Matt Yglesias: The One Man Mistake Factory . . . Or “I Laugh at the Inferior Intellect”

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on February 5, 2011

The Blogosphere, and social media are to be celebrated for giving as many people as possible a microphone and a platform with which to express their opinions, but while the lack of barriers to entry means that punditry power is not concentrated in the hands of a select few, it also means that consumers of information had better proceed with special caution when it comes to deciding which particular sources of information to pay attention to, and which to ignore.

I am here to try to make it easy on those navigating their way through the thickets of the Internet. Here is an easy rule to live by: Matt Yglesias is not worth your time.

A compendium of Yglesias’s Internet-recorded blunders will make for lengthy reading, but background is necessary. Consider first his belief that a 95% tax rate ought to be imposed on people making over $10 million. Yglesias’s sole concern regarding this new punitive rate was that we may see a lot of baseball players go to Japan, but that gets balanced out by his belief that “most of the super-rich would ultimately find it a relief to get off the treadmill of status-competition and the not-quite-so-rich would be thrilled to see their betters cut down to size.” As I wrote in my post, beyond these statements, Yglesias has given his tax proposal no thought whatsoever. He properly got skewered for his silliness.

In the past, Yglesias has seen fit not only to call Joe Lieberman a dumb politician, but to also call him a dumb Jewish politician, because apparently, Lieberman’s religion is pertinent in discussing his intelligence. Why Yglesias believes that he has any authority whatsoever to dismiss the intelligence of others is a mystery; this is a man who famously botched a discussion of telecommunications policy, went on record as stating that Hugo Chavez was forced to praise Idi Amin, because the Obama Administration supposedly “defanged” Chavez (to this date, I don’t think that anyone understands what Yglesias meant when he wrote that), can’t handle counterfactuals to save his life, doesn’t understand the Senate, doesn’t know how to use Google to research the black conservative movement before writing a post that gets rightfully mocked for the misinformation contained within it, and shows that he doesn’t understand that governors and Senate Republican leaders are not similarly situated, which makes a comparison between Mitch Daniels and Mitch McConnell a ridiculous one (Glenn Reynolds and Ed Morrissey both trained their fire on Yglesias regarding this issue, and both hit their targets; see also Yuval Levin, who takes down the arguments of Steve Pearlstein, on whom Yglesias relied to make his comparison between Daniels and McConnell).

Quite famously, there is this. Read the comments, which are hysterically funny. (UPDATE: Alas, I am alerted that the comments are gone! Well, read this for commentary on Yglesias’s musings regarding Florida real estate trends.)

Responding to a spending freeze decision by the Obama Administration, Yglesias sought desperately to rationalize the move by telling us the following:

. . . Suffice it to say that I’m very skeptical of this approach. I’m attempting not to freak out because (a) I don’t have details and (b) I suspect this initiative was deliberately leaked to progressive bloggers in an effort to get denounced by the left and I don’t want to give them the satisfaction.

I’ll quote myself in reply:

Given the fact that everyone else has freaked out, Yglesias may commence panicking, but one has to marvel at the narcissism of his post. I recognize that the Blogosphere has come a long way, baby, but does anyone really believe that the Obama Administration’s master plan to appeal anew to independents and moderates involves getting liberal bloggers to lose their minds in pixels? Middle class families in Ohio are not going to rally to the President simply because Matt Yglesias might start chewing his fingernails to the quick.

We’re not done. Seeking to discount the idea that former Indiana Senator Evan Bayh might challenge President Obama for the 2012 Democratic Presidential nomination, Yglesias opines thusly:

. . . No incumbent president has ever been defeated in a primary. And the only “close calls” came in a tightly bunched historical period (1968, 1976, 1980) characterized by substantial transformation of the regional bases of the major political parties.

