Friday, March 30, 2007

After Obama

Who gets his seat if he's elected president? Rich Miller quotes an article from CongressDaily that offers some reasonable speculation and some insanity. "[T]here is speculation that Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich might want to serve in the Senate." (!) And do not miss the hilarious last graf involving Chicago Mayor William M. Daley.

P.S. ... What about Dan Hynes?
Tom Breihan on Rich Boy. And Hua Hsu on Devin the Dude.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

No Alberto Gonzales = chicken wings

Laura and I made a bet last week: If Alberto Gonzales is still U.S. Attorney General as of 5 p.m. this Friday, I have to buy dinner at her favorite Ethiopian restaurant. If he steps down, she buys me a giant bucket of hot wings. What is today, Wednesday? I still like my chances!

P.S. ... Anyone think he survives another week? Two? Can he slog on like Rumsfeld for years yet? Place your bets in comments. I won't buy you zilzil tibs, but I will most definitely give propers to whoever has the closest guess.
Via The Opinionator, Ross Douthat on the GOP 2008 field:
The GOP has three major problems going into 2008: The war in Iraq, the exhaustion of the Reaganite "tax cuts and small government" domestic agenda, and the fact that the party's culture-war agenda, long a winner for the party, looks increasingly hard-edged and bigoted to many moderate voters. Therefore, what the party needs for the general election is a candidate who can plausibly distance himself from both the failures in Iraq abroad and Grover Norquist at home, and who can find a way to reach out to cultural moderates without abandoning the party's principles on issues like abortion. It needs a heterodox conservative, in other words, and it has a bunch of them in the primary campaign -- but the leading contenders have heterodox records on precisely the wrong issues. ...

It needs someone whose pro-life convictions are a given, and who is therefore free to distance himself from the Jerry Falwells in the party without forfeiting the support of most social conservatives. Instead, it has candidates with dubious pro-life convictions who are rushing to embrace the Falwells of the world to cover over their weaknesses on that front. And so on.
One thought. Douthat is strongly pro-life: Is he overvaluing the importance of a candidate who doesn't "[abandon] the party's principles on issues like abortion"? Why not simply woo cultural moderates by being culturally moderate and screwing the religious right? Could work!

(If nothing else, it would make Dan at Move On and Shut Up happy.)
Joan Walsh on The Politico:
[S]omehow Beltway insiders frequently wind up talking the same clubby, conventional-wisdom language. ... In its early days the Politico is demonstrating the same coziness with power and pack reporting mentality that's sadly been the hallmark of old media -- even if you find it on the Web.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I am in Holland, Michigan. It's for school. If you ever visit the New Holland Brewing Company, my advice is to skip the "Existential" brew; it is not very good and causes ennui. But it did remind me that existence precedes essence.

Today a girl in my class explained to me that she doesn't like animals because she is from New York City and is a "city person." This makes no sense, so I told her it made no sense. Maybe if we'd been talking about, say, pigs or horses or cows, and she hadn't ever been around them and so didn't like them, okay. But the animal in question was a friendly old beagle. I didn't think even New Yorkers were too cool to like beagles.
Jay-Z out at Def Jam?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Yeah this should be good. Damn, I wish I still had the federal courts beat.

UPDATE [3/27 3:04pm] ... What do you know, he didn't answer any questions. Not too shocking I guess...

Sunday, March 25, 2007

How AMillionMonkeys is part of Bush's political legacy

(From Pew via Washington Monthly.)

I wasn't interviewed by any pollsters, but this Pew graph includes me. I was a senior in college when Bush became president, and though I ultimately voted for Al Gore I certainly didn't consider myself a Democrat, just an above-it-all left wing college kid.

The Republicans' impeachment of Bill Clinton had seemed dumb to me -- but then, to me the whole government, the whole process seemed kind of dumb. When Bush came around on a campaign stop, some of my friends walked around with signs that said "Vote Ketchup" and "Vote Mustard" to make fun of people who identified with either party.

How foolish I was! I even gave serious consideration to voting for Ralph Nader. But Ohio was in play and I was worried about bad Supreme Court appointments Bush might make.

After Bush v. Gore, I began the transformation from someone who was vaguely dissatisfied with the way the country was run to someone with an intense (some say obsessive!) interest in the real-life workings of politics and government -- even though it is kind of dumb. The reason: simply because of a frustrating, inchoate sense that Bush was a man of poor judgment.

