Adonis Diaries

Archive for February 22nd, 2016

Why I’m teaching prisoners to code

Feb 18, 2016

Chris Redlitz of The Last Mile

describes the thinking behind Code.7370 San Quentin, a program to rehabilitate prisoners by teaching them to code.

These men were committed to learning how they could create a better life after they served their time.

Six years ago, I entered San Quentin State Prison for the first time. I had never been in a prison before, especially one with as ominous a reputation as San Quentin.

When I arrived, I was escorted through a series of gates that eventually led to the main courtyard. On my left was the adjustment center that houses death-row inmates, some of the notorious criminals in California.

On my right was the Catholic Chapel, surrounded by a well-manicured garden. I was, as they say at San Quentin, at the gate between heaven and hell.

As the sun was setting, I was led down a paved road, past the guard towers into the lower yard where hundreds of men in blue were exercising, playing chess or just milling around.

Frankly, at that point, I was questioning my decision to come there.

I was taken to a small classroom where I was scheduled to speak to a group of men about business and entrepreneurship.

When I began my talk, I noticed that the men were fixated on every word. There weren’t any distractions. There are no cell phones in prison.

When I was finished speaking, hands went into the air.

My thirty-minute talk turned into a two-hour discussion. These men were prepared, motivated and committed to learning how they could create a better life after they served their time.

This was not the profile of social misfits that I had expected to encounter.

San-Quentin-computer-class-2_cc

Inmates at the San Quentin computer lab. Photo: Andrew Landini.

I was excited after I left the prison that night. Through my years of work at an early-stage venture fund, I’ve worked with aspiring entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley for a long time. Could I do the same with those in prison?

I was excited to tell my wife, Beverly, and develop a plan.

Her first reaction was, “I am not spending my time in prison.”

I asked her to have an open mind before making any judgment. I asked her to help me do some research into incarceration in America and to visit San Quentin to meet the men I’d met that day.

What we learned about issues facing the prison system today was shocking:

  1. From 1972 to 2010, the number of people in prison in the US had increased 700 percent.
  2. 25% of the world’s incarcerated population is in the US.
  3. In California, we spend more on prisons than on higher education.
  4. It costs around $47,000 to keep one prisoner in jail in California for one year.
  5. More than 67% of the state prisoners released in 2005 were arrested within the next three years.

You don’t have to be a professional investor to realize that this is a bad investment for taxpayers.

If we could reduce recidivism by just 5 percent, we could save billions of dollars over the next ten years. But without rehabilitation these problems will persist.

In 2010, partnering with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the California Prison Industry Authority (CalPIA), we created a six-month business and entrepreneurship program called The Last Mile to leverage many of the disciplines that we use within our investment practice.

We work with prisoners who’ve committed many crimes, some of them violent. (We don’t work with those on death row or with people incarcerated for crimes against children.)

None of our graduates have gone back to jail.

We asked the men to create a business around a personal passion, and we taught them how to build a business plan. In one of the early graduating classes, James Houston developed a non-profit business plan that would positively impact at-risk youth in his old neighborhood.

James created Teen Tech Hub, an afterschool program, teaching app development and basic coding instruction for kids 10 to 14 years old.

After serving 18 years in prison, James returned to Richmond, California, to pursue his dream. He was hired by the City of Richmond and he plans to launch Teen Tech Hub in the fall of 2016.

In 2014, we launched Code.7370 San Quentin, the first computer programming curriculum in a US prison. The results have been extraordinary.

Some of our graduates will be released this year and we are confident they will be hired as software engineers. With hard work and determination, these men have overcome serious obstacles and created a positive path for their future.

Inmates (left to right) Chris Schuhmacher, Aly Tamboura and Steve Lacerda at Code.7370 San Quentin. Photo: Andrew Landini

From left to right, inmates Chris Schuhmacher, Aly Tamboura and Steve Lacerda at Code.7370 San Quentin. Photo: Andrew Landini.

The Code.7370 curriculum will be introduced to five more prisons in California this year, including two women’s prisons. We hope to create a national program within the next five years.

Beverly and I have become Lifers. The Last Mile is a lifelong commitment for us, and we are blessed that so many incredible people have dedicated their time to make this program such a powerful experience.

We are proud of our returned citizen graduates, none of whom have gone back to jail. They pave the way for others to follow.

James Cavitt, one of the founding members of The Last Mile, performed a spoken-word piece that was shown during a performance by John Legend at TED2016.

