Politics of loss: Much of the Fray response to Emily Bazelon's and Dahlia Lithwick's Book Club on miscarriage consists of shared stories of personal loss (I've marked some, but they should be read whole). There is a substantial current that thinks women who grieve when they miscarry are either being inconsistent or dishonest when they support abortion rights. The best debate on the subject comes early on, in a thread begun by logicat-2. logicat attributes grief over miscarriage to "anti-abortion propagandists":
They have peddled the notion … that fetuses are the same as babies and that therefore to lose a fetus - be it by miscarriage or by abortion - is as painful and traumatic and heartwrenching as losing a child. It's not …
ElboRuum thinks denying women's reactions is just more evidence of an underlying fear of choice, whatever logicat's legal position might be:
acknowledging death or loss or trepidation about ones own decisions, in my humble opinion does little to pander to the anti-abortionists. When things end, humans react. It's that simple …
saying that one form of loss is greater than another, in the esteem of all, not only is fundamentally flawed a concept, but flies in the faces of the people who value the concept of choice itself in the most egregious way, by taking it away from them.
The best turn in the debate, though, comes in the next exchange. Temaj-2 sees the range of women's reactions as a political challenge for the abortion rights movement here:
I think the abortion rights movement needs to be able to confront some of the ambiguities surrounding abortion, rather than sweeping them under the rug as logicat would have us do. The fact that women who have had abortions have a range of emotional reactions may not be politically convenient, but truth often isn't.
ElboRuum disagrees. A woman who grieves makes a bad target for demonization; she's too human:
That people can make this choice and have normal human emotions dispels the notion of what the anti-abortionists would love to paint as a callous act perpetrated by callous people. It humanizes loss, whether that loss be necessity or accident, chosen or happenstance. It puts the argument in terms everyone can understand, and that deflates the primary thrust of the anti-abortionists, that people who would consider having abortions are morally bankrupt individuals who should not be permitted that choice.
And as long as we are stressing humanity, historyguy points out here that
There's a tragic irony in this sentence:
"Layne observes that feminists are generally much more comfortable celebrating happy outcomes than they are grieving for a lost fetus . . ."
A preference for happy outcomes over pain does not distinguish feminists from the rest of humanity. Both happiness at the celebration of a birth, and discomfort at grieving, can be found in every social and political stratum. I'd bet that miscarriages affect women of the left, right, and center, whether working or at home, similarly--and awfully.
Insofar as feminism is a political movement, claims that feminists suffer uniquely are also bad politics ... Focusing on commonality of experience might give greater political weight to feminist calls for funding pre-natal medical services aimed at miscarriage prevention, as well as providing appropriate healthcare, including psychological care, for survivors of miscarriages …
Trial balloon or lead Derg-ible?: Responses to David Plotz's dispatches from Ethiopia take him to task for failing to see just how he is being played by the democratic government. wewhite is the first to dump on the government:
Mr. Plotz is far too kind to the Ethiopian government. It may be democratic but it also decided to engage in a brutal, and by all accounts pointless, border war with Eritrea.
The underlying economics are also in play. Tiresias doubts that food aid will ever help Ethiopia out of its predicament, and offers a long, speculative post on the problem. His point for Plotz is:
[T]here is one reason that Plotz sees plenty of food in the city: that is where there is money to pay for it. It is not just a question of, say, infrastructure to enable people to grow food--it is also a question of developing enough of a money supply to allow some people to purchase it. And that's where I don't see how large international grants can really accomplish much.
As for Plotz's melancholy at the disappearance of Ethiopian Jews through emigration, Jojo sees evidence of the "neo-Orientalist outlook of American Jews towards co-religionists in exotic places."
"The last Ethiopian Jews are an end to the Jewish Diaspora." Uh... speak for yourself. As a Jew in South Africa, it certainly seems to me that the Diaspora is still around. And isn't Plotz from the U.S.A.? Isn't there a Jew running for President there? Thought I heard something about that.
Drums along the Waller: As Diarist Neal Pollack struggles to get his band together, BFD points out that The Fray is an ideal solution for someone suffering from a drummer shortage. Drummer or not, ERPettie has had it with "punk":
Why can't we just let the idea of punk die? It's a relic of young boomers and old gen-xers that has absolutely no lingering relevance or resonance. It quickly became what it set out to counter, and when people discuss what "punk" is, they sound sillier than the people who tried to distinguish between "rap" and "hip hop". Disco dies and should Punk should be buried next to it.
