Have a Blessed Charles Krauthammer Day

by Henry on April 22, 2010

The calendar has once again rolled around to the date on which we commemorate Charles Krauthammer’s pronouncement that:

Hans Blix had five months to find weapons. He found nothing. We’ve had five weeks. Come back to me in five months. If we haven’t found any, we will have a credibility problem.

You’ve had seven years now, Charlie. How’s it looking? Hoping for a result sometime in year eight?

{ 141 comments }

1

Salient 04.22.10 at 7:19 pm

You’ve had seven years now, Charlie.

But see these years shouldn’t count because we weren’t really try-ing.

How’s it looking?

It’s looking like Obama has been in office for a year, yet has managed to not find the weapons of mass destruction for more than a decade. No President to date can claim that level of failure.

Hoping for a result sometime in year eight?

Not really, because it will be satisfying to see the liberals fail.

2

AntiAlias 04.22.10 at 7:20 pm

Like the whole thing didn’t have credibility=0 from t=0…

3

hidflect 04.22.10 at 7:25 pm

And so we need wonder no longer why the Elite strangely aren’t using the acronym “WMD” anymore, even when discussing the likelihood of imminent Iranian nuclear missiles.

Yes, it is because the term “WMD” has now been so thoroughly whored out it would produce a spontaneous and instantaneous rictus of paralyzing and hysterical laughter from every person on the planet if ever used again this century.

Which leads us to the possibility that this buildup against Iran is also complete funk…

4

Michael Bérubé 04.22.10 at 7:46 pm

I think it’s mean to kick Krauthammer when he’s down, having been fired from every print and media outlet in the US and reduced to sitting by the Metro stop at Dupont Circle holding a sign, “will pontificate for food.” He’s been utterly banished from public life and political debate, just like Negro bank managers were in the fifties. I just hope you’re all happy now.

5

dr ngo 04.22.10 at 7:59 pm

Happier than I was . . .

6

roac 04.22.10 at 8:38 pm

@4: Did the Post dump Chuckles? I missed that. But if Theissen was his replacement, that’s not exactly an improvement.

7

yabonn_fr 04.22.10 at 8:52 pm

Everybody knows they’re east, west, south, and north somewhat.

8

roac 04.22.10 at 9:14 pm

Uh-oh — perhaps my irony detector fried a circuit in #6. We are all too ready to believe good news.

9

Ombrageux 04.22.10 at 9:35 pm

Deutschemartel still spews is venomous cocktail of bile and bullshit in the Post, to the delight of my Republican friends.

10

P O'Neill 04.22.10 at 9:43 pm

It surely means something, though not clear what, that Sally Quinn got run out of the print pages of the Post before Krauthammer.

11

jre 04.22.10 at 10:19 pm

Y’all are missing the point here.

Iraqi WMDs were and are worth looking for, even if the search takes years — nay, decades! — and costs the lives of three Brazilian soldiers, because Iraqi WMDs are the very best WMDs anyone has ever seen or not seen.

Obama’s non-proliferation efforts, in contrast, are a pathetic sham because he accepts just any old fissionable material from any old country.

12

christian h. 04.22.10 at 10:57 pm

Well Michael I’m sure your pals at Dissent will be happy to hire Krauthammer should he ever be in trouble. He’d fit in well with Alan “not the footballer or minister” Johnson and his crew, not to mention Michael “Gazans deserve to die” Walzer.

13

Castorp 04.23.10 at 1:54 am

“and reduced to sitting by the Metro stop at Dupont Circle holding a sign, “will pontificate for food.””

I showed him a donut from the Krispy Kream and said he could have it if the oration did not contain the words “Munich,” “Chamberlain,” or “Hitler.” Obviously that was unfair, but that’s how I roll.

14

mcd 04.23.10 at 1:56 am

Do not any of you realize:

1) The Iraq War was never about WMDs. Only liberals thought it was about WMDs.

2) Bush never said there were WMDs. Only liberals thought he said that.

3) Bush said there were WMDs, but Bush was really a liberal, and so that has nothing to do with me.

4) Liberals are the real fascists.

Charles K.

15

grytpype 04.23.10 at 3:43 am

Saddam HIMSELF was the weapon of mass destruction!

(That’s actually what Condi Rice was saying about this time seven years ago, believe it or not.)

16

Snarki, child of Loki 04.23.10 at 3:50 am

Michael,
thanks so much for the report from the “rational” alternate universe; it does lift one’s spirits to know that somewhere in this big, whacky multiverse, there are some small morsels of justice.

How are the war-crimes trials of Bush, Cheney et al coming along? Please post gifs of the hangings, if you can.

17

LosGatosCA 04.23.10 at 4:11 am

They will find it in the next Friedman Unit. Without a doubt.

18

JustWaitAMinute. 04.23.10 at 4:18 am

we will have a credibility problem

However, I seem to recall that Bush got re-elected again, something about not wanting to change horses in the middle of stream or war, whatever. Krauthammer didn’t have too much to worry about as Bush/Cheney pretty much got away with murder.

19

a 04.23.10 at 5:08 am

I’m sure that Krauthammer would agree that the failure to find stockpiles led to a credibility problem.

IOW, your post was moronic.

20

Pinko Punko 04.23.10 at 5:39 am

But only a secret and deeply private agreement, right, a? Not one we could read about at Krauthammer’s day job?

21

John Quiggin 04.23.10 at 6:51 am

a@16, your comment blew the fuses on my irony detection system. It’s a public holiday weekend here, and it will be Tuesday before I can get them fixed. Please, please, remember to use irony alerts when making comments that read as if they are intended literally, but obviously can’t be.

Bérubé , I’d say the same to you, but I have set irony as the default in your case.

22

prongo 04.23.10 at 6:57 am

Dear A, the post was not about whether or nor kraut hammer admitted later to a credibility problem or not.its about being stupid and about people dying.you will see that neither the original poster nor any of the commenters mention the credibilty issue. Your welcome.

23

JoB 04.23.10 at 7:49 am

WTF is Krauthammer? Could you please try to entertain a bit the idea that there is the rest of us for whom all these little in-fights have no meaning at all. Or is it the deliberate policy of crooked timber to restrict the readership to those with a sickly interest in parochialism? Hell, at least we in Belgium succeed to have real and novel problems!

24

bad Jim 04.23.10 at 8:00 am

We don’t need Sarah Palin to remind us that there is no penalty for pig-ignorance, yet Sarah Palin is still all over the news to remind us that not only can you always get what you don’t want, but you can also always get what you don’t need.

Could there be anything more addictive than the thought “I was right to be wrong and you were wrong to be right”? It’s the gateway to transcending reality-based thinking.

25

Stuart 04.23.10 at 9:15 am

JoB, nowadays there are things like Google and Wikipedia, so ignorance is something you can cure yourself rather than relying on others to fill the gaps.

26

JoB 04.23.10 at 9:26 am

Stuart, why would I want to know something about somebody that was obviously wrong – or do you sincerely believe that a bunch of posts on US-centric figures of the third stage (yes, even a Belgian can use wikipedia! and read stuff in English) is the pressing thing to do?

(and I don’t begrudge you the fun of it but I just would like to have from time to time something that is not about the navel of US – apparently would-be – intelligentsia)

27

JoB 04.23.10 at 9:28 am

(yes, that should read ‘who was obviously’ …)

28

alex 04.23.10 at 11:24 am

Blimey, JoB, you can be tiresome sometimes. Shove off and find yourself a new government, or something, can’t you?

29

Salient 04.23.10 at 11:45 am

I confess to being a little saddened that it was commenter a, and not mcd or myself, who managed to blow J. Quiggin’s irony detector fuses. I was pretty sure my comment was as over-the-top as one could achieve. I guess we were too obvious about it — a is much more economical. Even in choice of pseudonym!

But come on folks, alex especially, look at this golden opportunity that has presented itself:

WTF is Krauthammer?

What is a Krauthammer, indeed. Surely the plain people of the Internet haven’t blown their snark generators along with their irony detectors? That would be a shame. Does this question not cry out for your barbed wits?

I’ll go with the obvious. What is Krauthammer? Imagine a fresh head of cabbage, crisp and delicious, being crushed by an oily sledge. Forever.

30

JoB 04.23.10 at 12:03 pm

24- no can do, not that it is any more interesting than Krauthammer or fresh cabbage or indeed your wit.

31

Michael Bérubé 04.23.10 at 12:22 pm

christian h. blew my irony meter @ 12 by anticipating mcd’s point 4 @ 14. But every once in a while, someone has to interrupt the ritual “your-pals-at-Dissent” chant by pointing out that Walzer, whatever his other faults, opposed the invasion of Iraq. Krauthammer strenuously supported it, which was, if memory serves, the point of Henry’s post. Not a dime’s worth of difference, I know — just my two cents.

32

Barry 04.23.10 at 12:50 pm

a 04.23.10 at 5:08 am

“I’m sure that Krauthammer would agree that the failure to find stockpiles led to a credibility problem.”

I’m sure that you would be sure, but much more sure that Krauthammer would not agree with that, and far more sure that Krauthammer doesn’t give a flying f*ck, because he’s a paid liar, and [right-wing] lies won’t cause him to lose his job.

33

Castorp 04.23.10 at 1:08 pm

“Stuart, why would I want to know something about somebody that was obviously wrong – or do you sincerely believe that a bunch of posts on US-centric figures of the third stage (yes, even a Belgian can use wikipedia! and read stuff in English) is the pressing thing to do?”

If only there were a way to read posts you were interested in and ignore the ones you weren’t…

34

mds 04.23.10 at 1:10 pm

But every once in a while, someone has to interrupt the ritual “your-pals-at-Dissent” chant by pointing out that Walzer, whatever his other faults, opposed the invasion of Iraq.

Yes, but on the other hand, Alan Johnson, which is a tiny bit more on-target than Walzer, no?

Though on the gripping hand, I didn’t realize that one automatically became pals with everyone else writing for the same magazine. Where are all my PNAS homies?

And on the hand attached to a prosthetic arm grafted on to restore bilateral symmetry, I’ll confess that I still think Paterson Joseph (who plays Alan Johnson in Peep Show) would have been an interesting casting choice for the Doctor. And I say that as someone who has been reassured by Matt Smith’s performance to date.

Oh, and insert something pertinent to Belgium here.

Imagine a fresh head of cabbage, crisp and delicious, being crushed by an oily sledge. Forever.

Nothing to add to this, really. It just seemed to deserve repeating.

35

chris 04.23.10 at 1:14 pm

@3: AFAIK, the *entirety* of the evidence that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons (as opposed to nuclear power) is that they say they’re not, and we all know what lying bastards Iranians are, don’t we?

That’s really it. The only card on the table. And we make policy based on that shit.

36

PHB 04.23.10 at 1:28 pm

Nobody, absolutely nobody could have predicted that the Liberals would be right and the Conservatives would be wrong.

Nobody absolutely nobody was saying that the people opposed to the war were anything but deluded.

Nobody absolutely nobody was taking Atrios seriously when he blogged about the coming sub-prime meltdown for four years before it happened. And nobody, absolutely nobody imagined that Paul Krugman was right when he suggested people take note of the warnings being given.

Nobody absolutely nobody was saying these things that liberals were saying.

37

Heur 04.23.10 at 1:38 pm

@31, there are a few important things, but I’m not sure this is the thread for that. I also have a lot more faith in this administration’s ability to sift through conflicting evidence, and use proper procedures to minimize confirmation bias and other problems.

Did CK ever offer an explanation for why we never found WMD in Iraq? Or did he just decide to never talk about it again?

38

klk 04.23.10 at 1:43 pm

pity poor, blogless Belgium. And poor, politically incorrect liberals.

39

roac 04.23.10 at 1:50 pm

@37: Wasn’t it CK who suggested at one point that the stuff must have been squirreled away across the border in Syria?

40

JohnR 04.23.10 at 2:05 pm

@39: I think you must have mis-read that: he wrote “Assyria”, meaning that the infamous Muslim Time Korps was secretly sending the WMD stockpiles back to Hammurabi’s vast storage ziggurats, from which they would be retrieved when the Liberals had cravenly forced the manly and heroic Republican Army of the Fatherland to withdraw from Iraq and allowed S. Hussein to return from his Secret Spider Hole Lair of Doom and Menace The World once again.
Maybe his editor changed it.

41

JoB 04.23.10 at 2:16 pm

33- if only you ignored the comments you weren’t interested in. Anyway – as I am not going to win a popularity poll, anywhere, soon – the point is that there are less and less posts that are of interest beyond the circle of die-hard hate fans of third rate right wingers here. That is a pity – because if my memory serves me well it has been different.

