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Comment Quality:
Reading the VC comment threads post-Sotomayor, it's interesting how many of them are quickly descending into name-calling and over-the-top accusations from both sides. Granted, there is always a part of that with open blog comments: Some folks post Internet comments to enilghten, others to vent. And there are some topics, such as the OLC torture memos, that always seem to bring out hostility on both sides. But it's interesting — and to me, troubling — how the nomination, like the '08 election, is bringing so much of that to the surface so quickly so often.

  UPDATE: This comment made me laugh out loud, as it was written, I think, without irony:
  It's really simple - Obamabots view every critisism of their Messiah and his chosen Apostles (in this case Sonia Sotomayor) as blasphemous acts. Therefore, people who make such critisism are quickly labeled racists, nativists, wingnuts etc.
  This was once an enjoyable conservative/libertarian blog. However, nowadays it has been swamped by Obama's Sturmabteilung Internet troops. I really don't understand what's the pleasure of regularly following blogs from the other side of political spectrum. Go read DailyKomunist, please
I hope one of our more liberal readers will hurry up and match that with a similarly idiotic comment from the left, just to balance things out.
skyywise (mail):
Because of the last few months of events, I've simply stopped reading the comments. They're much more well written than those at Abovethelaw, but they're becoming just as vicious and petty. I'm glad the Conspirators are still posting despite the peanut gallery.
5.30.2009 2:58pm
zuch (mail) (www):
Oh, I think the similarity of the current atmosphere and the '08 election are not coincidental. Some people do not like "losing" (or being out of power). The Democrats have/had their own way of dealing with such (seemingly by reabsorbing any Ca+2 deposits from their spine), and the Republicans their own as well.

My prediction is that -- given current political trends -- this will not get better; it will get worse.

Cheers,
5.30.2009 3:00pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Not so much on the nomination, but as far as the torture issue goes I would think most of it is due to the topic being talked to death. It is an area that most anyone who is going to take interest has already staked out their position and isn't interested in changing their mind, or changing anyone else's for that matter.

The shrillness on all sides is also likely due to the participants being unable to do anything that actually effects eventual outcomes in any meaningful way. They are both the sorts of topics that are just about perfect for adult temper tantrums.
5.30.2009 3:02pm
Commenterlein (mail):
I rarely comment here, but what's interesting -- and to me, troubling -- is how many of my fellow white males have managed to convince themselves that they as white males are disadvantaged in this country.

I kind of understand that other commenters find it difficult to react kindly to that.
5.30.2009 3:03pm
Jerry F:
I am fairly certain that the "name-calling and over-the-top accusations" that we have seen in Sotomayor threads is just a tiny fraction of the "name-calling and over-the-top accusations" that we would see if we had a Republican president who just nominated a white judge who said that wise white men make for better judges than wise minority men.
5.30.2009 3:17pm
Long-time reader:
It's really simple - Obamabots view every critisism of their Messiah and his chosen Apostles (in this case Sonia Sotomayor) as blasphemous acts. Therefore, people who make such critisism are quickly labeled racists, nativists, wingnuts etc.

This was once an enjoyable conservative/libertarian blog. However, nowadays it has been swamped by Obama's Sturmabteilung Internet troops. I really don't understand what's the pleasure of regularly following blogs from the other side of political spectrum. Go read DailyKomunist, please.
5.30.2009 3:31pm
Bart (mail):
Welcome to our cultural divide. I guess post partisanism was just a campaign slogan after all.
5.30.2009 3:31pm
sbron:
Maybe if we had a President who talked about assimilation, the values we have in common and pulling together as a sovereign nation there would be less bitterness. Constantly emphasizing who owes what to whom because of the actions of their ancestors is the fastest way to anger Americans. Saying that we owe something to immigrants, especially illegal ones, just because their culture is so wonderful is even more enraging.
5.30.2009 3:35pm
M N Ralph:
I've only been around for a few months, but now doesn't seem any worse than when I first started reading. As to the "name-calling and over-the-top accusations" it seems to me that certain conspirators have been far from perfect in this regard.
5.30.2009 3:37pm
3090:
If that comment from Commenterlein is typical of his comments, something tells me that he is part of the problem.

I stopped commenting here last year because it became pointless. It's usually (not always, but usually) name-calling done with a rich vocabulary. If I were a member of the VC, I don't think I would enable comments on my posts. There's my two cents.
5.30.2009 3:38pm
Commenterlein (mail):
Jerry F. makes for an interesting case study. What is the appropriate reaction to his comment?

Is he so badly informed that he actually believes that Sotomayor's statement was the equivalent of what he wrote? That seems really unlikely.

Or is he, let's say, not sharp and draws the false analogy because of a lack of mental processing capability? I guess that's possible.

Finally, he may be willfully trying to mislead his audience by misinforming them about what Sotomayor said and the context of her words. One reaction to that would be to post a reply that corrects the misinformation. But given how often that has been done on previous threats, it feels superfluous. So should we just ignore him? Or is it ok to call him words, just because it feels good?
5.30.2009 3:38pm
Commenterlein (mail):
3090,

I would definitely be part of the problem, as explained in my post just above. And that's the reason why I rarely comment.
5.30.2009 3:40pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
Unlike the "torture" memos, I don't see the discussion of Judge Sotomayor continuing all that long. It is highly likely that she will be confirmed, and after being a bit bloodied, she will ascend the High Court, and that will be that. There are enough Republicans who will vote for her because of her ethnic background, in an attempt maybe to cater to the Hispanics, that there won't be an effective filibuster. My guess right now is her confirmation vote will be somewhere in the range of 75-80 votes.

I see this discussion mostly as a way to bloody President Obama. Sure, he was trying to cater to a critical demographic, but I don't think that he realized how much many Americans dislike Affirmative Action.

It is not because they are racist, but rather, because it seems somewhat unfair to privilege some based solely upon their membership in some preferred group, instead of looking at their qualifications.

Oh, and at least going to college, it isn't the white males that are disadvantaged, but rather, the white females who are disadvantaged the most.
5.30.2009 3:40pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
Not so much on the nomination, but as far as the torture issue goes I would think most of it is due to the topic being talked to death. It is an area that most anyone who is going to take interest has already staked out their position and isn't interested in changing their mind, or changing anyone else's for that matter.
I would definitely agree with that. Likely, everyone who was going to read the memos here has already read them, and likely come to the conclusions sympathetic to their original views on the subject. So, now, there is nothing really left, except to vent.
5.30.2009 3:44pm
byomtov (mail):
Reading the VC comment threads post-Sotomayor, it's interesting how many of them are quickly descending into name-calling and over-the-top accusations from both sides.

This doesn't seem too different from the reaction to the nomination in the rest of the world. There have, after all, been lots of over-the-top accusations against Sotomayor, and not just from fringe characters. We differ, I think, on what the proper reaction to that is, but that it arouses anger isn't really surprising.

As for torture, I don't see how it can fail to lead to very hostile comments. I don't see the common ground for discussion.
5.30.2009 3:49pm
King Mob (mail):
I wish the VC bloggers would just close all comments on every post. The moronic comments on virtually every political post (from both sides) detracts from what are generally informative and interesting posts.
5.30.2009 3:49pm
kumquat:
Fascinating how, in the comments to a post about how bad the comments have gotten, the first dozen or so included multiple people saying, essentially, "Well of course they're bad, my political opponents are evil/racist."
5.30.2009 3:53pm
methodact:
[Leo] Strauss distinguished "scholars" from "great thinkers", identifying himself as a scholar. He wrote that most self-described philosophers are in actuality scholars, cautious and methodical. Great thinkers, in contrast, boldly and creatively address big problems. Scholars deal with these problems only indirectly by reasoning about the great thinkers' differences. ~~Wikipedia
Many feel our judiciary is generally anathema to freedom, human and civil rights, largely having secured their sinecures by cleaving to corporatism and betraying the common man. There are intense and active discussions in other venues calling on everyone from Sun Tsu to Jim Channon for solutions to the torturers now in black robes.

Can those on the bench ever achieve job satisfaction, any more than Torquemada never could, simply because it is an empty hole in their hearts, in their souls, where they have to do ever more cruelty just to to get the same thrill by torturing people?

The regular apologists for the judiciary seem to hope people will grow weary and tired of the travesty, but in other venues the hue and cry continues to grow to fevered pitch.
5.30.2009 3:59pm
Strict:

As to the "name-calling and over-the-top accusations" it seems to me that certain conspirators have been far from perfect in this regard.


It's up to the conspirators to set the bar - and they have set the bar very low.

Just this week, Jonathan Adler made a post calling Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor,"nasty."

David Kopel made a post calling Vice President Joe Biden "comical," and saying he, as Vice President, "has greatly underperformed Sarah Palin."

Jonathan Adler recently argued that "of course it is possible" that President Obama has engaged in a criminal "conspiracy" to put white-owned car dealerships out of business in favor of minority owned car dealership.

These criticisms completely lack substance. They are clear and recent examples of "name-calling and over-the-top accusations."

And these examples aren't even the most egregious - David Bernstein has recently accused former President Jimmy Carter of being a terrorist.

Eugene and Dale Carpenter keep their posts civil and informative, I appreciate that.
5.30.2009 4:00pm
ck:
I suggest adoption of this brilliant idea, found at James Joyner's blog:


Even better, if you have nothing substantial to add to the conversation, simply type "1" to show your blind support, or "0" to show your blind opposition. I suspect that for most partisan sites, this would allow very effective compression.
5.30.2009 4:01pm
notaclue (mail):
About a year ago a hostile fellow-commenter beat me up as a homophobe, but other than that I've had pretty good luck with VC. You should see the comments on articles on my local newspaper's website. Those comments just cry to be shut down. Comments on VC, not so much.
5.30.2009 4:03pm
Thoughtful (mail):
Nothing to add, but I wanted to comment about ways in which Steve Forbes is like Todd Zywicki, and Zywicki closed his post to comments...
5.30.2009 4:05pm
Monty:
There are alot of good posts in the comments too, people providing relevant facts, criticism and different ways to look at things. Don't throw out the baby with the bath water just because people aren't civil in hot button political threads.
5.30.2009 4:05pm
Tek Jansen:
I agree with Strict, that some of the bloggers here have a dose of crazy doesn't help the comment threads of the excellent, sane posters (Eugene, OK, DC, and usually IS and SV).

I enjoyed the days of Orin Kerr's solitary blog, which was great despite being the most boring blog in the history of the internet, because it was free of Bernstein and Kopel.
5.30.2009 4:07pm
Long-time reader too:
Long-time reader:

Calling those you disagree with Obamabots and comparing them to Hitler's political apparatus -- even with the use of an obscure word -- seems to be precisely the type of name calling Prof. Kerr was referring to.

I don't agree with everything I read here, and that's a big part of why I read the blog. I read blogs to test, strengthen, and possibly change my own views. Name calling and conclusory pronouncements are unhelpful.
5.30.2009 4:07pm
Justin L:
It's a sad thing that I can't tell if many of the comments on this thread are serious or ironic responses to this post.

With regard to Judge Sotomayor, this level of vitriol was pretty much pre-ordained. The left has been grousing about the conservative turn the Court has taken on many issues, and the right has made judicial nominations (and "activist judges") one of their favorite talking points of late, so you knew any person was going to get that thrown at them.