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Husband plants thousands of flowers for two years to make his blind wife smile again

Mr and Mrs Kuroki at their flower garden in Shintomi, Miyazaki Prefecture
Mr and Mrs Kuroki at their flower garden in Shintomi, Miyazaki Prefecture  Credit: YouTube

It started out as a loving gesture from a husband to make his blind wife smile again – but became a major tourist attraction.

Japan may be famous for its cherry blossom at this time of year, but in Miyazaki Prefecture people flock to see a different floral spectacle – mainly because of the love story behind it.

After 30 years of marriage and hard work on their dairy farm in Shintomi, Mr and Mrs Kuroki had planned to enjoy their retirement by touring the country.

At the age of 52, however, Mrs Kuroki suddenly lost her sight over the course of a week due to complications from diabetes, according to RocketNews24.

Up to 7,000 people visit the Kurokis' garden on any given day
Up to 7,000 people visit the Kurokis’ garden on any given day Credit: YouTube

Devastated by the loss of vision and the prospect of being unable to make the dream trip, she became depressed and shut herself away in their home.

Believing a visitor or two might bring her out of her seclusion, Mr Kuroki decided to plant some pink shibazakura flowers, or moss phlox, in the garden, hoping people would come to look at them.

He also hoped his wife would take pleasure from their smell, even if she couldn’t see them.

For two years, he planted thousands of the flowers around their home.

Visitors look round the flower garden in Shintomi.
Visitors look round the flower garden in Shintomi. Credit: YouTube

A decade on, up to 7,000 people a day visit the flower garden in spring, flocking from surrounding towns and prefectures to see the incredible sea of pink.

As well as coming to see the carpet of flowers, many are keen to meet Mrs Kuroki, who is often seen walking around the garden with her husband – usually sporting a big smile.

The good news for Mrs Muroki is that spring has sprung earlier this year.

The Japansese pastime of hanami, or cherry blossom viewing, has already begun, with the Japanese Meteorological Agency announcing the beginning of sakura, the cherry blossom season, 15 days earlier than last year.

The unsexy truth about why the Arab Spring failed

By the time it became clear to the world that Egypt’s Arab Spring had gone terribly wrong, that the seemingly Hollywood-like drama of good-guy protesters triumphing over bad-guy dictator had turned out to be something much more disappointing, the other revolutions across the Middle East had soured as well.

Today, Egypt is under a new military dictatorship; Libya, Yemen, and Syria have all collapsed into civil wars.

In the years since everything went so wrong, it has become fashionable to blame the naiveté of the revolutionaries or the petty incompetence of transitional leaders.

We are still trying to make this a story about the personal accomplishments or failures of individual heroes or villains, but that narrative is just as silly as it was when we first tried to apply in 2011.

(Mind you that what failed the revolution in Egypt is that the USA insisted to have an election right away, before the revolutionaries got the time to organize as a voting force. The US wanted the Moslem Brotherhood to come to power at any cost. The democratic revolutions were Not meant to succeed.)

Updated by on January 27, 2016

The truth is that this was never a story primarily about individual heroes or villains. Rather, it was about something much bigger and more abstract: the catastrophic failure of institutions. (There were institutions in Egypt and their failure was tightly linked to US never caring to control where the money went)

It’s not a story that is particularly dramatic, and it’s not easy to profile for a magazine cover. But when you look at what has happened from the Arab Spring, from its 2011 beginning through today, you see institutional failure everywhere.

That story isn’t as emotionally compelling as the one we told ourselves in 2011. But it’s a crucially important one, if we want to understand how this went so wrong and the lessons for the world.

The story we tell ourselves about the Arab Spring

In the five years since the Arab Spring disappointed the world’s hopes, a story has developed for the revolutions and their failures.

On Egypt, for example, the story usually goes something like this:

First, the brave and idealistic but tragically naive revolutionaries focused only on bringing down the evil dictator Hosni Mubarak, but not on governing when he was gone. (Armchair essay, as usual)

They failed to plan or to politically organize, foolishly placing their faith in hope, change, and Facebook instead of doing the difficult work of real politics.

In that story, the liberals’ supposed failures left an opening for the Muslim Brotherhood to sweep in and establish a hard-line Islamist government.

The Brotherhood failed as well, pursuing shortsighted, petty agendas that alienated the public and elites alike. The military was able to exploit the liberals’ naiveté and the Muslim Brotherhood’s incompetence, taking power for itself and placing Egypt under a military dictatorship.

