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Questions and Observations #2

For new readers the title is that for which the shortened “QandO” stands. This is the second in a series of questions and observations.

  • In the “you can’t make this up” department, China will block the sale of Hummer for “environmental concerns”.  I guess that’s their nod to the rest of the world after flatly refusing cut CO2 emissions in the future.
  • Ezra Klein is suddenly for smaller government, specifically the elimination of the Agriculture Committee. Of course the only reason he’d like to see it given the deep 6 is because it has, in Klein’s opinion, badly weakened cap-and-trade by extracting “a truly mind-boggling array of tax breaks, exemptions, and straight subsidies”. I guess Klein would like to temporarily make government smaller to make it larger.
  • Yes, Michael Jackson is dead – but for heaven sake, do we have to devote every minute of the news day to running “Thriller” vid and spreading rumors about the possible cause of his death? Is this what “news” organizations have become?
  • Apparently we’re still stalking the North Korean ship enroute to either Singapore or Burma. For those who are waiting for us to confront it and board it, that’s not going to happen. The “tough” UN resolution only provides for boarding if the North Koreans agree. And, while we can demand that they then go to the nearest port for inspection, the North Koreans can refuse that as well. The plan, it seems, is to convince the refueling port the NoKos pull into to refuse to refuel the ship. Then, when the NoKo ship runs out of fuel, put it under tow and then inspect it. As I understand it – they can then inspect it legitimately. Amazing.
  • Waxman-Markey, aka cap-and-trade, survived an earlier test vote that moved the bill to the floor for a 5pm vote. As I recall the margin was 5 votes. It is a job destroyer in the middle of a recession. The Center for Data Analysis of the Heritage Foundation figures it will cost 50,000 jobs in the transportation equipment sector alone. Their data for other sectors is available here.
  • House liberals have staked out a bit of ground on the health care bill saying they will not vote for it if it doesn’t include a public option – period. That is actually good news as the public option does seem to be in trouble. Any bill showing up without it will most likely not get the 80 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to vote for it. Add in the Republicans and the Blue Dogs, and it may be in very serious trouble without just the sticker shock of 1 to 3 trillion dollars of cost.
  • Mark Sanford? He should resign. The affair is between he and his family. He should resign because he was derelict in his duty and he misappropriated government funds to pay for his trip to Argentina.  Kinda like Bill Clinton should have resigned, not for the affair, but for lying under oath to a grand jury and attempting to obstruct justice.

~McQ

The Man. The Myth. The Legend.

In The New Ledger, Christopher Badeaux has penned one of the most withering takedowns of a public figure since H.L. Mencken’s obituary of William Jenning’s Brian. Badeaux’s target:  Andrew Sullivan.  A few samples are in order.

On Sullivan’s campaign against circumcision:

To say that Sullivan has focused his laser-like mind on human reproductive organs is to engage in an understatement worthy of the master himself. We could simply look at Sullivan’s relentless, years-long focus on circumcision (a relentlessness not well-captured by the internet tubes, as Sullivan’s archives traditionally become difficult to search when he moves from site to site), an unusual genre for a man who will never have children and who is not Jewish or Muslim, though perhaps not so unusual given his general interest in the member in question. One could focus on his decision to start calling a 4,000 year old religious tradition “male genital mutilation,” thus cleverly calling untold generations of Jews child abusers and torturers, a decision that marks the sort of intellectual territory into which only a man bravely unwilling to live in Israel can tread.

On Sullivan’s participation in the Sarah-Bristol-Trig Palin controversy:

Andrew Sullivan immediately leaped into the fray. Unlike the rest of these non-experts, many of whom began to back off of the story when word emerged that Mrs. Palin’s daughter was pregnant and had been close to the time of Trig’s birth, Sullivan, who apparently received a secret medical degree while attending Harvard, began obsessively following this story, turning the Atlantic from a fairly uninteresting opinion website into a leading journal of gynecology and obstetrics. Rarely in human history has a gay man been that obsessed with a married woman’s vagina.

On Sullivan’s views about the Catholic Church:

Sullivan sees deep plans within plans, and lives by undercurrents the likes of which we mere mortals cannot fathom; is it any wonder that his break with any apparent connection with Catholic teaching or thought, Scripture, and reality came when he perceived a great teaching moment on Benedict XVI’s ascension? Certainly not, because if there is anything about which we can be certain, it is that Sullivan is as constant as the polar ice.

Sullivan’s problem with pre-35th Century Catholicism, he has repeatedly assured his readers, is in its offenses against human dignity, human dignity only usually being a code word for sodomy.