(Emphasis mine.) This is just spectacularly untrue. As I noted in response, in the race between Jimmy Carter, Ted Kennedy, and Jerry Brown for the 1980 Democratic Presidential nomination, Kennedy “won in Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Dakota. As for Brown, he won Michigan.” I might have included the 1976 contest for the Republican Presidential nomination between Ronald Reagan and Jerry Ford, which had Reagan defeating the incumbent President in North Carolina, Texas, Georgia, Indiana, Nebraska, Arkansas, Idaho, Nevada, Montana, South Dakota, and California.

Yglesias is perfectly willing to wave the bloody shirt while being completely in the wrong. Neither he, nor Paul Krugman appear to know the difference between studying tort reform, and actually implementing it. Yglesias and Duncan Black both famously had more faith in John Edwards than Edwards deserved. The degree to which Yglesias is ensconced in an intellectual cocoon is nothing short of astonishing. Yglesias’s analysis of Hayek famously ended up being a laugh and a half. When it comes to discussing Social Security, Yglesias is famously confused. It doesn’t take being in the opposition for Yglesias to add a streak of paranoia to posts filled to the gills with misinformation, bad judgments, hasty conclusions, and flat-out failures in cogitation. When Yglesias goes on the attack against a politician he doesn’t like, the politician in question thanks his/her lucky stars; being attacked by Matt Yglesias makes one look very, very, very good.

Genuinely smart people see through Yglesias, and recognize him as a blowhard. Add to his many defects as a pundit and a thinker his particularly fervent advocacy of dishonesty, and his resort to obscenities when challenged (more on this later), and you have a blogger thoroughly and completely out of his depth, and exposed as a fraud.

Now, to discuss Yglesias’s latest (though not by any means last) Internet-recorded blunder. Seeking yesterday to make some sort of contribution to the debate over Egypt, Yglesias asked “[s]houldn’t Egypt consider switching to a parliamentary system? Would remove high-stakes ‘who will replace Mubarak?’ issue.” Responding, Dan McLaughlin made the exceedingly common-sense point that Mubarak–not Egypt–would be deciding whether Egypt had a parliamentary system, and that Vladimir Putin–no democrat he!–is a prime minister, which means that a parliamentary system would do nothing whatsoever to alleviate concerns regarding Egyptian democracy. Responding further, Joshua Treviño did what any sane, rational person familiar with Yglesias’s inadvertently comic online oeuvre would do; he taunted Yglesias by reminding him that Egypt already has a parliamentary system, seeing as how the country has, well, a parliament. One might note that the country has a prime minister as well. Josh also noted that an intern would have to start keeping track of all of the things Yglesias does not know, which I guess this post will help out with.

Yglesias might have been gracious at this point. He might have admitted error and ignorance, and moved on. But unaware of the First Rule of Holes, and falling back on his time-honored practice of insulting people who call him out on errors (I told you we would get back to this), he decided to make a crack about how Josh was campaigning to be–oh, how shall I phrase this in such a way as to keep this a family blog?–the primus inter pares of Terran rectal openings. Bear in mind that Josh was entirely accurate in critiquing Yglesias. Bear in mind that Yglesias showed himself to have been utterly and completely ignorant when it came to the political structure of Egypt. But that doesn’t matter; make Matt Yglesias look bad on the Internet by pointing out that he made yet another mental boo-boo, and you get kindergarten insults in response. (In an e-mail, Thomas Crown wrote that “[w]hen you’re the bug, the whole world is a flyswatter.” Quite so.)

Doubling down on his goofiness, Yglesias then alerted Josh and his “lackeys” that “having a parliament and having a parliamentary system are the same.” One presumes that he meant “not the same,” but in any event, Dan McLaughlin took up the mantle of Sisyphus by trying to set Yglesias straight. Some final shots ensued without any indication whatsoever that Yglesias absorbed just how much he was in the wrong.

