"You're a funny man, Sully ...

that's why I'm going to kill you last."


Saturday, November 27, 2004


I have absolutely nothing against capitalism

Except everything.

posted by Sully 11/27/2004 08:10:00 PM


Uh, that item about Yushchenko looking like he's becoming Ben Grimm is now about as cold as whatever's left of your turkey that you haven't made soup from yet, if that's what you do with your Thanksgiving leftovers.

posted by Sully 11/27/2004 08:03:00 PM


"Drama Queen" ... a fitting epithet for a brutal terrorist and heir to Saddam bin Laden's mantle as the One Who's Still Out There Somewhere?

And Sullivan of all people should be careful about using that one ...

posted by Sully 11/27/2004 01:39:00 AM


In one post he derides Sidney Blumenthal for taking Karl Rove too seriously (should he have? Rove had the opportunity to be nice and gracious to someone who was clearly paying him a compliment; instead he went and voiced this weird self-statement in terms that not only suggest he wasn't joking (indeed, they are perfectly consistent with other Republican rhetoric on the issue), they weren't meant to be overheard either), then he turns around and completely fails to see the obvious sarcasm in something in the Time Out NY Tv listings?

posted by Sully 11/27/2004 01:31:00 AM

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Ask your spouse if you’re snoring or having difficulty breathing when you’re asleep.
Hey Andrew! What about the vast majority of gay people in this country who do not yet enjoy the marriage equality you have advocated for so long but do not avail yourself of?

And how dare you assume all your readership is heterosexual? Or that those who are are married?

From yob to snob.

posted by Sully 11/24/2004 01:43:00 PM


Casting about for old demons in the wake of the re-election of a president he can no longer fully support, Sullivan has hit on the predictable favorites: Clinton, Moore, Chomsky and now Eric Alterman.

Eric is nominated for a Sontag as a result of comparing Bush to Brezhnev.

Our first question: How does this fit with the criteria for the award itself? Perhaps it’s a bad idea to list them so painstakingly elsewhere on his website.
...statements by public figures uttered in the same spirit as Susan Sontag’s post-9/11 preference for the “courage” of Islamist mass murderers as opposed to the “cowardice” of NATO air-pilots over the skies in Iraq. Glib moral equivalence in the war on terror and visceral anti-Americanism are qualities most admired by the judges in this category.

That’s pretty specific. Where do you see anything concerning comparing current American presidential leadership with that of the former Soviet Union?

The more obvious criterion here is that Eric Alterman said it.

One thing hasn’t changed from his more spirited past, however: his disingenuousnes in this.

Notice (to begin a sentence the way he would) how blithely he conflates Alterman’s likening of Bush and Brezhnev’s management styles with how they came to power. In fact, nowhere in the original (and by the way, Andy old boy, deep permalinks are now available, and have been for some time, at Altercation — if you want to spitefully limit your readers’ exposure to Alterman’s toxic ideas it would do you well not to make them have to scroll down past so much of it) does Alterman suggest that there was anything un-democratic about how Bush was elected (notice we do not say re-elected, because he undeniably lost the first time around. We are aware that some people are not satisfied in this department).

And Sully has a lot of nerve, given that in the very recent past he has more or less agreed with that assessment of Alterman’s.

Is comparing the current American executive to past Soviet leaders, in fact, really so beyond the pale? Would we as bloggers be negligent in our sworn duties to the public to tell it like it is if we didn’t make this comparison when apt?

What, in fact, would Sullivan make of this? (Thanks Steve Mussina). Is there anyway to read this but to conclude that the red states are slowly becoming Red? Recall what the Kingfish told us way back when.

Ultimately, Surly is sticking it to Alterman for this little dig just below the piece in question:

Check out p.A23 of the national edition of the New York Times for the new full-page “Open Letter from American Jews.” (Let’s see if Andy goes to the trouble of taking down everyone’s name to instruct them about how to be better Jews.)

THANKSGIVING NIGHT UPDATE: Bruce Garrett acknowledges the earlier traffic we gave him, and adds to this observation:
So...Eric Alterman gets a Sontag Award for comparing the Bush team to the old soviet politburo...about two days after Sullivan himself calls neocon Bill Kristol the "Politburo head". How...unsurprising...

posted by Sully 11/24/2004 01:14:00 PM


In the first of his two-part post about the Family Research Council article:
Here’s a frank argument by one Allan Carson

But in the second:
And Carlson deserves praise for airing it.
Copy editing is about more than just spelling.

posted by Sully 11/24/2004 01:01:00 AM

Monday, November 22, 2004


We now have actual confirmation on our report, below, that Condi Rice’s Russian-language skills have deteriorated.