(The military has been in power since the 50’s and their budget is more than one third of the total budget and is the largest employer and investor)

This narrative looks very different from the story we first told ourselves in 2011 about the Arab Spring, in which brave, enlightened protesters were said to be standing up to the evil dictators. But what these two narratives share is that they ascribe everything to the personal failings or strengths of certain individual people: a wicked dictator in the original 2011 story; naive protesters, shortsighted and oppressive Islamists, and an evil general in the 2016 version.

(No one is a fool in this region and claiming that they targeted individual dictators is the same narrative all over again)

But both versions of the story are incomplete. Individual failures alone didn’t cause the disastrous consequences of the Arab Spring revolutions, just as the individual heroism of Arab Spring protesters wasn’t enough to ensure their success.

The truth is that while the revolutionaries were in fact very brave and the dictators were in fact very bad, the real story of the Arab Spring wasn’t one about individual people being heroic or wicked. Rather, it was a less cinematic — but far more important — story about the dangers of brittle dictatorships and weak state institutions.

Democratic transition, it turns out, isn’t about whom you can overthrow or whom you replace them with. It’s about whether or how you can change the vast network of institutions underneath that person. ( as if revolutions do Not know this principle)

If you don’t make those institutions work — and often, by the dictator’s deliberate design, you simply can’t — then your revolution is doomed. That’s the real lesson of the Arab Spring — and it’s important precisely because it’s not as exciting or emotionally satisfying as the good-versus-evil story we prefer to tell.

The story of Egypt’s Arab Spring we don’t see: institutional collapse

In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak began preparing for revolution long before it came.

In the three decades of his rule, he systematically ensured that no opposition party or civil society institution grew strong enough to challenge him. But in ensuring that no institutions were powerful or independent enough to threaten his rule, Mubarak also ensured that they were too weak to support a transition to democracy after he fell.

Mubarak stuffed the interior ministry with political loyalists rather than effective public servants, which allowed corruption and brutality to corrode public security.

He turned the judiciary into a pro-regime puppet, which gave him a tool to persecute political opponents but left judges dependent and the rule of law weak.

He undermined liberal opposition parties and tolerated the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood only enough to let him credibly claim to the world, “It’s me or the Islamists,” using frequent crackdowns and careful electoral rules to ensure that they never got real governing experience.

The one institution that gathered strength was the military. Its role in politics expanded under Mubarak far beyond what his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, had permitted, with Mubarak using patronage to buy the military’s loyalty as it grew more powerful.

But those measures couldn’t protect Mubarak forever. Even before the revolution, there were signs his regime was in trouble.

His apparent plans to pass power to his son Gamal provoked popular outrage, including a 2010 protest at which demonstrators burned photographs of Gamal.

Popular tolerance for the regime eroded further as inflation raised the cost of food, especially bread, placing real strain on poor Egyptians.

Unemployment grew so catastrophically high that the International Monetary Fund warned it was a “ticking time bomb.” Popular anger against police brutality grew.

When the protest movement finally exploded in January 2011, Mubarak’s regime proved brittle. The revolution quickly gathered public support. The Interior Ministry failed to restore order.

And then, perhaps most crucially, Mubarak lost the loyalty of Egypt’s powerful army. Instead of crushing the protests, the army withdrew its support from his regime and installed itself in his place, ostensibly temporarily.

But it turned out that the military, an institution itself, had become focused on preserving its own interests over those of the state, and, a mere year after the Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi became president, executed a military coup that deposed him and installed Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as president.

The Morsi government, in its year of rule between military regimes, did some things right and a great many things wrong. But at all times, regardless of its performance, it was beset and undermined by the weakness or total incapacity of institutions and civil society.

The judiciary turned openly against the Morsi government, security services withdrew from the streets, and even the state institutions that provided gas and electricity failed, according to the New York Times, “so fundamentally that gas lines and rolling blackouts fed widespread anger and frustration.”

Many of Morsi’s failures were self-inflicted, but even if he had been better at governing, the hollowness of Egypt’s state would still have at least severely weakened and possibly doomed him. And so when Morsi faltered, the country’s democratic transition collapsed. The military filled the void left by the rest of the state’s failures.

The problems that brought down Mubarak have never been fixed

The conditions that Mubarak deliberately engineered to elongate his rule — an excessively powerful military, a weak opposition without governing experience, corrupt security services, hollowed-out civil society, and no effective democratic institutions — have all remained after his fall, and have undermined successive governments as much as they eventually undermined his own.

