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I’m off to the significant other’s family reunion in Northern Wisconsin this week. Not saying for certain I won’t show up to complain about something or other, but I won’t be around much. Enjoy your summer!
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Sad news:

Tom Erdelyi, better known as Tommy Ramone, the founding drummer and last surviving original member of the Ramones, the New York band whose dizzyingly short blasts of melody codified the sound of punk rock, died on Friday at his home in Ridgewood, Queens. He was 65. The cause was cancer of the bile duct, his family announced. Of the original band, Joey Ramone (the singer) died in 2001, Dee Dee (the bassist) in 2002 and Johnny (the guitarist) in 2004.

I’ve argued this before, but Tommy was the most important member of the Ramones. It’s pretty simple: he was heavily involved with the band’s first three albums, which were their best; somewhat involved with the fourth, which was just slightly below those in terms of quality; then he left and the band put out a couple of mediocre records, followed by his return for the band’s last great album (Too Tough To Die), and his final departure, after which they accomplished fairly little. This is not a coincidence: The Ramones had other producers and other drummers and they undervalued Tommy, but the musical knowledge and musical ability he brought to the fore were never replaced when he wasn’t involved. The bottom really dropped out after Dee Dee left–the two guys out front got all the attention, but it was Tommy and Dee Dee who were the best writers and musicians. Without them it was truly a Mondo Bizarro.

How important was Tommy? He literally wrote this song:

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I feel like the Germany spying scandal–and spying on allies in general–is roughly equivalent to masturbation: we’re all intellectually aware that everyone does it all the time, it’s not comfortable to think about, we all choose consciously not to think about it and part of being in society is in not drawing peoples’ attention to it. That’s the real problem here: we’ve made it impossible to politely push it from the foreground of their minds. Not sure if it’s scarier if Obama is in the loop on it or not.
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Courtesy of FOX News. Your go-to place for images of the Constitution, less so for accurate readings and interpretations of it.

My basic view on the proposed anti-Citizens United Constitutional Amendment is that (a) it’s good in terms of messaging, as people know what it is, the concept is popular and it is good to organize around, and (b) it’s a shitty idea in terms of substance. The risk here is in convincing people that they need to pass a CA to fix a Supreme Court ruling–which is essentially impossible, suggesting that leading Democrats are unwilling to simply amend the Judiciary Act to restrict judicial review when they get a majority. If the hope is to keep the power of SCOTUS intact for the potentially more liberal post-Kennedy and Scalia Court then it’s understandable, though the virtually-infinite power of the Court is a major problem that we might as well fix sooner than later.

And I do have to say that the benefit of (a) is going to be fairly minimal. This isn’t as effective as the flag burning amendments, which admittedly had a limited group of enthusiastic backers (old men in VFW halls, basically), but pushing for that amendment was smart in that, had it actually passed Congress (it came incredibly close), it would have meant ten or twenty or whatever years of free media attention as various state governments debated the issue. Wouldn’t have made people change their votes probably, but it would have had nationwide resonance that could have boosted voter enthusiasm, and for sure it would have sucked up a lot of political oxygen on an issue that, while minor, pushed the right way for them. With this proposed new amendment there’s no real chance of any of that so I’m not all that excited I must say. I guess it’s good to put people on the record, fine as an opening move maybe. I guess we’ll see.

But some things are getting better. Like that Joe Lieberman has gone from airing his views on the Sunday shows to offering them on NewsmaxTV.
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More hathos from my re-read of the Quinn article:

Democrats as well as Republicans are very angry at the president, says retiring Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton, who emphasizes what he sees as a lack of respect for the office of president. “I’m angry at him,” he says. “I’d like to kick his butt across the White House lawn.”

I would think that letting President Ronald Reagan off the hook for Iran-Contra–and thus normalizing the notion that breaking the law is just what presidents do–would preclude a lack of respect for the office of the president. Then again, I’m not an eminence grise.


Worth remembering that the recently deceased, esteemed statesman was just as capable of prudish stupidity as anybody:

“Ambrose is right on both scores,” says Howard Baker. “But the difference between Clinton and Nixon is that Nixon resigned because he couldn’t stand it. Clinton is not cut from the same cloth. He can compartmentalize. I drive by the White House at night and think, ‘What in the world are they doing right now? How do they function?’ I would be destroyed.”

For Baker, the most serious consequence of the scandal is “the diminished capability for the U.S. to lead by moral example . . . the impact on Kosovo and Iraq. I can just see Saddam Hussein licking his chops seeing that the U.S. is less willing to respond.”

Just to clarify, that last part isn’t a joke. It was a serious thing that a respected person said–that Clinton getting his rocks off would lead to another Gulf War. And in a funny way he was right.

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