Saturday, July 20, 2002
SUN, SUN, SUN, HERE IT COMES:
We were advised yesterday of Smalltown Boy�s decision to grace the pages of the struggling New York Sun with another one of his anti-Times screeds.
Like about 99.9976 percent of the population who might come under the New York media umbrella, we haven�t read it or even seen it. Nonetheless, we do find it interesting that Sully would so eagerly publish in the pages of a publication he described just a couple of months back as �soporific.�
Managing editor Ira Stoll, whose main qualification for the job had been running his own anti-Times website, must have seen an obvious kindred spirit, and Sully must have needed the money so he can keep telling people how this blog thing is the wave of the future. (Stoll must also have agreed with Sully that he needed no editor, not even for copy ... how else to explain �excalty� slipping through late in the piece?)
Accordingly, he has now shared this with the rest of the world on his blog (Dollars to doughnuts this will go down as the most widely read thing ever published in the Sun).
He chooses just one subject, the Times� treatment of a poll on Bush that he had devoted excalty � excuse us, exactly � one sentence to earlier in the week.
All his verbiage was rendered moot pre-publication by Hesiod, who notes the one number in these polls that the Blog Queen doesn�t: the percentage of respondents saying whether they�d vote to re-elect the president. It hasn�t been anywhere near enough for any smart political strategist to feel comfortable.
As he puts it:
Just because, say, 70% of people polled say they "approve" of the job President Bush is doing, doesn't mean they will all VOTE for him next time around. That's why professionals look at the President's "re-elect" numbers. Or, the number of people who intend to vote to re-elect the President in 2004.
Even after 9/11, that number has been significantly, and consistently lower for President Bush than his approval rating. And, as the latest Ispsos/Reid: Cook politica report poll shows, the percentage of voters polled who will vote to re-elect Dubyah is 42%.
And, even more striking, is that 55% percent say they will be "definitely" voting for someone else, or are "considering" it.
Those are the numbers Karl Rove is paying attention to. And that's why the White House is in panic mode
posted by Sully 7/20/2002 02:47:00 PM
We haven�t said anything about the running controversy The Blog Queen has created over the Alaska temperature rise because we, too, didn�t know where the stat came from nor is climate our area of expertise.
Sully has now found his answer, and in the process given a splendid tutorial in skewing and distorting statistics. We almost don�t know where to begin. But we can start by giving you the same link.
For starters, this chart is the average temperature since 1906 not for the whole state of Alaska, but the city of Fairbanks.
Granted, located deep in the interior and a couple of hundred miles south of the Arctic Circle, it�s a fair statistical proxy for how the weather is going in the north as a whole.
But neither does it tell the whole story. Its topography, for one, makes it climatically different from places like Nome, Anchorage, Point Barrow etc. ... places that could be factored in to give us the story for the whole state. If we recall correctly, the original Times story focused on coastal areas and disappearing land, which is decidedly not a Fairbanks problem.
Sully thus suffers a damaging loss when he has to admit that the Times did not make the factoid up. In fact he also has to admit that it�s not even the worst possible way to present the data. If he had left his argument there, he might have gotten away with it.
After all, he had to deal with Ruth Shalit�s sloppiness at TNR, and he has to know that a reporter could have simply forgotten to check the timeliness of data offered him or her by a source (which is what it looks like happened to us).
We�d also like to know where he got the info that this was the Times� source. He never tells us. Did the Grey Lady confirm it, or did a reader send him an email speculating that this was it? From the below, we�d guess the latter.
But his instinct to bash Howell Raines won�t quit. The beast is hungry, and he must be fed.
So he makes some startling errors in the course of this little item � errors which would get a beginning reporter at any decent paper in this country a stern closed-door lecture in the managing editor�s office and at least an assignment to write a Total Quality Management letter explaining how he or she goofed up and how it will be prevented from happening again.
First, the way we read the graph, 1966 is hardly one of the four coldest years on it (a phrasing that is slightly misleading in and of itself ... if he'd said �the fourth coldest year� it would have been more accurate to his intent but less sensational). We can see at least five years � 1909, 1932, 1933, 1956 and 1964 � that look colder. To state more accurately that the 1966 base point was "the sixth coldest winter� in the data set would have actually tended to make the global-warming theorists� point, which Sully knew he was not going to do.
