Readers on everyone's favorite Congregationalist.

Readers on everyone's favorite Congregationalist.

Readers on everyone's favorite Congregationalist.

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Dec. 26 2003 8:02 PM

Does Dean Get Religion?

Readers on everyone's favorite Congregationalist.

Joyeux Noel!AdamMorgan brings into Today's Papers Fray this New York Times piece on Arab isolation in France. In light of the recent debate over the banning of head scarves in French schools — a measure that many expect President Jacques Chirac to endorse — AM writes (in his not-really-ironically titled post, "Those savages called the French") that the Times piece chronicles, "the deep, seemingly uniform and savage racism against Arabs in France."  AM goes on to contrast the more dynamic path immigrants are afforded in the States:

The U.S., in contrast, has affirmative action and political correctness, which are good will gestures by the majority to benefit minorities. Non-European immigrants, as in Europe, could be relegated to rot in ghettos and forever be labeled as foreigners, as they are all over peaceful, progressive Europe. But they aren't. They're Americans.

…To understand this process, I think, you have to visit a country such as France, where moral and intellectual corruption is accepted as foreign ideas and people are rejected.

This, from a self-proclaimed "pathetic liberal." Gotta love the new political alignments of the 21st Century.

Monster Thread o' the Day:  A cut-and-paste job courtesy of Jack_Dallas from the Boston Globe. Jack titles his post "Dean plays the 'Jesus' card," referring to Dean's increasing "references to Jesus and God in his speeches as he stumps in the South." New Republic contributor Franklin Foer took up the issue of Dean's faith — or alleged lack thereof — in last week's TNR. In response to the Globe piece, Jack writes that "Dean is a lying hypocrite" who "could not care less about Christianity," as evidenced by his positions on the socio-political donnybrooks of the day. Here, RTev writes:

I wish Dean (or anyone, for that matter) could get through an entire campaign without being asked what I regard as silly questions like these…

I guess my perspective is skewed because I live in another region where religion and politics tend to be distinct worlds. For instance, I've voted a few times for our current state governor for that office and others and yet I have no idea what his religious affiliations might be. I think he might be some kind of Baptist, but it's also possible he's Buddhist. I dunno. I don't care. And I don't know and don't care if he's raising his young children in some faith or none.

Here, Jack replies, suggesting that the issue isn't whether Dean is religious, but the perception that the good doctor is willing to pander to those who are and fashion himself as devout when he, in fact, is not … KA4:55 p.m.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Why did Muammar Qaddafi throw in the towel on his weapons program? Was it the specter of American military intervention, or rather a methodical strategy of economic sanctions coupled with multilateral diplomatic pressure?

Subject: "A Hitch in Libya's Nefarious Plans?"
Re:     "Qaddafi Does a Deal: Handle things right, and this could be just the start of welcome fallout from Operation Iraqi Freedom"
From:  IOZ
Date:  Mon Dec 22 1402h

Only by observing the last ten years of history through the murky bottom of a bottle of Victory Gin (Hitchens should recognize this reference) would one presume that Libyas "recent" turnaround had much at all to do with the current war in the former cradle--of late quicksand--of civilization. Quite the opposite is true: that all international observers know Libya's slow opening has been a decades-long process which proves conclusively the benefits and windfalls of studied sanctions, international political pressures, and patience. (This last is anathema to the world-changers of late, who believe, as do so many of their new age foes, that we must all live forever and ever in the now.)

[Find this post here.]

Subject: "clark flips dean judo style"
Re:     Running in Place
From:  HiroProtagonist
Date:  Mon Dec 22 2146h

dean's camp pointed out as clark moved to enter the race that their candidate and clark had had a talk at a place of dean's choosing and that clark was offered v.p.. for someone running for the top job, an admission that clark went to dean and that the v.p. was discussed signaled that clark was not to be taken seriously. clark as president? they're already talking v.p.. that clark came to dean and dean felt strong enough that he could be working on picking his v.p. also signaled dean's top dog status.

clark and company have now flipped dean's cute play against him. they are using the clark as v.p. issue, which is a red herring, to attack dean on the war. clark is leveraging the factual debate about "did he or didn't he" (have dean offer him the v.p. spot) to go on to the next step and argue that dean would do so to cover his national security butt. which leads to the obvious question of why dean's campaign needs their buns covered. dean's war stance is of course the implied reason dean needs clark cover, and the timing of clark's play, after saddam's capture, places the perceived weakness of dean's war stance in stark relief, and also offers the opening for criticism of said position.

