Culture Wars Redux

Fraysters spar over Senate Bill 3.

Return of the Domestic Culture Wars: The passage of S. 3 has stoked the ideological flames across the Fray, with the abortion issue as the fire kit. The_Bell writes the most deliberative post on the subject. Though Bell finds “the partial birth procedure most disturbing and am not sorry to see it banned in general,” he cautions against an absolutist approach to lawmaking:  

There can be no justice when laws are absolute. And if there are legitimate exceptions to the rule, there may also be legitimate exceptions to the exceptions. That can make things complicated but not unnecessarily so. This is a complicated and highly emotional issue. (And whoever wanted to argue that the law strives to be simple and straightforward.) We need logic and we need listening if we are ever going to reach a just answer concerning this emotionally-charged debate.

The_Bell spends much of his post in reference to two lengthy threads initiated by zinya. One, to which he provides a link, chronicles the stories of five women faced with the procedure stipulated in S. 3. 1-2-Oscar and zinya spar here. Oscar’s first words:

Contrary to your polemic above, most such “procedures” are considered “necessary” only because the usual methods of abortion, which force the mother to expel her fetus, would result in the expulsion of a live infant, fully capable of surviving with routine natal care.

If such a horrendous “procedure” were performed upon an animal, the physician (or veterinarian) would be prosecuted under our anti-vivisection statutes, and jailed for a very long period of time. But the mothers who agree (or acquiesce) to the “partial-birth abortion” are agreeing to the termination of a living being, albeit one who might be inconvenient.

Zinya has written passionately in opposition to the bill all week (here and here). At the root of her bewilderment:

What I asked and what I still want to hear you answer—the real question here, O (or DR or JD or any of the rest of you) is: Why do you insist that this bill couldn’t provide an exception for the health of the mother? Why?

Calling the procedure “infanticide,” locdog believes that:

the hypocrisy of the procedure is stunning. say a premature baby is born at 20 weeks. whether he’s got a 14% shot at survival is irrelevant. if you have a 14% chance of surviving after being in a horrible car crash, may i then pry your skull open and suck your brains out with impunity? could a doctor kill the hypothetical 20 week-old preemie once it had been fully delivered and expect to get off with “well, his odds of surviving were slim anyway …”

if, during a partial birth abortion, the child were to be accidentally delivered—even at twenty weeks—the doctor would have a legal obligation to try to save his life, as well as a moral one under the hippocratic oath.

locdog thinks they ought to call it the hypocritic oath.

The 14 percent reference alludes to William Saletan’s “The Myth of Partial-birth Abortion” in Frame Game, in which Saletan writes that “the survival rate for babies born weighing 500 grams or less—that’s 1 pound, 1 ounce or less—is 14 percent.” Fraywatch estimates that the 14 percent quote has accounted for 86 percent of the invectives in the Fray toward Saletan. 

When All Else Fails: Join BML in Ye Olde Fray Tavern for the ”Abortion Debate Drinking Game” (apologies to June Thomas). Among the governing laws:

Take a sip if:
A pro-lifer invokes feminism to defend the argument
A pro-choicer invokes conservatism to defend the argument
The word “Osama” is employed
Someone rewrites the acronyms for NARAL, NRLC …Take a swig if:
A post ends, “Amen!”
Saletan’s phone number is posted
One side compares the other to Neanderthals
A pro-choicer’s spirituality is questioned
A pro-lifer’s modernity is questionedFinish the bottle if:
Someone posts about the Yankees 
“Jesus” and “coat hanger” end up in the same note
Someone wonders what Stalin would do
Someone looks for common ground

Fray Editor will send the Irish-American Wagon through Frame Game Fray later this afternoon … KA12:05 p.m.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

To nobody’s surprise, least of all Fraywatch’s, Christopher Hitchens’ lambasting of Mother Teresa (“Mommie Dearest“) drew pages of responses from Catholics, secular humanists, Bengalis, and the weekly Hitchens snipers. But the crack-back of the week goes to doodahman (“But she had a hell of an ass …“):

Mother Teresa was not perfect. Whether she ought to be a “saint” or not, I could give a rat’s ass. To me, a saint is inspiration, nothing more nor less, and Mother Teresa’s life either inspires you or it doesn’t and no Church creds ought to make a difference.