At the other end, too, he gets the year wrong. The high spike is at 1993 (about the third hottest year in the data set), not 1995.
In fact, if you do just measure the difference between raw averages in the 1966-1993 period, you�d get a temperature rise of ... 11 degrees! Perhaps, just perhaps, the Times was indeed exercising some caution.
We�d also add that Sully�s earlier contention about how the data points were picked is at odds with his contention that they were �random,� i.e. purposeless. If you�re picking two points to skew your interpretation of the data, obviously you�re not going to do so randomly. The man is so desperate to find any words to make his target look bad that he can�t even look up to see when he�s about to trip over himself.
Gently, we also point out, 1966 and 1995 are in the last century, not this one. Sully could probably say that he was speaking of the century period in the data set, but then we�d rejoin that the data, which dates from 1906, does not quite constitute a hundred years yet.
And finally, upon first glance at the chart one can see that there is a general upward arc in the average temperatures starting in 1971, peaking around the early 1980s and then (yes) settling back down a bit recently. One might well, we think, be justified in suggesting this represents a warming trend (the post-1971 seasonal average curve would clearly be steeper than the century-long one, which seems to have been the Times� point anyway).
We can see this without any special training in statistics, just the standard-issue, non-vouchered, American public elementary-school education in reading graphs.
Basic math errors. Weasely phrasings. Misleading use of statistics. Failure to consult a calendar. Incompetent graph reading. And completely denying an obvious point.
It all adds up. Sloppy analysis like this wouldn�t even pass in a basic math class, much less Journalism 101. Sully has his head up here, and it should be beyond argument that he owes his career at The New Republic and elsewhere to something other than his journalistic skills.
posted by Sully 7/20/2002 01:31:00 AM
Friday, July 19, 2002
AHAB MUST HAVE HIS WHALE:
With little else to preoccupy him today, Sully takes aim at the Times, Howell Raines and Paul Krugman today.
You'd think, though, from the play he gives it that Kurtz's column was limited to just the Times� hypocrisy.
Not so. As usual he�s being highly selective.
Kurtz takes to task not only the Times and its parent corporation, but ... his own employer!
But The Post Co. has been doing the same thing, boosting its reported income by $3.6 million last year by not counting stock options as a cost of doing business. The company announced Monday that it will begin listing stock options to executives as expenses.
A Washington Post editorial last month supported as a "sensible proposal" a bill, passed by the Senate this week, that "would restrict accounting firms' ability to provide consulting services to clients whose books they audit." The Post Co. paid its auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers, $626,000 in consulting fees last year, in addition to $880,000 in audit fees. Post Controller Wally Cooney said the consulting fees are also audit-related.
There's more ... the Chicago Tribune, Knight-Ridder and Gannett of course are all guilty.
Of course, this all skips the larger issue. Would Smalltown Boy like it if these papers all took management�s side? (Yes, we know working for Marty Peretz might leave you with that impression).
As the Times spokesman said:
"From an editorial perspective, we also have a wall between the editorial and business departments of the company. In fact, we have taken editorial positions in the past that conflict with decisions our business side made."
In the real world, that�s called independence. In Sulli-land, reporters and editorialists should thoroughly research the company�s business interests before they write anything, and refrain from doing so if what they want to write conflicts with that, lest they be accused of being hypocrites.
HE JUST CAN�T HELP IT: Sully also gets in a dig at Krugman, showing he hasn't learned the lessons of his February debacle in the slightest.
He makes it seem as though Krugman�s arrangement with Enron were some sort of ongoing thing; when as we all should know it was a onetime thing several years ago that apparently bought little favor for the Fallen Energy-Trading Giant from the Times columnist (who fully disclosed the relationship to his readers).
We know, Andrew, we know, that it must seem unfair that Krugman can take $50,000 of Ken Lay�s money and turn around and rip him and his company without consequence, while he gets fired by both Peretz and Raines for criticizing them.
But, as he should know, that�s life. Get over it. You�re beginning to sound like the worst sort of the professional victims you deride all the time
posted by Sully 7/19/2002 01:00:00 PM
Thursday, July 18, 2002
WHAT THE HOWLER SAID, IN HIS OWN WORDS:
We apologize for yesterday�s double posts. We have learned how to keep that error from happening again.
