Luc Godard. Besides, the public eye has never been a place where McChrystal felt comfortable: Before President Obama put him in charge of the war in Afghanistan, he spent five years running the Pentagon’s most secretive black ops.
“What’s the update on the Kandahar bombing?” McChrystal asks Flynn. The city has been rocked by two massive car bombs in the past day alone, calling into question the general’s assurances that he can wrest it from the Taliban.
“We have two KIAs, but that hasn’t been confirmed,” Flynn says.
McChrystal takes a final look around the suite. At 55, he is gaunt and lean, not unlike an older version of Christian Bale in Rescue Dawn. His slate-blue eyes have the unsettling ability to drill down when they lock on you. If you’ve fucked up or disappointed him, they can destroy your soul without the need for him to raise his voice.
The next morning, McChrystal and his team gather to prepare for a speech he is giving at the École Militaire, a French military academy. The general prides himself on being sharper and ballsier than anyone else, but his brashness comes with a price: Although McChrystal has been in charge of the war for only a year, in that short time he has managed to piss off almost everyone with a stake in the conflict. Last fall, during the question-and-answer session following a speech he gave in London, McChrystal dismissed the counterterrorism strategy being advocated by Vice President Joe Biden as “shortsighted,” saying it would lead to a state of “Chaos-istan.” The remarks earned him a smackdown from the president himself, who summoned the general to a terse private meeting aboard Air Force One. The message to McChrystal seemed clear: Shut the fuck up, and keep a lower profile
Now, flipping through printout cards of his speech in Paris, McChrystal wonders aloud what Biden question he might get today, and how he should respond. “I never know what’s going to pop out until I’m up there, that’s the problem,” he says. Then, unable to help themselves, he and his staff imagine the general dismissing the vice president with a good one-liner.
“Are you asking about Vice President Biden?” McChrystal says with a laugh. “Who’s that?”
“Biden?” suggests a top adviser. “Did you say: Bite Me?”
When Barack Obama entered the Oval Office, he immediately set out to deliver on his most important campaign promise on foreign policy: to refocus the war in Afghanistan on what led us to invade in the first place. “I want the American people to understand,” he announced in March 2009. “We have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan.” He ordered another 21,000 troops to Kabul, the largest increase since the war began in 2001. Taking the advice of both the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he also fired Gen. David McKiernan – then the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan – and replaced him with a man he didn’t know and had met only briefly: Gen. Stanley McChrystal. It was the first time a top general had been relieved from duty during wartime in more than 50 years, since Harry Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur at the height of the Korean War.
Even though he had voted for Obama, McChrystal and his new commander in chief failed from the outset to connect. The general first encountered Obama a week after he took office, when the president met with a dozen senior military officials in a room at the Pentagon known as the Tank. According to sources familiar with the meeting, McChrystal thought Obama looked “uncomfortable and intimidated” by the roomful of military brass. Their first one-on-one meeting took place in the Oval Office four months later, after McChrystal got the Afghanistan job, and it didn’t go much better. “It was a 10-minute photo op,” says an adviser to McChrystal. “Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was. Here’s the guy who’s going to run his fucking war, but he didn’t seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed.”
I just got off the phone with a retired military man, with more than 25 years experience, who has worked with Gen. Stanley McChrystal in the Pentagon. His reaction to McChrystal’s performance in the new Rolling Stone profile? No surprise at all.
“Those of us who knew him would unanimously tell you that this was just a matter of time,” the man says. “He talks this way all the time. I’m surprised it took this long for it to rear its ugly head.”
“He had great disdain for anyone, as he said, ‘in a suit,’” the former military man continues. “I was shocked one day in a small group of people when he took [former Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld to task in front of all of us.”
“The other thing about him is that he is probably one of the more arrogant, cocksure military guys I have run across. That in itself is not necessarily a character flaw, but when you couple it with his great disdain for civilians, it’s a very volatile combination.”
The former military man is under no illusions about the general nature of relations between the military and the civilian leadership. “I don’t consider this an anomaly,” he says. “You can find examples of this going back to the founding of the republic. Nevertheless, it is very disturbing that he would have such disdain for the civilian leadership.”
I have been struck by the degree to which a lot of smart friends are in disagreement about what should be done about l’Affair Rolling Stan. In some ways, the argument about whether or not you dismiss Gen. McChrystal for comments made by the commander and his staff in this Rolling Stone article breaks down into unhappily familiar lines. Critics of the current strategy in Afghanistan unsurprisingly think McChrystal should be fired. Supporters of the strategy think that while the comments made to Rolling Stone were out of line, McChrystal should be retained in the greater interest of the war effort. Neither side, that I have yet seen, has acknowledged that either course of action would carry risk. The purpose of this post is to outline the risks of dismissing Gen. McChrystal as the commander of ISAF in response to the affair. This is an uncomfortable post to write. I very much admire Stan McChrystal and have looked up to him since my time in the Rangers when I fought in Afghanistan under his command. I know the man personally and worked with him last summer in an effort to analyze the war in Afghanistan and NATO/ISAF operations there. And so there may be a limit to how objective I can really be, but I’m a defense policy analyst, so I’m going to try and soberly analyze these risks without letting my admiration for McChrystal get in the way.
If the facts are as they appear — McChrystal and his associates freely mocking their commander in chief and his possible successor (ie, Biden) and the relevant State Department officials (Holbrooke and Eikenberry) — with no contention that the quotes were invented or misconstrued, then Obama owes it to past and future presidents to draw the line and say: this is not tolerable. You must go. McChrystal’s team was inexplicably reckless in talking before a reporter this way, but that’s a separate question. The fact is — or appears to be — that they did it
The second step is what this means for US strategy in Afghanistan, the future of COIN, etc. But the first is for the civilian Commander in Chief to act in accordance with Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution and demonstrate that there are consequences for showing open disrespect for the chain of command.
And, yes, I would say the same thing in opposite political circumstances — if, for instance, a commander of Iraq operations had been quoted openly mocking George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Resign in protest: yes, a course of honor. But protest and mock while in uniform, no.
I know something about this. In 2006, I worked with two Generals, appearing in national television ads critical of President Bush and his strategy in Iraq. Or, should I say, retired Generals. Major Generals Paul D. Eaton and John Batiste each made the painful decision to leave the military they loved, so they could speak out. To that point, they had held their tongues.
Because the order and efficacy of our Armed Forces falls apart without respect for the chain of command. Whether it’s a grunt respecting his company commander, or a General respecting the Commander in Chief, every single thing is predicated on the integrity of the chain of command. As soon as someone – especially someone as high up as General McChrystal – violates that respect, every single person under him begins to not only question the orders they’ve been given from above, but is given the signal that it’s OK to openly disagree or mock his or her superior.
And, violate that respect General McChystal and his subordinates have. Among other things, the Rolling Stone story reports first-hand that:
* McChrystal was disappointed with his first meeting with the President, and that he feels the President is uncomfortable and intimidated with military brass.
* McChrystal’s aid calls National Security Advisor James Jones a “clown.”
* Another aide says of envoy Richard Holbrooke, “The Boss [McChrystal] says he’s like a wounded animal. Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he’s going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous.”
* Bolstering that, McChrystal himself, receiving an email from Holbrooke says, “Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke. I don’t even want to read it.”
* On Vice President Biden, who disagreed with the General’s strategy in Afghanistan, McChrystal says while laughing, “Are you asking me about Vice President Biden? Who’s that?”
* An aide, mirroring his boss, adds, “Biden? Did you say Bite me?”
Anyone of lower rank would be immediately dismissed if he or she said of their superiors what General McChrystal said, or what he allowed members of his team to say.
This, of course, isn’t the first time that the General has been in trouble. Following a very public campaign for his preferred strategy in Afghanistan, which included a 60 Minutes interview that challenged the President, McChrystal landed in some hot water with the President, and was told to cool it. Frankly, McChrystal got off easy.
