need more stuff?

Archives for January, 2004

January 31, 2004

It's funny when someone knows

Daniel Radosh

It's funny when someone knows what they're supposed to say, but puts too much stake in "integrity" to voice something they don't believe. Mel Gibson tries to wriggle away from the Holocaust question.

Atrios is right. Where's the follow-up?

January 30, 2004

A tasteful funeral will be

Daniel Radosh

A tasteful funeral will be held over two nights during February sweeps on Fox.

January 30, 2004

I'm TMFTML, and so's my

Daniel Radosh

I'm TMFTML, and so's my wife.

January 30, 2004

Landesman makes Page Six today.

Daniel Radosh

No, not J. Lo 'Interview' Was Faked. The item is Red Menace. Turns out Richard Johnson can prove there were whores in the Soviet Union ten years ago. I'm sure he can.

January 29, 2004

Sick of this story yet?

Daniel Radosh

Shafer's not. He's got a new column tonight about Peter Landesman's, shall we say, inappropriate response to our criticism of his work. Shafer, and Chris T. (who started this whole thing), and probably you too, think I'm a pussy for not having immediately gone public with Landesman's threats. Maybe. But I've learned since grade school that sometimes the best way to deal with a bully is to walk away. Making a fuss about Landesman's personal conduct didn't seem necessary, especially with the Times handling it so well.

Meanwhile, I did update my last post on the subject even after posting what I had said would be my final update. Sue me. (Not literally, Peter!)

Update (yes, again): Why Gerry Marzorati's defense doesn't sway me.

January 29, 2004

When I was a boy, we didn't use any plastic hippo gun to play Russian roulette.

Daniel Radosh

We used a Colt .45, and we walked five miles in the snow to do it. Kids today have it easy. At least, Japanese kids do, thanks to Kaba-Kick, the toy that makes shooting yourself in the head fun.

I'm still not completely persuaded this isn't a hoax. Surely not even the Japanese are this wacky.

(Thanks to Craig S. Getcherself a blog, dude.)

January 28, 2004

I, for one, welcome our

Daniel Radosh

I, for one, welcome our new ant overlords. (link via BBRUG.)

January 26, 2004

Sex Slave Update

Daniel Radosh

Immediately after posting my rambling remarks about this Sunday's Times Magazine sex slave story, I fired off an e-mail to Slate's Jack Shafer. Shafer is one of the best media-watchers in the business, and I figured he'd be the guy to tell me if I was onto something or not.

Turns out he was already working on his own takedown of Landesman's story, which he's just posted on Slate (For what it's worth, Shafer refrained from reading my post until he'd finished his own). He picks up on some of the things I did and more, such as the fact that "Because Landesman offers so few verifiable facts, he repeatedly pairs fudging adverbs of 'typically,' 'sometimes,' 'most,' 'often,' and 'some' with specific nouns to make his unsourced generalizations appear more real than they are." And Shafer makes note of "other minor annoyances," such as problems of chronology and geography.

So basically my guess right now is that after spending months on this story, Landesman and his editors refused to admit that at best they had something for page A21, so they spun the story they wished they'd gotten instead. Is it true? As Shafer says, you can't disprove it, but you'd do well to doubt it.

Since Shafer advertised my perhaps ill-advised promise to stay on top of this story, I'll do my best, sarting with a look at what Landesman said on NPR today. In the meantime, a Slate reader makes a point that Chris brought up yesterday but that I forgot to include about that Web site: "If human beings are traded by the thousands, even if only by the hundreds, you won't find them being auctioned for $300,000. What is plentiful and easily procured through violence and threats does not command a high price on the open market."

Final (?) Update: Shafer has a follow-up column, perhaps not his last. Since he's on the case, I'm off it. Keep your eye on Slate, and thanks again for all your thoughtful e-mails. Radosh.net now returns to its regularly scheduled program of self-promotion and lame jokes.

OK, one more update: New York Times Magazine editor Gerry Marzorati responds to Shafer: "He also seems to have no idea --- or to have forgotten from his old print days -- how difficult it is to report and write about a shadowy, dangerous world, a world that does not lend itself to seamless narratives, numerous on-the-record corroborators, and hard, precise numbers."

No doubt. The question is not whether Landesman did the best he could on a difficult story, but whether, given what he was able to do, were he and the Times wise to splash it on the cover of the magazine, in a presentation that suggested throughout that he had uncovered (and proven) much more than he actually had.

Shafer isn't buying Marzorati's defense. Although he continues to make good points about the nitty gritty of Landesman's article, Shafer also spends more time than I would on parsing the differences between sexual slavery and coerced prostitution, which to me isn't the issue. After all, as he says (and I wholly agree, it should go without saying), no one is denying the reality -- and the real horror -- of sexual trafficking. The only question is whether Landesman's article is the exposé it purports to be.

One way to look at that is to contrast it with a real exposé, this week's Dateline NBC investigation of child sex slaves in Cambodia. Like Landesman's article, it's disturbing stuff. Also like Landesman's article, it cites figures that it admits are necessarily only estimates. But unlike Landesman's article, it only uses those numbers to back up its first-hand reporting, which includes footage of numerous child slaves and people soliciting money for sex with them. Now go read Landesman's article again and imagine that he has a video camera with him the entire time. He'll have some harrowing footage of a brothel in Mexico, but once he gets to the US, virtually all he has is talking heads telling second and third hand stories that raise more questions than they answer. This is why I've said all along that even if every word of his story is true, once you strip away the atmospherics, you'd have little more than a half-page article for the National section.

Some people I actually respect have suggested that because the existence of even ten sex slaves is a far more egregious crime than one bad article (obvs), to criticize the article is in some way to dismiss the slavery. I'd call that a false choice. If anything, the more important the story, the more important it is to get it right. Yes, even to which tower came down first. Landesman's article only illustrates why. A less excitable, but also less sloppy article that raised fewer doubts in peoples' minds (and from my e-mail, there are a lot of us) would have been more effective as advocacy. (Cleis says this more eloquently.) But I can see why S/FJ misread some of what I wrote; it was, after all, pretty poorly written. Just for example, when I said, "the article does raise a few serious (if you care about journalism) questions," I meant the opposite of "Landesman is THREATENING JOURNALISM ITSELF." That parenthetical was supposed to indicate that the problems in the article are not earthshaking and are likely to be of interest only to journalism wonks.

Since 95 percent of my e-mail has been positive, I won't dwell on the other 3 (hey, close enough for blogging). But I have to point out this only because it was such a blast from the past. It's been so long since I was at Oberlin that I forgot people actually talk this way. I'm still not sure it isn't a parody. "To use GRAMMAR MISTAKES to poke holes in the story further perpetuates the rape myth." Just imagine what the spelling mistakes mean! (And wait, isn't "poke holes" a sexually aggressive metaphor? Be careful, they'll take away your membership card).

Oh, who am I kidding? Here's the latest.

January 26, 2004

"It appears to be an infant of the species Homo Sapien. Fascinating."

Daniel Radosh

January 26, 2004

Eric Zorn is right. This

Daniel Radosh

Eric Zorn is right. This is funnier than my PowerPoint Hamlet.

