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Jul. 29 2010 — 12:30 pm | 64 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

That’s All, Folks!

The time has come for me to hang up the spikes – er, razors? – and bid you all adieu. True/Slant has been fun, and I won’t say I’m not disappointed that it ended so prematurely. Many thanks to all of the readers and fellow contributors.

I have a number of exciting writing projects in the works, including a major overseas reporting trip next month. If you wish to keep abreast of my work, please join my email list. Click the “email me tips” link on the right side of the page, beneath my bio, and send me a note: I’ll be happy to add you to the list, and email you when I have pieces published. Rest assured, unless things get truly desperate, I have no intention of renting the list to the Heritage Foundation, National Review, or Prince Odikaka of Nigeria.

Thanks again.



Jul. 27 2010 — 5:18 pm | 204 views | 0 recommendations | 6 comments

Sully’s Sexism: Andrew Sullivan’s Masculinist Worldview

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It is puzzling indeed that it is the Weekly Standard’s William Kristol who has earned the appellation “Always Wrong” from the snarkosphere. As far as being persistently, punishingly, jaw-droppingly wrong on issue after issue, for year after year, Kristol has nothing on the likes of Andrew Sullivan.

Sullivan, whose popular blog, The Daily Dish, runs on the website of the Atlantic, has exhibited stunningly bad judgment for well over a decade. To run through just a few of his greatest hits: in 1994, while editor of the New Republic, Sullivan ran a lengthy excerpt from the Bell Curve, the discredited and toxic polemic which argues that innate racial IQ differences account for the achievement gap. (To this day, he’s “proud” of having done so.) Also while editor of TNR, he ran Betsy McCaughey’s dishonest attack on the Clinton health care plan – an article which is said to have been partially responsible for the defeat of ClintonCare. (As a result, the great James Fallows nominated McCaughey for his coveted “most destructive effect on public discourse by a single person” award.) In 2001, in the wake of the 9/11, Sullivan charged that American liberals “may well mount . . . a fifth column,” and side with the terrorists. He was a zealous supporter of the Iraq war, and heaped abuse on those who dared to disagree with him. For the past two years, he has fanned the flames of Trig Palin birtherism, frantically and fanatically claiming that Sarah Palin is not the mother of her child. Even his predictions regarding the Obama presidency have turned out laughably off-base. In a 2008 Atlantic cover story, Sullivan argued that an Obama presidency would end the racial and cultural wars that have divided this country.

We see how well that has turned out.

But the purpose of this post is not merely to bring to light the myriad mess-ups that Sullivan is responsible for – I’m not attempting to write a (longer) Moby Dick here. Rather, I wish to point out another disturbing element of Sullivan’s thinking: his equation of all that is venal and corrupt with the feminine, and his worshipful view of all that he associates with masculinity. His is a Manichean worldview that is as simple-minded as it is sexist.

Let us begin with Sullivan’s contemptuous view of the feminine – and his concomitant hatred of some very powerful women. Take his attitude towards Hillary Clinton. In 2007, and 2008, as Clinton was mounting a run for the White House, Sullivan’s blog was a hotbed of inflammatory and derogatory rhetoric aimed at the then-New York Senator. He charged that Hillary Clinton had “betrayed feminism” which occasioned the American Prospect’s Dana Goldstein to ask, “who stepped down and named Andrew Sullivan king of feminism?” In extraordinarily condescending fashion, he lectured women and feminists that “it’s time feminists realized that Clinton is a dream gone sour . . . One day, there will be a woman worth electing to the White House. But not this one.” And it hardly escaped notice that the pictures he chose to run of Mrs. Clinton were always highly unflattering, either showcasing her wrinkles, or using shadows and darkness to make her appear almost demonic.

