Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Ezra Klein

“Oh God! Here We Go Again” in Iraq

We marvel at the Big Brass Ones on some people who feel the need to offer their opinions about how the U.S. should conduct itself with regards to recent rise of extremist elements in the country and the loss of two of its major cities to al Qaeda.

David Ferguson published this June 13, 2014

The seven people who need to STFU about Iraq right now

These people seem to believe that their previous dire wrongness on everything about the topic of Iraq shouldn’t preclude them from opining about our nation’s current course of action, goodness no.

judymiller

Mika Brzeznski 

1. Andrew Sullivan, who has devoted any number of column inches lately to slamming the NeoCons and the war “they” advocated for. In a post today — the elegantly titled “The Neocons Get A War Chubby” — Sullivan roundly mocked and scolded re-interventionists, warning the country not to “sink the U.S. right back into the Iraqi quicksand.”

 

Sullivan has long-since disavowed the infamous 2001 column in which he said war critics might collude with al Qaeda to try and take down the U.S. from within, but it tends to linger on in the memory, much as forgotten sushi leftovers will leave behind their distinctive odeur to linger in that drawer in your refrigerator.

“The middle part of the country — the great red zone that voted for Bush — is clearly ready for war,” Sullivan wrote in the U.K.’s Sunday Times. “The decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead — and may well mount a fifth column.”

We’ve got your “fifth column” right here, Andy. It’s in our pants.

2. Judith Miller, the Bush administration’s “humiliated and discredited shill” on WMDs was once thankfully banished to writing a household hints column for the West Egg Pennysaver — or something.

Nonetheless, on Friday, the reporter known as “the most infamous example of the press’s failure in the run-up to that war” was unflushably bobbing up on Fox News to discuss the media’s portrayal of Iraq as Irony let herself into the garage and started the car without opening the garage door and waited quietly for the end.

3. Thomas Friedman, the hot air specialist who rhapsodized in May of 2003 that American military might had rightly told the Iraqi people to “suck on this.”

When the Iraqis declined his offer and the occupation spiraled completely out of control, Friedman insisted over and over that the situation would stabilize in just 6 more months.

To commemorate this very special failure as a pundit and prognosticator, lefty wags created the Friedman Unit, a six month span of time in which nothing ever happens.

4. The New York Times seems to have conveniently forgotten how sad and diminished the Gray Lady looked locked out on the Bush administration’s porch in her bloomers, poor old thing.

Today, columnist Tyler Cowen lamented that the economy is suffering because we don’t have any major wars planned after forces come home from Afghanistan at the end of the year.  Peace, the libertarian fretted, is bad for business.

Funny they should endorse war as an economic engine right as Iraq appears to be shitting its bed and playing with matches in a fireworks store. I mean, what are the odds?

5. The whole of the so-called Juicebox Mafia. The lines of that particular claque have expanded and contracted to include Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias and a passel of other Beltway post-teens who were so excited they got to sit at the big kids’ table they forgot that they didn’t know jack shit about foreign policy and endorsed a war of choice in one of the most volatile regions of the world, wheeee! What could go wrong? We’re smart! And cute!

A big, preemptive “Shut it!” goes out to Peter Beinart who, in January, 2003, joined the National Review‘s Jonah Goldberg in a CNN panel discussion in which the two giggled and leered over accusations that U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter was a child molester because of allegations that he had communicated over the Internet with a 16-year-old girl.

“I think that he didn’t have any credibility to begin with,” said Beinart of Ritter. “I mean, this is the guy who never really explained, as Jonah said, why he flipped 180 degrees and became a Saddam mouthpiece. So for me it’s irrelevant. I never listened to what he had to say on Iraq to begin with.”

“He’s now just basically joined Pete Townsend on the Magic School Bus,” Beinart continued. “Pete Townsend of the WHO has also been implicated in child porn and things of that nature. But as everybody said, Ritter’s credibility, just on the basics of Iraq, was completely shot and now there’s even less reason to listen to him.”

Scott Ritter’s alleged crime? Pointing out that Saddam Hussein didn’t have any WMDs and that a U.S. invasion was a bad idea.

6. Ari Fleischer, one of the most pugnacious, pugilistic, and sometimes breathtakingly condescending White House press secretaries in history.

Fleischer functioned as a lying administration’s able mouthpiece both here and in the combat zone and served the unlikely function in life of making fellow Bush administration shill Dan Senor seem almost non-slimy.

Fleischer piped up on Twitter Friday morning to simultaneously absolve the Bush administration of blame and passive aggressively accuse the Obama administration of squandering gains made by his own masters. Trouble is, he got the year wrong.

“Regardless of what anyone thinks about going into Iraq in 2002,” he tweeted — apparently forgetting that the first bombing raids began in March of 2003, “it’s a tragedy that the successes of the 2007 surge have been lost & abandoned.”

Bush administration folks are still around, apparently, to remind us in the reality-based community that facts is HARD and stuff.