But if we let it die, where do we put a response like this one, from mssoul?:
neal pollack is dumb. i've had beers with him, back when he attempted to live in philly. i was not impressed by his meta-antics, his obnoxious lit, or the convection oven of his head. i'll be reading the rest of the diary, but only to make myself angry.
.Nettlesome: Due to certain technical difficulties at National Fray Editing Headquarters, this is yesterday's second installment. Today's Fraywatch will arrive later ... 11:30 a.m.
Thursday, Jan. 23, 2002
Hubbard's cupboard: Betty_The_Crow doesn't see Council of Economic Advisers Chair Glenn Hubbard as anyone’s toady: "Are you a yes man if you do your own bidding? I don't think so. Glenn Hubbard is more like the Wizard of Oz." He just happens to be in sync. Her suggestion for the real toady? "Recovering deficit hawk" Stephen Friedman. As for the underlying economics of "deficits now for growth later," Shoeless thinks that's a "hard sell":
[O]ne is challenged to accept a linear causal relationship poised singularly on the occurrence of deficits, most especially when the very deficits constituted a magnitude of red line excess in remarkable abundance.
[S]omeone ran up "the deficit in the short-run," but cooler heads prevailed and "long-term growth" was achieved when the deficit problem was addressed. … Historically speaking, long-term growth has always been a facet of the American economy that has refreshingly occurred irrespective of what political mind held the economic rudder at any point in time. ... 5:00 a.m.
Thursday, Jan. 16, 2002
5 out of 9 dentists surveyed recommend federalism … : Dahlia Lithwick compares the battle between 11th amendment and 14th amendment claims with a Toho-style battle between the Loch Ness Monster (states' rights) and the Abominable Snowman (equal protection). The_Bell runs with the analogy here:
Justice Scalia seems to be acting the part of Hermey the elf. If you are not familiar with him, Hermey is a character in the Rankin-Bass TV special "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," … Hermey is one of Santa's elves but considered a misfit among his peers because he does not like making toys and instead dreams of becoming a dentist. In the show's plot, he permanently disables the villain, the Abominable Snowman, by quickly pulling out all of his teeth when the brute is knocked unconscious. Based on Ms. Lithwick's article, that is exactly what Justice Scalia and the SCOTUS have been doing whenever equal protection butts heads with states' rights …
Starvation Army: Explainer find the radical labor origins of the North Korean rejection of America's latest offer as "pie in the sky." A nice discussion between MarcEJohnson and BernardYomtov of lyricist Joe Hill begins here—Hill's execution was immortalized in song by Alfred Hayes. (Want more Joe Hill? Here.) Along with its labor resonance, the ironies of deferred dessert show up in Warner Bros.' Gold Diggers of 1937, where Dick Powell's insurance company foots the bill for your "pie in the sky when you die, die, die" …
Pushmi-Pullyu: On the future of internet advertising … Some of the usual ad-man (or ad-woman) bashing, problems of outmodedness (push vs. pull is so Wired 1999) or dullness (what about the A.I campaign?) Beyond that, there are two good tacks out there:
- Internet advertising "singlehandedly proved that advertsing itself doesn't work anywhere near as well as anyone in the industry would have you believe." This from Truthteller here; see also boog here;
- "People's resourcefulness in detecting, avoiding, and retaliating for crap Webvertising is on the rise … ; but people's vulnerability to clever, noncommercial memes is at an all-time high." From Thrasymachus here. People often ask, "J.D.," they say, "has the internet changed the way Americans write; is there something radically new out there?" I say, well, of course. Blogging aside, there is something tonally afoot when a person like Thras can move from the flat analytical "Idealistic hopes for the potential of the Internet as a 'pull' medium will probably have to stay on the back burner for a while" through the sociologically predictive sentence about Webvertising vs. memes above, to the idiolect of the conclusion:
Y'All THINK I'm selling half-arsed Internet commentary here. . . but I'm really selling shotguns! Star Poster hunting season starts in 5. . . . herbal viagra. . . . 4. . . . . Teens + Farm Animals = :-). . . . . 3 . . . . Let US Refinance your house!. . . .. 2. . . . Shotguns are available on e-Bay . . . . .1. . . . . I'm tied to a chair on the outskirts of Memphis. . . .
Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2002
1-2-3-who are we working for?: In another take on the eternal question "Is it the mogul or his minions?" Alex Abramovich gives Berry Gordy credit for the Motown sound (or its coherence, or its classicism). That sound, Abramovich writes, resonated: "For middle America, Motown's songs are the sound of the 1960s—civil rights, slow dancing, sexual revolutions, student revolts, and Vietnam." zajalmazl disagrees here, and turns the debate toward another eternal question "Is rock subversive or is it the sell-out?":
This is utter nonsense, of course. No one who lived through the social turmoil of the 60s could have written such a sentence.
