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Archives for July, 2005

July 28, 2005

The GWoT G-SAVE is just a game to you people, isn't it?

Daniel Radosh

Today on Radar: Gersh Kuntzman goes undercover as a Saudi sheik to test the subway search system. "Would the cops target people who look Arab, or would they target people for no reason whatsoever? In other words, is the policy racist or unconstitutional? And isn’t there some way it can be both?"

[Related posts]

July 27, 2005

Job opening, as of this morning: copy editor at the New York Times

Daniel Radosh

Headline from this morning's print and online New York Times:


Earlier version, as saved by Google News:


Well, it could've been worse.

Update: Romenesko's brief history of news bloopers.

July 26, 2005

In the good old days, New York Times critics were never this clueless

Daniel Radosh

"'Friends' did not have an obvious precedent when it made its debut in 1994; neither did 'Roseanne.'" — The New York Times' Alessandra Stanley dissing today's TV sitcoms, which "can be neatly summed up as hybrids of past hits," while "past breakthrough comedies do not fit any such mold."

Quick! To the Wayback Machine!

"Friends" on NBC, is one of this season's trendy young-urban-single comedies that are trying to duplicate the success of "Seinfeld," and "Ellen." —Chicago Sun-Times, September 2, 1994

Two years ago, comedies were imitating "Seinfeld." This season they are imitating "Ellen" (formerly "These Friends of Mine"), which itself is an imitation of "Seinfeld." This is an illustration of the carbon copy school of programing, in which each imitation gets weaker, until the next new idea comes along to steal. --Newsday, September 5, 1994

Like ABC's "Ellen," it's a "Seinfeld" wanna-be, but without a Jerry Seinfeld - or Ellen Degeneres, for that matter -- Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), September 11, 1994

Don't we have enough friends on television in shows like "Seinfeld," "Ellen" and "Mad About You"? — Buffalo News (New York), September 11, 1994

The new ''Seinfeld'' wannabe — The Houston Chronicle, September 22, 1994,

Look what Seinfeld hath wrought: Yet another ensemble comedy built around young people trying to find their way in the world. —Calgary Herald (Alberta, Canada), September 22, 1994,

Oh, no, you might well moan, not another group of pals sitting around whining and nursing their anxieties, getting up once in a while to test the passing Zeitgeist — The New York Times, September 29, 1994

Yeah, yeah, yeah. But what about Roseanne? She's right about Roseanne, isn't she? Um...

Continue reading "In the good old days, New York Times critics were never this clueless" »

July 26, 2005

Also, the Warriors never would've been able to get back to Coney

Daniel Radosh

More on the random bag searches that serve no purpose except to supposedly make us "feel safer," a rationale EoK rightly mocks as security-as-therapy. True to form, the SCLM is lining up to support the measure -- as long as, get this, the police can guarantee that they're conducting searches with no regard for probable cause at all, and that the searches continue in perpetuity. You know you're in trouble when the Times is urging the government to restrict civil liberties even more.

Fortunately there's a growing grass-roots opposition. It may not accomplish much, but it does have the most witheringly sarcastic FAQ I've seen in a long time. ("Q: Why should I worry about being searched if I have nothing to hide? A: Congratulations on having nothing to hide - how exciting for you...") (And speaking of which, it didn't take long for that mission creep to creep in, as Jersey cops looking for bombs arrested a 21-year-old for illegal possession of fireworks. If the searches accomplish nothing else, at least they'll help the precinct meet its quotas).

Continue reading "Also, the Warriors never would've been able to get back to Coney" »

July 26, 2005

Gawker is my new bestest friend!

Daniel Radosh

OMG! OMG! Today the cool kids accessorize their comments about Jane Pratt's departure from the magazine that carries her name with a link to an article I wrote about Jane's previous magazine way back in 1994 for The New York Press, an alternative weekly that folded several years ago.

Although that article is nearly as gushy as I've ever gotten, it earned me Pratt's lasting (as far as I know) enmity for calling her "something of a figurehead" at Sassy. In retrospect I was probably a little unfair. I should have made more clear that my analysis reflected the comments of several Sassy staffers and that Jane herself declined to speak with me, making the story inevitably lopsided. In any case, while Jane (the magazine) was certainly never Sassy, it was usually much better than its competition, and obviously Pratt deserves credit for that.

