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Archives for April, 2009

April 29, 2009

Does Keith Olbermann believe waterboarding is torture?

Daniel Radosh

The story so far: Sean Hannity, declaring that waterboarding is not torture, announces that he'll allow himself to undergo the Verschärfte Vernehmung technique for charity. Keith Olbermann, with his unerring nose for ratings, puts up $1000 per second — double if Hannity "acknowledges he feared for his life and admits that waterboarding is torture."

Olbermann goes after Hannity on the legitimate grounds that Hannity is "trivializing torture." Which makes it all the more baffling that Olbermann's response is to further trivialize it. If you truly believe waterboarding is torture, and you are not evil, than you would not subject another human being to it, even Sean Hannity.

Watching the segment, it seems quite likely that Olbermann made this offer only to prove a point, knowing that Hannity wouldn't follow through. If Hannity did somehow accept, my guess -- my hope -- is that Olbermann would withdraw the challenge in order to keep the moral high ground (probably donating the money anyway).

But that's not how it looks to everyone on the outside. For example, here's the AP taking Olbermann at face value. Even if I'm correct and the AP is wrong, there are surely a lot of Olbermann supporters who actually would at least cheer on the waterboarding of Sean Hannity. Which makes it worth looking at what this would mean.

First of all, it probably wouldn't prove very much because while waterboarding of prisoners is certainly torture, waterboarding a volunteer definitionally is not. No doubt it's horribly unpleasant, and an honest volunteer should be able to extrapolate from his situation to understand the prisoner's point of view, but as David Schaengold succinctly pointed out the other day, "The central moral evil in interrogating someone by means of torture is that it overrides the victim’s moral agency. That is, the whole point of the exercise is to render the victim incapable of moral self-governance, so that your will, the will of the torturer, becomes entirely sovereign."

I can think of a few ways to enhance the possibility of a volunteer like Hannity to empathize with a genuine torture victim. Instead of having him report for waterboarding with TV cameras in tow, get him to sign a waiver (totally unenforceable, I understand, but for appearances sake) then wait a couple of months until he's not expecting it, throw a bag over his face, drag him away to a dark cell for a couple of days, and then waterboard him. 183 times. Indeed once you've done this, there's no need to offer more money for his admission that waterboarding is torture. Just tell him to say it. I guarantee he will.

The fact that many of us probably enjoy envisioning exactly that scenario, even if we wouldn't really go through with it (and the fact that some supposed opponents of torture at least believe they would go through with it), shows how hard it is for us to get our heads around torture, which is, fortunately, so distant from our experience of the world. So think about rape instead. It's actually a pretty good analogy. Suppose, just off the top of my head, Ann Coulter announced that forced sexual intercourse was not rape. Can you even imagine Olbermann offering $1000 a second for someone to rape Ann Coulter? To go through with it (though of course one can no more volunteer for rape than for torture) would pretty obviously be immoral.

Even so, there are probably some people who think it might be worth torturing Hannity just a little in order to win the debate over the unacceptability of torture. That's a difficult position to hold for someone who's trying to argue that the slightly more important result of potentially stopping a terrorist attack is not worth committing torture. And besides, it would almost certainly backfire.

Update: Now Olbermann is even more confused than ever or he's some kind of media double-agent. One of his new rules is: "Hannity need only admit to something factual to get the waterboarding to stop. He may choose among: 'Obama is not a socialist,' 'Waterboarding is torture,' or something else mutually agreeable between us."

So Olbermann wants to use waterboarding to get Hannity to say something he knows to be true but would not otherwise admit. In other words, Olbermann intends to prove that torture works.

April 27, 2009

Besides, everyone knows that was a missile

Daniel Radosh

a-view-of-the-world-from-9th-avenue.jpg Statue of Liberty flyby startles New Yorkers

An Air Force fighter jet and one of President Barack Obama's official planes on Monday flew low over the Statue of Liberty in an approved photo opportunity that startled some New Yorkers who have memories of the September 11 attacks...

"After our history with planes in lower Manhattan, you would think they would consider doing their exercises over the Potomac (in Washington) instead," said Peggy Lewis, who heard the planes from her Manhattan home.

Yeah! Or maybe Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Did they think of that?

