Readers (and Fray Editor) apply for a building permit.

Readers (and Fray Editor) apply for a building permit.

Readers (and Fray Editor) apply for a building permit.

What's happening in our readers' forum.
July 29 2005 9:51 PM

In the Zone

Readers (and Fray Editor) apply for a building permit.

Coffee Nips: Early response to Jacob Weisberg's case against Hillary in The Big Idea Fray has been curious. In his column, Weisberg argues that it isn't Hillary's (misperceived) ultraliberalism, nor her negatives (which aren't as high as you think), nor general unreadiness to have a woman in the White House. 

In Weisberg's words, "it's her personality":

[S]he still lacks a key quality that a politician can't achieve through hard work: likability. As hard as she tries, Hillary has little facility for connecting with ordinary folk, for making them feel that she understands, identifies, and is at some level one of them. You may admire and respect her. But it's hard not to find Hillary a bit inhuman. Whatever she may be like in private, her public persona is calculating, clenched, relentless—and a little robotic.

In other words, can Hillary sincerely convey a joy to be at the Monroe County Fair's summer chili cook-off and summer performance truck series during a blistering August swing through the Central Plains? That's the challenge for any presidential candidate and one that Bill Clinton and George W. Bush mastered with fluency. 

Interestingly, more than one frayster expresses an objection not charted by Weisberg, but touched on best by LoyalOpposition here:

I'm getting tired of being governed by our American Royalty. By 2008, we will have had 20 years of government by a Bush or a Clinton. With the prospect of Hillary or Jeb running, we could easily envision scenarios when it becomes thirty.

Multiple generations getting into the "family business" of politics is not new--there are examples on both sides (Gore … Daley, Jackson). Nor is spousal involvement (Dole, Cheney).

… I'm tired of chance at running for the presidency left to a few (royal) families. And if fatigue with those royal families specifically (or celebrities in general) sets in with the electorate, then it's another argument against Hillary winning.

Does LO have a point? Is there a hidden "imperial fatigue" vote in the electorate after 20 years of Clintons and Bushes that both parties are missing?  … KA6:50 p.m.

What Landsburg Misses: Fray Editor is no friend of regulation. After waiting 18 months for the City of Los Angeles' blessing to add a third unit to his Echo Park duplex that is zoned R-3 (suitable for three units), Fray Editor finally received this e-mail yesterday from his unwearied architects:

hey kev... just got in from the building dept. we got that document recorded on tuesday and went back today. the building permit is ready to issue to a contractor at this point. no more city.

"No More City." Better than "No More Eczema." No more threats to my councilman of hurling Molotov cocktails through the seventh floor window of 201 N. Figueroa, home to some of the city's most nefarious bureaucratic tapeworms. No more limb-chewing at the thought of paying interest on an equity line whose rate of interest keeps climbing while we wait for an edict from the king.

But YoniA raises an important point that I often forget while I plot to thrust a shower curtain rod into an orifice-to-be-determined of the city's director of planning:

One of the key factors in the sharp escalation of housing values that we have witnessed in a number of cities is a renaissance of urbanism. Consumers are apparently willing to trade the space and luxuries of the suburbs for the dense vitality of cities. Zoning regulations play a crucial role in defining and maintaining the character of urban areas. And, as Landsman correctly notes, new construction in cities with careful regulation, rigorous review, and community activists is likely to command a higher price than in cities that allow development to proceed haphazardly. In this sense, zoning laws, like scarcity of land or the cost of construction, represent a fundamental part of a property's value.

There are reasons why previously depressed neighborhoods thrive and bolster property owners' equity in the process. Yet despite the revival, forces on both ends decry the effects. Developers bemoan the expense of regulation that makes gaudy condo projects prohibitive while "neighborhood activists" yell gentrification—though these same activists 15 years ago condemned white flight and the draining of investment from the city. Places like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle that are experiencing the most growth are desirable because of these restrictions, not in spite of them. Do municipalities need to be more expeditious and responsive to the needs of citizens who want to perform small modifications to their properties? Sure. But to slap a Luntz-like appellation on zoning regulations merely because they emanate from the government is obtuse.      

Yoni is in the zone. Earlier this week, he blew the lid off salmon-bashing, criticizing Bryan Curtis for employing Yogi Berra logic in his Middlebrow columnKA9:05 a.m.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Future Shock: William Saletan's five-part series, "The Organ Factory," has EarlyBird and Thrasymachus performing the crystal-ball waltz. First, EB here:

We will be soon be raising whole fetuses (don't worry, we'll have found a more comfortable euphemism by then) in artificial wombs like so many watermelons, for the harvesting of their organs. It will not horrify us to see rows of fetuses in glass jars with tubes feeding them fluids and nutrients. Culture critics will smartly point out how they look like the humans kept in suspended animation in "The Matrix."

