May 1, 2006

Is there a left-right division about whether lawprof blogs should stick to law or range over multiple topics?

Eric Muller wonders:
[The] highly successful "mixed" lawprof bloggers all blog from, and to a readership primarily on, the political right....

The couple of genuinely "mixed" lawprof bloggers to the left of center – I'm thinking, I guess, mostly of myself and Michael Froomkin, and I'd probably throw in Ann Bartow of Feminist Law Profs as well -- don't hold a candle to their readership or their influence.

What do I make of that? To be honest, I don't really know. I certainly don't think the legal academy is skewed towards a Republican/conservative viewpoint; it isn't.

The preeminence of right-of-center "mixed" lawprof bloggers may, however, reflect an overall blogospheric tilt to the right; look at the TTLB ecosystem's ten "Higher Beings" and you'll see that seven are blogs from the right, whereas only two are blogs from the left.

Or maybe it reflects something else entirely. I'd be curious to know what you think.

In any case, Larry[ Solum's] thesis – that lawprof bloggers who blog about law as well as lots of other stuff will confuse their readership and drive them away, and that their blogs will therefore fade away – appears to be incorrect, or at least incomplete. Something surely explains why certain "mixed" lawprof blogs are among the most successful blogs in the blogosphere, even among lawprofs and other consumers of legal scholarship, and something surely explains why right-of-center ones do a whole lot better than left-of-center ones.
Obvious and inflammatory theory #1: Lefties are more easily confused.

Obvious and inflammatory theory #2: The flexible, wide-ranging intellect leans right.

Anyway... I think readers like mixed topic blogs more. Remember when Stephen Bainbridge took a vote about whether to put his material about corporate law on a separate blog? The readers strongly rejected the idea.


Dave said...

I like mixed blogs more.

I used to read Muller's blog--his criticisms of Michelle "suspended between meltdown and release" Malkin were always spot on--but his politics on the whole are too liberal for me.

Too little time in the day forces me to severly restrict the amount of blogs I read--yours is one of the ones I read, likely because our politics are more aligned than are mine and Muller's.

You're probably right when you say mixed blogs are more interesting to read.

Jacques Cuze said...

Inflammatory Theory #3: Smart people like those on the left, recognize their strengths, and stick to them. Many idiots don't realize how stupid they are, and freely expound on all sorts of topics they don't know anything about.

Inflammatory Theory #4: Righty law professors have an economic incentive to side with the corrupt and illegal administration. Recognizing their podium and ignoring what it took them to gain it, they exploit that podium for fame, and profit.

paulfrommpls said...

I think #2 is the most pertinent. It's an interesting time we're in, because I think - back a long time ago - the opposite was true.

What is like to be quxxo?

Ann Althouse said...

Quxxo: Lawprofs are, in general, very liberal. There's no economic incentive for us to express conservative political opinions. It's quite the opposite. But even if it were true, it wouldn't work as an answer to Muller's puzzlement. He cites left-leaning lawprofs who blog on multiple topics. The problem is their lack of readers. You need a theory that relates to readers.

"Many idiots don't realize how stupid they are..." -- look in a mirror, man.

Jacques Cuze said...

Anecdote in support of #3, opposed to #4: John Stuart Mill: I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it.

What's it like being quxxo? It's like the kid from the Sixth Sense. I see braindead people. I try to help them understand their situation.

Jacques Cuze said...

There's no economic incentive for us to express conservative political opinions.

Didn't you just sell an $800,000 house?

sonicfrog said...


paulfrommpls said...

Compassion and anti-status quo used to be the soul of hip and of course will always be part of it.

But now....

paulfrommpls said...

How very odd, quxxo.

paulfrommpls said...

Do you ever stop to think that your certainty about all of our souls may get in the way of your actual perceiving?

I mean, I know the answer to that question. (It's "no.") Take it as a suggestion: constant attacks on motivations, capacities, etc. are ultimately a losing hand. And say something about the purveyor that make it very hard to work to give a shit about whatever substance you might sporadically provide.

paulfrommpls said...

"Did you just sell an $800,00 house?"

Like, that argument: it's so dumb as to shake one's faith in the very undergirding that produced it. (I doubt the value of her house has much to do with her recent blogging, or any occasional revelation of non-left opinions over the years.)

It's a spastic question. It betrays a certain frantic-ness.

paulfrommpls said...

Actually, though, it's valuable. It's a good example of one way left opinions tend to go off the rails: a steadfast inability or refusal to meticulously examine cause and effect.

Jacques Cuze said...

How many data points are we talking about?

Are you sure you haven't confused the independent variable and the dependent variable?

Why is Muller limiting it to law prof bloggers and not just lawyer bloggers? What would happen to these theories if you actually expanded the definition to either academic bloggers or to lawyer bloggers?

These data points are neither a random sample, nor are they equal in their genesis. They are snapshots of a time series. Who are the popular bloggers on the left and right? Mixed or focused?

The answer is mu, and you know it with your inflammatory theories.

So ignoring the many popular academic and lawyer and econ bloggers on the left that are mixed and focused like Kos, here are some more theories:

Smart lefties realize that law is often just a sad exercise in screwing others, and that today's progressive efforts are to be found more in economic justice and the innovations of science than in the innovations of legal theories that pervert justice. And so our popular mixed bloggers are economists, lawyers, scientists, and journalists.

Smart lefties don't like ad-hominem and hate and stupidity. So today's most popular hate sites, like Powerline, are frequently authored by lawyers. That sort of crap would not be accepted by the left. We answer to a higher authority.

The answer is mu. It's a dumb question with no scientific basis asked about an invalid sample.

Posed by a lawyer.

SippicanCottage said...
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howzerdo said...

Years ago, when I was a workaholic and was razor focused on my career, my sister said to me, "you used to be about so many things, and now you're only about one thing." I thought about her comment a lot. I can't say it was the sole reason I reformed my ways, but it did resonate. I think it applies to why a mixed blog, and yours in particular, is more interesting to both the writer and readers than one that is focused solely on law. But it doesn't explain the political part.

GSH said...

First, what's the audience?

