Patterico's Pontifications

1/5/2009

Foo Bar’s Nit Picks

Filed under: — Patterico @ 8:05 am

This page is for Foo Bar’s nit picks.

36 Responses to “Foo Bar’s Nit Picks”

  1. Foo Bar,

    I’m traveling today so if you still have a quarrel with my position as restated by you, please prompt me.

    Patterico (738d19)

  2. To remind you: here is the position you restated:

    Foo Bar alleges that I attempted to obfuscate the fact that the “staff report” in his post and the “staff statement” in his update were the same document by (1) choosing the indefinite article “a” when first referencing the statement in his update, even though the document had already been introduced in the piece and (2) choosing a different term, “statement”, in the update. However, I had a perfectly good reason for choosing the term “statement” and no particular motivation to hide the fact that the “statement” and the “report” were the same. Indeed, there are (at a minimum) 4 problems with the validity of Foo Bar’s allegation:

    1) In my update, I included a quote from Chairman Kean in order to illustrate the distinction between the views and products of the staff and the views of the commissioners. In that quote, he uses the phrase “staff statement”, so in my own prose that I wrote prior to that quote, I used the same terminology so that it was clear that the document I was referencing as the source of “collaborative relationship” was the same as the document in Kean’s quote. That was my motivation for using “statement” instead of “report”,as opposed to an attempt to obscure the fact that it was the same as the “report” mentioned earlier. If Kean’s quote had contained “staff report” where “staff statement” was, I probably would have used “staff report” in my own prose as well.

    2) The focus of my post was on the views of the commissioners and not the staff (which is indeed what really matters), so any complaint about how the staff document is described is a trivial one.

    3) The allegation is that I failed to make clear that the “statement” in the update was the same as the “report” in the body.

    4) My failure to include a sentence which connected the “statement” to the “report” mentioned earlier would only matter if the staff document in question contained something which undermined my overall argument. It contains no such undermining content, though, for at least 2 different reasons: (1) The views of the commissioners are all that actually matters, not the staff, and I gave abundant evidence that the commissioners were not happy with the initial uproar in the media, that the commission found numerous ties and contacts, etc. (2) In any event, even if someone were concerned about the presence of “collaborative relationship” in the staff document, Commissioner Hamilton explained that this usage of that phrase was to be interpreted as equivalent to the “collaborative operational relationship” terminology in the final report, i.e., not denying numerous contacts, etc. So “collaborative relationship” as it was meant to be interpreted in the staff document is consistent with the final views of the commissioners which I laid out at length in the course of explaining why the mainstream media had unfairly twisted the commission’s findings and unfairly challenged the honesty of the Bush administration.

    It should be clear from points (2) and (4) that the staff document was in no way a threat to the argument I was making, so I had no reason to confuse people about which document was which and any complaint about the way the document was presented is excessively nitpicky.

    To be honest, I didn’t understand some of the phrasing in this iteration but throughout the process you’ve done a decent job of moving towards understanding so I won’t quibble further and we’ll move to your position.

    Patterico (738d19)

  3. OK, think about the answers to the following questions (or, at a minimum, what you think I think the answers to the questions are) and try to incorporate as much as possible in your summary of my position:

    If an item is mentioned in some prose preceded by the definite article “the” (“the X”) and later an item is referred to by the same word or a synonym preceded by the indefinite article “a” or “an” (e.g. “an X”), do competent English speakers reading the prose generally assume the second item to be the first item or distinct from the first item? Example: “The dog that was barking in the park was driving me crazy. I tried to focus on my picnic for a while. Then, a dog bit me”. Assuming that the narrator is trying sincerely to be clear and not composing some sort of logic puzzle/brainteaser, would most readers assume that the dog which bit the narrator was the same or different than the dog that was barking earlier?

    Which was the primary objection to Patterico’s phrasing in Foo Bar’s original March ’08 comment that was linked in his first comment on the year-end thread, the switch to “statement” or the use of the indefinite article? What did he deem to be appropriate “at a minimum”? Would this minimally appropriate phrasing have been compatible with the need to connect to Kean’s quote in the update?

    Has Patterico at any point in this long discussion defended, explained, or even addressed his use of the indefinite article “a” in the first mention of the “statement” in his update?

