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June 11, 2004

Out with the Old, in with the New

(Click "Turn Light On" at the top of the left-hand column if you find this layout difficult to read.)

Just so you know what you're looking at, here, I thought I'd offer a quick explanation. This post, from the spring, experiments with a format that I'd like to do more often. Herein, I managed to catch Mayor Stephen Laffey's Big Line from the Rhode Island GOP convention, footage of which I haven't seen anywhere else.

That's an advantage of blog-style video reportage: quality can be compromised for expediency. When the crowd starts to murmur or the protestors outside begin to drown out the speakers, you can grab the camera from the bag; people also aren't (yet) as apt to put on a false performance for a home camera. Unfortunately, a corresponding disadvantage is that the coverage must be self-directed and (for now) self-financed. That's why I haven't managed to make a practice of it. Maybe when I've gotten blogging up to part-time-job status...

As I suggested in the context of Edward Achorn's belief that Rhode Islanders' displeasure will, at some point, break through their political apathy, the motion might already be forming within the state's GOP. Voters need someone else for whom to vote, after all, before they can overthrow inadequate leadership.

For that reason, it is only more fitting that remembrance of Ronald Reagan permeated the RIGOP convention on Thursday — from Chairwoman Patricia Morgan's misspoken request for "ayes" from all who wished to endorse President Reagan's bid for a second term to Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey's likening of his view of the RIGOP's prospects to Reagan's optimism about the fall of the Soviet Union. (Both of which seem laughably improbable as predictions.)

For some idea of just how mired this state is in its political system, consider that I had no idea that the speeches related to internal controversy were of any more significance than what might be found in a high school student senate until the highest high point of the evening. Even then, I didn't get a sense of the magnitude of the shift until I read Scott MacKay's explanation in the Providence Journal.

Video: Scott MacKay (3sec). Windows Media

According to MacKay:

In what some Republicans saw as his first foray into making a run for statewide office, Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey spearheaded a move at the Republican State Convention last night to depose Michael Traficante, the former Cranston mayor and longtime Republican stalwart, from a top party post.

Traficante was set to run for reelection as national committeeman, a position that carries an automatic seat to the Republican National Convention, when people close to Laffey at City Hall discovered that Traficante had disaffiliated from the Republican Party.

Mayor Laffey has raised eyebrows across the state by cracking down on precisely the sort of degeneration in his town that infects the entire state and much of the country — taking on everything from "political patronage" crossing guards and gas pump inspectors to ACLU attacks on Christmas displays. Not surprisingly, the mayor — the only key figure who, despite being the most bustling politician in the room, offered a lurking blogger so much as a quick "hello" — with his somewhat wild eyes and candid language, looks to be the focal point for the incipient revolution. From MacKay:

"Out with the old, in with the new," said Laffey in a campaign speech supporting Robert Manning, a 51-year-old retired banker from Charlestown, who was installed in Traficante's place.

Video: Stephen Laffey (28.6sec). Windows Media

A former head of Citigroup Japan, Manning reminded the crowd that the Rhode Island Republicans are the 15 in the 85/15 split — and for a reason. Now the beneficiary of an upstart movement, he enters the scene as a representative of change.

Another such representative is Dave Rogers, who is running a second time against Patrick Kennedy for my district's seat in the U.S. Congress. As I believe is appropriate for a national candidate, Rogers's persona is less incendiary, and in his speech, he made a point of his intention not to settle into a political position (approximately): "Patrick Kennedy says he's never worked a day in his life. This won't be my first job, and it won't be my last."

I've implied before that Rogers is running against images and stereotypes that Rhode Islanders' believe about themselves and about conservatives. So, it is fitting that he's more approachable and less forward than Laffey and is inclined to make self-effacing jokes about the arrogance of having had to nominate himself the first time he ran. (This is by no means the best part of his speech, but for the below-mentioned reasons, I didn't film the rest.)

Video: Dave Rogers (18.5sec). Windows Media

All considered, and admitting that I am a political naif, I couldn't help but see, in the burgeoning movement within the RIGOP, reason for more hope for my state than I've yet been able to muster. I also couldn't help but notice the irony of different groups' relative roles. While, inside the Cranston Knights of Columbus building, a quiet revolution was beginning, with the intention of returning a balanced political system and sensible government to Rhode Island, outside, the activists marching on the street, drawing honks from passing cars, were protesting for bigger government and expanded benefits for a limited few.

Video: Protesters (30.1sec). Windows Media

As MacKay touches on, the marchers were private child-care providers who are trying to be defined as public employees in order to gain some of the benefits that come with that status in this state. In Spanish and English they exploited children and chanted ill-fitting clichés; "No justice, no peace" translated into the circumstances meant "no free healthcare, no peace."

If the rumble within the political party that is euphemistically called the "minority" in the state of Rhode Island continues to grow, perhaps we'll end up with justice, peace, and prosperity to boot.

Readers who are new since then — which means most of you — may not know it, but for a brief while last year, I was a blogosphere video star. The video blogs (vlogs) that I made during that time can be found on the main page of Timshel Arts, under the heading "Timshel TV."

There are only four, two of which deal with the idea of vlogging, because when the curiosity viewers began to dissipate, even the ego boost wasn't enough to justify the hours it took to create a few minutes of a pseudo-polished movie. As I concluded in my very first, very skeptical vlog about the medium, for the foreseeable future, content-rich blogs will be about the extent of the movement. And even that hasn't really materialized.

This post represents a new experiment that I hope to pursue more regularly in the future (assuming I manage to maintain the time without going into bankruptcy or having to sell my video camera). Call it a multimedia blog, a v-blog (a post that integrates video with standard blogging), or whatever, the idea is that, where possible and fruitful, I'll use video in much the way INDC Journal uses photographs (here's Bill's coverage of the Reagan casket procession).

Let me admit that this initial v-blog isn't very good. It took a good 10 minutes of listening to the protesters outside for me to realize, "Hey, this is what I carry around this video camera for." Not having any defined purpose for filming, I didn't brave the sidewalk in the midst of the protesters.

Moreover, regarding events on the inside, I went to the gathering almost entirely to meet with somebody involved with one of the campaigns and had no idea who anybody was, let alone what controversies were bubbling under the visible surface. And again, not having a set purpose for filming, I didn't give much thought to positioning, camera steadiness, and the like. I didn't react quickly enough to catch most of the significant moments, anyway, and I had to leave early.

In short, this post is more an experiment than anything else — an invitation to you to comment on the technology of the thing, strategies for future efforts, and so on. Please offer any thoughts that you might have in the comment section.

Posted by Justin Katz at June 11, 2004 3:18 PM