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Archives for July, 2003

July 31, 2003

Not a problem anymore.

Daniel Radosh

First question from an interview with Lance Armstrong in the August, 2003 Sports Illustrated for Kids:

Q: What sports did you play as a kid? How did you get interested in cycling?
A: Well, I tried football and a few other sports, but when it came to the ones with balls, I wasn't very good.

(Thanks to Gina)

July 31, 2003

Don't bet on it.

Daniel Radosh

I've rarely been more depressed by the lack of critical thought among my compatriots on the left. The liberal response to the short-lived Policy Analysis Market has been characterized by gleefully ignorant attack. A very few people have raised legitimate objections that would need to be addressed (and presumably would; PAM never even got INTO the experimental stage, much less out of it). Daniel Gross notes that "many of the figures who would have driven the pricing of PAM securities are not what international relations types refer to as 'rational actors.'" (Surowiecki responds to that, as well see), and, most problematically, that "Insofar as the market helped the United States stabilize the region and prevent terror, investors would suffer. The more it succeeded on policy, the more it would fail as a market, and the sooner it would collapse."

But that kind of rational response is the exception. More typically, we get invective from people so sure they're right that they don't even feel the need to make a case. They simply say things like "This stuff is impossible to parody" (while then going on to make a lame attempt at just that) and to assume that because John Poindexter is involved, this must be the next Terrorism Information Awareness. "This plot was launched by people who do not care about human lives, except their own." But even if that's true (and you have to be obtuse to think it is) it doesn't explain what's wrong with the plot itself.

Matt Bivens does no better. Dismissing PAM as "luridly creepy," he makes two stabs at actual arguments against it, which he actually puts in parenthesis, as if arguments are that unimportant: 1) "If I put a million-dollar hedge against someone gunning down Yasser Arafat on Tuesday, don't I have a million-dollar incentive to see that happen?" (If he'd done a little research he'd know that the Pentagon considered this, and put limits on how much profit you can make on any one investment). 2) "And what if I place a very public bet with the Pentagon bookies against the life of, say, a top US official -- and then he or she is killed? Do I really just get a handshake and a check from DARPA?" (This is a better question that the government should have been given a chance to address satisfactorily before putting PAM into operation, but it's not so insurmountable that it should have meant pulling the plug).

Most distressingly, even the usually sharp-as-a-tack Joe Conason falls into the no-actual-argument-necessary camp. (Well, he does toss out one argument, but unfortunately its Bivens' first). Instead he simply says, "Yet such libertarian lunacy should perhaps have been expected from an administration that seems to believe quite literally in the 'magic of the marketplace.' As the president's father might have said, this White House seems to be buried, ideologically, in deep voodoo." Cute, but not convincing.

Partly because as James Surowiecki points out in a new piece for Slate, "you don't have to believe that markets work perfectly to believe that they work well." He's not the only one to say that "canceling the Pentagon's futures market is cowardly and dumb." Slate's Explainer does some splaining about predictions markets in general, and Fortune and New Scientist also cast a rational eye on PAM. NS quotes Hilary Clinton parroting the infuriating moralese that passes for analysis among politicians: PAM is a "market in death and destruction, and not in keeping with our values," she says. Leave it to an actual spook to point out (darkly) the irony: "Among the many things we do for intelligence," he says, "this is one of the least reprehensible."

Preemptive update: Just as I was about to post this, Michael wrote in to say, "markets aren't going to accurately predict the work of a) isolated terrorists, and b) people who don't plan based on the same sense of "self-interest" that markets supposedly take into account. and i won't even get into the grotesque issue of profiting off of such a thing, giving people the ability to game the markets to intentionally foil predictions, insider trading, etc."

To which I reply: First, thanks for making real arguments. Second, read Surowiecki. Here are his built in response to your concerns:

A) For all the hype about "terrorism futures," the vast majority of the "wagers" that PAM traders would have been making would have been on more mundane questions, like the future economic growth of Jordan or how strong Syria's military was. At its core, PAM was not meant to tell us what Hamas was going to do next week. It was meant to give us a better sense of the economic health, civil stability, and military readiness of Middle Eastern nations, with an eye on what that might mean for U.S. interests in the region.

