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November 13, 2003
Preemptive Self-Parody

Sadly, Neal Pollack has retired from lampooning Andrew Sullivan on a daily basis. Luckily, Andrew Sullivan seems determined to pick up the slack. Here's a passage from a piece he wrote for The Sunday Times:

Meanwhile, the leading Democratic candidate, Howard Dean, could not represent the Northeastern upper middle class liberal more perfectly. He's from Vermont, one of the home bases of what's being called "the Starbucks Metrosexual elite." His favorite singer is Jean Wyclef (no, don't ask me).

First, has anyone other than Sullivan ever uttered the phrase "the Starbucks Metrosexual elite"? If he invented the term, he should take credit for it. If he stole it from some talk-radio host or RNC flack, he should give credit where credit is due. But why employ the empty abstractions of phrases like "what is being called" to suggest that the term "Starbucks Metrosexual elite" is in common usage when there's no evidence that it is?

Second, "Jean Wyclef"? Maybe this is a dig at Dean for getting Wyclef Jean's name wrong somewhere, but I wasn't able to find any articles that confirmed that Dean did this. And if, in an effort to establish his Starbucks hip-hop bonafides, Dean had messed up Jean's name, you can bet there would have been plenty of stories about it, right?

So I'm assuming it's Sullivan who's so out of touch with mainstream popular culture that he completely remixed Jean's name.

Also, what's with the "no, don't ask me" coda? Is Sullivan saying, "No, don't ask me who Jean Wyclef (aka Wyclef Jean) is, because my idea of a good record is Orrin Hatch's ode to U.S. foreign policy, Put Your Arms Around The World."

Or is he saying, "No, don't ask me, I have absolutely no idea how an educated, middle-aged white man like Howard Dean could possibly enjoy hip-hop and reggae-flavored pop, because I know I sure don't!"

As much as Pollack's daily gusts of overwrought Sullivanity will be missed, I'm not sure even he could pack such windy bumbling into a mere three sentences.

Posted by Greg Beato at 09:39 AM
November 12, 2003
Cite Club

Betsy Hart, today in the National Review:

Before POW Shoshana Johnson was even rescued, the New York Times praised her in an editorial for helping to break the 'glass ceiling' of women in the military. They concluded her capture proved women could and should be put into even more dangerous combat positions. What?

The New York Times editorial in question, from March 24th, 2003:

The news that one of the American soldiers taken captive by the Iraqis over the weekend is a woman serves as a reminder of how the American military has evolved, slowly and sometimes reluctantly, into an organization where the dangerous jobs of war are performed by both sexes. While women are still barred from some sorts of duty, the case for equal footing is gaining ground.

Thanks to changes in the law in 1994, women, who make up 15 percent of the military, are eligible for about 90 percent of all service positions. Those gains were a recognition of the performance of the 41,000 women deployed as part of Desert Storm three years earlier. Despite legal limits on combat participation, 13 women died and many more were wounded in that conflict.

But while the law opened the door for women a little wider, glass ceilings have held firm and women have made gains in just a small fraction of the jobs supposedly open to them. Helping to hold them back are the remaining taboos and the misperceptions of physical and mental inadequacies that they perpetuate. Servicewomen remain barred from the roles that Hollywood would cast with Tom Hanks or Bruce Willis -- Navy Seals, special forces, short-range artillery or tank operators and infantry. The present war with Iraq, which will engage the greatest-yet number of American women, could change much of that by debunking the arguments against fully employing them...

1. The Times doesn't "praise" Johnson for breaking the "glass ceiling."

2. The Times doesn't even say the "glass ceiling" has been broken.

3. The Times didn't conclude that Johnson's capture proved that women could and should be put into even more dangerous combat positions. The Times concluded that the performance of 41,000 women in the Gulf War led to a change in the law, which in turn allows women to pursue more opportunities for advancement in the Army (and, in turn, assume more risks).

4. Can Betsy Hart read?

Posted by Greg Beato at 09:20 AM
November 11, 2003
GIs Gone Wild!

Larry Flynt does a quick reversal on Jessica Lynch's alleged GIs Gone Wild! photos...

First, there's this in the Daily News: "[Flynt] claimed they show Lynch topless and cavorting with two men stationed with her at Fort Bliss, Tex., before she shipped off to Iraq last spring. According to two people who have seen them, the person they identify as Lynch is wearing just jeans in one photo and a blue thong in another. Flynt said the pictures - which he claimed to have gotten from two former soldiers who served with Lynch - would prove 'she's not Joan of Arc.'"

Then, he issues this statement: "I was offered photos of Jessica Lynch. I purchased them in order to keep them out of circulation, not to publish them."

So was Flynt just trying to stir things up with his first statement, or was the backlash so strong that he changed his mind against publishing the photos in less than 24 hours?

While Flynt will no doubt be criticized for his sleazy opportunism, who really deserves such criticism in this case? The two soldiers who sold out their comrade in arms for a reported $200,000, even after she was nice enough to cavort half-naked with them...

Posted by Greg Beato at 09:10 AM
November 10, 2003
Excellence in Pill-Popping

A month ago today, Rush Limbaugh confessed that he was the unwitting un-victim of highly addictive prescription painkillers that he had absolutely no idea were highly addictive. In the wake of this revelation, many conservative pundits were aghast at the amount of media coverage it generated.

