Closing The Scientific Hack Gap

by Henry Farrell on April 28, 2005

Lorelei Kelly at Democracy Arsenal writes:

Two cliches that the conservative movement lives by: “Nature abhors a vacuum” AND “Half of winning is just showing up”. So conservative leaders proceed to destroy public infrastructure–thereby creating a vacuum–and then outsource its replacement to their friends and allies. A great example of this occurred with the “reforms” implemented by the Contract with America–the de facto elimination of much of the cooperative informal infrastructure like staffed caucuses–that helped Members stay educated and also built alliances between Democrats and Republicans on issues of interest (like arms control or the environment). Congressional staff from the old days refer to 1995 as “the lobotomy of Congress”. Gingrich had no need for these informal venues … he consolidated formal power of recognition to himself and simply outsourced substantive policy needs to the Heritage Foundation. The left had nothing similar to Heritage in 1995. Now we’ve got Center for American Progress, but also years of catching up to do.

While Kelly is bang on in her diagnosis, I don’t think that think tanks like the Center for American Progress provide a very good solution, useful though they may be in other senses. Much of the dumbing down of political debate in the last decade was indeed an intended consequence of the Gingrich revolution. Congressional institutions which provided impartial information were axed, and replaced by spin from handpicked “experts” and right wing think-tanks. The prime example was the closing of the Office of Technology Assessment (which had peeved Gingrich by exploding some of the bogus science underpinning the Star Wars initiative). Still, creating “our own” think-tanks isn’t a solution to the underlying problem (although it may be a necessary political strategy). It would be far preferable to try to recreate some of the previously existing infrastructure, as Congressman Rush Holt has proposed (it wasn’t very expensive in the first place). This would make it far more difficult for bullshit artists like Senator James Inhofe to get away with murder on the floor of Congress. Doubtless, this would sometimes prove inconvenient for the left, whenever the existing research or scientific consensus presented awkward or uncomfortable facts for left-wing policy positions. But it would improve the quality of political debate in areas such as stem cell research, global warming and missile defence, where right wing politicians continually and persistently make claims that are bizarrely at odds with the existing body of scientific research.



John Emerson 04.28.05 at 5:01 pm

I will never understand left-liberal hostility to the idea of building up liberal media and liberal think-tanks. Henry’s kind of lukewarm response is typical — others are much worse.

In my opinion, it is exactly this weakness (media and thinktanks; propaganda) that is killing the Democrats. I was not prepared for the kneejerk negative reactions this idea gets from the people who should support it.

At one time I thought that the Democrats should purge all the prissy academic liberals who hate politics. But that would be Stalinist, so I decided next that the Democrats are worthless and hopeless and that we’re all going to go down with the ship.

Orwell and Gandhi do not prepare you for the kind of fight we’re facing now. You have to have some goal other than merely “not sinking to their level”.

My final reaction, you’ll all be glad to know, is that there’s really no place for me in the political world of today, and that politics is bad for my mental health.

But occasionally I relapse.


RSL 04.28.05 at 5:41 pm

Some random thoughts on this:

1. It’s not just Congress that has been lobotomized . . . it’s the average American (Before the right wingers acuse me of being an elitist liberal, let me warn them I own a gun and many of my political positions aren’t too far from those of the Cato Institute). Thanks to Hollywood and Madison Avenue, we’ve gotten too used to reacting emotionally to issues rather than rationally. We no longer know how to think as a people. We’ve also been a little too materially comfortable. Bread and circuses keep us placid . . . just like in Rome

2. Our media confuses presenting two sides of a story with objectivity. If one side of the story is patently false–and created by special interest groups whose intent is to obscure the truth–the media is not being objective by presenting the interest groups’ side of the story without also providing all the necessary facts about who’s behind the alternative version of the truth and why the consensus among real scientists is different. In the guise of being objective, the media is just being complicit in the deception (and inexcusably lazy).

3. Reporters are lobotomized like everyone else.

4. Corporations maximizing profits have no reason to invest in good reporting. Think tank buffoons are cheaper to hire and they raise emotions, which is what viewers seem to want (heat not light). Putting good investigative reporters on the scene is way too expensive and doesn’t hold most viewers’ 7-second attention span anyway.

5. Too much controversy scares both viewers and advertisers (though a little controversy as long as it doesn’t seem too unpatriotic can be titilating).