Now everybody in Belgium is firmly gazing the Belgian navel, it is a bit disappointing to have it similarly here; with as only difference that the navel is bigger ;-)

(blogless we are not, by the way, just click)

42

Kyle Michel Sullivan 04.23.10 at 2:46 pm

Maybe he meant we’re counting in dog years? Like — we’ve had 7 years to look but that really only equates to one year, and never mind if my logic or English don’t make sense ’cause I know what I’m talking about and you don’t and…wait…what WERE we talking about?

43

mds 04.23.10 at 3:16 pm

Maybe his editor changed it.

Well, I would hope so. Hammurabi was Babylonian, not Assyrian. Other than that, though, it fits the facts on the ground.

44

lemuel pitkin 04.23.10 at 3:35 pm

there are less and less posts that are of interest beyond the circle of die-hard hate fans of third rate right wingers here.

JoB has a bit of a point here, no? It’s always striking to me how firmly CT’s collective gaze is directed to its right.

With the possible exception of one or two by Berube, I’m not sure I can recall a single post engaging, disagreeing, or even acknowledging someone clearly identified to the poster’s left. OK, John Quiggin wrote one post a couple years ago about why he isn’t heterodox, and more recently one about how he hasn’t read any Marxist analyses of the economic crisis. (Lots of people pointed him to some; I don’t know if he looked at them.) Admiration for Doug Henwood is occasionally expressed here, but you’d never know he has a blog. Monthly Review? New Left Review? There’s plenty of room for productive arguments with folks like that, you’d think, but it never happens. On the other hand, there’s always room for another post on Jonah Goldberg or Bryan Caplan. Strange.

45

lemuel pitkin 04.23.10 at 3:50 pm

(Yes, I know there was a book club on Doug’s book, and also on George Scialabba, who’s pretty clearly to the left of most CT contributors. Those were great! But they’re not representative, at all, of the usual posts here.)

46

Howlin Wolfe 04.23.10 at 4:06 pm

JoB, you may not believe it, but people like Krauthammer have influence on the political discourse here, as opposed the center of the multiverse that is Belgium. As an American, this is very interesting to me. To a Belgian, probably not so much. But why you would criticize Americans for having an interest in American affairs is beyond me. Is there some premise about Crooked Timber that says, “CT deals only with important international issues.” *checks masthead* Don’t see one.
For my part, if a post seems to pay undue attention to what is, to me, an irrelevant matter, I either don’t read or think about it further, or I find out why the poster and commenters think it’s important.
Someone who keeps commenting after telling everyone the post is worthless seems to have some cognitive dissonance going on. Or likes to read his or her own writing.

47

bob mcmanus 04.23.10 at 4:07 pm

44:Not so strange.

From the Henwood link:”Liberals have done their fair share of puffing up the Tea Party.
They love nothing more than getting hot and bothered over the fascist threat as a way of scaring people into voting for Democrats as our last line of defense against the brownshirts.”

48

jill 04.23.10 at 4:18 pm

So, Krauthammer should also agree that Bush took 8 years to destroy the country and Obama has had only 18 months to fix it…come back in 6 and1/2 years and if he hasn’t fixed it…

49

mds 04.23.10 at 4:32 pm

“Liberals have done their fair share of puffing up the Tea Party. They love nothing more than getting hot and bothered over the fascist threat as a way of scaring people into voting for Democrats as our last line of defense against the brownshirts.”

Yes, ha ha, those wacky liberals, occasionally drawing parallels to a noisy minority that denied the legitimacy of an existing government, embraced religiously-motived hyper-nationalism and restoration of traditional values, labeled everything to their left as communism, and advocated violence as a desirable way to negate legal democratic outcomes that they didn’t like.

Personally, given the ongoing lack of ballot alternatives, I urge voting for (certain) Democrats merely as the first line of defense against the brownshirts. Because it ain’t a Democratic legislature that just passed a state law making “appearing in public without papers while Hispanic-looking” an arrestable offense. But this first line of defense is only a stopgap, until either (1) we can get the membership of the Wobblies up to levels that would put teeth into a general strike, or (2) the Fourth International takes to the classifieds of all the major US papers to declare “The condor has landed, and the fat man sings at midnight.” (Nods meaningfully while tapping side of nose.) Remember, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Though if you’re a Quaker, your vigilance doesn’t count, because you’re not prepared to use a machete when the revolution comes.

So, come to think of it, CT’ers, mr. pitkin is on to something. Why not spend some time arguing with Henwood about whether the violence-drenched rhetoric and virulent hostility to the rule of law expressed by the Teabaggers is any particularly big deal, or not? When you finally get back to him, Chuck Cabbagemallet will still be wrong about whatever he’s writing about then.

50

jdw 04.23.10 at 4:40 pm

Further to # 41, 44, and 47: Isn’t this all more a question of parading the idea that you’re sort of on the correct side of things and sort of feisty to boot, but without having to say anything actually controversial? There’s a niche there. “We’re tenured, but contrary to appearances, we’re not a group of temporizing greaseballs”–I think that’s the credo.

51

JoB 04.23.10 at 4:48 pm

46- I wouldn’t say this if CT hadn’t been addressing other topics before. I haven’t said they have to do anything, I am just pointing out that people that come regularly are seeing lots of US stuff, and not particularly the kind of US stuff that transcends parochialism. As to Belgium &the US, I admitted that the second navel was bigger (which means that I admitted the first was a navel too but maybe the irony meters at CT have been so desensitized by the irony overdoses (& I almost said ‘the complacent irony overdoses’ but I wouldn’t dare to do thát) lately that it is hard to pick up on irony coming from places that know that their parochialism is parochial.

Anyway, you can always skip comments that you don’t like.

lemuel – to be fair: you exaggerate, although all of these libertarian posts would give you enough links to build a case that would be internet-credible ;-) But thanks to share some of the criticism that will not be reflected on selves.

52

Salient 04.23.10 at 4:51 pm

There’s plenty of room for productive arguments with folks like that, you’d think, but it never happens.

I can understand why the folks at CT (or wherever really) might naturally want to pay more attention to the folks who are currently controlling, or who have in the past decade dominated, public discourse (in the U.S. and elsewhere).

Maybe it’s best to say that greater engagement with left thinkers is clearly welcomed and desired by CT readers including me… but all the same, the current rightward-looking asymmetry is quite explicable and reasonable and so forth. (shrug)

53

engels 04.23.10 at 5:05 pm

People like Charles Krauthammer, Megan McArdle and Jonah Goldberg control public discourse in the US and elsewhere?

54

chris 04.23.10 at 5:53 pm

“With the possible exception of one or two by Berube, I’m not sure I can recall a single post engaging, disagreeing, or even acknowledging someone clearly identified to the poster’s left.”

Well, I think the main problem here is that the left-right axis is revealed as an inadequate oversimplification when you look at it too closely. There’s lots of other people that are vaguely on the left somewhere that get discussed plenty. “Clearly to the poster’s left” is a nearly impossible standard given where the posters are starting from and the difficulty of coming up with a clear judgment on which of two leftists is to the left of the other.

What use would a leftier-than-thou contest be anyway?

55

P O'Neill 04.23.10 at 5:54 pm

When the AEI can with a straight face host a “Summer Institute” with perfessers Goldberg, Thiessen, Murray, and Kagan, R, that circle seems worthy of CT’s attention.

56

christian h. 04.23.10 at 5:56 pm

Hey, Walzer may support the massacre of hundreds of defenseless people with nowhere to run – but at least he opposed the Iraq war so it’s okay. What could there possibly be to criticize?

57

Salient 04.23.10 at 6:07 pm

People like Charles Krauthammer, Megan McArdle and Jonah Goldberg control public discourse in the US and elsewhere?

Ok, maybe the “and elsewhere” was grammatically misplaced? I’m obviously not talking about the same people in each case. Well, okay, apologies if it wasn’t so obvious.

58

Henry 04.23.10 at 6:23 pm

JoB – Fair enough if it seems parochial to you, but I suspect that a lot of posts on topics that you would prefer will seem parochial to many other readers. While we like being read (obviously), we mostly post on topics that are interesting to us at the time, without any expectation that they will appeal to a particular audience (we are doing this for free after all). And the fact that people like Krauthammer still exert an influence in US public debate is something that I take seriously, and that I probably should blog about more than I do.

Lemuel – again, this is something I probably should write more about, but my blogging reflects my reading. At the moment, I have little time for reading stuff beyond the standard press, stuff directly relevant to my work (mostly EU-US and international regulation) and various forms of entertaining junk (which I don’t blog about), so my blogging reflects this. When I can work stuff by interesting lefties into my reading (e.g. my review a while back of Phil’s book on the Italian left), I try to do it. This probably is not exactly what you are looking for, but I would like to blog more on the intersection between a certain kind of economic thinking (e.g. Sam Bowles etc) and the left over the next year or two – and there are synergies with my academic work (in particular, a paper that Cosma Shalizi and I are writing).

jdw – if you want to argue that we’re a bunch of phonies, I’m not going to try to convince you otherwise (I don’t think you’ll be easy to convince). I will point out that the last time you tried to “demonstrate this”:http://crookedtimber.org/2010/04/01/greenwald-v-kerr/#comment-310008 (at least with regard to me), you ended up making a bit of a mess of it.

59

Antoni Jaume 04.23.10 at 6:45 pm

chris 04.23.10 at 1:14 pm

You say ” @3: AFAIK, the entirety of the evidence that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons (as opposed to nuclear power) is that they say they’re not, and we all know what lying bastards Iranians are, don’t we?”

If only you were right. I am afraid that in fact there is a plot to make and use nuclear weapons, if only because of the resistence of Ahmadinnezhad to relinquish power to Moussavi. If the program was purely civilian, there should be no problem, else maybe Moussavi would disagree and reveal whatever it is.

60

geo 04.23.10 at 7:31 pm

I would like to blog more on the intersection between a certain kind of economic thinking (e.g. Sam Bowles etc) and the left over the next year or two

Yes, please!

61

Keith 04.23.10 at 8:23 pm

roac @39:

@37: Wasn’t it CK who suggested at one point that the stuff must have been squirreled away across the border in Syria?

I think that was Dick Cheney. Though it may have been Rummsfeld in his, “They’re North, South, East and West of here” statement.

62

kid bitzer 04.23.10 at 8:24 pm

castorp @13–

“I showed him a donut from the Krispy Kream and said he could have it if the oration did not contain the words “Munich,” “Chamberlain,” or “Hitler.” “

yeah, i did the same thing, and he kept on whining “aber ich wollte ein berliner!”

63

rolen 04.23.10 at 8:28 pm

I just tipped Charley the K that the WMD are buried in the end zone of the Giants field

64

Keith 04.23.10 at 8:35 pm

When the Democratic Socialist Party, USA actually, you know, exists, then I’m sure our friendly Timberites will have at them intellectually. Whichever ones haven’t been whisked away by a hoard of winged pigs, that is.

65

lemuel pitkin 04.23.10 at 8:36 pm

This probably is not exactly what you are looking for, but I would like to blog more on the intersection between a certain kind of economic thinking (e.g. Sam Bowles etc) and the left over the next year or two

Not exactly exactly, but close enough. So I’m with Geo: Yes please!

(I took a game theory class from Bowles, back in the day. A wonderful teacher.)

66

JoB 04.23.10 at 8:52 pm

Henry, fair enough, just expressing my 2 cents, your site. It wasn’t so much this item as the absence of other items. By the way, just saw Green Zone, that’s possible too on your side of the pond.

67

Castorp 04.23.10 at 9:33 pm

“yeah, i did the same thing, and he kept on whining “aber ich wollte ein berliner!” “

Did you respond, “Ach so, Sie Sprechen Deutsch? Irgendwie passt das.”

68

jdw 04.23.10 at 10:10 pm

Henry, my point here is that the predilection for easy targets of the Krauthammer/McArdle variety is something that gives the appearance of having a well-thought-out position without having to do any actual thinking. I think you’re being a little premature if you think that automatically makes you a phony. It is, however, as I said, a niche.

As for the earlier point which you have referred back to (I didn’t read your blue-rinse rebuttal with the screaming caps, because I had stopped reading by that time), my point was merely this: You coded blogs by left and right, and concluded that blog-readers are “carniverous” and enclosed in “cocoons of cognitive consonance” or some such expressions. As the title of your paper indicated, you connected that with “self-segregation” as opposed to “deliberation”. My point, which may have escaped you, was and is that deliberation often occurs when people learn new information, for example when a reader of a left blog reads information about events in the Middle East generally available from other entities that would be also coded as left. Nothing to do with your right-left “self-segregation/deliberation” theme.

My two points are related: What too often happens here is that a superficial juxtaposition of “right” and “left” takes the place of actual thinking, something you can’t code, really. And this can cover a multitude of sins.

69

Henry 04.23.10 at 10:52 pm

jdw – I had taken the “We’re tenured, but contrary to appearances, we’re not a group of temporizing greaseballs” as a suggestion that we were, in fact, temporizing greaseballs. If that’s not what you intended, fair enough.

