Saturday, August 10

Serious Business for a Saturday Night

I try to stay away from serious topics on weekends, but a fascinating debate between Demosthenes and Steven Den Beste, not only about their conclusions on the advisability of action against Iraq but also about the methodologies that they employed to arrive at those conclusions, deserves notice. (Regrettably, Demosthenes' permalinks are broken—thanks again, Blogger).

Friday, August 9

Speaking of War

As the drumbeat for war continues in large portions of the blogosphere, Jason Rylander, echoing George Will, argues for congressional debate before any action is undertaken. A pre-emptive attack for the purpose of effecting a regime change, they note, would represent a significant departure from the usual bases for American military action; such a departure should not be undertaken absent congressional authorization.

What's more, congressional authorization should not be taken for granted. As the New York Times reports, no less a Republican than House Majority Leader Dick Armey has expressed serious reservations about an invasion of Iraq, stating: "I don't believe that America will justifiably make an unprovoked attack on another nation. It would not be consistent with what we have been as a nation or what we should be as a nation." Armey's statement demonstrates that opposition to a pre-emptive strike is not the sole province of those who object to the use of military force as a general matter. While the debate over whether to invade Iraq is well developed among those who read and write weblogs (here and here are good jumping-off points), debate within the blogging community is no substitute for open debate among our elected representatives. And the debate needs to happen now.

Once war begins, things become unpredictable. Will writes:

The Gulf War was brief; U.S. aims regarding Serbia were achieved from an altitude of 15,000 feet; air power has been masterful in Afghanistan; America enjoys a military supremacy not even Rome enjoyed. Hence Americans need to be reminded that war has rarely been, and will not usually be, so easy.

Hitler said that going to war is akin to entering a pitch-dark room. Eisenhower said war plans are fine -- until the fighting starts. War of the sort being contemplated is not the sort of plunge into uncertainty that a prudent president wants to embark upon alone, even if the Constitution permitted that, which it does not.

It is thus vitally important that, before we start a war, we understand collectively both the reasons for and the possible consequences of our actions. So let hearings be held. If the administration decides to press ahead, let a vote take place. And whichever side prevails, let us earnestly pray that they are proven right.

Thursday, August 8

Off the Ballot

A couple of weeks ago, Jason Rylander noted that D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams had been badly served by the political operatives who prepared the petitions to place Williams on the ballot for the Democratic primary. The petitions turned out to be rife with fraudulent signatures, and Williams was denied a spot on the ballot. Williams appealed, but the Washington Post reports that yesterday the D.C. Court of Appeals concluded that the Election Board had properly rejected Williams's petitions, which, the article notes, "includ[ed] the supposed signatures of prominent Republicans and famous entertainers, living and dead." As a result, Williams's campaign will have to proceed on a write-in basis, a difficult proposition even in a race in which his oppositions includes "a bugle-playing exotic dancer and a former D.C. Council member once convicted of biting a tow truck driver."

I saw some bizarre stuff from the local government while I was living in D.C., but this is way out there—especially since Williams promoted himself as someone who would bring competence to the mayor's office. It's enough to keep my nostalgia for my D.C. days in check.

The Prize?

There has been much discussion, in the conventional media and in the blogosphere, of the briefing to the Defense Policy Board the other day that identified Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the United States. Now Slate has identified the person who delivered the briefing: one Laurent Murawiec, former adherent of political nutjob Lyndon LaRouche. Slate also has obtained and posted the Powerpoint presentation that accompanied the briefing. Most of the presentation is easy to follow and, given the presentation's premise, not terribly surprising in its content, although the prescription for dealing with the Saudis is quite sketchy. But then comes the cryptic final slide:

* Iraq is the tactical pivot

* Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot

* Egypt the prize

Which leads Matthew Yglesias to wonder:

[W]hy does it say "Egypt is the prize" at the end? Who wants Egypt? Do you want Egypt? I certainly don't. What gives?

With luck, we'll hear more about this in the next few days. The administration, however, seems eager to pretend the briefing never happened. Given the dubious past of the presenter, that's not surprising.

