The Evolving Nature of the News Beast

I agree with Paul Krugman when he writes, “We know what Ferguson is going to do…But what is Newsweek going to do?”

While the immediate controversy surrounded a less than esteemed Ivy League Professor (or Self-Hating Brit, Neoconservative Imperialist, Colonial Apologist—take your pick), the larger issue has always been what Tina Brown’s Newsweek phenomenon says about the current media environment.

What does it mean for Niall Ferguson’s deceitful takedown of Obama to be considered a success? What are the new rules governing political journalism, magazine publication, and the background Internet buzz that encompasses both?

When all is said and done, Ferguson’s essay is just a sideshow, a distraction from the main event. Yet the cover story signals something important and the controversy over it is infinitely illustrative of the problems with traditional ideas of “fact-checking” as well as the divide between traditional journalism and public discussion online.

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How the piece begins is instructive. “I was a good loser four years ago,” writes Ferguson. Though this claim is one of many that deserves scrutiny, its author has the right to be the ultimate arbiter of its veracity. Taking Ferguson at his word then, we have a person about to argue at length regarding the failures of one presidential candidate, and the potential successes of another, starting off with a nod to his own emotional wounds. Ferguson’s beef with Obama is competitive in nature. This is not his case for why you shouldn’t vote for Obama, it is an unabashed attempt to help his own political team.

Ferguson’s cover story is a kind of speech-act, a piece of rhetoric that is performative rather than demonstrative. Fanciful and witty, clever and full-throated, the article is, before all other things, a piece of entertainment. Its subsidiary goals however, persuasion through deceit, partisan rallying by indulging mass delusions, leave it worthy of the analytic savaging it has so far received.

From its unclear thesis to the fraudulent insinuations that are peppered throughout Ferguson’s article (each couched in parenthetic half-heartedness), “Obama’s Gotta Go” is deftly composed despite being intellectually fallow. With the skill of a practiced debater, Ferguson’s argument proceeds from one  point to the next, bobbing and weaving between the gaps in his own explanations to offer an ever evolving rational for why the Obama presidency is an irredeemably failed one.

The problems with the essay aren’t the apparent factual errors, which some have gone to great lengths to describe, but rather how it puts style and bravado above substance and explanation. Ferguson isn’t interested in discussing ideas; he’s interested in precisely the kind of “swashbuckling” and rhetorical aggression for which Tina Brown admittedly commissioned him.

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By now, most people should be aware of or have read the damning critiques of Ferguson’s cover story. I listed many of them here and my own lengthy and detailed analysis of it is here. After reading the “fact-checkers,” and then reading Ferguson’s defense, and then reading more from the “fact-checkers,” it becomes readily apparent that the simple and traditional notion of a “fact” just doesn’t make sense anymore.

What Ferguson’s critics fail to understand (and what he doesn’t seem to grasp either) is that there are at least two distinct kinds of facts we now need to discriminate between. Thanks to the information revolution and the culture wars, modern public discourse operates on “weak” and “strong” facts. Strong facts are where objective truth has retreated to, consisting of basic things like the correct attribution of proper names and past events. There is a street. That street either is or isn’t Madison Avenue. Nolan either did or didn’t direct seven movies before The Dark Knight Rises. When facts like these are disputed we agree to let Google settle them. In other words, the kinds of issues readily solved by the ultimatum, “Pics, or it didn’t happen.”

Weak facts, on the other hand, are what are listed here. They include, but certainly are not limited to, policy proposals, budget forecasts, and the results of group negotiations. Does ACA really have mechanisms for bending the health care cost curve? Will the budget deficit really increase by X dollars of Y years? Is it the President’s fault or Congress’ that the Simpson Bowles Plan was never adopted? Any answers to these questions are necessarily factually weak because believing them requires accepting complex systems of other weak facts.

Communities then form around various collections of weak facts. Whether it’s part of the echo chamber effect or the result of deeper tribal impulses, one epistemic community ends up lacking enough shared ground to meaningfully interact with and debate another. Ferguson’s initial piece, his critics’ responses, and his eventual rebuttal, are a good example of the divide this leads to. The Harvard professor has, at various points throughout his story, weak justification for the claims he makes. Weak because the justification is recognizable to others, like for instance Krugman or Fallows, but not compelling since it relies on weak facts that neither of those commentators subscribe to. This isn’t exactly anything new, especially to partisan politics.

What makes it worth revisiting though is how the new Newsweek model signals the a shift toward this mentality in popular journalism. Many of the same people deriding Tina Brown’s publication for sensational covers and lack of objectivity are the same people who have been calling out more prestigious publications like the New York Times and Washington Post for “false equivalence” for quite some time now. Ferguson’s article and the political reporting typical of either major metropolitan newspaper demonstrate two opposing ends of the epistemic nihilism that plagues national discourse.

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For the Times or Post, the growing number of things that have moved into the weak fact category have forced both publications, in the hope of remaining “objective,” to seek “both sides of the story,” even where this duality doesn’t exist. So you have a debt ceiling crisis that was the fault of both political parties, a debate over global warming and whether it’s man-made, and so on and so forth. This makes not only for deceptive journalism, with reporters compromising the truth in order to appear politically unbiased (he said/she said articles), but also for boring, unengaging fluff pieces.

Wire services like the AP and Reuters deliver strong facts (usually) and then newspapers and magazines filter them through each partisan community’s preferred system of weak facts (the deficit has exploded under Obama; Romney destroyed jobs while at Bain), in order to (1) argue that both sides are more or less equivalent, or (2) report on how either side’s recent talking points or actions will appeal to “regular” voters, or more often than not, the proverbially “independent” ones (who don’t really even exist, but which help publications pretend they have an objective audience listening to their objective analysis, and that both are free and above and “independent” from the body politic of which both are inescapably a part).

Newsweek and the cover stories they commission have decided to do the exact opposite though. If you can’t beat them, join them. And so Newsweek tries to appeal to both sides by offering each its own partisan handjob. Andrew Sullivan’s article lauding Obama as the first gay President, and Michael Tomasky’s attacking Romney, despite being different in tone and substance, are otherwise stylistically of a piece with Niall Ferguson’s. They are unconvincing to the uninitiated while inspiring to those already disposed to agree, but nevertheless entertaining for both. My mom has noted to me the sensationalist decline of Newsweek, feeling the magazine to be trashy and unenlightening. She also admits that she makes it a point to read the periodical more now than she ever did before.

I see this as the cable news effect. I don’t watch MSNBC or Fox News expecting to be educated or challenged (and I don’t watch CNN at all, except for Fareed Zakaria’s GPS…but alas…). I watch them because Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell will keep me up to date on what things I as a liberal should be enraged about, and Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly will give me people to be enraged at. It is at once exhilarating and entertaining, hair-pullingly frustrating and mind-numbingly hilarious. Both networks give me the cathartic verbal boxing matches that I crave in my weaker moments, each with their own favorite punching bags from the opposing team. And this is the exact kind of rhetorically juiced “swashbuckling” that Tina Brown & co. have sought to offer their readers in the pages of Newsweek.  Even I, someone who Niall Ferguson’s hack job presumably shouldn’t appeal to, have visited the Daily Beast more times over the previous week than the previous month. It works!

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What’s to be done about this? Traditional fact-checking doesn’t cut it in this environment. Look at Mathew O’Brien’s analysis of the Newsweek cover story, and then Ferguson’s response. I tend to agree with O’Brien’s points, but none of them directly contradicts what Ferguson wrote. The Professor’s facts are all (nearly) true. Despite that, his article is still deliberately misleading. The average reader will come away misinformed on a whole host of issues. And yet not because Ferguson made up facts, but because he manipulated and compiled them in such a way as to let his readers infer the conclusion, even when that conclusion, if not the facts that prompted it, will be completely false.