    Is it plausible that when Patterico wrote his update, he forgot that he already had a mention of the staff report in his post, given he had just discussed this point at length in the comments?

    Regardless of the success he had in arguing the main point in his post, does Patterico have a motivation to appear as knowledgeable as possible to his readers on the topics he writes about?

    If Patterico were familiar enough with the staff report to claim that its findings were very similar to those of the final report, wouldn’t a reader expect or at least hope that Patterico would know whether or not the staff report contained the precise phrase “collaborative relationship” and that he would tell the reader if that phrase was present, instead of suggesting that the reader email the LAT rep and ask where they got that phrase? Would Patterico’s perceived authority on the topic be a bit diminished if the reader later found out that Patterico did not know that the phrase was present in this staff report which he supposedly was familiar with? Wouldn’t his authority be a bit diminished even if he had been super-duper successful in arguing the main point he wanted to make (i.e., that the commissioners were unhappy with the media uproar and the allegations of White House dishonesty, they took pains to throw in the word “operational” for good reason, etc.). Might this slight embarrassment be avoided if it appeared that the “statement” in the update were some third, more obscure document distinct from either the final report or the “staff report” (whose release led to the media uproar and whose contents should have been roughly known by someone discussing and criticizing this uproar)?

    In the initial version of the post, prior to the addition of the update and without looking at the comments, did it appear to the reader given the context of the mention of the staff report that it was very similar merely “in general” or very similar as it related to the point Patterico was making, i.e. the inadequacy of “collaborative relationship”, etc.? Wouldn’t the reader tend to assume that a mention that the findings were “very similar” was meant to advance Patterico’s argument? If he then had to make clear in the update that the same staff report was the source of the phrase, wouldn’t he have to backtrack a bit and explain that the report he had called “very similar” was only “very similar” in general and not when it came to the issue at hand (“collaborative relationship”) and that he didn’t mention this from the get-go because ….. ? Might this not be a bit awkward for him? Might this not be something he’d prefer to avoid? If, alternatively, Patterico declines to backtrack and leaves the original language that suggests the findings were very similar as it relates to the issue at hand, is he then left to admit that a report whose findings were very similar to the final report contained the phrase he is complaining about? How serious would the LAT error look in that case?

    Regarding the merits of Patterico’s post generally and whether it was sneaky of Foo Bar to use the Hamilton quote without the preceding NYT paragraph as accompanying context:

    Given that the title of Patterico’s post was “L.A. Times Has Hit Piece on McCain — Which Resurrects the Old Canards About Ties Between Saddam and Al Qaeda” and not “My Lingering Grievances about Widespread Trends in Media Coverage of the 9/11 Report” isn’t it appropriate to confine criticisms to the contents of the particular LAT piece in question?

    It was certainly the case that many media reports suggested, erroneously, that the commission found no links or contacts at all. However, does this particular LAT piece elaborate in any way on what the absence of a collaborative relationship meant? Review the LAT piece and the context of the no “collaborative relationship” mention. In particular, does this LAT piece assert or imply that it meant no links or contacts whatsoever (generally speaking, not just as regards 9/11) ? Note that the “No Al Qaeda link” subhead pretty clearly relates to the 9/11 attack discussion in the preceding paragraph, since “linked” appears in that paragraph.

    Given what this LAT piece does and does not assert and/or deny, is it relevant to the criticism of this particular piece that Hamilton took pains to emphasize that there were numerous contacts and that the content of the staff report’s findings were generally equivalent to those of the final report?

    If Hamilton (the 2nd ranking of the revered commissioners), in the wake of the media uproar after the staff report and in the course of defending the White House, nonetheless emphatically reiterated the no “collaborative relationship” language by saying there wasn’t any evidence of a “collaborative relationship, period”, does that appear to increase or decrease the severity of the LAT’s error in putting “collaborative relationship” in quotes?

    Given that the LAT piece merely puts the phrase in quotes and makes no claims about what it meant, is it necessary to cite the surrounding context of the Hamilton quote or does the quote that reiterates the appropriateness of the phrase stand by itself as a defense of the piece?

    Foo Bar (03f778)

  4. Taking this ridiculous discussion off the Year in Review post was indeed a good idea.

    Let me try this. I’m gonna need more prompting, unfortunately. Since I’m on a phone, I’ll do this in shorter chunks.