Silence

When most bloggers skip a day or two, I just figure that they had other things to do. But when Tal G. in Jerusalem goes silent for a day and a half, and it's not the Sabbath, I get nervous. Be well, Tal.

Morning Off

After a thoroughly miserable July, the weather in Indianapolis has been breathtaking the last few days. Try as I might to resist, I finally broke down this morning and played golf. My game was appalling, as usual, but being outside in fresh air that actually felt fresh was a delight.

Now, alas, there's work to be done. Blogging will resume this evening.

Wednesday, August 7

Democratic Populism Defended

The Bull Moose is at it again, noting the opportunity open to Democrats, criticizing their timidity, and suggesting that others are standing by if the Democrats fail to move ahead (no permalinks; this is from the August 7 entry):

The Moose notes that the political Zeitgeist is shifting. Major American institutions have been shaken with a crisis of credibility. The "wrong track" number is increasing. While the GOP agenda is agenda is comatose, some Democrats are suddenly strangely hesitant about appearing overly populist.

Memo from the Moose to faint-hearted Democrats: don't succumb to the inside-the-Beltway punditry that cautions against the slaying of special interests. Gore might not be the ideal messenger, but his message resonates in this political climate. The real concern for the Democrats is a cultural/foreign policy one, not a weakness of economics and populism. One of the most successful Democratic centrist populists of modern times was that American political icon Harry Truman.

It remains very difficult to mount a third party Presidential challenge. But, there is a clear market niche for an alternative that is willing to take on the excesses of both big government and big business. This new force could embody a neo-progressive centrist patriotic populism of middle class economics, national resolve and service.

I agree with the Moose that the opportunity is there, but only if leading Dems cut loose from the Republican-lite agenda of the DLC (which seems primarily focused on giving additional special breaks to big business) and move forward, dammit.

Tom Friedman's Absurd Equivalency

Tom Friedman's column in today's Times (free registration required) compares the persistence of suicide bombing attacks by Palestinians with the cessation of such attacks by the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. In attempting to draw contrasts between the situation in Sri Lanka and the situation in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, and to equate Palestinian excesses with Israeli excesses, however, Friedman goes overboard. In Sri Lanka, Friedman argues, both sides felt significant pressure to back away from violent conflict; in contrast, he writes:

The Palestinians have convinced themselves, with the help of many Arabs and Europeans, that their grievance is so special, so enormous that it isn't bound by any limits of civilized behavior, and therefore they are entitled to do whatever they want to Israelis. And Israelis have convinced themselves that they are entitled to do virtually anything to stop it.

Excuse me? Surely Friedman is aware of the vast military power that the Israeli government has at its disposal. If Israel truly felt "entitled to do virtually anything" to stop Palestinian terrorism, we would have seen an unleashing of deadly force vastly greater than anything that has happened so far. Have there been some Israeli excesses? Yes. Have there been some Israeli mistakes that have resulted in unjustified death and destruction? Yes. But the Israelis have not felt free to do "virtually anything" in response to Palestinian suicide bombers; indeed, given the weapons they have at their disposal, they have exercised remarkable restraint in battling a foe that deliberately targets the Israeli civilian population. Friedman should know better than to mischaracterize Israel's conduct so blatantly.

Humiliation

In the few days since Nick Denton wrote that "the US needs to destroy Saddam Hussein's regime mainly because the West needs to humiliate the Arab world, and dispel the Islamic millennial fantasy," a post that Glenn Reynolds noted approvingly, there has been so much written in response that it probably isn't worth it to explore in detail the issues that Nick raised. So I'll just make two points:

* Beware hubris. Nick writes:

Let the US send 40,000 soldiers against an Iraqi army ten times the size; let the defeat be total; and let Arab people realize that liberal democracy isn't just a soft western indulgence, but the most effective form of social organization on this planet, and it is their future, if they want a future.

