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

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


Saturday, June 19, 2004


As so many times before, George Cerny introduces today’s Andrew Sullivan to the Andrew Sullivan who once was.

I’m glad that Sullivan is able to admit the truth, of course. But I remain puzzled, even shocked, by his ability to ignore things that he has written. It’s quite proper that a man reconsider his ideas, and there should be no shame if those ideas evolve. But "evolve" means something more than "ducking inconvenient statements."

An honest man would make some amends instead of attacking his faults only when he finds them in others. Sullivan is not an honest man, or even one with any respect for the truth. He damn well isn’t Orwell. He’s just another hack, more egotistical than most, and given, as all hacks are, to “reflexive, brain-dead, defensiveness.”

This phenomenon does deserve some more comment. Sullivan’s constant disregard for what he has written in the heat of moments long gone reminds of some article we read a long time ago about (and not about) Lacan, trying to understand schizophrenia in that system’s terms.

The conclusion was that the network of signifiers breaks down (non-Lacanians really don’t need to work too hard to understand that; people who can quote Écrits from memory won’t need it explained) and one manifestation of that is that both the past and future collapse into a much-more strongly perceived now. Like some Randian take on logical positivism gone mad, for the schizophrenic only the present, an eternal flaming now, exists.

We remember a sort of example of this in a PBS documentary about that young man from New Hampshire who attacked an abortion clinic in Virginia and shot someone dead down there some years ago. He was, it seemed, a schizophrenic and the most moving parts of the documentary were his parents, clearly still distraught over whether they could have picked up on how bad he was getting earlier.

In one incident, he had to be escorted out of a Mass after standing up and rambling incoherently and loudly in the middle of it, among other things telling the priest he was “a fucking whore.” Five minutes later, his parents recalled, he was alright and acted as if nothing had happened. And probably, for him, nothing had.

The rarity with which Sullivan recognizes his contradictions, one of the things which moved us to start this blog in the first place, seems to admit of a similar explanation. Not that he’s schizophrenic, mind you; just that he’s increasingly not completely himself, not in full possession of his faculties, when he sits down to write.

UPDATE: Jo Fish has another example:

Blink and miss the stupidity ... NOT. (My emphasis) Given that Kaus was his source, it means he no longer reads much besides Snitch and Hackula; and he’s becoming a faded, jaded much for defining something; now it’s just dumbing down, self-dumbing that is. Some might argue that’s not a new thing for the Duchess. I might have to agree.

posted by Sully 6/19/2004 12:09:00 AM

Friday, June 18, 2004


Over at Talking Points Memo, Spencer Ackerman, guesting while Josh ducks the country for a while, has a totally different read on Cheney’s media-bashing.

Only the media, says the most powerful secretary of defense in history, can lose the war in Iraq. By that logic, a year’s worth of mistakes — an insufficient number of troops to provide basic security; an inability or unwillingness to demobilize militias; a preference for wishing deeply-rooted conflicts in Iraqi ethnic and religious politics away instead of providing a civil forum for their arbitration; the installation of pliant Iraqis onto a council subsequently made powerless; torture — are simply wished away.


Given that 90 percent of Iraqis distrust us according to CPA’s own polls, the already significant danger to our 138,000 brave men and women in uniform is compounding. And the secretary of defense would prefer to point fingers at the media ...


To the enduring shame of the U.S., lawyers at the White House, Justice Department and Pentagon have authored memoranda interpreting torture as somehow consistent with the Constitution and our treaty obligations. (Please, point me to the references in the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions sanctioning the use of unmuzzled dogs.) And yet it’s the media that’s undermining the war effort by reporting that vile fact.

Amazing. Just when you think that TNR has totally gone round the bend.

At TAPped, Nick Confessore also takes this up:

The problem for the administration's Iraq policies is not that the media is biased against them. The problem is —to borrow from The Daily Show correspondent Rob Corrdry — that the facts are biased against them.

posted by Sully 6/18/2004 11:59:00 PM


We’ll never know, it seems, what the conservative blogger said and what wrath it triggered, because when we clicked it looked like the whole thing had been deleted.

By the way, we noticed, the blog includes a blogad for this online gift shop, which, among others, sells this design. Now, it’s a stretch to hold Sullivan responsible for what someone he links to also links to ... but the image in question is prominently displayed in the blogad.

(There’s also this one, from the Little Green Goofballs collection).

UPDATE: It's back up now.

posted by Sully 6/18/2004 01:43:00 PM


John, newly resettled in Texas, considers Sullivan’s barely touching on the 9/11 hearings and is actually a little sympathetic.

Funny how a guy who’s spent an incredible amount of time blogging about the war on terror and every detail of the war in Iraq is so silent about this. I am tempted to make a smartass comment but mostly, it’s just kind of a sad spectacle; any pretense that Andrew is providing any kind of analysis or useful commentary is gone; he's a propagandist, not a journalist or thinker, and I can’t blame him for being unable to figure out how to put lipstick on this pig.

UPDATE: Now, John talks about what Sullivan talks about when he did talk about it.

posted by Sully 6/18/2004 12:21:00 PM


What Cheney said and what the Times said is moot, really.

The real issue — and Sullivan and Cheney both know this — is that making those connections, even rhetorically, was absolutely key to getting American popular support for the war. When a third of Americans at least believed that by going into Iraq we were handing those ragheads a piece of what they gave us, when some of the accused guards at Abu Ghraib were said by their commanders to have believed they were getting their own personal payback for that day against those they believed responsible, you cannot deny the importance of planting the connection in people’s mind and letting William Safire and others do Laurie Mylroie’s dirty work.

If 9/11 had never happened (don’t we all wish?), we would still have seen a serious effort from the Administration to muster support for an invasion of Iraq, and you can bet they’d never have mentioned al-Qaa‘idah once, not even despite the embassies and the Cole. We know that within hours of the towers falling, Cheney was trying to find some way to pin things on Iraq. And we have Richard Clarke’s stories about Wolfowitz and Bush making the same effort.

