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September 11, 2005

Comments

Thanks for this fuller explanation of your position. It's too late for me to comment integelligentally, but I am glad to see that that conservatives here are still willing to engage in argument. If there is another site where left and right wing commenters are sustained--besides Tacitus--I'd be interested to hear of it. For now, bonne nuit, alle.

Here's what I don't get: Even if we grant, for the sake of argument, that the local police, the city government, and the state government made horribly inept errors, surely we can both agree that in nearly every case these errors were made in the face of enormous uncertainties before the storm and enormous challenges after (the severely debilitated infrastructure and the fact that first-responders were also victims of the disaster, for example). For some of those misjudgements there should be hell to pay (the Gretna Police barricade stands out in this regard, particularly since they weren't hit nearly as hard as the NOPD), and hopefully folks will be held accountable in each of these cases.

But what were the analogous challenges facing the federal government? So far as I can tell, they were primarily bureaucratic. Their equipment wasn't underwater or without any source of power. Their agents weren't homeless and without reliable sources of food, water, or ammunition. They were mired in their own red tape, not in corpse-strewn sewage. They were still able to order lattes from Starbucks, not scrounging for Dasani at a looted Wal-Mart.

Can you really not understand the inclination to cut the locals a bit of slack, while being severely pissed off at the Feds? Why is it that I should be as angry at the folks who, arguendo, grossly underestimated the coming disaster beforehand and then made some serious mistakes while stranded neck-deep in their own filth as I currently am at those who, despite having all the resources of the Federal government at their disposal, days AFTER the disaster, when I was watching folks pleading for help on my TV, were clearly ignorant of even the most basic facts on the ground?

You wrote a lot of stuff above that is worthy of consideration, but nothing in this post comes anywhere near answering this question for me.

I'm not going to respond to everything in this. Partially because large chunks of it seem to be, alternately, airing your dirty laundry with Hilzoy or whining about how put upon you are, but mostly because there's certain parts that leapt out at me more than others and things that need saying.

I've purposely chosen to spend most of my Internet time on reading and post-writing, with commenting coming a distant third. The reason is time constraints.

Frankly, Charles, your inability to respond to people who comment on your posts is a problem of your own making. The levels of comment traffic at Tacitus, Redstate, and ObWi individually are not so high as to prevent you from keeping up with the meat of the thread, let alone from taking a few minutes to update the main page when you post something fundamentally flawed and are corrected. This is simple courtesy.

You're clearly aware of your own limitations, as demonstrated by the paragraph you spent talking about how long the first five paragraphs took to write. You also want to expose your views to a variety of venues. That's great--I want to post on a blog, participate in comment threads, raise my kid, earn a living, keep up with my modeling hobby, run for local office, play in a tabletop RPG, take martial arts classes, go to college for the fun of learning, and do lots of other things--but I have a finite amount of time in my day, and I recognize that I'm simply not one of those people who is organized or driven enough to sandwich all of that into one day. I have had to trim things from my life in order to have the time and energy I need to do justice to the things that are most important to me. And if you aren't capable of devoting the time necessary to respect your readers enough to respond to their challenges when you post in a deliberately interactive medium, then you need to think hard on how thinly you've spread yourself.

But moving on from that, exposing my views to a whole range of readers, I believe, is a healthy way to find out if my opinions hold water or not. It has also broadened by understanding of liberal thought and believe I have grown from that experience.

Hogwash. If you've grown in any way as a writer, blogger, or thinking human being as a result of your time at Obsidian Wings, it certainly doesn't come out in your posts or comments, which are the only evidence any of us have to work with. You are one of the most reflexive Bush partisans in the blogosphere, resistant to even the most persistent and damning evidence of Republican perfidy. Rarely--when cornered with undeniable facts, or when it's relatively safe to do so--you will concede that Bush has done some wrong or another, or even put up an obligatory darn-that-pesky-Bush post in some baffling, halfassed appeal to moderation. Yet always--absolutely without exception--your condemnations of Bush or the Republican party for their mal du jour stops short of admitting that yeah, maybe, just maybe they really don't deserve to be in office. It is yet another way in which you reflect the nature of the party you so relentlessly defend, in that there is no notion of accountability, which requires that egregious failures have consequences. It is empty rhetoric, with all the political and ethical nutritional value of a fruit roll-up.

Show me an example of this growth. Show me an example of you rethinking your position based on new facts, and updating your post accordingly--bonus points if you also updated the mirror post at Redstate instead of just letting the false information stand for your conservative audience. If you can fill up one hand counting these examples, I'll be pleasantly surprised.

On the other hand, if by growth you mean you've developed the ability to admit every now and then that Bush does not walk on water, piss beer, and crap gold nuggets, then congratulations--you've grown the ability to think beyond the level of a party apparatchik. If this is all it takes to make you proud of yourself, then I suggest you set a higher bar.

Gromit: Why is it that I should be as angry at the folks who, arguendo, grossly underestimated the coming disaster beforehand and then made some serious mistakes while stranded neck-deep in their own filth as I currently am at those who, despite having all the resources of the Federal government at their disposal, days AFTER the disaster, when I was watching folks pleading for help on my TV, were clearly ignorant of even the most basic facts on the ground?

Quoted because Gromit essentially speaks for me on that particular matter.

I can barely imagine the logistics of a full evacuation, even given 72 hours. Evacuate 7 hospitals, including the critical care units?
Where is the extra capacity in the neighborhood? Considering the unclear path of Katrina, what municipalities are willing to degrade their own response capability? I suppose you try to get those premies to Dallas. But then we are into Federal territory already.

Expecting a full evacuation, organized and executed by local officials, is expecting a lot.

Some blog today (I have to start saving and bookmarking stuff) quoted the Texas Republican Platform about rebuilding local Civil Defense capabilities and lessening reliance on FEMA. To try to put this diplomatically, I suspect a policy agenda on the part of both those who focus on the local authorities and those who look at the Bush administration. I will admit to one, I want the primary responsibility for disasters of this size to be federal. Ummm. With a different party in control.

A great post Charles. I do not understand this fear of politics and idolatry of objectivity that floats around here sometimes.

On the other hand, if by growth you mean you've developed the ability to admit every now and then that Bush does not walk on water, piss beer, and crap gold nuggets, then congratulations--you've grown the ability to think beyond the level of a party apparatchik.

Since I've never claimed Bush had ever had done any of those things, Catsy, I conclude that you don't know what the hell you're talking about, and that your comments continue to display a disturbing quantity of intolerant uncivil illiberalism. I actually had half a mind of responding to some of your comments, but forget that. Next.

I do not understand this fear of politics and idolatry of objectivity that floats around here sometimes.

bob, I really don't know what you mean by that. Care to explain?

Small thought: Louisiana is a poor state, NO a poor city. America is a wealthy country whose government has deliberately minimized its own funding.

Cripes, catsy. Republicans are not going to be Democrats and will not follow your logical rules because not only are their premises but the methods will be different.
And as alien beings, we will seem upside down and just wrong to each other. But you might get an insight into their feelings, biases, prejudices that can be useful. There are a bunch of them around, and they are not all going to go away.

What do you want? To change Charles, drive him away, have him swear obeisance? I do not waste my time with personal attacks on Charles, although I suspect he knows some of my feelings about his party. I save personal attacks and my strongest vitriol for liberals and moderates. Cause I love them.

bob, I really don't know what you mean by that. Care to explain?"

"To try to put this diplomatically, I suspect a policy agenda on the part of both those who focus on the local authorities and those who look at the Bush administration. I will admit to one, I want the primary responsibility for disasters of this size to be federal."

I quote myself as example. The unsaid extension is that I will chose my targets and subjects based on my agenda, and do not feel there is anything wrong with that. I do not feel required to give equal time to the local authorites, even tho they may share blame or hold a larger share. I hope I am careful not to absolve them if they deserve censure. Whatever. This is all too long.

You attack Ward Cleveland and Michael Moore. I'll attack Rush and Ann Coulter. We are not becoming immoral in making such choices.

I take serious issue with Catsy on Charles' obligation to respond to commenters. Assuming that he takes the time to think through and write a serious and worthwhile piece, the site is enhanced and he is no more obligated to respond to your comments than you were originally obligated to respond to his post. He's doing us a favor by writing and we should respect that, not demand that he pay for the privilege of writing for us by also engaging in conversations with those who wish to comment on his pieces.

It can be pretty time-consuming to write a comment-worthy essay. And it's not improbable that many the most comment-worthy essays should be written by persons who have some pretty serious professional time constraints vying for their writing time.

On another note, what level of government we're focusing on, let me say this: while I'm not totally uninterested, I am in fact not very interested in whether state and local authorities did a good job of preparing for and responding to Katrina. Certainly, it's important for those who will plan future disaster responses to pay close attention to what persons at all levels of government, as well as NGOs, did in response to the disaster.

But that's not me. I'm just not very interested in state and local government and politics, not even in my own state and locality. On the other hand, I'm very interested in national government, and fascinated with the Presidency.

I think our culture, here 50 years after the debut of I Love Lucy, IS mainly national. Not that there isn't a noticeable difference between Birmingham and Berkeley, gut generally I think, except for certain local micro-cultures, that most of us define ourselves more as Americans citizens than as denizens of our particular locality. We share considerable cultural characteristics on a national basis.

Basically I don't see it making a tremendous difference who gets elected to local government and in many cases to state government. You're going to get some variation of the same sort of corruption either way. But I see tremendous differences based on who controls the national government. This is where we Americans as a national cultural group oversee, and sometimes change, the direction of our society.

So that affects how I look at this in a couple of ways. First, again, I'm just not very interested in local government, and that goes double for people I will never be called on to vote for or against. (And as a Democratic partisan, Blanco and Nagin can sink or swim on their own merits, so far as I'm concerned. They're not national Democratic leaders and I have no political or partisan investment in defending them.)

Secondly, as a lifelong student of the Presidency, I have some pretty firm views of how a good President should have responded to an event of this nature, whereas I have little conception of how a state or locality might respond. So I'm not only more interested in how the feds and the President responded, I feel a lot better qualified to judge those folks than to judge the state and local types.

Third, while this doesn't apply so much to disaster preparation, at least in terms of disaster reaction it seems pretty obvious to me that you can't expect much from the locals in response to a really catastrophic disaster. So the response has to be either primarily federal or primarily non-existent.

So yeah, I have been talking about Bush's reaction and his administration's reaction to this event a whole bunch, and about the city of New Orleans' reaction and the state of Louisiana's reaction not very much. That's going to continue.

Since I've never claimed Bush had ever had done any of those things, Catsy, I conclude that you don't know what the hell you're talking about, and that your comments continue to display a disturbing quantity of intolerant uncivil illiberalism.

Thank you for demonstrating one of your rhetorical traits which makes it difficult at best for even the more even-tempered among us to hold a dialogue with you, particularly those of us afflicted with a sense of humor. Of course no one could seriously believe that Bush or any other human walks on water, pisses beer, or defecates gold nuggets. Nor have you ever stated, to the best of my recall, that Bush does any of those three specific things. No reasonable person would read that line and think, "Catsy thinks that I've claimed Bush walked on water? And pissed beer? When did I ever say that? Wow, he must not know what he's talking about!" No, an actual thinking human being with a high school-level command of the English language would read that and think, "Catsy is indulging in rhetorical excess in order to make a point, and this is obvious to anyone reading this because he gave examples that are not only improbable but physiologically impossible." Said thinking person would then reasonably conclude that the joke was intended to convey the message that your support of Bush has been so uncompromising in the face of facts that your growth or self-described ability to see if your views hold water can only be measured against the admission that Bush does not do certain things which are patently impossible.

Really. The fact that I have to explain this to you is absurd. I take the time to do so only because it is necessary to demonstrate how absolutely puerile this response of yours was.


I actually had half a mind of responding to some of your comments, but forget that. Next.

Nice dodge. I should probably realize by now that if I utilize any degree of humor, irrelevancy, or rhetorical excess in the process of making a perfectly valid point to you, you will seize on it and beat it to death while using it as an excuse to avoid responding to the valid points in any way.

bob: Cripes, catsy. Republicans are not going to be Democrats and will not follow your logical rules because not only are their premises but the methods will be different.

I have no idea what you're talking about. Republicans and Democrats are not governed by different logical rules; logic is logic. Facts are facts. You have a nugget of truth when you point out that our premises are different, but I don't see what that has to do with anything I said to Charles. If you were trying to imply that my cricisms are off-base because he and I have different starting points, then I'm sorry, but you're wrong: the bulk of my criticism of Charles is of his near-pathological inability or unwillingness to bend in his support of a relentlessly incompetent and corrupt party and administration in the face of irrefutable evidence of such. Charles's differing premises may very well inform his behavior in this matter, but it is his lack of integrity and willingness to put his party before his country that are the determining factor.

What do you want? To change Charles, drive him away, have him swear obeisance?

Changing him would be nice. Failing that, getting him to go away and reserve his nonsense for Redstate would be an acceptable second choice. Obsidian Wings does need a conservative voice, but it needs a principled conservative voice--and that need does not obligate ObWi's owners to provide a platform to someone whose writings are typically indistinguishable from the Republican talking points of the week.

You will notice that I do not level this kind of ire at Slart, Sebastian, or von. There's a reason for that.

Trickster: I take serious issue with Catsy on Charles' obligation to respond to commenters. Assuming that he takes the time to think through and write a serious and worthwhile piece, the site is enhanced and he is no more obligated to respond to your comments than you were originally obligated to respond to his post.

This is not an assumption wisely made with Charles's writings. Moreover, it ignores one of the problems with his frequent inability or unwillingness to update the original post when it is (as is often the case) fundamentally flawed: that many visitors to blogs do not spend any time in the comments, and thus their impression of the piece is informed solely by what's above the fold. The result is that visitors to the site who do not read the comments will come away grossly misinformed. To repeat from above: ObWi does not owe Charles a platform for spreading Republican talking points.

Oh, and Charles? What with the "intolerant uncivil illiberalism" moniker? I've seen you use it before, and I'm sure it sounds cute and witty to you, but it's about as contextually nonsensical as "nanny nanny boo boo".

