Are You Observing This Year?

The Fray on chattering, enraged monkeys and 9/11.

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 here. Schadenfreude 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.

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Yeah, But … : There are few rhetorical tasks more difficult than threading the moral needle between unequivocal condemnation of a terrorist act like the one in Beslan and the instinct to delve into questions of causation. Is merely asking the question “how could it happen?” capitulating to the terrorists or is it a reasonable attempt to address history in an effort not to repeat it? Where does moral equivalency end and relativist insanity begin? Fraysters address these questions en masse in response to Masha Gessen’s “Chechnya: What drives separatists to commit such terrible outrages?FedUpWithCons has no problem asking, “how did it come to this?” Here, he draws a parallel between Chechnya—where things went sour, the Balkans—where the international community “managed to prevent the jihadists from gaining a significant foothold,” and now Fallujah—which is up for grabs. In contrast, Razzen has little patience for historical navel-gazing:

Whenever we hear news of yet another great man-made tragedy, among the first things to be vetted is the historical background of the incident, often presented in the guise of causality. Yet such attempts often border on or dive straight into the Post Hoc Propter Hoc logical fallacy (lit. “before this because of this”), also known as the “false cause” fallacy.By trying to draw out the long line of human action occurring decades or even centuries before the incident, we try to present that timeline as its causam primam, though the truth of History is that it’s always tenuous at best to tie the deeds of past generations to those of today’s. People make their own choices in life, and sadly they often choose to live by those prior histories.
According to A_Dude_in_San_Diego here, the history we need to learn from is that
the use of terror in the attempt to achieve a political goal is one that the world has supported since the 1970’s. The failure of the world’s governments and more importantly the people of the world to fully condemn the tactics of the Palestinians in their goal of freedom from the Israel have resulted in an increase in the use of terror as a weapon of negotiation. Not to debate the validity of the Palestinian cause, but their use of terror, the resulting support from some quarters of the world, with the eventual acceptance of the founder of the terrorist group as a legitimate leader (Yasser Arafat) gives hope to those that would use this tool.

Until the world refuses to accept any type of negotiation with a group that uses tactics against a civilian population we can all expect to see an increase in this tactic.
Gthomson unearths the political collateral damage in the incident. Like moderate Tamils in Sri Lanka,
this nihilism has repercussions: everyone knows now that Chechen terrorists are willing to kill young children to advance their cause. Moderates who seek independence or even an end to occupation and violence will surely be tainted by the horrific actions of the terrorists. Among the people who have cause to despair right now are the ordinary Chechens whose desire for a life of order and peace must now seem even further out of reach.
Zathras suggests that the connection between Chechen separatists and last week’s massacre in Beslan may be more tenuous than many realize, and that Islamic fundamentalists may have been using the cause Chechen independence as a front for their operation:
The possibility must be considered that with the long war having decimated the secular Chechen leadership, Islamist elements are in the ascendant. If that is true it is unlikely that non-Chechen fighters at Beslan were mere “volunteers.” It is more likely that non-Chechen Islamists directed the planning if not the execution of the operation, and will now attempt to use its spectacular success to strengthen the radical Islamists’ position in Chechnya and throughout Central Asia.
Jack Brown, who reported for Slate from Mexico City in April, offers a similar theory in his rebuttal here:
The article does readers who don’t know the background of last week’s events a great service, but there is still the hard reality that this group of men were set on massacring a thousand children. An event of nearly the same magnitude as the September 11 attacks in the US, I would suggest …Al Qaeda is more a rhetorical device than an organization, so to say that Al Qaeda is probably not present in Chechnya is true but not illuminating. The mad ruin of Chechnya is a training ground and radicalizing force for a lot of young men the rest of us are going to have to worry about later.

