Tuesday, May 31, 2005


For some reason, I feel it happening again – I’m getting cranky. Maybe it’s been the awful weather we’ve been having here in Boston; without exaggeration, we’ve had exactly three nice days in the past three weeks. Everyone agrees it was the worst May ever. Or maybe it’s the Huffington Post which has unleashed Jim Lampley upon an unsuspecting public. A mere two weeks into his career as a blogger, sportscaster Lampley has proven beyond any doubt that the 2004 election was stolen. One wonders, will the body politic survive the searing intellect and glib prose of the preternaturally bland telecaster?

Or perhaps it’s those persnickety French people having the unmitigated gaul to say non to the EU. Don’t they know all the trouble that Saddam-stooge Jacques Chirac went through in order to put this thing together for them?

Or maybe it’s simply the fact that the Red Sox have yet to fully hit their stride. They’re still crippled by injuries and heart-throb Johnny Damon has the throwing arm of an 11 year old girl. Whose mood wouldn’t be soured by such things?

Then again, it could be the Indianapolis 500 that has me a little steamed. Like the vast majority of Americans, I lost all interest in Formula 1 racing when…well, I never had any interest in Formula 1 racing. But now because a woman came in fourth in the Indy 500, I’m being told that suddenly I should take an interest in auto-racing.

I don’t want to take an interest in auto-racing, regardless of the social progress being made in the “sport.” It’s boring – it’s just cars driving in circles endlessly. (Hopefully the preceding doesn’t offend any of my readers who happen to be NASCAR fans. Lord knows I understand that stock cars driving in circles is an inherently more nuanced and sophisticated form of entertainment than Formula One cars driving in circles.)

It also irritates me most Tuesdays when the Boston Globe sees fit to publish yet another Bush-hating/America-bashing column by James Carroll. Here’s Carroll today: “Bush's ‘humanitarian’ doctrine of ‘preventive war’ was officially promulgated in the National Security Strategy of 2002…War had always been treated as the last resort, but now it would be a first response to threat.” Right. War is now the first response. No hyperbole there. None whatsoever. Just another example of super-precise writing gracing the Globe’s op-ed page.

I think we’re getting warmer; I think it’s the media that has me upset. Here’s something from Mickey Kaus today, a writer I truly admire: “Even our own top commanders admit we might lose (Iraq) and the blowback from Abu Ghraib, etc. will last generations.” Now, to be fair to Mick, he just tossed that sentence in to throw a bone to those with views contrary to his own. If you read his post, you’ll see what I mean.

But what Mick wrote is indicative of the narrative the mainstream media has been so desperately peddling the last year – that Abu Ghraib is the story of the century and that there is a rough moral equivalency between America and its enemies. Scratch that. If you listed the number of stories on American malfeasance and the stories of our enemy’s malfeasance, I bet you’d find a lot more of the former than of the latter. America can only dream of getting the favorable treatment accorded a bin Laden or a Zarqawi, gentlemen who when they’re not ordering passenger jets be flown into skyscrapers or the beheading of innocent civilians presumably treat the occasional Bible or Torah that should come into their possession with appropriate reverence and care.

The foregoing isn’t meant to excuse the abuses at Abu Ghraib. But how about the big picture? How about a little perspective? I mean, my goodness – “the blowback from Abu Ghraib will last generations?” “Generations” plural? The fire-bombing of Dresden was generations ago; so was the destruction of Nagasaki. If we could get over those little incidents with our former enemies, somehow I don’t think Abu Ghraib will on its own prove insurmountable.

Do the mainstream media pine for our defeat? Probably not. But then you see something like today’s New York Times’ article which shines a bright light on how the CIA does its job around the world and in shining that bright light makes the CIA’s job that much harder to do, and you have to wonder why the Times does it.

Why indeed.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Dean Barnett

Thursday, May 26, 2005


On National Review’s “The Corner” this morning, John Derbyshire asked the following question: “Suppose some foreign country -- South Korea, perhaps -- using embryonic stem cells, develops a wonder drug that cures some awful crippling disease or condition. If a person takes it to cure that disease or condition (or if they don't, and the sufferer travels abroad to be treated) has that person done a wrong thing?”

Let me offer an answer as a person for whom the question has some personal relevance. The answer is yes, the person has done a wrong thing.

But I know you also want to know what I would do – as a person with a disease for whom the stem cell proponents promise miraculous progress, would I take the cure even though I’m against the pillaging of embryos for their curative powers? In two words, you betcha.

Does that make me a hypocrite? Yes. Does it make me something worse, perhaps even a sinner? Yes. But then again, what would that prove? The fact that I would lack the courage of my convictions to see my principles through to the death – how does that have any bearing on what is moral or immoral social policy?

I consider it analogous to my routine ingestion of meat. My wife and I have two dogs that we adore. I see no reason to believe that dogs are intrinsically more worthwhile creatures than cows, but if someone suggested carving up my Cairn Terrier for dinner I would be outraged.

Given this piece of insight, I guess the right thing for me to do would be to subsist on a diet of tofu, water, and red twizzlers. But I don’t. (If I did, I would probably greet Death as a dear friend when it finally came to claim me.) Not only do I eat more than the occasional dead cow, I’m so fond of the product that I’m on a first name basis with butchers in both Florida and Boston. I could even write a blog post on the differences and similarities between prime beef and the new “it” cut in red meat, the divinely buttery Angus platinum.

Applying this logic to stem cell treatments, I find it hard to believe, knowing myself for the weak person that I am, that I would stand idly by watching the other sick and lame rise from their wheelchairs as John Edwards promised Christopher Reeve would be the case while sentencing myself to a life of illness and premature death on principle.

So what does Derb’s question prove? That we’re all weak, that we’re all sinners, that we all at times lack the courage of our convictions? Sure. But none of those things qualifies as a newsflash. There’s only one perfect person out there, and he’s a Senator from Arizona.

My human frailties aside, I still believe that creating embryos for the purpose of destroying them is wrong. It’s immoral. As a society, we can do better.

I don’t see how outing me as a weak sinner affects the argument.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Dean Barnett

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


1) I’VE RECEIVED SEVERAL LETTERS asking me what I think of the filibuster deal. First of all, anything that allows the obscure Senator from Arizona to break through and finally register some face-time on television can’t be all bad.

One shudders to think where the republic would be without John McCain. If there were a way to harness the human ego as an energy source, John McCain’s could light up Chicago. For a decade.

Careful readers of Soxblog may have noted that until this instant, I have never addressed the nuclear option or the confirmation kerfuffles. There’s a reason for that – the whole thing bores me to tears. The intellectual debate that will hopefully lead to a reduction in abortions – that fascinates me and it’s something that I want to play a role in. But until that debate is engaged and ultimately won, abortion isn’t going anywhere regardless of which party is appointing the judges.

As far as the runaway judges who arrogate unto themselves the role of super-legislature, they’re a problem, no doubt. But so long as this president can refrain from appointments reminiscent of his father’s, that situation should improve.

2) BUT WHAT ABOUT THE POLITICS? That’s another reason why I’m glad this thing at least for the moment has slinked away. I was quite concerned that this would be the 1995 Government Shutdown Redux. The press would have blamed the Republicans, and the people in turn would have done the same.

News junkies sometimes have trouble bearing in mind the following obvious truth – most people don’t want to pay attention to the minutiae of their government’s workings. The need to get by in their daily lives keeps their plates pretty full; they really don’t want to think about the appointment of appellate court justices.

So if they get the sense that something marginally important like the fate of a couple of jurists is hindering the government doing really important stuff like killing terrorists or keeping Yellowstone National Park open, they’ll be pissed off. And they’ll be pissed off at the Republicans because the press will tell them it’s all the fault of those extreme right wingers and this Dobson guy who apparently is running the country.

An obvious fact – the Republicans were not going to get a fair shake from the press on this one. The push polling done by various news agencies should have told them as much. Thus, this issue was a loser.

I never thought I’d say this, but in this instance I think the Republican Party should be thankful for the efforts of John McCain.

3) THE SOXBLOG SELL-OUT – I have begun a part time gig reviewing books for the Philadelphia Inquirer, one of the nation’s major newspapers. This officially makes me an adjunct member of the mainstream media. My editor has assured me that the rumors of book-reviewers being plagued by affection-hungry groupies are completely unfounded, and thus Mrs. Soxblog gave me permission to give it a whirl. My first review (of David McCullough’s “1776”) was printed on Sunday. To summarize the review in six words, I thought it was real good.

