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Fortunate Son is not really an anti-war song, it’s a song about people like Dick Cheney who cheer-led the war and then didn’t go, made no sacrifices for it, then congratulated themselves for their patriotism. It’s a condemnation for that sort of thing more than a critical evaluation of war or politics.

Born In The USA is also not really an anti-war song, so much as it’s a portrait of an America crumbling on every level, a theme carried forward on every other song on the album of the same name (as well as on his prior album, Nebraska, for which the song was originally intended). It’s those goddamn synth organ noises that make it seem bombastic. But overall it’s amazingly despairing for a pop album that sold roughly eighteen trillion copies, though perhaps it’s hardly amazing it sold so well because everything on the album was spot-on and is still all too relevant.

This, on the other hand, is an anti-war song:

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The movie remake of The A-Team would seem to have been the hardest ever thing to screw up. The show was basically like any B-grade generic action film, only it was on television and featured Mr. T. So, literally any kind of bare-bones ’80s-style actioner would have lived up to the legacy, such as it is, of the show. Dust off an unmade script from the time, insert the characters’ catchphrases, and go. Instead, they put out what this review accurately describes as “cartoon bullshit,” complete with silly origin stories, a lame romantic plot to lure another “quadrant” to the theaters, and the worst physics this side of a Star Wars prequel, practically guaranteed to keep you from investing anything into the movie.

Honestly, the Expendables films are the real heirs to the tradition of sub-par ’80s action films that The A-Team also belongs to. And after the novelty of the first one wore off, it became once again obvious that those films were terrible, and not in need of revival. Not that that group of movies was a total loss–Commando remains a hell of a time–but the ultimate effect of retro is to deflate nostalgia by removing your rose-colored glasses about how things used to be.

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The politics of this gambit seem to be entirely misguided. Too many Democrats think you can simultaneously get the public to believe you support an issue while supporting action that appears to undermine it–for example, saying you support old-age programs while advocating major cuts to them. While there is a way to make this logically consistent, and it’s entirely possible that the bill will only be passed with the knowledge that it will be vetoed after Landrieu’s runoff, only the highest-information types in the electorate will be sophisticated enough to get it. To the extent that it trickles out, it just makes people skeptical of the Democratic Party. It is a perfect example of the “too clever by half” saying.

Thank goodness Barack Obama seems to be resistant to this silly gambit.

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“Gridlock” in government eventually becomes “dysfunction” and “paralysis.”

A dysfunctional, paralytic democratic government very frequently finds itself fighting its own citizens, as they rise up against a failed government that doesn’t deliver what they need. (Good thing we reined in those municipal police departments getting military toys, eh?)

The length of the democratic tradition in these countries is essentially irrelevant–the Roman Republic had lasted for centuries, and Germany had strong democratic institutions from its founding to before the Nazis took over. France is on its fifth republic. That we’ve mostly stuck to democratic principles for 200 years is irrelevant. It’s entirely possible to imagine a right-wing strongman hailing James Madison and Thomas Jefferson while shredding everything they ever worked for.

I can’t really imagine the current constitutional scheme failing–the system seems to shake out of its paralysis in the event of serious threats against it–but it’s definitely worth saying that what would come after it would be really unpredictable. I suppose there are some less scary options (a Westminster-style constitution, the breakup of the United States into several autonomous nations in a customs union), but there are some really scary options too. One would think that self-styled conservatives would worry themselves about this, as tearing apart a constitutional order built largely on norms with no real vision of how to make things work has led to a great deal of instability and will only lead to more. That they are not apparently worried shows that they are not conservative in any meaningful sense of the term.

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I’m very skeptical that Andrew Cuomo actually had a formal deal in place to tank Democratic chances in exchange for, well, nothing. This would be the biggest unforced error since Watergate–Cuomo was going to win by a large margin anyway, so I don’t know why he would he accept a deal that would eventually become public and reflect incredibly poorly on him. Seriously, why would he do it? Since the New York Post broke this story it’s quite likely bullshit, since we must remember that the Post was once a respected paper that Murdoch bought seemingly as an experiment in whether he could sell the same kinds of shitty newspapers in America as he could in Britain. (That the words “New York Post” and “financial trouble” together spawn over 60 million Google hits tells you how successful it has been.) It only seems like there’s one source to this story anyway, which befits the Post‘s tabloid reputation but is well short of sound journalistic practice, as that one guy could very well be talking out of his ass. Then again, the story is definitely not implausible. Certainly Cuomo is not above it, and has done similar types of things in recent history. In this case though it seems like a such a stupid move that if he actually did it, he’d have to be the dumbest motherfucker in American politics, way stupider than Dubya, so stupid so as to make his many progressive detractors cease to be in any threatened by such a confused, poor chess player. Why make a corrupt bargain to outright sabotage his own party when his victory was completely assured? Assuming that someone who becomes governor of a major state has to have some political skills, why would he do something that is all risk and no reward? The most obvious explanation is that he did not.

