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March 19 2005 2:35 AM

Needles & Threads

The week's best in the Fray.

…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.  

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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Stephen Metcalf's review of Ross Gregory Douthat's memoir of his four years in college, Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class, touched a raw nerve, eliciting among fraysters that schizophrenic combination of fascination with--and resentment toward--Harvard as both an institution and incubator of America's future élite.

(Full disclaimer: FrayEditor05 is a graduate of the college in question. Which is not to say partisan defender or even sentimental ally of his alma mater.)

RANGER82's post I HATE/LOVE THE RICH aptly sums up this divided reaction. Betty_the_Crow has some harsh words for Mr. Douthat here. 

TTrent objectsto the liberal (no pun intended) use of the term "middle class":

In this entire debate, I'm amazed by how many former children of privilege describe themselves a middle-class. I suspect this is a way to avoid the heart of the matter -- that replacing actual commitment to equality with a Bennenton-ad style ideology of diversity has created a self-congratulatory, multi-hued cultural ruling class whose seething contempt for the real members of the middle and working classes have fractured our politics.

Publius also takes Metcalf to task for repeating Douthat's faulty assumption about class:

His use of the term "middle class" to describe the families of Ivy enrollees -- as if people "who can afford the property taxes move to the best school districts, or send their children to private schools" are just your ordinary Joes and Sallys. He seems to think that the people who live in Scarsdale or send their kids to St. Albans are UPS drivers and bank clerks. The median household income in the US is about $45,000, so Metcalf is just using the term "middle class" to avoid coming to grips with the fact that the vast majority of Harvard kids come from very "privileged" backgrounds by the standards most Americans know…

Let's be clear that this means after 30-plus years of diversification and openness, Harvard and Yale are unlikely to have more than about 10% students from families in the lower half of family income and only a handful from tru;y poor families. Meanwhile, anyone want to guess at what percentage of these students come from, say, the top 10% of incomes?

What's happened is that the American ruling class has changed; it's more Catholic and Jewish and less Protestant; it's a bit more Black, Asian and Hispanic; it's representatives in business and the professions are more likely to be women; and it's ethos is somewhat more "liberal" at least where it's own membership is concerned. And it's center of gravity has moved quite a bit west.

For all that, to imagine that Harvard-trained investment bankers and corporate lawyers will do their banking and lawyering in a kindler, gentler way because of their demography is surely to miss completely what it means to be a part of a ruling elite.

Critiquing our supposedly meritocratic system of admissions from yet another angle, jamidwyer007 points out

…how many of the things that count as "merit" on a college application are really "privilege."

most extra-curricular activities, especially sports, cost money. internships and good summer jobs go to kids with the right connections. travel costs money. SAT prep courses cost money. even playing in the orchestra is non-negotiable for kids whose parents can't afford a musical instrument.

mrh3000 has this advice: "Universities truly concerned about diversity would be well advised to protect their sports programs and look for other ways to identify talent that cannot be manipulated in an application."

Don't blame Harvard, says10yearson, "better to worry about public school funding":

…it is important for someone to point out that there is not much Harvard, of all places, can do about educational opportunity in the U.S. By the time you do or don't get into Harvard, much of the game is over. You can't ask Harvard, of all places, to recognize, admit and then cultivate, in four or five years, brilliant students who spent their first 18 or 19 years of life in an average or below average educational environment. Not when the applicant pool includes thousands who have spend all of their young lives striving to exist in an above average educational environment.

Pigheaded engages in an unapologetic defense of her elitest parental choices:

Thanks for showing me the error of my wicked ways, pointing out that by raising my kids in a loving environment, sending them to a great school, spending many hours a week helping with homework, volunteering in their classrooms, etc., I am propagating a profoundly unfair socioeconomic system masquerading as a meritocracy! Shame on me!

But here's a thought: all parents give their kids the tools they need to succeed in THEIR micro-world. The family of bailbondsmen who got their own reality-tv show last year DO THE SAME THING. Their kids are raised to be comfortable around guns, motorbikes, semi-thuggish behavior and bleached blondes with big hair. They love each other and take care of each other, and they appear to have no desire to ever visit let alone attend a place like Harvard.

Those kids would not survive in my world, and I bet my kids would poorly in theirs. Is America still a meritocracy? I think so, but others might disagree.

GreenwichJ isn't exactly shockedby Douthat's relevations about the personality types prevalent among his class at Harvard:

So wealthy, overacheiving teenagers tend not to be very nice? Who'd have thought it.