PolitiFact’s shortcomings are readily apparent. Truth, facts, and fairness are not all the same thing. I can use bad facts to say something that’s true, use good facts to say something that’s false, and no facts at all to make an argument that’s completely unfair. Hence James Poniewozik’s take on Harry Reid’s shameful gossiping about Romney’s tax records,

“So I get why PolitiFact needs to address this stuff too.  And why it may seem nitpicky for them to accuse Reid of lying–sorry, setting his pants on fire–when what they really mean is something harder to sum up in a catchphrase: that he’s willfully rumormongering, trying to spread an impression that is at worst completely bogus and at best he has given no evidence for.”

A better approach may be something more like the recent column started by the Las Vegas Sun titled “Line of Attack.” Per the Columbia Journalism Review’s Jay Jones,

“The system gives Sun writers room to exercise their judgment—as in a July 29th item by Karoun Demerjian that assigned a ‘legit’ rating to a pro-Obama ad that asks, ‘What is Mitt Romney hiding?’ even though, as Demerjian noted, the ad’s insinuation that Romney may have paid no federal income taxes in some years is likely not true (or, in the Sun’s terms, that suggestion ‘elicits eye rolls and guffaws’). And while not everyone will agree about what constitutes a fair attack, the brief posts generally include enough background information to allow readers to begin to draw their own conclusions.”

As Brendan Nyhan notes, “PolitiFact’s rating system doesn’t work well for irresponsible and unsubstantiated claims that can’t be definitively falsified.” No wonder similar attempts to fact-check Ferguson’s piece fall flat: the bulk of what he writes isn’t false, but rather unsupported by the best available evidence. Unlike attempts by PolitiFact and other journalistic outlets to renew their monopoly on the truth, what we actually need is something more like what the Sun is doing. Of course, anyone who reads mostly online or follows any part of the political blogosphere even somewhat closely knows that this kind of evaluation is what already occurs naturally on the Internet.

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The Daily Beast posted several links to critiques of Ferguson’s essay in the body of the article. If you read “Obama’s Gotta Go” online at some point last week, you were presented with ample opportunities to see other pundits taking Ferguson to task over what he’d written. Once there, any one of those posts would have more likely than not linked to several others offering other analysis (and it should be noted that last I looked, the Beast was linking to more liberal criticism than conservative praise). So even though The Daily Beast has aped the junk-food model of cable news, it’s done so in an online context that is horizontal enough to provide a better analysis for readers than a single fact-check piece ever could.

Unfortunately, the problem arises with precisely the Newsweek’s readers who are reading it in print and who aren’t presented with the rigorous feedback loops which make Internet commentary better vetted. Those who saw the Newsweek cover and read Ferguson’s cover story in the checkout line or at the doctor’s office will most likely only ever see what he presented them with (i.e. a load of horse $#!^).

This is, I think, why so many people, including myself, were shaking our fists at our computer monitors. It wasn’t so much the disingenuous trolling of Niall Ferguson, so much as the captive print audience he was reaching but which remained sealed off on the other side of the one-way Internet looking glass.

I’m left wondering then if maybe we shouldn’t make the move from compressed tree pulp to e-readers sooner rather than later. I’d feel much better knowing that someone reading Ferguson’s piece, whether conservative or liberal, were forced to confront, and attempt to make sense of, the disagreement across the comments and blog posts. The alternative is for them to be left alone, isolated from the discussion and forced to consume the Harvard professor’s smart sounding but unsubstantiated prose (or those of any number of Obama acolytes) without the support and engagement of their fellow commentariat.

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91 thoughts on “The Evolving Nature of the News Beast

  1. “Niall Ferguson” is a brand, and there’s no such thing as bad publicity for it. Asking Tina Brown’s Newsweek not to be a party to that ignores whose Newsweek it is these days.

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  2. I don’t know anyone who reads Newsweek. For that matter, I don’t know anyone who reads The Daily Beast. I’ve clicked on it a few times, but it’s not anything I follow. I think I’ve heard of Niall Ferguson before. This might be a case of “Objects On The Internet May Appear Larger Than They Are”.

    The single most important thing we can do to constrain the online version of the News Beast is to be watchdogs on our own sides. I’m not accusing the author here, but he said that Sullivan and Tomasky did similar articles from the left side – did the author critique those as well? I find it maddening to be constantly blowing the penalty whistle against my natural allies, and I’m sure a lot of online correspondants have me pegged incorrectly based on who’s feet I hold to the fire, but it’s it’s essential to do so. You can’t call someone a Demoslime or Republitard and then act surprised when they don’t recognize the merits of your counter-arguments.

    All that being said, I think this article is correct about the misuse of facts to construct an argument.

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    • Between Frum and Sullivan I find the Daily Beast is often worth popping over to. And I think it’s important to remember that the article fails in print in ways that the online version doesn’t, precisely because it can and does link to contrary pieces, some of which are even brutally critical.

      I read about Sullivan’s (and went off on the way he dismissed Obama’s record on civil liberties and whistle blowers), but never actually got around to reading Tomasky’s. Policing our own sides is definitely important, but at the same time, that just tends to reinforce the baggage that comes along with perceiving and interpreting something from one side or another. I think one of the paramout failings of Ferguson’s piece ist hat he situates it in a kind of ongoing partisan feud, “I was a good loser…”/”I want to badly to win now.”

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  3. As you pointed out earlier, Ferguson truncated the following full quote into the bolded part: “It is unclear whether such a reduction can be achieved through greater efficiencies in the delivery of health care or will instead reduce access to care or the quality of care (relative to the situation under prior law).”

    That’s not just a weak fact but a fabrication, and he made that truncation in a rebuttal to claims that he was being sloppy! So is there any reason to take his other assertions seriously?

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    • Yes. When we agree with the author, he errs. When we do not, he lies.

      We watch too much Law & Order, where the search for truth is really just a search for error. Find one hole, one exaggeration, one “lie,” and everything the witness says is 100% false. I remember chatting with the prosecutor who brought down Sam [The Plumber] DeCalvalcante. He said that in the adversarial [jury] process, it’s even the same for the prosecutor, to impeach anything on the defense side rather than make an affirmative case.

      Look at the OJ trial—if the glove does not fit, you must acquit? This of course was nonsense. They got an acquittal because the prosecution screwed up a minor—and unnecessary—detail. Let’s stipulate that Niall Ferguson squirreled that CBO quote. Does this mean Ferguson’s other points are wrong, or that Obama should be re-elected?

      Does it mean that OJ was innocent? But isn’t it time we “send a message” to these racists? Cue Johnny Cochran’s closing argument…

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      • Well Tom, since the various rebuttals and commentaries have defenestrated pretty much every single one of Ferguson’s points, based on Ferguson’s article alone, that’d be a pretty strong case that Obama should be re-elected.

        Fortunately for Obama’s opponents there’re plenty of genuine criticisms to issue against Obama. A pity Ferguson couldn’t deploy any (and botched the few he tried to).

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        • Could be, North. Attacking the president’s critics isn’t the same as defending his record, that’s for sure.

          As for the content of the Ferguson piece, I saw and see no percentage in defending it. The battle lines were already drawn, and it wasn’t about Obama, it was about Ferguson.

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    • In the strictest sense, he didn’t say anything false, he was just outright decietful. Of course, this is something that’s easily rectified online, and yet the online version of the cover story didn’t include hyperlinks or footnotes. And obvioulsy the print version couldn’t, so there’s still the problem of dealing with deception when the tools to ferret out the truth aren’t easily accessed.

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  4. TL;DR but I’m guessing the argument is about this rebuttal?

    To be honest these polemical pieces by partisan apologists leave me a bit jaded. I’m guessing there was something wrong with my browser when Ethan wrote an OP in outraged indignation when Romney was called a wimp on the same magazine’s cover.

