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Jonah Goldberg on Liberals' Moralizing

Jonah Goldberg has an interesting take on the Larry Craig situation that is spot on when it comes to liberals. Those on the left aren't condemning Larry Craig's supposed lewd conduct but are instead condemning his hypocrisy on the matter. Jonah notes that the hypocrisy that the liberals can't stand about conservatives, failing to live up to every moral standard all the time - in other words - for being human, they, too, engage in moralizing on a regular basis but fail to live up to what they preach:

But that misses the point. The Left claims to hate "moralizers." So any failure to live like Jesus while telling others to follow his example is an outrage, even the defining challenge of our lives. (In 2005, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean pledged, "I will use whatever position I have in order to root out hypocrisy.")

One solution to the hypocrisy epidemic, of course, is to have no morals at all. You can't violate your principles if you don't have any. Another solution: simply define down your principles until they are conveniently consistent with your preferred lifestyle. My own perfect moral code would mandate a strict regimen of not enough exercise, too much scotch and a diet rich in cured meats. Men would be religiously barred from taking out the garbage until their wives told them no less than three times to do so. "Thou Shalt Not Shave More Than Thrice Monthly": I'd never be a hypocrite if only the Bible gave us commandments like that.

But the Left has another solution. Under its system, you can still be a moralizer. You can still tell people what to do and how to live. And, best of all, you can still fall short of your ideals personally while guiltlessly trying to use government to impose your moral vision on others. All you have to do is become a liberal moralizer.

Once you become a liberal, you can wax eloquent on the glories of the public schools while sending your kids to private school. You can wax prolix about the greedy rich while making a fortune on the side. You can even use the government to impose your values willy-nilly, from racial quotas and confiscatory tax rates to draconian environmental policies and sex-ed for grade-schoolers -- all of which will paid for in part by people who disagree with you.

The point is simply this: Hypocrisy is bad, sure. But it's a human failing that should fall upon the individual in question. What the left wants to do is use hypocrisy as a cudgel to declare that conservative ideals are categorically illegitimate because some conservatives fail to live up to them. But we all fail to live up to our ideals sometimes (just ask John Edwards, who wants get rid of everyone's SUV, save the one in his driveway). That's sort of why we call them "ideals." Most of us don't fall as far as Larry Craig seems to have fallen, but that's not necessarily an indictment of his arguments, it's an indictment of the man.

Indeed.


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Comments (58)

I actually feel really sorr... (Below threshold)
pennywit:

I actually feel really sorry for Sen. Craig. Nobody deserves to have his personal life trotted out like this. And, quite frankly, aside from Sen. Craig's questionable judgment in pursuing nookie in public restrooms, I really see very little reason he should be uncermoniously drummed out of office. This sort of behavior should be between Sen. Craig and Mrs. Sen. Craig, or, at worst between Sen. Craig, Mrs. Sen. Craig, and the citizens of Idaho.

As for the moralizer question ... what you're talking about is precisely why a moral libertarian stance is usually a good one. Establish a few ground rules -- don't kill, don't steal, don't ever put Small Wonder on DVD -- and let people more or less alone.

Another point, however. I'm not sure that conflating environmentalism with moral issues is necessarily valid. Aside from warm, fuzzy feelings about spotted owls and other species, the ideal motivators behind environmental policies include proper resource management, preserving a biosphere able to support human life, and ensuring that those who cause damage are forced to pay for it, or, in many scenarios, enjoined from causing that damage in the first place. This economic area strikes me as different from stances on homosexuality and public schooling.

--|PW|--

What the left want... (Below threshold)
marc:
What the left wants to do is use hypocrisy as a cudgel to declare that conservative ideals are categorically illegitimate because some conservatives fail to live up to them.
Truer words were never spoken.

Since the Graig story broke the DNC must have been quick sending out the "Hypocrisy Memo."

I have yet to see a single Dem spokesman, Dem operative, Dem consultant or Dem adviser on any network that didn't use the the "hypocrisy Memo" that spews out a nearly exact quote of the above.

Why... it almost seems as thought they have become the sheep they accuse the right of being.

