Dick Durbin is my least unfavorite of the Democrats’ congressional leadership ideologically. I wouldn’t say favorite since Durbin was pretty instrumental in establishing a career-killing standard of political correctness for any substantive criticism of Israel. (To wit.) And Republicans have the majority in the Senate, to be sure, so it’s not as if Democrats can run over them. But this is revealing. Sure, you can beg Republicans to help save a democracy that they have shown little interest in saving. Or, you can, you know, try to make them afraid not to, on pain of becoming unelectable for a generation. But that would involve power politics and perhaps a dash of incivility instead of Sorkinian lecturing so naturally it’s unthinkable.

To read what these people put out there you’d think that the pre-Gingrich Congress was heaven on Earth or something. It wasn’t. I’ve read books. Did it work better than what we have now? Sure*. But the real problem with the handful of really old people running Democratic politics now is the sepia tone they perpetually take about how Congress used to be, and their manifest obsession with returning to it. Not old people per se, but old thinking. People, it’s not coming back! Start thinking about where you want it to go from here, and if you can’t do that, then retire. Say what you want about Nancy Pelosi (I can and have!), but at least she’s nostalgic for 2005 and not 1985. That’s not great, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the Hoyer/Durbin/Schumer obsession with Tip’n’Ronnie stuff**. It’s political Dad Rock! (Grandpa rock?)

*But it was probably doomed anyway, given that Mitch McConnell was in our future.

**I can’t help but think that Pelosi’s seeming lack of nostalgia for those old Congresses (and the corresponding obsession with her old white counterparts with them) might have something to do with those Congresses being made up of like 500 white guys. Also, nobody is nostalgic for when white male Democrats and white male Republicans could come together to cut taxes for the rich and deregulate finance, except for reporters.

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The group Wham! released “Last Christmas” in 1984. It has persisted in spite of not being all that good a song, though it’s far from the worst entry into the excessively synthy Christmas pop standard of its era (“Wonderful Christmastime” for fuck’s sake!). I’m not sure what to say about the original: at least George Michael is giving his afterthought of a Christmas song 100% of his vocal effort, which is something. It doesn’t do much for me, though it doesn’t actively enrage me. But arguably “Last Christmas” is more annoying than McCartney’s folly because of the sheer number of covers of the song, by a wide array of artists. So I figured I’d go through all the ones on the Apple Store and offer my thoughts on them. Here we go:

  • Taylor Swift: I became a reluctant semi-convert to Ms. Swift a few years back. I always found her to be a mixed bag, and indeed that’s exactly what 1989 is, a combination of instant classics like “Style” and godawful, unlistenable sludge like “Bad Blood.” But this–is just not good. Not a bad song choice for her with the melodramatic/maudlin subject matter, but all I can say is: did she not know how to sing when she released this? Very skreechy and pitchy. It was, to be fair, from early in her career, but this is the sort of thing that someone like Taylor Swift would pull from circulation and that absolutely nobody would miss.
  • Ariana Grande: Really? I’m surprised somehow that she did it. I guess I shouldn’t be. Pop stars of today need their cash grabs more than ever, considering the ever dwindling cash streams open to them, and Ariana isn’t going to sing fucking “The Twelve Days Of Christmas” when she does a holiday album. I will say that this version was pretty much exactly what I thought it would be: powerfully sung with a bunch of annoying random noises all around it. Goddamn kids!
  • Glee Cast: I have to admit, it never occurred to me that Glee would or could ever end. It just seemed like one of those things that would go on forever, and given that it was set in a high school, it sure seems as though they could have cycled kids in and out naturally so as to avoid the ever increasing salaries of star actors. Anyway, I truly hated Glee and every goddamn song they ever did, which includes this one, but YMMV. There’s just a quality to this that makes my teeth grind together. I hate it. I hate it.
  • Jimmy Eat World: About a decade ago, this was my favorite band and I listened to them all the time. Now…well, I still have affection for a couple of their big hits, but I think the last time I listened to one of their albums was around 2011. Don’t hate ’em or anything, just kind of moved on. But their version is sort of a Jeb Bush-y effort, pretty low-energy. And yeah, the original isn’t exactly going to make you want to get up and dance, but if anybody could turn this into a fast-paced, energetic rocker, it would surely be these guys, since that’s their stock in trade (except when it isn’t). God, it’s 2018 and I’m referencing “Drugs Or Me” for some reason. If ever a song deserved to remain buried in 2004. Moving on.
  • Ashley Tisdale: I have to admit, this one might be my favorite one so far. I have little tolerance for four on the floor stomp or club shit, and yet, it’s the first one of these covers that’s had any actual sense of fun. Okay, I’ll admit it, it’s infectious. Hell, it actually works pretty well, in fact. Makes you almost want to spend ten thousand dollars to hang out with her sometime…
  • Cascada: Never heard of her but this falls exactly into the pitfalls that Ashley Tisdale’s version so carefully avoided. Club shit. Terrible.
  • Gwen Stefani: A shockingly traditional version, or should I say retro version since this is more traditional than the original version. I liked this one a lot: Gwen’s vocals are warm and inviting and the music is interesting. The drums are definitely doing something nontraditional here that feels like it comes from the music that Stefani is better known for but they aren’t working at cross purposes with the rest of it. Kind of just fits in. Right on.
  • Kidz Bop: Fuck off. I’m not listening to that.
  • The Maine: No idea who they are, I assume an indie rock outfit whose name is supposed to be a play on “Remember The Maine (And To Hell With Spain!),” the famous William Randolph Hearst jingoistic saying that helped get us into one of our nation’s most pointless wars. Goddamn hipsters. Anyway: this is forgettable indie rock of the sort that the rock listening public seems to demand and that moves me not at all. Even though I’m 34 I haven’t given up on finding new and interesting music, but it’s really hard to find anything even remotely rock that doesn’t sound like this. And I don’t want it! Give me something that’s actually going to make me move, dammit!
  • Carly Rae Jepsen: Did you know she’s nearly the same age as I am? It’s true! And she was in her mid-twenties when she was pretending to be the sort of girl who draws Disney characters on her binder. Anyway, this is sort of sleepy, synth-y, and sung with a marblemouthed delivery, which is probably about what I expected from Carly Rae. It’s okay, I suppose. “Call Me Maybe” was catchy and dumb but beyond that I don’t really get her appeal.
  • The Braxtons: No clue. Anyway, this just sounds like late-90s boy band shit. Which I’m not entirely opposed to, but this is like if *NSYNC had released three more Christmas albums, what sort of thin soup material the third one might have included. Not one of the transcendent examples of the genre like “Shape Of My Heart,” to be sure. And yes it does appear that they’re all women, but I’m just going by sound here.
  • Aloe Blacc: Jesus Christ does this blow. The music is one step above having a vuvuzela blasted in your ear, and it doesn’t get better when the vocals kick in.
  • The Cheetah Girls: Not the first R&B attempt on this song so far, but it’s a solid enough one. Not a ton of personality to it, but hey. If you need a smooth R&B version of “Last Christmas”…
  • The Puppini Sisters: A ’40s pop version. No joke. Goddamn hipsters.
  • Rosie O’Donnell & Darren Hayes: Last and most definitely least, this is just a whole lot of nothing. Not a lot of Rosie on this song, for better or worse. I think this was from the era when she had a daytime talk show. Anyway, it’s smooth R&B yet again, without much personality really.
  • Radiohead: Just kidding. But don’t encourage them.

Who would have thought Ashley Tisdale and Gwen Stefani would emerge victorious from this lineup? Not me! They definitely earned this one though. Though no doubt next year will bring a few new entrants into the arena.

Happy Holidays!

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Having been doing this for 13 years, you do get to recognize certain patterns. So if Michael Bennet’s campaign even gets to Iowa I think we can safely predict what will happen:

  1. Somebody will ask him at a corn pull or whatever about Gorsuch and he’ll stammer through a bullshit answer. The internet will be furious and the spinning will get sad and desperate overnight. Befire long he’ll be promising a pro-choice litmus test but he still won’t be able to answer why he did it satisfactorily.
  2. It will be leaked that Bennet was genuinely blindsided by this, and that he thought the vote would be understood by the public and might even be an asset, a sign of his independence and principle. (This is not going too far. The centrist bubble is fucking bonkers, and it’s entirely likely that nobody ever personally called Bennet out on this IRL.) Meanwhile, NARAL and other reproductive rights groups have refused to support him under any circumstances.
  3. The campaign folds within a few weeks. Having now become nationally known for his Gorsuch vote, his re-election to the Senate becomes dicey. The vote gives prospective progressive challengers a strong issue for a primary challenge. Bennet retires, no doubt with a Claire McCaskill-esque speech of moderate self-pity. The end.
  • Again, there’s simply no way out of this for Mikey. He’s Joe Lieberman, basically: a clueless white guy centrist who thinks Democrats all think like him when fifteen minutes of real life could prove otherwise. It’s a type. His Gorsuch vote was for media jerkoffs like his brother, and we sure as hell know that being that kind of an irritating prick doesn’t necessarily lead to losing senatorial office. But he’s going to learn just how little those people matter in a contest where partisan activists are key.
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    I don’t even hate the guy, even though his brother is destroying The New York Times with his awful conservatarian hires and he’s sort of a civility scold. He’s not on my radar of shitty senators. But this is delusional. I guess the idea is to talk a lot about civility and decency in Iowa but there are limits to what primary voters will tolerate and voting for one of Trump’s justices is indeed one of those limits. Fun as it will be to watch this guy flop-sweat his way through a million “I wasn’t the deciding vote!” and “At least I voted against Kavanaugh!” excuses, it’s just a waste of our time. Given that apparently every single Democrat is running next year, he’s not even going to get a hearing from people. Lots of non-damaged goods to choose from. I doubt this campaign even lasts until July.

