"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
-- Sinclair Lewis
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Two Videos-- Just One Fragile Little World
The one above is the debut of James Cameron's must-see series on Climate Change, Years of Living Dangerously. It's an hour that, if you watch it, will have been well-spent. Cameron's video is-- God willing-- part of the solution to an existential threat to humanity. Below is a short, brutish political commercial. It's ugly and it will persuade many Democrats to hold their nose and just stay home rather than vote for Mary Landrieu. Her commercial is part of the problem-- a corporate shill indebted to the Big Oil interests who have financed her career in return for protection of their interests in the Senate. And the fucking spineless Senate Democrats made her chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, where her inherent corruption can dip the most harm to mankind and the country. The Energy/Natural Resources sector's most bribed Members of Congress for the current election cycle:
Since 1997 the Energy/Natural Resources sector has given her $2,516,790. The only sitting Members of Congress who have gotten more are 5 of the most notoriously corrupt men to have ever served in either house of Congress: Joe "Oily Joe" Barton (R-TX-$3,931,145), John Boehner (R-Boehnerland-$3,657,761), John Cornyn (R-TX-$3,419,437), Mitch McConnell (R-KY-$3,347,641) and James Inhofe (R-OK-$2,690,417). Her bribes total even more than Vitter's mere $1,837,848. And in return… well, watch the video of Mary Landrieu staging a fake hearing the throw President Obama and the environmental and Climate Change community under the bus. Would you ever vote for this kind of Democrat?
Now my mother took religion very seriously, though perhaps a tad idiosyncratically. For her it entailed, in roughly ascending order of importance:
(1) Lighting of Shabas candles
(2) Preparation of the designated foods for the appropriate holidays
(3) Hadassah, and all things relating to it
As regards (2), the rite of worship most relevant to today's story, my mother regarded those holiday food preparations with only slightly more worshipful seriousness than, say, that of Abraham preparing to sacrifice Isaac. And before Passover that included -- especially once my grandmother was involved in the operation -- the annual moaning about the price of fish this year. But, that it should have come to, well . . . this?
CROWN HEIGHTS — Why is this night different from all other nights? Because there's a shortage of gefilte fish!
A harsh winter in the Great Lakes region has sparked a shortage of fresh whitefish, the main ingredient for the Passover dish gefilte fish — in a development that could put a damper on this year's Jewish holiday, according to suppliers of a local Kosher fish market.
Raskin’s Fish Market in Crown Heights has been scrambling to come up with enough whitefish to keep up with demand for Passover, after frozen conditions in the lakes that produce much of the whitefish supply sent fish populations dwindling.
“It’s very bad,” said Schlomo Raskin, who opened the market in 1961 and said he can’t remember a shortage like this in the past 30 years. “You feel very badly when a customer comes in and she wants to buy 30 pounds and you only have five.”
Workers at Raskin’s said they usually get dozens of pounds of whitefish a day during the busy season, but now they’re lucky to get a few. While the problem has lingered for months, they said, it's most extreme this holiday week. The whitefish is ground and made into patties often served in two meals a day during the Passover holidays.
Customers filed in and out of the shop on Kingston Avenue near Union Street to prepare for the holiday, in search of a portion of the remaining fish.
“It’s gold,” said manager Yossi Hayward, 28, “It’s first come, first serve.”
While the whitefish remains scarce, Raskin’s said they’ll make their gefilte with a different mixture of ground fish, including halibut and carp. And for those doing last minute Passover shopping, the shop has pre-packaged gefilte fish for sale, which is made at a kitchen they run in Brownsville.
Speaking with the theological authority of someone who watched my mother make gefilte fish many a year (including several years with my grandmother, after we moved to NYC); who has eaten a fair pile of the stuff over the years; who saw a free-to-members preview screening of Darren Aronofsky's Noah at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria; and, as I mentioned yesterday, only a week and a half ago actually visited Brooklyn's Crown Heights -- and, yes, Kingston Avenue -- I can say that this is an outrage, and that fingers should be pointing.
And it seems clear that the direction in which those fingers should be pointing is upwards, since as I understand God's famous covenant, He is covenantially obligated to maintain a proper supply of whitefish for Passover. I shudder to think what my mother would have said. And my grandmother? Forget about it!
When John Bohlinger comes into any town in Montana to talk policy, it is news. Veteran journalist Mike Dennison interviewing Bohlinger last week on a campaign policy tour
Beltway Democrats decided their best chance to hold the Montana Senate seat would be to replace Max Baucus-- who was given a plumb job as ambassador to China-- with the conservative John Walsh. Walsh gets to run as an incumbent against radical right extremist Steve Daines, a congressman. At the end of 2013 Walsh had $435,549 in his campaign kitty. Daines had $1,897,935. And the Koch brothers and other fat cats and anti-democracy plutocrats will spend handsomely to capture the seat. Remember, the close race that McCain won in 2008 wasn't all that close in 2012, when Romney beat Obama 55-42%. Democrat Steve Bullock was elected governor that day, though, 49-47% and Democrat Jon Tester was reelected to the Senate over Denny Rehberg 49-45%. Very purple. But can an appointed corporate shill of the Beltway Democratic Establishment win this race? Almost unimaginable! Although the DSCC tried, Walsh doesn't have the Democratic nomination wrapped up. They attempted to push Schweitzer's Lt Governor, John Bohlinger (who we've talked about before), out of the race… and that backfired. The mnore they pushed, the more he became convinced that he owed it to Montana to stay in the race.
Walsh also has a primary challenger in John Bohlinger, a quirky, bow-tie wearing former two-term lieutenant governor in the Brian Schweitzer administration who is positioning himself as the progressive alternative. Democrats expect Walsh to prevail in the June primary, but Bohlinger’s name recognition in the state can’t be underestimated. …He’s campaigning on public campaign finance system, a minimum wage hike, an increase in Social Security benefits and greater protections for gays and lesbians-- but also as the insurgent who wouldn't step down for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who told him last fall he didn't want a primary. With a fair-minded reputation and a grandfatherly demeanor, don’t expect Bohlinger to sling mud at Walsh-- “I’m not going to make much about what our differences our … I want to talk about what I’m for,” he says. But he hits a nerve when he charges that his real problem with the senator is that he doesn’t know what he truly stands for. “I really can’t comment on his politics because I have not heard him articulate his views on things. I really don’t know where he stands. I think a lot of Montanans would say we really don’t know the guy,” Bohlinger says. “I suppose that somebody will tell him what to say.”
