Readers take the F-16 out for a spin.

Readers take the F-16 out for a spin.

Readers take the F-16 out for a spin.

What's happening in our readers' forum.
March 31 2005 9:00 AM

Is That Kashmir on Sale?

Readers take the F-16 out for a spin.

Sig Alert: Witold Rybczynski's past two architectural reviews have generated a flurry of critically sound posts — and, truthfully, any Fray absent the subject heading "feeding tube" these days warrants top billing. Last week's examination of Thom Mayne's Pritzker Prize-winning Caltrans  District Seven building in the shadow of Los Angeles' City Hall prompted MsZilla to characterize Mayne's style as "the strangest combo of gothic and art-deco," and robenn to celebrate that it's "nice that a Professional architect can just hit his stride at 61 and continue creating fantastic architecture, maybe even whole schools of innovation for the rest of his years."

This week, Rybczynski comments on MOMA's new extension and its stark, modular five-story facade's "problematic" external relationship to West 53rd Street. As a measure of contrast, Rybczynski points to the University Club a block away. According to Rybczynski, the Italian Renaissance palazzo, designed by McKim, Mead & White in 1899, "responds sensitively to its urban setting. Walking beside McKim's behemoth, one feels small, but never ignored." MatthewGarth disagrees with Rybczynski, taking a modernist tack. On the University Club, MG pshaws:

It's fine. And the attention it offers us is like Social Security: nice to receive, even necessary, but a bit patronizing. This is no accident: MMW are in the business of not making their creations too off-putting, too focal, too easy a set of targets for the masses, who might not be satisfied with architectural attention and may want something more to go with it.

But on the interpretive matter of architecture's urban relations, MG grows more feisty:

Which brings us to the enormous kryptonite wall. Any urban center will have sections of streetscape that just don't care about us. A hundred years ago, Georg Simmel thought it was one of the great achievements of modernity that we no longer cared back. It seems, though, that the lures of sentimentalized flanerie are too much for WR. Too bad. The new MoMA is economical in its concern and its indifference. That's a real achievement these days.

Classicists wishing to rip MG a new one should respond here. BenK may just be one of those classicists. His love letter to MMW reads:

They did some of the best work that this nation has yet to see, and they did it all over the place, for all sorts of clients…

Who doesn't yearn for the return of the old Penn Station? Who hasn't admired the various buildings around Boston and Cambridge of their design? And the post office? The university club?

Why can't we manage to get a few architects today who are similarly humble yet brilliant? Is it a problem of not having the right craftsmen and materials anymore? Are budgets too small for the sumptuous use of stone and wood? Is code too tight, technology in the wrong place?

Is it that architects want more of the profits and thus leave less for the building? Are we more demanding of our buildings and thus the old techniques won't hold up anymore?

Or are minds too small, to focused on 'next great thing' and unwilling to cope with the rigors of doing things in some proven styles... do architects yearn so much for fame that they produce worthless crap... do clients overlook the successes of the past in an attempt to own something iconoclastic?

Where is the problem, and how can we solve it?

Is there really a problem? Get in on the aesthetic debate over in Architecture Fray.

Department of Carrots and Sticks: The pending sale of F-16 fighter planes to Pakistan has slipped through the Fray in relative silence. Even Fred Kaplan's War Stories piece yesterday has yet to stoke the usual partisan flames in the Fray. One explanation may be that this debate has scrambled traditional allies and opponents of the administration, with the Brookings Institution weighing in as a "pro," and the likes of Larry Pressler as a "con." NewAlgier suggests that…

the F-16s are required in Pakistan for the same reason that missile defense is required in the US: to fulfill a domestic political agenda that requires a lot of toys for the military.

Musharraf needs to keep his good ol' boys happy. Perhaps the US is being set up, but it's a lot easier to try to defraud the US than to actually do it. If Osama bin Laden is "suddenly" found, say a few months after the first plane is delivered, would the price be worth it?

Finally, India wants to build its own fighter planes. As the world's largest democracy, it's appropriate that the US help turn them into a superpower. It would be hard to help the Indians, without tossing a few crumbs to Pakistan.