Between them, Catsy and Gromit have made all necessary points to Charles. As usual, he has ignored those points. Ho hum.

I am not a frequent commenter here (though I often read most of the comments) and I lost any respect for W after South Carolina, 2000. Just so you know that I know where I stand.

My take on the local vs federal:
Mayors get elected to pave the streets, keep the schools functioning, pick up the garbage, police the criminals, etc. Even in NO, disaster planning is not going to get you elected.

Governors pave roads, build bridges, run the Highway Patrol, etc. Even in LA, disaster planning is not going to get you elected.

FEMA is supposed to be a federal agency of people who specialize in handling emergency situations. They don't run for office; they are supposed to be selected for their their expertise, training, and experience in dealing with just this sort of situation. They were supposed to be the experts.

When the experts turn out not to be so expert, I think it's natural to wonder about the guy who picked them. And when the guy who picked them also chooses to go to the other end of the country to give a speech instead of focusing on his day job, I think it's natural to ask about that too.

I read the first part of Charles' post; so this is a response to that. (I don't have time to revisit the Charles/hilzoy thing.)

So as for that first part? I agree with Charles.

ObWi is a valuable stop for me on my daily trip through the blogs, because its front page posts provide a variety of views. I wish that the "right wing" side posted more often, so that there would be visible evidence of the balance that exists in the list of editors.

The comments, however, are strongly liberal, and though I more often agree with them than not, the dearth of right-wing comments means that there's less of a dialogue there than a piling on. Believe me, I understand the response -- Charles' posts make me crazy most of the time -- but with so many posters saying the same thing, it's just not that interesting.

As for Charles not responding more to comments? Well, I do sympathize with him -- reading and responding takes time anywhere, and here it would take more time than usual. Yes, in general, if one posts front-page, one should schedule time to respond to commenters -- but at ObWi, most of the time, Charles would have to respond to everyone because there's no other right-wing voice to help out. Sometimes I'm exhausted just reading the onslaught, and most of the commenters insist that a poster respond to his or her specific words, so a general response post doesn't work.

So here's the view from someone who almost always disagrees with the content of Charles' posts: he's got a good point. I would love to see more balance in the front page posts, and would be thrilled with non-snarky, balanced debate in the comments. I think the latter is a pipe dream, unfortuately. :::takes a puff, fades out:::

* I'm using "right-wing" these days because IMO, Bushco does not represent conservatism in any way, shape or form -- so I don't see those defending him/it as conservatives. JMO.

Two points:

1) Gromit, in the second comment, speaks for me also. The sins of the local authorities largely amounted to poor planning, idiotic police et al excepted. The sins of the Federal authorities included poor planning but transcended it - their desire to cover their own arses appears to have taken precedence over the need to save lives. This is criminal dereliction of duty. It should have been foreseeable by the idiot who appointed the FEMA heads, who nonetheless managed to surpass his own previous iincompetence by apparently not noticing that the hurricane had even hit for several days. The local officials may have been overwhelmed and incompetent, but they at least tried.

2) Having expressed my strong disagreement with Charles's opinion that blame rests at least as much at the bottom as at the top: Catsy, back off. Charles may support the president, and you and I may find that inexplicable, but he remains a human being, and he has expressed his position in this post with considerable grace. This is far more than many on either side can say for themselves.

As I read it - even though I disagree with many of his individual points and especially with his readings of Hilzoy's posts - the thrust of his post is that we have the right to disagree. Damn right. Equally, you have a right to disagree with him, but abuse is not disagreement. See Hilzoy's recent writings in posts and comments for a better way to respond with dignity, yet without needing to sacrifice any depth of feeling or integrity. Charles has responded in kind, and my estimation for him has gone up dramatically for it.

A site that has both Hilzoy and Charles on it is a rare thing, and though I swoon at the writing of one and regularly tear my hair out when reading the other, I'd miss either of them. Cool it.

"When a conservative dips his toe into the waters here, it will get bitten and there is little or no backup to be had."

Your ideas are, in many but not all cases, illogical and therefore indefensable in any kind of a rational debate. Therefore few people, youself included, show up to defend them in the comments.

Catsy, back off. Charles may support the president, and you and I may find that inexplicable, but he remains a human being, and he has expressed his position in this post with considerable grace.

What does Charles' humanity have to do with whether or not I hold him accountable for his unswerving support for Bush and the GOP? And what is this grace of which you speak? Most of this post was airing dirty laundry with Hilzoy, the rest was a self-indulgent whining about how he's such an enlightened conservative who wants to air his views on multiple forums and have them challenged, but can't be bothered to actually modify his a priori assumptions and regurgitated talking points when they're demonstrated to be shall we say, factually challenged. Nor can be be bothered to actually respond in any meaningful or relevant fashion most of the time, or update his misleading posts, because his aforementioned noble drive to air his views on all these forums leaves him no time to comment.

If my criticisms took place in a vacuum, if this were the only post Charles had even made, then maybe you'd have a point. Maybe I'd be giving him too hard a time, coming off too harsh. But they don't, and I'm not. From his time at Tacitus, Charles was easily the most red meat, dishonestly partisan front page poster on the entire blog, and since joining ObWi, he's managed to set the bar so low that even putting Tacitus on the front page would be an improvement. There's plenty of history here, and if I sound harsh, it's because I see no value in any but the most perfunctory civility towards someone who allows rational engagement to bounce off their party loyalty with negligible effect.

So no, I will not "back off" or "cool it". When I want to read Republican talking points, I go to Redstate. If you find some value in seeing them regurgitated on the front page here, then that's your choice, but don't presume that everyone else shares it.

"If you find some value in seeing them regurgitated on the front page here, then that's your choice, but don't presume that everyone else shares it."

That is my choice. I do not like seeing personal directed attacks in comments, or at least those done so unsubtly and coarsely that they lack entertainment value. It is not my place, and something I rarely do, but you are I believe violating posting rules. You not required to read Charles' posts...

What a boring flame war. I will let the moderators handle it.

Incidentally, not a day goes by in which I wonder that I have not been banned. People are not indentical with their ideologies. Perhaps because I don't take this personally. The only two who have upset me are Moe and Tacitus, who I think have on occasion betrayed their better natures. Charles is an authentic partisan, and I like him. But I like Paul Cella, for goodness sake. I would probably let Steve Sailer on board. I have no morals at all.

ObWi does not owe Charles a platform for spreading Republican talking points.

Emphatically agreed. Also, heat, kitchen, etc. Charles, if you find you're not getting "backup" here, perhaps it's because most of what you write is unsupported by evidence.

Another view by Ken MacLeod, via Jim Henley

The Invisible Fist

"What’s happened is a disaster all right, but to say that it’s a failure presupposes that the plan was to use all available civil and military forces to deliver relief, and that this plan failed. Evidently there was no such plan. Nor, contrary to what some on the left have argued, was the situation left to the market and other forms of voluntary organization. Time and again, volunteer help from outside and self-help and mutual aid within have been blocked.

What the US authorities at every level appear to have settled on by accident or design is a method with wider application. The priority is to control the population. In the event of disaster, seal off the city until a sufficient military force is in place to take it. Exaggerate the degree of disorder within, relying on racism and rumour. Evacuate the city at gunpoint and don’t let people back. Disperse the evacuees, humanely it may be, but firmly, with as much of the burden as possible taken by charity. Turn over the reconstruction to Haliburton and favoured real-estate developers. This is the future of Homeland Security. This is what to expect in the event of another natural disaster or mass-casualty attack"

This is the way to be nasty and mean. Charles might bring in a Republican who would read this. I like that idea. Ad hominem attacks are pointless.

I wish I could get some sleep.

Well, I should wade in here.
While I still have strong conservative opinions, I have strived to temper my tone since my Bird Dog days at Tacitus, believe it or not.

I believe you have, but you have done it by holding your tongue and not commenting rather than by actually moderating your tone (imo of course) You've made no more than 4 comments in any of your posts, and all of them were, for the most part, content free.

Yes, there are twice as many right-of-center folks than left-of-center (and that's putting von right-of-center), but the majority of posts and words come from the left. In August for example, 31 posts were by right-leaning writers and 55 were from the left, and even that's with Edward on semi-hiatus.

I'm sorry, but these are bogus stats in search of an argument. A large number of the posts by the 'left' were things like
-Formative Experiences: Foreign Policy
-Türkmenbashi Saves The Planet!
-Explanation, Justification, Blah Blah Blah
-Clark on Darfur (That's My Guy!)
-A Very Different Story
-Bad Idea
-Ban Interstate Traffic In Nonhuman Primates
-Random Acts Of Kindness
-More Summer Reading: Nonfiction
and four open/kitten threads

I'm not sure how these stories 'come from' the left. Certainly hilzoy and edward might have a different view than you, and they might drop a suggestion that you might not agree with, but classifying posts this way is part of the complaint that I, and apparently others, have with you, that you can't see anything outside of your view of the right/left division. Never mind that people on the left have tried to defend you at various times, never mind that edward said that if you left the site, he would leave as well. In fact, some people suggested that there was something to some of your arguments concerning Amnesty. But for you to use the argumentation that you decried as a way of trying to beat up on Hilzoy's post about Katrina indicates how little you actually are your own person in terms of your arguments and thoughts. Terribly blunt and I apologize, but that is the way that you increasingly come across to me.

You might also want to consider that Von and Sebastian are not posting because they don't find anything defendable in the current gyrations of the Republican side of the aisle. If you look at Von's posts for August, they include comments like

WHEN EVERYONE SEEMS to agree on the answer to a particular problem, there are usually two possibilities: (1) Either each individual has applied facts to logic and generated the same answer, or (2) everyone but you was invited to a double-secret conspiracy to agree on an illfactual and illogical answer. Tellingly, Michelle Malkin's (anti)Immigration Blog chooses the latter possibility:

and

Gregory Djerejian has written the definitive rebuttal to the so-called "flypaper theory" of the Iraq War.

and

I'VE BEEN QUITE pessimistic on our chances in Iraq of late. There are things that we've done which cannot be undone; there are errors of execution and judgment that can never be taken back.

With more right of center posters like this, hilzoy and edward can take a holiday.

Your explanation of your feelings about hilzoy's post is perhaps convincing to you, but I find it less so. The idea that people are in 'fact-finding' mode and then switch to 'criticism' mode is really a dodge to try and further suggest that Hilzoy was not honest. Perhaps you believe that you somehow gather up all the facts and then calmly and neutrally sit in judgement, but there is nothing in your body of work that suggests that this is the case. Really, Charles, are you truly concerned with the archealogical treasures that are being destroyed by Wahhabists in Saudi Arabia? Or do you think citing Brad DeLong about the evacuation plan gives you neutral credentials? Not to mention your cherry picking Brendan Loy's blog to get facts to confront Hilzoy with. Physician, heal thyself.

As for your points about Katrina, you have re-presented a series of unsourced (and sometimes false) assertions, many of which have been challenged in the comments, along with some new ones that you probably won't defend when challenged. Rather than go over them chapter and verse, let's look at this one

And let's not even get into his stupid, lamebrained idea of sending his police officers to Vegas

As I noted in the comments, the casino business and the two towns have connections, so that there are probably a lot of donations. Furthermore, Las Vegas is one of the few places where you have to do very little to find all of the basic necessities. Where would you like to send them? How about camping? Or maybe to the Louvre? In case you forgot, many of them don't have houses, so it's not like they can prepare for this vacation.

It's a place designed to dislocate even the most grounded visitor. And for the folks from New Orleans, that wasn't an altogether bad thing. Here, they could blend in with the other tourists. They walked the Strip, rode the roller coaster at New York-New York, saw the risqué Broadway show "Avenue Q."

They marveled that life outside their devastated city carried on as usual, that people were still vacationing, still taking for granted all the conveniences the hurricane had seized from them.

Five hotels — Station Casinos, the Palms, Boyd Gaming, the Hard Rock and Fitzgerald's Las Vegas — have lined up to offer free room and board for the workers during the coming weeks. The Las Vegas Hilton donated tickets to Manilow's performance.

This was in your hometown">http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2002484504_katvegas10.html">hometown newspaper and it is a prime example of front page argumentation that goes out of its way to avoid acknowledgement of what has been brought up in the comments, as well as getting in a cheap shot about something you don't understand. Your excuses have been
1)the comments are often insulting
2)you don't have time to read all the comments
and
3)those things are minor details

As for the 1st, many of the regulars have made it a point to call out people who jump on you and Sebastian, pointing out that it is not fair to take out their ire on you. But the dynamic that you set up when you don't comment is that people make increasingly harsher and harsher comments in order to get you to comment. I personally think that one of the reason that the comment section is left leaning is because of this dynamic.

I, like Bob, have defended you, as it is important to have multiple viewpoints. But trying to mind read hilzoy in order to justify your actions is just pathetic. If your posts can stand on their own, they will. Perhaps if you posted after your 'fact finding stage', but before your 'criticism stage' and put your critical comments in the comments, perhaps they would.

Andrew: See Hilzoy's recent writings in posts and comments for a better way to respond with dignity, yet without needing to sacrifice any depth of feeling or integrity. Charles has responded in kind

No, he really hasn't. If Charles were capable of responding "in kind", we wouldn't be having this meta discussion about BirdDog's value as a front page contributor to ObWing: we'd be reading his informative, well-sourced, thoughtful posts and discussing them. As he doesn't appear able to produce anything like that, and as he's unwilling to defend the uninformed, unsourced, and unthinking stuff he does produce, we're left discussing Charles Bird. Again.

Catsy:

Has Charles come round your house and pissed on your cornflakes or something?

Let's just establish something here. As a member of the ObWi Hive Mind, Charles Bird does not owe you anything. The blog and the forum is provided as a service, entirely voluntarily, and however Charles chooses to behave on the site is entirely up to him. That you may like Charles to act a certain way is not the same as him having an obligation to indulge your wishes. He certainly is not obligated to indulge you if you are as rude as this when you respond to him, and in my experience you certainly exceed your per-passenger limit of personal baggage when you talk to Charles.