When General Eric Shinseki testified to Congress about his opinion on the force levels needed to invade Iraq, countering the strategy laid out by President Bush and Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, he was forced into retirement. Shinseki, unlike McChrystal, was asked his opinion, under oath, in front of Congress. There’s a difference between that professional conversation, and personal attacks on your superiors. Shinseki didn’t lead a public campaign to air his views, either. At any rate, McChrystal was given a second shot, where Shinseki was not.
Whether he continued his insubordination purposely, or stupidly and unintentionally, isn’t an issue. The issue, here, is that it happened. Again.
If Stan McChrystal has to go—and he probably does—it will be a sad end to a career of great distinction and a low moment in a lifetime devoted to duty, honor, and country. But the good of the mission and the prospects for victory in Afghanistan may well now demand a new commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
While there are obvious issues of civil-military relations exposed by the general’s cringe-inducing quotes in the “Runaway General” article in Rolling Stone—and while his staff appear to be off the leash entirely, a command climate for which McChrystal is responsible—the original source of the problem is above the general’s pay grade.
So McChrystal should not be the only one to go. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and “AfPak” czar Richard Holbrooke should likewise either submit their resignations or be fired by President Obama. Vice President Biden and his surrogates should be told to sit down and be quiet, to stop fighting policy battles in the press. The administration’s “team of rivals” approach is producing only rivalry.
McChrystal was undoubtedly stupid to grant so much access to a hostile reporter, and his aides were equally clueless in making some disparaging remarks in front of this reporter about Vice President Biden and National Security Adviser Jim Jones, among others. But that in no way invalidates McChrystal’s plan, which should be carried out, with some inevitable adjustments, by whomever is the NATO commander in Afghanistan.
Should that person be McChrystal? Despite the calls for his firing emanating from the usual quarters on the left, the general is certainly not guilty of violating the chain of command in the way that truly insubordinate generals like Douglas MacArthur have. Recall that MacArthur publicly disagreed with Truman’ strategy in the Korean War. Likewise, Admiral Fox Fallon was fired as Centcom commander in 2008 after publicly disagreeing in an Esquire article with Bush-administration strategy over Iran. McChrystal does nothing of the sort. At worst, one of his aides says that McChrystal was “disappointed” by his initial meetings with the president, who looked “uncomfortable and intimidated.” Most of the disparaging comments heard from McChrystal’s aides are directed not at the president but at presidential aides who oppose the strategy that the president himself announced back in the fall and that McChrystal is working 24/7 to implement. Is this type of banter enough for Obama to fire McChrystal?
It could be, but if he does it could represent a setback to the war effort — and to the president’s hopes to withdraw some troops next summer. The least disruption would occur if a general already in Afghanistan — Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, who runs day to day operations, is the obvious choice — takes over. If an outsider were chosen (e.g., Marine General Jim Mattis), there would likely be a delay of months while the new commander conducted his own assessment of the situation. That’s a delay we can ill afford right now. On the other hand, we can ill afford having McChrystal stay if he is so discredited with the commander in chief and so weakened in internal-administration deliberations that he cannot stand up to the attempts by Biden and other internal critics to downsize the mission prematurely.
McChrystal has undoubtedly created a major problem for himself, his command, and the larger mission in Afghanistan. But I still believe he is a terrific general who has come up with a good strategy and has energized a listless command that was drifting when he took over. Notwithstanding the current turmoil, the war remains eminently winnable, and the McChrystal strategy remains the best option for winning it.
McChrystal gets called to the White House on Wednesday to direct the monthly Afghanistan/Pakistan briefing — oh, and to explain himself and see if he can keep his job. As I wrote for the Washington Independent, firing him carries its risks. There’s only a year to go before the July 2011 date to begin the transition to Afghan security responsibility and the Kandahar tide is starting to rise. It’ll be hard to fire McChrystal without ripping the entire Afghanistan strategy up, and I’ve gotten no indication from the White House that it’s interested in doing that. On the other hand, if senior administration officials are and I just haven’t picked up on it, McChrystal just gave them their biggest opportunity.
And what an opportunity. You can read the Rolling Stone profile through Politico. The amazing thing about it is there’s no complaints from McChrystal or his staff about the administration on any substantive ground. After all, McChrystal and his allies won the argument within the White House. All the criticisms — of Eikenberry, of Jones, of Holbrooke, of Biden — are actually just immature and arrogant snipes at how annoying Team America (what, apparently, McChrystal’s crew calls itself) finds them. This is not mission-first, to say the least.
In fact, you have to go deep in the piece to find soldiers and officers offering actual critiques — and what they offer is criticism of McChrystal for being insufficiently brutal. Everyone of them quoted here is a mini-Ralph Peters, upset because McChrystal won’t let them “get our fucking gun on,” as one puts it. I have a lot of respect for Michael Hastings, the author of the profile, but there are many greyer shades of on-the-ground military perspective than that, and I’ve seen them up close. But Hastings does a good and insightful job of showing that McChrystal is stepping into a diplomatic vacuum and acting as an advocate for Hamid Karzai despite Karzai’s performance in office.
We’ll have to wait for Wednesday to see if McChrystal keeps his command. My guess is he’ll stay, because now the White House knows that a chastened McChrystal isn’t going to say anything else outside of his lane to any reporter. McChrystal’s apology, emailed to me and other reporters well before the Rolling Stone story dropped, suggests that he wasn’t trying to walk away from his command in a blaze of arrogance. But it’s on him to repair his relationship with his colleagues and his bosses.
My bet is that Gen. Stanley McChrystal will be gone within a week or so. Defense Secretary Gates canned Admiral Fallon as Central Command chief in the spring of 2007 for less pointed remarks, so he will look like a hypocrite if he does less here in response to McChrystal dissing Obama, Biden, and the White House in a new article in Rolling Stone.
At any rate, it may be time for a whole new team in Afghanistan. My nomination is for Petraeus to step down an echelon and take the Afghanistan command. You could leave him nominally the Centcom chief but let his deputy, Marine Lt. Gen. John Allen, oversee Iraq, the war planning for Iran, and dealing with Pakistan and the Horn of Africa. But more likely is that Petraeus will ask for another Marine general, James Mattis, who is just finishing up at Jiffycom, and who had planned to retire later this year and head home to Walla Walla, Washington. Petraeus and Mattis long have admired each other. The irony is that Mattis has a reputation — unfairly, I think — for speaking a little too bluntly in public about things like killing people. I think Mattis is a terrific, thoughtful leader.
I do wonder if this mess is the result of leaving McChrystal out there too long-he has been going non-stop for several years, first in Iraq and then in Afghanistan. At any rate, his comments reflect a startling lack of discipline. He would expect more of one of his captains. We should expect more of him. I know, I’ve said worse about Biden. But part of my job is to comment on these things, even flippantly sometimes. Part of his job is not to.
A bad day in the financial markets was made worse by an apparent trading glitch, leaving traders and investors nervous and scratching their heads over how a mistake could send the Dow Jones Industrial Average into a 1000-point tailspin.
At its afternoon low, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had plummeted 998.50 points, its biggest intraday point drop ever. The swing from its intraday high was 1010.14 points.
The markets were already on edge before the midafternoon collapse as traders watched televised scenes of rioting in Athens following the Greek government’s approval of its portion of the European Union and International Monetary Fund bailout.
Throughout the day, markets around the globe posted big declines as investors reacted with disappointment to the failure of the European Central Bank to signal any heightened concern about the spiraling Greek debt crisis.
The Dow eventually rebounded to close down 347.80 points, or 3.2%, at 10520.32, its worst percentage decline since April 2009.
It was the computers, stupid. This seems likely to have been at least part of the problem; the drop was just too sudden, as was the recovery. Accenture dropped from $40 a share to one cent at some point, and Proctor and Gamble also had an improbably gigantic drop. I’d guess that some trading programs, somewhere, hit the wrong stock price level and went horribly wrong.