7. John McCain, you angry, corn-teethed fossil.

You’ve never met a foreign conflict that didn’t require MOAR U.S. TROOPS, have you? At least you’re consistent, after a fashion. Oh, who are we kidding, you’re not consistent at all about anything that might score you some political points and get you on TV!

Things didn’t go super well for you on Morning Joe on Friday, though, did they? Impeccably-coiffed refrigerator magnet Mika Brzeznski actually woke up from her boredom-induced coma and called you out right to your face, didn’t she, old man?

“What about going [into Iraq] in the first place, and what about churning the hate, and what about taking the Sunnis out of leadership positions in 2003, what about the fact that there might have been some parts of this that were on the previous administration that might be litigated as well?” Brzezinski said.

Then she went on to ask the question everyone in the country should be asking, why does anyone listen to you anyway? If we’d taken your advice, she said, we’d be knee-deep in Syria right now.

“So we’re going to be in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then we’re also going into Syria, in your estimate?” she asked. “I mean, I’m just wondering how long can we do this? How long can we do this? How long can you ask this of American troops and think it’s okay?”

She’s right, John. You’re like a jumped-up rich boy with no real capital of his own who’s bellied up to the blackjack table blowing every single penny of his wife’s money just to catch that fleeting winner’s high.

Oh, no, wait, that’s exactly what you really are, isn’t it?

Or, as TBogg so eloquently observed, “Hush you guys. The guy who thought Sarah Palin would make a good vice-president is explaining to us what we should do in Iraq.”

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.

 

Hey Vox: Can you Explain this Map?

Vox was co-founded by Melissa Bell and Ezra Klein, late of the Washington Post, and former Slate blogger Matt Yglesias (fun picture here! scroll down), the three of whom lured a posse of young-ish writers to join the staff, including, from the PostMax Fisher, who compiled the “40 Maps.”

Andrew Bossone shared this link

Another deconstruction of a bad @voxdotcom explainer map.

This one on Arabic dialects, by @meriponline

Vox is perhaps the most prominent of the new sites devoted to “explainer…
Chris Toensing published this May 24, 2014

In early May ,the website Vox made a small splash on the Internet with “40 Maps That Explain the Middle East.”

Vox is perhaps the most prominent of the new sites devoted to “explainer journalism,” a genre of primers that combine key data with brief analysis, often in attention-grabbing, multi-media formats.

The motivation for starting Vox, according to Klein, was to ameliorate the “anxiety” that he imagines readers must feel when approaching major news stories for the first time.

“There’s a problem in journalism,” he says in a YouTube promo. “We call certain topics that we cover the vegetables, or the spinach, as if they’re gross, and people should be reading them, but they’re not going to want to.”

“Explainer journalism” has drawn some fire for condescending to its audience, assuming as it does that readers don’t read regular coverage, at least not carefully enough to comprehend the story.

As James Hamblin puts it at The Awl, “An explainer is an article that breaks down an important topic into just the things you care about and need to know. It’s unlike all other kinds of articles in that way.”

Other critics complain that the genre is rather insulting to journalists as well, implying that old-school reporters are too lazy, jaded or unskilled to convey what readers need to situate daily news in proper context.

Says Democracy’s Nathan Pippenger: “This issue is even more sensitive when it comes to foreign affairs, since many old-fashioned print journalists (like Daniel Pearl and Anthony Shadid) have died in war zones in order to bring what Klein calls ‘vegetable’ stories to American readers.”

These objections notwithstanding, some might think that Vox is doing a service, explaining the background to current events in easily digested bite-size form. (MERIP might not exist, after all, if the corporate media was not often derelict in its duties.)

Alas, early offerings with regard to the Middle East suggest otherwise.

Yousef Munayyer, for instance, has thoroughly debunked a set of maps that purport to explain the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

The adjacent map depicting the geographic distribution of Arabic dialects is equally misleading to the point of misinformation.

This map, which seems to have been compiled (or perhaps just lifted) from Wikipedia, is downright inaccurate in several places.

Chris Stone is associate professor of Arabic at Hunter College. Before he began his doctoral work, he lived in Yemen for three years, teaching English in the Peace Corps.

It would be bad enough, Stone says, “if the map claimed just one dialect for Yemen, but to claim that all of Yemen and coastal Somalia speak the same dialect is patently absurd.”

Yemeni dialects differ in pronunciation, cadence, vocabulary, idiom and syntax — not to the point of being mutually unintelligible but certainly to the point of requiring occasional translation.

The dialects spoken in northern Egypt and the areas marked olive green for Levantine countries (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine) likewise vary considerably, sometimes from valley to valley and village to village.

In Sudan and South Sudan, respectively, the map identifies Nubi Arabic in orange and Juba Arabic in deep beige. The first reference is a flat-out mistake: Some of the Nilotic peoples in the north of Sudan identify as Nubians, and they may speak the distinct language called Nubian as well as an Arabic similar to that spoken in Khartoum.

Nubi is an Arabic-based creole spoken in a few East African port towns. Meanwhile, according to MER editor Khalid Medani, who is from Sudan, there’s a missing dialect — Nuba Arabic, “a creole spoken in the Nuba Mountains in central Sudan. It is a mix of Arabic and Nuba not Nubian. Folks often get those two confused.”