At any rate, this is a hard question over which reasonable people can disagree; very much unlike the Bushies social security, missile defense, and Iraq plans. The F-16 sale might actually be the right decision.

WinstonSmith101 lays out some of the potential pitfalls:

One more point worth pondering is who will end up with these (nuclear equipped) F-16 Fighting Falcons. It is fairly well established that the reason Pakistan has so much trouble fighting Al-Quida is that members of their internal security forces are openly allied with them. Again it worth noting that Pakistan is a military dictatorship and that these security forces are no minor influence on not only the government but also all of society.

The real trouble is what happens if the Musharaff government falls. The man has had at least three assassination attempts in the same number of years. What is the government's plan of succession? Probably the guys who can command these F-16's. Who may that be? I have no idea. However remember that this is THE country where bin laden is probably hiding, and doing a pretty good job of it. Fair to say large segments of the population are Al-Quida sympathizers. This scenario might not happen but is it worth the risk?

Another question is why a country that is so poverty stricken as Pakistan doing spending billions on weapons? Again they are a military dictatorship so I'm answering my own question, but this kind of unbeneficial financial spending only increases poverty and increases resultant political instability.

Finally, Patriot maintains that the F-16 sale is nothing more than a hand-me-down, while alan0nala "love[s] the smell of pork-barrel politics in the morning."

That Time of Year: Please submit your Major League Baseball prediction under this thread in Sports Nut. Winner will receive two Los Angeles Dodgers superb front row loge tickets to a mutually agreed-upon 2006 regular season game. Fray Editor realizes that it's a fairly long commute for most, with the possible exception of CaptainRonVoyage and chango. Tough. There's always ebay … KA5:55 a.m. 

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Monday, March 28, 2005

Playing at the Spectrum: Looking at Michael Crowley's quartet of moderate Republicans in that Hollywoods Squre-ish grid reminds Njorl of "Seseme Street's 'One of these things is not like the other...' game." How does McCain differ from his New England brethren?

John McCain is not by any stretch of the imagination a moderate. On issues of substance, he is to the right of the Republican party as a whole. What makes him unique is that he is neither a delusional religious fanatic nor completely corrupt. Among Republicans, that makes him an outcast.

Zathras, too, finds the lumping of McCain with the New England Patriots a little strange:

Of McCain, Chafee and the two Senators from Maine Collins and Snowe do some useful work in a few specific areas of policy, while Chafee is frankly not anyone's go-to guy on anything.

Only McCain ever showed any promise of being able to fight battles for traditional Republican values on big issues.

So what's the story with McCain five years after South Carolina? Z explains:

…the fight he led for campaign finance reform in 2001 was the last real fight he signed up for.

…It seems clear that he likes staking out contrarian positions and having the image of someone who angers his colleagues -- but he takes no real risks on behalf of his positions and has not couched his opposition to Republican bills in the form of challenges to President Bush. McCain spends a lot of time getting press, particularly interviews on television. These can be a great means of getting points across, provided one has things in mind to say and is not just getting on TV for its own sake. He does a lot of TV for its own sake.

Finally, McCain does not seem to have gathered around him a heavyweight staff able to coordinate his policy positions into something that looks like a platform, as opposed to a random group of positions on issues that happened to show up in the newspapers…

McCain, in short, acts like a man who played the last act of his political life in early 2000 and found the stage lights still on and the crowd still applauding. But after the Presidential campaign and the passage of campaign finance reform he had no lines, no objectives, no strategy, so he mostly made things up along the way. He's still doing it. He is a voice, but not a force.

Fraywatch got a laugh or two from both ominbus1reader here

And then there was Christine Todd Whitman, now going around promoting her book. Wanting to take back the Republican party. Oh, I feel their pain. Imagine being born with wealth, going to all the right schools and actually attending classes, keeping up the noblesse oblige, and then losing everything to the Bushniks.

…and the normally measured ElboRuum's rant from the middle

All extreme political views are complete and utter nonsense. Conservative right and liberal left.

You are all fucking kooks. With the right trying to make this country Jesusland and the left trying to turn it into a commune, you have both the lack of clue I've come to expect from mouth-breathers…the misanthropic social engineers with a bug up your ass like you all are…

And we, the moderates and centrists in this country, whose views are a little more complex than what can fit on a Post-It, can get back to the principle upon which this country was founded…

For a more formal exegesis from the Fray's personification of moderation, check out The_Bell's column on the matter here.

