Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Best Music of 2008

I have not been so unprepared to make my year-end lists in several years. If I listened to a little less music this year than I did in 2007 or 2006, the reason is simple: This year, when the contest for my attention was between music and politics, politics almost always won. And the election, you'll recall, lasted all goddamn year.

Still, I feel pretty good about the lists I've put together here, even if I will be hearing new 2008 music well into 2009. One note: I put Vampire Weekend songs on last year's list, so I only included them on the albums list this time around. With that, on with the show...

Songs

20. Guilty Simpson, "The American Dream"
19. T.I. feat. Rihanna, "Live Your Life"
18. Re-Up Gang, "Bring it Back"
17. R. Kelly, "Skin"
16. Beyonce, "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)"
14. Rihanna, "Disturbia"
14. T.I. feat. Kanye West, Jay Z and Lil Wayne, "SLU (Swagger Like Us)"
13. Guns N' Roses, "Catcher in the Rye"
12. Kanye West, "Heartless"
11. Metro Station, "Shake It"
10. Radiohead, "Nude (Chopped & Screwed Remix)"
9. Lupe Fiasco feat. Young Jeezy and T.I., "Superstar (Remix)"
8. Big Boi feat. Andre 3000 and Raekwon, "Royal Flush"
7. Gaslight Anthem, "High Lonesome"
6. Randy Newman, "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country" (Album version)
5. Kanye West, "Love Lockdown"
4. Hold Steady, "Sequestered in Memphis"
3. Lil Wayne "A Milli"
2. The Roots, "Get Busy"
1. Young Jeezy feat. Kanye West, "Put On"


Albums

12. Rich Boy, Bigger than the Mayor
11. TV on the Radio, Dear Science
10. Guns N’ Roses, Chinese Democracy
9. Girl Talk, Feed the Animals
8. Hold Steady, Stay Positive
7. Kanye West, 808s and Heartbreak
6. Randy Newman, Harps and Angels
5. Young Jeezy, The Recession
4. Re-Up Gang, We Got it 4 Cheap Vol. 3
3. Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend
2. Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III
1. Gaslight Anthem, The ’59 Sound

*

Thoughts? Picks?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Fear and loathing on a trip home for Christmas

Highway driving in the fog is strange -- disorienting, isolating, paranoiac. Where am I? Where are these yellow lines coming from? And my Friday night drive from Wausau to Bloomington, Ill., was bathed in fog the whole way, more than six hours, leaving me filled with a sense of jittery anxiety that lingers even today.

Fog forms when warm air sweeps over cold ground. On my trip, that meant there was at least light fog all over -- but the magic ratio of warm-air/cold-ground was in northern Illinois, where it was thick as pudding, opaque, 45 mph on the Interstate, god-I-hope-no-car-is-stopped-in-front-of-me-with-its-lights-off kind of fog. However: None were. No monsters appeared before me. Eventually the yellow lines gave way to my Interstate exit, and at my parents' house I cleared my head with strong drink.

(Crossposted from What's Your Beef.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

So did Obama want Jesse Jackson, Jr. in the Senate or not?

Looks like Jason Zengerle of The New Republic was fooled in the same way I was when it came to the identity of Senate Candidate 5 in the Blagojevich complaint. According to those documents, Blago believed Obama didn't want #5 to fill the seat, which was part of what made me and Zengerle think #5 probably wasn't Jesse Jackson, Jr., who had a good relationship with Obama.

But Zengerle quotes the Obama's report:
After Ms. Jarrett removed herself from consideration, Mr. Emanuel – with the authorization of the President-Elect – gave Mr. Harris the names of four individuals whom the President-Elect considered to be highly qualified: Dan Hynes, Tammy Duckworth, Congresswoman Schakowsky and Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.
So, okay, here's the question: Did Blagojevich really just misunderstand Obama's intentions regard Jackson, or is Obama's report the whitewash, and they're including Jackson's name now as some sort of attempt to repair that relationship? I would lean toward the former, but it's a bit of an open question. I wonder if we'll get more info, wiretaps, etc. from Fitzgerald that will shed more light on this, or not...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta V for Vendetta by Alan Moore


My review


rating: 1 of 5 stars
Just being real, I did not totally buy into this one. The totalitarian dystopia is a bit too familiar, and the author's idea about the transformational power of violence and chaos feels not just familiar but false. Come to think of it I guess I kind of hated this book.

