aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Don’t bemoan how the sausage is made, improve the recipe!
If, as Tip O’Neill famously observed, all politics is local, then all campaigns are retail. But, as the title of the movie “Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?” implies, can retail compete these days against the wholesale muscle of money, incumbency and dynasty?
In 2004, a 29-year-old squeaky-voiced college instructor named Jeff Smith decided to run for Richard Gephardt’s seat in Congress, entering a 10-candidate primary fight against older and better-connected competitors, including Russ Carnahan, son of Mel Carnahan, the late governor of Missouri, and former senator Jean Carnahan.
Smith mounts a tireless, creative and principled campaign that brings to mind the late senator Paul Wellstone. He assembles a gaggle of bright, young people and makes a serious run that surprises the local pundits as well as his own slightly cynical parents. Director Frank Popper has made a lively, engaging nail-biter of a film that recalls “The War Room” in its candor, intimacy and breathless pace.
At once a celebration of and elegy to democracy, “Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?” is sure to infuriate and inspire viewers, who, with luck, won’t just bemoan how the sausage is made but vow to improve the recipe.
A 3.3 million year old girl
Don Johanson was back in town tonight. He spoke of Lucy to a standing room only crowd and of the news of the fossils found of the oldest known child hominid in Ethiopia ‘in mint condition’:
The discovery delighted Donald C. Johanson, the paleoanthropologist who stunned the world when he found the 3.2 million-year-old Lucy fossil at Hadar, Ethiopia, a few miles from the Dikika site. “I don’t think there’s any question that (the child is) the same species as Lucy,” because its features “are identical to what we see in all of the Hadar hominids,” Johanson said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Scientists have previously found fragments of a few other Australopithecus afarensis children, “but nothing as significant as this,” Johanson said. The new find is “much more complete,” with a skull containing “a virtually complete set of teeth,” plus “parts of legs and arms and thorax, and two very thin shoulder blades.”
Don’s a terrific guy. I fondly recall the time we had on a house tour here in the spring of last year. He did too and I was glad of it. We didn’t make it out to Phoenix last December but maybe one day still. John?
The Economic Freedom Fund in GA
I got a robo-call from the Economic Freedom Forum. In the form of a poll, it asked me about gay marriage and immigration in a way obviously intended to inflame passions. I did a cursory search on EFF and found little. TPM Muckraker found more:
The Economic Freedom Fund has moved on its fifth target: Rep. John Barrow (D-GA).
Starting this past Saturday, the group, which is backed with $5 million from Swift Boat Vets funder Bob Perry, started airing an attack ad against Barrow, hitting him for “[helping] trial lawyers” and “[hurting] small businesses.”
You can see the group’s TV ad here:
The group dropped $120,968 for nine days of the ad, which brings their known expenditures to about $1.07 million nationwide. A recent poll conducted by a Republican firm showed Barrow narrowly leading his challenger, former Rep. Max Burns.
But that ad isn’t the only weapon the group is wielding against Barrow. Like the group’s other ambushes, their tactics in GA-12 have also included negative fliers and misleading robo calls. Barrow spokesman Harper Lawson said that the calls, which hit the candidate on hot issues like immigration and gay marriage, campaign have prompted calls from supporters. “They’re short and nasty,” Lawson said of the calls, which were first reported the day after Labor Day.
Barrow is the second Dem target attacked by EFF in Georgia. Jim Marshall, in the state’s 3rd district, has been hit with negative ads, flyers and robo calls in the past couple weeks. Both conservative Dems were affected by a 2004 redistricting by the state’s Republican legislature—Barrow lost his hometown, the Dem stronghold of Athens. CQ Politics rates both races as “Leans Democratic.”
The new album by Justin Timberlake isn’t particularly sexy. This should be a problem. When you call your record FutureSex/LoveSounds, brag in your lead single about ”bringing sexy back,” and give your other songs titles like “Sexy Ladies” and “Love Stoned,” certain expectations are raised. The term “FutureSex” holds the promise of freaky, science fiction-style erotica-something involving cyborgs, maybe, or the Orgasmatron from Woody Allen’s Sleeper. But Timberlake’s vision of sex and seduction is thoroughly grounded in 2006-in thuggish pickup lines and hip-hop clichÃƒÂ©s about hookups in nightclub VIP rooms. ("Let me make an indecent proposal/ Let me take you to the back and do what we’re supposed to.") It’s not an act that Timberlake is well-equipped to pull off. He’s a fine singer, but his feathery falsetto is hardly the world’s most macho instrument. Even on “SexyBack,” with his voice distorted into a crackly roar, he still sounds like a pipsqueak.
None of which really matters, because FutureSex/LoveSounds is one of the more exciting pop records in a long time. The sex theme is just window dressing-this album is all about sonic surprise. On Justified (2002), Timberlake graduated from ‘N Sync to adult megastardom, channeling the genial disco-funk of Off the Wall-era Michael Jackson. Timberlake could have chosen to solidify his status as the new King of Pop, but with FutureSex/LoveSounds he’s gone wildly experimental, drenching his songs in a hallucinatory swirl of hip-hop beats and ambient electronica. It’s by far the most avant-garde record ever issued under the name of a platinum-selling former boy-band star-a category that includes Michael Jackson. READ ON
BONUS VIDEO: Timberlake with Jimmy Fallon on SNL’s The Barry Gibb Show.
I’m just too white and nerdy
No right to vote
Throughout our history, Americans have been profoundly ambivalent about the vote. The Constitution of 1787 left the issue of federal voting rights entirely to the states, which could disenfranchise their voters more or less as they chose. Today, even though “the right to vote” is by now mentioned five times in the amended Constitution, the federal courts continue to insist that voting is mostly a state matter. The Supreme Court restated the point in 2000, in Bush v. Gore. “The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States,” said the Court, rather breezily, “unless and until the state legislature chooses a statewide election as the means to implement its power to appoint members of the Electoral College.”
Meanwhile, virtually every other advanced democracy already has an explicit guarantee of the right to vote. Ironically, whenever the United States imposes a constitution on another (conquered) nation, we tend to insist that they include in those documents a right we do not ourselves possess. Afghans have “the right to elect and be elected,” Iraqis have “the right ... to vote, to elect, and to nominate,” and the Japanese enjoy “universal adult suffrage.”