You’re Gonna Pay for This!

Moneyboxers size up employee benefits in the new economy.

Cradle to Grave: Addressing Daniel Gross’ Moneybox column (“Goodbye, Pensions. Goodbye, Health Insurance. Goodbye, Vacations: Welfare capitalism is dying. We’re going to miss it“), modicum points out that the old Dad’s-been-with-Honeywell-for-37-years economy is outmoded. So how do we address employee benefits going forward?

If our economy as a whole grows, the money is there to pay those health care, pension, and other benefits. The real long-term questions are how much to guarantee and what mechanism to use to distribute benefits. Employers aren’t a sound mechanism. The real debate over mechanisms is between completely federalized approaches and legislatively sponsored but partially privatized providers. We’re already seeing those debates on Social Security and, in fits and starts, health care.
Favoring a compassionate conservatism with some substance, modicum concludes that:
Our system of government guarantees that change must occur. As happened with the industrial tycoons in pre-union days, if those deriving wealth from the changes do not proactively share it with those impacted, our democratic (Congress) and capitalist (unions, consumer boycotts) systems will eventually force them to. Free-market Republicans would be wise to get ahead of this issue and make “compassionate conservatism” mean something, and Democrats would be well-advised to look to structural change rather than wagging fingers at individual companies going bankrupt or, worse, the bogey-man of globalization.
Join the conversation on the new economy here. Free Advice: In what appears to be the first in a series, ShriekingViolet offers to John Kerry a treatise titled, “How to beat George W. Bush (Vol. 1).” Prepping Kerry for the upcoming debate in Coral Gables, SV writes:
In the debates, when the President claims to have stood firm on Iraq and refused to show weakness, the appropriate Kerry response needs to be something along these lines …
For SV’s 30-second reply, you’ll have to click here. I Got Your Ancient Celtic Wedding Ritual Right Here! Here, JimmytheCelt responds to Michael Kress’ Faith-Based piece, “Mixed Blessings: Are secular life ceremonies the wave of the future?” In the article, Kress refers to a bevy of traditional practices—such as Celtic “handfasting”—that are incorporated into more secular ceremonies:
I can’t tell you—well, maybe I can—how much mystic balderdash is attributed to the “ancient Celts” without any scholarly substantiation. I realize it is handy for white people to think they can draw on a kinda-like-us spiritual tradition as deep as Hinduism and as colorfully ritualistic as the Balinese, but you know, it’s tough to find the documentation. By the time of Jesus, those “ancient Celts” had morphed into about a dozen warring cultures, whose common cultural thread was an obsession with rank, lineage, and feats of arms. Yeah, sure, they were lively, threw great parties, and had a uniform reputation among the Greeks and Romans for drinking too much. And yeah, they had some marvelous artistans, especially in metalworking. But there is a stark dearth of evidence that the religions of the Celtic cultures featured the sweet-hearted, nature-loving, Ur Transcendentalism that shows up at today’s weddings. …The REALLY cool Celtic stuff is when the old artisitc patterns were entwined among the artifacts and literature of the new religion. But that’s another story, to be told at undue length when The Fray finally gets around to serving drinks.
The Fray’s liquor license is still pending. … KA5:25 p.m.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Fray On Rathergate: On the general fallacy of broadcast news from Publius here; Logdog on the public airwaves here:

what’s frustrating about this is that it shouldn’t be a right/left thing. as a journalist, rather enjoys the explicit protection of the constitution, but there’s a responsibility implicit in that. he’s totally flouted that responsibility, either out of malice towards the president or—best case scenario—gross incompetence.

as a big-three network anchorman, rather has an even greater obligation to the public good. the people, not CBS, owns the airwaves he broadcasts over. the networks are permitted to use them by the government on the condition that they will be using them to further the public good. so this goes beyond the standard jason blair type abuse.

