Whelan Was Wrong To Apologize For Outing Publius

So I’ve been watching the dust clouds of the Halloween-style egg fight between Ed Whelan and Publius which culminated today in Whelan apologizing to Publius for outing him.

And I’ve been mulling this over more than a bit – particularly as a formerly pseudonymous blogger myself – and I think Whelan was mistaken in apologizing (at least to the extent he did). Here’s what I read that made me decide this after some thinking.

It’s the post from the ‘poor me’ post that Publius (nee John Blevins) put up ‘fessing up and explaining all the reasons why it was important to him to blog under a pseudonym.

Now when I first went into this, I have to admit that Publius wasn’t a blogger whose work I could immediately put into a frame, and so my initial (wrong) reaction was that he was a poo-flinging monkey like tbogg, and my thought on his being outed was ‘fair cop.’ Live by the poo, die by it, I said to myself…

But because I tend to try to check my facts before I take positions, I took some time and read a bunch of publius’ work, and he’s in a whole different ballpark, league, sport than folks like that. He’s a serious blogger, albeit an aggressive liberal, and someone whose posts I’ve read and admired in the past.

But having said that, I think that he’s got it completely backward when he talks about why it was important to him to blog under a nom de plume. Here’s what he said:

As I told Ed (to no avail), I have blogged under a pseudonym largely for private and professional reasons. Professionally, I’ve heard that pre-tenure blogging (particularly on politics) can cause problems. And before that, I was a lawyer with real clients. I also believe that the classroom should be as nonpolitical as possible – and I don’t want conservative students to feel uncomfortable before they take a single class based on my posts. So I don’t tell them about this blog. Also, I write and research on telecom policy – and I consider blogging and academic research separate endeavors. This, frankly, is a hobby.

Privately, I don’t write under my own name for family reasons. I’m from a conservative Southern family – and there are certain family members who I’d prefer not to know about this blog (thanks Ed). Also, I have family members who are well known in my home state who have had political jobs with Republicans, and I don’t want my posts to jeopardize anything for them (thanks again).

He wrote under a pseudonym to shield himself from the consequences of his words. I think that’s exactly backwards.

When I started writing as Armed Liberal – in my very first post – I wrote that

I’m choosing not to identify myself … right now … for a variety of reasons. I’ll start by standing on the time-honored tradition of anonymous pamphleteering, which I believe blogging fits neatly into. My significant other has a fairly political job (although she doesn’t believe so). And finally, I’m trying to disassociate the value of what is set out here from any judgment you might make about me.

[emphasis added]

I didn’t believe it was as important to shield myself (and mine) from what I wrote as it was to have what I wrote stand on its own. I’m not insensitive – and I wasn’t in 2002 – to the concern that what I wrote might have an impact on my living or on my life.

But first and foremost for me it was a vehicle to put ideas forth deprived of any claim to authority (I was a student of Sheldon Wolin and John Schaar! I’m someone who works inside the process and can explain it!).

And when my real life and my blogging life intersected in a meaningful way, I dropped the pseud and stepped out.

So it bothers me more than a little that the primary defense that Publius wants to mount is that it might impact his work or hurt his family’s feelings.

It especially bothers me when he says that

And yes – I criticized Whelan rather harshly. But that’s what the blogosphere is about. Blogging is not for the thin-skinned. And you would think that someone who spends their days trying to destroy other people’s reputations in dishonest and inflammatory ways wouldn’t be so childish and thin-skinned.

I’m sorry, but pitchers who throw at the head shouldn’t be shocked when an occasional bat comes loose and soars out toward the mound. People who see the root of blogging as critcising people harshly and offending where they can do forfeit some of the claim to courtesy which is really what weak pseudonymity (it wouldn’t be too hard to track down any of the pseudonymous political bloggers, really) is really all about.

So on both of those counts – because I think he was making the claim to pseudonymity for the wrong reasons, and because I think that what he really regrets losing is the freedom to throw elbows and then go sit innocently at his family table, I – a formerly pseudonymous blogger – think that Whelan committed a minor infraction of manners at worst.

Blue on Blue in Sacramento

Things are about to get very interesting in Sacramento, where the public employees unions are dropping the mask

The relationship between Democratic leaders and some of their labor benefactors has turned particularly frosty: Many of the programs union members rely on for paychecks — and the unions rely on for dues — have been slated for deep cuts.

For example, there are pledge forms being passed around to lawmakers by a major labor union that might have attracted takers in budget battles past. The union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, wants the legislators to sign statements of support for up to $44 billion in new or higher taxes on the wealthy, oil companies, tobacco and other industries, products and people.

