The bullshit’s only piled this high for now.

Since it’s Jeb Bush season, it’s worth restating that, while wrong on the merits, conservatives who oppose comprehensive reform tend to have the politics of the issue right. There is an assumption that simply will not die that a Republican president who passes a humane round of immigration reform will be in a position to stop or even reverse the GOP’s slide with the Hispanic electorate, but this did not happen after George W. Bush’s sincere (if doomed) attempt to pass such a bill nor after Reagan’s actual, full-on amnesty bill: such attempts to give dignity to large numbers of people are more than balanced out by stuff like Prop. 187 and self-deportation. One step forward and one back, as the problem here is not one of mere willpower so much as a systemic one to do with the makeup of the GOP base. And needless to say, a grudging effort with one eye on the political advantages of passing the bill and the other on providing cheap labor to corporations with a guest program is hardly going to impress anyone. In any event, the GOP will not be able to outflank Democrats on the issue. The issue here is systemic, and while Bush seems to support immigration reform as a matter of principle it would take a mammoth amount of political capital to enact and wouldn’t ultimately help his party much.

Also worth noting, Bush wouldn’t fix the GOP’s ideological problems (he seems to buy into neoconservative and laissez-faire assumptions as much as his brother), nor will he fix the problems posed by the conservative media-industrial complex (he will, in fact, have to appear on FOX News many times, as well as radio programs like Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, etc. but not Rush, because that typically means you’ve done something bad and need to apologize). The only real solution to all of these issues is coalition collapse due to attrition, and given how disastrously Bush’s brother’s rule turned out–due in part to his own personal failings but largely to the ideology he (and Jeb) subscribe to–a Jeb Bush presidency would undoubtedly hasten this along.

Watched the Ashton Kutcher-led Steve Jobs film over the weekend. It was pretty much an all-around debacle. Clearly the film was rushed into production to capitalize on nostalgia for Steve Jobs and his work, as all too many aspects of the film clearly show. The lighting and makeup are so bad that Kutcher sometimes seems to be made of wax, and the visual look of the film is often shadowy and unprofessional. The script feels unavoidably like a first draft, it’s full of super on-the-nose dialog that would make even Aaron Sorkin blush. It’s pretty much what you might expect, you know, “You hate me because I dream too big and you can’t understand me!” “Goshdarnit Steve, do you have any clue what all this ‘innovation’ is costing this company? Stop thinking about these crazy dreams and come up with something that will help bring up our stock price!” Stuff like that. Like all bad biopics it bites off way more than it can chew, dutifully ticking off the laundry list of Jobs’s life events from the early ’70s until the just before the launch of the iPod chronologically, rather than a thematic approach. That’s just a hell of a lot of time to cover, about three times as much as the last movie on the man (which split its around 90 minutes between Jobs and Bill Gates), and yet somehow it reveals less about what he accomplished than a TNT TV movie. The film is so rushed it glosses over just about everything, using montages to gloss sometimes over multiple years’ worth of Jobs’s life, and yet the film never is short enough on time to give us a Jobs Speech (TM), all of which are equally poorly delivered by Kutcher (as there been a worse on-screen motivational speech-giver since the great Scott Bakula?). At least 70% of the film consists of montages and speeches! This is a movie made by someone who clearly does not understand how to make movies.

As for Kutcher’s performance, this gives you a taste:

little reserved, wouldn’t you say? I won’t be too hard on the guy as this was an obvious miscasting, he’s obviously trying his best, but he’s doomed from the start. The movie wants to present Jobs as a man of few words and considerable presence, but Kutcher is not really the kind of actor with the presence to pull such a thing off, so it mostly comes off as Keanu Reeves-style blankness. And he’s no more convincing during angry scenes, in which he seems to be channeling Tom Cruise and William Shatner alternately when he yells. Bizarre. Then again, the film doesn’t present us with new information or a fresh angle on Jobs, and doesn’t even give a casual viewer much context for his considerable accomplishments. Its only value seems to be in sticking a pin in the zeitgeisty view of Jobs rather than in portraying him as a human being. It is, in other words, the purest of exploitation. But as a bad movie it is not unenjoyable, especially in noting:

  1. Kutcher’s way of walking hunched over–just like the real Steve Jobs–simply makes him look utterly ridiculous. There’s one shot where he walks hunched over with his hands steepled and looks almost like Gollum from Lord of the Rings. It’s about 3/4 of the way through when he’s back at Apple.
  2. Dermot Mulroney’s ridiculous wig:
  3. Relatedly, while the other characters get new haircuts as the years pass by, Kutch’s remains unchanged from beginning to end. It made me wonder if either Kutcher had contractually demanded he have bangs throughout the movie, or if (more likely) they ran out of hair and makeup budget.
  4. Kutcher’s shifting affectations for portraying a silently angry Steve Jobs, which include angrily straightening his pants, moving his legs under the table like a restless leg syndrome sufferer given speed, the aforementioned Tom Cruise shouting, etc. Like I said, he’s clearly trying his best, but it all feels very actor-y.
  5. Jobs’s (probably more accurate than not) personnel management criteria, in which simply asserting you are talented gets you on the top team, while questioning the importance of fonts gets you kicked off the team. Also, his betrayal of Mulroney at the end rather shocked me. Mulroney stuck by him the whole time. I guess he was too ambivalent?
  6. How Pirates Of Silicon Valley went through the same dramatic beats with considerably more energy, fun, and genuine insight than this film, taking about a third the time and a tiny fraction of the money.

jOBS is available on Netflix. Watch it or don’t. I’m much more interested in how the Aaron Sorkin/David Fincher film looks at his life. At least there should be some kind of take there.

