Saturday, September 07, 2002
MORE ON SWARNS:
Atrios, who is getting to be the InstaPundit of Left Blogistan, alerts us to Ted Barlow�s further demolition of Sully�s attack on the Times� Mugabe coverage.
We, too, wondered why Smalltown Boy haughtily tossed his brushcut back at her name when it was not unfamiliar to us (though for what we didn�t have time to Google-assist our recollection), especially given his familiarity with the pasts of other Times reporters.
Well, here�s what Ted found out:
Who is this Mugabe apologist, Rachel Swarns? A little Googling tells me that Rachel Swarns is the Johannesburg bureau chief of the New York Times. She was the co-winner of a first-place award for Best International Coverage (150,000+ readers) from the National Association of Black Journalists. The winning series, "Death and Denial", humanizes the impact of AIDS in Africa. Looking through her publications, she's written a lot about AIDS in South Africa.
I don't have NEXIS. So I just went to the New York Times page and searched for stories by Rachel Swarns. Let's look at some of the titles of some of the other "puff pieces" she's written to prop up Mugabe:
[about two dozen or so article heds deleted for brevity�s sake]
You know, to read those titles all together like that, you'd almost think that Rachel Swarns has been a tireless critic of Mugabe. You'd almost think that the Times has done a great public service, publishing highly critical stories about his murderous regime several times a week. You'd almost think that Andrew Sullivan owes somebody a big apology.
Maybe, eventually, Sully will start to realize that the decline in his freelancing income isn't because his media criticism is bravely speaking truth to power. It's because his media criticism is formulaic (open Times, insult Times, rinse, repeat), it's dishonest, and it's boring.
Don�t worry, Ted. There is nothing bad about getting into a habit of criticizing Sully ... we find it greatly improves our critical faculties.
One commentator on that post has a rather perceptive critique worthy of reprinting here, in part:
Sullivan's decline is not only a sad story in and of itself � once iconoclastic thinker and writer morphs into completely predictable, formulaic, and wrongheaded attack dog � it also set the template for the decline of Mickey Kaus.
It's hard to know exactly when plain old lying and lack of research (as opposed to the typical distortions right and left throw at each other in the political arena) became the norm on the right � my theory is that the right evolved the old Goldwater slogan into "extreme lying in order to attack of Clinton is no vice" and went from there � but it's a truly distressing phenomenon. Ann Coulter, of course, takes the cake, Bernie Goldberg wrote a whole book claiming bias without a single empirical study to back him up, the likes of Mona Charen and Norah Vincent routinely make things up, etc. Personally, I give Sullivan the silver medal, behind only the incomparable Coulter, for sheer, willful dishonesty in pursuit of audience.
And Charles Murtaugh describes himself as (much like us) �a former huge fan.�
I GOT THE BRAINS, YOU GOT THE BUCKS ...:
The speculation above about Sully�s declining freelance income, as well as this trenchant bit on his �Tipping Point� page:
AndrewSullivan.com needs your support more than ever. Online ads pay for only a tiny fraction of our expenses; reader contributions are still our most important source of income.
puts his link to Scalzi�s page in a clearer light.
Perhaps Sully should come clean with his business model, a surefire way for a blog to make money: take money from people and relentlessly flog them and their interests. Although his enconium to Charles Francis seems to have been cleansed from his archives (there is still one mention of him in December, as President Bush�s �good gay friend�), the name remains on the sponsor list.
There is, however, no entry for the drug companies.
posted by Sully 9/07/2002 12:27:00 PM
Friday, September 06, 2002
MOUTHS OF THE SOUTH:
The redoubtable Scoobie Davis weighs in the Guilty Southern White Boy thing, saying pretty much what Kaus and Postrel said except more bluntly:
I have an alternative explanation: many of these scribes saw the demagogues of the South, first George Wallace, then Jesse Helms, and rightfully viewed them as the kind of trash they should repudiate. Sully�s view of the motivation behind these pundits is not the only thing that is reductionistic. The South is not what Sully thinks it is. Sure there are vestiges of the old South, such as when Trent Lott and soon-to-be-private-citizen Bob Barr hung out with the racist Council of Conservative Citizens as well as the purge of mostly minority voters in Florida. However, the South is progressing and the pundits Sully cites are an example of this.
GREAT MINDS RUN IN THE SAME CHANNEL:
We would be remiss in our Sully-blogging if we did not also point any of you new to this site to Smarter Andrew Sullivan, which has taken up some of the same points we have in their recent entries.
Imagine hating or resenting one person so much, in Sullivan�s case, Howell Raines, that when the object of your ire takes a major step in support of the contents of your gravy boat you can�t summon a single word of appreciation or even respect.
Ah well, that�s Andy. Not a gentleman, just an ungrateful bitch.
Today�s quote of the day at AndrewSullivan.com comes from, get this, AYN RAND!
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
Oh, I�ll say, the boys at Oxford and Harvard are having a good laugh at that one.
Obviously, by this time Androgel seepage into Sullivan�s brain has sent him on a course from righteous indignation to psychopathic rage.
Clearly Solvay Pharmaceuticals needs to amend its list of contraindications for Androgel use to include crazed right-wing trigger-happy English Likudniks.
THIS IS WHAT NEWSPAPER SHOULD BE, TOVARISHCH RAINES:
Either he�s chomping at the bit to find something to bash in today�s Times, or he�s subtly responding to a point we made a day or two ago.
We hold no brief for Robert Mugabe here at SullyWatch, but to cite Ms. Swarns� story as propaganda for his tottering regime is just ridiculous.
No, wait a minute, it isn�t funny at all. It is yet more telling evidence that behind all of Sully�s complaints of bias and calls for impartiality in news coverage, his most deeply held journalistic values are more closely reflected in this publication�s history.
Since when is it a crime against the facts of the story to report that Mugabe still enjoys a favorable reputation with many Africans? That goes a long way to explain why he has not been dislodged despite starving most of Zimbabwe for his party�s benefit. The article makes clear that he has been criticized by African as well as western leaders.
