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Archives for February, 2004

February 24, 2004

On National Review Online today,

Daniel Radosh

On National Review Online today, Carl Cannon praises the new openness at the New York Times, which ensures that concerns about Peter Landesman's sex slaves article actually get addressed, rather than swept under the rug. "In the old days, before the recent unpleasantness involving the fallout over the Jayson Blair affair, this might have been the end of it. It's likely that only the most Internet-savvy readers would even have even known there was a controversy."

That's absolutely right, and Cannon correctly credits public editor Dan Okrent and the decision to appoint him for this shift. I was especially impressed from the beginning that Okrent reached out to me after reading this site. In his phone call to me, Landesman said at one point, "It's the fucking Internet. People think they can say anything they want just because it's easy." As a fan of people being able to say anything that want, I couldn't disagree.

NRO readers: The Landesman saga on Radosh.net begins here. Major updates are here, here (this is a fun one), and here.

February 20, 2004

Hint: It involves cloned human embryos, TiVo, and the new Courtney Love CD.

Daniel Radosh

Blogging will be sparse for the next week or so as the Radosh.net team works behind the scenes in preparation for our exciting re-launch. We can't give away too much just yet, but if you link to this site using radosh.blogspot.com, go ahead and change that to radosh.net now...

February 18, 2004

"Nobody seems to want it any other way?" Nobody?

Daniel Radosh

Abolish the Best Actress category? What a great idea. Oh wait, it's my fucking idea! Unbelievable.

February 18, 2004

But do they have a web site?

Daniel Radosh

Actually, I'm almost surprised this didn't make the article.

February 18, 2004

The Times Magazine's photo editor

Daniel Radosh

The Times Magazine's photo editor has cleared up something about my last post. See update at end.

February 17, 2004

Meeting Minutes for the Sunday

Daniel Radosh

Meeting Minutes for the Sunday Major Metropolitan Newspaper Review Society, Sioux City, Iowa Branch. Your guess is as good as mine, really.

February 17, 2004

Slate's Explainer on sweeps month

Daniel Radosh

Slate's Explainer on sweeps month is pretty good (though inevitably I prefer my own), but towards the end, writer Sean Rocha slips up and invokes the long-debunked Legend of the QWERTY Keyboard.

February 17, 2004

More than a few readers

Daniel Radosh

More than a few readers drawn by the Landesman saga have brought up Nicholas Kristof's columns about purchasing and freeing Cambodian slaves. My interest is in journalism, and I feel ill-equipped (and not so interested) to pursue big questions of how best to tackle sexual trafficking.

I'll turn the matter over to Katha Pollitt:

To tell you the truth, I thought those columns were a little weird--there's such a long tradition of privileged men rescuing individual prostitutes as a kind of whirlwind adventure. You would never know from the five columns he wrote about young Srey Neth and Srey Mom, that anyone in Cambodia thought selling your daughter to a brothel was anything but wonderful. I wish he had given us the voices of some Cambodian activists--for starters, the Cambodian Women's Crisis Center and the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)--both of which are skeptical about brothel raids and rescues, which often dump traumatized girls on local NGOs that lack the resources to care for them. Instead he called Donna Hughes--a professor at Rhode Island University who publishes in National Review, The Weekly Standard and FrontPage Magazine, and whose opposition to all forms of prostitution is so monolithic that she has written against the Thai government's policy of promoting and enforcing condom use in brothels to prevent transmission of AIDS--and gave her space to ventilate against American feminists...

You can see the narrative in the process of creation: Third World women are victims; American men are saviors. Right-wing Christians care about Third World women; feminists only care about themselves.

February 16, 2004

Alcohol without all the tedious

Daniel Radosh

Alcohol without all the tedious drinking. For godssake, don't tell this guy. (Via BWE.)

February 16, 2004

Except, you know, it's not as hard on the hands and feet.

Daniel Radosh

Mel Gibson Says The Pain In 'Passion' Is Same As His

February 15, 2004

With the New York Times'

Daniel Radosh

With the New York Times' "nothing to see here, move along" approach failing, the paper attempts to put the Landesman controversy to rest today with a lengthy editors' note. You'll be shocked to hear that I'd like to poke that baby awake again.

With ombudsman Dan Okrent affirming again that he's continuing to investigate (in the midst of an entertaining Q&A about his first 11 weeks on the job), my hunch is that he's been asking enough questions that the Times now feels the need to at least attempt to come up with answers -- and that this editors' note is not so much a "response to questions from readers and other publications" as it is a preemptive response to Okrent.

