“One Hundred Ways” as Romantic Advice

James IngramTo some extent, you have to hate Quincy Jones. He’s one of those massive talents who seems to rub it in your face. Okay! We get it! You’re better than we are! But I suppose that is made up for by the fact that he provides us with such great music.

In 1981, Jones released the album The Dude. It’s not a great album. But you might see it is the ur-Thriller. Much of the sound of the album is very much what Jones would create for Michael Jackson the following year. None of the songs are written by Jones — in general, he didn’t write much on his albums. He depended upon songwriters he often worked with like Rod Temperton. And the singers included a variety of people, especially Patti Austin.

But the album is particularly notable because it is the debut of James Ingram who sang the two hits off the album. And those two songs kind of sum up 1981 for me. (Or 1982?) The reason I’m thinking about it is that stupid Apple iPhone commercial that features “Just the Two of Us.” It was a huge hit in 1981 — three weeks at number one.

The strange thing is that the two James Ingram songs that I thought were so big were not. The first was the “Just Once” by Mann and Weil. It’s a fine song, but it kind of annoys me. It only reached number 17 on the “Hot 100.” The other did a bit better: “One Hundred Ways” made it to number 14. The thing is that I think it is just a wonderful song and I never get tired of it. It is one of the most romantic songs ever written. And Ingram is fantastic on it and the production is that perfect light jazz infused rhythm and blues.

The song was written by songwriter Kathy Wakefield, producer Ben Wright, and Tony Coleman, who I believe is a drummer and King Coleman’s son. All of this is just by way of introduction. I love the song. And here is James Ingram on Soul Train lip-syncing to it:

Point of order: this is probably not the best romantic advice. If you do “find one hundred ways” you are most likely to spoil her and look desperate. Everything in moderation, my friends. It is true that, “Being cool won’t help you keep a love warm.” But being too warm will make love overheat. On the other hand, in my experience, most men tend to error on the side of coolness and lack of engagement. And in the end, maybe you don’t want to be in a relationship where you have to play these games. Maybe the song is right and you should just show what you feel. That’s the right thing to do. But don’t blame me if she leaves you for a guy who is cooler and doesn’t let the violins play.

Bernie Sanders and the Political Revolution

Bernie Sanders[W]e need a political revolution in this country and that’s not just rhetoric. What I mean by that is that we need — and a president certainly can play a very, very important role in this — we need a massive change in citizen participation and in political consciousness. There was a poll that just came out I think yesterday. Gallup tells us that… I believe it is 63 percent of the American people cannot name which parties control the US House and the US Senate. So you have consciousness so low, a significant majority of the American people who are very concerned about what’s going on for themselves and their kids, they don’t know who controls the House and the Senate. They can’t name which party controls both bodies. You have what the political scientists tell us is a situation where in this coming election, 60 percent of the American people will not bother to vote. That means 70-to-80 percent of low-income workers and young people will not vote. So before you can talk about changing America, you have to change the political consciousness and the way that people relate to the political process.

Now, there is a group that relates very strongly to the political process, [and] that is the billionaire class that is now prepared to spend many hundreds of millions of dollars to elect candidates to represent their interests.

So you ask me, what can a president do? The main thing, I think, that the president can do is understand that no kind of progressive agenda can take place unless the American people are involved in that struggle and are prepared to put real pressure on the establishment to make it happen. It’s not going to happen in back rooms. It’s not going to happen in White House negotiations. If students, for example, want to see the cost of college go down and want to see their very high levels of debt be significantly reduced, they’re going to have to take it up with the members of Congress. They’re not doing that now. If low-income workers want to see the minimum wage raised, it cannot be a situation where only 20 percent of low-income workers vote. They’re going to have to be actively involved. That’s what a president can do…

What I am telling you, as somebody who likes Obama and respects Obama, is that the key mistake that I believe he made, and it’s perfectly understandable, is he got into office, and he said, two years after he was in, “I’m gonna sit down and negotiate with the Republicans. I know I can’t get everything. We’ll work on some kind of compromise.”

What he didn’t catch on to is that the Republicans had no intention of compromising with him and they have no intention of compromising at all. They have an agenda. It is an extreme right wing agenda backed by the Koch brothers and other billionaires, and the only way you defeat that right-wing agenda is when the American people rise up and demand real change. It can’t be done within the confines of Congress. It has to be part of a strong and active grassroots movement.

