Run, Hillary! Run!

New York Senator Hillary Clinton

As the weakened state of the Republicans augurs well for a Democratic president in 2008, a veritable flood of candidates has joined Clinton as the race begins. She begins her run with name recognition and plenty of monetary backing, yet she is far from a shoo-in.

Everyone is aware that Hillary Clinton is poised to run for the presidency in 2008. That’s no surprise. What might seem amazing is that she could actually win. The US midterm elections put the Democrats back in control of Congress, and thanks to Nancy Pelosi's win as Speaker of the House (notably, Pelosi is a vocal critic of the Bush administration) it is clear that finally, female candidates can run for powerful posts in our slowly evolving political environment -- and even win.

The prevailing political conditions seem to favor a Clinton run, though, in a paradoxical way, the Democratic victory in Congress might hurt her chances. As the weakened state of the Republicans augurs well for a Democratic president in 2008, a veritable flood of candidates has joined Clinton as the race begins. She begins her run with name recognition and plenty of monetary backing, yet she is far from a shoo-in.

In January 2007, President Bush will deliver his penultimate State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress. Sitting on the dais behind him, in the chamber of the House of Representatives, right next to Vice President Cheney, will be the first woman Speaker of the House in US history. Pelosi's position places her second in line for presidential succession: two heartbeats from the presidency, as it were. This means that of the four people in line to succeed the President, two are women. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is fourth, after the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

Americans need to appreciate the miracle of the mini revolution that was wrought with the results of the 2006 midterm elections. Remember that for the first 130 years of America’s democratic experiment, women, in general, did not even have the right to vote. Considering the constant battles to afford full political equality to women (during the 80 years after the Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution finally secured the franchise for women) this is indeed a remarkable moment. But are Americans now willing to do what other countries such as the United Kingdom, Israel, Pakistan, India, and Norway have done long ago -- select a woman to head the government?

The 2006 election demonstrates that female candidates are running, and winning, in greater numbers than ever before, in both legislative and executive positions. The Senate now has 16 women. All six incumbents who ran were re-elected, and two new female senators were elected. In the House of Representatives, 58 women were re-elected, 10 were newly elected, and three won woman vs. woman races. There will be at least 71 women in the new House, and perhaps more, depending upon the outcome of several undecided races. Women also continue to make gains in state elections. In 2006, six women were elected or re-elected as governors, bringing the total to nine at the top of a state government. About 1,500 women won election or re-election to state legislatures across the US, and women have been increasingly successful in winning election to other state executive posts, such as Lieutenant Governor or State Attorney. (For information on these, and other, women’s election results see "50-50 by 2020: Equal representation in Government".)

And of course as mentioned the Democrats now have control of Congress, which will certainly provide a platform to commence a solid presidential run. But the initial problem will be for Clinton to smoothly combine being a Senator with being a presidential candidate. New York’s voters, who re-elected her with 67 percent of the vote, are pleased with her abilities as a Senator, and she can point to a record of achievement. As Andrew Sullivan noted earlier this year, in a far from laudatory piece on Clinton, she is "a very shrewd senator, diligently tending to her constituents especially in conservative upstate New York …" (TimesOnLine, 14 May 2006).

An assessment of Clinton’s presidential chances needs to recognize that she will have to overcome some flaws in her candidacy. Perhaps her major weakness is her polarizing character. Few are moderate in their opinions of the Senator, and there is a profound love-hate relationship that resonates amongst voters. A cursory internet search will produce numerous anti-Clinton sites, one more hostile than the next. Why do people feel such loathing for Clinton? Mostly because she is viewed by many as a liberal extremist with a self-serving political agenda. But the prevailing reason is simply that she’s Hillary. As conservative pundit Robert Novak noted on the 2 June 2005 edition of CNN’s Crossfire, "I don’t bash Hillary because I think she’s weak. I don’t bash her because I think she is strong. I bash her because I like to."

And of those who may not hate her, many still think of her as overtly liberal. In a recent Rasmussen reports poll, of those questioned, 47 percent labeled her liberal, while 34 percent saw her as a moderate. Though there is a sizable base of middle ground voters which is apprehensive about Clinton, her favorability numbers are holding, with a recent positive increase. "Currently 44% report a favorable opinion of Clinton, up six points from the previous survey. The number with an unfavorable opinion is down by five to 40% …" (Hillary Meter Rasmussen Reports 6 November 2006). She will have to work hard to turn the fence sitters in her favor, though she most likely will not alter the views of those who agree with Novak.

