Fraysters react to the Downing Street memo.

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June 16 2005 2:10 PM

Idées Fixes

Fraysters react to the Downing Street memo.

(Continued from Page 1)
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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Emily Bazelon's analysis of the prosecution in the Michael Jackson case, coupled with Jacob Weisberg's reflection on the childhood origins of the pop star's condition, yielded numerous plaints on the Fray about justice-for-sale, opportunistic gold-diggers, the nation's misplaced attention on sensationalistic news, and the media's alternate deification/toppling of celebrity figures.

The retrospective reflex to examine MJ's past behavior and statements as harbingers of his current situation proved especially strong, as did the coining of puns by fraysters and journalists alike referring to his "moonwalking away" or ability to "just beat it."

jane2 notes that what MJ may or may not have done to others he has been doing to himself for years, as the "first entertainer to publicly fondle his own genitals while performing his compellingly staged dance routines."

Combining a sense of outrage with a general lack of surprise, Wolfmaiden's reaction to the verdict invokes yet another prior instance of MJ's apparent mental instability:

This man has been sick in the head for a long time. What parent dangles his child over a balcony. I mean come on. He is a threat to his own children. He thinks he is Peter Pan. That is so ridiculous. The man is sick.

Thrasymachus gloats over his now-prophetic words about the jury outcome:

Personally, I predicted this exact result on December 30, 2003, in a post entitled (optimistically, as it turned out), "The Radioactive Issues of 2004."

So far I'm batting about .500 on those predictions, but this was the full text of my prediction, on 12/30/03, about the Jackson trial:

MICHAEL JACKSON BEATS IT

The rap, that is. Everyone will think he's guilty, but -presto!- he's going to walk. Charges of police evidence tampering and brutality (possibly true) will persuade a jury to acquit him and send him back to Neverland. That there will then be another charge of child molestation against Jackson is a tiresomely obvious prediction; but it won't be 2004. All we're going to see this year is the endless, and endlessly tedious trial. It won't be televised; courtroom sketch artists' attempts to assay Jackson's plastic features will form a mainstay of late-night comedy routines in the year ahead.

Much soul-searching about America's flawed judicial system and "malefactors of great wealth" lies in store for us. You are warned.

RoyJaruk-18 concludes that the prosecution suffered from a lack of focus:

The prosecution didn't do all that great a job with the case as presented. Casting their charge net as widely as they did, I rather got the impression they were thinking if they scattergunned enough charges at Wacko Jacko, some of them would stick … It's far better to concentrate on ONE charge where you can present clear-cut evidence than it is to spray a bunch of charges at a defendant in the hope that the prosecution can convince the jury that there's more to them than just "He said/She said."

but notes that the real ramifications of the trial lie elsewhere:

The result will be that while the blindly fanatic supporters who love his work may turn out for him, there aren't enough of them to support his lifestyle. A personality in his business must appeal to a wider audience than just the dedicated fans; and after this, Michael Jackson has all the appeal of a gut-split skunk ripening on the highway. The not-guilty verdict of the court of law does not matter a damn in the court of public opinion. There, he has been tried and found guilty of the crime of deviance from the norm; and the penalty is career-death. If you think I'm kidding, just look back 80 years or so and examine the first so-called "trial of the century," the rape accusation leveled against the great comedian Fatty Arbuckle.

The_Bell too has a long rumination on the court of public opinion.

The rare compassionate response can be found here from Rainey, who aims his disgust at the "money hungry people that saw him as an opportunity to make their fortune."

Mirroring Weisberg's line of reasoning, SuperDuper delivers this defense:

As a society, most can't comprehend the idea that a grown man would choose to surround himself with children. If he does, then he must be a pedophile or be touching them inappropriately. Some how we're programmed to believe that if you're an adult, then you should spend your time with adults not children. If you choose kids, then you must be a weirdo. Michael Jackson isn't a normal guy. He's eccentric and strange. He's odd and has identity issues, but he's no pervert. He surrounds himself with kids because he's a kid himself. He had children so he could have friends. In his statement after the case, he says, "Children didn't let me down, adults did." That says it all.

But omnibus1reader objects to the equation of childhood with a state of "innocence":

Michael Jackson is not J.M. Barrie. The present-day Americans are not Victorians, and are far more likely to have encountered explicit sexual materials, available constantly in the media. Being naive as a child is hardly an option for anyone nowadays, even a child. Certainly, given the admitted childhood of Michael, naivete was never an option. Recapturing innocence is impossible.

Also in disagreement with Weisberg is fozzy, who argues that MJ displays "a classic array of signs of pedophilia":

it can be precisely the asexual nature of childhood that attractst [sic] the pedophile. The pedophile, however, is an adult with sexual urges, so one question becomes: how long can they run from their adult selves?

Read a more extensive diagnosis of MJ's "3 correlating traits" here.

As a final footnote, satish_desai provides a helpful clarification on the legal question of "admission of past evidence" in California courts.