And on the previous dispute – you had suggested that my work was “cutting-edge pseudo-science,” which promoted a vision of deliberation among “gentlemen” in order to “denigrate” discussions among leftwing bloggers. Since I had explicitly and publicly argued to the contrary (saying that _I much preferred_ the rough-and-tumble of the blogosphere to abstract standards of deliberation), this was a clear misinterpretation of my argument. I don’t want to get into a detailed readjudication of this unless you really want to – tempers were pretty short all around by that stage – but that does seem to me to have been a demonstrably incorrect (and somewhat loaded) interpretation of my claims.

Your point about deliberation also involving new information is fair enough given the common language meaning of the term. But the article was aimed at contributing to an existing debate among political theorists who all more or less define deliberation as involving the possibility of discussion between people from radically different political points of view. This is the way that political theorists, for better or for worse, think about deliberation. As I’ve said, I think that you can mount a very good normative defense of the merits of discussion among like minded political blogs. But I think that this would be tough to mount from within deliberation theory, as it is understood by people who describe themselves as deliberation theorists, for the reasons outlined. I think that a much better starting point is Nancy Rosenblum’s recent book on the normative benefits of partisanship.

70

ScentOfViolets 04.23.10 at 11:45 pm

Oh, God, is Henry still trying to retcon that old post into a win for him? The “science” that showed that people on “the left” showed a remarkable homogeneity of opinion with regards to the Moon landings not being faked or Elvis really being dead, in blatant contrast to their counterparts on the right “who held a more diverse set of opinions” on those subjects? The post where he kept on insisting people were saying one thing when they said specifically said otherwise . . . and pointed it out :

Henry, I quoted myself, giving an explicit definition. More than once. You ignored it. More than once. End of story. Y0u got no leg to stand on here. Nor does what you quote back up your claim that I’m using more than one definition; I certainly don’t see how ‘Thinking that global warming is a real phenomena does not make one a liberal.’ is using another definition when in fact, the majority of the populace do indeed think global warming is a real phenomena. (I’ll also not that – gasp – having a ‘reasonable’ opinion and having the opinion of the majority agree with don’t necessarily conflict. Strange, I know, but true.) So you can’t claim that you were confused by definitions that were at cross-purposes.

Give it a rest Henry. The only way to make any progress on this one is just to admit that you were wrong then. You’re certainly not going to get people to believe otherwise.

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Kal 04.23.10 at 11:49 pm

“violence-drenched rhetoric and virulent hostility to the rule of law”

Christ, I thought we’d dealt with this after Melissa Harris-Lacewell’s idiotic Nation piece.

http://charliedavis.blogspot.com/2010/03/liberals-with-guns-scarier-than-tea.html

Perhaps they shouldn’t just be ignored, but until Glenn Beck’s followers kill two dozen people in a remote village, I’m going to spend most of my time focusing on those with control over the tanks and nuclear weapons. And rather than seeking to bolster the state and reinforce the idea of some mythical, mystical social contract, I just might seek to undermine this government, so far as I can, for as long as it continues enriching a politically connected corporate elite while imprisoning and enlisting the rest of its population…

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Henry 04.24.10 at 12:09 am

ScentOfViolets – if you have a genuine refutation of the article, and of the methodology on which it is based, you’re entirely at liberty to deliver it to _Perspectives on Politics_, the journal of the American Political Science Association where it was published. Contact details are “here”:http://www.apsanet.org/content_3246.cfm?navID=256. I’m actually at least one quarter way serious in suggesting you do this. You suggest that you’re a statistician. While I completely failed to understand the basis of your criticism (and eventually gave up in frustration, since each time I tried to, you got more and more offended), it may be that there is some important underlying argument which eluded me, but which might be clearer if you formalized it as a proper response intended to speak to an academic audience .

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jdw 04.24.10 at 12:33 am

I, for my part, am sorry for using the term “greaseball”. I should have found something more appropriate. I do think, however, that with reference to the paper Henry has taken the trouble to again refer to, the “pseudo” in pseudo-science has to stand, along “denigrate”. “Pseudo” for the simple reason that you are manipulating numbers that have their origin in certain binary categories that don’t have anything to do with the all-important motives of finding and processing new information–and “denigrating” because lacking that ability, you call finding and processing information among like-minded blogs “self-segregation”, “cognitive consonance cocoons”, and the rest of your cleverness, which is about as denigrating as you can get.

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ScentOfViolets 04.24.10 at 12:45 am

Uh, Henry? You were the one getting offended. Keep it straight. I was merely irritated that you couldn’t accept the fact that I was using the same definition of moderate as you were, even after I told you so explicitly on at least three different occasions. And my objection has just been stated – again – right above. Do you really think it says anything interesting about “liberals” that they are far more likely to homogeneously agree that, yes, Elvis is Dead, and no the Moon landings were not faked? Even though this is both moderate in the sense of mainstream opinion and in the sense of reasonable supposition (and, hey, the two might just be related!) Or maybe it just says there are a lot fewer ways to be right rather than wrong? Could one even speculate that people on the right are just plain more contrarian and that while you couldn’t find even one person on “the left” who would claim the Earth is really shaped like a Mobius strip, you might possibly find a few dozen or a few hundred on the right who would say exactly that?

Just because A implies B doesn’t mean that B implies A you know, and while “the left” being more homogeneous would certainly lead to your results, the converse most certainly does not hold.

Not hard stuff.

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Henry 04.24.10 at 1:10 am

The difference between my statement that:

bq. I think you are arguing something like the following. On most of these issues, there is a non-crazy position and a crazy position. People answering these questions, and ending up on the left on our scale, are really all just taking the non-crazy position, while the batshit right wingers over there are taking the crazy one. Therefore, all we can say is that the people who appear to be on the far left pole are non-crazy, not that they are genuinely left wing or ideologically coherent.

which was what started you getting upset about how I was misrepresenting your opinion &c &c and your current arguments about how it is uninteresting to say that people on the left don’t believe that the Moon landing was faked continues to elude me. Honestly. There is a connection that you are making that is apparently clear to you but that I simply do not get at all.

The underlying logic of ideological scaling is pretty straightforward – that someone who is opposed to abortion and doesn’t believe in global warming and thinks the Iraq war was a good thing is more right wing than someone who is opposed to abortion and doesn’t believe in global warming but was against the Iraq war, who in turn is more right wing than someone who is anti abortion but believes in global warming and was opposed to the Iraq war. Under this measure, someone who believes in global warming, was against the Iraq war and is pro-choice, all at once, is actually very significantly to the left of the median of American public opinion. This says to me that American public opinion is pretty weird. There are problems with scaling as with all ways of capturing differences between left and right, but it works pretty well for capturing the larger swathe of public opinion. And while it may not say anything very interesting about the left that they generally believe in global warming, it says something quite interesting on the right that they don’t believe in it. What is even more interesting is Larry Bartels’ research suggesting that the more educated people on the right are, the less likely they are to believe in global warming – this is in my opinion quite interesting indeed.

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ScentOfViolets 04.24.10 at 1:37 am

The difference between my statement that:

I think you are arguing something like the following. On most of these issues, there is a non-crazy position and a crazy position. People answering these questions, and ending up on the left on our scale, are really all just taking the non-crazy position, while the batshit right wingers over there are taking the crazy one. Therefore, all we can say is that the people who appear to be on the far left pole are non-crazy, not that they are genuinely left wing or ideologically coherent

which was what started you getting upset about how I was misrepresenting your opinion &c &c and your current arguments about how it is uninteresting to say that people on the left don’t believe that the Moon landing was faked continues to elude me.

Sigh. And there you go again – do you really want me to back and quote your little tantrum? I wasn’t the one getting upset, you were.

Further: there is a moderate position – used in the way you defined it, rather than the way you wanted me to define it as a strawman – that, for example, the Moon landings were not faked and Elvis is really dead. Are you really surprised that most Americans believe this? Or that there are contrarians – mostly on the right – who don’t? Perhaps your confusion stems from the fact that these are mainstream positions supported by the majority of the American public because, yes, they are reasonable. However, that is not what I said. Moderate, mainstream majority opinion holds that, for example, Peak Oil is coming, and coming within our lifetimes if not sooner. Moderate, mainstream majority opinion holds that global warming is a real phenomenon. Probably – as I said before – because this is what the science says (and again: possibly that’s what confused you.) So your conclusions are of the “it does not follow” sort of fallacies.

Yes, I know, you want me to have said the “liberals” are in agreement because what they are agreeing on is only reasonable, right, and proper. But that is most certainly not what I said.

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politicalfootball 04.24.10 at 1:56 am

Henry, my point here is that the predilection for easy targets of the Krauthammer/McArdle variety is something that gives the appearance of having a well-thought-out position without having to do any actual thinking.

It is not, on its face, absurd or debasing to confront the absurdities uttered by intellectuals who are influential in the U.S.

Non-Americans may find it hard to believe, but Krauthammer and McArdle really are the sort of persons who pass for a public intellectuals in this country, and their opinions matter.

Granted, Krauthammer and McArdle express opinions that are stupid, and engaging such people can be tedious and unpleasant. But it really does need to be done, and one ought not denigrate people who do necessary work, regardless of how unpleasant it is.

Plus, I got some chuckles out of the libertarian-bashing. Those of you who don’t live in the U.S. are going to have a hard time appreciating how desperate we are for a few laughs in this country.

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ScentOfViolets 04.24.10 at 2:01 am

The underlying logic of ideological scaling is pretty straightforward – that someone who is opposed to abortion and doesn’t believe in global warming and thinks the Iraq war was a good thing is more right wing than someone who is opposed to abortion and doesn’t believe in global warming but was against the Iraq war, who in turn is more right wing than someone who is anti abortion but believes in global warming and was opposed to the Iraq war.

This could be fun – let’s try this instead: Let’s look at self-described “liberals” and “conservatives” and ask three questions. Were the Moon landings faked? Is Elvis still alive? Are Alien abductions for real? Answering no to all three is considered far left while answering yes to all three puts you as far to the right as you can be.

Would anyone be surprised that most Americans would answer no to all three questions, that “liberals” would do the same, and that there would be more of a spread of answers amongst those on the right? Does anyone want to claim this is some sort of purity test for ideological homogeneity or that it says anything relevant along those lines?

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geo 04.24.10 at 2:02 am

jdw: I, for my part, am sorry for using the term “greaseball”

Speaking as an Italian-American, a group to whom the term is frequently applied, I can only say: don’t sweat it.

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ScentOfViolets 04.24.10 at 2:07 am

Henry, my point here is that the predilection for easy targets of the Krauthammer/McArdle variety is something that gives the appearance of having a well-thought-out position without having to do any actual thinking.

It is not, on its face, absurd or debasing to confront the absurdities uttered by intellectuals who are influential in the U.S.

Non-Americans may find it hard to believe, but Krauthammer and McArdle really are the sort of persons who pass for a public intellectuals in this country, and their opinions matter.

Exactly so. Give us a higher-quality influential public intellectual who takes up the cudgels for conservatism and we’ll engage them. In the meantime, as we say on this side of the pond to those “intellectuals” of the Krauthammer/McArdle variety, “facts have a liberal bias.”

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Henry 04.24.10 at 2:31 am

If you want to quote my “little tantrum,” as you describe it, go right ahead, and I’ll happily quote yours in return. But otherwise I’ll refrain from further engagement, since the difference between your position, as I have understood it, and your position, as you describe it, is quite invisible to me, and since my efforts to get it only result in the “Ronald Reagan maneuvre”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/There_you_go_again. Doubtless there is some profundity which is eluding me here because of my manifest stupidity.

jdw – the point is that “deliberation” as political theorists (Habermas, etc) describe it, is not about finding and processing new information, so much as it is about engaging in certain kinds of dialogue under certain particular conditions. In other words – when used in an article of this kind, it is a term of art; its meaning deviates from the everyday usage. And you may find “self-segregation” an offensive description – but it is a fact, as best as our data can ascertain (there is an interesting new piece on readership patterns which suggests that things are different among readers of broader circulation websites). People who read left wing blogs don’t appear to read right wing blogs very often, and vice versa. As I have said – and I repeat it again – I have publicly argued that this can have very considerable normative benefits, albeit not from the point of view of Habermasians. But then, I am not a proponent of Habermasian deliberation, nor have ever claimed to be.

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ScentOfViolets 04.24.10 at 2:38 am

If you want to quote my “little tantrum,” as you describe it, go right ahead, and I’ll happily quote yours in return.

Chuckle. You’re the one who made the accusation about me being “upset”. Given that you refuse to quote the relevant passages, I’ll take that as the closest you can come to a retraction.

