"I'm shocked, shocked that Magazine editors would..."
Thank you for sharing these stories ("At the Epicenter," May-June/10). They are a far cry from the work that was being done at the U of C when I was there in the early '70s. They were incredibly moving and brought me to tears. I'm still not sure whether I was crying out of pride for being part of a group of people who actually cared or whether I was crying over the plight of the Haitians. Both are enough to move one to tears.
Nan Goldberg, AB'74
It is fitting that President Obama should present the 2009 National Humanities Medal to William H. McNeill, U-High'34, AB'38, AM'39. On a personal note, Dr. McNeill was my principal adviser in graduate school at the University. After more than four decades, he remains my mentor and friend.
James Rogerson, AM'69, PhD'80
Charlotte, North Carolina
For more on William H. McNeill and his scholarly achievements, see "A germ of an idea."—Ed.
Friedman in Chile…
Would it be possible for you to explain the inclusion of a dubious version of Chilean history in your coverage of the Chilean earthquake ("Pledge Drive," Chicago Journal, May-June/10)? The efforts of current U of C students to help their country were newsworthy on their own. I don't understand the need to tie their achievements to the Milton Friedman era in Chile, which coincided with a prolonged period of military dictatorship, repression, torture, and disappearances. The Chilean students themselves prove the silliness of the comment you quoted from the Wall Street Journal regarding Friedman as a "savior" of the Chilean people. The Chileans have saved themselves, in their recent decades of democracy and investment in infrastructure that will allow them to recover from their earthquake in a way quite unlike the experience of Haiti.
I am grateful that the readership of the University of Chicago Magazine isn't enormous. It's taken years and a lot of effort on the part of many people to change the reputation of the University of Chicago in Latin America, and I want to continue to travel there and to speak of my U of C experience with pride. Maybe I'm the only one who read your article? That's my hope.
Luanne Buchanan, AM'77, PhD'83
…and in uchicago news
I notice that you included Bret Stephens's Wall Street Journal opinion piece on Milton Friedman and Chile in the UChicago News for Alumni and Friends e-newsletter ("How Milton Friedman Saved Chile," March 9).
I hope you will include in the next issue a link to this piece on the same topic published in the Guardian (thus also "Chicago in the News"): Naomi Klein's "Milton Friedman Did Not Save Chile."
The University of Chicago Magazine-online or in print-should serve better purpose than as a link to the Wall Street Journal, in particular as a link to a WSJ smirk at the presumed evils of "left-wing" intellectual analysis. That particular article amounts to golden-calf idolatry of Friedman, who probably would have been embarrassed by it, and whose work was, in any case, neither so infallible as to deserve such worship, nor so shallow as to be trivialized in such terms.
The article fails to note, for example, that strict building codes in Chile or anywhere else represent the very government interventions that are supposed to be anathema to the gloried free-market system the writer adores. It was government intervention that wrote and enforced the codes, imposing the extra costs of construction that reduced contractor profits but kept those buildings from falling down. Contractors acting without (or outside) government regulations, government-defined codes, government-enforced rules, built the buildings in Haiti. One would have supposed the storied Wall Street Journal would have had enough journalistic integrity to make note of that, but then, one would have supposed the University of Chicago Magazine would have exercised enough intellectual acumen to raise that issue before pimping that article.
There are probably many positive contributions of Chicago School economics to the life of the mind as well as to the economy and well-being of Chile. There are also limits to its wisdom, effect, and merit. The exploitation of tragedies in Chile and in Haiti for the purpose of elevating an economic hermeneutic into a moral creed, as the WSJ article does, amounts to shameless and triumphalist dancing on the rubble and the dead. Shame on the Wall Street Journal for publishing this article, and shame on the University of Chicago Magazine for promoting it.
Glenn Loafmann, AB'65
Like the Bourbons, many of the economists at the University have learned nothing and have forgotten nothing.