Both sides have been planning this for a while, and the person nominated didn't matter. Note how both sides had their arguments ready and out there before we knew anything about Sotomayor. Many conservative commentators (including on this site) have expressed reservations about her being an activist who is wrong on the issues and will lead to judicial tyranny merely because she was nominated by Obama, without looking at her record. And liberals are starting to walk back their effusive praise when they realize her record isn't all that liberal.

The more we find out and look at her cases, the more boring she seems except for a couple quotes, in contrast to the craziness on both sides.
5.30.2009 4:08pm
Long-time reader too:

UPDATE: This comment made me laugh out loud, as it was written, I think, without irony:


Well said -- you beat me to it.
5.30.2009 4:09pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

they as white males are disadvantaged in this country.



True. Where is the Jesse Jackson for white males?

I Am
Somebody

I May Be Middle Class,
But I Am
Somebody
I May Be Middle-Aged
But I Am
Somebody
I May Be Living Off My 401K
But I Am
Somebody
I May Be 5'-9"
But I Am
Somebody
I May Have Bought GM Stock
But I Am
Somebody
My Clothes Come From the Men's Wearhouse
My Face Is Clean-shaven
My Hair Is Thinning
But I Am
Somebody
I Am White
Black
Brown
I Speak the English Language
But I Must Be Respected
Protected
Never Rejected
I Am
God's Child
I Am
Somebody
5.30.2009 4:13pm
Derrick (mail):
It's a bit unbecoming but let this comment thread show which side is laying the gauntlet down. It doesn't mean that those on the Left can't be shrill (including myself at times), but its extremely difficult to have a substantive discussion when the venting begins.
5.30.2009 4:14pm
Blue:
There's a bit of turnabout is fair play at work--after eight years of the most hateful commentary against anything related to Bush and the Republicans some score settling is in order. Judicial appointments and a delightful opportunity for a bit of ju-jitsu on racism are just too juicy a target to turn away from.
5.30.2009 4:14pm
Constant (mail):
Calling those you disagree with Obamabots

Actually the group he's calling "Obamabots" are not merely those he disagrees with, but specifically the commenters in question (at least the left side of them), and Orin Kerr has already described them as "descending into name-calling and over-the-top accusations". Surely it is not totally unfair to call leftists who descend into name-calling and over-the-top accusations "Obamabots". After all, the point being made by that label is that they are not thoughtful, and Orin Kerr's point is... that they are not thoughtful.

The substantial claim that Long-time reader is making is quite simple: the leftists started it, the leftists are fueling it, and the rightists are being drawn in by the leftists.

I don't know whether that's true or not. It's not automatically false. It is politically correct nonsense to automatically blame both sides of a war.
5.30.2009 4:20pm
Guest056:
Very true, Orin!

I'm a regular commentor on plenty of threads, and I've noticed myself getting a little heated lately. (Sorry, Professot Somin!) As I wrote yesterday on Eugene's thread re: Obama and Sotormayor, her quote gives rise to many delicate issues. On the right, it seems that since her controversial statement suggests to some, on its face, that her Latina experience makes her better qualified to judge than someone of a different race. And when people on the left seem to parse that suggestion out of existence, it confirms a belief that the left is trying to snake identity politics through this nomination process at the cost of the law, and perhaps that Obama is elevating and excusing a racist.

And on the left, her statements simply aren't that offensive. Her record is also quite excellent. The assumption from conservatives that her defenders are acting in bad faith adds heat to the mix, as does the rhetoric from ex-politicians now trying to beef up their profile. (Gingrich, Tancredo.) To the left, a perfectly qualified candidate who adds more legitimate perspective to the Court is being derided as, at once, a racist and an affirmative action hire. That seems maddeninly self-defeating, as assuming that affirmative action is meaningful in terms of career path seems a little racist itself, given that she has put forth exemplary work at every stage. Meanwhile here and elsewhere perfectly respectable organizations like La Raza are assaulted as being racist fringe groups by people who, in some cases, had not heard the term La Raza until this month. So the overall impression is that conservatives are going apopletic over a generally uncontroversial nominee, and making racially nasty comments while finding racism in Sotormayor's much milder statements. This confirms the bias held by some on the left that conservatives see "reverse racism" as far more prevalent and odious than plain racism, even as the tone of commentary on Sotormayor is tinged with such plain racism.

Try to balance these two views, and greivance and fun abounds. For my part, I think Sotormayor said something legitimately controversial, but much worse has been said about her in the ensuing discussions. I await her clarification at the hearings.
5.30.2009 4:21pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
I don't want the comments shut down here. When they are working well, they work very well. A couple of years ago, I remember some of the best discussions about FISA, NSA, TSP, Johnstown, etc. that forced me to go out and learn the statutes, their history, etc., so that I could make (semi-) coherent arguments.

Overall, the posts by the Conspirators are pretty good, but the blog has been most enjoyable to me when there has been a lively and engrossing discussion in the comment threads. Of course, name calling, etc., greatly lessens that, but there still are a lot of good discussions here - just maybe not about Judge Sotomayor right now.
5.30.2009 4:28pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Obamabots view every critisism of their Messiah and his chosen Apostles (in this case Sonia Sotomayor) as blasphemous acts


Someone named susan-2 posted something even more idiotic. I wish it hadn't been deleted. In this thread it served a helpful purpose.

There are a bunch of people who are trying to put Sarcastro out of business.
5.30.2009 4:31pm
Anton Sirius (mail) (www):

There are enough Republicans who will vote for her because of her ethnic background, in an attempt maybe to cater to the Hispanics, that there won't be an effective filibuster. My guess right now is her confirmation vote will be somewhere in the range of 75-80 votes.


I hope most people haven't failed to notice that the politicians taking point on the anti-Sotomayor campaign are all out of power: Gingrich, Tancredo, DeLay etc. Those with something to lose are mostly keeping their traps shut.
5.30.2009 4:35pm
tarheel:
I am hopeful that the comment quality on this blog will recover from the post-Palin s--t-storm that brought an influx (from both sides) of commenters who are, quite simply, no fun to engage with. I'm sure traffic is way up, but quality is way down. Still hoping.
5.30.2009 4:40pm
Brett Marston:

Those with something to lose are mostly keeping their traps shut.


Probably a good general description.

I agree with Bruce Hayden. The comment threads here are sometimes excellent, often very good, and sometimes entertaining for, well, zoological reasons, as in, what specific kind of angry person will show up here? The last kind gets old pretty quickly, unless the comments are funny and I agree with them.
5.30.2009 4:43pm
MS (mail):
First!
5.30.2009 4:43pm
Elliot James:
Professor Kerr,

In recent days, you've made several posts on “empathy” and none at all on the opinion written by Judge Sotomayor in United States v Falso (CA 2, 2007). That's an interesting fourth amendment case: It involves probable cause to seize a computer. Further, part I of Judge Sotomayor's opinion was joined by one judge on the panel, and part II by the other judge. Both of the other judges wrote opinions dissenting in part.
5.30.2009 4:44pm
one of many:
Strict
Jonathan Adler recently argued that "of course it is possible" that President Obama has engaged in a criminal "conspiracy" to put white-owned car dealerships out of business in favor of minority owned car dealership.

I have to really take exception to this one. A look at the post in question shows Alder is actually arguing against the existence of a conspiracy and only concedes that the mechanics of politics are such that political retaliation can exist in a system with politics. He then notes that IF ("a big if" in Professor Alder's words) the were politics involved in the closings it was more likely the result of ordinary protect your constituents politics. Your objection is only accurate to the post if you believe that all politics is squeaky clean and dirty politics is impossible. You seem to have come to the conclusion that Alder is arguing the exact opposite of what he did argue.

Your objection to Professor Alder's post merely because it concedes the possibility of dirty politics while arguing against the existence of them reinforces the "Obamabots" post in the original post.
5.30.2009 4:46pm
Jerry F:
Commenterlein: Apologies for paraphrasing. Allow me to restate my original point (how I should have said it in the first place):

I am fairly certain that the "name-calling and over-the-top accusations" that we have seen in Sotomayor threads is just a tiny fraction of the "name-calling and over-the-top accusations" that we would see if we had a Republican president who just nominated a white judge who had said that "I would hope that a wise white man with the richness of his experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a minority male who hasn't lived that life."

Satisfied now?
5.30.2009 4:49pm
one of many:
Dang I fell for it, I didn't realize you were creating a similarly idiotic comment from the left. It was the DK post you listed in the middle that threw me, while Biden can be comical I felt it was legitimately objectionable if you were from the left side of the political divide. Not as objectionable of some of the commenters wanted to make it but still still one which one could legitimately consider a "low blow".
5.30.2009 4:52pm
DiversityHire:
I don't mind the name-calling or over-the-top accusations, they're easy enough to skim or skip and they occasionally spawn some interesting discussions. Rote talking points and encyclopedic google-dumps are tiresome, but easily scrolled past. I'm encouraged by the quality of comments at the VC, even when the quality dips a little as topics are talked to death.
5.30.2009 4:52pm
wm13:
If the comments here have declined, it's over a term of years, not months, and mostly due, I think, to the fact that quite a few liberals visit this site and comment. That enrages the conservative majority and leads to lots of insults and name-calling. The same thing used to happen at Balkinization: most of the commenters from the left/liberal majority were unable either to ignore Bart DePalme or to respond to him in a civil fashion. If you go to a site where all the commenters agree (say, Unqualified Offerings), you'll find that the discussion is very civil (but of course also pointless).

In fact, this site is the only one I know where political disagreement is ever expressed in the comments in a civil and informative fashion. I'm not saying that it happens all the time, and it may require fairly heavy monitoring by the Conspirators, but it's quite rare and interesting, so I hope the Conspirators manage to continue it.
5.30.2009 4:53pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
"I would hope that a wise white man with the richness of his experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a minority male who hasn't lived that life."

Satisfied now?


No, because the comparison doesn't work.
5.30.2009 4:54pm
Brian K (mail):
Eugene and Dale Carpenter keep their posts civil and informative, I appreciate that.

don't forget OK!
5.30.2009 5:05pm
Constant (mail):
jukeboxgrad - Your argument that the comparison doesn't work points out that one could argue that minorities would reach better conclusions. But importantly, you haven't at all shown the non-existence of other arguments that could be made the opposite way. In fact, a moment's thought should bring to mind a few arguments that fish may, after all, have the best understanding of water.

So the comparison does work after all, once we take into account that there are arguments for either conclusion (that Latinas would be better, or that whites would be better).
5.30.2009 5:05pm
Brian K (mail):
"I would hope that a wise white man with the richness of his experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a minority male who hasn't lived that life."

Satisfied now?


It is entirely unobjectionable to say that a more experienced person is better than a less experienced person. if this is what you believe to be an accurate representation of what sotomayer said, what possible objection can you have to it? aside from the obvious "latina" factor, which would be frankly racist.
5.30.2009 5:08pm
Constant (mail):
don't forget OK!