B) It doesn't seem to matter much what markets are being used to predict. Whether the outcome depends on irrational actors (box-office results), animal behavior (horse races), a blend of irrational and rational motives (elections), or a seemingly random interaction between weather and soil (orange-juice crops), market predictions often outperform those of even the best-informed expert.

C) Perhaps what's immoral, though, is that PAM would allow people to make money from predicting catastrophe. But CIA analysts don't volunteer their services. We pay them to predict catastrophes. Is that morally wrong? We also pay informants—like the guy who turned in Odai and Qusai—for valuable information. Again, are we wrong to do so?

D) Had PAM ever become a fully liquid market, it would also have probably had the same problems other markets sometimes have, like bubbles and gaming. But you don't have to believe that markets work perfectly to believe that they work well. Presumably, I add, there would be an equivalent of the SEC to catch inside traders (without scaring off people with useful knowledge who are not actually terrorists). That such a body might be as corrupt and ineffective as the SEC is a real possibility, but neither that nor any of the other legit specific questions that have been raised means that PAM should be scrapped entirely. Again, if you wanted to scrap any form of intelligence gathering that had moral or practical flaws, you might as well just shut down the CIA. Hey, wait, that's actually not a bad idea, but you get my drift.

Update (real one): I was a little harsh on Geov Parrish, whom I didn't even deign to call by name at the top of this post. While his remarks about PAM are idiotic, he has a point when he says the Bush administration is, in general, doing a terrible job fighting terrorism. And I basically agree that his prescriptions would be far more effective than anything John Poindexter's likely to come up with, though (to get harsh again) Parrish seems to have done no research about that either. For instance, he says "If the Bushies knew what they were doing, they would take a small fraction of the money now being spent on nut schemes like PAM and spend it instead on things that would convince the world of our good will." In fact, the Pentagon was seeking only $9 million, on top of $1 million already spent, for PAM. And "the Bushies" are spending a large fraction of that -- 50 percent, to be precise -- on just such a thing to convince the world of our good will. And, as it happens, that thing is a real waste of money compared to PAM. What Parrish means, surely, is not propaganda but a genuine change of our engagement with the world, as proposed brilliantly (regular readers of Radosh.net can see this link coming) by Robert Wright last September. Hmmm... I'd love to know what Wright thinks about PAM.

July 31, 2003

Left alone.

Daniel Radosh

During the buildup to the Iraq war, I frequently got depressed that the left felt it was unnecessary, or more cynically, that it would hurt the antiwar cause, to propose it's own solution to the problem of Saddam Hussein. The result, predictably, was that the debate came to equate "war" vs. "no war" with "doing something" vs. "doing nothing." I'm starting to feel that way about Iran. The right has completely monopolized the cause of cheering on the nascent pro-democracy revolution in that country -- clearly a cause well worth supporting. You'll find lots of commentary in The Weekly Standard, The National Review, and many right-leaning blogs, but none on the Nation and very few in progressive blogs. (There is a decent Iran-watch page on Znet. I wish more mainstream outlets would follow this lead). The problem, I fear, is that the US is in no way, shape, or form prepared to accept a purely internal, Iranian revolution. Sooner or later it's going to start interfering (if it hasn't already) and the democracy movement will be twisted into an arm of US imperial designs on the region. When that happens the left will speak up, and will be hit hard and fairly with the charge that it has no interest in freedom for the Iranian people.

Part of this failure of the left can be attributed to what many people have pointed out is a tendency to not be concerned about anything in the world unless the US is at fault. Often that's a cheap shot -- there are very solid reasons to develop an international world-view based largely on the analysis of US action -- but it's not entirely unfair and shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. I'd love to see a real debate about this in the pages of lefty journals. Another problem is simply that the left is always behind the curve these days. Every week I check sources across the political spectrum for commentary on the major stories of the day, and invariably, the right wing web sites have good, solid articles up almost immediately, often from several different writers, while the left takes weeks or months to get around to it. I mean, The Nation still hasn't written a word about Liberia, for example. We're not only not shaping the debate, we're not even in the debate.

