The Jury Talks Back

9/18/2009

Hannah Giles in a Bikini, or a Sex Video, or Nude?

Filed under: Blogging Matters — Fritz @ 1:10 pm

Looking for Hannah Giles in a bikini, a thong, in lingerie, or whatever?  What about pictures of Hannah Giles nude?  What about the sex video?

In your search for pictures of Hanna Giles in a bikini, pictures of Hannah Giles nude, or the Hannah Giles sex video, I’ve heard that The Other McCain might be able to help.  Please try Desert Cat’s Paradise as well.  More after the jump.

(more…)

9/15/2009

Sin Bin for Trolls

Filed under: Blogging Matters — Fritz @ 3:23 pm

I saw this post at Althouse.  A perfect example of a troll doing what it is that trolls do.  Althouse makes the excellent point that there is a difference between dissent and trolling.  I’ll note without evidence that liberal blogs are much more likely to ban what is obviously honest dissent and call it trolling than their conservative brethren.  Where does the line get drawn?

Maybe blogs need some sort of “penalty box” or “sin bin”.  Instead of deleting the offending comment, it gets removed and replaced with a link that connects to an area where all sorts of offensive content can be placed for public review.  That way you can avoid the charge of purging for venal motives (i.e., because you simply disagree), while at the same time de-cluttering comments threads.

8/11/2009

Patterico’s is down for me

Filed under: Blogging Matters — Scott Jacobs @ 1:50 am

Apparently someone wanged the server with a link, so we’re going to have to make do for a little while (or ignore me, since with my luck the site will be back up and running by the time any of you see this).

Open thread till the main site is back.  Play nice.

Update: It appears to be up now (9:32am Patterico time)

Update x2: From nk

Don’t Bring Me Down

Hmmm…  Seems the update to the blogging software is preventing me from embedding.

5/14/2009

California special election endorsements

Filed under: Blogging Matters — aphrael @ 5:51 pm

California is having a special election next week on a set of budget-related propositions. Turnout is expected to be low, but I will (of course) be voting. :)

I’m voting yes on 1A, 1D, and 1E; and no on 1B, 1C, and 1F.

Here’s why.

Proposition 1A

The underlying premise behind Proposition 1A is that California’s recurrent budget problems are, in part, caused by the Legislature’s tendency to react to short-term, temporary upsurges in revenue by committing the revenue to long-term continuous spending, which then must be cut when revenue inevitably falters. In order to solve that problem, it proposes diverting “unexpected revnue” – which is to say, revenue that is (a) not the result of a newly imposed tax and (b) above the amount predicted by a ten-year trendline – into a rainy day fund and, once that has filled up, using it to either pay down debt or pay for short-term infrastructure projects that don’t constitute long-term commitments. In addition, it suggests enlarging the rainy day fund and making it harder to divert money out of it.

All of these are eminently reasonable ideas. They’re all eminently reasonable ideas even if you don’t believe in the underlying premise; if the underlying premise is wrong, this is harmless at best, and saving more money for a rainy day seems like a wise move.

Yet, amazingly, conservatives and liberals have banded together to oppose it. Liberals are opposing it because they think it will result in severe cuts to existing programs. If you listen to their rhetoric, they’ve become convinced that the measure embodies a draconian spending cap … but it actually does no such thing; as far as I can tell, the activists are just deluded.

Conservatives seem to be opposing it because the legislature passed a measure which would extend certain taxes for several years if proposition 1A passes. This measure is nothing more than a tax increase in disguise, the reasoning goes, so it should be voted down. But … the tax increases aren’t actually in the measure. And even if they were: they’re a short-term continuation of taxes already enacted … in exchange for a long-term change in the way the state does business which conservatives have been agitating for for years. It doesn’t go as far as conservatives would like (it doesn’t apply to newly enacted taxes, and it doesn’t enact a spending cap), but surely half a loaf is better than none; as far as I can tell, conservative activist opposition to this measure is firmly in “cut off your nose to spite your face” territory.

Proposition 1A isn’t a cure-all; but it’s a rare good idea and deserves our support.

Proposition 1B

The underlying premise behind Proposition 1B is that an ambiguous provision of Proposition 98 was obviously intended to guarantee money to the schools.

Proposition 98 set up three ways to calculate the amount of money the public schools are required to get. One of them – heretofore only used in the first year after adoption – is a flat percentage of the state budget. The one normally used is the base year’s school funding adjusted for inflation and population growth. The ‘normal exception’, used when revenue is less than expected, is the base year’s funding adjusted for revenue growth and population growth … and the provision allowing that requires that the difference between the two be considered, in effect, a loan from the schools, payable in some future year.