    Foo Bar would argue:

    Patterico was being sneaky when he used the term “statement” instead of “report” in his update, and when he used the word “a” rather than “the” to denote the report/statement. Having made a previous reference to the statement, he was honor-bound to refer to it with “the” and “report.”

    When I, Foo Bar, first referenced the report/statement in my comment 41 to the March post, I used the phrase “a staff statement” — the very phrase later used by Patterico. I said: “The final report may not include the specific phrase ‘collaborative relationship’, but the 9/11 Commission issued a staff statement in which that precise phrase was used.” Further, like Patterico, I did not initially say that it was the same report referred to earlier in the post.

    When I used the term “a staff statement,” and failed to relate it to the “report” discussed earlier in the post, my language was proper and not the result of an intent to mislead. But when Patterico used the same phrase as I had used, it was to hide the fact that I had shown him up with my superior knowledge.

    The reason the same phrase is acceptable when used by me, but deceitful when used by Patterico is [need your help on this one].

    I havw considered Patterico’s previous explanation that use of the phrase was also merited because it was used to parallel the language used by Commissioner Kean, and because the key distinction was whether it was a *staff* document vs. a document of the *Commission*. But I reject this explanation because [little help here?].

    Patterico (05b25e)

  5. yeesh

    carlitos the non-pedant (34f76e)

  6. do note that Patterico gave me a hat-tip in the post regarding the use of the phrase in a/the staff report/statement. I recognize that a hat-tip generally signifies that the blogger acknowledges having received a piece of information from someone else. However, I believe Patterico was trying to hide the fact that he didn’t know this information, so that he could appear to be more expert than he really is. The reason I believe this is because, rather than a hat tip, I believe he should have written several lines in the post saying that he hadn’t known where the phrase came from, and that he was schooled on this tangential point by me. Otherwise, readers would mistale the hat-tip as given for information that Patterico already knew. I recognize that the customary usage of a hat tip is to thank another for information the blogger did *not* previously know. However, I believe that readers would overlook the customary usage in this instance because [sorry, I’m at a loss again].

    Patterico (35f697)

  7. Foo Bar @ #3

    Could you translate that comment into english and distill it into something people can understand, please? If it takes that much space to explain it really cannot be significant in my opinion.

    daleyrocks (5d22c0)

  8. Foo Bar,

    With your permission, just to move the ball forward, I fully understand your argument re: “The dog that was barking in the park was driving me crazy. I tried to focus on my picnic for a while. Then, a dog bit me.”

    Let me separate out that part of the argument and respond, unless you severely object.

    To extend the analogy, what if it went like this:

    JOE: The Doberman that was barking in the park was driving me crazy. Look at this bite mark!

    RALPH: Why are you talking about a dog? I thought the 9/11 Commission drove you crazy.

    JOE: It does, but the 9/11 Commission didn’t bite me. It was a dog that bit me.”

    RALPH: Why did you say “a dog” instead of “the Doberman”? Are you trying to hide the fact that the dog that bit you was the same Doberman you just said had been barking??!?!

    JOE: WTF?

    [Exeunt]

    Joe here is trying to distinguish between a dog and the 9/11 Commission, so it’s not important to specify that the dog that bit him was the same dog he had talked about before. The key point is that he was trying to distinguish between the dog and the 9/11 Commission, so use of a different and more general word (dog instead of Doberman, statement instead of report) seems natural. So does use of the word “a.”

    And doesn’t RALPH look a little silly objecting to the usage of the same phrase he just used?

    If you think I’m jumping the gun by making this argument, I’ll go back to the painful restating. But I don’t have the rest of my life for this pointless discussion and I’m on a layover trying to get closer to understanding. Hence this point.

    I await your prompting on your further arguments, and I’ll go back and scan to see if I missed anything important in your previous prompting.

    Patterico (2a8067)

  9. Foo Bar,

    You say:

    “Review the LAT piece and the context of the no “collaborative relationship” mention.”

    I can’t, currently. I’m on a Treo and the Web geniuses at the LAT won’t allow me to access the whole article using that link. Could you e-mail the article to me, please, with head and sub-head included?

    Thanks.

