Kyle's Republic
Thursday, March 31, 2005
 
"What are we protecting you from, a wrong cheeseburger?"

A lady in southern California calls 911 because a local fast-food franchise hasn't prepared her cheeseburger the way she wants it. In the course of a very long exchange the 911 operator comes out with the above question, one of the best I've ever heard.

Kevin Drum found a link to the transcript on Body and Soul, which found the transcript itself on LiveJournal, which filed the transcript under the heading "Customers Suck." And here it is.
 
Sunday, March 27, 2005
 
Yin and yang

Michael Kinsley describes president and opposition:

He enjoys the stubborn conviction of the unreflective mind. Unfortunately -- or
fortunately for the Democrats -- his principled convictions are often wrong and
sometimes unpopular. This leaves an opening for rival principled convictions, if
only the Democrats had some to spare.


As so often, I wonder why pundits still have Yeats "Slouching to Bethlehem" in mothballs. "The best [in a weak field] lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." Or whatever it said. The poem did great service during the 1960s and could kick off a thousand columns today.

The Kinsley piece contains an example of the "Bush as idealistic liar" interpretation. That is, Kinsley says, only idealism could drive a politician to mess with Social Security, but the reason Bush gives for messing with Social Security makes no sense. So he has some higher good in mind, one so high that its attendant facts cannot be translated into the realm of voters. Thus it was with our invasion of Iraq and the intended transformation of the Middle East; thus it is with knocking around Social Security in order to, Kinsley suggests, transform America into a nation with a universal investor class.

As always Kinsley is not too impressed by our president. Still, I'd like to expand on the point he raises. It's a myth that sincere people don't lie. As the saying goes, Hitler was sincere. And lots of people a lot better than Hitler connive for what they think is right. But I don't think they usually pride themselves on being especially straightforward and non-conniving. They don't believe that their own personal candor and straight-thinking are the reasons they have arrived at such wonderful goals. The attitude does seem to underly Bushism, resulting in a contradiction that bothers absolutely none of the philosophy's adherents.
 
 
Son and statesman

Both stricken patients were severely brain-damaged. Both were incapable of
surviving without medical assistance. Both were said to have expressed a desire
to be spared from being kept alive by artificial means. And neither of them had
a living will.

That's from the Los Angles Times, via Atrios. One of the patients, as you know, is Terri Schiavo. The other was Tom DeLay's dad, back in 1988. The newspaper gives the full story: An injury left DeLay's father a vegetable, the doctors recommended termination, DeLay and the rest of the family agreed.

"There was no point to even really talking about it," Maxine DeLay, the
congressman's 81-year-old widowed mother, recalled in an interview last week.
"There was no way [Charles] wanted to live like that. Tom knew — we all knew —
his father wouldn't have wanted to live that way."


DeLay's spokesman says there's no parallel because the congressman's father needed breathing machinery, not just intravenous food and water. So the electric bill would have been higher or something.

It would have been nice if the Times had asked Maxine what she thought of her son's doings in the Schiavo case. Well, not "nice," exactly, since it would be putting an 81-year-old woman on the spot. I hope that thought held back the Times -- we need some delicacy around here.

UPDATE They did ask, and gently. From the end of the story:

She acknowledged questions comparing her family's decision in 1988 to the
Schiavo conflict with a slight smile. "It's certainly interesting, isn't it?" .
. . Like her son, she believed there might be hope for Terri Schiavo's recovery.
That's what made her family's experience different, she said.


All right, whatever.
 
Friday, March 25, 2005
 
Inimitable

Sometimes a polemicist will pile up the examples and have no idea none of them are connecting. For instance, Andrew Sullivan has this quote from a Weekly Standard writer he refers to as "the inimitable Harvey Mansfield." Something tells me Sulliven doesn't agree with it, since the views are socially non-raffinés. But Mansfield agrees with himself and he expects me too as well. Poor fool, he blows his case.

