“A Driven Newspaperman”

Oct 22 2014 @ 11:11am

Ben Bradlee

Legendary WaPo editor Ben Bradlee died yesterday at the age of 93. David Remnick reflects:

[T]he most overstated notion about Bradlee was the idea that he was an ideological man. This was a cartoon. Because of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, he and Katharine Graham were often seen as ferociously committed liberals. They were, in fact, committed to the First Amendment, committed to publishing; they made their names by building an institution strong enough to be daring.

But Bradlee did not question deeply institutional Washington. Bradlee and his wife, the writer Sally Quinn, were at the center of what remained of old Georgetown, not outside of it. (He had been married twice before, and had four children in all.) And when, in conversation or in his memoirs, he did talk about his political ideas, they did not run very deep. As a former soldier, he was ambivalent about the anti-Vietnam War movement. After a trip to Vietnam, in 1971, he “ended up feeling uncommitted politically as usual,” he once said. …

Bradlee was, above all, a driven newspaperman, a man of his time and of his institution, and more alive than a major weather system. He was a man of great principle and of great luck, blessed in the ownership that supported him and blessed with a loving wife who cared for him to the very end–an end that was miles from easy.

Peter Osnos explains what Bradlee’s “editorial genius” consisted of:

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The Future Of Sex Toys

Oct 22 2014 @ 10:59am

But first, Lux Alptraum knocks much of the conversation around sexbots for omitting any consideration of female pleasure:

[I]t is women, not men, who are the primary purchasers of sex toys, and thus the consumers most likely to literally take them home. “After 37 years [in the sex toy business], women have always been our customer,” says Coyote Amrich, purchasing manager for San Francisco-based sex toy shop Good Vibrations. “That was the driving force of our business.” … An analysis of U.K. sex toy distributor LoveHoney’s sales data shows that, even as high-tech sex gadgets make their way onto the market, it’s still the century-old vibrator that holds consumer interest – 18% of all purchases.

So what might a more magical Magic Wand look like?

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Marriage Equality Update

Oct 22 2014 @ 10:22am

Puerto Rico’s ban has been upheld:

U.S. District Judge Juan M. Pérez-Giménez said in his decision that by dismissing an appeal in Baker vs. Nelson, a 1971 case in which two men sought to marry in Minnesota, the Supreme Court bound all lower courts to assume bans on same-sex marriage do not violate the Constitution. The high court could choose to overrule itself but has not, he said.

Lyle Denniston provides important context:

The San Juan jurist said the Supreme Court has never overruled that decision, so it is still binding on lower federal courts — an argument that has failed in all of the recent rulings against such bans. But the judge also said that he was bound to follow the Baker precedent because the First Circuit, which has binding legal authority in Puerto Rico cases, had itself done just that two years ago.

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Vengeance Of The Nerds, Ctd

Oct 22 2014 @ 9:44am

Readers won’t let go of the debate:

As Arthur Chu artfully pointed out, the basic dynamic of #GamerGate is no different than that of the Tea Party: white dudes angry about Those People encroaching on their turf. What #GGers lambast as the “corruption” of gaming journalism isn’t part of the creeping menace of sponsored content; it’s the default mode of operation. Gaming publications have always been willing and enthusiastic adjuncts of the industry PR machine. The field’s evolution is no different than any other kind of entertainment journalism – critical film, music, and sports coverage didn’t emerge until the 1960s. To this day, no major entertainment media outlet meets the journalistic standard #GamerGate purports to demand (see: ESPN and the NFL). Really, where’s the scandal?

The difference now, of course, is the existence of social media and how it enables new ways of lashing out. No one has more skill with the Internet’s tools of harassment and abuse than the stereotypical gamer. Pretending that violent threats against outspoken women – whose collective influence in gaming, I should point out, is minuscule at best – have nothing to do with #GamerGate is absurd.

Freddie responds to these readers at length:

The video game media, generally speaking, is garbage. … But here’s the thing, you guys: if video game journalism is garbage, then #gamergate is garbage from an Egyptian restaurant that’s been baking in the sun in July in a heatwave on a New York corner, complete with extra dog poop and infested with cockroaches that have names like Misogyny and Threats Against Women. However well-intentioned some members of #gamergate may be, and however much I may agree with some criticisms of the video game media, the grimy sexism and hideous threats that have been made in the name of #gamergate renders the whole “movement” totally unpalatable to me.

