Thug Life

The Fray dissects The American Conservative.

Thug life: Kate Taylor noted the design similarities between “anti-war rags” The Nation and The American Conservative here. Sam Tanenhaus saw the potential for a new version of the “Old Right/New Left” alliance in Buchanan’s anti-war stance here. But it was Ron Radosh in The Fray herewith the evidence of the meeting of the minds:

Actually, Buchanan did do his part to try and cement the left-right alliance. Two years ago, the two keynote speakers at the anti-war rally held in San Francisco by were Pat Buchanan and Alex Cockburn. And in his book on the Republic and empire, he cites Williams approvingly more than once. I argue that if he was alive, Williams would be a major Buchanan supporter. The last op ed Rothbard wrote right before he died (a week earlier) was a defense of Buchanan. It will be interesting to see if his mag is embraced by some Left-wing Nation type figures.

The Stassen cutoff: Many readers thought the characterization of The American Conservative as “thuggish” was thuggish in its own right. Don’t cry for Buchanan; he is probably used to being called a thug and a bully. But anthony really knows how to hurt a guy here: “He is more annoying than acne, as out of touch as a corpse and less important politically than the late Harold Stassen” … 10:20 p.m.

Add it update: Responding to Jordan Ellenberg’s mathematical critique of grade inflation, Michael threw down the thought-experiment gauntlet here yesterday, and even offered a bet. Today, Ellenberg takes the bet here, sort of. The terms are complicated, and too long for the blog. I could quote the trash-talking (Michael: “ Numb-nut’s argument doesn’t hold water … I can’t imagine that any scientist worth his salt would feign indifference as to the precision of his instrument“; Ellenberg: “Michael and his sensitive testicles are correct.”) but that wouldn’t be fair to the, um, meat of the argument. … 9:10 a.m.

Thursday, Oct. 3, 2002  

Everybody’s talking at me update: The Table of Contents now indicates which Slatewriter is the author of the most recent entry in the “Should we go to war with Iraq?” Dialogue. David Plotz is up now. …

Blind mice or stooges? Responding to Chris Suellentrop’s limited defense of the three anti-war Democratic Representatives who went to Iraq, Caliban Weeps remained cynical here:

How long have these guys been in Washington? And they’ve been able to keep up the pretense of their naivete? Come on. If you work in a whorehouse for five years you have to know what is going on and it is not religious in nature.

Grubbing bubbles: Some excellent Fraying in following Jordan Ellenberg’s critique of the perils of grade inflation. Michael offered a solid thought experiment hereas an example of a situation in which grade inflation obscures real distinctions between students. (Ellenberg has offered to reply; check back here for the update.) Professor Moriarty offered this refutation of Ellenberg’s analysis:

It “snapshots” grade inflation at a given moment, instead of treating it as a dynamic phenomenonone which, like monetary inflation, feeds on itself and therefore becomes “runaway.” Nowadays students … if they get a B+ … I’ve already inflated grades as if they were the tires on an 18-wheeler, but it’s never enough. Eventually A- will becomes the grade that students find unacceptable, then A, and at that point (Lord, I hope) the system’s absurdity will become so obvious that even a college dean can grasp it.

8, 8, I forgot what 8 was for: First Michael O’Hanlon gave his best estimates for casualties in an Iraq war; now Robert Shapiro adds up the financial cost. Many readers are complaining about Shapiro’s parthian shot at the Bush tax cut; none better than Keith M. Ellis. A fragment of his long post here:

Good Lord! I’m pretty damn liberal and a bitter enemy of Bush’s absurd tax cuts, and yet I can easily differentiate between $300B spent on waging a war and a tax cut.Any money spent on fighting a war is economically one of the worst ways to spend it (if we exclude the possibility that a war prevents a worse economic outcome) since much of that money essentially goes up in smoke. In contrast, tax revenue not collected is almost certainly more productively spent privately than it would have been spent by the government. So if you’re talking about how the government “spends” its money, and the resulting effects, they’re essentially opposites. 

Annenberg family values: Halloween comes early this year in Press Box. Derided as an immature hack, Jack Shafer plays Gomez Addams here:

You Fraysters are encouraging me to dig up Annenberg again and build a playpen with his bones.

Ben Kirkup argues that while JFK and Walt Annenberg are alike, Shafer would not have attacked Kennedy in the same way. In response, The Slasher turns to more practical politics in place of handwringing over the liberal media:

I assume that these two examples of men given enormous and completely undeserved power over others by the fortunes of their gangster fathers will lead you to join me in a strong call for killing the repeal of the inheritance tax, lest the situationobviously bad enough as these two cases would indicategets much worse when ALL the ill-gotten money can be passed on to the noxious spawn.

