The Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrates.

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Feb. 1 2003 11:19 AM

Signifying Everything

First Fray reactions to the Space Shuttle disaster.

Palestine, TX: The first Fray reactions to the disintegration of the Space Shuttle Columbia  are filled with prayers for the astronauts and their families. Shelia repeats the Challenger memorial here:

We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, ....., as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."

And while there are partisan snipes back and forth, Cicero points to a bigger problem here (and here):

The Columbia most likely went down as a combination of mechanical failure and body fatigue. Twenty-two years in service is too long. I blame government for this, but not specifically the conservatives. NASA assured our government that a shuttle is good for 100 missions, discounting chronological age as unimportant. It's not the conservative government's fault. It is government's fault, period.

Finally, locdog makes this comparison with the attacks on September 11th and America's national image:

in no way could this tragedy ever compare to what we experienced on that black day except one, and in that one it perhaps exceeds it. NASA has never been about anything practical. but throughout its existence, it has served as the most visible symbol of our technological might, intrepid spirit, and national pride. it is one of the few worthless government programs that no one minds seeing the billions pour into because everything that we like to believe is good about ourselves rides up with those brave young men and women in a burst of sound and fury, signifying everything … part of america dies with every NASA tragedy, a part not told in the numbers or the dollars ... 8:15 a.m.


Friday, Jan. 31, 2002

Syllogisms at ten paces: Michael Kinsley pits Bush's evident gravitas against the logic of the State of the Union here. J_Mann takes issue here:

"your policy is not logically consistent" is an argument only slightly more convincing than "I don't like your grammar." The questions should be (1) will the world be better off if we topple Saddam and (2) will we be better off if we topple Saddam. Kinsley doesn't answer either question.

Mann already has several good responses, including this  from Gamebird, apropos of the point that "Kinsley doesn't answer either question":

Neither does Bush. The important difference is that Bush is president and it is his job to explain his answer to those questions. Bush has failed to explain how the world will be better off if we topple Saddam. What sort of government will be put into the vacuum? The same sort of slip shod, ill-equipped government we see failing over in Afghanistan? And how will we be better off? Are we going to get free oil out of this invasion? …

For those of you dynamically scoring at home: WatchfulBabbler gets to the heart of Bush's "growth solves deficits" proposition here:

Readers can be excused for checking their closets for skinny black ties and acid-washed jeans, because the fiscal rhetoric of 2003 sounds suspiciously like that of 1983: that old economic shark fin, the Laffer Curve, has found a new shoal in the Bush Administration …

Farce de frappe: Chris Suellentrop argues  that French opposition to American foreign policy is part of a longstanding effort to serve as the voice of an independent Europe. The_Slasher-8 explains that this is a clash between national leaders and not between ordinary folks here. But if the real animus is between leaders, that hatred comes from somewhere. Thrasymachus explains:

Where does this image of America as a militaristic nation of naive cowboys actualy come from? Most likely, the same fantasyland in which France is a nation skilled in the art of diplomacy.

The truth is, America is a power built on diplomatic successes; the naive military hegemon is France. During the Cold War, French intransigence was downright dangerous, to NATO and even to themselves. Nobody needed the French to "pursue their own defense" at the height of the Cold War. . . or to appease Hitler prior to World War II. . .or to fail to negotiate with Kaiser Wilhelm prior to World War I.

He goes on to detail France's century of "diplomatic blunders, military defeats, and humiliating rescues by their allies" and American successes …

Totalitarianism's Terpsichore: Mark Scheffler describes the goose step as part of "the toxic grandeur of mass ideology." gry notes here:

Orwell knew what he was talking about when he said, "The goose-step…is the vision of a boot crashing down on a face." The USMC teaches it to this day as part of their Linear Infighting Neural override Engagement (LINE) system. Bottom line, a boot to the face will kill you dead …

Frum-tum-tugger: Tim Noah sees David Frum's account of the State of the Union as damnation (of Karen Hughes) with faint praise. Frum's response can be found at the bottom of the piece. Churchill, who would clearly be a star if only he had more time to waste, er, devote to the Fray, saw Frum Monday night. His report on is here. When asked "Did you find it difficult to write for such a bumbling orator?" Frum replied

with something along the lines of:

