The Fray closes one door and opens another.

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Oct. 28 2005 2:43 PM

Scoot Over, Harriet

The Fray closes one door and opens another.

It's a big news day in the Fray and, as many fraygrants have noted, a lousy weekend for the Fray to undergo a major migration that will go a long way toward improving the forum's performance. A migration of this sort must be scheduled weeks in advance and, unfortunately, the timing stinks—but save up those column inches for Sunday evening and Monday morning.

On the Libby indictment and resignation, which should light up the Fray this afternoon brighter than Michael Beschloss' MSNBC makeup job, here's JohnLex7 declaring that Libby is the administration's designated fuckee:

In the manner of all good organized crime outfits, someone was designated by the Bush Administration to take the fall. That someone was Scooter Libby. He lied to the grand jury to protect Cheney, Rove and possibly others. He will dutifully take his punishment, pleading guilty so no one will have to testify to what he lied about. He will do some time in a reasonably easy federal facility, and then be handsomely rewarded by those backing Cheney and Bush. Since he's not in the Mafia, they won't be expecting him to do what Frankie Pentangeli did. Maybe.

Catorce unveils his crystal ball:

Libby will plead guilty to some crime for which he will receive 2 years of Martha Stewart jail. He will then write a tell-some book, give lucrative speeches, and become a conservative radio talk show host. In other words, perjury and obstruction of justice will be a nice career move for him.

There is no way Libby can defeat these charges, for one main reason. Libby would certainly have to testify in his defense and you can be sure Cheney will never allow that to happen. Why? Because Libby's cross examination would bring out every nasty little thing there is to bring out on Dick Cheney, literally putting the war on trial. And if Libby feels spiteful, he can certainly bring down a few other high ranking officals with him -- and can probably implicate them in far worse behavior. Still, Libby won't flip on anyone to obtain the get out of jail free card. Someone named "Scooter" doesn't flip, he takes the fall.

Let's close the door on the Miers escape hatch. What's most important about this story?

For Demosthenes2, it's ...

a particularly bitter family quarrel and it stems from the fracture that lies at the heart of the increasingly tense alliance between the evangelical wing of the neo-conservative movement and the business interests that comprise the real and more powerful base of the party. That's important because it can illuminate what might happen next as Bush tries to get something to go his way…

ElephantGun agrees:

The only difference between previous Bush initiatives and the Miers nomination is that Bush didn't want to go along with the right-wing this time. Bush wanted to nominate a loyal apparatchik, Bush family retainer, and all around nice woman for the job and expected the right-wing to follow his lead. The problem for Bush was that the activist right dominated the Republican Party on legal issues just like the neo-cons dominated on defense and tax crusaders dominated on the budget. Bush and the rest of the non-activist Republican Party has been the tool of the right all along. The pawns being pushed by the right-wing players. The tail being wagged by the right-wing dog.

For RoyJaruk18, it's that ...

People are fed up with cronyism. This isn't New York City under Boss Tweed in the 19th Century, or even Chicago und Richard Daley the Elder in the 20th. We need the best legal brains we can find on the Supreme Court, regardless of party affiliation or where they lie in the political spectrum, without resorting to litmus tests on lightning-rod issues. We need independent thinkers who clearly understand that it is not the job of the Supreme Court to MAKE the law, but rather to rule on the constitutionality of the laws and cases brought before it - and that is all they are supposed to do. The precedents the Supremes set are too important and have so great an impact on our society that they cannot be left to a crony loyal to a political dynasty - or to a political party.

For Steve-R here, following Dahlia Lithwick's analysis, it's that ...

Bush is now waist-deep in abortion politics. There's no soft-pedaling or dancing around this one anymore.

And he's brought it on himself. Bush is not personally committed to over-turning Roe and outlawing abortion. That's clear enough. His politics have always been very non-committal on the issue, and in recent years have consisted simply of bland and tepid declarations in support of a "culture of life." His only interest has been to play the abortion issue and the anti-abortion base for his political gain. At the same time, between that rabid base and supporters of abortion rights (who make up the majority), he has sensed a political open flame, and he doesn't want to get burned. So his strategy until now has been to play both sides of the political fence.

