Vox Populi

A frayster’s defense of the big ten.

Blind Lady of Alabama: Our weekly feature—in which FrEd highlights a single post—takes us to Fighting Words Fray, where locdog answers Christopher Hitchens’s judgment against not only Judge Roy Moore, but the juridical efficacy of the Ten Commandments (see “ Moore’s Law: The immorality of the Ten Commandments“). “One Christian’s response to Hitchens,” locdog:

i like hitch. i really do. i think that he’s pretty much the perfect slate writer: witty, iconoclastic, contrarian but not reactionary, charming … he’s everywhere slate wants to be. and he’s an excellent writer to boot. his columns positively crackle.

but he’s got that western atheist’s disease. you know the one i mean. the one where they suddenly lose all control of their bladders whenever the Bible is mentioned. it’s not enough, you see, to voice one’s objection to the decalogue in the courts, no, we’ve got to turn the book of exodus into our own private portajohn.

and miss some very obvious things in the process.

i can understand why, i suppose. i don’t go searching the bottom of my toilet for wisdom. that said, i have the wisdom to know what is and is not a toilet.

for instance, it may be that the first four commandments serve no place in our culture, but do they really seem so out of place in the context of a theocracy? granted hitchens doesn’t believe in God, but he’s playing the reductio ad absurdum game so all i need to do is demonstrate coherency within the Biblical system.

there’s a reason, after all, those first four commandments are the first four commandments. the ones that come after are predicated entirely on the authority of God Himself. why not steal? why not kill (it’s “murder,” and that’s perfectly clear in context)? why not covet? because God says so. if you don’t respect God, why would you respect God’s law? i’m not saying atheists can’t be moral, what i’m saying is, if i’m laying down the law on the basis of God’s authority alone, then that authority must be absolute, unquestioned, and treated with the utmost respect.

sensing this, hitchens supposes no real God would be so insecure. any of you ever been in the military? back in basic training, were you allowed to mouth off to your drill instructor? what would have happened to you if you did? one more question: would you describe your DI as an insecure man? i didn’t think so.

ultimately, what the DI is telling you will save your life. he knows more than you do, is acting in your best interests better than you yourself could, and deserves your respect whether you think he does or not. if he doesn’t get it, in the long run, it’s younot him—who’s going to suffer. roughly speaking, that’s how God’s law works as well.

hitch has some other, rather generic objections but i think they’re beside the point. i’ll go over them in brief but you can skip this next paragraph if you’re getting bored.

rape, he says, was left out. well no, it wasn’t. rape is a form of theft, after all. it’s taking someone else’s body without their consent. oh, it’s dealt with specifically later on in the mosaic law but one needn’t be a torah scholar to see that it’s against the rules. and genocide. genocide is what happens when one group of human beings, on their own authority, exterminate another. when God exterminates a group of human beings, it’s called judgment. in the OT, God Himself commanded the conquest of canaan and the extermination of the wicked tribes that lived there. maybe that doesn’t sound very Godlike to you or hitch, but sometimes things that would be wrong for us are perfectly just for God. God, if He exists, is the author of life, and as such, He has the right to end it as He sees fit. if He wishes to use one nation to judge another, that is also His right. and there wouldn’t have been any doubt about whether or not it was really God or merely some lunatic cult leader giving the orders, either. the Bible describes a pillar of clouds by day, a pillar of fire by night, an audible voice from heaven that rumbled like thunder, a plainly visible presence in the tabernacle, manna from heaven, hail mingled with fire, parting seas, three days of darkness, etc, etc. now maybe you don’t believe in any of this hocus pocus, but we’re only checking for internal consistency here: if there is a God, He has the right to judge humanity whenever and however He sees fit, and could certainly make His wishes known beyond any shadow of a doubt. finally, if we’re made in God’s image, why are we so bad? again, the Bible passes the consistency test: we weren’t made bad, we became that way after rebelling against God. at that point, our perfect nature was corrupted and we became slaves to sin. the mosaic law exists not because we are expected to follow it (there would be no sacrificial system—or Christ—were that the case) but to demonstrate to us our imperfect nature, the mercy of God, and the need for a savior.

anyway, that’s all beside the point. hitch’s real problem is that he, as an atheist, obeys what he thinks of as the really important commandments while flouting the first four. so why bother with the tired old symbol at all? it’s very simple, really: hitch lives a moral life (he doesn’t—if he were being completely forthcoming, he’d admit that he, like the rest of us, frequently falls short of his own standards, and that’s to say nothing of God’s) because it seems good to him to do so. if it didn’t, he wouldn’t bother—or he would but only because he was a coward and didn’t want to go to prison. if in the final analysis laws are merely a contrivance of man then we have no real reason to obey them. if someday the clear majority of the human race decides that stealing and killing are ok, then that’s it. there is no higher court of appeal.

“ah,” says hitch “but we are smarter than that.”

are we? atheists love to bash the Biblical accounts of genocide, but the major accounts of genocide in the last century were authored by the godless, or rather, by those who stood in the place of God themselves. stalin killed twenty million, hitler killed six million jews alone, pol pot killed two or three million of his own people, hussein killed around one million. there was no one, they thought, to tell them otherwise.

and hitchens can’t condemn them.

oh, he can say that their conduct was offensive and outrageous and that he found it personally distasteful and that’s all fine, but he could never say that it was wrong because wrong, to him, never means anything more than “inconvenient.” he could use the word “wrong,” trying to get the emotional impact of a violation of an absolute moral imperative, but that’s empty sophistry: no such thing exists to him. and yet we know that there are absolute moral imperatives. i know that it’s wrong to torture children for fun. everyone does. it’s not wrong because it’s counterproductive to the human race (which is as far as an atheist’s morality can carry him) but because some immutable law is being transgressed, some universal imperative is being disregarded. on some level, everyone knows that to be true.

locdog thinks atheists do too.