But so far the drive hasn’t produced a single signed form, even from the Democrats who normally march into California’s budget fights in lock-step with organized labor.

…so today, the labor-sponsored politicians are reading the – forgive me – tea leaves and pushing back.

“Many public employee unions, teacher unions [are] thinking that they were thrown under the bus in the last budget,” said Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D- Montebello). “So now they’re asking themselves: If these Democrats are not going to stand up for us, then what good is it to have them there?”

The union leaders say they are appalled that Democratic leaders are talking openly now about decimating government programs without first making a stand for bigger, broader tax hikes that could substantially offset budget cuts.

“Democrats came to Sacramento to help people,” said Marty Hittleman, president of the California Federation of Teachers. “I know they did not go there to destroy government. For some reason, they are unwilling to stand up and say ‘This is not what I was elected for.’ “

But even some of the most liberal Democrats say some union leaders are ignoring the reality of an angry public, a sour economy and a state government approaching insolvency. Moreover, more taxes would require Republican support in the Legislature, and the minority party has made clear that there will be none.

When you hear ‘reformers’ explain that we need to abolish the supermajority for budget and tax approval, remember these words.

In part, this is interesting fallout from the failure of the budget propositions. Then there were differing interpretations of why they had failed: the conservatives said it was the new taxes, the liberals said it was the spending limits. I thought we’d know the truth pretty quickly, and from this article, it seems we do.

The ‘Wedge’ And The Thoughtless

I haven’t read anything that just took the vacuity and indolence of the American chattering class, put it into words, and nailed it to the church door quite as well as this thumbsucking ‘conversation’ between Gail Collins and David Brooks in the New York Times.

Please, God. put them behind a paywall so I can ignore them, like the rest of America.

Here’s the premise, an interesting one, actually: There are three ‘wedge issues’ in modern politics – values-driven issues that fracture interest-based coalitions, and are a large part of why blue-collar labor abandoned its political sponsors in the Democratic Party. They are:

Guns, Gays, and Abortion (add Affirmative Action to the list and you’ve pretty much got all the wedge issues covered).

Here are our two pocket intellectuals setting the stage:

Gail Collins: David, can we talk hot-button social issues for a second? I know this is not really an area where you fly the conservative colors, but you’re the go-to guy on how America lives, and I’d like to hear your thoughts even if we can’t work up a fight.

If you think of abortion, gay rights and gun control as the Big Three, it seems to me the nation is moving in very different directions…

David Brooks: Gail, I confess I do shy away from these issues, not because I don’t have views but because I find the tenor of the debates so unpleasant. For example, I have the impression that we’re in the middle of their weird battle of the murders. Liberal media outlets play up the murder of the abortion doctor by a pro-life extremist. Conservative outlets play up the murder of the Army recruiter by a Muslim extremist. Some people on both sides seem to feel that their view of the world has been affirmed by the atrocities of a certain set of extremists, and so seem to feel a sense of vindication from these crimes.

Brooks – who speaks for the ‘average American’ in these circles, believes that they really don’t think about these things…they just want to be nice to each other:

I think there is a consistency to how most Americans view these Big Three social issues. People are seeking the positions that will help them reserve the invisible bonds of community.

Americans increasingly see gay relationships as just another part of the fabric of connections that make up their communities. As a result Americans are becoming more accepting of civil unions and gay marriage.

People also treasure the specific subcultures they inhabit. Guns are an essential part of life for people who live in rural communities. Well, it’s not the guns per se. Rather the threat to limit gun ownership is seen as an assault by urban people on rural life and rural communities. That is the reason gun rights are defended so fiercely and why it is politically dangerous for anybody to challenge them.

Finally, on the subject of abortion, Americans are pulled by conflicting communitarian impulses. On the one hand, I think most people sense viscerally that somehow an abortion is a tear in the moral fabric – whether they are pro-life or pro-choice. On the other hand, they don’t feel communities can be formed on the basis of compulsion and they are uncomfortable imposing such complex and uncomfortable moral decisions on one another. So they seek out some mushy middle ground, while oscillating, sometimes in a more “liberal” direction and sometimes in a more “conservative” one, as now.

Yeah, we’re brainless cattle who decide important issues based on our connections to others…not.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking to people on a variety of sides of all three (all four, actually) of these issues, and the reality I’ve experienced is that people think very hard about them, hold deep beliefs about them, and while they may not be able to give broad historic or ideologically grounded arguments for their beliefs – they manage to articulate them – even in passing conversation – far better than the luminaries sucking at the NYT teat. Yes, we’re all human, and our opinions are formed in part by our ‘tribes’.

