Readers on smart bombs.

Readers on smart bombs.

Readers on smart bombs.

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Oct. 18 2002 4:16 PM

Duck and Cover II

The Fray on smart bombs and the Supreme Court.

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.

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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.

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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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Wednesday, Oct. 16, 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).

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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.

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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":

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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.

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Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2002  

John-John he ain't: From the "Where's John McEnroe when you need him?" file, Ballot Box Fraysters are disappointed that neither Jeanne Shaheen nor John E. Sununu answered the question about bullet "fingerprinting" and disappointed that William Saletan didn't point this out. The Bell has the most fully formed answer here, but Otto was earlier, and spreads the blames around:

Shaheen hinted indirectly at an answer but was obviously too chicken to just come out and say it while Sununu went ahead and answered a completely different question that hadn't been asked. Why did the moderator not address this? Why do we all just condone this sort of BS in our politicians? We've spent decades allowing them to simply not answer what we ask them during campaigns and then when we elect them, we're surprised that they represent us poorly.

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As for the question, Blake has an answer here

Undeserved garnering: In the Moneybox Fray, Perreten respondsto Daniel Gross' takedown of BP's "we're the eco-friendly oil company" campaign with some "take what you can get" faint praise:

BP is still a carbon-belching behemoth trying to garner some mostly undeserved cachet with a mostly superficial eco-marketing campaign and some small forays into alt fuels. But still ... it's a start. I'd rather have big oil companies do what BP is doing than actively fight against alternative energy—by lobbying against tax breaks and gov't incentives—or do nothing at all, which is what the American companies are doing.

Trianetics: The Dialogue on happiness with Robert Wright, Steven Pinker, and Martin Seligman is under way. The early Fray returns are going decidedly against Seligman. (Engram has already reached the "Surely this can't be true" stage here.) Mangar harps on the difference between operational and empirical validity (Seligman vs. Pinker) here. John thinks Seligman isn't trying hard enough here:

What is he talking about? Even parts of his response that momentarily corresponded with external reality were soon obfuscated by a retreat to meaningless catch phrases. For instance he describes the meaningful life, wherein I might use my "signature skills" to accomplish something larger than myself. I agree, that sounds pretty meaningful. But then he goes on to say that he can't see how "unfortunate and double-edged genes could compromise that?" Well, he might also give some evidence that he tried, or that at least has some idea what Pinker is talking about. First of all, Pinker isn't saying that genes are double-edged, but that genetically programmed behaviors are.

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My faithless arm: Returns are also running against David Barber's "Lullaby in Steerage" Ted Burke calls it

a poem of effects, something akin to a Steven Spielberg movie; everything is in place for a rousing tale, but the heart, the unshakeable desire for honesty is missing. The poem is an empty suit.

Mary Ann gets at that technical facility when she neatly adds up the images of a life lived "at one remove" here. While this week's poem may have let the regulars down, the Poems Fray in general has been a fun place to be, particularly now that past Slate poets Paul Breslin and paul guest are contributing regularly. ...

Citizens on patrol: The Book Club Fray discussion of the Saturday Night Live oral history has been centered on the show's history. BML has a complex theory of the phases of SNL here. Belushi's Ghost rants against the "an irrelevant, insufferably long, painfully unfunny reminder of what was." And radio c, who has read the book, deserves some credit for defending Tim Kazurinsky here. ...

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The equality state: Claude Scales responds to The Outlaw Trail with this goodie: "For a late '70s British power-pop take on the Joyce McKinney/Kirk Anderson incident, listen to Sex in Chains Blues, by the Radio Stars." … 7:50 a.m.

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Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2002  

Triangulation: For now, the Iraq Dialogue has ended as an official feature. (It has become increasingly hard to drum up new contributions as everyone has entered either "I agree with X" or wait-and-see mode.) But the vituperation liveson! Some stage-setting: the two-sided argument between Bob Wright ("So far as I can tell, Goldberg's basic rhetorical strategy in advocating an invasion of Iraq is to short-circuit rational thought" here) and Jeffrey Goldberg ("Wright should also remember that genocide-denial in the face of overwhelming evidence is a particularly nasty business" here) has become three-sided with the entry of Mickey Kaus (See Monday: "This breathtaking slur can have only one purpose, which is to associate those who quibble with Goldberg's preferred definition of genocide with those who deny the facts underlying any particular incident that might qualify as genocide -- in particular, with Holocaust-deniers … Since Goldberg otherwise seems like a reasonable person, I'm assuming he'll apologize.") Goldberg's response appears in The Dialogues Fray here. The meat:

