Kyle's Republic
Thursday, April 28, 2005
 
Odd

I did a needed update on the Wright post (he was having her turn around to show off the Chinese-hostess reminiscent costume -- duh) and posted a big clip-n-save from Kevin Drum and his thoughts on liberal principles.

And neither is here. They're available to me in storage for editing, along with all the other posts. But they're not up on the blog itself. I have no idea why.
 
 
I want to hold on to this

The blog seems as good a place as any for storage. From Kevin Drum's blog today, a discussion of liberal principles. I don't think he recognizes that principles are things people believe, as opposed to things that they reason out in extrapolation from detailed, picayune, small-bore beliefs that need an attractive brand identity. But maybe he's not saying that; I'll read the second half of the post.

I believe liberals should stand for "We told you," admittedly a hard card to play without someone wanting to smack you.

***********************

LIBERAL PRINCIPLES....What do liberals stand for? If you can stand a bit
more navel gazing about this, Matt
Yglesias makes the following comment today:


The Prospect ran a contest a little while back asking readers to submit
ideas for a liberal counter to the conservative pitch of "low taxes,
traditional family values, and a strong military." We got a few good ones,
but the results were pretty bad....The problem was that people didn't even
seem to understand the right kind of thing to be doing. What makes the
conservative pitch work is that while it's general enough to be broadly
appealing, it's specific enough that liberals will have to reject it. The
submissions we got tended to either operate at an overly-broad level ("we're
for good things happening and against bad ones") or else to just be policy
laundry-lists.

I think this is basically correct. Laundry lists don't inspire anyone, and
slogans are just....slogans. As Matt points out, "we're for the middle class" is
useless as a guiding principle since everyone says they're for the middle
class.

I don't have any kind of comprehensive answer to this problem of modern
liberalism, but I'd like to toss out a few thoughts. The first one is this:
conservatives have done a great job of building intellectual superstructures
that support their actual policy goals. These superstructures all share two
features: (a) they are intuitively appealing to ordinary people and (b) they
very definitely aren't ideas shared by liberals.

Supply side economics is a good example of this. Basically, conservatives
have made the case that low taxes on capital spur economic growth and therefore
benefit everyone. This is both intuitively believable and personally appealing,
since everyone likes low taxes. Whether it's correct or not is beside the point.
What matters is that it's (a) understandable and (b) can act as a backstop for a
whole raft of specific tax cutting measures favored by conservatives.

There are other examples, of course. In the judicial realm, originalism is
an intellectual backstop for conservative social policies. "Small government" is
the backstop for a wide range of regulatory policies favoring corporate
interests.

Note that these three things clearly differentiate conservatives from
liberals. Liberals wouldn't even claim to support supply side economics,
originalism, or small government.

So what do liberals need to fight back? Although no set of principles is
going to cover every base, I'd argue that we need three or four backstops that
underly a lot of the things we want to accomplish. But what?

Here's an example: equal tax rates for all types of income. After all, it's
intuitively appealing that if wage earners pay a certain tax rate (which varies
with income), people who get their incomes from capital gains, dividends, or
inheritances should pay the same rate. That's something that sounds fair to a
lot of people, and once it's accepted as a principle it can act as a backstop
for a wide range of detailed tax policies.

On the corporate front, how about a fair shake for the working poor who
want to unionize? Stronger unions — especially in the service area — would
provide an automatic counterbalance to both a wide array of corporate abuses as
well as our growing problem of income inequality, all without liberals being
forced into either punitive taxation or ill-considered (and probably unpopular)
regulatory schemes. What's more, the case that low-paid workers should be
allowed to unionize without threats and abuse from management will strike a lot
of people as fair and reasonable.

These are just examples. I'm not trying to propose some kind of overarching
liberal frame here, I'm just trying to point out that the right way to think
about this stuff is to come up with appealing ideas that can be used as jumping
off points for lots of other things. This takes some imagination, since you have
to think hard about the direction your ideas can ultimately take once people
internalize them, and it also takes time to successfully insert them into the
public discourse — most likely years, and quite possibly decades.

