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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

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 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
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March 28, 2008
Like a lot of people, I spent time in the summer and fall of 2004 going door-to-door in a swing state, clipboard in hand, checking in on registered voters and prodding those referred to in Michael Moore's addresses to the Slacker Nation to get involved in mainstream politics. The fact that, precisely because of my highly atypical political nature (rather than an aversion to or obliviousness of politics), I'd never bothered to vote in a national election before yet found myself actively campaigning was a good measurement of the situation's gravity four years ago. I already considered John Kerry to be a schmuck of the highest magnitude - windsurfing spouse of a billionaire wants $20 in campaign funding from me?! - yet there I was, tracing sidewalks and knocking on doors for MoveOn.org, one of the 527 political groups trying to bulldoze the 2004 election in one direction or the other. Like millions of people frustrated with everything connected to the current administration, I'd been sucked into using the miniscule distinctions between mainstream politicians (2004's election was between two white men of privileged families from the same Ivy League fraternity) as rationality for voting one way or another. Kerry was a laughable candidate, but four years ago it was ABB - anyone but Bush.

This time around the election cycle, however, things are a lot different, and hence could wind up being eight more years of the same. In 2008 there is little debate on the trajectory of America's current domestic and foreign policies, and even those who four years ago, like John McCain, were bear-hugging George Bush now see the brick wall at the end of the Halliburton-built tunnel the United States finds itself in. Using the perception of his status as a Washington outsider to his advantage, Barack Obama has been the media darling of the 2008 presidential race almost since he began campaigning for his Senate seat in 2004. Obama certainly does look like the likely winner of November's election from a lot of angles, but a non-Caucasian in the White House is far from assured. Indeed, there are endless variations of a possible outcome floating about, from a Democratic co-presidency to the non-traditional Republican tandem of McCain-Rice to the return of Gore. But the outcome of this American election year, whether it result in President Barack or not, has less to do with Obama than it does with his rivals. The difference between McCain and Clinton, however, is that the former has been and will continue to be - whether you like his politics or not - fairly predictable as someone who has his nation's flag on his heart, while the latter is so wrapped up in the tapestry of her own self that it's hard for her to tell which end is up, or read a newspaper headline for that matter. Considering that John McCain has been riding the same rails for most of his life (indeed, predictability is now a hindrance for McCain, who has the unenviable task of winning over the religious zealots in the Republican party that he has traditionally ignored), it is not hard to boil things down to Hillary Clinton. And without a big dumb Bush to piss on, the Democrats have been focusing on their own affairs, leading to a protracted nomination process that, even though Clinton hasn't been considered a favorite for months, is burning through millions of dollars and plenty of political mud while McCain takes it easy and waits for the dust to settle. Hillary Clinton, unable to fathom a television monitor without her face on it every night, is what Mike Huckabee would be if he'd spent two terms as First Lady.

The fact that Hillary Clinton can't check her ego long enough to assess the insurmountable delegate lead of Obama, or come to terms with the popular vote (ahem, anyone remember the Clinton position on Florida circa 2000?) in the Democratic primaries, or listen to the mounting calls from the Democratic Party which she so proudly claims to embody, is the precise reason she isn't going anywhere but down in the polls. Hillary Clinton is the Bizarro Bush, a manifestation of pure politics, and, as surveys have repeatedly indicated, Americans are tired of partisan political catfighting and the game of government as a fundraising device for special interests. The latest numbers released on Clinton's public perception, from an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, are the lowest, at 37-percent, since she joined the Senate seven years ago. The more Hillary talks, it seems, the less people want to listen, yet she shows no signs of shutting up. Just today Slate launched the Hillary Deathwatch, a daily documentation of Clinton's dwindling chances for securing the Democratic nomination. It may take a village to raise a child, but Clinton has been barred from her own hut yet seems intent on taking over the camp.

