The Boston Globe on the Fray.

The Boston Globe on the Fray.

The Boston Globe on the Fray.

What's happening in our readers' forum.
Oct. 13 2002 10:30 AM

Ciceros and Visigoths

The Boston Globe on the Fray's freedom to flame.

Fraywatch special?: Nicholas Thompson writes disparagingly of online political discussion in general, but approvingly of The Fray here  in the Ideas section of this Sunday's Boston Globe. (Some technical corrections: regular readers know we don't block curse words—democracy can take a little swearing—I don't block 30 people a day [more like 5 to 10] and the link marylb's old Torricelli thread is fixed.) ... 7:30 a.m.


Friday, Oct. 11, 2002  

Play isonomisty for me: The perplexed and pining who write to Dear Prudence probably don't know how tough the Fray can be on them. Try Ruby's "Heart full of gifts, brain full of stupid" here or doodahman's weekly "two cents" here. But if correspondents are ignorant, Prudie certainly knows how tough the Fray can be on her. Baltimore Aureole translates one of Prudie's letters thus:

"Sandra in Italy" is an older woman seeing a man who is 14 years younger. he insists on seeing other women, and is up front about telling her this is not a love relationship. the sex is "the greatest ever". there is a word for this man (in italian): "Gigolo." Prudie should travel more.

Prudie responds, "I liked your letter. and strangely enough, Pru has just returned from ... italy!" (So much for proofreading …)


Sometimes a consensus emerges that Prudie is wrong. This week, several threads take issue with her advice to the childless-by-choice friend of a breeder family with "a four-year-old boss." Julia (here), 4 once 2 (here) and others note that the problem isn't with the kid (who is four) or the parents (who don't brook interruption) but the friend

Robin Hood vs. the primal horde: Steve Landsburg's discussion of Nobel-winner Vernon Smith has brought out the best in the Everyday Economics Fray. There have been two major branches of the discussion. In one, Fraysters have offered compelling accounts of the psychology of experimentees that might entice them to "force" someone to give away money. (One could begin with Captain Ron Voyage's thread here, or history guy's excellent post here.) The other branch argues that experimentees behave exactly as they do outside the experiment, only moreso. This has been championed by Mangar, here in particular. The Fray awaits synthesis ...

CRV cv: Captain Ron has been extremely busy (note above and yesterday's comments on Saletan below). For those who can't get enough, he starts an excellent discussion of wide receiver jerks with this:

Most of the guys listed were deep receivers, as was the job description listed. But Keyshawn Johnson is not a sideline-loving speed-burner like Galloway or Moss, but a possession receiver, a position prized not for its speed but its ability to get open over the middle and reliably catch passes in short yardage situations. Most possession receivers are hard-working humble folks, not egotists like Moss et al., which makes Keyshawn's incredible degree of assholity just that much more remarkable …


Illegibly yours: The Readme Fray discussion of Kinsley's latest attack on the President's case for war has been crushed by an avalanche of one-off posters. To find some of the better responses, begin here12:50 p.m.


Thursday, Oct. 10, 2002  

Who-whomniks: William Saletan  casts  the debate over the Iraq resolution as a matter of trust: Does Congress trust Bush or the U.N.? Tucked away in the Ballot Box Fray there are a number of very good posts. JackD argues against "scenario spinning" in Congress to justify a blank check resolution. Satish Desai contends that the important trust vector in this case is not between Congress and Bush, but between the people and their representatives; and The Slasher explains that the history of Congressional abdication of war powers is not a proud one. All of these are worthy, but Captain Ron Voyage takes the prize for his unique spin on Saletan's uncle-with-a-gun analogy here:

If the threat of Hussein nuking Manhattan or Jerusalem in the next month were credible, Bush would be morally obligated to invade Iraq ASAP to prevent it, the objections of Congress and the UN be damned. Instead, he rails against it while waiting weeks to lobby Congress and speak at the UN. [Either] Bush perceives a massive, lethal threat to the U.S. and is not responding quickly or forcefully enough, or that Bush is lying about the scope of Iraq's capability.

If we want to extend Saletan's "neighborhood" metaphor, Bush your "uncle" now thinks that he sees one of the bad neighborhood kids aiming a gun at you and about to pull the trigger. But instead of lunging at the would-be assassin, he goes to the police and fills out an incident report. Either the gun is real and we can't trust the uncle, or the gun is a fake and the uncle needs to get his prescription checked. ...


No Iraq is an island: Following up Fred Kaplan's piece arguing that, pace Bush, the Iraq situation is not like the Cuban Missile Crisis, misunderestimator came to this conclusion:

One of the morals of the Cuban Missile Crisis story seems to be that it is important to have an intelligent, well-informed President. Kennedy's analysis of the situation led him to make a decision that flew in the face of the advice he was receiving.