So toss out your ideas in comments if you have any. Just be sure to keep
them appealing, wide ranging, and clearly unconservative.—Kevin Drum 6:05 PM Permalink
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Wednesday, April 27, 2005
 
Disturbing news from Europe

Evidence indicates this policy was being tested on a pilot basis seven years ago, when I was lucky enough to pay an extended visit to Italy and Greece.
 
 
What a retard

The previous post raises yet another question. Can people say "retard"? They do, but are they allowed? God knows it's a satisfying word, unless you have a friend or relative who is retarded, or else a sense that the afflicted should not be made fun of. By which I mean an active and robust sense able to get in the way of cheap pleasure. And I don't, but I am sensitive to looking bad in front of others and getting brought up short by moral reprimand. So can I expect such reprimand if I use the word around anyone besides feeble tough guys of my own sort?

Michelle Malkin and others tried to get a stir going last fall because Atrios (I think) used the term. But that counts for little -- pissing is her gang's business and they will find anything to piss about. So what's the genuine state of play regarding "retard"? What are the limits and who's setting them?
 
 
Thank you, Mr. Wright

UPDATE: On reflection I see that the mystery discussed below isn't much of a mystery. Having the woman turn around (if done) would have been to display her outfit, with the obvious extra intentions of making her show off her body and play Simon Says.

So a lot of the post below does not have much point. Yet I had a good time writing it; and like (quite possibly) Mr. Wright, I believe a good time counts for a lot.

* * * * * *

Here's the Internet for you. I don't know who Doug Wright is, but I've got a pretty good idea he's an asshole.

Aside from this private citizen's simple (and alleged) nastiness, we have:



Within my first week as a summer associate in 2002, Doug Wright started coming
into my office daily or every other day ... He told me to "Stand up. Turn around
in a circle. You look like the hostess in a Chinese restaurant." He then walked
out. I was very upset by his behavior and cried ...


Or so says a woman who worked around this monument to aging anatomy. (One of his favorite ploys, it appears, was to tell women to "feel my pipes," or occasionally "guns.") The extract sets us the problem of figuring out what Mr. Wright might allegedly have been talking about. "Like the hostess in a Chinese restaurant." He says the woman had an outfit that put the thought in his head (a high collar? brocade piping?). But he also says he doesn't remember telling her so. Since that leaves no way for her to have known about his Chinese-hostess impression, it's hard not to dismiss his statement. We are left with the scene the woman describes, a scene that comes with many questions. Do hostesses in Chinese restaurants have especially good rear ends, or bad ones, or trouble turning in a circle? Or do they walk around in circles a lot?

A commonsense interpretation would be that the woman in question was Asian, but if that were the case the article would say so. Which leaves the possibility, my favorite, that the statement means nothing and Mr. Wright thought it was a corker only because it came out of his mouth. People like that make the world a misery even for those of us who are not young female associates. For the ones who are . . . Well, God. They have the pleasure of being humiliated by someone too featherheaded to realize he is hatching randomly joined word clumps.

"I do, however, ask people to feel my pipes," Mr. Wright states in his rebuttal. At least the sorry mess has given us that sentence. So for that, and for nothing else, I must now say: Thank you, Mr. Wright.

UPDATE: If only Phil Hartman were alive to speak that line. But I'll try to take up the slack on an amateur basis.
 
 
Sweaty thumbs

A straightforward person will react to a stupid idea by saying "Give me a break." A sweaty, ham-thumbed scoutmaster-type will herald his straightforwardness with a grand preparatory windup:

The White House claims it needs the pugnacious Mr. Bolton at the U.N. to whip it
into shape and oversee real reform there. I have only one thing to say in
response to that pablum: Give me a break.


That's Tom Friedman, of course. At least he restricts his gravest errors to supporting the Great Dumbass War. But his specially embossed and mounted brand of folksiness brings a rash to the figurative membrane of my intellect.
 
