I have a little fun with TNR's Noam Scheiber over at Romenesko (scroll to 1:44). I'm always a bit reluctant to dash off these e-mails because the tone is so hard to get right. I think Scheiber is a good writer and thinker, and I'm trusting that he'll take my tweak as a joke rather than an actual accusation. But you never know. Maybe I've just made one more enemy.
This is nearly a month old by now, but if you missed it before, check out Tom Tomorrow's futile attempt to wrangle a correction out of Tom Friedman after Freidman pegged an entire column to an anecdote that turned out to be 95% bullshit.
Don't even think about making love to Lindsay.
There's much to find distressing in the story of George Smith, the Village Voice writer and registered Democrat who accidentally became a right-wing attack dog after Matt Drudge dug up his 2003 attack on Richard Clarke.
But by far the most cringe-inducing part is the foaming e-mail Smith got from Bush-haters, who proved themselves every bit as idiotic and ignorant as their counterparts on the other side (see sidebar).
Let's hope Air America doesn't plan on pandering to this audience.
"You don't overexpose an asset like the governor." This NSFW quote brought to you by Arnold Schwarzenegger's communications director explaining the legal action against Governator Ale
At first I was skeptical of these rumors that the White House's next smear campaign against Richard Clarke ("They're also suggesting that there are some weird aspects in his life as well." Wolf Blitzer) would involve outing him. Put aside the fact the administration probably does not want to stand on the principle that homosexuals can't conduct foreign policy (I'm alluding to this, not this). It's just such a blatantly desperate and slimy move, so completely irrelevent, that the Bush team would have to know it would backfire them.
That's when I remembered Gersh's Law of the Bush Campaign: Karl Rove wants to stir up controversy over tactics. If we spend a week debating whether the White House crossed a line by raising an opponent's sexual orientation, even if we all decide that he did, that's one week we didn't spend debating Bush's handling of 9/11 and terrorism. Karl Rove would much rather take a hit on the little issues than have an honest debate on the big ones.
How did Johnny Depp and Leonardo Di Caprio get snapped up by no-name hotties? Who is the former playmate that stole David Schwimmers heart? Whats life like off the court for Mandy and Andy, and Anna and Enrique?
Who the fuck knows?
But if you're asking the wrong person, at least you're not doing so while taping my answers for broadcast. The honor of that mistake goes to VH1, which selected me to be a talking head on its latest clip fiesta, Hot Couples 2004, debuting Wednesday at 11. Tune in to see me fake my way through a discussion of celebrity coupledom, attempting to hide my ignorance behind lame jokes.
Oh well. I've still got my VH1 day job.
Remember, because this is VH1, the show will air only once, after which the tape will be permanently erased to ensure that people never become sick of it.
Slate has just posted the innaugural installment of my new regular feature, The PowerPoint Version. Inspired by the The PowerPoint Anthology of Literature, the Slate column will feature bulletpoint-happy adaptations of the latest pop culture and political touchstones. Guaranteed to drive Edward Tufte insane.
First target: The Pledge of Allegiance.
Local acts were out in force for Music Club's session on songs about parties, with both Life in a Blender and Little Gray Books troubadour Jonathan Coulton getting nods. In other willful obscurity news, Francis had to go and inflict one of his annoying bootlegs on us (it's not as good as the original of either), and I got around the obviousness of All Tomorrow's Parties by bringing the demo version (a combination of takes 1 and 3 if you must know) from the 1995 box set.
