The PEP Squad: Perpetually Erroneous Pundits

The American model of mass media is laden with an abundance of notorious flaws. One of the most pernicious is the clubby environment that embraces the fraternity of professional opiners. Amongst the benefits of membership in the PEP Squad (Perpetually Erroneous Pundits) is that, no matter how much you screw up, you never lose your seat at the table. Commentators who have been wrong for a half dozen years or more, are consistently invited back to deliver more of their bad advice. The problem is that, when your job is to influence public opinion and policy, the consequences of being wrong can be tragic.

For example, there is a dust-up in the bloggerhood that has pit the NRO‘s Jonah Goldberg against Juan Cole. It seems that a couple of years ago, Goldberg challenged Cole’s analysis of the travesty in Iraq saying:

“I do think my judgment is superior to his when it comes to the big picture. So, I have an idea: Since he doesn’t want to debate anything except his own brilliance, let’s make a bet. I predict that Iraq won’t have a civil war, that it will have a viable constitution, and that a majority of Iraqis and Americans will, in two years time, agree that the war was worth it.”

That was two years ago and Goldberg’s predictions are so far off the mark that even he can’t deny it:

“I’ve admitted that Cole would have won. I’ve written that the Iraq War was a mistake. … I join a long list of people whose expectations about the war and its handling turned out to be wrong in whole or in part.”

Goldberg has admitted that he was wrong, but stubbornly insists that he has nothing for which to apologize. Nothing. Not for cheering on the martinets of war. Not for justifying the hostilities of a dishonest administration. Not for misleading his audience with discredited drivel. Not for the misery that has befallen the countless victims of his ignorance. But at least he is able to find comfort in joining “a long list of people” who were as dreadfully wrong as was he. He may also be comforted by his membership in the PEP Squad, knowing that his mistakes will cost him nothing.

The real danger emerges when PEP Squaders are allowed to continue peddling their distortions with impunity. The absence of accountability turns the notion of merit on its head. Thus we have Pulitzer winners like Robert Scheer being thrown over for hacks like Goldberg.

In his latest display of hackery, Goldberg argues that global warming is an equitable trade for economic gains. In fact he calls it “an amazing bargain:”

“The Earth got about 0.7 degrees Celsius warmer in the 20th century while it increased its GDP by 1,800%, by one estimate. […] Given the option of getting another 1,800% richer in exchange for another 0.7 degrees Celsius warmer, I’d take the heat in a heartbeat.”

Unfortunately, if he wins that bet, 100 million other hearts might have to stop beating. That’s the estimate of the population that would be impacted by rising sea levels if the Earth’s temperature were to rise in the amounts he proposes. By making irresponsible claims without the support of science, Goldberg is again substituting his imagination for the wise council of experts. He is engaging in a wager that, should he lose, will result in massive human suffering on a global scale. But look at the bright side. It probably won’t affect him or anyone he cares about, and Jonah and his pals will probably be a little richer. So it hardly matters whether he is right or wrong. We’ve seen how he behaves when he loses a bet; when he’s looking back on his fatally poor judgement. I can almost hear it now:

“I’ve admitted that Gore would have won. I’ve written that global warming was a mistake. … I join a long list of people whose expectations about climate change and its handling turned out to be wrong in whole or in part.”

Thanks Jonah. That makes everything better. The truth is, things won’t actually get any better until the media casts out the Perpetually Erroneous Pundits that are littering the TV and newspapers; until they start to reward superior analysis and intellect; until those who correctly predicted the sad outcome of Bush’s misadventures in Iraq replace the PEP Squad losers who got it so terribly wrong. By rewarding the PEP Squad for their failures, we can be virtually assured that they will continue to saddle the world with their toxic misperceptions. I’m not sure the world can stand it much longer.

The Hippie Phobia Of Jonah Goldberg

For the life of me, I cannot understand how Jonah Goldberg finds anyone to publish his ignorant, unsubstantiated, diatribes. In yesterday’s column for the Los Angeles Times, Goldberg again demonstrates the shallowness of his knowledge and the laziness of his work habits.

The article is titled, A Tradition of Common Sense, and attempts to convey the view that Hippies opposed the concept. But all he succeeds in doing is demonstrating that he has no sense, common or otherwise.

Goldberg first leaps from the limb by stating that Hippies, “turned their backs on “bourgeois” morality, including something called hygiene.”

First of all, hygiene is not a moral concept and here Goldberg is just spewing a cheap and juvenile insult. But more importantly, his disparagement of the morality of Hippies could not be further off the mark. What part of Hippie culture does he consider lacking in morals? Was it their advocacy of peace throughout the world; conviction to love thy neighbor without regard to ethnicity or race; reverence for the earth; belief that there are higher aspirations in life than the accumulation of wealth?

