February 3, 2006

The Goldberg lecture.

I didn't make it to the Jonah Goldberg lecture on Wednesday night (though that didn't prevent a local blogger from seeing me there!). Here's the Badger Herald's report (which includes a lot of student response). Here's the Cap Times (which quotes him slamming the New Orleans police after Katrina: "Huge numbers of them didn't show up at work because it was going to be more fun to loot Wal-Mart"). Uncle Jimbo got some photos. Letters in Bottles has a collection of links to the live-blogging of the lecture. The Martins weren't "sure what to expect from the rest of the audience, Jonah being conservative and Madison being, well, not." But apparently, no special Madison-style reaction occurred. Well, really, people may be lefties here, but they're polite and quite sedate, actually.

UPDATE: More here and here -- from Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow, the group that brought Goldberg in.


reader_iam said...

From what I could tell, Goldberg was preaching largely to a choir. I don't know that there were all that many lefties there to provide whatever the typical Madison reaction would be, and I'm generally good at assessing audiences.

"Whatever happened to due diligence? Whatever happened to 'show me the bodies, show me the victims?'" he said.

Interesting for two reasons:

One, this quote is lacking ellipses (there are significant sentences missing between the first and second printed in the article.) It's a bit out of context and the article doesn't really address the central point about the media not using the access they actually had to seriously verify what they were reporting. Which is an EXTREMELY fair point, and one of the strongest that Goldberg made on Wednesday night. (I know this because I was there and I took extensive notes--in real time--which I just checked.)

Two, I understand exactly why it was done (ex-reporter and assistant city editor, etc., here, remember?) and I don't necessarily have a problem with it, but the article does not reflect the narrative arc of the talk. That really has to do with the inverted pyramid approach to writing news articles, which is fine, but I don't know that readers think about that, or that the approach is used even in news features, as opposed to just breaking news stories.

Finally, Katrina was only a part of the speech.

Beth said...

That Katrina comment is only one example, but a damn good one, that shows what a loathsome little ponce is Jonah Goldberg. I wonder if he'd have the nads to say it face to face to any of the more than a 1000 officers that stayed, who protected our property and saved lives of people stranded on top of their homes or in their flooded attics, knowing all the while that their own homes were destroyed, and not knowing where their own families were or if they were safe. Did he joke about the two officers who, after a week of this, put a bullet through their own brains? Does he think it's funny that those that didn't crack under the pressure worked for eight weeks with no pay, most of them with no home? I wonder what he'd say to the 5'2" Lakeview officer who sat with her children atop her house for two days until being rescued by a boat. Within an hour she'd sent her kids off securely, walked through waist deep water to her district and reported for duty.

Jonah Goldberg doesn't read past the Fox and CNN headlines, and he styles himself a pundit. He's a sack of shit.

Mark Haag said...

Give Madison credit for not wasting its time on lightweights

Unknown said...

Not only did that blogger mistakenly see you there, but he apparently thinks that Mr. Goldberg's first name is "Johan." As if he's a Scandinavian Jew or something? :-) He didn't spell it right even once!

John Jenkins said...

Elizabeth, while I'm sure that the NOPD can defend itself, you DO realize that the comment is clearly not directed at those members of the NOPD who *did* show up for work and did their duty, right?

Maybe Goldberg doesn't read past the headlines, but at least he understands what he reads.

Beth said...

I understand what I read, too, John. I don't need you to explain it to me. I'm sick to death of the smug jabs of people like Jonah G. at the worst of the worst that happened in my city, with no fair play, no concern, no acknowledgement of the more important stories. Cops looting at WalMart! What a laugh! Yeah, that's what's important. You lack so much more than reading skills, John.

ShadyCharacter said...


John's got you nailed dead to rights here, Elizabeth.

Sometime passion gets in the way of critical thinking (I know it occasionally does for me), but if 1/2 of a police force is corrupt and/or absent in an emergency do you really think it's beyond the pale to point that out just because it might hurt the feelings of the other half?

I read the various (sophmoric) newspaper depictions and (non-sophmoric) blog depictions and can't for the life of me see what Jonah said that was incorrect.