If only Larry Craig had tho... (Below threshold)
Jayemay:

If only Larry Craig had thought ahead and purchased some Gayness Offsets, everything would be fine.

To state an oft-repeated co... (Below threshold)
yo:

To state an oft-repeated concept - when a Dem crosses the line, it's quickly hushed and shoved to the side and the whistling is deafening.

I will give the GOP credit: whenever a Rep gets nabbed, that person is quickly shoved out the door.

Folly, Craig, et al ... didn't hold office longer than a couple of weeks after the news hit the mainstream.

William Jefferson, Barney Franks, Diane Feinstein ... all still in office (and let's not overlook the former klansman in WV - not that he's done anything illegal, but the left calls the right the party of the KKK, while they conveniently have had a card carrying member in their ranks for decades. That's not hypocritical?).

Dems can scream about the hypocrisy of particular republican politicians all they want, but the hypocrisy of the democratic party in not purging the naughty children from their ranks is inexcusable.

Ironically, a far more impo... (Below threshold)
kim:

Ironically, a far more important phenomenon, which the dunderheaded demagoguery of the Democrats denies them insight into is the collective hypocrisy of them in demonizing closeted behaviour as if it were a sin. Leave aside for a moment whether the behaviour is sinful or not, for the Democrats to demonize it is hypocritical if, in fact, they think it is not sinful.

They didn't think this through, but hoi polloi has an instinctive grasp for this sort of baloney.

Stupid demagogues these Democrats. And they wonder why they only appeal to the useful idiots.
===================================

I have long observed that t... (Below threshold)
Mike:

I have long observed that the fundamental difference between the left and right in America is directly related to their concepts of standards and ideals.

Conservatives tend to cling very strongly to traditional ideals and standards, particularly those concerning respect for the law, and moral and sexual virtues. But since absolute conformity to these ideals (particularly those concerned with sexuality) is often very difficult to achieve, even among those considered to be the most above reproach, the modern left has simply abandoned those ideals as unrealistic and unimportant. After all, they reason, the world has gotten as far as it has with the majority of people ignoring those rules anyway, so why give yourself an ulcer trying to be "perfect." Just do the best you can do and try not to hurt anyone else.

Yet the absence of morality does seem to be as troubling to liberals as it is to conservatives. So liberals have invented their own morality based on social justice and environmental conservation.

But as Goldberg has pointed out, they brazenly violate those rules (wasting enormous amounts of energy in mansions, private jets, and SUV's, sheltering their fortunes from taxation, etc.) in a far more shameless manner than anything done by conservatives.

And it is damn time they were called on it.

Thanks.

It's not the failure to lea... (Below threshold)
Rance:

It's not the failure to lead a perfect life that leads to the charges of hypocrisy, it's the consistent anti-gay voting pattern and accompanying rhetoric, that draws fire.

It would be like any of the well-known congressmen/senators of the lush persuasion voting to bring back prohibition.

"Larry Craig's supposed lew... (Below threshold)
Semanticleo:

"Larry Craig's supposed lewd conduct"

You mean the one he plead guilty to?

Holy Moly.

There's the real difference between the left and the right.

Rance, "anti-gay" ? Back to... (Below threshold)
SPQR:

Rance, "anti-gay" ? Back to the plantation mentality.

"Larry Craig's supposed lew... (Below threshold)
yo:

"Larry Craig's supposed lewd conduct"

Actually, he plead guilty to disorderly conduct.

The supposition being that such conduct was to solicit someone to join him in his lewd behavior.

Jay there is a big differen... (Below threshold)
BarneyG2000:

Jay there is a big difference between failing to reach goals you set for YOURSELF and voting to restricts rights from one group of people, running on that record and then exhibiting the same behavior of those persons you voted minimized.

Also, it is soooo convenient being a Christian. Since they are all sinners they can just sin away, and as long they shed some crocodile tears they are forgiven and welcomed into the kingdom of god.

What a weasel article to tr... (Below threshold)
FreedomFries:

What a weasel article to try to draw attention away from what Craig did & the accompanying aftermath.