Meanwhile, if Walsh got a bump with the voters from the appointment, it has yet to show up in any polls. While there hasn't been any public polling on the primary since PPP had both in the 30s in Dec, it remains basically 1/3 for Walsh, 1/3 for Bohlinger with the rest up for grabs. This is a single digit primary, and I've heard reliable chatter that Bohlinger is even within the margin of error in Walsh's DSCC polling. He's just been keeping his head down and putting in a ton of highway miles. Our old friend Franke Wilmer has introduced Bohlinger twice in Bozeman in the last 2 weeks, both times explaining how she first met him when he was the only legislator at gay pride parades in the early 1990s. There's one primary debate scheduled on May 3 and many Democrats are taking a second look at Bohlinger after realizing Walsh can't beat Daines, regardless of what Beltway insiders want. Like another populist western Democrat the Beltway insiders is wary of, South Dakota's Rick Weiland, Bohlinger is campaigning on getting the big money out of politics. And that's been something he's been pushing for years and for which he has a two-pronged plan:
1. Implement I-166 and strengthen the US Constitution by explicitly declaring that corporations aren't people and money isn't speech. 2. Pass the Government By the People Act of 2014 to create a system of public financing that candidates could choose instead of relying upon DC lobbyists and PACs. I'm sure you're familiar with I-166, you were probably among the 74.7% of Montanans who voted for it in 2012. But have you read up the Government By the People Act that Congressman Sarbanes introduced in February? It already has 141 cosponsors, despite not having any from the Montana delegation.
You come away from looking into Bohlinger with the certainty that-- unlike Daines or Walsh-- he can't be bought by lobbyists. On policy matters, he talks about expanding Social Security, not cutting back on it. Montana is a grey-haired state and over 20% of all Montanans are on Social Security. This messaging resonates so perfectly on the stump that every Democrat in the country should run on this. That and single payer which, we are told, gets the most applause in every single town and after the very successful Schweitzer-Bohlinger health care record, is something Montana Dems take seriously. The primary is June 3rd, absentees go out 30 days earlier and the majority of votes will be cast before election day. If Bohlinger can beat Montana's weak appointed senator in the primary, nobody is going to doubt whether he can beat Montana's unpopular GOP congressman come fall. If Walsh is the nominee, Democrats will lose the seat and maybe the Senate. The way to win is to run on the Schweitzer-Bohlinger successes. That's resonating with more and more Democratic voters.
By Anonymous Operative A few months ago I wrote of the corporatization of Democratic politics. My thesis: for a party that appeals to progressive values, we are as pathetic as those moral/value-based conservatives on the right. We are sell outs. Whether it is selling out to political consultants or Wall Street bankers, our party choses strategies and policies based on business interests. This practice is antithetical to what we preach. So, I was at dinner a few nights ago. I was sitting with a Florida political operative. He was whining about Alex Sink's loss...for about two hours. He was describing what we all know: the DCCC and Emily's List ruined the whole thing. They placed consultant retainers and TV ad buy profits before the good of the society (not to say that Alex Sink would be anything more than a corporatist New Dem). He was appalled… I laughed. I warned him that this is nothing new. It is the state of our politics. From campaign decisions to congressional banking policies, both parties are crippled by this hideous nature. My friend sighed, and seemed to agree. I felt as though I made an impression on him. I asked my friend what his next move was. I was curious what races he was interested in working on, what candidates he sought to help. He replied and said, "you know, nothing really interests me this cycle. It's going to be a blood bath." I didn't disagree. "But," my friend said, "you know what I am excited for?" "What is that," I asked. "The race to replace Governor Christie in New Jersey he said..." "Why," I asked. "Because our party will have the opportunity to replace a tyrant. We will have a once in a lifetime chance of ridding a state-- so desperate for progressive change-- of the evils of a fascist dictator." I guess my friend did not really learn what I was talking about earlier in our conversation. I guess he did not take to heart my honest and heartfelt opinion that American Politics is TOTALLY crippled by corporatist behavior. There is no better example of the two-party hoax as the State of New Jersey. Those who made Chris Christie, are the same who made Cory Booker, Jon Corzine, etc... New Jersey is a state run by bosses. Namely, Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, businessman (criminal) George Norcross Jr, his brother and soon to be Congressman Donald Norcross, and their cronies, run the state. I went on to explain to my friend that Chris Christie is just a relatively talented fat man who the bosses identified as someone who could appeal to factions of the state's mildly educated electorate. He was-- at first glance-- the anti-Jon Corzine. He was slovenly and brash. He had cultivated an air of angry white guy authenticity that resonates with New Jersey voters and claimed to be someone who speaks his mind. But in decision after decision, Chris Christie helps the same business interests Jon Corzine helped. He sits in the same sky boxes at Giants stadium that Booker sits in. He plays the same game as every other successful NJ politician. It is inaccurate to say he sold out. He was never different. The minute he showed his ambition was the minute he put himself on sale to corporate elite who run the state. New Jersey is the epitome of American Politics. The bosses use the two party system as a distraction, much like professional sports. They appeal to the electorate's basic instincts, and are able to disguise their interests and motives behind the veils of party friction. My friend did not learn much from our conversation. He will probably go work for Steve Sweeney when he runs as the anti-Chris Christie. But we all witnessed 2013. We all saw the so called Democratic bosses push Barbara Buono to the side of the road. That was an anti-Chris Christie. And no one bought in. She was not for sale. People like Buono would never give in to criminal activity. But there is little she can do about it sitting in what is probably a lovely, modest home in Montclair, while Norcross and Christie galavant to Iowa, Nevada, or New Hampshire--maybe even via the George Washington Bridge!
What Can Gloria Bromell Tinubu Do For You If She's Elected To Congress?