[Find this post here.]

Subject: "Tolkien and Rowling"
Re:     "To Mordor and Back: Peter Jackson's wondrous Return of the King"
From:  Kurt64
Date:  Fri Dec 19 1124h

For all the enthusiasm shown here for ROTK, would it be ungenerous to suggest a relation between the appeal of the Tolkien Trilogy and the Rowling Harry Potter books? And further, that the core struggles in these books are, largely, inert? In subject matter, it could be suggested they are similarly detached from the finite condition of man alive, and if the Ring tales are taken as a form of Christian allegory, is it not obvious that the religious tenor of these works has been thoroughly stripped from the movies? I suspect this is due to our persisting inability to discuss matters of faith and religious commitment with any clarity. Finally, if the Star Wars movies can retrospectively be seen as a symptom of the prevailing political and cultural ethos of the '80's, what might the appreciation of these movies suggest about our times?

[Find this post here.]

Subject: "A Problem With The Terror Alerts"
Re:     Orange
From:  Adam_Masin
Date:  Mon Dec 22 1347h

So we raised the color coded terrorist threat level indicator again because of lots of supposed terror chatter. Question: Wouldn't the terrorist chatter include the following exchange?

"Hey fellow evil-doer, when they lower the terror level thingy again, thus publicly telling us they aren't paying as much attention to our potential evil-doing, wouldn't that be the very best time to strike?"

"Good point, supreme evil-doer! Though won't this very chatter that we are now engaged in raise the terror thingy?"

"Yes it will. But the brilliance of our plan is that this non-specific chatter will not relate to the time period of the raised terror level thingy, but just be good planning for when those stupid DHS infidels relax."

"Wow. Can the Bushies really be so stupid as to let us know when they aren't paying as much attention to us?"

"Did you see the crap intelligence they relied on to support the notion that Saddam was going to launch a biochem attack at any moment??"

[Find this post here.]

Department of Astral Affairs: Schadenfreude and appolonious enter the galaxy this week … KA9:05 a.m.

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Friday, December 19, 2003

The power of incumbency lies not only in name recognition and the ability to raise campaign dollars in fistfuls, but in the luxury to embrace good news. Challengers must measure their viability by the potency of the question, "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" As such, Michael Kinsley "can't blame" challengers for the mixed emotions when it comes to a boon in national morale. Where do readers stand?

Subject: "I can blame them"
Re:     "When Good News is Bad News: The politics of mixed emotions"
From:  Mike_Murray
Date:  Thu Dec 18 1404h

How did they get into a position in which good news for the Nation was bad news for their candidacy? How many Republicans do you think had mixed feelings about Midway or the successful outcome of the Cuban missile crisis?

Lieberman did not appear to have mixed feelings. Opposition does not have to imply that all of life is zero sum. The point at which good news brings mixed feelings is the point at which they have gone down the wrong road in trying to become an American leader.

Some things are still pretty simple. If you are not happy at my success or saddened by my losses you are not my friend.

[Find this post here.]

Subject: "Mixed emotions need not be selfish"
Re:     "When Good News is Bad News: The politics of mixed emotions"
From:  Sissyfuss1
Date:  Thu Dec 18 1508h

Is it selfish or narrowly partisan for me to wish that an economic recovery be delayed? Not necessarily. Voters won't see much of the harmful long term effects before they vote in 2004, and may approve of Bush policies in the ballot, taking the recovery as an indication of the policy's overall success. Given the constraint of voter perceptions and timing, it is perfectly logical for even a benevolent and public spirited challenger to have mixed emotions when the indicators turn good before the elections. From the public interest viewpoint, it may seem like the gain of a penny at the cost of a pound.

Of course greedy office seekers will have the same negative feelings for somewhat different reasons. The reverse schadenfreude cannot be a basis for distinguishing pure office seekers and idealistic challengers.

[Find this post here.]

