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July 18, 2008

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wrong. kristol is way, way worse.

I dunno, Krauthammer is an active agent of Evil, IMHO -- surely that counts for "worst"? Or are we using competance at the columnist'ss task as the measure?

no love for Easterbrook?

So why would you waste the time reading him much less writing about it? Life is too short…

Another way is to realize that the GOP is -- and has been -- institutionally and passionately opposed to taking meaningful steps to combat global warming.

Trying to turn me back into a Republican? ;)

So why would you waste the time reading him much less writing about it?

Somebody has to document the atrocities, lest future generations refuse to believe such a creature as a Gerson ever existed and dismiss him as a mythological beast.

"annoying adjectives."

This is not particularly a sign of either bad or good writing. Neither is "annoying adjectives" more than a subjective reaction, rather than any kind objective measure of elegant or ineleqant writing, of which there are a considerable number.

Gerson's writing is, in fact, typically smooth, with good flow and good balance. (This is in no way a comment on the content of his prose, and in no way is a comment on the content or politics of the column you cite.)

Gerson’s writing annoys me because it uses too many puke-inducing adjectives. Good writing and good speechwriting apparently don't go hand and hand. His columns read like a cross between a Hallmark card and a 9th grade essay.
Your last sentence is opinion, but professionally speaking, I can't agree that he's objectively a bad prose stylist. While I usually disagree with his conclusions, and often disagree with his reasoning, his prose tends towards the elegant, and generally averages a higher standard of quality than many columnists, let alone bloggers. It's rarely less than adequate.

IM professional O.

"Gerson’s writing annoys me because it uses too many puke-inducing adjectives."

Having read the column, I'm at a loss to see what you are referring to, and the only guess I can make is that he used three colors here: "The mother and her 2-year-old cub stand out light yellow against bright white and glacial blue...."

There's nothing wrong with those choices, or with mentioning three colors, but can you quote which other adjectives or word choices you specifically are pointing to to substantiate your claim? I'm curious as to what specifics you have in mind, be it in this column, or other columns of Gerson's. Which sentences are you pointing to?

"majestically content?"

I'm not publius (obviously), but here are the ones that get me
"majestically content" (wow, they aren't upset they are going to be extinct, why should we be?)

"serene, cuddly killers" (I'm surprised he didn't work in "zen-like")

"curved claws" (not those straight claws, the curved ones)

But the main problem is that all these adjectives, which might be nice in another context, are being used to claim that it's no problem that polar bears (or to use the name that Gerson claims people living in the Arctic circle use, which only turns up in the first pages of a google search for webpages for 3rd graders, I think) are going to extinct, cause they are just going do a little gene modding and everything will be fine.

Mayber this is just me, but I have a hard time saying 'gee that's full of bs, but boy, it sure is well written'. At some point, the eloquence gets covered with so much manure, that one reads it and smells nothing but that.

the opening does feel a little clunky, but it's not really bad, IMO. it sounds to me like he was going for a specific tone with those opening paragraphs (where all those adjectives live): a hint of romantic and poetic. "light yellow against bright white and glacial blue" is a pretty, vivid, image.

and it only lasts two, maybe three short paragraphs, before he shifts to talking about the political issues and his adjectives become simply utilitarian; showy and painterly gives way to plain description. it's not bad.

still, he's a fool.

Publius: …blahblahblah velvet monarch.

Sweet. Now I have a name for my band!

Worse than Jonah??????

it's not just this one but his long pattern of using annoying adjectives.

honestly, i'm not sure why he gets on my nerves so much, but i think it stems from his smug "i'm so good and moral and nice" schtick. jonah is jonah -- it's hard to really get upset by things he says b/c you're not expecting very much

this guy though seems to make it his point in life to show off how moral he is

publius: just put up a post disagreeing with you. ;)

Worse than Jonah

also another good band name. they could do death-metal versions of Better Than Ezra songs.

I still think Richard Cohen is worse.

"Mayber this is just me, but I have a hard time saying 'gee that's full of bs, but boy, it sure is well written'."

Ah, but, oh, man, if I had a penny for every book like that I've worked on."

Hell, I was the assistant editor on Communion.

Not to make a dig, merely to make a gentle observation, but there are those who might find such affectations as not punctuating, and not capitalizing, to be in the category of subjectively annoying writing habits.

Of course, we're all allowed to indulge in calling out what we, ourselves, find annoying, particularly when we're bloggers. Carry on.

I'm going to go against the grain here and agree with publius. Gerson is worse than any of the other mentioned op-ed writers. Kristol, Krauthammer, Jonah, etc. are all irredeemably crazy or stupid. There's no feeling when reading their columns that they're capable of doing any better. Gerson, on the other hand, has the potential to be readable, so while his final product may not be quite as insipid as some of the others mentioned, he does a far worse job than any of them of translating his potential into the written word.

There may be people who write worse op-ed columns than Gerson writes, but there aren't any people who are actually worse columnists. I can read Jonah and laugh; if I try to read Gerson it just ends in tears.