So, then, having to concede this, Sullivan states the administration’s real casus belli:

One recalls that Saddam's official press was one of the few to openly celebrate the 9/11 attacks against the “Great Satan.” Bush made the right decision - the only decision a responsible president could have made at the time.

Yup, because of how it was played in official media coverage in Iraq. Sounds like just the George Bush we know. If Saddam had, like his nuclear neighbors in Iran, been properly deferential, he’d be in charge of torture at Abu Ghraib still.

The Corner can rest easy. Sullivan will come back to Bush like a battered wife in time for November.

posted by Sully 6/18/2004 12:55:00 AM


We wondered what the response would be over in the Cage Corner to Sullivan’s potentially gloves-are-off move of quoting the Neanderthals at Jonah’s mother’s website.

Well, UnFlushed Tampon takes two tacks.

First, under his own name, he tries to be nice and joke it off (but he’s not fooling anyone ... you can see for yourself how ill at ease he really is, even by his own standards).

I just got back from lunch. Yes, yes, yes. I’ve seen that Andrew Sullivan has taken the time to criticize some postings at Mom’s site. No, I don't know if this was intended as a sort of “your mother wears combat boots” jab but I kind of doubt it. I will say I don’t agree with, like, or condone some of the things folks over there are saying and, I must say, it feels kind of nice to be in a position to tell mom I think she should clean up her room for a change. Then again, she stopped telling me to do that a long time ago and I’m sure she can defend herself is she decides it’s even worth it without help from me.

Ha ha. Then, to Sullivan’s reminder that he suffers more socially for his positions than he thinks Jonah does, Jonah reverts to a mannered version of “so?”

As for the social price Andrew has paid for his views compared to my own, I’m sure he’s right. I’m just not sure what that has to do with anything I’ve said, done or believe.

Then, conveniently, a “reader” with some teeth “sends” him an “email,” which he happily reprints. It sounds sorta like something we would say, even though we didn’t:

... What’s also his strength is also a very glaring fault at times, in that his rhetorical style leads him into excessive, hyperbolic statements that stretch his arguments at times to absurd levels.

Look for example at the post from today titled “What is Sexy?" where Sullivan turns what had been a fairly reflective and even innocuous discussion over at The Volokh Conspiracy into a tirade of generalizations against the habits of heterosexual men and especially women (not to mention homosexual women).

Look even more at “The Marriage Thing” post, where he claims you have insulted him by allegedly saying that his own writing for a gay magazine doesn’t count as being real writing; in his words specifically, “if you write something for the gay press, you haven’t really written it.”

Look most of all at his attempt in his post “Over at Lucianne” to tie a few really repugnant statements made by some people over at Lucianne’s website to broader conservatism (and of course to you and your mother as well)[How unfair! She only lends her name to the site! – SW].

These are all stretches of rhetoric in the extreme and are all various forms of logic fallacies.

Exactly what’s kept us blogging for almost two years.

UPDATE: Jo Fish ponders this:

Makes me wonder if this is his preemptive way to make good on his threat to get out of blogging ... “awww, Mommy I’m tired, bored and hungry and besides they all hate me.”


It was different when he had Clinton to bash, they loved it and him ... now that he’s moved on and is questioning party orthodoxy, it looks like he’s found an excuse to head off into the P-town sunset; they hate him. The question is, will he?

posted by Sully 6/18/2004 12:43:00 AM


Steve Gilliard cribs from the Times this stunning story of how the imperative to get to Baghdad was so strong that troops were told to ignore large caches of weapons and materiel they found, leaving it for the resistance.

The Iraqi resistance is the best armed in history. With access to modern weapons which should have been blown in place. Instead, every Iraqi guerrilla unit can go into battle armed equally to the US troops.

Kind of puts egg on the face of Sullivan’s triumphalism at that time, doesn’t it?

posted by Sully 6/18/2004 12:36:00 AM


Steve Brady is still confused as to Sullivan’s presidential predilections.


Further down, Steve also picks up on some disturbing language of Kapitan von Behrbach:

Ah, yes, there’s nothing like an experimental war. Or, perhaps: you can’t make an omellete without breaking a few thousand eggs.

Sounds sorta like this guy to us:

In order to make our point, regrettably, we’ve had to kill a few people.

posted by Sully 6/18/2004 12:15:00 AM


Sebastian finds a slight, yet interesting inconsistency in Sullivan’s statement re his pledge weeks.

Didn’t raise so much six months ago, did you Andrew? Someone better give him enough money for a pair of pants, as we believe the ones he’s wearing now may be on fire.

posted by Sully 6/18/2004 12:06:00 AM

Thursday, June 17, 2004


It’s a shame no one’s got a really good archive devoted to In Living Color online, because if they did we’d be able to link to something explaining the title of this post.

Anyway, it refers to a sketch in ... one season, we don’t remember which, in which various overdone styles of standup comic inflict themselves on the audience. One, naturally, was “Mr. Stereotype,” a black guy whose entire routine was doing something real straitlaced to show how white people did it, then repeating the action or impression a little looser and looking around and saying things like “Hey man ... what up?” to show how brothers would do it (You laugh now, not at it but with it, of course. But back then there were more than a few Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock wannabees who actually got laughs with not-terribly dissimilar material)

The whole post about the slovenliness of straight men falls neatly into that category of humor, we think.

posted by Sully 6/17/2004 12:30:00 PM


I don’t post my Advocate pieces as a rule on the website because I get enough emails decrying my discussion of gay issues ...

Aside from the moral courage NOT! that this represents, we’ve long suspected that’s not the story.

See, Sullivan had a very public (in the gay community, anyway) dustup back in the late 1990s with Chris Bull, the Advocate’s editor, about the magazine’s treatment of Clinton, which Sully considered too sycophantic. As has been the case elsewhere in his career, this led to Sullivan angrily quitting and claiming the magazine was giving Clinton a pass he didn’t deserve.

Sometime later, Sullivan slunk back, writing at first those brief little back-page “Avocados,” then other things. Broadcasting this on his blog, we think, would make him look like ... well, expose him as the backslider on issues of principle he has overwhelmingly become.