It may be true that people in the law field skew left, but that doesn't matter if the law field makes up a small portion of the audience.

For example, maybe the righty blogs have a high percentage of technical/engineer readers. From my experience, technical people tend to skew right (individualist/libertarian, sort of) when it comes to the law.

paulfrommpls said...

Yeah. You're right, Sippican. Engagement is just so tempting, because the attitude and ejaculations seem so emblematic of the way the left's soul has curdled. It sad for all of us if that soul is beyond redemption.

I do believe he's a she, though. I seem to remember that. Might be wrong.

Dave said...

"the left's soul has curdled"

Sorry, what does that mean? That lefties are cheesy?

AJ Lynch said...

Ann, you have my vote for #2. Lefties just are not open-minded. And I have two in my family.

SteveR said...

I like the mixed blog here. The politics is not one sided, the law is interesting to me, a non lawyer, but not overwhelming, and most of your commenters are intelligent, clever and succinct.

CB said...

I think that much of the differences between the left and right blogospheres have more to do with politics in the real world than with the temperaments of conservatives or liberals.

We have a Republican Congress and a Republican President right now; Democrats are the opposition party right now, so they are more focused on politics. Republicans feel secure in their political position, and therefore feel free to opine on many topics.

I suspect that if/when the White House and Congress are both controlled by Democrats, the political and legal blogospheres will look much different vis a vis liberals and conservatives.

paulfrommpls said...

dave -

Just talking about the wide-ranging rage supported by allowing only certain facts into their version of debate.

It feels to me like an addiction to rage, or seen slightly more generously, an addiction to the powerful sensation of moral clarity.

Goesh said...

I see your site meter has slowed to 4.466 million - many are languishing for more of your sketches....

SippicanCottage said...
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Dave said...

"It feels to me like an addiction to rage, or seen slightly more generously, an addiction to the powerful sensation of moral clarity."

Well, the same could be said of some on the right of course.

Too Many Jims said...

Obvious and inflammatory theory #5: Center to Center-Left readers are more willing to read divergent views on a variety of issues provided that they are presented with some degree of intelligence and civility. Right of center readers only want to read people they agree with.

I suspect that a good measure of your (and Volokh's and Baindbridge's) "influence" comes from the fact that a minority but significant porition of your readership comes from the left of center.

Actually I think part of the problem with Muller's problem is nomenclature. Specifically, where should we put "libertarians" and "independents"? Unless we include those groups overwhelmingly on the "right" I am not sure it is fair to say that your readership is "primarily" on the political "right".

paulfrommpls said...

Sippican: interesting.

Dave: some, of course, always true of some individuals on both sides. It's a judgment based on the relative lack of intellectual honesty I see in the arguments all over the place on the left, from blogs to papers to politicians to people I talk to.

There’s a framework of nonsense that Shall Not Be Questioned; and it all leads to righteous anger.

paulfrommpls said...

Jim -

You seem reasonable; here's my experience:

I literally don't know any friendly center-left people who read what I consider to be essential sources and opinions: National Review, Weekly Standard, Powerline, Instapundit, City Journal, and so on, to name a few.

Almost all of those are dismissed as "hate sites" or sources. Which they simply are not. I don't know how to convince you of that; I find them to be committed to their perspectives but very open to debate and generally strict with themselves about facts.

It's a kind of left intellectual blindness that postures as highly moral. Very strange.

Russell said...

Theory: Left-leaning lawprof bloggers write for their colleagues, who tend to agree with them politically. Right-leaning lawprofs, accustomed to political disagreements with their peers, are less likely to see other lawprofs as a target audience. Writing for a (more) general audience leads them to a broader selection of subject matter.

Russell said...

quxxo said...
Inflammatory Theory #3: Smart people like those on the left, recognize their strengths, and stick to them. Many idiots don't realize how stupid they are, and freely expound on all sorts of topics they don't know anything about.

This is why Streisand sticks to her singing, and Chomsky to his linguistics.

SippicanCottage said...
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paulfrommpls said...

I think it was also Oscar Wilde who said: "All things change, with the exception of experimental theater."

Jacques Cuze said...

Inflammatory Theory n+1: Since you have comments and are so often uninterested or just plain wrong on the facts and the law, you are forced to blog about other topics. The most successful right law prof bloggers don't allow comments. But as you wisely realized early on, it's part of your value-add and how you distinguish yourself from other righty law prof blogger like Glenn Reynolds.

Actually I think Jim makes a very good point, and of course I love how paul states it this way, "you seem reasonable until you disagree with me."

Too Many Jims said...


But Muller's point was not about National Review, Weekly Standard etc. (even Instapundit he calls "a special blogging case"). He wants to know why law profs who blog about a wide range of topics and do so successfully are from the right of center.

I don't think he cares much why Powerline is successful.

Incidentally, you don't know me {and I am not really friendly} but I do fairly regularly read National Review, the Weekly Standard and Instapundit. I occasionaly read the Corner and Powerline but I do find those sites less well reasoned and less persuasive.

P.S. Word verification word: gopeu {Geez Ann, even your verification words are skewing to the Republicans now.)

paulfrommpls said...

Okay. Do you mind if I ask a couple specific questions, Jim? I'm honestly curious about a couple specific issues: what your take on the conservative view is, say, on the relationship between Hussein and international Islamic terror. That is, what you see as that view, and where it falls down.

paulfrommpls said...

The reason I ask about that is because it seems like a key point of separation from reality on the left: what they think someone like Stephen Hayes at the Standard believes, and what the facts say. So I'm looking to be disabsued of a misperception.

AJ Lynch said...

Sippican Cottage;
You may be the most informed (or full of interesting information-is that the same thing?) person on this blog. I compliment you for never being tedious.

Tom C said...

One possible answer: since right-leaners are generally more likely to credit "individual accomplishment" before sociological pressures (seemingly no matter the question), the methods of communication might differ. If you are engaging individuals, you need to listen and reflect that in your arguments; if you are engaged in mass communication, you stay "on message".

Psycho-babble, but perhaps testable.

Balfegor said...