And today the selling out continues apace. I actually got a piece posted on National Review Online regarding the human embryo cloning /stem cell research controversy. Basically my thesis is that I’m sick of ill people insisting that only they are entitled to a voice in the debate regarding the morality of the issue at stake. Because I’m a sick person myself, I thought I had unique standing to say such a thing and was happy to weigh in.

4) AND ONE MORE THING ABOUT STEM CELL RESEARCH – I’ve had it up to here (my hand is at my forehead) with the imminent miracles that stem cell research proponents promise. Given my lack of pedigree, I’m in no position to scientifically assess the research, but I can tell you this much: Researchers don’t get grants by making modest and sober predictions. You’ll want to bear that simple fact in mind as the debate rages on.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Dean Barnett

Monday, May 23, 2005


Blogging ain’t easy – that’s for sure. I know I make it look easy the way I crank out taut yet breezy 700 word essays on an almost daily basis, but it’s not. As evidence of the great difficulty inherent in blogging, I present to you Andrew Sullivan and Arianna Huffington. One is an old pro at blogging, the other the blogosphere’s most prominent newbie, but they have in common a remarkable ability to embarrass themselves.

First, let’s talk about Andrew. Here’s what Andrew had to say about Bill Kristol on November 22, 2004:

One of the real skills of many neoconservatives is their message discipline. Their private concerns about the dreadful post-war planning in Iraq, and their frustrations with Rumsfeld in particular were kept absolutely under wraps until the election. These are intellectuals whose first calling is political power, rather than intellectual candor. Win first, cavil later: that's the motto. This is not to say they are intellectually dishonest, merely that they have learned the benefits of silence when their political masters are caught with their pants down. But now the election is over, you can read the following missive from the Politburo head, Bill Kristol, with some interest:

“The president presented himself for the judgment of the American people with 150,000 troops in the field, taking real casualties and on the verge of launching a major offensive. The people didn't flinch. They showed fortitude and judgment, sticking with Bush and the difficult path he has chosen, a path in some respects made more difficult by mistakes his administration had made, but not one his opponent could be counted on to follow to success.”

Translation: Bush screwed up monumentally but at least he didn't waver; and we were able to keep the full truth of the Iraq mess from the people long enough to survive. Yes, Bush's record did not merit re-election; but Kerry would have been far worse. (That's why Kristol barely wrote a word about Bush for months, and wrote ceaselessly against Kerry.)

Now here’s Andrew this very morning on Comrade Kristol:

I should say that Bill Kristol has been pretty exemplary in the war on terror, with a few lapses. He hasn't dismissed the abuse and torture allegations; he hasn't turned a blind eye to Rumsfeld's mismanagement of the post-war; he has kept an eye on the broader battle of ideas; he has backed a bigger military; and he has demanded more accountability from the Bush administration for its mistakes. No doubt he will soon be tagged as an anti-American lefty for these laudable criticisms. He wins kudos in my book.

From “Politburo head” to kudos in six short months. The mind reels – such a rapid rehabilitation!

Then again, and I know I’m thinking outside the box here, maybe it’s Kristol who was consistent all along and Sullivan who has become a riotously inconsistent hysteric who can’t resist yelling “fire” every time he enters the proverbial movie-house that is the blogosphere. (I know that’s a rather lame and senseless metaphor, but like I said up top, blogging’s not easy.)

And then we have Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post. Mind you, what follows is not a parody. I am providing a link to prove as much because I know otherwise you wouldn’t believe me. This is how the Huffster begins today’s post:

There I was, as is my Sunday morning tradition, watching Meet the Press while doing yoga. (Or is it doing yoga while watching Meet the Press ? Whatever.) Tim Russert was interviewing Howard Dean. At least, I’m pretty sure it was Russert. For one thing, I was in the Uttanasana II position, so I couldn’t see very well. For another, what I was hearing sounded remarkably like some White House flack.

One wonders, was she also doing Mushrooms while in that Utta-whatever position?

One thing bloggers have to actively resist is becoming off-putting narcissists who provide, shall we say, too much personal information. For instance, I also watched Meet the Press yesterday. You know what I was doing while I was watching? What’s that you say? You don’t care. Good, because I’m not going to tell you anyway.

As a final note of historical trivia for you blogophiles out there, the first Sullivan quote dates from November 22, 2004, the very day he started to detail for his audience his courageous battle with Sleep Apnea Until November 22, 2004, most of us drifted through our lives blissfully unaware that Andrew Sullivan was a loud snorer. But on that day, Andrew apparently decided that such things qualified as “must have” information for his audience. Subsequent posts on the subject dealt with the flattulence caused by the treatment and the ill effects of said flattulence on his boyfriend.

The recording of such self-involved tripe made his blog virtually unreadable. But what really made his blog all but worthless is that somewhere along the way he become an intellectually inconsistent commentator whose favorite modes of expression are the ad hominem attack and perpetual outrage.

As I’ve said before, Andrew Sullivan was one of the reasons I got into blogging. He was a pioneer, and he was once great. As he continues to embarrass himself on an almost daily basis, those facts become ever more difficult to remember.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Dean Barnett

Saturday, May 21, 2005


1) THE TYRANT WEARS TIGHTY-WHITEYS. Generally, I’m opposed to the wearing of tighty-whiteys in any context, but when it comes to 68 year old men I hold this view with a special vehemence. I belong to a country club where there are so many tighty-whitey wearing septuagenarians, I frequently find my eyeballs singed. Sometimes I’m tempted to offer a rueful lamentation on the ravages that time will take, but I just slip on my golf shoes and get out. Fast.

But for some reason, I find the fact that Saddam Hussein wears tighty-whiteys to be rather serendipitous. Even if we weren’t a civilized society, there’s no way we could make Saddam suffer adequately for the horrors that he has wrought. But at least this might give a message to other murderous dictators of a certain age- mess with the U.S., and a similarly humiliating image of you could be flashed around the world.

The image is especially rich because Saddam is a notoriously vain man. There’s a real chance this is pissing him off. In the karmic scheme of things, that’s probably good.

One hopes Kim Jong Il is paying attention. And maybe switching to boxers.

(You know, I was hoping to find a pious editorial somewhere ruing the moral ruination of America and the loss of American prestige that these photos would generate, but even the New York Times and the Boston Globe didn’t deem it appropriate to stand up for the privacy rights of one of history’s great mass murderers. I’m still reeling from the shock.)

2) THE BLEDSOE DEFENDERS – Yesterday I had a piece over at the Standard’s website praising the remarkable Tom Brady. One of my points was that Brady carries himself like a hero off the field. In making this point, I saw fit to draw attention to an embarrassing moment from Drew Bledsoe’s past.

The moment in question came when Bledsoe and two of his teammates attended a concert by Bledsoe’s favorite band, Everclear. Bledsoe and company imbibed liberally that evening and capped their evening of mirth by engaging in a little stage diving. Bledsoe is about 6’5”, 230 lbs. and his partner in concert-going mayhem, offensive lineman Max Lane, tipped the scales at over 300 lbs. Common sense certainly should have dictated that such out-sized individuals would not make good candidates for jumping from an elevated stage and landing on the concert going individuals below.

Alas, as many of us know, common sense is no match for massive quantities of alcohol. Bledsoe and Lane landed on a 23 year old and eventually had to give her over $1 million for the injuries she incurred as the result of being squashed by the flying behemoths.

My point in resuscitating this tale was not to say Bledsoe was an awful human being. It was instead to laud Brady for avoiding such public incidents of tomfoolery.

We all know that no man is a hero to his valet (as my friend Scatha once pointed out, how could you be a hero to the guy who sees how dirty you keep your car with all the empty bottles and wadded up tissues?), and who knows how Tom Brady behaves in private? I suspect he behaves rather well, but the point is that his public comportment to date has been nothing short of perfect. Bledsoe is by most accounts a good guy, but like a lot of multi-millionaire 26 year olds he wasn’t always a model of dignified and mature behavior in public.

I figured this was a rather obvious point, and that by merely mentioning Bledsoe’s embarrassing public conduct I wasn’t suggesting that he was an immoral individual or a bad guy.

