Bloggers Blogging

July 6, 2006

So Much for Civic (and Civil) Dialogue

Two-and-a-half years ago, back before Dust in the Light's current design, I responded to specific writings of Dallas Morning News columnist/blogger John Chamless on the issues of excommunicating politicians and abortion. As far as I can tell, I've never mentioned him elsewhere, and I don't believe I was unduly personal or vicious in arguing against his points. Well, here's an email I received this week:

You were in Diapers kid when John Chamless was a writer....you think you know anything?...Chamless was the brightest, toughest and most heroic soldier that I ever met...He was a rifleman with the 101st Airborne Division.... He fought in Vietnam and was badly wounded....very badly wounded...I know, I was in I Corps Viet-nam with him.......Courageous!.... He has a wealth of knowledge and understanding that you lightweights will never know........You are a child compared to Chamless....and you dare to write about his ability... You are a conceited pox on this fine country.........You should run and hide! sincerely disgusted with your pompous arrogance..

Somehow, I'm skeptical that Mr. Chamless appreciates the activities of such fans as this one — whose mentality seems to me to provide indication of why we still have wars in this day and age.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:29 PM | Comments (6)

April 17, 2006

Blogging on the Radio

In case you — like me — missed it, here's an MP3 file of Addie Goss's radio piece on Rhode Island blogs for the Brown Student Radio show Off the Beat (which, for some reason, never found its way onto the show's archive page).

(I didn't realize how halting. my. speech. can. be. when I'm trying to make points extemporaneously. I'll have to work on it... or else stick to well-memorized talking points as others in the opine business do.)

Posted by Justin Katz at 9:05 PM

October 17, 2005

Oh, Hey.

If you've let it slip from your weekly routine during my or his period of slow blogging, you might be interested to know that Lane Core has resumed his Blogworthies feature.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:10 AM | Comments (1)

February 23, 2005

By the Way

Although my time is limited, I've been trying to help out Rocco DiPippo while he's on a well-deserved vacation and guest blog on Antiprotester Journal. (Our fellow Rhode Islander KelliPundit is also helping out.)

Posted by Justin Katz at 7:26 PM

February 20, 2005

New Man on Anchor

It occurs to me to mention, over here, that Anchor Rising has added a contributor: no less a personage than NRO Contributing Editor and professor of national-security affairs at the Naval War College in Newport, Mackubin Owens. His first post is on unintended consequences of clear air legislation.

Posted by Justin Katz at 7:47 AM

February 3, 2005

A Matter of Blogger Conscience

Although I do send links to people who I think might be interested, self-promotion isn't a habit that I've developed as fully as perhaps I ought. When other bloggers dispatch their readers to vote, I've merely shuffled along with the latter crowd.

Well, cyberCatholic is now accepting nominations for the 2005 Catholic Blog Awards. Anybody who's interested in participating, please... do as your conscience instructs.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:39 AM | Comments (1)

Something Like a Community

It's always thrilling to get those links that lead a wave of thousands of readers to your blog, refilling the "latest visitors" log in a matter of minutes rather than hours (rather than days or weeks, for newer bloggers). But there's something more encouraging, more satisfying, when an uptick in traffic yields a less uniform "latest visitors" list. Thanks to everybody who linked to my "Foibles of Longing" post, making yesterday one of those days.

The provision of quotations with some of the following doesn't imply that the other posts, much less the blogs that they're on, aren't worth taking a look at:

  • Bettnet.com: "I don't generally read Sullivan much and don't give much credence to him, but Justin's article is still relevant as many people do read Sullivan and that he is an influential voice, especially online. And he does represent a particular strain of Catholicism or even Republican: conservative on certain things, but definitely liberal on social or moral issues."
  • Areopagitica
  • The Blog from the Core: "Sullivan (and Dick Morris, too, I've noticed lately) lets his feeling lead the way: whatever he happens to feel at a given time is paramount, causing him to muster whatever evidence and arguments he can to support the feeling of the month."
  • The Curt Jester: "For Mr. Sullivan his identifying himself primarily as a homosexual is like how a large mass distorts the fabric of space around it. Nothing comes close to interfering with that identity without be conformed around it."
  • Dustbury: "My favorite Walt Whitman passage has always been this bit from Leaves of Grass:
    "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes."
  • Fringe Blog
  • JunkYardBlog: "If I had been exposed along the lines Sullivan has been in that article--which isn't possible, because my worldview is coherent and consistent and straightforward--I would be inclined to quit writing so much publicly and instead do a bit of inner maintenance."
  • Marriage Debate Blog
  • Master of None (comment from R. Alex): "At some point along the way, he made a decision that nothing - not even views on federalism and the judiciary on every other subject - should come in between gays and marriage and anyone that disagrees is a hate-filled bigot. In lieu of making a coherent argument, he's thrown patty after patty of silly putty at the wall to see what, if anything, sticks - each indicating a moral imperative that if others miss it's because they are immoral."
  • New England Republican
  • Open Book: "As most of you know, Andrew Sullivan is taking a hiatus of sorts from blogging. Speculation abounds as to why, but as for himself, he states that it's all about needing to think and work on a bigger scale than a blog allows. He's right, and that's why I don't blog as much as I used to (believe it or not), and that's why Shea had to take a hiatus to finish a book. As I wrote to Mark when he started his break, 'We start out intending to use the blog, but too often the blog ends up using us.'"
  • The Senescent Man
  • What Attitude Problem

If I missed anybody, please let me know.

Sullivan has emailed me that he hasn't read the piece yet, by the way, but he's promised to respond either publicly or privately.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:19 AM | Comments (2)

January 25, 2005

Going for a Comment Record

I thought folks might like to know that discussion has continued, and expanded, on the "Parenthood: All About Me!" post. (And Smmtheory and I are outnumbered!)

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:25 PM | Comments (1)

January 21, 2005

Every Computer Has a Calculator

My Northern New Jerseyian mother sent along a paper clipping of a piece from the Bergen Record titled "Bustling blogosphere gets hype, not readers." (That link requires free registration, but Jeff Goldstein has reprinted the whole thing.) The headline goes a bit beyond staff writer Brian Kladko's take, but the article is still a typical mainstream media minimization of blogs:

If you're not keeping a blog, or at least reading them, you're hopelessly behind the times, right?

Well, don't panic. A survey released Sunday by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 62 percent of Internet users don't really know what blogs are.

The survey reveals that blogs, as interesting as they may be to journalists, have yet to capture the imagination - or the eyeballs - of the general public.

Presumably as a representative of "the general public," Kladko quotes a local pastor as finding blogs to be "a waste of time" compared with the "insightful commentary" of ye olde media. (A mystery of journalism: how and why do they find such apparently random people?) Mining the article for data, however, one finds that the number of "men on the street" who would give a different answer hardly justifies the suggestion that this "growing diversion" is not attracting readers:

The percentage of Internet users who say they read blogs - short for "Web logs" - jumped from 17 percent in February to 27 percent in November. And the percentage of users who have created blogs rose from 5 percent to 7 percent.

Technorati, a search engine company devoted to blogs, estimates there are more than 5 million blogs on the Web - three times the number in February. ... The Pew survey found that 12 percent of Internet users have posted comments or other material on other users' blogs.

Accepting all of these numbers and mixing in population data (assumed constant), we can calculate back the number of Internet users as 71.4 million and the number of blog readers as 19.3 million, or 6.6% of the population. For a little perspective, the popular vote in the 2004 presidential election totaled 117.9 million, and Bush led by only 3.3 million.

Yes, more people have blogs than decided the popular vote victory. Assuming all bloggers are readers, about three times as many people just read blogs as write them. And the readers are increasing more rapidly than the writers. At what point does this become a more significant activity than a diversion for journalists?

