Behind Science Fraud, Chapter 2

We’ve been following the story of the apparently fraudulent article in Science about whether people will change their mind about gay marriage after a short conversation with a real live gay person (I guess watching Will & Grace and Modern Family reruns just doesn’t quite do the trick), as well as yesterday’s excellent op-ed in the NY Times about the pervasive problem of scientific journals and media credulity. Tomorrow’s New York Times extend the story with an excellent news feature, “Maligned Study on Gay Unions Is Shaking Trust.”

Here are the highlights:

The case has shaken not only the community of political scientists but also public trust in the way the scientific establishment vets new findings. It raises broad questions about the rigor of rules that guide a leading academic’s oversight of a graduate student’s research and of the peer review conducted of that research by Science. . .

Critics said the intense competition by graduate students to be published in prestigious journals, weak oversight by academic advisers and the rush by journals to publish studies that will attract attention too often led to sloppy and even unethical research methods.

I’m sure this never happens in climate science. . .  Anyway, to continue:

“You don’t get a faculty position at Princeton by publishing something in the Journal Nobody-Ever-Heard-Of,” Dr. Oransky said. Is being lead author on a big study published in Science “enough to get a position in a prestigious university?” he asked, then answered: “They don’t care how well you taught. They don’t care about your peer reviews. They don’t care about your collegiality. They care about how many papers you publish in major journals.”

But since the “major journals” are so often captured by an “in-group” with a narrow ideology or favoritism toward certain kinds of methodology, maybe this is one of the things wrong with universities today.

Kudos to the NY Times for excellent reporting.

Hillary Clinton, asleep at the switch

John has done a great job analyzing Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi emails. His posts are here and here. I urge you to read both of them.

Here’s an additional item that caught my eye. On September 15, 2012 — just four days after the Benghazi attacks — Monica Hanley, a Clinton aide, sent an email to Hillary 9:17 a.m. telling her that senior White House official Dan Pfeiffer “has some sensitive items that he would like to personally show you when he arrives.”

At 10:43 — almost an hour and a half later — Clinton responded that she “just woke up so i missed Dan. Could he come back after finish my calls?”

Hillary Clinton comes across at times as a bit sluggish, especially compared to young potential Republican opponents like Marco Rubio, who has hammered home the point that Clinton represents “yesterday.” Sleeping until almost 11:00 a.m., and thereby missing a briefing (apparently on Benghazi), reinforces this perception.

During the 2008 campaign, Clinton attacked Barack Obama’s capacity to respond wisely to a 3:00 a.m. emergency call. In 2016, opponents might question whether Hillary will be able to rouse herself merely to answer important calls made at a much more reasonable time of day.

“But spare your country’s flag”

The replica of Barbara Fritchie’s house in Frederick, Maryland is just 45 minutes from mine. Yet I had never visited it until this weekend. If you’re in the area, it’s worth the trip.

Fritchie’s story is well known, I think, to anyone who attended school in my era. I suspect, however, that students of more recent vintage know nothing about it. Stories of patriotism are so passe.

In 1862, Confederate troops marching through Frederick passed the house of 95 year-old Barbara Fritchie. The widow proudly displayed her American flag from an upstairs window (or was it her doorway?). A rebel soldier fired at her flag (or did he just threaten to?).

In response, Fritchie (or was it her much younger neighbor Mary Quantrell?) shouted at the troops. “Shoot if you must this old gray head, but spare your country’s flag,” is the line with which she is credited. Whereupon the rebel commander (was it Stonewall Jackson?) is said to have threatened to kill anyone who harmed Fritchie or her flag.

A few months later, when he heard this story, the abolitionist poet John Greenleaf Whittier immortalized it in the poem “Barbara Fritchie.” He took advantage of poetic license. Just how much, we do not know.

The poem was taught to school children for at least a century, and not just in this country. British school children memorized it. Indeed, Winston Churchill recited it to President Roosevelt when the two visited the Fritchie house during World War II.

There is, actually, a British connection to Fritchie. Barbara’s husband John Fritchie was the son of a “Tory” — an American supporter of Great Britain during the Revolution. Frederick residents executed Fritchie’s father, who may or may not have engaged in some form of treachery.

Barbara’s family took pity on the son and hired him to help around the inn they ran. Eventually, Barbara, who was considerably older than John, married him.

