Anthropomorphic bedtime stories in the Fray.

Anthropomorphic bedtime stories in the Fray.

Anthropomorphic bedtime stories in the Fray.

What's happening in our readers' forum.
Feb. 12 2004 8:07 PM

Primary Fables

Anthropomorphic bedtime stories in the Fray.

Heavy Starch, No Softener: The legacy of the Howard Dean campaign in the annals of electoral history remains to be seen. But as Democrats step over his body en route to Boston, arm-in-arm with John Kerry, voices inside and outside the party are clearly in phase three of the Dean boomerang — the backlash of the backlash. Many of those who happily buried the Dean candidacy only days ago are eulogizing the Vermont governor with admiration. As Chris Suellentrop wrote just before the New Hampshire primary, "If Kerry, or whoever is the party's nominee, becomes president in 2005, he'll have Howard Dean to thank. Dean won. That's why he's losing."

Cautionary tale or fairy tale? For doodahman, it's "An American Bedtime Story." His allegory of the Dean campaign can be found here.

White Nonsense: Consensus in Poems Fray is that Debra Nystrom's "Snow" is one of the better poems to appear on a Tuesday morning in some time. Here, Paul Breslin weighs the strengths and weaknesses of the poem, and, here, MaryAnn launches a nice thread by lauding "the way Debra Nystrom uses the outer landscape to reflect the speaker's inner landscape." Meanwhile, rob_said_that has them swooning over his Valentine's Day Poem, "Unabashed Love Song in D." FYI, martingreene is putting together a "rough gallery" of Valentine's Day poems here.

Poodle Dive: Arlington, in a post titled "anthropomorphism in reverse," has this to say about grooming:

Poodles are groomed so strangely because their owners are strange. I think the people who own and groom and judge poodles secretly want to look like the dogs, with their bare hindquarters sticking out and poofy, fluffy teased hair to toss around.

The poodle is, or once was, a hunting breed. They are strong and tough. A team of poodles competed in the Iditarod sled race in Alaska and finished the race.

It's a good thing dogs have no capacity to be embarrassed.

Explainer offshoot: Do dogs have the capacity for embarrassment?

Assassin of the Day: Newly starred Iron_Lungfish, cracking back on Mickey Kaus:

"If Kerry opposed the war maybe he should have resisted it. It would also have taken some guts, after all, to go to jail."

Yeah, it was pretty damn gutless of him to actually go to war and risk death in the service of his country, wasn't it, Mickey? You enormous, hypocritical, endlessly blithering, inconsistent gasbag. I get that something deeply psychological is going on with you and Kerry at this point - "The guy was a coward for being a war hero!" — but do you have to make such a complete ass of yourself in the process?

Read the full complaint hereKA4:55 p.m.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Stuffing the Ballot Box: William Saletan's query on John Kerry's vaunted electability generated an unusual number of literate responses in Ballot Box Fray. First time Frayster PBoySr lays out "Saletan's error." Saletan suggests that a candidacy built on electability as its principal strength could be problematic. PBoy responds:

So what?

First of all, there is very little difference between the remaining major candidates on any major issue…

Secondly, all the defeated candidates -- including and most importantly Dean -- will fall in behind Kerry in absolute unity.

In closing, PBoy reasons that "Bush will hold us together."  Click here for his complete rebuttal. In contrast, destor23 here doesn't assume that the left base of the Democratic party will automatically coalesce around the Kerry candidacy.

The_Bell puts forward his quality analysis, remarking that breaking down poll numbers is tricky and fears that

The question to which [Saletan] keeps returning does not treat agreement on the issues and electability as two separate evaluations but as integrated factors in a common evaluation process. To wit, the question does not ask voters to identify how much they selected a candidate on the single basis of each factor but rather which factor affected their decision more.

That "more" is important. It turns the preference for electability into a question of degree rather than one of absolute value.

As evidence, The_Bell cites the exit poll question put to primary voters in six states, "how would you feel if John Kerry wins the nomination?" To read why The_Bell feels that this is a pivotal piece of datum, click here. AdamMorgan has an academic criticism, mainly that electability isn't merely an abstraction.  There are underlying qualities that define it.  He writes, here:

The assumption, from Saletan's article, is that Kerry's ability to win the Presidential election is more important than, say, the issues that Kerry or Edwards supports (…for the sake of simplicity I'll assume that Saletan is right). What, then, characterizes his ability to beat Bush? Is it his military record? Is it that he doesn't give the strong impression that he's mentally disturbed? Or is it that he has a difficult to define presidential charisma that makes him an attractive candidate?

Without defining what this is, it's almost impossible to state if this is going to be attractive or not to independents and others.

"If generals make the mistake of fighting the last war, could pundits err in fighting the last election?" asks levantlives. His theory is that

"Beating Bush" might not seem like a solid foundation for choosing a nominee, but for many, Bush is not just any ol' incumbent.

So far as Edwards' appeal as a southerner:

Likewise, I think pundits might be clinging a little too lovingly to the idea of the southern strategy. Did southerners turn out in droves to vote for Gore? He was supposed to appeal to the center, too, yet he managed to lose both the entire south and part of the Democrat's liberal base … many of us in the rest of the country (and I speak as an ex-Southerner) have southern white male candidate fatigue.