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:01 PM | Comments (1)

A Personal Top 40

John Hawkins of Right Wing News currently lists Dust in the Light as his 27th favorite blog. To be honest, I find these sorts of lists among the most encouraging. Various rankings are nice to climb, of course, but they don't really define what the ranking means. Personal lists, by contrast, are explicit statements of interest.

I haven't mentioned this lately, if ever, but except inasmuch as I don't update it every week as I intend, my blogroll is always in the order in which I try to make my rounds. Since its purpose is as a reading list for a blogger, however, quality isn't the only consideration. I also try to mix things up with respect to both content and pace — in part for my own enjoyment and in part to ensure variety.

So, stripping out the non-blogs, here is my top 40 (listed, when possible, using the blogger's name rather than the site's). My largest regret, blogwise, is that time constraints usually preclude my reaching the end of even this list, despite my desire to read beyond it so as to raise up blogs that my day is poorer for having not included.

  1. Anchor Rising
  2. The Corner
  3. Glenn Reynolds
  4. Lane Core
  5. Cox & Forkum
  6. Lileks Bleat
  7. Michelle Malkin
  8. Right Wing News
  9. Day by Day
  10. Marriage Debate
  11. Jeff Miller
  12. Marc Comtois
  13. Paul Cella
  14. New England Republican
  15. Patrick Sweeney
  16. Amy Welborn
  17. Michele Catalano
  18. IrishLaw
  19. Paul Griffis
  20. Lisa Griffis
  21. Bill Ardolino
  22. The Volokh Conspiracy
  23. Michael Williams
  24. Power Line
  25. Greg Wallace
  26. Jeremiah Lewis
  27. Fragmenta Philosophica
  28. Off the Record
  29. JunkYardBlog
  30. Townhall's C-Log
  31. Bil Herron
  32. Domenico Bettinelli
  33. Stephen Bainbridge
  34. Arts & Letters Daily
  35. Jon Rowe
  36. Donald Sensing
  37. Charles Hill
  38. Fr. Jim Tucker
  39. Andrew Sullivan
  40. Barbara Nicolosi
Posted by Justin Katz at 3:01 PM | Comments (2)

January 20, 2005

Conversation Among New England Conservatives

Terrorists in the Left's view, Jewish voters, the claims of biological fathers, same-sex marriage, the arts, the Internet, and (of course) the experience of being conservative in New England are all topics of conversation in my interview with Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby over on Anchor Rising.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:33 AM

January 10, 2005

Mingling Above My Station

Something's not right here. Yesterday, Dust in the Light was listed among the top 30 blogs on the TTLB Ecosystem — a "Mortal Human." Today, it's hanging on at number 36. I should be touting this — proclaiming it. So why am I embarrassed to admit it?

A more productive question can be gleaned from the two blogs on either side of mine: Right Wing News, with its 2,000+ daily unique visits, and Daniel Drezner, with 3,500+ daily visitors. What am I doing in this company?

I don't ask these questions out of insecurity, with an eye toward comparisons of innate value. Rather, I'm curious what Dust in the Light's placement actually means; although, I don't know that it's a question to which I can find a satisfactory answer. It could mean, for example, that I'm in some sense a "blogger's blogger," with relatively few readers, but a disproportionate number of whom blog, themselves. Perhaps some high-profile successes on my part have simply earned me mention on the blogrolls of people who don't read Dust in the Light regularly.

The fact of the matter is that I'm thrilled to have any readers at all. Moreover, as Bryan Preston has mused as well, blogging has afforded me inspiriting opportunities. But there are stages to these things, and sometimes, shark-like, we must remain in motion just to keep breathing. A good TTLB rank doesn't attract advertisers, which contribute to Right Wing News and Drezner something that would certainly ease my breaths: revenue.

That, I guess, is the real question — particularly in my dire circumstances. Whatever the mechanism that has placed Dust in the Light among for-profit bloggers, how do I join them in more palpable ways? Noting that the book that he narrates is only "the draught of a draught," Moby-Dick's Ishmael declares, "Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience!" Patience I've got, and my strength is holding. But in the dispiriting way of the modern world, for lack of cash, I'm rapidly running out of time.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:52 AM

January 4, 2005

Merging the Worlds

With reference to the NRODT piece, Paulie calls me "a crossover writer." It may just be my background in music, but I've always taken "crossover" to imply distinct categories. And it seems increasingly the case that blogs are distinct from established publications mostly as a different stage in a progression (for an individual) or a spectrum (for the movement).

I've long suspected (and hoped) that a farm system is developing whereby major — paying — publications treat blogs as a recruitment field. From the other direction, folks who wish to write in the essay/commentary line for a living will be strongly advised, and then expected, to cut their teeth on blogs.

As for the term "crossover," perhaps a TV show would count...

Posted by Justin Katz at 1:47 PM | Comments (1)

December 15, 2004

The Power of Internet Real Estate

John Hawkins notes yet another incident of unabashedly ridiculous liberalism on an American campus. The notion that caught my eye, however, is tangential:

But, you know what's going to be really funny? Right Wing News is a pretty good sized website and I'm sure there will be more than a few links to this post. Fast forward a month or two and when people do a search for the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, you know like Republican Alumni who are thinking about donating or Republican parents who are wondering where to send their kids, this post should be fairly close to the top.

I don't suspect that the average citizen — Red state or Blue — knows this, but most Internet search engines attempt to sort their searches not according to some official list of approved sources (e.g., with msnbc.com, cnn.com, and abcnews.com at the top). They factor in the number of instances of the search term on a page, the number of other sites linking to the relevant page, and the general popularity of the Web site. In other words, a relatively unknown blogger can still help to define any organization's image for those who research on the Web.

That's not a small consideration. No longer is "good press" an adequate term to describe the imaging work that is necessary in that area. To put it in paper-world terms, imagine if every catalogue had to have every criticism of each product appended, and imagine if those bits of criticism were ranked according to the number of average folk who thought particular items worth considering.

Some marketers may not like it — particularly those charged with selling ultra-expensive educational experiences — but the only real solution to the problem of having owners of budget-priced Web sites define their products is to answer complaints promptly and thoroughly. When sympathetic Internet property owners, such as myself, start taking note and linking to a particular post, the organization should really take note.

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:04 AM | Comments (2)

December 6, 2004

The Corner Versus Clique Bloggers

PROEM:
For a design that you might find easier to read, click "Turn Light On" at the top of the left-hand column.


Jonah Goldberg posted an interesting thought from an anonymous blogger about why the Corner mightn't be treated with the due blog chic:

Why don't hardcore bloggers consider The Corner a blog? Well, ya'll are missing a couple of key elements that separate you from the rest of the blogosphere: a blogroll and links within posts to other blogs.

Beyond occasional links to Glenn Reynolds, The Corner writers rarely connect with the rest of the blogosphere. You have no one to blame but yourselves for this reputation.

(How ironic is it that the blogger wished to remain anonymous?)

The response to the emailer can be summed up in two words: Andrew Sullivan. No blogroll, and not a noticeably more defined habit of linking to the great unknown masses of blogs. The anonymous blogger's suggestions almost imply a conscious retaliation against the Corner, and I don't believe that to be the case.

As one of the bloggers who participated in the Right Wing News poll that kicked this discussion off, I'd suggest two other reasons that the Corner mightn't come to mind when folks discuss blogs:

  1. Its thorough integration with the rest of NRO. The lack of blogroll, in my view, is mainly of significance in this respect. With the organizational design, the Corner feels more like a component of www.nationalreview.com than a standalone blog. Look at John Hawkins's categories for his RWN poll: I, for one, paused about whether to count NRO in both the "Group Blog" category and the "Favorite Political Website That's Not A Blog" category. I could be wrong, but I don't think other mag-blogs are treated much differently. Whatever the case, if status as part of the total NRO package is something that the Corner wishes to change, I'd suggest that applying a distinct look-'n'-feel would be more effective than just adding a blogroll.
  2. The fact that it's a group blog for name pundits. And so many of them! I suspect that if the Corner were only another vehicle for Jonah, or even just a half-dozen NRO regulars (listed along the side as the official bloggers), it would feel more like a regular ol' blog. With the many contributors, some of whom stop in only once in a great while when they've something specifically relevant to say, the "personality" of the blog becomes less distinguishable from NRO in general.