Denny started a good "I was there" Politics thread here. ...

Adios, Amigas: In his discussion of TiVo, Brendan Koerner compares its combination of technical superiority and imminent mortality to the Commodore Amiga. Amiga-defenders rallied, but my favorite thread begins here, with Robert Bowsher's post, but then gets into the forgotten history of Commodore. If Commodore is technology's past, Daniel Case argues that TiVo is not the future here:

Economies of scale can kiss my ass. TiVo buyers are, among the other faults of the technology enumerated in the article, still hostage to channel availability, especially as dictated by the greatest sources of evil in the known universe, the cable companies (If Osama wanted to do some more extensive damage to the American way of life, he'd have gone into the cable business). The ability to timeshift and skip over commercials is merely the illusion of a choice when none really exists.

When you can sell me the opportunity to buy, download, and watch at my leisure a show I like on an episode-by-episode basis, then I'm buying. ... 10:10 a.m.


Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2002  

SECond thoughts: Daniel Gross' proposal to free the SEC from Senate control meets with nearly universal approval. His account of the battle for accounting reform comes under question. Thomas and Roger both think Gross goes easy on former head Arthur Levitt starting here, while Dan Gerstein, Lieberman's communications director, objects to the portrayal of his boss here.

Daniel Gross's charge that Lieberman was a "notable opponent of SEC-sponsored accounting reform in the 1990s" suggests that the Senator actively fought a number of changes. But that claim, which has been misreported in several media outlets, is just not true. The fact is that Lieberman did not oppose any of the major reforms the SEC pursued (including the proposed auditor independence rule) except for one: the expensing of stock options. ... 1:25 p.m.

First-person shooter: Aside from the usual yada-yada about gun control, many in the Flatfoot Fray think that Lucas Miller is wrong to suggest the D.C. sniper is using a bolt-action rifle. The best exchange begins with Military Guy, who offers several additions to Miller's profile, including these:

If he were firing a bolt-action rifle, he would presumably have enough self-control to not cycle his bolt and eject the cartridge until later, or to recover his brass if he did chamber a new round. Semiauto weapons kick the brass farther, and they do it when you are distracted by recoil, making the brass harder to find after the fact.

...[H]e's probably a gun nut who fantasizes that he is a military sniper. You can tell that from the care with which he has obviously planned his shots and his getaways. I figure he has to have the gear to complete the fantasy ... I bet he's shooting a ruger mini-14, or one of the zillion AR-15 knockoffs on the market.

MG is less certain about the semiautomatic weapon, but more certain that the shooter is playing a sniper-fantasy game here. ...

Be right there, Commissioner Gordon: The Press Box debate about the best kind of J-school (see yesterday) has been buried under political traffic. (Even Columbia J-school professor Helen Benedict's response to Jack Shafer is off floating in another thread here.) Back where the argument started, though, there is evidence that some kind of Batsign is shining above Morningside Heights, as happy J-school grads testify. (There are alums who like things the way they from '81, '85, '94, '95, '96, '97, '00, and '02, and there are those who think a re-think is in order from '63 and '01 and an undated KS). The only funny response, though, comes from Chris Carroll here, and Chris went to Missouri:

If you're going to save the world—e.g., reduce corporate influence in media, finally convince America to give Noam Chomsky his props, bring peace to the Middle East, shed light on the plight of our inner cities, etc.—you can't learn how to do it a J-school class. Not even after Columbia elevates journalism to the lower echelons of respectable academia, and we journalists are regarded as fully the equals of, say, sociologists. ...

Bengals fans are nice guys: As if to prove that not all Fray-exchanges with Slate writers are nasty, Rob Weintraub is carrying on several genial conversations about the Monday Night Football radio announcing team (his responses are gathered here). ...

Conspiring minds: It has been awhile since the last Fray-editor-sponsored contest, but here is a new one. Posters are invited to spin a conspiracy theory that links the following: Colin Powell's Iraq stance, Michael Powell's digital receiver stance, the oracular declaration that an oyster is not an animal, the map behind Bush in Cincinnati, the notions of cellular suicide and ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny, and whatever other Slate-related stuff needs explaining. The results can be offered as hard-boiled detective yarn, national security strategy memorandum, Supreme Court opinion, 10-K filing, Doritos ad, Friends script, or any other suitably parody-able form. Entries should be filed here  in the Best of the Fray Fray here. Results on Monday. ... 9:15 a.m.


Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2002  

But the Doritos 3-D are straight: Responding to Rob Walker's piece on Enrique Iglesias' "vaguely gay" Doritos ad, socalchango offers the his usual nuanced take on Iglesias and the chips, in "Queerly Delicioso." And while some posters have sworn off Doritos as part of the "gay agenda," Amon-Ra has his doubts: "This slant on the gay subcontent of this ad would be more believeable if the fellow holding the bag of Doritos were more attractive." ...

