Readers on the St. Louis debate.

Readers on the St. Louis debate.

Readers on the St. Louis debate.

What's happening in our readers' forum.
Oct. 9 2004 2:01 PM

Arch Rivals

Readers on the St. Louis debate.

The public and punditry have gradually reached a consensus Saturday that last night's debate offered no clear winner. Some of the more popular refrains from readers include the following:

▪ Kerry left a lot of money on the table — or runners on base, if you care to extend William Saletan's metaphor.

▪ Bush looked considerably more confident than he did in Miami — which isn't saying much.

▪ Given the speed at which developments from Iraq and the economy are hitting the news cycle — coupled with the fact that round three is a mere 96 hours away — last night's debate won't have much staying power in the collective consciousness of the electorate.

Having said that, here are some more pointed reviews from Fray regulars:

Blow-by-Blow: Fraywatch thanks The_Bell for his whip-smart "breakdown, question by question."

Advantage Kerry:  From amike, here:

I spent a little less time worrying about what Kerry didn't say and more about thinking about what he did say. My impression was that he did one whole lot better than George Bush.

Two things I especially liked: The line about Missouri being the third largest country in the coalition. Anyone who thinks about that analogy will realize that the coalition of the bribed is hardly a gathering of giants. Second, It was obvious to me listening to everything but not seeing, that Kerry was very good at picking up on the emotional content of the questioners words, responding to that with an empathy which one could hear clearly. Judged by this criteria, I think his response to the questions on abortion or stem cell research were not bad at all. He didn't nuance them so much as he gave them an appropriate emotional weight. Had I been the person asking the question, I would have felt that I had been taken seriously and that I had been respected, regardless whether I had been agreed with…

Advantage Bush:  From locdog, here:

Bush … made the case for optimism. this is what i have done. this is why it's working. yes there are problems but we're moving in the right direction. he said "hard work" once that i counted and spoke with shining eyes about the virtues of liberty several times. what was different about bush here was that he seemed more willing to go after kerry, and when the talk turned to domestic issues, he was on a 60/40 attack/defend footing. i think it worked. bush injected kerry's record into the debate (and, more importantly the subsequent news cycles), and that can only help him.

The Expectation Game: BettytheCrow, here, on why "Republicans all across the nation are heaving huge sighs of relief":

Their guy's head didn't explode, he mostly spoke in more or less complete sentences and the closest he came to that St. Vitus's dance routine from last week was a persistent tic in his left eye and some tooth grinding…

I'd think it's reasonable to assume that anyone who really is undecided by this point doesn't have a real good grasp of the issues anyway, so the content of Bush's episodes wasn't as important as that he appeared to be alert and responsive.

Kerry did pretty well but could have done much better. I suppose it's a bit difficult to focus in such a target rich environment. He probably felt like a lion stalking a herd of zebras: where does one stop and another begin?

More Nuance: Here, fozzy discusses "the most illustrative exchange" of the evening:

…Kerry explained why he voted against various abortion bills ("partial birth", etc.). Kerry said that the bills had contained no exception clauses, nor "ways out" in cases such as direct physical threat to the mother's life, or rape, incest, etc.

 
Kerry agreed in general principle with Bush on the bills, but pointed out that there were exceptions to the general rule and that "it isn't always black and white."

Bush responded by calling Kerry a 'flip flopper' (though in more words) and seemed incredulous that anyone could suggest an issue be more complicated than "good" and "bad". Kerry tried to explain his complicated view of presidential power and legislating morality. Bush shrugged off the very concept of "complicated".

Black and white? Lots of grey? That seems to be the choice in this campaign.

Lost Opportunities: From BettytheCrow here:

Kerry could have made much more of his energy program. Earlier this year, George Bush brought up the notion of a mission to Mars in a miserably unsuccessful attempt to bathe himself in some Apollo glow; Kerry would have done well to cast his drive for energy independence in the same light.