It's understandable that people with lives outside the internet have different approaches to the multiple aspects of blogging, and what you consider to be no big deal, time-wise, may be considerable for somone else. I know from experience that what I thought would be a simple response can take an hour out of your life, and there are only 24 of them in a day. Now that Charles has laid out clearly where his life/work/blog balance lies, I think we can all afford to cut him some slack.

In any event, the first rule of debating online is attack the post, not the poster. It might be a fine distinction to some, but in my opinion you're well over it in this thread and you need to back off.

Now, in that vein, on to the meat of Charles's post:

I just went and checked down the front page of RedState.org. The only post even mentioning the federal failure in a non-defensive way was the one you crossposted over here, Charles. One might make the point that everyone at RedState is "politicising" the tragedy by focusing almost exclusively on the Democratic state and municipal authorities, or by challenging the sketchier accusations levelled against the Bush administration while ignoring the weightier issues, such as the firefighters flown in to Atlanta to help being used for PR work, rather than the -- one would have assumed -- more pressing business of putting First Responder boots on the ground to help with the disaster recovery. I think that's a particularly damning indictment of the shamelessness of this federal administration, and would have thought it deserved some attention by those seeking to present a "balanced" and "non-politicised" view of the tragedy. Since you make much hay out of Hilzoy's silence on the matter of Nagin's "let them drown" disaster plan and Blanco's confusion, does that give us license to fill a barn with analysis of your views on this shamelessness?

Of course, the actuality is that this is a political issue, just like everything else that happens in the country, and people are going to naturally gravitate to trying to hold their own fort and will first see the fault in those with whom they are in ideological opposition. The advantage of the blogosphere is that one can always go elsewhere and look at what other people have to say, and thus a single writer does not have to feel that if they don't cover every single issue of the day that they will somehow be doing the cosmos a great disservice (although I have my doubts as to whether Gary Farber understands this ;)). Indeed, if a liberal like me can get past the screeds and general impugning of my intellect, upbringing and moral character and find the two or three useful sentences which have been posted on RedState over the last week or so, I imagine that other people can too.

Honestly, Charles, do you really believe that if Kerry had done what Bush 53 has just done here, that the right-wing response would have been to concentrate on the mayor of New Orleans and ignore the faffing around at the federal level?

This is the nature of the game, and I am afraid that you get no license to stand on any kind of moral or analytical high horse and claim that Hilzoy has been "politicising" the disaster while you or others around you have been remaining aloof. This is a political issue. It politicised itself. As people with an interest in politics, it does to us as it will, and you are as victim to this as the rest of us. I think Teresa Nielsen Hayden's sentiments seem at least somewhat apt here:

“I knew what he was, I knew what he stands for and the kind of men he keeps around him, but I voted for him anyway. Now that it’s been made gut-wrenchingly clear that God won’t magically intervene to save America from its own stupidity and self-indulgent folly, I don’t want to see anyone pointing fingers. I don’t want to hear any talk about blame. Because I know that along with George Bush and Michael Chertoff and Michael Brown, they’re talking about me.”

Perhaps this is why those on the Left have, as it happens, been pretty on the ball when it comes to laying the blame everywhere it will stick, particularly on Nagin as well as Bush. Nobody outside of New Orleans voted for Nagin, and nobody outside of Louisiana voted for Blanco, but a majority of people in the country voted for Bush. Because this is a democracy, those at the ballot box hold some responsibility for and ownership of the ruling body. It is understandable that those with a stake of responsibility should feel some solidarity with the Cover Bush's Ass movement, but this doesn't mean that they're right.

As I said, what the Hive Mind posts here is entirely at the discretion of its components, but I really would advise you, Charles, to take on board what I said to Catsy. You are veering very close to personally attacking Hilzoy in this post, if you haven't crossed the line, and as she has sinned no more, and possibly less, on this issue than you have I would advise you to check the beam in your own eye before attending to the mote in hers.

I appreciate that, as you said, you probably won't reply to these comments, and understand why not. However, I would ask that the next time you post on the front page that you have given ample time and consideration to these issues. I'm not a Democrat, this is not partisan, and I think that you have attempted to fling some mud here that's not going to stick, and not just because we're all in an "echo chamber," but because you're actually [i]wrong[/i].

To the extent that Charles suggests an imbalance in the commenting around here -- and I do think he's right about that -- I would suggest that it's because, not to put too fine a point on it, the majority of new right-wing commenters over the last several months have been both hostile and stupid and have gone and gotten themselves banned. The bulk of them have been solidly part of the "You're just a Saddam-loving moonbat at what about 9/11? Huh? Huh?" variety, and we can expect the contributions from those types to be short-lived, of little value, and counterproductive. Those who are not of that type, like ThirdGorchBro, or DaveC, have provided a great deal of valuable commenting. But on a day-to-day basis, the right-wing view in the comments is provided by, well, Slarti and not much of anyone else.

(I would get into a digression about how left-wingers and libertarians seem better able to behave outside of their respective echo chambers, while right-wingers do not. But then I read the comments at Atrios and think, eh, not so much.)

Catsy, if you think Charles' posts are of zero value, why do you respond to them?

Secondly, if whomever makes the decisions around here thinks Charles' posts add value to the site, don't you think they should be happy enough just to receive them free gratis, as opposed to receiving them free gratis and also requiring the further payment of X amount of response time?

Third, if you don't think his posts add value to the site, then isn't your real beef with the site administrators and not with Charles?

"I just went and checked down the front page of RedState.org"

The Things Undone

I am no mindreader, but this might be a clue as to why Tacitus left RedState. It is also in my nature to see a pun, or double meaning in the title.

"All that is left is the memory itself, and the loss which must, in light of deeds since, serve as gain"...also got to say I don't quite understand this, but maybe it lacks a simple, singular interpretation.

On the meta-issue of the ObWi site balance:

The lack of posts from Von and (to a lesser degree) Sebastian over the last few months has put the job of holding up the right-wing side pretty much in Charles' hands alone. That's not to the advantage of the right, since, to put it in hockey terms, CB is a third-line checker, not an impact player.

In one sense, no one owes any one anything on a blog. But a blog set up to foster left-right discussion needs contributors from both sides who will post regularly, make real arguments, respond to comments substantively and reasonably promptly, and be willing to take a hand in maintaining a civil tone.

If there is a real commitment to the original mission, I'd suggest updating the 'about' section to reflect all who are main-page posters, with a note on who is on hiatus. Right now Charles and Sebastian aren't even mentioned there.

I'd also encourage regular commenters to take a hard look at your own contributions to substance, clarity, and civility -- or the lack of them. Snark can be fun, but if it's all you ever bring...

Catsy, if you think Charles' posts are of zero value, why do you respond to them?

Because I prefer not to leave BS or dishonesty to stand unchallenged. I would think this reasoning to be more or less self-evident.

Secondly, if whomever makes the decisions around here thinks Charles' posts add value to the site, don't you think they should be happy enough just to receive them free gratis, as opposed to receiving them free gratis and also requiring the further payment of X amount of response time?

If someone takes a dump on the sidewalk in a public park, I am not obligated to be appreciative simply because they call it performance art and think their time and effort is a gift to me. That the park admins have seen fit to grant the person a permit to crap on the sidewalk does not make it stink less, nor does it relieve me of my right and obligation to point out that it is crap and that it is stinking up an otherwise good park. That there are other parks I could go to does not change the fact that I happen to like this one very much and do not appreciate someone crapping in it regularly.

Third, if you don't think his posts add value to the site, then isn't your real beef with the site administrators and not with Charles?

My frustrations here are not zero-sum. I have repeatedly registered with the site admins my displeasure with the fact that Charles continues to have front-page privileges. Respect for them restrains me from badgering them regularly every time Charles crosses on line or another. He still remains on the front page; thus, I still comment to this effect. The fact that I have discussed Charles with other site admins does not relieve me of the right or obligation to call him out for the tripe he writes.

The comments are unbalanced, but the administrators can hardly start banning leftish sorts who don't violate the posting rules or NOT banning rightish sorts who do so blatantly. There has been a recent tendency for leftish commenters to basically pick fights with rightish ones, probably as a way of misdirecting anger with the administration itself. (I'm not immune to this, but not so much lately.) I would rather they stopped.

But, beyond that--I think righties simply feel outnumbered and perhaps outargued, and don't like it. And I don't really know what to do about that. I am sure that the balance of the post affects the balance of comments, and there are more rightish than leftish posters, but I certainly don't want hilzoy posting less and you guys can't post more than your time permits. (For the sake of balance I probably won't rejoin the main page even if I start blogging again.)

Finally: I think that this site functioning depends on at least some degree of the authors letting each other do their own thing without making their disagreements into repeated personal attacks. I mean, the kinds of issues you have with hilzoy, I have with much more of your posts than not--and I think I could support my arguments far better than you have. But I think enumerating those, and making them into a personal attack on you, and posting two consecutive front page posts on which I demanded an answer (assuming I posted on the front page) would be really destructive.

I do not feel required to give equal time to the local authorites, even tho they may share blame or hold a larger share.

Let me be clear on one thing, bob. I've never said who should get what share of the blame. My point was to assign responsibility based on the premise that these officials did things and decided things that were life or death for the people they represented. Hundreds of people may have died because a bridge was closed off and hundreds may have died because National Guard troops didn't get there soon enough. In the final reckoning, I'm more than willing to accept that the federal government is the most at fault (with the buck stopping at Bush), but I find it gruesome and macabre to arrive at such a reckoning (government A contributed to X number of deaths, government B to Y number, etc.).

Also, for pete's sake, she just posted two posts about local authorities. I'm sorry if that's not the EXACT balance you desire or if you felt the timing was off, but really, you're not her third grade teacher.

Can I also request a non-meta open thread considering the date?

But, beyond that--I think righties simply feel outnumbered and perhaps outargued, and don't like it.

I think the outargued part is the primary cause: there's simply not a lot left about the Bush administration or the contemporary GOP that's defensible these days. Some will still try, but doing so requires incredible mental gymnastics, a state of denial bordering on willful mendacity, or a reliance on tu quoque arguments or outright trolling.

It is therefore unsurprising that there's so few righties in the comment threads: the intelligent and principled ones either can't honestly defend the administration or have their arguments shot down in short order; what's left are the ones able to acknowledge that the administration really is a big Romeo Charlie Foxtrot, and the imported trolls that stop by just to fling poo.

Being outnumbered is just a natural consequence of the foregoing. I can't really blame them; if I were a Republican, I'd be pretty disgusted by now, and none too eager to wade into a forum where I'd end up defending something I didn't want to defend or spending all my time having my face rubbed in how screwed up my party was.

Thank you for demonstrating one of your rhetorical traits which makes it difficult at best for even the more even-tempered among us to hold a dialogue with you, particularly those of us afflicted with a sense of humor.

OK, Catsy, here's the reason why I chose not to answer your initial post further. You wrote this: "Show me an example of this growth. Show me an example of you rethinking your position based on new facts, and updating your post accordingly--bonus points if you also updated the mirror post at Redstate instead of just letting the false information stand for your conservative audience. If you can fill up one hand counting these examples, I'll be pleasantly surprised."

My last two posts didn't toe the administration line, and my At All Levels post was verbatim at Redstate (except I removed any reference to Hilzoy). Any reasonable person could make the most casual reading and conclude that your statements were both ignorant and foolish. Given your vitriol and lame excuse that your comment actually contained humor, I'm not going to go any further to prove to you a goddam thing. You're free to click on my body of work and make your own determination, but I refuse to be your dogsbody, especially given your long record of uncivil bile directed towards me. I'll give plenty of quarter to those who challenge me and at least meet me part way, but you're not one of them.

Honestly this post could have been a lot shorter if Charles had just titled it "Cleaning Out My Closet," gone here, and done a global, "Hilzoy" for "mama".

On the other hand it got the McManus all chatty, which I love.

Sorry, one last thing: all of the above is especially true when you're writing about her omissions.

I don't actually believe that you can't make any inferences about writers based on what they DON'T post on. If you write more about say, Amnesty international's terminology in criticizing prisoner abuse, than about actual prisoner abuse, I think people can draw conclusions about that. If you write a lot about how the Democrats' claims that the President had anything to do with Abu Ghraib are "politicization", and omit all sorts of news stories showing that he might have had a role, and link to stories about rendition under Clinton but not under Bush, I think people can draw conclusions about that. (I'm talking about Glenn Reynolds here, not you--these are just the convenient examples that spring to mind.) If you make a claim, and omit relevant evidence that directly refutes or tends to refute it, that's clearly not okay.

But as far as choosing subject matter, all of the following are totally legitimate considerations for why someone would blog about something less than I chose to:
--more expertise or knowledge about one subject than another
--more ability to influence policy about one subject than another
--limited time
--sheer personal preference--this is a hobby for most of us, and free for readers

And there are many more besides those. And I think hilzoy had such reasons here. I don't think it's impossible to hold someone responsible for omissions but it's always much, much trickier and I think you should be a lot more careful about it than you've been.

Anyway, you post on the exact same weblog as hilzoy. If you feel there are gaps and omissions in her posts about Katrina, there's no need at all to cast aspersions on her character about such gaps. Just fill in those gaps. The same people read your posts as hers. If you're worried that they'll think YOU'RE politicizing, include a brief note saying "since hilzoy's been covering the failures at the federal level I'm going to focus on the state and local government."

I actually had half a mind of responding to some of your comments, but forget that. Next.

I'm sympathetic to our situation, CB, really. The thing is, a pretty substantial part of the 20/1 ratio you find in response is about tone, and procedure, as opposed to the substance of your conservative position. If instead of snark or other ad hominem you defended your assertions on their merits, the experience would probably be more satisfying. It would certainly be a better experience for the reader.

Trickster presents a very persuasive reason why those of us who do not live in Louisiana would be more interested in holding the people who work for us accountable, than those who do not work for us. It's not about excusing Dems in some other jurisdiction -- I think very few of us care what party Sheriff (or Chief?) Lawson belongs to. I think he ought to be charged by DOJ, and that he won't be because the leadership thinks Base voters in La. (and neighboring states) broadly support what he did. And it may be right.

