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February 16, 2010

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When a badass crew runs a country, the only thing that will drive them out is a meaner badass crew.
A green movement regime might be worse than the current crew in Iran.

I'd think that Sullivan's insane musings regarding Trig Palin's real parentage would have put him off your reading list for a while, Eric.

Guess not.

Not a fan of that particular hobby horse, but I haven't stopped reading his blog.

I'd think that Sullivan's insane musings regarding Trig Palin's real parentage would have put him off your reading list for a while, Eric.

Sullivan's right on torture and wrong on Palin. I know which one I consider more important.

I was in D.C. this past weekend with my girlfriend, and I am nearly certain that we walked by Andrew Sullivan in DuPont Circle (where we were staying, and where he lives, I believe). I didn't accost him because he was on a headset phone, the bounder. I agree with Mike, his dogged persistence about torture is well worth the same about Palin conspiracy theories, and I am not compelled to read all of his posts.

I don't really get why everyone's focusing on Andrew Sullivan, when Jeffrey Goldberg seems to be having a grand time posting character assassination of the Leveretts without acknowledging their responses. Whatever error there is in challenging the Leveretts' tone, it's somewhat less severe than accusing them of lying over and over without backing up your assertions.

I didn't find the Leveretts' post gleeful at all. They're pointing out that they were right in response to over half a year of brutal attacks on their character (Goldberg said they were complicit in rape and murder, for instance), and probably hoping beyond hope that folks will take some time to reconcile reality with their rhetoric from the 2nd half of 2009. They're obviously fighting hard to get the administration's ear on this stuff (judging by the NYT article on Clinton's saber rattling speech, they aren't succeeding), and repairing a reputation that was savaged by common wisdom is part of this.

Never mind the court jesters.

The scary thing is: Clinton really, really wants to get her war on with Iran - she has a chip on her shoulder and thinks it's the path to greatness, ensuring her legacy.

And she might just get her will, because Obama seems to have come around ...

Does The Atlantic employ any good writers? Whenever I've read anything by McMegan, Goldberg, Sandra Tsing-Loh, or (formerly with The Atlantic) Ross Douthat, I've been left stunned and nearly speechless. The quality of the prose is normally adequate, but the quality of the logic and arguments is very poor.

To read Sullivan here, you'd think that Flynt Leverett personally rounded up Iranian "young lovers of freedom" and imprisoned, tortured, and executed them. It's kind of Goldberg to make the accusation explicit.

As he has very recently been falsely accused of antisemitism, you'd think that Sullivan would see the value of defending the Leveretts against Goldberg's charges, but perhaps he only bristles at such vile insinuations when they're directed at himself.

I'd just like to use elm's comment, above (which I happen to agree with, for the most part) as a soapbox from which to suggest that hilzoy find some kind of public writing gig that works for her.

There's no shortage of opinion out there. There is, however, (IMO, naturally) a serious shortage of clear thinking combined with clear, engaging writing.

That's where hilzoy could fix the world, I think. As hard as it is not to engage in back-and-forth, I think it's the back-and-forth that was distracting from her other obligations; therefore I'd think that some platform other than blogs might be appropriate.

I could be wrong in supposing some of that, but that's my take on things.

"There's no shortage of opinion out there. There is, however, (IMO, naturally) a serious shortage of clear thinking combined with clear, engaging writing.
"

That's for darn sure. I read the NYT dead tree edition every day and always look at the opinion section--Obsidian Wings (especially hilzoy, but also people like Eric) generally had the regular columnists beaten on quality. And there are other good bloggers out there too. Blogging can't replace journalism, but when it comes to opinionizing, the best bloggers are better than just about anyone I can think of who does it for a living.

The Atlantic has Fallows, whose a real asset. Ta-Nehisi Coates is solid too IMHO.

And thanks for the kindness DJ.

But yeah, I'd pay to read hilzoy. When Jim Henley's on a roll he's a pleasure too.

Does The Atlantic employ any good writers?

Ta-Nehisi Coates, for one. (The link to him in the blogroll here is broken, by the way, as is the link to Ezra Klein...)

I kinda like James Fallows too. I don't subscribe anymore because I object to having the likes of McArdle passed off as serious journalism. Half-baked ideas (barely) supported by cherry-picked evidence is not something I feel the need to pay for when it is so abundantly provided online.

I think Sullivan's Trig-obsession is embarrassing. However, I recall him saying that he believes Palin is Trig's mother, but given her propensity for lying and the strange circumstances of his birth, he'd like to see the medical records to settle the matter. Not a position I agree with, but I'd hardly call it insane.

he'd like to see the medical records to settle the matter

So, any crackpot with a conspiracy theory is entitled to demand the private medical records of politicians, even if the point in question has no bearing on their physical ability to perform the tasks of office?

