Re: At last

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Girls don't use computers; they glow.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 2:10 PM
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Referent of "they"?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 2:13 PM
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Mom, do you ever get that not-so-fresh feeling?

Oh honey, every woman does. That's why I rely on Dell's Inspiron Mini 10 Netbook.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 2:15 PM
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Don't laugh, it could take off. Does anyone remember Toshib?


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 2:15 PM
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Oh, that's annoying. I've had an eeePC for a year. It fits in my purse. I do not use it to keep in contact with friends and family while glowing prettily. I use it to do work! Or procrastinate from work!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 2:29 PM
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Both the OP and the Also elicit "Wow," and yet for such different reasons.

The fic is pretty well done.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 2:38 PM
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Leaving aside the obvious question of why anyone would have a featured artist on a computer-selling website, in what way is this Robyn Moreno person an artist?


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 2:41 PM
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I strongly approve of people linking to the Register, and even more so of people buying ads from them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 2:43 PM
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While looking at Dork Yearbook recently, I was reminded of how odd it felt when computer-dorkiness somehow got coded as "male." There are plenty of pictures there of girl-dorks with their videogames and bad hair and pictures in the yearbook from programming club. When I was learning BASIC in elementary school, there were just as many girls doing it as boys; it didn't feel like a "masculine" thing. It was just a dork thing.

When did using a computer and playing video games stop being a gender-neutral dork thing and become a mainstream-male and unfeminine thing? Was it when computers got cool? So they had to take them away from girls because girls can't be cool? Please advise.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 2:43 PM
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Hasn't "dork" always been a primarily male thing?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 2:45 PM
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Dorks, lord knows, are a primarily male thing.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 2:46 PM
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When did using a computer and playing video games stop being a gender-neutral dork thing and become a mainstream-male and unfeminine thing? Was it when computers got cool? So they had to take them away from girls because girls can't be cool? Please advise.

Eh, I like the point you're trying to make, but the history of both video games and computer nerdery is both male-dominated and full of embarrassing sexism.

Which is not to say that, all along the way, there haven't been girls in key places, just that their contributions have tended to get downplayed and looked-askance-upon just as has happened in most other realms.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 2:47 PM
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When did using a computer and playing video games stop being a gender-neutral dork thing and become a mainstream-male and unfeminine thing? Was it when computers got cool? So they had to take them away from girls because girls can't be cool? Please advise.

IME it was never a gender-neutral dork thing; when I was growing up it was always always always male-identified.

And working in the computer industry, while there are plenty of older male engineers, women with comparable experience are exceedingly thin on the ground.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 2:49 PM
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There was definitely never a time in my life when computers and video games weren't male-identified.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 2:55 PM
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9: What year was that programming club, AWB? I don't remember any girls trying to get into the computer room at lunchtime, as my nerd posse did in 4th grade or whenever that was.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:01 PM
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You know, marketing departments rarely do things like this (or anything that costs decent money, really) without a bit of data to back it up. I would bet you that some VP of marketing has on his desk a report that indicates that female users respond less positively to the default Dell website than men, or that they are in fact confused by it, or something along those lines. Which means the problem isn't that Dell's marketing department is responding to women's needs as their information indicates they should, but rather that a significant chunk of the female computer-buying population has somewhat girly preferences. You might say that their personal becomes political.

Besides which, it doesn't even look like it's possible to get there from the default dell site, which means the only people able to find it would be the ones inane enough to search for "dell for women" or somesuch to begin with.

I do like their stylish triple-vulva logo though.


Posted by: bbass | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:02 PM
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You might say that their personal becomes political. … the only people able to find it would be the ones inane enough to search for "dell for women" or somesuch to begin with.

Quite.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:04 PM
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I was in my high school programming club! The computer lab had a special back room where all the awesome hopelessly nerdy AP programming kids hung out. We were pretty evenly gender-divided. The teacher would give us passes to get out of other classes, so we could sit back there all day and play games. And make up our own games, using mostly, erm, turbo pascal.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:07 PM
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report that indicates that female users [...] are in fact confused by it, or something along those lines

I don't doubt that this could be true. And I'm clearly not the target audience for this craptastic site. But gah, how could it possibly be less confusing to shop for a computer by dint of the fact that it features a fashion advice-giver?


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:12 PM
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Hasn't "dork" always been a primarily male thing?

Well, this is news to me. In fact, "dork" is a lovingly embraced term of affection in my No Boys Allowed household. As in "You are such a dork, Rory," or "Hey Mom! [Beloved] Mrs. [Math Teacher] says she's a total dork too!" and "Dorktastic!"


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:13 PM
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a report that indicates that female users respond less positively to the default Dell website than men

Let's pretend that report exists. What, in the brain of a marketing executive, would prompt one to interpret data saying that more than 50% of the population is alienated by your website to....leave the website the exactly the same and build an entirely new second site?

Someone with a large budget for hiring consultants, that's for sure.

(FTR, if someone gave me a report saying that half the human race responded "less positively" to my organization's website, building a separate playground for them would not rank high on my preferred ways of addressing the problem.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:15 PM
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17: Okay, first of all, I'm a male, I'm a computer professional, I've bought two Dell laptops in the last eight years, I am comfortable rooting around on the inside of a desktop machine replacing parts. Dell's default website is a confusing piece of shit. So if women are turned off by the default website, I'm inclined to say that the problem is with the default website, not with women.

If you took the Della site, expanded it to cover a reasonable cross-section of the completely insane Dell product line (5 different laptop LINES, 4 desktop/workstation lines with an arbitrary distinction between desktops and workstations), made it less girly while still keeping the site clean and well designed, you know what you'd have? The Apple site.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:16 PM
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OT: Is it just me, or has Yglesias's proofreading nosedived recently? It's always been terrible, but it seems as if in the last few weeks there have been a lot of sentences that require complete reassembly from deduction of the sort of thing he probably meant to say.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:17 PM
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Except that on the Apple site, the products are front and center. Not so on the Della site.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:19 PM
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Well, this is news to me. In fact, "dork" is a lovingly embraced term of affection in my No Boys Allowed household. As in "You are such a dork, Rory," or "Hey Mom! [Beloved] Mrs. [Math Teacher] says she's a total dork too!" and "Dorktastic!"

Yeah, but neither of you is (I assume) a dork. I shouldn't have used the word. Dorkdom, rather.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:24 PM
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Which means the problem isn't that Dell's marketing department is responding to women's needs as their information indicates they should, but rather that a significant chunk of the female computer-buying population has somewhat girly preferences.

Argh, I started to write something along the lines of 16.1, and quickly abandoned ship on the grounds that it was too painful.

For what it's worth, Dell's main site is confusing if computers confuse you, and if putting together a system is confusing to you. I had to force my business partner to sit by my side while I walked us through the process. Why did I do this? Mm, wanted him to stop behaving as though he was helpless. Dell's marketing department will, of course, register that a person with a male name placed an order, since we use his name for business transactions.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:25 PM
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21:

Women are more than half the population, but vastly less than 1/2 of the computer-buying population in terms of dollars, especially the ones that would actually respond to the Della approach. It's like complaining the default site isn't in Mandarin or Hindi.

[i]I don't doubt that this could be true. And I'm clearly not the target audience for this craptastic site. But gah, how could it possibly be less confusing to shop for a computer by dint of the fact that it features a fashion advice-giver?[/i]

User interface design gets crazy. At my company, we had a guy whose entire project for a good length of time was to discover the optimal size, color, and phrase on our "buy now" button. If something like sharp vs. rounded edges has a small but measurable effect on buying behavior, it makes sense that random extraneous but somehow comforting information would have a huge effect.

As far as the default approach being too confusing, the Apple approach isn't completely replicable. Apple is trying to go with kind of a BMW aesthetic of high-priced and well-designed, to say "this is one laptop you need, because it is the best one". Dell is more of a one-stop shop for the whole population, so they need to be able to do a goodly amount of internal price discrimination rather than just aiming for the top 10% of the market to begin with. The way you do that is by making your site relatively complicated, or at least having lots of options.


Posted by: bbass | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:28 PM
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Or, what Ham-Love said in 22.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:28 PM
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Products and media that depict women as alien creatures from the planet Cute actually turn me on. (In a guilty-pleasure sort of way) There's just something really sexy about the extreme accentuation of male-female differences. There must be some girls who secretly like shaving ads featuring bare-chested, jut-jawed men glistening with sweat, I guess this is the male equivalent.

The Jon Stewart fanfic turned me on too. An entire story devoted entirely to a kiss, that works.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:29 PM
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24: Yeeeeaaahh, but there's a fair amount of "lifestyle fluff" on the Apple site, is my point. And that Dell's main site sucks. And they have too many product lines.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:29 PM
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23: I don't know, but since you mentioned his name I clicked over and found this post about yet another experiment in urban education, this one by a "public curmudgeon and private negotiator" by the name of Steve Barr.

I'm interested in the fact that his Green Dot schools have embraced unionized teaching staff. That should be good for a nice long argument, right? LB? Shearer?


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:31 PM
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OT: Is it just me, or has Yglesias's proofreading nosedived recently? It's always been terrible, but it seems as if in the last few weeks there have been a lot of sentences that require complete reassembly from deduction of the sort of thing he probably meant to say.

I don't see a specific change in the last few weeks, but there seems to have been a turning point at the Atlantic when he started updating his blog much more regularly throughout the day, and it's been persistently bad since then.

I'm really surprised they don't hire an assistant or intern for him.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:32 PM
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I'm interested in the fact that his Green Dot schools have embraced unionized teaching staff.

There's a special place in hell reserved for him. And you too.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:36 PM
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Or, you know, a buddy who could help him out for a couple of minutes a day. You wouldn't need rigorous proofing -- a thirty-second "Dude, that word really ought to have an 'un' on the front of it, don't you think?" would catch most of it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:37 PM
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31: I'd never heard of him before reading that post. But on the basis of that post, I'm pro.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:37 PM
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Wasn't "dork" originally a vulgarism for "penis"?


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:40 PM
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I haven't noticed much of a change in Yglesias's proofreading. It's always been about this bad. I have noticed that his output has become a lot more constant in quantity over the course of the workday and declined precipitously at other times.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:40 PM
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There's just something really sexy about the extreme accentuation of male-female differences.

Heteronormativist.

(Hey, PGD, did you see last week's episode of 30 Rock? Hilarious ending!)


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:40 PM
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29: That's a lot of pressure on any woman you date seriously, PGD. Just noting. I'm sure you know that.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:40 PM
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I'm also pretty skeptical about his "charter schools are the answer!!!" approach to education policy, which seems to have been intensifying of late.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:41 PM
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Wasn't "dork" originally a vulgarism for "penis"?

See 11.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:42 PM
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Hasn't anyone linked to this?


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:43 PM
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26: For what it's worth, Dell's main site is confusing if computers confuse you, and if putting together a system is confusing to you.

No, it's confusing even if you routinely assemble computers from parts yourself. It's a piece of shit.

27: It's like complaining the default site isn't in Mandarin or Hindi.

No, it's not, because simplifying the default site and the product lineup would benefit male and female shoppers and Dell. They've made the site worse and worse over the last five years, and that's a part of the reason why I bought my new laptop from Apple.

Apple is trying to go with kind of a BMW aesthetic of high-priced and well-designed, to say "this is one laptop you need, because it is the best one". Dell is more of a one-stop shop for the whole population, so they need to be able to do a goodly amount of internal price discrimination rather than just aiming for the top 10% of the market to begin with.

That's just not true. Admittedly Apple doesn't target the really low end at present, but they certainly aren't aiming just at the top 10%. Dell has 5 laptop lines that overlap densely in price and capability ranges. I would bet a lot of money that this is due to internal politics, not a coherent strategy.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:44 PM
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23

Is it just me, or has Yglesias's proofreading nosedived recently?

Not that I noticed. I have noticed his posting frequency reaching insane levels. 18 posts so far today. Some quality deterioration seems plausible. But as I said I haven't noticed perhaps because I am not reading as closely as I used to.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:46 PM
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20
Well, this is news to me.

I assumed he was referring to the etymology of "dork" - Yiddish slang for penis. It's funny, Yiddish seems to have as many words for that as Eskimos reportedly have for "snow"...

(Of course, English has a whole bunch of slang terms for "penis" too. But it seems like the Yiddish ones are more common in American speech, and get used for more different things, than other languages' pet names for genitalia.)


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:48 PM
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43: Okay, okay, I agree that Dell's multiple lines are incoherent. And I'm not even a computer professional.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:49 PM
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They've made the site worse and worse over the last five years, and that's a part of the reason why I bought my new laptop from Apple.

Something tells me that wasn't the main reason, though...


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:49 PM
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Products and media that depict women as alien creatures from the planet Cute actually turn me on.

I'm glad you admit things like this, PGD, but sheesh.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:50 PM
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Pwned by 36 and 41, obviously. This is what I get for trying to get a little work done in between commenting. I should know better.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:51 PM
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The Steve Barr New Yorker profile conspicuously leaves out his relationship with Mayor Villaraigosa. Maybe it's because the Mayor's profile is sinking below that of than the nebbishy moderate-liberal he defeated, but his whole first term was predicated on taking over the school district (and failing to do anything but bite off some control over a rump mini-district). The Parents' Union that figures heavily in the story was engineered by Antonio, to support mayoral control, as much as it was by Barr.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:54 PM
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I am loving H-L's comments in this thread.

I'm also pretty skeptical about his "charter schools are the answer!!!"

I know nothing whatsoever about Steve Barr except for what was in the New Yorker piece that Yglesias linked, but if that can be believed, it's emphatically not about charters per se. It's about "blowing up" the current system.

I am somewhat less reflexively skeptical of his approach, as described, than I am of a number of other dreadful ed-reform paradigms.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:56 PM
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47: Full disclosure: 1066MHz FSB was probably the biggest factor; wife's employee discount was probably second.

The fact that setting up my feature comparison spreadsheet among the various contenders involved an hour of heartfelt and vicious cursing while navigating the Dell site was definitely part of the decision, though.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 3:58 PM
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Besides which, it doesn't even look like it's possible to get there from the default dell site, which means the only people able to find it would be the ones inane enough to search for "dell for women" or somesuch to begin with.

Banner ads linked to the Della website and placed on various traditionally-feminine-targeted websites seems much more likely, no? I can't imagine there's that many people out there searching for "Dell for women".


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:03 PM
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Silly girls, clicking on banner ads.


Posted by: bbass | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:04 PM
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31

I'm interested in the fact that his Green Dot schools have embraced unionized teaching staff. That should be good for a nice long argument, right? LB? Shearer?

Consistent with my belief that schools (within the range commonly found in the United States) don't make much difference I doubt unionization has much effect on student performance.

MY references an earlier post which claims schools do make a difference. However while this post correctly notes you have to adjust for student body composition it absurdly assumes looking just at school lunch eligible students is a sufficient adjustment when comparing school districts.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:06 PM
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OT: Is it just me, or has Yglesias's proofreading nosedived recently? It's always been terrible, but it seems as if in the last few weeks there have been a lot of sentences that require complete reassembly from deduction of the sort of thing he probably meant to say.

You mean like "Israel's nuclear program is more of a threat to the US than Israel's nuclear program", or "The filibuster has gone from being used routinely to being used frequently"?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:12 PM
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I know nothing whatsoever about Steve Barr except for what was in the New Yorker piece that Yglesias linked, but if that can be believed, it's emphatically not about charters per se. It's about "blowing up" the current system.

I haven't even read the article and know nothing more about it than the descriptions of it here and at Yglesias's site. The way Yglesias presents it, though, definitely fits into his tendency to emphasize charter schools over everything else when discussing education.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:14 PM
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Doesn't his girlfriend have a background in research on charter schools?


Posted by: Amber | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:18 PM
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58: Yes, and she's presumably the main influence on his opinions on the subject. There's nothing mysterious about it, really.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:20 PM
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59: one of the endearing things about MY is the number of fields in which he has strong, clearly expressed opinions on something which even a relatively casual reader can trace directly to the influence of a single person or book.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:23 PM
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60: Indeed. Probably something to keep an eye on as he rises through the ranks of the punditocracy and acquires more and more influence.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:25 PM
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52.last: Yes, it has become infuriating. The two that we have done somewhat recently via Dell have also involved comparing my employee discount*, the relevant child's educational discount* (which tend to be based around different "lines"**) and various "promotions" just to add some further complexity. I no longer believe the process of configuring and pricing a Dell system to be deterministic even over the course of an hour or two (and yes they may in fact be changing prices while I'm working, but I doubt it). But I do like their systems and in the end, the price is pretty good.

*Yes, yes: gift horse, mouth.

**At one point my son and I were moved to configure what were basically "identical" machines via two different lines and then tried to rationalize the price differences of components and determine if they really were identical. Because we're insane.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:26 PM
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61: I assume by "keep an eye on" you mean "take unprepentant advantage of", right?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:27 PM
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What 60 and 61 said.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:28 PM
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63: We all have our ways of dealing with these things.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:29 PM
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I know I, for instance, have no intention of prepenting.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:31 PM
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59: one of the endearing things about MY is the number of fields in which he has strong, clearly expressed opinions on something which even a relatively casual reader can trace directly to the influence of a single person or book.

So who's to blame for

(1) Raising prices on parking
(2) Getting rid of zoning regulations and non-elite professional certifications
(3) Adjusting stats for tempo in basketball



Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:32 PM
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67.1 is Donald Shoup; I'm not sure about the other two offhand, but it wouldn't be too hard to figure them out.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:34 PM
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That is, I don't care about 67.3 enough to keep track, and 67.2 could be any number of people and it would just be a matter of going back through the posts and seeing who he linked to when he first started talking about it.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:35 PM
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The trouble with having strongly held opinions that you come to on your own is that it's hard to get them taken seriously. "But I talked to Famous Person and she told me X", they say. Far easier to take your strongly held opinions directly from Famous Person.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:35 PM
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He recently read The High Cost of Free Parking, which my Urban Planning friend LOOOOVED and kept trying to get me to read.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:35 PM
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That's a lot of pressure on any woman you date seriously, PGD. Just noting. I'm sure you know that.

nawww, I have a very good grip on the fact that everyone's just a person. Me included, of course. The gender game is fun, I like aspects of it. But women who have been fully colonized by the girlie borg are way too alien for me to deal with on a daily basis. My experience has been that such women are quite rare in reality, but perhaps my tastes and circles are such that I just never encounter them.

Still, the thing about everybody being just a human being and respecting each other's personhood does get to me. What's so great about being a human being? Doesn't it get sort of boring and tireseome? Can't aliens be kind of awesome? When people are at their most delightful, they often have a little playful alien spark in them.

This comment is probably too deeply embedded in my private cosmology to be comprehensible to outsiders.

(Hey, PGD, did you see last week's episode of 30 Rock? Hilarious ending!)

No, I don't have cable, I usually just rent it on DVD. But the girl I'm dating now does, maybe I'll see if she taped it. I know she taped the pilot of "Real Housewives: New Jersey" for me. From the preview they seemed to have gone in a mob wives type direction.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:36 PM
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(1) Raising prices on parking

Donald Shoup

(2) Getting rid of zoning regulations and non-elite professional certifications

As far as the zoning thing, probably Jane Jacobs. Not sure about the latter.

(3) Adjusting stats for tempo in basketball

John Hollinger, I believe.



Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:37 PM
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What about the high cost of "The High Cost of Free Parking". That book lists for $60 dollars.


Posted by: Lemmy Caution | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:39 PM
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I dunno. I don't pay a ton of attention to people who take their strongly held opinions from a Famous Person. Might as well pay attention directly to the Famous Person.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:39 PM
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74: it apparently is worth it, both in terms of pages per dollar and in terms of valuable content.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:40 PM
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Famous Person was probably the wrong word, it just came to mind thinking about something I'm disgruntled about. Yglesias is more of a Famous Person than those he takes the opinions from, probably. But: easier to be taken seriously if you can point to a Recognized Expert, is perhaps the better formulation. The virtue of Yglesias is that he can recycle these expert opinions from many sources and make them easily comprehensible. The downside is that you only get the opinions of the particular experts he points to.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:41 PM
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Annoyingness: Headline on the Yahoo website has changed from "Chrysler to cut 800 of 2,300 dealerships" (paraphrased) to " Chrysler targets 800 dealerships in reorganization." PR-speak takes over!

Also, not that my reputation for humorlessness needs any cementing, but I disagree with 60 and find 63 off-putting.

I understand that the job description of a pundit is basically to go off half-cocked on plausible-sounding policy daydreams, but I'm darned if I'll call that endearing or joke about taking advantage of it. Let's try to aim just a wee bit higher.

(Is there enough low-hanging vocabulary choice in the above to move this discussion into vulgar jokes? Because I'd be delighted for that to happen.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:41 PM
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The virtue of Yglesias is that he can recycle these expert opinions from many sources and make them easily comprehensible.

This is absolutely right, but the process I'm making gentle fun of is a side effect; when it's a subject he's relatively new to, or a subject about which there aren't a lot of competing voices, he ends up recycling the expert opinion from a single source, sometimes making it more comprehensible than the original, sometimes keeping it basically the same.

On the other hand, if he's interested enough in something to adopt somebody's opinion, he's generally interested enough to keep reading about it, and his opinions will become more robust and syncretic over time.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:44 PM
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joke about taking advantage of it

Who says I was joking?

Heck, who says I haven't already done it?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:45 PM
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66: I know I, for instance, have no intention of prepenting.

Organized prepenting.

Miss Envy 2002, Octavia, descends the stairs with tears on her cheeks and horns in her hair. Her winning confession regarding Barbie ("That bitch") and Martha Stewart had induced a fit of rapture from the congregation and the spontaneous chanting, "Fuck Barbie! Fuck Barbie! Fuck Martha Stewart! Fuck Martha Stewart!"

I think I need some degenerate coastal elite (preferably Bay Area sub-strain) to provide some context.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:47 PM
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62: But I do like their systems and in the end, the price is pretty good.

My theory: People immersed in PC system culture know that Dell is a good bet for a high quality machine at a good price. Those people hit the Dell site knowing what they want and already pretty sure they're going to get a Dell. At that point, the confusing web site isn't going to dissuade them -- they know the pony they want is somewhere underneath all that manure. Those people are more likely male than female.

OMFG. On the Della site, when you've selected your netbook model, it takes you to the regular Home & Home Office section to configure the machine. Which is done on 28 pages.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:48 PM
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Do you disagree in that you don't think it's endearing, Witt, or in that you don't think it's an accurate description of MY's opinions' formation?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:49 PM
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Context is for the weak.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:49 PM
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Too late, Sifu, I already declared comity with you based on 79. So I'm just going to ignore 80.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:50 PM
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60 is hilarious, and true. Basically, Yglesias shows numerous tics of the super-smart undergrad who is overly impressed by the last really sharp thing he read. Being a blogger is the perfect job to stay in that mode. He is gradually developing more independent judgement, though. Eventually, hopefully, wisdom. He really is very smart, for whatever that's worth.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:50 PM
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Do you disagree in that you don't think it's endearing, Witt, or in that you don't think it's an accurate description of MY's opinions' formation?

I don't think it's endearing. I don't know if it's an accurate description of how he comes up with his opinions, since my entire personal interaction with him occurred in one 15-second exchange, but it's uneasily like enough other opinion-generators whom I have observed more closely to be worrisome.

Like I said, humorless.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:52 PM
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pwned by 79.2


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:52 PM
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Oh, link in 81 borderline NSFW, even though I'm still at my fucking workplace.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:53 PM
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I dunno. I don't pay a ton of attention to people who take their strongly held opinions from a Famous Person. Might as well pay attention directly to the Famous Person.

I think yglesias is in a position as a popular blogger that he can parrot some famous persons opinion and he will get feedback. Someone will probably cite him whatever countervailing evidence is out there.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:54 PM
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overly impressed by the last really sharp thing he read

It took me two years of law school to stop fervently believing whichever side of the case I read last. That is still a weakness of mine, in most fields not my own.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:56 PM
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Works for me, for instance, I got all my opinions on Populism from Richard Hofstadter.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:56 PM
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When did using a computer and playing video games stop being a gender-neutral dork thing and become a mainstream-male and unfeminine thing?

Sometime after the early and mid-Sixties. Back then anyone who could deal with an IBM or DEC was in great demand, the "Heavy" IBM sent to the med center to deal with nasty OS problems was a woman and the eventual head of the computer center there and at other places was the wife of a programmer who got into it out of housewifely boredom. There were plenty of other nerdesses around too.

Re Dell: Didn't the NYTimes have an article a while back about Dell serving up lots of different web pages with variations in a continual marketing analysis effort? Della might be one of the results.

Yeah, it's a confusing and annoying site. I've been buying Dell stuff since forever but I'm inclined to try building my own for the next one.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:58 PM
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it's uneasily like enough other opinion-generators whom I have observed more closely to be worrisome

I don't disagree with this. I think one of the reason's he's done so well as a blogger is that he's able to seamlessly generate many, many words of informed-sounding opinion on a wide variety of subjects. This is a pundit skill, and it leads to the weaknesses that you see in other pundits.

I've said for many years that what we're seeing with MY and Ezra is their absorption into the DC machine. Odds are in thirty years they'll be nigh-indistinguishable from your Frank Rich/David Brooks type (category intentionally left broad). On the other hand, they both seem aware of that process, so maybe they'll be able to forestall it to some degree.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:58 PM
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92: You should get all your opinions on populism from Trollblog .


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 4:59 PM
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95: I think 92 contained implicit reference to trollblog.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 5:00 PM
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On the other hand, they both seem aware of that process, so maybe they'll be able to forestall it to some degree.

Or to embrace it!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 5:01 PM
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they both seem aware of that process, so maybe they're comfortable with it.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 5:01 PM
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Jinx.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 5:01 PM
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I think one of the reason's he's done so well as a blogger is that he's able to seamlessly generate many, many words of informed-sounding opinion on a wide variety of subjects. This is a pundit skill, and it leads to the weaknesses that you see in other pundits.

Agreed. One advantage Yglesias has, I think, is that he's much smarter and more self-aware than most pundits, so he knows his weaknesses and is able to either acknowledge them publicly or work to counteract them. Not that he will necessarily keep doing this as he rises in stature.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 5:03 PM
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Yeah, I think 100 is right. He clearly understands the pitfalls, but that doesn't mean he'll be able to avoid them over the course of his whole career. Indeed, there are already strong indications that he won't be.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 5:05 PM
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72: "30 Rock" is available free using standard television antenna technology. It can also be watched on Hulu. Not having cable is no excuse.


Posted by: fedward | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 5:05 PM
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I generally like John McPhee's writing, but I often grow weary of how in his articles and books he often totally adopts the perspective of one key person. I know that is basically his shtick and it helps him to go "deep", but when he writes about otherwise relatively obscure areas it is a bit worrisome. The few of his books/articles where I (or someone I knew well) had specific knowledge left me a bit more skeptical of the rest.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 5:09 PM
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I think yglesias is in a position as a popular blogger that he can parrot some famous persons opinion and he will get feedback. Someone will probably cite him whatever countervailing evidence is out there.

This does not seem to occur in his basketblogging. That is the one field on which he regularly blogs in which I would consider myself enough of an expert to judge, but it's also an area in which he may feel less pressure to have his opinions evolve, since it is less important.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 5:09 PM
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96: too subtle and witty for me!

I think an important move for Yglesias was when he left the Atlantic to go to Thinkprogress. That seemed like a pretty clear signal that being some sort of progressive intellectual, or at least keeping that connection, was more important to him than being a conventional DC pundit. Maybe he ends up more like a 21st century Bob Kuttner.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 5:10 PM
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102: I can't be bothered to remember when network TV shows actually air, is what I was trying to get at. I thought that was pretty clear if you read between the lines.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 5:11 PM
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I've said for many years that what we're seeing with MY and Ezra is their absorption into the DC machine.

For what it's worth, I do not get the sense that MY and Ezra are on precisely the same trajectory. My sense is that Ezra is more comfortable trying to find a specific niche.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 5:11 PM
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What's so great about being a human being?

It's not much of an accomplishment, I'll grant you.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 5:12 PM
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As for Dell/Della, I find the Dell selection/configuration/purchase process to be one of the worst interfaces used to sell any product, anywhere. Even when you know what you want it's hard to get it, and then when you're on the phone with the friend you're speccing it out for, he'll get a different price even though the two of you have exactly the same details on the final screen.

I don't really understand the Dell/HP notion that design is for girls, though. I saw an HP mini-thing in an excellent Ferrari red recently that was ruined (to me) by the imprimatur of whatever famous designer they'd had come up with something they could screen onto it. Oh well. I'd take the bright red, but not the flowers.


Posted by: fedward | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 5:13 PM
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Emerson didn't leave in a huff, did he? I ask because I haven't seen him in awhile. But of course I'm not here much, so perhaps my not having seen him isn't dispositive. In addition to being fairly sure I've used that word -- "dispositive" -- incorrectly (well, not really, but still), I think I've probably mis-spelled it.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 5:16 PM
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60: Hey, what did you think of Traffic?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 5:30 PM
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Maybe Dell is relatively cheaper in the US, being based there, but here in the UK, it's vastly more expensive than either building your own system from scratch or getting a lot of reputable firms (though not all of them) to custom build them to your requirements. Still, I don't mind people buying them quite so much as I mind people buying Compaq/HP systems, which are the worst pieces of overpriced, ugly, unupgradable shit I've ever come across.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 6:18 PM
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110: He may still be on the road.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 6:32 PM
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Emerson didn't leave in a huff, did he?

What? when? why? etc?

I don't think he did, though. Or did he?

The Della concept is cheesey, but it doesn't really bother me. I'm trying to get over the identity politics angle of gender politics, basically. I think women should focus more on the bread-and-butter issues of political and economic equity.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 6:36 PM
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I think MY is definitely making more and more dramatic typos than he used to. Maybe he has a tumor.

MY sounds like he's been reading a lot of economics, which is never a good sign.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 6:57 PM
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I've said for many years that what we're seeing with MY and Ezra is their absorption into the DC machine.

MY and Ezra are not at all alike, are they? The sort of thing Ezra generates about health care reform would be entirely beyond MY's capabilities, surely.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 7:02 PM
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There are a multitude of ways for good pundits to go bad.
- grow more right wing with age (Kondracke)
- grow more weirdly obsessive with age (Kaus)
- grow more curmudgeonly with age (Richard Cohen)
- grow more boring with age (Flora Lewis)
- become overly attached to one's own reputation for magisterial evenhandedness (Joe Klein--but Ezra has helped draw him back to the light)
- become too attached to the sound of one's own voice (Broder)
- come to regard the petty squabbles of politics as beneath you (Kinsley)
- come to regard the petty concerns of the Democratic party as beneath you (Ignatius)
- retreat to a pulpit from which you can only be heard by the choir (Hertzberg)
- Retreat into the more lucrative world of agenda-less "content production" (Tim Noah, Jon Alter)
- retreat into quasi-syphillitic madness (M. Peretz; no, on second thought, he has always sucked)

Every generation has its Wunderkinder, but few maintain their edge past age 39. It will be interesting to see which path Yglesias chooses.


