Fraysters take on the filibuster.

Fraysters take on the filibuster.

Fraysters take on the filibuster.

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April 21 2005 4:43 PM

All You Do Is Talk, Talk

Fraysters take on the filibuster.

Aardsma, Aaron, Aarons…: HLS2003 appreciates the spirit of the filibuster…

Jimmy Stewart stands exhausted, reading the Declaration of Independence in a cracked whisper, sleepless and haggard, waiting for support that may or may not come. High drama ensues…

Contrary to conventional wisdom, minority party leaders don't whip out the Capitol phone book and begin burning the midnight oil each time they're looking at a 51-49 loss on an appropriations rider:

It requires a set of persons to be very committed to, and strongly identified with, their cause, enough that they are willing to completely shut down any other business of the government. You can filibuster, but you have to be willing to stand up and be visibly identified as the person who values your cause so much that you'd rather see the government crash to a total and complete halt rather than give up.

And there's a natural deterrent to the filibuster:

If there's a backlash against halting government this way, you're willing to take the brunt. If there's a backlash against what you stand for, you're willing to take the brunt.

But HLS delineates between the good ol'-fashioned traditional filibuster and the procedural filibuster that has much of the Republican leadership in the House contemplating the nuclear option:

In comparison, the procedural filibuster eases these burdens to irrelevance. One doesn't filibuster; one simply declares a filibuster and moves on to other business. This eliminates the key requirements that act as natural deterrents against abuse of the filibuster: the personal cost (including dramatic visibility) and the societal cost (shutting down all other functions).

In that spirit, HLS parts with Jacob Weisberg, suggesting that we "get back to Jimmy Stewart" but eliminate the procedural filibuster.

Tim Noah, meanwhile, declares that we should end it, not mend it. PhxJustice cries, "What are you thinking, Noah?"

People need to get over this idea that we actually have a democratic form of government. Our founding fathers wanted no such thing. They were actually scared of the uneducated masses making decisions. That's why they created a representative republic.

I like the fact that the Senate can be held up by a minority of Senators. It means that no one can just shove through their ideas without a modicum of compromise. I don't care who is in control of the Senate, I want it, no change that, I need it to temper the masses of the House…

Count Joe_JP as a "small 'r' republican," too:

I believe that majority doesn't always rule, the government needs to be restrained and should act slowly … and that supermajority … sometimes should rule…

And, judicial appointments are the last group in which filibusters should be removed, especially given the lifetime appointments involved … In fact, strategic limited filibusters are best used in special instances such as this.

Immediate action, and delay by any means … arguably violate democracy if a majority doesn't expressly support them, is a dubious strategy … Caution, delay, and respect for minorities are essential.

I'd think a small 'd' democrat would sort of realize that.

For Thucydides' take on the filibuster, consult coffeegrrl2 here.

Fraywatch can't really manipulate the margins the way he'd like to for this section: On E.E. Cummings' legacy, MarkEHaag carps, "Oh, stop the damning praise already!"

Many, many of his poems have a lively, original, ineluctable rhythm, to say nothing of verbal energy that both surprises and coheres, creating imagery and narrative seemingly out of nothing but a series of non sequiters. His work is eminently readable, in my experience. I always always always enjoy opening up my cummings.

So he's so not popular anymore? Who is?!

Here, RyckNelson wonders why Billy Collins subjects solely Cummings to such damning praise. And johnnythunderpants here, Toot here, and melvil here challenge Collins' notion that, "These days Cummings is rarely mentioned."

Music Box Libertarianism: Fraywatch liked this rant from Swift on the commercial music landscape. He even managed to drop in a Brill Building ref … KA1:40 p.m.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Cheater, Cheater, Pumpkin Eater: William Saletan suggests that there isn't an appreciable difference between a baseball player being injected in the ass with BALCO's finest and the practitioners at TLC zapping a golfer's cornea with some corrective love. Both procedures aspire to enhance performance. Yet athletes implicated for steroids must don the scarlet S, while those treated with laser eye surgery wax poetic on the wonders of medical technology.

As "one of the success stories for laser eye surgery," Arkady offers a personal testimonial. Does Ark feel that LASIK offers golfers an advantage?

Honestly, I don't think so. Over the short term, it would probably be a detriment, in that your brain has to readjust to the new focus, which, for me at least, threw off my depth-perception for a couple months. It wasn't a dramatic problem, but I'd find myself clumsily knocking over drinks at the dinner table, or air-balling easy shots in basketball, just because I'd slightly misperceived the location of an object. But, even after that effect had faded, and I was used to the new vision, I didn't notice any net improvement in my performance at sports.