    Patterico (38eb2e)

  10. To make a final effort at understanding your argument:

    After reading through the comments in the March post, I think your argument boils down to this:

    The LAT said that postwar investigations, including a Pentagon report and the 9/11 Commission Report, found no evidence of a collaborative relationship. This is true, but a report issued by the staff for the 9/11 Commission did use that phrase. The LAT wouldn’t look as bad if readers were told that fact.

    Patterico did eventually include that fact, and hat tip me. Under normal circumstances that would be adequate; it gets the information out there.

    But I, Foo Bar, think that it is instead inadequate, because Patterico used language (“a” instead of “the” and “statement” instead of “report”) that obscured the fact that he had previously mentioned that report. This is critical because he had said that the finding of the statement/report were very similar to those of the final report. GAME, SET, MATCH, SUCKA! If the reports were similar in many or most respects, then they must have been similar in this precise respect!! But Patterico attempts to escape this flawless logic by fiddling with articles and recharacterizing reports as statements, to hide the fact that reports HE HIMSELF ADMITTED were similar in most respects must necessarily be identical in this precise respect, even though Patterico had explicitly argued otherwise.

    It is my bad luck that the phrasing “a staff statement” used by Patterico had previously been used both by me and by Comm’r Kean. This gives Patterico an “out” by allowing him to escape my impeccable logic, by arguing that he was just using the same language I myself had used. Curses!

    Patterico (a2f042)

  11. To make a final effort at understanding your argument:

    After reading through the comments in the March post, I think your argument boils down to this:

    The LAT said that postwar investigations, including a Pentagon report and the 9/11 Commission Report, found no evidence of a collaborative relationship. This is true, but a report issued by the staff for the 9/11 Commission did use that phrase. The LAT wouldn’t look as bad if readers were told that fact.

    Patterico did eventually include that fact, and hat tip me. Under normal circumstances that would be adequate; it gets the information out there.

    But I, Foo Bar, think that it is instead inadequate, because Patterico used language (“a” instead of “the” and “statement” instead of “report”) that obscured the fact that he had previously mentioned that report. This is critical because he had said that the finding of the statement/report were very similar to those of the final report. GAME, SET, MATCH, SUCKA! If the reports were similar in many or most respects, then they must have been similar in this precise respect!! But Patterico attempts to escape this flawless logic by fiddling with articles and recharacterizing reports as statements, to hide the fact that reports HE HIMSELF ADMITTED were similar in most respects must necessarily be identical in this precise respect, even though Patterico had explicitly argued otherwise.

    It is my bad luck that the phrasing “a staff statement” used by Patterico had previously been used both by me and by Comm’r Kean. This gives Patterico an “out” by allowing him to escape my impeccable logic, by arguing that he was just using the same language I myself had used. Curses!

    That about right?

    Patterico (6679c2)

  12. Sorry re the double post. I was trying to close a tag. Lemme try again:

    Better?

    Patterico (c63709)

  13. Somehow I’m not surprised that you’re not following your own rules e.g. by calling what I wrote ridiculous and trying to refute my argument (inside and outside your supposed rewrite) before you’ve stated my argument to my satisfaction.

    Anyway…

    When I used the term “a staff statement,” and failed to relate it to the “report” discussed earlier in the post, my language was proper and not the result of an intent to mislead. But when Patterico used the same phrase as I had used, it was to hide the fact that I had shown him up with my superior knowledge.

    True, when I left my very first comment back in March I didn’t yet realize the staff statement and the staff report were one and the same. It took me a little while to figure that out, but once I figured it out I made sure you understood that as well. In contrast, when you wrote your update you knew they were one and the same.

    Also, it’s not about hiding that I had shown you up so much as hiding that you had referenced the staff document without knowing it had the crucial phrase in question. It’s not about me, it’s about how knowledgeable you looked to your readers.

    I havw considered Patterico’s previous explanation that use of the phrase was also merited because it was used to parallel the language used by Commissioner Kean, and because the key distinction was whether it was a *staff* document vs. a document of the *Commission*. But I reject this explanation because [little help here?].

    Did I completely reject it? Here, once again, is the relevant section from my initial prompting (the links to the referenced comments are up there in the initial prompting, comment 3) :

    Which was the primary objection to Patterico’s phrasing in Foo Bar’s original March ‘08 comment that was linked in his first comment on the year-end thread, the switch to “statement” or the use of the indefinite article? What did he deem to be appropriate “at a minimum”? Would this minimally appropriate phrasing have been compatible with the need to connect to Kean’s quote in the update?