Squashing Beef: In the remote corners of the Fray, Ortho_Stice has quietly built an impressive oeuvre commenting on the music 'o the day. Whether it's nominating Beck as best Spanish-speaking gringo or paying tribute to Dre's staying power, O_S has brought to the musical Frays what Splendid_IREny has accomplished with the Fray's Cineplex. Here's O_S on the "dick-swinging culture dominant in hip hop," and how rap wars are wildly misconstrued by those in the mainstream press:

I can't excuse it because the central, dominating beef of hip hop did not stop at verbal salvos. It ended up, either directly or indirectly, in the deaths of Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. I can't excuse it because nearly every friggin' rapper on this planet, including those participating in very public beefery, has name-checked either Tupac or Biggie with the popular martyr, 'died too young' tragedy theme. You think Biggie and Tupac's deaths were tragedy? Here's an idea: stop being a hypocritical, manipulative testicle-jockey by mourning out of one side of the mouth while fronting from the other. Yeah, you're all carrying on Tupac and Biggie's torches while propogating limp opportunistic beefs from the widow's walks of you Connecticut mansions. And try to keep in mind that their beef was unfortunately real, their beef was a colossal mistake that robbed hip-hop of two of its brightest talents (far brighter than any of these new found beefites- Jay-Z and Nas maybe excepted), and their beef tainted hip hop in the public realm for years. I don't mind beef in general; I do mind when cliched crocodile tears are shed for Rap's convenient martyrs while riding your Escalade all the way to the bank. You Tupac/Biggie-lovin' rappers don't have to eat crow, but lay off the friggin beef.

On the matter of persona warfare, O_S may be a vegetarian, but Fraywatch hopes he'll keep providing us nourishment … KA 8:55 a.m.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Margaret Thatcher once suggested that the goal of the ruling party wasn't necessarily to preside forever in the majority, but rather until the opposition came to its senses. In that spirit, Publius suggests that while Bush may have failed to enact his Social Security reforms (read Jacob Weisberg, "Bush's First Defeat")…

Presidents can win (or lose) without any new or changed legislation or programs. Indeed, they often win by shifting the nature or the terms of a debate or by creating a situation in which Congress, not the White House, is blamed for this or that problem or crisis, or by sticking it to the other party, forcing its leaders to take stands that do them some political harm.

Has Bush actually reframed the Social Security debate? Steve-R tends to agree that…

he has already succeeded in having his preposterous idea that Social Security is in grave risk of total collapse get traction. This is taken as gospel among his followers, and the "debate" about Social Security's impending disaster has been picked up in the mainstream media.

And ElephantGun believes the Bush strategy has been a net-win just by getting the issue out in the open and by testing the waters:

The Bush administration loses nothing by continuing to put out social security trial balloons and hoping that one of them sticks. By throwing out the trial balloons, they keep providing material for conservative talk radio and right-wing television and keeping their conservative electoral base mobilized for the 2008 "Bush legacy" election. If the political wind doesn't shift in their direction, Bush then can take the air out of the issue by appoint a blue-ribbon study commission. And that would be the end of it. The Bush administration wouldn't have gained much by floating social security "reform," but they wouldn't have lost anything either.

The_Bell offers an interesting theory on Bush, mainly that "he seems to almost thrive on not winning":

Despite receiving a minority of the popular vote in 2000, he nonetheless managed to win the Presidency in the Electoral College. Despite controversy and skepticism prior to invasion, the embarrassment of no WMDs found there, and the ongoing morass of insurgent attacks that continue sapping coalition lives, he nonetheless managed to turn public, and perhaps historical, perceptions of Iraq as that of a triumph for U.S. national security and a springboard for the democratization of the Middle East. Despite his first term Cabinet appointments being derided by Democrats as short-sighted partisan loyalists, he nonetheless managed to replace every senior official who left his service with even more rabidly ideological insiders.