Proposition 98 was silent on whether, in years when the flat percentage is used, the difference between the flat percentage and the normal amount is to be considered a loan from the schools (there’s a lawsuit pending which might answer the question in a year or five). I don’t understand the rules for determining which amount is required to go to the schools in any year; but I know that the flat percentage is the amount required for both 2008-2009 and 2009-2010.

Proposition 1B simply declares that the difference between the amount the schools received in those fiscal years and the amount they would have received under the normal calculations is owed to the schools, and sets up a mechanism for repaying the money using the enlarged rainy day fund established by Proposition 1A. It does not answer the question about whether the schools are owed money if the flat percentage method of calculating school funding is used in the future, and it does <em>not</em> provide a mechanism for paying the owed money if Proposition 1A fails.

This is badly written law. It’s badly written because it can theoretically create a debt that cannot be repaid (if Proposition 1A fails); it’s badly written, also, because it answers a serious legal question just for this instance of the problem without even seeking to resolve the problem in general.

As badly written law, it deserves to be defeated.

Proposition 1C

The underlying premise behind proposition 1C is that it would be a great thing if we could securitize the lottery revenue stream, and sell it off for some large chunk of money which we could spend this year. I think this is crazy; it’s effectively borrowing against future revenue, spending it on ongoing recurring expenses today. Once the influx of money we expect to come today is spent, how do we pay for those recurring expenses? Worse, since the measure is set up to have a neutral effect on the current recipients of lottery revenue, it increases long-term expenditures out of the general fund without providing any long-term revenue source to pay for them.

It might be reasonable if we were borrowing against future revenue to pay for recovery from a natural disaster, or to invest in something which would increase revenue in the future. But we’re not. This is exactly the kind of borrowing which a wise steward of the public funds does not do.

The problem, of course, is that the legislature is not a wise steward of the public funds, and the 2009-2010 budget assumes that this will pass and depends on it to generate $5 billion which can be spent in that fiscal year. If this fails, the budget deficit automatically increases. Still … that’s not enough of a reason to vote for this bad idea; borrowing to pay for continuing expenses is almost always a dumb move.

Propositions 1D and 1E

The underlying premise behind propositions 1D and 1E is that special tax revenue should be confiscated and directed towards similar programs paid for out of the general fund.

California voters have adopted a plethora of special taxes, the revenue from which goes to programs specified in the initiatives which created the taxes and is excluded from the general fund. Some of these special funds have surpluses of unspent money. Some of them are funding programs which are similar to, but not quite the same as, programs which are paid for out of the general fund. Proposition 1D deals with a tobacco tax that pays for health care programs for children under the age of 5; it confiscates the surplus in the special fund and redirects roughly 1/3 of the tax revenue towards other health care programs for children under the age of 5 which are funded out of the general fund, thereby freeing up general fund revenue to do other things. Proposition 1E deals with a tax on incomes greater than $1 million that pays for mental health programs; it confiscates roughly 1/3 of that tax and directs it towards a different set of mental health programs which are paid for out of the general fund, thereby freeing money from the general fund to go towards other things.

I have a bias here: I think that special taxes are almost always a bad idea; they constrain the legislature and make it impossible for the legislature to make policy choices about what the state should pay for … and thereby make the process of producing a budget much more difficult than it ought to be. So I’m greatly in favor of <em>anything</em> which redirects special tax money into the general fund.

That said, I can understand why people would vote against these if (a) they think the particular programs protected by them are really, really important or (b) they have a philosophical objection to passing a special tax and then converting it to a general tax (as an end-run around the voters); my husband is in the latter category.

Proposition 1F

The underlying premise behind Proposition 1F is that the legislature are a bunch of venial jerks whose incompetence is the primary cause of the budget crisis. Since their failure caused the problem, and self-interest might cause them to perform better, we should prohibit them from getting pay raises whenever there is a deficit.

This seems silly to me. *I* think the underlying cause of the state’s budget problems is that the voters want both lower taxes and higher services (something which is borne out by poll after poll that show that the majority of voters want the budget problem solved without tax increases *and* object to any specific cuts that anyone proposes); the legislature is simply representing its constituents. The problem is aggravated by the state’s direct democracy system, which encourages the voters to write into the state constitution things which, aggregated together, make the system unworkable. Punishing the legislators might make the voters feel good, but it doesn’t solve the problem; it’s an angry gesture that, at the end of the day, doesn’t help at all.