April 27, 2009

A contest that means something (to someone, anyway)

Daniel Radosh

Richard Hine, a frequent anti-caption contest winner — "in the days when there were winners," he notes uproariously, alerts me that his would-be debut novel Russell Wiley Is Out To Lunch is a semi-finalist in Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Awards. That means that out of 10,000 entries, the free excerpt of his book linked above has been judged one of the best 100. I'm unclear on how the judging works, but Richard is pretty sure it has something to do with the number of people who download the free excerpts (linked above). Given that his comic novel concerns sex and the media biz, it's a natural for readers of this site (I look forward to reading the excerpt (linked above) myself).

Richard writes: "The out-of-NY finalists are getting profiled in local papers, etc. but jaded NY-ers are perhaps understandably less impressed by the enormity of the achievement reflected in entering an online contest." So consider Radosh.net your local newspaper and help out a fellow reader. At stake: a contract with Penguin Books and a $25k advance.

If you do read it, let us know what you think.

April 27, 2009

The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #191

Daniel Radosh

This one will be judged, I promise.


First place
"Hmm, tough question. If I could have any super power in the world... probably super-strength, I guess. That or laser vision. You?"—Vlad

Second place
Hypnotic Balloon Knot Anus Cat uzes powars fer evel. —Damon

Third place
Feed a cat a mouse, he's happy for a day. Hurl a cat off a cliff along with a bunch of mice, he's happy for the rest of his life.—mypalmike

Continue reading "The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #191" »

April 20, 2009

But has she chosen her five favorite feather boas?

Daniel Radosh

toubybloomy.jpg How can she tell?

April 20, 2009

The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #190

Daniel Radosh


April 20, 2009

Why not Bil Keane?

Daniel Radosh

ballardhighrise028.jpg J.G. Ballard, 1930-2009.

“Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months.”

That's the opening line from my favorite Ballard novel, High Rise. I always thought it would make a great film (better than Crash at the least). Today it occurred to me that, properly handled, it could also be the basis for that breakthrough narrative video game we've been searching for.

April 16, 2009


Daniel Radosh


April 16, 2009

So no truth commission then?

Daniel Radosh


April 16, 2009

Release the memos

Daniel Radosh

Obama's must-pass test.

"Excessive reliance on 'secret law' threatens the effective functioning of American democracy." —Dawn Johnson, Obama's nominee to run the office of legal council, on George Bush's "practice of making and relying on secret law."

Notes Greenwald: "Given that she specifically pointed to concealment of OLC interrogation memos as a prime example of tyrannical secret laws, it is impossible to reconcile her arguments with any substantial redactions of these remaining memos."

Obama's civil liberties report card currently shows a C-minus average. If he wants to borrow the family car again, he needs to start earning better grades now.

These are not intelligence documents. There's nothing here to protect other than "methods" which don't deserve protection and the "morale" of the agents who may have followed inhumane and illegal orders, which is the kind of thing that should make a person feel bad about themselves and their job.

I don't have any confidence in Obama doing the right thing or his supporters holding him to account, but I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

Update: It's Looking like Justice will release the memos while simultaneously promising not to prosecute people who were guided them. A clever political move, something for both sides, but is it closing the door on accountability or setting the stage for going after non-low-hanging fruit?

Update: Closing the door. But we're still a "nation of laws." Guess that means we'll be formally withdrawing from the Convention Against Torture, right?

Update: Greenwald thinks Bush officials could still be on the hook. I doubt it. But even so, this was irresistible.

April 15, 2009

Why not Bil Keane?

Daniel Radosh

66AC6CE5A68B36598A14FA9285C9.jpg "The book is sleazy trash, but it should be in every medium-sized library in the United States." —Judith Krug, 1940-2009.

April 14, 2009

Toxic assets

Daniel Radosh

Lehman Sits on Bomb of Uranium Cake as Prices Slump.

Money quote: "A lot of the funds playing this market have blown up."

April 13, 2009

The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #189

Daniel Radosh


April 8, 2009


Daniel Radosh

sabra-passover-02.jpg You know what suddenly struck me as funny? This.

Oh well, at least you still have the anti-caption contest.

Sometimes even the results.

