Kyle's Republic
Saturday, July 30, 2005
"Tragically, I was an only twin", or, A British Story

This is weird. A friend just gave me a story he wrote around the German legend of the doppelganger, the shadow-man who begins as his original’s servitor and finally robs him of his soul. Thinking about themes from legend is not something I do, but somehow this particular theme has also wound up in Larry Thompson’s Peter Cook, a biography I’m reading just now.

Apparently it’s a tradition in British show business to hate David Frost, and in this book Frost does a good job of playing doppelganger. The match is closest at the start. As with the legend, Cook and Frost met while at university — Cambridge in their case — and the never funny, never talented Frost got in with Cook and his crowd precisely by being subservient and eager to please. But though Cook took the young grind under his wing for a while, he began to worry that Frost was stealing his ideas. Finally he refused to let Frost take his place in the London show of Beyond the Fringe when the original cast went to America. A friend claimed that Cook didn’t like the idea of Frost becoming him. (It has to be understood that, as quoted in my source book, all acquaintances of the two men appear to keenly appreciate the place of symbolic overtone in anecdotes.)

In America, Cook learned that the BBC had taken his idea for a satirical TV program and given it to Frost. The premier used sketches that Cook considered to be his own, old improvisations to which Frost may have contributed a few lines. The show, That Was the Week That Was, became an even bigger hit than Beyond the Fringe simply because it was on television; so Frost had usurped his mentor’s place. Yet Cook could summon him across the Atlantic for an explanation. And on presenting himself, Frost nearly drowned because a swimming pool was on hand and he did not dare let on to Cook that he had never learned to swim. In real life the doppelganger tends to remain subservient even after mastering his original, a twist that I think the legend leaves out.

At any rate . . . At Cambridge and then in London, Cook was the star of stars, but he wound up loafing about doing cameo bits and drinking himself to death. Meanwhile, Frost kept busy as an impresario and international headliner (or the closest thing British talk shows have to one). Cook lost, Frost won. But what did Frost win and how? Here the parallel with legend is lacking in two key respects.

The legend’s doppelganger takes its victim’s soul; Cook held on to his, as shown by the many worthwhile quotes from his talk-show appearances into the 90s. Second, while Frost elbowed Cook out of the way, he did not lead his friend into ruin, which was the original doppelganger's modus operandi. No suggestion is made, for example, that Frost put his friend in touch with liquor distributors. Cook was his own corruptor.

The overall shape of the men’s story suggests a typically British drama, one in which brilliance flares but cannot last. Discipline is equated with self-denial, and diligence is considered a cancer of the soul, bu their lack dooms a man to glorious failure. Either one is an industrious grub like Frost or a glorious wreck like Cook -- that's the moral of this true-life tale. The corollary is that having a soul is not enough and may even be a handicap. Because we are made too wrong ever to be right, and our wrongness takes the form not so much of sin as innefectuality and irrelevance. As I said, it's a British story.
Saturday, July 23, 2005
"I was just made by the Presbyterian Church"

Also: "Giving first aid the already disheveled hair projection." And: "Pregnancy? Pregnancy."

Context: Someone has figured out what to do with George Lucas's dialogue. (By way of Mahablog from Matthew Yglesias.)

Friday, July 22, 2005
Echo campaign

Mark Kleiman debates across the aisle about Rove and says this:

I think that Rove was running a disinformation operation designed to
discredit Wilson, and that whoever talked to Novak had coordinated with Rove in
advance. Likely Libby talked to Novak, who called Rove for confirmation.

Right-wingers have been saying Rove wasn't behind the Plame leak because (allegedly) all he did was say "I heard that too" when Novak brought up the matter. Kleiman underlines the useful point that political/pr campaigns tend to be group efforts. To put the name before the public, Rove wouldn't have had to bring it up himself during a phone call. Aides and associates can do that sort of thing.

If I may underline a second point, successful liars have found that the ideal lie is something "everybody" is saying, not something you're saying. Secretly start a few different people talking -- it's called a whisper campaign -- and let the falsehood reach your dupes from a few different directions. Even one direction is OK, as long as it's not you. That way, when asked about the story, you can say, "I heard that too."

What successful liars have done this? Well, Ahmad Chalabi was one. He planted "defectors" with several different intelligence agencies, the idea being that the countries involved would compare notes and talk each other into seeing an Iraqi threat. And another could well be Karl Rove. The Atlantic reported in its November 2004 issue:

"It was our standard practice to use the University of Alabama Law School to
disseminate whisper-campaign information," the staffer went on. "That was a
major device we used for the transmission of this stuff. The students at the law
school are from all over the state, and that's one of the ways that Karl got the
information out—he knew the law students would take it back to their home towns
and it would get out." This would create the impression that the lie was in fact
common knowledge across the state.