For the rest, if “you can’t see it”, well, maybe you shouldn’t have published your paper in the first place; anyone who wants to claim that not believing that the Moon landings were faked, Elvis is alive or alien abductions are real is some sort of indicator for ideological homogeneity really shouldn’t be trying to get in the journals anyway.

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jdw 04.24.10 at 2:48 am

This is argle-bargle, Henry. You are taking the terminology of a philosopher, Habermas, turning it into the basis for a half-baked “empirical science”, that talks about deliberation in a pickwickian sense, and then excusing yourself on the basis that others have done the same thing.

(If you in effect ban news and information from the Middle East as you seem to do on your blog, then go and debate with a right-wing blog, on topics of global justice and the like, you are being deliberative. If on the other hand, a left blogger engages with abu Khalil or Paul Woodward, or anyone of that ilk, they are being self-segregating).

It is not the term that is offensive, Henry, it is the infantile level of thought behind it.

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ScentOfViolets 04.24.10 at 2:55 am

Heck, I’ll even quote what Henry claims not to understand now:

Sigh. Henry, I think you’ve jumped the shark. You originally said this:

But – and this is key – this ‘left’ and ‘right’ don’t measure absolutes – they are relative terms. It plausibly makes sense to say that someone who is pro-choice anti-Iraq war and was against Bush’s tax cuts is more ‘leftwing’ than someone who is pro choice and anti-war, but favored the tax cuts, and that this person is more leftwing than someone who is anti-choice, pro-war, and liked the cuts. So you can make useful relative judgments. But you can’t and shouldn’t simply map these relative judgments onto absolute notions of whether someone is ‘far left’ or ‘far right. Furthermore, these relative notions of ‘left,’ ‘right’ and ‘center’ have no systematic relationship whatsoever with sensible moderation of the kind that ScentOfViolets is interested in.

And I have told you – what? – three or four or five times now that when I say ‘moderate’, I mean what the majority of the population thinks on a given issue. Not what you keep attributing to me. Like this:

I call myself a moderate for the good and sufficient reason that my opinions on a number of subjects match the opinions of the general public. So it seems that my definition agrees yours when it comes to relative placements along a left/right axis.

or this:

Let me elaborate on what I mean by ‘moderate’ – it’s the median or majority opinion of the electorate over time on a variety of actions and issues.

And yet, you say:

And I think that a lot of the confusion springs from a confusion between two different uses of the term moderate. You would like moderate to mean something like ‘sensible, prepared to accept valid evidence and change their views accordingly.’ And that is a common language use of the term which is perfectly fine. But it shouldn’t be confused with another common language use of the term – people who are moderate in the sense that they are close to the median.

When I encounter this level of refusal to read what is clearly stated multiple times, I’ve got to wonder just how wedded the individual is to an idea. And I just had an entire post about what I’ve bolded, with cites.

Gee, looking at the bolded part, you look as if you understood just fine. I wonder what has happened in the meantime that could cause this loss of understanding? Couldn’t be that you realized after the fact just how far wrong you really were, right? ‘Course not.

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Henry 04.24.10 at 3:24 am

jdw – quite the contrary. You are taking a term from an article which is written for a political science journal, to be read by other political scientists and political theorists, misreading it in ways which construe it as being offensive, and being offended. You can argue – if you like – that Habermas is argle-bargle and disagree with his definition of deliberation. But that doesn’t change the fact that this is a term that has a broadly agreed-upon meaning among the community that the article was intended for. And if you read the term-as-it-is-employed-by-political-theorists, and then decide to take offense because you construe it as implying the-term-as-it-is-employed-by-you, it is a mistake on your part. And it is _especially_ a mistake when you read the article (as you did) as supporting deliberation theorists against bloggers, which it certainly did not. Let me quote “myself”:http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=can_partisanship_save_citizenship (from the _American Prospect_ again) to make it clear that my understanding of the relationship between deliberation theory and arguments in the blogosphere is the precise opposite of the one you attributed to me.

Technology and partisanship aren’t only increasing participation. They’re also leading to a burgeoning of public debate, albeit not the kind that Fishkin and other academics imagined. Political blogs don’t fit well with deliberation theory. They are rough, raucous, and vigorously partisan. Yet they have been far more successful than any deliberative experiment in encouraging wide-scale political participation and involving large numbers of people in real and lively democratic debate. Successful deliberative experiments have typically been small-scale, leading to real doubts about whether they can be scaled up to even the level of a state. The distributed conversation of the blogs, in contrast, involves millions of people, arguing vehemently about politics and other issues in interconnected forums of debate.

bq. The blogosphere is far more disorganized than the typical campaign. Even so, debates between political bloggers tend to be structured in certain ways. Most substantive argument occurs within partisan boundaries rather than across them. There are few nonpartisan political blogs in the U.S., and none is very successful. Systematic efforts to encourage bipartisan conversation, such as Hotsoup.com and Left2Right (which was set up by distressed left-wing philosophers to encourage dialogue with the right in the wake of the 2004 elections), have invariably failed. Research suggests both that bloggers tend overwhelmingly to link to other bloggers who share their partisan views, and that readers tend overwhelmingly to read blogs that reflect their political affiliations.

bq. Yet this likely reflects the enduring realities of politics more than any particular failure of blogs. As Jack Knight and James Johnson argue in their forthcoming book, Politics, Institutions and Justification, deliberation can neither magically smooth away deep-rooted political differences nor replace voting and elections in large-scale democratic systems. In a country like the United States, where people’s interests and political viewpoints often differ starkly from each other, argument and persuasion are unlikely to transcend partisan affiliations. Political discussions of issues where people strongly disagree are less likely to result in consensus than in winners and losers.

bq. On this more realistic standard, blogs play an important and often valuable role in shaping democratic arguments between the left and the right. “Netroots” blogs, such as DailyKos and FireDogLake, which are oriented toward partisan politics, have reshaped internal debates about how Democrats should respond to the Republican Party. Even if these blogs are not systematically ideological, they have helped rebuild a more vigorous Democratic Party that is less abashed about its philosophical liberalism. These blogs may have also helped encourage Democrats to get involved in politics. Statistical evidence suggests that readers of left-wing blogs are more likely to participate in politics than either nonreaders or readers of right-wing blogs (even if the direction of causation is uncertain). The same is not true of broadly based deliberation; if anything, the evidence suggests that deliberation across party lines actively hurts political participation.

bq. Moreover, while some politicians in the 1990s hoped for a more engaged citizenry, this level of participation also holds those same politicians accountable in new ways. For example, Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo blog forced centrist politicians to stop prevaricating about their preferences over Social Security reform, stymieing their efforts to glide through the debate with mealy evasions. This may not be the kind of accountability that Fishkin favors, because it reflects partisan preferences more than an effort to reach bipartisan consensus, but it is none the less valuable for that.

It’s pretty clear from this – and I don’t think that any fair minded reading could dispute this – that my attitude to the relationship between deliberation and blogging is _exactly the contrary_ of what you claimed. You claimed that I was “promoting” deliberation theory and using it as a stick to beat leftwing bloggers. As it happens, I have argued – in a broad public forum – that the vitality of debate among leftwing bloggers is a stick that you can use to beat deliberation theory. You really were demonstrably and obviously wrong (and this isn’t to get into the other stuff about how you clearly had done no more than to skim the article that you were criticizing etc etc). You’re perfectly at liberty to find my underlying thought processes ‘infantile.’ I shall demur from replying in kind. But if you want to make your arguments stick, it does help to get your facts straight. You didn’t, unfortunately.

ScentOfViolets – I’m not going to be tempted back. Anyone who wants to read the “comment thread”:http://crookedtimber.org/2009/02/26/netroots-lefties/ in question, and draw their own conclusions as to whether there was a “there” there in your arguments is invited to do so (and if they can figure out the connections which draw it all together, they’re furthermore invited to explain them to me). I will note for the benefit of bystanders that the guff about how my research involved fake Moon landings, Elvis being alive and alien abductions is a product of ScentOfViolet’s own rather vivid imagination.

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ScentOfViolets 04.24.10 at 3:52 am

ScentOfViolets – I’m not going to be tempted back. Anyone who wants to read the comment thread in question, and draw their own conclusions as to whether there was a “there” there in your arguments is invited to do so (and if they can figure out the connections which draw it all together, they’re furthermore invited to explain them to me).

Yeah, you’re done, you’re only continuing to reply because I’m “tempting” you. Nothing to do with having the last word, right? Especially after having simple quotes displayed for all to see that make you look like such a ponce. “I don’t understand” indeed.

So just keep your word and shut the hell up, m’kay?

I will note for the benefit of bystanders that the guff about how my research involved fake Moon landings, Elvis being alive and alien abductions is a product of ScentOfViolet’s own rather vivid imagination.

Sigh. My point – assuming that you really don’t get it and are really just this thick as opposed to merely simulating it – is that I’ve just constructed a set of questions which gets exactly the same results as yours. No one thinks they have anything to do with testing for ideological homogeneity. It follows that your “test” is exactly as worthwhile.

Now, you at long last keep your word and not reply? You know, like you promised? Or is this now where you go into “You’re not the boss of me” me mode so you can continue to not talk but still say something? Sheesh.

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jdw 04.24.10 at 4:11 am

I have never thought of you, Henry, as using anything as a stick to beat anything else, I merely said what is plainly obvious, namely that the “science” in your paper is pseudo-science because it is unable to account for what happens, or measure it, when new information is disseminated and processed, when what it is talking about is “deliberation”.

(1) If you also said that you personally used the vitality of left-wing blogs as a stick to beat deliberation theory–whatever that means–then I guess it’s nice to hear about the vitality of left-wing blogs. Nothing to do with your science, however.

(2) The pickwickian use of terms in a pseudo-science is not, I think, something peculiar to this case. But it is definitely a novel twist to accuse a critic of being categorically wrong if he translates the jargon into everyday language.

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Mitchell Rowe 04.24.10 at 5:33 am

ScentofViolets:
So just to be clear on the disagreement between you and Harry is you are arguing that how someone responds to the questions of choice, tax rates and the iraq war have nothing to do with how left or right wing they are? I must not be understanding this right because that sounds pretty silly.

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JoB 04.24.10 at 8:33 am

and then they say I am tiresome ;-)

anyway, where is Harry when you need him?

PS: as said, I don’t begrudge anyone their laughs, it’s just I’d like to have some too.

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novakant 04.24.10 at 8:58 am

FWIW I am tired of “McArdle/Goldberg/xyz is an idiot” posts as well and also think that the voices of these people are unduly amplified by such “engagement” with them – all publicity is good publicity.

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Barry 04.24.10 at 12:08 pm

“…also think that the voices of these people are unduly amplified by such “engagement” with them – all publicity is good publicity.”

I disagree, because they already have platforms. They get publicity, and will be accepted by people as knowing what they talk about, because why would they have those platforms otherwise?

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engels 04.24.10 at 12:26 pm

I think this probably strikes you very differently if you are American and hear such people on the news or whatever than if you are not and only hear about them on sites like CT. I wouldn’t expect anyone to care, but as a matter of personal taste I agree with JoB, McGoldkrammer is boring, boring, boring…

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Jack Strocchi 04.24.10 at 12:32 pm

Why pick on Krauthammer from here to eternity? Its a bit like flogging a dead horse.

For sure Krauthammer fits the bill of unrepenant hawk. (FWIW, I repented here.) Dr K’s wikipedia entry appears to be carefully edited to show his position on Iraq in the most flattering light. Anyone with any spare time might care to rectify that…

But he’s kind of a soft target since his reputation got shredded by the Iraq-disaster. At least he has had the good sense to shut-up about his support of the whole miserable affair.

Why not go after more liberal supporters of the war, specifically Christopher Hitchens, who never misses an opportunity to indulge in self-righteous indignation? Despite being easily the war’s most vociferous and prominent intellectual supporter most Left-liberals seem to have given Hitchens seems a free pass on the Iraq war.

Maybe he’s copped some finger-wagging by his old comrades at the Nation. So far as I can see only Alexander Cockburn has given Hitchens the odd flailing. But since then Cockburn appears to have softened his line on Hitchens, because thats what old Left-wing friends are for.

Yet Hitchens never shuts up about the war, not for one moment. Here he is in 2005, proudly boasting of its success. Here he is again, in 2007, explaining why he was right. And again in 2008, suggesting that the war was one of necessity, not choice.

But so far Hitchens has escaped the definitive take-down for his foreign policy views, which would be considered certifiable if they were held by comparable professionals in a matter of comparable gravity. Quite the contrary, Hitchens reputation keeps going from strength to strength, even as his ideas get battier and battier.

Why? Is it his irresistible Oxford charm? Or perhaps its the fact that he so industriously puts the boot into religion, so pinkish intellectuals would rather not have this enemy to their Left?

Instead of dragging Krauthammers decaying ideological carcass out for another belting may I suggest Crooked Timber host a “Christopher Hitchens Iraq Repentance Day” to take that son of a bitch down the peg or two he so richly deserves.