For locdog’s constitutional perspective on Moore’s court, click here. K.A. 10:15 a.m.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Montreal-Washington:Schadenfreude alludes to the fact that Montreal has traditionally supported its Expos and will do so again, provided that Major League Baseball finds “an owner who is willing to invest a little money in a couple of key players.” FrEd notes that throughout the 1980s, Montreal’s gate routinely eclipsed those at Shea Stadium in New York, Atlanta, and baseball’s fair-haired child, St. Louis—even during the Cardinals’ world championship season in 1982. Until the 1994 strike, Montreal’s attendance figures mirrored most franchises—solid when the team performed, sluggish when the Expos stunk up the O.  AdamMorgan comes up and in at Charles P. Pierce (“No New Senators: Don’t Let Washington, D.C., muck up another baseball team“):

You haven’t presented an argument. There are many arguments against baseball in DC. Your witless drivel, that you don’t like DC and there are other worthy candidates, doesn’t count as one.
The rest of the juicy post, including some quality D.C. deprecation (replete with Mamie Eisenhower fashion cues) and a parting shot at Pierce’s Boston, can be found here. Zathras comes in to close, bringing a 98-mph fastball to rebut Pierce’s piece.Montreal-Portland:Robes makes the case for the National League doing a Lewis-and-Clark down the Columbia River to Portland here. Eno-Timberlake: You’re a producer … produce. Or don’t. Sasha Frere-Jones (“When Critics Meet Pop: Why are some writers so afraid of Justin Timberlake?“) takes on Alex Ross, possibly Wilco and Thom Yorke, and the notion that musical performers who leave production to the professionals—and happen to appeal to teenage girls—don’t warrant serious critical consideration. TheNewSnobbery offers this:
[I]s it really that surprising that there’s snobbery towards musicians who have made their livings off of teenaged girls? Just because there’s occasionally a Madonna or a Justin or a Michael doesn’t mean that teenaged girls don’t, as a group, have really terrible taste 99% of the time. This fact is self-evident. We’ve suffered through 7 years now of Spice Girls, Britney and countless Disney channel derivatives. By the 1,000,000 monkeys typing logic, we were due for a Justin Timberlake eventually.
OhioBoy and JDW1 aren’t drinking the Kool-Aid. JDW1 answers Frere-Jones’ implicit question:
When I learned William Orbit produced Madonna’s Ray of Light, it settled in my own mind this fascinating debate. … Now, Orbit is an artist whose work I admire. Should this matter? You bet it does. I admire the creator more than performer. Madonna is a great performer; I would much rather pay $60 to see her than I would Orbit, or even Eno or Moby for that matter (I can’t even imagine what an Eno performance would be like). No one remembers the great Shakespearean actors once they are dead, nor do they remember the great Wagnerian Opera singers; even though those performers may have enjoyed greater fame during their lives than the creators whose work they were performing. But Wagner and Shakespeare will live on for centuries or longer, while their performers fame is ephemeral. It matters much more to me (and, I suspect, artists) who creates than who performs. This does not detract one bit from the performer. It is just not fair to put them on a par with the creator.
Frere-Jones has a host of respondents to the following, “Quick—think of a single solo disc by a famous producer … that’s any good. We’ll wait.” Ed_From_Texas delivers the Music Box Fray’s most lyrical, if cryptic, post here (and comes up with Eno, as do many others). 2GunSid here and BeeFox here toss a few other notables into the mix. Ballot Box Fray-Frame Game Fray: Will Saletan invites Fraysters looking to escape the Ballot Box Fray to a compelling discussion over in the  Frame Game Fray. The topic: the first chapter of Saletan’s Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War (available here in PDF format). The conversation is underway, with Thrasymachus rolling up his sleeves  here (in BOTF, actually), and rob_said_that and Geoff initiating a thread on argument vs. manipulation here. KA11:10 a.m.Saturday, August 23, 2003

Thou Shall Take Lots of Cream With Your Coffee (DrPedantic, A Word From the Religious Left“):  

As both an Evangelical Christian and a card-carrying member of the ACLU, I have to commend Ms. Lithwick by hitting on a point I raise all the time. Watering down God and religion so that they become nothing more than “symbols” is nothing less than blasphemy.
When Posting, Thou Shall Cite Frankish Law Whenever Possible (Thrasymachus, “Moore’s a Disgrace to the Bar“):
U.S. law has many foundations, and … “Judeo-Christian law” isn’t one of them, because it doesn’t exist. American law, as Moore should have learned when he was in law school, has several major sources. A few of the leading ones are:

1) Babylonian Law
2) Hebraic (note: that’s not “Judeo-Christian”) Law
3) Greek philosophy
4) Roman Law
5) Frankish Law; and most importantly of all-
6) English Common Law.