Then again, the fact that every progressive commentator has accept the story as obviously true shows just how rough a Cuomo presidential campaign truly would be. His more conservative stances are a problem, but even his more progressive accomplishments have a way of boomeranging back and hurting Democrats. While it was laudable that he pushed for gun control in the abstract, his gun control measure, for example, was so shoddily assembled and confusing, and inviting of backlash without being defensible, that it hardly has helped the cause and might be responsible for Democrats’ losses in upstate New York. Progressives loathe him as perhaps their greatest bete noire, but it’s worth remembering that nearly every organized Democratic constituency can easily find things to dislike about the man, from his support for fracking, to his legendarily non-transparent state government, to his economic policies, which are arguably to the right of Bill Clinton’s. If Scott Walker is the Republican candidate who has made no enemies in his own party, then Cuomo is the Democratic candidate who has nothing but, a candidate whose ass would have been grass in a less machine-heavy state primary, and whose lackluster bare majority over an abandoned Republican candidate is hardly the stuff of which formidable national candidates are built. If Cuomo really wanted to keep his options open, he should have spent this autumn doing his damnedest for Democrats in New York and elsewhere, building favors and changing his reputation to being a man who can be trusted with the party machinery. He amassed $45 million for a run against a nonentity, money that could have saved, say, Tim Bishop. That he did not–and might even have done the opposite–suggests he doesn’t care much with party actors or the rank and file much think of him, only D.C. pundits who invariably put him on every list of possible 2016 candidates and corporate executives. But plenty of candidates raise lots of money and go nowhere–Mitt Romney in 2010, Phil Gramm in 1996, and of course Dick Gephardt many, many times. It’s difficult to imagine Cuomo overcoming the sort of mistrust that led to automatic acceptance of what is basically a National Enquirer story, especially since that mistrust has been well-earned.

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I wholeheartedly agree with this:

And yet, not even FitzGerald was bad enough to claim the prize as the absolute worst candidate of this election. That “award” goes to Iowa Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley, who, through sheer force of personality, not only lost a very winnable open seat race but lost it badly. Some races are a failure of the campaign. This was a failure of the candidate.

There’s some more analysis at the link but I think this really needs to be seen this way: Braley ran the sort of campaign that nervous, egotistical Democrats always run. He took the high road. He kept his attacks decorous. He didn’t do anything that could possibly be considered sexist, didn’t do anything that could make him look bad. And he lost, badly. Contrast this with Harry Reid’s performance in 2010. Reid had much, much worse polling numbers than Braley ever did. He’d been behind in eight straight polls in 2010. In fact, you could argue he was downright hated, and practically every pundit figured he’d lose. But he showed why he rose to be Senate Majority Leader. He masterfully ensured that the least palatable candidate got the Republican nomination, and then as soon as that happened, he wasted no time using every aspect of her record to make her even more hated than he was. He didn’t care if it made him look bad, as his numbers were so bad he arguably could not go down any further. He didn’t care when Sharron Angle made (bogus) sexist claims. So despite a much more difficult race, Reid hung on against all odds, while Braley lost, against initially very good odds. So, in essence, this was indeed a failure of the candidate, but the failure wasn’t that his personality was lousy. Harry Reid has never been considered a guy you could have a beer with, and that’s not because he’s Mormon. But he understands that you have to do what it takes to win. Braley valued his “good guy” self-image and was unwilling to do what needed to be done until it was too late, and figured that Ernst’s craziness would automatically disqualify her. When it didn’t he had no idea what to do. Democrats never seem to understand that giving up the initiative almost always leads to failure, even in seeming no-lose situations. Braley in many respects reminds me of John Kerry’s campaign in 2004, or at least its worst aspects, but perhaps the best example is Tom Dewey’s 1948 campaign. On paper there was no way he could possibly lose. Truman’s campaign had third-party challengers drawing from him both on the left and right, Truman was unpopular and seemed not to be up to the job he inherited. So Dewey decided to stay at home rather than campaign, and left all that to poor Earl Warren, his veep candidate. We all know how that turned out.

This was, in my opinion, worse than Martha Coakley’s lousy 2010 performance. Coakley was merely lazy and tone-deaf, but in retrospect the afterglow of the 2006 and 2008 victories made it hard to see how quickly the backlash was building. Braley can’t claim any of that. A truly terrible politician who should serve as an example of how not to be. Democrats, please take note, and never run this kind of piece of shit campaign again. Thank you.

(h/t: Political Wire)

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Very, very laudable, but alas, not in time to provide Democrats with all that much political help.

When all the dust clears on the 2014 debacle, I strongly think it’ll boil down to this: Democrats set keeping the Senate as their key goal, and “do no harm” as their strategy to try to keep it, by not irritating red staters. That strategy morphed into the more comfortable “do nothing, and hope Republicans disqualify themselves with their extremism” strategy. It failed in red states without giving Democratic voters anywhere much of a reason to turn out. While I do not blame Obama entirely for this–probably the Democratic Senate caucus deserves quite a bit of blame too, for falling back into bad habits and viewing the election so two-dimensionally–it’s hardly implausible that “new Mid-East war” is the hidden reason that might well have damped down enthusiasm for voting Democratic in key states. It’s certainly the case that Democrats have not rebelled against Obama’s various foreign wars, preferring to ignore or silently oppose this aspect of his presidency. Seems like a very short walk from there to “not voting in off-year election” to me.

I’m getting over it, but every once in a while I still get hit by recalling some awful outcome from last week. Scott Walker and Rick Snyder, easily re-elected in blue states, unpunished after busting unions. Sam Brownback, given another four years after wrecking his state. Thom Tillis and Joni Ernst will be U.S. Senators. Ugh. We really couldn’t do any better than this? I need a break:

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