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Oct. 23 2002 3:05 PM

Barry-ing the Lede

The Fray finds Slate's World Series coverage predictable.

Take me out ... : Meph is disappointed that the consensus World Series storyline is all Barry-Barry-Barry. (Reading aloud? That should sound like "Marcia-Marcia-Marcia.") Meph is so disappointed, in fact, that he has even predicted tomorrow's stories tonight. We'll see if he's right:

Well, the Giants won and the series is now 2-2. No doubt we will now be treated to a host of stories about how the threat of Barry Bonds and his 3 intentional walks is why the Giants won the game. The other Giant hitters will be applauded for "taking advantage" of the opportunity presented by Bonds' presence in the lineup, and the improved Giant pitching— the real reason why the Giants won game 4 and lost game 3—will be an afterthought.

(The best real-time sports talk was in Ballot Box.) ...

Victor the Predictor: And speaking of predictions, Deodand is one of many to note that it was easy to foresee Dahlia Lithwick's verdict on Ken Starr's new book here:

I don't need Dahlia's evaluation of Ken Starr for two reasons: (A) while I love her dearly, I already had a real good idea about what Dahlia would say about Ken Starr if the matter ever came up, and (B) I already have an opinion about Ken Starr and Dahlia is unlikely to convince me that Starr wears horns and carries a pitchfork, just as conservatives are unlikely to persuade me that Starr sports a halo.

He doesn't need Ken Starr's book, either. ...

Dadgummit: Kate is peeved about William Saletan's reporting on the Arkansas senate seat here:

So glad Slaten found someone toothless in Arkansas; it would be a shame if the ill-tempered correspondent had to make up NEW hillbilly jokes. ...

Fast culture: Readers of Bo Fuller's Well-Traveled series on The Outlaw Trail don't quite buy her description of her visit with Navajo weaver Rose Yazzi as "cultural prostitution." Longtime reservation resident Ernest sees the glass (or bedstand) as half full here:

So why is being (even briefly) introduced to a new culture a negative? Why is it "cultural prostitution" for age old customs to be shown as they have always been practiced? ...

C U L8R Boi: No Fraywatch for a couple days. Back Monday. ... 2:20 a.m.

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Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2002
 

Lying is a virus: In Moneybox, Daniel Gross asks, "Why do CEOs lie on their résumés?" Bernard Yomtov does his best William S. Burroughs here:

I doubt anyone falsifies their resume when about to be interviewed for the CEO job. Most likely it's done much earlier in life, to help get a job or maybe just for ego. The lie is never checked out, and finds its way into all sorts of personnel files and bios. Virus-like, it uses the mechanisms of bureaucracy to reproduce itself. It becomes impossible to correct the situation without major embarrassment, so people just let it slide … That doesn't make it right, of course, but it's easy to see how it happens.

Bernard Yomtov, Nobel Laureate in Physics (or was that Medicine? I keep forgetting).

Yomtov's Nobel may be fake, but his star is real. He can claim it in the Best of The Fray Fray.

Money makes the mare go: Brendan Koerner's Tangled Web on the proliferation of Nigerian e-mail scams has Jimmy the Celt laughing here:

Cons are distinctive because they require the complicity of the victim: in fact, the victim becomes a victim only after he has consented to perform what he knows is an illegal—or at least highly irregular—procedure.

That the government of the United States has issued an "ultimatum" to the government of Nigeria to "do something" about this flourishing little cottage industry diminishes our national dignity. The greedy saps who fall for the Lagos e-mails constitute a modest source of foreign aid. The rest of us are entertained in the bargain.

Andy Aaron thinks the Secret Service's numbers are as shady as the Nigerians' here; W.V. Micko backdates the origins of the Spanish Prisoner about 100 years here.