One facet of capitalism is that it often rewards society's most unpleasant members: the venal, the overweeningly ambitious, the unscrupulous, the benders of rules.

Their children inherit these characteristics, as well as a degree of wealth they personally have done nothing to acquire. And then they go to Harvard, to be complained about by this Douthat guy.

If it's any consolation, everyone I know who went to Oxford complained about the preponderence of braying, personally unpleasant rich-kids, some of whom had claims to aristocracy, even royalty. All one can do is hope they fail utterly...

Noting the political leanings of the writer, JLF quips: "Isn't it amusing when a young conservative discovers another thing that Marx got right?"

Douthat's rant seems a bit like knocking oneself off a pedestal: an attempt to disavow the very privilege that confers an aura of public credibility in the first place. What if a Harvard graduate complained, and no one listened?

One thing is clear: both the publication of Privilege and the media hoopla surrounding it are part of the same incestuous loop. The book is clearly intended for an audience drawn from the same ranks it is criticizing, while the criticism serves paradoxically to further cement Harvard's elite status, as if we need only to analyze one institution's practices for some definitive pronouncement on what is wrong with America and its ruling class. AC4:41pm

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Friday, March 11, 2005

The idea that Dali used Picasso's Cubism to achieve his effects is crazy. No artist had less to do with the fragmentation of pictorial space than Dali. His ancestors were to be found in the many academic painters of the past, whose meticulous brushwork created photorealistic representations of objects, crossed with the dreamlike landscapes of DeChirico, as well as the optical illusions found in puzzle books … Cubism had nothing to do with it…

…Even when the images don't make literal sense, they tend to be Symbolic with a big S, like a sign reading "Flaccid Thingy Up Ahead". Sometimes they skip the symbolism altogether and just spell it out: "Penis, Vagina, Buttocks, Breasts, Shit" wrapped up in a package of shame and terror. Just in case the viewer doesn't get the point, Dali might throw in a tiny naked man hanging his head in shame, or call his picture "The Great Masturbator," or perhaps write an essay describing exactly what the symbols mean. The whole enterprise begs the question, how can a true exploration of the subconscious be undertaken using the most studied, academic techniques? Usually, the answer is, it can't.

Dali came to realize that far from being derided as old-fashioned hackwork, in an abstract era starved for "realistic pictures", his academic painting style was celebrated as true mastery, whether he added any "psychological" baggage to it or not. So from the 1940's on, he didn't even bother trying to imbue his paintings with meaning or substance…

Utek1, here, on Salvador Dali as symbolist.


…Turning back to Lebanon, what has happened is a sudden reversal of power relationships. For years, the decisive force in Lebanon was the Syrian army, and one had to give that devil his due -- just as Whalid Jumblatt did. However, Jumblatt had never been a puppet, since he had an independent base of support in the Druze, who generally will follow his lead. Now, it is clear to Jumblatt … that the "Syrian order" is over. Syrian troops may not immediately pull out of Lebanese territory, but they will at some point. Meanwhile, they will not again act to protect their stooges from political events driven by the Lebanese. No one doubts that the West -- France, never mind the US -- will no longer tolerate Syrian military action and want Syria out. To defy that new reality, the younger Assad would have to be prepared to risk war and the loss of power in Syria.

It's as simple as that, and Wahlid Jumblatt knows it.

Publius, here, on the developments in Lebanon vis-à-vis opposition leader Wahlid Jumblatt.


In a few hundred years they will look back on the American empire as a great irony: A nation formed as a refuge from the theological-political wars of the 16th century itself devolved into theological-political war; because it, like the nations from which it revolted, could not separate theology from politics.

The founding fathers would look on these developments with great sorrow, given that they knew exactly what kind of oppression and near genocide a politics of theology could lead to (30 years war, anyone?), and given that they formed this nation in order to prevent it.

But, I guess as a libertarian, rather than a conservative, I see no reason why the dead should govern the living. So though I too find these developments disturbing, I have no appeal to the founding fathers' univocal desire to keep the church separate from the state. The real irony then is that conservatives - those who do think the dead should govern the living - also pay no heed to the desires of the founding fathers.

matt666, here, on church 'n' state.


…What bloggers have that traditional reporters don't have, or think they don't have, is the time to place a story in historical context and to follow it beyond the date it runs, and the freedom from the variety of institutional pressures faced by institutional reporters.

