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August 8, 2009

3d Loser Award: Lawrence O’Donnell

by Smitty (h/t Hot Air)

This blog hasn’t given out a 3-D Loser Award in a while.Then again, Lawrence O’Donnells don’t just grow on trees–the whole forest would die.

Possibly, the Argument Clinic is the only boondoggle that didn’t make the Longevity Abatement Legislation. Yet.

August 3, 2009

How to Apologize (If You Must)

Two of my bad habits seem to have intersected recently, as I allowed myself to become distracted by an argument, rather than to focus on following up the matter of Jesse Griffin.

Being able to resist neither arguments nor distractions, there was yet another temptation — humor — awaiting at this particular intersection, and again I did not resist. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

Therefore, for the benefit of those who do not read my posts at the Hot Air Green Room, I wish to share my formal apology to C.K. MacLeod:

Your criticism is acknowledged and I have no desire, by further dispute, to alienate whatever esteem I might otherwise retain by ceasing to argue.
Perhaps I should explain how an indifference to my own notorious reputation has become habitual. I arrived in Washington in 1997, and in subsequent years various individuals, choosing me as their particular enemy, decided to advance themselves by maligning me. It was therefore as a matter of self-interest — indeed, at times, a matter of professional survival — that I learned to flaunt a disdainful attitude about the reputation these enemies purposefully damaged. It became my custom to jest cheerfully about the harm to my career and the insult to my good name, so as never to give these vile two-faced slanderers the satisfaction of thinking they had inflicted any blow worthy of my notice.
Of course, I understand that most other people, having never suffered from such treatment, can never truly empathize with those who have suffered thus. Like Coriolanus, my pride is wounded to be required to display my scars.
Pride is my great flaw, and you will note the irony that one so naturally proud should choose to take pride in an undeserved shame, rather than be obliged to explain or defend himself, when considerations of honor ought to have required that the many who had benefitted from his labors would have leapt unbidden to his defense. Alas, as Burke said, the age of chivalry died long ago, and the man is rightly thought a sentimental fool who expects nowadays to be treated with an old-fashioned sense of justice
It was by no desire to reduce the prestige of others, and certainly not to embarrass the Palin family, that the above satire was composed. The object was to lampoon the ridiculous way in which Messrs. “Gryphen” and Zaki resorted to what I call Cargo Cult Journalism, with their alleged “sources” to justify their lies.
Although my intent was innocent — indeed, my personal feelings toward the Palins are entirely those of admiration and affection, as with one’s fellow sufferers — it is evident that my judgment was so inferior that it constituted an offense to “standards of decency,” as you say.
Accepting the superiority of your judgment in such matters, Mr. MacLeod, I have this moment resolved not to risk further offense to Hot Air readers. Therefore, I shall post nothing further at the Green Room without your express prior permission.
Thank you for your courtesy and kindness, sir, and with sincere apology for every previous offense given, it is with the warmest regard that I assure you I remain
Your most humble and obedient servant,

And I will further assure my regular readers here that the “express prior permission” mentioned shall never be requested. When I told Mr. MacLeod that pride is my great fault, it was with complete sincerity. At some point, further argument becomes insult, a cruel attempt to humiliate another by impugning his judgment, thus to enhance one’s own reputation at his expense.

Rather than to engage in such un-Christian and uncivilized behavior, to behave like an arrogant bully, insisting on the rightness of my own judgment (which I have always freely admitted is not always perfect), I bowed gracefully, and exited the room.

Those who concern themselves with standards of decency should feel free to pass judgment as to whether my exit was accomplished with as much good cheer as anyone might be expected to muster on such an unfortunate occasion, and with the dignity of a gentleman.