So, let's get this party started:
1. Joe Logic Pinkarama (Pink's "Get This Party Started" vs. the theme
2. Hank Williams Jr. All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight
3. Etta James In the Basement, Pt. 1
4. The B-52's Love Shack
5. Eminem My Fault
6. The Dismemberment Plan You Are Invited - Rose
7. The Velvet Underground All Tomorrow's Parties (demo)
8. Jonathan Coulton I'm Having a Party
9. Oingo Boingo Dead Man's Party
10. Desmond Dekker and the Aces Intensified Festival 68
11. Life in a Blender Party Soon
12. Nat King Cole The Party's Over
Next month's theme is foreign-language songs. This one's tricky in a different way: how do you narrow it down? Like many people, I went through a bit of a world music phase in college, so I've got plenty of ideas and won't, for a change, seek suggestions. But since I have these comments now, why not let everyone know if the club overlooked your favorite party song?
[Thanks to Suzie and Gina]
In case you missed this (as I did), it's a funny read. Apparently, in explaining away his duck hunt mess, Scalia inadvertantly admitted committing a tiny little crime. What, he's supposed to be some kind of expert on the law?
So Condi wants Dick Clarke to "get his story straight." (Pot calling kettle, come in kettle.) Apparently, she thinks it helps the administration to point out that when he was still on the Bush team, Clarke gave a background briefing praising the White House response to 9/11.
Or that could reinforce the impression that more Americans are increasingly coming around to: that as a matter of course, everyone on the Bush team is expected to lie to the public in order to make the White House look good.
It's also amusing that the secrecy-obsessed administration is suddenly willing no eager to out people who spoke on background and declassify e-mails to the NSA. As Ana pointed out to me this morning, "all we is need are few more turncoat bureaucrats and maybe we'll see the all post 9/11 stuff."
I was relieved to hear that Michael Newdow aquitted himself well before the Supreme Court. I have mixed feelings about this case. On the one hand, I still can't see that God in the pledge is an important enough battle to fight. But since the case did make it all the way to the top, I certainly would not want it in the hands of someone who was "a sloppy, overzealous mess," as Dahlia Lithwick reasonably assumed Newdow would be before hearing him. The last thing we atheists need is to be represented by another embarrassing nutjob.
There's also the unavoidable matter of Newdow being right on the law, as William Safire reluctantly admits.
So good for Newdow, however this ends up. I'm not too surprised he pulled it off, however, since I heard him speak last year and found him very impressive. After his talk I told him that while I thought he was right, I worried that by picking on something so simultaneously silly and beloved, he risked diminishing the cause of freedom of religion. Don't you realize, I said, that from now on when we raise alarms about the religious right taking over health care or rewriting textbooks, people are going to dismiss us by saying, they're the same wackos who wanted to take God out of the prayer.
Newdow replied that he saw it the opposite way. The religious right has the traction it does to take such measures in large part because the politicians who serve them are of the unshakable belief that America is and should be a Christian nation, subservient to religious doctrine and that this misapprehension is reinforced everyday precisely because ubiquitous appeals to God in the pledge, in the prayer that starts sessions of Congress and the courts, on money even are never challenged. As long as there is such a thing as ceremonial deism religion so habitual as to be meaningless why wouldn't lawmakers think their duty is to serve those who claim to serve God?
I can't say I was entirely persuaded. But I sure wouldn't have wanted to be Ted Olson.
He could have just said, "no," but here's how Pierce Brosnan shot down the rumor that Britney Spears would be the next Bond Girl: "I don't involve myself in the rumors of Bond and I try and stay occupied with other films when I'm not doing it, but Britney, no. Bless her cotton socks and good luck to her. Keira Knightley maybe!"
Yes, as if the thought of either Britney or Keira in Pussy Galore bikinis wasn't enough, he goes and conjures up an image of Britney's cotton socks. Somehow those last two sentences strike us a perfectly crafted to make Uncle Grambo's nipples explode with delight.
Best reaction yet to the new site? My father writes: "Why the porn links? Is that hip and postmodern?"
Yesterday morning, NPR News had a segment (finally) about the FCC crackdown on "indecency." When it started, I assumed the report was going to deal largely with the recent dismissal of NPR starlet Sandra Tsing Loh. After all, the network's own ombudsman had thrown down a challenge:
NPR, in my opinion, owes it to its listeners to take a look at this story, even though it may be uncomfortable to some in the public radio community.