It's not a knock on you to say that: you're too young to have had a hand in crafting the Southern Strategy, a strategy that continues to this day, and I would guess that you'd even think candidate Reagan's presence and words in Philadelphia Mississippi was well intentioned (rather than calculated -- I'm not saying RR was a racist, just that he needed the votes of racists to win, and wasn't afraid to do what was thought necessary to get them). Smarter people than you and I have spent and are spending years trying to figure out how to move political allegiances in the South. On the Dem side, the big debate is about whether we should say 'good riddance' to the people who go to the GOP because they see it as anti-black (or not pro-black), or whether we ought to try some other way to get through to them.

To come back to your post, I think there are plenty of us who would like to see more substantive, coherent, principled, intellectually honest, comment from conservatives. Instead, we get the fellow who called Gary Farber human trash, and ridiculed his health problems. It's not the fault of the headliners or of commenters. Although, I think you ought to think about whether to set an example. Who better?

In the first line, should be "your situation."

"Blogs are free; no one is obligated to post at them, read the posts, or comment on the posts."

True, and a good thing, too.

"Front page posters are not obligated to respond to comments about their front page post-"

True so far...

"-nor are they obligated to update or amend their front page post to correct [factual] errors."

Not true.

If the purpose of a blog is political discussion (as ObiWi is); if the purpose of the blog is to encourage political discussion across the red-blue, GOP-Dem, right-left, etc. divide (as ObiWi) is; then factual accuracy is essential.

There are a lot of reasons why this is so.

The first has to do with basic intellectual honesty. It is intellectually dishonest to post as a fact something you know to be factually inaccurate. It is intellectually dishonest to leave a factual inaccuracy stand after the factual inaccuracy has been pointed out.

The second has to do with intellectual rigor. Posting without fact-checking is lazy. Refusing to update, or even acknowledge, factual errors, is lazy. Getting front-page posting status is a privilege: I would think that taking the time to post something factually accurate (or correcting the post when factual errors are pointed out) would be a prerequisite for getting, and keeping, that privilege. Why? Because ObiWi strives for intellectually rigorous discussions. Laziness undermines that.

The third, and most important, has to do with levels of abstraction. Basic premises are starting points for vectors of analysis. If the basic premise is false, the analysis will be false. When the basic premise leads to secondary and tertiary premises, and the initial false premise is augmented by additional falsities arising from premises based on the initial error, the end analysis will bear no resemblance whatsoever to objective reality. (Exhibit A: the war in Iraq.)

If the purpose of ObiWi is to have real political discussion, then we have to at least start with objective facts (on those rare and precious occasions when there are even are objective facts pertinent to the subject). Otherwise, all we're having is a talking-points duel, and we can go to lots of other places for that.

Stating something that is not true, and then not correcting it (or only correcting it on a back page) is a staple of MSM coverage. That intellectual dishonesty, that intellectual laziness, is what angers people on the left and the right about MSM news.

ObiWi doesn't operate under the same constraints as the MSM news: no airtime deadlines, no corporate mandate to support this or that ideology, no sponsor who'll yank the ads nor politician who'll introduce punitive legislation. There's no reason ObiWi's front pagers can't get be factually correct the first time, or fix factual errors when they're pointed out.

If you're worried that they'll think YOU'RE politicizing, include a brief note saying "since hilzoy's been covering the failures at the federal level I'm going to focus on the state and local government."

Oh-ho-ho, what reaction would that of provoked around here? Well reasoned and temperate thanks for his efforts, maybe? I think it would be pretty much the same as what did happen, although I bet it wouldn't have provoked this come-to-Jesus post from Charles. I have a better suggestion for him: just stop being one of ObWi's conservative fig-leafs. Then people can stop pretending that this is some sort of impartial gathering place and get on with their lives. Conservatives have two options here; write a post that agrees with the prevailing worldview, or disagree and at best put up with claims that "this post is beneath you Charles/Von/Sebastian/etc." Why keep coming back for more? You think you can cover the liberal beat better than Edward and Hilzoy? Good luck with that.

Now I'm a constant lurker here, and I self-describe as moderate and independant (Ooh, I can already feel the claws begin to unsheathe). On the rare occasions I post, on RedState I get yelled at for being too liberal and here, I get yelled at for being too conservative. But here are my unasked for opinions:

There has been a lot of talk about out-numbering and out-arguing being the root cause for the exodus of smart conservatives, that rarest of fabled beasts. The latter makes everyone feel so good about themselves and their abilities, so naturally it's starting to get traction. Well, all hubris aside, I've been on various online communities since the late eighties, and I know one thing is a fact: if the moderators of a contentious topic allow mud slinging to start, one side will grow stronger with the anger and vitriol, and one side will wither and die. It doesn't matter if its abortion, evolution, economics, or Star Wars vs Star Trek, once that path is trod, you're done for. And if you think there can be a substansive qualitative difference in argumentation on an internecine war of sci-fi's leading nerdocracies, you're goofy.

This mudslinging has gone on far too long, has gone on between moderators for god's sake, and is months past the point of no return. You can get away with calling your opposition liars, saying they are deluded, question their integrity, question their decentness, and if you're catsy or Jesurgislac or any of a half dozen other regulars, you can even get away with characterizing your opponent as monstrous baby-eating slobbering hordesman. You know, so long as you don't swear. Because of course there is only one true and righteous worldview, only one set of facts that supports this worldview, and honestly, a person must either be a moron or a lying sack of... well, can't swear, or I'd be crossing the bounds of good taste. But they'd have to be a moron, or worse, liar not to agree.

There are, on the internet, conservatives that could hold their own factually and intellectually with the crew that hangs around here. If you do not believe this, then you are part of the problem. If you do believe this, than you must wonder why they do not post here. If you can't read any of the comments of random 20 posts on this blog and figure out what it is about the environment that is not conducive to smart conservative participation, or can see it but are unwilling to do anything serious to stop it, than you are unfit to be a moderator or not serious about the goal of balance.

I think a true meeting place for both conservatives and liberals and moderates is a very healthy thing. I've seen it happen and slip away about three times in the past few years. Sadly, ObWi is content to continue its evolution into dKos or RedState with crappier software. Those guys keep some token dissent around to kick once in a while too. They just don't let them post to the front page. Fix that, and the failure will be complete.

Neolith: If you can't read any of the comments of random 20 posts on this blog and figure out what it is about the environment that is not conducive to smart conservative participation

Are you saying that Sebastian and Von aren't smart?

Smart as hell. Say, when was the last time they posted to the front page?

I have never once used the term "slobbering" to refer to any conservative poster or commenter, here or elsewhere.

Also: I think balance for its own sake is an unworkable goal, and always have. I think that it is a mistake to choose front page posters or ban people with the goal of ideological balance in the forefront, and in the long run it doesn't even help with the site's ideological balance because such posters are very unlikely to be persuasive to the other side and are very likely to start flame wars. And if conservative front page posters won't post because they get criticized in the comments--and I very much doubt that is the actual motivation--they shouldn't be posting at a site like this. The same is true of liberal posters--our audience was mainly conservative & most of our incoming links were from conservative sites when this site was started.

Neolith, it is ridiculous, just RIDICULOUS, to make charges of tokenism when only 2 out of 6 of the front page posters are left leaning, 3 are right leaning, and one is centrist but generally more sympathetic to the right. (Also: of the two who post the most frequently I think Charles is quite clearly more partisan than hilzoy.) That level of hyperbole just undermines any substantive point you have.

I also think it's extremely unlikely that the conservatives posters aren't posting so frequently because the commenters are too liberal, but I can't speak for them.

Just read it on another blog:

I have just arrived at a personal decision. I am not going to listen to any more crap about “blame games” and “not pointing the finger” unless the person speaking has first made it clear that he or she didn’t vote for Bush. I want it explicit, and I want it persuasive. Because otherwise, I’m going to figure that what they’re really saying is this:

“I knew what he was, I knew what he stands for and the kind of men he keeps around him, but I voted for him anyway. Now that it’s been made gut-wrenchingly clear that God won’t magically intervene to save America from its own stupidity and self-indulgent folly, I don’t want to see anyone pointing fingers. I don’t want to hear any talk about blame. Because I know that along with George Bush and Michael Chertoff and Michael Brown, they’re talking about me.”


REDICULOUS?!? You say? Maybe I am. But maybe a breakdown of statistics right versus left with an eye towards content of post rather than poster identity would be of benefit? I honestly don't know the result of such an inquiry, but I have a gut feeling. When I get done worshipping at the temple of NFL I might undertake such a survey.

Of course you'd think that Charles is more partisan than Hilzoy, that's kind of the point. Dipping your hand from a pan of cold water to cool water will fool you into thinking the second pan is HOT.

I feel that another part of the perception is that the current administration and most of the federal government is conservative. So there is a very clear critic/apologist dichotomy, with the two sides rarely, if ever getting to switch roles without cries of opportunism or worse. It will be interesting for me to see what happens with the blog-era when the pendulum swings back the other way. I have my suspicions, but we'll see.

On the rare occasions I post, on RedState I get yelled at for being too liberal and here, I get yelled at for being too conservative.

I guess, NL, the question I have is whether by "yelled at" you mean "disagreed with" or something more like "characteriz[ed] . . . as [a] monstrous baby-eating slobbering hordesman." And if the latter, whether the specific incidents were provoked or not. We all succumb, now and then, to the urge to troll or snark. Punishment is usually swift (and disproportionate). Are you saying that a thoughtful post or your part drew such a reaction?

That's an honest question, not an attempt to badger.

Of course, you have only my word on that, and I'm not exactly disinterested. Am I yelling at you?

You, Neolith, seem to be proceeding from the assumption that if a site were fair there would be comparable # of posts criticizing and praising the administration, or his opponents. That isn't necessarily true. It is entirely possible that the facts support one argument better than the other.

Of course, it is also quite possible that liberals would tell themselves that the lack of balance was not out of bias but because the facts favored their side, even though it is not true, since it makes them feel good about themselves. Both of these are totally plausible explanations. There could also be elements of both.

I was trying to think of some quantitative rather than qualitative way to get at this. The only one I can offer is: look at polling results among independents. If it's events driving people's reaction to the administration, independents should be noticeably closer to Democrats than Republicans in their poll answers, and independents should be moving even closer to Democrats and even further from Republicans with time.

That is, in fact, what the poll results show. From Gallup to Zogby to Pew to SUSA. Examples: 1, 2, 3, 4.

I realize this isn't a perfect methodology, but it's the best I could come up with. Counterexamples, or different kinds of data supporting the opposite view, are welcome.

On the rare occasions I post, on RedState I get yelled at for being too liberal and here, I get yelled at for being too conservative.

You have? I don't remember that. Which is odd, because I've always thought you were of the liberalish persuasion and I think I'd've noticed.

Katherine: If you're worried that they'll think YOU'RE politicizing, include a brief note saying "since hilzoy's been covering the failures at the federal level I'm going to focus on the state and local government."

Neolith: Oh-ho-ho, what reaction would that of provoked around here? Well reasoned and temperate thanks for his efforts, maybe?

Actually, when Charles writes a good post, he does get thanked for it.

And since I agree there were definite flaws in the disaster response at city and state level, if Charles had written a carefully researched post along the lines Katherine suggests, covering those failures, I might have been among those agreeing with him - providing he didn't appear to be using their failures as an excuse for the federal-level failures. But, he chose not to: he's still trying to attack Hilzoy (but refusing to engage in discussion with her) on the grounds that by dealing with federal mistakes she was politicizing.

There are, on the internet, conservatives that could hold their own factually and intellectually with the crew that hangs around here.

I know. Von, Sebastian, and Slartibartfast are three of them. I join with Catsy in wishing we could get a fourth.

So here are my two cents since we all seem to be airing our views on the site. I am generally a lurker here and post only very occasionally.

I came to this site about a year and a half ago because a friend suggested it to me as a place where I can find a decent well written conservative/moderate view. At the time, that was very true. In fact, I still think that is true. If I ever want to remember why I came here, I go lurk at DKos and note the difference between how information is presented there and how it is presented here, even by such "whacko liberal nutjobs" as hilzoy.

However, I have seen the tone of the sight change, in large part because more and more conservative writers here are beginning to decide that this administration really is indefensible on more and more major points. This leaves people like Charles out on a limb with no cover, in large part because his worldview doesn't seem (and I use that word in all honesty with reference to appearences only) to change, or at least not in any way that is discernable from his posting.

That said, Catsy, when I read your posts in response, all I get from it is "Man, catsy really doesn't like charles." You make points that I agree with occassionally, but your vitriol is such that that is all lost in the final analysis.

To the OP, I'll just say this: what bothers me about Charles' posts isn't the partisanship, it's the hackery. See CaseyL's post upthread, which almost perfectly encapsulates my opinion on the matter. I can understand occasionally getting things wrong the first time, but there's no excuse for continuing to get them wrong afterwards (exhibit A: "the Party of No").

To the forum as a whole: I'd ask that we, collectively, reduce the level of heat and, well, vitriol aimed at other posters (particularly those of the conservative or right-wing persuasion). In particular, please be sure to a) take out our frustrations on the actual object of our frustrations and not a convenient proxy, and b) ask ourselves whether the post we're about to submit will do anything for the community, other than making ourselves feel good. I'm as guilty as most on this count, so, well, I'll try to fix htat.

Finally, von and Slarti: if you're reading this, can I ask whether there are reasons that you don't post very often beyond the time restrictions of your lives? In particular, do we as a community make you feel unwanted or like it's simply not worth the effort?

[Also, to Neolith: sorry, my previous post makes it sound like I'm doubting you. I'm not, I'm just puzzled.]

Local and state authorities suck. Any authority sucks.

Organization at the point of production! Order from anarchy! No gods, no masters, against all authority!

I think perhaps it's time I take another break from commenting at ObWi. Clearly I have reached the point I get to periodically where Charles' unrepentant hackery combined with my general level of outrage at the Bush admin leave me unable to discuss either with anything but acidic hostility.

See you all again when I regain my center.

Charles: what is the purpose of your postings? You say that in the prioritization (sp?) process you decided that posting on more places wins from discussing in depth in only one place. I assume that that is because you want to spread your points of view. But if you just hurl an opinion into a crowd you're not going to convince them unless they allready agree with you.