Subject: "The Literalist School of Tolkien"
Re:     "To Mordor and Back: Peter Jackson's wondrous Return of the King"
From:  DeanWormer
Date:  Thu Dec 18 1459h

It's become abundantly clear with the release of each of these movies that there exists a certain subset of those that have loved the books that insist on letting their expectations of a LITERAL translation of the books to film ruin or dampen their experience of Jackson's movies. I find these people's P.O.V. distressing and not the least bit logical.

Is it that they expect Jackson to break completely with the Hollywood style narrative, translate every line of dialog and smallest bit of exposition from the text directly to the screen in fun, six-hour segments? Is it that they've focused so completely on the minutiae of Tolkein's world that they can't bring themselves past the absence of a Tom Bombadil or a Voice of Sauron? Along these lines has their micro focus on The Lord of the Rings gradually eroded their ability to focus on the macro? Are they unable to see the forest for the Ents so to speak?

[Find this post here.]

Subject: "no child left behind in really poor taste"
Re:     "No Child Left Behind: Strom Thurmond's illegitimate daughter"
From:  coffeegrrl2003
Date:  Fri Dec 19 0723h

The last line of the "Recycled" comment on Strom Thurmond's daughter Essie Mae Washington Williams was in such poor taste it left me stunned:

"Or that—dude!—he wasn't such a racist bastard after all?"

No, the "bastard" in question is Ms. Washington Williams, and the stigma & other personal burdens she obviously felt as an illegitimate child -- remember, before Murphy Brown, the social stigma of illegitimacy was huge, even after the 60s; heavens, think what it was like earlier in the century! -- is the reason she proclaimed that she was "finally completely free."

While you at Slate clearly felt this use of the word bastard was a witty irony, I found it a questionable editorial decision.

[Find this post here.]

Fray notes: Metrophobia is a fear of poetry, as we learn from Aimee Nezhukumatathil's "Dinner with the Metrophobe." MaryAnn, nobody's metrophobe, initiates an active thread here with an "alternate reading" of the poem. Rob_said_that wishes for an alternate poem altogether here. Over in BOTF, FreitagsPyramid offers up the rhyme, "I do not like you, Doctor Dean." … KA10:45 a.m.

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Thursday, December 18, 2003

Hawks continue to flex their partisan muscles in the Fray, though critics of the administration are hardly eating humble pie. Meanwhile, video gamers crowd into Gizmos Fray to wax nostalgic about Intellivision.

Subject: "Thus, Saletan"
Re:        "Howard the Hawk: Dean's foreign policy message — I'm no sissy"
From:     bmcburney1
Date:     Wed Dec 17 1037h

The list of knowledgeable people who believed, prior to the war, that Iraq possessed WMD includes every major politician in America and Europe, Democrat, Republican, Labor, Socialist, Social Democrat, Christian Democrat and Communist. It includes the UN and every security and intelligence service of every nation which has a security or intelligence service. Reasons given for supporting this view include the actual discovery of such weapons by UN inspectors after the first Gulf War and the dead bodies of various Iranian soldiers and Kurdish civilians. I could go on. ...

How did W. convince the UN, NSA, CIA, Defense Department, State Department, Congress and virtually every member of the Clinton Administration to adopt this "ideologically distorted" intelligence before actually becoming President? Isn't it possible that Saddam actually had the weapons but hid them or destroyed them before the war?

[Find this post here.]

Subject: "Compared to Whom is Bush a 'Bumbler'?"
Re:        "Bush the Bumbler: The real trouble with the president's foreign policy"
From:     LegalCodger
Date:     Wed Dec 17 1245h

…the military history of Lincoln's presidency is of one major blunder after another until finally Lincoln in the third year of the war selected Grant, whose crucial quality was being implacable in the conduct of battle regardless of setbacks or casualties.

FDR's presidency was marked by endless controversy within his administration, which Roosevelt clearly enjoyed. Although Roosevelt tried in many ways to pull us out of the Great Depression, he never did learn what we now know about business cycles and as a result the Great Depression really began to lift only with the advent of wartime economic activity.

Microscopic examination of every presidency will disclose many examples of what in hindsight are seen to be blunders. The same is true, for example, in the case of Churchill and Britain during World War II. In all these cases, the test of greatness is not absence of mistakes, it is unwavering adherence to a great goal through thick, thin, and critical, including academic, non-acclaim.

[Find this post here.]

