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Archives for November, 2003

November 26, 2003

Sorry, too tired to blog.

Daniel Radosh

Well, almost...

November 26, 2003

Told ya so. Francis' show

Daniel Radosh

Told ya so. Francis' show got a short but glowing review in The New York Times. The obvious blurb line is "CliffsNotes were never so much fun!" But I'd go with the paraphrase, As good as, or better than, Gilligan's Island!

Of course, I was not able to use my tickets for last Thursday's production, but I fully intend to get out of the house before the run ends on Dec. 14th. If your life is less hectic than mine, you have no excuse not to get tickets.

November 17, 2003

For those of you who

Daniel Radosh

For those of you who know me personally (and aren't just here looking for the picture of Arnold's cock), there's breaking news at Let's Twins!

November 17, 2003

If anyone should know the importance of getting their stories straight it's a slot-fiend and a pill-popper.

Daniel Radosh

Perhaps Bill Bennett should have waited to hear what Rush Limbaugh was going to say on air today before deciding what to say when leaping (knee-jerkishly) to his defense. "He's not lying," Bennett said. "He was manly," Mr. Bennett added of Mr. Limbaugh. "He was straightforward."

How did BB know Rush wasn't lying? Because Rush said so a month ago when he was arrested (he was arrested, right? I mean, isn't that what they do to drug users?)
"You know I have always tried to be honest with you and open about my life," said Limbaugh, "I take full responsibility for this problem."

(Bill McClellan on how Rush would have dissected his own statement if Clinton had said it: "That's interesting, folks, because if you look at his actual statement - not what the liberal media say he said, but what he really said - you get a different take on it. First, he says he's got back problems. So he's blaming it on that. Then he says he had surgery, but the surgery wasn't successful. So he's blaming it on the doctors. Then he says the pain medication was addictive. So he's blaming it on the pharmaceutical companies. Folks, he blames it on everybody but himself! But as long as he puts in that obligatory line about taking responsibility, that's what the liberal media are going to grab: Clinton takes full responsibility!")

But now Rush is saying that he wasn't straightforward:

"What I did I did knowingly. I did because I wanted to do it. I knew it was wrong the whole time... I was not honest with myself about what was happening. I was doing something I knew was wrong but didn't understand why and didn't really understand what I had to do to stop it."

He's also sounding, what's the opposite of manly, oh yeah, girly:

"I tried to treat myself twice for my addiction. I detoxed myself twice and tried to do it by force of will. It's not possible.

"It's something that someone cannot do alone. It's something that requires several things to change in my life, and those things are good. Those things are quite necessary.

"It's wonderful. It actually is an amazing thing. I wish everybody could do this. I don't' know why this kind of thing is reserved for certain kinds of situations, when it's so beneficial to one and all."

Plus, even his politics are now all 12-steppy. Here's what he has to say about why Conservatives shouldn't try to get liberals to like them (yeah, that's been high on Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly's to-do list):

"You can't change anybody else's behavior. All you can do is change your own. When you try to change can't change someone else's behavior. When you try to be nice to them to get them to be nice to you, guess what happens?

"You are the liar. You're the one changing who you are. You're denying them who you are. There's no way they're gong to like you. You're not being who you are.

"All this phoniness, all this reaching out, all this `Please like me, please, we're not that bad, please we don't want to hurt you, please get along with us.' It's not possible my friends, because they don't like themselves.

"Until that day comes they're never going to like us, so nothing's changed. We disagree with them, we think that their ideas are harmful, so here in the political arena of ideas, we've got to defeat them... . they're denying who they really are.....

"We're not trying to establish intimacy with (liberals). We want to crush them."

November 17, 2003

Elusive hunt for al-Qaeda. At

Daniel Radosh

Elusive hunt for al-Qaeda. At first I thought that was just sloppy wording (or perhaps some wacky British loqution). Surely it's al Qaida that's elusive, not the hunt. But maybe it's sly criticism of our short attention span. Whatever did happen to that hunt for al Qaida, anyway?

November 17, 2003

Paul Lukas' Uni Watch moves

Daniel Radosh

Paul Lukas' Uni Watch moves from the Village Voice to Slate, which means I'll actually get to read it now. I still think it's a terrible name for a great column, the only sports writing I find even remotely interesting.

One nice subtle touch in his Slate debut is the inclusion of the American flag as a logo.