But that does not – nearly – mean that we have no ability to articulate our understandings or beliefs, to discuss them, and to move and be moved in those discussions. The hard reality is that many of us have deep-rooted beliefs that, in essence decide those issues for us. Let’s look at Gail Collins on gay marriage:

Gay rights is just a matter of time. Look at the polls. Worrying about gay marriage, let alone gay civil unions or gay employment rights, is a middle-age issue. Young people just can’t see the problem. At worst, gays are going to win this one just by waiting until the opposition dies off.

Note that to her, there’s no … issue … around gay rights. They simply ‘are’. No one, or at least no one worth talking to, could possibly make any kind of substantive argument against gay rights worth considering.

Yet almost all of us were brought up in a culture that has for a millennium ostracized homosexuality; and it would be good if she would recognize that breaking those cultural bonds is hard – and made harder when the images of what it means to be gay come from Castro Street or Santa Monica Boulevard and not the PTA or house next door. So there’s a measure of cognitive dissonance because when the average American family thought about gays, it thought about Sodom, San Francisco bath-houses (not that most people were clear about exactly what was going on in those places…), pedophiles, and that spinster piano teacher and her ‘cousin’ who lived down the street, and then it became about Will and Grace and then about that handsome and brave young Olympic diver and then about Doogie Hauser MD – and suddenly the cultural messages about what it meant to be gay or be in contact with gays were all confused and suddenly not nearly as clearly negative as it used to be.

In part, I’ll argue that was helped along by a substantial change in gay culture itself; it became mainstream and relatively nontransgressive.

She feels the same way about guns (i.e. there is no real substantive issue, only a political one):

Gun control currently feels like a lost cause. If a big Democratic majority doesn’t have the will to stop an amendment to the credit card bill permitting people to carry concealed loaded weapons in national parks, I don’t have much hope.

The idea that there are people … me, for example … who might be able to make a moral and practical argument for why allowing concealed carry in national parks located where concealed carry is itself legal never occurs to her.

It never occurs to Brooks either:

People also treasure the specific subcultures they inhabit. Guns are an essential part of life for people who live in rural communities. Well, it’s not the guns per se. Rather the threat to limit gun ownership is seen as an assault by urban people on rural life and rural communities. That is the reason gun rights are defended so fiercely and why it is politically dangerous for anybody to challenge them.

No, no, a thousand times no. I don’t live in the country, my neighbors who shoot don’t live in the country, we’re not a part of some weird secret subculture that only allows membership to those with guns. That’s patently absurd.

People who own guns and who think that owning and possessing guns is OK often think that it’s a positive good, and can … shockingly … make arguments to that effect. The concern about gun regulation has only a little to do with concern that the ‘city folk’ will dominate; people who fear widespread gun ownership don’t believe people can or should be responsible for their own safety, and people who fear banning guns don’t believe in anything else.

And here we begin to see why these are fracture lines; not because of some sociological or anthropological explanation, not because of the politics of the issue (although such explanations are available to us), but because people’s beliefs are vastly different.

And no where is this more true than abortion, where short of the most dedicated pro-life activists, people I know are perfectly capable of having an ‘on one hand and on the other but this is trumped by’ discussion about the value and costs of abortion, but where each side – even the uncomfortable committed on each side (like me) have a deep belief about what is right that closes the argument.

Brooks goes on:

I’m not sure I’m expressing myself very clearly, but what I’m trying to say is that people seek to preserve the orderly bonds around them. Most people, even on these hot button issues, gravitate toward positions that seem to best preserve unspoken communal understandings. As a result, I don’t expect sharp change on any of these subjects. There is a gradual acceptance of gay and lesbian rights, but I think progress will take longer than people anticipate. On gun control and abortion, I don’t see much change of any sort.

There are fewer and fewer culture warriors in America. Most people want order and peace.

Yes, but each group wants the peace that comes from its values being uncontroversially widespread, and on these issues, we’re not likely to get that for quite some time.

I’d suggest that these are fracture line issues because they are not ‘instrumental issues’ where I can horsetrade a little loss here for a little gain elsewhere. They are issues which touch on the deepest values we hold as members of the society – what is an appropriate relationship; who will defend me and as a consequence have power over me; what does it mean to be human and have rights.

