Monday, December 29, 2003

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Being Andrew Sullivan -- Day 1

Because these are going to pretty long (and potentially boring) posts, I'm using the extended entry feature:

Midnight: I log onto Andrew’s account to start posting (I'd written my introduction in advance). Immediately the imp within me starts whispering, “Hey, you could do anything you want. Change the background color to chartreuse! You're the king of the world! Go wild!!” It’s taken me multiple decades to get a grip on that part of my personality, and I successfully throttle down the urge.

After five months of getting comfortable with Movable Type, it’s back to my old Blogger software for the Daily Dish (cue acoustic guitar). I approach it warily, like an old girlfriend after a bad break-up. With apologies to Paul Simon:

Hello Blogger, my old friend
I’ve come to post on you again
I hope this time you are working
Don’t tell me that you’ll be crashing
And the essay that was formed in my brain
Still remains
But there’s a click of silence...

And the people bowed and prayed
To the online god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, “Blogger is temporarily down.
Please don’t frown.”
And despaired in the clicks of silence...

Seriously, the one downside of MT I’ve noticed is that I don’t bother with quick-link posts – probably because, in the back of my mind, it seems ridiculous to create a new web page for a two sentence post. In terms of the linker/thinker divide, MT leads me to fewer of the former.

So I’m delighted to see Robert Tagorda’s clean post about Dean – because it makes a trenchant point and all I have to do is write one sentence. Post one down. [Why didn't you link to Pejmanesque as well?--ed. Because Tagorda had the contrasting quotes, and linked to Pejman already. I'm sure Yousefzadeh will take it in stride.]

Hmm… what else to write about? There’s the Iranian earthquake – except that there’s nothing to write about except some variation of “It’s horrible.” P.J. O’Rourke, in his introduction to my all-time favorite travel book, Holidays in Hell, pointed out that phenomena like earthquakes, floods, and mudslides are simply the opposite of tourist sightseeing – yes, very sad, but what else is there to say? In this case, even charity links won’t necessarily do much good, as Bam doesn’t appear to need any supplies – the damage has been done.

Bob Herbert’s column? Oh, it's so tempting – this is the sort of half-assed, squishy writing reminiscent of old-school NYT op-ed contributors (Rosenthal, Lewis, Rich) and worth ripping on a regular basis. Even if one accepts Herbert's premise (I don't), if he had done any research, he might have realized that there are some tangible proposals for what he wants done. But I’ve blogged about this too recently… don’t want to sound like a broken record.

I notice the LAT and WaPo stories, which dovetail each other nicely. However, I’m not entirely sure how to frame the post. Worry that the administration is screwing up? Intrigue at Brent Scowcroft’s preference to stick it out? I decide to sleep on it.

9:00 AM: I wake up and post on the LAT/WaPo stories, but frankly, I don’t think I quite nailed it. Occasionally this happens – too many ideas to mold into just a few paragraphs.

I click over to Slate’s Today’s Papers feature and see the mention of the NYT Halliburton story. Eric Umansky was harsh on the Times:

The NYT has been tops among the papers in suggesting that Halliburton has been making extra bucks. So, the paper deserves credit for publishing a piece questioning that earlier suggestion. But why doesn't the article's headline clearly reflect the revised conclusion? Instead it's mushy: "HALLIBURTON CONTRACTS IN IRAQ: THE STRUGGLE TO MANAGE COSTS."

I’ve been making the argument that the Halliburton contracts are not evidence of either systemic corruption or specific corruption for some time, so it’s nice to see the Times come to the same conclusion. I post it.

10:00 AM: I log onto the Daily Dish’s AOL account to check mail. 150 new messages await me. Admittedly, 50 of them are offering me glimpses of Paris Hilton’s sex tape, but that’s still a lot in twelve hours. One of the e-mails mentions the AFA poll about gay marriage. I’ve only posted about this topic once on my site. But it’s a good, counterintuitive story, and I remember Eugene Volokh’s post from last Friday. Plus, I figure Daily Dish readers would go into withdrawal if the topic is not mentioned once. Up it goes.

10:30 AM. Let’s log on and see how things are going…. Wait, why can’t I access the Daily Dish? It’s down! Ahh!!!! I f@#$%ed up somehow!! In less than twelve hours, I’ve single-handedly destroyed Andrew Sullivan’s site!! DAMN YOU BLOGGER!!! DAMN YOU TO HELL!!!!

10:40 AM: After much gnashing of teeth and a little jiggering, Blogger starts working again. Respiration and cardiac activity return to normal.

Blogger sucks. I decide for the rest of the week to compose on my own blog and then cut and paste onto the Daily Dish.

