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Tolkien Geek Makes Good | Sayonara Davey.

“‘I learned more from watching Dave than I did from going to my classes — especially the ones I did not go to because I had stayed up until 1:30 watching Dave,’ Colbert said.” Old news by now, but worth noting for posterity nonetheless: The inimitable Stephen Colbert — not “Stephen Colbert” — will be replacing David Letterman as the host of Late Show, and while I’ll be sad to see “Colbert” go, I can’t think of a better choice. Onward and upward.

“Letterman’s deconstructionist, at times borderline Cubist style made you laugh by mocking the very idea of a stranger needing to make you laugh…[his] sensibility had its roots in a post-World War II school of university-educated smartass comedy, which also birthed such institutions as Mad magazine, Monty Python, Second City, National Lampoon, Saturday Night Live, the 1970s meta-comedy movement that gave us Andy Kaufman and Albert Brooks, and pretty much every moment of Bill Murray’s early career.”

In very related news, Matt Zoller Seitz looks over Letterman’s long and storied late-night tenure. I don’t watch talk shows much anymore, but I’m just old enough to remember how formative Letterman’s NBC run was for the rest of late-night television back in the day. (It helped that I had a well-worn copy of Late Night with David Letterman: The Book as a kid, which re-printed classic gags like Dave’s Voyagers after-school special.)

Also, an excellent point made in the comments of Seitz’s article: “One thing I’ve always respected Dave for is the fact that he really loves music, and when the show is presenting a variety of lesser-known bands, he honestly seems to enjoy them. It kind of offsets the ‘grumpy curmudgeon’ vibe at which he excels, and it feels genuine and enthusiastic to me.” True, that: Take, for example, his many visits with Tom Waits, who’s given some amazing and indelible performances on Dave’s show over the years.

Goin’ Back to Maui.

If I got to choose a coast, I got to choose the East — I live out there, so don’t go there. That being said, as of this evening, I’m going (going) back (back) to Cali for an old friend’s wedding, followed by some vacationing (back) in Maui, for sun, sand, surf, and literally (as opposed to the usual metaphorically) swimming with sharks.

In any case, that’ll likely mean little-to-no updates around here for the duration. (Like that’ll be any different from recent months, amirite?) But, if for some unfathomable reason you find yourself in desperate need of GitM-style blathering, there’s always the dissertation. Until next time, here’s the inimitable Stephen Colbert, several cool friends, and one ginormous asshole grooving to the song of the summer. Feel free to sing along if the feeling strikes.

More than Words.

“And yet, as our fight enters a new phase, America’s legitimate claim of self-defense cannot be the end of the discussion. To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective, is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance. For the same human progress that gives us the technology to strike half a world away also demands the discipline to constrain that power — or risk abusing it.”

Didn’t get to this before heading out for a Memorial Day weekend camping trip: As y’all know by now, President Obama delivered a much-hailed State of the War on Terror address at the National Defense University, during which he called for the eventual repeal of AUMF, tighter oversight of drone strikes, and the closing of the Gitmo Gulag at last. “Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.”

Sounds great! When’s it happening? Er…well, that’s that trick, isn’t it? When it comes to the first promise — the repeal of AUMF — as Brooking’s Benjamin Witte noted: “Obama does not need Congress to narrow or repeal the AUMF or to get off of a war footing. He can do it himself, declaring hostilities over in whole or in part. And Obama, needless to say, did not do anything like that.”

Ok, what about drone strikes? As Fred Kaplan and others — including the heckler at the speech — have pointed out, President Obama did not promise to transfer drone strike authority from the CIA (where they remain covert) to the military (where there’s more possibility of oversight.) Nor did he pledge to end “signature strikes,” meaning the current practice of unleashing fiery death upon unknown parties because they seem to be acting shady. This “supposedly new, restrictive policy on drone strikes,writes Kaplan, “was neither new nor restrictive…In short, the speech heralded nothing new when it comes to drone strikes.”

Instead, Obama defended his drone policy as legal and effective. At one point, he asserted “for the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen — with a drone, or with a shotgun — without due process.” And then, in the very next paragraph, he asserts that particular executive prerogative in the matter of Anwar Awlaki — assassinated without due process. (FWIW, Obama is clearly using the Colbert reasoning here: “Trial by jury, trial by fire, rock, paper scissors, who cares? Due process just means that there is a process that you do. The current process is apparently, first the president meets with his advisers and decides who he can kill. Then he kills them.”)

As for Gitmo…well, we have been here before, so fool me once and all that. “‘The speech was deeply disappointing,’ says David Remes, a lawyer who has represented a number of Yemenis held at Guantanamo – adding that Obama only ‘created the illusion of forward momentum.’…The president has the power to issue national security waivers and direct the Secretary of Defense to certify detainee transfer if they are deemed not a national security threat – something human rights groups have been advocating. Didn’t hear much about that in the president’s address.

Yes, the paragraphs I quoted from the speech above at the onset are laudable, and yes, I suppose some people might find it vaguely comforting to know that the force of these issues weigh on the presidential mind in a way they didn’t between 2001 and 2008. But let’s be honest. It has been a troubling tendency of this administration — and by troubling tendency I mean signature pattern — to follow up lofty, progressive-minded rhetoric with absolutely no action of consequence. We need more than words from this president.

Earth, you are On Notice.

Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And early in the twenty-first century came the great disillusionment.

And we know exactly whose fault it is. In response to the 35-year-old “WOW signal“, we the people of Earth have apparently chosen as our herald Stephen Colbert, whose response above will be broadcast in the direction of its origin by National Geographic via the Arecibo radio telescope.

Hrm….isn’t the Mighty Colbert a bit too droll for alien intelligences? I fear this will set off a Douglas Adams-style miscommunication that will end very badly for all parties involved. Second, why would any alien race be able to make sense of Prometheus? There was no sense there to be had.

Game of Votes.

Still taking a break. Nonetheless, this was too on-the-nose not to share, for election 2012 is dark and full of terrors. Enjoy.

The Last Boy Scout.

I’m a free-market guy. Normally, I would leave this to the invisible hand of the market, but the invisible hand of the market has already moved over 84,000 acres of production and over 22,000 farm jobs to Mexico, and shut down over a million acres of U.S. farm land due to lack of available labor. Because apparently, even the invisible hand doesn’t want to pick beans.

As you no doubt know by now, and like his White House correspondent’s dinner speech in 2006, the inimitable Stephen Colbert came to the Hill on Friday to deliver his expert testimony on the plight of migrant workers, a topic the media would otherwise have completely ignored in favor of whatever crazy thing Sarah Palin tweeted today.

For those making the ridiculous argument that Congress was horribly besmirched by Colbert’s satirical testimony, I have two words: Twain and Elmo. For everyone else, it was very funny and, as per Colbert’s usual m.o., spoke truthiness to power. “[I]t just stands to reason, to me, that if your coworker can’t be exploited, then you’re less likely to be exploited yourself. And that, itself, might improve pay and working conditions on these farms, and eventually, Americans may consider taking these jobs again.

One Giant Leap for Truthiness?

“‘I certainly hope NASA does the right thing,’ Colbert said in a news release from the space agency. ‘Just kidding, I hope they name it after me.’” The inimitable Stephen Colbert awaits word from NASA today on whether the new ISS wing will be christened after him, or whether (as probably more likely) NASA will tip their hat to the runner-up browncoats and dub the new Node 3 “Serenity.” “Colbert demanded NASA allow ‘democracy in orbit’ on his show two weeks ago. ‘Either name that node after me or I, too, will reject democracy and seize power as space’s evil tyrant overlord.’” Don’t say we weren’t warned.

Update: That’s no moon, that’s a…treadmill. (The “Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill,” to be exact.) As for Node 3, it’s called Tranquility.

The Lay of the Land | A Moment of Zen.

“‘Obama has many more paths to the nomination than McCain,’ the source said. ‘They think they can defend the Kerry states. Iowa is gone. That’s five votes. New Mexico is in the bag. Then Obama has four or five different ways of winning. He can go Nevada or Colorado, Virginia, any of those, even Indiana. McCain has got to run the board, the whole Bush table.’” According to London’s Telegraph, Team Obama is feeling confident about victory these days. “We’re much stronger on the ground in Virginia and North Carolina than people realise. If we get out the vote this may not be close at all.

In related news, the McCain camp currently seems lost in the quagmire, particularly after Obama’s post-debate bounce and recent developments on the economic front. “‘What begins to happen is that the margin that’s been in place begins to solidify more and more,’ said Matthew Dowd, who was Bush’s chief strategist in 2004 and is now an independent analyst. ‘There’s only two ways this can go,’ he added. ‘It will either solidify with an Obama four- to five- point lead, or it will loosen and go back to close and go back and forth.’” In other words, another McCain campaign stunt incoming.

Update: I know the EW cover below is apropos of nothing above, really. On the other hand, it is election-related, and I found it laugh-out-loud funny. Hat tips to The Oak and Peasants Under Glass.

Obama gets SEC’ers, NARAL…and a Millworker’s Son.

While I’ve been packing things today, a few more key endorsements: First up, three former SEC heads back Obama. “‘Each of us has been committed to prudent economic policy and effective financial regulation for many years,’ they said in a joint statement along with former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, also an Obama supporter. ‘We believe Senator Obama can provide the positive leadership and judgment needed to take us to a stronger and more secure economic future.’

Then, much to the consternation of Emily’s List, NARAL gets behind the senator: “Today, we are proud to put our organization’s grassroots and political support behind the pro-choice candidate whom we believe will secure the Democratic nomination and advance to the general election. That candidate is Sen. Obama.

And, tonight in Grand Rapids, it looks like John Edwards will come off the fence at last and officially endorse Obama. (Edwards is not a super, but he does still have 19 pledged delegates credited to him.) Well, it’d have been nice to see this a few months ago, of course, and now that People pledge just looks ridiculous. But, hey, better late than never.

Update:: Hmm. No sign of Elizabeth. Also, Edwards’ best line tonight (although the crowd didn’t seem to get it): “I still want my jet-ski.”

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