Sneetch news: While we are playing dress-up, new stars for Abre los ojos (the deal sealed with this post from “Yoda los ojos” in the Do The Math Fray), The Slasher (see above), JTF, and Kip Soteres. Stop by The Best of The Fray Fray for your stars. … 9:30 a.m.Everybody’s talking at me: Robert Wright, who writes the Earthling, has contributed to the Iraq Dialogues (find his entry below Kate Taylor’s on the Wednesday page). … 12:40 a.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2002  

Into the wind: Michael Steinberger’s discussion of wine-spitting  is meeting with laughter, although no one laughs at this analogy: “If you want to be seen as legit by the Crips, it helps to have a drive-by shooting to your credit. If you want be seen as legit by wine geeks, you need to be able to shoot a mouthful of Chardonnay in a clean, straight line.” (Examples here, here, and here.) Among the discussions of sports-related loogieing, there was this rather backhanded compliment from Jacoby here:

Finally, a Slate article devoid of left-wing bias. How refreshing. In fact, it could even be called somewhat elitist, which is even better for those of us who prize a meritocracy. …  12:20 p.m.

Revolution #9: Lynn Sanders points to a number of Title IX critics in her “Jurisprudence” piece, titled ”Hardly Sporting,” and criticizes the Independent Women’s Forum and Christine Stolba in particular for seeing quotas in the law. Here’s the relevant passage:

Christine Stolba sounded an alarm about “quotas in every arena of higher education, including the classroom.”But again, there are quotas and there are quotas. Apparently statistical arguments about gender equity on campus are entirely palatable when the claim is that men and not women are at risk. Without a glimmer of worry about self-coronating as a quota queen, Stolba ominously remarked that “the underrepresented sex on campus will no longer be women, but men.”

Here, in the Jurisprudence Fray, Stolba responds. Part of her answer:

[T]he remarks she cites from my testimony before the Commission were hardly “ominous,” nor were they an effort to “self-coronate” as a “quota queen.” In fact, my statement was meant to emphasize exactly what Ms. Sanders says we are all ignoring: the broad reach of Title IX into all areas of education, including athletics.

As to the underrepresentation of men on college campuses, Stolba writes,

[M]y point in raising this fact was not to argue that we should start using Title IX to grant men preferences in education. It was to demonstrate the danger of using rigid notions of statistical parity as the measure of equality in education for either sex. …

Twilight time: In the Poems Fray, two events of note. First, Paul Breslin, author of “The City” has jumped into The Fray to respond to his critics (starting here). He hopes other poets will take advantage of the attentive audience. Second, responses to this week’s poem “Still Life With Moving Figure” are running 9 to 2 in favor. Check out the shann’s thread here and Kip Sotereshere. …

Don’t fence me in: Hugo Lindgren makes the counterintuitive argument that Jason Giambi is hurting the Yankees (his stats have fallen; he costs too much), and the Sports Nut Fray subjects him to his ritual pummeling (even before last night’s 3-for-4, 3 RBI performance). While there are several statistically rich refutations (like Adam Masin’s here), Deak Nabers offers this strategically savvy counter:

It wasn’t the money that the Yankees pay Giambi which kept them from acquiring great mid-summer talent; it was the prospects (arguably their two best) they spent acquiring Jeff Weaver. … 9:45 a.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2002  

Good vibrations: In the wake of Sunday night’s Sopranos (and our shrinks’ rediagnoses), many viewers have announced that the show is in danger of losing them. BadaBing is to the point here: “Another show like the last one, and it will get a toe tag.”

Judith Shulevitz and Buffalo Gal are fighting over Glen Gabbard’s therapeutic style. Some clips:

JS here:I’m horrified by Glen Gabbard’s highly unprofessional claim that it was healthy for Janice to push Ralph down the stairs, nearly breaking his back—that it was necessary for her “to stop being a doormat.” What pseudofeminist hogwash! … [E]ncouraging Janice to wallow in her already brimming pool of self-pity inevitably led to Janice acting out, and when Janice acts out, she becomes a psychopath, just like her mother and to a lesser degree her brother.BG here: [I]t is possible to be both aggressor and victim. No one can say Ralphie is anything other than a miserable psychopath, abusing women left and right. (“Sorry I disrespected the Bing” after committing murder!)