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 7:02 PM
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Emerson is back in Portland, and the city is throwing a weeklong Trollapalooza to celebrate. I'm sure he'll be back to regular commenting as soon as the festivities are over.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 7:08 PM
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117: You can also be unceremoniously rejected for too many violations of the unwritten rules of DC. Robert Scheer is a fairly recent example.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 7:14 PM
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It will be interesting to see which path Yglesias chooses.

Why, for heaven's sake? Who cares? I don't want to be unkind, but he talks too much to be able to do the research needed to specialize in something. Maybe I'm just saying that I don't like the generalist pundit mode of being, in which case my remarks should be disregarded. But to the extent that Matt is a smart guy, it's never been clear to me why he doesn't buckle down. He sounds like he's just spitting out words half the time.

People here know him personally, and I certainly don't understand the pundit mode of being, so I'll leave off.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 7:14 PM
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120: Like anything, if you like reading him, you care, and if you don't like reading him, you don't. I like reading him, and read him long before I read Unfogged. (I may have read him before Unfogged existed.)


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 7:17 PM
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Yglesias deserves credit (I think, but can't really know*) for ignoring the siren song of the Atlantic. My theory? He's wealthy enough, and has always had enough access to the trappings of fame, to realize there are more important things. Ezra, on the other hand, seems hellbent on becoming a judicious voice of reason, loved by the left for his insouciant good looks and correct positioning on health care, but embraced by the center for his willingness to play their game.

* Becuase the back story of his departure from Sully's shadow has never become public, at least as far as I know.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 7:29 PM
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I think in many ways that Yglesias is the "best" blogger, by which I mean his skills match up perfectly with the medium. He is surely the best person to turn to for a quick, pretty sensible one paragraph analysis of whatever the 2-3 top stories of the day are, and his ongoing hobbyhorses are at least generally pretty sensible. And he's maniacally productive. But I don't think his skills are really those of a magazine pundit, exactly, of the 1980s/1990s variety; in the even slightly longer-form pieces I've read of his, he doesn't have anything like the flair that's there with the blogging (not that the longer form essays are bad, exactly, just that they're not particularly distinguishable from what many other people are doing).

I hope he keeps blogging in something like his current form forever, and it seems likely that he will. I agree that he's got a lot of ticks of the smart undergrad, but I don't see much reason to fault him for not being fully expert on all the subjects he writes about; it's not really his role and he does a decent job of pointing folks in the right direction.

I find EK boring, but that's more a slam on me than on him.


Posted by: robert halford | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 7:30 PM
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117 is great, and I knew before looking who had written it.

You can also be unceremoniously rejected for too many violations of the unwritten rules of DC.

there is that. The rules are so weird...the favoring of mediocrity is obvious, but the exceptions for good people are so odd and seemingly arbitrary.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 7:30 PM
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But I don't think his skills are really those of a magazine pundit, exactly, of the 1980s/1990s variety; in the even slightly longer-form pieces I've read of his, he doesn't have anything like the flair that's there with the blogging (not that the longer form essays are bad, exactly, just that they're not particularly distinguishable from what many other people are doing).

Yglesias seasons intellect with snark (or infuses with snark with intellect, or anyway merges the two seamlessly) better than anyone else around, except maybe Kinsley. But snark is inherently a short-form thing. It doesn't translate easily to forms that require an authoritative explanatory/pontificating voice.

Actually, Michael Lewis can almost get snarkiness into long form, sometime.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 7:34 PM
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When did using a computer and playing video games stop being a gender-neutral dork thing and become a mainstream-male and unfeminine thing?

I think it was generally downhill after Ada Lovelace. My 9th grade Pascal class, circa 1989, consisted of 14 dudes. A couple girls did join us after the semester break. They were awesome.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 7:37 PM
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I endorse 122 completely.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 7:39 PM
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I don't know what to say. If I'm free to speak freely: I don't give a flying fuck about Yglesias's ventures. As a pundit, he tells people what to care about. He does it through muddled words and vague gestures enough of the time that it annoys me. He talks too much.

Walt is right at 121. I don't, and don't want to, have a broad case against the man. I don't really like reading him, that's all.

Deep apologies to his friends. There's no reason to think he's not a wonderful person.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 7:46 PM
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And since 128 seems really over the top, it's worth saying that I get mad about Yglesias in part because I want him to do better. I identify. I can't imagine what it's like to take on a pundit role. I'd probably mess it up.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 7:50 PM
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I don't think anybody cares whether you care about Yglesias or not, parsimon.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 7:50 PM
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- become overly attached to one's own reputation for magisterial evenhandedness (Joe Klein--but Ezra has helped draw him back to the light)
- come to regard the petty squabbles of politics as beneath you (Kinsley)

More likely for Ezra, I think.

- retreat to a pulpit from which you can only be heard by the choir (Hertzberg)

More likely for Yglesias.

You can also be unceremoniously rejected for too many violations of the unwritten rules of DC.

Ackerman. This may have already happened.


Posted by: Duvall | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 7:57 PM
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One difference between MY and EK is that I could totally see Ezra doing a Sid Blumenthal or even (less probably) a Tony Snowe. He comes at blogging as a particular means to achieving certain political ends, whereas for MY it's more like spouting off in junior tutorial, only with a bigger megaphone. I don't doubt that both hold their opinions sincerely and in good faith, but MY seems weirdly abstracted from his (except for the close-to-home ones like tall buildings in DC), whereas Ezra identifies himself with an actual movement with an agenda. Me, I more resemble MY. But I respect EK more.

Also, Ezra is way more likely to marry, say, Chuck Schumer's daughter.


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:00 PM
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I don't think anybody cares whether you care about Yglesias or not, parsimon.

That seems unfair. MY and EK are both sufficiently well known figures that it's unlikely that anyone here will change their mind about either of them. But I, for one, am interested in what everyone else makes of them.

They're the two figures that seem both most successful and most sympathetic in their attempts to turn blogging into a career, so of course they're an interesting subject of conversation.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:03 PM
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130: I know. We're on different planets, which is fine.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:03 PM
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The sort of thing Ezra generates about health care reform would be entirely beyond MY's capabilities, surely.

Beyond MY's capabilities? No way. He's obviously supersmart, and could immerse himself in any number of topics/issues if he chose to, and then generate interest/feedback. He's chosen to be more of a generalist than a specialist, I guess, which has both its strengths (breadth of coverage of a wide range of issues) and weaknesses (breadth but not depth of coverage on most of those issues).

130 is wrong, and also absurdly, and gratuitously, snarky.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:04 PM
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I could totally see Ezra doing a Sid Blumenthal or even (less probably) a Tony Snowe. He comes at blogging as a particular means to achieving certain political ends, whereas for MY it's more like spouting off in junior tutorial, only with a bigger megaphone. I don't doubt that both hold their opinions sincerely and in good faith, but MY seems weirdly abstracted from his (except for the close-to-home ones like tall buildings in DC), whereas Ezra identifies himself with an actual movement with an agenda.

This seems right. Ezra's a lot more self-consciously political, and I think his efforts to increase his depth of knowledge on a few key issues can be best interpreted in that light. This is, I think, why I stopped reading him when I cut way back on blog-reading but kept reading Yglesias.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:09 PM
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I would have thought 130 was right, but apparently not. Huh.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:09 PM
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Ackerman

Sooo true. Good point.

There's a perfectly viable non-pundit trajectory available to Spackerman. Seymour Hersh isn't getting any younger, and somebody's got to fill that niche.

On the theme of defying Washinton's unwritten rules, I give Yglesias credit for saying the things everyone knows about Israel that no one is allowed to acknowledge, and for doing so without any ritual obeisance to Zionist shibboleths. He's a one-man Overton window-stretcher.


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:10 PM
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the thing that occasionally bothers me about MY is that he seems better at covering politics than the details of specific issues.

Perhaps this is just lingering disappointment from Heads in the Sand which I ultimately thought said some interesting things about American politics, but not much about foreign policy.

I've also noticed that I read MY less consistently after the election than I did before -- I don't know whether that's a change in his tone, a change in me, or, as I suspect, that he's really good at covering elections, and less good at major policy initiatives.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:10 PM
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(except for the close-to-home ones like tall buildings in DC)

OK, so I'm not the only one who's noticed this?

Me, I more resemble MY. But I respect EK more.

Exactly right.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:11 PM
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except for the close-to-home ones like tall buildings in DC

This is his one hobbyhorse that consistently pisses me off. It reeks of the transplanted Manhattenite that thinks every place should be like New York.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:11 PM
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On the theme of defying Washinton's unwritten rules, I give Yglesias credit for saying the things everyone knows about Israel ... He's a one-man Overton window-stretcher.

I hadn't thought about that but it seems right.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:12 PM
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There's a perfectly viable non-pundit trajectory available to Spackerman. Seymour Hersh isn't getting any younger, and somebody's got to fill that niche.

Ackerman's always been more of a journalist than a pundit anyway.

I give Yglesias credit for saying the things everyone knows about Israel that no one is allowed to acknowledge

This, definitely. In some ways he's perfectly positioned to expand the range of publicly acceptable views on this issue, and he deserves a ton of credit for taking advantage of that.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:14 PM
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It reeks of the transplanted Manhattenite that thinks every place should be like New York.

I dunno, Ryan Avent's all over that one too, and he's no Manhattanite.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:15 PM
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In fact, I think Matt's views on the tall buildings probably come mostly from Ryan. Speaking of single influences, as we were earlier.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:16 PM
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135.1: I'd just like Matt to write longer posts, and I wonder whether he has the attention span to do so. I realize he wrote a book.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:16 PM
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He's a one-man Overton window-stretcher.

I love that about him. When he takes on stupidities, you can just feel the condescension and disgust. No quarter just because its conventional wisdom. Really invaluable during the Bush years, when the entire media was conspiring to ignore the fact that the chimperor had no clothes. Maybe a little less so now.

If you're a left political/policy junkie with mild ADD, he's just extremely entertaining to read.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:17 PM
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I get, though I deplore, Ackerman's ostracisation from the Washington media establishment. What I've never got is why, for such a diligent, sharp, well liked and linked-to-by-high-profile-bloggers blogger, his comment threads are always so empty. Things have improved since the move to Firedoglake, but not much. There was a time when I was making a conscious effort to comment on as many of his posts as possible, just to stimulate some conversation, but it didn't really work. Does he have a silent army of lurkers, or is he only read by a tiny circle of bloggers and (ex) colleagues?


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:20 PM
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BTW, we're way past this point, but on the original question, I have also noticed an increase in serious errors in MY's prose - LB described it well as "sentences that require complete reassembly from deduction of the sort of thing he probably meant to say." I recall it formerly being lots of typos, and once in awhile a transposition of nouns (you know, like "No one expects Switzerland to turn into Somalia, but some sort of change would help with the pirates;" it just takes a moment to realize what's wrong). Now you'll get such errors piling up in individual sentences.

Oddly, his commenters - who in general seem less bad than they used to be - hector him about this less, which probably is not helpful.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:21 PM
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To be fair, the "rules" Ackerman reportedly violated at TNR don't seem to be especially arcane,"unwritten rules of D.C." He talked trash about the publication on a personal website and cussed out his editors and boss.

I think a good example of violating the rules vs. adhering to the standards is actually Reihan Salam vs. Ross Douthat. Reihan seems to me like he's clearly much smarter and has a broader range of interests and opinions than the latter, but because his personal style and writing is so self-consciously batshit crazy he's not likely to get a gig like writing for the NY Times.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:21 PM
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Do y'all smell something? I smell something that smells like putrescent shit. Maybe I'm just imagining it.


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:22 PM
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Is Ryan Avent a native Washingtonian? I couldn't find any info on that. It makes a big difference as to weather I respect his opinion on the matter, as I am biggoted like that....


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:24 PM
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144, 145: I know I've ranted about Avent here before; his anti-height limits animus is only slightly better grounded than his opinions on the auto industry, but that's not saying much.

It's maddening, because I agree with him on most things, but on those two items (and maybe a couple others) he's stridently, ignorantly wrong, and it's irritating, to say the least.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:24 PM
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Is Ryan Avent a native Washingtonian?

He's from North Carolina.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:25 PM
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I think Matt's views on the tall buildings probably come mostly from Ryan.

Also Rob Goodspeed (the guy who initially got all us DC folks interested in Shoup's book), but yeah.

Incidentally, it's not about turning DC into Manhattan. Downtown commercial real estate is among the most expensive per square foot in the country, far out of proportion to the cost of living here, because the supply is artificially constrained.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:25 PM
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Oh cool, we can start arguing about urban policy now.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:27 PM
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I hadn't realized there was such depth of opposition to the Avent/Yglesias position on the height limit issue.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:28 PM
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116

MY and Ezra are not at all alike, are they? The sort of thing Ezra generates about health care reform would be entirely beyond MY's capabilities, surely.

I also disagree with this.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:29 PM
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What I've never got is why...his comment threads are always so empty

You have to register to post comments, which will really cut down the volume.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:30 PM
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Oh geez, and going way back (sorry, I was at dinner), I do get where AWB is coming from; when computer geekery was limited to BASIC on Ataris, I didn't see an obvious gender disparity. But I don't think it was an epochal change; I think it was developmental. IOW, professional computer geekery has always been male-dominated, partly because young female geeks are less likely to be Asperger enough to really get ahead in programming/hackery/whatever.

I'm not going for a veldt thing here; it just seems to me that computer geekery has been dominated by people who are, literally, willing to give up more or less all non-computer-related pursuits, and that this is a more common personality type among males.

Could be wrong, of course.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:30 PM
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Well, I guess North Carolina is at least better than New York.

Personally, I think the height limit is one of the nicest things about DC. Yay sunny streets! If its tall buildings you want, go to Silver Spring, Bethesda, Rockville, or Tysons.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:34 PM
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What I've never got is why, for such a diligent, sharp, well liked and linked-to-by-high-profile-bloggers blogger, his comment threads are always so empty.

Most comment threads are not worth reading, though. I do think it takes a fair bit of extra (additional to the task of writing the blog entries, I mean) work to generate a good discussion amongst the readership. When the blogger doesn't engage with the commenters, it shows.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:35 PM
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Ezra, on the other hand, seems hellbent on becoming a judicious voice of reason, loved by the left for his insouciant good looks and correct positioning on health care, but embraced by the center for his willingness to play their game.

Really --- Klein seems to me to be hell bent on becoming an Institution on the left; a grand old man of the Democratic Party. You get the feeling that in twenty years time he'll play a role like that of Krugman now.

Yglesias on the other hand I could see turning into just another pundit; formally very good, but not actually that knowledgeable about anything. (I get the feeling that Yglesias relies on being one lesson ahead of the class an awful lot of the time, which is totally fne, but does mean he occasionally come out with complete plonkers Klein just wouldn't.)

Yglesias is also very stylised; I don't think you could write a Klein or an Ackerman the way you could write an Yglesias, even if one took an issue Yglesias doesn't care about and wrote from a right perspective, one could still produce an identifiable Yglesias. And the Yglesias Style is a bit --- I dunno --- too clever-clever for me, and I think could easily lapse into self-parody.

Also!

When he takes on stupidities, you can just feel the condescension and disgust. No quarter just because its conventional wisdom.

Falls over badly when he's wrong.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:37 PM
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I like sunny streets too, and they wouldn't go away. Most of the discussion on the issue is just about the downtown business district, where nobody lives.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:37 PM
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Ackerman's an entertaining blogger and a solid journalist, but the competition in his niche is ferocious...DC is full of young foreign correspondent types with tremendous chops, all kinds of time living overseas, years reporting directly from war zones, speak multiple languages, broke all kinds of cool stories singlehandedly, etc. Like I imagine Seymour Hersh was. But since the entire economic model for journalism is disintegrating, even they can barely find jobs. Ackerman doesn't really have that resume. He probably will stick somewhere, though.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:39 PM
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167 to 164.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:39 PM
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Since the beginning of time Yglesias has yearned to destroy the sun.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:39 PM
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And the Yglesias Style is a bit --- I dunno --- too clever-clever for me, and I think could easily lapse into self-parody.

I think a blog satirizing Yglesias would be pretty funny for a couple weeks.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:40 PM
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||
Hockey *can* be cute. (ignore first 4 seconds)
|>


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:40 PM
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You get the feeling that in twenty years time he'll play a role like that of Krugman now.

better get cracking on that Nobel Prize, then.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:43 PM
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162: Thanks for not thinking I'm crazy. I would have been happy to ditch all for programming, had I not thought it was a pretty glory-free career. I never wanted to be a martyr.

BUT LOOK AT ME NOW.

I'm Becks-style.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:46 PM
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I think its just sad that Seymour Hersh's role is a "niche." There is only room for one in the market, and guys like Spackerman have to compete for the role. We need an army of reporters like Hersh, and a lot fewer guys who can develop strong opinions on the basis of reading a single book.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:46 PM
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Er, Klein isn't in a field that hands out Nobels*; it's a bit like saying a mathematician needs a Nobel...

* Certainly not anymore -- Russell got one for the same sort of thing, but they don't seem to that much these days.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:49 PM
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158: It's the stridency that doesn't admit of any countering view. And MY has said enough stupid things about occupational regulation, and RA enough stupid things about development*, that I'm simply not willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on this.

* Glaring example: he claimed that "every construction project"** goes through an environmental impact study. Even if he didn't literally mean a federally-mandated EIS, this so far from correct that it could have come from Hannity ranting about bureaucracy.

** Not actually a direct quote, but this was his claim


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:50 PM
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152: It's here. I'm surprised someone hasn't posted a name and address so it can be fumigated. You people are too civilized for your own good.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:51 PM
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176: I think Krugman's status is very tied to the fact that he's famous in another field (academic econ). That's been critical for him at every step -- getting him his NY Times gig, giving him the independence to say whatever he wanted in it, giving him additional credibility when he did so, etc.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:52 PM
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174: Glory free? I think not. Why just last week I refactored 80 lines of code into a single four line function!


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:53 PM
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I like Keir in 166.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:53 PM
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Three cheers for Spike!


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:56 PM
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Is this like the Rorschach blot of predictions? The blogger you like better is destined for greatness, while the other is destined for utter hackdom.

Paul Krugman is the Greatest Living American. We should make him a plaque or something.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:57 PM
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It's the stridency that doesn't admit of any countering view.

This is definitely an issue. He's very much an economist, and it shows.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:58 PM
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Paul Krugman is the Greatest Living American.

fuck yeah.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:58 PM
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You guys are acting like Krugman is Noam Chomsky or something.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 8:59 PM
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184: he's not an economist, it's the general Ivy snottiness thing. His undergrad education was as an analytic philosopher, I believe.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:00 PM
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176: I think Krugman's status is very tied to the fact that he's famous in another field (academic econ). That's been critical for him at every step -- getting him his NY Times gig, giving him the independence to say whatever he wanted in it, giving him additional credibility when he did so, etc.

Well, yeah, the way Klein gets there wouldn't be the same, but you have to remember that there's a lot of stuff Klein could do in the intervening time to give himself that credibility.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:00 PM
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Here's the thing. DC is a nice city. Other cities, which are not as nice, do not have the height limit. I don't want to screw up DC by throwing out 200 years of aesthetically pleasing choices to satisfy some hiptser blogger's wild urban planning ideas. Go down that road and the next step is pit-bull sized rats and graffiti covered Metro cars that smell of pee.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:00 PM
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183: I don't primarily think of Krugman as primarily a blogger, though. But I like him very much, I'm prepared to confess.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:00 PM
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Hey Bear, are you still here?

I'm more tired than Becks style, but I've concluded that I'm not in a position to grade well, and I'm not going to bed until I finish this beer.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:01 PM
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Ackerman. This may have already happened.

Ackerman, and to a certain extent EK, do reporter-type reporting in addition to opinion work, and whatever else happens on the punditry side, I hope they both keep it up.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:02 PM
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187: I believe teo was referring to Avent, who has an econ degree and wrote for The Economist.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:02 PM
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You guys are acting like Krugman is Noam Chomsky or something.

Alright, this just made me laugh and smile, and thanks, rob. I'm going to stop with the editorial comments now, though.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:03 PM
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I should be clear: I think Ezra's smart and talented. I also think he's a devilishly handsome Jew. Overall, I predict big things for him. It's just that his ambitions -- which, I should say, I don't begrudge him -- peek out more often than do Yglesias's. And those ambitions make him less willing, it seems, to speak truth to establishment power.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:05 PM
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devilishly handsome Jew

Anti-Semite.

I think Ezra looks heavenly.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:07 PM
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Who's the right wing MY and EK? Jonah Goldberg? Some clowns who right for the Corner? Malkin?

My god, is that their A list?


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:07 PM
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Speaking truth to power is sort of overrated. Power doesn't really give a fuck. It takes power to counterbalance power. You have to plug into an institution somehow, or at least a movement.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:10 PM
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It's just that his ambitions ... peek out more often than do Yglesias's.

So I assume that you think MY is joking when he talks about wanting to be more famous than Natalie Portman?

I'm not sure you're wrong, but that statement doesn't seem obvious to me.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:11 PM
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195: I think that, as a wonk, Ezra sees his weapon against establishment power as effectively-presented facts/arguments. As a clever generalist, MY brings the snark.

I do see what you mean about EK, but when I see him on MSNBC or, occasionally, directing a blog post at someone he views as being wrong, he's fearless in his positions (which comes from his wonkish depth of knowledge). I think that he's less likely to take on The Man in areas where he feels less grounded, which makes him look less likely to take on The Man.

I do think he's a fool to give credence to the jerk who claims saltwater is preferable to canned chicken broth as a component of recipes.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:12 PM
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I should be clear: I think Ezra's smart and talented. I also think he's a devilishly handsome Jew. Overall, I predict big things for him. It's just that his ambitions -- which, I should say, I don't begrudge him -- peek out more often than do Yglesias's. And those ambitions make him less willing, it seems, to speak truth to establishment power.

Really? I mean, I'd always got the opposite impression; Yglesias has written far more flakey contrarian stuff than Klein has, and ok, Klein's deferential to the liberal establishment, but that's arguably because the liberal establishment is often right.

Maybe that's part of the movement thing -- Klein certainly is far more of a party man.

My god, is that their A list?

Very few political movements internationally have an EK or an MY; nobody in NZ or OZ does, I don't think anybody in the UK does, dunno about Canada or Europe to be honest. The US clever young liberal bloggers are kind of a freak. Most blogging is far more like Daily Kos or Red State than TAPPED.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:12 PM
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Who's the right wing MY and EK?

Douthat, Salam and McArdle, surely.


Posted by: Duvall | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:13 PM
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197: Possibly the funniest thing about Goldberg's book was when he kept trying to pretend that criticisms from MY, EK, and Spackerman were beneath him.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:14 PM
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191: I'm still here. I'm working on my playlist for my dept. party tomorrow, and drinking in training for it so I don't get too wasted. Does that work?

Grading this semester is going to be cursory at best. I can tell from a good full skim where this all is going. Should this be presidential? MAYBE.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:14 PM
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149

Does he have a silent army of lurkers, or is he only read by a tiny circle of bloggers and (ex) colleagues?

I think a lack of comments will generally indicate a lack of readers. But as someone noted a registration requirement will cut down on comments.

And the format of his blog on Firedoglake is atrocious, what's with having to click a button to read each post.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:16 PM
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Speaking truth to power is sort of overrated

Tying two things together, I saw Chomsky give a nice spiel about the phrase "speaking truth to power." He started by saying what PGD said, that there is no point in addressing "power" because "power" knows damn well what it is doing. He then added that it is arrogant to say that you are "speaking" the truth, as if you had unique access to it. And really it is better to do things "with people" rather than "to" them.

So really, he said, he would rather seek truth with the powerless than speak truth to power.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:17 PM
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202: I don't think that disproves Spike's basic point.

It's possible - possible - that, in the absence of Bush and the required fealty to him, the right could have thrown up someone who's a better match (indeed, maybe someone from 202). But in the context of 8 years of defending the worst presidency ever, it was simply impossible for an intelligent/thoughtful/honest conservative to gain an audience. Express doubts, and you lose your audience; keep the faith, and be exposed as a buffoon.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:18 PM
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And those ambitions make him less willing, it seems, to speak truth to establishment power.

Unlike a lot of more established people, though, he's been pretty bluntly skeptical of that health care announcement earlier this week. And rightly so.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:19 PM
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206: OK, but Chomsky agrees that Colbert was pretty awesome at that dinner, right?

"Hindenberg." So great.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:19 PM
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Douthat, Salam and McArdle, surely.

Yeah, I could see that. If that's the competition, I think our guys win. McArdle is generally provoking, but my response to Douthat is generally "meh". I don't really have an opinion on Salam.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:20 PM
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Bear: I've been surprised often enough by papers not to rely just on a skim. The thing that did it for me was the time that I read two pages and was ready to give an A and then turned the third page to discover that the rest of the pages were blank.

I should just go to bed. I've got a lot to do tomorrow.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:20 PM
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If you are looking at things from an international perspective rather than just the U.S., Chomsky's work probably has more real-life, practical political impact than Krugman's.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:21 PM
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211: Oh sure, sometimes they surprise you. More than not, I find that they finally include a really decent argument in the last page than the opposite, but no, I don't do marginalia for a class full of people who are generally not inclined to give a shit.

I've told them if they can make me laugh at least once, they get a few extra points. Several of them already have done so. Yay my classes!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:24 PM
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Whoa, that was to 208.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:24 PM
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||

Whoo! Go 'Canes!

Thanks for the home ice advantage, suckers.

|>


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:24 PM
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I've got a lot to do tomorrow.

Well, not if they're all like that. Here's hoping.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:25 PM
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I do marginalia for everyone, which is why I'm always late with my grading. The macros in Word just make it easier to spend more time annotating every sentence.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:26 PM
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If you are looking at things from an international perspective

Speaking of which, anyone have any good, non-American blogs to recommend?

For my part, I think Blood and Treasure is good for the UK/China beat. But I'd really like to find something more dedicated to transnational issues, from a perspective other than that of the Economist.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:27 PM
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I believe teo was referring to Avent

Indeed I was. Yglesias is no economist, which can be either a positive or negative depending on the circumstances.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:27 PM
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CANES!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:28 PM
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Chomsky's work probably has more real-life, practical political impact than Krugman's.

No doubt.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:29 PM
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The thing that did it for me was the time that I read two pages and was ready to give an A and then turned the third page to discover that the rest of the pages were blank.

You've got to admire the chutzpah. I wonder how often this works.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:30 PM
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I agree with 197. Ezra is just more focused, organized and patient than Yglesias. That makes him less interesting to read in certain ways (at least for an ADD scatterbrain like me), but a more thoughtful observer and commentator on the areas he focuses on. And he doesn't seem to lack basic integrity.

Unlike a lot of more established people, though, he's been pretty bluntly skeptical of that health care announcement earlier this week.

You mean the "we'll voluntarily cut costs" thing? Who really took that seriously? People were just being polite for political reasons.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:31 PM
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204

It's possible - possible - that, in the absence of Bush and the required fealty to him, the right could have thrown up someone who's a better match (indeed, maybe someone from 202). But in the context of 8 years of defending the worst presidency ever, it was simply impossible for an intelligent/thoughtful/honest conservative to gain an audience. Express doubts, and you lose your audience; keep the faith, and be exposed as a buffoon.

Sailer has an audience. And there are many conservatives who at least expressed doubts about Bush.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:32 PM
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Nobody's ever done the blank-pages thing to me, and their final papers tend to be pretty bullshit-free. In fact, I'm pretty pleased thus far with the arguments they're making. Some will biff the execution, but I'm glad to see some cool stuff after A WHOLE SEMESTER of writing "Vague," "Be specific," and "What does this mean?" in the margins.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:32 PM
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Honestly, the legions of Klein admirers: so quick to jump to his defense, even when there's been no attack. Again, I think he's good, and cute, and smart, and I'm glad he's on my/our side. But I also think he's more of a conventional thinker than Yglesias. That's not an insult, by the way, no matter how many people will rush to read it that way; it's just my observation. And eb, I think on healthcare, which is pretty clearly HIS THING, he's aces. But even then, I'm not sure that he's an original thinker. It seems to me that he's just very good at abstracting other people's ideas. That said, he seems to have a keen instinct for finding the best and most interesting ideas, even if they're not his. Finally, I haven't been reading him regularly for a few months, so this all might be moot.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:32 PM
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McArdle is generally provoking

don't get me started.

OK, off to bed.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:32 PM
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195: I think it's Ezra who is more willing to speak truth to power, actually (the health care reform stuff, e.g.). I can't, or won't, speak to the "devilishly handsome Jew" dimension of the implied comparison, because of course I always hesitate to take sides in such a contest, but the race is to the swift, and none but the brave deserve the fair, and may the best man win, and so on and so forth and etc.

That female libertarian blogger that we're not supposed to criticize here is something of an exception, I think, though no doubt some would cite her as bright and shining exemplar of her sex, in opposition to the idea that I'm about to state. But, anyway: Looking at the list of (mostly, or almost uniformly, really) male A-list bloggers, it's occurred to me more than once or twice that no female could ascend to those A-list heights who was such a poor writer as many of the men on that A-list. Just saying, of course.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:33 PM
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How about this for a distinction:

MY seems more willing to revisit a topic for purely rhetorical reasons -- to restate or extend the reach of an argument that he made previously.

EK tends to return to topics with an attempt to say something new about them or, occasionally, because they're in the news.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:33 PM
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The conservatives lost the youth vote fairly decisively this last go-round. I suspect that even the post-9-11 rash of self-pronounced terrorism experts have mostly faded away in embarrassment.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:36 PM
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Berube gave a really great talk here last year. He was very hard on post-9/11 Chomsky, and his argument both intrigued and worried me. Intrigued, I think, because Chomsky has flirted with some pretty nonsensical positions of late. Worried, if memory serves, because I still consider Chomsky a hero for precisely the reasons that people here are talking about: a real willingness to think about the deleterious impact of American power in a global perspective. Anyway, more than anything else, I was struck by the fact that I wouldn't want to play hockey against Berube; he's really burly.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:36 PM
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Oh, and there are lots of good conservative bloggers, they are easily competitive with the liberal ones. But there are no good Republican bloggers. THat was the Bush effect. All the thoughtful, honest people in ideological movements traditionally allied to the Republican party headed for the hills to rethink everything.

Check Front Porch Republic, or the American Conservative blog, or Daniel Larison, or for libertarians the people around Reason magazine's "Hit and Run" blog.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:37 PM
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And there are many conservatives who at least expressed doubts about Bush.