"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" adapted by Jeff Lyons.


- To watch woods fill up with snow. - To do so without being observed. - To steal some time from other projects. - To stay mindful of other projects, however.


- Could get caught by owner of woods. - Could cause disorientation in horse.


- Identity of owner not 100 percent sure. - Likeliest candidate lives in village. - Cannot rule out other owner or owners, or recent real estate sale. - Would be wise to be ready to start up sleigh.


- Likely disoriented by unplanned stoppage. - Additional reasons for disorientation: -- No farmhouse near -- Only woods and frozen lake nearby -- Darkest evening of the year -- Horse shows uneasiness by shaking bells.


-- Lovely; dark; deep -- Largely silent, though wind and snow flurries are slightly audible


-- Strictly short-term -- Other commitments have priority -- Also need to sleep -- Commitments involve miles of travel. -- Travel has precedence over sleep.

January 25, 2004

And wait till she takes on Santorum.

Daniel Radosh

Wonkette uses the phrase "hot gay monkey sex." Google feeds the following ads:

Coconut Monkey Purse
Made from a real coconut and now available at Monkey Goods!

Chimpanzee Toys
Come see our selection of cute chimps! Free Shipping > $20.

Save on Plush Animal Toys
1000s of discount plush animals by top brands like Gund and Russ.

Stuffed Monkey for Sale
Great deals on all stuffed animals. Start saving now! affiliate.

January 25, 2004

Less Inflamatory Headline Here

Daniel Radosh

[Update, May 4, 2004: Between January and April, I posted 17 items about the New York Times Magazine article The Girls Next Door. Some of my archive links got corrupted when I moved this site off Blogspot, but you can use this page of search results as an index to the entire saga. Start from the bottom.]

[Note: The original heading for this post was "More Glass Shattering?" because, as you'll see, that's the question that was originally posed to me. I thought it was clear that I very quickly answered that specific question negatively. Obviously it wasn't, however, because a number of people have chastised me for comparing Peter Landesman with Stephen Glass. To the extent that my headline did briefly raise such a comparison in people's minds, I regret that. For this reason, I've changed it. Whatever problems Landesman's article has, I don't think any of it was fabricated and I shouldn't have implied such a thing.]

Chris Tennant just e-mailed me about Peter Landesman's cover story in today's New York Times magazine: "I smell a rat. Suburban basements filled with rentable toddlers? Wouldn't at least one of these places have been busted by now? [Update: The article does open with an account of one place that was busted, but Chris's concerns are still valid; it would help if there was more information from court or police records about that bust in this article] The most glaring "too-good-to-be-true" Glass-ian touch was the following, about some web site that features 'live auctions' of sex slaves. I spend about 15-hours a day online and have never heard of such a thing. Am I being naive to the true depravity of my fellow man? Or is Landesman completely full of shit?"

Here's the passage Chris is referring to: "I had heard of one Web site that supposedly offered sex slaves for purchase to individuals. The I.C.E. agents hadn't heard of it. Special Agent Don Daufenbach, I.C.E.'s manager for undercover operations, brought it up on a screen. A hush came over the room as the agents leaned forward, clearly disturbed. ''That sure looks like the real thing,'' Daufenbach said. There were streams of Web pages of thumbnail images of young women of every ethnicity in obvious distress, bound, gagged, contorted. The agents in the room pointed out probable injuries from torture. Cyberauctions for some of the women were in progress; one had exceeded $300,000. ''With new Internet technology,'' Woo said, ''pornography is becoming more pervasive. With Web cams we're seeing more live molestation of children.'' One of I.C.E.'s recent successes, Operation Hamlet, broke up a ring of adults who traded images and videos of themselves forcing sex on their own young children."

A few things are setting off alarm bells for me here. First, there's the whole Internet=scary trope, which is so 1997. Hell, his improper use of the word "streams" tells you he's not comfortable with the technology. And then the conflation of ordinary kiddie porn (bad enough) with this slave trade thing just seems like slight-of-hand. Like if you've vaguely heard of Operation Hamlet, you're going to think, Well that was real, so the rest of it must be too.

I'm not ready to accuse a respected journalist of anything just yet. But Chris and I are going over this article with a fine-tooth comb. You should too, and post your findings on your own blog (let me know if you do) or send me your tips for this one.... Small update: Lots of people are sending me lots of interesting e-mails, both echoing my concerns and challenging them. I hope soon to post many of them, but for now I have to take a bit of a break.

Third update: After writing the first and second updates (below) I've decided that we were too quick to invoke Stephen Glass. This doesn't appear to be a fraud or a problem of such proportion. However, the article does raise a few serious (if you care about journalism) questions:

1) Did Landesman exaggerate the scope of a real but small problem? Are his most serious charges supported by his evidence?

2) Should he have been more skeptical of outlandish stories told to him by dubious sources? What attempts did he make to verify these stories?

3) Is the story tainted by misunderstanding and fear of the Internet? (The site mentioned above is the most horrifying and unlikely thing that Landesman witnesses first-hand. If it exists at all, is it genuine (not just a fairly common fetish fantasy site)? Did he make any attempts to track down its origin? Did his editors confirm its authenticity?)

First update: The article seems to be, at best, a mountain of circumstantial evidence. Try this when you read it:

1) Separate out all the stuff about something other than sex-slave rings in the United Staes -- international trafficking, prostitution, child pornography. There's a lot of sordid material that lends ambience to the story without actually backing up the main claim, that there are up to 50,000 sex slaves in captivity in the US. Frequently, gears are shifted without warning. Typical example that caught my eye because it's so familiar: "Cybernetworks like KaZaA and Morpheus -- through which you can download and trade images and videos -- have become the Mexican border of virtual sexual exploitation. I had heard of one Web site that supposedly offered sex slaves for purchase to individuals." How many tech-unsavvy NYT readers don't know that that's a complete non-sequitor?

2) Pay attention to the instances in which a moderated quote from a government source is paired with an extreme one from someone at Free the Slaves or another advocacy group, as if the former is bolstering the latter.

3) Notice that the most salacious charges (and make no mistake, from the cover photo on, this is a disturbingly prurient article) come entirely single-sourced by anonymous young women. At one point Landesman writes, "All the girls I spoke to said that their captors were both psychologically and physically abusive," implying that there are many. But throughout the article he identifies only two ("Andrea" and "Montserrat") and never mentions speaking to any others on background. Considering that much of their stories are so literally fantastic (girls being dressed in color-coded outfits for open trade at Disneyland; Johns who read the Bible to girls before raping them) you'd think he, or the editors, would want some confirmation.

4) Notice finally that after following this story for months, and pointing out that sex slave rings have to operate somewhat in the open to attract customers, Landesman never witnesses any slavery first-hand. Sure he "visited a number of addresses where trafficked girls and young women have reportedly ended up," but always after the alleged rings were broken up. Then there's this graf, in which I've emphasized some suspicious wording:

A neat subdivision and cycling path ran along the opposite bank. The San Luis Rey was mostly dry, filled now with an impenetrable jungle of 15-foot-high bamboolike reeds. As [San Diego sheriff's deputy Rick] Castro and I started down a well-worn path into the thicket, he told me about the time he first heard about this place, in October 2001. A local health care worker had heard rumors about Mexican immigrants using the reeds for sex and came down to offer condoms and advice. She found more than 400 men and 50 young women between 12 and 15 dressed in tight clothing and high heels. There was a separate group of a dozen girls no more than 11 or 12 wearing white communion dresses. ''The girls huddled in a circle for protection,'' Castro told me, ''and had big eyes like terrified deer.''