Meanwhile, Somerby takes on Sully himself today, making many of the same points and letting The Blog Queen have it. We really shouldn't have tried to do it ourselves.
posted by Sully 7/18/2002 05:44:00 AM
WHAT THE HOWLER SAID:
Sully�s disdain for Bob Somerby (who has caught him in some classically laughable errors like showing how, using his own media-bias methodology, the Washington Times is more liberal than the Post) is well-known. So when he went to rip into him, it should have immediately been suspect.
It seems like his main point, though, was to rip into Richard Goldstein by (dubious) proxy. He suggests that Somerby has excused Katie Couric from being wrong about saying Edmund Morris called Ronald Reagan an airhead almost three years ago on Today on the basis that she was misinformed and hadn�t checked the source material � which supposedly, she easily could have.
But a closer examination of both what Somerby wrote and Mickey Kaus�s more detailed but less personalized restatement of Sully�s argument, shows that next time Sully bashes Somerby, he, too, might want to read the source material first (Not that this has stopped him in the past).
First, as Somerby notes, the Post had for a long time exclusive access to the text of the book, and a week before Couric interviewed Morris, a reviewer made the mistake of dropping �apparent� from the �airhead� quote. The book was not yet on the shelves; there was no way to independently verify it.
So, the rest was pretty predictable. Although, Sully should note, the reaction to what Morris had said was scarcely positive:
It wasn�t just Couric who thought this was true. The [Post�s] misquote gained wide circulation; pundits began to criticize Morris for having called Reagan an �airhead.� For example, Tim Russert used the one-word quote on the September 26 Meet the Press; on the program, Ed Meese, Marlin Fitzwater and Mike Deaver all insisted that Ronald Reagan clearly wasn�t an �airhead.� Later that day, the AP ran a story on the Meet the Press session, also using the single word �airhead.� When Couric went on the air the next day, at least six major papers were running stories in which Reagan�s friends pummeled Morris because he�d called Reagan an airhead. Although the Post had corrected its error on September 24, it had done so in standard, buried format. Almost no one in the press�and none of Reagan�s friends and associates�seemed to know that the quote wasn�t right.
Morris did little in subsequent interviews to change the impression, as Somerby notes. Kaus suggests that Morris had his book sales in mind, and that may be true, but you�d think that there�d be such an important distinction to be made by using �apparent� that he�d want to correct it front and center.
So Couric put him on the spot, as she reminded Coulter:
I really conducted an extremely challenging interview with [Morris] because he did eviscerate Ronald Reagan in his book. It was a very, very unflattering portrayal. The Reagans were very unhappy with it. Conservatives were very unhappy with it. Afterwards, Edmund Morris was unhappy with the interview, and Nancy Reagan called to thank me for my line of questioning. So I�m just wondering how that jives with your contention that somehow I�m a Ronald Reagan basher?
Coulter, as she has just about every time she�s been called on this and other wild statements in her �book�, weaseled, saying she never called Couric a Reagan basher (although, as anyone who�s read her work knows, she implies things just as often as she states them just to give herself precisely this wriggle room (how very much like the purported behavior of a certain subject of one of her previous tomes!) She�s not right, and she knows it.
So, to say that Couric passed on a misquote willingly or recklessly is to ignore the fact that the source material was not as readily checkable as, say, Love Undetectable; the context the author of that misquote placed it in, which did little to correct the impression left by the misquote (much like, hmm, Sully's other statements about gay marriage); and the fact that it was not used to bash Reagan but rather Morris.
We�d also be curious to know exactly what it is that Sully doesn�t like about Coulter. Sure, there�s her Sept. 11 exhortation to invade Muslim countries, �kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity� but since Sully himself has made statements that go almost up to that line, it�s hard to see how that would trouble him.
Could it be, perhaps, that he knows that some of David Brock�s accounts of her anti-Semitism and homophobia are true?
posted by Sully 7/18/2002 05:34:00 AM
Wednesday, July 17, 2002
Barely has the new Horowitz Watch been created than the Sage of South Goodstone comes up with what actually would be an honorable entry for it.