6. Why is it that Americans say doing their income taxes is so hard? Maybe it’s because they don’t know how to read or do math anymore? Really, taxes shouldn’t take a reasonably educated average American (working home owner, with some kids and some mutual funds) 28 hours to complete–and even if they did, 28 hours isn’t really too much to ask if you sincerely want to support the troops and all . . . some one’s gotta pay for all that “security” we voted for last election, after all and 28 hours isn’t too much time to give is it?

7. Since Rush Limbaugh is the radio on mid day, do any of his listeners have jobs? Or is it only liberals who work anymore?

Okay, my grumpy mood is over now.


RSL 04.28.05 at 5:49 pm

Oh, and one more grumpy comment. Why do we persist in labeling ourselves liberal or conservative? Have we really become dumb enough to be either? This is maybe what bothers me most about both Heritage and American Progress . . . they are so [expletive] vested in being on one side or the other. Politics is indeed the hobgoblin of little minds, I guess . . . unfortunately, the incredibly shrinking American liberal-conservative bipolar mind is starting to kill our future as a nation . . .


Nell Lancaster 04.28.05 at 5:55 pm

It’s not an either-or. We have the Center for American Progress and its ilk now, and thanks be for that. But it would be useful and good for the country to have the good old pre-1995 technocratic staff organizations back too, publicly funded.


Henry 04.28.05 at 6:50 pm

John – if you’re genuinely not able to see the value of having neutral scientific information made available to decision makers when it’s there, then I don’t think that any argument between us is going to be a useful one. And if you think that the policy briefs of left wing think tanks are going to be as effective as OTA reports were in shutting down pseudo-scientific bullshit, then it’s you who is being naive, not me.


RSL 04.28.05 at 7:11 pm


You and I see the value of neutral scientific information, but (more to the point) does Tom Delay? And how ’bout the people who vote for him? And, maybe more relevant, what about Merck or ExxonMobil or all the other corporations who fund our illustrious statesmen?

That’s the real reason why this post makes me so grumpy. I agree with you, but I just get the feeling we’re kinda oldfashioned . . .


John Emerson 04.28.05 at 7:13 pm

Henry: As Neil said, this would not have had to been a question of one against the other. It was you insisted on framing it that way, albeit rather mildly compared to many others of your ilk. You didn’t have to do that; you just couldn’t help yourself.

The policy reports of rightwing think tanks are very effective in getting Republicans elected. That’s what they’re for. That’s the reason for their existence. They’re good at it — and Lo! we have a Republican Congress, a Republican President, and an increasingly Republican judiciary. This has been going on for thirty or more years or more, and the Democrats have consistently failed to respond effectively.

And whenever it seems that the Democrats might begin to do so, an immediate chorus of disapproval arises from high-minded liberals. You are not the first and not the worst, but that’s what you did.


Henry 04.28.05 at 7:31 pm

Nope John, that’s exactly what I didn’t say. I never claimed that it was one against the other. Rather, I said that left wing think tanks aren’t a good substitute for the kind of analysis done by the OTA. I explicitly didn’t pose an either or, and indeed noted that left wing think tanks had other uses. But when it comes to providing some degree of scientific accuracy in political debates, they’re no substitute for the OTA. They can’t be; their role is different. They’re there to get Democrats elected. That’s a whole different set of issues. Any “chorus of disapproval” for left wing think tanks, however nuanced, isn’t in my post, it’s in your imagination. I’m merely stating what I feel to be a quite self-evident fact; that for a particular purpose, they do a worse job than a possible alternative. How does that equate to a chorus of disapproval?

rsl – yes, but see above under either-or. Having someone who can effectively call bullshit from a position of neutrality can have real political consequences. As evidenced when the Star Wars program came crashing to earth thanks to the guys at MIT, the OTA report etc etc.


John Emerson 04.28.05 at 7:46 pm

“I don’t think that think tanks like the Center for American Progress provide a very good solution”

“Still, creating “our own” think-tanks isn’t a solution to the underlying problem (although it may be a necessary political strategy). It would be far preferable to try to recreate some of the previously existing infrastructure”

“It would be far preferable to try to recreate some of the previously existing infrastructure”

That’s all pretty clearly negative, and it wasn’t needed.

There’s more than one underlying problem, and you think that the one you chose is the real one. Forced to choose, I’d say that the fact the Republicans control all of government and most of the media is the real one.

For example, on global warming there never has been any shortage of good information. Non-government agencies are doing a great job there. This makes no difference; the Republican propaganda machine has done a tremendous job of neutralizing and obscuring the truth in public opinion, and that’s what drives Congress.