"It's Brokhaw's first story?" queried incredulous speed-misspeller Kathryn Jean Lopez.

"Rush Limbaugh is off the air. But his critics are only just now getting on his back," intoned Fox News' Neil Cavuto. "As he tries to kick his prescription drug habit, those who hate him are just kicking him."

"As you know, Rush Limbaugh crashed and burned in a very public way last week. And very predictably, the elite media have piled on," observed workingman GOPagandist Joe Scarborough.

And yet, for all its lead-story, kick-him-when-he's-down, pile-on appeal, very little investigative effort has been made to advance this saga. And, ultimately, it makes you wonder: if the elite media is really so bent on destroying Limbaugh, how come, more than six weeks after the National Enquirer broke this story, we still know so little about the following aspects of the case?

Limbaugh's back surgery
In his October 10th address to his listeners, Limbaugh said, "I first started taking prescription painkillers some years ago when my doctor prescribed them to treat post surgical pain following spinal surgery." But when, specifically, did this spinal surgery take place? I've searched, Google News, and, and so far haven't turned up any old stories mentioning Limbaugh's spinal surgery. This doesn't mean it never happened, but it'd be useful to know exactly when it did happen, who the surgeon was, etc. Also, as many bloggers and bulletin board posters have already wondered, if Limbaugh's back pain was so severe that he needed surgery, and the surgery was such a failure that he became a junkie in his efforts to alleviate his pain, how does that square with his reportedly heavy golf habit?

92 Pills A Day!?!
According to Limbaugh's former housekeeper and alleged pusher Wilma Cline, she supplied him with 4,350 pills in one 47-day period. In addition, she says that his lawyer gave her an $80,000 payment for the drugs she'd given him. This unrelated news story puts the price of OxyContin at $7.40 a piece. This page on OxyContin addiction says the street price ranges from $5 to $20 a pill. At those rates, $80,000 could buy 4000 to 16,000 pills! These numbers are so mind-boggling that before Limbaugh admitted his addiction, many commentators said Cline had to be lying. But in the wake of his admission, how come there's been so little investigation of Cline's contentions? I sort of understand why the elite media isn't touching this stuff - her claims are too damn good to fact-check! But how about Limbaugh's many apologists? Why aren't they eagerly trying to find out more about the tapes she supposedly made, or the records she kept? And if Limbaugh was getting his small blue babies via legitimate prescriptions, how come no doctors or pharmacists have stepped forward to verify this?

No Excuses
Limbaugh said he wasn't making any excuses for being a drug addict. But he also implied that the addictive nature of painkillers came as somewhat of a surprise to him: "This medication turned out to be highly addictive," he explained. Which makes you wonder: is Limbaugh really saying that his doctors prescribed him highly addictive medication without warning him about its highly addictive potential? Is he saying they failed to advise him to limit his consumption to, say, 50 pills a day? Given that the highly addictive nature of OxyContin has been a major national news story for several years now, and given that OxyContin overdoses and abuse have been prevalent in Limbaugh's Florida stomping grounds, doesn't it seem odd that an astute newsman and geyser of common sense like Limbaugh would be unaware of the pills' potential downside? And yet, how many media outlets have investigated his characterization of his addiction's development, or even bothered to put his addiction into the larger context of the OxyContin abuse that was afflicting Florida and his hometown of Palm Beach? Despite his insistence that he's not a victim, Limbaugh has positioned himself as the accidental dupe of a surprisingly addictive drug, and the media has pretty much bought this characterization. On a similar note, how come there's been so little investigation, or even conjecture, regarding the specific ways he may have consumed his small blue babies? Thanks to its time-release coating, OxyContin is designed to be taken only once every 12 hours. But most OxyContin junkies circumvent this time-release factor by crushing the pills into a powder: when you unleash the full wallop of the pill all at once, instead of spreading it out over 12 hours, you experience not just pain relief but euphoria. Was this how Limbaugh eventually started consuming the pills? If it was, his I-was-just-a-guy-with-a-sore-back! rationale is a lot harder to swallow (or snort).

"Unaware of any investigation"
This is what Limbaugh posted on his website, after the Enquirer story broke and before he admitted he was a drug addict: "I am unaware of any investigation by any authorities involving me." Even more unaware of any investigation by any authorities involving Limbaugh: the media. Indeed, ever since the Enquirer raised the possibility that police might be investigating Limbaugh, virtually no additional information about this investigation has appeared. On October 4th, before Limbaugh's confession, the Palm Beach Post ran a story that suggested it was very unlikely that Limbaugh could be convicted of anything, because "to prosecute drug abusers, authorities need to catch them in possession of the illegal substance." At the same time, if Cline's allegations are true, then some pretty large numbers are involved, and the liberal media elite could certainly be asking questions about why someone who spends $80,000 on drug buys in a short period of time is deemed unworthy of investigation, especially when other people have been charged for possessing relatively small amounts of OxyContin. (Courtney Love is probably pricing real estate in Palm Beach at this moment.) But instead of trying to find out more about the Limbaugh investigation, or asking why, if Cline's allegations are true, there isn't a Limbaugh investigation, the liberal media seems more than willing to let the issue remain a mystery.

Posted by Greg Beato at 02:20 AM