Actually, x91readersx92 is a bad term. Youx92re correspondents, interlocutors, researchers, fact-checkers, brainiacs, mentors, friends, family, and much more. This past year has been such an adventure for me. When I started this website, I thought it would be a useful way to collect my journalism, and have an easy place for people to contact me. I didnx92t realize it would soon become a two-way broadcasting channel for a whole host of ideas and arguments and facts and jokes and stories. This may be a clichxe9 but itx92s also true: you are at least 50 percent of the product. You notice so many things no single person could alone; you keep me on my toes; you cheer me up and bring me down; you make me think and rethink. Youx92re not afraid to tell me how it is, or where Ix92ve screwed up, or where Ix92ve got it right.

ONWARD: I guess the kind of journalism we have jointly helped pioneer is somewhere between an op-ed column and talk-radio. Ix92ve tried hard to keep it honest and real, to admit mistakes, to think (sometimes stupidly) aloud, to take risks, and irritate some of my professional colleagues when they deserve to be irritated. Ix92ve also tried to keep it human, to get away from the notion that a writer or pundit is somehow above it all, a creature of certainty, free from error or emotion. And you have responded in kind. Your emails of personal support, or kindness and stern admonition have all made my year an extraordinary one. Whether it was getting through this horrifying fall (which we did, in some sense, in real time, together) or whether it was surviving my embarrassing sexual x91outingx92 last spring, you helped me stay focused and sane. I will always be grateful for the strangers who are now my friends.

2002: For whatever reasons, the whole thing seems to have worked. In a year, the number of visits has quintupled. Only last summer, I was thrilled to have 7,000 daily visits. Now, we rarely go below 20,000 and have reached as high as 77,000. All of which is to say: a deep, heartfelt thanks to all of you. I think wex92re pioneering together a new kind of opinion journalism, as well as a new relationship between writer and readers. Editors and proprietors, wonderful though they can be, are dispensable in this new cyber-age. Thatx92s a huge shift. Itx92s already fomenting a whole subculture of web-logging that is changing the political and intellectual culture. And wex92re only at the very beginning of the new era. In a few days, our redesign will be up. Later in January and February, new features will be added. Youx92ll see several corporate allies on the site, from American Express to Dell, helping to make this model financially viable. More will follow. I hope this site will be as unrecognizable at the end of 2002 as it is at the end of 2001. And the thrill is that I have no idea where wex92ll end up. Anyway, stay along for the ride. Keep your donations and links and gripes coming. And have a wonderful, blessed, righteous, happy New Year.


Only a few days ago, we were told that former president Bill Clinton was launching a new spin campaign to help counter the notion that he was lax on terrorism. In todayx92s New York Times, hardly an anti-Clinton paper, a thorough three-part series on the Clinton terrorism legacy concluded. It was pretty damning, although it gave Clinton far more leeway than I think he deserves. And what was Clintonx92s response? He refused to be interviewed. Getting other people to spin for you is ok. Actually taking personal responsibility and facing up to your mistakes is x96 once again x96 an impossibility for the ex-president.

CORRECTION: “The Green Mile” was a movie not released in 2001. It was so awful I’m still recovering.


BEGALA AWARD WINNER 2001: x93Perhaps itx92s eerie serendipity, perhaps itx92s my paranoia, but an acid thought keeps plaguing me. Isnx92t it odd that on the day x96 the DAY x96 that the Democrats launched their most blistering attack on x93the absolute lunacyx94 of Bushx92s unproven missile-defense system, which x93threatens to pull the trigger on the arms race,x94 what Senator Biden calls today in the Guardian, his x93theologicalx94 belief in x93rogue nations,x94 that the rogue nation should become such a terrifying reality. The fact that I could even think such a thought says more to me about the bankruptcy and moral exhaustion of our leaders in the face of a disaster where any action, in the current nightmare, will seem like heroism. But I do smell destabilizing violence in the wings. In fear, the nation, to my mind, has always proved mean-spirited and violent.x94 x96 John Lahr, in Slate, speculating that president Bush might have been behind the attacks on the World Trade Center.