You know, no one is perfect in the Blogosphere, or on Facebook or Twitter. We all make mistakes, and from time to time, others point those mistakes out. It’s not a big deal, as long as we are honest in admitting when we have made errors, correcting those errors, learning from them, and moving on. But few Internet pundits make as many errors as Matt Yglesias, who gets celebrated in certain portions of the Blogosphere as some kind of wunderkind, and who apparently believes his more favorable press clippings. Maybe it is high time that Yglesias’s fans reconsider their opinion of him. Every time he gets near a keyboard, he runs the risk of making himself look absurd, and ensuring that Google captures the moment.

UPDATE: I didn’t know about this: Via Joshua Treviño, Matt Yglesias’s “Team America, World Police” moment. Alas, no cogent explanation from Yglesias on how the world really works that is worthy of this masterpiece (Warning: definitely not safe for work).

ANOTHER UPDATE: Yet more evidence that Matt Yglesias resorts to insults when he has run out of arguments to offer.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Alexander-Thacker/597252629 John Alexander Thacker

    “No incumbent president has ever been defeated in a primary.”

    Even if you graciously assume that what he meant was that no incumbent president lost enough primaries to be denied renomination, it’s still not really true– Lyndon B. Johnson may have won the New Hampshire primary by a small margin, but he abandoned the race and was denied renomination because of his internal polling about Wisconsin.

    “And the only “close calls” came in a tightly bunched historical period (1968, 1976, 1980) characterized by substantial transformation of the regional bases of the major political parties.”

    And this, of course, would be because pre-1968 the political parties didn’t really use primaries to decide their presidential nominations.

    • Eagleton’s Shrink

      In fairness, LBJ bailed but might well have won the nomination had he persevered. Instead, he “lost” without definitively losing, which I suppose is ironic considering what happened in the war that drove his departure.

      Yglesias personifies “credentialed not educated” chic. And his brother wasn’t such a great singer.

    • Anonymous

      Well, one isn’t being “gracious” in assuming this is what Yglesias meant, one is being decent, and refraining from pettiness. There are any number of things to disagree with him about, but a regular reading of Yglesias’s blog would reveal he almost certainly possesses a sufficient, basic knowledge of US politics to be aware that incumbent US presidents are occasionally challenged for their party’s nomination, and occasionally lose a state or two (or more, as in the case with Carter/Kennedy).

      Yglesias clearly meant no incumbent US president has lost the nomination to a rival. And, yes, this “really” is true. It’s entirely possible Johnson would have gone on to lose tbe nomination — though I doubt it — but we’ll never know. The best we can say is the prospect of a bloody nomination fight (and perhaps fear of losing) contributed to LBJ’s decision to leave office.

      When some day a US president arrives at the convention, and subsequently loses the nomination to a challenger, then Yglesias’s statement will no longer hold true.

      • Anonymous

        Decency is not a posture Matt often assumes when engaging his ideological opponents. I fail to see why he should be afforded any – especially when the mistake could easily be correct by taking two seconds to proofread his writing.

      • Rickh56

        He said primary , maybe you should ask to be his proof reader!

  • Nospam

    IIRC, I remember Yglesias commenting that the TANG memos must be true because President Bush hand’t proven them false.

  • Anonymous

    Little Matty inspires in me the following sentiment: Harvard delenda est!

  • Tc

    There is nothing so repulsive as a moron who is convinced he is a genius. Yglesias is a perfect example.

  • Tc

    There is nothing so repulsive as a moron who is convinced he is a genius. Yglesias is a perfect example.

    • http://pumping-irony.livejournal.com/ Wilbur Post

      And yet there seems to be more of those types of people than ever, especially in high public office….

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-R-Olson/1248587113 James R. Olson

      It’s clear to me that you don’t have a handle on the definition of the word moron.

  • Tc

    There is nothing so repulsive as a moron who is convinced he is a genius. Yglesias is a perfect example.

  • Tc

    There is nothing so repulsive as a moron who is convinced he is a genius. Yglesias is a perfect example.

  • Anonymous

    If Yglegias writes a post that no one reads, do his factual errors actually exist?
    Wish I knew more philosophy to answer that one.
    Tc, it is more repulsive that there are more moron/geniuses that get their beliefs reinforced by ultramorons.