The market knows something that we don’t about Germany. Now that Greece has passed its austerity plan, the rest of the eurozone has to go along. Germany, the single biggest player, votes tomorrow, and maybe someone knows we’re headed for a nasty surprise.
The market knows something that we don’t, but ought to, about Greece. Greek approval of the austerity plan should have perked things up. Instead, the markets are in turmoil. And maybe they’re right to be. Passing an austerity plan doesn’t guarantee that it will work; Argentina was going through governments like paper plates right before it terminated the dollar peg and defaulted.
The market doesn’t know anything we don’t, but some idiots panicked when Mohamed El-Erian said that Greek contagion was on the verge of spreading. One of the more comforting explanations; if so, the idiots seem to have thought the better of it.
Someone unwinding a giant euro-yen trade touched off some sort of temporary panic as people fled risky assets. That’s au courant on Bloomberg. Somewhat comforting–but not very, because if the markets are this vulnerable to panic, there’s an underlying anxiety that may blossom into something worse.
Some hedge or bond fund manager is manipulating the market for personal gain. Maybe. But a collapse this broad across multiple asset classes is pretty hard to orchestrate, so not very likely.
Update: Via Twitter, NASDAQ seems to be confirming that at least part of the problem was a faulty Proctor andd Gamble quote.
So, now the word is that the sell-off was set in motion or exacerbated by a Citigroup trader “fat-fingering” a trade — literally pressing a ‘b’ for billion instead of an ‘m’ for million or somesuch — on Proctor & Gamble, which went off a cliff around 2:30 P.M.
My guy on the Street characterized the ensuing cascade thusly:
“. . .then the equities desks on the street were all told to reign [sic] in risk and then computers kicked in.”
In other words, P&G’s 37 percent nosedive was only responsible for 172 points of the 992.60 the Dow lost in the slump. The rest was market reaction — and part of that was computerized and automated.
Some idiot may well have made a typing error–allegedly entering a sell order for $16 billion when s/he meant $16 million. And there may well have been a lot of other electronic trading problems as traders freaked out–stocks trading for a penny, stocks gapping down, and so forth. And these may have contributed to the panic.
But anyone who focuses on what “went wrong” with systems or trading errors is missing the forest for the trees.
More than an hour after those freak “trading errors,” the DOW closed down 350–a very sharp decline. The DOW is now off more than 800 points from its recent peak. After months of lower and lower volatility and more and more complacency, the market’s tone has changed significantly in recent days. And not for the good.
So what’s the real reason the market crashed this afternoon?
Because markets sometimes crash.
Seriously. That’s how markets behave–especially on the downside. And it doesn’t take a long look at the fundamentals to figure out why some traders (sellers) might have been quick to dump their stocks today and lock in their gains. Or why other traders (buyers) might have decided to wait a few minutes to see just how good prices were going to get.
The timing of that 100-point fall could not have been worse: stocks had started selling off about five minutes earlier, and so the 100-point drop came into a market which was already getting jittery and panicked. The velocity and severity of that drop in the Dow immediately triggered stop-loss selling in the market more generally, which then started feeding on itself: even as P&G’s share price was recovering, bids were falling away rapidly in the other 29 Dow components, and at one point the Dow was down just a hair short of 1,000 points on the day.
But the fact is that none of these numbers are all that meaningful: what we were seeing was traders flailing around in a context of limited information and liquidity, trying to get a grip on what was or wasn’t going on. There was always the possibility, after all, that the sellers knew something they didn’t, and that stocks were actually falling for a reason. So it took a few minutes for the market to realize that it was all just market volatility — and therefore a great buying opportunity for any trader.
It’s been a very impressive day to learn how the stock-market sausage is made: I think we just saw the largest intraday fall, in point terms, that has ever happened. But the bigger lesson is that in the short term, any market can fail temporarily. The question is whether the jitters from this afternoon are going to mean increased volatility and risk aversion going forwards. My feeling is that, yes, they both will and should.
But whatever the ultimate trigger, the drop was too big for the cause to be this uncertain. What you’re seeing here is a very, very fragile market. There’s so much unknown risk out there — notably, but not solely, in Europe — that quick movements are sending everyone running for the door. That is to say, we’re seeing the return of financial-crisis psychology, where people fear because they don’t know. That’s why very calm people like David Cho are saying very scary things.
… I just hate leaving things where I feel I misstated my position.
I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent. I could also obviously be convinced that by controlling for the right variables, we would see that they are, in fact, as intelligent as white people under the same circumstances. The fact is, some things are genetic. African Americans tend to have darker skin. Irish people are more likely to have red hair. (Now on to the more controversial:) Women tend to perform less well in math due at least in part to prenatal levels of testosterone, which also account for variations in mathematics performance within genders. This suggests to me that some part of intelligence is genetic, just like identical twins raised apart tend to have very similar IQs and just like I think my babies will be geniuses and beautiful individuals whether I raise them or give them to an orphanage in Nigeria. I don’t think it is that controversial of an opinion to say I think it is at least possible that African Americans are less intelligent on a genetic level, and I didn’t mean to shy away from that opinion at dinner.
I also don’t think that there are no cultural differences or that cultural differences are not likely the most important sources of disparate test scores (statistically, the measurable ones like income do account for some raw differences). I would just like some scientific data to disprove the genetic position, and it is often hard given difficult to quantify cultural aspects. One example (courtesy of Randall Kennedy) is that some people, based on crime statistics, might think African Americans are genetically more likely to be violent, since income and other statistics cannot close the racial gap. In the slavery era, however, the stereotype was of a docile, childlike, African American, and they were, in fact, responsible for very little violence (which was why the handful of rebellions seriously shook white people up). Obviously group wide rates of violence could not fluctuate so dramatically in ten generations if the cause was genetic, and so although there are no quantifiable data currently available to “explain” away the racial discrepancy in violent crimes, it must be some nongenetic cultural shift. Of course, there are pro-genetic counterarguments, but if we assume we can control for all variables in the given time periods, the form of the argument is compelling.
In conclusion, I think it is bad science to disagree with a conclusion in your heart, and then try (unsuccessfully, so far at least) to find data that will confirm what you want to be true. Everyone wants someone to take 100 white infants and 100 African American ones and raise them in Disney utopia and prove once and for all that we are all equal on every dimension, or at least the really important ones like intelligence. I am merely not 100% convinced that this is the case.
Please don’t pull a Larry Summers on me,
We’re a legal blog, not a science blog. But personally, when it comes to intelligence, I’m in the nurture rather than nature camp.
One tipster who passed it along said, “It’s unfortunate that this person appears to be on paper a highly educated individual, yet her viewpoints prove otherwise, and is likely to be put in positions of influence.”
Another tipster said there would be repercussions:
The firestorm that has resulted has been EPIC. [A member or members of] Harvard’s BLSA sent the email, along with CRIMSON DNA’s name and information, to the BLSAs at other Top 14 schools. The BLSAs are meeting to discuss what should be done about this and judging from the craziness on the listservs and at meetings, this is going to get ugly. They want to go after her clerkship offer, so this one might make the news.
UPDATE: The leaders of Harvard BLSA deny that BLSA is trying to have DNA’s clerkship offer rescinded, and they also emphasize that the email did not go out over an “official” BLSA list-serv. See here.
The email in question contained such comments as “I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent.” But when it went viral, Above the Law’s Kashmir Hill found the inclusion of the sender’s name “troubling.” Apparently not troubled was blogger Jonathan Pitts-Wiley, who posted the sender’s name: Stephanie Grace. Why he thinks she’s “kind of a hero” is a question only he can answer, but a number of Twitter users also name Grace as the sender. User berrygraham, who seems to be a law student in the DC area, writes:
Crzy_Sxy_Cool, who tweeted before the Above the Law or Pitts-Wiley posts went up, added a helpful hashtag:
Here’s my thinking on the e-mail itself; I’ll have a few more posts shortly about some of the reaction to the e-mail.