Mansfield doesn't like feminist women, and a lot of times I don't either. People are a drag when they cling to rigid opinions that make them feel good and that they haven't thought through. This is most people's approach to abstract thought, and feminism is one of our times' more widespread non-religious thought systems; therefore, mine and many people's experience of self-righteous jerkiness comes when the feminism flares up in a given carrier. That doesn't mean any damn gripe you throw at a feminist gets to be true. Hence Mansfield's flop.

Consider his words:

"It takes one's breath away to watch feminist women at work. At the same
time that they denounce traditional stereotypes they conform to them. If at
the back of your sexist mind you think that women are emotional, you listen
agape as professor Nancy Hopkins of MIT comes out with the threat that she
will be sick if she has to hear too much of what she doesn't agree with. If
you think women are suggestible, you hear it said that the mere suggestion
of an innate inequality in women will keep them from stirring themselves to
excel. While denouncing the feminine mystique, feminists behave as if they
were devoted to it. They are women who assert their independence but still
depend on men to keep women secure and comfortable while admiring their
independence. Even in the gender-neutral society, men are expected by
feminists to open doors for women. If men do not, they are intimidating
women."


But male conservatives are always talking about how some unwelcome viewpoint makes them sick; and boy, do they get emotional with the shouting and the red faces -- turn on O'Reilly and take a look. And I never heard that women are suggestible -- emotional but not suggestible. And in what way do women expect men to keep them "secure and comfortable"? The women I've known all worked for a living, and if they had a man they kept him "secure and comfortable" by doing a lot of the cooking and cleaning at home. And feminists don't expect men to hold doors. In college I held the door for my Women's Studies TA because I wanted to piss her off, and it worked.

Such is my response, that of a man who has never liked feminists all that much. Where does the inimitable Harvey Mansfield get this shit?
 
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
 
Self-righteous con men

Being right-wing isn't a matter of opinions; it's a matter of outlook and behavior, of the kind of person a right-winger too often turns out to be. They have no morals and a tremendous amount of self-righteousness. They think everything belongs to them; if something actually belongs to you, that means you're in the way. And all the while they'll be telling you how wrong you are, how you're ungrateful and full of hate if you fight them, or else that you're spineless and effete. The worst is the way they lie about being right.

But never mind. At some point voters will start to define conservatives something like the way they're defined above. Then our side could get some real traction.

Anyway David Brooks's column got singled out on the blogs today as one Republican's splitting with DeLay & Co. "The sleazo-cons thought they could take over K Street to advance their agenda. As it transpired, K Street took over them." That's his summing up, but read the column and you see he isn't really talking about personality transformations. Norquist's list of clients didn't slowly get worse; he knew from the start what he was after.

If you think government has no purpose except to throw its weight around, you will enter government either to destroy it or else because you like throwing your weight around. The GOP may develop a fig-leaf story that the reformers from '94 transmuted into the con men now running the party. But Tom DeLay doesn't seem like a changeable type. I think it's natural, when people see the government as a racket, that the ones who want to join the government will tend to be thugs.

All right. To finish off, I'll paste the thing here:


Masters of SleazeBy DAVID
BROOKS


Down in the depths of the netherworld, where Tammany Hall grafters and
Chicago ward heelers gather amid spittoons and brass railings, a reverential
silence now spreads across the communion. The sleazemasters of old look back
into the land of the mortals and they see greatness in the form of Jack
Abramoff.

Only a genius like Abramoff could make money lobbying against
an Indian tribe's casino and then turn around and make money defending that
tribe against himself. Only a giant like Abramoff would have the guts to use one
tribe's casino money to finance a Focus on the Family crusade against gambling
in order to shut down a rival tribe's casino.

Only an artist like
Abramoff could suggest to a tribe that it pay him by taking out life insurance
policies on its eldest members. Then when the elders dropped off they could
funnel the insurance money through a private school and into his pockets.

This is sleaze of a high order. And yet according to reports in The
Washington Post and elsewhere, Abramoff accomplished it all.

Yet it's
important to remember this: A genius like Abramoff doesn't spring fully formed
on his own. Just as Michelangelo emerged in the ferment of Renaissance Italy, so
did Abramoff emerge from his own circle of creativity and encouragement.