 
Learning curve

I just started a volunteer job where I work in the office of a nonprofit.

Now that I think about it, on my first day I asked the boss if she knew anyone who sells software, meaning bootleg software. That's not as bad as asking if you know anybody who sells drugs, but it's a bit worse than keeping your mouth shut.
 
 
Leave it to the religious types

Soulful Jeanne d'Arc has come up with a perfect name for the Catholics' new chief: the German Shepherd.

Of course, I wonder how anyone could call herself "Jeanne d'Arc" in a post-Annie Hall environment. If we can project trends outward from my adolescence, swaths of the public have now memorized even the measly, dumbass jokes AH gives to the hack comic who appalls young Alvy Singer. The hack's routine all has to do with French Canadians, supposedly one more sign of what a small-time loser he is. (Fucking Woody Allen. French Canadians are worth attention, always.)

Pride of place among the loser jokes goes to the question of how a Frenchy says the light's off in the bathroom. Jeanne answers that every time she signs a post.

(edited this a bit)
 
 
I want to live in his world

Republicans, weak and disorganized, were ground down by the Democratic
juggernaut.


That's Bob Novak in mid-description of the troubles faced by John Bolton. By the way, it turns out George Voinovich is "notoriously quirky."
 
Monday, April 25, 2005
 
Local paper hits the big time

The paper I grew up with, the humble Journal-News of Rockland and Westchester, has a link from Matthew Yglesias. Reason: a tough editorial on malfeasance and pork in the energy and Iraq/Afghanistan bills.
 
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
 
Lots of relativism, but where are the relatavists?

"We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize
anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and
one's own desires."


That's the new pope, as you figured out. So where are all the hard-and-true relatavists? Everyone I ever met has denied moral wiggle room on some issue or other, most often anti-racism. Now, if you reject relativism even for one area of life, doesn't that mean you are not a true relatavist? Some other term must be found, such as "humane" or "scientifically literate."

(UPDATE: I edited this to read better and removed a lame joke at the end.)
 
 
Red state honor

For the first time in my life I've been reading (or skimming) Tom Clancy, the reason being a work-for-hire editing job. And he's got his points. Anyway, I gather Clancy was against Iran-contra because his '89 novel Clear and Present Danger is about abuse of the law in the name of national security. (UPDATE: originally I said "use of the law," out of carelessness.) Clancy was also against the Iraq invasion and said back in 1997 that Saddam no longer counted as a threat. A steer who looks like a bull, is how he summed up the dictator's post-1991 condition.

So Clancy might respond to these thoughts from a U.S. soldier:

Another interrogator, with the 501st Military Intelligence Battalion, wrote
a response to the headquarters e-mail with cautions that "we need to take a
deep breath and remember who we are." "It comes down to standards of right
and wrong -- something we cannot just put aside when we find it
inconvenient," the soldier wrote. "We are American soldiers, heirs of a long
tradition of staying on the high ground. We need to stay there."


The subject is Abu Ghraib, and the material reached my desk via the invaluable Kevin Drum.
 
Friday, April 15, 2005
 
Open up a hot dog, what do you see?

By way of Atrios, we get this look by NPR at the rat-hair-and-feces side of news.

If I follow right, companies can pay for video press releases to be distributed by a branch of CNN. The branch passes off the press releases as news stories to small-time TV operations. The small-timers pay for the "news" clips, so CNN collects at both ends. (The branch also sells genuine news stories.)

One of the clients paying CNN for distribution is the Bush administration, and of course that fact has been causing some noise. But the system itself would be there regardless. Other clients also have their propaganda laundered and distributed. Companies beside CNN also provide the service.

Here's a relevant passage from NPR:

This winter, there was a flood of stories about the widespread use of
"video news releases" -- sent out by government agencies -- that were designed
to mimic actual news stories. . . . local news directors said they thought
they were real. Why? Because they came from a division of CNN.