Thus did the Fritchie name, once tarnished, become synonymous with gutsy American patriotism.

More on Hillary’s Benghazi Emails

Late last week, the State Department released a tiny number of Hillary Clinton’s emails related to the Benghazi controversy. On Saturday, I wrote about the most important of those emails in Hillary’s Real Benghazi Problem. If you haven’t read that post, I recommend it; its point is that the real issue isn’t Benghazi in a vacuum, it is the disastrous Libya policy for which Hillary is mostly responsible. The deaths of four Americans in Benghazi comprise only one small part of the fallout from that failed policy.

What follows are some lesser but, I hope, interesting observations on the email production.

This email thread gives a partial glimpse into how information on the Benghazi attacks made its way to the State Department. The original email came from the DS [Department of State, I assume] Command Center at 11:41 p.m. on September 11, 2012. It reported that the second Benghazi attack, the one on the facility commonly referred to as the CIA Annex, was underway and that Americans had been injured. In fact, two were killed. This was described as an “attack by mortar fire.” Click to enlarge.

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The email was promptly forwarded to Secretary Clinton’s closest aides, with the notation, “FYI, fresh attacks on Benghazi.” This is one of a number of documents showing that from the earliest hours, it was obvious to Hillary and others in the State Department that Americans had come under an organized military attack. Demonstrators and protesters don’t use mortars. The Obama administration tried to deflect attention away from its own security failures in the face of known threats, and also away from the fact that Libya had become a terrorist haven as a result of its failed policies, by hyping the silly internet video and claiming that what happened was a spontaneous protest.

The word “spontaneous” is key. On September 16, Jake Sullivan, Hillary’s deputy chief of staff, sent her a roundup of Susan Rice’s performances on the Sunday morning news shows. He started by saying, “She wasn’t asked about whether we had any intel,” suggesting that this was a sensitive point. As we know now, Hillary and her minions had plenty of intel, but failed to act on it. Sullivan goes on to say that Rice “did make clear our view that this started spontaneously and then evolved.” Click to enlarge:

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But within a week or so, enough information had leaked out that the “spontaneous” demonstration angle was becoming a laughingstock. So Sullivan went through all of the public remarks Hillary had made about Benghazi to see how far she had gone in committing herself to that narrative. This is his report:

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So that’s a relief: Hillary “never said spontaneous” or explicitly blamed the internet video. They left that to Susan Rice and others; when that narrative was shot down, Hillary wasn’t exposed. That’s what they thought on September 24, anyway.

One impression you get from the emails is that Hillary and her staffers are weirdly isolated. This batch of emails includes several from Sid Blumenthal, which others, including Paul here and here, have commented on. I don’t have anything to add with regard to Blumenthal’s “intelligence” reports on Libya, but this one struck me as odd:

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The first email from Sid consists of a link to a Salon article that is a transparent smear against the Romney campaign. Purporting to come from a Romney insider, the article says that Republicans are “chortling with glee” and “jubilant” about the Obama administration’s intelligence failures in Benghazi. The article’s anonymous source, however, “said he was dubious about the tactic. ‘To me, it is indicative that they have lost touch with a huge portion of the electorate,’ he said.”

It is hard to believe that anyone was fooled. The subject heading of Sid’s email, which includes “got done and published,” suggests that Blumenthal had something to do with planting the smear, which Hillary says she will “push to the White House.”

But note the last email, from Blumenthal to Hillary on October 1, 2012: “Romney has an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal…” Does Hillary really need Sid Blumenthal to tell her that Mitt Romney has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal?

Perhaps so. Positive and negative press coverage is a common subject of these emails. But how about this? Hillary learns that the CIA station chief in Tripoli sent a cable on September 12, which said there was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi. Where did she hear of this? On NPR. Cheryl Mills says she hasn’t seen it, but “will see if we can get.”

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One would think that the Secretary of State would be informed about CIA cables that bear directly on her key area of interest, but apparently NPR has better access.

One last point, on which I mostly defend Hillary and her aides. During the chaotic night of September 11, word came that our ambassador had been murdered. This email thread, which discusses whether to make an announcement or wait until morning, bears the subject heading “Re: Chris Smith.” So they didn’t even remember Chris Stevens’s name, a fact for which some have bitterly criticized Hillary and her aides. I don’t know; maybe they mingled in Sean Smith, who also died that night. In any event, I give them a pass–fog of war, and so on. Hillary appointed Stevens and, I think, was well aware of who he was.