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ScentOfViolets 04.24.10 at 1:54 pm

Engels, if you know where these respectable conservative public intellectuals are sounding off rather than the likes of McGoldkrammer, let us know. I certainly haven’t seen or heard such a beast in long, long time.

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ScentOfViolets 04.24.10 at 1:58 pm

So just to be clear on the disagreement between you and Harry is you are arguing that how someone responds to the questions of choice, tax rates and the iraq war have nothing to do with how left or right wing they are? I must not be understanding this right because that sounds pretty silly.

Mitchell, I didn’t want to resurrect that business; I merely objected to Henry’s attempted retconning. If you’re interested, go read the thread, then come back here if you have any questions.

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Gareth Rees 04.24.10 at 2:11 pm

Let me see if I can clarify the problem that I think ScentOfViolets has with Henry Farrell’s conclusions about political partisanship among blog readers.

Farrell observed that the distibution of self-reported ideology among respondents to the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) differs from their distibution on an “ideological issue scale” based on their responses to political “hot-button” issues. He concluded that “self-identification here is misleading” and therefore that “readers of left wing blogs are much more liberal than they identify themselves as being”.

ScentOfViolets pointed out that there’s an alternative possibility, namely that it’s the “ideological issue scale” that’s misleading.

Farrell et al. don’t explain in detail how this scale is calculated, saying only, “The ideology scale is a simple additive scale based on questions asking respondents whether they would support a ban on “partial-birth” abortions, funding for stem cell research, withdrawing troops from Iraq, raising the minimum wage, and extending capital gains tax cuts.”

However, these five survey questions (qs 28–30 and 32–33) were all simple yes/no/don’t-know questions where, according to ScentOfViolets, the majority answer agrees with the left/liberal answer. So these kinds of questions cannot distinguish left/liberals from centrists. To do that you’d need to include questions where left/liberals differed from centrists. So when self-reported ideology differs from ideology as computed on this scale, you ought to take the former more seriously than the latter.

This seems a pretty straightforward criticism to me, but I’m not sure that Farrell really ever got to grips with it. (However, the thread was rather long and I may have missed it.)

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kurringai 04.24.10 at 2:59 pm

Let’s not forget David Aaronovitch:

“If nothing is eventually found [WMD], I – as a supporter of the war – will never believe another thing that I am told by our government, or that of the US ever again. And, more to the point, neither will anyone else. Those weapons had better be there somewhere. They probably are.”

How did that go for you Dave?

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ScentOfViolets 04.24.10 at 3:20 pm

That’s pretty close, Gareth, except that I’d add the proviso that the extra questions where left/liberals would differ from centrists would have to measuredifferences of ideology. Look at the beginnings of the invasion of Iraq. At that time, centrists were pretty much behind Bush, left/liberals were not. But this was not a difference in ideology, this was a difference in the available information. Would these left/liberal types have been more receptive to attacking Iraq if in fact Saddam had (or would soon have) nuclear weapons? I’m going out on a limb here, but I’d say, “In a New York minute”. Of course, this wasn’t the case, and of course, when it became widely known that there were no WMD’s and the case for them was manufactured out of whole cloth, public support plummeted. Thus, depending on when it is asked, this particular question is not one of pure ideology, but one that has a strong knowledge component as well.

Iow, Henry has committed a basic, basic error here: yes, if left/liberals really were marching in lockstep (this seems to be something of a hobbyhorse with him, so I’m not surprised he’s, er, resistant), then this clustering would be exactly what you would expect. But the converse is not true: clustering in the fashion that Henry describes does not imply that there’s some sort of groupthink going on here. This is an elementary error that I’m surprised any academic would make, unless they were – dare I say it – blinded by ideology.

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Alice de Tocqueville 04.24.10 at 5:00 pm

I know lots of people, including myself, who would not support the invasion of Iraq, especially if there were nukes. They are more what I call the left, not liberal. But the group of individuals who don’t want to attack a country with nukes seems to include the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Liberals consider themselves ‘left’ much more than leftists consider themselves ‘liberal’, no?

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lemuel pitkin 04.24.10 at 5:46 pm

The problem with the McArdle/Goldberg/etc. posts isn’t any benefit it gives tot he targets. It’s the harm it does do Crooked Timber. You get smarter by arguing with your smartest opponents. You get dumber by arguing with your dumbest ones.

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william u. 04.24.10 at 6:21 pm

“I disagree, because they already have platforms.”

And, so long as there isn’t structural change in the U.S., they always will. Engaging with these interchangeable hacks costs time and effort that could be spent on a more pressing task: Thinking through the early 21st c. impasse of both reformist social democracy (to which the Timberites broadly adhere) and its intellectual and political rival, the revolutionary socialist left.

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Michael Drake 04.24.10 at 6:36 pm

Henry, your triumphalism is premature – the search for the Missing WMDTM is still in its final throes.

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Michael Drake 04.24.10 at 6:37 pm

(The “sup” tagged worked in preview, dammit.)

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rea 04.24.10 at 6:43 pm

I don’t begrudge anyone their laughs, it’s just I’d like to have some too.

Well, just for you, I’ve been trying to think of something funny involving Old King Leopold and miniature cabbages, but I’m afraid I’ve got nothing . . .

105

engels 04.24.10 at 6:50 pm

But Belgium is _inherently_ funny…

106

Kevin Donoghue 04.24.10 at 7:38 pm

David Lloyd-Jones addressed this problem in 2004. Since his analysis seems to have disappeared from the web, I reproduce it here:

The fact that Rumsfeld’s Raiders have not yet found Saddam’s Weapons of Mass Destruction suggests that they have been looking in the wrong places and using the wrong strategies.

Eleven years ago, when last the evil Saddam bestrode the Highways Of Evil ™, his typical WMD was a Scud missile, a large metal beast which could be carried on a one-ton truck.

Now Moore’s Law suggests that advanced technologies — which clearly includes Weapons of Mass Destruction — shrink by half every 18 months. This means that Saddam’s WMD’s could have undergone 7.333 shrinkings in the past eleven years. Since a halving done 7.3333 times leaves something only 1/161.27ths — a mere 0.0062008 — of it’s previous length, it is clear that a Scud which was, say, ten feet long in 1992 would be only 0.00516 inches long today.

I don’t think Saddam has sent his WMD’s to Iran, or any such clumsy old fashioned trick. It seems much more likely that he has simply tied them to the backs of mice, and sent them off to hide in their holes.

This is bad enough to consider, but things may turn out even worse: if Mouse Carried Weapons (MCW’s) are not found, this will be evidence of even more nefarious work by the Evil Saddam Regime.

What if he had started his Weapons Shrinking Program earlier, say in 1988. That would mean fifteen years of halving things every 18 months. A ten foot long missile would then be 0.0008138 inches long. Ant Carried Weapons of Mass Destruction!

Clearly if we cannot find the missiles tied to mice, it will be evidence that they have been attached to ants, and these ACWMD’s must be rooted out promptly.

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Henry 04.25.10 at 12:18 am

jdw – let me refresh your memory. You originally claimed:

bq. This also made me think of Henry’s interesting “scientific” work on the blogosphere, where he showed that links between Kos or Huffington on the one side, and M Malkin and that ilk on the other, are “deliberative”, while links within a group coded as similar or uniform, are non-deliberative. Thus, all he was doing here was to promote “deliberation”, not to remove a thorn from the shoe of his distinguished colleague.

and

bq. My point is that Henry and the other two authors say left blogs linking to things like Drudge, Malkin, and LF Footballs are indications of “deliberation”, and they denigrate left links to any other blog they have coded as left as what they call “cloistered cocoons of cognitive consonance”, and elsewhere as “red meat for carnivores”. Isn’t that cute? I think this somehow ties in with what Rich is saying, in the sense that gentlemen will obviously tend to “deliberate”, and you can often (as in the case of the gentleman Henry) recognize them by their lecturing others who do not deliberate sufficiently. Cutting-edge pseudo-science at its most useful!

I’m seeing diddly squat in the way of an argument about ability to process new information in there, and quite a lot about how I am trying “to promote ‘deliberation’,” claiming that “gentlemen will tend to “deliberate” and so on. As I’ve shown up above, this is flat out the opposite of what I have publicly argued. I also see a claim that I have coded “left blogs linking to things like Drudge, Malkin, and LF Footballs are indications of “deliberation”.” If you can point to the place in the paper where we argue that – or anything like it – I will publicly acknowledge that I am the Secret Grand Master of All Temporizing Greaseballs.

Gareth – this is basically an empirical issue. It may be surprising to many of our readers, but the number of people who consistently choose the ‘left’ side of the debate (or, for that matter, the ‘right’ side of the debate) across all issues, even for a limited scale like this, is quite small. Most people are a mixture – e.g. they support abortion but do not believe in global warming. If we had a distribution in which most people were clumped towards the center, then it would not be a very useful instrument. But this is not the distribution that we find (and this is not the distribution that _any_ such survey of Americans’ attitudes to various political issues finds). Similarly, we have a pretty high Cronbach’s alpha (way above the level which is usually treated as sufficient). Roughly speaking, that says that you can recompose the answers to these questions within an ideological continuum of the sort that we use without losing much information. This all strongly indicates that there is something real that is being captured by the scale, and captured very well. If there was something wrong along the lines that have been suggested, we would expect to see quite different results (a distribution in which everyone clumps at the center; a scale where the answers on different issues do not appear to be ideologically related to each other using the standard test for such relations).

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jdw 04.25.10 at 3:18 am

I refer you to the bottom of p 16 and the top of p 17 of your “Conclusions”, where you make the point about the cloistered cocoons of cognitive consonance, and you go on to say that “few readers avail themselves” of the possibilities the internet offers for increasing their knowledge, going on to indicate that what you have in mind is the lack of left-right contact. It is true you did not in that paper measure left-right contact via cross-links, as I mistakenly said you did, but no matter how you measure it your point, simply put, was that lefties hang with lefties and vice-versa in their cloistered cocoons. And furthermore that the possibilties for “deliberation” that were being lost were precisely left-right contacts. My point at that time, and my point yesterday, today and tomorrow, is the utterly banal one that information can also be gathered and processed within the confines of what you and your co-authors sneeringly referred to as these “cocoons”. I did not spell it out, because it was, is and will be, very obvious. And it is also obvious that the reason you did not take account of this in the paper is that you were unable to easily put numbers to the gathering of new information as such, as opposed to the much easier task of measuring left-right contacts.

It was the thread at that time (Kerr vs Greenwald) that called this to mind, because in some sense, to me at least, it illustrated the futility and waste involved in left-right “deliberation” (in your “scientific” sense). As opposed to the kind of productive presentation and discussion of new facts and ideas available also and primarily within the left blogosphere, which in your science would fall under “self-segregation”.

It is true that my recollection of the paper at that time was wrong as to your coding left-right links, and perhaps other details as well, that didn’t and does not affect the main point, as outlined above.

Finally, you again refer to “what I have publicly argued” in your later paper where you praised the vitality of left-blogs. This is interesting.

Science Henry’s co-authored paper highlights left-right contacts, the scientifically measurable, and in particular “deliberation” (the scientific term of art for that), and contrasts it with self-segregation on the two sides, left and right. Left-blogger Henry’s paper highlights left-blog vitality (ordinary-language), as personal opinion, without the science.

One might raise the question, if both of these positions are right, how it can be that left blogs with their “self-segregation” can foster this “vitality”. What kind of thing thrives on in-breeding? But another approach is to see this merely as a problem in academic sociology. Henry wants to be a scientist, hence the science, but he also wants to have a flavor of leftism about him, hence the paean to left-blog vitality as his personal view. This is fair enough. But it seems unreasonable, to say the least, for him to castigate someone criticizing his “science” for failing to suitably meld these two different points of view to his satisfaction.

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Charles S 04.25.10 at 3:41 am

ScentofViolets,

The thing that puzzles me is that in the original thread you acknowledged what Henry points out here as being true (and which is documented in Henry’s paper). Merely because the 5 questions all have majority left positions does not mean that the median American holds all 5 of the majority left positions. In all likelihood, the median American holds 3 out of 5 of the majority left positions. And, in fact, when we look at the figures in Henry’s paper showing the political opinions of Network television news watchers and NPR listeners, we see that indeed there are plenty of people who fall in the middle of the Senate-vote based political spectrum. But then when we look at Democrat associated political blogs, we don’t see any of those people who fall in the middle of this political spectrum.

