Boxing Days

Our readers respond to Saletan’s changes of heart.

Ballot Box has been especially busy keeping up with Bush’s major policy statements: the NYT op-ed, the speech on Ellis Island, and the address to the U.N. Put all that into the Ballot Box Fray, where it runs into the boisterous background of party-bashing, political news flashes and polls (Q: Will there be a vote in the Senate  on war with Iraq?), and it can be hard Fraying. As usual, a time-constrained reader can simply View Fray Editor’s Picks (there are a passel) or go to any of the selections below. …

I. More government by op-ed: The Bell started perhaps the best Op-Ed thread here. Arrow read the piece as legitimate strategic thinking here:

Saletan is probably correct that the one thing of importance in “Bush“‘s essay is the addition of delivery capability to the criteria for pre-emptive military action. It suggests that the suitcase theory enunciated by Cheney and company is being given a well-deserved burial.

In contrast, Lee saw Bush becoming Clinton here:

Slowly, the president is expanding the appeal of his desire to invade Iraq. He’s trying to push everybody’s buttons by telling them Saddam threatens something they cherish. Shades of Bill Clinton!So, is he reaching out, or grasping at straws? Will he resort to humanistic, liberal ideas to justify toppling Saddam? Keep in mind that he snubbed his conservative/free market/libertarian friends with his action on steel tariffs. He could just as easily get all weepy & liberal if he thinks it would gain him the support he needs to whack Saddam.

Matt continued the rights discussion here.

II. Islands of influence: Walt was one of the few to single out the Ellis Island speech for scrutiny here:

Saletan has a very curious take:”Bin Laden won’t get the showdown he sought between Islam and Christianity.” Let’s hope not. But the Bush administration, by pounding the invade-Iraq war drum, seems to be attempting to precipitate exactly that. If we invade Iraq over the objections of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, etc. won’t we be instigating such a showdown?

Of course, this was before the UN speech, and Bush’s newfound multilateralism.

III. U.N.-expected: After Bush’s speech to the U.N., Saletan made essentially John’s argument below (see Tuesday’s Fraywatch). The Slasher made it, too, but with the rhetoric ratcheted up here:

The Bush administration has developed what might be termed a “mad dog” approach to governance. Its initial approach to everything is so extreme that it horrifies everyone, but it digs in and defends it until it’s obvious that nobody is buying this, so then it scales back to a more reasonable position and acts as if it were “working with” those who called its bluff. My grandson, who is 6, does this too. However, we do not let him run the country just yet.

(Contrast this with Doubter’s thread on “manufacturing consent” here or Lee’s point above.)

More U.N.-expected was the chorus of support for Bush’s speech from both sides of the aisle in Ballot Box. Loran explained how he and Saletan had reached the same conclusion here:

Like Saletan, I keep asking why Iraq, why now, though? But I know the answer and so does he. While compared to historical precedent, a pre-emptive attack does seem to beg more motivation, it is clear that we can’t do business with Saddam. It’s not the terrorist nuclear threat supplied by him that worries us, it’s the theatre nuclear threat that would stymie large troop concentrations in an area of vital oil supply.

Still More UN-expected was the chorus of support forClinton’s appearance on Letterman. You can find pieces of it in Ballot Box (here) or Television (here) or you can go to the best discussion, the one begun by Adam Masin in the Best of The Fray Fray here

Haole rollers: The post-Blue Crush sociologizing turned into tourists vs. locals after Ender started this thread. His upshot?

Sorry if I don’t buy into the idea that life is somehow harder in paradise. The problem as I see it, paradise is not hard enough on the locals.

K House spoke for those trapped in paradise here:

You appear to have this idea of all of Hawaii being paradise, and paradise being too good to the locals, and the money obviously flowing in to the economy because you spent some cash. But, just like the movie and all other movies about Hawaii, you have a false impression about the place. There’s an interior to the island that’s hidden from the tourists that would stun you. …

Common law and order: The Dear Prudence letter that generated the most response by far was In a Quandary’s. (She wondered what to call hersignificant other.) Prudie had no definitive answer, so Gamebird offered one here.