1. Whether there are genetic differences among racial and ethnic groups in intelligence is a question of scientific fact. Either there are, or there aren’t (or, more precisely, either there are such differences under some plausible definitions of the relevant groups and of intelligence, or there aren’t). The question is not the moral question about what we should do about those differences, if they exist. It’s not a question about what we would like the facts to be. The facts are what they are, whether we like them or not.
Given this, it seems to me that the proper approach to this question is precisely the same as the proper approach to other questions of scientific fact. One absolutely should not rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent. Likewise, to give examples involving three groups I myself belong to, one absolutely should not rule out the possibility that Jews are (say), on average, genetically predisposed to be more acquisitive, or more loyal to their narrow ethnic group than to broader groups, or that whites are genetically predisposed to be more hostile to other racial groups, or that being nonreligious is genetically linked, and that people who have those genes are genetically predisposed to be more likely to commit crime or cheat on their spouses or what have you. One should also obviously be willing to be convinced by evidence that shows that, by controlling for the right variables, we would see that those groups are, in fact, identical to other groups under the same circumstances.
One should not rule out possibilities in the absence of conclusive evidence, for the simple reason that one then has no factual basis to rule out those possibilities. And since on many things the evidence will rarely be conclusive, one shouldn’t rule out those possibilities categorically at all. And one should also be open to the evidence that exists, and to being convinced by it in one or the other direction (to the degree of conviction that is warranted by the evidence).
Now some claims may be so contrary to our current understanding of the world that we might say something like this: We shouldn’t rule out the possibility in principle, but in practice the probability is so vanishingly small that we should exclude it from our analysis. That, for instance, might be one’s view about claims that werewolves exist. First, it’s just hard to imagine, given current science, what possible mechanism there might be that would turn humans into wolves every full moon. Second, one would think that if werewolves existed, we’d have good evidence of them, since proving their existence would be pretty easy.
But we still know very little about which genes produce intelligence, how exactly those genes operate, and even how intelligence can be defined. We obviously have vastly more left to learn about this. And there is certainly reason to believe that intelligence is heritable in some measure among individuals (though there is hot debate about the degree to which this is so). Such heritability, coupled with the possibility of differing selection pressures in different environments, provides a potential mechanism through which there conceivably could be intelligence differences among racial or ethnic groups.
So at this point it seems to me that the only scientifically sensible conclusion about this question, which I stress again is a question of what the facts really are, is that we can’t be sure that there are no such differences: Again, we cannot rule out either the possibility that there are racial differences in intelligence, or that there aren’t.
Or at least we cannot rule them out as a scientific judgment. (Perhaps there’s some expert somewhere out there who is so knowledgeable and brilliant that he feels he can accurately predict all that we will ever know about this field, and therefore can rule out one or the other possibility; I doubt it, but in any case I’m pretty sure that no-one is this discussion is that expert.) Obviously, each of us has the perfect right to rule any factual possibility out as a matter of faith, moral, religious, or whatever else. We can say “I don’t care what the evidence might say, I rule out this possibility because of my moral beliefs.” Or we can say “My moral beliefs are actually capable of indicating to me not just what I should do, but what the scientific facts about the world actually are, and therefore I am completely confident about what those facts are, based on my confidently held moral beliefs.”
But surely there ought to be no obligation on other people to adopt this sort of faith-based view on scientific questions. That’s why it seems to me that the author’s statement that “I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent” — or a similar statement, as I suggested, about Jews, or whites, or the irreligious — is perfectly proper, and in fact is the way that people should approach scientific questions of all sort.
2. Of course, I take it that some people were inferring from the e-mail that the author doesn’t actually mean just that she doesn’t rule out this possibility, but rather that she actually thinks the possibility is likely true. If so, then to critique the e-mail one would have to further discuss whether in fact the possibility is likely true under the current, highly limited state of scientific knowledge.
But there is no need to do that here. This e-mail was a follow-up to an earlier conversation, which apparently was not recorded. It was intended to be a private e-mail to other students who were parts of that conversation. One can’t tell whether the e-mail was (a) actually a means of implicitly asserting that there probably are intelligence differences, or (b) a rebuttal to an allegation that the author wasn’t scientifically minded enough in the discussion over dinner and was wrongly foreclosing scientific possibilities, or (c) part of a discussion about the nature of scientific evidence, or anything else. Sometimes, one might legitimately draw inferences about a person’s views based on a statement that was meant to be self-contained, to the point of justifying public criticism of the inferred views and not just the literally stated ones. But one can’t infer from this snippet of the broader conversation that the author means anything other than what she says: that she does not rule out a certain possibility, a possibility that I think cannot scientifically be ruled out.
I considered whether some of the language of the e-mail, such as (emphasis added) “In conclusion, I think it is bad science to disagree with a conclusion in your heart, and then try (unsuccessfully, so far at least) to find data that will confirm what you want to be true” suggests that the student believes that there is no existing data strongly suggesting the absence of genetic differences. If that were the right interpretation, then we’d have to discuss whether there is indeed such data.
But my reading of this, given both this sentence and the rest of the e-mail, is that the author is saying that there has been no success in (to go further down the paragraph) “prov[ing] once and for all that we are all equal” in intelligence, and in providing evidence that would make one “100% convinced that this is the case.” That’s a restatement of the first sentence in the e-mail, and again it strikes me as being quite scientifically accurate: There can’t be, at this stage of our knowledge (and possibly at any stage), proof “once and for all” that there are no such racial differences in intelligence.
3. On then to just a brief response to what I imagine would be some likely reactions.
a. Some might argue that belief in racial differences in intelligence could cause all sorts of immoral and harmful social and legal reactions. That might be so. But it’s different from the question that the student was writing about, which is what is actually true. Lots of other facts that are actually true can yield, and have yielded, harmful social and legal reactions. That doesn’t make those facts any less true — nor does it make it somehow improper for people to even be open to the possibility that certain facts might, in fact, be true.
b. Some might point to the history of unsound claims about racial differences in intelligence. And the history of errors in a field should indeed teach people to avoid those particular errors. But there’s no “three strikes and you’re out” for scientific theories: That some people in the past have posited various unsound theories with some general thesis doesn’t mean that all theories with a related thesis are guaranteed to be false. One still cannot rule out the possibility that some other theory in that genre will in fact be correct. Again, that’s just the way facts are: If something is true, people’s having thought a bunch of similar-sounding things that are nonetheless false doesn’t affect that truth.
c. Some might point out that intelligence and race are “socially constructed,” which is certainly true in the sense that different societies may draw racial lines in different places, and may define what constitutes intelligence — or how it should be tested — differently. But while we can’t just assume that there are some obviously correct definitions of either term, science often operates with terms that don’t have an inherently correct definition. What usually happens is that people come up with possible definitions, there’s debate about those definitions, there are studies done using different definitions, some results emerge that are common over a wide range of definitions and others that are highly sensitive to the definitions, and so on. Yet the right approach throughout this process is, again, precisely to “not rule out the possibility” that under some set of plausible definitions some result might be true, and to be willing to “be convinced” that under some set of plausible definitions some other result might be true.
It’s also possible that over time it will turn out that the definitional question is so difficult (or the required measurements are so difficult) that no real pattern emerges in the results. Say, for instance, that under some definitions of intelligence one sees one result and under others one sees the opposite result, and there seems to be no good basis to choose any particular definition over another. That might mean that we have to reformulate the question, and that the original question might be abandoned as not accurately answerable in its original form. We can’t rule out that possibility, either. But neither can we just assume that this is sure to happen.
d. Finally some might just argue that even the openness to the possibility that there may be racial differences in intelligence will offend people, and that the author should have recognized that the e-mail she sent to a couple of people might be forwarded to others who might be offended.
But this presupposes that it’s somehow wrong for people in a free country to discuss scientific questions because of the possibility that some people might learn about that and be offended. That can’t be right.