David NYC and Mitch have the best discussion of Janice (beginning here) and the ontological status of fictional psychopathy (or, who decides how crazy she should be?). …

Jammed with Barakan heroes? New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey has been busy, scrambling to find a viable Democrat to run in Torricelli’s place (more below) and forcing Amiri Baraka to resign as New Jersey’s poet laureate. (See this Recycledpiece for the poem that got him tossed and Bryan Curtis’ debunking of the myth of “4,000 Jews” who did not go to work on 9/11. Bob Baraka (no relation) files the Baraka flap under “Well, what did you expect?here:

If you make Amiri Baraka poet laureate you can’t act astonished when he spews anti-Semitic bile—it’s been his stock in trade for several decades now. Either accept him as he is, or appoint someone else to the post. And what does it say about N.J.’s illustrious governor that the only thing he objected to in the entire poem was the one line about Israeli workers?

Philo attacks Baraka’s postmodern relativism here. Our Poems Fray regulars might use this as a jumping off point for a discussion of, ahem, narrative voice. …

Down with MPP? Following the International Papers roundup of British reaction to the revelation that Conservative former PM John Major had been carrying on a long-term affair, Lee compares American and British attitudes toward sexual infidelity here:

Luckily for Major, the mere fact of having an extramarital is not that big a deal in Britain. His opponents will get some mileage (kilometerage?) out of his hypocrisy, since he stumped on the traditional family values thing, but the Brits don’t seem as susceptible as we are to that whole “…nation sliding into the rotting ooze of moral decay…” nonsense we hear from Robertson & Falwell. … 10:45 a.m.

I lift my lamp: Even before William Saletan’s diagnosis of Senator Robert Torricelli’s withdrawal, Ballot Box and Today’s Papers Frays were debating Torricelli’s exit. (For some good threading see heremarylb leads off.)

Cato the Censor objects to Saletan’s analogies and offers a more home-grown explanation here:

Unfortunately, Torricelli brought this ignoble end to his public life upon himself. Torricelli is an incredibly talented, but deeply flawed man. He served New Jersey well, and he could have been great. He is not like Clinton, Gore or even D’Amato. The Torch was the type of politician that Garden Staters love—an outrageous street brawler with a bit of a mean streak that helps him get things done. However, he had a character trait that was more like former Gov. Florio’s, which New Jerseyans loathe—arrogance.

Joan is one of the many who feels some pity for the passing of the torch here:

I worry that that lack of “forgiveness” that Torricelli spoke of today denies us the talents of the brilliant but flawed, and leaves us alone with the mundane and unimaginative. …

Ain’t got time for the pain: Kurl gives us a “Torch song trilogy” of gloating limericks here, here, and here. …

Maryland, his Maryland: Last Friday, Saletan explained how moving to Maryland was like going through the looking glass of Texas politics—from default Republican to default Democratic. Baltimore attorney kfa offers a more geographically nuanced explanation the Maryland electoral layout here—the usual high-density islands of red in an ocean of blue. BD says the Texas race between John Coryn and Ron Kirk is Maryland in reverse; The Bell explains how Saletan’s indecision is a “microcosm of independent voters today at the national level.” … 5:00 a.m.

Monday, Sept. 30, 2002


Iraqathon, round III: As Slate writers debate whether the U.S. should go to war with Iraq, the Dialogues Fray has featured some of the best reader reasoning I’ve seen, on every side of this debate. (Now that the Iraq dialogue is posted on, readers can expect many more voices in The Fray, and many fewer good threads for the next several hours.)

One way to keep up with the weeklong flood of posts will be to read the excerpts I have appended at the bottom of the “Dialogues” page. Another way for readers to track theSlate line on the war is to look at Abre los ojossummary here. (Kinsley favors “national dithering,” the “Brookings group” is “credentialed and credible,” and Weisberg shows “at least tolerable depth and familiarity with the issues.”) Perhaps he will come back and provide updates as the dialogue continues. (Hint, hint.) …

Process, schmocess: Early in his “case against the case against the war,” Jacob Weisberg argues that Michael Kinsley and Joe Klein are making “process objections.” Robert hall gives process its due here:

While I personally agree with Weisberg that Iraq has to be attacked, I don’t see how the process objections Kinsley raises can be so easily dismissed. An honest, democratic process is most likely to get you the right ideas, in general. Bush might be right now, as I think he is, but if democratic process is violated, he could get us in real trouble in the future.