The media did fail in its reporting and has since then congratulated itself on its embarrasing work. It is apparently a fact that there were no cannibal baby-raping snipers conspiring to commit genocide disproportionately against the African-American residents of New Orleans. What excuse does the bulk of the media have for portraying the situation as such?

And if CBS did have 300 journos/employees down there (and if the other major news orgs did as well - NBC, ABC, FOX, CNN, NYTImes etc etc) then the vulture journos apparently outnumbered the dead by a factor of 10 to one...

I'm Full of Soup said...

good for you- stand up for what is right and don't back down.

I am sick of media types who lazily parrot the "anecdotal news" and never get the supporting evidence.

We don't know yet what truly occurred down there cause the media sucks.


Beth said...

Quote from the Capitol Times:
""No one wanted to blame the state and local officials."

At the same time, recovery efforts in Alabama and Mississippi, which were also hit by the storm, were going fine, he said."

More bullshit. Any simple google search will show plenty of press and citizen blame of La.'s governor and NOLA's mayor.

Mississippi and Alabama were indeed "also hit by the storm" but New Orleans wasn't decimated by the storm. The failure of a series of canals and levees--built and maintained by the feds--filled more than half of the city with water that did not recede for several weeks. NOLA's population is about 450,000; the areas hit in Mississippi and Alabama have maybe a sixth of that population, and for them, the storm came and left. The destruction was incomprehensible, and the recovery was also problematic. Several days after the storm, a relief group made it to the Mississippi coast with food and water, and were horrified to see people walking out of the woods, naked, begging for their help. There are still hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents out of their homes, not just New Orleanians. The recovery is not all swell, not here, and not in our neighboring states. But comparing New Orleans to Mississippi and Alabama shows, once again, that Goldberg is an uninformed, shallow, biased, fathead.

reader_iam said...


In person it was very clear that Goldberg was talking specifically and only about the "bad" cops. I didn't like the "more fun to loot Walmart" construction myself, because I thought it was cheap and too easy. However, it was in a specific context not intended to whack the cops who stayed, and it came near the end of a longer section about historical issues with the N.O. police force.

Surely, Elizabeth, with your hometown knowledge of N.O., you're not disputing that the force has a rather, well, storied past, are you?

I can see that it's upsetting--very understandably--to think that the good cops are being smeared by the bad. But what would be outright dangerous is if the "bad" can hide behind understandable desires to defend the good.

I do mean this comment well, Elizabeth, not as a snark or smackdown. Please consider it offered with respect for your home status.

In general: I must respectfully say, that the media did an irresponsible job, overall, in reporting on Katrina. Its members gave into some of their very worst instincts and there were some skip-overs of Journalism 101 basics. "Exciting live coverage" does not necessarily make for accurate, laudable journalism.

ShadyCharacter said...

Whence comes this vitriol against Goldberg?

He may be a fathead, but what is the evidence? What exactly is he quoted as saying that is incorrect or beyond the pale?

Is it unacceptable to point out the many (predictable) failings of the New Orleans and LA governments (by any measure the most corrupt and worthless state and local governments in the country, except maybe for some parts of Chicago)?

You are clearly very angry but why? You don't like his attitude? An attitude of disdain for elected officials and civil servants who have worked for decades to earn that disdain?

Beth said...

reader_iam, I'll take your comments exactly as you describe them, as being offered with the best of intent. The problem is, neither you nor Goldberg have much of an idea of what happened with the police force, and while you criticize (rightly, I add) the reporting during Katrina, you're accepting it at the same time.

Some cops looted. Very few, and they have been fired, or are currently suspended and being charged with crimes. But the few hundred cops who deserted didn't go looting. They left town. They caved. And those that tried to slip back in after the storm were ostracized, or flatout fired on the spot. The good news is, these are the same cops that were besmirching the ranks before the storm. What's left is a group of professionals that went went through hell together, and are better for it. I have no intention of sitting it out when some overgrown adolescent smartass like Goldberg bitch slaps us with more cheap, easy shots. The good cops aren't being smeared by the bad, they're being smeared by jocular morons like him, making big bucks off a glib speech, with no concern for truthiness or integrity.

