Readers on things besides Iraq

What's happening in our readers' forum.
Sept. 28 2002 2:31 AM

Things Besides Iraq

The Fray discusses more than the war.

Domestications: The Chatterbox Fray (filtered here) has newfound focus discussing Tim Noah's latest entries. Today's Whopper, in which term limit pasha Tom Tancredo reneges on his pledge not to run again finished with a plea to end the crusade for term limits. Dilan Esper roused himself to explainwhy the crusade should not end, even when your representative is Henry Waxman.

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Noah's defense of Tom Daschle's dudgeon (word on load from kausfiles here) includes a crack about the irrelevance of the anti-terror org chart. This earns smart criticism from Thrasymachus here (not your usual Bush supporter). Has he been corrupted by the bizarro world of Chatterbox? Hardly. This is what happens when you bring your usual thoughtfulness with you …

The response to Noah's piece also contains the best short case I have seen for extending civil service protections to the new Homeland Security department, from RuebenJames here:

[T]he evidence about how the intelligence agencies performed before 9-11 would indicate that the civil service types at grunt level did a good job. The rank and file people had massive amounts of evidence about what the terrorist were up to. The failure appears to be at the management levels, where supervisors ignore evidence, didn't pass it up, didn't talk to their counterparts in other agencies, etc. Bush's plan to make these workers solely dependent for job security and promotion on their superiors is only going to ensure that these agencies are staffed with people who are afraid to go up against their bosses, even when they know they're right.

If only these posts led somewhere, like the nice Chatterbox thread between Media Watcher and bmcburney as they debate Gore's contradictions here

Guide to Kulcha: Not everything is Iraq. In the Movies Fray (which is back to normal), posters are taking issue with Edelstein's pronouncement that Moonlight Mile is the worst movie of the year. Many have other nominees (DB omnibus list here), while Roy Kristiansen notes "we've still got three whole months to go." …

Daily Doses III: Churchill is back, needling Hollywood flack Henry Eshelman in the Diary Fray. This time, he offers an alternative summary of Eshelman’s Thursday:

Post-ironic breakfast with daughter. Cram three days of work into 90 minutes. Over dramatise own stress levels. Patronisingly rebuff creative thoughts designed to satisfy a client need. Lunch with ex-wife. Starfuck. Call 911 for a NOISE complaint? … 11:20 p.m.

Iraqathon II: Joe Klein defended Gore's speech against the Administration's war campaign and asked "Can Al Gore Rouse the Democrats?" At least Gore can rouse The Fray. Again, not much discussion, but many good posts that can serve as beachheads

Freedom's just another word for: H.L. Mencken (not the real one, silly) gives a cynical (or politically savvy) explanation forGore's guts here:

If Gore steps out on the Iraq issue and is shown to be prescient he will have a political foundation upon which he can build another campaign for President. If he turns out to be wrong, he has lost nothing.

Publius makes a similar point here, and is probably willing to debate it ...

Lyall opposition: Lyall Bush is in fine rhetorical form here  criticizing the apathetic populus:

[T]he country allows Bush and his advisors to bray about a world whose history and politics they haven't learned, simplify the globe's labyrinthine arrangements as if they were the malleable stuff of a Clint Eastwood movie, and puff themselves up as if advertising new communications software -- all the while working to make the world a more dangerous place. And Klein is right to commend Gore for saying why we need to push back at them, too.

Utek, though, finds the problem lies with Democrats in Congress who first failed to oppose the Bush tax cut and are now rushing to support the war. His conclusion?:

So far, the only criticism from the Dems has come from a politician who's not in office. Someone should tell the Democrats that to be the loyal opposition, one needs to start opposing something ...

Drumbeat: Speaking of Democrats in Congress, Gore advocated slowing down the debate on going to war and Klein thought would hurt Democrats who don't want to campaign on the war. But The Bell disagrees here. The crux:

Gore's call for a slowdown in the debate and vote is not unintentionally meant to inconvenience incumbent Democrats but intentionally meant to help them … If Democratic anti-war incumbents are forced to stand and make a protracted fight in Washington debates, they cannot stump in their home districts ...

One of us … one of us: Joe thinks Gore's "hastily written pronouncements" as Klein called them, make the ex-Veep "just like the writers and fraysters at Slate." "Come on Gore, join the dark side." 12:50 p.m.

Iraqathon: From yesterday's cover, you can see that for awhile Slate will be all-Iraq all-the-time (almost). How to Fray? Let me offer some suggestions:

If you want to participate in a discussion and not simply shout from the laptops, you might want to avoid any Fray for an article that is currently linked to the msn.com homepage. The msn.com link encourages a lot of posts, but it creates a shoot-and-scoot effect.