Tucked away amidst all the Jackson reaction, be sure not to miss TheMaxFischerPlayers' snob test in BOTF. AC7:44a

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Sunday, June 12, 2005

Fraywatch extends congratulations to Betty_the_Crow, TheBrewmeister, Publius_Too, and the rest of the contributors who are making BTC News one of our favorite sources for discussion in the blogosphere.

This week, Pub_Too offers an examination of the culture war, filtered through an "intriguing exchange" over at the American Prospect. After taking in both sides, Pub_Too concludes:

…The correct approach, I would argue, is to engage the culture debate, but to do so within a liberal framework. In other words, we should acknowledge that there are concerns about the entertainment culture, but that the root of this problem, which is how we are raising our kids. We have a general problem with child-care. The content of television programs is a minor issue; the fact that tv is raising our kids is a major one. This acknowledges the concern while placing it in a broader context. It also shifts the debate to an area amenable to policy-making.

In other words, the problem is not what's on the tube. The problem is that the tube has become too important…

Some highlights from inside the Fray City Limits:

I'd be interested to know what percentage of Americans think abortion should be legal for an 18-year-old girl whose boyfriend promised to love her forever but dropped her like a lead balloon as soon as he heard she was pregnant.

That would be the percentage who are willing to allow a woman to choose when to have an abortion, albeit with certain restrictions, rather than banning abortion in most cases and legislating a few exceptions.

ShriekingViolet, here, on what constitutes a pro-choice position.

…there has been a great deal of blather … over many years about the UN and "non-zero-sum" choices that come with a subtext that assumes there was a halcyon time when the US acted "multilaterally" in the blessed spirit of FDR, while it no longer does. This is simply not so. FDR conceived the UN as a vehicle to extend US power, not limit it. Wright and others see what they call multilateralism as a means to modify and curtail US action, not a vehicle to implement it by appealing to mutual interests and summoning alliances founded on those interests…

Publius, here, asserting that the United Nations "was the creation of a comprehensive web of international institutions that would embody and give further impetus to post-war American leadership" across the globe.

…reading all these posts and replies on the costs of lower and higher income commercial sales of the world is depressing. It shows that everyone, at least in america, is willing to slander anyone who doesn't fit in their own community of income. You know, it's great that people with higher income can shop where they want, but it doesn't give them the right to downplay other hardworking people that don't happen to make the same amount of money. On the other hand, people with a lower income don't have the right to slander those with more money in their wallets…

17-year-oldjadedcustomers, here, trying to make sense of class warfare and Wal-Mart on Moneybox Fray.

…As intended, "American Gothic" was a slightly smutty joke about a farmer's daughter, lame and tired and not very funny. But as a painting that has been completely misperceived by the public, it is a masterpiece of Americana, inspiring countless interpretations, all more interesting than the original.

Its immediate recognizability has a lot to do with the strength of its design. Not so much its full frontal stare, as Ms. Fineman suggests … but rather it's strong play of verticals and horizontals, combined with a lively use of pattern. The picture is strongly vertical, not just in the two standing figures, but in the slats of the house and barn, the piping on the farmers shirt, and the tines of his pitchfork, nicely counterbalanced by the perpendicular lines of the awning and the stairs and the windows cutting across the painting. The design of the woman's dress rhymes with the design of the drapes, creating a contrasting polka-dot pattern to the prevailing grid. The heads of the man and the woman are physically connected by the peak of the roof, balanced on either side of the picture like scales. The head of the man, especially, is wonderfully painted; the linear style that limited Wood's depiction of a young woman works well for the gaunt and wrinkled old man. It's a solidly crafted composition, and as such is instantly memorable…

Utek1, here, on Grant Wood's American Gothic.

…If anyone can explain why Americans have become so willing--almost universally--to conduct their lives only by grace and permission of a monumental central government authority, then IOZ is all ears. Frankly, the phony world-changing import of 9/11 is no proper answer. There has been some other fundamental shift in our collective psychology that seems to compel us to accept on the flimsiest tissue of an argument that our wasteful, venal, and corrupt government should be and must be the permission-giver for the most minute aspects of our lives.

I don't believe this is a result of our obscene and juvenile desire for universally assured safety.

The desire for safety is a symptom, not a cause. It's rooted in the faulty belief that this government or any government can keep you safe through the exercise of authority. It's rooted in the idea, pounded into our collective head for decades now, that the government can do it for you, and all you need to do in life is get a job and buy a lot of shit on credit. Whether that manifests as misplaced trust in economic authority or police authority or military authority, it's endemic across party lines and throughout the political spectrum. It's rooted in intellectual and personal laziness--the sort of laziness that allows so many, for instance, to support wars in which one is not fighting and would not fight oneself…

IOZ, here, on the perils of national security.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Another Late Night: There's a small but concentrated discussion in Music Box Fray about Jody Rosen's write-up on "chill", or down-tempo music. Gooner scoffs at Rosen's notion that, "In spirit and in fact, chillout was inseparable from the drugged-up culture of Ibiza's throbbing discothèques; it was recuperation music, music for the pause in the bacchanal":

Jody, I have to wonder about your social scene. Middle-aged people with mortgages?

