Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Die Another Day Roundup

Terrible Bond flick, but it did contain perhaps the best one-liner in the series ("How's that for a punchline?").

* * *

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) wants folks to know we have an "urban" President.

The DADT report is out, and it looks good for team anti-discrimination.

Best quote from a soldier in that report? "We have a gay guy [in the unit]. He’s big, he’s mean, and he kills lots of bad guys. No one cared that he was gay."

The NAACP is hosting a summit on the growing resegregation of our schools.

TNC on the "secession ball" neo-confederates are planning on hosting.

What makes food safety the one thing that actually managed to secure GOP cooperation this term?

US condemns Palestinian pseudo-science which denies Jewish link to the Western Wall.

Federal court judge issues a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of an Oklahoma law which would forbid courts from considering international or shariah law.

From the WIkiLeak: Qatari emir says he "can't blame" Israel for mistrusting Arabs.

Speaking of the WikiLeaks, I haven't been following them that closely, but I read somewhere that the one party whose private communications contained no surprising revelations is Israel. They're communiques with America apparently relay much the same things as what they say in public. So much for shadowy Zionists.


joe said...

I don't care about Israel Lobby debates nearly as much as most people who talk about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict seem to, but people one one side of that argument would probably say it shows Israel's influence is so strong it doesn't need to be subtle, and that believing that proves they're not antisemitic because "shadowy Zionists" doesn't need to be part of their argument. People on the other side would say it just proves Israel doesn't actually want that much that the U.S. doesn't want to give anyway, so no need for secrecy.

Personally, to me everything about Wikileaks proves that there's generally nothing we see in the news that doesn't prove what we want it to prove. And the biggest miracle of all is how that can be true for people of all viewpoints simultaneously!

N. Friedman said...


You should be reading the wikileaks. While much of it is gossip, the stuff about Iran is truly fascinating. And, to joe, one thing that wikileaks shows rather clearly is that the Arab leaders have been pushing more on attacking Iran than Israel does - yet, as Jeffrey Goldberg asserts, in simple factual fashion, those who claim that Israel pushes the US around have been shown to be doubly wrong: (a) the Arabs have been pushing regarding war with Iran as hard or harder than Israel and (b) the US has, while listening politely, not acted on the demands of Arabs (including the Saudi King, repeatedly) to cut off the head of the snake (i.e. to make war against Iran).

Aside from that, David, it is important to make judgments based on the world that is and not merely the world that is not. For my part, I see Arab leaders looking for a way to address Israel as a country while, in public, they undermine that talk. That needs to be taken into account by me, who, while being aware that public and private discussions are different (and, evidently, really different in the Arab world), the degree of difference is startling.

The analytical/historical question, of course, is why the talk is so different in public vs. private. Is the US told, regarding the Arab Israeli dispute, what it wants to hear in order to get the US to do things for Arab states? Or, are the statements sincere in wanting to settle the dispute? Hard to know. If they do sincerely want to settle the dispute, then why work so hard at places like the UN to undermine Israel? In any event, the difference between public and private is striking.

joe said...

NF, save your time. I've read the Goldberg/Sullivan bum fight on my own. No need to keep telling me about it.

N. Friedman said...


I was pointing out that there was something of consequence involved here - namely, certain thinking errors (which is what the Sullivan, Walt, Mearsheimer theory was from the very beginning) have been shown to be wrong. Note that Sullivan now thinks he can maintain his stupid conspiracy theory on the ground that average Arabs in the Arab regions do not mind Iran having nuclear weapons 0 as if that meant that Arab states were not pining for the US to make war against Iran. So, faced with undeniable facts, the likes of Sullivan are incapable of saying one little phrase - we were wrong. Such shows you the caliber of his mind and the gutter from which it feeds.

N. Friedman said...

I see, joe, that Goldberg has noted the same point I just made to you. Well, Goldberg is not, in my view, a great analyst but at least he is honest and responds to facts. Can that be said of Sullivan, given his BS attempt to continue the judeocentric conspiracy theory he has been peddling?

joe said...

