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As he is popping back into the limelight again:

Perhaps a bit on the nose but still.

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Aside from Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles (you remember the Simpson-Bowles committee, don’t you?) and the trying-too-hard-to-be-nice post-midterm choices of Bill Daley and David Plouffe* to run the White House, Debbie Wasserman Schultz is the worst personnel decision that Barack Obama ever made as president. Granted, in substantive terms she’s the least damaging. She didn’t talk Obama into some dumb obsession with a debt deal, or try to bond with Republicans about hating regulation (!), or to convince him to make a deal when Republicans threatened default. She didn’t come up with a deficit-reduction deal that included tax cuts for rich people and Social Security cuts, and then provided Republicans with years’ worth of talking points about how Obama was rejecting “his own plan” that they opposed too. Those were not good things. But while DWS is the least harmful she’s also the most useless: someone who for some reason was given a fairly important job and has made a hash of it from day one. I’ve criticized Bernie Sanders for some of the ridiculousness of his self-contradicting message of “fairness,” but he has a point in that it really is a problem when the head of the national party isn’t credible as an honest broker in a nomination fight. Presidential nominations are one of the few times the DNC is actually meaningful aside from fundraising. It’s extremely important in fact: it essentially sets up and runs the whole process, and is at the center of mediating disputes between the candidates. Or at least, it should be doing that. Instead it does stuff like this. Or this. Schultz fucking this up is like the Secretary of Commerce fucking up the Census. You have one thing to do. Just one. And if you screw that up, what good are you? So I heartily agree with Atrios here, long since time for her to go. I sort of wonder if this isn’t Clinton trying to sidestep a sticky situation in having to decide to keep her on or not. If so, clever thinking on her part: it looks bad dumping her or keeping her, after all.

*Interesting that all these people (including DWS) got their jobs in 2011, isn’t it? He really was messed up in light of that midterm loss, huh?

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Gillian Anderson would make a pretty awesome secret agent, but I’ll never understand the argument of why James Bond specifically should be played by a woman. One really has to wonder why people think that it would be some feat of social justice to have an antiheroic libertine violent sociopath played by a woman at last. So far as I can tell, the reason why you hear this about Bond and Doctor Who is basically because they’ve been around a long time and only men play the character, and women don’t really anchor equivalent tentpole franchises. Which is wrong–those should exist! But making the character of Bond female (or a gay male) is basically chucking out the source material altogether and starting from scratch with a brand new character with the same name, which is fine–you’re perfectly free to deprecate Fleming’s work–but it should be so identified, is all, and it’s not as though “I like it as it is” isn’t a sufficient counterargument to this. (On the other hand, I see no particular reason why we couldn’t have a black Bond. It could provide a different take on the character’s essential outsiderness.) And if we’re going to chuck Fleming’s character anyway, why not just create a new character altogether and start a different series of films?

As for the franchise’s depiction of female characters, it’s certainly spotty (though much improved over the years), but it has created more compelling women than conventional wisdom would have you believe. And, also, Christmas Jones and Jinx. Yeah.

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The neocon links are definitely a big part of it. Foreign policy in general is going to be a disaster: Clinton is often talked about as someone who can learn and change, but on foreign policy that is not at all the case: she’s an ideologue on military force, she’s going to get in over her head reapplying failed Cheneyite ideas, and Democrats aren’t going to back her when this happens. And aside from that, this is a person who routinely makes massively bad errors in judgment–the private email server, while certainly not criminal, was a major error in judgment. The banker speeches and various other forms of buckraking were major errors in judgment. And then you have something like this, which…what can you even say? This feels like Clinton going off the cuff, which reminds one of why she presents herself as she does. I find Abramson persuasive that much of these problems are due to Clinton trying to preserve some perimeter of privacy, not (as was so often the case with Bill) outright dishonesty, which is entirely fair, though her complete inability to make this case is problematic. And while that explains her unwillingness to release what was said in the speeches, it doesn’t explain why she gave them in the first place. Bad judgment piled upon bad judgment.

Clinton is supposed to be a good president because of her knowledge of policy and time spent in office. But there are such recurrent signs of poor judgment, faulty ideology, and ultimately a dearth of wisdom. Such things could have been discussed during this primary season. But by all means, let’s go another forty rounds over Obama not putting single payer on the table rather than discuss this.

