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I’m convinced that Josh Marshall of TPM might be the only one in the media who actually understands Trumpism and its appeal. One by one, pundits keep making predictions and embarrassing themselves. Marshall keeps on being right. So keep listening to him.
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There are moments that make you stand back for a second and just marvel at how quickly things have changed. The possibility that opposing the Iran nuclear deal is causing so much blowback for Chuck Schumer that it could possibly (maybe?) cost him his expected promotion to the leadership is one such moment. It wasn’t too long ago that Democrats–historically, the more broadly supportive of Israel going back to the creation of that nation–were afraid to even go public with criticism of Israel outside of the usual suspects–your Barbara Lees and Dennis Kuciniches and Maxine Waterses so on. Just look at this nonbinding approval vote from 2009, just after Israel’s election-focused overkill bombings of Gaza–only a handful of Representatives voted no. Nancy Pelosi (then Speaker of the House) introduced the bill. Obviously, there are differences between the votes: one is a sort of interest-group pleasing bill with no real consequences, while the other is easily Barack Obama’s most aggressive push for peace during his whole presidency. Which says something since what is fundamentally a nuclear inspection agreement is his most aggressive push for peace. But that’s another discussion. In 2009, only a few dozen Representatives even risked to be seen as questioning Israeli policy. Almost none actually did. This was how it had long been, and there was no particular reason to think it might change.

What you see here is six years’ worth of the Israel hawks’ chickens coming home to roost. It’s been obvious that Benjamin Netanyahu has been working on mobilizing the Republican Party behind his agenda for Israel for the past six years, even though the only Republican who actually voted no in 2009 is Ron Paul, who is no longer in office, and his son has from the start tried to play a double game with daddy’s supporters on Israel. Netanyahu raised the volume of these issues perhaps, but he’s won no new converts because he had them all already. Meanwhile, by spending years insulting senior Obama Administration officials, by refusing to hold peace talks in good faith and by attempting to interfere with American diplomacy, among other things, Netanyahu has repelled nearly all progressives and Democrats who were, not so long ago, reliable supporters for Israeli interests for this, his “biggest” issue, leaving only a few New York-based pols to provide token bipartisan cover. Schumer in this case resembles nobody more than Gerald Ford, the “clumsy” accidental president (actually a very graceful man, a former athlete and model) who fumbled so often in office because he operated like the old Republican moderate-conservative he’d always been, only the ground had shifted and he didn’t understand or know how to deal with it. The Republican Party he led had changed and was changing rapidly, as was the entire country. The many equivocations, failures and reversals of the Ford era were the sign of a whole political generation struggling to adapt to a changing time.

Obviously, we’ll have to see what happens. It’s doubtful that Schumer derails the nuclear deal, and it remains to be seen if Schumer actually winds up getting stung by it. And AIPAC is still going to get its way on smaller, less public issues. But regardless, this is a big change in power and influence that is occurring. It’s hard to see how the Israel hawks are able to find the resources to punish 40% or so of the United States Congress, let alone come up with an effective angle to hit Democrats with when broad majorities of Democrats support the Iran deal. No doubt they’ll try to claim a scalp or two, but it may well wind up like the NRA’s recall of two Colorado State Senators who backed gun control laws: immediately undone at the next general election, and not intimidating enough to stop the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee from campaigning on the issue. It sure seems to me like the Israel hawks have given up a lot in exchange for basically nothing, giving up broad Democratic backing on their self-stated top issue for a delusional goal of splitting off the Jewish vote from Democrats. That American Jews approve of the nuclear deal shows the ignorance and solipsism of their tactics and perhaps of their overall objective too. With all apologies to Doug Feith, these may be the stupidest fucking guys on the planet.

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I fully second Cole here. Also, too, Schumer is a moral coward who equivocated on torture. He represents much of what is wrong with the modern Democratic Party, from corporatism to playing into the hawks’ state of fear. Following Cole’s example of withholding donations seems like a great first step.
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I particularly like the comparison of the different plots of the series. Clearly they’re all variations on the same movie. But it’s certainly a watchable movie.

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Dear Sir or Madam,

It might seem reasonable to make some sort of concession should you come under attack from right-wing critics. Believe me, it isn’t, and I’m speaking pragmatically here. Ignore any sort of ideological angle. Look at it this way. This isn’t personal. There’s a multibillion dollar industry made up out of whipping people into a frenzy, not to mention any number of freelancers and hobbyists either trying to get in on it or just having their own kind of fun. They scour far and wide to find things to get outraged about. You’ve landed on their list. It happens. But if you decide to play ball in hopes of avoiding being labeled as “loony left” or some such, then you will be sorely disappointed, because that will happen anyway and this will be merely the beginning of a long chain of harassment. Once they have a scalp, so to speak, they will never stop scrutinizing you and hounding you, since this constitutes “proof” and justification of their beliefs and actions. They will go on demanding more concessions until finally they go too far and you just say, the hell with it. By which point, you’ll have alienated just about everybody with nothing to show for it. Just take a look at what the New York Times has done over the years, such as trying to avoid using the word “torture” in reference to things it had historically described as torture during the Bush years, or its more recent blowup over a badly mistaken story about Hillary Clinton’s email. In going overboard to attempt to appear neutral, it has merely made people rightfully suspicious of them. Or take NPR. Or take whoever in the media Bill Kristol is drawing a paycheck from this week. It never works, they’re still incessantly criticized in spite of making serious compromises. Learn from this.