As for the matter of links within posts, I can personally attest that more Corner bloggers than Andrew Stuttaford link to the rest of us. It's just much more difficult to catch their attention. (I've gotten the impression that Stuttaford is mostly notable, here, because for a while he was the house blogger for the weekend, when both traffic and email ebb.)

Glenn Reynolds is different, in this respect, because Instapundit's emphasis has long been on linking, rather than extensive original content. But when dealing with public figures who blog, you have to remember that they receive tons of email. If somebody's blog post is more or less identical to 100 emails from random readers, another blogger is going to be less likely to think, "Wow. I have to post that."

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:15 PM | Comments (7)

November 19, 2004

Silence Doesn't Mean Inactivity

Sorry for the lack of posts over the past couple of days. I've been extremely busy with various things — some blog- and writing-related, others not. However, I have been researching and writing about Rhode Island's entry into the national debate about judicial power over at Anchor Rising. The case of Fox 10 reporter Jim Taricani has national implications (not the least because it's a federal case), and I recommend the discussion that Carroll Andrew Morse and I have been having (with some help from readers) to anybody who takes an interest in the forming judicial oligarchy.

Posted by Justin Katz at 11:18 AM

November 8, 2004

Hoisting the Anchor

Well, after a week of long days, I am now prepared to unveil Anchor Rising. While the blog's perspective is from Rhode Island, its content will emphasize our state's place in the union as well as the ways in which national events and policies affect Rhode Islanders — which will usually be similar to the ways in which they affect every American.

Initially, the contributors to the blog will be Marc Comtois (The Ocean State Blogger), Carroll Andrew Morse (frequent Tech Central Station author), and myself. There are no rules or guidelines contentwise (except decency, of course), and given the previous work of my co-bloggers, I'm sure it will remain interesting to a broader audience than ust people with ties to our state. In a week or two, I'll be posting an interview with a columnist whose name most of you will recognize, and that's when I'll make the introductory promotional push. Any links or blogroll additions before then — of course — will be welcome encouragement.

Anchor Rising's second post invites comments and suggestions about the design of the page, and I welcome feedback, particularly if it appears that something isn't working properly.

Posted by Justin Katz at 1:21 PM | Comments (1)

November 1, 2004

Dust in the Light Political Coverage

If you want the absolute best, the most thorough, the fastest, the most reasonable, or even simply adequate election coverage, don't look here. I'll certainly be following the returns and incidents of fraud, and if I think something worthy of comment, comment I will. But apart from my various occupations, I figure my election-related time is better spent praying for wise voters than yelling out numbers or reporting incidents that you can find just as easily as I can in any number of places.

Posted by Justin Katz at 8:27 PM

October 22, 2004

Finding the Untapped Market

As the readership of this blog marches steadily toward the professed circulation numbers of some lower-middle-market newspapers, I've begun to muse about those publications' exorbitant advertising rates. Even halving their price, just a few ads per week would buy down my desperate need to find more-profitable ways to spend my time. Craig Henry recently posted some interesting thoughts about the market for blogs:

Most people are not regular blog readers. The people who are reading represent the early adopters, the committed partisans, the info-junkies. They are, alas, only a small sliver of the news audience and electorate.

The rate at which blog readership expands will depend more on the actions of current readers than on those of bloggers. As those readers put their personal credibility behind blog content, they increase the blog-audience in ways the best-written post cannot.

One problem, I've concluded, is that the "small sliver" is made even smaller in context. If I were to start a weekly newsmagazine, for example, I wouldn't initially shoot for the global audience; I'd build local support and then seek to jump to other markets. In contrast, the standard blogger seems to build his or her audience nationally first, which means that bloggers are operating — in a way that's relevant to advertisers — on a different scale. A thousandish daily readers would be a sizable audience if they were all from Rhode Island. Dispersed around the world — as cool as that may sound — your cumulative weight is quite a bit less.

In my case, I happen to believe that there's a market in Rhode Island for the type of alternative content that bloggers offer, even without honing it tremendously around "Rhode Island issues." Just having sympathetic local perspective on national issues can be a powerful comfort. Particularly considering personal experience, and that described in the periodic emails that I receive from my fellow citizens, of feeling isolated in this midnight-blue state, the audience will certainly be receptive. The difficulty is in reaching it.

I've been trying to brainstorm creative, cost-efficient advertising methods. The standard ad placements are too expensive, and frankly, I'm not sure how effective they are anyway. Advertising on other blogs, on the other hand, reaches the diluted audience that I'm hoping to focus regionally. I've been considering getting stickers or t-shirts or something similar and handing them out. I'm open to suggestions, if anybody's got them.

(Of course, it'd be helpful if I could find the time [meaning "money"] to spruce up the rest of Timshel Arts. Such goals as artists and bloggers have seem unpleasantly circular: one needs money to set aside the time to take actions that will bring in money that will increase one's time. I guess the silver lining is that things can build organically when once good fortune strikes.)

Posted by Justin Katz at 8:59 AM | Comments (4)

October 7, 2004

Blogs Moving Forward and Falling Away

For any newish readers — or long-time ones, for that matter — I thought it worthwhile to mention that Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are essentially fourteen-to-sixteen hour workdays for me. On Mondays, I'm relatively fresh; on Fridays, I have the leeway to push some work into the weekend. In short, Wednesdays aren't likely to see but so much writing from me. The other days of the week, however, should be better than they've been, because switching to teaching three grades of English rather than three grades of math has cut my planning time tremendously. However much I get to, the blog will forge on.

Unfortunately, the same may not be true of Marty McKeever's Vigilance Matters blog, if a post saying "good-bye" to blogging is to be believed. Of course, one can't help but notice that Marty's blogged since his farewell, and that Jim Price offered, in the comments section of the not-final entry, to host him for free. We'll see.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:48 AM | Comments (2)

October 4, 2004

In the Back Rooms of the Blog

Many of the minutes that I've managed to wrench from my schedule to spend on the blog have gone toward responding to interesting comments to previous posts. I mention this to suggest that you, too, might find the discussions interesting. But for lost mental coin tosses, some of my comments therein would have become posts of their own, and many readers' comments are more than worth a read and consideration.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:44 PM

September 28, 2004

Putting the "Me" in "Meritocracy"

Michelle Malkin, a woman who rapidly penetrated the upper tier of the blogosphere, takes up the topic of whether there's really room at the top:

In Billmon's eyes, the blogosphere is an inegalitarian place, with little opportunity for new blogs to break into the "charmed circle" of high-traffic sites that have sold out in pursuit of advertising dollars. I am not familiar with Billmon's writings, but I get the sense that he (or she) probably feels the same way about economic opportunity in the U.S.

How well does this pessimistic view of the blogosphere align with reality? Is mobility really as limited as Billmon suggests? ...

If [John] Hawkins were to create [a list of influential bloggers] today, I have no doubt we'd see plenty of new names--sites like Powerline, Hewitt, Allah, and perhaps Wizbang and INDC Journal. Not coincidentally, these are among the most consistently interesting and informed sites in the blogosphere.

As with everything, one's approach to the experience of blogging will affect one's view of its opportunities. I've been trying to break into relatively creative fields for almost two-thirds of my not-quite-thirty years of life — first acting, then music, then writing — so when I look at the blogosphere, I see tremendous opportunity. Not only is the Internet new, unruly territory, but it's also easier to get somebody to click a link than to read a manuscript. More importantly, it's easier to get an individual to publish a link (with or without a "heh" or "indeed") to content on the author's space than to convince an editor to buy and publish a full piece. In this way, merit really does play a stronger role in blogging, and exposure in that realm increasingly reflects into the "professional" literary world.