We will raise the fetuses without frontal lobes so that there will be no personality or anything else resembling personhood which might upset their handlers. Still, the technicians in the Organ Room (the new "OR") will marvel at the stubborn primal hardwiring which compels them to keep their voices to a reverent whisper while interacting with them.

It will be no more complicated than raising a few thousand little Terry Schiavos a year, removing and distributing all of their organs to the needy, and throwing away the husk. Any remaining wincing will be met with vicious political/social opprobrium. "What are you, some Bible thumping freak?! Do you hate cancer patients, the paralyzed and diseased?! Sure, you care about little blobs floating in synthetic amniotic fluid in a lab, but you don't care about quadrapalegics!"

This is going to happen. And history will look back at the turn of the 21st Century when we got over our pre-modern reverence about "life."

T paints a more political portrait of the future debate:

The Republicans will continue to control the federal government, and will still be in power when stem-cell based cures for diabetes and multiple sclerosis are developed in (respectively) South Korea and France, in 2016.

Throughout 2016, Fox News will feature investigative report after investigative report about the "fetus mills" being used by "shadowy European and Asian conglomerates," but will be surprisingly uninterested in the fact that most of them are partly owned by American pharmaceutical companies.

In early 2017, A bill will be introduced in the House to impose economic sanctions on all nations that participate in "fetal slavery," but will fall short of the 60-vote majority needed to break a Democratic filibuster.
 
…Shortly thereafter, in 2020 or 2021, the remnants of the liberal media will start running news stories about prominent Republicans and their family members who "snuck away" to Europe and Asia in an effort to secretly avail themselves of the stem-cell based medical treatments for diabetes or MS that are legally available to them overseas.

This will result in proposed Republican legislation to imprison anyone found guilty of "implicit fetucide" while abroad, and proposed Democratic legislation to lift the ban on stem-cell treatments. Neither bill will pass.

By 2023, the Federal government will order the Centers for Disease Control to stop collecting data on the statistical incidence of specific diseases in the American population, citing the expense of such studies, their limited scientific utility, and "privacy concerns." The left-leaning blogosphere will resonate with rumors that the decision was politically motivated. Rumors will circulate, also, that American life expectancy at birth is now 15 years shorter than the rest of the industrialized world and dropping…

There's more here worth reading. T touches on an issue that inexplicably gets lost in the ethical discussion—a stigmatization that's already being cultivated, intentional or not, by opponents of aggressive adult and embryonic research.

Here, EB "can see where this is all going. I'm going to look for a company now called 'Body Builders, Inc.' and buy a lot of stock for the long run. The very long run. Their motto would be, 'We're people people.' " But T reassures him that:

Actually, it'll probably be a genetically tweaked version of your 18-year-old self.

Unless, of course, you didn't like yourself at 18, in which case you'll have to shell out some extra $$ for an immune-suppressed version of someone you DO want to be.

Great, a huge premium all because Fray Editor doesn't want to be an asexual, ponytailed depressive who's really into Douglas Coupland, consignment stores, and hangs out at the campus radio station … KA8:30 a.m.

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Friday, July 22, 2005

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Bald Tony Applies to Pitchforkmedia.com: In the words of Rex Barney, "give that fan a contract":

I think criticism is an art form itself. And I guess if I were an aspiring twenty-something writer I'd have to face the fact that my subject matter is going to be the current crop of "artists" such as R. Kelly. And I'd do my best to deliver the most compelling piece of music criticism I could. But, in reality, if having the "courage" to spew forth the unedited contents of one's head is the measure of an artist.....well I don't know what.

R Kelly wrote:

I believe I can fly
I believe I can touch the sky

He belongs in jail for that, if for no other reason.

For more from BaldTony on the relative virtue of perversity in pop, go here.

Top of the Ninth: The forgotten sister of the Bill of Rights is the topic of discussion here between Jack_Baltimore (natural-rights advocate) and TheRanger (textualist). This has been a recurring theme on the Fray this week, not surprising given the SCOTUS nomination. HLS2003 has done some related work on the topic here and here.