Actually, you should forget OK, after he used the term "idiotic" to describe one of the comments. If you want to excuse OK because the description "idiotic" is accurate, then how about we compromise: please accept, also, that many, maybe most, possibly all of the unflattering comments made by rightist commenters about leftist commenters are, in fact, accurate. If accuracy is indeed a defense against the charge of incivility, then the very commenters that OK complains about have a defense.
5.30.2009 5:10pm
dmv (www):
I'll just throw this link up that decisively settles the Sotomayor "comment heard 'round the world" sub-thread.

VC is a strange mixture of serious, thoughtful posters and... umm... other kinds of posters. The comments reflect that.

Incidentally, wm13 is exactly right about Balkinization:

If the comments here have declined, it's over a term of years, not months, and mostly due, I think, to the fact that quite a few liberals visit this site and comment. That enrages the conservative majority and leads to lots of insults and name-calling. The same thing used to happen at Balkinization: most of the commenters from the left/liberal majority were unable either to ignore Bart DePalme or to respond to him in a civil fashion.

Whether that applies here, I don't know. I'm a lib, but I try not to throw bombs, unless a commenter is just clearly not being serious, or in being serious is showing that their seriousness is devoid of all meaningful content. Dunno.
5.30.2009 5:14pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Actually, I think the quality of the comments has gone up in the past couple of years. Some of the low value-add commenters have gone away, while Professor Bernstein's time window for comments has eliminated a lot of the tedious back-and-forth.
5.30.2009 5:18pm
oledrunk3 (mail):
Perhaps I am a bit chauvinistic, but my life experience suggests that men and women think differently and this to the advantage of the species.
5.30.2009 5:20pm
Guest056:
Constant,

Upthread, you implied that "Obamabot" was shorthand for calling someone "not very thoughtful."

But is that right? The term rather suggests that the people it describes are robotic shills. That, rhetorically, does more work than calling them "not very thoughtful." It's the difference between me saying that your assessment ofthis phrase was not very thoughtful, and that it proves you to be a robotic shill in a state of hero-worship.
5.30.2009 5:21pm
klp85 (mail):
For all the talk about how racist Sotomayor's statement was, no one has pointed out what she said that was really racist:

When I finished law school in 1979, there were no women judges on the Supreme Court or on the highest court of my home state, New York. There was then only one Afro-American Supreme Court Justice and then and now no Latino or Latina justices on our highest court.

She said Afro-American in the 21st century? She might as well have just said the N-word!
5.30.2009 5:27pm
traveler496:
I share Orin's concern. At times when reading this blog I feel as though I'm witnessing the early stages of a good person drowning.

Please take 20 seconds to consider
1) what is valuable in this blog
2) the behaviors that a) enhance, b) degrade that value
3) the fact that one's own behavior is the easiest to change

Now, recall Hamlet's soliloquy:-)
5.30.2009 5:32pm
Brian K (mail):
If you want to excuse OK because the description "idiotic" is accurate, then how about we compromise: please accept, also, that many, maybe most, possibly all of the unflattering comments made by rightist commenters about leftist commenters are, in fact, accurate.

sure. only if you accept my description of you as an "idiot[]" to be accurate for believing that those characterizations are accurate.
5.30.2009 5:36pm
Dave N (mail):
I try very hard to be civil (and I still think EV was wrong to delete one of my early posts because I called an argument "sophistic").

What I get out of the VC are the times I can reflect on my own views and perhaps change them, as well as those times when I find common cause with some of the more liberal commentors with whom I usually disagree. I have found that civil discussions with people like Joseph Slater and Mark Field (a non-exclusive list though two commentors I deeply respect even when I vehemently disagree) do challenge the way I look at things.

But yes, sadly, there is unnecessary nastiness on both sides--and it does weaken the VC.
5.30.2009 5:44pm
cboldt (mail):
-- The last kind gets old pretty quickly, unless the comments are funny and I agree with them. --
.
I find the flame wars here entertaining, regardless of which side seems to be getting better traction. Those who want to figure out an issue for themselves will use the posts and comments here as a resource to find raw source material.
.
I'm not at all surprised that judicial nominations have become politicized. That's the system of government the people have adopted -- politicize everything.
5.30.2009 5:47pm
Joseph Slater (mail):
A comment was banned for the use of the word sophistic? That does seem harsh. And thanks for the kind words, Dave N. (and right back atcha).

Beyond that, issues of race, and accusations of racism on both sides, will tend to get people's dander up.
5.30.2009 6:05pm
NoOrin (mail):
Made the mistake of leaving ?exclude=Orin off the favorites link to Volokh on this computer. Thanks for posting something that reminded me to add it.

How to keep Volokh.com readable
5.30.2009 6:05pm
Sarcastro (www):
[Wrath is a sin for a reason. Righteous anger is fun. In the comments, such nuggets of vice are usually accompanied by some serious legal analysis. A spoonful of sugar and all that.

As for the recent overabundance of sugar, I'm not sure what the cause is, though I expect it to die down. I see parallels to Palinapalooza 2008. Part of the issue may be that both incidents are about a person, though one we don't know well. This allows emotions to attach more strongly than to a case or a concept or a lecture.

This too will pass.]
5.30.2009 6:12pm
don lokken (mail):
Wait! Joe Biden isn't comical?
5.30.2009 6:15pm
rosetta's stones:
Joe Biden is a ambulatory mother lode of comedic ore, and those who disagree are sophists.
.
.

I'd recommend skimming comments. It's not hard to recognize when something will be useful or interesting, and if it's not...
5.30.2009 6:24pm
Hypothesis:
Do you have any data on whether it is regular vs. irregular commenters? The two issues you've highlighted are ones in which other internet sites (and visitors in general) are likely to look with particular interest to a "law professor blog."

My hypothesis: there is a core group of people who visit VC regularly, because they are interested in a wide range of topics. These people are more invested in the community and the bloggers who contribute, so they are more likely to be civil. Let's face it, blogs by libertarian-leaning law professors don't excite the vast majority of internet users on a regular basis.

On topics of wider interest, however, on which law professors are presumed to have particularly relevant ideas (such as torture memos and Supreme Court nominations), lots of irregular visitors show up from around the internet and add less-than-civil comments.

In other words, comment quality declines when the barbarians are at the gates.
5.30.2009 6:36pm
Le Messurier (mail):

If the comments here have declined, it's over a term of years, not months, and mostly due, I think, to the fact that quite a few liberals visit this site and comment.

I agree with this. There is considerably more vitriol than in the past, and I believe that it is due to having more liberals in the mix. Not a bad thing and though I'm on "the other side" of the fence I learn things from them. Generally it is due to them bringing out other arguments. Yes, this causes some over the top comments, but it is a small price to pay for a heated discussion with "meat" in it. I think I like Bernstien's idea of cutting off the comments after a period of time. Not sure if 4 hours is right or not. But often it is time to move along.

Orin, I wouldn't be too concerned with the level or civility of comments if I were you. I'm fearful that you might banish comments for yourself. I doubt I would stick around if comments were generally outlawed. They make this site worthwhile. I think Conspirators should regard their posts as if they were throwing a little grease on the fire to see how much light it generates. If none so be it, if a lot, great; if it smothers the fire that's too bad and better posting next time. Just keep a thick skin, and to be honest, I believe some of the conspirators have lost that thick skin, including you at times, Orin.
5.30.2009 6:37pm
Peter Twieg (mail):
The marginal changes to improve the atmosphere of VC would be best aimed not at the commentators but at the posters - namely by reining in the glib flamebait provided by Bernstein and Kopel.
5.30.2009 6:53pm
Anderson (mail):
I really don't understand what's the pleasure of regularly following blogs from the other side of political spectrum.

I have to believe that LTR was 100% sincere in writing that.

Reading, and arguing with!, people with different opinions, helps to keep your beliefs straight. It's easy to swallow groupthink at "friendly" sites. "Opposing" sites will call you on your easy assumptions, challenge your dubious premises, catch you on your bad logic.

I like to quote Socrates from the Gorgias:

I am one of those who are very willing to be refuted if I say anything which is not true, and very willing to refute any one else who says what is not true, and quite as ready to be refuted as to refute--I for I hold that this is the greater gain of the two, just as the gain is greater of being cured of a very great evil than of curing another. For I imagine that there is no evil which a man can endure so great as an erroneous opinion about the matters of which we are speaking ....


Socrates had the agora; we have blog comments.

There were, as I recall, some in Socrates' Athens who disliked all this open disputation and wanted people to just accept things as they seemed to be ....
5.30.2009 6:59pm
Le Messurier (mail):

The marginal changes to improve the atmosphere of VC would be best aimed not at the commentators but at the posters - namely by reining in the glib flamebait provided by Bernstein and Kopel.

I rather enjoy both, but as for one-note Carpenter not so much.
5.30.2009 7:25pm
Le Messurier (mail):

I really don't understand what's the pleasure of regularly following blogs from the other side of political spectrum.


"I have to believe that LTR was 100% sincere in writing that."

It is unbelievable!


Reading, and arguing with!, people with different opinions, helps to keep your beliefs straight. It's easy to swallow groupthink at "friendly" sites. "Opposing" sites will call you on your easy assumptions, challenge your dubious premises, catch you on your bad logic.

Right on Anderson. And I'd add "arguing for the sake of arguing". It's a great tradition in our family! And gosh, one might learn something.
5.30.2009 7:30pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
I will repeat the same advice I always give:

The first comments are the most important. A comment's importance is roughly proportional to the inverse of how many comments it is below the main post.

A comment that appears first is roughly twice as important as the second comment, and three times as important as the third.

A comment that appears fourth is 50% more important than the sixth comment.

If you regulate the first 20 or so comments by deleting over the top baloney until you have 20 decent comments, most people will never even go past that.

P.S.: Sonia Sotomayor is a racist. If I had photographs of her copulating with a dog--and I'm not saying that I do--I would release them just to torpedo her nomination. Think about that. And then think about how you wouldn't want my post script to be the first comment on this thread. But down here? It doesn't really matter.
5.30.2009 7:36pm
Sarcastro (www):
It mattered to me, Daryl!
5.30.2009 7:37pm
Leo Marvin (mail):

UPDATE: This comment made me laugh out loud, as it was written, I think, without irony:

OMG, that was priceless. I also laughed out loud.

I hope one of our more liberal readers will hurry up and match that with a similarly idiotic comment from the left, just to balance things out.

No such luck. I'm happy to say that at least for this thread it looks like you're stuck with that one.
5.30.2009 7:45pm
Thackery:
Every once in a while a blogger at Volokh posts about the comment quality, and feigns surprise at the coarseness of many comment threads. We all know it's quite simple: if you post on political or highly-charged socio-political topics, the crazies are going to come out like fireflies on a warm summer night.

Stick to the hardcore legal topics and you'll have no problem. You won't have many commenters or a very interesting blog, but, what the heh!
5.30.2009 7:48pm
zuch (mail) (www):
Long-time reader:
It's really simple - Obamabots view every critisism of their Messiah and his chosen Apostles (in this case Sonia Sotomayor) as blasphemous acts. Therefore, people who make such critisism are quickly labeled racists, nativists, wingnuts etc.
Just a point of order: It is the Republicans that have been slinging the "racist" appellation here. Didn't you notice?
This was once an enjoyable conservative/libertarian blog. However, nowadays it has been swamped by Obama's Sturmabteilung Internet troops.
Let's see: Can we get into any purer form of "name-calling and over-the-top accusations" than that?