While 43 may not be the most articulate speaker - bumbling over words from time to time - he is a very effective one. That is, if by an effective orator, one means a speaker who gets his point across …

Well, if Bush's style really is no style at all, why would Frum be at all surprised at a "typical state of the union address, with the usual long list of priorities and ideas..."? If you're going to be self-aggrandizing, at least be consistent with it, David …

Early adopters: The Book Club Fray discussion of Strangers and Kin includes many personal stories of adoption. The two best posters in this Fray are Gamebird, wholooks at orphanages and foster care here and the panic over infanticide here, and DeaH, who catalogues of women's reactions to open adoption here

Rover boys: Under the influence of the palpable excitement preceding the State of the Union, I, as Fray Editor, offered a prize to the winner of the State of the Union Bingo contest—the chance to rewrite a single paragraph of the speech and have it run here. I was hoping the winner would pick a graf like this "The best way to address the deficit and move toward a balanced budget is to encourage economic growth, and to show some spending discipline in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)" and make a simple change—for "Applause" substitute "Hoots of derisive laughter from both sides of the aisle; the chamber drowns in echoes as the camera pans through faces of legislators, each one fixed in a rictus of hyperpower." Something like that.

It turns out there was a tie. And both winners were rather long winded. So I have adopted a Solomonic solution and lopped their entries in half. You can find the second halves here.

First, J_Mann, who kicked off today's Fraywatch:

My fellow Americans, together with my discussions of education, drug-addiction, and mentoring, I would like to talk about the ongoing problem of race in America. We know that government can only do so much to address this problem, and that most of the work that must be done is in the hearts and minds of all of us Americans of every race. Nevertheless, I pledge to you that what government can do, it will. I know that many Americans are concerned about the current debate in our courts about affirmative action. The majority of Americans, including the majority of African-Americans, believe that addressing our racial history by granting preferences solely on the basis of race should be a last resort, if any, and so do I.

The other winner was chango, who has so abused the privilege that I will, in all likelihood, never offer another prize to a contest prize to anyone.

Enter President George W. Bush and Karl Rove
Karl Rove: Mr. President, it's about your speech....
Dubya: What, still not enough folksy Texan drawl?
Rove: No, your accent is fine Mr. President.
Dubya: Oh, well, then is it my synapse that's goin' all heather and yawn again..
Rove: Um, that's SYNTAX Mr. President, and no...your diction is about as good as it's going to get.
Dubya: Well, now are we talking about a sin tax? Or my private parts. You're getting me all confused again, Karl.
R: MR. PRESIDENT. SIR...I'm talking about your State of the Union Speech.
D: The States in the Union speech? You mean I have to remember the names of all 53 of them?
R: How many times do we have to tell you sir: Puerto Rico, Canada and Afghanistan aren't states.
D: Well, they should be.
R: Sir, let's focus on the speech.
D:speaking slowly and loudly
R: No you talk fine, George. I mean your address tomorrow...
D: Tomorrow? You mean I'm gonna have to move again? Are my four years up already?
R: Mr. President. Look at me. No, not at Secretary of State Powell's shiny metals...look over here. That's right. Now, have a speech tomorrow night. The speech is called the State of the Union address. You are gonna tell the American people how far we've come in the last year...
D: I don't know how far is it from Texas to Washington, Karl! And has it already been a year?
R:shouting MR. PRESIDENT!!!
D:looking over shoulder, in a panic Daddy? Where?
R:tossing papers toward Dubya Never mind. Forget I said anything ... 2:00 a.m. 


Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2002

Locke's stock: I have been trolling for a good Gary Locke post, and I got one. Naturally, it comes from Zathras. He zeroes in on Locke's big mistake here:

[H]e stuck to a Democratic script that seems to assume that everyone will realize how terrible Bush's domestic policies are and how superior are the Democrats' positions, and that all a Democrat need do is make gentle allusions to these ineluctable realities. If I were a Democrat—and especially if I were a Democrat who wanted a chance of saying anything that would be remembered more than 15 minutes after I said it—I would have tossed out that script.

What Locke should have done is make one, focused criticism of Bush's domestic policy proposals. My choice would have been that each one of them benefits and was inspired by specific contributors of large amounts of money to Bush's campaign … 11:15 a.m.