    To extend the analogy, what if it went like this:

    JOE: The Doberman that was barking in the park was driving me crazy. Look at this bite mark!

    RALPH: Why are you talking about a dog? I thought the 9/11 Commission drove you crazy.

    JOE: It does, but the 9/11 Commission didn’t bite me. It was a dog that bit me.”

    This is a poor analogy, because “look at this bite mark” immediately following the Doberman sentence is pretty suggestive that the Doberman did the biting. In contrast, in your original post prior to the update there is nothing to suggest that “collaborative relationship” came from the staff report and much to suggest otherwise, since you referenced the staff report in the course of making your argument about how awful it was that the LAT had put “collaborative relationship” in quotes. A better analogy would be if Joe’s first line had been something like “the Doberman I had with me was barking and driving me crazy, but he’s all about my safety” without the “look at this bite mark” part.


    I recognize that the customary usage of a hat tip is to thank another for information the blogger did *not* previously know. However, I believe that readers would overlook the customary usage in this instance because [sorry, I’m at a loss again].

    It’s not about hiding that fact that you had been supplied information (whether by me or someone else) that you did not previously know. It’s about hiding the fact that in your original post you had passed yourself off as knowledgeable about something (the staff report) when in fact you didn’t even know that it contained this key phrase you were so upset about.

    Foo Bar (03f778)

  14. FWIW, I wrote comment 13 before reading 10 and 11.

    This is critical because he had said that the finding of the statement/report were very similar to those of the final report. GAME, SET, MATCH, SUCKA! If the reports were similar in many or most respects, then they must have been similar in this precise respect!!

    You clearly have not read my initial prompting very carefully, but so it goes. Please reread the paragraph in my initial prompting that begins “In the initial version of the post,” again. What you’ve written here is only a cartoonish version of the second of the two unpleasant alternatives you had if it was made clear that the staff statement and the staff report were the same.

    Foo Bar (03f778)

  15. “It’s not about me, it’s about how knowledgeable you looked to your readers.”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    daleyrocks (5d22c0)

  16. to hide the fact that reports HE HIMSELF ADMITTED were similar in most respects must necessarily be identical in this precise respect, even though Patterico had explicitly argued otherwise.

    Note that you avoided having to make this awkward “similar in most respects but not in this precise respect, i.e., the one relevant to the point I was making when I wrote the original post (and by the way, sorry I didn’t explain this when I wrote the original post)” argument in the main body of your post because the statement and the report were not presented as the same thing in main body of your post. You only had to make this awkward argument in the comments.

    Foo Bar (03f778)

  17. by Comm’r Kean.

    Also, the fact that the Kean quote included “a staff statement” is completely irrelevant to the question of whether it was appropriate for you to introduce it in your update as “a staff statement”. The Kean quote is “This was a staff statement”. The identity of the object in question has been introduced and has already been fixed in the context of the discussion, which is why Kean is able to reference it as “this”. That’s not analogous at all to writing something like “we’ve determined the source of the offending phrase: it was a staff statement”, which is language that suggests that the document in question has not previously been discussed or introduced.

    Foo Bar (03f778)

  18. Patrick, I am awed by your attention span. Could we get an audio tape of this whole exchange ? I had trouble sleeping last night.

    Mike K (8df289)

  19. Now that I think about it, the Joe/Ralph conversation you constructed is also a poor analogy for another reason. Ralph reacts to the mention of the Doberman by asking why he’s talking about a dog, which should help link (in Ralph’s mind) the mention of a dog in Joe’s second line to the Doberman mention in Joe’s first line.

    From the point of view of a reader who was not reading the comments, though, your mention of “a staff statement” in the update (which parallels Joe’s second line) was not in response to a question about either “a” or “the” staff report. It’s true that it was in response to me, and indeed anyone reading the comments carefully obviously would not have missed the fact that “statement=report”. There was no such back-and-forth linkage to help out the average reader, though.

    Foo Bar (03f778)

  20. “Also, the fact that the Kean quote included “a staff statement” is completely irrelevant to the question of whether it was appropriate for you to introduce it in your update as “a staff statement”.”