Gawker is also right that Marjorie (née Margie) is the best. Hi Marjorie! Time to update yer web site already!

July 22, 2005

Attention terrorists: read this if you want to blow up the New York subway

Daniel Radosh

Is there really anyone out there who thinks random searches at the turnstiles will make New York subways any safer? One expert points out, "If someone had something and they were actually caught with an explosive, they're just as likely to blow themselves up as anything." But why even do that when you can simply decline to allow the cops to search your bag (which, they claim, will be allowed) and walk to the next station. And if you're dead set (ha ha) on blowing up the station you were turned away from, you can even take the train back one stop, walk up to the cop who denied you entrance, flip him the bird, and light yourself up. Hell, you could just walk to a different entrance to the same station. What are the odds you'll be stopped again? I mean, seriously, if you're already at the point where you're willing to kill yourself, how is the possibility of a random search going to act as a deterent?

So what's being accomplished? Well, there's the "perception of safety," thing. Frankly I'd rather have the police worry about actual safety. As it is, now they're just diverting resources from the task of authentically stopping crime and terrorism. And anyway, I for one, don't feel more safe when my bag is searched. I feel paranoid. And yes, I know Michael Moore would argue this is the whole point.

Continue reading "Attention terrorists: read this if you want to blow up the New York subway" »

July 21, 2005

Warriors! Come out to play-ay! Or, you know, don't

Daniel Radosh


I recently watched The Warriors for the first time in years and was struck by how great it is for a film that's not particularly good. Considering that so much of the action consists of running for subways, the movie rides high on two things: its monumental silliness (now let's fight the mime gang!) and its gripping, almost mythic concept.

The latter gives me high hopes for the forthcoming Tony Scott remake. There's no reason this movie can't work great -- in a different way -- with realistic characters and action. It also made me think, damn this would be an amazing videogame. By the time I got online and found that indeed a game is in the works, I had it all thought out: It would have to be a GTA-style sandbox game. The first half would follow the plot of the movie, with the goal being to get home to Coney Island. Only you could do it any way you wanted: take the train or steal a car; fight your way through each gang's territory or talk your way through; make enemies or make alliances. The second half of the game begins after the movie ends with the Riffs enlisting you to take charge of Cyrus's dream of uniting all the city's gangs. Now every decision you made on your way home will affect how you have to go about doing that (or, if you want, doing something else entirely, like taking over the city for yourself). Do not tell me this doesn't sound like a kick-ass game.

So when I found it info about the actual game online, I first saw that it's being developed by Rockstar, and I thought: perfect (and the Lizzies mod should make Hot Coffee look like Iced Tea). Then I watched the trailer and I thought: they nailed it. I was ready to fork over my $50.

Then I read the preview and I thought: WTF?! It's a fighting game, where you just happen to be wearing leather vests as you beat up round after round of opponents? Why bother?

As for the plot, they got it backwards: "The digital version of The Warriors will only use [the movie plot] in its third act. The first two-thirds of the adventure will flesh out what the Warriors did with their summer beforehand and provide a better understanding of why these guys are the way they are." Yes, just what we wanted to know. What makes Rembrant tick?

Oh well. We can always hope these guys do another live version.

July 21, 2005

Why everyone believes in root causes

Daniel Radosh

Two recent articles about the motivations of terrorist attacks take two starkly different approaches. Fred Kaplan carefully and patiently reviews three new studies to make the case that most terrorists "are motivated not so much by Islamic fantasies of the caliphate's restoration and the snuffing of freedom, but rather by resistance to foreign occupation of Arab lands." Meanwhile, Norman Geras sputters and spits his way through a rant (adapted, you won't be surprised, from a blog post) the gist of which is that people like Kaplan have no right to consider facts and research when it comes to terrorism, and that one must only condemn terrorist attacks, not try to figure out how to stop them -- at least not if that means trying to understand what causes them in the first place.