When Islamic terrorists crashed planes into skyscrapers, his popularity skyrocketed. When early exit polls on Election Day 2004 almost uniformly showed him losing to John Kerry, he wound up with a fairly impressive Electoral College victory instead and even won the popular vote outright this time around. It is almost paradoxical – the worst things get for the man, the more he prospers.

NeverHome taps into this dymanic, too, claiming that Social Security is actually Bush's second major policy loss. He quotes Wayne Slater from the Dallas Morning News on Bush's education plan while governor of Texas. Jester2459 gets in on the thread here, adding:

Part of his self-image is that his battles are uphill, but ultimately necessary, right, and just. So adversity won't prompt him to move to a different topic; adversity will confirm his sense that he is engaged in an historic struggle.

VitaminTommy feels that "Bush should get points for trying," moreover…

Any president that doesn't suffer at least one big policy defeat over two terms isn't trying hard enough.

Finally, Zathras chalks up the defeat to the fact that "Bush's [enthusiasm for private accounts] is mostly the product of inertia." Here's Z, putting it in context:

It probably won't have much influence at all. There are plenty of conservatives in Washington think tanks who are passionate about private retirement accounts and all the ideological baggage that goes with them, but outside of Washington (and, perhaps, the boardrooms of some companies that handle mutual funds and other financial instruments) this is an idea without a dedicated constituency. Private accounts had daylight in 1999, when it appeared that their transition costs could easily be funded out of projected federal budget surpluses. That's why they got on then-Governor Bush's campaign agenda; the reason he is pushing for them now is because they were on the agenda then, and the items ahead of private accounts -- tax cuts, education reform -- have mostly been done already.

Manual Labor: A Fray Editor's work is never doneKA3:15 p.m.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

In BOTF, -Dilettante- sets up a moral framework to discuss the ethical implications of the Terri Schiavo case:

After spending lots of mental energy following all Terri, all the time, I've come to the conclusion that what you believe on this case, and in fact on all 'right to life' issues, boils down to your answers to three questions.

What are those three questions? Click here to build your framework.

Engram implores us to "stop posturing about posturing." In response to William Saletan's Human Nature piece, Engram writes:

People like Saletan seem to think along these lines: "I certainly wouldn't want to live under those conditions, so I can't get too excited about the decision to pull her feeding tube." I wouldn't want to live under those conditions either, but that's not terribly relevant.

Fine, says Retief. "If you want more discussion of the merits of the case, let's start with your suggestions that she is conscious and sentient." Retief's definitions are spelled out here.

On the rule of law front, locdog has choice words for Dahlia Lithwick, who writes on the Schiavo case and Congress here:

[Lithwick] has argued that congress is overstepping its bounds by usurping authority that rightfully belongs to state courts, and transferring it to a federal court. she brays about federalism and state's rights and "bedrock constitutional principle" but can't seem to find the specific article of the constitution that congress and the president violated...probably because there isn't any. they're perfectly legit as far as the letter of the law goes. and as far as the spirit goes, yes, the spirit of our nation is rule of law, but that law is made by the people through elected officials. that's what a republic is: self-governance through our representatives.

Publius agrees:

to suggest, as she and … many others who ought to know better that this legislation transgresses "the rule of law" is simply absurd. She seems to forget what sweeping authority legislatures have to legislate, even where they may act foolishly or make poor judgments. Seeing this line of argument in so many places makes one begin to think that those, like Dahlia, who have come to depend for so long on courts, not legislatures, to make the laws are disturbed that the legislature retains the power to do so.

Even Dahlia fan Fritz_Gerlich concedes that the "comity between state and federal courts" …

has been quietly eroding for the last 25 years. Do you have any idea how many instances there are now of "special" enactments to put courts in strait-jackets? In my state, for example, the rules of court now contain at least a dozen controversial amendments forced on the courts. All sorts of evidence is now legislatively admissible; all sorts of executive decisions are now legislatively not reviewable. I assume the experience of courts in other states and in the federal jurisdiction has been comparable. Congress' action re: Schaivo is merely the same trend writ very large. It didn't spring out of the blue; it's been happening for a long time.