November 16, 2003

Virtual tour of a West

Daniel Radosh

Virtual tour of a West Bank checkpoint. For maximum verisimilitude, use a 700 bps dial-up modem.

November 15, 2003

As amusing as it is

Daniel Radosh

As amusing as it is to see Bush running for re-election on a "bring the troops home" platform, there's something very frightening about all this, and I'm saying that as someone who would like to bring the troops home (my brother in law is out safely, btw, for those who recall my previous Balls of the Eagle posts. Paraphrasing a couple of bloggers I read yesterday but don't have time to properly re-find and link to right now (sorry), there's a difference between doing something carefully, with a plan for the future and from a position of strength (intellectual and moral), and doing the same thing haphazardly and under the gun (literal). There is nothing in the Bush plan for withdrawal that indicates any concern whatsoever for what happens to the people of Iraq once we're out. It looks like he's counting on the possibility that once Americans are no longer dying, voters at home won't give a shit about the mess we left for the people who live there.

It's true that worked with Afghanistan but that was a different war for most of us. We invaded Afghanistan to end a direct threat to the US, and while there was some lip-service to improving the lives of Afghan people (and the Taliban was worse than Saddam, so things are generally better there, though still lousy) not many of us actually had high hopes that our invasion would cause democracy to flourish. Iraq, however, was sold to many many people almost entirely on the merits of democracy, whisky, sexy. (It was sold to many more on the grounds of imminent (yes, imminent) threat, but those folks have since been told to retroactively embrace the other agenda). I think (I hope, for the sake of Iraqis as well as the 2004 elections) that Americans will not so easily wash their hands of the problem this time.

It's also distressing, though unsurprising, to see so little range of discussion: stay or go, with no attempt to define what either of those means. Naomi Klein has made an admirable effort to change that:

But the "Troops Out" debate overlooks an important fact. If every last soldier pulled out of the Gulf tomorrow and a sovereign government came to power, Iraq would still be occupied: by laws written in the interest of another country, by foreign corporations controlling its essential services, by 70 percent unemployment sparked by public sector layoffs.

Any movement serious about Iraqi self-determination must call not only for an end to Iraq's military occupation, but to its economic colonization as well. That means reversing the shock therapy reforms that US occupation chief Paul Bremer has fraudulently passed off as "reconstruction" and canceling all privatization contracts flowing from these reforms.

In fact, I think if the US abandoned its economic colonization program and let the UN handle transitional government and civil functions (I know, I know, the UN has a lousy track record at such things. America's is better?) then I think US troops could stay and handle security at a much lower risk.

November 14, 2003

Oh, good. Colin Powel is

Daniel Radosh

Oh, good. Colin Powel is a pill fiend.

November 14, 2003

Try to contain your laughter.

Daniel Radosh

Try to contain your laughter.

November 14, 2003

Now that's what I call the mainstreaming of porn.

Daniel Radosh

The New York Times confesses that Bernie Weinraub lifted a passage about Anthony Pellicano from the blog of Luke Ford. "The Times should have credited the Weblog for its version," reads the editor's note in typical disingenuous fashion, as if the Times would ever credit a blog, much less one by porn journo Ford; what they meant to say was, "The Times should not have lifted the paragraph in the first place."

I'm proud to say that Ford is a sometime visitor to this site, and he'll surely object to being labeled a porn journo, as he sold his industry-watch site a few years ago, and now writes a sui generis gossip/politics/celebrity/theology/personal site that I find extremely hard to follow, but which you have to credit for its distinctive voice. Though I can't be sure, it seems pretty likely that Luke is also involved somehow in Set Go, a fabulous porn-news blog that's like the Romenesko of the XXX biz.

This seems like the place to give a tentative thumbs-up to FleshBot, the new Gawker porn blog that is the first to bring funny (though shouldn't they be funnier?) and insightful comments to the all-important task of compiling photos of naked people. I wonder how you get paid to do something like that. For a sex-news site (not a porn blog) that's less wonky than Set Go, I recommend Daze Reader. I have little patience for the personal journals of pornographers or amateurs who think their sex life is interesting to the rest of us, but I do like the sex culture blog Eros, which keeps tabs on such things, as well as other naughty infobits. I should warn you, however, that proprietor Bacchus has recently acquired a online girlfriend and his posts about her make me a little queasy.

