Kirk Petersen, Professional Blogger

Irene, Schmirene — let’s talk web traffic, baby!

I’ve just been notified that as of August 24, 2011, I have entered the august and distinguished pantheon of professional bloggers.  Specifically, I received my first payment from Google AdSense.  My autograph is now available for purchase.

It’s taken a lot of hard work and dedication to get to this point.  Since May 29, 2009, when I launched my first AdSense ads, I’ve made more than 300 posts to my blog.  Almost all of them involved a fair amount of research, writing and editing.  I keep  telling myself that I should do more quickie blog posts with just a single observation about a single aspect of an issue.  But once I get started, it nearly always turns into an essay — I described this slippery slope in “Mary Meeker, Entitlements, Wikipedia Drift, and Why It Takes Me Three Hours to Write a Blog Post.”

My average time investment is certainly less than three hours (although that post took longer than that).  Let’s call it 90 minutes.  That adds up to more than 450 hours of blogging, plus an indeterminate but not trivial amount of time spent backing up, upgrading and enhancing the design and recovering from hackers.  500 hours is a reasonable estimate.

During that time, the blog helped launch “My International Consulting Practice,” although I don’t count that vast revenue stream as a direct payment for blogging.  Unfortunately, my two biggest traffic days — an Instalanch and a Sullivalanch — both occurred before I got started with AdSense.

Enough background.  So how much is this lush AdSense payout that makes all the effort worthwhile?  If you know anything about AdSense, you know what’s coming.  Drumroll, please…

$102.34.  That, as my AdSense dashboard so helpfully calculates, is an average of $0.13 per day since I began publishing ads.  (I can almost hear you thinking: “Thirteen cents a day? Gotta get me summa that!”)

A good rule of thumb is that when you hear someone say “it’s not about the money,” it’s usually about the money.  However, sometimes the check really is in the mail — and blogging, for me, is not about the money. Thanks for reading my blog.

Hey, did I mention that I’m now a professional blogger?

Hope Burns a Bit Brighter for a Positive Ending in Libya

Today is my birthday (never mind what year), I’m off from work, and the entire Northeast seaboard is preparing for Hurricane Irene.  (The Web Goddess snapped a picture this morning of the huge line of people at the local Home Depot, waiting for delivery of an undetermined number of portable generators, expected to arrive at an undetermined time.)  So what’s on my mind on this Kirk-and-Irene-themed day?

Libya, of course. Specifically, whether President Obama deserves any credit for what tentatively seems to be shaping up as a reasonably OK outcome in the war against Muammar Gadhafi.

E.J. Dionne in the Washington Post thinks he does, and snipes at those who are less enthusiastic: “It’s remarkable how reluctant Obama’s opponents are to acknowledge that despite all the predictions that his policy of limited engagement could never work, it actually did.”

Not so fast.  Assuming Gadhafi actually goes down, Obama’s policy may have “worked” in the narrow sense of deposing the tyrant — although that was not our stated goal. (As George Will aptly said, “In Libya, mission creep began before the mission did,” and remember that Obama pledged to turn over leadership of the effort “in a matter of days, not weeks.”)  It remains to be seen whether America’s intervention will succeed in the category that should trump all others: advancing America’s interests.

Max Boot, not an Obama fan, finds the appropriate level of nuance:

With Muammar Qaddafi​’s downfall imminent, does Barack Obama​ stand vindicated? To a certain extent, yes. Obama showed courage in intervening to prevent Qaddafi from retaking Benghazi and slaughtering its inhabitants. If he had not acted, it is doubtful Britain and France would have done so, and Qaddafi would have been in power for years to come. …

[However] …

[N]ews accounts from Tripoli describe a state of chaos and a power vacuum that could bode ill for Libya’s future. The immediate post-Qaddafi period will be an acid test of whether the administration and its allies did enough planning and preparation to avoid a prolonged insurgency of the kind that has plagued both Afghanistan and Iraq. …

[I]f the Libyans fail to get their act together, and their nation becomes a failed state, make no mistake: For all the talk about how Libyans must determine their own future, a share of the blame for a negative outcome will come to rest in Washington, London and Paris. Having provided the support that enabled the rebels to prevail, the NATO powers, and the U.S. most of all, can hardly wash its hands of the country. The wisdom of Obama’s decision to intervene still rests in the balance.