One thing that is just about certain; had Craig come from a state w/ a Democratic governor, the Grand Old Potty would have been silent on calls for resignation as people like Goldberg tried to come up w/ some spin short of resignation.

As to hypocrisy, there is every legitimate reason to label Toiletgate as Republican hypocrisy. When people like Craig specifically work to demonize homosexuality through rants and bigotted legislation and then are caught like Craig, there is no other label for it but HYPOCRISY.

The writer of this post as well as Goldberg are whining weasels and they make hypocrites of themselves by the very nature of their whining.

Have you people no basic fundamental decency?

For leftists who believe in... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

For leftists who believe in special rights for some, limited rights for most, and no rights for others; those who believe in equal rights for all are considered "anti-gay"

They also consider equal ri... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

They also consider equal rights for all to be "bigoted".

And then there is the refle... (Below threshold)

And then there is the reflexive legalism, eh, Semanticleo?

Or perhaps Republicans are as guilty of that as Democrats and I only notice because I'm more of a libertarian.

"Supposed" lewd conduct, indeed.

The only thing that comes even a wee bit close is looking through the crack in the door... and here I'm going to assume that, since the detective was *trying* to act like someone looking for bathroom sex, that the looking might have been encouraged by eye contact... in any case, that's a bit lewd. (A glimpse to see if the stall is occupied wouldn't be and we have absolutely no way to know if Craig would ever *ever* peep at someone who wasn't giving him a come-on.)

And the rest? How is toe tapping or finger wiggling lewd?

But by all means let us be legalistic. It wasn't anything he did or didn't do whatsoever, but the fact that he plead guilty to a barely misdemeanor that included the word "lewd". It matters not at all that a random person walking through the restroom would have seen absolutely no lewd behavior, and no child would have been confused by what "that man" was doing.

If the difference between the left and right is the inability to separate the law from morality, then I don't mind much being associated with the right.

Fundamentally, it's rejecti... (Below threshold)
kim:

Fundamentally, it's rejection of a social contract, but the hypocrites are too stupid to recognize that.

Cleo; he pled guilty in the hopes that it would go away. Now that it didn't go away, he is pleading innocent, in an unmerciful court. He believes he was entrapped. Listen to the tape. Now, would you reconsider your erroneous sweeping judgment at 11:13? Or shall we make from your error sweeping judgments about the left?
==========================================

Good god, Barney's setting ... (Below threshold)

Good god, Barney's setting new records for dumb.

Barney, I didn't write this. Nor have I commented on it before now. This is Kim's piece.

As I said a couple of days go...

I have officially given up on Barney. He HAS to be feigning idiocy because anyone that stupid would have forgotten to breathe and died years ago.

That, or elected to the US Senate from Massachusetts.

J.

We may yet get to see the u... (Below threshold)
kim:

We may yet get to see the unveiling of the Portrait of Dorian Oldsmobile.
===============================

Rance,So why don't y... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

Rance,
So why don't you cite for us Craig's anti-gay comments and votes? If they are so egregious, and so common, that ought to be an easy task.

LMAO! Jay is on his game to... (Below threshold)
Ran:

LMAO! Jay is on his game today!

Sorry Jay, but was that rea... (Below threshold)
BarneyG2000:

Sorry Jay, but was that really called for?

Those on the left aren't... (Below threshold)

Those on the left aren't condemning Larry Craig's supposed lewd conduct but are instead condemning his hypocrisy on the matter.

I think it would be more correct to say that those on the Left are condemning Larry Craig's conduct and his hypocrisy. Their condemnation of his hypocrisy is more helpful politically and so they may be talking about that aspect more, but that doesn't mean the "Left" condones men having sex in public bathrooms.

Ah, "disorderly" and not "l... (Below threshold)

Ah, "disorderly" and not "lewd" at all. If we embrace legalism we must, by all means, get the letter of it right.

If we are talking about promotion of gay rights, FF, please tell me what have the Democrats done for homosexuals lately? During the last presidential election Kerry had exactly the same opinion on gay marriage as Bush did. Kerry and Edwards both engaged in fomenting anti-homosexual sentiment for political gain, and Cheney took public ownership of his support for gay rights.

