Sunday, May 3, 2015

A principle to evaluate people's statements

Sar Shalom

I would like to formalize a principle that we should ask those covering the Middle East to use. Simply, if someone's interests are served by your believing X, whatever X is, then do not consider that person's saying X to be proof that X is true. This does not mean X should be dismissed, only that X should not be considered established without corroborating evidence.

Instead, what we have from the Very Serious media types is that any statement made that fits their pre-existing narrative is taken to be proof-positive that the content of the talk is accurate and any statement contradicting their pre-existing narrative, no matter how much corroboration is available, is to be dismissed. For instance, when Mahmoud Abbas declares that he is committed to two-states if only Netanyahu would yield what is his due or when Netanyahu says during a hotly contested campaign that there will be no Palestinian state during his term, those statements are proof that Abbas is committed to two states and Netanyahu is not, no further information needs to be checked. Similarly, when Netanyahu declares that his determination to stop a Palestinian state is conditional and he only questions the likelihood that the conditions for lifting his opposition would be met, or when Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif declares that eliminating Israel is non-negotiable, both statements are taken for bluster meant to distract from Netanyahu's true aims of dominating the Levant and of Iran's true reasonability.

The most recent manifestation of this phenomenon is Carter's declaring that Mashaal is interested in peace while Netanyahu is not. Carter reached this conclusion when Mashaal told him that he would be interested in Saudi Arabia's peace proposal (h/t EoZ). Did Carter look at any action of Hamas to reach that conclusion? Of course not! He simply started from the premise that all the Palestinians' demands are reasonable and as soon as he heard a statement fitting that premise, he considered his premise proven. The one question to ask Carter about his reasoning process is, "Did Mashaal tell you anything other than what serves his interests for you to believe it?"

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Brief Note: Left and Right

Michael L.

More and more people tell me that I am "right-wing."

I am supposed to believe that this is a bad thing, something that intelligent and civilized people avoid.

"Right-winger" is basically an epithet.

I have noticed over the years - how could I not? - that merely criticizing the Left gets one docketed as a member of the Right.

Other people, more rational in my view, complain that the entire Left - Right way of viewing politics is both crude and counterproductive.  I sympathize.  The problem is linguistic and conceptual.  How does one discuss politics without reference to political standings upon a continuum?

The model within which people discuss politics is essentially a flat line.  It is crude.  It is this:


You are either on one side of this line or the other and, among many politically inclined people, just where you stand on that line tells us all that we need to know about your quality as a human being.

Of course, another more sophisticated way of looking at politics is not with a one-dimensional line, but with a two-dimensional grid.

political compass
Many of you are aware that politically inclined bloggers and activists sometimes go to this political compass test in order to figure out just where they stand on the political grid between the poles of Left versus Right and Authoritarian versus Libertarian.

I just took the test for the third time in almost ten years and yet I still end up hanging out with Gandhi.  I know that it is hard to fathom, but there it is.  Of course, I would only put so much credence into this test.  Nonetheless, if you are honest in your answers, it should probably give a broad general idea of where you stand politically according to the Left - Right / Authoritarian - Libertarian measure... which I think is as good a measure as any.

The thing of it is, though, and that which tends to irk me, is that when people call me "right-wing" it is usually not to actually criticize my views, but to marginalize them.

When I criticize the Left it is not to marginalize the Left, because I come out of the Left.

When I criticize the Left, including the Jewish Left, it is because I have honest criticisms.

The Jewish Left, as a whole, has failed to honestly grapple with the question of political Islam.

The Jewish Left, as a whole, often whips up hatred toward their fellow Jews who live in Judea and Samaria, i.e., the so-called settlers.

The Jewish Left is generally weak and, therefore, tends to mainly play defense.

The Jewish Left often buys into the "moral equivalency canard."

The Jewish Left buries Jewish history.

And so forth.

These criticisms are criticisms, and as such, they may be fair or not.  They may be true or not.  They may be worthwhile or not.  But these are among the criticisms that I have tended to develop over the years.

They are honest criticisms.  The links above go to pieces that I have written in the past concerning such issues.  Those pieces are not, and were not meant to be, full-blown academic analyses, obviously.  They are merely pointers, one might say.  Or even musings, but I believe that they are honest and worthwhile of consideration.

However, when I get lambasted as a "right-winger" it is rarely to actually criticize my views.

When I get called a "right-winger" it is because the caller wants the reader to dismiss my views.

It is not criticism.

It is defamation meant to marginalize.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pure Stupidity

Michael L.