    Oh wait, this is the left we’re talking about, the epitome of the wimp factor. Throw punches all day like and scream like a little baby when anything comes your way. I’ve never met a lefty who even understood the concept of living in glass houses. Back to reality, can’t stay and play here

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    • I find this situation absolutely comical. The left does non stop character assassinations of the right, but when Neesweek finally does an objective piece on the presidents scorecard, we basically get Pussy Riot part 2.

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        • North, since it is completely obvious that you HAVE NOT READ Ferguson’s own rebuttals you have given the debate to the “nit pickers” as Ferguson himself called them. Which part of Ferguson’s dismemberment of Obrien’s “fact check” do you disagree with? Why not just cut and paste right here and we can move the debate over? I’ll be happy to stand in for Ferguson, clearly he has the intelligence needed and he made it easy, he did a POINT BY POINT rebuttal! The only thing left for the Left to do is argue about the meaning of the word “IS”. Where have I heard that song before?

          The Left in this case has acted exactly as the left ALWAYS acts when their collective panties are in a bind. They have bitched, bellyached and attacked the messenger nonstop. How DARE a respectable outfit like Newsweek (respectable since when I cannot say) say something bad about ‘our’ candidate? The umbrage wasn’t there when the Romney attacks (even LESS substantiated than the Niall piece) made the cover but again this is PRECISELY how the left acts. I’d like anyone from the left to define “objective” for me because clearly it means something different in their lexicon than it does in the King’s English.

          Niall is a big boy with broad shoulders. He has more than enough intellectual heft to defend his own statements and has done so. This then is the fundamental problem for the Left. They want someone who they can shut up, someone who can’t fight back. They won’t have that with Niall unless they manage to get him fired from Newsweek (possible) and Harvard (unlikely).

          I’ve now read every word of Ethan’s piece (& every link) and while he had the chance to make some good points about the value of the Internet to vet arguments by the allowance of point and counterpoint debates, what lost it for him (and me) was his blatant one-sidedness. His mind is made up, he wants our minds made up and to hell with us if we don’t align with his interests. He isn’t even open-minded enough to read the rebuttal he linked to in his own article on its own merits, he just indicated that it exists and I know damn good and well he didn’t read it, didn’t analyze it and didn’t want to. If he had he would have been compelled to change his position. He’ll vote for Obama when the time comes, guaranteed. He won’t vote GOP no matter what, no matter who and no matter when. But he’ll claim to be objective (in alternate universe Lefty definition). I just voted two weeks ago in my state’s primaries.

          I voted almost equally between Dem and GOP candidates (the Dems got a few more votes). There’s not a Democrat on this site who would have done the same, unless it was gamesmanship to (as happened in Nevada and elsewhere) hurt the better candidate. I’m as independent as it is possible to be in this political atmosphere, in general I’m more concerned with the party platform of the Democrats but prefer them managing certain things than Republicans and vice versa.

          “Vote” counting on the Internet doesn’t count for me. As PJ O’Rourke put it,

          “How come, whenever something upsets the Left, you see immediate marches and parades and rallies with signs already printed and rhyming slogans already composed, whereas whenever something upsets the right, you see two members of the Young Americans for Freedom waving a six-inch American flag?

          “We have jobs” said Andy.

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          • You may need to re-check the record Ward, I’ve never asserted that Ferguson has lied on anything. He’s spun (and extremely unconvincingly I’d add) but has not generally done any outright lying (though he’s come close with some cherry picked quotes from the CBO).

            You’re definitely in a bit of a frenzy which I am sure is good for you. It’s nice to get the blood pumping every once in a while. With that in mind I hesitate to dissuade you but I’ve read the original article and yes I’ve read his rebuttal (in short, he refutes accusations that his assertions were fraudulent) and found it just as unpersuasive as the original piece. I suspect but am not certain Ethan has likewise read it. That none of us have been persuaded to change our minds on this is unsurprising. Ferguson’s piece wasn’t aimed for us; it was directed at shoring up those who’ve already thrown in for Romney and spinning those who haven’t been paying attention and just tuned in.

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          • “I’ve now read every word of Ethan’s piece (& every link) and while he had the chance to make some good points about the value of the Internet to vet arguments by the allowance of point and counterpoint debates, what lost it for him (and me) was his blatant one-sidedness. His mind is made up, he wants our minds made up and to hell with us if we don’t align with his interests. He isn’t even open-minded enough to read the rebuttal he linked to in his own article on its own merits, he just indicated that it exists and I know damn good and well he didn’t read it, didn’t analyze it and didn’t want to. If he had he would have been compelled to change his position. He’ll vote for Obama when the time comes, guaranteed. He won’t vote GOP no matter what, no matter who and no matter when. But he’ll claim to be objective (in alternate universe Lefty definition). I just voted two weeks ago in my state’s primaries.”

            So you have done here just what Ferguson did: assert, assert, assert.

            Where did I say that no one can reasonably disagree with me? What evidence is there that I didn’t read his rebuttal, which I have, (and the rebuttals to his rebuttals)? What is it that Ferguson said that would change my mind? And what exactly is my mind made up about? Do you even know what my position is?

            If so, kindly restate so we can make sure we’re on the same page.

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        • As I stated to Ethan, the piece aims at objective results such as ” jobs, growth rate, Social security disability rolls, deficit, spending, government dependency rate, projected spending on health care, and this is just on the first page.” I think Ferguson has done a more than adequate job of defending himself. He has managed to reveal that the bigger issue isn’t just the presidents terrible record, but the lefts thin skin and double standards. The more the left sniffles over the issue, the weaker and more removed from reality they look.

          Compare this to the pieces Ethan wrote a week or two ago on Ryan. It was virtually all character. The contrast is startling.

          Like Wardsmith, I am not a fan of the right or the left. But I do find the lefts ignorance of their media bias a riot.

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          • So you… have now read the original article then? Or you haven’t?

            As has been noted ad nauseum the original piece aims at carefully chosen factlets that were plucked out of context and carefully (skillfully I’d add) spun. I’m also surprised that you’re so sanguine about Ferguson’s neocon China baiting (I’m assuming that you’ve read the original) which is very unexpected from a professed libertarian.

            I’m aware some of the lefties have flipped out. Such is typical. The only reason we don’t see it on the right is that ever since Obama Hope-and-Changed his way into office they’ve been in such a state of high dudgeon that flipped out is their new baseline. I’m interested that you’re so intent on focusing on the lefties reaction to the Ferguson piece but still, to my knowledge, haven’t talked about the substance of the piece except to praise it in most vague supportive terms without offering any specific defense of it.

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              • North and Stillwater,

                I will be out of the loop ALL day today. The facts on unemployment, GDP growth, etc, are out there for all to see. If you want to provide alternative facts please feel free to do so. If you can show me that with your facts unemployment rates are hunky dory and growth rates are just swell and the deficit isn’t a worry, I will admit Fergoson was wrong.

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                • Given that Ferguson has essentially predicted monetary apocalypse over the last 3 years, and every single time his predictions of doomsday inflation/lending cliff scenarios have not only not happened, but have in fact been the exact opposite of what has actually occurred in terms of long-term US borrowing power vis-a-vis the rest of the world, just what do you need to concede that Ferguson is wrong?

                  He’s wrong that it’s Administration policies that are driving unemployment. The public sector (particularly state and local governments) are where the net job losses are. The private sector, has, again, not to go ad nauseum on you, added a substantial number of jobs since Jan. 2009.

                  Moreover, the facts on GDP growth are in fact out there, and the facts are that the US has fared comparatively well in a global economy that truly and utterly sucks. By OECD standards, the US is well above average in GDP growth, in a situation where even the BRICs are suffering to keep pace on their GDP growth figures. China’s growth remains sluggish by their standards, while India’s industrial output growth has basically hit a wall and Brazil when factoring in their monetary market should really be considered flat, if not in the beginning of a downturn.

                  Simply put.

                  Hogwash.