I followed Castro into the riverbed, and only 50 yards from the road we found a confounding warren of more than 30 roomlike caves carved into the reeds. It was a sunny morning, but the light in there was refracted, dreary and basementlike. The ground in each was a squalid nest of mud, tamped leaves, condom wrappers, clumps of toilet paper and magazines. Soiled underwear was strewn here and there, plastic garbage bags jury-rigged through the reeds in lieu of walls. One of the caves' inhabitants had hung old CD's on the tips of branches, like Christmas ornaments. It looked vaguely like a recent massacre site. It was 8 in the morning, but the girls could begin arriving any minute. Castro told me how it works: the girls are dropped off at the ballfield, then herded through a drainage sluice under the road into the riverbed. Vans shuttle the men from a 7-Eleven a mile away. The girls are forced to turn 15 tricks in five hours in the mud. The johns pay $15 and get 10 minutes.

That's very dramatic, but note his sourcing: a cop who heard it from a social worker. Landesman says the deputy "told me how it works," but what he really means is the deputy told me how the social worker told him how it works. Couldn't Landesman even talk to the social worker to get it second-hand rather than third-hand? Even better, couldn't he wait a few minutes (or days, if necessary) to see if the girls actually did show up and get the story first-hand? That's what ultimately makes this so hinky for me: if a trained investigative reporter can't get closer than one, two, or three steps removed from these alleged sex slaves, how are the johns finding them?

Second update: Landesman on CNN. "And let me throw you one more address that I couldn't get into the story for legal reasons. But try the Upper East Side of Manhattan in the East 80s, a brownstone nine blocks from where my parents live, actually."

Click for Fourth update.

January 23, 2004

How many more months till Hanukkah?

Daniel Radosh

Blessed is the Yarmulkebra. (Via Weblogger.nu.)

January 23, 2004

I'm going to stop reading

Daniel Radosh

I'm going to stop reading blogs for today, because I'm pretty fucking certain I won't find anything funnier than this.

January 23, 2004

Wonkette like a Polaroid picture

Daniel Radosh

By now you've heard about the Denton empire's hot new blog on the block (blogk?), Wonkette. What you may not have picked up on is that the proprietor of this DC politico-gossip bitchfest is Ana Marie Cox, formerly known as The Antic Muse. As good as TAM was, Wonkette is better. It is not too early, in fact, to declare it the best politics blog out there.

Here are just a few reasons why:

Wonkette on herself: "I am a confirmed bad employment risk with a hat trick of failed dot-coms under my belt: Maybe you've invested in them? Suck.com? Feed.com? Inside.com? I'd link to them, but they don't exist anymore! My bad."

Wonkette on her site: "If you look over to your right there, you will see the official description of Wonkette (the one our boss wrote): 'Wonkette is an online roundup of gossip from Washington, DC and the US political arena.' It's hard to believe you could actually fall asleep reading something so short, no?

Wonkette on the President of the United States: "What's really worrisome about the "Remarks to the President to the Press Pool" [is] that the world's largest economy is in the hands of someone whose grasp of fiduciary theory can essentially be reduced to 'I have two apples. If I take one apple and give it to you. . .' We kid. Of course he doesn't think that way! Why should the government give away apples to people who don't work? Fucking apple queens."

Bookmark. Enjoy.

January 22, 2004

In general, I can take

Daniel Radosh

In general, I can take or leave Strongbad, but this mini-history of videogames is sheer geek heaven. Getting to play them at the end is the icing on the cake. (props to Todd)

January 22, 2004

My other blog is a TV show.

Daniel Radosh

Not that I need an excuse to self-promote, but a new project I'm involved with may actually be of some interest even to people who don't find me or my writing particularly amusing.

It's a new pop-culture news roundup on VH1 called Best Week Ever. If you're familiar with I Love the 80s or I Love the 70s, this is for all intents and purposes I Love Last Week. New episodes are broadcast every Friday night at 11, starting tomorrow, and are then repeated endlessly throughout the week (I did say it's on VH1 after all). I'm trying to convince them to let me on as a commentator (I'm good on TV, dammit), but for now I'm strictly behind the scenes.

But here's the part that will intrigue the kind of people who like to ruminate about the impact of blogging as a medium regardless of the program's merits as entertainment: It's the first TV show assembled via blog.

The Best Week Ever writers' room — where we all sit around tossing out lame ideas, topping one another's jokes, and honing a random collection of riffs into a tight(ish) comedy broadcast — is a completely virtual space. And the coolest part is, it's open to the public.

Fans of the show (purely hypothetical creatures at this stage, but I have high hopes) can watch as it's being assembled and even pitch in (presumably VH1's lawyers have worked out something so that if a joke made by a reader in a comments section gets on the air, the network doesn't have to pay royalties; that's not my department). This experiment in cross-platform entertainment takes place at bestweekever.vh1.com.

I'm posting over there (as DLR) along with smart, funny folks from places such as stereogum, Modern Humorist, Real Time with Bill Maher, and other venues.

The hope is that Best Week Ever (the blog) will eventually be self-sufficiently entertaining, so that you'll want to check it every day just as you do radosh.net (OK, bad example; make that Metafilter). But if nothing else, it should be intriguing to watch a TV show come together. You'll see what trends we're tracking, what stories are being combined and contrasted, and get an advance look at episode lineups and other inside info from producer Fred Graver, whose marvelous (or insane) idea this all was. If it takes off, I expect NewsHour to adopt this format.

Shorter This Post: Best Week Ever debuts tomorrow night at 11 pm on VH1. Follow the adventure online at the Best Week Ever blog.

January 21, 2004

For better or for worse.

Daniel Radosh

"A presidential State of the Union address is always a little bit like a wedding — a stately, yet celebratory occasion that lays out a grand vision for the future." —New York Times, 1/20, p. A21

"Any president delivering a State of the Union address in an election year is a little like a newly minted divorcé — suddenly vulnerable to comparative appraisal." —New York Times, 1/20, p. A20

Maureen Dowd, of course, would have compared it to a gay wedding/divorcé.

January 20, 2004

More on this later, but

Daniel Radosh

More on this later, but I think it's important for me to get out there immediately that 1) I could not disagree more with the ominous spin that Cynthia Cotts puts on the Friedman synagogue thing; and 2) this here blog reflects my personal opinions in my free time and has nothing to do with scrupulously impartial The Week or my job there (obvs).

And now, more on this. I know I shouldn't look a link horse in the mouth, but I was a little chagrinned to see myself quoted so prominently in Cotts's article, especially since readers who didn't see my remarks in their original could easily believe that she and I were saying the same thing.