On the “proportionality of outrage,” zinya here:

I’m not here to defend Rather. I actually resent terribly that his apparent sloppiness has instead been an overreach that a) was unnecessary to the story in question and b) has obviously caused the actual substance of the story to get lost in the shuffle of focus—importantly—on form but—wrongly—as being more important than substance. …When did outrage over Powell’s much more serious abuse of public trust on Bush’s behalf EVER generate a TENTH of this chest-thumping? Is it just the glee of stabbing a competitor in the back that makes BOTH the rest of the media ready to overkill CBS/Rather as well as the same among GOP ready to overkill—and even try to pin this on Kerry or the DNC?? Is that what feeds this frenzy? Was it calculated (by Bush/Rove) to have Powell voicing all of that much-more-significant false document use so that, when the shit hit the fan (and Powell had to acknowledge the wrongness of his UN document-vouching), the pre-existing ‘teflon’ of Powell himself as once-upon-a-shining-knight-of-bipartisan-goodwill would soften any media outrage?

Press Box breaks down the aftermath at CBS here. Is Shafer on the money? Log into Press Box Fray and sound off.

The Keystone Cop: Curblog takes issue with Bill Gifford’s glib characterization of central Pennsylvanians in his Swingers feature on the Keystone State. A native of Pottsville, Curblog responds:

We drink Yuengling Premium (we export the Lager). We go to watch our high school athletes play football on a Friday night. We drive pick-up trucks. We drive LeSabres. We worry about each other. We go to church. We send our young men and women to fight in Iraq. We pay taxes. We had not been visited by a presidential candidate or his running mate since 1960. We had not heard Dick Cheney’s stump speech as many times as Mr. Gifford. We do not all agree with Dick Cheney. We do not all agree with John Kerry. We are Muslim, we are Catholic, we are Protestant. We are Jewish, we are black, we are white, we are young, we are old, we are veterans. We are teachers and doctors and lawyers and bartenders. We are college graduates. We are high school dropouts.

We are not “sad.”

We are Americans.

For a Yuengling neon sign, click here.

Personae Non Grata: Is the gig up for Da Ali G stateside? Not if he hires Thrasymachus as his new creative consultant. T. has a bunch of new characters cooked up for Da Ali G.’s third season.  Among them:

1. He’s a young Islamic secularist, most likely from Palestine or Iran, with a popular show that’s distributed underground on videocasettes or digital media to the legions of kids who are disaffected with the intolerant anti-Americanism of their fundamentalist and/or dictatorial rulers. This involves interviews with American leaders, on subjects like “America: WOW!”, “American Values”, and “Our Unique Republican System of Government”

2. He’s a Christian Rock musician, who runs a ministry that takes over where the parole system leaves off, doing not-for-profit concerts for people who have recently been released from prison and rehab (and their families) and putting a strongly Christian message into modern idiom, for today’s world. This includes videos of prominent leaders (religious and governmental) talking about the moral issues of our time.

3. He’s one of those entrepreneurial young campaign donors we keep hearing about, who coordinate huge groups of people to make massive contributions. (A couple of hundred grand in contributions could buy a TON of access (perhaps very high up in the food chain), and matching (less ostentatious) contributions to these peoples’ opponents would preserve his journalistic objectivity, such as it is. The money would be a drop in the bucket for HBO, and probably wouldn’t make a dent in the amount the show has budgeted. Of course, “Tad Scharfstein” would want to make tapes of the lucky recipients, to take back to the “Rush Room” at the local steak house where he lunches with all his friends. … the more “red meat” the better.

Got others? Respond in T.’s thread hereKA12:40 p.m.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

The week’s best from the Fray …

Celebrities of all sorts, including political leaders, obtain/retain power by sedulously cultivating images pleasing to the public. Long after they are dead serious biographers usually reveal something closer to the reality. But why should falsehood work for these people during their heyday? Hence the need for somebody like Kelley, to demonstrate how the illusion is created. This could be dismissed as unimportant, but for the fact that the public lives of most recent presidents of the United States have been studied exercises in deception. Frtiz_Gerlich, here, on Kitty Kelley’s latest release
Liberals ought to be upset with the media over the way the story of George Bush’s service in the
Texas Air National Guard has been handled. The specific thing they ought to be upset about is that the media did not examine it in depth four years ago, when it had the potential to really damage Bush.