If you want to read some of the better posts, but don't have time to page through them, you can start with the posts I append below the article (although I may be playing catchup for awhile) or you can select "View Editor's Picks" once you have entered The Fray.

Finally, you can check back here. While everyone knows that there are at least two sides to the invasion debate, and a slew of reasons for any position, everyone may not know what the terms of the conversation are. I will try to draw attention to them.

Both sides now: Michael Kinsley's Readme piece started off Slate's great Iraq debate. In The Readme Fray, responses are running the gamut. Zathras's pro-invasion response begins by cogently arguing that not knowing enough is an inveterate problem:

Crucial information is always unavailable to citizens before war begins. It is usually unavailable to governments also, or is not distinguished from less important information before war starts, or is not utilized because no one in a position of responsibility knows where to look for it. This has been the case in every war the United States has ever fought.

This is not a failure of democracy; this is life …

Adam Masin points to another inveterate problem: acting without legitimacy:

[H]e will go to war without the support of half of his country and almost all of the rest of the world. Say what you will about the merits of a Iraq war, Bush's stance does not put him in very good company amongst history's world leaders who have taken similar action.

And for readers who tire of measured political discourse, you can always look to posts by doodahman for a more cantankerous exchange (such as this):

In a just world, any time that a war hawk uses the term "appeasement" when attacking Iraq war opponents, a huge cartoon Monty Python fist ought to come down and squish them ... Appeasement is not failing to invade a sovereign nation. The proper term for that is called "Civilization." 

Death and the salesman: There is much discussion of the Administration's "sales pitch." Matt says no pitch could work:

The reason for the fundamental dishonesty of Bush's sales job is that the real reason for a war is just not appealing enough.

But The Bell says all this attention to sales misses the point (apologies for the truncation):

Kinsley says facts do not matter, sales pitch matters; and since President Bush has not been a good salesman, he is a fatuous hypocrite even if he is ultimately right. The converse being that he is a great leader if he knows he is wrong but can lie convincingly. For my money, THAT makes Mr. Kinsley the reductio ad absurdum of Marshall McLuhan.

Rhyme and reason: Regular contributors to the Poems Fray are hanging out in Readme to give Kinsley's "Charge of the Right Brigade" some Tennysonian support. Persephone leads off here:

"Forward the Right Brigade"
Was there a fear allayed?
No tho the people knew
Some one had bluster'd
Is this a casus belli?
Should W provide a "why"?
Can we do naught but sigh?
Into the alley bereft
are shoved the one hundred

Those crazy kids: From the metaphor alert file: Southern Gentleman here thinks we are children who need Bush's fatherly protection; &kathleen here thinks kindergartener Bush needs to get his name on the board ... 12:00 p.m.

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Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2002  

Babylon's abacus: Michael O'Hanlon's attempt to forecast potential casualties in any Iraq invasion is posted on MSN.com, and this makes the War Stories Fray very hard reading. Up to now, though, there are only a few notes in this tune and a surprising dearth of star posters. Many readers pose the question "How many Americans will die if we don't attack Iraq?" (See here and here and here and here.) One can glimpse what O'Hanlon's answer might be based on his discussion of possible civilian casualties in retaliation for an American-initiated war. The relevant paragraph begins "Of course, Iraqi attacks against civilian populations in places like the United States could be serious."

Others are pointing out that casualty estimates are routinely faulty. Observer does this well:

Our local PBS station is showing the Ken Burns Civil War series this week. We were disastrously wrong about how long the war would last and how many casualties we would sustain then. We were wrong again in WWI. Korea, Vietnam, Granada, Panama, the Gulf War. ... Remember when Sadam Hussein was supposed to be a military genius leading the fourth largest (and "battle hardened") army in the world?

Several others note that the numbers of dead are beside the point when the cause is just—Phishtar's thread here is the best. P notes:

There are many rational, sensible arguments against going to war (some of which have been featured on this site). The specter of Americans in body bags isn't one of them.

Speaking of featuring: In his latest Readme, Michael Kinsley says the case for war with Iraq might be a good one, but we can't know; based on what we do know, the case has not been made. Expect good responses in the Readme Fray and in future Slate pieces.

8 simple rules for conducting weapons inspections: Michael Crowley's Assessment of Scott Ritter made the case for Ritter's about-face vis-a-vis Saddam. But Crowley could only speculate as to why. The Fray is piling on. Is Ritter playing a "deep game" for the CIA? Is he in denial? CSmith has the most pointed barb here:

Ritter is an an argumentative hack, with no commitment to intellectual honesty. He is the David Brock of the Iraq debate.

Abre los ojos still doesn't know what to make of Ritter here, but is perceptively baffled.