A little over a week ago we introduced South Carolina congressional candidate Gloria Bromell Tinubu. We didn't really get into her fascinating biography just some political background. Below is a guest post she did for us based on some of the unique planks in her campaign platform. First though, it's worth knowing that Gloria, the seventh of eight children, was born to a farmer and a maid in Georgetown County's Brookgreen Gardens and raised in Plantersville on a family farm that her great grandfather purchased in 1883. Neither of her parents finished elementary school but they were determined to see that their children got the education and opportunities they never had. Gloria worked hard to make that dream come true, first by earning an undergraduate degree from Howard University, and later by becoming the first African American to receive a PhD in Applied Economics from Clemson University. She's never forgotten the lessons she learned from her parents about the value of hard work and the importance of family and community. As a young wife and mother, she took in laundry to help make ends meet. As a high school teacher, she played an active role in the lives of her students. And, later, as a tenured professor and chair of the Economics department at Spelman College, she worked in the local community as a member of the Atlanta City Council and the Georgia Board of Education. Perhaps you remember Alan Grayson complaining back in March how Congress is filled with people who don't know much and musing about how nice it would be if more Members did know… something. "I’m really getting tired of listening to people who don’t know what they’re talking about," he wrote. "For four years, I worked as an economist. As far as I know, I’m the only Member of Congress who can make that claim. Roll Call did not uncover anyone else. And believe me, whenever I start to talk economics in a Congressional hearing, the eyes glaze over. Quickly." OK, let's get Grayson another smart-as-a-whip economist he can work with! In fact it was when Gloria told us about some of her economist ideas that we got most interested in her candidacy. And that why we asked her to do a guest post. American Families Deserve a Raise: Policies for Prosperity and Self-Sufficiency
-by Gloria Bromell Tinubu,
Democratic Nominee for Congress, South Carolina’s 7th Congressional District www.gloriabromelltinubu.com Americans need a raise and they’ve needed one long before the most recent recession. While some Americans have adequate income to meet their basic needs, there are millions of Americans who are above the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), but lack sufficient income to cover basic living expenses. According to a recent study by the United Way, these Americans facing economic distress are routinely “overlooked and undercounted.” For more than four decades now, millions of Americans have struggled to meet their basic needs without having to rely on public or private assistance. Millions more have seen their wealth totally eroded with the recession of 2007 that brought about massive declines in the value of housing, a dominant source of wealth for most Americans, as well as a decline in savings, purchasing power, and the value of investments. Many Americans continue to be underpaid, underemployed, and unemployed and suffer from inadequate income and assets which prevent them from realizing their full potential and their version of the American Dream. As a member of Congress, I would work cooperatively with other members to support two policies that would result in greater economic opportunity and essentially a raise for Americans. First, I would support Henry Ramos’ approach called “Invest for Success,” which calls for federal legislation to be passed that would establish a new social contract with working families. For tax-paying families earning less than $75,000 (I would be willing to go up to less than $100,000), a five-year tax holiday (I would propose a 7-year tax holiday) for families who invest in asset building (education, home ownership, job training, business start-up or expansion) and debt-reduction such as paying down college loans or medical expenses. By allowing more families to hold on to their incomes, it provides more economic freedom of choice for middle-class and lower income taxpayers to build their own personal household assets while fueling the economy as well as their faith in the American Dream. Secondly, I would push for the adoption of a National Self-Sufficiency Standard to replace both the outdated Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and the Federal Minimum Wage (FMW). The Standard, created by Dr. Diana Pearce to address the short-comings of the FPL, serves as a gage for measuring basic economic well-being of families. It defines the income working families need to meet their basic needs without relying on public or private assistance given their unique family composition and where they live. While the FPL is based on only food costs and the Federal Minimum Wage does not account for differences in cost of living across different geographical areas, the Standard is based on all basic needs-- food, housing, childcare, health care, transportation, miscellaneous costs, and net taxes, and has been calculated for 37 states on a per county basis. The Standard can be used by policy makers, service providers, educators, and businesses as a guideline for setting wages, determining eligibility for services, and evaluating program effectiveness. Because it measures real costs of goods and services purchased in the free market, the Standard is higher than both FPL and FMW. If adopted, it would be a much deserved raise for American families.
Annals Of The Republican Civil War: Nevada And Ohio
You may have already read that the Nevada state Republican Party is turning over a new leaf-- at least in terms of the party-sanctioned gay-bashing and anti-Choice mania. I'm not sure how extremists like Sharron Angle are taking this, but over the weekend, Nevada Republicans drastically changed their official party platform. There was a "raucous debate," of course, but in the end the delegates voted to remove the party's opposition to marriage equality and their opposition to abortions.
By a show of hands, convention-goers adopted the platform as proposed by a separate committee without the two planks on marriage and abortion, following the Clark County GOP’s lead in removing hot-button social issues from the party’s statement of its principles. Some 520 delegates attended the convention, but less than half were present when the platform was adopted at about 7:30 p.m. Little debate preceded the vote, a far contrast to earlier in day. State party Chairman Michael McDonald said it was a successful convention at the end of the day.
“I think it was about inclusion, not exclusion,” McDonald said, referring to the platform. “This is where the party is going.” Republicans who sat on the platform committee said they decided not to deal with social issues this year because the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts have weighed in and it doesn’t make sense for the party of “personal freedom” to have the government or the political party get involved in people’s personal lives. “The issue was how can we back out of people’s personal lives,” said Dave Hockaday of Lyon County, who sat on the platform committee. “We need to focus on issues where we can have an impact.” Previously, the state party platform defined marriage as “between a man and a woman,” as does the Nevada Constitution. The past document also described the party as “pro-life,” or against abortion, a stance most Republicans still agree with.
GOP extremists are screaming their heads off, of course, and trying to organize a boycott of Las Vegas conventions and vacations. The party fringe is already demanding that the RNC remove Las Vegas from the short list of cities the GOP was considering for the 2016 national convention. Don Nelson of Nevada Right to Life is going insane: "On Saturday the Nevada Republican party decided to drop its pro-life plank and party chairman Mike McDonald said that abortion is a small issue. It’s not small now. It’s being reported all over Nevada and McDonald and the Nevada Republicans just told pro-lifers all over the state that their issue and the killing of 56 million preborn children, does not matter to him and his party and that the Nevada Republicans will take our vote, but that we can’t count on them… The fact is that over 70% of Republicans are pro-life and a many of them hold their nose and vote for Republicans because they have [been] the pro-life party. Events like this do nothing but further depress the Nevada Republican vote." Meanwhile, halfway across the country, the Tea Party primary against John Boehner is heating up. Up top is the fabulous new J.D. Winteregg ad, Electile Dysfunction (When The Moment Is Right).
"Other signs of electile dysfunction may include extreme skin discoloration, the inability to punch oneself out of a wet paper bag, or maintain a spine in the face of liberal opposition. If you have a Boehner lasting longer than 23 years, seek immediate medical attention."
Winteregg is not seen as a viable opponent against Boehner in the primary and, once again, the DCCC has moved to protect him from Democratic challengers, as they have consistently done in past cycles.
When Howie e-mailed this morning asking if I had any interest in "doing anything on the KKK guy who murdered the 3 in Kansas," my first thought was:
I had some flash of a thought about it this morning while I was reading about it. I forget what the thought was, but maybe it'll come back to me. (More interesting, I hope, than "Oh God, not this again.") I know that before I knew what had happened, I'd read an e-mail from the 92nd Street Y referring to it in announcing new amped-up security procedures there, which I'm pretty sure I saved for just this possible use.
The 92nd Street Y, for those who don't know, is one of NYC's cherished institutions (140 years old, as you'll note below) -- a cultural center (home to some of the city's most interesting concerts and lectures); fitness center; children's, teens', and adults' education center, and Jewish community center. Just as a "for instance," off the top of my head I recall writing about a tribute to my idol James Thurber moderated by Keith Olbermann, with guests including longtime New Yorker reporter and humorist Calvin Trillin, New Yorker cartoonist and cartoon editor Bob Mankoff, and Thurber's publicity-averse daughter Rosemary, held at the 92nd Street Y ("At the 92nd Street Y Thurber 'do,' Keith O gives a virtuoso performance," June 2011).
Here's the e-mail from "92Y," as the 92nd Street YM-YWHA likes to style itself in even shorter-hand:
To our 92Y Community,
We wanted you to be aware that you will notice extra security presence at 92Y following the tragic events at the Overland Park Jewish Community Center and the Village Shalom assisted living center outside Kansas City. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire community there.
Please know that Kevin Green, our director of security, is in touch with our law enforcement and homeland security partners and will issue additional updates as information becomes available.
As always, our goal is to provide an environment at 92Y that is welcoming, safe and secure. You can continue to help us do that by showing your identification to our security staff every time you enter the building, and asking your caregivers to do the same when they enter the building with your children. We also ask that you remain vigilant, and always report any suspicious activity to law enforcement immediately.
Please do not hesitate to contact any of us at any time if you have questions or concerns you would like to share.
Henry Timms Interim Executive Director
Kevin P. Green Director of Security
NYPD Lieut. (ret.)
Naturally the Right-Wing Noise Machine will clam up behind the denial that its followers have anything to do with this sort of violence, though it should be pretty clear to anyone with eyes that it's basically a full-bodied response to the ideology of Hate of the Other that is at the heart of 21st-century American conservatism. A colleague recalls that "just two years ago another noted white supremacist took the lives of seven Americans at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin" and notes "how the right-wing media had freaked out when a DHS report was declassified detailing potential increase in right-wing extremism in early years of this presidency."
I think we all remember how not just the RWNM but the media generally suffered such a drop in interest or at least intensity level at the time of the Oklahoma City bombing when it turned out that the perpetrators weren't Muslim extremists but good old-fashioned home-grown American right-wing terrorists. And I suppose it can be argued that with a mere three victims shot dead, this episode barely qualifies for conversation by present-day gun-violence standards, and considering that apparently none of the victims were Jewish, how can it stand as a cautionary tale of standing American anti-Semitism? (Partial answer: It reminds us that right-wing blowhards aren't just violent but stupid.)
By coincidence, the weekend before last I paid my first-ever visit to the heart of Lubavitcher Chassidic country, in Brooklyn's Crown Heights South, on a pre-Passover outing organized by Justin Ferate as the first of the spring "Wolfe Walkers" walks, and Rabbi Beryl Epstein, of the Chassidic Discovery Center, our remarkable tour guide (tours are given Sunday through Friday mornings as part of the Lubavitchers' eager outreach to the outside Jewish and non-Jewish world) gave the best explanation I've heard of the often-remarked-upon inward turning of Chassidic communities. The Chassidic movement, he reminded us, was born Eastern Europe in 18th-century, a time when about all that Jewish communities could expect from the outside world was bellicosity that too easily encompassed violence, often of the sweepingly deadly kind.
As Juan Cole reminds us, "US Press Once Again Declines to Call White Terrorism in Kansas, Nevada, White Terrorism, referring back to his own August 2012 post "Top Ten differences between White Terrorists and Others." Myself, I'm less concerned about whether the shootings are tried as a "hate crime" (I have no problem with trial and punishment for three murders, but apparently yes) than that for once some significant attention be focused on the cancer flourishing in the supposed heartland of America, increasingly in the grip of the right-wing culture of hate and violence.
Why Democrats Won't Win Back The House In 2014-- Don't Blame Hillary
This morning, everyone was talking about Maggie Haberman's new piece for Politico, Struggling Dems waiting for Hillary in 2014. While many progressives grappled with the idea that the Democratic Party seems wedded to a candidate who is another servant of Wall Street corporate interests, there are other unpleasant implications to be considered. Short version: the pathetic Beltway Democrats have turned off their base so badly that they can't get them to come out and vote without luring them with a celebrity. So… forget the midterms-- chances to take back the House nonexistant/Senate lost-- and wait for Hillary in 2016. (I guess the $102 million candidates, committees and outside groups spent on television advertising in federal and gubernatorial races since the beginning of the fourth quarter of last year, doesn't change much… except for the personal wealth of the consultants getting a cut of all that loot.) Hillary hasn't been campaigning for Democratic candidates in the midterms while her husband has been raising money for the worst corporate friendly shills from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- like Chelsea's scandal-plagued mother-in-law in PA-13. But the 2 of them are who all the candidates want on the stump with them. It looks as though the GOP has won their battle to neutralize her:
Clinton’s approach has strategic logic: The sooner she campaigns, the easier it will be for Republicans to sully her as a partisan. Her popularity as a public figure peaked during her time at State; avoiding the political trenches could help prolong that goodwill. Clinton’s poll numbers over the years have tended to drop the more partisan she has been seen as being. …Clinton’s no-politics-for-now stance comes as Clinton said this month that people should be focused on the midterms instead of speculating incessantly about 2016. “We have an election coming up this year. … We ought to be paying attention to that, because that will set the parameters of what can or should be done,” Clinton said. People involved in 2014 races were thrilled by the remark. They took it as a clear signal that Clinton recognizes the distraction that 2016 is for the party when it’s at risk of losing control of the Senate and additional seats in the House. Officials with national committees and state parties who see President Barack Obama as an albatross for their candidates in November have begun-- if only gingerly-- to initiate conversations with associates of Clinton about getting on her calendar later this year. They don’t want to be seen as nudging or annoying her and aren’t expecting anything until after the summer, several people involved in the process said. The main point of contact is Huma Abedin, Clinton’s chief of staff. “I said to [Hillary] that the second-- not the minute, but the second-- that she’s ready to engage, we’ll be excited,” Steve Israel, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman and congressman from New York, said in an interview. He said that he spoke with Bill Clinton about a month ago but hadn’t settled on which races the former president will be involved in. “There’s not a single battleground district in America which wouldn’t want her engagement,” Israel added. “Not one.”
Close your eyes and imagine that Pelosi had fired Israel as DCCC chairman after his catastrophic performance in the 2012 cycle. Would a competent chairman be sitting around holding his breath for Hillary Clinton to show up on a white horse? Or would he be cleaning out that nest of corrupt, self-serving incompetents at the DCCC and replacing them with men and women who understand how to win races? Would a competent DCCC chairman be wasting money trying to elect anti-Choice and gay-hating Blue Dogs in deep red districts while preventing races in vulnerable swing districts? Steve Israel is the worst DCCC chairman ever and no amount of Bill and Hillary Clinton appearances are going to win back the House as long as Israel is deciding which districts (like OH-06-- R+8-- and AR-04-- R+15) and targeted and which get ignored, like Fred Upton's MI-06 (R+1), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's FL-27 (R+2), Sean Duffy's WI-07 (R+2), Erik Paulsen's MN-03 (R+2), Pat Meehan's PA-07 (R+2), John Kline's MN-02 (R+2), Charlie Dent's PA-15 (R+2), Mike Rogers' MI-08 (R+2), and Paul Ryan's WI-01 (R+3). Worse yet, not a week goes by when a top tier candidate doesn't tell me he or she isn't going to run while Israel is in charge of the DCCC and that they'll wait 'til the next cycle when he's moved on to the next position he'll be screwing up.
Have Mainers Finally Had It With Koch-Addicted Republicans?
More than a few people have been asserting that Republican Governor Paul LePage, knowing he's already lost his reelection fight, is now only working for an audience of two: Texas neo-fascists David and Charles Koch. The clownish LePage doesn't want to go back to working at a Marden's Surplus and Salvage and he's counting on the Koch brothers to set him up with some kind of situation inside their Empire. That would certainly explain his vetoes Friday evening of two bills very popular with Mainers-- and very unpopular with Kochs. Terry Morrison's LD 1252, An Act to Improve Maine’s Economy and Energy Security with Solar and Wind Energy, passed the Senate with a bipartisan 21-12 and sailed through the House 109-30. Two Republican senators and 23 Republican House members abandoned LePage and voted for it-- as did 100% of the Democrats in the legislature. Had LePage not vetoed the bill, it would have revived the Efficiency Maine solar rebate program ($2,000) for homes and businesses, creating over a thousand new solar and hot water projects. LePage's veto means Maine is the only state in New England that doesn't incentivize installation of solar projects for homes and businesses. Oily plutocrats, the Kochs strenuously oppose green energy projects and LePage's veto must have impressed them with his willingness to sacrifice his own already dwindling popularity on their behalf. The Democrat polling significantly ahead of LePage in the gubernatorial race, Congressman Mike Michaud, was all over the veto: "Renewable energy is a strategic asset that Maine should look to expand, not undermine. Gov. LePage’s efforts on energy move us backward and threaten a growing industry in our state while also hurting our efforts to combat climate change. Our homegrown renewable energy sector creates jobs, reduces the impact of global warming, protects us from price spikes and keeps prices down so small businesses and Maine families can keep more money in their pockets." According to ThinkProgress, LePage has opposed efforts to increase energy efficiency, tried to roll back renewable energy targets, moved to get out of anti-smog regulations, vetoed a bill creating a climate adaptation working group, and touted the benefits climate change will have on Maine after agreeing with a radio talk show host who called climate science a "hoax" and "lying science." His administration says they would not respond to local newspapers that reported on the governor’s environmental and energy record. The other veto was of Franklin Republican Tom Saviello's pro-clean elections/pro-democracy initiative, LD 1631, An Act to Clarify What Constitutes a Contribution to a Candidate, just the kind of legislation the Kochs spend millions to prevent. It had passed the Senate 20=13. Saviello was the only Senate Republican to vote for it. It passed the House 83-50 without a single Republican vote. The purpose of the bill simply established that any campaign expenditures made by a person who has been affiliated with that campaign in the prior 120 days, regardless of whether they were paid or volunteered, counts as a campaign contribution. House Majority Leader Seth Berry said that "This bill is about keeping Maine’s Clean Elections clean. It is too bad the governor does not share this priority." The non-partisan group, Maine Citizens for Clean Elections was fuming after the veto and asked the legislature of override it.
"This simple bill closes a problematic loophole in our campaign finance system," said Andrew Bossie, MCCE’s Executive Director. "Maine voters want compliance and accountability when it comes to campaign finance laws, and this bill provides that." LD 1631 makes clear that when key persons affiliated with a candidate campaign make expenditures to benefit the candidate, those expenditures are contributions. Because contributions are limited, and independent expenditures are not, it ensures that campaign insiders do not evade contribution limits with sham independent spending. "While this bill does not attempt to reverse the trend of independent expenditures, it does attempt to clarify when an expenditure is really a contribution to the candidate," said Senator Tom Saviello, the bill's lead sponsor, during the public hearing on the bill. "It starts with the simple assumption-- you might even call it a 'no-brainer'-- that certain persons close to a candidate's campaign cannot with a straight face make an independent expenditure on behalf of that candidate." The bill is modest in scope, simply clarifying that treasurers, campaign managers, and other agents of a campaign can’t make expenditures that will be considered independent of the campaign. The practical effect is that all campaign spending by agents of a candidate campaign during an election will be subject to Maine’s contribution limits. Since Clean Election candidates do not accept private contributions, this sort of spending would not be allowed at all. "We are optimistic that the legislature will override this veto and move forward, not backward, when it comes to our campaign finance system," concluded Bossie. "This common-sense bill is good for democracy and should become law. We ask each and every legislator to carefully consider the integrity of our election laws and vote to override Governor LePage’s ill-advised veto."
Senator Susan Collins tries making believe she isn't the same "kind" of Republican that LePage is but she maxed out to his campaign and endorsed his reelection efforts, has quietly urged her allies in the state legislature to back dome of his worst agenda items and, as Rick Santorum, has told GOP donors, "she is a team player who always plays with the team and never plays against the conservative side even if she has to give the liberals a vote because she's from Maine."
Susan Collins' Democratic opponent, Shenna Bellows, is no fan of LePage's deranged agenda. "It's disappointing," she told us this morning, "that Republican Governor Paul LePage vetoed clean energy and clean elections bills on yet another veto spree. We need urgent investment in solar energy to confront climate change now. One of the barriers to better energy policy is the influence of money in politics. So it's not surprising that opponents of clean energy like Republican Paul LePage would also oppose campaign finance reforms, even modest ones." If you'd like to help Shenna vanquish the Republicans, you can contribute to her campaign here.
Frank Sinatra Contest-- The Best Is Yet To Come… For South Dakota
Today Blue America is launching an effort on behalf of prairie populist Rick Weiland who's running for the open blue Senate seat in South Dakota. With two Republicans running against the GOP Establishment pick in the general election, this should be a great opportunity to elect a dedicated tribune of working families in what the DC pundits see as a tough race. One Republican is an ex-U.S. Seantor, Larry Pressler, and the other is a Tea Party extremist, Gordon Howie (no relation) who switched his registration so he could run as an independent. This week, Rick released his first television ad. You can you watch it above and on the special Frank Sinatra contest page we set up. So I want to ask DWT readers and my Facebook friends to consider chipping in to get the ad seen-- and you can do that on the same page you watch the ad on. There are basically two big media markets in South Dakota. One covers the Democratic-leaning half the state (East River)-- Sioux Falls, Aberdeen, Watertown, Brookings, Huron, Mitchell and Yankton-- and the other covers the more conservative half of the state (West River)-- Rapid City, Spearfish, Sturgis, Custer, Wall, Lead, Deadwood and Hot Springs. This is a sample of what a typical contribution can buy in the eastern part of the state:
• $28- All In With Chris Hayes • $35- Southern Charm • $125- Good Morning America • $165- Face The Nation • $225- Wheel of Fortune • $400- 48 Hours
And this is what we can get in the western part of the state:
• $34- The Rachel Maddow Show • $50- Inside Edition • $75- Big Bang Theory • $120- The Today Show • $150- 60 Minutes • $300- The Blacklist
So what's all this got to do with Frank Sinatra? Well, as many of you know, I was the president of the record label Sinatra started, Reprise Records. Sinatra started it as a haven for artists who didn't want to be pushed around by corporate dictators-- and I like to think I successfully continued his artistic freedom ideal. This is also an ethos that epitomizes Rick Weiland's "Take It Back" campaign. When I was still at the company, I was awarded an RIAA-certified plaque when Sinatra's greatest hits album, The Very Good Years, went double platinum… two million records sold in the U.S. I've given this gorgeous, historical collector's item to Blue America to award to one randomly selected donor to this Rick Weiland effort. The "contest" ends next Monday, April 28, at noon. It doesn't matter how much you give, just that you do give on this page. And, for the Sinatra fans, some of the songs that are on The Very Good Years: Cole Porter's "I Get A Kick Out of You," "Luck Be A Lady," "Fly Me To The Moon," "Love and Mariiage," "Send In The Clowns," "The Lady Is A Tramp," "Strangers In The Night," "I've Got You Under My Skin," and the song I'm calling the perfect theme for Rick's campaign for South Dakota, "The Best Is Yet To Come." Also of note: some of the musicians who played on this record-- Nelson Riddle, Woody Herman, Count Basie, Quincy Jones...
Is South Carolina Ready For A Democratic Party Take-Over?
We've been talking about convicted cocaine dealer/ex-Treasurer of South Carolina Tom Ravenel ® and how he is hoping to pivot from ex-con and BRAVO sit com/reality show star to anti-Lindsey Graham general election Senate candidate in November. If he does, he's likely to throw the election to the Democratic candidate. You don't think so? Progressive outsider Jay Stamper has hard the Democratic nomination all to himself until Ravenel made it public he was going to run. At that point, the Democratic state Party Establishment got behind hopeless conservative state Senator Brad Hutto who is hoping that Ravenel can deliver the Senate seat to him. There's a similar dynamic-- minus the cocaine bust-- playing out in the South Carolina gubernatorial race in which ex-Blue Dog-turned Republican Tom Ervin has withdrawn from the GOP primary and is running as an independent against incumbent Gov, Nikki Haley and Establishment Democrat Vince Sheheen. He can probably draw enough votes away from Haley, who is widely disliked by South Carolina voters, to deliver the race to Sheheen, a conservative. Haley's approval rating was only 42%-- with a 49% unfavorable and when voters were asked if the election were held now, only 44% said they would vote to reelect her, as opposed to 46% who would vote to elect Sheheen. With Ervin in the mix, she's cooked.
Tom Ervin, a former Greenville lawmaker and judge, said Friday that he has withdrawn from the Republican primary for governor and will run as a petition candidate in the November election. Tom Ervin, a former Greenville lawmaker and judge, said Friday that he has withdrawn from the Republican primary for governor and will run as a petition candidate in the November election. Ervin, a 62-year-old attorney and radio station owner, said he needs more time to share his message and could not accomplish that in the short span before the primary. “I believe South Carolina is ready for fresh new leadership and ready for a governor who cares about our people and not selfish political ambition,” he said. “Both (Republican Gov.) Nikki Haley and (Democratic challenger) Vince Sheheen are career politicians. I’m a small business owner who will serve as governor and then return home to run my business.” He said he started gathering signatures of registered voters to have his name added to the November ballot as a “Republican petition candidate.” "I look forward to offering my vision for South Carolina as a Republican in the general election," he said. When he joined the race late last month, political experts gave Ervin little shot of unseating Haley, whose popularity has grown in the party since her 2010 election. The governor has $4.3 million to spend. Ervin has loaned his campaign $420,181, according to state records. He had $271,172 on hand after spending money on a consultant and automated robocalls. He started a six-figure radio ad campaign this week introducing himself to voters. Ervin was a Democrat before switching to the Republican Party for a unsuccessful run in the 2005 special election to succeed House Speaker David Wilkins, who had been named the U.S. ambassador to Canada. Ervin has said he became a Republican because he’s pro-life and a born-again Christian. He has donated to GOP candidates in recent years, but his wife, attorney Kathryn Williams, has contributed to candidates in both parties-- including $4,500 to Sheheen’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign and $50,000 to the S.C. Democratic Party that same year, according to state records. Ervin said Friday that he believes his being a “fiscal and social conservative with an independent streak” could sway voters. “I’m running to reform state government and to restore executive competence, honesty and accountability – especially as it relates to protecting our most vulnerable children in harm’s way,” Ervin said.
Ervin gave a good clue to the kind of campaign he'll be running against Haley in his announcement statement Friday: "Four years ago, Nikki Haley promised us transparency and accountability when she became governor. Sadly, Governor Haley has broken those promises. Instead, Haley has delivered four years of missteps, mistakes, scandals and cover-ups – none more disturbing than the ongoing investigation of Governor Haley's cabinet appointee and their gross negligence in failing to protect the children under their watch at DSS. The Bible says we will be judged by how we treat the least of those among us. That means doing everything within our power to right the wrongs being done to our children at risk. Under her watch, Nikki Haley has turned a blind eye to the plight of our children at greatest risk. It is time for Governor Haley to relieve her appointee at DSS for gross incompetence and mismanagement." Can you imagine the GOP losing both the Senate and gubernatorial races in November? Here's his new radio ad, which is absolutely saturating the airwaves now:
Field Marshall Abdel al-Sisi: Things are just working out for him!
Since just at this second the right-wing mental defectives who specialize in hysterically bellicose mentally defective foreign-policy crackpottery aren't getting much traction from the "Who lost Egypt?" motif (not while the "Who lost Syria?" and "Who wussed out on Iran?" and "Who's losing Ukraine?" motives make for eye-catchinger loony tunes), Egypt has sort off dropped over the side of the flat earth.
So things must be going pretty well there, right? Yeah, right.
Ian Welsh wrote about Egypt the other day, and was unable to suppress the suspicion that the present-day mess was engineered by the ruling military as a springboard to cementing the military coup that put them in power by putting in an electoral fix. Working backwards from the ongoing ruthless destruction of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was "legitimately the most popular party in Egypt," after having undermined the Morsi government in all sorts of ways to create the kind of chaos that could justify a coup.
Left standing to oppose Marshall al-Sisi in his drive to become the country's "democratically elected president": nobody I know of. Probably we'd be hearing more about it if there were a convenient way to make it all Obama's fault.
Since Mr Morsi’s overthrow his Muslim Brotherhood group has been the target of a fierce crackdown by the military-backed authorities. More than a thousand Brotherhood members have been killed and more than 16,000 people, many of them Islamists, have been arrested.
Al-sisi, the General who overthrow Morsi in a coup is now “running for President.” He has also kept the Gaza crossing closed more often than not.
Meanwhile, the resistance has, actually, gone out of its way to attack targets like police stations, which are, frankly, legitimate targets.
The Muslim Brotherhood, and anyone else, in my view, has an entirely legitimate right, in this case, to violent revolution. A democratically elected government was overthrown in a military coup. The Brotherhood claims not to be behind the violence, but whoever is, is not in the wrong, unless you believe that political violence is never justified. (In which case, Americans, please start paying your taxes to the Crown.)
More to the point, the Brotherhood was legitimately the most popular party in Egypt. They did win the election fairly, after having their preferred candidates disqualified by judges appointed by the old government. They did run the clinics, distribute food and so on in much of the country. The outlawing of the Brotherhood and seizure of all their property was a huge blow for ordinary people, even as it enriched the government. Note that, as in Iran, the Egyptian military is a huge economic power in Egypt, owning many businesses.