According to Pew, today self-identified Republicans/lean-Republicans are at a nearly 20-year low and likely dropping, while self-ID'd Democrats/lean-Democrats are at a nearly 20-year high and apparently rising. I wasn't the only one who felt that way.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Chris Cillizza's political rankings are a bit like John McCain's NCAA picks. Dull! He just lists the pols by their current position in early polling. So it's Giuliani then McCain then Romney vs. Clinton then Obama then Edwards. I know matchups between politicians are a lot more predictable than NCAA winners, but is Cillizza really saying nothing is going to change between now and primaries?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Al Gore's testimony: Pretty bad ass. This clip of Sen. Barbara Boxer forcing Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe to give Gore time to answer is a nice bit of Senate drama. These other ones of Gore speaking are good too.

Pass me the (cough syrup) bottle, Mr. Jones

Ahhh, a new Mike Jones single:
Mike Jones is getting kind of polished, and that is not necessarily a good thing for Mike Jones. But I like the childrens' choir.

P.S. ... My sister's friend named her chihuahua Mike Jones, which I think is the funniest thing ever. Imagine some lady at a dog park calling out "Mike Jones! Mike Jones!" after her yipping little rat-dog...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I call it "Everything Stacks Up Against You"

It is kind of weird or whatever, but for anyone interested here is a sound collage I made out of some things I recorded in D.C., including a dixieland jazz band and a congressman lecturing me about emboldening the enemy.

Alderman ducks responsibility (grass is green, sky is blue, etc.)

An anonymous alderman told the Reader's Ben Joravsky that on the Olympic bid, he or she sees no reason to rock the boat:
I voted for it 'cause we ain't gonna get it anyway, so why let his honor blame me for something we ain't gonna get anyway? Get it?
This could be almost any Chicago alderman talking, of course, but it reminds me of Ald. Danny Solis on the big box ordinance, advising Mayor Daley to "let the courts take care of it."

Other people will deal with it, so why sweat it. The Chicago City Council is not so much about taking responsibility for stuff.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Trib: We (heart) Alberto Gonzales

Tribune does its part to keep political hack Alberto Gonzales as U.S. attorney general, runs a substance-free puff-piece on its Sunday front page called "Dazzling rise from difficult history." Dazzling!

No mention of any U.S. Attorney firings, lying to Congress, taking direction as the attorney general from Karl Rove, etc. etc. Instead, an oblique reference to the "current tempest" and a whole lot of Oprahesque personal stories about the hardships poor Alberto has overcome. It is really some Fox News-level propaganda.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Friday, March 16, 2007

One of my final projects for this quarter, a Web package on the political and legal hurdles faced by syringe exchange programs, can be read here. Thanks to my co-reporters Matt Lynch, Kate Raiford and Philip Turner, and to the lovely Laura Scudiere for photography.

P.S. ... See all of my classmates' projects here.

P.P.S. ... Special note to Haahnster: Note the (pretty obvious) Neil Young reference in the title of our Web package!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Biden gets fired up

What with all the gaffes and lack of message discipline, Sen. Joseph Biden isn't much of a candidate for president. My idea that he'd potentially make a good VP candidate surely ranks among this blog's most embarrassing errors in judgment. But he is a serious foreign policy thinker, and his plan to partition Iraq is the best option among a lot of bad ones.

Here he is Wednesday speaking on the Senate floor with genuine, righteous anger at the Bush administration's incompetence in Iraq:
You may say he talks like someone who's running for something. Well, how about Secretary of State? This is a tour de force.
Brownback: Hurray for homophobia!

UPDATE [9/15 9:46am] ... Blogs 4 Brownback: Intolerance toward gays is a "minor issue."

The first great rap album of 2007

is Rich Boy by Rich Boy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Trib plays catch-up with AMillionMonkeys

The Chicago Tribune story today about Karl Rove's and Denny Hastert's interference in the appointment of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is all well and good. But I had this story months ago...

P.S. ... See also the way I tormented a poor intern at the ICPR luncheon that day...
Bush really is the new Truman. But what is with the slight upturn in his approval ratings? That can't last.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

John McCain's NCAA picks

Here is who John McCain has picked to get to the Final Four:
  • Kansas
  • Florida
  • Ohio State
  • North Carolina
Bland! The 2000 McCain would never have picked four number one seeds...

(via Wonkette)
Speaking of Mims, the sleek emptiness of that song "This is Why I'm Hot" reminds me a little bit of Cassie's "Me & U" from last summer. Feather-light, space-aged, tautological -- its chorus is "I'm hot cuz I'm fly/ You ain't cuz you not" -- the song is ... actually kind of hypnotic. I don't quite like it or dislike it, but it does mesmerize me somehow.

P.S. ... Talib Kweli's jacked-beat version "Niggas Lie a Lot" is worth a listen, it's much better as "better" is traditionally defined.

Monday, March 12, 2007

National Public Radio suckas

I know most NPR listeners are like 87 years old, but surely All Things Considered can do better than this story about hip-hop by Elizabeth Blair.

The piece is ostensibly about declining hip-hop sales, but it's really an occasion to scold the genre for talking about guns and drugs and sex. In other words, a rewrite of the Sun-Times story that I criticized before, complete with out-of-context quotes from the Black Youth Project. (NOTE: My earlier post was overcritical of BYP surveyers; my ire would have been more properly directed at the Sun-Times reporter.)

The gist of the story -- which has been cropping up a lot -- is that while all album sales are declining, hip-hop album sales declined faster in 2006 than any other genre. There are three completely obvious explanations for this:
    1.) Rap is a singles-oriented medium and the internet makes it easy to buy singles instead of albums.
    2.) Young people -- who are most comfortable buying or trading singles online -- listen to rap more than other genres.
    3.) 2005 had marquee-level multiplatinum releases by 50 Cent, Eminem, Kanye West and The Game, and would have been a hard year for any genre to follow up.
Blair summarizes these, then gets back to the standard anti-rap script:
There could also be some social causes for the decline in sales. For years, parents groups and educators have derided the violence and misogyny in gangsta rap to no avail. But some believe the outcry is now reaching a critical mass.
Evidence of this critical mass? A PBS documentary and a misreading of that Black Youth Project data. (Even Blair's source from the BYP does not agree with the thesis that "social causes" are responsible for declining rap sales.) Pretty thin stuff if you don't already agree with the premise.

Blair's story isn't as bad as "Hip Hop: Art or Poison?," but it's in that family: anti-rap stories by people who don't know or care about rap music. More of these we do not need.

P.S. ... It's not a substantive point, but Blair reveals her level of interest in rap music when she says:
This week the number one spot on Billboard's Hot Digital Song chart is The Mims, 'This is Why I'm Hot.'
The Mims. She means Mims, the New York rapper whose Wikipedia page lists his birth name as Sean Mims.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Garry Kasparov still fighting the good fight in Russia:
Mr. Kasparov, 43, is not Mr. Putin’s only critic, but he may be the most prominent. And he has brought to oppositional politics the same energy and aggression that characterized his chess, attacking Mr. Putin and the Kremlin — or the regime, as he repeatedly calls it — with language rarely spoken so bluntly in Russia.

“This regime is getting out of touch with the real world,” he said. “It’s a deadly combination of money, power and blood — and impunity.”

Friday, March 09, 2007

Best music of 2007

I haven't heard any. What is good? Anybody digging anything new these days?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

NYT has video of Newark mayor Cory Booker's monthly "office hours" meetings with his constituents. (Booker is the driven, charismatic subject of this great documentary.) Now ask yourself how Mayor Daley would do sitting around a high school classroom, listening to constituent concerns and responding one-on-one. Ask yourself if he would ever even think of putting himself in that situation.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Monkey Injury Kit

My sister-in-law, a pathologist who will be at Johns Hopkins starting this summer, emails the following helpful info from her training course on animal use for research:
If you receive a bite or scratch wound from a monkey or an injury from a piece of equipment with which the animal or animal tissues has had contact, STOP WORK , return the monkey to its cage , and institute first aid immediately . Each primate housing area and laboratory has been equipped with a " Monkey Injury Kit " (Monkey Fluid Exposure kit). Follow the instructions that are inside the kit. You should familiarize yourself with them in advance. Following initial first aid, go to the Occupational Injury Clinic . Notify Animal Services of the identification number of the monkey and its location so that a veterinarian can examine the animal and take appropriate steps to ascertain the potential hazard.
Her comment on this is: "!!!!!"

P.S. ... In related news, I got to pet a pig today. The pig was attending this group's event as a gimmick. Its hair was very bristly.

Patrick Fitzgerald

Still the man.

