Needles & Threads

A weekly spin through the Fray.

You don’t know JAG: National Institute of Justice President, Eugene Fidell, quoted in Dan Cullen’s War Stories piece on the Air Force rape scandal, writes to refute Cullen’s interpretation of his position:

Dear Mr. Cullen:

I am writing this on behalf of myself and Professor Scott Silliman. Both of us were quoted or paraphrased in your July 9, 2003 piece, “The Air Force Academy’s Show Trial.” Prof. Silliman and I understand that it was an opinion piece. Your very next (and last) paragraph, however, conveyed the impression, by using the words “in other words,” that we agreed with your view that “it is reasonable to court-martial an innocent man just to send a message to the troops.” That sentence materially misstates our views and distorts the comments we made to you in our separate interviews. In fact, any commander who sent to trial a case in which he or she actually believed the accused was innocent would be engaging in reprehensible conduct.


Eugene R. Fidell
Sports Nut Fray: Traditional admirers of Allen Barra knock him around for his All-Star grumble. BarkinJ comes up and in (“Barra has apparently lost his mind.”) with a point-by-point rebuttal here. Kardinal offers up some nice field work, too, “in defense of the All-Stars” chosen for Tuesday’s game.  Joe_JP and CaptainRonVoyage develop drinking games for suffering Mets and Dodgers fans respectively. Fray Editor briefly experimented with CRV’s model, but lasted only three-and-a-third.  ReadMe Fray: In response to Michael Kinsley’s “ The Lawsuit Lottery,” on medical malpractice…reform…(apologies, Shafer)…medical malpractice do-over…Ben K launches a lively thread with, “Society has a problem differentiating between malice, negligence, simple incompetence, and bad luck.” Joe_JP here (Is this the society we signed on to? One in which the state “owes nothing” to those unlucky?), Mitch here (…we have the notion of “social justice” which increasingly has posited that “society” through the government…has a duty to ameliorate bad luck), and bk_in_nj here (Frivolous lawsuits are a real problem but for a subtle reason that is rarely discussed, according to a doctor friend of mine in New Jersey…:the legal machinery that kicks in when a lawsuit is filed) all answer Ben.  Poems Fray: Shannpalmer publishes the Frayster Poem o’ the Week with “ Sequence,” a sensual rush. Shann receives a long-deserved star for her ongoing contributions to Poems Fray. Rob_said_that mounts a defense of Patricia Traxler’s word choice in her poem, “Luna”: “I don’t understand why everyone’s got this animus against the word ‘zaftig’ in this poem. I think it shows an unfettered use of language, and is very apt.” MaryAnn’s objection is its “connotation of comfort, which is not at all in keeping with Traxler’s description of a moon on a Mexican night, when she ‘knew the damage, yet I stayed.’”Moneybox Fray: Lord_Wakefield thinks that Russ Baker (“ Bush’s Data Dump“) “has a woeful deficit in his own realm if he thinks the Social Security is truly ‘funded’ in the ‘surplus’ to any real world extent. And most real economists…realize that the minimum wage fallacy is one of the biggest and grandest of lies in the modern age.” Lbnalnoor jousts with Wake on minimum wage here. RugbyHun is a not-so-closeted QVC enthusiast, “QVC has a simple and good plan. It works better than hi-tech internet companies because the technology is old, proven and nearly fool proof.” For an elaboration of its attributes, including its “reverse snob appeal,” click hereFighting Words Fray: Though Fraywatch highlighted FW Fray earlier in the week, doodahman gets this blast on Hitchens after the fact: “Hitchens was one of the crowd…who did not sully himself with the sordid lies about Iraq’s oh so dangerous stockpile of WMDs. Nope. To him, it was all about ‘liberating’ Iraqis at the point of US cannon muzzles. Typical Bolshevik morality. Meaning that Hitch is not an evil, murderous pig. He’s just a stubborn, besotted simpleton.” For the complete transcript, go here. … KA11:35 a.m.

Wednesday, July 9, 2003

Erica Jong enters the Fray in response to Tim Noah’s condemnation of both Lillian Ross’self-referential obituary to Katharine Hepburn in the New York Times and her confessional Here But Not Here, in which she spills the goods on her affair with longtime New Yorker editor, William Shawn. While Jong “had the same initial response” as Noah after reading the obit, she takes issue with the wholesale criticism of Ross as an insensitive gossip:

You ask: why did Lillian Ross write Here but Not Here? She wrote it because she is a writer. Writers, like painters, use what they have at home. Just as the portrait painter paints his family, so the writer uses the materials she knows best.
But beyond the issue of authorial license, Jong asks:
If a man can use the details of his most intimate life, why can’t a woman?
So far as critics who assail Ross for publishing Here But Not Here while Shawn’s widow was still alive…
I hardly believe they were worried about Cecile Shawn. Mrs. Shawn was just a convenient excuse for the rampant misogyny both female and male critics love to wallow in.
For Jong’s complete response, click here….KA7:25 p.m.