The entire situation stinks to high heaven, suggesting that the original demonstrations were allowed to succeed by the military so that they might later undertake a coup. The deep state also, clearly, deliberately sabotaged Morsi at every step, in particular power supplies suddenly became unreliable right after he was elected. Contrary to the army’s propaganda, that’s not something Morsi could have caused, and that it was so is indicated by the fact that right after the coup, the power suddenly became much more reliable again.
The original demonstrations succeeded when the army decided they wouldn’t support the government, remember. Let this be a reminder to you that if you do not have control, physical or ideological, over those who have the ability to inflict violence in your society, you do not actually rule: you are only in charge as long as they want you to be.
Meanwhile, with the largest and most popular party in the country outlawed and 16,000 of its supporters in jail (imagine 16,000 Democrats or Republicans in jail for protesting), I’m sure al-Sisi will cruise to victory and become “President”.
Republicans Are Still Obstructing Judicial Nominations
Just before adjourning for another vacation on Friday, the Senate finally voted to end the obstructionist right-wing filibuster against Michelle Friedland, who had been nominated for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on August 1, 2013. She was rated unanimously "well qualified" by the American Bar Association. In January the Senate Judiciary Committee voted, by a wide bipartisan margin, 14-3, to forward the nomination on to the full Senate. But Miss McConnell and the other poutraged extremists have been doing everything they could to clock her and obstruct the nomination. Finally, April 10, 2014 the motion to invoke cloture was agreed to by a vote of 56-41, every Democrat and two Republicans voted to proceed with a final vote, which-- because of more McConnell obstructionism, can't happen until April 28. Why do Republicans hate her so much? It's not just because she's a woman. It's not just because she was born in Berkeley. It's not just because she was a brilliant student who graduated at the top of her Stanford Law class after studying philosophy at Oxford (on a Fulbright scholarship). It is true that Republicans generally hate all of those things but their collected animus for Freidland went even deeper. An unhinged form-letter sent in February to right-wing Republican senators from a veritable who's who among American neo-fascist movers and shakers demanded they vote against her confirmation. They warned that "her record leaves little doubt that, were she confirmed, Friedland would abuse judicial power and usurp the legislative powers of the Senate, the House, and other law-making bodies. Richard Viguerie's ConservativeHQ called her "another radical nominee unfit for the bench. They were unimpressed that she had clerked for Republican Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and that O'Connor testified on behalf of the nomination. "Friedland’s record," to the neo-fascist and Confederate communities, "indicates a clear disregard for 'separation of powers' and a government run 'by the people,' and her radical interpretation of judicial power has led her to create new rights while ignoring those long enjoyed by Americans. According to her own writings, rights begin and end with judges. Her amicus briefs have sought to limit religious liberty, and she recently dismissed traditional Judeo-Christians beliefs on homosexuality as a “discredited practice." You may read that as a bunch of radical right mumbo-jumbo, but these people take themselves very seriously:
She has repeatedly advocated international judges as authorities over state law and holds such a radical belief in judicial supremacy that even the most liberal Senator should heavily weigh the implications of her confirmation. Her judicial philosophy seeks to make the legislative branch completely irrelevant. Confirming Michelle Friedland would be another blow to the idea of a limited judiciary. Not only would she be a deplorable judge, but Harry Reid’s complete usurpation of power should not be rewarded and deserves a bold response. Conservatives should work adamantly to defeat her by ensuring their Senators vote no on confirmation. At the end of the day, however, the only way to end the tyranny of the judiciary is to elect a conservative Senate, starting in November of 2014. …Over the past 60 years, liberals have stealthily and intermittently begun confirming radical activists to the courts. Although Senate procedure provides the power of the “filibuster” to stop or stall nominees, Senators have often neglected to stop bad nominees, generally deeming them to be the President’s prerogative. As a result, virtually no issue goes untouched by the courts. From religious liberty to property rights, and most recently from marriage to government-run healthcare, the American way of life has fallen prey to decisions from judges who legislate liberal policies from the bench. Phyllis Schlafly has written extensively on this topic and in her book The Supremacists notes that these individuals have “replaced the rule of law with the rule of judges.”
People for the American Way had a very different perspective, far more in synch with the way most people who have looked into Friedland's career see her.
Friedland was one of many superb, highly qualified judges caught up in Republicans' blanket obstruction of judicial nominees, and President Obama was forced to re-nominate her for the court this year. After today’s vote, she still faces 30 hours of potential "post-cloture debate," unless Republicans allow the Senate to move forward on the nomination more expeditiously. Even though the Senate changed its filibuster rule for judicial and executive branch nominations, lowering the threshold from 60 votes to a simple majority in order to invoke cloture and advance nominees toward confirmation votes, Republicans continue to force cloture votes as a procedural hurdle. The delay created by these votes and the subsequent 30-hour wait before a confirmation can occur amounts to a stubborn form of obstruction in itself. And this is just one way that Senate Republicans are continuing to hold up the judicial nomination process. Judicial nominees from states with Republican senators also face unreasonable, meritless obstruction due the GOP's abuse of the Senate's "blue slip" policy, by which a senator can unilaterally put a permanent hold on a nominee from his or her state before they even get a hearing.
TV Watch: To celebrate Mad Sunday, we have an inside look at Season 7 of "Mad Men"
Don Draper: Then and Now
I know the post title promises an "inside look" at Season 7 of Mad Men, the first half of which premieres tonight on AMC, and I wouldn't kid around about something like that, so trust me, we'll get to it. I assume you already knew that in this run we're only getting the first half of the final season, which is being split in half the way the final season of Breaking Bad was: We get seven episodes now, and another seven -- well, some other time.
Personally, I'm going to be in blackout mode on Season 7 for a while, having not quite completed my homework, which was to rewatch all of Seasons 1 through 6. Actually I was doing pretty well on this project timewise, until my life was taken over by Gilmore Girls, but that's another story. Suffice it to say that, despite devouring those seven seasons in possibly record time, 153 episodes later my Mad Men schedule was shot to hell. Nevertheless, with a strong push last night I reached the end of Season 5. But at that I did better than series creator and overlord Matthew Weiner. (If you merely dabble in the abundant audio commentaries, both his and those of other series participants', you discover that exercises what seems like pixel-by-pixel control over every moment of the show.) Here's his confession from a new online Q and A:
Q: A lot of fans are re-watching the entire series to get ready for Season 7. What did you do to prepare?
A: I planned to watch the entire show before I started writing Episode 7 [the finale of Season 7: The Beginning] and did not make it. It is a lot of hours.
Q: How far did you get? And how did it strike you watching it back again?
A: I made it through the end of Season 4, and my children are watching the whole thing right now, which is interesting because Martin, who’s in it, and Charlie’s been in it too (two of my boys), they hadn’t really seen it because it wasn’t really appropriate for them. I’m really proud of it . . . I’m proud of the commitment to change on the show . . . There’s a respect for the audience. If Sal gets fired, Sal is fired. Don is starting a new agency, we’re going to build a new set. If Betty has a new life, her husband is going to be a character.