FTrain, too, ponders the North/South question here.

MRBill here and, to some extent, marylb here present the raw meat of the Edwards-not-Kerry argument, mainly that

It doesn't take a psychic to realize that Karl rove and company will do their level best to morph Kerry into "Jane Fonda" or "Ted Kennedy."

Republican frayster, brooklyn — go figure — tends to agree here and insists that once "you open up somebody's life to scrutiny, it's a 'swinging' door." 

Fraywatch Pick o' the Week: George Packer's piece on liberal internationalism in this week's New YorkerKA2:35 p.m.

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Sunday, February 8, 2004

Sunday Afternoon Quarterback: How did Bush do opposite Tim Russert on Meet the Press? Locdog's "first impressions" were that "Bush could have done a lot better, but he could have done a lot worse." Where did he miss an opportunity?

on the status of prewar intelligence as it pertains to his decision making process. russert must have asked fifty questions presupposing our prewar intelligence was in err, questions that began with phrases like "knowing what you know now," or "since saddam apparently had no weapons," or "don't we need iron-clad, 100% certain intelligence to ..."

what bush needed to do--and needs to do in his coming campaign--is establish the absurdity such thinking. a president cannot monday morning quarterback national policy. he's got to make decisions based on the information he has available to him at the time, not on hypotheticals and whatifs. that's what leadership is…

in the real world, intelligence comes in shades of probability.

Though he "does not support reelection of the President," PubliusToo

thought the President hit the ball out of the park on the foreign policy issues. [He] left a clear, unmistakable impression that he based his decision to invade Iraq on the best intelligence available, the same intelligence and conclusions held by the prior administration … I thought he was very credible and very persuasive.

To find where PT thought the president was weak and an exegesis on the "silly" obsession of the political right on media bias, click here.

Where else did Bush succeed? According to echoguy here:

He deflected the AWOL charge quite effectively. Before Russert could follow-up with a more probing query, Bush had already made it a conversation about whether National Guardsmen were true servicemen. Bush essentially charged his opponents with questioning the legitimacy of NG service.

In effect, Bush took Kerry's more-lieutenants-than-generals comeback and applied it against Kerry.

Where else did Bush succeed?

"I'm a wartime President" lends him a certain largeness that should come with incumbency. The more he reminds the electorate that we're at war, the less comfortable voters are going to be changing horses midstream.

Bush perched himself above "politics" on numerous occasions -- and he did it without that little smirk he usually can't help but display.

Zinya was considerably less generous. Here, she refers to the president's "tellingly most-repeated four-word phrase," and here she describes Bush as "a rabbit whose foot is trapped." DallasNE provides a full transcript of the interview notated with some critical commentary here, including:

In my judgment, when the United States says there will be serious consequences, and if there isn't serious consequences, it creates adverse consequences. People look at us and say, they don't mean what they say, they are not willing to follow through. [But nobody has questioned the need for the threat of serious consequences. The use of these serious consequences should be limited to non-compliance. Earlier non-compliance does not count. Blix had said that Saddam was complying but that he needed more time in order to certify full compliance. Even the missiles that Saddam offered up were being destroyed. The threat of serious consequences was working. There was no evidence to the contrary. War was not justified under these circumstances. Earlier Bush said you can't change his mind. This certainly proves it. DallasNE]

Department of Astral Affairs: Iron_Lungfish, JimmytheCelt and Montfort enter the galaxy, though Montfort has renounced his star. Please note that while star-refusal is all fine and good, Fray Editor will not pay for return postage … KA 3:55 p.m.

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Thursday, February 5, 2004

IVFfy: "Biology, sometimes, really is destiny, and women's groups are going to have to figure out how to accommodate that fact," writes Liza Mundy in Culturebox ("Hazy Conceptions: Pro-choice activists are flummoxed by the high-tech baby-making industry"). Mundy discusses the impacts of advanced fertility methods on the traditional choice-life paradigm. Fenbeast2, "a woman adamantly pro-choice who is having a pretty tough time conceiving," is grappling with this new reality. Fenbeast2 here:

A woman going through IVF is of necessity as much pro-choice as she is, by definition, pro-life. She's choosing to get pregnant, just as she's choosing to see her pregnancy through to the end, and believe me, having just gone through an HSG, it's not something entered into lightly.

F2 then describes having undergone Hysterosalpingogram (HSG),

they slide you under an x-ray machine, put an ICE COLD speculum into your cervix and dilate it, and yes, this HURTS no matter what the @#$*&%($# leaflet says about "cramping"; they then shoot a thick contrast dye up into your fallopian tubes…

The challenge of infertility brings up an important moral delineation:

if I value having a baby of my own this much, how can I then place a lower value on embryos that allows them to be discarded because the parents don't want to use them, or because the mother is too irresponsible to continue the pregnancy and would rather just flush her fetus than accept the consequences of her behavior?

