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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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I’m honestly agnostic on whether it makes sense or not to release Jonathan Pollard from prison, I’ve heard reasonable arguments for and against. But if this is indeed a sop to Israel to try to make the Iran deal go down easier as the article suggests, then it merely confirms that Barack Obama is still missing something key on dealing with foreign rulers. Obama often seems quite preoccupied with having relations with other countries seem “good,” perhaps because of how badly Bush wrecked them. But if we’re unable to maintain “good” relations with Israel/Saudi Arabia/Egypt without endless bribes and concessions (and in the former case, ignoring deliberate insults), then are they really in any sense good? And if Israel considers it a betrayal that we’ve actually acted on their stated existential threat, what good is a returned spy really going to do? Just seems like another burn of political capital for the sake of a grand gesture that won’t make a bit of difference, not unlike the concessions Obama kept making to Republicans back during his early days. He spends something to get nothing. It’s like holding up the boombox from Say Anything even before the movie starts.

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It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that Loveline helped get me through growing up in a stifling, sanctimonious conservative Christian environment. I listened fanatically through much of high school and college, and even after that as life changes had me drop the show as a regular listener, I still caught the occasional episode of Carolla’s podcast for another year or two. At his best, he was able to make non-obvious thoughtful points on all sorts of subjects, with a strange sort of warmth and empathy. Anyway, I hadn’t listened to him since maybe 2010 or so. So I listened to a recent podcast of his and now it’s just typical right-wing radio stuff: frequent YELLING and SHOUTING to keep up that necessary EMOTIONAL INTENSITY, plus arguing from anecdote and all sorts of libertarian/conservative invective that comes so close to ripping off Michael Savage’s “sheeple” concept that Carolla might as well break down and pay Savage’s fee to license the term, and naturally there’s the one thing all right-wing radio must have, which is implicit flattery of the audience alongside hostility toward all manner of usual conservative punching bags: government, Al Sharpton, etc. I had heard rumblings of this, but it has been confirmed. Consider thyself warned.

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Someone tell me again how Republicans aren’t crazy, just misunderstood?

Definitive proof of the former?

Trump leads the field with 24% support among likely Republican voters.

Oh how the world laughs at us.