And yet, what do I get in response? A bunch of letters saying in effect, “How could you pick on Bledsoe? Don’t you know he’s just been inducted into the Humanitarian Hall of Fame?” My first reaction to these letters was, “Who knew humanitarians had a Hall of Fame? Is Mother Teresa in it? And why am I not in it?”

But when I actually followed the link on the angry letters, I learned the entity in question isn’t the Humanitarian Hall of Fame but actually the “World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame,” To be fair to my critics, the words “World Sports” are printed really teensy-weensy in the Hall of Fame’s logo.

Suffice to say, the inductees in this particular Hall of Fame make an impressive roster of human beings and sports figures. Bledsoe is definitely in good company, and I don’t doubt he’s worthy of the honor.

But still, I don’t think my point was particularly subtle or difficult to grasp.

3) COMING TOMORROW – Soxblog sells out! Finally! Stay tuned for details.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Dean Barnett

Friday, May 20, 2005


Okay, I’ll admit it - I’ve been reading the Huffington Post just a bit. There are a couple of reasons for this:

1) The Daily Kos has finally worn me out. And I have to combine that with the uncomfortable fact that the Daily Kos has become to Soxblog as gay marriage is to Andrew Sullivan. I’ve spent way too much time on the topic. This realization hit me like a 2x4 to the head when I was having lunch with a man of respect, a man of substance, the other day and he asked, “Why do you spend so much time writing about this Cause guy?” I realized there was no good answer. So, from this point on, the Daily Kos is nothing to me. It’s not a brother, it’s not a friend. I want two days notice before it comes over to visit our mother. (I will, however, make an exception for politicians’ “diaries” on the site, sort of the way Michael Corleone made an exception when he warmly embraced Fredo at their mother’s wake.)

2) But reading the Daily Kos has made me a junky for far-left conspiracy-mongering idiotic ranting. What can I say? It became like a beloved sitcom where even though you could anticipate all the jokes, you still loved watching it. For instance, when the Newsweek story broke, was there any doubt that the site would defend Newsweek and remind us a thousand times that the real lie that cost lives was Bush’s that got us into the war?

So I became an addict, and I’m afraid I’m just not strong enough to quit cold turkey. So if the Daily Kos was my heroin, the Huffington Post will serve as my methadone.

The problem is, I’m beginning to fear that I may get hooked on the Huffington Post as well. For instance, on Day One sportscaster Jim Lampley wrote an impassioned piece “proving” that the Bush administration stole the elections. He called it the crime of the century. And in a century that’s already seen a severed digit fraudulently placed in a bowl of Wendy’s Chili, that’s a pretty big charge.

But the real star performer has been Cheryl David, Larry David’s wife. As is well known, Cheryl is a shrill environmentalist. (Redundancy alert – is there any other kind?) Her blog screeds to date naturally have been dedicated to forwarding her favorite progressive cause.

Yesterday’s post had a real howler: “ExxonMobil is a huge part of our global warming problem. It’s time they started taking the excess cash they are making off of the American people (last quarter they reaped $8 billion in windfall profits from the high prices at the pump) and started really trying to solve the problem.”

I have a notoriously unsubtle mind, so I must confess to being a tad confused by this concept of “excess cash.” I believe Larry David made something like $600 million off of “Seinfeld.” Exactly how much of that was “excess cash?” Or is all the cash earned in show business just by its very nature not excessive. After all, unlike ExxonMobil, the people in Hollywood are engaged in some pretty serious stuff.

But I can see how I might be able to turn this “excess cash” concept to my advantage. I have a friend who recently enjoyed a rather large windfall. Considering the excessive size of his windfall, and the problem that I still don’t have a home theatre worth the name, I see an obvious solution. He should unload some of his “excess cash” and help me solve my problem.

So to Cheryl David, I raise my Styrofoam coffee cup in a toast. (Actually it’s double cupped because the coffee is just so damn hot.) And to the Huffington Post, I must admit I was in error. It promises to be endlessly amusing, offering its readers the thrilling spectacle of celebrities making asses of themselves – it’s sort of like a written version of Battle of the Network Stars.

I’m telling you, it might turn out to be more addictive than crack.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Dean Barnett

Thursday, May 19, 2005


STEVEN FROM SHARON, MASSACHUSETTS CALLED INTO some NPR talk show dedicated to dissecting “the Newsweek disaster.” One of the guests on the show was Professor John Esposito of Georgetown, author of “What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam.” (I would be remiss if I did not point out that Professor Esposito spent much of his career at Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. Is it just me, but does it seem like Holy Cross is turning out significantly more that its rightful share of academic nitwits these days?)

Although Professor Esposito was unknown to me until “Steven from Sharon” brought him to my attention, he is apparently a well known apologist for some of Islam’s pathologies. Oh, and guess what else? He doesn’t particularly care for President Bush.

I don’t really want to get into the substance of what “Steven from Sharon” and Professor Esposito discussed. I instead prefer to focus on the good professor’s style. Steven called up and made his points which were contrary to the professor’s views; the professor responded in part by saying that, “If Steven spent some time doing a little bit of reading…” he would come around to the professor’s way of thinking.

As Robert Duvall once observed, I love the smell of condescension in the morning. Think of the myriad of ways the Professor could have made the same point without diminishing poor “Steven.”

But here’s the funny part. Steven’s my best friend (poor lad). I know for a fact that he does A LOT of reading; while he might not do as much as the professor (unlike the professor, Steven is saddled with a real job), I would wager his comprehension level is considerably higher. While the Professor might assume that anyone with the audacity to hold different views from his own limits his reading to the Bible (especially the New Testament), Steven does not fall into this class. What’s more, Steven is no rube – he’s got two degrees from MIT to prove it. For what it’s worth, as fate would have it, Steven’s CV compares rather favorably to the professor’s.

But it’s not so much the quantity of reading as is the quality of the reader’s comprehension that matters. The difference between the two calls to mind a scene from “A Fish Called Wanda.” Wanda refers to the Kevin Kline character (Otto) as an “ape” and he quickly reprimands her, “Apes don’t read philosophy.” “Yes they do,” she responds, “they just don’t understand it.”

Professor Esposito is doubtlessly well read on Islam. Here are some of the conclusions he has reached based on his decades of reading:

1) Esposito has long been an advocate of political power for Islamic fundamentalists.

2) Esposito also claimed on NPR that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasir Arafat’s call for Jihad is comparable to a “literacy campaign” or the “fight against AIDS.”

3) In early 2001, Esposito suggested that “focusing on Usama bin Laden risks catapulting one of the many sources of terrorism to center stage, distorting both the diverse international sources and the relevance of one man.”

Wow! As Al Pacino said in “Heat,” that’s pretty fucking great! We ought to make this guy a high level government adviser. Wait, the Clinton administration already did that.

With a track record like that, you would think Professor Esposito would hesitate before opting for arrogance. But then again, humility is hardly the default position for academics, no matter how wrong they repeatedly are.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Dean Barnett

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


A couple of days ago, I stated that elements of the media were in effect a domestic Fifth Column dedicated to harming American interests. I received a few letters complaining that this rhetoric was a tad incendiary. Let me explain my thinking.

For certain members of our society, 9/11 was a chickens-coming-home to roost event. These people took as much delight in the goings-on of that day as any Palestinian territory-based ululating hag. You know the type of individuals I’m talking about – the Ward Churchills and Noam Chomskies of the world. To say that these types hold America and Americans in low regard would be an understatement.

To be fair to these folks, I ought to acknowledge that their stance really isn’t about partisanship. If President Gore had spent the past 3 ½ years dithering about in a fruitless search for root causes and making non-stop apologies to the rest of the world, perhaps these people would have been appeased. But anything more muscular than that and, make no mistake, the far left would have turned on Gore just as England’s Galloway-led lunatic fringe turned on Tony Blair.

It’s hardly a secret that the America-hating individuals I’m talking about are disproportionately represented in Hollywood, academia and the media. I bet you would have had to walk through five steel mills before hearing one steel-worker vow to leave the country if George Bush were re-elected; such hollow promises were heard with far greater frequency in our pressrooms, movie studios and college quads.