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                • Roger, this is remarkably evasive for you. Have you read Ferguson’s piece? You still have not answered that very pertinent question.

                  Your argument remains vague and general. It almost reads (and I apologize if I’m reading you uncharitably) as if you approve of Ferguson’s conclusion so you are content to gloss over the path he takes to get there. This is very surprising since he says some very unlibertarian things in the course of reaching his conclusion.

                  You’re soliciting facts and mention unemployment.
                  Okay, how about the fact that private employment has grown significantly under Obama but overall unemployment has also increased due to a massive and historic decrease in public employment (a reverse, note, of the record of his predecessor who oversaw net losses in private employment and a surge in public employees?
                  You assert that the deficit is a problem.
                  Well, under current law the deficit will be significantly reduced assuming that current laws continue un-amended. It’ll be a dreadful blow to the economy when all the Bush tax cuts expire and there’s across the board spending cuts but whatever jitters the bond markets have had in the past seem to be gone. You also seem to ignore that the only time the bond markets got worried about the US debt in earnest was when it looked like the GOP was going to induce an artificial politically created crisis during the debt limit showdown. Current yields on US debt are extremely low, negative interest low in fact. You constantly preach the wisdom of the market; why is the market wrong about the deficit and you are right?

                  You’ve been long in the preaching about how liberals have been unspecific and feeling based in their criticisms of Ferguson but you seem to be actively dodging the specifics yourself and all of your arguments have been generalist and unfocused. This strikes me as contradictory; you’re denouncing the left for arguing based on feelings but as far as I can see your own conclusions and defense of Ferguson are based on the same reasoning you decry in others.

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          • Results of what? The problem is that Ferguson doesn’t link any results to actual Obama policies, as in, as a result of policy X, Y happened.

            Could you actually quote a piece of the post and take issue with it, rather than just make claims without using examples?

            If you find something I said especially unconvincing or egregious, by all means point it out and I’ll be happy to try and do it more justice.

            What about my analysis did you find unfair (bonus points of directly citing)?

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            • Ethan,

              A fundamental thing you are missing is the basic concept of accountability. When you put a coach in charge of putting together a winning season, and he comes in with a losing record, the coach failed. It is not up to the owner to prove step by step that this action taken and that action not taken by the coach was responsible for the record.

              Yes, sometimes there are exceptional situations completely out of the coaches control. The League goes on strike, for example.

              Ferguson showed what we all see as obvious. Obama has a losing record. I have repeatedly asked others their opinion on his scorecard, and nobody has had the cojones to argue that he really has a good record. Not even you.

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              • In a situation where half of your team is actively out to sabotage you, your minor league general managers are out killing your best prospects, and the rest of the league is playing not .500 baseball, but .250 baseball compared to your barely .500 rate, then I’d say that is, in fact a comparatively good record.

                It’s not a great one. But given the global complexities involved in an economy worth 16 trillion dollars, and the fact that he faces a Congress who is more interested in inserting probes into women’s vaginas before they get an abortion, state governments that have that obsession plus a need to cut every single service they can think of up to and including emergency management services, and a global economic environment where there’s persistent economic stagnation in a major trade partner and a systemic risk of major fiscal disarray….well.

                Anyone suggests to me that a party that includes examining a forced return to the gold standard on its policy platform would do better is smoking some good shit and not sharing it with the rest of us.

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                • North, Ethan, Still and Nob,

                  Sorry I was out of the loop all day.

                  My initial claims to Ethan were that I found it rich that he attacks Ferguson for his attack piece on Obama based upon results, when his recent attack piece on Ryan was all about personality. Quoting myself…”Ferguson may or may not have missed in his critique, but at least the discussion is aiming at outcomes rather than character.”

                  North takes me to task for not responding to Ethan’s request for specific criticism of the facts in this post. I have none. Never have. I was arguing for results focused rather than personality focused discussions.

                  From this, I have been repeatedly asked to engage on a specific number or fact that Ferguson provides. Again this misses my point. I will allow Ferguson to debate which of his numbers are correct or incorrect as well as the interpretation of these facts. My point as my initial quote reveals is that it is GREAT that the fight is about results and their interpretation. Even Ethan writes that Ferguson’s facts were pretty much correct, it was the spin which he disagrees with and finds deceptive.

                  I have also suggested that the left’s response to an actual mainstream media attack is pathetic. I called it “Pussy Riot part 2”. My experience is that countless pieces of similar quality and spin were aimed at the right over the last decade. I really do find it amusing how thin skinned and selective the outrage is from the left. It is almost as if they think their crap never stunk.

                  Along the way, I provided my own score on Obama’s results. I suggested his report card is terrible, and I cited reasons. Ethan has responded that fair criticism requires that I put together a cause and effect model of Obama’s actions and the results. I totally disagree with this, as it misunderstands the nature of accountability and responsibility of someone placed in charge of a complex system. A leader is responsible for establishing goals and finding ways to achieve them by creating strategies, tactics and programs that will accomplish the results in the face of unpredictable adversities. Part of this is deciding what to do, what not to do, and ensuring that the course selected is not just desirable, but practical considering the environment and politics of the situation.

                  North and Nob provide various attempts to justify or rationalize Obama’s scorecard. Unemployment isn’t bad in all areas, just some, and where it is bad it isn’t Obama’s fault. Congress has opposed his intiatives. Other countries are either worse, or better, yet struggling. See above comments on leadership. These are of course legitimate areas for disagreement. Good discussion. Even where I disagree I learned something from your arguments.

                  Nob also has some odd comment on dope smoking gold standards. I have no idea who this is aimed at. I neither smoke nor pitch a gold standard.

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                  • So then you don’t have any answers on the specifics; unemployment, economic growth etc… so you’ve now retreated to general complaints about leadership. That’s certainly your right but I find it rather uninteresting as is your characterization of the reaction to Ferguson piece as unusual when as far as I can see it’s been pretty standard. The excitable portions of the left have freaked out, the more pragmatic ones have blown huge holes through Ferguson’s inital assertions (holes that from my admittadly biased position Ferguson has failed to address) and the right has claimed that something unusual has happened.

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                    • The Buck Stops Here. And frankly, win or lose, Barack Obama is already a lame duck.

                      Punking Congress worked for Truman’s Whistle Stop Tour in 1948 but he was less popular than Dubya by 1952 and didn’t even run for re-election.

                      Since he’s not winning the House back and may even lose the Senate, we can only hope he gets some Bill Clinton triangulation sense into him.

                      http://www.thecuttingedgenews.com/index.php?article=74044

                      If he wins atall…

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                    • We’ll see after the election. But unless the GOP wins the clean sweep their extreme policies require: House, Presidency and Senate super-majority, they’re still going to have to bargain with the Dems. I think it likely that if Obama loses his party will dump Obamas Hope’nChange nonsense in the trash and adopt the GOP’s full bore opposition model instead.

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                    • If you want to start a dialogue on growth or unemployment I would be glad to join in. I have zero desire to defend or attack Ferguson’s positions and statements though. I fail to see where it would lead to anything worthwhile.

                      I think the reaction from the left was to quibble over details in the desire to raise a dust storm. If I was to judge the fight, O’brien lost the intellectual battle but still accomplished just what he wanted.

                      As to retreating I am not sure what I am retreating from. We are not arguing over the unemployment or growth rate. We are arguing whether in our opinions it is acceptable performance or not. I am very, very dissatisfied with Obama’s performance. I think he focused on the wrong things and his solutions to that which he did focus on actually made things worse (health insurance). If you’d like my cocktail napkin summary of what a president should have done I will be glad to pencil some quick thoughts up for you. I assure you it will look like the antithesis of what O actually did.

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                    • All these conversations started with you defending Ferguson, albeit by the unusual angle of saying in essence that you don’t know what he wrote or if it was accurate, fair or not but that you agreed with his conclusion and that was sufficient. I gather you still haven’t read a word the man wrote then?

