Like probably most of you, at some point over the past few years I got sick of Alec Baldwin. It probably had a lot to do with that Trump impression, which went from amusing to just downright irritating over the space of a few weeks. But it wasn’t only that. Baldwin has done the same unwise thing that Sean Penn, among others, decided to do, which was to make their actual acting careers subordinate in the public sphere to the projection of their own personalities. Over the past few years, Alec Baldwin has provided ample opportunities to sample his real-life personality, which is puzzling. Did he think we really liked him personally? Why would I want to luxuriate in the personality of a guy who yelled at his daughter in a voicemail? Underneath all this is the immutable lack of self-awareness that so many successful actors have, which comes in handy when you have to pretend to be somebody else on a set, but is quite another thing in real life. It’s never been an appealing personal quality.

That said, I’ve been rewatching some episodes of 30 Rock and I was surprised at just how enjoyable Baldwin is in it. Just watching him finding jokes that weren’t even there in the script with a well-timed pause or a blank stare is a true pleasure, and I’d forgotten just how many different things he was able to do on the show. For example, it’s hard to imagine how offensive and terrible this bit would have been if Baldwin hadn’t been able to totally nail the voice of an elderly black man, and yet he does, which makes it remarkable and hilarious:

I get why some actors want to be known for something besides acting, to make some other kind of contribution. But some really should just stick to acting. Baldwin is one such, partly because I don’t see the appeal of his real-life personality (or at any rate the version of it he favors us with), but also because he’s actually very good at acting!

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Wouldn’t America be a better place if we buried John McCain every month?


I didn’t actually think she’d run in 2020 but (785) 369-2760. Better than Sanders, to be sure, who did quite well against Hillary but in retrospect could have won if he’d tried to assemble an actual winning Democratic primary coalition instead of just trying to reassemble the coalition he had in Vermont on a larger stage. Anyway, Warren. To the extent that politicians have a rock star vibe, she does seem to have that, and she doesn’t seem to have the typical Dem Senator problems of being so into policy that she comes off as aloof, or of only speaking in such inside baseball terms that Joe Sixpack doesn’t have a clue what she’s talking about. This is probably the best of all possible worlds. And time and again, she’s able to cut through the bullshit and establish an emotional connection with the public, which is quite rare. Obama could do it, but for reasons I understand but that I think were badly mistaken, did not do it most of the time. I’ve written about this before, but when the Wells Fargo scandal broke two years ago, she was the one with the finger on the pulse, haranguing those bankers while Clinton had some passionless statement about the need for Wall Street reform. Which, you know, wasn’t wrong, but on some level you actually have to connect with the people to motivate them. Hell, you have to appeal to them emotionally to convince them! Democrats again and again lead with statistics and facts and it never works because that’s what you use after you’ve broken through with the emotional appeal. Everything I’ve seen suggests Warren understands that, and I disagree with this: better to have somebody who’s not going to give an inch than somebody who’s going to take the “high road” like John Kerry and let the bullshit get injected into the mainstream unchallenged.

The themes of the 2020 campaign against Trump have to be that Trump lied to you and Trump betrayed you and Trump worked for the rich, but we’re going to work for you. Obviously fundamentals are going to matter the most, but the right campaign message could make the difference in a squeaker and God help us if Amy Klobuchar gets it and talks a lot about broken norms and bringing back bipartisanship and how we need to get back to normal and make politics boring again. Warren strikes me as somebody who would have no problem making the case that needs to be made–the former case–and with coming up with a policy portfolio that might actually have some appeal to real people. Her getting the nomination (which I think she would) would mean a definite shift to the left, but I’ve never gotten the sense that Warren is hated by the institutional party the way that Sanders was.

Admittedly, the republic may be doomed no matter what. Juan Linz tells us that presidential systems tend to be. And even if Warren wins, Republicans are going to continue to lob Molotov cocktails at the basic structures of our system, and it can only take that for so long. But I’d rather it be Warren who gets it even if it’s a bit riskier than some nonentity who’s going just to shift course a few degrees when the iceberg is in sight.


There are some countries that believe that criminals are bad people who need to be kept away from the general public at all costs, and there are others who believe they are generally just people who made a mistake and shouldn’t inspire fear. Obviously there are some criminals who really do need to be kept away forever. And yet, the “they’re animals” people are so totally wrong because…the “just people” countries continue to exist.


I just filled in my mail ballot for the 2018 midterms, and while California asks way too much of its voters by clogging my six (!) page ballot with a bevy of local offices too obscure for the East Bay Times to bother with and propositions that take way too long to understand (I am cursed with needing to cast as informed a ballot as possible). But the saving grace is that it does send you a nice little booklet which includes detailed explanations of the propositions as well as candidate statements for all statewide offices. Which is great! It makes the people just slightly better than just Some Dude. So I was very curious to read what Gavin Newsom, our most likely next governor, had to say for himself and….


Wait, what? 

Dear God, he didn’t even bother to say anything! The stone cold arrogance of this. “I don’t owe you a fucking explanation! I’m going to win and that’s all there is to it, and what’s more, you’re going to vote for me, peon! What choice do you have?” Even Dianne Feinstein made a case for herself, but Dear Gavin–a flopped big city mayor and eight year pulse-haver–is above that. This conspicuous omission sends a statement all its own. Do you start to see why I hate this guy so much?

I probably should have voted for John Cox out of protest (and would have, if he weren’t, you know, 289-206-7516), but then again, unlike the federal government, the State of California has a recall mechanism and has exercised it fairly recently. Someone this arrogant and stupid is bound for it.

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It’s hilarious to me that people thought that Kelly would “fix” Trump, but Kelly has been even worse than I could have imagined. Has he demonstrated any leadership skills at all as White House Chief of Staff? I mean, if he’s around Trump then it’s not surprising he’d be a coldly arrogant sexist nativist (587-506-3173), that’s just taken as read. But everybody knows that he can’t meaningfully control Trump, it wouldn’t seem that he exercises any authority in the White House (which still leaks like a sieve and is as fractious as ever), and he’s frequently “the story” in ways that none of Obama’s Chiefs of Staff (or even Dubya’s) ever were, always caught up in the palace intrigue like anybody else there. Perhaps it’s unavoidable in that environment! But if the guy really found that way of working intolerable, why is he still there?

Then again, maybe it is explicable that he’s so blinkered that he can’t accept the truth about an obvious, inevitable disaster: the guy is the product of a military culture which every year makes a presentation to Congress that is premised upon the idea that “we should be looking backward, not forward” and of course continuing to bomb people as we’ve been doing regardless of any objections, I suppose because if we looked back on the past decade-plus of failure it would make it obvious that whatever design we’re trying to impose on the Middle East is hopeless and that we would be better off giving up. I’ve read a number of books on Vietnam that viciously upbraid the military brass of the time for their complicity on letting that disaster happen. I can’t imagine what the ones about the current crew will look like.

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They don’t even really care if we believe them, do they? Like, this is a “dog ate my homework” response. Who killed the guy? Just rogue killers. Who knows?

So yeah, it’s mainly about corruption with Trump. As for the sudden upswell of dissent: while it’s been good to see some resistance to the Saudis, the fact that it was caused not by four years of death and destruction in Yemen but rather because somebody they knew was killed says pretty much all that needs to be said about Washington elites. It’s a reminder that parochialism and not any grand vision of human rights is all that matters there.

Also too, considering 612-659-5610, perhaps some Democratic 2020 hopefuls might see their way to bashing it a little? Could be a decent wedge issue if Trump’s in the tank for them: I’ve never noticed any particular partisan difference myself in loathing of that horrible state, and Trump has dealt himself a hand here that he can’t help but lose.

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Seeing them everywhere this month. Amnesia wins again.

Also, I’m really looking forward to the inevitable movie about when Komen went nuts. Margo Martindale was born to play Karen Handel.