I suspect the readership/influence issue is connected to different linking behaviours in the right- and left-leaning bits of the blogosphere. Right-leaning blogs are generally pretty generous with their out-links, whereas the most influential left-leaning blogs (e.g. DailyKos) are largely self-contained. They link out, sure, but not as much as central right-leaning blogs, like Instapundit, who does nothing but link out. And while there are right-wing answers to the DailyKos approach (e.g. RedState), they don't dominate right-leaning traffic to anywhere near the same extent as DailyKos does for the Left.

That more frequent out-linking behaviour spreads the readership, and leads to more readership for right-leaning mixed-blogs (classifying, arguendo Prof. Althouse as "right").

With regard to the greater incidence of mixed-blogs on the Right vs. the Left (broadly construed), that may be because the academy as a whole, as an establishment Institution, trends leftist, and so left-leaning bloggers approach the issue of blogging from a more establishmentarian perspective, including playing up their formal qualifications and expertise over their broader personal interests and hobbies.

Or perhaps not. But at least this isn't inflammatory. I think. Haha

Dave said...

Well, here's a thought. If, as conservatives allege, the MSM and academia are dominated by ideological liberals, then the blogosphere acts as a way for those who do not buy into the prevailing perspective of our national media to vent, both about such mass media and any other topic on which they wish to pontificate.

In effect: whereas the liberal blogs must compete with CBS, the New York Times and CNN, the right side of the blogosphere must compete only with Fox News.

If you're a liberal, why would you want to spend more time in the day reading blogs when you can just have your views parroted back to you via the evening news or the New York Times?

On the other hand, if you're an alienated not-liberal (by which I mean everyone who does not identify himself as liberal, not just conservatives) what better way for you to have your views parroted than to spend time reading blogs with whose writers you agree?

One note about the liberal-conservative bifurcation everyone seems to be using: I think those are limiting distinctions. "Conservative" seems to have come to mean "religious" and "liberal" seems to have come to mean "not religious" when, in fact, there are many secular people who nonetheless are not liberal (such as yours truly), and, similarly, there are many liberal people who are religious.

The two terms seem to have been reduced to nothing more than an attempt to pigeonhole a person. Therein lies nothing but insubstantial analysis.

Marghlar said...
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SippicanCottage said...

AJ Lynch- I'm kinda older and jaded a bit now, but I blushed when I read that.

Even if you're wrong, I'm grateful you wrote it.

In the words of that immortal bard, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, from "I Put a Spell on You:"

I don't care if you dont' want me-

Jacques Cuze said...

Instapundit is the most popular law prof blogger, even if your favorite poll doesn't include him as such, they are the only ones.

He freely uses his bully pulpit to tell people what he thinks is legal and what he thinks is illegal, and his views stand above yours in that because he is a law prof.

Volokh currently has comments. Twernt always so, and definitely not so when they nurtured their misfacts.

O Liberal Marklar, I hope you do your policy analysis better than this.

Marghlar said...

I find the overall question an interesting one. I enjoy a more general topic blog atmosphere than single topic legal blogs provide. Although I am pretty far to the left, I generally tend to read more right-leaning blogs than left-leaning ones. (Examples: I stop by Volokh more often than I stop by concurring opinions or balkin...) Why is this true? Partly, it's that I find it boring to read primarily the writing of people I agree with. But part of it is also the ability to read more general purpose blogging by law profs.

Maybe part of it is just my low tolerance threshold for politicking. Odds are, at a strongly left-leaning site, I'll have to wade through screeds against Bush in order to get to interesting content. I don't much like Bush, but I get very bored with hearing about what a monster he is. Likewise, I didn't much like Clinton, but I found the high-powered hysteria about him during his tenure in office equally tiring. Thus, if Kerry had won the election (who I also don't like, by the by), it is possible that I would find left-leaning blogs more pleasant.

I think there is a general syndrome whereby those whose party is presently in power become more thoughtful -- they have to think about what they want, and why, as opposed to just focusing on tarring and feathering the opposition. Maybe that explains the popularity of right-leaning law blogs -- blogs largely came of age in a Republican time.

Too Many Jims said...


Thanks for clarifying the question. You seem to be asking if I subscribe to Stephen Hayes' views on the connection between pre-war Iraq and Al Qaeda or whether I am unconvinced by his arguments. I suppose that if I am unconvinced by his arguments then I am "separated from reality".

Personally, I think that question is a bit irrelevant because I believed that Saddam demonstrate that he was a threat in and by himself. (Though at the time of the invasion I, personally, believed that N.Korea posed a greater threat to our security.)

So I supported the Iraq endeavor. Nonetheless, I think the administration of the war effort has been horribly inept and ineffective. Count me in agreement with Kristol in that regard.

Marghlar said...

quxxo: i realized that shortly after I posted, which is why I took it down...I didn't think of instapundit (or hewitt, for that matter) because I don't read them. So it took me a minute to realize that the list I looked up didn't include them.

But the point does stand that Volokh does quite well with comments enabled, and is pretty general purpose.

Marghlar said...

He freely uses his bully pulpit to tell people what he thinks is legal and what he thinks is illegal, and his views stand above yours in that because he is a law prof.

Volokh currently has comments. Twernt always so, and definitely not so when they nurtured their misfacts.

Quxxo -- I do hope you realize that much of what legal scholarship is for is to make guesses as to how courts would rule, and/or tell them how they ought to rule. That's their job. Hopefully, we are all intelligent enough to realize that it is much more art than science, and that there is room for disagreement on any question.

But I for one find legal analysis, by academics right and left, useful when looking at a policy debate. For instance, Orin Kerr provided detailed analysis of the NSA question relatively quickly, and this was invaluable to those of us unfamiliar with FISA and trying to find our way into its murky waters to get a grip on the question. The legal blogosphere is certainly diverse enough to allow an interested person to go read competing views.

I find your desire to attack the speech of those you don't like a tad disturbing. If you don't like what Reynolds is saying, start a competing blog and critique him. He is certainly under no obligation to enable comments so you can flame him. But what is the harm of having ideas discussed and talked about ? Isn't that what free speech is supposed to be for?

RogerA said...