If judge Moore really wanted to showcase the foundations of American law, where’s his statue of Zeus?
Thou Shall Smite Slate Correspondents for Their Ahistorical Renderings (1-2-Oscar, “Dhalia Lithwick doesn’t know her history“):
First, we should note that the First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law….” The first ten amendments to the Constitution, our Bill of Rights, were intended to limit the power of the federal government, and did not limit the powers of the several states in any way…Second, Ms. Lithwick is apparently not aware that every one of the original thirteen states had an “official” church at the time that the Constitution and its first ten amendments were written and ratified.
Thou Shall Be Squirrely and Think Outside the Bible Box (Appleblade, “Roy Moore’s Argument“):
In rushing to condemn Roy Moore’s annoying position the media, reporters and analysts alike, have failed to notice the cleverness of his argument. While I don’t think he’s right to keep the Ten Commandments lodged in the floor of the courthouse, I do think he’s on solid ground with his defense of one claim and his defiance of the order from the other chief justices.

First, his one claim that’s adequately defended is that the constitution prohibits the establishment of religion, but not the acknowledgement of God. His evidence? God is acknowledged in all sorts of government traditions and documents.
Thou Shalt Not Overlook the Temerity of Elected Officers of the Court (celticdog, “Y’all Are Funny …“:
Roy Moore is achieving exactly what he wants, he’s getting publicity. He obviously aspires to some higher political office, such as governor or senator. Judges? Political? How can that be? Well in Alabama the Supreme Court Justices are elected. And what about those Federal Judges? Why they’re political apponitments. Not appointed based upon their legal acumen, but upon their political connections.

As for Moore, he is appealing to Christian conservatives with his righteous stand. Oh, and making his name a household word for the next election. See, you can use religion to achieve many goals……..such as running a political campaign for free.
Thou Shalt Not Romanticize nor Idealize the Intentions of the Founding Fathers (Zathras, “God and the Founders“):
Well, we live in a different country now than our forefathers did. We aim to be open and welcoming to all beliefs, or unbeliefs, hostile toward none, which is what the Founders intended. Isn’t it?

Actually, they probably never imagined it. There is not the slightest historical evidence that the Founders ever assumed that the United States would at some point not be a predominantly Christian – indeed, predominantly Protestant Christian – country. The prohibition against establishing a church (which Connecticut and Massachusetts ignored well into the 1800s) or legislating upon the exercise of religion was intended to keep Congress from giving an advantage to any of the Protestant denominations (or, in Maryland only, the Catholic Church) over any of the others. If there had been any appreciable number of Muslims or Hindus in late 18th Century America they would most likely have been directed to leave by the governments of that time – and in fact, the “free exercise” of Native American religions was recognized in precisely that way.
Thou Shall Be Pithy, Even When Discussing Metaphyiscal Issues (chloeqpc, “Lithwick column“):
The thing that makes these questions of religion so difficult to navigate is the fact that religious belief is for the most part absolute, intolerant, and non-negotiable. For a Christian, the question of Christ’s divinity is not up for debate. Similar issues can be found in other major religions.

How then can a system that values - even requires - tolerance and diversity accommodate behaviors which are the direct opposite? The answer is that it can’t.
Thou Shall Invoke One’s Faith to Revive Dead Horses with Fresh Insight (SensibleChristian, “a question of purpose“):
If one believes in the 10 Commandments, as I do, he/she probably has them memorized (as I do). Why must they be posted in government venues, unless the majority is trying to intimidate non-believers into thinking that particular belief system, and none other, is “approved” by the United States court system. I wear a crucifix around my neck and pray wherever the heck I please. If anyone tried to stop either _private_ practice, I’d be up in arms over my Constitutional rights. But public displays are not religion, they are politics. And they are intimidating, bullying tactics that should not be catered to by our laws. Period. Thomas Jefferson wrote, “your rights end where my nose begins.” Someone a lot more important said, “Be not like the hypocrites who pray on street corners, but retire to your chamber .. . ” Look it up. It’s in the Bible. The speaker was Jesus Christ.
Thou Shall One-up Thrasymachus with a Reference to Simon de Montfort (Mike_Murray, “Absence is in no sense neutral“):
Would anyone object to a statue of Simon de Montfort, Hamurabi, Marcus Aurelius, or Justice (blindfolded with scales) in a courthouse? The answer is undoubtedly no. In particular you do see Classical statues to Justice etc in courthouses. So a non religious object with reference to justice or the rule of law is fine. Does the Ten Commandments have a reference to justice or the rule of law? I think only the most fanatic would argue that Judaic law did not have an effect on the history of law and certainly the Ten Commandments are the most recognizable representation of that history. So, any item which has a religious connotation of any sort must because of that connotation be banished from public display regardless of how much otherwise it might be appropriate to the circumstance …In terms of freedom of religion this seems to me not only inconsistent but antithetical. But does this mean religious display of any sort is appropriate? … The Ten Commandments undoubtedly is representative of more than just Judaism or Christianity or Islam. It is representative of early attempts at codifying law and establishing the rule of law.
Thou Shall Pick Apart the Opponent’s Argument, Hanging Relevant Links like They’re Christmas Lights (Joe_JP, “Roy Moore, Defender of the Faith and 10A“):
[Moore] is seen as a hero of states rights. Another current hero (and past supporter of Moore) is Alabama Attorney General William Pryor, controversial nominee to the federal court bench. What does he think about the federal order to remove the statute and the fine to the state if it is not removed? Well, he surely opposes the decision, but not the power to inflict it. He said as much in a recent letter to the minority in the state legislature that discusses the case.