There is also the fact of her gender. This is an obstacle due to the perception that a female presidential candidate may not be tough enough to handle the pressure-packed presidential office. That said, this is an attitude, along with the Novak view, that Clinton is familiar with. Along with her capabilities as a Senator, her strongest asset may be the strength and resilience that she has displayed during her political career. She withstood the deluge of opposition when she spearheaded her husband’s healthcare proposals in 1993. The proposals ultimately failed, but she demonstrated that she could take the political heat. Clinton stood up for women’s rights at the 1995 Fourth World Conference for Women in Beijing, when politicians at home thought she should guard against offending the Chinese government (which was furious that she forcefully pushed for women’s rights around the world, and especially in China). She endured the humiliation of the ordeal in 1998 and 1999 stemming from her husband’s adultery, and his subsequent impeachment. She moved confidently and successfully from being First Lady, and wronged wife, into the Senate, when some thought she should stay home and mend her marriage. And recently, Clinton demonstrated that she is willing to take a stand on the Iraq war – a stand that goes against the beliefs of some of her most fervent liberal supporters. She has been a strong critic of the war and the Bush administration’s conduct. Yet, this past June, at the liberal "Take Back America Conference", Clinton was booed when she suggested that "I do not think it is a smart strategy … for the president to continue with his open-ended commitment … Nor do I think it is a smart strategy to set a certain date." (About Liberal Politics, 13 June 2006).

Former New York Mayor, Rudy Giuliani

No one should underestimate the challenges Clinton faces in a presidential run. Nor should anyone underestimate her capacity to meet those challenges. And, as she observes the rapidly crowding presidential field around her (in both parties) there isn’t any reason why she should take a backseat to any of the early leaders. On the Republican side stands former New York Mayor, Rudy Giuliani. He is moderate, and popular, but, before 9/11 no one considered him presidential material. One wonders how far his 9/11 aura can carry him. There is also Massachusetts’ Governor Mitt Romney, though he is not well known outside his home state. He seems intent on proving that, although he is the governor of one of the nation’s most liberal states, he is in lock step with the Republican Party’s conservative base.

Arizona Senator John McCain

At this point, Arizona Senator John McCain looks to be the Republican front runner. McCain is popular and he can certainly raise large amounts of money and popular support. But he, too, is courting the Republican conservatives, and, in a move seen by some as courageous, foolish, or just plain crazy, he has proposed sending roughly 20,000 additional troops to Iraq. In fact, McCain is, "Nearly alone among major political figures in calling for an increase in American forces in Iraq … Only one in seven Americans agrees with Mr. McCain that the United States should send more soldiers and Marines … (some analysts say) Mr. McCain was risking his reputation as a realist and someone who knows when to fold a losing hand by sticking obstinately to his current position." (The New York Times, 14 November 2006).

North Carolina Senator, John Edwards

Ironically, Clinton’s greatest political opposition may come from her Senate colleagues. John Kerry of Massachusetts wants to assuage his 2004 defeat, and make amends for running a terrible campaign; (despite his "joke" about which young people go to Iraq, the dumb ones, shortly before the 2006 election demonstrated that his political skills have deteriorated over the last two years). Kerry’s Vice Presidential running mate, North Carolina Senator John Edwards, is dynamic and personable. But can he do as presidential candidate what he couldn’t as vice presidential candidate? That is, translate his charm and affability into a Democratic victory? There’s no reason to assume that he can. Then there is Joseph Biden, Jr., of Delaware, who is about to assume the Chairmanship of the prestigious Senate Foreign Relations Committee. This may be enough to increase his stature on the national stage, but he has his own past scandals (involving political plagiarism) which will haunt his campaign.

Illinois Senator, Barack Obama

Finally, there is the young and charismatic Senator Barack Obama of Illinois. He is an eloquent speaker, a person of undoubted ability, and one who possesses strong anti-war credentials. But in 2008, he will only be nearing the end of his first Senate term, and he lacks experience.

It was a united Democratic party which drove the Dems’ 2006 return to power in the Congress. And if the recent triumph can help avoid fractures within the party, there is no reason that the Dems cannot unite behind a single candidate for the 2008 election. And Clinton could certainly be that candidate. Does she stir strong emotions and fervent opposition? Yes, but Americans should not forget that the Bush administration has done much the same over the past six years. I expect that the 2008 campaign will be every bit as vicious as the 2004 campaign was; perhaps even more so with Clinton as the Democratic candidate. But let her political resume speak for itself, and let’s see if she can make history as the nation’s next president.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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