    That’s completely bullshit. I’m about to get on a plane again and my battery and patience are about dead with that statement.

    Tell you what, pal. You rewrite my update from my March post for me. Go.

    Patterico (56d972)

  21. I just re-read the LAT article you e-mailed, Foo Bar.

    If anything, I was too nice to the LAT.

    Patterico (f7d595)

  22. Under a sub-head that says “No Al Qaeda link” we see this: “”I doubt seriously if there’s this close relationship between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein,” he told CBS News in September 2002.”

    You think there’s anything in the record to dispute “No Al Qaeda link” or no “close relationship”?

    And citing the Pentagon and 9/11 reports as evidence to support this, without quoting the Commissioners, was wholly misleading.

    Everything else is utter trivia.

    Patterico (3cfda3)

  23. You think there’s anything in the record to dispute “No Al Qaeda link” or no “close relationship”?

    As I explained to you, it’s reasonably clear that “link” refers to 9/11, since “linked” appears in the paragraph discussing 9/11. “Close relationship” is pretty subjective. No, I don’t think what the commission found amounts to a “close relationship”, but that’s probably too subjective to even attempt to resolve.

    Everything else is utter trivia.

    Well, now that this has been asserted without any supporting argumentation, I’m convinced.

    Yep, I’m not surprised that you’re unwilling to see this through even though I completed my end of the bargain. Did you think that just because I rendered your argument more-or-less to your satisfaction that I didn’t think any of it was BS? Of course not. I simply kept such assessments to myself, as is demanded by the process you proposed.

    You weren’t even willing to go through one rewrite of my position in response to my reactions to your initial attempts.

    Anyway, I guess I’ll fulfill your request even though you didn’t fulfill your end of the deal we had. The update to your March post that I would have liked to see (i.e., one that would have been more forthcoming about where you had slipped up) would have read something like the following:

    It turns out that the source of the phrase ‘collaborative relationship’ was the staff report I mentioned earlier when I introduced the quote from Lehman. So while it’s true that I said its findings were very similar to those of the final report, I now see that they were not similar on this particular point. My apologies for not checking the staff report for “collaborative relationship”, and my apologies to Jamie Gold and to anyone who emailed her at my urging asking her where they got that phrase. I should have known the answer to that question myself.

    Nonetheless, the phrase is absent from the final report, which means the LAT made a factual error. Here is my letter to the LAT requesting a correction.

    -insert discussion of distinction between staff views and commissioners views, with correspondence between ‘staff report’ and ‘staff statement’ in Kean quote, as desired-

    Anyway, thanks for passing along the “state the other side’s argument to his satisfaction” procedure, which I think is kind of cool. I hope to employ it with someone willing to see through both ends of the process some time…

    Foo Bar (c30280)

  24. Foo Bar,

    Patterico has already said he is traveling, can communicate with his Treo but has no access to a computer, and that his Treo battery is limited. I suggest more patience and less sarcasm.

    DRJ (345e40)

  25. I’m glad Foo Bar’s looking out for the interest’s of Patterico’s readers. As you can tell by the tremendous interest generated by this thread, there was a lit of concern generated by this controversy. In spite of Foo Bar’s voluminous attempts to explain the nub, nit, kernel, speck, or whatever of the controversy, I still don’t understand what the fuck he’s talking about other than the label given two similar documents and beating a dead horse to death, but then again, it’s not all about Foo Bar.

    daleyrocks (5d22c0)

  26. I’m home and trying to distill your complaint without taking a thousand words. It appears to be:

    Patterico asked readers to write Jamie Gold and ask where the phrase “collaborative relationship” came from. It took me, Foo Bar, to point out where it did indeed come from: the very staff report to which he had referred earlier in the post.

    Then, when he updated to reflect that fact, he did acknowledge that I had pointed it out to him — but he attempted to hide from readers that it was the same report to which he had earlier referred. His method was to refer to it as “a staff statement” rather than “the staff report” (or better yet, “the staff report that I referred to earlier).

    Granted, I referred to it the same way, and so did Comm’r Kean — and that’s even the official name of the thing. Irrelevancies, one and all — nothing but cover for subterfuge on Patterico’s part.

    When I used that terminology, I didn’t even realize it was the same staff report that Patterico had referred to earlier in the post. Patterico did know that when he used the phrase in his update.