Daniel Klenbort, SB'59, AM'63, PhD'77
I have to tell you, that looking over this e-bulletin (UChicago News for Alumni and Friends, March 9), I have never seen a more inane, irrelevant, self-inflated crock of nonsense when it comes to topics for journalism or whatever you call this.
Just look at those titles! "Milton Friedman Saved Chile"-I'm sure the Chileans are prostrating themselves in gratitude! "Music of the Holocaust!" Boy, I bet we have some catchy tunes there! A poor alumnus who dies because he's in the wrong place at the wrong time must certainly be a saint. And the entire U of C community could muster $21,000 for Chile! Is that something to crow about? Let's see, what percentage of the University's portfolio does this represent? Or is it better to look at it as 83 cents for each and every member of the community?
If you guys can't offer me anything better than claptrap, please spare me any future efforts. Yes, I'm an alumnus. No, this doesn't make me proud!
Ayram Chetron, AM'70
Back to black
I read with dismay the two letters you published (May-June/10) in response to Maggie Anderson's laudable efforts to support black entrepreneurs and black self-sufficiency by subsidizing only black businesses ("In the Black," Mar-Apr/10).
The first writer essentially called her a racist, and the second implied that her efforts were analogous to white people supporting only white businesses. Both views ignore the context in which her efforts are situated and of the history that makes these efforts necessary still.
Generations of people of all ethnic groups and nationalities who came to this country freely have formed deep and abiding bonds of mutual support and have prospered in no small measure by retaining and distributing their limited resources within their communities at every opportunity. This is true to this day. Why is it that when blacks employ this same strategy they are condemned as racist? The charge is particularly outrageous and ill informed given the peculiarities of U.S. history and the obvious continuing economic disparity between blacks and whites along every measure.
When blacks make claims for reparations or seek other public recompense for past wrongs, they are scolded for a lack of self-reliance (or worse). When they organize socially, politically, or economically in order to repair the economic, social, and political damage they have suffered, they are called racist, usually by people who have never been subjected to an iota of it.
I am certain that Ms. Anderson is very familiar with this double bind and, like most black people I know engaged in similar work, will ignore her detractors entirely.
Hampton Smith, AM'93
I would like to share these statistics from a 2008 report by the Economic Policy Institute, which found that the median net worth for African Americans was $118,000 compared with $118,300 for whites. However, when home equity was subtracted, African Americans had $300 in net financial assets while whites had $36,000. Imagine the impact of the current high unemployment and home foreclosures, where studies show that African Americans are disproportionately impacted.
What I have found in working closely with small, minority food-service businesses is supported by a recent statement by Bob Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television, that "the lack of access to capital and capital formation are the principal factors holding back opportunities for minority businesses and as a consequence, wealth and job creation within the minority community."
Why is there so little wealth in the black community? Is this the result of racial and economic discrimination? I would like to share with my fellow U of C alums one of my many experiences with discrimination, which occurred at age 16 and had the potential to be life-crushing. In the early 1960s, I bravely set out to apply for a file clerk position in downtown Chicago, a foreign and hostile place for African Americans, where at every turn you had the potential to be treated as "less than," but also the place where the jobs existed. I was denied this position and was told that I failed a simple test (which was used in a class I had taken) asking applicants to place last names in alphabetical order. At the time I was a National Merit semifinalist.
When I asked the staff member, who would likely today be in her 70s, to show me the test result, her response was that the company's policies did not allow her to show me the test that she says I failed.
Who was this employer? Prudential Insurance, which years later was fined for systematically discriminating against African Americans. I walked out of that building angry and helpless. What became of this opportunity for wealth creation, which was handed to white applicants-is it reflected in the disparity in the statistics?
Doreen Thompson, JD'74
Civil war casualties
In a letter in the May-June/10 issue, Bert Metzger Jr. had two errors. First, WW II was more costly in U.S. combat deaths and wounds than the Civil War. Secondly, and more importantly, although Abraham Lincoln's personality was important, it was the rebellion by South Carolina and other Southern states that "got us into a war."
Sam C. Masarachia, SB'67
What would Hutchins scrawl?
