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I decided to unsubscribe from Jim Webb’s email list, which I was surprised to find that I was actually on (guess that massive $30 donation a decade ago might have had something to do with it!). I didn’t see the debate, all I know is that everyone says he was grumpy over the time he got. Anyway, this is his email explanation:

I’ll be very frank here. It was rigged in terms of who was going to get the time on the floor by the way that Anderson Cooper was selecting people to supposedly respond to someone else. I even turned around to Bernie Sanders at one point and said, ‘Bernie, say my name, will you say my name?’

In that kind of environment it was either going to be Mr. Angry or be a potted plant. It’s very difficult to win a debate when you don’t have the opportunity to get to speak in the same amount of time on issues as the others get. It’s the reality that the debate was being portrayed as a showdown between Mrs. Clinton and Bernie.

Well, you could use your small amount of time most effectively by highlighting the views that make you appealing to prospective Democratic voters, like opposing the Iran nuclear deal (oh, wait, you did that) and your controversial thoughts on the foremost symbol of American treason. Well, maybe not those. But something else. Or you could just bitch and complain, and fire up your loads of supporters with tales of martyrdom while making everybody else wonder, “Who is this jerk?” It’s not like he doesn’t have a point but this guy simply has no idea how to handle these sorts of situations, and just comes off as even more angry and entitled than everyone says. So you only got fourteen minutes, but that’s fourteen more than Larry Lessig got to explain his theories of governance that make Ralph Nader seem like LBJ.

It’s sad, really. Lots of progressives liked Webb back in the day, largely for beating George Allen (though given Webb’s evident campaign skills this year, Allen must have been totally doomed) and then giving an enduringly good SOTU response. Webb didn’t have their kind of politics (boy did he not, if you’ve ever seen this movie from way back in 2000, which might well be the most right-wing movie put out by a major studio beside the original Red Dawn), but some smart filtering and a focus on underrepresented positions in the Democratic debate that he held at one point could have carved him out a niche. If he had decided to be the peace guy, he’d probably be at 5-10% in the polls, and might get a few more minutes in the debates, because the simple fact is that the more people are interested in what you have to say means the more you get to say it and be heard. But instead he wanted to be authentic–in this case, an conservative Democrat indifferent to hostile to Democratic positions and constituencies, with the bizarre tendency of highlighting his own areas of weakness because goddamn it, America wants straight talk! Shockingly no Democrats seem to care even slightly about his campaign. I predict that even if he’d gotten four more minutes, or fourteen, he’d be in the same place he is now. Hell, for someone who seems to hate his own party, even the Villagers are barely into to his cause. Jon Huntsman mustered more attention.

And I won’t have old Webbie to kick around anymore because, gentlemen, this is my last ever Jim Webb post. There’s no real reason I can envision to make me revisit him, unless he writes a sequel to Rules Of Engagement. Which I’ll briefly discuss. Rules Of Engagement is, as I said, quite a right-wing movie. In it, Sam Jackson plays a Marine Colonel who in the course of defending an embassy in a Middle Eastern country from an armed attack, shoots a couple of bad guys but then gets court-martialed because it is claimed that the crowd had no weapons. Which turns out to not be the case even a little bit in the video surveillance tape that National Security Adviser Bruce Greenwood destroys because…Benghazi? Actually, the whole thing feels like it anticipates BENGHAZI! to such a surreal extent–the premise is very similar and the truth in the movie is not far off from some of the conspiracy theories–such that they could just change the setting from Yemen (which makes no sense at this point as the story requires at least one standing building left to work) to Libya and skip the whole Michael Bay shitfest that is currently headed to our screens. Also there’s some Sam Jackson/Tommy Lee Jones bromance and a Vietnam section that seems like a red herring at first and then when it figures in, you kind of wish it had just been a red herring. The whole thing comes off as third-rate John Milius. It’s the sort of thing your right-wing dad will catch on TNT one afternoon and prompt a muttered “goddamn right” to nobody in particular.

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Democrats don’t care much about foreign policy because the public doesn’t care much about it. Still, what Clinton actually stands for and says is so extreme and batty that it should be a massive liability, and perhaps would be if it weren’t for the whole field either biffing the punch, whitewashing her record, or going off like a goddamned ass about the Iran deal and China hawkery (?). The latter seems to be where Jim Webb has ended up these days. The obscurity his campaign has found itself in seems to be well-earned.

Yes, yes, there is a logic to both “it’s her turn” and “she can win.” Still. It’s often been said that Republicans only care about deficits when a Democrat is president. I’m beginning to think that Democrats only oppose wars when a Republican president starts them.

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I quite like the first 2.5 Star Wars movies, but I have to admit, the rush to forget the decade-plus of complaints by fanboys in favor of drooling anticipation leaves me utterly cold. One would think an intermediary state of cautious optimism would be coherent and healthy, but ultimately fanboys are people who need an outlet for extreme emotions, in this case the boom and bust cycle of multimillion-dollar projects either being awesome (i.e. passable plot, lots of explosions) or lame (like the new Fantastic Four presumably?). The healthier ways of doing processing these emotions–going through a youthful phase of being really into The Smiths, say–have been rejected apparently. For my part, since I actually watched Abrams’s Star Wars audition tapes (you know, the last two Star Trek movies), I feel like I know so much of what to expect already. So this goes for me too. Most likely won’t see it.

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He’ll scare you with his…mincing?