Motown was about none of those things. It was plain and simple regimentation of rhythm and blues into a polished pop format that stripped it of sensuality (Little Richard), edge (Chuck Berry), funk (Bo Diddly), drive (Ike and Tina Turner), and color (Fats Domino): above all, a "safe" alternative to rock and roll, which WAS about sex, student revolts, and increasingly anti-war and pro-civil rights.
One could argue that Motown was about one of "those things," i.e., slow dancing, but Abramovich responds to the meatier questions instead:
Look, you needn't go far to see that "middle America" (not "radical America," or "Slate-reading America") associates Motown with the 1960s (and why shouldn't they?). I didn't live through the 60s, but Oliver Stone did, and he stuck Motown (and not the Doors) all over "Platoon." He's hardly the only one. And calling Motown's black music a whitewashed version of Rock's already whitewashed version of rhythm and blues--well, I don't know what to say to that. Did the FISH Cheer survive the 1960s? Jeff Air's "Volunteers?" The Fugs? No. But Motown did … 10:00 p.m.
American pie charts: Chatterbox's latest take on the move to "tax the poor" within the Bush administration floats the possibility of a payroll tax hike. Andrew Biggs, a Social Security Analyst at the Cato Institute drops by the Chatterbox Fray to notethat there's
Just one problem on the payroll tax hike: Bush has explicitly ruled it out. One of the principles he laid out for his Social Security commission was that payroll taxes not be increased, which was interpreted as applying both to the rate and to the maximum taxable wage to which it applied (today around $87,000).
(KCKrypto2 likes uncapping the maximum taxable wage here.) ... 9:00 p.m.
Delta force: Christopher Hitchens charts the path of the "regime change" idea from its "evasive" origins to its "invasive" connotation under Bush. The Fray, like a pack of hyperintelligent wild dogs, pounces on three points:
[C]ontrary to Hitch's assertion in the column, regime change is not and cannot be the casus belli of an Iraq war any longer. If it is, why bother with inspections? … Now, being no fool, I suspect Bush's real aim is regime change, by which I mean Saddam will have to go, and I suspect we will pursue such a policy no matter what Blix finds, but, in a semantic argument, such as we're having now, it should be understood that regime change is not a politically viable reason to go to war, anymore.
2.It wasn't Clinton's evasion. TonyAdragna digs through the Congressional Record here to point out that the primary political sponsors of regime change were Republicans looking to keep the hard line on Iraq without committing U.S. troops:
[H]ow is it that the "evasion" had something to do with Mr. Clinton? And how does Hitchens square his intimations vis a vis Clinton in light of the fact that 'twas Clinton who argued for military intervention — the bombing campaign in Dec '98, and the Kosovo intervention — over the objections of Republicans?
3.Kurdistan is no model. Once you get down to really changing Iraqi society, the autonomous Kurdish region in the north is not your best example. MarkHaag puts it this way here:
He would have us believe, although he isn't forthright enough to say so, that the Kurdish Iraqis are prepared to step in and set up a democratic, pluralistic, modern state, albeit with enormous financial assistance from us. This interpretation of the situation has already been superseded by the story in [the] NYTimes detailing how it is not the Kurds … but the southern Shiites who are poised to undertake a general rebellion at the first sign of weakness on Saddam's part and install a new, much more Islamist regime than Iraq has known til now.
if self-determination were given a real chance in Iraq, the result would be three, not one nation, with a few bits falling off into other states as well. If the US cared not a blue fart in the wind what happened in Iraq, such a division into three states would result in a new regional war.
The_advocate proposes a federation here, in some very 2003 terms:
It would take a huge financial investment to ensure the viability of a new Kurdish nation-state … The narrow-minded pursuit of "sovereignty" is throwing good money after a hazy, outmoded concept that does nothing by itself to improve the material conditions of Kurdish people.
Not to mention (which the_advocate does) that a federation is less likely to rankle the Turks.
Beyond these, there are good discussions of the ominous parallels with the Afghan situation, viz. Troutcor here: "there are tremendous spoils that make [Iraq] worth a fight for the various ethnic and religious groups. A few well-placed bribes will not be enough to keep everyone happy." … 12:51 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 9, 2002
**** (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.
What can Clark expect? JACKEM has a three-pronged critique of Clark here (the words are his; the bullets mine):
- 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;
- Clark's tactical concepts in Bosnia were short sighted;
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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. …
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?
[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.