It especially can’t be right for students at a research university. But I think that it can’t be right for anyone anywhere. I realize that in the real world there might be bad consequences to speakers who offend others, however legitimate the speaker’s position — which, I stress again, is a position of openness to scientific evidence — might be. But we should work against that phenomenon, and its tendency to suppress honest discussion about scientific questions. We should not just give in to it as inevitable and, worse still, somehow right.
Grace has apologized. Of course, she’s sorry now. “I am heartbroken and devastated by the harm that has ensued. I would give anything to take it back.” Note the passive voice: “the harm that ensued.” A new way to say I’m sorry you were offended. She also says “I understand why my words expressing even a doubt [that African-Americans are genetically inferior] were and are offensive.” She’s learned something: This is a subject where you can’t play with ideas and speculate. People get very angry, and the speaker had better be ready to deal with it.
Did Dean Minow handle this the right way? One question is: Why does the dean even get involved with something one student said in private email? If the answer is because the Black Law Students Association came to her and demanded a response, then maybe the question should be why did the Black Law Students Association go to the dean for help? Why didn’t the students all just argue and debate and express themselves to each other? These are Harvard students. Law students. Why not dig in and have it out and show your stuff? Why go to the nearest, biggest authority figure? Stephanie hurt me!
This sad and unfortunate incident prompts both reflection and reassertion of important community principles and ideals. We seek to encourage freedom of expression, but freedom of speech should be accompanied by responsibility. This is a community dedicated to intellectual pursuit and social justice….Law school is a community with shared ideals. One of the ideals could be: When a student makes a point that contains what you think is an outrageous statement, unless she’s been actively insulting to you, you should engage her in debate and not not expose her to a public trashing. And don’t bring the dean into the fray as your champion. More from Minow:
As news of the email emerged yesterday, I met with leaders of our Black Law Students Association to discuss how to address the hurt that this has brought to this community. For BLSA, repercussions of the email have been compounded by false reports that BLSA made the email public and pressed the student’s future employer to rescind a job offer.I was going to say that “the hurt” to Grace and her reputation was much greater than the hurt to those students who only read the email. It’s not as if she shouted ugly words in their face. But now I see that the BLSA students had reason to worry that they were the ones who would look bad because they were believed to have overreacted and taken some nasty revenge. Minow may have been activated by the need to clear their reputation.
A troubling event and its reverberations can offer an opportunity to increase awareness, and to foster dialogue and understanding.Minow tries to be even-handed and control the fallout. She frames it as a teaching moment. But what has everyone learned?
Stephanie Grace sent out an email suggesting that black people are genetically intellectually inferior to white people. That is not a new point; it is not a point that should have to be rationally debated anymore, any more than we would rationally debate whether or not the Earth is flat. If a PhD candidate in a science program suggested that the sun revolved around the Earth, I can just about guarantee that there would be no calls for rational debate on the issue — whoever she said it to would roll their eyes and label her a complete jackass. If she sent out an email screed about it, it would probably be forwarded for laughs and for shared outrage at how a person this ridiculous could have gotten into this academic program and institution. It would not be defended under the pretense of free speech or academic freedom or “Isn’t this program all about rational scientific discourse, you guys?”
But I want to go back to this line: “Rational debate. Isn’t that what free speech and academic discourse — and, incidentally, the practice of law — are all about?” Well, yes and no — free speech is, unfortunately, not all about rational debate, not hardly. But that aside, free speech is not a shield from criticism and consequence. Yes, it is a shield against government persecution for your speech, but it does not mean that other people are not permitted to speak out against you; it doesn’t mean that other people should have to accept what you say without attaching words like “racist” or “sexist” or “bigoted” to what you say. The right to speak and to control how other people feel and respond to your speech is not a right that any of us hold. And it is not a sign of irrationality to point out that some arguments are, yes, racist, any more than it’s a sign of irrationality to point out that some arguments are ad hominem or illogical or red herrings or anecdotal.
I’m obviously troubled and disgusted by Stephanie Grace’s email and her arguments. But I’m even more disgusted by many of the responses — the ones that say the email wasn’t really racist, that it’s somehow irrational to use terms like “racist” or “sexist,” and that any idea, no matter how horrific, should not only be introduced but also should not be met with any level of offense. I wonder if the people making those arguments — and David Lat is only one of them — have for even a minute put themselves in the shoes of individuals whose family members were enslaved or gassed or rounded up for their perceived genetic inferiorities. I wonder if they’ve put themselves in the shoes of people who hear all the time that they don’t deserve to be where they are; that they’re lazier, stupider, just not as naturally intelligent or adept.
Some comments and beliefs do not merit a rational response. The fact that we are not only debating the merits of Stephanie Grace’s argument that black people may be genetically inferior, but also suggesting that the people who are offended are the ones with the problem, is more demonstrative of a profession-wide and society-wide race problem than any single email or racist tome.
Young, privileged students interpret the principle of “academic freedom” to mean “I can say whatever I want and you can’t criticize me.” This atmosphere of polite disagreement, no matter how odious the position offered, was stifling to me as a law student. It was based on the notion that we law students were all in this together, and therefore should “play nice,” even when there were other students whose stated political aim was to deny rights to women and people of color, rights whose denial cut to the very core of my being. Meanwhile, no one seemed to consider the impact on academic freedom caused by allowing discourse that was overtly hostile to minority groups.
The hyper-intellectual, logic-focused law school environment denigrates feelings. Even when the issues were deeply personal, we were supposed to regard classroom and extracurricular discourse as purely academic. This mentality goes beyond the confines of the university. I am reminded of the ridicule heaped upon Obama when he suggested a Supreme Court justice should have empathy, rhetoric he’s backed away from the second time around.
But empathy has a place in the law, and it needs a more prominent home in law schools.The legal system is built to try to address unfairness and injustice, to make sure everyone gets their due process and fair share. If we didn’t care about the well-being of our fellow citizens, we wouldn’t need justice at all.
It matters how people feel. It matters whether racist arguments are tolerated, and whether other voices rise to their aid. When lawyers go on to serve as judges, senators, policy-makers, prosecutors, and presidents, an e-mail isn’t just an e-mail. The e-mail and the ambivalent response to the odious attitudes expressed in it exemplify the serious empathy deficit in our law schools.
When I look at the product of these law schools — a legal system where if you are poor, black, or both, you simply cannot get a fair shake — I think, is it any wonder? An academic structure that glorifies logic and consistency, and denigrates empathy, will never produce justice.
I am not going to defend the content in the Harvard law student’s email on race and intelligence. I find the content quite disturbing. I am, however, going to argue for a bit of benefit of the doubt on the person who sent the email, as opposed to the contents of the email. The email starts off indicating that it is picking up where a longer conversation left off from earlier in the evening. And while it starts off pretty bad, it contains statements like “I absolutely do not rule out the possibility…” It’s not that long ago that I was a student who liked to argue and didn’t have much of a clue. (As opposed to my current status: Professor who likes to argue and doesn’t have much of a clue.) When I see a statement like “I absolutely do not rule out the possibility…” from what is likely a smart, argumentative, but clueless student, I suspect that we’ve got some late night bull session philosophizing (of the non-philosophy major sort) going on. Some pretty bad stuff gets said in those sessions, not because the people necessarily believe all of it, but because they’re too full of shit to realize that they should be more critical of their musings rather than throwing them out and arguing passionately while not getting why the argument is (rightly!) falling completely flat.
This hunch of mine, that we’re seeing late night bull session mode rather than statement of sincere conviction mode, is further strengthened by paragraph two, in which she actually makes a sort of decent case (by the standards of late night bull sessions) for the opposite of what she was musing on in the first paragraph. And the third paragraph talks about a seriously hypothetical experiment. More proof of late night bull session mode.