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“Family” Business In Japan

Oct 22 2014 @ 9:04am

Emily Tamkin explains how some Japanese companies date back to the 8th century:

Even though primogeniture faded with the 20th century, owners still often pass their companies on to a single heir—although keeping business in the family is often aided and abetted by adult adoption, in which the company head legally adopts the right person to run his firm and then passes it on. (These adult adoptions are sometimes facilitated by a marriage between the heir presumptive and the owner’s daughter.) In 2011, more than 90 percent of the 81,000 individuals adopted in Japan were adults. Firms run by adopted heirs, research shows, outperform those run by “blood” heirs—and both adopted and blood heirs outperform nonfamily firms.

Natasha Geiling reminds us that earlier this month in 1849, the writer was found “delirious and dressed in shabby second-hand clothes, lying in the gutter” in Baltimore. He died a few days later – and we still don’t know why, exactly. Geiling walks us through a few of the theories surrounding Poe’s death, including the notion it might have been due to “cooping,” a form of voter fraud “practiced by gangs in the 19th century where an unsuspecting victim would be kidnapped, disguised and forced to vote for a specific candidate multiple times under multiple disguised identities”:

Voter fraud was extremely common in Baltimore around the mid 1800s, and the polling site whereEdgar_Allan_Poe_daguerreotype_crop Walker found the disheveled Poe was a known place that coopers brought their victims. The fact that Poe was found delirious on election day, then, is no coincidence.

Over the years, the cooping theory has come to be one of the more widely accepted explanations for Poe’s strange demeanor before his death. Before Prohibition, voters were given alcohol after voting as a sort of reward; had Poe been forced to vote multiple times in a cooping scheme, that might explain his semi-conscious, ragged state.

Around the late 1870s, Poe’s biographer J.H. Ingram received several letters that blamed Poe’s death on a cooping scheme. A letter from William Hand Browne, a member of the faculty at Johns Hopkins, explains that “the general belief here is, that Poe was seized by one of these gangs, (his death happening just at election-time; an election for sheriff took place on Oct. 4th), ‘cooped,’ stupefied with liquor, dragged out and voted, and then turned adrift to die.”

Another possibility for Poe’s demise?

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America Isn’t Isolationist

Oct 22 2014 @ 7:32am

Beinart makes that clear:

Given the overwhelming evidence, both from politicians and the public, that isolationism in America today is virtually nonexistent, why do so many high-profile commentators and politicians depict it as a grave threat? One clue lies in a word that these Cassandras use as a virtual synonym for isolationism: “retreat.” If the subtitle of Bret Stephens’s forthcoming book is The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder, its title is America in Retreat. In their op-ed warning of a new “cycle of American isolationism,” Lieberman and Kyl employ variations of “retreat” or “retrench” six times.

But “isolationism” and “retreat” are entirely different things. Isolationism has a fixed meaning: avoiding contact with other nations. Retreat, by contrast, only gains meaning relatively. The mere fact that a country is retreating tells you nothing about the extent of its interactions overseas. You need to know the position it is retreating from. Herein lies the rub. In general, the isolationism-slayers are far more comfortable bemoaning American retreat than defending the military frontiers from which America is retreating. That’s because those frontiers, which reached their apex under George W. Bush, were both historically unprecedented and historically calamitous.

The Best Of The Dish Today

Oct 21 2014 @ 9:15pm

I had to do a double-take on this story, which hasn’t gotten much press stateside:

The time has come to admit that Israel is a sick society, with an illness that demands treatment, [Israeli] President Reuven Rivlin said at the opening session on Sunday of a conference on From Hatred of the Stranger to Acceptance of the Other … Rivlin wondered aloud whether Jews and Arabs had abandoned the secret of dialogue. With regard to Jews he said: “I’m not asking if they’ve forgotten how to be Jews, but if they’ve forgotten how to be decent human beings. Have they forgotten how to converse?”