And Kerry would have done well to pound more on the theme of Republican criticism of the Bush administration's Iraq policy. When senior Republicans such as Dick Lugar, Chuck Hagel and John McCain level the sort of withering criticism they have against the lynchpin of their own incumbent's campaign, that's worth pounding on. And on. And on. When Paul Bremer says "we never had enough troops on the ground," that's worth mentioning. Kerry did a better job of bringing those criticisms out than he did in the first debate, but not enough of one.

The Diesel Revolution: GeoffsPneuma on Bush and the environment:

The environment question. First, assume you care about the environment. Not that you're brilliant, but just that you care. Do you get the impression the President knows what he's talking about when he says he's going to develop "hydrogen-generated cars?" What the hell is a hydrogen-generated car? Hydrogen powered? I've heard of that. But hydrogen generated? Are you awake? But wait. It gets better. He's going to increase wet lands by three million. Three million what? Don't ask. Bush certainly didn't bother to say. OK. But maybe you're not an environmentalist. Maybe you're one of these NASCAR dads or something. The very first thing he chose to emphasize is that we've cut emissions in off-road diesel vehicles by 90%. Now, do you have an off-road vehicle? Does it run on diesel? Maybe I'm missing something obvious, but I'm pretty sure not too many off-road vehicles run on diesel. Is there anyone in America who cares about off-roading that thinks off-road diesel omissions are a significant source of pollution? How common are such vehicles? My guess is that anyone with a familiarity with these things will know "not very." About the only person who knows what an off-road diesel vehicle is going to be in agriculture and construction. And I don't think they're going to be thrilled by the President's proposal. Though I will note he strategically used the word "steward" in relation to the environment. So, point with evangelicals, deftly executed.

For more on "off-road diesels," check out ewolf's response hereKA 11:00 a.m.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Hello Cleveland: Who won the VP debate? GeoffsPneuma awards a " point to Cheney":

Though I don't think the asymmetry was nearly so stark as in last week's debate, this evening's performance strikes me as a pretty decisive "victory" on Cheney's part. ...

According to Geoff, Edwards missed a golden opportunity in the debate's first half:

For the life of me, I can't understand why Democrats don't hit the Republican myth of Afghan democracy with the inconvenient facts that Karzai has defined multiple voting in the upcoming election as the epitome of democracy, rather than its antithesis, or observing that the vaunted 10 million registered voters outnumbers by several million any plausible estimate of the number of actual voters in the country. Edwards allowed Cheney to thrash him on the question of Iraqi casualties in the Iraqi conflict—insisting that it was a mark of disrespect to exclude them from the 90% American figure in their coalition casualty count—and missed the softball observation that several active Iraqi police and military divisions have had desertion rates as high as 70-80%. How hard could it have been to agree that many Iraqis have made many great sacrifices to aid the United States, but that we haven't done an adequate job of making sure that we're arming our allies and not our enemies?

Who was more likeable? Surprisingly ...

I thought Cheney had moderately more class. Asked to defend Bush's policy on the FDMA, he offered a really concise explanation for how he could square his position (a federalist) with his support for the Administration (the President sets policy, and I follow even when I disagree). Since the question was posed as one which specifically referenced Cheney's gay daughter, it put Edwards in an awkward response, and his kind of confused rambling praise of Cheney's private family life was embarrassing but again understandable. But Cheney's response was perfect. "Mr. Vice President, you have 90 seconds." "I want to thank Senator Edwards for his kind words about my family." "That's it?" "Yes." His refusal to advance the logic of Bush's proposals, which he had already noted his disagreement with (but support of) was both pointed and principled, and I thought his defusing of an awkward and potentially terrible situation was surprisingly graceful.