    • Anonymous

      Lots of people read Matt.

      I slava tebe Gospodi.

  • Demosthenes

    Hate to tell you, but that link where you note the comments are “hysterically funny” HAS no comments. I assume they’ve been memory-holed.

    • Pejman Yousefzadeh

      Drat! Thanks for letting me know. I added an update, and a link to a post taking Yglesias to task for his obvious oversight regarding that particular issue.

      • Demosthenes

        Of course, the extra-beautiful thing is that although no comments remain, there does remain an update from Yglesias explicitly replying to his no-longer-present commenters. One would think that an attempt to memory-hole comments would be conducted with a little more intelligence. Then again, this IS Matt Yglesias we’re talking about — so, to quote Gwendolyn Post, “we cannot ask for miracles.”

        • http://skington.livejournal.com/ Sam Kington

          I believe Matt Yglesias’s blog has moved around in the last few years, which would explain why old comments are no longer available.

          Not that the comments were any good ever, though. I saw a post a few weeks ago complaining about how notoriously rubbish the comments on any Matthew Yglesias posts were; as I recall the response was “eh, it’s hard work, and I don’t have time for it”.

  • http://twitter.com/russemerson Russ Emerson

    Hey – typing is hard work. He shouldn’t be expected to do elementary research and/or fact checking, too.

  • downing street memo

    It’s pretty clear that what he meant was, there’s a difference between having a “Parliament” and having a “parliamentary system”. The United States could re-name Congress to “Parliament” tomorrow – that wouldn’t magically create a parliamentary system.

    Perhaps “Westminster system” would have been a better choice of words, but anyone who’s not a total idiot arguing in obviously bad faith would have understood the point, regardless of whether they agreed with it or not.

    • Pejman Yousefzadeh

      That doesn’t obviate the many other problems with his analysis, as anyone who is not a total idiot arguing in obviously bad faith would have understood.

      • Anonymous

        It’s not a “fact” that Yglesias is a bad writer. It’s an assertion of opinion. Like, er, pretty much the entirety of your breathlessly jealous screed.

        Oh, and by the way, your assertion that Yglesias is not worth one’s time is a bit bizarre given the obviously substantial amount of time you spend reading him.

        • Pejman Yousefzadeh

          I can assure you that I am neither jealous, nor envious of Yglesias’s writing skills. Nor am I bothered by your misinformed “assertion of opinion” on that issue. Incidentally, if my “screed” were fueled solely by “breathless jealousy,” you probably shouldn’t have wasted your time commenting on it. That you did, despite your assertion of opinion that I am just “breathlessly jealous” is “a bit bizarre.”

          • Wayback

            How many layers do you think this situation is capable of developing?

        • Anonymous

          I have to disagree with that last statement. I think it’s pretty clear that the author of this post does not read Yglesias, at least for any reasonable definition of “read.”

          Or maybe he does, and just somehow managed to completely miss the point of every single post he’s criticized. I guess that’s possible.

          • Anonymous

            Or it’s possible that you and other Yglesias fans protest too much.

  • http://www.reportingforhire.com/ travis fain

    Lot of links to a guy you think nobody should click on.

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  • http://twitter.com/Burrite Brian Murphy

    This is astonishingly! famously! and blatantly! childish.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_F2PBDOAZLUBLJVANGVIZ5CLSLY Thomas Fisher

    Whoa, this Pajama Yousfezhead guy has a real hard-on for Matt! Like Pajama blogging guy is all perfect in his ideology. Sort of pompous in your whol website, aren’t you?

  • DB

    Matt was interesting when he started blogging as a Harvard undergraduate. He was interesting then because he seemed curious and open to new ideas. Then he graduated and apparently decided he wanted to be a player in liberal politics and since then he has toed the party line pretty consistently.

  • Anonymous

    Sometimes I wonder how the Iranian upper class under the Shah could have been so incredibly stupid that they got themselves overthrown. Then I look at Pejman and I think: oh…yeah.

