Saturday, September 21, 2002
TWO FROM RITTENHOUSE:
Sully spreads his Rachel Swarns-bashing to The New Republic�s Notebook section (without signing his name, but it's obvious who wrote it), and Cappozolla then turns Sully�s hell-no-I-won't-go letter into a riotous filk of Lesley Gore.
MORE LINKS ACKNOWLEDGED:
We found that another blog whose existence we were unaware of, France-based Textism recently linked to us, slyly doing so with Sullivan�s name, thereby increasing our Google position on him.
There�s also a hilarious parody of a Fisking that should get more linking than it has so far.
ORWELLIAN ALL RIGHT, BUT NOT IN THE SENSE THAT HE ASPIRES TO:
Max Sawicky notes the absurdities of the Sage of South Goodstone�s recent musings on multi- vs. unilateralism, with comments.
THE SILENCE SPEAKS THE SCENE:
Commentators on Eschaton hipped us to Dan Savage�s latest column, in which he too confronts the cultural implications of barebacking, especially in a changed world:
While AIDS activists argue about drug access and drug-resistance and re-infection, gay men are re-creating the sex culture that facilitated the emergence of a fatal sexually transmitted disease. By the time a cure is found for AIDS, hundreds or thousands of gay men might already be infected with a new, improved, deadlier STD. And if that happens � when that happens? � there won't be a lot of sympathy for gay men. No walks, no dines, no bowls. We won't be able to claim that we didn't know, that we couldn't have seen it coming. It had already happened once. Of course we should've seen it coming.
The AIDS crisis ended in 1996. What we're facing now is a stupidity crisis among some gay men and a cowardice crisis among AIDS organizations (which are largely staffed by gay men). Isn't it ironic that AIDS organizations are silent (what does silence equal again?) while a sub-group of gay men re-create the communal septic tank culture of the late 1970s? And why not? Many gay men believe that someone else will pay for their AIDS drugs and go to the walk while they pay for their party drugs and go to the baths.
Don't assume, boys. What 9/11 did was remind the world just what a blow-from-the-blue looks like. Those infected with HIV � be they barebackers or bug chasers or just unlucky saps who naively believed that �low risk� meant no risk � were quickly burning through what was left of the stores of sympathy for people with HIV before 9/11.
And still, Sullivan remains silent.
ON A CLEAR DAY, SOMETIMES SADDAM CAN SEE HITLER:
Saddam is hardly the only Arab leader to have said that sort of thing, unfortunately, and it has become such a boilerplate (especially from regimes that deal most heavily with Israel) that him saying it is no longer newsworthy.
If you go after him for this, in fact, you�ll have to add Egypt to the axis of evil, which would complicate things. And what about Saudi Arabia, whose honor Sully has so recently defended from the likes of Mary McGrory? As he has himself reported in the past, there is plenty of far more virulent anti-Semitism in that country's press.
Finally, the Jews of 2002 Israel are hardly on the same plane of powerlessness as the Jews of 1930s Europe. If Saddam actually attacks, they will be quite capable of striking back.
posted by Sully 9/21/2002 01:12:00 AM
Friday, September 20, 2002
So, Sully is outraged that Fisk, nine years ago, wasn't able to foresee that the man he was talking with would one day plan the worst terror attack in history? In a piece about how he was building a badly-needed road?
And why doesn�t he also note that bin Laden here denied he had any American help in Afghanistan? Wouldn�t that tend to argue against a popular leftist canard that the US funded bin Laden while he was fighting the Russians? But that would ruin his point to note that Fisk was, God forbid, fair.
LIKE A FOX?:
The Powell-working-with-us theory might have been lot stronger had Smalltown Boy himself not denounced the apparent lack of discipline within the administration two weeks ago in which Powell and Cheney gave contradictory public speeches on Iraq.
So when the Times makes a mistake, it's the Times� own fault, but when Safire does it�s not Safire�s fault?
OH, THOSE GOOFY INTERNS!!:
While his bank account must appreciate his return to the pages of TNR, we�re sure that publication will not be happy with the fact that, as of this posting, the copyright notice at the bottom of the page attributes it to the Sunday Times of London.
WHAT HE DID ON SUMMER VACATION:
And then you realize that this too is America, unkempt, unruly, pied, prickly, tolerant, an emblem of what the future of the whole place could be, if we wanted, if we tried.
So, then, this is Sullivan�s idea of America: a place with �raves to music made palatable only by discreet consumption of illegal substances�; all-nude singing reviews; �a place, after all, in which the law has always been enforced more by the spirit than by the letter�; cultural tensions and income inequality?
God, he�s such a red-state kind of guy!
EARNING HIS PAY FOR THE WEEK:
You know, it�s one thing to be carrying water for Big Pharma. But for Captain Bareback to wag his finger at HIV activists and say �progress against a fast-mutating virus slows� ... boy oh boy that takes some balls!
THE BEST ARGUMENT FOR DOING THINGS LIKE STARSHIP TROOPERS:
On today�s Media Whores Online, Sullivan admits what we always thought about him to a reader who pointed out that he is banging the drums for a war he is in no danger of having to fight:
i'm sorry but i pay for those soldiers to fight in a volunteer army. they are servants of people like me who will never fight. yes, servants of civil masters. and they will do what they are told by people who would never go to war. that's called a democracy.
But, Andrew, that�s not the issue! We all want to know whether you would have gone to war if you had been called ...
And we�re afraid you just answered it. We always knew those muscles were just for show.
See the comments over at Eschaton on this.
posted by Sully 9/20/2002 03:52:00 AM
Thursday, September 19, 2002
THE TARGET OF MY ENEMY�S ATTACK IS SUDDENLY MY FRIEND:
Wasn�t it a few months ago that Sully was writing as fiercely about Saudi Arabia as McGrory is? We distinctly remember his suggestion that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia should be added to the Axis of Evil.
Oh well, if you can learn to love George W. Bush like he has, you can learn to love anyone or anything, no matter how noxious.
HOLD THAT HOPE:
Thanks to Hesiod, we can see just what Schr�der�s opposition to war is really doing for him in the polls.
