Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hey how about this Brian Wilson interview in the Onion AV Club? Pretty coherent!

After you hear Pet Sounds, you're emotionally drained. I wanted to have people leave on a kind of good, jovial high with Smile. I wanted Smile to make people a little happier and a little more up by the time the album was over, so they would walk away and say, "Hey, I like that album," instead of going, "Wow, what an emotional drain that was." That was my mood.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Some days are better than others.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Clark '08?

When General Wesley Clark threw his hat into the ring during the Democratic primaries, his candidacy was exciting for many Democrats, including me and Michael Moore both, because of his good looks, sterling resume and opposition to the Iraq war. As a politician, it turned out that he wasn't ready for primetime, though: he committed too many gaffes, contradicted himself and just wasn't graceful enough to negotiate the 24-7 media blitz that modern campaigning has become.

For '04, Clark's problem went deeper than his lack of polish, though. At that time--and throughout 2004--most Americans still supported the war. The frustration and despair of the left base at that time wasn't yet shared by most Americans. Any Democratic politician who wanted the nomination had to beat up on the war (and everyone but Lieberman did just that), but any plausible candidate for the general election had to support it. Democrats tried to thread this needle by choosing John Kerry, a not unreasonable choice, if not the one I would have made.

But opinion polls in these dog days of summer '05 show something very different. Public opinion is turning against the war and against President Bush. This trend seems likely to continue, and this could harm de facto '08 frontrunner Hillary Clinton, who has carefully branded herself as a hawkish Democrat and has supported the adminstration on the war at every turn.

Which brings us back to General Wesley Clark. He expressed forceful opposition to the Iraq war before the invasion and throughout the primary season. At the same time, his national security credentials are unimpeachable, and he was the Supreme Allied Commander of the successful mission in Kosovo. He's a liberal internationalist in the best way, and with political skills sharpened over the course of these four years, he could emerge as a serious contender for the '08 nomination.

Here is Clark's persuasive editorial in today's Washington Post, and here is a post about his detailed plan to stop genocide in Darfur.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I didn't say assassination. I said our special forces should 'take him out.' And 'take him out' can be a number of things, including kidnapping; there are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him.
Indeed, the record shows that Pat Robertson did not say "assassination." He said:
If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it.

So as you can see, "do it" in this context could mean any number of things, such as "kidnap him" or "take him out for an ice cream sundae" or "put on our pajamas."

PS -- Dmnkly has a hilarious graphical representation of one of Robertson's possible meanings, and he offers up a policy proposal that I think we can all get behind.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Maybe it's just me [Part II]

... but man, I thought the series finale of Six Feet Under was terrible. Like, last-episode-of-Seinfeld terrible.

PS -- Here's Laura's discussion of the episode.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Maybe it's just me

...but I think "Diddy" is Sean Combs' best name yet.

Why Michael Coleman probably can't be governor of Ohio


Just sayin'.
New Stop Smiling piece is up here, reviewing a biography of the famous poker player Stuey "The Kid" Ungar. Paired with Dolores Alfieri's excellent review of the folk music memoir The Mayor of McDougal Street.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Graph of Bush's approval rating, from a variety of polling sources, over the length of his presidency so far. Not long now and he'll be breaking the 40% mark. How long, do you suppose, until he's in the 30s?

PS -- The latest Rasmussen poll is another typical sampling, putting Bush's approval at 43% vs disapproval at 55%. More than that, though, kausfiles observes that fully 41% "strongly disapprove" while only 21% "strongly approve." Quoth Kaus:
Doesn't this imbalance of fervor mean something in low-turnout elections, such as the upcoming 2006 mid-terms? Specifically, doesn't it mean the anti-Bush forces should do very well in 2006, in a mirror-reversal of the 1996 mid-terms?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Based on the one song I downloaded from Salon, my impression is that Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are a Talking Heads tribute band. Is this correct?

Friday, August 12, 2005

NARAL has now pulled the ad. Of course, this calculation is theirs to make, and I am strictly an outside observer. But let me pose this question: Why even produce an ad as obviously confrontational and vituperative as this one if you aren't going to stand behind it? Make the ad, get some media attention, draw the ire of a moderate Republican senator and then immediately withdraw the ad? To me this seems like the worst of both worlds.

