Staying on message in the Fray.

Staying on message in the Fray.

Staying on message in the Fray.

What's happening in our readers' forum.
May 2 2003 12:38 PM

Reruns and Sequels

Staying on message in the Fray.

Readme Rerun? They're not exactly lining up for Michael Kinsley's scalp in the Fray, but there's a certain Gray Davis phenomenon working in ReadMe. Traditionally supportive posters generally agree with the premise, but they're bored with the message and, like historyguy here and JohnMcG (not so historically sympathetic) here, they fault Kinsley for "recycling" the same formula. Zathras, who "think[s] the latest Bush tax cut is a really bad idea" would like to see Kinsley do more than

basically rewriting the same "gotcha" column nearly every week while occasionally throwing in some new snarky comment to make it look different….I want writers like Kinsley to make an effective case for doing something else. If they can't do that they may as well join all the writers from Us and People writing about Laci Peterson.

ChasHeath here and again here -- and Science here -- offer the campaign manager's "on message" strategy of repetition, that it's important to re-iterate a point over and over to be heard amidst the cacophony of opinion, to which historyguy replies:

"With so much Republican hypocrisy and double-talk", there's no need for reruns. He could easily find a different aspect to criticize each week.

J_Mann assumes his role as the Fray's devil's advocate, offering up a defense of the tax cut here, aided by Thomas, who isn't roleplaying here.

Early Fray B.O. Returns: In Assessment, ChrisSuellentrop posits that The Matrix is " a utopia, a geek paradise." Rob_said_that begins the debate, suggeting that Suellentrop:

has missed the point of geekdom's fascination with The Matrix. It's not about knowing something's rotten at the core of this elaborate techno-construct. It's about all those old values from the '60s—the power of the Individual Who Believes In Himself, the commune as viable social model, technology as nurturing B. F. Skinner Box, achievement without effort (remember drugs?) and a dash of messianic narcissism—updated for the 21st Century. In short, it's a jerk-off dream world, a masturbatory fantasy—so how is it a mystery that geeks would like it?

TheMeek has definitional problems with "geeks" and "nerds" here, citing the piece's Kevin Warwick quote as backup. Mdem, as a born again Christian, finds solace in the film; he's followed by Enigmus who evokes the Buddhist angle, as well as AttilaTheHun here – giving credence to the question: in the taxonomy of geekdom, where do religious folk fit in?

Finally, bartman22 feels that Neo "doesn't want to destroy the Matrix. He just wants people to understand it so they can play with it and enjoy it as much as he does. He's an evangelist for the product. Neo's not a Luddite. He's an early adopter." He continues, alluding to teaching his 3-year-old son the piano, and the distinction between the technicality of geekdom and the spiritualism of experience…KFA9:25 a.m.

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Thursday, May 1, 2003

B.A. vs. B.S.? In a commentary on the SARS epidemic in Culturebox, Duncan Watts suggests that "had it not been for this exaggerated sense of fear, we might have a truly frightening situation on our hands." Baltimore-aureole comes after Columbia University sociologist Watts, citing that the article "illustrates why those with humanities degrees shouldn't necessarily be entrusted with mathematical or scientific issues." She lays out her argument with some of Watts' own numbers, including:

Watts argues that the 91% mortality rate for ebola makes it far riskier than SARS' 1-2% mortality rate. that ENTIRELY misses the point, which is:

To get Ebola, you have to make 5 plane connections, travel down the Zambesi river by dugout canoe, then trudge on foot to an isolated village. To get SARS, all you have to do is come in contact with someone who visited Hong Kong.

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B-A  concludes that it "seems all too easy (and typical) for a sociology expert to claim that concerned travelers are hysterical."

For this, she evokes indignation from the Fray. "Did you even read the article?" asksarthegall:

Watts may be a professor of sociology, but one area of active research he's involved in is studying "power-law networks." These are mathematical models (specifically, the mathematical construct known as a "graph") of random phenomena commonly known as "small-world" or "preferential attachment" phenomena.

Temaj here suggests that B-A misread the piece: "[H]e agrees with you about the dangerousness of SARS vs. Ebola." B-A responds, feeling that the article's conclusion still begs the question, "Which is it? overreaction, or a good thing that we're not picking Hong Kong for a vacation?"

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Keith_M_Ellis takes umbrage at B-A's "gratuitous swipe at the rigor of sociologists":

something that's incredibly ironic considering that you didn't bother to read the article or, perhaps, understand it. ... [T]he writer has demonstrated expertise in epidemiology as is evidenced, for example, by his paper in Nature. By the way, last I checked, Nature wasn't a humanities journal.

