O U R R E A D E R S W R I T E
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Debate between something and nothing
To quote Bertrand Russell
A tragedy for Hopkins
Deceived or disingenuous?
A whale of a mistake
We need to decide
A family connection
More on the Wickwire legacy
Thank you for "The
Number," by Dale Keiger [February], and thank you for
supporting the study that led to this controversy. I am
struck by how little money and time went into [Gilbert]
Burnham and [Leslie] Roberts' studies [on Iraq casualties].
If the critics are serious, they should conduct their own
studies. This is a debate between something and nothing.
I'm deeply troubled that my country has carefully avoided
any estimate of the true cost of the Iraq War.
What took you so long? I have been following this research
since the release of Burnham and Roberts' first study. When
the United States goes to war, we should all be acutely
aware of the consequences of putting an army in the field.
If you hesitate to publish, as you did, then we are all
worse off for the poverty of the debate over the war's
will be recorded as one of history's great tragedies. Words
by Bertrand Russell, written in World War II, have lost
none of their importance: "If ... war is to be prevented,
there must be a clearly expressed willingness to go to war
for certain ends but not for any others. These ends should
be resistance to aggression anywhere and against anyone,
and as soon as possible this purpose should receive its
appropriate organization in an international government.
Wars will cease when, and only when, it becomes evident
beyond reasonable doubt that in any war the aggressor will
be defeated." (Bertrand Russell, "The Future of Pacifism,"
The American Scholar, 1943.)
I am so disgusted with this institution. Making an anti-war statement on the cover? Using the institution for a political statement? What in the world are a bunch of epidemiologists doing spending time and resources on this? Did they study how many of the Iraqi people were slaughtered under their ruthless dictator? Did they study how many were gassed? Did they study how many were fed into wood chippers? Did they study how many were uncovered in mass graves? Did they study how many lives have been saved because of our heroes going into Iraq to free the country? How about studying how many people were slaughtered in Rwanda or Somalia? How about studying how many are being slaughtered now in Darfur?
I am sick and tired of this shameless liberal bent and the "I HATE AMERICA" crowd apparently thriving at our own JHU. I am sickened and disgusted.
The only way I know to have an impact on this hijacking of
our so-called institution of higher learning — or
more accurately, institution of liberal propaganda —
is to vote with our donations. Not one more dollar from my
family and extended family will go JHU.
This schizophrenic essay opens and closes suggesting that the Geneva Conventions obligate an occupying army to safeguard armed belligerent locals who attack the occupying army, from attacks by that occupying army or from attacks by other armed belligerent locals who, presumably, are also worthy of protection by the same occupying army. The body of the essay consists of equally bizarre disclaimers of motive, justifications of method, and contortions of language.
Clearly, high feelings are enemies of good science and good
In the 5,500-word article by Dale Keiger, at the very end, we find out: "The accuracy of our figures is not the most important aspect of this research." Unintentionally, I suspect, this tells the story of this article.
For example, "As Goldin of STATS points out, the number of clusters has nothing to do with whether a sample is representative; it affects only the size of the confidence interval." Yes, the interval could be between zero and infinity. The goal of "respectable" scientists is to have a meaningful, as-narrow-as-possible interval. However, please do not say at a respectable place like Hopkins there is no one who is not concerned that there could be too few "samples." Imagine one, for example.
From what I read elsewhere about this study, however, the more material criticism is whether the samples taken were "representative." All the interviews were on the main streets of Iraq, or nearby — and this is supposed to be representative? Do samples taken on I-95 represent rural West Virginia? Is there no one at Hopkins who has done any sampling?
This article is a sop to someone's political agenda and is
a tragedy for science and for the reputation of Hopkins. If
there was an editor, he or she was in over their head.
The article didn't mention it, but I wonder if the study
took into account the brutality of Saddam's regime when
calculating the number of excess Iraqi deaths since the war
began. Saddam treated his own people and the Kurds in his
country savagely. How many people would have been killed by
Saddam and his government had he not been deposed?
Dale Keiger has either been deceived or is as disingenuous as Gilbert Burnham and Leslie Roberts in his description of the study on Iraqi War dead. Burnham and Roberts clearly knew their report would be controversial, and that was part of their intent, as evidenced by their choice of publication dates just before the 2004 and 2006 elections. Keiger reveals his prejudice with the claim that the survey "produced epidemiological evidence that coalition forces have failed to protect Iraqi citizens" followed by the statement from Shannon Doocy that "these are people over there, dying."
What might be worthwhile would be to do epidemiological
studies in Syria, Iran, and Jordan for Middle Eastern
countries without a war. These would confirm how accurate
the prewar estimates of five deaths per 1,000 were. As the
article itself indicates, government statistics may not be
accurate. And opponents of the war should have no more
reason to believe the CIA World Factbook than they believe
anything else from the CIA, particularly when it still
shows a rate of 5.5 deaths per 1,000 for 2006.
Regarding "The Department of Second Chances," [February], over half of the 95,000 Americans on the national transplant waiting list will die before they get a transplant. Most of these deaths are needless. Americans bury or cremate about 20,000 transplantable organs every year. Over 6,000 of our neighbors suffer and die needlessly every year as a result.
There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ
shortage — give organs first to people who have
agreed to donate their own organs when they die.
Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more
people to register as organ donors. It will also make the
organ allocation system fairer. People who aren't willing
to share the gift of life should go to the back of the
waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.