Vaara, who as a professional perevodchik should know all about these things, found an actual example of Condi speaking the language of Pushkin and Putin, an Echo Moscow radio interview transcript from 2001 in which the interviewer asked her to say a final word in Russian, and she obliged.

He went to the trouble of translating it and critiquing it.

If anything, he was too kind. For while Condi makes no grammatical blunders, her usage is embarassingly awkward. Her little speech would be acceptable from a student completing his or her first semester in studying the language, a student who had not yet been to Russia or practiced conversation with an actual first-language speaker ... but not what you expect from someone whose professional expertise and academic reputation came from undergraduate and graduate study of the country.

Even one who hadn’t dealt with the country and its people in quite some time. There is no excuse for letting your skills degrade to this level, not today when at least original Russian-language text and spoken Russian over the radio is a mere mouseclick away.

Let’s go further than Vaara and count the oshybki, shall we?

Я очень рада быть здесь в Москве.

Ugh. The glaring error here is the fourth word, the use of byt’ for “to be.”

Russian, like many other languages, has a couple of other verbs besides its main copula that can stand in for concepts frequently expressed in English by “to be.”

And as in other languages, one of those is the specific physical sense of “to be located in, to be situated in,” always with some referent (Moscow here).

The correct Russian verb in this instance is Haxoдитьcя, literally “to find oneself.” It applies to both people and objects.

Hey, don’t take our word for it. Take the word of the Russian customs official who greeted a similar mistake on one of our part with a blank stare.

Я очень люблю Москву.

Really Condi ... ochen’? We’re not even sure a beginning Russian student would make the mistake of trying to use this in a direct adverbial sense (it means “very” and usually modifies just adjectives) without at least mnogo as well. Or she could have gotten away with a simple tak, making the statement into “I love Moscow so,” and still gotten the point across, as well as sounding more sophisticated.

Мой русский язык без практики теперь, потому что я меньше и меньше говорю.

Vaara is right in his translation to note the lack of an object pronoun (yevo is the one here, as men’she i men’she takes the genitive case). We’re sure most of her audience knew what she meant to say (one of the great mysteries, or maybe not, of linguistics is that the human brain is so forgiving and understanding of less-than-perfect speech in one’s native language, regardless of what that is) but taken literally it sounds like Condi is saying she speaks less and less, as if she were going mute or something.

Но я обещаю, что когда я вернусь в Америку, я буду практиковаться, и может быть, когда я вернусь в Москву, будет возможно говорить только по-русски с вами.

Ah. Here the National Security Adviser trips over her verbs, specifically aspect, the great head-banging nemesis of any English speaker learning Russian (or just about every other Slavic language (although it’s not as important in Bulgarian) for that matter).

For those of you who don’t already know this, Russian verbs, like Arabic nouns, have to be learnt in pairs.

You start out learning the imperfective form, in which all present-tense action takes place, and then maybe you think you’ve gotten the hang of it when you get to the past tense (very simple in Russian where regular verbs (and even most irregular ones) are concerned, just chop the infinitive ending -ть off the verb, add an l (or -la, -lo or -li for feminine, neuter or plural subjects as the case may be) and you’re good to go ... until a few more chapters into the textbook or units into the lesson and they spring it on you: There’s this whole other thing to the glagol that we weren’t telling you about on purpose, you know, sort of like Mom and Dad letting you believe the stork brought your baby sister until you get to the age where you start having ... urges, as Butt-head once put it to Beavis, and sort of like then the reason they have to introduce aspect to you is that you’ll never be able to use the future tense without understanding it.

Imperfective verbs, which you already learned about, refer when used in the past and future only to vagueness and uncertainty, such as unfinished actions, actions never taken, or actions taken times too numerous to count or on a regular or continuing basis. And actions negated that you do not expect to be de-negated any time soon.

Your new friend, the perfective verb, is by contrast all about single, discreet, completed action. Except actions repeated a small amount of times. (At least, though, when conjugated normally, the way you’ve learned to do the present already, it serves as the future in the sense you normally use it. Nor is the imperfective future that difficult ... just like English, learn the future tense of byt’ and you’re all set)

Not only do you have to understand the concept, which the English verb does use but isn’t as dependent on, you learn that this means that there’s another verb for every verb you’ve already learned. It means exactly the same thing in English as the one you already knew (most of the time), but it’s a whole new game. Sort of like an evil twin, except that it’s only evil to you.