DEAL WITH IT:
In one of his most surprisingly reflective posts in months, Sullivan takes a rather mild reader email as an occasion to explain his online surliness, perhaps making slanted references to this site:
I make a very simple distinction in how I write. I try extremely hard not to make any references to anything outside an individual's actual work. Even though I'm sure I've made a few comments in my time I now wish I hadn't, I really try hard not to mention anyone's private life, looks, integrity, morality, or other purely ad hominem comments. But I see no reason why you can't be as devastating as you can with someone's arguments or style or logic or politics or public conduct. That's not being mean; it's being tough.
Oh. OK, so all his comments on other people�s statements where he implies that they�re only saying what they�re saying because they a) hate America and the West, b) are morally flabby and wishy-washy or c) have a political agenda were always just meant as criticisms of their arguments. When he called the American Left a bunch of Fifth Columnists, he wasn�t questioning their loyalty. When he accused the CDC of manipulating AIDS statistics to please activists, he wasn�t implying any direspect.
In a truly desperate move, he blames it on ... his homeland!:
Maybe it's my being brought up in the English debating style, where really brutal repartee isn't taken very personally outside the debating chamber. Maybe others see the line between being tough and being mean somewhere else. But that's how I see it myself.
Hey, Smalltown Boy, aren�t you supposed to be a true-blue Yankee Doodle Andy, Born On The Fourth of July now? Isn�t it rather decadent and European to sit there and say �Oh, don�t take it personally, I didn�t mean it, it was just debate?"
Actually, this is as good a lead-in as any to this next post.
One of the joys of Sitemeter is that, when you look at where people come to your site from, you find out about blogs you previously weren�t aware of.
In this case, we learned yesterday that a couple of visitors had come here from Andrew Edwards� Sketch, specifically a post taking some issue with the way we take it to Sullivan.
They�re fair posts, and legitimate criticisms that we do feel we should address.
Edwards phrases his concerns as two questions, the first being:
Would he take as much heat as he does if he were straight? Because he's ideologically on par with dozens of other writers who take way less. Must conservative homosexuals be treated as traitors?
Well, we sort of like reading Bruce Bawer or Eve Tushnet, who most importantly do not have the issues we go into below.
Shouldn't the objective be a society where gay people are so undifferentiated from straights that they're all over the political map?
Well, of course. But our problem with Sully is not that he�s gay or right-wing but that ... oh you name it: he�s a flaming asshole, a crypto-fascist, a sycophantic love-puppy where President Bush is concerned, a sloppy and lazy �journalist,� a sellout who does the bidding of certain industries and �a whiny emotional unprofessional little baby� when the New York Times finally reacted to all the above the only way an organization with any sense of propriety can.
None of these things were true of Sullivan when he edited The New Republic a decade ago. You could disagree with him but often his pieces showed a relaxed respect for his adversaries and the joys of an inquisitive, independent mind at work. If that Sullivan could have seen what he�d let himself get reduced to ... maybe he�d just have let the HIV take its course.
There is, of course, another thing that, as Sketch notes, galls us to no end.
Please take in to account that one of SullyWatch's biggest and most personal attacks on Andrew is that he posted web personals for barebacking partners. (SullyWatch will say that this is a frowned-upon activity. IMHO, anything between consenting adults ought not be frowned-upon, and I don't dig the 'I only like safe queers like the guy on Everybody Loves Raymond' overtones.)
If he read this blog regularly or was familiar with the story, Andrew would realize that the barebacking ads themselves are not so much the issue (although they do provide a great deal of laugh lines, we admit) as Sully�s rank hypocrisy.
Recall that, for several years, the future Captain Bareback had been fulminating in the gay and mainstream presses about the evils of gay promiscuity and the virtues of gay marriage, many times emphasizing his conviction that the latter was the only appropriate setting for a relationship.
Fine and dandy ... it's hardly a new debate, but Sullivan�s prominence as a commentator gave it a platform it hadn�t had before.
It's hardly an unworthy cause, in our opinion. And, perhaps not entirely without Sullivan�s help, it has scored some victories like Vermont and the New York Times� wedding page.
Yet when Sullivan was found to be posting ads under the �Joe Washington� pseudonym, seeking fellow HIV-positive men for brief, unprotected sexual encounters, boasting of his �raw muscled glutes that love to milk hot loads,� with pictures in case the words did not adequately convey the point, and Signorile broke the media�s embarrassed silence, he undid everything he had done.
All was not lost. But then he posted his long response, which was built on the dubious assertion that his privacy should be respected (the fact that he had posted on publicly accessible Internet sites notwithstanding), whining that sometimes he has to slum, and generally slamming the story without even bothering to address what gave it news value: the contradiction between his public statements and his private life (much less its impact on his own arguments) and has said little more on the subject since.
This was abject hypocrisy. Remember that Sullivan had (among many others) loudly called for the resignation of Bill Clinton over what amounted to less than the same sin; at least the last president had never built his political career on a family-values morality-ticket platform).
His claim to being �virtually normal� seriously undermined, he just went right on like nothing had ever happened. As long as he keeps doing that, we�ll make him wear those ads like a scarf.
(Ted, does that answer your comment?)
(NOTE: Just because we�re better people than Norah Vincent, we�ll out-and-out admit right here that that last phrase came from a Suzanne Vega song).
Please also note that among SullyWatch's many dismissive nicknames for Andrew is 'BlogQueen'.
That epithet has as much, if not more, to do with Smalltown Boy�s self-touted status as one of the most, if not the most, highly visited blogs and his consequent self-styled arbiter of the greatness and revolutionariness of blogs as a form of journalism, and the worthiness of other blogs (which then naturally brings this to mind), as it does with his sexuality.
Keep in mind, too, that Sully has, unlike most other gay conservatives, used his sexual orientation to leverage his political beliefs, as if the two were inextricable. Because he is gay, he has suggested, he is a libertarian conservative � and, more importantly, the time has come for gays in general to put away childish things and join him. Hey, if enough of us do it, we can negate the Religious Right�s domination of the Republican Party! (Which sometimes puts us in mind of an old line in the Soviet Union directed at people who claimed they only joined the Party to reform it: you don�t cure a whore of venereal disease by sleeping with her, do you?). So if he�s willing to make that step, he has to live with criticism directed not so much at his being gay as at his way of being gay.