Quxxo--I do not think Professor Reynolds would agree with your characterization of him as "a righty." He is a self identified libertarian.

paulfrommpls said...

That's interesting; I didn't see how Hussein might be a threat - to us directly - other than through terrorist connections, which I found and find increasingly to have been numerous and worrying, if not actively "collaborative."

How do you see H to have been a threat other than that? Do you mean to Middle East regional stability; or to oil supplies or something?

My statement there of the terrorist connection is pretty much what I see Hayes as being involved in demonstrating. Do you agree with my perception of the threat and of what someone like Hayes is up to? I'd be interested in how you see it as wrong if you have inclination or time.

(When I say "separated from reality," I'm referring to what seems to be a wide insistence on the left that Hussein "had nothing to do" with al Qaeda or other international Islamic terror, a formulation I find to be ridiculous and also a big part of the rage-framework I talk about.)

Dave said...

"I do not think Professor Reynolds would agree with your characterization of him as "a righty." He is a self identified libertarian."

Many people don't understand what libertarianism is. If the person doing the labeling is a liberal, then a libertarian is invariably labeled conservative, and if the labeler is conservative then the labelee is invariably a liberal.

This goes back to my earlier point, in which I said that the labels conservative and liberal are woefully inadequate terms with which to summarize a person's views. Example: William F. Buckley, Jr., nominally a "conservative" nonetheless advocates drug decriminalization. Is that a "conservative" posture?

Informed people would say no, it's a libertarian argument. Few people seem informed, or at least, seem willing to engage in more substantive analysis than mere labels.

reader_iam said...

I was amused by this, in an out-of-context sort of way:

[A]cademics get a bit confused when they encounter a blog that mixes in a lot of "other stuff" .

Yeah, well, sometimes their students get confused when academics mix in a lot of "other stuff" into their stated disciplines, say, lit or linguistics.

Yeah, yeah ... that was obvious and cheap. What can I say? It's that kind of day. Everything's funny to me today.

(P.S. I'm really, really afraid to ask this, but how long has there been a wheelchair at the lower left of the vh box?)

Too Many Jims said...

I don't insist that Hussein "had nothing to do" Al Qaeda. I would say that I subscribe to the view that any assistance that pre-Iraq gave to the AlQaeda terrorists was less than assistance received from governmental officials of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan (among others). If we were taking down Saddam for support of Al Qaeda, how can we let the House of Saud stand?

As to why I believed Hussein was a threat. I believed he was a heinous dictator, who had access to WMD, who was willing to torture his own people, who was flauntng UN imposed sanctions, who was operating in a geographic region where we have allies (e.g Turkey {NATO} and Israel) and had expressed a desire to expand the conflict beyond Iraq vs. U.S. in order to win support in other (mainly arab) states.

As I mentioned, at the time, I personally viewed N. Korea as a bigger threat because much of the same analysis applied to them but they had (in my eyes) more reason to accelerate a conflict with their neighbors because at least Saddam was able to stay fat and happy on oil money.

Mack said...

My theory #1: The fact that right-leaning academics are such a rarity is exactly what makes them so cherished by right-leaning people.

There could be plenty of reasons for this. One that's inflammatory: right-leaners are often selfish, but don't want to admit it, and so they like having professor types offer academic theories to justify their selfishness.

Basically, conservative academics are so interesting because they perform impossible feats, like arguing that a minimum wage is bad for poor people or that you can't draw any connection between record gas prices and record Exxon profits. Ordinary people wouldn't be able to come up with that sort of stuff on their own.

Come to think of it, this is actually the theory David Brooks suggested earlier this week. "The only real shift between school and adult politics is that the jocks realize they need conservative intellectuals, who are geeks who have decided their fellow intellectuals should never be allowed to run anything and have learned to speak slowly so the jocks will understand them. Meanwhile, the geeks have learned they need to find popular kids like F.D.R. to head their tickets because the American people will never send a former geek to the White House." I agree. Conservatives have to pretend to be intellectual, and liberals have to pretend not to be. They seek out information on this basis, and the result is the popularity of conservative law blogs.

My related inflamatory explanation #2: It's the faux-intellectualism of law blogs that conservatives like, whereas liberals who want scholarship want real scholarship.

Personally, I read conservative law blogs because they're more outrageous and they seem to harp more on culture-war issues.

Joseph Hovsep said...

I suppose one reason right-of-center lawprof blogs have taken off may be precisely because legal academia is so left-of-center. Perhaps liberal professors are more satisfied with the real-life "mixed-topic" political/cultural exchanges they have with their colleagues, whereas more conservative professors have more incentive to find or create cyber communities to share their views in because their opportunities on campus are more limited or met with more hostility. It could be argued that other groups, like gays and lesbians, who are cultural minorities in real life have taken greater advantage of the internet to form communities than people who feel included in the culture that surrounds them in real life.

This may directly contradict what I just proposed, but I also agree with marghlar in that I have a limited interest in reading the views of people I innately agree with, so I find myself coming to moderate/conservative sites more often than one would predict based on my political inclinations.

Just a side point, but is it really necessary to argue that liberals are stupid so they do this or conservatives are hateful so they do that? I tend to think the personalities of people who think/talk/blog a lot about political-legal type issues are really more alike than they are different, whether they identify as liberals or conservatives or libertarians. Similar flaws, similar virtues. Personally, I find this kind of debate over which group has worse personal characteristics tiresome and unproductive (but maybe that just goes to show you how stupid liberals like me are).

paulfrommpls said...

Jim - I pretty much agree with all of that. I think the distinction between Hussein and, say, Saudi Arabia - with regard to your question "how can we let SA stand" if terrorist connections are the issue - is this: a. with Iraq, that was just part a laundry list of reasons, as you describe; and b. perceived doability.

Finn Kristiansen said...

quxxo said...
Inflammatory Theory n+1: Since you have comments and are so often uninterested or just plain wrong on the facts and the law, you are forced to blog about other topics...

The above should probably be ignored, but I was just curious as to why it was said? Quxxo, can you point out some specific examples of Ms.Althouse being wrong on facts and the law. It's all so over my head; perhaps your clarification and wisdom can make it a bit clearer.