Actually, it’s usually pretty easy to tell them apart. Oftentime the imperfective ones have this little -va- infix. Or the perfective one has some arbitrary preposition smacked on the front of it (Then again, there’s “to buy” ... pokupat’ as an imperfective, kupit’ in the perfective).

Like the singular and plural Arabic noun, the vast majority of verbs break down this way into one of several familiar patterns ... but without any clear way of predicting which. So you just have to learn them, two of them, for almost every single verb in the language. And sometimes they seem to be being difficult on purpose — brat’, the imperfective of “to take,” partners up with vzyat’ ... yeah, you can really see the family relationship there.

And then you’ll start slipping back in class, seeing red marks on your tests for sentences you thought so perfect when you wrote them you didn’t even bother to recheck, and embarrasing yourself in class when you forget about this while reading oral exercises out loud. And you wonder why in the world someone, let alone several hundred millions of someones, thought this distinction in concepts so important they embedded it into their language. No wonder they had a revolution that ended in hidebound, elephantine bureaucracy.

Eventually, of course, you do get the hang of it ... just in time to learn of the similar, equally arbitrary (again, to an English speaker) morphological distinction between determinate and indeterminate verbs of motion, which if you want to go into, you can go learn Russian for yourself. If you still have the inclination.

But back to Dr. Rice ... here she realizes that she has to use both aspects in the same sentence — when I return (ya vernus’, the perfective here as it’s a discreet action), I will practice (ya budu praktikovat’sa, the imperfective for a somewhat fuzzily delineated action) — yet screws up in the next sentence, continuing to use the perfective vernus’ when the situation, an action to take place at an unknown time in the future, calls for the corresponding imperfective, vozvrashchayus’ (OK, you can understand why she might have wanted to avoid that little mouthful. But tough ... we didn’t get breaks on grading because we wanted to avoid twisting our tongues. So why should a senior U.S. official get so lazy on Russian radio?).

(There’s also the matter of that somewhat superfluous “t” on what we learned as mozhe byt’ (“maybe”). Perhaps it could be a transcriber’s error or typo).

At the finish line, there’s what we believe to be the rather uncouth to educated Russian ears breaking up of the verb, with the vozmozhno landing right between budet and govorit’, sort of like most (but again, not all, as Star Trek taught us) split infinitives in English.

Speaking (ahem) of govorit’, it’s the most obvious slipup in this context. Since Condi was on her feet enough to use the proper instrumental construction of s vami (“with you”) at the end of the sentence, she also should have remembered that the proper verb for talking with someone is not the root form govorit’ but razgovoryvat’ (to converse ... in the imperfective here as again it’s a vague, undefined, possible future action). That’s definitely points off.

And why use this whole clunky “maybe it will be possible” construction anyway? While it’s not, we admit, unknown in regular everyday Russian, kazhetsa to us that she’s trying to cover for not being able to remember the perfective form and thus future tense of moch’, “to be able to” (and yes, you can tell it’s an irregular verb ... as in so many other languages). She could avoided this pitfall and sounded so much more direct and elegant by simply beginning the clause ya smogu.

At the very least it would have sounded more confident — which, as Vaara points out, she had good reason not to be.

Look, bad Russian isn’t unknown in the Russian public sphere. Spy magazine, from which we’ve freely acknolwedged taking inspiration in the past, once had a piece about Mikhail Gorbachev’s lapses into the more rural, less cultivated speech patterns of his native region near the Caucasus (once, during a heated debate in what was then known as the Congress of Deputies, he said what can be roughly translated into English as “they’re laying some notes on me” and the whole Moscow intelligentsia watching in person and on TV just cringed).

But the story with Condi is, whatever she says about not having had the opportunity to practice, she has. We’ve heard other anecdotes about her speaking in Russian at events at which both native and non-native speakers were present, and both found themselves exchanging worried looks over what was coming out of her mouth.

As a Stanford professor or administrator, she would only embarrass that institution. But from the Secretary of State, America should expect far better.

(Of course, the real issue here is that, given present realities, an SoS or NSA who spoke Arabic even as poorly as Rice does Russian would go miles. But no one seems to even concern themselves with that).

posted by Sully 11/22/2004 10:50:00 PM


Best commentary on Sullivan’s tangential involvement with the upcoming Matthew Shepherd pushback piece comes from Bruce Garrett:
... There was nothing, absolutely nothing, mysterious or murky about what happened that night. Any fog of mystery surrounding it now is completely and utterly the manufacture of the anti-gay right, and their useful bedboys like Sullivan.