The lie in question was the claim that an opposing candidate in Alabama was a child molester. (The excerpt is preserved on Joshua Marshall's site.)
Thursday, July 21, 2005
Of all the damn things

Lindsay Berenstein is Majikthise, a young blogger who is getting a lot of attention ("Analytic philosophy and liberal politics" runs her blog's subtitle). She may also have been a previous occupant of my apartment here in Montreal. Today junk mail from the New Democratic Party arrived bearing an address label with her name. Unless it was a different L. Beyerstein. I havee-mailed her and perhaps there will be an answer.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
The Rove approach and Barack Obama

To Rove-up Obama, you'd say he was a racist against dark-skinned blacks. His two calling cards with most voters is that he's nice and he's black, with the second element meaning that support for him is an antidote against racism. Take those away and it's easy for whites to think of him as vain and fraudulent and maybe a bit uppity. The best thing is that it'sa tough for whites to judge feeling for a politician among blacks, since we don't know many blacks.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Salut, Marie-Eve!

My language buddy, the lovely and gracious Marie-Eve, say she will take a look at my blog. Bienvenue!

("Language buddy" means we get together and practie French for an hour and English for an hour.)
Monday, July 18, 2005
Hammer of the Blogs

This site is getting some attention, so I will throw my weight behind it. Hammer raises a useful possibility by means of metaphor:

The low-key damage control coming out of the White House is a thing to
behold. Clearly they are hoping to chain this puppy out in the back yard and not
feed it, and hope that it'll starve to death on its own. Knowing this gang,
there probably is an actual puppy involved somewhere along the line.

Sunday, July 17, 2005
Light-rock blogging

On Q92 just now: "'Mercy, Mercy Me' from the late, great . . . Robert Palmer." Not Marvin Gaye. I didn't even know Palmer was dead.
Fighting Truth With Power

Slogans for the New America.
The most hopeful words I've heard so far

But as the story hurtles toward a conclusion sometime this year . . .

From the Wash. Post on Rove-Plame. The article offers a big round-up of the case to date.
Mfb 3

At the same time, arguing that Rove should be fired or stripped of his
security clearance or what have you strikes me as clearly futile. Bush likes
Rove. Rove is good at smearing Bush's political opponents. Anything Rove may
have done wrong was undertaken in an effort to shield Bush from politically
damaging information. Bush wants people working for him who are willing to
violate the law, or violate executive orders, or violate basic morality, or
imperil national security, or do whatever else it takes to bolster his political
standing. One is inclined to think that Rove would more likely have been fired
for confessing to the President that he didn't bring down the hatchet than for
violating some rule.

If a criminal conviction can be secured, Rove will be pried forcibly out of
the White House. No doubt, under the circumstances, he'll receive a pardon when
Bush is a lame duck, and like all the various Iran-Contra felons bouncing around
the DC area will continue to be a prominent figure in American conservatism. I
can't really think of any instances where something as petty as intimate links
to a massive criminal conspiracy has seriously damaged the career of a rightwing
political figure in this country. Just ask Chuck Colson or Elliot Abrams or
Michael Ledeen or whoever you like.
Me and Instapundit

Reynolds will put anyone on his blogroll who links to him. Or is it if you put him on your blogroll, assuming you have one? Probably, but let's see.
Cold nose, slippery slope

The sex columnist in the Montreal Mirror follows the road that "Man-on-Dog" Santorum warned us against. Sasha tries to figure out what's wrong with having sex with your dog, aside from the fact that it's disgusting and messed-up --- a fact that Sasha frets may really be an opinion, given that people do have sex with dogs and that the dogs not only appear unbothered but also, well, tend to initiate contact. Maybe, but the opinion is one I cannot do without. Take it away and the universe becomes somewhere I'd rather not be.

Reading between the lines (Sasha is uncharacteristically circumspect), the topic does not appear to be penetration of dogs but just . . . Oh Jesus, never mind. Anyway, Sasha takes this all very seriously. She dispenses with readers' questions for the week so she can hash out the matter.

Money quote (as they say):

I’ve had countless dogs hump my leg without my consent

Another money quote, and perhaps the foundation stone for a 21st-century morality:

For me, the core moral issue is this: is it wrong to take advantage of a dog’s
willingness? For my part, I question people who want a partner that is so
indiscriminate. Not so much a partner who can’t say no because it lacks choice,
but won’t say no because it lacks discrimination.