Cheers,
5.30.2009 7:51pm
BT:
I too like the comments feature here and while I don't spend alot of time adding my two cents worth, I enjoy the back and forth that goes with the more thoughful commenters. Even guys(?) like Jukeboxgrad and Sacastro, who I tend not to agree with mostly, add to the overall flavor and can be very funny at times. Happily a number of goofball commenters (who shall remain nameless) from several years ago no longer haunt VC.
5.30.2009 7:53pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Constant,

If accuracy is indeed a defense against the charge of incivility, then the very commenters that OK complains about have a defense.

If you think accuracy is a defense against the charge of incivility, then I have to question your understanding of incivility. If I replied to a comment about Judge Sotomayor by calling the commenter stupid and ugly, could that possibly be civil, even if it was accurate?
5.30.2009 8:06pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
An approval system for commenting, a waiting period before you can comment with a new account, and an auto-removal of comments complaining about Bernstein would go a long way toward fixing the problem.

I'm convinced the largest problem comes from drive-by comments from non-regular readers.
5.30.2009 8:43pm
Boblipton:
This thread and, indeed, the general level of discourse here remains above average for the Internet despite the "Obamabots" comment. However, the real reason, I fear very much, is this: people are not interested in a real debate. It seems to me that few people are interested in working together, in discussion that will let them hammer out their differences and come to a working compromise -- the essence, it seems to me, of a working republic. Instead, every one seems to have a version of 'the truth' and all those who differ are wrong and evil.

I am tired of being told that I should base my political positions on what is going on in the EEC. I live in the United States and I am much more interested in reaching a consensus with Texas than with France -- both would be nice, but I'm sharing this country with Texans, not Frenchmen. Let us have an open and frank -- although not hateful -- dialogue with our countrymen -- and countrywomen.

I am a resident of Manhattan. I am also a member of the approximately 15% of New York County that voted for McCain. During the campaign, I said I was going to vote for McCain and one very nice woman said to me "You're so much smarter than I am -- there's no reason for you to vote for McCain." "Surely," I said. "If I'm smarter than you, I must have been able to come up with a couple of reasons to make this decision." After the election I was asked if I was bitter about Obama's election and if I hoped he would fail in running this country. I wasn't bitter. I never expected McCain to carry New York State and the course of the economy in September and October made the Obama election inevitable. Nor, certainly, do I hope he will fail: given that I live here, I want him to succeed.

Those are some of the comments I have heard from my friends to my political left. As I live in Manhattan, I don't hear much in the way of overt racist language in conversation, but certainly I do hear a lot of wanting Obama to fail, comparable to the editorial in the WALL STREET JOURNAL that proclaimed Bill Clinton's administration a failure -- five days before his first inauguration.

While I expect no one to be completely satisfied with Obama's administration -- after all, the only way to do that would be to have him make exactly the same decisions and carry out exactly the policies whoever is talking would do, nonetheless, more than the differences in philosophies and methods, I am concerned by the lack of real discussion -- both on the left and the right. If we are unable to agree, we are doomed.

Bob
5.30.2009 9:32pm
Eli Rabett (www):
A bunch of the posts suck too.

Pot kettle, etc.
5.30.2009 9:39pm
Guy:
As to whether or not I support ck's suggestion, just let me say: 1.
5.30.2009 9:44pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
You're free to stop reading, Eli, but I have a feeling the people who log on to complain about the posters aren't concerned about the waste of their time.
5.30.2009 9:48pm
Anderson (mail):
e back and forth that goes with the more thoughful commenters. Even guys(?) like Jukeboxgrad and Sacastro, who I tend not to agree with mostly, add to the overall flavor and can be very funny at times

Likewise such folks as Dave N, Hoosier, and wm13 on the other side of the fence (as well as others I could surely name).
5.30.2009 10:33pm
martinned (mail) (www):

I am tired of being told that I should base my political positions on what is going on in the EEC [sic].

There are at least two things to say à propos this remark. Firstly, I'd like to echo some of the previous commenters and say that the blog would almost certainly be more civil if the posts focused more on law instead of politics. I'm not sure to what extent this blog was ever meant to be a political blog, but my sense is that in the last year or so the percentage of posts that could be considered political has increased.

Secondly, as someone who frequently brings in a European angle, I'd like to think I don't normally do that in order to make a political point. Rather, I tend to think comparative law is a very valuable exercise in order to clarify one's thinking about the law, because it challenges one's assumptions. (As I discovered yesterday, there is an ECtHR ruling saying there is no right to divorce implied in the right to marry, or anywhere else in the Convention. Who knew...) A proper legal discussion does not seek to achieve "consensus" (to quote Boblipton once again), but to evaluate competing lines of argument. In so doing, it can be useful at times to consider out-of-jurisdiction precedents. The same cannot be said for politics, though.
5.30.2009 10:48pm
John Tillinghast (mail):
This is very funny. Let's play a side game.
"Long-time Reader" cannot spell "criticism", but I believe "Sturmabteilung" is correct. He also spells "Komunist" with one M. (The "K" is presumably for effect, but using one M is interesting.)
What part of the world would most likely cause someone to have that spelling pattern?
5.30.2009 11:12pm
one of many:
martinned,

I rather like your comments and they are one of the major things which make me read the comments to the end instead of trailing off after the first 20 or 30 comments where the "battle lines" are usually drawn. European law is not US law but even when I think the Continental (Napoleonic?) approach is stupid it doesn't hurt to be shown an alternative that produces a functioning society. Politics instead of law is a different matter, the starting points and balances reached in the politics of Europe and the US are so different that while we can learn from each other we cannot use each others for models or examples.
5.30.2009 11:14pm
Leo Marvin (mail):

I live in the United States and I am much more interested in reaching a consensus with Texas than with France -- both would be nice, but I'm sharing this country with Texans, not Frenchmen.

Maybe not for long, if some Texans have their way.
5.30.2009 11:25pm
ChrisTS (mail):
It is politically correct nonsense to automatically blame both sides of a war.

First, comparing debates on a blog with 'war' seems a bit over the top. Perhaps it is those who see political and legal disputation in this light who are likely to become uncivil.

Second, it rather depends on the 'war,' doesn't it? I'm sure careful historians could point to any number of conflicts in which 'both sides' - assuming there are only two - contributed to the belligerence and committed wrongful acts.
5.30.2009 11:45pm
ChrisTS (mail):
I learn a great deal from the commenters, here. Not all of them, of course, but then I'm not always happy with my own contributions.

While I think that any upcoming political battle will always bring out the least rational responses, I find the comments on SSM and immigration issues most likely to turn ugly.

I certainly hope the Conspirators will not ban comments. I think that would be a real loss. As any libertarian should point out: we can always skip comments we don't like.
5.30.2009 11:48pm
Volokh Groupie:
Obama's Sturmabteilung Internet troops

Hilariously ridiculous. Who said freepers couldn't be poetic?

And while I agree some of the conspirators make some pretty politically pointed posts (including some which I think are over the top) the post by Strict was pretty disingenuous


Just this week, Jonathan Adler made a post calling Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor,"nasty."


The only post this week by Adler where I find the word 'nasty' is the Sotomayor's "Temperament" -- Take Two post where the word nasty appeared in a NY Times article which quoted other lawyers describing her courtroom demeanor as nasty. Either Strict did not read this post correctly or is willfully misrepresenting Adler's remarks to take pot shots.


David Kopel made a post calling Vice President Joe Biden "comical," and saying he, as Vice President, "has greatly underperformed Sarah Palin."


Kopel made that comment with respect to the many documented gaffes, lies and backtracks. You can certainly take issue with the term comical but I don't think its sufficient evidence of being mean spirited considering the mainstream media and gibbs have both had to clean up after Biden's gaffes. Claiming he 'has greatly underperformed Sarah Palin' as some type of barb says more about you and your sensibilities considering they were both VP candidates and the comparison isn't unwarranted.


Jonathan Adler recently argued that "of course it is possible" that President Obama has engaged in a criminal "conspiracy" to put white-owned car dealerships out of business in favor of minority owned car dealership.


The post in which you selectively quoted those parts is much different in tone than the tone you try to attribute to it. Here's the contextualized first quote:

Is it possible the Obama Administration is using the Chrysler restructuring for political gain? Of course it's possible; give politicians of either party the ability to reward friends and punish enemies and they'll often take advantage. It's not just the "Chicago Way," it's the way of politics. But in this case, it seems like there's much more smoke than fire.

Adler then spends the rest of the post effectively rebutting many of the claims while acknowledging it still doesn't look good. That means you selectively took those quotes to attribute the exact opposite thesis Adler had in order to impugn him.


And these examples aren't even the most egregious - David Bernstein has recently accused former President Jimmy Carter of being a terrorist.



I'll look for this but considering your track record I'm very skeptical of this characterization.


These criticisms completely lack substance. They are clear and recent examples of "name-calling and over-the-top accusations."


It's become clear that your accusations and comments in fact lack substance. Even worse they seem to be purposefully mis-attributing or selectively quoting posts in order to fit your clearly false narrative. It takes a lot of gall for such a person to then be concerned about 'name calling and over the top accusations'. It's also a shame other commentators have bought into your comment.
5.30.2009 11:49pm
Desiderius:
The regular Leftist commenters* (the liberals are the ones writing the posts) make this blog, whatever their reasons for being here. It's like having LeBron James at your backyard hoop to pick apart your every move. No better way to step up your game.

Take away that dynamic and you lose what has made this blog great.

Those of us who are anti-Left are that way for a reason, so there will be inevitable friction. So too was there friction in Elizabethan England and Revolutionary America. Now those are considered Golden Ages. Such friction is a sign of life and health, not decay.

* - JBG, Dilan, MarkField, Slater, Public_Defender, Randy R., Leo Marvin, Mattski, Anderson, LM, Harry Eagar, and several others, I'm sure.

Most blogs would be lucky to have such a roll as this among their entire commenting community. Here these are just the dissenters. The posters and those sympathetic to those posts should take their presence for the compliment that it is, not for granted, and certainly not to be lamented or cut off.

Back to my penalty box, apologies for leaving early.
5.30.2009 11:50pm
Volokh Groupie:
@Tillinghast

I'd put good money that the K was a reference to Daily Kos.



Otherwise I agree that it was really the election that really lowered the quality of comments here. I still think that VC is better than 99% of other sites with respect to being able to engage with those who disagree with you in the comments. You still have to cut through a lot of worthless snark and baiting but its worth it.
5.30.2009 11:55pm
Bryan Long:
Orin and the rest of the VC staff: if comment quality is an issue, you might (while retaining anonymity) oblige posters to register with a non-fungible e-mail address, i.e. academic, corporate, military. This has been done elsewhere with great success--and I think you'd find that, contrary to expectations, traffic would not actually drop.

Pace the comment quoted in the parent post, the VC was head and shoulders above all law blogs at one time; it's still probably the best one out there. But the political nonsense, the wasteland of trolls from both left and right that the comment page has degenerated into--these seriously detract from what could be an even more worthwhile academic and intellectual legal resource than it already is.