Perhaps what Goldberg means by “bourgeois morality” is the greedy, intolerant, wasteful, and ego-centric lifestyle that is the hallmark of the Republicanism he espouses. Indeed, the Hippies turned their backs on that.

Goldberg continues his nonsense by asserting that, “The recent elections are being interpreted – accurately or not – as a repudiation of religious conservatism.”

By whom? Goldberg doesn’t even bother to insert the hackneyed psuedo-journalistic attribution of “some say…” No, he just posits it as a fact, when the truth is that most analysts agree that religious conservatives were not repudiated, they just decided to vote for Democrats:

“the national exit polls told a dramatic story of changing views in the pews: Democrats recaptured the Catholic vote they had lost two years ago. They sliced the GOP’s advantage among weekly churchgoers to 12 percentage points”

Obviously it’s Goldberg’s moral superiority that has led him to impugn the piety of Democrats. But he goes even further:

“Even those leftists and libertarians who display ritualized contempt for tradition understand that we do some things today because we’ve learned from the mistakes of our forefathers. If everything is open to revision, then slavery is still a viable option.”

Do you suppose Goldberg could be prevailed upon to produce a list of those leftists he believes are guilty of ritualized contempt? And if that weren’t enough repugnant slime wallowing, he somehow finds a way to associate liberals with a reinstatement of slavery. Then, in a feat of Olympic segueing, he turns his lunatic rant to Madonna, whom he calls slattern and an aging pop star. That must be a display of the kind of moral uprighteousness that might also describe Dolly Parton as an old country hag. First he berates Madonna for adopting a child from an impoverished nation. Then he condemns her for choosing life in the song, “Papa Don’t Preach.”

After reading his column, I’m still at loss to see what any of it had to do with traditional common sense. It’s just an overly long exercise in childish name-calling with a pathetic dearth of insight or civility. Now that we have gotten rid of a good portion of Republicans in congress, can we please start working on throwing out trash like Jonah Goldberg?

Will Jonah Goldberg Ever Crack A Book?

OK, I understand that the opinion pages of the Times contain opinions. But does that mean they have to abandon facts? Jonah Goldberg has again composed an embarrassingly poorly researched column with utter disregard for the truth.

Goldberg would rather avoid substance in favor of tossing around hackneyed lingo like “McGovernite” and “limousine liberal.”

He says that Joe Lieberman is an outlier as a culturally right-of-center Democrat. Someone needs to introduce Mr. Goldberg to Ms. Lincoln of Arkansas, Mr. Nelson of Florida, Mr. Bayh of Indiana, Ms Landrieu of Louisiana, Mr. Nelson of Nebraska, Mr. Reid of Nevada and Mr. Dorgan of North Dakota. All of these senators scored higher on the rankings of the American Conservative Union than Mr. Lieberman. All of them voted for the war. So how does this make Lieberman “the lone feather left intact” of the Democrats ‘Scoop’ Jackson wing?

Goldberg describes Lieberman’s position as one of only three incumbents to lose in a primary “amazing” because just six years ago he was the party’s vice presidential nominee. But Goldberg’s short term memory must be faulty because he fails to recall that Lieberman finished in a pathetic three way tie for third place in the Democratic presidential primary in New Hampshire just two years ago. Shortly thereafter, he abandoned the race.

Then Goldberg claims that white Christian politicians haven’t talked “openly and sincerely about God and traditional values in decades.” Setting aside the insult implied by his separation of Christians of color and Jews, he is again, simply wrong. John Kerry, in his acceptance speech in 2004, said that, “faith has given me values and hope to live by, from Vietnam to this day, from Sunday to Sunday. I don’t want to claim that God is on our side, as Abraham Lincoln told us. I want to pray humbly that we are on God’s side.” I’m sure I could cite further examples, but I think that the party’s most recent presidential nominee makes the point that Goldberg is speaking from ignorance.

Finally Goldberg tells us that Lamont is not where the voters are. Never mind that he won a majority of Democrats and that 60% of Americans overall say that the war in Iraq was a mistake. Goldberg would rather avoid substance in favor of tossing around hackneyed lingo like “McGovernite” and “limousine liberal.” The truth is that Lieberman lost because he didn’t represent the values of his constituents. It was not just because he supported the war. So did the senators listed above and they did not attract people-powered primary challengers. The difference is that Lieberman did not just support the President’s war policy, he went out of his way to show overt disrespect for anyone that dissented. He even went so far as to imply that they were traitors saying that, “We undermine the president’s credibility at our nation’s peril.”