Credit where it's due (date): Geoff's long post makes two excellent points.

1. Bush is "passing along" a problem to future generations: deficits.

If you're a 60-year old conservative now, you can have your tax break and your 4 percent spending increase, and your five simultaneous wars abroad all at the same time, because you're going to be dead by the time I get hit with the bill for your profligacy. The decision to fund America's priorities on layaway is selfish, and it's a betrayal of younger Americans who will inherit a government with staggering debts.

2. The push to end the marriage penalty and increase the child tax credit is social engineering.

[O]ur president is telling us that being married and having children ENTITLES us to a lower tax burden ... and even a TAX PAY-OFF. "Send us the checks, Mr. President! We delivered the babies you asked for!" I find it nauseating. It was nauseating when Clinton started it, and it's getting worse … Ten years ago, everyone was OUTRAGED that black mothers were getting larger welfare checks to help them deal with extra kids. But now the "soccer moms" are getting them, and it's just returning "their money." Even if the IRS' check is larger than their tax burden!

Bright side: If this encourages people to have more kids, their share of the structural deficit is less. …

Pandermonium: Poindexter was roused by the final two-thirds of the speech here. But …

That was a real surprise because the first third of the speech was painful to watch; sort of like when an Olympic ice skater keeps falling down and the two minutes begins to seem like a hellish eternity; you just want them to get off the ice. BU$H seemed to be going through the motions on domestic policy and his sudden discovery of the decades-old African AIDS epidemic was the most transparent Sister Souljah moment in American politics since, well, the Sister Souljah moment.

Don tries to shift the discussion away from John Kerry/Gary Locke's barbers to Locke's performance here.

AndrewLynch (see below)has already been remarkably gracious in defending himself; for example here. ... 8:30 a.m.


Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2002

"Otherwise dealt with": State of the Union discussion is all over the Fray. Most of the traffic will be in This Just Inearly on AndrewLynch "pretends" he is a middle American and finds himself "impressed" by "strategists' attempts to make Bush sound like he was busy, busy, busy" here.

There is plenty of action on the BallotBox Fray: e.g., TC3 objected to the fuzzy math of African AIDS relief here; BFD noted that Bush "talked about fiscal discipline but didn't use the term 'spending cuts' and then announced a 4% increase in discretionary spending" here.

And in the swamped Breakfast Table discussion, The_Slasher-8 explains the perils of thinking Bush is a clever hayseed in "The Myth of Andy Griffith."  …

Good World Cop/Bad World Cop: Even before Will Saletan's good news/bad news/no news analysis, WVMicko sees  the SOTU as good news/bad news for Bush's Iraq policy:

The bad news: There is no clear evidence on Iraqi WMD …

The good news: Bush is prepared to make his case for war on grounds other than convincing evidence of actual weapons or programs.

For WV, the best of the non-WMD reasons for war is humanitarian:

However, I was encouraged by Bush's indictment of the Baath regime on human rights grounds. He made it a point to make the horror graphic and unmistakeable. I have always felt that it is legitimate—and manifestly liberal as well—to make war on humanitarian grounds. If the Holocaust taught us anything, it is the potential depth and cost of evil, and why it is the duty of the free world to stop it, even if people die in the process.

Still, WV thinks it must be a multilateral effort, and the remainder of his long, compelling post expains why. …

The end of irony? Not in the Fray: Betty_The_Crow goes point for point here; two funny bits:

On Bush's crowing over his domestic agenda:

Some might call this a good record.
Some might call William Shatner singing "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" a good record. Probably the same people.

On Cars of the Future:

A simple chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen generates energy, which can be used to power a car producing only water, not exhaust fumes.
Thank you Dr. Science. Can we get a little help on mileage standards in the meanwhile?