Lies, damn lies, and reporters: Koerner's Explainer on the difficulties of prosecuting a journalist for fraud has brought out the best in Roy Jaruk. His response  ranges from the U.S.S. Maine to Tom Clancy to Michael Moore. He offers the Fray's most sensible version of "but it's all lies":

The broadcast media runs a whole lot of what's called "B roll" stuff, by no means restricted to science and military news, propaganda provided to support or promote a position or product. The print media uses lots of crap extracted from PR releases, without verifying it. The trouble is, both major branches of the media run it AS IF they ferreted out the story themselves and present it as "news" when it's actually PR propaganda … The same press, by the way, that loves to trumpet itself as the guardian of American freedom by causing the evildoers to fear their journalistic light. Kinda hard to turn that light on your subjects when you are in bed with them, I think.

On the record, he can claim his star in the Best of The Fray Fray.

And I Don't Much Care: The Book Club Fray are not fans of Allison Pearson's I Don't Know How She Does It, even if they've never read it. MarkW wonders "Why on EARTH would any busy mother want to sit down to read yet another book about a busy mother trying to 'have it all'?" MsZilla, who at least sneaked 10 or so pages in a bookstore (Powell's?), compares it unfavorably with Please Don't Eat the Daisies. Her best line: "This is another case where the addition of a therapist to the character list would have rendered most of the book unnecessary." A "supermom" herself, perhaps she can trade her career to become a web-based writer specializing in short-circuiting popular novels. Until then, she can claim her star in Best of the Fray.

28 Across: Bike town? Perhaps the next book will meet with more approval: Dave Eggers' You Shall Know Our Velocity(McSweeney's Press). It is available only through independent bookstores, and the ISBN is 0970335555.

Grendel's den: Over in the Poems Fray, the discussion of "Dickhead" has been surprising, mainly because the poem surprised Kip Soteres here, and he surprised most everyone else … 12:00 p.m.

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Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2002  

Pirates with pens-ance: In this week's Ad Report Card, Rob Walker sees Intel's latest ad as an enticement to Pentium-assisted music piracy. Socalchango finds more evidence that Intel is doing battle againstthe record industry here. One little tidbit:

How could Walker miss what he does after the alleged pirating? That's right, he draws on it using a black marker! How many millions of dollars did Sony and Universal spend developing a so-called "anti-piracy" CD, only to have their technology disabled by a teen armed with a humble felt-tipped pen?

(What drivessocalchango? The sense "that Madison Avenue has scored a double victory in this brave new world: Not only do most find commercials trivial, but they are also moved to ridicule the minority who don't share their complacency.[Emphasis added]")

Twiffer the gnu thinks Intel is sending a much-needed message to content providers here:

[T]he veiled advice to the recording companies (get with the future, dumbasses) is a good one. other than MLB, i can't really think of another industry that harps only on its problems, whines incessently, screws its fans and continues to pursue wrongheaded business plans that exacerbate the problem.

Providing Fraywatch with a seldom-seen segue to a …

Whole new ball game: In which twiffer the gnu returns and notes correctly that Hugo Lindgren has remade Sports Nut into Ad Report Card with his account of World Series Game 2. Posters are following suit (not all—Adam Masin and Brian have a brief discussion of Troy Percival's ninth inning beginning here). On to the ads: Several posters find the prospect of sex with theCoors Light Twins off-putting (although someone must not—even the 30-second spots for the new film I Spy feature Eddie Murphy joking to Owen Wilson that if Famke Janssen has a sister, it will be "the three of us.") Tim Lowell is simply perplexed:

Since when did Conservative Christian Corporate America (Coors surely falls within that realm) start sponsoring incestuous group sex, or at least the heavy suggestion of it? I mean, I'm not going to say it's necessarily a bad thing, but it does seem like a radical departure.

Go Bearcats? Some excellent responses in the Chatterbox Frayto Tim Noah's report on the decline in African-American enrollments at Caltech and some elite institutions. (Scroll down to the bottom of the article to read them.) Funniest not-quite-accurate post? Cb's here:

3 freshman blacks at Cal Tech. If those three graduate ... and they will, that will be more blacks with a degree than the Cincinnati basketball team has graduated in the past 7 years-or more.