First off, “The State of Alabama is not a party to either of the cases against Chief Justice Moore and has neither waived its immunity nor consented to suit.” At any rate, per a 1908 USSC decision, a state official can be ordered by the federal courts to act, though the state itself can not. Finally:

“The power of the States under the Tenth and Eleventh Amendments to the United States Constitution does not include the power of state officials to violate other provisions of the United States Constitution and federal law. Compliance by state officials with a valid federal court order would involve no abdication of any power whatsoever.”

Who determines if it is “valid?” Each individual state judge? Not in the eyes of CJ Moore’s colleagues, who per Alabama law has the power to overrule him on such matters. They are “bound by solemn oath to follow the law, whether they agree or disagree with it.” What is the alternative? Each state judge can decide on their own what the federal law means?
À la Mel Brooks, FrEd dropped the other five in the Los Feliz Costco parking lot yesterday and couldn’t find a decent stonemason to save his life. Additional Fray commandments can be submitted to Fraywatch Fray for consideration … KA9:20 a.m.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Battle Harrumph of the Republic: A recommendation from the gallery came across Fray Edtior’s desk to toy with a new Fraywatch format, “to feature one post at a time (with addenda depending on the circumstances). Think of it as a game of king of the hill, the top post gets top billing until something better comes along and knocks them off.” Very well.  TheQuietMan express incredulity here that a measured and studied Frayster such as Geoff could “hate” George W. Bush and characterize the president as “evil.”  In response, Geoff authors this treatise, “Why I Hate George W. Bush“:

Alright, you asked for it. I’ll try to keep my wits about me, though the emotional base upon which this argument is built is quite tumultuous.

Why would I say that I “hate” George W. Bush? Isn’t that a little strong? Isn’t he just your average politician? Isn’t this just some natural extension of your overall left-leaning political views?

No, not really.

Before I get to George W. Bush, I need to explain what I think about politicians in general. For the moment, let us stipulate that politicians come in three general flavors:The first category of politicians I believe to be genuinely honest and noble men committed to the ideal of public service. These are politicians who genuinely care, and strive to improve the Republic they cherish and the lives of its citizens. I believe these politicians to have principles, but I think they also understand reality rather well. They will master the art of compromise in the interests of accomplishment, and they may very well change their minds and their positions as they age or new events and concerns arise. But in the end, they keep one eye on what they sincerely believe to be RIGHT and another eye out for the pitfalls and road signs along the way…The next category is where I place the demagogic ideologues. These are individuals who seem to enter politics through the motivation of zealotry rather than for personal gain. They’re motives are similar to those of the noble politicians, but they’re inability to adapt or to bend within the political process makes them dangerous to our Republic. For them, politics is about specific ends, and the means will always be adapted as needed to attain them….Then, bottom on the totem pole of politicians, I would lump the remainder… the unscrupulous cynics who gravitate to the profession for the love of power. Often, we learn the truth about these politicians in their trials, as with Senator Toricelli or with Richard M. Nixon. Dan Rostenkowski or Gray Davis. And one, one of these scumbags prances before the public eye, nakedly self-aggrandizing… contemptuous of America, contemptuous of Americans, contemptuous of his detractors, contemptuous of his supporters… and nobody seems to notice. And that one, I call him George W. Bush.I can find very little in the life of George W. Bush to admire or to respect. I can’t fault him for having the fortune to be born into a family of wealth, power and privilege. However, all the evidence shows that he never felt any special responsibility came attached to the gifts he received from birth. And I’m not even talking about the responsibility to be some kind of philanthropist or minister to the poor. I’m talking about the responsibility to demonstrate that he was entitled to all that he had by effort as well as by blood. With a special dispensation he was allowed into a top East Coast prep school where he slacked off and took the special efforts exerted on his behalf for granted. Given an unearned shot at an institution allegedly based on merit, he squandered and disdained the opportunity. Then, with mediocre grades he went to Yale on the strength of connections alone, maintaining a C average, far below the standard those who have attained such an opportunity through effort hold themselves to. Somehow, he still managed to fail his way upward into the Harvard MBA program, where again, there is no evidence that he applied himself with any particular diligence. Again and again, through Bush’s life, he was handed opportunity that people strive ceaselessly for. Without any effort, he received chances that people work themselves to the bone to never get a shot at. And at each stage, he wasted it, unmindful and seemingly uncaring of the extraordinary exceptions that had been made on his behalf.

Between his stint at Yale and the one at Harvard, Bush “served” in the military. I don’t see any particular disgrace in dodging the draft. Many have done it, and many who haven’t would have. My own father joined the Marine Corps when his student deferment expired on the sensible theory that it was the branch least likely to send him abroad. Bill Clinton joined the Rhodes Scholar program. Dan Quayle joined the Indiana National Guard. But my father SERVED his term as a Marine. Bill Clinton WENT to Oxford. Dan Quayle PUT IN HIS TIME in the Indiana National Guard. Does it bother me that George W. Bush disappeared from active duty in the Texas Air National Guard? Ceased taking the physical after the institution of a drug-testing policy in 1972? Yes. It really does bother me. And it should bother you too. Because once again, it points straight to the issue of contempt. Contempt for America, for the obligations of citizenship. Our system is set up to grant allowances. But if an allowance is made for you, you should at least feel obligated to HONOR THE TERMS of your dispensation. And George W. Bush demonstrated no such sense of duty. No such sense of honor…I find nothing especially worthy of censure in his business career. It does little to enhance my opinion of him, as it demonstrates mostly a capacity to continue reaping, as an adult, the benefits of his more noble father’s efforts … At the age of 40, we are led to believe that he found some new inner-strength. It’s hard not to look at contempt with a man who can honestly profess that he did not reach adulthood until his 40’s. But in such matters, late is always better than never…

Being a shallow and opportunistic politician isn’t an inherently damnable offense, though I would certainly argue he is one. Our country would have been better off had a more noble character been poised to reap the rewards of the Supreme Court’s unfortunate choice in 2000, but I cannot fault him too much for his failures of leadership in that moment. His embrace of steel tariffs and agricultural policy more reactionary than those supported by Dick Gephardt doesn’t automatically disqualify him from the ranks of men entitled to some mercy.