A TIA for the DJIA: Daniel Gross argues that the Dow Jones Industrial Average avoided the worst of the tech meltdown because it is so antiquated. Right off the bat, Pacimini has figured out what may be the real consequence of the Dow's obsolescence here:

Although the Dow may be ignored by professionals, it is more closely followed than the S&P or Nasdaq by the broader public … If the Dow had been as sensitive to the tech bust as the Nasdaq, [if] it had fallen 74 percent from its high of 12,000 (or so) and currently be at 3,100, I can't help but think that such a precipitous decline in the Dow would have had a depressing effect on consumer confidence and resulted in a much sharper decline in the total economy. Right now, consumer spending is the thin thread that keeps the economy hanging between stagnation and recession. If the Dow were more of an honest barometer, maybe things would be a lot worse.

This makes so much obvious sense, I wonder what the responses will be. Check back here. … 10:20 p.m.


Monday, Jan. 27, 2002

No E*Trade monkeys! That bit of good news aside, The Fray is down on the crop of Super Bowl ads. Take AnyaFanya here:

Instead of the side-splitting philosophy of reptilian swamp-dwellers, the pathos of children who actually aspire to positions in middle management, or even the momentary chuckle inspired by a new catch-phrase, most breaks were filled with blatant, highly offensive sexism and/or bodily function jokes.

Zarkhov tries to get our priorities straight here:

If only this much excitement could be generated over the upcoming "State of the Union" address, what kind of ads would we see between major "plays" of Mister President's speech? We'd see lots of monkeys. SUVs. Recruiting pitches for the armed forces (well, maybe not National Guard). Investment companies handing out dividend checks. Maybe sexy sightgags of some kids left behind.

Rudie_can't_fail's "long, annoying" post is also extremely funny. Find it here.

3-into-the-4: Virginia Heffernan quite enjoyed Jimmy Kimmel Live. Athairic decidedly did not here: "[T]his was the great TV magic that was replacing 'Politically Incorrect'?"

Who had the over? Oh, and the game. Rob Weintraub disses Oakland, ABC, and the officials. Sarvis objectsto the "Why I love the Lombardi Trophy" monologues:

Was anyone else put off by those pre-filmed spots where the stars cuddled with the trophy and waxed philosophic about what it means to win it … ? REALLY poor taste.

If there ever was a sign of the coming End Of Football As We Know It, it has to be these graceless, shameless bits of bad karma. Hell, NHL players won't even get in the same room as the cup beforehand.

BOTF SOTU=BUST FOOT forward: The Best of the Fray is a place to go for advice—sometimes financial (as in this thread)—sometimes unsolicited, as in locdog'soffer to give the Bush administration some help with the Iraq war part of the SOTU here:

in essence, it's the famous speech bush made to the league of united nations delegates last year, with a reminder of the threat hussein represents to domestic tranquility mixed in for good measure … [reagan speechwriter peggy] noonan wants bush to think globally but act domestically, to forget about that speech and give the one the critics are howling for, but in the long run he'll be worse off for doing so. so will everyone but for a few unimportant diplomats.

locdog thinks bush needs to base the case for iraq on iraq, not america.

The best response—and it's prickly—comes from daveto, "the curve, and where you are on it":

This is precisely what they've spent the last year trying to do. They've failed miserably. if you believe that you're smarter than the Bush team perhaps you should put something together for them, you still have the better part of a day.

As for the case for war (as opposed to the speech for the case), Engram apologizes for running through an old argument here; daveto's response here dispatches with several points quickly:

[R]educing or eliminating state-sponsored terrorism from Iraq depends on what happens after the war, and you haven't addressed that at all. (It could easily be argued that the resumption of the multi-billion dollar drug trade in Afghanistan is fueling terrorism to a degree that rivals or surpasses what was going on there in during the halcyon days of the drug-free Taliban gang.)

In fact, given that there is virtually no state-sponsored terrorism in Iraq right now (otherwise the likelihood is extremely high that we would have been provided proof by now), installing or ensuring a successful, friendly and clean post-war government is paramount to declaring "success" for any Iraqi intervention scenario.

Rub-a-dub-dub, it's SOTUB: But BOTF is also the place to go for State of the Union Bingo! Historyguy is running it this year; I'll kick in a prize: the chance to rewrite any paragraph of the speech and have it run in Fraywatch (subject to the usual caveats).