This goes hand in hand with his continuing refusal to admit on the blog that he warms over some of his weekly blog material on Saturdays for the Washington Times, a newspaper whose founder, The Rev. (But Not By Us) Sun Myung Moon, has made notably racist and homophobic statements in the past. It’s all more about protecting his image than anything else.

posted by Sully 6/17/2004 12:18:00 PM


We had to admit, we were shocked this morning when we looked at the Dish and found a long string of gay-bashing quotes from ... the sort of thing we ourselves sometimes do to taunt Smalltown Boy about the company he keeps.

Canadian blogger Robert (see, we said Canadian because you can’t tell from the site) comments thusly:

Maybe some kind soul will help poor Andrew escape from the cult that is holding him against his will before the gay bashing begins.

It began a long time ago and never stopped.

Also, this just stuck out to us:

I have been quite clear in this blog that, in my judgment, no self-respecting gay person could vote for Bush; and I consider myself a self-respecting gay person.

While that last one has to contend with this, we’re more amazed at the times Mr. Self-Respecting Gay Person took a back seat to Mr. Fearful of an Al-Qaa‘idah Missile Strike on the Beach of Provincetown and Mr. Champion of the Downtrodden Iraqis.

Is there some phrase for this in the vein of LUG (“Lesbian Until Graduation”) that we can come up with for this? Maybe “Gay at Home, Straight Abroad”?

posted by Sully 6/17/2004 12:08:00 PM


Jo Fish on Sullivan’s apparently genuine surprise that the U.S. is unpopular in Iraq:

So Sullivan is truly an invertebrate-like creature (I don’t want to insult card-carrying invertebrates), without a shred of spine, he can wrap himself around any issue and even lick his own balls to make himself feel better about his ethical and moral lapses. The Beagle must be jealous.

UPDATE: George Cerny lays out the whole sorid history of Sullivan’s flip-flopping.

posted by Sully 6/17/2004 12:05:00 PM

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


I haven’t run a pledge drive this year because I’m unsure of how long I can keep this up ...

Yeah, because the blogosphere is no longer as exclusively centered on you as it used to be. That hurts the ego.

posted by Sully 6/16/2004 10:21:00 AM


How does one stretch this comment of Jarvis’s:

Well, yes, that sounds about right to me.

into saying that the speaker is saying that Gibson’s charges are “demonstrably true”?

And by the way, here’s what OfCom actually says (what does it tell you, by the way, that 24 people called in to complain?):

Fox News accepted that Andrew Gilligan had not actually said the words that John Gibson appeared to attribute to him.


a) Ofcom does not accept that Fox News’s claim that an appointment of a monitor to detect ‘pro-Arab’ bias is proof of an “anti-Americanism that was obsessive, irrational and dishonest” within the BBC. Similarly, we do not believe that a simple Internet search for the words “BBC” and “anti-American” is sufficient evidence to back-up such a statement. (An Internet search will only identify those sites which contain those words, it will not make any editorial judgement over how those words are used). Fox News stated that the BBC’s approach was “irrational” and “dishonest”. However, it did not provide any evidence other than to say the BBC bashed American policy; or that it ridiculed the US President without any analysis; and that it persecuted Tony Blair.

b) We do not accept that the Hutton Inquiry supported the statement that the “BBC felt entitled to lie and when caught lying, felt entitled to defend its lying”. The Inquiry stated that BBC editorial system was “defective”. At no stage did Hutton accuse the BBC management of lying.

c) Fox News argue that the presenter was not directly quoting Gilligan when he claimed that the reporter “insisted on air that the Iraqi Army was heroically repulsing an incompetent American Military”. However, the manner in which John Gibson delivered these lines and the fact that he indicated that Gilligan said it “on-air” gave the distinct impression that he was quoting Gilligan directly. It did not appear that he was summarising Gilligan’s reporting. Furthermore, Fox News failed to provide any evidence, except that it felt that Gilligan’s reporting of the US advance into Baghdad was incorrect, that supported this statement.

d) As previously stated the Hutton Inquiry concluded that the BBC editorial system was “defective”. There is no evidence, and Fox News did not provide any, that the BBC “insisted its reporter had a right to lie”. Fox News argue that from its “study of BBC reporting” it could claim that the “BBC knew that the war was wrong”. Fox News’s “study” appears to be based on its own viewing and listening of BBC services. It could provide nothing more than this statement to back up this assertion.

In other words, Gibson and Fox got properly bitch-slapped over the pantyhose-flimsy substantiation that they (and all conservatives) have long used to make their sweeping assertions (well, talking points really). No wonder they’re smarting and trying desperately to spin this as “the government chilling dissent.”

And let’s also get in the clear about the BBC’s relationship with the government. Suffice it to say that if the government had the kind of control over the BBC that Sullivan, Jarvis et al seem to be imputing to it, this whole thing wouldn’t have happened.

posted by Sully 6/16/2004 10:02:00 AM


We can’t be at any major tribute to this quintessential English-grad-student holiday, so we’ll just return you to what we did last year.

UPDATE: Oh, OK, this sort of occurred to us as a uniquely blogospheric tribute to Ulysses:

Shorter Molly Bloom:

My husband Poldy leaves much to be desired, particularly that he hasn’t fucked me in the last ten years since our son died and is growing sort of distant, so I went and had an affair today while he was wandering all over town (Leah my ass!), but while the sex was great Blazes is kind of an ass, and frankly all the men I’ve known since I was a little girl in Gibraltar — OH SHIT! I got my period early! This sucks! I hope Boylan has a menstrual fetish — are imperfect in some way (and let’s not even start with the women here in Dublin!) ... you know Poldy isn’t all that bad, and sort of romantic and nice so as well him as any other, I guess ... yes!

(Here’s Kate Bush’s musical rendering of some of the above)

And, since Jim Capozzola says the “Proteus” episode keeps hanging him up every time he tries to read it through, here’s ...