But both in the original thread and here, you appear to be arguing the opposite of what you have acknowledged to be true, that the clumping of Kos readers at the far end of the spectrum is a flaw in the design of the spectrum, where people who answer one question in the left manner will answer all the other questions in the left manner, and that since these are majority positions they shouldn’t even be called left positions anyway. But merely because they are majority positions doesn’t make them not left positions. At the very least, they are not-right positions, which is sufficient for the purpose of creating a spectrum. If it were the case that all of these were questions that were so far out that only strong right wingers would hold the right wing position, then your objection would hold, these would represent the coherent position of the definitionally moderate, median American, and this instrument would be unable to distinguish NPR listeners from ABC News watchers from Kos readers. But, both predictably and empirically, that is not the case. These opinions are not simply the orthodoxy of the median American and the instrument is able to distinguish between these different groups, with Dem aligned poli-blog readers being far more coherently aligned with Democratic senators than NPR listeners or ABC watchers, or even than FOX news watchers are with Republican senators or right-aligned poli-blog readers are with Republican senators (this last seems unsurprising since lots of right poli-blogs are libertarian oriented, and so draw an audience that doesn’t agree with the Fundamentalist portion of the Republican party line).

Given that, I fail to understand what your argument is, except that you aren’t using a normative definition of moderate.

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JoB 04.25.10 at 8:46 am

104- if you can’t come up with anything funny about Belgium you will be twice as boring soon. (I assume there’s a good chance that you won’t get that in which case I apologize for a belittling of my already not too big country for the sake of demonstrating something to somebody who’s under the impression that repeating ‘cabbage’ often enough will automatically make it a running gag – or as we say here: GFY).

111

Henry 04.25.10 at 11:53 am

jdw – what you still seem to be getting hung up on is the difference between ‘deliberation’ – as political theorists use the term – and ‘deliberation’ as a broad term denoting anything that approximates to conscious thought. The article addresses deliberation as political theorists use the term. Deliberation – for political theorists – more or less means the kinds of dialogue that can support deliberative democracy – a utopian but interesting ideal advocated by a variety of political theorists. The “Wikipedia entry”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deliberative_democracy on the topic gives at least an initial grounding in the debates. One of the _necessary but far from sufficient_ conditions for deliberation-as-understood-by-political-theorists is that dialogue take place openly between all the different positions in society. Thus, if the blogosphere was to be deliberative – in the sense that political theorists use the term – it would have to involve engagement between different viewpoints. This would also have to be _substantive_ engagement (i.e. poo-flinging between Michelle Malkin and some lefty crank with a HuffPo diary would not qualify). So when we say that dialogue within the blogosphere does not fulfil the conditions that political theorists say are needed for deliberation, we are _not_ saying that bloggers are stupid, incapable of reasonable thought and argument etc. We are saying that the kind of dialogue they engage in does not fulfil _certain_ conditions (or, more precisely, one particular condition) for a kind of dialogue that some political theorists hold out as an ideal.

This does not foreclose the possibility that argument and debate among leftwing bloggers can’t be valuable, important and thoughtful. This is raised in the paper as a possibility when we talk about the Daily Kos policy on ‘concern trolls’ as an example of people deciding that they would prefer arguing about how to organize successful political action than to get stuck in a ‘debating shop’ with people from the opposite position. It is what I argue for more emphatically in the American Prospect piece – that even if dialogue among lefty blogs doesn’t fulfil the conditions that Fishkin and other deliberative theorists want, they play a very valuable democratic role (and those conditions are pretty unrealistic anyway). I note in passing that some deliberative theorists (i.e. Josh Cohen, Jack Knight and Jim Johnson) have a more supple idea of what deliberative theory involves.

So the contradiction you highlight is not really a contradiction. The article doesn’t take a specific view – because political science papers don’t (or at least shouldn’t) take normative views when several views are supported by the evidence. Instead, it outlines how the evidence can be interpreted in light of several possible views on this topic. The _American Prospect_ article – in which I am not only allowed but encouraged to set out a view – talks about which of these views I find personally most convincing and compelling. As I note – I do think that some dialogue between smart leftwingers and rightwingers is valuable, and is something I am prepared to defend in public. But I do not _ and have _never_ claimed that it is a necessary condition for smart argument and thought. That is a view I don’t hold.

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Naadir Jeewa 04.25.10 at 12:30 pm

Funnily enough, I have Habermas’s Between Facts and Norms open on my desk right now. Short answer: Henry’s right.

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ScentOfViolets 04.25.10 at 3:57 pm

The thing that puzzles me is that in the original thread you acknowledged what Henry points out here as being true (and which is documented in Henry’s paper). Merely because the 5 questions all have majority left positions does not mean that the median American holds all 5 of the majority left positions.

And can you quote anywhere where I said that?

But both in the original thread and here, you appear to be arguing the opposite of what you have acknowledged to be true, that the clumping of Kos readers at the far end of the spectrum is a flaw in the design of the spectrum, where people who answer one question in the left manner will answer all the other questions in the left manner, and that since these are majority positions they shouldn’t even be called left positions anyway. But merely because they are majority positions doesn’t make them not left positions. At the very least, they are not-right positions, which is sufficient for the purpose of creating a spectrum.

I claim that the sky is blue is a moderate, majority position. But wait! “leftists” think the sky is blue too, so saying the sky is blue is “leftist” position. Uh-huh. That’s not helping your case any. And in the context of your remarks, your spectrum – at best – differentiates between “right” and “non-right”. This was also pointed out on the other thread, and both your robotic repeating of your talking points and your tone suggests you’re not interested in having a discussion. In fact:

Given that, I fail to understand what your argument is, except that you aren’t using a normative definition of moderate.

Given that I’ve explicitly defined what I meant by moderate many times, and given that you’re still ignoring this (as well as laboring mightily to get me to accept the burden of proof), well – let’s just say for starters that if you want me to talk to you, you’re going to have to a) acknowledge that what you wrote immediately above is dead wrong, and b) admit that, yes, I’m using the definition you and Henry and you are using – and that I’ve said so multiple times.

I’d also suggest you read what I have written; in particular, pay attention to the comments on the left/right grading using questions like “Elvis is alive”.

And tone down the hostility – I outrank you, and I’m not going to tolerate that sort of behaviour.

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Henry 04.25.10 at 5:43 pm

bq. And tone down the hostility – I outrank you, and I’m not going to tolerate that sort of behaviour.

ScentOfViolets – I’m not sure what is behind this very odd claim to authority – but please be advised that you’re not the person who decides which kinds of behaviour are, and are not, tolerated on this comment thread. For better or for worse, I am. And you’re starting to push it a bit.

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jdw 04.25.10 at 7:31 pm

Henry re # 111:

I can see light at the end of this tunnel.

Except that where you say I am “hung up” on the plain-language meaning of deliberation, I think on the contrary you are channeling Humpty Dumpty: “Words mean just what [we social scientists] say they mean. The question is who is to be master, that’s all.” That you can wield a special lexicon in this way doesn’t alter the real-world effects of your “science”, any more than calling yourself part of a “human terrain team” and and the rest of it make “anthropoligists” any less a part of the military.

But luckily the weight of commenter-opinion appears to have moved the blog away from the focus on vacuous deliberation*, which was one of the motives for my original remarks, hopefully we can end this discussion.**

* special meaning
** ordinary meaning

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Charles S 04.25.10 at 8:27 pm

And can you quote anywhere where I said that?

I apologize, I either misread you or mis-attributed something that someone else wrote to you. Rereading just your comments, I see that you consistently insist that if there are 5 majority non-right positions, then the median person will hold all 5 of those majority non-right positions. The survey results in Hanry’s study do not support this. Since you are an expert in this field can you point me to the studies that demonstrate that Henry’s survey results are wrong and that Kos readers’ position (holding all 5 of the majority positions) is indeed the median American position? (And yes, if you wish to assert that the results of Henry’s survey are wrong and have neutral readers (e.g. me) believe that we should reject Henry’s published results, the burden of proof is on you).

Incidentally, could you also point me to the surveys that shows that opposition to a “partial birth” abortion ban (yes, using that right wing slanted language) is a majority position? A quick google finds an ABC poll that found 70% support for a “partial birth” abortion ban, so I’m not seeing how opposition to a partial birth abortion ban can be the moderate position at all.

I actually doubt that “Is Elvis dead?” would line up with any sort of right-left continuum at all (I’ve known plenty of crackpots who were generally left wing), but I do agree that a survey composed of the questions: “Should the South rise again? Should gays and lesbians be allowed to be school teachers? Should the department of education be abolished? Should we return to the Gold Standard? Are the massive bonuses of Goldman Sacks employees justified?” would show near complete agreement from the median American leftward, and would have all the problems you attribute to Henry’s question set. I just don’t see any evidence that the questions Henry was using match that description.

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Charles S 04.25.10 at 8:35 pm

Scentof Violets,

Interestingly, the argument that the non-right position on each of these questions aligns with the high-information positi0n seems to fit more with Henry’s results than with the result that you expect. I would expect that most people who are not extremely heavily engaged politically will be low information on some subjects and high information on others, creating a continuum of mixed opinions.

Actually, is that your original argument? That Kos readers are high information people across the board, and therefore naturally align coherently with the high information positions, while ABC viewers and NPR listeners are less completely high information people and therefore have mixed opinions? That would strike me as an interesting argument. If that is your position, can you point to research results that show that for each of these issues people who are in some clearly defined sense “high information” hold each of the left majority positions?

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Charles S 04.25.10 at 9:04 pm

And actually bothering to do a bit of the research myself, I find that another paper using the CCES (Abromowitz, 2007) finds that a similar (but less extreme) phenomenon occurs with voters and non-voters, where non-voters hold the (11 in that case) opinions more or less at random, so the median non-voter certainly holds 5 out of 11 right wing positions and only a tiny minority hold all of the right wing positions or all of the left wing positions, while among voters the distribution is bimodal, with the median democratic voter holding most of the left wing positions and the median republican voter holding most of the right wing positions (similar to the Fox viewer and NPR listener in Henry’s paper), so Henry’s result that people who are engaged with partisan blogs have even more ideologically aligned positions on the issues than voters do seems relatively unsurprising. Kos readers are partisan Democrats, so they hold the partisan Democrat views.

I’m not sure how a simple high information – low information distinction would produce similar results. I think you need a high (good) information – low good information – no information – low bad information (e.g. FOX News) – high bad information (lots of FOX or Redstate) situation. Tellingly, Henry’s results do support this interpretation, since only FOX viewers (of the major media consumers) swing towards the right end of the spectrum, and FOX viewers have been demonstrated in other surveys to hold more factually wrong beliefs than viewers of other major media.

However, it is certainly the case that Henry’s results show that readers of partisan Democratic blogs hold the Democratic political opinions much more coherently than most Democratic voters or any non-voters.

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ScentOfViolets 04.25.10 at 9:54 pm

Rereading just your comments, I see that you consistently insist that if there are 5 majority non-right positions, then the median person will hold all 5 of those majority non-right positions.

Blink. No, I most certainly did not say that. Could you please quote the comment of mine where you gained this impression? And could you please acknowledge that I am in point of fact using moderate and median to mean majority opinion – and that you were wrong to insist otherwise?

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Charles S 04.25.10 at 10:32 pm

And could you please acknowledge that I am in point of fact using moderate and median to mean majority opinion – and that you were wrong to insist otherwise?

I absolutely never insisted otherwise. I said that the only part of your argument that I could make clear sense of was that you were using a majority definition (same as Henry) not a normative definition. I did not dispute your claim.

As to the other point, you have now objected to my mistaken belief that you were arguing that the median American would hold a mix of opinions on the questions Henry’s study used and you have objected to my correction of that you were arguing that the median American would hold all of the majority positions. Just to save me the trouble of re-reading through all your posts again, could you explain to me how I am wrong to think that you claim A and also wrong to think that you claim not-A, when A and not-A are at the core of the dispute?

I had thought that the entire point of your is Elvis dead line of argument was that these were questions in which the right-wing position was so far out of the main stream that it would be impossible to distinguish the median (definitionally moderate) American from a left wing American on these questions, because the two people would have the same answers. If the median American holds some of the crazy beliefs that you gave as examples, but the left wing American does not hold any of those crazy beliefs, can’t we use the crazy belief survey to distinguish the left wing from the median American? If the right wing American holds more of the crazy beliefs than the median American, doesn’t the crazy beliefs test serve as a usable instrument for defining where people surveyed lie along the political spectrum, even though the crazy beliefs are nominally apolitical?

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ScentOfViolets 04.25.10 at 11:23 pm

I actually doubt that “Is Elvis dead?” would line up with any sort of right-left continuum at all

HALLELUJAH!!! We’re almost there. While I cheerfully will admit that this is a nonrandom sample, I know hundreds of people who would say yes to one of more of the questions: Were the moon landings faked? Is Elvis alive? Are alien abductions for real? And yes, these people tend to be pretty right wing (I’ve been suspected of being liberal for going to college and not immediately denouncing black men marrying white women when the subject comes up – which it does.) Similarly, the people I know who would self-assess as “liberal” or “moderate” would answer no to all three of those questions.