Why it's a crackpot conspiracy theory:

Birfers puzzle me even more than troofers do. At least there's some point to trooferism, other than idle curiosity.

Eric: Thanks for the recommendations. I've read some of Ta-Neshi Coates's writing (I haven't gotten to Fallows yet) and it's dramatically better than that of the specific writers I cited above (McArdle, Tsing-Loh, Goldberg, Douthat).

Off the top of my head, the necessary traits of a good writer include self-awareness, expertise some subject*, and the ability and willingness to argue from the evidence.

* The specific area of expertise doesn't seem to matter very much. I've read great writing from people with backgrounds in history, economics, law, philosophy, physics, and computation.

Count me in with Slartibartfast and Donald Johnson: the writing here at ObWi is unusually strong — even when I disagree with or don't like the conclusions. Sebastian's writing sometimes falls into that last category — sometimes he's changed my mind, but even when he hasn't, there's a character to his writing that impresses me. I missed most of hilzoy's tenure, but Eric's writing has impressed me and informed me too (I found myself without comment on the "Abandon" post last week, as the original posting covered everything I had wanted to say).

Thank you kindly.

But hilzoy is in a class of her own.

The point, of course, is that the "doves" got it mostly right and the "hawks" got it mostly wrong. The rest is just sound and fury.

Oh, and yeah, Sullivan's lost it wrt Trig. I didn't read him until recently, so I don't know if he's just prone to that sort of thing or if Palin just broke his mind or something. She (or rather what I see her as representing) makes me nuts too, so I'm inclined to be forgiving.

That's where hilzoy could fix the world, I think. As hard as it is not to engage in back-and-forth, I think it's the back-and-forth that was distracting from her other obligations; therefore I'd think that some platform other than blogsmight be appropriate.

Maybe. But perhaps the back and forth was a critical factor in helping hilzoy write as well as she did. I mean, we don't know what hilzoy's political writings would have been like absent her interactions with people here: all of our observations are of hilzoy with community interactions.

I guess this is why I'm a liberal and Slarti is more conservative: he sees people's goodness as a fundamental inseparable part of their identity while I'm inclined to think that people's goodness is in some sense an emergent property stemming from what they bring to the party but also the complex interactions between them and the other partygoers. Cutting people off from the party and expecting their performance to remain unchanged seems...a bit questionable. Not obviously wrong, but not self-evidently correct either.

guess this is why I'm a liberal and Slarti is more conservative

I suspect it has more to do with drawing ideological conclusions from behavioral data.

But I keed. Rilly, I do.

I'm inclined to think that people's goodness is in some sense an emergent property stemming from what they bring to the party but also the complex interactions between them and the other partygoers

Hm. I'd say that hilzoy's good properties are pretty much independent from who she was interacting with. If you're saying that it might be interacting with anyone brings out hilzoy's (so far, unspecified, because we likes speaking in abstract generalities) better qualities, I think we'd have to see the case where no interaction at all occurs.

I have. In book form, though. It's not really comparable to what she's written here.

Perhaps an "Ask Dr. Science" kind of format might work?

Anyway: I'm agnostic on your party-interaction theory, and demand that hilzoy participate in our quest to discover its veracity by experimentation.

That'll work, he thought.

I suspect it has more to do with drawing ideological conclusions from behavioral data.

So...you're not conservative? Or are you saying that questions about the significance of environmental effects have not been a persistent source of disagreement between liberal and conservative policy wonks?

Hm. I'd say that hilzoy's good properties are pretty much independent from who she was interacting with.

Do you think hilzoy ever learned anything of value based on her discussions here? Do you think hilzoy ever stopped and reformed and argument before posting it because she anticipated an objection that Seb or von or gary would likely raise?

I have. In book form, though. It's not really comparable to what she's written here.

This would be a book she wrote in her professional capacity right? A book shaped by years of discussions and interactions with peers in her field, yes?

Agh. Maybe I needed to decorate my last comment with many, many more clues to its underlying jocularity. However:

So...you're not conservative?

That was not my argument.

Or are you saying that questions about the significance of environmental effects have not been a persistent source of disagreement between liberal and conservative policy wonks?

Neither was that. I was more pointing out, in a humorous way (or so I imagined), that perhaps your to assignation of our different ways of regarding "goodness" as being ideologically driven is itself ideologically driven. That you see an ideological division because of your ideology.

That snake ate its tail, perhaps.

Now, the rest:

Do you think hilzoy ever learned anything of value based on her discussions here?

I'm pretty sure I didn't say that. I definitely didn't mean to communicate that, and I don't think that.

Do you think hilzoy ever stopped and reformed and argument before posting it because she anticipated an objection that Seb or von or gary would likely raise?