David Joel's favorite U of C men's room graffito-"The effete place to excrete" (Letters, May-June/10)-was not at all emblematic of the University I knew. I will admit that I never used the men's room he referred to, but I cannot imagine that, such as it was, it was affected, over-refined, and ineffectual.
My favorite such message was on a wall in the bathroom of the UT, the musty University Tavern at 55th and University. In my time, undergraduates were under the thrall of Robert M. Hutchins and his theory of education. In 1941 a friend from an Eastern college noted more for its parties than for its academic rigors was visiting. My friend and I were having a beer at UT and he availed himself of the facilities. When he returned, he said, as I recall, "You guys are grade grinders. Instead of profanity or a phone number, some guy wrote, 'Joe is a neoclassical dog.'"
That was emblematic.
John M. Freter, X'44
Yucca Valley, California
Truth-telling about Iraq
In the article "Just War" (Investigations, May-June/10), Jean Beth Elshtain says: "I get very irritated when people say Bush lied. He and his staff weren't lying. They were relying on evidence that turned out to be deeply flawed." Please.
Did Elshtain miss the Downing Street memo? On July 23, 2002, Prime Minister Tony Blair and other senior British government leaders attended a briefing by Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service. Dearlove and CIA director George Tenet had spent all day together on July 20; Dearlove's mission had been to find out Bush's intentions on Iraq. The minutes of the meeting were subsequently leaked to the London Sunday Times, including this paragraph:
"Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
Intelligence was being "fixed." Facts were being fixed! George Bush and his people were not "relying on evidence that turned out to be deeply flawed." Rather, they were actively creating such "evidence." How is this not lying?
Is Elshtain also uninformed of the exhaustive 2008 Senate Intelligence Committee investigation on the justification for the U.S. attack on Iraq? Committee chair Jay Rockefeller stated that the Bush Administration "presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-existent." A bipartisan majority of the committee agreed that statements made by the administration were not substantiated by intelligence information.
Several investigative reports by journalists have reached similar conclusions, including, for example, active suppression of intelligence that didn't support the administration's propaganda line. In short, Bush and the members of his administration did, in fact, lie, by any normal definition of that word.
Elshtain then says: "...those issues [for going to war] were as much humanitarian as preventive." So, the American people and the Bush Administration really, truly, deeply cared about the Iraqi people, and that's why we invaded Iraq?
Again, please. The U.S. invasion of Iraq has created some 4 million refugees. This is a humanitarian crisis of almost unimaginable dimensions. Many of the refugees are living in squalor and desperation and have been for years. If we cared so deeply about the Iraqi people that we went to war to help them, why do we care nothing about these refugees? We hardly accept any Iraqi refugees into our own country. Our payments for refugee resettlement are so paltry as to be profoundly embarrassing. This humanitarian crisis, created by the U.S., has caused far greater suffering than anything Saddam Hussein did-and we don't seem to care. Where's Elshtain's moral compass here?
Finally, Elshtain can't resist putting in a plug for attacking Iran on behalf of Israel. Israel, with 200-300 nuclear weapons, hardly needs to worry about Iran militarily, although Iran has serious reasons for worrying about an attack from Israel. Israel and its supporters in the United States have been beating the drums for an attack on Iran for several years now. Israel has nuclear weapons, has allowed no UN inspectors to visit its facilities, is actively threatening its neighbor, and has a recent history of aggressive wars, including against helpless civilians, as in Gaza. If preemptive action is needed, as Elshtain suggests, maybe it should be against Israel rather than Iran.
Jean Athey, AM'71, PhD'76
Regarding Professor Elshtain's statement that Bush and his staff "weren't lying": this is simply not true. I am amazed that a professor of social and political ethics can say this when the facts show otherwise.
Joseph Wilson, a career foreign-service officer and ambassador, and in 1990 a chargé d'affaires in Baghdad, was asked by the CIA to investigate charges that Iraq had purchased uranium yellow cake from Niger. He traveled to the Mideast and after lengthy interviews concluded in his report, a part of which he repeated in a New York Times op-ed on July 6, 2003: "It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place."