UPDATE [3/7 11:36pm] ... Great conspiracy theory from Cal Skinner:
Some of us think Fitzgerald was assigned the Libby case merely to get him out of Chicago so the prosecutions of corruption would be delayed.
That Rich Daley is a powerful man!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

How Scooter Libby is like Martha Stewart

Why didn't Libby testify? Wouldn't that have allowed him to make his case that, gee, he's a busy guy, busy with a lot of important national security business, and anyway who can keep track of all of Vice President Cheney's personal/political vendettas anyway? Defense originally said he would testify (and Cheney, too), but reversed itself quite late in the trial. Commenter "Fmr Fed Prosecutor" offers a pretty compelling explanation of why on the WSJ Law Blog:
Perhaps Libby did not testify for one of the same reasons that Martha Stewart did not testify: the sentencing guidelines enhancement for obstruction of justice. Testify and lose and you get a 2 level bump on your guidelines calculation.
By the time the trial was coming to an end, things were looking real bad for Libby. Why put him on the stand, subjecting him to cross-examination by Fitzgerald and running the risk of getting extra time automatically tacked onto his sentence? Makes sense.
Not having Cheney testify is looking like a big mistake now I guess... Or maybe not, since I suppose the calculation was that while Cheney's testimony would help Libby, it would hurt Cheney -- politically if not legally. Gotta look out for number one.

Beachwood Reporter stifles dissent!

Really, Steve Rhodes?
Because if you watch Obama's speech objectively, you must once again call into question the standard assumption that the man is an orator for the ages. Not only was his delivery disjointed, and oddly aloof, but his text was barren. ...

By contrast, Hillary's theme - "We have a march to finish!" - tied the Selma-era civil rights movement of bloodied but unbowed demonstrators to the present-day denial of voting rights to people of color.
Rhodes has clearly lost all ability to evaluate the form or content of political speeches, but that's neither here nor there. What's worse is that he's lost his ability to link to original materials.

Video of Barack Obama's full speech is here; text is here. Clinton's speech can be viewed here or read here.

Posting judgments without any links is just an assertion that only the writer can be the arbiter. It's a way of saying only Rhodes has the critical power to cut through the hype and judge the speeches of Obama and Clinton on their merits.

Well I am one who disagrees with Rhodes's judgment on both speeches. And you? If you'd care to form your own opinion, simply click on the links above.

Monday, March 05, 2007

I belong to the "Rudy can fail" camp, expecting Giuliani's poll numbers to drop off precipitously as Republican voters learn more about him.

Garance Franke-Ruta offers the contrary opinion that perhaps Giuliani's popularity is a real sign of a leftward shift within the GOP on social issues. Well, we'll see. It's either that or a weak field of Republican candidates and a lot of voters with incomplete information about them. But I'd be fine with Republicans moving left on social issues, too...

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Well that's all we really wanted to know:
The crowd in and around Obama's appearance was decidedly larger -- his audience included 15 members of Congress, compared with four who went to hear Clinton.
The second half of that sentence is a bit of a non sequitur; elsewhere in the story it's made clear that the overall crowd, not just the number of politicians, was larger for Obama.
Timbaland to host fundraiser for Hillary Clinton. But Obama may still be able to secure the critical Just Blaze endorsement.

The number 14

In the past five years, I have lived in four apartments in three cities, always in a 1400 block. All my addresses start with 14. Is that weird or do there need to be more signs before it starts getting weird?

Friday, March 02, 2007

So Many Shrimp on Black Milk and the legacy of J Dilla:
So the legacy of J Dilla is ...? Well, there's a lot of obvious 'good'-derivative but a fair amount of weak, boring shit came out of this sound too. And while there's no debate Dilla was a great producer in a unique and highly stylized niche it's hard for me to enjoy this shit is straight up 'rap music' mostly because so many of the dudes who took to it just. Can't. Rap. So boring! Sometimes I even wish Dilla's focus had been more R&B-oriented, more "Dollar," less Donuts, just because his style seems to have had more of a profoundly interesting influence on that end than it did for this style of hip-hop.
But Dilla's own beats are sui generis. The Black Milk clip posted is worth watching for the Guilty Simpson verse especially.
The Wire trivia: In season three (episode 5 and maybe some others), I noticed one of the kids cast as a drug hopper was Richard Keyser from The Boys of Baraka, a documentary about a study abroad program that sent some Baltimore school kids to Africa. In The Wire, Keyser is the kid calling out "WMD, right chere, right chere."
Juelz Santana and Lil Wayne over the Nas/Jay-Z "Black Republican" beat:

Note Juelz Santana's apparent endorsement of Barack Obama. Lil Wayne meantime is repping purple drank...

Thursday, March 01, 2007

AMillionMonkeys declares early alliance with LaKisha Jones in comments here. Jake is all over the American Idol blogging, even if he does have a bizarre vendetta against Stephanie Edwards.
In his farewell letter, convicted Rep. Bob Ney quotes Garth Brooks!