    As for Kean using the same terminology, that is defensible because it was already known what the document was.

    The proper designation for the document is also irrelevant.

    Patterico argues that the point of referring to the report in the update was to a) acknowledge the source of the phrase used by the LAT, and b) to argue that the source did not undermine his argument because the source was a staff document, the media’s interpretation of which had been rejected by numerous public statements made by the Commissioners. Patterico argues that he made that point in a few words, in an already long post.

    I think his update should have said more than that. He should have explicitly referred to the staff statement in such a way that made it clear that it was the same document he had previously said contained findings “very similar to those of the final report.” His praise of the staff report was intended to bolster his conclusion that the staff report had found ties between Al Qaeda and Iraq, since one of the Commissioners had said that it did. But once it emerged that that very same report had the phrase that the LAT had used, then Patterico would have to engage in some fancy footwork to explain how that phrase was consistent with the lack of ties. And after that fancy footwork was completed, readers would be wondering what was so wrong about the LAT error after all.

    Patterico argues that what is wrong with it is a) it was inaccurate, period, and b) it was the conclusion of the staff and not the Commissioners. I concede both points but don’t find them central and don’t believe they should have been the focus of Patterico’s update. Rather, the focus of his update should have been a lengthy confession of error, rather than a focus on what the LAT got wrong and why. That is the only way he can maintain credibility with his readers. And if it took more words, so be it. I have no objection to using more words to make a point.

    That’s the best I can do.

    Patterico (cc3b34)

  27. But if I’m misstating it, lemme know.

    Patterico (cc3b34)

  28. OK, kudos to you for sticking with the process. I had the impression you had abandoned it.

    You’ve made some progress with this version, but there’s still a ways to go. I get the impression you’re not reading a lot of what I’ve written very carefully, so I’m going to present my reactions to this version first in relatively short bullet points, to make sure you at least read those. You should make sure that your next (and hopefully final version) is influenced substantially by each of these bullet points. I will then explain some of the bullet points in more detail.

    1) Your version includes nothing about what I suspect was a key motivation: prevent your non-comments-reading readership from realizing that you did not know some of the source material you had already cited, i.e. the staff statement/report, as well you implicitly claimed to know it in your original post. This is not the same concept as hiding the fact that a reader gave you a tip, which you obviously did not do.

    2) You dwell too much on “statement” vs. “report” instead of on “a” vs. “the”, which you gloss over almost entirely. I’ve already indicated to you multiple times that it would have been minimally acceptable to me if only one word were different in your update, i.e., if “the” had preceded the first mention “staff statement” instead of “a”.

    3)You say “his praise of the staff report was intended to bolster his conclusion that the staff report had found ties between Al Qaeda and Iraq.”
    No, I think it’s clear the staff report was cited to support the claim that it “is not splitting hairs to note that the L.A. Times asserted the use of the phrase “collaborative relationship” rather than “collaborative operational relationship.” ”

    4) In general, you’re working much too hard to make me look as bad and as unreasonable as possible and to insert why you think I’m wrong into your summation while you appear to go through the motions of this process.

    5) I don’t have a problem with the staff/commissioners distinction being a focus of your update, but readers get a better sense of whether that distinction is really that important or not if they’re able to connect back to your mention of the staff in the original post body and note that you said nothing about this distinction at that point.

    Elaboration of (1):

    When, in the original body post, you claim to be in a position to be able to say that the staff report’s findings were very similar to those of the final report, you are asserting a certain amount of familiarity with staff report. This level of familiarity would almost certainly be such that you would know whether or not the staff report contained “collaborative relationship”, given your fixation on this phrase. If it becomes clear to the non-comments-reading reader that you did not in fact have this level of familiarity you effectively claimed to have, then the impression the reader has regarding how well you know what you claim to know is slightly diminished. Some readers may think “hmmm… I wonder what else he’s missed in docs he claims to know about?”. If, instead, it looks like the staff statement was not the same as the staff report, that doesn’t look as bad. In that case, you weren’t aware of the “statement”, but at least you know what you claim to know.