On Sullivan’s thoughts about The Jews:

One sign of a writer’s mental disfigurement, laziness, undiagnosed psychoses, or, obviously in the case of Sullivan, inhuman insight, is the gradual realization that the term “neoconservative” is a useful stand-in for “Jews whose loyalty belongs first to Israel, and then to the United States, if at all.” Sullivan has clearly reached this point, as one can note from some of his most recent thoughts...

Surely Sullivan, keen observer of men, sees what we cannot: That the Jews (or rather, a subset of American Jews) are in close collaboration with Israel, are working to undermine our brave President’s policy of allowing Iranians to die in their streets, never understanding that President Obama’s indifference is actually a brilliant ploy to force the theocrats of Iran to spontaneously step down and allow a thousand fabulous flowers to bloom. You see, he’s clearly not taking issue with the “neocons” for wanting to toss out the clerics; he discerns that because of their love of blood-of-Gentile pastries and determination to overtly strike out at theocrats, dictators, and Palestinian children, they’re being counterproductive.

The whole thing is brutal.  And brutally funny.

This Blog Post Saved At Least 10 Jobs Today

Seriously.

At least that’s what the macro model I built says.  It has some very sophisticated algorithms.

According to the model, the associated bandwidth cost for this post was enough to keep the blog hosting gang going and because of that, they kept making payments on all the computer equipment, power and rent/lease obligations they have associated with their hosting site, which in turn kept a computer retailer/power company/real estate firm from laying off folks while also paying those down the line from them today and having the same effect.

Seriously.

Go ahead – prove me wrong.

~McQ

Part 3: Whelan Figures It Out …

And apologizes to Publius for doing something he shouldn’t have done and can’t undo:

On reflection, I now realize that, completely apart from any debate over our respective rights and completely apart from our competing views on the merits of pseudonymous blogging, I have been uncharitable in my conduct towards the blogger who has used the pseudonym Publius. Earlier this evening, I sent him an e-mail setting forth my apology for my uncharitable conduct. As I stated in that e-mail, I realize that, unfortunately, it is impossible for me to undo my ill-considered disclosure of his identity. For that reason, I recognize that Publius may understandably regard my apology as inadequate.

Publius responds:

Ed Whelan has written both publicly and privately and apologized. I know it was not an easy thing to do, and it is of course accepted. I therefore consider the matter done, and don’t intend on writing about it anymore.

Hat tip to Whelan for apologizing and making it public. That took some courage.  And to Publius for the gracious acceptance. Lesson?

You don’t get to decide whether or not the privacy concerns of another are legitimate (unless very specific types of exceptions are extant – “shouting fire in the theater” type) – that’s why we talk about privacy rights. It appears Whelan has finally figured that out.

~McQ

Whelan/Publius – Round 2

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.

Ed Whelan:

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.

Whelan opines:

“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.

~McQ

Anonymous Blogging and Outing (Update)

There’s a bit of a kerfuffle rippling through the sphere today (which means, of course, that most of us are going to comment). Ed Whelan, who blogs over at NRO has outed Publius who blogs at Obsidian Wings.

There seem to be mixed feelings as to whether what Whelan did is “ethical” or not. In terms of ethics, we’re essentially talking about right and wrong. Is it right or wrong to reveal the name of an anonymous blogger?

And the answer?

Well, it depends. It depends on what action by the anonymous blogger might drive such a decision by another blogger. I’m sure if I thought long and hard enough I could come up with a few that I think would justify doing so. But one of them wouldn’t be because some blogger had been “biting at my ankles in recent months.”

I’m sorry but that comes with the territory of blogging.

Heat. Kitchen. Either grow a thick skin or quit blogging.

If you are going to write and post publicly, and if you have any prominence whatsoever, someone is going to bite at your ankles. But that certainly isn’t a good reason to out someone who, for whatever reason they may have, has chosen to remain anonymous by using a pseudonym.

Oh sure, you can flog him or her for not having the gonads to use their real name and come out from behind the screen and stand by what they say (and that has some validity as an argument), but you don’t just decide you have the right to violate that person’s privacy because you’re annoyed.

For years I was simply “McQ” on the net and the blog for various and sundry privacy reasons. Certainly there were those who knew who I was, but they too respected my decision to maintain my anonymity. And that included people I annoyed on a regular basis. The decision to use my real name was mine and mine alone. As it so happens, I decided that if I wanted to be taken more seriously I should be willing to sign my work with my real name.

I find Whelan’s outing of Publius to be very bad form -unethical- especially for the reason given. If I had a nickel for every anonymous ankle biter I’ve endured for years, I’d be retired. The trick in dealing with them is not to do something as juvenile and “ethics challenged” as violating their privacy, but instead by making tight and considered arguments which leave them little room for rational criticism. At that point they usually do one of two things – go irrational and begin the inevitable descent into ad hominum attacks or go away.