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Mike Huckabee is sometimes labeled as being a funny guy, so the next time someone mentions it, just recall this. Jokes about women bein’ different for going to the bathroom together are so 1986, if they weren’t already hackeneyed by then. Also, Community handled this subject matter much more intelligently:

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Bruce Braley implicitly insulted farmers in Iowa a few weeks back. That’s about as bad a gaffe as you can get. And guess how it’s hurt his campaign: “A new Suffolk University poll in Iowa finds Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) leads all five potential Republican opponents by between 6 and 13 points.” That’s right, an open-seat in purple Iowa is not even really competitive after one of the more disastrous gaffes imaginable. It’s almost as if a candidate’s gaffe is almost always irrelevant.

Just goes to show that a headline with “gaffe” in it is most likely bullshit. Thinking back over the past few years, it’s hard to think of many races that turned on them: Martha Coakley obviously demeaned Red Sox fans in her disastrous run, but that was amid terrible fundamentals for her party (and it was really just one part of an epically bad, arrogant campaign). Other than that, the best they can do is to set back a candidate’s message until the Twitter world moves onto the next thing, as was true of virtually every gaffe in the 2012 election cycle (“47 percent” included, which immobilized Romney’s campaign during a downward slope). Obviously, political reporters still cover them, but at this point I’d argue that the whole idea of a gaffe turning an election is quaint, an artifact of the pre-polarization world in which voters had far fewer points of difference upon which to choose for whom to vote. And, to be honest, it really is stupid to base a vote for any office based on a single misstatement by a politician. So I see this as basically a positive thing.

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The Achilles Heel of conservatism is thinking that everything boils down to a simple, easy to understand explanation that you don’t need some Harvard Ph.D. to explain. If you really think about it, it’s this belief that enables the FOX News type of worldview more than any other. It is, of course, highly similar to tribalism in its binary thinking, and at this point conservatism and tribalism are interchangeable concepts.

The Achilles Heel of liberalism is thinking that human beings are essentially rational creatures and that all that’s needed to win is to amass evidence and arguments. It doesn’t work because of the endlessly impressive human ability to rationalize and preserve, and it stems from an unwillingness to engage power dynamics, as Loomis says. But it perseveres, and Aaron Sorkin, Ezra Klein and Barack Obama are among its most famous proponents. Say what you want about Communism, but those folks were entirely aware of this problem and frequently chided contemporary liberals for not realizing it. Despite so much changing since the mid-19th century this problem really hasn’t.

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Being as I have recent experience on the topic, I can absolutely second Dave Brockington’s diss of Heathrow. The Burberry shops right after customs seemed more than a little ham-handed to me, and getting there is not easy. Also, one of the better things about the socialist paradise of San Francisco is easy, direct connection to transit, no expensive buses or trains to transit where they can get you with a $20 dollar charge. Really, San Francisco is not by any means a socialist paradise, but my experiences with travel there continually show a surprising relative lack of willingness to pinch a person’s pockets. This is so far as I can tell rather atypical.


I don’t get Australian politics at all:

Labor’s lead candidate in Saturday’s West Australian Senate rerun says “working people” are right not to trust the Labor party to look after their interests and he thinks Tony Abbott has good “core beliefs” and could “potentially be a very good prime minister”.

In a disaster for Labor’s WA campaign, right-wing unionist Joe Bullock, the No 1 on Labor’s ticket, has also questioned former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s Christian faith because “he’d change his mind over a cup of coffee” and says he is not sure whether Louise Pratt, No 2 on the Labor party ticket, is actually a lesbian.

Bullock said he would rather be expelled from the ALP than vote for same-sex marriage – if the party made it a matter of policy rather than a conscience vote – and said Pratt was “a leading advocate of homosexual marriage … she’s a lesbian I think, although after her partner’s sex change I can’t be sure”. [...]

The opposition leader, Bill Shorten, has said Bullock is “exactly” the kind of person who should represent the Labor party and after the speech emerged it was reported said he stood by that endorsement.

Putting aside the substance here for a second–perhaps Australia has a lot of Stephen Lynch-style voters that he’s appealing to? Who knows?–one is left with a few nagging questions. Such as: why would a party leader say that someone who opposes the Labor party is exactly the type of person who should represent the Labor party? Why would a political party provide any support for someone who displays contempt for official party policy and leadership and vows to disrupt it if elected? How did this guy manage to get this far into the process without this stuff getting out to the public, or party functionaries taking note? It is possible, after all, to find labor leaders who aren’t nasty, belligerent, unreliable bigots to run for office. And how on Earth did this incompetent a party actually manage to win elections and govern the country for seven years without the fucking wallabies and koalas taking over? (Cheap shot.)

Really, everything I read about Australian left politics leads me to believe that Joe Lieberman would probably be one of the more liberal politicians there. I really wish I was kidding.

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