Heh, I love how you cite Goldberg making the same point as you as if that is some great authority in your favor. "Is honest and responds to facts." Hilarious.

Yeah right, he sure was honest and admitted "we were wrong" about the Iraq war all right.

joe said...

What the hell, as long people keep treating him like any sort of respectable intellectual instead of a man-child whining that he had a tough time at the airport and we should racial profile, let's examine the "honest" Mr. Goldberg. From today's blog, here is his latest "proof" that most Arabs (not that the Iranians themselves are actually Arab, but I guess he forgot that part) hate the idea of nuclear Iran.

Eighty percent of Arabs disbelieve Iran's assurances that it will not build nuclear weapons, according to a new region-wide poll commissioned by The Doha Debates.

All that proves is that they know they are being lied to. It doesn't mean they care.

Moreover, most Arabs in the Gulf see their region as a more likely target than Israel from an Iranian bomb.

Oh dear, how irrational of them to assume that Iran is more likely to bomb countries with a nuclear deterrent than those without. This still says nothing about whether the perceived risk is particularly high.

Face it, the guy's a hack. But because the Atlantic bills itself as so respectable and reasonable, well, people just love to hear his "wisdom" anyway.

N. Friedman said...


Did you note that I said that Goldberg is not a heavyweight as an analyst. However, he is honest. And, he is a brilliant reporter, one of the best in the business.

Most of your post misses the point. Sullivan is not just wrong, his viewpoint about Israel is delusional, divorced from reality. He sees a Judeocentric world, with the US following dictates from Jerusalem. The Wikileak documents show not only what was obvious beforehand to anyone with even a peanut for a brain - i.e., the a few million despised Jews do not control the US and/or the world - but that the combination of Jews and Arabs is not enough to convince the US that it should go to war against Iran, unless and until the US decides on its own. That is a point which is definitely shown by Wikileaks, whether or not Mr. Sullivan's ego allows for it.

Now, that a great many Arabs think a lot of silly things is not exactly news. And, Goldberg has merely reported what a poll shows. And, as I noted, his point is sufficiently apt that Sullivan's point is not just wrong, it is a logical impossibility.

As for Sullivan's turnaround on Iraq, that is not a showing of courage. It is a showing that he follows public opinion on the left side of the ledger. Now, the liberal public is, I think, right on this issue. But, that does not show anything important about Sullivan's honesty or integrity. And, if buying into conspiracy theories of magically powerful Jews is the basis of his honesty or integrity, it is not either.

joe said...

Two mutually exclusive arguments you make.

1. Sullivan really has it in for Israel, which has a lot of public support.
2. Sullivan just argues for whatever public opinion says.

As for Goldberg "merely" reporting, that's BS. He specifically was citing the poll to prove a point it does not prove. He's no kind of analyst at all when he does that, not even a "lightweight." And analysis is pretty damn important in reporting, otherwise we get treated to all kind of non-pertinent facts (or "facts" as the case may be). And it's kind of rich to pretend Sullivan is the only person being "Judeocentric" given Goldberg's defense of people reporting on the Israeli/Palestinian dispute with almost exclusively Israeli sources.

But this a post for talking about how terrible the Atlantic can be, so that's all I'll say.

David Schraub said...

From today's blog, here is his latest "proof" that most Arabs (not that the Iranians themselves are actually Arab, but I guess he forgot that part) hate the idea of nuclear Iran.

Iranians are indeed not Arab, but I fail to see how this apparently obviates the possibility of Arabs having opinions on Iran. This is yet another failure to read with, not even charity, but normal textual interpretation, in the pursuit of snark. It's one of the reasons why I really just don't find joe to be a particularly compelling or erudite polemicist.

