The (Annoying) God Of Hell

TG and I bought season tickets at the Geffen Playhouse here in Los Angeles, and enjoyed a season that included productions of “Cat on A Hot Tin Roof” and “All My Sons”.

Last week we went to the final play of the season, Sam Shepard’s “The God of Hell”.The play involves a mildly clueless Midwestern family, a scientist escaped from a secret Colorado facility, Plutonium contamination, an undercover American agent with a thing for red-white-and-blue bunting, and torture.

Needless to say, I started the evening somewhat cynically.

But it was actually a really good play; put the politics aside for a moment (I’ll get back to them) damn well acted, well imagined by the director, and with Shepard’s solidly American magical realism – solidly 60’s American, but American nonetheless.

We stayed for a discussion of the play afterward, and I bit my tongue quite a bit as the audience and cast congratulated themselves for their courage in putting it on in this, the sixth year of the Bush Reign.

I almost asked one question – “Do you really think it takes courage to put on an anti-Bush anti-war play in West Los Angeles in this day and age?” – but I decided silence was a virtue that evening.

They polled the audience for reactions, and interestingly enough one woman stood and announced herself outraged by the play.

The play offended her, she said, as much as she detested Bush. Given the hard reality of the attacks on Israel that were going on as we sat in our comfortable theater seats, she felt angry watching the play. I waited for a hostile reaction from the crowd, and instead heard a murmur of approval.

This conflict is going to present a lot of people with interesting personal dilemmas before it is over.

Speaking of ‘Organic’ Candidates…

Matt Stoller today:

Lamont himself is a lot more focused and smooth than he was when I first met him in February.

From the New Haven Register on March 14:

Riding a wave of anti-Iraq War sentiment, Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont formally opened his long-shot challenge for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination against incumbent Joseph I. Lieberman.

So a month before he declared, Lamont was consulting with netroots leadership.

In my posts on Hank Johnson below (you gave him money, right?), someone asked why I was OK with web support for Johnson challenging McKinney, but opposed to Lamont challenging Lieberman. I replied in comments that:

PD – I actually had a paragraph on that issue exactly when I did the original post on Johnson, but edited it out because I thought it was distracting; it was certainly something I thought about.

There are in my mind two key differences; First, and foremost that Lamont’s campaign is to a large extent the creature of the netroots (he obvious has support in CT, but he had dialog with them before he declared, and they have been integral to his strategy). Next, and kind of instrumentally, Lamont doesn’t have a significant chance of winning. I don’t much like Lieberman, as I’ve said. I’d love to see a candidate who I like better take his seat. But it’s colossal hubris to attack a sitting candidate who’s almost certain to be in the chair in DC in January, whether with a D- or an I- after his name.

Johnson’s campaign was organic (to the extent that any large campaign can be). I didn’t solicit him to run, and only got involved when he’d already – with a strong local base – forced McKinney into a runoff without any blog attention.

And Johnson has a darn good chance of winning.

So, like it or not, there’s my explanation…


Just thought I’d point that out…

“I’m Buying A Gun…”

We’re going through one of those phases where people are talking about buying guns.

Rusty Shackelford is the latest.

You’d think that I’d clearly approve (of the general trend, not the specific decisions – I don’t know nearly enough to talk specifically about Dr. Shackelford). And part of me does, because it reflects a shift in the consensus away from “mere citizen” toward “citizen with the intent to be more self-reliant”.And, to be honest, I see this issue largely as one of attitude; I’ve said in the past that the largest impact of gun ownership is symbolic, like Sikh’s knives.

But it’s not entirely symbolic, and there’s the rub.

So let me take a moment and talk to the people who are reading the news and thinking of heading to the gun store.

First, go sleep on it. Owning a gun is, more than anything, a responsibility (one this too many people take far too lightly). You are responsible for the gun 24/7; are you prepared for that? Owning a gun doesn’t intrinsically make you safer; Jeff Cooper famously said that “owning a gun doesn’t make you a shooter any more than owning a piano makes you a musician”.