His attitude towards Sarah Palin would require a book-length treatment in itself, but here, at the very least, is a representative post. Famously, Sullivan has been ferocious in arguing that Palin is not actually the mother of her child. On his blog, weeks were spent consumed with the subject, and he continues to flog that horse to this day. Indeed, the real question Dana Goldstein should ask is, “who stepped down and named Andrew Sullivan Sarah Palin’s OBGYN?” While Sullivan is clearly a highly emotional man, prone to fits of passion, he has never displayed the kind of scorn and hatred for men that he does regularly for women like Clinton and Palin. He also applies a double standard to lesbian women: while on the record as an opponent of outing closeted gays, he nonetheless demanded a public accounting of the sexual orientation of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.

Conversely, all that Sullivan sees as good, he portrays in hyper-masculinized language. Take his frequent use of the term “balls.” He champions the “fiscal balls” of Chris Christie. He celebrates April Fools, with “bigger balls.” In complementing the journalist Spencer Ackerman, he gushes that “Spencer is a good person, dedicated to real investigative journalism and with more balls and capacity for hard work than most of his peers.” And he says that members of the Journolist mailing list are “devoid of any balls whatsoever.” Apparently, to Sullivan, virtue is equated with the posession of testicles. And Sullivan writes in near worshipful terms of virtuous, masculinized men. Of Reagan: “his visionary focus [was] matched only by a gentleness of character and a brilliance of rhetoric,” of Obama, “he’s the best thing we’ve got.” Even women sprout balls when they agree with Sullivan. He says that Maggie Gallagher “has balls.” (“In a good way,” he hastens to add.)

This is merely the tip of the iceberg; Sullivan’s blog posts upwards of twenty items a day, and in attempting to follow Sullivan’s vacillations, wild swings of opinion, and overheated rhetoric, one is liable to contract whiplash. But, suffice it to say, the same pattern is clear — the gender-bifurcated worldview is the one constant of the Daily Dish.

Many of Sullivan’s acolytes like to point out that he has apologized for some of the colossal errors of judgment that he has made in the past. The Iraq War is an example: he has publicly declared that he was mistaken to support the invasion.

But in what terms did Sullivan apologize? “I supported the war in Iraq like a teenaged girl supporting the Jonas Brothers,” he has said. Ah, of course: according to Sullivan, supporting the Iraq war was the girly thing to do.



Jul. 25 2010 — 12:36 pm | 100 views | 0 recommendations | 2 comments

Transportation Keeps Getting ‘Greener.’ So Why Do The Environmentalists Keep Getting Angrier?

A Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft does a flyby ...

Image by AFP via @daylife

Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner made its overseas debut last week, and, by all accounts, was a smashing success. At the Farnborough Air Show in the United Kingdom, the Dreamliner was the Grand Dame of the show. (It easily outshone the hideous “airplane by committee” monstrosity that is the Airbus A380.) There are now over 800 787s on order.

It’s easy to see why the Dreamliner has proved so commercially successful. No airplane is more environmentally-friendly: those worried about greenhouse gas emissions will be pleased to learn that the 787 is 20 to 30 percent more fuel efficient than the Airbus A330 and the Boeing 767, its closest cousins. The airlines, always looking for ways to cut costs, are obviously over the moon – or, at least, over 33,000 feet – at these potential cost savings. The airplane itself, by the way, is an aesthetic marvel. I recently toured the Boeing factory in Everett, Washington, and saw the graceful bird firsthand. It’s nothing short of astounding.

Cars are similarly undergoing a revolution in fuel efficiency and “greening.” The Nissan Leaf, a zero emissions car, will be available by the end of this year. Chevrolet’s Volt, another electric car, will be on the market by November, and Honda has recently announced its intention to get into the electric car market.

And so those two “scourges” of the earth, those toxic belchers of greenhouse gas emissions, cars and airplanes, are becoming more and more environmentally friendly. Progress, right? Something to celebrate, yes? But why is it, then, that even as this revolution is happening, the environmental elites become ever more committed to limiting our mobility? Why, as transportation becomes greener, do they become redder and redder with rage?