Judge for yourself. Would the kind of article Sullivan wants you to think this is end like this?
"His violent land-reform program is about entrenching his political power and rewarding his cronies and not about addressing historical injustices," said Tendai Biti, a senior member of the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change.
There are other African critics. President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal assailed Zimbabwe's presidential election. Kofi Annan, the secretary general of the United Nations, recently urged officials here to respect the rule of law.
Mr. Mugabe dismisses such criticism as nonsense. He notes that food shortages attributed to drought have afflicted most of southern Africa and points out that he, unlike other leaders, is willing to accept genetically modified food from America. He says white farmers have built a powerful propaganda machine that has misled the Western world about his government.
"Those are Blair tactics, you see, which they are using so Blair can then say to the rest of the world, `Look, Mugabe's dictatorial, he's inhumane, undemocratic,' all the evils," Mr. Mugabe said. "He forgets that his ancestors, his own people oppressed us here for many years. We brought democracy to this country. We brought freedom. We brought human rights."
When the Times runs editorials praising Mugabe, then he can make the claim. Until then, it�s horse puckey.
WHOSE FAULT WAS THAT?
Did he read the New Yorker article carefully enough?
Attempts by Congress in 1988 to impose sanctions on Iraq were stifled by the Reagan and Bush Administrations ...
The Kurdish safe haven, in northern Iraq, was born of another American betrayal. In 1991, after the United States helped drive Iraq out of Kuwait, President George Bush ignored an uprising that he himself had stoked, and Kurds and Shiites in Iraq were slaughtered by the thousands. Thousands more fled the country, the Kurds going to Turkey, and almost immediately creating a humanitarian disaster.
The Kurdish intelligence officials I spoke to were careful not to oversell their case; they said that they have no proof that Ansar al-Islam was ever involved in international terrorism or that Saddam's agents were involved in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Not that this article isn't intriguing. But its concern with the Kurds and their fate stands in marked contrast to Smalltown Boy, who seems to care not at all about them � even though they have to be accounted for in any plans for Iraq.
You�d think, by the way, that he�d jump all over this particular quote from one Kurdish official:
Please compare what we have achieved in the Kurdistan national-authority areas to the Palestinian national authority of Mr. Arafat. We have spent the last ten years building a secular, democratic society, a civil society. What has he built?
posted by Sully 9/06/2002 01:20:00 PM
SO YOU WERE SAYING ABOUT EDITORIAL BIAS ...:
Just when we thought we were done for the day, Tapped reminds us that one should never, never, take Sully�s word for something he links to.
Turns out that Howell Raines never explicitly likened Iraq to Vietnam on NewsHour. He used the two words in the same sentence at one point, but never said outright that he believed it would.
In fact, in the transcript, he actually answers the recent criticism, something Kittens would never let you know he�d even done:
TERENCE SMITH: First of all, how do you...how do you plead to that charge made largely by conservative columnists, and secondly, what does the debate reveal to you?
HOWELL RAINES: When you look at what the conservative columnists are saying, they're expressing a perception of opinion, and they're the best witness on it. I can only tell you what our reality is, which is that there is a debate playing out in the nation involving people such as Brent Scowcroft, Jim Baker, Larry Eagleburger, Ambassador Zinni, and of course, Henry Kissinger, that goes very much to the question of is this administration making the case for military intervention, and is it militarily prepared for it? I would say that we're following that debate, and indeed both the reporting of it and the existence of it are important parts of the national scene.
TERENCE SMITH: The accusation is that you're more than following it, that you're campaigning against military intervention.
HOWELL RAINES: As I say, the people who make those kinds of accusations, usually for ideological reasons, are the best witness on why they say that. In this kind of reporting, one of the lessons of Vietnam is that it's important to ask the questions at the front end of the war, not afterwards.
WHEN IS A CORRECTION NOT A CORRECTION?:
Josh Marshall is as unconvinced as we are that the Times recent Kissinger correction was anything serious.
NORAH IN BLUNDERLAND:
The debut of Sullivan proteg� Norah Vincent continues to be a million miles of fun for the Blogosphere (Yes, when we borrow obscure lines from pop songs, we stick them into throwaway lines where no one will care).
The story so far: Caught lifting a line from Jackson Browne (behavior that Media Whores Online aptly termed �Barniclism�) for one of her 9/11 anniversary pieces (you know, the one the New York Sun turned down), she then throws a hissy fit about how she, as a published writer with real credentials, doesn�t deserve to be treated like this by the hoi polloi who don�t have columns in the LA Times and shows her caste awareness and simultaneous cashing in of her credibility by solemnly promising not to trash Maureen Dowd.
Aside from the duly noted hypocrisy of writing approvingly about blogs here and then crying in her own beer once she was subject to the same level of editorial discipline she praised bloggers for bringing to Big Media (like LA Times columnists?), she goes head up against her mentor Sullivan�s theories of the level playing field blogs provide in the media ecosystem, as most recently articulated today in a Slate missive to �Kurtie� Andersen:
Blogs also have the ability to keep up pressure on people. Because we can post almost hour after hour, we can really force people to respond or react to our claims or arguments
Well, we�re doing our best, Andy.
But, vis-a-vis Vincent it was Alex Frantz who says it best:
Blogger does have some bugs, but the 'bug' in blogging that Vincent considers the worst is precisely what I and most other bloggers see as the core feature. The firm dividing line between consumer and producer of opinion that she is so respectful of becomes profoundly permeable. It still exists, although some bloggers would like to think it has been obliterated; the very fact that Vincent, within days of starting her site, was getting 500 hits and up a day illustrates that Old Media names still enjoy an inherent advantage in finding a New Media audience. But what was a Berlin Wall has become a permeable border.