Shorter Stephen Dedalus on the beach:

Focus on these Aristotelian arguments for your later discussion at the library, Stephen. Don’t get distracted thinking about your mother, your family, how you had to come back from med school in Paris where you weren’t exactly setting the world on fire anyway. Maybe it's just better to wank or piss in the sea and let the critics spend decades deciding what you actually did before you go blowing half your monthly paycheck on drinks for everyone else.

Seriously, Jim, we recommend this book for explaining all the allusions and references, and this one to help you follow the plot. (And despite what the article Jim quotes says, really, we don’t think it would hurt to be reading Ulysses as part of a course on it. Some of us did. At least do it with help from someone who's gotten through it before).

And we might as well do some of the other chapters this way.

Shorter “Aeolus”:

Boy, is this crying out for that “dum-dum” sound from Law & Order.

Shorter “Nestor”:

History is a nightmare from which you will never awaken. My boss was born a century too early to call up radio talk shows or have his own website.

Shorter “Hades”:

Death’s a bitch. Watch for the author’s cameo appearance.

Shorter “Scylla and Charybdis:

Shakespeare can be best be understood by autobiographical criticism. The thrust of his work was his own preoccupations with paternity and his wife’s infidelity with his brothers in Stratford while he was off in London making money and screwing around himself.

Shorter “Cyclops”:

Ireland had Freepers, too. With parodic interludes, some of which are just begging to be done by Monty Python.

Shorter “Nausicaa”:

Lifting your skirt to let strange men look at your lingerie and wank off is an excellent cure for PMS.

Shorter “Ithaca”

What the hell is going on here?

Stephen and Bloom have come back to Bloom’s house in the middle of the night to consume a heated chocolate drink (yeah, just what we’d have on a summer night before going to sleep!) and piss — excuse us, micturate — in his backyard. Stephen leaves, and then Bloom starts feeling really lonely. He gets over it, but then still can’t figure out who that guy in the raincoat was.

posted by Sully 6/16/2004 09:47:00 AM

Tuesday, June 15, 2004


We’re not sure where Sullivan gets the idea that Michael Kinsley’s review of Brooks’s latest in the Times and David Plotz’s Slate piece make Brooks-bashing a “fad.” Perhaps he means that if his Washington circle is doing it, it’s a fad (OK, Plotz alludes to some others).

Anyway, what he conveniently ignores is that this started when some pipsqueak at Philadelphia magazine dared to actually fact-check some of the assertions Brooks made about Franklin County, PA, in Bobos in Paradise and found he was way off the mark. You know, the sort of thing he always pats bloggers on the ass for doing.

Plotz accurately sketches Brooks’s wishy-washy conflict-aversion. But it is another writer, Nick Confessore in this month’s Washington Monthly, who shows (thanks Atrios) that Brooks has always been sort of schizophrenic on top of all that, half the time the guy liberals can somehow see echoes of what William Buckley was in the middle of the last century, the other half a very genteel version of the Coulterism that is conservatism’s stock in trade today.

With the net effect that Brooks turns his realities into abstractions:

The point is that too often, Brooks’s “archetypes” are really just old-fashioned stereotypes. It should go without saying that most people are more complicated and contradictory than stereotypes allow for. I doubt Patio Men, if they exist, are all wonderful people, but I also don’t think they would turn out to be any more or less wonderful than any other group of people in America. The inner-ring suburbs, too, are rather more varied than Brooks’s caricature allows. Montgomery County, Md., where Brooks lives, does have its Takoma Park neighborhood, which I strongly suspect was the model for Brooks’s archetypal “crunchy suburb.” But it has lots of other parts, too: upper-crust Chevy Chase, young professionals living in Silver Spring because the apartments are cheaper there than in the District, the strip-mall row of Rockville Pike, and so forth. Takoma Park is not typical of Montgomery County, but the thing is, there really is no typical Montgomery County. Average things out that way, and you only blur the reality.

And ignores (as most Republicans are) the political reality that suburbs are becoming more Democratic in their voting:

More tellingly, as the exurbs get bigger — as they become more prosperous, get integrated into the larger metropolitan areas Teixeira calls “ideopolises,” and attract more immigration — they actually tend to get more cosmopolitan and Democratic. That’s why, among counties with the largest total population growth, Al Gore won nearly 3 million more votes than George W. Bush. Loudoun County may have given Bush 56 percent of the vote in 2000, but the same county gave his dad 66 percent in 1988. (Reflecting the emergence of a Democratic ideopolis, Virginia's northern suburbs have gone from overwhelmingly Republican a few decades ago to evenly split now, helping put a Democrat back in the governor's mansion.) Other states with sprawl — among them Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado — are becoming more blue, not more red.

Actually, we think, it’s conservatives who should be turning on Brooks and liberals who should be celebrating him. For he reminds us of nothing so much as what establishment liberalism was beginning to become by the early 1970s: a bourgeois ideology that existed mainly to provide a framework for one’s witticisms and bons mots, something that felt much more at home at a cocktail party than out in the street, something more comfortable with sweeping generalizations that were just beginning to date than current reality. The sort of effete, elite, complacent ideology that conservatives have never stopped congratulating themselves for displacing.

Hopefully Brooks represents the future of the conservative movement, and that can only be a good thing.

UPDATE: George Cerny observes:

Sullivan’s defense is curious; he must be aware that everything in the case against Brooks — dishonesty, inconsistency, bromides in place of thought or analysis — would apply with even greater force to his own writings. Perhaps, he is even a little jealous that writers of the stature of Plotz and Confessore find him too irrelevant to bother attacking. At any rate, it is difficult to see how Brooks’ lame attempts to explain away the chaos in Iraq, and his inability to own up to any intellectual responsibility for the mess, are “honest and forthright,” as Sullivan puts it.

Of course, when Sullivan uses a phrase like “honest and forthright,” you should turn your bullshit detector to its highest setting.