Since eye surgery offers little risk of permanent physiological damage, Ark feels that

the anti-enhancement argument becomes purely aesthetic, rather than pragmatically oriented towards health and public policy. We might as well ban weight-lifting as ban laser-eye surgery, from the safety perspective.

The_Bell delivers an argument based on personal narrative, as well. Like many on HN Fray, The_Bell feels conflicted by the proliferation of LASIK, though it's a practice he's willing to live with as a fan:

One reason that I think so many fans tend to see medical/pharmaceutical enhancers as cheating is that, while we have no objection to athletes honing their bodies like pieces of equipment – it's called "practice" – we admire that fact that such enhancement comes at a price of time, effort, sweat, and pain. Steroids or LASIK are disagreeable to us because, even if they are safe and everyone has equal access to them, they break the paradigm by making performance too easy. It is all gain with no pain, so to speak. Steroids and LASIK are more like a corked bat or a spitball than spring training or batting practice in that regard.

But if a player is not significantly impairing their long-term health – which they are definitely not with LASIK and may soon not be with performance-enhancing drugs – or failing to gain a unique/rarefied advantage over their peers – which the growing ubiquity of LASIK and, alas for that matter, even steroids suggests they are not – then I think as fans we are letting idealized notions from the world of amateur sports unfairly intrude on the vocations of professional athletes.

For TheAList, the distinction is more cut-and-dry:

LASIK isn't cheating because probably tens of millions of people naturally have 20/20 vision or better. In other words, 20/15 vision is not abnormal for humans, rather its well within the range of normal human eyesight ability. As such, while players who get LASIK are enhancing their own abilities, they are not doing so beyond the range of normal human ability.

Steriods is cheating NOT because almost no one can naturally enhance their musculature with the speed or precision of steriods. Steriods is cheating because with almost no exception, the end-product of steriod-fueled muscle growth is not achieveable by humans, even well-trained atheletes, much less those who must also have time to maintain the skills necessary to succed in their individual sport.

In response, track athlete whitetrashpopulist takes issue with AList's line of reasoning. Fray logician gtomkins1 begins with the premise that "you have to make a two-stage argument":

Anabolic steroids are now forbidden to players in competitive sports because, unlike Lasik, they are not a recognized medical treatment, therefore they are not avialable to all on even a roughly equal basis…

Correcting vision to better than 20/20 is arguably an enhancement (Only arguably. The opposing case could be made that 20/20 is only the standard because it was the empirically observed mode among young, otherwise healthy people, a group that includes many people whose unaltered, unassisted vision is better than 20/20.). But it's an enhancement we've learned how to do, whose risks and benefits we can therefore explain with a high degree of certainty, in the course of learning how to correct the vision of folks with clearly disabling vision problems.

Here, fozzy cites a slew of scientific data to support the notion that eyesight is the critical factor in sport. Fraywatch enjoys reading hiztoria, who laments:

Why is sport so popular?

One appeal is because it's democratic: sports ability (like intelligence and beauty) falls fairly evenly across the population …

We like to see athletes compete and win because of their vulnerabilities, because of their imperfections, not despite them.

Unless, of course, you live in Philadelphia … KA9:10 a.m.

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Friday, April 15, 2005

Bryan Curtis writes an homage to the Trivial Pursuit heyday of the late 1980s full of observational wit, and what does Fray Nation take away from the piece?

Those who revere Trivial Pursuit for its wit and erudition may be heartbroken to learn that it was created by Canadian hockey fans.

Border skirmish in The Middlebrow Fray. Here, jl_eau gets off the first shot, wondering:

I'm not sure what part is supposed to be the opposite of wit and erudition, Canadian or hockey fan. But since Canadians are pretty much by definition hockey fans I'm going to take that as insult it was obviously meant to be.

But her assertion that if "If Americans in the last couple of decades had spent a fraction of the time they'd spent playing Trivial Pursuit and put it towards getting a clue about the rest of the world...Imagine..." doesn't begin to convey danakerjbam's rage:

Oh wow, you mentioned both Canucks and Hockey, what a fucking masterstroke! What can be next, pointing out that we say "Eh" and "aboot?" Even the usually clever writers over at Gawker couldn't resist.

Can somebody please explain to me why generally intelligent, funny, insightful and talented Americans end up sounding like Henny Youngman WANNABES when they get the subject of Canada? "Take the Canadians -- they drink beer! They play hockey! Great White North! Eskimos! Wakka wakka wakka!"

…Other'n that? Snickering about lunkheads on the ice? What, cuz the gentle majesty of modern American basketball and its humble practitioners fills you with such pride? Beer? Yeah, we drink beer -- so do you, you fucking geniuses! It's called Miller and Bud and I know that because we get three hundred commercials a day for it up here!