What I sometimes do, rude though it is, is simply call them husband and wife. After all, they are living together, they are having sex in a committed and exclusive relationship, they are common law married in many states.It annoys the heck out of the people involved though and I tend not to do it if I care about their feelings. However, I tend not to care about their feelings if they are unwilling to commit to the person they are shagging. After all, I’m lower on the totem pole than their sex buddy. …

(If you think that’s harsh, try this one or this.) Doodahman, in his weekly “two cents” noted sagely that “the words ‘common law’ have the same effect on the word ‘wife’ that ‘special’ has on the word ‘Olympics.’

DP always has several sui-generis threads at least as rewarding as the letters in the column. Stunned’s boyfriendforgot her name here. …

Discussting: After several eminently sensible complaints, the Discuss button at the top of the Slate home page has been re-linked to the general Fray Topics  page … 12:45 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2002  

Nice threads: In the Politics Fray’s discussion of the Brookings fellows’ proposed ultimatum to Saddam, Cato the Censor started an excellent discussion here. His basic point?

The administration has purposely engaged in sending out mixed messages, as the hawks and doves have seemingly been battling out their differences in public. I think that the administration long ago decided that we would go to war with Iraq. They are also smart enough to know that there would be an almost universal outcry against a perceived pre-emptive strike. Therefore, they began ratcheting up the pressure with ever-increasing hints of war, as well as obvious preparation for war. However, wishing to appear flexible and responsive to domestic and international concerns, the administration first backed off its decision that it was unnecessary to consult Congress. Next, it will give Iraq and the UN one last chance to avoid war.

This is a brilliant tactic. We will wage war, yet the administration will have looked like it grudgingly gave peace one last effort.

John, on the other hand, saw the call for inspections as the surest way to war and the current administration warmongering as the best way to avoid it here:

If you want to start a war, one that might be legitimized by a vote at the U.N., the United States should issue the ultimatum that these authors have in mind. But what if what you really want are truly unfettered U.N. inspections? Here’s what you do:

1. Put the evil and arrogant U.S. on a war footing2. Have the evil and arrogant U.S. declare that further inspections would be meaningless (but reveal some apparent internal dissension on the point to keep the idea of inspections alive)

3. Have the U.N. negotiate with Hussein to allow inspections to resume, with the understanding that the U.S. is chomping at the bit to attack and will do so at the first sign that the inspections are being hampered in any way.

Hussein might actually agree to such inspections because he wouldn’t look to the Arab world like he is fearfully caving in to the Great Satan (and he knows that the U.S. would never attack if the inspectors are given a chance to do their jobs) … 10:50 a.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2002

The Anti-Chatterbox?: The Dismal Science Fray is teeny tiny, but usually smart. In the great deflation debate (following Robert Shapiro’s piece), Reasonable Rick asks a good question (and I don’t know that the answers he’s gotten are right): What about the money supply?

Baltimore Aureole may not be as interested in technical questions as Phil from California (all I can say about his post is “Huh?”), but offers the following nugget:

Dell has been, and still appears to be, successful. but if you actually examine their PC offerings, on a product by product basis, you invariably find them priced $200 more than the competition for similar features. How long can this consumer knowledge deficit last? I would have expected this to have run its course already, so obviously I don’t have the answer. however, I do have a Sony PC which has better features and a lower price than Dell. Maybe the next Dell commercial should feature that teenager telling us: “Hey Dude, you’re getting hosed!” 7:35 p.m.

Quick Checks: The Chatterbox Fray is legendarily unreadable. This is a shame when the article is meaty and contentious. People who wish to discuss the “moral equivalent of the war on terror” should look for my checks (click here to select View Fray Editor’s Picks). They may soon be well off the front page, but the dozen or so checked posts should provide anyone with a way into serious discussion.  Lee’s post here  is one of the best posts I have ever read in the Chatterbox Fray.

Piney’s post here explained the Explainer; it’s another place to debate the administration’s conduct of the war on terrorism … 6:40 p.m.