You've got debt: In his analysis of AOL Time Warner's decision to sell its publishing arm, Daniel Gross makes this comment: "If AOL was really serious about slashing its debt and ridding itself of units that aren't growing, it would keep the books unit and jettison the AOL unit instead." Geoff pounces here:

[Gross actually] makes a wonderful argument for WHY AOL-TimeWarner should jettison it's book publishing. Yes, it's profitable. However, as he points out, it's one of the odd ducks in the conglomerate's line up. It's operations cannot be easily consolidated. …

What's more, it's worth money and AOL isn't. … Let's say you're a buyer. ... Do you want to grab the $9 billion worth of debt-laden flailing distressed assets? No. You want something that will make you some money. Meanwhile, as the conglomerate sheds it's profitable, detachable units, it preps itself for a bankruptcy too... the easiest way to weasel out of $9 billion in debt payments.

Later in the thread, RobertMolineaux quips:

This whole business of planning ahead to use Chapter 11 to force concessions from bondholders (outside stockholders being long since forgotten about) is coming to resemble an American version of the Japanese zombie corporation.

MVPosters: Joining the star ranks are baltimore-aureole (for Prudence, and the Kathleen Kennedy Townsend watch), Betty_The_Crow (for this [the best post ever?], and much else), ElboRuum (because I got tired of checking the funny ones), Retief (for solid citizenship all round), and WVMicko (one of Kaus's sharper needles). I have already tagged them (just to make sure they are starred in time for the big speech), but they should still drop by Best of the Fray for their kudos ... 11:40 p.m.


Sunday, Jan. 26, 2002

Pirates of Mission Bay: Bucs fans or citizens of Raider Nation, many Fraysters don't buy Romesh Ratnesar's takedown of the West Coast Offense. Two key points.

1. W.C.O. is about control from the box:

Ratnesar: In the WCO, a quarterback's imagination and creativity are subordinate to timing, accuracy, and strict adherence to "the system"; the actual strategizing is done by groups of coaches watching the action from stadium skyboxes.

Gaucherre-2 (here): Sorry, mister, but the Raiders often play no-huddle style, and Gannon frequently (like 50% of the time or more) changes the play when he sees how the defense is lined up against them.

2. Disrupt the timing, and the W.C.O. goes down.

Ratnesar: The Bucs are loaded with the kinds of big, fast defenders who can disrupt Gannon's rhythm, hound his receivers, and prevent them from turning short passes into big gains.

Johngcecil (here): it is almost impossible to "disrupt the timing" of the west coast offense AS LONG AS THE RECEIVERS GET OFF THE LINE QUICKLY, because the quarterback takes such a short drop and the pass is off in about half the time of a traditional 7-step drop passing set. this ability to get off the line is the specialty of jerry rice and tim brown - that, and running really precise patterns. you don't think that every team who played the 49ers in their prime didn't try to "disrupt the timing" of the west coast offense?

(Undiscussed is the recent conventional wisdom 180 on Raiders Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman, whose flavor of W.C.O. was long blamed for Jake Plummer's arrested development. Call: Fraywatch doesn't like the Raiders, but we respect them, even giving the points. Update: Dwayne was right (see below); bring back the old Trestman c.w.)

Finally, TonyAdragna and macbob intelligently battle over Al Davis's legacy beginning here. ...

Dwayne took the Bucs, but that was with the old helmets: Jackson Lears and Eric Banks describe an America locked in a perpetual struggle between the aleatory and W. Edwards Deming. Flyn still remembers Sister Mary Petronella's warning: playing marbles "for keeps" is a mortal sin.

Silly as it may sound in this century, there is no doubt in my mind that a nation that makes bucks off the weakness of the citizens deserves the Roman ending it will see.

And speaking of Roman endings, Joe_JP remembers Caesar's remark upon crossing the Rubicon: "alea iacta est." But Joe also answers Flyn's Sister here:

Gambling also gives different classes of people something to do and a reason to come together. Take guys ... women talk all the time ... heck they spend more time talking in the bathroom than most guys do to each other on a daily basis. Poker games puts them together to bond and such. Bingo games serve the same function for old people ... btw that sister of yours probably doesn't think that is a mortal sin … Lotto games forces poor people to take part in making the tax system even less progressive than it is.

See, totally logical, really … 8:10 a.m.

J.D. Connor is assistant professor of English and of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard. He is working on a book about neoclassical Hollywood.