Of course, Kaplan is careful to say that "understanding is not the same as excusing," but Geras just scoffs that liberals always say that, when really they're always "seeking to dissipate responsibility for atrocity, mass murder, crime against humanity." To Geras, the selective manner in which "root-cause advocacy" is deployed proves that it is always partisan and cynical. To illustrate this, he reaches for some hypothetical story about immigrants from Zimbabwe. But why bring Zimbabwe into this? Here's a hypothetical grounded firmly in Iraq that makes a similar point, but with a very different result.

Before the invasion of Iraq, the left warned that a messy war would turn Iraq into a recruiting ground and rallying cry for terrorists, making us less safe in the long run. The right, on the other hand, warned that leaving Saddam in power would allow him to provide material support for terrorists, making us less safe in the long run.

Now let's imagine that the universe splits at this point. In one reality -- our reality -- the invasion goes ahead and everything the left warned of comes to pass. The left points this out and the right screams bloody murder about the "apologists." Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, the US opts for containment rather than invasion. And two years later, a terror cell trained in Iraq and covertly supplied by Saddam's regime carries out an attack. Can you imagine for a second that the right would not cry "we told you so!" but would instead say that linking any attack to previous US actions is inherently unacceptable -- and insist that even raising the question of whether that previous action was a good idea in retrospect is an immoral attempt to justify terrorism?

Saying we shouldn't end the occupation of Iraq because that's what the terrorists want is as stupid as saying that we should do so because if we give the terrorists what they want, they'll stop attacking us. Why should our policies be based on what terrorists want one way or the other? Our only option is to figure out, as we should have done before the war, what will make us safer (as opposed to what obviously is not) and do it, without worrying about what the terrorists think. Kaplan happens to think pulling out of Iraq now will make matters worse. There are persuasive arguments to the contrary as well. But to say that we're not even going to consider it because the terrorists want it that way is to abbrogate our foreign policy to Al Qaida, and that's unacceptable. As is viciously attacking anyone who tries to make the argument you disagree with when all you have to offer is ill-informed invective.

July 21, 2005

It's good enough for me

Daniel Radosh

When they said that Cookie Monster would start eating healthy this wasn't exactly what I had in mind.


July 20, 2005

Scotty would have wanted you to watch it

Daniel Radosh

If you missed the original run and for some reason don't yet own the DVDs, you now have another chance to watch Firefly from the beginning starting Friday on the SciFi Channel. The series leads up to the theatrical release of Serenity, of course. Last time I posted about this I said the trailer was a bit muddled and disappointing. While it's always hard to judge a movie by its trailer one way or the other, it is promising that the new international version is much better than the US one. [Via Pieces of Flair -- again.]

Update: Meanwhile run like a bunny and pick up the new Serenity comic, the first of a three-part series co-written by Joss that bridges the gap between the show and the movie. I couldn't be happier with it unless it were longer.

July 18, 2005

Oh great, someone else Jessica has to slither away from at parties

Daniel Radosh

Poor Gawker! First Page Six kettle-calls editrix Jessica Coen for her snarky snarkiness, now Francis has discovered (in the course of his Radar ticker-writing duties) that the Wikipedia entry for Gawker was recently updated to change the phrase "funny, sarcastic voice" to "supposedly funny, sarcastic voice." No fair! Gawker is indisputably sarcastic!

The kicker: The I.P. address of the anonymous Wikiteer who made the change reveals him or her to be an employee of Conde Nast. Ooh! Way to get revenge.

After the jump: Other Wikipedia changes made by Conde Nasties.

Continue reading "Oh great, someone else Jessica has to slither away from at parties" »

July 14, 2005

Fly noise

Daniel Radosh

About a month late, NPR got around to covering the proposal to lift the FCC ban on mobile phone use on airplanes. Predictably, it quoted plenty of horrified passengers and flight attendents who were dreading being trapped on a flight with 100 obnoxious jerks yammering away. And I agree. That sounds like a total fucking nightmare.

But what does that have to do with the FCC? I'm hardly a libertarian. History has made pretty clear why you can't leave issues like child labor and worker safety up to the free markets. But asking the government to ban something because it annoys you? As Mike Langberg points out, "air travel is already highly annoying. I'd rather sit next to someone talking on a cell phone than a crying child -- even my own -- or someone who falls asleep while snoring and drooling on my shoulder." Yes, there are various safety concerns that need to be studied and addressed as well, but strictly from the standpoint of how annoying phones are, well, there is no Constitutional right to freedom from being pissed off.