When you see that, it becomes clear that the real problem was never the degree to which individual protesters did or did not understand grassroots political organizing. That democratic transition isn’t merely the absence of a dictator. Rather, it is the presence of democratic rule. (A sustainable democratic process that the western nations made sure never to materialize in the Middle-East)

And democratic rule requires something a lot more important, if less obviously visible, than having a good-guy democrat at the top of the government. It requires the institutions of democracy: political parties capable of winning elections, politicians capable of governing, a bureaucracy capable of implementing that governance, and civil society groups able to provide support and stability to those institutions.

Many of the liberal protesters had years of organizing experience, yet they couldn’t seem to develop a political party to carry their ideals beyond Tahrir Square into actual governance. Maybe this was due in part to infighting, an inability to reach the working classes, or other failures.

But it is also the case, perhaps most important of all, that Mubarak had systematically ensured, over the decades of his rule, that the conditions for developing a successful liberal political party simply did not exist.

The Muslim Brotherhood had fared a bit better — it had a genuine party machine, political candidates, and a base of public support — but as Morsi’s disastrous administration showed, those are only necessary conditions for forming a viable party, not sufficient ones for governing.

Mubarak had ensured, over the decades of his autocratic rule, that basic institutions were weak or missing in Egypt. Yet when his regime fell, we were all shocked — shocked! — to discover that Morsi couldn’t, in his 12 months in power, muster those institutions either.

The story of the Arab Spring is one of weak states imploding

A similar dynamic played out in most of the other Arab Spring countries — with even worse results.

In Libya, for instance, Muammar Qaddafi had gone to even greater lengths to weaken institutions such that none was strong enough to challenge him.

It was, according to the International Crisis Group, “a regime centred on himself and his family; that played neighbourhoods and groups against one another; failed to develop genuine national institutions; and deliberately kept the national army weak to prevent the emergence of would-be challengers.”

So when Qaddafi’s regime fell, there was little left of the Libyan state. The country collapsed into conflict and today is mired in a civil war involving two rival governments and countless militant organizations, including ISIS.

In Syria, the military is strong and has largely remained loyal to Bashar al-Assad. But Assad had engineered the military not primarily as an external security force to guard the borders, but rather as an instrument of sectarian rule, staffing it with Alawites who would remain loyal to the regime.

The result is that when Assad ordered the military to fire on unarmed protesters — orders that many militaries might have refused — some of the troops complied, while others defected to help begin an armed rebellion.

(Mind you that it is in 2012 that Bashar finally decided to let out the regular army begin the Reconquista at the expense of his total power and his Alawi clan. Syria has strong and competent institutions which allowed it to face a world offensive)

And so the Arab Spring protests in Syria have led to the worst of both worlds: the preservation of a brutal dictatorship that still holds substantial territory and attacks civilians, but also a power vacuum in territory that Assad lost, which has proved to be fertile ground for ISIS and other extremists.

It has  been a disaster for Syrian civilians.

Is Tunisia the exception that proves the rule?

There was one Arab Spring country whose institutions weren’t hollowed out prior to its revolution: Tunisia. It turns out that it was the only country to emerge from the Arab Spring with anything approaching a real democracy.

Although there have been moments of serious crisis, including the murder of two liberal politicians in 2013, Tunisia has thus far stayed the course of its political transition. Its first post-revolutionary government remained quite stable throughout its term, and although it eventually lost public support, that resulted in a defeat at the ballot box in 2014’s free and fair elections, rather than another revolution or coup.

Explaining the success of Tunisia’s revolution necessarily involves some unseemly Monday morning quarterbacking. But Tunisia did have one advantage over its neighbors that seem to have made a crucial difference: Its civil society institutions were far, far stronger.

That meant that when the country faced a political crisis following the 2013 assassinations, and when initial attempts to draft a new constitution broke down, there were other institutions within the country that were strong enough to prevent a descent into violence or state collapse.

Tunisia’s largest trade union, its business organization, its lawyers association, and a leading human rights organization formed, in 2013, a “national dialogue quartet” that successfully brokered talks between rival political factions. Their ability to steer the political system toward consensus defused political tensions, supported the successful drafting of a new constitution, and paved the way for 2014’s historic elections.

In 2015, the quartet was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of its work.

Tunisia’s story is, yes, one of brave protesters and noble-minded individual Tunisian leaders, but it’s also one of strong institutions and civil society that allowed those individuals to succeed.

That’s not a particularly emotionally compelling story. As a former lawyer, I know all too well that no one has ever written a revolutionary ballad romanticizing the heroism of a lawyers association’s participation in a series of meetings, and I suspect no one ever will.