In the end, it comes down to the simple issue of character.

People love to fulminate about character. My standards are not those of everyone. I don’t really hold any feelings against those prone to sins of the appetite, as Bill Clinton was. I have trouble holding poor judgment against those who demonstrate it. All I ask is some evidence of a fundamental respect for the dignity of people. And I don’t think George W. Bush has that respect…There are those who believe that all politicians lie, and that Bush’s are nothing exceptional. I don’t know how to rebut such a charge, other than to state firmly and forcefully that I disagree. Watching Bush tell the nation with a straight face that they will receive an “average” tax cut of $1000 when he knows what the average person will actually receive is one of those little acts of disrespect. Sneeringly dismissing the protests of hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions worldwide at his instigation of a war abroad as mere “focus groups” is a telling indicator of the disrespect which created the frustration that propelled them to the streets in the first place (may I remind you, that neither his father nor his immediate predecessor faced anything on a comparable scale). Putting out word that he believed Air Force One to be the target of a terrorist attack to account for his shameful disappearance on September 11th of 2001… that’s a kind of falsehood which makes my stomach start to churn in disgust. Untruths and misrepresentations abound in this President’s public discourse, when he even bothers to show himself in public. More than usual, even for a politician. And, frankly, more than should be acceptable in the America I thought I knew…There aren’t words to describe the horror I feel when I see Bush look into the nation’s television cameras with that sadistic little smirk and tell us euphemistically, as if half-choking on a stifled snort that our enemies… “let’s put it this way: they are no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies.” The barely-suppressed, no not really suppressed at all, look of GLEE at the thought of the death America has inflicted upon its enemies. I recognize that it is necessary to kill human beings. I recognize that our security demands it. That every president must hold the lives and deaths of strangers in his hands. But the fact that we MUST kill NEVER excuses taking delight THAT we kill. You probably don’t believe me. I don’t know if you believe Tucker Carlson when he describes Bush’s mockery of Karla Faye Tucker: “Please,” Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, “don’t kill me.” Maybe some of you don’t believe it. Worse, maybe some of you feel the same way, and consider Bush’s response… virtuous? I don’t know. I look at Bush, taunting the camera, daring America’s enemies to “bring it on” and I see a sick and disgusting man – the worst face of America sneering in the spotlight. A man who doesn’t bother to care about the enormity of his job, the enormity of its consequences, and the enormity of this glorious Republic we’ve brought forth.

When I look at George W. Bush, I don’t see a patriot. I see a lying, psychopathic narcissist. And it pains me, it grieves me, it WOUNDS me to realize that this puts me not only in the minority… but in the “whacko fringe.” …
Editor’s Note: FrEd, in an effort to alliterate yesterday’s Fraywatch TOC headline, mistakenly referred to the purveyors of Heineken beer as “Flemish.” Well, the good people of Flanders and those who love them have set me straight. Heineken is an exclusively Dutch operation and, accordingly, FrEd’s headline should’ve read “Double Dutch Bust.” … KA5:40 p.m.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Little Dutch Ploy: Are the Flemish phlegmatic about beer babes? That’s what Rob Walker poses in Ad Report Card (“Does Heineken Hate Beer Babes?“). Exhibit A and Exhibit B in Heineken USA’s new TV spot are dueling rooftop parties—one a staged male masturbatory fantasy, the other an organic, animated college catalog cover. Despite Heineken’s attempt to forge its identity with the latter, Thrasymachus testifies that

They’re both such common stereotypes, it’s like ad-culture’s left brain arguing with its right.

T tells us what truly happens on “real NYC rooftops” hereNhoj, though, takes the brewers, and similarly post-romp sportswear purveyors Champion, at their word here. According to andkathleeen here, the Heineken and Champion ads

make the viewer feel slightly smug that THEY are smart enough not to fall for the other guy’s ads … not realizing, of course, that they’re being sucked in (through their self-congratulation) to admiring a product for … the advertising campaign. Pander to people’s intellectual pretensions and you’ll always hit paydirt.

And eLocke points out that “[t]hey also manage to have the scantily clad beer babes in there ad while at the same time mocking the concept of having scantily clad beer babes in their ads.”

What’s worse? An on-the-nose assault the gonads or the deceptive appeal to the bean?  Weigh in at Ad Report Card Fray.

Don’t Say Beer, Say Bull! ELocke maintains that selling the steak over the sizzle, while certainly not the norm, isn’t unprecedented. Here he travels back to the 1970s:

The case study in this concept is Schlitz. Executives at Schlitz believed that since their market research already showed the they had high awareness of a quality product there was no need to try and spend with Bud and Miller. They didn’t raise their advertising budget. They used to be a dominant brand in the market in the seventies (“If you’re not drinking Schlitz, you’re not drinking beer.”). Today they barely exist at all except on old liquor store signs.