July 22, 2009

The Mother of All IG-Gate Updates

On the Internet, stuff gets scattered around so that you never see it all in one place. Today’s IG-Gate Update at the Hot Air Green Room pushes the story forward:

Behind closed doors on Capitol Hill last week, I asked a Republican source about the investigative efforts of Democratic staffers for the House Oversight Committee.
“Honestly?” the source said. “They’re useless.”
More than three weeks have passed since Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) joined the committee’s ranking Republican, California Rep. Darrell Issa, to launch an investigation into the case of former Amtrak inspector general Fred Wiederhold Jr. . . .
Despite the “grave concerns” expressed by Towns and Issa three weeks ago, however, Republican sources on Capitol Hill have complained that Democratic staffers on the Oversight Committee have not shown much zeal for the investigation. Sources say Democratic staffers have skipped meetings and conference calls to which they were invited by GOP investigators, who are attempting to work with Grassley’s staff in order to prevent unnecessary duplication of efforts. Sharing documents and scheduling interviews with witnesses, allowing Republican and Democratic investigators from both chambers an opportunity to question these witnesses, is a demanding logistical task. And GOP staffers complain that this task seems to be lacking in terms of bipartisanship. . . .

Read the whole thing, because toward the end, I make this point:

This is a huge story, involving multiple investigations, and 1,200 words here don’t even begin to summarize the 1,400 words there [at The American Spectator on Monday], to say nothing of the 400 words I did last night about the SIGTARP report.

Like I said, read the whole thing, and follow the links, because this is one big sprawling mother of a story. The best I can do in any single chunk is to bring in new facts, new quotes, new angles, and link to as much other the other stuff as possible. (That Green Room article includes more than 25 links, including the link to the Spectator article, which has more than a dozen links.)

If you’ll go to Bob Belvedere’s WWU-AM and scroll down, he’s got a huge IG-Gate link dump with my reporting, Byron York’s reporting, columns by Michelle Malkin, reports from ABC News, the Washington Post, etc. There’s a lot of stuff out there, in other words, and you need to see it all if you want to try to understand this thing.

“Try,” I say, because I don’t even claim to understand it all yet. My sources talk about things and sometimes I can tell they’re trying to drop me a hint of something they want me to write about, e.g., “Who Is Eleanor Acheson?” It’s important to ask the right questions, as one of my sources said.

On the one hand, there is the temptation to focus on one aspect of the story — the Washington Times keeps calling this “WalpinGate,” which is too narrow — but on the other hand, you’ve got to be careful not to waste time playing “connect-the-dots” with things that might not really be connected. Yes, there’s a pattern, but that doesn’t mean there’s a conspiracy.

Still, as I predicted on June 18 — right after Michelle Malkin’s first column on the Walpin case slapped me upside the head — this story isn’t going away anytime soon. June 18 was the same day IG Fred Wiederhold delivered his report to the Amtrak board and suddenly retired, and also the same day Chuck Grassley made public his letter about the International Trade Commission IG, Judith Gwynne.

So barely a week after Walpin got his June 10 quit-or-be-fired ultimatum from White House lawyer Norm Eisen, there were two other IG cases. Then we have the case of the watchdog who’s still hanging tough, SIGTARP, Neil Barofsky. The bailout watchdog showed yesterday how much trouble he can cause, and it’s therefore no mystery why Treasury’s giving Barofsky a hard time. (My money’s still on Barofsky as the IG most likely to get a Cabinet secretary sent to federal prison.)

IG-Gate is a big mother, you see. Because I’m on deadline for a print magazine article, there’s no time for me to do a complete aggregation now, but here are the major IG-Gate articles I’ve done so far:

Each of those items is chock-full of links to other items. As you can see, just six weeks into this story, there’s a lot of stuff out there — and, no doubt, a lot more to come. Just keep hitting the tip jar.

One of these days, I plan to hit the American Spectator with the mother of all expense reimbursement requests — “$800 for fireworks?” “Promotional activity. Perfectly legitimate, Al.” — but in the meantime, Daddy needs a new pair of shoes.

UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers! Just in case you’re wondering why Professor Reynolds loves this story so much, I once again remind you to read the whole thing. The professor’s drooling at the prospect of The Mother of All Chris Dodd Updates.

Meanwhile, be sure to check out the IG-Gate Rule 3 memo, which offers more tasty watchdog morsels.

July 21, 2009

Is Hot Air offline? Or is it just me?UPDATED: Back online; ‘human error’

(BUMPED 12:03 P.M.; SEE UPDATES BELOW) Of course, it’s 3:30 a.m., so they may just be doing downtime for service or something. The site seemed to go down while I was working on an “IG-Gate Update” report in the Green Room. Figured it was just a glitch, so I finished writing the post in Word format, but when I went back — two hours later — I still couldn’t get the site to come up.