But here’s the thing. Is there any denying that this woman spent her entire life in the service of people so repulsive and destitute and unwanted that no one, not even God himself, gave a shit about them? Is there any hypocrisy, moral failing, misjudgment, or lapse that can trump that? If so, I’d like to know what it is.

Recently, it was reported on NPR that, contrary to what many people, including myself, thought, Mother Teresa was not buoyed and comforted by any continued ecstatic experience of Christ or the presence of God. She apparently went virtually her entire life without feeling the presence of God at all—struggling alone with only other puny, weak and vacillating human being to help. She spent an entire life of service to others on pure faith. That kind of strength of character is beyond comprehension. It is beyond anything that Mr. Hitchens can accomplish if he had another 40 lifetimes of gin swilling and pontification.

Hitchens is part and parcel of a world which spent immeasurable amounts of time and money covering the inconsequential death of a pampered ho and her rich boyfriend, killed in the hot pursuit of hedonistic pleasure. Well, Diana had a nice tush, I guess. Just think if Mother Teresa had less soul and a hotter body, she might have gotten a tad more attention when she passed the same week. Oh well.

I don’t know what his beef with Mother Teresa is. And I don’t have to think of her as a saint to assert that even one corrupt, over-valued, hypocritical Mother Teresa is worth more to this fucked up shithole of a world than ten thousand Hitchenses or doodahmen. But, God is a hell of a jokester, ‘cause he did give us ten thousand Hitchenses and doodahmen, and the one Mother Teresa, he didn’t apparently have much time for.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Hey, Oldster: Before a predominately white crowd at University of Virginia, the Rev. Al Sharpton omits his pat criticism of hip-hop from his stump speech, prompting Mickey Kaus to ask:

Why not criticize hip-hop before a white crowd? Is Sharpton perversely refusing to pander to whites while speaking hard truths to blacks?  Or, given hip-hop’s heavily white audience, is he actually pandering to a white U. Va crowd that probably could use hearing his criticism?
TheNewSnobbery merely rolls his eyes at MK:
Jeez, Mickey! What are you, in your 60s? When was the last time anyone reasonable actually believed that the kids ‘need to hear a message’ about popular music?

Number one reason to dislike both Sharpton and Lieberman: they butter their bread with fear of popular culture.
TNS concludes with this somewhat timely blast, given the Easterbrook flap still stirring over in Kausfiles and Press Box Frays:
Sharpton uses his critiques to obfuscate the actual social problems in the black communities and Lieberman finds it desirable to be an anti-Hollywood Jew. Don’t pretend that either are principled stands.
A little more TNS here, replete with a 7th Heaven ref. Easter-bog: Though he regards nearly everyone as a “totally labored character,” Brian-1 asks:
Am I the only one who spots the contrived nature of the emotional reaction against Easterbrook? … It’s the people who torture his sentences into a confession of anti-Semitism who seem filled with uncharitability and hate, not Easterbrook, who even in the worst reading was obviously speaking from an impassioned sense of morality and decency. I’ll take his side any day over the angry, bitter malcontents who filter everything they see and hear through the offend-o-meter.
AReader-2 would prefer that:
Easterbrook’s colleagues stopped making excuses for him at this point. I’m not saying they should pile on and stone him in a public square, but their increasingly contorted arguments are getting ridiculous. The fact is, their friend has a little iggie where Jews are concerned, and it got out.
Here, Joe_JP roundly applauds MK (backhandedly, natch) for putting “some thought in his reflections” and comments that:
Easterbrook at some point went off the deep end in this column. You can agree with his basic points and still think that he lost his sense of perspective when he wrote them down. And, perspective is not some narrow thing that stops at the racial (sexual, etc.) divide … if you lack it, it is liable to lead you to make some immoral or unthinking statement in that realm as well.
Latest Line: EDITORS (-3) Bloggers Shanda Fur De Goyim: Schadenfreude suggests that rather than implicating Hollywood execs for their Jewish money-grubbing, Easterbrook’s entry was:
an attempt to use Eisner’s and Weinstein’s Jewishness to shame them; this could only be the result of a fundamental respect for the Judaic ethical system, and, it seems to me, not the result of some underlying anti-Semitism.