Where institutional journalists more accurately portray bloggers, or more specifically, their readers and commenters, is as the mob. All but the most persistent rumors and misapprehensions were once pretty well confined to the locale where they originated; now, they're circulated instantly, everywhere even if they're not picked up by bloggers who prefer some sort of substantiation before they post. But even that's not much of a departure from the practices of institutional journalists. What they pat themselves on the back for is not printing the rumors they circulate among themselves.

Ironically, the affair of Jim Dale Joe Billy Bob Guckert Gannon may do more to legitimate bloggers as journalists than any passel of earnest geeky blog evangelists could. His accreditation by the White House press office opened the door for the media watchers at Fishbowl D.C., and probably had no little impact on the press office's decision to allow my blog to send representatives to the daily briefings and other White House press events. It won't be long before the House and Senate galleries, who serve as the de facto arbiters of who's a journalist and who isn't, begin credentialing more online sites and blogs.

At this point, what distinguishes journalist-wannabe bloggers from the more commonly recognized thing are resources—cultivated sources, Nexis and morgue access and so on—and money. Most bloggers can't pay the tab to send someone along with the president on his travels, or to chase leads around the country or to do a touch-and-go landing somehwere so we can run a story with a particular dateline.

That'll begin to change soon too. In fact, on a more local scale, it already has…

Betty_the_Crow, here, representing the blogosphere.


…Any disparaging of Dre still must accept one sterling thing. Dre has done what few, if any, people in the hip-hop world have ever done: he came back. I'm not talking about Jay-Z one foot in the door kind of comeback. I'm talking about falling on your face, your sound going out of style, your moment has passed kind of comeback. Aftermath at its inception was a disaster, Dre had cut ties with Suge Knight in an ugly fashion (the only fashion possible with Suge), and Gangsta Rap had faded in the face of Pac and Biggie's deaths. So let me repeat-you don't come back in hip-hop. Public Enemy? No. The Beasties? No (Hello Nasty was their last gasp). Ice Cube, not as a rapper. Naughty By Nature? Juvenile? De La Soul has gone back underground, Tribe fell apart (wherefore art thou, Tip?), and Wu-Tang disintegrated. If you leave the building of mainstream rap, don't expect to be let back in.

But Dre, three years after leaving Death Row, discovered some new talent (Eminem, Xzibit), patched up with some old talent (Snoop -who, at Dre's side, was the only other comeback kid I can think of Coincidence?), made a whole boat load of catchy beats and rushed right back into the fore with '2001'. He hasn't left since. He's even brought Gangsta back with him in the form of 50 and The Game. Disparage his music or his methods, but don't knock the man. Dre is an anomaly in an industry where you're either in the spotlight or in the past.

Ortho_Stice, here … but don't call it a comeback.

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Wednesday, March 9, 2005

The rash of yuppie Mommy confessionals on the bookshelf (see Ann Hulbert's critique of the quasi-genre here) has the Sandbox throwing dirt. Hulbert writes:

…women writers have been busy crafting a withering corrective to official versions of motherhood. By official, I mean not just (mostly male) pontification about the sacred ideals, intellectual rewards, emotional pleasures, psychological challenges, and profound social importance of motherhood, I also mean what [Erma] Bombeck called "the prime-time mothers" with their "maddening perfection."

 Canadian Mom, jl_eau, feels that this may be a uniquely American phenomenon:

When American writers talk about that "deep core of anxiety" I have to imagine it. Sure I have anxieties about my son. But to me they're normal and manageable. And it's not the just the affordability...it's working with a solid network of other women and men in your community to socialize and, nurture and understand your child. It's feeling that you have a government that is accountable to your needs as a mother. And that you live in a society that will hold them accountable.

According to jl_eau, one of the things that makes Montreal motherhood manageable is that…

My son has been in extremely high-quality daycare (educated, unionized workers, excellent food, diapers, regular field trips in and outside of the city) that costs me, everything included, a little more than a $100 a month. Universal daycare has been a fact of life in Quebec for over five years.

In a similar vein, Ellendiffrnet squawks, "Give me a break!" She thinks that the conversation has to be put…

in context to women who have to work 2 or even 3 jobs just to keep their kids fed and clothed. There are vast number of women who don't have time to even be the most superficial mommy because they are struggling against the economic tide. When writers fret about how over-tired the women who have a choice compared to those who have no choice it is the height of mental masturbation and another symbol of the self-absorption of middle-class mentality.

Careener hits this point well, too. Check out that post — and Careener's grant request — here.