But it can't be denied that blogging well can be hard work. In my two years of blogging, I've researched countless issues, developing indepth analyses of some, replete with charts and catalogues. I've rearranged my schedule and cut into my sleep time in order to churn out worthwhile posts at Internet speed. I've even experimented with a whole new medium (digital video) and spent a few days, during a few weeks, making vlogs. These habits can become excessive, to be sure, but I think a portion of the frustration that Billmon expresses is attributable to the balance of demands.

Very, very few bloggers are able to translate all of that work into income of anywhere near the amount necessary to justify the time in the face of other responsibilities. A blogger making more in BlogAds alone than my entire annual household income is going to have more time to devote to blogging well. As time goes on, the competition is getting tighter, and given the nature of the Internet, we're each competing with others in dramatically differing circumstances.

I've no doubt that, if I had been working my current schedule all along, instead of my part-time plus freelance meandering, I'd be fortunate even to be among the Flappy Birds and Slithering Reptiles of the Blogosphere Ecosystem, rather than among (as I was just stunned to discover) the Large Mammals. If I'd had that loose schedule in the midst of a metropolitan area and/or a major event, perhaps I'd be higher.

Charles Hill has it right — and this goes for professional writing, as well: Blog for your own reasons, whether joy or obsession, unencumbered by the need to be in the front row of the revolution. Yes, in the blogosphere, the top tier is always tantalizingly close. A quirk of interest, of random expertise, or of fortunate positioning could catapult a blog up there, but we should always keep in mind that, without a firm foundation, that success will be just as fleeting as it was rapid.

If it becomes frustrating that you aren't managing to put the "me" in "meritocracy," well then, take a break. Perhaps reassess what you're doing. Or better yet, take a few months, years, or decades to try to break into the world of the printed word the old fashioned way for perspective.

Posted by Justin Katz at 11:59 PM | Comments (1)

September 12, 2004

Day by Day

Because of illnesses in his family, Chris Muir is taking some time off from writing and drawing his strip, Day by Day. I'm sure many readers join me in offering prayers for Chris's family members and for his own continued progress toward success when he is able to return.

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:52 PM

September 8, 2004

Credit Where Credit's Due

An impressive post from Jeremiah Lewis following up on the wheat Eucharist discussion.

I have to confess to being almost entirely naive about the preconceptions and misconceptions that people have about Catholicism. Just as all Rhode Islanders are kin in Vermont, New Englanders in California, Americans in Europe, and so on, I've tended to view all religious folks in the West as kin in a Godless society, even if separated by differing doctrinal opinions, as citizens are separated geographically. In other words, my errors tend toward ascribing too much similarity, smothering real, genuine, and significant differences, and therefore failing to move discussions toward harmony — even harmony within disagreement.

One problem is that tensions run so high — so high as to take the naif aback — that it becomes very difficult even to tease out the actual differences and misconceptions. Bravo to Jeremiah for picking at the knot until some complicating kinks were revealed, and bravo to Elana for helping him to do so.

(N.B. — I'd have linked to Elana's contributions to the debate, but they appear to have been in private email. If my guess is wrong, I welcome correction.)

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:18 PM

August 17, 2004

John Kerry Chris Muir Starts a Meme

Now, if Chris Muir's Day by Day cartoon were as widely read and influential as it ought to be, today's strip might be apt to start a pop culture meme.

(Of course, it would also help if more people actually followed politics as closely as bloggers do.)

Posted by Justin Katz at 8:03 PM | Comments (3)

August 4, 2004

No Longer Sophomoric (?)

I just realized that today marks exactly two years since I began this blog. As with so much in life, depending on perspective, it's simultaneously difficult to believe that I've been at it for so long and odd to think that there was a time when I wasn't.

It's also difficult to believe that the regime change/WMD debate was murky even then, what with all that recent-history revision going on.

Posted by Justin Katz at 3:54 PM | Comments (1)

August 3, 2004

A Professional Dupe?

In yesterday's regular update of my blogroll, I moved Andrew Sullivan even farther down. Here's a crystallization of the reason:

It's a legitimate position, but it essentially means that, whatever the Democrats say, they can never get the benefit of the doubt in this war. I think that's blinkered. 9/11 changed a lot. It didn't change the far left, who saw it as another reason to hate America. But it changed America, and the Democrats seem to me to be absorbing this fact. If you believe in this war as strongly as I do, then it seems to me it has to be a bipartisan affair at some point, just as the Cold War was for many years. Why should we simply dismiss out of hand a candidate's declaration that he will fight it just as forcefully as Bush? why aren't we open to a real debate about tactics and strategy? Isn't that the strength of a democracy, rather than a dictatorship? Why this sneering at what appears to be an accommodation by the Democratic party to the perilous reality we live in? Why not a celebration? This is a defeat of the left, after all. Edwards said: "We are at war." You cannot be clearer than that. I appreciate skepticism applied to this, given Kerry's record. But he's also a patriot and I hope he sees the dangers we face. And this war is not - and never should be - a device to win permanent Republican dominance in American politics. It's a war to defend the American constitution and Western freedom. I'm happy to welcome anyone to that cause. Why aren't so many Republicans?

This barely pretends to be analysis. As if the moderate phase of Kerry's campaign began just after 9/11. As if the Democrat primaries didn't stand as the final eruption of the mounting liberal fantasy that 9/11 changed nothing and that acting as if it had was a form of neofascism (one likely to keep them out of power). As if Kerry's long-term record and general suspicion of Democrats' national security inclinations were the only reasons to be skeptical of easily negated admissions that "we are at war" — forgetting the Deaniacs and the prominence of Michael Moore and the coziness with precisely those Western leaders most likely to be in bed with our enemies.

Perhaps the only remaining justification for reading Andrew Sullivan at all is the perfect example he provides of what is wrong with political discourse in modern times. For reasons that we all know, but that aren't included in Sullivan's "analysis," he's discarded all factors except the very narrow range within which he can kinda-sorta square the Kerry/war circle. Then — and this is the master deception of our age, visible in Sullivan's rhetorical sword because he's whacked the damn thing so hard on the wall of reason so many times — he twists the whole construction around to phrase it in terms of tolerance and a big hugging welcome that those meanies on the right withhold for political purposes.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:21 AM | Comments (10)

June 15, 2004

Boxers or Briefs?

So, anyway, umm. Although, usual problems notwithstanding, it is generally upbeat and fair, I'm not sure how I feel about the following from Time's piece about bloggers:

We may be in the golden age of blogging, a quirky Camelot moment in Internet history when some guy in his underwear with too much free time can take down a Washington politician. It will be interesting to see what role blogs play in the upcoming election. Blogs can be a great way of communicating, but they can keep people apart too. If I read only those of my choice, precisely tuned to my political biases and you read only yours, we could end up a nation of political solipsists, vacuum sealed in our private feedback loops, never exposed to new arguments, never having to listen to a single word we disagree with.

On one hand, it's an acknowledgement of blogs' growing influence and legitimacy. On the other, it evinces some of the lingering distaste of big media folks for blogs.

If "some guy in his underwear" can, through time spent blogging, effect real change in this country's leadership, how is that indicative of his having "too much free time"? It seems pretty fruitful to me. Moreover, I wonder how many readers — particularly bloggers — had to stifle laughs at the notion that the major media sources don't offer just such "feedback loops," made worse by their facade of objectivity.

ADDENDUM:
A comment from Joel persuaded me to reread the article, and I agreed that I was initially too harsh in my reaction. I've edited the post accordingly.