WareMouse has more:

My main objection with Brooks lies with his reassuring appeals to complacency in his smug, insubstantial writings. For example, rather than reporting on the legal loopholes and short-sighted corporate strategies that allowed the flowering of SUVs throughout the ‘90s, he instead composes faux populist portraits that dovetail oh-so-neatly into the idealized conservative view of the world. Appealing solely to the emotions of his readers, he basically argues that no matter how destructive or wasteful the behavior he observes may be, ultimately none of it is of any consequence or can even be changed because, gosh-darnit, that’s just the unconquerable soul of America asserting itself again.

posted by Sully 6/15/2004 10:16:00 AM


Jo Fish on how Sullivan always manages to salvage some reason to stick with Bush out of his increasing disenchantment.

Sullivan: a ____ who never will admit honestly that he’s a waffling Chimp Lover ... and there’s always the “anti-war left” who are far worse than his fascist Kameraden. What a tool, I guess if you are “pro-war” you need a rationale to do the right thing. Oh, sorry, it’s Sullivan we’re talking about here. Fill in the blank.

posted by Sully 6/15/2004 10:13:00 AM


Sebastian, who, you know, actually lives in Germany, shows that the European elections were actually less of a story than Sullivan thinks.

posted by Sully 6/15/2004 12:06:00 AM


Perhaps he should create the Godwin Award for Greeley’s remark; it certainly doesn’t strike us as implying a moral equivalence between the terrorists and the West or implying that we had it coming.

But then, he’d be exposed as just another lame Internet follower.

posted by Sully 6/15/2004 12:00:00 AM

Monday, June 14, 2004


Fred Kaplan at Slate, who earlier last week defended Ronnie’s role in ending the Cold War, turns around and cites him for an action that, in the dying embers of that conflict, made the legend of Osama bin Laden by not matching a Soviet backdown in Afghanistan and thus creating the situation where a ferocious battle between bin Laden’s mujahids and the Red Army could take place.

Ten years earlier, had Reagan taken Gorbachev’s deal, Afghanistan probably still wouldn’t have emerged as the “friendly, neutral country” of Gorby's dreams. Yet it might have been a neutral enough country to preclude a Taliban takeover. And if the Russian-Afghan war had ended earlier — if Reagan had embraced Gorbachev on the withdrawal, as he did that same autumn on the massive cutback of nuclear weapons — Osama Bin Laden today might not even be a footnote in history.

We suspect that, in the century to come, that Jaji was allowed to happen will be seen as one of those great pivotal what-if moments that had implications for years to come, up (or down) there with Lee’s lost orders and Hitler’s decision to wait a month before invading Russia. Or Halen not giving his troops a water-break at Adrianople.

posted by Sully 6/14/2004 11:49:00 PM


(Bear with us, please, for a lengthy, passionate, and off-topic in-your-face contrarian post; the writing of which has preoccupied us the last two days)

In this season of anniversaries (D-Day 60, a personal one for us, and this week Bloomsday 100) the sudden intrusion of Reagan’s death has helped shove Goldman-Simpson murders 10 further into the obscurity so many wished for it at the time. OJ has been interviewed; Kato has been brought back to life briefly, and there's been some general reminiscences from the tabloid press which had a field day at the time the likes of which will not come again for some time. If ever. And a few bloggers, naturally.

But, on the whole, this is noted and will pass as many in and out of the media doubtless wish it to. After all, what relevance does this have to our lives today compared to, say, the Reagan presidency? June 12, 2004, is noted, with a scratch of the head and an “oh yeah” and then passed on. All in the past. All bad water under the bridge. A time when we were all a little crazy.

This is where we beg to differ. For many of the things that have been gripes of the liberal blogosphere about the establishment media over the last couple of years — the collusion with less-than-reputable sources, the symbiotic relationship with the Mighty Wurlitzer and the general prostitution — got their start during the OJ trial. Everything they would later do or try to do to Clinton, they did to OJ. Put it this way: if the impeachment was World War II, OJ was the Spanish Civil War.

Up to that point, we had known but never really believed this. We thought ourselves alienated, but we didn’t know what that was until we saw how grotesquely the media distorted the trial and tabloidized itself in the process. Afterwards, we could never take them at their word again.

We are still angry about this today. Not all the time, of course, but it comes back when we read things like the unsurprisingly triumphalist National Enquirer coverage.

We are so angry as we type this, that we cannot help but listen to the greatest song of long-smoldering rage and an injustice to be corrected that we know of, and quote from it occasionally:

I can feel it coming in the air tonight,
Oh Lord,
oh Lord.

Feel free to put it on and listen to it as you read. We did while typing. It will make you feel like we do. Just about every word in this post, we feel like screaming. There has as yet been no one to do to this case what John Bryson finally did in the Lindy Chamberlain case (the basis for the more appropriately-named A Cry in the Dark, which is actually still a very accurate term for what we’re doing in this post).

And what compounds this is that many on the left still don’t realize just how badly they were taken by this. They were angrily and appropriately shocked at how the media worked with Starr and the most obnoxious and noisome Republican crew around to try to subvert the results of a presidential election. And, to their credit, most of them saw the scales fall from their eyes at last.

Yet, incredibly, when it comes to O.J. Simpson, many are still content to parrot the media line from that time and assume Simpson was transparently guilty. They may see how the prosecution blew it, and how putting a lying racist cop on the stand as a key witness was an indicator of the terrible underlying racial problems. But, as far as we can tell, they were so intimidated by the wildly-overplayed domestic-violence angle as to be afraid of offending feminists, or ersatz feminists (we weren’t all that surprised by Tammy Bruce’s slow rightward drift in the intervening years, to the point that she defends a confirmed sexual-harasser when he runs for governor) to really delve seriously into the facts of the case.

Or, in good wimp-ass liberal fashion, they avoided the issue altogether, using the trial as a whole to thoughtfully opine about race relations in the U.S., the impact of media coverage on the judicial system, and the system of jury trials. Anything but the actual facts of the case, of which there were plenty to sift through.

This abdication of responsibility was more than just shameful. It created a vacuum that the right-wing media and their useful idiots in the establishment used to further their grand narrative of everything “wrong” with America — lawyers are the problem with everything, black people are dumb — that served them so well during the impeachment. Liberals missed a golden opportunity to defend a system that worked for once. Just because one black person has the financial resources to fight off a state attempt to frame them without Legal Aid and candlelight vigils does not mean you should be so paralyzed by guilt over all the black kids in California’s penal system who didn’t that you don’t do anything. Just because the jury acquitted him does not mean you should stand by and let the corporate media do far more damage to a man than any prison term would.