I have asked for Watchmen for Xmas and I am very much hoping it is better. Everybody seems to like Watchmen so I assume it is. But as far as V for Vendetta goes, let me tell you, this V character is no Captain America.


View all my reviews.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Snow: A One-Act Play

Snow, visible in the parking lot lights. The temperature will fall below zero again tonight. A young man, having worked late, emerges from his office. He reaches into his car for a combination snow-brush/ice-scraper. Behind him, a co-worker he does not know well, who wears his hair in dread locks, is leaving the office at the same time.
ME: Fuck this shit.

CO-WORKER I DON'T REALLY KNOW: Oh, come on. At least everything will look clean for a little while.
[Curtain.]

THE END

All true.

Pelosi vs. Obama?

Not yet, and maybe not ever. But this Politico piece gives a sense of what it would look like:
Pelosi “is not going to allow Obama to triangulate her,” said a Democratic source close to the leadership. “It’s not going to happen to her.”
One reason it might not happen is because Obama might not even try that maneuver. That term "triangulate" certainly feels like an anachronism, doesn't it? But the relationship that develops between the Democratic president and the Democratic Congress will be one of the interesting stories of at least the next two years, and there are a few different ways it could go.

The piece points out the true fact that the Republican Congress followed the Bush administration in almost unprecedented lockstep. As a political strategy that was wildly successful in the short term and completely disastrous in the long term -- when Bush's popularity plummeted, it wasn't apparent to voters whether the GOP was anything but Bushism.

You can tell by the cabinet Obama has assembled that there is an all-Democratic-hands-on-deck feeling to this administration, at least at the start. Nothing wrong with that. But it's worth remembering that there are real reasons why Congressional Democrats ought not simply go along with a popular Democratic president. That's because the long-term health of the party requires that it not be too bound up with any one person, up to and including Barack Obama.

The other side of the argument is something like: Voters want stuff to get done. Democrats have a plan, there really isn't much separation between Obama and Congress, so roll up your sleeves, people, and get to it.

I don't think this Politico piece indicates any true faultline just yet. But it's probably one to watch...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Wildlife

In the backyard this morning, a gang of eight turkeys. And yes "gang" is the technical term. A "rafter" of turkeys is also acceptable, but you'll agree "gang" is much more evocative...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Shine a light

Noam Scheiber provides a little light on the, er, complicated relationship between Obama and Chicago pol and outgoing Illinois Senate president Emil Jones.
For his part, Obama's relationship with Jones seems to have genuinely softened his thinking on machine politics, at least so far as it concerned delivering for people who would otherwise go without. Late in Obama's state senate career, Jones held an education bill hostage until it provided additional funding for a mostly black high school on Chicago's south side. It was the kind of inside manuever goo-goos typically denounce as a racial shakedown, and you can imagine the young Obama doing the same. Instead, Obama praised Jones, telling The Chicago Tribune that "if you talk to him, you see it's grounded in the sense that, for years, a predominantly African-American institution was short-changed by the state. ... He's playing the insider game to make sure money is going to these projects."
I much liked this comment from mkayser0:
you can't fix the politicians, because politicians are just people, and to a first approximation people are all pretty much the same. Instead, fix the institutions and the context in which politicians operate. Don't give a single person too much power, and shine a bright light on the workings of government to make sure people aren't slowly going crazy with power. Remember that Blago entered office as a reformer.

I am not Rod Blagojevich

My response to the vicious rumors that have been circulating.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A few quick Blago links before bed

  • On Countdown with Keith Olbermann tonight, supposed Illinois native Jonathan Alter referred to "ee-MEEL" Jones as the possible identity of "Senate Candidate 5." But we all know it is "EE-mil."

  • None of you people joined my proposed betting pool on Blagojevich's indictment day! Therefore I declare myself and my guess of "April" to be the winner. And I win the fabulous prize of $1 million that I put into the pool, and I'm keeping it all for myself and none of you can have any of it, so don't ask.

  • Two views of why this is going to be a headache for Obama even if he wasn't involved, from Time and from Politico. Kevin Drum guesses differently:
    I think Obama will be so open about this, and so obviously uninvolved, that it won't cause him any pain whatsoever. It's an Illinois story, not an Obama story.
  • Probably a good time to revisit these "Rod Blagojevich facts":
    When Rod Blagojevich jumps in the water, Rod Blagojevich doesn't get wet. Water gets dishonest and incompetent.
  • And this Wonkette narrative of the complaint is pretty hysterical.