Consider, first, civil aviation. Even as the 787 looks set to radically reduce the environmental impact of flying, environmental and governmental elites are attempting ever more aggressively to prevent us from taking to the skies. The Obama Administration has been breathtakingly hostile to the airline industry, slapping needless fees and surcharges on the industry. The United Kingdom has recently declared war on aviation, and likened frequent flying to drug abuse. The German government is also now looking to ground its flying public. And flyers are increasingly subjected to moral hectoring from the greener-than-thou among us.

Hostility to cars, especially in urban areas, has also reached a fever pitch. The very trendy Slate magazine has recently been running a series on how to “improve” urban transport. All of the suggestions center on ways to reduce car use. Congestion pricing, the highly regressive measure that penalizes people for driving in their own cities, is an idea we often hear bandied about. And cities like my own continue to pour dollars into public transportation projects, while neglecting to fund the construction of roads, highways, and bridges.

It would appear, then, that environmentalists’ concerns over flying and driving don’t actually have much to do with the Earth. Perhaps its an aesthetic dislike of cars and planes, a hatred of man’s supposed “hubris” for daring, Icaraus-like, to fly, or maybe it’s simply a deep-seated distrust of modernity that explains the continued war on freedom of movement. In a way, it’s temping to feel sympathy for the environmental movement. After all, in a world where transportation is becoming increasingly environmentally friendly, it’s not easy being green.

UPDATE: I edited this post to correct a typo in the initial version. Many thanks to commenter ‘Zach Hensel’ for pointing this out.



Jul. 22 2010 — 2:39 pm | 154 views | 0 recommendations | 7 comments

Yglesias The UnYthical

The indispensable crew at Ydiot note that earlier today, Matthew Yglesias posted the phone number of Daily Caller reporter Jonathan Strong on his popular blog. He obtained the phone number through private correspondence with Strong, and cut and pasted the following conversation:

I wrote you about this yesterday, but I continue to be curious as to why it is that you’re writing this series of stories based on misleading descriptions of excerpts of JournoList emails where you don’t post the full text of the emails online anywhere.

best,
Matthew Yglesias

Then at 4:07 PM Eastern, Strong finally replied:

Mathew,

I was hoping to chat with you for a few minutes this afternoon regarding Journolist. If you could call me at 202-xxx-xxxx, I would appreciate it.

Best,
Jonathan Strong

I redacted the phone number to protect Strong’s privacy. Yglesias afforded him no such courtesy. Needless to say, this is a shockingly churlish action on the part of Yglesias.

Now, it appears, the post in question has been removed from Yglesias’ blog. No comment has been made regarding the post; no apology, no explanation, no mention of it ever having happened. Into the ether.

Remember this the next time Yglesias lectures his colleagues about journalistic ethics.

UPDATE: The post in question is back up — complete with Strong’s office number. Yglesias has now added more private correspondence to the post as well, which, given the cause of this brouhaha, is profoundly ironic.

UPDATE THE SECOND: Epstein’s Razor cuts deep. Yglesias now posts the following:

A technical glitch temporarily caused this post to be deleted from the blog. It was just an accident, don’t read anything into it. Let me also note that the controversy in comments over the phone number is much ado about nothing, that number is the publicly listed phone number of The Daily Caller not Strong’s home phone or anything.

Yglesias is being somewhat misleading regarding the “publicly listed” number of the Daily Caller, however. The number that Strong gave Yglesias is not listed anywhere on the the Daily Caller’s website.

Even more damningly, the number Strong gave Yglesias is not the the Daily Caller’s number that is listed in the White Pages. Only reverse google searches reveal that the number Strong gave Yglesias belongs to the DC. This hardly constitutes being “publicly listed.”

Maybe it’s not just UnYthical Yglesias. It’s Misleading Matt, also.



Jul. 19 2010 — 12:31 pm | 606 views | 0 recommendations | 16 comments

Applying Christopher Hitchens’ Logic To Christopher Hitchens

HAY-ON-WYE, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 30: Author an...

