December 09, 2007
This post is mainly for those of you on RSS readers, as the homepage should, quite soon, be redirecting everyone. But so you know, this blog has moved to:
For those using RSS, the new feed is:
Copy that address into your reader and you'll get all the great Ezra Klein content you've come to love (or loathe), but with fewer calories.
Tomorrow, this blog moves to The American Prospect. It's a big deal for me. I remember setting up on Typepad, terrified that my decision to leave Pandagon was an insane mistake that would destroy my audience and doom any hope I had of making this into a career. I remember how hard the first few days were, looking at a Sitemeter that was a bare fraction of what I was used to, and seeing big zeros where the number of comments should have gone.
But this site allowed me to find my voice as a writer. My first explorations into health policy were here. So were the links to my first published pieces, and the announcement that I'd been hired by The American Prospect. My first appearances on Hardball came because of this site, as did my first op-eds in The Los Angeles Times. Indeed, I owe just about everything to this little blog, and the wonderful audience and commenting community that grew up around it.
And now, it's time to pack up my boxes and move once again. I've long wanted to bring the site to The Prospect, for reasons ranging from work-life balance, to a deep belief in the magazine's mission and my responsibility to further it, to a simple desire to feel like less of a delinquent employee. On Monday, after a lot of technological headaches and hassles (all of them borne with grace, cheer, and grim determination by this prince of a man), the new site will open. There are no planned changes in content or tone or orientation -- I will still have complete and sole editorial control over the site. It will simply be over there, instead of over here. And there will be more red.
Sadly, my remarkable weekend writers will not be coming with me. They will be starting their own group blog. But I'll leave that for their goodbye posts (which are below this one), and simply say that I've been honored to have such a whip-smart group of writers pitch-in, elevating the site's quality and giving me something resembling weekends. I can't thank them enough, and I'm genuinely excited to be able to read them all week long, and in one place.
Logistically speaking, on Sunday, this post will be raised to the top of the site. That evening, the transfer will take place, this page will redirect to the new site, and all the other technical aspects of the move will take place. I hope you folks will all follow over to TAP, change your bookmarks, update your feeds, and all the rest. After all, without you, I'm just some crazy guy, listening to my own voice echo through the tubes.
Oops. By Stephen of Cogitamus.
I'm usually not that good with titles; the one for this post, however, encapsulates perfectly what I feel and what I owe
- To Ezra, of course, for the opportunity to be associated with one so talented and to write for such a large audience. Last February, when Ezra was looking to add some more weekenders, I joked with him that if he was desperate he could always add me to the team. I was shocked to find out that he was apparently that desperate and had been intending to invite me.
- To the readers and especially the commenters, for holding me to the same high standards of research and accuracy to which you hold Ezra and the other weekenders. You've chastised, encouraged, discussed and overall made reading and writing for this blog into an amazing experience.
I would, of course, like to invite all of you over to Cogitamus. It can be difficult to think of adding another blog to your reading schedule, but in addition to Ezra's Reservoir Bloggers we've added some fascinating voices and we are committed to making it worth your while to invest time with us.
Faithful readers know Nicholas, Litbrit, Stephen, Ankush, John, and myself from our weekend posts on this blog. (While you've known me as 'Neil the Ethical Werewolf' here, I've decided to switch back to my human name for the new blog, at least while the moon remains in an oblong shape.) But there are three new writers we're bringing onto Cogitamus to whom you should be introduced.
The first, and probably the bearer of the most impressive resume among us all, is Lisa Simeone, who is now adding the humble practice of blogging to the long list of media she's worked in -- radio, TV, and all forms of high-profile print media.
The identity of the second is secret. He goes by Sir Charles, and does something very important and progressive in a capital city somewhere. I'm sure that he'll reveal more about himself as time passes, but I don't want to say any more, lest I accidentally tip off his enemies to his real name or his occupation or the location of his secret underground lair.