Perhaps it’s all part of the conspiracy against me. Byron York is probably in on it, too.

Bloggernoia, anyone?

UPDATE: In the comments, Gerard Van der Leun confirms that both Hot Air and Michelle Malkin’s site are now down. So, down for maintenance, targeted by denial-of-service attack, or did somebody just forget to pay the ISP bill this month?

UPDATE II: At 9:45 a.m. Ed Morrissey posted: “This was human error . . .” For which somebody undoubtedly got a double-earful of grief.

If any of you actually know Michelle Malkin, she is not a woman you would ever want to make angry. Some of you may think of her as just another pundit, but it’s more appropriate to think of her as an independent businesswoman. The syndicated column, the books, the speaking engagements, the TV appearances, her blog, Hot Air — she’s a one-woman industry, a name brand, and she didn’t build her media empire by slacking around doing sloppy work, see?

A few years ago, when I was at The Washington Times, we got Michelle to come to the office for an interview. When the interview was over, I wanted to introduce her to some people on the second floor. This took a little longer than anticipated. Michelle had another appointment — she was on a schedule — and she began to become noticeably irritated at the delay of her departure, which was my fault. It was scary.

‘Human Error’?
Fast-forward to earlier this year, when Michelle asked me to read a few draft chapters of Culture of Corruption and suggest changes.

Oh. My. God. Yeah, heckuva an honor to be asked, but on the other hand, a task fraught with danger. A book is not a blog post or a newspaper article. It is not a transient phenomenon, here today and forgotten tomorrow. Regnery is going to sell tens of thousands of copy of that book, every liberal critic on the planet will go over it with a fine-toothed comb looking for a comma splice or a typo, and . . . Oh. My. God.

Think of “human error” in hardback! If I were responsible for a screw-up, I’d be forever banished, exiled to The Land Of Perpetual Non-Linkage, persona non grata in the blogosphere.

Well, as Michelle would say, you gotta have balls to take on that kind of job. I’ve edited some excellent journalists over the years, and every writer loves his first draft. Sometimes in the newsroom, I’d find myself in furious arguments with reporters (I don’t want to name names, Stephen Dinan) who were prepared to fight for every preposition and participle.

Don’t Change a Word!
As an editor, you hate that attitude — you’re not being paid the big medium bucks just to read stuff and send it along — but Dinan is a meticulous writer, and there was at least one occasion where an editor, thinking to “improve” Dinan’s copy, accidentally introduced an error into his story. Hey, it’s the reporter’s byline, and his protective instinct, his pride of authorship, was not a thing to be taken lightly.

Which I, of all people, should understand. I was both an editor and a reporter, and when it was my byline on a story, I was obsessive, even fanatical, about protecting my articles as they flowed through the editorial process. My motto then became, “Don’t Change a Word of My Deathless Prose!”

All this background was in my mind when I was asked to read Michelle’s manuscript. It’s her book, her research, her hours of writing and re-writing, her name on the cover. If there’s an error in the book, she’s going to be the one who takes the heat, and God forbid I should be in the vicinity of such an error.

So please buy a copy Culture of Corruption — better yet, buy two copies and give one to a liberal you know, just to annoy ’em. And please pray for me, and for the other people involved in the editorial process on Michelle’s blockbuster expose of Team Obama.

“Human error” . . . Oh. My. God. I’d be a dead man. Or at least, I’d wish I was dead.

May 21, 2009

Ah, the Iron Law

by Smitty (h/t Hot Air)

You can nearly feel bad for Arnold, after watching that Reason.TV clip.
Two points:

  • California has been the Iron Law of Bureaucracy in action. The Unions seem to bring out the brittle in the Iron Law, no?
  • Arnie is just another moderate:

    Think of the the American political landscape as a valley, with moderates milling about in the middle, which is also a no-man’s land, and the ridges on the left and right are populated by some deeply committed partisans. John, you have no friends, and you’re likely to be more welcome on the left ridge than the right, with the rest of the lousy sell-outs. I’m guessing you have enough dodge/weave skills to survive. As for the right ridge: Tea Party.