Isn’t Easterbrook really saying that he expects better from Jewish businessmen than to make money from violence?
SlipperyPete replies that if you “ask most Jews, and I think they’ll tell you that they consider semitophilia a few short hops away from anti-Semitism.” Retief and vanya share a thread—beginning here —on Easterbrook’s conflating the religious and ethnic elements of Judaism, as well as the general depth of the ADL’s skin. Meanwhile, JoeUser maintains that it ain’t a Maus issue, but a Mouse issue:
The guy didn’t lose his job for attacking Jews, but for attacking Eisner. Eisner has repeatedly gotten journalists and commentators fired shortly after attacking him, this goes back to 1995 (when he first acquired ABC) when he got Jim Hightower canned.
Finally, CaptainRonVoyage comes strong, attributing Easterbrook’s goof to “intellectual laziness”:
[E]ven if lacked the intellectual self-censoring mechanisms long enough to allow such a point to slip through, you would still expect me to make a sincere apology. Gregg Easterbrook, surely a smarter man than me, does not lack the faculties to do the former, and has also not bothered to do the latter. How on Earth is this excusable?
Read CRV’s post in its entirety here for his argument’s full vigor … KA 11:15 p.m.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Moor Painted Words: Newsweek International’s editor, Fareed Zakaria, writes into Chatterbox to corroborate Tom Wolfe’s defense of 2 Columbus Circle. For those west of the Hudson or absent a Taschen tome in their libraries, the building is Edward Durrell Stone’s modernist edifice erected in 1964. With its distinctive curved façade that hugs the circle and portholes that dot the edge of the white marble face—to say nothing of the Mediterranean evocations that challenged the prevailing modernism of its day—the building projects a playfulness that belies its austerity. Zakaria believes that aesthetics without a relational context to preservation can be problematic.

The point of preservation is not simply to keep what we currently think of as “pretty.” It is to preserve what is architecturally significant. After all, it’s on that basis that thousands of absolutely hideous modernist buildings have not been felled by wrecking balls (that and the cost involved.) Can anyone look at Government Center in Boston and not weep? Does anyone believe that Mather House is more beautiful than the river houses at Harvard? Is the Javits Center worth preserving? Yet they will all live on forever—damnit …So the answer to your question is, no it’s not beautiful. But it’s a lot nicer than most of the buildings we are preserving and is almost certainly more beautiful that what would replace it.
The post in its entirety can be found here: Utility Meter: Los Angeles Philharmonic subscriber Dilan_Esper isn’t concerned with the architectural merits—pro or con—of Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall (“Epic Architecture“). Here, DE chimes in:
I don’t care what any architecture critic says—you guys aren’t paying to see the Philharmonic play, and frankly, I don’t really care what the building looks like.

I do have to pay. And this year, the cheapest season ticket, which five years ago was $6 per concert, is now $35 per concert. (Floor seats, which used to go for $60, now go for over twice as much.) Rather than allowing over 3,000 people to see a show, as the old building did, this one allows only 2,200 to attend.

Gehry, Shmehry. This was simply a device to rip off the loyal subscribers to the Philharmonic in order to get a bunch of publicity from Eastern Establishment cultural elites who think it’s better to have a good looking building than to serve the public.
Is progressive anti-populist on Grand Avenue? You decide here. Voices of Fire: Two of the day’s most active posts come courtesy of JV-12 and TheQuietMan. JV unveils abstract expressionist Barnett Newman’s Voice of Fire (n.b. the dude in the Hanes T and the Members Only jacket is not part of the work), purchased by the government-funded National Gallery of Canada for $1.8 million in 1990. JV here:
It created a national hailstorm of protest. The legislature covered this topic at length. One legislature produced a farmer who spent around $50 to produce, basically, the exact same painting. Tshirts were selling on street corners of the famous painting for $25,000, called a bargain compared to the original. Etc. And so the story goes.