Meanwhile, Kevin Thomson usefully parses the difference between Rumsfeld’sreasons for war and Wolfowitz’s here and strongly argues for war and nation-building. …

Scenarists: Weisberg also hints that only preparation for war could make inspections possible. Readers continue to debate this idea; see Engram here (and the responses) and Mike Klepzig here (“Last time (Desert Storm) we DID prepare for war and look to all the world as if we meant it. Did Saddam withdraw his troops from Kuwait? No!”).

NS argues that the war could backfire, driving Saddam closer to terrorist organizations; that the peace could be unmanageable, resulting in a dangerous Iraq—anarchic or Shiite-dominated—and that either one of those scenarios make inspections a better option than war. …

Nice threads: Anticipating Steve Chapman’s argument, Beverly Mann starts a terrific thread on deterrence here, and has been joined by bmcburney, Bill Nolan, Engram, and Publius. The Bell asks anti-war Fraysters for their arguments here, and is getting them …

If it’s not love, then it’s the bomb: Responding to Weisberg, Steve Chapman stakes out the maximal position, that even a nuclear-armed Saddam is no threat to the U.S. (Doodahman had made a less temperate version of Chapman’s argument here.) In response, Andrew Millhaupt makes the case that the costs of even an accidental release from the Iraqi biological weapons program are enough justification for an invasion here. …

On looking into Chapman’s archive: Ender wonders if Chapman had contradicted an earlier position against missile defense; Chapman enters The Fray here to explain why not. …

Again again: In his entry today, William Saletan reaffirms the importance of stopping Saddam’s nuclear program here; in rapid response, doodahman reaffirms his faith in containment here. …12:05 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 26, 2002


Domestications: The Chatterbox Fray (filtered here) has newfound focus discussing Tim Noah’s latest entries. Today’s Whopper, in which term limit pasha Tom Tancredo reneges on his pledge not to run again finished with a plea to end the crusade for term limits. Dilan Esper roused himself to explainwhy the crusade should not end, even when your representative is Henry Waxman.

Noah’s defense of Tom Daschle’s dudgeon (word on loan from kausfiles here) includes a crack about the irrelevance of the anti-terror org chart. This earns smart criticism from Thrasymachus here (not your usual Bush supporter). Has he been corrupted by the bizarro world of Chatterbox? Hardly. This is what happens when you bring your usual thoughtfulness with you …

The response to Noah’s piece also contains the best short case I have seen for extending civil service protections to the new Homeland Security department, from RuebenJames here:

[T]he evidence about how the intelligence agencies performed before 9-11 would indicate that the civil service types at grunt level did a good job. The rank and file people had massive amounts of evidence about what the terrorist were up to. The failure appears to be at the management levels, where supervisors ignore evidence, didn’t pass it up, didn’t talk to their counterparts in other agencies, etc. Bush’s plan to make these workers solely dependent for job security and promotion on their superiors is only going to ensure that these agencies are staffed with people who are afraid to go up against their bosses, even when they know they’re right.

If only these posts led somewhere, like the nice Chatterbox thread between Media Watcher and bmcburney as they debate Gore’s contradictions here

Guide to Kulcha: Not everything is Iraq. In the Movies Fray (which is back to normal), posters are taking issue with Edelstein’s pronouncement that Moonlight Mile is the worst movie of the year. Many have other nominees (DB omnibus list here), while Roy Kristiansen notes “we’ve still got three whole months to go.” …

Daily Doses III: Churchill is back, needling Hollywood flack Henry Eshelman in the Diary Fray. This time, he offers an alternative summary of Eshelman’s Thursday:

Post-ironic breakfast with daughter. Cram three days of work into 90 minutes. Over dramatise own stress levels. Patronisingly rebuff creative thoughts designed to satisfy a client need. Lunch with ex-wife. Starfuck. Call 911 for a NOISE complaint? … 11:20 p.m.

Iraqathon II: Joe Klein defended Gore’s speech against the Administration’s war campaign and asked “Can Al Gore Rouse the Democrats?” At least Gore can rouse The Fray. Again, not much discussion, but many good posts that can serve as beachheads

Freedom’s just another word for: H.L. Mencken (not the real one, silly) gives a cynical (or politically savvy) explanation forGore’s guts here:

If Gore steps out on the Iraq issue and is shown to be prescient he will have a political foundation upon which he can build another campaign for President. If he turns out to be wrong, he has lost nothing.