Why is there a glut of books being purveyed for this demographic? Bama believes that

upper-middle class mothers buy books. Working class mothers don't have the money to buy or time to read books on motherhood. They are too busy mothering. Remember, the publishers' main objective is to sell books.

Bama continues, arguing that the entire discussion of parenting and gender roles has been stilted to conform to this reality. On fatherhood, Bama writes:

Many have asked why there is not a similar emphasis on modern day fathers. Probably because fathers don't buy or read these kind of books. But also because fathers don't have a feeling that they are not living up to the standards of fatherhood established by their fathers and grandfathers. Many modern fathers know they are better fathers than were their own fathers…

The attitudes of the older generation of fathers can been heard when an older man refers to taking care of his own children as "babysitting," or playing "Mr. Mom." It is not babysitting when you are taking care of your own children, its PARENTING, and doing so does not make you a mom. Most Gen-X fathers understand this, and those that don't need to get with the program. When they do, the mothers, fathers, and children will all be better off.

According to paleyoungman here, a self-described "eldest son in a matriarchal working class family," Goethe had it right:

"When a man (or woman) stops to ponder his physical or moral condition, he generally finds he is ill."

…This isn't to say that stoicism is a healthier alternative to self-analysis, and I don't mean the women in my family are supermoms. My mother will readily admit that she'd rather watch a true-crime A&E show alone than sit through some annoying Disney series for the sake of "Family Time". And then she'll prove it to you.

But Fish8, like so many of the Mommy portraits in question, worries:

I have a perfect mother - she was my Brownie troop leader, and took me on special lunch time picnics without my older sisters when I was in kindergarten and they were in school all day. She made elaborate, hand-sewn halloween costumes - whatever we could think up, she would make it for us…

But the tough choices she had to make … these choices are not available to me. Partially due to my own choices - the city in which I live, the career path I have taken - I know my family could never get by without a dual income. As I consider starting that family, I think about my favorite memories, all the things I cherish, about my childhood. Who will be the Brownie troop leader and make those halloween costumes? Who will take my little girl on a special picnic lunch? the nanny?

And so it begins - and I'm not even pregnant!

Speaking of parenting, Demosthenes2 submits the most comprehensive list of dos-'n'-don't for new parents the Fray has ever seen. And Mrs. Demosthenes, mother of newborn BabyD2, expands upon it hereKA1:05 p.m.

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Friday, March 4, 2005

[Dunkin Donuts'] success, and the rabid loyalty of its customer base, is the product of three things: coffee, breakfast sandwich, doughnut.

These three products are all presented in the same manner-quick, cheap, delicious. Both Krispy Kreme and Starbucks miss the mark, they market a luxury and lifestyle accordingly … Dunkin's is so successful because it markets itself, and the products work brilliantly, as necessities…

When you wake up with a hangover, when you're getting a quick breakfast for a large group, when you're in a rush and need a little something in your gut and a little pick-me-up, you go to Dunkin Donuts … The coffee is seen by many New Englanders as the perfect marriage of pleasure and necessity -especially the Ichor of the Gods that is their iced coffee. That's the brilliance of Dunkin's-they make their products seem like foundational foods-no frills, and they make that foundation consistently satisfying.

So you can take your wireless ambiance, Jewel, and $4.50 cups of coffee, and you can take your lump of lard deliciousness and little else, hell you can take your lovin'-it mcgriddle and shoddy coffee. It doesn't matter if you're working at the factory or teaching comp.lit or chilling with excel in your cubicle. Because when you're just getting up, or you're looking for a late night pit stop, or you need a lift in the midafternoon, the Northeast turns its lonely eyes to Dunkin's, and nobody else. It's not a chain, it's a food group.

Ortho_Stice, here, on the brilliant simplicity of Dunkin' Donuts.


..Those pesky judeochristians can never agree on just how to subdivide [the Commandments]. Jews start in on the second verse; Catholics and Protestants prefer to skip over the whole Egypt thing and start on three. Well, we can quibble, can't we? After that, it all goes to hell, so to speak. The Jews, working from the original Hebrew, are more verbose on their 2nd commandment than the Protestants, but they pretty much agree that graven images, AKA idols, are a bad, bad thing. Roman Catholics, of course, have no such compunctions. IOZ knows--he's visited the Vatican. The One True Church skips the whole idolatry thing and reads: 2. Thou shalt not take the name of theLord thy God in vain. This Catholic second is the third for the Chosen People and the Detritus of the Big Bomb named Martin Luther. The Catholics continue a step ahead by making their third commandment the commandment to keep the Sabbath, while Jews and Proties insist it's number four. The Catholics continue to screw the whole thing up: They don't kill where the Js and Ps honor their folks; they don't steal where Js and Ps don't commit adultery; in their final couple, RCs divide the wives from the servants and oxen, whereas both Jews and Protestants remember that one man's maidservant is another man's wife; it's all just point of view.