As to your retort to his analysis of the poll outcome, that there exist alternate potential inferences from the data doesn't in of itself mean that Goldberg's are per se unreasonable. I think drawing an inference of "concern" by a group from findings that said group believes Iran is lying about its nuclear ambitions and that they are a likelier target of an attack by Iran than the country towards which Iran has expressed extreme belligerency is perfectly valid. This "critique" is the epitome of hack argumentation.

joe said...

Oh, give me a break. You have plenty of snark of your own. The same is true of much of your blogroll. What you really don't like is when it's not directed in the way you like to see it directed. That's perfectly understandable human nature, but I call it like I see it.

And I see you cherry-picked one point to defend Goldberg on rather than the long list of problems I noted with a bunch of folks in one of your recent threads. I guess it's easier than defending a man whose approach to war is "suck on this."

On the merits of the polling post, I am merely pointing out that this stuff doesn't "prove" nearly as much as blogs of all kinds always like to say they "prove" or "suggest." Of course, that's an indictment of the blogosphere that runs so deep David has to at least try to reject it. That he gets in this hilarious little knot over "textual interpretation" while ignoring the rampant abuse of statistics is undoubtedly a result of his po-mo subjectivity where all viewpoints become valid just because someone believes it. (Except the ones the speaker does not like, of course; never let it be said postmodernism is a coherent system of belief.)

David Schraub said...

I've never claimed to mind snark. I mind snark by folks not intelligent enough to pull it off well. There is a distinction. Here, there is simply nothing in noting that Arabs have opinions about Iran that implies Goldberg things Iranians are Arab. The snark draw its force from a completely unsustainable interpretation of the source material. It served, not as a funny way of communicating erudite analysis, but as a substitute for thinking beyond the level of a second grader. And that, I do mind.

I freely admit that I tend to tune out most of the ever-raging spin cycle that goes on between yourself and NF in my comment threads -- I've already expressed my disdain for the quality of your contributions and my heartfelt, as yet unanswered, prayers that y'all knock it off, so it shouldn't really come as a surprise that I really don't pay attention to them on a regular basis. If this means I missed some stinging rebuke to Jeffrey Goldberg in comment #24 of a month-old post that demanded my attention, whoopsies.

In terms of my thoughts on Mr. Goldberg, I don't consider it my obligation to cheerlead for everything Goldberg ever has written. Obviously the stuff in the run-up to the Iraq War was a professional embarrassment -- that he hasn't owned up to it, more so. But there's only so long folks can keep returning to that well in order to justify reporting in the intervening years that has, by and large, been quite good. And with respect to the Israeli/Arab conflict in particular, he has what to my ears is a solid and nuanced understanding informed by his relationships with important figures and perspectives on all sides.

joe said...

But David was right about one thing. The Arab/Persian distinction was indeed a bit of a cheap shot. The difference between me and the workaday blogger or columnist is twofold.

First, I an admit my error like I just did above. I can admit my mistakes without terribly offensive humor, unlike (just for random example) Mr. Goldberg. Here he is on the question of what he got wrong on Iraq:

Well, for one thing, I trusted the Germans. Those who know me will find this statement somewhat ironic, but there it is.

But he didn't even admit his mistake at all, so maybe his style is a secondary concern to all the people who died for his fucking "misguided love" (or whatever) for human rights. But whatever the case, admitting error is one of the benefits of not actually caring if I am taken as a "particularly compelling or erudite polemicist."

Which brings me to my second point, and just as important, I don't have a blog. I don't claim any sort of great wisdom worthy of making me a household name. I just point out the failings of people who do have that impulse. And I do that lest we just defer to their supposed wisdom. (e.g. bowing down to the intellect of the great Tom Friedman's foreign policy judgment.)

Obviously the stuff in the run-up to the Iraq War was a professional embarrassment -- that he hasn't owned up to it, more so. But there's only so long folks can keep returning to that well in order to justify reporting in the intervening years that has, by and large, been quite good.

You mean stuff about the Iraq War you bought hook, line, and sinker? The kind of stuff you thought was "quite good"? Well then excuse me all to hell if I don't just take your word on what is "quite good" and challenge that critically. Like what I just now pointed out about the flagrant abuse of statistics by "intellectual" bloggers... y'know, the part of my post you ignored because, one assumes, you didn't have a good response.