—Bernie Sanders
Longterm Democratic Strategy Is “Pathetic”

Romney Won’t Take Responsibility for Saying the Poor Won’t Take Responsibility

Mitt Romney - NopeIt seems to me that Mitt Romney is the failed presidential candidate who will never go away. Really: he’s not in office, why is there still so much news about him? I really don’t know. Just the same, I still find him fascinating because he is sort of the perfect Republican. And in a recent interview story by Mark Leibovich, Romney came up with a new excuse for his “47 percent” comment. It’s interesting that the comment was about how the poor wouldn’t take responsibility for themselves. But every couple of months, Romney comes up with a new reason why he isn’t responsible for what he said.

Romney said that he had just be asked a long and rambling question. He continued, “My mistake was that I was speaking in a way that reflected back to the man. If I had been able to see the camera, I would have remembered that I was talking to the whole world, not just the man.” Okay. So his mistake was not knowing that there was a hidden camera? If he knew he was being recorded, he would have be more truthful? The mind boggles.

Brian Beutler hit back on this at New Republic today, Mitt Romney Blames His “47 Percent” Comment on a Donor. Paul Ryan Blames… Mitt Romney. That title refers to the fact that Paul Ryan now says the comment was wrong, but he still (along with the whole of the Republican Party) sees the world that way. That’s the fundamental problem. The video wasn’t a big deal because everyone was surprised that Romney would say such a thing. The video was a big deal because no one was surprised. They already knew this was exactly what Romney thought and the video was just a handy example of it.

Beutler noted that the question Romney got was neither long nor rambling. The guy just asks how Romney can convince people that they have to take care of themselves. And after losing the election, Romney claimed that it was because Obama was giving poor people free stuff. This clearly shows that Romney really did think that half the nation were a bunch of moochers. What I’ve always found funny but also shockingly offensive is that Romney pandered far more than Obama.

One of the biggest attacks Romney made against Obama was that he took $716 billion away from Medicare. And what was Romney going to do? Give it back! And what was the biggest thing in Romney’s budget? His $5 trillion in tax cuts going mostly to the very wealthy. But in Republican-think, giving money to your constituencies is not giving them “free stuff.” Giving “free stuff” only applies when it is given to “those” people. Romney’s tax cuts were worth more than total Medicaid spending. But those poor parents who got free checkups for their kids were being bought off. Billionaires were not.

The final word about the “47 Percent” comment comes from Romney, himself. I’m sure over time, he will change his explanation as it becomes clear to him that he said far more than he meant to in this interview. Romney really thinks that there are a whole bunch of loafers out there in America. And he thinks that the only distinctly progressive tax in the United States is the one that defines such people. Note that he didn’t talk about sales taxes or state income taxes or payroll taxes — all of which the poor pay in abundance. No, he picked the one tax that is reasonably fair in the United States. And so the video shows what he actually thinks about his fellow Americans. We all understand that he wouldn’t have been so blunt if he had known non-millionaires were watching. We don’t like Romney, but we don’t think he’s an idiot.

The issue in the United States is not people who don’t take responsibility for their lives. The issue is people like Romney who want to take responsibility for things they didn’t do. He won’t admit the fact that his success is mostly luck. He was born reasonably intelligent. He was born into a rich family. He was sent to good schools. He knew lots of people who could help him out in life. Even at Bain & Company, Romney didn’t see the opportunity with Bain Capital. He only started it because his boss gave him the deal of a lifetime to start it: not only would he get his old job back if he failed, the company would cover for him so it didn’t reflect badly on him. Romney is the one with the responsibility issue. And now he’s trying to push responsibility for his “47 percent” comment onto some anonymous donor, who regardless totally agrees with Romney about what they see as the moocher class.

(My) Democratic Freak Out!

United States SenateThere has been a lot of bad polling news for Democrats in the Senate recently. In fact, the Princeton model’s daily forecast yesterday had the Democrat’s chances of holding the Senate in the low 20 percents. It’s come back up to 39% today, but The Monkey Cage is down to 23%. Generally, however, the models are right about where they were two months ago with the Democrats having about a 40% chance of holding the Senate. Should we freak out? Of course not. But we should prepare ourselves for a less than sunny election night, at least as far as the Senate goes.

Nate Silver wrote an excellent article, Senate Update: When Should Democrats Panic? His main point is that people tend to think in terms of trends and waves, but that’s not what’s happening at all. There have been some good polls for Republicans in the last week or so, just as there were some good polls for Democrats a month ago. It doesn’t mean that the polls are going to get better and better for the Republicans.

Another important point is that this is a bad year for Democrats based upon the “fundamentals.” Yet the Democrats are generally doing better than expectations. This is actually a very big issue for me. I’m okay with the Republicans taking over the Senate. For well over a year, I’ve known there was a very good chance of this. But what I dread is watching the election results coming in and hearing pundits say things like, “Well this just shows that the people are unhappy with President Obama’s policies.” Or, “When all is said and done, America is a center-right nation.” Or, “Liberalism is dead.”

