Monday, November 28, 2011

The Blogs I Read and Why

When I first discovered blogs in 2002, I was curious about them and danced around the web paying only occasional attention. The election year of 2004 changed that, and I'm sure it cemented my view of blogging as vital journalism for the future. Of course, as happens in life, the future is now and in fact is rapidly becoming the past. Blogging is no longer cutting edge. It's real, has a market, and a wide distribution of excellent, good, okay, and extraordinarily bad blogs.

I split my time between news -- NY Times, WaPo, Huffington Post (not really a blog anymore), SFGate, Yahoo!, Reuters, etc. -- and the various opinion sections of these newspapers and news services. The rest of the time I'm in the blogosphere where I can count of several things: well-attenuated opinion, links to breaking stories I might not catch otherwise, real passion for politics and economics, stridency that elevates, and often great pieces with strong dashes of wit and humor.

The several go-to blogs I read even before the coffee is ready serve a variety of purposes and why I rely on them:

Eschaton -- Here's the home of Duncan Black, or Atrios, the screen name under which he writes. Atrios has a near-perfect mix of humor, scorn, politics, economics, and insight. He's often at his funniest when he the most pissed. Maybe it's because he's from Philadelphia that he blogs in short bursts -- a style my girl friend, who's from Philly, prefers; she thinks I run on and on and... -- and gets a lot of mileage out of his brevity. I also like that he writes from a center-city point of view, and talks about walkable neighborhoods and effective transit policy, and in general the things that are often forgotten in political debate. Atrios doesn't give much of a damn for the horse-race aspect of politics and views the stock market and its machinations as just another day at the dog track, as he puts it. Life isn't a bowl of cherries at Eschaton -- economics (Atrios holds a PhD in it) is, afterall, the dismal science, especially these days -- and he doesn't sugarcoat anything, but he does wrap it up in enough acerbic wit to make it palatable.

The Conscience of a Liberal -- This is New York Times columnist and Princeton economics professor Paul Krugman's blog. He generally sticks to things economic, but that's so political these days that it's hard to keep them separate. It helps that I'm a Keynesian, saltwater economics fan, but I find Krugman very helpful in steering me to the heart of most political debates, which generally are struggles for money and power at their core. I like Krugman's clarity and his enthusiasm -- jeez, he must work 26 hours a day -- and I like that he doesn't pull punches and yet never seems uncivil, regardless of the occasional choruses of claims that he's "shrill." I find Paul Krugman, his blog and his columns, to be indispensable.

Talking Points Memo -- Josh Marshall has put together a damned fine political reporting blog. Sure, he's on the progressive side and offers a good dose of opinion, but he's sensible enough to mix in enough legitimate reporting to provide a good factual basis for his point of view. It's a full-service site dealing with politics on both the policy and horse-race sides. He's a good place to stay up on the polling, especially when we get closer to the end of election cycles. Josh has built a really decent brand by hiring a competent staff of reporters, and has extra features, like Idea Lab, TPM DC, and TPM 2012. I think TPM might have been the very first blog I started following in 2002 or early 2003.

Daily Kos -- Marcos Moulitsas' blog is probably the most political of all the progressive blogs, but that's not a bad thing. If you want to get down to the nuts and bolts of elections -- and how to win them -- Daily Kos is your kind of place. It does its own polling, follows races district by district, state by state. It's got a number of recurring features that are as informative as they are entertaining. Marcos (Kos for short) has brought together a great extended family of writers, bloggers, and commentators from across the U.S., as well as hosting lots of diaries, some of which get featured from time to time. So drop by, get involved, and get political (they cover science and nature, too).

Glenn Greenwald -- I don't know whether to call Glenn a columnist or a blogger, but his coverage of constitutional and human rights issues is as passionate as anywhere on the web. A constitutional lawyer by training and experience, he speaks with great disdain for the general permissiveness that's evolved here in the U.S. toward torture, warrantless wiretapping, and the easily observable march toward a true surveillance/police state. Glenn Greenwald is not always -- in fact very rarely -- a walk in the park, but I appreciate his grasp of the seriousness of the issues stemming from the Bill of Rights, in fact all human rights. He's in many ways the conscience of the country.

The Dish w/ Andrew Sullivan -- The only regular blog I visit that's not progressive is Andrew Sullivan's. I know he's not everyone's cup of tea, especially because he's been around long enough as a journalist and editor to have pissed off a number of people -- it didn't help that he favored the Iraq War, though he's thoroughly recanted -- but I like him because he's a conservative who called out the Bushies for the vile thugs they were long before any other conservative did so. He live-blogs debates as well as anyone does, and he brings a wide range of opinions to his site. He doesn't allow comments but does quote his readers often enough. And let's face it: he's probably the only gay expat Brit devout Catholic with HIV in the blogosphere, though I could be wrong. But he does have his own unique perspective. Finally, when he latches on to an evolving story, like the Iranian Green Revolution, he covers it like a blanket.

The Big Picture -- Barry Ritholtz is an oddity: a stock trader who doesn't buy the Wall Street Journal bull. I know, there's more than one of him, but very few blog with the wit -- and hint of progressivism -- that Barry brings to his views on the markets. He claims for his site a "macro perspective," which is demonstrably true daily. I don't get stock picks from him, for he doesn't offer them. What he does is explain the macro-climate of the economy, which helps readers understand why the markets might do what they're going to do, and then offers technical analysis that informs how he'd deal in such an environment. I don't always get what he's up to, but I love the way he busts the chops of the Very Serious People that push zombie lies in order to throw fairy dust in everyone's eyes. Barry's wisdom is one very necessary piece in the puzzle we need to solve in order to save the world (if that's even possible).

Informed Comment -- Professor Juan Cole of U. of Michigan espouses on things in the Arab world and generally offers news and insight we wouldn't have access to. With the Arab world blowing up from Libya to Yemen to Egypt to Syria and beyond, Cole's perspective is invaluable. When something blows up in the Middle East, I go to Informed Comment.

I could go on and tell you that I also visit a host of other sites almost daily, such as firedoglake, First Draft, Hullabaloo, Balloon Juice, Media Matters, Washington Monthly, Think Progress, Ezra Klein, and so on, and they're mostly all in my blog roll on the right sidebar. I don't list -- and rarely visit anymore -- those conservative sites I used to visit occasionally to maintain "perspective." I don't do that much anymore unless I'm in search of a hoot.

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