Readers react to Medical Examiner’s probe of Elizabeth Edwards.

A Badly Needed Dose of Pre-Election Kumbaya: From gthomson here:

The best debate, in the media or in the Fray, attempts to, if not understand, at least to engage with any number of sides, from paleocon to peacenik. I will always seek out debates with conservatives, because they make me think in new ways and remind me of things that I sometimes overlook. (A given is that liberals and conservatives do not equal Democrats and Republicans – many liberals and conservatives do not recognize the parties that are alleged to represent them.) Whatever the pinheads who run the two-party grotesquerie do, there will always be a more truthful and fundamental distinction between the liberal and conservative viewpoint. But they need to be able to communicate. At this point, disturbingly, they are conditioned to hate each other, with their perception that this election is the most momentous in a generation only ratcheting up a rancor that’s been simmering for more than forty years. This hysterical partisanship is silly at a number of levels, not least because each side obviously needs to work, live and quite often copulate with the other.

And if anyone sees this as a bunch of utopian bullshit, certainly, I welcome a cold dash of reality. Anything but another shrill wheeze about the ol’ debbil libs or cons. Because diverting as at might be at times to see the donkeys and the elephants inserting truncheons in one another’s eye sockets, it’s ultimately a somewhat dispiriting spectacle.
For Shame: That’s the overwhelming message from loyal readers of Slate in response to Suz Redfearn’s piece in Medical Examiner. Here’s TeaHag:
Any woman alive knows what it’s like to be asked, “When are you going to start a family”? “Why have you no children?” Are you going to stop at …? When pregnant we get our bellies touched by complete strangers, we get asked the most intimate details of our health. We get chided about how much work, what we drink etc. If such questions was asked of the author she may well remember how invasive and inappropriate she may have found them. There is a discussion to be had about the contribution of donor eggs etc. Let it be done using the women who have CHOSEN to share their experiences as spokeswomen and examples.

This was dangerously close to outing and I question the value of the article in this context, it didn’t need to use this as the “hook” to hang the material on.
SherryIVF writes:
The reason nobody else has done this story is simply because it is in deeply poor taste. I am a journalist too, one working on a book about IVF. The “issues” discussed in this piece are fundamental, not “too complicated” as your author tried to suggest. Nobody was afraid of the topic or confused. We just had more class.
And jwin rightly points out that perhaps:
the Edwards want to have a discussion with their children when they are ready before they have this same discussion with the media.
BunNee makes the same salient point here:
Given that the children are only 6 and 4, Mrs. Edwards may still be mentally rehearsing that conversation in her own mind. And probably doesn’t need the press and bunch of strangers forcing the issue.
Here, Dilan_Esper presents some of the more practical problems the issue would present politically to the Edwards family. Chicago Fraysters: Catch doodahman (“My Two Cents”), as he takes his act live on Sunday night at Donny’s Skybox Studio Theater, training ground for renowned comedy troop Second City. Those outside of Chicagoland can read an advance script hereKA11:30 a.m.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Yesterday, locdog made the case for the president’s re-election. Today, GeoffsPneuma offers the Fray’s endorsement of John Kerry:

In another election, he might not get my vote. Though I do believe he’s a good man and his biography is a testament to his commitment to the service of this country, I don’t find him a particularly strong nor compelling politician. I think his manner of speech is genuinely incoherent, which is a poor quality in a leader. I believe his tendency to switch topics mid-sentence illuminates his reputation for indecisiveness - he’s not simply an incoherent speaker - he’s an incoherent thinker. Not all the time (as shown by his debate performance), but certainly by nature (as shown by his extemporizing). I look forward to a Kerry administration with a good deal of trepidation.

But I think he does bring certain strengths into office. It’d be a welcome sight to see the adults return to Washington. Given the talent pool he’s likely to draw from, I expect we will see more pragmatists and fewer visionaries, which strikes me as a good thing. I think he brings a broader perspective than the current President. Unlike President Bush, Kerry understands that, though a good offense may score points, no team is likely to be a contender if it can’t play well on both sides of the field. I trust he will make good on his word to invest resources into shoring up domestic security at home. Even his innate defensiveness could prove a virtue, focusing his attention on inconvenient issues that need to be addressed.

I expect he will be cautious, more cautious than I would like in world affairs. I don’t expect him to confront our loathsome allies in the Middle East, despite the necessity of doing so. But a timorousness abroad may be exactly what we need if America is to “reload the guns” of its power - military, political, and moral. Our moral credibility is spent. The domestic consequences of supporting our policies and agendas has grown so severe in many countries that reflexive anti-Americanism has become a useful political strategy - for many of our allies as well as our enemies. Our military is over-extended and facing strategic setbacks at the hands of jihadists with rifles and home-made bombs. I do expect John Kerry to make some progress in restoring our “ammunition” in each of these respects.