Public radio in general -- and NPR in particular -- has seemed less than eager to report on itself whenever we become the legitimate subject of news reports in other places. We appear too squeamish, as if self-examination and scrutiny are akin to self-promotion. Get over it, NPR. Let's allow the listeners in on this important discussion.
But no. In NPR News' version of the story, the FCC crackdown is only a problem for people like, you guessed it, Howard Stern. This nervous hypocrisy would not surprise Stern himself, of course. It's exactly the trait he's trying to expose by urging listeners to report Oprah Winfrey to the FCC for her show's discussion of tossed salads and rainbow parties.
Wait don't we want more discussion of prevert sex on daytime TV?
I'm told that this new template, which looks just spiffy on my Mac, is a bit glitchy on PCs running IE. Specifically, there's not enough space between the right margin of these entires and the right column. This should be fixed soon, so hatred of it is not enough reason to leave the blog and never return (there are plenty of other reasons for that).
It also looks like some older posts got messed up a bit in the move. Being a forward-looking guy, I'm not going to worry about that. But if anything else looks wrong, please let me know, won't you?
Welcome to Radosh.net 2.0, the first redesign of this site since I launched it in September, 2002. Back then I really thought I was going to be posting mostly about my work freelance articles being published and such which is why I gave it the tag line, "Your #1 Source For Daniel Radosh News and Information." (Your #2 source, of course, was my mom.) But since the site quickly became a very bloggy blog, I've taken this opportunity to come up with a more accurate (if equally unexciting) description, as suggested by the updated blogroll over to your right: "Pop. Politics. Sex. So On."
Before I expand on what those categories mean, let me point out a few other things that are new around here. Here's one that's not exactly the most important, but it seems like the bit to mention first: I now have extended posts. That means I don't have to clutter up my front page with this meta-blathering. The handful of people who are interested can read the rest by clicking "More."
Remember when the American Family Association took a poll on gay marriage only to have it blow up in their face? Well now Donald's wild men want to know who you support for President. Apparently convinced that their last fiasco was due to a single liberal's devious use of automated scripts, they've instituted a security code this time around. For all the good it did them. Current results:
John Kerry 91.06 % 2,456 votes
George Bush 3.19 % 86 votes
Ralph Nader 5.75 % 155 votes
Spread the word, and let's see if we can get the AP to pick up this story too.
According to the Match.com physical attraction test, my ideal woman is a "girl next door type" with a slender build, button nose, medium-length blond hair, and medium-size breasts. Who doesn't mind men who waste their time on Internet tests.
I'm also "open to glasses," and, apparently, to non-blond hair, based on the photo they chose as my best match.
I should note that this young lady has facial features very similar to those of my actual ideal woman.
Somewhat to my surprise, only 7 percent of men are "very attracted" to my type. It's the boobs, right? You'd probably try to talk her into implants.
As for definitely not my type, there's this babe...
...although if I were a little bit drunk and she really had a million-dollar bill, who knows?
Ana sheepishly pleaded chronic alcohol abuse and corrected her post. But when I pointed out that an entire quote she cited didn't appear in the article, she insisted she wasn't that drunk and did a little Googling. What she found is deeply weird.
Update: Okay, what the fuck?
Am I happy that John Kerry is a serial flip-flopper? Of course not. It's one reason I think he's a lousy nominee. But here's his biggest selling point: each and every one of the many different positions that Kerry has taken on any given issue is still vastly superior to the steadfast position George Bush has taken on it.
In one ad, the president says we are "safer" and "stronger." We may be, we may not be. But we're not even discussing that issue; instead, we're wasting valuable brain cells debating whether a split-second clip of a destroyed building--one not even recognizable as the World Trade Center--is too political.