Why is Nick so confident that a successful invasion of Iraq could be accomplished so easily? It might, to be sure. But it would be very dangerous to make assumptions. While American forces triumphed with ease in Desert Storm, that campaign did not involve an effort to invade and occupy large cities with hostile populations. Horrible as Saddam has been to the Iraqi populace, it would be very dangerous indeed to assume that our forces would be welcomed with open arms. Although the US would almost certainly win the war, the potential for humiliating setbacks (and significant American casualties) along the way shouldn't be denied.

* When we talk about invading Iraq, we're talking about killing people. Large numbers of people. Some of these people will be hostile to the US and will have the means to act on that hostility. Some will be hostile but without the means to act. And some will simply be there, in the wrong part of the world at the wrong time, caught in a conflict that they do not desire but cannot avoid. Civilian deaths in wartime are sometimes justifiable in the big picture, so go ahead and make the case that the threat Saddam's pursuit of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons poses to his neighbors and ultimately to us is sufficiently great to justify those deaths. But don't tell me that those civilians need to die so that we can humiliate the Arab people.

Boycotting Yahoo!

John Weidner calls for a boycott of Yahoo! in light of the internet portal's agreement to self-censor its Chinese-language website at the behest of the Chinese government. John writes:

We could hit Yahoo where it hurts. And they deserve it; few companies have benefited from the Internet and the freedoms we enjoy as much as Yahoo. Now they are betraying the very values that made them successful. If they want to uphold "the ethical norms of the socialist cultural civilization, they need to get smacked with the ethical norms of Capitalist civilization!

I'm not a big one for formal boycotts. But Yahoo! has just become my resource of last resort; I will avoid it whenever possible (and I can't now think of a situation that would necessitate its use). I will write to Yahoo! to let them know of my decision, and the reasons behind it. And I'd encourage others to do the same.

Tuesday, August 6

Blahs

I've been working on a post about Al Gore's 2004 prospects, and another challenging the argument that (in Nick Denton's words) we should invade Iraq "because the West needs to humiliate the Arab world." But my heart isn't in it. I fear that something awful is about to happen, and the feeling is dragging me down.

The Mets' Woes Reach the Courthouse

The Mets had a terrible weekend, as the loss of four straight to Arizona pushed them to the fringes of the wildcard race. In light of the recent losing streak and the Mets' season-long struggles with fundamentals, Bryan Hoch (formerly of Mets Online and now a columnist for Fox Sports.com) reports that manager Bobby Valentine's job is in jeopardy. The Mets' on-field woes may, however, be the least of their problems. As Eric McErlain notes, the dispute between Mets co-owners Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon over the price Wilpon will pay to buy Doubleday's interest has now erupted in federal court. Doubleday is challenging an independent accountant's $391 million valuation of the team—and with some reason, as the Boston Red Sox sold last winter for $660 million. Doubleday claims that the $391 million figure is the result of a conspiracy among Wilpon, the commissioner's office, and the independent accountant to set the Mets' value artificially low, in part to aid the owners' labor negotiations with the Major League Baseball Players Association. As Eric explains, Doubleday's counterclaim to Wilpon's suit seeking to compel the sale is likely to complicate the labor talks by giving the Players Association yet another reason to question the owners' representations of the game's financial woes.

Life on Mars?

Jeff Goldstein points to an article describing new evidence that there once was life on Mars. Damn.

My early years were the peak years of our space program; I have clear memories of watching some of the Apollo missions. I know it will be expensive, I know it will divert resources, I know it will be risky, but darnit, I want to see a manned mission to Mars.

(Image from NASA's Astrobiology Images page).

The Politics of Responsibility

Armed Liberal, drawing on his experience as a problem solver for troubled projects, argues that the current blame-swapping between Democrats and Republicans in light of this week's Time cover story is unproductive and therefore unacceptable:

Let’s make it clear: The Clinton administration had a chance to do something about Al-Quieda, and failed to take the opportunity. The Bush Administration had a chance before 9/11 and failed to take the opportunity. All I want to hear from these people and their handlers is this: "I messed up. Here’s what I did, here’s what happened, here’s how we need to fix it."

Otherwise, shut the f**k up. I’m not interested in hearing it.