Wimp! For that matter, star Jon Hamm wasn't exactly tethered to the DVD player either. Here's what he says in his new Q and A:
Q: Did you do anything different to prepare for filming the final season?
A: No, but obviously we are all different people because ten years has happened since we started this show. I was 35 when I started this thing, and I just turned 43. It’s been a chunk of our lives, a quarter of our lives. It’s a part of us. And I’ve made some incredibly close friends that I hope to have for the rest of my life, and it’s given me a career. And I can only look back on it with a respect and awe and pleasure.
Q: How are you documenting the end of the process?
A: I think what people are doing is marking things they’re going to steal. I think there is a lot of nostalgia happening. I’m not a big believer in that, though. My memories are good enough for me, and I have some very, very good memories of the show. Hopefully we’ll have some more from this final chunk [of episodes].
As we all recall, Don imploded in that Hershey's pitch at the end of Season 6. What did Jon think about that?
Q: In the Season 6 finale, Don reveals — to the Hershey reps — what his childhood was like. Did that moment feel like a long time coming?
A: It is kind of the revelation of a pretty significant piece of his history to people who probably haven’t really heard any of that stuff. And it comes in an outburst; it’s a strange way to reveal something like that. So, you know, you go “Whoa, whoa, what’s this guy doing?! He’s blowing himself up.” I think it’s a very in-character moment. I think Don can be impetuous in that way and it has consequences.
Q: What was your reaction when you read the script for that scene?
A: We were all like, “Whoa, this is happening.” Because not only does that happen, but Don essentially gets fired at the end of that episode. And I felt probably like Elisabeth [Moss] felt at the end of Season 5, like, “Wait, I’m quitting? What’s going to happen to me?” I realized that I probably wasn’t going to be off the show, but there is a moment of, “Oh boy, what are we doing?”
Q: There must be some anxiety about potentially not shooting your scenes on a familiar set, as you’ve been doing for so long?
A: It’s definitely a shift and now basically all of us have a version of that. [Peggy] had a moment at CGC, and Joan’s situation [at the department store], and even my situation. And it is different. You want to be together with the gang, and sometimes that’s not the way the story goes, but we’ve all been really trusting of Matthew Weiner to tell that story — and he’s rewarded that trust.
And here's Matt looking back at Season 6:
Q: Season 6 had some hilarious, absurdist moments. Were there any cast members who surprised you with their sense of humor?
A: All those actors — whether you realize it are not — are really funny. It took the world about two years to realize how funny Jon Hamm was, but they are all really funny, and they play the stuff straight, and it’s funny. I’ve always tried to make the show funny… I look at Pete Campbell returning the chip ‘n dip, and it’s a comedy scene. Him waiting in line and coming back with that gun. I feel that same way about Danny Strong (who plays Danny Siegel), when Roger went out there and got punched in the balls by Danny…. But a lot of the things that I think are going to be funny, turn out to be very sad. [Laughs]
Q: Can you give us an example?
A: People who’ve been in advertising always run into me and tell me some stories from the business. And the most repeated story — besides the story of what happened with Joan and the Jaguar guy . . .
Q: Wait, Joan sleeping with the Jaguar client was based on true stories of women who actually did that?!
A: Oh, yeah. This is the world we live in. And a lot of people started telling me that it was still happening now, after the episode aired. Anyway, so the story that I hear most is about somebody peeing in their pants at a meeting. We wrote the scene for Freddy Rumsen, and I just thought it was going to be hilarious… And we shot it, I was like, “Oh my God, this is the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.” [Laughs]
Hmm, Danny Strong is a Gilmore Girls alum, and for that matter one of my incentives to get to and through Season 5 of Mad Men was to reencounter Beth, the wife of Pete Campbell's fellow rail commuter Howard the insurance salesman, with whom Pete has that brief, desperate fling. When Season 5 of Mad Men originally, I had no acquaintance whatever with Alexis Bledel. It turned out to be deeply weird indeed watching Rory Gilmore kiss Pete Campbell (and then do a lot more than kiss), especially since I saw it the same afternoon I happened to rewatch the Gilmore Girls episodes containing Rory and Dean's first kisses. And I also knew now that Alexis and Vincent Kartheiser got engaged last year. Rory marrying Pete -- yikes! (I had intended just to take another look at an episode or two of Gilmore Girls. Since I'm even more blown away the second time, I suppose now it's just a matter of Episode 153 or bust. But that's part of that other story.)
By the way the sort of revelation Matt Weiner offers about the Joan-and-the-Jaguar-guy plot line is characteristic of his audio commentaries, which are incredibly rich in tales of how scenes came to be, what he had in mind, where (and whom) ideas came from and even specific objects (e.g., the toolbox with which Pete tries to fix his sink in the episode where he and Trudy have the Drapers and the Cosgroves over for dinner was Matt's grandfather's toolbox).
Now, as to that inside look at Season 7, let me say that I personally want to know as little as possible about what's going to happen, so I can take the fullest advantage of my one opportunity to watch it without any foreknowledge. (With a show like this it can be fabulous to rewatch and do so repeatedly, but we still get only one shot at watching for the first time.) Luckily, Matt W runs a really tight ship when it comes to disclosing advance plot information. I for one am deeply grateful. Here, however, is his own preview of the new season. I haven't read it myself, but I'm sure when you read it, you'll feel really illuminated.
Q: You’ve said that you’ve known how the series was going to end for a while. Is that still true?
A: Every season, I come in, and I know basically what the last images of the show are going to be of each season… But the process that I don’t reveal is that when I get to the finale, I usually don’t want to do it anymore. Like you want to fire Don, really? Betty wants to divorce Don, really? You want to leave Sterling Cooper and start a new agency? You want Pete and Trudy to end in shambles? It’s pretty scary trying to commit to those things. I usually start to try to back out of it, obviously, and I get talked into doing it again. [Laughs]
Q: Last we saw Don, he was put on leave from SC&P. How different is his storyline going to be for this season?
A: There are consequences to what happened last season. That’s all I can say. Just because Don had a breakthrough with his daughter and that office, doesn’t mean that the world is going to jump up and say, “Hurrah for Don.” There are consequences to the last six seasons of what he’s done… So let’s say you want to change, what does that have to do with everybody else?
Q: What else can you tell us about Season 7?
A: Last season to me was about anxiety and about the world being in revolution and telling the story of someone whose anxiety was overwhelming them because they could not maintain their façade anymore. The United States could not maintain its façade, and Don could not maintain his façade… I was showing that the culture was like Don. It was carnal, it was anxious, it was having a huge self-confidence problem… And now I want to look at the material and immaterial world. Things that are of this world — ambition, success, money, and time to some degree — and the contrast of what we can’t see, the spiritual, the internal life… When your needs are met, when you have a roof over your head, things that Don Draper doesn’t take for granted because of where he’s from, and at a certain point those needs are met, what else is there?
So enjoy tonight's season opener and the episodes to follow. Please, just don't tell me anything about them.