Behind Science Fraud, Chapter 5

We began this new occasional series with the story of the Science magazine study about how people changed their mind on gay marriage based on a short conversations with a real live gay people, but in which the data was faked by the graduate student co-author, Michael LaCour.

It now appears that LaCour, whose pending appointment at Princeton based on his work is in doubt, made up more than just his data. He appears to have claimed on his CV a UCLA teaching award that doesn’t exist. I’ll let New York magazine pick up the climax of the story from here:

I emailed LaCour for comment, and he asked if I’d hold off on publishing this until he released a planned statement about the whole affair. I told him I couldn’t unless the statement contained information pertinent to the nonexistent teaching award. Shortly thereafter, a browser extension I installed to notify me when his website changed pinged me. His website’s link to his CV, which he’d taken down down recently, is now back up. This version no longer lists the Emerging Instructor Award, and the entire “Original Grants & Data” section has been cut.

LaCour then emailed me again: “I’m not sure which CV you are referring to, but the CV posted on my website has not had that information or the grants listed for at least a year.” As of 6:20 p.m., the CV with the false information can still be viewed on the UCLA website.

I think it was the British politician Denis Healey who is credited with the First Law of Holes, which goes: If you’re in one, stop digging. LaCour apparently didn’t learn the First Law of Holes in his social science methodology classes.

The Washington Post and Rand Paul: Who Is More Wrong About ISIS?

The Washington Post’s fact checker, Glenn Kessler, undertook yesterday to assess the truth or falsity of these remarks by Jeb Bush about ISIS:

ISIS didn’t exist when my brother was president. Al Qaeda in Iraq was wiped out when my brother was president.

Those statements are, by any normal standard, true. But this is what Kessler had to say:

Islamic State, also known as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), certainly has become an important player in the Middle East, taking advantage of the civil war in Syria and the disarray in the Iraqi government to claim vast areas of both countries. In the past couple of years, the group’s activities have gathered attention in the United States; it was only a year and half ago that President Obama dismissed Islamic State as a “JV team.”

But that doesn’t mean it “didn’t exist,” as Bush put it, during President George W. Bush’s presidency. A quick check of Thomas A. Ricks’ 2009 book “The Gamble” finds a reference to a statement by Islamic State during a 2007 battle. Ricks described it as “a group affiliated with al-Qaeda.”

This is ridiculous. Today, there actually is an Islamic State, a self-declared caliphate, in the Middle East: ISIS controls territory approximately the size of Great Britain. When George Bush was president, there was no Islamic State in the Middle East. The fact that a splinter group issued a statement in 2007 does not obscure the blindingly obvious difference between the state of affairs then and now. More:

Indeed, to a large extent, the Islamic State of today is simply an outgrowth of al-Qaeda of Iraq. In 2007, the Times of London, quoting U.S. intelligence officials, described “a radical plan by Al-Qaeda to take over the Sunni heartland of Iraq and turn it into a militant Islamic state once American troops have withdrawn.”

The National Counterterrorism Center puts it this way: “Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) and more recently the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), was established in April 2004 by long-time Sunni extremist Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi.” The NCTC notes that Zarqawi was killed by a U.S. airstrike in 2006 and afterwards his successor announced the formation of the Islamic State.

Yes, and under President Bush and General David Petraeus, al Qaeda in Iraq was, as Jeb Bush said, wiped out. Would anyone listening to Jeb Bush understand him to mean that every single member of AQI was killed? Of course not. But al Qaeda in Iraq was wiped out as an effective fighting force and as a threat to the stability of the Iraqi government, as President Obama himself later boasted.

What Jeb Bush said was correct: under President Bush, al Qaeda in Iraq was destroyed as a military and political force, and an Islamic State existed only as a dream in the minds of a few fanatics. Today, tragically, the Islamic State has come into being and its army is rampaging across the region. This is due primarily to President Obama’s deliberate reversal of President Bush’s policies, in particular his premature withdrawal of American forces from Iraq.