I’ll suggest that the better, more American solution is one that acknowledges that we are a people who live together who share many, but not all, values, and that those values change over time. That allows for a free competition of ideas and ideals, and that limits what we can and will do to coerce each other.

But most of all, one that acknowledges just exactly what these deep thinkers deny – that the people whohold opposing views to us do so genuinely, and are entitled to respect for those views with which we deeply disagree.

D-Day, 65 Years later

When we were in France last winter, we went to Normandy (Calvados!).


On Omaha Beach, we saw this sculpture – “The Braves” by French sculptor Anilore Banon that was set up on Omaha Beach.

Braver men than me waded through that water 65 years ago.

Headline Of The Day: “Skateboarder ‘sorry’ for naked rooftop incident”

…or why I love living in Southern California:

Professional skateboarder Jereme Rogers said Wednesday he was sorry for disturbing his Redondo Beach neighbors this week when he “ate some `mushrooms’ and bugged out,” preaching naked on his rooftop.

Rogers, a high school dropout who attributes his skateboarding skills to God, was eventually grabbed by police officers and brought down from his precarious perch.

“It obviously was not an everyday experience,” the 24-year-old athlete said. “It was a very out-of-body experience. I’ve never had an experience like that.”

Rogers pulled off his boxer shorts about 6:40 a.m. Monday and climbed onto the roof of the two-story house he shares with roommates on Havemeyer Lane and Goodman Avenue.

“It was obviously something I shouldn’t have done,” Rogers said as he rolled a marijuana joint in his bedroom. “It was just something that happened.”

Some of us exist just to be a bad example to others, I’d guess…

What Terrorism Looks Like Today

I’ve been watching the news this week with interest and not a little sadness, noting the events in Kansas and Arkansas.

I’ll make a side comment on the difference in coverage between the Tiller and Long murders; one got screaming headlines, and one was buried deep in the news section. There’s a piece to write about how the coverage is driven in part by how central the issues manifested by something are to the media class, and by how interesting the narrative is to them – and Christian militia murderers definitely makes that cut. neo-Islamists murdering soldiers – not so much.

But I’m bored of bashing the media, and they’re dying anyway, so let’s talk about more important things.

And the important thing to me is that in my mind, to a large extent, this is what terrorism is going to look like for the next decade or so.

I don’t envision much in the way of vast conspiracies (maybe, but less likely I believe as the resources they require are choked off – I did a piece I never posted on what it would take to really screw up the US via acts of terror, and it cost about $15 – 20 million. Money at that level is noticed – I hope) There’s no central figure – no Osama or Dr. Evil sitting in a volcano lair directing minions.

What we have instead is an Idea – about Islam, about the rights of the unborn, about the rights of animals, about tending the environment, about whatever – and a cadre of people dedicated to pushing that Idea forward, and who use that idea to pull people who are loosely attached to their lives into the belief that their lives will only matter if they give all for the idea.

Now that notion isn’t new; it’s not even novel in modern America (ask Jim Jones, Cinque, and Andreas Baader or Charlie Manson). There have always been charismatic, murderous thugs who pried people out of their life orbits and sent them crashing into the ground – usually with a few corpses trailing behind them.

And the problem, of course, is that the people who are holding the flame of the Idea in their hands, and blowing on it to keep it burning bright are – rightly – protected. Even as it becomes clear that the incitement of damaged people is something they truly hope to do, our system requires that we protect their right to think and speak freely.

So what do we do about it?

One thing, I believe, is to hold them up to the light – to make sure that every nasty thing they say and do is widely exposed, and so shame them in the public sphere. This is, I believe, the right thing to do – but the reality is that it will also serve to publicize their cause, and to attract the susceptible. So while it’s right, there are questions about how effective it will be.

Do we criminalize speech and thought because it might incite deed? My answer is no.

But like all answers, it comes with a cost – and we’re seeing that cost today.

I think the core answer is the harder one – and it is make it harder to pry people out of their orbits, to do a kind of COIN within our own country in which we re-establish the concept of legitimacy and revalidate in people’s minds the channels through which they are validated and through which they believe they can engage their beliefs; we need, if possible to, declare a war on anomie.


Jimbo’s Folly (or “Yo!! – Jimbo!”)

OK. There are times as a man when you need to simply put your friends in their place – you know, when the thumbwrestling in the bar suddenly turns deadly serious or when the drinking contest suddenly turn mean and you have to guzzle one more bottle of Medoc.

And sometimes you need to simply fly by someone’s house and drop the GBU-43/B.