    Read this quick before Le Pej consigns it to the memory hole!

  • Anonymous

    Sometimes I wonder how the Iranian upper class under the Shah could have been so incredibly stupid that they got themselves overthrown. Then I look at Pejman and I think: oh…yeah.

    Read this quick before Le Pej consigns it to the memory hole!

  • Anonymous

    Wait. Who are you again?

    This whole thing just drips with jealousy. Your big ‘gotchas’ all involve purposefully misunderstanding whatever point Yglesias was trying to make. For example; on Presidential primaries he clearly meant that no incumbent had recently lost the entire primary campaign, not any individual states. Same for the Parliamentary system in Egypt stuff. You hardly provide any links to his original posts so your readers can judge for themselves, just links to previous posts you and your buddies wrote about him.

    What a childish and failed attempt at a takedown.

    • Pejman Yousefzadeh

      The links speak for themselves. Even when they are to others, those posts link to Yglesias. You likely didn’t even check them. Your reading of Yglesias is wrong, but unique–I’ll grant you that. Also, I am Pejman Yousefzadeh. I put my name up on all of my posts. Who are you?

      • Anonymous

        Lets just take one hit chosen at random:

        Matt Yglesias “doesn’t understand the Senate”. You link takes us to a guy called Armed Liberal who links to an Yglesias post arguing that the massively disproportionate representation in Congress engendered by the US Senate is problematic. However, the guy you link to believes this is evidence that Yglesias doesn’t understand the Senate and your above statement suggests you agree.

        The Yglesias post you don’t link to leads the reader to the exact opposite conclusion: Yglesias understands the Senate and finds its impact on the proportionality of representation in Congress problematic. Living and voting in DC, I am sympathetic to most arguments about unfair representation in Congress since I have none. However, you could certainly argue against the point he’s making; you just can’t claim its evidence he “doesn’t understand the Senate.”

        When you say the links “speak for themselves” I think you are right in that they say a lot about your writing. I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you have read Yglesias’s writing and find it lacking. However, things like the above example suggest to your readers that you only really read what your ideological fellow-travelers have to say about the guy and take it at face value.

        I get the sense you are trying to add a bit of intellectual credibility to a libertarian movement that is currently lead by the buffoonery of Nick Gillespie: Leather-jacketed Budget Chef (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSep_Pof4wc) but articles like this hurt your cause.

        • Anonymous

          The purpose of the Senate is to check popular passions–especially those found in the House of Representatives. Complaining that the Senate does its job–coincidentally, because doing its job involves bottling up Barack Obama’s domestic agenda–entails a serious misunderstanding regarding the Senate’s historical function. If this isn’t misunderstanding the Senate, I don’t know what is. As for the intellectual credibility of the libertarian movement, Nick Gillespie, or my pride in my writing, forgive all of us if we don’t lose sleep over your objections.

          • Anonymous

            The idea that the Senate is designed to check the misguided impulses of the unwashed masses is not some objective fact. Its an interpretation that is popular with obstructionist, self-aggrandizing Senators and currently serves your ideological objectives. Again, I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that next time Republicans have more than 50 and less than 60 Senators, I can look to your blog for a principled defense of the filibuster.

          • Pejman Yousefzadeh

            I never said that the Senate is designed to check the misguided impulses of the unwashed masses. I said that it is designed to check popular passions, which is an entirely different thing, and which is backed by actual American history. One might add in response to your last point that Democrats were more than pleased to have the Senate serve as an obstructionist instrument when George W. Bush was President, and will be more than pleased to have it serve in that capacity the next time a Republican is elected.

          • Anonymous

            Yes, yes. Jefferson and the saucer. The Great Compromise didn’t have anything to do with convincing small states to approve the Constitution. Good thing they agreed to the 3/5 Compromise too, otherwise the popular passions of slaves might not have gone unchecked. Why did we ever ratify the 17th amendment anyway? Direct election of Senators is a bit too much popular passion if you ask me.