And one for the senator:

For many years and in many countries, homosexuality was considered the same as
bestiality: a crime against nature. The very fact that we have placed these two
things wholesale in the same category shows how little incisive thought we have
actually given either.
Saturday, July 16, 2005
Changing times

A comics/gaming/sf/etc. convention is set for February at the Javits Center in NYC. I went to sf and comic cons as a kid in the 70s, so the passage below (from Publishers Weekly) gave me a kick, or a twinge. Geek entertainment swims in the ocean of big money these days.

. . . the show will focus on graphic novels, manga, anime, TV and Film,
toys, computer games and licensing rights. The show's first day will be
trade-only, before opening to the public for the next two. Greg Topalian, group
v-p at Reed Exhibitions, said that "We had focus groups, we tested this and we
know the market is positive."

I like how licensing rights slips in there along with the stuff fans would want to see. And then there's the mention of focus groups, of course. Also, notice that my reference to comics and sf is more than a bit off. Comics are graphic novels now, and sf (a book category) doesn't make the cut. The two signifiers of geek entertainment from my young days, the two I reach for automatically, now don't apply.
You know you're not big league when . . .

I've been back to PBD three times just to click on my link in the blog roll.
'Malignant industry and persevering falsehoods'

George Washington's phrase for what he put up with from the Aurora, a partisan rag of some sort run by Ben Franklin's grandson. (The Washington Post calls it a "paleo-blog," for what that's worth. The article, via Kevin Drum, is mainly about the bloggers Barbara O'Brien and Betsy Newmark.)

Washington hit something on the head, identified a minor point that I have found odious without ever thinking about it much. It chafes me that the GOP and its bunch work so hard at crafting their disfo. The spliced quotes, the half-facts, the minor poetry of their loaded phrases. People have to think up talking points. It's sustained, detailed work , and it's done for motives that range from dingy to vicious (the GOP on Kerry's war record). Diligent, hard-working nastiness is a combination that reminds you people don't actually find it that hard to go low. Living flat to the ground isn't so far off from our natures. We can adjust and get on with business.

"Persevering falsehoods" also rings a bell, though I suppose you could find the same complaint in any entrenched dispute. The other side --- man, are they stubborn.

UPDATE: I gave the Post article a quick read and it looks quite good. O'Brien/Newmark were invited by the reporter to spend a day in DC and see what they made of each other. Along with those scenes the article includes a good tour of the blogging scene and a look at the tendency of left/right bloggers to slice reality down the middle --- our facts and their facts, the news stories we write about vs. the ones they write about.
Mike McCurry doesn't get it and I do?

That's one possibility, because here's what the man says:

Rove was making a late week heads up call to the White House news magazine
reporter and, believe me, that is not the time or place to dish major strategy.
A two-minute call such as the one now reported is basically to get the signals
straight -- green, yellow, red. Rove seems to have been telling Cooper that the
yellowcake story was a flashing yellow and he needed to be cautious.

But Cooper's e-mail doesn't indicate Rove was dishing (that is, discussing) his strategy of getting Wilson, just executing it. I'd imagine that a call to a news magazine's White House reporter would be one occasion on which any major political/p.r. strategy (such as a top-priority smear campaign) would have to come in for at least a little execution. Rove gave his yellow light on the spurious ground that Wilson's wife was CIA, and in doing so he endangered her cover. Perhaps not in such a way as to break the law, but endangering the woman's cover is what he did. Surely that counts for something.

Maybe press secretaries for scandal-embattled presidents share mental reflexes the rest of us don't. That guy must be really good at not noticing things.

(McCurry's post via Wonkette)
I thought that was the point

Likewise, the great British Press, the envy of the world, contains a mass of
half-truths, deliberate omissions, undeclared interests, and regurgitated press

An earnest young Englishman looks on the press back home from the vantage point of New York. Andrew Sullivan linked to the essay, quite possibly because he likes the fellow's conclusions (Europe kind of jerky, U.S. not so bad). I think the young chap is a bit susceptible, since the source of his new views is simply spending a year in an American city. I used to think all intelligent people understood that belonging to a particular spot on the globe inevitably influences how you see the rest of the globe. Then I met English people and realized they think this applies only to Americans.
What the fuck? (part 2)

Alicublog found this on the Free Republic's cartoon page. It's the sort of cartoon that relies almost solely on heightened expression and barely at all on humor. By which I mean that no part seems meant as a joke. Certainly not the 9-11 part.

It will freak your head. Click here.
New York Times Poetry

A front-page caption/blurb:

At its elite level, twirling is an enterprise that is both aesthetically
expressive and indisputably athletic.