I do not see the reason for you or for anyone else among the Democrats to set the kind of invidious contrast you just insisted on setting. But I see people doing this over and over again. The Democrats are not at risk of becoming Know-Nothing hacks; they’re at risk of becoming the second party in a one-party system, like the old Workers and Peasants Party in the USSR.


RSL 04.28.05 at 7:47 pm


You are absolutely right, of course. But my fear is that it’s exactly because having “someone who can effectively call bullshit from a position of neutrality can have real political consequences” is why these neutral folks no longer exist. Congressmen like Gingrich/Delay/Inhofe and (I assume) most Democrats too (though we wouldn’t really know because they are so lame) don’t want someone who has any political power over them and so they dumped the neutral people and aren’t really interested in bringing them back. What’s weird to me when I look at all the conservative think tanks (and media outlets) is how they’ve moved from arguing for principled conservative positions to arguing for Bush’s agenda, regardless of the fact that Bush’s agenda no longer resembles anything truly conservative. The real conservatives now have the Republicans firmly entrenched in power, but they’ve lost conservatitism (in my opinion at least). This observation supports your opinion that the think tank is a dangerous alternative for people of principle . . . but John is right that it’s extremely effective if what you want is to get your party elected. The folks in Congress just want to get elected.


Henry 04.28.05 at 8:20 pm

John, I know your opinions very well on this, but in order to ride your hobby horse again, you’re egregiously misinterpreting what I’m saying. Which is to say – read the post. Lorelei Kelly identifies a problem – that Republicans deliberately destroyed a very useful set of institutions to create a vacuum, which they could then fill with their own hacks. She then identifies a possible solution to that problem – to create our own partisan institutions. I observe that this isn’t a good solution to the fundamental problem that she identified (of the vacuum of good bipartisan policy advice), and that a better one is to try to recreate those institutions that existed in the first place. I didn’t “choose” the problem – I responded to Kelly’s argument. You’re trying to re-start a completely different fight about a different set of issues, which is fine. What isn’t fine is that you’re trying to make out that I’m actually engaged in “your” fight, and that I’m somehow arguing that left wing think tanks are a bad thing in general. I’m not – as should be entirely clear from what I wrote, I’m arguing that they are a bad solution to the problem that Kelly identifies. I’m not insisting on any invidious contrasts; rather you’re insisting on reading my post in a sloppy fashion that conforms more closely to your priors about the “real” argument on the left than to what I’m actually saying.


John Emerson 04.28.05 at 8:33 pm

I think that it’s not as clear as you claim what the real problem that Kelly was addressing was. You chose your real problem, and I chose mine.

Granting that it might be philosophically preferable simply to restore the professional staffs, that won’t happen while the Republicans are in power. While they are in power, and in order to get them out of power, the think-tank solution is the only way to go because it is the only actually possible way to go. Your preferred solution is only possible in a historical and political vacuum, not in the present reality.

And yes, you did say what you did in an unnecessarily contrastive way. And yes, I see this all the time, and it always makes me mad.


Donald Johnson 04.28.05 at 9:12 pm

I’d like the OTA back too, but John Emerson is probably right about the politics. And as John also pointed out, there’s already enormous amounts of nonpartisan information out about global warming, but the Republicans just dismiss it.


RSL 04.28.05 at 9:16 pm


Do you think that when (or rather if) the Democrats ever come back to power, the professional staffs will be restored? I doubt it . . . instead, we may just have Democratic think-tanks setting so-called “policy” based on their own self-serving mis-interpretations of the facts.

I don’t want to be naive–American politics have always been excessively partisan–but I believe that in the past, there was at least some honest attempt by the better half of our Congresspeople to practice some responsible statesmanship in addition to being partisans. The professional staffs were representative of this desire to preserve some semblance of good statesmanship even while partisan wars raged.

Unfortunately, I think that spirit of statesmanship was destroyed about the same time Lee Attwater started running campaigns. It’s all partisanship and marketing now. The Republicans started this trend and had tremendous success with it. And now the Democrats are (belatedly) adopting it by creating their own think-tanks and media outlets. (They are still way behind in finding effective strategists in the Frank Luntz, Karl Rove mode though.)