But back to Pellicano, I first heard that name from my colleague John Connolly who dished dirt on him in a Spy investigation. So I wasn't surprised to see that Jack Shafer traced the Weinraub/Ford anecdote further back, to an article Connolly wrote for Los Angeles magazine. I don't have the Spy issue readily available, but I'll bet it originated there.

November 13, 2003

Francis Heaney has a

Daniel Radosh

Francis Heaney has a very important announcement:

My musical, "We're All Dead" plays Thursdays-Sundays, November 15 - December 14 at Chashama (135 W. 42nd Street, bet. 6th and Broadway). If you saw it the last time we produced it, back in 2001, you will hardly recognize it. (It has grown a mustache.) If you didn't see it last time, why not? Were you working out some issues about musical theatre?

You can buy tickets at SmartTix or at the box office on the night of the show, if we're not sold out or you don't mind hanging from the ceiling in the "dangling room" area.

Reviewers are coming. And we know of at least one producer that will be attending. It's all pretty exciting. Come and see if you can feel the waves of tension emanating from me through all the layers of curtain between the audience and the band.

I saw an earlier low-fi production of We're All Dead, and it has my personal seal of approval. Why? Because it's a musical comedy adaptation of three classic tragedies — Oedipus, The Metamorphosis and Hamlet — with original toe-tapping rock/pop tunes such as "It's Baby-Killin' Time," "That Darn Sphinx," "The Gods Must Be Lazy," "I Am the Very Model of a Guy Who Makes a Horrible Faux Pas and Then Does a Bad Job of Covering It," "Bug Medley (I'm a Giant Bug / Are You Really a Giant Bug? / I lost My Job Because I'm a Giant Bug)," "Oh, Oh, Ophelia", and "The Ballad of Why I'm Here and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Aren't," among over 30 others. (Listen to a solo version of Fate, the Oedipus Rocks finalé.)

I will likely be in the audience on Thursday, Nov. 20th, if that's more exciting to you than the stuff on stage, which it shouldn't be. Trust me, this is well worth $15.

November 13, 2003

Baseball? I mean, nice job

Daniel Radosh

Baseball? I mean, nice job otherwise, but baseball?!

November 13, 2003

The mighty Choire Sicha is

Daniel Radosh

The mighty Choire Sicha is urging me to drop lame-o Blogger and get one of them hip Moveable Type site with the RSS feed. Since this seems to be exactly the kind of project to sustain my state of denial for the next week or two, I'm on it.

November 13, 2003

We want names. The headline

Daniel Radosh

We want names. The headline is Bill O'Reilly wants to run for president some day. Yawn. But here's the quote that intrigues me: "Right now, you have 50 percent of Americans who don't know anything -- they're totally disengaged from the process, the 'Mall People.' They don't know anything, don't watch the news or listen to radio or read the newspapers. The other 50 percent -- and there was a recent poll on this -- are a third crazy left and third crazy right and third in the middle."

Since we can assume that the "crazy left" aren't watching Fox, that means, to give him a generous benefit of the doubt, at least half of O'Reilly's viewers are, by his own description, "crazy right" (or does he think these people watch some other news channel -- WKKK?). Now are they watching him because he makes them mad with his sane middle-of-the-road views, or do they, perhaps, believe he's one of them? And if he's not, isn't it up to him to explain why, or at least insult them on the air?

November 12, 2003

Google News, now with less

Daniel Radosh

Google News, now with less news. Five (maybe six) of the first ten Google News entries for Prince Chalres are fake stories, parenthetically identified as "News Satire."

Prince Charles Collapses; Hospitalized, Dennis Kucinich Considers Email Proposal from Prince Charles, etc.

I've got nothing against news satire (though it's pathetic that so many places now think they're the Onion) but I don't want to have to slog through it when I'm searching for real news. Also, someone at the office was already briefly taken in by that first story, which is what happens when real news is so much like a bad joke to begin with.

BTW, the sixth story, which is not labeled satire, but I've got my suspicions, is Prince Charles totally straight, claim Chicago women he's wooed

Update: Among the many things I love about Google is that they actually reply when you send them feedback. In this case, the reply was inadequate, but here it is:

Google News strives to provide access to as many news sources as possible. As you've noticed, we do include some sources which are intended as satire. However, we feel it is important to display the term "News Satire" next to the name of these sources so that you can choose whether or not you wish to access them. If you find a news source in Google News which offers only satirical or non-factual stories, but does not display a "News Satire" tag, please send us the name of that publication.