Plenty of organizations want to maintain a reputation for political neutrality, and that’s fine. For all sorts of organizations, that makes absolute perfect sense. But you have to realize that this is not always within your control, and while the FOX/Rush crowd is loud, their attention is constantly shifting from one world-ending disaster after another. The aforementioned industry may decide to come into your lives for no better reason than a whim, and they can be quite loud and quite irritating. The best choice is simply to stick to your guns, so to speak.

Most Sincerely,

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Once upon a time, a movie or television show would simply have to have its own distinctive theme song. Sometimes, they even became hit songs in their own right: a few years ago I was rummaging through old vinyl at 101 Music in San Francisco’s North Beach, and what surprised me was how many copies of television and movie song compilations there were. These songs used to be a business in and of themselves, some time ago. Those days are long gone, but the Bond franchise continues the tradition–with varied results. With speculation that Radiohead will provide the next song for a Bond film–and, perhaps, displace one of these worthy entries, if their non-In Rainbows post-2000 output is any sign of what to expect–let’s look at a list of the worst songs ever made for a Bond film.

5. “Another Way To Die,” Jack White & Alicia Keys, from Quantum Of Solace

Quantum Of Solace is a definite grower of a film–it takes a few viewings (advisedly as soon as possible after Casino Royale) to find its virtues (strong character work with Daniel Craig’s Bond and Olga Kurylenko’s Camille–easily one of the strongest Bond girl characters–plus good action and a surprising political realignment away from Cold War verities) amid its somewhat vague villain and general “this movie does not work as a standalone film” nature. But just imagine having seen the most exciting car chase ever in a Bond movie, being revved up for more adventure and excitement…and getting this:

There are obvious problems here: a mismatched vocal pairing, a musical style that lands somewhere between rock and hip hop without delivering the goods on either, and a midtempo arrangement that amounts to a comedown after a fast-paced, truly exciting sequence. It’s not outright offensive to listen to like some of these, but it simply doesn’t do the job it needs to do, which is to ride out the excitement of the cold open into the start of the movie proper. And what’s more, it falls into the old trap of Bond films, in which they periodically would just give “trendy” artists carte blanche in hopes of drawing young people in (recall a-ha). Worth noting that this gets that formula so wrong, while the next film (Skyfall) gets it so right. Hope they learned the lesson.

4. “Tomorrow Never Dies,” Sheryl Crow

Much of the controversy over this song centers around the rumor that honchos at EON Productions got cold feet over having out lesbian K.D. Lang singing the title song for the movie, and bumped her in favor of Crow (though Lang’s song plays over the end titles). I have no idea if this is true, and I have nothing against Crow–all I know is that she’s a fine singer who created some pop hits I don’t much care for, dated Lance Armstrong, and is now making the obvious country pivot that every artist seems to take a whack at these days (and why not–as Tom Scharpling would say, the only crossovers that the country audience has ever rejected are Morton Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow). Still, it’s worth noting that Lang’s song is both genuinely sexy and a dominant vocal performance, while Crow’s is neither. Perhaps it’s that Crow wasn’t the right woman for the job, trying too hard to play a seductress and maybe not just having the pipes. Or maybe they just gave her a shitty song to sing and she did the best she could. Not that these are mutually exclusive. You be the judge:

And then there’s Pulp’s submission, which smokes them both (though it’s a bit too slow-starting to work for a Bond song):

3. “Moonraker,” Shirley Bassey

Moonraker is a not just a bad Bond movie, it is a dispiriting Bond movie: a Frankenstein’s monster of a film, it rips off the plot from the prior movie, The Spy Who Loves Me, but ups the cringeworthy humor and implausibility and shamelessly steals from every damn popular thing in 1979. People who mock it for being “the one where Bond goes into space” are being a bit too unkind: the book also involved rocketry and the space race, and putting Bond in space isn’t in and of itself a ridiculous concept. It’s James Bond, after all! That guy can basically do anything, he’s nearly a superhero. But the film goes about saddling him with a companion named Holly Goodhead (get it? It’s because she’s a rocket scientist, and she’s really smart!), includes callbacks to popular sci-fi movies of the time (like the Close Encounters chime, the laser guns), forces retreads of stuff earlier Bond films did better (Jaws), and on and on: the film’s real sin is that it’s a shameless cash grab, mixing and matching elements to juice its box office. You feel used just watching it, much like the feeling audiences would get from late-period Adam Sandler films decades later. But just imagine sitting through the whole rotten thing and then getting this blasting over the end credits:

Generic disco? In a film released in 1979? You don’t say. One of the weaknesses of the character of James Bond is that it’s impossible to imagine him doing normal, mundane things like listening to the radio in a traffic jam. You can’t do it, can you? What would he listen to? Not rock music. Classical? Country? Jazz? Nothing feels quite right. In any event, Bond would be out of there in a second, perhaps with the aid of a carefully-chosen Q gadget. But if they ever showed that scene, it sure as shit wouldn’t be this on his station of choice. Yet another market-driven decision in a movie replete with them.