But, here, Trad isn't…

waiting on pins and needles for a colorable claim to Constitutionality from Congress. Due process doesn't cut it, and the other usual suspects ("commerce clause," etc.) don't offer a whit of support for this legislation. It's a baseless law, and the hundreds of lawyers that make up Congress should know better. It's one thing to pass a law that might not be unconstitutional—let the courts deal with the subtleties of such laws, including concerns about "federalism" and the fringes of the "separation of powers" doctrine—but it's another thing to pass something so flagrantly beyond Constitutionally enumerated powers that Congress doesn't even bother offering a meaningful legal justification. Congress sold out, period.

In response, Pub calls Trad's argument a "non-starter." The_Slasher-8 feels that "Dahlia doesn't go far enough":

…what's alarming here is not the violation of states rights -- that has been done before and will be done again by both sides of the debate. What is alarming here is that Congress has moved to trump courts ON A SINGLE CASE BASIS, and if they can get away with it this time, we no longer have a court system.

…we can expect to see it happen again and again. Next time a court acts to block the death penalty from being applied to some Ted Bundy type, what is to stop Congress from stepping in and authorizing the Attorney General to prosecute him at the federal level with the death penalty on the table. The Constitution, you say?

JohnLex7 insists that U.S. District Judge James Whitmore's refusal to order the reinsertion of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube "is conservative":

Injunctive relief is only to be granted when you can show a substantial probability of winning the case on the merits. You don't get an injunction just to get the chance to win the case on the merits. The status quo is to be maintained unless you can show that you are going to win. As the court stated, "Even under these difficult and time strained circumstances, however, and not withstanding Congress' expressed interest in the welfare of Theresa Schiavo, this court is constrained to apply the law to the issues before it." In other words, Congress can be interested all it wants, but it can't make a federal court grant an injunction.

Finally, the tenor of the Schiavo fiasco has self-proclaimed liberal, AustinCityLights, disgusted with both sides of the debate. He  takes aim at Lithwick:

I agree that Ms. Lithwick's heated rhetoric and self-righteous indignation don't help the debate on either side. They don't persuade, and they certainly inflame the disagreements from Schiavo's defenders. It's not what I expected from a legal journalist. And to speak of the rule of law, as Lithwick does, is not that honest. Liberals, including myself, understand that it's incredibly difficult to have a principled position on federalism. The boundaries separating the states and the federal government are fuzzy. In the end, although Ms. Lithwick is probably right, she's right for the wrong reasons, or at least she's not as forthcoming as I'd expect.

I recently read a piece in the National Review equating the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube with torture. The author, I suspect, was hoping to score some cheap points against anti-torture liberals. It symbolized what's wrong with debate in this country. Ms. Lithwick didn't go that far, but she didn't further understanding either.

Fraywatch wonders if William F. Buckley comes over to kill the spiders in ACL's apartment? …KA10:50 a.m.

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Friday, March 18, 2005 …When the day came that my father's breathing indicated to us that he should be administered the painkiller/sedative mix prescribed for his last hours, things didn't always seem so clear cut as the instructions given to us by the hospice nurse. My father was dying, but he didn't seem to be comforted by the medication as much as we were led to expect. The caretaker asked me if he should increase the dose. It became clear that we were both comforting my father with the medication and also hastening his death. It was a very strange feeling to be aware of what was happening, but I didn't see any other choice, either. We were helping my father be more comfortable, and we were making him die sooner than we would have died. We increased the dosage a couple of times, and then he died, as I held his hand and talked to him…

Rat, here, narrating the sequence of events stemming from the advance directive signed by his father while suffering from Parkinson's Disease.

Female opinion columnists might be derided as "emasculating bitches" when they comment unfavorably on male subjects, as Dowd points out (and be accused of "cattiness" when they comment unfavorably on female subjects, as Dowd does not), but are male opinion columnists any better loved?

It seems to me that anybody who makes a living by forcefully stating their opinions about contentious political issues in the media is unlikely to be universally loved. Bob Novak (to take a random example) isn't exactly accorded a sphere of respectful deference on account of his gender, and neither was Michael Kinsley.

If there are advantages and disadvantages to being a female opinion columnist, they're a lot more subtle than simple gender discrimination by editors…

Thrasymachus, here, on the raging pink page debate.