So, focusing on the media, there are a lot of people in the media’s employ who don’t like America and who pine for America’s defeat, who rejoice in her setbacks, and who take a knee-jerk position that America is always in the wrong. What’s more, they consider it a vital part of their portfolio that they undermine domestic morale and America’s standing in the world. They behave in a manner that is unmistakably antagonistic to the American people, the American government, and our nation’s interests. They also typically have a low regard for American history, and will cite Wounded Knee, Mai-Lai, and Abu Ghraib as representative of the nation’s past.

So if that’s not a Fifth Column, what is it? The over-arching point here is that the anti-Americanism is a recurring and systemic feature of the mainstream media. It happens repeatedly, and more often than not it occurs unapologetically. Yes, NEWSWEEK was caught with its proverbial pants down on this one, but that doesn’t explain/exculpate, say, Nightline’s reading of the deceased to purportedly honor the fallen (to cite one particularly egregious and disingenuous Fifth Column-type antic).

But here’s my deal with the media’s defenders – take what I’ll call THE NEWSWEEK CHALLENGE. Find one example of hasty and inaccurate reporting related to the current struggle that erroneously cast America in a favorable light.

I dare you. Do some Googling; see if you can’t come up with one “flip-side of the coin” media screw-up to rival the latest Newsweek screw-up. If you can, I’ll eat my words and the first winning entrant will eat a corned beef sandwich at the Palm Beach Gardens Too-Jay’s Deli as my treat (beverage and gratuity not included).

So, you media defenders, I urge you, take THE NEWSWEEK CHALLENGE. Until we have a winner, I’m standing by my Fifth Column charge.

And I don’t expect to be retracting it any time soon.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Dean Barnett

Monday, May 16, 2005


I should be circumspect when I criticize the mainstream media. It’s no secret that I wouldn’t mind partying with the big boys. If the New York Times had offered me the Safire column that they eventually gave to John Tierney (as they should have), I would have taken it. And when they finally pull the plug on the Paul Krugman comedy experiment (Krugman is obviously doing a parody of an embittered left-wing professor but it’s stopped being funny), I’ll take his space if they offer it.

Most bloggers are alike in this regard. We all want an audience and even the biggest of us have less of an audience and less influence than Maureen Dowd. (There’s a sentence that’s not going to help me with my self-esteem issues.) I say this all as a preface to the following lest I someday be accused of being a hypocrite if/when I avail myself of the best opportunity to sell-out.

Newsweek (or NEWSWEEK as the rag styles itself) may well have delivered a death blow to the mainstream media as we know it. The irresponsibility of their Koran flushing report is nothing short of mind-blowing. The fact that it has cost lives is infuriating; the fact that it was eagerly published with the earnest hope that it would damage American credibility is even more infuriating. The fact that it actually worked, that Newsweek’s (excuse me, NEWSWEEK’S) editors can parade about their office with a “mission accomplished” sign is perhaps the most infuriating thing of all.

What’s most baffling about this sorry episode is I haven’t seen a single Democratic politician or left wing commentator indicate that they were offended by Newsweek’s actions. Au contraire, if you read the left-wing blogs, you’ll see that the instinct amongst their authors has been to defend Newsweek and attack the administration. No less an authority than Markos “Kos” Moulitsas called the barbs directed at Newsweek “a Jihad against the truth.” Of course, what Newsweek printed wasn’t the truth but, as Markos might say, screw that.

Regarding Markos, boy is my face red. In the past I have called the lad shrewd and intelligent. It would be an understatement to say this notion wasn’t universally embraced by my right wing blogging brethren. Alas, today Markos proved me wrong. It astonishes me that he can’t see that regardless of their politics, the vast majority of Americans want the Bush administration’s policies to succeed. They’re not rooting against us in Iraq or Afghanistan.

With efforts like today’s, Markos proves that he is rooting against the troops in spite of his combat boot-wearing past. But that’s never really been much of a secret – any sentient reader of the Daily Kos or Juan Cole or Oliver Willis knows what kind of outcome they’re pulling for. They all tipped their hands long ago. But to be so obvious about it as Markos was today…

What makes this a momentous event is that Newsweek (excuse me, NEWSWEEK) tipped its hand. Newsweek wants to damage America, or is willing to behave in such a grossly negligent manner to make the damage done to America a predictable consequence.

A significant chunk of the fourth estate is a fifth column. After today, who can doubt it?

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Dean Barnett

Sunday, May 15, 2005


Sorry for the light blogging as of late. Sometimes other things interfere; I especially apologize for the emails that I’ve yet to respond to. Hopefully I’ll get to them in the next couple of days.

We will be resuming our regular schedule tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a brief anecdote from the weekend.

Last night around 8:00 p.m., Mrs. Soxblog and I sat in the dank Terminal C of Palm Beach International Airport. As we awaited our flight, a group of about twenty soldiers made their way through the terminal, coming from God only knows where. The logical conjecture was they were returning from Iraq, but wherever they were coming from they had been serving our country and had just arrived home.

As the rest of the terminal noticed the soldiers, it erupted in spontaneous applause. I’m happy to report, this applause was begun by Mrs. Soxblog. The soldiers reveled in the response, and one of them began proffering a camera and asking if someone wouldn’t mind stepping up to take a picture of the returning soldiers. He pointed at me, and I gladly jumped up, honored to be a small part of the moment.

I found it a moving scene, and a remarkable testimony to how far our society has traveled in thirty-some years. The Boston Globe last week had an op-ed piece by a guy named Gerald Lembcke who has devoted much of his academic career attempting to show that the stories of returning Vietnam veterans being spat upon by shaggy-haired protestors are apocryphal. Regrettably, the incident with Jane Fonda being struck by a loogie gave Lembcke a fresh fifteen minutes of relevance – hence, his piece in the Globe.

Lembcke is a sociology professor at Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and his work on the “spitting” meme nicely symbolizes some of the ills that plague academia. Researching and writing a monograph showing that veterans weren’t spat upon while returning from Vietnam in order to defend the actions of that war’s opponents is the equivalent of penning a treatise demonstrating there is no Santa Claus in order to debunk the tenets of Christianity. Whether there was expectorating involved or not, the left’s rhetoric and actions regarding the returning Vietnam veterans were abhorrent.

The fact that the soldiers returning from Vietnam got a raw deal can hardly be in doubt. So pervasive was the phrase “baby-killer” amongst the intelligentsia then that even a full three decades later Representative Charles Rangel hurled the same epithet at the troops serving in Iraq while appearing on “Hannity & Colmes.” So dominant was the slander that the men in Vietnam had “behaved in a manner of Genghis Kahn” that a returning veteran who uttered that memorable phrase during his Congressional testimony was able to win his Party’s nomination for president thirty years later.

You cannot “support the troops” if you consider them a bunch of murderous felons. Make no mistake – that is how the Vietnam War’s opponents viewed the troops.

Today, similar notions are no longer part of polite political discourse, Charlie Rangel not withstanding. Even the leftists who celebrate every American setback scurry to disingenuously proclaim their support for the troops at every available opportunity.

But what yesterday showed me is that the vast majority of Americans really do support the troops. Florida may be a red state, but Palm Beach County where the airport is located is just about as blue as it comes. But the support for the troops was powerful, moving and unanimous.

For those who are desperately pining for Iraq to turn into Vietnam redux, it would have been yet another dispiriting scene.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Dean Barnett

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


When Markos “Kos” Moulitsas was on C-Span last month, he mentioned several times that he had “worn combat boots,” none-too-subtly alluding to his laudable stint in the military. While Markos never actually wore those combat boots into combat, he feels the fact that he served inoculates him from the kind of “liberal wimp” charge that so bedevils, well, liberal wimps.

To some degree he’s no doubt correct. He served, and for that he is to be praised. The fact that he served does not, however, mean that his views on all matters of import are inherently more insightful or correct than anyone else’s. Yes, he has some life experience that others lack; if one were to debate the benefits and harms of six weeks of boot-camp, Markos would undeniably be better informed than, say, Jonah Goldberg.

But Markos also uses his military service as a club with which to batter his ideological adversaries. It wouldn’t surprise me if, computer wiz that he is, Markos has created a keyboard shortcut to type out the word “chickenhawk.” Typical of his rantings is this post from Tuesday that attacked his blogging brethren on the other side of the political spectrum:

“The fighting chickenhawks… wouldn't know service to their nation if it hit them smack upside the head. So the hypocritical cowardly lot of them hide behind their ‘support’ for the troops, even as those men and women continue to die in Iraq. Time to turn words into deeds. That is, if they're not the elitist cowards I think they are.”