In my extensive experience with wastrel hedonism, I've observed that the people driving the "chillout" scene by actually going to shows and spreading buzz through their offices and neighborhoods tend to be recreational cannabis users in their mid-twenties. They get a good laugh out of the white late boomers embarrassing themselves at Latin Jezz fests and dub reggae shows.

"Chillout" is not a reaction to house music. It's a style invented by DJs who know their audiences are high on weed and will appreciate repetitive, melodic tunes that will have the audience saying things like, "Hey, isn't that Cab Calloway he's remixing?"

Yggy goes with a more technical explanation of the genre's elements:

Chill is used for music within a certain tempo. Songs in the genre are usually in the 85-95 beats per minute (BPM) range. Now, if you take a song from so-called "acid-jazz-- a staple of chill-- and increase its tempo twofold to about 180 BPM, you would have something that sounds like American bebop jazz. This isn't an accident; it's how the innovators of the style arrived at the new groove. Likewise, if you take "drum and bass" dance music and cut its tempo in half, you'll hear James Brown-style R&B breaks (drum fills at the ends of sections.) Once again, it's no accident.

The point is that electronic music can be wildly inventive, but it can also be a contrivance. Some producers today are substituting templates, such as chill, for the real raw material of this music-- soul. It's also no accident that the explosion in the popularity of chill came about in Europe, where there are plenty of great musicians, but they hear the raw material from a distance.

As chill stations pop up in every city, listeners can apply a simple test when they tune in: Does this groove cook?

A cynical Splendid_IREny, here, is...

still inclined to view the movement with a jaundiced eye, as I am anything that extracts the energy of a given form, perfects it to nonoriginality, then serves it to an unsuspecting audience who blindly accept it as new, therefore exciting.

It's as old as snake oil salesmen.

In response, Fray_Editor pipes in his musical sensibility here, while CaptainRonVoyage points out that "New York Chill" has a long-standing predecessor in Santa Monica.

BOTF FilesFresh-Mex in the Rust Belt is just a bad idea all around … KA10:05 a.m.

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Monday, June 6, 2005

Follow the Money: Slate Editor Jacob Weisberg examines United States' policy toward Cuba in The Big Idea and concludes that the president is "not serious at all" about promoting democracy 90 miles to the south. Weisberg touches on a bevy of issues, from the U.S. trade embargo to the community of Cuban political dissidents lobbying for political and economic reform. For Arkady, though, the reason the current administration (and presumably past ones) is slow to the punch is simple:

The last thing they'd want to do is end one of the most consistent sources of politically-profitable outrage, like Castro's regime. If you want to keep funds flowing into GOP coffers from wealthy Cuban exiles, and keep an ever-handy bloc of Cuban-American votes in the critical battleground state of Florida, why would you want to eliminate the wedge issue that has given you such successes over the years? Fidel Castro has long been one of the GOP's best fund-raisers and most tireless propagandists, so any policy that threatens him would be very bad news for Republicans. That's why we'll happily march our armies halfway around the world to get rid of Saddam, but wouldn't send them a few hundred miles off our coast to get rid of Castro.

Arkady expands his argument and looks at other instances of "intentional Republican failure," including abortion, in which the party is better served by inaction that stokes the flames of constituency outrage than coherent policy that could potentially damage Republicans in the center. ElizaA draws this parallel:

It's always reminded me of that classic comic strip "Peanuts."

Every fall, Lucy would say to Charlie Brown "I'll hold the football and your run up and kick it, Charlie Brown". And every year he would run up and just as he was about to make contact with the ball she would yank it away and he would fall flat on his ass. Every time.

Every fall on election day the Republicans hold the ball and the Evangelical Christians line up all outraged about their moral issues and vote for them. Then the next session of congress starts and what's the first thing on the agenda?

The Bankruptcy bill. They fall for it every time.

Valadero believes that our Castro policy isn't nearly so important as our post-Castro policy:

It'll take a brave politician to stand up to the Cuban lobby, but I'm sure it can be done if explained correctly. But the embargo is only part of the problem. The U.S. must have a coherent, far-sighted policy for when Fidel smokes his last cigar. That's the only way to ensure a peaceful, fair and enduring democratic transition in Cuba.

DeSoto insists that, in Cuba, "Democratization, and along with it all the positives and negatives of corporate power e.g. freedom of the press and corruption, will be be convulsive and painful":

What is clear is that [the current Cuban regime] will not allow the sons of Cuban exiles to come to Cuba and take over. They will not let the Cuban Americans take over properties such as farms or houses and locals will not let the Miami guys take over political power. Not without a fight. And that fight might be a violent one. As the solidarity crumbles (as it does in any political movement), those hard core remaining in power will pull out all the stops.

Finally, gtompkins1 explores the possibility of a post-Castro Cuba joining the Union…KA8:45 a.m.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2005

TODAY IN SLATE

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The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

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Lifetime Didn’t Find the Steubenville Rape Case Dramatic Enough. So They Added a Little Self-Immolation.

No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman” 

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