And that's why this opening salvo of the campaign has been such a victory for the forces of cynicism that run the president's campaign. They didn't create ads hoping to open a debate on the president's performance. They created ads hoping that a 1.5-second clip of a wrecked building would open a debate about the ads. That allows the president to appear above this substance-free fray. "How this administration handled that day, as well as the war on terror, is worthy of discussion,'' Bush said on Saturday. "And I look forward to the debate about who best to lead this country in the war on terror." He may indeed look forward to that debate, but it is precisely that debate that we will never have.
In the end, those 1.5 seconds may end up saving the president hours of time that he might otherwise be forced to spend actually defending the administration for the failures that led up to Sept. 11--yes, lest we forget, President Bush was President Bush on 9/11--and for its policies afterwards.
This Music Inspired By genre has gotten out of hand. It was bad enough when they started tacking songs onto a soundtrack because there weren't quite enough in the movie itself, but with Songs Inspired By The Passion of the Christ, they've basically put together a bunch of vaguely religious songs that, as near as I can tell, were all recorded well before the film and couldn't possibly have been inspired by it. I suppose you could get tricky and say that "Passion of the Christ" in this album title refers to the original, not the movie, but it's sold as a movie soundtrack, so no. In any case, are people looking for an album of songs to get flayed by? (apparently they are.)
And don't think contributing to this project gets you off the hook for killing him, Zimmerman.
Wow. Look at these headlines. For more than a year, the Bush team has been kicking back thinking that all they'd need to do when the election rolled around was remind people of 9/11. I wonder if they even have a plan B.
Machiavellian Update: Gersh thinks Team Bush wanted the backlash. That the goal all along was not to run a campaign based on the themes in the ads themselves but on the how-dare-you-question-my-integrity, if-it-we're-up-to-you-we'd-all-be-speaking-Iraqi-right-now response to the criticism.
AP poll finds Bush and Kerry tied, Nader at 6 percent: "In the first poll since John Kerry locked up the Democratic nomination, Kerry and President Bush are tied while independent Ralph Nader has captured enough support to affect the outcome, validating Democrats' fears.
The Republican incumbent had the backing of 46 percent, Kerry 45 percent and Nader, the 2000 Green Party candidate who entered the race last month, was at 6 percent in the survey conducted for The Associated Press by Ipsos-Public Affairs."
The blogoglobo is sure to nuts over this, but it's probably meaningless. Despite the AP's analysis about affecting the outcome, Nader's percentage of support nationwide tells us nothing. My guess is he's polling well in liberal states that are safe for Kerry and not so well in places where it counts -- because voters know that it does. If I had more time, I'd try to dig up the actual poll results and see if it's broken down by state. send 'em if you find 'em.
Update: Francis writes: "Also, 6 percent is twice the percentage of the national vote that Nader received back in 2000 -- and that was before most people knew better." Yeah, but Nader polled higher than that early on. He won't get any 6 percent of the actual vote this year either.
But while I'm certainly not voting for Nader this time around, I don't buy the people should have known better line, and neither does Sam: "If those results are accurate, why the hell don't the Democrats embrace Nader, and aggressively court his supporters, instead of wringing their hands and whining about him being a spoiler?! In my view, Democrats aren't wimps because they're bleeding-heart-liberals. They're wimps because they AREN'T bleeding-heart-liberals. I'm probably not saying anything here that you haven't already heard. But I'd think that any sensible person, seeing what a fucking mess the Bush people have made, would be outraged. And it would be nice to see and believe that Kerry is pissed off about it too. I'm not seeing that, and I don't think it's because I have limited vision."
Well, Kerry has said, "the Bush administration has run the most inept, reckless, arrogant and ideological foreign policy in modern history." Which sounds pretty outraged. And he'd never say anything he doesn't believe, would he?