The remarks were given at a conference called “From Hatred of the Stranger to Acceptance of the Other.” There was criticism of Palestinians too – and defenses of Israelis. But to hear this kind of talk from the president of the country is quite striking. If a Jewish American had used that language, the obloquy would be as intense as it would be overwhelming. If a non-Jewish American had said that, she’d be immediately denounced as a rabid anti-Semite. Which just goes to show that Israel has a far more robust culture of open debate than the US – and that the deeply troubling descent of Israel into the worst forms of tribalism and bigotry is not a fantasy made up by Max Blumenthal.

Today on the Dish, readers smacked Reza Aslan’s views on religion around a bit – though I recommend Damon Linker’s latest for a classic takedown; I launched the discussion of our Book Club on Sam Harris’ Waking Up – with a debate about whether the self actually exists or who exactly is writing this sentence; readers provided plenty of new clips for our peenage search of movies and TV (Christopher Meloni’s is here). And if you want a moment of zen, a reader from Guyana sent us this window view. Too beautiful. My musings on the liberalism of American Catholics here. My defense of Idaho bigots here.

unnamed (8)One other recommendation: gamer Dish readers take apart all you’ve heard about Gamergate. It’s a truly amazing study on what the collective Dish mind can do on a subject that the media seems to have fumbled badly. One thing that makes the Dish unique is this kind of reader input and nuance. It takes work and real art to curate and edit the in-tray the way Bodenner does. Help pay him and all our staff by, you know, subscribing, if you haven’t already. It takes a couple of minutes and only $1.99 a month.

Many of today’s posts were updated with your emails – read them all here. You can always leave your unfiltered comments at our Facebook page and @sullydish. 22 more readers became subscribers today. You can join them here – and get access to all the readons and Deep Dish – for a little as $1.99 month. Gift subscriptions are available here. Dish t-shirts are for sale here, including the new “Know Dope” shirts, which are detailed here and modeled by the reader seen above. Another writes:

OK, you guys are now 3 for 3. Several years ago you ran a view from a building I worked in 30 years ago (in Fairbanks, AK, of all places, and a minor campus building at that). Later you ran a view from a hotel I had stayed in recently. But on Sunday, you ran a view of a building that I lived in for a year, 40+ years ago (center left, on the corner just across the street).

And in none of those cases did I recognize the view before looking at the caption. How embarrassing.

As a bonus, here’s a view OF the window of my daughter’s college dorm room. (We have no idea who sent it in, but apparently the VFYW phenomenon is affecting a second generation, too.) And you also once ran a view from my office window, but I sent that in. Thanks from a long-time reader, two-year subscriber.

See you in the morning.

And other quotes from a variety of gay and lesbian writers:

Philip Kennicott looks back with ambivalence at the classic gay literature – think Oscar Wilde, Jean Genet, Andre Gide, and Thomas Mann, among others – that shaped the way he came to terms with his own sexuality. While certain novels allowed him to understand he wasn’t alone, the “pleasure of finding new access to these worlds was almost always punctured by the bleakness of the books themselves”:

It is painful to read the bulk of this early canon, and it will only become more and more painful, as gay subcultures dissolve, and the bourgeois respectability that so many of these authors abandoned yet craved becomes the norm. In Genet, marriage between two men was the ultimate profanation, one of the strongest inversions of value the author could muster to scandalize his audience and delight his rebellious readers. The image of same-sex marriage was purely explosive, a strategy for blasting apart the hypocrisy and pretentions of traditional morality. Today, it is becoming commonplace.

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Ebolisis And Its Enablers

Oct 21 2014 @ 8:02pm

Derek Thompson blames the media for overhyping – and thereby exacerbating – Ebola panic in the US:

For the last two weeks, the American Ebola panic has been relentlessly overstated. When Gallup asked Americans if they were worried about contracting the Ebola virus, just 23 percent said yes in a October 11-12 poll, days after Thomas Duncan was the first person to die in America from the disease. That was up just one percentage point (well within the margin of error) from a similar survey administered one week earlier. Just 16 percent told Gallup that they actually thought someone in their family would likely get the virus, up just two percentage points from a week earlier.

One in six people thinking they’re about to die from Ebola is a serious matter. But you can get about approximately 20 percent of Americans to say all sorts of crazy things in anonymous polls.

Waldman takes on another trope of Ebolisis – that in the words of Republican Congressman Tim Murphy, “we have to be right 100 percent of the time, and Ebola only has to get in once.” It’s the viral equivalent of the one percent doctrine:

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