Like Afghanistan before it, Chechnya is a focus for Arab jihadists, and I think this is something to be concerned about. According to Aukai Collins, the (somewhat reliable) American jihadist who spent a few years fighting the Russians in Chechnya, there are plenty of Arabs in the militant groups he fought with. Meaning that, though the war there was not caused by international Islamism, it’s going to send another generation of angry, radical, and war-experienced young men back to their home countries and to the West.
For more on the franchising of Islamic terrorist cells or the moral imperative of asking (or not asking) why, visit The Gist Fray. Quote of the Week: Thrasymachus on Georgia Sen. Zell Miller, here:
[H]ow come I can go to work 5 blocks from the New York Stock Exchange every day and not be scared of these fuckers, and “this old marine” can’t drive his grandkids to Sunday School in Boola-Boola, Georgia without seeing bomb-toting mullahs in the shrubbery?
Fraywatch was born and raised in the A-T-L and summer-camped in Cleveland, Ga.—just a hand grenade’s toss from Boola-BoolaKA1:20 p.m.

Friday, September 3, 2004

The Acceptance Speech: Nestor sums Bush’s appeal up this way:

After a lot of thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that Bush’s campaign is successful because he appeals to us at our core … not on an intellectual level, but in simpler, more direct ways.

John Kerry’s campaign is lagging because he tries to get us to see reason, when many of the issues are more easily answered emotionally.

The awful truth is, people like Bush for reasons that have nothing to do with his record, or his promise as President. They have to do with his perceived closeness to the electorate, IE, ‘he’s one of us.’

He’s not, but those who are voting for him don’t care. He says things they’ve been saying for years, things they’ve been thinking and not able to say for one reason or another.

If Kerry could ever connect with voters the way Bush has, this race wouldn’t even be close. As it is, he has to outsmart Bush before he outsmarts himself.
J_Mann responds to William Saletan’s scrutiny of Bush’s acceptance speech:
I don’t mind the anti-Bush bias, but I wish Saletan would at least try to address the other side of his arguments. …Promises Kept: As far as I can tell, Bush has delivered on most of the stuff he actually talked about in the last campaign. He’s delivered tax cuts to everyone who pays income tax, instituted sweeping education reform, strengthened the military, strengthened missile defense, and instituted a prescription drug benefit. You can argue that some of those things are bad ideas, or argue that Bush has gone about them badly, or you could complain about some of the things Bush hasn’t done (e.g., privatizing social security, enacting a “humble foreign policy”), but it seems to me that for better or worse, Bush has made substantial progress on the stuff he promised last time around.Responses to Unexpected Crises: Saletan also complains that Bush supposedly hasn’t done enough to address “recession,” “unemployment,” “corporate fraud,” etc. Again, I don’t think Saletan’s right, but it’s more disturbing that he doesn’t even try to address the counter argument. First, each of these problems was brewing before Bush took office, so it’s a little unfair to blame Bush for discovery of the decade of corporate fraud preceeding his administration, or for a predictable downturn in the business cycle, at least without discussing specifically what Bush should have done to address the problems more effectively. Second, it seems to me that Bush has done a pretty good job addressing those problems. …
The_Bell wasn’t particularly impressed with 43’s performance:
The official theme this evening is “A Safer World, A More Hopeful America.” George W. Bush accepted his Party’s nomination and attempted to outline his vision for the country’s future. After hearing him out, I suspect the rest of world feels safe in assuming that, whatever their hopes, they can expect only more of the same from America over the next four years should he prevail. … It was not a bad speech. Bush can be quite a good speaker when he has a prepared text and plenty of chance to practice—and Karen Hughes suggested that he and his advisors had been crafting this oration over the past six weeks or more. It felt at times like a State of the Union address. Bush contrasted himself with John Kerry but without attacking him stridently and he talked about his accomplishments and decisions without sounding especially defensive.
A prognosis?
I think Democrats would be equally remiss to believe this is all just temporary and that victory over an unpopular and failed Chief Executive is virtually assured for them in November. Bush is capable of self-effacing charm and the values he represents that are so anathema to many Democrats are not his alone but rather are shared and embraced by more or less half of this country. Bush himself may have explained his—to them—unexplainable popularity tonight better than I ever could, when he humorously observed, “Some folks look at me and see a certain swagger, which in Texas is called ‘walking’.”

George W. Bush is not President of the United States because he has fooled his supporters about who he is or what he stands for, at least not entirely. Some people argue the war in Iraq is the overriding issue in this election and others say it is the economy. But there are quite literally millions of people who will vote for Bush simply because they believe he shares their values on certain social values and because they feel they can trust him not to waver on those issues.