Many, before Katrina/al-Askari? Don't be absurd.


Posted by: Duvall | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:37 PM
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The American Scene is a decent conservative blog site too.

OK, now I really will go to sleep.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:38 PM
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(still catching up with the thread)

I find EK boring, but that's more a slam on me than on him.

One of the things I appreciate about his blogging is his willingness to get into so many dull dull subjects. Partly that's because I've been finding myself drawn to some similar things despite being well aware of the boredom, but mostly because lots of important stuff is boring and it's likely that if he didn't cover it, it would be less visible, and people pull all kinds of shit when they think no one is looking, especially when they think no one really cares that much. That said, he's not quite at Mark Schmitt's level of analysis or choice of boring topics - McCain FEC loan controversy anyone? - but he could get there.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:39 PM
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Sailer has an audience.

That's another odd thing about Yglesias: his bizarre relationship with Sailer. This seems to have tapered off lately, and it may now be gone altogether, but for a while they seemed to be reading each other's blogs on a regular basis. Yglesias would occasionally even link to Sailer, who was a frequent presence in Yglesias's comment section.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:42 PM
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The American Scene is a decent conservative blog site too.

As far as I can tell, though, "movement" Conservatives either hate the writers there or don't pay attention to them.

Also, as a native South Floridian, it seems like heresy to refer to anyone as "the Canes" other than the team that used to play in the horseshoe in Little Havana.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:45 PM
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But even then, I'm not sure that he's an original thinker.

Eh, that's rare enough that I don't put it into my criteria of evaluating most blogs/frequently appearing writing. It can be an added bonus, though.

I haven't been able to keep up with most of the bloggers mentioned in this thread for the last few months, but I try to check in on EK most often. Krugman and Atrios, both short posters usually, are just about the only ones I've kept up with.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:45 PM
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215: Fistful of Euros is decent, plus it has a long, well-categorized blogroll.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:45 PM
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Oh, and if it wasn't clear, I'm not knocking Mark Schmitt at all above. He's one of the few, maybe the only, political writers whose writing I actively look for (partly because his frequency isn't so high).


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:47 PM
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But I also think he's more of a conventional thinker than Yglesias.

I have to say that I think the opposite; or at least, Yglesias is very very stylised is a way that almost no other blogger is; and of course, that makes Yglesias look unconventional, but Yglesias is very conventional once you get his conventions.

There's nothing wrong with that, it's just that you could probably take an issue and predict down to the paragraph level what Yglesias would say about it.

Klein on the other hand is far more orthodox, but not so stylised and conventional.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:49 PM
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To move this conversation in a different direction, what past columnists or pundits do people hold in the highest esteem?

I want to put in a vote for Ellen Goodman as a neglected star of the Reagan/Bush years. I've mostly read her columns collected in books, and I haven't read them in years. So I wouldn't put to much weight on that judgement. But I recall her being extremely good at dealing with difficult questions with a mix of intelligence and genuine sense.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:49 PM
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236: Thanks, I'll give it a shot!


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:51 PM
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I see it referred to often, but have never checked it out myself, but Global Voices Online is supposed to be pretty good for international blogging. I think the aggregation project is hosted in the US, but the emphasis is not US.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:54 PM
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When you say you want good non-US blogs, do you mean blogs that don't assume local knowledge, or blogs for locals?

(In NZ, I know that Public Address is good longer form, Kiwiblog is mediocre by US standards but probably the best NZ newsblog even if it is basically a Nat'l Party mouthpiece, No Right Turn is bad by US standards but the best NZ left newsblog. But if you didn't know NZ already you'd get very lost.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:55 PM
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Looks like it was founded in the US, but is hosted all over, so to speak.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 9:56 PM
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Eh, that's rare enough that I don't put it into my criteria of evaluating most blogs/frequently appearing writing.

Fair enough. It may also be that I know a bit more about Klein's beat (health care) than I do Yglesias's (foreign policy and economics), so the latter seems more original to me than the former.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 10:00 PM
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Eh, that's rare enough that I don't put it into my criteria of evaluating most blogs/frequently appearing writing.

Yeah, seriously. "Original thought" can be meaningfully attributed to only about two to five thinkers every century or so, I believe, and is therefore not a meaningful criterion of evaluation when it comes to participants in the blogosphere.

I was struck by the fact that I wouldn't want to play hockey against Berube; he's really burly.

Well, I wouldn't want to play hockey against him, either. Bunch of Bérubés up at Calumet Island/L'Île-du-Grand-Calumet last century who look like the Tony Sopranos of 19th-century Pontiac County. Don't mess with those types, they'll mess you up for certain.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 10:01 PM
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In light of PGD's subsequent comments, I guess my understanding that 224 should read "I'll be in my bunk" was mistaken.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 10:06 PM
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225

That female libertarian blogger that we're not supposed to criticize here is something of an exception, I think, though no doubt some would cite her as bright and shining exemplar of her sex, in opposition to the idea that I'm about to state. But, anyway: Looking at the list of (mostly, or almost uniformly, really) male A-list bloggers, it's occurred to me more than once or twice that no female could ascend to those A-list heights who was such a poor writer as many of the men on that A-list. Just saying, of course.

Are you claiming female bloggers at any given level have to be better writers than equivalent male bloggers? I doubt it.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 10:07 PM
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229: I just can't get past the fact that Larison's a neo-Confederate. I can accept, even if I don't agree with, a lot of what he says and believes, but that one's over the edge for me.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 10:09 PM
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I'm really getting turned off blogs as an information source lately. Post-election, I just don't care to get instant political information as much, and on pretty much any topic I used to enjoy reading about on blogs, it seems like I know everyone's hobby horses too well now. The blogonets need fresh blood.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 10:09 PM
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I'm not actually all that interested in health care policy, but I've become very interested in process issues, and the way Klein covers health care brings out a lot of detail about the political process.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 10:10 PM
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249: I feel the same way. I'm basically down to here, TPM, and Yglesias as blogs that I still follow more or less regularly, and even those I don't follow with nearly the dedication I used to have.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 10:11 PM
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||
Did you know that you can buy a kangaroo scrotum on eBay? You can buy several, actually.
|>


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 10:16 PM
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252: Exactly how did you find... never mind.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 10:17 PM
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252: Shhh! The more people who know, the higher prices will go.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 10:21 PM
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Having banned myself earlier for being mean (not snarky, though), I unban myself just in time to say that Noam Chomsky is a disingenuous twit, and everything Berube says about him is right on the money. He's also a terrible linguist.

Whoops. Rebanned!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 10:25 PM
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He's also a terrible linguist.

Word. I'm well past caring about these things, but back when I was more involved in the field I was definitely part of the anti-Chomsky camp.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 10:34 PM
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My impression is that of 255 as well.

I like Yglesias because he has a knack for the rhetorical jugular. When he finds a target that deserves it (Ben Nelson in today's entries), as PGD put it, "you can just feel the condescension and disgust". What happens to pundits that go DC-native is that they lose the ability to express contempt for the contemptible. Yglesias still has that.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 10:45 PM
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Are you claiming female bloggers at any given level have to be better writers than equivalent male bloggers?

How well you paraphrase my original statement, James. In fact, I think you said it better than I did, which makes you the A-list blogger, whilst relegating me to the equivalent of the remainders bin in the basement of the local Barnes and Noble.

But that is my claim, yes; and I'm sticking to it, unless and until convinced/persuaded by an overwhelming preponderance of evidence to the contrary.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 10:48 PM
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Nor is Monopoly just for boys! (barf)


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 10:55 PM
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I endorse 255 fully and completely. Well, except for the banning/re-banning bit.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 11:02 PM
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No, the glory of 255 can be fully honored only by endorsing the idea that Sifu is banned forever.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 11:09 PM
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Sad but true.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 11:10 PM
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255: Terribly cunning, maybe. You might as well call Herodotus a crap historian.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 11:21 PM
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263: so Herodotus was wrong about everything, too? I hadn't realized.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 11:25 PM
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228

Intrigued, I think, because Chomsky has flirted with some pretty nonsensical positions of late.

Of late? His support for the Khmer Rouge was quite a while ago.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 11:27 PM
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264: Herodotus was wrong about plenty. What I mean is that, be he right or wrong, before Chomsky there wasn't linguistics so much as philology.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 11:30 PM
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Oh, point taken. And certainly, history is littered with many august figures who created a field and then immediately set it back forty or fifty years, minimum. As a member of this fraternity, I'm sure he'll be remembered fondly -- look at Freud!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 11:33 PM
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I could rag on Marvin Minsky instead, if you'd prefer. He doesn't preen quite so publicly, though.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 11:33 PM
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Yeah. I have no more than a Linguistics 101 course perhaps 10 years ago, but my impression is that while Chomsky is responsible for a lot of silly stuff in linguistics (his origin-of-language ideas are practically mythology), he still turned the discipline in a new, better direction.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 11:34 PM
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269: New, certainly. Better, well...


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 11:36 PM
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He really didn't, though. By treating linguistic structure as a largely arbitrary formal system he carefully and systematically elided huge amounts of meaning in favor of a search for a completely mythical common structure to language.

His greatest worth, as far as I can tell, has been as a handy antithesis to the various clever ideas about language that have (somewhat recently) begun to trickle out through the stranglehold his acolytes have on the field.

Along the way he managed to send the nascent field of computational linguistics steaming madly down such a thoroughly blind alley that he almost managed to kill that field as soon as he created it.

I guess his work is useful as part of a dialectic, but you know, so was Johann Becher.

NB, I am both biased and underinformed. Still right, though.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 11:42 PM
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Basically, what Chomsky did was take linguistics out of anthropology and make it into an independent and quite different discipline. I think a plausible case could be made that linguistics didn't really belong in anthropology, but I really don't see how the change that actually happened was an improvement.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 11:46 PM
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I mean, here's how wrong Chomsky was: you know how much debt modern speech recognition (and other natural language processing) engines owe to his work? None.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 11:47 PM
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Chomsky's political thought was vital for calling out and theorizing American imperialism for decades. Those "Washington norms" that people were bemoaning upthread? Those are the filters that he described before anyone was doing media criticism. I won't wade into the linguistics business, but he's a hero.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 11:50 PM
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For an extensive list of criticisms of and alternatives to Chomsky's theories (not all of which are much better, admittedly), see here.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 11:51 PM
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Along the way he managed to send the nascent field of computational linguistics steaming madly down such a thoroughly blind alley that he almost managed to kill that field as soon as he created it.

Obligatory XKCD link.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 11:52 PM
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Chomsky's "acolytes" can hardly be said to have had a "stranglehold" on the field of linguistics, which he did not "make into... an independent... discipline," the credit for which surely has to go to Saussure.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 11:56 PM
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What's wrong with Marvin Minsky? Is it the AI dribblings that bother you?

I don't see how 273 is relevant. I don't think digital image processing owes much to our understanding of the visual system, either, but it gets the job done.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 11:58 PM
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277: All of these statements should be read as applying only to linguistics in the US. Elsewhere, it has indeed always been an independent discipline starting with Saussure.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-14-09 11:59 PM
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I don't think digital image processing owes much to our understanding of the visual system, either

At level of semantic processing of images, sure it does.

What's wrong with Marvin Minsky is that he got basically everything about how to simulate higher level cognition wrong, and (again with the field-destroying) nearly destroyed the field of AI with his overabundance of influential wrongness.

I mean shit, he and Papert literally -- not hyperbole here, actually literally -- killed all research into neural networks for close to twenty years by publishing something completely wrong and -- because of who they were -- having it taken as gospel.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:03 AM
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Chomsky's "acolytes" can hardly be said to have had a "stranglehold" on the field of linguistics
Not lately, anyhow.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:04 AM
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279: Okay, then. Though I strongly suspect that's rather oversimplifying the history of American linguistics, too.

274 is entirely correct, in any case.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:06 AM
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OK, so I don't know anything. (Except to "origin-of-language" in my post above, append "and language-acquisition".)


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:06 AM
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||

Turns out NZ is closer than the east coast. Skiing in August? Hmmm.

|>


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:07 AM
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I know nothing about linguistics, but 274 is spot on.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:07 AM
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I strongly suspect that's rather oversimplifying the history of American linguistics, too.

Well, sure.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:07 AM
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281: "Lately"? The referenced controversy is decades ago.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:09 AM
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to "origin-of-language" in my post above, append "and language-acquisition"

Language acquisition plays a pretty huge role in Chomskyan theory, so that's a hell of an amendment.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:09 AM
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Chomsky deserves enormous credit for his willingness to Speak Truth to PowerTeenagers.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:15 AM
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To read this thread, you'd think he'd been largely debunked in linguistics. I was surprised to peek at the Wikipedia entry and find not a single whisper that his linguistics theories were anything but holy writ. Thanks for the primer link in 275, teo.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:16 AM
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286: Like, for instance.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:17 AM
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288: I refer you to 283.1.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:17 AM
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Obligatory XKCD link.

What is obligatory is dinosaur comics.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:17 AM
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...through which I find the very charming graphic at the top of this page.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:18 AM
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290: To read this thread, you'd think he'd been largely debunked in linguistics.

Most actual working linguistics doesn't take Deep Structures and the Universal Grammar seriously anymore, inasmuch as it ever did. WikiPedia biographies tend to be fanservice.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:18 AM
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(Yes, there's an irony in 295 inasmuch as I just linked to one, but that was just providing an example of a prominent pre-Chomskyan linguist, not an attempt to claim he had a "stranglehold on the field.")


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:20 AM
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Literally killing an abstract concept though, that's quite an achievement.

Chomsky's linguistics work isn't great, but his formal languages work is still useful in computer science, though not for natural languages at all.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:20 AM
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WikiPedia biographies tend to be fanservice.

No Chomsky panty-flashes for me, thanks.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:21 AM
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289 was me.

P.S.
Why is everyone so convinced of MY's intelligence? He's clearly smart and educated, but not exceptional. It's not like Atrios or hilzoy aren't smart, too. Hell, we're all plenty smart. So why the focus on intelligence as opposed to proper fucking spelling a nine year old should know?


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:22 AM
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Most actual working linguistics doesn't take Deep Structures and the Universal Grammar seriously anymore

It doesn't but there are a ton of embedded assumptions about what might be useful to study and how one should frame one's understanding that are pretty pernicious, from what I can tell.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:22 AM
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I'm not sure I should back down yet, because this is fun, but I'm perfectly willing to admit that Chomsy had great political courage and reasonably interesting linguistic insights (seen in context) as recently as the late '50s.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:24 AM
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When I studied linguistics as an undergrad, the department wasn't a 'Chomsky' department at all and, I'm pretty sure, models other than Chomsky's were given more time in the teaching syllabus. But that was in the UK, rather than the US, and the department I studied in was a little idiosyncratic as it was, in effect, both a linguistics department and an English philology department.

There was definitely a sense, in the sort of narrative told by staff about the discipline, that it was seen to be from the tradition of Saussure, and Trubetzkoy, and Firth and the like.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:25 AM
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300: Such as...?


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:25 AM
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301: And "political courage" as recently as "the late '50s"? This urge to dismiss Chomsky's politics as some kind of Rage Against the Machine posturing seems to be a specifically computer programmer-y thing. Note to those in the field: it's fucking stupid.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:28 AM
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303: oh, the relative importance of pragmatics, studies of linguistic completeness, searches for universality among languages.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:28 AM
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291: Sapir's an important figure, to be sure, in the development of American structuralist linguistics, which was generally conducted through anthropology departments and developed in a very different direction from the European functionalist approaches such as the Prague school that developed more directly from Saussure's ideas. This is the type of linguistics that was dominant in America until Chomsky came along.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:29 AM
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WikiPedia biographies tend to be fanservice.

I find a decent amount of "teach the controversy."


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:30 AM
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304: you can feel free to yell at me by name, DS. I don't think the rest of the computer programmers are listening.

I don't quite gather (or, to use computer programmerese, "grok") how the second part of your comment follows from your first, either. But let's start at the beginning.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:30 AM
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305: "Universalities" among languages and "universality" among languages are vastly different things, right? The former applies to very restricted things, like the more-or-less universal features that are empirically observed to occur among languages, mostly applying to phonology.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:31 AM
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309: well, so right, and we have a very, very fine-grained understanding of the universal features of phonology, and a lot of people continuing to study the universality of certain features of phonology. Which is all fine, but doesn't strike me as a way to answering larger questions about language at all.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:33 AM
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Most actual working linguistics doesn't take Deep Structures and the Universal Grammar seriously anymore, inasmuch as it ever did.

True, but that's mainly because the theory has moved on and the terminology has changed. The basic assumptions behind generative grammar are still there.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:34 AM
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308: I say "computer programmer-y" because you're not the first otherwise-intelligent programmer-y type to serve up this particular meme. As to why it's stupid: mostly it seems to be based on generalization from a handful of isolated and de-contextualized quotes to his entire canon, which is a stupid thing to do, and I don't understand why Teh Programmerz are such suckers for it.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:35 AM
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I mean shit, people still study recursion. Who gives a fuck about recursion?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:36 AM
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312: and what meme is that?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:36 AM
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310: Which would be a great point if linguistics were restricted to that, but it isn't, so...?

311: No, I don't think it's just a change in terminology. Most practical work in the field (cf. Singleton's Language Acquistion: The Age Factor) more or less debunks the underlying concept, not just the terminology.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:39 AM
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314: Second sentence 304.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:40 AM
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Maybe I'm parsing to much, but I gather that Tweety's dismissiveness of Chomsky's politics is mostly chump bait, and he's really gunning for the linguistics.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:43 AM
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310: Which would be a great point if linguistics were restricted to that, but it isn't, so...?

Well look, I'm not arguing that nobody can get funded doing anything that isn't pointlessly Chomskyan. I'm saying that the overall orientation of the field, at the margins, still skews in these fairly pointless and fairly insular directions, and that the way linguistics is taught at the lower levels still very much implies the truth of assumptions that have long-since been shown to be basically bunk.

Now, this is true in a lot of fields, but it's relatively rare that you can point to one, still-living scientist and say "you! That's your fault!"


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:44 AM
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the unfortunate substitootion means off too bed.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:44 AM
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316: and you still haven't told me where you're getting that from what I said.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:44 AM
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315.2: The key word there is "practical." Here's the table of contents for the most recent issue of Linguistic Inquiry, which describes itself thusly:

In this journal, the world's most celebrated linguists keep themselves and other readers informed of new theoretical developments based on the latest international scholarship.

If you look at the abstracts, various versions of Chomskyan theory are all over the place. Now, granted, this is a journal published by MIT Press that has a particular association with the generative tradition, but it's one of the most influential journals in the field.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:47 AM
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318: I'm saying that the overall orientation of the field, at the margins, still skews in these fairly pointless and fairly insular directions,

Well... phonology is a fairly marginal part of linguistics, and skews in the direction of studying... phonology... I guess I'm not really seeing how that's some big huge problem.

320: Ummm, look, choosing to say his political insights ceased to be interesting after the Fifties cannot have been accidental, right? After which they were presumably uninteresting, right? Did you not mean to say what you said, is what you're saying?


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:51 AM
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Well... phonology is a fairly marginal part of linguistics, and skews in the direction of studying... phonology...

What? No it isn't. It's one of the core subfields. And you haven't said a thing about syntax, another core subfield, which is where Chomsky has largely focused his own research and where his influence is still strongest.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:52 AM
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323: And you haven't said a thing about syntax

Actually, I mentioned Deep Structure earlier. And you're right, calling phonology "marginal" is overstating rather extremely.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:56 AM
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322.last: seriously, I'm just asking you to read what I said, and respond to that. I said he had great political courage as recently as the late '50s, and that's exactly and specifically what I meant.

Now, I was sort of fudging the timeline; what I really meant was "before the height of the Vietnam era, you know, when he was debating William F. Buckley on TV and stuff".

Has he had interesting political insights since then? Well, to completely change the subject from my original statement, sure he has. Some of which I agree with. But he's also shown an increasing tendency towards disingenuousness, both by making indefensible statements and then backing away from them in less than intellectually honest ways, and in an unfortunate willingness to play to his fans. The tendencies, in other words, so ably described by Berube.

On the other hand, I'm a computer programmer, so presumably I was saying whatever the hell it is you think I was saying, just like that other dude you know.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:58 AM
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I'm going to bed. I probably won't check this thread anymore, since arguments like this are why I stopped doing linguistics myself, so have fun without me.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:59 AM
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But teo, we've almost got it all totally resolved.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:00 AM
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325: Now, I was sort of fudging the timeline

No kidding, huh?

Okay, I'm knocking off.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:01 AM
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I win!

Goodnight.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:14 AM
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We need more late-night or European commenting. Unfogged is very barren during my workday.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:14 AM
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258

But that is my claim, yes; and I'm sticking to it, unless and until convinced/persuaded by an overwhelming preponderance of evidence to the contrary.

And you think this is because of sexism (and not say because women are inferior at other aspects of blogging and have to be better writers to compensate)?

There is clearly a tremendous first mover effect in blogging success but I don't see much evidence of sexism (at least directly).


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:18 AM
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299

Why is everyone so convinced of MY's intelligence? He's clearly smart and educated, but not exceptional. It's not like Atrios or hilzoy aren't smart, too. Hell, we're all plenty smart. So why the focus on intelligence as opposed to proper fucking spelling a nine year old should know?

Because he is obviously exceptionally intelligent and the spelling is some sort of disability.

There is a difference between smart and very smart.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:23 AM
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Maybe I should take the time to become the foremost expert on the archives.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:01 AM
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re: 333

There is the odd lurking European.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:30 AM
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334: You're European? Don't tell the Telegraph.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:58 AM
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re: 335

Scots tend, historically, to feel differently about Europe than the average English person.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 4:04 AM
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I just had an hour long conversation with a libertasrian (i'm a bit becks style tbh) and he didn't think Krugman should've got a Nobel.

Thisd is relevant for the obvious reasons.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 5:06 AM
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More less to the point, he was a gold bug. I laughed almost laughed, He didn't seem to see what was funny.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 5:14 AM
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337: There are libertasrians in NZ? And it always seemed like such a sensible little country.

Chomsky has indeed had a malign influence on the field. However it is quite possible to have a career in linguistics, even (recently) in the US, without caring too much for Chomsky or his latest theory.


Posted by: Nakku | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 5:15 AM
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It's not so much a computer programmer tendency to knock Chomsky as it is an outraged liberal one. Chomsky's one of the few outright leftist, high profile public commentators to consistently call out Democrats/liberals for the same crimes as Republicans/conservatives, who has shown that with regards to foreign policy Democrat administrations are just as bad as Republican ones and that ultimately the welfare of America depends on quite a high level of ongoing atrocities elsewhere in the world, in short that America isn't quite the shining beacon it likes to think it is and quite a few liberals get very outraged about it.

Hence the accusations of Anti-Americanism, or the old smear about "supporting the Khymer Rouge" Shearer dug up again, as often repeated by liberals (Delong, Berube iirc) as rightwingers, or the thrashing on his linguistics work beyond any reasonable disagreement. Chomsky needs not just to be disagreed with, but to be proven wrong on everything and he himself needs to be proven evil. It's quite pathalogical.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 5:16 AM
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DC is full of young foreign correspondent types with tremendous chops, all kinds of time living overseas, years reporting directly from war zones, speak multiple languages, broke all kinds of cool stories singlehandedly, etc. Like I imagine Seymour Hersh was.

Really? Name them. That's not a rhetorical challenge, I'm genuinely curious. Setting the bar for "young" somewhat generously, I can think of...uhh...Laura Rozen.

If DC is so full of these types, where the fuck were they during the Iraq war? Really, the US press corps did not cover itself with glory during that conflict (with some laudable exceptions, e.g. McClatchey and some of the local stringers, who deserve our praise and appreciation).

George Packer wrote some Halberstam-quality dispatches from Iraq, but they were the Halberstam of 1965. Ulike Halberstam, Packer never got to the point of pouring out of his soul the horror and folly of the enterprise with a finger pointed squarely at the horrible fools who conceived it.

DC (and the US press corps generally) isn't producing an abundance of Hershes because there's no market for it. I'm acquainted with one young journalist who otherwise fits PGD's description, who quit in disgust her prestigious job as a chief of a foreign television news bureau after her US producers told her to tone down all the factual stuff and "pretend you are a tour guide leading the viewers on their first visit to [very important country]."

I continue to maintain that Spackerman has an almost uncontested terrain in front of him if he wants to be the next Hersh.


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 5:25 AM
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331.1: Hear, hear James.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 5:37 AM
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Chomsky needs not just to be disagreed with, but to be proven wrong on everything and he himself needs to be proven evil. It's quite pathalogical.

Apropos of this and of the earlier comment that noted the counterproductive tendency of Bush-era conservatives to muzzle critical voices in their own ranks, I have become convinced that conservatives overlearned a lesson from one of their successes of the last 30 years: that the way to silence critical institutions is to discedit them as institutions.

This worked brilliantly with two powerful institutions in the US: the press and academia. By making persistent, hyperbolic accusations of liberal bias, they cowed the press into submission and displaced academia from any meaningful role in public debate.

The technique worked so well that they figured there was no institution they couldn't neuter by smearing it with accusations of bias. So they kept doing it, and it kept working: the UN weapons inspectors were dupes of Saddam, skeptical Nato allies were conspiring to contain American power, the BBC was a hotbed of islamofascist fifth columnists, the U.S. State Department was actively seeking to sabotage American interests.

And then they got too ambitious: they tried to take institutions with a deserved reputation for probity, like the GAO, the CBO, the International Committees of the Red Cross, and the Nobel Prize committees, and use the same scorched earth techniques to discredit them as institutions. And why wouldn't they? If you once went on CNN and argued that the CIA is a hotbed of leftist opposition to G.W. Bush, and the host didn't laugh in your face, why the hell not try to aver that a fair and balanced Nobel committee would have awarded the peace prize to Bush instead of Gore?

Slowly, fitfully, the Village started to realize that there was no institution so scrupulously fair that conservatives wouldn't shrink from tarring it as corrupted by leftism and anti-Americanism. The broader public, too, looked askance at the hysterical criticisms of the Nobel committee. I submit that the conservative movement has played that card once too often. The fact that the rhetorical indictment has escalated from "liberal" to "socialist" is evidence of that.


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 5:54 AM
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I add my voice of concurrence to Keir's 163.

I also have a personal bug to pick with both Yggles and Klein. In each case, I have responded with exceptional magnanimity to a bleg of theirs (Yggles in 2002, and Ezra in 2004), and never got so much as an email reply of acknowledgement. Without going too much into detail, my proffers were things of tangible value that went way beyond emailing some information or URL's.

So they can both kiss my ass for that.

Steve Clemons, by contrast, writes the most gracious thank-you emails. Pay attention to the boy with a good Georgia upbringing, ya' hear?


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 6:03 AM
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I share PGD's cosmology.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 6:05 AM
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Though i find AWB's universe to be quite fascinating, like reading a good scifi.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 6:11 AM
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Why is everyone so convinced of MY's intelligence?

Because 10+ times a day, every day, he manages to take the news stories and write something about them that is 10% askew from 100 other bloggers. Each of those others add 5% value to the stories and do it 2-3 times a day. Most blogs establish insular little communties of people who don't read 100 blogs a day, but 1-5.

MY isn't always brilliant or profound, but he is more often interesting than the other bloggers. Hell, the news ain't that interesting. Wait a minute. The "news" is a fucking Sisyphean nightmare of endless shitpiles and ancient crimes repeated and new venalities created. "Boring" doesn't begin to cover it. Most sane people run like hell from the news. Matt's job is to make the news interesting, even fun.

MY is like a basketball player who shoots 40% from the 3-pt line every game for ten years. Hey, that's only 5% better than the best of the rest. 1 of 20 better. More misses than hits. But it is enough to make him a superstar.

PS:The spelling and grammar errors could be loss leaders, could even be intentional. Doesn't matter. They add just a little anti-authoritarianism to a writer who is otherwise fairly conveentional. I love the mistakes, or love that MY doesn't much care about them. They are a gravy stain on the tie.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 6:42 AM
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336: Indeed, ttaM. Not to mention all the French people running around with names like d'Ouilliamson and Houellebecq.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 6:51 AM
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I love the mistakes, or love that MY doesn't much care about them. They are a gravy stain on the tie

I can't say ever read MY, but this makes me think maybe I should!


Posted by: di kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 7:03 AM
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274: Given the sheer number of leftists in America since the late nineteenth century, there is no way that Chomsky can be that sui generis in his criticism. What, were all of the other leftists floating too stupid to figure the relationship between mass media and their inability to influence the discourse? (I don't know the history, so I'm willing to be corrected, but I would be astonished if Chomsky was really the first.)

Anyway, I have no objection to the thesis of Chomsky's political writings, but in my experience, Chomsky himself is not a good source for it. As far as I can tell, his whole schtick about just reading papers, everything is in just plain sight is bullshit. The few times that I happened to come across one of his telling quotes in the original context, it has been clear that it meant something different. For a long time, I thought it was a deliberate effort, but arguing with Chomskyites online has made me think that it's possible that Chomsky thinks he's found the secret decoder ring to understand the true inner meaning of public statements. But we don't need the secret decoder ring to see what's really going on.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 7:09 AM
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Hey! Houellebecq's in the English midlands. The Scots can't have that.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 7:10 AM
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351: Boo! There goes my theory of all those wacky French names belonging to fleeing Scottish nationalists!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 7:20 AM
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The fact that for several years commenters would show up on various comment boards and argue that the CIA was a hotbed of leftist activity was perhaps the funniest development of the era. I always used to wonder, when I would read about how Stalin-era show trials would charge everyone with being secret agents of the capitalists, "Did anyone really believe it?" I see now that the answer was probably yes.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 7:22 AM
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MC is correct when she says "...no female could ascend to those A-list heights who was such a poor writer as many of the men on that A-list."

I'll go further and claim that a female writer with MY's insight, a grasp of spelling and grammar (or simply an understanding of how to use spell check), but lacking his pedigree would have difficulty reaching his current status. Patriarchy sucks donkey balls.

MY annoys me because he is often insightful but he creates such pointless obstacles to accessing his insight (by, for example, saying the exact opposite of what he means) that it's not worth reading his output. You're a writer, FFS! There are tools and techniques for catching the simple errors that obstruct communication. If you can't be bothered to use them, consider another career. Seriously, who would hire a carpenter who couldn't drive a nail? Reading MY is like eating at a fine restaurant that for some reason has decided that fresh turds make an excellent centerpiece. There's no amount of skill on the part of the chef that's going to make that a pleasant meal.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 7:22 AM
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re: 352

There was a long tradition of Scots serving militarily in France. So yeah, a lot of the wacky names are going to be Scottish, but not all of them.