July 29, 2003

The perfect storm.

Daniel Radosh

The perfect storm.

July 29, 2003

Administration kills first good antiterrorism

Daniel Radosh

Administration kills first good antiterrorism idea it's had. That was fucking quick, huh? And very unfortunate. It's sad that people let their emotions (and knee-jerk anti-Bushism) overcome their reason on this issue. Because a future markets to predict terrorist attacks is a brilliant idea, as James Surowiecki explained in the The New Yorker last March. Unlike every other idea to come out of Ashcroftland, this one threatened no one's privacy, cost almost nothing, and carried little risk other than to one's sensibilities. It's not a perfect system (several of the stocks cited by Surowiecki went bust) but neither is the one we have, and could have been a great tool once the kinks were worked out.

The biggest legitimate concerns were how to keep terrorists from either gaming the system (running up stocks on a bogus attack to misdirect resources from a real one) or profiting from it (plan attacks, invest in them, then carry them out and make a buck). An obvious solution would seem to be to simply limit the pool of investors slightly. Anonymity is important, but it would be easy enough to ensure that everyone registering is, say, a citizen of certain approved countries, an employee of certain approved governments, or even an employee of a U.S. intelligence agency. Couldn't some of these people still be terrorists? Yes, but not enough to make a difference. Would the limitations compromise the markets? Yes, but not as much as cancelling the plan outright. Imagine if all the FBI field agents who thought something might be in the works before 9/11 could have put their money into it, instead of trying futiley to warn their superiors. That pool alone would have made a difference.

What really galls (can you tell I'm galled?) is that the plan was killed not because of legitimate reasons, but because it was called "ridiculous" (which it was not) and "grotesque" (which it was, but, you know, not as grotesque as the attacks it might have prevented).

At least the Pentagon can still keep an eye on NewsFutures.com. Don't tell Ron Wyden.

Update: Instapundit has a bunch of useful links about predictive markets. Naturally the blogsophere loved this idea. Well, not the left, unfortunately -- c'mon people, even a stopped clock, etc. Lean Left doesn't even get the premise. We're not counting on terrorists to bid up their own plans! We're counting on the aggregate educated guesses of the masses to be more accurate than the "knowledge" of the experts. It's happened before. So here's a real test of the bloggers' self-proclaimed power. It's easy to help pull someone down (Howell Raines, Trent Lott) but can they turn the debate around so that it's politically viable for the Pentagon to go ahead with this again? (Hint: don't by any shares in it.)

Gina asks why the Pentagon needs to be involved. Can't someone else start a private terror futures market? Good question. The government has the advantage of not needing to turn a profit, but perhaps some less squeamish civic minded institution will pick up the pieces here.

Update: This does seem like reasonable concern.

July 28, 2003

Jewish Secularists Unite. You have

Daniel Radosh

Jewish Secularists Unite. You have nothing to lose but your PBS totebags?

Myrna, the head of the new Center for Cultural Judaism (who knew Eugene Levy was involved?) interviewed here, is the founder of our congregation.

July 27, 2003

M-m-music Club is c-c-coming to k-k-kill me.

Daniel Radosh

A small turnout for the latest music club, but everyone managed to bring a tune that doesn't make the usual lists of songs with stuttering:

1. Back In The U.S.S.R. — The Beatles
2. Cherry Bomb — The Runaways
3. Girl O'Clock — The Dismemberment Plan
4. Move Your Feet — Junior Senior
5. Tennessee — Arrested Development
6. My Kingdom — Echo & the Bunnymen
7. D'yer Mak'er — Led Zeppelin

A Radosh.net visitor recommended Dismemberment Plan, but I didn't choose it, partly 'cause I knew Francis would. My pick was Junior Senior. The trashy pop fan in me rears its head again. Next up: Get out your earplugs for songs by movie or TV stars.

July 27, 2003

An interview with the world's

Daniel Radosh

An interview with the world's worst Jewish comedian. "So I guess you don't think the Holocaust is funny," he apologizes. "But I gotta tell you, it killed them back in Poland."