An entirely understandable sentiment. But of course it won't happen. Each side would simply wait for the other to go first in accepting responsibility. And even if they were somehow to attempt to come together for a joint statement, each side would be calculating how to turn the situation to its best advantage and would be highly suspicious of the motivations of the other. It would also require a huge change in mindset: the Bush administration, seemingly certain of its infallibility, doesn't admit mistakes, and the Democrats aren't big on doing so, either. Until it is shown that assuming responsibility is a net political positive, neither side is going to be willing to accept the risk, laudable though such an action might be.

Armed Liberal also suggests, contra Diane E. and Ted Barlow, that it is not inherently questionable for a partner to end up with a share of a partnership disproportionate to his initial financial investment, as Bush did with the Texas Rangers:

Here’s the deal; I’ve spent the last year trying (unsuccessfully so far, but I’m not done yet) to raise a bunch of $$ to start a business. Here’s how these deals work: there is a division of ownership between capital – the folks putting up the green – and labor – me and the rest of the management team (actually, to connect to an earlier discussion with Kevin R., there is a further division with ‘intellectual property’, with the folks (me, in this case) who came up with the idea getting an additional share).

What the management team and founders get is called various things, but a ‘promoted interest’ is typical. It is a percentage of ownership in the company that we get, not in the form of options, but typically in the form of outright grants. It is very typical for the promoted interest to be subordinate to the investor’s capital and a defined return … essentially they ‘loan’ the money, secured only by the ‘value’ of the company, so they get their cash out and some interest rate. Then they share the income and value, with the 'labor' side getting their for the work they did in putting the deal together and in advancing the interests of the company.

This is absolutely a generic prototype for buying a business, and anyone who is in business could tell you so.

Given everything I've read about Bush's involvement with the Rangers, the value he added to the ownership group consisted largely of his name and his connections. In other words, as in so much else in his life, he was rewarded for who his father was. But, based on A.L.'s post, I'll accept that there is nothing inherently wrong with Bush winding up with twelve percent of the ultimate sale price based on an initial investment of less than two percent of the purchase price.

In light of Armed Liberal's comments, Ted Barlow has backed off his initial stance. He still thinks, though, as do I, that something stinks about the way the Texas Rangers obtained the land for their new stadium.

Monday, August 5

What's Happening in Iran?

As Kyle Still notes, Michael Ledeen is reporting that this evening in Iran, "huge demonstrations broke out in every major city in the country, provoking violent clashes with the Revolutionary Guards and other security forces." Nothing on this yet in the conventional media, as far as I've seen, but it certainly bears watching.

China Rumbles

While we all focus on Israel and Iraq, Taiwan and China may be moving closer to a serious confrontation, after Taiwan's president called for a referendum on independence. (Update: Kyle Still has been on this story as well). Interesting times, indeed.

Sound Fundamentals

Economist Max Sawicky explains why the administration's repeated assertion that the economy's fundamentals are sound is essentially meaningless:

Should we be pleased, for instance, that interest rates are low? I think not. The salient feature of this pathetic excuse for a recovery is laggard investment. An investment surge would be associated with higher interest rates, as capital became more scarce. Low interest rates is another way of saying loan demand stinks. What about low inflation? Pretty much the same thing. Inflationary pressure, absent some glitch in international commodity markets, would follow from high employment and tight labor markets, which we ain't got and ought to prefer.

In short, the whole problem with a business cycle downturn is precisely not a problem of "fundamentals." Fundamentals determine the long-term trend around which the business cycle weaves. The dips stem from temporary deficiencies of investment, consumption, net exports, and government spending. The task of stabilization is to minimize the swings over and under the sustainable trend of GDP growth. To say the fundamentals are sound is to say no such task is incumbent upon the government, since prosperity is just around the corner. It is market-speak as a cover for a disinclination to act.

The whole post is worth reading.