11:30 AM: I go out for groceries with my son, who’s day care center is closed for the week. No one at the store goes, “Hey, that’s Dan Drezner!! He’s subbing for Sullivan this week!” I realize this is because:

a) These people have lives.

b) Since Richard Posner, Gary Becker, John Mearsheimer, Cass Sunstein, and Martha Nussbaum shop there too, I'm pretty small beer.

posted by Dan on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM


You are a funny blogger! Keep it up. May be this behind-the-scene will make wonderful Atlantic Monthly, New Yorker, or TNR piece. Sort of role-playing qualitative methodological approach.

I hope you succeed beyond your wildest imaginations.

Ali Karim Bey

posted by: Ali Karim Bey on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

Blogs are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.


posted by: Joseph Musco on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

Say-- where do you shop for groceries?

posted by: Will Baude on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

Yes, where is it that you shop?

I have the same problem, in reverse, when I do my Central Asia Briefings on Winds of Change. Damned MT!

Actually, what I hate more than anything is having a great idea that results in a cogent argument in my head. Of course, this promptly falls apart by the time I get to the point of a post. I'm a weak finisher.

posted by: Nathan on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

It really irks me that someone as smart (and righteous) as Josh can't get the whoever/whomever thing straight. This drives me KRAZY.

posted by: David on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

Just to torture myself, I just blogged to whomever, and damn near every hit is wrong. AAAUUUGGHH!!!

posted by: David on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

googled, not blogged.

posted by: David on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

You are a very, very funny blogger, and I'm glad that Andrew picked you because I think you're site is great too, and I hadn't ever read it before. PS I know it's a little to late/early for you, but WWAD? (what would Andrew do?) about the LATimes Syria connection? One company involved in arming Iraq against us, albeit an innocent one, was American. Keep up the "Being Andrew Sullivan" It's insecurity is hysterical

posted by: Chris on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

"I decide for the rest of the week to compose on my own blog...."

This confuses me. Why not just use whatever your preferred plain text editor is?

posted by: Gary Farber on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

yeah funny is good, but informative is better- I'm a junkie for ops on decision2004- I'd appreciate your take on Dean- has he got the nomination sewn up, where are his weaknesses (you'll want to use the 'long post form') what about his constant backtracking due to his shoot from the lip style. A fresh perspective on the guy GWB presumptively will face next year would be great. Of course I could add _your_ blog to my daily reads if you don't get to it this week, but heck, while you got the audience, go for it, right?

posted by: docweasel on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

And I thought that was Dick Jauron with his kid in the grocery store! When I heard, "CLEANUP ON AISLE 12!" I should have known it was Drezner.

posted by: Chuck on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

I prefer your blog to Dr. Sullivan's. I appreciate your insight, candor, and wit. And it's refreshing to have someone posting at the Daily Dish who does not wish to sound like a broken record.

Keep up the good double-blogging work. And don't be afraid to use your borrowed powers to add yourself to Dr. Sullivan's blogroll (er, links page).

posted by: brent on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

get creative with MT's categories. I've got a 'quicklink' category set up on my blog for the very types of posts you're talking about. (and quote of the day, and reading recently) just takes a little bit of work on your Index page and you can seperate content into different page locations.

posted by: Gary on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

MT doesn't require each post to have a separate page. That may be the default, but it can be changed.

posted by: Medley on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

As long as you're flogging, er, blogging Dean, why not expand to look at the whole nomination process? It's gone thoroughly amuck. The whole point of the primary system was to take the nominating process out of the smoke-filled rooms and into the voting booth. But when did voters last pick a major party presidential nominee?

In 2000, the Republicans had annointed Bush with money, media, and party backing by 1999. McCain never had a chance, really; all it took to get buried was one slip, and he made it. The nomination was Bush's to lose, not McCain's to win.

Looks like the Democrats are going the same way in 2004. The money, media, and opinion are behind him, along with the assumption that all the other candidates are toast. You think Super Tuesday is a perversion of the primary system? Balderdash. The nomination is nearly a lock even before the Iowa caucuses. It's Dean's to lose; no one else can take it away from him on merit or popularity at this point.

Drat. Disenfranchised again.

WWAD? The heck with that. You've got the power. Leave Andrew a present or two.

posted by: diane on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

To ease your concerns about Movable Type, simply turn off Individual Entry Archiving! I only archive by month and category, which saves a bunch of disk space.

posted by: Jeff on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

“But when did voters last pick a major party presidential nominee?”

Each and every time. There has never been an exception recorded in the history of the United States. At worst, we picked the delegates who decided the issue for us. No, this is not the fault of the system. Most conventional campaign reforms are therefore a silly way to avoid going after those who are truly responsible for the situation. Who are the true perpetrators? The blame belongs to the lazy voter who could care less about politics. Am I trying to encourage the typical citizen to spend countless hours a week on political activity? Not in the least. Such a quasi-Marxist attitude is unhealthy. However, we should guilt trip our fellow citizens to spend minimally ten to fifteen minutes a day so that can become better informed. Do the math: that’s still less than two hours weekly! How can that be an unjustified demand? These Americans are not victims. It’s up to them to do their fair share.

posted by: David Thomson on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

(warning, off-topic drift alert)

Ummm, David, I said "pick a major party nominee", not "pick a president". Party conventions, not national elections.