Frankly, I think Markos is smart enough to know how weak this line of argument is. Let’s say one is indeed a “chickenhawk” – a physical coward who would have others do the fighting of the battles he himself instigates and applauds. That doesn’t mean the so-called “chickenhawk’s” ideas regarding Iraq, the Middle East or professional wrestling are necessarily wrong.

If I were to stipulate that Markos Moulitsas’ character is superior to mine in every way, that still wouldn’t mean his read on geo-political affairs is any more astute or correct than my own. And let’s say Markos proved beyond any reasonable doubt that he is a superior man to any of the right wing bloggers. Would that mean he had won the policy debate just because he’s such a fine, dignified, measured and noble person? The fact is, the quality of the people making policy arguments has little to do with the quality of their arguments.

(Of course, needless to say, the foregoing is just for the sake of argument. I do not for a second consider Markos a spectacular human being whose character dwarfs that of the mere mortals on the other side of the blogosphere.)

It’s hard to imagine how Markos feels he advances his arguments by repeatedly calling his opponents names. If Markos wants to discredit the ideas of the “101st Fighting Keyboarders” (as he calls his blogging adversaries, admittedly with a surprising dollop of cleverness), he surely knows that he’ll actually have to engage those ideas and come up with a few original ones of his own; in the end, petty ad hominem attacks are a piss-poor substitute for reasoned debate.

There’s also a delicious irony to Markos’ repeated attacks on the “Chickenhawks.” I bet if you asked Markos, he would tell you that by running the Daily Kos he is performing an invaluable service to the Democratic Party and therefore is also nobly serving his country. (Insofar as his unique talents are dragging the Democratic Party ever farther to the left, I would agree that he’s serving his country by further marginalizing the Democratic Party.) I’m quite confident Markos wouldn’t say he’s in the blogging game for the bucks although the Daily Kos has doubtlessly had a salubrious effect on his financial situation. I would wager that Markos would vehemently insist that he’s doing important work.

Since he doubtlessly feels that he’s serving his country by skillfully deploying his writing and organizational skills, it’s rather odd that he doesn’t think those with differing opinions could possibly feel the same way.

Which, alas, brings us to the heart of the “chickenhawk” argument – Markos apparently truly believes that those who think like him have a monopoly on moral virtue. It is impossible for him to think that the people at National Review or individuals like Peggy Noonan and Charles Johnson feel like they’re doing good just as much as Markos does. Indeed, by doing things like exposing anti-Semitism and shining a bright on the horrific goings on at the United Nations, men like Charles Johnson and Roger Simon have done their nation a great service.

Ultimately, Markos’ attacks on the “chickenhawks” read like the work of a child – mean, immature and poorly thought out. Markos Moulitsas has reached a point in his career that his hatred for those on the right is hardly in question. The fact that he is either unwilling or unable to extend his repertoire beyond this one area will ultimately be his undoing.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Dean Barnett

Monday, May 09, 2005


1) TO CELEBRATE MOTHER’S DAY, Mrs. Soxblog and I partook in a delightful mid-day meal with her parents at Legal Sea Foods. Legal is THE seafood place around Boston; it has the freshest fish and has deservedly become a local institution.

At the end of our meal, the waiter cleared the table (as waiters are wont to do) and put down little paper dessert placemats. The dessert placemats bear what I guess could be called Legal’s creed – ten bulleted points “written by members of the Legal Sea Foods’ President’s Advisory Council.”

Nine of the ten bullet points consist of restaurant-appropriate banalities like Legal pledges “to assure you a clean and comfortable environment” and “to provide you with an experience that will encourage you to return.” All fair enough – lord knows I wouldn’t want to eat at a restaurant that sought to discourage repeat visits or that endeavored to provide a filthy and uncomfortable environment.

But it was bullet point four that caught my eye. Alone amongst its fellow bullet points, bullet point four strayed into the territory of politically correct gibberish. Bullet point four assured me that Legal pledges “to promote diversity and respect for all human differences.”

Okay, let’s table the “diversity” issue for now. In 2005, being in favor of diversity is as controversial as being in favor of motherhood or apple-pie.

But I’m a little vague on how Legal is going to “promote respect for all human differences.” Besides, I’m not sure this is a good thing. There are some human differences I’m not fond of. For instance, in college I roomed for three trying months with an alleged human who was different because he seldom bathed or partook in other elements of the typical American hygiene routine. I would hate to think such an individual is handling my Wild Salmon.

And other humans are different because they’re genocidal lunatics like Saddam Hussein. Surely Legal Sea Foods is not suggesting they want to promote respect for such a variation.

My strong suspicion is that the phrase was meant as a sort of shout-out to the gay, lesbian and transgendered diners and employees in Legal’s midst. That’s fine with me; as I’ve said repeatedly on these pages I think my party is on the wrong side of history in terms of gay marriage and other gay-related issues.

But apparently Legal’s “President’s Advisory Council” wussed out halfway through writing bullet point four and decided a placemat was an inappropriate venue to discuss the politics of sexuality. After all, people who don’t “respect all human differences” as it pertains to sexuality presumably sometimes dine out, and one would figure Legal doesn’t want to serve only patrons who agree with the restaurant chain’s ambitious program of promoting diversity etc., etc.

Which makes one wonder why Legal would even mention such a topic on its placemat. After all, the other nine bullet points were specifically germane to the restaurant industry and yet bullet point four somehow seemed to wander off the reservation into one of the most controversial topics of the day. And if Legal was intent on serving a heaping helping of its “President’s Advisory Council’s” politics along with my bouillabaisse, why did they chicken out halfway through the sentiment?

Anyway, even if you don’t respect all human differences, I urge you to eat at Legal’s if you want a good meal. Just maybe don’t read the placemat too closely.

2) LAYOFF PAUL PIERCE. And Antoine Walker and the rest of the Celtics as well. In my last post, I stated that I, perhaps alone in the New England region, did not find myself enraged by Paul Pierce’s wave at Jamal Tinsley that caused Tinsley to fall as if struck by a hail of gunfire near the end of last week’s Game 6.

I regret to report, the media have not been chastened by my chastening. As if to prove the Boston sports media reliably lacks perspective in all matters big and small, Boston Globe sports columnist Jackie MacMullan referred to the Pierce arm-wave as “one of the most appalling moments in sports history.”

Sure. It was right up there with Juan Marichal clubbing Johnny Roseboro with a baseball bat, Todd Bertuzzi assaulting an opposing player and probably ending his career and Jack Tatum paralyzing Darryl Stingley. Right. If we are to believe MacMullan, Pierce’s arm wave ranks with the Bruins charging into the crowd in Madison Square Garden in 1980, Ron Artest’s assault on Auburn Hills’ cup-tossing innocents, and the basket-brawl that culminated in Kermit Washington almost killing (albeit unintentionally) Rudy Tomjanovich.

MacMullan’s quote nicely points to something that is obvious to any longtime Boston sports fan – being a pro athlete in Boston is pretty damn difficult. Oh sure, if you’re arguably the best ever like Bobby Orr and Larry Bird were, you can count on the fans treating you consistently well and getting a fair shake from the media. But virtually very other athlete in Boston gets a raw deal.

I’ve received a few letters stating in so many words that Pierce is an unworthy successor to such Celtic greats as Larry Bird, Bill Russell, and Bob Cousy. Point well taken – those three were all great champions and legitimate heroes.

But isn’t that setting the bar a little high? Is it fair to any athlete to say there’s no middle ground between Bird-level greatness and unworthiness? Yes, Pierce is no Larry Bird. Guess what? No one else is either. Pierce is a good player who, if he wants to be remembered as anything more than a good player with an uneven attitude, will have to accomplish more before he’s through.

What Pierce did in Game 6 was dumb, but the only reason we’re talking about it is because the referees made a truly hideous call that was far more the result of Tinsley’s flopping than anything Pierce did. And yes, Pierce played an awful Game 7.

But you know what else? When the Celtics needed a win in Game 4, Pierce played what was arguably the best game of his life. In terms of evaluating Pierce’s post-season efforts, a fair and intelligent person would probably want to consider the total picture, not just the bad.

But “fair” and “intelligent” are sadly not the first two words that leap to mind when describing certain figures in the Boston sports media.

3) MANY HAVE WRITTEN to ask if I’ve yet gotten tattooed. At a time like this, a man must turn to his heroes for inspiration.