…I propose a new Law akin to Godwin's -- call it the Canadian Stereotype Law or whatever, I don't care, but here it is:

When a writer or speaker references any of the following Canadian stereotypes:

1) Hockey
2) Beer drinking
3) Freezing Temperatures

be it accepted that said writer is a HACK.

Who's with me?

Probably Juno, who departed the Fray on January 12 (though returned briefly in mid-March) after a heated debate on the respective virtues of Canadian and American Exceptionalism with Geoff…that started over, you guessed it, beerKA10:10 a.m.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Hardly Dworkin: Demosthenes2 takes time in Today's Blogs Fray to comment on Andrea Dworkin's intellectual legacy. D2 "had the opportunity to debate Andrea Dworkin in 1985 while working on my thesis rebutting her proposed 1985 statute in Indiana that defined pornography as a violation of all women's civil rights." The overview of D2's argument is this:

The tragedy of Dworkin's work is that at its core it focuses on the subjugation of people while in an obsessive and ironic twist her proposed measures stems from the need to delimit the individual autonomy of those same individuals.

D2 expands on this paradox for us:

…what is subordination, what is subjugation of women is not depictions (however offensive we may find them) but Dworkin's notion that what constitutes offense for her (or for anyone else) should be extrapolated and overrule the explicit dissent of people who disagree with her—what is a violation of one's autonomy is the belief that other individuals may not have an explicitly different concept of what is and is not permissible (in the absence of a harm principle violation) and that others ought not be allowed to make that autonomous choice.

Thrasymachus replies to D2's top post by sharing that the initial title of his obit for Dworkin was:

"Good News, Guys! We Get To Keep Our Dicks!"

T. ultimately decided on a stage play:

Then I realized that I hadn't written an obituary about Johnnie Cochran or Pope John Paul II, so I had a notion of killing three birds with one stone (you'll pardon the phrase) and setting a Platonic Dialogue in front of the Gates of Heaven (or perhaps in Purgatory, to get Jack's ire), with the personalities being:

JOHNNIE COCHRAN,
POPE JOHN PAUL II, and
ANDREA DWORKIN

It strikes me that the three of them would have a lot to discuss, much of it illuminating.

Care to contribute a scene to T's postmortem theatrics? Click here.

Als Not Well: While we're lacing public intellectuals, check out this doozy from Fray newbie Gem101 on Hilton Als. Last week, Als participated in Slate's discussion on Saul Bellow. Here's Gem:

(a) You really shouldn't use the phrase "not only" twice in one sentence. It causes whiplash.

(b) Can you, as you claim, "mention a few" Papuans? Can you mention one, Proust-like or not? I'm willing to bet you can't. Are you calling Zadie Smith a Zulu? Because last time I checked, she was British, and I suspect she would be offended by being described otherwise. And Danticat is Haitian-American, not Papuan -- and, again, I'm sure she would object to being lumped in, by you, with all the world's dark-skinned people. -- Yes, it was a stupid thing for Bellow to say, but look at how easy it is to say something that someone might find offensive. After all, you just did, and with a fillip of self-righteousness that makes your crude approach to negritude seem even shallower.

(c) Yes, the world passed Bellow by. He was almost 90, after all. Trust me, the world will pass all of us by. That's what the world does.

Gem101 has some serious Fray-mudgeon potential.

Dispatch from Iraq: Marking his "six month mark in Iraq," PigLatin submits this evocative list of "the top 10 things I miss least and most about livin' in the good ol' US of A" … KA2:20 p.m.

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Monday, April 11, 2005

Given that there isn't a Tom DeLay post worth an ounce of DDT, Fraywatch goes one-off today with a tangential invective courtesy of IOZ, here:

…The pontificating and prevaricating on the issue of the independence of the judiciary--and why mince words? independence is precisely the aspect of the judiciary that self-proclaimed (though not actual) conservatives wish to circumscribe--is the death-gasp of the intellectual underpinnings of their movement. (Honestly, those pins were never very sturdy to begin with.) It's an admission: What we seek in the end is an extraconstitutional governing order. They don't believe that the ability of the political wings of the government (so long, at least, as they control them) should be constrained in any meaningful way by independent judges. Indeed, the judges have run amok, or so the saying goes, by ruling against Republican political prerogatives. Well, it's a nice tagline, anyway. Judicial activism if you do, judicial activism if you don't. Oh, and either way, we kill you, muthafucka.