I haven't done the math, but I suspect that most presidential nominees through history have been selected, not by ballot, and not by delegates elected by voters, and not by delegates bound by primary elections. Most political convention delegates got there as political favors, not by election, and for much of US history, their votes were also based on political favors. The move toward primaries as the determinant of delegate votes picked up momentum in the late 1960's, and seems to be losing ground back into insignificance. The kingmakers are back, with Al Gore's endorsement of Dean being only the most recent major example.

Campaign finance reform needs to be a continual process, because the huge amount of money needed to run a campaign is an open invitation to exploiting every loophole possible. If there's any doubt, note that both Bush and Dean have opted out of public financing through matching funds, because it frees them from numerous legal constraints. Voter vigilance and awareness is not sufficient to avoid the risk of elections dictated by money.

Speaking of voter vigilance, you can't be serious about "15 minutes a day" being enough. One could spend a couple of hours a day, every day, and never read a word that disagrees with one's pre-existing biases. Without skepticism (to politicians, the media, and one's self), you can read all you want and still be uninformed. The fact that voters should exercise a healthy skepticism is no guarantee that they will, and to place faith in voter education or skepticism is itself naive.

posted by: diane on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

Hi Dan, nice work at Andrew's, but shouldn't you be fisking Paul Krugman's latest over there?

posted by: David on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

Jeff says To ease your concerns about Movable Type, simply turn off Individual Entry Archiving! I only archive by month and category, which saves a bunch of disk space, and earlier Medley said the same.

But Dan didn't say that he didn't want individual entries; he said he didn't want individual entries for those trivial one-liner links.

posted by: David Nieporent on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

“Speaking of voter vigilance, you can't be serious about "15 minutes a day" being enough. One could spend a couple of hours a day, every day, and never read a word that disagrees with one's pre-existing biases. “

Fifteen minutes a day is far more than most Americans spend on politics. My guess is that a high percentage barely spend five minutes a week, if even that. Our national elections are decided by barely half of those eligible to vote. And yes, a quarter of an hour of focussed thought is still a fair amount of time. It would be, although barely, sufficient to get a bare grasp of the candidates and issues.

Human beings are not angels. The at least metaphorical reality of Original Sin in alive and well on planet Earth. A “couple of hours a day” is not realistic. As matter of fact, this utopian goal is unwittingly antihuman. Only those earning a living via political engagement or the atypical political junky can be expected to do this. We must aim for a proper balance. I would be satisfied if only around seventy per cent of the adult population voted. A higher total might even be a frightening phenomenon. It would probably not occur unless our nation was enduring extremely tragic circumstances. In Dan Drezner’s neck of the woods, for instance, it is normal for most Chicagoans to recognize Michael Jordan than their local congressperson. My concern begins when the player who barely gets off the bench is more famous than their governor and U.S. senators!

posted by: David Thomson on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

Is this David Thomson the renowned film critic?

posted by: dlg on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

“Is this David Thomson the renowned film critic?”

Nope, this is the unknown second rate Eric Hoffer imitator. I’m sorry that I have to disappoint you.

posted by: David Thomson on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

"Campaign finance reform needs to be a continual process, because the huge amount of money needed to run a campaign is an open invitation to exploiting every loophole possible" ~Diane

We do not need campaign finance reform. It is blatently unconstitutional. The reason it takes som much $ to win enen a congressional seat is because we have soo few reps per capita. I remember reading somewere that only Indai has less reps per capita than the United States. We should increase the number of representitives to 1 per 100,000. Even that would be more than three times the ammount in the Constitution. (and the Founders worried that that might be too few).

this makes the vast majority of the federal races much smaller, more responsive, cheaper to run for and win, and meant your rep will listen to you. And it is 100% constitutional,

BTW, just found this sight today, and I am going to add it to my list.

posted by: Aaron on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

Oops. should read: The reason it takes som much $ to win EVEN a congressional seat is because we have so few reps per capita

posted by: Aaron on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

See this site:, there are 'reading links' inbetween the main posts.

I've also set up a similar system on my blog (click name for link). All the 'links' go on one page, while the main posts have their own page. The best thing is, using MT bookmarklets, I just have to click on a saved bookmark to automatically add the link and rebuild the sites. It does make sense to add just links, for interesting sites/news which you might want to refer back to later. I can never rememer urls, so its quite helpfull. Anyways, If you're interested, I can email the template for setting up a 'links' page in MT

posted by: KO on 12.29.03 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

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