A columnist who writes for a major newspaper is essentially different from a reader who sends in a response . The paper can edit the reader's letter as they choose without those who see the letters column ever knowing that it was edited. In most cases, they will simply not publish it at all. If you want to criticize what the paper is saying, you are entirely dependent on their willingness to let you use their columns to make your case. No such difference exists between Norah Vicent's professional blog and my amateur effort to throw some honesty back at the commentariat whose crap I've been listening to for years. Blogjam gets more traffic than this site and probably will continue to, but still both are blogs. Regardless of the difference in the size of the megaphones, what was a one-way conversation has become irreversibly two way.
The supreme irony of this that no one seems to have yet grasped is that, for the first time, bloggers have utterly exposed a major media commentator as a complete sham, a Potemkin pundit. Stripped of the editorial independence and other protections she enjoys as an archetypal assembly-line product of the right-wing Mighty Wurlitzer, she was exposed for what she isn�t pretty quickly. She can, if she wishes, retreat into the House that Chandler Built, pick up her sizable checks and never more show her face online, but if she runs from the punishing editorial discipline she appears to have not faced heretofore nothing she ever writes again anywhere will carry any weight with anyone (She might, we aver, mature into a good blogger � the Coulter and barebacking posts show signs of independence).
And isn't it mightily hilarious that the one this historic moment had to happen to was none other than Little Princess Shit-Don�t Stink, Padawan Apprentice to The Blog Queen himself!
You know, if they�re going to start running his lib-bashing on a regular basis, doesn�t Talbot owe us a chance to appear as well and cut through his bullshit?
Come on, MWO, let�s see the email campaign start!
You know, if he doesn't shut up about this soon we�re going to drag his archives for all the �Osama, children, is just a shot away, just a shot away� posts from December (assuming he actually kept his promise not to delete them).
Someone finally called him on the applicability of this to himself, and he backed down, albeit with qualifications that can still be applied to himself if need be.
posted by Sully 9/06/2002 01:07:00 AM
Thursday, September 05, 2002
WHO�S GETTING RICH?:
We don�t think $30 is a reasonable price to pay for Salon, so we�re not registered.
But we do think it�s a little funny that Sully�s back there again after an absence of several months. Is his site really making the money he needs to support such a highfalutin lifestyle?
(Maybe that�s why Norah�s asking for money).
More seriously, Atrios catches Smalltown Boy playing the double standard game again on this particular issue.
SHAME-FACED SOUTHERN BOYS:
First, it�s sort of rich seeing Sully quote Midge Decter at some length, given that she wrote a similarly condescending piece about gay men on Fire Island in Commentary in the summer of 1980.
Then there�s his links, which largely tend to back us up. Mickey Kaus delivers damnation with faint praise in the form of the aside �As is sometimes the case, Sullivan doesn't quite understand America yet.�
Considering that the Sage of South Goodstone has been making his home on this side of the Atlantic for well over a dozen years, and has even gotten naturalized, that�s saying something.
The best response, however, comes from Virginia Postrel, whom we don�t normally read but whom Sully should have quoted in full because of what she reminds him of, what Kaus is absolutely right when he says Sully doesn�t quite get:
They're aggressively liberal because their thinking was formed by the civil rights movement, when local conservatives were really, really bad. I am not being ironic when I say that. Unless you were a southern liberal when being "liberal" meant being in the very small minority that believed in ending segregation and treating black people as equals, it is hard to imagine how Manichean the divide was and, in these journalists' minds, still is. (Nowadays, the civil rights movement is like the French resistance. Everybody supported it. But everybody didn't.) They see the conflict as civilization vs. barbarism. Also, if you've lived where evangelical Christians are in the aggressive and overwhelming majority, and you don't share their views, they're a lot more likely to give you the creeps.
... [S]outhern liberals in Big Media are liberals because they think that's the side of good, and they're self-righteous about it because they've seen southern conservatism at its worst.
Notice that there is no sneering dismissal of this latter contention, just calm acceptance. Ms. Postrel shows sophistication that Sully long ago left behind in the ever-widening search for more page hits.
OH, YEAH, I ALMOST FORGOT:
Suddenly, he links to the Slate correspondence. Interesting that it went up five minutes after we noted its absence.
As for any response to Siegel, it's been a week or so since the magazine came out and a few days since we posted the relevant parts (and thanks very much to The Cursor for the link and its attendant traffic).
INSANE ON THE MEMB-RAINES:
So Howell�s on record on this. So what? If he feels another Vietnam coming on, can it not be seen as his prerogative to resist it? As we all know and even Sully would not deny, both the Times and the Kennedy Administration expressed regret in later years for their decision to kill a story that would have broken Bay of Pigs before it happened. Can you blame them for their memories?
If Sully takes issue with that coverage, what he owes his readers under the terms of democracy is direct facutal or argumentative refutation ... NOT complaints about the fact that the other side has such a high-prestige forum for its arguments. If the Washington Post wants to continue its disgraceful toadying to the Bush administration (and conservatives elsewhere would find counterexamples more egregious than those Sully brandishes for the Times) that's fine too.
And where in this is the Sully who approvingly quoted David Brooks on how media bias was not such a bad thing after all? Huh?
The Wilson snippet refers to compulsory schooling, not public schooling. The two are not necessarily contradictory.
If he really wants to get serious, we�ll dig up all his �Osama, children, is just a shot away, just a shot away� quotes from last December.
THE BAND PLAYS ON AND ON, AND SOME MUSICIANS PLAY SOLOS:
We�ve saved the worst in today�s blog assault for last.
Note, in the response to Hertzberg�s New Yorker piece, the passing reference to bathhouses as equivalent to cigarettes.
That�s more significant than it seems. Today�s Times has another piece obviously placed by Raines to upset Sullivan ... except, contrary to Norah Vincent�s prophecy, Captain Bareback has breathed barely a word about the increasing confirmation that his favorite hobby can result in reinvigorated HIV infection.
