Found: Life & Art Fray!

Found: Life & Art Fray!

Found: Life & Art Fray!

What's happening in our readers' forum.
Jan. 10 2003 12:57 AM

Ex-Army, Ex-Armey, Ex-Fed

The Fray's faint praise for Dick Armey and Wesley Clark.

Now, where did I put that Fray?: For people who want to discuss the Jason Zinoman's Benedict Arnold  article the Life & Art Fray is here. We'll get the page fixed soon ...

**** (Blue State movie): With Daschle out, and the Howard Dean juggernaut still idling, it seems time to assess Wesley Clark. The_Slasher, whose campaign-related posts are required reading (and whose talking points  on the Bush economic plan should be plagiarized by the left) points out that things won't be easy for Clark, should he run:

Fifteen minutes after a general like this throws his hat into the ring as a Democrat, Rush Limbaugh, FOX News, Monthly Review, and at least 200 post-ers in this medium will discover that he's really a wimp and will invent scandals which he'll have to spend the next three years explaining … When Colin Powell thought about running, they made his wife's medications an issue, for Christ's sake.

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What can Clark expect? JACKEM has a three-pronged critique of Clark here (the words are his; the bullets mine):

  1. Prior to Clinton arriving on the scene Clark was fairly well disliked within the Army because of his rather imperious style and known as something of a screamer, like Barry McCaffrey. Clark would never have made four stars without Clinton;
  2. Clark's tactical concepts in Bosnia were short sighted;
  3. It is VERY unusual to see a member of the professional military who is a democrat/liberal as the job tends to produce experiences that foster a conservative outlook … Could it be expediency?

WatchfulBabbler agrees that Clark's imperiousness could be his Achilles' heel, but contendsthat

  1. Clark was fast-tracked well before Clinton arrived on the scene -- you don't run NTC if you're simply marking time in the GO corps.
  2. In Bosnia, Clark agitated for deeper U.S. involvement in the area. He alienated the casualty-averse White House with his "boots on the ground" arguments, which led first to snafus like the problems Clark had getting Apaches deployed to the region, and eventually led to his being replaced with AF General Joseph Ralston
  3. In Little Rock, it's been said of him that he used to think he was a Republican, until he met some. Whatever this says about party politics, Clark is likely to maintain a fairly conservative worldview, especially on international matters, where he's widely seen as a hawk.

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(Ditto on the bullets. I wanted to call this section Acronymony, squishing acronym and acrimony, but it comes out looking like a Common Cause cover of an old Tommy James & the Shondells song, so forget it.) …

Praising with faint praise: News that Dick Armey really will be a lobbyist and not a valiant struggler for civil liberties disappointsRetief, but not much:

It is a pity that Armey's misguided attempt to make himself seem more nomble than he is being is taking up so much attention, because he actually has a pretty strong record of fighting to protect civil liberties against Bush and Ashcroft, that ought to redound to his credit.

Armey doesn't have to disclose where the money comes from for his 501(c)3. paddyd doesn't think this is a bad idea, since it protects anonymous giving to controversial grassroots organizations here:

For example, the leading women's clinic here in Iowa City is a 503(c)3. It does abortions and is regularly picketed and occasionally vandalized by anti-abortion activists. I imagine that it's way easier to solicit donations when people are reasonably sure that a substantial contribution won't be followed by harassment or a stink bomb in the foyer. (Or worse.)

I'm sure that some stigmatized right wing groups can make the same case. Dick Armey's non-profit and foundation may make use of the IRS in a way I don't like, but as someone who was the treasurer of an AIDS agency, I'm willing to make the trade-off so that people can give to causes and remain anonymous.

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And Ex-Fed noted  that Slate missed a golden headline opportunity:

Instead of "Dueling Armeys," how about "Ignorant Armeys clash..."? Poetry fans?

rob_said_that follows  with more from the Matthew Arnold poem ...

Gyges sleeps: No Fraywatch until next Wednesday; have hired Pinkerton's to police in my absence … 9:45 p.m.