My own Blagojevich questions, answered

Some of the questions that arose this morning have been answered. Like these:

Q. Who gets to appoint Obama's replacement now?
A. Nobody really knows. It's unlikely that Blagojevich is going to resign quietly, so this could turn out to be a giant problem.

Q. Who is Senate Candidate 5?
A. Gotta be Emil Jones. [UPDATE 12/10 11:23am: You guys were right. Looks like it was Junior.]

Q. Blagojevich is accused of "conspiring to trade the senate seat for particular positions that the President-elect has the power to appoint." Trade with whom? Does Rahm know anything about this?
A. It might actually have been Rahm who tipped off Fitzgerald. How about that. [UPDATE 3:08pm: This seems to overstate things. What is in that link is more like, the fact that Blagojevich was involved in so much Senate-seat-related monkey business encouraged Fitzgerald to move quickly. UPDATE II 5:06pm: Rahm confirms this latter interpretation, or at least denies the former.]

Q. Who could ever have seen this coming?
A. No one. To all outward appearances, Rod Blagojevich was a model governor: effective, popular, upstanding, ethical. Ha ha, just a little joke there. But seriously, I don't think anyone anticipated the sheer scope of the corruption and self-delusion revealed in charging documents. It is really an extraordinary thing.

Q. Is Rod Blagojevich insane?
A. I think you could actually make a case.

UPDATE [5:01pm] ... BONUS QUESTION-ANSWERING TIME!!!!!!

Q. Will Rod Blagojevich quietly resign while making no particular trouble for anybody?
A. God, no. Why should he? He's done nothing at all wrong.

Blagojevich indicted arrested

[UPDATE 2:08pm: This is getting unwieldy. I am going to start a new post to try to sort out some of the questions raised below.]

Today's the day... Who could have ever seen this coming?

P.S. ... Question: Given that shady-possibly-illegal dealings around the appointment to Barack Obama's vacant senate seat are part of the indictment, does this in any way affect Blagojevich's authority to still make that appointment? (I guess Pat Quinn makes the appointment now? Can anyone confirm that this is true? [UPDATE 1:29pm: I get it now. This is the question everyone is trying to figure out. But exceedingly unlikely that the decision will remain in Blagojevich's hands.]) Text:
In particular, ROD BLAGOJEVICH has been intercepted conspiring to trade the senate seat for particular positions that the President-elect has the power to appoint (e.g. the Secretary of Health and Human Services). ROD BLAGOJEVICH has also been intercepted conspiring to sell the Senate seat in exchange for his wife’s placement on paid corporate boards or ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s placement at a private foundation in a significant position with a substantial salary. ROD BLAGOJEVICH has also been intercepted conspiring to sell the Senate seat in exchange for millions of dollars in funding for a non-profit organization that he would start and that would employ him at a substantial salary after he left the governorship.
Wait a second, sell or trade to whom? Would Rahm know anything about this?

P.P.S. ... By the way, the very idea that Blagojevich thought he could be HHS secretary proves how delusional his whole scheme was. So I am not placing a huge amount of weight on this question. Still, you wonder, who was on the other end of those intercepted phone calls...

P.P.P.S. ... Better still! He thought he could appoint himself to that senate seat! And then run for president! What must it be like to be inside this guy's head?

P.P.P.S. ... To me based on this and this, it sounds like Senate Candidate 1 is Valerie Jarrett. But who is Senate candidate 5? Emil Jones? Danny Davis? Taking bets in comments... [UPDATE 1:55pm: Commenters say it's Jesse Jackson Jr., but that doesn't make sense to me. The Smoking Gun says it's Emil Jones, and that certainly has the ring of truth to it...]

P.P.P.P.S. ... Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn and probably every right-thinking person in the world want Blagojevich to resign. Who thinks he will go quietly, without making any particular trouble for anyone?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Explain this to me

Intriguing line from Tyler Cowen, but I'm not sure I understand it:
I believe the Obama years will cause a crisis for progressivism roughly comparable to what the Bush years have brought upon libertarianism.
Hmmm, interesting. What do you suppose it means?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Captain America!