Subject: "Game design"
Re:        "Blasts From the Past: What today's game designers can learn from Space Invaders"
From:     eLocke
Date:     Wed Dec 17 1356h

Games today are designed with the idea in mind that the game should have the pacing and flow of a movie. That a story must be told. That's fine in itself, but they have completely neglected the concept of gameplay.

The industry standard is that a game bought today should take about 60 hours to go through. After that the consumer should go and buy another game to play, ideally a sequel or expansion of the last game. This is sort of planned obsolescence, so the game companies can keep on cranking out titles, and the manufacturers can keep on cranking out media to packaged and put retailers shelves in time for Christmas. They have lost the art of making the game itself fun to play.

[Find this post here.]

Subject: "Why I'm a fanatic"
Re:        "To What Are They Most Loyal?" — The_Bell
From:     Arlington
Date:     Wed Dec 17 1151h

The Bell points out that most Dean supporters are fanatics. Yes, but our fanaticism falls into two categories—those who are fanatic IN their support of the candidate, and those who are fanatic BY their support of the candidate.

I don't belong in the first category and I've never really understood people who do belong to this group. ... These are the people who think one man, their man, will save the world. He has the answer to every problem. In fact, if he's elected, there won't even be problems, so we won't need answers. … I am definitely in the second category, made up of those who support candidates who are different or interesting. I supported McCain in the 2000 primaries, just because he represented a different, perhaps more honest, way of running for office. I support Dean now because it appears he approaches campaigning and the concept of politics similar to the way McCain did, although the two men are very far apart in terms of left-right.

[Find this post here.]

Fray o' the Day: Faith-Based Fray, where readers open the good book and unfurl their prayer rugs to contemplate Steven Waldman's "Commandment the First: Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?" IOZ won't "ever presume that Abraham in fact existed or ever had his little Eureka moment out there in the suburbs of Ur," but has some commentary nonetheless here, as does doodahman here, and Picoluomini here, who finds the National Association of Evangelical president's characterization of God as encouraging of freedom, love, forgiveness, et al, to be akin to a divine "Surgeon General." … KA1:50 a.m.

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Monday, December 15, 2003

The capture of Saddam Hussein dominated chatter in the Fray on Monday, with 90 percent of the posts a variation of two general themes—"Yeah, so what?" and "the Left cries for Saddam." Apart from the big news story, there was some excellent work in the outer fiefdoms, including Culturebox Fray, where posters took on the pugnacious Dale Peck and in Ad Report Card Fray, where fraysters revved up the new design-whore fave, Dyson vacuum. 

Subject: "I humbly disagree"
Re:        "The Lector Effect: HBO's new Angels in America gets Kushner wrong"
From:     sammie
Date:     Sat Dec 13 1612h

Truly, the original masterpiece was designed for one medium, HBO delivered it in another. Much cannot help but be lost. Vastly more cannot help but be gained. I am a 24-year-old gay man. I have never known anyone who died from AIDS. Pause to consider that for a moment, for I know people just a decade or two older than me who count those they knew and loved and lost forever in the dozens. I never knew any of them. Some of those among us, 20 years ago, who were among the most beautiful, the most lovable, the most amazing, they were to be my generation's mentors, and they are lost to us. I never knew a single one of them, and yet Angels in America brought forth that sense of loss in me. I had been aware of it before, but I had not wept over it before. Is there anything else on any other network that can deliver so much? Not "Will & Grace" on NBC, which I adore. Not "Queer Eye" on Bravo, which I adore even more. This piece deserves a rave, not condescension.

[Find this post here.]

Subject: "Dyson's masculine design"
Re:        "Hoover Glam: The ad that makes vacuums seem cool"
From:     RTev
Date:     Mon Dec 15 1024h

…Designers tend to throw adjectives out in the air to justify a design. The adjectives they pick will often seem initially incongruent with the designed object, but can help us to refocus on the object and see it in a new way.

I can only guess, but I'm assuming that the industrial designers of the Dyson used adjectives like "tough," "aggressive," "muscular," and maybe "buff" along with verbs like "tackle" and "attack" when they were first showing their design. They might have argued that their design would result in a tool with "low body fat." Its mechanics ripple on the smooth but hard surface. And those are, of course, all conventionally masculine terms. And the designers would probably have pointed out that that is appropriate when the primary target consumer is a woman.