PS: As for fighting with NF, it's undoubtedly true I shouldn't even bother, but then again, that's a trap you fall into from time to time as well.

joe said...

But I'll keep on the criticisms of Goldblog until I find out just what David does consider a valid critique (that doesn't just align with what he wants to believe anyway):

Let's try this one... Even though there are no Germans to "somewhat ironically" mislead him on the will-they-or-won't-they Israel/Iran showdown, Mr. Goldberg's tone is incredibly credulous when it comes to his Israeli sources. He buys the whole nice little story about poor Bibi and his hawkish old dad, never mind that those sources may have an interest in creating the impression that Israel is likely to strike if the U.S. doesn't, so it is therefore preferable that the U.S. does does so. Regardless of how accurate that impression is.

Then for good measure he throws in some bizarre action movie fantasy about sending in commandos to find a bunch of proof of WMD which we already know are being pursued.

So yes, it is understandable that people roll their eyes and say that admitted Iraq war dupe Jeffrey Goldberg is being used as a dupe again. And bringing his characteristic juvenile military fantasy flourishes into it, as well.

David Schraub said...

I feel like there is something askance in presenting it as a positive that you "don't have a blog [and] don't claim any sort of great wisdom", instead simply taking potshots from the gallery. Perhaps a personal idiosyncrasy, but it's not something I find exactly trumpet-worthy.

But let's go back to your reading comprehension problems -- a severe flaw for a pure reactionary critic like yourself. Me: Obviously the stuff in the run-up to the Iraq War was a professional embarrassment ... [but his more recent] reporting in the intervening years ... has, by and large, been quite good

You: You mean stuff about the Iraq War you bought hook, line, and sinker? The kind of stuff you thought was "quite good"?

No, that's the kind of stuff I called "a professional embarrassment" in the very passage you just quoted. The stuff I think is "quite good", and virtually the only time I ever quote Goldberg, is his reporting on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. That's the topic area I use him as a source.

I honestly can say I didn't read Goldberg's reporting on the Iraq War, though I bought the "human rights" argument that others made hook, line, and sinker, to be sure. In my defense, I was 17 years old -- a generally better-accepted defense than "I don't have a blog and never represented that the opinions I spout off might be actual sources of wisdom" (I wouldn't worry).

joe said...

Okay, I can see how you might see not having skin in the game as a failure, but to me this is like cable news personalities pointing out Jon Stewart isn't a professional journalist and jokes around all the time. You blog guys are part of the media now. Recall that the blog explosion was widely billed as the phasing out of the "mainstream media" old guard.

But right or wrong, I don't think of myself in those same terms. I don't think I try to be a persuading polemicist so much as a viewer quipping or groaning as the situation warrants. I'll stop addressing NF cold turkey because you're right it is dumb (we've surpassed the point where it's like looking at a car wreck, now I feel dumber for reading his posts), but other than that, well, I'll stop posting without complaint if you explicitly ban me, but I'm not gonna grossly change myself to the nice guidelines of whatever erudite polemicism is. It's no offense meant, and just how I roll.

PS: I apologize for misunderstanding that your appreciation for Goldberg was more recent, but his old hawk stuff seemed to closely align with some former debate link positions, and he's also rather infamous for it. If you were pushing Glenn Greenwald I'd assume sympathy for what he's most famous for. But for someone decrying the jumping to conclusions in which bloggers everywhere indulge I shouldn't have assumed the time or reason you got into some linked blog.

joe said...

I also have a belated third thought on the Arab/Persian distinction, namely that it's nothing too scandalous to be highly dubious of the way such polls are employed in debate and even the reasons they are commissioned. Given how widespread the mistaken heuristic of Iranians=Arabs is, it may behoove a responsible journalist to mention that Iranians are not included in the poll. Generally I think a writer intent on shedding more light and avoiding misunderstanding makes that kind of thing clear.