Where I think Henry has a good point is in observing that creating the think-tanks may help the Democrats come to power as Kelly claims . . . but when they come to power does the statesmanship return? Or do we just get more of the same nonfact-based marketing, but now with a so-called “liberal” twist? If statesmanship doesn’t return with a Democratic rise to power, than the electoral “victory” achieved via the Democratic think-tanks is a Pyrrhic one.

In short, we bemoan the loss of statesmanship more than we bemoan the loss of Democrats.

My original point (made somewhat obliquely, I admit) is that ultimately, the blame rests not with the Republicans or the Democrats in power, but with a complacent American public that seems too fat and happy to care as our own little Rome burns . . . I fear we are getting what we deserve.


John Emerson 04.28.05 at 9:36 pm

“Do you think that when (or rather if) the Democrats ever come back to power, the professional staffs will be restored?”

I would support that. Maybe, maybe not, but it’s not exactly a question we’re facing at the moment.

“And now the Democrats are (belatedly) adopting it by creating their own think-tanks and media outlets.”

What else could they possibly do?

I believe that the Democrats are struggling to survive. They’ve done amazingly well recently, but we’re only about three months into his second term and Bush hasn’t played the Iran card yet, and he hasn’t played the domestic-security card yet. I dread the next few years.

It’s nice to think a few moves ahead in the game, but worrying about what the Democrats might do if they are ever in power again is, in my reading of the actual situation, utterly perverse.

Especially because the new media / think tank proposal that people have been talking about is very far from being a done deal. A very large proportion of Democrats disapprove of this proposal for one reason or another. It may very well not happen.

In which case, I think that Rove and Bush win the ball game for good and all.


RSL 04.28.05 at 10:32 pm

“I believe that the Democrats are struggling to survive. They’ve done amazingly well recently . . ”

John, I agree with your first point that the Democrats are struggling to survive, but I’m not convinced that their recent triumphs don’t have more to do with some uncharacteristic Republican stumbles than with any suddenly acquired Democratic proficiency in the political game!

The good news for the Democrats, though, is that the Republicans finally seem to be developing some of the symptoms of a party become too powerful for it’s own good (kind of like the Democrats 25 years ago): i.e., corruption, fissure, arrogance, pandering to the base while losing touch with the rest of the electorate, etc. Those of us who are older remember that the Democrats started to fall apart for these very same reasons long before the Republicans started to dominate the American political scene with new ideas.


John Emerson 04.28.05 at 10:38 pm

I really think that the Republicans have been overreaching. I suspect that the Social Security thing was a conscious gamble; it amounted to destroying the core principle of the New Deal. If they had won that, we’d have a one-party system already.

The Schiavo case was a misjudgement, perhaps, but they also had to figure out how to pay off their religious fanatics. They’ve been suckering those poor losers for a long time. Weyrich had that figured out four years ago. They could still break even on this.

DeLay was definitely individual arrogance. And it wouldn’t have happened without one very tough individual prosecutor in Texas.

You don’t really have to argue with me about Democratic lameness. I’m really on the point of giving up entirely.


RSL 04.29.05 at 7:35 am

All of the recent Republican stumbles do, in some ways, point to the primary disadvantage of the think-tank strategy: listening only to people (or sycophants) with whom who you already agree and ignoring other valid (and possibly more objective and/or fact-based) opinions. At some point, you begin to lose touch with reality, and then the power you achieved through the think-tank manipulation of the truth begins to crumble.

Your examples, John, are all spot on:

Do Americans (other than those who write for the National Review and the Wall Street Journal) really want to destroy the New Deal? Do they want Congress telling them when they can be on or off life support? Do they really think it’s okay to pay your wife $500,000 in consulting fees from campaign contributions, even if the payments are perfectly legal? In all cases, the think-tank “experts” and right-wing media pundits keep telling the Republicans “yes,” but I suspect the real answer in all cases is “no.”


John Emerson 04.29.05 at 7:53 am

I don’t think it’s a binary distinction between partisan research and valid research. Brad DeLong says (something like) that he used to think of the Heritage Foundation as a valid player in the game, but that in the last few years he feels that they’ve become dishonest and to be ignored. But they’ve always been partisan.

Political advocacy is a legitimate activity and our system could not function without it, and it’s not identical with lies and sophistry. It can just mean the generation of valid research with a political angle in mind.

But within academic Democrats there’s a tremendous resistance to this kind of thing. I think that they wish that Democrats would just contract for perr-reviewed policy-making from the various professional associations, without interference from dirty politicians.