So how did Glenn Kessler assess the accuracy of Jeb Bush’s comments? Four Pinocchios!

pinocchio_4

In the Post’s lexicon, four Pinocchios are reserved for “whoppers.” This partisan assessment can only be interpreted as part of the Democratic Party’s attempt to shift the blame for the disasters of Obama’s foreign policies to his predecessor.

Senator Rand Paul views ISIS in, if anything, a more extreme light than the Post’s partisans. On The Morning Joe show yesterday, Paul blamed the existence and growing strength of ISIS on his fellow Republicans:

I doubt that Paul really meant to say that Republicans in Congress are to blame for the rise of ISIS. That proposition is absurd on its face. But it is enough, in my view, to disqualify Paul from serious presidential consideration.

These two episodes illustrate, once again, how closely capital-L libertarians often align with the partisan Left on foreign policy. Like leftists, Paul-style libertarians tend to believe that all problems in the world are caused by the U.S.’s actions. Therefore, if we would simply do nothing, the problems would go away. That view is tempting, for obvious reasons. Unfortunately, history–including the history of the last six years–demonstrates conclusively that it is false.

The rational ayatollah hypothesis

In his Wall Street Journal column this past Tuesday, Bret Stephens took up “The rational ayatollah hypothesis” (accessible via Google here). That hypothesis — asserted, I would say, as a thesis if not a fact by our Supreme Leader about Iran’s Supreme Leader — holds that economics and other such considerations constrain the anti-Semitic behavior of the Islamic Republic of Iran. So about those nuclear weapons that Iran is developing on — Israel is not to worry. Neither are we. It’s the Alfred E. Newman approach writ large.

Obama articulated his thesis in response to a question posed by Jeffrey Goldberg in his recent interview of Obama. I wrote about it in “Obama expounds the limits of Iran’s anti-Semitism.” I struggled because Obama’s observations are both ignorant and obtuse. Stephens takes up Obama’s thesis somewhat more elegantly than I did:

Iran has no border, and no territorial dispute, with Israel. The two countries have a common enemy in Islamic State and other radical Sunni groups. Historically and religiously, Jews have always felt a special debt to Persia. Tehran and Jerusalem were de facto allies until 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini came to power and 100,000 Jews still lived in Iran. Today, no more than 10,000 Jews are left.

So on the basis of what self-interest does Iran arm and subsidize Hamas, probably devoting more than $1 billion of (scarce) dollars to the effort? What’s the economic rationale for hosting conferences of Holocaust deniers in Tehran, thereby gratuitously damaging ties to otherwise eager economic partners such as Germany and France? What was the political logic to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s calls to wipe Israel off the map, which made it so much easier for the U.S. and Europe to impose sanctions? How does the regime shore up its domestic legitimacy by preaching a state ideology that makes the country a global pariah?

Maybe all this behavior serves Tehran’s instrumental purposes by putting the regime at the vanguard of a united Shiite-Sunni “resistance” to Western imperialism and Zionism. If so, it hasn’t worked out too well, as the rise of Islamic State shows. The likelier explanation is that the regime believes what it says, practices what it preaches, and is willing to pay a steep price for doing so.

So it goes with hating Jews. There are casual bigots who may think of Jews as greedy or uncouth, but otherwise aren’t obsessed by their prejudices. But the Jew-hatred of the Iranian regime is of the cosmic variety: Jews, or Zionists, as the agents of everything that is wrong in this world, from poverty and drug addiction to conflict and genocide. If Zionism is the root of evil, then anti-Zionism is the greatest good—a cause to which one might be prepared to sacrifice a great deal, up to and including one’s own life.

This was one of the lessons of the Holocaust, which the Nazis carried out even at the expense of the overall war effort. In 1944, with Russia advancing on a broad front and the Allies landing in Normandy, Adolf Eichmann pulled out all stops to deport more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz in just two months. The Nazis didn’t even bother to make slaves of most of their prisoners to feed their war machine. Annihilation of the Jews was the higher goal.

