Somebody wake Granny D
Matt Welch has an absolutely terrific column on CFR at Reason.com, with just the right hook – how it might affect THE liberal environmental group.

If politically active 527s are treated like political parties, as McCain wants, people completely uninvolved with the lawmaking and campaign fund raising process likely would be judged by McCain-Feingold’s “federal election activity” standard designed for political parties, even though the groups are incapable of the quid pro quo corruption the original campaign finance laws were designed to combat. Independent advocacy, which was singled out for protection by Buckley, would suffer a devastating blow.

“It would be huge,” Smith says. “It would wipe out groups all across the country that have engaged in issue discussion over the years and engaged in political activity.”

Read it all and complain to your congressman. Because mine is a piece of shit.


(Not) working for the weekend
On Friday I left the office at 2:30 and skidded out onto the beltway to go back to Delaware, and tried to maximize my down time by driving through Maryland. It worked, kind of. I definitely avoided the weekend rush up north and to the Delaware beaches. But I learned exactly how backwards and hardscrabble Maryland really is. When you pass outside a certain radius of the cities, accents and tattoos sprout like dandelions. But I did get home, and it was mostly relaxing. Highlights included burning through 16 season 6 episodes of Buffy with CJ, filming parts of his movie, and packing more books into my car to haul back home.


A blockbuster documentary?
Everyone’s expecting Fahrenheit 9/11 to be the most successful documentary of all time, and some experts are predicting even more. Box Office Mojo, which collates ticket sales from around the world, is predicting that Fahrenheit will be the biggest movie of the weekend. If that happens, it will set a number of records:

– the biggest debut for a documentary, ever
– the first documentary to debut at #1, ever
– the biggest underdog victory ever, in terms of screens – Fahrenheit will be on 868 screens, compared to 2,726 for the weekend’s biggest studio picture, White Chicks. Overall, Moore’s movie will only rank 13th in terms of theatres showing the movie.

Even less optimistic watchers are expecting Fahrenheit to have the biggest debut of any documentary, ever. Box Office Prophets predicts a #2 debut and $19.5 million gross. Box Office Guru predicts a big opening for the Wayans (eeergh) but a $15 million Fahrenheit debut.

I personally think White Chicks will win the weekend, because Satan maintains a firm grip on this earth, but Fahrenheit will get all the headlines. On Wednesday it made $83,922 on two screens. The average blockbuster, on its first weekend, makes $8,000 to $10,000 per screen. So this is really going to be historic.


When bad things happen to good shows
I’ve been playing TV shows when I get home, catching up on stuff I’ve been meaning to see as I do laundry or clean. First there was Deadwood, an obviously terrific series I couldn’t quite get into. Next was the infamous sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I’d bought on DVD a month ago and only barely poked through in the time since.

For the first six or eight episodes, I felt that a jackpot had been struck. This stuff was actually pretty good! The writing was only slightly less tight than before, and at least three episodes (“Life Serial,” “Once More With Feeling,” “Tabula Rasa”) were total classics.

Tonight I finally spotted the shark and the proverbial jumping of same. Episode 10, “Wrecked.” It was completely ruinous, and I can explain why.

We open with the crew recovering from a night of wild abandon. Buffy has slept with Spike (a truly great sequence where the twos’ canoodling destroys a house) and Amy, newly freed from a spell that turned her into a rat, has taken Willow out for a night of fucking people over magically. This development made perfect sense. Since Season 4, and arguably Season 2, Willow’s use of magic has borne destructive overtones. Why wouldn’t it? Here’s a total high school loser, a computer geek, who was transparently bitter about the way she’d been excluded. She’d tapped into power that could remake reality – why not use that to feel superior or actually wreak some vengence? In Season 4, we’d seen her seriously consider using magic to kill a cheating boyfriend, and following it up by casting a spell to make her will be done when she spoke it. All of this came to a head in the beginning of Season 6, after her girlfriend discovers that Willow manipulated her brain to erase the memory of a tiff. The girlfriend dumps her – Willow is crushed. This is good stuff.