F2 reasons that

Ultimately it comes down to control: who gets to have control over women's reproduction? The very idea of someone other than me deciding if I can't (or can?) have children makes me shudder. Much as I dislike the idea of women having abortions as a form of birth control and treating fetuses---the very thing I want more than anything right now---as medical waste, the consequences of taking reproductive rights away from women are far, far worse ...

What I do know is, you can't impose personal growth upon a person; you can only impose oppression.

Biologist AdamMorgan contributes here on the larger implications of the Kass commission, to which John_McG takes issue here with Churchillian defiance.

Keeping Abreast of the Situation: Fraywatch's final—and only—word on this matter comes from starterkit here:

The self-righteous condemnation of Janet's breast is, like so much self-righteousness, morally obtuse. For one, I hear no talk of the sexual AGGRESSION, just the fact that, OH!, we saw a booby. They admit the stunt was staged, but deny the breast was supposed to make an appearance. Well, if it was a mistake, that was because of the violent nature of the move Timberlake was trying to pull off (no pun int.).

And what of this MoveOn.Org ad that CBS refused to air? What inner corruption allows such garbage as the horse fart commercial to air, but not an award winning political commentary on the state of our nation, and does so ON PRINCIPLE(!!!!), that principle being CBS' policy of not airing controversial ads.

Well, one, among many, problems with this paper-thin 'principle' is that the kind of material the networks air itself has everything to do with whether it is controversial: if people see it, if it the standard of the corporate media to show it, people habituate to it…

The irony, or rather A irony, is that none of THIS is controversial. So the F.C.C investigates CBS' abuse of its charter by showing a breast, but not for quarantining Americans in the sick sterility of fart jokes and boner commercials.

I'm experiencing a growing urge to show America my ASS.

As of today's filing, the Fray is not equipped for .jpegs … KA 7:05 p.m.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Sooner or Later: Did you catch laocoon on the tube at the Clark viewing party in Oklahoma City? He "was the gray haired tall fellow in a tweed overcoat"—the only such outerwear known to exist in the Southern Plains. In Kausfiles Fray, laocoon paints the milieu here, including a confession that

no one EVER talks about because it's sexist and a bunch of other bad stuff is the number of good looking women in the crowds. I'm serious. The higher the attraction quotient of women in the crowds, the better the candidate will do in the polls, in my unscientific, anecdotal personal experience.

Laocoon also offers this firsthand testimony from the "Clintonistas" working the campaign:

Clark staffers also saw Edwards as their biggest obstacle, not Kerry, which I thought was odd.

... Not if you ask William Saletan

Con Joe-lenscenes:  While Saletan authored a playful Joebituary, The_Slasher-8's eulogy is far less generous:

[I]sn't it kind of ridiculous to pretend that the over 90% of the Democratic Party that voted against Joe Lieberman last night doesn't understand the realities of trying to beat Bush? I mean, yeah, the Democrats have an ideologically and often self-deluding wing. In my district they're backing Kucinich; in other places they worked hard for Dean. It is now quite clear that they are as tiny a minority as ... well, the Democrats who support Lieberman …

If it is indeed true that Bush is unstoppable (a fact which the polls deny more every day), then why on Earth would Lieberman, who cannot even beat Al Sharpton in South Carolina, do any better?  Lieberman's national stature is, it's now clear, almost entirely a product of one man's vote—Al Gore. And as Howard Dean can tell you, that ain't worth much.

Though BML "never cared for his moralizing on Hollywood or video games, or his ties to the security industry," Lieberman "deserved a better send off than [Saletan's] stupid series of puns." Read BML's beef here

Hey is for Horses: More pundit backlash, this time from Publius, here:

at some point one has to ask whether any of these guys would make a good President in a time of unusual peril (Bush is right about one thing that dems must not forget: we do face a grave and gathering danger and may for a decade or more). In this light, I find it hard to worry about John Kerry's long face or whether he sounds enough like William Jennings Bryan to merit being called a "populist" (I defy anyone to provide a truly accurate description of what this word means in 2004 even though it's used in almost every political "analysis").

Publius proceeds to answer his own questioning, determining that

Kerry is simply better qualified to be President than any of the rest of this lot—by a mile.

Other Democrats, like marylb here, seem to feel that disfavor of Kerry has nothing to do with OTB and more to do with positioning the party for a November win ... which is the goal in the first place. Her only question is:

Will Edwards stop looking like a reluctant candidate and finally put up a fight to prove he wants this job? That is the only unanswered question to date.

There's grist for the mill boy. Will he use it? 

Cash and Prizes:JimmytheCelt wins the New Hampshire Primary Crystal Ball Contest, and, with it, the 2003 official Fray holiday CD. Jimmy predicted:

Kerry, 39%.
Dean, 23%
Clark, 15%
Edwards, 13%
Lieberman, 8%
Kucinich, 2%

coming closest to the actual result of 38/26/12/12/9/1. Jimmy, please drop me a line with your name and address to fray_editor@yahoo.com to orchestrate the exchange. Second and Third place went to President_Bush and QuiTam respectively. They win nothing. … KA12:05 p.m.