Here, brightgirl informs eLocke that “Schlitz is making a huge comeback due mostly to the fact that they do not advertise.” She follows up by allowing that “Pabst blue ribbon is also a big seller. think it’s part of the whole ‘wear a trucker cap, grow a mullet and be ironic’ thing.” Update: Ashton Kutcher spotted with frosty Pabst at Cinespace in Hollywood!

Point Shavers: Loran launches the thread of the week in ARC by letting his Frayfriends know that he’s still waiting for a spot for men’s shaving products that doesn’t feature a advertiser’s bombshell gliding “her palm up and down his face.” TheQuietMan sighs, “Look

it’s something much more simple. It goes like this:

See Shaver
See Gorgeous girl
Gorgeous girls are good.
Start association between shaver and gorgeous girl
See Gorgeous girl respond favourably to effects of shaver
Positive reinforcement of initial association.

Psych 101.

Thrasymachus follows up with this gem:

I don’t think it’s just a simple phenomenon of selling men irrelevant products on the basis of unattainable pussy. Pretty women are everywhere, the way that Jesus and the Saints were everywhere in the Middle Ages. Their images adorn absolutely everything, and no cultural undertaking is complete without at least a couple of them.

PubliusToo wonders why ads targeted at females don’t reciprocate:

that leaves unanswered the question of why the Victoria’s Secrets commercials fail to include the male counterpart to the gorgeous babe in the commercial.

Find PT’s theory as to why the Brewer twins aren’t hocking lace panties hereKA8:20 a.m.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

This past week, the Fray lost one of its most enduring contributors, REW-OEM—or Bob—as he was known to his readers, friends, combatants and admirers in the Fray. In memorium, samples from his Fray oeuvre can be found below. “He would work for hours, sometimes days, to try and find a way of saying what he felt in his head and heart. He was a very caring and creative man. He was very bright. He was a great father and mentor for all of us,” writes his son. A window into Bob: Subject: Thoughtful Threads v Threadbare ThoughtsRe: “Saddam and the Doctrine of Last Means” [top post by TheBell]          From: REWOEM-3Date: Dec 2 2001  8:02 a.m. PTThanks for ringing in once again. This has been a productive discussion and I hope for and look forward to craigm’s re:post. When the responses are coherent, challenging and thoughtful - it’s fun to weigh-in (or ring-in) and continue to wonder while waiting for the feedback and critical commentary. If only other SLATE threads were as substantial. In reading some of your other posts, I admire your ability to abjure the idiotic and offensive while still finding the commendable kernel of insight in otherwise lame posts. I wish I could do as well. I’m trying to learn to pick my battles, but it’s hard for me to avoid slipping into slashing sarcasm when the RE:’s are salacious, foul, Bible-thumping or boringly banal. Any helpful ideas as to the correction of my often arrogant over-reaction would be appreciated. (I’m still a SLATE neophyte having first posted barely a month ago.)  It really isn’t very satisfying to seek to diminish an already dim bulb, or demean the pig-headed by frying their pork-fat thoughts in the skillet of hot, over-confident intellect. I sense that I’m “reducing” myself in the attempted “rendering” of the fat-headed, fatuous, fanatical and feculent (additional F-words, one and all). Sorry - I just couldn’t help myself. You’ve been great—keep up the good work, and any recommendations would be appreciated.[Find this post here]Subject: Slate Fray Finds Hitler: Poetry DefeatedRe: “Hearing Aid: Sometimes poetry should be seen and not heard”       “Queer as Volk: A new book claims Hitler was a closet case”      From: REWOEM-3Date: Dec 4 2001  4:58 p.m. PTAdam - I read your article with interest and found disagreement. But today HITLER’s sexuality wins the war of words. For every poetry post, there are ten or more neo-Hitlerite’s speaking their perverted sexual minds. I’m embarrassed by the Nazis, hard-up thinkers and empty-headed responders. The great sadness is that poetry is no longer of any concern. Spoken, written, or simply imagined. Poetry is dead. When long times ago, we wished in words and wondered as to inner thoughts, we entered the mystery of language, and posited the indistinct possible. But the magic of the instant-internet and it’s openness to the Fuck-Me/Suck-Me/Up-Your-Ass immediate who-cares commentators means that thought - much less poetry - is dead. I’m very sorry. I cried. Yesterday afternoon, in my mind, I sat in the chapel at Little Giddings and wondered about the poet-bank-teller and his cats and Christian comments. But I was very alone. Excepting the children in my mind, force fed in poetry, there was no one else there. An older New England woman in white and poetic lonely thoughts had come later yesterday afternoon, but she’d died on leaving and is now gone. Just before she left to cease the search, I spoke with her of roses and she remarked to me of the fire. And I saw the place I’d never known before - for the first time. And realized that I was forever lost. Adam - trust me. Few, if any, will read this. Fewer yet will care. Fewer still will comment. It’s not the readings - it’s the writings. In the electronic explosion of access and knowledge - we’re losing the way of the word. Poetry is dead. Long live the electronic King and the X-Box experience.