But without lawyers and trade unions and NGOs willing to step in to do the dull work of civil society, it’s not clear that Tunisia would be the success story we consider it today.

Institutional weakness isn’t as exciting a topic as evil dictators or heroic protesters — but it’s far more important

The lesson to draw from this is not that it would have been “better” for Egypt to keep Mubarak, Libya to keep Qaddafi, or Syria to keep Assad. Rather, it’s that by the time these countries got to the moment of choosing to keep or depose these leaders, the game was already lost. The governments were already so brittle and institutions so weakened that any outcome would be bad.

The lesson here is that although rigid autocracies often like to advertise themselves as a regrettable but necessary way to ensure stability, they’re actually drivers of instability. They are only ever buying their regimes’ temporary stability today by mortgaging their future security.

The primary question we should be asking after the failures of the Arab Spring is not whether more should have been done after 2011 to bolster transitional governments, or whether we should have chosen to simply preserve the dictatorships. The question we should be asking is why and how we allowed those dictatorships, over the decades before the 2011 revolutions came, to hollow out their states so completely that the Arab Spring was all but assured to bring chaos regardless of the world’s response.

(The answer is that each time a democratic process was taking shape, the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia would foment a military coup)

It was Qaddafi’s brutal and ruthless regime that paved the way for Libya’s eventual collapse into civil war, and Mubarak’s shortcomings that left Egypt vulnerable to a coup by a mass-murdering general. And Bashar al-Assad is still proving every day that he was and remains the most terrible danger to the Syrian people, both in his own wholesale slaughter of innocent civilians and in his regime’s catastrophic failures that opened up space for ISIS’s own brutality and violence.

That’s not the exciting, emotionally compelling message that anyone craves. Brave young protesters aren’t going to take to the streets waving banners demanding judicial reform or civil society groups that can one day support a slow, incremental process of change. Hollywood isn’t going to make any summer blockbusters about political negotiations that succeed because respected pillars of the community convince stakeholders to adopt a consensus-based approach. And political candidates aren’t going to win applause with debate zingers about the importance of institutions to American foreign policy.

It’s far easier to call for a dictator’s downfall than to pressure for boring, unsexy policies that anticipate such a downfall years in the future and look for ways to ensure a smooth and uneventful transition.

But it’s a story worth paying attention to. The Arab Spring nations aren’t the only countries with brittle autocratic governments that could suddenly and catastrophically collapse. This is a problem we will face again.

Andrew Bossone shared this link

I’ve been saying this for awhile, that the previous regime ensured that no one could takes its place. Although I disagree with the final conclusions and inside Washington perspective.
“The conditions that Mubarak deliberately engineered to elongate his rule — an excessively powerful military, a weak opposition without governing experience, corrupt security services, hollowed-out civil society, and no effective democratic institutions — have all remained after his fall, and have undermined successive governments as much as they eventually undermined his own.”

After 5 years, we’re still telling the wrong story about the Arab Spring.
vox.com|By Amanda Taub

 

Prominent American professor proposes that Israel

“flatten Beirut” — a 1 million-person city it previously decimated

Amitai Etzioni, who teaches at renowned universities, says Israel may have no choice but to destroy Lebanon — again

A prominent American scholar who teaches international relations at George Washington University has publicly proposed that Israel “flatten Beirut” — a city with around 1 million people — in order to destroy the missiles of Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah.

Professor Amitai Etzioni — who has taught at a variety of prestigious U.S. universities, including Columbia, Harvard and Berkeley, and who served as a senior advisor in President Jimmy Carter’s administration — made this proposal in an op-ed in Haaretz, the leading English-language Israeli newspaper, known as “The New York Times of Israel.” Haaretz represents the liberal wing of Israel’s increasingly far-right politics.

Etzioni’s op-ed was first published on Feb. 15 with the headline “Can Israel Obliterate Hezbollah’s Growing Missile Threat Without Massive Civilian Casualties?” (the answer he suggests in response to this question is “likely no”).

Topics: ,

The rubble of Beirut’s southern suburbs in August 2006, after Israel’s war in Lebanon, which destroyed tens of thousands of homes(Credit: Reuters/Jamal Saidi). It also look as Gaza under the ruin.

“Should Israel Flatten Beirut to Destroy Hezbollah’s Missiles?” was the next, much more blunt title, chosen sometime on or before Feb. 16.

As of Feb. 18, the headline is “Should Israel Consider Using Devastating Weapons Against Hezbollah Missiles?”