12/20/2008

Comments on Comments – Take 2

Filed under: Blogging Matters — Justin Levine @ 3:16 pm

[by Justin Levine]

I previously posted my arguments for not allowing comments here, which generated a response here.

A few more points worth noting:

While comments can be read by many people, their substance is only directed towards one person (unlike blog posts). Since it takes just as long to think of your argument and type it out in the comments section than it does in a blog post, it remains a very ineffective form of communication (hence my argument that phone conversations are better for one-on-one discussions. Less time, more civility, same substance.).

“Amphipolis” is right when he/she states:  “The constant pattern of make a statement, defend against the straw man, defend against the next straw man, and again, and again, until the “debate” ends with ad hominems is very frustrating.” Some people treat blogs as a full time hobby, so they don’t mind taking the time in their lives to go through the process. That’s not the case with me. I don’t enjoy blogging in and of itself, I only enjoy stimulating discussions. The time ratio of responding to straw men arguments and simple opinions without further facts or analysis versus actual stimulating discussins doesn’t make comments worth it to me.

I am confident when I say that by forcing Amphipolis to respond in an actual separate blog post, he/she ended up writing a more thorough and well thought out response than would have taken place if he/she had simply been allowed to place a comment underneath it. So I feel that this only goes to prove my point.

If I could enforce my own policies regarding banning commenters or force commenters to register for this site and have access to the information, then I would certainly reconsider. But since I am only a guest blogger here, that is obviously not the case.

I am not at all convinced by the response that “Anonymity can encourage abuse, but it can also lead to more openness.”  As I’ve stated, anonymity can certainly be valid – but only when there are substantive reasons for it (i.e., legitimately fearing workplace retaliations or consequences for your comments, as was the case with Patterico and Jack Dunphy). Trust me on this, putting your real name to every one of your arguments makes you have better discussions with people. It also makes you more honest. I feel that there are an awful lot of morons who comment on this site, which in turn attracts other trolls and morons (thus proving the Broken Windows theory of blogging correct). Using my real name convinces me that I would have the guts to say it to their faces if I ever met them in person and discovered their true identities. I suspect that comment sections wouldn’t be so problematic if everyone were forced to reveal their identities.

Still don’t believe me?  Then I challenge every poster on this site to take this test:  Post your real name and the city you live in. Then try blogging for two or three weeks and see if you notice a difference. Afterwards, you can go back to your pseudonyms if you still want to (or different pseudonyms if you feel that your ‘cover’ would then be blown). If you use a pseudonym for legitimate reasons, try to explain what those reasons are.

Obviously a name doesn’t change the substance of any given argument, but it still gives you a moral legitimacy that has great value (even if it is somewhat intangible).  Consider some the leading figures of the blogosphere (Glenn Reynolds, Andrew Sullivan, the collective posters at Volokh who all use their real names) – would they get the continued and sustained attention that they do if they remained anonymous with names like “QST598′s Whipshaw”? I doubt it. They have brand names that command attention because people know who they are and know that they have nothing to hide in their arguments. It’s hard to argue that they aren’t “open” with their thoughts or arguments (even when you consider the fact that neither Reynolds nor Sullivan allow direct commenting either).

It should also be noted that Hugh Hewitt has now decided to stop allowing open comments on his blog.  He still allows feedback through Twitter and via e-mail, and claims that he will allow direct comments in the future once he has stricter registration requirements to allow him easier moderating abilities. I think this is good. By forcing people to go through Twitter or e-mail, it will confine feedback to those with substantive responses. I want feedback too — but only substantive feedback. Forcing responses in other actual blog posts helps with this goal. It seems that in shutting off his comments, he also managed to delete the comments from all his previous posts that he wrote before he made this decision. This seems to be a pity. Even if I think comments aren’t worth it in the end, I don’t think that previous comments should necessarily be erased.

What’s also interesting however, is that the townhall.com website reprints all posts from those associated with it (including Hewitt), and allows comments on it. People are obviously upset with Hugh Hewitt just as they have been upset with me.

I’m sure that at least part of the reason for Hugh’s decision is that he got tried of people telling him that he is a Republican sycophant who often puts fidelity to the party over substantive ideas, so I don’t blame him in shutting off comments (even though these views about Hewitt are true, in my opinion). It won’t shield him from such criticism, but it will make sure that those who say it really want to take the time to say it, instead wasting everyone’s time with off-the-cuff remarks. If I get upset enough with Hewitt to want to tell him that he is being a partisan ass who looks unfairly down on legal commentators who don’t happen to have a law degree, it is far better for me to do it in a blog post than in a comment on his site.