Prose that says, "Slap me. Suh-lapp me!"
What the fuck?

I was reading down thru PBD (Progressive Blog Digest) and I saw my own blog's name. They've got me on their blog roll! What the . . . ? It's a strange event, unexpected, a freak.

Well, I'm happy for it. I visit PBD a lot and we're the only blogs with the same pawky, powder-blue layout from off the rack at Blogspot. God knows how the PBD man fell for it. I thought it would be text-friendly and never figured out how to get a new one.

Anyway . . . Hey you -- out there! You're reading me. Yeah.

All right, take a break.
Friday, July 15, 2005
Hopeful signs

Checking in on my honest man of the right, I find Mr. Cole linking freely and unprejudicially to Mahablog for the anti-Bush perspective on Rove, et al. Mr. Cole is a present or former military man and a conservative Republican. Mahablog (Mr. Cole cheerfully calls it "Maha") bills itself as "Home Blog of the American Resistance!", features headlines like "Bush Betrays Brits," and is run by Barbara O'Brien, who seeks truth and despises Bush from a devout Buddhist perspective. Ms. O'Brien has remarked that on the torture issue, at least, Mr. Cole has been honest enough to be in "serious danger of getting his rightie credentials revoked." That's high praise, coming from our side of the aisle.

And, I don't know, bad as things are, it's good that a right-wing military man and an anti-Bush Buddhist can share this much common ground. That's America, kind of.
Poll: Bush rating at 56!

Except that's disapproval. (AP by way of Atrios)

Oddly, 56% disapproval is the result for almost all of the survey's questions. Exceptions include Iraq (61% dis.), Social Security (61% dis.), and foreign policy/terror war (48% dis., 51% app., I guess because of a helpful bump from the failure of Bush's policies in London).

A month ago, Gallup/USA Today found Bush at 45% app., 53% dis. I mention Gallup because in searching for Jimmy Carter's disapproval ratings, this site was the first and easiest to find. So get ready for Carter's highest dis. rating ever, according to Gallup. Warning: it will astonish you. Here it is -- 59%, during the beautiful malaise summer of 1979. That's all. I was expecting 70%.

Clinton's worst: 54%, just before Gingrich took Congress.

old Bush's worst: 60%, the summer of '92.

Reagan's worst: 56% in January 1983, when the recession (or depression -- how the old arguments come back) was still hanging on for a bit.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
A good right-wing blogger

His name is John Cole and he seems like an honest man.
Robots, rubber cement deemed unnecessary

Vie Mahablog, a snapshot of the thinking conservative in action. A rightie named Vodkapundit fretfully struggles toward the conclusion (more like struggles toward an inkling) that maybe there might have been something amiss in Karl Rove slipping the word about Joe Wilson's undercover spy wife to the press. He thinks it might have hurt morale among the good spies, the ones not married to authors of regime-disfavored op-ed pieces.

Someday a robot may slog thirty feet thru a vat of rubber cement. If so, the robot will have wasted its time. Vodkapundit has achieved the same effect with some HTML and a lot of chin-pulling.

On the plus side, his site's photograph indicates that Vodkapundit is equipped with one hell of a raffish, soulful man-about-town mug and accompanying glower. His face jumps off the screen; the words just sort of lie there and twitch.
Here's to you, Will Rogers

Eric Alterman notes that Rove's defenders are grasping at straws. Mahablog responds:

They are grasping at straws, but at the moment that's enough. Most
of the righties seem to be buying it, Stephen Green excepted, and
if the Right can keep enough disinformation in circulation, those
citizens paying little close attention (which is most of 'em) will absorb
the meme that Rove really didn't do anything wrong, and those bad lefties
are just picking on him.

And this raises one of my favorite, if normally unspoken, thoughts about the political landscape. We spend a lot of energy thrashing at the Bush administration's detailed but stupid and transparent lies. And we wouldn't have to if the average citizen put more effort, or any effort, into reading up on events before deciding that he or she had the lowdown. I'm not talking about the dittoheads (if that term doesn't date me), merely about the average cluck. Somehow people are vain enough to think they're informed just because the TV is on a news channel and no one has switched it off.
Bastille Day, man!

That's today, man.
I have to find this out from the Internet

Now and then I wander past the Etienne Cartier monument on a Sunday afternoon to watch dancing hippie chicks and the hairy guys thumping each other with imitation swords and (I believe) pikes. Now I find out that the latter group was physically set upon by a third faction, this one dressed up as zombies.

