Saturday, December 30, 2006

Althouse Vs. Libertarians

Ann Althouse couldn't handle being trapped in a conference with true-believing Libertarians. To her horror, she found at that Liberty Fund Conference in Chicago that Libertarians don't share her ideas on civil rights. Libertarians don't believe in government coercion against private businesses that discriminate. That makes them racists! Yes, the Libertarians said they would support boycotts and similar private voluntary actions against discrimination, but Althouse knows better. They wouldn't denounce racism the way she wanted to. Here's her account of the cruel attitude Libertarians had toward her at that conference:

"They utterly failed to respond to my need that they show that they cared about the terrible history of racism in the United States and the reality of human suffering. I wish you could see a videotape of the insolent attitude they displayed. They made it utterly clear over the course of two hours that they had no intention of showing any concern for what I cared about."

So because of this Libertarian indifference to what she cared about, this failure to respond to her need, Althouse walked out of the conference in tears. Of course, the Libertarians, including Ron Bailey of Reason magazine, told a somewhat different story.

Not having been there, I can't say whether Bailey was "grumpy" to her, or a young female Libertarian was smirking at Althouse. But I'm astonished by Althouse's astonishment about Libertarians. I learned about Libertarianism while at San Diego State University a quarter-century ago. It wasn't difficult: Libertarians don't keep their inner doctrines secret. And as their critics will say, Libertarians aren't exactly shy about spreading their gospel. (I'm still a Libertarian, although a bit more careful not to annoy people with evangelizing).

Today, you don't even need to talk to an actual Libertarian (although it would help). You can just go to the Web and learn all about Libertarianism.

Althouse is a law professor and blogger who speaks out on political issues all the time. She's supposed to be well-read. How could she not have known about these well-propagated Libertarian beliefs? My guess is that Althouse's personal circle is rather limited by her academic milieu in Madison, Wisconsin, as Althouse appears to admit.

I visited Madison a few years ago, and loved the city, the food and drinking from a "boot" of beer at a funky bar. It's also a bustling college town. One thing that the academic environment is supposed to offer is a wide range of exposure to different ways of thinking and points of view. I certainly encountered that at SDSU, where I not only met Libertarians, but College Republicans, Democrats, socialists, and a couple of Communist groups. That was 25 years ago. Could the University of Wisconsin - Madison be less open to political diversity? Of course not. Liberterians can be found in Madison, perhaps on the UW faculty, and certainly among her students. Althouse didn't have to travel to Chicago to get her tearful awakening about those heartless Libertarians.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Google gets evil

Firefox mastermind Blake Ross explains how. It's time to start finding alternatives to Google, which increasingly resembles another arrogant tech giant.


Friday, December 22, 2006

Rago Unleashed

iowahawk has found the original, unexpurgated text of Joseph Rago's rejected college thesis repurposed as a rant against blogs.

What are you waiting here for? Go follow the link!


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Those Clueless Bloggers

Cathy Seipp rattled a veteran journo, Bob Baker, by ridiculing his mea-not-very-culpa about his thoughtless blog post. Here is the comment thread on her blog about this, complete with defenses from a friend of Baker's.
Baker used the N-word repeatedly in a Lenny Bruce dialogue cited in an imagined PR agency's defense of Michael Richards . He blamed it on his being "seduced" by the low standards of blogs.

You see, Bob Baker knows better than to do that in print, because he has these "old-fashioned" checks and balances and high journalistic standards that wouldn't let anything so objectionable get into the paper. But put him in front of a computer and let him blog. Suddenly, he's infected by what he calls the "superficial and transitory and sophomoric writing that often passes for journalism in Blogland." It's the Flip Wilson Defense: The blog made me do it!

Oh, and Baker had trouble coming up with ideas for four weeks. That's another reason for his "stunt", as he tellingly describes it. The veteran journo with his nose in the air about the Internet stumbled into a pothole. And of course it's the pothole's fault.

* * *

But Baker sounds like Paul Saffo compared to Joe Rago, a chucklehead on the Wall Street Journal's editorial page (he should be at home there), who wrote an almost incredibly bad attack on blogs. Dr. Mike Kennedy, a frequent commenter on Cathy's blog, pointed out his wretched stab at profundity:

"Blogs are very important these days. Even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has one. The invention of the Web log, we are told, is as transformative as Gutenberg's press, and has shoved journalism into a reformation, perhaps a revolution.