The media’s utter surprise at the way the jury which had sat through the entire trial and patiently paid attention to most of the evidence both sides put on utterly rejected the show-trial conclusion it had already prepared is its biggest failing in the case. Any seasoned prosecutor expected it; an acquittal that quickly is the jury saying, as Bozanich notes, get us out of here! No sale! It can only be compared to the way the Rhodesian media deliberately conspired to underreport the depth of Robert Mugabe’s support in the early 1970s, fearing that being truthful would drive whites to leave the country. When suddenly this fringe figure won as much support as he did, there was civil war (read this account. The American media must similarly be held accountable for the negative social fallout from the Simpson verdict)

The way Marcia Clark handled (we would say mishandled, but as she admitted to Peter Bozanich early on, the case was a loser anyway, so to take it to trial anyway to begin with was to mishandle it) the prosecution also eerily foreshadows the Iraq war: Talk over and over about what a large quantity of evidence you have, hoping that people confuse quantity with quality, lurch around from strategy to strategy without sitting down together and having a real plan until it’s too late (the prosecution didn’t have a team meeting, as it were, until right before it had to present its rebuttal case); use the whole enterprise to promote the personal interests of one deeply flawed and incompetent individual (if you read her book, you’ll find that she is so catty, bitchy petty, vindictive and averse to personal responsibility as to make even George W. Bush look like a model of emotional maturity by comparison (It says something that even Nicole’s sister is still bitter over what she said in it). The readers at Amazon aren’t lying. Then, just like the Iraq war, she got caught up in her own deceptions (when the jury asked that the testimony of limo driver Allen Park be reread to them during deliberations, it has not escaped some notice that Marcia, in her closing arguments, claimed Park had testified to things that he had, in fact, not).

It’s uncanny, this parallel to the Iraq war. Listen to another assistant LA D.A., Peter Bozanich, talking about Gil Carcetti during the trial. Who else does this sound like?

By then it was almost a bunker mentality ... It was a very closed circle. They would take no advice from anybody. No input. The case is going south in front of everybody’s eyes. And they would listen to nobody ... Because of this bunker mentality they just got sidetracked and there was nobody there to bring them back. But then, Garcetti doesn’t listen anyway. He wants things said that he wants to hear. He doesn’t want to hear what he doesn’t want to hear. And anybody who tells him things he doesn’t want to hear is excised.

Sounds like they were about to change the indictment to two counts of murder-related program activities.

For, and it should be obvious by now the heresy we’ve been leading up to saying, once you get the media filter out of the way and treat yourself to those things it did not rule significant but the jury saw and heard all right, O.J. Simpson was properly acquitted and wrongly held liable. O.J. Simpson did not commit the murders.

There is more than enough evidence exculpating him. YOu may think you know everything, but you don’t. Because the newspapers, magazines and A Current Affair weren’t and aren’t going to tell you.

Yes, we said heresy. In the wake of the murders and Simpson’s acquittal, it seemed to us that, if you had asked a surprising amount of people (mostly white, to be sure) to choose between believing in O.J.’s guilt or God’s existence, God would have lost. It was that firm a piece of public credo at the time. And still is

Among the left media, in fact, we should exempt Michael Moore, who devotes a chapter of his book Downsize This! to explaining why he believes Simpson is innocent. Even after the civil trial, with a new chapter on it in the paperback, he didn’t change his mind. Perhaps, if Fahrenheit 9/11 is the huge success we all hope it gets to be, he can devote another film to exploring this further.

Also, there are two of the many books written about the trial, other than those by the participants, that are worth reading for what they tell. Joe Bosco, one of the four book authors given a permanent seat at the trial, wrote a terrific yet underpublicized account, A Problem of Evidence, that includes many horridly underreported facts (often sort of unsourced or vaguely sourced, but he talks to enough people on the record as to suggest that his sources for some of the juicier bits and issues he raises are pretty well-placed. Besides, you don't need to have sources to ask the questions about facts in the trial record that no one else has the temerity to (like, when Collin Yamauchi testified that the presence of O.J.’s blood on the glove was due to him spilling some of O.J.’s reference blood when he opened the vial, just what was that reference vial doing in the same room with the socks and gloves to begin with?). He is also about the only “pro-J” writer to accurately perceive the media’s role in all this, and be “outraged at the outrage.”

Lawrence Schiller’s American Tragedy is also a must-read, too: practically every page reveals yet another gaping hole or misstep in the prosecution case. Whatever the people at Amazon say (what they admit they wanted to believe), it's not hard to read that book cover to cover objectively

And this is not dead history. The media did not just damage themselves. No, what they took down with them was even worse. They did a great deal of damage to American race relations, something that can barely afford that and has not quite recovered from; and then they cast the criminal-justice system and its stringent protection of the defendant against the depredations of the state, a system which many nameless Americans and others have fought and died quite horribly to protect, as the anniversary of D-Day reminded us, as the villain (You'd never know that Los Angeles County spent more money to prosecute Simpson ($11 million) than he did defending himself ($7 million, a good deal of which he will probably never be able to pay back) and put on more lawyers, so much so that when it came time to prosecute Fuhrman Garcetti’s office had to contract it out because every prosecutor in the office had too much involvement in the case to be beyond conflict of interest).

Well I was there and I saw what you did,
saw it with my own two eyes.
So you can wipe off that grin,
I know where you been;
It’s all been a pack of lies!

Since we mentioned Michael Moore above, we name also the names that are worthy of especial contempt. It matters not that later on some of these people took more honorable positions on Bill Clinton’s behalf. What they did in that dark period of the mid-1990s cannot be forgotten anytime they speak on anything today or tomorrow. No matter how much we and they want it to be.

Well if you told me you were drowning,
I would not lend a hand.
I’ve seen your face before, my friend,
And I know you don’t know who I am ...