But -- and here's where I part company with Langberg (who actually wants in-flight phone use) and make common cause with the free marketeers -- the outcry against lifting the ban also makes clear why it's OK if the ban is listed: assuming people aren't lying about not wanting phones on flights, airlines will cater to them by voluntarily banning phone use. There's nothing to stop that, and United has already says it will.

Just don't wire the New York Subways for cell phones. I have my limits.

July 14, 2005

Wow, I had no idea things had gotten so bad in Afghanistan

Daniel Radosh

...but apparently the situation has deteriorated to the point where Chrenkoff has taken to chronicling how great everything's going -- the same way he's been doing with Iraq since May '04. How's that past year worked out, by the way?

Incidental alarming factoid: Palestinians have carried out 200 suicide bombings since 1995. Since 2003, there have been more than 500 suicide bombings in Iraq.

July 12, 2005

Is the Audubon Society aware of this?

Daniel Radosh

From today's New York Times "What's On Tonight" TV listings:

"10 pm (Bravo) Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. The Fab Five have a particular makeover challenge tonight. Jim Boyd, their subject, is a naturalist (we used to call them nudists), so the fashion guidance could be limited."

July 12, 2005

On the other hand, at least their gays are allowed to marry

Daniel Radosh

What always makes me truly appreciate the First Amendment (what's left of it) is news stories about restricted speech in foreign countries. Not, as you might imagine, the wholesale censorship that goes on in autocratic countries -- which is too run-of-the-mill to get my blood flowing -- but the minor incidents that crop up in otherwise democratic nations like Canada.

"VANCOUVER - Some lucky readers who were accidentally allowed to purchase the new Harry Potter novel before its release date are under a court order to clam up and not reveal the plot. The judge has even ordered the 'small number' of Potter fans involved to return the book to the Raincoast Books store near Vancouver that jumped the gun on this weekend's release date."

I understand that many people don't want the plot of the new book spoiled for them (though I've bristled at the subtext of this in the past) and that the publishers have a huge marketing blitz staked on preserving secrecy -- but since when are citizens obliged to assist a corporation in its publicity schemes? Buying a book from a book store is not a contract with a publisher to help it promote that book on its own terms, and any individual who purchased the book legally, albeit early, should have the absolute right to speak and publish freely about it. This is not a matter of national security after all; it's a freakin' kids' book.

Besides, I'm sure Bloomsbury doesn't want people spoiling the ending immediately after the book goes on sale either, so should a judge be allowed to prevent reviewers from publishing spoilers (or kids from telling their friends) for the first week after the book is on sale? The first month? Canada should be ashamed of itself, and I hope some courageous Canuck blogger tells Raincoast to shove its thank you gifts up its ass and posts a big fat review of HP6.

Update: Well, how about that... "It appears that the accidental sale of 14 copies of the latest Harry Potter book at a Coquitlam store last week may have been a marketing blessing in disguise." A store spokesman has the gall to say: "The people who have returned it are 'honourable and obviously have the Harry Potter ethic.'" That's nice coming from someone with the Dolores Umbridge ethic. If you wanted to appeal to the Harry Potter ethic, why didn't you just do that, politely, without making it a legal requirement.

I mentioned in a comment that it galls me that a publishing company is complicit in this restriction on speech. It also kind of pisses me off that news outlets -- which have some stake here -- are treating the whole story as a lighthearted Hey Martha, without even questioning the propriety.

Update: The blogosphere is roiled! Canadian law-guy Michael Geist has several informed posts (as opposed to my own, which, blindly following the article I cited, mixes up the names of publisher and the store). Colby drops the f-bomb ("fascist").

Update: Meanwhile, in the land of the free and the home of the brave...

July 8, 2005

Buy me a boombox, spare yourself these rants

Daniel Radosh

With my kitchen CD player still not replaced and music radio still not improving (yeah, I know: satellite), I've found myself trepidatiously tuning in Air America hoping it's gotten better.