In 1986, the heavily favored Celtics were playing the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The Bulls had Michael Jordan who was then in his second year as a pro and who had missed something like the first 70 games of the regular season. But obviously with Jordan back, the Bulls were quite a bit better than they had been in his absence.

Nonetheless, the ’86 Celtics aren’t considered by many to be the best team ever for nothin’ – they were still expected to have a pretty easy time with the Bulls. Game 1 of the series was surprisingly competitive as Jordan who was only a minor star at the time rang up 50 points on the Celts. After the game, Larry Bird vowed to retire if Jordan scored 50 in the next game.

In Game 2, Jordan became a superstar. He almost single-handedly upset the Celtics scoring 63 points. The Celtics won, but required two overtimes to prevail.

After the game, the media wisenheimers asked Bird if he would indeed retire. He said “no” in disgust and turned away. Some accounts suggest he said “no” in some rather colorful language. Bird then composed himself and became gracious, saying about Jordan, “He is the most exciting, awesome player in the game today. I think it's just God disguised as Michael Jordan.”

So, will I get a giant Joshua tree tattooed on my back like the one Paul Pierce has? No. But I will graciously salute the Pacers for playing such a great game and having such a dignified season. And do I feel silly for letting my modem make promises that my back couldn’t keep? Yes.

But just a little. Will it happen again? No doubt.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Dean Barnett

Saturday, May 07, 2005


Before looking ahead to Game 7, I feel a need to look back at Game 6 and the alleged atrocity committed by Paul Pierce.

Here’s how I saw it: Jamal Tinsley fouled Pierce hard and hung all over him. Pierce ineffectively swatted or waved at him, and Tinsley fell as if struck by a sawed off shotgun at close range. The referees huddled, and decided that Pierce’s infraction was sufficiently grave that it warranted practically handing the game and thus the series to the Pacers on a silver platter.

Now here’s my point and my real beef: Let’s say Tinsley doesn’t flop. Let’s say he responds to Pierce’s arm-wave like a normal human being, not someone auditioning for the role of gunshot victim in the next season of “Deadwood.” Is there any way the officials call that foul? Of course not. And assuming that Pierce’s violation was so flagrant, why did the officials have to caucus for a full 30 seconds before dispensing their Solomonic wisdom?

As I ranted the instant it happened to a captive audience of my wife and a friend, it was the single worst call I’ve seen in almost four decades of following sports. I still feel that way.

So it came as quite a shock to me that almost the entire citizenry of Boston as well as literally the entirety of the local media condemned Pierce for his actions. The Dean of Boston hoop scribes Bob Ryan weighed in with a predictably tiresome column that observed that Pierce’s sainted green-and-white predecessors would never have behaved in such an ungentlemanly fashion. It’s odd how at times like this Ryan seems to completely purge the technical foul earning antics of Tommy Heinsohn and Dave Cowens from his mind.

Ryan’s article was part of a meme that I have little patience with – the old-timers were saints, the young guys are punks. Actually, both generations had their share of both bums and heroes. Pierce is neither. He shouldn’t have waved his arm at Tinsley the way he did, but were it not for incompetent officiating no one would have ever noticed the incident.

Anyway, justice was served and we’re on to Game 7. This will be the first Game 7 the Celtics have played in since 1992 which was Larry Bird’s final game as a Celtic and one that I tragically missed because I unwisely chose to attend my law school graduation ceremonies instead of camping out in front of the television. In their illustrious history, the Celtics are an amazing 17-4 in Game 7’s.

As a legion of embittered Boston old-timers will swiftly remind you, these Celtics are not the great Celtics of yore led by Bird, Havlicek, and Russell. But this is a good young team that within the next few years will be a serious title contender. Whether or not this group has it in its DNA to be champions someday will partly be foretold by tonight’s result, just as it was in Thursday’s gritty victory.

The Celtics have it in them to beat an inferior team on their home court in a Game 7. I just know it. So confident am I of the outcome, I will head down to my local tattoo parlor and replicate Paul Pierce’s back tattoo on my own back if they fail.

If it comes to it, I think it will be a pretty good look for me. It will certainly make me stand-out around the pool at the country club.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Dean Barnett

Friday, May 06, 2005


I’ve made no secret of the fact that Soxblog would love to be in the service of a malevolent but wealthy benefactor. Armstrong Williams got $250k, Kos got god knows how much, I’ve gotten zip. Hell, even Oliver Willis gets some of the old do-re-mi. I may be dumb but I’m not stupid – I wouldn’t mind getting fat along with the rest of the guys. Here’s how I put it back in January:

“Having had no luck finding a sinister ‘well-heeled benefactor’ of my own, I have to resort to a public plea. Hear me, well-heeled benefactors: I’M FOR SALE. I will carry water for you. I will sell your agenda. I will do so with a surfeit of snark and cleverness. You will be thrilled to have me on board.

"I hear you well-heeled benefactors out there wondering why you should hire me when there are so many more prominent bloggers out there. Two words: PERSONAL SERVICE. I will come over on weekends and Simonize your car – do you think an Academy award winner like Roger Simon will do the same? I’ll take your bratty kids to their Little League games – good luck getting a couple of over-scheduled law professors to do that. If you need a witty and urbane conversationalist to round out a dinner party, I’m there. While it’s true the often lonely Andrew Sullivan might do the same, trust me, I’m a lot more fun.

"I can’t guarantee how long I’ll be able to leave this offer on the table. So, sinister well-heeled benefactors, tarry not. I’ll be waiting by my modem. Write now!”

Apparently Steve Sailer read this clearly facetious post and took it a tad literally. For those of you not familiar with Sailer, among his wealth of other hobbies he has taken it upon himself to be “Freakonomics” author Steven Levitt’s personal bette noire the past five years. (Some would perhaps analogize this situation to a mosquito on an elephant’s arse, but being the charitable individual that I am I would never make such a comparison.)

Given the disdain Sailer harbors for Levitt, it came as little surprise that my favorable review of “Freakonomics” displeased Mr. Sailer. That’s okay, even though you would have figured he would have been pleased that the review linked to his critique (quite fairly, I thought) so interested readers could make up their own minds.

Alas, pleased he was not. So displeased was Mr. Sailer, he saw fit to attack my integrity in his commentary regarding my review:

“One reason that a number of bloggers (ed: Like me!) are wetting themselves with joy over Freakonomics is because Levitt's publicists put together an innovative PR campaign that made bloggers feel appreciated. The flacks apparently Googled up a list of bloggers who had mentioned Levitt previously (ed: I never had) and mailed them free copies of the book (ed: What?? That means I wasted $16 buying from Amazon. Note to self – send invoice to these publicist people.) about a month before it came out.

"As I pointed out when word came out that the Department of Education had given columnist Armstrong Williams almost a quarter of a million dollars in bribes, that seemed like suspicious overkill: you could buy scores of columnists' affections for a fraction of that price. Just show 'em a little love -- e.g., invite them to speak at your conference and nod appreciatively -- and they'll be your golden retriever. Bloggers apparently come even cheaper -- just send them a copy of your book!”

Naturally I was outraged when this commentary was brought to my attention (believe it or not, I’m not a regular reader of Steve Sailer’s website; he’s also apparently not a regular Soxblog reader since he referred to my pseudonym as James Frederick Wright. As is well known, Soxblog is strongly opposed to the use of pseudonyms). It wasn’t so much Sailer saying I was for sale; it was the insinuation that I could be bought for the price of a book.

Pardon my French, but a fucking book? Are you kidding me? Armstrong Williams got $250k - you think I’m going to settle for a $16 book? The mere notion is outrageous! The Soxblogs know from the finer things, and $16 will hardly get me a sleeve of Titleists.

I should also note the demeaning accusation that I was “wetting” myself over “Freakonomics.” This is outrageous. I have never wet myself over a book. Come to think of it, I don’t really wet myself at all. Mr. Sailer seems to think of himself as a serious commentator. If that is indeed the case, then perhaps he would be better served leaving his intellectual sparring partners’ bladders out of the conversation.

On a serious note, I have no wish to insinuate myself into the (rather lopsided) intellectual debate between Sailer and Levitt. It’s true I agree with Levitt’s analysis, but he doesn’t need me to make his arguments for him. Like I said on these pages a couple of days ago, I suggest anyone who’s interested in the matter read “Freakonomics” and Sailer’s contrary arguments and make up their own mind.