The note does not even attempt to address what I have always said is the article's biggest problem -- that it oversells a meager amount of evidence. But it also falls a bit short on some matters it does address. Here are a few sections worth a second look:

Some readers have questioned the figure of 10,000 enforced prostitutes brought into this country each year.

No, actually, we've questioned the figure of 10,000 sex slaves. "The distinction is important," Landesman writes, "These girls weren't working for profit or a paycheck. They were captives to the traffickers and keepers who controlled their every move." Of course any coerced sex work is abhorrent, but let's hope this is an honest slip-up and not the first step toward "sex slave-related program activities."

The source of that number is Kevin Bales, recommended to the magazine by Human Rights Watch as the best authority on the extent of enforced prostitution in the United States, who based his estimates on State Department documents, arrest and prosecution records and information from nearly 50 social service agencies.

Does it sound to anyone else like the Times is trying to pass the buck to Human Rights Watch -- perhaps because the editors failed to vet Bales themselves? Maybe they're embarrassed at not discovering what Jack Shafer did: "Searching Nexis and Google, I found no mention by Bales about this vigorous trade. Nor does he mention anywhere in [his book] about swarms of sex slaves arriving in the United States. He tells Landesman that between 30,000 and 50,000 sex slaves are in captivity in the United States at any time, but I can't find an earlier instance of Bales making that allegation. Did he just discover the peril?" It is valuable to know that Bales did not just pull the numbers out of thin air -- as readers could be forgiven for thinking based on the article. Still, shouldn't Landesman and the Times have asked to see Bales' primary sources, rather than depending on his interpretation of them?

The editors' note then goes on to retract a couple of factual errors and clarify one instance in which an overdramatic Landesman uses present tense to describe a trafficking operation that was shut down three years ago. Then it gets to Andrea:

The woman in her 20's known to her traffickers as Andrea recalled an incorrect name for the hotel to which she was taken in Juarez, Mexico. The Radisson Casa Grande had not yet opened when she escaped from her captors.

I haven't mentioned the Radisson detail before, but as it happens, Tracy Quan -- who has written me several very sharp and frequently funny e-mails questioning Landesman's article from a former call girl's point of view -- brought it up as part of a broader problem that the Times still has not addressed: "I also wondered why so many basic problems were not discussed. For example, did Andrea ever learn to read? (She was kidnapped at 4, according to the story.) I'm assuming that these captors would not be investing in the children's education. Her ability to read would surely have a lot to do with her ability to know where she was at any given time. Would her captors really be inclined to tell her she was going to the Radisson Hotel when she was about 7 years old? Why did they tell her where she was at all?"

Back to the note. After the article was published, the writer made an impromptu comment in a radio interview, noting that Andrea has multiple-personality disorder. The magazine editors did not learn of her illness before publication.

They must have been plenty pissed at Landesman about that.

Her therapist says that her illness has no effect on the accuracy of her memory... An independent expert... affirms that a diagnosis of multiple-personality disorder is not inconsistent with accurate memories of childhood abuse. Because multiple-personality disorder has been associated with false memory, however, the diagnosis should have been cited in the article.

Not inconsistent with...? Considering that they've just had to admit that the one fact they checked about Andrea's story turned out to be wrong, that's hardly the sort of decisive judgment you'd hope for. I'd propose fact-checking Andrea's entire story, but the whole point is that it can't be.

The magazine's cover showed a 19-year-old nicknamed Montserrat, who escaped from a trafficker four years ago. An insignia on her school uniform had been retouched out of the picture to shield her whereabouts. The change violated The Times's policy against altering photographs.

Uh oh. Landesman's wife took that photo, and as Shafer hinted (based on Landesman's rabid emails to me) nothing sets Landesman off like someone "malign[ing the] honor and credibility" of his (pregnant) wife. I'm just glad I'm not the one who discovered that little detail.

Hmm, do people still wear school uniforms at 19-years-old? Well, I'm sure no one asked Montserrat to don her old outfit to make herself look younger for the picture. That would also be a violation of Times policy. Not to mention gross.

Update: Times Magazine photo editor Kathy Ryan writes: "Your posting seems to suggest that Kimberlee Acquaro may have been responsible for altering the photograph that ran on the cover with Peter Landesman's sex slaves piece. This is incorrect. The decision to remove Montserrat's school insignia to shield her whereabouts was made by the editors of the magazine, and the alteration was made at the magazine. Montserrat is indeed in school, making up for the years she lost, and was dressed for school that day."