            As for the filibuster, you might be interested to know that your nemesis Yglesias has argued against it since at least 2005 when Republicans controlled the Senate. I agree with him.
            http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?articleId=9483

          • Anonymous

            Actually, the three-fifths compromise was agreed to in order to prevent slaveholding states from having more power (they wanted to count slaves as whole people in order to increase their representation). To be sure, the compromise had the effect of being insulting and offensive to African-Americans, but its purpose was not–contrary to your implication–to check the popular passions of slaves. As for the 17th Amendment, no one but you knows why you are bringing it up; I never wrote anything against the direct election of Senators. My link went to correcting your misapprehension regarding the traditional role of the Senate. If you insist on being misinformed despite my link, well, sorry–I can’t help any more.
            I actually knew about Yglesias’s position on the filibuster, which is why I wrote that “Democrats were more than pleased to have the Senate serve as an obstructionist instrument,” rather than writing that “Yglesias was more than pleased to have the Senate serve as an obstructionist instrument.”

          • Anonymous

            Actually, the three-fifths compromise was agreed to in order to prevent slaveholding states from having more power (they wanted to count slaves as whole people in order to increase their representation). To be sure, the compromise had the effect of being insulting and offensive to African-Americans, but its purpose was not–contrary to your implication–to check the popular passions of slaves. As for the 17th Amendment, no one but you knows why you are bringing it up; I never wrote anything against the direct election of Senators. My link went to correcting your misapprehension regarding the traditional role of the Senate. If you insist on being misinformed despite my link, well, sorry–I can’t help any more.
            I actually knew about Yglesias’s position on the filibuster, which is why I wrote that “Democrats were more than pleased to have the Senate serve as an obstructionist instrument,” rather than writing that “Yglesias was more than pleased to have the Senate serve as an obstructionist instrument.”

          • Anonymous

            Actually, the three-fifths compromise was agreed to in order to prevent slaveholding states from having more power (they wanted to count slaves as whole people in order to increase their representation). To be sure, the compromise had the effect of being insulting and offensive to African-Americans, but its purpose was not–contrary to your implication–to check the popular passions of slaves. As for the 17th Amendment, no one but you knows why you are bringing it up; I never wrote anything against the direct election of Senators. My link went to correcting your misapprehension regarding the traditional role of the Senate. If you insist on being misinformed despite my link, well, sorry–I can’t help any more.
            I actually knew about Yglesias’s position on the filibuster, which is why I wrote that “Democrats were more than pleased to have the Senate serve as an obstructionist instrument,” rather than writing that “Yglesias was more than pleased to have the Senate serve as an obstructionist instrument.”

          • Anonymous

            Actually, the three-fifths compromise was agreed to in order to prevent slaveholding states from having more power (they wanted to count slaves as whole people in order to increase their representation). To be sure, the compromise had the effect of being insulting and offensive to African-Americans, but its purpose was not–contrary to your implication–to check the popular passions of slaves. As for the 17th Amendment, no one but you knows why you are bringing it up; I never wrote anything against the direct election of Senators. My link went to correcting your misapprehension regarding the traditional role of the Senate. If you insist on being misinformed despite my link, well, sorry–I can’t help any more.
            I actually knew about Yglesias’s position on the filibuster, which is why I wrote that “Democrats were more than pleased to have the Senate serve as an obstructionist instrument,” rather than writing that “Yglesias was more than pleased to have the Senate serve as an obstructionist instrument.”

          • Anonymous

            “the three-fifths compromise was agreed to in order to prevent slaveholding states from having more power”

            And it bound them to a federal govt that was willing to legitimate slavery and agree not to pursue its end.

            The 17th Amendment allowed direct election of Senators thus exposing it to the popular passions of the electorate (albeit at a lesser rate than the House). My point was more that while the governmental system devised by the Continental Congress has proved pretty enduring, not every aspect may be perfectly suited to the current reality. And if thats the case, then we can certainly agree that an obscure rule like the filibuster (previously mostly the province of those seeking to derail civil rights legislation) is unsuited to the era of ideologically coherent parties.