Someone who just wants more people to reach the same conclusions as his and win a pundit slap fight, on the other hand...

joe said...

Not to blogflog a dead horse, but wouldn't you just know it... Mr. Goldberg could indeed have found more pertinent data on the issue of how much Arabs fear Iranian nuclear ambitions! If he'd bothered to ask Mr. Sullivan first...

So, in fact, the Arab population, unlike their corrupt, gutless, torturing autocrats, is increasingly in favor of a nuclearized Iran. 77 percent of those surveyed said that Iran had a right to its nuclear program, even though close to 57 percent (a three-year high) viewed it as a military program designed for nuclear bombs (only 39 percent believed that three years ago).

(Normally I'd try to post a link but blogger has been cranky about that for some reason, so I'll just say that the whole the whole thing is stamped "01 Dec 2010 10:30 am" at Sullivan's Atlantic blog.)

At least, I hope Goldberg simply neglected to do his homework in this instance. That's certainly better than the alternative possibility that he knew but decided to withhold data that was directly on-point just because it didn't support his take on said point. But somehow I can believe he only knew about the other poll, figured they were results he could play with, and called it a day rather than searching out additional information to gain more perspective.

Is this an example of sufficiently non-hackish argumentation yet?

Because if it would make it more hackish I could throw in that this is an example of Goldberg getting rightly corrected by a Trig Palin birther...

I will add that if I were in the habit of always reading the tea leaves to claim everything I could find was such clear proof of a political point, I would suggest the increased Arab support for Iran here has really shot up in the same time frame that tensions over the Iranian nuclear program were rising. But if I were more interested in accuracy of belief I would instead add that this is merely correlation and there could be other causes, and then I'd make a comment-bleg asking what other factors the recent increase in support could be attributable to. That's what we do when we want something approaching honest intellectual inquiry.

PG said...

I think Drum was excessively optimistic about how long GOP cooperation -- even to save us from e. coli tomatoes and Chinese leaden milk products -- would last.

As for why 15 Senate Republicans would cross over for this but not for the stimulus or financial reforms, my guess is that the basic necessity of food safety regulation remains entrenched as something on which Americans generally agree, even when yuppies are crying over the local organic cheese-maker. I don't know of any popular work or movement that has attempted to claim that the FDA is making our food less safe. (Conservative/ libertarian opposition to the FDA is usually centered on complaints that the drug approval process takes too long and is too rigorous; people die for lack of new meds that the FDA refused to approve, but no one's dying for lack of any particular foodstuff that the FDA nixed.)

In contrast, there is no similar consensus about how to respond to a financial crisis and recession. Amity Shlaes's revisionist account of the Depression, claiming that FDR's interventions greatly prolonged what otherwise would have been just another of the short, sharp recession in U.S. history, is quoted like gospel on the right, and has a more respectable intellectual pedigree than Glenn Beck's rantings. (For the record, my assessment of FDR is that the spending programs were good, but the wage and price controls and especially interference with normal antitrust law were bad.) There are a ton of people on the right who blame the financial crisis 100% on the government: on Fannie and Freddie being quasi-government entities, on the Community Reinvestment Act, on the distortions created by existing regulation on the financial sector. Those people find the idea of trying to fix or prevent similar problems through additional regulation to be an instance of insanity (doing the same thing over and over...).

Just wait until someone like Shlaes takes aim at The Jungle, and you won't see even 15 Republicans cross over for food safety.

PG said...
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PG said...
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N. Friedman said...

David and joe,

The problem with the way both of you think is that you confuse opinions with facts and with thinking. Our joe keeps reminding us that Goldberg had wrong opinions about the Iraq war. That is evidently supposed to mean that his views and facts should not be considered. Do you not understand, joe, that people with wrong opinions can still have important things to say?