2. “All Time High,” Rita Coolidge, Octopussy

So, the title has “pussy” in it. There’s that eye-rolling element. But the movie itself isn’t so bad for a later Roger Moore vehicle: it does a better job of incorporating the campy Moore stuff with the more serious stakes that had previously (and would later) define the series. It is a lesser Bond movie, however: a too-subdued villain, a female lead (the title character) who could be cut out of the movie altogether with minimal changes needed, so useless is she, and racial stereotyping that is only slightly less uncomfortable than the second Indiana Jones, though it does have some awe-inspiring location shooting and a pretty great climax. But the song feels inappropriately triumphant: Octopussy is neither an all-time high for the Bond series or for Roger Moore in spite of outgrossing Sean Connery’s off-brand Bond film Never Say Never Again, more like a last hurrah before the disastrous A View To A Kill prompted a course correction and saw Moore depart the series. And then there’s the music: the best Bond songs are timeless songs that tap into classic songcraft without coming off as too stale or too trendy–think of “Goldfinger” or “Skyfall” as songs that perfectly hit the mark on this account. But this music is almost encased in fucking amber: it is reminiscent of the bland soft rock that America couldn’t get enough of in the 1980s, Fleetwood Mac imitators who apparently never realized that Fleetwood Mac’s music (at least in their later, pop incarnation) is polished music about raw emotion and damaged people, reflecting its creators perfectly. Fleetwood Mac would never have released a song called “All Time High” unless the title was meant to be deeply ironic, at least before coke robbed them of their talent in their unfortunate endgame. But the title is true in that it was all downhill from here: between A View To A Kill and the unloved (though IMO underrated) Tim Dalton era, Bond was experiencing the high before a dozen years of freefall.

1. “Die Another Day,” Madonna

Die Another Day ended Pierce Brosnan’s run as Bond, and continues the “curse” of each Bond actor’s fourth film being utterly terrible–Connery had Thunderball, which alternates between Bond rapiness and unbelievable boredom; Moore had Moonraker and Brosnan had this film. (This makes me really, really worried about Spectre.) I always compare it to its contemporary film Star Trek Nemesis for being, if not the worst film of the franchise technically speaking, just being the most misguided and maddening to watch: excessive, uninteresting, and stupid, with its heart in the wrong place. Unlike Nemesis, the director for Die Another Day actually seems to like the franchise he’s working on. However, neither one really understood the material much, and both were overmatched by the task of turning in a distinctive film worthy of their respective franchises. The trouble with Die Another Day really begins almost at second one, but this fussed-over, outtake-worthy original composition from the one-time pop queen combines limp lyrics with a dance beat, of all things, that makes you wonder if Madonna has ever even seen a Bond movie in her life (my money’s on no). A punishing listen that almost makes you hope that the title gets proven wrong.

Honorable Mention: It might or might not qualify–it’s non-canon, though EON Productions now holds the rights to it–but the song for Connery’s swansong Never Say Never Again is pretty damn bad. Also, the aforementioned a-ha stink it up with “The Living Daylights,” though they narrowly avoid the list because that movie is actually pretty great, and they’ve been a punchline for quite a while now. I don’t believe in piling on.

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One of the Illinois GOP’s premiere fundraisers has called on U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., to abandon his re-election race, saying it likely is unwinnable. The statement is spurring a flurry of phone calls and activity among worried Republicans,” according to Crain’s Chicago Business.

Said Ron Gidwidz: “His misstatements put him and the Illinois Republican Party in too much of a defensive position. I do not believe he will be a U.S. senator in 2017 and, as top of the ticket, he could cause collateral damage (to other Republican candidates). I call on him to step aside and allow other Republicans to seek his seat.”

In essence, Kirk was a damned lucky winner in 2010, but rather than acting it, he decided to indulge his inner loon. The odds of his winning re-election were always going to be tough, but by being a loudmouthed partisan (plus a thoroughgoing McCain-esque hawk to boot), he’s doomed it. An incumbent that can only manage 36% in a poll this far out–hell, Saint Santorum pulled better numbers than those in 2006.

Taking back the Senate isn’t going to be easy. But taking back Kirk’s seat (and most likely Ron Johnson’s of Wisconsin) shouldn’t be very tough at all. I disagree with Gidwidz, though, there’s no reason Kirk should drop out, as it’s not as though Illinois Republicans have anyone better.

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