This results in Vincent making a strong implicit criticism of Sullivan, surprisingly sharp coming from such an ally:
Can one blamelessly bear the implicit responsibility for knowingly helping to incubate a more resilient version of a global killer whose potential for inflicting new, cruel and unusual harms on the innocent may be devastating? Isn�t this a little like running your own little Manhattan project in your testicles?
When we reread Sully�s plaintive pleading on behalf of smokers after this, we�re reminded all too well of what Randy Shilts told us did happen when the city of San Francisco finally closed the bathhouses down: there was a far weaker protest than some gay leaders had long threatened.
That Sully includes bathhouses in this little rundown should really scare some people. The man is in HIV denial.
posted by Sully 9/05/2002 03:43:00 PM
ANDERSEN AND SULLY:
If, as Sully seems to think, you read only his blog, you'd never know that he�s been a featured email dialoguist on Slate this week, pontificating about blogs and their wider media impact with Kurt Andersen, Spy co-founder and editor of New York magazine.
Slate and MSN are giving this very prominent play, even including a link from the main MSN page (you know, the one that Sully tacitly endorsed Jonah Goldberg�s puerile bashing of for the way the links drove up Slate�s hit counts?). But there is not a trace of a mention from the Sage of South Goodstone.
In any event, that might explain why he�s so lazy this week, relying heavily on readers for ideas and quotes.
The more interesting stuff, however, was in the Tuesday installment.
There are at least two great, cut-out-and-frame quotes:
First is Sully giving more evidence of the misanthropy that Howard Kurtz touched on:
The one wonderful thing about blogging from your laptop is that you don't have to deal with other people. You can broadcast alienated, disembodied, disassociated murmurings into a people-free void. You don't have to run something past an editor, or frame your argument to an established group of subscribers. You just say what the hell you want. No wonder ornery libertarian types enjoy it so much and there are so few communitarian-style bloggers. It's a format designed for Unabombers ...
Then from the department of unintentional irony (note added link):
It ensures that you will occasionally blurt out things that are offensive, dumb, brilliant, or in tune with the way people actually think and speak in private. That means bloggers put themselves out there in far more ballsy fashion than many officially sanctioned pundits do, and they make fools of themselves more often, too. The only way to correct your mistakes or foolishness is in public, on the blog, in front of your readers. You are far more naked than when clothed in the protective garments of a media entity. But, somehow, you're liberated as well as nude: blogging as a media form of streaking. I notice this when I write my blog, as opposed to when I write for the old media. I take less time, worry less about polish, and care less about the consequences on my blog.
Aside from the sheer 10-denier chutzpah of someone with that kind of Internet past using that sort of metaphor, there's the fact that it's not even true.
Sullivan may indeed have become more honest, in the emotional sense (in which case he has proved to us in a way we never could have expected the social utility of dishonesty). But that has come at the expense of factual accuracy. We really get a rise out of him posturing as the great scourge of the Times when his own record on this is as spotty as the windshield of a car during bug season.
�Self-important pooh-bahs� are not found merely in Midtown, Andy. Sometimes they live in Adams Morgan. And until you acknowledge the work of the �nobodies� (in a different sense) fact-checking your glutes on a daily basis (not just us), you will remain a pompous airbag to everyone but yourself.
The Times� story never mentions Robert Mugabe at all. In fact, you have to go 10 grafs down before you find the graf which does state that heckling began at the mention of Zimbabwe.
Before that, you have already read:
Jeers, boos and shouted protests interrupted Secretary of State Colin L. Powell today as he defended the United States' record on the environment and help for the poor at the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
Delegates from American and Australian environmental groups repeatedly interrupted him, shouting "Shame on Bush!" Some held up banners reading, "Betrayed by governments" and "Bush: People and Planet, Not Big Business."
The secretary's address came after an early-morning agreement among diplomats, following a week of intensive negotiations, on a plan intended to reduce poverty and preserve the earth's natural resources.
"The United States is taking action to meet environmental challenges, including global climate change," Secretary Powell insisted as the heckling persisted. He also said there was a deep desire in the United States to "help people build better lives for themselves and their children."
Breaking off from his speech he said: "Thank you, I have now heard you. I ask that you hear me." But the boos continued when he said later that the United States was taking action to address climate change.
This makes it pretty clear just what the protesters� agenda was, or at least wasn�t.
As the ZANU-PF regime has veered more and more into conflict with the interest of the very people it claims to be acting on behalf of, we don�t recall a single leftist voice defending Mugabe as some sort of post-colonial saint as indeed they once did. Conservatives, by and large, have for once helped the US response to the situation by not seeing as an opportunity to tar the left with that brush.
Until Sully just did, that is.
HOLD ON THERE A MINUTE:
Twice today he ends an item that he seems to think settles the case for war against Iraq with �now let�s get on with it!�
Actually, there's a good explanation: November sweeps.
But seriously, what are we to make of someone who on one hand accepts and promotes the need for a serious debate on the Iraq war, even to the point of gently upbraiding his co-ideologues, but on the other treats said debate as a tiresome formality? Actions speak louder than words.
THE CORRECTION THAT ISN�T:
It must have been fun to play soccer (oh, excuse us ... �footy�) against Sully back in South Goodstone. He probably considered anything that went over the end line (uh, �touchline�) to be a goal and duly exulted, even as his teammates backed up for the ensuing goal kick.
If you have to use four grafs to basically admit to a couple of distinctions with little real difference, you�re either pacifying your critics with a clever smoke job or you�re succumbing to the problem of taking Henry Kissinger�s deliberately couched, hyper-diplomatic language too literally, as John Judis pointed out (see link to American Prospect below).
The former Secretary of State�s qualifications to his support of the way are actually pretty serious and significant. Recall that the administration�s position as it seems to be now ... we can and maybe should do this alone, fuck the allies, fuck the Arabs but sell us your oil at fire-sale prices, inspections are a waste of time, we should have finished this in 1991 and put Saddam�s head on a bloody pike etc.
