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


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)


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)


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.

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.