Daily Doses II: Henry Eshelman is the "Hollywood flack" whose "confessions" make up this week's Diary. Churchill is another PR guy who has a modest proposal for Eshelman and his entire industry (here): stop taking agency credit for clients' achievements. Naturally, he couches it in the clever, jaunty prose of his calling:

Taking credit for demi-accountable, somewhat trackable, sort-a-kind-a-maybe had something to do with our work sales increases or market share blips is one thing, recognition of personal excellence in one's clients is quite another.

Perhaps in the spirit of accounting reform, we in the advertising profession should strive for full disclosure: How many former Ogilvy Entertainment clients returned to waiting tables in the past year? How many were denied a call-back from The Real World: Paris? How many Ogilvy movies were "big in Japan"? … 8:50 a.m.

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Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2002  

Tuscan chicken salad: Looking for debate about the German elections? Looking for a preview of the struggle to build a new anti-Iraq coalition? Try the Foreigners Fray (and not International Papers for once). Marc Fisher's piece describes how the Social Democrats, unburdened by a Nazi past, have grown comfortable applying the Nazi tag to their opponents recklessly. There is a nice discussion between &kathleen and Scipio here. A Scipian snippet:

I don't think the Hitler reference was entirely accidental. Schroeder mentioned not clicking his heels / saluting Bush a number of times during the campaign. In combination with his justice minister's Hitler comparison, it looks like the Dubya = Nazi concept was a campaign talking point for Schroeder and his cabinet ministers. Oh well, no big deal. I guess if you're to the right of Ted Kennedy, you have to get used to being called a Nazi.

Perhaps more interesting are the heated discussions of the dynamics of current German politics: What are the internal pressures on the Social Democrats? What is the historic role of the U.S.? How is the "new German way" an affront to the EU? (or to France?) Juergen Hubert starts a terrific thread here. This excellent post by Scipio (from a different thread) attempts to translate the election results for American readers.

Daily doses: The Diary Fray is reeling with the whipsaw change in Diarists—from human rights activist JamieKalven, who strives to give names and faces to the urban poor, to L.A. PR honcho HenryEshelman, who has given a name to his car. "I felt like a fat, decadent Western pig-dog just reading about this guy's Saturday escapades," &kathleen writes here

Short cuts, looong entries:Beverly Mann puts what may be her longest post ever in the ChatterBox Fray—she offers a detailed refutation of Gregg Easterbrook's detailed defense of a joke about the 2000 electoral mess in Florida. Over in the Best of the Fray Fray, Tempo starts an extremely long contest, soliciting American towns and cities with funny names, most of which seem to be in Texas.

Conjugate this!Fraywatch-watchers will note that entries are now in the more dynamic present tense! Just part of the branding strategy … 9:40 a.m.

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Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2002
 

IKEA idea: The Ad Report Card Fray was back to its usual incandescent self as it thought about Rob Walker's glowing review of the Spike Jonze-directed IKEA ad. Scipio raised the stakes when he asked if there was a common "totalitarian" tendency to both Spike Jonze and Ikea. A piece of his post:

By totalitarian art, I mean art that forces you to follow the numbers, walk on the golden path, until you reach the desired end. …

Jonze's IKEA commercial is a really neat piece of work, but I think the reason that the punchline works so well is because Jonze really toys with your emotions, forces you to sympathize with the lamp, and then punctures your sympathy quite forcefully. It's artful, but a bit pushy.

As for totalitarian stores, ever been to an IKEA? I've been in them in four or five countries, and they are all the same. You walk in the door, follow little yellow arrows on the floor, and enjoy the store the way the Swedes running the place want you to enjoy it.

There were a number of good responses, but check out socalchango's here (and his(?) pun-filled post here). (There are also lots of posts kicking around in The Fray from the previous Report Card, on SoBe drinks.)

Oprah, Uma; Tempo, Otto: Boob tubers responded to Virginia Heffernan's Emmys roundup in force. The best Emmys' thread was not RoyJaruk's perpetual kvetch that Buffy got the shaft, but Tempo and Otto's exchange about classy older women that began here. (Otto was busy, handing Dartman his lunch here and professing a certain Lutheran self-loathing here.)

Earle grade: Josh Daniel thoroughly trashed Steve Earle's new album, Jerusalem, and got a much bigger rise out of the Music Box Fray than Gerald Marzorati's positive review of Beck's Sea Change. Sarvis asked "Where have all the protest singers gone?" and offered some possible explanations. There were several shrill attacks on Daniel; the best of these was Emu's defense of Earle's "interestingness."

Asked and answered: Leftover from yesterday's blog: Who wrote the National Security Strategy? Condoleezza Rice? Paul Wolfowitz? Nah, Military Guy (see why here). And the Runyon story seems to be "Blood Pressure" (thanks to Red here, and Jimmy the Celt here) … 11:05 a.m.