What Whelan just did instead was create a martyr and become the bad guy.   And his poor judgment in this case ends up hurting his own credibility while adding at least sympathetic weight to his antagonists arguments.

Many people on the internet want anonymity for a variety of reasons. Certainly some abuse it. But the unspoken rule of netiquete is you don’t reveal another’s private information publicly over some silly disagreement – ever. Whelan did exactly that and for that act, deserves all the condemnation he’s now receiving.

UPDATE: Whelan is obviously unfamiliar with the First Law of Holes:

A blogger may choose to blog under a pseudonym for any of various self-serving reasons, from the compelling (e.g., genuine concerns about personal safety) to the respectable to the base. But setting aside the extraordinary circumstances in which the reason to use a pseudonym would be compelling, I don’t see why anyone else has any obligation to respect the blogger’s self-serving decision. And I certainly don’t see why someone who has been smeared by the blogger and frequently had his positions and arguments misrepresented should be expected to do so.

Of course the desire for privacy is always “self-serving”. Why that is a justification for outing someone remains a mystery. Whelan, however, thinks he has the right to be the sole arbiter of what is or isn’t a “compelling” reason.

Few reasonable people are going to buy into that bit of illogic. If, as Whelan admits, a person can have a compelling reason for privacy, where does someone like Whelan derive the right to determine it isn’t compelling enough?

~McQ

Twitters Moved

You may have  noticed that the twitter posts about the daily economic stats are gone.  They have been moved over to the sidebar, under the add banners.

This will give me the ability to provide the ongoing econ updates via my phone–just as I am posting this–while keeping the main blog section untouched.

This should be a solution that pleases everyone.

Idiotarian Returns

I believe that we have a replacement for MK-Ultra showing up in the comments section.  It might even be MK-Ultra, since the commenter Dude09 seems similarly dense enough to have a noticeable gravitational field.  Apparently, he was all upset that no one mentioned the wack-job who killed the abortion doctor in Kansas today, and we didn’t put it up on the board as a topic of conversation for the Podcast today.

Since it apparently seems that we have to occasionally re-explain the facts of life to morons, I will do so again.

1. We set up the Podcast topics on Friday.  For the most part, if we didn’t discuss it on Friday, it doesn’t go on the air on Sunday.  It’s not a daily news show.  It’s a discussion about things that have caught our eye over the past week.

2.  We will not always create a post on your pet news story.  Why?  Maybe we didn’t know enough about it.  Maybe we haven’t heard the story yet. Maybe we’re busy.  Or, maybe we just don’t care.  For instance, let’s take a look at my day.  When I got up today, I got dressed and went for breakfast, and then to the grocery store.  Upon my return, I trimmed hedges and bougainvillea, sprayed Roundup on some weeds, and picked up dog crap in the back yard.  Then, I went directly into my office to record the Podcast.  Immediately after that, I worked for 1.5 hours on a client web site.  I scarfed down a quick dinner, during which I first saw an actual news report on the shooting.  I then worked until 9PM on another client web site.  So, here’s a clue, maybe I didn’t blog on your pet story because I have a life, and responsibilities that preclude me from doing so.  I mean, really, do you think we sit around all day cruising the internet and news sites to latch on to your pet story as soon as it appears.  Cripes, most of the time, Bruce writes the stories you see on the blog on the night before they appear.

3. Sometimes, your pet story just isn’t compelling.  Someone went unhinged and shot an abortionist.  So what?  I mean, it’s a terrible tragedy, but what does it tell us about…well…anything?  What conclusions are we supposed to draw?  It’s not like abortionists are getting bumped off on a regular basis.  The last one of these that occured was 11 years ago, back in 1998.  What lessons am I supposed to draw from the fact that some lunatic thinks God told him to kill an abortionist that are in any way substantively different than those I would derive when a crackpot kills his pharmacist because the Venusians sent him a command to do so via the transmitter secreted in his skull?

4.  I really hate peer pressure.  Even if I was inclined to write about a story at some point, having you kite in here and call me an ass because I haven’t done it yet is a sure-fire way to get me to ignore the story completely.  I’ll ignore it just to spite you.

5.  I don’t care what you want to hear about.  I didn’t open up a request line when I started blogging.  I did to write about things that interest me, and beleive me, the abortion issue is way down near the bottom of the list of things that interest me.  If you send me a story, and it interests me, and if I have time, I might write about it.  Or not.

I hope that clears things up.

1,000 Spam Comments You Never Saw

A little milestone to note – since we went to this platform, we’ve had a total of 7,337 comments to posts here.

1,000 of them were spam comments, like those we were plagued with on the old blog platform and drove me crazy. The good news – you didn’t see a one of them. They were all caught by the Akismet plug-in and held for me to gleefully blow away, a duty I thoroughly enjoy.

Much, much better.

~McQ