What about locdog? Here's how he sized up "arguably the most meaningless high-profile event in [A]merican politics":

Cheney won. didn't win big, didn't dominate, but he won. it was the craggy old man vs. the breck girl, and the breck girl got her fanny tanned on more than one occasion.

it occurred to me at one point in the debate that cheney was doing well because he was playing to his strengths. say what you will about the vice president, he is a serious-minded individual and that came across last evening. it then occurred to me that cheney wasn't playing to anything, not his strengths, his rival, or even his president. cheney was simply being cheney…

if john edwards was as successful a trial lawyer as everyone says he was, this country is flat out screwed. was it just me, or did anyone else get the impression that edwards was auditioning for the lead on barney and friends? when you say "four" do you really need to hold up four fingers to make yourself understood? he had fourth grade material to begin with and even then he acted like he was trying to teach it to second graders. whole juries bought this crap? i was insulted by the stupidity--not edwards', who strikes me as quite sharp, but the implied idiocy on my part as a viewer. don't even get me started on his cloying attempted humor.

ClaudeScales on " where Edwards blew it (despite winning)":

Edwards should have extemporaneously scrapped his scripted, somewhat mawkish "kitchen table" closing statement, and instead gone after Cheney for the points Edwards had previously made that Cheney left unanswered: (1) why U.S. troops were not used at Tora Bora (Bush similarly ignored this point when it was raised by Kerry in last week's debate); (2) why so little is being done to secure our borders against the importation of WMD via sea or air cargo (Bush's lame response to this was, in effect, "Where will we get the money?"); and (3) Halliburton's misdeeds on Cheney's watch (to which Cheney's response was to change the subject). Edwards could have quickly pointed out the absence of any effective response to these issues, then went on to make the economic points without the, I think, ineffective "empty chair" remark.

Publius cautions William Saletan (" Runners Advance: Edwards keeps the Democrats' rally going") that " Cheerleading could give you a heart attack":

Will Saletan simply ADORES John Edwards, having touted him last winter as the best candidate the Dems could nominate. ... Will, you're backsliding again. This piece is bold-faced cheerleading that reveals either total self-delusion or cynical manipulation.

Given that Cheney has such high negatives to start (many people who like Bush and might vote for him really don't like Cheney, big time), he had a tough row to hoe in "winning" any debate in the minds of people polled. Yet, he did not seem either overly defensive or overly aggressive. He took some hard shots, as did Edwards, and steadily drummed away at the one theme he needed to ensure would dominate the debate itself and the coverage: John Kerry may be talking tough today but he doesn't mean it; W does. ...

On balance, I think it was a wash, but I could easily see why someone, even a neutral analyst, would give the edge to Edwards or to Cheney. The notion that represented a huge win by Edwards is reminiscent of your "Bush is Toast" column.

Perhaps the more egregious failure to apply anything resembling dispassionate analysis to this debate, Will, was your opening wide-eyed enthusiasm for Edwards obvious-to-you-only superiority to Kerry. If the Bush-Kerry debate proved anything, it proved that John Kerry was the best choice among the Dems, serious, smart, poised, knowledgeable, fast on his feet, and above all persuasive. Next to Kerry, Edwards looks like the fluffball lightweight he is.

How about a Frankenstein ticket?

Cheney and Edwards make a sort of balanced ticket, since Cheney's mouth droops palsy-like on the left, while Edwards' mouth unnervingly arches up on the right. Creepy.

Whoever the victor, Demosthenes2 feels as if the burden is shifting. Though D2 tallies the VP debate as "close to a draw as you'll see":

it is the Bush administration that is defending itself on positions and its record for the first time, really, in this campaign. The first Presidential debate started that trend with Bush's exasperated performance. Last night Edwards accomplished the two most important objectives he had: 1) Keep the administration on the defensive and make them defend their term and their decisions. 2) Rattle him enough so that Cheney plays into the caricature already prevalent of Cheney being a self serving man who is just plain unpleasant in his self serving ways.

Edwards accomplished both of those tasks last night and that's what keeps the momentum of the Kerry reinvigoration alive as a result of last night's debate.

Joe_JP is frustrated with " spin out of control." In response to Fred Kaplan's criqtique of Edwards'foreign policy credentials, JJP writes:

This is why I don't like these things. Cheney lies, Edwards doesn't (in Kaplan's view) do a good enough job countering, and I have to read a column on Edwards. Clearly, no one really cares about these lies. They have been denounced over and over again and he still keeps it up. Whomever still accepts them wants to be lied to. But, hey, Edwards didn't do a good enough job.