So here we go.

Last week, I put up a post about my new bike, a Ducati 1100 Hypermotard.

Jimbo responded at Blackfive, where he foolishly views the Hypermotard as “…the delivery vehicle for the Croissant House.

Oh, really?


…yeah, you try that on a Harley, Jimbo, and when you get out of the hospital, you can tell both of your friends all about it…

Jimbo may be sober – it’s unlikely – but even so, he’s displaying a fundamental misapprehension common to enlisted men. That is simply this. Which is a scarier weapon?




Which one would you rather fly against?




Yes, the primitive weapon looks scarier and more imposing, and there is a certain – delicacy – found in modern weapon design. And it’s understandable how the … less-developed … mind might find the primitive weapons far scarier and more imposing.

But they’d be wrong.

In Jimbo’s comments, Grim asks “Does he also wear one of those fancy red leather jumpsuits when he’s riding that thing?


Why yes, I do…mine’s yellow and blue, though…

On the other hand, here I have spy photos of Jim in the parking lot at Camp Mackall, learning to ride a motorcycle…


…note the stylish Village People getups they are all wearing…

Look, it’s a simple thing. Here’s Jim:


Here’s me:


One is living in a cave, picking nits and hitting things with his club, and one is now the Dread Pirate Roberts, headed for a life of luxury in Patagonia. I think that makes things clear enough, hmmm?

Meet Maud Gonne


So for the last year, my 07 Triumph Tiger has been burning oil (there was a bad batch of early 07’s). I finally got a great local dealer (SoCal Motorsports in Brea) to deal with Triumph on the issue, and last week they OK’ed an engine rebuild under waranty.

The bad news is that we do an annual riding trip to Porterville and the Sierra over Memorial Day, and it’s all about people we enjoy and roads my wife and I very much look forward to riding.

The good news was that I had a bulletproof excuse to get a new bike…and I’d had my eye on a Ducati Hypermotard since they first hit the stores.

A week of surfing Craigslist, and I found a mint ’08 base model with a Leo Vince exhaust (keeping the catalyst) and 940 miles, and got a great deal on it.

Because the bike was a year and a half old and had barely been ridden, I had SoCal redo a 600 mile service, and add a rear rack. I picked the bike up Wednesday, installed a Givi plate Thurs, and Friday morning we headed out of town. The rack broke Day One – but I’ll get it reinforced and remounted; the ability to carry a little stuff will be very useful. But damn, what fun.

To give you a sense of the routes we followed, check the links to Google Maps…

Day 1 – the ride up – 318 mi

Day 2 – 201 mi

Day 3 – (we liked that route) – 245 mi

Day 4 – the ride home – 275 mi

I’m 56, in reasonable shape, and survived the trip with three problems: sore hands (hard small grips – need something a little fuller), a sore butt (sadly Renazco doesn’t make a Hypermotard seat…checking my options here), and a slightly sore neck. Plus the facial pain from the continual grinning and hooting with laughter in my helmet.

I tend to name my motorcycles – which is a slightly embarassing affectation, to be sure, but keeps me amused. My Tiger is named ‘Monteore‘ and I named the Hyper ‘Maud Gonne’ after Yeats’ muse – a famous and firey redhead.

I’d worried that the bike was ‘too close’ to my Tiger – esp since the Tiger has a full Hyperpro/Race Tech suspension and has given a decent accounting of itself on the Streets of Willow racetrack.

Wrong. It’s like my old MZ Baghira with serious grunt, and a suspension that feels like it is connected to the ground with titanium plates and little sucker cups. The base rear shock gets overwhelmed occasionally – leaned way over on bumpy roads while hard on the gas, for example – but I got the bike for a good enough deal that I can add all the suspension upgrades I want. I don’t feel the need for more power – today – but will def change the gearing to bump the revs a little; I spent a lot of time in tight twisties either bouncing off the rev limiter or lugging a bit.

And I have to – publicly – eat a generous helping of crow about Ducati bikes and their owners. I’ve always written off the brand attachment as snobbery, plan and simple. I’ve given friends massive grief over it (Hi, Chris!!). But you know what? Damn, these are just great bikes to ride (or technically, this is a great bike to ride).

A seat, some fiddling with control positions, a sprocket, and I can spend the rest of my money on track time, vacations riding, and having someone try and massage the grin off my face when I’m done.

So if you see a somewhat dirty Hypermotard with a milk crate on the back, scuffed tires, and an old guy in a Hi-Viz Aerostich…wave, please.