The discussion afterwards is shaping the opinion of the participants. I have, through the discussions here on ObWi, modified or changed my opinion on several points. If you don't defend your posts, I assume that your goal in posting is NOT to change people's ideas about events. So I wonder what your goal/motivation is.

As far as your comments about Hilzoy, of Catsy's responses about you are concerned: people that play the player and not the ball loose credibility points. People that play the ball and not the player win points, and are much more able to convince people.

I also think it is a shame that there is no discussion about all the things that went wrong in NO. Charles posts might have been a good start.

FWIW: In our flood of 1953 we were ill prepared and had no good disaster plans. As a result people suffered from 'hierarchy effect'. They didn't dare to take responsibility and waited for superiors to order them around and take over, thus hampering the saving of many. In the next big threat (1995) many things went better. We evacuated 250.000 people and lots of animals/cattle. The biggest role was played by regionally set-up coördination centres and the command structure was much clearer. The mayors involved played an important role. But there is still much room for improvement and if the dikes had been breached we would have had chaos too. I hope next time we are even better prepared.

The problem with this 'blame game' is that it prevents people from learning how to improve things. I often find Americans more focussed on the form than on the content/intend, so it might be a cultural difference. But I would be afraid that (i.e.) Republicans will argue that the governor had not properly asked for more troops, Democrats will argue that she had asked for everything Bush had, and that there is no room for someone to draw the conclusion that the procedure is obviously unclear and needs to be changed.

Right now the most important thing is to find out which things went wrong and how you can prevent that from happening again - on all levels. IMHO of course.

CC: No, certainly you aren't yelling at me. I'd like to provide you with examples from both types of sites, but strangely RedState's comment search only goes back to June, and I couldn't figure out how to search this site if my life depended on it. But at RS I have been called a degenerate, a nazi, a slaveholder, and others for my stance on gay rights and abortion. And here, I've been called a pro-torture Bush apologist and had my humanity questioned for an analysis of what I believe goes on in the conservative mind when confronted phraseology such as "gulags of our time." I was not disagreeing with the main thrust of the discussion at any time.

Now, I don't really care that I was called so and so and had my feelings hurt, or whatever. This "yelling" doesn't affect me much one way or another, other than this: My reaction was "well, so much for bothering with that." And I don't comment so much. Since I'm not a conservative, and have very sympathetic liberal views, I can imagine conservatives would meet with similar or greater frustrations on a liberal blog (or liberals on a conservative one).

Katherine: I totally agree with your most recent comment. I do not think that a site to be fair has to have equal representation of all sides of a viewpoint, no matter how silly or false one side may be. But I also don't think that people making silly or false arguments should be belittled and made sport of, unless you can prove that they are diliberately lying or knowingly omitting facts. That is a pretty high burden of proof. It should be sufficient to correct the factual errors or point out the logical fallacy and let the other people reading make up their minds. I think too often people think this is about "winning", that you are arguing to "beat" the other person. I always think that an argument is pointless if you're not trying to change minds, and going smashmouth doesn't attempt to convince . There is a time and place for cheerleeding and me-tooing, but I always thought ObWi wasn't that place.

As far as polls go, I would only point out that there is a difference between rejection of an individual or administration and rejection of conservatism. If it were true that all principled moderates and conservatives have completely abandoned Bush, that would still not translate to them always agreeing with their liberal counterparts nor joining in on piling on the president in all cases. So, to me, there should still be lots of stuff for conservatives to talk about no matter how totally corrupt or immoral a conservative administration may be. The fact that more and more they aren't heard here on ObWi seems to point to some sort of problem. Agree, disagree?

Also, from my viewpoint, it seems that you don't always evenly apply your rule of not judging others by what they don't post. I think your analysis of the situation is accurate, that people have different backgrounds, current interests, and even browsing habits and this comes out in what they are motivated to talk about. But I don't know that you always follow through in the implications. A person who circulates in dKos and myDD will not believe a person is not shocked or hasn't condemned something that a person who circulates in RS or Instapundit won't even have heard of, or may already be innoculated to. That last part is to me a very important point. Our minds are predisposed to believe one thing or another because of our existing beliefs and experiences. Patterns that match those are easily embraced, patterns that don't are easily rejected. Of course, I know you know this. You yourself point out my comment about Bird being a figleaf was so over the top that you are inclined to dismiss my any other points I had. This in a meta discussion about ObWi. Why is it then so hard to understand a convervative rejecting a gulag comparison or a moderate's frustration with the use of such loaded terms in a discussion as explosive as America torturing prisoners? I'd like to echo Charley's sentiment that these are all honest questions, not intended to badger.

Great thread. I feel unworthy but I have a few things I am moved to say.

Macduff- Great post. Its been a while, but I just wanted to show some love.

Charles- I want to say I can see your growth. I still think you are a hack, but your tone is much improved. In fact I have to say its noticeably better than others on this thread who I could name. I think they know who they are.

Neolith- I think there probably is some truth to what you are saying. I generally enjoy the liberal snark here, but while I laughed at Catsy's crap in the park comment, I also thought it was, at the very least, not conducive to a continueing reasoned discussion.

I think under the current circumstances it would be unreasonable to expect liberals to be magnanimous, at the same time it might not only be good to be so, but also effective.

Catsy: I truly hope that my post wasn't wholly responsible for that decision. It was by no means my intent to cause you to post less.

That said, I wish you well in your pursuits, whether or not you post for a while. Centering the self is always a good thing.

I can't tell you how little I want to get into this again.

Just trying again: I was completely flattened by Katrina, in a way I haven't been by anything since 9/11. Possibly it's relevant that school started last week, so I had blocked off the week before to work at home, finishing lecture prep and syllabi and so forth, which meant that it was possible for me to watch TV news at will. And I did. A lot. -- I mean, usually I get the news primarily from print media and the web, but especially on the Wed. and Thurs. after Katrina, I was watching cable news in horror. And it really just undid me.

I was trying to keep something about Katrina up on the front page, and I was aware of the fact that for whatever reason, the other front-page posters were not writing a lot. For that reason, I felt I had to write something, or risk letting the site not change at all over several days.

But I found it completely impossible to actually think. It was as though my mind, which normally strikes me as something like a decent, well-worn trusty old hammer, had turned into a floppy moldy dishrag that I couldn't do anything with. I was sort of in awe of people like Kevin Drum, who started bringing up interesting and thoughtful questions without missing a beat: that was clearly beyond me.

(That's partly why I wrote about politicization and blame in general: I already had fairly well worked out views on both topics, and it seemed like something that might be useful. I had, obviously, no thoughts about Katrina ready to hand, and I was incapable of coming up with any other than: Oh my God. Oh my God.)

Moreover, I didn't seem to be able to absorb or process any sort of background facts. I had, actually, tried to figure out what the local response before the hurricane had hit had been, and it was useless: the facts just beaded off my mind and rolled away, instead of getting absorbed and synthesized.

In this condition, the only thing I could write about was really, really obvious stories. That Michael Brown should never have been hired was such a story: really, all you have to know is that Bush hired someone with no relevant experience and no demonstrated managerial competence to head FEMA, and that FEMA had performed disastrously. No further searching for background, etc., was required: it was completely obvious, the way what's wrong with some politician (of whatever party) molesting a child would have been. (No need to understand the background there either: some things are just obviously wrong.)

During this period, I did not write about anything that was not obvious in just that way. I did not, for instance, write about Bush underfunding FEMA: that would have required exactly the sort of focus and research and synthesis of which I was then completely incapable. Ditto trying to understand what connections, if any, exist between the intensity of hurricanes and global warming. These are exactly the sorts of posts I would normally have tried to write: posts where I try to find out what the facts are and draw whatever conclusions I can from them. I tried to do some of the relevant research, and just completely failed. I was incapable of doing that sort of thing just then.

And that's basically why I didn't write about local failures either. I didn't know what Nagin's response had been before the hurricane struck, mostly because I wasn't following the story over that weekend. I also think it's important, in assessing his response, to know the constraints under which he was operating. How many buses were there? How many drivers? Where would they have gone? Who would have paid for it? Was it possible to think that Nagin could have evacuated people from the whole city? If not, was getting people to the Superdome the best he could do? Had he done that as well as he could? And so on.

I had no idea what the answers to these questions were, and when I tried to figure out the answers, I fairly quickly came to the conclusion that I was not going to succeed at doing this, any more than I was going to succeed at working out what had happened as far as FEMA funding was concerned.

I didn't really regain the use of my mind until a few days ago: maybe Wednesday.

So the thing is: I really wasn't doing anything like choosing what to write about. I was trying to write something, in order to keep the site from just lapsing for days. Almost everything was beyond me. The only things that weren't were really, really, really obvious failures. And (maybe in part because obviousness is affected by background knowledge, and I had no such knowledge of NO or LA) the only things that were obvious enough for me to wrap my moldy dishrag of a mind around, just then, were (a) the inexplicable failure to do something about the people in the Convention Center, and (b) the inexcusable decision to appoint an unqualified person to head FEMA.

***

So: it was against that backdrop that I saw your first 'politicizing' post, and answered it. That was, iirc, last Sat. or Sun., when I was still, basically, in shock. I had not, as far as I could tell, exercised any sort of choice about what to post on and what not to, other than thinking: I ought to post something, and here are the only things I feel competent to say anything on at all.

What bothered me about your not responding wasn't that you didn't e.g. post a comment in reply. No one has time to respond to everything. It was that you went on making the same point as though I had not offered what seemed to me to be a perfectly good explanation of why I had done what I did. As far as I'm concerned, of course you don't have to reply to anything I've said, unless you're talking about me, and saying things that apparently disregard whatever I have previously said.

-- I mean, was it impossible to believe that I was just telling the truth when I said that I did not have a good grasp of the other stories, and didn't want to write about them unless I did? Or that I hadn't yet begun to think about an overall assessment of anyone's responsibility, and thus was sticking to the most completely obvious stories there were? Apparently so; but you never said why.

For what it's worth, I do not believe that intentions are decisive when it comes to intellectual integrity. For all I know, Rush Limbaugh may get up in the morning convinced that he just calls 'em the way he sees 'em. I don't think he does.

What does matter, I think, is the reason (conscious or unconscious) why one says what one does. And this cannot, I think, be inferred from counting words or posts (unless you're leaning a lot on the 'in effect' part of "her approach was in effect politicizing this tragedy" -- so that it's like the Soviet criticism of people as "objectively pro-fascist". In which case I think it's not a useful term of criticism, any more than the Soviet one was. It's like saying a mistake is 'in effect dishonest'.) Nor is it a matter of whether or not one is unconsciously biased. It's about whether one is consciously or unconsciously out to score political points, or to criticize one's opponents, rather than trying to be fair-minded.

That's why I thought, and think, that someone who used some episode just to score political points would, in that instance at least, lack intellectual integrity: she would not be doing her best to call things the way she sees them, but trying to score points. And to use not just anything, but something like Hurricane Katrina, in which thousands of people probably died, in this way would be shameful.

You may differ about how serious a criticism of someone it is to accuse them of that, but that's the way I see it. It's not like calling me an idiot or a jerk, which lots of people have done without provoking much of a response. It's of a different order of seriousness altogether.

It puzzled me that you were willing to repeat this without responding to what I had said in response. I also thought that we might have some difference of opinion about the place of personal criticism (as opposed to criticism of someone's views or arguments) here. I have often criticized what you have said, but I have for the most part tried hard not to criticize you. Partly this is because I don't know you well enough. But partly it's because I thought that criticizing your character or your overall contributions or whatever would be better done by email.

As you know (but others don't), I haven't done that. Mostly that's because I think that your posts are your business. There was one time, though -- the never-to-be-forgotten "smear their corpses with lard" post -- when I actually almost resigned from the site, on the grounds that while I had no wish to, I don't know, restrict what you said, I had no particular desire to be associated with posts like that, or to be in a position in which I might be taken to think that that was a remotely OK thing to say, either. I got over it, mostly because I do think that all of our posts are basically between us and our consciences. But it might be useful to figure out, as a group, what role we think they should have.

***

I'd also echo one thing that other people have said: I think it would be good for those of us on the left to try not to completely pile on.

That said, I also think that it might be useful for those on the right to realize that a lot of us are not, basically, all that partisan. For most of my life, I have criticized whoever was President on some points, and agreed with him on others. This administration is, however, different. I think Bush is the most disastrous President in my lifetime, including Nixon. That means that liberals have a hard time finding anything to praise (Bush's fiscal responsibility? his prosecution of the war in Iraq? his success in making us safer in future catastrophes? his bipartisan leadership? his human rights record? his record on energy? -- I was thrilled when I got to praise Bush for having worked hard to bring about the North/South treaty in the Sudan.) It also means that anyone who confuses conservatives with partisan Republicans will underestimate the number of them who are on any site, this one included.

Hilzoy: That Michael Brown should never have been hired was such a story: really, all you have to know is that Bush hired someone with no relevant experience and no demonstrated managerial competence to head FEMA, and that FEMA had performed disastrously. No further searching for background, etc., was required: it was completely obvious

Actually, it looks like Michael Brown is being rehabilitated. No wonder.


This archive shows the NOAA hurricane strike probability advisories for Katrina. Look at those and reiterate that Nagin should have called for an evacuation earlier than he did, remembering that the evacuation plan entailed reversing the inbound lanes of the major freeways into the city. As it was, it is estimated that 80% of NO evacuated. Any call for an evacuation of this scale has to balance the cost of a false alarm against the benefits of getting it right. You are applying 20-20 hindsight in this matter. Now, should the school buses have been moved to high ground outside the city to aid in the after-storm evacuation? Of course.

With respect to:

No, he really hasn't. If Charles were capable of responding "in kind", we wouldn't be having this meta discussion about BirdDog's value as a front page contributor to ObWing: we'd be reading his informative, well-sourced, thoughtful posts and discussing them. As he doesn't appear able to produce anything like that, and as he's unwilling to defend the uninformed, unsourced, and unthinking stuff he does produce, we're left discussing Charles Bird. Again.

and

I also think it's extremely unlikely that the conservatives posters aren't posting so frequently because the commenters are too liberal, but I can't speak for them.