The sooner we quit listening to the parade of leftist nitwits, and set about restoring fiscal sanity, the sooner we get on the road to actual recovery. The Kings of the Soul Punk Swing have a video that sums up the collectivist policies nicely:

March 31, 2009

Do I Need A Vanity Plate?

by Smitty

It started at Politico. It picked up steam over at Hot Air. It culminated in a Fetus Hater of the Month ‘award’ for Nancy Keenan over at LaShawn Barber. All because Virginia Governor Kaine’s decision to allow “Choose Life” license license plates in Virginia is a “divisive political ideology”.
Never mind the First Amendment. Never mind that

Kaine defended the move by pointing out that Virginia has a “long-standing program” allowing customized license plates and said that if Planned Parenthood applied for a plate he would grant it.

Maybe life itself is a political ideology for Ms. Keenan.
I’ve never had any interest in a vanity plate. They seem so well named. As Ancient Commenter Solomon observed:

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all [is] vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?–Eccl 1:2-3

Thumbing the nose in a positive way at ideas as suck-tacular as Keenan’s, while small profit indeed, may be worth the price. What to put on a vanity plate? I’ve been thinking of “SEK E 1ST”. Ideas?

February 15, 2009

How to Get a Million Hits on Your Blog in Less Than a Year

Having promised an appropriate celebration of passing the 1-million-visitors Site Meter threshold Friday, I will do so by sharing the secret of my success. It’s the Underpants Gnome Theory of Blogging:

  • Phase 1: Get a Blogspot account.
  • Phase 2: ?
  • Phase 3: One million visitors!

Obviously, the key here is Phase 2, which has been exceptionally disorganized. Some guys work smart. Some guys work hard. Some guys are just incredibly lucky.

The perceptive blog consumer will notice that posts here don’t have all those little thingies (Digg, etc.) the way some other blogs do. This is not because I disdain such methods of traffic enhancement, but because I’m such a primitive Unfrozen Caveman Blogger I can’t figure that stuff out. It’s the same reason I’m still on a Blogspot platform, rather than switching to a custom-designed WordPress format. Blogspot is so simple that even I can figure it out, and if they’d just offer a few more templates — hey, guys, how about a template with variable-width sidebars on both sides? — I might be able to fake that custom-designed elegance, too. I understand basic HTML, but Javascript no can do, and I’m too cheap to shell out the bucks for geek services.

Lacking advanced, sophisticated technological gee-whizzery, I have been forced to employ astonishingly crude Web 0.1 methods of traffic-enhancement, namely:

  • Write stuff people might want to read; and
  • Compulsively e-mail my posts to bloggers who might possibly consider linking me.

Astonishingly crude, but also surprisingly effective. And so we come to Rule 1, the Prime Directive so to speak:

  • 1. Shameless Blogwhoring.

I’m amazed that Instapundit, Michelle Malkin, Ace of Spades and the Hot Air crew haven’t declared a fatwa against me for the way I relentlessly fill their inboxes with blogwhoring e-mails like Arnold Horshack trying to get Mr. Kotter’s attention: “Ooh! Ooh! Ooh!”

However, the smart newcomer to the ‘sphere doesn’t just suck up to big-traffic bloggers who can throw him major traffic (although he does that with a single-minded fanaticism), he also sucks up sideways and downward, to bloggers who might not be able to throw 10,000 hits a day, but who are nonetheless valued contributors to the blogging community.

Little Miss Attila is my favorite example of the “valued contributors” category. Her best recent month was 24K visits in October, but she’s been around the ‘sphere a long time, is much beloved, and it is bad kharma not to link her. Every so often, while on the hunt for good stuff to blog about, I’ll go over to LMA, find something good she’s blogging about and link it. Why? Because, among various non-kharmic reasons, she has done the same for me, which brings me to Rule 2:

  • 2. The Full Metal Jacket Reach-Around

Maybe you’re not a fan of Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, and I’m not saying you should be. But the psychotic drill sergeant gives a notorious rant in which he colorfully expresses an important life principle: When someone does you a favor, find an opportunity to return the kindness.