Modern Iran is not Nazi Germany, or so Iran’s apologists like to remind us. Then again, how different is the thinking of an Eichmann from that of a Khamenei, who in 2012 told a Friday prayer meeting that Israel was a “cancerous tumor that should be cut and will be cut”?”

Walter Russell Mead has more here, all of it worth reading. I thought readers who have been tracking the deep thoughts of our Supreme Leader, as we all should, might find Mead’s thoughts and Stephens’s column of interest.

Sanders Save the Children Fund

I’m starting to think Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign is going to supply a great deal of high quality entertainment in this presidential cycle. His economic ignorance—too many choices of deodorant!—is right out of the 1950s (but then, as Glenn Reynolds noted his morning, the whole Democratic field has a Lawrence Welk feel to it). Leave it to Remy to offer Bernie some fundraising help:

Of course, Sanders is known to proclaim his socialism openly, unlike other Democrats. As Tom Bethell asked years ago when Sanders first went to Congress, how can you tell the difference between Sanders and any other Democrat? It would be nice to see a reporter ask some questions along these lines during the campaign, or during a debate with Hillary (if there are any).

Mosby’s favorites

Baltimore City state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby is prosecuting the six Baltimore police officers charged in connection with the death of Freddie Gray. She seems to bring a certain animus to the task. I questioned Mosby’s professional behavior in the post “Mosby so far,” commenting on Mosby’s press conference announcing the charges she had brought.

Evidence of Mosby’s animus may also be evident in two tweets written by third parties that she favorited on her personal Twitter account. The first of the two tweets asks: “Didn’t I say last week that Marilyn Mosby, prima facie, INFURIATES a certain kind of white person?” The second of the two tweets asserts that, in her press conference announcing the charges she had brought, Mosby “only revealed what was RELEVANT to charge those 6 THUG cops.”

Mosby now claims that her personal Twitter account was hacked. Although the states’s attorney’s office account appears to have been hacked last week, the Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross suggests why doubt is in order with respect to the alleged hacking of Mosby’s personal Twitter account.

The video below captures Mosby speaking to supporters at the Multicultural Prayer Movement two days before she announced the charges she had brought against the Baltimore police officers. Ross wrote about the video here. Conservative Treehouse’s Sundance also wrote about the video in a series questioning Mosby’s fitness to prosecute the case against the officers.

Sundance now writes: “As soon as the Kelly File segment aired [featuring excerpts of the video and included in Sundance's post], th[e] video was shut down and has now been made private.” Ross, however, had already “copied the Mosby segment” of the event. Sundance recounts these events here.

Quotable quote: “We will pursue justice by any and all means necessary.”

Via Lucianne.

Hezbollah prepares

There is so much bad news coming out of the Middle East that it is hard to keep up. Omri Ceren writes from The Israel Project to fill us in on a preview of coming attractions featuring the proxy forces of President Obama’s Iranian friends. Where precisely does Hezbollah fit in Obama’s vision of Iran as a friendly regional power? Too bad Jeffrey Goldberg didn’t riddle Obama that particular question.

This is Omri’s email message verbatim, complete with the URLs of footnoted stories. I thought that readers who have found Omri’s reports helpful might find this of interest as well:

Variations of this story have been bouncing around for the last few weeks. Two weeks ago there were major recent pieces in the NYT and AP articles, where journalists got to look at IDF aerial photography showing that Hezbollah has moved the vast majority of its military infrastructure into Shiite villages [1][2]. They’ve taken their arsenal – 100,000+ rockets including Burkan rockets with half-ton warheads, ballistic missiles including Scud-Ds that can hit all of Israel, supersonic advanced anti-ship cruise missiles, anti-aircraft assets, drones and mini drones, tunnels, etc. – and embedded it across hundreds of villianges and probably thousands of homes.