Happy Passover. Next year on Twitter.

April 6, 2009

The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #188

Daniel Radosh


April 3, 2009

Eye doubt it

Daniel Radosh

Coraline2.jpg I want to love 3D movies. Sometimes I actually do. Coraline was beautiful. U23D -- and I'm not a huge U2 fan -- made me think that while 3D is still a gimmick in narrative film, there's no reason a concert film should be shot in any other format.

But every time some critic or studio suit goes on about the old days when bad 3D technology gave audiences headaches, I get, well, a headache. As I've been telling everyone throughout this latest generation of 3D technology (my Facebook friends can confirm this) the films give me moderate to severe eyestrain every single time, without fail. I'll suffer it if I really think the effect is going to add something artistically (and the film isn't too long) but for something like Monsters Vs. Aliens, I'll be seeing it the old fashioned way, thank you very much.

Today in Slate, Daniel Engber also calls bullshit on the no-headaches myth, and explains why the technology is inherently and unfixably hard on the eyes. But what jumped out at me, so to speak, was this claim by Jeffery Katzenberg that someday "people are going to own their own glasses -- I think from a fashion standpoint and a coolness standpoint, people will want to have their own glasses."

I knew studio execs were out of touch with audiences, but does he really not know that movie theaters won't let you wear your own glasses? Or rather, they will, but you still have to pay for the new ones. Obviously when the new generation of 3D began I saved my first few pairs of specs so that I could avoid the $2-$3 surcharge the next time. But I quickly wised up that what's billed as a charge for the glasses is, of course, just an extra charge for the movie itself, like paying more for IMAX. So why would anyone pay for their own glasses on top of the extra fee they're already being charged?

Mark my words, Avatar will be the swan song of this generation of 3D.*

*More a hope than a prediction.

April 3, 2009

The Anti-Captioner's last laugh

Daniel Radosh

Friends, The New Yorker magazine desperately needs your help. The success of the caption contest has inspired them to launch an actual cartoon contest, wherein readers have been invited assemble an assortment of pre-approved elements into a funny cartoon about a dogs at a bar.

You have less than four days to prevent this from being an utter disaster. Below are three of the current top vote getters. That's right, these are the best of the bunch. In addition to rescuing the contest from itself, you can win a copy of the Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker. Humor, anti-humor, anything... just enter now, then link your cartoons in the comments section here and we'll all go stuff the ballot box.




April 3, 2009

Self-censorship in the Onion

Daniel Radosh

As comedy, this Onion article falls apart quickly, despite a strong opening.

In recognition of her groundbreaking work treating life-threatening diseases of the privates, renowned hoo-ha specialist Dr. Victoria Lazoff was awarded the Nobel Prize in Lady Medicine this week.

However it ends with a lesson to newspapers everywhere about how preposterous their self-censorship efforts sound to normal adult readers.

"We should be encouraging an open dialogue with our young women, one that isn't constrained by some outdated facade of 1950s morality," Lazoff said to a crowd of people looking down at their shoes. "I cannot say this clearly enough: Ladies, please, make an appointment to get your annual [looksie-doo], especially if you are [seeing a fella] or have experienced pain or sensitivity in your ['Hello, my baby! Hello, my darling! Hello, my ragtime gal!']."

Added Lazoff, "It is time for this country to begin having a frank discussion about the [sound of loud, extended train whistle]."

April 2, 2009

Well that clears that up

Daniel Radosh


From the Northwest Florida Daily News. Emphasis on self-censorship mine, of course.

An Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office deputy patrolling an area known for prostitution and narcotic sales stopped a car driven by an elderly white male on March 25.

There was a middle-aged female in the passenger seat.

The driver, who was 77, said he was driving down Lovejoy Road when the woman flagged him down and used a slang term to offer to give him oral sex for $30, according to her arrest report. The driver said he was not sure what she meant so he asked her to clarify. She used a different slang term. He declined, according to the report.

So what is the hip term for rolling cigars among septuagenarians? Other questions raised by astute Daily News readers: If he declined, why was she driving around in the car with him? Why was he pulled over, or is driving in a "known" prostitution area probable cause these days? And, of course, why is she charging $30 when everyone knows the going rate is $10. It's a shame when people prey on the elderly like that.