Fucking Montreal, man! I'm told it's an exciting place to live.

UPDATE: Here's a reasonably full account.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
It was Reagan

The New Yorker lets slip a factual error. Writing "Notes and Comments," Louis Menand says Anthony Kennedy was appointed by the first Bush. Hah, no! (See above.)

Does this matter? Not as much as I'd like. But still, a fact-checking department is definitely slipping if it can't handle the who-what-when of a top-level presidential appointment. That stuff is in almanacs.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Again, my favorite blogger

Moral clarity, after all, is pretty easy to come by. Murdering people in the
London Underground: bad. Kidnapping diplomats in Iraq: bad. Beheading people:
bad. It's all very bad and we're all very morally clear about it. Factual
clarity -- actually understanding what's going on and why -- is pretty hard. But
by the same token, it's much more important.

That's Matthew Yglesias (again at Tapped) dealing with, on the one hand, Christopher Hitchens swelling up his chest, and on the other with a professor who has studied all suicide terrorist attacks since 1980 and found their connecting thread is not hatred of freedom but hatred of having one's territory occupied.
Monday, July 11, 2005
My favorite blogger

After all, if invading and occupying medium-sized countries riven by ethnic and sectarian divisions and turning them into prosperous, pro-American liberal democracies was easy to do, we'd be doing it all the time. That a handful of liberal intellectuals decided at some point in 2002 that it was, in fact, an easy thing to do says a great deal about the intellectuals and very little about the Bush administration.

Matthew Yglesias (at Tapped) reminds us of the common-sense perspective on grand adventures in foreign lands. Having missed out on the 2002 debate, I reconstruct it now and get the impression that few were taking the above line. Beats me as to why, considering Vietnam. Bush-Rumsfeld-Cheney have their own delusions, but why weren't others speaking up to say this sort of thing almost never tends to work well, that invasion and foreign reconstruction most often prove to be a bleeding pain in the ass that sensible countries avoid?

And of course a bunch of intellectuals (or different clumps of intellectuals) were pushing for the war because they figured absolutely no problems would follow from tearing up a country and trying to stitch it together in new ways. Good God.
Best wishes

I think the country would be better off if Dick Cheney dropped dead. He's done too much harm and in the next three years he can do a lot more. The safest, happiest outcome available is for nature to take him.

My brother reproved me for these views. "He was elected," he said gently. "In three years someone else will be elected." That's true. But I can't see how a Cheney heart attack would be worse than the damage inflicted by his survival. It's a cold calculus, as he might say, but inescapable.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
Revisiting Bush's bulge in the second debate

The back of the president's jacket showed a telltale ridge during the second '04 debate. But what did the ridge tell? Partisans speculated that a wire and earpiece were feeding Bush mid-debate ammunition, no doubt including the name of Italy's premier (which is Silvio Berlusconi, though the president called him Sergio). Relayed by James Wolcott, a new theory emerges.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Last Friday my friend Michel parked himself in the window of his favorite bar to razz the girls passing by. The occasion was the heat wave, which had women wearing even less than they usually do during a Montreal summer.

Michel is 50, small, dresses in Salvation Army jeans and t-shirts, and is both bald and hairy -- his crown is bare, but he has a steel-wire beard and a tenacious ponytail. Also, some of his teeth are missing. Most of the time he's drunk at his bar (the Bifteck) or drunk in the basement of our building, where he watches his TV and his collection of video tapes. He's a great favorite at the Bifteck and in general, for reasons that I hope will come out in this post.

Telling me about his razzing adventures, he said he would tell the girls they were beautiful and ask if they would marry him. "This is for pretty and even not pretty. But not ugly. I don't say that to the ugly ones."

"You have to draw the line," I said.

"It is cruelty," he told me with a touch of reproach. "People who are ugly know they are ugly. To say, 'Oh, you are beautiful' just reminds them."
Sidewalk fun

A ratty-looking guy and girl were huddled outside the bank with their belongings, which looked burnable. A section of cardboard was propped up next to their panhandling hat and bore the words (magic-markered): $2 SHORT OF TAKING OVER THE WORLD

Me (handing over a $2 coin): I hope this does it.
Girl: Thanks, man. We're going to make it peaceful, man.
Me: I'd appreciate that.
Everything the others don't get

12/01/2003 - 01/01/2004 / 01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004 / 02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004 / 03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004 / 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004 / 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004 / 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004 / 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004 / 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004 / 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004 / 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004 / 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004 / 12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005 / 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005 / 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005 / 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005 / 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005 / 05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005 / 06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005 / 07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005 / 08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005 / 11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006 /

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