We appreciate your taking the time to write to us, and hope that you will contact us with your suggestions and observations in the future.

The Google Team

I don't know why it's hard to understand that news satire is not actually a form of news. This is a little like a pet store saying, We strive to have as many animals as possible so we do include some plastic troll dolls, but you can tell if you read the label. At the very least they could separate the satire from the rest of the results.

November 11, 2003

Betrayed by Larry Flynt! Hey,

Daniel Radosh

Betrayed by Larry Flynt! Hey, I think Jessica Lynch is "a good kid" too, but, dammit, I wanna see her boobies.

Maybe he'll come through on Elizabeth Smart.

November 11, 2003

Bush I on the problems

Daniel Radosh

Bush I on the problems with occupying Iraq: "Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in "mission creep," and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. We had been unable to find Noriega in Panama, which we knew intimately. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under the circumstances, there was no viable "exit strategy" we could see, violating another of our principles. Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different — and perhaps barren — outcome." -- A World Transformed, by George H.W. Bush and Brent Scowcroft.

I know you've probably gotten this by e-mail already; it's making the rounds. I post it here because I think the unedited version is actually sharper than the excerpt going around, and also to assure you that while it sounds too good to be true, it's not (not too good, that is, not not true), and finally, to give proper credit to the Amazon reviewer who originally dug it up.

Chris Hitchens calls Bush I's comments, "pseudo-realism... it's not as practical or as hard-headed or as prudent as it purports to be." That's right, a description that accurately reflects what's happening in the world is "pseudo-realism." Hitchens idealistic fantasies, of course, are really-real.

November 11, 2003

When Fido is a tiger.

Daniel Radosh

When Fido is a tiger. In my latest briefing for The Week, I answer all your questions about exotic pets and the people who own them -- just in time to be more than a month late.

November 11, 2003

Sid Caesar, Straight man. Gersh

Daniel Radosh

Sid Caesar, Straight man. Gersh Kuntzman tries to engage the comedy legend in some banter, only to find that Caesar no longer recognizes (or doesn't care to dignify) cornball humor.

CAESAR: Anger is just a habit. I remember I had this great meal in Paris. I was on cloud nine. I walked down the street and a minute later, I just stopped. And suddenly, I was angry about something.
GERSH: What happened? Did you see a mime?
CAESAR: (Ignoring mime joke) Nothing happened! I just fell back into the anger habit. I always pressed my own buttons. And drinking was the punishment. Why did I punish myself? I never killed anyone. I never hurt anyone? I just couldn't accept who I was.

November 7, 2003

Mauvelous stuff at Francis Heaney's

Daniel Radosh

Mauvelous stuff at Francis Heaney's new blog

I just can't stop reading this page about Crayola colors through the years. I suppose everyone has a point at which their knowledge of crayon arcana slows down considerably, but I had no idea just how out of touch I was with the current slate of Crayolas.

I can get behind many of the colors introduced through the '90s, like 'Cranberry', 'Dandelion' and 'Granny Smith Apple'. (Oh, I guess I have a soft spot for representationalism after all.) But some of these things are just the most shoddily stitched-together portmanteaus. I mean, 'Mauvelous'? That is a travesty. And why can we not just call the banana-like color 'Banana'? Why is it called 'Banana Mania'? Are manic bananas a slightly different shade than their more restrained brethren?

And, you know, it always irks me when adults get really patronizing to children, and a color like 'Fuzzy Wuzzy Brown' seems like an example of that. I could get behind, say, 'Teddy Bear' as a color, but 'Fuzzy Wuzzy Brown' feels focus-grouped out the ass. And 'Brink Pink'? I mean...that rhymes, yes, but what the hell does it mean? And do not even get me started on 'Jazzyberry Jam'. Oh, I got myself started. 'Jazzyberry Jam'! AAAAAAAAAAAARRRGHH."

This man is made for blogging -- funny, eclectic interests, a good writer, and, most importantly, unemployed. I'm pretty sure if we start visiting regularly he'll get completely obsessed and post constantly.

November 7, 2003

Joel Silver on Matrix Revolutions:

Daniel Radosh

Joel Silver on Matrix Revolutions: "At the heart of these films is the hope of integration; the synthesis of our finite knowledge of what is with our infinite beliefs of what might be."

At the heart of publicity (and fan apology) for the Matrix series has been just this kind of pronouncement, with the subtext that if you don't like it, you're just not smart enough.

