Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Angelina Jolie

is right about Darfur.
I attended an oral argument at the Supreme Court yesterday. My story about it, published in today's St. Joseph News-Press, can be found here.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Win some lose some

A resounding 30 percent of the people of Chicago have spoken and the results are what they are.

Surprise: Arenda Troutman's loss in Ward 20. Who knew getting indicted for allegedly taking bribes would be enough to lose an aldermanic election? This could represent progress of a sort...

Bright spots: Reilly beats Natarus in the 42nd, Sandi Jackson beats Darcel Beavers in the 7th.

Mayor: Whatever.

Safe for now: Vi Daley (43rd) [UPDATE: Looks like Vi "No Relation" Daley is headed for a run-off], Bernie Stone (50th), Danny Solis (25th)

The Trib has a roundup of the aldermanic elections and some good video up, including Arenda Troutman ranting about a conspiracy.

UPDATE [2/28 9:18am] ... More runoffs. Looks like a late-breaking surge in Ward 50 means a run-off for Bernie Stone, too. Good luck Naisy Dolar! Two incumbents I want to win are facing run-offs, too: Dorothy Tillman (3rd) and Rey Colon (35th).
What?!!?! But I thought Hillary Clinton had the black vote sewed up...

Monday, February 26, 2007

Vote for Dorothy Brown

Here in DC I have not been obsessing on tomorrow's Chicago municipal elections as much as I should be -- though obviously the mayor's margin of victory is a subject of interest, and there are a number of aldermanic races that I'm eager to see the results of (especially Reilly vs. Natarus). At any rate I can't let this week's anti-Daley plea by the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky pass without a link. It's called "He's Going to Win: Here's why you should vote against him anyway":
So let’s see. We have corruption, a gutless and clueless City Council, a dysfunctional transportation system, lousy schools and parks, rising property taxes, off-the-books budgeting, and a mayor whose reelection is a foregone conclusion. ...

You still have a choice. If you don’t use public trains, buses, parks, or schools; if you’re not a teacher losing a pension; if you can afford skyrocketing taxes (and believe me, after the election, they’ll rise): if you’re OK with Daley personally controlling billions of tax dollars; and if you feel corruption is the price we pay for decent garbage collection—then by all means vote for the mayor.
Otherwise, don't.

(Thanks CandyCaneSammy for pointing me to the article.)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

I don't see many movies so I don't care much about the Oscars. But I am hoping Forest Whitaker gets Best Actor for The Last King of Scotland. His portrayal of Idi Amin was incredible -- effusive and charismatic with a hair-trigger temper. I didn't realize Whitaker was as big a dude as he is (IMDB has him at 6'2" 220 lbs.), but he used that physical presence to look and act like the hulking, imposing Amin.

The film copped out a bit by telling its story through the eyes of a fictional white European visitor to Uganda, but no matter: it's Whitaker's movie, carried by his performance. Hopefully it's Whitaker's year.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

How to fire a public school teacher

Ever wonder why there are so many teachers who don't even pretend to care? Here's a hint.

It's large pdf file, but worth playing with: "How to Fire a DCPS Teacher," a Washington CityPaper feature by Chris Peterson that's cleverly laid out like a board game. The particulars of this story are D.C.'s, but the take-home message -- and many of the particulars! -- applies equally to most every major city in the U.S. You must admit that Steve Jobs had a point.

P.S. ... And yes, yes, there are lots of great highly motivated teachers, I know this. Some are members of my family. But I'd think those teachers would be the most incensed about seeing lazy and/or incompetent colleagues being paid the same for doing half the work, or less than half the work.
NYT's Janet Maslin on William T. Vollmann's new book, Poor People, a nonfiction book of anecdotes and interviews culled from all over the place. Maslin isn't sold, I guess, but I'm interested: Vollmann can be very good when he isn't writing books that are over a billion pages long.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

CNN: News or poison?

Here's a screenshot promoting CNN's Paula Zahn Now, which today tackles the interesting, reasonable, non-loaded question Hip-Hop: Art or Poison?. You can even vote in a click poll:

Actually the click poll seems to be down right now. Maybe it's just not accepting my vote because I'm voting "art."

But check the ad on the right side of the screen, I think it says all that needs saying about CNN's real target audience with this "special." You kids get off my lawn!

(Thanks Kat for noticing the "art or poison" tagline on CNN.)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Back in college, my roommate Jeremy and I speculated that Bob Dylan was probably the most-covered artist in rock history. I still think that might be true, though I don't know how to quantify it. Anyone?

Anywho, my brother, The Haahnster, has posted his list of the top 10 Dylan covers of all time, with some favorites (one guess what's #1) and some interesting lesser-known or live-version choices. Do not miss the cameo appearance of Peter, Paul and Mary at #10!





Monday, February 19, 2007

Since I am out in D.C. this quarter I am missing the aldermanic campaigns back home. But Chicago Reader columns like this by Mick Dumke make me feel like I am back home again...

UPDATE [2/19 5:25pm] ... Publicprivate a.k.a. Ms. AMillionMonkeys points me to this funny ad from Brendan Reilly in his campaign to knock off Ald. Burt Natarus: Diapers on horses, indeed. This one about Natarus's donations from contractors is quite effective, too.

Free Drama

Susan M. Shapiro [corrected] yesterday had a long feature on DJ Drama and the Aphilliates, the mixtape DJs who were arrested in January on some bullshit. The story is worth reading all of, but this will get you started:
If anyone involved with the raid knew that the men they had arrested were two of the most famous D.J.’s in the country, they didn’t let on while the cameras were rolling. For local law enforcement, the raid on Drama and Cannon’s studio was no different from a raid they executed in October on an Atlanta factory where a team of illegal immigrants was found making thousands of copies of popular DVDs and CDs to sell on the street. Along with the bootlegged CDs, the police found weapons and a stash of drugs in the factory. (The Fox report on the DJ Drama raid included a shot of a grave-looking police officer saying, “In this case we didn’t find drugs or weapons, but it’s not uncommon for us to find other contraband.”)

But Drama and Cannon’s studio was not a bootlegging plant; it was a place where successful new hip-hop CDs were regularly produced and distributed. Drama and Cannon are part of a well-regarded D.J. collective called the Aphilliates. Although their business almost certainly violated federal copyright law, as well as a Georgia state law that requires CDs to be labeled with the name and address of the producers, they were not simply stealing from the major labels; they were part of an alternative distribution system that the mainstream record industry uses to promote and market hip-hop artists. Drama and Cannon have in recent years been paid by the same companies that paid Kilgo to help arrest them.
Lil Wayne's mixtape Dedication 2 with DJ Drama was one of my favorite albums of last year, mine and most other rap fans. Treating Drama like a simple bootlegger is straight ridiculous. Mixtapes are an integral part of rap music, and if it's illegal for some young rapper to flow over a better-known rapper's beat, then the law needs to change.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Brother Jim can't preach on the library lawn

The Brother Jim case I covered last fall had its decision come down this week. Judge Richard Posner agrees with the defendant, a traveling campus evangelist, that preaching is not "soliciting" as the university's policy defines it. But Brother Jim's argument still doesn't persuade Posner:
Brother Jim argues that since the lawn is public property and is suitable for speechifying, he can no more be forbidden to preach there than he could be forbidden to preach in a public park. That is incorrect. ... Public property is property, and the law of trespass protects public property, as it protects private property, from uninvited guests. ...

The application of the university’s solicitation policy to Brother Jim brings him to the verge of victory. The policy as interpreted by the defendants to cover preaching the Gospel is hopelessly vague and thus a supple weapon for excluding from the university lawn those outsiders whose message the university disapproves of. But Brother Jim falls just short of prevailing because he has failed to show that any uninvited outsider has ever been permitted to use the lawn for any purpose.
(Original emphasis.)

Friday, February 16, 2007

My story about the House Iraq resolution, published today in the St. Joseph News-Press, can be read by net-citizens here.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

What about Brownback?

Politico columnist Roger Simon, quoting a McCain 2000 campaign operative on why most conservatives still don't realize that Rudy Giuliani is a pro-life, pro-gay-marriage, twice-divorced adulterer:
"There has not been a sustained conversation about Giuliani's views on social and cultural issues because there isn't a candidate who profits from raising it," Schnur said. "Who benefits from tearing up Giuliani for his stance on gay marriage and abortion? Romney doesn't, because Giuliani pulls votes away from McCain. And McCain doesn't want to tear up Giuliani, because with Giuliani gone, then McCain would be most moderate person in the Republican race."

Which is about the niftiest explanation I have ever heard.
Yep, that about covers all the angles! It's not like there's a hardcore social conservative candidate in the Republican field who is kind of a dark horse and would benefit greatly by hitting the others hard for their lack of ideological dedication to conservative causes... Oh, wait...

P.S. ... And it's not like there's anyone in the field with a highly motivated grassroots army likely to be dissatisfied with Giuliani, McCain and Romney and ready to do the bidding of some lesser-known candidate...
I don't know, some of the jokes in the Barack Obama magazine bit are kind of funny. Those anchors are terrible, though. And that laugh track is hideously artificial.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Obama as a young pol

Edward McClelland's Salon story about Barack Obama as a young pol has been getting linked to a lot; I finally read it and it is great, a complicated portrait heavy on local details and keen observations of Obama as a young state senator.

McClelland has convincing details painting Obama as somewhat haughty and arrogant during his failed 2000 campaign to unseat U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush -- but that loss seems to have spurred him to mature as a person, and it clearly allowed him to hone his political approach. The contrasts between the Obama of 2000 and the Obama of 2004 were stark to McClelland, and the way the story illuminates them says interesting things about Obama's 2008 candidacy, about political ambition itself and about all the "Obama isn't black enough" stories that are still going around.

Never ever?

Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus, talking about the Plame case on Frontline's "News War" last night:
I never identified my source and I never will.
That interview was recorded after Pincus had been deposed for the grand jury, but before he'd been called to testify in the trial. Pincus on the stand this week: Er, "never" is kind of a strong word...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A. No, Dick Cheney will not testify. Neither will Scooter Libby.

Who knows, but my sense is that this is bad for Libby. Cheney's "awesome authority" (as yesterday's NYT story put it) could have swayed some jurors into believing Libby was so busy in his job that he just forgot all about the anti-Joseph Wilson smear campaign. Now about the only thing they have to go on is a few thin inconsistencies from Ari Fleischer and maybe the journalists.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Now, Libby

Scooter Libby's defense lawyers opened their argument today by calling Bob Woodward, Walter Pincus and Robert Novak, all reporters who didn't get the leak about Valerie Plame from Libby.

The idea is to undermine the prosecution argument that the Vice President's office was focused on the matter, to make it seem more plausible that Libby could have simply forgotten he knew that Valerie Plame was CIA. But of course the preponderance of administration sources who were talking to reporters about Plame also indicates that this was a big deal within the White House, not some easily forgotten passing fancy.

More to the point, none of the reporters' testimony gets to the actual charges in the case, which are perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to a grand jury. Contrary view here, but I am more persuaded by Jane Hamsher's summary of the legal strategy on FireDogLake:
What exactly the defense was trying to prove, other than that there were journalists in Washington DC Libby didn't talk to about Valerie Plame, was a bit of a mystery.
(Original emphasis.) Based on what Pincus said on the stand, it does seem clear that Ari Fleischer gave contradictory testimony, something the defense may be able to exploit. But that's Ari Fleischer -- you've got to expect a little lying around the edges.

Next question is: Does Cheney testify? And if so, does he say anything Patrick Fitzgerald can use?

Kasparov on Putin

Talking to Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post:
"If we succeed in uniting behind a candidate and that candidate is not registered, it could lead people to rally," Kasparov says. "And 50,000 might be enough for the regime to collapse because of its paranoia."

Ultimately the regime's vulnerability lies in its basic nature, Kasparov suggests. In the system Putin has created, Kasparov sees elements of feudalism ("local bosses loyal to the top man in exchange for rights to loot the region"), Mussolini-style corporate fascism and old-style KGB brutality. But in the end, "this is not the geopolitical monster of Soviet times. This is all about money. The government is business. It's about Gazprom, it's about Rosneft."

Sunday, February 11, 2007


I had planned to go look at the Jasper Johns exhibit today, but instead my roommates and I watched seven episodes of The Wire in a row. No regrets.

Friday, February 09, 2007

I asked Sen. Sam Brownback yesterday about his position on the letter sent by Sens. Warner, Hagel et al.

Here is the story I wrote for the St. Joseph News-Press about what he told me.

Interesting people talking about themselves

My man Matt Weir points me to the Washington Post's very cool new online feature, onBeing. It's a series of short video interviews with interesting nonfamous people -- so far a nun, a kid, a cheesemaker and a gay Mormon -- shot in front of a white screen and edited into compact, captivating short stories.

My favorite so far is Gio Escalante, age 7, but all the subjects are quite likable. A new interview will be posted each week, meaning this project will probably only get better. Go take a look, it will make you smile.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

More debate debate

This indication of Republican support for the Iraq debate that Republican senators blocked on Monday means it's one step closer, I'm sure. But I can count. Sen. Harry Reid needs 60 votes to start the debate. Monday's vote was 49-47. Forty-nine plus seven is less than 60. So there still aren't enough votes to allow debate to begin. Who else will feel political pressure to sign on? I'm looking at you, Brownback...

UPDATE ... Looks like they're saying they'll use other procedural methods to get the Warner resolution to the floor -- like attaching it as an amendment to other bills -- not try to formally end the implied Republican filibuster by getting 60 votes. Steve Clemons of The Washington Note has some explanation and the text of the letter these seven sent to the Senate leadership here.

P.S. ... Easy-to-digest summaries of the factions and angles in the Senate Iraq debate here.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Dog bites man

Of course Todd Stroger appointed his first cousin to a $142,000 job in his cabinet. That is how they do. If you ask me Chicago is not even allowed to be pissed about this. Nepotism? Hello, you just elected Todd Stroger Cook County Board President.
Jonathan Chait on HRC's non-inevitability:
If you go back and read what campaign reporters were writing four years ago, they all assumed Lieberman would enjoy massive black support owing to his role in the 2000 Florida primary fiasco, which offended black Democrats far more than white ones. The same assumption now seems to hold for [Hillary] Clinton and black voters, with impeachment taking the place of Florida as the defining confrontation that supposedly sealed the eternal loyalty of that constituency. But the far more plausible analysis is that black voters are disproportionately poor, and therefore less likely to spend a lot of time following political news, and therefore (like all low-intensity voters) prone to giving pollsters the name of the best-known candidate. As the election approaches and they tune in more carefully, their choices, like those of the electorate generally, could easily change. (If you have a short memory, I'll remind you that no, Joe Lieberman did not enjoy a massive wave of black support when the primaries arrived.)
The Senators and the Surge is the interactive Web feature Matt Lynch and I did about the range of reactions in Congress to the president's troop increase. Check it out here.

Laura and I near the pandas

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Giuliani, please

Not seeing Giuliani as Republican nominee. Here are two people who see things differently:
  • John McIntyre of RealClearPolitics is right to point out that Giuliani's candidacy undermines McCain's. McCain's support among social conservatives is still weak, so he won't be able to attack Rudy too hard on social issues. But that shouldn't stop Mitt Romney -- or Sam Brownback! -- from making hay out of Giuliani's pro-life, pro-gay, twice-divorced adultering ways. It's not a two-man race.

  • Glen Greenwald offers that hawkishness and social conservatism are not two distinct things among Republican base voters -- meaning some will forgive Giuliani for being socially moderate because he holds such hawkish foreign policy views. Interesting point, but goes both ways, doesn't it? Won't some also distrust Rudy's hawkishness on the grounds that he isn't socially conservative?
UPDATE [2/7 1:24pm]... TNR's Jonathan Chait responds to Greenwald.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Message to the Person Who Stole Laura's Suitcase from a Baggage Carousel at O'Hare Airport: You are worthless and small. Bereft of empathy, not even human. You are headed for a painful karmic reckoning. Return that suitcase now or you are over.

UPDATE [2/6 11:33am] ... Nevermind. The bag wasn't stolen -- bags never get stolen, everyone knows that -- that was just the line the airport gave to cover its ass. Rather, the bag was lost; now it's found. It's been returned, is in Laura's hands, and has everything in it that it had before. It's enough to make you slightly less cynical about humankind, though perhaps not about airport management...
Among the Republican senators who voted against allowing debate on the anti-troop increase resolution were Sam Brownback, R-Ks., who has said he opposes the policy, and John Warner, R-Va., whose name is on the resolution that would've gotten the most votes. Straight party-line vote for these guys, nevermind their actual, you know, beliefs.