February 15, 2004

Joss Whedon waxes poetic on

Daniel Radosh

Joss Whedon waxes poetic on the end of Angel. " I regret nothing (except the string of grisley murders in the 80's -- what was THAT all about?) Remember the words of the poet: 'Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the road less traveled by and they CANCELLED MY FRIKKIN' SHOW. I totally shoulda took the road that had all those people on it. Damn.'" (Scroll to 22:31; via Whedonesque)

There's no question that Angel was not as good this season as it was for the last two. But it was good enough, certainly. Last week's WWII episode was superb, and the Cordy swan song worked very nicely too. Still, it's ironic (and not unpredictable) that this season's new beginning was a bid to be more accessible and bring in bigger audiences. If they'd stuck with the original story arc, the show would still be doomed, but at least we'd have had a really kick-ass final season.

February 13, 2004

I'm huge in Canada. But the cars are tiny.

Daniel Radosh

Got a link to my PowerPoint anthology from a Canada.com blogger, who also found this genius fad: photographing toy cars in real parking spots.

February 13, 2004

For the record.

Daniel Radosh

Anaheim slave brothel busted.Even better, the victims came forward to police themselves. When actual news is being reported, I can forgive the inevitable "tens of thousands" estimate low in the story (three were rescued in this case).

The proximity to Disneyland probably says nothing really about Landesman/Andrea's tale of meetings inside the theme park, as these victims were all in their 20s, too old for the "I was looking for you daddy" code.

February 13, 2004

What do you expect from a giant conglomerate like ebsqa?

Daniel Radosh

Heaneyland! notes that the pipe cleaner wars have hit Amazon, with the fjdksfj pipe cleaners cleaning the asdfasdfg's clock (or pipe).

This is odd because both brands look remarkably similar — and remarkably like ballpoint pens. A little investigation reveals that both are manufactured by the notorious ebsqa corporation, makers of the infamous 1 lb. round sticker, which a customer rightly notes is "way to [sic] heavy. At one pound it nearly tore the paint off my car."

Why Amazon is in business with these people is a mystery.

February 12, 2004

Lou Dobbs knows my name but he can't throw me a link?

Daniel Radosh

Much to my surprise and delight, I'm name-checked in the great Grambo/Pollack debate on CNN. The strange thing is that I TiVo Lou Dobbs every night, of course, but somehow I recorded only boring Bush/Kerry stuff on Tuesday. Guess the technology's not quite there yet.

February 12, 2004

Godzilla Totally Overestimated the Number of Giant Lizards in New York.

Daniel Radosh

And now the latest developments in the Peter Landesman sex slaves saga. Over at The Boston Globe, Cathy Young picks up the ball and... I was going to say runs with it, but it's more like dribbling in place. (Plus, her lackadaisical spelling is almost as self-defeating as my Googlebaiting was, but I'm a blogger, we're supposed to be freewheelin'.)

More intriguingly, The Daily News notes that Times has now received an official complaint about the overselling of Plainfield, NJ as Anytown, USA. As Vito put it, "If American flags flutter from porches and windows, it must be elsewhere as there are no porches here, nor flags." (I think that's on the official tourist brochures.) Though the Times has repeatedly declared the case closed, ombudsman Dan Okrent says he's "spending some time" on it.

But the controversy has not stopped Landesman from achieving his most important goal: the creation of a presidential commission on domestic trafficking selling the film rights. Start your Fandangoing now -- Sex Slaves On Main Street is slated to hit the big screen as The Girls Next Door (not to be confused with The Girl Next Door), co-scripted by Landesman and directed by Roland Emmerich. According to Variety the plot is just a little bit different from the original article. There are three storylines. "One will center on a Ukrainian girl promised a better life in America and coerced to become a sex slave. Another will revolve around a young Mexican girl kidnapped and pressed into prostitution. The third concerns her brother, who joins forces with a cop who discovers he is the father of a young daughter who also has been kidnapped and is likely a sex slave."

According to Landesman, "There is no controversy about the article," oh, and by the way, he could not have been more surprised that Hollywood was interested. "I didn't expect this, because it is such a dark and disturbing story. I didn't immediately see the movie, but after hearing Roland's vision, it was perfectly clear."

Yes, studios do tend to shy away from stories about sex, violence, and international intrigue, don't they? I'm sure the words "It's Traffic meets 8mm by way of Hardcore" never crossed Landesman's lips, even if some people who know him were saying immediately after the article appeared that he's always about the movie deals. (Yes, I know who 'Angela' is, and that she and PL were once friends.)