Luke Ford picks up where Heeb left off. The interview originally appeared on Setgo, which is for the most part a blog about the porno biz (and thus NSFW, though not itself pornographic). From all appearances Setgo where Luke regrouped after selling his original site (definitely NSFW), and it's a much easier read than its predecessor. Highly recommended for people who like to go behind the scenes, as opposed to merely freeze-framing them.

July 27, 2003

Were Jew There When They Crucified My Lord?

Daniel Radosh

My friend Leon Zitzer is an amateur Bible scholar with a compelling case that, contrary to what Mel Gibson would have you believe, an accurate reading of the Gospels shows absolutely no Jewish hostility toward Jesus of Nazareth. You'll find only cryptic hints about Leon's evidence on his web site (he believes, erroneously I've told him, that spreading his discovery is not worth the risk of someone stealing it; any publishing types interested can ask him for his much more coherent 10-page summary). Of course, denouncing Gibson's antisemitism is becoming increasingly popular. But Leon points out the hypocrisy: "Gibson could defend himself by saying that he is only offering a poetic rendition or extrapolation of what is in the work of most scholars and churches. Everyone gives lip service to the idea that we should not blame Jews for Jesus' death, but then they turn around and blame Jews far more than they do Romans." Elsewhere he notes the irony of Gibson, as a self-described Traditional Catholic, writing his movie in Aramaic, given that the old Church didn't like to admit that Jesus spoke anything but Latin.

Like any good blogger, Leon's a bit of an eccentric crank. Unlike any good blogger, he has absolutely no understanding of even the most basic conventions of blogging. Whether this is refreshing or appalling is up for grabs.

July 27, 2003

My old but evidently still

Daniel Radosh

My old but evidently still read takedown of Michael Moore gets a mention in Kay Hymowtiz's new rendition in City Journal.

July 27, 2003

"She said, 'my reputation, Mom...

Daniel Radosh

"She said, 'my reputation, Mom... my reputation is ruined. Men seeing me undress,' and I didn't know what to say to her." Um, how about: "That's what you get for playing basketball, slut."

July 27, 2003

Apparently, some folks think Harry

Daniel Radosh

Apparently, some folks think Harry Potter should be auditioning for a role on Wizard Eye for the Muggle Guy. I'm not sure about that, but his dreams do indicate a certain tentativeness about his sexuality (or the lack thereof), as well as a touch of castration complex. Here's a quaintly Freudian passage from page 462 that gave me a chuckle (ellipses are in the original):

"Harry dreamed he was back in the D.A. room. Cho was accusing him of luring her there under false pretenses; she said that he had promised her a hundred and fifty Chocolate Frog cards if she showed up. Harry protested... Cho shouted, "Cedric gave me loads of Chocolate Frog cards, look!" And she pulled out fistfuls of cards from inside her robes and threw them into the air, and then turned into Hermione, who said, "You did promise her, you know, Harry.... I think you'd better give her something else instead.... How about your Firebolt?" And Harry was protesting that he could not give Cho his Firebolt because Umbridge had it, and anyway the whole thing was ridiculous, he'd only come up to the D.A. room to put up some Christmas baubles shaped like Dobby's head..."

This brings up a related matter, which is that while the American edition of Order of the Phoenix hasn't been translated as heavily as the previous books, at least one phrase simply had to be rewritten, if only since we now know how personally Harry would have taken it if he'd been confused. In the U.K. version, George says, "Fred and I managed to keep our peckers up somehow." In the U.S. edition, it's "spirits."

July 27, 2003

Policestateapalooza!.

Daniel Radosh

Sure you have to be careful about what you read, draw, or wear. But you can't deny that we're safer, can you?

July 26, 2003

For those who care about

Daniel Radosh

For those who care about my personal life, there's half of a news bulletin over at Let's Twins!

July 26, 2003

Suck it, Spy Kids.

Daniel Radosh

I have no idea what this company does, but I've always been fascinated by the 3D photos on its website. They seem to be stereopticon images flashed in rapid succession. It's a very cool effect. I once tried to see if it could be adapted to display Jason Little's even cooler (but much harder to look at) 3D comix. No luck, so get ready to cross your eyes.