Meanwhile, Mussina gave up two runs, while
the Yanks kept on hitting into double plays. Spin: Mussina didn't do a good enough job counteracting his team's failure to get timely hits. Shoot, it's almost like he was the goat of the game.

Anyone care to offer Fraywatch an explanation as to why there hasn't been a coherent question on energy policy posed to any of the four candidates? ...  KA9:40 a.m.

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Monday, October 4, 2004

The Belated Bounce: "It's not the conventions anymore; it's this kind of moment," says the president of the news division in Jim Brooks'Broadcast News. For John Kerry, whose July convention yielded nothing in the polls, Thursday's debate was that moment. What does it say about the respective candidates that President Bush received his most substantial bounce following the Republican National Convention, but Kerry's followed the first nationally televised debate? Better question: What does it say about this year's electorate?

Global Test: Kerry opponents continue to hammer the senator on the soundbite. Take a peek at britbear's post in Ballot Box Fray:

When will Kerry know that he's convinced America? When he polls Ohio? Leaders make decisions—and in our system, we elect a leader to do so. Even Bill Clinton knew (or learned this). He did not have America on his side for Kosovo, or Bosnia. Nor did he have a UN resolution nor the approval of Russia. When he did go in, the French compromised our intelligence and tipped off our enemies.

Along the same lines, Publius skeptically examines the "Kerry doctrine" here:

[W]e should assume that Kerry knew he would at some point in the debate address Bush's "doctrine" of preemption and had a carefully constructed, well-practiced answer. Thus, his use of the phrase "global test" was deliberate. Why?

For two related reasons, First, Kerry's vague but insistent theme of getting the allies more involved could not survive the simple assertion that he, like Bush, believes preemptive US action has its place. Second, his answer first endorses the "doctrine" of preemption, albeit by placing it (somewhat inaccurately) in an historical context to separate it from Bush. Still, to concede at all that there are circumstances when the US must strike preemptively and the President must be prepared to make such decisions reduces his disagreement with Bush to mere second-guessing what the guy with the job has done.

What's needed then is a way to distinguish his preemptive doctrine from Bush's. At the same time, since he has the support of virtually the entire antiwar left, Kerry can't afford (or thinks he can't) to alienate them by appearing to affirm Bush's assumption of authority.

Thus is born what might be called the New Kerry "Preemption with Global Test Doctrine." He dresses up his "test" as domestic, as well as global, but that does not change the meaning of his words vis- à-vis the globe: he wants a "global test" that "can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons."

... and needles William Saletan here:

Notice that Saletan thrashes a straw man when he turns the murky phrase "legitimate reasons" into something more solid in the way of demonstrable facts or "reality." In reality, as he well knows, what this or that foreign government views as "legitimate" will be driven entirely by their own interests and needs, not by facts.

Fraywatch was under the impression that Christopher Hitchens had cornered Slate's market in strawmen.

In BOTF, gary1 links us up to a curious excerpt that delineates the vote for authorization of the use of force from unequivocal support of the invasion. 

From other BOTF veterans: TheAList charts SNL's track record at picking the president, and Oscar-1-2 declares that the days of presidential coattails are over.

Lost in Translation: Not enough Arabic speakers, despite steady government funding? In Culturebox Fray, fozzy offers some explanations:

It may be true that government funding of ME studies and languages has not provided a landslide of qualified linguists. It is important, however, to ask the counterfactual: How bad would it be *without* these programs? Sadly, like most "liberal arts," area studies and languages are relatively under-appreciated in today's world—and that is not just academia's fault. Engineering and business are where the money is found (both for colleges and graduates) and students and success tend to follow.