B-A  digs in: "You are correct of course, about sociology not strictly being a humanities degree. It's a liberal arts degree, which I carelessly used interchangeably with 'humanities'."

Yankee Go Home: Lovelorn Bosox loyalist twifferTheGnu "hates the Yankees with a burning passion."  Pinstriper Adam_Masin tries to proselytize here with a seven-point platform for conversion (admittedly cogent ... except for that indefensible mishegas on the defensively challenged Yankee roster).

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ClaudeScales, for one, will have none of it. His exquisite post, one man's diary of fandom, is here. … KFA8:05 a.m.

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Wednesday, Apr. 30, 2003

The Things They Kerried: Senator John Kerry's hatchet, Chris Lehane, jumps on a Howard Dean musing that it's conceivable that the United States mightone daynot be the biggest kid on the block. Will Saletan breaks it down in Ballot Box

TheBestace is dreading the incoming tide of "Gotcha" journalism. Retief, to some extent, here and WVMicko, to full extent, here respond that journalists don't create Gotcha, candidates do. Publius thinks Saletan is whack, that there's nothing in Kerry's past quotes that contradicts his salvo, not that Pub supports the attack:

These comments clearly mean only that China is a big country, a growing force in Asian and international affairs, a regional power, and an increasinly important part of the global economy and the US's economic interests. Is there anyone who disagrees with this assessment? Please point him to the nearest psychiatrist, if there is.

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He points out that

When Saletan quotes Kerry's guy as saying, "No serious candidate for the Presidency has ever before suggested that he would compromise or tolerate an erosion of America's military supremacy," he's missing the opportunity to point out that there has been one serious candidate before in modern times who made such a suggestion, former Vice President Henry Wallace.

Phone Home: Given that Lehane, campaign manager of Gore 2000 and a major force in the Gray Davis re-elect campaign, has a longstanding reputation as "an effective trasher of other Democrats," Zathras maintainsthat Lehane likely acted without consulting the candidate. The normally grounded Zathras gives us this to chew on, "Now about this subject: it is not at all inconceivable that Americans will one day meet extraterrestrials, and it would seem only prudent for someone to give some thought to how we should react to that." RufRuf, coming at it from a practical angle, thinks the real issue here is that:

Dean made a statement that opened himself up to relentless attacks ads by Bush/Rove in 2004.

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And Poindexter feels that Saletan is overreaching:

Kerry's campaign is guilty of rank opportunism or making mountains out of molehills. But instead Saletan lamely tries to paint Kerry as a hypocrite and there he fails.

Dah-Dah-Dah, DAH-dah-dah: Jack Shafer showers Uber-Olber hosannas in Press Box for SportsCenter vet Keith Obermann, who commonly peppered nightly NFL recaps with references to Immanuel Kant and the like. Shafer likes Olbermann's new MSNBC gig. WVMicko as network d-boy: "Why stop there? How about Ken Ober, Remote Control for news junkies? Now THERE'S a show I'd like to see." But he's one-upped by OgeeOjoy:

How about Mystery Science Theater 3000 for News Junkies? I'd watch a news show where little robot heads made sarcastic comments to news stories. I hate having to do it alone. ... KFA 8:10 a.m.

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Tuesday, Apr. 29, 2003

Track & Wield: For everyone who shelled out $14 for that crappy Len album a few summers back just to acquire that infectious piece of cotton candy, "Steal My Sunshine," Mr. Steve Jobs unveiled his Twinkie Defense at the Moscone Center in San Fran yesterday. Paul Boutin caught the show and in Webhead reports that citizenWeb can download "any of 200,000 songs—from Franz Joseph Haydn to Eminem—provided by the five major labels" for 99 cents a pop from Apple's new iTunes Music Store

On the Jobs: Lodger16 calls the advent a "sham": "Do the math. A typical album may have 10 tracks. That's $9.90., about what you'd pay at a large music store for a hard copy." Covoj agrees here and adds that he'll "continue to use Kazaa." As "a decrepit 40-year-old", lodger laments that "people don't treasure the 'new song' as much anymore. It's here, it's cool, it's replaced next week." Deej, age and state-of-decrepitude unknown, responds, "since a listener can now easily get just the songs they want legally and morally, they do not have to shell out the whole $15 for the entire album." On the oral argument of Album v. Single, Deej testifies that

Music purists will still want albums, of course. It represents a picture of the artist/group at that time in their musical careers and describes in detail their current influences and stage of development. For example, when I hear Bullet the Blue Sky by U2 I always think of the rest of that album, rather than the song by itself.