I am sorry.

Is that an arrogant title?

We are supposed to be philosophical and sociological and understanding.  We are supposed to think that the young, black people who burned down much of Baltimore yesterday are merely responding to the circumstances of oppression that they live within.

We are supposed to believe that the United States is a highly racist country and that if we don't want well-deserved resistance from a beleaguered community then we better stop keeping them under the jack-boot of white, western racism.

As I often do, I turn to Daily Kos in order to get American left-leaning views on such things.  

Although, I have to say, this piece, entitled Powerful video interview of Crips & Bloods disputing the claims of the Baltimore Police is particularly weak and I am a bit surprised to find it on the front page.

Nonetheless, from the comments:

doroma has faith in the Crips and Bloods.
shocking....but I believe the gang over the cops (7+ / 0-)

at this point. In 2015, cops scare me ! They lie to cover up their crime.
Words in Action thinks that it's all perfectly reasonable:
When the authorities (2+ / 0-)

concede nothing and the broad middle fiddles in complacency with its dislike of conflict and discomfort, what alternatives are left?
Indeed, what else can people of good will do under such circumstances - whatever those circumstances are, exactly - other than burn down their neighbor's grocery store? 

freemark, in a different diary by a well-known user, thinks that rioting and burning down buildings and fighting the police is something akin to banging a golf club against a tree:
Have no trouble breaking a golf club (29+ / 0-)

The same people who break their own golf clubs after a bad tee shot refuse to understand why a small minority of people damage their own community after being abused and murdered by the people who are supposed to be protecting and serving them.
Because the inclination to burn down, or blow up, one's own neighborhood is psychologically akin to breaking a golf club.

Karl Rover has an interesting take:
I was disappointed by the comments (27+ / 0-)

that plainly said that the peaceful protesters were the looters.

There is more of a correlation with police riots and looting.
Got it.  The rioters are "peaceful protesters" and the cops who seek to protect the community from the rioters are themselves looters and rioters.

I have to say, as someone concerned about the long Arab war against the Jews, this kind of unjust inversion sounds very familiar to my ear.

This, however, from AKBear gets to the heart of the matter:
When all you see around you (75+ / 0-)

are the companies that take your money and only offer a pittance for a wage, then you can understand the rioting.

When all you see around you are the forgotten and underserved in the richest countries in the world, then you can understand the rioting.

When all you see are people losing their homes because basic repairs and maintenance have not been done in decades, then you can understand the rioting.
75 uprates.  That is quite a few.  In fact, that is an enormous number of uprates for a comment beneath an article.

In other words, what AKBear is saying is that the United States is such a horrible place - and the western system of liberal capitalism is so awful - that it is perfectly understandable why poor people "of color" riot and burn down their own neighborhoods.

This is what I like to call, in academic parlance, total bullshit.

My father grew up in a poverty-stricken mixed neighborhood in Brooklyn called Flatbush.

My grandmother, Sarah, carried my baby father through Ellis Island after leaving her dead husband behind in Argentina because they could not, initially, even get visas into the United States from the Ukraine.

She literally scrubbed floors at the Hebrew Orphan Asylum in New York in order to take care of herself and my father before she remarried.

It never occurred to my father or his friends - despite the fact that as a teenager he was once fired from a job for observing Passover - to burn down their own neighborhood in righteous protest.

They figured that the thing to do was get into college.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Orioles - White Sox Game Postponed (Updated)

Michael L.

Just so that no one gets the impression that the United States is free of violent insanity:
BALTIMORE — Police on Monday clashed with crowds of young people who tossed rocks and bricks at officers, looted stores and damaged police cruisers, injuring several officers.

baltimore oriolesPolice said that seven officers have been hurt in incidents that began near the Mondawmin Mall in the Reisterstown Road area. Some officers suffered broken bones and one officer was unresponsive, police said in an afternoon press conference.

Throughout the evening, groups of rioters continued to move south through the city. Television images showed youths jumping on a police cruiser and smashing the car’s windows. The crowds set fire to vehicles and at least one store. At one point, a group cut a fire department hose as firefighters were trying to extinguish a blaze at a CVS, police said...

The Baltimore Orioles announced they had postponed a game set for Monday evening against the Chicago White Sox.

Someone going under the name Kip Anderson emailed to call me a "racist" for this post.

This is for Kip:

This is actually a great tune.

Checker records, man!

Terrific stuff.

This is the heart of rock-n-roll.

Thank you, Kip.