Iow, here is a set of questions you can ask people that will show the same sort of clustering as what you observered. I hope you will agree that these questions don’t have much to do with ideology.

Now – I’m not saying that this is definitely the case, but assuming for the sake of discussion that this is so, what does that tell you about your results?

(I’ve known plenty of crackpots who were generally left wing), but I do agree that a survey composed of the questions: “Should the South rise again? Should gays and lesbians be allowed to be school teachers? Should the department of education be abolished? Should we return to the Gold Standard? Are the massive bonuses of Goldman Sacks employees justified?” would show near complete agreement from the median American leftward, and would have all the problems you attribute to Henry’s question set.

I just don’t see any evidence that the questions Henry was using match that description.

Well, the general problem here is that this is just bad logic: if you’re presenting the paper the burden of proof is upon you to show that these questions correlate only with ideological inclinations. Not on me or on anyone else to show that they don’t. Note that in one situation I touched upon above, before for or against the invasion of Iraq had in addition to an ideological component, but also a strong knowledge component. If I think that “Saddam was behind 9-11″, and if I think believe that he has or shortly will have nuclear weapons that will be smuggled into the United States (or delivered more conventionally) and detonated in more terrorist attacks, Hell yes I’m going to say invade Iraq, and not tomorrow or next week, but right now. Otoh, I don’t think that “Saddam was behind 9-11″ nor that he has the slightest bit of nuclear capability, nor that he has any intention of engaging in any sort of attack on the United States – terrorist or otherwise – I will think that the invasion was a bad idea even though my ideology has not changed in the slightest.

Is the scenario I outlined necessarily true, or could there be other explanations involving other non-ideological components? Of course. But again, the burden of proof is not on me to that this is the case, it’s on you and Henry to show that it isn’t. And saying “I don’t see how these questions could be measuring anything else” most definitely does not constitute any sort of proof.

As to the other more specific examples you gave: Unlike the questions used for this survey (or any reasonable permutations of them), I highly doubt that the majority of people would answer yes to “Should the South rise again?” or “Should the United States return to the gold standard”. That’s an asymmetry in the two lists of questions right from the get-go. As others have already long since pointed out, what you would need to do would be to include questions like “Should upper management make no more than fifty times the salary of the lowest paid employee?” to capture anything to the left of the bog-standard moderate position.

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ScentOfViolets 04.25.10 at 11:41 pm

And tone down the hostility – I outrank you, and I’m not going to tolerate that sort of behaviour.

ScentOfViolets – I’m not sure what is behind this very odd claim to authority – but please be advised that you’re not the person who decides which kinds of behaviour are, and are not, tolerated on this comment thread. For better or for worse, I am. And you’re starting to push it a bit.

No, Henry, I said nothing about what comments are not to be tolerated on this thread – much as you would like to believe this, apparently. But I will not be hectored, bullied, or talked down merely on the strength of the person attempting to do so being, for example, a “political scientist”. Trying to pull that sort of crap will merely make me note that I am a mathematician (and further, one who has done some statistical work in the past for people like the CDC.) So in the intellectual hierarchy, I’m at the top; “political scientists” aren’t worth bupkas, coming in somewhere behind biologists, chemists, and physicists, in that order[1].

Don’t try to pull any sort of authority with me, or resort to credentialism, or any sortof hectoring about statistical data merely because it happens to be statistical data concerning political attitudes. That is what I meant, and nothing more.

[1]Not to pick on the social sciences, whose practicing members seem collectively to have an abysmal notion of what statistical entails. The harder sciences are equally bad, in my experience. But social scientists settle for extremely high alphas and p-values; particle physicists use values that go down to 0.0001, so their statistical ignorance is not nearly so damaging to their conclusions. Come to think of it, this site first came to my attention because of some posts here about the nature and limitations of statistical inference. Possibly by Dsquared, but I don’t remember.

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Charles S 04.25.10 at 11:56 pm

Iow, here is a set of questions you can ask people that will show the same sort of clustering as what you observered.

No, it doesn’t show the same sort of clustering. That is the basic problem with your objection. Your crazy beliefs example and my right wing beliefs example both have a similar problem. The vast majority of people hold none of those beliefs, so a survey of those beliefs can’t distinguish any of the flavors of non-crazy (with your example questions) or non-far-right (with my example questions). Using those questions, the median NPR listener, Republican senator, or Kos readers would all look pretty much the same. They don’t believe any of that shit.

However, the CCES questions don’t have that problem. The CCES questions are all ones in which at least a third of the population holds the minority opinion, in which most of the questions are nearly evenly split in the population, in which Democratic and Republican senators voting positions are very clearly distinguished, in which Democratic and Republican voters positions are clearly distinguished, and in which only tiny minorities of the population hold the party-line Democratic or Republican opinions across the board. So these questions are very well designed to cover the 90% of the American political spectrum that stretches from Bernie Sanders to Tom Coburn.

I agree that the CCES will fail as a tool if we try to distinguish mainline partisan Democrats at Daily KOS from actual left wingers at Democratic Underground or INDYMedia, but that isn’t what Henry was using it for, so he has not fallen into that trap.

So here is my description of what the CCES shows, from a cursory reading of the two CCES papers I have read. Please tell me if where you think this description is inaccurate, either as it describes the CCES results or as it describes partisan political opinion in the US based on your reading of other studies. If you can point me to better studies that you believe are more credible, I will obviously appreciate the help, as I am outside my area of expertise here.

If you ask a random sample of non-voting Americans their opinions on Henry’s questions, the results will be a bell curve, with most believing a mixture of majority and minority positions. If you ask a random sample of voters, then the minority and majority positions start to sort into positions Democratic voters mostly hold and opposite positions that Republican voters mostly hold. If you compare those questions to the voting positions of Democratic and Republican senators, you will find that the positions that Democratic voters tend to hold align strongly with the positions that Democratic senators even more strongly hold (and vice versa on the Republican side). [All this taken from Abromowitz, linked in a previous post]

If you look at people who get their news from various mass media venues, you will find that people who get their news from FOX tend broadly to hold the positions aligned with Republican senators, but that they hold those positions less reliably than Republican senators (about as much as Republican voters, but I’m just eyeballing figures), and if you look at people who get their news from any other mass media source, they broadly tend to hold the positions of Democratic senators, but (like FOX viewers) they hold those positions less reliably than Democratic senators. [Taken from Ferrel, which we’ve all read]

When we then look at readers of partisan Democratic blogs, we find that they hold the partisan Democratic positions even more reliably than Democratic senators, with virtually all Kos readers holding the entire partisan Democratic positions. Looking at the other end of the political spectrum, readers of partisan right wing blogs are not as perfectly partisan, but still way more partisan than Republican voters or Fox viewers.

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Charles S 04.26.10 at 12:13 am

if you’re presenting the paper the burden of proof is upon you to show that these questions correlate only with ideological inclinations. Not on me or on anyone else to show that they don’t.

1) I’m not presenting the paper, I’m trying to understand your arguments.

2) One of the papers (Abromowitz, I think) presents a variety of different methods (some of which I am familiar with and some of which I’m not) that show that the questions correlate extremely strongly with ideological inclinations. So, unless you have strong evidence refuting their strong evidence, I have no choice but to consider the question settled for the time being.

As I said before, I do not think that the CCES questions could distinguish an actual left-winger (which probably represent only a few percent of the American populace, sadly) from a partisan Democrat, but based on the published evidence and on my own experience I think they can distinguish both of those from a moderate Democratic voter and from a moderate American. Do you disagree?

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Henry 04.26.10 at 12:19 am

ScentOfViolets – you don’t outrank anyone here. That’s not the way it works. Hectoring people and claiming that you are at the “top” of the heap, while simultaneously threatening “Don’t try to pull any sort of authority with me, or resort to credentialism” is a poor way to convince people in argument. It’s stupid and offensive. Finally – remember that some of us actually know who you are (you told us your name in one of John Quiggin’s threads a couple of years ago), and have some idea of precisely what the credentials that you are resting on are. When your name is fed into Google Scholar, it comes up with a “Your search [redacted] did not match any articles.” This does not mean, of course, that your arguments are bad, or wrong, or to be discounted. It does mean that you are in a remarkably weak position to start trying to throw your academic weight around, let alone to behave as badly as you are behaving on the basis of your purportedly superior academic credentials.

Consider this a strong warning. If you keep on behaving like this, you’re looking at a temporary or permanent ban. If you want to respond substantively to Charles’ arguments you are at liberty to do so. _Politely._ If you lapse into bad behaviour again, you’re at the least looking at a temporary ban.

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william u. 04.26.10 at 12:23 am

“But I will not be hectored, bullied, or talked down merely on the strength of the person attempting to do so being, for example, a “political scientist”. Trying to pull that sort of crap will merely make me note that I am a mathematician (and further, one who has done some statistical work in the past for people like the CDC.) So in the intellectual hierarchy, I’m at the top; “political scientists” aren’t worth bupkas, coming in somewhere behind biologists, chemists, and physicists, in that order.”

Oh, fantastic: More of the sophomoric disciplinary dick comparison that afflicts my fellow grad students,* who should have outgrown it in — well, sophomore year. Since you’ve done “statistical work,” doesn’t that make you a grubby statistician, far removed from the dizzying heights of Theory?

* and Larry Summers, I suppose.

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christian h. 04.26.10 at 12:53 am

As a mathematician myself let me just say that people who somehow think that because they’re mathematicians they must be good at everything else, too, are one of the more annoying features of our discipline.

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ScentOfViolets 04.26.10 at 2:55 am

ScentOfViolets – you don’t outrank anyone here. That’s not the way it works. Hectoring people and claiming that you are at the “top” of the heap, while simultaneously threatening “Don’t try to pull any sort of authority with me, or resort to credentialism” is a poor way to convince people in argument. It’s stupid and offensive.

Sigh. That is not what I said and you damn well know it.

I said, quite clearly, that if you attempt to do so, then I will note that in the intellectual scheme of things, political science people and such like are pretty far down on the intellectual totem pole.

Note that this is a conditional, what we in the biz call an if-then statement (and I have a very hard time believing you misread what I said that badly.) So . . . as long as you don’t try to talk down to me, or bully or hector me, I won’t bring up our relative rankings. This strikes me as fair and eminently reasonable. In fact, the only way this could seem unfair or unreasonable is if some relatively low-ranking sort wanted the freedom to bully without fear of reprisal.

Oh, and if you have problems with interpreting what people are saying, it’s considered the polite thing to ask for clarification before going on about what other people have supposedly said. I see that a number of people have this problem with you.

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ScentOfViolets 04.26.10 at 3:19 am

As to the other point, you have now objected to my mistaken belief that you were arguing that the median American would hold a mix of opinions on the questions Henry’s study used and you have objected to my correction of that you were arguing that the median American would hold all of the majority positions.

No, this is not what I said; I said that on any given question the moderate majority holds one opinion (or rather, one small set of opinions). It most certainly does not mean that the majority of people hold the same opinions on all of those questions.

Let’s do an easy math example. Say 100 people pick a number at random from 1 to 10, and they do this five times (five trials). Consider a cutoff at eight and below vs above eight; obviously, for any any given trial, approximately 80% of the people will pick a number 8 or below and the “majority” position will average less than nine. Now, after five trials, how many are still in the “majority” in the sense that for every trial, they pick a number 8 or below. How many people will be in this group? Why, that’s just 0.8^5, or about 0.33 time 100 about 33, or 1/3 of our population is “in the majority” on picking numbers less than nine.

And so it is with what is being claimed in this particular context; it is quite possible for “liberals” to hold the majority position on every issue – which makes them liberals! What Henry is claiming is that there is not just correlation, but a causative factor which can predict how many of these questions will be answered in a certain way, ie, if a person is a “liberal”, they will answer all of these questions in a particular way because of their ideology.

However, this is extremely sloppy. We don’t know that the participants are answering the questions in a certain way because of ideology or because of some other factor, and no, you can’t just say “These questions seem pretty ideologically oriented to me; I don’t see that it could be anything else.” That’s bad science. As I’ve repeatedly indicated, one possible confounding factor might simply be degree of education on a subject; another might be that some people have access to higher quality information; or it could be something else. You get the idea. The point is that until you’re able to answer these questions, studies that purport to show clustering . . . really don’t.

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ScentOfViolets 04.26.10 at 3:39 am

As a mathematician myself let me just say that people who somehow think that because they’re mathematicians they must be good at everything else, too, are one of the more annoying features of our discipline.</blockquote

Oh, I agree completely. Fortunately, that's not what I'm doing; I'm criticizing an experimental setup on the basis of elementary statistical procedures – not on any knowledge specific to the field. This is something that happens a lot to statisticians (the guy who said “It ain’t what you don’t know, it’s what you do know that ain’t so”? Probably a statistician); one social scientist theorized that black males don’t do as well on homework because they face criticism of their peers who will ultimately shun them for “acting white”. They then claimed ironclad evidence (to the limits of the data) that proved this theory: on a survey they conducted, black males who were academic high achievers did indeed report having fewer social contacts and fewer friends than black males who did not do so well.