I do not believe that Wright has engaged in the moral equivalence of Holocaust-denial. If I believed that, I would have said it. I don't throw around such charges lightly ... What Wright's assertion originally brought to mind was the controversy over the Turkish slaughter of the Armenians during World War I. There are today spokesmen for the Turkish cause who deny that the crime perpetrated against the Armenians would constitute genocide as defined by current international law. I should have been explicit in making the comparison between Wright's genocide-denial, and the claims of the Turkish lobby (though I don't believe that Wright is motivated by hatred of the Kurds, unlike the Turkish deniers of the Armenian genocide).

Mickey seems to think that my definition of genocide is idiosyncratic and politically correct. It is not ... It is the definition recognized by the United Nations, by the United States Senate, by the tribunals in the Hague and Arusha, and so on. I'm sorry Mickey doesn't agree with it, but his fight is not with me, but with the Genocide Convention itself. I would tell Mickey to read the law, read the Human Rights Watch reports, interview Kurdish survivors of the genocide, review the Iraqi intelligence documents seized after the Persian Gulf War that are now housed at Harvard, and then decide if it is proper or not to question whether Saddam waged a genocidal war on the Kurds.

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Kaus responds in his blog today with a three-part logic chop. ...

Imperial porphyry: Following Rob Walker's report on the new Trump/Grimace McDonald's commercial, The Fray is intrigued by the idea of nostalgia for "1980s greed-heads."PUTiger thinks Walker is right, that there is something to be nostalgic for here:

Trump has never been indicted for anything. he never stole any pensions. he is also in commercial real estate, which can make you wealthy, but doesn't have the get rich quick dynamics of the stock market, telecom, and energy ... Trump is a media caricature on the level of Elvis, Michael Jackson and Liz Taylor.

Rob, though, is not fooled here:

Yeah, he isn't real like poverty isn't real; like junkies aren't real; like child abuse isn't real; like Vanderbilt, Mellon, Carnegie and other robber barons weren't real … It's a fortuitous time for Trump. He can now use the 'law' instead of hardened thugs and vandals to get what he wants. You'd be better off facing down a freight train.

Let's face it. The aristocracy still exists … some of them aren't sure if they serve a Chablis with a Big Mac and fries.

Oh yeah, they 'earned it'............no wonder the character's name is 'Grimace'.

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What is Grimace that thou art mindful? Personification of childhood innocence? Sentient eggplant? (Thanks SunDevil.) Jambo starts a thread here remembering that Grimace was an evil milkshake thiever in his younger days (michelle provides this link to an early picture; his posse apparently includedThe Hamburglar and Captain Crook); people who know waaaaay too much about McDonaldland are welcome to contribute. ...

Essay upon epitaphs: Geoff takes issue with David Plotz's rehash of the plagiarism charges against the late Stephen Ambrose:

Read in tandem with the obits of Wasserman and Annenberg (courtesy of Shapiro and Shafer), Slate is building a rather nasty image as the "kicker of dead puppies."

The entire thread is an excellent discussion of the respect owed the dead. OmnivorousReader provides some justification for the Slate smackdown here: "[I]f you want to make your views widely known about a person like Ambrose, the occasion of his death is pretty much the last time your thoughts will have any relevance whatsoever." But OR's best contribution is to pile on:

Having said that, I must insist there is one crime for which Ambrose should not be pardoned, now or any other time, and that is his invention of the Greatest Generation marketing concept. I know Brokaw's the one who popularized the phrase, but it was Ambrose who started the pablum flowing. Enough with the sanctification already! ... 

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Thick description: The International Papers Fray is discussing Australian reaction to the terrorist bombing in Bali. Otto thinks the war on terror is at least partly to blame here; shelfman disagrees here (sadly, not in the same thread). Abre los ojos provides an Aussie-centric analysis of the problem here

Paterson'ssons: Responding to this week’s entries by our panel of Sopranos psychologists, J&C's Christopher rewrites "Howl" for Tony's accountant, Alan Ginsberg: "I have seen the best minds of my generation driven wild by special-purpose entities and the 3 percent equity risk rule. ..." 6:40 a.m.

