Grand bargaineering

A young member of the Miami-Dade School Board named Carlos Curbelo is running against Joe Garcia in my congressional district. Despite plenty of incontrovertible evidence that he believes Social Security is a racket (“A Ponzi scheme,” whaddya know) which should remain inaccessible to all but the oldest seniors he has run plenty of campaign ads in my market positioning himself as a champion of the elderly. I wonder why. Digby:

It was always bizarre that a Democratic president would believe that an epic economic downturn was a good time to worry about deficits and try to strike a bargain to cut the Party’s signature domestic economic achievement — an achievement which had lifted massive numbers of people out of poverty. It was conceived as a “go to China” moment in which only a Democrat could cut Social Security without being demagogued by Democrats. Apparently it didn’t occur to these visionaries that the Republicans were increasingly dependent on the elderly for votes and would be happy to demagogue the Democrats instead. Certainly no one should have depended on their honesty and integrity.

To be fair to Joe Garcia, he doesn’t support Chained CPI or the other schemes favored by mountebanks and charlatans whose goal is to eliminate Social Security and Medicare entirely; but when the president spent two years and considerable capital pursuing a Grand Bargain whose contours his enemies would use to smother his midterm elections — in which, that’s right, seniors most heavily participate — he exposed Democrats to these attacks.

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Singles 10/24

“Jealous” isn’t as exciting as the blurb suggests. The high notes are awful, and the thing is no “Pom Poms,” but I saw how this week’s crop would score, and couldn’t tolerate as winner John Rich’s mediocre diversion from Tea Party campaigning. But, hey, Atari Teenage Riot inspired one of our livelier comments sections. Speaking of lively, the enthusiasm for Mr. Stefani track waned; it’s no “Swallowed” or even “The Chemicals Between Us.”

Click on links for full reviews.

Nick Jonas – Jealous (7)
Big & Rich – Look at You (6)
Karen Harding – Say Something (5)
Trey Songz – What’s Best for You (5)
Bush – The Only Way Out (5)
Take That – These Days (5)
Avicii – The Days (5)
Kele – Doubt (4)
McBusted – Air Guitar (4)
Atari Teenage Riot – Modern Liars (4)
Jack Ü ft. Kiesza – Take Ü There (3)
Tokio Hotel – Girl Got a Gun (3)
Lecrae ft. For King & Country – Messengers (2)

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How Prince self-destructed — and liked it

An excerpt from Alan Light’s forthcoming book on the Purple Rain period details the politics of do-gooderism. Musical guests at the American Music Awards ceremony in January 1985 gathered in a Quincy Jones studio to record the Michael Jackson-Lionel Richie composition “We Are the World.” Prince, according to the reporting, offered a song for the album and volunteered to play guitar on the song; Jones vetoed the second request. Whereupon the Revolution and their entourage party into the night, indifferent to the headlines:

“We implore him, no matter what happens at the awards, we cannot go out in the streets and celebrate if you’re not going to go to A&M and show up for this,” says Leeds. “Fargnoli and I were like, ‘Dude, the eyes are on you, okay? You just cleaned up. The two biggest things on the planet tonight are this recording session and you, and everybody is going to want to know why that’s not one thing. So take your awards and keep your ass in the hotel. You cannot run the clubs the way you usually do, with two bodyguards, chasing girls. Not tonight, not while this is going on.’

“So that was good until about two in the morning. I think Bobby and his wife, Vicki, and me and Gwen were the last ones to leave his room. We stayed with him on purpose—but it was a big night, and he was on cloud nine. We left him around two, two-thirty in the morning, and at maybe four o’clock, four-thirty, the phone rings and it’s Chick. ‘Hey, buddy, better get back up!’ ‘What?’ ‘Well, we were at [the popular club] Carlos and Charlie’s, and Big Larry, the bodyguard, he’s in jail, the sheriff’s got him.’ I’ve had scandals on tour where musicians got busted and shit happens, but I’ve never read anything that was on page A1. It was just plain weird.”

Prince lost the PR war, but he got what he wanted: a couple of scabrous headlines that succeeded in making him into a petulant weirdo, knocking him down the number of pegs sufficient to lower his profile. “4 The Tears in Your Eyes,” his contribution to the USA For Africa album, is one his loveliest unsung compositions, recorded under circumstances that according to engineer Susan Rogers didn’t allow for caviar and champagne with Tina and Daryl and Dionne: picking like ravens at leftover cold cuts and warm pop as the sun rose. “Take Me With U,” the final Purple Rain single, fails to make the top ten. The release of Around the World in a Day awaited. Whether “We Are the World” deserved Prince’s attention goes unsaid. It must.

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And WHAT a mantle!

“[The president] had the happy faculty of feeling [at one with] himself and this was one of the most extreme cases of it that I have ever seen because he must know hat we are all against him on Gymnast,” wrote the secretary of war in August 1942. Henry Stimson, despite his talents, could never be accused of possessing a happy faculty of feeling. Gymnast, later Torch, was the code name for an Allied landing on French Northwest Africa, approved and insisted on by FDR despite the cavils, resistance, and almost mutiny of his chiefs of staff and secretaries of state and defense. They — and Winston Churchill, initially — preferred a French landing. The president was convinced this would be a ruinous plan; it was exactly what Hitler wanted. The Allies were not ready for this bold stroke. Concentrating on the fifteen months between the signing of the Atlantic Charter and Operation Torch in November 1942, The Mantle of Command shows a Roosevelt most biographies overlook. Career officers did not impress him; he had seen the consequences of their rote thinking in 1918. With a constant eye on the vacillations of American public opinion, Roosevelt managed prima donnas like Douglas MacArthur so well that each rose in rank as his respect for the president’s judgment swelled.

The Franklin Delano Roosevelt in The Mantle of Command emerges as a bon vivant and strategist, laughing with and teasing Cabinet members, and charming underlings while hiding intentions behind a cloud of cigarette smoke. A leader of inexhaustible patience, which is nothing to sneeze at if MacArthur and Charles De Gaulle or Churchill wanted to complain about a blow, real or imagined, to their lèse-majesté; Nigel Hamilton should have titled his book The Pleasure of Command. Meanwhile Roosevelt got what he wanted: several hundred thousand American troops poured into French Northwest Africa for Operation Torch in November 1942. By the time it ended the collapse of Vichy France was assured, the reputation of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was a dream in the Fuhrer’s mind, the Soviets could begin to trust the United States’ commitment to actually fighting the war, and Mussolini loosened is collar and gulped. Eisenhower was a few months from the promotion of all promotions. Churchill was beginning to accept his position as a kind of superintendent of a tattered and less profitable apartment buildings known as the British Empire, managed by the United States. The impeccable reputation of George Marshall gets a blow too. Switching military operations from a French landfall or English Channel invasion to the Pacific was a plan to which the U.S. chiefs of staff could agree: “However, there was an acceptance that apparently our political system would require major operations this year in Africa.” A pity about the Framers making civilian leadership one of the lodestars of “our political system.”

Fond of italics and indirect free speech, Hamilton at times sounds he’s never gotten over his crush on the president (his other books include biographies of JFK, Clinton, and Thomas Mann). But his laborious quoting from Stimson’s diaries and the letters and cables exchanged by the dramatis personae do support his thesis that FDR, like the History Channel doesn’t tire of stressing, was The Right Man. But one necessary point is dropped after the Atlantic Charter chapter: the United States’ determination to persuade England to lose its colonies. That Hamilton doesn’t buy the mythos around Churchill is refreshing; Winston was an eloquent gasbag who had horrible instincts about generals and no talent for running a country in peace time. FDR’s ascendancy is clear. But Hamilton doesn’t study the bundled cord of altruism and economic opportunism motivating Roosevelt’s insistence.

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The cynicism of voter ID laws

From last week, yes, but I can’t resist quoting this summary of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals’ en banc opinion in Wisconsin’s voting restriction law.

How about the argument that photo ID is required to board a plane and for many other routine actions, so what’s the harm in requiring it for voting? Posner points out that the requirement of photo ID for flying is “a common misconception.” Nor is it true, as the three-judge appeals panel had it, that photo ID is required to pick up a prescription (not so in Wisconsin and 34 other states, Posner observes); open a bank account (not true anywhere in the country) or buy a gun (not true under federal law at gun shows, flea markets, or online).

Then there’s the argument that getting a photo ID is easy and cheap, and therefore that people without them must not care enough about voting to bother. The three-judge panel wrote that obtaining a photo ID merely requires people “to scrounge up a birth certificate and stand in line at the office that issues driver’s licenses.” Posner replies that he himself “has never seen his birth certificate and does not know how he would go about ‘scrounging’ it up.” Posner appends a sheaf of documents handed to an applicant seeking a photo ID for whom no birth certificate could be found in state records. It ran to 12 pages.

As for its supposedly negligible cost, “that’s an easy assumption for federal judges to make, since we are given photo IDs by court security free of charge. And we have upper-middle-class salaries. Not everyone is so fortunate.” He cites a study placing the expense of obtaining documentation at $75 to $175 — which even when adjusted for inflation is far higher than “the $1.50 poll tax outlawed by the 24th amendment in 1964.”

From the text of the opinion itself: “Voter fraud may be a subset of ‘misinformation.’ If so, it is by all accounts a tiny subset, a tiny problem, and a fig leaf for efforts to disenfranchise voters likely to vote for the political party that does not control the state government.”

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‘I never played Fort Sumter’

So the City of South Miami’s commission voted on this proposal:

“North Florida is approximately 120 feet above sea level while the average elevation of South Florida is less than 50 feet with a very large portion of South Florida averaging less than 15 feet above seal level,” says Harris’ resolution, which also mentions economic concerns.

The resolution would allow the Sunshine State to split in half, with South Florida containing 24 counties, including Brevard, Orange, Polk, Hillsborough and Pinellas. The proposal must be approved by officials in each county that would make up the new state, and would need to be approved by Florida’s state legislature before going into effect.

South Miami Mayor Phil Stoddard did not mince words on northern Florida’s relation with the southern half of the state.

“It’s very apparent that the attitude of the northern part of the state is that they would just love to saw the state in half and just let us float off into the Caribbean,” Stoddard told the Sun Sentinel.

Not to be outdone, a crackpot on the other side wants to oblige. Douglas MacKinnon is an obliging guy. He wants a place where men can sex their wives, teach their children about Columbus and the importance of picking on homosexuals, and the oceans can swallow them at their pace.

Knowing that, I simply want those who believe the downward spiral of our country is irreversible, to know that an option to preserve their values does exist. That some folks with a great deal of real-world experience felt it was their responsibility to at least explore the possibility of secession.

It was a controversial solution about 240 years ago and it is no less so now. Until that also is taken from us, it is still our right as Americans to discuss what many people truly believe to be our last hope.

Google it, for I’m not linking to this drivel. Neither MacKinnon and his enthusiastic commenters oppose why the South left one hundred forty years ago. States rights — the old favorite. The placeholder name for this new country? Reagan.

Fred Grimm reminds us of the fiscal reality:

It’s not just folks at the bottom of the peninsula suffering from cultural dissociation with greater Florida. Panhandle residents have been complaining about their forced marriage to the rest of Florida since the 1840s, when locals wanted to be annexed by Alabama. But through the first 60 years of the 20th century, the rural northern counties utterly ran the show. The state Legislature was controlled by the infamous “Pork Chop Gang” — conservative, states’ rights, segregationists elected from the state’s backwaters. Thanks to wildly undemocratic formulas for electing legislators, the 12.3 percent of the population living in rural Florida could elect the majority in the state Senate, while 14.3 percent controlled the House of Representatives.

Apparently, they hold tight to tradition up in Tallahassee.

Let’em keep Disney World, he sez, even if it’s near gay-loving Orlando.

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Ain’t nuthin’ but a mistake

Tom on the Backstreet Boys song It Was OK To Like:

“I Want It That Way” assumes, rightly, that you enjoy hearing these men harmonise around that title, and simply arranges itself to give you the maximum possible opportunity to do that, with slightly different emphases each time but no regard for whether all those swoonsome moments fit together. In between, the gaps are filled with a melange of phraselets that don’t fit whatever story the song is telling but which all sound fantastic sung, fist clenched on chest, by a handsome boy. “Fire….desire”, “you are you are you are”, “don’t wanna hear you sayyyy!”, “it’s to-oo-oo late”, all given their own lovely micro-hook and thrown into the song’s rising tide.

Months after it peaked as a hit, I heard a quartet of drunk dudes sing a note perfect karaoke version; like “Bye Bye Bye” eight months later, this was ubiquity at world-historic level. at the time I wouldn’t admit I preferred “Quit Playin’ Games (With My Heart)” and “Show Me The Meaning of Being Lonely.” But those weren’t a miscellany of prenatal erotic slogans.

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