We were not. I was expressing surprise and amusement over Thomas Friedman's announcement that he founded a synagogue, but I never suggested there was anything wrong with donating his winnings to it (the joke about laundering the check was, clearly, just that). The idea wouldn't even have occurred to me, and after reading Cotts's column, frankly, it still hasn't.

It would be too simplistic and obnoxious to simply label Cotts a bigot and be done with it. (It may help Sullivan understand how poorly this charge reflects on him to note that one man's "pro-Israel" "optimist" is always another's "self-hating, Israel threatening" traitor). On the other hand, Cotts can't be let off the hook just because Sullivan got a bit frothy.

So let me examine (I hate to use the F-word) Cotts's argument in detail if only so it's clear why it's not my own.

She begins, "In this country, everyone's entitled to freedom of worship." So we got that going for us.

But there is something especially freighted about giving journalism award money to a religious library.

There is? Why? Is there some rule about the separation of church and newspaper? This was, after all, an opinion award. Should a man's opinion not be informed by his religious beliefs? It would be a poor faith indeed that could be so easily separated from the real-world.

Note that the other award-winners... donated their cash to less controversial institutions. Krugman's $2,000 is going to the Brooklyn Public Library, Marshall's to a prep school he attended in Southern California, and Tomlinson's to a public library in Charlotte. Presumably, these are places where readers of every political and religious persuasion can find material to inform their opinions.

Cotts has not yet established what makes Kol Shalom "controversial," though she'll attempt to later. But how much tidier it would be for her if Marshall had not rewarded a frickin' prep school, robbing her of the "access for all" argument she probably wants to make. But even if — if — the library of Friedman's choice is most likely going to be frequented by people of certain political and religious persuasions, so what? It's his prize, let him donate it wherever he wants. Again isn't promoting opinions his job? Hell, I'd let him keep it, but the condition was donation to a library (not, mind you, a "secular public library").

Which is probably not the case at Friedman's library of choice. According to the Kol Shalom website, the synagogue seeks "to support and assist" the Conservative Masorti movement in Israel.

It's possible that Cotts simply isn't familiar with how congregations work, but her implication, that because a synagogue takes a particular stand on Israel its every function, down to what books the library stocks, is dictated by that stand is simply false. By highlighting Kol Shalom's statement on Israel (as opposed to, say, it's work serving meals at homeless shelters, Cotts leaves the impression that this synagogue is merely a front for a Zionist political organization. But again, people familiar with such things will know that will know that a formal position in Israel is de rigor, but almost never the be-all end-all. And unless Kol Shalom is unusual for a Conservative congregation, it's unlikely that the entire membership agrees, or is expected to agree, with every statement put forward by the board.

In a 1997 column, Friedman described Masorti as a "grassroots institute." Its president Rabbi Ehud Bandel recently told a reporter that his group strives to maintain a middle ground between the extremists in Israel and to preserve the "Zionist dream of an independent, sovereign, Jewish state. . . . Our three basic principles are Zionism, Judaism, and democracy."

Is it just me, or is Cotts working overtime to make Masorti sound scary? She can't even bring herself to finish the construction that begins "middle ground between the extremists," as if adding, "and the secularists," would make Masorti sound more reasonable to Village Voice readers. Earlier she called it the "Conservative Masorti movement," but that's Conservative as in the branch of Judaism, which in Israel is fairly liberal. And all that stuff about Zionism, well, I'm sure Bandel said such a thing -- to an audience that would understand the context and not assume that Masorti is a Zionist political movement, as Voice readers might. A more encompassing quote about Masorti can be found on its website (which Cotts oddly fails to link to): "In promoting the combined values of Conservative Judaism, religious tolerance and Zionism, the Movement strives to nurture a healthy, pluralistic, spiritual and ethical foundation for Israeli society." Still scared? Masorti is, in fact, simply the umbrella organization of Conservative congregations and havurot in Israel.

In Israel, religion and politics are inseparable. Orthodox Jews have considerable power, and Reform and Conservative groups fight for leverage. While Friedman does not usually identify his arguments as religious ones, he has exhorted moderate Jews to be as passionate as extremists, and he endorsed the war in Iraq, which he casts as a moral imperative.

The war in Iraq? Where did that come from? Is she really insinuating that Friedman only supported the war because his synagogue believes liberal Judaism should have equal standing with Orthodox Judaism in Israel? Or is she just stirring the pot?

Rabbi Maltzman probably has strong political beliefs, too, but he is better known for his bookkeeping habits.

Ah, the artful segue. The whole thing about Maltzman's alleged financial malfeasance is a red herring. Though I guess I owe Cotts for almost inadvertently explaining exactly how Friedman came to "start" a synagogue. The short version will be all too familiar to people who follow such things: There was a conflict between the board and the rabbi. The rabbi was fired. His supporters quit in protest and set him and themselves up in a new congregation. Neither Cotts nor I know whether they were right or wrong, but I try to avoid politics at my own congregation and I'm certainly not going to second-guess decisions made at one I know nothing about.

Friedman's religious beliefs are relevant because they shed light on his political ideology, which he espouses with tremendous authority. In a New York Times column published shortly before Yom Kippur 1997, Friedman called on moderate U.S. Jews to give money to Israel "in a very targeted way," so that it would not end up in the hands of "ultra-Orthodox elements."

Yes, thank goodness we now know about Friedman's religious beliefs or his political ideology would be shrouded in darkness. Um, what? As Cotts' random examples show, Friedman's beliefs are all too well-expressed. He says exactly what he means and explains why he means it. He's an opinion columnist. I guess her point is that he's telling readers to support the same causes that his synagogue supports. And? Should he belong to a synagogue thatdoesn't support the principles he believes in? Even if Friedman were a reporter with a mandate for objectivity, there would be no reason to examine his religious beliefs to find bias. It would either appear in his work or it would not. Or is Cotts really suggesting that no religious Jew can ever be trusted to write about Israel?

In the same column, Friedman wrote that he had recently turned down an invitation to talk about Arab-Israeli affairs to an "American-Israeli educational institution," because he was required to end his speech "on an uplifting note."

Good for him. Would Cotts be happier if Friedman said, "Sure, I'll say whatever you want for a check"? I don't get it.

These days, Friedman routinely bills himself as an optimist.

Even better for him. His outlook has improved.

Asked whether he had ever agreed to give a speech on the condition that he take an optimistic stance, Friedman declined to comment.

Is it possible he could tell where this article was going and wanted to get off the phone? I know I would.

On a lighter note, Steven Weiss over at Protocols came through on my request for a Friedman/Safire prayer service. (And the gang over there is also debating Cotts, natch, noting that she has "gutlessly" refused to answer questions about her own reporting while demanding answers of others.) Jarvis weighs in too. By the way, I said earlier that I had a nice chat with Cotts at the luncheon. That remains true.

January 19, 2004

Well it's a good thing

Daniel Radosh

Well it's a good thing we don't use those stupid markets to predict terror attacks, huh?

January 19, 2004

Insert Jew York Times joke here.

Daniel Radosh

Friedman/Safire synagogue mystery solved! See update at end of post.