Monday, Sept. 9, 2002

Chain ganging up: The Food Fray responded to Sara Dickerman’s review of upscale chain restaurants with Loved it!/Hated it! posts. Hordes of dissatisfiedchain customers weighed in with their disses. Godels-Yodel pronounced Olive Garden “crapitaliano,” Stacy called chain proliferation “Irvine-a-sation,” and Jerry snarked that it is appropriate that chains rule the Zagat in largely Republican Orange County. The chains “are quite representative of Republican taste—insipid and full of empty calories.” Is this all part of mindless suburbanization, as Dragonfly laments?:

Municipal planners pay a lot of lip service to creating vibrant, exciting towns and then they just give us the same blah shopping and eating choices the that next suburb has. Why should our food be any different?

Things always become more interesting when Fraysters offer unprovable speculations like this. (Or when they discuss blubber.) European Amateur Gourmet Chef bashed the American palate here:

The problem, ultimately, is that the clientele has no taste. For the most part, Americans systematically and willfully suppress their ability to taste food.How the hell can people not taste the difference between margarine and butter? How can they not even notice the noxious flavors of artificial food colorings? I have no answers, but the fact remains that most people here do not really taste these things.Unfortunately it all boils down to supply and demand. If you demand crap that’s what will be supplied to you.

Rick offered a gendered theory of chain enjoyment, that Real Men Don’t Eat Cheesecake, here.

Fragat? Many Fraysters offered helpful dining guides as a way to avoid the chains if you find yourself on the road: Bunny for Dickerman’s own Seattle, Chismo for Lancaster, Pa., babelle for the Gulf Coast, Joe for Westchester County, N.Y., In defense for Raleigh, N.C.; linda offered an escape from Orange County.

Instead of pointing us toward independent restaurants, Rachel turned Dickerman’s review to the Dark Side, which happens to be pro-labor:

[M]ost restaurants that pay any attention to reviews will be all over their servers after reading this—it was how good the servers were that affected her enjoyment of each restaurant, regardless of how good/bad the food was. My note to those managers—treat your waitstaff well and they won’t fail you.

A Fray Mystery: Dickerman was roundly criticized for preferring Olive Garden cheesecake to Cheesecake Factory cheesecake, because, as The Fray pointed out here, here, here, and here, the Cheesecake Factory makes Olive Garden’s cheesecakes. How does the Fray Editor know? Because last month the Cheesecake Factory supplied some listeria-laced cakes to the Olive Garden before recalling them. Darden, the company that owns Olive Garden, subsequently stopped selling Cheesecake Factory products (for a while?). So, did Dickerman eat a Cheesecake Factory cheesecake or not? Stop back. (Not that this much matters—Olive Garden may stipulate that Cheesecake Factory use a different, better recipe for its cakes.)

More Fray Intelligence: There were pseudo-reliable reports of OG canned sauces here, here, here—each one with the plausibility of an urban legend, like the reports that Sara Lee or Little Debbie (twice) makes Cheesecake Factory cheesecakes [we know CF has its own Calabasas, Calif. plant because that’s where the recalled cakes came from] or that Chun King makes their Asian-style foods. Don’t stop back for more on this shadow outsourcing.

Bigger, Fatter, Deader: Evil Reviewers Must Die is upset (to say the least) that DavidEdelsteinspilled the beans about “the fat partner’s” death in City by the Sea:

Why do reviewers do this? My only explanation is that they think their review of the movie is more important than the movie itself. Well guess what—it’s NOT!

But in The Fray, no good whine goes unpunished. Fenfen kicked back, hard:

Ah, so please tell me why this bothers you … Sure, a movie like “The Crying Game” involves a sudden plot twist, revelation of which would spoil something the moviemaker is explicitly using to achieve one of the movie’s objectives. But whether someone dies along the way in a Terminator movie, or a movie about a murderer, hardly seems to be connected to the overall success either of the movie or of one’s enjoyment in watching it. Besides, who in god’s name watches a movie to watch a PLOT unfold? Only teenagers could possibly fail to notice that movie plot novelties are nearly as rare as a visit from Halley’s Comet.