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  • Ah, Paramount Pictures. The studio that gave us The Godfather and Chinatown (and, incidentally, a number of good Star Trek movies). But that was long ago, and now its main business is putting out a Transformers movie every other year, along with some other stuff like this.
  • Someone needs to tell these folks that cold fusion isn’t about making things cold.
  • Man, Captain Pike is just reaming Detectives Kirk and Spock. No way these guys aren’t busted down to meter maid after this meeting.
  • Chris Pine as Kirk delivers, “I’m gonna miss you,” to Spock with evident sincerity. We’ll see.
  • I’m willing to buy that after any terrorist disaster anywhere, Starfleet gets together all of its senior people to strategize about it. (Not really, but okay.) I’m not willing to buy that they’d have this meeting on floor eighty, surrounded by huge windows.
  • The air defense team is dudes with rifles?
  • All these people running around and getting shot. Head for the door, guys! You’re officers, you’re trained for this. Right?
  • Harrison’s ship is defeated by a firehose. In the 23rd century they apparently still have them.
  • I wish they hadn’t killed Pike. As if we needed another movie about Kirk’s daddy issues.
  • Ugh. Removing the narrative rules that used to exist for beaming just means more boring technobabble explanations of why we can’t just beam anywhere in the galaxy this week. I thought part of the point of Enterprise/the reboots was that all this tech was too powerful, got in the way of the storytelling?
  • “He’s going to the one place we can’t go.” He’s depicting an openly gay character?
  • I’m 98% sure that Admiral Marcus’s office is Hannibal Lecter’s prison from Manhunter. Seriously, same building. Makes sense since Marcus comes off like a psycho from scene one.
  • Kirk brushing off Bones’s concerns after Pike’s death: believable.
  • The argument on the shuttle back to Enterprise between Kirk and Spock feels like two people who really can’t stand each other.
  • Carol Marcus is only here because she was in Star Trek II. The character in this film bears no resemblance to the other one.
  • Man, the engineering set is awesome. This is not a snarky comment.
  • “Starfleet confiscated my transport equation.” Like that. Simon Pegg is a delight, but the humor worked better with the old crew/a universe that isn’t suffocating on grimness.
  • Apparently the Enterprise only has two engineers, since after Scotty and his alien pal leave, Kirk has to reassign Chekov to run the place.
  • I will give this movie credit. There are two black women on the bridge of the ship, and neither one dies during the movie. That’s not nothing.
  • Ugh, bad Kirk speech. Not Capt. Archer bad though.
  • Abrams Star Wars tryout alert: Warp speed looks like hyperspace now.
  • Didn’t notice this last viewing, but Alice Eve’s neck is a sad reminder of the excessive, unsightly weight loss that she obviously had to undergo to land this role. They couldn’t cover up those lines with makeup. Why can’t we try not being monstrous toward women?
  • Uhura speaks Klingon now? In Star Trek VI she didn’t know a word.
  • Chris Pine tells Sulu he’ll do great in command with a smirk that can only be described as sinister. Why does everyone think Sulu will be a terrible captain? He doesn’t blow as many calls as Kirk does in this movie…oh wait it’s a reference to the other movies. And there’s a reference to Harry Mudd as well. Reference.
  • Kirk is basically Oliver North.
  • Apparently, this Enterprise has torpedo tubes like a 19th century British tall ship.
  • God, this relationship squabbling is literally intolerable. Nobody cares about Spock and Uhura’s relationship. And Kirk acts like he’s in a goddamn ABC sitcom in the scene.
  • Pre-death mind meld: yet another The Wrath Of Khan reference.
  • Some dumb speech by Spock on choosing not to feel, which is not a choice.
  • I wouldn’t be surprised if this Klingon chase was J.J. Abrams’s Star Wars audition reel. Even the score is in on it!
  • I think the tense discussion about what to do after the Klingons catch them would pack more punch if we really cared about the characters. It’s a good scene, but we know that they’ll get out of it.
  • HATE the new Klingons. Third straight movie where Star Trek aliens have been ringed/tattooed/dirty, and it’s getting as old as the way it used to be.
  • Not clear exactly what the deal is between Harrison and the Klingons. They seem to be protecting him, but then he blasts them.
  • Good action. Doesn’t make me care about these characters though.
  • Cumberbatch couldn’t even be described as “vaguely ethnic.” Also, Flock Of Seagulls hair. Scene where Kirk punches him like ten times is among the best in the film.
  • What if Kirk had fired? As we find out, Khan would most likely not have been killed, and Marcus only seems to care about Khan in the first place. So Marcus’s plan was never going to work even if Kirk had obeyed orders?
  • Kirk is so damn dumb. It’s not until now that he gets over his revenge notions long enough to actually consider what he’s doing.
  • Scotty! Is gay? It’s pretty strongly coded: of all the places on Earth to be, he’s hanging out at a San Francisco nightclub with his (male) alien pal.
  • McCoy is literally the stupidest person alive in this movie. Does he think that the torpedo will explode if they try to open it? Who would design a weapon that way? They’ve opened them before in Star Trek.
  • Implication that Nurse Chapel and Kirk hit it is just…weird. At least Uhura actually teased Spock a little in the series. Chapel was always pining after Spock. There’s no antecedent here.
  • Goddamn Maxim centerfold. From the studio that brought you the Transformers films.
  • You know, Chekov may be the only character who comes off better in the reboot. The rapeyness of the series version is gone, as is the obnoxious Russophilic-aggrandizement. He’s a sorta funny, can-do guy. Not everything is worse here.
  • Simon Pegg is a great actor, but he’s obviously reacting to a green screen in the shuttle scene.