This is one of those Truths about him that the GOP would love to tell anybody who will listen but which his critics will never accept or understand. In the end, I think the election is still the President’s to lose and not Kerry’s to win. And I think his success will come down to whether moderate swing voters listened to him tonight and understood … and if “I am what I am” was good enough for them. I retain my doubts.
Demosthenes2’s treatise o’ the day is here. Betty_the_Crow has fun with Zell here. And doodahman officially proclaims
Fred Kaplan is no longer a lap monkey. He was lost, but now, he is found. Once blind, he now sees. As have Weisberg, Noah, and Lithwick.

Perhaps they saw all along, and were limited by considerations of career advancement, or some distorted notions about “responsible journalism,” to fully vent their thoughts. Perhaps they believe the taint of partisanship will tarnish their credentials.

Well, it does. They are now partisans to the truth, and thus, their credentials as lap monkeys have been revoked. … That’s a risk they are taking. I appreciate it, since I’ve been taking absolutely no risks attacking BushCo from street level. …
That brings the Official Slate Lap Monkey Crossover Index to 4 … KA8:20 a.m.

Thursday, September 2, 2004

Day 3 Analysis and Altercations: Evidently, fraysters have a place in Eric Alterman’s parlor. In Altercation, the columnist runs TheAList’s “Zell Miller, Liar” post:

John Kerry voted FOR 16 of the 19 Pentagon spending bills while he was in office. Since 1997, Kerry voted FOR every single regular DOD appropriation bill and FOR every authorization bill. John Kerry did NOT specifically vote against the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, did NOT specifically vote against the M1-A ABRAMS tank or the Patriot Missile (he has opposed extension of our nuclear capability, including Star Wars).

Who DID oppose major conventional defense programs? DICK CHENEY.

As Secretary of Defense,
CHENEY called for the elimination of the Apache helicopter,
CHENEY called for the elimination of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle,
CHENEY called for the elimination of the M-1s
CHENEY called for the elimination of the F-14 and the F-16
CHENEY called for the elimination of the B-2 bomber (which Kerry also opposed for its nuclear capabilities).
CHENEY called for the elimination of the MX missile.
CHENEY helped cut the defense budget by $300 BILLION.

Where was Miller’s rage at Cheney?
Publius finds a double standard in Democrats’ criticism of Miller and other attack dogs at the RNC:
Kerry is allowed to say, as he does all the time, that Bush’s policies are actually making the nation less safe and more vulnerable. But if the Bushies say that Kerry’s policies would make the nation less safe and more vulnerable, Saletan and others jump right up and reply: “Don’t you dare question my patriotism.”

Well, I’m sorry. No one is questioning anyone’s patriotism—but the Bushies (including soon-to-be-ex-Democrat Zell Miller) are very roughly questioning whether Kerry’s history and record in public life, combined with the murkiness and transparent opportunism of his current and recent views about the war on terror and the war in Iraq, can add up to confidence in his leadership at a time of war. This is a genuine, substantive question for a Presidential race. …Make no mistake that Zell Miller struck a very exposed nerve in America when he said that he put his family above his party. Those of you who feel comfortable that your families will be safe under President Kerry should not airily dismiss those who do not as a bunch of yahoos or fascists.
For some fraysters, William Saletan’s takedown of Zell Miller and “propagandists” is a too little too late. Betty_the_Crow jumps on Saletan here. And here, ElephantGun pshaws at Saletan’s indignation:
now that Saletan’s getting a taste of just how ugly and vicious the Republicans are, he’s “shocked, shocked, and shocked again.” Too bad he doesn’t reflect on the extent to which his immature and distortive journalism has helped the Republicans get in the position where they can treat the rest of us as traitors. …
Though he “admire[s] [Saletan’s] writing,” modicum takes issue with Saletan’s logic:
Your logic comes down to this: If you believe that Bush did a bad job, or if you don’t like Republican campaign rhetoric, vote for his opponent to “hold him accountable.” Regardless of whether the opponent is John Kerry or Alfred E. Newman. Regardless of whether the opponent carries as much or more baggage. Regardless of whether there’s any reason to believe the opponent would do better. … You’ve articulated the negative case against Bush (about half of which I agree with). Now, where is the positive case for Kerry as Commander In Chief and steward of the economy?
ZamboniGuy is ready for rapid response. Here’s his prepared statement for the Kerry campaign, gratis. And dependable night three analysis from The_Bell can be found here. Did Kerry Wrong a Right?Fritz_Gerlich offers a compelling take on the Bush-can’t-win-a-war-on-terrorism flap here, propelled by a NYT editorial hereKA 11:45 a.m.