Speaking of Jason (anyone somehow not bought Shutterbug Follies yet?) I stopped in a comic store the other day for the first time in a while to buy the new Death graphic novel, and also picked up a Sandman spinoff I hadn't seen before. Turns out Jason illustrated three of the stories in it. Also turns out that it had been published back in 2001, so good luck finding your own copy. Though frankly the writing sucks, so you're not missing anything.

July 26, 2003

112 GRIPES ABOUT THE FRENCH

Daniel Radosh

112 GRIPES ABOUT THE FRENCH Complete text of a 1945 Army manual that attempts to convince GIs that our French friends aren't really cheese-eating surrender monkeys at all (though it hedges on the hygiene thing). Newly reprinted, it's a bestseller in... you guessed it. (Via Plastic)

July 26, 2003

People magazine just sent me

Daniel Radosh

People magazine just sent me the new Bruce Wagner novel, Still Holding, to review and I guess someone does read those People book reviews because there's a quote from my review of Wagner's previous novel in the press release. Apparently what I said about I'll Let You Go at the time was: "Wagner's competing mythologies of millennial California mesh with the precision of gold-plated gears in a luxury timepiece. At its core this is a sincere exploration of life, death and immortality."

That sounds about right. I'll Let You Go was easily the most underrated book of last year. A beautiful, funny, and willfully extravagant fable -- much the opposite of the first book in Wagner's "cell phone trilogy," I'm Losing You, which I thought was both grotesque and dreary, a difficult combination to pull off. I know you haven't read I'll Let You Go, because no one has, but it's just out in paperback, and it's an ideal summer read that will stay with you well into whatever season comes after summer (is anyone keeping track?). Nor do you need to suffer through I'm Losing You first, as the books are connected only by their L.A. settings (and titles).

July 26, 2003

Looking for a sensitive, caring

Daniel Radosh

Looking for a sensitive, caring and kindhearted pen pal? You missed your chance.

July 25, 2003

FAQ: Summer. Here's an old

Daniel Radosh

FAQ: Summer. Here's an old Modern Humorist piece that seems eerily timely once again, as it seems to every year around this time. Actually, I'd completely forgotten about having written it until I ran into my friend Laura who said she always thinks of it when the weather gets warm. That's the kind of compliment I like best. Along with any other kind of compliment, really.

July 25, 2003

Well, whaddaya expect from the

Daniel Radosh

Well, whaddaya expect from the Liberal Media?

July 23, 2003

What should be on DVD

Daniel Radosh

What should be on DVD that isn't. One woman's opinion. Hint: it's not La Dolce Vita. But seriously, who DID make that decision?

July 22, 2003

Let's not throw out the

Daniel Radosh

Let's not throw out the baby with the Baathwater. What could possible go wrong with this?

The United States has moved to resurrect parts of the Iraqi intelligence service, with the branch that monitors Iran among the top priorities, former Iraqi agents and politicians say.... A senior American official said concern about Iran was driving some of the discussion about moving quickly to re-establish an intelligence service. The official said the United States recognized that Iraq had a good intelligence apparatus focused on Iran because activities in the neighboring country might affect Iraqi security at home. People close to the Iran branch said the Americans had also expressed interest in reviving the intelligence service's Syria branch....

Mr. Hamed, a Mukhabarat officer since 1976, said he refused to join the revived unit when former co-workers told him that it would be cooperating with the Mujahedeen Khalq, or People's Mujahedeen, an Iranian opposition group that is on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations. Mr. Hamed said he had worked with the group during the Iran-Iraq war and called them butchers, adding that he had seen bodies of people they had executed.

The People's Mujahedeen, which seeks the overthrow of the government in Tehran, found refuge in Iraq under Mr. Hussein, playing an important role during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980's and later in 1991, in crushing the uprisings of the Shiites in the south and the Kurds in northern Iraq. In April, the United States signed a cease-fire with the group's troops in Iraq and in early May began to disarm them. A sizable contingent of senior members of Congress now advocate removal of the group from the terrorist list, arguing that its members' knowledge should be mined for use against Iran....