So you have to adopt a set of behaviors and habits along with the gun.

Some of them are about the security of the gun – keeping it from being stolen, or from letting children have access to it. Buy a gun safe. Use it religiously.

Some of it is about self-knowledge. There’s a little Deb Frisch in all of us. Is yours fully under control? If the answer to that question isn’t an immediate and obvious “Huh? Of course it is.” And if you aren’t 100% sure that 5 of your closest friends would answer the same way, think hard before you head to the gun store.

Some of it is about committing to some basic level of competence in order to make the gun a useful tool. There are classes you can and should take almost anywhere. They range from the big-time schools, like Gunsite, Insights, and Thunder Ranch (I’ve been to all of these and recommend them unqualifiedly) to local instructors like Mike Dalton here in Los Angeles, or others at ranges throughout the area you live.

If you can comfortably go that far, welcome. I need to get to the range this weekend…

If you can’t comfortably go that far, please don’t buy a gun. It’s that simple.

Josh Marshall as Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon

I’m not sure why this torqued me off so much, From Josh Marshall:

Man walks into Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle building, announces “I’m a Muslim American; I’m angry at Israel,” then opens fire.

1 dead. At least 5 wounded.

Late Update: The emails we get. This one from GS: “Yes Josh. And in 1994 Barush Goldstein assassinated 27 innocent people while they were praying. Were you making a point or helping to keep score? You disappoint me.”

Later Update: The AP is now reportedly disputing the quote. I’ll update when I hear more.

Even Later Update: AP now saying the quote is verified.

Late, Late Update: Police news conference to be streamed here at 11 PM Eastern.

Actually, I am sure why I’m so torqued. There’s no piece of news that can’t be matched, tit-for-tat by the moral equivalence brigade out there. It pisses me off to see a leading commentator elect to highlight claims to moral equivalence. It pisses me off even more because Marshall is a leading moderate Dem, and what’s going to happen if the moderate Democratic party gets tarred with his inability to flatly say “this is a bad thing in and of itself” isn’t going to be pretty.

All that’s missing is Marshall walking up and down the street in front of the television cameras chanting “Attica! Attica!”

[Update: Numerous commenters suggest that Josh was being dismissive of the comment, Josh stops by, agrees and suggests I’m stoned and that he meant to say “the emailer was an idiot”.

Since I read him every day (see my RSS feed list here), I’ll go with commenter frontinus who says:

I can see how a reasonable person could misread your update. You might want to ignore whatever AL is smoking and focus more on your writing skills. Or at the very least clarify your aside unless you prefer possible ambiguity.


Terrorist – or Mucker – In Seattle

The Seattle Times:

At least three people with gunshot wounds were taken to Harborview Medical Center late this afternoon after they were shot at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle building in the 2000 block of Third Avenue in Belltown.

Seattle police have arrested one man who reportedly walked into the building with a handgun and began shooting.

Terrorist, or mucker? We’ll hold our breath, hope for the best for all those involved, and see.

Pay No Attention To That Man Behind The Curtain…

Wow. Think about this for a moment.

For all the press that the netroots has gathered, looking at the actual fundraising in the two most-hyped “netroots” races is telling.Connecticut:


Spent: $5,280,920
Cash on hand:$4,279,088
Last Report:6/30/2006


Cash on hand:$276,976
Last Report:6/30/2006

Note that Lamont has given $1,501,500 of the $2,792,683 his campaign has raised; Lieberman has given $0.



Cash on hand:$6,617,620
Last Report:6/30/2006


Cash on hand:$424,245
Last Report:6/30/2006

Note that Webb has given $100,000 of the $1,135,819 his campaign has raised; Allen has given $0.

Money isn’t everything in campaigns, and personally, I’m unhappy that it matters as much as it does. I generally support stronger limits on campaign giving and spending (yeah, yeah, I know, 1st Amendment – but why should a zillionaire’s voice matter a zillion times as much as a dolleraire’s).

But the interesting thing to me is that after a major push by the ‘roots, and massive national press, neither campaign has raised serious money.