Clinton's problem isn't that she maintains bad positions (the virtual symmetry between her platform and Obama's is well known, and she's had to resort to plagiarism as a topic in major debates), but rather that she is the epitome of what most voters have come to see is wrong with American politics, namely career politicians. The most obvious tassel on Clinton's political epaulets is her record if repeatedly supporting the Bush Administration's plans for military operations in the Middle East, from her initial vote to give authorization to strike Iraq to her continued support for additional funding. While the media seemed to tire of the chaos around Baghdad as soon as the foreclosure wave began to break, Clinton's roll in supporting a bad idea from the start can hardly be stressed enough. In her own defense Clinton has only been able to offer up naiveté, asserting that she didn't think Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the other war hawks would actually make use of the authority given them to attack Saddam Hussein. But that miscalculation is at the crux of many Clinton opponents' arguments against her nomination, and it is a valid and powerful objection. After all, what is the essence of leadership if it is not decision-making? One has to wonder how Hillary could expect to dealing with Islamo-fascists, bloodthirsty hatchetmen, and despotic regimes on the world stage if she can't effectively gauge the intentions of those as obvious as Bush and Cheney.

While no one with a level head has accused Clinton of actively wanting military action in Iraq, it is the decision itself that most aptly illustrates her political blood. At the time of the war authorization vote Clinton was no doubt caught up in the same flag-humping frenzy of post-9/11 "patriotism" as every other American, and realized what a true politician must in such times of uniform public opinion - that actions going against the grain, regardless of merit, are career suicide. After all, Russ Feingold isn't exactly the new Howard Dean (or maybe he is).

Hillary's husband didn't famously claim that he neither inhaled nor had sexual relations with that woman because he didn't get high or get his rocks off. Bill Clinton made those claims because no matter how irrelevant to his ability to lead a nation the subjects were, he couldn't simply say as much and then move on. Like her husband before her, Hillary Clinton is a politician in the truest sense of the word, and the only given with her positions are that they will reflect what advisers tell her the most people want to hear. Or not hear, as the case may be. Hillary has been making grandiose statements about "leadership and moral authority" since her husband's first White House bid in the early 1990s, yet when it comes to those qualities her voice only rings out when the conservative climate will accommodate it. And that is exactly what is wrong with American politics.

There are the obvious go-along-to-get-along votes on Iraq which have led to 90,000 documented Iraqi deaths and absurd financial wastes, and there are also votes in Clinton's record, such as the two Congressional bills dealing with abortion rights and funding that were put to a vote in 2007, which speak to her duck-and-cover strategy of being as politically inoffensive as possible. On those two votes, rather than cast her ballot against them Clinton simply did not vote. Last year she also failed to vote against a number of rather clear-cut bills with implications for both the economy and the environment, such as the one to impose an income limit on farmers claiming government subsidies. While the official reason for her lack of voting has been chalked up to her busy campaign schedule, to many that simply presents itself as another strike against her - should someone's distraction by personal motivations really be accepted as a legitimate reason for abandoning the job that they were elected to do in the first place?

When looking beyond her voting record in the Senate and examining the overall impact of her career in public service, the Clinton Campaign's tag-line of "leadership experience" - behind which much of its weight has been thrown - is about as ridiculous a claim as a person can make. Hillary's primary credentials of her "experience" in politics have been centered far less on her tenure as a Senator from New York than on her time in the White House. That idea of an in-depth familiarity with national and international policy as the beneficiary of pillow talk is a strange point to make for someone who shares her "harrowing moments" with comedians and pop stars, and who is intent on highlighting Obama's inexperience. Does anyone seriously consider being First Lady as legitimate experience for being President? After all, if co-opting her husband's Presidency was a legitimate claim, Nancy Reagan might very well be on the ballot. Regardless of how involved Hillary was in actual decision-making (all accounts seem to indicate that she was in fact very involved in her husband's two terms), are Americans ready to let such involvement count as bona-fide leadership experience?

Such claims of course also bring up the question of who, if spouses are as involved in presidential matters as Clinton's claims indicate, Americans would really be voting for, Hillary or Bill. While I wouldn't in any way say that a leader should not confer with his or her spouse in private, accepting this sort of Presidential Couple idea is a slippery slope, especially considering the souring of Hillary's campaign image with the increase in her husband's visibility the past few months.

In keeping with the theme of "experience" and the reign of Clinton 1.0, it should in fairness be pointed out that while every major candidate in both parties has continually (and rightly so) pointed to the Bush Administration's lack of, falsification of, and misinterpretation of military intelligence information, the terrorist attacks on the USS Cole and two American embassies in Africa occurred on Bill Clinton's watch, events to which he responded by bombing the only pharmaceutical plant in Sudan. And when it comes to military carnage, there is the record of civilian casualties and structural damage done by NATO forces during the bombing of Serbia, which included the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. At a certain point the degree to which mistakes are "honest" becomes irrelevant and competence becomes an issue.