The officials said it was unclear to whom a new Iraqi intelligence service would report. But they said the C.I.A. now had a sizable operation in Iraq, with at least several dozen officers on the ground.

July 21, 2003

What someone needs to do

Daniel Radosh

What someone needs to do is smack him upside the head with a copy of Strunk & White. Passive voice is one thing, but the lead sentence of this E.J. Dionne column is a full-on doormat.

July 17, 2003

Radosh.net has been hyping Jill's

Daniel Radosh

Radosh.net has been hyping Jill's HiFi bags for a long time. Now New York Magazine gets in on the fun.

July 17, 2003

The Muse is on to

Daniel Radosh

The Muse is on to something: "The good news about Pat Robertson's call for God to intervene in Supreme Court decision-making is that it seems unlikely to succeed. It's not like Robertson has done anything that would bring about real results, like asking bloggers to participate. Just how different is praying from blogging? To be sure, some of the same things could be said about either activity. Anyone can do it, for one. And for another: All the wrong people do."

July 17, 2003

Or not.

Daniel Radosh

Or not.

July 17, 2003

Is 16 words Bush's 18 1/2 minutes?

Daniel Radosh

The White House's most effective yellowcakegate spin has been that no one seriously believes that this one claim formed the bulk -- or even a significant amount -- of the case for war. Technically true -- most Americans probably never heard or registered this specific claim when it was made. Who can follow such minutia? But people did pay attention to the endlessly repeated soundbite, "We can't let the smoking gun be a mushroom cloud." And the Niger intelligence was the key factor that allowed people like Condi Rice to say that. Indeed, as The Washington Post points out, it was, by the time of the SotU, the only intelligence pointing to Iraqi nukes that had not been specifically discredited. The Post's recap of the way Iraqi nukes were hyped is a pretty good reminder of why these 16 words were far more important at the time than we're supposed to remember them as now.

July 16, 2003

Whew! Just in time.

Daniel Radosh

Whew! Just in time.

July 16, 2003

The Most Sexiest Game: Hunting

Daniel Radosh

The Most Sexiest Game: Hunting naked women. Insert your own joke about shooting off their guns too quickly.

If Alan Abel isn't behind this, he should be.

Update: ...or maybe Joey Skaggs. The Hunting for Bambi story is spreading like wildfire. Like me, Snopes is suspicious, though the official HfB site does seem to be taking orders. Biggest red-flag so far: The local news channel that started it all was back yesterday saying, "Others say the whole thing is a hoax, and that the hunt is a publicity stunt. Eyewitness News reporter LuAnne Sorrell, who broke the story, went looking for proof." Funny, she didn't mention anything about not having proof in her original broadcast.

If this does turn out to be a hoax, it's interesting that it got a lot more traction than an earlier attempt (NSFW). Proof that a catchy name is essential for any good meme.

July 15, 2003

So we're at alert level green now?

Daniel Radosh

Just as the March of Dimes turned its attention to birth defects once polio was cured, Tom Ridge has found a new job for the Department of Homeland Security now that he has, um, completely ended the threat of terrorism.

July 15, 2003

It was only 16 words!

Daniel Radosh

It was only 16 words! What's the big deal? Kinsley brilliantly eviscerates the White House's defense in the case of the bogus nuke evidence. Key excerpts:

The Bushies say: 1) It wasn't really a lie; 2) someone else told the lie; and 3) the lie doesn't matter.

1) Bush didn't say it was true, you see—he just said the Brits said it. This is a contemptible argument in any event. But to descend to the administration's level of nitpickery, the argument simply doesn't work. Bush didn't say that the Brits "said" this Africa business—he said they "learned" it. The difference between "said" and "learned" is that "learned" clearly means there is some pre-existing basis for believing whatever it is, apart from the fact that someone said it.

2) If the president—especially this president—can disown anything he says that he didn't actually find out or think up and write down all by himself, he is more or less beyond criticism. Which seems to be the idea here.