Possibly. Hard to know for sure, unless she tells us. Just as possibly, she communicates impeccably because that's who she is.

She can't possibly be unaffected by us. Is hilzoy who she is solely because of us? I think not. Subtract me, for instance, and I think you get much the same hilzoy.

There are certainly people whose arguments are not brought up to hilzoy-par by the existence of the lot of readers, here. I submit myself as prime example.

So: the thinking has to be there to begin with. The sharpening and polishing are, as you say, likely in preparation for the audience.

This would be a book she wrote in her professional capacity right?

I'm not sure what you mean by "in her professional capacity". As a writer? Tautology. As a teacher and professor? I don't know to what degree it's used in teaching.

A book shaped by years of discussions and interactions with peers in her field, yes?

I'm not sure what you're getting at, here. Surely shaped, but not wholly constructed of. The raw material has to be there, I'd think.

Another long-form slarti sighting.

it's dramatically better than that of the specific writers I cited above (McArdle, Tsing-Loh, Goldberg, Douthat)

Please don't forget Caitlin Flanagan, who is just awful. Not to mention the occasional piece by Robert Kaplan. I've stopped subscribing too, though not just because of the rogue's gallery listed here; otherwise Fallows, Coates, and even Sullivan might have been enough to keep me going.

So, any crackpot with a conspiracy theory is entitled to demand the private medical records of politicians, even if the point in question has no bearing on their physical ability to perform the tasks of office?

Yes, I'm pretty sure the First Amendment applies even to crackpots. And the politician in question is entitled to decline to release the records.

I'm generally looking for a slightly higher standard than "is covered by the First Amendment" when evaluating the worth of commentators, since that standard also includes the crazy guy on the bus who thinks we need a Congressional investigation into why Nixon is sending him radio messages through his teeth.

...and Paul Savage.

Whom I listen to daily, just because he's bravely exercising his 1st Amendment rights!

I never suggested anyone should take Sullivan's Trig ramblings seriously. You asked whether I thought he was entitled to make demands, and I answered.

My original point was simply that (as far as I know), he hasn't suggested that anyone other than Palin is Trig's mother, and therefore his writings don't rise to the level of "insane conspiracy theory", and are not a reason to reject the rest of his point out of hand.

hasn't suggested that anyone other than Palin is Trig's mother

No? Then what is he suggesting, here?

There must be plenty of medical records and obstetricians and medical eye-witnesses prepared to testify to Sarah Palin's giving birth to Trig. There must be a record of Bristol's high school attendance for the past year. And surely, surely, the McCain camp did due diligence on this. But the noise around this story is now deafening, and the weirdness of the chronology sufficient to rise to the level of good faith questions. So please give us these answers - and provide medical records for Sarah Palin's pregnancy - and put this to rest.

You know, I'm not saying Obama's not really ineligible to hold the Presidency, but why can't we have a look at his long-form birth certificate? I mean, he could just fork it over and lay all these questions to rest.

This is exactly the kind of argument Sullivan's made. But that's not what annoys me about him most; what annoys me is that instead of writing one or two decent posts a day, Sullivan's elected to write, say, a dozen really feeble ones. Or sometimes as many as 30, as he did that last day of August 2008. Those 30 were only the ones about Palin; there were another dozen, roughly, not directly about her.

I'm not trying to convince you of anything, just substantiating my annoyance with his Palin obsession.

I bet find his Palin obsession as irritating as you do. I think Sullivan was one of the first, most consistent and most persuasive torture critics (for example), I know he has serious points to make, and his cringe-worthy Trig crusade detracts from that. But I also think there's a fundamental difference between him and Birthers or Truthers. I think he's speaking in good faith when he says that he believes Sarah Palin is Trig's mother, and that the medical records would settle the issue for him. I don't think an analogous statement is true of Birthers and the long-form birth certificate. Especially since Obama already has released a legitimate birth certificate.

If he was writing stuff like "Dick Cheney ordered 9/11" or "Bristol Palin is definitely Trig's mother", I would be in favor of ignoring every word he wrote. But I believe he continues to write good, important posts from time to time and shouldn't be written off completely.

What i find annoying about his and others Palin penchant is that her positive numbers(only 35%, I think) couldn't hold up if they didn't keep crowning her as the leader of a party. The only upside is that for every Palin post we get one less about Limbaugh being the leader of the party.

These are not the leaders of the party, they are media celbrities that will get some poll numbers as long as people like Andrew (and MSM) legitimize what they say.

Just because it is Andrews greatest fear doesn't make her the next President, and, well, Trig? who cares.

Marty,

Limbaugh might not be the leader of the party, but just about every GOP pol is scared s-less of him, and when they criticize him by accident, they come groveling for forgiveness.

Not good.

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