I can only speak for myself, but I don't comment here as much as I used to nor do I post here as much as I used to because I'm not happy with what this site has become and I don't know what to do to fix it.

In my opinion the comments of this site used to be one of its best features. One of the main posters would post something and it would start an interesting discussion. There would be in-depth back and forth and even if no one's mind got changed there would be lots of useful clarification and investigation of views.

That doesn't happen with the frequency that it used to here.

Now, if I respond to comments I have to spend vast amounts of time clarifying points that have very little to do with the thrust of an article, or spending hours nitpicking definitions only such that we can't get back to the starting point until two or three days later--by which time everyone is pretty much done with the topic. Now, even when I make perfectly banal points they get ripped apart--which has been going on for months but was recently driven home like a hot poker through my eye when hilzoy and katherine made almost identical points without even raising a slight stir from the commentariat. And that is just the comments that appear on the surface to be trying to discuss things.

The ratio of facially engaging comments to invective has gotten so bad that I often don't bother to read the comments--while I used to make a point of reading every single comment on this site on anyone's posts--not just my own.

At this point I practically blow up whenever I see certain regularized behaviour (as outlined above), and that doesn't help the tone I'm supposed to set for this site, so I choose not to engage.

And that is all as a regular poster to the site, I don't wonder for a moment why all of the conservative commentors have gone. They were driven off. If I didn't write here, I certainly wouldn't bother to comment here. But when I do write, I feel I have to engage the comments, so I often don't bother writing here.

Maybe it is an inevitable part of having a fairly popular website with comments. Kevin Drum's place used to have one of the most interesting comment sections in the blogosphere and now it is practically a cesspool.

In any case, I would be a little careful about assuming that conservatives have left the site because they can't keep up intellectually. I love engaging intellectually. I'm sick of engaging pedantically.

That said, I think the most recent Charles/Hilzoy spat isn't likely to be healthy for the site either, but I have refrained from saying so because I figured the ritual piling on was enough. That probably wasn't a good choice. But if I were perfect, people around me would probably be resentful. ;)

BTW I see via preview that hilzoy has commented. We basically cross-posted, so this shouldn't be construed as a response.

...anyone who confuses conservatives with partisan Republicans will underestimate the number of them who are on any site, this one included.

Surely true. America does not have a conservative government at present. That should be obvious. If Andrew Sullivan can see it, surely anybody can?

Wow. Okay, if front page posters are being dissuaded we clearly have a problem. But I'm rather at a loss as to what the moderators are supposed to do about it.

What I find is a useful technique is: respond first to the best arguments against your position, not the worst. Respond first to the opponents who make the best arguments against your position, not the worst.

Because what drives me craziest is a sense that someone is not really engaging with my argument at all.

But as far as what the front page posters should do...nitpicking and being hostile to some posters and not others doesn't violate the posting rules.

I'm trying to think through how the commenters here became primarily liberal. At a certain point it becomes self-reinforcing but it didn't start out that way.

Here's my theory as to the ideological makeup of the commenters: we get new commenters when other sites link to us. And while OW started off getting links primarily from conservative sites, that stopped being true a while ago. (The Arar series may have been the turning point--in general I was a lot less mild mannered than Moe & von. Sorry.) In that sense, Neolith is correct that the ideological content of the front page posts matters more than the ideological background of the writer. Many more liberal weblogs than conservative linked to Sebastian's post on torture.

But what are they supposed to do? Is hilzoy supposed to praise Bush, or refrain from criticizing, because it might upset the delicate balance? That's dumb.

They could recruit yet another conservative front page poster. But the ones that are most convincing to liberals tend not to get links from conservatives and to tend to get links from liberals, and the ones that tend to get links from conservatives and not liberals tend to incite flame wars from liberals.

And the commenters' hostility, while clearly destructive, is also clearly coming from misdirected anger and frustration at the administration. That's not going to change. I am less hostile only because I've sort of given up hope of things getting better until 2009 at least, and I figure even if you guys freaking cared enough about what was happening to vote for divided government in the midterms, the districting in the House and the undemocratic nature of the Senate guarantee that NONE of our votes count anyway.

So I don't know. I see why Sebastian's really frustrated. But I really do think that this is less a function of any decisions by the people running this site than of the current political situation.

Sebastian, I do think that more posts by you could only help, but I find it equally impossible to ignore comments & find them an equal time-suck. I'd suggest posting anyway and just ignoring the comments but I've never been able to do that.

I am a member of a private online attorney chat group discussing politics w/ members from all over the US. We have been together in one form or another for 10 years. Business has been referred, babies, weddings, divorces, have been celebrated and mourned. As we travel, we make time to stop and meet each other in person, so that we aren't always just names on the screen. Rather like ObWi in many respects.

And like ObWi, we have had fewer conservative commenters than liberal. They have pretty well kept up their defense of Bush et al until Katrina hit. They have grown remarkably silent since then. And I think it is for much the same reason that Teresa Nielsen-Hayden postulated at her blog: the clothes are coming off the emperor and there is no there there. it's not a matter of just giving up a little bit of ground in the argument over whether the policies created and implemented by the administration are sufficient. There is nothing there. "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." time and all that.

They and we are screwed big time.

Now, if I respond to comments I have to spend vast amounts of time clarifying points that have very little to do with the thrust of an article, or spending hours nitpicking definitions only such that we can't get back to the starting point until two or three days later--by which time everyone is pretty much done with the topic.

This is why I was suggesting more interpretive charity a while back. No such luck, of course.

For some reason, while I typically disagree with Charles, I'm not outraged like some are. I've speculated before that it's because I live in Mississippi & I have friends, family & collegues with very different politics from mine.

Anyway, if the mere sight of a wrongheaded conservative post drives someone batty, maybe dKos, etc. are happier places to frolic. It would certainly seem so to me.

Not "get out of here, ____" (like I'd have the right?), but a question: Why hang at ObWi if you have no patience or charity where opposing, ill-supported views are concerned? (By definition, opposing views MUST be ill-supported, because if they were supported ... we'd have to agree with them?...) ;)

I think ObWi needs more posts from the right, and more comments from CB et al (which have to be accorded reasonable discussion), but some (more?) posts from the left side disagreeing with standard liberal positions might help, or agreeing with conservative bloggers on particular policy issues. I think it has to be addressed as a top-down issue - I've tried to break up a fight or two or challenge the occasional sweeping condemnation of people on the right, but nothing would help more than having more conservative commenters, which I think flows from the example at the top. Maybe the PTB could invite say Ken White or M Scott Eiland or Luis Alegria to do a guest post as a lure for them or for those of similar views. (Whether there should be a warning faq too about saying "Everybody must now admit that Bush is an awful president or show themselves to be partisan hacks" or the like, well, we don't want speech rules.)

I also note that discussing Charles and meta-blogging are proving a welcome relief from commenting at the open 9/11 thread. Thanks to Charles are in order; we're doubtless grateful for the distraction.

The Arar series may have been the turning point....

No, it was the realization that some incredibly hostile and fanatical individuals infested the joint. Catsy, Jesurgislac, felixrayman, et al.: these are not persons the average conservative looks at and thinks, "Yes, a reasonable dialogue is possible with this person." Obsidian Wings is shot through with this type: any place where the likes of Moe Lane and Sebastian Holsclaw can be made to feel besieged and bitter for being too conservative is, frankly, a haven of idiocy.

It's a bit silly to sit back and wonder why this has happened -- I know one thesis is that they all moved over from tacitus.org for various reasons -- it is what it is.

Rightly or wrongly, this overwhelming characteristic of the site negates whatever objective qualities the posts themselves have. The posters, I think, implicitly acknowledge this: posts here tend to be the start of conversations rather than things-in-themselves. Given the conversationalists present, the quality declines accordingly. It's a pity, because the front-pagers are intelligent, well-spoken types. That they are dragged down by the company that accretes about them is, I think, somewhat tragic.

Catsy, Jesurgislac, felixrayman, et al.: these are not persons the average conservative looks at and thinks, "Yes, a reasonable dialogue is possible with this person."

Yes, I remember how virulently you disagreed with all my ideas for Iraq back in November 2003.

No, I don't remember that at all. What I do remember is that you picked up on at least one of my proposals, commented on how much sense it made, had to go back and check who said it... and discovered it was me.

The problem really is (and now I'm not specifically addressing Tacitus) that it's been obvious for years that the US needed to sack Bush. This is how he deals with major crises. Come November 2004, everyone who was reasonably well-informed should have been rooting for Kerry - whether or not they shared his politics. Bush was a liability who needed to be got rid of.

Astonishingly, large numbers of people who had, at least, the capacity to be sufficiently well-informed, who were following the war in Iraq and realising it was a mess, who knew that it wasn't just a problem of the "liberal media" not reporting "the good stories", who comprehended that Afghanistan was in even more of a mess now, who knew the SwiftBoatVets were liars, who even knew that the prospect of everlasting ongoing tax cuts targetted at the super-rich was really not a cure-all: these people were rooting for Bush. They were unable to come up with any particular reason why, except they didn't like Kerry, or they thought it ought to be a Republican, or you don't change Presidents in a time of crisis.

They knew Bush was a failure. They still voted for him.

That the US can see now, in Louisiana, how badly Bush handles a major crisis, is a function of the news crews who can get in safely and report back. Iraq and Afghanistan are more sketchily reported. But the bad news was coming from there, too.

It is not possible to have reasonable dialogue* with someone who's still prepared to defend voting for Bush in 2004.

Because: As a friend of the family I can’t sit back and watch you do this to yourself without saying something. Consider this a long distance intervention.

Bush is a disaster. Much as Michael Brown was appointed with no experience and a padded resume, so was Bush. Just as Michael Brown was the wrong person to place in charge of an important government department where expertise and leadership could make the difference between life and death, so was Bush.

Someone who still thinks they did the right thing to vote for him in November 2004? Please.

*Well, not on many issues. It is still possible to have reasonable dialogue about how terrible it is to lose a city, or how good a writer Barbara Hambly is.

No, it was the realization that some incredibly hostile and fanatical individuals infested the joint.

This from Tac is pretty darn funny. Tacitus.org has no shortage of right-wing "incredibly hostile and fanatical individuals."

One of those led me to quit commenting at the site for a while, due to his nasty, irrelevant jabs at commenters who presented dispositive facts. Tac himself, actually. (Hurricane Katrina has coaxed me back to the site, but doubtless my days there are numbered.)

Jes's retort above accurately captures why Americans might be "increasingly hostile" towards their gov't & its defenders. Tac himself posted a good list of reasons for increasing hostility today at his site.

Jes, if it's not possible to have that kind of reasoned dialogue, why on earth are you still here? I never thought I'd say this, but Tacitus has a bit of a point.

Certainly, if Tacitus' comment is correct in suggesting that the conservative posters believe that the commenters here are, as a bloc, too fanatically liberal to engage with, the goal of the site has failed.

If there is any interest in continuing to engage, I do think that the conservative posters might need to reevaluate their rhetorical stance. I agree that the commenters here are pretty solidly liberal -- I feel pretty close to the center of gravity of the commenters, and I'm certainly on the left. Nonetheless, I am both interested in and mystified by the conservative worldview, and I do value this place as a venue to politely engage with conservatives.

I get the impression that the conservative posters (SH and Slart are who I've engaged with particularly) don't realize how puzzling their positions are to people who don't share their preconceptions. A lot of bad feeling in the comments seems to arise from one or another conservative poster making some statement that seems intended to be self-explanatory, but that doesn't successfully communicate across the political gap. Liberal commenters pile on either asking for explanations or making assumptions as to what the original statement meant, and the conservative poster ends up feeling attacked.

It might loosen things up if the conservatives recognized that they were communicating across a gap, and were more consciously explicit about their posting and commenting: "Conservatism 101".

Mark: if it's not possible to have that kind of reasoned dialogue, why on earth are you still here?

What, is this entire blog, commenters and posters, made up of people who defend voting for Bush in 2004? I wasn't aware of that.

With more right of center posters like this, hilzoy and edward can take a holiday.

Fine, LJ. You have noted that von and Sebastian have cast critical eyes toward conservatives, yet it seems like you've done your own bit of cherry-picking. I called for Michael Brown's ouster in the At All Levels post, held the Bush administration responsible for post-Katrina lapses both here and my previous post, and called for Rumsfeld to step down last month. But, oh yeah, I'm just a Republican talking-point regurgitator. Whatever.

The idea that people are in 'fact-finding' mode and then switch to 'criticism' mode is really a dodge to try and further suggest that Hilzoy was not honest.

That is a false charge, LJ. I reject and condemn your insinuation.

Really, Charles, are you truly concerned with the archealogical treasures that are being destroyed by Wahhabists in Saudi Arabia?

Yes, I am, particularly because it appears to be part of a trend taking place both there and in other countries.

You might also want to consider that Von and Sebastian are not posting because they don't find anything defendable in the current gyrations of the Republican side of the aisle.

I don't know why they're not posting as much recently, LJ, and I'd rather not mindread like you just did. My guess is that von has been really busy on his day job. Sebastian wrote something about his situation some months ago, and I know that he quit Redstate around that time, but I don't remember the specifics.

Or do you think citing Brad DeLong about the evacuation plan gives you neutral credentials?

I cited Delong because, quote, "he could not have described it any better". Even so, I did not agree with him that the New Orleans disaster plan was worse than anything FEMA had done.

Not to mention your cherry picking Brendan Loy's blog to get facts to confront Hilzoy with.

So at what point does linking to factual information become "cherry picking" and when does it not, LJ? It seems that, by your standard, any link made by me to any other source is cherry picking. In effect, it appears that you are accusing me of taking these links out of context. Where exactly have I done such a thing? Which excerpts have I dowdified? Which facts have I misrepresented?

As for your points about Katrina, you have re-presented a series of unsourced (and sometimes false) assertions, many of which have been challenged in the comments, along with some new ones that you probably won't defend when challenged.