We're fighting for our future here, and what national figures like Goldberg say matters. He's shaping the attitudes we face as we try to recover. Much of what I read in the coverage of his talk was just flat out wrong. That matters, and he should be held accountable.

Beth said...

Shady, Zing yourself. Where do you get the figure of half of the force corrupt or absent? That's crap. But don't let false figures get in the way of your critical thinking.

Beth said...

Shady, your question of where comes the vitriol is fair. I'm out of patience with lies, misdirection and smug "humor" about the disasters on the Gulf Coast caused by Katrina. The new conservative talking points revolve around focusing on New Orleans and Louisiana "corruption" and "incompetence." Why? What's the point? What's the relevance? Well, it takes the heat off the Bush administration for one. And it makes people feel so much better about themselves, and safer.

You might want to check your assumptions on that corruption data. Louisiana is certainly in the top ten. But it's not at the top. And it has nothing, nothing, nothing to do with what caused the levees and canals to fail, why people died in the storm, how we should and should not rebuild, and what resources should be applied to rebuilding. It's just a distraction.

People did amazing, generous, heroic, self-sacrificing feats in the days after the storm. But people like Goldberg aren't concerned with that. They're too shallow, too preoccupied with getting a laugh line in.

Lonesome Payne said...

Elizabeth -

Jonah G. is undoubtedly talking in the context of his view that the press seemed to work very hard to make the whole calmaity W's and the federal government's fault. The fact that "several hundred" NO cops "caved" is a pertinent point in that context, almost as pertinent as the relative few you say actually looted.

On the levee issue, by the way, my current state of understanding is that most reasonable hypothesis for the collapse of the key levees was not underfunding but shoddy/corrupt workmanship, with the most direct responsibility for that being local. Is that wrong? As I understand it, the key levees that gave way should have been able to withstand the water they faced, if they'd been actually built as intended and funded.

reader_iam said...

Elizabeth: Who said I'm accepting it? Quite the contrary. In fact, I treat almost all of it skeptically.

I did very much so at the time (for example, questioning some of that stuff was what spurred me get a blogger account so I could comment rather than harass Ann with e-mails all the time) and still do.

I probably wasn't being specific enough with reference to N.O. police ... the history to which I'm alluding far precedes Katrina. Even then, I'm not questioning that we're talking bad apples here (and of course we have those at all times and everywhere). Regrettably, N.O. has been cursed and disserved by a higher percentage of those over time.

And I know most of the no-shows were "skippers" (I want to say cowards), not looters. But in context of "to serve and protect," that still makes them corrupt and low-rent. And I know they were fired etc. later.

In any case, the good thing to come out of it is that, as you note, a salutary weeding of the force took place as a result. Not much of silver lining for you beleagured New Orleanians (sp?), but better than nothing, I suppose.

Anyway, as I said before ...

Beth said...

Paul, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers designed, built, and maintained the canals and levees that failed. Where did you read that shoddy workmanship caused the multiple failures? The investigation into what caused the various failures is still ongoing, but one known factor is that the Corps underestimated the problem with the silty soil in which the levee structures are grounded. At one point, a higher office in COE asked the NOLA office to review its soil analysis, but politely accepted the refusal, based on professional deference. I expect when all is said and done, we'll see a combination of many factors, including human error, technological limitations in the periods during which the canals and levees were built, bureaucratic bumbling at all levels, and lack of funding to the Corps going back several administrations.

This is a great example of what has me steamed. It's taken as gospel that New Orleans corruption or incompetence (shoddy workmanship) is at fault. When's the last time you actually followed up on that story? What sources are you reading? Believe me, it's covered almost daily here. We have no interest in making sure Bush, or the Corps, or anyone in particular is to blame. We need to know what happened, and more importantly, what should be done to keep it from happening again. Political posturing doesn't help us survive June to October every year.

Here's a review of the levee/canal history that you might find useful:

Beth said...