When Landesman flipped out on me after my original questioning of his article, the reaction seemed so out of proportion to my relatively minor questions. Now I wonder if he wasn't worried worried about queering his film deal. After all, Emmerich tells Variety, "I had heard such things might exist in places like Thailand and Russia, but when Peter spoke about how it was taking place in Mexico and America, I was completely shocked." No US-angle, no picture.

But don't worry, the film won't be sensationalized, says Emmerich. "I absolutely will direct. There are so many silly movies made, I feel strongly this is a story that should be told, one that touched my heart." Emmerich, of course, will produce crap like Eight Legged Freaks, but he only directs those important stories that touch his heart: Godzilla, Independence Day, Stargate, Universal Soldier.

Shorter this post: "Her brother, who joins forces with a cop who discovers he is the father of a young daughter who also has been kidnapped and is likely a sex slave."

Next up: The Times tries a new spin.

February 11, 2004

Finished? What made you think I was finished?

Daniel Radosh

A new line of thought on Peter Lamestman coming soon, Hollywood stiz. Meantime, Gawker knows how former NYT mag editor Adam Moss is going to make the transition to New York...

February 9, 2004

Over at Best Week Ever,

Daniel Radosh

Over at Best Week Ever, folks want to know what the deal is with "Number 322," the cryptic Skull and Bones question asked by Tim Russert. "Does this mean that he'll be asking coded questions at the debates that both candidates can understand, but the rest of us won't?" asks Ben. Really. Personally I care so little about Skull and Bones as a political issue that I can't even be bothered to Google Number 322, but the idea that Russert feels free to hold his little private conversations with Bush on national TV is just odd.

And for you conspiracymongerers out there (hi Jake!), notice how the whole exchange has vanished from the official Reuters transcript. Is there anyone in politics or the media who's not a member?

If you missed it, here's the complete transcript, with deft annotations.

February 5, 2004

Dept. of Pre-Crime Strikes Again

Daniel Radosh

I was wondering why I hadn't heard about the man who was arrested in Central Park after dismembering a friend with a sword. Then I read the details of his capture more carefully.

February 4, 2004

Don't jump!

Daniel Radosh

With a bit of programming he calls Cinema Redux, Brendan Dawes has compressed eight classic films into single images, with each second represented as an 8x6 pixel.

"The end result is a kind of unique fingerprint for that film," he says. "A sort of movie DNA showing the colour hues as well as the rhythm of the editing process."

The Vertigo image above (full size) really does give an accurate impression of the film, doesn't it?

(Via Coudal.)

February 4, 2004

It'll be a new beat, like "conservatives."

Daniel Radosh

Over at Romenesko, Mike Fitzgerald of the Belleville News-Democrat writes (scroll to 2/4 3:09): If Peter Landesman's sex slaves story is true and based on solid sourcing, as editor Gerald Marzorati insists, then I trust we skeptics will see plenty of follow-up stories in the months ahead... Stories that name names and provide irrefutable photographic and documentary evidence of the sex slave industry taking place within America's borders on the scale that Mr. Landesman alleges. Stories that result in grand jury indictments and lengthy prison sentences for the traffickers and their accomplices.... So how about it Mr. Marzorati? If you fail to take up this challenge in the months ahead, then that's all the proof I need that the suspicions about Landesman's sex slaves story are well-founded and that Jack Shafer's criticisms are on the mark.

February 4, 2004

There's something about that sound.

Daniel Radosh

Before Landesman, before Easterbrook, before even Arnold's manhood, Radosh.net's signature feature was dispatches from Music Club, a monthly gathering in which assorted music geeks assemble a mix CD on a randomly-chosen theme. Previous installments have included murder, cover songs that are better than the original, and songs by artists whose first or last name is the same as the last name of a US president.

After a hiatus to allow various members to relocate and procreate, Music Club returned last weekend for songs about musical instruments. My pick was track 2 not just a great song, but the one I found that is most about the musical instrument. Rose was prepared for a fight over track 4, but got none. Of course two turntables and a microphone are instruments!

1. While My Guitar Gently Weeps — The Beatles
2. Fender Stratocaster — Jonathan Richman
3. Coney Island Washboard — The Firehouse Five Plus Two
4. Where It's At— Beck
5. Tamborine — Prince
6. Mr. Theremin — Barbara Gaskin & Dave Stewart
7. The Violin — Brian Dewan & Eileen Ivers
8. The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me) — Tom Waits
9. The Hurdy Gurdy — Agnes Bernelle

Gina found track 6 by thinking of the instrument first then searching for songs about it. It's a lovely bit of early 80 prog rock. Track 9 is the oddball here. It could also have worked for the murder set.