Sullivan once said he became a Tory because he hated the left so much. So here he is, unsurprisingly, helping the right whitewash a brutal anti-gay murder, again because he hates the left, which supports hate crime laws. Shepard’s murder made clear to people why those laws are necessary. The pistol beating of the 105 pound young man, that left his skull broken, had the grisly overkill quality to it that is the hallmark of gay bashings. Suddenly the nation saw not only that hate was killing gay people, but how vicious that hate was. The right has been alternately trying to vilify Shepard as a sexual predator who got what was coming to him, or whitewash the whole affair as a robbery gone bad, ever since. But the circumstances of Shepard’s death are grimly familiar to anyone who has witnessed anti-gay violence. Sullivan would literally rather have gay people die violently, then allow the left to get hate crime laws enacted, not because those laws are wrong, but simply because it would be a victory for the left.

That he is a party to this 20/20 report only clarifies its essential political nature. Sullivan was not there during the investigation, and did not attend the trials or talk to the principals. He has nothing to bring to the table other then a political point of view regarding hate crime laws.

posted by Sully 11/22/2004 10:50:00 PM


Now that Sullivan has tagged the previously-obscure Giles for one of his Derbyshire Award nominees, it remains to be seen how s.z. of World O’ Crap fame will take this franchise-poaching.

UPDATE: s.z took note (spoiler for her latest Who Said It?).

Does Sullivan, or anyone, really believe the emailer’s apologia that this is meant to make the spiritual life seem more manly and thus appealing?

We always thought the appeal of spirituality and faith as a guidestar for one’s daily life was that it was unchangeable, unaffected by the world, as Chesterton famously said (and as we find ourselves unable to locate a Google citation of “We do not want a church that is changed by the world. We want a church that changes the world.”).

It seems to us that there is something contradictory in having to make Christianity more manly, more earthly, to appeal to potential believers. Christ may indeed have asserted his positions in a mostly unambiguous matter (or did He? ... “Render unto God what is God’s, and render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” — if we all could agree on just what belongs to God and what belongs to Caesar!), but, save the notable exception of the moneychangers in the temple (the analog of which one cannot imagine with a straight face from today’s political Christians), He did so without resort to high levels of testosterone. He died to make men more Christian, not Christianity more macho.

A long time ago we had great sport with some friends imagining Arnold Schwarzenegger playing Jesus in a movie (the aforementioned scene in the temple: “Get out of my fazzer’s Haus! ... [automatic weapons fire]!”). Robin Williams reportedly once imagined the same thing — “Try and nail THIS!”

A joke to us then, perhaps, and still now. But its perpetrators are the last people to realize this.

11/24 UPDATE: Thanks s.z. for the link. It occurs to us that the essence, and conclusion, of this discussion is sort of, uh, inscribed in that classic early South Park ep in which a (muscular and bulked-up) Satan draws all the bets in a fight with a (scrawny) Jesus, only to take a dive after eight rounds of beating the Messiah around the ring so he can claim the one winning bet: his own.

“Do not bet on the Dark One. It is a bet you can never win.”


posted by Sully 11/22/2004 01:53:00 AM

One of the real skills of many neoconservatives is their message discipline.
We’d say it’s their only skill. How else would you be able to convince anyone else you have other skills when an objective evaluation finds them so transparently lacking?
These are intellectuals whose first calling is political power, rather than intellectual candor. Win first, cavil later: that’s the motto. This is not to say they are intellectually dishonest, merely that they have learned the benefits of silence when their political masters are caught with their pants down.

Uh, then it is to say that they are politically dishonest.
Translation: Bush screwed up monumentally but at least he didn’t waver; and we were able to keep the full truth of the Iraq mess from the people long enough to survive. Yes, Bush's record did not merit re-election; but Kerry would have been far worse. (That's why Kristol barely wrote a word about Bush for months, and wrote ceaselessly against Kerry.)
Actually, this whole bit is a good parsing of Kristol, and we’d like to add that it reminds us of nothing so much as the scene early in Time Bandits where, after one of the Devil’s rants against God, one of his underlings challenges him to the effect that if he’s so much better at this divinity thing than God, why he is confined to this miserable stinking hell and God is running the whole thing. Satan zaps him into oblivion, then says “Good question!”

posted by Sully 11/22/2004 01:38:00 AM


The level of troops — like the war in general — is far too important to be left to the military.

“Mr. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, opened a two-front war of words on Capitol Hill, calling the recent estimate by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki of the Army that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in postwar Iraq, ‘wildly off the mark.’ Pentagon officials have put the figure closer to 100,000 troops.”

New York Times; Feb. 28, 2003.

That enough of a refresher, Andy?

posted by Sully 11/22/2004 01:28:00 AM

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