Friday, April 25, 2014

Se Delan: "Tonight"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

How about some music this very early Friday morning?

How about a tune off the fantastic debut album from Se Delan, The Fall?

(Se Delan, signed to the great post-prog Kscope label (Porcupine Tree, Anathema, The Pineapple Thief, Gazpacho, etc.), is the duo of Justin Greaves and Belinda Kordic.)

How about "Tonight"?

(I'll blog again about Se Delan soon, as The Fall is currently in heavy rotation in my music world. Seriously, it's wonderful -- moody, intense, atmospheric.)

Enjoy!

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

An interesting "apology" from Aaron Sorkin about The Newsroom

By Richard K. Barry

I had read somewhere that Aaron Sorkin "apologized" for The Newsroom, and though I haven't absolutely loved the production, I didn't think it was so bad as to require an apology. But then it became clear that he was doing something very different.

As Lindsay Weber of New York Magazine explains, in an interview at the Tribeca Film Festival,
he's apologizing for the misconception other people had about why the show was set in the present day. Not to insult the way journalists handled those stories, just so that we could all better relate: "I set the show in the recent past because I didn’t want to make up fake news."

Not making up fake news would seem, to me, to be a good thing. Obviously, however, he must have received some major shit for the impression some had that he was trying to tell journalists how to do their jobs. Again, wouldn't that be a good thing? 

 

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Behind the Ad: Don't confuse Michigan Republicans with logic

By Richard K. Barry

Who: The Terri Lynn Land campaign for U.S. Senate

Where: Michigan

What's going on: I saw this one on CNN's ever-moronic morning show yesterday. I could tell it was CNN because the hosts were going on about how clever the ad is, which, given how stupid the ad is, is what you would expect from CNN. 

I'll let Daily Kos take it from here:
As gentle piano music plays, Land starts off by saying "Congressman Gary Peters and his buddies want you to believe I'm waging a war on women." Incredulous, Land asks, "Really?", then insists: "Think about that for a moment." The music shifts to a peppier, almost annoying trope that signifies "waiting around" as Land takes a sip of her coffee, looks at her watch, shakes her head ... and says nothing at all for 12 seconds.
Then, thinking she's the cleverest lady ever, Land finally breaks her silence and declares, "As a woman, I might know a little bit more about women than Gary Peters."

Are we really supposed to believe that the mere fact there are female politicians and candidates in the GOP means we therefore cannot have a substantive policy debate about how Republican policies adversely impact woman? Is that the point? If so, and I'm afraid it is, it's a stupid point.

Again, Kos nails it when they write that "[a]nyone swayed by this kind of 'argument' is almost certainly already very hostile to Democrats—the sort of conservative who declares, "There's no 'War on Women' because Monica Lewinsky!"

For the record, Democratic Sen. Carl Levin's decision not to run again has made this race competitive. Land, a former Michigan Secretary of State, will be running for the Republicans and U.S. Rep. Gary Peters for the Democrats. Polling done as recently as March and April has it close, which is likely how it will remain. 

Grade: As you can see, I don't think much of this cringe-making ad, which obviously wouldn't move any vote and might even alienate some who actually think for themselves. D-

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Rep. Wasserman Schultz says the midterms will not be a referendum on Obama (Meet the Press)

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On the Hustings


(TPM): 'Entire North Carolina GOP senate field: Climate change is not fact"

(Washington Post): "Missouri legislature will begin impeachment proceedings against governor"

(CNN Politics): "Another N.J. bridge controversy brewing, and a familiar name surfaces"

(Tampa Bay Times): "Tea party candidate Curt Clawson wins Republican primary to replace former Rep. Trey Radel"

(Politico): "How Lindsey Graham outmaneuvered the tea party"

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Vast majority of conservatives are still against gay marriage (and the Pope is still Catholic)

By Richard K. Barry

According to a survey conducted by a Republican polling group, conservatives are still overwhelmingly opposed to same-sex marriage. 

The poll, by Wilson Research Strategies, found a whopping 82% of the GOP’s base (which included right-leaning independent voters) defined marriage as between a man and a woman, while 75% disagreed that politicians should be seeking to “redefine marriage.” In both cases the majority of respondents felt strongly or even “definitely” about the issue.

But, while the voting conservative public may have a clear view, many in the conservative leadership know that this is a problem for the future of the GOP. 

As reported in the Washington Post:
Fred Sainz, a spokesman for Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, agreed that “a tectonic shift is taking place in the Republican Party on marriage equality.” He cited several polls showing shifting support and the growing number of lawmakers in favor of dropping opposition even as top leaders remain opposed. “For the Republican hierarchy it's a very straightforward question,” Sainz said. “How can they attract the next generation of voters and not support an issue young people have made their minds up on?”

How indeed.

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Behind the Ad: American Idol's Clay Aiken takes a run at politics

By Richard K. Barry

Who: The Clay Aiken campaign 

Where: North Carolina 2nd Congressional District

What's going on: Former "American Idol" star Clay Aiken (D) is running for a seat in the House of Representatives in North Carolina. But before you dismiss this as some kind of a stunt, as I was inclined to do, consider the analysis by the well-respected Cook Political Report. They write this about an interview they conducted with the candidate (which is behind a paywall, so I won't bother linking to it):
Aiken was not only polished and poised, but relaxed, free-wheeling, persuasive, and politically realistic. He spoke passionately and fluently on a range of issues, from trade promotion authority to No Child Left Behind to continuous coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate. In fact, he was better-versed and more in-depth than plenty of state legislators we have met. And, he was just as comfortable discussing the voting intricacies of the 2nd CD's counties as he was recalling his route to Idol success.

Aiken is running against a Republican incumbent, Rep. Renee Ellmers, who will be very hard to beat, especially in a midterm.  But, and I wouldn't be the first to point this out, running a credible congressional campaign, even a losing one, could well help launch a long political career.

The Aiken ad focuses on his difficult upbringing as well as his more recent philanthropic work.

I should note that Aiken must first secure the Democratic nomination, which is at this point a competitive three-way race with the first round in a couple of weeks. If no candidate gets 40 percent, 
there will be a run-off in June.

Grade: It is an interesting thing when a "celebrity" runs for office, whether from the left or right. For some reason they have to go a bit farther than others to explain why they would do such a thing. It is as if to say, I'm not simply trying to keep the cameras rolling by other means. That's what this ad is. And on that, it does what it's supposed to do. C

 

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A.M. Headlines


(TPM): "Sotomayor attacks John Roberts' views on race as 'out of touch with reality'"

(New York Times): "The American middle class is no longer the world’s richest"

(ABC News): "Rick Perry wants New York jobs — and debate with Andrew Cuomo"

(Charlie Cook): "Party paranoia could destroy hopes of immigration reform"

(New York Times): "Looking at costs and risks, many skip health insurance"

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Stop annoying Senator Warren

By Richard K. Barry

Today is Sen. Elizabeth Warren Day at The Reaction. I bought her book, we put her picture up in our "On the Hustings" segment, and now we post a clip of Sen. Warren saying for the umpteenth time that she is not running for president in 2016 (among other things in this ABC News interview). Put another way, Michael is under the weather, so I can do whatever I want today.

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On the Hustings


(The New Yorker): "The Warren brief"

(Roll Call): "Republicans spend millions on TV in primary for Trey Radel seat"

(Washington Post): "How big could the GOP House majority get?"

(FiveThirtyEight): "Democrats shouldn't count on an Electoral College edge in 2016"

(Fox Atlanta): "New poll: Perdue, Kingston lead crowded Senate race"

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Behind the Ad: Sen. Mitch McConnell takes no chances

By Richard K. Barry

Who: The Sen. Mitch McConnell Campaign (R-Ky)

Where: Kentucky

What's going on: Mitch McConnell should have no difficulty dispatching Tea Party Challenger Matt Bevin (R) for the GOP Senate nomination in Kentucy, but he wants to make sure. As with other Republican incumbents who are being primaried from their right, McConnell has been forced to scream from the rooftops that he is in fact a conservative.
"Mitch McConnell: He's not a show horse, Mitch is a genuine Kentucky workhorse," the ad's narrator says. "Last year, he saved 99 percent of Kentuckians from an income tax increase. Mitch stopped bureaucrats from shutting down fishing below Barkley Dam, saving Kentucky jobs. Mitch fights for Kentucky miners against Obama's war on coal and he's leading the fight against ObamaCare. Mitch McConnell fights for our values, our future and our jobs."

The primary, which McConnell will win, is on May 20th. Then the real work begins as he goes head to head with Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) in the general election.

Grade: To explain the grading scale: Anything less than a C, in my estimation, starts to do the candidate damage. I consider a C anything that does what it has to do but probably doesn't move much vote.  A B may move vote in a positive way. And an A is a game changer, a "Morning in America" moment, if you will. With that in mind:

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A.M. Headlines


(Capital New York): "Patterson's pick, for the ages"

(New York Times): "50 years into the War on Poverty, hardship hits back"

(Washington Post): "As ‘Meet the Press’ struggles in the ratings, plenty of questions for host David Gregory"

(Time): "Boy Scouts of America shuts down Seattle troop over gay scoutmaster"

(CBS News): "A relationship with Putin now seems out of reach for Obama"

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Journalist John Dickerson says Jeb Bush has a shot in 2016 (Face the Nation). Discuss.

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Obama decides America should keep Justin Bieber, Canadians breathe huge sigh of relief

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Looks like the U.S. will still have Justin Bieber to terrorize its popular culture, not to mention anywhere he happens to be at any given time, for a whole lot longer:

The White House has declined to comment on a "Deport Justin Bieber and revoke his green card" petition, saying the "We the People" Whitehouse.gov petition system allows the Executive Office to dodge comments "to avoid the appearance of improper influence."

*****

More than 273,000 people signed the petition, which calls for Canadian pop star to be deported because of his representation in the world of pop culture.

"We would like to see the dangerous, reckless, destructive, and drug abusing Justin Bieber removed from society and his green card revoked," the petition says. "He is not only threatening the safety of our people but he is also a terrible influence on our nation's youth."

The original petition, filed January 23 through the "We the People" petition system, merited a response from the White House after receiving more than 100,000 signatures within 30 days, per the system's terms of participation.

Clearly the petition was silly and full of hyperbole, perhaps ironically so, but this really lowers my opinion of the president. Here he had a chance to rid the country of a nuisance, a pest, a spoiled brat, a blight on the cultural landscape, and he refused? Come on. Do Americans really want Bieber in their midst? I mean, they probably prefer Celine Dion, on the whole.

But... wait! Bieber is Canadian. I'm Canadian. Worse, he's from Ontario. I live in Ontario. If he were to be deported, there's a good chance he'd spend more of his time here. And, honestly, we already have Rob Ford. Isn't that enough?

So, yes, well done, Mr. President. You gone done the right thing. And Americans, keep enjoying all that Bieber brings to your glorious country. You can keep him.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

No reason allowed

By Capt. Fogg

Here Comes Easter again. Easter and the media puff pieces about how it's really all true enough in one sense or another and how it's wrong to say that it's a borrowed holiday, re-badged from pre-Christian European fertility cults, egg laying rabbits and all. The Easter holiday (is it OK to call this one a holiday?) carries a large basket of baggage without my needing to illustrate its long history and I'm quite as content to let people celebrate it as they will as I am to let anyone celebrate anything at any time including life itself. It's a wonderful life after all, and not just at Christmas.

In the true spirit of American small mindedness however, others are not so happy with your freedom when it comes to protecting their hermetically sealed belief bubble from questions or against having to be aware of other ways of seeing and appreciating life in our shared world. But I'm OK with that too if only for the humor. Seeing an image of an all year "Prayer Station" set up in the Warren Michigan city hall looking for all the world like something from the Peanuts comic strip, put a smile on my face in a way that only irony-blind religious fervor can. Reason isn't funny and I do like to laugh.

Not so funny though when Warren resident Douglas Marshall proposed a "Reason Station" for the same venue and the Mayor, Jim Fouts not only rejected it, but banned any such display for a year because after all, Marshall is an advocate for separation of Church and State. Using a government facility as a church and to promote Christianity ( assuming it isn't praying to Vishnu or the Chinese Kitchen God being solicited) is simply no problem in this Detroit suburb. Atheism is not a religion wrote Fouts to Marshal and his Freedom From Religion Foundation, unwittingly asserting that only a religion can have access to public space and non-Christian interests need not apply. Besides it might disturb the faithful, which is, in his words, a Constitutional violation!

What about equal protection, freedom of speech and all that Godless, Commy nonsense? Don't make me laugh. This is Michigan after all and in Michigan reason can fend for itself and you can take your Jeffersonian Humanism straight back to Moscow where it belongs.

(Cross-posted at Human Voices.)

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Behind the Ad: GOP civil war battle lines are drawn in the Idaho 2nd Congressional District

By Richard K. Barry

Who: U.S. Chamber of Commerce on behalf of Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho)

Where: The Idaho 2nd Congressional District

What's going on: The district is solidly Republican, so this is all about the primary, and what a primary it is turning out to be. 

According to the Charlie Cook Report:
In 2014, Idaho's most fervent conservatives' long-simmering distrust of the consensus-building Simpson is set to boil over. And, because the May 2014 GOP primary has already turned into an all-out proxy war between the GOP's ideological purists like the Club for Growth and the Madison Project on one side and Speaker John Boehner and the Republican Main Street Partnership on the other, the results will have repercussions well beyond Idaho.

The hyper-conservative Club for Growth has already listed Simpson as one Republican they most want to beat in part because he is a close personal friend of House Speaker John Boehner, not to mention that he has been willing to actually get things done in Washington, a no-no for the crazy right. 

Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith is the anointed one for the Tea Party types and he has been attracting boat loads of outside cash in the hope that Rep. Simpson can be taught a lesson he'll never forget. 

Support for Simpson, on the other hand, will come from the part of the Republican base that is establishment oriented and business friendly and has had enough of Tea Party wack-jobbery. This will, of course, also include lots of outside money.

If you need more clarity on the distinction between the two, Smith was against Simpson's October 2013 vote with Democrats to end the 16-­day partial government shutdown and to raise the debt ceiling without any spending cuts.

Let the games begin. This is the real thing. 

Not surprisingly, in this ad, Mitt Romney (A.K.A. that guy who ran for president) comes down on the side of the establishment in his buttoned-down support of Rep. Simpson. 

Grade: Well, it has to be done, though the ad really defines the battle lines for anyone who wasn't sure. C

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A.M. Headlines

(Washington Post): "The Affordable Care Act comes in with better-than-expected numbers"

(New Republic): "ObamaCare signups hit 8 million"

(Huffington Post): "Americans think people are poor because of bad breaks, not because they're losers: Poll"

(The Hill): "Obama: Immigration will 'haunt' Congress"

(Wall Street Journal): "South Korea ferry sinking: Authorities arrest captain"

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