There’s a huge pine at the north end of our home, just at the top of the hill - it’s destined for white, bright lightning destruction. I hope only to be sitting in it’s life-time shade and shadow when it happens. It will. The worth of the word - spoken or read in rest of bed at night - is dead. We’re e-connected and e-enabled to a new way. And it ain’t about fucking past poetry.[Find this post here]Subject: In Memorium: The Red Paper PoppyRe: Top Post, Best of the Fray     From: REW-OEMDate: May 26 2002  4:40 p.m. PTGrowing up in the late May of a small town in the early 1950’s where the major after-school excitement was jumping on the bell ringing rubber rope at the local Texaco, running like hell, and then finally breathless turning to see if the squeegee toting attendant had appeared to curse the false gas pumping opportunity, Memorial Day of Decoration Day birth was important. For several days in advance of May 30th, the aging veterans of the foreign wars to end all wars, stood silently, but demandingly, at strategic shopping locations and sold the red paper poppies. Sometimes, they even went door-to-door, pushing poppies and respectful remembrance. Several months ago in the wake of 9/11, driving to a business meeting, I was listening to a public radio piece about the significance of memorialization in light of the recent Twin Towers tragedy and the past tragedy of Oklahoma City. The learned and thoughtful talk was all about spaces, parks, appropriate structures and even high tech laser light shows. The Vietnam Memorial was frequently referenced (and I agree, it’s a very moving place). But no one ever mentioned a red paper poppy. There were apparently passé. But to the grandmother of my youth, the mother and aunt of dead warriors, Memorial Day was an important and solemn occasion. We visited and decorated grave sites, we spoke quietly of lives lost and never fully lived. And we all wore red paper poppies. In the 1960’s, the crepe of red paper poppies faded. Memorialization was federalized to an American work-week relieving three-day barbeque and became best know as the last Monday in May. And now you never see a red paper poppy anymore. And you seldom think about a dead soldier (except in beer bottle terms). And you rarely ever visit a grave, and wonder what was given, and why it was so damned important that you had to die for it. Memorials constructed with millions of dollars may not be as powerful as the simple red poppy remembrances of the millions.[Find this post here] Subject: Gesamtkirschwerk HaikuRe: Top Post, Best of the FrayFrom: REW-OEMDate: Jul 3 2002  9:54 a.m. PTHaiku to Gesamtkirshwerk

Green yellow growing

Phallic plantain pleasure fruit

Gesamtkirshwerk brown.

I suspect the German haiku is a very limited poetry form![Find this post here]Subject: Best of the BestRe: Top Post, Best of the FrayFrom: REWOEM-5Date: Sep 12 2002  7:45 a.m. PTThe Legends:

Second, the Count Basie nomination, would also add Bix Beiderbecke.

The Movers and Shakers:

Modern Jazz Quarter !!! I know, I know, but what about Getz, Coltrane, Herbie and so many others. Still, it’s got to be MJQ.

Best Album Ever:

“Sketches of Spain.” Hands down, no doubt! MD changed the jazz world forever with a single vinyl moment.


Don’t really know. Awaiting input. And by the by, who is Paul Hardcastle? A few years ago, my kids gave me a couple of CD’s that I really enjoyed.

Have I lost all standing as a jazz devotee by venturing beyond the 1960’s?

Bob[Find this post here] Subject: Resigning, I Said, Kiss My Acapulco AssRe: Top Post, Best of the FrayFrom: REW-OEMDate: Nov 4 2002  5:48 p.m. PTIn my letter of resignation today, I quarreled with the concept of corporate trips and trysts. Over the past 15 years, as my reward for doing my job reasonably well, I could have gone to: Palm Springs, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Marco Island, Aspen, Paris, Phoenix, Puerto Rico, Acapulco and numerous other desirable destinations of consuming corporate greed. OK, it’s true, in 1995, I failed in true virtue, and took my kids and wife with me to Acapulco. Excepting the minimal meetings of IRS accountabilty, we had a wonderful time both before, and after, the two hours of sign-in, sign-out meetings of Karate Kid corporate waxing-on, waxing-off compliance and wonder. We’d never gone before and never went again. While the moment was great fun; it was a bad mistake that we often discussed. In our home town, there were people trying life in cardboard boxes under the railroad trestle. Kids who couldn’t talk because speech had been beaten out of them. And a drunken old man who’d lost his teeth and now dirty-hand covered his mouth in shame. Thank God, our kids think about those so sad people far more than Acapulco sensation. I’m very proud. I can resign in the confidence of the next generation. And Sir & Madam, if you’re a truly Acapulco-bound and a financially deserving worker-of-wonders, please kiss my liberal children on the cheek. They will be waiting for you in the double-wide Kenmore/Whirlpool box just under the trestle of tragic life. Life is more than just a vacation, sometimes it’s a life-caring vocation. Thanks kids, for all the insights,

Bob & Dad [Find this post here ]Subject: Final Fray Thoughts & Best WishesRe: Top Post, Best of the FrayFrom: REW-OEMDate: Nov 13 2002  10:45 a.m. PTFriday morning the movers will come to close up my office, box up 15 years worth of files for return to my company, remove the furniture, and by 5:00PM we should be able to turn the lights off for the last time. My work resignation is official on 11/30 so we’re a bit ahead of schedule on the office. On the home front, we’re looking forward to a final Thanksgiving with family members, children, in-laws and friends. A day or two or more of feasting, recollection and fun after almost three decades in our community. On the Monday following, after the big-screen has cooled down from four days of football frenzy, the movers, packers and shakers will box-up our lives and we’ll be off to our home in Florida. We have mixed feelings. Four of five children were born here, they all grew up here (we moved here when our oldest son was barely six months old). But it’s kind of nice to be moving on to a new adventure. But, for me personally, leaving home isn’t any more difficult than leaving the Fray, my other home for the past year plus of involvement. I started on the political and commentary Boards (BB, CB, and many others) had no idea what the BOTF was. I had a lot of great other board experiences:

(1) Early on, I was stalker. I read the political Slate articles and then watched for The Bell, texwiz, locdog, and many others. They were all so opinionated and flawed in their thinking, but still interesting and cogent.