Still love what you guys do, though I wish certain contributors and a hell of a lot of commenters could treat this as something other than Another Political Blog. The Internet has more than enough of those--it doesn't have nearly enough of what the VC does best.
5.31.2009 12:00am
Volokh Groupie:
I second Bryan Long's suggestion with respect to email registration.
5.31.2009 12:02am
Leo Marvin (mail):
Des:

I'm flattered to be mentioned in that company at all, much less twice. Thanks to a password snafu I had to re-register under a new name, so now I'm LM and Leo. Obviously one's a sock puppet. I just can't figure out which.
5.31.2009 12:39am
first history:
If you think the comments are over the top here, you should go to Free Republic, where the tin foil hat crowd meets 24 hours a day.

As others have posted on EV's bleg on blogging software, I would like to see threaded comments, or at least the ability to reply directly to a commenter. Currently, it is very difficult to respond to a point made by the 15th post out of 150. I think this would also help improve the focus of comments.

In addition, so many of the posts are assertions, not reasoned arguments. Jukeboxgrad and Dilan (and I sure there are others) are exceptions, with links to sources to buttress their point of view. This was obvious during the torture memo debate, when those saying waterboarding was not torture made blanket assertions about their position, without any facts beyond their own certitude.
5.31.2009 12:44am
OrinKerr:
Des,

Agreed: We have some simply terrific commenters, and the ones you mention are among the best.
5.31.2009 12:48am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
I enjoy the posts and the comments, for the most part. I know that people sometimes go over the top, but, as Bruce Hayden noted above, there have been some excellent discussions of FISA, "war on terror" legal issues, First and Second Amendment rights and limitations. This is one of my favorite blogs, overall, I just wish that some of the conspirators would allow comments more often (as a pilot program, perhaps?). The Internet is a big place and you are always going to attract some vitriolic commentators, but why let them spoil it for the civil ones.
5.31.2009 12:54am
first history:
Bruce Hayden sez:

... There are enough Republicans who will vote for her because of her ethnic background, in an attempt maybe to cater to the Hispanics, that there won't be an effective filibuster. . . .

. . . Sure, he was trying to cater to a critical demographic, but I don't think that he realized how much many Americans dislike Affirmative Action.

It is not because they are racist, but rather, because it seems somewhat unfair to privilege some based solely upon their membership in some preferred group, instead of looking at their qualifications. . . . .


Under these criteria, no minority or woman would ever be nominated to the Supreme Court, no matter what their qualifications are. Each SC nomination would be considered:

1)catering to a critical demographic (does anyone believe Clarence Thomas or Sandra Day O'Conner were the highest qualified Americans for the Court when they were nominated?);

2) an Affirmative Action hire (unless they came from a privileged background); and

3) a member of a favored group (as we know, Reagan's nomination of Sandra Day O'Conner was the fullfillment of a campaign promise.)
5.31.2009 1:15am
Randy R. (mail):
Le Messurier: "I rather enjoy both, but as for one-note Carpenter not so much."

Yes, of course, I guess it must be hard to understand that a gay man might actually consistently argue for gay rights.

If you want a real flame war, see Prof. Carpenter's posts. Hoo boy! I find out what some straight people *really* think of gays!
5.31.2009 1:25am
Paul Allen:

I hope one of our more liberal readers will hurry up and match that with a similarly idiotic comment from the left, just to balance things out.


Orin: There IS a problem of reflexive support; it just isn't exclusive to the left.


But it's interesting — and to me, troubling — how the nomination, like the '08 election, is bringing so much of that to the surface so quickly so often.


Quite so. People are quite literally delusional, having imbibed several rounds of memes. As an instance of this, let me quote Thursdays's Financial Times lead sentence of its lead editorial: "None of Barack Obama’s officials marks the break with George W. Bush’s disdain for science better than Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize winning physicist."

The FT is arguably the most "mainstream" newspaper in the world and one-step removed from the domestic fray. Yet they've seemly internalized this talking-point without reserve.
5.31.2009 2:34am
constant (mail):
I wrote:


If accuracy is indeed a defense against the charge of incivility [...]



Leo Marvin replied [...]


If you think accuracy is a defense against the charge of incivility, then I have to question your understanding of incivility. [...]



Leo, I wasn't stating that accuracy was a defense against the charge of incivility, I was answering a hypothetical interlocutor who thought that. Hence, "if".

I wrote:


It is politically correct nonsense to automatically blame both sides of a war.


ChrisTS replied:


First, comparing debates on a blog with 'war' seems a bit over the top.


Do you think "war of words" is over the top? If so, then feel free to substitute a softer term denoting a verbal conflict.


Second, it rather depends on the 'war,' doesn't it?


Yes, it depends, which is why I wrote that it's nonsense to automatically blame both sides.
5.31.2009 3:08am
constant (mail):
I wrote:

If you want to excuse OK because the description "idiotic" is accurate, then how about we compromise [...]

Brian K. replied:

sure. [...]

Brian, glad you're a sport, but now you have to deal with Leo Marvin:

If you think accuracy is a defense against the charge of incivility, then I have to question your understanding of incivility.
5.31.2009 3:16am
Leo Marvin (mail):
constant,

I read "If accuracy is indeed a defense against the charge of incivility [...]" to mean you believed it was. If I misinterpreted, I apologize.
5.31.2009 3:52am
CrimLawStudent:
Professor:

If I understand things correctly, you may be adopting a new platform?

If so, I think the new blog software should be able to implement a ratings system for comments. I think it might be able to help with this problem.

I posted a short argument for rated comments here, at 4:13am and 4:37am.
http://volokh.com/posts/1243708697.shtml
5.31.2009 4:41am
Jeff Walden (www):
I didn't bother reading most of the comments, but in case any Conspirator was considering it, I do enjoy dropping over to comments occasionally and seeing responses from others. I usually pick up new knowledge (caselaw references, for example) that I am extremely unlikely to spend the time to acquire otherwise (following the legal world is no more than a hobby for me, and I never took any classes in school that would have helped me to effectively research legal topics, although I'm sure brute-force keyword searches of Westlaw would get me somewhere, perhaps slowly, if I tried). Please don't do away with comments entirely; limiting commenting periods is fine, but at least allow a little time for informative followups to appear.

On a more philosophical note, VC through its comments is a community. Turn off comments entirely and you no longer have a community. Instead, you reduce it to one bully pulpit out of many on the Internet -- and a less interesting one, too, for people who like to learn things the original Conspirator might not mentioned.
5.31.2009 4:42am
Jeff Walden (www):
(considering turning off comments entirely, that is, seems I was overhasty in posting my comment)
5.31.2009 4:44am
LTR:
"This is very funny. Let's play a side game.
"Long-time Reader" cannot spell "criticism", but I believe "Sturmabteilung" is correct. He also spells "Komunist" with one M. (The "K" is presumably for effect, but using one M is interesting.)
What part of the world would most likely cause someone to have that spelling pattern?"

My mother tongue is Serbo-Croatian and I learned German in school as a boy. Please excuse my sometimes spotty English spelling since I haven't spoken a word of it before I was 16 or 17. I'm no Joseph Conrad unfortunately. Hopefully I won't have to learn Spanish too, once Sotomayor and her La Raza buddies finish their Reconquista.



Joking, joking...
5.31.2009 5:19am
Manu (mail):
A poster said it was unobjectionable to say more experience is better than none. Someone tell that to Sir Ferguson's press secretary. Also tell them that CR7 can stay in Manchester, I'll be happy with Kakà!
5.31.2009 8:14am
Boblipton:
Leo Marvin notes in his followup to my post that there are Texans who wish not to belong to the United States. Now, does Mr. Marvin's commentary count as an irrelevancy and when does irrelevancy cross the line into incivility? Or is the implication that because there are some Texans who wish to leave the Union, we can ignore Texas?

Bob
5.31.2009 8:31am
secade (mail):
The zero-regulation-gang deserves to suffer offensive hostility. Good-regulation advocates, now having ascendancy, need to characterize the "government IS the problem" swine who gave us junk financial products, Ponzi-schemes, corruption of the robed-philosopher-king class, serial logic chopping, crippling deficits, sandbagged capital markets, freedom wrapped in injurious license, et al. No, I won't link to Richard Posner's recent abject contrition because it won't impact on the Reagan-formatted, wasted minds who defend the regulative atrocities that delivered an economic holocaust from which millions suffer.

In an amoral swamp, the scum float to the top. Now they are at the bottom, and if rhetoric keeps the bottom feeders there, then let it rain invective.

We see no reason to alter the decision of the honorable special interest whore (AKA: judge) below, ad nauseum.
5.31.2009 8:37am
To LTR:
OT: I have an honest, if perhaps dumb, question. Why is your mother tongue called Serbo-Croatian? Are there other types of Croatian or other 'Serbo' tongues?
5.31.2009 9:02am
Mikey:
Screw all o' yous
5.31.2009 9:06am
mattski:

The posters and those sympathetic to those posts should take their presence for the compliment that it is, not for granted, and certainly not to be lamented or cut off.

The fact that people who disagree with each other still want to talk to each other is something to be grateful for. And when people who disagree with each other speak respectfully to each other it is just a beautiful thing. (And thank you, Des!)
5.31.2009 9:50am
martinned (mail) (www):

I have an honest, if perhaps dumb, question. Why is your mother tongue called Serbo-Croatian? Are there other types of Croatian or other 'Serbo' tongues?

Allow me to take this one, since I grew up around lots of Yugoslavians pre-civil war.

The language spoken in Yugoslavia, which was created post WW I as a combination of various territories that no longer belonged to Austria or Turkey, plus some other bits and pieces, was mostly the language of Croats and Serbs, the two biggest groups. One language, since for eons these groups lived (more or less) peacefully in the same region. This language was called Yugoslavian, meaning south-slavonic, or Serbo-Croat. Throughout the history of Yugoslavia, it was that country's official language. Now that Yugoslavia doesn't exist anymore, calling the language Serbo-Croat has gone out of fashion. Instead, there is Croatian and Serbian, but they are still two dialects of the same language, although Croatian is written in Latin script, and Serbian in Cyrillic. Time will tell whether the languages will grow further apart now...
5.31.2009 9:53am
Carl J. Dahlman (mail):
The silly vitriol would decline if people were asked to comment using only their actual names rather than pseudonyms. Anonymity encourages mob behavior.
5.31.2009 10:02am
Volokh Groupie:
That was a nice attempt cgittings, but to really get the post from the left that Orin was looking for I suggest you add the words 'Yoo', 'fauxnews' and 'nazi' somewhere in your comment.

And replace republican with republikkkans for good measure.
5.31.2009 10:06am
Dave N (mail):
Volokh Groupie,

Yes, and J. Gittings really should have used the word "Rethuglican"--that would really have been persuasive.
5.31.2009 10:26am
To Martin:
Thanks much.

Two nations, divided by a common language, with different spellings sounds vauguely familiar.
5.31.2009 10:42am
pluribus:
I agree with the comment above about not throwing the baby our with the bath water. True, the comments section here is much abused--sometimes egregiously so. But it also contains much that is valuable, and much that is on a higher level than that of many other blogs. I am impressed by the thoughtfulness, and in many cases the professional expertise and impressive level of information that animates many of the comments. Often the commenters add a level of understanding to the original blog. I would hope that the comments would not be cut off.