The Koch Brothers get downgraded from The Joker-level scary to The Riddler-level scary:

Carly Fiorina has officially made it onto the short list of candidates being considered by the Koch Brothers’ network of donors — potentially opening the door to a deep pool of money.

Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the Koch brothers‘ umbrella group, which includes a sprawling network of conservative donors, confirmed to ABC News that Fiorina is one of the five candidates on the donor network’s watch list. […]

Fiorina’s addition to list serves as a signal that her newly attained top-tier status is being taken seriously by conservative donors and will likely mean increased access for Fiorina to Freedom Partners’ deep-pocketed donors.

The news also comes after Reuters reported earlier this week that the Koch Brothers were taking a “serious look” at Fiorina following her strong debate performances and subsequent jump in the polls.

Is every group of Republicans just doing their damnedest to shoot themselves in the foot? Fiorina is, among other things, a Palinesque fantasist, a serial failure, a fraudulent outsider, and fundamentally a toxic presence. She’s Palin without the charm, Quayle without the humor, Paul Ryan without the charisma. The notion that heavyweight Republicans would actually encourage her presidential run is enormously cheering news, and reflects poorly upon the tactical brilliance of the Kochs. In any event, from what reportage of their operations we’ve seen, the role of dumb luck in their success is apparently impossible to downplay.

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Fun fact: I was one of future Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s constituents for about a year, back when I was in college and he was a freshman Congressman. Bear in mind that I’m 31, so this wasn’t that long ago at all. I didn’t follow his career with deep fascination because, well, I was trying to finish a degree at the time and how interesting is a generic Republican freshman? But I was aware of him because he was the local Congressperson, and this was after there were quite a lot fewer Republicans following the 2006 midterms. He got quoted in things a lot. He showed up on the news. My basic impression was that he wasn’t anything special–not too smart, not too dumb, obviously just a conventional Republican but beyond that, someone who would serve in politics for a few decades without leaving much of a mark. Strangely, I’m not sure that impression was wrong in any respect, even given that the guy is going to be Speaker within a few weeks. Sure, he should get better-known when he’s Speaker, but that’s a job that in the long term more often leads to obscurity than immortality through history (just try to name the first Speaker of the House, or the ones who came before and after (and between) Sam Rayburn). The guy has had the job foisted upon him like Johnny Rico from Starship Troopers, and while it’s impossible to say anything for certain, it seems likely that he doesn’t quite have the political skills to really be effective at it right out of the gate, and it’s absolutely unclear that he’ll have time to develop them. Josh Marshall:

To make sense of the current situation it’s important to realize just how accidental McCarthy’s autopilot glide into the speakership really is. It only came about because of one semi-predictable and another utterly unpredictable accident of recent history. McCarthy is only in his 5th term in the House. He was first elected in 2006 and became House Majority Whip when he was sworn for his third term in 2011. That’s an astonishing ascent. For him to be in the position he is in today, obviously Boehner had to retire. But the really big thing was the totally shocking defeat of Eric Cantor in a primary election last year.

By definition, with Boehner having departed on the terms that he did, any successor will be weaker than he was. Which is saying something. If a faction pushed out your predecessor, their threat to toss you is even more credible – especially if the successor is a nondescript figure with no core constituency of his or her own. Which pretty much defines McCarthy to a tee. […]

The only question now is whether McCarthy will take the Speaker’s gavel even too weak and ridiculous to fill this accustomed role. In other words, could he become so weak than he can’t even serve as a weak Speaker controlled by the GOP right? It is almost reminiscent of the way an occupying power or great power can install a pliant leadership it prefers to deal with but finally decides the installed leadership is so pitiful and ineffectual that it makes more sense to align nominal with actual power and just be done with it. Sort of like dispensing with abu Mazen and working directly with Hamas or just deciding to negotiate directly with the Taliban and dispense with the government in Kabul. Could we see McCarthy being helicoptered out of the Capitol by the Marines some time next year and receiving asylum in Palau?

Let me put it this way: it took over a year for the crew of the Bounty to turn on the hated Captain Bligh, but after that, it only took a few weeks for them to get to the point of turning on Fletcher Christian before they found Pitcairn’s Island. The line has been crossed, the stigma cast aside. How long do you think he’ll last?

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If I had the power to force all Americans to read one book, it might well be this one. It’s a one-of-a-kind book with a ton of insight over a broad range of topics, but to me the key part of the book On Killing is that, while there indisputably are violent sociopaths who could kill people by any means and with no real psychological price to pay, for virtually all of us humans taking another human life is very, very difficult to square psychologically, and the closer and more tactile the method, the harder it is to overcome our innate psychological resistance. While guns aren’t the easiest way to kill someone from a psychological perspective, they are the easiest available to the public (until the NRA legalizes grenade launchers and bomber jets for private use, of course), and it’s far easier to kill another person with a gun than with a bladed weapon or with bare hands. The science is quite settled, in this case by a former Army colonel. There is a strong scientific basis for a fairly staunch gun control regime. But you have to accept science.

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Are mostly a media-created scandal, all smoke and no fire. But as someone who has been in politics for over 30 years, Clinton had to have known what the potential consequences of using her own server could be, and did it anyway. As always, dolts who think that this will finally unveil the nonexistent Clinton criminal empire will wind up getting burnt. But as always, there’s no reason to think that a prospective Hillary Clinton presidency would be any less sloppy than this, would be any less dependent on hijacking progressive voices to fight their own personal battles for them, not to mention the bad judgment of individuals and the inevitable “tough” responses to world crises. It doesn’t have to be this way, but it will be.

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