More than 800 American stations pay that division -- which is called CNN
Newsource -- to send them stories from CNN and its affiliates. But that's not
all CNN Newsource does. Many public relations firms also pay it to distribute
"video news releases" from their clients -- including the U.S. government.
(Several competitors have similar deals.)


No fed regulations forbid this? Gosh. Anyway, after getting caught, CNN decided that p.r. clients would have to guarantee that their clips would identify who paid for them. No word on the size of the print, or whether the p.r. agency/company's name would have to be given, as opposed to citing a creation like "Family Health Report" or "Journalistic Responsibility Network." (Names made up by me; it's not hard.)

And, I don't know, this is all so depressing. Of all the enterprises that have made staggering amounts of money through journalism, CNN must be near the top of the heap. And then it cashes in for a little extra, this time by trashing the function it's supposed to fulfill. All right, the network has been suffering these days. But still . . .

Rat hairs and feces. Unless companies are made to care, they have no conscience about what they do to us. Such is my general take on socioeconomics, about as detailed as Reagan's but equally firm and a lot more accurate. Items like CNN's little side business go right in my clippings file.
 
Thursday, April 14, 2005
 
Something good about Tom Delay

Tom DeLay, interestingly enough, used to be the voice of reason and caution on
the Social Security front within the GOP elite.


That's Matthew Yglesias at Tapped. Similarly, Chuck Hagel, who voted against the war resolution, was the senator elected under the same e-voting system he had sold his state.

Life throws you these little complications. For instance, I'm told George Bush runs his ranch according to admirable green principles, whatever they are.
 
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
 
Thank you, Newt

BORGER: He's said that this is the liberal media going after him.

Mr. GINGRICH: Sure.

BORGER: You agree with that?

Mr. GINGRICH: Well, that's the famous Hillary Clinton defense, This is the
vast left-wing cor--you know, conspiracy as opposed to her description of a vast
right-wing conspiracy.

BORGER: So he's using...

Mr. GINGRICH: I'm saying when you're being attacked, the first thing you
naturally do is you describe your attackers. In this case, that won't work.
DeLay's problem isn't with the Democrats. DeLay's problem is with the
country.


This implies Clinton's problems were only with the GOP, not with the country. Many of us thought so, the polls agreed, but many conservatives still said they were acting for the nation. Of course, as Newt indicates here, they may not actually have believed it.

(Source: a CBS TV interview by way of Atrios.)
 
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
 
Inside the Onion

The place has a woman editor; I didn't know that. Here's the article.
 
 
Why I like Kevin Drum

When he links to an article about proof that cops lie on the stand, he calls it "fascinating," and not outrageous, etc. I like the calm, pipe-smoking approach. For me the piece's highlight is that prosecutors had to drop a case because their videotape was shown up as doctored. It's a sign of fakery going well past line officers.

The article's in the NYT, so I'll cut/paste instead of linking. A photo of released defendant Alexander Dunlop accompanies the original. He may be an innocent man, but he still looks like he needs a round of slapping. (He got arrested on his way for sushi. O Blue States!)


Videos Challenge Accounts of Convention Unrest
By JIM DWYER Published: April 12, 2005

Dennis Kyne put up such a fight at a political protest last summer, the arresting officer recalled, it took four police officers to haul him down the steps of the New York Public Library and across Fifth Avenue.

"We picked him up and we carried him while he squirmed and screamed," the officer, Matthew Wohl, testified in December. "I had one of his legs because he was kicking and refusing to walk on his own."

Accused of inciting a riot and resisting arrest, Mr. Kyne was the first of the 1,806 people arrested in New York last summer during the Republican National Convention to take his case to a jury. But one day after Officer Wohl testified, and before the defense called a single witness, the prosecutor abruptly dropped all charges.

During a recess, the defense had brought new information to the prosecutor. A videotape shot by a documentary filmmaker showed Mr. Kyne agitated but plainly walking under his own power down the library steps, contradicting the vivid account of Officer Wohl, who was nowhere to be seen in the pictures. Nor was the officer seen taking part in the arrests of four other people at the library against whom he signed complaints.