In the case of Sonia Sotomayor, I think somebody made the point that everybody's mind is already made up. Not so. For one, mine is not. It is rather more easy to identify and condemn fallacious, intemperate, or misinformed arguments on one side or the other, particularly when they are recklessly thrown out in the first few days after a nomination is announced. It is much more difficult to reach a conclusion on the core issue of whether a particular nominee should be confirmed to sit on the Supreme Court. My instinct favors the nomination, because I would like to see another woman on the Court, because I believe it would be a step toward inclusiveness to have a Hispanic serving there, and because Judge Sotomayor herself has an impressive background, both on the bench and off. But my intelligence and caution tell me we should wait for all the facts to come out before pronouncing final judgment on her nomination. If confirmed, she is likely to serve for many, many years and to have a profound influence on our law. Let's listen to what she has to say in defense of her own nomination, and what her critics have to say, and then pronounce judgment.
5.31.2009 10:51am
pluribus:
Carl J. Dahlman:

The silly vitriol would decline if people were asked to comment using only their actual names rather than pseudonyms.

Yes, but so would many of the most valuable and temperate comments. Privacy protects not just the intermperate or the nasty or the silly, but also some very thoughtful, frank, and well-informed commenters.

Anonymity encourages mob behavior.

It also encourages frankness and honesty. I would be reluctant, maybe even unwilling, to put my name up on a public board where for years after I could be publicly attacked merely for expressing my honest opinion on a controversial subject. The fact that I value privacy should not be taken as an indication that I must therefore a wacko or nasty.
5.31.2009 11:03am
pluribus:
To LTR:

I have an honest, if perhaps dumb, question. Why is your mother tongue called Serbo-Croatian?

I lived for some time in proximity to the Defense Language Institute, and one of the professors of Serbo-Croatian was a client. My understanding is that there is one spoken language that is written in two different scripts, Cyrillic (Serbian) and Latin (Croatian). It roughly reflects the religious differences among the people, with the Serbians being mostly Orthodox and the Croatians mostly atholic.
5.31.2009 11:11am
pluribus:
C. Gittings:

The reality here is that the Republican Party is a criminal organization which has spent the last eight years subverting the Constitution and laws of the United States for criminal purposes that border on treason.

I am an ex-Republican and thoroughly disgusted with the present posture of what was once a great political party. But this kind of over-the-top invective is counter-productive. It hurts critics of Republican policies and candidates far more than Republicans themselves. Heat without light does little to advance intelligent discourse.
5.31.2009 11:17am
Blue:

I don't care if you people sincerely believe in your hysterical murderous nonsense, the fact remains that it IS hysterical murderous nonsense, and criminal negligence is often worse than criminal intent.


There's no point in trying to have a rational discussion with people like this, is there? I mean, it's likle they just C&P some screed from Kos and think they're actually doing anything more than a Two Minute Hate sesssion.
5.31.2009 11:18am
MarkField (mail):
If working yesterday weren't bad enough, I missed till now what has ended up being a very thoughtful discussion about the comments here. That in itself is grounds for optimism -- that most commenters here can offer something interesting on what could have been an excuse for name-calling.

Most of the points I'd make have already been made, but there's one more I'd add. In my experience, the better commenters are those willing to compliment the other side. Just in this thread, for example, Dave N and Desiderius -- who are certainly among the most valuable commenters here -- have the grace to recognize people who disagree with them regularly (the same holds true for Prof. Kerr). Instead of imposing a registration requirement, maybe there could be a rule that once a month you must write an elaborate, flowery (think 18th Century) encomium about a political opposite.
5.31.2009 11:21am
To Mark:
My most distingushed colegue and friend: You, my wise companion, are full of #$%&, and don't know $%&*. Indeed, one has to love that kind of 19th century discourse. It's so much more creative.
5.31.2009 11:33am
Joseph Slater (mail):
I think that using real names is helpful in remaining civil, but I understand why some folks feel they can't. I'm a tenured law prof., so it's unlikely I'll get in trouble for posting my thoughts, but most folks aren't lucky enough to have the job security/protections I have.
5.31.2009 11:54am
loki13 (mail):
As someone who has been a commenter for (almost) three years now, I'd like to add the following. My own contributions have diminished greatly over this time, for two reasons:

1. My own time constraints.
2. The level of discourse within the comments.

I think Prof. Kerr is correct; while I think VC maintains an overall higher level of discourse than many other sites, it has noticeably dropped in this time. At first I thought it was the (long) lead up into the recent election, but it shows no signs of clearing up since then. Anyway, I have a few rules that I follow when I do post. Sometimes I'm even successful.

1. Read all the comments. If someone else has already made your point, you don't need to make it, unless you have something to add.

2. After posting, wait a while before making another post, even if someone else posts something inane. Usually another commenter will make the point you wanted to make, and often they will make the point better.

3. If you make another post, it should be a new post. If you are posting the same material but with a better explanation because the other people "just don't get it" you might want to consider that, for whatever reason, the fault is not with you but with the others and no amount of explanation will help.

4. Assume good faith in other commenters. Some times this is really hard. Some times it might not be true. But think of the worst post you ever made, and realize that didn't make you a bad person. Extend them the same charity.

5. Avoid snark. (Not my strong suit).

6. The best comments fall into two categories:
a. The comments where you are honestly seeking more information or clarification. Questions are always good (but not the snarky or self-serving ones.
b. Comments where you have some actual knowledge or insight about the issue. Something more than staying at a Holiday Inn Express or a quick look Teh Googlez.

6. If the OP links to a case or an article.... *read it*. Please. It's not that hard. I know it's fashionable to blather on endlessly about things we know nothing about, but when the Conspirators go to the trouble of giving us the source material, please take the time to look at it before criticizing it.

7. Avoid any posts dealing with torture. Really. I think it's like an ouroboros... or a metapost. To read through all the inane comments about torture, with people screaming past each other, constitutes torture, but saying that might open a whole can of worms about what torture is, which I don't want to do, so... just don't. Please.
5.31.2009 12:15pm
zippypinhead:
Orin and the rest of the VC staff: if comment quality is an issue, you might (while retaining anonymity) oblige posters to register with a non-fungible e-mail address, i.e. academic, corporate, military. This has been done elsewhere with great success--and I think you'd find that, contrary to expectations, traffic would not actually drop.
Baaaaaaaad idea. I can pretty much guarantee that one would get roughly - zero - comments from folks with e-mail addresses from the .mil and .gov domains, for good reason. Use of official e-mail for personal blog posts is a violation of virtually all public sector employee internet use policies. Similar issue would apply to a large number of private sector work-related .com or .org (or .biz or whatever) addresses.

Anonymity fosters unaccountable flames and Trolling, yes. But it also permits comment from those who are in professional positions that make it impossible for them to post under any handle that hints at their real identity. An issue that is probably especially important to the readers of legal-related blogs.

Although Zippypinhead is, of course, my real given name. If you don't believe me, just check my entry on Wikipedia. And that's why, although I read many/most of the posts here and on some other favorite blogs, I generally don't comment unless I think I have something substantive to add to the discussion (including humor or at least weak attempts thereat). Because on the Internet nowadays, everybody knows if you're a dog...

The only real solutions to the problem of ridiculous flame-comments for a blog like VC are either (a) moderate and ban where necessary, or (b) don't have comments. Personally, I favor option "(a)."
5.31.2009 12:20pm
Dave N (mail):
Joseph Slater,

You make a good point. If I were a tenured law professor, I would feel less constrained about expressing my views without a nom de blog. I post semi-anonymously because I am speaking for myself and I don't want there to be any confusion that I am expressing anyone's views but my own--and my views often differ from my elected official's.

On the other hand, I have not really hidden my identity. For example, Professor Cassell could determine my "true identity" by merely going to my class's photo display and looking for the graduate whose name most closely matches this one.
5.31.2009 12:21pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
The responses to C. Gittings' apparently now deleted comment suggest I spoke too soon. (Sigh....)
5.31.2009 12:37pm
Dave N (mail):
loki13,

All excellent points--and even though I don't always succeed in following them, but they are all worthy aspirational goals.
5.31.2009 12:38pm
byomtov (mail):
To add to loki13's list:

Don't post in anger.

This is a rule I too often break myself, unfortunately, but I think it's a good one.

No matter how justified you think the anger is, it is better to calm down before posting. Your comment will be more coherent and persuasive, and you are less likely to embarrass yourself by writing something foolish, or to derail the thread. Trust me.
5.31.2009 12:56pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Boblipton:

Now, does Mr. Marvin's commentary count as an irrelevancy and when does irrelevancy cross the line into incivility?

It was a joke. Sorry if that wasn't obvious. Irrelevancy? Probably? Incivility? I hope not.

Or is the implication that because there are some Texans who wish to leave the Union, we can ignore Texas?

Not what I had in mind, but I like to think a good comment, and I'm not suggesting mine was, is like good art, i.e., the reader can find nuggets of wisdom that never occurred to the writer. (Actually, that's the definition of a very bad comment, since inferring unintended meaning often leads to the sort of flame wars this thread is all about. But that's not helpful to my latest irrelevancy.)
5.31.2009 1:07pm
ChrisTS (mail):
Constant: I'm sorry I missed the implication of the 'automatically.' And, yes, I do think 'war of words' is a far better way of denoting debate than 'war.'

As for anonymity: I think some of us are just not yet fully comfortable with the internet or the whole culture of being public to anyone and everyone. There might be concerns about one's colleagues or institution, but there is also just a matter of comfort level. When a student told me proudly that his new phone allowed him to be located anywhere on the planet at any time, I was aghast. WHY would he want that?

Old-fashioned, I guess.
5.31.2009 1:07pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
This may not be the best time to make this point since I may have just carried it to buffoonish excess, but I'd add to Loki's advisory list that we not take ourselves too seriously.
5.31.2009 1:37pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
zuch:

Just a point of order: It is the Republicans that have been slinging the "racist" appellation here. Didn't you notice?


True. And it's relevant and ironic to notice that they did the same thing ("slinging the 'racist' appellation") when Democrats opposed Estrada: they accused the Democrats of racism. So opposing SS is not racism but opposing Estrada is. The important thing is to yell 'racist' whenever it's politically convenient to do so.

==============
bt:

Even guys(?) like Jukeboxgrad and Sacastro, who I tend not to agree with mostly, add to the overall flavor and can be very funny at times.


Thanks for the kind words. But I think Sarcastro is a lot funnier than I am, so you're being overly generous to imply that I'm in his class.

==============
desid, thank you for mentioning me along with a bunch of people who are a lot smarter than I am. And first history, thanks for doing the same thing. And Orin, thanks for seconding what desid said.

==============
first:

I would like to see threaded comments, or at least the ability to reply directly to a commenter.


I personally find threaded comments annoying (as either a reader or commenter).

Currently, it is very difficult to respond to a point made by the 15th post out of 150


It would probably be easy to add comment numbering, which would help address that problem.

==============
paul:

Yet they've seemly internalized this talking-point without reserve.


You have yourself just delivered a talking point in the way first history aptly criticized: by making a "blanket assertion[s] about [your] position, without any facts beyond [your] own certitude."

==============
bob:

the implication that because there are some Texans who wish to leave the Union


The "some" is probably more than a trivial number, given that the governor decided to toss them red meat.

==============
mattski:

The fact that people who disagree with each other still want to talk to each other is something to be grateful for.