Department of Strange Bedfellows: This just doesn't get articulated enough in American Jewish circles. Those who should have the most circumspect view of history have committed themselves to a program of political myopia and rarely bother to ask themselves the most obvious of questions—what happens when the agenda of Jews and evangelicals diverge completely? Read Dilan_Esper hereKA12:20 p.m.

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Who the Hell is Rachael Ray and Why is She Flooding My Boards? One of the qualifications of Fray Editor—aside from being functionally bipolar—is that he be a generalist. And Fray Editor feels comfortable that he knows a little bit about a lot of things.

So, it always comes as some surprise when more than a dozen pages of posts are composed on a topic completely foreign to Fray Editor—say, the mating habits of sea otters or Rachael friggin' Ray.

Most are rabid defenders of Ray's populist approach to cooking—moms with busy households who have neither the time nor resources to prepare an herb-encrusted sea bass over salsify and lentils. Morgstress "loves food, but [hates] foodies" and impales Slate pro Sara Dickerman with a meat tenderizer:

It must be a hard life, being supported in all of your extravagant snobbery. Most freelance writers are glad to scrape by, yet you denounce Rachel Ray for eating out "on the cheap"? Who are you, and what planet do you come from?

Not everyone has the same advantages as you. We don't all get to pursue our hobbies and write an article when we feel like it and call it a career. Most of America is eking out a living on much less than $40 a day, and Rachel addresses our issues. Food for the rest of us.

Man, I'm not even a "hausfrau" and I'm pissed. Come down from your ivory tower and work at a real job for a few 50 hour weeks and see if you feel like going home and scrubbing scallops!

For the rest of America, we may watch and dream about making the latest lobster saffron creation from the Iron Chef, but when it comes time to cook, we're flipping to Rachel Ray.

Then there's Chef donuts4everyone's curious piece of triangulation vis-à-vis both food writers and Ray:

I am a professional chef and have been slugging it out in kitchens for 25 years. If you idiot food writers think that some immature TV "chef" is a savior, I truly feel sorry for you. Part of the Culinarian's Code is to cultivate the talents in ones subordinates. Arrogance has no place in the kitchen. Let me tell you all something, IT'S JUST COOKING! I get so tired of these so-called foodies criticizing people in order to make themselves look "elite", when they've never spent the first day on a hot line. And as far as Rachel Ray goes, I am delighted that, in this age of anorexia and bulimia, A beautifully well proportioned woman is not ashamed to eat and cook. No, she not a chef, nor is Nigella, Emeril or the great Julia. But, she is a woman that likes food. And as a man who has EARNED the right to critique, she is fine with me. And all you writers, stick your truffles where the sun don't shine.

Rachael Ray: cook, but not chef? Join the buffet line hereKA11:20 a.m.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

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Apply Within: Fray Editor's perceived biases aside, I've been begging for the better part of two years for more conservatives in the Fray. Gregor_Samsa makes a formal entreaty for BOTF:

One of the things about BOTF I find lamentable is the acute shortage of intelligent, articulate conservative posters…

This is not good for BOTF. This is not good for America. In the final analysis, this is not good for mankind (because the world looks up to America for guidance, and America looks up to BOTF for the same). As a liberal, you must appreciate the value of diversity in everything, foremost in the field of ideas…

So, rising above partisan politics, let me propose a solution. Let's create a spot for a Guest Conservative column. Each week, one towering liberal figure fights it out for the other side, defending the conservative ideas of the day against the merciless onslaught of logic and evidence. Why the President should bomb Monaco, why returning to barter should keep inflation in check, why Laura Bush is just the right choice for the SCOTUS, and so on. I don't think it's fair to burden any thinking person with this for more than a week, so it should be a voluntary service and done by rotation.

So, any volunteers for next week?

What about this guy?

Noah's Lark: One man's porn is another man's bedtime story, or so say MatthewGarth and omnibus1. While Tim Noah lambastes Steven Spielberg for appropriating September 11 imagery in War of the Worlds, users in Chatterbox Fray compose that ubiquitous "doth protest" top post in response. In the case of omnibus1, who has a nifty sense of the performative, she's excused:

Noah wasn't offended by Schindler's List, but David Mamet said it was exploitation. David-fucking-Mamet.

I wonder what the Chicago monosyllabist is saying about War of the Worlds. Maybe the guy who fictionalized Kosovo in Wag the Dog is enjoying a send-up of 9/11. You never can tell.

After all, whoever staged it, 9/11 was intended to be theatre. And so a filmmaker (inside of many of them there is a Hamlet) stages a disaster which bears a shocking resemblance to it. But he wears it with a difference.