Bush has said that he does not have a "litmus test," and has not quizzed his appointees about their stance on abortion. I'm actually inclined to believe him there. He doesn't want to know, and he doesn't care that much. What he has cared about is that he has a "safe" nominee who can dance around the issue and at the same time mollify the pro-life base. He pulled it off with Roberts, but as Lithwick points out, those days are over. As are the days when Bush can sidestep the issue and still keep the pro-lifers in his pocket. He now needs to make up his mind and show his cards on how he's going to play the abortion issue, and face the consequences.

And for HLS2003, who "for once [agrees] with Lithwick," it's that ...

conservatives have decided to pierce the judicial veil. "In OUR Senate, from OUR President, we get OUR candidate," is the feeling. But I believe that by playing by the rules of a highly political and powerful Court, conservatives are joining liberals in sowing the seeds of ultimately diminished power and legitimacy for the judicial branch.

Thanks for you patience as we upgrade our system … KA11:40 a.m.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Sex is Horrible ... and in Such Small Portions!: Meghan O'Rourke's critique of "male traditionalist" Harvey Mansfield and conservative bioethicist Leon Kass puzzles HLS2003. "Middle-aged men" Mansfield and Kass express concern that today's sexually aggressive young women are pursuing casual hookups and thoughtless sexual sampling at the expense of more fulfilling, romantic relationships. HLS charges that O'Rourke's piece is "schizophrenic":

it can't decide whether it hates the messengers or hates the message. If the point is that middle-aged men never have anything useful or insightful to say about young female sexuality, fine. It's an idiotic perspective, but it's classic interest-group politics that only a member of the "in-group" is allowed to criticize the "in-group." If, on the other hand, the claim is that the middle-aged men are permissible critics, but that in this case their message is wrong, then where's the support for that? The only real argument I could see being made to refute the substance of the critique (hardly a radical one -- the idea that rampant sexuality may not be an unmixed blessing for young women) was that the critics had a "monolithic view of what young women want." Well, duh…

EarlyBird tags O'Rourke's argument as a series of "cheap shots." And chadosaurus echoes HLS—take on Mansfield and Kass as reactionaries, not as crusty, old men. Ditto for mallardsballad.

Meanwhile, here, ShriekingViolet (who's been on a tear of late) parses Mansfield from Kass. While she finds Mansfield's argument "worth following," SV interprets Kass' comments as textbook misogyny:

Men are deemed responsible enough to engage in sex for pleasure, whereas women are divided into two camps: whores and housewives. "Modesty" and chastity are elevated as ideals to keep good girls in line to become social trophies and wholesome mothers. Yet even men were not terribly sexually interested in the pure, chaste feminine ideal, as evidenced by the fact that prostitution and adultery were more discreetly acceptable in the prudish Victorian era than they are now.

It should go without saying that this arrangement was less than ideal for any woman with career ambitions or, for that matter, a functioning sex drive.

SV offers her typically judicious perspective ...

These cultural changes have caused a number of difficulties for women, too, but these are challenges associated with increased freedom. More freedom, as usual, entails more insecurity and tougher choices.

... and ultimately concludes ...

But it should be no cliché to say that freedom is worth a few sacrifices. Men and women need to honestly engage with the question of how to deal with the instability brought about by these changes, but not by yearning for the restoration of a simpler era when women were valued for how thoroughly they could restrain their own sexuality.

For Dilan_Esper, "There are two separate questions, and I have a feeling people like Mansfield and Kass are conflating them":

Question 1 is whether the sex lives of women are more satisfying now than they once were…

Question 2 is whether women are better off emotionally in a society that has become so openly sexualized.

Like SV, DE frames his conclusion in the context of freedom "as its own virtue."

Fighting Words: It isn't often that rob_said_that drops into Fighting Words Fray, but he takes a gander at Christopher Hitchens' current article on the downward spiral that is George Galloway. By no means is rst a Galloway partisan ...

I'm not going to bother to defend Galloway, since I've never supported him in the past, didn't even know who he was until I saw him on Maher's show, and I don't doubt that he's a crook in every respect that galls Hitchens under the saddle. And then some.