    Guy should have just voted no if this was in his mind.

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    Look, politics is politics, and the reality is that patronage is a need that does have to be taken care of. (This is one of the reasons why no cabinet department will ever be abolished ever.) This is as true now as it was in 1886. The difference between now and 1886 is that back then they used the post office as a patronage trough and now we use public universities as such, which is probably not such an improvement, honestly. But this is something:

    It was definitely a “seeing how the meat is made” experience for this former political science student. In addition to being confronted with the grosser positions of the person you’re interning for (such as Hoyer’s cozy relationship with AIPAC), you’re also surrounded by a number of SGA dweebs high on their own supply. We found out at the end of the internship that the other office was packed with interns who were almost all children of Hoyer’s top donors and friends. The interns in the separate office frequently got to write memos and do other more substantive work. However, answering the phones was probably more entertaining.

    Like I said, patronage is a need. Sometimes people donate because they want their kids to have jobs. Better to give some unremarkable rich kid a job than to give a contract to some shady business, arguably. But to have a situation where connected people do all the important work that will actually lead to careers and power and the plebs do all the hackwork (and, indeed, never meet Hoyer himself) really does give away how Hoyer sees the world and how he recapitulates its unfair hierarchies: people with money and privilege get the inside track and the rest get nothing. Not exactly hard to believe about one of the most reactionary-centrist Dems there are, but still. Some Democrat.

    You know, some days I think that there has to be at least one good thing about Steny Hoyer, and yet, I don’t think I’ve ever read one! Perhaps he’s a great legislator but I don’t really hear much about that. Not hard to believe he’s a great fundraiser given what’s in the Splinter piece, I guess.

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    Dianne Feinstein still sucks in the same way she’s always sucked:

    Supporters of the WIIN Act say endangered species laws will protect the delta and its wildlife. However, WIIN allows pumping levels to go beyond what is recommended under the Endangered Species Act.

    Huffman and his colleagues, as well as Feinstein’s fellow Senate Democrat Kamala Harris of California, say the bill should be considered with more time and balance.

    Harris said she opposes the bill because it would override part of the Endangered Species Act, affect the salmon fishing industry and give Trump and future presidents too much authority over California.

    “I’m very concerned about any process that would allow this administration to override what Californians decided is in California’s best interest,” Harris said.

    Huffman said in an interview that extending WIIN this month would amount to “trying to jam through end-of-session favors for special interests in the San Joaquin Valley that are against the interests of the Bay Area and most other water users in the state.”

    Speier said WIIN was “an emergency piece of legislation,” but that the emergency — the drought — has passed.

    “To extend this emergency piece of legislation when we’ve had the kinds of problems associated with forest fires and so much of our fishing industry is impacted, the environment’s impacted, I think we need to be very thoughtful in the way we move forward and not just knee-jerk take action,” Speier said.

    Why would she screw over the people who voted for her to benefit people who didn’t? Oh, right, the latter are really rich people. Really seems to be all of it so far as I can tell.

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    The media once again misleads the public by splashing OBAMACARE STRUCK DOWN and now half the public thinks it’s gone already because almost nobody knows the difference between a district court and an appellate court. So great job media! Once again you show that you’re a worse problem than fake news with your irresponsible choice of emphasis. I suppose the true suckers are the people who think they’ll fix themselves.

    Also, too, whose interest does it actually serve to have this kind of constant upheaval and uncertainty served to us by the courts? Damned if I know. If 2020 Democrats were smart they’d start wondering aloud about why it is that we let the courts overturn legislation at all, particularly at the hands of political activists in robes whose protestations of impartiality are cynical at best. Neutering the courts would fix a lot of things! But I strongly doubt we’ll see that happen. Too crazy for a party still desperate to reinstate pre-Gingrich norms unilaterally.

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    Why did I get a Christmas “card” email from Evan Bayh? Even when I was a bit more of a centrist wanker a decade ago I didn’t like him. Certainly never donated to him or anything. And it wasn’t my burner address either that I use for all my political stuff. It was my real one! A true mystery.

    Got to be a prank. Well done, whoever.

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