Free Markets, Free People
I enjoy analyzing arguments. Not two people shouting at each other mind you, but arguments people make to support their positions.
Yesterday I posted about Ed Whelan of NRO outing Publius of Obsidian Wings (no, I’m not going to use Publius’s name). I found it to be a very juvenile reaction to what appeared to me a fairly typical blog war – someone wrote something, another disagreed, and they went back and forth hammering each other’s arguments. But in terms of provocation that might warrant what Whelan did, I found nothing.
Simon Owens, at Bloggasm, contacted each of the parties involved and talked to them about what had happened. If you’ve read each of their blog posts, the reasons given are mostly a recapitulation of those. However there were some other interesting arguments used, one of which I found very wanting.
Whelan even objected to the term “outed,” which has been used by many (including me) to describe what he had done to Blevins. “I think the word ‘outed’ confuses understanding here. I think people are drawing on the ugliness of identifying that someone is homosexual. In this context, to say I outed publius, well publius doesn’t exist. I identified who’s hiding behind publius. I think to identify someone who is blogging behind a pseudonym is very different than exposing some private aspect of a person’s life. I think that the term outing confuses things.”
I don’t think it confuses anyone but Ed Whelan. He claims that publius didn’t exist. But neither did the person pretending to be straight. In the case of the homosexual, both personalities may have had the same name, but one of them certainly doesn’t exist in reality. It is a pseudo-personality. Outing is a completely apropos description of what Whelan did and nonsense such as this argument is just epic rationalization in an attempt to justify the unjustifiable.
Publius makes the argument that he’s not really anonymous, but is instead an established personality with a reputation. And the reputation, achieved while writing under that name and on that blog is of value to him and something he doesn’t take lightly.
“It’s one thing for an anonymous commenter to come in and just be a flame thrower, but what I do is I write pseudonymously, and I have a reputation of my own. It’s an online reputation. It’s a reputation that I care about, that I’ve invested a lot in, and I don’t want to be embarrassed in the blogosphere. I try to think through my arguments. To say there’s no real world effect, I don’t agree with that, because if I write something stupid, I’m going to get called out for that. In fact, I have written stupid things and I got called out and it affected my reputation. So I do have some reputational incentives to be honest, to be respectful in all these things.”
Given that, the arguments on both sides should have been dealt with on their merits and nothing else.
“A law professor should especially be held to minimal standards, and I was surprised that this guy was a law professor given the poor legal understanding of his posts. Let me be clear, I have no objection to bloggers who want to hide behind pseudonyms, but if someone is hiding behind a pseudonym to take cheap shots at me, I don’t think I owe him any favors.”
And outing him did what to enhance Whelan’s arguments or counter those of Publius?
Zip. Zero. Nada. Nothing.
The fact that Whelan’s outing of Publius added nothing of weight to his arguments nor took away from those of Publius smacks of petty vindictiveness. He knew he could hurt Publius by doing something to him that Publius had carefully avoided over the years. In a word it was petty. Juvenile. Something a 10 year old would do.
The more I read Whelan the less I care for him. He may be a heck of a bright guy intellectually, but socially and ethically he’s still in grade school.
Great day yesterday – drove up Skyline Drive which borders the Shenendoah Valley and did the scenery tour. Absolutely beautiful (we’re staying in Charlottesville, VA). Then came back through some of the most beautiful countryside I’ve seen in a while to Montpelier – James Madison’s home.
This was particularly interesting to me because of Madison’s role in writing the Federalist papersand the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The house itself is a work in progress. They only finally restored it to its original dimensions in September of last year (subsequent owners had added on – they took all the additions off of the house and only kept the parts that were there when the Madison’s owned it).
Anyway, probably the most memorable moment for me was standing in Madison’s study, where he penned much of the Constitution and many of the Federalist papers and staring at the ink stains on the wooden floor where his desk had been. It’s little things like that which can bring history alive for a person. That and staring out of the window at the beautiful scenery he looked at as he worked on those incredible documents.
If you get a chance, go see the place. Web site: www.montpelier.org.
Today Monticello, Ash Lawn-Highland (home of James Monroe) and Michie Tavern (of course). Hopefully the Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg battlefields as well.
Ta ta …
Believe it or not, it was AP which undertook this job. And although superficial, it was interesting to see the agency actually attempt some objectivity. That said, the one that really stands out as almost laugh outloud funny was where Obama did a little chiding of the Republicans:
First of all, I suspect that some of those Republican critics have a short memory, because, as I recall, I’m inheriting a $1.3 trillion deficit, annual deficit, from them.
Well, first of all, only Congress can appropriate money and for the last two years, when that 1.3 trillion was pile up, it was appropriated by a Democratic Congress.
