"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 10 December 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Hit & Run CLVIII


[no, there was no filler yesterday]

Only a few months past its

inauguration, the Remnick

Administration has unveiled a

New Deal for The New Yorker.

Judging by recent output, the

magazine is making economics its

first priority. The past several

weeks have seen, in addition

to former Labor Secretary

Robert Reich frequently

Talking of the Town, no

fewer than three fat financial

features - all revealing

a very visible hand. The

first credits John Maynard

Keynes - the liberal architect

of the Bretton Woods currency

and trade agreement - with

postwar economic expansion. The

next extolls J. P. Morgan for

staving off 1906's impending

world financial meltdown.

Finally, there's a profile

praising Harvard Brahmin John

Kenneth Galbraith, whose book

The Affluent Society condemns

the Newhousian penchant for

"private opulence and public

squalor." The link is that all

three articles are

pro-intervention: intervention

to steady the free market's

intrinsic swooning volatility,

intervention by some large,

central force who pays the bar

tab while mere mortals threaten

to start a drunken brawl over

who gets the last pickled egg.

While it's possible this new

interest in poverty-defying

sugar daddies (and distrust of

the logical ends of the free

market) is an honest outgrowth

of David Remnick's status as a

man of the people, we suspect Condé

Nast's legions are more willing

than most to snuggle up to

free-spending Santas. After all,

when Si Newhouse is providing a

Greenspan-like correction to

your every expense account

folly, laissez-faire pretty much

means being free to do whatever

you want, knowing that there

will always be some supernally

wealthy New Yorker around to

bail out the spendthrifts, be

they turn-of-the-last-century

banks or our own esrtwhile

cousin Wired.


[it was trapped on my very slow power mac 8100]

We're tempted to write a

pro-barter-economy letter to the

editor at The New Yorker, but

we're worried that our note

might end up like poor Jeff

Gustafson's. According to

Fairness and Accuracy in

Reporting, Gustafson dashed off

a response to a bomb-Iraq

editorial in The New York

Times. When Gustafson's letter

appeared in The Times' letters

column, however, his citation of

UNICEF figures on malnutrition

in Iraq had been changed to a

bogus-sounding quote from "Iraqi

officials." Understandably, the

letter writer believes the

change was made in order to

discredit his argument. But

really, what was he expecting?

Where probability of an

intelligent response is

concerned, writing a letter to

the editor ranks just below

writing a letter to Socks. We

know of only one letters column

that doesn't edit letters with

an eye toward embarrassing the

writers, and that column takes

it easy only because the writers do a

good enough job embarrassing



[while i was trapped in a metaphorical]

Still, The Times might consider

putting the kibosh on it own

reporters' soothsaying.

Reporting on Israeli Prime

Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's

avoidance of a no-confidence

vote Tuesday, Times front-pager

Deborah Sontag reported that the

unlovable lug had not merely

given his coalition a breather

or paved the way for Bill

Clinton to rock the West Bank

next week; he had "succeeded in

delaying his destiny." Even

knowing The Times' fabled knack

for next-week-in-review

reporting, this destiny stuff

seems pretty impressive. Who

else but a Times writer could

know what the future holds for a

foreign head of state in a

notoriously unpredictable

political system? Maybe it's the

demonstrated ability of another

philandering cigar aficionado to

avoid endless press-decreed

death sentences that has

prompted the oracular tone

toward Netanyahu, but we really

want to join in. Though our old

prediction of an impending Yakov

Smirnoff revival has so far

failed to pan out, we

confidently predict that next

week The New York Times will

report that time waits for no

man, that the future's not ours

to see, and of course, that you

can't hurry love.


['gone fishing']

As it turns out, the one place

where editors seem to be doing

their jobs is the one place we

least expected it. When our

spiteful friends began

chattering about freelancer

Hariette Surovell's

no-holds-barred rant against

Salon, we were eager to dive

right in. Normally of course,

there's nothing we like better

than eyeballing the dirty

laundry of our cross-town

comrades. Unfortunately, the one

thing Surovell's ramblings prove

is how eminently suited she is

to a lifetime of editorial

rejection. Here's the gist: Over

several months, Surovell

tirelessly pitched story ideas

to various Salon editors, only

to be put off, passed along,

ignored, and finally advised

that her writing was "somewhat

unfocused" and "not strong

enough." Maybe it's just our

short attention span, but

somewhere around the 73rd

discussion of how much her kill

fee was originally supposed to

be or the 82nd complaint about

how so-and-so hadn't returned

her email, we started to

understand why Surovell was

unable to fob off material

"originally written for another

magazine" on the Bay Area

libertines. The great

Salon-busting article, of

course, still needs to be

written, but on the evidence so

far, we believe it won't be

written in crayon. In the

meantime, we have some tips for

both Surovell and the NY Press

editors who passed along her

story, apparently without

changing a word: When an editor

says a gay filmmaker's

anti-Jesse Helms movie isn't

exactly news, that's called

"sound editorial judgment." When

people ignore your calls and

emails, it means they're trying

to get rid of you. If you can't

do a convincing hatchet job on

Salon, you ought to get out of

the business.

courtesy of the Sucksters

[Purchase the Suck Book here]