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Don’t mean to be one of those people, but I was actually at this show–or, at least, one of the shows that they stitched together to make the special. What? You actually thought that live albums represented one single performance beginning to end? Sorry. Next you’ll tell me that movies are all shot in sequence, and that great musicians just have songs pop out of their brains fully formed, and maybe after that you’ll favor me with tales about your homeland, A World Without Artifice. Anyway, there’s some really good, perceptive stuff in here. The bit on language and politics is particularly insightful. I’ve long maintained that comedians are our public intellectuals now, and while some people find this absurd I don’t think it is. Many comedians are idiots and frauds, as are many intellectuals, but at root it’s all about developing a point of view and expressing one’s ideas. It’s an intellectual connection when it works, and when you consider the cases of, say, Oscar Wilde and Dorothy Parker, who seemed to want to be comedians of a sort, the lines become even blurrier. Do people object to this because comedians haven’t read enough great books? Is that it? Oswalt certainly has. And written some too.

It’s good stuff. I’ve followed Oswalt’s career for nearly two decades now, ever since I saw him on an episode of Conan ages ago. He’s living proof that getting married, having kids, and being a dad doesn’t necessarily have to destroy a comedian’s sense of humor–his style has changed in some ways, but you want that to some degree. (Does anyone really want Gallagher anymore?) I still believe that Werewolves and Lollipops is his true masterpiece, a staggering work that remains untopped and likely never will be. From the enduringly great “KFC Famous Bowls” bit, through the definitive Star Wars prequels critique, to a surprising story about a visit to Planned Parenthood, it simply delivers on topics both highbrow and low, even on repeated listening, which is uncommon for a stand-up album. Even the topical political material doesn’t hold up that poorly, certainly not as poorly as something like David Cross’s Shut Up You Fucking Baby, which I can’t listen to without riding that skip button to get to the nonpolitical stories. Nothing against Cross, who I saw last week at Oakland’s legendary Fox Theater and was absolutely great, but his stuff is just more of the moment by design. Anyway.

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Guess I missed the en masse freakout about Bernie Sanders yesterday. I will say that what happened in Nevada is a bad look for Sanders, and his idea of fair play is as self-serving as the Republicans’ idea of the First Amendment. America has had particularly bad luck with presidents who combined self-righteousness with stubbornness, who regard all criticism as illegitimate and all opponents as corrupt–off the top of my head, this is a category that includes Dubya, Jimmy Carter and Woodrow Wilson. I’d be hard pressed to think of any bigger presidential disasters in the past century than those three, and of late Sanders has been displaying all of these traits. Warning flags, shall we say.

But on the other hand, the notion that Bernie Sanders is destroying Democrats’ chances is pretty silly. Obviously there’s Hillary Clinton in ’08 as a precedent, and Democrats nearly managed to beat Nixon in ’68 despite genuinely deep divisions over Vietnam, an assassination and, you know, convention riots. But also worth bringing up is 1992. After a point, Bill Clinton was obviously going to win the nomination. But Jerry Brown simply refused to quit. He wasn’t ever close to winning, like he was in 1976, but he simply refused to get out long after the writing was on the wall. And unlike Sanders, he lacked a compelling set of ideas: he campaigned on a grab bag of them, some good (cutting defense spending), some bad (flat tax), but overally generally incoherent. His style wasn’t too dissimilar to Sanders’s, though, as it was largely populist and outsider-oriented. Despite having no real shot at winning, he just stayed in the race, bitterly attacking Bill Clinton for reasons that were obviously just personal, for month after month. Who can forget this:

And guess what? Bill Clinton won. Nobody remembered it. Just like the PUMA nonsense was forgotten eight years ago. It’s just stuff political obsessives obsess about.

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I finally got around to reading Jane Mayer’s Dark Money. I’d definitely recommend it, though with some provisos. The first 170 pages or so were quite excellent, going into detail about plutocrats familiar (the Kochs, Richard Mellon Scaife) and unfamiliar (John Olin, the Bradley Brothers), their lives and all that. It was largely stuff I didn’t know. After that, it gets into how these dudes set up their operations, which I knew a bit about. Then it got into the Obama years. It wasn’t exactly pleasant to relive the 2010 midterms or the debt ceiling crisis or the Wisconsin labor fights, and although Mayer threw in some interesting details I didn’t know, it was mostly familiar ground to me. Obviously, though, the general public is going to need more setup than those of us who follow things obsessively.

In any event, in case you were wondering, these people pretty much are who you think they are. People raised in privilege who think they earned everything they have, who speak authoritatively about why the poors are doing it wrong despite never having met one, etc. It’s definitely interesting to read this in light of this election cycle, which has gone just about as badly for these folks as possible. All their plausible options were drummed out early, and the eventual winner of the GOP nomination is a guy who doesn’t have an atom of libertarian ideology within him. Trump won the nomination by slagging off big donors like the Kochs and rejecting many (though not all) of their most prized objectives. This doesn’t get at the institutional problems dark money poses, obviously, but it is definitely interesting that 2016 has in many ways been a rejection of dark money by the Republican base, and yet another sign that despite billions spent on the sales job, libertarianism is a product that almost nobody actually wants to buy. It’s four more years at least for them, and these guys don’t have many “four more years” left.

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