Huh? I don’t have to know much about sociology to criticize this sort of finding on methodological grounds: A implies B certainly does not carry the automatic implication that B implies A. Pointing out that what you need to do with this sort of procedure is to test for the contrapositive,[1] that if black males are not shunned by their peers then they are not, statistically speaking, performing well academically tends to get blank looks(it certainly did in this case), even from supposedly well-educated people who should know better.

[1]That is, A implies B does carry the automatic implication that not-B implies not-A, and it is very often much easier to work with this reformulation rather than the original problem.

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Charles S 04.26.10 at 4:25 am

Okay, I’m pretty sure I finally understand your argument.

However, I’m not convinced that your argument is a relevant objection to Henry’s paper or his post. Specifically here:

What Henry is claiming is that there is not just correlation, but a causative factor which can predict how many of these questions will be answered in a certain way, ie, if a person is a “liberal”, they will answer all of these questions in a particular way because of their ideology.

I don’t think Henry is making a causal argument. Can you provide the quote where Henry explicitly makes a causal argument rather than either a correlative claim or a definitional claim?

I don’t think there is a causal argument being made, only a definitional argument. People who hold all of the 11 positions that Democratic senators overwhelmingly vote for are defined as people who are aligned in their opinions with the orthodox left of the Democratic Party (the US mainstream left). If a group of people (Daily Kos readers) all happen to be strongly aligned in their opinions with the Democratic Party orthodoxy then it is unsurprising that they are able to make alliances with organizations that are organized around pushing the Democratic Party towards orthodoxy (primarying Democrats who do not reliably vote with the Democrats on these issues). If the distribution of opinions of a group of people are unknown, or if they are believed to hold a mix of “moderate” views typical of self described moderates, then it would be unexpected that they would be able to form partisan alliances (since many of them would disagree with the partisan orthodoxy no matter which particular question of partisan orthodoxy is relevant to the alliance).

There is no requirement of a causal relationship between being a partisan Democrat and holding all of the views that define Democratic orthodoxy anywhere in that. Do people hold those views because they are partisan democrats? Can people be described as partisan Democrats only because they hold those views for some unknown reason? We don’t know, can’t find out by survey methods using these sorts of questions, and don’t necessarily care.

Do people come to Daily Kos and stay readers because they hold the partisan Democratic positions across the board, or did people who came to Daily Kos because they liked its anti-war stance back in 2003, and then took the other Democratic orthodox positions because they are loyal to Daily Kos, or because they want to support anti-war Democratic candidates and that means supporting pro-choice pro-tax Democrats? Or do they end up taking the orthodox Democratic positions because the information content on Daily Kos is sufficiently better than the information content on NPR or ABC news that it leads to more loyal readers forming the factually accurate opinions? All of those are interesting questions that are obviously unanswerable by the sort of study that Henry published, but they are also questions that Henry never claimed to be addressing, either in the paper or in the blog post.

Anyway, thanks. I do now understand your argument, which I had not previously.

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Cosma Shalizi 04.26.10 at 4:41 am

ScentOfViolets, please meet item response theory. You’ll get along like a house on fire. (I do hope that I am of sufficient rank to say this.)

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Charles S 04.26.10 at 4:52 am

from the introduction to Farrell et al.

Although our data cannot clearly demonstrate any causal relationships, they can be used to evaluate extant causal arguments.

from the conclusion:

there is abundant room for future research that would speak to the questions Thompson raises. A central task is to understand the causal impact of reading blogs.

Okay, now I have spent way too much time on this.

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ScentOfViolets 04.26.10 at 5:07 am

ScentOfViolets, please meet item response theory. You’ll get along like a house on fire. (I do hope that I am of sufficient rank to say this.)

I’ve scanned it; seems like fairly standard stuff. What’s the point you’re trying to make or the connection you want me to see? Do you understand my objection(s) now?

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ScentOfViolets 04.26.10 at 5:38 am

I don’t think Henry is making a causal argument. Can you provide the quote where Henry explicitly makes a causal argument rather than either a correlative claim or a definitional claim?

My apologies, I phrased that badly, and didn’t put it into context to boot. Here is what he said that seems, er, questionable:

What this suggests is that readers of left wing blogs are much more liberal (when you look at their attitudes to hot-button political issues) than they identify themselves as being.

Thus, if you know someone has in some way been identified as a “liberal”, you can say with a rather high probability what their response will be not on just one or two or three issues, but on eight or nine or ten . . . and that these are “hot-button political issues”. And given that this is the case, you “know” that these people are more liberal than they claim to be. As I hope I’ve demonstrated, that just ain’t so, and there is no “suggests” about it (“suggests” is often cover-your-ass academese for “I’m pretty damn sure, but saying it like that Just Isn’t Done.”) Particularly since it is easy to devise other sets of questions which aren’t particularly ideological hot-button issues and which show the same clustering effect. Yes, I know you don’t believe me in regards to the questions I threw out, but this sort of mis-knowledge or un-knowledge is depressingly common[1]. Rest assured that there are plenty of people who would answer yes to one or more of those questions. Or if you like, plenty of people who are convinced that there’s a link between autism and vaccinations, or plenty of people who are not just skeptical of evolution, but deny it outright[2]. And oddly enough, you can also predict with some degree of certainty whether they’re liberal, moderate, or conservative based upon replies to these questions. If you find that hard to believe because of how depressing a picture that paints of the electorate, well, yes, it is depressing.

[1][2] I’ll make my standard plug here and note that in light of this information, it isn’t particularly surprising that scientists as a tribe overwhelmingly self-identify as being either moderate(35%) or liberal(52%), with only 9% calling themselves conservative.

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Charles S 04.26.10 at 7:00 am

I find your argument unconvincing, but thank you for explaining it to me.

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jdw 04.26.10 at 12:06 pm

I congratulate you on your perseverance, ScentofViolets. For my part, I found comments #96 and #98 above particularly enlightening.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a forum for deconstructing this kind of thing where one could be free of the kind of aggressive filibustering we’ve seen here…

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ScentOfViolets 04.26.10 at 2:04 pm

I find your argument unconvincing, but thank you for explaining it to me.

But this isn’t an argument, this is raising easy objections to a very sloppily researched paper. So properly speaking, all you can say is that you are convinced by Henry’s paper; Imost definitely am not. There is another confusing point here, so maybe I should deal with it right here: I am not saying that Henry is necessarily wrong in his conclusions. For all I know he is dead-on right. But that conclusion is not supported by this paper.

I congratulate you on your perseverance, ScentofViolets. For my part, I found comments #96 and #98 above particularly enlightening.

Well, Gareth talks prettier than I do :-) I’ve never been all that good at summarizing, particularly on the fly and this does lead to mis-communication and misunderstandings which are my fault. But Gareth does a good job of capturing the essentials in just a few lines – a valuable skill.

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Henry 04.26.10 at 8:33 pm

jdw – since you’ve chosen to jump in at the deep end again, let me explain – perhaps a little less politely – what has been going on in the process that you choose to describe as “aggressive filibustering.” On the basis of what would appear to be a cursory skimming of the conclusions (if you had actually read the main body of the paper, you could not have made the mistaken claim that we used link analysis) you claimed that I and my co-authors were trying to favor deliberation and denigrate the netroots. I explained to you – with copious evidence – that in fact I had explicitly argued on behalf of the netroots against the standards being employed by deliberative theorists. You then switched your complaint to an argument that I had misused the term deliberation. I pointed out that I was referring to a very well established set of debates among political theorists about what deliberation involved. As a hint to help you in your reading endeavours in future – when an article states in its opening paragraph that

Some political theorists idealize deliberation among individuals with
diverse perspectives. They claim that deliberation may help individuals refine their own opinions, develop greater tolerance for different opinions, and perhaps identify commonends and means.

with specific citations to the theorists in question, it is usually a safe bet that (a) the operative definition of deliberation is the one being employed by these theorists, and (b) that it involves (in these theorist’s eyes) discussion among people with diverse perspectives. You then switched to a vague set of suggestions that there was something strange and suspicious about how political theorists thought about deliberation, drawing some unspecified parallel with anthropologists working for the US government under false guises. This may come as a bit of a shock to you – but _sometimes people involved in technical conversations use words in ways that are unfamiliar to you!_ And it’s not because they are working for the Man to undermine the everyday use of the term ‘deliberation’ or otherwise deliberately trying to confuse you. It’s strange, I know. But that is the way the world works.

You say that #96 and #98 have been “enlightening.” I’m very happy for you. But I can’t help but suspect that we’re encountering one of those technical-meanings-of-the-term-problems with “enlightening.” Here, I suspect that the term “enlightening” means something like “I don’t actually understand it, but it sounds good, and allows me to comfortably get back in the mix start dropping arsecoddle about filibustering again.” Certainly, it doesn’t reveal very much. Gareth (and this is no fault of his, but a credit to him for trying) proposes an interpretation of ScentOfViolets – that the scale can’t distinguish liberals from centrists, a statement which ScentOfViolets agrees with. I point out that it can – precisely because there are not many people in the population who actually adhere to the strong left or the strong right position (i.e. being ideologically consistent in choosing only left or only right positions on the battery of questions).

Which brings us to the question of authority. ScentOfViolets’ claim is that ideological scales like this are fundamentally flawed in ways that any statistically minded mathematician can see. He as a self-described mathematician, believes himself to be at the “top of the hierarchy,” with political scientists, who simply don’t understand this stuff grubbing away at a level far below the starry empyrean that he occupies. This is what he thinks allows him to get away with claiming that we have made fundamental errors, even though he himself has _no familiarity whatsoever_ with the relevant literature. The mistakes are purportedly so obvious that any mathematically minded person can see them.

The problem with this claim is (as Cosma points out) that there is a very well established literature among statisticians on ideological scaling and item response. Our piece fits quite happily with that literature. Furthermore, before submitting the article, we gave it to Cosma and “Andrew Gelman”:http://www.stat.columbia.edu/~gelman/ to read. It would be fair to say that Cosma is not precisely shy about telling social scientists when they are misusing statistical techniques. While I don’t hold either Cosma or Andrew responsible for any underlying errors in the math or whatever, I can _guarantee_ that neither would have been unwilling to tell us if we had made a fundamental error, or if our basic methodological assumptions were statistical bad practice, as ScentOfViolets has suggested. Both – unlike ScentOfViolets – have direct expertise and extensive publications in applied statistics. Cosma is an associate editor of the Annals of Applied Statistics (read: he reviews a _lot_ of papers in this broad area). ScentOfViolets has no such expertise or publishing record. His claim rests (as he effectively admits) on the suggestion that we, being stupid political scientists, have made a fundamental error which would be obvious to any statistically literate mathematician. This is manifestly not true. Again – I don’t want to hold either Cosma or our other respondent responsible for the paper as a whole (they read it – but they didn’t play around with the data sets). Nor do I usually think it is useful to throw around competing claims about credentialled expertise. But since ScentOfViolets has both suggested that he possesses a degree of academic authority that he really doesn’t, and has rested a large part of his argument on his purported expertise as a mathematician vis-a-vis the statistically illiterate social sciences, I think it’s helpful to clear this up. People who are qualified in this area, as ScentOfViolets manifestly is not, have read the paper, and have no problem with the use of ideological scaling as we have presented it.

I’ll go further and say that on the evidence of these threads, ScentOfViolets is quite incompetent to make arguments in this area. His suggestion that an instrument measuring answers on questions involving Elvis’s death, faked moon landings etc are equivalent to questions about partial birth abortions and capital gains taxes, and his belief that the composition of an ideological scale necessarily involves causal inferences suggest a level of confusion that is – as the sorry history of these two threads demonstrates – apparently quite as ineradicable as his tendency to treat quite polite questions as illegitimate attacks on his hierarchical superiority as a mathematician. So if you want to hop right back in and join him be my guest. I don’t think it does you any favors. But then you clearly don’t think much of my opinion (and as should be apparent, the feeling is mutual).

(comment updated with new information after initial publication)

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Henry 04.26.10 at 11:57 pm

I should add – none of this should be taken to suggest that our paper isn’t open to challenge, correction etc. It very obviously is. But not on the grounds which have been adduced (unless an awful lot of papers, many by serious statisticians etc, are similarly afflicted, in which case I really can’t see why there isn’t a major publication opportunity in a very serious journal showing why this stuff is All Wrong).

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jdw 04.27.10 at 1:03 am

Not at all, Henry. For me at least, you are the clearly premier empirical theorist of the cloistered cocoons of cognitive consonance.

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