Our David runs a truly excellent blog - really, I am not just BSing you - and has, many times, fascinating things to say. His blog also has a comment section yet he bemoans the fact that people comment and debate - this attitude, on a blog called The Debate Link. (And, I know you claim that it is merely dominating debate or the like that is in issue; yet this very page shows that is not your reason.) In fact, the self-evident reason he does not engage in debate is that, like joe, he does not enjoy contrary opinion - which is the typical opinion of those who are quick to label speech "racist," "bigoted" and the like. Again, there is no debate where everyone agrees and only the details deserves discussion.

Now, I post on the comments page here because I enjoy debate with people with whom I disagree. I think joe is a smart guy (and, it surely does not need to be said but David is clearly a brilliant guy) and it is interesting when they engages instead of, as joe did on this page, change the topic when he realized how far off the reservation Mr. Sullivan was willing to go when confronted with the fact that the supposed supremacy of the Israel lobby is a myth - one refuted definitively by Mr. Goldberg. So, joe turns to an unrelated, supposed peccadillo from something Goldberg posted, as if that resurrected Sullivan's idiotic argument.

joe said...

PG is probably right. Fox News has already been acting plenty crazy on food. Enough to fill a whole segment of last night's Daily Show. But they haven't been doing it with that much strength and consistency for two whole years. Give Republicans time, though, and they'll get there.

joe said...


Goldberg doesn't give a shit about "normal textual interpretation," either, it appears. I'm pretty sure normal textual interpretation ways that Germany did invade Czechoslovakia.

I guess he can live up to journalistic/punditry standards but not the insurmountable wall of internet blog commenter guy standards!

joe said...


These are the people Jeffrey Goldberg is rubbing shoulders with this weekend (in "defense of democracy"). Bill Kristol... Newt Gingrich... Gary Bauer?! We may be forgiven, I think, for believing Mr. Goldberg's foreign policy mistakes are not all in the past.

FDD's president is Clifford D. May. FDD's executive director is Mark Dubowitz. FDD’s Leadership Council is composed of prominent thinkers and leaders from the defense, intelligence, and policy communities including Paula Dobriansky, Steve Forbes, Bill Kristol, Louis J. Freeh, Joseph Lieberman, Newt Gingrich, Max Kampelman, Robert McFarlane, and James Woolsey.

The members of FDD's Board of Advisors are Gary Bauer, Rep. Eric Cantor, Gene Gately, General P.X. Kelley, Charles Krauthammer, Kathleen Troia "KT" McFarland, Richard Perle, Steven Pomerantz, Oliver "Buck" Revell, and Francis J. "Bing" West.[3]

joe said...

None of that, by the way, is to call Mr. Goldberg a neo-con. (He loves to pretend every criticism of his work boils down to that because it is true some of the duller-minded critics lean on the neo-con crutch an awful lot.) Indeed, I don't even know if I'd call FDD a neo-con group, because the label isn't important.

What is important is that, when we look at its membership, it is full of people with very scary hawkish views. Their idea of balance is apparently putting Senator "Joementum" on the board. To balance out Steve Forbes, Gary Bauer, Eric Cantor, and Newt Gingrich, I bet.

Now, when that kind of group signals its appreciation of Mr. Goldberg's work (again), and he goes to hang out with them at some swank "panel" on Iran, what does that tell us about whether he's once more vulnerable to being duped, no matter how how wonderful and progressive some of his personal opinions on culture war issues or settlements happen to sound?

So yes, when an unreconstructed Iraq hawk is begging Newt Gingrich & co. to mug him, I don't give much deference to his "solid and nuanced understanding informed by his relationships with important figures and perspectives on all sides."

joe said...

I came across this item today, and thought it was a fitting footnote, albeit a few weeks later. But what the hell...


Here, for the record is what Israel did say to the US State Department. That it would keep the Paletinian economy "on the brink of collapse"...

I wonder why it is that such an objective is not a cause for concern for the Debate Link. At most we are reassured "it's complicated." But if a few hippie activists resolve to not buy products from Israel (pretty far from collapsing anything, I gotta say), that becomes major cause for alarm.

Double standard much?