Beyond her dubious claims to credentials, there is the matter of policy. As for the Clintonian idea of governance, if their tactics (no one has made any claims that Clinton Redux would be much different from Clinton 1.0) were going to reshape the world or the country, wouldn't they have already done so a decade ago? The United States of 2001 was not remarkably different than the United States of 1991, and just look what a shining beacon of advanced society they made out of Arkansas!

The lynchpin to Hillary's political platform has always been health care, and the simple fact is that she is not going to deliver universal coverage in the United States. The orbit in which American life operates today - around the dollar - is a trajectory that Clinton (and Obama) supporters need to come to terms with. No one individual will have the political strength to provide universal medical coverage in a climate where calling it what it is - socialized medicine - is a non-starter. Both Clintons have long been vocal supporters of the idea, and it was indeed one of the major legs of Bill Clinton's 1992 platform. Yet after a full two terms in office the healthcare system in the United States was essentially the same post-Billary as it was before. By no means does that imply that Clinton 2.0 wouldn't make an effort to change course, but the oft-cited explanation for her husband's inability to deliver on his promises - Congress - is the exact same reason why Hillary will be unable to do so. The simple fact is that there are no lobbying cartels pushing for universal health care, and there is a well-documented multi-billion dollar machine operated by the medical and pharmaceutical industries contributing to the campaigns of virtually every member of Congress, including New York Senator Hillary Clinton. Odd, isn't it, the way Hillary treats her husband's Presidency much like the record of some ethereal God - take credit for the successes, and blame the failures on everyone else.

Beyond the far-flung idea of socialized medicine, Clinton has few real talking points. Most of her platform follows traditional Democratic bullet points and is virtually indistinguishable from Obama's, and the distinctions are as much Bill as they are Hillary. There's nothing new in the Clinton camp, which rules out any real change on her watch, yet Hillary is such an embodiment of the old, wealthy, white establishment that she ties up so much political capital in her own party as to make Obama's escape from her Democratic gravity virtually impossible. She's one big political black hole.

America's Hillary Clinton problem is more about what she is than who she is, in that her interests lie not in what is best for the future of American politics, but rather in what she sees as the best of the American political past. She might not have invented the Internet, but she has been under fire from Bosnian snipers, and that self-involved detachment from reality is exactly why she'll never take the United States, and the world, in the right direction.

If, as even McCain will acknowledge, climate change is among the most pressing issues of modern day, there is one quote that quite neatly sums up Hillary Cliton's priorities in public service. When reacting to Ralph Nader's announcement on Meet The Press last month of his entry into the 2008 race, Clinton lamented Nader's spoiler effect in 2000 by saying that the Green Party candidate's campaign "prevented Al Gore from being the 'greenest' president we could have had." Her point wasn't that Gore, still in his pre-Florida political life, wasn't really all that green, but rather that Nader was too green. Which, in a country where "public servants" with more than a few years in office are largely expected to magically accumulate vast private fortunes, is bad news. For a true politician like Clinton, even when it comes to a candidate's "green" positions, it is political viability, not the environment, which is most important.

There are few people who pine for a feminine touch to White House policies more than myself, but Hillary Clinton is no more qualified for such a powerful post than Harriet Meyers. At least Barack Obama doesn't list on his resume a seat on the board of directors for Wal-Mart, one of the most notoriously misogynistic corporations, where Hillary served from 1986 to 1992 yet still paints herself as a champion of women's rights and small business. I'm not a Democrat by any means, but the last thing I'd ever want is another Republican in power. As crazy as it is to consider, Ralph Nader seems like the logical choice for anyone suspicious of Obama's Kennedyesque promises, and that is no one's fault but Hillary Clinton. I, like millions of other voting-age Americans, wouldn't vote for Hillary if she were the last candidate on Earth, and if she's serious about getting Republicans out of the White House, and getting the United State's collective head out of its ass, she'd do well to keep herself in the Senate.

--
Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.

See other articles by Eric J Herboth.

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