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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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Lev filed this under: ,  

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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Lev filed this under: ,  

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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Anyone’s guess what comes of this, but America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia is one of those things that doesn’t really make much sense. I can buy the “better they’re inside the tent pissing out” argument to some degree, but they share no values with us, and our association with them tends to undermine any number of claims about our goals in the region. I suspect it’s because foreign policy elites think of history in WWII-centric terms and see this as equivalent to the USSR alliance. But that worked when the goal was wiping out Hitler by brute force, and the Soviets supplied that in unbelievable quantities. The Saudis haven’t done jack to help with ISIS.

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One of my favorite sci-fi authors, Charlie Stross, put up a list of ways to sabotage an IT workplace. I will admit that my workplace does 1 (though with telecommuting options) and recently decided to do 6 on the list, as well as 8, though in that case the software does actually work well enough.

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Tired of writing about Trump. Incredible to think that we’ll have almost another half year of this guy as a nominee. People think this election is going to be some crazy thing but it’s going to be super-tedious, in large part because the likely candidates aren’t terribly interesting people when you really get down to it–Trump’s a blusterer with no inner life and Clinton seems to have no identity apart from being a politician, as opposed to Obama, who clearly has intellectual and introspective sides that not many politicians possess–and since they’re operating on completely different levels it’s just going to be people arguing past each other. I give it until August until everybody is ready to adopt a last-episode-of-Battlestar Galactica solution with their electronic devices just to stop the noise.

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