Now, “late night bull session” is not an excuse for spewing bullshit. Although a lot actually gets learned in those sessions, a lot also gets learned in the fallout. Usually the fallout means that your roommate chews you out and his girlfriend won’t talk to you and an angry mob is waiting to confront you in the dorm lounge. (Aka “spring of my sophomore year.” And no, my transgression had nothing to do with race or gender.) She deserves fallout, but it is unfortunate that the fallout happened in the national spotlight. I guarantee you that all sorts of bull sessions, some with conversations even more repugnant than that email, are going on right now in Harvard dorms. (Or the dorms at my school, for that matter.) It was a dick move to forward the email, rather than confronting her in person and making the fallout more contained (but still intense).
So, what I’m trying to say is that the email doesn’t really reflect a sincere or strongly-held opinion on her part. It reflects a lot of stupidity and some serious gaps in her understanding of the world (and I’m not just saying this because she got caught), and those things should not just be waved off as no big deal. However, it is a mistake to take her email at face value.
In 2005, former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch wrote, “We should thank President George W. Bush and Congress for passing the No Child Left Behind Act … All this attention and focus is paying off for younger students, who are reading and solving mathematics problems better than their parents’ generation.”
Four years later, Ravitch has changed her mind.
“I was known as a conservative advocate of many of these policies,” Ravitch says. “But I’ve looked at the evidence and I’ve concluded they’re wrong. They’ve put us on the wrong track. I feel passionately about the improvement of public education and I don’t think any of this is going to improve public education.”
Ravitch has written a book about what she sees as the failure of No Child Left Behind called The Death and Life of the Great American School System. She says one of her biggest concerns is the way the law requires school districts to use standardized testing.
The more uneasy I grew with the agenda of choice and accountability, the more I realized that I am too “conservative” to embrace an agenda whose end result is entirely speculative and uncertain. The effort to upend American public education and replace it with something market-based began to feel too radical for me. I concluded that I could not countenance any reforms that might have the effect — intended or unintended — of undermining public education.
Ravitch of course was once the number one advocate of these very ideas; read this excellent article on her intellectual evolution.
Overall it is a serious book worth reading and it has some good arguments to establish the view — as I interpret it — that both vouchers and school accountability are overrated ideas by their proponents. (Short of turning the world upside down, some school districts will only get so good; conversely many public schools around the world are excellent.) But are they bad ideas outright? Ravitch doesn’t do much to contest the quantitative evidence in their favor. There are many studies on vouchers, some surveyed here. Charter schools also seem like a good idea.
An interview with Ravitch followed a story about Central Falls High in Rhode Island which recently fired its entire staff of teachers because of low achieving students.
An emphasis on test scores can make it hard for teachers in poorer schools to get ahead. When their entire performance is based on the tests and they are rewarded or punished accordingly it can seem like the system gives wealthier schools an automatic advantage. As a result, Ravitch says that the testing encourages schools desperate for funding to game the system.
When asked whether it was healthy to have some competition in the education marketplace, Ravitch countered that “there should be no education marketplace,” emphasizing that education for children is not meant to be run like a business.
“Schools operate fundamentally — or should operate — like families. The fundamental principle by which education proceeds is collaboration. Teachers are supposed to share what works; schools are supposed to get together and talk about what’s [been successful] for them. They’re not supposed to hide their trade secrets and have a survival of the fittest competition with the school down the block.”
Ravitch raises red flags about charter schools and the foundations that promote them. While it might not be these foundations’ intentional agenda to destroy American public education, she says, their pushing of charters, choice and accountability are doing just that.
Echoing many of the arguments of teachers’ unions across the country, Ravitch says that charters drain the best, most motivated students from regular public schools, leaving those schools in a death spiral, for which they are then blamed.
“As currently configured, charter schools are havens for the motivated,” Ravitch writes. “As more charter schools open, the dilemma of educating all students will grow sharper. The resolution of this dilemma will determine the fate of public education.”
The problem with this argument, of course, is that it implies that ‘motivated’ students from low-income families should be denied the opportunity for a better education so that the institution of public education, which has served them badly, survives to fail another day.
Here I side with Howard Fuller, who on a recent Denver visit proclaimed: “I am from the Harriet Tubman school of education reform.” Every kid who escapes a bad educational environment is one more kid with a better chance at a fulfilling life.
Ravitch excoriates the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation for being unelected policy-making monoliths, utterly unaccountable, that are shaping the direction (or as she would argue, dismantling) of public education.
“There is something fundamentally antidemocratic about relinquishing control of the public education policy agenda to private foundations run by society’s wealthiest people,” she writes.
…The foundations demand that public schools and teachers be held accountable for performance, but they themselves are accountable to no one. If their plans fail, no sanctions are levied against them. They are bastions of unaccountable power.I ask Ravitch: To whom, then, should we cede control over public education? An answer as banal as “the people” won’t cut it. Elected school boards? Their failures, especially in big cities, are the stuff of legend.
Competition and collaboration are not mutually exclusive. Far from it — almost everywhere you look in nature, the winners of “survival of the fittest competition” are the entities that found ways to collaborate and succeed. (Cue Richard Dawkins.) But what does not occur in nature or society, because it is not viable over any reasonable length of time, is a strategy of making a “family” out of disparate actors just by placing them near each other. (Cue F. A. Hayek?) Families involve tremendous amounts of sacrifice of the selfish interests of one member for those of another. The willingness to do that systematically does not occur without strong bonds of kinship.
It is in fact a mistake to think that choice and accountability by themselves will be enough to improve performance, without the other elements of a competitive marketplace. The most important of those elements is freedom of entry by any producer who thinks he can do a better job than the current producers. Consider Ravitch’s disappointment with NCLB to date, as quoted in Chapter 6 of her book:
But what was especially striking was that many parents and students did not want to leave their neighborhood school, even if the federal government offered them free transportation and the promise of a better school. The parents of English-language learners tended to prefer their neighborhood school, which was familiar to them, even if the federal government said it was failing. A school superintendent told Betts that choice was not popular in his county, because “most people want their local school to be successful, and because they don’t find it convenient to get their children across town.” Some excellent schools failed to meet AYP because only one subgroup — usually children with disabilities — did not make adequate progress. In such schools, the children in every other subgroup did make progress, were very happy with the school, did not consider it a failing school, and saw no reason to leave.
Schools have many characteristics. So-called performance, as measured by standardized tests, is only one such characteristic. What the paragraph reveals is that location is important as well. And in most cases, the school district has not allowed an alternative provider to come into the market and match the existing school on all of its non-performance characteristics while improving performance. There is, in most cases, still a local monopoly on enough of the characteristics that matter. Unless you break that monopoly, until you do in fact allow direct competition with “the school down the block,” you should not expect to be treated to service that is any better than what you typically get as a member of a captive audience.
The idea of school choice fuels the charter school and voucher systems, and the hope is schools become better through a sense of competition. A steady, if unproven, criticism of school choice systems is that the best schools simply enroll the best students. Even if they don’t actively do so, there could be a self-selection bias in the parents who actively seek out better schools to send their children to. But research found the biggest problem was that parents who were offered the chance to enroll students in better schools often did not do so. They liked the idea of the school as being part of the community. After looking at the data, Ravitch now feels that’s an idea worth going back to.
Pioneering political blogger Mickey Kaus took out papers filed to run for U.S. Senate in California, he told LA Weekly. The Venice resident said he’ll run this year against Barbara Boxer for her seat. He said he took out filed papers at with the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters, although a spokeswoman there could not yet confirm the filing.
The Democrat has been centrist and even conservative on some of the issues on which Boxer has taken a more left-leaning stand, including immigration: He does not favor amnesty and favors a more restrictive national policy.
The journalist’s Wiki entry says he’s also “skeptical of affirmative action, labor unions (particularly automotive workers’ unions and teachers’ unions), and gerrymandering of congressional districts.”
It’s not clear where he’ll get the money to run against such a well-oiled machine as Boxer’s. But one blogger called Boxer’s poll numbers “less than intimidating.”
And in his Kausfiles blog, Kaus has quite the widely-read bully pulpit, with an estimated readership of as many as 30,000 people daily.