The deserters were fired, and those that have tried to get onto forces in other cities have been roundly rejected. I understand your reluctance to call them cowards, but it's the right word. While in my heart, I can understand being afraid, those people shouldn't be cops. One good outcome from all this is that an ineffective police chief resigned and a respected fellow is in that position now.

A month back, I listened with disgust as a few liberal acquaintances spewed a similarly smug attack on the local cops, and I replied with as much anger. Since then, I've tried to let the cops I encounter know how much I appreciate what they did for us. My partner and I recently picked up the tab for a pair that were on dinner break, and I thought they were going to cry. They're so used to being trashed. Goldberg should chip in for a meal for some of New Orleans' finest. He could stand to miss one.

Beth said...

Paul, sorry, I have no clue how to post a long URL in blogger. Here's a tiny url version:


Lonesome Payne said...

I'm not following it as closely as you, but I'm also not reading biased sources I don't think. Just once in a while checking in.

You seem to verify that the levees as basically funded and intended should have withstood the water they actually faced. Also, reading through your list of possible causes for why they didn't, I see a whole mix of bureaucratic incomptence from federal to local that doesn't in most cases seem to have much to do with the current federal administration specifically, in any obvious sense.

(I can't say where my "corruption" thing came from; I remember reading something conjecturing that the workmanship muct not have beeen up to snuff. That's what I meant but I have no citation. It wouldn't surprise me, though; I'm from Chicago originally and it wouldn't surprise me there either.)

What people like Jonah are reacting to is the way the storm was used to convince black people that W doesn't care about them, and was happy to see them dead. That's the basic society-damaging dishonesty he's specifically interested in countering.

I do understand your eagerness ot defend the NO police who acted well and still do.

knox said...


I'm not going to pretend to know more about New Orleans than you. And I certainly admire the "good" cops who tried to help people in that disaster, and your sticking up for them. But I can't understand your criticism of those "focusing on New Orleans and Louisiana 'corruption' and 'incompetence' "...

You assume that exposing this corruption is to cover Bush's ass--and maybe for some people it is--but don't you think it's crucial in solving these problems and rebuilding the city?

I want your city to come back better than before, and from what little I know, I certainly don't think Nagin and the crooked status quo are the people to help that along. Should the media--liberal, conservative, whatever, whoever--give them a pass? I don't think so.

Anyway, even though a lot of us regulars disagree with you, and gang up on you at times... : ) We're still all glad you're here and you made it through the disaster that was Katrina.

Beth said...

Paul, I didn't intend to imply your sources were biased, just limited, and out of date. This is a day-by-day thing, as the Corps races to shore up what we have for June, and as we are literally begging the feds for help making our protection reliable for the long-run.

I understand your concern about the social level, which you refer to here: "What people like Jonah are reacting to is the way the storm was used to convince black people that W doesn't care about them, and was happy to see them dead."

But I think you overlook how much it is in Bush's favor to keep hitting on that point. It's really a tiny part of the story. Who gives a crap what Kanye West thinks? In the meantime, have you read Bush's speech delivered back in September in Jackson Square? Want to guess how much of that has been delivered on? It's much easier to talk about "chocolate city" and those distractions.

knoxgirl, thanks for your good wishes. One thing it might help you to know is that Nagin is not corrupt. He was elected as a reformist, in a reaction to years of patronage, and he delivered in that area. He's participated in numerous local and U.S. investigations into a number of agencies that the city does business with, and has never been accused of patronage or bad business dealings. But he's not a charismatic leader, and he hasn't the skills to deal with this disaster. I won't be voting for him in April, when we have our elections.

I wonder how many cities of our size, no matter the leadership, would be dealing with the destruction we experienced any better than we are now? I urge you all not to reflexively defend your own political interests, and to be willing to look critically across the board at how this recovery is being handled.

Uncle Jimbo said...

For good or bad here is video of the reprobate/role-model.


I apologize for the lack of formatting I am mobile today and technologically challenged.


Uncle J

Scrutineer said...

EZ link-making instructions