This is an important topic, so I may have even more to say on this in the future. But for now, I still encourage feedback via other posts or methods that help to encourage substantive responses.

So says I, Justin Levine.

12/16/2008

Re: Comments on comments

Filed under: Blogging Matters — Amphipolis @ 8:15 am

Justin Levine raises some very good points. I agree with just about every one of his arguments, but I do see value in blog comments in spite of the many drawbacks Justin describes.

A phone conversation is only heard by one person. Comments may be read by tens of thousands. Or by one, but there is no way a phone conversation can have the same reach. Comments allow a guy in pajamas to correct an error or make a point that would otherwise be left out of public discourse. I would not be writing this post if it were not for the pajamas effect.

The poor quality of debate in comments has often almost driven me to (temporarily) give them up. The constant pattern of make a statement, defend against the straw man, defend against the next straw man, and again, and again, until the “debate” ends with ad hominems is very frustrating. It sometimes requires more patience than I can muster. Be that as it may, half of the point in my mind is teaching people how to think through issues logically. For every brain-dead ideologue there are ten curious people who may learn reason. It can be worth the effort.

The monitoring of comments must be tiresome. Freedom draws abuse which runs the gamut from the profane to the off-point. But readers can tune out the trolls. Trolls are not persuasive. However, they can effectively shut down debate and thereby stifle the ideas they oppose. This is annoying, but over the long haul those ideas are still getting out.

Anonymity certainly can encourage abuse, but it can also lead to more openness. For all of their infuriating annoyances, blog comments on sites like Patterico’s are the only place I know where at least somewhat open minded conservatives and liberals share ideas. I know that my ideas have been influenced by the experience and my respect for the other point of view has often increased.

Ultimately, each format has advantages and disadvantages. I am glad to be able to use both, and I wouldn’t want Justin to change a style that works so well for him.

12/15/2008

Comments on comments

Filed under: Blogging Matters — Justin Levine @ 3:47 pm

[posted by Justin Levine]

There have been some good postings recently on the subject of comments on blogs.

Orin Kerr has a few observations here and here.

Andrew Sullivan tackled the issue earlier in the year and pointed to another great analysis here.

Much to frustration of many who visit this site (along with Patterico himself), I am the one poster who has not allowed comments on his posts for some time now (for many of the same reasons that Kerr, Sullivan et al. refer to in their writings).

I have a very different sensibility on commenting policy than Patterico seems to have, and have differing views on appropriate civility, keeping topics focused, the definition of commenting trolls and the level of toleration for them.  I know that Patterico does not want to be seen as one who shuts off debate, so he tends to put up with much more than I would. However, I doubt that I am alone in observing that this site seems to attract more trolls looking to stir the pot in an unproductive manner than the average blog with similar readership levels (perhaps a function of the ‘Broken Windows’ theory that is referenced in the last two links above).

Since it wasn’t really possible from a practical standpoint to have separate moderating policies among different posters on the same site, I decided to simply close the comments altogether.

But beyond the troll question, I find the comment section to be the most unproductive method of effective communication that currently exists in the electronic medium. It is very time consuming to have to type out a coherent thought that you could do in a fraction of the time over the phone. And with comments, you are usually doing it for a rather small audience (often an audience of one). However, because the comment function is also convenient, it ends up attracting thoughts that are either not well thought out, not well written, or throw-away thoughts that are not worth the time to read. 

This is certainly not to suggest that I have never found useful information in comments, or been effectively challenged in my arguments.  But in the end, it is a trade-off of the benefits versus the annoyance factor in terms of effective moderation. Once again, Patterico and I have differing perspectives on this, though this may be a function of the fact that Patterico puts much more time into blogging (and responses to the blogosphere) than I do. 

This is also not to suggest that I don’t want feedback on my posts, or are somehow afraid of challenges. But I have found that people are likely to make arguments that are far more intelligent and civil when they write in an e-mail or separate blog post, rather than when they make arguments in the comments section. I don’t know why this is so – but I am convinced that it is the case. I suspect that many posters here in the Jury Talks Backblog would agree. Would they take the time to write their arguments the same way in the comments section in Patterico’s main blog than they do in posts to this site?  I doubt it. 

Many of my favorite blogs have never allowed comments, and it hasn’t affected my enjoyment of them, nor have they given me the impression that they are somehow “above” criticism or feedback.