For example:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garde_%C3%89cossaise

Finally disbanded in 1830, apparently.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 7:28 AM
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Is that to say that the name Williamson is Scottish-associated? I know "Mc..." names are Highland, and can rarely distinguish non-Gaelic-based names from English ones, but Williamson seems pretty generically English.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 7:36 AM
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340

... or the old smear about "supporting the Khymer Rouge" Shearer dug up again, ...

You saying Chomsky didn't support the Khymer Rouge?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 7:37 AM
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But we don't need the secret decoder ring to see what's really going on.

I sent a friend of mine a Krugman quote on conspiracies - Krugman's point being that it's hard to call a lot of stuff a conspiracy because the conspirators pretty much admit it up front. My friend sent me a similarly-themed Chomsky quote saying essentially the same thing, but the difference was remarkable - the Chomsky quote was wrong in just about every way possible.

Alas, I lost that e-mail exchange and I can't find the quotes, but I find that even when I agree with Chomsky's over-arching point, he employs a lot of bullshit to get there. Chomsky fails the dsquared test:

"Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance."

Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 7:38 AM
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347/354. I'm experiencing some major cognitive dissonance over finding myself siding with McManus against togolosh and with Shearer against Wisse in the same morning. I gotta get my meds checked.


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 7:43 AM
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Wow, 347 gets it exactly right. When MacManus is good, he's very good.

352 -- don't forget about the Franco-Irish. It's remarkable that France had a conservative president named MacMahon. Of course, it now has a conservative president named Sarkozy, so there's that.


Posted by: robert halford | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 7:43 AM
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354

... Reading MY is like eating at a fine restaurant that for some reason has decided that fresh turds make an excellent centerpiece. There's no amount of skill on the part of the chef that's going to make that a pleasant meal.

No, it's more like they make random substitutions in your order.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 7:43 AM
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So, is "Klein or Yglesias?" the liberal blog reader's version of "Ginger or MaryAnne?" I'd say that Yglesias is probably a more useful advocate for shaping the conventional wisdom broadly in a sensible direction -- if he ends up in a position where he is recognized as a voice of conventional wisdom, and he doesn't get stupider along the way, we'll all be better off. (I get the impression that he really learned something from screwing up on the war, and is one of the few people who did.) And I really, really don't understand why, if there's an organization that thinks it's worth paying him a salary for doing what he does, it doesn't think that it's worth paying one other person for maybe an hour a day to clean up his posts. It wouldn't take much.

Klein, on the other hand, is more useful for bringing actual data into the discourse -- I'd never think to search Yglesias's archives to find information on something, but I do that with Klein reasonably often. Of the two, I'd give up reading Yglesias before I'd give up Klein, but Yglesias probably has potential to be a greater force for good sense in the public discourse.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 7:44 AM
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No, it's more like they make random substitutions in your order.

Yeah, kind of: "I'm going to guess that the cook was reaching for the cinnamon and got the chili powder instead when he made this pie. Correcting for that, it's great."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 7:49 AM
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re: 357

It's historically been commonest in Scotland (particularly the north and east) and the north of England according to the various surname mapping tools out there. The highest density of Williamsons was in the north of Scotland. It could still be an English name, of course, given the movement between the two countries over centuries.

However, the Williamson's in France are much more likely to be of Scottish descent.

http://www.nationaltrustnames.org.uk/Map.aspx?name=WILLIAMSON&year=1881&altyear=1998&country=GB&type=name

http://www.nationaltrustnames.org.uk/Map2.aspx?name=WILLIAMSON&year=1998&altyear=1881&country=GB&type=name


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 7:49 AM
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I enjoy Yglesias' grotesque spelling and various malapropisms. It can make even the most obvious post he writes an intellectual challenge.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:00 AM
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Klein seems to me to be hell bent on becoming an Institution on the left

That boy's going to be awfully disappointed, then. To be some kind of intellectual institution, don't you have to, I don't know, come up with an original idea or two of your own, rather than going "here's a bunch of stuff I read about from Krugman and the New Republic, which I'm going to cast as being far more progressive than they actually are, and also, I have charts"?


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:04 AM
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Why original? Klein's working as a journalist, not a researcher -- reporting on and evaluating other people's work is what he's supposed to be doing. If he's doing a bad job with that, which you're also saying, that's a problem, but I can't see originality as an issue.

It's like people talking about whether the Democratic Party has 'new ideas'. There's some fairly old ideas out there, like UHC, that are good in themselves.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:08 AM
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Last night as I was reading this thread, which I find embarrassing and hope the two bloggers never read, I was trying to decide which FR celebrities MY & EK. FR is where I am immersing myself this month. Old free stuff from Google, because I think the current hegemony has destroyed modern historians' ability to think about revolution or politics. Oh noes, don't hurt anybody or even make anybody uncomfortable. See Perlstein. Downloaded the Demouriez and Barare autobiographies, for Christ's sake. (Eloise Ellery looks justifiably beloved, and the author of one of the more useful books. Remarkable how much of the circa 1900 FR stuff is written by women.)

Anyway.

Decided MY was Danton and EK Saint-Just. Watch out for the quiet ones.

I'm Hebert.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:08 AM
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Oh, and Berube's an idiot about Chomsky. But Berube's an idiot about a lot of things.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:08 AM
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354

I'll go further and claim that a female writer with MY's insight, a grasp of spelling and grammar (or simply an understanding of how to use spell check), but lacking his pedigree would have difficulty reaching his current status. Patriarchy sucks donkey balls.

What point are you trying to make here? That it helps to have successful parents and attend Harvard? How about a Matilda Yglesias with the same pedigree?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:10 AM
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370: The question was of whether Klein would or could become an "Institution of the Left." I don't see Klein challenging any existing ideas or working to introduce any new ones within the centrist mold in which he works; all he does is work to confirm whatever's in vogue on the center-right at the time (we should invade Iraq, health care reformists should avoid single-payer like cancer, etc.). That's not an "Institution of the Left." That's an up and coming assistant editor for TNR.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:13 AM
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There just aren't a lot of wildly influential bloggers, so the route to influence of each one is pretty path-dependent, and picking up reliable patterns is going to be difficult.

For an anecdote that I found troubling, genderless Digby was generally recognized as one of the sharpest, most thoughtful liberal bloggers out there. I don't think I've seen nearly as many links to female Digby since she came out; apparently her blogging dropped way off in quality at right about the same time she appeared as a woman. This is confounded by the fact that her blogging about the feminist implications of responses to the Clinton campaign pissed off a lot of people, but even then, 'confounded' is not exactly the right way to describe that dynamic.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:16 AM
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Oh, and Berube's an idiot about Chomsky. But Berube's an idiot about a lot of things.

I love a good argument-by-assertion.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:17 AM
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359: If you have any kind of issues with reading (and I do, thanks to mild dyslexia), MY's garbling of trivial spelling and grammar becomes a substantial obstacle. I think people who are really proficient readers can do the mental gymnastics required to extract coherent meaning from garbled prose with little difficulty. For me it's an uphill climb, one made all the more irritating by the fact that I am aware of my language difficulties and so try to proofread my comments with care (so if I say something really stupid, chances are good that I actually *am* being really stupid). If I can do it with cock jokes, a professional writer ought to be able do it with posts on substantive policy issues.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:17 AM
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I love a good argument-by-assertion.

It's every bit as good as the arguments it was responding to.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:21 AM
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How about a Matilda Yglesias with the same pedigree?

I suspect a Matilda Yglesias would be more likely to be dismissed as that Harvard trust fund chick/ditz/etc that can't spell, but it's hard to say. (McArdle vs. Douthat might be instructive here.)

Klein's working as a journalist, not a researcher -- reporting on and evaluating other people's work is what he's supposed to be doing.

Where I'd criticize Klein is that he doesn't seem to do much in the way of evaluating, which is perhaps a problem since he seems to want to be more than a reporter. I have to confess I don't read either of them all that much these days.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:22 AM
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we should invade Iraq, health care reformists should avoid single-payer like cancer, etc.

Klein was pro-Iraq war? I'd forgotten that. And I've read him as pro-single payer, but pretty convinced that it's not passable by the current Congress.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:23 AM
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371:I think you are wrong. I see Klein as having to constantly struggle with a radical compassion. His instincts are not bourgeois, and I don't think he is quite comfortable there. But there is work to do.

When the fires come, Klein will regret them from empathy, Yglesias from decorum. Yglesias is embarrassed by the stupidity of Iraq.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:25 AM
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370: That there are a lot of factors affecting success, and skill is only one of them. Obviously I think MY's work is overrated, and part of the reason for that is his position in the gender and class hierarchy (for which he bears no responsibility, IMO). I think there are better bloggers with less recognition and fewer prospects for advancement.

I don't think MY is a bad person, and I'd probably quite like him if we ever met. I just think he's a lazy writer who gets away with it due to structural unfairnesses in the system.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:28 AM
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Digby is fine, I read everything she writes. The women of FDL are treasures, and FDL might be my favourite blog.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:31 AM
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My problem with Yglesias is that I primarily started reading him for his foreign policy coverage, where he's gotten increasingly cautious over the past couple years as more and more Democrats have gained power in Congress and the White House. There were times in 2006 when it seemed like he was flirting with a pretty non-interventionist foreign policy outlook, but by 2009 he's become a cheerleader for war with Pakistan and indifferent at best to the ongoing surge in Afghanistan, and to the extent that I read him now it's out of boredom and habit.

Aside from mass transit and urbanization, it seems that he just isn't that interested in most other issues, but he'll still write about them anyway, picking from a handful of bloggers and columnists with a relatively narrow range of viewpoints and offering ill-informed commentary. His analysis of financial and economic stuff has been pretty dire lately, in particular.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:33 AM
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I think there are better bloggers with less recognition and fewer prospects for advancement.

Is there a field about which this could not truthfully be said of most of the persons therein? Blogging is far from being uniquely non-meritocratic.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:34 AM
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341: Nir Rosen immediately leaps to mind (and he's 32, which is kind of shocking). Anthony Shadid isn't all that young, I don't think. The "Back to Iraq" guy whose name I forget?


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:35 AM
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(382 shouldn't be taken as a defense of Yglesias, who I personally find despicable.)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:36 AM
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Blogging is far from being uniquely non-meritocratic.

This sentence is rather delicious to say aloud. Thank you, Brock.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:37 AM
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Klein was pro-Iraq war?

Yes.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:37 AM
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Tying two or three conversations in this thread together, we have this post at Yglesias' blog, about a Slate venture targeted at women sort of like Dell's Della, and this comment to it.

the underlying problem here is that slate itself sucks, so that slate edited by three women is still going to suck.

this is a web-magazine designed by people who despise the web. they are all newspaper wannabes who don't like this upstart medium.

122
* Becuase the back story of his departure from Sully's shadow has never become public, at least as far as I know.

What is this referring to?


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:38 AM
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384: Despicable is strong. I'm interested -- spell out why, if you would?

Thinking about this, I'm realizing that my opinions about bloggers solidified a couple of years ago, and I'm finding everyone I read kind of dull and less valuable than I used to.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:41 AM
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(I should say that I haven't read Yglesias in years, except when others have linked to his posts. This thread has inspired me to give him another try, so there's that. We'll see how it goes.)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:42 AM
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But then, an awful lot of leftish bloggers were (to use Ezra's phraseology) "reluctantly pro-war," including a certain Mexican that started this blog. It was an eye-opening experience for me at the time, to realize just how pervasive manufactured consent actually was. These were all people who should have known better, that were smart enough to have known better, and yet there they all were tsk-tsking regretfully about how we had to do this to erase the mortal threat that was Saddam Hussein.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:42 AM
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390: Ogged was I think still defending his pro-war position as 'right at the time' for as long as I can remember -- I don't think he ever flipped on that. I cut Klein and Yglesias slack for being too young to drink at the time, which is an excuse for getting suckered.

You know who I find shocking in retrospect as 'reluctantly pro-war'? Kevin Drum. Bright guy, a grownup, and even though cautiously centrist as all get-out, not particularly bloodthirsty. That they were successfully suckering people in that kind of demographic is horrifying.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:46 AM
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388: more or less all the reasons listed upthread. The undergraduatism, the sloppiness, the arrogance. Perhaps more than anything else: the obvious raw talent that's being utterly wasted.

(Even given all that, I might agree that "despicable" was too strong.)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:46 AM
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362

So, is "Klein or Yglesias?" the liberal blog reader's version of "Ginger or MaryAnne?" ...

How about Bradford Plumer?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:47 AM
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392: Ah. "Despicable" sounds to me like principled disagreement on a topical issue, not disapproval of his professional standards.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:47 AM
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371
I don't see Klein challenging any existing ideas or working to introduce any new ones within the centrist mold in which he works; all he does is work to confirm whatever's in vogue on the center-right at the time

Really? Calling him too centrist is fair enough, but where do you get the "center-right" part? He's pro-card check, he argues that Social Security isn't nearly as big a problem as Republicans would have you believe, and he dismisses opposition to comparative effectiveness review as Road to Serfdom-caliber insanity protecting corporate profits. And I'm just halfway down his front page. These are not opinions that are in vogue on the center-right. Unless you're comparing him to the global or European right wing, in which case, fair enough, but by that standard the only left-winger in Washington is Bernie Sanders.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:50 AM
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Klein was pro-Iraq war? I'd forgotten that.

Everyone's forgotten that, because he's removed the original blog from Blogspot.

And I've read him as pro-single payer, but pretty convinced that it's not passable by the current Congress.

Every time single-payer's come up, Klein has written about it dismissively, if not with a certain amount of contempt. He takes the line that Clinton's health care reform failed because people were told the government was going to do stuff to your health coverage, and that we cannot, cannot, cannot do anything that risks removing corporate insurance from the equation, even though it would admittedly make for a better system. From everything I've read, this understanding is incredibly flawed: Clinton-era reform was also attacked as being impossible to understand and overly complex, and any attempt to preserve corporate insurance requires that added complexity (and cost) as well. Single-payer advocates have argued for years that single-payer is simpler to explain to people than the alternatives, that we've already got a working model for it that people like (Medicare), and that we shouldn't care about Republican red-baiting scare tactics because they're going to use them regardless of whatever reforms we try. Ezra Klein generally doesn't respond to these kind of arguments; he sees the whole thing as not worth talking about. He's effectively decided to limit the grounds of discussion to terms agreed to by the insurance companies.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:50 AM
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340: Yeah, that's about right. The existence of actual, vocal leftists can hardly be abided. Hell, if frigging Kucinich offends centrist sensibilities (and he plainly did), Chomsky hasn't got much hope of a fair shake.

I just look for this constantly lying, "conspiracy"-minded Chomsky that's supposed to exist, and can't seem to find any evidence of that in what he actually writes, or that this take on him is much more than a warmed-over version of the David Horowitz line. (And speaking of lies...) I'm not personally a "Chomskyite" -- an epithet that often seems to mean "does not dismiss Chomsky sneeringly enough" -- but the extent to which a conversation that mentions his name almost automatically becomes a gallery of apocryphally-sourced cheap shots is amazing, and reprehensible.

377: Yglesias, Drum and Marshall were all pro-war, too. One reason I've never followed any of their writing or their sites very avidly. But it does make them ideal fixtures of the "liberal blogosphere," because they're non-threatening to Dems who were also suckered by the war.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:53 AM
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374

... I am aware of my language difficulties and so try to proofread my comments with care ...

I have some sympathy with this point of view but eventually concluded Yglesias's problems are more like someone who stutters, he really can't do better. If on the other hand he actually is just being lazy then that is to his discredit.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:54 AM
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390/391: a lot of people simply didn't expect an American administration to lie so brazenly to its own citizens.* Even more, to be able to lie so brazenly, irrespective of its desire to do so. That was certainly my mistake. I'm still a surprised when I think back on it--how is it possible there wasn't more (public) internal dissent, or media scruntiny? (Rhetorical question. I know how it was possible. But it's still a bit shocking.)

*Different (in my mind) from Watergate, which was about the administration's own self-preservation.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:55 AM
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cautiously centrist as all get-out

That's the Democratic demographic *most* likely to support American militarism. What happened to so many of the leftish bloggers in 2003 (IMO) was that they were still trying to prove that they were "serious" and weren't so unbathed and unseemly as all those silly hippies out shouting that we had no business bombing other countries. As if there was some imperative to prove that they weren't just reflexively pacifist and that they could support military action too, just like all those pundits on television.

Much as I like reading Yglesias and Klein on domestic policy, I still don't trust either of them on foreign policy. Iraq should have been the easiest call imaginable and they got suckered badly.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:55 AM
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I see I've been multiply-pwned on that last paragraph.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:56 AM
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To be some kind of intellectual institution, don't you have to, I don't know, come up with an original idea or two of your own, rather than going "here's a bunch of stuff I read about from Krugman and the New Republic, which I'm going to cast as being far more progressive than they actually are, and also, I have charts"?

No.

This has been another edition of "Simple answers to needlessly complex questions".


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:59 AM
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Yeah, I suppose I was being pretty meek in 2003. I remember talking to one of the partners I worked for, just before the war started, and saying "Just suppose there really aren't any WMD's," and doing it with a whining cringe like a dog with its ears laid flat back.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 8:59 AM
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395: "Centrist" might be a better term. But I'm tired of people like Klein (and Yglesias and Brad DeLong and dozens of other nominal liberals/"progressives") claiming some mantle of the left while acting as defenders of a doggedly corporatist agenda.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:00 AM
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375 It's every bit as good as the arguments it was responding to.

That's probably fair, so sorry for sniping at you. But I would like to see more elaboration. I haven't followed any Bérubé/Chomsky argument, except to read this post of a few years ago when Bérubé wrote about an interview in which Chomsky appeared to be defending Milosevic. And I think Chomsky's comments there were pretty objectionable, albeit phrased cryptically enough that it's not at all clear he meant to exonerate Milosevic. I haven't really paid much attention to Chomsky at all, so I could be way off, but that post seemed to support my general impression that he sees things in an un-nuanced, starkly polarized way: the US is the imperialist oppressor, blithely taking actions that lead to mass slaughter, while Milosevic is the sensitive leftist leader who cries when he learns of the deaths. Such a polarized view isn't really crazier than any number of things one might see on television on any given day, but it still seems more than a little nutty. Maybe it would be useful to have such an opposing voice get more of a platform, but I prefer to pay attention to people who seem to have a less black-and-white view of the world. Again, I could be completely misjudging Chomsky based on minimal information.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:01 AM
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Much as I like reading Yglesias and Klein on domestic policy, I still don't trust either of them on foreign policy. Iraq should have been the easiest call imaginable and they got suckered badly.

I don't really know much about Yglesias' or Klein's current foreign policy views, so this could be completely off base, but as a general matter you should at least consider the possibility that being caught with their pants so obviously down on Iraq might itself have significantly radicalized their views. Because that's what happened to, um, other people I know.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:02 AM
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402: I can see Ezra Klein becoming an "Institution" in the David Broder sense, if that's what you mean.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:03 AM
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re: 403

I'm one of those people who genuinely believed, before the war, that they wouldn't find any, and people who had degree of support for the war looked like nutters, even at the time.*

I still struggle to have any empathy/sympathy for those who were suckered.

* A pretty common view among people I know, I wasn't remotely prescient or special.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:03 AM
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406: If it had radicalized their views, wouldn't we have noticed it by now? Just last week Yglesias was nattering on about how the Pakistanis were being nasty and bad for not bombing themselves as much as we wanted them to.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:05 AM
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People like Medicare? I honestly didn't know that.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:05 AM
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I remember talking to one of the partners I worked for, just before the war started, and saying "Just suppose there really aren't any WMD's,"

Was it a common suspicion around here that we were being lied to about WMDs at the outset of the war? I remember thinking that the war was an oil-grab, but the silver lining being that Saddam Hussein was a dangerous guy with WMDs, who would at least get disposed of. I didn't think I was being flat-out lied to. But I wasn't tuned into the web back then, either.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:07 AM
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I genuinely believed there wasn't going to be anything significant or legitimately frightening. I was a little surprised there wasn't more in the way of old nerve gas or biologicals that could have been blown up into a big deal -- that was what I was cringing about, that while I was sure that there weren't 'WMDs' in the sense that they'd come anything close to justifying a preventive war, I wasn't sure that there wouldn't be enough to allow the warmongers to trumpet their rightness.

And there was a lot of hostility from the pro-war side. I was commenting on a forum back then, and man oh man did I get called a lot of stuff.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:09 AM
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reluctantly pro-war

God, this phrase still makes me boilingly angry. There isn't any such thing.

FTR (and I'm not directing this at anybody here, particularly), it was quite possible for an uninformed layperson in 2003 to be:

a) fairly convinced that there were some WMDs

b) fairly convinced that war was a horrendous, even catastrophic way to solve the problem of an unfriendly-to-the-US regime having WMDs

c) fairly convinced that the relevant arms of the US government was being run by people who wanted war for their own (fear-driven, bully-driven, profit-driven) motives, and thus

d) totally convinced that we shouldn't go to war.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:10 AM
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It was an eye-opening experience for me at the time, to realize just how pervasive manufactured consent actually was

That's about when I felt as though I might as well be living on the moon. And it was particularly dismaying to see support for the invasion coming from young, smart, politically aware people. So much for the Age of Aquarius.

but the extent to which a conversation that mentions his name almost automatically becomes a gallery of apocryphally-sourced cheap shots is amazing, and reprehensible

True, but the extent to which any criticism of Chomsky in certain circles leads to accusations of centrism and leftier-than-thou one-upmanship is also pretty obnoxious.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:10 AM
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Was it a common suspicion around here that we were being lied to about WMDs at the outset of the war?

I was certain of it. We've talked about this before -- if you weren't following the news reasonably closely, I can see how you could have not known, but there was plenty in the news in the year before the war that established that all the nuclear claims were bullshit.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:11 AM
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People like Medicare? I honestly didn't know that.

Long ago (say, as recently as 1989), Medicare was commonly perceived as a kind of inferior substitute for the kind of coverage that most middle-class employed people enjoyed (inferior mostly because it wouldn't pay for certain procedures and because there were some doctors who wouldn't accept it).

Since then, the cost and bureacratic hassle of private insurance has gone up and the quality of coverage has gone down so much that Medicare is, for almost every privately insured American, a better deal--something you look forward to being eligible for. Add in a nice Medicare supplement policy (at your own expense) and you've got a social welfare protection that's practically Scandinavian by comparison.


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:13 AM
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People like Medicare? I honestly didn't know that.

People with Medicare are more satisfied with their health coverage than any other group in America. Numerous polls have shown this.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:13 AM
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a) - d) in 413 describe me fairly well. I got my news from NPR and didn't do a whole lot of current events reading or anything beyond that.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:14 AM
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I'm one of those people who genuinely believed, before the war, that they wouldn't find any, and people who had degree of support for the war looked like nutters, even at the time.

I was surprised they didn't find *anything*, in the same sense that I'd expect to find a few buttons in the back of my closet, despite not having an active button-stockpiling program. But, I had reached the conclusion that all of the actual programs had long since been shuttered, because the fricking inspectors were there on the ground in Iraq saying exactly that, and the only violations they had been able to find were technical, rather than substantive, violations (e.g., missiles that, if they weren't carrying any payload, might travel some number of miles past what was allowed). That's the part that so many people, to this day, just manage to just gloss over: the inspectors were there and were reporting that the government was cooperating with them.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:16 AM
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People like Medicare? I honestly didn't know that.

Maybe you're thinking of Medicaid. Medicare is for old people, including middle-class and even rich old people. IME pain perdu's 416 describes it perfectly.

Medicaid, by contrast, is medical assistance for poor people who are not elderly. It is widely despised -- not so much by the beneficiaries as by their health care providers -- even as it is recognized as being light-years better than nothing.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:18 AM
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Right. The conversations that drove me the craziest were "Well, if they don't have any WMDs, why aren't they cooperating?" And I'd say "They are. We're bitching about imperfect record keeping, mostly. Record keeping's always imperfect." But the people online I was arguing with seemed to have the impression that the inspections were being greeted with "Fuck off, we're not telling you anything."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:19 AM
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Also, I fully expected that we would plant evidence of weapons programs.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:20 AM
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re: 419

Well, they found a few old shells and things, which I suppose was to be expected but I didn't expect they'd find much else. Powell's presentation was the final straw on that one, although I was pretty convinced beforehand.

That's the part that so many people, to this day, just manage to just gloss over: the inspectors were there and were reporting that the government was cooperating with them.

Quite, which is why sympathy for the 'reluctant pro-war liberals' is hard to produce.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:20 AM
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Yeah. I'm kind of surprised we didn't -- I think at the time I took it as evidence of the straightforward good faith of the low-level American military; that they couldn't figure out how to plant stuff without too many soldiers having to be in on it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:22 AM
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re; 422

Yes, there were a few hints that that might happen.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:22 AM
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People with Medicare are more satisfied with their health coverage than any other group in America. Numerous polls have shown this.

I am really happy to learn this! My vague impression of the state of affairs apparently derives from the 1980s.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:22 AM
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I was sure that one way or another WMDs would be found, and anybody who suggested that they were planted would be treated as either a nutty conspiracy theorist or just on the other side.

It still puzzles me that the Bush-Cheney administration wasn't able to pull that off.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:22 AM
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Or perhaps I am thinking of Medicaid. I'm a rich stew of ignorance.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:23 AM
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Ditto to 420. I remember listening to the radio every morning and hearing updates on the inspections, and hearing the NPR commenters wonder "why can't they winds these weapons?" and me waking up my roommates by shouting "because there AREN'T any, you fuckwits!" I expected they'd find half a cannister of anthrax, and then Bush would drape it in a flag and give it a parade, like the carbon rod in the Simpsons.

Thing is, I was also pretty damn sure that whether they had weapons or not, invading Iraq was sure to be a giant fucking mistake, and that a ton of people were going to be killed because of it. And I didn't even have to be a trained certified pundit or anything - I just had half a working brain!


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:23 AM
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405: "Nuanced." Chomsky is not "nuanced." If there's one word I've grown to fucking hate in the past eight years, it's "nuance."

Chomsky calls lies what appear to him to be lies, and doesn't make excuses for the people doing the lying. And he focuses his critique specifically on American power because people who are supposed to be on that beat, like the press, manifestly aren't. If you can't quite discern an intent to exonerate Milosevic in what he's writing, you might consider the possibility that there's no such intent there. If that's supposed to be lack of "nuance," so much the better; if there's one thing the Iraq War proved, it's that American political discourse is drowning in its own "nuance."

I actually thought he had jumped the shark on Milosevic too, for a while. But if the case against Milosevic were so open-and-shut and his so-called "defenders*" were so obviously wrong and full of shit, one has to admit it's a little odd that his trial at the Hague went so poorly for the prosecution -- many of whose witnesses seemed to provide weirdly muddled testimony -- and dragged out for years until Milosevic died before they could reach a verdict.

(* Mostly people engaged in attacking inconsistencies in NATO's justifications, who were about as much "objectively pro-Milosevic" as those who opposed the Iraq War were "objectively pro-Saddam.")


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:24 AM
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Perhaps more than anything else: the obvious raw talent that's being utterly wasted.

What blog output would be a good use of his talents? More in-depth something? Original research? Reporting? I don't understand the ideal that you think MY is falling short of.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:24 AM
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That 420 in 430 should be 419.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:24 AM
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Yeah, I never bought the war for a second, but there was this weird moment when it seemed you couldn't even enter the public discourse without first doing a lot of hawkish talk about defending America from its enemies. Anyone who sounded like they were saying "Give peace a chance" was considered a laughable hippie, and I think a lot of otherwise sane people got roped into this game. Once you acknowledge that war is a reasonable option maybe, you're already playing on hawk turf.

I think this is what happens with the torture discourse as well. The pro-torture advocates aren't just saying torture was necessary in these cases; they're trying to get anyone who enters the conversation to first admit that torture might in some imaginable case be reasonable, because from there they can bully the conversation where they want it to go by arguing that this is the most special case in the history of human kind. If torture was ever reasonable, it is now. I'm glad to see some sane people refusing to play that game anymore, but wish they'd had the balls to refuse to play it while it was becoming policy.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:25 AM
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To my eternal shame, I was an early (and not particularly reluctant) war supporter. My soul-searching has revealed that I had three basic reasons, one of which I don't really fault myself for, and the other two of which are disgraceful.

1. Some smart, sensible, very clued-in people whose opinions I respected supported it (albeit with apparent reservations)--Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, and Tony Blair in roughly that order.

2. A kind of cynical Pascal's wager on whether Democrats, as a party, would be worse off in the 2004 election if they were seen as opposing a successful war.

3. A not-quite-subconscious desire not to be associated with the DFH's (I even stopped reading Atrios).

Unlike MY, who turned against the war before it started, I stayed on board until well into 2003, when I realized that White House was willfully blind to the disaster unfolding in the occupation.

Before the war, I got into heated arguments with a French friend who (correctly, as it turns out) predicted a pointless bloodbath. I condescendingly thought that she was in the thrall of a cynical, posturing government and a supine press. I ended up writing her a note of apology at some point in 2004 or 2005.


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:29 AM
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372

There just aren't a lot of wildly influential bloggers, so the route to influence of each one is pretty path-dependent, and picking up reliable patterns is going to be difficult.

Aren't there hundreds of bloggers as successful as Klein?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:30 AM
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Yeah, the fact that they didn't find any functional WMDs was what convinced me that my assumptions about the relevant government agencies being fear/bully/profit driven were correct. If it had been a conspiracy, they would have gotten their act together to plant something.

I do remember a joke going around at the time, about Rumsfeld I think, that went: "We know they have WMDs!" How? "Because we still have the receipts for what we sold them!"


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:31 AM
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435: Not AFAIK.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:32 AM
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How long was it before it was common knowledge that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was a fraud? My sense is that the answer is never --- by the time it was known to be a fraud most people had completely forgotten about it.

That was the kind of thing I was expecting to happen with the WMDs.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:33 AM
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The pro-torture advocates

I'm still shocked by how large and mainstream this group seems to be, since only a few years ago I don't think you could have found a single mainstream political voice in this camp.* The mass transition from "some non-standard interrogation methods might be acceptable in exigent circumstances, but America does not torture!" to "torture is sometimes necessary" has been disturbing swift.

*Maybe Dershowitz? I'm not sure he's mainstream.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:35 AM
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379

... I think there are better bloggers with less recognition and fewer prospects for advancement.

I think people who say things like this should give examples.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:35 AM
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As long as we're sharing war-shame stories, I not only supported the Afghan war, but did so utterly thoughtlessly, and only began to seriously question it in 2004. I can't imagine how much longer that one is going to last, and how many more people are going to die before it's over.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:37 AM
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440: I'll happily name names! The people at A Tiny Revolution are all really good, although they mostly focus on foreign policy/imperialism and civil liberties stuff. They have far fewer prospects for advancement because there are very, very few slots in the professional media for people who write about imperialism and civil liberties stuff.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:40 AM
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439

I'm still shocked by how large and mainstream this group seems to be, since only a few years ago I don't think you could have found a single mainstream political voice in this camp. ...

