Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Know your English Enlightenment Philosophers

Through the magic of Netflix, we have been watching the first season of Lost. It is pretty good, if a little overheated sometimes, and it does have some cool twists. But what is the deal with the crazy bald dude being named John Locke? The "government with the consent of the governed" guy? What's the connection?

My theory is they have him confused with Thomas Hobbes (the "nasty, brutish, and short" guy).

UPDATE -- I have a new theory, which is that his name is Locke because of Locke's idea of tabula rasa. Stuck on an island in the middle of nowhere = clean's disappointingly plausible. Of course, Locke's theory was only meant as a description of the way babies learn, and it was wrong anyway...but it's probably best not to look too far into it...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

But I'm getting ahead of myself

Warner/Feingold '08!

Maybe Edwards/Warner?

Or here's one, Bayh/Richardson. Eh? Is Edwards/Bayh too leftish?

No? I have more.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Filibuster threat watch

Good to see: Biden dialing it up on Alito, if only slightly. I doubt that Alito's opposition to civil rights will be enough to win a filibuster argument (as Alito will take the Roberts-tested those-were-crazy-times path, I'm quite sure), but am pleased to see the option still on the table.

"Our next president"

Well I don't know about that, Ethel Kennedy, but this Tribune profile of Barack Obama reveals no achilles' heel yet in sight. (Well, there is this scandalous detail:
Some of the attention, though, is far from spontaneous. Before he appeared on Stewart's popular Comedy Central program earlier this month, his staff dashed off an e-mail to supporters, urging them to tune in to the show.
So maybe his political days are numbered after all!)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

But seriously, we need better literary rap wars

Ben Greenman's anti-Jonathan Franzen essay should have been right up my alley, but the piece was a flop, with Greenman a little too self-satisfied (or something) with his own status as "experimental." So respect to Sherman Alexie for his letter in the new Harper's, which I think is right on:
Does Ben Marcus, educated at NYU and Brown, employed by Columbia, and published by Anchor, Vintage, and Harper's, truly believe that he is an excluded experimentalist? Does he honestly believe that Jonathan Franzen, educated at Swarthmore, once employed by Harvard, and published by FSG and Harper's, is somehow more elitist? Or is Franzen the populist? Or is a populist elitist? Is there really much difference between Marcus and Franzen? This East Coast-East Coast Literary Rap War reminds me of the Far Side cartoon in which a lone penguin, suffering in a crowd of millions of exactly similar penguins, rises and shouts, "I have to be me!"

Friday, November 18, 2005

Karl Rove will be indicted (sooner or later)

I had been growing pessimistic, but this restores my belief that Rove will go down. No rush!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Dale Risinger (R-Peoria) Hates Kids

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is a bit of a prettyboy, is my impression, and his approval ratings sure aren't very good. But his health-care bill is a triumph on all levels. The bill, called the "All Kids" plan, would provide low-cost insurance to the many in-the-gap families too rich to receive other government programs, too poor for private insurance. Good policy.

And it's the best kind of good policy: the kind that neutralizes political opposition. Opponents of "All Kids" are obviously heartless Scrooges! Here is some hilarious whining by the still-hapless Illinois Republican Party:
Republicans acknowledge they're in a tough spot because opposing the plan could be dangerous politically. The measure likely will pass even though details are scarce, they say.

"He wants to tag us as being against kids, and that's just awful as far as I'm concerned," said state Sen. Dale Risinger, R-Peoria.
Awful, just awful.

Prickly Fish

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Languid beats and murderous gang mentality

An exciting confluence of two persistent AMillionMonkeys themes: SCOTUS and gangsta rap. From this NY Times article about Alito's alleged Libertarian streak:
Judge Alito's most significant libel decision involved a quirky claim against Time and Newsweek magazines by C. Delores Tucker, who had campaigned against vulgarity in rap music. In an earlier libel suit by Ms. Tucker against the rapper Tupac Shakur, Ms. Tucker's husband had filed a common claim, for "loss of consortium," a legal term meaning that the injury she had suffered had also caused him to lose her marital companionship.