Update: Just found the infographic that goes with this poll and whaddayaknow -- it looks like Nader is syphoning votes away from Bush
OK, that could be a false impression, since the last poll was conducted in January, before Kerry's rise and it's unclear whether people were asked about other candidates at the time. Still, you think AP would address this properly, rather than simply pimp out the validating-Democrats'-fears CW.
It also raises a question for those people who consider Nader a spoiler rather than just a legit candidate they're not going to vote for: would you still want him out of the race if he was taking votes away from Bush? To put it another way, was it simply wrong that Pat Buchanan ran in 2000? Don't forget, if you say that "Gore would have won if Nader hadn't run," you'd also have to concede that "Bush would have won if neither Nader nor Buchanan" had run. To my mind, a broader spectrum of candidates enhances democracy, it doesn't spoil it.
Update: Turns out you don't have to concede that exactly. What you have to concede is that Bush would have won if Buchanan (and Libertarian Harry Browne) had not run but Nader still had. See exhaustive analysis here, but ignore all the stuff up top about the popular vote, which is a red herring (both candidates knew going in that it was a race for the electoral vote; if they were both running for the highest popular vote, it would have been a very different campaign). My larger point still holds.
I've just sent the following message to Dan Okrent.
Thank you for taking me seriously.
I swear I was going to write that even before reading the interview in OJR! I just needed a few days to get my thoughts together is all. Honestly, I do appreciate the time and effort you put into investigating Peter Landesman's article, and the obvious thoughtfulness that led you to your conclusions.
I hope you don't mind, therefore, if I ask a few followup questions. If you can continue to address the issues raised by this article, perhaps on your web journal, you'll be doing a continued service to Times readers.
To begin with, I accept your central contention that in magazine journalism, it is permissible for a writer to adopt a point of view and use the facts he's gathered to marshal an argument for it, and that it is not essential to bring in every possible counter-argument as long as all have been fairly considered during the research phase. I'm also glad you recognized that there are limits to how far you can take this. As you put it, "If your material is strong enough - and I believe Landesman's was - you don't need to" pile on material that is more dubious.
What I'm not clear on is why you believe Landesman's material was strong enough. I've attached a Word document of the article with all the elements that you argue should not have been included struck out (while leaving in, for now, other elements that I'm still not sure about). It amounts to a vivid description of a brothel in Mexico, a recap of fairly well-known practices of luring women into sex trafficking in Europe, and accounts of sex slave rings in the US apparently taken from, or re-reported from, the AP and other sources. Please take a look and tell me, would THIS article have made the cover of the magazine? Would it have been published at all? How much interest would it have generated if it had? Would anyone have bought the film rights? Tellingly, at least half of Landesman's interview on Fresh Air was dedicated to stuff that you believe was not necessary for the article.
In your conclusion, you write, "Do you tear Landesman apart because you don't believe his sources, or because you can't locate an audit trail to some of his assertions? Or do you accept the hideous realities he describes and emerge convinced that sex slavery is a genuine problem?" But that's a false choice. No one doubts sex slavery is a genuine problem. The question is, Is it the problem Landesman describes, both in quantity (30,000-50,000) and kind (toddlers locked in suburban basements with some separated into groups that can be beaten or killed with impunity)? Correct me if I'm wrong, but you seem to be saying that given the importance of sex slavery, better this story than none. That's an odd place to come down.
The above parenthetical about the kind of sex slavery Landesman describes is, of course, drawn from Andrea's interview. In your column, you write that Landesman didn't need to include her but that since he did, he should have acknowledged some potential problems with her trustworthiness (you might have noted, in addition to the issue of multiple personality disorder, that Andrea was unable to give the interview without frequent breaks to cut herself). As you put it, "The question is not whether Landesman believes Andrea - what matters is whether he can persuade the rest of the world to believe her."