Reciprocal linkage is the essential lubricant that makes the blogosphere purr with contentment. If somebody’s throwing you traffic, you should either (a) give them a link-back update, or at a minimum (b) keep them in mind for future linkage. Because you don’t want to end up on the wrong end of a kharmic unbalance in the ‘sphere, where you’re always taking and never giving.

Every beginning blogger confronts the Zero Hour. You’ve been blogging steadily for a week or two, sending around e-mails, trackbacking where you can, trying to develop some kind of regular traffic. And then, late one night, you think you might have finally composed your first Instalanche-worthy post and you e-mail it to Glenn Reynolds. You go to bed like a 7-year-old kid on Christmas Eve, then wake up at 4 a.m. and check your Site Meter to discover that your latest hourly traffic is . . . ZERO.

At which point, you want to swallow a handful of sedatives, wash it down with a quart of bleach, slit your wrists and stick your head in the oven. You are a complete and utter failure.

I’ve never forgotten the Zero Hour, and if I’ve become slightly less conscientious about reciprocal linkage since then, God forgive me, but I do try. In the midst of a traffic upswing, not all linkage is noticeable on Site Meter, so I check Technorati, which shows linkage regardless of traffic level. And thank you Dad29, thank you Joe Kristan, thank you, Andrea Shea King, thank you Jimmie Bise, thank you William Teach. Damn my lazy thoughtlessness, but please don’t doubt my gratitude.

Now that we’ve scratched the surface of technique, let’s address the tricky little subject of content with Rule 3:

  • 3. Memeorandum

Did somebody say “lazy thoughtlessness”? The easiest place to find blog fodder is Memeorandum, which has an algorithmic formula that automatically updates to tell you what the hot topics are in the ‘sphere.

I especially like their “Featured Posts,” sort of a random grab-bag of stuff that will occasionally feature some lefty shooting off his mouth in pure idiotic moonbat mode. Grab that sucker by the neck and give him the Mother Of All Fiskings, with enough vitriolic ad hominem to make sure he never forgets it. Because buddy, the lefties will turn right around and do it to you if you ever rate “Featured Post” status, and there’s nothing like a vicious flame war to earn your spurs in the ‘sphere. Which brings me to Rule 4:

  • 4. Make Some Enemies

We’ll have none of your “bipartian civility” around here, you sissy weaklings. This here is the Intertoobs, and we’re As Nasty As We Wanna Be. The fact that The Moderate Voice has turned into a reliable vessel for DNC talking points should tell you all you need to know about the fate of bipartisanship in the blogosphere.

At the same time, however, don’t confuse cyber-venom with real-world hate. Maybe Ace of Spades really would like to go upside Andrew Sullivan’s head with a baseball bat, I don’t know. But at some point you understand it’s just blogging about politics, and you start wondering if maybe it shares a certain spectator-friendly quality with pro wrestling. For all we know, Ace is spending weekends at Sully’s beach shack in Provincetown. (Next on Blogging Heads TV: Can “Bears” and Ewoks Be “Just Friends”?)

Some readers might remember when I first kicked Conor Friedersdorf in the knee for “insufficient cynicism.” Conor is, in real life, a nice guy. But he’s also (a) young, and (b) as earnest as John Boy Walton. So I got into a habit, when he was at Culture11, of kicking him in the knee with some regularity. It’s the Fraternity Initiation Principle: Pledges must be abused by their elders, and learn to be properly respectful, or else one day the ambitious little monsters will strangle us in our sleep. (Cf., my suggestion that George Freaking Will should be air-dropped on Jalalabad from a C-130.)

A couple days ago, hunting around for a reason to link my friend Russ Smith’s SpliceToday, I happened upon a column by Russ’s young minion, Andrew Sargus Klein, offering a particularly insipid argument for federal arts funding. Now, having been born and raised a Democrat, and arguably having never outgrown my obnoxious youthful arrogance, I can actually relate to Klein’s insipid argument. Stupid is as stupid does, and when I was 25, I might well have written something equally stupid. But the boy will never outgrow his stupidity unless he gets whomped on the head some.

