A weekly spin through the Fray.

A weekly spin through the Fray.

A weekly spin through the Fray.

What's happening in our readers' forum.
July 6 2003 5:42 PM

Needles & Threads

A weekly spin through the Fray.

Since Fraywatch columns tend to focus on singular articles and issues, some of the finer minutiae of the Fray goes unnoticed and unmentioned (even the unmentionable, which often deserves notoriety in these pages). Beginning today, Fraywatch introduces a new weekly feature, "Needles and Threads: A Spin Through the Fray," which will highlight some of the exurbs of the Fray, postings that may not address high-traffic articles, but warrant attention nonetheless for any number of reasons ranging from cogency to depravity. 

Music Box: Liz Phair's apostasy generated little of note, but Beethoven's Ninth inspired rob_said_that to elaborate on the symphony's third movement here: "In fact, if we want to understand the 9th, or Beethoven at all, that is the place to start and finish." For The_Bell here, "the thing that is most profoundly and deeply affecting for me about Beethoven's chorale finale is its subject - an ode to joy."

Poems Fray: Shannpalmer initiates an active thread on the final stanza of J. Allyn Rosser's Strange State, Wrong Highway, Cold Night. Shann and MaryAnn here find it to be "a bit of a whine," but paulguest here, rob_said_that here, Persephone here, NoStar here, and White_Rabbit here all come out in favor of Rosser's parting words. SherylXian's superb reading finds a more layered moment, though MarkHaag finds a disconcerting, sensory "Proustian Fallacy," a claim that brings MaryAnn and Sheryl into a lively discussion. Finally, mik offers a noble defense of Neil Diamond, whom Rosser references in the poem. This invites a host of replies from the boomer set, natch. Irony v. Earnestness perseveres in the Fray.

Ballot Box: Zathras senses that William Saletan is bored with the Buzzword series. As an antidote, Zathras has prescribed a "Breakfast Table format to serve as the foundation of its coverage of the 2004 Presidential campaign."…locdog embraces President's Bush's war cry, "Bring 'em on!" here, and invites a barrage of responses…Lord_Wakefield and T_Weldon_Berger (fka Betty_The_Crow) brandish the nunchucks and go at it over, what Wake refers to as, Hong Kong's reversion to "the Red Chinese way of doing things" in matters of social justice. TWB provides a quality rhetorical counterattack here.

Sports Nut: Regarding sportswriter Gary Smith, xmasbaby reminisces on the days of "longer pieces that you used to find all throughout SI" and the likes of "Jim Murray and Dave Anderson." Jsph and other Fraysters prefer Mitch Albom…KA2:35 p.m.


Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Brothers In Arms: The Boston Herald makes a rare appearance in Kausfiles Fray, courtesy of Senator John Kerry-backer zinya who posts a "curious piece" on Senator John McCain's sentimental, if not explicit, endorsement of Kerry in the Democratic primary. Though it hasn't gotten much play in the national press, Mr. Straight Talk's hosannas for his fellow vet may be telling…

from the standpoint that there aren't too many Republicans whose opinions about the Dem race would even interest Democrats to know, but it does also begin to make me wonder whether in fact Bush might have alienated so many Republican moderates in Congress that he might not have their overt endorsement for '04 or even have their open opposition.


Despite Heston-esque positions on gun control and his crusty anti-MLK Holiday vote, McCain has always held a certain fascination for disaffected Dems, Independents, and David Foster Wallace. Laocoon comes right out and says so much:

Better yet, why doesn't Kerry announce today that, if he gets the nomination, he will ask McCain to be his VEEP? Reach across party lines, make campaign finance a major issue, put an abrupt halt to the war campaign, show a bold idea. Kerry and the country could do lots worse.

AFL-CIO Chief John Sweeney was unavailable for comment.

City of Quartz: In Culturebox, Adam Kirsch laments that Los Angeles has been deprived of "literature unconcerned with the outside world, intent on explaining the city to itself—as Dickens did with London, or Balzac with Paris." Instead, it's been colonized as a soundstage by "visitors who spent only a few weeks or months in the city; or by imported slaves of Hollywood, who act out their rebellion against the city at large; or even by natives writing mainly for an audience somewhere else." MsZilla opines that almost every place is unknowable through portrayal: "…those of you living in New York and L.A. and laboring under the sheer weight of all of the imagination of our media, I'm not sure how you do it."


The best series of responses in Culturebox Fray come from simparker. Here, he takes on the aforementioned premise of unknowability:

this is the kind of theory that I can no longer tolerate, the kind that structuralists like Eco inflict on us. Of course this city is real. In fact, all of the soundstage facsimiles and on-location reproductions only tend to make it realer. What helps is to look at the PEOPLE who live in a city…Next time you visit a place that doesn't seem real, look at the citizens and think, 'This is someone's home.'

Simparker injects a little Lacan into Culturebox Fray: "Incidentally…memory, not the media, makes me feel like Gulliver returning from Brobdinag."…KA 11:25 a.m.