January 19, 2004

I've posted an update on

Daniel Radosh

I've posted an update on Fusilligate.

January 19, 2004

The Otaku's Lament

Daniel Radosh

First they came for the obscene manga. I was silent. I did not read manga. Then they came for the schoolgirls' panties. I was silent. I did not purchase used panties. When they come for the bishoujo, will there be anyone left to speak?

Update: The Tokyo street weighs in. On the one hand, "If I saw my father reading porn, I would be so shocked my blood circulation would go backwards." But then again, "What is wrong is when an adult cannot instill values and discipline in their children. Basically, why are there so many girls willing to pose in those kind of magazines?" (Via Fark)

January 19, 2004

Regular readers of this site

Daniel Radosh

Regular readers of this site (are there such things?) will recall that I'm a fan of using markets to predict future events (if not to fairly distribute wealth). So while the pundits do their pundit thing -- declaring the Iowa race to be tightening at the last minute -- "up for grabs," even -- just so they have something to talk about -- I'll simply note that the Iowa Electronic Markets, the granddaddy of predictive markets, still has Howard Dean by a comfortable margin (41% to Kerry's 35.5%, though Kerry's bids did surge over the last day). I promise to apologize to pundits and pollsters everywhere if their predictions turn out to be more accurate.

Not that I have a dog in this fight. I'm voting National Barking Spider Resurgence Party

January 15, 2004

I resemble that remark. This

Daniel Radosh

I resemble that remark. This is so much cooler than the NRA blacklist. I'm one of 7,000 Jews on the Self-Hating Israel Threatening -- that's right, "SHIT" -- list.

Gina's on the list too, as well as plenty more family and friends, so my best guess is that they just cut and pasted from the Open Letter from American Jews for Peace in the Middle East. But they had other sources too.

Tom Friedman is on the list, while Safire is not, which should make for some pretty interesting conversations at shul.

January 15, 2004

What the hell?

Daniel Radosh

Here's how The New Yorker's Cartoon Bank is selling this comic. But I had the original on my fridge for years, and I'm almost positive the second sentence was, "How the hell are you?" Or maybe I've just subconsiously made it funnier this whole time. Cam anyone back me up on this?

Ah ha! Update: David Amsden writes: "A friend very familiar with my fridge directed me to your quandry. Yes, you are right: the original reads, "Fusilli, you crazy bastard! How the hell are you?" Now if only someone can tell me why they changed it...

January 15, 2004

Survival of the fittest

Daniel Radosh

"There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing..." Israeli historian Benny Morris gives a terrifying interview in which he lays out the crimes committed against Palestinians from 1948 to today, and then argues that every one of them was justified (OK, he draws the line at rape).

In Jabotinsky's day, being honest about what was "required" in dealing with the Arabs was far more common than it has since become, so it's fairly shocking to hear the arguments that actually dictate Israeli policy spoken out loud. That makes this interview a must-read for anyone hoping to understand the current situation there. Needless to say, I disagree with Morris' essential proposition: that revisionist (neo-revisionist?) Zionism is the only kind that will work. Indeed, I think Israel's problems stem from the fact that it was founded largely on Revisionism. Morris's argument that only more of the same can solve the problems that philosophy has already created is absurd on its face.

"If anyone objects that this point of view is immoral, I answer: It is not true; either Zionism is moral and just or it is immoral and unjust. We hold that Zionism is moral and just. And since it is moral and just, justice must be done, no matter whether Joseph or Simon or Ivan or Achmet agree with it or not. There is no other morality." -- Zev Jabotinsky

"You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs." -- Benny Morris

Update: Haaretz readers respond.

January 14, 2004

So neo really is short

Daniel Radosh

So neo really is short for Jewish?. Just back from the swank Week Opinion Awards luncheon at Harry & Tina's. I was a judge for Blogger of the Year, not a nominee for anything, though I did win five bucks off Choire Sicha in the incestuous media equivalent of a bar bet (will Seth Mnookin wear a suit?).

I don't usually go for such posh events -- by which I mean I'm not usually invited -- but this one was fun if only to finally get to meet in person folks like Choire and Elizabeth Spiers, who is prettier than you might expect, in a small sort of way, but also very quiet; I don't think I heard her say three words (though perhaps she just had nothing to say to me). Also had a nice chat with Cynthia Cotts, though forgot to ask her for advice re: Lingua Franca, as I'm pretty sure my summons hasn't arrived only because it went to an old address.

But I'm not here to drop names. (Oh wait, yes I am. Sid Blumenthal = unusually shiny). I just need to mention one eyebrow-raising moment. Award winners were given $1,000 which they were required to donate to a library of their choice. Tom Friedman, in accepting his prize, said, "Like all good Jews, I've started my own synagogue. With William Safire. So this is going to the library there."

Say what?

As the Sun's Gary Shapiro pointed out later, the "Like all good Jews" part was obviously an allusion to the old joke, but in the non-setup/punchline world, most Jews do not in fact start their own synagogues (indeed, many perfectly good Jews can barely bring themselves to attend already existing ones). Much less "with William Safire" (is Brooks the cantor?) Did he really mean they started their own shul? Or that they joined a sleepy one together and revived it through the force of their personalities? Or was this simply a jokey way of saying he'd be laundering the check in order to keep it? (I happen to know that Friedman commands $40,000 per speaking engagement, so while we can rule out necessity as a motive, we can't rule out greed).

I'll leave it to more commited satirists to, I dunno, write a Friedman/Safire shabbos service. I just want to know, for real, what the fuck? Despite the fact that Friedman made his comment in a room full of journalists, no one, to the best of my knowledge, had the wherewithal to ask him (though everyone was buzzing about it). There was a lovely young woman from the Times with flaming orange hair who seemed to be taking notes, so keep your eye on Boldface Names in the next few days; that's our best bet for the answer, though Choire also claimed that he'd work his sources. I'll work mine too, I guess, in the form of asking any reader who have heard about this to fill me in.

Update: Harry & Tina's? "Yes, it's like a matinee of Tony & Tina's. It's a performance and you're trying to figure out who acting and who's not." That's what my co-judge Jeff Jarvis has to say about the event (along with much else, including some stuff about the actual awards, which I guess I forgot to go into; lucky bastard was blogging from his Treo 600 before he hit the street). I was supposed to be at the kid's table with him and the rest of the bloggers, but through a mix-up I ended up sitting at a more respectable table, and thus had significantly less fun.

More important update: Shapiro, for one, is a real reporter after all. He picked up the telephone and filed this report for The Sun: In accepting his award for Columnist of the Year, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, referring to where his award money would go, said, "Like all good Jews, I started my own synagogue."

Blogger Daniel Radosh of radosh.net was among the many puzzled as to what Mr. Friedman was referring. Reached through a Times spokesman, Mr. Friedman said he and a group co-founded Kol Shalom, a synagogue in Bethesda, Md.

In a phone conversation, the executive director of the synagogue, Deborah Finkelstein, filled in the rest: The synagogue, which was founded in October 2001, is "conservative egalitarian." It boasts William Safire as an original member, and Middle East envoy Dennis Ross is another member. The synagogue has an office but not yet its own building.