But rst can't stomach Hitchens' selective indignation:

I find it interesting that certain other lies surrounding the whole Iraq debacle (Iraqle?) have apparently never bothered Mr. Hitchens at all. Lying in order to bring about a war in which 2,000 Americans have now paid the ultimate price is apparently neither here nor there. Certainly it is not worth talking about, since Hitchens never talks about it. I suppose on some level this is understandable—why should he devote precious column inches to matters that don't salve his wounded ego or vindicate him against Galloway's "lionizing" at the hands of the anti-war movement?

But as I write this we are working on our third kilodeath of American servicemen in Iraq. To put that in perspective, if 2,000 adults were to be killed in the largish suburb I live in, a fourth of the kids in the high school would have lost a parent. If it had happened in the town my father grew up in, there wouldn't be any town left.

For his part, Geoff14 has already written the next 12 Hitchens columns. Check 'em out hereKA11:00 a.m.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Malen Dvojka Zatvorena Kola sa dva Sedišta: The Burger King Halloween mask bonanza—surreptitiously pimping creepy King masks at nine bucks a pop—has Seth Stevenson calling out Crispin Porter + Bogusky, BK's ad firm for publicity shills flooding his e-mail box asking about such a promotion. But zeitgeist can't seem to work himself into a tizzy:

Seth, calm down. You wrote the column based on 4 emails from an unknown source, but managed to show off your insider ad biz knowledge. No pity points for you.

The submissive chicken site is a scam, BTW. I told the chicken to recite the Prologue to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in Middle English, and all he could come up with was the first stanza of the Beach Boy's Little Deuce Coupe in Serbian.

Finally, I think the BK mask is an oddly endearing visage, the kind of vacant, troubled look that goes well with the new Folk revival and products whose names sound like bubbles blown in molasses.

Soldier on, adboy. I will try to get you to do some buzzflack for genetically altered hedgehogs, in a month or so when you have forgotten this. We'll see if your gullibility is real then.

Still, if you're with Seth on this, direct your indignation at self-confessed "recovering publicist" Fish8 who confesses that stirring up phony buzz for a campaign like the King mask "used to be my stock and trade." And in case you're planning on leaving the house in one of those mutant Barry Gibb masks, watch out for rundeep who "hereby vow[s] to pelt every person I see with such a mask on Halloween with organic produce."

The Numbers Game: Decimalizing time, distance, and death is a tricky business. More times than not, ushering in a new decade proves only how similar it is to the last one. So when the news crawl announced today that the 2,000 American died in Iraq today, I wasn't surprised to learn that nothing changed about the prospects, morality, and consequence of the war in Iraq. Yet, Thrasymachus brings up a solid point:

The news agencies are today reporting that the U.S. death toll in Iraq has climbed past the 2,000 mark. I'm not sure about the philosophical significance of this grim integer, but the prize for tone-deaf ignorance of it would have to go to the Pentagon spokesman who addressed the media on this subject today. As ABC News reports,

The spokesman for the American-led multinational force called on news organizations not to look at the 2,000 death as a milestone in the conflict. Lt. Col. Steve Boylan described 2,000 figure as an "artificial mark on the wall."

"I ask that when you report on the events, take a moment to think about the effects on the families and those serving in Iraq," Boylan said in an e-mail. "The 2,000 service members killed in Iraq supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom is not a milestone. It is an artificial mark on the wall set by individuals or groups with specific agendas and ulterior motives."

A note, to Lt. Col. Boylan, if he ever wants to be a full bird colonel: when discussing American casualties in an increasingly dubious war, references to any "mark on the wall" are likely to be taken the wrong way. Second, the Lt. Colonel might wish to reconsider his characterization of everybody who gives a damn about the number of U.S. casualties as "individuals with ulterior motives."

My own motives aren't the least bit ulterior, at least. I'd like to see as few Americans as possible get killed, and I'd like the maximum possible assurance that those Americans who do get killed are giving their lives to some good purpose.

Idle assumption has Boylan appearing not unlike Captain Queeg, which seems to be the template at any departmental podium in Washington these days.