Mac Nation: JCormac, for one, believes that "a big 1st step was taken today" toward "break[ing] the 16.99 per cd monopoly." Going forward, JCormac ponders:

Others follow closely behind, usually bettering Apple's efforts in some, if not many, ways—price being foremost among those. I've always felt that if you want to experience the "new new thing" in personal computing, it's great to have an Apple. Once the new thing isn't so new, Apple's advantage in that particular market niche vanishes.

BarkinJ, a self-professed "Mac addict," worries that "it's a matter of time before someone else manages to capitalize on Apple's model. ... Someone else is going to replicate it (and do so for the WinPC world), but do so without the attention to detail, the ease of use, and the pure beauty with which Apple did." The next thing you know, they'll lower the mounds, pollute the game's strategic purity with the designated hitter and load up those Rawlings with gun powder.

Let's Do the Numbers: By now, readership has gotten a nice glimpse of Slate Editor Jacob Weisberg's grill in the New YorkTimes yesterday. The real story, of course, was the magazine's profitability and Fraysters took no time in scraping up this morsel: "Mr. Welch noted that Slate's weblogs and its user bulletin board, The Fray, made it more interactive than a print product and that word of its break-even status was good for the medium." WVMicko here:

I gotta say, I'm going to be pretty pissed if Slate doesn't say some really nice things about the Fray this week. Slate turning a profit is great, but they'd still be losing money hand-over-fist if it weren't for us no-life political junkies.

James needles Mickey Kaus, and baits him to comment on the Gray Lady, whom Kausfiles has been dogging in recent ... days ... week ... the recent past. Historyguy challenges the NYT's report that Slate "refrained from the lavish parties and wild spending sprees on acquisitions," and even offers up incriminating photos of the former. 

For the record, FrayEditor can attest to Slate's budgetary prowess—he's received more from public radio outlet KCRW over the past month and is still awaiting the mag's snazzy maroon ballcap lest he spend the summer in a Los Angeles Clippers lid. ... KFA8:40 a.m. 

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Monday, Apr. 28, 2003

Progress Report: In regard to David Plotz's prescription for a new Iraq, doodahman indignantly posits in a lengthy post here that, " you can't just transplant those institutions [that are uniquely American/Anglo Saxon] to Iraq and expect them to function the same way, obtain the same credibility, or maintain the adequate support from the polity." He continues:

What makes this Slate feature so dumb isn't that the ideas aren't valid. It's that no attempt is made to first look and see what the fuck the Islamic societies already have in place, to provide those needed features. Or, if there are no such features, why not? Are they not compatible with Islam? I mean, if the society as a whole stands for the proposition that all valid wisdom begins and ends with the Koran, how do you create a valid and binding Constitution, a Bill of Rights? An independent, nonreligious judiciary? I don't think you can.

In response, pear-la-lu takes up for Plotz for offering some thoughtful antidotes, in light of some "flip" reporting by Slate in recent weeks, though he agrees with the thrust of doodahman's main thesis. And a number of posters, such as the_advocate, cite Turkey to the charge that "it can't be done," though he concedes that it's accomplished "with the help of heavy-handed military cracking down on anything remotely non-secular."

Zyzzyg recommends a DuBois-ish "Talented Tenth" theory, suggesting that

Using expatriate Iraqis as smart bombs, who speak the language and understand the cultural subtleties, and who have had a taste of democracy is the best untapped tool that can be used to stimulate and support the growth of a better Iraq.

Similarly, jeanpaul recommends that we "inject money into a 'noble' sector." Who is he talking about?

People who typically do not have a hand in torturing and killing people are usually the ones who devote their lives to:

1.) Medicine

2.) Education

3.) Culture and the arts

... So, what we should do is create a class of wealthy doctors, nurses, museum curators, archaeologists, teachers, college professors, artists, writers, lawyers and other genteel folk. People with pro-western secular views, who probably speak English, studied hard in school and never did violence to anybody.

RicNCaric, conceding the inevitability that Iraq will be a Shiite theocracy, offers a curious plan of "several things that the Bush administration can do to get along better with the next political regime in Iraq" here. James lays out a pessimistic sequence of events here.

So far as an independent judiciary, RobertMolineaux applauds Plotz, "There are within Islamic tradition bases for the construction of these essential elements." But fireashwinter here and destor23 here have serious doubts that an independent judiciary can be established prior to elections and an Iraqi constitution. … KFA7:35 a.m.