Next month (really!), songs about parties. There are lots to choose from, and I'm certain that most of the club has already thought of every possible definition of party. Since everyone's first reaction was, At least this will be a fun CD, I would kind of perversely like to find a song that's really bleak and depressing. Any suggestions?

February 4, 2004

Wait, There is no 1212

Daniel Radosh

Wait, There is no 1212 1/2 West Front Street? And if there is it's not "slate-gray" but cream colored (surely it can't have been painted in the last four months). At least Landesman didn't describe the steel-gray water.

Seriously, who knew his biggest mistake would be fucking with Plainfield, New Jersey?

Glitzy Update: Coming soon: Sex Slaves: The Motion Picture.

February 4, 2004

Anonymity. Give it a try..

Daniel Radosh

Anonymity. Give it a try.. Speaking of self-promotion, someone called Christopher Farah has figured out how to get a lot of more widely-read (and more fun) writers talking about him. V. clevs.

Update: The nonanonymous (my favorite Sesame Street character) Wonkette feels left out.

February 4, 2004

Over at Best Week Ever,

Daniel Radosh

Over at Best Week Ever, I offer my casting suggestions for the new Gilligan's Island reality show.

February 4, 2004

It looks like Jack Shafer

Daniel Radosh

It looks like Jack Shafer wants to tag in again. And the New York Observer turns several column inches over to The Times for another rebuttal. Marzorati's new defense: Most of the evidence couldn't be published because Landesman got it on deep background, but that's OK because "for most of our readers, they understand it's The Times. The Times doesn't just throw things out at the readers without going through an enormously painstaking vetting process." Well, that's a load off my mind.

Update: Yes, of course there's an update, silly.

February 3, 2004

One ring to rule them all

Daniel Radosh

(Found (created?) by Stereogum)

February 3, 2004

Turn over a rock...

Daniel Radosh

I have neither the time nor the energy to investigate this properly, but a correspondent urged me to Google "'Landesman' and words relating to credibility and truth" — and what do you know? No doubt this is a murky dispute in which there may be good reasons to question the motives and credibility of all involved (not to mention that if you think my writing is too casual, you're in for a treat with this guy), so grab yourself a grain or two of salt then click here and here.

Update: As Choire has noted, these are the "ramblings of some crazy dude," but you'd have figured that out on your own. I would not have bothered to link them if he didn't seem to have actual e-mails from Landesman to lend at least a touch of veracity -- and a gratuitious anal sex joke! -- to his tale. Hey, does Landesman have a Friendster profile?

Also, here's some evidence that Landesman's previously noted slite-of-hand may have inadvertently worked in reverse.

Don't stop now...

February 3, 2004

"They are using us as

Daniel Radosh

"They are using us as a tool." File under: You said it, not us. Gersh asks why The President's Physical Fitness Test is now sponsored by Burger King.

February 2, 2004

I'm hoping for "His blog crashed for the last time."

Daniel Radosh

"He didn't die. God just hit control-alt-delete." The inventor of the three-key reset writes his epitaph.

February 2, 2004

Drug-laced lollipops? The word "sucker"

Daniel Radosh

Drug-laced lollipops? The word "sucker" in the URL is probably appropriate. At least it's a step removed from Blue Star Acid, which was the scourge of my youth. Progress!

February 1, 2004

Remember when I was funny?

Daniel Radosh

I've been going through my old New York Press columns, and sometimes I can't believe how harsh I was. Here's a gag from 1994 about a kidnapped Israeli soldier named Nahshon Waxman: "'If anyone harms one hair on my son's head,' said Waxman's mother, 'they will be guilty of the most heinous crime in the world.' Fortunately, Nahshon's hair made it through the ordeal unharmed, although his throat and chest weren't doing so great."

February 1, 2004

It's not going away, sorry.

Daniel Radosh

New York Times Public Editor Dan Okrent is apparently reviewing the evidence on Landesman. Today he refers readers to Jack Shafer's Slate columns and notes Gerry Marzorati's defense. I doubt he'll leave it at this, so watch for more from him soon.