True. But I think it's worth acknowledging a group that is rarely mentioned: lurkers. I think it's a safe bet that the set of people reading any given thread is much larger than the set of people commenting in that thread. And a given comment might have no value or meaning to the person it's nominally addressing, while nevertheless having value for one or more lurkers.

For this reason a thread that consists of Person A and Person B seemingly talking past each other is not necessarily valueless.

==============
carl:

The silly vitriol would decline if people were asked to comment using only their actual names rather than pseudonyms.


Anonymous writing has a long and honorable history. Presumably you've heard of the Federalist Papers. The EFF also has an excellent article explaining that "anonymous communications have an important place in our political and social discourse."
5.31.2009 2:21pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
constant:

the comparison does work after all, once we take into account that there are arguments for either conclusion (that Latinas would be better, or that whites would be better).


I think you're missing my point. I think it's indeed true that "whites would be better" in an environment where they are the minority. And there would be nothing wrong with pointing that out, and it would not be racist to point that out, because it's not a statement about special characteristics that are associated with the white race. It's a statement about special characteristics that are associated with the experience of living as a minority.

Your argument that the comparison doesn't work points out that one could argue that minorities would reach better conclusions. But importantly, you haven't at all shown the non-existence of other arguments that could be made the opposite way.


But I don't have to (show "the non-existence of other arguments that could be made the opposite way"). I have presented the following premise: living as a minority can make me a better judge (and this happens to be the premise SS presented). I don't have to prove that this premise is correct. I only have to show that it's not racist (because SS is not being accused of making an incorrect claim; rather, she's being accused of making a racist claim). And I have.

Aside from that, I do think the premise is correct. You have claimed the existence of "other arguments that could be made the opposite way." I don't claim the non-existence of those arguments. I just claim that they're inferior to the argument I presented.
5.31.2009 2:21pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
re: "don't post anything about torture"

Unfortunately, I've added so many topics to my personal list of things I don't want to wade into, I rarely want to discuss anything here anymore.
5.31.2009 2:24pm
alogos (mail):
jukeboxgrad:

I don't need to imagine any "parallel universe implied by" Judge Sotomayor's statement. I am perfectly capable of looking at our own universe, to Jim Crow, to see that an affection for an identity tinged rule of law can have horrendous results. Therefore, it is in the best interests of all concerned to decry such sentiments from whatever quarter they arise and strive to empower jurists, unlike Judge Sotomayor, whose intellect is not unduly influenced by their ethnicity or gender identity.
5.31.2009 2:55pm
wm13:
Regarding some of the suggestions above:

I really don't like threaded comments. Megan McArdle's website has them, for those who want a sample. What I like about the comments section here is that it's like a conversation at a dinner party, i.e., it meanders, occasionally drifts to a totally different topic, etc. Threaded comments produce a disjointed effect. Quite honestly, I would add to the (self-enforced) rules for commenters, if you want to respond to comment number 15 and there have been 135 comments since, don't. Just let it go, as you would at a dinner party. Your pearls of wisdom on Youngstown Sheet and Tube, or Trig Palin, or whatever, will keep for some other conversation.

It was my recollection that one had to give a legitimate email in order to register to comment at this site. Maybe I am misremembering. So I had assumed that the Conspirators could discover my identity, if they were interested, and have always posted on that basis. However, it's one thing to have a group of respectable law professors know my name and email address; it would be a little different to have all the spammers of the world know my email address, and to have every potential client reading my political opinions. (Not that there's something wrong with my political opinions, but I welcome paying clients who have opposite ones.)
5.31.2009 3:05pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
alogos,

A good friend of mine is fond of the metaphor, "Excuse my eye in your elbow." The point is, eyes and elbows aren't the same. Neither are majorities who abuse their power with group identity, and minorities who react to that abuse with group identity.
5.31.2009 3:10pm
Randy R. (mail):
Question: How should we handle posts that are clearly untrue? Especially when the commentator sticks with the falsehood? That happens all too frequently, and leads to real anger.

Now, I understand that truth is in the eye of the beholder oft times. But not always. Saying that the Republican party is a criminal mafia is over the top, and clearly not true. So what should be the appropriate response? Saying that gays only want to destroy marriage is clearly over the top and not true either.

I understand the anger, but I try (perhaps not always succeeding) to not totally demonize those who disagree with me. On the other hand, there really are racists and bigots out there who assume the absolute worst of their opponents, and they should be exposed, I believe.

I guess it's the nature of blogs, and we should get used to it. And I like Loki's suggestions. Any more?
5.31.2009 3:11pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Randy,

On the other hand, there really are racists and bigots out there who assume the absolute worst of their opponents, and they should be exposed, I believe.

In my opinion, the comment policy facilitates the most effective ways of dealing with that sort. If I expose the flaws in a bigoted argument, the conclusions about the arguer should speak for themselves. If I add my opinions about the person, I've then opened my own character for consideration, and that only muddies the water I worked so hard to clear.

In fact, the most obnoxious commenters are so effective at debasing themselves, the best response is usually none at all. I'm rarely disciplined enough to pass up that kind of bait, but that doesn't mean I think I accomplish anything by taking it.
5.31.2009 3:52pm
BT:
Randy R.
"I understand the anger, but I try (perhaps not always succeeding) to not totally demonize those who disagree with me."

Man all of these mea culpas and on this thread, geez you would think it was Sunday or something. Hey isn't there an internet rule where by post X, Mr A is calling Mr. Y a Nazi? Come guys and gals get with it!!! We can't have all this nice-nice and love and stuff.
5.31.2009 3:55pm
Desiderius:
Following MarkField's suggestion:

"desid, thank you for mentioning me along with a bunch of people who are a lot smarter than I am."

You're very welcome. However, the Rt. Hon. Gentleman has much about which to be modest without inventing modesties that are diametrically opposed to the facts at hand, and, though the Rt. Hon. Gentleman - not to put too fine a point on it - scares the living shit out of me, I cannot with honesty deny the value of the service he renders to these discussions.

Also, apologies for omitting pluribus and loki13 from my list. Even Welker and Justin have shown some unexpected promise of late. OK's longing for a roster of libertarian and/or conservative commenters of similar depth and caliber is palpable, but that's a subject for another thread.

As for Loki's suggestions, I would add but one:

That commenters be encouraged to read this, particularly his warning against faction, and to comment in that spirit, leaving party, if not ideology, aside, at least temporarily, and if only as a sort of vacation from our raging, but cold, civil war.
5.31.2009 4:00pm
ShelbyC:
wm13:

It was my recollection that one had to give a legitimate email in order to register to comment at this site.


Yeah, but you can comment as a guest, as well, and I don't know if the difference is visible on the site between a guest and a registered commenter.
5.31.2009 4:07pm
Boblipton:
Leo Marvin states that his statement about Texan separatists was intended as a joke and I certainly have no reason to disbelieve him. However, that possibility of mistaking a joking statement for a solemn one is one of the problems with written communication and due care should be taken by commenters.

As for the rather sensible statement that commenters be required to offer an academic, employer or governmental address.... well, it disturbs me that I can offer none of those, since I am self-employed. Although an irregular commenter, I would miss the opportunity to offer my occasional detail to the usually civil and almost always interesting discussions here.

Bob
5.31.2009 4:57pm
Federal Dog:
"I really don't like threaded comments. Megan McArdle's website has them, for those who want a sample. What I like about the comments section here is that it's like a conversation at a dinner party, i.e., it meanders, occasionally drifts to a totally different topic, etc. Threaded comments produce a disjointed effect."

To adopt your "dinner party" metaphor, I would argue that threaded comments enhance the ability to conduct a coherent conversation. As others have mentioned, it can be very difficult to follow discussion when you're obliged to scroll past, e.g., many consecutive posts by the same commenter that say the exact same thing in response to comments made dozens, scores, or hundreds of comments before. Threaded comments enable people to see the shape of "the conversation" and navigate effectively.
5.31.2009 5:02pm
Paul Allen:

You have yourself just delivered a talking point in the way first history aptly criticized: by making a "blanket assertion[s] about [your] position, without any facts beyond [your] own certitude."

That's pretty rich. I'm supposed to deliver evidence of the absence of evidence to substantiate the anti-science meme? Nice try turning the tables, but its those delivering the anti-science rhetoric who have an unmet burden of proof.
5.31.2009 6:05pm
rosetta's stones:

"...once a month you must write an elaborate, flowery (think 18th Century) encomium about a political opposite."


Or if you're going to insult somebody, at least try to do it with style:


"That all depends, sir, upon whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."


;-)
5.31.2009 6:09pm
Anderson (mail):
an affection for an identity tinged rule of law can have horrendous results

Which is why you're so lucky Sotomayor is the nominee.

I am in the midst of reviewing every single race-related case on which she sat on the Second Circuit.

There are roughly 100. They cover the gamut from employment discrimination to racial bias in jury selection. I decided that I would stop and write an interim report once I got through her 50 most recent race-related cases other than Ricci because the numbers are sufficiently striking and decisive. Here is what I found.

In those 50 cases, the panel accepted the claim of race discrimination only three times. In all three cases, the panel was unanimous; in all three, it included a Republican appointee. In roughly 45, the claim was rejected. (Two were procedural dispositions.)

On the other hand, she twice was on panels reversing district court decisions agreeing with race-related claims - i.e., reversing a finding of impermissible race-based decisions. Both were criminal cases involving jury selection.

In the 50 cases, the panel was unanimous in every one. There was a Republican appointee in 38, and these panels were all obviously unanimous as well. Thus, in the roughly 45 panel opinions rejecting claims of discrimination, Judge Sotomayor never dissented.

It seems to me that these numbers decisively disprove the claim that she decides cases with any sort of racial bias.
5.31.2009 6:27pm
alogos (mail):
Leo Marvin:

A good friend of mine is fond of the metaphor, "Excuse my eye in your elbow." The point is, eyes and elbows aren't the same. Neither are majorities who abuse their power with group identity, and minorities who react to that abuse with group identity.


I'm sorry, my life, experienced through the deterministic prism of my ethnicity and gender identity have bestowed upon me a richness, a wisdom if you will, which enables me to reach a better decision regarding the applicability of your friend's analogy, and its general banality, than you have.
5.31.2009 6:59pm
keypusher64 (mail):
There was a lot of vitriol on the torture memo threads, but also a lot of informative comments from people on both sides. I am grateful for those.
5.31.2009 7:05pm
CDR D (mail):
via pluribus:

C. Gittings:
The reality here is that the Republican Party is a criminal organization which has spent the last eight years subverting the Constitution and laws of the United States for criminal purposes that border on treason.



C. Gittings' original comment has been deleted?

What a shame.

That kind of invective ought to be allowed, if for no other reason than to illustrate the kind of whacked out thinking that has been around for generations.

Check this out:

http://www.wral.com/golo/blogpost/5066834/

[(Shown Side) Through this inscription I wish to enter my dying protest against what is called the Democratic Party. I have watched it closely since the days of Jackson and know that all the misfortunes of our nation has come to it through this so-called party, therefore beware of this party of treason.]
5.31.2009 7:33pm
Frater Plotter:
Not sure if there's any point to responding so late in the game, but ...