Posted by Justin Katz at 11:20 PM | Comments (1)

June 13, 2004

Poking Around the Neighborhood

Simply because I've picked up the habit of procrastinating so as to hold off sleep (a habit that I hope to break any day now), I thought I'd see what I could find on the Rhode Island blog scene. Predictably, it wasn't a particularly uplifting endeavor. Lot o' liberalism — bitter, vicious, curse-laden liberalism.

One poor girl, whose blog I've come across before, has cameras around her apartment for viewing by any random Internet user. A slogan, of sorts, is at the top: "I was going to write something witty and thought provoking here. Then I realized that you probably got here by searching for porn, and you won't care if I'm witty or thought provoking, only that I show my tits." A negative sort of evidence, I'd say, of the good that we could do if we'd take interest in others and encourage them toward loftier and more-rewarding activities. But there are so many who need just that.

When I finally found what looks to be a conservative RI blog, it turns out that the author, Stephen Blythe, is an angrily lapsed Catholic. Here's Reason 2 (of three) giving the Catholic Church "a clue as to why the numbers are dwindling in this country":

I recall the time when I was becoming an adult in the church and actually started paying attention. It seemed that the first twelve Sermons of the year were devoted to money and how we (the Sinners) weren't giving enough.

"You think nothing of going to McDonald's and dropping $10 and then come to church and put $1 in the collection basket." That was a common church talking point.

So not only were we sinners... but cheap sinners to boot. No one likes being called cheap.

The other two points are matters of legitimate concern, and with some tweeking of emphasis and specifics, I might agree. Still, the assaulting tone suggests from the outset that the route to discussion, if it is open at all, is laced with barbs. Stephen's father quit going to church because it instituted Eucharistic ministers, and one of them was "the biggest whoremaster around." I'm not sure what to make of that.

Despite it all, I managed to end my stroll on an encouraging note, courtesy of a blogging couple. In a post about Reagan's passing, we learn that, last year, Paul Griffis gave his wife, Lisa, Peggy Noonan's When Character Was King. And she liked it.

Not all is perfect, of course. (Who would want it to be?) Paul indicates that he's considering becoming an official libertarian — perhaps meaning a Libertarian:

Federal and state government spending is going up. More and more laws, some of them are truly stupid, are being passed every day. And I truly feel as if I can see a socialist government ruling America in the near future.

What should I do?

Do I try to change the party from within? Do I throw my hands up in digust and quit? Or do I have to change parties?

I don’t know. It is, something that I am seriously thinking about.

Hang in there, Paul. There's enough hope that changing the Republican Party from within will prove the more practical solution that we can still admit that it's probably the only possible one.

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:22 AM

June 10, 2004

Joining the Blogging Game

Another pro has set up shop in the blogosphere: Michelle Malkin. The graphic at the top of the page is certainly appropriate; I'm sure I'm not alone in hoping to stay on her good side... and her pen's.

I note, however, that she's already posting about trips and time off. Beware, Michelle. The Blog will claim enough of your time without your showing it the obeisance of signing out when you step away on day 3.

Posted by Justin Katz at 11:37 PM

June 6, 2004

Wrapped Up

And this concludes the experiment that began below with "The Intention of Posts to Come."

Whew. Think I'll take a break. Now I can get to those emails that have been piling up. In the meantime, I'd be interested to hear anybody's thoughts on the fifteen or so posts below, either individually or collectively, whether on content or process.

Posted by Justin Katz at 9:37 AM | Comments (2)

June 5, 2004

Interlude

I'm not done with the various somehow-related posts. I just didn't expect them to take this long to put together, and I need to get some sleep.

I'll pick it up again tomorrow (today).

Posted by Justin Katz at 1:18 AM

June 4, 2004

The Intention of Posts to Come

Because a set of subsequent posts are intended to be related, I thought to make a note at the beginning — as of instruction.

One aspect of blogging that often seems to lie just beneath the surface, but that seems, nonetheless, to be underutilized, is the way it organizes ideas. Each post is a distinct entity, much like a column. However, because they are shorter, and because they tend to follow on each other more rapidly, they can draw forth underlying themes less deliberately — almost accidentally, as a consequence of what is on the writer's mind, or of a coincidence of reading. When a writer with broader ambitions spots these themes he may hammer them into a longer piece, whether a column or a long post.

It seems to me, though, that there ought to be an intermediate practice. Sometimes one can sense connections without having yet uncovered them. This, in itself, can be "content" worth presenting to a reader. Deliberate ambiguity has certainly been the star of literature for quite some time, usually premised on the faith that the author has an answer that he's trying to convey obliquely. I've come to believe that the big secret is that authors often, perhaps usually, don't have any answers; they've just learned the forms and phrases that give the illusion of depth. Perhaps it's only ego that discourages a more honest, more participatory, strategy, whereby the author effectively asks his readers, "Help me out here."

This has just been a circuitous and self-indulgent way of declaring that I sense, but cannot articulate, a thread running through several items across which I've come today. So, rather than attempt to describe, from one to the next, what Big Theme I think I'm excavating, I'll just post the findings in a deliberate order and allow this announcement to stand as a sort of general indication that I see something more here, and an invitation to readers to help me begin to piece together what it is I'm looking at.

It may be something big. If ideas are like islands in an archipelago of belief, it may be that we sometimes get brief views of the meaningful placement of each in a larger reality. Then again, maybe it's just Friday night, and I haven't the wherewithal to think it through.

Posted by Justin Katz at 9:41 PM

June 3, 2004

The Reader's Writing Being Read by the Writer

No doubt, the majority of bloggers will empathize with my usual experience. Whenever somebody puts together a post about favorite blogs, or most influential blogs, or undeservingly obscure blogs, the rest of us read it with a mixture of hope and expectation of disappointment. Unless the list maker is in our general neighborhood of the blogosphere, we know it's very unlikely that we'll be included. Still, we also know our own blogs to be greatly deserving of attention, so we look nonetheless, perhaps taking a moment to rub away the sting of exclusion.

Well, scanning John Hawkins's poll of "conservative opinion makers" regarding blogs that they "actually read," I had to rub my eyes rather than my ego. I'm still not convinced it wasn't some sort of mistake (emphasis added):

Michelle Malkin -- AtlanticBlog, Blackfive - The Paratrooper of Love, The Command Post, The Corner, Dust In The Light, Israpundit, Joanne Jacobs, Jihad Watch, Kausfiles, KellyJaneTorrance, Little Green Footballs, Medpundit, Powerline, Steve Sailer, Sgt. Stryker's Daily Briefing, Shark Blog, Andrew Sullivan, Tacitus, View from the Right

Well, thank you, Michelle (if I may), for the boost to my motivation. This is why, after the better part of a decade sending out manuscripts, two years of writing a mostly unpublished column, and almost two years of blogging, I'm still willing to exhaust every avenue and accept various trade-offs to maintain some writing time, even as life picks away at it.

ADDENDUM:
Incidentally — you know, just in a general way for all readers — anybody who happens to have written a book that I've been intending to buy for a while need have no qualms about sending me a copy — or even better, suggesting a book trade. If the one I receive is autographed, and maybe with a short personalized note (or whatever), I'd probably run right out and purchase the copy that I'd intended to pick up, anyway, so as to keep the signed one pristine.

Just a thought, you know, for anybody who happens to read this.

Posted by Justin Katz at 11:05 AM | Comments (4)

May 26, 2004

An Associate Degree in Blogging

Lane Core, whom I so often cite, completes his second year of blogging today.

Here's hoping he goes for the full B.A. — at least.