I thought and still think that’s a fair suggestion. All in all, I think I was pretty fair to Steve Sailer. Since he answered my fairness by baselessly accusing me of being bribed, I don’t think he can plausibly say my fairness was reciprocated.

And to my loyal Soxblog readers, I make the following pledge – when I do sellout and shatter the faith and trust you’ve put in me, I will at least not come cheap.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Dean Barnett

Thursday, May 05, 2005


The time has come to bid James Frederick Dwight a fond adieu – from this point forward I will blog under my given name, Dean Barnett. See ya, James; it’s been a great ride.

Before leaving James in our rearview mirror, I’ll answer some of the questions regarding his existence. A lot of people wondered about the origin of the name. If I do say so myself, it was kind of clever. The Red Sox outfield of my youth, going from leftfield to rightfield was Jim Rice, Fred Lynn and Dwight Evans. Put them together and you have James Frederick Dwight. This formula also left me with a distinguished sounding pseudonym in case I ever signed up a co-blogger – Carl Richard Bernard. If you’re a pretty serious Red Sox fan, the origin of that name will be obvious. If there ever is a second blogger on Soxblog and that’s his name, you’ll now know it’s a pseudonym.

Many asked why I took a pseudonym. There were lots of reasons, each of varying levels of stupidity:

1) I was worried that having my real name attached to my writings could adversely affect my business interests. In retrospect, this was pretty silly. Who’s kidding who? Everyone knows that my principal “business interest” is winning my next $10 Nassau on the golf course in enough ways to pay for dinner. It’s hard to imagine how my writings could have negatively impacted such activities.

2) I was also a little concerned about fully emerging from the closet as the right-wing smart-ass that you’ve all come to know and love. Since my failed run for office in 1992, I’ve limited my political views to family, friends, acquaintances, people riding on a bus with me, and strangers walking by my house. But coming out and owning these views in front of a vast internet audience was a little intimidating.

3) I had high hopes for James Dwight, that he could be sort of Batman to my Bruce Wayne. I had visions of me and Mrs. Soxblog attending fashionable soirees where the guests would begin speaking about their favorite writers. One woman would say how James Dwight had changed her life; the other guests would nod and offer similar encomiums. Meanwhile, I would smugly shake my head, perhaps even offer a word of criticism like he uses way too many commas or tends to have a surfeit of rambling pointless entries like this one. I would then be shouted down by “James’” many fans.

The odd thing about this vision is that I’m one of the few bloggers I’m aware of who has never had any interest in comic books. My hand to god, I’ve never owned one in my life and never really “got” them.

(If you think this Batman/Bruce Wayne thing gives you a disturbing glimpse into the inner lives of bloggers, you should see our outer lives. That’s what’s truly disquieting.)

4) Lastly, and most significantly, Mrs. Soxblog and I were both concerned about some sort of negative backlash from my ideological foes. I am happy to report that this concern was completely unwarranted – other than some hostile email, these fears have been completely unrealized.

So anyway, I brought James into existence with the hopes that he would be a permanent creation. I had visions that I would be like George Orwell or Tina Turner or Huey Lewis, known by my adoring public by one name but still happily anonymous in my private life. Alas, my plans were ruined shortly after my entry into the blogging game by one man.

It was back in June 2004 that I began to gain a little prominence. I had gotten my first links from Mickey Kaus and Glenn Reynolds, and suddenly I had an audience other than family and friends. It was at that time that I offered my review of a book I truly loved and thought would be hugely influential, “The Pentagon’s New Map.”

The author, Thomas P.M. Barnett (no relation), and I had previously exchanged emails after I had read the book. It turned out that we were in the same dorm at Harvard at the same time, me as a Government major, him as a Government tutor working towards his Ph.D. It was actually a little strange that we had never met.

When I wrote my review, I let Barnett (no relation) know that I had posted it. He wanted to link to it since he loved the review because it was so favorable. In linking to the review, he used my real name and mentioned that I used a pseudonym.

Big deal, right? He’s got a website that’s probably visited by 17 people a day. But the problem was a little bigger than that. If you did a Google search for “soxblog”, the fourth hit would show you that James Dwight was a pseudonym.

While Barnett (no relation) wasn’t really guilty of any outright wrongdoing, he was demonstrating an attitude that a lot of professional writers have to their pseudonymous pajama clad colleagues. They think one should take ownership of one’s ideas and not hide behind a pseudonym. In an ideal world, that would be the case but real people with ordinary jobs often can’t afford to broadcast their politics. It amazes me and still does that professional writers can’t grasp that for some people, making political commentary in the open simply isn’t feasible.

I was pretty pissed off at Barnett (no relation), admittedly without cause. But to show you what a big guy I am, when I reviewed his book again for Tech Central Station, I gave it another glowing write-up.

“James” still proved resilient. In fact, virtually all of my readers came to know me as “James.” This is where things were getting a little sticky. There are a bunch of readers that I exchange frequent emails with; a handful of these became friends over the course of my first year of blogging. And I truly mean that – I felt like (and feel like) I knew these people well. It didn’t seem quite “cricket” to be pulling this sort of deception.

An amusing aside: One of my favorite correspondents asked me in his first letter if he should call me James or Jim. Well, as you all know, I’m no stuffed shirt. In my real life, about 70% of the people I know call me “Deano” more often than Dean, including my wife. And I had always considered people who resist the common nicknames for their given names as being a little stuck up (not you, JVL). There was one Rotisserie League draft where a “Robert” began yelling at me because I had mistakenly called him “Bob.” I thought he spoke for all the Roberts, Williams, Edwards, and Jameses out there. So I told my correspondent to call me Jim.

Here’s the irony: Every time this correspondent called me Jim, it bugged me. I mean, it really grated (Personal note: Obviously it’s not your fault, Bob.). So I have a newfound respect for the struggles of being a Steven who wants nothing more in life than to just be called Steven and not the more familiar Steve-arino.

When I began talking about writing for the Weekly Standard, they had two conditions: The first was that pseudonyms were strictly verboten. The only previous time they had allowed a pseudonym was when the writer was an undercover CIA agent in Saudi Arabia or something like that, and apparently my Batman fantasies didn’t rise to the same level in their book. I don’t remember what the second condition was.

This put me at a crossroads. After careful consultation with Mrs. Soxblog, “we” decided to move forward. I had two big concerns about coming out (as it were): First, my initial piece was going to be on the Daily Kos and since many of that site’s more rabid contributors apparently self medicate with disturbing regularity, I was concerned about writing about them under my real name; second, I was worried that my correspondents and regular readers would feel deceived.

I’m happy to report that both concerns were unfounded. No Kossacks rang my doorbell and left a flaming paper back of tofu in their wake, and you readers were very understanding. For the latter, I am truly grateful.

So the time has come to clean up the name mess. Indeed it’s past due – when I got a letter yesterday asking if I should be called James, Jim, Fred or Dean, I knew the time had come to say farewell to James Frederick Dwight. So James Dwight is gone, replaced by Dean Barnett.

I think the best part of this is that now I can be a total hypocrite and urge other anonymous bloggers to come out. I especially look forward to making fun of the Kos contributors’ ridiculous pseudonyms like Meteor Blades and Plutonium Page. That promises to be amusing.

Once again, to my readers, thank you for understanding on this matter. I really do appreciate it.

And feel free to call me Dean or Deano.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Dean Barnett

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


I have a review up on the Weekly Standard’s website on the book “Freakonomics” by economist Steve Levitt (along with co-author Stephen Dubner). If you click over to the review, you won’t really have to read between the lines to notice that I really, really liked it. Among other superlatives I hurl at it, I call it “genius” and one of the best books of the decade.

As my review indicates, “Freakonomics” is likely to become notorious because of a chapter in which Levitt convincingly demonstrates that the 1990’s drop in crime was a direct result of legalizing abortion. Here’s his theory in a nutshell:

“Decades of study have shown that a child born into an adverse family environment is far more likely than other children to become a criminal. And the millions of women most likely to have an abortion in the wake of Roe v. Wade--poor, unmarried, and teenage mothers for whom illegal abortions had been too expensive or too hard to get--were often models of adversity . . . Just as these unborn children would have entered their criminal primes, the rate of crime began to plummet.”