I hope more Fraysters take sides in the narrative vs. spectacle debate here. What are you watching movies for?

(One point to ponder: was the movie made to be watched at all? It is a Franchise Picture [Warner Bros. distributed], and the skinny on that shingle’s production slate is that by preselling foreign rights, a movie that nobody likes but its star [Battlefield Earth, anyone?] can be profitable—for Franchise honcho Elie Samaha.)

Also check out AdamMorgan’s cavil about Edelstein riding the big, fat, summer sleeper bandwagon. 12:30 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 7, 2002

Weekend Bar-b-que: In the Television Fray, Elbo Ruum expected to get flamed for “not giving a s—” about 9/11, but got only support (so far).

In her blog on 9/11 televisionVirginiaHeffernan noted early on that “I haven’t met anyone with full-blown Viewer Dread, however, and I suspect the dread actually belongs more to programmers than to viewers.” Well, several Fraysters have it, and plan to turn off and tune out (or play golf). Not even going to work as usual can help Kendra:

Full-blown viewer dread? I have it. I am also very, very angry at the hyping and hawking of everything from 9/11/01 superimposed over an American flag pin (my office which has seven offices here and in Europe has paid some jeweler to make these pins for distribution throughout the firm, accompanied by a “message” from the chairman of the firm reminding us what the REAL 9/11 was all about and instructing us to wear our pins in solidarity on the great day). My office in D.C. has planned an action packed day of festivities urging all employees to wear red, white and blue for the day. A special breakfast will be served featuring red, white and blue bagels. There will be moments of silence, a trip to an Episcopal church within walking distance of our office and two TV sets will carry all of our fondest memories brought to us by courtesy of ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and C-Span. Our managing partner will also explain to us what the REAL meaning of 9/11 is.

I can’t bear to think about the bagels. On to the TV. Demi Moaned questioned the facile theodicy of PBS’s “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero”:

The subtext that God’s existence is entirely compatible with the abject poverty, disease and crime that are the ordinary living conditions of more than a billion people, but somehow comes into doubt when a few thousand Americans die a relatively quick death after lives of comparative comfort is too childishly self-centered to be of the slightest interest intellectually or spiritually.

But is this an attack on the theology or the psychology of trauma, which grants victims the reality of their experiences in order to help them move on? Or is it an attack on theology for becoming an extended arm of psychology? See the whole post and decide …

Rudy boys update: The Assessment Fray is heating up now that Suellentrop’s look at Rudy Giuliani out of office is featured on MSN … 8:20 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 6, 2002

Rudy can’t fail: Chris Suellentrop’s Assessmentlamented Rudy Giuliani’s absence from the political stage. The Fray is small (thus far) but the early posts are very good, claiming Giuliani either has no expertise to contribute to public debate, has no obligation to contribute it, or both. (Find a selection at the bottom of the article.) Geoff’s offered a sarcastic Invocation to St. Rudy:

Blessed Saint Rudy, Patron of Disasters, please, rain your wisdom down upon the United States of America, in this, our hour of darkness and shield us with your stoic benevolence.I have another hypothesis, which I prefer to Suellentrop’s ideal of the recalcitrant Messiah … Giuliani might be silent on burning political issues out of deference to the old maxim, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent”, and we’ll hear from him if and when he feels like he has something to say.

Where’s that old maxim come from, you ask? Ludwig Wittgenstein, the Tractatus. And now you know … the rest … of the story… 8:30 p.m.

Update: A guy named Joe (see below): Joe isjoe. Different computers, same poster. Thanks for letting me know, Joe. Beverly Mann thinks he deserves a star. I think she’s right! He should bring both computers to the Best of the Fray Fray for adornment.

Gridlock Update: No Hedges in Culturebox today. Still, it will be confusing in The Fray this weekend. 4:22 p.m.

