Thursday, April 27, 2006

Stupidest Internet Series of All Time

Can it possibly get any stupider than Jeff Sadow's "Stuck on Stupid" series? I've made passing references to the series and I'm sure that other local bloggers have as well. Hell, Your Right Hand Thief demolished the fifteenth entry in the series just two weeks ago, but like our Louisiana's own Energizer Bunny of stupidity, Professor Sadow just keeps going and going; the series has had two new entries since.

Stuck on stupid XVI is largely premised on the idea that Blanco's decision not to federalize the La. National Guard somehow impaired the response to Katrina. This post came weeks after federal officials, including "top Pentagon officials" have publicly stated that the decision was the correct one. To be fair to the professor, this could just as easily be a sign of intellectual dishonesty as stupidity.

You really need to readStuck on stupid XVII in its entirety (and follow the links) to grasp the extent of the stupidity, or intellectual dishonesty. The following rather lengthy excerpt will have to do:

One of his subalterns, Angie LaPlace, commissioner of elections, argued otherwise, saying that FEMA did not take into account the stupidity of Orleanians. This was an extraordinary event, LaPlace helpfully reminds. We don't expect people to be election experts. We don't think the average person would know the election process well and how to get a ballot and how to vote.

Perhaps LaPlace is even denser than Ater, because she doesn't seem to be aware that all anybody needs to know about how to voter early/absentee in Louisiana already is posted at her own department's website. If she does, then in her mind an "election expert" is someone who knows how to point, click, read English, and find a 39-cent stamp, skills she apparently doubts most people have.

While it's clear these dunderheads know how to loosen demagoguery into the public discourse, its equally evident they apparently can't understand federal laws. 44CFR206.233 makes plain what qualifies as an expense qualifying for a Public Assistance grant from FEMA , paid to governments:

(a) General. To be eligible for financial assistance, an item of work must:
(1) Be required as the result of the major disaster event

Since New York postponed its election two weeks because of its response to the terrorist attack on the day of the election, it's clear the disaster itself caused the postponement. But in no way was the "voter education" campaign required for New Orleans to hold its delayed elections.

To begin with, the link to the federal law doesn't make things clear at all. I can't fault Sadow for the fact that it's a lengthy statute, but the references to section 206.233 that I found were marked "reserved". However, Sadow's use of links is often somewhat questionable (more on that in a bit). Even if I missed it (I didn't spend much time looking at the link), my cursory glance showed contradictory passages. I guess that I mustn't be one of those "election experts" that Laplace referred to either, at least I found the last sentence of the above somewhat hard to understand. Okay, the "voter education" campaign may or may not have been necessary to hold the election (not sure how it factored into the court's decision to proceed with the election), it was certainly necessary for the election results to have any chance of standing.

You can decide for yourself whether the "point, click, read English..." part reflects stupidity or intellectual dishonesty. I won't fall into the trap of accusing Sadow of elitism. Familiarity with a computer is less a function of socio-economic background than age, although both factor in. At any rate, there's the whole issue of computer access for evacuees.

Finally, Sadow tends to link to his own posts in a manner that most would find objectionable, especially coming from a professor. It's an entirely acceptable practice for a blogger to refer back to his previously expressed opinions; it's an entirely different to link back to your own posts when you're using a link as a corroborating footnote. As an example, most bloggers and readers would find it perfectly acceptable for me to refer to "my previously expressed opinion" of Mayor Nagin. If I had learned to blog from reading Sadow, I'd refer to a mayor who refuses to even explain his decisions. In Sadow's case, if you try to follow the links, you find more references to Sadow's previously expressed opinions without any corroborating links. For example, try finding anything in the last post mentioned that lends any credence to Sadow's assertion about Ater's desire to become head of the state Democratic Party. He's actually three-for-three in the second paragraph of that post. Maybe Sadow's just stuck on himself.

BTW: I wasn't planning on posting today. For personal reasosomewhat been somewhat tired and in a bit of a fog since last Friday night, not all up to anything involving sustained thought. Fortunately, it wouldn't take a rocket scientist to spot the flaws in the "Stuck on Stupid" series, wouldn't take a political scientist either.

Update, of a sort: Gratifying, but unrelated quote:

And it's never a bad thing to remind people just how stupid conservative bloggers really are

I invited Sadow to come to N.O. so a girl can kick his ass, intellectually and physically.

He is professionally dishonest, but what can one expext of someone from Shreveport. (Or an Associate Professor.)
dwl np, I apologize if I hurt your feelings with my insensitivity, I would have preferred if Kos had said, "how stupid conservative bloggers can be," but you gotta work with the quote you got. Anyway, I don't find it too insensitive, it did refer to conservative bloggers, not conservatives in general. I wouldn't take offense at a negative comment about liberal bloggers, I wouldn't blog if I were that thin-skinned.

No guilty conscience here, not that I feel the need to respond to an aphorism, even though I do admire Eric Hofer. Had Kant recommended formulating the maxim of your actions and then checking for disapproving aphorisms, the moral imperative would be to do nothing in most cases.

At any rate, there's a difference between indignation and self-righteousness. I do think that it's entirely proper to be indignant that Sadow uses his status as a political science professor to gain a wide audience for his intellectually dishonest innuendos and half-truths. I'd like to be able to call him stupid rather than dishonest, but unfortunately that's not the case. In Stuck on stupid XVI, for example, he's too clever to say that the decision not to federalize the guard was a mistake. He perpetuates the myth by making fun of Blanco for continuing to defend the decision.

It would be objectionable enough for a professor to engage in such intellectual dishonesty on his own blog, but he has a bigger audience than that--he's frequently quoted in the undeniably influential BayouBuzz, to give just one example
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