And it goes to hell. Amy speaks excitedly of a guy who “knows spells that will last for days. The burn-out factor is like, nothing.” Right there, we have a hideously transparent metaphor – something the show really has been excellent at making, well, NOT transparent. This is the first we’ve ever heard that magic has some finite quality, or that you get burned out using it. It hasn’t been a problem before. All of a sudden it’s a problem … because the writers want to do a drug show. And to hammer the point home they take us to … Rack! He owns a hidden den that “moves around a lot” and crawls with twitchy young people who beg him for “a turn.” A turn at what? At him magically making them high by shooting red cgi at them.

So now magic means being buzzed by strange people and floating on the ceiling. Willow has some strange, dark hallucinations, then wanders out in need of another fix. Hanging out with Dawn, she brings the 15-year old to this obvious den of sin and gets high again! Because she can’t stop, get it! On the way out the two are pursued by a demon and Willow crashes a car (which she’s driving magically!) by being high and goofing off. Dawn is mangled a bit, but has time to give Willow a weak slap on the way out.

Willow collapses in a heap and cries in that inimitable Alyson Hannigan way. “No, Dawnie! I’m s–sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” She continues in this fashion until Buffy takes her home and allows her to convalesce on her bed, shaking like … well, a junkie.

Now, why did this suck? Couple reasons.

1.)The writing took a 90 degree nosedive, which is probably due to the premise. The witty nerds who write this show, and do it so well, really didn’t know how to convey loss and addiction.

2.)The “magic as dope” element came out of the blue, making it strange even before it was revealed to be silly. We couldn’t really process this new concept – when we did, it wasn’t worth it.

3.)The drug plot, as it is, is beyond hackneyed. A girl hangs out with her baaaad friend and does drugs? And almost kills someone in the ensuing haze? Oh, that’s “very special episode” crap. Buffy doesn’t do very special episodes.

4.)Corrollary to reason #1 – I really think the writing team declined during the sixth season and never recovered. Compare the wrenching, mature way they handed unexpected natural death in Season 5’s “The Body” to the cliched way it’s handled in Season 7’s “Help.” And compare this deathly straightforward treatment of addiction to the way it had been treated in every episode up to this point. We’d seen, in episodes like Season 4’s “Something Blue,” the way that seeking false solace during hard times was always faulty and doomed. Why is that theme handled so humorlessly here?

I’m seeing where and how the series went into its tailspin. Ah, well.


I apologize to R. Emmett Tyrrell
Clinton on Hillary.

What of the former president’s wife, now in the Senate representing New York? Does she have what it takes to be president?

He smiles at the thought. She considered running this year, he admits, but instead “wanted to honour her commitment to the people of New York” to serve a full term in the senate. Political convention demands that he say Kerry will triumph this year? “He has a slightly better than 50-50 chance to win,” says Clinton – and that therefore there will be no Democratic vacancy for eight years. So maybe that could be Hillary’s moment?

“We have no idea what the future holds. If, you know, eight years from now or sometime in the future she got a chance to serve, I have no doubt about her skills. She is the ablest person I’ve ever known in public life. And she does some things better than I do, better than I ever do. She is very well organised, she is very strong … I have no doubt she could do it … Who knows what will happen in the future?”

Well, whoa.


Gadflyer suckitude
I’m always impressed by The Gadflyer’s ability to suck, but since I reread their solitary interesting article (Gorenfeld’s Moon piece), I was struck again by how insanely wordy they are. Gorenfeld’s article, for example, was about 3 times longer and not really any more interesting than his pieces on his blog. Another case it point: the Gadflyer blogs. Amy Sullivan’s Political Aims is wordy beyond any reason. See:

You know, guys, this is what the Bush communications operation does. They’re the ones who can’t hear a bit of criticism without retaliating. Aren’t Democrats supposed to be more tolerant?