It’s too late now. Presidents, for better or worse, do get passes on their pre-Inauguration lives as far as most voters are concerned. Voters were not going to hold the Vorhees campaign against Nixon in 1972. In 1984 they didn’t care if “Bedtime for Bonzo” was any good. In 1996 Bill Clinton’s lurid past didn’t get even get Bob Dole close, and if he’d kept to the straight and narrow throughout his time in the White House no one would have cared about it after 1996 either.

Is that unfair? Stupid question. Anyone in the White House has a vastly more vivid profile in the eyes of the public than anyone else in public life; it’s a President’s performance in office that voters base their decision on. Anyone not in the White House has to start creating a profile for themselves from scratch. Of course there is a double standard; there always has been.

The fact is that President Bush’s 20-plus years of (shall we say) marginally productive life before he ran for Governor of
Texas in 1994, including his Guard service, could have been made a potent issue against him in 2000. John McCain didn’t want to do it; the Democrats, coming off eight years of a President who had dodged the draft outright and with a candidate uninterested in national security policy, decided not to do it. And the media just do not do election year stories that one of the campaigns isn’t badgering them to do.

Now of the three, I have most reason to be upset with McCain. The issue of Bush’s slacking off would have worked best for him, and of the men running in 2000 he would have made by far the best President. But if I were a liberal Democrat I would recognize when a train has left the station…
Zathras, here, on the National Guard flap.
The second amendment prevents the federal government from infringing on the right to bear arms, but has no impact on state regulation. The Founding Fathers neven intended to prevent state regulation of arms within the borders of a state. Strict constructionists should recognize that if you want to rely on what the founder’s intended, individual states can disarm their populations The proper place for the assault weapons ban is at the state house. Though many states have state constitutions that protect gun ownership as well, those constitutions can be changed much more readily than the federal one. Those who want gun bans should concentrate their efforts where it will matter and can occur, not at the federal level where it is impractical and should require a constitutional amendment.JRudkis, here, on the expiration of the federal assault-weapons ban.
Pregnant women have simply allowed themselves to be browbeaten by the farcical concept of a “zero-risk” life, an obsessive fixation on a narrow selection of risks to the exclusion of balance or moderation.

Presumably they should all choose bedrest for the last six months because violating any one of these dietary requirements is less likely to lead to problems than getting in a car and exposing themselves and their babies to the risk of a car accident. How much longer before pregnant women are put on oxygen at four months and encased in a nutritive gel at six months? I mean it’s just getting preposterous.
Brian-1, here, on the culinary dos and don’ts for pregnant women
I know that John Sayles has a lot to say as a filmmaker, but has he forgotten that people actually want to “enjoy” the movies they fork over their money for? Lone Star might have had a ton of preachy speeches, but man, the movie had style and drive.
SunshineState, Men With Guns, and Casa de Las Babys all were flatter than pancakes.

Ah well … not every indie director has a continuous hot streak…
TheMaxFischerPlayers, here, on John Sayles’ new release, Silver City
Tim Noah made what so far as I can tell is his New York Times debut over the weekend in the Sunday Books section, reviewing a handful of books written about the alleged president of the US.

So, that’s Jacob Weisberg, Dahlia Lithwick, Daniel Gross, Fred Kaplan (a previous contributor to the
Times) and Tim Noah who have written for the paper during the past few months, along with a couple of quotes from Jack Shafer. Emily Yoffe, although she doesn’t seem to have shown up recently, has been a contributor to the Arts and Leisure desk in the past.

Meghan O’Rourke, who has been an infrequent contributor to the
Times, did a book review at the end of June. David Plotz got a somewhat inexplicable mention from Maureen Dowd in her May 20 column. Bill Saletan made what seems to be his first appearance in the paper with a book review in July.

That makes nine Slate staffers who have either written for the
Times in recent months, most of them for the first time, or have been quoted, and one, Yoffe, who hasn’t appeared lately but is not unknown to the paper.

I like Tim Noah for the most part, but his appearance has the
Times veering dangerously close to Kaus Kountry.