Kissinger dissents, as the correction freely states, from quite a few of these. The administration and apologists like Smalltown Boy have repeatedly responded as if a criticism of any of its underlying assumptions was a criticism of the whole war effort. For Kissinger to have raised the issues he did was serious (Come on! When has Kissinger ever not supported a war? (It provides job opportuities up the wazooza for dips like him, after all)).
We�d like to once again draw Sully�s attention to the last graf:
Most centrally, Mr. Kissinger said that removing Mr. Hussein from power � Mr. Bush's justification for war � was not an appropriate goal. He said an attack on Iraq should be directed toward a more limited aim, eradicating weapons of mass destruction.
Take that, warbloggers! Hell, within weeks we don�t doubt there will be a Kissinger Award from Sullivan, given to any trusted types who suddenly express doubt about the war without Iraq.
So Sully�s so upset with Scowcroft he�s once again taken the highly mature, nuanced step of naming some sort of dubious award after his adversary.
If, as it seems, it has become a standard tactic of the chickenhawks to demonize their opponents no matter how trusted they were before, we should all wonder why Sully wonders why it�s not looking like happening yet.
THAT CERTAIN SOMEONE:
If you�ve read The Krugster�s column, you know just how ridiculous it is for Sully to snarkily imply that this road leads to Bill Clinton.
Krugman�s target is what it always has been, even while Bill Clinton was still in office: Alan Greenspan.
The, ahem, money quote, on the Fed chair:
You see, Mr. Greenspan is the only economic policy maker we have. Fiscal policy is effectively off the table, partly because of long-run deficits worsened by Mr. Greenspan's own bad advice. Funny how he wasn't sure that Nasdaq 5,000 was a bubble, but believed that 10-year surplus projections were reliable enough to justify a huge tax cut. In any case, serious fiscal action is ruled out by the Bush administration's relentless opportunism; every proposal for short-run economic stimulus turns into an attempt to lock in permanent tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. So if the recovery continues to lose momentum, it's up to the Fed to take matters in hand.
posted by Sully 9/05/2002 01:36:00 AM
Tuesday, September 03, 2002
THIS LOOKS LIKE A JOB FOR ME; WE COULD USE A LITTLE CONTROVERSY; IT�S FELT SO EMPTY IN HERE WITHOUT ME:
Summer ends with a big splash at andrewsullivan.com (Speaking of which, big mystery: We read the latest at 1:15 a.m. or so, yet it's timestamped 1:36. Either Sully needs to adjust his Mac's clock, or he's got it adjusted to Greenwich Time. If the latter, what a shameful thing for such a hopelessly wannabee American).
So where do we start?
CRIMES OF THE TIMES:
With his latest piece from that other Times ... you know, the one across the pond in Merrie Old England, the one that has one of the oldest, most venerated names in English-language journalism, with the really tough crossword puzzles, the one you'd think you�d be so privileged to be allowed to write for on a weekly basis that it would make up for all the other slights in your life, like someone publicly comparing your brain to some kittens (Especially if you�re a dog person!) and being let go from another publication because you have ... well, this nasty habit of selling yourself out to the highest bidders because they make this nice gel stuff which makes you just such an Adonis, as well as the medication that holds off the nasty virus you picked up back in the 1980s, the one you don�t think is such a big deal anymore because people like you and your insurers make such a big market for these drugs that, well, those thousands of people dying in Africa of it should just learn to appreciate the beauty of intellectual-property law in between Pneumocystis bouts.
But no, apparently Andy�s still mad about this. He thus proceeds to reiterate everything he�s said about the Grey Lady since January.
Thus, for the American or blogreader there is simply nothing new about this column. Well, except for the fact that this time around he admits that Howell Raines ran a similarly scathing campaign against Clinton while editorial page editor.
Which then forces him to undermine his whole argument. Why, pray tell, should it be to Raines� credit that he attacked Clinton so much due to �a simmering personal rivalry?� Wouldn�t that tend to suggest that the man was not motivated by some higher concern for the good of the country?
More, importantly, if, as with the rest of the corrupted and compromised American right, Sullivan looked on admiringly while Raines�s editorial page whipped up Whitewater into a frenzy far more serious than it deserved, hounded Wen Ho Lee to the point that the paper�s science staff had to write an article implicitly refuting its own coverage, trashing facts and accuracy all the while, who can take them seriously when they complain that the paper as a whole has done the same thing to Bush under Raines� leadership? If they wanted to prevent this, they should have joined the lonely voices on the left that cried foul.
But for now, as a result, all they can credibly do is bend over, drop their pants, spread �em and do their best to smile.
There are some factual errors. There was nothing novel, at least at the Times, about Raines going from the editorial editorship to the top job � Max Frankel had done it before (at least we think so).
As an example of egregious error, he cites ... guess what? The very Alaskan temperature graph whose sloppy handling by Sully we exposed that very week (see link below ... we guess we�re going to have to add it to the blogroll whenever we get around to doing that).
Next, Kissinger. Josh Marshall, fresh off his break, has been but the latest to show that the Times interpreted Kissinger�s remarks correctly, and has in fact caved into neoconservative pressure in its more recent reportage.
This latest round at the West 43rd Street shooting gallery wouldn't be complete without some potshots at the columnists.
For one of its most virulent Bush-haters, former theater critic Frank Rich, the war on Baghdad is entirely devoted to distracting Americans from the failure to deal with 9/11: "[W]hat the administration is mainly hoping is that a march on Baghdad will make us forget about Al Qaeda, wherever it may be lying in wait." That's perilously close to accusing the president of treason, of committing American troops to combat for the cynical purpose of domestic p.r., deliberately ignoring a current, more dangerous threat.