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                    • Mr. North, I posit Romney’s record of working with Dems is far superior to Obama’s with the GOP.

                      It’s the president’s job to work with Congress. Reagan did it, Clinton did it. Barack Obama has failed.

                      I used to wonder how the now-popular Harry Truman could have been so unpopular that he didn’t even run for re-election in 1952. Now I understand. You can only give the country so much hell before you make it one.

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  5. I for one will be glad when the Cult of Presidents is totally deconstructed in the Information Age by the internet and New Media. The interventionist system we’ve allowed gives dangerous powers/power to both Republican and Democratic Presidents to lead the way and set foreign relations and domestic economic policy. Instead of stories such as Ferguson’s which excoriates Obama, free-thinking, reasonable journalists, and thinkers of all stripes, should look to the systemic changes necessary to limit power and slowly diminish the State. For the next month at my site I will be putting my thoughts regarding anti-statism in a clearer perspective. We’ve reached a tipping point in America, and instead of keeping political score between parties, we must begin the transformation of the private sector, thus ending the primacy of politics. I’ve just read books by Sheri Berman and Michael Harrington to sharpen my perspective on the modern history of statism. As I knew, and Harrington reinforced, the young Marx was on the right track, just as Lenin was for a short while. Don’t get me wrong, I disagree with Harrington on the fundamentals, but we have to move past the State-created, simplistic divisions that keep us at each other’s throats, and we must find our common love of liberty, not watered down compromises which keep the State in power. It’s more complicated than we imagine to start with. Yes, now is the time, and Obama is irrelevant.

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  6. I have this theory. Flavoured News. It’s rather like flavoured coffee.

    We take an excellent coffee bean, dry it, tenderly roast and grind it — which should be sufficient treatment for a passable cup of coffee. That’s yer Basic News Fact. The good stuff isn’t cheap. It never ends up as flavoured coffee. And like coffee, I prefer my Basic News Fact as fresh as possible.

    Then there’s flavoured coffee. Cheap coffee, with a dodgy ingredients list more properly appertaining to air freshener or the syrups used to in Frat Girl Vodka Drinks. Apricot cream! Blackberry cobbler! That’s yer standard issue Major League Gasbag Blogger.

    We know it’s substandard crap they’re peddling. The facts we already know, most of us. What we want from a MLGB is Flavoured Coffee. A great many Americans drink crap coffee and about the same fraction of Americans watch Fox News or CNN, completely oblivious to the world of online blogging. Not so with us. We wait for our preferred MLGBs to hork up great HREF boluses of cud and noisily chew it.

    The King of France used to invite hoi-polloi to watch him eat Easter Dinner. They weren’t served anything but it seems to have been a great privilege to watch the monarch and his retinue stuff forkfuls of exquisitely prepared dainties into their faces.

    Drink yer Flavoured Coffee. Enjoy the rancid taste of cheap beans, poorly roasted, with a dollop of whatever syrup Ta-Nehisi Coates or Niall Ferguson or that ninny Andrew Sullivan has poured in the urn. Things have now gotten so bad they’ve taken to chewing each other’s cud. The whole disgusting troop of them squirm and fornicate greasily in a pile like so many orgiasts at a low rent sex party.

    The good coffee’s out there, folks. Think for yourself.

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        • When TNC starts writing stinging critiques regarding political dishonesty against Obama or some other team-politician who is supposed to uphold something that resembles the truth, then I will say he’s more than a patsy. Obama in 2006: “The fact that we are here today to debate raising America ‘s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government cannot pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. Increasing America ‘s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that, “the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.”

          When this generation’s intellectuals overlook this type of disingenuousness and outright dishonesty in political leaders for political purposes regarding what helps the correct political team, then this generation’s intellectuals are deeply flawed. We’ve overlooked the deeply flawed nature of politicians for decades due to group warfare. We need to get back to what’s good for the nation and our relationships with the peoples of other nations, before we go the way of Rome.

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          • And what’s more, seen from the Liberal perspective, Obama didn’t shut down Gitmo as he promised. Take the labels of Obama and I see a good old Centrist Republican of Yore. That’s too kind a description: Nelson Rockefeller and George Romney were friends of the working man and open government and Barack Obama is no such thing.

            There are plenty of reasons to dislike Barack Obama. I suppose there are plenty of racists out there who truly hate the idea of a black man in the Oval Office, no getting past that fact. But plenty more people, both Liberal and Conservative, now know who this skinny jamoke is on the basis of what he’s done and not done — and do not like him.

            Yet perennial as dandelions in spring, here comes TNC to wring his hands and complain about Fear of a Black President. What a dumbass.

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        • There’s no fogey like a Young Fogey. I’m sick of TNC channelling the pretence and faux Afro-centrism of his forebears. The best thing which could possibly happen to that young man would be six months, maybe a year in Lagos, Nigeria or perhaps Kano. Such a stint would serve as a violent, purgative enema, ridding him of his constipated cryptoracism.

          TNC is such a mess. He’s completely defined by his colour. It’s personally annoying. I hate whiners but I reserve a special place of distinction on the target range of my rhetorical excess for folks who insist there’s something very special about melanin-based thinking. But then, when I bring this subject up, I’m told that’s just the way the world is. No it’s goddamn well not that way. TNC is a sloppy thinker. He never had to sleep in that Bed of Procrustes called Segregation. But there he sits, maundering on about the Black Experience. Fuck the Black Experience. It’s a load of mendacious, self-exculpating hooey.

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            • Your word is my command:

              The irony of Barack Obama is this: he has become the most successful black politician in American history by avoiding the radioactive racial issues of yesteryear, by being “clean” (as Joe Biden once labeled him)—and yet his indelible blackness irradiates everything he touches. This irony is rooted in the greater ironies of the country he leads. For most of American history, our political system was premised on two conflicting facts—one, an oft-stated love of democracy; the other, an undemocratic white supremacy inscribed at every level of government. In warring against that paradox, African Americans have historically been restricted to the realm of protest and agitation. But when President Barack Obama pledged to “get to the bottom of exactly what happened,” he was not protesting or agitating. He was not appealing to federal power—he was employing it. The power was black—and, in certain quarters, was received as such.

              Unadulterated bullshit. From top to bottom.

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                  • Would an article about Latinos make sense if I replaced every instance with Asians?

                    I’m not sure what you’re getting at. You said the passage was rubbish. I’m wondering what your reasoning is for disagreeing with the first part that I singled out.

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                    • Any such substitution is nonsense. There is no Black Experience. There is no White Experience. There is no Asian Experience. All such thinking is just so much acceptance and sublimation of the old racist definitions.

                      Wonder not, Ethan, that I find any race-based reasoning racist. It’s a tautology.

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                    • I take it that you don’t believe that there’s something that it’s like to be young either, or old, or color blind, or a woman, or a conservative, or a liberal, or Jewish, or gay, etcetera, etcetera?

                      The social and cultural situations are all readily sustainable from each to each, despite the obvious ways in which each is thought of and perceived differently historically and even currently?

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                    • Pretty much, yeah. I can accept stupidity from the young, brittleness and intransigence from the old. Women, ecch, some distinct issues arise, mostly related to childbirth and such, but those are largely immaterial to reasoning and social interactions.

                      Legend tells us the prophet Tiresias was turned into a woman for striking a pair of mating snakes. He seems to have adapted to his womanhood: he became a temple courtesan and gave birth to a daughter named Manto. Eventually he was turned back into a man after many years. Tiresias turns up in lots of the Greek myths, famously in Oedipus and in the Odyssey.

                      Zeus and Hera quarrelled over who had more pleasure in sex. They summoned Tiresias who said “Of the ten parts, men have only one.” Hera did not like this answer and blinded him. Zeus could not undo Hera’s curse but gave him the gift of prophecy.

                      So I do make some allowance for a woman’s viewpoint being worth hearing: men might learn something they wouldn’t otherwise.