Back in 1995, when Republicans took over Congress, a new cadre of daring
and original thinkers arose. These bold innovators had a key insight: that you
no longer had to choose between being an activist and a lobbyist. You could be
both. You could harness the power of K Street to promote the goals of Goldwater,
Reagan and Gingrich. And best of all, you could get rich while doing it!

Before long, ringleader Grover Norquist and his buddies were signing
lobbying deals with the Seychelles and the Northern Mariana Islands and talking
up their interests at weekly conservative strategy sessions - what could be more
vital to the future of freedom than the commercial interests of these two fine
locales?

Before long, folks like Norquist and Abramoff were talking up
the virtues of international sons of liberty like Angola's Jonas Savimbi and
Congo's dictator Mobutu Sese Seko - all while receiving compensation from these
upstanding gentlemen, according to The Legal Times. Only a reactionary could
have been so discomfited by Savimbi's little cannibalism problem as to think
this was not a daring contribution to the cause of Reaganism.

Soon the
creative revolutionaries were blending the high-toned forms of the think tank
with the low-toned scams of the buckraker. Ed Buckham, Tom DeLay's former chief
of staff, helped run the U.S. Family Network, which supported the American
family by accepting large donations and leasing skyboxes at the MCI Center,
according to Roll Call. Michael Scanlon, DeLay's former spokesman, organized a
think tank called the American International Center, located in a house in
Rehoboth Beach, Del., which was occupied, according to Andrew Ferguson's
devastating compendium in The Weekly Standard, by a former "lifeguard of the
year" and a former yoga instructor.

Ralph Reed, meanwhile, smashed the
tired old categories that used to separate social conservatives from corporate
consultants. Reed signed on with Channel One, Verizon, Enron and Microsoft to
shore up the moral foundations of our great nation. Reed so strongly opposes
gambling as a matter of principle that he bravely accepted $4 million through
Abramoff from casino-rich Indian tribes to gin up a grass-roots campaign.

As time went by, the spectacular devolution of morals accelerated. Many
of the young innovators were behaving like people who, having read Barry
Goldwater's "Conscience of a Conservative," embraced the conservative part while
discarding the conscience part.
Abramoff's and Scanlon's Indian-gaming
scandal will go down as the movement's crowning achievement, more shameless than
anything the others would do, but still the culmination of the trends building
since 1995. It perfectly embodied their creed and philosophy: "I'd love us to
get our mitts on that moolah!!" as Abramoff wrote to Reed.

They made at
least $66 million.

This is a major accomplishment. And remember:
Abramoff didn't do it on his own.

It took a village. The sleazo-cons
thought they could take over K Street to advance their agenda. As it transpired,
K Street took over them
.
 
Friday, March 18, 2005
 
New theory

Ari Fleischer has no intellectual shame because he has no intellect. That is the theory advanced by Jon Chait, who has just struggled thru the "maddeningly dull" and "subideological" White House memoirs of the cunning devil who made monkeys of our press corps. "This is the mastermind I had held in such awe?" Chait asks.

The point here is really this entertaining e-mail exchange between Chait and an unnamed conservative of his acquaintance:

My correspondent thought my Ari-as-virtuoso theory was silly: "When Ari worked
on the Hill he was widely considered to be a moron even by other press
secretaries, who are mostly a bunch of ignorant dolts themselves." But how, I
asked, could he have run circles around the Washington press corps? "Ari is a
genius like the [Peter] Sellers character in Being There," he replied. "He was
too stupid and too ignorant to know he was telling lies."


(As almost always, I owe to Kevin Drum my awareness of this item.)
 
Thursday, March 17, 2005
 
"Like Mick Jagger. You have to keep at it."

Light rock blogging. The Q92 morning team is talking about St. Patrick and how he became a saint. They agree it wasn't just for getting the snakes out of Ireland, not just for one feat. "Like Mick Jagger," says the lead man (Aaron). "You have to keep at it."
 
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
 
Why does this bother me?


. . . and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), chair of the proceedings, was wearing -- and I
could not make this up -- what appeared to be an “Incredible Hulk" tie.


Why does the tie get me? I used to wear t-shirts to the office every day, but reading about Sen. Stevens's Hulk tie makes me feel like we've all slipped a small gear somewhere. Right now I couldn't give you any reason.