That's A question, certainly, (and one I raised earlier) but there's also the more important question of SHOULD Landesman believe Andrea. Since you've had the benefit that we have not, of reading the transcript of her interview (perhaps it can be posted online, unedited?), can you explain briefly why you feel "it is impossible not to believe it in its outlines and in much of its detail"? As you know, there is conclusive evidence that people, especially if they've been traumatized, can have false memories that they believe with utter certainty and can relate convincingly. Given that at least one fact Andrea related turned out to be wrong, it seems impossible NOT to wonder how much else might be. What other details of Andrea's story were checked before the editor's note was written? Did they all check out?
In your column you put a good deal of weight on the fact that "In the weeks after Landesman's article went to press," various news articles have appeared confirming that sex slavery does exist in the US and Mexico, including in places Landesman wrote about. But it's also notable that in all the reports I've seen of sex slavery (and I've now seen quite a few) not one has even remotely hinted at what Andrea describes. In no case that I've seen, for example, were victims younger than 12. That's horrible, of course, but Andrea's story involves girls as young as four, kept specifically for pedophiles. Have you seen any accounts other than Andrea's of pre-adolescent sex slaves (being trafficked and prostituted, I mean, not being kept by some individual sicko)? Or of anything like the "damage group"? If not, does that concern you at all?
Landesman got a lot of mileage, both in the article and in his publicity for it, out of Andrea's description of the damage group and her contention that, "The white kids you could beat but you couldn't mark. But with Mexican kids you could do whatever you wanted," and, in his paraphrase, "Mexican children, especially, were so disposable that it was possible to kill them and actually it not being that big a deal; they'd probably have to pay a little bit more money." I admit that this so perfectly taps into my liberal sensibilities (and perhaps that of most Times readers) that I didn't even realize until recently how little it makes sense. Why, exactly, should Mexican children be more disposable than white American ones? Andrea herself has been free for years but still doesn't know who she was or where she came from. Not to be callous, but surely that means she could have been beaten and killed and no one would have noticed, doesn't it? Why should traffickers feel comfortable forcing anal sex on white girls, but not giving them black eyes? On the flip side, if Mexican girls are killed (which Kevin Bales says is a likely scenario after two to four years) are their bodies easier to hide than those of white girls? Are they dumped in Mexico where no one is looking (and if so, can't the same be done with white girls)? Or are US police less likely to investigate when their bodies are found just because they are Mexican? That's a hell of an insinuation to make against police officers. Is there any evidence for it -- hundreds or thousands of unsolved murders of Mexican girls in the US?
Finally, there were a few concerns about the piece that I and others had that you did not address in your column. I understand that you have limited space, and that your concern is partly with putting forth a coherent philosophy of journalistic practice, so perhaps you didn't want to go off on tangents in print, but again, maybe you could use your web journal to address some of the following (or at least explain why you think it's not necessary to):
-- The authenticity of the slave auction web site
-- The concerns about third-hand reporting of the San Luis Rey ring
-- The question of why Landesman was able to get a first-hand look at sex trafficking in Mexico but not at all in the United States
-- The disparity between Landesman's assertion that "Most of the girls on Santo Tomas would have sex with 20 to 30 men a day" and the testimony of Teresa Gomez de Leon, of the Mexico City Human Rights Commission that girls on Santo Tomas "sometimes they have up to 10 sexual relations a day." (This may sound like quibbling, but not if it fits a pattern of --yes, I'm going to use the word-- hyping in Landesman's work).
Thank you again for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.
Update: The Lincon Plawg makes similar points, more aggressively.
Okrent replies: I'm afraid I have to disappoint you. It's not that I think your questions are unfair, nor is it because I'm unable to answer them (although, to be accurate as possible, I am unable to answer a few of them). But I've had my say, and have to move on to other things.
What I will say, on the record, is that the conclusions I drew were based on my examination of a great deal of Landesman's source material (including interview transcripts), a little on-the-ground legwork, and about a dozen interviews I conducted -- some with people who were Landesman sources, some with people familiar with his subject who were skeptical of his piece, and two with law enforcement authorities Landesman had never spoken to.