This has long been a big pro torture strand of popular culture as shown by movies like "Dirty Harry". And Israel had been torturing for a long time without much outrage in the US. So I don't see anything very surprising.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:41 AM
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Thing is, I was also pretty damn sure that whether they had weapons or not, invading Iraq was sure to be a giant fucking mistake, and that a ton of people were going to be killed because of it.

This was my position. I figured it was likely that Iraq had WMDs, but it seemed to me that we were much more interested in stringing as many wars as possible out of 9/11 and we were already plenty busy in Afghanistan.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:41 AM
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I thought the war was a bad idea, but I didn't go to the protests against it. In my circles, that is about the same as personally bayoneting babies.

I knew for sure that there weren't WMD's, because the UN inspector hadn't found them. I knew we were being lied to about that. But I thought that Hussein was bad news, had gassed the Kurds, and I thought that post-war, Iraq might be a democracy. I also discounted how bad the war would be. I was thinking more of the '91 Gulf War, not an occupation.

Finally, and this one is shameful: I accurately thought that the war would be irrelevant to my personal life. (Except for the budget deficit.) I knew it would hurt people far from me, but it seemed unstoppable and I live with the knowledge of Three Gorges Dam, too. It seemed like another pointless abstract tragedy.

I knew that it was a trumped up lie. But I thought it had more possibility of a decent outcome. I am sorry now that I wasn't more actively opposed.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:43 AM
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441: Yeah, I didn't do one single thing to speak out against the Afghan war, mostly because I had absolutely no idea how I thought the US should deal with the situation.

I do remember the infamous "Don't bomb my country back into the Stone Age; we're already there" e-mail from an Afghan intellectual that went around.

I also remember thinking that Bush's appeals for calm and non-persecution of US Muslims had a much better chance of succeeding if people could channel their anger and desire for revenge into a sense that the US was responding in some way. I'm still ashamed that I couldn't think of a good alternative with mainstream appeal, that at least I could have argued for.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:45 AM
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439, 443: I think the lesson of Abu Ghraib has really been, "the American people are against torture, when there are widely-published photographs of it."


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:45 AM
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I was thinking more of the '91 Gulf War, not an occupation.

I said at the time, four years of combat and 14 years of occupation. People responded as if I were insane. And I was working in a liberalish office then.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:47 AM
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If it had radicalized their views, wouldn't we have noticed it by now? Just last week Yglesias was nattering on about how the Pakistanis were being nasty and bad for not bombing themselves as much as we wanted them to.

From the first moment that the news broke about Ethiopia invading Somalia, MY was against it. He emphasized the US support for Ethiopia, he was completely prescient about the ill effects it would have (narrow and broad), and he has never ceased bringing it up, long after everyone else has forgotten it ever happened. He rarely writes a post mentioning piracy without bringing this up. Can you name a more prominent media figure who has drawn this connection?

Also, I simply don't read him as saying this on Pakistan. At. All. And I read him every day.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:48 AM
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441: Yeah, I think the people we should all be listening to are those who got it right about both wars, which is a vanishingly small fraction. I was opposed, but in a very half-hearted sort of way that wasn't very much different from being "reluctantly in favour."


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:50 AM
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I not only supported the Afghan war

God, did I get into a nasty mailing list fight with a fraternity brother of mine about the wisdom and necessity of the Afghan war, and I was nearly all alone in opposing it, even among that profoundly lefty crowd. My argument then was the same as it was about Iraq: sure, we can probably fight our way into Kabul and topple the government, but then what?

Every discussion I was essentially:
LOOK, WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING.
Okay, but why this something?
WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING.
You aren't answering my question.
WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING.
Well, what abou--
WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:51 AM
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BTW, LB brought up digby earlier. I've always read her, and still do, but I will admit that I find it too depressing these days, and I skim more than I used to. She's very pessimistic*, and I think she's right, and it's hard to take.

I highly doubt that this is driving the link decline that LB has seen, although it could be a factor (who wants to link to a negative nelly during Changey Hopey Time?).

* Primarily on civil rights/GWOT issues and on the institutional resistance to change/progress/improvement.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:53 AM
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Medicaid, by contrast, is medical assistance for poor people who are not elderly.

Poor old people are also often eligible for medicaid. They'reknown as dual eligibles. Medicare pays the first part of their bills, and Medicaid kicks in for things that aren't covered by Medicare or helps with co-pays. It's also a major source of funds for nursing home care for middle class people who spend down their assets paying for it.

A lot of those people got screwed in the transition to Medicare Part D. I think that MassHealth, our version of Medicaid, helps people with their part D premiums now and some of the doughnut.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:55 AM
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453: Whoops, stupid mistake on my part. Thanks for catching it, BG. Yes, should have been "Medicaid is for poor people, regardless of age."


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:57 AM
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Aren't there hundreds of bloggers as successful as Klein?

Semi-regular guest on MSNBC. Can you name even a dozen other left-of-center bloggers (with no other quals or background) for whom that's true?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:00 AM
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I was, and still am, fully supportive of the Afghan war. IMO one of the great crimes of the Iraq fiasco is that it sucked up resources that should have been used to stabilize Afghanistan and hunt down Al Qaeda, not to mention the resources that should have been used to roll up the A. Q. Khan network and put the squeeze on Pakistan to get their damn act together.

Diversion of resources from Afghanistan has drawn out the occupation, allowed the Taliban to retreat, retrench, and adapt, and has lead to what should have been a short war followed by a difficult but tractable occupation being turned into a bloody and possibly doomed mess. Not only did the Iraq war lead directly to the needless deaths of Iraqis, it has also lead to the needless deaths of Afghans.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:00 AM
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Shit, if I'd seen 440, 455 would simply have read,

I think people who say things like this should give examples.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:01 AM
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449: I absolutely remember his opposition to US intervention in Somalia, as well as his pushback against a US invasion of the Sudan. But he's not exactly calling for ending the occupation of Afghanistan, is he? In fact, he supported a surge there, arguing for months that an increase in "boots on the ground" would reduce the number of airstrikes there - and as far as I know this is still his position, even though April saw a record number of bombs dropped on the country.

I don't read his Pakistan posts as you do. I don't see any evidence that Yglesias wants less US intervention in Pakistan; if he's written anything of the sort, I haven't read it. If he's criticized any of Obama's raids on that country, I haven't seen him do so. I'd be happy to read any post of his that did, should you provide a link.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:01 AM
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I'm still ambivalent about the Afghan war. There seemed like a pretty strong argument that the government of Afghanistan was actively supporting the organization that had attacked us, and that triggered my sense that it was reasonable self-defense. OTOH, it certainly doesn't seem to have turned out as a wonderful thing for anyone. OTThirdH, man, I buy the human rights argument for reducing Taliban control over territory in a way that I never did in Iraq -- Hussein always seemed like a perfectly ordinary dictator, awful, but not unusually so, while the Taliban seemed unusually bad.

I still don't know.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:05 AM
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Following up on 458: remember, also, that Yglesias's opposition to Somalia and Sudan came during the Bush administration; when the 2008 campaign kicked into high gear and the official Democratic Party line on foreign policy became a troop surge in Afghanistan and increased bombings in Pakistan, Yglesias began to support those measures.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:07 AM
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I was ambivalent on Afghanistan, probably leaning towards support, largely because, long before 9/11, I was so massively disgusted by the Taliban that I was pretty happy to see them go.

I completely underestimated the incompetence and malevolence of the Bush Admin. I still think that, in a possible world, Afghanistan could have worked out (because the Taliban were routed, there was a pretty big window for us to install Karzai - who still seems not-bad as 3rd world puppets go - invest a couple billion in fixing up the country, and getting the fuck out; at which point the Taliban would have been in a terrible position to try to regain control). But even so, ambivalence.

Never had any doubts about Iraq, tho. That one you could see coming miles away.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:09 AM
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456 and 459 are interesting. I think the case of Afghanistan touches on the larger issue of whether the US should ever intervene just to topple a horrific government. On the one hand, it's hard to imagine that early US intervention against Pol Pot, for instance, wouldn't have been a net good thing. On the other hand, it's hard to imagine the US government not screwing up such interventions. I can never quite decide what I think about this.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:11 AM
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I buy the human rights argument for reducing Taliban control over territory

Do you buy it for the Saudi government too? Because they aren't really that much better.

These questions aren't as difficult for me, perhaps, because it's my deep belief that we should cut the military down to the point that we're unable to project power beyond our borders. This, however, requires accepting the fact that bad people have always and will always take control of other governments at times.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:11 AM
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Ok, you know how I was becks style? I still am, but I spent the intervening time plugging a certain little bitch of our acquaintance and making bad jokes about hypercubes where n=3 courtesy of Mr. Higgs (and drinking cask wine). So don't take the following too seriously.

But.

If on the other hand he actually is just being lazy then that is to his discredit.

Who gives a damn if it his fault or not? He's claiming a position as a the liberal blogger of our time basically; it doesn't matter how hard he tries, that's not the important part. There is no handicapping in politics sadly. (I don't think his typos etc matter that much, so I mayn't be the best person to have an opinion.)

The question was of whether Klein would or could become an "Institution of the Left." I don't see Klein challenging any existing ideas or working to introduce any new ones within the centrist mold in which he works; all he does is work to confirm whatever's in vogue on the center-right at the time (we should invade Iraq, health care reformists should avoid single-payer like cancer, etc.). That's not an "Institution of the Left." That's an up and coming assistant editor for TNR.

You are of course joking; Klein is clearly Left in a US context, and it is bullshit sectarianism not to accept that. Further, Klein agreeing with the liberal hierarchy in general isn't anymore surprising than a physicist agreeing with the scientific hierarchy in general. In most areas, one doesn't expect very much originality, and we are rather suspicious of originality for damn good reasons. I don't expect popularisers to be innovative, because that isn't what they are good at. If Klein was a postgrad pol sci type, or a postgrad Operations Research type, sure we should expect him to be saying original and correct things about health funding, but he isn't and so one doesn't*.

Further, complaining that Klein isn't left enough is probably voluntarism or some such equally awful sin; of course they're all kind of right: they are all male middle class American types; how can you expect revolutionary consciousness?

I was antiwar in '03, but not because I was very clever, or because I was very good at understanding Iraq, but because I was a New Zealander with a father who'd been in the British Labour Party in the 1980's. I can't claim any credit for predicting it'd be like Vietnam, because that was what the whole damn country thought. The reverse applies to Yglesias and Klein, to be honest.

In terms of Yglesias and Pakistan, it should be remembered that Yglesias is the biggest voice pushing ``the Pakistan desk is the biggest desk in the Pakistan bureaucracy'' meme, and given that almost every USian knows nothing about the subcontinent, that's actually pretty good. (I know nothing about the subcontinent and I was in India last winter -- reading everything I could get my hands on -- when war with Pakistan looked plausible if not likely.)

* I often think people underestimate the difficult of producing original and correct ideas; it takes most academics until midway through their PhDs to do it, so why you expect a journalist to do it every day is beyond me, given that the evidence is that they start sacrificing one or the other pretty quickly.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:11 AM
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456: At this point, I have trouble seeing going all in on Afghanistan ends up anywhere except eventually invading Pakistan. Which strikes me as the very worst possible option, short of attacking China.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:16 AM
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Here's the thing with Afghanistan: what, exactly, is the US planning to do with the place? What is the goal of this war? The goal is certainly not to turn Afghanistan into a democracy, is it? Is it to turn Afghanistan into a stable, unified, "American-friendly" dictatorship? Because I really, really doubt that one's going to happen either. Is the goal to "eliminate the Taliban"? How do you do that? Do you kill every Taliban in the country? Kill every Pashtun in the country? The US has no strategy here, other than "let's kill a bunch of people, and then kill some more."

And that's the problem. The reason everyone in that part of the world wants to kill us isn't because they're crazy or evil or belong to some wacky fundamentalist religious sect, it's because we keep bombing them. Maybe if we didn't run around the world like a bunch of rabid idiots trying to kill everyone who looked at us funny, people would like us more. Just a thought!


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:18 AM
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OTThirdH

Gripping Hand, LB.

You're not a real dork, are you? I'm on to you.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:18 AM
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I think I'm still pro-invading Afghanistan back then, and only fault the incompetency with which it was undertaken.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:19 AM
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The Iraq war has been a disaster mostly because of continued Iranian support for our enemies in Iraq. We would have secured the peace by now if the liberal doves and the Democrats hadn't prevented Bush from invading Iran in 2006/2007.

[/conservative friends]


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:19 AM
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I buy the human rights argument for reducing Taliban control over territory

I don't buy the argument that one can expand human rights by blowing up other humans.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:20 AM
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Re: Afghanistan's plains
It's all well and good to say that the Taliban (and, I would assume most people agree, the ISI) are Very Bad People, but how exactly does dropping clusterbombs on impoverished villages ameliorate the situation? The root cause here is not an absence of foreign intervention. If anything, it is an excess of foreign military intervention (plus regular old colonialism) that is to blame for the current mess. Of course, there's no panacea at this point, but reducing the amount of 4 year-old Afghan kids who get their hands blown off by cluster bomblets just might, in the long run, serve the interests of human beings here and abroad.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:20 AM
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469 to 465.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:21 AM
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we should cut the military down to the point that we're unable to project power beyond our borders we can drown it in a bathtub


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:22 AM
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Klein is clearly Left in a US context

No, he's not. Klein is at best centrist in a US context. The Left, in a US context, is utterly marginalized, if not dead.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:23 AM
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437 455 457

This blog link graph from 2004 gives 40 examples. Yglesias is listed, I don't see Klein. Perhaps he has since moved up in the ranks.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:26 AM
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459: I don't think there was a strong argument made at the time or since, actually. The Taliban had previously sheltered bin Laden but plainly weren't stupid enough to think they could do so after 9/11, and were signalling strongly that they'd happily turn on him and have him tried once evidence was available. (The first feelers along those lines were about an "Islamic" trial, but we'll never know now what they could have been pushed into.)

The invasion of Afghanistan didn't just destabilize Afghanistan, it also -- and even more ominously -- destabilized nuclear-armed Pakistan and South Asia more generally. This has been in evidence for a long time and was in evidence from early on; the Afghan invasion further radicalized the Kashmiri conflict and very nearly precipitated a nuclear war between Pakistan and India in early 2002, a crisis which seems curiously forgotten now.

Would that wider destabilization have been avoided if all the resources being poured into Iraq were being poured into Afghanistan instead? It's hard to say, but I rather doubt it.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:26 AM
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Re: human rights in Afghanistan. The most horrifically depressing movie I have ever seen, including Holocaust movies, is Osama (released 2003).

From the IMDB trivia section:

*This is the first film to be made in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban. Previously all filming had been banned.
*SPOILER: According to the documentary, the movie was originally entitled "Rainbow," and ended on a hopeful note, with Osama passing under a rainbow and gaining her freedom. As filming went on, however, the director grew dissatisfied with the ending and changed it, and also cut out other scenes in the movie that expressed hope.

Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:27 AM
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What is the goal of this war?

This, exactly. There is no "winning" Afghanistan.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:29 AM
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And in the end, it will probably destroy the Obama presidency.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:29 AM
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464

Who gives a damn if it his fault or not? He's claiming a position as a the liberal blogger of our time basically; it doesn't matter how hard he tries, that's not the important part. There is no handicapping in politics sadly. (I don't think his typos etc matter that much, so I mayn't be the best person to have an opinion.)

To the extent that his typos lower the quality of his output then they count against him no matter what the cause. But if his typos are being taken as evidence of disrespect for the reader then the cause matters. Just like it matters that read is not a native English speaker.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:30 AM
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The US has no strategy here, other than "let's kill a bunch of people, and then kill some more."

No, actually, you had quite a good strategy, viz, let's kill the foreign gov't that sheltered the people who bombed us*. (and let's also kill the people who bombed us.)

This is generally accepted as being a good way to avoid being bombed in the future; it is possible to observe that US policy in Afghanistan dating back to the 80's was shite, but I can't see any real problem with the war against the Taliban -- except when you tactically screwed it up by not actually killing the people who bombed you and not actually attacking the Taliban where it would've hurt them.

Also, Kashmir didn't need radicalising, it's been radicalised since Atlee buggered off as fast as he could.

No, he's not. Klein is at best centrist in a US context. The Left, in a US context, is utterly marginalized, if not dead.

Again, sectarian bullshit. Klein is better than any other pundit in the US, basically. Attacking him for not being perfect is voluntarist ultra-leftism; one can't will the perfect left into existence, but one can work with what there is.

To the extent that his typos lower the quality of his output then they count against him no matter what the cause. But if his typos are being taken as evidence of disrespect for the reader then the cause matters. Just like it matters that read is not a native English speaker.

That's about right,

* For values of bomb where the bomb is a very large amount of aviation fuel and aluminium.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:32 AM
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478: C'mon, it's all part of The Great Game rev 4.2, where's your sense of adventure?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:33 AM
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458.2: I was saying that I don't think he said what you ascribe to him in 409; that's far from asserting that he holds the positions you would prefer.

My take on his take on Pakistan is that it's a mess, and that we should keep our eyes open to the likelihood that the Pakistani military is cynically playing us. I don't think he's especially prescriptive on it - including that I don't see him arguing in favor of more bombings, which you seem to think he does. Maybe he does; I just don't think that's his main thrust on the country.

WRT surging in Afghanistan, I don't think it's as simple as him supporting whatever Dems want. He was a vocal Iraq surge critic, and things went much better than he predicted; I'm not surprised that he would come out of that more open to the idea that a surge in Afghanistan could be useful.

But hey, maybe MY will turn out to be an apparatchik. It wouldn't shock me, although it would surprise and sadden me.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:35 AM
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No, he's not. Klein is at best centristliberal in a US context. The Left, in a US context, is utterly marginalized, if not dead.

Seriously, iar, there's space between Kevin Drum and Noam Chomsky. Ezra's in it.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:38 AM
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467: Oh, I thought it. Just didn't say it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:38 AM
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Again, sectarian bullshit. Klein is better than any other pundit in the US, basically. Attacking him for not being perfect is voluntarist ultra-leftism; one can't will the perfect left into existence, but one can work with what there is.

Keir, the attempt to label centrists (Klein, Obama, DeLong, etc.) as elements of the left does nothing but move the US spectrum further to the right - a phenomenon which has been proceeding steadily for the last thirty-five years, and hasn't been interrupted by the new administration. You can dismiss this as "sectarian bullshit" if you like, but rebranding the center - and eventually the center-right, as diminishing returns will have it - as the left does nothing to further the cause of progressivism, it's only applying lipstick to a pig.

And the notion that Klein is "better than any pundit in the US" is laughable. Krugman runs rings around him in his sleep.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:40 AM
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My faith is restored! Hallelujah!


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:40 AM
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487 to whoever claims it first.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:40 AM
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I was opposed, but in a very half-hearted sort of way that wasn't very much different from being "reluctantly in favour."

This was me. My response to the 9-11 hijackings was to think, "that seems like the sort of trick that only works once. I'm not sure we need to do anything other than increased security."

I'm such a left-coaster.

But I didn't actively protest either war (I think I went to one protest) and I didn't have much to offer to people who said, "we have to do something." So mostly, I mostly wasn't part of the conversation.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:42 AM
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487 to 217.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:43 AM
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484: Klein and Drum are both centrists; there's not really that much space between them.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:43 AM
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Keir in 481 speaks for me on Afghanistan.

On 476.1 -- To the extent that's true; that there was a realistic chance that the Taliban would have turned over Bin Ladin for trial or supported us in eliminating the ability of Al Qaeda to operate unmolested in their territory, that'd move me. I'm not clear that there's strong evidence for that in the record.

On 470: As a strong rule of thumb, I'd be with you, but there are outlying cases.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:44 AM
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I don't buy the argument that one can expand human rights by blowing up other humans.

Do you have a defense for this statement in the Godwin context?

I wish I didn't have to go there, but ffs.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:45 AM
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I'll take 487 as tribute to my nerdishness. As sequels go, that one really didn't live up to the original, though.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:45 AM
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I fucking knew that 493 would be, in some measure, LB-pwned.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:45 AM
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And the notion that Klein is "better than any pundit in the US" is laughable. Krugman runs rings around him in his sleep.

But Krugman's not exactly left hisself, he's a awful centrist as well by those standards.

Klein claims to be a Social Democrat; that's left of centre in almost every country in the world, bar Sweden. Personally I think he's a bit right for a Social Democrat, but he's no worse than Blair or Brown who are clear left. (And I think Social Democracy is a stinking corpse at that, so...)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:46 AM
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Do you have a defense for this statement in the Godwin context?

Are you attempting to imply that World War II was somehow a war for human rights? Have you read, like, any history books, ever?


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:48 AM
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Klein claims to be a Social Democrat

I can claim to be a potato, but it won't make it so.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:49 AM
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493: Isn't "the Godwin context" pretty firm evidence for the proposition that blowing up people doesn't expand human rights?


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:49 AM
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Also, Blair and Brown are clear left? Left of what, the BNP?


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:51 AM
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497, 499: Erm, I'd argue that, e.g., Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and so on living in continental Europe who survived WW II are better off, human rights wise, than if the war had not been fought. I assume neither of you disagree with that straightforwardly, so you're talking about countervailing harms?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:55 AM
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491: Their instincts are completely opposite. This make me wonder if you've ever actually read either of them at any kind of length. EK has made repeated comments about economic distribution and the poor that are obviously at the core of his political consciousness, and are nothing like where the center of American politics are. Drum, OTOH, is a comfortable, middle-aged white guy who doesn't like the boat being rocked, and finds modern conservatives troublesome. Unless I'm completely mistaken, Drum would happily vote for an Eisenhower*.

That said, I caviled about using Drum for an example. For obvious reasons, I don't read (what I consider to be) centrist bloggers, and centrist pundits like Broder or Cohen have revealed themselves to be pretty damn rightist, so I'm not sure whom better to pick. Mostly, I think Drum is culturally a total centrist - butter doesn't melt in his mouth.

* possibly not in the modern day context, because I do think that he gets the rot at the heart of the GOP, and is, electorally, a yellow dog. But his instincts are centrist/conservative and actively anti-Left.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:55 AM
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497, 499: Erm, I'd argue that, e.g., Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and so on living in continental Europe who survived WW II are better off, human rights wise, than if the war had not been fought. I assume neither of you disagree with that straightforwardly, so you're talking about countervailing harms?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:55 AM
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Also, Blair and Brown are clear left? Left of what, the BNP?

Tories, I would wager.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:56 AM
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493: Isn't "the Godwin context" pretty firm evidence for the proposition that blowing up people doesn't expand human rights?

Tell that to the people of Leningrad, London and Paris (several times over each), or to African anti-colonialists or ---.

Also, Blair and Brown are clear left? Left of what, the BNP?
Left of the Tories, left of Margaret Thatcher, left of the Lib Dems, members of the Socialist International.... (That's good enough for me to take them as left. Social-fascism is ultra-sectarian bullshit.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:56 AM
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Pwned


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:56 AM
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Shorter 502:

Drum's ideal state of the nation would be ca. 1998 (without the GOP crazies in the Congress, obvs.).

Klein's ideal state of the nation has not been realized, but would be something like where FDR and LBJ were pointing, without the racism and Asian wars.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:57 AM
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I'm still having a hard time with the idea that there are lots of better pundits out there. So far, Klein and Yglesias have been compared to Krugman, who is a Nobel-winning professor. Not matching up against a brilliant professor who is thirty years older is not a failure. More, most brilliant professors can't do what Krugman and Klein and Yglesias do regularly, which is compose short posts that illustrate complex points to laypeople.

I think you guys aren't appreciating what a narrow and precise skill blogging well is and how few people have it. I don't think a lot of people learn it, either.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:57 AM
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492.2: The nifty trick, of course, was that with war decided upon immediately, no investigation of that possibility could happen and thus no "firm evidence" in favour of it could accumulate. OTOH, there really wasn't much in the way of strong evidence for the proposition that Taliban-al Qaeda relations were so solid as to render the possibility ridiculous, either; after all, bin Laden and Mullah Omar had only been on good terms for a few years by 2001.

If Keir is proposing in 481 that the terrorist attack on Indian parliament that precipitated the nuclear crisis was just par for the course viz. the Kashmiri conflict, that seems flatly ignorant.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:57 AM
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And I'd do so repeatedly, apparently.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:59 AM
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WWII is really a black swan, though. I don't think it offers much in the way of useful lessons for, say, every military confrontation that's happened in the 65 years since.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:02 AM
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It bore repeating, LB.

Waiting with bated breath.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:02 AM
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489: One solution to future 9/11 attacks was discovered and implemented while the attacks were taking place. Not to mention the fact that exactly such attacks had been predicted in the 1990s, or the fact that Israel had already implemented policies that make such attacks impossible.

Preventing 9/11 merely required a little common sense on the part of people thinking about airline security, some of whom had already come up with workable solutions. It also required not ignoring the obvious fact that Bin Laden was determined to strike in the US: Nobody with their head outside their ass needed a memo to tell them that.

I know I'm not the only person who was utterly unsurprised on 9/11. Shocked, but not surprised. Bush/Cheney royally screwed the pooch on 9/11, and they both know it. I think a lot of their behavior right afterwards is best understood in terms of furious ass-covering.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:03 AM
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505: Tell that to the people of Leningrad, London and Paris (several times over each),

Except none of those has any direct bearing on human rights. Fighting foreign powers that attack you, yes, human rights, no. Especially not Leningrad.

The vast bulk of the largest battles of WWII were fought, and won, on the Eastern Front by soldiers under the command of Stalin against soldiers under the command of Hitler. It's nonsensical to talk about WWII as the securing of human rights by military means.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:05 AM
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WWII is really a black swan, though. I don't think it offers much in the way of useful lessons for, say, every military confrontation that's happened in the 65 years since.

OTOH, it tells me everything I need to know about vegetarianism.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:05 AM
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If Keir is proposing in 481 that the terrorist attack on Indian parliament that precipitated the nuclear crisis was just par for the course viz. the Kashmiri conflict, that seems flatly ignorant.

Er, Pakistan and India have been at war over Kashmir multiple times in the past sixty years; the precise details have changed depending on the circumstances, but I dare say that even if the US had stayed out of it there would've been some pretty ugly scenes in the subcontinent since 2002 because, as a rule, there are ugly scenes in J&K every election, and ugly scenes beyond that fairly regularly.

(You know that the Indians think the US is enabling Pakistan -- Pakistan and India hate each other very much -- they've gone through every great power since the British and basically kept arguing over the Kashmir Valley.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:05 AM
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511: I don't care. 470 says it can't happen, and then 497 says it again. If iar wants to acknowledge that 470 is overstated, then I'll concede that it's a black swan (actually, I concede that anyway, but don't tell anyone). But I'm aggressively disinterested in argumentation based on the idea that Jews who survived the Holocaust would have done better without the Allies blowing anyone up.

Also, I understand that some Americans once gained access to human rights via warfare, but I'm pretty sure that's a lie, because that war was really about capital vs. agrarian interests.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:06 AM
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The nifty trick, of course, was that with war decided upon immediately, no investigation of that possibility could happen and thus no "firm evidence" in favour of it could accumulate.

See, I have a really hard time picturing a Taliban government that was willing to work with us at all on this stuff that wouldn't have telegraphed that fact immediately and vociferously rather than get invaded. I'd believe that they did make offers of that sort and that it was sat on enough that I didn't know about it. But under the circumstances, suggesting that they might have cooperated if we'd asked diplomatically enough seems unlikely.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:07 AM
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Er, Pakistan and India have been at war over Kashmir multiple times in the past sixty years

And there's a rather large difference between conventional war and nuclear brinksmanship.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:07 AM
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Tell that to the people of Leningrad, London and Paris (several times over each), or to African anti-colonialists or --

-- or to anywhere in Japan and Germany that got carpet bombed by the Allies? Give me a fucking break. WWII was not some humanitarian intervention. It was a giant heap of war crimes, one of the most despicable chapters in the history of the human race, and the suggestion that it's some kind of exemplar of the "bombs as a means of upholding human rights" ideology reveals blinding, childlike ignorance.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:09 AM
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501, 503: She pwns everyone else, why not herself.
514: We can use our military to protect people who happen to be US citizens, but no one else?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:10 AM
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518: See, I have a really hard time picturing a Taliban government that was willing to work with us at all on this stuff that wouldn't have telegraphed that fact immediately and vociferously rather than get invaded.

AND THEY DID. It was actually quite obvious in the days after the attack that the Afghan government was working frantically to make concessions that would forestall an invasion. Of course, what they didn't know was that there was no concession that would actually have forestalled an invasion from the crew of that particular White House.

This is really like the whole "why was Saddam being so 'uncooperative'?" meme.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:10 AM
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Tories, I would wager.

It wasn't the Tories who filled London with surveillance cameras and made it legal to lock up brown people without trial.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:11 AM
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It was actually quite obvious in the days after the attack that the Afghan government was working frantically to make concessions that would forestall an invasion.

So there is a record that I don't know about, which is perfectly plausible.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:12 AM
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It's nonsensical to talk about WWII as the securing of human rights by military means.

Then how did the Jews, Gypsies, etc. of Europe come back into possession of said rights? Was it a late-breaking resolution of the League of Nations?

Fucking obviously WW2 wasn't a humanitarian intervention. It's so fucking obvious that it's an insult to pretend you have to say it. But the cause and effect are pretty clear: humans, evil and otherwise, were blown up. Other humans had their human rights restored. No non-war process was going to restore the human rights of the groups in question.

I would not, and did not, support military intervention in Afghanistan simply because the Taliban were moral monsters*. But once there was a casus belli on the table, their monstrosity is a fair part of the equation, IMO.

* BTW, this is not to defend Saudi Arabia, but there's a line in my mind between a regime continuing centuries of oppression and one actively imposing it on until-recently free people. Afghanistan in the early 70s was a progressive, open society; I can't imagine how far back you'd have to go to say the same thing about SA


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:15 AM
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We can use our military to protect people who happen to be US citizens, but no one else?

Thing is, though, that's always the argument. We invaded Vietnam to protect the Vietnamese too. I read liberals proposing invading Burma to accomplish some ill-defined objective not very long ago. The perennial trotting out of WWII always and ever serves to justify going to war.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:15 AM
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524

No, DS is living in some alternate reality.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:16 AM
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Then how did the Jews, Gypsies, etc. of Europe come back into possession of said rights?

Accidentally?


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:17 AM
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DS is living in some alternate reality.