            On topic, I’m not sure I will ever understand the vibrant cottage-industry of Yglesias-hating but you might check out IOZ for some ideas. http://whoisioz.blogspot.com/2011/02/h-blockhead.html

            Thanks for the debate and I won’t monopolize your comment board any further.

          • Pejman Yousefzadeh

            I agree that it bound them, but we didn’t argue about that. We argued about whether the three-fifths compromise was meant to check the popular passions of slaves. I agree with the general assertion that not every aspect of the governmental system designed by the Continental Congress is suited to the present; that’s why the Framers allowed us to amend the Constitution. If you don’t like the filibuster, amend the Constitution to outlaw it. But other than not allowing filibusters on personnel appointments, I am not prepared to get rid of it, and it is hardly an obscure rule.
            I don’t hate Yglesias, not having ever met him. I think he is a blowhard, however.

          • Pejman Yousefzadeh

            Actually, the three-fifths compromise was agreed to in order to prevent slaveholding states from having more power (they wanted to count slaves as whole people in order to increase their representation). To be sure, the compromise had the effect of being insulting and offensive to African-Americans, but its purpose was not–contrary to your implication–to check the popular passions of slaves. As for the 17th Amendment, no one but you knows why you are bringing it up; I never wrote anything against the direct election of Senators. My link went to correcting your misapprehension regarding the traditional role of the Senate. If you insist on being misinformed despite my link, well, sorry–I can’t help any more.
            I actually knew about Yglesias’s position on the filibuster, which is why I wrote that “Democrats were more than pleased to have the Senate serve as an obstructionist instrument,” rather than writing that “Yglesias was more than pleased to have the Senate serve as an obstructionist instrument.”

  • Anonymous

    “No incumbent president has ever been defeated in a primary.” The most reasonable way to read this assertion is not as a claim that no president has ever lost an individual state’s primary election to a challenger, which is obviously false, but as a claim that no president has ever been defeated in a primary election campaign, i.e. incumbents seeking reelection have always won their party’s nomination. That you did not even take the time to consider this possibility before dashing off a list of examples that seek to prove error suggests your judgment of Yglesias’ work is driven by emotion more than by dispassionate analysis. It’s fine not to like a particular writer, of course, but what would be far more interesting than a laundry list of Yglesias’ alleged mistakes (some of which are plainly debatable, and some others of which seem trivial) would be a piece explaining what about his work that really bothers you so much. It’s not always easy to figure out such things. This list, meanwhile, seems ad hoc and designed to avoid engaging his work. So if you could put your finger on your real objection — some conceptual or ideological tendencies in his writing, perhaps — it might really provoke readers, especially liberal readers, to thought in a way that this post, for me at least, honestly did not. Thanks for your consideration.

    • Pejman Yousefzadeh

      No, actually, the most reasonable way to read the assertion is that an incumbent President has not been defeated in an individual state’s primary election. If Yglesias wanted to write that no incumbent President has ever been denied re-nomination by his party, that would be another matter.

      • http://blog.carlsensei.com Carl

        Are you not familiar with the principle of charity? The reasonable way to read any argument is to interpret it so that it avoids blatant errors. You choose between interpretations by picking the one that makes your opponent seem the smartest while still plausibly reflecting their concerns. There’s no reason to interpret Yglesias as meaning state primaries instead of national primaries except willful anti-charity.

        • Pejman Yousefzadeh

          The guy blogs for a living. He gets paid to write well, and persuasively. If he can’t write competently, he deserves the criticism that he gets.

          • Anonymous

            He is definitely a shitty writer. You can’t even understand the points he’s trying to make half the time – let alone figure out if you agree or disagree with them.

        • Pejman Yousefzadeh

          The guy blogs for a living. He gets paid to write well, and persuasively. If he can’t write competently, he deserves the criticism that he gets.