The LCTL (less commonly taught languages) would almost certainly be *dead and gone* if not for government funding. Having said that, there are compounding problems. One is that the government jobs often demand "fluency"—which is hard enough to get in hard languages. This is often compounded by a lack of overseas opportunities. With few exceptions, students will not get fluent in a language without living in that nation/culture… Another note is that the US wants *US citizens* who are fluent in foreign languages. This points out a contradiction in most ME programs. They are not designed to produce "translators" (though some do come out of the programs) but scholars.

Don't tell it to Fraywatch—he could never master the jussive case despite two years of college Arabic and abruptly changed his major from Middle Eastern Languages & Cultures (MELAC) to history. Instead, talk to anarchosyndicalist, here, who "attended the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA, for a year back in the 70s." Or take to BradtheDad's thread. Brad and his wife each received a Department of Education Foreign Language and Areas Studies Scholarship with the understanding that they

were going to study a so-called hard language (Japanese in my case, Hindi in my wife's) and that you were going to work in education or the government. The oversight was non-existent and no one followed up with me to guide us on any career choices. It was totally hands-off.

Did the government get its money's worth with us? Absolutely not.

Scold Brad in Japanese here.

Ask Ender: Here, at your own risk, that is…

dear ender Advice on fray manners and morals.

Please send your questions for publication to aka_alias@msn.com. (Questions may be edited.)

Faced with a fray dilemma? Trust me. Not sure how to respond? Trust me. Why is that fray monkey on your back and how the hell do you get it to dismount? Trust me. I have the answers to those and any other fraycentric questions you could possibly have. Trust me. From how to win an argument to how to make a fresh start, I have the experience, I have the credentials (albeit imaginary), but most importantly, I really—really care. Trust me.

Send your questions anonymously, pretend to be yourself—or someone you're not (I have no way of checking), and of course, when in doubt include URL's.

Yours truthfully,
Ender
aka_alias@msn.com.

For the first installment of "Dear Ender" questions and answers, click hereKA3:00 p.m.

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Friday, October 1, 2004

The Analysis: From The_Bell here  (frame courtesy of John Heywood and Henry V):

Who won? I know it is a copout but I honestly think it was a tie for all practical purposes. If there was a winner it was only by the slightest of margins and who that winner was depends on whom you believed the greatest burden lay going in. Bush hit Kerry on the topic of inconsistency both less often and less aggressively than I thought he might. Kerry did okay in deflecting these doubts about him in voters' minds and put his position on Iraq out clearly and succinctly. However, if he hoped to create doubts about Bush by questioning his Iraq policies as intransigent and wrong-headed, he also failed to carry that argument far enough, in my opinion.

Given that Bush is the incumbent and leading in many polls, that would seem to suggest that he won a slight advantage. On the other hand, homeland security and the war on terror are supposed to be his bread and butter. His failure to cut Kerry to ribbons tonight might well turn out to be a slight advantage for Kerry, especially depending on how subsequent debates on domestic policy turn out. I would welcome any shifting in the polls as a result of this first exchange as instructive but am doubtful that anything significant will transpire.

Best moments for each candidate?

Bush's best moment may have come when he was asked by moderator Jim Lehrer if he felt the invasion of Iraq was worth the cost of over one thousand lives of American soldiers. Bush talked again – as he did as his convention – about the difficulty of making such decisions and spoke emotionally about meeting and talking with the widow of one particular slain soldier. Given that he is often criticized by Democrats and some analysts as divorced from reality and unfeeling about the plight of those serving overseas, Bush came across as connected, real, and sincere. When asked if he would consider preemptive invasion as a means to fight threats elsewhere in the world, Bush gave probably the only possible acceptable answer – "I would hope I never have to."

… Kerry's best moment probably came when, answering Bush about the consistency of his position regarding Iraq, he made this self-effacing argument – "When I talked about my $87 billion vote, I made a mistake in how I spoke but [President Bush] made a mistake invading Iraq . . . which is worse?" That was the long-missing zinger to suggest that Bush's Iraq policies were inconsistent not with themselves over time but with reality over time. Kerry also repeated his position on Iraq was consistent and did so in short, simple terms – saying that Saddam was a threat and needed to be removed but that Bush did so too quickly and as a result lacked sufficient international support and a plan to win the peace. His hammering of "ninety percent of the casualties and ninety percent of the costs" was simple but effective.