But I've seen Matrix Revolutions, and I'm not unsophisticated, and I feel confident in saying that at its heart is a great heaping pile of dog turd. Unlike Reloaded, which was just boring, Revolutions is aggressively obnoxious. Without giving away anything (not that I'd encourage anyone to see it) the ending only works if the ENTIRE PREMISE of the series is simply false. And not in a clever we-had-you-thinking-one-thing-but-something-else-was-going-on way. Just, we-changed-our-minds. As someone who kind of liked the premise of the Matrix, I took this as a big fuck you from the Wachowski Siblings. (Some Slashdotters are trying to find explanations for the ending that don't suck, but I'm not convinced. Feel free to e-mail me if you have a better idea; I wouldn't mind being wrong about this).

In trying to figure out what the hell had just happened to us, my friend Eric pointed out something that could be used to explain the ending, but that also, no matter what, represents a huge flaw in the premise: it's possible to fly above the clouds and see the sun. Which should also mean that it's possible to build towers high enough to collect solar energy. Which means the machines never needed to farm humans at all and could have won the fucking war centuries ago. (And don't even get me started on "By the way did we mention there's a rule that machines can't break their promises?" What the fuck?)

On the other hand, maybe the Wachowski's didn't even want to make another Matrix movie. Maybe they wanted to take over Star Wars. The best part of Revolutions -- the only fun part -- was the battle for Zion, which felt like nothing so much as the Star Wars sequel we've been hoping for in vain since Empire Strikes Back.

November 7, 2003

eBay disclaimer of the month:

Daniel Radosh

eBay disclaimer of the month: "I know nothing about these stuffed Beanie Babies. I offer no proof of anything. It is a stuffed animal, get over it! I don't think my ex-wife was in the Black Market Beanie Trade...but then again, I didn't know she was having an affair either!"

November 6, 2003

Speaking of insultingly stupid.

Daniel Radosh

I'm no longer surprised when I get an e-mail that begins, "In case you'd like one more reason to blog on Gregg Easterbrook..." A lot of people, it seems, are fed up with the man's witless ramblings and have decided that Radosh.net should be the repository for their complains. Who am I not to oblige them?

The latest e-mail comes from Andrew Perny who has just read Easterbroken's complaint about "the once-promising Matrix series." It's odd, first of all, that Easterdick -- who infamously thinks film violence can be linked to the real thing -- admits to enjoying the first Matrix, a film that some people have blamed for Columbine and the DC snipers. Could it be that he only disapproves of violent movies that other people enjoy?

Anyway, here's Eagershmuck's problem with The Matrix series:

Just consider that the underlying premise of the Matrix flicks makes no physical-law sense.

Supposedly in the future, evil intelligent computers keep all humanity strapped into chairs, dreaming a simulation of ordinary life while attended by medical droids, because the evil computers want the heat given off by human bodies as an energy source. "This is what we are to them," the rebel leader Morpheus intones in the exposition scene of the first Matrix flick, holding up an Eveready battery.

Which makes absolutely no sense, as the maximum heat value emitted by a mammal body cannot exceed the heat value of the food entering the body. If future evil computers craved heat, it would be far more efficient just to burn the plants at the base of the food chain--to saying nothing of simply building nuclear reactors--than to waste colossal amounts of resources, and expend huge amounts of energy, constructing the super-elaborate prisons in which the human captives live, and then growing food for the captives to boot.

It's ironic that a guy who is dismissive of real physics because 1) it's too weird and 2) physicists hate God, suddenly feels it's very important to make sure that science fiction (I repeat, fiction) movies should adhere to accurate principles. Easterbutt's solution to the above problem is, "Producers of the Matrix might have borrowed one of the themes of the engaging Dan Simmons Hyperion sci-fi novels," as if what the Matrix needed was to be even more derivative.

Regardless of the merits of this suggestion, it's not a surprise to see Easterbrook (sorry, coming up with juvenile nicknames got dull even for me) make it, since his entire post is highly derivative itself of the entry for The Matrix on Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics:

We just can't buy the explanation of why the computer system bothers to maintain not only the simulation but humanity. Supposedly, the computer system needs people as a power source. This makes no sense. The food fed to humans would have far more energy content than the meager power available from humans. It would require even more energy to run the food delivery system not to mention maintain the slime tubs. Why would the machines bother? Surely there'd be a more effective way to extract energy from the food.