He has also not neglected to play the poor, put-on victim of homophobia when it suits him � i.e., when he can pin it on a leftist. Frequent online commentator Digby was one target when Sully took one phrase from a comment he had made on Media Whores Online � �maidenly vapors� � and used it to imply that his masculinity was being challenged (Never mind that, in the same post, Digby used even harsher and more explicit words to describe the decidedly het Howard Fineman�s groveling obsequy to George W. Bush. Then, not much later, he would excoriate Eric Alterman for describing him (correctly) as �narcissistic,� supposedly a code word for homosexuality.
All this while, of course, he has remained curiously selective about where and when he condemns infinitely more virulent outbreaks of homophobia on the right. His drinking buddy Christopher Hitchens would later use the same word in attacking David Brock ... Sully didn't see anything wrong with that. He linked to a Lucianne post on Alterman�s Nation piece about him, where the typically rabid commentators referred to �Alteredman,� casting aspersions on the (again) unquestionably straight target. He gave out a Derbyshire Award (for onerous right-wing commentary) to the NRA�s Wayne LaPierre for remarks likening a gun-control group to al-Qaida ... breathing not a word about the real outrage at that convention, the widely-reported breakdown of a panel discussion into a Grover Norquist-led gay-bashing session (all the more curious since the gay gun-rights group Pink Pistols got involved and he has twitted Nosetwist in the past).
We were not the first leftish online commentators to bring his sexual orientation into the equation, either ... Bartcop pioneered the �Captain Bareback� moniker (as far as we can tell), and WarBloggerWatch in its earlier days used some words we wouldn�t.
In the present online political environment, where most conservatives strike the pose of insult-as-ideology learned from years of Rush Limbaugh and The American Spectator, we feel along with MWO that any pretense at civilizing the debate is no longer viable. Those that dish it should be prepared to take it; rhetorical terrorism should be met with equivalent force.
As Max Sawicky notes in Sketch�s comments:
As far as attention goes, from a political standpoint it makes sense to shoot at the most prominent targets.
As far as mean goes, in my case it stems from his description of a broad swath of people as a "Fifth Column," something he is fond of reiterating in assorted ways. Calling people unpatriotic in a crisis is a craven, cowardly way of exposing them to harm. Invective is the only logical response that I can imagine. You don't agree to debate your own fundamental fitness to debate.
More calmly, Andrew then asks:
Even though I disagree with most of what he says, he's one of the most successful bloggers out there. Will the blogosphere inevitably shout down its own as soon as they start hitting mainstream levels of success? And if so, what does this say about the long-term viability of blogging as a vehicle for communicating with the people as a whole?
Oh, but the blogosphere should shout down its own, or what are its values? If Sullivan wants to fact-check the New York Times� ass, he should be prepared to receive similar treatment himself (Actually, with him, �fact-checking his ass� takes on a whole new meaning, as we�ve demonstrated above).
Where will this all go? We don�t know. We just don�t want the Mighty Wurlitzer to extend its tentacles into blogdom, and this is our little way of doing it.
At the end, though, Andrew demonstrates his sincerity with a pithy criticism of Sullivan�s McGrory piece: �[It] reads like high school book report. In the past day I've read dozens of blog posts all over the
web written for free that were [worth] ten times this half-assed effort.� LOL!
No wonder he put it right on the blog. Is there any doubt that Salon is getting ripped off?
Andrew, we appreciate your comments and we hope you appreciate ours.
posted by Sully 9/19/2002 12:52:00 PM
EVERYONE ELSE HAS LINKED TO THIS SO WHY CAN�T WE?:
Because it�s shameless ... and utterly hilarious.
Maybe we�ve gone into the wrong business.
WHEN HE GIVES A SONTAG AWARD, DO CLICK ON THE LINK:
Quoth the Beeb:
Local Labour MP Dianne Abbott said she thought a conflict in Iraq "seemed inevitable" but added that support for it among the right wing press and elsewhere was far from unanimous.
"I have never seen, to use an old fashioned phrase, the forces of capital as divided about a war as they are about this one. There is no sense of unanimity around this war," she told the meeting.
Oh, and guess who she agrees with:
Miss Abbott, who plans to speak out against war in next week's emergency Parliamentary debate, said she thought Iraq would be "like Suez and the Vietnamese war.
"I think it will prove to be a defining moment and that people will be forced to say where they stand," she added.
We are proud to announce something we never thought we'd be announcing ... the first blog directly inspired by ours.
Come meet Nasty RiffRaff, who takes her nom du blog from the recent characterization of us and ours as such for daring to point out ethically suspect moves by �newfound� (her words, not ours) blogger Norah Vincent, who can claim (if she wishes, which she probably won't) the title of RiffRaff�s blogmommy.
Hey, the first post even partially defends Sullivan. But we still like it all the same.
Welcome to the Blogosphere, Julie. Long may you post.
STILL ON OUR SIDE:
Joe Conason has taken some heat recently for defending Salon�s decision to rehire Sullivan, but this New York Observer column shows he hasn�t lost the ability to tell shit from Shinola:
Similar copious gush is to be found in the writings of Mr. Sullivan, who told his Web-log readers the other day that "Bush�s summer strategy has been really, really smart." The enemies of civilization in the blogger�s gunsights include the editors of The New York Times (who fired him); indeed, the implacable President is gradually forcing such sniveling baby-boomers "to choose between supporting Saddam and supporting Bush."
SCOOP ... AND THEN SOME:
The always useful Nick Confessore undertakes this examination in the latest American Prospect about why conservatives such as Smalltown Boy have been practically hijacking planes to crash into 221 West 43rd Street lately. It's worth heavily excerpting.