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Monday, Oct. 14, 2002  

And twins ... : Mitch argues that Daniel Gross' attack on the Bush economic team "boils down to an extended whine about the Bushies not doing enough to cheerlead the economy/stock market to better performance." And while he grants much of what Gross says, he asks the pertinent point: "Does anyone really believe an entire economy (or even a sports team) can be cheered on to better performance?"

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Keep a Clear Eye contends the Bush administration is of one mind on economic and foreign policy here. His first point is that Bush is a hedgehog: "Both economic and foreign policy are dominated by a single idea"—cut taxes or invade Iraq. In the second point, he takes the idea of cheerleading and runs with it:

Bush's economic and foreign policy advisers seem just as averse to detail as the President himself. Contemptuous of negotiations, Bush's foreign policy advisers adopt a laissez-faire approach to the Middle East and Subcontinent … The Bush administration takes the same laissez-faire and jawboning approach to the economy. The only difference is that its called "cheerleading" … The fact that Powell and Rumsfeld are better at jawboning than O'Neill and Evans are at cheerleading shouldn't obscure the basic similarity.

KaCE's responses in the thread are a terrific illustration of how to keep one's cool when responses go ad hominem. I particularly liked his style in this answer. (Today's headline from an old RonK post, still funny, here.) ...

The other white meat: Responding to Chris Suellentrop's assessment of New Jersey senatorial candidate Frank Lautenberg, Zathras explains, once and for all, why Republican Doug Forrester's argument that New Jersey sends in more federal tax money than it gets in return is a loser. The capper?

[C]omplaining that New Jersey doesn't get enough pork is an argument designed to appeal to no one, and is especially silly to use against a guy who spent eighteen years porking it up on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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Septentrionalis (notSatriale's, the Sopranos pork store) gets at some of New Jersey's political history here and here:

NJ Won't Vote for an Orange Jumpsuit? Clearly Suellentrop has forgotten that Bradley's basketball career began at Princeton (NJ)—in orange and black.

Attentive readers will note that the cultural profile of New Jersey joins Missouri and Nevada. What happens whenSlate runs out of states? Prince Edward Island: Gabled, soggy, and chock-a-block with yummy mussels here we come. ...

In My Humble Database: Looking back over the Book Club discussion of David Thomson's Biographical Dictionary of Film, Lorne Hanks notes that the world of film criticism has been forever changed here:

This is indeed the sort of book I might have had on my nightstand ... six years ago! But frankly since then the IMDB has entered my life and proved itself to be much more useful, reliable, convenient and enjoyable than Thomson's work or similar works from Halliwell and Leonard Maltin which now gather dust in a forgotten corner of my house. (Correction: Maltin's book occasionally shows up in my bathroom, the one area where the IMDB comes up short.) ...

I'm surprised film critics don't talk about the IMDB more often. It's occasionally referred to but seldom acknowledged as the overwhelming omniscient reference it has become. It's changed the way we approach film and it's changed what we expect from film critics. Why do I need David Thomson to give me a guided tour of his cluttered office floor when I have uncluttered gigabytes of facts and opinions at my fingertips? 

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Conspiring Minds: There were but three substantial entries to the conspiracy theory contest I proposed last Wednesday (details below or here). DavidInnes' had by far the most sonorous moment, invoking "an Atlanta-area Tandy franchise" hereThe hardest worker in the non-animal kingdom award to Adam Masin, who actuallysurfed for more info and whose entry caught the conspiratorial tone perfectly in its pedantic midcourse summaries:

So what do we know so far? That Clarence Thomas gained secret knowledge of oysters when he was young. That oysters produce pearls and that the best pearls are from the very same region that Colin Powell wants to go to war in to prevent the use of biological or chemical weapons, weapons which could have a devastating effect on the environment.  

But the winner is Ghassan Ghraizi who successfully dragged in the atavistic apocalypticism of the Reagan era here

Is the discovery of single-cell immortality the last precursor to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ? Whereupon ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, does God close the circle of humanity with a single cell, the final Immaculate Conception?

The answers of course are in Baghdad. ... 11:15 a.m.

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Sunday, Oct. 13, 2002  

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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 to marylb's old Torricelli thread is fixed.) ... 7:30 a.m.

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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.

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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: Steven 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 …

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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.

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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. ...

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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.

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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.

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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.