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

RNC Analysis: Let’s start with The_Bell here:

Arnold Schwarzenegger then takes center stage and proves that he, in fact, is the GOP’s version of Obama …He manages to say three things in a single speech that are absolutely unprecedented for me in a thirty-year-plus love of closely watching American politics. First, he compares current terrorist threat to his fears as a little boy growing up under communism, making him the first Republican to have invoked the Cold War in a major public speech since at least the first convention for our current President’s father.

Second, he discloses that he was inspired to become a Republican not by Abraham Lincoln or Ronald Reagan but by … Richard Nixon? … yes, Nixon. He goes one step further, calling the first Nixon speech he ever heard “like a breath of fresh air.” I don’t think even Mrs. Nixon was ever quite that kind about one of her husband’s speeches.

Third, he brings the conservative hall to its feet by scoffing at the deficit worries and other domestic policy concerns of Democrats – characterizing them as a bunch of “economic girlie-men.”

He ticks off a list of characteristics that supposedly enable you “how to tell if you are a Republican.” Eliminating the many bromide, I extracted this list. Per Arnold, Republicans are anti-big government, pro-individual choice, anti-special interests, pro-school achievement testing, anti-UN, pro-war on terror, and optimistic. I do not know if that qualifies him as a moderate but he sounds suspiciously like the updated heir to Reagan. It was unquestionably the best speech of the night.
According to sergeantmajor here:
This is a war convention highlighted by likes of Rudy who screwed his secretary, Arnold who groped his secretary, and Miller who wished he was secretary (of something). And a convention at which the most beloved secretary went missing. If we need a war convention, then this is it. …
Operatives will tell you that, in a political race, the first campaign to boil its message down to eight coherent words wins. Is it safe to say that the RNC has conveyed its message crisply and forcefully as “You’re safer with us“?  Though their message is considerably more muddled, Democrats seem to be going with “America can do better.” Which better connects to the visceral American instinct?  Open Letter to William Saletan: Scribe57 is a fan of Slate’s chief political correspondent, but makes this appeal in Ballot Box Fray:
You do an adequate job of pointing out the lies that Republicans consistently tell. My question to you is: what are you doing about it?

I mean, you are a journalist. Does it not bother you at all that your compatriots are making a mockery of our national discourse? You know, like letting the “voted for it before he voted against it” line pass without pointing out that Bush threatened to veto the version of the bill that Kerry voted for? Why aren’t we hearing this? …

Is there some sort of secret code among practitioners of the fourth estate that says “thou shalt not criticize thy fellow journalist, even when they get it spectacularly wrong”? It is indeed a sad commentary on your profession that the most incisive media criticism today is coming from “The Daily Show”, a program which advertises itself as a “fake news show”, but is often the only place where actual truth is happening. …

Why can’t we call a lie a lie anymore?
ShriekingViolet lobs a reply here. The WABAC-PAC: Got a kick out of this, courtesy of Demosthenes2.And Since I Assigned Homework … : It’s only fair I highlight responses to David Brooks’ piece in the Sunday NYT on re-imaging the GOP The_Bell composes a lengthy treatise called “Reinventing Pragmatic Progressivism.” JimmytheCelt slices and dices Brooks hereMembership Has Its Privileges: Check it out—Betty_the_Crow’s Fraywatch-featured top post makes Eric Alterman’s MSNBC column!I Shall Not Seek and I Will Not Accept: Fraywatch, for one, is disappointed to hear that after serious consideration, historyguy will not make a foray into electoral politicsKA9:40 a.m.