Careful readers may also notice that the final verses of Exodus 20 contain a few more commandments pertaining to the proper use and construction of burnt offerings and stone alters. Eleven and twelve? Who can say?

In any event, we're really just discussing the Jew's Articles of Confederation anyway…

IOZ, here, bringing you these fifteen…these ten commandments in BOTF


Elie Wiesel noted that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. Noah notes that the opposite of truth is not lie, but B.S, the indifference to truth. I'd note that lies are tools of those who hate, while b.s. is the tool of those who don't care about truth.

…Now take this statement, from Bush's 2003 State of the Union:

"Before September the 11th, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans -- this time armed by Saddam Hussein."

There are no lies here, and each factual assertion is literally true. Its still pure b.s -- possibly the worst example of Bush's use of it. The two clauses of the first sentence, which tie a belief about Hussein to 9/11, are factually unrelated, leaving the impression that Hussein was involved with 9/11. The second sentence mention of "shadowy terrorist networks" is framed by two Hussein references even though Hussein had nothing to do with Al-Qaida. The third sentence connects directly connects (in the mind) Hussein, deadly biocehmical weapons, and the 9/11 "hijackers." Of course, Hussein had no such weapons, there was no evidence he would "arm" Al Qaida, and he had no connection to 9/11 or any hijacking.

The b.s. here is revealed by the lack of lies -- the careful arrangement of wording to avoid lying while still leaving an uterrly false impression. B.S. is really fraud, which may involve a material misstatement of fact (lie) or a material omission (leaving a false impression) with the intent to do so.

TheAList, here, further defining bullshit.


The Slate 60 is interesting this year as always.

With all respect to the donors of gifts to their communities and worthy institutions, the evidently less attractive field of philanthropy directed at immediately needy people deserves some thought.

If you had a large sum -- say, $10 million or more -- you wanted to use to help people in difficult economic straits, to whom and for what purpose would you give it?

To a church or other religious organization? To poor people, directly? To a specialized organization (for example, one that operated health clinics or supplied educational services)? Would you look past the needy in this country and aim the money at people overseas? Or would you go in the other direction and direct all the money to one locality? Lastly, would you give to an existing organization or try to start one of your own?

The Slate 60 is annually one of the less-read Slate features, so this Fray may not be the best place to post this. Perhaps this is a survey Slate's writers should respond to. If more wealthy people have not given large amounts of money to help the truly needy perhaps they have just not known how.

Zathras, here, on the Slate 60.

What I don't see is why even a staunch originalist like Scalia has to jettison the original conception of the Eighth Amendment. Why not just accept that the "floor" the Eighth Amendment sets is pretty low? After all, that's all the amendment is really doing -- setting a bare minimum. States, or Congress, are free to go as far above the floor as the people want. That's how you can really find a consensus. Even if the Eighth Amendment allows the death penalty for 12-year-olds (because it was allowed when written), that doesn't mean we have to have the death penalty for 12-year-olds. As it is, no state has such a law, nor does federal law. Whether the Eighth Amendment allowed it or not, enlightened people are always free to make sure their laws rise above that bare-bones floor. But if significant swaths of the population see no problem with, and prefer to dispense, rough 18th century justice, isn't that the best evidence of all that no consensus exists anyway? The Eighth Amendment still offers some protection; just not very much. The rest depends on how enlightened the people are. If you don't like the level of enlightenment, then work to change peoples' opinions and these rough laws (or even amend the Constitution to abolish the death penalty). That's a real evolving standard -- and I don't know why it's so unacceptable.

HLS2003, here, on the evolving standard of "cruel and unusual punishment."


Gtomkins1 has a very different policy on media relations than these senior administration officials. A very senior person, but a very junior non-administration non-official, I never hide behind anonymity, but I have a very strict policy that I must remain at all times obscure. Not only does this require meticulous attention to detail in what I write (Opacity is hard work!), but the more important element of total obscurity has been a stupendously successful lifetime struggle to never rise to the level of public recognition (not to mention remuneration!) that my awesome talents surely deserve. These comments are, as always, strictly under the record.

gtomkins1, here, off the record, on the Q.T., and very hush-hush.