Civil War: Captain America Civil War: Captain America by Ed Brubaker


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
This all happened last year, but I am just now learning about it: Captain America, at war with Tony Stark over the Superhero Registration Act! Right now I am totally siding with Cap, but I guess that is because I have been reading all Captain America comics -- I haven't heard Tony Stark's side of the story yet. Anyway I am reading my way backwards through Captain America comics, hopefully will make it all the way back to 1941 eventually...


View all my reviews.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Papa was a rolling stone

You guys are all following Kanye West on Twitter, right? A couple of days ago he posted a link to this video of Stevie Wonder sounding like proto-T-Pain and it is super good:

Monday, December 01, 2008

SNL does Rahm Emanuel

Sort of predictable, but definitely well-executed, this made me laugh:

Happy Monday

I really like this video of "The Civil War in Four Minutes":

I have a couple of other video time-wasters posted here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bush pardons drug dealers

Am I the only one surprised that five of the 14 just-announced Bush pardons are drug-related offenses? Not that this changes anything structurally about the drug war, but I wouldn't necessarily have expected these offenders to be on the White House radar at all. But, good to see John Forte freed, anyway...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

British judges go home!

Kool Keith on Simon Cowell:
The A.V. Club: What's your beef with Simon Cowell?

Kool Keith: I think for one guy to sit up and judge people and for him to be British at that—who the fuck is he to judge people? To come to America and try to judge people? I think Simon needs to get the fuck out the set and give it to someone else. Paula Abdul used to be an artist, choreographer, dancer, she needs to go back to that. I don't want her judging talent at all. Randy Jackson, he's cool, he's a buddy of mine. Let Randy be. Simon needs to get the fuck out of here and go somewhere. What is Simon's qualifications? I'm trying to figure it out. That guy wears a black shirt with a gay haircut, and he's going to walk around and judge people? I don't understand it. That show is full of bullshit. I'd respect it if they had an American artist doing the shit.
I completely agree, naturally. But isn't Kool Keith a bit behind the cultural curve here? I would think the time to start beef with Simon Cowell would have been 2003 or 2004. If it's the British thing that bothers him, Keith could have gone after that judge on Dancing with the Stars anytime in the past few years.

Today, I think the person to go after would be Dr. Drew for his bullshit celebrity rehab advice and, obviously, his gay haircut.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Neo-Soul on Holiday


Spin has a great story about the rise and fall and extant questions surrounding the prodigious D'Angelo, with appearances by ?uestlove, Common, and others.

Well worth the read.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My problems

One thing about owning a house is that you are responsible for all the mysterious sounds in the pipes and so on. I am not bad at fixing things and I am gaining experience. The toilet I can handle, that is a simple mechanical device, you can see all the pieces. The radiator that clicks a little bit is probably not a big deal, I think, although who knows? But the squeaky pipe that sounds like a bird chirping through the night, that I do not care for. The chirp is quiet enough to sleep through, not a bother really, but I still notice it. I ask myself, could I fix this? How would I even begin to try to fix this?

Beginning Friday, I have 10 days in a row off work, the longest break I have had since I moved to Wausau in July 2007. In fact, I have not even had 7 consecutive days off in that time. I am nervous about it for some reason. I'm afraid I'll find I don't have any outside interests, or something. Having time off work is really not a reasonable thing to be worried about, is it? But there you go.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What's the big Lieberman deal?

I have never completely understood why I'm supposed to hate Joe Lieberman so intensely. For him to have a primary challenge from the left, sure, naturally. For him to have diminished standing as a senator and especially in the eyes of Democrats, yes. I can even see the argument for removing his chairmanship. But I guess I have trouble quite getting the vehemence of the anti-Lieberman faction.

Let's be honest: Lieberman's rhetoric this year was partisan but not equivalent to Zell Miller's odious 2004 rant against John Kerry. His hawkishness is unlikely to be of much import in the new Congress. And isn't Lieberman still a Democratic ally on more issues than he's an enemy?

Or, am I wrong and traitors need to be punished, period? Would one of you lefty types care to explain?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Kanye still on autotune

Still good, too. And a great video:

Heartless from kwest on Vimeo.