Gerson's made a good attempt here, but IMO his work isn't a patch on the "Rachel Carson killed millions of Africans" crowd.

Get ready for "Al Gore murdered Cleveland", it's on its way.

Thanks -

"There may be people who write worse op-ed columns than Gerson writes, but there aren't any people who are actually worse columnists."

O rly? If you say so.

But the heart of today’s column is that liberal environmentalists are responsible for Congress’s failure to address global warming because – wait for it – they’re too mean to Republicans.

I think Gerson's got a point here. Environmentalists are just too uncivil and refuse to answer questions about why they want to kill off the surplus population. [/snark]

He probably also thought that Jon Swift was actually in favor of eating irish babies.

"There may be people who write worse op-ed columns than Gerson writes, but there aren't any people who are actually worse columnists."

O rly? If you say so.

You miss the point entirely. Coulter isn't a worse columnist than Gerson, she's just a crazier, more evil person. No one ever read a Coulter column and thought to himself: "Gee, if only she tried a little harder that Coulter might produce a column that would add something positive to conservative thought and be worth reading by people who aren't drooling idiots."

Coulter is a fine columnist, and her writing does exactly what she intends it to do. She's just a horrible-beyond-measure person. Gerson, on the other hand, is a moderately bad person who also happens to be a horrible-beyond-measure columnist.

Perhaps the reason Republicans resist the notion of anthropogenic climate change is that the science does not support it. Try these July 2008 reports for starters:

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24036736-7583,00.html

http://www.dailytech.com/article.aspx?newsid=12403

"Al Gore murdered Cleveland"

The city or the President?

Speech writing and being a columnist is different, and it is obvious which one Gerson is more suited.

Speech writing involves taking someone else's ideas, positions or points of view and creating a vehicle to pleasingly or succinctly (or both) articulate those concepts. Being a columnist involves creating a vehicle to articulate your own thoughts, positions, etc.

And this is where Gerson fails in my opinion. If someone else brings him the meat he may make a wonderful filet mignon. But when he's out there shopping on his own, he doesn't know how to select any proper ingredients (a thoughtful position) from the supermarket of ideas.

Coulter, Krauthammer etc. know exactly where to go for their ingredients - the supermarket's trash bin.

Who cares about Gerson? Seriously. The reason Republicans haven't addressed global warming is because it isn't happening. We are actually in a state of global cooling. Yeah, that's right....global cooling. Global temperatures have been going down for the past 10-11 years. Global warming is a myth! There is nothing factual about any of it! Put that in your writing!

"Put that in your writing!"

Has there been a stock offering in an outfit selling Argument By Assertion lately?

Perhaps the reason Republicans resist the notion of anthropogenic climate change is that the science does not support it.

I can top your links. Check this. I used to work with one of the guys behind this site, and he's not a knucklehead.

I have no problem with the idea that scientists disagree about whether humans are responsible for a warming climate. Something sure as hell is going on, but the global weather system is of such scale and complexity that trying to identify "root causes" is incredibly difficult.

I also have no problem saying that your average Republican is completely unqualified to evaluate the various scientific claims. No insult intended, your average Democrat or garden variety liberal, likewise.

IMO the reason Republicans resist the notion of anthropogenic climate change is because they believe (a) it will require governmental regulation of industry and (b) this might put a dent in the bottom line.

In my experience, Republicans HATE HATE HATE regulation of industry, and HATE HATE HATE the idea that there might be any limit, regulatory or otherwise, to industrial growth and expansion. Hopefully noone will be offended by my characterization of Republicans, I think it's reasonably accurate.

I don't know who's wrong and who's right in the scientific debate. We might not know for decades. We might not ever know.

But I'm pretty sure that the Republican animus to the anthropogenic hypothesis does not originate with a concern for scientific accuracy.

Thanks -

IMO the reason Republicans resist the notion of anthropogenic climate change is because they believe (a) it will require governmental regulation of industry and (b) this might put a dent in the bottom line.

Or, possibly: c) trees don't make particularly accurate thermometers.

They do cause more pollution than cars though, right?

Right. I said that, somewhere. I wish I could remember where, though. Maybe you could help?

Or, possibly: c) trees don't make particularly accurate thermometers.

Actually, slarti, you're one of the few guys whose analysis of the science I would trust.

thanks -

Right. I said that, somewhere. I wish I could remember where, though. Maybe you could help?

You didn't but you are doing a good impression of the guy that did.

every time i visit this site, i am astonished by the insight, understanding, and perception of the host. the washington post would immeasurably improve itself by dropping krauthammer and/or gerson for you.

It's not just that the adjectives are bad, superfluous, etc. -- which they assuredly are -- but that Gerson among otherimplicitly uses them as a placeholder for saying anything interesting but possibly falsifiable, EVEN IF WRONG.

The cowardice of a bad, even if competent, writer.

You didn't but you are doing a good impression of the guy that did.

That would be you, right? I mean, the only time it's been mentioned in this thread was when you brought it up.