I have a lot of respect for Okrent -- he initiated contact with me after my first post, which shows that if anything, he's going about his job a little too conscientiously. I don't for a minute think I have any insights that a dozen other readers hadn't already sent his way. So when he calls Marzorati's defense "comprehensive," I have to think he's being diplomatic. Marorati's a good guy -- he's edited my stuff in the past (on a very small scale) and responded in an exemplary fashion when he learned that Landesman had threatened to sue me (and "destroy" my career and a few other things). So let's be clear that I have no vendetta against the NYT Magazine whatsoever. Still, I found Gerry's defense to be inadequate -- not because it is unpersuasive, but because it is beside the point. His argument basically amounts to, Well, we never said it was all true.

To illustrate what I mean, I'm going to go back to the detail I started with, the slave auction web site. This is an important element in the story for two reasons: it's the single most dramatic thing Landesman witnesses firsthand in the United States, and it's the most newsworthy part of the story. The existence of sex slaves in the US has been well-documented. (Some of my visitors continue to send me articles about police raids, apparently thinking this backs up Landesman. I think it does the opposite. A responsible story on the subject would have been precisely such a roundup of known instances of domestic sex trafficking. Landesman, on the other hand, wrote an exposé that exposes no new cases). But people being sold on the Internet -- in any context -- has never been reported anywhere outside the Weekly World News. If the site is real, that alone is front page news. But Marzorati seems alarmingly incurious about it. Here's his entire comment on the matter:

The web site where the slave appeared to be auctioned: It exists, I know the name of the site, and we decided not to print the name on the grounds of taste and ethics. Was it real? The special Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent thought it looked real. Landesman wrote 'supposedly' Many times throughout the article Landesman carefully hedged his statements with qualifiers, but you seem to understand that the use of qualifiers is not to show care but rather to create vagueness.

What's more, in Marzorati's recasting, he reverses the order of the qualifiers in a way that makes Landesman appear more conservative: the agent thinks it looks real, but Landesman said supposedly. Here's how Landesman wrote it originally:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents at the Cyber Crimes Center in Fairfax, Va., are finding that when it comes to sex, what was once considered abnormal is now the norm. They are tracking a clear spike in the demand for harder-core pornography on the Internet. ''We've become desensitized by the soft stuff; now we need a harder and harder hit,'' says I.C.E. Special Agent Perry Woo. 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. 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.

Ignore this time the sleight-of-hand (yes, I know I didn't use spell-check last time; enough already) that gets us from "harder-core pornography" to sex slaves to Operation Hamlet. What I want to point out is that in Landesman's chronology, "supposedly" comes only before he's even seen the site; if he's withholding judgment it's because, he strongly implies, he hasn't even looked at it until he gets to ICE. Once he calls it up, doubt fades and we get instead, "this sure looks like the real thing" (He does not say, for instance, "Cyberauctions for some of the women appeared to be in progress.")

If Marzorati says the site exists, I believe him, though I wish he'd said that he'd seen it, not just that he knows its name. Earlier I pointed out the misuse of the word "streams" in this paragraph (Web pages load; audio and video stream). That's a minor point, perhaps, but it doesn't inspire confidence that this section was vetted by someone with the savvy it requires. It's clear (both from his article and his personal communications with me) that Landesman dislikes the Internet (why "cyberauctions" rather than "auctions"?) so it's possible his perception is skewed. Here are just a few questions that a responsible reporter would have raised and answered. I'm not saying there aren't perfectly reasonable answers, but it is unthinkable that the article left them out:

How did Landesman hear of the site? Not, apparently, from the ICE -- from a victim? A user? A web search? (Google "sex slave auction" and you won't find anything authentic.) A message board? Is his source reliable? Is this site connected, other than "in spirit," to the trafficking that he investigates overseas? If not, how did he come upon it? On what basis does Daufenbach say the site looks real? In the story, it appears to be his first impression; does he or anyone else investigate further? Is he saying the auctions look real or just the photos? If the auctions, why does he think that? Is there a mechanism set up for payment and delivery? Do they take credit cards? Pay Pal?? Where and to whom is the site registered? Is it available to anyone or is it password protected and if so, how does one get the password?

I focused on this web site because, as I said, it's important, and also because I know more about the Internet than anything else Landesman discusses, so I know what questions to raise. But there are many, many passages in the article that could be attacked the same way. A few correspondents seem to think that my problem with Landesman's piece is simply, "I've never heard of it and I don't want to believe it so it can't be true." Nonsense. My problem is that in breathlessly spinning an elaborate tale, he is too skimpy with evidence that any reasonable reader has a right to expect.

Oddball update.

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