Some moron-- and not someone astute like Quxxo-- once said that the most likely answer to something is the simplest one... but that sounds just crazy to me. That would mean Ann merely blogs according to her own interests and whims, and not for any nefarious reasons or quxxotic (ooh typo) efforts at avoiding difficult points of law.

(Also, it seems like the question of a left/right division in lawprof blogging styles contains too many variables for any useful conclusions, and, the conclusion that should definately not be drawn is that left or the right is more stupid).
-See Quxxo's inflammatory theory #3

Jacques Cuze said...
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Jacques Cuze said...
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Finn Kristiansen said...

Mackan said...
....conservative academics are so interesting because they perform impossible feats, like arguing that a minimum wage is bad for poor people or that you can't draw any connection between record gas prices and record Exxon profits.

Mackan, you are aware that Exxon makes only about 12 cents on every dollar of revenue, and their revenue just happens to be massive. So some 88 cents goes to everything else: administration, exploration, and various other costs and operating costs.

That's in comparison with, say, software companies like Microsoft, who make over 20 cents for each dollar in revenue.

You will know when Exxon is truly profiteering when their profit margins actually rise out of wack to their revenues by a huge margin. Like when they are profiting say, 30 cents for every dollar of revenue.

Exxon's only way to control "demand" is to manipulate price, and that would show up in the relationships between revenues and net profits.

Crank said...

The rule isn't ironclad - isn't Brian Leiter a law prof? And Jack Balkin blogs about politics sometimes.

My theory? Well, partly it's just that Reynolds and Volokh grabbed the early real estate, and have aided the rise of like-minded moderates (such as our hostess). The sample size may be too small to generalize.

Also: conservative lawyers tend to take a more populist approach, seeing legal and political analyses as two sides of the same coin of popular self-government. A lot of left-leaning legal academics are well aware that their theories aren't acceptable to the voting public, so they stay in their little critical-studies niche or whatever.

Finn Kristiansen said...

quxxo said...
...But I think if you crawl back and examine her thoughts about Plame, NSA Wiretapping, and torture, you will find Ann wrong on the facts and the law in most of these cases. She has also apparently been wrong quite consistently on what the views of Americans are wrt the war, wiretapping, and the President.

Quxxo, why don't YOU crawl back and find an example or two of Ms.Althouse being incorrect on the facts. I will wait here. Since you made the original assertion, I have no desire to do your work for you, nor do I have a spare 100 years to dig for evidence of your correctness. Besides, you're a mathematician and computer scientist, an infinitely capable of proving what flows from your own lips. I believe in you. You can do it!

XWL said...

The core difference (in my opinion) is that on the left side of the blogosphere, policing everyone's behavior is the paramount goal.

On the right side, it's more about explaining your own position and ideas.

The left produces diatribes, accusations, screams of 'daemon' to those from the other side, and screams of 'apostate' on those on their own side when they leave the script.

There are few left of the blogosphere bloggers who aren't fundamentalist and puritanical in approach (though their fundamentalism and puritanicalism is in the service of anti-religious secular humanism, soak up the irony)

(would reading a Cotton Mather tract sound all that different in tone from the posts of the quxxos of the world?)

The right produces its share of anger, but most widely read commentators on the right also are willing to concede when a point has been made, regardless of source.

Also as Balfegor mentioned earlier conservatives link far more liberally (as in broadly), while liberals link far more conservatively (as in an insular manner).

Am I being unfair?

Do I care?

Marghlar said...

I said to quxxo: I find your desire to attack the speech of those you don't like a tad disturbing.

quxxo replied: Where do I attack anyone for speaking? On the contrary, lots of people here are constantly egging Ann on to ban me.

Quxxo, I quoted you as saying: He freely uses his bully pulpit to tell people what he thinks is legal and what he thinks is illegal, and his views stand above yours in that because he is a law prof.

That sounds like attacking Reynolds for stating his view of what the law is, which is the job of a law prof. There isn't always a "right" answer, and I can't understand what point you are making, if you aren't insinuating that he shouldn't be able to publicly proclaim his views because people will read him.

His views only "stand above mine" if I am foolish enough to assume that his popularity or his station equate with correctness. I don't, nor do I think most people do that. Evaluate his views on the merits, but don't criticize him for advocating his own viewpoint. That's just crazy talk.

And stop crying boo-hoo over the fact that sometimes people get fed-up when you go off-topic and do a big rant. If you stay on topic and stay civil, people will engage with you here, regardless of your point of view. I guarantee you, I have offered viewpoints that are far more radical on this site than any of your tepid, rhetoric-heavy bouts of Bush-lashing. No one has ever asked that I be banned, because I engage on substance, and because I engage politely. You see? It's actually pretty easy to get along, if you make an effort.

By the by: don't assert that people are "wrong on the facts and on the law," unless you are prepared to back up the assertion. Which law -- and please provide citations. Which facts? Keep in mind that in regard to such issues as the NSA issue, courts have not had an opportunity to rule on most of the key issues, so all anyone can do is read tea leaves.

Bruce Hayden said...

I agree with the original commenter, Dave. I have read Muller's blog, and followed Froomkin's for awhile. I know Michael from post speaker' dinner socializing after some of Mark Lemley's computer law conferences when he was at Texas, and Froomkin stood out as being one of the smartest of a very smart crowd (that is also where I met Eugene Volokh). But on those blog sites, conservatives were very rare, and soon ridiculed.

Both Ann's blog and attract a fairly wide mix of commenters. As noted, the threads on the NSA international surveilance program at were extrodinarily good. You had well read and articulate commenters from both sides of the issue doing battle over the legality of the program. The results, I will submit, were enlightening to all. I know that because of it, I am far better informed than almost anyone I have met outside of the blogosphere on the subject.

What I loved there was that legal theories, etc. on both sides could be honed through this give and take. I had more than one of mine shot down in flames.

So, my theory is that one reason that slightly conservative law prof blogs work better than liberal ones is that there is a lot more tolerance for both sides there. And, frankly, after essentially being called stupid (because my arguments were from the right) on some liberal blogs, I lost interest.