Kerry and The Base: From GeoffsPneuma in BOTF here:

I thought Kerry did a really great job tonight. Not with reference to the elusive "swing voter" that will decide this election. But with me. Kerry already has my vote locked up just by virtue of being an alternative to George W. Bush. But I have often felt that he doesn't "get it." Of course there were still answers which seemed less perfect than I would have given... but isn't that always the way with us pathologically self-righteous folks?... but on balance, Kerry made me feel much better about supporting his candidacy. I do have reservations and qualms, but Kerry's arguments struck me as clear, forceful and (most importantly) correct. He already had my vote, but Kerry won my esteem this evening.

The Spin: Why did Kerry win the debate? According to TheAList here:

Because everyone after the debate said he did. The reaction was as universal as these things get. On NBC, Ron Allen interviewed 6 Ohio undecided voters. ALL thought Kerry won handily. On MSNBC, Joe Scarborough was out early saying Kerry won big, noting the looks of despair on the faces of the Bush team. On CNN (it helps to have a itchy remote finger), Aaron Brown was saying Bush's body language was all wrong. The CNN Gallup poll had Kerry with a huge victory. The CNN and MSNBC online polls (unscientific) showing a huge Kerry victory.

Fraywatch notes that even the McLaughlin castaways and William Kristol called the debate in Kerry's favor on Fox. 

On War Presidencies: Here's Keifus:

On the question of whether Kerry could ask "the last person to die for a mistake," he really seemed to wax sincere as he got into the speech. I believed, for the first time, that his experience fighting in a wrong war will inform, for the better, his leading of another wrong one. This is a man that does not want to repeat the mistakes of Viet Nam (whether this belief will win out over his natural political expediency...let's just say it still seems like a tight race). His best bit, however, was excoriating nuclear proliferation—it seemed to come from the heart, and is, without doubt, a far more frightening threat right now than other so-called weapons of mass destruction.

Nuance vs. That Other Thing:  From Demosthenes2 here:

Complex problems have simple, easy to understand, wrong answers.
-- H.L. Mencken


It's what we really want. The simpler the truth the better. Kerry argues for nuance and Bush responds there's nothing complicated about supporting our troops. Except, of course, that the truth is rarely simple. Most profound truths are complex.

It's this love of simplicity that is guiding this campaign. The US was attacked, thus the response must be to lash out—regardless of where we do that and to whom we do it (and as Kerry pointed out who attacked us), we must make 'them' (the amorphous generic them) pay. That's simple. It's easy. A bad guy goes away. Simple.

An Independent in Ballot Box Fray: From bordhead here:

As a registered Independent I've always been rather sceptical of politics and the spin machines of both major parties. Going into this debate I knew that Bush's was a failed presidency and he was not leading this country in the right direction. At the same time I had serious reservations with John Kerry. My comfort level with him as our next leader was still wanting. After this first debate I must admit that he has alleviated some of those doubts … I think Kerry made points when he admitted that he misspoke on his support (or lack thereof)of the $87B Iraq budget. I believe when given the chance to set the record straight on his position on the Iraq war in front of a national audience he stated his position reasonably clear. He must be applauded for having the integrity to admit his mistakes. That definitely got some points with me.

The thing I find most disturbing about Bush is that when given the chance to tell the American people that mistakes have been made in Iraq … and that he intends to rectify these mistakes and change course, he cannot do this. He is the President of the United States for god's sake, and he doesn't have the moral integrity to admit he is wrong and that he wants to correct the situation. In my mind, that immediately disqualifies him to lead this country.

G.W. Bush has had his chance to prove his mettle. He has missed the mark. It is time for a fresh start with the American people and the world community. I wasn't sure if John Kerry was the right man for the job before, but now I feel he is.

The Real World: Here, Fritz_Gerlich reminds junkies that…

The real debate wasn't that American Idol bullshit you watched on television tonight. It was in Baghdad.