Henry 04.29.05 at 9:31 am

But within academic Democrats there’s a tremendous resistance to this kind of thing. I think that they wish that Democrats would just contract for perr-reviewed policy-making from the various professional associations, without interference from dirty politicians.

John, that’s bullshit, pure and simple. You’ve started off in these comments by egregiously misinterpreting my post as saying something that it doesn’t. You’ve then gone on to use some quite specious argumentation to defend your interpretation. You’ve then, without quite fessing up to it, tried to retreat a little from that interpretation, saying that there are different problems to be addressed (true), and claiming that this somehow invalidates my post, which was very clearly addressing a different argument.” And now you’re coming back full circle to claim without quite saying so that “academic Democrats” (presumably me) don’t want to be associated with interference from dirty politicians. This is bad sloppy, argument by association and insinuation that directly misrepresents what I’m saying. Again, not only does my postnot say that left wing think tanks aren’t useful, it specifically _does_ say that they are useful. I just say that they’re not a good substitute for the original panoply of institutions that provided disinterested scientific advice. That’s not what left wing think tanks are for. I don’t think that you’ve got an argument with that claim – or at least if you do, you haven’t advanced it to date. Instead, you’re accusing me of the apparently heinous, if rather vaguely defined, crime of “excessive contrastivity.” It seems to me that you came into this discussion spoiling for a fight, or, more precisely, wanting to reiterate yet again your argument that academic left-wingers are too concerned with playing fair. You’re trying to beat up on the straw man of “academic Democrats” and using my post for that purpose. Which, I’ll repeat, is bullshit. That’s not what the post was about – I’m talking about a different set of issues. I don’t especially want to get into a fight with you about this – I suspect that we agree on much more than we disagree about. But when you egregiously misrepresent what I’m saying in order to make me into an object-lesson in your long term mission to bring enlightenment to the left, I’m going to call you on it.


John Emerson 04.29.05 at 10:00 am

This is a fight I’ve been fighting for about two years, and yes, I’m treating your post as part of a larger tendency.

What Kelly said is what a lot of other people are saying. To me this is the most important single question in American politics today, and what she said is about right. My main worry is that it’s too late.

This isn’t a time to say “Yes, but”. The thing to say is, “It’s about time”. This is something that needs to be done, and since it still might not be, we should do what we can to make it happen.

Instead of recognizing that what Kelly said was about right, albeit a truism, you insisted on coming in with a criticism. You conceded that Democratic think tanks would be, of course, a good thing, BUT…..

If you had simply directly stated your idea that the Office of Technology Assessment etc. should be restored, no one here would have argued. No one disagrees with that idea, except for all the Republicans in the US Congress. But an uncontroversial statement like that would be a bit flat and pointless. Juicing it up by framing a contrast to the Democratic thinktank proposal wasn’t the way to go.

Something like this happens WHENEVER the Democrats start talking about getting a media presence or building up a research infrastructure. A hefty chunk of the Democratic / liberal leadership, for reasons which I have never understood but about which I have been willing to speculate, has automatic reservations about doing the very thing that the Democrats need to do to survive. The dissociation is like clockwork. “Yes, but….”

To me, making the kind of thing Kelly talked about happen is the main thing that needs to be done, and as I said, the hour is getting late. I do NOT have confidence that it will be done. I’ve been waiting for over a year. Do not assume that it’s a done deal; it may well not happen at all.

And I do not think that your concessive “This is all very well, but…..” was a useful contribution in that respect. As I’ve said, you’re not the first and you’re far from the worst, but that kind of reluctant support is something I run into all the time, and I just don’t understand it.


Henry 04.29.05 at 10:21 am

Nope – again you’re trying to make my post say something that it doesn’t. I can’t understand why I have to keep repeating this again, and again, and again. I was addressing the very specific point of whether or not left wing think tanks provide a good substitute for institutions like the OTA. I did _not_ make any claims that left wing think tanks were useless in a more general sense, and indeed specifically and explicitly stated the contrary. I’m all in favour of left wing think tanks, as I’ve stated repeatedly in the past – but not for this specific purpose. You’re taking a very specific point as evidence of a general reluctance to support left wing think tanks. And in so doing, you’re misrepresenting what I’m saying, and repeatedly re-iterating that misrepresentation, despite my repeated statements that this wasn’t what I was saying. As stated, you have a hobby-horse – that academic leftists are too concerned with playing fair. This is something that you’ve repeated again and again in comments on this blog. You’re distorting this post to make it fit into this more general agenda. As stated, I don’t especially like attempts to make me into a straw man, especially when those attempts repeatedly misrepresent what I’m saying, and (despite evidence to the contrary) misrepresent my motives in saying what I’m saying.