Bar Weenies: Jurisprudence writer Mark Obbie's review of Harriet Miers' qualifications includes more than one snide aside about lawyers who take their Bar associations seriously. AustinCityLimits isn't amused:

Obbie may be right. Miers' leadership positions at the Dallas and Texas Bars don't really say all that much about her fitness to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. The only problem with his snide piece: he has to repeatedly denigrate membership in bar organizations to make his larger point. Bar membership is for losers and therefore Miers is a super loser. It's not necessary to trash the Texas Bar in order to say that Miers' experience there doesn't prepare her for the U.S. Supreme Court. Why didn't Obbie mention Joe Jamail or John O'Quinn, two Texas superlawyers on par with Boies? He should know.

Allepo Colony: Well, we found a taker—The_Bell is willing to address whether the Syrians will be brought to task. He dovetails this discussion with the death of Rosa Parks over in Foreigners Fray. 

Fray Survivor: Thanks to skitch for providing the Fray a streamlined, one-stop portal for Fray Survivor I. You can catch up with developments, including the first four castaways, there; just call it FrayTiVo … KA4:30 p.m.

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Monday, October 24, 2005

It's Not the Crime; It's Not the Cover-up … : It's the "fundamental problems within the Bush Administration regarding intelligence. fundamental problems within the Bush Administration regarding intelligence," according to The_Bell's Monday briefing:

This goes beyond the lack of coordinated intelligence revealed by the September 11 Commission. It suggests the Vice-President and an inner power circle were not merely obsesses with keeping intelligence secret but were overtly hostile to any dissenting intelligence from the Administration's official line.

Another set of Bush era intelligence abuses are emerging that are just as disturbing, if not more so, than the Plame affair but which may get far less press due to the latter case's high visibility. The Electronic Privacy Information Center has turned over records to the Washington Post that it obtained from a Federal Bureau of Investigation internal inquiry via the Freedom of Information Act. These records indicate that the FBI has conducted clandestine surveillance on some U.S. residents for as long as eighteen months at a time without proper paperwork or oversight.

If and when the grand jury hands down indictments, will Democrats be able to frame the charges in the broader context of failed intelligence? Will they be able to convince the midterm electorate that the scandal isn't so much about dirty tricks as it is about a much larger and more criminal conspiracy to wag the dog? It's one thing when MoveOn and Howard Dean sing this refrain, but it's another thing when the messenger looks like this.

On Thank You Notes:CDouglas confesses, "There are tens of thousands of asinine communiqués with my signature out there." Reply in gratitude here.

Intelligently Designed Novels: Here's rundeep on the Marcus v. Franzen fracas:

My utterly unscientific conclusion is that today's modern, self-described novelists are so freakin' arrogant they refuse to submit in any way to narrative. Make it more coherent, well, that would undermine the point, wouldn't it? Which would be that I, the auteur, have the ability to go on at you forever without you having any choice in the matter.

Assassin of the Week—The Recount: Fraywatch found this little gem from ShriekingViolet all alone, with nary a response, over in Foreigners Fray. This isn't her first takedown of Peter Savodnik.

It's been only a few hours since Michael Young published his piece on Syria and Rafki Hariri's assassination, but not a single frayster has commented substantively on Syria's culpability and growing isolation in the world community. It wasn't long ago that the Assads were public enemy No. 1 among liberals of the Human Rights Watch/Amnesty International ilk. The Fray awaits comment.

Picking at the Carcass: As an Angeleno and likely season-ticket buyer for a hypothetical NFL franchise in Los Angeles, I want no part of this pillaging:

Saints owner Tom Benson declared this week that nothing will be decided on the franchise's future until after the season. But ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports that, based on information from key league sources, the team has probably played its last game in New Orleans.

According to Mortensen, San Antonio is a likely home for 2006 and Los Angeles is the preferred destination beyond that.

Benson makes Bob Irsay look like Raoul Wallenberg. Surely L.A. can steal a franchise the old-fashioned way—through municipal bribery and extortion ... KA12:10 p.m.
 

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Buy and Cell: William Saletan reports that two recent experiments demonstrate that human embryonic stem-cell research may be attainable without killing embryos. Saletan suggests that this development could divide the religious right—"opponents of embryo killing from opponents of in vitro fertilization." 

Has the report changed any minds in the Fray? You bet. Here's Chad-B:

I now withdraw my objections to stem-cell research, based upon this new technique of withdrawing one cell out of eight, and leaving a viable embryo behind. There are still many ethical issues to address, but at least in this case, I am satisfied that we are no longer killing one human being for the sake of another (and worse yet, forcing everyone to fund such insanity, like it or not).