Friday, June 27, 2003


Get Off My Case: Not surprisingly, the most vociferous protest to the United States Supreme Court's ruling in Lawrence comes from EFriedemann here, who writes that

the use of the 14th Amendment to give gay men a constitutional right to have sex is absurd. But what is REALLY VERY BAD is that the Court chose to use the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment and to make gay sex a privacy right, or as the Court's majority so economically puts it, the 'liberty of the person both in its spatial and more transcendent dimensions.' Or, more accurately, the 'liberty of' one male 'person' to consensually 'transcend' the 'spatial' 'dimension' of another.

EF, mindful that, "no aspect of homosexuality was ever discussed or put into writing by the framers or the amenders of the Constitution," prompts this reply from Geoff:

You're certainly right that the commitment of our Framers to the notion of liberty was inconsistent and erratic at best. On the one hand, Article IV, §2 declares 'The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.'

But in order to make that effective without actually extending liberty to blacks they had to append the little qualifier, 'No person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.'

And then, those rebellious upstarts went on to further solidify the castrated Article IV…

More from EF here, and another response from Geoff here.

Over in The Breakfast Table Fray, doodahman speaks to notion of enumerated rights and what exactly the Framers included in our citizenry gift baskets:

I just can't quite get over this simple minded notion that our gov't was supposed to be one of limited powers, all of which were ceded to it by the people, the rest held in reserve.

Along the same utilitarian lines, Sissyfuss1 muses that "First and foremost, the Constitution is a document meant to serve the common good and human happiness, not the other way round."

A roundup of cogent posts on Lawrence includes JCormac here on Justice Kennedy's ambidextrous Federalism and Justice Scalia's meltdown, Christofurio here on Justice O'Connor as "closest thing around to a leftist on SCOTUS," and Mitch here on the "mischief wrought by the US Supreme Court when it last embraced "substantive due process" to strike down legislation."

Finally, Joe_JP debunks the popular opinion that the Court is "a bunch of retrograde fascists," breaking down the opinions of the middle-and-right justices. Joe then sends us on our way with a single from Liz Phair's new release to pay homage to the Lawrence decision…Ah, Fraysters — they hold the place like the Mafia and say, "Run me 'round again."…KA11:20 a.m.  


Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Breakfast Anyone? In the Breakfast Table, Dahlia Lithwick reaffirms that while she supports affirmative action, "the diversity rationale has always been the weakest link in the affirmative action jurisprudence." Lithwick criticizes "O'Connor's odd emphasis on the benefits of 'diversity' to 'non-minority students'? That's crazy. Schools are not petting zoos."QuiTam splits with Lithwick on this particular point:

In the workplace, managers often hire people most like themselves, because these people make them feel comfortable. ... For some non-minority people, the first opportunity to interact on an intellectual and professional level with members of ethnic minorities may occur in college. The experience ... could make them more likely to hire and work with minorities in the future.

JCormac answers that "you haven't convinced me that you've responded to Lithwick's point. The benefit you point to is not to non-minority members of society, but to minorities." And Chad-B agrees with Lithwick that, " 'Diversity' simply is not compelling, or even if it were, could be achieved to far greater degrees by numerous constitutional methods." Here he offers alternate remedies.

The Color Line: Clarence Thomas quoting Frederick Douglass raises eyebrows around the Fray and—as historical excerpts set in vague contexts often do—generates varying interpretations among readers. BML compares Douglass to "Thomas Jefferson, who has been quoted endlessly, and often at the same time, by fundamentally opposed politicians." Outliar finds that Thomas' "decision to lead his dissent with that quotation is a fascinating insight into his psyche." More from Outliar here on "the way that [Thomas] rails against the 'elites' " in his arguments against racial preferences. Joe_JP notes here that the quote was from an address delivered by Douglass in 1865 to the annual meeting of the Anti-Slavery Society in Boston, then offers his interpretation that

Douglas seems to be saying that 'good hearted' abolitionists felt blacks were not ready to vote ... they had to be helped some more before that basic right was given to them. It is in this context that Douglas said to 'do nothing' except to protect the rights of blacks. Thus, the 13-15A could and should be [passed] before blacks were truly equal in society as whites. If whites felt they had to 'help' blacks before giving them such fundamental rights, he'd rather not have their help.

BML remarks that "Thomas, to his credit, does seem to have used the quote in context," but also notes that "in the 1882 edition of his autobiography ... [Douglass] made several strong suggestions that he felt the government needed to do more for blacks at the end of the war."

Separate as the Fingers: Lithwick and Walter Dellinger discuss "whether members of the Supreme Court ought to decide cases as nine individual justices or as a group striving to reach a consensus judgment 'of the court.' " Zathras renders this opinion:

An attempt to reach consensus among all nine Justices would probably not do much good in cases like these, only because there is a fundamental disagreement between those Justices who view race preferences as Constitutionally impermissible and those who think they are fine.