These killers targeted the children. That was the intent: to slaughter children. And the message of such an attack is unmistakable. They are telling all Iraqis: if you side with the Americans, your children will die.

This is the other side of political terrorism. The first, more obvious, side is to delegitimize the existing power structure by demonstrating its impotence to safeguard citizens and/or by provoking it into violent overreaction. The second side is to terrify large, uncommitted masses of people into silence and inaction. If you don't know who's going to win in the end, the safe thing is not to take sides. Maybe an American paycheck will lure you for a while, but when you get a message that your children will get their throats cut, even that paycheck won't be very tempting…

In response, GeoffsPneuma begins to measure moral equivalency to functional equivalency. Discuss here.

Watch this space. More from the Fray's Spin Room throughout the day … KA8:05 a.m. 

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Monday, September 27, 2004

Aid and Comfort? Though it may sound syrupy and Sorkin-ish, but Fraywatch contends that for a couple of months every four years, the opposition party has not only the right to challenge the vision and performance of the sitting administration, but the obligation.  In that spirit — just in time for the first presidential debate — gthomson rolls out "Thomson's Law":

In a given foreign policy that involves conflict with America's enemies, it is only permissible to criticize that policy in retrospect, NOT WHILE THE CONFLICT IS ONGOING. Doing so only offers aid and comfort to the enemies and discourages our troops on the ground. The conflict will eventually end of its own volition anyway, absent criticism. SO SHUT UP ALREADY!

Don't miss the whole of gt's post here.

WWOD? For those who missed it in yesterday's Los Angeles Times, gary1 pulls up Slate founder and current LAT Editorial and Opinion Editor Michael Kinsley's wily send-up of the silly "Who Would Osama Vote For" rhubarb. Fraywatch notes that the North-West Frontier Province holds early balloting, though mail service to mountainous locales can be pokey. Fraywatch reports that Kerry has urban Peshawar locked up, though Bush is making serious inroads among the pivotal "burka babe" vote. To discuss Kinsley's piece with gary, click here.

Che it Ain't So: According to ShriekingViolet, it isn't that Paul Berman ("The Cult of Che: Don't Applaud The Motorcycle Diaries") doesn't grasp that Che was "a totalitarian killer," it's that…

Berman completely fails to understand the role of iconography in art, particularly in Catholic cultures. Che is a hero to many because he resisted a truly ugly system, remained true to his ideals, and conveniently died before the Revolution's slow, pathetic demise became apparent to nearly everyone. He is therefore associated in the public mind with what was right about the Revolution, rather than what was very, very wrong about it…

The humans underlying the icons are just stand-ins for the values they emphasize. Che has come to symbolize the values of resisting injustice and rejecting worldly excess. He's St. Francis in the secular host of angels. It mattered a great deal to his victims that he was really no such thing in life. But you aren't going to deflate that myth merely by pointing out that it doesn't match the man. If the film glorified the real Che Guevara, that would be highly offensive. But it's glorifying a person with decent values who never existed. If Che HAD BEEN a thoughtful opponent of injustice, it wouldn't be wrong to make a movie that praised him.

Not surprisingly, SV's post generates some superb responses, including one from MarkEHaag here.

Strong Enough for a Man but Made for a Woman: GratuitousPython comes at Seth Stevenson's Ad Report Card on Old Spice's new body spray ("Smells Like Teen Spirit") with a new angle. GP's theory:

A significant amount of male grooming products is actually purchased by women for their husbands and boyfriends.

They don't want their men to turn into stud muffins. They're looking for romantic and reasonably domesticated partners who will stop acting like dorks.

That's why the women in these spots are always more appealing than the men. Yeah, the men want to think product usage will help them bag some bodacious babes. But mostly, the women who make or motivate the purchase are expected to identify with the spokes-actress.

As for the guys in the spots being losers, well, they are, most likely. And their women are well aware of it.

Call it added verisimilitude.

Talk personal hygiene in ARC Fray hereKA 4:35 p.m.