"Move on to other things"? OK, I can take a hint. What can I say other than that, yep, I am indeed disappointed. It was fun while it lasted, though. See you at the movies.
From the Lincoln Journal Star:
Their killer jumps and lands with one foot on the counter before momentum carries him to the other side.
Jose Sandoval, making his first sworn statement since he was convicted of the Sept. 26, 2002, Norfolk bank shootings, is asked why he jumped the counter.
'Because somebody was talking shit,' Sandoval replies.
Madison County Attorney Joe Smith asks who.
'A Smurf,' Sandoval repeats, as in the blue TV cartoon character.
'I take it from your answer you don't want to answer that question,' Smith says. 'Or is it really your testimony that a blue Smurf was in the bank?'
'That's what I said.'
The prosecutor tries once more: 'Did you jump the counter because you wanted to make sure everybody was dead?'
'No, I jumped the counter because the Smurf was talking shit,' Sandoval says.
I'll bet it was Papa Smurf. That sumbitch always looked just a little too smug behind his beard. [via Obscure Store.]
Jesus: If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world Π ah, Christ.
Judas: Hateth you.
Jesus: Who's on first, right?
Jesus: [rolls eyes at camera] John could write gospel, but, you know, could he write dialogue?
Off Camera: [laughter] Cut!
"The chairman of the board of Smith & Wesson's parent company resigned after reports that he committed a string of armed robberies in the 1950s and '60s."
Resigned? You'd think they'd want that kind of hands-on experience. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that it is illegal for felons to own guns.
"That Gibson had to invent things not found in the Gospels -- because the Gospels are not anti-Jewish enough for him -- is shameful." Leon ticks off Mel's embellishments on his source text (itself an embellishment on history).
In the end, public editor Dan Okrent's criticism of Peter Landesman and the Times Magazine is fairly mild, especially considering that he more or less agrees with my central contention (and, apparently, that of numerous New York Times reporters): that the article vastly oversells its facts. I'll have more to say soon (you're shocked, I know) about issues I think Okrent lets slide, but meanwhile, here's his main point, which raises as many questions as it answers.
"The barely more refined number - 30,000-50,000 - in the piece itself, put forward by the president of America's largest anti-slavery organization, is an example of the article's rhetorical problems. If your material is strong enough - and I believe Landesman's was - you don't need to underscore, capitalize or quantify, especially when there is really no way of coming up with a number accurate enough to be meaningful. If your material is strong enough, you don't need to cite prosecutions that may have involved smuggling women for voluntary or temporary prostitution, but not for what you'd call slavery. You don't need to bring in tangential references to other forms of sexual horror that have nothing to do with slavery. You don't need to rely on the testimony of a pseudonymous young woman, 'Andrea,' for the most dramatic, detailed and harrowing description in the entire piece."
All points I've made on this site, but Okrent fails to explain what makes Landesman's material "strong enough" without these elements? Black out every part of the original story that stems from one of the above not-needed sources, and you're left with virtually nothing outside of the visit to the Mexico brothel and a few recycled AP reports. Would the Times have even print the story Okrent thinks would have been better? Would you have read it?
After analyzing all the ways Landesman's piece falls short, Okrent sums up by saying, "So do you tear Landesman apart because you don't believe his sources, or because you can't locate an audit trail to some of his assertions? Or do you accept the hideous realities he describes and emerge convinced that sex slavery is a genuine problem? I do the latter - I just wish he and his editors had been more circumspect in making the case."
But that's a false choice. No one is saying sex slavery isn't a genuine problem. The question is, is it the problem Landesman described, both in quantity (30,000-50,000) and kind (toddlers locked in suburban basements with some separated into groups that can be beaten or killed with impugnity)? Okrent seems to be saying that given the importance of sex slavery, better this story than none. That's an odd place to come down, and I hope he'll take advantage of the unlimited space on his web journal to explain himself further.