Gridlock Alert: Culturebox is a general department and it will be quite busy over the weekend. Expect to see posters discussing at least three different articles in The Fray, in addition to their own topics. We have The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Iraq, 9/11 poetry and Chris Hedges’ War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning.

Nice Threads—Pinstripes? With Steve Chapman’s free-market prescription for baseball on, it may become harder to find good sports Fray for a while (as happened yesterday with Prudie). But there are excellent posts to be read and answered (look for my picks). Joe started a great discussion of Yankee greed vs. Yankee ingenuity with this:

[T]his is a national pastime, right? Bunching all the teams around a few major hubs isn’t exactly an ideal solution … How fun is a game in which a few locations always win and don’t have challenging opponents? The current solution, though flawed (money is after all not guaranteed to be spent on players, etc.), helps … [T]eams like the Yanks are encouraged not to be greedy and smaller market teams get that little bit of money that some need to get over the hump.Five teams in NYC doesn’t seem to be a great alternative in my eyes.

Tim Lowell argued the real economic issue wasn’t Socialism vs. Capitalism, but anti-trust protected owners. Then again, Herb Garcia finds the laissez-jouer alternative is no great shakes:

This article is a cry for the bad old future where teams blackmail communities for stadium welfare. “Build us a stadium with a retractable roof, short-term lease and control of all revenue streams or we will move to Newark. No one can stop us!”  12:15 p.m.

Liberty vs. Security: Dahlia Lithwick’s effort to find a new calculus to solve the problem of civil liberties in the war on terror brought out the usual Jurisprudence Fray suspects and their usually fine responses. joe (not to be confused with Joe above) took issue with “Lithwick’s solution“: “Civil liberties may not be suspended unless some principled government objective is articulated and the proposed measure is carefully tailed to meet that objective.”

What does this mean exactly? Let’s say Ashcroft says the gov’t objective is to stop another attack on U.S. soil, and that they have evidence of a “dirty bomber.” This is a “principled gov’t objective, no?” Carefully tailored? …We might hate Ashcroft’s principles, but he has them … it is the principles, not just narrowly tailoring (whatever that means in this case) that is at the heart of the matter.

While I am not a big fan of posting articles in The Fray, Beverly Mann has shown a real touch for following up Lithwick’s Jurisprudence articles with subsequent news pieces (e.g., the FISA courts). Here she asks a constitutionality question that turns into a terrific thread (but gets no answer), and here she is being trenchant:

Neither Lincoln nor Franklin Roosevelt, the two presidents whose names are invoked in defense of Ashcroft’s (and by rubber-stamp, Bush’s) designs, was an anti-libertarian opportunistically seizing upon a national security threat to impose his skewed personal vision of an ordered society. Ashcroft and Bush both are … 10:50 a.m.

Op-Ed Ops: Michael Kinsley’s Readme always brings out strong posts. His discussion of Colin Powell’s loyalty was no exception. In one thread, Ex-fed accusedKinsley of succumbing to what Slate’s Jack Shafer has called “the fog of journalism.”

I have ceased to be amazed at how journalists’ standards and tradecraft abandon them when the subject touches upon journalism itself. So you speculate that Colin Powell is leaking to “small audiences of reliably discreet journalists”? And you, a well-connected journalist, are content to leave it at that? …Why the lack of curiosity here? Powell has bought himself immunity by leaking. Journalists are co-opted and bought off by receiving “privileged” information …

Zathras repliedthat Powell may be playing other, more important games—like doing his job.

Powell could be talking to State Department subordinates who then talk to the press on background. He could be talking to his opposite numbers in foreign governments, who then talk to American reporters, normally also on background. He could also be talking to Scowcroft, Eagleburger, and one or more members of Congress, who can use information thus obtained to support views they already hold.Powell also can and has been quoted directly in public fora saying things that can be interpreted in more than one way. Is he a “closet dove,” to use the old Vietnam-era phrase, or is he merely projecting that image to help him better do his job of relating to foreign governments put off by President Bush’s conduct of foreign policy? Or, are reporters and commentators interpreting Powell’s remarks in the context of what they would like to think he believes?All three of these possibilities could be true at once …

Both posts are longer and worth reading in full. Other good posts (excerpted at the end of the article) seek to divine the intentions of “the holy rock.”

