Friday links! Blame where blame is due edition

One of the most useful skills a modern person can possess is knowing how to properly assign blame. In my experience, the modern person makes a lot of mistakes. Whether putting diesel in our gasoline cars or electing a sub-literate game show host to the presidency, we are not always not fucking up. Improved competence is impossible, though, so the only solution is to get better at casting blame. The Russians made Donald Trump president. The diesel pump is too close to the regular.  See how great that is? This way, we can keep treating other people’s mistakes as unconscionable while continuing to make our own. Today is Friday, and that is absolutely not my fault. Won’t you spread the blame around with me?

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Gianforte, John Misty explore gap between the persona and the man

Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte and Magic Mountain

Last week, as Republicans in the House scrambled to pass a health care bill that would repeal and, in a manner of speaking, replace Obamacare, Greg Gianforte had no opinion. When reporters asked how the congressional hopeful would have voted, his spokesman said that he hadn’t read enough of the bill to say. But on the same day, in a conference call with lobbyists, Gianforte said he was “thankful” that the AHCA had passed the House.

That’s not necessarily a sign that the Republican candidate for Montanan’s only seat in the House says one thing in public and another in private. He didn’t say anything in public at all. But it’s troubling that the Gianforte campaign seems to believe it can stonewall the press but owes an answer to party lobbyists. You can read all about this discrepancy in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. Montana’s special election is only two weeks away, and right now it looks like another contest of negatives.

You can be forgiven if you feel like election season is a nightmare that will never end, though. Perhaps you would prefer lighter fare, like my essay on/review of the new Father John Misty album. I’m a big fan of his last LP, I Love You, Honeybear. I like the FJM persona, a kind of alienated hedonist best described as an exaggerated version of how history remembers Lindsey Buckingham. But on the new album, the mask slips. Its critique of contemporary life is more pointed, and FJM the character seems to have lost a layer of irony in the process. It’s also almost all torch songs, even though the material is pretty dark. The result is a strange combination of easy listening and hard truths, like Jackson Browne meets Nick Cave. Anyway, it’s worth a listen. Whether you’ve liked FJM to this point or are just hearing about him now, it’ll be something new. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!

Friday links! Courtesy of the red, white and blue edition

Toby Keith, who did not serve in the military, and his dog tags

Did you hear? President Trump dropped the MOAB on Afghanistan, killing 36 ISIS fighters and presumably ending our 15-year war. “MOAB” stands for “mother of all bombs.” The 11-ton weapon loves all other bombs and just wants them to be happy, and even though it has different expectations for each bomb, it is behind every single one of them 100 percent. You know who else loves bombs? Fox and Friends. Here’s the video they put together for yesterday’s strike:

“The video is black and white,” Ainsley Earhardt says, “but that is what freedom looks like. That’s the red, white and blue.” It’s true that a tyrant could never bomb anyone. Freedom isn’t life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness. It’s a giant explosion seen from 30,000 feet. It’s Geraldo Rivera and his Wario mustache saying that “one of my favorite things, in the sixteen years I’ve been here at Fox News, is watching bombs drop on bad guys.” Today is Friday, and the most comfortable people in the world love to watch other people get bombed. Won’t you experience hot, searing freedom with me?

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Good country people for Carson, Benji Hughes, and the charm of first dates

Singer-songwriter Benji Hughes

Singer-songwriter Benji Hughes

Last week, the Federal Election Commission announced that Ben Carson had raised more money from individual donors in Montana than any other candidate. Like Montanans themselves, his donors cluster around Billings and Kalispell, but they are also more widely distributed than donors to any other candidate. They live in the boonies. This supports the hypothesis I developed during my independent research in Iowa, where I found that Carson had the support of 100% of voters on my great aunt and uncle’s hog farm. He is the candidate of good country people.

That he is not the candidate of the GOP tells us something about the changing dynamics of Republican politics. Carson is not the different from the two other men leading his field. Like Trump, he has no previous experience in government. Like Cruz, he made a name for himself as an outspoken—some might say obstreperous—critic of President Obama. But unlike Trump and Cruz, Carson is meek. His meekness is a quality that good country people hold dear, but in the 2016 Republican nominating contest, talking loud and crazy is a feature, not a bug. You can read all about in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent.

But that’s not all the Indy has to offer. Valentine’s Day is this weekend, and that means it’s time for the annual Love and Sex issue, featuring essays on subjects from strip clubs to the slow fade, Valentine’s for ironists and the charm of first dates. That last one is by me. You can read ’em all here, and I recommend that you do. There’s Jamie Rogers in there, and he is always good.

Meanwhile, Benji Hughes is getting better. If you’ve been foolish enough to let me control your stereo, you’ve probably heard The Mummy, a strange and pleasing song from his 2008 debut. That sprawling double album is fun, but it felt more like a series of ideas for songs rather than a developed work. Eight years later, Hughes has released his second album, Songs in the Key of Animals, and it’s great. It’s got the same 1970s modal sound, but the songs are more fully formed and, as the album progresses, heartfelt. That’s a positive development for a talented artist who has verged on novelty music before. You can read my review here. I consider this track the single:

You’ll find that sweet jam on my Winter 2 mix, which I have recorded as a single, continuous track and uploaded to SoundCloud, because CD drives are a vanishing species. I didn’t think I did much this week, but I guess I’ve been pretty busy. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!