The third, Sara Anderson, is the one whom I've been reading for the longest time. Her blog, f-words, gets its name from some of the topics she writes on -- food, fact, fiction, and feminism, all of which I have positive feelings of different kinds towards. I've always found her writing completely wonderful. It's not a flashy kind of wonderful -- it's the subtle kind of wonderful where she writes a sentence that balances five different thoughts to get a complicated issue exactly right, and then she does that in the next sentence, and the next one, and the one after that, and at the end you're just nodding and going 'Yeah' because that's exactly what needed to be said. I'm overjoyed that we have her, and you can see her latest post at the new blog here.
This Has Been The Most Awesome Thing Ever
It's been an awesome two and a half years guestblogging for Ezra. I've never stopped appreciating the awesomeness of being able to write for an audience of thousands, and I have him to thank both for the long and wonderful opportunity he's given me in the past, and for setting me up to do so on a new and awesome blog in the future.
Even the most politically significant philosophers usually don't have much of an impact before they die, and I'm blessed to be an exception to that rule. I wish Ezra all the best in his future endeavors, and I expect my already-great pride in having been associated with him to grow even greater as he moves on to bigger and better things.
December 08, 2007
So Long; Fare Well
By Deborah Newell Tornello
I cannot let the evening close without thanking you for your support and wishing you every success in your already-brilliant career. It has been an honor, as well as a great pleasure, to write for your site.
Oscar Wilde said that "journalism is unreadable and literature is not read", but I believe that between the two, there is a little-known middle ground upon which a lucky few can find balanced footing--that it's possible to draw inspiration and even fuel from each discipline. Thus the informative becomes artful; the esoteric, nourishing.
And people tend to read it. As they have here, and as they will continue to do at TAPPED.
On behalf of my family, all of whom are now Hardball watchers on Thursdays, I send a hearty congratulations and a heartfelt and loud Bravo.
It's not exactly groundbreaking, but Michael Lewis' piece in Portfolio magazine is fairly impressive when you consider that he and the magazine are basically arguing that a decent chunk of their readership is full of crap. The odds of you or your stockbroker or your money manager "beating" the market are pretty much zero, as Lewis explains, which is why index funds are such a safe bet.
So what is going on with all this investment advice in magazines and on cable? Eugene Fama, one of the key proponents of the efficient markets hypothesis, and Weston Wellington, a principal at a firm that purchases what are more or less index funds, have some pretty compelling explanations:
"You can tell a story every day about stocks," [Fama] concludes. "That’s what the media are all about. They tell a story every day about today’s stock returns. It’s businessman’s pornography."
[Wellington] punctuates the porn show with some general lessons. One is that the financial press isn't in the business of supplying useful information; it’s in the business of feeding people’s lust for predictions. "You keep buying the magazine regardless of how the forecasts turn out," Wellington says, "and they’ll keep supplying the forecasts."
That strikes me as basically correct, at least as applied to magazines (like SmartMoney) and shows (like MadMoney) that are in the business of providing people with investment advice as opposed to straight-up financial news. A lot of the folks behind these things are in the precarious position of having to dress things up -- convincing us that they have some unique insights -- so as not to quickly render themselves obsolete. This whole sector of the media is essentially a gigantic hype machine, perpetuating what is basically a myth -- out of incompetence, self-interest, self-delusion, or some combination of the three.
Saturday night at the movies
(Posted by John.)
So the girlfriend and I went to go see The Golden Compass tonight. There's a bit of weird layering here, as my fears about The Golden Compass being made in to a movie was one of the reasons I started blogging almost exactly three years ago today. Seriously. (Yes, George Bush had just been re-elected, but what really made me want to spill pixels was fears of an emasculated film based on a children's book. Priorities, people!)
And then there's the big move to Cogitamus, weirdly also happening at the same time. Obviously, I'm excited to keep blogging with such quality writers, and immensely grateful to Ezra for the opportunity he's given me. Not that you'll need it Ezra, but best of luck.
So there's a bunch of things going on. But let's get back to the movie. Happily, the fundamentalist rage didn't manage to ruin the movie. Sadly, the movie was still ruined.