Most importantly, though, I am voting to defeat George W. Bush. I was never happy with the manner in which he came to office, and would welcome a change of power in Washington for no other reason than to prove our democracy is still functioning properly.

But, my feelings are much stronger than that. Over the course of the last four years, I have watched George W. Bush’s character unfold before the nation, and I have been repulsed by what I have seen. I’m tempted to recite the litany of petty indicators and grievances which mark me as a “Bush-hater,” but I will limit myself to just one - his decision to taunt the Iraqi resistance to “bring ‘em on.” The audacity of a sitting President - probably the most physically secure man on the entire planet; guarded by batteries of the world’s most professional officers and attended by batteries of the world’s most competent physicians - jocularly enticing America’s enemies to attack our troops speaks volumes about the character of this president. As they have indeed “brought ‘em on” - and on and on by the thousands - the President has betrayed no remorse for having made light of the terrible consequences of his actions. Many times he’s talked about the human costs of his decision to wage this war in Iraq. But he betrays his callousness each time he denies the truth of the mounting troubles in that country. I don’t doubt he genuinely mourns for every fallen life and every wounded soldier. But I don’t believe he genuinely feels responsible for them. I don’t believe George W. Bush has the proper appreciation for the gravity of his office nor the consequences of his actions to hold the position of President of the United States.

On the level of policy, this President has disgraced my country, and thereby humiliated me, time and time again. His failure to realize his vow to capture Osama bin Laden “dead or alive” three years after the attack on the World Trade Center has made a mockery of United States power. To this day he continues to treat Afghanistan as a “victory” in the war on terror, despite obvious evidence that the enemy remains upon the field inflicting casualties on United States forces three years after the invasion. He prematurely declared victory in Iraq, again making our nation look like fools who fail to grasp the strategic nature of war, preferring short orgies of violence followed by shameless posturing to the measured and determined achievement of our goals by peace or by force. His overstatement of the case for war in Iraq has damaged American credibility, both at home and abroad. His decision to abandon a second Security Council resolution after vigorously pressing for it exposed America as a hypocrite on the importance of international law. His Administration’s decision to hold American citizens for years without trial or charges, then release them without trial or charges when the Supreme Court ruled against this practice, has made a mockery of our respect for our own laws. The lawlessness of Abu Ghraib that stained America’s honor, and the refusal to hold those most responsible - Secretary Rumsfeld - for allowing that lawlessness to develop is a colossal moral failing. To the extent that Bush’s actions reflect upon all of us, he has caused me great shame as an American patriot.

Domestically, I feel Bush’s fiscal profligacy has needlessly injured this country, constraining its ability to face both its apparent challenges and the unanticipated needs of the future. I find his endorsement of the Federal Marriage Amendment to our Constitution to be a monstrous act of cynicism aimed at one of America’s most unfairly reviled minorities. The sneering disdain he expressed for Massachusetts at the debates strike me as an excellent example of his penchant for divisiveness - a willingness to carve Americans themselves into those who are “with us” and those who are “against us.”

So, I will vote for Kerry next week. I may do so with some nervousness for the next four years. But I won’t do so with even the slightest remorse.
See JimmytheCelt’s point-by-point Kerry platform here .. .KA7:45 a.m.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Rig Newton: Mordechai Feingold, the curator of the New York Public Library’s The Newtonian Moment, jumps into the Fray today to take on James Gleick’s review of the exhibition in Slate:

On 21 October James Gleick reviewed The Newtonian Moment, an exhibition that recently opened at the New York Public Library. The header, “Isaac Newton’s Gravity: How a major new exhibition gets the scientist wrong,” offers in a nutshell his take on the show. The full review adds little in the way of exhibition detail or information. Apart from a perfunctory nod to the “most impressive collection of Newtoniana ever assembled in the United States,” Gleick dismisses the exhibition as a reductive pandering to a vision of a “bowdlerized” nineteenth-century Newton, “dusted off…powdered and bewigged.” Alas, Gleick bemoans yet another lost opportunity to highlight the “messier” and “more interesting” side of the “real” Isaac Newton. To compensate, no doubt, he rambles on for most of his review about the “real” Newton, whom he resurrects as a mystery (apparently) to all but himself.As the curator of the exhibition, I feel an obligation to respond. Readers of Slate have been misled about the nature of The Newtonian Moment, so much so that I can only wonder whether Gleick bothered to proceed beyond its first section (there are eight). How else to explain his insinuation that the exhibition is devoted exclusively to Newton’s life and work? As the title makes clear, The Newtonian Moment is explicitly and overtly not about Newton per se but about the scientific and cultural “moment” he almost single-handedly ushered in. The exhibition tells the story of how contemporaries and subsequent generations perceived Newton; how the diffusion of his ideas and the tensions and often public clashes they engendered shaped science for two centuries; how the historical Newton metamorphosed into the personification of science; how within a few decades this effulgent image of “genius incarnate” transformed Western culture from the natural sciences to philosophy, religion, literature and the arts. Of course, today, thanks to the discovery of his theological and alchemical papers, we know a great deal about the “messier” Isaac Newton. But that is precisely the point. Before the twentieth century few, if any, had any inkling of the nature and extent of such preoccupations. Consequently, they exerted virtually no influence on Newton’s immediate legacy.This gross misrepresentation of the exhibition raises the issue of Gleick’s suitability as an unbiased reviewer. Well-known is Gleick’s disdain for professional scholars. In The Best American Science Writing 2000 he dismisses the “dry temples of academic history of science,” rife with practitioners not “normally identified with good writing, at least by our nonacademic lights.” Perhaps less well-known is my own “encounter” with Gleick in the form of a letter I wrote to The New York Review of Books (9 October 2003), responding to an unduly favorable review of Gleick’s Isaac Newton by Freeman Dyson. In it, among other things, I challenged Gleick’s holding himself up as an apostle of originality, all the while appropriating (largely unacknowledged) the labors of such “dry” Newtonian scholars as Richard Westfall and Frank Manuel.Gleick may not be interested (or informed) about the story I’ve attempted to tell. But as a reviewer it was incumbent upon him to apprize readers of Slate what the exhibition he volunteered to cover was all about.
Respond to Feingold’s rebuttal hereKA3:00 p.m.

Bush for President: Today and tomorrow, Fraywatch will feature endorsements of both major presidential candidates from our readers’ forum. Tomorrow, we will publish a frayster’s endorsement of Senator John Kerry. Today, locdog makes the case for re-electing President Bush:

my support for president bush in october of 2000 must have been a lot like what john kerry is receiving from his partisans today. kerry didn’t conquer his opponents in the democratic primary, he won by default. … kerry was therefore said to be the “electable” candidate–he was damned with faint praise to be sure, but that was the least of the paradoxes troubling his candidacy: in what sense could a man be said to possess “electability” while lacking all of the traits commonly associated with those who win elections? kerry is not particularly attractive. he is eloquent but has a tendency to harangue the crowd, or else to endlessly dilute his meanings with catch-alls and qualifiers. he has little in the way of charisma, and often seems ill at ease in the presence of voters. he’s an old-guard massachusetts liberal senator.…i think i understand kerry voters. after eight years of clinton, the last thing this conservative republican wanted was four years of gore. but george w. bush? in God’s name, why? like many republicans, i punched my chads in dreamlike state of disbelief, wondering how in the blue hell dubya could be the best the republican party could come up with. if a bush at all, why not jeb? jeb was the one who was…well, electable. everyone knew that.

but dubya it was.…when bush finally emerged the victor, he came to washington with promises of being a uniter, not a divider. bullocks to that, i thought. divide, man, divide and conquer. consensus is not and must not be the goal of leadership, doing what’s right is–which is why today we’ve got the candidate of the “global test” and the candidate of america first.

in retrospect, there wasn’t a whole lot to divide over in the pre-9/11 months of bush’s presidency. gary condit, a throwback to the age of clintonian frivolity, dominated the news … the economy was receding and tax cuts were on the horizon. business as usual, really, but the president had still managed to impress many of us–including more than a few democrats–with his ability to get stuff done. the buzzword was “mandate” in those days, whether bush had one and, if he didn’t, how it would effect his style. well, he didn’t, and it didn’t. bush plowed through congress like jim brown through an arm tackle. iron will, determination, resolve. quintessential dubya. now people say he’s a stubborn warmonger. well, they said that about churchill, too.

then came 9/11 and, of course, everything changed…

do you remember him standing there at ground zero, grabbing the bullhorn and telling that fireman that the whole world was going to hear from us soon? do you remember how that made you feel? remember how it gave you hope? there were more than a few complaints from the other side when a few moments of that now legendary ground zero footage found its way into a campaign spot, but i didn’t mind. why shouldn’t we remember that? we need to remember that.