9/11 was used to take us to Iraq. 9/11 was obscenely exploitational. Like the death of Hamlet's father it was used both by domestic exploiters and the foreign enemy.

If someone wants to pull apart the wool over our eyes and give us a fresh perspective, what's wrong with that?

I would think that Mamet would feel Spielberg had improved his art since Schindler's List, by making it more fictional.

MG feels that Spielberg has an ulterior motive:

Tim Noah is guilty of underestimating Spielberg in the same way most critics underestimate most bad movies. Figuring out that Spielberg is being exploitative is where the thinking starts, not the point at which you go into condemnatory mode. So allow me to guess: Spielberg wants to aestheticize, exploit, and otherwise betray the memories of the experience of 9/11 so that we will get over it.

Now, this is not something you can say to Entertainment Weekly. It may not even be something you can say to yourself. But deep in his conflicted heart, where the big bad dad, the Grerat Santini of the unconscious, can be redeemed, even emulated, Spielberg wants to grab us by the shoulders and say "Enough! Grow up, sissy boy!" You can still dislike the guy (dad, Spielberg, Tom Cruise, David Koepp), but at least you'll respect him.

Getting over 9/11 while we're still at war in reaction to it? Never let it be said that Spielberg was behind the curve.

And kygirl93-2 lights a spark when she huffs, "We don't own that imagery, it does not belong to 9/11 and using it for effect in a movie shouldn't make us think that Spielberg was giving an elbow to the gut of all of us."

A Liberal is a Conservative Who's Been Groped: Stick around this place long enough, and you'll read everything, including the case for affirmative action by conservative stalwart Ele_KA 6:05 p.m.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Coulda Been Worse: That's the consensus among Democrats on the Fray. Juris-Frayster JohnLex7 handicaps Roberts against the field:

Oh, there are lots and lots of people who would have been way worse than Roberts in this position. Brown and Owen for starters. Could he have done better? Sure. Prado would have been better. Sotomayor would have been better. Clement was probably the female version of Roberts, without the government lawyering experience, but with private practice experience. I think that it is interesting that Bush chose to nominate a Roman Catholic, given that Catholics flocked to the Republican Party in huge numbers in the last election. I thought that evangelicals hated Catholicism though, and thought that Catholics were all going to hell because of "idol worship" and stuff like that. Guess that stuff all goes by the wayside when you are trying to be Caesar, rather than just giving him what is his. Bush made a play to solidify his base of rich white men by nominating one, while also solidifying his newly found Roman Catholic friends. Whether this nomination pisses off Hispanics, women and the religious right remains to be seen.

TychoBrahe goes Russ Feingold:

Based upon Bush's track record of nominating fire-breathing wingnuts to important judicial posts, Roberts' nomination is surprisingly tame. Not that I favor Roberts or any other conceivable Bush choice. However, the president has the right to pick whom he wants, which is one of the reasons I believe that the Bush election and re-election were unmitigated disasters…

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BTC says that "Fred Thompson was robbed":

He had it all: the voice, the controlled but impatient gestures, the law degree, advocate for state control of uteri, never met a spotted owl he didn't want to eat ... Plus it would have got him off Law & Order, which I think everyone could have gotten together behind. Another missed opportunity to unite the country.

And now the poor guy has to work under future White House chief of staff Ed Gillespie to get Roberts through the Senate, not that that'll be much of a challenge.

HLS2003 and BTC initiate the long-form thread on whether the judiciary can be both efficacious and political. Here's HLS:

I'd rather avoid seeing the judiciary politicized, but perhaps it's inevitable. However, I take umbrage at efforts -- by both sides of the aisle -- to simultaneously make the judiciary political, and decry their opponents for opposing (or nominating) "overtly political" candidates. That's the sort of bullshit -- trading on the residual public trust -- that the public hates about politics. So it's no wonder that the public's residual trust in the Courts erodes away more and more.

BTC responds:

It isn't as though judicial appointments, or even the nature of the judiciary and the Supreme Court, were ever free of politics, and Karl Rove has gotten at least two state Supreme Court justices elected. Can't get much more political than an elected judge.

That aside, don't you think there's such a thing as a mainstream in judicial thinking? And doesn't that tend to change over time? What strikes me as poisonous are political attacks on the independence of the judiciary, a la DeLay and Cornyn, not the application of politics to selecting federal court judges.

And JohnLex's Jurisprudence post, "At least he didn't nominate an idiot," is hereKA 10:05 p.m.