None of Raines' critics actually knows whether he opposes invading Iraq, because none of them has bothered to find out. Rather, when the Times' reporting sets back some conservative crusade, it's simply assumed to be the work of Raines' invisible hand. And instead of, say, picking up the phone and calling reporters and editors at the Times, these would-be media critics prefer a kind of phrenology, stroking the contours and bumps of a particular article -- verb choices, story placement, who gets quoted and how -- to arrive at an ill-informed picture of the reporting process.
Most of the Times staffers I spoke to were bemused by, if not contemptuous of, the complaints. "The place is much less organized than people give it credit for," says one reporter in the newspaper's Washington bureau. "A front-page story goes through a very open process. No one sits in a closed office muttering, 'My God, we've got to stop this war!' or 'How can we help the Democrats today?'" Indeed, if Raines and his reporters were so dedicated, it's hard to imagine that they would have given top billing in early September to the administration's charge that Saddam Hussein had recently intensified his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, or to Secretary of State Colin Powell's attempts to lurch himself onto the administration's Iraq line. If Howell Raines is running a front-page campaign against invading Iraq, he's not doing a very good job.
While a few conservative pundits -- Robert Novak, Fred Barnes, Paul Gigot -- got their start in daily journalism, most have spent the bulk of their careers in politics and political advocacy. Kristol was Dan Quayle's chief of staff. The National Review's Kate O'Beirne was a lobbyist for the Heritage Foundation. Krauthammer was a psychiatrist and then a speechwriter for Walter Mondale before joining The New Republic during the 1980s. And nearly anyone who ever set foot inside the White House under Ronald Reagan or the elder George Bush, it seems, now holds down a syndicated column, from Linda Chavez to Mona Charen to Oliver North.
For that matter, few conservative journalists have spent serious time in a newsroom. Most advance through a network of movement magazines, journals and think tanks: summers at the National Journalism Center, internships at the Heritage Foundation and articles in the National Review (followed, for the lucky ones, by a lucrative book deal with the Free Press and a cushy sinecure at the American Enterprise Institute). By contrast, a typical reporter starts on the metro desk, bounces around to a few domestic bureaus and may even spend time overseas before getting to cover the White House for a paper like the Times. Editors also come up through the reporting ranks. Raines earned his stripes at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution before coming to the Times as chief of the Atlanta bureau in 1979.
That doesn't mean that the Times' critics are all mindless partisans. But most of them are divorced from the professional culture of journalism in general and large metropolitan newspapers in particular. Like most conservative activists, they tend to think of mainstream and establishment media organizations, such as the Times, as less professional and more nakedly partisan than they actually are.
Those assumptions are mirrored in conservatives' own institutions. Take The Washington Times. When it was founded in 1982, managing editor Wesley Pruden, now editor in chief, quickly became known for fiddling with the leads or headlines of front-page stories to give them a pro-Republican or anti-Democrat slant. Times staffers even came up with a nickname for the process: "Prudenizing." (Sample headlines from recent weeks: "Economy's Woes Tied to Clinton-Era Fiscal Abuses"; "Atlanta Jews Seek to Defeat Rep. McKinney's Father.") Especially during the paper's early years, when a good portion of the paper's staff were professional reporters recruited from the shuttered Washington Star, staffers regularly quit over Prudenizing disputes. In 1988, for instance, editors altered a story to suggest that presidential hopeful Michael Dukakis had visited a psychiatrist in the late 1970s, changing the quote of a Dukakis relative from "it is possible, but I doubt it" to "it is possible." Reporter Gene Grabowski promptly resigned. Quick: Name a reporter who's quit The New York Times because an editor slanted his or her stories. Ever heard of a Times staffer complaining about "Howellizing"?
When right-wing journalists don't fall into line, they're considered traitors, not professionals. In the late 1990s, The Weekly Standard's Tucker Carlson was nearly banished from the conservative movement for being too critical of strategist Grover Norquist. Meanwhile, The New Yorker's Sid Blumenthal was banished from journalism for being too close to Bill Clinton. To generalize, conservative pundits assume that establishment media such as the Times are partisan because that's how their own journalists are expected to operate. They believe Howell Raines runs The New York Times the way they know Wes Pruden runs The Washington Times.
posted by Sully 9/19/2002 01:42:00 AM
Wednesday, September 18, 2002
As often noted, Sully's letters page often reads like this site, only better. Check out this week�s installment; he isn�t kidding when he calls it masochistic (However, remember how little of the rather pointed criticism he ever actually takes).
Here's one we just can't resist reprinting:
Man you are one hell of a deluded Bush lover. The guy blinks, because he couldn't find anyone in the world to back his thick as muck scheme to unilaterally attack Iraq and you are out there trying to beat it up as strategic brilliance.
Andrew, Bush got it wrong, wrong, wrong. You got it wrong, wrong, wrong. It happens. Admit it, learn from it, grow from it. Or deny it, dissemble it and be diminished by it. Your choice.
By the way, where did you pick up your geo-political knowlege - The John Wayne School of International Studies (our motto: "shoot first and ask questions later.") Thank goodness the world did not follow Bush's leadership, nor your advice. It is a better place for it.
COKE ON THE MONITOR WATCH:
�Many blogs, including this one, make errors. But most blogs correct themselves prominently within hours of finding out, and at most a day or two.�
For one, we�re still waiting for him to correct himself on Rachel Swarns. It's been two weeks and counting.
BUT FOR THE HAWKS, WE SHOULD HAVE HAD WAR BY NOW:
Smalltown Boy�s latest London Sunday Times piece on Iraq largely rehashes arguments he�s made before, but at least this time he�s recognized that there are some counterarguments he simply must deal with.
He exhorts us to �call them by the fallacies that they are,� the first time we�ve ever seens anyone use that sort of prepositional-phrase construction (Wouldn't it be easier to say "Call them fallacies"?)
These little slipups continue with "weapons of mas destruction"
But the main problem is that he's misrepresenting the argument (as usual). Despite the phrasings of some critics, most people acknowledge that Iraq has always been an issue. It�s just that the Bush administration�s sudden, Ahab-like obsession at the cost of purusing Osama bin Laden, the man who did more damage to American lives than any foreign invader in a century, is a little out of whack. If Osama took over Iraq, objections could not be dropped soon enough.