Mickey Kaus Is Not a Liberal, Part CXIV

Avedon Carol challenges Mickey Kaus's characterization of the Democrats as in the midst of a "regression into paleolib populism." Kaus wrote: "When it comes to explaining the persistence of paleoliberalism, it's the constituencies, stupid! Plus pent-up anger over Florida." The clear implication of Kaus's post is that the Democrats couldn't possibly have legitimate reasons for examining things like welfare reform and the personnel policies that the president wants applied to the Department of Homeland Security. Avedon responds:

To some people, everything is about partisanship and surface politics, never about the issues themselves. Florida didn't have to happen for Democrats to want to go back to having those laws that used to partly keep this kind of stuff [the current wave of corporate fraud] from happening - and, when it happened anyway, let us throw the malefactors in jail. Enron didn't have to happen for Democrats to think it was insane to privatize Social Security (because it is). And it doesn't take any of that stuff to make Democrats wonder how welfare moms can take care of their children and work 40 hours a week at the same time. Mickey's right about one thing - Democrats really never did, by and large, embrace the DLC position. Some of us are Democrats because we think you can be pro-business without being pro-corporate.

There's more. Diane E. also rips into Kaus for his attacks on the New York Times and implicit defense of Bush's past business dealings.

Brian Linse has created a nice compendium of left-oriented blogs. Some, like Ken Layne, have objected to being included, while others, including myself, are pleased to be listed. Actually, a lot of the dispute over who belongs on the list seems to turn on the definition of "lefty," which Brian uses in the title of his list, and by which he seems to mean anyone to the left of center. But Brian's list will remain deeply flawed so long as Kaus is included. Whatever he once might have been, Mickey Kaus is no one's definition of left in any meaningful sense.

More Middle Eastern Muddle

Reports that Jordan may be working closely with Iraq, and may indeed be passing American intelligence materials to Saddam Hussein, are deeply disturbing. Since the end of the First Gulf War, Jordan had been our most reliable Arab ally in the middle east. To be sure, the relationship was complicated by Jordan's interaction with its neighbor, Iraq, and reports of sanction-busting smuggling into Iraq through Jordan were common. But the late King Hussein generally played a positive role in attempting to move Israel and the Palestinians toward peace, and Jordan itself became the second Arab country to enter formal relations with Israel. This news comes at the same time that Tom Friedman, writing in the New York Times (free registration required), reveals our government's shamefully passive response to Egypt's jailing and conviction of a pro-democracy advocate for the crime of, well, promoting democracy.

As the list of our reliable allies in the region dwindles to Israel, it's becoming increasingly clear that we need a comprehensive new policy toward the middle east, one that is based on more than personal relationships with middle eastern rulers. Given recent actions, I can't help but think that our policies toward Egypt and Jordan are too dominated by our government's longstanding ties to Mubarak and the Hashemite rulers of Jordan, and that our policies toward Saudi Arabia are far too dominated by our government's (and the Bush family's) longstanding ties to the Saudi royal family. These personalized ties lead us to downplay or ignore actions by those governments that threaten our interests, while leading us to continue financial aid to these governments that brings increasingly little in return. In this respect, the president's tendency to personalize international relations (witness his interactions with "Pooty-Poot") works against our national interests.

The middle east is now so badly infected with anti-Americanism that some kind of military action may prove necessary, although I am far less gleeful at the prospect than some seem to be. Military action alone, though, won't cure the problem. As a Sri Lankan activist interviewed by Friedman suggested, the US needs to be seen as a symbol of hope, not just as a symbol of fear. By saying this, I am not in any way suggesting that we should waver in our support of Israel in its conflict against the Palestinians. But as Friedman points out, if we do not stand up for those who push for democratic reforms, then those who oppose the incumbent regimes in the middle east will turn to the only available outlet for their frustrations: radical Islam. The more we accede, or appear to accede, to actions that squelch democracy, the more radicalism will emerge, and the more that radicalism will be directed, understandably, at us.

Tarheel Review

Hearty congratulations to second-year UNC law student John Branch, who has been invited to join the North Carolina Law Review. Here's hoping that the hefty time commitment demanded by law review won't spell the end of TarheelPundit.