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Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2002

Nary a scenario they haven't seen: One of the Fray's strengths is deterrence theory, where it is often ahead of the curve. I'll leave it to others to figure out why, aside from Fraysters' natural brilliance. Fred Kaplan delineates the "unspeakable truth" that differentiates between Iraq (which is targetable) and North Korea (which is not); doodahman responds that he's been speaking this truth for a while:

Gee, after nearly a year of providing the Fray with essentially this same analysis, it's starting to make it to the professional pages. We are attacking Iraq precisely because it a: can't defend itself; and b: is sitting on a bunch of oil.

But dood is being modest.(Want to see him immodest? Here.) His analysis also included the corollary that countries like, say, North Korea, would be smart to arm themselves but quick. And the upshot of his post is that war with Iraq would be a bitter end to the American errand into the wilderness:

[W]e'll gain Iraqi reserves with mainly Iraqis suffering for it; but we will never again be able to claim, with a straight face, that we are a "city on a hill." Nope, now we're just like any other imperial power, expanding until our center collapses, holding off the inevitable decline with blood and treasure. How unspeakably tragic.

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Of course, just because he was early doesn't make him right. …

Kaplan also notes that getting U.S. troops out of Saudi Arabia "may be the best rationale for 'regime change' in Iraq." Bondo made this point last October (see Fraywatch here [at the bottom] or the original here), giving rise to an excellent discussion.

The point of this is not that these truths aren't unspeakable (although Joe_JP thinks  they shouldn't be), but that the Fray is one of the best places to find them spoken, or typed.

(Can't get enough discussion of strategic proliferation in East Asia? Check out this thread, where TonyAdragna and Bridgette_B continue the conversation.) …

Switch bait: The Fray loves to hate Apple. One of the best at it is CaptainRonVoyage who reacts to the company's new tricked-out laptop this way:

Shock of shocks, the wizards at Apple ("Low sales = moral victory") have come up with a product slightly better than what's out there in PC-land for only 40% more money. … In an industry where last year's bleeding-edge computer is worth about as much as your average ATM withdrawal, Apple Computer (company motto: "Weren't our '1984' ads great?") has staked its future on ... people stupid enough to buy bleeding-edge computers.

Retief justifies Apple's strategy:

Other than for bleeding edge, or otherwise cool, gear, the pc industry is a purely commodity business, with razor thin margins. A business that Apple doesn't want. … Let Dell and Sony and HP fight over the rest of the PC business.

(This would be more compelling if Apple were in the black and Dell weren't.) Paul Boutin says no one needs the big screen laptop, but jee-jee thinks it will appeal to designers, who are one of Apple's core constituencies. "Perhaps Mr. Boudin means to suggest that no journalist truly needs a 17" screen on a laptop, but since when have journalists been Apple's target audience anyway?" Update: Paul_Boutin disagrees with jee-jee's niche marketing diagnosis:

Apple isn't building a $3300 laptop to sell a few of them to film producers and prosumer graphics professionals. Apple plans to sell lots and lots of them, to the exact same huge market that buys SUVs to drive to work.

The Braves' new world: Not exactly the synergy AOL Time Warner had in mind: INAMAEWA here.9:00 a.m.

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Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2002

Beetles for sale: Rob Walker digs the new commercial for VW’s convertibeetle, the one with 58.5 seconds of office oppression and a flash of Beetle at the end. pylon5 thinks the man in the commercial might be him here. Isn't it ironic?:

As a young man working at Volkswagen of America's corporate headquarters, I immediately identified with the ad's character and his monotonous work week. However, I found it ironic that the source of his inspiration and hope is what keeps me busy all day in a windowless cubicle. Maybe his imaginary company makes something that will make my life better?

So who is that guy in the ad? twifferTheGnu thinks our hero might sell auto insurance while mfbenson assumes he must work at an ad agency:

After all, who could possibly come up with an ad that resonates so well except a writer who is doing an autobiographical story...

If he didn't work in an urban center, I would guess he works for Initech …

Does the splash of freedom at the end work? fullheadofhair doesn't think so here:

Actually I found that advert soul destroying. Being an accountant, and having been in that large office environment I just saw the futility of my life laid in front of me. Same Sh*t Different Day for the next 20 odd years. And no, some crappy car with no roof isn't going to make my life better.

And while others agree, Mangar thinks the commercial ranks up there with Fight Club:

VW says, "Yes, let's face the brutal truth. Some hipster novelist/filmmaker could PROBABLY make your life seem like a torturous sensory deprivation tank if they wanted. However, set it to ELO and it's quite tolerable, even fun."