Readme again: Ender, who is often (usually?) right about these things, claims that this is Kinsley’s “first anti-war with Iraq” piece here.

Workflow: Thursday and Friday this week are loaded with new Slatecontent, guaranteed to exercise The Fray. Stop back for more snapshots … 8:55 a.m.

Thursday, Sept. 5, 2002

Fat or Phat?: Today’s Dear Prudence column—specifically the letter from “Up In Arms,” the friend of the “portly” woman in tight clothes—went on The Fray became unreadable—filled with vulgar spamming and then irrelevant political invective. I cleaned out the worst on more than one occasion, but things may get bad again …

Readers(new ones or regulars) who want to see the Prudie Fray in its more usual form should try clicking back to a solid early thread here  or select “View Fray Editor’s Picks.” Julia offered this advice from the how-to-lose-friends-and-alienate-people school: “Up [the letter writer—J.D.] needs to tell these mutual ‘friends’ to shut up. I would never allow someone to ridicule my friend like that. If they say, ‘Why don’t you tell her how terrible she looks?,’ I’d say, ‘For the same reason I never told you what a snotty person you are sometimes.’” You go girl!!!! (Can I say that?)

Common thread: tell your friend by taking her shopping (not, say, over lunch).

Whatever thoughtful posters thought about telling the hefty friend, they were of one mind that the real problem is the recent triple-digit weight gain. GimmeCoffee: “It really takes hard work to gain 130 pounds and keep it on. Is she desperately unhappy? What’s going on with her?”

(Before the Prudie deluge, there was an actual adult discussion [for adults] here.) … 9:45 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2002

There goes the blogosphere: With Andrew Sullivan’s and KurtAndersen’s discussion of blogging now on, expect oodles of “will these guys please get a life?” posts (here is a good version of that). New readers can click on “View Fray Editor’s Picks” from the main Webhead Fray page to get a more filtered view if things look out of hand.

When a Fray gets several hundred posts in a day (as this one still might), good ones sometimes get lost. I’m glad I caught Stigmata’s piercing entry here, which ends:

Most blogs I have read are train wrecks. Who knew that there were about 300,000 Anna Nicole Smiths on the Internet long before her tragic show?There is a reason those little diaries had locks on them.

Can a Frayster get some help?The International Papers Fray is usually a smallish and manageable discussion of a particular event with a little “other international stuff” thrown in (like a junior varsity Today’s Papers Fray). Here is a typical instance: Deej was confused by the furor over the Israeli policy that forced a suicide bomber’s relatives to move to Gaza. “Isn’t helping criminals illegal? It obviously is in our society and I bet it is there as well, to some degree. If this is true, then why is the deportation an issue?” Ruf Ruf then offered a political reason not to “relocate”: “Those who aid and abet terrorists should be punished. So lock them in jail. Don’t send them to Gaza where, as cramped and awful as it may be, they will be treated as heroes.” (The last graf of the longer post is even better.) But there is still no definitive answer as to why sewing explosive belts doesn’t fall under the law of accomplices but needs a new juridical regime. Anyone?

(Even though International Papers’ author June Thomas is simply summarizing coverage, Jamie concluded that she is “not pro-Israel;” Echoes reached the opposite conclusion.)

Coin of the realm: In contrast to International Papers, the Moneybox Fray can be very hard to read, especially when there are several articles in quick succession. Discussions pile into one another, and there is no real “feel” to the board. Little of that has happened with Daniel Gross’ article on Warren Buffett’s “vulture capitalism”—mainly because The Fray doesn’t seem surprised. Both pumper’s post here and Jim J.O’Brien’s here note that Buffett’s investing bible, Graham & Dodd’s classic Security Analysis, is a “vulture” capitalist’s how-to. In a new take on old news, though, Todd Childers offers an numismatical artist’s perspective on why the Ohio state quarter is so bad here.