(Sorry, Phil, for slightly amending the words)

First up, Dominick Dunne. There is no one alive who better personifies what so unbecame the media during the Simpson trial. No one. What he did is so bad, so horrid, that you will forgive us if we say that for it he deserves everything bad that has ever happened to him. Yes, we’re fully aware of the implications of that remark. And we still mean it.

Dunne was the ringleader in a celebrity culture and the ravens that feed off it that, correctly sensing that some of the public outrage directed Simpson’s way was at celebrity as a whole, particularly in the wake of the recent acquittal of the Menendez brothers at their first trial, closed ranks and turned its back on Simpson to protect itself, not in the least because, as an African-American, he could be more easily sacrificed.

Don’t believe this? Read Dunne’s “book” about the trial, Another City, Not My Own, in which his “Gus” character admits on his behalf that, despite covering so many celebrity trials, he’s really not that good at,and not really interested in, covering the facts and sorting them out (which can, properly understood, make for good journalism, but should not be counted on as the truth as many people did at the time). In fact, consider Dunne’s record predicting verdicts: Simpson guilty, Michael Skakel and Martha Stewart not. Zero for three. Plus his being taken in by Ted Maher. Why does anyone hire this man?

That would be merely comical, but on the ugly side the book exhibits an unhealthy fascination with the white wives of rich and successful black football players. Dunne’s dark side further came out in one of his later Vanity Fair columns, when he couldn’t resist chortling about how Don Ohlmeyer, one of the few media people with any real power to still defend Simpson, went back to rehab after one of his tirades on the subject. As an ostensibly recovered alcoholic himself, Dunne should know better (Perhaps, however, his obsessive and brutish focus on Simpson and other subjects suggest that, he, like George W. Bush, is a bit of a “dry drunk” himself).

It says, to us, a lot about O.J. Simpson that, even after all this, one day late in the civil trial he offered to shake Dunne’s hand. And it says everything about Dunne that he refused the gesture.

Next up for this eternal damnation is Vince Bugliosi. All one can say after reading Outrage is that the man has somehow been inhabited by the spirit of Charles Manson (His book should more appropriately be titled Outage, or subtitled Outrage: How Lawyers Whom I Consider to be My Professional Inferiors, Even by the Standards With Which I Consider Every Lawyer Save My Good Close Friend F. Lee Bailey to Be My Inferior, Got The Sort of Press I Once Did But Can’t Anymore). Bosco savages Bugliosi particularly in his introduction, noting that he got a bestseller out of watching the entire trial on TV and didn’t spend one day in the courtroom, one day where he could have seen things like Marcia Clark flirting with Johnny Cochran while the jurors were absolutely petrified looking at the greatly-enlarged crime scene photos (which, granted, has no bearing on O.J.’s guilt or innocence but all the bearing in the world on how the jury perceived the prosecutor, and why she might have lost the case, among the many things that Bugliosi fails to consider). The long passages about God and why he’s an atheist are the only place we’ve ever read such sentiments that tend to make one understand why 41 percent of the American population says they’d never vote for one. When people do not believe in God, Chesteron said, they will believe in anything.

Since then he has tried to reinvent himself as some sort of constitutional lawyer, not an area he was renowned for as a practicing lawyer, writing a short book aruging against the Supreme Court decision to let the Jones case go forward and also loudly questioning the Florida decision. If others had done this, we might have given them credit. But Vince’s role in stoking right-wing outrage and hogging the media to flog his book after O.J. set that whole thing in motion to begin with. Nothing he does can make up for it.

Let’s also save a spot for Jeffrey Toobin. Few of the reviewers who praised The Run of His Life realized what the trial junkies all did, regardless of their position on the guilt/innocence issue: that his book is extremely poorly sourced, relying on low-level prosecution sources to paint O.J. as dim-witted and barely cognizant of what was going on, some Stepin Fetchit on trial. This racial pandering eliminates any other good he may have hoped to accomplish by later writing A Vast Conspiracy (which also had some problems).

Of course, this could all be because, having made his big scoop for The New Yorker uncovering Fuhrman’s past racism, he either felt compelled to henceforth blow makeup calls. Or because, as Bosco notes, he was rarely at the actual trial, having to spend time with his family in New York.

Lastly, Jay Leno should go down. We know, a court-jesterish late-night TV host hardly fits this company, but Leno earned it not only by trivializing the whole trial (when he introduced the Dancing Itos, their namesake found it so funny and flattering that he called both sides together in chambers the next morning for an unannounced sidebar ... where they watched the video of the DIs over and over. Apparently Johnny Cochran and Marcia Clark, who were beyond speaking to each other by this point, looked at each other with that do-you-believe-this-shit face. And it happened more than once), but by swinishly pandering to racial bias not only with his frequent jokes at the expense of any presumption of innocence O.J. may have managed to retain but by ridiculing anyone who, after a certain point, still believed that O.J. might be innocent ... in other words, blacks (You think there’s a reason Branford Marsalis quit as his bandleader around that time?) It’s no surprise that he turned up at Tom Lange’s retirement party with a cake decorated with the words “guilty.”

So now, the question you’re asking is “Why not? What’s all this evidence you’re talking about?”

It’s difficult, we realize, to answer this question without getting into the very ample evidence of evidence tampering, which even many people who think O.J. was guilty agree happened.

But by focusing on this, you avoid some of the exculpatory evidence.

For starters, the blood on Goldman’s keys. They were found on the ground at 875 South Bundy next to his outstretched hand, soaked.

It isn’t hard to conclude that he might well have used them to defend himself by gouging away at the attacker’s face. It’s a common self-defense tactic you really don’t need to practice after learning.

If so, you’d think the prosecution would have introduced it. But they didn’t. Officially, believe it or not, in a case where blood evidence was held up as the gold standard of proof, the blood on those keys was never tested.