A lawyer for Mr. Shakur's estate pointed out that loss of consortium commonly includes damage to the couple's sexual relationship, and Time and Newsweek had some fun at the Tuckers' expense. "A lyrical attack by Tupac iced their sex life," Newsweek said of the Tuckers. They sued, saying the mockery was libel.

Judge Alito dismissed the claims. The Tuckers, he ruled, were public figures and had to prove that the magazines had acted with actual malice, that is, knowing their statements were false or entertaining doubts about their truth when they published them. The Tuckers had, he said, failed to do that.

Judge Alito seemed comfortable with the meaning of "loss of consortium" but turned to the Encyclopedia Britannica for a definition of "gangsta rap," which he reproduced in a footnote ("a marriage of languid beats and murderous gang mentality").
Unqualified! Supreme Court justices should at least own Straight Outta Compton.

Friday, November 11, 2005

New slang

Jody Rosen in Slate has a well-executed takedown of David Brooks' column blaming rap music for the French riots. A peripheral but fascinating detail was news to me:
Even most French-speakers find it hard to follow along. Many MCs deliver whole songs in Verlan, the ingenious, dizzying slang in which words are reversed or recombined, turning arabe (arab) into rabza, bourré (drunk) into rébou, bête (stupid) into teubé, and so on. (Verlan is itself an example of the form: Verlan= l'envers, "the reverse.")
Backwards slang: as cool or cooler than rhyming slang, definitely cooler than ending every word with "izzle."

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Get yr highbrow rap criticism here

Great Sasha Frere-Jones column on Houston rap in the New Yorker:
"Still Tippin’" is an elegant primer on Houston hip-hop. The music is unhurried and woozy, as if it had been left too long in the sun. A violin phrase wells up again and again, like a bubble in a blender, while the rappers hew to the sticky beat, drawling about cars, women, and diamond grills (the precious-metal molds inlaid with diamonds that rappers wear on their front teeth). The easy finesse of Houston’s m.c.s can make East Coast hip-hop sound stressed out, uptight, or just plain square. The Houston sound is, above all, slow, a perpetually decelerating music that is equally good at conveying menace, calm, and grief.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Cheery news in this Pew poll, including Bush's 36% approval rating as well as a telling chart showing the eroding support for the president even among Republicans.

Bad news in the same poll, though, is that Alito's numbers are still pretty good. But it's early yet!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Drive sloooow homie

"Drive Slow," Kanye West's song about growing up in Chicago, is one of my favorites on Late Registration, and for that matter on The People's Champ by Paul Wall, too.

But the version of "Drive Slow" on Paul Wall's invaluable Screwed & Chopped Remixes bonus disc is a fuckin' religious experience. Slowed down and syzzurped-out, Kanye's saxophone sample is returned to its original speed, and the song turns into a deep soul dirge. This is some "Thank You for Talkin' to Me Africa" shit; don't miss it.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

But Rob, what does this mean for the Alito nomination?

Funny you should ask.

You don't like to see this, but you are not surprised and besides it doesn't matter.

In the wake of Reid's maneuver, Democrats are signaling that they won't filibuster Alito. That's fine for now, and even appropriate: there's still a lot we don't know about him. Supposedly he was nominated as the anti-stealth candidate, so it will be interesting to see how his private meetings with the Senators go.

But check out this nugget from the Gallup poll published today:
If it becomes clear Alito would vote to reverse Roe v. Wade, Americans would not want the Senate to confirm him, by 53% to 37%.
Pretty big margin, no? Especially when you consider that only 38% of Americans currently believe that he would overturn Roe. If that number goes up, the political calculus changes quick.

I wouldn't yet bet money against Alito being confirmed, but he is no sure thing.

Harry Reid

Still the man.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

George W. Bush has never used a hammer in his life

Hilarious Bush clip on a Letterman rerun last night: Bush doing a post-Katrina photo-op at a construction site, with no idea how to use a hammer. He holds it by the neck and sort of shoves it toward the nail. It is awesome.