Anyone who wants to donate their organs to others who have
agreed to donate theirs can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers
is a nonprofit network of organ donors who agree to offer
their organs first to other organ donors when they die.
Membership is free at
www.lifesharers.org or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88.
LifeSharers has 7,820 members, including over 700 minor
children enrolled by their parents.
Even though I'm clueless about ice hockey, as an alumnus of both Yale and Hopkins, I was glad to see Dale Keiger's item about the recent club hockey game between the two [Wholly Hopkins, "Yale Bests Hopkins in Historic Rematch," February] — that is, until I came across the description of Ingalls Rink as an "old wooden arena."
You're describing some other building than the Yale Whale!
It opened in 1958, so some might call it old, but it sure
isn't wooden. It's a beautiful swoopy concrete and aluminum
building designed by Eero Saarinen. (To be fair, though,
Saarinen's Nordic heritage is reflected in a number of
wooden accents.) For seven years, I lived in the next block
down from it and looked at it virtually every day. It has
the drawback in common with much modern architecture that
it doesn't relate to the buildings surrounding it. But
unlike much modern architecture, it wears well. It's not
cliched, and I never tired of seeing it.
It's nice to see that the Nature Conservancy has become
more amenable to conservation as wise use after for so long
having been a "top predator" itself through its land
acquisition and environmentalist activities in rural
America and the cancerous effect they have had on the
resource-based economies there ["The Wilderness
Campaign," February]. However, given the "let them
eat cake" elitism of its leaders and the nature-worshipping
zeal of its foot soldiers, it's questionable that the
Conservancy's ostensibly more accommodative shift to
wildlands and corridors schemes won't ultimately have the
same effect, and that it isn't partly just a ploy to earn
money from its vast lands and remedy a bad reputation for
its past practices and sleazy self-dealings among its
fat-cat donors and executives.
David Dudley has cast our net about future development wide enough to stimulate a critical dialogue for people everywhere ["The Wilderness Campaign"]. Whether our community is an urban area like Baltimore, Maryland, or a gateway-to-wilderness town like Jackson Hole, Wyoming, or a coastal village in the Americas, Asia, or Africa, we need to talk. We need to decide, community by community, the answer to three fundamental questions I heard in this article: How should the land be used? What do we care about? Where, if not here, do we use it the way it should be used?
Our kitchens, school reunions, church suppers, and town
meetings are all appropriate venues. If all voices are
heard, we cannot help but make the right choices.
The sad news of the death from a meningococcal infection of
art historian Nancy Forgione [Wholly Hopkins, "Meningitis
Claims the Life of a Beloved Faculty Member," February]
brought to mind the developer, in response to a severe 1905
epidemic in New York City, of a vaccine against
cerebrospinal meningitis. As a student and colleague of
William H. Welch's in the 1890s, Simon Flexner began a
family connection with Johns Hopkins Medicine that
reportedly endures to this day. His younger brother
Abraham, A.B. 1886, would lead vigorously the advance of
Hopkins-style medical education and play the central
external role in steering to the university Rockefeller
philanthropy, yielding, under Dr. Welch's direction, the
School of Hygiene and Public Health long before publishing
a biography of President Daniel C. Gilman in 1946. Six
years earlier, Simon and his son, James Thomas Flexner, had
contributed William Henry Welch and the Heroic Age of
American Medicine, reprinted for Medicine's 1993
centennial. As is well known, James' aunt Martha Carey
Thomas, daughter of 1870-97 trustee Dr. James Carey Thomas,
achieved ironic revenge for her gender-based classroom
exclusion from graduate work in Greek by joining three
friends in funding the opening of the medical school under
conditions including gender-neutral admission.
Thank you for your recent valued articles on Iraq, the
Tutorial Project, and Peabody Institute [ "The Number,"
Period," and "To
the Letter: Peabody Turns 150," all February]. Please
share with your readers that the Tutorial Project is one of
Chester Wickwire's many legacies, along with the Sunday
Experience (a Hopkins lecture series by varied experts on a
wide range of topics), successful peace efforts in Central
America, and recently, co-founding Faculty for
(www.FFIPP.org), to name
I was just enjoying your magazine, when I noticed that the
caption at the bottom of page 39 was incorrect. In the
article "To the
Letter: Peabody Turns 150," the picture caption reads
"White Sulphur Springs, 1869, George Peabody sits with the
most famous Confederate generals of the day." Probably most
importantly, there are no Confederate generals in that
picture. If there were, they would be former Confederate
generals as the Civil War was over. The picture shows the
Peabody Fund Commission, established in 1867. The
commission monitored the education fund established to help
the post-Civil War American South. Standing from left to
right: Admiral David Farragut, Hamilton Fish, Ulysses S.
Grant, William Aiken, Episcopal Bishop Charles Petit
McIlvaine, and Samuel Wetmore. Seated left to right:
Peabody, W. C. Rives, and Robert Winthrop.
Both Farragut and Grant served in the U.S. Army, and if
this picture was taken in 1869, Grant was serving as United
States president at the time. Perhaps the picture was taken
in 1867; Peabody died in 1869, and it seems funny that
Grant is still wearing his uniform as president.
Editor's note: Dr. Wright is correct, as were several other readers who pointed out this mistake. The magazine apologizes for the error.
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