Knock me over with a feather. In the At All Levels post, my sources were three weather-oriented weblogs, Indymedia, the Red Cross, multiple public and governmental websites, a transcript of a Hugh Hewitt interview, dozens of the mainstream links, Donald Sensing (who reported on what Blanco said on FoxNews), QandO (who added some commentary to a CNN transcript), Brad Delong, Glenn Reynolds (which was not an overtly biased link), three liberal websites which also had timelines, a Wikipedia link to Katrina, and Djerejian and Malkin calling for Brown's removal.

In this post, there are links to Brad Delong, multiple mainstream media sources, a link to the Stafford Act and one solitary link to a right-leaning source (and even that source blamed FEMA, Chertoff and Bush, among others, for post-Katrina lapses) and other ObWi posts and comments. Practically the only unsourced comment I made out of hundreds was a one-off sentence expressing my opinion about Nagin sending police officers to Vegas. A "series of unsourced (and sometimes false) assertions"? I find your assertion baseless. What sheer chutzpah. Really, I find it stupefying that you could make such a charge about one of the most heavily-sourced posts on Katrina in the entire blogosphere. It appears to me that you have one factual threshold for those whom you like or agree with, and an unreasonable and orders-of-magnitude higher factual threshold for those you don’t. To me, that is a double standard and a hypocritical approach.

But trying to mind read hilzoy in order to justify your actions is just pathetic.

What mindreading? I read her words and described in detail how I interpreted them.

Rather than go over them chapter and verse, let's look at this one

CB: And let's not even get into his stupid, lamebrained idea of sending his police officers to Vegas

What I wrote was indeed unsourced, but it was an opinion, not an assertion. Still, the opinion was http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/05/national/nationalspecial/05vegas.html>factually based. If you’re going to criticize me for something, at least be accurate as to what it is you’re actually criticizing me for.

So have we reached a consensus?

The commenters suck, and are ruining the site?

Arthur Silber

This dude just wanted to be read. I feel, just a little, like I have betrayed a friend. Or maybe that it is a hard world.

It is a sad time, and a very sad week. We are surrounded by tragedy, and maybe the ones that were unavoidable, and there are always a lot of those, are generating a misdirected anger. I doubt that any of us know to make the world much better than bearable. We all know how to make it worse.

I visit a lot of sites with zeros at the end of posts. I visit a few with throngs of indistinguishable jerks. There really aren't very many interesting communities. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Plus, there's this:

Mr Kaufman claimed the Bush administration was playing down the need for a clean-up: the EPA has not been included in the core White House group tackling the crisis. "Its budget has been cut and inept political hacks have been put in key positions," Mr Kaufman said. "All the money for emergency response has gone to buy guns and cowboys - which don't do anything when a hurricane hits. We were less prepared for this than we would have been on 10 September 2001."

It might loosen things up if the conservatives recognized that they were communicating across a gap, and were more consciously explicit about their posting and commenting: "Conservatism 101".

This is a good point. Our liberal posters, if not always our commenters, are pretty good about explaining & qualifying their opinions. Hilzoy almost excessively so, sometimes.

More attention by commenters to the premises with which we disagree, and less attention to playing "gotcha" or accusing posters of various intellectual vices, would help us all. I presume that one of the attractions of a blog with diverse viewpoints is that somebody's mind might get changed. If you're beginning with the assumption that you're indubitably right, then what's the point?

The Charles-bashing is, frankly, tedious, far more tedious than anything Charles writes. Why should CB have to write comments like his reply to Liberal Japonicus, above? No *wonder* he avoids the comments. Yes, Charles used some unfortunate language about Hilzoy recently, and damn if Hilzoy didn't take care of herself, give or take a few megatons. Someone go start a "I Hate Charles Bird" blog & then everyone can go Charles-bashing there. (Note to self: go to Blogger & reserve all variations on "I Hate Anderson.")

No, not really so much, Jes. But last time I checked, one of the key virtues of this place (one of the reasons it's one of my very favorite blogs) is that it's one of the few blogs going where you can actually have reasoned, _civil_ debate with people who completely disagree with you. I tend to think that includes people who voted for Bush in '04 and haven't yet seen the light. Put it this way: ObWi, over the last few months (hell, the last year) has gotten less civil and more angry, inch by inch. That's a problem that needs to be dealt with.

On preview: see Anderson's second para.

Honestly, Charles, do you really believe that if Kerry had done what Bush 53 has just done here, that the right-wing response would have been to concentrate on the mayor of New Orleans and ignore the faffing around at the federal level?

It's hard to know, McDuff, but I suspect that Republican-friendly opinion makers would be more critical of a Kerry administration's handling of Katrina than they are of Bush, but note also that there is a fair number of Republicans who are critical of Bush, and rightfully so. The Redstate folks have not been terribly critical of the Bush administration, and perhaps they should be. I've noticed that the more prolific editors are spending more of their time batting down some of the more scurrilous charges. I don't believe that, in today's climate, politics can ever be fully excised from practically any issue by practically any person for very long. As for myself and my culpability in politiizing the aftermath, I don't deny that I've made some politically tinged comments but in general I've consciously tried to stay independent on this.

I regret that you think that I've made a personal attack on Hilzoy (or came too close for comfort), but I appreciate your comments and the spirit in which they were delivered.

In response to Anderson's comment, here ya go.

(Man, it is ridiculously easy to start a blog.)

In response to Anderson's comment, here ya go.

(Man, it is ridiculously easy to start a blog.)

Well, I seem to be more interested in my own words than anyone else is (tho thanx, Mark), but let me add one more observation.

There are two kinds of people who enjoy discussing debatable topics with other people. One kind is dogmatic: "I know the truth, & it's my job to share it with you and to condemn those who disagree."

The other kind is exemplified by Socrates, in one of my favorite Plato passages (heck, passages from anywhere), from the Gorgias. Socrates is about to demolish an argument of Gorgias's, indeed knocking him out of the dialogue (a student butts in & takes over), but hesitates before doing so (emphasis mine):

You, Gorgias, like myself, have had great experience of disputations, and you must have observed, I think, that they do not always terminate in mutual edification, or in the definition by either party of the subjects which they are discussing; but disagreements are apt to arise —somebody says that another has not spoken truly or clearly; and then they get into a passion and begin to quarrel, both parties conceiving that their opponents are arguing from personal feeling only and jealousy of themselves, not from any interest in the question at issue.
Does this sound familiar yet?
And sometimes they will go on abusing one another until the company at last are quite vexed at themselves for ever listening to such fellows.
Now it sounds familiar!
Why do I say this? Why, because I cannot help feeling that you are now saying what is not quite consistent or accordant with what you were saying at first about rhetoric. And I am afraid to point this out to you, lest you should think that I have some animosity against you, and that I speak, not for the sake of discovering the truth, but from jealousy of you. Now if you are one of my sort, I should like to cross-examine you, but if not I will let you alone.

And what is my sort? you will ask. I am one of those who are very willing to be refuted if I say anything which is not true, and very willing to refute any one else who says what is not true, and quite as ready to be refuted as to refute; for I hold that this is the greater gain of the two, just as the gain is greater of being cured of a very great evil than of curing another. For I imagine that there is no evil which a man can endure so great as an erroneous opinion about the matters of which we are speaking; and if you claim to be one of my sort, let us have the discussion out, but if you would rather have done, no matter;—let us make an end of it.

I think this has great relevance for ObWi and for blogging in general. Indeed, I should have it tattooed on my body somewhere, were it only shorter.

Jackmormon: You didn't also start two blogs, did you?

I hate double-posting much, much more than I hate Charles Bird, by the way.

I should've double-posted mine on purpose. Drat! Backstairs wit!

Btw, your blog description is quite amusing. I hope CB appreciates the generous spirit in which it is offered, and doesn't go Arthur Silberish on us.

(Poor Arthur. The only way I've been able to blog for 2 years was in the sublime confidence that no one would read it. Just easier than e-mailing Bush atrocities to my friends.)

Finally: I think that this site functioning depends on at least some degree of the authors letting each other do their own thing without making their disagreements into repeated personal attacks.

Katherine,
First, I take issue that this post or the other is a personal attack. Second, I've seen Hilzoy and Sebastian write point-counterpoint-countercounterpoint posts several times. At least twice, Hilzoy has taken things I've written in comments and blown them up to front-page posts, directly challenging things I've written. It appeared to me that this was a tacitly approved practice here, and now you're telling me it's not. Why? Perhaps because it's me doing the challenging this time? You tell me. Let me also clarify my point in writing both the prior post and this one. The first was a challenge (among other things), and this one is a detailed explanation of why I made the challenge. I'm aware of the explicit ground rules here and some of undocumented conventions in regards to posting and commenting, but your criticism looks to me like a changing of the rules because your ox is the one that's been gored, so to speak. Now, if there's some pre-established unspoken rule that I've violated, I'll be the first to step up and apologize, but I should at least be made aware of what that rule is in the first place, but I won't apologize for a rule that just happened to be put into effect as of today.

Also, for pete's sake, she just posted two posts about local authorities. I'm sorry if that's not the EXACT balance you desire or if you felt the timing was off, but really, you're not her third grade teacher.

With respect, Katherine, you missed the point in the prior post and you're still missing it. The purpose of both posts are explained here. I acknowledged that Hilzoy wrote the two posts on Friday and thanked her for it. I'm not demanding a quota system or making any other sort of demand.

Anderson
Why should CB have to write comments like his reply to Liberal Japonicus, above? No *wonder* he avoids the comments. Yes, Charles used some unfortunate language about Hilzoy recently, and damn if Hilzoy didn't take care of herself, give or take a few megatons.

Errr, some interpretive charity? My complaint is that after Hilzoy took care of herself, Charles returns with a front page post to justify himself, oh, and slime Hilzoy. He has essentially upped the ante. He obviously realizes that there is a difference between a front page post and comments, yet he continues to play off on the difference. For example, I pointed out

As for your points about Katrina, you have re-presented a series of unsourced (and sometimes false) assertions, many of which have been challenged in the comments, along with some new ones that you probably won't defend when challenged.

and he replies
Knock me over with a feather. In the At All Levels post, my sources were...

Chas is conflating his first post and this meta post in order to cover himself. I have, on multiple occasions, acknowledged the time and effort that Chas has put in and I understand that time pressures might be involved. But to simply repeat things on the front page that people have taken the time to challenge and discuss, is a major part of the problem. Chas argues that his Katrina post was "one of the most heavily-sourced posts on Katrina in the entire blogosphere", again falling to the delusion that the number of sources makes his viewpoint somehow better than others. Given that the number of 'sources' for Katrina is huge, this is not a stirring defense of any post on Katrina, let alone Chas.

I would welcome providing sources pointing out the following

Because he's (Nagin) responsible for the awful police radio system which went kaput shortly after the flooding.

They (LA State Police) were the ones who turned away the repair technicians who might've been able to fix the broken police communication system.

he (Nagin) is responsible for adopting a disastrous disaster plan, for not implementing the workable parts of the plan, and for not sounding the evacuation alarms soon enough.

She ordered the commandeering of school buses well after they were swamped by the flood. She declared a state of emergency on the Friday before the storm, but it is unclear when she called the Louisiana National Guard to duty.

All of these points are unsourced and questionable. How was the radio system installed? Which radio technicians? What was the approval process for the evacuation plan? How did Blanco 'commandeer' buses if there was no communication? Yet Chas repeats them in order to try and complain about what Hilzoy hasn't written.

And now, Chas gives us this

I regret that you think that I've made a personal attack on Hilzoy (or came too close for comfort)

If the majority of the commentators here think that Hilzoy was personally attacked, it is obviously our fault, as Chas would never attack Hilzoy by not responding to her carefully non-hostile questions in the comments and then posting his justification on the front page.

Chas is now arguing that Hilzoy and Sebastian have had set-tos in the front page. However, all of those have taken place after extensive exchanges in the comments and neither of them raised the question of the other's "intellectual integrity".

I believe Anderson, quoting Gorgias, is getting closer to what is going on. Chas employs what a lot of people writing in the blogosphere (on both sides) employ, which is to make a rather large assertion and then deal with questions as they are thrown out. It is useful to compare Chas Katrina post (not this one) and Hilzoy's posts. Chas claims above that he is blogging about katrina. On the other hand, Hilzoy makes no claims about posting about the whole tragedy. Unfortunately, the sort of hubris that Chas portrays is pretty common. I am relatively certain that Chas knew nothing about the geography and politics of New Orleans and Louisiana until the hurricane hit and now is convinced that he knows it all. Thus, anyone questioning him about specific points is obviously doing so out of partisan malice rather than a desire to get at the truth. I can't help but feel that this, rather than any malice shown to Chas, is the problem.

Charles? I certainly have no status here that entitles me to chastise you, nor do I intend to do so, but I think the following language is what distinguishes your post from the sort of point-counterpoint posting that people don't object to:

I don't say this lightly because I respect my colleague and her consistently thoughtful and detailed writings, but Hilzoy is politicizing this tragedy by focusing all of her posts on federal shortcomings, and not writing a word on the shortcomings of state and local officials (who also happen to be uniformly Democrats). It's not like the facts weren't there to be had.

Disagreeing with Hilzoy's choice of emphasis in her posts is one thing (that is, posting almost exactly what you did, but with language not directed at Hilzoy's alleged politicization of the facts) and is something that would, I think, have been taken in good part. While you may not have intended it as such, the above language accused Hilzoy not of being mistaken or incorrect, but of acting in bad faith. This is pretty unconventional by the standards of the site -- the front page posters tend not to address each other with that level of personal accusation.

Errr, some interpretive charity? My complaint is that after Hilzoy took care of herself, Charles returns with a front page post to justify himself, oh, and slime Hilzoy. He has essentially upped the ante.

Sorry if I was unfair, LJ, but I thought your explanation of CB's comment to me was a lot more moderate, & usefully big-picture, than your response to him. I don't see how today's post "slimes" Hilzoy. I don't agree with CB, but he is obviously making an effort to step more lightly, while maintaining(?) his ground. Can't blame him for that.

If instead of snark or other ad hominem you defended your assertions on their merits, the experience would probably be more satisfying. It would certainly be a better experience for the reader.