Joe_JP feels strongly that "The value of discussion between the justices and opinions that can get the support of as many of them as possible is one I feel should be promoted." Here he briefly cites Edward Lazarus' Closed Chambers: The Rise, Fall, and Future of the Modern Supreme Court

Gratz and Grutter: So far as the cases themselves, EFriedemann is nonplussed, to say the least:

Rather than doing anything to end state-sponsored racism by forcing admissions directors to consider only objective criteria (grades, SAT and LSAT scores come to mind), the Court has made racism-in-admissions 'law' that much less intelligible. If the Court couldn't improve on it's prior, awful string of rulings, it should have left well enough alone.

More from EF on the trouble of "critical mass" and other elements of the verdict here. Who emerges as EF's most vocal combatant? It's 1-2-Oscar!

But where legal segregation never existed, de facto segregation prevails today. Look around, counselor, and see what the law has wrought. See how effective it has been in bringing equality of opportunity to our schools in the "fifty years after the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education." Look around, counselor, and see how you have failed.

Oscar provides a more extensive historical record in his posting here, with a concurring opinion from Gemini here, then a counterrebuttal from EF here. Dwnny_ maintains that "Affirmative Action is simply a Placebo. ... In the greater scheme of things, it does NOTHING. ... It has become society's easy answer to a problem that no one really wants to address, a Cure that ignores the illness."

Finally, Sissyfuss1 clocks in with the most compelling—but largely non-polemical—post on the subject here, addressing the Supreme Court and "America's hypocrisy and refusal to face the truth about race, and by splitting the decision, continued to bury the issue in a morass of confusion." ... KA 9:10 a.m.


Friday, June 20, 2003

Weapons of Mass Deception? Michael Kinsley's "Low Opinion" suggests that "it doesn't matter" if Iraq possessed WMDs — the proof lying in public opinion polls that show Americans don't "seem to care whether those weapons are discovered or not." Posters in Readme Fray, in contrast, overwhelmingly do. TC-3 here, Reagan Survivor here and Kendra, quite earnestly here, agree that "It's the lies, stupid" — the issue being not the material weapons themselves, but the premise that the war was manufactured with manipulated intelligence reports and scare tactics.

A "former (and current) supporter of regime change," baltimore-aureole still would "welcome full and open hearings on the intelligence and political factors which led to the US decision to go to war in Iraq." According to b-a, here's what "we have a right to know."

TheNewSnobbery pulls perhaps the best post on the subject here:

Here's the reason we should care:

Americans may be of the opinion that Bush essentially lied or exaggerated but that the means justify the ends. And they may have in this case. But we are, I think, generally convinced of our good intentions….We should be concerned because Bush used a shortcut. He scared us into doing the right thing through fabrication and political intimidation. He used his 9/11 honeymoon to push for a war and did not level with the public or the world.

Mhogan runs with the international angle – the absence of WMDs as a problem of credibility for the administration  in the eyes of "the rest of the world."

Cartesian Combat: Fresh out of the box, amileoj's inaugural post in the Fray is a monster:

Mr. Kinsley is almost certainly correct that the question of the existence of WMD in Iraq has no bearing whatsoever on their essence as a first-rate political McGuffin. And on the evidence of the polls he cites, WMD essentialists are much thicker on the ground at the moment than WMD existentialists.

Should this be cause for alarm?

For amileoj's answer, click here.  On the McGuffin trail, nedd puts forth:

Why doesn't the administration try a new and novel approach to the reason for attacking Iraq? Tell the truth. The public seems to have swallowed all of the previous reasons, perhaps they would believe the truth.

The truth according to nedd?  Right hereAbre_los_ojos finds a redeeming morsel in Kinsley's piece if nothing else:

[B]uried within Kinsley's piece is a sentence, and a sentence fragment, which should be imprinted into the cerebrums of every doctrinaire Frayster who insists that he/she knows the WMD story…

The most striking thing about polls like these isn't how many people believe or disbelieve some unproven factual assertion or prediction, but how few give the only correct answer, which is "don't know."

To ThePragmatist2, the polls are quite discernable:

All of this dances around the bigger issue: Did 9/11 prove the United States should adopt a policy of preemptively attacking any nation judged to be a threat, with the sole authority to make said judgment being our own?

The majority of the American Public apparently believes the answer is yes.

Will Post for Sherry: Zathras has it on deep background that "[George] Will Drinks Sherry, Not Martinis," but finds there's nothing particularly deep about Kinsley's observations:

You know -- and this really is an amazing coincidence -- the procedure of a modern, non-ancient pundit is pretty much exactly the procedure of the typical Fray poster.

On the substance of the issue in question, Zathras here takes Kinsley to task for conflating Americans' indifference about the existence of WMD and the misperception  that the "American people don't care about being lied to." 

Kinsley confesses that he "manufactures opinions for a living," leaving Christofurio to lament, as Zathras does, that "what Kinsley does for a living is, on his own account, what the rest of us do for free." 

With that, Christofurio offers poll results as to "why am I here reading this stuff?"  Leading, with 25% of the vote, is:

Christofurio is an inert desk-potato incapable of pulling himself away from his screen.

In fourth place: "He only looks in Kinsley's stuff when the fraygrant reaction to Prudence dies down." Further evidence that Readme readership is under assault from "My Two Cents."…KA3:15 p.m.