                      Gay? The gay community has more strategic sense than all the rest of these whiny Minority Types put together. They’ve made great headway in showing this benighted country they’re no different than anyone else. They haven’t asked for any special considerations. All they want are the rights afforded everyone else. They’re all over the map, politically.

                      Everyone’s unique. Isn’t the world full enough of misery and wonder, too, that we should continue to bleat and whinny about disgusting old racist stereotypes, encumbering ourselves with these appalling self-definitions?

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                    • Blaise-

                      Is there a monolithic, universal “Black Experience” that all African-Americans can lay claim to? No.

                      Are the experiences of most African-Americans informed in part by their race in common or similar enough ways that we can form some generalizations? Yes.

                      Barack Obama, Trayvon Martin, Michael Jordan, Collin Powell, Michael Jackson, 50-Cent, Willie Horton… did they have the exact same experience going through life? No. But ya know what? All of them… each and every one of them, was called a “Nigger” at some point in there life. That, combined with a myriad of other things (both positive and negative) that are universal or near-universal to folks who share enough phenotypes with them, is the “Black Experience”.

                      And, yes, you can make the exact same claim about white folks or East Asians or South Asians or Latinos or etc…

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                    • None of us emerge from our childhoods unscathed. We’ve all been called Nasty Names. I was called bature as a child. Bature is a conflation out-group composed of Europeans and Arabs alike: Africans don’t sort out people as we do over here.

                      I would go on to speak and read good Arabic. The Arabs would smile when I told them how Africans grouped Europeans and Arabs, of course, they do make the distinction. But strict Muslims think racism is a sin: all people are equal before Allah. Malcolm X came back from the hajj convinced of this truth.

                      My belief in the equality of all people arises from the Bible, from the Book of Colossians: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. Paul makes the same point in Galatians: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

                      If there’s to be any honesty in this debate, it will start with the axiom of personal identity and uniqueness. Race is not a component of anyone’s identity. If you were called a Nigger, I was called a bature. It only made me smile when it was said. I was raised to be a better man and thus I raised my children. Common sense and good manners oblige us to abandon old stereotypes of every sort, racial, sexual preference, gender, all of them are nonsense. But that process can only begin when we quit believing they ever applied to us.

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                    • Well then, Ethan, if it’s Not That Easy, then let’s all sit around and have a big old Pity Party and bemoan the evil and stupidity of the world, as if there was nothing more that could be done about it.

                      Well I call bullshit on all such feckless weeping and moaning and especially on those who indulge in it for Fun and Profit, as does Mr. Ta-Nehisi Coates.

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                    • Let’s just sit down and deconstruct this bit of truculent crapola.

                      “he has become the most successful black politician in American history by avoiding the radioactive racial issues of yesteryear, by being “clean””

                      Obama has become something, to wit, a black politician. This begs an important question, because he’s as white as he is black, so this Becoming Business represents the triumph of white persons, too.

                      These radioactive racial issues of which Mr. Coates speaks: what might those be?

                      There were two strains of black equality which emerged in America: that of WEB DuBois and Marcus Garvey, who preached a doctrine whereby American Black people should band together, as had all other immigrant groups in this country, forming social and more importantly financial solidarity with each other. Black culture should send forth a Talented Tenth, an educated elite who would serve the cause of equality. But WEB DuBois did not militate for integration. DuBois considered black Americans fundamentally African. Malcolm X also emerged from this tradition, though he would later reject it, and for this rejection some black racists decided he must die.

                      The other strain, which emerged from Frederick Douglass, George Washington Carver and later by Dr. King, favoured a doctrine of assimilation and colour neutrality, as in his famous I Have a Dream speech. Dr. King viewed black Americans as Americans.

                      For the record, my grandfather and grandmother favoured the cause of George Washington Carver and named the seminary they started for him. My grandfather knew Dr. King Sr. very well and Dr. King, Jr. as a boy and young man.

                      The radioactive elements are clearly those of what remains of the aggrieved black separatist elements, to which Mr. Coates still subscribes. In fairness, the integrationist vision of Dr. King has failed. American black people still consider themselves a people apart, a deeply stupid and fundamentally racist notion.

                      Though I’m sure you know already, but since you’re being so obtuse about this I really must be forgiven for the condescending tone I must now take when I observe the “clean” remark arises from Joe Biden, who remarked Barack Obama “is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy”. Obama didn’t mind the compliment. Biden’s not so very clean himself, a bit of doo-doo on his own heels, bit of plagiarism long ago, I’m told. Biden knows clean when he sees it. Clean means unencumbered by the grime which comes of long years of working in the barnyard of politics.

                      So where the hell does Mr. Coates summon up the umbrage to whine about Cleanliness and Radioactive Politics? From the depths of his own distressingly filthy — and here I must use the ackshul fackshul word to describe this, steel yerselves … racist — mind, that’s where.

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                    • Here’s your Pity Party

                      You must understand the chilling effect this had to have on black people. To actually concede to all the racist propaganda out there, and then to be rewarded by hooligans burning down your community must have been psychologically devastating. People wondering why the GOP can’t get a foothold in the black community, need to not just think about Goldwater and Nixon. They should think about Du Bois telling black men to go fight in The Great War, and then having those veterans come home to the Red Summer of 1919. They should think about the pogroms that greeted Booker T’s compromise. There’s a lot of hurt out there. A lot of ancient hurt. A lot of it, even in these times, quite deep.

                      And that’s where it ends. A lot of ancient hurt, carefully nurtured like an orchid cutting in a test tube.

                      (briskly) So where’s the hope, Mr. Coates? Any cause or reason for believing we might heal up as a nation? WEB DuBois was always haunted by the idea of himself as two people, both a black man and an American. He called it a double-consciousness.

                      Maybe, Mr. Coates, (not that you’ll ever actually read this), if you wanted to do something positive, you could tell us how we might go about answering DuBois’ statement about the colour line, which he believed was the greatest problem which ever faced the 20th century. Because I do have an answer: quit accepting that colour line. Reject it entirely. Where it appears, push back. Quit cuddling up to all this [insert your race here] Consciousness. Evolve past it. Become human. Be unified. Quit this double-consciousness thinking. It’s destructive and it’s baseless.

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                    • I don’t pretend to have any idea who you are, Blaise, except who you are on this blog. And here, on this blog, you’re a well-spoken blowhard with an overinflated sense of self-importance, and a knowledge base infinitely smaller than you perceive it to be. On top of that, I know damn well that on this issue, you’re pretty much as clueless as it’s possible to be. Clueless to the point of offensiveness, in fact.

                      Also, next time you’re down in Austin, let me know. We’ll go out and grab a beer at this great little place I know, and while we’re there, you can read out loud your comment about how you got called “white” while you were in Africa and that licenses you to use certain words. Just give me a 2 minute head start.

                      Based strictly on things you’ve said on this blog in the last few days, I had someone ask me today why I would keep crawling in the mud with the pigs. That is, why I would even bother spending any time on this blog if people like you (as you’ve been in the last few days on the issue of race) hang out here. My answer was that not everyone here comes off like a racist asshole, and that you only do so, not because you’re racist, but because you’re so arrogant that you can’t see outside of your own narrow little window on the world. It must get tiresome, carrying that big ass head of yours around everywhere. If only it had ears on it, or eyes with vision strong enough to see past the end of your nose.

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                    • The surest sign of losing an argument online, Chris, and you must take this from someone who’s been online since long before the Internet, is the loser always resorts to a personal attack. That means you lost this argument.

                      Clueless? I’ve got a few clues, yes I do. As for my knowledge base, life has taught me a few things. If I do not know everything, I know better than to adhere to the old racist stereotypes. As for offensive, well, gosh. I am offensive and really, your huffing and puffing is more cause for laughter than any introspectin’ I ought to be doing.