The sudden focus on Saddam makes it seem like the administration is afraid to argue a case against Saddam on its own merits and is trying to use the war on terror as a convenient shield for objections that might be raised.
As for the argument that debate has not been squelched, again he misses the point.
But let�s deal with one of his favorite hobby horses first:
The first is that there has been no censorship or even chilling of dissenting views in America since 9/11. Within days, a whole range of leftist critics blamed America for the attacks on her own citizens; in magazines like the Nation, writers proudly wrote of their refusal to fly American flags in solidarity; polemicists like Michael Moore, fervent critics of American capitalism and of president Bush, found their tomes at the top of the best-seller lists; Noam Chomsky's anti-Western tracts can be found at bookshop checkouts in every city. The most powerful newspaper in the country, the New York Times, has turned itself into a repository for a non-stop fusillade of attacks on the president, his administration and any attempt to confront Iraq
No censorship? At all? We seem to recall a newspaper columnist fired for accusing Bush of cowardice for running around the country on Air Force One all day Sept. 11.
Sully also forgets his own embrace of comments George Orwell later retracted, calling them �Stalinist-inspired� to insinuate that the American Left is somehow inherently treasonous � the infamous "Fifth Column" column. He was right to say it wasn't censorship per se, but then he should go to a dictionary and look up �censorious.� His remarks were expressly intended to deligitimize certain sectors of debate (In fact, in logic there is a name for this fallacy. We just can�t remember it right now).
We also have trouble recognizing our own country from this paragraph. Like any good propagandist, The Sage of South Goodstone pluralizes to generalize. Katha Pollitt�s one Nation column (which, by the way, Eric Alterman recently termed �just dumb�) becomes several (no examples need be cited, as always) and suddenly Noam Chomsky has market penetration beyond his publisher�s wildest dreams.
We could, of course, go on and on about this ... which would be exactly what Sullivan wants, of course. For in doing so we would fail to point out that the only debate that really matters � in Congress � has not taken place, and that the Bush administration seems to have less-than-military reasons for avoiding it.
(Nor should it go unremarked that Kittens himself treated the debate for months as if it were a waste of time).
posted by Sully 9/18/2002 10:21:00 AM
Tuesday, September 17, 2002
WE�RE PRETTY DAMN CLEAR ON WHAT THE WORD MEANS:
Hesiod helps Sullivan out. Among others.
Of course Saddam is playing games by making us a counteroffer he doesn�t think we�ll accept. But, as Hesiod points out, did anyone realistically expect our terms to be those he could agree to?
Purposefully negotiating in bad faith like this doesn�t do Iraq any good in the world�s eyes. Or ours. And we really hate to see Dubya making so much use of it (why did those two young women imprisoned by the Taliban for what they later admitted was prosyletizing get into his ultimatum last fall? What did they have to do with al-Qaeda or the World Trade Center? And why wasn�t anyone brave enough to point this out at the time?)
THIS IS YOUR BODY ON T. THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON BUSH:
Josh Marshall begins his post on the reaction to Bush�s UN speech by referring to �Certain conservative webloggers who happen to be former editors of the New Republic,� a small enough set that it�s pretty obvious who he�s referring to.
He sums up Sully�s reaction and then notes �it could scarcely be more foolish.�
At the end he concludes:
If the president fell flat on his face in the middle of the Rose Garden some of these characters would applaud his uncanny foresight in having arranged for the ground to be in just the right place to break his descent. Shades of the personality cult.
OUCH! Considering that Marshall and the Blog Queen are friends, this is some pretty sharp criticism. Wonder what he�s saying privately about his former boss these days?
DAMNED IF HE DOES; DAMNED IF HE DOESN�T:
Now we see what, exactly, he was talking about when he said, �We will forget�
He tells us that Wright�s New Yorker piece is �a damning indictment of Bill Clinton.� At this point, we wouldn�t be surprised if, after looking up a number in the phone book, he comes back and tell us it, too, is a damning indictment of Bill Clinton.
But more to the point is that he rehashes his by-now tired arguments about how it was all Clinton�s fault, arguments that for the most part we dealt with in early August and can�t get to right now (when we do have the chance, we'll repost the link).
There are some new wrinkles this time, however.
We are supposed to believe that Clinton made a major error when he shot missiles at Al-Qaeda after the embassy bombings. Uh, would Sully have been happier if Clinton had decided not to do anything back in August 1998? One can only assume so, yet you know he�d be harping on it now.
But then notice how he accepts the theory that, by missing Osama, Clinton made him a big hero in the anti-American world. Like we're sure that that was what Clinton wanted to do that morning. And what does that say about a president who targets Osama�s organization, does a lot of damage but almost a year later hasn�t established whether he actually hit Osama or not?
The Sage of South Goodstone has also been counseling us not to worry about Bush pissing off the Arab street by invading Iraq, because it�s all propaganda. But when Clinton raised Osama�s stature by not hitting him, then we should blame Clinton and care about Arab opinion?
THE LAST WORD ON NORAH:
If you can stand it, there�s one more blogger having her say out there.
Now, finally, Norah Vincent Watch has been created and we can return to Smalltown Boy and his intellectual misadventures in Blogland.
SULLIVAN VS. YET ANOTHER FORMER EMPLOYER:
This week, he once again picks up the cudgel against The Economist, hammering it for anti-Israeli bias.
First, there�s the quoted paragraph. Apparently it�s not enough for reporters to watch their own words, they now have to watch their sources. Quotes similar to that of the unnamed Saudi businessman have appeared in hundreds of articles about the Middle East, sometimes in far harsher terms; it's unclear why Sully finds this one so egregious.
But more importantly, our print copy of the magazine came in today�s mail and offered the whole article in question, including some later grafs that undercut not only the businessman�s perception but also Sully�s:
... the more popular view is that America is not just being manipulated by Israel but has its own wicked agenda. �What America wants is to dismantle the Arab world,� declared a speaker at a year-after forum in Cairo.