I think Stephanie Zacharek more or less nailed the movie's flaws, and its few virtues, with her review. But I had a curious sensation watching this movie, trying to figure out where I'd last seen a movie which had such a dissonant mix of good actors and high production values on the one hand, but absolutely atrocious writing on the other.
Oh yeah... The Chronicles of Riddick. Except this time, Vin Diesel is a polar bear.
And if you haven't seen it, Riddick really is a weird movie. You've got Thandie Newton, Colm Feore, and Dame friggin' Judi Dench, but somehow they've all been transported to this alternate universe where they're delivering some of the worst dialogue ever, within a truly atrocious story. But it's also got some of the most impressive and interesting use of CGI that I've seen in a film recently -- frankly, more in some ways than the Star Wars prequels. But: Dame friggin' Judi Dench. Still, all in all, a forgettable film.
So let's just say that when I'm comparing it with Golden Compass, it's not a compliment.
Wedgies for Huckabee
I've got a couple more things to talk with y'all about before it's time to bid Ezra's blog farewell, and one is Mike Huckabee, who's now leading the GOP Iowa polls. He's a good bet to win the state -- his straw poll success was a good test of his organization, and he has the most appeal to Iowa religious conservatives. For a long time, I've regarded him as the most dangerous general election opponent. Like most Democrats, I remember how easily a red-state Republican cast himself as a 'compassionate conservative' in 2000, and I'm worried about seeing it again.
But the more I think about Huckabee, the less I worry. I think people underestimate the extent to which his brand of social conservatism is a real liability in a general election. Bush's success doesn't have any positive implications for Huckabee, as Bush always blurred the lines on social issues before elections. For example, here he is in October 2004, saying that civil unions are okay if states want them. And we all remember Bush's cryptic "Dred Scott" reference in the debate. That's the kind of dog-whistle politics you engage in when you're afraid to come out and say that you want to overturn Roe.
Having made his religious views such a big part of his public image, I doubt that Huckabee will be able to hide himself nearly as well. He's stuck with extreme positions like opposition to civil unions even in states that want them and support for a Constitutional Amendment banning abortion. And if you want to see something really crazy, take a look at this, from 1996:
Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas today refused to authorize a Medicaid payment for an abortion for a 15-year-old girl whose stepfather has been charged with incest, despite a Federal judge's order that such payments were required by Federal law.
Yeah. He blocked federal Medicaid funds so that an incest victim would have to bear her stepfather's child. Maybe Scott Lemieux or somebody can weigh in on the legal reasoning that Huckabee cites in the article, but it looks really thin to me. In any case, the dude is nuts.
We've seen Republican presidential candidates get stung by right-wing social views before -- think of Pat Buchanan's 1992 speech at the GOP convention, which hurt the elder Bush's re-election campaign. The main reason that social issues are regarded as difficult for Democrats today is that the younger Bush managed to triangulate away from our wedge issues. But if the focus returns to birth control, Constitutional Amendments to ban abortion, and civil unions, we're back in favorable territory.
It's a lot like it is on foreign policy -- if Democrats just show the same kind of confidence on social issues that they do on economic issues, they can come up with a way to defend progressive positions and win. Rather than making a big deal about extreme they aren't, they need to show how extreme their opponents are. It was hard to do that with Bush, because he was very effective at blurring the lines. Huckabee is going to be a lot easier.
Reporting That Makes Me Sad
The Stranger's Eli Sanders retells a conversation with an Iowa bartender [emphasis mine]:
To think that the rest of the country is going to elect someone who’s in the minority in religion and in race just doesn’t seem realistic to me.
This is why it doesn't matter if the Washington Post's 'Obama Muslim Rumors have Truthiness and Lots of Believers' article was an intentional smear or not. It does tremendous damage either way, making it flatly irresponsible to reprint these rumors without adjudicating their truth value (the rumors, of course, are false). I'm glad several Post writers have come out and said they're unhappy with the piece. Hopefully the forces of light will prevail before the next truthy article hits the press.