Juba Arabic is also a creole, Medani continues, “spoken by the Nilotic Dinka, Nuer and Shilluk, especially in Juba where it is the second vernacular.” The Dinka, Nuer and Shilluk are not Arabs, by the way — more on that in a minute.

Surely the oddest error of fact appears in mustard yellow for Judeo-Arabic, which the map locates (solely) in central Israel. Indeed, linguists do speak of such a thing as spoken Judeo-Arabic, in which Arab Jews sprinkle ancient Hebrew and Aramaic terms.

Judeo-Arabic, however, normally refers to a written language, namely, classical Arabic written in Hebrew script. More to the point, while there were small communities of Arabic-speaking Jews in Palestine before the creation of the state of Israel, the large majority of Israeli Jews of Arab origin hail from other Arab countries and, if they still speak Arabic, they speak the dialect of those countries.

“Jews from Morocco, Iraq and Yemen speak the same Arabic dialect?” Stone queries. “I smell ideology.” (Incompetence seems just as likely, since all of the information in this paragraph is in the Wikipedia entry for “Judeo-Arabic languages.”

Maybe that entry needs an “explainer.” Or maybe the title does, since the plural is right there in the third word.)

We could list some more inaccuracies.

A bigger problem with the map is that the uninitiated Vox reader might think that Arabic is the only or most important language spoken across these swathes of bright color.

Berbers in blue North Africa would beg to differ, as would Kurds in the greenish-yellow lands of North Mesopotamian Arabic, Armenians in Lebanon and several other religio-ethnic communities, among them Hebrew-speaking Israeli Jews. And the Dinka, Nuer and Shilluk speak their own languages as the first vernacular, thank you very much.

The map’s cardinal sin, however, appears in the explanatory sidebar:

“Something to look at here: where the dialects do and do not line up with present-day political borders. In places where they don’t line up, you’re seeing national borders that are less likely to line up with actual communities, and in some cases more likely to create problems.”

In other words, Arabs are fighting other Arabs because of differences in dialect.

Sorry, Vox, this notion is cataclysmically wrong.

Leave aside the map’s implication that the conflict in Israel-Palestine is about the fact that Palestinian Arabs in the Galilee speak a different variety of their native tongue than the Judeo-Arabic speakers to their south.

Forget the idea that the Syrian civil war might be a clash of North Mesopotamian, Iraqi and Levantine dialects.

And don’t ask why civil strife continues to afflict central Iraq despite its uniform dark green dialectical hue.

Again, we’ll be charitable: Smart and patient Vox readers can refer to other maps in Fisher’s series and figure this stuff out for themselves.

But there are some other places where dialects do not line up with borders on the map and there is sometimes violent conflict.

One is the boundary between Morocco and Western Sahara. Nowhere in the “40 Maps” is there any clue as to the roots of this conflict in Spanish colonialism, the expansiveness of Moroccan territorial claims, the 1975 Green March, Sahrawi nationalism, the Moroccan Arab-Berber settlement of Western Sahara in violation of UN resolutions, the UN’s failure to enforce those resolutions, and French and US coddling of their client state in Rabat. Iron-deficient Vox readers are left to surmise that the conflict is about types of Arabic.

As for the two Sudans, indeed, the border between the state controlled by Khartoum and South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, roughly corresponds to the boundary line indicating where different sorts of Arabic are spoken.

But to suggest that the long civil war between north and south, or the decision of South Sudanese to secede, has to do with dialectical distinctions is to enter the realm of the ridiculous.

South Sudanese developed their Juba Arabic creole to cope with their northern rulers and do business with the northern merchants who set up shop in southern cities. Differences in dialect were a byproduct of conquest and conflict — not the cause thereof.

Again, we could go on. But why?

The kicker, as Stone says, is the map’s assumption of an “inverse relationship between linguistic unity and ‘problems.

Have the authors of the map not heard of India, where we are not only talking about a vast number of dialects, but actually different languages? What about Switzerland?”

In the end, this map reinforces the old Orientalist saws that Middle East conflict is understandable chiefly in terms of ethnic identity and that primordial ties are uniquely constitutive of politics (and certainly not the other way around).

If we can muster the energy, we may scrutinize a few more of the “40 Maps,” cursory inspection of which reveals more amazing feats of interpretive malpractice. Probably not, though — we should stay focused on our own efforts to go behind the headlines.

We do, however, have a question for Vox:

What good is “explainer journalism” if one fortieth of one piece requires 1,068 words of third-party explanation to correct just a few of its errors, without yet rendering it legible? (We’re not counting the words spent explaining explainers, or our editorializing here, just the “spinach” about the map itself.)

Please explain.

Note: Why Vox do not hire learned local people to do the investigations in the countries they want to explain?


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2020
M T W T F S S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

Blog Stats

  • 1,426,722 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.adonisbouh@gmail.com

Join 774 other followers

%d bloggers like this: