And they are: Marion G. Crain of the University of North Carolina School of Law; Mary J. Davis of the University of Kentucky College of Law; H. Marshall Jarrett of the U.S. Department of Justice; Joyce E. McConnell of the WVU College of Law; Alfred Dennis Mathewson of the University of New Mexico School of Law; and Thomas B. Metzloff of the Duke University Law School.
The Washington media types love the National Journal rankings, so you know this'll be a story in the campaign if Obama wins the nomination.
However, I'm highly dubious of any ranking system that says that Joe Biden is more liberal than Bernie Sanders.
UPDATE: These rankings of course don't include all votes, only "key votes" the National Journal selects. Turns out that on these votes Obama and Clinton voted very similarly, with only the following differences (discussed in that piece in The Guardian I linked to earlier this month). The votes:
But it's interesting to see where Clinton and Obama diverged. On 18/S1, "Establish a Senate Office of Public Integrity to handle ethics complaints against senators," Obama voted for, and Clinton voted against. On HR6, "Create a national action plan for reducing oil consumption by 35 percent by 2030," Clinton voted "yes," Obama didn't vote. On S1348, "Allow certain immigrants to stay in the United States while renewing their visas," Clinton voted no, Obama voted yes. And on Kyl-Lieberman, as dk points out, Obama didn't vote.
I'm not sure what I think of the analysis at the top of this post given that today's Rasmussen tracking numbers are good for Clinton. But the bulk of it, going through each of the Feb. 5th states, is some very impressive work.
Not remotely surprising, but nonetheless troubling.
Since I don't expect Super-Duper Tuesday to settle the Democratic nomination, the contests just after it could be key to the press deciding who has the big mo'. One of the first contests after Feb. 5th are the caucuses in Washington state, which will be held on the following Saturday. Today Sen. Clinton picked up the endorsement of that state's senior senator, Patty Murray. Clinton had already won the support of Sen. Maria Cantwell, as well as that of King County Exec Ron Sims and former Gov. Gray Locke (though does having Locke in her corner help her or hurt her?).
That's according to the AP.
So, how do you think this will affect the rest of the race for the nomination?
I'd much rather go back to the days when this thing wasn't a speech. Matthew Shugart nails some of the format's basic flaws.
In this respect, the State of the Union is really the worst of both worlds. The head of state stands before the people’s representatives (oh, and the senators, too) and delivers something allegedly about the nation as a whole. But then, as head of government - and therefore a partisan leader - he (i.e. the same person, unlike in Westminster systems) never sticks around to answer tough questions and subject himself to ridicule for the absurdities he has just mouthed. Instead, the opposition has to send someone to a TV/radio studio to give an equally absurd speech that hardly anyone listens to, and thus an opportunity for the sides to engage each other when people actually are paying attention is squandered.
As of this time, several news sources are reporting that Guiliani will drop from the race tomorrow. At least the worst candidate for President won't win. That's gotta be worth something.
So what's been the most maddening thing about the election this year? Quite possibly it's been the media's obsession with who wins a state. Now for the Republican contests in Florida and New York that is indeed hugely important because they are winner take all contests, and if you win the state you win a huge number of convention delegates. But no Democratic contest works that way, and few Republican ones do. Among Democrats, delegate allocations depend on how you do statewide and how you do in individual congressional districts. That explains why Obama and Clinton won the same number of delegates in New Hampshire though she narrowly "won" the state, and why Obama won more delegates in Nevada (well, 1 more) though she "won" the state. So if much of the fight that matters on the Democratic side comes down to battles in congressional districts, not states, how do the candidates decide which ones to concentrate on? Marc Ambinder helps us understand.
I just realized that Endymion will be rolling the same night the Super Bowl will be played. Either Mardi Gras is way too early, or the NFL season has dragged on too long.
As just about everyone who blogs on military issues has discovered, there is a fascinating Tom Ricks nugget in the Washington Post yesterday. The Air Force (our Air Force) notes that "the budget battle is zero sum - others gain is our loss" and notes that the Air Force seeks to return to "prominence" in national security.
This is silly, and everyone knows that. In some sense this isn't surprising (I've always viewed the Pentagon as primarily a bureaucratic vehicle, that sometimes manages to fight wars), but it is depressing to see this when were in two active shooting wars. Shame on the Air Force for doing this now.
But it's a cool meme (or would be if I had better programs than Paint).
Yes the Court that the rightie hot-air-brigade regularly touts as all that is unholy, and a menace to America, has issued a ruling that you'd think the Dobsons, Hannitys, O'Reillys and maybe even Alan Keyes would love. Somehow though I expect they'll nonetheless continue to mock and attack it.
Presuming the president is going to point to her in his speech tonight, well, the press needs to ask how she got here in the first place (to be used as a prop). Because she wasn't supposed to be admitted into the US.
It's no surprise that Juno has made more money than any of the other Best Picture nominees. But I've got to say that given their respective subject matter, I do find it surprising that No Country for Old Men has made more money than Michael Clayton and Atonement.
And isn't is interesting how after one of the most unpredictable Oscar seasons in memory there suddenly seems to be a surprising bit of consensus about the winners in the Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor categories?
Well, if you are having trouble waiting until February 24th for the big event, here's Kris Tapley's live-blogging of last night's Screen Actors Guild awards.
UPDATE: And how silly of me to link to a SAG Awards item without also linking to pics of the stars playing dress-up. So here are your red carpet pics. Personally I'm highest on the dresses of Marcia Cross, Christina Applegate and Michelle Pfeiffer. And of course Brad Pitt looks great. And I don't care what anyone says, I think Viggo's outfit is fun.
So I rented this dreck since it involved a lot of the same people who were in the quite funny Wet Hot American Summer. But this movie is no WHAS. Aside from a kind of funny, bitchy, insane turn by Winona Ryder as a woman who falls hard for a dummy, and a where-did-that-come-from Dianne Wiest reference, this movie is just terrible. Bad bad bad bad bad.
I really like the idea of an Obama-Sebelius ticket, and this would seem to help that along. And yeah, I know Obama has to win the nomination first and that's not even close to being secured, but you all know I'm a political junkie, so of course I like playing the Veepstakes game.
It's fairly late to be jumping into a congressional race, but with John Unger suddenly dropping out the race the Democrats needed a new candidate in WV-2, and they now have one with excellent political connections. Whether those will be enough to help her raise money, form a strong organization, and develop high positive name recognition remains to be seen.
Looks like West Virginia won't have a single interesting congressional race this year, now that state senator John Unger (D) has dropped his challenge to Rep. Shelley Capito (R).
Well this endorsement might not matter quite as much as Gov. Crist's endorsement of Sen. McCain, but given that she's doing it on the pages of the New York Times, given her family's influence and her prominent role in the family, given that Massachusetts and New York are voting on Super-Duper Tuesday, and that this'll be covered in the wake of Obama's tremendous win tonight - this could be important. And it makes you wonder if Ted Kennedy might not eventually endorse too.
A President Like My Father
By CAROLINE KENNEDY
OVER the years, I've been deeply moved by the people who've told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. This sense is even more profound today. That is why I am supporting a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama.
My reasons are patriotic, political and personal, and the three are intertwined. All my life, people have told me that my father changed their lives, that they got involved in public service or politics because he asked them to. And the generation he inspired has passed that spirit on to its children. I meet young people who were born long after John F. Kennedy was president, yet who ask me how to live out his ideals.
Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible.
We have that kind of opportunity with Senator Obama. It isn't that the other candidates are not experienced or knowledgeable. But this year, that may not be enough. We need a change in the leadership of this country - just as we did in 1960.
Most of us would prefer to base our voting decision on policy differences. However, the candidates' goals are similar. They have all laid out detailed plans on everything from strengthening our middle class to investing in early childhood education. So qualities of leadership, character and judgment play a larger role than usual.
Senator Obama has demonstrated these qualities throughout his more than two decades of public service, not just in the United States Senate but in Illinois, where he helped turn around struggling communities, taught constitutional law and was an elected state official for eight years. And Senator Obama is showing the same qualities today. He has built a movement that is changing the face of politics in this country, and he has demonstrated a special gift for inspiring young people - known for a willingness to volunteer, but an aversion to politics - to become engaged in the political process.
I have spent the past five years working in the New York City public schools and have three teenage children of my own. There is a generation coming of age that is hopeful, hard-working, innovative and imaginative. But too many of them are also hopeless, defeated and disengaged. As parents, we have a responsibility to help our children to believe in themselves and in their power to shape their future. Senator Obama is inspiring my children, my parents' grandchildren, with that sense of possibility.
Senator Obama is running a dignified and honest campaign. He has spoken eloquently about the role of faith in his life, and opened a window into his character in two compelling books. And when it comes to judgment, Barack Obama made the right call on the most important issue of our time by opposing the war in Iraq from the beginning.
I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it; who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift our spirits, and make us believe again that our country needs every one of us to get involved.
I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president - not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.
So is this belittling? Race-baiting? Delegitimizing? Or what?
For more on this general area, Jack and Jill Politics has posts up on "The Clintons, Black Folk and America" and "The Media's Three-Fifths Compromise". The latter deals with the tendency in some quarters to downplay an Obama victory in South Carolina, given his race and the racial composition of the electorate of that state. Though given the size of Obama's win tonight I think that "argument" (which would seem to be Bill Clinton's argument) will be rather harder to justify.
This isn't a huge surprise by any means but it could end up having lasting implications as: 1) at the moment the Republican race in Florida looks very tight, and 2) a fairly strong argument could be made that a McCain-Crist ticket would have a better chance of winning in November than any other ticket the Republicans could put together.
And if this exit poll is accurate it's going to be by a giant margin - much bigger than the winning margins we saw reported in Iowa, New Hampshire or Nevada.
UPDATE: With 75% of the results in he's crushing his rivals. It's Obama 54%, Clinton 27%, Edwards 19%. You have to wonder if the Edwards campaign will continue - and if it doesn't, wonder who that will help.
UPDATE 2: CNN's exit polls. Interesting.
Charli Carpenter discusses the unique position of the Vatican here, and raises an interesting hypothetical.
It's true the Holy See has the ostensible status of a state for the purposes of multilateral treaty negotiations. It sits on deliberations over UN treaty, declaration and resolution language, and though it doesn't vote on these documents the Pope chooses whether or not to sign them. Plus the fact that the culture at the UN strives for consensus means any individual actor has a fair amount of influence as a veto player, so the Holy See is in a great position to stick it out until other delegates are worn down and tired of arguing to get language into treaties that reflects its principled positions.
My project isn't about the Holy See's status, but these dialogues with my informants got me thinking about the issue. There's been a lot of criticism over whether the church should have this power relative to other non-state actors - other NGOs have the right to be in the building, and lobby delegates constantly in the hallways, but no other non-state actor has the right to actually sit at the table and negotiate with governments. One of the articles I read as I prepped for this trip suggested that either the Holy See should lose this status or, to be fair, other religions should be represented as well.
Interesting idea, eh? Suppose Saudi Arabia, for example, were to enter into a treaty with the city of Mecca similar to Italy's treaty with what is now the Vatican City State, and Sunni Islam were to re-establish a caliphate centered in Mecca but territorially distinct from any Muslim majority state, with transnational moral authority over all Sunni Muslims, and then it sent diplomats throughout international society on the model of the Catholic church. Shia Islam could create a parallel Imamte perhaps centered on Tehran.
An update from ObWi:
A member of Andy Olmsted's family has just written me to say that if people want to do something in honor of him, they can send donations to a fund that has been set up for the four children of CPT Thomas Casey, who served under Andy and was killed while trying to help him. The address is here:
Capt. Thomas Casey Children's fund
P.O. Box 1306
Chester, CA 96020
Thanks so much.
ICE? Not so much.
One of the most partisan and right-wing judges in the federal judiciary is taking over the country's "second highest court". Great. Or not.
The latest is Dave Weldon from Florida's Space Coast. He's the 25th Republican to announce he won't seek reelection in November. That's over 12% of their caucus, and there is every reason to think more retirement announcements are on the way. It's not surprising given that they doubtless don't like serving in the minority in the House, and all signs point to at least 3 more years of Democratic rule at the very least. But this level of retirements is going to make it notably harder for the Republicans to eventually return to power.
No wonder the Republican establishment hates Mike Huckabee. Sure the guy can give a speech, answer a question, or work a crowd better than anyone else in their field - but he also makes statements like this again and again and again. I'm starting to lose track of if it's sad, funny, or just plain embarrassing.
Two legislators from Raleigh County have filed to run against Joe Manchin. Sen. Russ Weeks (R) and Del. Mel Kessler will both face very long odds given that Manchin is one of the most popular governors in the country.
We've known for some time that State's employees have major problems with how the Department is being run, and that many have lost faith in Secretary Rice's leadership. But I was unaware of how badly the Department was serving its personnel (and presumably American interests) on some of these points.
Today, State is so short-staffed (between 1,000 and 2,000 position deficit depending on who’s counting) that it announced it will leave ten percent of its positions vacant next summer, and thus far it has not even given its employees bound for Iraq more than one week training overall including paramilitary. During the Vietnam era, the combined language, area studies and paramilitary training for Foreign Service employees being sent to Vietnam lasted six to eight months.
To make things worse, the salary gap between senior Foreign Service members and those in the rank-and-file has never been greater and the current quirks in the law worsen the discrepancy between the two for those rank-and-file members going over overseas. It’s no surprise that the AFSA survey results reflected this unfairness, among other issues that currently stalk the candy-colored halls of Foggy Bottom.
Calculated Risk has a post up bemoaning what the stimulus package is likely to look like. It's actually a "worst idea" thread. But that post also proposes something to me that sounds relatively simple, and more likely than most of these other proposals to work:
Perhaps having the General Fund pay the workers' portion of the payroll tax for a certain period (or for a certain amount earned - say on the next $20K per worker). My guess is that extra take home pay every week or two will likely be spent.
What do you think?
This is just a quick post on two of my movie rentals from the last several days. I liked Sketches of Frank Gehry (a documentary about the famed architect directed by Sydney Pollack) a lot more than I thought I would. On paper and in photographs I've often found Gehry's work a little too heavy and rather too one-note. But Pollack managed to open up my eyes. This is wonderfully shot, and you get a good sense of both the architect and his works. It's a really nice documentary, and if you are interested in the man, his works, or architecture generally, I highly recommend it.
As to A Good Year, what can I say? Well, it looks freakin' beautiful, as you would expect of a Ridley Scott film. Whether it's shooting The Gherkin or Provence he's got an eye for capturing a setting. And it features some vigorous and game supporting turns from a number of fine actors (like Freddie Highmore and Archie Punjabi). But I guess whether or not you can enjoy this completely predictable romantic comedy (and yes, I'm still taken aback that someone financed a romantic comedy starring Russell Crowe and directed by Ridley Scott) turns on your tolerance for the cheese factor. Because it's nothing but cheese. If you are willing to roll with that you might find it fun. If it's likely to grate on you, don't so much as touch the dvd.
This should definitely put another Democrat in Congress. Walsh, who has served in the House for 10 terms, almost lost to Dan Maffei last time. Maffei should win this seat now that it's open. The district, which includes Syracuse, leans Democratic.
Presuming Maffei does win we will be seeing yet another another Democratic pick-up in New York, and the ever-shrinking group of New York Republicans in Congress will get even smaller. At the moment they hold only 6 of New York's 29 congressional districts. If Walsh is replaced by Maffei that number will be reduced to 5 of 29 (and at least one of those remaining 5 could be defeated in November).
Seriously, how do appalling, insensitive, insulting, braying jackasses like this moron and Glenn Beck keep national tv "news" jobs? Is corporate America really that disinterested in their own reputations, or the quality of their work? Guess so.
The Army is having trouble again. They want to have 90% of their recruits with a high school diploma, but they also need to make the recruiting numbers in order to prevent a shortfall in people to do jobs. Well, they made their numbers, but they didn't make the 90% high school requirement.
As the article notes, if you enter the Army with a high school diploma, you have an 80% chance of finishing your term of enlistment. If you don't have a diploma, that chance drops to 50%. So we're making our short term goals (making the monthly recruitment targets), but creating a longer term problem (lower standards mean more recruits leaving, which just means you need higher recruitment to fill the larger holes). This does not bode well.
Publius is definitely on to something in this post from Tuesday. It's something they do frequently - for example, in this attack ad playing in South Carolina. It's mendacious. It's thoroughly untrustworthy. It's horrible for political discourse in this country. And it shows a complete disinterest in fostering a coalition of support that would include anyone who's not already among their BFFs or top pals and contributors. And it's that last bit that I think Publius should have gone into more deeply. This kind of behavior would seem to suggest a highly insular political style in which the Clintons will be cloistered away with those they already trust, while they insult the intelligence of the rest of us. And given this style and their previous years in the White House it would seem extremely unlikely a President Clinton would have much interest in rolling back the obscene claims of executive power we have seen asserted by the Bush White House. And that is highly troubling as well.
I tend to find voting records to be problematic measures of policy differences, but if you are inclined to use them, here's an examination of what they've differed on while in the Senate (it says something that a policy piece like this is in the Guardian and not in a US paper, don't you think?). It would appear that Obama's is the more "liberal" and less war-like record when it comes to foreign policy, but then he voted for the energy bill while she voted against it. Personally, I think the most telling disagreement might be on the ethics reform bill - Obama supported it, Clinton opposed it. Of course the National Journal regularly rates senators by combining every single vote they cast. In their rankings Obama is more liberal than Clinton.
One of the country's winningest basketball coahes is in a bit of trouble.
St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke said this morning that St. Louis University basketball coach Rick Majerus should be disciplined over his public comments supporting abortion rights and stem cell research. Majerus made his comments at a campaign appearance for Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday night during an interview with KMOV (Channel 4) ...
"It's not possible to be a Catholic and hold those positions," Burke said. "When you take a position in a Catholic university, you don't have to embrace everything the Catholic church teaches. But you can't make statements which call into question the identity and mission of the Catholic church" ...
"Rick's comments were his own personal view. They were made at an event he did not attend as a university representative," Fowler said. "It was his own personal visit to the rally. The comments were his, he was not speaking for the university in whatever comments he made to Channel 4."
Last year, St. Louis U. celebrated a legal victory that affirmed it is not controlled by the Catholic church or by its Catholic beliefs.
The Missouri Supreme Court agreed with the school in handing down a decision that the city of St. Louis did not violate state and federal constitutions by granting the university $8 million in tax increment financing for its new arena. Opponents of the $80 million arena sued the school in 2004, halting construction. The Missouri Constitution prohibits public funding to support any "... college, university, or other institution of learning controlled by any religious creed, church or sectarian denomination whatever." The debate came down to two words: "control" and "creed." Does the guiding mission of a Catholic university align with the specific system of religious faith espoused by the Catholic church? And if so, does that system of faith control the actions of the university? In a 6-1 decision, the court said SLU "is not controlled by a religious creed."
When I was looking over the blogs this morning and last night a lot of people seemed to think Hillary did a great job last night because it showed her to be the kind of street fighter that said bloggers think you have to be to win a national election. However, others thought she hurt herself last night because the people who move into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. don't usually do so after running angry campaigns - instead, those who smile and are liked win national elections. Any thoughts as to which of these views is a better read on last night's events?
And the nominees are ... going to be announced in 2 minutes.
Okay, so my immediate thoughts. First, Surf's Up!?! What the hell? I don't think I'd even really heard of that. Surfing penguins I'm guessing? Nonetheless it took the slot in Animated Feature that was expected to go to The Simpsons Movie. I thought Actress was somewhat surprising. No Angelina Jolie? No Keira Knightley? Instead Cate B. gets in for her second Elizabeth and Laura Linney gets in for The Savages. Director was quite interesting in that both Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) and Jason Reitman (Juno) were nominated, neither of which would've probably been expected a month ago. To me Actor is a dream of a field - Clooney, Mortensen, Day-Lewis, Depp and Jones (for In the Valley of Elah). The supporting acting categories didn't really offer any big surprises. The former Soviet bloc did very well in Foreign Language Film (12, Katyn, Mongol). I haven't seen the full list of nominees yet, but the ones announced on tv were pretty respectable picks.
UPDATE: So 3 songs from Enchanted were nominated? Huh. And now we live in a world where Norbit is an Oscar nominee (for make-up). Shudder.
UPDATE 2: Damn. I just realized Norbit got more nominations than Zodiac? Wtf?!? Zodiac didn't get any nominations. Not even for Vanderbilt's great screenplay. That's just sad.
Even though it appears to be hibernating (defunct?) this is singing my kind of tune.
The gloves are off, and there are cuts and bruises galore. Ben Smith's doing a great job of blogging this knockdown masquerading as a debate at The Politico. For a transcript of how it began, check here. And since then it's only gotten nastier, and you really wonder if they aren't going to resort to physical combat shortly.
If this is accurate, it's horrifying.
The Pentagon is releasing a report saying, one in five American serviceman and women who have been in Iraq are coming back with brain injuries. Mild, traumatic brain injuries. More than 250,000 people. That legacy of that will last all of our life times and it’s incalculable.
So since little bro and I have both just seen it (and we disagree to a degree - shocking, I know), it seems to merit its own thread. So what did I think? The good - the costumes, the score, the acting. Saoirse Ronan, Keira Knightley and James McAvoy were all great (though as far as acting nominations, is Knightley really a lead?). What didn't I like? The direction. Frankly, I thought it was god awful. It seemed that Wright felt compeled to never use the subtlety of 20 anvils when he could use forty. All that endless choreography, the deafening clacking, every frame overflowing constantly. Really irritating and rather distracting. And Morris is right about the music to the degree that iit was overemphasized through. And even what I guess I'd call the "white noise" of all Wright's whirring about - I've never seen a busier, noisier interwar English country house. And the forwards/backwards bits, and the slow motion ... Oy. Again, when Wright wasn't over-doing it there were definitely some things to recommend the film. And I really did like the acting by those mentioned above. And yes the famous green dress is terrific. But I didn't love the movie, and I've got to think that the themes of the story and what the book is ostensibly about probably worked better on the page.
Norbiz says it's for real this time. Say it isn't so!
"Six feels like zero" was not the weather report I was hoping for this morning.
If I didn't hate powerpoint so much, I might almost be into one of these.
Baby animals with fat bellies continue to be cute.
Global markets... AIIEEEEE!!!!!!
I am reminded of seventh grade geography, where I learned that at certain latitudes, the ground stays frozen, often for many years in succession. Today I learned, that below certain temperatures, what I refer to as "turdcicles" actually become "permapoop."
Diablo Cody seems a sure-fire bet to not only be nominated for a screenplay Oscar on Tuesday, but she'll probably also win the award. Is this merited? It appears there's a bit of a backlash against her work. And I can't say I'm surprised. The movie is great fun, well-acted, and witty as hell. But there is is the matter of everyone in the movie seeming to talk the same way, there are a couple of poorly written scenes (especially the abortion clinic scene which is flat-out awful), and, personally, I really didn't believe that Juno was a 16 year old, and that was rather distracting. For further thoughts on this scroll down to the end of Dennis Cozzalio's year in review piece (well, actually, read all of that - it's a really funny, insightful and witty review - but if you only want to see the bit on Juno, it's near the end) and these thoughts on it at The Man From Porlock.
All that said, I had a great time at Juno. I liked it. But unlike Roger Ebert, I wouldn't say it was the best film of the year.
The man knows how to inspire, there's no question about that. He's probably too subtle on some of the points that could help him politically (the war), and he's surprisingly explicit on points that could hurt him politically (gays, immigrants). But whether or not it's an A+ as a political move, it shows him once again to be the class of the field when it comes to inspiring people to stand up for an inclusive America that respects and helps the less fortunate. It's worth reading.
Yes, it's another review/discussion of the Drive By Truckers. It's (partially) my blog, so I get to do these things.
The Drive By Truckers have released a new album (Brighter Than Creation's Dark); it's substantially better than 2006's "A Blessing And A Curse." This was (according to Patterson Hood) a tough year for the band - they lost Jason Isbell (off to the solo world), quit their label (see the end of the article), and didn't release new material (no new material means no new airplay, which generally means no sales and less concert attendance; in short - less money). I would argue that it might have been tougher for the fans - with all that uncertainty, we weren't really sure what they were up to, and if we'd get to see/hear them again.
On top of all of that, the music industry is in severe crisis. As has been widely reported, sales of CDs have fallen massively over the previous year (about 10% down from 2006). That figure sort-of masks the crisis, as 2006 sales were below 2005 levels, so the two year decline is even steeper. Touring revenues were down as well (bands weren't making up the loss in CD sales in concert tickets). In general, music economics sucked.
So, between the macro (music industry collapsing) and micro (departing members, no new album), I wasn't sure how much DBT there would be in 2007. I saw them at their (traditional) New Years Eve shows, at which they announced they were taking 2007 off. I figured it would be a long year, and hoped that it wouldn't be over (bands taking long times off, anecdotally, seem more likely to break up).
I was clearly wrong. 2007 turned out to be a heck of a DBT year (bucking the larger music scene trends; more on that later). I suspect that losing Jason Isbell was somewhat of a crisis of confidence (and combined with the trouble with the label made for a possible end-of-band scenario). The year saw them do two albums; the aforementioned "Brighter Than Creation's Dark" and backing Betty LaVette on her Grammy-nominated "Scene of the Crime." In addition, DBT embarked on a lengthy tour where they left behind all their electric guitars and played only acoustic versions of their songs. This was called the "Dirt Underneath" tour, and I was fortunate to see several of these (some in May, some in June, some in October). A really cool idea that proved to me (once and for all) that you don't need loud Marshalls and Gibsons to make rock. (As an aside, I suspect the "Dirt Underneath" tour was done once Jason left in order to sort out what the band was up to - a sort of "where are we now" pilgrimage that had the nice side benefit of making them some money.)
One of the advantages of the "Dirt Underneath" shows was that DBT played many of the songs that would appear on the new album; I remember hearing some of the new songs back in the May show. The presence of new material was reassuring; it was hard to believe the band was breaking up if they were still writing. It was also really good stuff; the new music had a more country bend, but seemed more personal and stronger. The stuff from "A Blessing And A Curse" didn't have any personal connection to the band (I can always see Patterson actually burying a banker in a sinkhole, for example), and the new stuff seemed like a return to form. This, I decided, was hopeful.
Which brings us to the three shows in January. DBT is heading off on a lengthy tour (they had a European leg scheduled, but the collapsing dollar has killed that), and they wanted to sort the new album out in a live setting before the real tour. So (according to Patterson Hood), they took over the 40 Watt (a legendary small club in Athens, Georgia, which is sort-of the unofficial home for the band) for a week (while they only played three public shows - Thursday, Friday and Saturday - Patterson did thank the club for the "week" they had there, leading me to guess that they had played a few more test runs earlier in the week).
Binky and I got tickets for all three shows back in November (or whenever they went on sale). We spent most of Christmas break with our various families (fun, but not vacation) and were looking forward to getting away from everything for a while. Plus, Athens looked to be a really fun town (we were there briefly for one of the "Dirt Underneath" shows, but didn't really get to hang out).
One of the advantages of liking a relatively small band is that the fan base is correspondingly small. In this internet age, it's easy to form communities between people who don't (physically) see each other. The DBTNation mostly hangs out at ninebullets (here), spending way too much time and effort talking about all things DBT. The three nights at the 40 Watt promised to be a chance to put faces with names for the first time (in addition to the shows). For reasons never fully explained (likely a fight with their ex-label), DBT had canceled their traditional New Years Eve shows, so these early January dates were serving in their stead. Lots of DBT fans were flying/driving in from all over. This also meant that the crowd was likely to be more DBT friendly than some random place in Pennsylvania or Minnesota.
The first night (January 10) was special. There is a local charity (Nuci's Space) that DBT has supported in the past. DBT (and the 40 Watt) did a benefit; all the proceeds from the show were going to the charity. As a draw, DBT said they would play the new album (Brighter Than Creations Dark) in its entirety. This was (likely) any fan's chance to see every song live. They didn't play the songs in the order on the album, but were close. You can listen to the live show (or any of the three) here; the taper (Sloan Simpson) makes some of the best bootleg live concert tapes I've ever heard.
The show itself was good. Not the best I've seen them play, but that seemed reasonable (new material, some of which was tough to translate from a studio-acoustic setting to the live-Marshalls/Gibsons setting). We were right up front (with a whole pack of NineBullets people). They played the (relatively) mellow stuff first ("Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife"; "Daddy Needs A Drink"), and moved onto the rockier ones ("Three Dimes Down"). I was particularly surprised to find some of the less exciting album songs come alive in the concert; "The Righteous Path" sounds a lot more like some of Patterson's "The Dirty South"-era anthems ("Sinkhole", "Lookout Mountain"), with a "hard working southern man doing my duty" vibe to it. "That Man I Shot" is a protest song (about Iraq), but rocks really nicely. I particularly like it because it traverses a nice middle ground; it nicely showcases the ambivalence many of us feel about the entire enterprise, and humanizes the confusion of how to do the right thing. I'd be curious to have veterans give their take. I hope Patterson learns the words one of these days (he was reading from notes even on the third night). I hope this one becomes a staple of theirs. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was Shonna's "Home Field Advantage." She sings three songs on the album; all nice, but I hate the production. They gave her a ton of reverb, and she sounds like she's singing in a tile bathroom. Live, however, the song picks up steam (killer intro; Brad Morgan - the drummer - works overtime), and Shonna's not in a bathroom, so it works. Nice anthemic rocker.
They made their way through all nineteen songs. A hell of a show. The encore (a brief four or five songs) was back to their old stuff. The crowd went nuts (predictably). Nice version of "Marry Me" (one of my favorite Cooley songs). The crowd also started to get very, very rowdy. I think that only the hard-core fans had heard versions of the new songs, and the rest of the casual DBT fans were a bit in the dark for most of the night. When the familiar songs came on (at the end), the combination of familiarity and excessive alcohol caused a number of them to stampede forward. This was the ugliest scene of the weekend, but I've seen worse. I think it got so bad that it annoyed Patterson (who was casting ugly/drunken looks at some of the moshing frat-boy types) into calling the show off prematurely. I could be wrong, but that's the way it looked to me. Overall, the first night was a more mellow vibe (other than the moshing). We got out late, and to bed by 4AM.
It's worth talking about Athens here. Really nice town. I've spent some time in college towns (Chapel Hill, Asheville, Ann Arbor, Morgantown), and Athens is just as nice as any (and better than Morgantown). Nice bunch of restaurants (everything from vegetarian to Thai to nouvelle to a great bar with Belgian beer on tap), nice music stores, green spaces, a cookie store, a local paper, four coffee houses, and a vintage clothing store. And that's all in the one little corner we stayed in. Now, if it only was on the water...
I've not got much to say about the openers for the first night. There were two the first night. The first was forgettable (I've forgotten them); the other was pretty good. Don Chambers and GOAT were the second openers, and they rocked. Don Chambers looks to be about 50 (maybe less, but he's been rode hard and put away wet), and played an electric banjo (with only four out of five strings). They had a "percussionist," who played a ladder with a mess of hubcaps stapled/riveted to it, along with a trashcan. They played the same sort of southern-rock/country-punk/protest/angry sort of music that DBT do, but with their own sort of chaotic twist. I tried to find the album in Athens, but everyone was sold out (more a function of their lack of business sense than demand, I think - I don't think Don Chambers really cares about making sure the local stores are stocked in CDs). Anyway, I'd certainly see them again.
The second night was a traditional DBT rock show, except heavy on the new album. I think this confused the crowd (the first eight songs were new and 10 of the first 12 were from the new album). This makes sense from the band's perspective (they were trying to work out new material), but I think most of the fans were thinking they'd get more of a mix. This was fine by me (and most of the other nuts up front), but it did change the crowd dynamic. It was the quietest DBT show I've been to (at one point Patterson actually told the crowd they should be rowdier; something unprecedented, I think). They played "Why Henry Drinks" (something I've never heard live before; very nice) and a smokin' version of "Angels and Fuselage" to finish the night. Again, looking back at the set list, I can see how this was an odd show for the more casual (or "normal") fan; they played almost the entire new album, and sprinkled in old stuff fairly rarely. Since the new album wasn't out, the crowd really didn't know the new songs, which was part of what threw the crowd and made it quieter than expected. A nice show, but I suspect it will get lost in the archives next to the bookends of the 10th (the entire Brighter Than Creations Dark) and the 12th (see below).
The opener, Glossary, was decent, but not as good as Don Chambers and GOAT (yes, they spell it with all capitals in the posters). They were fine at the time, but not in the top half of openers for DBT.
The third night (1/12) was one of the best DBT shows I've seen. DBT mixed new songs with older stuff, and seemed really to be fired up. The tore through classics ("Sinkhole", "Ronnie and Neil", "Zip City"), but (looking through the set list) I'm surprised at how many of the songs were new ones. The show seemed like it had more old stuff (and the crowd was significantly more lively), but there wasn't any less new stuff here than the previous night (11 of the first 14 were new). Huh; strange how you remember things differently than reality. I guess the songs were starting to sink in, or the band had more energy. Anyway, this show felt very different from the previous night. I've seen them many times, and this night had amazing energy and crowd response (not, I suspect, unrelated). They really seemed on fire; happy to be playing the songs (new and old). By this point, most of us nuts had heard the new songs enough to be familiar with them, and the whole concert seemed to "gel." As I said upstream, the new songs seem deeper and more personal than the "A Blessing and a Curse" stuff; the band seems more fired up about these songs than before. I dunno if this is true, or just that they were happy to be out on the road again (they are, clearly, a live band).
I've talked before about how good this band is live. I'm not going to re-hash that again. I'll only say that some bands make noise that sounds like their recordings, and some actually play music (and, of course, some don't even bother to make noise and use pre-recorded stuff; we won't talk about them). The Drive By Truckers clearly play music. They are really good musicians (not at the prodigy level - Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eddie Van Halen, etc.) in that they have been playing their instruments for years and are very comfortable and familiar with them. This means that they aren't struggling to make the sounds, but are playing the music. It also means that every time I hear them they sound a little different. They don't set out to re-create the sound of a song from the studio, but they play each song as seems appropriate for that concert. I'm not waxing grandiose here; I've heard "Lookout Mountain" as something akin to heavy metal and I've heard it played gently. Same song; different feel. It makes the live shows more; you don't know what you might hear (also; they have an extensive back catalog, so you literally don't know which songs you will hear - I think they have over a hundred songs at this point and they know - and play - almost all of them). So, while I've been to a dozen or show DBT concerts, none have been the same. This is by design; they don't do set lists, and they play whatever they feel like during a concert. It makes each concert experience different, and (I would think) brings back fans (some more often than others) - no one gets the same show twice, and you (the fan) get something unique the time you are there. When you go to a DBT concert you know you are getting something that no one else gets; every show really is unique.
For the last show of the weekend, it all came together (not that the other two were bad). The Truckers really rocked the house. The January 12th show was a hell of a show.
The openers were the Dexateens. We've seen them before (opening for DBT last March); they rock. A more southern sound than DBT, and a bit more bluesy and aggressive. A really amazing band (southernshelter.com has their set from the 12th, too; it's free and well worth a listen); easily the best openers of the three nights (though they played a short set). If these guys ever toured, I think we'd go see them alone. However, they don't seem to get around, so I've just seen them twice (and as openers). A really fantastic band.
I'm really glad DBT is back on the road, and supporting a heck of a new album. As I noted, I was worried what they might do in 2007. The music industry is in serious trouble, and one would think that a small/medium sized band like DBT would be at risk. I don't think that's the case. The music INDUSTRY is in trouble, but I don't think music really is. I've heard lots and lots of really good music (live and recorded) over the last two to three years; I think there is more and more good music out there in more and more styles. I think the business of music is in serious trouble; the old paradigm of large music companies who have expensive A&R people to "find" good music, who they then pass off to a multitude of marketing types to package their "style," all in the hopes of selling a million copies (platinum) is dead. In order to pay the salaries of all those middlemen (A&R, marketing, distribution, etc.) any of the big labels actually needs to sell a million copies (selling less means losing money); small bands (no matter what the musical quality) don't make enough to be worth keeping. Which means every major label is constantly under pressure to sell a million of Britney in order to make enough to pay their own salaries (and keep Britney in lawyers).
But the internet has changed that. Sure, there is the illegal downloading thing, but the success of iTunes (and, as the Times story notes, the general rise in online sales; 45% up in just a year) shows that people will pay for what they can get for free. No, the internet has made the business of marketing music almost impossible. You (anyone) can listen to any music you want at this point - MySpace, bands websites, Pandora, samples from iTunes or Amazon, or steal it; it's there for you whenever you want. This has destroyed the music industry's ability to convince you to buy music. In the old days, you heard a "single" on the radio (and I could launch into a rant about how ClearChannel has destroyed radio, but that's another post) and then (on the strength of that single song) went out and spent almost $20 on an entire album. The ability of the industry to manufacture a single hit song on the radio drove the economics of the music industry; radio was key (the only means to reach the masses and get them to buy the album). But FM radio is dead at this point; who actually listens to radio to find new music? There are multiple points of access to music over the internet, and the music industry can't cope with the marketing nightmare of trying to get a hit single out over all of them at once. As a consumer, you can try - for free - just about any music you want to hear. So why should you fork over $20 for music you haven't heard? You won't, so the music industry model is dead (or is at least dying). So, people aren't spending money on crap anymore. Fine, sales are down; that's a problem for the industry, not music. The good bands (good, in this sense, being defined as bands who produce music that people want to hear, of whatever quality and style) don't need the marketing people (or, for that matter, the A&R people); they can reach directly to the fans and potential fans via all those internet portals (MySpace, web pages, Pandora, etc.). So the bands can sell music; the industry can't manufacture hits like the old model works.
(And, just to note, perhaps one of the reasons that 2007 sold fewer albums than 2006 might be because there was little good new music in 2007; as Billboard notes, the top six albums of 2007 (in terms of sales, not quality) were released in 2006 (and 14 of the top 20 were released in 2006). So, perhaps the fall-off in sales is due - in part - to the industry putting out even worse crap than in 2006. I'm not saying this is the whole story, but it might be a part of it.)
This is where the Drive By Truckers are. The Drive By Truckers shouldn't have any problems in this environment; they aren't looking to sell a million copies of anything. They need to sell enough albums/T-shirts/tickets to pay for their lives. What use is an A&R guy to them? What use is a marketing team to them? They sell by word of mouth (by idiots like me writing lengthy reviews like this that somehow manage to get another person to listen) and by limited airplay. The rabid fans in Athens were discussing the prospects of the latest album getting big, and talking about how it has music for all types of fans (country, alternative, rock, etc.); they figured it had something to appeal to everyone. I was too polite to disagree with them in public, but I'll do it here. The new album, more than any other, does have a variety of styles. That isn't likely to help them, however. The idiots who program radio stations aren't looking for an eclectic band that has many different sounds; they are looking for music that fits the demographic the radio station plays to. A band like DBT doesn't fit (neatly) into any box, and that confusion will keep them off the major airwaves. And unless you get on the airwaves, you aren't going to sell millions of copies. No, my prediction is that the new album will sell better because the band is good, not because they did an eclectic album that crosses musical genres. They'll do better in spite of being eclectic, not because of it. The band will reach the old fans, and pick up a few more. They'll sell more because of the quality of the music, not because the music industry is able to package them better.
And this is true all over the place. I saw Feist this year; nice show. Really talented lady. What does the music industry do for her? I got interested in her from word of mouth (a guy named Victor here in town mentioned her one night) and listened to her online. She sounded interesting, I saw the concert, and now bought the two albums. I've never seen her iTunes ad (Apple used one of her songs for iTunes) and never still haven't heard her on the radio. This is exactly how the NEW music industry works. There is a whole mess of medium-sized metal bands I follow (Killswitch Engage, Protest the Hero (new album "Fortress" is out in a week - I'm psyched!), Pelican, etc.) that have prospered and succeeded mostly by touring and making good music, not by getting played on MTV or radio (I don't think I've ever heard a Protest the Hero or Pelican song on the radio, ever.). What the industry did for them as recently as 10 years ago (discover them and market them nationally) they can do for themselves today. They may sell fewer albums, but since they don't have to support an A&R staff and marketing idiots, they can sell fewer albums and still make enough to make a living. Music isn't in any danger from the internet; the traditional music industry is doomed, however.
The collapse of the music industry had nothing to do with three nights in Athens. DBT has a new album - one they seem to be pretty proud of. The Drive By Truckers are on tour in February and March (starts out west, moves into the northern mid-west, through New England, then back down in the Mid-Atlantic). You likely won't hear them on the radio, and I'll be really surprised if the new album breaks the top 50 on Billboard (it might the release week, but it'll fade quickly). But that won't be a failure for them. They'll sell enough to pay for making another album somewhere down the road, and tour to make the money to keep them in beer and whiskey (and, I suppose, pay the mortgage).
Three amazing nights in Athens later, and I'm already seeing if I can string together a mini-road trip in March (hmm...Richmond on Friday night, Asheville on Saturday night - the Orange Peel is a great club). They really are a hell of a band.
Blast, that wasn't nearly as funny as I hoped it would be. Well don't get me wrong. Anna Faris is always funny. John Krasinski is pretty good too. And Gregg Araki knows how to make a fun-looking film that pops. But I guess I was hoping for something grander from the Faris-Araki combination. I only found it mildly funny. But actually, maybe that's appropriate for a stoner movie.
There's more truth in this than you'd think MSNBC would be comfortable with.
So the latest (that I can keep track of) inane brouhaha stirred up by the Edwards and Clinton campaigns over a comment by Senator Obama had to do with grossly misinterpreting something Obama said about President Reagan. Predictably, it was later revealed that Senator Clinton has also praised Reagan's communication skills. Amid all the fact-checking related to the incident an interview was dug up in which Senator Clinton mentioned which presidents she admires and whose portraits she'd like to see hanging in her White House. So my question to you is this - if you were president (yeah, a hilarious thought, but go with it) which presidents from the past would you honor in this way, if any?
And no cheating like Sen. Paul Simon did when asked this in a 1988 presidential debate. Sure, sure, sure, it would be a good thing to put pictures of maids and miners and bus drivers on the walls too, but if you'd include portraits of presidents, who would they be?
He doesn't sound like a Benedict XVI type. This is the opening of a profile written about him last year.
A conversation is an exchange. It leaves neither participant unchanged. This is something that Jesuits and other Christians working in Asia have found for centuries.
It’s been 46 years since Father Adolfo Nicolás first traveled to Japan as a missionary from Spain. His has been a long conversation, first in Japan, but also in Korea and more recently in the Philippines. It’s left him convinced that the West does not have a monopoly on meaning and spirituality, and can learn a lot from the experience of Asian cultures.
"Asia has a lot yet to offer to the Church, to the whole Church, but we haven’t done it yet", he says. "Maybe we have not been courageous enough, or we haven’t taken the risks that we should."
It speaks volumes that when Father Nicolás talks about Asia, he uses the term "we". As President of the Jesuit Conference of South East Asia and Oceania, he’s responsible for bringing Jesuits across the region together to think beyond their own countries, and confront challenges facing the globe.
This Pew study that Kevin Drum (among others) has linked to is fascinating. Both Republicans and Democrats see the Republican presidential candidates in a strikingly similar way, ideologically speaking. But Republicans and Democrats have notably different perceptions of senators Obama and Clinton - especially Senator Clinton. Whereas Democrats see her as an arch-moderate, Republicans see ... help me out people, I was born in the 1970s and am unfamiliar with any US politician who's as leftist as Republicans seem to think she is. George McGovern maybe?
I've said it before and I'll be saying if in the future - nominating her for the presidency is a very risky proposition for the Democrats. And, clearly, Republicans are wildly disconnected from the reality of who Senator Clinton actually is.
If you are looking for things to add to your Netflix queue or muse over while you eat lunch, Edward Copeland has his 10 top movies of the year up. And if you are more theater oriented, Josh R has his 10 top Broadway performances of the year. Of course I had to link to the latter. I mean who doesn't love Martha Plimpton?
And while you are over at that site you might want to give some thought to participating in this year's Oscar survey. The topic this year - the 5 best and 5 worst Best Actor winners ever. I plan to send in my thoughts on that, though I'm having a hard time making my selections.
Just when I think he can't say something that would surprise me ...
But Padilla and his Yale Law School attorneys think that these decisions are better second-guessed by plaintiffs' lawyers and judges rather than our elected leaders. They challenged Padilla's detention and lost in the federal Court of Appeals in South Carolina, before the government sent him to Miami for prosecution.
Think about what it would mean if Padilla were to win. Government officials and military personnel have to devise better ways to protect the country from more deadly surprise attacks. Padilla and his lawyers want them, from the president down to lowest private, to worry about being sued when they make their decisions. Officials will worry about all of the attorneys' fees they will rack up to defend themselves from groundless lawsuits.
Put another way, officials might have to give some thought to following US law. Apparently Yoo finds that somewhere between being a waste of time and repugnant. And what's with him equating judges and plaintiffs attorneys?
It's hyper-defensive screeds like this that make one wonder if Yoo has even the remotest respect for the law and our justice system at all. And of course one continues to wonder why, given his low opinion of the law, he is employed by one of the country's top law schools.
That's one way to cover-up misdeeds and excesses associated with the Vice President.
The agent who made the arrest, Virgil D. Reichle Jr., said in a deposition that he was left hanging with an untenable arrest because two agents assigned to the vice president had at first agreed with a Denver agent that there had been assault on Mr. Cheney by Mr. Howards, then changed their stories to say that no assault had occurred.
Mr. Reichle, who did not witness the encounter, said in his deposition that he believed the vice president’s security detail had wanted the Howards arrest to go away so that Mr. Cheney would not be inconvenienced by a court case.
Mr. Cheney has not been deposed, and his involvement in the arrest remains uncertain. But one of the three agents assigned to him, Daniel McLaughlin, said in his deposition that Mr. Reichle’s description was backward.
Mr. McLaughlin said Mr. Reichle, who has since been transferred to Guam, asked him in a call several hours after the encounter to say that there had been an assault to bolster justification for the arrest.
Bobby Fischer has died; I used to play chess (was on the team in high school), and Bobby was always a hell of an individual (and at one point, a decent chess player).
(Oh, and does anyone want to disagree with the statement that we are either (A) in a recession or (B) about to be in one? Things are looking ugly out there.
Clinton is playing the "gambling card" against Obama. Will it help her in Nevada and California?
Barack Obama has warned about the dangers of gambling - that it carries a "moral and social cost" that could "devastate" poor communities. As a state senator in Illinois, he at times opposed plans to expand gambling, worrying that it could be especially harmful to low-income people.
Today, those views are posing a problem for Obama in the gambling mecca of Nevada, which holds its presidential nominating caucuses Saturday. While his top rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, also talks often about aiding low-income Americans, she has embraced the gambling industry and its executives, and her campaign has used Obama's past statements in an effort to turn casino workers and other Nevada voters against him.
And I'd say this is one of them: "It would be wrong to discuss Mitt Romney's actual religious beliefs, but perfectly fine to discuss Barack Obama's fictitious ones."
So my latest Netflix rental was this documentary on the utter ineptitude of the Bush Administration and CPA in planning for and dealing with post-war Iraq. Yes, it deserves the acclaim it's received. And I'll be floored if it's not one of the Oscar nominees announced next Tuesday. A lot of these things can be tedious, but this one was very well done.
And actually pairing this with The Prisoner or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair would make for a really interesting class discussion, as the first deals with US political decision making, and the latter deals with the lives of some Iraqis affected by those decisions during the same time period. While I haven't seen it yet, throwing Gunner Palace into the mix might make it even better, as that story is told by US troops on the ground during this time period.
Oh, and Morris, No End in Sight reminds us that sometimes the president can't even be bothered to read one-page summaries of major reports issued by the National Intelligence Council (which predicted an unfolding of events of that eventually, sadly, happened). He apparently knows he's right and his experts are wrong, whether he reads their reports or not.
No. Not even close.
In the wake of the president's visit to the region Abu Aardvark has a post up that includes lots of links that point to increasing and improving ties between Iran and the GCC monarchies. And about the president's trip ...
So all told, on Iran issues the GCC and other key Arab states seem to be going right on exploring engagement with Iran despite the American sabre-rattling. Most analysts see Bush leaving empty-handed, with the savvy Egyptian political scientist Mohamed al-Sayid Said writing in the UAE paper al-Ittihad that Bush's completely fruitless visit to the region will likely go down in history as one of the strangest and most pointless visits to the Middle East of any world leader.
Shocking I know. Yesterday the former president was bloviating (aka, making shit up) to explain why forces aligned with Sen. Clinton's campaign were trying to make it harder for people who work at casinos to vote on Saturday. Now I see this lovely report from Charlie Cook about a mailer the Clinton campaign sent to women in New Hampshire:
Apparently, the Clinton campaign sent out a flyer to independent undecided women the weekend before the primary claiming that Obama had failed to stand up for choice in contrast to Clinton. Cook brought and read from a copy of the mailer.
Axis of Evel Knievel is always an interesting site, but wow, that is a bit of history I'd never heard a word about.
We are now a few days into the Australian Open. That being the case, tonight I'll note this bit of sports trivia. Roger Federer has played in the last 10 Grand Slam Finals. Yes - 10 straight Grand Slam finals. And he has of course won 8 of them, only losing in the finals of the 2006 and 2007 French Opens. He is truly phenomenal.
Indeed. And that's why he's the Republicans best hope in Novmeber, whether they like him or not.
It should also be noted that the underlying argument in the linked post is very peculiar - a 7% win in a caucus and a 7% win in a primary likely don't reflect the same percentage of vote preferences (by individual voters), so why equate them?
Most major news outlets are awarding Michigan to Romney tonight. The Republican nomination race is officially a clusterfuck (among, I'd like to note, a group of candidates who collectively suck more than a new Hoover). I don't think the Republican nomination race is worth a bottle of rat spit, since whoever the Republicans nominate is going to be slaughtered in November. But I suppose we ought to pay attention.
Ezra Klein's posted a handy graphic from the Treasury. Mike Huckabee wants to stick it to the middle class, while lightening the tax bills of the rich and the destitute. I'm shocked. Just shocked.
Is it all about framing the South Carolina primary? David Weigel argues:
The Clinton team doesn't expect to win South Carolina, and the best way of cushioning a blow right before Super Tuesday is to make the subliminal argument that Obama's victory only happened because half of the electorate was black. It would make the run-up to the victory less dramatic and gird the ever-shaky "Hillary's the best general election candidate" argument for the following nine days.
West Virginia produces lots of coal. Coal producers get lots of money from the coal they sell. Mining coal is destructive to the environment (mountaintop removal, valley fill, etc.) and people (black lung disease, etc.), so coal producers are always in court defending themselves against claims that they are doing something wrong. As you might imagine, having the Chief Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court in your pocket helps nudge Justice a bit:
A justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court and a powerful coal-company executive met in Monte Carlo in the summer of 2006, sharing several meals even as the executive's companies were appealing a $50 million jury verdict against them to the court.
A little more than a year later, the justice, Elliott E. Maynard, voted with the majority in a 3-to-2 decision in favor of the coal companies.
Justice Maynard, who is now West Virginia's chief justice, and Don L. Blankenship, the chief executive of Massey Energy, were "vacationing together," according to a motion seeking Justice Maynard's disqualification, which was filed on Monday.
The story goes on to have the (now standard) denials by Blankenship that it was just a coincidence and the two just happened to be in the same area at the same time (the Judge refused to comment). I thought this sort of stuff only happened in Rhode Island.
I was appalled by the president's comments that were reported this weekend. Fred Kaplan was too.
President George W. Bush hasn't accomplished much on his voyage to the Middle East, but he did take the time to inflict another wound on the entire U.S. intelligence community - and on the credibility of anything he might ever again say about the world. In the latest Newsweek, Michael Hirsh reports that, during a private conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Bush "all but disowned""the agencies' Dec. 3 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. A "senior administration official who accompanied Bush" on the trip confided to Hirsh that Bush "told the Israelis that he can't control what the intelligence community says, but that [the NIE's] conclusions don't reflect his own views." ...
For the president of the United States to wave away the whole document - which, in its classified form, is more than 140 pages and has nearly 1,500 source notes, according to an enlightening story in today's Wall Street Journal - is gratuitous and self-destructive. Then again, such behavior is of a piece with the pattern of relations between President Bush and his intelligence agencies. In September 2004, when he was asked about a pessimistic CIA report on the course of the occupation in Iraq, Bush replied that the agency was "just guessing." ...
Now President Bush is splashing doubt not just on the CIA, but on all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, simply because their judgments are out of synch with his policies ...
This remark has three baleful consequences. First, it can't help but demoralize the intelligence community. NIEs are meant, ultimately, for only one reader, the president; and here's the president telling another world leader that he doesn't believe it because, well, he doesn't agree with it.
Second, it reinforces the widespread view that the president views intelligence strictly as a political tool: When it backs up his policies, it's as good as gold; when it doesn't, it's "just guessing."
Third, by telling Olmert that it's all right to ignore the NIE, Bush is in effect telling him that Israel should go ahead and behave as if its findings had never been published.
It looks very thin to me. But you can judge it for yourself.
Via LGM - what if the Republican presidential candidates were Buffy villains?
Well that was a weird set of awards. The television awards were strange, as were the winners of Best Picture Drama (Atonement), Best Picture Musical/Comedy (Sweeney Todd), and Best Director (Julian Schnabel). The movie acting honors were predictable (Day-Lewis, Bardem, Cotillard, Christie, Blanchett, Depp), but other than those, lots of surprises. Will be interesting to see if any of the prognosticators change their views on the likely Oscar nominees/winners - or if they just shrug these picks off as merely honors from the wacky foreign press.
Hilzoy raises two primary reasons she opposes Sen. Clinton. The second has to do with the tone of politics, and her argument on that merits being read in full. A thumbnail sketch of it would be incomplete. But her first argument is, to me, persuasive on its own.
Whether she voted as she did because she thought it was right or because she thought that George W. Bush was trustworthy enough that Congress could authorize him to go to war confident in the knowledge that he would not abuse that power, that vote, the most important she cast as a Senator, was disastrously wrong. Moreover, she didn't just vote for the Iraq War Resolution; she voted against the Levin Amendment, which would have required Bush to go back to the UN for authorization to use military force. And she cast this vote without having bothered to read the relevant National Intelligence Estimate. Which is to say: she took the decision whether or not to go to war - to invade another country, and to put both Iraqi citizens and members of our military in harm's way - without bothering to do her homework first.
I find it remarkable that Sen. Clinton has 1) lasted this long in the campaign without these matters being brought more fully to light for the American people, and 2) dares raise the Iraq issue in regards to Sen. Obama given her own grevious record, failing the American people by not doing her homework before voting to give George Bush unchecked powers to prosecute an amazingly costly war of choice. I find it most perplexing that Sen. Obama's camp is not running an ad on this as we speak. If she's going to impugn his record on Iraq hers is fair game - and her record on it is horrible.
UPDATE: Per Binky's comment, you can find the Obama memo here.
There's one more quick post about the trip to New Hampshire that I keep forgetting to write. So here it is. I liked a lot of the places I went to in Nashua, Manchester and Concord. But there was one place I liked above all others - The Works Bakery Cafe in Concord. Clean, well organized, good coffee, very tasty fresh food, and a really great staff. I didn't really talk to the staff, but they were all super nice and efficient (and yeah one of 'em was easy on the eyes, but really they were all just great). So if you are in that area and looking for a place to eat, or read or work while enjoying a smoothie, coffee, yogurt, sandwich or whatever, I highly recommend it.
Kevin Drum links to a post on the reaction to Hillary Clinton's ambition to be president, a post that suggests that it's damaging to women to look ambitious but not for men to look that way, and that the Clinton campaign is suffering as a result.
Now there may certainly be instances and situations where a woman appearing ambitious is bad for her career. But that's not what strikes me as the problem with Clinton's apparent ambition. It's taken as a given (or should be) that anyone running for the presidency is hugely ambitious. But what I personally find offensive (or at least unappealing) in her ambition is that it's so clearly all about her. Clinton's language, presentation and argument all argue that she is uniquely ready to take power and she should be entrusted with high office to do what's right for the country. Obama's language, on the other hand, is all about building a movement, bringing people together, listening, respectfully considering the opinions of others. It's not "Barack Obama is the greatest, worship him" or "only Barack Obama is qualified". I don't think it's Clinton's ambition that turns people off as much as it's her self-centered ambition. But hey, I could be wrong.
Josh Marshall thinks the number of them coming from red and purple state politicians is significant.
Marc Ambinder thinks the Culinary Workers endorsement in Nevada isn't as helpful to the Obama campaign as the press has been playing it.
So I finally got around to watching the presumed frontrunner for Best Picture at a matinee today. Yes it's very good. Yes much of the audience groaned at its conclusion (which I don't get at all - it seemed a perfectly reasonable place to end the movie to me). Yes the Coens should be in contention for the directing awards, and Tommy Lee Jones did a nice job. All that said, I'm a little taken aback by the extent of the honors it's won. I wouldn't be surprised at all if it eventually makes my own Top 10 of 2007 list - but is it obviously so superior to everything else? I wouldn't say that it is. But that's hardly a knock on it. It's a good movie - a very good movie.
Are they undemocratic? Sure. But shouldn't we nonetheless expect a national frontrunner to be able to compete in them? Especially (big emphasis on especially) a national frontrunner who had an enormous influence over what the current election calendar looks like? If she didn't like the system, maybe her campaign shouldn't have helped put it in place?
Update: Oh this is just great - after Clinton complains that the caucuses mean not everyone can vote, her allies file suit to make sure that many (likely Obama) voters can't vote.
Nevada's state teachers union and six Las Vegas area residents filed a lawsuit late Friday that could make it harder for many members of the state's huge hotel workers union to vote in the hotly contested Jan. 19 Democratic caucus in Nevada ...
The at-large precincts are being established because thousands of hotel workers cannot leave work to participate in the midday caucuses in their home precincts. The Nevada State Education Association has said it would not endorse any Democrat, but some of its top officials have endorsed Mrs. Clinton. The association’s deputy executive director, Debbie Cahill, for instance, was a founding member of Senator Clinton’s Nevada Women's Leadership Council.
Oy. I don't know if I can take it until February 5th. This continued refrain by the Clintons that Barack Obama is some kind of incompetent boob is going to drive me around the bend. And what exactly is this grand experience she keeps saying she has and he doesn't? Voting for the Iraq War? Moving from being the liberal conscience of the early 1990s White House to wrapping herself around the politics of Mark Penn? Considering a lot of the political moves she's made, personally I'd think she'd want to avoid having Democrats look closely at their respective records.
Drive by Truckers, Bar-B-Q sandwiches, sweet tea, cute cafes that play the Soft Bulletin in its entirety, sunshine, vintage shops, record stores and sleeping in.
Now that's what I call a college town.
Keep this post by Kevin Drum in mind. We should be wary of the numbers for subgroups in exit polls if the subgroups are too small. Nonetheless, look at those numbers for Obama and Clinton among the 20-somethings and the over-65s. Well, especially look at the preference of those in their early 20s. In New Hampshire I did indeed see a few youngish people with Hillary signs. And yes, some (perhaps the same people) were prominently featured directly behind her in her tv events over the last week (perhaps b/c the backdrop behind her on caucus night was widely derided as nothing but old people and Clinton administration retreads). But generally speaking what I saw among her supporters was something akin to the bizarro version of the Logan's Run universe. Obama had masses and masses of the young (and a good number of older people too), while Hillary ... well, the number of her supporters born after the 1960s seemed few and far between. Very few and far between.
People will no doubt discuss how that'll play out in the election cycle this year. But the point I want to raise about it in this post is this. Is it really a good idea for a party which is benefiting from the current young generation turning sharply against the Republican Party (remarkably so) to nominate a presidential nominee they at best are indifferent to, and in many cases don't like? These people will be voting for decades, and they already turned out at a record pace in 2004. Is it in the best interests of the party to reject their candidate when they are (or could be) the future of the party? I'm not saying the party absolutely must go with their preference. But I think it's a point worth raising in the discussion.
Rocco Palmo has this interesting post up on the unusual influence of Cardinal Bertone and the Curia's resistance to his actions.
Yeah, oral argument was earlier this week, but I'd feel a bad blogger if I didn't link to something on the oral argument in Crawford. As is always the case in election law matters, Hasen's blog is a great place to start if you want to look into this. For his take on the ugly, likely outcome, you might want to start with this. It's really kind of horrible. To prevent a problem that doesn't exist the US Supreme Court may well make it harder for many to vote - and in a way that'll hit disproprotionately on a particular class of voters. Don't you just love our democracy sometimes?
Consider this an open thread on this topic. I'll start things out by noting three things. First, people made their choices late. According to the exit polls over a third of voters decided in the last 3 days. Secondly, the last 36 hours of coverage was devoted to two stories that in tandem could indeed have moved a fair number of undecideds into Clinton's column - the "humanizing" choking up incident mixed with the press incessantly discussing how Obama was about to completely blast Clinton out of the water on Tuesday. Finally, look at where the margin came from - the urban areas (or what are by New Hampshire's standards urban areas). Maybe it wasn't any of the stuff the press is talking about - maybe it was simply another amazing turnout job by Michael Whouley.
Fyi, in the town I was working in Obama got 135% of his vote target - and still lost by a lot. My first take on it is it was the undecideds + Whouley. But clearly the incessant playing of the gender card had an effect too, and since that's what's the press has really focused on in the last few days I'd expect that to become an even more influential force in this campaign.
UPDATEL Ezra Klein (who's had more time to check out the post-election numbers than I have) has this useful post on the topic. For what it's worth I ran into a fair number of people who liked "Obama or McCain" or in some cases "Obama, McCain or Huckabee" and some of the volunteers who'd been in our precinct for quite a bit of time were sure McCain would depress Obama's numbers. So it is indeed possible that McCain's win hurt Obama.
For a man who's running for president on his national security credentials you'd think John McCain would have a much better understanding of the chain of command. But sadly, he doesn't.
Just a quick thought for any of you who might drive past it. I wasn't staring at it at length, but it occurred to me as I was driving by it on 2 of the last 6 nights that if you just make a quick glance at the city at night (when, obviously, landmarks will be obscured), you're likely to only be able to pick out 6 towers: the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, the Conde Nast Building, the Citicorp Building, and Time Warner Center. Now yeah, if you really focused you might be able to pick out another one or two, and sure if you craned your neck to look further South maybe you'd pick out another one. But isn't it kind of weird that in a city filled with famous buildings the shapes of only a small number are distinctive enough to be readily noticed after dark?
Now my opinion of New York AG Andrew Cuomo is only marginally more positive than my view of, say, Sean Hannity, but this is loathsome, even by the low low low standards I expect of him.
And for whatever it's worth, yesterday while stuck in traffic at the George Washington Bridge I was listening to a radio station with a mostly black (probably Caribbean) audience. They were basically tearing Bill Clinton limb from limb for his attacks on Sen. Obama, and calling the Illinois senator's message a "fairytale". If the man from Hope isn't careful, he's going to imperil his legacy with a not insignificant portion of his fan base. Well, he's already done that. But it could get much worse over the next month - and things like Cuomo's words could speed that along.
Armand is still off in New Hampshire. Text messages have been received about getting up at 4am and helping get people on busses to polling places... ouch! I didn't know Armand knew how to see 4am from that direction (the alarm clock).
Tomorrow, the other 2/3 of the Bloodless Crew is driving to Athens for a three night stand, the opening of the THE HOME FRONT 2008 WORLD TOUR.
For all of us, this week counts as too much, really. See you when school starts next week.
Apparently, it's winding up now, and Armand's alma mater is beating the snot out of our neighbors.
It's 60 degrees and a Monday in the second week of January already. It's all wrong.
Maybe they can save its soul.
Love for your favorites, and those you don't know yet - StinkyLulu's 2007 Supporting Actress Blogathon can be found here. There is, after all, much to be praised: Emily Mortimer, Tilda Swinton, Margo Martindale, Michelle Pfeffeir, Sigourney Weaver and more!
This morning I was one of a throng of Obama supporters chanting outside the ABC set-up during Good Morning America. There were tons of us. I'm not good at counting crowds, but to the best I can, I'd say about 100 - or quite possibly more. And this is pretty indicative of what I've seen the last few days. Obama seems to have the biggest and best organized ground game in New Hampshire. There are Rudy and Ron Paul people on the streets too, and the McCainiancs are passionate - but we seem a set apart.
Big example for this morning - ABC actually pulled the few Hillary Clinton fans around us up to the front of the crowd so it would look more competitive. Make of that what you will (I'd call it media favoritism, and trying to create political news and a horse race where there's no so much competition, but you might interpret it differently).
The contrast in the crowds is interesting too. Obama's got people from all age groups. Clinton? I don't know if I've seen a single Clinton supporter under 40. She really appears to be yesterday's news. Oh, and I haven't seen an Edwards presence of any kind. Well, his signs are everywhere. But there aren't any people supporting him on the streets.
Put this altogether and even though I tend to be cynical and a pessimist I'll be surprised if Obama doesn't win - and it could well be by a fairly comfortable margin.
And yes as to those celebrity sitings - lots of 'em. And for what it's worth Sam Donaldson looks like he sleeps in a crypt while Ezra Klein ... well, he's a very attractive man.
Final thoughts - this place looooves Billy Joel and classic rock. Concord and Manchester are filled with gorgeous homes. And while much of the area's radio sucks, WFNX is one of the best radio stations I've ever heard.
Our very own Armand has bundled up and headed northeast to the primaries. In a brief call today, he reported that political celebrities were thick on the ground (Cokie borrowed his hotsauce) and that he's getting very little sleep. He sort of promised to take notes and send in a report sometime soon.
In other news, school starts next week, but until then we are dragging out our vacations as long as possible. Including the one from blogging.
Hope everyone is warm, toasty and enjoying the new year.
The blogger known as G'Kar was killed in Iraq yesterday. Hilzoy has posted his final words, written in advance in the event this happened.
But it turns out, the country that made me carry that thing around only scores as systemic failure to uphold safeguards, not "endemic surveillance society" like the US.
I guess I should find it kind of funny, right? I was hoping to go shopping today for a lot of winter wear. But I can't because my car is sitting on ice and refuses to go anywhere. So I can't drive anywhere, and because of that I can't acquire the gear that makes walking places in the snow more comfortable. It's ... unfortunate.
So especially for Brandon, but also for you other Dune lovers out there - it's going to be filmed again! And as someone who can never get enough Dune, I'm looking forward to it. The next adaptation will be directed by Peter Berg (The Kingdom).
And yes, it's exactly who you'd think we'd hire the day after humiliating Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
The Mountaineers take the Fiesta Bowl! Viva! Viva!.
And of course, come mierda RichRod. Cozy on up to that lawsuit to get used to the Ann Arbor winter.
Jeff Greenfield reminds us that it's a good thing most of our elections aren't conducted like the Iowa caucuses.
Michael C. Desch makes the case that a Giuliani administration would make the Bush administration look like sober, analytical, subtle peaceniks. If you want the chilling argument, click on his article in The American Conservative (which I found via TAPPED).
I realize I don't pay close attention to the weather, but did people know this was going to happen? I'd say we've already gotten 9 inches (on flat surfaces that need to cool for accumulation - there's a good foot in some spots), and it's still snowing. So much for my plans to make this a shopping day. Instead, it's a day for only going to places you can arrive sweaty.