Posted by Justin Katz at 11:26 AM | Comments (1)

May 24, 2004

Linking to the Linker

Lane Core has been running a feature called "Blogworthies" every Saturday, including links to and excerpts from pieces that he believes worth reading, but that he either lacks time or additional comment to make posts on their own. The feature is always worth checking out, but this past Saturday's includes some particularly interesting posts.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:29 PM | Comments (1)

May 20, 2004

Blogtoons

I've been intending to mention that both Cox & Forkum and Chris Muir have been on the ball lately. They're both worth scrolling through, but one from each related to the media are currently my favorites. For Cox & Forkum, there's the one addressing the intersection of Abu Ghraib and Nick Berg's murder that's sure to spark a "so true." For Chris Muir, one dealing with coverage of Abu Ghraib still has me laughing at the image it evokes.

Posted by Justin Katz at 7:04 AM

April 29, 2004

A Warning to the New Blogger

I wound up scrapping an entire post last night when I realized that I was too tired to coherently say anything more profound than "read this." This blogging thing isn't as carefree and overeasy as some might assume, at least once an audience begins to form.

For one thing, people's willingness to devote time to one's work imparts a certain degree of responsibility to be worthy of their attention. For another, the traffic stats are addictive. I've said before that blogging was the Internet app. that finally snagged me in a way that none of the other time-drains have been able to do. In large part, it's the feeling of virtual success.

There is real hope and promise in writing online, however. It just takes effort — as does any endeavor, online or off.

Anyway, thank you for feeding my addiction. I'll try to remain worthy.

Posted by Justin Katz at 7:07 AM | Comments (3)

April 17, 2004

Misdirected Rage at Wonkette

PROEM:
As always, click "Turn Light On" at the top of the left-hand column if you find this page difficult to read.


The title of this post shouldn't be taken to mean that those inclined toward rage oughtn't find a target in Ms. Ana Marie Cox, just that the basis for the rage being expressed has been poorly chosen.

In a post that is now heavily trackbacked, Michele Catalano vents frustration at the rise of Cox's blog, Wonkette:

I'm just wondering - how does a relatively unkown person suddenly become the hottest blogger in the political blogger circle when it seems that her column is just a Gawker for the DC crowd? ...

I don't get it. I just don't get it.

Oh wait, I do. Guys will give you all the props you want as long as you are hot and write about sex. But if you aren't hot, or if you don't have a cute little image on your site depciting how adorably cute you are, then just give it up.

John Hawkins takes the bait, suggesting that Cox's rapid fame is just one of those quirks of the marketplace and offering his view vis-à-vis the blog gender wars. Chris "Spoons" Kanis agrees, but adds the following point, with which I greatly empathize:

I find it insufferably condescending for a blogger of Michele's prominence to claim that male bloggers have it easy. For her to get so irked over blog competition that she feels compelled to call Wonkette a whore is just intolerably rude. Michele should tell her complaints to the thousands upon thousands of male bloggers who'd love to get the kind of attention Michele gets.

It's funny that Chris should say "thousands upon thousands" after noting that Michele is ranked 12th (currently 9th) on the Ecosystem. As it happens, my blog is currently ranked 2,859 (although I'm pretty sure I'd be somewhere in the mid-teenthousands if I could get N.Z. Bear to change my profile to reflect the newer subdomain address). And I write about sex, porno, and our lascivious culture all the time!

But all these comparisons of rankings strike me as an annoying peculiarity among bloggers. Links and traffic are the local currency, I suppose, but to become so obsessed over what works for some people and what doesn't work for others strikes me as overwrought. More importantly, it misses the point of Cox's real story in such a way as to divide the rest of us where we ought to be united.

Glenn Reynolds points out, today, that Cox is the subject of a 1,350-word-plus profile in the New York Times. Therein, we learn the following about the "31-year-old self-described failed journalist":

Last month, a party celebrating the start of her site was packed. Held at the Dupont Circle town house of Peter Bergen, the CNN terrorism expert, the party's heavily mediacentric guest list included Michael Isikoff of Newsweek; a former Clinton mouthpiece, Joe Lockhart; the political blogger Mickey Kaus; and a former Howard Dean spokeswoman, Tricia Enright. This is her devoted fan base: Wonkette registered 55,000 page views on its startup date in January, and over a million for the month of March. ...

The daughter of liberal academics from Lincoln, Neb., Ms. Cox moved to Washington from New York in May 2000 with her husband, Chris Lehmann, an editor at The Washington Post Book World.

She's written for the Chronicle of Higher Education, America Online, National Geographic, and the American Prospect, among others. She was features editor for Mother Jones. She has an intern. The bottom line is that it isn't a "meteoric rise" when a blog's opening day garners 55,000 page views. That's starting in the clouds. Most bloggers start in the basement and were pleasantly surprised when the daily Web stats broke double digits after a few months of effort.

Cox is an insider. The majority of bloggers are not. She's what happens when the mainstream decides to adopt the forms of the outsiders and pretend it's taking part in something radical. That's fine, as far as it goes, but it is a matter more of who she is than what she does. It certainly doesn't justify an indictment of bloggers or blog readers. What it might justify is for Bill Hobbs to tweak his suggestion that "Traditional Media doesn't get... that blogs can have influence far beyond what the size of their readership would suggest," because some bloggers seem to require a bit of perspective, themselves.

To Ana Marie Cox's crowd, she's slumming among us, allowing her freer rein with language and content. That's what ought to spark authentic anger. And that spark ought to be quickly snuffed with the realization that they still don't get what we're doing that makes us important... and so cool. (Hey, some of us — or at least some of y'all — are cool.) Michele Catalano, for example, can earn nearly 7,000 daily visitors, while keeping Wonkette's fare beneath her.

ADDENDUM:
She doesn't say whether it's specifically related, but Michele has noted some extenuating circumstances and is taking a break from blogging. I guess the lack of a paycheck (and the accompanying contractual obligation) has a silver lining. Hope she recovers her balance. (Regular readers will be able to guess my prescription.)

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:06 PM | Comments (20)

March 22, 2004

Mitigation

Sheila Lennon has emailed to object that I wasn't sufficiently clear that certain statements in the preamble of a post responding to something that she had written were based on inferences. I've modified the language and added an addendum to address her valid concerns.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:44 PM

March 18, 2004

On Top of the Terrorists

It's worth mentioning that Dan Darling has been following War on Terrorism–related events well.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:14 PM

March 4, 2004

Trapped in a Serpent's Body

I'm starting to get the feeling that N.Z. Bear has something against me. I've been trying to update my entry in his blog ecosystem — by online form and by email — since I switched to a subdomain, but to no avail.

So, I'm stuck at Slithering Reptile (#2341). When I switched the blog to a subdomain, I was hovering at the level of Flappy Bird (#1697), and my readership has at least tripled since then.

So, if you're friendly with him, perhaps offer a kind word on my behalf — to transform me to my true state (whatever that may be). (No kiss required.)

Posted by Justin Katz at 4:31 PM

March 2, 2004

It's a Small Rhode Island for Conservatives

Hey, look at that. Ocean State Blogger Marc Comtois is in the Providence Journal today. When I spotted his letter in my Projo perusal this morning, I wondered how many conservatives direct their isolation-driven frustration toward blogging. (All of them should.)

There are only so many slots on the letters page, after all.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:52 PM

Somebody Save Mr. Sullivan

My jaw dropped when I read this on Sullivan's blog today (read carefully):

Flag-burning, fag-burning. Anything for a few votes. And what's really amazing is how cynically these alleged conservatives use the Constitution itself for their partisan ends. One word: sickening.

Well, at least he got the one word right. What he felt inclined to ignore was that the Washington Post article stuck in its mention of a flag-burning amendment almost as an afterthought and on the basis of undescribed comments from "aides in both parties."

You know, I can't wait for this gay marriage thing to go away just so I can stop reading Andrew Sullivan again.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:25 PM | Comments (2)

March 1, 2004

Dust in the Light Scorecard

Jonah Goldberg in November 2003:

But no one's taking my advice. So, we have the FMA barreling down the tracks. The FMA would ban gay marriage "or the legal incidents thereof" - which many take to mean civil unions as well - in all 50 states for all time.