It seems to me that one of the problems of the current political discourse is that phenomenon which George Orwell in 1984 referred to as "duckspeak".

What does "duckspeak" mean? It means precisely what we now call "talking points" or the "echo chamber": when a speaker repeats official positions approvingly, without engaging his individual judgment. It is also similar also to "political correctness" in the sense of a speaker parroting the proper views in order to reassure the listener that the speaker is On Our Side.

(When a speaker uses talking points, it is the points that are talking, not the speaker. He is not saying anything new or insightful; he is merely reprising and offering his support for an official position. As Orwell says of the duckspeaker, it is his larynx that is speaking, not his brain.)

The curious thing about "duckspeak" is, in the words of one of Orwell's characters, "It is one of those interesting words that have two contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it is abuse: applied to someone you agree with, it is praise." The Party loves those who are willing to set their own judgment aside in favor of duckspeaking the talking points of the day, but it righteously detests those who duckspeak against it.

(In a society unconstrained by law or empathy, one response to duckspeak might be to simply excise the unnecessary forebrain matter of the duckspeaker, to return that tissue to the earth to nourish the crops. Fortunately in our society we recognize that the duckspeaker may recover from his ailment and regain the use of his mental functions -- see, e.g., Colin Powell.)
5.31.2009 7:51pm
EPluribusMoney (mail):
I would like to see threaded comments, or at least the ability to reply directly to a commenter.

I don't know if there are other versions, the Atlantic's is terrible in that if you come back a few hours later it's hard to see which comments are new without going down the whole list again. Being able to read by thread or by time would be ideal.
5.31.2009 8:20pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Anyone down on comments threads who needs a tonic should read the comments thread to the Homer translation post. You'll see a mix of serious. substantive comments and silly, somewhat humorous remarks. It's really good, and I am not saying that with a trace of irony.

I don't have much to add to what others have said in this thread except that hotbutton issues are called that for a reason. People REALLY CARE about abortion, torture / detention policy, Supreme Court appointments. And when people are passionate about things, they make very tough, personal, sometimes overly personal arguments.
5.31.2009 8:34pm
Desiderius:
OK,

"Agreed: We have some simply terrific commenters, and the ones you mention are among the best."

By the (admittedly idiosyncratic, but the one which matters most to this commenter) criterion of willingness to engage in original thought, it is the Conspirators themselves who outshine the commenters, and indeed any alternatives of which I am aware on the internets.

It is for this reason that I pray that you and your fellow Conspirators continue to opine on matters outside the narrow ambit of the law alone.

"Society cannot exist without law and order, and cannot advance except through vigorous innovators."

- Bertrand Russell
5.31.2009 10:39pm
Cato The Elder (mail):
So it appears that the Ricci case is really hurting us with the electorate, guys. What's your advice on what the self-destructing Republican party should do next?
5.31.2009 10:54pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
alogos:

I'm sorry, my life, experienced through the deterministic prism of my ethnicity and gender identity have bestowed upon me a richness, a wisdom if you will, which enables me to reach a better decision regarding the applicability of your friend's analogy, and its general banality, than you have.

Then by all means I defer.

What does your deterministic prism tell you about false moral equivalence?
5.31.2009 11:24pm
Anderson (mail):
What's your advice on what the self-destructing Republican party should do next?

Demand that Obama nominate Sarah Palin for Souter's seat, and accuse him of ideological bias if he doesn't?
5.31.2009 11:42pm
Anderson (mail):
SENATOR: Governor Palin, what court's opinions do you read on a regular basis?

PALIN: All of them.
5.31.2009 11:45pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
This afternoon, I had to look up a news story I had written in November 2001. As the microfilm scrolled by, I spotted this headline, which made me laugh out loud:

Bush Aides Criticize
Democrats for Stalling
on Stimulus Package
5.31.2009 11:45pm
secade (mail):
squelching my posts confirms my accusation that this is a blog by and for elitists.

but why the fcck delete one only. splash them all to complete the disassociation, asswipes.

i want you cccksuckers marginalized. quid pro quo you know.
5.31.2009 11:47pm
Anderson (mail):
squelching my posts confirms my accusation that this is a blog by and for elitists

You must find a lot of affirmation on the internet, I suspect.
5.31.2009 11:48pm
secade (mail):
anderson

fuck you and fuck tenure. i only hung around here for a couple of days to assess the deranging power of zealotry. you are a disease.

i prefer to step into shit through the proxy sites.
die soon, you dissipate animals.
6.1.2009 12:17am
Johnny Canuck (mail):
Anderson: I find it disorienting when right wing calls Sotomayor a liberal or activist. It appears to me as if they said -since Obama is a socialist if Obama picked her she must be a leftist radical- strange they haven't been quoting from her hundreds of biased opinions. The left think she must be OK if Obama picked her.

Is Jocks v Tarvernier on your list to review? From my perspective this is a pretty defend the status quo decision (which I haven't read but relied on a summary)

Finally, are you cheating by reading her actual opinions rather than relying on speeches or interviews? No one else seems to be doing what your doing- or maybe they are all quiet waiting to strike "gold".
6.1.2009 12:25am
Kerr's Sock Puppet?:
secade wrote:

[can't quote it or I'll have to wash my keyboard out with soap for typing naughty words...]
Well, either that pseudonym's posts are Exhibit 1 in the case for closing down comments entirely, or they're absolutely brilliant parody of the sort that even Sarcastro hasn't managed to pull off yet. And the grace, elegance and erudition that ooze from secade's comments! Maybe this Intertubes thingie is, indeed, the font of all wisdom in the Universe... or maybe this thread has now finally devolved into a Kos thread right about the point the train typically falls off the left side of the tracks...

Professor Kerr - shut 'er down... please?
6.1.2009 12:44am
Anderson (mail):
Johnny: Finally, are you cheating by reading her actual opinions rather than relying on speeches or interviews?

No, I'm cheating by reading Tom Goldstein reading her actual opinions -- see the link.

Secade: i only hung around here for a couple of days to assess the deranging power of zealotry.

Assess, exemplify, whatever -- mission accomplished.

you are a disease.

A snarky one, I hope!
6.1.2009 12:52am
Johnny Canuck (mail):
Anderson: Missed the "so lucky" link. As to the Jocks v Tarvernier case- does it bother you?
6.1.2009 1:00am
Elliot James:
As to the Jocks v Tarvernier case- does it bother you?


The United States v Falso (CA2; 2008) opinion by Judge Sotomayor does bother me a little bit.

Why?

Orin S. Kerr's scholarship has involved applying the Fourth amendment to computers and networks.

The two dissents in Falso indicate that it's well within bounds to criticize Judge Sotomayor's entire opinion. Alternatively, the majority support for both parts I and II could indicate that she got it right.

Yet it looks like Professor Kerr's focus lies elsewhere.

Of course, Professor Kerr has the freedom to blog about wherever he likes. If he doesn't want to blog about Falso, then all we can say is that opinion doesn't seem to be something he thinks is worth looking at. And we can notice what he does focus on.
6.1.2009 1:39am
Randy R. (mail):
Anderson: You have just violated Loki Rule No. 5, among others, in your response to the lucid Secade. Remember: It's best to let bigots and idiots expose themselves.

Let the guy have his fun -- in all likelihood, he doesn't have many friends that he can talk to about this anyway.
6.1.2009 1:44am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
alogos:

it is in the best interests of all concerned to decry such sentiments from whatever quarter they arise and strive to empower jurists, unlike Judge Sotomayor, whose intellect is not unduly influenced by their ethnicity or gender identity.


If you have a problem with judges "influenced by their ethnicity" then you're a little late, because Alito (link, link) is already on the Court.

So I think you mean "from whatever quarter they arise," except if the "quarter" is Republican.

You also might be interested in hearing some comments Justice O'Connor made regarding the matter of a Justice being "influenced by [his] ethnicity."

Or comments Scalia made about the Court being "influenced by … ethnicity."

=================
leo:

"Excuse my eye in your elbow."


Which reminds me of this: I'm very upset about the damage you did to my fist when you struck it with your nose.

=================
federal:

Threaded comments enable people to see the shape of "the conversation" and navigate effectively.


That's true, from the perspective of a reader who is reviewing a dead thread. But when the thread is active, I think threaded comments make the thread harder to manage. Either as a reader or a participant.

=================
paul:

I'm supposed to deliver evidence of the absence of evidence to substantiate the anti-science meme? Nice try turning the tables, but its those delivering the anti-science rhetoric who have an unmet burden of proof.


Evidence supporting "the anti-science rhetoric" is not hard to find (link, link).

So your claim that there is an "absence of evidence" is yet another unsupported assertion that seems contrary to evidence.
6.1.2009 4:34am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
strive to empower jurists … whose intellect is not unduly influenced by their ethnicity or gender identity.


One more thing about this. I wonder if you think it's possible that when "Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination" that they might have been "unduly influenced by their ethnicity or gender identity."
6.1.2009 4:42am
George Smith:
Archie has apparently proposed to Veronica.
6.1.2009 7:47am
alogos (mail):

One more thing about this. I wonder if you think it's possible that when "Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination" that they might have been "unduly influenced by their ethnicity or gender identity."


Certainly it's possible. Would those cases be among their finest hour in your view, or their most shameful? I'd say shameful, and I'd rather not rectify injustice through a mindless reactionary approach.
6.1.2009 1:04pm
zuch (mail) (www):
JBG:
[to Leo]: Which reminds me of this: I'm very upset about the damage you did to my fist when you struck it with your nose.
Don't laugh. After I was assaulted by some (probably 'inadequate') little sh*te of an officer of the peace in a jail holding cell with six of his brave buddies standing around, it was interesting and illuminating when I talked to the ADA at that time (a friend of mine), with him asking what happened and reading from the police report. According to him, the officer had to be treated for hand injuries ... incurred while blackening my eye. I explained how that 'injury' had occurred, but FWIW, he said he had to go with the police report).

Cheers,
6.1.2009 3:31pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
zuch,

That's your version. I'm sure the police report indicated the cop only used the minimum force necessary to subdue your eye.
6.1.2009 6:07pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
alogos:

Would those cases be among their finest hour in your view, or their most shameful?


Obviously the latter, but that's not the point. The point is that we make a big fuss about someone like SS allegedly being "influenced by their ethnicity or gender identity" while acting as if white males somehow inhabit a superior plane where they automatically transcend the problem of being "influenced by their ethnicity or gender identity."

And a perfect illustration is you, in this thread, pointing to an alleged problem with SS while ignoring Alito's very similar statement.
6.1.2009 7:01pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
zuch:

the officer had to be treated for hand injuries ... incurred while blackening my eye


Unbelievable. Truth is stranger etc.

I think you're forgetting to mention that it was Halloween, and you were wearing a head-to-toe costume made from barbed wire and broken glass. That explains it.

==================
leo:

the minimum force necessary to subdue your eye


For some reason that reminds me of Marty Feldman.
6.1.2009 7:01pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
I wonder if anyone under 40 would know who that is.
6.2.2009 2:52am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Good point. Only if their parents (or grandparents) get nostalgic and rent Young Frankenstein.
6.2.2009 7:56am
Desiderius:
LM,

"I wonder if anyone under 40 would know who that is."

I am and do, but just barely, in both cases.
6.2.2009 8:10pm

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