I probably don’t have to say the following, but I want to just in case it’s necessary: Believing Levitt’s theory is accurate does not mean one endorses abortion as a means of crime control. My pro-life bona fides are in rather good standing – everyone who has been reading me for any length of time knows I would never countenance such a thing. I should also add that Levitt is not suggesting in any way that abortion be used as a crime control measure. He is observing a phenomenon – that’s it.

I’m a little worried about this review because I believe that for some the foregoing will be a little tough to get. Someone yesterday pointed to me a Steve Sailer challenge of Levitt’s theory in which the sub-heading of Sailer's article referred to the theory as “morally repugnant.”

First, in fairness to Sailer, there’s every likelihood that he had nothing to do with writing that sub-heading. There’s nothing in the article that echoes that claim, and sub-headings (and titles) are often not written by their corresponding story’s author. The fact that Sailer’s article doesn’t come close to matching the fiery and obtuse rhetoric of the article’s sub-heading further suggests Sailer had nothing to with it.

But whoever wrote that sub-heading frankly completely missed the point of “Freakonomics.” As Levitt wrote near his book’s conclusion, “Freakonomics-style thinking doesn't traffic in morality . . . [I]f morality represents an ideal world, then economics represents the actual world.” In other words, he’s observing phenomena, not making normative prescriptions. One can take issue with his observations, but to infer from his observations that he’s making a “morally repugnant” policy argument is fatuous.

Sailer’s article does take issue with Levitt’s observations. While I find Sailer’s arguments unpersuasive, especially when compared with Levitt’s analysis on the topic, you can read the book and Sailer’s article and make up your own mind.

While I suggest you do both, I especially urge you to get a copy of “Freakonomics.” One of the fears I have about any controversy that might surround the book is that it might obscure the work’s singular quality. That would be a shame. Like I said in my review, it’s one of the best books of the decade.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

James Frederick Dwight

Monday, May 02, 2005


The following is being typed in haste as I cower under my desk. What’s gotten into me? What has me so spooked? The Doomsday Clock is moving forward – there are now only seven minutes until midnight.

There used to be nine minutes ‘til midnight but then the grave looking people at the Board of Atomic Scientists who designed the clock moved it up to seven minutes a couple of years ago. In case you don’t know, when the clock hits midnight, it’s Goodnight Irene – Doomsday.

I’ll admit that Armageddon is no laughing matter but a bunch of fraidy-cat scientists who fancy themselves watchdogs for humanity when in fact they are little more than highly educated Chicken-littles surely is. After all, their judgment in the past has been more affected by their weak willed left-wing politics than anything else.

For instance in 1984, the Doomsday Clock inched to a harrowing 11:57 p.m. when that madman Ronald Reagan was displaying a “lightheaded appetite for military engagement.” Back then the fretful scientists rued the lack of negotiations between the super-powers. They thought the problem should be jaw-boned. They were wrong.

After being so wrong in the 1980’s, the Doomsday Clock and its proponents like that hyper-irritating physician opposed to nuclear war, Helen Caldicott, mercifully receded into the background. 9/11, however, gave these people a fresh lease on relevancy. Or so they thought. But in fact, Doomsday remains a lot more than seven metaphorical minutes away.

Let’s first agree on our terms. When the Helen Caldicott types were talking about Doomsday in the 1980’s, they were talking about the whole nine yards - billions of deaths, nuclear winter, no more Ashton Kutcher movies – basically the end of the world we’ve come to know and love. They were thinking a “Terminator 3” kind of scenario. You know, Judgment Day.

But no one thinks that’s imminent. So now these guys to credibly move their clock forward (and get their names in the paper) have to expand their definition of “doomsday.” For instance, a big part of their reasoning behind inching the big arm forward is their fear of terrorists getting a dirty bomb or attacking a nuclear power facility. My, how their definition of the Apocalypse has shrunk since the 80’s when Reagan really had them spooked!

And, if you suspect these people don’t have a particularly high regard for our current President’s policies, give yourself a gold star. Among their other critiques of President Bush is this nugget:

“In his State of the Union message, President George W. Bush…warn(ed) that, ‘The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons.’ The preference implicit in this statement for preemptive force over diplomacy, and for unilateral action rather than international cooperation, is likely to complicate efforts to defeat terrorism and strengthen global security.”

Regarding their conclusion, all I have to say is this: Says who?

Just writing about this topic has made me feel better. It’s been cathartic. And you know, I kind of like the idea of a Doomsday Clock for arbitrary non-Doomsday related purposes like this one has become. For instance, I could have a Doomsday Clock counting down the next time a major star takes a role as a mentally challenged person to hopefully win an Emmy or an Oscar.

Or here’s en even better idea – how about a Doomsday Clock for the next time the Yankees win the World Series? Current time – 3:00 p.m.

Or how about this? A Doomsday Clock for when John Kerry finally releases his military records. Current time? 12:01 a.m.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

James Frederick Dwight

Sunday, May 01, 2005


1) TO PAUL PIERCE AND THE BOSTON CELTICS. I know not too many people around the country care about the first round of the NBA Playoffs, but the Boston Celtics’ Paul Pierce turned in a performance last night that was truly sublime. I don’t say the following lightly, but Pierce’s effort last night was worthy of the Legend himself, Larry Bird.

Right from the opening tap, Pierce was everywhere. I haven’t verified the following for accuracy, but I’ve been informed by a reliable source that Pierce became the first player in NBA history to have more than 30 points, five rebounds, five assists, and five blocked shots in a post-season game (or at least since they started tracking blocked shots some time in the 1970’s). Admittedly this is one of those arbitrary statistical permutation clubs like baseball’s ridiculous 30 Homeruns/40 doubles/ 18 Stolen Bases/110 RBI club but it still gives an indication of how great a game Pierce played.

As far as the Celtics’ future is concerned, it’s so bright I gotta wear shades. They may well lose this series against the banged up Pacers, but the young talent on the Celtics’ roster is undeniable. Danny Ainge and the new ownership have done a remarkable job of resurrecting a moribund franchise that two short years ago was still stuck in a post-Pitino hangover. (Pitino once wrote a book called “Success is a Choice.” During his tenure in Boston, Pitino eschewed success and instead opted to be the biggest schmuck in Boston sports history.)

Someday in the not too distant future, championship banner number 17 will be hoisted to the New Gahden’s rafters. Mark my words.

2) TO DOUG FLUTIE. In a move on Friday that made every Massachusetts resident smile, the New England Patriots signed Doug Flutie to a one year contract.

I wrote an essay a while back about how everyone in some little or big way wants the world to be the way it was when they were 18. That’s why so many tiresome baby-boomers desperately pine for another Vietnam. For them, life was never sweeter than when they were storming Massachusetts Hall in Harvard Yard and sticking it to the man (and their tuition paying parents).

When I was 18, Ronald Reagan was kicking commie-butt in Grenada, Bruce Springsteen rocked more than he talked and I looked oh-so-cool in my Members Only jacket.

Well, my wife won’t let me wear my Member’s Only jacket even though it still looks quite flattering on me, Reagan is sadly gone, and lord knows Bruce Springsteen now that he’s started talking about politics is unlikely to ever shut-up.

But I can have one part of my youth back. 23 years after I first saw Doug Flutie play at Boston College’s then-tiny Alumni Stadium, he’s still being Doug Flutie. And, as god always intended it, he’ll finish his career in Boston where he grew up and got his start.

Three Super Bowl titles in four years and now Doug Flutie, too. Is there anything better than being a Patriots fan?

3) THE DAILY KOS ON BOLTON. Newsflash! Bolton’s a chickenhawk! He didn’t fight in Vietnam!!!

I wonder if the Kossacks and their fellow travelers realize how their Vietnam fixation continues to push them closer and closer to self parody. The Kossack comments regarding Bolton are typically temperate as well. Just a taste:

“I am outraged. Once again the Repunks are strutting around like Rambo, beating their chests about how tough they are, while sending others to die in an illegal war. What’s next? Appointing Ted Nugent Secretary of Defense? He loves to strut around with guns so I guess McChimpler will consider him ‘tough and effective.’”

Just for the record, I seldom strut around like Rambo although if Mrs. Soxblog would allow it, I would make a habit of strutting around in a very handsome Members Only jacket.

Have a nice Sunday everybody.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

James Frederick Dwight