The rollout didn’t go as my team of highly paid media consultants* had planned– L.A. Weeklygot it way before it was supposed to. Heads will roll around here. But I did go down to the local registrar’s office Monday and take out nomination papers to run in the primary for U.S. Senator against Barbara Boxer. If I return them in timely fashion with enough signatures, I should be able to get on the June ballot. We’ll see what happens.
This isn’t the place to make an electioneering spiel–I don’t want to be a test case of campaign finance law if I can help it. But the basic idea would be to argue, as a Democrat, against the party’s dogma on several major issues (you can guess which ones). Likeminded Dem voters who assume they will vote for Sen. Boxer The Incumbent in the fall might value a mechanism that lets them register their dissent in the primary.
I’m not a Kaus-hater, but I have to confess I just don’t “get” the Kausfiles. Who could stand reading something like that? I tried for a while. It’s worse than The Note was when Halperin ran it, stylistically.
This would seem to be a classic protest candidacy, with next to zero chance of upsetting Boxer in the primary. (The Republican contenders, especially Chuck Devore, appear to have a quite decent chance of doing it in the general, however.) But it should be interesting.
HE’S GOT MY VOTE: Mickey Kaus for Senate! “Pioneering political blogger Mickey Kaus filed to run for U.S. Senate in California, he told LA Weekly. The Venice resident said he’ll run this year against Barbara Boxer for her seat.”
UPDATE: Rob Kiser emails: “Someone needs to remind LA Weekly it’s not ‘her” seat. It’s the ‘people’s seat’.”
Obviously, I’d prefer a strong conservative Republican over a moderate liberal Democrat as the next senator from California. But Mickey Kaus would provide the sort of iconoclasm the Democratic party desperately needs, particularly in California. If more Democrats were as empirical and tough-minded as Mickey, the country and the state would be in a lot better shape. I’m reminded that WFB supported tough-minded Democrat Joe Lieberman over squishy Republican Lowell Weicker on similar grounds. Still, I hardly think what Mickey needs to win in a Democratic primary is full-throated support from the likes of me, or National Review. (There’s a story about Lyndon Johnson begging The New Republic to stop praising him and start attacking him because in Texas, praise from The New Republic was less than helpful). So, I’m fully prepared to attack Kaus’s outrageous, left-wing vanity run to be the next left-wing looney bird from Hollyweird!
I’m going to go counter-counterintuitive here and say that if some weird process put Mickey Kaus in the United States Senate, he’d wind up being someone who neither Reynolds nor Goldberg like very much. It’s not really clear to me what votes Kaus would have cast differently from Boxer or what difference it would have made. And of course like all politicians if he were actually in office he would face strong incentives to act like a conventional politician rather than like a contrarian blogger.
For obvious reasons, I’m not endorsing him – a hypothetical Senator Kaus would caucus with the Democrats, which breaks the first rule of my endorsement criteria – but if you’re a Democrat who is tired of a liberal idiot* or idiots representing you, well, do something useful about it. Nobody cares if you’re just going to be mortified.
PS: If you’re wondering about a particular… consistency… to the slurs against Mickey in that LA Daily post’s comment section, go click the links found here. Essentially, this is a legacy of the pushback against Kaus for taking the John Edwards adultery story seriously. What? Why are the netroots still trying to use that line, even though it turned out that the netroots had been collectively and individually played for fools?
Re-read the last half of that last sentence for the answer.
Amid the mounting diplomatic row over Mossad’s alleged assassination of a Hamas commander in Dubai, the Israeli embassy has turned to Twitter to comment.
A tweet issued by the embassy today read: “@israeluk You heard it here first: Israeli tennis player carries out hit on #Dubai target http://ow.ly/18A79”. It links to a story about the Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer, who beat the top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki yesterday to reach the quarter-finals of the Dubai Championship.
But the tweet is open to interpretation. The Mossad hit squad accused of assassinating Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior figure from the militant group Hamas, at the Al-Bustan Rotana hotel in Dubai were disguised as tennis players.
CCTV footage released by Dubai police shows the assassins dressed as tennis players following Mabhouh into the hotel lift as a member of staff showed him to his room.
Police said this was an attempt to note down his room number.
The post isn’t there now; it’s not clear when it was taken down (see the screen shot above). It’s better down, as it’s really not funny—or maybe just funny in the sense of strange. The reference was to the victory of Shahar Peer, an Israeli tennis player, over Caroline Wozniacki, the top seed in the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championship. Apart from what Haaretz referred to as “criticism on grounds of taste,” the tweet was unfair to Peer, who has had her career politicized quite enough. Last year, she was denied a visa to take part in the tournament, and she’s been walking around Dubai surrounded by security guards. And tennis and politics had already been mixed enough in this case: in security videos released by the Dubai police, some of the alleged assassins are carrying rackets, presumably as camouflage. (The Economist described them as “stout figures in tennis gear.”) They also had wigs and fake mustaches: one surveillance clip shows a man entering a bathroom bald, and emerging hairy. (See Close Read’s earlier post on the assassination for more details.)
This is where one sympathizes with the Israeli-embassy Twitterer: there is certainly material for comedy in this story, starting with the Dubai police’s press conference on Monday unveiling the pictures, names, and passport numbers of the suspects—six, as it seemed, from Britain; three from Ireland; one each from France and Germany—only to have it emerge that the identities were assumed, the passports faked (the German one didn’t even have the right number of digits in its serial number). Most of the people didn’t exist, although half a dozen British-Israelis had had their identities stolen, and they were not very amused by the prospect of having Interpol after them. Reuters reported that they have been offered brand-new passports, to reduce the risk, a spokesman at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv said, that they might be “inadvertently detained.” It was mildly engaging to learn that the technical term to describe a fake passport based on a real passport is “cloned.” (See Shahida Tulaganova’s brilliant BBC report on how easy it is to get a fake E.U. passport, even when you don’t have the resources of an intelligence agency.) Britain’s Serious Organized Crime Agency is now investigating. The Dubai police mentioned that al-Mabhouh had bought a pair of shoes, while the Israelis, according to the Economist, put out “leaks to the effect that the victim was buying arms from Iran.” That would be much less entertaining. But other details were not entirely unfunny, like the New York Post headline on reports that the assassins used American credit cards: “ ‘Plastic’ explosive.” And then there was the outrage that the assassins had used Western European passports, as opposed to someone else’s, as if the problem, primarily, was one of etiquette. (What is the right nationality to wear to an assassination?) Some pointed out that the last time something like this happened, in the botched Israeli assassination of Khaled Mishal in 1997, fake Canadian passports were used; perhaps that option was dismissed this time in the spirit of the Olympics. And that, of course, leads back to the most and least funny part of the story: the question of Israel’s role.
The Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said that there was no evidence showing that the Mossad carried out the hit, although he added that “Israel never responds, never confirms and never denies.” Maybe it was someone else—do we know much of anything about the killers, other than that poor Melvyn Mildiner, like others whose identities were stolen, was not among the bewigged figures in Dubai? And yet in many quarters calling their nationality a mystery was laughable; the questions a number of British M.P.s were raising were less about whether the Israelis had done it than whether they had told Gordon Brown’s government first. (The Foreign Office denied that they had.) And it was the Israeli Ambassador to Britain, Ron Prosor, whom the Foreign Office called in because, as Foreign Secretary David Miliband put it, “We wanted to give Israel every opportunity to share with us what it knows about this incident.” Prosor told reporters afterward that he was “unable to add additional information.” Then he smiled.
So let me see if I can wrap my head around this: Israel tracked a Hamas terrorist to Dubai and executed him at close range and by hand so as to avoid any collateral damage to civilian life. Shouldn’t we be celebrating this as the way war should be conducted instead of putting our noses up in the air and acting as though we’re so much better when we lob a missile at a terrorist from an airplane?