    Elaboration of (2):

    You should at least briefly include the argument that the use of the indefinite article “a” makes it appear as if the “statement” is a new item not previously mentioned in the post. Also, I said in my original comment back in March that at a minimum you should have said the staff statement and I reiterated this in comments 3 and 13 above. I grant you that at some point in the year long thread I may have said that you should have been entirely consistent about the use of report and statement. I went a little too far there. I don’t have a problem with switching to statement once the fact that the “report” and “statement” are the same is established. Simply saying “the staff statement” in the update does a mediocre, passable job of establishing this. Something like “the staff report (more properly referred to as the ‘staff statement’)” would be better.

    Elaboration of (4):

    I’m sure you know what I’m talking about here, e.g., “It took me, Foo Bar …”, “nothing but cover for subterfuge”, “I have not objection to using more words”, etc. So when you incorporate what I’ve requested here, don’t turn it into exaggerated strawman that makes me look even more unreasonable than I may actually be ;). For instance, in point (1) I’ll bet you’ll be tempted to write something like “if Patterico said that the staff report’s findings were very similar, then of course readers would assume that he should have every word of the staff report memorized to perfection” or “once it is revealed that Patterico didn’t know the phrase was in the staff report he’d mentioned, his credibility would be ruined and no one will ever read him again.” No, I’m not saying either of those things. I’m saying you should have had a copy of it (as I was able to find) handy and should have searched it for the phrase. Or, at a minimum, you should have read some of the news accounts after the release of the staff report, noted “collaborative relationship” in quotes, and realized that reporters weren’t putting that in quotes just because they felt like it. And your slip-up is not that big a deal. It’s just a minor embarrassment I suspect you preferred to avoid.

    Foo Bar (723378)

  29. Let me add something on point (1) above:

    This motivation- to prevent readers from realizing that you didn’t know what you claimed to know (the staff report/statement) that well- is independent of the success or failure of your “overall argument” about whether the media had twisted the 9/11 commission’s findings, etc. I think part of why you’ve had trouble following what I was saying is that you assume that everything relates only to the success or failure of the main argument you wanted to make it in that post, rather than the general impression readers have regarding how well you know your source material you cite.

    Foo Bar (723378)

  30. You know, I’m not sure I do have the patience to spend 1000 words rewriting the opinion of someone who 1) has heard my claim that I had no devious motivation; 2) continues to insist that I did without proof; and 3) ignores the fact that I did admit I didn’t know this, by hat-tipping the person who told me.

    Why should I articulate in my own words an argument that ignores the one I already made? The whole purpose of this exercise is to prevent people from talking past each other and dealing with each other in good faith. That means 1) addressing the arguments I have already made, and 2) accepting claims I have made about my own motivations unless you have PROOF those claims are wrong — and then, you should articulate that proof.

    Absent this, I’m not interested in wasting any more time on this project. And since I have no idea how you would address these issues, I’m not going to waste time guessing.

    If you want to take this position and claim that I’ve given up, fine. What I take from this is that, if I run this experiment in the future, I will require that the second argument be responsive to (and respectful of) the first.

    Part of the reason I have been smarky about (and dismissive of) your position is that I don’t believe it has been. The portions that have been responsive, I have addressed much more respectfully. But when your hints/prompting appear to show no hint that you have read/understood my argument, or at least that you either accept it or provide evidence why it’s wrong, I get annoyed and less interested in pursuing the project.

    Patterico (cc3b34)

  31. I’m just glad this is not all about Foo Bar and instead about protecting the interests of imagined noncomment reading blog visitors who happen upon a nine month old post here. I’m sure they have been complaining in droves due to their confusion.

    daleyrocks (5d22c0)

  32. I’ve had a few dozen tell me they won’t read me anymore after discovering the deception uncovered by Foo Bar. “If only you had said ‘the,'” they tell me. “But you didn’t. You said ‘a.’ And I just can’t trust you any more.”

    Patterico (cc3b34)

  33. It is indeed as bad as I suspected!

    daleyrocks (5d22c0)

  34. Patterico – This is one of the most flagrantly dishonest posts I have ever seen from you. It makes me question every post you have ever written. The level of dishonesty displayed here is breath taking.

    JD (457b76)

  35. Heh.

    Patterico (cc3b34)

  36. The level of dishonesty displayed here is breath taking.

    I know… I don’t know if I can be associated with such rampant deception…

    Thought it could be worse…

    Could be the LA Times. 😉

    Scott Jacobs (a1c284)


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