The Syrian war has been good for Hezbollah in that respect. They’ve cleaned out Assad’s depots and brought the goods back to Lebanon.

The Israelis can’t afford a war of attrition with Hezbollah. The Iran-backed terror group has the ability to saturation bomb Israeli civilians with 1,500 projectiles a day, every day, for over two months. They will try to bring down Tel Aviv’s skyscrapers with ballistic missiles. They will try to fly suicide drones into Israel’s nuclear reactor. They will try to detonate Israel’s off-shore energy infrastructure. They will try to destroy Israeli military and civilian runways. And – mainly but not exclusively through their tunnels – they will try to overrun Israeli towns and drag away women and children as hostages. Israeli casualties would range in the thousands to tens of thousands.

And so the Israelis will have to mobilize massive force to shorten the duration of a future war. One of the things they’ll do is immediately is move to eliminate as much of Hezbollah’s vast arsenal as possible. Hezbollah is counting on the resulting deaths of their human shields – and they’ve guaranteed to that the body count will be significant – to turn Israel into an international pariah. But the Israelis can’t let Hezbollah level their entire country with indiscriminate rocket fire and advanced missiles, just because no one in Lebanon is willing or able to expel the group from Shiite villages.

This weekend’s round of stories actually came from Hezbollah’s side. As-Safir – a Lebanese daily and a major Hezbollah mouthpiece – published a series of puff pieces about how Hezbollah has turned all of southern Lebanon into a vast military complex. I’ve pasted the full AP/TOI write-up at the bottom [omitted here, [this is the story], but it’s what you’d expect:

According to the reports, based on a tour of Hezbollah facilities given to the newspaper, the group has built a sprawling underground array of tunnels, bunkers and surveillance outposts along the border with Israel, which it is manning at peak readiness for battle. The tunnels are said to be highly-advanced, with durable concrete, a 24-hour power supply via underground generators, a ventilation system to prevent damp from damaging military equipment and a web of secondary escape shafts in case of attack. The tunnels are said to be housing tens of thousands of rockets ready for launch, themselves wrapped in protective materials in order to preserve them.

None of this is new. In early 2013 veteran Israeli war correspondent Ron Ben-Yishai did a deep dive into Hezbollah military posture [3]. He revealed among other things that Hezbollah had given away thousands of homes to poor Shiite families, on the condition “that at least one rocket launcher would be placed in one of the house’s rooms or in the basement, along with a number of rockets, which will be fired at predetermined targets in Israel when the order is given.” Then in 2014 air force chief Major-General Amir Eshel gave a speech outlining how Hezbollah has embedded its military assets in “thousands” of residential buildings, emphasizing that Israel would have no choice but to target that infrastructure in a war. Reuters picked up the speech under the headline “Hoping to deter Hezbollah, Israel threatens Lebanese civilians” [4].

But there’s a lot of chatter in the Middle East about a summer war between Israel and Lebanon, so you’re seeing a new round of stories about what it might look like. On one hand the Israelis and Hezbollah are saying the same thing: all of southern Lebanon is now one big military compound. But only the Israelis are pointing out that Hezbollah has made sure that in that compound there are tens of thousands of civilians.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/13/world/middleeast/israel-says-hezbollah-positions-put-lebanese-at-risk.html
[2] http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/M/ML_ISRAEL_HEZBOLLAH?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2015-05-13-14-10-05
[3] http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4343397,00.html
[4] http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/29/us-israel-lebanon-hezbollah-idUSBREA0S1PS20140129

Uncommon Smackdown in the Commons

Very interesting first day of the new Parliament in Britain this morning, where some Labourites expressed their anger at the SNP—the Scottish nationalists who crushed Labour’s former stronghold up north and threaten to make Labour a permanent minority party—but which culminated in the Speaker of the House upbraiding the new SNP members for not being ready for prime time.  Just one minute long, and worth every bit: