Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve blogging

Via Megan McArdle, a great bit about drinking, including some excellent portrayals of drunk people walking:

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A world where rappers are small stars

And speaking of rap year-in-review stories, this one by Kelefa Sanneh is just exceptional, looking at the way declining sales will affect the art of rap:
Because hip-hop is so intensely self-aware, and self-reflexive, it came to be known as big-money music, a genre obsessed with its own success. If we are now entering an age of diminished commercial expectations, that will inevitably change how hip-hop sounds too.
I knew, like everyone knows, that sales had declined, but some of the figures Sanneh cites are startling -- for instance, that in 2001 Project Pat could sell as many copies as 50 Cent could sell in 2007. Wow.

It's terrible news for record executives, but its artistic upshot is yet to be determined. Sanneh puts it this way:
[I]n ways good and bad and utterly unpredictable, rappers may have to reconsider their place in the universe, and their audience. Some will redouble their commitment to nonsense, like Project Pat. Some will wallow in their misery, like Prodigy. Some will merely revel in their own loudmouthiness, like Turf Talk, hoping someone will pay attention. But if sales keep falling, more and more rappers will have to face the fact that they aren’t addressing a crowd, just a sliver of one.
Read the whole thing, as they say.

Mixtapes count

I endorse most of Julian Benbow's funny hip-hop-year-in-review story in the Boston Globe, but I wonder why he has a problem with mixtapes:
The closest thing to transcendence was "Da Drought 3," one more addition to the bottomless pit that seems to be Lil' Wayne's mixtape catalog. It was crisp and somehow compellingly incoherent. (Really, Wayne, when you were 5, your favorite movie was "Gremlins"? Really?) But still it was a mixtape.
Yeah, so? This year the best rap album was a mixtape...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Note: Huckabee in Green


Is such an exponential rise in popularity precedented? My prediction:

Iowa: Hucakbee
NH: Romney
SC: Romney/McCain (tie)
...
Giuliani still comes away with the nom.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Jay-Z out as president of Def Jam.

UPDATE [12/24 8:22pm] ... Okay, not a lot of insight into the decision in the story linked above. But this Billboard story adds some context from an interview he gave this month, when he said his decision to stay or go would not be "about money":
It's really about trying to invest in the future, trying to invest in maybe coming up with a new model. Because going in hard making records with artists and throwing those records into a system that's flawed is not exciting for me.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Update on the Huckabee wars

The Huckabee wars have only gotten nastier since this typically insightful AMillionMonkeys post theorized and invited theories about why conservative elites hate the man so much.
  • Our own mh (a.k.a. Don Hotdog) thinks it's class, and indeed Huckabee has been ramping up the explicitly class-based appeals.

  • Rush Limbaugh weighed in firmly on the establishment side, then got all huffy when someone kinda-sorta with the Huckabee campaign accused him of being an establishment conservative.

  • And Saxdrop made his case against Huckabee in comments below:
    Huckabee is as much an old school Dem as he is an R. His social positions are really not so different than the Dixiecrats that came before him, and he's a total nanny-stater. his instincts are for an expansive government which perfects society through regulation and taxation.

    Gas? Tax it. Don't like fat? Tax it. his whole Road to Damascus conversion on obesity has led to frightening zeal in the lengths he thinks the national government should go to fight it.

    Grover Norquist wants to accept his contrition and believe that Huckabee has learned the errors of his fiscal ways. I don't buy it. But I'll tell you one thing, nothing would be better for the Democratic nominee than a Huckabee nomination.

    Conservatives hate Huckabee cause he's no conservative.
    But of course Huckabee is conservative as all get out on abortion, gay marriage, sex education, prayer in schools, judicial appointments and so on, so this is sort of a matter of perspective.
I think maybe Steve Benen had the best look at how overdetermined conservative opposition to Huckabee really is. Benen surveys the various theories (I am quoted, as "one observer," advancing the "it's foreign policy" argument) and then offers that maybe:
It's all of the above: The opposition is so broad, one explanation may not be sufficient.
Sounds about right. And it looks like the Huckabee wars are going to keep right on escalating, especially after he wins in Iowa.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Babies

Many congratulations to Mike and Sandra on the birth of their dangerously cute son, John Henry.

Are pols slaves to public opinion?

Good point today from Josh Patashnik on The Plank:
There's a tendency on the part of some liberals to maintain, on the one hand, that Bush is unpopular because his right-wing ideology turns off most Americans, while insisting at the same time that Democrats can eschew centrism without suffering the same fate. It seems like you have to choose one or the other: either the median voter theorem has more to recommend it than Kuttner wants to believe, or Bush's conservatism isn't to blame for his unpopularity.
Well, look at it this way. Bush's opposition to SCHIP expansion is phenomenally unpopular, and yet it came at a time of an overall improvement of his approval rating. (Will it come back to bite Republicans at election time is another question.) It's clearly possible to take an unpopular position and not take a hit in public opinion polls. In some cases, if a pol is perceived as principled and authentic, an unpopular position can even help in the long term.

Further complicating the matter, effective political leaders can actually shape public opinion, as Matt Yglesias pointed out here.

But all those cases are exceptions to the general rule, which is that popular positions are popular because people like them, and they don't like unpopular positions. Someone like Robert Kuttner clearly believes voters would accept all of his particular political preferences if only a Democratic politician had the guts to adopt them. But it's rather odd to dismiss the role of public opinion in politics (!), and it's awfully insular thinking to assume that your own views are so self-evidently correct that everyone in America would obviously come around to them if given the chance. And using Bush as a case study only proves the point.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Best of 2007

(Crossposted from What's Your Beef)

Songs

30. Timbaland feat. Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake, "Give it To Me"
29. Modest Mouse, "Fire it Up"
28. Katharine McPhee, "Love Story"
27. Fall Out Boy, "Thnks fr th mmrs"
26. Burial, "Arcangel"
25. Lil Wayne, "Sky's the Limit"
24. Toby Keith, "High Maintenance Woman"
23. Radiohead, "Reckoner"
22. Rich Boy, Throw Some Ds
21. The White Stripes, "Icky Thump"
20. Jay-Z feat. Nas, "Success"
19. Britney Spears, "Piece of Me"
18. Arctic Monkeys, "Fluorescent Adolescent"
17. Young Jeezy feat. R. Kelly, "Go Getta"
16. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, "100 Days, 100 Nights"
15. Vampire Weekend, "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa"
14. Kanye West, "Stronger"
13. Spoon, "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb"
12. Jay-Z, "Blue Magic"
11. Lil Mama, "Lip Gloss"
10. Dizzee Rascal, Old Skool
9. Kanye, "Can't Tell Me Nothing"
8. Radiohead, "Nude"
7. Lil Wayne, "Upgrade U" freestyle
6. M.I.A. feat. Bun B and Rich Boy, "Paper Planes (Remix)"
5. 50 Cent, "I Get Money"
4. Modest Mouse, "Dashboard"
3. Rihanna, "Umbrella"
2. R. Kelly feat. T.I. and T-Pain, "I'm a Flirt"
1. UGK feat. Outkast, Int'l Players Anthem (I Choose You)


Albums

14. Britney Spears, Blackout
13. The White Stripes, Icky Thump
12. Rich Boy, Rich Boy
11. Burial, Untrue
10. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, 100 Days 100 Nights
9. Dizzee Rascal, Maths + English
8. Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
7. Jay-Z, American Gangster
6. Radiohead, In Rainbows
5. UGK, Underground Kingz
4. Modest Mouse, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
3. R. Kelly, Double Up
2. Kanye West, Graduation
1. Lil Wayne, Da Drought 3

Do conservatives hate goofy fat guys and their families?




This picture is all over the place since Huckabee started doing well. It's always attached to articles ostensibly written about his surge in the polls or something.

http://www.drudgereport.com/

Is it an innocent (though noticeably out of date) stock photo from the Huckabee campaign? Or is it meant to telegraph a more sinister message:

"Hey are these dopey bastards really the people we want in the White House? Would Osama Bin Laden be afraid of those silly barber shop quartet shirts? Think about it."

Monday, December 17, 2007

I have something to contribute to Hillary Clinton fashion coverage

Apropos this fashion-related Wonkette post, I can report that I saw Hillary Clinton wearing that same suit at an Armed Services Committee hearing I covered in January. I remember because it was the first time I saw her in person. And I swear I've seen another photo recently of her wearing the same suit. Combined with the photos Wonkette has, I think it's to the point where we have to wonder whether it might be one of her favorite suits.

I am not saying it reflects on her ability to govern. I am just saying.
R.I.P. Dan Fogelberg. My dad liked this guy.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Why do conservatives hate Huckabee?

I don't think I buy the Kevin Drum/Steve Benen line on why conservative elites hate Huckabee. As stated by Benen, the reason is that:
The Republican Party's religious right base is supposed to be seen, not heard. Candidates are supposed to pander to this crowd, not actually come from this crowd.
(Original emphasis.) Not quite sure how you shoehorn George W. Bush into this schema. He was perceived as a true believer by conservative evangelicals, and he was the establishment candidate from day one. He didn't just give them an interest-group pat on the head (a la Ronald Reagan), he actually governed they way they wanted -- religious-conservative Supreme Court appointments, abstinence-only education, anti-gay marriage bluster and so on.

So how can it be that conservative elites who embraced Bush now want to stomp Huckabee? Maybe Bush was just an extraordinary candidate, uniting disparate elements of the conservative coalition in a way that, to say the least, no one has been able to do this year. There is probably something to that.

But I think the real answer is this: foreign policy. Regardless of how he ran in 2000, hawkishness has become the absolute cornerstone of Bush's governing philosophy as far as the conservative elites are concerned. Huckabee is more or less openly clueless about foreign policy. That threatens the raison d'etre of war-party cheerleaders like Rich Lowry.

In this sense, conservative elites' reasons for hating Huckabee are not so different from their reasons for hating Ron Paul. They (and their candidates) are heavily invested in the need for endless war in a way Huckabee, lip service aside, just isn't. As much as lefties like Benen and Drum might want to read into this a hidden elitist disdain for the Nascar-loving, pickup-truck-driving Republican legions, it probably has more to do with actual policy differences than secret culture-war resentments.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

So sayeth the man

Art Laffer: I've never said all tax cuts pay for themselves. I never even said Reagan's tax cuts would pay for themselves.

[From the blog of Time Magazine business and economics columnist Justin Fox]

There, maybe now Jon Chait can chill out on his half-baked, one-dimensional, extreme-bounds "biography" of the right's economic policy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Yepsen vs. Obama

David Yepsen: The Obama campaign is encouraging out-of-state college students to caucus in Iowa -- which is perfectly legal, and something other campaigns are doing, and which in the final analysis might not make much of a difference in the caucuses anyway. But I just don't like it. Harumph.

Okay, that's paraphrasing. But the actual text isn't that much different, see for yourself:
Obama's campaign is telling Iowa college students they can caucus for him even if they aren't from Iowa. His campaign offers that advice in a brochure being distributed on college campuses in the state. A spokesman said 50,000 of the fliers are being distributed. It says: "If you are not from Iowa, you can come back for the Iowa caucus and caucus in your college neighborhood."

Given that many students in Iowa's colleges and universities are from Obama's neighboring home state of Illinois, the effort could net him lots of additional votes on caucus night. It's all quite legal, and other campaigns are signing up nonresident Iowa college students, too. But Obama's effort is unprecedented.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The mathematics of rap


Some are over my head, but I particularly liked the following:











More here.









UPDATE [12/10 5:21pm] ... Good find, Saxdrop, these are funny. I am going to add a couple of my favorites.-RM



Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Why I was not crazy to think Brownback was a contender for the Republican nomination


Sure, back in February I was saying I thought Sam Brownback could end up as a serious contender for the Republican nomination, even the winner. And yes, thank you for noticing, Brownback was the first Republican candidate to drop out of the race back in October. [Correction: Brownback was second to drop out, after Wisco's own Tommy Thompson. Thanks Levois!] (Even Duncan Hunter is still in it.) To the untrained eye, this would appear to be total humiliation of my punditry skills. Should I hang my head in shame? Should I give up on reading political tea leaves forever?

No, and I will tell you why. Back in February I hadn't even heard of Mike Huckabee. Does that count as an excuse?

Now that Huckabee is surging pretty much everywhere, I feel perfectly comfortable retroactively changing my Brownback prediction to a Huckabee prediction. What I was really saying, after all, was that the underlying political conditions indicated that social conservatives would be looking for a non-Giuliani, non-McCain and non-Romney alternative, a native son of social conservatism. (And that is kind of the truth.) I thought Brownback would be that guy; it's turned out to be Huckabee. Six of one, half a dozen of the other. And what do I know from Republican candidates anyway?

This has been another edition of ass-covering punditry. Thank you.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Pimp C dead at 33

R.I.P. Pimp C. Really sad news.

UPDATE [12/4 10:53pm] ... A very few highlights from a great rapper's career.
"Sippin' on Some Syrup," Three Six Mafia feat. UGK:

Key Pimp C line: "We eat so many shrimp, I got iodine poisoning."

"Big Pimpin'," Jay-Z feat. UGK:


"Quit Hatin' the South," UGK:

Also a Pimp C beat on this one. His ad-libs at the end of this track are priceless.

P.S. ... Tom Breihan eulogizes.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Old, weird Mississippi River


Via Strange Maps, an image of the ancient courses of the Mississippi River:
When looking at this map and seeing the jumble of ancient riverbeds - imagine all those shifts sped up: the Mississippi is like a shifting snake, twisting to find its easiest way down to the Gulf. These shifts occur every thousand years or so, especially in the lower parts of the river, through a process known as delta switching, or avulsion: when the river flow is slow, the sedimentation clogs the river channel and it eventually finds another channel. This process is by no means ‘historic’ (i.e. ‘over’) – from the 1950s onwards, the US government has worked on the Old River Control Structure, meant to prevent the Mississippi from switching to the Atchafalaya River channel.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Heads up

I'm going to be doing a liveblog of the Republican YouTube debate tonight at my Wausau Daily Herald blog...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Who says TV Guide doesn't do real journalism? This is new and important information about Barack Obama...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mark Halperin reconsiders

During the 2004 election I read The Note more or less every day because it felt super insidery, like you were getting a glimpse of the true machinery of the campaigns. But over time the site got stale to me, or I outgrew it or something, and its aggressively cultivated vacantness started to feel icky. I think I stopped reading it even before the election. (I do recall that this New Yorker profile crystallized something for me.)

I still think that anyone who wants to see social change ought to be acquainted with the machinery of politics, and ought to be prepared to accept certain compromises about what's possible now. To me, part of that means following politics, which means following campaigns. That's easy for me because I love politics! I like the competitions, the strategies, the punching and counter-punching, all that. But politics exists because democratic government exists, and our elected leaders are the ones who decide things I care about like whether we get out of Iraq or have universal health care or whatever it is, an end to the drug war or something equally far-fetched and necessary. There is always a point to politics.

The problem with Mark Halperin's The Note -- also the problem with Mark Halperin's ideology, also the problem with an entire planet of Washington journalists -- was that it literally didn't care about policies or consequences, only about campaigns.

Well, as of yesterday, Mark Halperin has reconsidered. He now believes politics ought to involve something more than just optics, message discipline and rapid-response campaign war rooms. It is a monumental turnaround, and that it comes at a pretty late date doesn't make it less big, or less welcome.

What next? How does Halperin plan to enact his new belief that journalists ought to somehow take into account what will happen on the day after the election? I am not waiting around to find out; I am busy trying to take it into account today.

P.S. ... Lots of bloggers responded quicker and probably better to this op-ed, find them here here here here and here.

Waxy Monkey Frog

Welcome back from the holiday weekend, those of you who had long weekends. I have experiences I'd like to share, ideas I'd like to reflect upon, readings I'd like to recommend. But since it is kind of late, for right now I will just offer this photo I took this weekend at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland. It is of a Waxy Monkey Tree Frog:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dreamin'


This morning I dreamed that I got new brown shoes. Then I woke up and had to wear my same old brown shoes to work. What a let-down.

Monday, November 19, 2007

From the annals of insanely obvious headlines: "Giuliani playing 9/11 card."

P.S. ... Not as good as "Men want hot women, study confirms" but pretty good still.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Of course!

Tyler Cowen asks why there are so rarely grocery stores in poor neighborhoods. Corporate conspiracy? Endogenously selected poor eating habits among the impoverished? Lack of brand identity?

None of the above. Tyler's answer:
Factor #1 in my view is lack of cars. Living in an inner city has its downsides, to say the least, but at least you don't have to buy a car. Yet the modern grocery store is designed for car transport, both how you get there and how you get the groceries away and of course the radius of advertising.
Why didn't I think of that? He also explains why this answer solves the mystery of relatively more grocery stores in poor LA neighborhoods.

A related topic was breached back in the 1.21 Gigawatts days, with regards to Chicago City Council's move to keep a Wal-Mart from moving into the city. No doubt it would have had a large impact on access to groceries and fresh food. But Cowen's thesis says maybe not so much. Keep in mind, however, that Wal-Mart is now the biggest mover of organic food.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Going postal

Look, I am not saying I advocate it. I am not in favor of shooting mail-carriers for delivering the mail too late in the day. That is wrong. I am just saying that, as a former resident of Chicago, home of the country's worst mail system, I understand how it gets to that point.

crossposted to What's Your Beef?

Monday, November 12, 2007

I love the smell of Eeyore in the morning

Via my buddy Mike, here is Apocalypse Pooh, a video mash-up by Daniel Clowes, who makes the comic Eightball:

Mike writes:
I got a few good laughs out of it. Certainly it's one of the earliest examples of a true video mash-up. Circa 1991.
I like Piglet as the Dennis Hopper character.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Saturday, November 10, 2007

R.I.P. Norman Mailer, a literary giant of whom I've never read more than a few pages. Maybe I ought to start now.

At 29:25, a clip from a weird Mailer appearance along with Gore Vidal and Janet Flanner on the Dick Cavett show:

Friday, November 09, 2007

TPM Reader RM makes a deeply brilliant point here, don't you agree? That RM certainly seems like a smart fellow, and I would imagine good-looking, too.

UPDATE [11/9 2:58pm] ... And a worthy response.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Obama on Saturday Night Live

Watch it fast, SNL usually gets these taken down.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Friday, November 02, 2007

Couple of Clinton thoughts

  • It may be true, as conservative Rod Dreher believes, that if Hillary Clinton is elected president, the right will not be able to help itself from going into "the whole American Spectator/David Brock mode of attack attack attack." But isn't it sort of funny to phrase it this way, as something outside the right-wing media's control? It's possible to at least imagine another way of confronting an ideological opponent...isn't it?

  • Via TNR, this email from "another presidential campaign":
    There's just no way she wins running as a victim. [...] She can't simultaneously put on boxing gloves and call herself the tough guy in the field ("i'm your girl"), ask for the keys to 1600 and the nuclear codes, and complain that Russert and boy candidates are being mean to her. She's asking to be made the most powerful person in the world, and aggrieved victim isn't part of that profile.
    I guess that's true logically, but is there some sort of rule that campaigns can't simultaneously advance contradictory messages? I am pretty sure they do it all the time.

    Assuming a female candidate is widely perceived as meeting the "toughness" requirement, which Clinton clearly is, then a few strategic uses of the victim card could be a perfectly useful part of a campaign's political arsenal.

  • The other way pretending to have been victimized becomes a political program, of course, is if it feeds an "any weapon to hand"/inconsistency/flip-flopping storyline, i.e. she says one thing then says another. And that hardy perennial probably is Clinton's greatest general-election vulnerability:

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Ann Powers on the new Britney Spears album:
[A]s seductive as the music is, it fails. Instead of reconciling the fantasy Britney with the one who breathes, these songs push aside her pain and defeat and substitute an almost militant wantonness. In the process, they abandon what made the invented Britney so appealing: her stance on the knife's edge between virtue and corruption, the innocence of a girl brash enough to declare "I'm not that innocent."

As the living, breathing Spears continues to crash downward in plain view, few seem troubled by the disconnect between the success of this album and the sorry state of its nominal maker. Even more disturbing, no one seems to care that the songs on "Blackout" uphold the very attitudes about femininity, sexual power, and the blur between reality and television-tabloid "reality" that have dragged Spears into misery -- and those of us enthralled by her into a state of callousness and cynicism.
UPDATE ... Link fixed.

Nation Sickened By Sight Of Happy Young Couple


The reason I find this so damn funny is probably the same reason my girlfriend says I have "intimacy issues."
OAK PARK, IL—Though sharply divided on the war on terror and domestic controversies such as abortion, drugs, and gay marriage, Americans are in almost unanimous agreement over one issue: that Oak Park, IL couple Dave Petrun and Julie DeSimone are totally sickening.

...According to an ABC News–
Washington Post poll released Monday, a significant majority of Americans believe the couple's persistent displays of affection, which include almost constant hand-holding, mutual giggling, and insufferably coy little kisses, were "fucking ridiculous."

...In recent weeks, elected officials in Nevada, South Dakota, and Virginia passed largely symbolic "Get A Room" ordinances designed to encourage Petrun and DeSimone to make their affectionate displays more private.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Goulet!


R.I.P. Robert Goulet.

Tax reform done right

From Scrappleface (via Greg Mankiw):
The GOP measure would repeal the AMT, and make up for the $65 billion in lost tax payments by levying a 4.6 percent surcharge on Americans who download alternative rock music through iTunes.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi immediately condemned the Republican proposal because, she said, “It places an unfair burden on people who already carry the weight of the world on their shoulders.”

In which the aloof and funereal economist ruins Halloween

Kevin Hassett recently published a brief article on the inefficiency of Halloween candy-giving. Putting aside the obvious juvenile weight-gaining that may be associated with such annual binging, Kevin's actually more concerned with the utility deadweight loss that comes from in-kind transfers. In other words, in fact in his own words, he would rather "Halloween donors give kids money instead of candy."
Economists haven't adopted the vainglorious practice of physicists and applied numbers to their laws, but if they did, the first law of economics would be that lump-sum transfers are more economically efficient than in-kind transfers. If you are going to give a gift to somebody, you should just give them the money. They will be a better judge of the best way to spend it.
He goes on to say:
As a conservative, I usually oppose heavy-handed regulation, but in this case, the stakes are too high. Perhaps confectioners should be required to only sell their Halloween candy in bags that mix many different types. That way, when families put the candy out for the trick-or-treaters, bowls will be filled with a wide variety of different types of candy, and each new child will be able to pick the confection that suits his or her fancy.
And from an economist at the conservative (dare i say neoconservative) American Enterprise Institute no less.

The Truth speaks

Lupe Fiasco dropping a three-and-a-half minute freestyle (a capella) in what looks like a crowded multi-purpose room at Eastern Michigan University.

I wish I knew more about the performance. There doesn't appear to be a stage (or even a DJ!). In fact, it almost looks like Lupe walked into a freshmen orientation and just grabbed the mic. Dig his peripatetic delivery as he makes sure everyone gets the full experience.

I've always felt Lupe had a spoken word origin to his style, and it's my impression that this kind of a capella performance is probably even more difficult than doing the same with a beat underneath. Given, the lack of beat allows for more flexibility in timing, but there's absolutely nothing to imply the rhythm except one's own cadence and nothing to fill in the space between lines except the audience's anticipation.

A Moral Case Against SCHIP Expansion

I seem to be on this "moral arguments" kick lately. After all, what good is evidence if an abstraction will do?

This short piece by fellow traveler Max Borders makes the following argument:
the left is attempting not only to co-opt the language of morality, but to do so with the up-is-down postmodern rhetoric that makes middle class people the "working poor" and calls coercive redistribution to them a "moral duty".
We've heard it before, and it's not really specific to SCHIP as much as it is applicable to any kind of welfare state (I think this line of reasoning goes back to at least Nozick). Unfortunately, Max's case is rather easy to refute (using the same unspecific moral language parameters he himself has set). That said, I am sympathetic to his argument but the piece is at best cute and at worst simply pedantic.

For a more humorous argument against SCHIP expanions, see this video.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the voucher

Megan McArdle (via Tyler Cowen) has an extended devil's advocate posting on the problem with school vouchers as an instrument for education reform.

Of course I was already on board that crazy ship SS Voucher before she raised the flag. In this post she attempts to pose what she sees as the most common criticisms of vouchers. And she makes overtures to the empirical evidence on the subject, but doesn't really make specific references, I think for the sake of keeping to the moral focus.

The main thread through her arguments, it seems to me however, is that opposition to vouchers boils down to a vision of the anointed public school system as a broken but perfectable system. Her point, and I would say possibly the most important one to me, is this is not the relevant comparison. The outcome of vouchers should be compared to the school system as it is, this year, for the children currently in it.

[For some empirical evidence, see here]

Friday, October 26, 2007

FEMA: we report, you decide

I don't know about all this Katrina v. Fires nonsense. I think we can agree the southern California fires have been handled better than Katrina. So congratulations to FEMA for, you know, not not doing its job.

To their credit, local officials (in San Diego County at least) were well organized from the get-go. My dad and sister, both briefly evacuated San Diego residents, seemed impressed with the coordination and communication between local officials and residents, though they were lucky enough to have family nearby to stay with and the means to get there. I'm not sure FEMA had much to do with the alleged good coordination, at least in the early stages. And the scale and scope were far less catastrophic than Katrina, not to undercut the severity of the crisis by any means.

I'm just not sure there's a lot to compare between Katrina and the fires. But don't tell that to the new FEMA! From Al Kamen's story on FEMA's 10/23 press conference:
"Are you happy with FEMA's response so far?" a reporter asked. Another asked about "lessons learned from Katrina."

"I'm very happy with FEMA's response so far," Johnson said, hailing "a very smoothly, very efficiently performing team."

"And so I think what you're really seeing here is the benefit of experience, the benefit of good leadership and the benefit of good partnership," Johnson said, "none of which were present in Katrina." (Wasn't Michael Chertoff DHS chief then?) Very smooth, very professional. But something didn't seem right. The reporters were lobbing too many softballs. No one asked about trailers with formaldehyde for those made homeless by the fires. And the media seemed to be giving Johnson all day to wax on and on about FEMA's greatness.

Of course, that could be because the questions were asked by FEMA staffers playing reporters. We're told the questions were asked by Cindy Taylor, FEMA's deputy director of external affairs, and by "Mike" Widomski, the deputy director of public affairs. Director of External Affairs John "Pat" Philbin asked a question, and another came, we understand, from someone who sounds like press aide Ali Kirin.

Obviously, FEMA has turned the corner.

Biggie in wax

Via Nah Right:

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I rather like this blog post title

From international relations expert Dan Drezner, see here.

Of course the underlying point is important too.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Kasparov on Bill Maher

The crazy 9/11 conspiracy theorists who disrupted Bill Maher's HBO talk show over the weekend got most of the press, for obvious reasons. But to my mind the show's best segment was Maher's interview with Garry Kasparov, greatest chess player of all time, who is now engaged in a brave campaign to challenge Vladimir Putin's grip on power in Russia. Kasparov systematically dismantles Maher's assumptions, usually before he has even completed his questions:
Bill Maher: When you look at what's going on in Russia, Putin has a very high approval rating, I mean there is something--

Garry Kasparov: How do you know? I mean are you seriously -- Are you relying on the polling results in a police state? I think that with the same tight control of media and the pervasive security force, I believe Bush and Cheney could enjoy the same approval rating here.
crossposted to What's Your Beef?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Why can't Congress get anything done?

The first thing to understand is that SCHIP is supported by 80 percent of Americans. And still 154 Republicans voted against overturning Bush's veto of the bill. Seventy-six percent of House Republicans voted against a program that 80 percent of Americans supported.

Not all of these Republicans represent gerrymandered safe seats, either. To choose one district I know well, Republican Sam Graves in Missouri's 6th is facing a serious challenger for 2008 in a district that is trending Democratic. Sam Graves voted against SCHIP. Why would Sam Graves do that?

It seems to me that the political story of 2007 has been the near-absolute discipline of Republicans in Congress in refusing to break with the White House on issue after issue. But what are the implications of this?

There are a few ways to look at it:

1.) Blame the Democratic leadership for failing to persuade enough Republicans to jump ship on things like the war or this SCHIP bill. Senate Democrats don't have the votes to end Republican filibusters on anything to do with the war, and today the House couldn't override the president's SCHIP veto. What kind of politicians can't build a consensus even when the politics are clearly, overwhelmingly on their side?

2.) Credit Republicans for sticking together. It could be for honest, principled reasons, it could be a political calculation, it could be because the rigidly top-down political messaging machine built during the Rove years is still the party's main machinery. But the party's strict discipline in 2007 is the reason the occasional defection here and there has never turned into a full-fledged anti-White House revolt, on any issue. And I am including immigration, I'm even including Alberto Gonzales. The Republican Party has stuck with Bush to a remarkable degree.

3.) Congressional Republicans are leading their party over a cliff. They still think the losses in 2006 were a fluke or some kind of temporary setback, and they've become so reliant on the White House and that political machine that they don't understand that voting against children's health insurance is not exactly in a politician's long-term best interest.

Not all of these are mutually exclusive, but they are different. In comments below, Levois called the Democrats weak and said they are less popular than Republicans, which I do not think is factually correct. Still, it may indeed turn out that voters blame Democrats for not getting anything done while failing to punish Republicans for keeping anything from getting done. I don't think this is a given, though, and it certainly isn't the most outcome that makes the most sense. (Not that sense plays a huge role in politics.)

But I am pretty sure voting against SCHIP hurts individual Republicans in specific districts (like Missouri's 6th) more than failing to pass the bill hurts Democrats as a whole.

Anyway, SCHIP is not dead. Senate Democrats have the votes. House Democrats need 13 more votes, not a huge number when there are 435 people in the body. Deals will be cut, threats will be made, the bill will be brought up again closer to the election, and it will pass. A bill that is supported by 80 percent of the American public has to pass. Doesn't it?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

SCHIP

I literally cannot believe this. I will post some thoughts later tonight.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The question that needed to be asked

Stephen Dubner puts it to his readers.

I just saw a Land Rover commercial

featuring a song by the Flaming Lips. Does this seem odd?

My bewilderment is not of the "I thought they would never sell out, blah, blah, blah" variety, but more of the "I never thought I'd see the day when a band like the Flaming Lips would be mainstream enough to appeal to car buyers" variety.

Does this all point to a kind of convergence in rock music, where "we're all mainstream now?"

The song was "Do You Realize?"

Monday, October 15, 2007

83 days until The Wire Season Five

Sasha Frere-Jones's new project to make people angry that I mentioned before is just pointing out that the Arcade Fire are boring and indie rock is super-white. Old news!

But I was rewarded for going to the New Yorker's site with a giant 11,000-word mega-profile of future Nobel Prize recipient David Simon. "The Wire is awesome" is not a news-flash, either, but I did like this insight about the show from Simon acquaintance David Mills:
“Though people don’t talk much about the humor in ‘The Wire,’ it’s there. You drop somebody into an alien environment—a closed society like the homicide cops or the drug culture—and the key to working your way into that culture is to understand the jokes, which David does. It’s crucial, because, if it weren’t there, the work would be too depressing. It’s crushing subject matter, but not necessarily to the cops—they’re making jokes while they’re looking at dead bodies—and not to the people shooting dope, even. They’re not necessarily walking around saying, ‘Woe is me.’ There’s a grim humor that springs out of that life.”
And here, direct from Simon's own mouth, is a bit of career advice for me:
“To be a decent city reporter, I had to listen to people who were different from me,” Simon explained. “I had to not be uncomfortable asking stupid questions or being on the outside. I found I had a knack for walking into situations where I didn’t know anything, and just waiting. A lot of reporters don’t want to be the butt of jokes. But sometimes it’s useful to act as if you couldn’t find your ass with both hands.”
Act like I can't find my ass with both hands...I am writing this down...

What's the matter with Kansas (State)?

When did they get so popular I mean. Quietly they put together the best basketball recruiting class in the country.

Maybe not so quietly. First-year coach Frank Martin doesn't seem to be shackled by the spectre of Bob Huggins. Is this the Mike Davis syndrome? In other words, will this last more than a season?

Also congrats go to my friends at Georgetown for nailing down arguably number one recruit in the country.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Right Brain vs. Left Brain test

If this test is accurate, then I am completely and totally right-brained. I cannot see the dancer spinning any direction but clockwise.

Meanwhile Megan McCardle says she sees her changing directions, and Tyler Cowen's commenters have all sorts of different experiences. Not me. My brain has only one interpretation of that image. Please help! Do you see it differently? I want to know that it is possible.

UPDATE [10/14 9:59am] ... Looking at this with fresh eyes following a good night's sleep, I was able to see the dancer turning counterclockwise...for about 30 seconds. But now I can't get it back.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Someday I think I'd like to win a Nobel Peace Prize

I have posted my big ups to Al Gore and the relevant political question -- not "Will he run?" but "Who will he endorse?" -- over at What's Your Beef?, my blog at the Wausau Daily Herald.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere-Jones is mysterious about a pending jihad:
You remember last year when everybody got all mad at me? If that was--to choose a physical analogy--a rowboat, on Monday we launch the QEII. All I will say is this: listen to the podcast before you write your scathing letter.
Well I'm interested. Another anti-Radiohead screed?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Season five coming


McNulty drinking again? But I liked the sober, stable, happy McNulty of Season 4 who was not really that important a cast member.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Good life


On the concrete outside the hotel, Wausau, Wisconsin.

...


In the sky.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Robot band

Plays "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley on the theremin:

(Via Sasha Frere-Jones.)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

"Yes and no" is not an answer

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, last seen making bold predictions that just happened to directly mirror the poll results of the day, today asks an interesting question: "Does Obama need to win Iowa?" His conclusion?
So, does Obama need to win Iowa? Yes and no.
(Original emphasis.) Great. Thanks for lending your expertise. Very prescient.

P.S. ... To be fair, Cillizza's post isn't quite as wishy-washy as I'm making it out to be: His point is that Obama can survive if Edwards wins Iowa but not if Clinton does. But I stand by my cheap shot! There's a faux-boldness to Cillizza pronouncements like "The truth is all three of the top-tier candidates need to win Iowa" that grates on me.
Young Buck said "Put me next to Kanye and he won't outsell me"? Doesn't Curtis kind of have to kick him out of G-Unit for that?
Question: How much should I volunteer to pay Radiohead for its new album? I have a steady job; is it ethical for me to just enter "£0.00" in the price field and accept the mp3s of one of my favorite rock bands for free?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

AMillionMonkeys on literature

This weekend I finished reading an obscure series of British novels known as the "Harry Potter" books, which I first became aware of over the summer. Has anyone else heard of these books? They are dynamite.

Then, also on Laura's recommendation, I read this pretty great piece on the series by obscure horror novelist Stephen King. King connects the success of the Harry Potter books to the previous king of kids' literature, R.L. Stine ("an adequate but flavorless writer"), which I think is a smart point. He also writes this:
One last thing: The bighead academics seem to think that Harry's magic will not be strong enough to make a generation of nonreaders (especially the male half) into bookworms...but they wouldn't be the first to underestimate Harry's magic; just look at what happened to Lord Voldemort. And, of course, the bigheads would never have credited Harry's influence in the first place, if the evidence hadn't come in the form of best-seller lists. A literary hero as big as the Beatles? "Never happen!" the bigheads would have cried. "The traditional novel is as dead as Jacob Marley! Ask anyone who knows! Ask us, in other words!"

But reading was never dead with the kids. Au contraire, right now it's probably healthier than the adult version, which has to cope with what seems like at least 400 boring and pretentious "literary novels" each year. While the bigheads have been predicting (and bemoaning) the postliterate society, the kids have been supplementing their Potter with the narratives of Lemony Snicket, the adventures of teenage mastermind Artemis Fowl, Philip Pullman's challenging His Dark Materials trilogy, the Alex Rider adventures, Peter Abrahams' superb Ingrid Levin-Hill mysteries, the stories of those amazing traveling blue jeans.
(Original emphasis.) The man has a point. Maybe people stop reading as they get older because novels for adults are so dull compared to all that fun kid stuff.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bad review

"But to the discerning ear"! Ah, thank you Ronnie Reese, a more condescending attitude is exactly what is needed in music criticism today.

That gem comes amid a pretentious, meandering review of Graduation in Stop Smiling, a magazine that still owes me money. Reese is explaining that those of us who like the album are hopeless charlatans who don't know what is good. Well, no accounting for taste, I guess.

But what is the meaning of this:
West’s modest, middle-class upbringing in the south suburbs of Chicago suggests a humble beginning, but having grown up the only child of a single parent, he is also accustomed to the spotlight. Yet it is often a spotlight of his own making, such as the one created with the now-infamous “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” remark during a televised Hurricane Katrina fundraiser, just three days after the release of his sophomore LP, Late Registration. Or his recent awards show outburst at the annual MTV Video Music extravaganza, two days before Graduation hit stores.
(Emphasis added.) No denying that Kanye did attract some attention to himself with that remark. But he also attracted an awful lot of productive attention to George W. Bush's handling of the Katrina aftermath. The whole appeal of Kanye West--well, a big part of it--is that his persona comprises the egotistical awards-show tantrums and a sense of social responsibility, both. Maybe Reese thinks both are undignified.

Or maybe I just don't have the highly refined, carefully discerning taste required to understand what Reese is talking about.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Will it be possible to get the straight story from this group?

"Kevin Spacey, Laura Dern, Denis Leary, John Hurt, Tom Wilkinson, Ed Begley Jr. and Bob Balaban have been set by HBO Films to star in 'Recount,' the drama about the controversial Florida results in the 2000 presidential election."

Rest of the story here. Should be a fun movie nonetheless.

UPDATE [9/25 9:30 AM]: I realized it may not be clear what I was implying.

Total Democratic/left-wing PAC contributions by individual:
Kevin Spacey - $29,000
Laura Dern - $800
Denis Leary - $2000
Ed Begley, Jr. - $16,100
Bob Balaban - $2300

Total Republican/right-wing PAC contributions by individual:
none found

UPDATE [9/26 5:36 PM]: At Haahnster's request...

Sydney Pollack (Exec. Producer) - $75,150 to Dem/left-wing (although he did give $1,000 to McCain in 2000)
Kevin Spacey (Producer) - see above
Paula Weinstein (Exec. Producer) - $22,825 to Dem/left-wing
Danny Strong (Writer) - $500 to Dem/left-wing

Monday, September 24, 2007

Kanye and Timbaland



Stronger Revisited from Kanye West on Vimeo.

"I got so many sounds, it's too much to go through. It hurts, gives me a headache." -- Timbaland

SEE ALSO:

"I got sounds upon sounds. There's nothing I don't have." -- Timbaland

P.S. ... AND IN OTHER NEWS, how about this new Jay-Z track? Very tight. Kingdom Come, what Kingdom Come? This is more like it.

UPDATE [9/24 10:27am] ... PLUS ALSO THIS OTHER THING: Dr. Dre grants his first interview in three years to the L.A. Times to tell us that...Detox is not finished yet. Right. Got it.

Friday, September 21, 2007

When I see an elephant fly

A while back (maybe a month or two now) I wrote a piece that was intended to run in the National Review Online. For a variety of reasons, it never did, so I thought the time has come to expose it to the light of day. Admittedly, it's a bit long and somewhat dated.
-----------------------------------------
One flew over the elephant’s nest

Earmarks are starting to look a little insane


If it weren’t so disheartening, it would be comical.

Last Tuesday, video started circulating of Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on the floor of the House, offering an amendment to strike another mundane earmarked appropriation. This ritual of Rep. Flake attempting to rain on an endless parade of questionable earmarks has become mere background noise on the Hill, buzz his colleagues are largely acclimated to. Or are they simply narcotized by spending?

In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the mental institution patients remain anesthetized by their own insecurity about what awaits them at home should they ever leave, that and a steady stream of medication. Which is why we root for the insufferable R. P. McMurphy to rile them up – to infuse his fellow patients with the spirit of who they once were. I’ll avoid any obvious Congressional analogies to the domineering Nurse Ratched, but it’s clear Rep. Flake and his ilk have become thorny McMurphy’s in the side of leadership.

In one memorable scene, McMurphy attempts to gather support in order to change a mundane scheduling rule – bureaucratically enforced by Nurse Ratched – so the residents can watch the World Series. Ratched ultimately wins the fight when it comes to a vote, the patients’ heartening enthusiasm turning to sheepish cowardice. And so it goes with challenging earmarks. Under Democratic leadership, and Republican leadership before it, Congress talks a big game but the votes always swing counter to rhetoric. Nothing plays better in the press than a paean to curbing runaway spending and exposing surreptitious earmark-laden appropriation bills. With “Bridge to Nowhere” having become the unofficial euphemism for such largesse, the argument for some reform (or at least some minimal restraint) is all but self-evident.

But to borrow from Rick James, spending is a hell of a drug. In this latest episode, the argument in support of Rep. Flake’s salvo is nearly tautological. Flake challenged an earmark for $1 million put in by Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) for the Center for Instrumented Critical Infrastructure, a group that as far as anyone can tell doesn’t even exist! Usually these strike-funding amendments center on the obvious lack of merit. But this latest earmark marked a new level of audacity: a non-recipient recipient.

Wait, it gets worse. According to the certification letter attached to the earmark, which explicitly identifies the earmark to its sponsor, the $1 million appropriation goes to a different group called Concurrent Technologies, a company that to its credit actually exists and has received earmarks before. Mr. Flake’s plea was simple: to whom is this money going, and do they actually exist? Rep. Murtha wasn’t there to answer the questions, and the sponsor of the bill was left to respond indifferently, “at this time I do not know.”

Maybe the discrepancy is a clerical error, or maybe the intended recipient actually does exist. But the intent of this amendment, as evidenced by Mr. Flake’s remarks, is to at least question spending shrouded in such mystery. Oh I almost forgot, Concurrent Technologies is a seven-figure contributor to Mr. Murtha.

If the results of an earmarking process gone awry are in any way comical, the tragic part is their inevitable outcome: Rep. Flake’s amendment was shot down 98-326 (the spending bill itself was approved by a similar margin). And so it goes with the tiring attempt to trim spending of its pork (Flake’s offered 54 such amendments since last year). Later in the week, Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) challenged Rep. Don Young (R-AK) on his loose spending ethics, which led to a rather publicized spat, and most recently Senate leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are attempting to thwart Sen. Jim DeMint’s earmark reform attempt.

Admittedly all this may seem like procedural bickering (and what’s a $1 million between friends anyway). Similarly, McMurphy’s administrative challenges to the indomitable Nurse Ratched were seemingly about changing when they were allowed to watch TV or do their chores. But the antagonistic protagonist was really trying to remind the patients of the independent, saner way of life they once knew. It’s unfortunate the inmates, er, Congress continues to swallow the numbing therapy of spending, fed to them in million-dollar doses, when they are fully capable of breaking the habit.

In Kesey’s novel, McMurphy ends up receiving forced shock therapy, and is ultimately lobotomized, turned into just another mindless patient. For now it’s reasonable to believe that Rep. Flake and his fellow pork-fighters won’t give up, but it’s not clear just how absurd earmarks have to become in order for their colleagues to wake up, lest the few sane ones end up smashing the window and flying the cuckoo’s nest themselves.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fill in the blank: The 'Surge' is _________

The answer is "leading to diverging conclusions." Is it working: the answer is unequivocally yes, no, and maybe so.

MIT professor Michael Greenstone (who also happens to look like an older Sufjan Stevens) fortunately has a very useful analysis of the strategy. Among his conclusions:
  • The data clearly suggest that deaths of civilians in Baghdad have fallen, and there is no evidence that the crackdown in Baghdad has shifted violence to the rest of the country.
  • Coalition troop fatalities have been stable since the surge, which in some ways signifies progress since they were on a steady upward trend prior to the surge.
  • The surge does not seem to have helped in other dimensions such as the amount of oil produced or hours of electricity in Baghdad.
And in what I think is the most interesting and clever part of the analysis, he uses Iraqi gov't bond prices as a market indicator of the likelihood of government breakdown.
  • the financial markets say the surge is not working. Since the surge started, the market’s estimate of the likelihood of default by the Iraqi government has increased by 40 percent.
The paper is here. A useful summary is here.
Garance Franke-Ruta on Fred Thompson's supposed sexiness:
At best, Thompson is what we women refer to as tall.
(Italics hers.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The two most interesting facts I read today

"The FAA as currently structured is impossible to run efficiently," says Langhorne Bond, who ran the agency from 1977 to 1981. BusinessWeek reports the air traffic control network runs on software that is so outdated that there are only six programmers left in the U.S. who are able to update the code.
and
Ask yourself this: What proportion of Americans do you think are satisfied with their jobs? Twenty percent? Thirty? In fact, according to the 2002 General Social Survey (GSS) from the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, among adults who worked 10 hours a week or more in 2002, a surprising 89 percent said they were very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their jobs. Only 11 percent said they were not too satisfied or not at all satisfied.
The first is from John Fund's column (with whom I had the pleasure of having lunch in Bucharest last week). The second is from Arthur C. Brooks in The American. Apparently not many people are satisfied with the job of programming archaic computer languages.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Curtis is tired

Kind of an extraordinary clip for how worn-out and depressive 50 Cent seems. Gets interesting around the two-minute mark and then even more interesting at the end:
(Clip via Status Ain't Hood)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Something sort of similar to consensus on the new AG

On the new nominee to be attorney general, Judge Michael Mukasey, conservative commentator Andy McCarthy says he is a
brilliant, honest guy who would carry out the business of the Justice Department with competence, fairness and integrity.
Meanwhile, liberal commentator Matthew Yglesias concludes that Mukasey
stands a good chance of rescuing the DOJ from its Gonzalez-era status as a cesspool of depravity and incompetence and bringing us back to the glory days of John Ashcroft when one primarily worried about the Attorney-General's ludicrously wrongheaded ideology.
Well, it is not quite a bipartisan paradise. But by the standards of this decade, it is actually kind of close...

[Crossposted to What's Your Beef?]

Friday, September 14, 2007

Kanye

My review of Kanye West's "Graduation" appeared in the Wausau Daily Herald's Thursday entertainment section. It didn't make it online, so I'm reprinting it here:
Review: Kanye West, Graduation (Wausau Daily Herald, 9/13/07)

Kanye West has a way of making his worst lines the most memorable. Though not a technically gifted rapper, he is an intensely engaging one, unafraid of silly rhymes and groan-worthy jokes. "I'm like a fly Malcolm X/ Buy any jeans necessary" is terrible, yes, but it sticks in your head.

West doesn't define himself against rap music, exactly, but he is aggrieved and thin-skinned about his place within it. Unapologetic about his middle-class upbringing, his rap persona see-saws between outsized boasting and moments of ego-deflating self-deprecation. "I feel the pressure, under more scrutiny/ And what I do? Act more stupidly," he raps on "Can't Tell Me Nothing," one of several standout tracks on "Graduation," West's excellent third solo album.

While his raps follow a similar script as on earlier albums, the beats on "Graduation," most of which West produced or co-produced, have taken a jarring turn. Just last album he was sampling Curtis Mayfield; here the jagged, synthetic tracks sound more influenced by krautrock than the Superfly soundtrack. West has always been a great producer, but the switch-up is not unwelcome: the tracks that sound like vintage Kanye also are the least interesting on the album. ("The Glory," especially, feels like paint-by-numbers.)

And West still has a knack for picking out a great sample. Album intro "Good Morning" takes a bit from Elton John's "Someone Saved My Life Tonight," and "Champion" uses a line from Steely Dan's "Kid Charlemagne" to create a moment of cocky call-and-response. Steely Dan asks, "Did you realize that you were a champion in their eyes?" and West responds matter-of-factly, "Yes I did."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Is Eric Gordon the best freshmen basketball player in the country?

Fellow Hoosier fans will surely hope so. But O.J. Mayo's debut in Mexico makes a credible case for the incoming USC Trojan.

Bottom line: Indiana has a better chance of keeping Gordon past his first year. USC better make plans to find a superior guard to replace Mayo.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I will not be buying "Curtis" tomorrow

And I take the word of everyone who has heard the new 50 Cent album that it is terrible. But "I Get Money" is a pretty great single:

"I run New York." How quaint.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Friday, September 07, 2007

Kanye's "Can't Tell Me Nothing"

Video with Zach Galifianakis and Will Oldham (!). And I like this couplet from the song:
I feel the pressure, under more scrutiny
And what do I do? act more stupidly

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The answer is: No, but apparently yes

The Corner's Ramesh Ponnuru asks an easy question:
Do conservatives really want to tie themselves to the position that the surge is not only working, but that there can be no doubt on the score and that anyone who acknowledges the existence of doubt is a heretic?
(Via Ross Douthat.)

"'If I have something named after me when I leave Congress,' he said, 'I'll consider my time here a failure.'"

The LA Times profiles my favorite congressman: Rep. Flake's Mission: Be a bug in their earmarks.
"This process is out of control," Flake said during a recent debate. "I think Democrats are as much to blame probably as Republicans are. The difference is, as Republicans, we pretend to stand for limited government."

Congress voted this year to require lawmakers to publicly disclose their earmarks. "But in order to cut the number, you've got to have some shame," Flake said, "and we haven't got there yet."
Where have all the Cold Cowboys gone?

Best line I read today

Craig's Republican colleagues must be checking the schedule for the next bus they can throw him under.
From Bruce Reed's latest "Has Been" column. The rest of the graph:
But if Sen. Craig needs a legal defense fund, Idaho Democrats will be happy to contribute. The state's Democrats haven't had a lucky break in 40 years. Last week's flameout seemed to follow the same pattern, as the biggest sex scandal in Idaho history quickly looked to be the shortest.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Monday, September 03, 2007

Wait a minute, Robert Draper is saying it was John Roberts who recommended Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court? Harriet "You are the best Governor ever" Miers? For the Supreme Court? Not George and Laura Bush but Chief Justice John Roberts?

Roberts's spokeswoman denies it. Which is good because it makes absolutely no sense.
The Washington Post is on the set of the last episode of The Wire. Plus video.
Department of obvious headlines.

Friday, August 31, 2007

It's cynical all right, but that doesn't make it true

Michael Crowley at TNR blogs that the retirement announcement of increasingly anti-war GOP elder Sen. John Warner could be good news for Bush because:
A Warner seeking re-election and in need of Northern Virginia swing voters, if I may be cynical, would likely have been increasingly critical of the war. But now that he's freed from political calculations, I wouldn't be shocked to see him adopt a Bushian "forget-the-polls, what-matters-is-the-judgment-of-history" pose and start saying we need to tough it out in Iraq.
This is an odd way to look at it. It's true Virginia is trending Democratic, but why would being freed from political calculations necessarily make Warner more pro-war?

Isn't it at least as possible that Warner's ties to the GOP -- including the fundraisers and political machinery necessary for any reelection campaign -- caused him to hold back in his criticizing the war? Surely a 28-year Republican senator faced political pressures from the right, too, not just the left.

It's worth considering that Warner may actually believe the war is going badly. And doesn't being freed from political considerations mean, you know, being freed from political considerations?

P.S. ... There is another way I can imagine Warner's announcement helping Bush, and that is if it makes it easier for Bush and the media to write off Warner's war criticism. Instead of "respected elder statesman John Warner," he now becomes "soon-to-retire-from-politics John Warner," which could lessen the impact of criticisms going forward.

P.P.S. ... Still a very, very hard seat for Republicans to hang onto in 2008, though. Who's going to beat Mark Warner?

Event #2: Find an appropriately ironic T-shirt

"The Hipster Olympics" (via Megan at Asymmetrical Information)

"Today Stuyvesant has a remarkably diverse and varied student body, ranging from math geeks to science nerds. "

I’m even reminded of something my dad said to me at my graduation. He put his hand on my shoulder, looked me right in the eye and said, “I’m not your father.” Then he wrapped me in his strong, Samoan arms and said “don’t ever call me.”
From Conan O'Brien's Speech to Stuyvesant High School Class of 2006.

Also, here is Conan's Class Day 2000 Speech at Harvard. Both well worth reading/listening to.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Most interesting line I read today

[To borrow from one of Tyler Cowen's blog tricks]
The federal highway system--the "Interstates," like I 35W--has a total length of about 50,000 miles, and though that is only 1 percent of the total highway mileage in the United States, it carries almost a quarter of the nation's total road traffic, amounting to some trillion persons a year, and half its truck traffic.
From Richard Posner's analysis of the Minneapolis bridge collapse and the infrastructure "crisis" (quotation marks his, emphasis mine).
Truly even libertarians and economists might have to acknowledge the vast efficiency gains from certain public infrastructure investment. At least we must say there is some unappreciated economy of scale going on here.

UPDATE [8/31 1:43pm EST]: Some related reading
--In "The New Privatization," Steven Malanga overviews the turning over of major freeways in
Indiana, Chicago, and elsewhere to the private sector.

-- Back in 1992, Anthony Downs (who had previously made his name by writing one of the most cited books on the economics of voting and democracy several decades prior) wrote the bible of the economics of traffic.

--Google Maps introduced real time traffic info back in February. Where have I been?