Jacques Cuze said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
nypundit said...

my theory is that Ann could post about painful hyena sex and quxxo will drag politics into it

Marghlar said...

Quxxo: what is, or isn't, torture, is an opinion or definition, not a "fact" as in something that is provably true or false. If Ann disagrees with the AMA, that is her right. I agree with you that forced feeding is improper if the prisoner is competent, but I don't think it is the only possible viewpoint.

Now, if the question is what is legally defined as "torture," under some specific legal provision, that might be a question with a more determinate answer -- although even there, reasonable people can disagree about the boundary cases. I think a lot of stuff happened at gitmo and elsewhere that would qualify for the definition of torture, under almost any rational definition. But I'm not sure that forced feeding is so unambiguously within the concept of torture.

Bruce Hayden said...

I will also admit that the blogs that I like the best are those where decorum is enforced. Ann does a good job here, only rarely booting quxxo, and is probably even more draconian. I remember one poster there during the NSA debate who got banned because of his intemperate, personal, remarks. At the time, I wasn't happy about it, because, in between his ad hominum attacks, he was making some really good points. But, in the end, I think that Kerr was right in banning him - that sort of thing was nipped in the bud there. And, I have seen other blogs where it wasn't, and they often degenerate into name calling.

reader_iam said...

As a mathematician and computer scientist I find no topological difference between having a blog or commenting on a blog.

As a mathematician, engineer, and senior solution architect (computer scientists work under him, babe, and not on the sales side, but rather the technical side), my husband laughed his ass off at this.

What a non sequitur.

Bruce Hayden said...

Well, I don't believe that either forced feeding or what goes on at Gitmo qualifies as torture under, for example, the torture treaty that the U.S. signed. Yes, the U.N., et al. can use other, more generous, definitions, but that doesn't make their definitions determinitive, rather, they are just their politically inspired opinions.

Most of the organizations cited have obvious reasons for pushing for more liberal or generous definitions of torture. But the U.N. comes in for special scorn in this area, given some of the countries that have been members of the U.N. Human Rights Commission.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jacques Cuze said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dave said...

The "topological difference" reference makes sense, I think, if you consider blogs as a form of computer network, in which the network is strengthened both by comments and links to, and emanating from, the blog.

In other words, both links to and from Althouse's blog and the comments made on it, strengthen the net network of blogs that is the blogosphere.

(I don't know if this is really valid--I'm neither a mathematician nor a computer scientist--but, given the definition of "topology" that would seem to be the intent.)

SteveR said...

Maghlar:You see? It's actually pretty easy to get along, if you make an effort.

I appreciate your attitude although I frequently disagree with you.

reader_iam said...

Q: A+ for the comeback. That was funny.

To talk about "topology" (yes, I know what that is and what it means in networking terms) misses the point about blogs and the concept of blog hosts (in the sense of the person/people, not the hosting entity) or proprietors, or whatever, is to miss which set of relevant facts are most appropriate to the relationship you're trying to analyze.

(That's me, not the "puppy," by the way He's off beating up the wussy Rottweiler next door.)

reader_iam said...

The Rottweiler was the one who chewed off from my hands the few fingers that DON'T MAKE ALL THESE DAMN TYPOS.


reader_iam said...

I probably deserved it, too. I'm sure you'd agree, Quxxo.

jvgordon said...

Going back to the original post (and ignoring the interesting colloquy between the commenters above), I think the mixed blog format is superior as a result of the Mary Poppins rule, "Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down."

A blog just about law, or any one subject, lacks the diversity of voice and mind to sustain interest, at least for me (and I do read specialty law blogs elsewhere on occasion). That Althouse is about more than just law, or American Idol, or squirrel-blogging, is important. The combination is more than a sum of its parts; it instead creates an emergent sense about who the ever-interesting Ann Althouse is. And that's the sugar we readers need to take the medicine of any individual topic areas that disinterest us.

chuck b. said...

Where is the blogmaster? The Supreme Court rules unanimously on an important jurisdiction question. Time to talk about that now!

RaymondW said...

Likeability is as important as one's politics. Don't underestimate it.

Marghlar said...

SteveR: That's what I love about Ann's place. We can disagree strongly, while still treating others with civility and respect.

Take as an error of fact her original post: "I don't see the argument that detainees are free to commit suicide."

Quxxo, she is saying she doesn't buy the argument -- surely that is reasonable, even if you disagree? Regardless, whether one agrees or not with an argument isn't a "fact," unless you are working from some other definition of "facts" than the rest of us.

You seem to suffer from a pervasive confusion of opinion with fact. A fact, by definition, is something that is proveably true or false. As in "Joe owns a gun." An opinion, by contrast, is a statement that is not proveable, and takes its force only by its ability to persuade. As in, "Joe should not own a gun, because he is a dangerous psychopath." Or, "I don't see the argument that detainees are free to commit suicide."

I would expect a better understanding of the distinction from such an eminent mathematician and computer scientist as yourself.

Re Reynolds: I still don't get why he shouldn't be allowed to run his site the way he wants, and enable or not enable comments as he likes. It's a free country, and anyone who wants to can grab a blog and start blogging, and get precisely as much readership and influence as he can attract. I think the right response to speech we disagree with isn't to muzzle it, or tell it to shut up, but to explain what is wrong with it. Nobody forces you to read Instapundit, or prevents you from creating your own forum in which to disagree with it. Nor is there a shortage of viewpoints on the web that express different ideas than Instapundit does. I like a good comments thread as much as the next guy, but managing them is work, and not everyone wants to do it.

Finn Kristiansen said...

quxxo said...

Here's a recent error of fact: Ann: forced feeding is not torture, but Physcians for Human Rights, the AMA, The UN Human Rights Council, our American Suffragettes all disagree with her.

Actually Finn, if you read the entire thread it becomes clear that Professor Althouse hadn't even read the research she was complaining about.

Quxxo, thanks for making the attempt to follow up with some evidence regarding Ms.Althouse being wrong on the "facts".