D-I-Y ergodynamics: Mark Lewis notes how important the Yellow Pages remain in a digitizing age. Caliban Weeps finds a new synergy here: "Even if you do everything on-line, you need the yellow pages. They make great monitor risers." ...

Market makers or Maker's Mark? The Moneybox Fray is still talking about Carol Vinzant's correlation between Democratic presidents and bull markets. Chad B guessed that the entire correlation would disappear if you switched the parties of the last two presidents. He was wrong about that and about Vinzant's gender here, but he was right about the thinness of the stats here:

Now my hypothesis was that if we were to switch the parties of the last two presidents, the 'trend' that Mr. Vinzant was trying to demonstrate would be negated or reversed.

I was wrong in this case. The changes in GDP during the Depression and WWII era are so large that they dominate everything that comes after. However, I am vindicated in another sense. Switch the party of the FIRST two presidents and the average growth rates switch to 3.54% for Republicans and 1.20% for Democrats - showing how transient these statistics are. ... 9:50 a.m.

The gems of the ocean: The J-school argument continues. In one part of his detailed response to Helen Benedict (see below), Jack Shafer compares  Columbia's program unfavorably to the one in Columbia, Mo.:

While I applaud the labors of Professor Benedict's students, let's not mistake Columbia University course work posted to the Web ("Asian Flavors Add an Unusual Twist to Ice Cream," for example) for the continuing journalistic enterprise of the Missouri School students on the Columbia Missourian, a very real daily newspaper that writes about murder and lawsuits and politics on a daily deadline for paying customers. ... 9:15 a.m.

I come before you to stand behind you: to tell you something I know nothing about. History guy was the first to note that Jack Shafer has fallen victim to the Slate syndrome of reporting on his own ignorance (here, but better here). Now Helen Benedict, a professor at Columbia's J-school, is feeling beseiged by "bad reporters":

As writer after writer lines up to attack the Columbia School of Journalism, hiding coward-like in the wake of Columbia University President Lee Bollinger's bludgeoning, I am struck by one glaring fact: None of these writers have done any reporting.

Today in Slate magazine for example, Jack Shafer admits to knowing "zip about journalism schools," then goes on to write at staggering length about them. In his amusing if uninformed piece, he accuses journalism schools of doing many things they don't, and of not doing many things they do.

She then offers a point for point refutation of Shafer's arguments. Stop back here for his response. ...

Shannon, a non-journalist, explains that at WNBC, no one, but no one, thought she should go to J-school or even major in Journalism as an undergrad.

But here's the funny thing: when I asked all of these people what their educational background was, almost every single one of them had either gone to J-school or at least majored in communications as an undergrad. Hmmmm. ... 1:00 a.m.


Monday, Oct. 7, 2002  

But the way she said it spoke volumes:In the PressBox Fray, Craig Pittman of the St. Petersburg Times agrees with Jack Shafer that J-school didn't teach  him what he needed to know. He explains what J-school has been missing here:

When I was in j-school 20 years ago, one of my professors, Judy Means Wagnon, said she dreamed of someday launching a course in what she called "Practical Journalism.'' Students would learn the skills they really needed for survival: How to read papers that are upside-down on someone's desk, how to get people back on the phone after they hang up on you, etc. For the final, the entire class would stand at the end of a long corridor in front of a closed door for two hours, and then a government spokesman would open the door and say, "No comment.'' Then the students would be required to write a two-take deadline story about it. The longer I spend in journalism, the more I realize how right Mrs. Wagnon was ... 3:30 p.m.

More Iraq talk: The Dialogue on Iraq will continue into this week, with Jeffrey Goldberg responding to Robert Wright. Expect at least something to change after Bush's speech tonight. Meanwhile, back in the Fray, Loran and Joe are having an interesting debate about the problems of coming to an informed opinion when the when one doesn't have the information (beginning here). Bondo offers an unusual reason to support the war here, and the reason you won't hear it from Bush any time soon:

One point I don't think has gotten a lot of play but that I think is pretty relevant is the issue of our troops in Saudi. The stated reason for the 9/11 attacks (and previous assaults by Al Qaeda -- indeed, that organization's animating force) was opposition to "infidel" troops in the land of the holy places. The reason we have troops there, of course, is to protect against Iraq. If we eliminate the Iraqi threat, we can move our troops out of Saudi. (Even if they are then stationed in Iraq, that is much less compelling to the religious zealots than their being in Saudi.)

The Administration probably doesn't make this case b/c it cuts a little close to caving in to our enemies' demands …

Clubland: This week's Book Club will be a discussion of David Thomson's New Biographical Dictionary of Film, which is not yet available to read along. But next week it will be Tom Shales and Jim Miller's Live From New York, the oral history of Saturday Night Live. It's 566 pages, so you might need to start soon … 10:35 a.m.