PS -- Words from The Note:
The [White House's] victory, of course, is not getting the ad off the air. The victory is reminding all the players and observers of this process who is on offense and who on defense. And perhaps more importantly, the incident will cause Roberts' opponents on the left to be a bit more gun shy going forward.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Another sign we're on the right track: the liberal media disapproves of the NARAL ad.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Also, I like Dan Savage's idea, posted on AndrewSullivan.com, where he is guest-blogging:
I have a policy proposal: Anyone who doesn't believe in evolution shouldn't enjoy the benefits of evolution. No eyes, no walking upright, no opposable thumbs. It's back to the primordial ooze for members of the Kansas Board of Education.
Efforts to enact election & redistricting reforms in Ohio are succeeding. This is good. Ohio! Listen up! Your next job is to elect a Democratic governor. This shouldn't be too hard to do, since Taft currently ranks as the 50th most popular governor in the nation. (Please note that in the U.S., there are a total of 50 states.) In fact, his approval rating is a truly jaw-dropping 17%.

And as long as you're electing a Democratic governor, Ohio, I'd like you to strongly consider somebody who would make a good VP candidate. (Ted Strickland would probably do; Michael Coleman probably wouldn't.) You may not realize this, Ohio, but you are sort of a big deal when national elections come around.
Public Advocate of the United States doesn't know a left wing conspiracy when it sees one!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Here's a NARAL ad opposing Roberts for his amicus brief in support of abortion clinic bombers. This is a good ad, I think. In the accompanying article, Pres. of NARAL Nancy Keenan says:
“I want to be very clear that we are not suggesting Mr. Roberts condones or supports clinic violence. I’m sure he finds bombings and murder abhorrent. But still his ideological view of the law compelled him to go out of his way to argue on behalf of someone like Michael Bray, who had already been convicted of a string of bombings.”
Sounds like good politics to me.

Q. Is there something weird or inconsistent about attacking Roberts on abortion at the same time we snuggle up to him on gay rights?

A. No.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

The right is onto us!

Limbaugh knows it. WorldNetDaily knows it. Any appearance of John Roberts' sympathy for gay rights activists is proof of a left wing conspiracy! Take Concerned Woman Janice Crouse ferinstance, who talks to WND in this article:
Crouse thinks the story likely was generated by a political motivation – to divide the Christian community. "It's a matter of the left being desperate to throw something at a man who appears to be exceptionally well qualified and committed to interpreting the Constitution as written," she said.
(Only by loopy right-wing logic does reporting on Roberts' pro bono work constitute "throwing something at" him. This news made us like him more!) But even Crouse acknowledges that "If it appears that this is a matter of a pattern, that would be a concern." Okay. Vague, mostly concealed discomfort. We can work with that!

Much more useful is somebody named Brian Fahling, who is quoted saying:
It seems [Roberts is] a faithful Catholic, and for him to be on the front end of a case that literally put a dagger squarely into the moral heart of America – there are as some incongruities there.
Literally puts a dagger squarely into the moral heart of America! Now there's the ideological panic we're looking for!

Members of the vast left-wing conspiracy, unite!
Q. Is The Neptunes' newfound penchant for minimalism a cue taken from Timbaland?

A. Yes! But they're still a lot different. Timbo is working in a pop idiom all right, but I think Neptunes has a more crowd-pleasing, malleable sensibility. That's not a dis--hip-hop is a populist art form, and who can argue with "I'm a Slave 4 U"/"Hot in Herre"/"Drop It Like It's Hot"? Timbaland is not necessarily better for being more obstreperous, but a track like "Pass That Dutch" was so brutally minimal that it had an edge of Metal Machine Music-style confrontation. The Neptunes have indeed borrowed some of Timbaland's minimalism, but everything they make still twinkles.

Also worth remembering that Timbaland produced not only "Get Ur Freak On"/"Big Pimpin'"/"Cry Me a River," but also a lot of flops. He lent his name and production to three terrible albums with Magoo; Bubba Sparxxx's Deliverance was underrated and underperforming; even This is Not a Test! was Missy's worst-selling album since Da Real World. So it's also possible that Timbo is going the way of the RZA, and that he will show up in a few years scoring films or doing something else besides producing rap records.

Now, Saxdrop, please tell me about the pros and cons of CAFTA.

Friday, August 05, 2005

John Roberts Loves Gay Rights

This article in the New York Times delivers a delightful political gift to Democrats: John Roberts’ legal advice was instrumental in a landmark 1996 case "protecting gay men and lesbians from state-sanctioned discrimination." Details:
Judge Roberts...spent about six hours on the case, [lead plaintiff's attorney Jean] Dubofsky said. "He told me, 'You have to know how to count and to get five votes, you're going to have to pick up the middle.' "

And then, she said, Judge Roberts provided explicit instructions on how to do just that, telling her that she would have to prove to the court it did not have to overturn a previous case, Bowers v. Hardwick, which upheld a ban on homosexual sodomy. He peppered her with questions in a moot court session.