Democrats, calling it hypocrisy, will promote Craig as homosexual and therefore homosexuals as deviant to promote their political cause. Just as one of their own having a homosexual relationship with a former page is quite all right but a Republican sending IM's to a former page is evidence of our young people put in the worst sort of danger from deviants. If Republicans are involved homosexuals are *dangerous*.

It doesn't matter, compared to the political gain, if homosexuals are demonized in the process because... why? You tell me, Freedom Fries.

Why do you support, on the basis of favoring homosexual equality and rights, the party that gave us DADT and despite nice talk when they're raising funds, feels free to portray homosexuals as dangerous deviants? And in the end, looking at actual policies rather than the nice words, promotes exactly the same laws and policies as do the Republicans?

LMAO! Jay is on his game... (Below threshold)

LMAO! Jay is on his game today!

Jay totally pwned him!!! How can anyone be so stupid as to confuse the author of an article on a group blog? I think this is the first time it has happened evah! Way to go Barney you r-tard.

BG2 is only stupid in not r... (Below threshold)
kim:

BG2 is only stupid in not recognizing that persisting in a losing argument is poor rhetoric. I can't believe he is so stupid as to actually believe every last one of the predictable memes he spouts, even in the face of contrary evidence. He and Paul excell at this tactic; most of the rest of them have the sense to shut up. Witness mantis and cleo.

Where's my bD when I need him?
============

Apparently Craig made a jok... (Below threshold)

Apparently Craig made a joke comparing something or other to same sex marriage.

I've seen nothing at all about his voting record or policy statements.

It's interesting to me that I've seen quite a bit of sympathy for him from homosexuals who see the deviant behavior as a result of the situation for homosexuals at the time Craig was a young man. There are at least some who are unwilling to throw a homosexual under the bus for political gain.

Excellent, Synova. The Dem... (Below threshold)
kim:

Excellent, Synova. The Dems made a bad strategic mistake to win the '06 elections, demonizing homosexuals by conflating them with child predators. There are a few homosexuals who did not like that one teeny weeny bit.

Far more importantly, there are moderates who recognize the evil in the need to so demagogue an issue.
========================

Truly, the cries of hypocri... (Below threshold)
kim:

Truly, the cries of hypocrisy come most infamously and voluminously from the hypocrtes.

Moliere, my Man. Hey, I hear there is a good movie out soon about him.
====================================

Fiction, of course, as oppo... (Below threshold)
kim:

Fiction, of course, as opposed to the excellent less fiction one of the last century.
===========================

"Truly, the cries of hypocr... (Below threshold)
yo:

"Truly, the cries of hypocrisy come most infamously and voluminously from the hypocrtes."

... takes one to know one, eh?

Melanie Sloan is a bad girl... (Below threshold)
kim:

Melanie Sloan is a bad girl.
===========================

Barney, you never apologize... (Below threshold)
SPQR:

Barney, you never apologized for your erroneous accusations on the phosgene article. You've earned whatever Jay wants to say about you and far more.

I've been having this exact... (Below threshold)
brainy435:

I've been having this exact discussion with a liberal blogger over the last few days. here's his exact argument:
" It's called realism.

You have to be a crook to be elected in our system to a public office. You have to cut deals and break away from anything any normal man would consider being moral.

As long as candidates rely on donations from organizations to run for office, we can never hope to have a corruption free government. The fact is we more or less require our officials to take bribes to run for office.

So, if I require them to take bribes, why would I be surprised when they turn out to be crooked?"

http://robschumacher.blogspot.com/2007/08/how-did-news-outlets-miss-senators.html

Pretty mind-boggling that anyone would actually EXPECT their leaders to be corrupt.

"Melanie Sloan is a bad gir... (Below threshold)
yo:

"Melanie Sloan is a bad girl."

I checked out her call for Craig's resignation, yesterday ... then did a quick search, and she called for William Jefferson's resignation, as well ..., thought that was fair.

Then I searched a little more.

Naughty, naughty girl she is.