A sprawling body of visual evidence, made possible by inexpensive, lightweight cameras in the hands of private citizens, volunteer observers and the police themselves, has shifted the debate over precisely what happened on the streets during the week of the convention.

For Mr. Kyne and 400 others arrested that week, video recordings provided evidence that they had not committed a crime or that the charges against them could not be proved, according to defense lawyers and prosecutors.

Among them was Alexander Dunlop, who said he was arrested while going to pick up sushi.
Last week, he discovered that there were two versions of the same police tape: the one that was to be used as evidence in his trial had been edited at two spots, removing images that showed Mr. Dunlop behaving peacefully. When a volunteer film archivist found a more complete version of the tape and gave it to Mr. Dunlop's lawyer, prosecutors immediately dropped the charges and said that a technician had cut the material by mistake.

Seven months after the convention at Madison Square Garden, criminal charges have fallen against all but a handful of people arrested that week. Of the 1,670 cases that have run their full course, 91 percent ended with the charges dismissed or with a verdict of not guilty after trial.

Many were dropped without any finding of wrongdoing, but also without any serious inquiry into the circumstances of the arrests, with the Manhattan district attorney's office agreeing that the cases should be "adjourned in contemplation of dismissal."

So far, 162 defendants have either pleaded guilty or were convicted after trial, and videotapes that bolstered the prosecution's case played a role in at least some of those cases, although prosecutors could not provide details.

Besides offering little support or actually undercutting the prosecution of most of the people arrested, the videotapes also highlight another substantial piece of the historical record: the Police Department's tactics in controlling the demonstrations, parades and rallies of hundreds of thousands of people were largely free of explicit violence.

Throughout the convention week and afterward, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said that the police issued clear warnings about blocking streets or sidewalks, and that officers moved to arrest only those who defied them. In the view of many activists - and of many people who maintain that they were passers-by and were swept into dragnets indiscriminately thrown over large groups - the police strategy appeared to be designed to sweep them off the streets on technical grounds as a show of force.

"The police develop a narrative, the defendant has a different story, and the question becomes, how do you resolve it?" said Eileen Clancy, a member of I-Witness Video, a project that assembled hundreds of videotapes shot during the convention by volunteers for use by defense lawyers.

Paul J. Browne, a police spokesman, said that videotapes often do not show the full sequence of events, and that the public should not rush to criticize officers simply because their recollections of events are not consistent with a single videotape. The Manhattan district attorney's office is reviewing the testimony of Officer Wohl at the request of Lewis B. Oliver Jr., the lawyer who represented Mr. Kyne in his arrest at the library.

The Police Department maintains that much of the videotape that has surfaced since the convention captured what Mr. Browne called the department's professional handling of the protests and parades. "My guess is that people who saw the police restraint admired it," he said.
Video is a useful source of evidence, but not an easy one to manage, because of the difficulties in finding a fleeting image in hundreds of hours of tape. Moreover, many of the tapes lack index and time markings, so cuts in the tape are not immediately apparent.

That was a problem in the case of Mr. Dunlop, who learned that his tape had been altered only after Ms. Clancy found another version of the same tape. Mr. Dunlop had been accused of pushing his bicycle into a line of police officers on the Lower East Side and of resisting arrest, but the deleted parts of the tape show him calmly approaching the police line, and later submitting to arrest without apparent incident.

A spokeswoman for the district attorney, Barbara Thompson, said the material had been cut by a technician in the prosecutor's office. "It was our mistake," she said. "The assistant district attorney wanted to include that portion" because she initially believed that it supported the charges against Mr. Dunlop. Later, however, the arresting officer, who does not appear on the video, was no longer sure of the specifics in the complaint against Mr. Dunlop.

In what appeared to be the most violent incident at the convention protests, video shot by news reporters captured the beating of a man on a motorcycle - a police officer in plainclothes - and led to the arrest of one of those involved, Jamal Holiday. After eight months in jail, he pleaded guilty last month to attempted assault, a low-level felony that will be further reduced if he completes probation.