(2) After a time, I began to respond. They were still very annoying and surely needed sound direction. I queried, questioned and quarreled. And yet, they countered with approval and acceptance, albeit strongly disagreeing on my liberal principles.

(3) Moira began to check-mark REW-OEM for a few reasonable posts. I was affirmed.

(4) After 6 months or so, I received a Moira STAR. She noted that I had a strange name, REW-OEM, and even stranger thoughts on multiple topics.

With growing acceptance, I was loving the Slate experience and I came to BOTF. Coincidentally, about the same time I was **STARRED** I began to suspicion that something was wrong. Sometimes I didn’t think clearly (maybe you noticed once or twice) and by late afternoon my ideas were pretty jumbled or unreasonably or even nastily argumentative. These concerns were shortly confirmed in medical terms. I abandoned **STARDOM** because it wasn’t deserved, and thereafter, except for a few last adventures in other boards of reasonable thought, I became a BOTF poster. It was really quite different.

(1) It was more social and friendly than the boards of political battle, I came to know and love the personas of BOTF.

(2) It was relational and yet still very thoughtful. I ventured into the expression of personal feelings (a Mothers Day or wedding thoughts post are likely the most memorable).

(3) It was often funny and frivolous.

(4) I made friends, and unfortunately, enemies, especially as I ventured into the PoemFray (except for Haiku thoughts, 17 syllables, that I can still manage).

And then I began to sense it was over. My personal confusion was so evident and growing that I resigned and resigned and resigned. I think I’ve resigned from Fray participation a record number of times. I was gone for awhile (or responding in thin disguises) and the medications helped, but Bob’s problem was still evident. I came back because it’s fun and you are all great. I’m glad I did, I met a few more great people (even a graduate of my Golden Brahman undergraduate institution, he’s now a respected Harvard attorney and very competent Fray commentator). I had great good fun this week with a birthday probability question. It was what I could still do, short and sweet, quips and quick answers. When, at the end of a long day, I ventured outside of that, well, it was a disaster.  I know, this post is far too long.

But I sincerely want to say:

THANKS, to the Fray thinkers who have brightened my mind,

THANKS, to the Fray friends who have consoled and understood,

THANKS, to the Fray opponents of respectful disagreement.

APOLOGIES, to those I have offended,

APOLOGIES, to those with whom I’ve been unfair,

APOLOGIES, for the less meaningful or appropriate responses.



Bob[Find this post here ]Subject: Still Life In Small Word FilesRe: Top Post, Best of the FrayFrom: REW-OEMDate: Apr 2 2003  12:12 p.m. PTPrologue:

I live in small words and Word files.

In the good moments, I write as fast as I can and chase my thoughts to the write-ending File Save. Then, in the next better morning, I come again and re-read the spent ideas and tailings of my yesterday mind, delete the major defective portions, and then try to make some sense and write again.

It’s a very slow process.

A few weeks or more ago, I surrounded my reality of dimming life with words and death wishes in this forum, but then I stayed far too long.

I offended some without good cause (Oscar 1-2, Chango). I ignored freely offered kindness and consideration (locdog and many others) and even failed to respond to the words of very real caring (Persephone).

My self-consumption is so damnably confusing and consuming. My profound pardon to all of you for either my insult or insensitivity.

I too often feel alone in this straddle space between the life files of the real and the word files of the virtual.

It’s so strange. The real is so unreal; and the virtual is just the mind’s fond pretend. A few ideas in the small Word files…
[Find this post in its entirety here ]Subject: Have You Ever Been to the Country FairRe: Top Post, Best of the FrayFrom: REW-OEMDate: Jun 26 2003  11:12 a.m. PTSometimes, I Think About the County Fair … I’m sure I have absolutely nothing to say. I guess I just never really believed that I bought the right ticket to a full life. Your comments on today’s recent headlines and new thoughts and cogent challenges spin by my mind in a blur and leave me with the fervent wish it just were not so. But by late calm of this afternoon, I know that I am better suited to the park bench where I can sit and watch the slowly turning ferris-wheel of life go up and down, round and round, and the two-ticket tilt-a-whirl of circling up-sets and up-chucks, and my most confusing feelings. And then when I remember I had young laughter, and then I can then toss my thoughts aside and recall life. I went to the 4-H thing today. There were rabbits the size of large dogs, hogs that weighed more than my SUV, and cows that gave and gave and gave, without ever beginning to milk the question. They were slimey lemon-lime-key merangue pies with blue-ribbons stuck in the sugars of “you-better-throw-it-away” tomorrow or die. There were apple and peach pies that were so properly made they could be served in a future the next life’s century of consumption. And there was rhubarb, pumpkin, mince and all the other unfortunates. I also saw vegetables. Carrots fat beyond possible consumption. A potato for a family of six-starving Irish. A huge rutabaga with an attitude. And a bright red tomato with botanical sex on its mind. Later I had a fried and sugared elephant-ear. And then I sat on the bench provided for the old and pre-maturely infirm. I sat alone and then said, “I have nothing to say.” I’ve been to a County Fair or two. I guess I don’t need the vegetables. I can live without lemon pies. I don’t even need the beef and pork. But I still really need the real and hopeful people.

Bob[Find this post here]