Crossing party lines: Norm Coleman, R-Minn., who must be terrified about having to run for reelection in Minnesota in 2008, Al Franken or no.

And look who missed the vote altogether: John McCain, R-Ariz. Real straight-talker, that guy, true to his convictions. I'm sure he had somewhere very important to be.

Bright spot

"Arguably the best halftime show in Super Bowl history." Yes, it was.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

I don't actually totally get this comic strip, but it is about The Wire, therefore I like it.

Heimlich: My Dad's a dick, and his maneuver is not so great either

One time my wife performed the Heimlich maneuver on a lady at a swanky art opening who was choking on a meatball. I'm trained in this!, Laura assured the other art show types, as she pressed her fists beneath the lady's sternum, lifting her feet off the ground in the process.

I did not get to see this incident, as I was upstairs in that museum looking at shrunken heads. But I have it on good authority that even after Laura cleared the "trachea-sized meatball" from the woman's airway, the art-show lady did not even say thank you to Laura, who had just saved her life.

If his son Peter is to be believed, Dr. Henry Heimlich is exactly the sort of guy who wouldn't say thank you to someone who saved his life, either. The Heimlich story has intrigue, family politics and medical conspiracies:
Peter Heimlich, who lives in Idaho, began researching his father's career five years ago "and to my astonishment, I turned up a remarkable history of malfeasance and ethical misconduct," he said.

The son has no quarrel with the Heimlich maneuver's effectiveness when used for choking, but with how his father badmouthed other methods. "He tried to ruin the careers and reputations of other doctors, simply because they disagreed with him," the younger Heimlich said. Health organizations that once OK'd the maneuver for drowning victims now have made an about-face. The American Heart Association, in its journal, Circulation, said that the Heimlich maneuver for drowning situations is "unnecessary and potentially dangerous" and is "not recommended."

...Since the Heimlich's heyday, the luster of the famous name faded as the doctor extended his reach into drowning rescue to promoting his maneuver to deal with asthma attacks and to other ventures (including touting that AIDS can be cured by injecting people with malaria). Each cause has drawn fire from the medical establishment.
Injecting people with malaria, huh? I'm not a doctor, but that doesn't sound quite right to me. Peter even has an anti-Heimlich Web site. He's a man on a mission! And while he may or may not be settling personal scores, he does seem to have a point about his father...

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Laura is coming to visit me in, like, 12 hours. This is the cause of great excitement. We are going to eat steaks and live it up this weekend.

Hip-hop doesn't need to be cleaner

A better hed for this Sun-Times story would be "Youths to researchers: We'll tell you what you want to hear."

It is not surprising that young people tell researchers that there's too much violence and misogyny in hip-hop -- maybe there is -- but it is dispiriting that researchers for the U. of Chicago-based Black Youth Project seem to be so uninquisitive about the true dynamic of young listeners and hip-hop:
"At one point, we asked, 'Why don't you just stop listening to it?' And they said, 'Well, there's not much else. This is what's been given to us,'" said Cathy J. Cohen, a U. of C. political science professor who was the principal investigator for the Black Youth Project.
According to the article the research shows that even though 60-something percent of black youths disapprove of its "sex and violence," most of them listen to rap and/or watch rap videos daily.

"There's too much sex and violence in rap" is certainly the kind of thing people say in response to academic surveys. But images of power -- money, guns, sex -- in rap music are attractive to young people precisely because of their outlaw cachet. If young listeners' behavior doesn't mirror the answers they're giving to researchers -- and it doesn't -- then what is the research really telling us?

Instead of reinforcing the same tired categories, wouldn't better research look at the jumble of conflicting messages and complicated images that come out of hip-hop? An emphasis on "negative" vs. "positive" images can't account for the nuance that rap fans see all the time within rap tropes and genres.

Let's ask some better questions. And anything is better than taking "Well, there's not much else, this is what's been given to us" at face value.

UPDATE [2/2 11:57am] ... Thanks to Jake for this link to a more thorough write-up of BYP surveys, which look at many things besides just black youths' feeling toward hip-hop.