Needles & Threads

A weekly spin through the Fray.

Poems Fray: Benjamin Gantcher’s narrative poem, “Insomniac,” didn’t attract a lot of fans, save Catnapping444416 here, who appreciates how Gantcher “describes the way sleeplessness almost hurts his skin…how it messes with the order of things,” and Ted_Burke here who writes that “this poem kept me awake.” Seamus takes on the work most aggressively with a close read of the first five lines here. Off the syllabus, Geoff won over PF with “Poet’s Disclaimer,” as did shannpalmer for “Director of Special Pops.” Leave it to PF’s unofficial muse, MaryAnn, for stellar criticism and sound advice.

Everyday Economics Fray: Why do gays toke? A lot. Schadenfreude points out that Steven Landsburg approaches the question “from an economist’s viewpoint. I suppose a Freudian would just shrug and say that it’s all part of the pattern of oral fixation.” Schadenfreude brings up a host of other salient points, as does Sissyfuss1, who feels that Landsburg is overlooking the fact that since smoking is more common among men, “the smoking habit among gays is self-reinforcing. If most of your prospective partners are smokers themselves, you have little incentive to cut down on your habit.” KellyAnn brings up the point that “the overwhelming majority of adult smokers started as teens,” and that “[t]he question might more appropriately be framed as what is it about gay teens that leads them to smoke at such a high rate.” HoundDog here and bp294 here take up the different sides of a singular argument. And e-coli’s post is a scathing indictment of Landsburg’s methodology and issues the author the Pepsi challenge.

Chatterbox Fray: Yes. Chatterbox.  Tim Noah has a full week with five columns in five days, and Fraysters respond accordingly en masse. As an adjunct to Noah’s column on the prospect of Dirk Kempthorne as EPA Chief, WatchfulBabbler illuminates the Fray on another interesting Bush administration EPA appointment. BeverlyMann maintains that a Kempthorne appointment will “help lift the shroud” of the administration’s true intent and help the “Dems…explain to the public” Bush’s dubious environmental policy. But Thrasymachus suggests that this could energize “the Green Party base while scarfing up a huge trough of industrial contributions must seem like a win-win situation to the Republicans,” while Deej thinks this proves that “the Bush administration is so sure of securing themselves a second term,” that it’s taking a free pass with Kempthorne. To the California recall, where Fraysters jump on Noah for making a Zugspitze out of a zit in regards to the ‘bot’s ” Nazi Problem.” EFriedemann is “apathetic about Schwarzenegger,” but is satisfied with the fact that “Schwarzenegger has chosen … to do yeoman charitable work instead” of a wholesale denunciation of his father and nation’s leaders, many of them close family friends. MoscowMike finds Noah’s piece to be a “repugnant screed,” and shouts to the missus, “Quick, Myrtle, grab ol bessie, we’es a-huntin nazzies!” Miguel feels “Ah-nold’s charity, educational and humanitarian work speaks volumes more than a thousand verbal denunciations of Killer Kurt would,” but is nevertheless “deeply troubled by his continued embrace of the Evil Waldheim,” and finds an “obvious double standard” among conservatives who choose to look the other way on this one. AdamMorgan writes in defense of Noah, “I think the point is that any connection, however informal, with those who participate in genocide must be severed, as an example of the strict barrier that must be maintained between those who should be included in society and those who must always be excluded.”

Jurisprudence Fray: Dahlia Lithwick’s “Saving DNA for a Rainy Day” and JFers discuss the legal ramifications of throwing the book at genetic material. The_Bell generally agrees with several of Lithwick’s points, but “draw[s] short of Lithwick’s allegations that DNA’s only apparent viable role — at least for now — is as a tool for the defense and never the prosecution.” Here, Gene-2 spins a web encompassing seemingly every side of the debate on admissibility of DNA evidence, while Adam_Masin takes an even more skeptical position on its credibility here and concludes by asking rhetorically, “Rather than indict what amounts to a description of a person (but not the person), why not just lengthen the statute of limitations?” Destor23 writes that “One could argue that the statute of limitations is more important with regards to DNA and related genetic identification technologies because our understanding of biotechnology is in a state of rapid flux right now. DNA collected a decade ago was collected using methods and standards that might well be outdated now and that might seem comically primitive twenty years from now…” Finally, to Lithwick’s invoking the old adage that “it’s better to let 10 guilty men go free than to try an innocent one unfairly,” Vepxistqaosani2 asks, “Why is it better that 10 guilty go free than one innocent be convicted? Why not 100, or 5, or 2 – or all of them? If we simply stopped prosecuting people, we could be assured that no innocent person would ever be troubled … at least, not by the state.” … KA10:50 a.m.