It was not, as Goldberg said, the Democrats that, “trotted Lieberman out to win over swing voters and moderate Republicans.” It was Republicans and Fox News that trotted him out as a cudgel with which to beat on other Democrats. That is why Ned Lamont is now the Democratic nominee for Senate in Connecticut, and why he will soon be their senator.

Jonah Goldberg Doesn’t Care

In his most recent op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, Jonah Goldberg demonstrates again what a lousy trade the Times made when they picked up Goldberg in place of Robert Scheer.

In the second paragraph of his column, Goldberg prefaces his citation of Times colleague Jonathan Chait saying, “…and I’m not making this up…” It is considerate of him to alert us to when he is, or is not, making things up. It would be even better if he did so consistently.

Much of the article, which he introduces as a critique of the Democrat’s lack of ideas, is devoted to a defense of Senator Joe Lieberman (D-Fox News). One of the obvious fabrications Goldberg unleashes is his contention that his critics are hypocrites because…

“There was no lack of enthusiasm for Lieberman when the sainted Al Gore picked Joe as his running mate.”

Oh, wasn’t there? That falsehood could easily be debunked with a simple web search. Here is a single page with dozens of critical articles from a wide array of sources ranging from the San Francisco Chronicle to the Washington Post; from American Atheists to BeliefNet; from David Broder to Michael Moore. Goldberg must have done zero research for this column. And for this invented reference to Lieberman’s alleged popularity, he reaches back six years, conveniently ignoring Joementum’s dismal failure as a presidential candidate just two years ago.

He also can’t help contradicting himself. In the fourth paragraph, he accuses Lieberman’s critics of being driven by their opposition to the war in Iraq:

“For good or ill, there are no grand ‘big ideas’ behind the anti-Lieberman cause. It’s driven by a riot of passions, chiefly against President Bush and ‘his’ war.”

Jump down two grafs and Goldberg characterizes his own “hawk-versus-dove analysis” as “weak,” pointing out that:

“…there are other Iraq war supporters whom the Democratic base hasn’t targeted.”

Goldberg’s conclusion is that Lieberman’s opponents, whom he disgustingly refers to as “anti-Joe jihadists,” are guilty of the great sin of opposing Lieberman’s pro-bush positions. What a shock. Democrats are against Bush, as well as other Democrats who support him. This is actually the one thing Goldberg gets right. The anti-Lieberman crowd got that way because of Lieberman’s consistent support of Republican causes, starting with the war, but also including Supreme Court justices, reproductive choice, and censorship. And it doesn’t help when he attempts to squelch dissent by warning Democrats that:

“…in matters of war we undermine presidential credibility at our nation’s peril”

But I must give credit where credit’s due. Goldberg signs off the column saying:

“You can be a moderate, like Virginia Senate hopeful Jim Webb or former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, or a flaming liberal, like Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, and that’s fine as long as you’ll “stand up and fight”…..The important part is that you care.”

In Goldberg’s mind that statement is some kind of a denunciation. That’s unsurprising for a party that long ago chose politics over people. I view the statement as an unintentional affirmation of the big-tent inclusiveness of the Democratic Party, where caring about what you say and do is amongst the principles we value in our representatives.

L. A. Times Trades Scheer For Goldberg

The Los Angeles Times has announced that they have jettisoned their long-time liberal columnist, Robert Scheer. At the same time, they announced that they will begin carrying conservative hack, Jonah Goldberg. This may be the worst trade since the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees. And we don’t have to look any further than Goldberg’s inaugural column. In it, he takes on the question of Bush’s lying to the country and comes down on the side of lying.

It’s not bad enough that he is outright insulting (calling his opponents deranged moonbats), he is also nearly vaporous substantively. And, ironically, the absurdity of his premise, that lying to the American people is acceptable, is nicely rebutted just a few pages earlier in an article headlined, “Declassified Memo Captures Nixon’s Intention to Obscure the U.S. Campaign in Cambodia”.

In a memo from the meeting, Nixon told his military staff to continue doing what was necessary in Cambodia, but to say for public consumption that the United States was merely providing support to South Vietnamese forces when necessary to protect U.S. troops.

“That is what we will say publicly,” he said. “But now, let’s talk about what we will actually do.”

Funny, Goldberg didn’t bother to cite Nixon’s demonstration of forgivable deceipt. Maybe because his lies are not really forgivable. And neither are Goldberg’s or Bush’s.