Jonah Goldberg today:

Before you answer that an amendment is more permanent, let me pre-emptively say: Not so fast. Amendments can be, and have been, repealed or superceded.

Me in between:

Another echo of Sullivan in Goldberg's latest column is that the marriage amendment would ban gay marriage "for all time." That's not true, and what makes it all the more jarring in this instance is that Goldberg immediately thereafter calls the FMA "a replay of Prohibition." The thing is: I went to a liquor store just yesterday and bought a case of beer. So much for "amendments are forever"! In the case of Prohibition, forever lasted just under fifteen years, at which time the twenty-first amendment repealed it.

He still hasn't, apparently, bought my argument about why he should actively support the amendment, but I'm truly glad to see that his view has come around sufficiently that we on the FMA side are now benefitting from his knack for insight:

Meanwhile, I'm hardly convinced that decades of activist jurisprudence could be rolled back -- and I'm certainly not persuaded that it could be done more quickly than the repeal of a Constitutional amendment. For example, tell me exactly what could be done under our regime to reverse the Supreme Court's banning of sodomy laws under Lawrence.
Posted by Justin Katz at 6:30 PM

And Now... The Predictable Smear Campaign

Admit it. You knew it was coming. It's just too much his M.O. for Sullivan to have resisted daily dishing dirt on the man who poked his house-of-cards theology.

First, he took a break from his day off to recycle old controversies:

The man who allegedly only put as much violence in his movie as occurred in the Gospels was also asked how he would greet Frank Rich, one of his more prominent critics. Gibson replied, "I want to kill him. I want his intestines on a stick ... I want to kill his dog." This is the man now hailed as the savior of America's evangelical Christians. I don't know whether to laugh or to cry.

Today, he's dug up an out of context comment as a means to split that inimical Religious Right:

GIBSON ON NON-CATHOLICS: They're all going to hell. That includes all those evangelicals who are flocking to his movie and even his wife.

So now, between the President, the Church, the Republicans, John Derbyshire, supporters of the FMA, and Mel Gibson, one would do well to put on waders before visiting andrewsullivan.com.

ADDENDUM:
And it continues:

NOTICING EVIL: David Frum parses Mel Gibson's verbal non-committal on whether the Holocaust really took place as we know it did. Bill Safire is unnerved as well. Gradually, conservatives are cottoning on to the real agenda behind "The Passion of the Christ."

Oooo. The Real Agenda! I'm thinking this deserves status as a daily feature, here on Dust in the Light. Especially since Sullivan has apparently decided to actively work for the President's ouster:

Neither Bush nor Kerry wants to help. They're both cowards (although Kerry seems to have a better grip on fiscal reality than Bush does). So gridlock is the best option. The combination of Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress was great for the country's fiscal standing. Independents and anyone under 40 concerned with the deficit don't need a Perot. They just need to vote for Kerry and hope the GOP retains control of at least one half of Congress.

Looks like Sullivan intends to vote for the one who will further the gay marriage cause and make excuses why that actually, really, surely, I'm-not-kiddingly will be better for the country. See, Kerry will split the government, which will be good for the deficit. Really!

Maybe in addition to a Sully Smear Watch, we should have a cross-blog contest for outrageous arguments that he might make to nullify his previous Bush-supporting positions. Here's my first entry:

A lot of the initial gutsy moves required to kick off the War on Terror have already been made. Once in office, Kerry wouldn't pull back on that progress, and what we need now is a President who will refocus international cooperation toward the group effort of the more-subtle work that lays ahead.

Start the clock.

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:10 PM | Comments (7)

February 23, 2004

Some Links Without (Much) Comment

I've held on to various items with the intention to write about them, but for various reasons I haven't found the time. So, here they are:

At some point in the future, I'm sure I'll stop being angered by such media antics as Brent Bozell mentions — as the networks and papers carefully craft their preferred reality — but that reasonable perspective has thus far eluded me.

Rev. Donald Sensing has been writing on the gay marriage thing from various angles. Of particular note is an essay in which he explores differences in the way we approach marriage as a concept.

Joining the two previous topics, Rod Dreher suggests that burying stories about events in the gay marriage battle, as is being done, is exactly what he would do if he held the opposite opinion, a position of power, and loose ethical guidelines.

Patrick Sweeney chides Rush Limbaugh for spinning the lethargy with which Republican politicians have moved to deal with the gay marriage issue. The comments drifted toward the likely extent of the coming cultural struggle. An optimist might suggest that we've an opportunity to undo 1968, in a manner of speaking.

Edward Feser, meanwhile, responds to some reactions to his exploration of why the American academy is such a Leftist stronghold, proving, as he does so, that humor is an apt complement to intelligence.

And last, a couple in Australia raises a question that I've often wondered in the context of late-age remarriage of divorced people with children of opposite sex: to what extent does it serve to "set up" the kids with an intimate, in-house relationship of their own? I wonder just how common this turn of events is and wouldn't be surprised to find it hardly rare at all.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:04 PM

February 20, 2004

Latest Editions

I just had to play along with Jeff and Victor.

Posted by Justin Katz at 7:23 PM | Comments (2)

The Perils of Blogging

As Jonah Goldberg has indicated, the version of the previous post that now appears is a revision of the original. Since Jonah used the Corner to express his entirely justified reaction to the sentiment that I've edited out, I thought it worth clarifying the matter and issuing something by way of warning to my fellow bloggers.

I opened the original version of the post with what, in my tired Friday morning mind, I intended to be a bit of playful, in the dugout, ball boy jibing of a major leaguer. I didn't mean to sneer or even, really, to accuse Jonah of anything improper. The "cool" comment wasn't meant to imply that he puts forward arguments in which he doesn't believe or expresses conflicts that he doesn't feel are real. Actually, I don't even know that I'd characterize a desire to be "cool," in this sense, as an invalid reason for taking positions.

I posted the entry and emailed Jonah. Within minutes, he had emailed back expressing offense, and within a couple minutes more, I had agreed, revised, and emailed an apology. If a single person read the post as objectionably written, I'd be surprised.

Here's the warning to fellow bloggers: this is minor stuff, in the big picture, particularly if these are seen as personal interactions in the context of a hobby. The danger arises for folks, like me, who are trying to find a way into a career, and who are just starting — for the first time ever — to feel a little give in the door.

Blogging is too quick, perhaps, and a silly overstatement or wayward tone can slip through one's fingers before it can be retracted.

Well, it's retracted, if not forgotten. Back to that doorknob.

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:59 PM | Comments (1)

February 18, 2004

You're Welcome, Mr. Kristol

With the exception of a similar argument from Ramesh Ponnuru, I haven't seen my central point with respect to the FMA and civil unions explicitly repeated anywhere — either restated or refuted — even though I've been stating it repeatedly (and pointing it out to others) since July. Well, the point has finally found its way into the arguments of Those Who Matter, specifically the Weekly Standard:

Insofar as the amendment affects legislatures, it merely requires them to specify the benefits they wish to give to relationships outside marriage--which is what civil-union legislation ought to do in the first place.
Posted by Justin Katz at 4:13 PM

February 16, 2004

It's a Small Blogosphere, After All

We're all connected, it would seem.

Act One founder and Church of the Masses blogger Barbara Nicolosi let slip that she grew up in the town in which I now live. It looks as if her sister, an opera singer, still lives here.

Posted by Justin Katz at 1:57 PM

February 14, 2004

Picking Up Each Other's Slack

It has just seemed to be the case that when I'm in a blogging funk or on a limited topical kick, Lane Core picks up the slack with a variety of other topics, and vice versa. Well, as you know, I've been on a limited topical kick lately.