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Monday, Sept. 23, 2002
 

A good manifesto is hard to find: William Saletan's analysis of the Bush administration's new national security manifesto encouraged readers to offer their own, usually highly critical, manifesto-ish responses. While LS' response had the stand-out image—"I believe our collective American arrogance has finally reached its zenith, and Bush's manifesto is the ready-to-pop zit coming to a head"—TC3 (here), James N. Ackerman (here), and The Bell (here)all offered well-crafted posts. (You can also find them all beneath Saletan's article.) Some clips:

TC3: It wasn't easy for Bush to screw up the overwhelming post-9/11 international support for eradicating terrorism, but he seems to be accomplishing it.

Ackerman: It is no secret that the Bush administration is chock-a-block with advisors and decision-makers who see international political action as fundamentally an exercise in state power.

The Bell: To the extent that we ever really had them, we are on the brink of losing both our moral AND our strategic advantage in the fight to contain terrorism by losing focus and widening our "war" into its traditional and ugly form of conflict among nations.

Authors, Notes: Does anyone know the title of the Damon Runyon story Ackerman is remembering? Or who wrote the manifesto Saletan analyzes? Finally, although he doesn't say so, The Bell's analysis of the change in our anti-terrorism strategy parallels John Lewis Gaddis' analysis of the shift in containment policy between Kennan's "X" article and Nitze's NSC-68 in Strategies of Containment11:35 a.m.

Why We Spite: Forgot to mention it, but Zathras' response to Michael Kinsley's attack on William Bennett and the discourse of evil was the best of neocon reasoning. (Apologies to him if he disagrees with that characterization.) 10:10 a.m.

Live at Budokan: David Edelstein's review of Secretary and The Banger Sisters was bound to occasion some debate: is having the kind of sex you want to have (whichever kind it is) a sign of autonomy or a symptom of a culture that wants you to want bad things? Although they are not in the same thread, Eddie (here) and Thomas Jefferson (here) have forcefully taken opposing sides in a debate about the contours of sexual freedom in the Movies Fray.

Dirty Dancing: Following up Rob Walker's discussion of how commercials may be replacing radio as the place to discover new music, Ex-Singer Songwriter and Anonymous debated whether selling out is worse that selling nothing at all (starting here), but Dave Rygalski posed a question herethat goes to the heart of kitsch:

What's worse: A hooky, cheesy song getting in your head because you heard it on a commercial or because it was a TV theme song? Bought any cutout Rembrandts lately?

The Thief Lord of the Rings: Moira Redmond carved out a new niche for The Thief Lord beyond "the next Harry Potter." In the Culturebox Fray, &kathleen started a nice discussion of children's fantasy literature here while twiffer lamented the sorry state of book marketing (and reviewing) here.

Beck and Call: Not much doing in the Music Box Fray, even though Beck spent all weekend on the cover. Are there no Harry Nilsson fans? … 9:50 a.m.

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Friday, Sept. 20, 2002
 

Candyman II: Farewell to the Cash: The Moneybox Fray discussion of Daniel Gross' piece on the meltdown of the Hershey sale started slowly but has picked up since it was featured. Food-industry consultant-types pondered the fate of family-owned companies here while Baltimore Aureole ridiculed the idea of diversification behind the sale here:

good thing the hershey trustees didn't sell the company in 2000 ... to satisfy Gross' diversification mandate, they might have invested the proceeds in Enron, WorldCom, AOL Time Warner, Tyco, Lucent. were there any winners over the past 2 years?

Thomas' detailed post on the legalfracases of the Hershey Trust board of managers is as interesting a story as he claims, particularly the part where the managers claim they can't spend all the money the trust makes now.

Entr'Acte: Also in the Moneybox Fray is the nascent discussion of CEO second acts. Captain Ron Voyage stuck up for F. Scott Fitzgerald here:

Ivan Boesky, Ross Perot, Fawn Hall, David Stockman, G. Gordon Liddy, the "Where's the Beef?" Lady, Adnan Khashoggi, "Dan & Dave", Robin Leach, Shannen Doherty, the "Bartles & Jaymes" guys, Spiro Agnew, McLean Stevenson, Dan Rostenkowski, the XFL, Edwin Meese, Disco Duck and MC Scat Kat. What do they all have in common? They're all people who committed unspeakable crimes against the American people (usually in the name of money), and they have all had absolutely no "second act" whatsoever.

I would suggest not being so sanguine about Kenneth Lay. Evidence suggest there are plenty of bad boys with no second acts out there, we just can't remember who they are. The second acts (even Milken) are the ones with discernible talent, of which Mr. Lay appears (along with Mr. Winnick) to have none.

Dontcha think? In the Poems Fray, the usually interesting discussion of the poem of the week (" Prayer Meeting") includes a veritable Niagara of ironing puns here ... 9:40 a.m. 

J.D. Connor is assistant professor of English and of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard. He is working on a book about neoclassical Hollywood.

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