Rumor has it that Kevin Arnovitz will be making his Times debut soon as well. It’s my rumor, but I think it might be true.
Betty_the_Crow’s semi-regular Slatewatch feature

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Gawd Awful: Steven Waldman’s ”Heaven Sent: Does God Endorse George Bush?” has Faith-Based Fray boiling over with a blend of biblical references and political invective. Gtomkins and marksman open up their biblical texts in this thread (here, here) and debate the lineage of divine leadership. Doodahman takes fundamentalists behind the woodshed:

seems to me that when God wants to do some good in the world, it’s not through governments and the fiat of some king, but through millions of individual acts by simple people moved by the Spirit.

Funny, but back in the day, if you told a conservative right winger that the federal gov’t is in fact the instrument of God’s will that will make the world safe for Whitey, he’d first laugh his ass off and then have you roughly escorted from the country club. But today, the alleged right wing is so extreme and so fringe that they actually imply that the federal gov’t IS god acting through Bush and Mullah Ashcroft.

See, to those right wingers, the hand of God is only seen when smiting here and non—usually a bunch of randomly selected little brown froggy people who don’t have the sense to build a million dollar bomb shelter under their mud brick shack. But when the federal gov’t is doing something like, oh, raise taxes to provide services to the poor…then the tune changes. In that case, Great Society/New Deal gov’t types are doing Satan’s work. I say, if God put Bush in the White House, he must have put Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter there too. …Sorry, but I like leaders who believe that it’s OUR responsibility to keep this mad house rotating so that maybe future generations will have the chance to be fat, stupid and selfish. If the fundamentalists insist on the primacy of the spiritual world unseen, that’s fine. They just need to stop mucking of the material world of the seen, okay?
Baltimore-aureole respectfully challenges dood here on a couple of his characterizations, and, in an earlier top post, charges the likes of Robert Reich for “giving secularism a bad name” by suggesting that the great conflict of the 21st century will be waged between “modern civilization and … those who believe that human beings owe their allegiance and identity to a higher authority”:
I’m a secularist, so I don’t believe that the earth is “turtles all the way down”, or any of the other creation myths. but when asked to explain our existence through science we are treated to competing theories of a big bang, inflation theory, the bumping of “brane”, being folded inside 11 dimensions”, and whatever else is appearing in discover magazine this month. given the fractured nature of scientific explanation, who can blame someone for wanting to have faith?

sorry mr reich … i DON’T think faith is a bigger threat than al qaeda. the christian childrens fund, amnesty international, doctors without borders, the peace corps, and many other fine organizations rely people of faith as among their strongest contributors and supporters.

i’ll reassess my opinion on the dangers of christianity if billy graham ever sends an airliner towards the sears tower, or a truckload of armed assassins into my daughter’s elementary school.
TJA thinks b-a misses the mark here.  All this “I heard the call” business reminds Fraywatch of Network’s Howard Beale, anchorman for UBS News. Beale claimed to have been awakened in the middle of the night by a voice ordering him to speak the truth. Beale asked, “Why me?” The voice replied, “Because you’re on television, dummy.”  Whirled Peas:AdamMorgan got a talking-to from the Dean for wearing a peace symbol lapel pin on his blazer jacket while teaching his undergraduate math class.  AM is scheduled to face off against the objecting students and parents. The busy thread starts here, with dozens of thoughtful, witty and nutty replies beneath. … KA12:20 p.m. 

Friday, September 10, 2004

Good Yontif? Ender, for one, “won’t be remembering 9/11 this year.” Quoting from Christopher Isherwood’s Diaries that it’s the “atmosphere of war, the power which it gives to all the things I hate … I am afraid I should be reduced to a chattering enraged monkey, screaming back hate at their hate,” Ender disclaims that “I’m no Isherwood,” and that in the days following September 11, 2001:

