We Need More 26-Year-Old Pundits!
December 4th, 2009

Imagine what the conversation was like on JournoList.


Paging Christine Rosen
October 22nd, 2009

Extolling the virtues of the internet, Tyler Cowen writes:

The arrival of virtually every new cultural medium has been greeted with the charge that it truncates attention spans and represents the beginning of cultural collapse—the novel (in the 18th century), the comic book, rock ‘n’ roll, television, and now the Web.

It’s unclear to me how this disproves the base charge. Imagine, for instance, putting forth this argument:

The arrival of virtually every social development since the 1960s–the rise of no-fault divorce, the birth-control pill, the spread of legalized abortion, the delay of first marriage–has been greeted with the charge that it depresses fertility rates.

Every one of those developments in fact was greeted with the argument that they would depress fertility. And sure enough, the American fertility rate has fallen steadily. Just because people keep lamenting new factors contributing to a phenomenon, doesn’t mean the phenomenon doesn’t exist. Pace Cowen, is there anyone who thinks television hasn’t corrupted intellectual life?

If Cowen wants to argue that the internet is a net good for cultural life, that’s fine. People on the internet love to hear that! And best of all, it’s a non-falsifiable proposition.

I’d just ask this: We’re almost two decades into the internet now. What towering works has it produced that will be read in 20 years? What intellects has it pushed forward that were hitherto ignored? Where is the web’s Irving Kristol or Isaiah Berlin or Richard Neuhaus? Or even William Buckley?

The answer, of course, is that there isn’t one. The web gives us Glenn Reynolds and Matt Yglesias and Kathryn Jean Lopez and Andrew Sullivan. I suspect that this is not an accident.

Update: Damon Linker takes another shot at the kind of intellectual rigor which the internet fosters.


Star Wars, cont.
September 8th, 2009

I’m late to the big Star Wars counter-insurgency debate, but for whatever it’s worth, I’m in near total agreement with Matt Yglesias, particularly his last graph.

Except that I wouldn’t go applying labels there at the end.


The Decline of The Atlantic Monthly
April 27th, 2009

Former Atlantic star Matt Yglesias writes:

“Definitely the whole time I was employed at The Atlantic I never once returned a voicemail. I figure that anyone who’s really eager to get in touch with me will email me.”


The Left's Bill Buckley
March 26th, 2009

Ezra Klein, who Ross Douthat calls “the William F. Buckley of movement liberalism,” had a heart-felt post the other day about President Obama’s historic address to the Iranian people. Said Klein,

There are times when it’s hard to believe that this is how my country acts now. That somewhere in government, some young bureaucrat had the idea that the President should publicly honor the Iranian New Year, and that bureaucrat felt that her superiors would also think this a good idea, and, indeed, the thought went all the way to the President, who agreed that a display of engagement and goodwill was consonant with our national values and foreign policy goals.

Of course, as Mark Hemingway notes, President Bush did basically the same thing last year.

The entire thing seems pretty indicative of the problem with having 20-something pundits who don’t actually know anything. They feel free to hold forth about the weaponizing of space or getting rid of the Air Force or caucus politics in Nevada without knowing anything more than what was in the major papers that day (and what other bloggers said about those stories).

(Just to be clear, that weaponizing space link isn’t a jab at Galley Friend M.G., it’s an example of actual reporting taking apart glib pontificating.)


In Defense of Answer
January 9th, 2009

Santino is goading me with a post in response to this Matt Yglesias post questioning the talents of Allen Iverson. Since I, too, aspire to hold my own, I must rise up in defense of Answer.

First, understand that I’m an Iverson partisan–I’ve got a signed edition of his Sixers jersey in a giant frame at home. So take this as you will, but I think Yglesias underestimates both Iverson’s offensive and defensive skills.

Let’s start with Answer’s shortcomings: His big problem is that he shoots a relatively low percentage from the floor. There are all sorts of rational explanations for this: He’s little, he’s shooting under double-teams, he has only recently had a secondary scorer on his wing. That said, there’s no way around it: Answer’s game requires a lot of shots for him to get his points and a lot of touches for him to get his shots. This has traditionally caused rebounding and fast-break defense problems for his teams.

But in his defense, what choice has Answer ever had? During his tenure in Philadelphia, when he was at his physical peak, he was paired with a succession of “riding shotgun” players who turned out to be over-the-hill busts: Toni Kukoc, Derrick Coleman, Glenn Robinson, Keith Van Horn. Iverson never had the scoring help he needed.

It’s no coincidence, then, that his biggest success as a Sixer came when GM Billy King and Traitor Larry Brown finally abandoned the attempt to give him a secondary scorer and instead surrounded him with low-cost, highly specialized role players. Aaron McKie and Eric Snow provided ball handling and spot-up shooting. Theo Rattliff provided rebounding and shot blocking. George Lynch provided more rebounding and defensive presence. And then a bunch of other role players came off the bench to handle very specific tasks: Tyrone Hill did low-block scoring, Raja Bell did defensive guard work, etc.