I mean, look, I’m all in favor of lobbing missiles at terrorists from airplanes; it’d be nice to capture them alive and get some info out of them via harsh interrogations, but a Tomahawk up the keister works just as well as far as I’m concerned. But then you get all the hemming and hawing about “Oh, we’re just creating more terrorists when we accidentally kill an innocent bystander.” Well, there’s none of that here, is there? The guy was traced to his hotel room, zapped with a stun gun, and smothered to death. Quick and easy. If only all terrorists could meet the same fate.
Dubai police have released a video account painstakingly cataloging the sequence of events that led up to the January assassination — by smothering — of a Hamas terrorist and gunrunner in a swanky hotel.
The short version from DubaiTV is here:
The default assumption in such cases is Mossad involvement, though Israel’s elite clandestine service never confirms or denies such things. But now that 11 of the 17 suspects seen in the closed circuit tape have been “identified” — including three nonexistent Irish citizens, and six Britons and one German living in Israel who appear to be victims of identity theft — and the agents’ faces have been splashed across television screens, the hit is starting to look amateurish by Mossad standards. And it might just be the beginning of a major diplomatic incident.
Israel is receiving mounting criticism in connection with the murder in Dubai of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. The slaying is assumed to be work of Israel’s spy agency, Mossad.
Mabhouh was a founding member of Hamas’ military wing and was linked to the kidnapping and killing of two Israeli soldiers years ago. More recently, he has been involved in supplying arms and money to Hamas militants in Gaza.
In light of Mabhouh’s past, the criticism of Israel (at least as presented in this Washington Post report) does not focus on the slaying itself. Rather, the critics cite improprieties in how Mossad (or whomever) went about getting to the terrorist.
Great Britain is unhappy that six of the 11 individuals thought to be part of the Mossad (or whomever) team used fake British passports bearing the names of Israeli citizens. Prime Minister Gordon Brown sniffed that “the British passport is an important document that has got to be held with care.” However, I’m confident that if the agents had possessed real British passports, they would have held them carefully.
The Post also reports that Israeli citizens whose names appeared on the fake passports were “shocked to find themselves mentioned in the material released by the Dubai police.” No doubt. Israel’s position, though, is that “if there is concern about identity theft, those involved should consult a lawyer.” Always good advice.
But passport fraud and identity theft hardly exhaust the ways in which the slaying of Mabhouh affronts modern sensibilities. For example, the photos of the 11 suspects raise questions about the diversity of the team Mossad (or whomever) assembled. It includes only one woman (an attractive blond,naturally) and looks to be short on people of color.
There is also no indication that the team advised Mabhouh of his rights or offered him a chance to exculpate himself before he was killed. Indeed, from all that appears, no lawyer was present.
Finally, what about the carbon footprint of the operation? Did the team travel to Dubai in an energy efficient way? And how much electricity did they use once they arrived? Some reports say they used electricity to stun Mabhouh before killing him. Couldn’t he have been executed in a more energy efficient way?
Paul’s concerns to the contrary notwithstanding, the operation may in fact have been admirably “diverse.” This “diversity” adds context to the operation. The Guardian has reported that a “key security operative of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas was under arrest in Syria tonight on suspicion of having helped an alleged Israeli hit squad identify Mahmoud al-Mabhouh before he was assassinated in Dubai[.]”
Our man in Damascus may not just have been a token. He appears to have been in good company. According to the Daily Mail, “[i]intelligence sources say al-Mabhouh was lured to a meeting in Dubai by two men who had worked with him in Hamas in Gaza.” Haaretz identifies the two Palestinians as Ahmad Hasnin, a Palestinian intelligence operative, and Anwar Shekhaiber, an employee of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. The Daily Mail suggests that al-Mabhouh “did not realise they had defected to the more moderate Fatah, bitter enemies of Hamas, and were secretly working with the Israelis.”
The latest word from Dubai included more evidence of the operation’s tradecraft: “The director of the Dubai Police forensic medicine department revealed yesterday that finding the cause of al-Mabhouh’s death had been the most difficult post mortem he had ever done. British-trained Dr Fawzi Benomran said the killers had put his body in bed and covered it, to make it appear he had died in his sleep.”
According to the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, Dubai police said Wednesday that they hold retinal scans of the suspected assassins. Given the volume of evidence, the story may yet resolve itself together with the weirdly misplaced indignation that surrounds it. And yet, one senses, such a resolution will not be conducive to a happy ending.
Those JSOC guys doing America’s assassinating better make sure they don’t get caught using British passports. Because if the Brits’ claimed anger at Israel for giving its Mossad killers UK passports is any indication, it would not help relations.
Britain fired the first shot last night in a potentially explosive diplomatic row with Israel by calling in the country’s ambassador to explain the use of fake British passports by a hit squad who targeted Mabhouh in Dubai last month.
The Israeli ambassador was at the Foreign Office this morning for a brief meeting to “share information” about the assassins’ use of identities stolen from six British citizens living in Israel, as part of the meticulously orchestrated assassination of Mabhouh.
“After receiving an invitation last night, I met with Sir Peter Ricketts, deputy-general of the British foreign minister,” Ron Prosor said after the meeting. “Despite my willingness to co-operate with his request, I could not shed new light on the said matters.”
Britain has stopped short of accusing Israel of involvement, but to signal its displeasure the Foreign Office ignored an Israeli plea to keep the summons secret. “Relations were in the freezer before this. They are in the deep freeze now,” an official told the Guardian.
Of course, the UK is pissed about the passports, not necessarily about the assassination of a top Hamas figure more generally. So maybe Britain is okay with our assassinations squads, too.
But the very public response to the Mahmoud al-Mabhouh killing, as well as certain details like the involvement of the Palestinian Authority, is sure to bring some interesting scrutiny on our own practices (as a number of you have pointed out in comments).
And WTF? Did the clowns who botched the Abu Omar rendition in Italy teach this Mossad squad tradecraft? Or did they just misjudge Dubai’s willingness to play host to assassinations?
Virginia Postrel has some thoughts on the glamour of Star Trek. Usually, the debate focuses on the science, or the political overtones. (See the first Newsweek article above to see Barack Obama compared to Mr. Spock. Which makes Biden…??)
Douthat is not a fan of time travel as a plot devise. However, he does use the Wayback Machine to find an old conversation about the film between him and Peter Suderman (hypocrite!).
Trying to find this old conversation about Star Trek is like trying to find a pair of humpback whales in the open sea. Here’s the old Bloggingheads with Douthat and Matt Y. (Douthat is in the process of being beamed out during this diavlog.) Matt Y seems not to be excited about the premise of the movie. They discuss socialist utopias:
There Are Cordoba Guitars And Cordoba Houses, Part II
John McCormack at The Weekly Standard:
Marc Tracy at Tablet:
Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs:
Adam Serwer at American Prospect:
Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:
Peter Beinart at Daily Beast:
Mark Thompson at The League:
Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:
Peter Wehner at Commentary
Jonathan Chait at TNR:
Justin Elliott at Salon:
Chris Good at The Atlantic:
UPDATE: Will Wilkinson
William Kristol at The Weekly Standard
UPDATE #2: Dorothy Rabinowitz at WSJ
Alan Jacobs at The American Scene
Conor Friedersdorf at The American Scene
Joshua Cohen and Jim Pinkerton at Bloggingheads
Mark Schmitt and Rich Lowry at Bloggingheads
David Weigel and Dan Foster at Bloggingheads
UPDATE #3: Alex Massie here and here
UPDATE #4: Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek, his letter to Foxman
Abe Foxman writes a letter to Zakaria
UPDATE #5: Christopher Hitchens at Slate
UPDATE #6: Jillian Rayfield at Talking Points Memo
UPDATE #7: Charles Krauthammer at WaPo
Jonathan Chait at TNR
John McCormack at The Weekly Standard
UPDATE #8: Joe Klein on Krauthammer
Michael Kinsley at The Atlantic on Krauthammer
UPDATE #9: More Krauthammer
UPDATE #10: Adam Serwer at Greg Sargent’s place
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