The way Sully writes this, you�d almost be forgiven for forgetting that Saddam Hussein did not engineer the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans a year ago, and remains at large and whereabouts unknown. When he marches into Washington and makes us all grow beards and wear burqas, Osama bin Laden will first have to go thank people like Sullivan (before he executes him, of course) and Charles Krauthammer and Michael Kelly for the excellently performed diversion operation.
As for Krugman, of course, Lee Siegel has already said more than enough about Smalltown Boy�s obsession with him (see below). But we would like to know what, for Sullivan, could possibly constitute a �good, defensible reason� to be anti-Bush, given that he writes about Dubya as if he walked on water and works overtime to belittle anyone, from any ideological direction, who dares voice such criticism even civilly.
And the next paragraphs demonstrate that. No one, not the hard-core conservatives from the first Bush administration, not the military men who he all but accuses of being cowards, and not the sort of people who are not antiwar on principle but feel the case for this one has not been made, can possibly have anything to say that Skull-Kittens feels is worth listening to.
BACK TO THE BLOG:
Of course, Times readers don�t have the luxury of then going right back to his blog page ... and reading him excoriate the Bush administration�s much-noted lack of discipline in terms that would do Raines proud.
Andrew, is it possible, just possible, that these people really don�t have their act together?
A DOLLAR SIGN THAT HE�S SELLING OUT TO HIS FANS:
He quotes ... Ayn Rand!! We somehow don�t think Atlas Shrugged was on the syllabus of any class he took during his doctoral program in political philosophy at Harvard.
We�re looking forward to his earnest discussion of Heinlein next.
FAIRIES WEAR BOOTS:
�Metalheads and rockers don't give a shit about orientation according to Andrew Sullivan. I would agree ...� writes Andrew Dodge.
Which just goes to show us that neither Andrew knows what he�s talking about. We seem to recall quite a bit of time being spent in the Judas Priest Behind the Music on Rob Halford�s anxieties about coming out, the fact that the record company didn�t want him to, and its effect on his relationship with the rest of the band when he finally did (even today, they still record separately).
We also remember a now-forgotten German band called Accept from the early �80s (best-known in the '90s for the Beavis and Butt-head dissection of their video for �Balls to the Wall� which included the line �It's �Night of the Living Bands That Suck.��). Two songs they did, �Love Child� and �London Leatherboys,� had enough suggestive lyrics to create the perception that they were a gay band (at a time, remember, when it was sort of de rigeur for teenage boys in America to refer to most British imports like Boy George and Spandau Ballet as faggot bands because they wore all that makeup, and thus embrace metal as the safely straight alternative because they wore makeup but sang songs about wanting to kick ass).
Yes, we love our metal and hard rock here regardless of the politics, but it should also be noted that it�s long been about the only rock subgenre in which right-leaning political sentiments were acceptable (Sammy Hagar�s �I Can't Drive 55� and other works; Rush�s early, pro-Ayn Rand work like �Anthem,� �Something for Nothing,� and of course �2112;� Guns �n� Roses� �One in a Million� ( can�t you get down to the line�Immigrants and faggots, they make no sense to me/ Think they can start a mini-Iran or spread some fucking disease ...�?; and King�s X�s �Legal Kill,� the only anti-choice rock song we�ve ever heard).
Hey, after all, one of the protoypical classics of the genre is none other than Black Sabbath�s �Iron Man,� a fascistic fantasy of proletarian uprising, complete with that perfect goosestepping opening bass drum cadence (We�re really surprised some skinhead hardcore band hasn�t changed it to �Aryan Man� ... it would work surprisingly well).
(Of course, to be fair, we should immediately point out that they also did �War Pigs� on the same album, which would make an excellent anthem for the war skeptics if appropriately filked � �Neocons gathered in their masses ...�)
COME ON ANDREW, SAY IT PROUD AND SAY IT LOUD!:
For Captain Bareback, who has written and argued passionately in favor of gay marriage, to the point of devoting much of two books to the argument, taking note of this gay-commitment ceremony notice is surprisingly muted.
Why? Because it�s in the evil New York Times, that�s why.
And you just know that the same Howell Raines who tries to make life hell for President Bush had to sign off on that decision.
Too bad Sully�s so consumed with hate he can�t give credit where credit is due. What�s more important to you, O Blog Queen ... promoting your most heartfelt cause, or denying Howell Raines the satisfaction of seeing you praise him on your blog?
AND SPEAKING OF BLACK SABBATH ...:
The word �paranoid� comes out for the second time with regard to He Who Must Not Be Named At Princeton And the Times.
Think that has anything to do with a subject embarassingly absent from this page? A certain book review in a major magazine lately?
The big news here isn�t that he�s gotten nice to Alterman. It�s that, in the wake of Siegel publicizing his publicization of big donors (already mentioned by Signorile), he mentions that Bush cousin and blogger John Ellis is �a donor and a friend.�
We just love this �correction by indirection� thing.
SOUTHERN MAN, BETTER KEEP YOUR HEAD ...:
Hmm. A �reader� �writes in� to suggest Sully do a column on people from a region associated with one type of politics who go overboard to distinguish themselves from it in their adoption of the other side of the debate.
We�re sure this would be something he understands well.
Aside from that, it strikes us that this whole thing depends on a somewhat insulting stereotype of southern men as innate overdoers, no matter what they do. We do realize that reality sometimes bears that out, but ...
And, does it also strike this mystery reader that southern conservatism is conservative only in the ideological sense? Anyone reading the discussion threads on a certain Premier Conservative website, threads where most of the posters either proudly identify themselves as Southerners or give themselves away as such by their choice of words, could hardly fail to come away with the impression that these people seem to be vying to outdo each other, to be the most conservative they could possibly be, reality and daily life be damned? (Of course, to be fair, we think some of these people are Yankees who moved south of the Mason-Dixon line to take advantage of lower taxes and looser regulation who also like posturing as Atwateresque good ol� boys)
Against this background, who could not but be a flaming liberal as a way of contrasting it?