No! No! No! This is an election where the vast majority of Senate seats up for election belonged to Democrats — most in red states because the Democrats had a shockingly good year in 2008. What’s more, Democrats are poised to have a rather good year in terms of governorships. Of course, these facts won’t matter. I know that on election night, I will be seeing people say these things. It’s what they always say because nuance is not allowed on television.

From my perspective, a neutral result should have been Republicans getting 53 or 54 Senate seats — which is still quite possible. Most of the models are now predicting 52 seats. If that comes to pass, the reporting really ought to be that the Republicans did poorly. It’s funny that when it comes to something like presidential debates, the commentariat are totally focused on how well the candidates do compared to expectations. But when it comes to elections, it is only the absolute numbers. If the Republicans end up ahead it means the country has turned right and if the Democrats end up ahead, the country has turned left.

If the Democrats do manage to maintain control of the Senate, the reporting should be along the lines of, “In a year where the Republicans had every structural advantage, they failed to succeed. This does not speak well of the party during this election cycle.” But instead, it will mostly be pitched as a wash, with some even claiming it is a big win for the Republicans because they picked up five seats.

As always with elections, this one will all come down to how many Democrats manage to show up to the polls. Robert Erikson and Christopher Wlezien at The Monkey Cage wrote an informative article about this last week, Why Likely Voter Polls May Be Misleading. As I pointed out just after the 2012 election, a lot of polls were wrong because of their “likely voter” screens. Only 87% of those who said they were sure to vote actually voted, and more surprisingly, 55% of those who said they were unlikely to vote did vote. Now 2012, was an on-year election, so it is different but the same thing goes on.

The article at The Monkey Cage noted that most of the recent shift in the polls toward the Republicans is not about people changing their minds; it is about the polls providing data on likely voters. Registered voters are still polling the same way. This is potentially cheerful news for the Democrats. Supposedly, the Democrats are spending big money on “get out the vote” efforts. So if they really do succeed at this, the final composition of the Senate might not look that bad.

But I won’t be shocked if the Republicans have 54 seats in the Senate next year. We’ll get through it. There is no reason to freak out.

Le freak n’est pas chic!

Forgotten Film Legend Lewis Milestone

Lewis Milestone Reading All Quiet on the Western FrontOn this day in 1895, the great film director Lewis Milestone was born. He was one of “those” directors. You know the kind: directors who did consistently excellent work but who are never really held up as great. People like Michael Curtiz. Meanwhile, people write dissertations about Alfred Hitchcock, even though the main thing I think about him is that his films never looked very good. I don’t get it.

One reason that Milestone may not have quite the reputation he deserves is that he worked his way up in the Hollywood system. As a teenager, he emigrated from the Ukraine. While serving in the army, he worked with the Signal Corps making short films like, “The Toothbrush” and “Posture.” (Really!) After that, he went to work under Henry King and eventually William Seiter, as editor, writer, and assistant director. And he made his debut as writer-director in 1925 with, Seven Sinners — a wacky silent comedy about a couple of thieves who rob a house, only to find that three other groups are doing the same thing. It sounds like a lot of fun, but good luck finding it anywhere.

Milestone is best known for making one of the greatest war films ever, All Quiet on the Western Front — for which he won an Academy Aware for Best Director, not that it means anything. When he is remembered, it is as a great director of war films. There were others such as Edge of Darkness, A Walk in the Sun, and Pork Chop Hill. But he was so much more than that. He did it all and he did it well. He directed an excellent version of The Front Page, a couple of Steinbeck stories (Of Mice and Men and The Red Pony), and even musicals like, The General Died at Dawn and Anything Goes.

But in the 1950s, Milestone was “graylisted” — never called before Congress, it was generally believed that he was a commie sympathizer and so he found it hard to find work. I figure it actually all goes back to All Quiet on the Western Front. Real Americans, then as now, are supposed to love war all the time. So he was forced to work in television and in England. Eventually, he came back with Pork Chop Hill. Then he made the hugely successful Ocean’s 11. And then, he made the mistake of taking over for the great Carol Reed in the troubled production, Mutiny on the Bounty. (For the record, I quite like the film. I think the problem with it is that films often get reputations before they are released. Check it out if you haven’t seen it. In addition to everything else, it is gorgeous.) It lost money and he basically never worked again in feature films. (He was hired to direct a couple of films but was quickly replaced.)

He went back into television for a while and then retired — living another 16 years pretty much forgotten. He was, after all, old. And who in Hollywood wants to be around old people? He was brilliant. And who in Hollywood wants to be around brilliant people? And Hollywood owed him a lot. And who in Hollywood wants to be around someone they owe things to?

Happy birthday Lewis Milestone!