Damascus radio talks of plans to �recolonise� the region. Abdul Bari Atwan, editor of a radical Arab daily, Al Quds al Arabi, outlined a scenario where Israel would be made �the trusted sentry guarding the oil fields while the Arabs, or whatever remains of them, revert to rearing camels.��
Now you can say what you want about these sources. Certainly, in a region where the press is not always free, they may not reflect the true sentiments of the people, but it also strikes us that there is some real issue here beyond U.S. support for Israel.
By the way, it says a lot about Sullivan�s sensitivity to Arab concerns that he did this on what the Rittenhouse Review reminds us is the 20th anniversary of the massacres of Palestinian refugees at the Sabra and Shattila camps in Lebanon by Druse militia allied with Israel, one of those events that still loom large in the Arab consciousness.
If Smalltown Boy wants to keep giving out those stupid awards, he ought to reprint the entire piece. Here�s some stuff he doesn�t want you to read from Karen Alter:
It may be that the most compelling way to answer these questions will be to apply the insights of the psychologist Irving Janis on what he called ''groupthink.'' Looking back on the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in his 1972 book ''Victims of Groupthink: A psychological study of foreign-policy decisions and fiascos,'' Janis asked: ''How could bright, shrewd men like John F. Kennedy and his advisers be taken by the CIA's stupid, patchwork plan'' to invade Cuba?
Drawing on studies of group decision-making, Janis argued that the pressures of like-minded people deciding as a group lead to a deterioration of mental reasoning, reality testing, and moral judgment. In short, groupthink leads to a breakdown of critical thinking.
In his 1972 book Janis also examined the flawed decision making that went into the Korean War, Pearl Harbor, and Vietnam and presented in contrast the decision making process that occurred during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the post-World War II Marshall Plan.
So far the Bush administration's foreign policy team has manifested all the symptoms of groupthink that Janis identified:
Illusions of invulnerability leading to excessive optimism and the taking of extreme risks.
Collective efforts to rationalize leading decision makers to discount warnings that might otherwise force them to reconsider.
Stereotyped views of enemy leaders as too evil to warrant genuine attempts to negotiate and too weak or stupid to counter an attack against them, leading to miscalculations.
An unquestioned belief in the group's inherent morality, inclining group members to ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions.
Advocates of the consensus view putting direct pressure on those who express strong arguments against any of the group's stereotypes, illusions, or commitments, making clear that dissent is contrary to what is expected of all loyal members.
Self-appointed mind guards emerging to protect the group from advice, information, and views that might shatter the shared complacency about the effectiveness or morality of their decisions.
Self-censorship by people with views deviating from the apparent group consensus, creating an illusion of unanimity within the group.
Candidate Bush ran for office by arguing that America cannot be the world's policeman, that the United States must avoid entanglements in the world and most of all avoid anything that resembles nation-building. Bush's conversion to war with Iraq would obliterate all those arguments, with nation-building certain to follow.
posted by Sully 9/17/2002 02:02:00 AM
Monday, September 16, 2002
NORAH AND LIBEL LAW:
On p. 325 of Blinded by the Right, David Brock entertains the possibility that Norah may know a little more about this than she lets on.
The situation: In the wake of his disenchantment with the right and his tepid book on Hillary, it was suggested among the conservatives that he had only gone so soft because he was having an affair with her press secretary, who was outed in the process.
But who had spread that one? He didn�t know.
Another possible peddler of the rumor was a freelance writer named Norah Vincent. For reasons that I still can't fathom, Vincent, who had been an editor at the Free Press ... took an intense personal dislike to me. On assignment for the New York Press, Vincent called with a mixed-up tale of Lattimore and me. When I told her that what she had heard was false, she declined to publish it.
Vincent, like many other conservatives Brock discusses unsavory behavior by, has never commented about this � at least not to our knowledge. If she wants to begin to restore her credibility, here�s a good place to start.
JUST ONE MORE NORAH POST, WE PROMISE:
We won on at least one issue.
Go over to Norah�s blog.
Notice that the questionable dun is now gone.
She may never say it, but we think that means that all of us (Atrios etc.) were right and that she was trying to expand her margins.
posted by Sully 9/16/2002 01:01:00 AM
Sunday, September 15, 2002
A couple of weeks ago, something stuck in our mind about Lee Siegel comparing Sully�s brain to a pair of playful kittens.
We just remembered what it was. It was its echo of the line at the end of this post, by a conservative lesbian blogger who doesn�t think she�s better than everyone else, and is thus actually enjoyable to read.
NORAH VINCENT�S SERVER:
UPDATE: This post slightly edited 1:23 a.m. 9/16/2002.
A SullyWatch special investigative team was dispatched to look into the continuing mystery of how Norah Vincent can claim to have had to buy extra bandwidth to allow people to connect to a blog hosted on a free server, and their first stop was her domain registration info for norahvincent.com, which we supposed might have been what she was talking about.
Unlike Sully, whose name is registered to Fantascope, Vincent�s personal domain is registered in her partner�s name at the East Village address that one would imagine they share (along with, we would imagine, the requisite number of dogs or cats), so it�s not an unreasonable assumption that she might bear the costs herself.
Still, however, she uses the popular mydomain.com as her host, and if this server gets overwhelmed by 400 visitors, it must be having a lot of problems it doesn�t want to admit to. Especially if that overload comes from people just clicking on a link.
Or she�s not telling the whole truth of the matter. We really wonder, especially since her entries for the second day of her blog make no mention of server overload. You'd think if it had, she�d have said a hell of a lot more than that she was �cookin� with gas.� (Well, she does seem to be writing with it).
We also noticed with decided unease this little passage from her more recent blogulations:
As I said in my post, I draw a clear distinction between those on the one hand who provide a salubrious corrective to the mainstream media�s hegemony by challenging facts and bias in reportage � Sullivan and Kaus and Glenn Reynolds do this the way it should be done ...
And, of course, the fact that all three of these bloggers expend a great deal of time and pixels highlighting what they claim to be excessive liberal bias in the mainstream media has absolutely nothing to do with this judgement.