(Not-quite-accurate based on this and other sources.)

Happiness is a warm Fray: Last Friday night, Judith Harris, author of The Nurture Assumption, jumped into the Dialogues Fray here to take issue with Martin Seligman and with Fraysters Carolyn and Omnivorous Reader. Seligman responds here. It is a terrific, testy thread, and I'm sorry it wasn't front and center in Fraywatch yesterday. (Thanks to Kassandrafor the after-hours monitoring.) ... 9:00 a.m.

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Monday, Oct. 21, 2002  

Hook and ladder: Last week in Chatterbox, Tim Noah defended William Langewiesche's account of the World Trade Center rubble, American Ground, against Rhonda Roland Shearer's attacks. Ray Suarez, senior correspondent for The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer, jumps into the Fray with his own story here. A part of his post:

Why is it so hard to believe that while some men were selflessly heading higher and higher in the buildings, that others were ripping off jeans? (When I went down into the mall with an urban search and rescue team a few days after September 11, I passed food and women's clothing stores that were eerily intact, just covered in a fine layer of dust... and a Tourneau watch store that had been torn to pieces)

At a site where, at the time, untold thousands of people were believed dead, I kept interviewing firefighters coming off the pile who only talked to me of their "brothers," and only of the other victims when prompted by a reporter.

Why can't we grant firefighters the privilege of humanity? That among their thousands there are (were) unspeakably brave, skilled, and selfless men, and jerks who hit their wives, never see their kids, and some who weren't even very good at their jobs. They are not secular saints. They are fine and flawed human beings caught up in a premeditated mass murder.

Omnibus Readerdefends Langewiesche's description of the firefighters as "tribal" here. The payoff: "If you cannot see the kilted bagpiper as a means of tribal identification, you are blind. And deaf."

Mangar argues that Shearer shares her argumentative "penchant" with her late husband, Stephen Jay Gould, and takes a minute to speak ill of the dead. Perhaps he is gunning for a job writing Slate Obits? ...

Avenging the Angels: Which Angels team will show up in the World Series? Last Friday, Chris Suellentrop laid out their woeful history. Over the weekend, Hugo Lindgren proclaimed "it is impossible not to like the Angels" for their scrappy play. B Muir disagrees here. Just one of the reasons:

Does MLB funnel all the chew loving jocks to Anaheim? It sure seems so. At any rate, even if they are, in reality, a bunch of great guys ... with chew in their mouths they look all too familiar to those of us who've known our share of chew-loving jock dorks (usually wannabe jocks who spent their adult lives pumping iron in order to make up for the lack of agility and speed that kept them nervous and chewing forever). OK. So I'm stereotyping. So I'm shallow. So, so, so.

I still don't like the Angels.

On the more theoretical subject of why the Angels' pitifulness is obscure (when, say, the Cubs' is so prominent), The Slasher offers a notion of the "secondary franchise" here. Will anyone respond? … 11:00 a.m.

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Friday, Oct. 18, 2002

 

Chain-chain-chain: Reaction to Fred Kaplan's critique of U.S. smart bombs was extremely compelling. Military Guy stressed that while the bombs have gotten better, there are plenty of other ways to screw things up ("For an example of incorrectly identifying a target, look no further than the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade"). RuebenJames agreed, and put a human face on the scenario here:

In the context of our high tech wonder weapons, never underestimate the ability of a highly-stressed, sleep-deprived individual to mangle numbers, words, anything. I can just see some poor grunt who's been awake for 36 hours straight punching in a grid coordinate.