Yes, Paulson rolled them and they ran around like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off – and that includes Republicans – but trying to lay this deficit solely at the feet of the Republicans is simply laughable.
Laughable point two came when Obama claimed “In this budget, we have made the tough choices necessary to cut our deficit in half by the end of my first term even under the most pessimistic estimates.”
Well, that’s just not true. The “most pessimistic estimates” (in this case the CBO) essentially disagree with his point.
The Congressional Budget Office forecasts that Obama’s spending plan would leave a deficit of $672 billion by the end of 2013. Explaining the differences between his projections and CBO’s, Obama said his administration projects a higher growth rate.
It is also important to understand that “cutting the deficit in half” is a mask for the fact that it means he’ll still be running up a record deficit of over 600 billion a year. That is not progress in deficit reduction or “fiscally responsible” government. But it sounds good when thrown out there in a sound bite. Here, maybe this will help make the point:
As you can see, both the most “pessimistic” and his own projections see huge deficits projected well into the future – and, as many economists have said, unsustainable deficits.
So let’s get a few facts straight concerning spending and deficits then and now:
-President Bush expanded the federal budget by a historic $700 billion through 2008. President Obama would add another $1 trillion.
-President Bush began a string of expensive financial bailouts. President Obama is accelerating that course.
-President Bush created a Medicare drug entitlement that will cost an estimated $800 billion in its first decade. President Obama has proposed a $634 billion down payment on a new govern ment health care fund.
-President Bush increased federal education spending 58 percent faster than inflation. President Obama would double it.
-President Bush became the first President to spend 3 percent of GDP on federal antipoverty programs. President Obama has already in creased this spending by 20 percent.
-President Bush tilted the income tax burden more toward upper-income taxpayers. President Obama would continue that trend.
-President Bush presided over a $2.5 trillion increase in the public debt through 2008. Setting aside 2009 (for which Presidents Bush and Obama share responsibility for an additional $2.6 trillion in public debt), President Obama’s budget would add $4.9 trillion in public debt from the beginning of 2010 through 2016.
Yes, Bush did contribute to an expanded deficit. But Obama’s plans expand it beyond anything Bush did and it continues the spending well into the future. Obama’s budget is the blueprint for a huge and unsustainable expansion of government over the next decade. What you see going on now is all Obama.
And don’t let him get away with pretending otherwise.
It seems so hard to remember those halcyon days, long ago, when there was some optimism about the country’s economic future. Why, it seems like just last week, when Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke was telling us to be cautiously optimistic about the near future.
In his twice-yearly testimony to Congress, Bernanke conceded the economy was undergoing a “severe contraction”, but held out hope of recovery if the White House’s latest bail-out helped to unblock lending to households and businesses.
“Only if that is the case, in my view there is a reasonable prospect that the current recession will end in 2009 and that 2010 will be a year of recovery,” he told the Senate banking committee, adding that healthier global markets would also be essential if the US economy was to return to health.
Some were willing to go even farther, in those happier days of February, 2009. Some chap named Bernard Baumohl of the Economic Outlook Group who seems really to believe that happier days are just around the corner.
“We are not doomed to a lost decade of the sort experienced by Japan in the 1990s,” Mr. Baumohl says. “Nor are we in a depression. We view the drop in GDP in the last quarter, which we may see repeated in magnitude this quarter, [as] symptomatic of a recession in its final convulsive stages, to be followed by a recovery in the second half of the year.”
Oh, wait. That was last week.
This week started off with the S&P 500 dropping another 4.66% today, closing at 700.82, and the Dow off by 4.24% to close at 6,763.29. Well, you can’t slip something like that past the boys at the Dallas Morning News.
“The number 7,000 is not what is important,” said Hugh Johnson, chairman of Illington Advisors in Albany, N.Y. “What is important to everyone is the message that the market is sending us with these losses.”
And that message is that the current recession probably will be longer and more severe than most people expected. For months, the consensus on Wall Street was that the low of 7,500 that the Dow hit in November 2008 would mark the bear market bottom.
Many market analysts predicted that while the Dow would “retest” that low, it would not break through it. They were wrong. The scary thing now is where the Dow and the broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index will make their next stand.
As I’ve mentioned several times, both on the blog, and on the podcast, the historical long-term trend is for the average P/E ratio to drop back to 15. Well, that implies that our equilibrium point is somewhere in the vicinity now of 6,000 on the Dow, and about 620 or so for the S&P. So we’ve still got a ways to go if that historical trend holds true.
Of course, we also have a tendency to drop below an average P/E of 15 as we pull back off the highs, so a 5,000 Dow doesn ‘t seem like an overly pessimistic prediction.
I know I’ve been consistently downbeat on the economy for the last several months, and nothing I’ve seen since I started writing about this in 2007 has changed my mind. I’m not counting on a recovery in 2009, or even in 2010.