John Emerson 04.29.05 at 10:55 am

While Kelly is bang on in her diagnosis, I don’t think that think tanks like the Center for American Progress provide a very good solution, useful though they may be in other senses….Still, creating “our own” think-tanks isn’t a solution to the underlying problem (although it may be a necessary political strategy).

I don’t see the need to have been concessive like that.

I don’t see the need for you to have framed your completely unexceptional support for the restoration of the the government research infrastructure, as a contrast to the proposal for desperately-needed Democratic think tanks. (Except that by doing so you bring a bit of zip into an otherwise rather banal statement).

I think that I’ve said my piece. I’m not conceding anything. I do not admit to representing your views; what I’m talking about is your rhetoric or framing, which is a big deal in politics.


Henry 04.29.05 at 11:25 am

What on earth is “concessive” there? I’m saying, quite clearly, that creating left wing think tanks isn’t a solution to the lack of institutions like OTA, although it may be a necessary strategy towards getting to a situation in which we can recreate them. That’s not a concession, but a statement of fact, which spells out quite clearly that left wing think tanks have a political purpose, but that they are not the solution in themselves. And what you say in your last comment – that you’re not trying to represent my views, but instead comment on my framing, is flat-out untrue. You began by claiming that my post reflected a general “left-liberal hostility to the idea of building up liberal media and liberal think-tanks” and graduated to making cracks about “academic Democrats” who you think “wish that Democrats would just contract for perr-reviewed policy-making from the various professional associations, without interference from dirty politicians”? Again, you’ve consistently and repeatedly misrepresented my views in order to pursue your own agenda. And your unwillingness to concede that you might have been mistaken in your interpretation of those views is pretty weak stuff.


John Emerson 04.29.05 at 11:43 am

When faced with Kelly’s statement why, rather than just saying that she was right, did you feel impelled to use it as a hook to say something different? While you did not reject Kelly’s main point, you jumped past it to a criticism.

I think that “concessive” is a pretty good characterization of your treatment of Kelly’s main point. You didn’t reject it, you just said “Yes, but….” “Although it may be a necessary political strategy is not exactly a ringing endorsement. You couldn’t even say “We need to do this, but we should also remember…” You had to use the modal “may”, just to keep your distance.

Yes, I do have an agenda — and that’s OK, right?

And your post fit into it. It’s one more example of the compulsive need of many liberals and Democrats, mostly academics, to prove to themselves and others that they’re not hacks but are made of finer stuff and above the battle, and to distance themselves from the ordinary things that have to be done in politics.


Henry 04.29.05 at 12:03 pm

No – it isn’t. It’s one more example of your compulsive need to prove to yourself and others that you’re prepared to face up to the tough truths of politics, and that those who you criticize aren’t. You’ve misrepresented what I’ve said – repeatedly. You’ve then claimed falsely that you weren’t in fact trying to represent my views, but instead my framing. You’ve now reverted to your original claim that my post reflects a set of views that you want to condemn. Which, I’ll repeat again, is bullshit. Yes, it’s fine that you have an agenda. What’s not fine is when you cross the border from arguing your case into sloppy misrepresentation, and then overt dishonesty in your efforts to defend your misrepresentation. That’s what you’re doing now.


John Emerson 04.29.05 at 12:19 pm

Where specifically did I misrepresent what you said? Cite something.

The most I will concede is that when I went from speaking specifically of your post, to speaking more generally of the tendency I say you’re part of, that some of the things I said about the tendency were not specifically true about your post, and that I didn’t make it clear when I transitioned. But for me your post is just exhibit #1395.

Do you deny that you’re treatment of Kelly’s post was concessive. Do you claim that “Although it may be a necessary political strategy…..” amounts to enthusiastic support, even of the political strategy itself?

To me, it’s as if one guy is throwing out a lifeline, and some kibitzer is explaining how there are also other things that need to be done. “Although it may be a necessary short-term plan to throw out that lifeline…..”

Fine, but right now let’s get the lifeline out there.


Henry 04.29.05 at 12:32 pm

When did you misrepresent me? From the first couple of comments …

(1) statement that the post is an example of “left-liberal hostility to the idea of building up liberal media and liberal think-tanks.” It isn’t.