(The quote is by way of Atrios, who found it on Romenesko. The fellow is describing a recent floor vote in the Senate.)
 
Friday, March 04, 2005
 
Blue staters reach out

Majikthise linked to this exercise in cultural sensitivity. (Warning: big graphic, could be a long download depending on your system.)
 
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
 
Like waiters in a bad restaurant

Being an American in Canada gives you a chance to appreciate Paul Cellucci, our ambassador here. If you think the Bush administration is overbearing at home, you should hear it talking to non-Americans, especially non-Americans in a not very large nation.

During the Iraq run-up, Cellucci sounded like he was dealing with waiters in a bad restaurant. (To paraphrase: What's with the service? I ordered support for a war thirty minutes ago, and nothing.) Now Canada has also said no, or no-ish, to our missile defense plan, and Cellucci has changed gears to more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger.

His tone these days is that of a junior-high vice principal trying to browbeat a student. Figuratively shaking his head, Cellucci calls Canada's decision "perplexing." Why? In answer, he spins the geostrategic version of you'll-never-get-into-college, you'll-never-get-a-job. It's something about how America will be shooting missiles into Canadian airspace to stop incoming attacks from wherever, and Canada could have been sitting at the table, making the decision along with us, but now, no, Canada has surrendered its opportunity and made the baffling choice "to give up its sovereignty."

Wow. We can begin by positing that the U.S. will never be firing off those interceptors. That's because the shield plan has never shown any sign of working. Also, if the interceptors did get fired, they would be rocketing out of the atmosphere and therefore well outside any nation's sovereign airspace.

And then the kicker . . . the interceptors wouldn't even be shot over Canada. Instead they would be shot over the Pacific. From a news account: "U.S. officials at the Missile Defence Agency said that under ballistic missile defence, interceptors from launch silos in Alaska and California are aimed out across the Pacific and that their trajectory would take them nowhere near Canada."

So Cellucci goes from lunatic premise (the shield) to fine-print finagling to an outright lie over an elementary fact.

Smarmy, self-righteous bullying used to be just part of the face America presented to the world, something ugly around the corner of the mouth. Now it's the face, the entire face, and Bush's guys wonder why Canada (and Turkey, and France, etc.) don't go along and do as they're told. Well, I guess foreigners are strange that way. It's perplexing.

(Please don't think I dug up the material discussed above. Except for my bad memories of the Iraq run-up, it all comes from Peace, Order, and Good Government, Eh? As you might guess, that's a Canadian blog. I owe my awareness of the post to another Canadian blog, Matthew's Hochelaga Depicta.)

(UPDATE: Also, I came back and edited the post so it would read better.)
 
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
 
When the good stuff gets in the way

What if G-G didn't sell himself but instead had a page showing off the luscious buds growing in his hydroponic marijuana garden? (I'm not saying he grows pot. This is hypothetical.) Same self-publicized breaking of the law and flouting of traditional values. Same questions as to why security waved the guy in, same chance for Bush lovers to stand on their heads and reverse old enmities. But no chance to tag liberals with being bigots. Straights laugh at gays and are prejudiced against them (not all straights, but most). But how many pot foes focus their energy on despising pot smokers? It's the substance that gets their attention. This is a case where "hate the sin, not the sinner" can stand up to inspection.

But G-G is what he is, and that is a self-publicizing male prostitute and not a self-publicizing dope cultivator. So Bush defenders get their opening to kick up some dust and obscure matters. Too bad, and liberal bloggers helped with their polesmoking jokes. Blogdom's dynamics are like those of 8th-grade homeroom, and thus these problems cannot be avoided. Too bad again.

A dope-growing shill might still have held open the possibility of clandestine contacts inside the White House, since it is conceivable that some Bush aides smoke the stuff. At any rate we would have had the same wealth ofcheap laughs. Of course the right could have shot back that the liberals are being hypocrites because, in right doctrine, we are all dope smokers anyway. But that's easier to live with than being called a bigot, and who aside from the rightists would care?
 
Everything the others don't get

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