So, what say you? Is this a joke or is the public’s opinion not warranted? Do we have to put it in context with who the painter is, what the emotions this painting may create, and what the curator says, or stuff like that? Can we not just say “the emperor has no clothes on, give me a break”?
An old argument, but one well-framed by the thread that follows, including andkathleen here and Isonomist here who maintains that:
the idea behind that particular statement, and it is an important one, is that color interaction, and size, well, matter. It’s not about ‘what’ is on the canvas so much as how it got there. I can guarantee that the farmer who supposedly reproduced it, didn’t get the vibratory depth of that center stripe, it’s a laborious process that requires layers of paint application and removal, at various stages of drying. Now I’m not saying that painting is worth almost two million dollars; I don’t think it is either. I also don’t think public funds should be spent in this manner. HOWEVER, I’m not going to lump this particular painting in the same category as barn siding and wall paper, because the dialogue among visual artists about the use of color, form, size, texture, depth, and line, is an important one, and must continue.
TQM launches his thread by answering JV’s question directly:
JV-12 in a top post below asks the question of a particular painting, “Does one have to be an art student or aficionado give his point of view meaning?”

I, in the minority, answered, “yes”.
TQM elaborates with a series of examples, including Monet’s Houses of Parliament, on how appreciation with context is lost. Rebutting are appolonious here and Betty_the_Crow here:
What is it you suppose people enjoy when they look at a Monet, or any fine painting? Whether they know it or not, they’re enjoying his treatment of light and form and shadow. Without that appreciation, conscious or un-, they’d be happier looking at a photograph of whatever the subject than at Monet’s rendition of it …
… to which TQM replies:
You are giving them too much credit. They enjoy it, in part because it is a Monet and they’ve heard the name and they just so love those colours … You could change the light and the colours somewhat and its still a Monet. There is sometimes a line up of people waiting to have their picture taken at the Art Institute in Chicago with this Monet or that.

Besides, even if there were a causal connection between the liking of a painting and the skill in which it was produced, it still isn’t achieving understanding, and my point is that understanding is the most important.
There are several stellar backs-and-forths in the thread. Click here to get in on the debate … KA 8:15 p.m.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Eamus Catuli (doodahman):

“And when the eighth inning had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the eighth run. And at the eighth run, they cried as one with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” … And they uttered a loud cry, and breathed their last. (doodahman 15:33-34)

Oh, you know it had to happen. The only mercy was that Ron Santo was not doing the WGN Radio color commentary. It would have flat out killed him. The only safe place for him to have been last night was some hospital with an ICU down the hall. And we thought God was being cruel to him by having him hospitalized during the NCLS. It was a mercy. As would have been the proximate crash of a 3 square mile meteorite onto Wrigleyville.

And such a poetic tragedy, too. Done in by an extremely rare fielding error and the ineptitude of the typical yuppie moron Cub fan, this one with a several hundred dollar seat and a 2 cent brain. Not only do we lose, but we lose largely because of the actions of the exact type of idiot that Cub fans are held to be by non-Cub fans. A stain we must all bear. Ah, well, you can only laugh.

And as for that pathetic fool, God help him. FAUX, the network with a heart of filth, put the poor fool’s face right there, front and center on the screen, several times during the remainder of the game. A face that was, therefore, showing up on big screen televisions in every one of seventy-eight bars located within five blocks of Wrigley, being watched by thousands of drunken and enraged yuppies. Drunken and enraged yuppies that the hapless fool would have had to pass through to get home. John Wayne Gacy had less bad will directed at him than that guy.

On only Jews and Cub fans would God heap such tragedy. Why? Because only Jews and Cub fans can suffer like that and keep coming back. And ultimately, that is the essence of being a Cub fan. It is also, coincidentally, the essence of being a human being on this planet.