(2) Claim (or am I wrong) that I’m an example of the “prissy academic liberals who hate politics.” I’m not.

(3) Claim that this post was in some way an “Orwell and Gandhi” argument about “not sinking to their level.” It wasn’t.

(4) Claim that I was “insisting” on framing the post as “a question of one against the other.” I wasn’t.

I could go on. The flat out dishonesty was when you claimed that you weren’t trying to represent my views, but instead my framing. That is manifestly, and self-evidently not what you were trying to do in your earlier comments. Or do you deny this?


John Emerson 04.29.05 at 2:54 pm

I still think that I was right to object to your post, but I’m too close to things to be sure any more. Consider that I have apologized for anything I may have done wrong, and yes, that’s a very lame non-apology. And you might ask yourself whether, in fact, I did have some point.

My political interventions have become increasingly fruitless and increasingly wearing on me, and I’m phasing myself out with a series inflammatory posts I probably wouldn’t have made while I still felt somewhat relevant. I deleted most of my political bookmarks several days ago, but I forgot Crooked Timber. I’ll correct that.

In 2001 I hoped and prayed that the Democrats had learned a lesson, but 2004 showed that they hadn’t. I hope and pray now that they’ve learned the lesson of 2004, but I doubt they have or ever will. Too little, too late, and too half-hearted.

I resign. Let joy be unconfined. (And it’s not just Henry, or mostly Henry.)


jet 04.29.05 at 3:05 pm

You have to sympathize with Inhofe’s position when you read about the high level of debate to be had with the “scientific” represenatives of the left on Global Warming.
The mockery and sarcasm of that entire post just brings so much to the table.

So yeah, considering how politicized science has become, I’m with Gingrich and Inhofe, screw the middle men. All the vapid, yet rabid, rhetoric from the left over arguements of science have just made more people like me who think all the “experts” are filthy whores, selling their voices, and the only way to know where to stand is to listen to someone who has some logos (and maybe do some research yourself).


Henry 04.29.05 at 4:10 pm

John – you may have had a point, probably did have a point, but as stated, I don’t especially enjoy having my arguments distorted to serve as the butt of that point. To put it another way – to the extent that academics and others disdain the grubby realities of politics, they are indeed abdicating a responsibility. Becoming a political hack (for an academic) is another form of irresponsibility, but that’s an argument we’ve had already in a different place. I wasn’t at any stage suggesting, trying to suggest, or even trying to hint that left wing think tanks are a bad thing – which is why I object vigorously to being told repeatedly that this is indeed what I was saying, on the basis of an extremely dubious and tendentious parsing of my language.

Jet – you’re acting like a troll.


Noumenon 04.29.05 at 8:33 pm

Wow. Henry ought to start a consulting service where he polices blogs, identifying and smacking down the hopeless trolls like Jet (how did he know so fast?) and engaging with the respectable ones like John.


Tim Lambert 04.30.05 at 1:16 am

jet, as you know full well, I link to scientific refutations of the global warming skeptic arguments that are on my bngo board. Apparently, to you, that proves that Inhofe is right and global warming is a hoax.


B. Kallikak Moran 04.30.05 at 3:37 am

Jet – Real Climate has about as high a level of debate as it’s possible to achieve about Global Warming outside the profession journals.
Something that doesn’t come up much in these discussions about discussions about whether or not there is such a thing is the profoundly disheartening nature of the subject. If true.
So that any scientist who studies the data and comes to the conclusion that anthropomorphically-forced climate-cycle alteration is happening – with unpredictable-except-as-unpredictably-catastrophic consequences – is immediately faced with the prospect of readily possible impending doom, likely social disruption, and a far more onerous obligation to his or her children if any, to prepare them, not just for the jungle and strife of commerce and academia, but for who-knows-what.
In that scenario the primarily self-interested will always have one big leg up – commensurate with the degree of their selfishness; while the more altruistic are slammed with an anxiety that’s orders of magnitude greater than garden-variety concern for the welfare of their families and future generations – commensurate with the degree of their altruism.
Selfishness, seen in that light, can seem like a top-shelf survival trait, until one realizes it’s unbridled selfishness that’s gotten us into this damned mess to begin with.

As far as establishing left-wing think tanks to counteract the right-wing think tanks, maybe stepping outside the right/left frame in order to found them would be a good beginning.
Many of us are weary of these contrived and inaccurate dichotomies.

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