I keep thinking back to the 90’s when the press would anoint three guys in sweaters and t-shirts working in a shared office as The Next Big Thing and all kinds of good things would happen – VC money, buyouts, etc.

But when it came time to actually build businesses, there was often less than met the eye.

As one of the guys in sweaters and t-shirts this time around, it behooves me to think hard about that.

Some Good Poll News

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

A new poll by Insider Advantage shows challenger Hank Johnson with a hefty lead over incumbent Cynthia McKinney in the Democratic run-off for the 4th District congressional race.

The poll shows Johnson leading McKinney, 46 to 21 percent, with a third of voters undecided. The survey recorded the responses of 489 likely voters and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 5 percent.

Run-offs are notorious for low turnout, which often makes telephone surveys unreliable. Matt Towery, CEO of InsiderAdvantage, said he was unwilling to say that McKinney was headed for certain defeat. “But is she in deep, deep, deep, deep trouble? Yes,” he said.

This doesn’t mean we’re done by any stretch of the imagination.

But we just might see a rising presence in the Democratic Party as a sane, dialog-engaging politician knocks off a crazy demagogue.

C’mon People!!

Did you think I was kidding when I asked you to send 10 emails to friends asking for cash for Hank Johnson??

I’ve gotten like 3 emails from people who’ve said they did it. I’m feeling depressed and ashamed. Where’s my vast influence? Where’s the legions of people ready to stand up and follow the banner of…wait a minute, I’m not Kos.

Seriously, please do step up and send some emails to friends and ask them to send $10 or more to Hank at You’ll feel better in the morning…

More Fundraising

We’ve raised a couple thousand dollars for Hank Johnson, and we’re obviously not where I wanted to be yet, and I’m not nearly giving up.

So I want to ask you all to do one thing tonight.

As an explanation, I’ll talk about one of the great political fundraisers of my lifetime, Willie Brown, former Assembly Speaker here in California. Willie (no one calls him anything else) is a genius, and had he not been so … openminded … about certain ethical issues (note that he was always just on the right side of the law), he’d have been close to the perfect politician. He actually ran the Assembly, and managed to get some good things done while he was there.

One summer, in the late 70’s, he spoke at an Alameda County Labor picnic, on Labor Day.He gave his usual stem-winding speech, then explained that he was going to raise some money for the union that day.

He demanded – he didn’t ask – that each of us take out or wallets and hold them in the air. At first, only a few people did. But he pointed at people and called them out and gradually, over maybe five minutes, the whole crowd was sitting, holding their wallets stiffly in the air.

I was pretty bemused by this exercise in social pressure. But I’ve since then seen it at a number of high-dollar fundraisers, where each table is challenged to match the highest total donation by another table.

So I’m sitting there, with my wallet in my hand, thinking that this is a perfect metaphor for something, when Willie told us to hand our wallets to the person on our right. He asked up to take out a bill – I recall that he asked us to confirm with the owner that it was OK, but I wonder how seriously he meant it – and pass the bill to our right as we gave the wallet back to its owner.

I was suspended between amusement and annoyance when I began to marvel at what a great job he’d done of separating us from our cash. Some of my more conservative friends, when told about this, explained that was how he ran the government as well…

I’ve already asked each of you to kick in some cash to Hank Johnson, and explained in the post and in my comments why I thought it was important – no matter whether you line up behind him (or me) or not.

To paraphrase: The thing we need the most in this country’s politics today is the simple acknowledgement that we’re all in this together, that while we may differ – deeply and strongly in some cases – that we’re all part of the great American project.

Politics has been ruled for the last generation by centrifugal force (yes I know it’s only apparent). It’s time for some centripetal politicians. And I genuinely believe Hank Johnson is one of them.

So here’s what I want you to do.

Go to your email client. Pick ten friends, who you think are solvent enough to spend $20 without missing a meal. Email them, and ask them – in your own words – to go to Hank Johnson’s site at and give him $20.

Email me and tell me you’ve done it, and unless it’s a violation of election law, I’ll pick a name and send one of you an Armed Liberal mousepad.