Every lib I talked to used ... (Below threshold)
kim:

Every lib I talked to used that as an excuse for Hillary's cowpoking.
=====================

Doesn't take long to figure... (Below threshold)
kim:

Doesn't take long to figure it out, does it, yo?
========================================

Furthermore, b435, projecti... (Below threshold)
kim:

Furthermore, b435, projection is the basis for their lack of faith in Bush's probity. Historians will find this administration remarkably uncorrupted, even innocent.
==========================

It's a business model. Cor... (Below threshold)
kim:

It's a business model. Corruption is counterproductive.

The Democrats, AKA the Demagogues, may never catch on.
========

Kim, the interweb is amazin... (Below threshold)
yo:

Kim, the interweb is amazing.

And, I agree that history will treat Bush very well. Maybe not as well as it's treated Carter, but, well enough.

Amazing ... just checked go... (Below threshold)
yo:

Amazing ... just checked google news, and cnn ..., Craig is top of the list, but no mention of Hillary's campaign finance corruption.

Surprised? Anyone?

You are too funny.==... (Below threshold)
kim:

You are too funny.
================

Barney, maybe that was a li... (Below threshold)

Barney, maybe that was a little over the top.

Then again, remembering your comments in the thread where I originally made that remark...

And I see where you tried to appeal to me -- a repeatedly proclaimed agnostic -- based on Christian principles (which, of course, you actually intended to use that as a cudgel to accuse me of hypocrisy, I'm quite sure)...

Nah. If anything, I was too kind.

J.

jay, I didn't say you were ... (Below threshold)
BarneyG2000:

jay, I didn't say you were a Christian I said "they" referring to persons whom cry on TV about how they have sinned against the father and ask for forgiveness, and then everything is just fine.

And to think, just a few mi... (Below threshold)

And to think, just a few minutes ago I was going to sign on and apologize to Barney for calling him a foul name on that same thread.

It's truly rare that I would drop my code of conduct and use that word to describe someone. But in this case, I think I'll just let it stand. He has proven to be one of the most verbose, yet dull and unimaginative people I've come across.

Is that why you are afraid ... (Below threshold)
kim:

Is that why you are afraid of ever confessing error? It makes a little sense, now; perhaps I've judged you too harshly.
====================================

How about Giuliani for Atto... (Below threshold)
kim:

How about Giuliani for Attorney General so he can prosecute Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton for treason, then join the winning ticket November of next year.
=================================

Kim,don't tease me... (Below threshold)
yo:

Kim,

don't tease me so with such ideas.

SCSIwuzzy,For starte... (Below threshold)
Rance:

SCSIwuzzy,
For starters, from a letter to a constituent:

"It is unacceptable to risk the lives of American soldiers and sailors merely to accommodate the sexual lifestyles of certain individuals."

Citation means provide the ... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

Citation means provide the source, Rance.

So, where are the cites of his anti-gay comments and votes?

If they are so common, and so strident, this should be an easy task.

Please, please please have ... (Below threshold)
jim:

Please, please please have Rudy Giuliani nominated for Attorney General, or in fact for ANY high federal public office. Please please please have him answer questions under oath at his confirmation hearing.

:) :) :)

That would be just magic. There's only so many times you can avoid facing your public record by shouting "9/11!".

And now for Jonah Goldberg:... (Below threshold)
jim:

And now for Jonah Goldberg:

The Left claims to hate "moralizers." So any failure to live like Jesus while telling others to follow his example is an outrage,

Problem 1: Jesus never said homosexuality is evil and immoral

Problem 2: To say that trying to break the law and have sex with strangers in a public restroom is a "failure to live like Jesus", is quite an understatment, don't you think?

Let's think sanitary options and diseases; let's think parents who may be taking their kids in the bathroom who have a legitimate right not to be exposed to this. Let alone all the adult males who have jsut as much a right to not have to deal with this while they're just trying to take a dump and get out.

I'd think I wouldn't have to state this; it seems pretty clear.

One solution to the hypocrisy epidemic, of course, is to have no morals at all...

Sure. Another solution is to (1) blame others; (2) another is to have an excuse; and another (3) is to beg forgiveness but not actually make amends or really change behavior or even admit what you did.