"The ascendancy of Internet technology did bring with it innovations. Information is more conveniently disseminated, and there's more of it, because anybody can chip in. There's more "choice"--and in a sense, more democracy. Folks on the WWW, conservatives especially, boast about how the alternative media corrodes the "MSM," for mainstream media, a term redolent with unfairness and elitism. . .

I thought that dimwitted article was redolent with the overachieving and not-quite-getting-it off-kilter choice of words that one reads in a poor college essay. My impression was that Rago was some very recent college grad who was still writing to impress his professors. It's been decades since my college days, but I remember the style well.

And I was right. Rago graduated from Dartmouth in 2005. And the schlub can't write his way out of a paper bag. Oh, all the words are spelled correctly. They just don't add up to anything worth reading. It concerns some college controversy that I needn't bore you with. Just savor his command of metaphor:

". . .Perhaps it is best to envision the issue as a cannon firing a shot at some indeterminate angle and with indeterminate force, and we are to somehow chart the trajectory of the ball as it moves through the air. This, it hardly needs be said, is a tricky thing—not just because the ball is still moving and we would like to know where it will land, but the more so because of the various unknowns.

"I think the shot is still aerial. I will withhold my assessment of where it will go, on account of lack of evidence. There was an opportunity at the Town Meeting, and previously in my requests for interviews, to flesh out the indefinite. These were not taken. President Wright and Dean Larimore would have you believe that the cannon was never fired in the first place. This strains credulity. Such a position relies on a faint institutional memory that views the present though occluded lenses, evincing little understanding of College history. . .

This is the artless aspiring pundit who's telling us what's wrong with blogs!

Another commenter in the Cathysphere, Calvinist, pointed out the obvious reason this got published, which I should have realized at once:

"Now I'm sure his WSJ piece has been sitting around the office for some time, until there was absolutely nothing to go into the op-ed page on a slow pre-holiday news day."

Blogging certainly has its problems. But critics like these have nothing helpful to offer, because it's impossible to critique something one doesn't understand.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Did Four Mosques Burn in Iraq as AP Claimed? -- Apparently No

That's the result of a rather Byzantine investigation into an Associated Press article that stated as fact that four Sunni mosques were burned and six worshippers burned alive in late November in Baghdad. Only one mosque appears to have been burned, and there is no evidence of any worshippers at those mosques being burned alive. Patterico has the summary of Armed Liberal's investigation into the murky facts.

In short, most of the AP story appears to be wrong, and its "we stand by our story" line doesn't stand. As Patterico and Armed Liberal (Marc Danziger) has noted, getting the truth out of Iraq is extremely tough. It is understandable that AP could have made a mistake. But what's not acceptable is AP's refusal to even admit its story could have been wrong. After a Reuters stringer was caught forging a photo from Lebanon this summer, AP should have taken heed to examine its own fact-gathering processes in Middle East conflicts. The situation in Iraq is bad enough without exaggerating it.

Errors are inevitable in the news business. A prompt admission of these errors strengthens a news organization's credibility. It's time for AP to learn that lesson.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Rich, chewy bloggy goodness!

Some of the top bloggers got together and wrote a cookbook with their favorite recipes.
Ever wondered how bloggers eat their words? Now you know. I can't wait to get a copy.

The link goes to Deborah Uhler's site, where you can order the book. It will soon be on and the other usual places. H/T to Patterico, one of the contributors.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Cathy's back . . .

. . . and replete with amusing anecdotes. Even when she was in the hospital, Cathy kept looking for material to write about. And her daughter Maia got a B average at UCSD, despite being admitted a year ahead.

Congratulations, Cathy and Maia!


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Hang in there, Cathy!

Cathy Seipp, writer, bon vivant and blogger extraordinnaire, is back in the hospital for treatment of advanced non-small lung cancer. Cathy has already lived much longer than she was expected to. May she continue to beat the odds and share her quirky joy of life and view of the world! I joined the Cathyphile club 10 years ago, reading her articles written as Margo Magee in Buzz magazine. Scroll down for my posts about her roast-tribute and the DVD release party.

Cathy's amazing family is also very much in my thoughts. Her daughter Maia Lazar, at the tender age of 17, is already conquering UCSD. And there is a video below of her father, Harvey Seipp.


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