  • How the hell does McCoy know that the guy in the tube is 300 years old? Carbon dating? His hairstyle? PLOT HOLE.
  • The biggest shock of Khan’s speech is finding out that Marcus’s first name is Alex. Seriously. That is simply not a villain’s first name, except for A Clockwork Orange, which is kind of the point in that book (and somewhat so in the movie).
  • Again, warp = hyperdrive.
  • Marcus is just so cartoonishly crazy and evil, one needs go back to Jonathan Pryce in Tomorrow Never Dies to find his equal in a movie. Unlike Pryce, he’s a goddamn bore.
  • I honestly don’t know what the writers were thinking with this conversation between Marcus and Carol. I have no idea what the intent even was. It’s not dramatic, it’s not tense, it’s not funny. Must have just said, “Fuck this,” and played eighteen at Snake Ridge that day.
  • I’m sorry, but no fucking way does Captain Kirk say, “I’m sorry,” when facing certain death.
  • Cumberbatch may deliver the most monotone performance in a Star Trek movie. It’s supposed to be controlled and menacing but it’s just boring. Still less boring than Marcus though.
  • I laughed at, “Bones, what are you doing with that tribble?” Fan service, yes, like too much of the film, but a great non sequitur.
  • The bit where Kirk tries to explain what he did in the last movie to Khan is funny. Actually, this part of the movie has some funny bits to it. Maybe Patton Oswalt (or someone else) did some punch-up here?
  • Love the thrusters in space scene. One of the rare scenes that doesn’t refer to earlier Star Trek or some other famous sci-fi movie. Definitely feels more exciting/dangerous than the rest of this reference fest because of it.
  • Private security? Necessary plot point and commentary, all at once!
  • Khan saves Kirk’s life. Some kind of bad guy.
  • Oh God, I’d forgotten the Nimoy cameo. “Shoehorned in” doesn’t even begin…and yes, this was his last performance as an actor.
  • “He was the most dangerous adversary we ever faced.” I dunno, I think the probe from Star Trek IV was vastly more dangerous. Khan was only a threat to Kirk. The probe was a threat TO THE WHOLE GALAXY.
  • Spock wants McCoy to activate a torpedo? Hey, how about you talk to your weapons/tactical guy about that?
  • Man, even evil Starfleet ships have shit security.
  • If I’m Kirk, and Marcus is trying to scare me because of what I’ve done, I think my reaction is fuck you, you’re in way more trouble than I am, and you’ve threatened to kill me so I have no other choice. Movie Kirk is actually kind of cowed because THEME. Weak shit all around.
  • Marcus gets Game Of Thrones‘d by Khan!
  • The choral music during Kirk’s death scene is much too much. Manipulative and obvious.
  • Worth noting that both times Kirk is in engineering trying to fix something, he dies. (See also: Star Trek Generations. But actually, don’t.)
  • Are we buying that the Enterprise isn’t toast, given that they only regain control when they’re hitting clouds?
  • Replicating the staging and dialog of the death scene from The Wrath Of Khan is a major, huge misstep. Distracting to say the least. Vaguely reference it, sure. But don’t control-v that scene into your script and change two things.
  • A note on Spock’s “KHAAAAAN!” Abrams is a sentimentalist who needs a death reaction to be melodramatic/histrionic. Contrast this to The Wrath of Khan, where Meyer has Kirk taking Spock’s death as a sort of gut punch that is physically incapacitating, and is only able to respond with a limp “No.” This is the basic difference between the original movies and the reboots in a nutshell.
  • In Khan, Spock’s death is the climax of the film. In Into Darkness, you still have twenty more minutes of action to go after that. Kirk’s death is merely a plot complication and is treated accordingly.
  • Frankly, I’m amazed that Alcatraz survived into the 2200s.
  • Apocalyptic imagery, urban destruction, casual brutality in this Star Trek movie: it’s like Roddenberry never died.
  • Seriously. There is no security of any sort anywhere on Earth.
  • Absent a compelling Kirk-Spock friendship, what they’re trying to do with this finale simply doesn’t play. I’m okay with a younger, less-controlled Spock as a character in these movies. But to buy Spock engaging in brutal close quarters fighting out of rage over Kirk’s death–it just doesn’t work. The whole concept is based on Freudian psychology: Spock is the superego, the intellect, while McCoy is the id and Kirk is the ego, balancing them out. In order to buy Spock acting so wholly outside of character, we have to believe that he loved Kirk so much he’s basically snapped. It doesn’t work.
  • Yet another Star Wars lift: the bit where Spock and Khan jump from one vehicle in the sky to another. Man, Abrams was not being even a little subtle about his ambitions. Not to mention that he’s ripping off Attack Of The Clones, which is sucking up taken to a sad degree.
  • Uhura should have stunned them both. Maybe a bit of a cliche, but I’d take it to this brutal, nihilistic fistfight.
  • Miracle blood!
  • I have to say, this sickbay scene between Kirk and Spock sells their friendship better than anything else in the movie. Too little, too late.
  • Kirk’s speech is so damn hypocritical on a meta level. This is in no way an anti-vengeance film. You lie, sir!
  • They throw around the word family more than your typical Fast & Furious installment.
  • Unexplained by this film: the extent of Marcus’s conspiracy. I don’t buy the “rotten apple theory” as Le Carre would put it, as even if Marcus secretly built his ship away from the usual Starfleet facilities and staffed it with private security, someone still had to build it, someone had to look the other way on those expense reports, someone had to make sure those long-range sensor reports got “lost,” and so on. There were other people in on it, not the least of which is whoever sabotaged the Enterprise. WHICH IS NEVER REVEALED! This movie does not lack for plot holes.
  • Post-credit sequence? I wouldn’t know. I’m not sticking around.