And would Sullivan like turning this around, as we implied up top? Is he a partisan, narrow-minded Republican hack because he was born English and queer? You may not want to go there, Andy, you may not want to go there.
(We might also add that, in the Southeast as we all now prefer to call it, there has historically been some of the country's worst pockets of poverty, both black and white, on top of the history of slavery and widespread segregation. That might just have the effect of making you a passionate liberal, y'all know ...)
posted by Sully 9/03/2002 03:10:00 AM
Monday, September 02, 2002
SIEGEL�S HARPER�S PIECE:
Sullivan�s summer vacation ends pretty much as it began � with him getting slammed in a major highbrow publication while he is busy moving and unable to do much about it. Sucks to be him.
Mr. Siegel is welcome to be a guest contributor to SullyWatch if he is so interested. Writing about Sullivan like this, if it appeared even a scooch more often in the press, would have eliminated the need for this site. We almost don�t think we can touch this.
We so love it that the relevant grafs on the Blog Queen are here reprinted in pretty much their entirety, from our scanner to your monitor (in other words, this will be a long entry). There are also some places where we feel compelled to add to it a little by comment and/or link.
The article is basically about how certain cultural critics, from both sides of the political spectrum, spend too much time responding to the media�s latest obsessions. Krugman is directly contrasted with Susan Sontag, and then, about halfway through ...
... [T]he chasm between Krug�man and Sullivan exposes the im�poverishment of American journal�ism over the last ten years.
Sullivan came to prominence as the editor of The New Republic in the nineties, and he is a representa�tive figure in the journalism of that decade. At The New Republic he dis�graced himself by running an ex�cerpt from Herrnstein and Murray�s Bell Curve and published a lot of ir�responsible journalism, including an article by Elizabeth McCaughey trashing Clinton�s health-care plan that later proved to be riddled with falsehood and fabrication. Much of Sullivan�s undeniable charm comes from his fascination with himself; for some reason, it is hard to resist people who find themselves irre�sistible.
Not for us it isn�t. When you read Smalltown Boy closely on a daily basis you see that the real mystery is how he finds himself so irresistible.
Maybe it is because the power of certainty, so rare in the world, establishes its own authority. In any case, while Krugman was publishing books and articles de�scribing the gap between rich and poor, Sullivan, as editor of The New Republic, was appearing in advertise�ments for the Gap.
Sullivan�s prose possesses much nimbleness and grace, qualities that are amplified by the fact that he has mysteriously developed a literary manner of writing forcefully yet without conviction.
Because, as we�ll see, he has nothing anymore he could credibly write about with conviction.
He habitually persecutes in others what are actual�ly disagreeable qualities in himself,
Nothing new there, you already knew that of course. But it�s the first time someone in mainstream media has noticed this horrible projection problem Sullivan has. And the biggest screen, of course, isn�t Krugman so much as it�s Bill Clinton (Anytime Sully writes about 42, you can be assured that�s self-portraiture).
As Josh Marshall has suggested, one day someone will write a book exploring just what it was about Clinton that led not just Sullivan but so many rightwingers to do this, oblivious to its effect on their credibility.
... once accusing the journalists of The Economist of writing with the disem�bodied formalism of Oxford debaters, which is a just criticism, except that Sullivan, himself a former Oxford debater, has perfected that very style of arid, empty argument for argu�ment�s sake. Reading him, you feel that he is not thinking, exactly; rather, one side of his brain is merely fondling the other. You detect a gig�gle behind the gravitas. When he wants to be taken seriously, he men�tions the political philosopher Michael Oakeshott. But even then, it is hard not to picture the two sides of Sullivan�s brain as two kittens, playfully cavorting with a little rub�ber figure called Michael Oakeshott.
This image, more than any other, turns our stomach (and we mean that as a compliment). We�d just love to see Sully put it up on his site. It would explain so much.
For now, we may well do with adding �Kittens� to our stable of sneering nicknames for Sully.
Far more daring and intelligent gay writers, who are less tortured about their identities, were always onto Sul�livan. Perhaps the most gifted gay jour�nalist in the country, Richard Gold�stein, describes Sullivan in a fine new book about gay conservatives, The At�tack Queers, which connects heartless politics to sexual shame. Writing about a New York Times Magazine article in which the self-obsessed Sullivan de�scribed the empowering effects of his testosterone injections, Goldstein sur�mises:
In his eulogy to �T,� you can glimpse the future of a homocon society. It would be a singularly muscular place, where anyone who didn�t fit the mold can be medicated to enhance his mas�culinity. Forget pee implants; this is an existential makeover.
I�ve gone on at length about Sulli�van because he himself has spent the last several months hammering away not at Krugman�s ideas but at Krug�man�s character, a la David Brock.
This and an earlier Brock reference (not included) suggest that Siegel may have not read Blinded by the Right, since he apparently believes Brock is both a) still a conservative and b) does this type of thing.
This is, of course, a potentially big enough error that Sullivan or whoever defends him will likely exploit. Still, it's not really material to Siegel�s argument, and more importantly there�s the irony of using Brock as a stick to bash Siegel when Sullivan himself has hardly refrained from Brock-bashing this year.
Yes, although he has one of the most tarnished reputations in American journalism, Sullivan, like Pavarotti, refuses to leave the stage. Two years ago you could find him back in the pages of The New Republic, bizarrely attacking moderate, pragmatic Al Gore for belonging to the �left wing� of the Democratic Party. More re�cently, 9/11 gave him the opportuni�ty to recover the fig leaf of serious�ness he repeatedly reaches for; you could see him railing against Islamic fundamentalism and anti-Semitism in The New York Times Magazine, sentiments I would second whole�heartedly were they coming from a writer who really believed them himself. But Sullivan also likes to publish anti-Semitic jokes on his website, which he then virtuously adduces as evidence of rising anti-Semitism. And he likes to seize on the scattered lunacies of the Chom�skyan left, out of whose pathetic powerlessness he has constructed a threat to national security called �the anti-war left.�
Now, this puts our recent remarks re: Paglia�s piece in a broader dimension.