I also want to turn back to Orin Kerr’s theory and observation that “The web brings people into close contact with other people that they don’t actually know, and it’s much easier to be nasty to someone you don’t personally know than someone you do. Most of us connect with people we meet in real life. The personal meeting humanizes the other person. ”

This is certainly true. I know this not only from blogging, but from practicing law. Opposing attorneys usually make the dumbest, rudest and most frivolous comments and arguments in their written briefs that they wouldn’t dare repeat when they are standing next to you in a court hearing or mediation session. They always seem much more reasonable and accommodating when discussing matters in person. I’m sure I’m not the only attorney who has experienced this.

This is why I have always decided to use my full name in my posts, and discourage the use of anonymity and pseudonyms in blog posts. If I am going to insult someone, I want to first convince myself that I’d be willing to say it in person to their face. Using your real name is a small step towards keeping yourself honest in your posts and a check in preventing your writings from becoming too bilious in heated debates.

Obviously there can be legitimate reasons for staying anonymous – as was the case when “Patterico” started this blog. Some are in sensitive jobs or positions where they legitimately need the protections that anonymity brings in order to help encourage writing about things that others should know about. [LAPD officer Jack Dunphy is another example that comes to mind (even if many in his social circle may know his real identity.] The key test is determining if the pseudonym helps to protect more than just your ego when you feel the need to write something controversial.

I realize that many will still disagree with me on this issue. You are always free to comment and criticize me in other posts (and in their comment sections that I have no control over).

So says I.

12/14/2008

Either my best idea, or my worst

Filed under: Blogging Matters — Scott Jacobs @ 5:26 pm

No, I’m not going to try and get on a ballot for the Illinois Senate seat, since a) I would never come close to winning and b) me in the Senate would be perhaps the most awesomest thing to ever happen in the history of ever.

No, what I am considering is doing a podcast on Blog Talk Radio (a free podcasting/internet radio site).  Now, while me talking would be interesting in a “wtf is wrong with this guy?” kind of way – much like you look at reality TV just to watch the implosion of humanity – I was thinking it would be far more interesting if a few of my fellow posters here at the Jury would co-host with me, or maybe DRJ or others from the main blog.

Who’s interested?

12/1/2008

Andrew Sullivan Gets It Wrong About KFI and Bill Handel

Filed under: Blogging Matters — Justin Levine @ 12:26 pm

[by Justin Levine]

Facts:  KFI host Bill Handel is in favor of socialized medicine, is the most pro-gay rights host in terms of major radio personalities, and voted for Obama in the last election.

He did a segment commenting on this article and a viral e-mail that was going around suggesting that Obama was the anti-Christ. Handel naturally debunked it, but with his typical sense of irony.

You can listen to what he said for yourselves here. Pretty sedate stuff if you ask me. If anything, it needed to be much more hyperbolic and humorous. Bill treated it more as a ‘newsy’ segment rather than a platform for opinions (probably a mistake in this instance — but he still rocks).

So the KFI promo people put together a clever attention-getting, tabloid-style headline to promote the segment, and what does it result in? People assuming that Handel must be some right-wing nutcase who actually believes that Obama is the anti-Christ.

I think I’m probably the only blogger on this site that retains some respect for Andrew Sullivan, but it’s still pretty lazy on his part if you ask me. Regardless, I’m glad to get the increased publicity for the show. This kind of reaction will simply give the station incentives to keep up with this style of advertising.

If you aren’t familiar with the Bill Handel Show, give it a listen. In my [very biased] opinion, it remains one of the best morning radio shows on the air.

[Full disclosure: Long time readers already know this. But in case you are relatively new, I am a producer for the Bill Handel Show. My comment that Bill Handel ‘rocks’ is simultaneously ass-kissing and a statement of objective fact, as most listerners to the show already know.]

11/20/2008

Welcome to “The Jury Talks Back”

Filed under: Blogging Matters,Uncategorized — Patterico @ 8:56 pm

Welcome to “The Jury Talks Back,” a new reader-written blog at patterico.com. As you can see, the address for the blog is http://patterico.com/jury. But you don’t have to remember it; there are buttons on the right margin, just underneath the recent comments, that allow you to toggle back and forth between the main site and this one.

I am in the process of creating user accounts and e-mailing the participants. But hopefully you’ll see new content here very soon.

I’m excited about giving readers a chance to post their own thoughts as fully conceived blog posts. Enjoy.


Powered by WordPress.