Sunday, August 4

Wines of the Week
Chateau Meyney St. Estephe 1990
Chateau Haut-Bages-Averous Pauillac 1989
Chateau Lynch-Bages Pauillac 1989
Chateau Pichon-Baron Pauillac 1989
Chateau Pichon-Baron Pauillac 1990
Chateau Montrose St. Estephe 1990

The Women's Caucus at the law school where I teach holds a charity auction each spring, with the proceeds going to a local shelter for battered women. This year I donated a wine tasting, and when it sold for an exorbitant sum, I decided to make it a really good one. So this past Friday (after numerous scheduling difficulties), five students and I convened for a tasting of Bordeaux from 1989 and 1990, two of the best vintages of the past four decades.

One of the problems with writing up this tasting is that, with one exception, there actually wasn't much variation in the wines. This wasn't surprising, really: the wines were all from two bordering appellations, 1989 and 1990 had similarly hot, dry weather, and four of the six wines were made under the supervision of Jean-Michel Cazes. And the lack of variation wasn't disappointing in the least: the wines were uniformly excellent or better. But the flavor and aromatic profiles of the wines were pretty similar (again, with that one exception); the differences were mostly of intensity.

Chateau Meyney is a very good cru bourgeois with vineyards bordering those of second-growth Chateau Montrose, and I calculated that it would serve as a good baseline wine for the evening, setting a frame of reference for the group (which was enthusiastic but not particularly knowledgeable about wine). All frames of reference should be this good. The wine had a classic Bordeaux aroma of cedar and blackcurrant and medium-bodied plum and blackcurrant flavors over a moderate tannic frame. The 1990 is superior to the 1989, which I've had many times. In the 1989, the fruit remains buried under the tannin; not so in the 1990. I paid $15 a bottle for this, and if I could go back nine years, I'd buy a whole lot more.

Chateau Haut-Bages-Averous is the second label of Chateau Lynch-Bages. In an excellent and bountiful vintage like 1989, second wines can be very good indeed—the winemakers can afford to use only the very best lots for the main wine. The 1989 Haut-Bages-Averous is the Meyney's equal in quality, with lots of blackberry, blackcurrant, and plum fruit and a spicy midpalate. It is fully mature and drinking beautifully. Of course, the 1989 Lynch-Bages overwhelms it. I've written about the 1989 Lynch-Bages previously, and this bottle was like the first: it's a massive wine, with a bit of bitterness in its black fruit and cocoa flavors and a big swell of spice on the midpalate. The concentration creates a finish that goes on and on. This is tremendous wine.

The 1989 Pichon-Baron had the prettiest bouquet of the evening, with sweet vanilla, cedar, blackcurrant, and floral notes. In the mouth, however, the wine remains closed—it has a substantial feel, but the dark fruit flavors are relatively subdued. This is still vastly superior to the 1988, but it could use some more time in the bottle. The 1990, on the other hand, is spectacular right now. This is a big, big wine, with layer upon layer of spicy black fruit. The tannins are substantial but ripe and balanced by the tremendous concentration of fruit. Bordeaux doesn't get much better.

Finally, the 1990 Chateau Montrose. This wine now sells for about $300 a bottle at auction, more than ten times what I paid for it a decade ago. The price is driven in part by the reviews: influential critic Robert Parker has consistently given the wine a perfect score on his 100-point scale. And, having some familiarity with Parker's tastes, I can see why. This is a gigantic wine. The aroma is fascinating, with earth, cedar, licorice, leather, and a hint of barnyard together with wave after wave of black fruit. The wine has an enormous initial impact, a massive, spicy midpalate, and a long, long finish. Notes of tar and leather add complexity to the deep blackcurrant fruit. This is without question a truly great wine, but it seems fair to ask whether it's a great Bordeaux: with just a little bit more pepper and spice, it could practically be Hermitage from the northern Rhone. Classic Bordeaux shows more restraint than this—even the 1989 Lynch-Bages and the 1990 Pichon-Baron, both spectacular wines, fade into the background when compared with the 1990 Montrose. Still, this is amazingly, stunningly good. My inexperienced tasting group was dazzled, as was I.