Publius makes a similar point here, and is probably willing to debate it …

Lyall opposition: Lyall Bush is in fine rhetorical form here  criticizing the apathetic populus:

[T]he country allows Bush and his advisors to bray about a world whose history and politics they haven’t learned, simplify the globe’s labyrinthine arrangements as if they were the malleable stuff of a Clint Eastwood movie, and puff themselves up as if advertising new communications software – all the while working to make the world a more dangerous place. And Klein is right to commend Gore for saying why we need to push back at them, too.

Utek, though, finds the problem lies with Democrats in Congress who first failed to oppose the Bush tax cut and are now rushing to support the war. His conclusion?:

So far, the only criticism from the Dems has come from a politician who’s not in office. Someone should tell the Democrats that to be the loyal opposition, one needs to start opposing something …

Drumbeat: Speaking of Democrats in Congress, Gore advocated slowing down the debate on going to war and Klein thought would hurt Democrats who don’t want to campaign on the war. But The Bell disagrees here. The crux:

Gore’s call for a slowdown in the debate and vote is not unintentionally meant to inconvenience incumbent Democrats but intentionally meant to help them … If Democratic anti-war incumbents are forced to stand and make a protracted fight in Washington debates, they cannot stump in their home districts …

One of us … one of us: Joe thinks Gore’s “hastily written pronouncements” as Klein called them, make the ex-Veep “just like the writers and fraysters at Slate.” “Come on Gore, join the dark side.” 12:50 p.m.Iraqathon: From yesterday’s cover, you can see that for awhile Slate will be all-Iraq all-the-time (almost). How to Fray? Let me offer some suggestions:

If you want to participate in a discussion and not simply shout from the laptops, you might want to avoid any Fray for an article that is currently linked to the homepage. The link encourages a lot of posts, but it creates a shoot-and-scoot effect.

If you want to read some of the better posts, but don’t have time to page through them, you can start with the posts I append below the article (although I may be playing catchup for awhile) or you can select “View Editor’s Picks” once you have entered The Fray.

Finally, you can check back here. While everyone knows that there are at least two sides to the invasion debate, and a slew of reasons for any position, everyone may not know what the terms of the conversation are. I will try to draw attention to them.

Both sides now: Michael Kinsley’s Readme piece started off Slate’s great Iraq debate. In The Readme Fray, responses are running the gamut. Zathras’s pro-invasion response begins by cogently arguing that not knowing enough is an inveterate problem:

Crucial information is always unavailable to citizens before war begins. It is usually unavailable to governments also, or is not distinguished from less important information before war starts, or is not utilized because no one in a position of responsibility knows where to look for it. This has been the case in every war the United States has ever fought.

This is not a failure of democracy; this is life …

Adam Masin points to another inveterate problem: acting without legitimacy:

[H]e will go to war without the support of half of his country and almost all of the rest of the world. Say what you will about the merits of a Iraq war, Bush’s stance does not put him in very good company amongst history’s world leaders who have taken similar action.

And for readers who tire of measured political discourse, you can always look to posts by doodahman for a more cantankerous exchange (such as this):

In a just world, any time that a war hawk uses the term “appeasement” when attacking Iraq war opponents, a huge cartoon Monty Python fist ought to come down and squish them … Appeasement is not failing to invade a sovereign nation. The proper term for that is called “Civilization.” 

Death and the salesman: There is much discussion of the Administration’s “sales pitch.” Matt says no pitch could work:

The reason for the fundamental dishonesty of Bush’s sales job is that the real reason for a war is just not appealing enough.

But The Bell says all this attention to sales misses the point (apologies for the truncation):

Kinsley says facts do not matter, sales pitch matters; and since President Bush has not been a good salesman, he is a fatuous hypocrite even if he is ultimately right. The converse being that he is a great leader if he knows he is wrong but can lie convincingly. For my money, THAT makes Mr. Kinsley the reductio ad absurdum of Marshall McLuhan.

Rhyme and reason: Regular contributors to the Poems Fray are hanging out in Readme to give Kinsley’s “Charge of the Right Brigade” some Tennysonian support. Persephone leads off here:

“Forward the Right Brigade”

Was there a fear allayed?

No tho the people knew

Some one had bluster’d

Is this a casus belli?

Should W provide a “why”?

Can we do naught but sigh?

Into the alley bereft

are shoved the one hundred

Those crazy kids: From the metaphor alert file: Southern Gentleman here thinks we are children who need Bush’s fatherly protection; &kathleen here thinks kindergartener Bush needs to get his name on the board 12:00 p.m.