Etzioni served in the Haganah — the terrorist army that formed Israel after violently expelling three-quarters of the indigenous Palestinian population — from 1946 to 1948, and then served in the Israeli military from 1948 to 1950. He mentions his military service in both the article and his bio.

(If a Palestinian or an “Arab” was discovered to have joined any military group, would he be teaching in the USA)

In the piece, Etzioni cites an anonymous Israeli official who estimates that Hezbollah has 100,000 missiles in Lebanon. In January, the U.S. government put that figure at 80,000 rockets. The anonymous official also says the Israeli government considers these weapons to be its second greatest security threat — after Iran.

Etzioni furthermore cites Israel’s chief of staff, who claims that most of Hezbollah’s missiles are in private homes. Whether this allegation is true is questionable. Israel frequently accuses militant groups of hiding weapons in civilian areas in order to justify its attacks.

On numerous occasions, it has been proven that there were no weapons in the civilian areas Israel bombed in Gaza.

Assuming it is true, the American scholar argues, if Israeli soldiers were to try to take the missiles out of these homes one at a time, it “would very likely result in many Israeli casualties.”

In order to avoid Israeli casualties, Etzioni writes: “I asked two American military officers what other options Israel has. They both pointed to Fuel-Air Explosives (FAE). These are bombs that disperse an aerosol cloud of fuel which is ignited by a detonator, producing massive explosions.

The resulting rapidly expanding wave flattens all buildings within a considerable range.”

“Such weapons obviously would be used only after the population was given a chance to evacuate the area. Still, as we saw in Gaza, there are going to be civilian casualties,” Etzioni adds. “The time to raise this issue is long before Israel may be forced to use FAEs.” (As people in Gaza were given 5 minutes to vacate an area and succumb to the shrapnel?)

Etzioni concludes his piece implying Israel has no other option but to bomb the city of Beirut. “In this way, one hopes, that there be a greater understanding, if not outright acceptance, of the use of these powerful weapons, given that nothing else will do,” he writes. (How about desist from the preemptive wars strategies and abide by UN resolutions?)

Lebanese journalists and activists have expressed outrage at the article.

Kareem Chehayeb, a Lebanese journalist and founder and editor of the website Beirut Syndrome, said in response to the piece “Should Israel kill me, my family, and over a million other people to destroy Hezbollah’s missiles? How about that for a headline?”

Chehayeb told Salon Etzioni’s argument is “absolutely absurd” and reeks of hypocrisy. “If some writer said the only way to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is just to bomb Israel,” he said, “people would go up in arms about it.”

He called it “ludicrous” that a prominent American professor “can just calmly say the solution is to flatten this entire city of 1 million people.”

“I’m just speechless. It sounds ISIS-like, just eradicating an entire community of people,” Chehayeb added.

Salon called Etzioni’s office at George Washington University’s Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies several times with a request for comment, but no one answered.

After this article was published, Etzioni emailed Salon a statement. “I agree with you that any suggestion to bomb or ‘flatten’ Beirut (or any other city) would be beyond horrible and outrageous,” he said. He said Haaretz had changed and then later corrected his headline.

“Ethics aside — Beirut is not where the missiles are housed,” Etzioni added. “The issue though stands how is a nation to respond if another nation or non-state actor rains thousands of missiles on its civilian population?”

Salon also reached out to the university. Jason Shevrin, a spokesperson, told Salon “the George Washington University is committed to academic freedom and encourages efforts to foster an environment welcoming to many different viewpoints. Dr. Etzioni is a faculty member who is expressing his personal views.” The spokesperson did not comment any further.

Etzioni is by no means an unknown scholar. He notes on his George Washington University faculty page that, in 2001, he was among the 100 most-cited American intellectuals. He has also served as the president of the American Sociological Association.

Israel has already flattened Beirut before

Writer Belén Fernández, an author and contributing editor at Jacobin magazine, published a piece in TeleSur responding to Etzioini’s op-ed, titled “No, Israel Should Not Flatten Beirut.” Fernández points out “that Israel has already flattened large sections of Lebanon, in Beirut and beyond.”

She recalls visiting a young man in a south Lebanon village near the Israeli border who “described the pain in 2006 of encountering detached heads and other body parts belonging to former neighbors, blasted apart by bombs or crushed in collapsed homes.”

Note: Hezbollah General Secretary, Hassan Nasr Allah, replied: All we need is launch a couple of missiles on the Ammonium plant in Haifa. The conflagration is a powerful as an atomic bomb.


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