                      Feel free to read my comment out loud anywhere you’d like. I’ve shouted as much to green recruits in the US Army. There’s no black or white in this platoon, I told them. Everyone is green. And I am an equal opportunity asshole: I hate all of you equally. I didn’t need a two minute head start then and I won’t need one now.

                      As for being a pig, I’ll hold with my current set of convictions: that those who persist in using the labels of race are racist. I am hardly alone in believing this to be true. I have good company in Dr. King, whose opinions are not shared by pigs.

                      Go run ‘long now, unless you want more from whence arose this response.

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                    • Folks please go re read the comments policy. We’re getting close to the edge of it here. Some would say we’ve gone over. Everyone needs to take a deep breath and not get quite so worked up. Race is a tough subject.

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                    • The surest sign of losing an argument online, Chris, and you must take this from someone who’s been online since long before the Internet, is the loser always resorts to a personal attack. That means you lost this argument.

                      Which was preceded by:

                      I’m not black. I’m human. Tell you what I’m tired of, that’s you, Chris, acting as if you have any insight into who I am, tiresome little git that you are.

                      Well done, my friend, well done.

                      I’ll say only this, because by losing my temper I’d forgotten that having a conversation with you is impossible. I don’t think you’re a racist in the classic sense, because I don’t think you are prejudiced, in the classic sense, against black people. I do, however, think you infected with racism, a very modern racism, a racism of pure, stubborn blindness. You’ve decided that you know the way the world is, and you are simply incapable of hearing differently. As a result, you’ve rejected a whole range of experience, a whole range of experience that happens to coincide with being black in America, and in rejecting it, you have decided that having that experience, and talking about it, makes a person inferior. You’ve said so repeatedly here in reference to Coates, but Coates is hardly unique, he’s just an exceptional writer so he’s talked about and caught your attention. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t tell you this in the hope that it will spark a small flame of introspection in your head. I’ve been on this blog long enough to know that’s not going to happen with you, because it never does. Once you’ve entrenched yourself, the only thing to do is watch you lob your grenades wildly towards the rear. I say all of this because you provide the most explicit example of something that several other people here believe, by which I mean the disturbing notion that we live in some sort of post-racial America where the true racism is feeling that you are the object of racism, and the true reason black people appear oppressed is because they, as a group, can’t let go of the past (even if they’re just using it as an excuse). Your sparkling example of this should not go unacknnowledged.

                      Feel free, again, to sling whatever empty words you need to at me now. I’m stepping out of the mud, and I’m going to let you wallow in it alone from this point forward.

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                    • What Chris said.

                      , with respect to:

                      “Obama has become something, to wit, a black politician. This begs an important question, because he’s as white as he is black, so this Becoming Business represents the triumph of white persons, too.”

                      There have been white Presidents, not black ones, so I’m not sure what exactly you’re saying.

                      “These radioactive racial issues of which Mr. Coates speaks: what might those be?”

                      He lists them, in detail, soooo I’ll just say go read it again if you didn’t see them.

                      “The radioactive elements are clearly those of what remains of the aggrieved black separatist elements, to which Mr. Coates still subscribes. In fairness, the integrationist vision of Dr. King has failed. American black people still consider themselves a people apart, a deeply stupid and fundamentally racist notion.”

                      What is racist, or stupid about it?

                      “So where the hell does Mr. Coates summon up the umbrage to whine about Cleanliness and Radioactive Politics? From the depths of his own distressingly filthy — and here I must use the ackshul fackshul word to describe this, steel yerselves … racist — mind, that’s where.”

                      He cites a number of research projects that have identified race as a key factor in 2008 and the Congressional/Presidential politics since.

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                    • You just say what you’d like. What you aren’t at liberty to say, well, you are at liberty to say it and I’ll go on rejecting it, is that I’m telling you lot what it’s really like to be black.

                      Nor, and this is an exceedingly irritating point to make, am I saying Whining is the Real Racism. Racism takes many forms but the most pernicious form is accepting the old racist definitions and tropes. This is TNC’s signature failure, that he not only accepts them, he continues to promulgate them.

                      Racist in the classic sense? I couldn’t be a racist. I refuse to see the distinctions between races. To observe these distinctions is as surely stupid as accepting a Flat Earth or Creationism. It’s irrelevant if one race is better than another, that’s racial supremacy. Racism is a subtler thing: it is the axiomatic belief in race as a discriminant.

                      All this foetid Newspeak which would tell us Racism is confined to the Klan or the Black Panthers. Racism is looking at anyone and sorting him out into a race.

                      I have lived in a world you never knew. I haven’t rejected anyone’s experience. I HAVE rejected their reactions to those experiences. No man gets to live on the triumphs or failures of his fathers and grandfathers. I’m intensely proud of my ancestors because they did reach out across the race line. I reached out across the race line. My children reached out across the race line — and all of them did so because they rejected the race line on moral principle, at great cost to themselves.

                      Clearly you think what’s true of Austin Texas must be true everywhere, with that hilarious bit about a two-minute head start. And I suppose you’re living in what you think is the real world. Well you bloody well aren’t. Ask any competent philosopher: we’re living in a world and we manage this stunt by forming up frameworks and axioms and coping strategies. Clearly race is one of those axioms in your case. Race is not an axiom in my Weltanschauung. It would be as absurd as sorting out people into Blonde and Brunette: where does it stop?

                      Coates dollops out his insights from his stew pot, with his own ladle. I don’t find him a particularly insightful writer though others might. To each his own, I suppose. TNC has no monopoly on pogrom-mongering: I can take you to the spot on my grandfather’s lawn where a Klan cross was burned. When TNC starts in with the bathos about Lots of Ancient Hurt, he might remember that a – dare I say it? White? missionary and his wife set up what would become in time an accredited college in an abandoned pool hall in East Point Georgia. His children, that would be my mother, would be called Nigger Lovers, a true enough description, for they did love Negroes. My family had in the 1940s what TNC lacks to this day, hope for a brighter tomorrow.

                      And yes, I will feel free to sling words. They are not empty words, though. And yes, I will wallow on, but I will not wallow alone. I have excellent company in Dr. King and Gandhi-ji and Jesus Christ and Talmage and Grace Payne and my parents and every sane human being who has reached the conclusion that race doesn’t matter. The rest of you aren’t wallowing. You’re passively accepting what WEB DuBois called the greatest problem of the 20th century and by God, while people go on believing this shit, you’re still in the camp of George Wallace: “Segregation forever.” DuBois was only partially right: it’s a problem for the 21st and likely the 31st centuries, only henceforward, nobody’s enforcing it but your own stupid selves.

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                    • Blaise, obviously I was not clear about the bar thing. There is only one word in your little rant about being called “white” in sub-Saharan Africa (who’d have thunk?!) that would get you in trouble. It would get you in trouble because you said it, and it would get you in trouble because of the context in which you said it. And trust me, it would get you in trouble in more places than Austin. And for good reason, too. You have no business throwing that word at people as you did, even if you did it to make a point. Whatever history you think being called white has in Africa, it doesn’t have that word’s history, and it doesn’t have that word’s present. I’m going to ask you not to use it in my presence. I’m asking, not telling, mind you, but I am asking.

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                    • You were clear enough, Chris, especially ’bout that two-minute head start thing. I was not called “white”, I was called bature, which isn’t just European, it’s Arab, too. Who’da thunk? Well, you might apply some of your fine advice about Introspection to your own flabby thinking — and read what I actually wrote.

                      I’m a big boy now, gotten old, too. I wouldn’t get in trouble in that bar or any other bar. I can strike up a conversation with anyone, in at least a half-dozen languages, yes, even with black people, where my views on race seldom put in an appearance.

                      True story. Uncle Remus bar on Lake Street in Chicago. I used to put away a few Old Styles there after work, waiting for the rush hour to die down. This Romanian guy from work asked me where I went after work, I took him up to Uncle Remus.