Mr. Wilson went on to say, "The question now is how that answer was or was not used by our political leadership. If my information was deemed inaccurate, I understand (though I would be very interested to know why). If, however, the information was ignored because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses."
It has been said that one of the first casualties of war is the truth. I find it sad that a professor of ethics would so twist the facts as to produce-how can I say it politely-a lie.
Thomas Glynn, AB'58
Jean Bethke Elshtain responds: Ms. Athey opines that if it comes to preventive war we should attack Israel rather than Iran, despite the fact that Israel, our one secure ally in the Middle East and a functioning democracy, has been directly threatened by Iran with total obliteration using nuclear weapons; despite the fact that, whatever Israel's nuclear stockpile, it has never used these weapons against any of the countries pledged to its destruction; despite the fact that it is Iran, not Israel, that held American hostages; despite the fact that one of the first acts of the current Iranian president was to convene a conference of Holocaust deniers, including American white supremacist David Duke.
Next is the idea that the U.S. invasion created 4 million refugees, prompting a "humanitarian crisis of almost unimaginable dimensions." This is flat-out wrong, as the data from various international organizations can verify. It is true that countries neighboring Iraq were terrified that a crisis of "unimaginable dimensions" might eventuate, but it did not. I am in touch with human-rights activists in Iraq, who are sensitive to such issues and who assure me that Ms. Athey's characterization is hyperbolic, to put it mildly. I do agree, by the way, that we should make it easier for Iraqis to enter the U.S. if they choose to do so.
As to causing "far greater suffering than anything Saddam Hussein did"-does Ms. Athey know nothing of Saddam's "republic of fear"? Know nothing about the children's prisons? Know nothing about people rounded up for possessing cell phones-never to be seen again? On and on. A good friend of mine, a Lebanese Muslim, has worked on a project translating documents seized in the First Gulf War. Like the Nazis, the tyrant and his minions kept careful records of their many atrocities. My friend found the functionaries' accounts-written not by Saddam's opponents, but by officers of the regime-so horrifying that he suffered dreadful nightmares and other symptoms of distress and finally had to quit the project.
On the humanitarian justification for the war, I was describing my own position, not issuing a universal truism. But my position was shared by some of the great democratic heroes of our time, folks like President Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic, whose health was broken during the years he spent in communist prisons, and other leaders of the new democracies erected on the ashes of the Soviet system. I suspect that because these democratic heroes had such a recent experience of tyranny, they were far more sensitive to the fact that the Kurds had been gassed by Saddam; that the Shi'a had been slaughtered with impunity in numbers over 100,000; and other pertinent facts-not opinions, but facts. And given her astonishing claim that what the U.S. has done has "caused greater suffering," I suggest Athey take a look at Samantha Power's award-winning book, A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide, and its discussion of Saddam's regime and the poison gas used on the Kurds.
And then, we have the by-now standard narrative, entirely immunized from evidence, that Bush lied. Tony Blair himself testified that neither he and his administration nor the Bush administration cooked the evidence. To be sure, they interpreted that evidence, as raw data by itself does not tell you what to do. But if you are president of the United States and you turn to the head of the Central Intelligence Agency and ask whether Saddam really does possess WMD, and he says, "It's a slam dunk, Mr. President," as reported by journalist Bob Woodward, what are you to do? Ignore him? Especially in a post 9/11 context?
Mr. Glynn raises questions about a minor sidebar to the debate over Saddam Hussein's possession (or not) of weapons of mass destruction: namely, whether Iraq made efforts to purchase uranium yellow cake from Nigeria. First, this did not figure significantly in the decision-making leading up to the deployment of forces in Iraq. Second, as numerous scholars have demonstrated, Mr. Wilson is scarcely a reliable, disinterested witness. He has an ax to grind and his arguments are self-serving.