And note the color. Designers are intensely aware of our ever-shifting color perceptions. Where else have we seen that yellow color used in industrial products? I can think of only two recent auto commercials that paint the machine yellow. One is for Hummer. The other for Nissan Xterra. Both cars are presented as tough, utilitarian vehicles. And both are, in some ads, yellow. The designers of the product and the designers of the superb ad for it seem to be assuring the potential buyer that her vacuum cleaner, at least, can have a Brad Pitt aura about it.

[Find this  post here.]

Subject: "What about informed articles and bioethics"
Re:        "Not-So-Public Relations: How the drug industry is branding itself with bioethics"
From:     jrs18
Date:     Mon Dec 15 1629h

I suppose we can place a value on what we are willing to spend but I would like to know how Dr. Elliott would propose to explain how a relative reduction in mortality of almost 20% is too costly. He is correct in identifying this as a problem but he misses the mark. The real question is probably why don't we use this drug more in the correct patient population. It is expensive, the hospital has to pay up front and it has the potential to eat up a huge hole in the pharmacy budget. It is not the science that is a problem; it's the cost. One can argue about whether this is money well spent, but I think a more interesting topic might have been just who is deciding whether we get this drug or not. I believe that was the point behind the Lilly project. Of course they want their drug to be used, but in this case it is justified by the highest of all our studies a randomized placebo controlled trial. I'm thinking if my loved one were in the ICU with severe sepsis that I would want it used, is Dr Elliott suggesting he wouldn't?

In the real world now drug companies are now increasingly involved in research studies. One can hope that the majority of researchers will evaluate the potential without influence of the sponsor … Would it hurt to have a bioethics person involved in this process, seems to me it can only help. I suppose sometimes there aren't really people on the grassy knoll.

[Find this post here.]

In response, goldcoin here:

... of course we can and SHOULD place a value on what we are willing to spend for any outcome. You argue for bioethics, then try to subtly invalidate one of the primary metrics that bioethics uses to make decisions. You can't have it both ways. A (main?) purpose of bioethics is to balance the costs to society with the costs to any individual and his/her loved ones, in this case presumably a higher chance of dying. ...
 
Dr. Elliot's argument, plain and simple, is that people who make decisions about public policy shouldn't be beholden in any way to entities which have a stake in such decisions. As Zoloft has demonstrated, what's good for the drug companies (sales) is clearly not necessarily good for citizens (higher chance of suicide).

The obvious solution, in light of the LA Times article (see Slate's article here) on the NIH and this article, is that drug companies need to be removed from funding bodies which give a thumbs up or down on their products. I know, blindingly obvious. It's the follow through that will be a bitch. Still, it needs to be done.

Are You Experienced? For electoral statheads, the debate between Adam_Masin and historyguy in BOTF is intriguing. Here, AM highlights the respective datebook entries of Gen. Wesley Clark and Howard Dean:

Today, Howard Dean gave a foreign policy speech. Although Dean has no foreign policy or military experience and was never in a position to meaningfully impact either, Dean said today that he supported the U.S.'s military action "to halt ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, [and] to stop Milosevic's campaign of terror in Kosovo." Dean also spoke of the importance of NATO, an organization he has never worked with.

Yesterday, Gen. Wesley Clark testified at Milosevic's war crimes tribunal in the Hague. While Dean was in Vermont impotently taking his positions, Gen. Clark, as Supreme Allied Commander for NATO and Commander-in-Chief of the US forces in Europe, negotiated the end to the Bosnian conflict that resulted in the Dayton Peace Accords and lead NATO forces in Kosovo in their successful efforts to return 1.5 ethnic Albanians to their homes, all without losing a single American life.

In response, historyguy opens up the political almanac here:

…since 1976 there have been seven Presidential elections. In five of them, one candidate had foreign policy experience, either as incumbent President, VP, or Senator, and the other didn't (exceptions: '84 and '96). the candidates with foreign policy experience went 1-4.

Military service: to the best of my recollection, every major party candidate between 1968 and 1988 served in the military. In '92, '96, and '00, one of the two candidates had wartime combat zone military experience and the other didn't. Military experience went 0-3.

…to which AM replies, "We've had a generation of politicians running things. Now Democrats have the choice between a proven leader (Clark) or another politician (Dean)."

RTev earns this week's star. You can check out some of his oeuvre here, here, and hereKA8:55 p.m.