we need to remember because that’s what leadership is. anyone can take pot shots from the cheap seats, but bush was on the field when it counted. he saw this country through the worst disaster in our history. that’s not to say we wouldn’t have pulled through had he not been in office. americans survive. but he made us stronger at our weakest moment. i cannot imagine the burden laid upon the shoulders of a man in such incredible circumstances, but when many would have crumpled, bush stood firm, and had strength enough left over to share with us all. that’s leadership. it’s leadership not merely when things were at their worse, but when things were worse than any of us had ever imagined they could be. bush looked the worst terrorist attack in history in the eye and didn’t flinch, faced something of a scale no president or world leader had ever faced before, and in so doing, forever etched his name among the greatest of them all.

bush’s response to the attacks of september 11th was not simply to root out and punish the single organization directly responsible. while that would have been just and satisfying, it would have failed to acknowledge the true gravity of the terrorist threat. the president recognized that terrorism wasn’t the disease, it was a symptom. not of poverty and hopelessness, as some of his rivals have suggested, since these are symptoms as well–and of the same sickness. our foe was in fact an old one, one that we’ve fought against in nearly every war we’ve waged. it was tyranny. the struggle against oppression. terrorism flourishes in the worst places on earth, and that’s no coincidence. hence the bush doctrine, as it came to be known, is simply this: freedom is our weapon in the war on terror.

thanks to president bush, afghanistan held its first free election ever. that’s something we can all feel good about as humanitarians, but, more to the point, it makes america safer. the islamic fascists that tyrannized the afghani people and nurtured osama bin laden’s regime are no more. in january of next year, iraq, our arch enemy for over a decade, will be holding free elections. we are safer because saddam hussein is gone, yes. we are safer because he can no longer horde weapons and foster ties with terror. but ultimately we’re safer because where there was once nothing but fear and misery, there’s now hope for the future and people with hope don’t fly airplanes into buildings.

afghanistan was the vietnam of the soviet union, and iraq had been a thorn in our side for years, but under bush’s leadership, these two states were transformed with a rapidity so shocking that only the unprecedented respect shown to civilian bystanders in their liberation can compare. this is our template for security, and however much we might wish to the contrary, we cannot limit the war on terror to the terrorists themselves. i am convinced that the bush doctrine will be remembered as this president’s most lasting and meaningful contribution to history, it is the only way to ensure our long term safety in the world, and the president is worth reelecting if for no other reason than that.

i have disagreements with bush in some areas. i think he spends too much. i think he’s wrong on immigration. i would have liked to have seen him handle the chinese differently on more than one occasion. but i’m voting for george w. bush because, at the end of the day, i recognize that the greatest challenge facing our nation right now is winning the war on terror, and no one can do a better job of it than him.
For a concurring opinion, see Zathras’ endorsement of President Bush hereKA12:50 p.m.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Is Protectionism Xenophobia? In case you missed it, Slate’s staff and contributors disclose their choices in the upcoming presidential election. For a cogent explanation of why we put ourselves through this, read Slate editor Jacob Weisberg here. Who raised the most eyebrows? Economic writer Steven Landsburg, explaining his support of President Bush:

If George Bush had chosen the racist David Duke as a running mate, I’d have voted against him, almost without regard to any other issue. Instead, John Kerry chose the xenophobe John Edwards as a running mate. I will therefore vote against John Kerry…Duke thinks it’s imperative to protect white jobs from black competition. Edwards thinks it’s imperative to protect American jobs from foreign competition. There’s not a dime’s worth of moral difference there. While Duke would discriminate on the arbitrary basis of skin color, Edwards would discriminate on the arbitrary basis of birthplace. Either way, bigotry is bigotry, and appeals to base instincts should always be repudiated.
In BOTF, JCormac is completely incredulous of Landsburg’s argument:
Soooo…protectionism equals racism. Hmmm. I’ve known quite a few economists in my time. I’ve taken quite a few economics classes in my time, was once well-versed in the Coase theorem and have had the pleasure of wasting hours on end arguing about the morality of a market for kidneys and other body parts … And I’ve never heard anyone advocate the moral equivalency between wanting to stop outsourcing and wanting to stop, say, miscegenation.