Finally, and most importantly, Mr. Glynn illustrates the unfortunate tendency of the moment to rush to booming charges like "lying" and "how can a professor of ethics" hold such a view. His answer: she herself is a liar. Rather than registering a disagreement, one attributes the worst possible motives to the person with whom one disagrees. This has a corrosive effect on our political discourse. One thing I have come to understand as a lifelong student of politics, is that Clauswitz's famous "fog of war" pertains to politics more generally, a realm in which decisions are made in the absence of perfect and transparent evidence. Politics is a realm of approximation and imperfection where, hopefully, things turn out right at least part of the time. Apparently, Mr. Glynn cannot abide ambiguity and uncertainty, so he must resort to charges of venal sins.
Steeped in semantics
I'm shocked, shocked that Magazine editors would see fit to apologize (Letters, Jan-Feb/10) for doing something that comes naturally (in the English language that is): using the ever-changing dynamics of slang to convey appropriate and valid meanings. You fine editors have nothing to apologize for.
The term "teabagger" has for centuries meant only a person who uses a tea bag to brew his or her favorite drink. At some point in the recent past it was given a sexual meaning that, unlike the original, applied only to males.
After a dark-skinned former U of C faculty member was elected president, the anti-Obama crowd had to come up with a hook to capture the public's and the media's attention in their campaign to delegitimize him. Voila, what could be better than harkening back to one of the most fabled stories of anticitizenry oppression in U.S. history, the Boston Tea Party, and turn the bogeyman from our dominating mother country to the Obama-run U.S. government. They kicked off their campaign on April 15, 2009, Tax Day, by asking supporters to send tea bags to the Oval Office, exhorting them to "tea bag the fools in DC" and "tea bag" the liberal Dems before they "tea bag" you. Sure sounds like a bunch of teabaggers to me.
If the new teabaggers were being labeled with an "accusation of sexual deviancy" as Brian Hinkle's letter asserts, it is an accusation that they unwittingly gave themselves.
Walt Zlotow, AB'67
Glen Ellyn, Illinois
Mearsheimer on Israel
On May 13 the Chicago Tribune published a devastatingly revealing correction to professor John Mearsheimer's May 9, 2010, op-ed featured in the May 18 e-newsletter "UChicago News for Alumni and Friends." The correction illustrates the sloppy and/or misleading style of Mearsheimer's work on the Middle East, a region on which he has no formal academic training. In this instance, the correction demonstrates that, rather than relying upon the original, primary source documentation (the Hebrew University-sponsored poll itself), Professor Mearsheimer clearly relied only upon a more popular, secondary source-the English language version of the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz.
Compounding the magnitude of the professor's error, the popular, secondary source he drew upon was not even a straight news story but an opinion piece by a political columnist. When I was a graduate student of his 20 years ago, Professor Mearsheimer himself would not have abided such an academic shortcut by his students. It is, therefore, with concern that I read he will be teaching Zionism and Palestine in the Spring 2011 quarter and that, "enrollment will be limited and by consent of instructor." Will his personal selection of students be based on the same-selective and shoddy-research methods he employs for his very public political arguments on Zionism and Palestine?
Jay Tcath, AM'90
John Mearsheimer responds: Jay Tcath's claim that the Chicago Tribune "published a devastatingly revealing correction" to my May 9, 2010 op-ed on Israel's bleak future is nonsense. To support my claim that a substantial number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank would resist government orders to evacuate the settlements, I quoted from a recent article in Haaretz by Akiva Eldar, the widely respected Israeli journalist. Eldar wrote: "Twenty-one percent of settlers believe that all means must be employed to resist the evacuation of most West Bank settlements, including the use of arms, according to a recent Hebrew University study." I did not have access to the actual poll question at the time I wrote my article, but it did not include the phrase, "including the use of arms." Eldar added that phrase himself, but his addition is of little significance and does not undermine my central claim. The poll question asked whether evacuation should be resisted "by all means," and that obviously includes arms.
