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Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Today's post will be a blog about blogs, or, as they say these days, a meta-blog.

[Historical footnote. The prefix "meta-" has come to have the meaning of higher or better or transcendent. So most folks think that metaphysics is somehow about things that are higher than, or transcend, the physical -- such as extrasensory perception, or out of body experiences. The prefix has also come to have the meaning of "second order." Metaethics is not theories about what is good and bad and what we ought to do, but rather is theories about theories about what is good and bad and what we ought to do. The term "metaphysics" came into modern usage, of course, via the essays by Aristotle known as The Metaphysics, and since those essays deal with the nature of Being and other "first things", as Aristotle called certain fundamental questions, the term acquired its modern meaning. But in fact, the essays known as The Metaphysics are simply the texts that, in an edition reintroduced into Western Europe from the Islamic world, came after the book known as The Physics. Now, in Greek, "that come after the Physics" is "ta meta ta physica," so the essays,to which Aristotle gave no name, became known as The Metaphysics.]

Anyway, back to metablogging. One of the things I do as a committed blogger is to surf the web and check out other blogs. Indeed, although I read the NY TIMES every day [mostly for the obituaries, the op ed essays, and the puzzles], I get most of my news from a small group of blogs. So, as a public service to my readers, who all probably have better things to do with their time, here is a guide to the blogs I routinely check.

I. The Huffington Post, accessible at . Started by Arianna Huffington, conservative turned liberal, this is far and away the flashiest of the blogs, with vast amounts of material, big, brightly colored visuals, and a determinedly left bias. The Huffington Post is a strange cross between a rad-lib rant and a trashy gossip sheet. Here you can find the very latest information about the health care struggle or the torture debate, and also the dirt, with photos, of Tiger's multiple mistresses. It is worth checking out her bio on

2. Talking Points Memo, a blog started by Josh Marshall and now staffed by a growing array of politicos, bloggers, and technonerds. You can find it at Like Huffington, Marshall is firmly on the left. Unlike Huffington, he actually does investigative reporting, and is more and a more a source for breaking stories, cited by the mainstream media. TPM is heavy on Washington politics, but mostly omits the trashy gossip that Huffington seems to thrive on. During the exposure of Sarah Palin's clay feet, Marshall broke some key stories. TPM also regularly includes extended comments from its readers, as well as guest pieces.

3. The Daily Dish, Andrew Sullivan's blog, which is available at Sullivan is an interesting character -- an extremely intelligent and well-educated English gay HIV positive writer who takes conservatism very seriously [Michael Oakeshott, that sort of thing] and grew so disenchanted with George W. Bush that he supported Obama for the presidency. The Daily Dish is a much more personal blog than the Huffington Post or TPM, and although Sullivan has a number of people on his staff, the voice is always distinctively his. There are four subjects about which Sullivan cares deeply, and they absorb the lion's share of his blog. They are: the current state of conservative theory and practice, Gay Rights, the popular upheaval in Iran, and anything scandalous concerning Sarah Palin. On the debates currently roiling the conservative intellectual and political world, Sullivan is a very valuable guide for those of us who do not ordinarily consort with right-leaning types. On Gay Rights he is solid, but not particularly innovative. But, of course, I may be more plugged in to that world than most straights because of the prominent role played in it by my son, Tobias. On the events in Iran he is marvelous, posting pictures and tweets and email messages and texting from protesters in the streets virtually as they are happening. Sullivan is playing a genuinely important role in that on-going struggle, and he puts the mainstream media to shame, both by his commitment and by the speed and skill with which he brings events virtually in real time to as large audience. But it is on the matter of Sarah Palin that Sullivan is the most fun. he was fast off the blocks with loud doubts about the story of Trig's birth, questioning whether the baby really is Palin's, and he has stayed with the larger story, giving readers a front row sweat to every suit, countersuit, rumor, and speculation about the divine Sarah.

4. On a much more serious note, Juan Cole's Informed Comment is the place to go for scholarly commentary on Middle Eastern affairs by a leading scholar in the field. His blog is at Cole is fluent in Arabic and some other regional languages, and really knows the politics of Iraq and Iran in the way that many of us know the politics of the United States. No one in his right mind would try to stay current on American politics by reading someone who does not know English and does not have an intuitive grasp of the nuances of Democratic and Republican Party politics. By the same token, it is insane to look for guidance on Middle Eastern affairs to some self-styled "terrorism expert" who cannot read, write, and speak the languages of the region. Cole's blog is bare bones, not much more technologically sophisticated than this blog, but he is well worth a visit.

Finally, I will mention The Daily Kos, at and FiveThirtyEight, at The Daily Kos is the site started and headed up by Markos Moulitsas, a young political activist. Kos, as he is known, is totally focused on getting Democrats elected to public office at every level from dog catcher to president. He keeps track of primary challenges, election contests, fund-raising and the like in virtually every Congressional District in America, functioning as a sort of modern-day political reporter for the hometown newspaper. he has been tremendously successful in raising money nationally for scores of candidates who never make the national news and hence could not otherwise reach potential supporters outside their region. [I gave $100 once to a list of nineteen promising Democratic challengers trying to win Republican House seats, and received a raft of letters from the candidates thanking me for my $5.26 contribution.] The site regularly runs two features, one of which I really enjoy, the other of which has not captured my loyalty. The first is an "Abbreviated Pundit Round-up," which gives mostly tongue in cheek and totally biased summaries of the day's op ed columns. The other is an "Open Thread and Diary rescue," which gives a second life and a large audience to blog posts from ordinary folks that would otherwise not be noticed. The principal lesson of these rescued diaries is that there are simply thousands and thousands of intelligent, knowledgeable people saying substantive things about every conceivable topic under the sun. My lack of interest is, no doubt, a consequence of the fact that, so far as I know, this blog has not been "rescued." Sigh.

Finally, there is, the creation of the ultimate technonerd, Nate Silver. {In a charming reversal of the flow of influence, Silver's success as a blogger has led to his appearances on the Rachel Maddow Show and other such MSM sites. Silver is a skilled statistician, whose special contributions to the blogosphere are sophisticated analyses of the masses of data spewed out by polling firms and the like about elections. [The title of the blog,l of course refers to the number of members of the House and Senate combined]. During the recent presidential election, multiple visits to the site each day were an absolute necessity. In off years, Silver has a bit of trouble coming up with data to massage, but he is always fun to read, especially if you are an election junkie, as I am.

And there you have it -- my contribution to Metablogging. The surf is up!


NotHobbes said...

As soon as I looked at the "Huffington Post" I couldn`t help but thinking that Ms Huffington looked somewhat familiar.
I had to view her Wiki biography to discover why. She was a frequent guest on "Call My Bluff" one of my favourite tv shows as a youngster

Robert Paul Wolff said...

She has followed a quite interesting path in her life. The English have sent some of their odder ducks over this way.

Anonymous said...


Robert Paul Wolff said...

Well, this bit of Chinese seems to direct me to chat rooms and beautiful women. The web does strange things.