DERBYSHIRE AWARD WINNER 2001: x93Chelsea is a Clinton. She bears the taint; and though not prosecutable in law, in custom and nature the taint cannot be ignored. All the great despotisms of the past x96 Ix92m not arguing for despotism s a principle, but they sure knew how to deal with potential trouble x96 recognized that the families of objectionable citizens were a continuing threat. In Stalinx92s penal code it was a crime to be the wife or child of an x93enemy of the people. The Nazis used the same principle, which they called Sippenhaft, x93clan liabilityx94. In Imperial China, enemies of the state were punished x93to the ninth degreex94; that is, everyone in the offenderx92s own generation would be killed, and everyone related via four generations down, to the great-great-grandparents, would also be killed.x94 x96 John Derbyshire, in National Review Online, almost calling for the murder of Chelsea Clinton. And they fired Ann Coulter for excessive zeal?

BEST INNOVATIONS: iPods, weblogs, segways.

WORST INNOVATIONS: The anti-sleep pill, Al Gorex92s beard, Amtrak’s Acela trains.

SONTAG AWARD WINNER 2001: x93Then young men broke my glasses, began smashing stones into my face and head. I couldn’t see for the blood pouring down my forehead and swamping my eyes. And even then, I understood. I couldn’t blame them for what they were doing. In fact, if I were the Afghan refugees of Kila Abdullah, close to the Afghan-Pakistan border, I would have done just the same to Robert Fisk. Or any other Westerner I could find.x94 x96 Robert Fisk, the Independent.

BEST MOVIES: A.I., Amelie, Memento.

WORST MOVIES: American Pie 2, Harry Potter, The Green Mile.

WORST WAR COLUMNISTS: Maureen Dowd, Anthony Lewis, Madeleine Bunting, Stephanie Salter.

BEST WAR COLUMNISTS: Charles Krauthammer, Tom Friedman, Dick Morris, Victor Davis Hanson.

WORST PREDICTION OF THE YEAR: Mickey Kausx92s assertion in September that the World Trade Center massacre would be off the media radar screen by Thanksgiving.

VON HOFFMAN AWARD WINNER: x93Meanwhile the popular expectation of a knockout blow against the Taliban has been cruelly disappointed. Remember the optimistic remarks a couple of weeks back about the way American bombs were eviscerating the enemy? This has given way to sombre comment about the Taliban’s dogged resistance. Evidently our leaders gambled on the supposition that the unpopularity of the regime would mean the bombing would bring about the Taliban’s rapid collapse. And they also seem to have assumed that it would not be too difficult to put together a post-Taliban government. This was a series of misjudgements. The Joint Chiefs may have been misled by the apparent success x96 now that Milosevic has been defeated x96 of the bombing campaign in Kosovo. Perhaps they should have reflected on Vietnam. We dropped more tons of explosives on that hapless country than we dropped on all fronts during the Second World War, and still we could not stop the Vietcong. Vietnam should have reminded our generals that bombing has only a limited impact on decentralised, undeveloped, rural societies.x94 x96 the always wrong Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the Independent, November 2.

LOSERS OF THE YEAR: Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Gerald Levin, Bill Clinton, Susan Sontag, Jim Jeffords.

WINNERS OF THE YEAR: Tony Blair, Eminem, Aaron Brown, Condi Rice, Bernard Lewis, Marc Rich, Barry Diller.

POSEUR ALERT WINNER 2001: “But make no mistake about it: PopOdyssey is not retrogression to pre-irony pop spectacle. It is the dialectical answer to U2’s (and alternative rock’s) attack on spectacle. It is pop in defense of itself x85 Anyone who saw the MTV “Making of the Video” episode about ‘N Sync’s “Pop” now knows that this is definitely no clean-cut band. If anything, ‘N Sync is losing touch with its audience’s needs, and “Pop” (certainly an inferior single compared with “Bye Bye Bye”), with its lyrics of “What we’re doing is not a trend/ We got the gift of melody,” may ultimately prove to be a case of pride before the fall, of Nero choreographing a lavish, beautiful and thoroughly entertaining dance as Rome burns around him.x94 x96 Neil Strauss, New York Times, June 5.