Ultimate verdict: this movie wound up being something different than I expected upon reviewing. The movie bills itself as a remake of The Wrath Of Khan and refers to it in many ways, but it’s much closer to a remake of the terror/paranoia duo of “Homefront” and “Paradise Lost” way back in season four of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It is unfortunately much, much worse than those episodes. Admiral Layton in those episodes is obviously a decent man who lost his bearings, while Marcus comports himself in such a way that one wonders how he wasn’t hustled out of the service years earlier. It’s a shame, because this movie tries much, much harder than the first reboot to make a Trek-y statement about militarism, paranoia and liberty, though much of the script’s efforts there are undermined by the direction Abrams takes the film. Abrams clearly doesn’t give a shit about politics or social criticism, he just wants the grand movie moments and sentimental payoffs that will make him an acceptable Star Wars director, but that fatally compromise him as a Star Trek director.

In any event, The Wrath Of Khan is indeed the movie with darkness/revenge/sacrifice of a main character, as is this movie. But it was also the movie where Kirk met the son he didn’t even know he had. It was also about Kirk’s age and career dissatisfaction. It was the one where he had to unexpectedly deal with his past–Carol, David, and Khan–in ways that cost him dearly, and it was the one where he had to learn some hard truths about himself. Into Darkness isn’t really that bad of a film–it is excessive with action and sloppy on plotting, to be sure, but great-looking and well-acted–but there’s nothing comparable going on with all that. It is sure as hell better than Nemesis, though, in the Khan imitation game (see what I did there?), but it commits the same mistakes as that unloved movie. Ultimately The Wrath Of Khan is a movie about a man who is forced to reevaluate his past and, simultaneously, the man that he is, and this transforms him. The problem is that these imitators are all too eager to try their hand at dark revenge, and forget that Khan is so much more than that.

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And yet, there was not so much as a gust of wind that day.

Three weeks into the Trump Era, we’re starting to see efforts to put the man into a broader context. Trump has perhaps hit his peak for the cycle in terms of media attention and polling support, but it’s worth remembering that the man is fundamentally volatile and unpredictable, and if you’ve ever seen an episode of The Apprentice, then you know that he considers this a point of pride. I could just as easily imagine him dropping out of the race next week as I can imagine him continuing on, with no hope, through every single primary just like Jerry Brown in 1992, and then even possibly taking on a third-party presidential bid when he loses. Or not. In any event, we have to assume that he’s here to stay, which raises the question of what impact he will have on the Republican race. And I think the obvious answer is that he fucks up Scott Walker’s shit. Most people taking this question on argue that Trump helps Bush, which I agree with. Nobody in Bush’s orbit is going to be remotely tempted by Trump. Walker, however, is attempting to replicate what his idol, Ronald Reagan, and previously Barry Goldwater accomplished, which was to beat the establishment from the right. A typical Republican field includes a large number of very conservative minor candidates who split up the vote, while the party’s political professionals and donors will decide on a single candidate and lavish their undivided support on him. It’s why the party wound up with Romney and McCain over Santorum and, well, Mitt Romney. (The party shifted quite a bit to the right over those four years.) But this year was going to be different: weak, compromised establishment choices in Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, and a uniquely strong hardcore conservative in Walker, who had widespread name recognition and a national base. For a noted Reagan idolater, Walker had to just be praising the stars at this setup.

The nightmare scenario for him, though, is a candidate like Donald Trump. While Walker has perfectly followed the Tea Party’s methods in office, as a communicator he cannot touch Trump’s mastery of the movement’s aggrieved, angry, antipolitical rhetoric. As this piece astutely notes, simply by running, Trump can fracture the field’s conservatives and make it much harder for Walker to win. Just by showing up and taking a nontrivial chunk of support, that’s it. And he can’t out-right the guy on substance, either. Trump is willing to go far beyond what best judgment dictates, and it just so happens that on his signature issue of immigrant crime, things on the right are turning rapidly in his favor, in ways that could wreck Walker’s whole strategy and derail his candidacy. I refer to the august Representative from Western Iowa, Steve King. Obviously, King has said some nice things about The Donald’s immigration views just in general. King says essentially the same things as Trump in much the same way, sometimes with even less tact, and it seems unlikely that anyone who actually cares about their general election is even going to try to one-up him/them. But even beyond that, events have conspired that could make this even more meaningful: the right-wing media has recently been caught up in a frenzy–easy for people outside the bubble to miss, given the multitude and rapidity of frenzies they engage in–over the horrific murder of Kate Steinle in San Francisco. Why does this connect? Because San Francisco is a sanctuary city, which essentially means it doesn’t enforce deportation laws and the like, and the accused is an illegal immigrant. The right-wing media has been going full-tilt on this–according to my wife, who had unfortunate occasion to watch several hours of FOX News because she was visiting a family member post-surgery, every FOX show was running with this, each one interviewing a separate family member–and now Rep. King himself has weighed in in his typical, considered manner. He has directly tied this to Trump’s message:

King said that three weeks ago, he brought an amendment to the floor on the Commerce Justice Appropriations bill that prohibits any funds from going to any sanctuary cities or jurisdictions just has he has for years.