3) Logically, of course, this argument will work for any single thread of the pro-war argument. Perhaps the president will tell us which particular points among those he and his administration have made are the ones we are supposed to take seriously. Or how many gimmes he feels entitled to take in the course of this game. Is it a matter of word count? When he hits 100 words, say, are we entitled to assume that he cares whether the words are true?

July 14, 2003

Bring back Bonnie!

Daniel Radosh

Holy crap, Us Weekly did not waste any time after losing editor Bonnie Fuller to begin sucking full-tilt. Flip through the Demi-Ashton issue sometime. It's poorly written and shockingly ugly. It's hard to understand, actually. Even if Bonnie took the art director with her (something I could surely look up if I had time) couldn't they just tell the remaining design staff, just keep doing it the way you were? Instead, they went for a completely new look. To call it tabloidy is an insult to the Globe. Meanwhile over at People, we get an infomercial for Scientology (second item). Anything to land an interview with Tom Cruise, I guess.

Update: There is a funny near Media Moment in the Fox News article linked above. Friedman writes: "Hidden in the story is the headline that Cruise was not able to read until age 22. The first reading material he had, he claims, was a Scientology picture book. That book led him to HELP and, consequently, Scientology. Talk about burying your lead."

While I think Friedman is right on his larger point -- that People should not have let Cruise write a 5-page advertorial for Scientology -- the problem with claiming that the headline is "hidden in the story" is that he's not using the word headline metaphorically, as in "this should have been the headline," but literally, as in the headline is: "Tom Cruise: My Struggle To Read." By definition, you can't hide a headline! What's more, while Friedman is right that the illiteracy tidbit isn't technically the lead of the story which, as I said, was written by (or in the name of) Cruise, and has a memoirish tone, rather than a journalistic one it is the precis, which comes before the lead, and in bigger letters: "Graduating high school in 1980, 'I was a functional illiterate,' says Tom Cruise, who hid his problem for years." That's the very first thing readers see. What's buried?

On a more nitpicky note, the piece makes clear that while Cruise credits Scientology with teaching him to read (and that claim does raise a lot of questions that go unanswered, primarily, didn't he ever have to read a script?) he doesn't credit HELP specifically, as it wasn't founded until 1997.

July 12, 2003

Steal a little and they

Daniel Radosh

Steal a little and they throw you in jail, steal a lot and they make you king. Jon Pareles weighs in on the Dylan "plagiarism" story (adroitly told by Jonathan Eig and Sebastian Moffett in The Wall Street Journal and uncovered by Chris Johnson). Pareles makes the same points I've been making in my own Dylanologist e-mail circles: It's intereting that Bob is inspired by such an obscure source, but what's the rest of the fuss? If he were lifting the words for his own book about the Yakuza, that would be plagiarism, but what he's doing is appropriating images and putting them into new contexts, just as he's long done with the Bible, Eliot, Browning (I've always liked that particular allusion), etc. I'd add that "crediting" his sources in the liner notes would be a mistake. The pleasure of music like this is always discovering influences on your own (or via the Wall St. Journal). Now that word's out, though, I do think it would be nice if he agreed to blurb the man's book. Sean Wilentz, one of the first Dylanologists to fully hash out the meaning of the title Love and Theft agrees with me, and guesses that, "there's at least 5 times more theft on L&T than anybody's figured out yet."

Meanwhile, after hearing that someone suspected that Bob's Cross the Green Mountain, from the Gods and Generals soundtrack is heavily influenced by Walt Whitman's Civil War poems, I ferreted out at least one source.

Bob:
A letter to mother came today
Gunshot wound to the breast is what it did say
But he'll be better soon, he's in a hospital bed
But he'll never be better - he's already dead

Walt:
O a strange hand writes for our dear son—O stricken mother's soul!
All swims before her eyes—flashes with black—she catches the main words only;
Sentences broken—gun-shot wound in the breast, cavalry skirmish, taken to hospital,
At present low, but will soon be better.
...
See, dearest mother, the letter says Pete will soon be better.
Alas, poor boy, he will never be better, (nor may-be needs to be better, that brave and simple soul;)
While they stand at home at the door, he is dead already.