January 13, 2004

I'm extremely skeptical about

Daniel Radosh

I'm extremely skeptical about this new Hitchhiker's movie. But I have to admit, this is good casting.

January 13, 2004

Slate calls me a "gossip."

Daniel Radosh

Slate calls me a "gossip." I can live with that.

January 13, 2004

Shortest flame war evs.

Daniel Radosh

The way I figure it, Uncle Grambo over at Whatevs was only feigning offense for comic effect with his response to my offhand suggestion that he might be nominated for "most goofy patois." Surely it should have been clear from context that this was more compliment than insult. As I suspect Grambo knows, his nutty argot stands firmly in a proud lineage. Sure it would be tedious to read day after day if Whatevs didn't also have the goods to back it up, but day after day, Whatevs does.

Yesterday, for instance, Grambo called our attention to the new one-sheet for Eurotrip, the no doubt god-awful sequel of sorts to the unbearable Road Trip (I have a much lower threshold for trash movies than he does). In particular, his curiosity was aroused by, in his wacky vernacularism, the poster's "full-on TrachtenHottness," and, more precisely, "so much cleavs."

I hate to be the barer of bad news, but anyone who goes to see this movie hoping to see mountains of Dawn is going to be in for a disappointment. One way or another, the picture is clearly faked. Michelle Trachtenberg is a lovely young woman, to be sure, but her TrachtenTitties are far more humble than this illustration would have you believe, as you can see in this actual still from Eurotrip.

I suppose it's possible that the image is technically real, in that MT is obviously pushing everything together and could be getting a Wonder Bra boost. But since she doesn't spend the entire film posed that way, that's hardly relevant (fans of less busty, too skinny Michelle may still want to buy a ticket). And in fact my best guess is that the poster has simply been artistically amplified precisely to catch the attention of Uncle Grambo and his pals in the theater lobby, an entirely common practice.

But the best evidence that Michelle is not so stacked is that Joss would have shown her off more if she was. I know, I know, he intentionally downplayed her sexuality so that viewers would relate to her the way Buffy did, as little sister, but if she was really so built, he would not have been able to resist. I mean, we're talking about a man who once said, "the imagination is sexier than anything (with the possible exception of womanboobies)."

Boobage aside, I always thought Dawn was a missed opportunity, and one reason for my case that the show jumped after season 3. Not that there weren't some swell storylines and blazing episodes after that (Fool for Love, Once More With Feeling, The Body) but go back and watch the S2 & S3 DVDs and the consistently higher quality is immediately evident. More than any one character added or subtracted, or plot pursued or left dangling, the big problem was simply Joss's withdrawal (though that did give us two amazing seasons of Angel, since floundering again, sadly, and, of course, Firefly, so it was probably for the best).

Um, yeah, so now that I think about it, this post would have been a lot less boring if it were written in outrageous parlance. Obvs.

January 13, 2004

Ah, fuck.

Daniel Radosh

Ah, fuck.

January 12, 2004

The earth is definitely doomed.

Daniel Radosh

Emily Nussbaum writes about teenagers, high school, anxiety, and empowerment — and doesn't mention Buffy the Vampire Slayer once. Does this shocking dereliction of duty mean that Nussbaum has ditched Buff for The O.C. (which gets the gratuitous reference that would normally go to BtVS), or have her editors finally decided to reign her in?

Assuming this is indeed the end of an era, here's a look back at Em's three-year campaign to get Buffy into print at least once every other month, no matter how slim the pretext.

"A year ago, the television series "Firefly" was canceled, and promptly became a hit -- at least online. Created by Joss Whedon, who also created "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," the show featured an oddball genre mix that might have doomed it from the beginning" -- The New York Times, December 21, 2003

"But the truth is, Joan's lineage comes less from actual religious television than from the superhero tradition. With her secret identity and reluctant embrace of duty, she's the latest incarnation in a decade of teenagers with a calling, from Buffy to "Charmed," "Alias," "Roswell" and "Smallville" -- adolescents whose mysterious destinies are metaphors for the adolescent's search for meaning." — The New York Times, October 19, 2003

"But at best, an Enthusiast track gives the listener the impression of being a silent participant in the most thrilling type of bull session. The fourth-season "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" track for the werewolf episode, "Wild at Heart," features banter from the creator, Joss Whedon, the executive producer, Marti Noxon, and the actor Seth Green. The three communicate in a kind of sarcastic Buffy-speak that's hard to transcribe but fun to listen to." — The New York Times, August 17, 2003,

"Because whatever its nostalgic charms, the 70's femme adventure series "Charlie's Angels" is not quality television. The mystery plots make (to quote that latter-day martial arts expert Buffy) the kind of sense that is not." — The New York Times, June 29, 2003

"Where do we go from here? That's the question the Buffy ensemble asked in one of the finest episodes of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," the musical episode, a highlight of the much-disputed Season 6 -- or at least, much-disputed by the type of person who knows lyrics from an episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," which season they're from, and who sang them." — (Sick of 'Buffy' Cultists? You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet), The New York Times, June 8, 2003, Sunday

"Birds of Prey (WB). Heaven on earth for us comic book fans (Eric Deggans, the St. Petersberg Times), featuring fantastical visuals and quippy butt-kicking (Diane Werts, Newsday). While the Miami Herald's easily threatened Glenn Garvin takes a retro-paranoid view of the show as a brooding gothgirl power fantasy about nurturing your inner bitch, the New York Times' Caryn James finds it much closer to the wit of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' than to the banal witchcraft of 'Charmed,' or the earnest, overpraised C.I.A. drama 'Alias.'" —Slate Magazine, October 8, 2002

"Every once in a while, I'll just look up and say, 'My spaceship!"' says Joss Whedon, bouncing on the tips of his sneakers. The 38-year-old creator of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" grins and gazes up at the Serenity, a pirate vessel of the future." — The New York Times, September 22, 2002,

"Firefly (Fox). In a new season largely bereft of innovative ideas or daring concepts, 'Firefly' stands out like a supermodel at a bus stop, writes Barry Garron in the Hollywood Reporter. Other critics think Buffy creator Joss Whedon's sci-fi/Western missed the bus entirely" although some of them make factual errors in the process of snarking on the show; the first episode is not an edited version of the original two-hour pilot, as Tom Shales suggests. (For my take, read this Sunday's New York Times Magazine.)" —Slate Magazine, September 17, 2002

"It's easy to see why DVR users are willing to spend so much money for the machine. "It has completely changed the way I watch TV," says Emily Nussbaum... Recently, she asked her TiVo to check for episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and discovered that reruns were showing on a channel she had never heard of before." — (Making 'thieves' out of TV viewers: The fight over DVRs reaches the courts by Felix Vikhman), National Post, August 3, 2002

"Six Feet Under may have won an outrageous 23 Emmy nominations, but it's really just Ally McBeal in mortality drag: dream sequences, romanticized narcissism, fake-o self-conscious dialogue, meaning-of-life montages and all. The characters may be grown-ups, but the show isn't about death and mortality at all; it's about adolescence "and not real, morally complex adolescence (the rich subject of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, perpetually snubbed at the Emmys) but creative adolescence, art that only pretends to take risks." — Slate Magazine, July 25, 2002