"So when I was asked by Justice Scalia if they would have to overturn Bowers v. Hardwick to rule my way, I said no," Ms. Dubofsky said.
Of course this is great news on policy, since Roberts suddenly seems much more likely to decide gay rights cases in a way that would please Democrats. But it is even better news on politics, 'cuz James Dobson and his ilk are gonna hate this. Hopefully they will feel betrayed/ignored by the White House and the Republican Party and hopefully they will squawk and howl about it loudly and at length. This can only hasten the continuing implosion of Karl Rove’s base strategy!

So let’s play this up in a big way! All Dems and lefty pundits should single Roberts out for praise on this case, citing him as a likely ally on gay rights, and [coyly], oh, who knows, maybe lots of issues. Then watch the smoke start to come out of James Dobson's and Ann Coulter’s ears.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Though his Mormonism and untelegenic style mean that Harry Reid will never make a good presidential candidate, he has sure proven extremely effective as Senate Minority Leader. He gets the profile treatment in the New Yorker, including this fabulous anecdote from his days as chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission:
In July of 1978, a man named Jack Gordon, who was later married to LaToya Jackson, offered Reid twelve thousand dollars to approve two new, carnival-like gaming devices for casino use. Reid reported the attempted bribe to the F.B.I. and arranged a meeting with Gordon in his office. By agreement, F.B.I. agents burst in to arrest Gordon at the point where Reid asked, “Is this the money?” Although he was taking part in a sting, Reid was unable to control his temper; the videotape shows him getting up from his chair and saying, “You son of a bitch, you tried to bribe me!” and attempting to choke Gordon, before startled agents pulled him off. “I was so angry with him for thinking he could bribe me,” Reid said, explaining his theatrical outburst. Gordon was convicted in federal court in 1979 and sentenced to six months in prison.

Bad-ass!
Engrossing Washington Post article discusses the legal ways that lobbyists funnel money and luxury vacations to politicians. The truth is that there are many, many unethical practices that are completely widespread and perfectly legal.

Here's an interesting detail on the practices of Washington's political machinery:
Lawmakers can no longer solicit, and political parties can't accept, soft money -- those large, unregulated donations that for years had helped candidates in elections. They can now collect only "hard money" -- strictly limited amounts that go directly into election coffers. But they can still attract large sums for other purposes -- very worthy ones, they insist -- such as self-named academic institutions. Companies with interest in legislation have trouble saying no.
Obviously, short of actual embezzlement schemes, such "self-named academic institutions" don't directly enrich the politicians who take donations for them. Their "take" is a bit more abstract: companies contribute to the politicians' prestige, flattering them and keeping their public profiles high. This is the stuff that's above-board. Don't doubt for a minute that the deals made behind closed doors are much more craven and direct. This is our system.

PS--And of course Democrats are also guilty of these practices, but I stop short of labeling them "as guilty": not in today's Washington, they aren't.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Ima haveta get me some of those Adibok sneaks.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

But JM/MH, we DID win on Bolton

And if you don't believe me, watch the Daily Show. Its first fifteen minutes are a string of mustache jokes: Bolton as a 10-year-old with a thick white mustache, Bolton juxtaposed with Wilford Brimley. It is sweet.

Democrats have taken control of Bolton's public image. And Bolton has legs! The next political battle that matters is '06. The face of the Republican party should be--and is--Bolton, DeLay, and Karl Rove. Welcome to your 17 month Ambassadorship, Mr. Bolton. 17 months...it occurs to me that this would put us right in the thick of an election season...

PS--Bush's approval rating hits all-time low...

P.P.S--Here's a link (via Crooks & Liars) to the hilarious ten-minute Daily Show clip.

Monday, August 01, 2005

John Roberts, Racist!

[Roberts] wrote vigorous defenses, for example, of the [Reagan] administration's version of a voting rights bill, opposed by Congress, that would have narrowed the reach of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. He challenged arguments by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in favor of busing and affirmative action.
In the long run I realize that this is terrible, considering that this guy will probably make the Supreme Court. But then again in the long run we are all dead. In the short term, this is exactly the issue that Dems should slap Roberts around with during confirmation hearings: Your honor, do you still believe that the 1965 Voting Rights Act is too broad? And do you agree or disagree with the part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that says X? And what about Y?

Oh, yes. And then Democrats should club the administration and all Republicans who vote to confirm Roberts with this issue for the next, oh, let's say three & a half years or so. (Remember, the way that you get to appoint justices is by winning elections...)