The amendment passed with strong support, but in previous years it has stalled in the Senate.

“We’ve got an opportunity to hold that language because of Donald Trump and because of this national crisis,” King said.

Though GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has been under fire for his statement that many illegal immigrants are bringing drugs into the country and that some are killers and rapists, King said recent events have shown he was right.

Would King endorse Trump? This is the key question. It would be almost too awesome to come true from a liberal perspective, but there’s very little reason to believe he wouldn’t strongly consider it. Trump donated significant sums to King in the past according to the National Journal article, they share a common stance on King’s pet issue, they are broadly similar in attitude and rhetoric. They like each other. If you find it impossible that King would endorse Trump, then I think you owe us all an explanation of why this couldn’t happen. Someone like Ted Cruz is clearly a con artist whose crazy exterior masks a cynical base, but I’m not sure you can say the same thing about King. He gives every indication of being a sincere kook who would gladly endorse a no-hoper who would damage the party, since that’s what’s so often said of him. And if King endorses Trump, you have to consider the possibility that Trump wins Iowa. If it seems odd that a Manhattan-based billionaire would win the Iowa Caucuses, long the best hope of evangelicals, ultracons and cornpone, well yes, it does. But with a King endorsement, I think it becomes a real possibility. There are, obviously, other hurdles. Winning Iowa would mean a lot of retail politicking that it doesn’t seem obvious Trump would excel at. And then there’s his well-covered history of supporting liberal causes and candidates. I am not entirely persuaded by the arguments that this will be his undoing–teahardists love purity but Reagan himself had a much more extensive record of left-wing politics and activism reaching well into the late 1940s. This sort of thing derailed Newt Gingrich’s moment in the sun three years ago, but Gingrich’s responses tended to be detached and professorial, while Trump’s would be anything but. And it’s also true that envisioning Trump as a man of deep faith is utterly implausible. So, obviously some challenges are there. But given that Walker’s current lead is basically based on name ID as governor of a neighboring state, Trump’s populist approach plus the support of Steve King would certainly put him in the game. And if Trump does win or finish a close second, Walker’s chances are basically hosed. It’s unlikely that he’ll win either in New Hampshire or South Carolina, and Nevada presents real challenges in the form of a genuinely moderate GOP governor who will have to be handled carefully, and a diverse, politically apathetic electorate very different from his exurban Milwaukee stomping grounds. It’s anyone’s guess who would win under those circumstances, but if Bush wound up winning (as I think he will), then that’s two in a row, and the stampede may well happen just from that.

Again, it’s worth saying that Trump is an unpredictable crazy person who could just drop out tomorrow. But if he remains in the race through the early primaries, by dint of fracturing conservatives and screwing up Walker’s strategy, he could end up making Walker 2016 look like Giuliani 2008. Watching Steve King should give us a good sense of whether this will happen. In the meantime, why not enjoy Tom Scharpling’s vintage recaps of The Celebrity Apprentice, easily among the best writing of that form ever. Here’s the web link, or you can download this PDF of The Celebrity Apprentice and let the hilarity roll on your mobile device, without all that scrolling and clicking.

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“Everybody” seems to think that Jeremy Corbyn would be a disaster as UK Labour leader because he’s too left-wing. It’s possible they’re right, I’m no expert on what people in Britain are feeling. But you could make an equivalent case that it would be insane not to pick him. It’s no exaggeration to suggest that with another bland Blairite, Scotland is simply just gone for good from the Labour Party, and Labour isn’t going to come back without rebounding in Scotland. Also seems self-evident that defending Northern England from UKIP will be much easier with an actual progressive than with a typical character from The Thick Of It. It’s quite possible that Corbyn would flop in the role, but at this point it seems nutty to prioritize outreach before dealing with existential threats to the party, and given that Ed Miliband seemed to be the worst of all worlds (used populist rhetoric while accepting sole responsibility for the recession; supported austerity while shunning business), it’s not really one but maybe three or four huge problems due to him that Labour actually needs to solve, and a centrist isn’t going to be able to solve them all.

Far better than the current path they seem to want to take, which is to emulate the Gephardt/Daschle Democrats who tried to get along with Republicans and show how much they “understood” the voters, instead of the Pelosi/Reid model of strong, tactically sound opposition. The former pair served a decade each and never got to run Congress, while the latter two were running it within two years of taking over.

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