Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Serious Attempt to Get It Right: Impossible?

Rupert, you don't make it easy.
No, it's not impossible. As a matter of fact, the truth of the matter -- whatever the matter -- is often expressed clearly by those who recognize it and share it, and the aptness of a public policy position is studied and clarified daily by some of the best reporters in, well, at least the English-speaking world.

As a matter of habit, I seek out these treatises, essays, blog posts, and articles daily, thanks to the great reading room in cyberspace. The truth is out there and recognizable.

The problem is that these days vast echo chambers exist that drive otherwise capable minds into wells of ignorance, where they repeat the echo until it has the ring of truth -- for them.

Some might read the above and consider what I say to be an attack, on Fox, the Wall Street Journal, on right-wing radio, on Limbaugh and the rest. They'd be right if it weren't for one thing: these "news" and opinion sources aren't serious outlets. They are operated for a purpose other than pursuit of the truth. The people who don't know this are unaware that they're victims of propaganda. A growing number of people, here and in the UK (think of News International's growing cell-phone scandal), are becoming aware that maybe Murdoch isn't a good guy and that Rush's schtick is very much streaming from the heart of darkness.

Best interests of the country at heart? Hardly.
No, I don't attack these outfits, I recognize them for what they are. Once I hear that point of view, I pivot and check out my sources, my inspirations, so to speak, my oracles. I like to listen not just to those who hold my point of view but to the people who have actually shaped my point of view. I don't come back to the well to be deluded. I come back for sustenance. My choice is based on having learned who makes sense and who does not, on who is reliable, and, face it, it's based on their sharing a very particular vision of mine: They demonstrate an avocation dedicated to helping people, to improving the lives of citizens of every stripe.

Here's who I rely on and why:

Paul Krugman
Paul Krugman (link that helps you past the NYT firewall). Krugman, economist, Princeton professor, and Times columnist and blogger, helps me move past the rhetoric at the intersection of politics and economics, where the real matters of society reside. He's not afraid to call out the zombie liars for what they are. He believes forging the truth in the age of partisan allegiances and artful if insincere messaging is akin to war, and he's willing to fight it. In fact, he feels he owes it to his readers. He links to friend and foe alike, urging us to go see for ourselves. I do so often and come back mostly reassured that Krugman has it right.

aka Duncan Black
Atrios at Eschaton. Atrios, an economics PhD and a former professor, is winning on several points. First, he's downright funny, even when dealing with the most serious of issues, and second, his beat is a mix of politics, economics, transportation and urban issues (he's in Philly), and culture. He gets more bang for the buck from one word than I get from ten. I'm envious. But a day doesn't pass when I don't go to his blog for all it provides. My must-read on the Intertubes (a word he crafted from the late Senator Stevens of Alaska after his mischaracterization of the Internet as a "series of tubes.").

Josh Marshall
Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo. Josh's blog is one of the oldest around. It was the first blog I started to follow, I think around the beginning of the debate over the Iraq War. Marshall, like a lot of bloggers, is highly educated -- he's a graduate of the Webb Schools in California and Princeton and has a PhD in American history from Brown -- and has a breadth of experience as a "real" journalist. His site has grown into a combination blog/news aggregator, but he's also developed a staff of writers and editors who produce their own reporting. The site is deep and covers politics in all its aspects, from policy to the horse race to the Battle Royal that is modern political theater. TPM produces a regular stream of videos compressing the news of the day -- sometimes an issue, sometimes for a news organization (Fox comes to mind), and sometimes for a campaign (Mitt is very giving in this regard) -- so the site also offers some lighthearted commentary to keep the chill out of the air.

The everywhere man
Barry Ritholtz's The Big Picture. Barry's shop is called Fusion IQ, where he directs equity research, which is available to clients online. Ritholtz, like Krugman and Atrios, accurately predicted the housing bubble and subsequent financial collapse and now dishes up news and opinion not only at his blog but also practically everywhere, from the Washington Post to Yahoo!, CNBC, Bloomberg TV, and more. I don't know how he does it, some days he seems to be EVERYWHERE! He somewhat sticks to a macro view of the markets, but as with other like minds he sees the intersection with politics. Barry's a good soul, but he's got a bare-knuckles style of prose that cuts through the bull. A feature I like is his AM and PM Reads. I picture him laptopping it on his commuter train, reading to and fro. He always seems to find the beef. Solid guy, solid site, and also filled with his special gritty yet urbane sense of humor.

Marcos Moulitsas ZĂșniga
Marcos Moulitsas' Daily Kos. Another one of the political blogs I discovered early on, Daily Kos is openly supportive of the Democratic Party, though they're not afraid to spank Blue Dogs when they find them. It's long been well past simply a political blog, with great coverage of science, the environment, culture, and society. Kos, as he's called, has created a fabulous resource by allowing one and all to post diaries, some of which are elevated to "recommended" or "community spotlight" status, allowing a depth of reporting, analysis, and opinion unrivaled in the left blogoshere. I regularly post diaries there and am tickled pink by the occasional upgrade. A regular favorite of mine is Bill in Portland Maine's Cheers and Jeers: Rum and Coke FRIDAY! Also, Daily Kos has the most robust presentation of the political universe, regularly chronicling the various races around the country and the inner, day-to-day workings of Congress. Kos doesn't post as much as he used to, but his stamp is still all over the site. Like many bloggers, Kos is well educated, with two bachelor's degrees in Journalism, Philosophy and Political Science from Northern Illinois Univesity and a J.D. from Boston University School of Law. Moulitsas spent his formative years in El Salvador and is a U.S. Army veteran.

For newsy news and opinion, I go to Slate, Huffington Post, and Salon, and of course I have to see what nonsense they're up to daily at the New York Times and the Washington Post. To see my honorable Mentions, just check out my blogroll in the right sidebar. There are actually more sites I rely on and do visit daily, but I've chosen for this post the ones I go to even before the coffee is ready. It's made me a better man, goddamit, and these people help me get it right. Thanks to them, it's not impossible.

Note. It occurs to me that once you get it right -- get your head screwed on straight -- then what do you do? I should explore that in another blog post very soon.

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