                      Uncle Remus was Very Black. On Friday nights they bring in a DJ who’d spin dusties. You haven’t lived until you’ve watched your girlfriend dancing with an obese bus driver to the music of the Isley Brothers. But at this point in time, it wasn’t Friday. It was just a weekday afternoon, with the owner and her son working the bar.

                      My Romanian buddy’s never been around black people in such a context. He starts talking about the Subject of Race. A few folks within earshot bristle. I stop the conversation and here is what I said.

                      “There will come a day, won’t be today and not tomorrow and like as not won’t be next week or next year, but there will come a day where a person can come into a bar and get a Cold One and the colour of his skin won’t be a topic of conversation.”

                      Which got me a round of applause from the owner and her son and a few people along the bar, all of whom knew me reasonably well by that point.

                      Clearly, you believe there are differences between the races. Also, clearly enough, you adhere to the old racist tropes, though you wouldn’t dream of saying one race is better than another. You simply will not admit the obvious, that all such thinking is suspect. He who sorts people out by race is by definition a racist. Oh, to be sure, he’s not a Racial Supremacist, but he is a racist while he continues in his error.

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                    • Look, Ethan, it’s just this simple. Debra Dickerson once said: Barack Obama would be the great black hope in the next presidential race — if he were actually black.

                      Stanley Crouch: “Obama’s mother is of white U.S. stock. His father is a black Kenyan,” in a column entitled “What Obama Isn’t: Black Like Me.” — article long since removed from NY Daily News site. Crouch was also fired from JazzTimes after his infamous article “Putting the White Man in Charge.”

                      David Ehrenstein, multi-racial kinda guy, invented the term Barack the Magic Negro.

                      Ethan, are you sure you don’t get what I’m saying, here? Anyone who looks at Barack Obama and sees a Black Guy is being fooled by a Pigment of his Imagination. When I say this Becoming Business represents the triumph of white persons, too, I mean Obama is surely as white as he is black.

                      Coates can go on maundering on about studies which point out how stupid people still are. There are plenty of folks out there who believe all manner of stupid shit. All this proves is that people are stupid.

                      Now we can either work within the confines of stupid or we can decide to move along and accept the simple, genetically sound, scientific argument that endogamy is a really bad idea, that every permutation of Race Mixin’ leads to definitional problems for people who insist on perpetuating this sorting out by race. My dog is half Husky and half German Shepherd. So I don’t call her either one. That being the case, who made the rules that Obama is Black? The racists, that’s who.

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                    • 1. I was confused because I don’t see how electing another “white” president, half or other, is a triumph for white people.

                      What have we triumphed over? Our own racism?

                      2. You don’t think “blackness” exists though, right? There is nothing that it’s like to be black, or white, or green for that matter?

                      3. Since no one (with a few exceptions) has any real interest in talking about the post above, fact-checking, or epistemology, all future comments about race, or BP’s denial of it as a substanative factor in subjective experience and social reality, should probably move on to Elias’ piece, or another.

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                    • I’m tired of being strung along by this tendentious line of argument, Ethan. Your confusion is not my problem. When TNC observes Obama has become the most successful black politician in American history, I would wryly respond that Obama’s election is a triumph for everyone, not just black and white people. It was clearly no triumph for post-racial thinking.

                      As for Blackness, Jean Baudrillard once said “Everywhere one seeks to produce meaning, to make the world signify, to render it visible. We are not, however, in danger of lacking meaning; quite the contrary, we are gorged with meaning and it is killing us.”

                      The overdose of meaning is killing us, Ethan. What does it mean to be black or white? You’re still playing games with the significance of black and white and green. We define ourselves.

                      I did start this on track, talking about Flavoured Coffee. I didn’t hijack this thread. I said the MLGBs are out there, adding their own syrup to the cheap coffees of the blogosphere, including TNC as just another ersatz barista. But lo, now cometh a host of his defenders to tell me what I feel, when first I said to make up your own mind about the facts and if you really must put anything in your coffee, do it yourself. If I have anything to say, I’ll say it, and I’ll thank the rest of you to get the fuck off my back with these idiotic leading questions.

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                    • BP, you’re argument in this thread seems to be that:

                      1. Black people who talk about racism from a black perspective are perpetuating racism because they’re viewing people thru the filter of skin color, which is racist.

                      2. But, really, there is no “black perspective” of racism, there’s just a human perspective of racism.

                      3. So black people’s views about racism in America are thinly veiled attempts to perpetuate racism as a political/cultural tool that fosters divisions, rather than unity, amongst people.

                      Is that right? (I wanna get the lay of the land before moving onto specifics, cuz your arguments thru this thread strike me as so bizarre I feel like I’m misunderstanding them.)

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                    • 1. Black people who talk about racism from a black perspective are perpetuating racism because they’re viewing people thru the filter of skin color, which is racist.

                      The problem is resident in the viewing filter.

                      2. But, really, there is no “black perspective” of racism, there’s just a human perspective of racism.

                      Refer to previous answer. The black perspective is just one of many such filters on offer at the Optical Shoppe of Distorted Perspectives.

                      3. So black people’s views about racism in America are thinly veiled attempts to perpetuate racism as a political/cultural tool that fosters divisions, rather than unity, amongst people.

                      Are they attempting to perpetuate racism? That seems to be the net effect, the sum of rhetorical vectors, whether or not that’s what’s intended. I did try to lay this out, saying there were two competing perspectives, one of which viewed the descendants of slaves as African, the other as American.

                      Is Obama a black president? Is my dog a Husky? Your bafflement arises from a failure to perceive people independently of race, as I do. Who’s black? How black do you have to be to qualify? It’s very simple. Quit asking the question. It’s an irrelevant qualifier.

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                    • Nah. I have to laugh at his juxtaposition of Jane Austen with Biggie. Regal language is best used by regal types, which TNC is decidedly not. How did Biggie put it?

                      As I open my eyes and realizin’ I changed
                      Not the same deranged child stuck up in the game
                      And to my niggas livin’ street life
                      Learn to treat life to the best, put stress to rest
                      Still tote your vest man, niggas be trippin’
                      In the streets without a gat? Nah, nigga you’re slippin’

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  7. BlaiseP, did you actually read Coates’ whole piece? Because it seems like you didn’t. He actually goes into the different traditions provided by Dubois and Washington, saying the same exact things you did (and Douglas, which he doesn’t categorize the same as you) and (very briefly) his own personal journey in both those traditions.

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  8. I started tuning out when you said such things as “weak facts” existed. Facts are facts and they are demonstratively, objectively, true. So and so directed 5 movies, etc. What the CBO said in its report about Obamacare is a fact. It’s in writing. But what the CBO wrote was a conclusion, an interpretation of law and assumption of financial info, etc. That is not a fact. This is an important difference.

    News used to be ostensibly “neutral”. This is BS though. It came about with the fiction that reporters were “professional” and were neutral, but everyone lets their biases skew their viewpoint and reporting all the time. We should accept this. I favor folks disclosing their biases so I can independently analyze their work and make allowances for this bias. The market is moving back to its original form: sided media. It’s taken a number of decades but I actually welcome it. I know what I’m getting when I turn to MSNBC or Fox news, etc.

    Sadly, I rue the “infotainment” aspect of the news more. I’d rather have hard hitting reporting than fluff, but that doesn’t sell I guess. Now, reports just re-write press releases and give no critical though or analysis to the reporting.

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    • Perhaps you would have preferred “verifiable facts” and “unverifiable facts?”

      My only point in introducing that distinction (not one that I’m arguing is strictly true, but rather a useful way for looking at political discourse) is to try and show why certain “fact-checking” attempts fall flat: they are trying to render a judgement on something that is ultimately unverifiable.

      So yes, CBO says X is a fact, but whether or not Obama is responsible for not getting a debt deal is a fact as well, just not one that can actually be verified (only speculated/opined about).

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