A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

And Now For a Word From the Internet Critic

There are a few things I have noticed with my return to the blogosphere. The conservative blogs have rather shriveled of late. My old friend the Anchoress has become quite the celebrity in the world of blogging, and is up to three-quarters of a million hits, but her content has thinned tremendously. So little is now there but citations of other blogs. Gone are the posts of religious depth and insight, to be replaced with Joe Wilson bashing and squibs of irritation at this or that or the other: an academic squabble here, Hillary Clinton or Harry Reid there, and Maureen Dowd eternally. Not much Buster [by far the most interesting character in her reserved glimpses of her real life], not much Wodehouse, and a great deal of spleen. Her comment pages, once the glory of her blog, with all the varieties of Christian belief and sensibility on display, have withered to a few cheerleaders.

Most of the other conservative blogs on my old blogroll [which, surprisingly, seems not to require that much updating] have diminished as well. La Shawn Barber is far less the evangelical firebrand she once was. And Reverend Sensing at One Hand Clapping has taken more to reviewing movies than to in depth comment on religion, news and ideas. Sebastian Holsclaw has vanished entirely [a pity, I liked him a lot]. Wretchard over at Belmont Club seems a little drifty and repetitive--sort of like Victor David Hanson on a stiff dose of Vallium--and Winds of Change appears to have suffered a paralysis that has them stuck in 2004, unwilling or unable to admit that the political and international ground rules have changed as all of the concepts--The War on Terror, Radical Islam, Good News From Iraq, The Bush Rush To War--have stiffened into caricature and parody.

To the degree that any of them are good reading lately, they are all about the Challenge To Western Civilization of the Muslim riots in the Paris suburbs.

The only two who have remained rock steady, neither doing a duck dive because of the fading fortunes of the Bush Administration, nor declining into triviality, are James Joyner of Outside The Beltway and John Cole of Balloon Juice. These still have balanced conservatism, without the hysteria that so mars other Conservative blogs, and interesting things to say about not only the Paris riots, but also on the hot political topics engaging the other side of the political spectrum.

One further note: the Conservative Blogosphere as a whole should surf on over to the Daily Kos [you can hold your nose for ten minutes if you don't like the smell of the opinions] to see how to have blogads, but how not to have the blogads disrupt your reader's enjoyment of the writing.

The key principles are, first, because the eye reads left to right in English, the upper left corner of the screen at any point in the scroll down is by far the most important piece of visual information. Second, blogads are designed by professionals to capture the eye. Combine the two with ill-considered blog design that lets the blogads always wave the flag in the upper left corner, and you have a blog which is a bore and a chore to read no matter how fine the content.

A good compromise, if you don't like the Kos design, or would prefer an effective model with a different sort of politics, is Outside the Beltway, where the designer has toned down the blogads by running grey underneath them, by running bright white under the text content, and by streching the text box to take up nearly the whole screen when you are forced to scroll to the right to read it fully.

The centrist blogs have remained about the same: the best and most consistent of them still remain Joe Gandleman and Daniel Dresner, Joe with his professional nose for news and Dresner with his genial, but academic, breadth of view. Joe's blog however, suffers from the blogad disease as well.

The Left has also remained about the same, probably because they haven't had to do a duck dive in response to the recent antics of George W. Bush and his Merry Men. Good writing starts with good content, and blogs like Kos, The Left Coaster, and My DD have not only had good content to write about, but good content to crow over. This always makes writing more fun, and when its fun you do it better.

After all, nothing can be more fun than being as genuinely and thoroughly bitchy as James Wolcott. I really can't see how my conservative friends could actually enjoy Wilson bashing all that much, and they are mostly too stuffed shirted to get down and bitchy about anything.

The only real deterioration I have noticed is in the content of Matthew Yglesias and Leslie Beyerstein. They seem a little tired of the daily blogging grind and are slipping far closer to Atrios than bloggers of their intelligence and stature should be.

Fatema of Progressive Muslim Thoughts has actually improved, with prose of much greater depth and maturity than when I left off reading any blogs at all back in July.

Yes, yes I know. Always the critic! But I do think the blogosphere as a whole should ask themselves a very serious question: Is it as fun now as when you started? If not, maybe a little self criticism is in order. And a little effort to search for personal renewal.

Both were forced on me by a recent bout of Mental Illness, and the words appearing on the page are fun once again. I also thank my lucky stars that I stayed with Blogger [I was tempted to jump ship when they were having access trouble] where the bandwidth is free and I can still blog for the love of it only, and do not have to run ads or beg tips to keep the bandwidth going.


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