His lawyer, Elsie Chandler of the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, said that videos had led to his arrest, but also provided support for his claim that he did not realize the man on the motorcycle was a police officer, reducing the severity of the offense.

Mr. Browne, the police spokesman, said that despite many civilians with cameras who were nearby when the officer was attacked, none of the material was turned over to police trying to identify the assailants. Footage from a freelance journalist led police to Mr. Holiday, he said.

In the bulk of the 400 cases that were dismissed based on videotapes, most involved arrests at three places - 16th Street near Union Square, 17th Street near Union Square and on Fulton Street - where police officers and civilians taped the gatherings, said Martin R. Stolar, the president of the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. Those tapes showed that the demonstrators had followed the instructions of senior officers to walk down those streets, only to have another official order their arrests.

Ms. Thompson of the district attorney's office said, "We looked at videos from a variety of sources, and in a number of cases, we have moved to dismiss."
 
Saturday, April 09, 2005
 
The greatest pope ever

In June, Reagan destroyed communism. Now it's April, and John Paul did. That's not because TV news wants to butter up the pope's followers; it's because this way you have a story. The same last June, when the TV was saying Reagan finished his term with the highest poll ratings of any president. Atrios and the others pointed out that Clinton broke the record. But a good story doesn't have qualifiers; it has superlatives. Nowadays TV news tells its stories in block capitals.
 
 
Card's fallacy

I name this for Orson Scott Card, whom I've been reading a bit of lately. Lately he asserted on his web site that Keanu Reeves is a good actor and that those who disagree have deceived themselves as to what good acting is. The statement brought to a high pitch a tendency I've spotted in Card and other admirers of President Bush. Thinking a bit, I summed up Card's point of view this way:


High-falutingness and ostentation often cover ignorance and bluff. Therefore, their absence must indicate clear thought. By extension simple is always better, which means that simple is always good. If it’s so simple that people say it’s stupid, then you’ll know it’s simple enough.
Which is why not only is Meryl Streep a bad actress but Keanu Reeves is a good actor.
 
Thursday, April 07, 2005
 
Tradition

A time that falls within my youth is now the source of a tradition practiced by the young people of today. From the New York Post's Page Six:

April 7, 2005 -- VIDEOTAPE of Jenna Bush in very high spirits at a bachelorette
party is being sold and could end up on national TV by the end of the week.
Luckily for Jenna, the cameraman missed "the high point . . . Jenna on
all fours doing 'the butt dance' — and doing it very well
— as guys
were ogling her thong," said our source. Club patrons do the suggestive
dance when the deejay plays the 1988 hit "Da Butt," by E.U.
The
president's blond daughter arrived at NerveAna, a '90s-themed lounge on Varick
Street, at 10:30 p.m. last Friday with several other pretty young things in a
battered old blue minivan.


Notice the hallmark of Jenna/Barbara clubbing stories: along with the drinking and self-exposure, clear indications of non-jerkiness:

Jenna, who plans to teach school in D.C. next fall, wore jeans, moccasin boots
and a midriff-baring, satiny blue top. She lit up a cigarette "and she
was very polite when she was told she'd have to go outside to smoke
,"
said our source. Before leaving at 3:30 a.m., Jenna and her pals gamely joined a
conga line and danced around the club.
 
Friday, April 01, 2005
 
Explaining to Matthew

My favorite blogger puts forefinger to chin and wonders why innocent commentators can't get away with saying the Pope isn't such great shakes:

Normally, religious leaders who take stances on controversial political or moral
issues -- from Pat Robertson to Jesse Jackson to Michael Lerner to whomever else
you please -- are considered fair game for criticism and derision from those who
disagree with them.


That's because Jackson, Robertson, et al., are leaders who are religious. The Pope, God bless him, is the leader of an entire religion. Jackson can be criticized without all Baptists (is that what he is?) feeling like they're on the block. But criticize the Pope and some subscribers to his religion are going to feel untolerated.
 
Everything the others don't get

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