My people call it Canada.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:18 AM
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the suggestion that it's some kind of exemplar of the "bombs as a means of upholding human rights" ideology reveals blinding, childlike ignorance.

Did it fucking happen or not? Answer the goddamn question. Were Bonn and Amsterdam and Turin better places for human rights in 1960 than they would have been absent the war?

"Childish" is thinking that, because something awful happened, nothing good could come of it.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:19 AM
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526: I'd agree that it is almost always misused, but that doesn't mean there aren't specific cases where it is justified.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:21 AM
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(Further to 519: ... and, for that matter, between previous hostilities and direct attacks on the Indian parliament.)

521: Except "humanitarian intervention" doesn't really have a great track record in the past fifty-sixty years, bow does it? I used to buy into it myself, but at a certain point you have to start looking at what actually happens in the name of "humanitarian intervention" and judge the concept on those merits.

524: What I'm talking about isn't exactly esoteric, these were public statements that were broadcast on the news. The offer to extradite bin Laden to Pakistan -- a US ally -- was a public one.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:22 AM
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Except none of those has any direct bearing on human rights. Fighting foreign powers that attack you, yes, human rights, no. Especially not Leningrad.

Um, what do you think the RAF was fighting for? If the Luftwaffe had won, my grandparents wouldn't have had the rights they did enjoy.

-- or to anywhere in Japan and Germany that got carpet bombed by the Allies? Give me a fucking break. WWII was not some humanitarian intervention. It was a giant heap of war crimes, one of the most despicable chapters in the history of the human race, and the suggestion that it's some kind of exemplar of the "bombs as a means of upholding human rights" ideology reveals blinding, childlike ignorance.

Oh, fuck off to Guernica. (Seriously, carpet bombing Dresden wasn't good, but it's bloody offensive to call the men of Fighter Command war criminals, or the Communists who died in Auschwitz war criminals, or the French Resistance war criminals, or the men who died on the Kokoda Trail war criminals or even, bugger it, the men who died at Leningrad and Stalingrad war criminals. They died that you might be free, corny as that sounds.)

It wasn't the Tories who filled London with surveillance cameras and made it legal to lock up brown people without trial.

Well maybe not the surveillance cameras (because, basically, of tech limits), but they sure as hell locked up lot of Irish Catholics on pretty shite evidence, and they sure as hell did some evil things to the unions that were very damn close to being unconstitutional bless the Lords for dodging that bullet, and the travellers episode wasn't exactly pretty, and do you know Brixton? yeah, there was a bit of civil unrest inspired by the good ol' sus laws which, oddly enough, made it legal to lock up brown people very easily.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:22 AM
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But once there was a casus belli on the table, their monstrosity is a fair part of the equation

No it's not! You don't get to run around the world toppling governments just because! That's not how you make the world a better place, that's how you end up killing a lot more people than would otherwise end up getting killed! And when you say "oh, and this government is made up of Very Bad People, maybe that's another reason to bomb their country," that's not a casus belli, that's bullshit propaganda.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:22 AM
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It wasn't the Tories who filled London with surveillance cameras and made it legal to lock up brown people without trial.

And it wasn't Batista who sent homosexuals to forced labor and re-education camps, but that doesn't make Castro center-right.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:25 AM
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533: Um, what do you think the RAF was fighting for?

Pretty much the same thing Russian soldiers were fighting for*, to get a belligerent foreign power to stop attacking them. The political system they had while doing so is incidental; if the British had faced a similar attack while under a Cromwellian dictatorship, they would presumably still have fought against would-be invaders, and rightly so.

(* Well, the Russians' case was much more extreme, since they were fighting an enemy that had sworn to exterminate them, not just conquer them.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:27 AM
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Oh, fuck off to Guernica

Fuck off yourself, and go read a fucking book before you start talking about history that you clearly don't fucking understand. The "the men of Fighter Command" were war criminals. Harry Truman and FDR were war criminals. This is pretty fucking obvious from any objective understanding of the laws of war and proscriptions on targeting civilians. The only reason none of these people were tried for their crimes, as even Robert McNamara has noted, was because they won the war.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:28 AM
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535: And that has to do with Tony Blair how?


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:30 AM
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But Krugman's not exactly left hisself, he's a awful centrist as well by those standards.

Krugman is left. Also, Krugman is so much better than Klein or Yglesias that he's in a different league entirely. It's really not fair to EK or MY to try to place them in that company.

I liked the Afghanistan war as a limited, brief, punitive expedition type thing. There have to be consequences for countries that really do, for real, actively assist terrorist movements that strike at the U.S. The "nation-building" element turned it into another doomed imperialist exercise.

WWII was a big world-historical disaster. It's like setting off a bomb that ends up destroying half the neighborhood, including the asshole bully next door. You still don't want to be setting off bombs on a regular basis. The scariest thing about Iraq was realizing how much of the nation was now actively pro-war, just thought that all other things equal war was a real nice idea. The liberal "humanitarian intervention" stuff is part of that generally pro-war stance.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:30 AM
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I know this is deprecated, but could everybody take a deep breath and tone this down a bit?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:30 AM
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members of the Socialist International

And the present government of China claims to be Communist. What's your point? Blair and Brown have run a project to remodel the Labour Party on Clinton's vision for the Democrats, so unless you can persuade us that Mr Bill would appear left wing in a European context (or even an American one), you're not going to sell this one.

WWII is really a black swan, though.

In what sense? Empires have been beating shit out of each other at regular intervals since the Hittites took on the Egyptians.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:30 AM
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Is "they were all war criminals" incompatible with a belief that the war had a beneficial effect on the post-war human rights situation? The two statements don't seem to me to be in opposition.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:31 AM
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You don't get to run around the world toppling governments just because!

Then what are you supposed to do with a belligerent foreign power that has attacked you?


Posted by: Duvall | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:31 AM
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540: Not deprecated at all; it's an excellent idea.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:31 AM
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I should say that I'm pretty sympathetic to the idea that we should nearly eliminate our ability to project force beyond our shores, as it has been amply demonstrated that we're not capable of doing more good than harm (to put it mildly), it seems to have a corrosive effect on our national discourse, and there is a huge opportunity cost, but the reality is we do have an enormous, extremely capable military, and we had a small country partially controlled by some nasty, unpopular people fighting to subjugate the remainder who were harboring people who attacked us. Had I known how incompetent and uninterested the Bush administration was, I wouldn't have supported action, but at the time it seemed like we had the willpower to put enough people on the ground quickly that Afghanistan could have been improved.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:33 AM
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Pretty much the same thing Russian soldiers were fighting for*, to get a belligerent foreign power to stop attacking them.

Really? I thought that the RAF was fighting for things like parliamentary democracy, the ancient rights and liberties of the the British.

(You're arguing that almost every leftist in Europe was shockingly wrong, and that WWII wasn't the right war to fight. I'm sorry, but I back Orwell and Bevan and so-on against you.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:34 AM
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WWII was inextricably linked to WWI, the two were in a sense one long war. Starting the "should we fight a war" story in 1939 is a misrepresentation.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:36 AM
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Is "they were all war criminals" incompatible with a belief that the war had a beneficial effect on the post-war human rights situation?

The statements aren't necessarily incompatible. But to hold up World War II, of all wars, and claiming that it somehow justifies humanitarian intervention, when it was both non-humanitarian in motivation and a foul cavalcade of atrocities in practice, is simply obscene.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:37 AM
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Then what are you supposed to do with a belligerent foreign power that has attacked you?

In what sense would this be toppling a government just because?


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:39 AM
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WWII was the right war to fight, not least because fighting back against aggressors who want to occupy your country often seems like a good idea. But it was several wars. The anti-fascist aspect was not what motivated any of the governments concerned, although obviously many of them were pleased by that outcome. Remember that British volunteers who fought in Spain were smeared by the government as "premature anti-fascists". I think that says more about the outlook of the western allies than the fact that they imposed congenial constitutions on some of their defeated enemies.

(Hope this doesn't sound aggressive- not meant that way.)


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:42 AM
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525: the cause and effect are pretty clear: humans, evil and otherwise, were blown up. Other humans had their human rights restored.

"Other humans" mostly either traded up from Hitler to Stalin -- an obvious improvement in the sense of "not being in extermination camps any more" but otherwise not a particular triumph for human rights -- or were sent off to Israel, where they would turn several million more people into permanent refugees, by Western governments suddenly enthusiastic about Zionism if it meant not having to deal with all these Jews themselves. This result, of course, having been achieved after countless millions of Jews and Gypsies and Russians and other groups were slain.

It was, needless to say, the least bad result possible in the circumstances, but that isn't saying much, and regarding it as some kind of grand moral litmus test corrupts and distorts the entire discourse about the morality of war in ridiculous ways. It's no accident that Dubya tried to portray himself as a modern-day Churchill and terrorists and tin-pot dictators are routinely compared to Hitler.

Since WW2 was really the second act of a conflict begun in WW1, what we should really be asking in place of all this valorizing of WW2 as the last "good" war is how much better-off everyone concerned would have been if WW1 had been averted. Which is a hard question to ask when your main focus is on proving how salutary bombs are for the protection of human rights.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:43 AM
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The "the men of Fighter Command" were war criminals.

Not unless by "Fighter Command" you mean "Bomber Command".


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:44 AM
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Really? Name them. That's not a rhetorical challenge, I'm genuinely curious. Setting the bar for "young" somewhat generously, I can think of...uhh...Laura Rozen.

Nir Rosen would be one. But beyond that, I meet these people at DC parties a lot. I don't remember their names because I suck like that, but there are lots of them. Comparatively young, years overseas, amazing stories to tell, other people tell me about stuff they helped break. Since journalism is dying, and the foreign bureaus are going first, they are mostly in a precarious state employment-wise.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:45 AM
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I'm curious, iir: is there an ideal WWII, one where Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki never happen, that would have been worth fighting?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:46 AM
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538: Your claim seems to be that anyone that doesn't pass your purity test isn't part of the left in their country, local political contexts be damned. I'm using an example to show that this is daft.

Ezra Klein is instinctively pro union, pro wealth redistribution via much more progressive taxation than we currently have, pro making universal healthcare access possible via a robust public option, etc., etc. In the U.S. context, that is straightfowardly left-liberal, not center-right. Since he is also committed to working on issues within the context of the actually existing political dynamics of the U.S. (i.e., the dynamics that lead to legislation getting passed or rejected), he is going to fail your purity test for being left rather than center, but that says more to me about your political compass than does it about where the political center is in the U.S.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:47 AM
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554: no. There is only the actual WWII. There are also fantasies you have in your head, but those do not exist.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:47 AM
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It was, needless to say, the least bad result possible in the circumstances, but that isn't saying much,

No, but it is saying something. Fighting a war is at least sometimes (very rarely! Honest, I truly believe that very, very rarely is this true) the least bad thing to do.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:48 AM
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I have to say that this is one of the reasons why I find talking about foreign policy so utterly exasperating: I had the exact same conversations with right-wingers in 2002-2003 about Iraq, complete with arguments about humanitarian intervention, about how They Were Very Bad People, about World War II, etc. You can swap out the names and nothing has changed. And by the time conventional wisdom finally catches up with reality and figures out we're slaughtering people to no good end, we'll probably be hip-deep into the next war, and we'll get to do it all over again.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:49 AM
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Since WW2 was really the second act of a conflict begun in WW1, what we should really be asking in place of all this valorizing of WW2 as the last "good" war is how much better-off everyone concerned would have been if WW1 had been averted. Which is a hard question to ask when your main focus is on proving how salutary bombs are for the protection of human rights.

What? All it does is push the "bombing for human rights" argument back to WWI instead of WWII, and you can make a decent argument that WWI is just as good an example of that as WWII.

(I'm not quite prepared to make the argument that no one would have been better off if WWI had been averted, but I'm also not willing to dismiss it out of hand. I'm really skeptical that you can make a contemporaneous argument for the notion that WWI should have been averted, though.)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:50 AM
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I like making arguments!


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:50 AM
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I'm really skeptical that you can make a contemporaneous argument for the notion that WWI should have been averted, though.

That it should have been averted, there's a very strong argument for. That it could have been averted without agreement among all the belligerent powers that none of them wanted the war is a harder argument.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:53 AM
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557: The issue here is that as I said in 539.last, we live in a militarist, actively pro-war country, and the idea of WWII as the "good war" is a huge part of the legitimating mythology of that militarism. So while I think it is true in some abstract sense that occasionally wars have to be fought, and good things came out of beating Hitler in WWII, it is far more important to educate people about the ways the idea of a "good war" is a myth. In the U.S., the "necessary war" stuff is immediately seized on to justify carnage in the name of some abstraction.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:53 AM
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558: Tsk. You haven't called anyone here a warblogger yet. C'mon, you know you wanna.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:54 AM
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The "the men of Fighter Command" were war criminals.

Er, you do know that Fighter Command, practically by definition, almost never did anything but shoot down German fighters and bombers i.e engage in perfectly legal actions against other non-civilians, and especially German non-civilian planes trying to commit war crimes over England*?

Since WW2 was really the second act of a conflict begun in WW1, what we should really be asking in place of all this valorizing of WW2 as the last "good" war is how much better-off everyone concerned would have been if WW1 had been averted. Which is a hard question to ask when your main focus is on proving how salutary bombs are for the protection of human rights.

Again, the line about Social Democracy being a stinking corpse springs to mind here -- and it should be noticed that people who were prepared to go to jail and die to avert the First World War were prepared to fight the Second; there's something in that. Also, Liebknecht & Luxembourg were willing to blow up the German reactionaries; I can hardly fault them on that one.

And I would bring up the French Revolutionary Wars (certainly First Alliance), 1830, 1848, bits of 1870, large parts of the anti-colonial struggle, the Spanish Civil War, etc, etc.

* Arguably protecting the bombers flying to Germany was a war crime, but that's a very long bow.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:54 AM
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557: "Something," sure. It's just saying something a lot less compelling than saying that the conflict that set the stage for the massive tragedy of WW2 should never have been indulged, and that fighting a war is ergo usually the worst thing to do, and it's therefore foolish to pretend that WW2 is an unanswerable objection to that point. I'm sicking of seeing WW2 used as a cudgel in debates about war, it's drawing absolutely the wrong lesson from history.

And 558 is exactly right.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:55 AM
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That it could have been averted without agreement among all the belligerent powers that none of them wanted the war is a harder argument.

David Fromkin makes this argument (fairly well I think) in Europe's Last Summer. And 559.2 is crazy talk.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:56 AM
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559, 561: It seems extremely obvious to me that WWI both should have and could have been averted. It's one of the dumbest wars in human history. If that war couldn't have been averted, then no war could have been averted.

Also, I claim credit for first making the WWI connection in 547. I've been flogging this to my friends for years, as soon as they say "Munich!" I say "Sarajevo!"


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:57 AM
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565: Dude, no one here was using it as a cudgel. It got brought up as a counterexample to a claim that war is never going to expand human rights. "Never" doesn't work. I completely buy "very, very rarely". I'd completely buy "if you're in any doubt, don't do it." But "never" is a problem.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:58 AM
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And I would bring up the French Revolutionary Wars (certainly First Alliance), 1830, 1848, bits of 1870, large parts of the anti-colonial struggle, the Spanish Civil War, etc, etc.

Which aren't arguments for war in the abstract, and of course war in the abstract is awful, but sometimes specific wars are the least worst option.

And of course WWI should've been averted --- hell, that's the epochal failure of the Second International...


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:59 AM
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559: All it does is push the "bombing for human rights" argument back to WWI instead of WWII, and you can make a decent argument that WWI is just as good an example of that as WWII.

No, you really can't. The only reason it's possible to do with WWII is that you have the Nazis and the Holocaust -- as universally agreed-upon as evils get -- to work with. WWI is, at least according to the consensus of most historians, basically the canonical example of senseless war being rushed into by powers who had no idea what they were starting, and I don't see any sustainable argument for its effects having been anything other than deleterious.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:59 AM
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That it should have been averted, there's a very strong argument for. That it could have been averted without agreement among all the belligerent powers that none of them wanted the war is a harder argument.

Well, yeah, exactly. Hence my "contemporaneous": Germany, at least, wanted and was going to get a war at some point, and given that I don't see any way you could make an argument at the time that the war should have been averted. (Dear god I hope no one brings up The Pity of War. You wanna talk about people who still act like precocious undergrads...)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:59 AM
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559

... I'm really skeptical that you can make a contemporaneous argument for the notion that WWI should have been averted, though.)

By 1925 or so wasn't WWI widely seen as a total disaster for everyone involved.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:00 PM
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Wait, I'm confused: are there people here actually arguing that the world was "better off" having WWII happen than if it hadn't (i.e., given the political reality in 1939, it's better that the war happened than if it hadn't)? Or is the claim just that some people existed for whom the outcome of the war was hugely positive (the aforementioned "Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and so on living in continental Europe")?

Because the former claim seems insane. And the latter claim is true of all wars. That doesn't generally make them worth the cost.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:02 PM
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571: that argument makes no sense, except as a kind of generalized excuse for war (hey, the other guy wants a fight...). Note also that it is exactly the argument Germany would have made at the time about England or France, or Russia about Austria, or Austria about Russia...


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:02 PM
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536

Pretty much the same thing Russian soldiers were fighting for*, to get a belligerent foreign power to stop attacking them. ...

Not really, the English involvement in WWII was not about Hitler attacking England. Hitler admired the British and did not want war with them. Hitler's opinion of the Russians was not so favorable.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:04 PM
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Perhaps I wasn't clear enough in 559: Yes, of course, given hindsight you can make an excellent argument that WWI should have been averted. But I was trying to make two points:
1) Making that argument *in 1914* is a completely different thing entirely.
2) We don't know what would have happened if the war had been averted. Yes, it's easy to look at WWII and the Holocaust and the Russian Revolution and say "nothing could have been worse", but that's not to say that that's *true*.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:06 PM
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573: Um, I think there's a colorable argument that WW II was preferable to a peaceful Nazi Europe methodically exterminating its disfavored groups. This is not a claim that the human rights benefits were the motivation for any of the belligerent powers to enter the war, but as a description of the net effects, I don't think it's insane.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:07 PM
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Wait, I'm confused: are there people here actually arguing that the world was "better off" having WWII happen than if it hadn't (i.e., given the political reality in 1939, it's better that the war happened than if it hadn't)?

Yes, I think the world is better off for the Allied powers responding to the invasion of Poland by initiating a war with Germany than otherwise.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:08 PM
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That it should have been averted, there's a very strong argument for. That it could have been averted without agreement among all the belligerent powers that none of them wanted the war is a harder argument.

WWI could easily not have happened (at least as it did). It was very much accidental and it is easy to construct alternative histories where it doesn't happen. Of course conditions were ripe so perhaps some war was likely.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:09 PM
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Wait, I'm confused: are there people here actually arguing that the world was "better off" having WWII happen than if it hadn't (i.e., given the political reality in 1939, it's better that the war happened than if it hadn't)?

I think the claim is that the Fascists were going to force a European war sooner or later, so WWII wasn't a choice the Allies made in '39, it was a choice made for them in '36 (when the fascists helped the Francoists against the legitimate Spanish Government) or even '33. Certainly by the Sudetenland Crisis a European war was seen as inevitable and the left ripped into Chamberlain for being basically a Quisling before the letter.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:09 PM
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I haven't read through, so I apologize for what follows, but:

Also, I fully expected that we would plant evidence of weapons programs.

That that didn't happen remains BY FAR the most surprising part of the Iraq disaster to me. And, I have to say, even talking about this shit leaves me sitting on the razor's edge of rage and tears.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:12 PM
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Making that argument *in 1914* is a completely different thing entirely.

right, because in 1914 you would actually need to take a risk for peace, to put something on the line for it and work for it. In hindsight you just need to talk about it. But being unwilling to take risks for peace is just being pro-war. If the great powers had valued peace over war in 1914, then WWI would not have happened.

A lot of what the pro-war, militarist attitude is about is being fundamentally unwilling to believe that human communities are capable of valuing peace in a genuine way. That's why the militarist attitude has to be taken seriously intellectually and otherwise; there is the possibility that human beings are just inherently warlike. Of course, if that is true the human race is doomed, but perhaps you should be willing to fight some wars along the way to help your community survive a little longer.

This may be more of my incomprehensible private cosmology.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:13 PM
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Of course conditions were ripe so perhaps some war was likely.

Conditions were beyond ripe -- for the ten years before the war, all the European powers were poised in expectation of it. (One of the most horribly funny things I ever saw was a description of prewar German plans for the expected war. They were worried about getting stuck in a two-front war, so their plan was the same if hostilities broke out, regardless of the specific circumstances: overrun France. Didn't matter who attacked who, or if Germany was even involved -- if a shot was fired on the continent of Europe, the German plan was to immediately overrun France.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:14 PM
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Yes, of course, given hindsight you can make an excellent argument that WWI should have been averted.

Or even given stronger-willed Russian and German leaders at the time, who'd been less willing to cave to internal pressures to intervene in Austria-Hungary's conflict with Serbia. It's not like people of the day were entirely devoid of foresight or imagination; Kaiser Wilhelm was at least well-enough supplied with both to say "Gentlemen, you will live to regret this" after signing the declaration of war.

We don't know what would have happened if the war had been averted.

We do know what outcomes the war actually had, most especially things like the rise of the Soviet Union, the Armenian genocide and the general casting of the Middle East into the chaos it's enjoyed ever since, and so on. Put these on one scale, and the horrible inevitability of... what, Austra-Hungary and Serbia duking it out without everyone and his dog getting a piece of the action? It's not a hard call.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:14 PM
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577: there's a colorable argument that WW II was preferable to a peaceful Nazi Europe methodically exterminating its disfavored groups

There is a hypothetical, principled and focused war that theoretically could have been fought that would have been preferable to a peaceful Nazi Europe methodically exterminating its disfavored groups, or the actual WWII that was fought from 1939-1945 was preferable to that? Which are you claiming? The first isn't insane, just in my view historically unrealistic. The second is insane.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:15 PM
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We don't know what would have happened if the war had been averted.

The flower of European youth wouldn't have died in a series of muddy fields; that seems pretty good to me.

(Also --- peaceful Nazi Germany? That doesn't exist after '36, and certainly not by '39.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:17 PM
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583

Conditions were beyond ripe -- for the ten years before the war, all the European powers were poised in expectation of it. ...

Doesn't mean war was inevitable, conditions were ripe for a long time for a war between the Soviet Union and the United States but it didn't happen.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:19 PM
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Mr. Shearer is making sense.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:21 PM
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It's one of the dumbest wars in human history.

The existence of the War of the Triple Alliance was of great comfort to me in 03.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:22 PM
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585: I'm going to restate what I understand you to be saying. Anyone not insane should accept that it would have been preferable for the Allies to peacefully stand by while Nazi Germany occupied Europe and exterminated various demographic groups, than for them to have fought the war they did fight.

Is that really what you're saying? Because I don't believe that I'm insane for disagreeing.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:24 PM
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The flower of European youth wouldn't have died in a series of muddy fields; that seems pretty good to me.

See, this is what I'm talking about. Who's to say that if the WWI that actually happened was averted the flower of European youth wouldn't have died in a different war 10 years later? The default assumption seems to be that if our WWI hadn't happened, *no* war would have broken out; I don't see how that's a justifiable assumption at all. (At the very least, no one here seems to have tried to justify it.)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:27 PM
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LB, the "war they did fight" involved over 70 million dead people, including nearly 50 million civilians.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:29 PM
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Conditions were beyond ripe -- for the ten years before the war, all the European powers were poised in expectation of it.

sure, they were all passionate militarists (even more than the U.S. is today) who thought war was morally improving. They were all (not just Germany) spoiling for a fight. Given that everyone wants a war, of course war is inevitable. The questions is whether it is possible to create a situation where that's not true. It's very tough not just from a spiritual but from a prisoner's-dilemma type angle.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:30 PM
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590: I would have read the message there as: the manner in which WWII was fought was a greater evil than the evil it addressed.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:30 PM
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591: The default assumption seems to be that if our WWI hadn't happened, *no* war would have broken out

No, the default assumption is that the effects of WWI were disastrous, because they were. Whether or not a different or might have broken out if it hadn't happened is irrelevant to that fact, except inasmuch as those alternative maybe-wars will probably have been stupid and destructive too.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:32 PM
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The default assumption seems to be that if our WWI hadn't happened, *no* war would have broken out; I don't see how that's a justifiable assumption at all. (At the very least, no one here seems to have tried to justify it.)

Well the hope was that the European Crisis happens and then the Second International pulls a rabbit out the hat and produces the General Strike and we get a nice happy bundle of socialist states. (Yeah, yeah, it's a bit far fetched, Still, one can but dream.)

LB, the "war they did fight" involved over 70 million dead people, including nearly 50 million civilians.

But how would not defending Poland have helped? Appeasement had been tried and it failed.

(If WWII is a black swan, one mustn't apply the lessons of Iraq to it anymore than one can apply it to Iraq.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:36 PM
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LB, the "war they did fight" involved over 70 million dead people, including nearly 50 million civilians.

And, in your counterfactual, what exactly do you think a world with only Nazi Germany as a western power looks like? Serious question.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:37 PM
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591: And if the flower of European youth hadn't died in a series of muddy fields they would have gotten older and died of strokes, heart attacks, and cancer.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:37 PM
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No, the default assumption is that the effects of WWI were disastrous, because they were.

Right. So, should the Entente have sat by and watched the Central Powers carve up Europe amongst themselves? Should the British have watched Belgium's neutrality be violated? What *should* they have done, without knowing then what we know now?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:38 PM
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595 (with "WWI" changed to "WWII") to 596 and 597.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:39 PM
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599: if you make warlike assumptions (that your enemy will "carve up Europe" unless you fight a war against them), then you will be driven to fight a war. That's more assertion than argument.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:40 PM
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Anyone not insane should accept that it would have been preferable for the Allies to peacefully stand by while Nazi Germany occupied Europe and exterminated various demographic groups, than for them to have fought the war they did fight.

Part of them problem here is that it's hardly crazy to think that "the Nazis occupying Europe" is itself an act of war; the hand of almost everyone involved in that war was forced. The second part of the problem is that the war that was fought was very, very costly, not fought on the grounds of explicitly preventing genocides, and I'm not sure anyone would know how to do the math when talking about millions of deaths. (Strict numbers would say, let the Nazis have their way, and most of would say, well, so much the worse for strict numbers, then.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:41 PM
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There was certainly a plausible case, seen from the perspective of 1938-39, that war was worth avoiding even at very considerable humanitarian cost. That's why appeasement (not always, or even generally, a terrible strategy) seemed attractive to some fairly intelligent, and not remotely peacenik, Western leaders. The problem, of course, was that this analysis was wrong: the Nazis and Hitler were actually crazy in a way that made appeasement an impossible strategy, so, in fact, war was not worth avoiding. The British and French rightly realized this during the invasion of Poland.

Stalin, who was of course plenty evil himself, was so convinced of the possibility of appeasing Hitler that he simply refused to believe the overwhelming evidence he had that the Germans were planning an invasion of the Soviet Union in 1940 and 1941. Even by the standards of history's greatest monsters, the Nazis were unusually beligerent.

So, no, going to war in 1939 was not a bad thing to do, although this was really true because of the historically unique pathologies of the Nazis.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:41 PM
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Nah, you can't do that. Nazi Germany was arming for a European war by 1936 and was aggressing against other legitimate governments in Europe; by 1939 they'd actually invaded at least one other nation and were going to invade Poland soon and France pretty soon afterwards. Not doing anything wasn't an option unless you were basically prepared to let Europe from the Urals to Lisbon become fascist lebensraum.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:43 PM
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I'm sorry to change the subject (actually, I'm not at all, but whatever), but does anyone have a real rebuttal to the argument (offered way upthread by iir, and then seconded by apo) that the Obama administration's ramping up of US involvement in Afghanistan (and, by extension, Pakistan) makes no sense whatsoever? And, to be clear, by "makes sense" I mean has some logical strategy lurking beneath the short time tactical kabuki.

Also, in case it's not clear, I'm asking a real question here, as I'm wrestling with abandoning my whirling eyes over these issues, which, for those who know me, is quite a big deal. Oh wait, one more thing: I'm not really interested in whether we should have gone into Afghanistan in the first place. (I thought it was medium-bad idea then. Looking back, I should have been even more concerned than I was. Regardless, I'm more interested in the unfolding issue of our ongoing involvement in what seems an increasingly bloody mess.)


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:43 PM
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if you make warlike assumptions (that your enemy will "carve up Europe" unless you fight a war against them), then you will be driven to fight a war. That's more assertion than argument.

No, it's paying attention to what the Germans were actually doing at the time. They weren't exactly shy about the fact that they wanted to expand their influence in Europe.

But leave that aside. What should the British response to the violation of Belgium's neutrality have been?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:45 PM
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I also think that there's a stronger case to be made about WWI -- not only that the world would have been better if WWI had been avoided (this seems obviously true) but that the world would have been better off if the allies had lost in 1914-1915. Certainly by the standards of 1917-1945 hegemony by a conservative but-semi-Democratic Germany doesn't look that bad.

Things get more complicated when one contemplates the consequences of a German victory in 1917-1918.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:46 PM
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603 is a good analysis, because it makes clear both why WWII may have been necessary in 1939 and why 1939 is a terrible case to use in drawing lessons for the future.

I would add that the unique craziness of Hitler has a huge amount to do with German pathologies arising out of the WWI defeat. Most dictators seem to be quite pragmatic.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:46 PM
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582: ...there is the possibility that human beings are just inherently warlike.

This is my view. I see no evidence that people given the means, motive, and opportunity to initiate wars of aggression will hold back out of principle over the long term. The increasing horror of industrial warfare just means the actual decision for war will be taken by people who won't fight, as opposed to the good old days when the people choosing war actually had to put their lives on the line.

People have been going to war throughout recorded history (and much of our earliest recorded history is the history of warfare), and there is clear evidence of warfare going back to the neolithic. The absence of clear evidence of warfare in the paleolithic or earlier is IMO due to the paucity of the material record, not some utopia on the veldt.

Heck, even chimps engage in organized violence against outgroups. Bonobos appear to be an exception, but I'll bet good money that if we don't drive them to extinction first we'll eventually see them murder each other.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:47 PM
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I'm sorry to change the subject (actually, I'm not at all, but whatever), but does anyone have a real rebuttal to the argument (offered way upthread by iir, and then seconded by apo) that the Obama administration's ramping up of US involvement in Afghanistan (and, by extension, Pakistan) makes no sense whatsoever?

Nope. (The invasion, ok, as long as you don't fuck up; sadly you did, and i can't see any light at the end of the tunnel.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:47 PM
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I also think that there's a stronger case to be made about WWI -- not only that the world would have been better if WWI had been avoided (this seems obviously true) but that the world would have been better off if the allies had lost in 1914-1915. Certainly by the standards of 1917-1945 hegemony by a conservative but-semi-Democratic Germany doesn't look that bad.

