Aint nothin' like the real thing, baby ...


A few more debate observations:

I was in the spin room at UNLV post debate and noticed a few things. First off, only the second-tier candidates come in. Kucinich was there from the start, and I noticed Richardson and Biden later. For the top-tier candidates, however, we got designated spinners. Clinton sent Mark Penn; Obama, David Axelrod; and Edwards, Joe Trippi. I engaged Penn on the question of Hillary's vote for the Lieberman/Kyl amendment that could have the effect of legitimating Dick Cheney's planned invasion of Iran. I asked Penn whether this created enough daylight on his left for Edwards or Obama to strike a sufficient contrast to ride to victory in Iowa. Penn parried this pretty well, as did fellow Clinton adviser Mandy Grunwald in private conversation, and it doesn't appear that this is where either Edwards or Obama is going. More worrisome is the likelihood that the Bush administration will use it when they decide to attack Iran. To be fair to Hillary, however, she insisted during the debate that the president absolutely did not have the constitutional authority to attack Iran and was not going to get it from this Congress. I talked with Axelrod and Trippi too, but I don't remember much of it to tell you the truth. I did get the impression from others in the campaigns that Obama-ites are feeling that they will surprise people in Iowa in part because they've put together a campaign staff there that has gone largely unnoticed, but is apparently killer. Meanwhile, watch for Edwards to focus not on beating up Hillary but on the fact of his own electability. This makes sense to me because attacks on Hillary resound not to Edwards' benefit but to Obama's. The trick is figuring out a way to say to Democrats that they should pick him because it's too risky to go with a woman or a black when so many Democrats are one, the other, or both. I am, as I keep saying, neutral between these three, but I do think the fact that the candidate who has staked out the most progressive platform is also polling as the most electable one, is a rather amazing state of affairs, and were it not for Obama's entry into the race, would probably have worked for Edwards. Today that looks less likely of course, but it remains a pretty interesting race ... so long as you can ignore Russert, Blitzer and the like ...

Quote of the Day: "The Jews are a swinging bunch of people. I've heard of persecution but what they went through is ridiculous. But the great thing is that after thousands of years of waiting and holding on and fighting, they finally made it." -- Sammy Davis Jr. as quoted by Bart Simpson, from The Simpsons episode "Like Father, Like Clown." Are the Simpsons Jewish?

From TomDispatch:

Many have argued about the Bush administration's imperial plans in the world, about its "march to empire." Former diplomat John Brown, who publicly resigned from the Foreign Service to protest the coming invasion of Iraq in 2003, suggests provocatively that "the conceptual baggage required to engage in truly imperial ambitions has simply not been a part of the Bush administration's mindset." From a president who arrived with an "utter lack of experience in foreign-affairs and complete lack of curiosity about the outside world (with the possible exception of Mexico)" on down, the Bush administration, claims Brown, has always dealt with the world as a kind of dreamscape and Washington as the only reality.

Of the two men most associated with the administration's imperial plans, Brown writes:

As for the once-dynamic duo who characterized much of this administration -- Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (and those clustered around their "offices") -- the only 'empire' that really counted for them was the parochial world of Washington, D.C., with its lobbyists, bureaucrats, politicians, and assorted supporting think-tankers, all absorbed in their petty turf-wars about who among them would get government money for their minions and projects, overseas or at home. This was the narcissistic province that the Vice President and Secretary of Defense had the urge to dominate with their "unitary executive,' 'wartime,' commander-in-chief presidency and the foreign wars that made it all possible. Developments outside the U.S., however, mattered largely to the extent that they helped in the aggrandizement of their own power, their fiefdoms, and those of their cronies, on the banks of the Potomac.

Brown offers a thoroughly original way to reimagine the history of the last seven years of American policy in the world and concludes:

In the end, the Bush administration is likely to be remembered not for a failed imperialism, but a failed parochialism, an inability to perceive a world beyond the Washington of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, beyond George W. Bush's national security "homeland." That may be the President's ultimate legacy.

Alter-reviews by Eric:

Help! on DVD

As I mentioned when I went to a screening a few months ago, this film is a lot funnier and more engaging than I remember it, and the sound quality and restored visual definition are just stunning. The film is being shown on the Sundance Channel this month, but you really might want to have one of your own. The two-disc set features the digitally restored film, a 30-minute documentary on making the movie, missing scenes, theatrical trailers, and more. The deluxe box set, which I don't have, contains a reproduction of Richard Lester's original annotated script, eight lobby cards and a poster, and 60-page book. More information is available at

Eric Clapton - Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007 DVD

The Crossroads Center in Antigua is a chemical dependency and education facility Clapton founded, and to help support it he assembled a wide variety of artists to perform at the Crossroads Guitar Festival. The second concert, held this past summer in Chicago, featured Steve Winwood, B.B. King, Willie Nelson, Jeff Beck, Vince Gill, Sheryl Crow, Buddy Guy, Derek Trucks, John Mayer, Doyle Bramhall II, and others -- it's, like, one of the greatest things ever. Look at the set list here. The Steve Winwood material is incredible, and quite moving if you've recently read Clapton's autobiography. I didn't even know he played the guitar. And I love the way these guys join one another on their songs; it's impossible to keep track of who's playing with who on the above set list. Of course it's too long, but you can read a book while you watch and listen to it. And you should; do both, that is, but I don't see how anyone can live without it. It's filmed in HD, the DVD, and four hours long, including some backstage material, which I could live without.

More information on the DVD, released by Rhino, can be found here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Janet Ward
Hometown: Atlanta

Charlie: You know I love you, and I love your cogent takedown of Republicans over the privacy issue.

But you wanna know the difference between bridge players saying they didn't vote for Bush and baseball players taking steroids? Whether bridge players vote for Bush or not does not affect how they play the game. Unless you, like me, assume that bridge players must be, by definition, smart, and, therefore, unlikely to have voted for C Plus.

Now, if bridge players were taking Ritalin or one of those kiddie drugs that college kids take to help them remember stuff during exams, then no, no privacy right.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.