A.D.D.: After reading Fred Kaplan’s piece on the aftermath of the Iraqi war, Zathras has “the odd feeling that [Kaplan] is not really paying attention.” What gives Z this impression?  Among other observations,

he also attributes postwar violence to Iraqi units bypassed in the drive to Baghdad. This is wrong, and anyone reading the papers will see instantly why it is wrong. Attacks against Americans are coming overwhelmingly in Baghdad itself and in the areas to its north and west that were not in the American line of advance (the mostly Shiite areas that were are comparatively stable). Organized resistance to the allies had collapsed by the time American forces reached Tikrit and Fallujah, as well as some of the Baghdad neighborhoods where our guys are having the hardest time now.

More from Zathras on Kaplan, including “the question of international involvement in Iraq,” where “Kaplan likewise focuses relentlessly on only one side of the coin,” here.

Kulther introduces this popular analogy:

Well how can you BLAME the Iraqis who’re fighting the American OCCUPATION— if Iraq invaded the USA wouldn’t YOU be fighting THEM!? It’s the SAME THING. Leaving aside the idiocy of that comparison, consider the shaky post-war reconstruction in a similar, but opposite and more reasonable, manner. … For Kulther’s rebuttal, click here. JumboBurrito poses the question, “Why would NATO occupy Iraq?” then proceeds to answer it:

The question that these recent converts to multilateralism have failed to pose is why France, Germany or Turkey would want to involve themselves in this mess? Now that the Bush admin has made this bed, the US military has to lie in it.
TomFitz piles on the administration: “Bush and Rumsfeld gave them all the finger last fall, and the Administration has continued its bellicose behavior towards ‘Old Europe’ on a lower lever ever since. They are still threatening Germany with base closures.” Awards! They Do Nothing But Give Out Awards! Greatest Fascist DictatorAdolph Hitler: Speaking of Teutonic baseness, Chango assumes the role of Fraywatch’s East German judge with the inaugural presentation of The Black Hole Awards. Among the spoils:
The Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc Award for Illogical Conclusions
The Fray is filled with lawyers and wannabe lawyers (hard to believe such a thing exists) who have yet to master the rules of logic. I submit, for your consideration, EFriedemann’s less than compelling arguments against the decriminalization of sodomy, continuing here.

Apparently, they still teach the term ad nauseum in law school.Biggest Arrogant Bastard/Insufferable Bitch No contest. Doodahman. What an ASSHOLE!!!. This guy makes James Carville look like a Pollyanna!
For the full roster of winners, click here. Statuettes in the likeness of Salvador Allende can be picked up from the Awards Office at either the Elizabeth IKEA or in the parking lot of San Dimas High School. … KA 3:00 p.m.

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

Casting Call: Fraysters take Christopher Hitchens’ Jeffrey Dahmer-Saddam Hussein analogy and run with it. Rob_said_that replies, “Why not add Caligula, Attila, and Vlad the Impaler while you’re at it?” Speaking of historical stand-ins, Sissyfuss1 adds:

For all I know, Hitchens will next furnish proof that one of Saddam’s heroes—Hammurabi or Saladin or whoever—had territorial aspirations in the region, ‘proving’ that Saddam was a grave threat to his neighbors. Clearly, Hitchens is clutching at straws.

The_Bell’s unusually brief, but typically cogent, posting asserts that

Whether Saddam is most like Dahmer, Hitler, or Stalin is perhaps something of a moot point. ….The weakness in Hitchens’ argument about the significance of the buried centrifuge discovered on June 25 is summarized in his snorted dismissal of invasion opponents, ‘The wailers will settle for nothing less than the full-dress conspiracy theory.’

Thrasyboulous here, tman here, and MakeTheCase here jump on Hitchens for missing the following, best articulated by Wonderin here:

Firstly, it would take literally thousands of gas centrifuges to produce enough fissile material to make a single nuclear warhead.

Secondly, plans and blueprints are a dime a dozen. Does Hitchens actually believe that Saddam’s entire secret nuclear ambitions were buried in that garden?

Accessing Evil: When mirhassan laments that Hitchens “seems, to my distress, too willing to court a notion of “evil” as justification for Bush administration excesses,” Sick_of_Pettiness, Hitchens’ patrol squadron in Fighting Words Fray this week, retorts:

Unless you are willing to concede that morality is SO relative that we must accept Hussein’s disgusting acts of terror and aggression, then you are wrong to attack Hitchens on this point. One of the reasons he quit writing for the Nation was because he could not write for a magazine that embraced the idea that Saddam Hussein could not properly be called ‘evil.’

Abre_los_Ojos gives Hitchens an A- for his “near-miss,” praising FW for having “punched out another flamboyant, clever article on Saddam and Iraq,” but imploring Hitch to go further:

we need brilliant wordsmiths like Hitchens to forcefully answer the nattering negabobs as to why those deaths are not in vain…overriding all, why is the removal of a Saddam, whom otherwise our troops would have had to face at much more potent levels, eventually.

Abre catalogs a much more extensive lists of whys here.