[h/t: Charles]

April 2, 2009

Wise and otherwise

Daniel Radosh

Recently, Radosh.net senior seniors correspondent Eric Effron spent a week in Boynton Beach, Florida visiting his parents, Ruth and Irving, both in their 80s. To amuse his friends and, perhaps, preserve his sanity, Eric began posting their more surprising pronouncements on Facebook. I thought these pearls of yiddishe wisdom deserved a wider audience. All dialogue guaranteed verbatim.

Mom: "You got heavy, but you look good."

Mom: "You know, I think you got a lot taller... or maybe I got shorter?"

Mom: "Living down here is like being in kindergarten, except one of the activities is going to the doctor."

Dad: "Obama is great, but that treasury secretary is a schmuck with ears."

Mom: "You seem good. What's wrong?"

Mom: "I love Target, but I love Costco!"

Dad: "I lose things but then I forget I lost them, so what the hell difference does it make?"

Mom: "It's casual, but you have to get dressed up."

Mom: "In Florida, they don't know from sour pickles."

Dad: "Lobster is too good for the goyim."

Dad: "The world holds Israel to a higher standard, but screw 'em. What matters is that Israel hold itself to a higher standard."

Mom (15 minutes after dinner): "Are you hungry? Can I make you something?"

Dad: "It's a good thing Madoff only stole from Jews. Can you imagine what the anti-Semites would have done with this?"

Mom: "Something is wrong with the computer. It's gotten small."

Dad: "I've seen shmeckles bigger than some of the hurricanes they get excited about down here."

Dad: "GE is a great company, but that Immelt is a schmuck with ears."

Mom (as I'm leaving for the airport): "Is that what you're wearing?"

April 1, 2009

In event of Rapture, Clique Girlz will now be only 2/3 missing

Daniel Radosh

clique-girlz-colorful-scarves-05.jpg When we last left the Clique Girlz, Ariel Moore had just left the Clique Girlz. Depending on who you asked, the non-sister member of the tween supergroup was either fed up at not getting her share of the spotlight or not talented enough to deserve her share of the spotlight. Because the Clique Girlz standards are superhigh.

Well, as of a few weeks ago, Paris and Destinee Monroe have finally cast themselves a new best friend, and hold onto your yarmulkes — she's a Jewess! A brunette Jewess. There go the PTL gigs. This picture shows Sara Diamond joining Vienna and Densitee on the set of their new movie Help! Baby Bottle Pop commercial. And while all three girls are looking appropriately lickable, shakable and dunkable (hey, I didn't write the jingle), the new one seems like trouble. Not only does she have a preposterous first name, she's already working her de-aryanization program on the Monroe sisters by infecting Desitin with her un-blond hair.

If all this sounds vaguely un-American, perhaps it's because Sara is actually from — hold onto your toques — Canada! So what else do we know about this foreign Jewess who has penetrated the beloved Cliquez? Well, she's 14, she's a model-actress (hooker-waitress?), and she has a stage mother who was pushing her into tween pop even before the Clique gig. Oh, and she got her start writing and performing militant marching songs for Hebraic Canadian cabals.

So how are Clique Girlz fans reacting to the new member? Does the word Kristallnacht ring a bell? The knives are out over at the girlz' number one fan site. Sara is wearing Ariel's dress! She's stealing her lucky charms! (Somehow we've never discussed this here, but each of the girlz has symbol that "represents them as individuals." For instance, Paree has a pink princess crown because she's "the princess," while Ariel had the purple heart, because she's "the sweetheart." And because she took some shrapnel in the ass over in Nam.)

Breaking news: Under pressure from the Clique Girlz Youth, Sara has modified her symbol. She will now sport a yellow star red heart. Because: "I love friendship and stuff."

At least the Clique Girlz marketing team is getting somewhat more sophisticated. In the past, my blog posts have been flooded with different people all making the same pre-approved comments. This time, I was alerted to the arrival of Sara by one person commenting under different names both supporting and attacking her. Maybe in time for the next cast change they'll learn about IP addresses.

After the jump, more annotated pictures.

Continue reading "In event of Rapture, Clique Girlz will now be only 2/3 missing" »

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