Committed to China
I wanted to express my great excitement and anticipation for the opening of the University's center in Beijing. As an East Asian history major and student of Chinese language during my time at the University of Chicago, and as a research associate focusing on China in my current role at the Harvard Business School, I am overjoyed that future U of C students will get the opportunity to study, collaborate, and exchange ideas in such a vibrant city-and country-on a more formalized basis. My overseas study in Taiwan during the summer of my third year was researched solely by me, with no help from the University. The great strides the University is making in developing a deep international presence makes me proud of my alma mater.
At Harvard I collaborated with two faculty members, F. Warren McFarlan and William C. Kirby, to launch the only country-based course in the MBA curriculum: Doing Business in China in the Early 21st Century. I've traveled to China nine times over the past three years, and Harvard only just opened its center in Shanghai in March 2010. Thanks for making a serious commitment to China, and I hope to visit the University's center during my next travels to Beijing!
Tracy Yuen Manty, AB'91
Worth every penny
In late May, the New York Times featured a story on a young New York University grad who amassed an impressive six-figure debt by taking out student loans for her undergraduate education. All the debates about student lending and financing an education at a top-tier private university aside (and I respectfully won't delve into the rankings to mention where NYU compares-or doesn't compare-to the University of Chicago), I found the featured graduate's attitude surprising. Ms. Cortney Munna is quoted as saying, "I don't want to spend the rest of my life slaving away to pay for an education I got for four years and would happily give back. It feels wrong to me."
Like Ms. Munna, I am the product of a working-class home in a working-class neighborhood with limited possibilities for financing an education. Now, I admit I didn't graduate with nearly six figures of debt like Ms. Munna, but I personally borrowed heavily in the five-figure range while working full time in the West Loop for my last two years at the U of C. My degree in the humanities, like Ms. Munna's, did not lead to a career in medicine, law, or business, but the less-than-lucrative fields of composites (read, surfboard manufacturing) and eventually, public education.
Unlike Ms. Munna's regrets about her NYU education, I would not relinquish my University of Chicago education for anything in the world. In fact, I'd say that having the opportunity to be a part of the intellectual community at Chicago and in Hyde Park was worth every penny borrowed, every hour worked, and every loan payment since.
Dexter Hough-Snee, AB'07
Range wars rage on
I, too, have an MBA from our University. I disagree with my MBA colleagues John Maddux, Helen Hodges, and Benjamin Riensche, writing in Letters (Mar-Apr/10, May-June/10). I say the University of Chicago Magazine should be commended for the article "True Grit" (Jan-Feb/10), which I consider fair and balanced. Mr. Marvel, AB'72, the subject of the article, does not exaggerate as he tries to outlaw livestock grazing on public lands.
For years my wife and I, until recently, lived in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. We know something from our own experience of what damage is being done to the ecosystem of the public lands of the West from livestock grazing.
My hobby is fishing. However, trout fishing in streams on public lands in the West is a thing of the past. Why? The ecosystem trout need is destroyed by the grazing cattle that leave more than "a few footprints" on stream banks.
Our mountain home was host to all kinds of wildlife-feathered, hoofed, and pawed. We were extremely respectful to all kinds of wildlife and were most careful in the amount of water we used. We tried to walk lightly on Mother Earth.
Lawrence A. Lundgren, SB'45, MBA'56
Department of corrections
The May-June/10 Investigations story "Fungus? Fungus" omitted C. Kevin Boyce's position at the University. A paleobotanist, he is associate professor in the Department of Geophysical Sciences, the Committee on Evolutionary Biology, and the College. Also in Investigations, the Next Generation sidebar "Molecular Disturbance," we mangled the name of the W. M. Keck Foundation. In Lite of the Mind, a photograph of actress Greer Garson was misidentified as Celeste Holm, X'34 (see Editor's Notes). We regret the errors.
The University of Chicago Magazine welcomes letters about its contents or about the life of the University. Letters for publication must be signed and may be edited for space, clarity, and personal attacks. To provide a range of views and voices, we encourage letter writers to limit themselves to 300 words or fewer. Write: Editor, University of Chicago Magazine, 401 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 1000, Chicago, IL 60611. Or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.