Friday, August 8, 2003

Uncomfortably Numb: Christopher Hawthorne’s narrative slideshow, “ The Om Factor,” elicits one of the best Arts & Culture posts of the summer from Thrasymachus. T. finds a vacant anonymity in the works generated by the Om “movement”:

But OMchitecture’s not a reflection of feeling. It’s a reflection of Novocained numbness. It’s reminiscent of modern architecture, but in its original form modern architecture was exuberant… this… isn’t. It seems all about not being noticed, and not engaging in dialogue because, feeling nothing, it has nothing to say.
Read more on why T. feels that “[w]e shouldn’t build too much while we’re in this mood,” here and here. CaptainRonVoyage counters with the notion that, in the larger contour of architectural progression,
“Omm” is probably not a major new movement, but “Wow” architecture was no major movement, either.
On the spatial aesthetics of Om, CRV goes on to write that
The “Om” buildings in the slideshow contain some really wonderful interior spaces that invite exploration, meditation and interaction with other people, things the “Wow” buildings often didn’t bother with…
While CRV lauds the interior focus of the Oms, T. responds here, stating that
I’m not entirely sure of that… for every person who will ultimately live (or work) in a given building, there are literally thousands of people who will have to live (or work)with it.
CRV decides that he and T. “may be able to strike a consensus.” Find out how here. RTev, here, insists that Wow structures, such as Koolhaas’ new Central Library in Seattle (n.b. FrayEditor recently toured the site) don’t necessarily betray function.Spledid_IREny authros a post true to her name with “ Modesty that call attention to itself.” She poses this critically inciting question:
If, as Frank Gehry says, “architectural excess” is “dead in the water,” what subtlety is there in buildings that one knows are there, but are advantageously invisible?
MaryAnn takes a stab at Spledid’s question here, with a smart follow-up from Splendid here. In response to a pithy top post  here from newly starred TheQuietManthat suggests Wowchitecture was “the architectural equivalent of the NASDAQ rise to 5000,” twifferthegnu  wonders if
Om would have been the replacement [for Wow] without 9/11…
To comment on whether Omchitecture is profound quietude or self-consciously flashy  restraint, please dig in at Architecture Fray.As I Recall: When we last left the Sacto High Student Council election, America’s favorite ‘bot hadn’t yet performed his Electoral Anschluss on Leno. CaptainRonVoyage scribbles the best analysis in his political notebook in Kausfiles Fray titled, “ Whatchoo talkin’ ‘bout, Tocqueville?” CRV observes that
As more and more weirdo candidates enter the race, the publicity factor increases, thereby increasing the incentive for more PR-seekers to enter the race in a kind of bizarre B-list feedback loop. Thus it seems pretty safe to assume that every oddball candidate that enters the CA recall race probably brings in more votes to retain Davis than they do for themselves. This may be the CA Dems’ version of the Iraq “flypaper” strategy…
More CRV:
Nobody mentioned also that by faking out everyone with his announcement, Arnold effectively screwed his buddy Dick Riordan worse than the job he did on Lou Ferrigno in Pumping Iron I. 
For up-to-the-minute updates on the circus, visit Mickey Kaus’ blogging ticker at Kausfiles.MichaelRyerson finds the prospect of ‘Nazi’ entering the “political lexicon” curious. Of Schwarzenegger and Tim Noah’s piece on the ‘bot’s Waldheim worries, MR writes
Regardless how appropriate the allusion may be, when people in these parts observe some one is acting like a Nazi or goose-stepping or jackbooted or brown-shirted, the resulting cries of ‘hyperbole’, ‘thoughtless’, ‘repugnant’ ring forth from the aggrieved. Well, does Arnold have a problem? Reading Timothy Noah’s latest column in Chatterbox it would seem The Austrian Oak is rooted rather deeply in the soil of the Fatherland.
While MikeBeers is no fan of the recall or the ‘bot, he has to “call a spade a spade. Waldheim was a big deal. This is not.” AdamMorgan is “shocked Coleman had the $3500” to file, prompting CRV to suspect that “Todd Bridges had to knock over another bank” to foot the bill.  This thread is here, if you have the urge to yuk it up at the expense of NBC’s most forlorn cast in network history… KA2:00 p.m.p.s. Department of Astral Affairs: TheQuietMan and James enter the orbit this week. Congratulations.

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Touch of Gray: The_Slasher finds it “hard to imagine what could make one sympathize with Gray Davis, until one looks at those who are out for his scalp.” Granted, “It’s pretty hard to imagine a better example of a reason to loathe today’s Democratic Party than the aptly-named Gray Davis,” but that said, Slash would “vote to keep him in office” if he were living on the cliffs of Mendecino. Find out why here.