I particularly recommend two columns by Mike Adams to which Lane links. One is Prof. Adams's reading list to shore up a teenager's Christianity before he or she heads off to the godless world of higher education. The other is Adams's conversion — rather, re-conversion — story:

Pictures of Jesus look different in South American prisons. They often portray a painful expression, a crown of thorns, and blood. Not the peaceful look of the ones at home.

I talked to the man with the pictures for quite some time. He had been waiting for trial for over two years. He told me that he had faith that everything would be all right and that he would see his young children again before long. He also told me a lot about the system of justice in Ecuador. The absence of juries, the killing of "escaped" inmates who had been told they were free to go. There were 25-year sentences for drug possession and 16-year sentences for murder.

Before I left the prison, he shook my hand warmly and thanked me for coming to visit. I had already passed through the gates when I realized that I had forgotten to ask him his name.

As soon as I walked outside, I looked up at a giant statue of the Virgin Mary perched upon a hill above the prison. I realized that I had been wrong for a number of years. The man in the prison was right. How else could a prisoner be so happy? And why are so many "free" men miserable?

And, in one of those seemingly significant instances of informational ebb and flow, Patrick Sweeney links to a related news story:

LA PAZ, Bolivia (Reuters) - Two prisoners had themselves crucified by fellow inmates at a jail in southeast Bolivia on Wednesday while others sewed their lips together in protests to demand swifter justice and benefits for prisoners.
Posted by Justin Katz at 10:48 PM | Comments (1)

February 11, 2004

Changing the Subject

Cox & Forkum are on a roll with their political cartoons. All of the ones currently on the main page are worth a look, but this one is particularly cutting.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:25 PM

January 16, 2004

Just When I Thought I Could Start to Get Along with the Catholic Blogging In-Crowd (Except for Mark Shea)

I was ignoring the whole Shea v. NRO thing today because, well, everybody involved is certainly able to develop their own arguments, and their platforms are all much higher than mine. But now that we're nearing the end of the week, it's all gotten to be too much. What lit the first match, which fell into a patch of sticks at Mark Shea's site, was this post from Tom at Disputations (for whom I have the utmost respect, be it known) (emphasis in original):

... notice the language used: "Attack of the Social Conservatives." "...it is wise of them to attack those allies they have?" This is the language of war. From NRO's perspective, as I perceive it, there is very little room for discussion. There's a war going on, and any criticism from an "ally" is an "attack" that distracts from the war effort.

Well, that's not entirely true. There is room for disagreement between some conservatives on some issues, but evidently not for pointing out that there's more room for disagreement on family issues than on military issues.

A result of this war mentality, this habit of belligerence, is that an otherwise-sensible person finds himself asking, "Do you think that's wise?" when someone else argues his priorities may not be properly ordered.

I found myself unable to withhold comment, linking to this from Shea:

I think it shameful that NRO prints celebratory bullshit like this and tries to dress it up as just one more reason that America is the Anointed of God

And this:

Family is... okay. They're for that. Pretty much. I mean, they're not *fanatics* or anything. But mostly, they think it's a... value. And should be... favored and, er, defended. Kind of.

It's better than nothing and certainly is vastly better than the avowed enemies of the family on the Left.

And of course, Ramesh Ponnuru, whom Tom is quoting, noted multiple attacks fronts instances of harsh words. Can it really be said that Ponnuru drew the idea of "attack" and "allies" out of the thin air of his own belligerence?

Mark, for one, is always on the attack. It's his shtick. Does it indicate a "war mentality" on Shea's part that he uses "somewhat less polite language" — "the coarse Anglo-Saxon English of us groundlings who must endure the fads that the chattering classes in New York, DC, and Hollywood enact into law and manufacture for mass consumption in the Culture Factories of music, TV, media and art"?

Well, even if it perpetuates my fringe, off-the-blogroll status among a certain squadron of our online Catholic regiment, I cannot do otherwise than insist that this is just a bit too much to take from Shea:

What amazes and pleases me is that NRO listened to this complaint in a spirit of actual intellectual engagement, rather than just ignoring or caricaturing their critics. That's a rather rare thing in a culture that no longer knows how to do anything besides emote and preface everything with the all-excusing phrase, "I feel..."

Little wonder that he's amazed...

(Oh well. Back to the classifieds.)

ADDENDUM:
If you've come here via Mark Shea, and if you've got a moment to spare, please do me the service of considering my explanation for my aggravation. (And if you've never been here before and find that the design inhibits reading, clicking "Turn Light On" under "Page Style" at the top of the left-hand column ought to remedy the problem.)

Posted by Justin Katz at 7:39 PM

January 15, 2004

Shea's Hit Squad

Neat! Mark Shea's got a hit squad! One of his readers sent this to FrontPageMagazine.com in response to Joseph's piece therein:

As a regular reader of FrontPageMag.com, I was dismayed to see that, on Jan. 8, you offered a platform for the views of Joseph D'Hippolito.

Over the past couple of years, Mr. D'Hippolito has made himself into a tirelessly bitter antagonist of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. He's well known on a number of Catholic weblogs for his repetitive diatribes against his favorite object of derision, Pope John Paul II. Many's the time he has shown his eagerness to twist any discussion, no matter the subject, into such an attack. ...

Jamie, I hope you will reconsider the wisdom of providing Joseph D'Hippolito with a platform on FrontPage -- not only for the legitimacy I fear the placement will confer on his rancorous and far-out views wherever they're posted, but also for the deleterious effects that the presence of a resolute propagandist will have on the reputation of FrontPage.

About the actual piece that FrontPage published? Nothing whatsoever, although Mark is good enough to admit that Joseph "managed to maintain a facade of sanity throughout his article." As for what Mark of the Rattling Cup thinks about the inclination of one of his readers to transport comment-box discussions into the punditry world in such a way as to do harm to another's professional ambitions:

Kudos to my reader for calling FPM's attention to their blunder. If this man becomes a regular go-to guy for pro-war journals seeking pundits to make the case for some Grand End to Evil Project and to rally the troops against the Church when Just War doctrine becomes inconvenient, it will do more than any thing they could possibly do to demonstrate the bankruptcy of the Agitprop Campaign. He should not be touched with a barge pole. Only utter ignorance of his fanatical views or total desperation would explain it if he goes into editorial rolodexes as some sort of serious Catholic Pundit. And FPM is no longer ignorant.

You can think what you want of me for saying this, but frankly, I'm disgusted by this behavior. So disgusted, in fact, that I can't formulate adequate insults that wouldn't sink below the level that I'd like to maintain. Suffice to say that Mark has confirmed, for me, my previous suggestion that he and some of his followers are evangelists for any faith but their own. By the same token, perhaps I was wrong to seek to offer statistical comfort to those who fear the reach of his acrimony. Yet, despite this disgust, I would never write to editors who give Mark a byline and paycheck to discourage them from publishing the work of a man who has suggested that "God Bless America" is an apt theme for murderers.

If you've got a personal problem with a writer and/or something he's said and written, and you feel inclined to address them away from a platform of your own, do what you can to rebut his statements wherever you find them. If it seems relevant, include in that rebuttal an allusion to previous instances of "vile and monstrous ideas." But if the only ammunition you've the temper or intelligence to use includes references to decontextualized impressions about statements made in Internet comment boxes, then use your itching fingers to do something productive, like pick your nose.

Look as I might, I can't see the Christian value in the actions of Shea's Brownshirts.1 A brutal dictator proves himself a dangerous belligerent in a terrorist-infested world? Turn the other cheek. A fellow Catholic makes some excessive comments on the Internet? Sic 'im.


1. "I refer to gay activists and gays who intimidate, shout down, bully, threaten, muzzle, physically harm and even kill as brownshirts."

Posted by Justin Katz at 4:01 PM | Comments (2)