You could make the case that had Matt Geiger stayed healthy (and Brown not made the insane trade for Deke), the Sixers would have had (at least) one more year of title contention because they were finally a team built to allow Iverson to get his shots, efficiently distribute the other scoring duties among the rest of the roster, and take advantage of Answer’s high attempt-per-point-ratio by getting offensive rebounds and being defensively tough, especially in transition.

(And let’s not forget that the Sixers were *robbed* in Game 2 of the Finals. If they get that game, the series is very different. And that was the closest 4-1 series in the history of sports. Yes, I’m a homer, but it’s also true.)

(Also, also, remember that The Traitor Larry Brown began blowing up this team even before the season was over, despite the fact that they had the best (or second-best, I forget) record in the NBA for most of the season.)

As for what Yglesias says about Deke being the heart of the Sixers defense during their Finals-run, he was a presence late in the season, but not particularly effective in the post-season. Most of the defensive intensity on that squad came from Lynch, McKie, and Iverson, who really did wreak havoc in the passing lanes. And from Ratliff, who, for one and a half seasons, looked like he might be one of the great shot blockers in NBA history. What happened to him, through injury and condemnation to Atlanta, was tragic.

I get that there’s a lot of Iverson haters out there. In general, I think they hate him because they don’t understand him. They see the tats and hear the “practice” clips, but don’t understand that on the court, he’s actually a throw-back player. He gives his body up every night, dives for every loose ball, plays every game like it’s Game 7. He never takes a quarter off and rarely whines about calls. And to go into the lane like he does–I’ve walked past him and he’s barely 6′ in sneakers, maybe 180 pounds–takes real guts.

It strikes me that athletes have limited control over their own success. Or rather, no matter how great an athlete is, they can only do as much as the system they’re in allows. You see this with NFL quarterbacks all the time. If Tom Brady had been a first-round pick to the Lions who started right away, I doubt he’d be Tom Brady today. Some athletes, like Jordan, or Peyton Manning, have skill sets which are conventional enough (and gargantuan enough) that it’s easy to see what to do with them. Iverson’s skill sets were so quirky that no one ever quite figured out how to build around him. Or perhaps, by the time King/Brown did figure it out, Answer only had a brief, one-season window and then things fell apart.

I’d put Answer in the category, with Marino and Barkley–guys who were truly great, but whose gifts were odd enough that the franchises around them weren’t able to figure out how to win the big one with them.

To my mind, that’s a very different issue than the players being over-rated or having chemistry problems.


Iron Man, cont.
May 7th, 2008

Matt Yglesias makes a very astute point* about Iron Man, the iconic first-tier of superheroes, and very wide appeal of even second-tier heroes:

At the end of the day, the first tier of costumed crime fighters is limited to just three members — Superman, Spiderman, and Batman — truly ubiquitous figures who any American could recognize even if they don’t know anything about them.

Iron Man belongs firmly to a second-tier of major comic book characters who’d be instantly familiar to anyone who was, at any time in his or (less likely) her life a reader of superhero books.

Where a lot of folks surprised about the success of the Iron Man film seem to me to have gone wrong is just in underestimating how big the audience for the second-tier is.

I can buy that. Surveying Iron Man‘s success and then recalling the box office success of second and even third tier properties such as Ghost Rider, Daredevil, Hellboy, and the Fantastic Four, I’ve been wondering if comic books are so ingrained in the culture that “superhero comic book” movie has become a bankable genre all on its own?

The number of total flops from this genre is pretty small: League of Extraordinary Gentleman, Catwoman, Elektra, and The Punisher, and that’s about it.

But maybe this is really just about what Yglesias sees–a huge, acceptance of and appetite for second-tier comic book heroes, so long as the movies are somewhat competently made.

*One small quibble with Yglesias: I think the first-tier could reasonably be widened to include Wonder-Woman, the Hulk, and maybe even Captain America, all of whom occupy an enormous chunk of the popular consciousness.


Yea or Nay?
October 7th, 2005

Paul Mirengoff gives what I consider to be the most persuasive argument for voting for Miers:

My view (subject to possible revision as the process continues) is that the Senate should confirm Miers. Under all past standards, she is qualified for the position, and the suspicion that she may not be a true conservative does not constitute sufficient reason to oppose the nomination.

It may well be that, from a senator’s perspective, this is the final and decisive question. That’s why in an ideal world, the president would withdraw the nomination.

No chance of that, of course.


January 27th, 2005

Captain Ed takes on Jack Shafer’s surprisingly counterintuitive analysis of bloggery. Both of them make good points.

Inside payoff: Read Shafer’s list of blogs he likes and find which one is missing. It’ll make you glad to know that the rift must be real. If you know what I’m talking about, it’ll make you smile.