Actually, slarti, you're one of the few guys whose analysis of the science I would trust.

Once upon a time, I thought I was going to do that, but I gave it up due to lack of time, and a few other factors. One of which was that I'd have to become an amateur climatologist, which I'm disinclined to do.

Nobody had mentioned the accuracy of trees as thermometers before you brought it up, either. So what? Is there some standard of clarity and relevance that you expect from others but do not yourself provide?

It's hard to believe how often pre-debunked climate denialist nonsense bounces around the right wing blogs.

And how long it keeps bouncing.

"Jersey Paul" links an already-retracted climate denialist blog post, which traces back to yet another opinion piece by gentleman spinner and extreme non-scientist Lord Christopher Monckton.

I was willing to give ICECAP, which Russell links to, the benefit of the doubt, until I saw that they were prominently featuring the same retracted post. Their editorial board may be more impressive than the average denialist site, but whoever is editing it on a daily basis is just propagating the same old nonsense from a small number of tainted sources.

Sigh. They really want to believe. I think Russell's right about the cognitive dissonance.

I don't know who's wrong and who's right in the scientific debate.

There kind of isn't a debate. There is certainly some small number of people who dissent from the general story about global warming, but but the idea that there isn't a practical consensus within the scientific community that global warming is happening and that it's caused by human activity is just preposterous.

Here's my link:

http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/306/5702/1686

"It's not just that the adjectives are bad, superfluous, etc. -- which they assuredly are -- but that Gerson among otherimplicitly uses them as a placeholder for saying anything interesting but possibly falsifiable, EVEN IF WRONG."

No offense intended, but people criticizing writing might want to try avoiding writing sentences like this in the same comment.

As a rule, smacking down other people for "bad writing" is fraught with potential for embarrassment unless you, yourself, are a notably skilled writer. Kids, don't try playing the home game without a license.r

There kind of isn't a debate.

I'm generally inclined to agree with you. The thing that makes me think twice is basically Joe D'Aleo, who is one of the editors at the ICECAP site, and who I used to work with.

In a nutshell, D'Aleo thinks that increased sun activity is a more likely explanation than human activity for climate change.

I can't begin to evaluate his point of view on the technical merits, because I don't have the skills. The reason I give some weight to his point of view is that I know him, and based on my personal knowledge of him find it unlikely that he's motivated by anything other than his understanding of the science.

He's a really smart, hard-core weather nerd, plain and simple. Maybe he's cashing big checks from the oil barons, but you'd never tell by his wardrobe, his haircut, or the car he drives.

Global weather and long-term climate changes are really complex phenomena. My hunch, FWIW, is that there is likely a mix of factors that contribute to it.

It doesn't really matter that much to me if humans are the only, or even primary, cause for climate change. Industrial culture creates so many, and so many different, harms to the natural world that contributions to global warming would just be another item on the list, AFAIC.

It also doesn't matter all that much what the cause is when the water supply disappears, or arable land turns to desert, or rising ocean levels put other areas below sea level. Something sure as hell is happening, and if we don't take our best shot at preparing for it, the sh*t is really going to hit the fan.

IMO the biggest impediment to having a reasonable public debate, and to making well-considered choices about what, if anything, to do, is the fanatic aversion to any form of industrial regulation that is such a prominent part of our political culture.

Thanks -

Nobody had mentioned the accuracy of trees as thermometers before you brought it up, either. So what? Is there some standard of clarity and relevance that you expect from others but do not yourself provide?

Russell had brought up what he thought were the primary motivations of global warming skeptics, and I responded with a different possibility. It's not all that hard to understand, unless you're trying very, very hard to avoid understanding. I even blockquoted what I was responding to, in order to avoid ambiguity.

Which you didn't do, so there's always the possibility that you were asking the tree-pollution question of someone else. If so, please disregard any of my responses to you.

Of course, this could all be a matter of my habitually recurring problem with clarity, which I'd be more than happy to remedy, if you could point out the parts that might have confused you.

Hey, folks, if global warming isn't a sufficient reason for people to talk about curbing CO2 emissions, try ocean acidification. That's one that's definitely happening, is a lot less controversial than global warming, and has effects that are visible now and are all bad.

Of course, this could all be a matter of my habitually recurring problem with clarity

It's more a matter of you doing something repeatedly and then reacting with snippy comments when someone else does it. It's terribly funny. Keep it up. Although it seems to have confused you, if you thought about it for a bit the relevance of my original post to yours might become clear. If.

It's more a matter of you doing something repeatedly and then reacting with snippy comments when someone else does it.

I have no idea what you're talking about.

It's terribly funny.

Lucky me; I wasn't trying to be funny.

Although it seems to have confused you, if you thought about it for a bit the relevance of my original post to yours might become clear.

Or you could come right out and say it, and remove all doubt. I don't expect that to happen, though.

Or you could come right out and say it, and remove all doubt.

You are exactly right. I could do that. I could come out and say exactly what I meant. I could make it easy on the people with whom I converse.

You are correct. I could do that.

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