All that “lovable loser” and “wait ‘til next year” pathos masks what might be the most important quality humans possess—endurance. The ability to carry on, find the good, keep the hope, and stick together when the ship is being captained by a madman, steered by a drunk, sinking and burning and full of rats all at the same time—kind of like the planet as a whole. In this world, endurance and the ability to generate hope out of pure shit is the only thing that’s kept humanity going during the preponderance of our existence. Well, that’s just about all Cub fans ever have.

Except this year, we still got Wood. Game 7 is going down man to man, the way all championships ought to be. If the Cubs go down, it’s nothing new. If they win, it will be the hard way, guts all over the field and puke all over the stands. Eamus Catuli, motherfuckers. 
Eamus Catuli, ii (mutus): 
They never said it would be easy, but …

it was 5 outs away … it was locked in … always exciting, never dull, our Cubbies.

Don’t blame our over-anxious friend in left, he looked like he was blaming himself enough as is (poor guy), but how is it that twice in the same post-season series fans in Wrigley (with killer seats, mind you) could rob their own team of foul pop-ups (one ultimately meaningless, one ridiculously crucial)? It defies explanation.

And how about our Gold Glove candidate at short? Hope Dusty can settle our boy’s nerves before tomorrow.

We head off to game 7, with great hope but a whole lot of apprehension. Not because of any voodoo curse, but because of a deep fear that our Ace in the hole, after a shaky start in game 3, just might not come with his A game tomorrow. We’ll be keeping an eye on Kerry’s strike zone and doing our damnedest to avoid hyperventilation. He’s got the stuff to take them down early and stymie any comeback. And let’s bust into the Marlin pen early—send Redman packing. Beyond the standard 1st inning bat around, we’re looking for clutch hits from the middle of the order (and dare I offer a completely uninformed prediction: a game winner off the bat of Alex Gonzalez; atonement in the most dramatic fashion, befitting this season?)

We’re a heartbeat away from history, whether it’s the first pennant since 45 and a shot at the first championship since you-know-when, or the biggest choke since aught-six (and how would our bum luck look then, Boston?) Things probably really aren’t as bad as they might seem right now, but I’m not sleeping very well tonight.

Oh, Chicago … I need a hug.
Left Field Sucks! Left Field Sucks! (EvilBurrito):
I was dozing on the couch last night, half-way watching the Cubs coasting along at 3-0, when I awoke to the sound of Bernie Mack singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” The next thing I remember was seeing this hand stretching out over the left field wall, turning the course of the game on a dime and literally snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory.

Since I was partly in the dream world at the time, for just a moment I thought that the hand belonged to a thin little old man with a gray goatee, who looked something like a cross between Colonel Sanders and the Devil. Billy Goat Sianis.

“Dem Bums” he said, flipping the ball out of the air, just above the outstretched glove of Moises Alou, and back into the stands.

And then he disappeared, instantaneously replaced by a dorky guy wearing thick glasses, headphones, and a Cubs hat. He looked surprised to be there.

In Harry Carry’s Restaurant, Cub fans suddenly choked on their Marlin steaks, last night’s specialty of the house. The crowd of Cubs fans inside the park slumped in their seats. The fans outside in the streets, on both Cleveland and Waveland, fell silent in disbelief.

The rest was history.

When I was a kid, I was a copy boy at the Chicago’s American newspaper, right after they moved from Madison Street to Michigan Avenue, and Billy Goat moved his bar right along with them, plunking it down in the darkness of Michigan’s lower level. The reporters and photographers used to send me to Billy’s to get their breakfasts, their lunches, and on occasion, I’d pick up a bottle from Billy himself, who’d stick it under the sandwiches and scowl at me.

“Next time, tell dem not to send a kid.”

He must have said the same thing to me a half dozen times during the first summer I worked there.

Now, Cub teams may come and go, but I’ll always remember Billy and his bar. Somehow, I think that little guy could actually come up with a curse that works. The way I figure it, Billy’s curse ought to be good for 99 or 100 years. That’s a lot of “Wait until next years” isn’t it?

I wonder what the special at Harry Carry’s will be tonight, and what Jack Brickhouse would think about all of this …