Naturally, Neocon is an unequivocal Davis-detester. In response, he asks Slash:

Do you really believe that Davis’s popularity has fallen to 20%, and that the recall petition has succeeded because of the behind the scenes machinations of all those sly Republican con artists?

Neo doesn’t take kindly to Slash’s allegation that by placing the blame for California’s budgetary bungling at the feet of Davis, Neo sounds “like Democratic Party morons who blame the current recession on Bush.” Here, Californian Neo responds by firing a cruise missile clear across the country at the EDT-zone denizen, Slash. 

Meta4 weighs in on Davis’ scheme to have himself included on “part two” of the ballot that asks Californians to choose a replacement: “His hope is that those who vote no recall in the first part of the ballot will then vote for him as the new governor.” Sivrat speaks to the legal elements of the megillah that is the recall ballot, and sees Davis’ eligibility for “part two” of the ballot as an issue of equal protection:

The recall and the replacement election are two separate issues that happen to take place at the same time. (clarified by the CA Supreme court ruling that people who do not mark the recall portion must have their replacement votes counted.) If it is a separate election, and Gray Davis meets the requirements to be a candidate, he should be allowed on the ballot.

According toboyleheights:

There are glaring constitutional problems with the Cal recall law which will have to be ironed out. The Calif. constitution provides that the lieutenant governor succeeds the governor when there is a vacancy. The recall provides that. the vacancy can be filled by an immediate state wide election “if appropriate.”

Wfthomas is  of the mind that

Should Mr. Davis get lose out on his initial appeal and it goes up to the 9th, things could get surprising and radical in a hurry. Perhaps even the USSC will become involved. He better hurry, though. In my view this whole process, while somewhat interesting, is a huge waste of time and effort and money.

With a steady procession of vagrants strolling in for gubernatorial filing papers, county Auditors’ offices across California feel more like the Cantina Bar from Star Wars than a governmental annex. SalsaShark draws this analogy:

Does anyone else get the feeling that the California Recall is like the political junkie’s version of a WWE Pay-Per-View cage fight? It’s got all the requisite dramatic elements: a disgraced leader, hordes of his opponents clamoring to unseat him, old alliances breaking as new ones are formed…

Regarding Dianne Feinstein, the Mario Cuomo of the race, tofrayornottofray  points out that the Senator is probably having flashbacks:

She must be having some interesting feelings about Gray’s recall. We saved Dianne from a recall when she was Mayor of San Francisco in the early 80’s.

…and that “School vouchers may lose Feinstein much of her voting base in California and for sure in San Francisco, her hometown.”

_dwnny_ is “bummed” that Feinstein appears to be a non-candidate. “Instead of having the opportunity to have a competent Governor, we are doomed to a battle between a Political Hack and a bunch of opportunist wannabes.” Geoff, though, is “kind of relieved“:

The state is in some pretty treacherous waters right now. If we’re gonna change horses midstream, we might as well choose another lame one to finish the ride. Why ruin a perfectly good horse?

The Oracle of Sac-town: Here, DrNo comments on today’s news that “Arianna Huffington has tossed her balaclava into the ring.” JoeUser’s theory is that the Greens are going to rally behind Arianna and could create an imposing plurality:

If no well-known Democrat runs, she will be the most well-known progressive candidate. Remember that everyone casts two votes: those who vote to retain Davis won’t be voting for a Republican on the other ballot … With the wacky rules and the hundred+ minor candidates who will wind up on the ballot, she could very well win.

Finally, an announcement from chango (I-Upland) regarding his intention to run for Governor. Evidently, the Natural Law’s slate is already determined… KA4:55 p.m.

Friday, August 1, 2003

Upon Thy Cheek I Lay This Zealous Kiss: In regards to the  Prudie letter from the remedial kisser from New England whose boyfriend suggests she enroll in kissing lessons, a floored baltimore-aureole writes that the “letter is the kind she used to publish months ago, but got away from. so unbelievable you suspect they’re made up to meet a publication deadline.” B-A’s small question:

[W]ould this innocent lady’s boyfriend, upon marrying her, subsequently remand her to a brothel for lovemaking lessons because he was dissatisfied with her concupiscence?
Taking stock of the Prudie hijackers, we look to doodahman for a couple of shekels worth of guidance. First off, Two Cents lays out kisser typology:
You get the swirly kiss girls that stick out their tongues and act like Dennis Fong giving you a DNA swab. Then there’s the gaping hole kissers, who open their mouths a wide as possible while you cover their gaping maw like Mick Jagger giving CPR. And then there’s the “corn-peckers”, who treat your face like chicken coop floor, until you feel like Suzanne Pleshette in The Birds.
Then the prescription:
Regardless of whether you continue with the Cascades Casanova, practice DOES make perfect. There is no school of kissing ‘cept the streets (metaphorically speaking, of course). So get out there and start studying. Begin with drunks passed out in bars, then work your way up to conscious people. Start a study group. Hire a tutor (they’re listed under “escorts” in the yellow pages.) Become a Washington intern. Hang out with professional athletes.
Elboruum’s “Dear Rudence” takes a different tack:
It is Rudie’s experience that a kiss is an expression of the soul, that good kissing is something you either do well, or do poorly, but isn’t something that can be learned. Fellatio, on the other hand, IS a skill that can be learned, and it has always been Rudie’s experience that even the poorest kisser can make any man forget the fact with a nice blow job… The next time he complains about your kissing, just give his member a thoroughly world-class, vac-u-suck, phallibath.
Christofurio interprets the beau’s imperative a little differently:
[M]aybe what he really meant was that you should take a class in the music of KISS. Personally, I have a tough time telling the difference between Gene Simmons and Gene Siskel, so I might benefit from that one… 
A Bile of Dough: In a week that had barmy Fraygrants threatening him with subpoenas, Fray Editor thanks Meletus for this star-worthy hilarity.  Meletus joins laocoon and Splendid_IREny as the Fray’s newest astral wonders…KA8:55 a.m.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Butcher, Baker…Condi-stick Maker: Though the Bush Administration has quashed rumors that Jim Baker will assume the role of Fixer of Baghdad, Zathras believes that “[t]he Baker trial balloon was a fact,” even if “[w]ho sent it up, who shot it down, and why, remain mysteries.” While Fred Kaplan offers his observations in War Stories, Zathras believes that reading the tea leaves of the Washington Post’s report requires greater insight into the concerns of the administration:

What concerns Kaplan is casualties and grumbling among the troops, but what most concerns the White House, according to the Post and other sources, appears to be Paul Bremer’s insistence that much more money will be needed for Iraqi administration and reconstruction than the administration had expected.
Zathras offers his theory of what went down here. What interests Thrasymachus
is how incredibly isolated this Administration is becoming. The world community hates them. The Republican Congress is investigating them. Significant portions of the intelligence community and the armed services seem to hate them… and the flap between the “outs” in the State Department .. and the “ins” in Defense has now reached such epic proportions that respected elder statesmen of the GOP are starting to intervene… . against the President’s faction!
More from T here. And viewpoint takes aim at the previously unassailable National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice hereShort the Embassy in Addis Ababa and Gimme a Put on an Airbus 380: According to Sissyfuss1, “the PAM was rightly scrapped, but for the wrong reasons.” Referring to the Department of Defense’s Policy Analysis Market through which “investors would place bets on events in the Middle East occurring by a certain time.” (For a full read on the PAM, see Daniel Gross’ Moneybox piece.) S1 challenges Gross:
If Arafat’s Machiavellian mind is so inscrutable, intelligence experts will do no better than markets. How could the PAM hurt in that case?
To Gross’ point that “a havoc market wouldn’t benefit from the rationality that regular financial markets require,” BenKrik retorts that
IRRATIONAL DOES NOT MEANS UNPREDICATABLE. Irrational means not necessarily acting in his best interests. A driver that always goes ahead, no matter whether the light is green or red may very well be irrational, but is perfectly predictable.
Jack_Baltimore pshaws, “How much freakier and Strangelovian can the Bush Administration get?” More from JB
Here’s the idea: since we now, in our modern, enlightened, religious fervor, invest in The Market the same kind of omniscience we previously reserved only to God Almighty, it would be a cool thing to harness this New God to make predictions for us, so we better know when the next terrorist will let loose a bomb in Tel Aviv, or Kim Jong Il finally goes off his rocker and drops the Big One on Seoul, or the Saudi’s are finally knocked off their thrones.
For TheToad, PAM’s intrinsic imprecision makes it useless:
The problem with a futures market for terrorism is that such a market would have a systematic bias towards secrecy built into it. Information would not be perfect, it would either unavailable or deliberately distorted and you would need very sophisticated actors (most of whom work for the world’s intelligence agencies) to make sense of it.
ShriekingViolet expresses similar skepticism, claiming you can’t have a commodities market without a commodity: 
The fundamental problem is not that PAM encourages “gambling on death”, but that it is casting terrorism as a commodity. Which is a strange metaphorical role for a “service” that has zero demand… NEGATIVE demand if you will. The likelihood of a terrorist act being committed is not an epiphenomenal probability such as demand, or an aggregate phenomenon such as the outcome of an election, but rather the result of a single person’s or a small group of people’s will. Within political philosophy, such an act–deriving fully from the will and in conformity to an ideological ideal–is precisely the OPPOSITE of a commodity.
No truth to the rumor that you’ll soon be able to buy notes on Bob Graham’s daily journal revelations…KA9:25 a.m.