Just so.  There’s plenty to criticize in Obama’s intervention in Libya — starting with the fact that he sought permission from the UN and from the despots of the Arab League, but not from the U.S. Congress.  (President Bush, on the other hand, launched the war in Iraq with broad bipartisan support in Congress.)  However, now that our Nobel Peace Prize-winning president has entered a third war, I’m certainly rooting for a positive outcome.  As Victor Davis Hanson said, “the only thing worse than starting a stupid war is losing it.”

I continue to be astonished that Obama entered this war in the first place.  And while “stupid war” may be a bit harsh, I think on balance we should not have gotten involved.  As I wrote in March:

I’m obviously not opposed in principle to the use of military force by the United States.  I’ve never stopped supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But we can’t fix every problem everywhere, we’re stretched financially and militarily now, and I think the Libyan intervention was probably a mistake.

But now that we’ve done it, I hope it’s successful. I don’t root for any American president to fail, especially not in his role as commander-in-chief.  “Success” would mean Gadhafi goes quickly and gets replaced by a new tribe that’s at least marginally more democratic, and the U.S. gets disentangled in “weeks, not months,” to use a more realistic version of Obama’s timeline.  It could happen that way, but I’m not optimistic.

The hope for the timeline now has slipped still further, to “months, not years” — but I’m at least slightly more optimistic about the eventual outcome.

Too Bad We Can’t Put “Generic Republican” on the Presidential Ballot

I wish I could be enthusiastic about any of the Republican frontrunners for President.  Let’s review:

Mitt Romney: As a successful business leader and former Republican governor in a deep-blue state, he has executive experience and a history of reaching across the aisle to get things done.  Unfortunately, the biggest thing he got done was the enactment of Romneycare, with its individual mandate for healthcare insurance.  Nominating Romney would undercut one of the GOP’s most potent issues.

Michele Bachmann: Do we really want to elect another charismatic junior legislator with no executive experience to the most powerful office in the world?

Rick Perry: He’s the nation’s longest-serving current governor and oversees the most economically dynamic state.  But his pitch-perfect announcement line — “I’ll work every day to make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your life as I can” — was swiftly followed by some utterly stupid remarks attacking Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke as “almost treasonous” and saying “we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas.”  I like Perry’s federalism and his pro-business stance, but I worry his mouth may cause him to self-destruct.

As a socially liberal Republican, I’ve largely reconciled myself to the reality that I will have profound differences on abortion and same-sex marriage with whomever the Republicans nominate.  (Giuliani would be an exception, but for that very reason, he has no chance of being nominated.) Social issues, important though they are, have to take a back seat to the economy and to the fundamental struggle over the size and scope of government.  I guess I’m rooting for Perry for now, but regardless who wins, I’ll almost certainly vote for the Republican nominee next November.

The polls have tightened up, but as you can see in the chart above, Obama has been polling behind “generic Republican” for most of the past several weeks.  Unfortunately, he’ll face a specific Republican with specific baggage next November.  And as the overview of matchups at Real Clear Politics shows, Obama polls handily ahead of each specific GOP challenger.  Vulnerable though Obama clearly is, the Republicans face an uphill battle.


In Praise of the Tea Party’s Debt-Ceiling Victory

Tea Party rallyIn an episode of The West Wing, Abbey Bartlet, the president’s wife, was talking with Amy Gardner, the former girlfriend of Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman:

Abbey Bartlet: How did you live with him? He beat Max out of the 12 million earmarked for vaccine education and when I said I wanted the 12 million, he said, “So did I. And at the end of the prizefight, you look at the guy who’s dancing around and that’s who won.” … Don’t you wanna kill him when he says things like that?

Amy: My problem is I wanna jump him when he says things like that.

Amy portrays an aggressive, no-nonsense activist, former Director of the Women’s Leadership Coalition, and subsequently Abbey Bartlet’s Chief of Staff.  Political victory can be an aphrodisiac in Washington.  And despite Republican complaints that the deal did not go far enough, after the month-long debt ceiling prizefight it’s the Tea Party representatives in the House who are dancing around the ring, or they should be.

The advocates of smaller government have won a huge victory.  In January, President Obama demanded a “clean” debt ceiling increase, one not tied to any spending cuts or entitlement reform.  Then he pinned his prestige to the notion  that any deal must be “balanced,” a code word for tax increases.  But at the end of the day, he was forced today to sign a bill making dollar-for-dollar spending reductions in exchange for a debt-ceiling increase of $2.1 trillion, without a dollar in tax hikes.  In just six months, they shifted the debate from whether there would be spending cuts to how much would those cuts be.

