In January, George W. Bush became president, and Joseph Britt had some prescient words on the new leader:
As a Governor and then Presidential candidate, neither Bush nor Clinton was required to spend much time on foreign policy, a subject that did not especially interest him. This can be remedied. … [Bush] is much more decisive than Clinton, or for that matter his own father. This may be the most important quality a President can have in conducting foreign policy.
Mr. Weisberg forgot to mention the one place that takes all comers no matter how heinous the crime: Hell. The revised last sentence of his article should read: "At which point, the next port of call is generally Caracas, Venezuela, or Zug, Switzerland, but these are all just way stations on the road to Hell."—Ender
There were continuing discussions on inheritance tax, with the best comment coming from Marcos Kohleron the term "death tax": "Why complain about the state taking 55 percent of your treasure, if God has just taken the whole stuff?"
In April former Sen. Bob Kerrey's Vietnam exploits were in the news, and Fray favorite A.G. Android showed off his flair for undermining standard arguments. To a poster who said that only those who fought in Vietnam could judge Kerrey, he replied, "Have you ever been an unarmed civilian, killed by foreign troops? No? Then what qualifies you to defend Kerrey?"
In the spring, Sopranos feverhit Slate and The Fray, and disrespecting—and deconstructing—the Bing were key pastimes. We liked this from Roger McGuinn—it's the censored version:
[Bada bing bada boom] is used in the context of emphasizing the immediate dispatch of an issue or problem by the employment of effective ameliorative means. For example, "E woodent give me da money so I took im by iz … hair and smashed iz face into the grill of iz … car and bada bing bada boom ez pullin' 10 large outta iz ... tool box."
Timothy McVeigh's execution in May brought this post, which received the most Fray responses ever:
Killing McVeigh is wrong because of what it does to each of us. Ethically, it turns every American citizen, every man, woman, and child, into McVeigh's executioner. If we have a decent respect for human life, we should be ashamed of taking it—even if the human life is McVeigh's.—Devil's Advocate
In July and August, readers worried about the disappearance of Chandra Levy, and Shark said, "There are women who are attracted to power, and there are women who play on the shortcomings of powerful men for their own reasons. To suppose otherwise is to deny them the very three-dimensional existence that women's empowerment is supposed to provide."
As it happens, sharks were the other big source of concern, and Logical Me suggested that every shark post needed one of these phrases: "George W is incompetent or It's all Clinton's fault or Put sharks in a lockbox."
When the horror of Sept. 11 came, readers wanted to express their feelings, be with friends, and find out what was going on, and they turned to The Fray: There were more than 100,000 posts in the week following the attacks. LT said, "For every thought and feeling I've had (and many I haven't), there's been an answer or an echo on Slate or The Fray."
Neill Hamilton can be proud of this post he made on the morning of the Sept. 11: "Americans don't, or shouldn't, commit foul deeds to trade for foul deeds. Bury and mourn the dead, take a close look at who rejoices and who joins us in mourning, rebuild and repair. ... Tomorrow the sun rises for most of us."
Every possible aspect of the war, of policies, and of ethics were discussed over the following months. This was part of a long, extraordinary thread on the future of Afghanistan:
The beauty and horror of the Afghan character is such that it is perfectly capable of fighting to the last boy, without whimpering or having any second thoughts. We cannot touch that adamant resolve. Mothers and wives and children can. Empower them. If we don't know how, we should start figuring it out.— Zeitguy
In the hard weeks of the war, Arthur Stock made us laugh with his take on William Saletan's article saying the Taliban is finished: "Only once since the beginning of time has Saletan made a similar prediction, last year, when his topic was an obscure Texas governor with a presidential campaign in about the condition the Taliban is today …"
Some readers had called for more censorship after the attacks, but there was room for all views. That was one of the services The Fray offered. Ex-Fed's comment on writing about the attacks applies to The Fray too:
Extraordinary evil, like beauty, calls upon each human to feel something that transcends the ordinary—by extension, it calls upon the writer to transcend genre. ... As humans, we think out loud and profit by the thoughts of others, however inadequate to the occasion.
More Fray Notes
Fray posters this year included: Ray Suarez, Natalie Angier, Keith Olbermann, David Horowitz, Batman writer Alvin Schwarz, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk, Max B. Sawicky of the Economic Policy Institute, and Steve Sailer. Many of the "Diary" writers (including, of course, the Fray editor) came into their Frays, as did the authors of books under discussion in "The Book Club," academics, and experts. We also welcomed diplomats, Slate writers, the media director of The Sally Jessy Raphael Show, a senior executive at BMW, W.H. Auden's literary executor Edward Mendelson, and the executive editor of the Miami Herald.
A year ago (you can look at last year's review here), The Fray was a different place. Fray Editor's Picks and what one reader calls "More By This Loser" had only just been introduced. Hard though it now is to remember such a time, there were no stars. Now there are 42, the backbone of the board. Some of the best have started their own mezines: A.G. Android is InstaPundit, and WillV and Tony Adragna run QuasiPundit. We think of them as our graduating class but, on the Amway system, expect them to keep posting to home base.
The very best Frays: It is usually easy to predict which will be the most quarrelsome Frays (religion, evolution, gun control), but the great Frays are harder to spot coming. You've probably forgotten that trouble in Nepal in June: Go to this "Chatterbox" and scroll to the end to find notes on our Fray of the year.
Other good ones (scroll to the notes) were on: this "Culturebox" on poetry; the awesome "David Plotz as Bill Gates" Chatterbox; Wilson the Volleyball (don't ask); the terrific "Breakfast Table" by Fraysters Arthur Stock, WillV, and Joseph Britt; arcade games; the literary shelf of shame; and tee-ball at the White House.
The "Best of the Fray" and its own Frayare very busy these days with endless contests, self-referential discussions, and Fraysters competing for hats. We recently inaugurated the Fray Awards. Biggest surprises this year were appearances by Charles B. Tiffany, Commoner, and the Whizzer in "Best of the Fray." There's hope for you all … One last piece of advice (courtesy of Donjon8), and our New Year wish for all posters: "Don't get a big head—or fat fingers."