Pretty Hate Machine
December 7th, 2004

Sigh. Andrew Sullivan and others are taking shots at my review of Closer. The main complaint seems to be something which approximates to: “Older men have been lusting after pre- or mid-pubescent teenage girls for a long time; this is no big deal, don’t be such a bluenose; and–not that there’s anything wrong with it–it isn’t Natalie Portman’s fault, get off her case.”

What to say? First off, just because something has a cultural legacy doesn’t make it right. There were generations of precedent for slavery, the subservience of women, and even a general looking-of-the-other-way at rape. As a society, we’ve progressed to a point where these long-standing norms are now frowned upon. If you want to argue that there’s nothing wrong with grown men having sex with 15-year-old girls, go right ahead. But don’t tell me that it must be okay since them-there frontier folk did it way back when.

Even so, my main criticism isn’t about pedophilia, per se (silly me, I thought that was settled law). It’s about the culture which celebrates the explicitly sexual objectification of young girls. Think of it this way: I’m bothered much more by the “TOTALLY raining teens” Vanity Fair cover and the Olsen twins countdown clocks (and the nudge-nudge, wink-wink stories about these clocks in places like USA Today) than I am by Léon or Beautiful Girls (which is a fine film). The problem is that movies don’t exist in a vacuum. If we’re going to be four-square in favor of freedom of artistic expression (as we should be), then we also ought to be pretty rigorous about expressing our concern for creepy cultural trends which result as unintended consequences of this expression.

As far as Miss Portman is concerned, I made it pretty clear that the current state of affairs “isn’t entirely (or even mostly)” her fault. She may have starred in the movies, but she isn’t editing the entertainment press. As I said, she has handled herself in public with dignity and grace and seems like a nice young woman. I wish her nothing but the best.


Hit the Bat!
November 2nd, 2004

I stumbled across this post on The Corner from someone named KJL:

“Do not, again, do not take any exit poll resports too seriously. JUST GET OUT THE VOTE. Exit polls not always reliable, ESPECIALLY early ones. AND, this isn’t over until the polls close. So please get to work while there is still time.

“DO NOT get depressed. DO NOT get mad. JUST GET OUT THE VOTE.

“I contend this is the most important election of many of our lifetimes. I’m almost willing to make a deal and give the Dems 2008 if we can have this one.”

Hey, KJL, calm down. You’re starting to sound like Yglesias and Josh Marshall and the rest of the lefty activist / journalists. National Review is better than that.


Drinking the Haterade
October 29th, 2004

Galley Friend M.L. sent along a link to this item from Andrew Sullivan, which was posted last Saturday:

“The unutterably cool Bob Mould has put together a live blogjam in DC tomorrow night. A bunch of us will be reading from our blogs live, followed by Bob’s now famous Blow-Off night. There’s me, Wonkette, Geekslut, Vividblurry, Dog Poet, and many more. It’s at DC9 at 1940 9th Street NW, starting at 7 pm. Come have fun. Meet sexy bloggers. Dance. Forget about this damn election for a couple hours. See you there.”

What to say? In the Blogger Bible’s Book of Genesis, it is written that the blogosphere arose in answer to the vanity, pomposity, and self-regard of old-media journalists. What do you think the blogosphere would say if Tom Friedman, Dana Milbank, and Adam Nagourney announced that they were getting together at the Kennedy Center and have a jam session, where they would read–live!–from their newspaper reports? (Followed by dancing and a chance to meet “sexy” reporters, of course.)

On Sullivan’s behalf, at least you can say that he’s an interesting and engaging writer. Still, one doesn’t need to hear him read “Begala Award Nominees” in person in order to grok the essence of his craft. But check out some of his fellow blogjammers. Take GeekSlut, for instance. Here’s a sample from GeekSlut’s last posting:

The need for seed. Once a natural part of queer culture has become a sleazy kink. We glorify it. We enjoy it. I guess its payback, you know. After spending years, our cocks wrapped in plastic marching to the “Safe Sex” rhythm. That didn’t work. It was doomed from the start. We’re human beings. Men. We’re not above nature, we ARE nature.

Seed is a gift, it’s love, it’s acceptance. Taking a man’s cum [in your ass, down your throat, rubbed into your skin – whatever], even if you don’t know his name, is closeness. It’s an act of love and trust. Even if yawl just met! Both the bottom and the top walk away smiling . . . and content. Now it’s a sleazy affair that boys get cracked out of their minds for. Like it’s an embarrassing nasty secret thing to want. This is so fucked.

The Old Media is dead! Long live the blogosphere!

There’s more, of course. There’s always more in blogland, because “more” is the internet’s central comparative advantage. Galley Friend M.C. sends along this link to blogger Matthew Yglesias.

You may recall Yglesias from the last time we visited him during the Republican national convention. Classy kid. And now he’s blogging about sitting in a Starbucks while German television cameras film him:

Okay, now we’re going and there’s demand for me to write something so here it is. “Something!” I assume Germans all understand about the evils of Bushism, so there’s no particular need to emphasize the point in this context. And then, you post the thing.

Boy, am I glad we have bloggers around to teach those old-fogey journalists a lesson.