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Christopher Hitchens has previously wished wasting diseases on his political opponents, so it’s hardly surprising that is he is now dancing in the streets over Mel Gibson’s self-immolation. Today in Slate, Hitchens asks, with palpable relish, “When will Hollywood, and the wider society, finally decide to shun and spurn him utterly, both for what he is and for what he represents?” – as if this isn’t already happening. (Gibson will soon be fleeing to Australia, if the Daily Mail is correct.) But disregard for a moment the lack of empathy for a fellow human in a state of emotional turmoil, evidenced by recent writings of Frank Rich, Hitchens, and a bevy of True/Slant commenters (message: I am fine with people suffering, so long as they are right-wing), and focus instead on the peculiar logic that Hitchens employs in his latest missive.

It is Gibson’s brand of conservative Catholicism that explains his latest tantrum, Hitchens would have us believe. “It would be highly surprising if a person marinated in the doctrines of this ideology did not display all sorts of symptoms that were also sexually distraught,” he writes today. Yet rather than focus on Gibson’s own views, he uses his column to instead focus on the beliefs of Gibson’s father. In a bizarre application of “the sins of the father” logic, Hitchens impugns Mel Gibson’s character by impugning Mel Gibson’s father’s character. Here is a representative paragraph:

This schismatic crackpot sect is headed by Mel Gibson’s father, Hutton Gibson, a nutty autodidact with a sideline in Holocaust denial. During the controversy over The Passion of the Christ, Gibson junior said that he had never heard anything but the truth from his father. I have some of old man Gibson’s books on my shelf, including his self-published classics Is the Pope Catholic? andThe Enemy Is Still Here!, which essentially accuse the current papacy of doing the work of the Antichrist. My favorite sample of his prose style is the following: “Our ‘civilization’ tolerates open sodomy and condones murder of the unborn, but shrinks in horror from burning incorrigible heretics—essentially a charitable act.” He attacks the late Pope John Paul II for having said, in one of his “outreaches” to the Jewish people, “You are our predilect brothers and, in a certain way, one could say our oldest brothers.” Hutton Gibson’s comment? “Abel had an older brother.” I don’t think that there’s much ambiguity there, do you? Like many ultra-conservative Catholics, the Gibsons, père et fils, have never forgiven the Vatican for lifting the charge of deicide against the Jews in 1964.

Fine: Gibson’s father is a grotesque figure. We can all agree on this point. But so what? It is absolutely preposterous to indict somebody based on the behavior of his parents. (This is what the North Korean government does; three generations are imprisoned based on the “criminal” act of one person.)  And who are we to demand that Gibson disown his own father? That is a heavy and unfair burden. But leave all that aside. Instead, let us apply a bit of Hitchens’ logic to himself.

Christopher Hitchens likes to boast of his anti-imperialist bona fides. He was a staunch opponent of the Vietnam War, just as he was a staunch opponent of Saddam’s annexation of Kuwait (well, not really, but he now likes to claim as much), and he abhors Turkey’s imperialist presence on the island of Cyprus. But Hitchens’ father (whom he fails to disown in his new memoir) was a servant of the British Empire, and a militarist: he was a Naval Officer. Indeed, Hitchens described his father in a 2007 C-Span interview as “imperialistic.” Yet that description was not followed by a breathless denunciation of his father’s immoral and imperialist actions. Thus, according to the Gibson Standard, Hitchens is an imperialist warmonger.

Christopher Hitchens may want to tread lightly on this subject. After all, if every child has to disown his parents because they are wrong, his nest is going to be very empty in the years ahead.


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    About Me

    I'm a writer based in Portland, Oregon. My work has appeared in the Weekly Standard, the American Spectator, the New York Press, The Big Money, sp!Ked online, the Epoch Times, the Daily NK, and others. From 2005 to 2007, I wrote a column on culture and politics for the (alas, now defunct) Seattle-based Internationalist Magazine. In so doing, I filed dispatches from Berlin, Seoul, Paris, New York, and, yes, Reno - among other places. In 2009, I reported on business from Shanghai. I attended Reed College, in Portland, Oregon.

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