Perny points out that Easterbrook advises us to watch ISMP for their review of Revolutions, but can't quite bring himself to give them credit for the ideas he's just passed off as his own. True, Easterbrook did add his own thoughts about military hardware earlier in his post, as well as the word "absolutely" before "makes no sense," which may pass for original writing in Gregg's mind, but Perny is not in the mood to be forgiving, because he recalls how Easterbrook went off on Hillary Clinton for having the nerve to use a ghost writer on her memoir: "In the last two years Clinton has either been neglecting her duties as a United States Senator -- that is, violating her oath -- in order to be the true author of 'Living History,' or she is claiming authorship of someone else's work," sputtered Gregg in his dear departed ESPN column.

Not such a big deal, you're saying? Maybe not. Maybe I could have just written this post as if I'd thought of it all myself and then at the end said, By the way, a guy named Andrew Perny might weigh in on a similar topic sometime in the future. But I'm happy to give credit where it's due, and I think Andrew appreciates that.

November 4, 2003

I devoured Robert Heinlein in

Daniel Radosh

I devoured Robert Heinlein in Junior High. Later I realized what an awful hack he was. But even when I was into him, I never particularly liked Stranger in a Strange Land, probably because while most of his crap is at least fun, his alleged masterpiece is equal parts icky and pretentious.

Now Jessa at Bookslut has a few choice words on the subject:

"The other thing I learned from this book is that no one bothers to edit science fiction. Over a three page spread, no one could figure out how to spell tattoo. It showed up as tatoo. Then tattoo again. Then tatto. Then back to tatoo. There were quotation marks in the middle of words. There were spaces between the end of a sentence and the period. There was an absence of capitalization at the beginning of sentences. Even simple spell check would have solved most of this book's problem. I guess they figured only geeks read science fiction, so they shouldn't waste their time.

I have to wonder, though, if this is why science fiction is so marginalized. If this is what SF fans hold up as a classic, no wonder the outside world thinks the geeks are all a bunch of loonies. Can't we have a classic that doesn't have orgies? Can we agree that Heinlein writes about free love and fascistic governments and pick another representative for the genre? Because this is obviously not working out for us. "

November 4, 2003

Guess those yellow ribbons are

Daniel Radosh

Guess those yellow ribbons are coming down. According to a new Fox News poll, a plurality of Americans (49%) say the best way to show support for the troops is "Bringing them home as soon as possible."

But when asked "What do you think is the right thing to do -- bring the U.S. troops home now or have US troops stay in Iraq and finish the job?" Only 32% say bring them home, 62% say stick it out.

How can both those results be accurate? The only possible conclusion: Americans believe that "the right thing to do" is not support the troops!

Sure it could just be another poorly worded poll -- define "as soon as possible" and "finish the job" please -- but I prefer my interpretation.

November 4, 2003

Elapsed time from Radosh.net to

Daniel Radosh

Elapsed time from Radosh.net to Fark.com: 26 days.

November 4, 2003

I was well into adulthood

Daniel Radosh

I was well into adulthood before I ever read any coverage of the Supreme Court that wasn't written by Linda Greenhouse, so I was always under the impression that the Court was inherently boring. Dahlia Lithwick changed my mind with reporting like this:

What if the drugs had been found closer to the driver, rather than in the back seat, asks Sandra Day O'Connor. Could all three passengers still be arrested? Yes, says Bair, because the car is a common area. What if the drugs were found in the trunk, asks Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Well, says Bair, if there were a "large quantity of drugs in the trunk, or a dead body in the trunk ... "; Ginsburg reminds him that this is her hypo and there is just a Ziploc bag in the trunk, not a dead body.

Then it's O'Connor's turn with the innocent-grandma hypo: "What if it's a high-crime area and some mother gets a ride from her son and doesn't know he's involved with drugs?" Can she be arrested? "Supposing it's the middle of the day," she adds. "And she's going to the grocery store?" Bair can't quite make himself say "Lock the old drug-mom up." So he mumbles something about a "totality of the circumstances test."

Justice John Paul Stevens has a hypo, too. What if there were four passengers in the car instead of three? No different says Bair. "What if there were six?" asks Stevens. Same. Stevens, undaunted: "What if it's a minivan and there are eight people?" he asks. Lock 'em up. Stevens takes a breather while Ginsburg takes over: "What if it had been a bus?"