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One final observation: Hillary’s response in this email thread, “Ok,” is unusually communicative. In almost every other case, the only words from the Secretary of State are “Pls print,” as she forwards an email thread to a secretary. That is Hillary Clinton’s legacy: Please print. Maybe there once were other emails in which she expressed opinions, gave instructions, and so on, but those emails have been deleted. Maybe. Or else perhaps Hillary is, and always has been, a cipher, much like her boss, Barack Obama. She is no one, so we can all fill in the blank however we want.

If in the heat of the moment, the only response the Secretary of State had to the murder of one of her ambassadors and three other Americans was “pls print,” one thing we can say for sure is that she should never be President of the United States.

The Iraqis’ “lack of will”. . .and Obama’s

Iraqi troops lack “the will to fight” ISIS, according to Ashton Carter, the Secretary of Defense. Carter is one of the few Obama administration officials whose statements on controversial matters should not be dismissed out of hand, and he may well be right about the Iraqi military.

There’s a flip side to this story, though. The Obama administration lacks the will to help the Iraqis fight ISIS.

This fact has been obvious for some time, and comes through loud and clear in the Washington Post’s report (by Greg Jaffe and Loveday Morris) on Secretary Carter’s remarks:

Front-line combat advisers, who would be at greater risk of death or injury from enemy fire than current American trainers, could help strengthen the resolve of untested Iraqi troops, a senior U.S. official said. “We call it the steel rod up the backbone,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak to the media and commented on the condition of anonymity. “It is a remarkable thing to see.”

That’s not all:

Special Operations advisers could also direct airstrikes from American warplanes, improving their accuracy and effectiveness. On Sunday, [Senator] McCain said that 75 percent of U.S. air combat missions in Iraq and Syria return to base without having fired a weapon or dropped a bomb. “It’s because we don’t have somebody on the ground who can identify a . . . moving target,” McCain said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “We need to have forward air controllers. We need to have Special Forces.”

One possibility being considered is training Iraqi troops to act as spotters. But calling in airstrikes is a highly technical skill, and it’s not clear that the U.S. military could train enough Iraqis in the coming months and years.

Carter insists that even effective airstrikes cannot substitute for the Iraqi forces’ will to fight. But it’s not credible to claim that our level of support has nothing to do with the Iraqi forces’ degree of “will.”

As the Post points out, “Iraqi forces have been fighting pitched battles in Ramadi since early last year, when Islamic State fighters briefly seized the city.” If these forces were as devoid of will to fight as Carter claims, Ramadi would have fallen long ago.

Would the recent fight for Ramadi have gone differently if U.S. front line combat and air strike advisers been present? No one can say for sure.

But considering the stakes, it is unconscionable that the Obama administration doesn’t provide such advisers and disappointing that it tries to shift all blame for the unsuccessful campaign against ISIS to the Iraqi forces.

Memorial Day In Pictures

I believe it was last June when the Minneapolis Star Tribune published this photo of a bald eagle in Fort Snelling National Cemetery by a photographer named Frank Glick. There is a column about the photo, which went viral, here. Fort Snelling was built in the 19th century to guard the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers, an area where there are lots of bald eagles:


This cartoon by Michael Ramirez is a week or so old, and was published after the fall of Ramadi, but is also appropriate for Memorial Day. Click to enlarge:


And, while we are at it, one more, on which I did a post on Friday. The Democratic Party tweeted this photo in honor of the Memorial Day weekend. As usual, it’s all about Barry:

Happy Memorial Day!

A conversation with Fred Barnes

In the latest of the Conversations with Bill Kristol, Bill sits down with his colleague Fred Barnes to review the highlights of his career covering politics in Washington, D.C. The conversation is posted and broken into chapters here.

Via @KristolConvos, Bill alerts us to the fact that Fred gives a nice shout-out to Power Line in chapter 4 (at 1:22:00). Coincidentally, we’re observing the thirteenth anniversary of our life online today. The conversation is terrific and the timing is perfect.

Recommended reading: Robert Novak, Prince of Darkness: 50 Years of Reporting in Washington and Theodore White, The Making of the President 1960.

Recommended sites: RealClearPolitics, Power Line, and the Drudge Report.

Quotable quote: “Power Line…you know, that’s one that some guys in Minneapolis put out…”