Finally, on the ELO front, Ex-Fed begins a defense here; there are more details on the recent resurrection from lastangelman here

C D B? D B S A B-Z B.: The acronyms, standards and general audiophilic tech terms are flying in the Webhead Fray discussion of Paul Boutin's piece on CDs as Reagan-era relics. Many Fraysters think CD sampling rates are just fine, thank you, given the alternative. As Studio_Rat puts it here:

CDs are good enough. or would you rather rebuy your music collection AGAIN?

There is also some nostalgia for cover art (which would vanish in an all-bits world) and some healthy paranoia about the upshot of antipiracy and the specter of "digital rights management." Slashdotter  saintp conjures here:

It's not hard to imagine a world in which all our music is owned by the RIAA, and we have to rent each song (which is basically what's happening now, piracy aside), or even each listen. With a system like [Microsoft's] Palladium, the RIAA could squash start-up artists, indie labels, and anyone else who didn't charge their ridiculous fees. Thank you, I like having a physical copy of my music just fine, and I think a lot of people stand with me on this ... 4:45 a.m.

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Monday, Jan. 6, 2002

I second that: Dahlia Lithwick argues in favor of "second-parent" adoption laws—laws that make it possible for gay parents to adopt their partners' offspring. TonyAdragna kicks off the best Jurisprudence thread in response, noting that what keeps him from adopting is

the harm done by taunting & ostracization of children of same sex parents. That shouldn't be an argument against same sex couples adopting—I wish I could just go for it and not worry about the impact of social pressures on someone I care for—but so long as the potential for this kind of harm persists, then I can't but keep arguing myself out of adopting.

TheJK notes that the situation is no different for minority couples or the physically unattractive contemplating parenthood ("I look at myself in the mirror every morning and pity my as-yet-unconceived child for all s/he will have to deal with. Yes, I'm a butt-ugly ethnic minority.").

Demographer thinks Lambda Legal Defense Fund's estimates of the number of children being raised by gay couples—6 to 14 million—are "much too high."

In the 2000 Census, there were 72 million children under age 18— it doesn't seem plausible that between one in 5 and one in twelve were being raised by gay couples.

It's even less plausible if one assumes that children being raised by gay couples don't fall under the Census' "married couple (opposite sex)" designation. …

Lott, Griffith, and racism today: The most common note in the DVD Extras Fray is that Bryan Curtis is too easy on D.W. Griffith. PeterGr plugs Griffith's racism into the most recent political scene:

I'm not sure why it is people feel the need these days to defend others from deserved charges of racism … [W]hy is it that Trent Lott and Griffith are not racists? What other test do we have for racism besides what a person says, does, or puts on film? What's next, an apologia for Bull Conner, suggesting he wasn't a racist, but was rather a naive politico caught up in the political strife of his time -- that he wasn't racist, but opportunistic?

Petersattler (unsolicited plug here) asks what race is doing for Griffith. His answeris long, and well-turned. A portion:

[A]ll Griffith's full-length features isolate and valorize "the individual," who must face up to and endure the pressures of great historical forces – the forces of society, of economy, of misfortune, of the unending sweep of history … [R]ace isn't the only group Griffith cares about. Others group mentalities – mobs, religious bigotry, class- and even race-intolerance – prove just as detrimental to the life of the individual. This is what films like Broken Blossoms and Intolerance try to show, albeit with awkward stereotypes of their own.

Ghoti: Phish Phans look kindly on Seth Mnookin's attempt to penetrate their distinctive, um, subculture. But the best thread is a debate between Simon_Jester and JMB about the corporate politics of playing Madison Square Garden on New Year's Eve: Is Phish doing it all for its fans or is the business getting what it wants out of them or both? …

Pre-scripted Ohio: In what may be a first, the Sports Nut Fray has only plaudits for a piece, in this case Jonathan Chait's prescient critique of Miami’s prowess. Joe_JP even went so far as to suggest Chait succeed TMQ, aka Gregg Easterbrook—and that was before the game broke as Chait thought it would.

Dome on the range: Regular Fraysters will be familiar with raprap—his posts arrive slantwise, like a Wonkavator, and he has a killer emoticon—and now he has a star. ... 11:45 a.m.