"Each Tuesday night, as I scurry to my friends' apartment to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I carry more information than could possibly be good for me. I know the title of the episode to come, the name of the writer, often the basic plot." — Slate Magazine, April 4, 2002,

"I have come not to praise MTV's Daria, but to bury her. And a sad, cold funeral day it is. For unlike recently resurrected Buffy Summers "Daria's spiritual sister in angry-and-conflicted teen-age girlhood "it doesn't look like Daria's going to rise from the dead any time soon." — Slate Magazine, January 21, 2002

"Tuesday night, Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Willow Rosenberg finally kissed her girlfriend." — Nerve.com (date unknown; not worth checking BtVS ep guide to determine)

""Angel" isn't bad, but it isn't Buffy -- at least, not yet. Luckily, the original is still going strong." —letter to the editor, Salon, December 12, 1999

Update: Emily writes, "If you're gonna mock me on your blog, you should probably note that you and Gina once attended my party dressed as Buffy and Angel! Enabler."

That is so true (it was Halloween, I should clarify). I certainly did not intend my gentle ribbing to indicate any lack of enthusiasm for the works of Joss Whedon (though I do hold that Buffy jumped the shark when they blew up the high school). And if Emily's enthusiasm is even remotely helpful in getting Firefly onto the big screen, all will be forgiven.

Gina looked awesome and very Buffesque by the way. I looked more like a member of the nerd troika. I'll try to digitize some photos for your all amusement.

January 11, 2004

You know you're not getting

Daniel Radosh

You know you're not getting to the movies enough when you've seen only one of the nominees, and then only because it was on TV. I'm not talking Oscars, I'm talking the Top 20 Nude Scenes of 2003 (NSFW). Just as Oscar night clips can let you know which films to seek out and which were, as you suspected, overpraised, these screen grabs serve a similar purpose. I now know there's no reason at all to see American Wedding (what is with the kids today who think fake boobs are remotely attractive?). And I've moved Swimming Pool to the top of my Netflix queue. (Link via A List A Day.)

January 9, 2004

Even Dubiouser Achievements

Daniel Radosh

The February issue of Esquire hits the stands this week and after several years of shunting the Dubious Achievement Awards to a coverline in the corner somewhere they've completely shifted gears and given the feature the entire cover to itself. I hope that means they're proud of it again, 'cause I wrote about two-thirds of it. Look: there's a picture of me on the contributor's page (Gina was supposed to get a photo credit, but that seems to have fallen through the cracks). The thrust of the little blurb about me is that when writing my punchlines, I sometimes managed to offend even myself. "Britney Spears came under some particularly heavy fire," it says, paraphrasing my remark about what I thought was my most unforgivable joke. In fact what I told the guy who wrote the blurb was that I was surprised the Britney joke even made it into print. Of course, after I said that, the joke was, in fact, toned down.

That's probably for the best, although I never really intended it to be offensive to Britney herself. If anything, it was a joke about how harsh a joke I was making. Sort of like the brilliant shirts from T-Shirt Hell. What's funny is not "I swear I didn't know she was 3," but rather that someone might have the audacity to wear such a shirt. As it was, I'd already tacked on a "just kidding" afterthought onto my original joke, but apparently someone realized it could use another "just kidding," and changed one word.

OK, the news item in question is: "Kendel Ehrlich, wife of Maryland governor Robert Ehrlich, said at a conference on domestic violence in that state, 'Really, if I had an opportunity to shoot Britney Spears, I think I would." My original headline: "Us, Too, But We'd Fuck Her First. Oh, Like You Weren't Thinking It."

Now it reads, "Us, Too, But We'd Bang Her First," etc.

Anyway, I had a great time on the Dubies, especially working with the talented and funny A.J. Jacobs. All my best jokes made the cut. But why should even second-rate jokes go to waste when I have a blog? Here are your 2003 Dubious Achievement Also-Rans.

When the US Supreme Court voted 6-to-3 to strike down laws banning sodomy and homosexual sex, dissenting Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, "Today's opinion is the product of a court, which is the product of a law-profession culture, that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda."

Rapper 50 Cent told the The New York Times, "I've never had a job before. I sold crack, and then I had the opportunity to write music, and I moved on it because I felt that it was positive. I can't even identify with you when you tell me that you've got to get up and go to work in the morning. I hope I never have to."

Actor Steven Seagal testified that an alleged Gambino family associate tried to coerce him into making movies with the mob. Speaking of his testimony as a government witness in the racketeering trial, Seagal said, "In the movies, I play a tough action hero, but I have feelings."

A stripper sued the National Enquirer after the tabloid reported that she had hooked up with actor Ben Affleck. The suit sought unspecified damages from the tabloid and one of her fellow dancers, who received $100,000 for the story.

Emerging from a coma after nearly 20 years, an Arkansas man's first word was "mom," his second was "Pepsi."

The mental health office in Portland, Oregon listed Klingon as a language for which it sought patient interpreters.

Smith & Wesson announced that it was branching out into clothing, jewelry and home décor, including pillows and bedding.

An environmental group called for warning labels on Teflon-coated cookware, noting that at high-temperatures non-stick pans release fumes that can kill birds.

France announced plans to financially aid its domestic video game industry.

An alliance of Republican lobbyists with ties to the Bush administration created a group called New Bridge Strategies to help US companies win distribution rights in Iraq. "One well-stocked 7-Eleven could knock out 30 Iraqi stores," said a New Bridge partner.

Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones sued the British magazine Hello! for publishing unauthorized photos of their wedding after the couple had sold exclusive rights to a rival magazine. The Hello! photos "were poor quality, sleazy, and unflattering," Zeta-Jones testified.

January 8, 2004

'The Week' to Present Opinion

Daniel Radosh

'The Week' to Present Opinion Awards. Considering that this Editor & Publisher story had to have been written from a press release, it gets a lot of stuff wrong -- but fortunately in a way that exaggerates my importance.

The 2004 award season will kick off next Wednesday at the New York City apartment of Harold Evans, who will host the first annual The Week magazine Opinion Awards, at a noontime luncheon. Evans has hosted several The Week panels during the past year but this time he is opening his home to an event.

And I'm invited, for reasons that will be clear below. Anyone know where I can buy a suit?

Winners will remain secret until then. The four categories are Columnist, Single-Issue Advocacy Columnist, Blogger of the Year and Local Columnist.... In the blog category, a panel of experts -- Jeff Jarvis, Daniel Radosh and Glenn Reynolds -- screened candidates and presented them to the judges, who included Harold Evans, Robert Caro, Susan Cheever, Edward J. Rollins, Mario Cuomo, James F. Hoge, Jr., Lauren Hutton, Walter Isaacson and Alex S. Jones.

While it sounds like I got to chat up Lauren Hutton, this bit of misinformation completely obscures the point. In fact, it was all the other categories that were presented to the judges -- by editors at The Week not including me. The rowdy blogs were made to sit at the kid's table, with Glenn, Jeff and me nominating candidates and selecting the winner entirely without adult supervision.