Milestone

Yesterday, a couple of minutes after noon, Cooped Up received its 10,000th visit according to Site Meter. The visitor came by way of Ann Salisbury's Two Tears in a Bucket, looked at one page, and moved on.

On June 26, after about six weeks of blogging, I welcomed my 1,000th visit. In the roughly six weeks since then, traffic at Cooped Up has increased dramatically, due to the kindness of folks like Ann who have added this site to their blogrolls, and also, especially in the last ten days, to a series of links from Instapundit.

Given the tremendous influence that Glenn wields, there's been much discussion recently of Jim Henley's observation that the left lacks a figure like Glenn Reynolds. Charles Kuffner has a point when he suggests that the conditions that gave rise to Instapundit's popularity—a combination of the relative paucity of political blogs and tremendous interest in breaking news in the wake of September 11, combined with Glenn's considerable skill as a blogger—no longer exist. Given the tremendous expansion in the number of weblogs during 2002, it would be hard for any one new voice to rise to the kind of prominence within the blogosphere that Glenn has achieved. Hard, but not impossible: as Laurence Simon noted in a comment on Charles's post, N.Z. Bear (who started his blog three days after I launched Cooped Up) has leveraged the interest in his blogosphere ecosystem (in which I'm proud to have evolved from insignificant microbe to flappy bird) into an expanded audience for his strong commentary. Even though the Bear has risen to prominence among the community of bloggers, however, I doubt that his traffic is more than a small fraction of Glenn's 35,000 or so per weekday (Glenn has an open counter; N.Z. Bear does not).

That's not to say that there isn't room for someone to try to assume the role of a left-of-center Instapundit (Matthew Yglesias has already expressed a willingness). Doing so, though, would require more than simply offering a counterpart to Glenn's lengthy list of daily links, time-consuming though that task alone would be. Last fall, when Glenn's weblog rose to prominence, he regularly offered more extensive commentary than he typically does these days (a perusal of his archives shows this to be true). While the past week or so has seen a number of more lengthy posts, too many of Glenn's posts these days are essentially throwaway lines attached to links. I criticized one of them a couple of weeks ago when Glenn wrote: "Why is the left supporting oppression?" (The site to which Glenn linked, not surprisingly, neither asserted nor supported the proposition that "the left" supports oppression). Posts like that may satisfy a certain component of Glenn's readership, but a site that relied extensively on such posts would be unlikely to win a sizable audience in today's crowded blogosphere. This is not to say that a would-be Instapundit must avoid taking political stances—far from it. But much of what has appeared on Instapundit in recent weeks provides a poor model for one who would aspire to a broad readership. Many people across the political spectrum are interested in seeing considered arguments from the other side; they're generally not interested in seeing their own positions casually slammed.

The other thing about Instapundit, which a would-be counterpart would do well to consider, is, as Jim Henley notes, his generosity with links. To be sure, Glenn's links tend to follow his interests, including his political interests, but he does link to opposing views that he finds interesting, both in individual posts and in his blogroll (which includes Ted Barlow, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Mac Thomason, and Matthew Yglesias, among others). Glenn also seeks out and promotes new voices in the blogosphere, a trait not shared by many of the other prominent warbloggers, whose blogrolls frequently seem stuck in March. A lot of those to the left of center read Glenn's weblog daily, even if we sometimes find his offhand remarks maddening, because he remains a clearinghouse for interesting links to a variety of sources on a variety of subjects, as well as an interesting (if sometimes infuriating) commentator in his own right.

A fellow left-of-center blogger recently ribbed me by email for giving Glenn a place of prominence in my blogroll while including his own only under "interesting weblogs." My blogroll lists Glenn first because he's a law professor, as am I, and so my first blogroll category is "law professors." But even without that, Glenn would merit a position of prominence, in part because he is, even for those who vehemently disagree with him, a touchstone in an increasingly diffuse blogosphere, and in part because he inspired many of us (again, even those who disagree with him) to begin blogging ourselves. While the desire for a lefty Instapundit is understandable, it's going to be difficult for any new blogger to fill the roles that Glenn does.