Now, let IOZ take a minor detour through history. A year or so ago, which under the American Standard System of Measurement is the equivalent of several millennia, there was great hue and cry in the land that these so-called activist judges were exceeding their constitutional authority--blah, blah, blah--and allowing thems hawmasectials ta marry, an act whose consequent psychic vibrations invalidated the government-tested, god-approved sanctity of each and every heterosexual marriage in the entire United States of America, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, right up to the most high and extra-holy matrimony of Britney Spears. In most cases, of course, these courts were rather modestly extending equal rights jurisprudence, striking the eminently reasonable stance that since there are homosexuals, and since there is marriage, and since the latter institution is the principle legal means of extending a set of basic rights to a generally cohabiting and fiscally interdependent household, it would do well to extend to the former access to the latter. Opposition to this notion came couched in a veritable petting zoo of legalia, much of it based on a fallacious generalization about legal enforcement of communal mores, and all of it rooted in the Axis of Leviticus, a collection of rogue theologians and non-state actors whose Paul-induced terror of man-on-man action is about as reasonable (and, IOZ might add, pathetic) as a grown man's petrifying fear of the dark or the number thirteen.

That said, a few so-called conservatives made the tangentially valid point that we've come to depend too heavily on judicial remedies prior to exhausting all of our legislative options. This argument requires a fairly fatuous reading of the history of civil rights, in which a nigger-hating collection of Democrats and Republicans alike managed for years and decades to whip themselves into a white-hooded frenzy that would have driven even Atticus Finch to strong drink. Still, IOZ has some small appreciation for the argument: if you don't like the law, change it; if you don't like the constitution (state or otherwise), then, by God, get together a coalition to amend it. Hardly point, set, match, but at least an attempt at coherence, unlike our present advocates of jugicide, say an Edwin Vieira, who feels that certain decisions "uphold[...] Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law." The obvious remedy to this creeping Leninism? Why Stalinism, of course. It worked for Stalin, after all: Death solves all problems. Proof positive that despite all the crowing after our year-apart funerals for the Vicar of Washington, Ronald Reagan, and the Vicar of God himself, old John Paul II, communism is not in fact defeated, and you just can't keep a good Bolshevik down. Comrade Edwin, za vashe zdorov'ye!

More seriously, here is the gauntlet that IOZ lays at the so-called feet of conservativism: If you dislike the independent judiciary so much, change it. That old bat Phyllis Schlafly (old golfers never die, they just lose their balls) has been wailing that Justice Kennedy and a host of others ought to be impeached. Well, by all means, take up proceedings. Frankly, IOZ doesn't think you have the stones. As George C. Scott as General Buck Turgidson memorably opined, "Mr. President, if I may speak freely, the Ruskie talks big, but frankly, we think he's short of know how. I mean, you just can't expect a bunch of ignorant peons to understand a machine like some of our boys." Another accurate summation of modern so-called conservativism, whose withered claws have rigor-mortisized into the flesh of political power, whose collective mind (and IOZ uses the term very loosely) is so drunk with it that it's lost all capacity to tie one on and head home to crash--no, no, tequila shots all around (except for the Minutemen, who prefer moonshine).

IOZ will begin taking these lame ducks seriously when they begin to put up. Calling on the lonely, still-live-with-mother, moron McVeighs out there to start blowing away judges for their stance on the Establishment clause is a nice trick and all, but most of these guys are too busy masturbating to two-decades-old glamour shots of Terri Shiavo to load the gun and head for the nearest appellate court for a nice shooting spree. Meanwhile, the party hacks are just so sure that they know the Constitution better than any jurist, and if independence means losing sometime, clearly, it's for the birds. So they gallivant about doing the " It is for mine own pleasure that I ask the head of Iokanaan in a silver charger" routine, but they never hold hearings, they never so much as try to impeach, and they certainly don't ever try to alter the constitution. Even after constructing a specious constitutional reading that construes congress' power to establish courts lower than the Supreme Court as carte blanche to limit jurisdiction over issue-specific cases (really, guys, this is pretty lame), they can't manage much more than to inveigh, and that, obviously, doesn't take much energy.

There can be no functional nation without its independent judiciary. Hell, most civil cases are business suing each other anyway. There must be some relatively impartial system of arbitration. There must be some interpretive agent. IOZ disagrees with plenty of decisions that post-date Marbury v. Madison, but that doesn't mean he wants to crawl into his time machine to go back and try John Wilkes Boothing the judicial review. That so-called conservatives just can't stand losing from time to time is a pity, but it's hardly grounds to dispense with a basic governing unit that's proven, for the most part, to be the least venal and mob-minded branch of government--which in so venal and mob-minded a government as ours is a precious, precious quality…

IOZ bookends his post with some faggy Morrissey lyrics, for those scoring at home. The disaffected can check out the entire post hereKA3:10 p.m.