Obviously Norah has it all figured out ... that blogs are for conservatives only, and that liberals who dare tread there and call them on their own sloppy journalism ought to be put on the next train for Vorkuta. Consider yourselves warned!
WHAT WILL GET SULLY�S GOAT TODAY?:
Anyone want to bet that when he gets back to his Mac this evening, today�s Maureen Dowd column will be the first thing he tees off on?
posted by Sully 9/15/2002 03:20:00 PM
AMATEURS AND PROFESSIONALS:
Jason Soon pointed us to Brian Carnell, who has this to say about Sully�s oft-spoken lines that blogs are meant to be shoot-from-the-hip, slapdash, epehemeral writing, most recently articulated in the Slate Kurt Andersen correspondence:
I hate to break it to Sullivan, but some of us do actually fact check what we write on our weblogs and feel a need to be as accurate as possible.
What Sullivan is describing here is a personal problem -- Sullivan is simply a old school pundit exploiting the weblogging format and like all such pundits, the goal is to speak as loud as possible and make the most outrageous claims for attention, with things like accuracy and fact checking coming in second.
When Sullivan claims his weblog entries are more hurried and likely to be wrong than his old media articles, surely he is speaking only in degrees. Sullivan has never struck me as a particular stickler for accuracy, especially when that might interfere with a good angle.
It is telling that when Sullivan took a break from his weblog for awhile, he managed to sucker Camille Paglia into covering for him. Could anyone imagine a more perfect replacement for Sullivan?
Looking through Carnell�s archives, in fact, he�s got quite a few riffs on the Blog Queen.
Here, he takes on Sully's lousy page design; there, his similarities to Michael Moore. Check�em out.
LETTERS SULLIVAN WON�T PRINT:
An occasional SullyWatch feature.
Tony Blair was wise to embark upon his risible time-traveling exercise in front of a silent audience of trade unionists, rather than in front of a House of Commons filled with increasingly vexed members of the Labour party.
What Tony Blair's time traveling soujourn fails to note is that the United States, under Bill Clinton, had implemented a multi-pronged strategy to apprehend Osama Bin Laden, a man whom the U.S. had determined masterminded the Khobar Towers bombing, the twin embassy bombings in East Africa, and the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole. The U.S. had already taken military action in the
wake of the embassy bombings, sending cruise missiles in an attack against Osama Bin Laden, reportedly narrowly missing him. According to lengthy articles in both the Washington Post and Time Magazine, the incoming Bush administration was fully briefed by outgoing Clinton officials, including Sandy Berger, about the scope and urgency of the Al Qaeda threat to this nation, and was presented by the outgoing Clintonistas with a fairly comprehensive plan to dismantle Al Qaeda using military means � a plan that the Bush administration dusted off and called their own in the wake of the September 11th attacks.
Iraq, on the other hand, has been thoroughly contained by the sanctions/no-fly-zone regime that was instituted by George Bush I and continued by President Clinton. Since Saddam's retreat from Kuwait in 1991, he has not threatened his neighbors. Additionally, Saddam has not threatened the U.S. or its interests since 1993, when hazy reports indicated that he tried to
assassinate George Bush I during a trip to Kuwait. Saddam, moreover, has never consorted with terrorists of international scope such as Al Qaeda, which is why flim-flam artists on the chickenhawk right are reduced to hyping Saddam's decade-old assistance to Hizbollah into a threat against the U.S., rather than properly identifying Saddam's interactions with Hizbollah as being a threat to Israel.
The Clinton administration was perfectly willing to deploy our military assets to combat Osama Bin Laden and his gang of criminals prior to the September 11th attacks. Osama Bin Laden, by his deeds, revealed himself to be a continuing threat to the U.S. and its interests.
The Bush adminstration did nothing prior to the September 11th attacks to combat the Al Qaeda threat. Moreover, the Bush administration and its brigade of chickenhawk advisors taking up space in right-wing think tanks are intent on whipping up war fever by resurrecting decades-old atrocities by Saddam Hussein to justify their paranoid pronouncements that Saddam represents an
"imminent threat" who wants to "kill Americans".
Lord knows why Tony Blair is so intent on pimping Bush's looming military adventure in Iraq. However, in doing so, he only has clumsy straw-man arguments left in his bag of rhetorical tricks.
Another reader writes in with the following note about Sully�s financial support and dissembling thereon:
Though sully mentions that "online ads" pay "only a fraction" of costs, in fact this is very deceptive. There are no online ads, if that means companies that directly pay cash for the space. He hasn't been able to get one, and has said this � the closest he came were the Big Pharma ads. The things on his site that look like ads are actually commission things -- like getting a commission for linking to Amazon -- re: Amex, Amazon, etc. They are not "online ads". He explained them, quickly, when he first put them up, but has let others believe they're actually ads.
That must be why AdSubtract isn�t removing them from the page.
Talk Left makes a sly allusion to Sullesbian�s unconscious plagiarism, while Atrios discusses the latest developments.
Jane Galt misses the point.
Vincent was not directly suggesting her critics had libeled her � at best, Charles Pierce, who wrote the email to the Rittenhouse Review that started all this, was just yanking her chain over some lazy writing. If you reread her post carefully, you�ll see that the libel issue comes up specifically when she talks about people spreading what she calls �falsehoods� about Andrew Sullivan�s sex life.
We�re pretty sure she�s talking about us. And as we�ve said, we have a widely accepted truth on our side.
Norah�s only other response so far has been to quote a month-old Newsweek article in the service of a point she�s denied trying to make.
posted by Sully 9/15/2002 11:01:00 AM
NOTHING POLITICAL ABOUT THAT, NO:
Sully quotes a (as usual, unidentified) reader:
The blowhards in Congress � and their predictable, knee-jerk desire to be involved and oppose any assertion of presidential power � led to demands that they debate the issue even before the November elections!
To which Smalltown Boy says, �I say: let's get them on record.�
So invading Iraq or not has nothing to do with holding on to control of the House ... oh no.
Aside from which, �their predictable, knee-jerk desire to be involved and oppose any assertion of presidential power,� is Congress�s constitutional prerogative.