So here we are, at the beginning of the high road. As I have said here countless times, it would not take long for us to find an ethical road to ES cells, and therefore there was little justification for taking the low road. In that respect, I feel that I have been shown correct.

If Bush had half a brain (a big if), he would pounce on this opportunity. Throw some big number at stem cell research, while rightly proclaiming that the value of keeping the high ground was worth the almost non-existent wait.

Arlington2 thinks that opponents of embryonic stem-cell research were never that concerned with the destruction of embryos. Rather ...

that humans are tinkering with God's plan for human life.

Only God should be able to create life, they believe. To be theologically consistent, they have to maintain that all life is sacred, every fertilization a heavenly miracle. This might explain why they're opposed to abortion in cases of rape or incest, or in circumstances where a baby will be born with spina bifida or a similar deformity…

Opposition to stem cell research is driven mostly by religious fears about humans supplanting God's authority. If we can unlock the secrets of life and death, much of the mystery, some might say superstition, goes away and religious leaders hold far less power over their followers. If medicine gains the ability to cure almost any disease, the opportunity to advise people, "It's in God's hands now. All we can do is pray," really diminishes.

People might turn to other people, doctors and researchers, when they needed help instead of asking the reverend what they should do. Doctors might be the new gods. Secular humanism could take over. More to the point, churches and clergy could be forced to stay out of medical affairs and attend to spiritual matters, which I would say is where they belong in the first place.

A bunch of fraysters tried to untangle the pro-lifer's fave—the oft-cited but amorphous "sanctity of human life." Trebuchet_ takes a stab:

Sanctity of Life is a human construct that belongs to God, not Nature, and Science deals with Nature, not God. Theologians should have been warned sixty years ago that Nature and science would not share their view on Sanctity of Life any longer when Oppenheimer declared "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

More on the sanctity of life from popzealot here.

Assassin of the Week: To Strawmen_of_America for a takedown of Slate Editor Jacob Weisberg's "Illiberal Prosecution." To Weisberg's contention that Bush opponents should suppress their schadenfreude, SoA retorts:

Leaks are classic tools of manipulation and misinformation. Do you honestly think that any "administration source" in the White House can talk to a New York Times or Washington Post reporter without its being known to Karl Rove or one of his deputies? Do you honestly think that Rove hasn't thought of using "leaks" as ways to get his message out?

Let's say Bush has had to regroup on Iraq. It's far better, politically, to have Bush just keep repeating the same bromides as before and have a "highly placed source" explain the administration's new thinking. That way the public doesn't hear the president admit he was wrong and the chattering classes think they're getting inside dope--exactly the inside dope Rove wants them to get, which counteracts the common charge that the administration is out of touch with reality.

The leak regarding Valerie Plame Wilson was not specifically intended as payback against her husband, and it certainly wasn't intended to harm her. It was intended to suggest that the CIA, which detests the administration (and the feeling is mutual), was sending its own guy to Nigeria to get the answer it wanted--cooked intelligence, exactly what the administration was being accused of. That is exactly how Novak used it in his column, and how Libby and Rove hoped that sympathetic journalists like Miller and Cooper would use it. In a moment of carelessness, the leakers overlooked the fact that Ms. Wilson was an undercover agent and that they were potentially violating the law by disclosing her CIA employment.

But their "leak" wasn't, as you seem to believe, a gold nugget unearthed by fearless and enterprising journalists determined to get the whole truth in front of the public. It was a Beltway political ploy using hand-picked reporters as administration tools. And so are most of the other "leaks" reporters are likely to happen upon. You see, "leaks" serve the interests of both sides. The politicians get a message across in a particularly persuasive way (by pretending they tried to hide it), and the reporters get a story with an element of drama in it. It is at least arguable that the public interest would best be served by stopping this charade.

Betty_the_Crow turns in a quality effort on White House plumbing as well.

Fray Survivor: The tribe has spokenSawbones has been booted … and Urquhart has been traded from the Foxfur Tribe to the Horsehead Tribe for alexa-blue, Alan Embree, and a conditional 2008 draft choice … KA3:45 p.m.

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