Nice threads: White Rabbit was kind enough to group all the 9/11 anniversary poems together here, per Tempo’s request. 11:35 p.m.

The Long Knives: As expected, longtime Fraysters are after Robert Wright, although several have taken a vow to wait and see. The Earthling Fray is very busy, and I will strive to keep it navigable.

Yesterday, JTF cannily predicted that “Wright will argue that the technology of Bio warfare is THE PROBLEM and he will argue that this warfare can ONLY be addressed through a rigorous inspections regime applied to all nations, gutting thereby our national sovereignty.” He then quoted Wright:

“My concern was—and is—about what may be the scariest trend in the world: Thanks to technological evolution, man-in-the-street rage, even if it doesn’t assume regime-toppling form, is increasingly lethal. Very small groups of people—including groups of one—can take a real toll on the national psyche.”

Compared with Wright’s pithier formulation in today’s entry, is this, as JTF says, a rehash? Or is it someone with a big idea, trying to make the case for it? And just because it’s old news to JTF, it isn’t old news to everyone (yet).

John McG struck a blow for the Enlightenment when he argued that communications technologies moderate passions as they free individuals:

I disagree with Wright’s assertion that advances in telecommunications can only serve to help terrorism.Part of the reasons why the bin Laden video is so effective is that it’s the only show in town. If the only picture disgruntled Islams get of Americans or Jews is what bin Laden shows them, then it’s going to be quite powerful.If, on the other hand, they see other pictures of Americans, even through silly pop culture like Britney Spears and “Friends,” they’ll have a different picture of us, and probably be less likely to blow us up.Think of American attitudes towards Muslims, and how they’ve evolved as we’ve been exposed towards more and more representatives of Muslim countries. We are moved by the suffering of Iraqi children, and identify with the plight of the Palestinians. This doesn’t mean we want to keep Hussein around or get rid of Israel, but we’re not anxious to hurt a large number of Middle Eastern civilians either.Wright might answer that the personalization of the modern media makes it less likely that it will be a moderating influence. I think that was the point of his Fox News paragraph— people will continue to watch the bin Laden videos even when alternatives are available. Thus, they will not be exposed to more moderate pictures of Americans.Our experience here hasn’t show that to be the case here in the US. Even those who are completely for a war against Iraq have been exposed to arguments against it. When there are alternatives available, the echo chamber gets boring rather quickly, and people take a peak at what else is out there. And there’s quite a lot out there.I think this is one of the reasons we’re attacked. The spread of American culture will make it ever more difficult to demonize us, or any population. The totalitarian regimes are losing their grip, and they know it. 1:10 p.m.

Retraction Retracted: The Webhead Fray, in which I promised blog-induced fireworks, was no Grucci extravaganza. I was prepared to resort to anecdotes about my mother (who likes Andrew Sullivan enough that she wishes he were her neighbor). But Sarvis came along like a Roman candle:

What’s Kaus going to do if the NY Times cleans up its act? He has defined himself as neither smart nor interesting and has become simply another smarmy obsessed cherry-picker.This reveals the biggest danger of blogs—and the biggest bore—is that they become narrow little personal vendetta-graphs where the writer crawls up his own b——- to send daily personalized nasty-grams out into the ether.At some point, the blog stops being about the writer’s reflections or breaking news and simply becomes a venue for David wannabees to hurl stones at the Goliath du jour; which is exactly what the Fray is for us who lack the structure or name recognition to get our own blogs.Which raises the central paradox: when a blog like Kaus gets big enough to get noticed by the Goliath in question, it comes under the same pressures and standards as its intended target. So, ironically, the only good blog is a irrelevant one.

Of course, I disagree about “neither smart nor interesting,” but the last graf, with its intimations of Mannheim’s free-floating intellectuals, is so nifty (too nifty?) I had to grab it.

Back to School:Eric Liu answered some of his critics (here, here, here and here). The Fray is always better when Slate writers jump in. (New Readers: look for the neato Slate “S” to find them.)