Sullivan�s attacks on Krugman have appeared on his vanity website, the type of website referred to as a �blog.� Since Sullivan has never re�ally refuted Krugman�s animadver�sions on Bush�s budgetary deceits, his most persistent criticism has been of Krugman for taking $50,000 from Enron. In January and February of this year, Sullivan pilloried Krugman for his alleged venality numerous times on his website.
Krugman eventually responded to Sullivan on his own vanity website, avowing that he had taken the mon�ey for consultation work over a period of four days, and had not promoted Enron, in exchange, in the columns he was then writing for Slate and For�tune (he did write one ambiguously favorable article about the sort of freewheeling �pro-market� companies exemplified by Enron, as he himself pointed out). He had revealed his connection to Enron in the Fortune column, and again in his column for the New York Times, which he did not start writing until well after he accepted the money from Enron. Sul�livan eventually stopped trying to tar Krugman with Enron, but he still at�tacks Krugman on a regular basis; lately he�s been printing �letters� from other economists complaining about Krugman�s intellectual decline. The letters are anonymous.
Though one of them left enough personal history to id the culprit, Lynn Krieger, who just happens to be an economic-adviser to the heavily corporate-backed Reason Public Policy Institute.
Sullivan didn�t stop writing about Krugman out of a convulsion of con�science. He himself was harshly criti�cized for accepting money from phar�maceutical companies while writing favorably about the pharmaceutical industry for the New York Times and The New Republic. So just as Sontag couldn�t help writing about Bush as though he were Sontag, Sullivan couldn�t resist writing about Krugman as though he were Sullivan.
It�s not just a matter of narcissistic projection passing from a psychologi�cal condition to a cultural style. Sul�livan had accepted the pharmaceuti�cal money � $7,500, he said � as a contribution to his website, and he claims to have given it back. But Sullivan wasn�t guilty only of hypocrisy in attacking Krugman and hiding his own malfeasance, as everyone who commented on the af�fair noted. What no critic of Sulli�van pointed out � and the well-con�nected Sullivan knows most of his critics
Most ... but not all.
� was that Sullivan had cho�sen Krugman for a reason. Krugman had written columns sharply criticiz�ing the drug companies for, first of all, placing a crushing burden on Medicare; and, secondly, for manu�facturing dangerous dietary supple�ments and then lobbying Congress to avert its eyes. �The pharmaceuti�cal industry is very anxious to avoid anything that might push down drug prices, and fears that the administra�tion plan will do just that,� Krugman wrote in July 2000.
Back in March 2000, Krugman had already begun to expand his fo�cus to include the pharmaceuticals� profitable market in dietary supple�ments: �There is extensive evidence that dietary supplements can, if misused, be quite dangerous.� Now these statements appeared in the New York Times, and when some�thing like that appears in the New York Times, it hurts. Enter Andrew Sullivan, who took money from the pharmaceuticals and then began to try to smear a man who had publicly criticized the pharmaceuticals.
Aha! We didn�t know this. Anyone still not getting it as to why Sullivan really made Raines uncomfortable?
But, then, as Michelangelo Signorile, another gay journalist, has written in the New York Press, Sullivan is now bought and paid for. He has more than a hundred �sponsors� of his tedious and self-obsessed website � it consists of endless commentary on other com�mentators
Strewn among, we�d add, meanderings about beagles, Lego and how many syllables people can use when ordering coffee.
� one of whom happens to be Bush friend and public-relations op�erative Charles Francis, a man to whom Sullivan gave a glow�ing write-up only days after Francis appears to have given Sullivan some cold hard cash... - It was last Decem�ber, about a week after Francis� name was listed on Sullivan�s site as a Sulli�van benefactor, when the pundit wrote in his �Daily Dish� on the home page how �the work of Charlie Francis is of enormous importance�not just for gay Americans but also for Repub�licans who want to see their party grow and breathe and unite.�
Signorile�s NYP column is here, and the Columbia Journalism Review took note as well. Sully�s services rendered are here. The Christian fundamentalist right weighs in here (note Sully�s cherished political beliefs is not included as a modifier to his name as he would doubtless wish. Guess how they describe him?).
One thing we�ve always wanted to do is thoroughly investigate all his named donors. We had, in fact, even planned to do so during his break but it was not to be for us. Still, we could well do it in the future, and this suggests there might be other leads worth pursuing among those names (and God knows what else goes on under those many <$100, unlisted, unbundled donors.
At this point we realize that it would have been a serious breach of ethics for Raines to have >not fired him.
How rich is it that an economist would provide the occasion for un�covering the clay feet of a journalist driven by economics. Sullivan�s nasty personal attacks on Krugman offer hope; they are the desperate sound of a vanishing moment, a time in which all those books that com�placently flatter the business cul�ture � The Tipping Point and Maestro and Bobos in Paradise � flourished on the fantastic tide of an unreal pros�perity. Perhaps now someone with Krugman�s prestige and influence will take up where Krugman leaves off; and ignore the slurs of ideologi�cal horror and stupidity that have twisted reasonable, decent social in�stincts into caricatures of reason and decency; and affirm that what is wrong with America is not that the system is failing to work the way it should (that is only the Platonic form of the politician�s op-ed) but that in reality it is working all too well, that it is approaching, day by day, revelation by revelation, an im�placable perfection.
It will be fun to see how Sully replies to this. We fully expect the whines to go off the meter.
Also interesting is that Siegel left out the one thing his readers may not aware of ... what Mickey Kaus delicately called the whole barebacking thing. We can almost see another Signorile column on this, another example of how media tends to sanitize its discussions of homosexuality (if Sully were straight, and the ads involved women, don't you think Siegel would have at least mentioned it? Yet it further proves his points about Sully�s rank hypocrisy).
posted by Sully 9/02/2002 12:33:00 PM