Parting Shot:Siberia_17 here:

Hitchens demonstrates his true mastery of irony when he precedes a comparison of Saddam Hussein and Jeffrey Dahmer with this line:

’There is a difference, in other words, between propaganda and research, and the difference always becomes blurred in wartime.’

That’s lunch. … KA9:45 a.m.

Sunday, July 6, 2003

Since Fraywatch columns tend to focus on singular articles and issues, some of the finer minutiae of the Fray goes unnoticed and unmentioned (even the unmentionable, which often deserves notoriety in these pages). Beginning today, Fraywatch introduces a new weekly feature, “Needles and Threads: A Spin Through the Fray,” which will highlight some of the exurbs of the Fray, postings that may not address high-traffic articles, but warrant attention nonetheless for any number of reasons ranging from cogency to depravity.  

Music Box: Liz Phair’s apostasy generated little of note, but Beethoven’s Ninth inspired rob_said_that to elaborate on the symphony’s third movement here: “In fact, if we want to understand the 9th, or Beethoven at all, that is the place to start and finish.” For The_Bell here, “the thing that is most profoundly and deeply affecting for me about Beethoven’s chorale finale is its subject—an ode to joy.”

Poems Fray:Shannpalmer initiates an active thread on the final stanza of J. Allyn Rosser’s Strange State, Wrong Highway, Cold Night. Shann and MaryAnn here find it to be “a bit of a whine,” but paulguest here, rob_said_that here, Persephone here, NoStar here, and White_Rabbit here all come out in favor of Rosser’s parting words. SherylXian’s superb reading finds a more layered moment, though MarkHaag finds a disconcerting, sensory “Proustian Fallacy,” a claim that brings MaryAnn and Sheryl into a lively discussion. Finally, mik offers a noble defense of Neil Diamond, whom Rosser references in the poem. This invites a host of replies from the boomer set, natch. Irony v. Earnestness perseveres in the Fray. 

Ballot Box: Zathras senses that William Saletan is bored with the Buzzword series. As an antidote, Zathras has prescribed a “Breakfast Table format to serve as the foundation of its coverage of the 2004 Presidential campaign.” … Locdog embraces President’s Bush’s war cry, “Bring ‘em on!” here, and invites a barrage of responses. … Lord_Wakefield and T_Weldon_Berger (aka Betty_The_Crow) brandish the nunchucks and go at it over, what Wake refers to as, Hong Kong’s reversion to “the Red Chinese way of doing things” in matters of social justice. TWB provides a quality rhetorical counterattack here

Sports Nut: Regarding sportswriter Gary Smith, xmasbaby reminisces on the days of  “longer pieces that you used to find all throughout SI” and the likes of “Jim Murray and Dave Anderson.” Jsph and other Fraysters prefer Mitch Albom. … KA2:35 p.m.

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Brothers In Arms: The Boston Herald makes a rare appearance in Kausfiles Fray, courtesy of Senator John Kerry-backer zinya who posts a “curious piece” on Senator John McCain’s sentimental, if not explicit, endorsement of Kerry in the Democratic primary. Though it hasn’t gotten much play in the national press, Mr. Straight Talk’s hosannas for his fellow vet may be telling…

from the standpoint that there aren’t too many Republicans whose opinions about the Dem race would even interest Democrats to know, but it does also begin to make me wonder whether in fact Bush might have alienated so many Republican moderates in Congress that he might not have their overt endorsement for ‘04 or even have their open opposition.

Despite Heston-esque positions on gun control and his crusty anti-MLK Holiday vote, McCain has always held a certain fascination for disaffected Dems, Independents, and David Foster Wallace. Laocoon comes right out and says so much:

Better yet, why doesn’t Kerry announce today that, if he gets the nomination, he will ask McCain to be his VEEP? Reach across party lines, make campaign finance a major issue, put an abrupt halt to the war campaign, show a bold idea. Kerry and the country could do lots worse.

AFL-CIO Chief John Sweeney was unavailable for comment.

City of Quartz: In Culturebox, Adam Kirsch laments that Los Angeles has been deprived of “literature unconcerned with the outside world, intent on explaining the city to itself—as Dickens did with London, or Balzac with Paris.” Instead, it’s been colonized as a soundstage by “visitors who spent only a few weeks or months in the city; or by imported slaves of Hollywood, who act out their rebellion against the city at large; or even by natives writing mainly for an audience somewhere else.” MsZilla opines that almost every place is unknowable through portrayal: “Those of you living in New York and L.A. and laboring under the sheer weight of all of the imagination of our media, I’m not sure how you do it.”

The best series of responses in Culturebox Fray come from simparker. Here, he takes on the aforementioned premise of unknowability:

this is the kind of theory that I can no longer tolerate, the kind that structuralists like Eco inflict on us. Of course this city is real. In fact, all of the soundstage facsimiles and on-location reproductions only tend to make it realer. What helps is to look at the PEOPLE who live in a city…Next time you visit a place that doesn’t seem real, look at the citizens and think, ‘This is someone’s home.’

Simparker injects a little Lacan into Culturebox Fray: “Incidentally … memory, not the media, makes me feel like Gulliver returning from Brobdinag.” … KA 11:25 a.m.