I'm in the middle of Mark Mazower's Hitler's Empire. One of the things he discusses early in the book is the German policy towards Poland during WWI. Suffice it to say that based on that, I'm not willing to grant that it doesn't look so bad; in a lot of ways Germany's WWI policy prefigured the Nazis'.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:51 PM
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606: I don't see the point of treating Germany's action as an historical inevitably to which no moral judgments can be attached. If you were reading more carefully, you would have already noticed that I identified Germany and Russia as being most culpable in the outbreak of war. And they should not have done so, and it wasn't inevitable that they would.

Having said that, the Central Powers were not Nazi Germany. Had, say, Britain chosen to stay out of WW1, there was no dreadful genocide on the horizon of the type that WW1 made possible. In fact the likeliest outcome was basically the formation of a German-dominated continental European community, which is what happened anyway two world wars and millions of dead later. So I don't know why you seem to think "should they have stood by and watched" is some kind of gotcha.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:54 PM
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I really can't believe we have people arguing that WWII was a net positive. Is there any number of deaths that would have made stopping the fascists just not worth it?

unless you were basically prepared to let Europe from the Urals to Lisbon become fascist lebensraum

That's a better result than 70 million deaths (50 million civilians!). By far.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:54 PM
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611 -- Yeah, the counterargument is that by the first world war, the militaristic wing of the German polity had already gotten so bad that victory really would have had near-tyrannical consequences. That seems to have become more and more true over the course of the war, which is why I hedged with the idea of a victory in 1914-1915. But of course German policy at the time towards Poland has to be seen in light of the Czar's treatment of the same region at the time (I haven't read Mazower's book, so maybe it would change my mind). Certainly a Europe ruled by the Germany of 1900 seems like a better deal than much of what happened in the 30 years after 1914.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:57 PM
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The vast bulk of the largest battles of WWII were fought, and won, on the Eastern Front by soldiers under the command of Stalin against soldiers under the command of Hitler.

Yeah, so?

It's nonsensical to talk about WWII as the securing of human rights by military means.

It's nonsensical not to. Whatever complex mix of motivations the belligerents had, the outcome at the end was unambiguously better for human rights than if the Western allies had declined to fight (i.e. Hitler and Stalin divvying up Eastern Europe, Hitler rulling over Western Europe, and the Empire of Japan in control of East Asia).

You don't have to uncritically accept the Greatest Generation mythology (which I certainly do not) to appreciate the pivotal importance to the cause of human rights of defeating Hitler and Tojo.

Apo's black swan argument is defensible (though I would argue wrong). IIR's denialism is laughable. I'm not sure I can ever take seriously anything he/she writes again.


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 12:58 PM
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613: What are the total figures for the Holocaust? 6 million Jews, and I'm vaguely recalling 11 million total? (googling gets me numbers all over the place). You don't need to let that go on too long before it becomes comparable to the WW II death toll. I mean, maybe they would have stopped when they ran out of Jews and gypsies, but I'd hate to rely on that and be wrong.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:00 PM
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600, 613: And I can't believe you're so blithe about what life under a regime with death camps from the North Sea to Siberia would be like.

I also don't take the deaths to be the only effect of World War II: the postwar settlement, the founding of the U.N. and other liberal international institutions and norms, the collapse of the British Empire, etc.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:01 PM
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That's a better result than 70 million deaths (50 million civilians!). By far.

But those 70 million would probably have died anyway, unless you want the French and the Poles and the Russians and the Dutch and so-on to surrender as soon as the Germans turn up, which you just can't ask.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:01 PM
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You don't have to uncritically accept the Greatest Generation mythology (which I certainly do not) to appreciate the pivotal importance to the cause of human rights of defeating Hitler and Tojo.

Because no comparable human rights advances have ever been achieved through peaceful measures? Because there's no chance human rights advances would have been made in those very countries in subsequent years of peace, even if Hitler and Tojo had stayed in power? Because firebombing civilian populations in warfare was so much better than throwing people in concentration camps??


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:05 PM
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I can sympathize with you, Brock, if you're a literal no-war-ever pacifist; I'm not one, but I can take a position that killing is wrong, and there is never a sufficient reason to do it, seriously. Short of that, though, I can't follow you.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:09 PM
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619: Maybe if everyone had just agreed that Hitler could be World Dictator, then he would have been happy and not been such a meanie.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:09 PM
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What are the total figures for the Holocaust?

That's all pretty much conjecture, isn't it?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:09 PM
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The tenor of the argument here really is flirting with the idea that Lincoln was wrong to go to war in 1861, isn't it? Ron Paul 2012!


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:10 PM
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Because firebombing civilian populations in warfare was so much better than throwing people in concentration camps??

Um, the fascists started firebombing civilians in 1936; there wasn't much that would stop that happening again by '39.

(And of course firebombing civilians was repugnant no matter who did it or why, but to imagine that you could avoid the terror bombing of civilians by not defending Poland in '39 seems a bit unlikely.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:10 PM
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Skimming the thread, it looks like Brock and IIR have been neglecting a powerful argument on their side: the possibility of nonviolent resistance to Hitler. For many, this might seem bizarre and unlikely, but once we are in the realm of counterfactual history, it is a legitimate thing to think about Moreover, the only actions that directly saved the lives of Jews in the real world were nonviolent acts.

You don't have to get stuck in a false dilemma between appeasing Hitler and firebombing Dresden


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:10 PM
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(sorry, '37. i always forget how fast Picasso worked.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:11 PM
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The premise behind 613 is wrong, but for interesting reasons that also help to explain why in many ways WWII really was, in a sense, a war fought for "humanitarian" reasons. That is, the resistance to Hitler, on all fronts, really was motivated in large part by a belief that it was necessary to combat the unique horrors of Naziism. In Britain's case, Hitler would probably have been quite willing to have allowed a defanged Britain to survive, and possibly to maintain the empire. Fortunately, IMO, the British right represented by Churchill chose not to make the same bargain that their French counterparts had made, and to engage in a dogged resistance that I believe was largely ideological in nature. Germany declared war on the United States, but only did so because Roosevelt had already decided to become the industrial base for the allied front; had the United States simply decided that the Nazis were none of their problem, it could have done so.

The Soviet Union is more complicated, of course, by Stalin and by the fact that Soviet troops quite literally had guns to their backs threatening them with death if they didn't fight. With that said, I think it's pretty clear that Hitler could have won even on the Eastern Front if the Nazis and the German Army hadn't been quite so beastly; in 1939-41 there were plenty of folks in the Soviet Union willing to take the bet that Hitler was better than the Communist alternative, but by 1942 most were convinced that even a hell of a lot of slaughter was better than life under the Nazis.

The war in the Pacific is more complicated in this way, but with a similar dynamic -- the Japanese didn't have to be as horrible as they were, and a lot of the resistance to them was based on their tendency to be particularly brutal conquerors. Overy's Why the Allies Won is pretty good on these themes.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:12 PM
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Moreover, the only actions that directly saved the lives of Jews in the real world were nonviolent acts.

I think I know what you mean, but I'd love to here more.

That's all pretty much conjecture, isn't it?

See above.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:12 PM
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"hear" of course

I have a hard time spelling when I'm trying to remain sivil.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:14 PM
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Apo's black swan argument is defensible (though I would argue wrong).

Go for it.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:14 PM
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625: Orwell considered and rejected the possibility of nonviolent resistance to Hitler in an essay, claiming that it could only be effective where there was a free press and a government that could be shamed by public opinion.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:14 PM
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616: Yeah, so... when far and away the most decisive theatre of the war is a conflict between totalitarian dictatorships, what you are witnessing is not a battle for human rights. This doesn't seem an abstruse point.

Defeating Hitler and Tojo had pivotal importance to the cause of defeating Hitler and Tojo. Hitler's defeat stopped the Final Solution and replaced it, in the regions that had suffered the worst from Nazi rule, with Soviet rule; a win for human rights, but not what I'd call an impressive one. Tojo's defeat replaced Japan's attempt to replace European colonialism with various frantic attempts to reassert European colonialism, leading ultimately to charnel houses like Vietnam and Cambodia. Kind of a wash.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:15 PM
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625: Yes, I believe this was Gandhi's position.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:15 PM
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632: Western Europe may not have been the most significant theatre of war, but it's not entirely negligible.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:16 PM
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No, I'm not a literal no-war-ever pacifist, but WWII was a world-historic disaster. And a human rights disaster. Everyone agrees that the fascists were also world-historic monsters, but that doesn't make the distaster that transpired in tearing them from power ipso facto a good thing.

And, no, ari, I wouldn't say it's clear that Lincoln going to war in 1861 was the right move. I don't have a strong view on that, but I'm inclined to think it wasn't.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:17 PM
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625, see 619.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:18 PM
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I don't have a strong view on that, but I'm inclined to think it wasn't.

I have real trouble with this.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:19 PM
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See above.

I mean that LB's getting numbers all over the place because there isn't any way to get a reliable count either then or now. 10 million victims seems like a pretty solid floor, but after that, it's mostly guesswork for how much higher the actual number is, right?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:19 PM
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I'm inclined to think it wasn't.

That's mighty white of you.


Posted by: Duvall | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:20 PM
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Thanks, Brock. That's actually a very helpful clarification. I think if one is willing to dispense with notions like "national sovereignty", or perhaps "the nation" overall, it becomes much easier to defend a near-universal anti-war position.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:20 PM
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638: Yeah, that's what I thought you meant. And I think you're mostly right, though there are (supposedly) some pretty good statistical models out there that help answer the question. I'll ask a colleague who actually knows something about this and get back to you. Or not, because it doesn't really matter that much.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:22 PM
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634: I didn't say it was negligilble, but that the Eastern Front was far and away the most important theatre. That's where the bulk of the Wehrmacht was, that's where most of the largest battles of the war happened, that's the entire reason Hitler was vulnerable on a western front to begin with.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:22 PM
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628: I'm not the historian here, but I have the general sense that the Danish and Norwegian resistance movements did a good job of smuggling out Jews, and that this sort of operation is the only thing you can point to as a direct effort to save Jewish lives. Interestingly, i know of know parallel effort for the Roma.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:24 PM
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637: what sort of trouble?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:24 PM
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635
I wouldn't say it's clear that Lincoln going to war in 1861 was the right move.

The South shot first. I mean, not that we don't have enough historical hypotheticals going on here, but...


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:24 PM
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I cannot BELIEVE I am entering this thread (except that I've been pondering the comic timing of coming back in with something about pundit blogging).

Nevertheless, I'm thinking that one of Dr. King's organizing principles was that non-violence resistance and accepting the civil consequences could simply overwhelm both daily commercial life and the (bigoted) justice system if it were done on a big enough scale. There couldn't be effective punishment for all participants in mass civil disobedience.

Considering the size and scalability of concentration camps, I don't think that would have held in the world of undeterred Nazi Germany.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:25 PM
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631: Orwell's response to Gandhi mostly just displayed how little Orwell understood nonviolent resistance.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:25 PM
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642: Sure, the Eastern Front was by far the most militarily important. That doesn't make the difference between, e.g., the Netherlands under the Nazis and the Netherlands as they were after the war negligible from a human rights point of view
.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:26 PM
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Because no comparable human rights advances have ever been achieved through peaceful measures?

When and where?


Posted by: Gabriel | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:26 PM
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WE WILL NOT FIGHT!!


Posted by: OPINIONATED OXFORD UNION | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:27 PM
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Right. So, should the Entente have sat by and watched the Central Powers carve up Europe amongst themselves? Should the British have watched Belgium's neutrality be violated? What *should* they have done, without knowing then what we know now?

Thrown Serbia under the bus.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:29 PM
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646: Nonviolent resistance in India had little to do with the British capacity for shame -- a face-saving myth that emerged after the fact, AFAICT -- and everything to do with the fact that an Indian mass movement could shut down the local cooperation that the Raj depended on, and its being a nonviolent movement made communal "divide-and-rule" tactics harder to employ against it.

A nonviolent resistance movement that managed to win over the German populace in a Nazi-ruled Germany could probably bring it down; there's only so many people you can shovel into concentration camps before you start to impair your own state. Unfortunately the fascists already had the "mass movement" thing sewn up.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:30 PM
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Returning to the thread's earlier discussion, my experiment reading Yglesias didn't last very long. "I'm actually 100 percent positive that were Oprah on the Supreme Court she would do a good job." Okay, enough for me, I'm done...


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:31 PM
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The last time we had this argument, I tried to claim that slavery in the South could have been resisted nonviolently, and backed that up by pointing out that Blacks only got real equality after a nonviolent movement.

Slack pointed out that one of the things that made the nonviolent movement possible was the advances in education of African-Americans after emancipation.

I don't remember much else of the argument, but Slack's point stood out as cogent.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:31 PM
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602

Part of them problem here is that it's hardly crazy to think that "the Nazis occupying Europe" is itself an act of war; the hand of almost everyone involved in that war was forced. ...

Not really, France and England declared war on Germany not vice versa.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:32 PM
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637: That it would have been the right thing to do to walk peacefully away from a portion of the US engaged in horrific crimes against humanity and that had seceded specifically so that it could go on committing those crimes without engagement in a peaceful political process that might threaten its ability to continue. The Confederacy, as a political entity, was a nightmare that had to be blotted from the earth.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:34 PM
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645: the South shot at Union troops stationed in a Fort on Confederate territory. It's not as if they invaded the Union.

654: I think a better bet would have been trade embargoes.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:34 PM
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643: There were organized efforts to save Jews all over Europe (though almost none of those efforts rose to the national level). Which is to say, lots of individuals (righteous gentiles, if you want the term of art) saved lots of Jews. But that's not really what you said upthread. You said: "the only* actions that directly saved the lives of Jews in the real world were nonviolent acts." I suppose the charitable reading is that "directly" is doing an awful lot of work there. The uncharitable reading, though, is what I jumped to first. In that reading, you're totally ignoring the fact that the war saved the lives of millions of Jews. And I jumped to that reading because it seems to serve your argument. The reason it matters, of course, is that the number of Jews saved, even if inadvertently, by violent acts (the war) exceeds the number saved by non-violent acts by so many orders of magnitude that I can't really grapple with the math. Maybe James will help.

* Emphasis added for dickishness.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:34 PM
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652 dramatically, and completely unrealistically, minimizes the differences between a totalitarian state like Nazi Germany and a colonialist democracy like Great Britain. How would the networks for such a nonviolent resistance have formed? How would the notoreity of the putative German Ghandi been established? Why wouldn't the Nazis simply, and quickly, have murdered everyone involved in the putative German National Congress?

It is not to excuse British colonialism to say that it did not remotely have the kind of repressive power over society that the Nazi or Soviet tyrranies did.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:35 PM
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604

Nah, you can't do that. Nazi Germany was arming for a European war by 1936 and was aggressing against other legitimate governments in Europe; by 1939 they'd actually invaded at least one other nation and were going to invade Poland soon and France pretty soon afterwards. ...

Not convinced about France.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:35 PM
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605

I'm sorry to change the subject (actually, I'm not at all, but whatever), but does anyone have a real rebuttal to the argument (offered way upthread by iir, and then seconded by apo) that the Obama administration's ramping up of US involvement in Afghanistan (and, by extension, Pakistan) makes no sense whatsoever? And, to be clear, by "makes sense" I mean has some logical strategy lurking beneath the short time tactical kabuki.

It makes no sense to me. I have no idea what we are trying to accomplish.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:36 PM
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The Confederacy, as a political entity, was a nightmare that had to be blotted from the earth.

Lots and lots (and lots) of political entities are "nightmares". It's not clear to me where you'd like to draw the line as to which ones must be blotted from the earth. You've got the Confederacy and Nazi Germany on one side, and, presumably, most of the world's current horrible states on the other, and I'm not sure how you're dividing them.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:38 PM
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Is 657.1 for real? I'm sorry to be incredulous, but that argument is so preposterous on its face that I don't know what to say. Again, you need to completely deny the legitimacy of national sovereignty to make your case. If that's your argument, so be it. But if not, you have to be kidding.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:38 PM
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648: I didn't say it was. Though Nazi rule in Western Europe was notably less draconian than in the East -- unless you were Jew being shipped to the East -- and the contrast is therefore smaller.

I don't remember the thread rob mentions in 654, but that's certainly what I would say to that sort of point. At any rate, the South were the belligerents in 1861 as Cyrus points out; Lincoln did not have a choice about going to war.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:38 PM
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Slavery and death camps.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:38 PM
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unless you were basically prepared to let Europe from the Urals to Lisbon become fascist lebensraum

That's a better result than 70 million deaths (50 million civilians!). By far.

Then there's my favorite counter factual about atomic weapons. Do you think that, once atomic weapons were developed it was inevitable that they would be used at some point.

There is some part of me that thinks, whatever the morality of the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that it was a good thing that the first, and only, use of atomic weapons were essentially prototypes.

I could easily imagine a victorious Germany using atomic weapons in the post-colonial wars of the 60s and 70s. Go back and look at all the quote from the time of people suggesting nuking Vietnam, and I wonder if that would have happened had their not been an example.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:38 PM
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The Confederacy, as a political entity, was a nightmare that had to be blotted from the earth.

Same argument the Bush administration made about Iraq and Afghanistan, and Nixon made about Vietnam, and Reagan made about the Sandanistas, etc.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:39 PM
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Sandinistas, that is.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:39 PM
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616

What are the total figures for the Holocaust? 6 million Jews, and I'm vaguely recalling 11 million total? (googling gets me numbers all over the place). You don't need to let that go on too long before it becomes comparable to the WW II death toll. I mean, maybe they would have stopped when they ran out of Jews and gypsies, but I'd hate to rely on that and be wrong.

The Holocaust was at least partially a product of the war.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:40 PM
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667: That an argument has been made falsely doesn't mean that it's never true.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:40 PM
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646: Nonviolent resistance in India had little to do with the British capacity for shame -- a face-saving myth that emerged after the fact, AFAICT -- and everything to do with the fact that an Indian mass movement could shut down the local cooperation that the Raj depended on, and its being a nonviolent movement made communal "divide-and-rule" tactics harder to employ against it.

Nah, in Nazi Europe the Amritsar massacre would've been standard practice not a disreputable aberration, the press wouldn't have been allowed to report it, any Gandhi figures would have been shot very quickly. etc. Satyragraha relied on things like the British letting Gandhi be educated in London, letting Gandhi have some rights, letting the free press operate generally. Not shame, but an unwillingness to use brutally disgusting force that wouldn't have restrained the Germans in Europe dealing with Slavs or French.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:40 PM
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It's the same argument any number of countries could make about the modern United States, and they would have ample evidence to back it. Does it make it worth nuking NYC?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:42 PM
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665: we should declare total war against any country in which either of those if present?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:42 PM
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671 is obviously and completely right.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:42 PM
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is


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:42 PM
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673: No.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:43 PM
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I have to stop this if I'm going to get work done, so I'll leave with this statement. I'm not an absolute no-war-ever pacifist, because I'm not an absolute no-anything-everist. I acknowledge that WWII and the civil war are the hard cases for pacifism, but I have never devoted enough effort to thinking them through in part because I am not a historian but mostly because there's nothing I can do about them. Mostly I just stick with pointing out that no one in my lifetime has offered me a chance to fight a war that was anything but a defense of empire.

I'm grading now. Nothing but grading.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:43 PM
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673 - It depends on whether they are hoarding valuable natural resources.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:44 PM
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Has Brock suddenly become an analytic philosopher? Because his mind is drifting pretty far off into trolley-car-problem land.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:45 PM
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676: oh. Then I don't understand 665.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:45 PM
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That it would have been the right thing to do to walk peacefully away from a portion of the US engaged in horrific crimes against humanity and that had seceded specifically so that it could go on committing those crimes without engagement in a peaceful political process that might threaten its ability to continue. The Confederacy, as a political entity, was a nightmare that had to be blotted from the earth.

There are good reasons why it happened the way it happened, but it would have been far cheaper to buy every slave in the union and/or subsidize wages to the extent that slavery became uneconomic.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:46 PM
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631

Orwell considered and rejected the possibility of nonviolent resistance to Hitler in an essay, claiming that it could only be effective where there was a free press and a government that could be shamed by public opinion.

There was a famous case in which nonviolent resistence was successful. The circumstances were rather special of course. However the Nazis did care about public opinion.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:46 PM
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680: A dozen slaves? Not enough. Ten people murdered while surrounded with barbed wire? Not enough. At some point, numbers matter.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:46 PM
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Go for it.

OK, here's my (partial) list of military conflicts that--regrettable as they might have been--were preferrable, from a human rights perspective, to not fighting (which is not to say that they were motivated exclusively or even partially by concern for human rights).

-WWII
-American Civil War
- Spanish Republican resistance to the Franco coup
- Croatian and Bosnian defense against Serbia after 1990
- Chinese resistance after the Japanese invasion of Manchuria
- Rebellion of Rhodesia's black majority against the white government
- Invasion of Rwanda by Burundi
- Vietnamese toppling of Pol Pot
- Slave rebellion in Santo Domingo/Haiti
- Bolivarian revolution in South America
- Attempted suppression of Texan revolt by Mexico (failed, obviously)
- UN intervention in support of South Korean independence
- Defense of Cyprus against Turkish invasion

You could quibble with the inclusion of any one of these (and I have a few more that are a little more ambiguous, e.g. anti-Portugese revolt in Mozambique and Angola), but I think the list suffices to establish a fair case that WWII was not a black swan.


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:47 PM
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657
the South shot at Union troops stationed in a Fort on Confederate territory. It's not as if they invaded the Union.

Yes it is. The fort was there before South Carolina or anything else started its rebellion in defense of slavery. If the CSA had offered to buy the fort from the USA, the two parties made a deal, and the USA reneged on that deal, then the CSA could claim self-defense. As it is*, the fort was federal territory, de facto and as far as I know de jure, as surely as a national park or an embassy.

* As far as I know, etc.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:48 PM
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681: Ron Paul 2012! Which is to say, Lincoln offered compensated emancipation as an option and had the offer thrown back in his face. Given that, if doing away with slavery was a goal, how, acknowledging the slaveocracy's intransigence, do you think war could have been avoided?


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:49 PM
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685 et al: While I'm generally arguing on your side, that's more an argument that the North was legally entitled to go to war than that they had to. If they'd evacuated the forts in seceded territory, it's not like the South would have attacked.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:51 PM
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671: Satyagraha exploited the colonial system against itself. The British "let" people like Gandhi get Oxford educations because they could not run India without local proxies.

Nah, in Nazi Europe the Amritsar massacre would've been standard practice not a disreputable aberration, the press wouldn't have been allowed to report it, any Gandhi figures would have been shot very quickly. etc.

One is assuming of a successful nonviolent resistance movement that it has enough depth to withstand the loss of one particular leader. Which is to say, a Non-Cooperation Movement should be just as capable of sustaining casualties and continuing to function as an armed movement if it expects to get anywhere.

Of course, totalitarianism is designed to make either kind of movement much harder to sustain. But I don't know as to whether the Nazis could sustain the kind of repression and disappearances of Germans that would be required to destroy a popular movement against them among Germans. It's a different proposition altogether from slaughtering Slavs or exterminating Jews and Gypsies.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:52 PM
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I apologize for bringing up the case of the US Civil War. I thought I was clarifying the issue of national sovereignty and the rule of law. But instead, I only muddied the waters. Also, this thread now seems to have been cooked up in a laboratory by a scientist trying to kill me. So I'm going to return to my regular practice of only commenting in off hours. Again, I'm sorry for having complicated an already complex discussion.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:53 PM
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After reading a big chunk of this discussion, I just spent fifteen minutes driving behind a truck with a bumper sticker reading "Except for ending slavery, fascism, nazism, and communism, war has never solved anything." Everyone here suddenly seems much more reasonable.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:53 PM
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And yeah, I've got to bow out, too.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:53 PM
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684

- Spanish Republican resistance to the Franco coup

This is completely wrong. Losing wars are almost never a good idea and this is no exception.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:54 PM
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685: buy the fort? Every goddamn thing in the south had previously been federal territory. They couldn't buy it all. It's odd that you'd consider that fort "federal territory" but not, say, the city of Atlanta--the only difference was the presence of Union troops in the fort. And I believe the troops were given an opportunity to leave before being fired upon.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:54 PM
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Don't go, Ari! We haven't even talked about rebuilding New Orleans!


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:54 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:55 PM
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693: I think you're right, but you're missing the distinction between "US Territory," which had been the whole South, and "Federal Property," which describes an army fort but not the city of Atlanta.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:55 PM
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's odd that you'd consider that fort "federal territory" but not, say, the city of Atlanta--the only difference was the presence of Union troops in the fort.

Um, that and the fact that the fort was the property of the federal government.


Posted by: Gabriel | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:56 PM
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688: But I don't know as to whether the Nazis could sustain the kind of repression and disappearances of Germans that would be required to destroy a popular movement against them among Germans. It's a different proposition altogether from slaughtering Slavs or exterminating Jews and Gypsies.

I don't know details or numbers, but weren't there plenty of ethnic Germans in the camps? The category I'm thinking of is "Communists", but I'm pretty sure you could get disappeared for ideological reasons pretty easily.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:57 PM
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Of course, totalitarianism is designed to make either kind of movement much harder to sustain. But I don't know as to whether the Nazis could sustain the kind of repression and disappearances of Germans that would be required to destroy a popular movement against them among Germans. It's a different proposition altogether from slaughtering Slavs or exterminating Jews and Gypsies.

Yes. Of course they could. Look at what happened to the Socialists and the Communists anyway.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:58 PM
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Sorry, Megan, I have a book to write. And I was upset enough by rehashing the road to Iraq. Adding the Holocaust and the Civil War (again, my own fault) into the mix makes this an unhealthy discussion for me. At best, I'm going to be a jerk to somebody who doesn't deserve it (sorry, rob). At worst, I'm going to kill an afternoon and give myself a migraine -- after having been a jerk to somebody who doesn't deserve it.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:58 PM
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699: I like the way you think.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:59 PM
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699: Point.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 1:59 PM
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690
Everyone here suddenly seems much more reasonable.

Thanks. Yeah, this has been an odd discussion.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:00 PM
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It's hard to know if 695 is bob or the ToS. Okay, later all.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:00 PM
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698

I don't know details or numbers, but weren't there plenty of ethnic Germans in the camps? The category I'm thinking of is "Communists", but I'm pretty sure you could get disappeared for ideological reasons pretty easily.

There were two types of camps, prison camps for ideological opponents and death camps for racial inferiors. The Nazis were more reluctant to kill racial equals. Which is why Western POWs were treated reasonably.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:01 PM
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696: it was the property of the former United States. The former United States states were no more (in the Confederate view): they were now the partially the Confederacy. Military forts (and other property) that formerly belonged to the United States would therefore need to be divided. It makes as much sense as anything to let each half keep the property that was in its territory.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:01 PM
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Christ, and 684. Christ. But I've gotta go.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:02 PM
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688 -- Um, I'm sure you know this, but before 1933 roughly half of the German population belonged to political parties sworn against the Nazis, in the case of the Communists fatally so? Faulting the Germans for not developing a kind of non-violent resistance seems utterly unrealistic.

There were, of course, occasional moments of popular nonviolent resistance to aspects of the Nazi rule, but their limited effectiveness really just goes to prove how powerful the Nazi terror apparatus was -- e.g., popular distaste with the Kristallnacht riots just led to making the Jewish extermination more streamlined and more covert; the story of the White Rose society really just shows how impossible it was to get such an organization off the ground.

Indeed, there is almost no evidence that an effective nonviolent resistance movement is possible in a totalitarian state. The only counterexample I can think of was Solidarity in Poland, which arose at a time and in a place where the Soviet system had already lost many of its totalitarian features; attempts to forge a non-violent resistance against the Hitlers, Stalins, Maos, and Pol Pots of the world have proven completely impossible to acheive. I'm all in favor of nonviolent resistance where possible, but to state that it was a credible or conceivable alternative to Nazi rule in the 1930s is really in the land of make-believe.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:04 PM
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So, um, about those Dells.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:04 PM
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Ari, I was teasing, because I thought that we hadn't hit every last one of your buttons yet. Of course you should go do work that will ease your agitation.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:07 PM
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I think I should duck out as well. I'm getting more upset than is healthy. I'm honestly surprised there's as much bloodthirst as there seems to be here. I hadn't particpated in previous threads on similar topics, so I guess I'd missed that. I wish I'd missed it again.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:08 PM
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709: Definitely an annoying marketing campaign, but probably falls short of a justification for war.


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:09 PM
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I'm honestly surprised there's as much bloodthirst as there seems to be here. I hadn't particpated in previous threads on similar topics, so I guess I'd missed that. I wish I'd missed it again.

You know, nothing you'd said until now had made me angry rather than bemusing me. But calling people bloodthirsty for thinking the Civil War and WW II were a good thing for human rights is really unnecessary.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:12 PM
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711: Aww, and I was all set to argue with 706. Phooey.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:12 PM
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709: Faulting the Germans for not developing a kind of non-violent resistance seems utterly unrealistic.

You're overreading, or underreading, or misreading, or something. I refer you to 652. I already said that non-violent movements are most effective as mass movements, and that they're not realistic when someone else has beaten you to forming the mass movement. This naturally would apply to other totalitarianisms as well, all of which sprang from mass movements.

So no, I'm not "faulting the Germans" for this, thank you very much. I'm just conducting a thought experiment about what the dynamics of such a hypothetical movement might have looked like in the event of their managing to reclaim mass support from the ruling party.

Christ, why the fuck am I posting. Going, going.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:12 PM
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713: he meant aryan blood, geez.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:12 PM
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713: I've been commenting here for nearly four years, and you can't tell that's a joke? Sheesh.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:13 PM
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Maybe I should use more emoticons.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:15 PM
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No, Brock, I couldn't tell it was a joke.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:15 PM
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717: You've been commenting that long and you don't know that LB takes everything seriously?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:16 PM
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An emoticon of LB ripping out someone's throat with the victim's blood pouring out? Where do you get that?


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:16 PM
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719: Well I guess that means I'm banned. Again.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:16 PM
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I think the list suffices to establish a fair case that WWII was not a black swan.

We're not talking about the same thing at all, pp. None of the conflicts in your list are remotely similar to WWII, where nearly every industrialized power in the world was participating in an all-out war. My point was that WWII is so very unlike other military conflicts (and I completely agree with PGD that WWI and WWII should be seen as one conflict with a lull in the middle) that it's not a useful analogy to anything.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:17 PM
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715 -- OK, I'll admit to a misreading then. Sorry. It can be hard when arguing about counter-factual history to figure out at just what degree of abstraction from reality we're talking about, or just what the counter-factual is supposed to illuminate.