MOST EFFECTIVE LIAR: Former Senator Bob Kerrey.



GAFFE OF THE YEAR: “I think that President Bush is also very committed in drug addiction.” x96 Colombian president Andres Pastana, April 23.

Runner-up: x93I think we launder our views through out “objective critics” and certainly the press is pretty green, the press is pretty pro-environment. And I don’t think there’s any question that they, as a body, feel that Bush is wrong on the environment, with varying degrees of willingness to give him credit, and I’m excluding the conservative press, “The Weekly Standard” and so forth. But, generally, the rank and file press is pretty green and they’re going to use the Europeans to take the Bush’s to task.x94 x96 Evan Thomas, Newsweek, June 16.


Yes, Ix92m sure many on the far left donx92t hate America. But Ted Rall sure does.

CLINTON LEGACY WATCH: Dick Morris adds even more details to the former presidentx92s negligence with regard to terrorism.

THIS IS WHAT SANCTIMONY MEANS: A dumb-as-a-post, theologically inane, self-righteous screed from San Francisco. Donx92t you think a right-wing Christian invoking God in this political fashion would be decried as extreme and self-serving?


The war has been great for the news magazines. Timex92s Person of the Year issue was particularly good. Great call on Giuliani. The first credible insider reporting from the White House on the war as well. I learned x96 or relearned x96 one thing from both features. Rudy and Dubya are the same men they have always been. There has been no x91transformationx92 from within. Rudy hasnx92t suddenly found a heart. Bush hasnx92t suddenly found a brain. This isnx92t the Wizard of Oz. Both were highly capable managers with skill and compassion before and after September 11. All that day did was reveal these qualities under immense scrutiny and enormous pressure. I was particularly interested to see the warx92s time-line in Time. There was no sudden U-turn in the middle of the campaign. The war-plan was the same from the beginning to the end, with merely tactical adjustments. Bush wasnx92t dilly-dallying until he read the editorials in the Weekly Standard and the New Republic. He was executing a shrewd war-plan and never lost his nerve. The public gets this. Thatx92s why hex92s riding not just a poll high but a deep bonding between him and the people of this country. Eventually, the press will see this. Timex92s reporting suggests some are seeing it already.

CHRISTMAS BREAK: The dish will be light and al dente this week. Ix92m recuperating from excessive socializing in New York, and struggling through my usual Christmas alienation. Man, I get so blue this time of year. Ix92m not taking a planned vacation next week, and will be chilling out at home instead. Normal service will resume January 3, when we hope to launch the redesign for the New Year. Until then, do check in, because Ix92ll post when the feeling strikes.


A quarter of a million visits in the last week alone, from over 150,000 unique hosts. Thanks.

OFF TO NEW YORK CITY: Maybe it was growing up in England, but I’ve long been a bit of a Christmas-phobe. As a kid, it meant two weeks in a small house in the gloomy English mid-winter with no relief from, er, family. (No, seriously, love you, guys!) Since I came to America, I’ve been home for Christmas maybe a couple of times. I try and go places where the festivities impinge the least – usually Miami, where you can almost forget it’s happening altogether. This year, we’re going to New York out of a) solidarity, b) a desire to party. Why my Christmas phobia? I think it’s a freedom thing. I’m not referring to the religious aspect. I’m planning on going to midnight mass in Harlem this year and love the Advent and Christmas ritual. What tyrannizes is the hermetically-sealed universal secular imperative to be happy. It’s like a universal Disneyland for a few days. It seems to me that a critical freedom is the right to your own mood. If you feel lousy, there’s nothing more irritating than some cheery boob telling you to cheer up, it’s Christmas. Screw that. Have a great Christmas. And be miserable if you feel like it.


This weekend, I’m on NPR’s Saturday Weekend Edition with Scott Simon and PBS’ Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg. My fellow chatterers on PBS are David Brooks and Juan Williams.