Who won? Tell you in a week, but know that because this was for The Week, our emphasis was on news and opinion blogs and our chief criteria were contributions to the national debate, influence in the real world, and effective use of the medium. Not most goofy patois.

January 8, 2004

As long as he's happy.

Daniel Radosh

Yahoo News covers its bases.

January 8, 2004

Oh, give us a minute and we'll come up with someone.

Daniel Radosh

"You would think in the age of 9/11 that no one could be more beside the point than Donald Trump." -- lead sentence of today's column by, um, Tina Brown.

January 7, 2004

Google News synopsis of the

Daniel Radosh

Google News synopsis of the day. So did Susman get to sleep with one of them, or did he just jerk off into a cup?

January 6, 2004

Poor James Taranto over at

Daniel Radosh

Poor James Taranto over at the WSJ has really got himself twisted into knots this time. His first item today concerns a report that Turkish rumors about American soldiers raping Iraqi women have incited at least one terrorist attack. The rumors were generated by two (false) articles in the Turkish press, one of which cited as its source a Dr. Susan Block.

Here's where Taranto goes nuts. Block is an American sex therapist who, back in April, wrote a genuinely lunatic essay comparing the invasion of Iraq to rape. (Par for the course, JT blithely describes the essay as "pro-Saddam," by which he means "objectively pro-Saddam," or, as normal people would say, "anti-war").

"But whatever, she's just another harmless left-wing nut case, right?" says JT. "Unfortunately, wrong." Responsibility for the car bomb that killed a dozen people is laid squarely at Block's door. "Since Sept. 11, Why do they hate us? has been a stock question of the anti-American left," writes JT. "One reason they hate us is because of the diligent efforts of homegrown haters like Susan Block."

In the spirit of bloggery, I'll allow JT his typically foamy contention that writing shrill and stupid propoganda constitutes a "diligent effort" to make people hate America. But he does two simply dopey things in his attempt to make the link between Block and the bomb. First he ignores Block's own response: "'I am a sex therapist and I use sexual terminology for political commentary. I did not say American troops are literally raping Iraqi women." In other words, some Turkish writer, not Block, invented the rumor that incited the attack. Perhaps he was inspired to invent this story after reading Block's metaphor. Or maybe he had the idea already and Googled "Iraq rape" in search of a source to attribute it to. Or, most charitably, he doesn't understand English and misread Block wildly. Either way, he was only one of two journalists to claim that Americans were raping Iraqis. The other one did not attribute his story to Block. The fact is, angry Muslims wanted to spread this lie for their own purposes and would have whether or not Block or any other "homegrown hater" had said anything even remotely similar.

But the real problem for JT is that in order to draw a sketchy line from Block to the rumor to the attack, he has to draw a connecting line firmly and clearly through the Iraq war. After all, the alleged rapes took place in the context of the invasion and occupation. For JT's version of events to stick, he has no choice but to affirm that if the Block essay is indirectly responsible for the attack, the war itself is directly responsible. You simply cannot say "if there hadn't been this essay, there wouldn't have been this attack" without also saying "if there hadn't been an invasion, there wouldn't have been this attack." But, uh oh -- hawks are never, ever supposed to admit that the invasion of Iraq led to increased terrorist attacks.

To swat a completely meaningless gadfly, JT has just conceded a major point to the mainstream antiwarriors.

January 6, 2004

If the groundhog sees his

Daniel Radosh

If the groundhog sees his shadow, six more decades of nuclear winter.

January 5, 2004

Laid-off employees get Barbie dolls

Daniel Radosh

Laid-off employees get Barbie dolls as severance package. A reminder that no matter how much Michael Moore makes stuff up, capitalism will always find a way to top him.

January 5, 2004

Like most Americans, I thought

Daniel Radosh

Like most Americans, I thought I never again wanted to read another article about metrosexuals. You know you're in trouble when the New York Times has to lead its latest MS puff piece with an apology (an insincere one, we can only assume, since they ran the story anyway).

But today in Salon, Mark Simpson, the man who coined the word, offers a fascinating explanation of what he meant by it and how it got away from him. Intended as a sharp critique of consumerism (and a compelling, if trendy, bit of queer theory) it was (to no one's surprise in hindsight) co-opted and spread by marketers.

"Much of the responsibility for this global epidemic of metrosex-mania, however, lies not with my irresistibly contagious prose, or even Salon's worldwide e-popularity, but the very canny trend-spotter for a giant global advertising company who picked up the concept and, with the help of some research that seemed to show that metrosexuals really did exist, made over the metrosexual into a marketing tool with which to seduce the world media. Snarky sociology, which is no good to anyone, was transmuted into highly profitable demography, which everyone wants a piece of."

In fact, Simpson's prose is fairly irresistible, which makes it well worth clicking through whatever ads Salon makes you watch in order to read the entire essay. Or, at the very least, his take on Queer Eye:

"In a makeover culture it's the ultimate makeover show because what is being made over is masculinity itself. However, the basic premise is, it has to be said, a lie. I know this will come as a shock to millions, but gays are not necessarily more stylish than straight men. Exhibit A: the gay fashion 'expert' on 'Queer Eye' [Carson Kressley] who dispenses sartorial advice while dressed like the Children Snatcher in 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.'"

January 4, 2004

So this researcher proves that

Daniel Radosh

So this researcher proves that people eat more when they get larger portions by feeding subjects from a bowl of soup that's being secretly refilled from the bottom.

"People believe they're pretty good at calibrating what they eat," said Wansink, 43, who studies the psychology of food. "I don't think they are. I think they rely on benchmarks, essentially the fill level of the bowl. There tends to be this visual cue that you're full."

And yet you know what the only practical outcome of this research is going to be: Restaurant chains will start using the trick soup bowls to save customers the trip to the all-you-can-eat salad bar.

January 3, 2004

The Quiet American

Daniel Radosh

No, you don't need any context

January 2, 2004

While the rest of us

Daniel Radosh

While the rest of us were wasailing, Francis Heaney continued blogging over Christmas and managed to record and post a new holiday song, I Saw Mommy Kissing Jesus Christ. You'll remember Francis as my collaborator on God's Company, the Three's Company theme song as sung by Johnny Cash. This is much better.

While Francis seems to think he's going to hell for his work, there's a proud tradition of spirituals that sound almost creepily like love songs, which is why so many gospel songs have been easily transformedinto romantic ballads.

Indeed, on the Johnny Cash Unearthed box set, which Gina gave me for Hanukkah, there's a version of When He Reached Down that's not all that different in tone from (the title at least) of I Saw Mommy Kissing Jesus Christ -- or, more precisely, from the Magnetic Fields' Kiss Me Like You Mean It.

(Speaking of which, Francis, here's that alternately interesting and irritating Rick Moody article about 69 Love Songs that I was telling you about a while ago.)

January 2, 2004

New Year, New Trend

Daniel Radosh

Much as I'd love to give credence to any story that uses the word "Robotard," this USA Today article on the "latest drug abuse trend" instantly called to mind Jack Shafer's warnings about bogus trendspotting. Come on, people, it's 2004. We should be past this.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.2