According to Bosco, more than one source told him it was and the police didn’t like the results, so they buried it where the prosecution wouldn’t know and wouldn’t have to turn it over to the defense and returned the keys to Goldman’s girlfriend (does she still have them? It would be interesting to know). But, as he notes, even without it that blood is mighty suspicious. The prosecution, when asked, claimed it was probably Nicole’s or Ron’s. But how? How would so much of Nicole’s blood conveniently have gotten on Ron’s keys on the ground, when she was flailing around under assault and scattering blood everywhere? And Ron doesn’t have any wounds that close by that would have accounted for that much blood getting on his keys.

Ron also has a huge bruise on one of his knuckles, consistent with landing a good hard punch on someone. Again the prosecution basically said, well he hit a wall. But the courtyard at Nicole’s condominium (now torn down by its new owner, as O.J.’s house also was) was very small and made even smaller by the bushes planted inside the fence. Ron and Nicole and their killers (it should be pretty obvious there were more than one) could not, we think, have missed so wildly and struck a wall so full on with an assailant who was easily in reach? Given that the blood trail down his jeans from the wound in his leg suggests (according to Michael Baden and never really rebutted by the prosecution) that he had to be standing up for at least five minutes, putting to rest any theory that the murders happened very quickly as favored by the prosecution (which sent five timeline witnesses over to the defense because it didn’t like what they had to say), we think it’s far more likely that GOldman at least not only struggled with his attackers but inflicted susbtantial injuries on at least one of them ... injuries which are nowhere present on O.J.

You might answer, the cut on his hand (strangely unmatched on the glove). But its a light laceration that couldn’t possibly have dripped enough blood to account for all the places it supposedly did. The primary piece of evidence tying O.J. to the place and time of the crime, the blood-drop trail at Bundy, aside from showing too many forensic irregularities (missing bindles, DNA far too degraded to have been so fresh) is anomalous in and of itself. Only five drops accompany the foot trail, and the prosecution never really disputed Henry Lee’s observation that their spill pattern indicates that they were deposited by someone standing still at the time while the corresponding footprints were made by someone moving a fairly brisk pace. Blood can’t lie about these things.

And there are only those five blood drops. Yes, it’s possible that O.J., if it were him, could have realized that he was bleeding and held the arm in. But then why, when the tracks suddenly pivot back toward the bushes, possibly because someone was heard approaching the scene, were no corresponding blood drops ever found? Try doing that sort of pivot and not properly balancing yourself, especially when you have the kind of arthritis that O.J. did (It wouldn’t have physically prevented him from committing the murders, as his doctor testified, but at the same time he would have shown the effects of such extraordinary exertion even when putting his bags in the limo, especially if Goldman had struggled as much as he did).

The question of the 17 unidentified fingerprints at Bundy remains, too, plus the unidentifiable ones on the envelope holding Juditha Brown’s glasses and the glasses themselves. Who wanted to look at them? If it was O.J., why didn’t he notice the dropped glove that was inches away?

Consider also this exchange from O.J.’s police statement. Det. Vanatter is asking him about the entry to Nicole’s:

Vanatter: Did she keep that house locked up?
O.J.: Very.
Vanatter: The intercom didn’t work apparently?
O.J.:I thought it did
Vanatter: OK, OK. Does the electronic buzzer work?
O.J.: The electronic buzzer works to let people in.

What you need to know here is that the buzzer hadn’t worked that year since being damaged in the earthquake (but the intercom did). Nicole had to actually go down and let people in herself — the reason she died when and where she did. The detectives were laying a clever rhetorical trap like you’ve seen on a million cop shows; here it worked (remember Simpson was emotionally and physically stressed out, plus sleep-deprived, the main reason the prosecution didn’t play the tape as evidence since it’s so obvious. If he was aware enough to realize what was going on, there were a million other things he should have been able to attend to) to show that O.J. clearly wasn’t familiar with how things worked at Nicole’s, as he should have been if he had been stalking her so recently.

We also should adress the shoe photos, which may well have been what did O.J. in at the civil trial. For now, we’ll stipulate that they’re Bruno Maglis size 13 all right, but remember that the prosecution was able to meticulously track down almost all those sold in the U.S. due to their limited production and high cost; they could find no evidence that O.J. or anyone who knew him had ever bought the shoes or given him some as a gift. As it is, those shoe photos are like seeing the summit of a mountain perched in mid-air with nothing underneath holding it up.

There’s more, lots more, but it would fill a book and those books have already been mostly written (start with Bosco’s).

So what do we intend to accomplish by posting this? Well, we just have a blog that people read. Hopefully some of you will have an open mind — if you’re here regularly you’re probably already able to understand that the media packages certain truths as a product regardless of the underlying reality or lack thereof. Perhaps if there had been blogs in 1995 more of this would have been known and understood, and the verdict would not have been the occasion for the Neanderthal racism and lawyer-bashing that it was.

We think, over the years, that there were plenty more people (yes, white people) with this, ahem, minority opinion, but that they kept silence in the face of the media roar. No, we know this because when we’ve asserted some of the things we said above, those people (more women than men, interestingly enough) felt they could speak up and agree. Perhaps, if you are one of those people, this post will give you the courage to speak up on this more.

But it would be nice if some enterprising journalist picked it up. For starters, someone could file open-records requests for things like any results of tests on the blood on the keys; the logs and notes of Fuhrman’s partner Brad Roberts for June 13, 1994; results of police canvassing of the Rockingham neighborhood (supposedly extensive and never released to the defense); and investigations of the Brett Cantor (nightclub owner and friend of Ron’s and Nicole’s who was stabbed to death in a manner similar to Goldman’s) and Michael Nigg (fellow waiter at Mezzaluna who lived beyond his apparent means and was shot to death days before the verdicts) murders. Yes, it’s our belief that the solution to this is not Ron Shipp or Jason or Kato, as intriguing as some of those theories are; it’s in that coke-dealing underworld that Faye Resnick inhabited and the celebrity culture and LAPD had a shared interest in not going into.

We know, no one feels the need to do what a jury already did, but given what the media have done it’s far more imperative.

Now back to Sullivan ... we just had to get this off our chests.

posted by Sully 6/14/2004 01:25:00 AM

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