Apparently not. Last week I talked to a Washington Times reporter who was writing a story about how the Kerry campaign doesn’t have its act together when it comes to religion. Since the article was going to come out whether I talked to her or not (many in the campaign seem to operate on the assumption that if they don’t comment on some stories, the stories will go away — no, they just go on without your side being told), I decided to take the opportunity to nudge the campaign to take on religion questions directly. There’s still time to get back on course, but so far the campaign has erred by approaching religion as a constituency problem — “How many Catholics in the Rust Belt can we get if we do X?” — rather than as part of their overall communications and policy strategy. And while the top level of the campaign seems open to framing Kerry’s policies in moral terms, the people in the mid-levels freak out at anything that’s too overtly religious (i.e., mentions the word “religion”). I also thought it was particularly important that I talk to the reporter since the other main person interviewed for the piece — Fr. Robert Drinan — was offering the ridiculous advice that the campaign should “steer clear of talking about religion.”

The campaign got the message — just not the one I was hoping. They’ve just pulled my access to interview a policy staffer for a totally apolitical profile. I’m interviewing a Republican staffer for the same piece and they haven’t pulled my access, even though I’m a raving liberal and all.

If being a loyal Democrat means I need to choose between saying nothing critical of the Democratic nominee and speaking up when I see the campaign screwing up, then I guess I’m disloyal.

Here’s a suggestion for the Kerry campaign, free of charge: Spend some of the time you’re wasting worrying about giving access to someone who has worked for Tom Daschle, David Bonior, the ACLU, and half a dozen Democratic campaigns, and find someone like me (not me…like me) to speak on behalf of the campaign on religion issues. You desperately need it. And most professional Democrats can’t do it. A successful campaign recognizes its weaknesses and does something to fix them.

And what’s the gist of this?

The Kerry people are officially not taking me seriously. I granted an interview to a Washington Times reporter, hoping I could publicly nudge my campaign of choice into thinking about religion, but it seems like they’ve responded by cutting off my access to a staffer. Assclowns!

OK, that might not be ideal, but I think I convey the same point with a lot less dross. And of course, “The Flytrap” is the worst blog ever. Check out Tom Schaller’s response to Hitchen’s Farenheit review.

Dear Mr. Hitchens:

Thankfully, I read your advice to young contrarians as carefully as I did. For now I feel compelled to employ the very lessons you taught me in exposing your own “moral frivolity” and artful dissembling in reviewing for Slate Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11.

To begin, let me state up front that I have my own issues with Mr. Moore’s previous work. I think Moore commits a sin common to directors including Woody Allen and Spike Lee, namely, that he puts himself too squarely (or perhaps in Moore’s case, roundly) into his films – literally, by appearing onscreen, and figuratively with a heavy-handed touch that provides a constant reminder of who is behind (if not, alas, also in front of) the cameras. At the risk of sounding inversely paternalistic, I find the best portions of Moore’s films tend to be those where he’s heard and not seen – or better yet, neither seen nor heard.

But you, Sir Chris, take Moore to task less for his artistic devices than his presentation of the facts.

Is that entire intro not totally superfluous? It would work, maybe, if Schaller tapped into some heretofore-unseen gonzo style, but he’s incredibly vanilla and whiny. I’m never 100% happy with the first drafts of columns we get at USA Today, but they always end up less bloated than this.


Lileks on Rex
His Bleat about Rex Reed’s Farenheit 9/11 is all kinds of awesome – not quite Hitchens awesome, but amusing in a similarly smackdown vein.

Tacky-fingered CD enthusiast and ageless fop Rex Reed has seen “Fahrenheit 9/11,” and he not only drank the Kool-Aid but ordered up another gallon for a high colonic.

Well, Lileks doesn’t tear him apart, but he vivesects his willingness to buy factual inacuracies about the Bushitler quite nicely.