SMOKE ACROSS THE WATER:
Sully would probably say that 9/11 was the reason he forgot utterly in the course of the week to promo in the blog his latest Sunday Times piece, but since this was the first time he did that we have a better idea: it�s utterly unremarkable, even by his standards.
(We should also take the opportunity at this point to apologize to anyone employed by the Times of London. It has been explained to us in email that rather unlike the situation with the Times we know and love over here, the London paper�s Sunday edition is legally distinct from its weekday counterpart, with an entirely different editorial staff. We were thus too indiscreet in linking Sully with them).
Not that we frankly care one way or the other about New York City�s smoking ban, although as nonsmokers it�s always good to have clean air. But there are a few areas of concern.
First is geographical. We don�t know what the deal is with this nude-bather bust, but if it was near Cape Cod�s easternmost area, it doesn�t really come to a tip so much as it just reaches the eastern point. Provincetown is definitely on the tip, but it's not the eastern end of the peninsula.
Next is dietary. You'd think, from his hemming and hawing about the recent realizations re: the Atkins diet, that fat was still supposed to be bad. The whole point of the great shift in nutritional thinking that played out this past summer was that carbs may have been the real culprit in American obesity instead of fat.
After that, medical. The hormone-replacement controversy was not suddenly sparked. The studies had been around for years, but only recently had they been validated. It was so convincing that Mickey Kaus even quoted a previous disparager of the risk as saying he had switched sides (we think).
(Keep in mind as you reread this graf that the Sage of South Goodstone is the bought-and-paid-for mouthpiece of the sort of drug companies that make and market estrogen-replacement therapy. Puts it in an entirely different light, doesn't it?).
Of course, the mention of hormone replacement gets us to where the real issue lies:
And just for good measure, the doctors subsequently weighed in against wilting men using testosterone replacement therapy as well. Tut tut, guys. You're not supposed to be feeling that good.
We think Vaara had something to say about Sully's odd contradictions on this latter issue once upon a time. And our friends at Smarter Andrew Sullivan have raised the question of why he should be deriving pleasure from his Androgel smearings, if it's only supposed to make you feel normal, not powerful.
There is also projection, this time quite humorously so:
A childhood comic book habit left him with a superhero's mind-set about good versus evil. "To me it was the classic comic book fight," he said.
Funny how this is desirable in foreign policy but not public health.
The final flourish is the best:
Well, actually, he had all the money, and some poor schmuck trying to smoke a cigarette in his favorite Bronx bar is on the receiving end of Mr Cherner's morality. To give you an idea of what has already been done to the average nicotine addict, the city tax on a packet of cigarettes just went from 8 cents a pack to $1.50 in a single day.
Where did Sully get this sudden concern for the poor working-class nicotine addict, who's only trying to smoke himself to death?
Well, just remember that it was and is a favorite ploy of the tobacco industry. And Charlie Francis, the financial angel behind andrewsullivan.com (to the tune of more money than the Blog Queen will admit) is a longtime lobbyist for that same industry.
Last week Sullivan quoted Ayn Rand. You know, she had a policy of reading people out of her movement if they refused to start smoking, because it was �anti-life� not to.
This attitude only changed when she herself was diagnosed with the lung cancer that ultimately took her life, when the science she so championed all those years but whose rationally-derived advice she would not heed on the issue told her the incontrovertible truth.
Will Sully have such an epiphany? We doubt it.
Sullivan begins his critique of Rich by belittling the man�s prior, legendary career as the Times� drama critic. Well, excuse us, but when you pose for Gap ads you�re not exactly doing your own credibility on matters diplomatic and military a favor.
The Great Projector shows up very quickly:
His columns are hard to refute because there are no hard refutable arguments, merely a series of prejudices, or alleged correlations, or mere observations designed to appeal to people who already agree with him. When all else fails, he does the Op-Ed equivalent of yelling "Ashcroft!" in a crowded Northampton Starbucks.
Hello? Didn�t someone once praise blogging for the way it offered a sort of incompleteness and amateurishness not normally found in punditry. What�s the difference here? We don�t see it.
Think about that for a minute. A major columnist at the New York Times is accusing the president of risking thousands of young lives in a war on Saddam and risking thousands of others by being delinquent in the battle against al-Qaida � all merely in order to buttress his domestic P.R.
Yeah, that�s so unspeakable you have to go back to ... August 1998, when conservatives everywhere were falling all over themselves to solicit Osama bin Laden�s good favor by condemning Clinton for trying to actually shoot missiles at a meeting bin Laden was at (Hey, at least they knew where he was! And cared!)
The evidence for Bush's treasonous cynicism? Rich has none. He even concedes that Saddam is an "authentic genocidal monster."
Yeah, but what does one have to necessarily do with the other? Is Sullivan really so testosterone-addled that he thinks Bush would stand up in front of the American people and say �My fellow Americans, I really, really need you to vote for the Republican Party this year, so I�m going to distract you from the soft economy by invading Iraq.�
But Rich is not so polite. It's self-evident to Rich that the presidential motive is not misguided zeal or false information or even bad judgment � but pure self-interested cynicism.
Oh, like Sully would lay off him then?
What part of that does Rich not understand? Even at the time, many on the left and right interpreted Bush's remarks as a challenge to Saddam
Funny, we interpreted them as a challenge to Osama bin Laden at the time, seeing as he had orchestrated the cruel deaths of thousands of civilians on American soil a week before.
In order to prop up his argument, Smalltown Boy then leans on some stories from the ... Times! Yes, the very same paper whose weather reports he accuses of horrible bias!
Yes, Iraq has been on the table for a long time. But what Rich and an increasing number of the American people are so upset about is that our war on Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, those who took so many of us to Jesus and laughed about it on videos afterward, seems to have been � ahem � hijacked to serve an agenda that is only related theoretically to it.
While, meantime, the question of just what happened to bin Laden is quietly shoved aside as if it were yesterday�s news.
ONE PICTURE WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS:
Uggabugga has their say on Princess Norah, in language fairly close to ours. (Also you will want to check out the Iraq-war probability chart above it).
posted by Sully 9/15/2002 01:44:00 AM