Easy as it would have been to ignore Klein, I hit upon the delightfully fun idea of laying into him in Arkansas knife-fight mode: If you’re going to cut a man, eviscerate him. So I quickly composed a hyperbolic ad hominem rant, with the thoughtfully civil title, “Andrew Sargus Klein is an arrogant elitist douchebag.” I forward-dated the post for Friday morning, and sent Russ an e-mail to the effect of, “Hey, hope you don’t mind me abusing your office help a little bit. Nothing like a flame-war to build traffic. Don’t let on to Klein that I’m just funnin’ around with him.”

I’d hoped to bait Klein himself into a response. However, before that could happen — as if intent on illustrating how to make a fool out of yourself by taking this stuff too seriously — one of Klein’s friends offered up a comment:

Andrew Klein may be arrogant and elitist but he could craft logical arguments around your bumbling hypocrisy all day and night.

Of course I never bother “craft[ing] logical arguments,” sweetheart. It’s a freaking blog. If you want logic, subscribe to a magazine or buy a book. Pardon my double-entendre, Lola Wakefield, but people come here for the cheesecake. Logical arguments are a dime a dozen on the Internet, but sexy hotness . . . well, that reminds me of Rule 5:

  • 5. Christina Hendricks

Or Anne Hathaway or Natalie Portman or Sarah Palin bikini pics. Rule 5 actually combines four separate principles of blogospheric success:

  • A. Everybody loves a pretty girl — It’s not just guys who enjoy staring at pictures of hotties. If you’ve ever picked up Cosmo or Glamour, you realize that chicks enjoy looking at pretty girls, too. (NTTAWWT.) Maybe it’s the vicious catty she-thinks-she’s-all-that factor, or the schadenfreude of watching a human trainwreck like Britney Spears, but no one can argue that celebrity babes generate traffic. Over at Conservative Grapevine, the most popular links are always the bikini pictures. And try as I might to make “logical arguments” for tax cuts, wouldn’t you rather watch Michelle Lee Muccio make those arguments?
  • B. Mind the MEGO factor — All politics all the time gets boring after a while. Observant readers will notice that the headlines at Hot Air often feature silly celebrity tabloid stuff and News Of The Weird. Even a stone political junkie cannot subsist on a 24/7 diet of politics. The occasional joke, the occasional hot babe, the occasional joke about a hot babe — it’s a safety valve to make sure we don’t become humorless right-wing clones of those Democratic Underground moonbats.
  • C. Sex sells — Back when I was blogging to promote Donkey Cons (BUY TWO!), I accidentally discovered something via SiteMeter: Because the subtitle of the book is “Sex, Crime, and Corruption in the Democratic Party,” we were getting traffic from people Googling “donkey+sex.” You’d be surprised at the keyword combinations that bring traffic to a political blogger who understands this. Human nature being what it is, the lowest common denominator is always there, even if it’s sublimated or reverse-projected as puritanical indignation, which brings us to . . .
  • D. Feminism sucks — You can never go wrong in the blogosphere by having a laugh at the expense of feminists. All sane people hate feminism, and no one hates feminism more than smart, successful, independent women who’ve made it on their own without all that idiotic “Sisterhood Is Powerful” groupthink crap. And if you are one of those fanatical weirdos who takes that Women’s Studies stuff so seriously that you’re offended by Stephen Green’s sexist objectification of Christina Hendricks and her mighty bosom — well, sweetheart, to paraphrase Rhett Butler: “You should be offended, and often, and by someone who knows how.”

So, there you have it: Five Rules For Getting a Million Hits On Your Blog. There are probably another two dozen rules, but I’m too lazy to think of what they are right now. And to be honest, if it weren’t for that old picture of me in a Speedo, I’d probably still be 20,000 hits shy of the million mark. Some of us are just . . . blessed with exceptional modesty. And some guys get the steak knives.

UPDATE: Probably special mention should be made of Kathy “Five Feet of Fury” Shaidle, who never heard of a fair fight. She’s one of those people you don’t want angry at you. A ninja blackbelt in Rule 4, when she goes at an antagonist, it’s a knee in your groin and an elbow in your eye. However, she also keeps the customers satisfied with some naughty pinup hotness. (Rule 5!) That rare creature: A Canadian we like.

UPDATE II: Linked at Conservative Grapevine.