This massive and bloated public university, which is roughly half as academically impressive as it thinks it is, can be found nestled in a high-tech cornfield known as Champaign-Urbana. This is an undistinguished small city in the middle of nowhere, which is divided into two redundant city governments on either side of Wright Street, a division which serves the sole purpose of providing an excuse for why nearly every east-west street in town changes names when you cross Wright Street.

…The basketball arena looks suspiciously like an alien spacecraft disguised by the men in black. This may or may not be related to the University's sole cultural achievement... being name-dropped as the birthplace of the psychotic HAL9000 computer in the movie 2001.

The team wears a putrid shade of orange, even at home, thus violating all roundball cultural norms. The mascot, "Chief Illiniwek", is … either an obnoxious racist caricature from a benighted era, or a needless source of controversy that brings hippie protestors out of the woodwork…

Yes, there are plenty of reasons to Hate the Illini.

But I can't quite bring myself to hate them. They're a great team that's well-coached and fun to watch …

ShriekingViolet, here, rooting hard for Nevada on Saturday.


The Fray saw its best thread in weeks in BOTF:

…i'm sorry, but i can't look into this woman's smiling, conscious face and say she's a vegetable. i can't see her scowl at a swabbing and then pretend that it isn't going to hurt like hell as she spends a week or so dying of dehydration--that's a gruesome, barbaric death that the ACLU wouldn't countenance for an instant if it were osama bin laden, let alone an innocent woman…

locdog, here, the anchor for Thread of the Week, on the Schiavo case.


…Just this morning, Terry's father said "There's nothing wrong with her." Helloooooooooo. Who's in denial here? If they were her guardians, I'd say fine, they have every right to live in unfounded hope and denial. And, again, I have no stake in whether Terry stays on the tube or not. But the fact that you and your cohort have, oh the irony, summoned big-brother government to overrule every legal recourse her parents had and lost as being unfounded just further suggests which side here is on a rampage that seems to have nothing to do with Terry herself or who has 'rights' but just yet another power play by the Christian right to defy every legal institution, including marriage, which you now find not supporting even the thread you don't have to hang such desperation on…

zinya, here, in response.


Why should this woman be executed merely because her husband finds her existence troubling?

As a scientist, I feel that her chances of being rehabilitated are almost nil, but that's not the issue. Did Schiavo tell her husband that she did not wish to be kept alive with a feeding tube, respirator, etc.? He says so. I don't believe him. Nor do I believe a spouse is always the best guardian for an incapacitated person.

I admit that I am opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide on religious grounds. (I'm Jewish, and Judaism does not condone suicide.) But in this case, my objection to the removal of Schiavo's tube is based not on religion, but on my doubts that a) Schiavo ever said she wanted to be euthanized and b) that her husband is carrying out her wishes.

…BTW, I wouldn't let my dog die of dehydration, as Schiavo will when her tube is removed. Cruel and unusual punishment for a person who committed no crime.

QuiTam, here, in the thread.


You might think I have a vested interest in seeing Terry Schiavo die, but I don't. I simply don't see what you see in those videos, or, when I do, I think it's explainable based purely on an understanding of what exactly the brainstem does. Smiles (it's not clear to me that hers are in response to anything particular -- especially during the music clip, which is among the least compelling), gaggin, eye movements, groans: these things happen in PVS. A side note -- you've rightly corrected several people who refer to Schiavo as braindead, but you're milking the same misconception by calling her a "vegetable" like you do, without pointing out that PVS is defined to allow far more motion and expression than, say, a plateful of cauliflower.

Question: The video is shot to make her actions look purposeful, but are they? How can you tell, for instance, that her eyes are really tracking the balloon? I think you want very much to believe her parents, and to disbelieve her doctors. That's your right, of course. I am skeptical of her parents (whose motive is clear), and more ready to believe the doctors who have offered the gloomy prognosis. That I'm liberal and you're conservative is, I think, a by-product of a more fundamental difference between us: religion vs skepticism. I'm not saying you need to believe in God or Christ to think Terry Schiavo should be kept alive -- it's more a comment our relative willingness to anthropomorphize.

alexa-blue, here, in the thread