      • http://blog.carlsensei.com Carl

        Are you not familiar with the principle of charity? The reasonable way to read any argument is to interpret it so that it avoids blatant errors. You choose between interpretations by picking the one that makes your opponent seem the smartest while still plausibly reflecting their concerns. There’s no reason to interpret Yglesias as meaning state primaries instead of national primaries except willful anti-charity.

      • http://blog.carlsensei.com Carl

        Are you not familiar with the principle of charity? The reasonable way to read any argument is to interpret it so that it avoids blatant errors. You choose between interpretations by picking the one that makes your opponent seem the smartest while still plausibly reflecting their concerns. There’s no reason to interpret Yglesias as meaning state primaries instead of national primaries except willful anti-charity.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for your reply. Your contention about the most reasonable way to read Yglesias’ statement would only be true if one read the sentence as one would if it appeared in a legal document, but in blogging and much other online opinion writing, most people write quickly and in an informal way, and their work should be read in context to maximize (not manufacture, simply maximize) its perceived coherence, not only to capture the author’s likely intent but so that more interesting debates are possible. One can certainly complain that an opponent’s writing is not more precise, if they force the reader to do too much work. Is that your underlying criticism? It certainly would be more interesting and thought-provoking than an attack on Yglesias’ intelligence. After all, given the frequency and range of his writing, even if all the criticisms you’ve made here were spot-on (a possibility which, as comments have shown, is highly contestable), they would indict only a small fraction of his work, and even the best writers are not perfect. So again, I’d encourage you to focus on what your deeper objections are; elaboration on those issues would almost certainly produce a more interesting and challenging piece.

      • Anonymous

        I think you’re being nitpicky here. In this instance, Yglesias didn’t write clearly, but’s it’s pretty clear what he meant when he said “No incumbent president has ever been defeated in a primary.” By looking at the specific years he cited as “close calls” it was easy to figure out he meant “not renominated.” You can criticize his sloppy writing all you want, but he didn’t make a factual error.

  • Jeff McMahon

    Wow. You’re an idiot. You clearly didn’t understand almost all of Yglesias’ comments.

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  • Anonymous

    Man, I so wanted to read this. But then in the third para you erected that billboard advertising your totally inability to grasp the concept of satire, and I had to give up.

    18 Likes on Facebook, though. That’s impressive. That’s almost as many as that picture of my dog in a Batman costume. And you’ve been at this for two years? Keep up the hard work.

  • Jmazon

    Waaay too much column space to discuss this spaced-out dude!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Carnal/100000338451111 John Carnal

    Who the hell is Matt Yglesias? Why does dissing him require so much ink? Cluelessness is bliss.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Carnal/100000338451111 John Carnal

    And another thing. Mr. President, show us your papers!

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  • Rickh56

    Even people of limited intelligence don’t pay any attention to the nut.

  • http://twitter.com/desaforadoWeb Desaforado de la Web

    I find disturbing and dangerous to call “Inferior Intellect” where inferior and superior in matters of opinion is at least pretentious
    Love Desa

    • Pejman Yousefzadeh

      As the shoe fits, Yglesias ought to be made to wear it.

  • Anonymous

    Never even heard of this moron until this column came out so why waste time giving him any press?

  • Rob Deger

    I just want to take a moment to compliment jbosscher and Pejman Yousefzadeh for stating their respective cases in a rational and thoughtful manner. So many political blogs contain little but childish name calling and pointless vituperation.
    It was actually a pleasure to read your dialogue here. Thank you both.

  • http://disqus.com/ovaut/ ovaut

    Why do libertarians fail to understand that, when the state relinquishes power, you don’t get more freedom, you get thugs contesting the power until the cruellest thug wins?

    Or do libertarians just want the power the thug wants? Or to serve the cruellest thug?

    Freedom is tenable only in the custody of a state.

    • Pejman Yousefzadeh

      I suppose I could respond by asking why non-libertarians are such fans of
      the accumulation of state power, and the authoritarianism that so often goes
      with it.

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