I fail to understand how stating that "forcefeeding is not torture" (when the alternative to being fed might be certain death) is anything beyond an opinion, and an opinion that sits in contrast to other OPINIONS by various other bodies (AMA, U.N.); especially when the actual definition of what constitutes torture is open to non-binding interpretation.

I think much of what Ms.Althouse says is clearly her interpretation of laws and events that are rather unclear. It should not be her place to agree with the opinions of our choosing, as though my opinion on torture, or the U.N.'s, represents actual settled, univerally applied and agreed to law.

(Quxxo, you probably do need your own blog, and I say that not just 'cause you are not annoying 2% of the time. You seem to be passionate and have viewpoints that others might share. Your own blog provides that expansive space to let loose.)

XWL said...

There's a simple and readily understandable definition of torture that anyone who frequently reads comments at Prof. Althouse's blog should consider

Torture=What Quxxo does to logic

(and what exactly does this discussion of torture have to do with the original post in the first place?)

Ann Althouse said...

Quxxo: You need to stop trying to make every comment thread about you. Speak to the topic. I am sick of putting up a subject, seeing lots of comments, then coming in here and seeing a little show you've made about you. I actually do not have the capacity to block you entirely, but I will delete you repeatedly, and I am warning you, if you continue to do what you did today. I will not let you carry out your plan to sink my comment threads by making them about you. The end of that game is NOW. And don't waste your time telling me it's not a plan or making some other excuse. You must change NOW or be repeatedly deleted. I will go back into this thread and remove many of your comments, because you clearly must suffer for the disruption you caused today. How many comments did you put up? 100? Ridiculous!

Smilin' Jack said...

quxxo said...
Take as an error of fact her original post: "I don't see the argument that detainees are free to commit suicide."

Well, she's wrong on the facts. Lots of lawyers and physicians find this a sad, but logical and honorable argument.

Sure it is just her opinion, but she never even acknowledges that the other opinion is even a possibility.

This isn't a matter of opinion; Ann is simply correct here. Suicide is illegal, so no one is "free" to do it. If the authorities discover you trying to commit suicide through self-starvation, you will be forcibly fed. That's always been the case, but lefties only call it torture when Bush does it.

One can argue (I would) that people should be free to kill themselves, but the fact is they aren't.

Marghlar said...

Ann: sorry if I enabled quxxo's behavior here...I tried to attack the problem with criticism, but that's really just feeding into it. Shouldn't have bothered...

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, Marghlar. I spoke to him today myself, and it was abundantly clear that trying to engage with him makes him behave terribly. He's clearly a troll and must not be fed.

Smilin' Jack said...

Ann Althouse said...
Quxxo: You need to stop trying to make every comment thread about you. Speak to the topic. I am sick of putting up a subject, seeing lots of comments, then coming in here and seeing a little show you've made about you.

Well, to play devil's advocate a bit, I think quxxo did make this thread more interesting and entertaining than it otherwise would have been. Did you really expect "lots of comments" on the question "Is there a left-right division about whether lawprof blogs should stick to law or range over multiple topics?" My response to that would be "Zzzzzz..."

vbspurs said...

Lefties just are not open-minded.

I actually disagree with that.

Fanatics, of either political stripe, are not open-minded.

People with strong convictions are often accused of not being flexible, when in reality, they just know where they stand.

With fanatics, however, it's not that they don't know where they stand: it's that they denigrate the intelligence of everyone who doesn't stand with them.

Whichever side takes this track, frequently loses the argument.


vbspurs said...

I actually do not have the capacity to block you entirely, but I will delete you repeatedly, and I am warning you, if you continue to do what you did today. I will not let you carry out your plan to sink my comment threads by making them about you. The end of that game is NOW.

My God! I just got a chubby.


Ann Althouse said...

Smilin' Jack: It's my topic, not a place to turn into the Quxxo show. You know Quxxo has a blog, so you can go over there and have fun with him if you think it's so interesting stroking his vanity.

altoids1306 said...

Dave, 1:48 PM :

Couldn't agree more. It's a question of competitive advantage. The Left doesn't need a mixed blog, they have the media establishment. To the extent that readership (or the lack of it) influences bloggers, left-leaning blogs are probably pushed farther left, because the audience for the center-left has been taken by the MSM.

The mixed-blogs on the right serve as an alternative to the media for conservative readers.

The free market in action, hooray!

The Drill SGT said...

I admit to not having read every single one of the comments here carefully, but I am truly surprised that the discussion has not focused on the inherent error in the basic post.

Althouse hosts a "Left of Center" blog, rather than
"Right of Center" blog. It just happens to be "READ" by more "Right of Center" people.

Beyond the GWOT, Ann by self description is more liberal (perhaps with a libertarian streak) than conservative. On all the bench mark social issues she is clearly Left, as fitting an academic.

Ah, I think in the legal area she does give some credence to the concept of non-politicization of the SCOTUS process and if civility is a republican virtue, she may need to plead at least no contest to one or more charges.

Her labeling problem seems to derive from the fact that many of us in her fan club self describe as republicans or conservatives, though in my case, I would be labeled a RINO by many.

Lastly of course, the loud trolls are almost exclusively from the Left, thus giving the rest of us a certain tinge of normalcy and civlity.

Honey Badger said...

For me, it isn't a question of left or right: I started reading this blog for the insightful legal commentary, period. Who says you have to agree with someone to find them worth reading?

However, I must say that beyond the issue of "law" vs. "multiple topics", for me, it's a question of "topics of substance" vs. "chit-chatty fluff". To be perfectly frank, I haven't visited this site in awhile because the "human interest" stuff strikes me as being rather fan-clubby and self-absorbed.

No offense, but if people actually care about what you watched on TV last night or the blow-by-blow exegesis on precisely how you're doing in blog popularity contests, more power to them. I'd rather visit sites where the personality of the blogger takes a back seat to the issues of substance.

The whole "visiting the relatives" vibe just isn't for me, I guess. To each his own.

altoids1306 said...

Drill SGT:

If my memory serves correctly, she did vote for Bush in 2004, although certainly you can be "left-of-center" and vote for Bush (he did win 51% of the vote).