For once, he sees right through the tendentious and propagandistic techniques long employed by this political transvestite. We�re especially intrigued by his observation that �calling this a �racial murder� is just inflammation, of a type usually used by the left,� which basically sums up Horowitz�s MO. He also calls Horowitz on an inaccuracy to boot.
But, of course, this begs the larger question of why Sully�s never noticed this before (perhaps, now that Horowitz has inflicted himself on blogdom, he�s afraid of competition?) the many times he�s linked to stories on Horowitz�s site.
Particularly when Horowitz made a fool of himself trying to argue that Chad Conway�s confirmation of David Brock�s account that he once referred to gays as �hysterical� wasn�t really a confirmation of it, and that he didn�t mean what he actually said.
Anyway, it�s things like this that occasionally remind us that the Andrew Sullivan of old is not yet dead.
WHY IS 02 NOT LIKE W?:
As Satan himself reminds us today, Sulzberger has yet to take tribute from his former business partners while holding public office.
Sorry, Sully. If this lame attempt at moral equivalence is all you can do while Harken increasingly tears the bloom off your latest rose, you�d be better off just posting more links to Lego fan sites.
posted by Sully 7/17/2002 05:23:00 AM
Tuesday, July 16, 2002
BAREBACKING: IT�S GOOD FOR YOU:
�HIV-positive men no longer have the terror of contracting HIV hanging over their heads, they often get steroids to help their testosterone-loss and so look beefier and healthier than even HIV-negative men, and they can even have condom-free sex with one another.�
(Note: link ours)
posted by Sully 7/16/2002 07:29:00 PM
THE GOLDSTEIN QUOTE HE FORGOT TO TELL YOU ABOUT:
�If there's an issue with two sides, [Sullivan] will have three opinions.�
Aside from which, Sully should know that others have found more explicit pro-marriage, anti-promiscuity quotes in his books (see our archive for the first week). For him to continue to claim this was some lefty smear is just ridiculous.
DON�T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB:
Please, please tell us someone else wrote that Maureen Dowd spoof. We couldn�t find a link.
Can anyone, anywhere, really take Camille Paglia seriously anymore as a cultural critic since she popped off about The Sopranos in a way that the Paglia of 1990 would have correctly termed an example of politically correct harridanism?
Oh, except Sullivan of course. Who else but he would completely adore the impossible contradictions of a self-described lesbian who writes that �heterosexuality is nature�s norm� (scientific evidence of homosexual behavior in many species be damned) and libertarian who says she voted for Clinton twice and Nader once?
posted by Sully 7/16/2002 06:04:00 AM
Monday, July 15, 2002
TWO TRAILER PARK GIRLS GO ROUND THE OUTSIDE, ROUND THE OUTSIDE:
God, what�s with the format change? We had no problem with single-spacing. Nor, it seems, do many other bloggers.
(But, of course, since when does the Blog Queen deign to admit that his readers read any blogs but his?)
Or is this just another hilarious example of those goofy interns fucking up the HTML again?
�Buchananism is attempting a new bi-weekly magazine, called The American Conservative, due out this fall. Someone should sue him for expropriating a perfectly decent political tradition for his nativist, reactionary myopia.�
Uh, wouldn�t that be �Buchanan is attempting ...?� Abstract nouns usually take the neuter.
And, Sully, shouldn�t some social conservatives sue you for attempting to hijack the conservative movement as a vehicle for gay rights, by that reasoning?
Also, on the Wonderful Moments in HTML Incompetence front, what Foer piece is he referring to? I assume it�s in TNR, but since there�s no link, we don�t know.
CHALLENGES THAT NEED NOT BE MADE:
From The Economist�s response to charges of anti-Israeli bias:
I don't expect anything I've written to have the slightest effect on David's thinking; no doubt he takes me for just another hyperventilating right-wing crank. Is Sullivan so easily dismissed? I'll let David answer that one, if he cares to have the last word.
SULLY THEN ... AND NOW:
"Bush compares relatively well with Clinton on gay rights issues." � today.
"i think president clinton was a fraud on gay equality.� � Washington Post online chat, April 9.
posted by Sully 7/15/2002 01:56:00 AM