Obama gave in because the deal gave him the one thing that he truly cared about — a debt limit that will take him past the end of his first, and I hope only, term in office. And while the Tea Party should be dancing around the ring, listen to the Democrats screaming “we was robbed!”  Taranto:

Did Vice President Biden liken Tea Party Republicans to terrorists in a meeting with House Democrats? Eyewitnesses say yes, but he denies it, Politico reports:

Biden was agreeing with a line of argument made by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) at a two-hour, closed-door Democratic Caucus meeting.

“We have negotiated with terrorists,” an angry Doyle said, according to sources in the room. “This small group of terrorists have made it impossible to spend any money.”

Biden, driven by his Democratic allies’ misgivings about the debt-limit deal, responded: “They have acted like terrorists.”

Biden’s office initially declined to comment about what the vice president said inside the closed-door session, but after Politico published the remarks, spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said: “The word was used by several members of Congress. The vice president does not believe it’s an appropriate term in political discourse.”

Whether Biden said it or not, all parties seem to agree that Doyle and perhaps other House Democrats did. And plenty of prominent elite liberals have sounded the theme. It’s become commonplace on the opinion pages of the New York Times, where Joe Nocera rants:

You know what they say: Never negotiate with terrorists. It only encourages them. These last few months, much of the country has watched in horror as the Tea Party Republicans have waged jihad on the American people. . . . Their goal, they believed, was worth blowing up the country for, if that’s what it took. . . . For now, the Tea Party Republicans can put aside their suicide vests. But rest assured: They’ll have them on again soon enough. …

Hey, what ever happened to civility?

Gracious.  Taranto’s closing line refers to the phony liberal calls for “civility” after much of the news media jumped to the incorrect conclusion that Rep. Gabby Gifford had been shot by a right-wing nut egged on by conservative rhetoric in Arizona.

Listen to the hyperventilating on the left! Nocera, above: “Their goal, they believed, was worth blowing up the country for, if that’s what it took.”  Perhaps my favorite quote comes from Fareed Zakaria, whom I normally consider to be reasonably sensible:

“The Tea Party has an agenda,” Zakaria told host Anderson Cooper, and argued “it cannot get it through the political democratic process.” As a result, Zakaria argues that they have said “we’ll blow up the country if you don’t listen to us. We will hold hostage the credit of the United States, the good standing of the United States and we’ll blow it up.”

This is nonsense on stilts.  In fact, the Tea Party members, who were elected in 2010 in a historic rebuke to Obamacare and the Democrats’ free-spending ways, have just used the “political democratic process” to win an important victory on behalf of smaller government.  Nobody was going to blow up anything.  Tea Party members were elected with what they believe is a mandate to reduce the size of government.  It would have been irresponsible of them to pass up a chance to start moving in that direction.

Much of the news media is guilty of malpractice for pretending that August 2 was a consequential deadline.  The cable news networks and even the Washington Post had clocks ticking down the number of hours and minutes until midnight August 2, sometimes labeling those clocks as a countdown to default.  But if the clock had struck midnight without a deal in place, the awful consequences would have been… absolutely nothing.

The country would continue to pay most of its bills, including all of its debt-servicing bills, through the time-honored business practice of “maturing their payables” — making some creditors wait.  The next major step would be a partial shut-down of government, which certainly would have ratcheted up the drama.  But we were weeks away from any danger of default.

I have to say I’m quite tired of hearing dismissive put-downs of the Tea Party.  I don’t agree with everything they say, but I don’t agree with everything either the Democrats or Republicans say, either.  The Tea Party shows signs of staying power, it may be an important force in American politics for years to come.

Consider: There are 60 Representatives in the House who self-identify as members of the Tea Party Caucus.   That’s one out of every four Republicans, one out of every seven representatives.  By way of comparison,  the Congressional Black Caucus, which has been a powerful constituency in the Democratic Party since the 1970s, currently has 43 members.

So to Rachel Maddow and Bill Maher and the Kos Kiddies and other giggling commentators who have taken such delight in misreferring to the Tea Party with a slang term for an obscure sexual act, this would be a good time to consider growing up.

(Picture of a 2009 Tea Party rally from Wikipedia.)