But the best post came from Kevin Darnell, Col (select), USAF Military Faculty, US Naval War College here. He not only disputes Kaplan's Gulf War stats, but provides this addendum to the usual "air power is not enough" lesson of the war:

The effort against the communications network was an important part of the campaign, but it was not pursued as the "silver bullet" that the article implies. Instead, Air Force generals took the early plan in September 1990, reshaped it, and relegated it from the main effort to simply one of four phases. The remaining phases aimed at the destruction of Iraqi forces in Kuwait and attacks on the Republican Guard, all as part of the preparation for the eventual land attack. And none of the generals ever believed it would be a cake walk.

This is not to say that some corners of the Air Force did not believe or hope that a decapitation strategy designed to cut off Saddam's communications might not end the war quickly. The point to understand is that our top military leaders are a pragmatic group who don't often place all their eggs in any one basket.

Colonel Darnell stresses that the views expressed are his own. ...

Double Consciousness: Emily Bazelon describes the upcoming battle for Sandra Day O’Connor’s soul between her federalist devil and her feminist angel (reverse the polarity if it suits you). In response, Adam Masin laments the effect her pivotal voice has had on Supreme Court opinions, and foresees this result:

The opinion of the court, written by O'Connor, is announced by 3 Justices, one who writes a concurring opinion which concurs with the result but not the rationale. Three Justices dissent, and two (probably Rehnquist and Scalia in which Thomas joins) write separate dissenting opinions which stress different reasons for dissenting. Three other justices write separate opinions, concurring in part and dissenting in part, but each concurs and dissents to different parts.

Meanwhile, Arrow objects to Bazelon's sky-is-falling anti-federalism here:

Ms. Bazelon suggests that employees of state universities are in the anomalous position of having less protection against gender discrimination than employees in private enterprise.

Bad example. She is assuming that the only kind of "protection" is litigation in federal court. In fact, employees of universities in particular have the far more efficient protection of organizational culture: one sure way to stop any university administrator dead in his (or her) tracks is to holler "sexual discrimination!" Instantly the action is put on hold, inquiries are initiated, committees are appointed, articles are written, meetings are called, banners are printed, and whatever the university may have contemplated, rightly or wrongly, is halted forever.

Duckrabbit: UnderlyingBazelon's article is a longstanding debate over the purview of the 11th Amendment: Why should it apply to suits by a citizen against her own state? Beverly Mann offers her usual witty clearheadedness here, where she indicates that she just can't find the "hidden picture." In previous posts, though, both Dilan Esper and Taxlawyer explain how the prohibition can seem so obvious. For DE here, there was no federal question to begin with because when a citizen sues her own state there is no diversity of jurisdiction. Taxlawyer contends here that the fault does not lie with the Rehnquist court:

Bazelon writes, "In the last few years, the five most conservative justices have used the 11th Amendment as a weapon against Congress by arguing that it bans citizens from suing even their own state," as if we're supposed to be shocked by this. Well, it's been true for over 100 years—the Supreme Court held this in 1890, in the case of Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1 (1890) ... I'm no fan of this Supreme Court either, but let's not blame them for things that they didn't dream up ... 1:15 p.m.

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Thursday, Oct. 17, 2002

 

Some 'splaining: The Explainer Fray is awash in posts because the quesiton "Is the D.C. sniper a serial killer or a spree killer?" is on the MSN.com home page. The best of these is Caliban Weeps' early bit of stream-of-consciousness here:

We want to know, are the authorities going to catch this killer before more people die? Are the hated conservatives or the despised liberals are going to win or lose in the upcoming election? Are we going to go to war? Is the stock market ever coming back in my lifetime? Should I crouch down when filling my tank? Am I going to lose my job and where can I get a job if I've already lost it? How am I going to make my alimony payments? Is the child support check going to be late again? Do I really have to eat broccoli and if butter and eggs aren't as bad as we thought for a while, what are the chances bacon can be rehabilitated?



Serial or spree? Don't care.

But the Fray is also discussing (in more muted tones) the issue of military recon help in the search for the sniper. The logjam has turned the Fray into a catch-all for those who with theories about the sniper (with, obviously, very little "proof" of one theory or the other).