It hasn't. Yesterday Sam Seder took a call from a wingnut who said (paraphrasing), You see, this is why it's good that we're torturing people at Guantanamo. (actual quote), "We're dealing with a savage enemy and it calls for a savage response."

Now Seder (who seems like a nice, smart guy) started out OK by saying, If Gitmo is working, why weren't we able to prevent this? But when the wingnut deflected him ("We've prevented lots of other attacks, trust me") Seder just called the guy a moron until the guy called Seder "half a faggot," which allowed Seder to claim moral and intellectual high ground and hang up. It was not great radio.

Continue reading "Buy me a boombox, spare yourself these rants" »

July 8, 2005

Close enough for blogging!

Daniel Radosh

Nitpicker really hates my new book, which is not as disappointing to me as you might think because I don't have a new book; he's confusing me with my father. "Your worst nightmare has come true," chuckles dear ol' neocon dad informing me of this mix-up. But it gets worse, because now I'm in a position of actually defending dad from this blogger (said with tongue-in-cheek Landesmanesque shudder) on two points. Well, one and a half.

Nitpicker is grumbling about Marty Peretz's review of my father's (and step-mother's) book about the Hollywood blacklist. "I haven't read it yet," he says, "but, considering Radosh's previous writing, I'm sure it's going to be an encomium to Joseph McCarthy." Now, this is only half a defense because I haven't read the book yet either (though unlike Nitpicker, I do actually intend to). So while I hate to say I'm sure about anything, I am reasonably persuaded that the book is not an encomium to McCarthy, partly because in the very review that Nitpicker HAS read, Peretz writes, "Let's make one thing clear: They have contempt for those who banished and ostracized anyone for his or her political views." Which would seem to fall short of encomium.

Ah, but Nitpicker points out that my father is the guy who "once wrote that 'America is rent by two cultures,' the 'traditionalists' and 'self-described progressives steeped in existential depravity.'" And here my unqualified defense of dad is based not on the argument that this article, on the web site of the think tank he's affiliated with, is in any sense defensible (not with sentences like, "For them rap is music and manners are arbitrary rules," and "Can skateboarders convert insouciance into war-fighting ability?"), but rather on the fact that my father didn't write it, any more than I wrote Red Star Over Hollywood. Yes, it has his byline, but he assures me he's never even seen it before -- and it really doesn't sound like him. Some intern at the Hudson Institute is so about to get fired.

All that said, Peretz does indeed goes off the rails in his last graf. That part, Nitpicker nails.

Update: I notice that Amazon's shop-bot recommends The Politically Incorrect History of the United States to people who buy Red Star. An irony that I hope isn't lost on dad.

July 7, 2005

The latest on the embryo-yos

Daniel Radosh

I guess this is officially my beat because already two people have e-mailed me about the article in yesterday's Chicago Tribune about the war on IVF (and one of them wasn't even my wife).

It has updates on the states of various battles, notably pending legislation in Kentucky that would force doctors to create no more than one embryo at a time when doing in vitro fertilization. This is the kind of thing that may sound like a reasonable compromise to casual listeners, but is in fact a de facto ban on IVF.

"If you only inseminated one egg," Richard Scott of Reproductive Medicine Associates tells ChiTrib's Judy Peres, "it would take an average of 16 cycles to get a baby." Peres provides the context: "One IVF cycle involves four to six weeks of hormone injections, ultrasound tests, blood work and a minor surgical procedure to retrieve the eggs; it can cost $10,000 or more." And that objective journalismese doesn't even begin to capture the stress, and for many people trauma, involved in going through a cycle.

It's a great article, and I'm glad the story is getting out, but I do have one quibble. Peres writes: "At the individual level, IVF raises complicated moral issues. Many patients who describe themselves as pro-life have no compunction about creating new life through the procedure, experts agreed. On the other hand, some people who describe themselves as pro-choice find they can't bear to destroy or donate their leftover embryos."

That last sentence is "on the other hand" only if you buy the lifer's propaganda that pro-choice is a euphemism for pro-abortion (or pro-embryo destruction). In fact it just means you believe people should have the right to make their own decisions, even if you strongly believe they should always decide against abortion or, more typically, if you understand that the choice is often extremely difficult to make.

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