Call me shallow, but unless you can find a better way to classify blogs, who they voted for in 2004 seems is how I do it.

The Drill SGT said...

And I voted for Clinton (once) and Carter (once) and McGovern (once) and campaigned for Kennedy (RFK once). Proves little. She doesn't trust the Dem's on GWOT. I told you.

She self describes as liberal. You either need to trust her on that, or go spend your time more usefully elsewhere I think.

Kirk Parker said...


ROFL! If only Streisand were good at singing, or Chomsky at linguistics!

Mary said...

"I'd rather visit sites where the personality of the blogger takes a back seat to the issues of substance."

1) Depends on the personality.
2) Depends on who's defining substance.

*I think the AI posts were excellent ways to initially bring in an audience via google. There's no arguing with strategy and success; plus, it's helps one's approval rating, you know. :)

Bruce Hayden said...

That one move by Ann, of apparently voting for Bush in 2004, is what initially I think got her a big chunk of her slightly to the right following. But if you read her reasoning for her vote at the time, it was something to the effect that though Kerry had a lot of good points, she believed Bush had some too, and, in particular, would be better in the GWOT. Clearly not the thought process of a conservative like me, who couldn't see any real positives with Kerry (or Gore, Clinton, Carter, or Johnson for that matter), or the liberals in my family, who feel that way about Bush 43, 41, Reagan, Ford, and Nixon. (Sorry Ann about my amateur psychoanalysis or whatever it was).

Nevertheless, while I understand that Ann has self-identified until recently as a liberal, I don't see her as one here. Rather, on some subjects she seems a little to the right, and some, a little to the left. About the only place I have detected any zealotry from her when it comes to the supposed superiority of females.

And that is part of what I think makes it work here. This moderation of hers allows both sides of many issues to come out, and, as a result, this has turned into a decent meeting place between the right and the left. And, as I noted above, that is also why I think that has flourished (though I think that the NSA discussion there was good, despite Kerr's apparently strong feelings on the subject).

The Drill SGT said...

Think of Saint Peter counting up Ann's sins and blessings (you chose) at the gates of heaven.

In the right column :
- 1 vote for Bush 43
- support for strong presidential powers in time of war

In the Left column (sort of, some of these are just imputed left of center)
- every other vote she has ever cast for Dem's.
- Feminist
- pro-choice
- anti-solomon
- pro gun control
- anti ANWR drilling
- pro-green-enviro
- pro gay marriage
- pro-illegals? perhaps
- pro AI :)
the list goes on.....

Brandon said...

Someone may already have suggested this, but I'm not going to read 100 comments to find out:

The legal bloggers from the right are more wide-ranging because, at the moment, they are more politically relaxed. Whatever problems they have with the current Congress and the Administration, they are dwarfed by the angst of those on the left, who have been completely shut out of power in Washington for most of the last six years. This gives the righties the time and energy to write about things other than politics.

Marghlar said...

brandon: I said something kind of similar, but I think it also has to do with the fact that being the party in power makes people more thoughtful, overall. Less time spent on politicking, more on deciding, "What do we want?"

Thus, conservative commentary got pretty boring during the nineties when all they could do was excoriate Clinton, but now it's more interesting. By contrast, so many left-of-center blogs have become such Bush-bashing fests that almost all more thoughtful, navel-gazing commentary has disappeared.

Or at least that's my theory du jour.

Hans Gruber said...

The right of center folks seem to be better at restraining the rhetoric and partisanship (in general but on law blogs in particular). Maybe that's just my bias. But I have read Muller and some others and it just seems too Kos-like at times. Petty. Immature. A real turn off.

Marghlar said...

Hans: think back to when Clinton was in power -- seems to me that there was a similar tone throughout the conservative world. Maybe it's just the sound of political disappointment?

Hans Gruber said...


I was speaking specifically about law bloggers (Volokh, Bainbridge versus Muller, Lessig, Balkin). All are good, I just see less partisan hackery from the right (Muller, I think, is especially guilty of this).

And though the right has its share of bomb throwers, it's hard for me to imagine an equivalent of Daily "screw 'em" Kos. But, again, a lot of this evaluation probably has to do with my politics.

Earth Girl said...

I don't have time to read over 100 comments so this may have been expressed already. I read three mixed law prof blogs daily. I've concluded that I enjoy the way they bring their finally honed legal minds to a range of subjects. When these bloggers address legal topics, I learn from them. The reason mixed bloggers have a larger readership is that they pull from a larger pool of potential readers. The left-right division seems an artificial construct: Glenn Reynolds is libertarian, I consider Ann a centrist, and I don't have a clue about Nina Camic's politics!

Scott W. Somerville said...

Perhaps center/right law professors feel they can drift with the cultural currents, while folks on the left are paddling frantically because they hear the roar of the waterfall just downstream.

reader_iam said...

Call me shallow, but unless you can find a better way to classify blogs, who they voted for in 2004 seems is how I do it.

I get the impression that altoid is not alone in this.

I wouldn't necessarily call that shallow (much less altoid, whom I don't know from Adam, so how can I know?), but, speaking of people generally, I do find it surprising if people who use that criteria also imply or state that they value nuance and/or expect it from others.

Joseph Hovsep said...

I think I've figured this comment thread out. I sense some Colbert-esque dissonance going on. Quxxo and Mackan appear to be the only liberals making the claim that center-right blogs are popular because of some character defect among conservatives. On the other hand, most of the conservative commenters here seem to be (1) patting themselves on the back at how remarkably smart, disciplined and openminded they are while also (2) blasting liberals as “petty” and “immature” and “just not openminded” and having “curdled souls” and exhibiting a "steadfast inability or refusal to meticulously examine cause and effect" and being “addicted to rage” and “lacking intellectual honesty” and so on and so on. How very smart, disciplined and openminded!

So, perhaps you’re all just doing the play-demagoguery thing: in your hearts you distrust liberals on some level, but you’re using this outrageous and inflammatory rhetoric to make fun of your own excesses? Clever, very clever.

Alexander W. Funk said...

Froomkin is an intellectual hypocrite who bends his legal analysis around any facts necessary to fit his ideological worldview.