Jumping update:Eric's post on writing the de-funding amendment that the Supreme Court discussed yesterday has now caused the stir it should. Loran (who made an nifty analogy in an attempt to show Dahlia Lithwick's bias here) attacks here:

Rather than make the tough decision on the merits of a law with the accompanying record of that choice, our slippery public servants instead chose an indirect method to throw the hounds off their trail, thus neglecting, one more time, the legislative branch's task in the making of law and forcing the judicial branch to cover their ass. Congratulations on your role in this.

Ruf Ruf defended Eric before Eric did, and his post  pushed the debate forward. There are a surplus of excellent posts.

Eric returns to defend himself here. One part of his reply that directly addresses Loran:

Was it "devious" to de-fund the program rather than change the actual legal code? Give me a break. Funding decisions are 75% of what Congress does. The most important thing a Member of Congress does is decide what to do with your tax dollars. Where to spend the people's money is a policy decision, and to decide to not spend it on programs that give felons the right to carry guns is a perfectly legitimate policy. This is not something underhanded this is what the Founding Fathers' intended. The Executive may run the bureaucracy, but not without the money the Congress gives him. The power of the purse is the ultimate Legislative check ... 9:20 p.m.

Lorne rangers: In the Book Club Fray discussion of the Saturday Night Live oral history, Slate's film critic David Edelstein weighs in on the SNL vs. SNTaped question with this:

SNL would have been better on tape—but barring that, it would have been better if the cast (especially the writing cast) had more freedom to be spontaneous. Early on cast members with a yen for improvising are told (not so politely) that it's verboten to go outside the script or the established blocking. Musn't screw up the pre-planned camera angles! Musn't run into the commercials! The irony is that the very "live-ness" of the show is what deadens it.

The question of improvisation is provoking much discussion of the SNL vs. SCTV variety. Perhaps the most informed post is doodahman's paean to Del Close here. … 12:50 p.m.

Jumping Bean: Responses to Dahlia Lithwick's attack on Fray gun freaks have been predictable—there are both the intemperate responses she would expect and thoughtful critiques of the ad hominem, especially Will Allen's here. There is also a terrific response from Eric, "the anonymous Congressional staffer that wrote the amendment to the appropriations bill that de-funded the ATF program that decided which felons get their guns back." He provides ample evidence here  of the Congressional intent Justice Breyer (and Lithwick) assume "everyone knows":

To answer (the) Chief Justice's question about why we de-funded the program as opposed to eliminating the section of law that created the program, I have an analogy about the making of laws and the making of sausages. Passing laws is hard. Passing gun laws is almost impossible. Congress's intent was to get rid of this program without stirring up the firestorm that usually comes with gun law debates. It was simply easier to do this in the Postal and Treasury Appropriations bill than as a stand-alone bill.

In my mind, the irony is that the Chief Justice, and most of the conservative members of the court, get upset when Congress avoids its responsibility for passing laws and leaves it to the courts to decide. In this case, Congress acted clearly it did not want any money spent by the ATF to put guns back in the hands of convicted felons. If Congress decided that it did not want any more money spent on the construction of the Space Station, nobody would bother to sue NASA saying that there were previous laws on the books to authorize the construction of the Space Station. Congress acts by making laws and it acts by allocating money. One action is not intrinsically more powerful than the other.

As for poor Mr. Bean, it was exactly Congress' intention to deny him his gun rights. As the NRA often puts it "Don't get tough on guns, get tough on criminals." This issue (which is admittedly symbolic in nature) sought to take the NRA at its word. The only people who this law affected were convicted felons. It was fun passing a gun restriction law AND putting the NRA in the position of defending criminals.

I quote at length because Eric's blandly titled post has received no responses as yet, and because judicial theories about intent rarely hinge on mischievousness. ... 7:50 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.