Bring on Masked and Anonymous!

July 12, 2003

The buck stops, um, with

Daniel Radosh

The buck stops, um, with that guy. So Bring 'Em On Bush has boldly decided to deal with the Niger nuke fallout by saying, in effect, "I just read whatever they put on the teleprompter." That many on the left believe this about him anyway does not make it true. We ought not accept Bush's chickenshit defense just because it makes him look bad. Indeed, it seems likely (knowing Karl Rove the way we do) that the White House is prepared to take its hits for passing the buck now for the sake of broader gains down the line. Sen Pat Roberts lays the groundwork in his statement today: "I am very disturbed by what appears to be extremely sloppy handling of the issue from the outset by the CIA. What now concerns me most, however, is what appears to be a campaign of press leaks by the CIA in an effort to discredit the president." You see, the CIA has been among the leading critics of the Pentagon's pro-war (oops, pre-war) intelligence. The agency has dismissed the worst WMD scenarios, and the Saddam-Qaida connections. So of course the White House wants to discredit the CIA, and in the Niger incident they've found a way to do it. Bush would rather look like a dupe than a liar.

July 12, 2003

$25 million says you're wrong.

Daniel Radosh

$25 million says you're wrong. Five days after the White House offered a bounty on Saddam Hussein's head, and four days after Saddam popped up again on tape, The Washington Post dug up some tasty pre-war hubris:

Four days before the war started, Vice President Cheney said on NBC's "Meet the Press," "This is not a man who is an ascetic like Osama bin Laden who is willing to go live in a cave for a long period of time and be cut off from the outside world. This is a man who's used to his palaces and his luxuries."... In contrast to what has occurred so far, Cheney in March said that because the Hussein regime had been so cruel, his colleagues and citizens in general would not protect him. "Given his track record of absolute brutality, with respect to his opponents," Cheney said on "Meet the Press," "the people of Iraq today, whatever group they are affiliated with, whatever part of the country they live in, the vast majority of them would turn him in in a minute if, in fact, they thought they could do so safely."

July 12, 2003

You know the left is

Daniel Radosh

You know the left is in trouble when the job of parodying the right falls to the right. This Weekly Standard gag is pretty funny. The subtext -- "We're secure enough to joke about it because no one can stop us" -- is slightly terrifying.

July 11, 2003

Somehow I don't see this

Daniel Radosh

Somehow I don't see this surviving a translation to this.

July 10, 2003

Did Peggy Orenstein read my

Daniel Radosh

Did Peggy Orenstein read my post on Whedonesque?

July 10, 2003

Ask a reasonable question, get

Daniel Radosh

Ask a reasonable question, get an insane, unending series of answers. Kevin and John kill time at the expense of a fan, and readers of The Morning News benefit.

July 10, 2003

The Anti-Vagina Monologues. Harriet Lerner

Daniel Radosh

The Anti-Vagina Monologues. Harriet Lerner has "been raising 'vulva consciousness' since the early '70s," with apparently zero success since most people -- to Lerner's unending fury -- continue to use "vagina" as the generic term for "everything girls have." The latent SNOOT in me supports Lerner on purely linguistic grounds. But by the time you get to the end of this piece, it's bye-bye deep-end: "The persistent misuse of the word 'vagina' for everything 'down there' impairs the girl's capacity to develop an accurate and differentiated representation or 'map' of her internal and external genitals. The fact that the girl's own exploration of her genitals is not corroborated by accurate language also creates body shame and anxiety about sexuality." Wait, I thought that was Barbie's job (and we all know what she has, or doesn't, down there).

(Thanks to Kevin.)

July 10, 2003

Damn tourists!

Daniel Radosh

Back from a brief vacation. Perhaps the highlight came before I even left New York City, when I spotted the famous wild urban turkey in Battery Park City on June 30. She seemed to be having a grand old time, despite one guy's ominous comment that he "hunts 'em much bigger then that upstate."

July 8, 2003

And the next day, Ann

Daniel Radosh

And the next day, Ann Coulter called him a traitor.

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