I believe I do answer on the merits, Charley, when I am free timewise to do so, and I hope my mea culpa in the post both explains and clarifies things. I will most definitely answer on the merits by people whose goal is not to shut me up, shut me down and shut me out. Quote:

Changing him would be nice. Failing that, getting him to go away and reserve his nonsense for Redstate would be an acceptable second choice.
This is not the voice of someone willing to discuss issues of the day, but who has consistently abused and vilified a specific person for his own sake. This is a person who has broken the posting rules on multiple occasions, including today, calling me a liar, even though he has not and cannot prove the lie. This is a person who does not deserve to be answered on the merits because his clearly stated agenda is not to discuss and debate, but to shout down, censor and remove. How do you suggest a person respond when faced with that?

I agree with you that Trickster made an interesting point about local Louisiana politics, and since he's currently an Alabaman, I appreciate hearing his perspective. I also understand the Southern Strategy and take no pride in it. Personally, I have virtually no tolerance for racism or race-baiting. As for setting better examples, I'm trying, but I draw the line at those who refuse to even go part way.

Neodude

I would only point out that there is a difference between rejection of an individual or administration and rejection of conservatism. If it were true that all principled moderates and conservatives have completely abandoned Bush, that would still not translate to them always agreeing with their liberal counterparts nor joining in on piling on the president in all cases. So, to me, there should still be lots of stuff for conservatives to talk about no matter how totally corrupt or immoral a conservative administration may be. The fact that more and more they aren't heard here on ObWi seems to point to some sort of problem. Agree, disagree?
I think -- and this ties in with what Sebastian is frustrated with -- that you're right in theory but wrong in practice.

Take Sebastian's posts a few months back on Social Security reform. He made what I thought were some very good arguments about the problems with the system as it is now and ways to reform it to make it work better. It was possible, I thought, to genuinely disagree with Sebastian about his ideas while not thinking him a baby-murdering devil.

However, the discussion as I saw it became victim to the curse of economic pragmatism. While it might well have been possible in a less-fraught political climate to discuss ways of reforming Social Security, the important political discussion of the day was "Keep social security as it is or let George W Bush reform it." Had we thought we might have a chance of informing the process, or even had we thought that Sebastian was going to be on the committee to reform it, we might have had a discussion going on. But, no matter the quality (or otherwise, this is a meta-post) of Sebastian's ideas, they were not what was politically on the table, and therefore were overlooked and/or discarded in favour of pointing out that they weren't on the table and were therefore, for all intents and purposes, irrelevant.

It would be nice to discuss the theoretical and intellectual groundwork behind conservative and libertarian ideas here, but with the focus of the site being on current US politics the focus is going to inevitably be on what's happening today by those in power, and unfortunately the current crop of power-brokers have been inevitably corrupted by the power. Although few conservatives will be tempted to give up on the ideology because of Bush, there's a growing number who are giving up on Bush because he's given up on the ideology.

While I am sure that there are those who can vigorously and intellectually defend conservatism, I am not so sure any more that those people can fully defend Bush, except to say that they think the Democrats would be even worse (although even that gets shakier with every fresh disaster of the presidency -- how much worse could it get, exactly? How could the Democrats have put more pork into the Highway and Energy bills than the Republican controlled legislatures? How could they mismanage FEMA and the DHS even more than this crop of spineless grubbards?). Were it possible to disconnect Bush 53 from conservatism, or even republicanism, I think we might have more balance in debates. Unfortunately, the administration acts as a giant lead weight on the rubber sheet of political discourse, distorting arguments into its orbit. I don't know how to get around that.

On other issues, I already took out my beef on Catsy, who has now chosen to retire for a period and compose herself. For others, who know who they are, I reiterate the golden rule of attacking the post, not the poster, because while I think that the ObWi forum is certainly far from the most vicious and partisan of forums on the internet, the rule is broken more often than not. I particularly feel for Sebastian on this. I have seen him being unreasonably picked on after a reasonable post, just for being conservative. This is a problem, not only because it removes a sensible, reasonable conservative voice from teh intarweb, but because it can also distract from discussing the more important issue of why he is wrong on the substantive points (*grin*) with petty arguments about whether he is or is not a poopyhead and a meanypie who eats puppies.

Incivility hurts your own arguments more than anything, which is why I hate to see it employed by those on my own side. Leave that kind of thing to Tacitus.

Wow, this discussion got really ugly. And it got ugly in an ugly way, with posters using the topic of Appropriate Behavior Towards One Another for another excuse for a flame-out and pile on, with CB as the target.

Very unco, folks. Knock it off.

I disagree with CB pretty vehemently, and I know I've been rude about it. But I hope to god I haven't been as personally offensive to him as some of the stuff I've seen here! If I have, Charles, my sincerest apologies, and I will do my best not to be ever again.

Same goes for any of ObiWi's other conservative posters, Seb, von, and Slarti.

I don't want you all to leave. I like crossing rhetorical swords with you. I even like it when things get heated... but not to the point of personal attack.

Please stay.

You say that in the prioritization (sp?) process you decided that posting on more places wins from discussing in depth in only one place.

I wouldn't put it quite like that, dutch. If I am feeling especially partisan, I take those thoughts to a Redstate or Tacitus diary. Those posts are more or less a place for venting and I don't believe they deserve ObWi status, since to me this site merits more substance. Any "hurling" of opinions into a crowd is done in those other places. On important issues (in my mind), I take posts directly to ObWi and the Redstate front page. On really important stuff, like my Africa/AIDS post, I try to publish in all three places.

If you don't defend your posts, I assume that your goal in posting is NOT to change people's ideas about events. So I wonder what your goal/motivation is.

A valid question. I guess my hope is that the posts themselves are enough to change peoples' ideas, but perhaps that is not realistic expectation, and that is one reason why I'm responding more frequently here and in more detail.

I often enjoy the comment sections of Tacitus.org. It certainly tends to the right, tho not exclusively, and has developed within its community a true art form of pithy cryptic dismissive snark.

I, of course, have to mention unfogged, where the content has been removed from the comment section, leaving nothing but cryptic pith.

Anderson
I don't see how today's post "slimes" Hilzoy.

I'm sorry, but comments like this

What exactly was my prediction? That Hilzoy was going to focus virtually all of her attention on the Bush administration and its mistakes and shortcomings, to the exclusion of other parties who should also be held responsible. This is an occurrence in which I wished I was wrong, and I didn't write any of my subsequent comments to play gotcha games or to make gratuitous attacks. The scope of this tragedy is too big for that. Some may call this mindreading, but I prefer to see it as an educated guess borne from experience.

and

Giving Hilzoy her due, five days after my initial comment and ten days after the levees broke, the dam also burst for Hilzoy, when she finally cast her eye (here and here) in a direction other than the federal government, and I appreciate that. Kinda restored my faith in her sense of fairness.

I'm trying to be fair, but the effect of comments like this are to suggest that despite what Hilzoy says about her intentions, she's fooling herself. That is coloring outside the lines, I think.

Unfortunately, any comment pointing out shortcomings is taken as an attack. For example

I agree with you that Trickster made an interesting point about local Louisiana politics, and since he's currently an Alabaman, I appreciate hearing his perspective.

You know, Anderson and I are from Mississippi, I think Bernard pointed out that he lived there, and various points about the local scene have been raised in the comments. Yet you don't participate in the discussion in the comments and even if you do, anything that challenges your points is deemed to be "minutia".

Look, I can understand how you might get upset at comments like the one you have cited. But ignoring people is just as upsetting, and people continue to up the ante in order to get you to respond. I know that I am guilty of that as well, but the passive-aggressive act of pretending that we don't exist (which is an act, because you're response indicates a lot of pent-up frustration) is not addressing the problem.

For my part, I'll also take a break from commenting on any post you make and I hope that ObWi can regain its center.

Holy crap, someone's opened the seals of Hell, or something.

Finally, von and Slarti: if you're reading this, can I ask whether there are reasons that you don't post very often beyond the time restrictions of your lives? In particular, do we as a community make you feel unwanted or like it's simply not worth the effort?

For me, it's a combination of being extraordinarily busy, easily distracted, and lack of inspiration. I simply won't post anything substantial without researching my position. There is this element of being wary of the comments-battering, but this is not to say that I'm intimidated by any of you.

That said, I think Tac has something, although I disagree with quite HOW he puts it. I do think that there are people whose viewpoints are not going to change no matter what I say, and also people who have English language definitions orthogonal to mine. And of course there's the endless opinionating on all sides, as if the opinions all by themselves mean anything.

For what it is worth, I don't think the Arar posts were a tipping point, because for the most part katherine posted them before I even got here, and the comments didn't get untolerably bad until early this year. I sometimes wonder if I have been too tolerant on the banning front (I have only been involved in banning two people, one was Tacitus. I wonder if by waiting until things hit my threshold of annoyance I helped drive off a number of conservative commentors. But that is definitely too far in the past to be worth taking too much time on.)

Regarding:

I get the impression that the conservative posters (SH and Slart are who I've engaged with particularly) don't realize how puzzling their positions are to people who don't share their preconceptions. A lot of bad feeling in the comments seems to arise from one or another conservative poster making some statement that seems intended to be self-explanatory, but that doesn't successfully communicate across the political gap. Liberal commenters pile on either asking for explanations or making assumptions as to what the original statement meant, and the conservative poster ends up feeling attacked.

It might loosen things up if the conservatives recognized that they were communicating across a gap, and were more consciously explicit about their posting and commenting: "Conservatism 101".

I am well aware that the commentors here are not conservative. That fact could hardly escape my notice. But even well understood things get me in trouble in this crowd. Katherine responded to me in my recent post about different responses to terrorism (i.e. no one asks "What did we do so wrong as to make people like McVeigh hate us) with "McVeigh did not have public support. Bin Laden does."

That is an excellent point and well worth exploring. But let me make a point like "Bin Laden has public support" and I will get slammed as some combination of racist, anti-Muslim, or warmongering. There are vast numbers of common-sense points that I can't make without completely derailing the conversation. I could never say in passing "McVeigh did not have public support. Bin Laden does." At the very least I would have to spend paragraphs reassuring everyone that I know there are Muslim people who do not support Bin Laden, and I know that Islam is a religion of peace, and I know that there exist some moderates somewhere that think about fighting extremist Islam. Assuming that was enough (which I doubt) I would then have Jesurgislac and/or felixrayman asking me to provide cites to the fact that Bin Laden has public support. And when I provide a cite there would be arguing about definitions of 'support' and 'public'. Then there would be accusations of stupidity that I would think the majority of the Muslim world supports bin Laden, and I would have to note that I didn't say anything about a majority, just that I implied there was sufficient public support to be worth worying about. Then we could argue about how much is 'sufficient' which I would probably be stupid enough to get suckered into even though it really has very little to do with the point I was trying to make--unless someone denys that bin Laden has public support at all, which isn't very likely. And then maybe one or two days later we could actually get back to whatever point I was trying to make. But why the hell bother?

Katherine on the other hand gets to make a point like "McVeigh did not have public support. Bin Laden does." Then she can expand on it. She can modify it. She can talk about two or three other things that are crucial to her point. And that is great! She gets to progress in her argument and we get to talk about what she really thinks about a subject. I often don't get to even start talking about what I think are crucial topics because I have to spend hours defining 'and' or 'the' in my preface.

Which brings me back to the snark about conservative commentors leaving because they can't offer a good intellectual defense. They leave because if they have a two part point to make, they can't even get through the first phrase of the first part without being shouted down, pedantically asked for ridiculous clarification, or insulted for hours. Heaven help them if they have a four-parter.

Meh, I should have previewed, a whole thread grew between starting to write that and hitting *post*.

(also, I want to revise something I said above. The "debate posts, not posters" rule is not broken 'more often than not' here, what I meant to say was that it is broken 'more often than it should be'. Also, I was responding to neolith, not neodude. Blame the hour and the alcohol I've consumed before the hour ;))

Charles

I think that lizardbreath's post above hits the nail on the head, as far as the perception goes. While this is very much an argument about perceptions, in this kind of meta air-clearing perceptions are the reality we have to work on.

My perception, shared by many including Hilzoy herself, was that Hilzoy had an eminently reasonable excuse for not posting on the local failures, which you ignored and used to, in essence, slap her with from a moral high ground which was very shaky. Just as your reasons for not responding to every comment should have been enough for Catsy, so her reasons for not blogging on the local failures should have been enough for you.

I appreciate that this is a gap between intent and reception, but I hope you can accept that it has been widely enough misperceived that this fact does not excuse you from culpability in the matter. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and that you did not mean to slight Hilzoy does not mean that this was not the effect. This is just a simple rule of effective communication: If one person doesn't get it, it's their problem. If everyone doesn't get it, it's your problem.

I also appreciate that you have tried to stay neutral, but I don't think you have managed it quite as well as you think you have, since the majority of your comments and posts here on Katrina have actually been "Hilzoy is politicising Katrina". It is a double edged sword, insinuating that this event should not be politicised (or that politicising it is avoidable) and that Hilzoy has somehow sinned for raising the political points she did. I think this is, in itself, a political move, taking the emphasis off the substantive issue of the posts and moving onto the intentions or ommissions surrounding the poster. In other words, I think it broke the "debate posts, not posters" rule.

I also think that there is an important reason to concentrate on failures at the federal level, which Hilzoy has also addressed. Nagin's eff-up of an evacuation plan is not a national security issue. Bush's eff-up of FEMA and the DHS is. There is very little that Nagin and Blanco could get wrong in the future -- all their mistakes have been horribly made already. The feds, however, have a whole three years of potential terrorist attacks, earthquakes and hurricanes to deal with, and it will be FEMA and the DHS dealing with them next time as well. It could be as early as next week. These issues are very pressing.

I am still at a loss as to why Hilzoy's previous explanations weren't good enough, and why this non-sin of politicisation merited a meta-post decrying Hilzoy herself and her editorialising, rather than merely a counterbalancing effort. It's not as if liberals have exactly been shabby in hunting out reasons why Nagin and Blanco are schmucks, you could have just linked across to Making Light if you didn't think your one post was enough.

This post really wasn't fair, either to Hilzoy or to yourself.

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