For instance, blaming liberals because a Republican "family-values" anti-gay crusader is caught breaking the law trying to grope fellow gay strangers in a restroom, and is now trying to weasel out of the plain reality of the situation. (1)

Or pulling a Vitter (3).

But the Left has another solution...become a liberal moralizer....wax eloquent on the glories of the public schools while sending your kids to private school...

What liberals are saying the public schools are awesome and don't need any work? Just curious...

wax prolix about the greedy rich while making a fortune on the side...

Please post any quote of any prominent Democratic candidate, Congressman, or Senator who has said that the rich are bad.

They're all rich! They're all businessmen. I understand this "liberals hate wealth" thing is nice to believe - but liberals love money too. Believe me!

use the government to impose your values willy-nilly, from racial quotas and confiscatory tax rates to draconian environmental policies and sex-ed for grade-schoolers -- all of which will paid for in part by people who disagree with you.

And here's the news flash - not everyone agrees with how money is spent.

Do you think pacifists should be able to opt out of paying for the military budget? I guess no.

That's the nature of government.

What the left wants to do is use hypocrisy as a cudgel to declare that conservative ideals are categorically illegitimate because some conservatives fail to live up to them.

It seems what the right wants to do, is not admit that conservative views of homosexuality are in whole (heh heh, he said 'hole') pretty dysfunctional.

Now, that's my opinion. But people like Ted Haggard, Mark Foley, Craig, Vitters, that guy who was married to "six of 9" from "Voyager" (forget his name), and previous scandalizers like Swaggart, Bakker etc. etc. seem to show that the conservative method of labeling a whole level of sexual behavior as bad and wrong, doesn't really seem to make the behavior go away.

And of course liberals, moderates and independents break the law and do stupid and dysfunctional sexual things as well.

But what makes everyone see Craig, point and go "Ah-ha! is that he's someone who's said and come from the point of view that homosexuality is immoral, and gays should de-facto be second-class citizens.

And the fact that some conservatives have such struggles with their sexuality, really seems to show pretty clearly that it's *not* a choice, it really *is*, as many scientists think, something that's wired in or set involuntarily at a pretty young age.

That's my opinion - but Craig and others make a pretty strong case for that opinion.

Sorry Jay, but was... (Below threshold)
Sorry Jay, but was that really called for?

21. Posted by BarneyG2000

Apparently, absolutely.

And, I agree that ... (Below threshold)
And, I agree that history will treat Bush very well. Maybe not as well as it's treated Carter, but, well enough.

One thing you can count on is Dubya won't be out on a Legacy Rehabilitation Tour like Carter and Clinton.

You can expect also that you won't find him running over to every country in the world telling them how evil and corrupt the United States is - like Carter and Clinton do.

John, not only was it calle... (Below threshold)

John, not only was it called for, it was a moral imperative.

J.

For 20+ years the Grand Old... (Below threshold)
FreedomFries:

For 20+ years the Grand Old Potty has been demonizing gays and using other wedge issues to divide and conquer by appealing to the basest feelings and fears of the electorate.

For Kim & Goldberg to now try to weasel a way out of the abject hypocrisy of the Potty Party is laughable. Anyone with a shred of intellectual honesty would not attempt the whining as evidenced in this post.

As usual, the majority of the comments are dutifully regurgitated on cue.

55. Posted by Free... (Below threshold)
55. Posted by FreedomFries

FreedomFried, I can tell you weren't deep fried in trans-fat, 'cuz your comments have no flavor.

"For 20+ years the Grand Ol... (Below threshold)

"For 20+ years the Grand Old Potty has been demonizing gays and using other wedge issues to divide and conquer by appealing to the basest feelings and fears of the electorate."

Curious how you got 20+ years... not 30? Not more? 20 years only gets us back to Reagan.

Glad you agree with me that the divide and conquer by appealing to the fears and prejudice of the electorate toward homosexuals is a bad thing. When are you going to condemn the Democrats for doing it?

Guess Rance has got nothing... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

Guess Rance has got nothing.




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