Of course, an interesting thing about pre-Nazi Germany is that the Nazis were only one of several competing mass movements, and far from obviously the dominant one. The speed and depth with which the non-Nazi movements went underground is fascinating.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:18 PM
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695 wasn't me, whatever it was. It's gone, so I can't see what I didn't say.

I have stayed out of this thread. But now I troll.

Obama, the absolute best America and the Democratic party has to offer the world, the acme of liberalism, reopens the Gitmo Tribunals Amnesty International and ACLU are publicly outraged. Racists.

I dream of Paris and revolution.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:21 PM
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I already said that non-violent movements are most effective as mass movements, and that they're not realistic when someone else has beaten you to forming the mass movement.

I think this is wrong. It's not like the segragationists in the South weren't a mass movement that outnumbered civil rights activists in the South. If you had given the segragationists the advantages of having a totalitarian state apparatus governing in their states, the civil rights movement would have never succeeded.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:22 PM
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Ghandi's not-so-secret weapon was the fact that the British were never more than an infinitesimal minority in India, and their continued rule relied as much upon the acquiescence, if not consent, of the governed as it did the Maxim. If the british had the same representation in India as the fascists had in Germany, the Mahatma might have had to resort to this sort of thing.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:23 PM
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Christ, why the fuck am I posting. Going, going.

This is just a reminder that you should leave the thread, lest you be tempted to comment again.

Hopefully there will be another music thread, or something, before your window of commenting time closers.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:23 PM
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I don't get that --- maybe we should say that there has just been one war since the beginning of time with a few lulls here and there.....


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:23 PM
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An emoticon of LB ripping out someone's throat with the victim's blood pouring out?

Want!


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:25 PM
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If war is not holy, man is nothing but antic clay.


Posted by: OPINIONATED JUDGE HOLDEN | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:26 PM
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729: I swear that I had copied and pasted this --and I completely agree with PGD that WWI and WWII should be seen as one conflict with a lull in the middle

before my comment.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:26 PM
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There are two quite different kinds of analogies that are often drawn from WWII, both, I think, pernicious, but often invoked by different sides of the political spectrum:

1) We must never let Munich happen again; appeasement is always wrong, and the only thing tyrants understand is aggressive force.

[This is wrong because it is demonstrably untrue; tyrants are often susceptible to appeasement and can be contained by it, and appeasement is often a better alternative to war. The fact that it wasn't in 1938-39 has a lot to do with specific facts about the Nazis and the geopolitical situation of the time].

2) We must never let the Holocaust happen again, and military intervention by the civilized world is the best way to prevent a second Holocaust, and it is therefore necessary for good countries to invade bad ones whenever we think that there is something like a genocide going on.

[This is wrong because it is unrealistic and undervalues the costs of interventions; sometimes, sadly, interventions make things worse, and it causes people to overlook the specifics of particular genocides and the intricacies of particular political situations]


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:27 PM
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I imagine a world without war, and then I remember the Internet.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:29 PM
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729: WWII was a direct result of the settlement imposed on Germany at the end of WWI. I'd also argue that Iraq Wars I&II are the same war, though that's a much less complicated case to make.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:32 PM
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||

It was an online community bris with everyone making cutting remarks about each others' manhood

|>


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:39 PM
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I'm still curious about the case I brought up back in 462. I have a hard time imagining how a US invasion of Cambodia under Pol Pot would not have been a good thing. It's the only example that almost convinces me that one can't make an argument that military intervention against repressive/murderous governments is always a bad idea. I would be curious if anyone thinks the outcome of a US invasion would have been worse than the actual outcome. (Otherwise we're just, as they say, haggling over the price.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:43 PM
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WWII was a direct result of the settlement imposed on Germany at the end of WWI

10% at most. By 1929-30, reparations weren't a problem.

In my study of the FR, I see that France and Germany were fighting over Alsace and the industrial Rhine at least since 1793. Going to Wiki, looks like it dates to maybe 1299. That wasn't going to be settled short of a European Hegemon.

I think the same is true of (South) Western Poland. Fuck, probably back to the Teutonic Knights. And well, both places were worth real money.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:48 PM
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I would argue that it was better for the Vietnamese to invade Cambodia than for the Americans to invade it, yes. Pol Pot didn't take power in 1976, and having finally gotten out of Vietnam, we weren't about to go invading any more SE Asian countries anyhow.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:48 PM
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So, um, about those Dells.

I'm surprised the Stewart fan fic didn't have more of an impact on the thread. But maybe there wasn't much to be said about it. It's not like it saved anyone's human rights or anything.

BTW, ari shouldn't feel bad about the Civil War. I alluded to it (elliptically) way back when. But here I go for a bike ride (I've already picked out which stop signs I will ignore).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:49 PM
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Until 1976, I mean.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:50 PM
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739: Clearly the US wouldn't have done it, under any imaginable circumstances, I'm just asking if it would have been a good thing if we had. And I agree it was good that the Vietnamese did, though it would have been nice if it had happened before such a large fraction of Cambodians were dead....


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:50 PM
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It was an online community bris with everyone making cutting remarks about each others' manhood

I disagree strongly with this characterization of WW2.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:51 PM
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740: I read it, and it was sweet. I think if I were Jon Stewart there's a good shot that would creep me out more than fan fiction in which I was wrapped in cling film by a terrapin.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:51 PM
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I don't think the US could have won a war in Cambodia against the Pol Pot regime (by "win" I don't just mean toppling the government in Phnomh Penh, but avoiding getting sucked into a drawn out guerilla war the US would have had no stamina to fight). The Vietnamese, who had much more incentive to stick around, had a very costly campaign and eventually gave up on the country. In practical terms, of course, an invasion of Cambodia by the US in 1975-1980 was a complete and total political non-starter.

Would an invasion have been better for the Cambodians? Probably, it's hard to see much that would have been worse. But I don't think that it makes much sense to isolate thought about war from political, military, or geo-strategic context.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:53 PM
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Essear, invasions to stop ongoing large scale democides can be good ideas. One shouldn't call them "interventions gainst repressive/murderous governments", which includes most regimes of the last 100 years.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:53 PM
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737
Well, the first question is, when would we have invaded? It seems unlikely, given the political realities of the time, that we could have done so at the first reports of atrocities (and in any case, when has the US ever acted that fast for that reason?) So then the question is, if the US had invaded sometime in the late 70s, would we have been fighting both the Khmer Rouge and the NVA? How likely would that conflict have been to end happily for a plurality of Cambodians? (Keeping in mind that we had of course already demonstrated our great love and admiration for the Cambodian people by bombing the shit out of them while they were still living in a friendly/neutral country.)


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:54 PM
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This is from wayback, but: I marched against the Afghanistan invasion and wrote a long email to friends and family opposing an invasion as a response to 9-11. Given how swiftly the reasonable position came to embrace that invasion, I'm kind of impressed with 2001-Wrongshore for it; I think at the time I was afraid that I was wrong, but figured it was ok to be wrong against an invasion. I didn't really put anything on the line, aside from a bit of reputation in that widely sent email.

In 2003 I worked really hard to pass the local Los Angeles resolution against the war. Did it mean anything? It certainly didn't slow the war, but it helped the forces gather momentum. At the time, Harold Meyerson wrote that the municipal anti-war resolutions represented the awakening of an anti-war constituency for the 2004 elections. Coulda; wasn't.

Howard Zinn proposed, a la his best friend Shearer above, that the Final Solution was a response to the entry into the war by the United States. It was in a personal essay about being converted to pacifism from his seat in a bomber, so the history wasn't all there. He imagined a response that took much longer but was much less bloody.

As to the question about the Civil War -- I'm in love with A. Lincoln as much as the next guy (not ari, sure), but who's to say that the Confederated States of America from 1876 to 1954 would have been a whole lot worse than the way they turned out? If you're reasonably certain that slavery would have endured, then OK. If not...?

Ari: I think if one is willing to dispense with notions like "national sovereignty", or perhaps "the nation" overall, it becomes much easier to defend a near-universal anti-war position.

I think that once you look hard at the amount of blood shed in defense of those notions, they start to require at least an explicit defense, maybe a full trial.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:54 PM
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I've already picked out which stop signs I will ignore

Have we already talked about Stop-Yield here? It sounds like heaven.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:55 PM
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The Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia was a net positive, but Vietnamese rule there was pretty horrifically nasty.

I think the fact that the US intervention in Vietnam was a mistake wrongly causes many liberals to give the North Vietnamese government a pass; until the late 1980s it was a truly awful regime.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:57 PM
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Howard Zinn proposed, a la his best friend Shearer above, that the Final Solution was a response to the entry into the war by the United States.

This is not improving my opinion of Zinn's work.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:59 PM
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Brazil had slavery til 1889. South Africa had apartheid til 94.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:59 PM
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Brazil had slavery til 1889. South Africa had apartheid til 1994.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 2:59 PM
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If there was ever, in the history of the world, a case for "democratic intervention" it was Spain in the 1930s. And look how that turned out.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:00 PM
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would we have been fighting both the Khmer Rouge and the NVA

And probably Thailand as well. Sometimes, no matter how horrific the situation, *it just isn't our fight*. I include Rwanda in this category.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:00 PM
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If you're reasonably certain that slavery would have endured, then OK. If not...?

If not, why should anyone take what you have to say seriously? I have never never never seen any kind of a credible argument that it wouldn't have endured, and I used to hang out on soc.history.what-if, which regularly attracted Confederate apologists.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:01 PM
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And probably Thailand as well.

Oh, and China.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:01 PM
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Howard Zinn proposed, a la his best friend Shearer above, that the Final Solution was a response to the entry into the war by the United States.

You're so vain, you probably think this Final Solution is about you.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:02 PM
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If you're reasonably certain that slavery would have endured, then OK.

It was around for over 200 years. Why *wouldn't* it have endured in a nation founded on the principle of slavery?


Posted by: Duvall | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:03 PM
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While I agree with the sentiment in 749 wholeheartedly (and like they say, that's what I already do), reading the link reminds me why bike advocates kinda drive me nuts. Oh well.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:05 PM
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FDL thread on Obama's New Improved Military Commissions

Comment by "Hugh", usually good on economics

Could that whole chant of "Change we can believe in" ring any more hollow?

I have said this a zillion times, but Obama never disagreed with Bush on the fundamentals. He only thought Bush had gone a little too far in a few areas and had executed his policies poorly in many. Obama is a conservative, not a liberal, not a centrist. Everytime he makes a peep that sounds even mildly progressive he invariably walks it back. I am sorry to say this but what we are looking at in Obama is Bush's third term.

But Bush's third term is still better than McCain. Right? Right? Right enough to legitimate a monster?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:07 PM
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Bring the Jubilee!

It is hard to imagine a near miss on the Civil War (given Harper's Ferry [sesquicentennial this year btw]) that wouldn't have resulted in an emboldened Abolitionist movement. But it could have easily been another 20, 30 years to abolition, as in Brazil. Most likely, to my mind, would have been another 5-10 years of stagnation, before another flashpoint set things off.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:09 PM
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If by 'set things off' that means 'war anyway', it's hard to see that as a profit.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:10 PM
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763: Right, that's what I'm saying. Post-Bleeding Kansas (which was basically an undeclared civil war) the actual conflict was inevitable.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:11 PM
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749: Sign me up.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:12 PM
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But Bush's third term is still better than McCain. Right?

What makes you think McCain would be better on this issue? I expect Democrats to act like Republicans on this kind of thing because they always have.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:12 PM
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To clarify further: Every single second of slavery was absolutely intolerable, and the people who fought against it, often at the price of their own lives, are to be commended to the highest degree.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:13 PM
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762-4: The phrase "Bleeding Kansas coast to coast" came up in a discussion on Unqualified Offerings.

And then there's the question of how a mutually-hostile USA & CSA would have interacted with the emerging European treaty system... (I guess Harry Turtledove wrote an alternate-history series about this. Watch me not rush out to go read it.)


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:14 PM
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767: Well, yes. Pretty much that's it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:17 PM
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The Zinn essay is online here; Zinn credits the hypothesis to Arno Mayer, a Jewish anti-Zionist with whom I'm not at all familiar. And I was wrong to make it about the U.S. -- it was that the war drove a vile program of removal to a horrific one of extermination.

I will admit to being out of my depth in the slavery counterfactual--I hadn't thought it was as cut-and-dried that slavery would have persisted (is there a rough consensus til when?) but keep in mind that whatever would happen in the Civil War-less alternate reality, it's not weighed against "Freedom" but the apartheid reality that ensued.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:17 PM
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Every single second of slavery was absolutely intolerable

Have I gotten in so deep that I need to walk back and sign on to this? Probably. I too commend the people who fought against it, and even the people who didn't think they were fighting against but ended up ensuring its defeat.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:20 PM
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And I was wrong to make it about the U.S. -- it was that the war drove a vile program of removal to a horrific one of extermination.

Now that's a hell of a lot more defensible, and in fact much closer to the mainstream of current thought on the subject.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:22 PM
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770: the apartheid reality that ensued
Right. That's why we have to keep struggling.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:22 PM
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768: Hey, any better idea if you'll be around for the meetup Memorial Day? I need to revive that thread.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:23 PM
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772: Could we get more explanation on that? I realize that neither the Shoah nor the war were absolutely essential parts of National Socialist ideology, but they sure seem like they were part-and-parcel of Hitler's actual personal plans. Was there a chance after 1932 that Hitler would not have invaded Poland? It seems unlikely. Certainly not after 1936. So as with the Civil War example, it seems like we're digging way back into decades of alternate history before we come up with a plausible alternative result. Not completely useless as exercises in historical contemplation, but not terribly instructive in dealing with our current situation either.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:27 PM
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773: No we don't, minne! Everything got better in 1954. God, no one understands me!


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:27 PM
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775: My Zinn business aside, the brewing comity seems to indicate that if you're going to counterfactual WWII you have to start in 1914. See 567.

As for Hitler's plans, I can't say anything about Poland, but the Wikipud for Arno Mayer says that the Final Solution was embraced in 1941, once the Wehrmacht figured it couldn't take Moscow.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:33 PM
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Was there a chance after 1932 that Hitler would not have invaded Poland? It seems unlikely. Certainly not after 1936. So as with the Civil War example, it seems like we're digging way back into decades of alternate history before we come up with a plausible alternative result.

Not really. The invasion of Poland was always in the cards, but that doesn't lead ineluctably to the Holocaust. The thing to keep in mind is that the Nazis were atrocious at planning, in large part because of the way Hitler played his subordinates off each other, and because Hitler himself was disinterested in the details of how many of his aims would be achieved. So while there's no question that he wanted a solution to the Jewish "problem", he also left the design and conception of that solution to his underlings. (Hence things like the idea of deporting Europe's Jews to Madagascar, and the fact that there was no equivalent immediately after the invasion of Poland to the Einsatzgruppen.)

Really, I'd recommend picking up Hitler's Empire. It's about precisely this sort of issue.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:40 PM
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777: Yeah, it's significant that the Wannsee Conference didn't take place until 1942.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:44 PM
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775 -- The last time I looked, I think the historians' rough consensus was that Hitler always had plans to "get rid" of the Jews by one means or another, thus making some kind of horrible tragedy for the Jews inevitable, but that the war dictated the timing and nature of the Final Solution, and helped to desensitize the German army and population to what actually happened. I haven't read in this area in a few years, though.

if you're going to counterfactual WWII you have to start in 1914

I actually strongly disagree with this statement. It's perfectly possible that only marginally different political conditions in Germany between 1930 and 1933 could have avoided the rise of the Nazis and thus of the Second World War. I don't think that the Versailles settlement made a war with Germany inevitable, or that the Second World War is properly understood as a continuation of the First (although, obviously, you can't have the Second without the First, but that's a different point).

I do think that war was more or less inevitable after 1936, though.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:47 PM
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It's perfectly possible that only marginally different political conditions in Germany between 1930 and 1933 could have avoided the rise of the Nazis and thus of the Second World War.

You don't even have to go that far. Hitler's Thirty Days to Power makes it pretty clear that even in January 1933 it was hardly inevitable that the Nazis would come to power.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:51 PM
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i was sort of pro-war at the time, but not really from lack of understanding manufactured consent (though, i am sure that was defective) but more from a lack of perspective. not enough knowlege of past imperialism, of the power of nationalism, the feelings people have toward ownership of their government, thigns like that. I just had a sort of 'gee, invade another country to fix it? that sounds like an interesting experiment!' kind of approach. I think the main lesson i've learned is burkean more than anything.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:51 PM
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Hence things like the idea of deporting Europe's Jews to Madagascar

Now the casting of Sacha Baron Cohen as King Julien makes sense.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:55 PM
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781 -- Awesome. I need to start reading in this area again.

Speaking of the Nazi rise to power, has anyone here seen Heimat? Watched this recently and am convinced that this is the best TV show of all time; it makes The Wire look like NYPD Blue. I am curious what the Germanists think.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:57 PM
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My character generally suffers from a sort of casual intellectual arrogance (which also explains my fondness for yglesias, i suppose. plus disregard for proofing. i do dislike his fashion carelessness). At the time my main wonder was whether there woudl be some bioweapons used or some larger mid east conflagration.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 3:57 PM
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||

Does this thread's title make everyone else sing that cheesy song from all the weddings?

|>


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 4:03 PM
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although, obviously, you can't have the Second without the First

It would be awesome, though, if they'd just decided to call it the Second World War without anything having come before.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 4:03 PM
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786: Yes. And it's not cheesy! It's Etta James.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 4:04 PM
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Doesn't Newt Gingrich think that we're all now in the Eighth World War or something? I lost track of the craziness.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 4:05 PM
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Wrongshore, you write for "the industry," correct? And you went to a prestigious ivy-covered institution for undergrad, correct? There may be more questions, so answer carefully -- if you dare.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 4:06 PM
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788: Well, it's certainly from all the cheesy movies where the main characters end up at a wedding, no?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 4:08 PM
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...or that the Second World War is properly understood as a continuation of the First

Well, aside from Versailles or Alsace or whatver, there are the deeper questions of industrialization, urbanization, nationalism, secularism, imperialism, etc that may have made shit hitting fan inevitable.

And are the important points of comparison for today.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 4:09 PM
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And Yggles is particularly snarky and wild today. I hope we haven't wounded him.

I feel guilty.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 4:11 PM
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790: aspiring and yes. Feel free to email me.

791: You mean this cheesy movie, where America married the Obamas?


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 4:13 PM
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people love medicare. My republican grandparents are always going on about how great their care is.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 4:18 PM
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Also, Blair and Brown are clear left? Left of what, the BNP?
Left of the Tories, left of Margaret Thatcher, left of the Lib Dems, members of the Socialist International.... (That's good enough for me to take them as left. Social-fascism is ultra-sectarian bullshit.)

Apologies for the blunt language, Keir, but on this one, you are talking out your arse. They certainly aren't left of the Lib Dems, in most key policy areas they are in total agreement with Thatcher, and on some issues are to the right of even the 1980s Tory administrations. On law and order they are certainly the most authoritarian party for decades, on economic issues they are a neo-liberal party, and on wealth redistribution and the ameloriation of poverty their record is poor to non-existent.*

Relativist definitions of the political spectrum are silly. Blair and Brown are barely in the tradition of the party which they've both led, and are massively to the right (on many but not all issues) of what would even have been Tory orthodoxy pre-Thatcher.

* there have been some genuine achievements, for which they deserve credit, but, in general, 12 years of a Labour administration have been a relative failure in terms of producing a more equitable society.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 4:25 PM
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780

I actually strongly disagree with this statement. It's perfectly possible that only marginally different political conditions in Germany between 1930 and 1933 could have avoided the rise of the Nazis and thus of the Second World War. I don't think that the Versailles settlement made a war with Germany inevitable, or that the Second World War is properly understood as a continuation of the First (although, obviously, you can't have the Second without the First, but that's a different point).

I agree with this.

I do think that war was more or less inevitable after 1936, though.

And with this although I might say 1933 when Hitler came to power. The Wages of Destruction is good on Hitler's plans for war.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 4:29 PM
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791: No, that one was touching and sweet. I mean cheesy.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 4:30 PM
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778

... Hitler himself was disinterested in the details of how many of his aims would be achieved. So while there's no question that he wanted a solution to the Jewish "problem", he also left the design and conception of that solution to his underlings. ...

However I believe it was the case that Hitler generally pushed for harsher policies towards the Jews. He had also made fairly explicit threats about what would happen to the Jews if Germany ended up at war.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 4:34 PM
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799: Even Kobe thinks you're right , James.


Posted by: Tiny Hermaphrodite | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 4:51 PM
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The US invading Cambodia scenario is probably not the best example since the realpolitik of the time had the US, Thailand and China (most explicitly) hesitant to do anything to weaken "Kampuchea" and thereby strenghten North Vietnam.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 5:06 PM
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800: I still don't get who Kobe is here. Is he the internet at large? Google? Hitler? Gaia?


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 5:11 PM
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785: My character generally suffers from a sort of casual intellectual arrogance
Yeah, but the real question is: How much XP does he have?


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 5:13 PM
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802: I suggest that you meditate on this, Grasshopper.


Posted by: Tiny Hermaphrodite | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 5:21 PM
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Well, since everybody seems just about out of historical revisionism, I'll re-post the original source for the claim that George Washington had thirty goddamn dicks.

I just saw it for the first time. I musta missed the link first time around.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 5:50 PM
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Well, since everybody seems just about out of historical revisionism, I'll re-post the original source for the claim that George Washington had thirty goddamn dicks.

I just saw it for the first time. I musta missed the link first time around.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 5:50 PM
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I don't understand how an argument goes like this:

person A:fighting wars is sometimes (tho RARELY) justified because the allies fighting saved lots of carnage, or the Union soldiers got rid of slavery.

person B: no, thats wrong, fighting wars is never justified. AFter all, just imagine if totalitarian states could be toppled with peaceful resistance, or hitler hadn't come ot power because the depression was averted, or some other counterfactual.

Not only is that not respoinsive, its ignores the important questions, which are 'should i enlinst/vote for a government that will fight a specific war; and should i advocate in favor of fighting some specific war.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 6:18 PM
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How many dead people was it worth to rid the American South of slavery? Was it worth the number of deaths actually incurred? Would it have been worth twice that amount? Ten times?

These strike me as ridiculous questions, but some of you must have answers. I'm not sure how else you could decide that killing a bunch of people is "worth it".


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 7:01 PM
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808: Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."


Posted by: Abraham Lincoln | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 7:07 PM
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I don't know if I'll ever catch up with this thread, so maybe it's addressed above, but:

Yglesias, Drum and Marshall were all pro-war, too.

I wasn't reading TPM back then, but I remember this coming up before and people said Marshall withdrew his support before the invasion. I'm not going to read all the March 2003 archives over there, but this March 13 post sure doesn't read pro-war. This doesn't excuse having been pro-war at some point, but it's certainly not the same as being pro-war until after the fact.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:11 PM
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781: Turner's no-Nazis counterfactual has been criticized by some for being rather too sanguine. I think your confidence about the near-inevitability of the First World War would be much better applied to some version of the Second, once the First had happened.

807: Yeah, an argument like that would be pretty terrible. Good thing it didn't happen on this thread.

810: Good for Marshall, but the eve of invasion was really rather late to be having second thoughts, especially after he'd invested so much time and energy becoming one of those reasonable sounding "even-the-liberal" voices.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:49 PM
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... criticized by some...


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 9:50 PM
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Turner's no-Nazis counterfactual has been criticized by some for being rather too sanguine.

The counterfactual was the less-interesting aspect of the book; what I appreciated about it was the way it broke down exactly how it was that Hitler came to be appointed Chancellor. The reason I brought it up was solely to support the notion that the Nazi takeover was not inevitable.

I think your confidence about the near-inevitability of the First World War would be much better applied to some version of the Second, once the First had happened.

You'll get no argument from me that some version of WWII was exceedingly likely post-1918. (And incidentally, I don't believe that WWI *as it actually happened* was inevitable; what I do believe is that, even if it had been averted in 1914, at some point Germany's ambitions in Europe and its campaign to build its military were going to lead to a war in Europe, and I believe that that war would have been more akin to WWI or WWII than to the various Prussian campaigns in the 19th century.)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:07 PM
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811.3: I'm not really interested in defending Marshall any more than that for the reasons you give about being an "even the liberal" voice, just saying the distinction between before and after the invasion opposition to the war is still worth keeping. The bit of the EK archive (linked above) I read, on the other hand, is pretty bad.

For my part, I was nearly out of any political conversation before the wars. I'm embarrassed that I was so naive that I thought we'd never go to war with Iraq because it was so obviously stupid there was no way they could be doing anything but pushing the rhetoric to try to get as many concessions as possible short of war. I did not believe we'd go to war until the actual invasion began.

On Afghanistan, I was paying a bit more attention to politics back then but never quite formed a position. Basically, if I had collected my thoughts they would have been something like this: we should do whatever best approximated the goal of getting the remaining people responsible for the 9/11 attacks extradited to the US for trial. If that meant getting them turned over in negotiation, good. If that meant some sort of invasion, ok, but it had to be limited and with that clear goal in mind. Obviously the "normal" extradition process was out of the question because you need a more or less stable and recognized* government and existing agreements for that. But I don't remember having fully formed that into a coherent position before the invasion.

Needless to say, I wasn't involved in any protests. I only started paying close attention to politics in 2004.

*I seem to remember it hinted before the war took it off the table that the Taliban might turn people over in exchange for official recognition. But that there was strong opposition to that in both camps.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:08 PM
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on the other hand, is pretty bad

It is. But to be completely fair, he was 18 years old when he wrote all that. I wouldn't want to have to stand by every political opinion I held at 18.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:23 PM
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815: I definitely agree with that. Also looks like he'd only been blogging on his own for a couple of weeks.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:28 PM
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BTW, thanks to Nick for 728, which did indeed forestall me from getting sucked back into any more commenting this afternoon. That was a good thing!


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:35 PM
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815: When I was 18, I was marching to try to force the university administration to divest from South Africa. And I'm pretty sure, in retrospect, that the university had no holdings in South Africa.

Do I have a point? Um, no blood for oil?


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:39 PM
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Actually, wait, I do have a point: I literally cannot imagine my 18-year-old self backing the invasion of Iraq. In fact, Gulf War I happened when I was a senior in college, and I marched against that, even though we had actual international support and there had been some real provocation(ish). Still, I knew the president couldn't be trusted and that war should always be the very, very last resort.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:41 PM
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Shoot, sorry to serial comment, but I just realized that the above makes it sound like I'm judging Klein. I'm not. I just think his instincts are more centrist than some people here allow. Still, that doesn't make him a lousy person or a lousy pundit. He's just not my pick of the litter.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:42 PM
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It's not so much about instincts as whether they can be overcome. It's reasonable to think that someone at 18 (or even later) has not fully formed their ways of thinking beyond relying on instinct. That said, I've never really paid attention to him on foreign policy and indeed can't think of anything he's said on it for the year or so since I started reading him daily. And that archive stuff remains pretty bad.

Incidentally, Krugman's anti-anti-globalization stance has softened in recent years (the first columns of his I read were right around Seatlle, so maybe I got started at his extreme) so it's not like even the top level pundits haven't been doing some rethinking. I don't really bring this up to defend Klein, but because it's always factored into my view of Krugman but in my experience it doesn't come up that often when he's discussed.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 10:55 PM
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Yes. Of course they could. Look at what happened to the Socialists and the Communists anyway.

I'm not quite sure I'd concede this point, in the long run. (Note the tentativeness, though.) The ends of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe were mostly not violent - Romania being a conspicuous exception. There's no diminishing the brutality of the immediate postwar post-takeover period with the show trials and the mass incarcerations or the suppressions in 1953, 1956, 1968, but at the same time, the Communists do seem to have reached a limit to the number of people they could lock up and keep locked up. There were prisoner releases in Hungary and Czechoslovakia already in the 1960s (I think). Dissidents were still, of course, brutally suppressed and not a mass movement, but with Helsinki and things like Charter 77, there were real incremental movements (maybe visible only in retrospect) towards ending the regimes from the 1970s on. This is not to say that this resistance was the only thing that brought down Communism, but if your counterfactual is military intervention - say, war over Hungary in 1956 or Czechoslovakia in 1968 with the Soviet Union on the other side - non-violent responses don't look all that bad.

The Soviet case is tougher, with the violence of the regime being much worse and longer lasting and the impact of non-violence being much smaller.

I have a deadline for something tomorrow, so maybe after commenting way at more length than usual, I should now get to that instead.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:27 PM
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My political beliefs have remained fairly stable over the years. When I was 18 I was questioning the wisdom of Kosovo. (FML; compare it to Too Short's: "I was just fourteen when I first got my dick sucked/now I'm all grown up and I really like to bust nut"). Now I'm an old man and I get to be skeptical about Afghanistan, though if the truth be told we could hardly make it worse.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:27 PM
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But one more thing. I don't think the counterfactual on the Civil War is a slaveholding Confederacy and a free - but what about the four border slavery-legal states? - Union with minimal other changes. There's still the question of the west, and beyond that the Caribbean and Central America. Slavery wasn't just surviving in the South, there were attempts to expand it: the filibustering in Central America, trying to get Cuba from Spain, resolutions introduced in Congress to re-open the trans-Atlantic slave trade. If I remember correctly, after rejecting one of the proposed compromises with the seceded states, Lincoln said something like, If we accept this, they'll be right back in here asking for Cuba. A slaveholding Confederacy with expansionist aims on a hemispheric scale doesn't seem that much more unlikely an outcome than a Confederacy sticking to its borders.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:43 PM
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Krugman is, and has always been, a free trader. He's not as evangelistic about it as some, but he is a neo-liberal.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 05-15-09 11:44 PM
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824: so instead of the cofederacy being outside the tent pissing out on cuba, they're inside the tent pissing in on our welfare state?


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 05-16-09 8:54 AM
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The point was not that WWI was a sufficient condition for WWII, but that it was a necessary condition, and IMO the most important and significant of all the necessary conditions for it. Pointing to Munich or appeasement as the most important ncessary condition, the one from which we have the most to learn today, is quite dishonest.

As for the discussion in general, an attempt to argue pacifism vs. war directly always ends up reaching a dead an end logically as it forces two fundamentally different and incompatible forms of ethics into direct conflict -- what Weber called the "ethic of responsibility" vs. the "ethic of ultimate ends". And I agree with how Weber concluded his discussion, that those two ethics have to be held in creative tension at all times, since each is both correct and incomplete. But in the real world, the most significant problem is riding the ethic of responsibility down the slippery slope into the "moral" justification of all kinds of violence. So those who argue for the ethic of ultimate ends are taking the greater risk and are the more valuable voices. Their truth is more valuable and important to speak precisely because the partiality of it is more obvious to vulgar common sense.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-17-09 9:01 AM
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