Bair seems ready to concede that he would not seek to arrest all the passengers on a bus just because someone had drugs. Prompting Antonin Scalia to enter the bidding war to ask if the result would be different if it were a public bus or a charter bus. He appears to be asking this question purely for recreational purposes.

Anthony Kennedy wonders whether the police, upon finding a dead body and two possible killers, each claiming the other did it, could arrest them both. Bair, who couldn't get Ginsburg on board with his dead body in the trunk hypo, appears relieved that the corpses are back. He says both potential killers could be subject to arrest.

Stevens then notes that there are three suspects here—not two. So it's not as if there's a 50 percent chance that one guy is the criminal. There's only a 33.3 percent chance. Can a mere 33.3 percent likelihood of criminality constitute probable cause? Bair insists you cannot quantify probable cause. Stevens is unperturbed. So what if there are four people and each is only 25 percent likely to be the criminal?

And what if there were 300 people on a 747 and one of them was purple?

It's a long morning.

November 4, 2003

Where have you gone Mrs. Robinson?

Daniel Radosh

The Salty Vicar, everybody's favorite Anglican priest blogger shares this story:

"Once, in seminary, I decided to get obnoxious. Yes, I did. It was an open conversation on sexuality.

In the middle of 45 people I said that there were surely some people who did not obey God's word and were going to hell. They would be judged. And it was our duty to save them....

Two people who barely knew me, came to me the next day. One said, 'you know, I'm gay and I'm glad that you felt comfortable speaking up, and I just want you to know that I'm glad we're a part of the same church, even though we think differently.'

'What do you mean?'

She stuttered, 'you know, that being gay or lesbian isn't acceptable before God.'

'I didn't say that!'

'oh, uh, well, what do you mean.'

'That those prurient fools who masquerade their bigotry as the gospel are themselves going to answer to a higher power.'

She blushed and smiled. 'I'd never heard it that way before.'

'It's time we Anglicans started getting a bit more comfortable with scripture. That's the battleground.'"

PS: Old Salt would probably get mad if I didn't point out that his post was prompted by the latest from Rev. Fred Phelps, and not in response to anything that any of his fellow Anglicans have said about Gene Robinson. As a bona fide man of God, Salty is able to hold a more forgiving view of those folks than I am.

November 2, 2003

The other day I called

Daniel Radosh

The other day I called Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe a book that will change the way you look at the world. That's a description I save for a small handful works. (The Nova adaptation, by the way, is fun but necessarily short on actual science, which is the mind-blowing stuff.) Guns, Germs and Steel is another, and so are Visual Explanations and Envisioning Information by Edward Tufte.

Tufte's latest is an essay on PowerPoint, and I guess somehow he became aware that I did my own little PowerPoint satire, because the other day, out of the blue, I get an inscribed copy of his PowerPoint booklet in the mail.

Seriously, how fucking cool is that?

November 2, 2003

The blogosphere is giddy over

Daniel Radosh

The blogosphere is giddy over Matt Groening's revelation that Fox News considered suing The Simpsons over a parody of its news ticker ("Study: 92 percent of Democrats are gay..."). People are eager to believe the worst of Fox news (for good reason), and after the whole Fair & Balanced thing it's easy enough to believe Groening was telling the truth, as most of the news media, as well as some bloggers I admire very much did.

But was he? In a Washington Post report that, unlike the original interview, has been picked up almost nowhere, The Simpsons issued an apology: "Matt was being satirical and certainly there was never any issue between the show and Fox News. We regret any confusion."

Now, I admit I didn't hear the interview, so maybe there was some tone of voice thing we were supposed to pick up on, but from reading Groening's quotes, it doesn't look like he was "being satirical" at all. It looks, rather, like he was lying to make Fox News look dumb. Groening never struck me as the stoop to conquer type. If he was lying, I hope he apologizes personally and that every blogger who took his word to thumb their nose at Fox withdraws said thumb. But it's also possible, isn't it, that Groening's first statements were true and someone at Fox pressured the show into a false retraction. In which case, I'd like to hear about that on Fresh Air.

November 2, 2003

We're gonna need a bigger mop.

Daniel Radosh

Going through my clipping file for the year while working on the Esquire Dubious Achievement Awards, I came across this mid-May quote from Gen. Lloyd Austin in Baghdad in The New York Times.: "I think we have good control, but we may need to police up some meatheads."

Ah, memories.

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