Am I missing something here? Is this just some sort of joke among economists which just went over my head?
GeoffsPneuma says “there’s some truth” to Landsburg’s claim:
It’s a hard argument to sustain, from a moral perspective that pampered over-subsidized American producers should enjoy a tremendously high standard of living when only a small reduction in that standard has the potential to lead to exponential growths abroad.
In the same thread, run75441 makes the economic case against Landsburg here, while Ex-fed makes a more meta case here:
What his logic implies is that, since place of birth (like race) is morally neutral, then it is morally wrong for any U.S. politician to act in the interests of the U.S. Sure, it’s a tenable position (though I doubt if he really holds it). But how does an argument against the very existence of the nation-state lead him to favor one VP candidate over another?
Very little in the posturing over Landsburg’s assault on Edwards’ protectionism can compete with this gem from Fingerpuppet who finally gets Mickey Kaus after reading his endorsement of John Kerry:
I was astounded to read Kaus’s straightforward and non-annoying answer in the Slate presidential poll. No weeny-ish cheap shots, snickering asides, self-congratulatory flatulence, or anything. Just a serious, straight answer. What a refreshing change. Now I realize: he’s like the Andy Kaufman of political commentary. He exists just to provoke, mock and annoy his readers. A visit to his site is like paying $20.00 to watch a geeky comedian sing along to a scratchy “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” recording on stage. I’d rather get poison oak or be inundated with fungus gnats.
Fungus gnats will be available in Slate’s new e-shop, opening in Spring 2005. A Note to C-SPAN: Fraywatch can be fairly classified as a C-Spud — the kind of guy who will blithely have a Brookings Institution briefing on mining exports from Mauritania humming through the house while he’s folding laundry. Sure, Brian Lamb has the Q-Rating of a shower curtain rod, but he’s advanced discourse in the country exponentially against the tide of Crossfire, Premiere Radio Network, and 900 station satellite systems. All of this makes C-SPAN’s gimmicky, new series all the more abominable. During the closing days of an historic campaign when clarification of prominent issues has never been more vital, what is C-SPAN showing on its flagship channel? Talk Radio. That’s correct. C-SPAN is airing an endless stream — as much as three hours of uninterrupted blocs at a time — of local talk show hosts from places like Toledo, Madison and Denver doing their drive time shticks in an apparent attempt to give its viewers unfiltered access to the battleground states. Never mind that most C-SPAN viewers would tell you that they come to the network to escape the insufferable din of imbeciles taking calls from imbeciles. Fraywatch implores the good people at C-SPAN — make it go away … KA10:40 a.m.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Not So Fast: Though Dahlia Lithwick contends that John Kerry making political hay out of “an old man’s possibly terminal illness is doubtful,” HLS2003 disagrees:

I think you show a lot more faith in Kerry than is warranted by past experience. If there’s one thing Kerry has displayed a zest for this campaign season, it’s making every headline a campaign issue.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. …
to be fair, it’s reasonable in this case. The Supreme Court composition is a key voting point for me, and many other Americans, I’m sure. …

Kerry delicately sought advantage in reminding Americans that the next president will probably nominate more than one justice to a closely divided court.
Here, The_Bell offers a comprehensive history of William Rehnquist’s career on the Supreme Court, then concludes:
What I am not so sure about is Lithwick’s contention that Bush is doomed in his ability to force someone even more archconservative than Rehnquist in jurisprudence upon the Senate. Four years would be a long time for Senate Democrats to try and filibuster a string of nominees. Moreover, Bush has repeatedly demonstrated that he is resolute in his views and he has also demonstrated no concern over a lack of popular mandate for what he feels is best for the country. Imagine his resolve should he win both the Electoral College and popular vote this time around and was no longer laboring under the need to be re-elected. I suspect the Senate would blink before Bush does when facing the exigencies of a 4-4 split Court.
Whoever is elected on Nov. 2, a moderate Supreme Court nomination in the mold of Stephen Breyer could go a long way toward appeasing a bitter ideological divide among the electorate.Tora! Bora! Bora!: Check out the discussion in kf Fray, launched by Publius here, in which he debunks John Kerry’s “we outsourced that too” argument:
[T]he trouble with this as a campaign soundbite (“I wouldn’t have outsourced the job at Tora Bora; I’d have called in the 10th Mountain Division”) is that (1) there was no such military option, no matter who was President; and (2) the operation was a tactical failure within the context of a spectacular strategic success without which the issue of Tora Bora would never have presented itself in the first place. …Simply put, the US strategy did not make possible the tactics at Tora Bora that critics now claim should have been used. But a different strategy would have changed everything and, very possibly, we would still be fighting a huge Soviet-style war in Afganistan. That’s why Kerry said then that Franks was making the right choice.

Denouncing Bush—or Franks—for the tactical “failure” while overlooking the globally significant strategic victory is, at best, ignorant and, at worst, a nasty political attack on those who achieved that victory. As a result of that victory, al Qaeda has been unsuccessful in achieving its strategic goal of setting off a chain of events that would lead to a radical Islamist regime in at least one other Islamic state…
In his rebuttal, Zathras isn’t so eager to let Gen. Tommy Franks off the hook. His response to Pub is here   … KA10:55 a.m.