I was reduced to a chattering enraged monkey without a second thought. There was no fear of what I’d become, I was in fact fearless in my certainty that an enraged monkey was exactly what I needed to be … I go on to understand Isherwood to mean that the power the atmosphere of war gives the reactionary chattering classes is the power of being right. They’re always there, and they’re always at it, insisting, insisting, insisting that the world is as simple as what little minds are capable of grasping. But they are wrong and easily dismissed until the day the world proves them right. On September 11, 2001 the chattering enraged monkeys behind the controls of those planes vindicated the chattering enraged monkeys among us. Isherwood didn’t like it, but he was resigned to the awareness that to survive in a world ruled by chattering enraged monkeys, you have to become one … Yuck! I’m wrong. I must be—because life as a chattering enraged monkey for someone capable of more is no less than a prison sentence.
So what’s changed?
It’s been 3 years since September 11, 2001. Time enough to reflect, to assess, to confess and to question. Was I right to become a chattering enraged monkey, i.e. did my chattering enraged monkey logic work?
To find out, click hereSchadenfreude counters Ender’s demonkification with a reply titled “Why you’re wrong“:
I think that Bush (or someone advising him) had roughly the same idea that I did. I concluded that the Middle East produces terrorism for a reason, and that the reason isn’t Israel. And, that the only way to combat terrorism was to reform the Middle East…or to destroy it. For the first couple of days—in my chattering monkey phase, if you will—I was all for destroying it.

Note that I said the Middle East. That’s deliberate. Afghanistan is not in any way the root of the problem, or even a very important part of it … The real problems lie in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Libya and Egypt … Those are the countries that need to be reformed, and some of them can only be reformed by force.

So, Bush is on the right track, but his execution has been dismal, I think because he was trying to hold back troops for the next mission, instead of taking it one step at a time.
Tar Schad with whichever brush you wish here. Demosthenes2 has his behavioral observations on “what chattering monkeys” (and Thomas Friedman) do. Click here for D2’s take.    SplitDecision:Gail Mazur’s “Enormously Sad” evokes mixed reviews among the jury pool in Poems Fray. Departmental co-chair, MaryAnn, pans this week’s selection:
The speaker in “Enormously Sad” feels sadness—in fact, grief and defeat—but she has a hard time convincing herself that her emotions are valid enough to be taken seriously by others, others who are probably stronger than she …Like many of us, the narrator can’t seem to stop being self-conscious, can’t seem to “feel” something without having to critically dissect the feeling. Yes, she feels enormously sad, but is the word “enormous” really justified? Yes, she’d like those occasional nocturnal visits, but then how valid is her desire for solitude? Yes, she feels sad now, but is she really any sadder than she was before, with those “presentiments of sadness prickling the limbic”?A poem about a seemingly pathetic woman has to avoid being pathetic itself. This poem does, but just barely. The author’s word choice, her unfortunate image of a metal detector, her use of one long stanza detract from what could have been a sympathetic examination of feelings that not many modern women admit to.
Hold on a sec. In his critique, rob_said_that departs from MaryAnn’s read that the poet is enveloped in abject self-consciousness:
“Enormously Sad” is a poem about—it genuinely surprised me to discover—the objective correlative. More properly, it’s about the lack of same. …As we all know from our lit classes, the objective correlative is that detail which objectifies an emotion and evokes a response in the reader. But the damaged reader—the enormously sad reader—is incapable of response.

And, in fact, the poem does provide the necessary hooks in spite of its subject matter: “your little metal detector”; “salty scouring air”; “the other world … struck by iron, reels”; “World of intentional iron, pure save organized iron of the world”—all these comprise a contrasting web of imagery that seems calculated to get one to look outside oneself at the intense wellspring of sensation we call “the world.” The great and savage world, the poem says, is indifferent to you, and while some depressed minds may view that as further reason for depression it can also be construed as a relief. In this case, it is a high relief, for the only real cure for depression is to be distracted from it. One has to occupy one’s mind with ideas outside one’s own “tiny purview.” This poem attempts to cajole all us self-pitying bastards out of our brown studies and into the world. It even tells us point blank: “Get outside / yourself, go walk on the flats.”

What a good idea.
For demi_mundane here, the trope (“the world of unintentional iron”) is “worth the admission price.” For a more elaborate explication of the poem from d_m, click here, and Ted_Burke weighs in on the piece here. In Memoriam: Rosemary Quigley, Slate contributor/diarist, died Monday in Boston after an extended fight with cystic fibrosis. The Slate community—its editors, contributors, and readers—all mourn this loss … KA11:20 a.m.