P.S. ... See also this Kanye/Radiohead mashup by DJ Earworm, which layers "Love Lockdown" over "Reckoner."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Moderate evangelicals still won't vote Democrat

Something I've been interested in for some years now is this idea that Democrats can peel off a significant percentage of the moderate evangelical vote. So it behooves me to note that, nope, didn't happen this year either:
Born again Christians or evangelicals made up 36% of Bush vote and, by my count, 38.% of the McCain vote.

Some of that results from non-evangelicals -- Catholics in particular -- abandoning the Republicans while evangelicals mostly stayed put. But the Republican ticket actually drew two million more evangelicals in raw numbers than George Bush did, presumably because of excitement about Sarah Palin and extreme fear of Barack Obama.

Whatever the reason, some four million more evangelicals turned out this time than last, some going to Obama but most to McCain.
Luckily for me, I have always had a fallback argument on this matter, which is that there's a bankshot effect that comes from wooing moderate evangelicals. What I mean is that just the act of courting this group also projects a number of qualities that (non-evangelical) independent voters see as desirable -- moral seriousness, moderation, non-engagement on some of the culture-war issues.

At this point I suppose my fallback argument because my primary argument, because undoubtedly Obama assiduously courted this group, and they did not bite. Maybe Sarah Palin strongly appealed to them, or maybe they are simply unreachable by any Democratic presidential candidate. Either way, if Obama's performance is indicative of the potential for a bankshot effect, then Dems probably ought to keep right on reaching out anyway.

Keep Patrick Fitzgerald working

As someone who used to care a lot about Chicago's culture of political corruption, I'll heartily endorse the Trib's call for Obama to live up to his promise to keep Patrick Fitzgerald on as U.S. Attorney. I still believe this is the single most important thing Obama can do toward solving that problem.

If Obama does keep Fitzgerald on, it seems to me that the anti-machine types who have cried and complained about Obama's complicity in the system would face some serious realpolitik questions -- about their preferred tactic of fighting the machine, which is to loudly and constantly denounce it, and about what really counts as complicity. A politician they deemed insufficiently anti-machine would have quietly helped dismantle the machine, and that would have to be accounted for.

On the other hand, if Obama does remove Patrick Fitzgerald, and if the investigations of Blagojevich, Daley et al. are somehow scuttled as a result, that would strongly reinforce the most cynical views of the city's politics, and of Obama's motivations. I don't know any more than you do, but right now I'd say it's very unlikely but not impossible that President Obama would remove Fitzgerald as a favor to certain Chicago interests.

But it's an open question. Like the Tribune editorial board, I would like to hear from President-Elect Obama about it once again.

P.S. ... Alternatively, there may be ways of fixing Chicago's and Springfield's political cultures without resorting to indictments. That's not what I believe, but that may be one of my points of disagreement with some of the anti-Obama-anti-machine types. If you believe an Illinois politician now living is capable of changing the fundamental structures of Illinois political culture, you will not agree that counting on the U.S. Attorney to clean things up is an acceptable answer.

P.P.S. ... Another alternative, Fitzgerald remains in place but still nothing changes. Totally possible. I do not say leaving Fitzgerald in place automatically destroys the machine. I say it's the state's best shot at destroying it.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

will.i.am's victory lap

The election cycle has been nearly as good for will.i.am as it was for Obama. But I quite like this new song, too, in which he channels the Arctic Monkeys or somebody and, importantly, doesn't rap:

Thursday, November 06, 2008

AMillionMonkeys checks in with Steve Rhodes

Hey, this would be something fun to do, let's check in with Steve Rhodes and see how he is handling the news! Checking in on Steve Rhodes is something that has not occurred to me for some months. BRB. ...

Well, Steve Rhodes Tuesday demonstrated his superiority to people like you and me by writing in Bob, the owner of the Beachwood Inn bar, for president. What a cool and edgy move by Steve Rhodes! He is like a character from that awesome, timeless movie "Reality Bites," no?

He is really catching the zeitgeist with that cynical alienation thing. His election guide is self-parody, as well. It looks like he recommended practically a straight Green Party ticket...

Bonus Rhodes-bashing ... In an attempt to be curmudgeonly, today's column scoffed at the idea that this election actually produced record voter turnout. He is quite right to point out that the raw number does not tell the whole story. But he gets everything else wrong. Rhodes writes:
Last I saw, [voter turnout] was about 61 percent -- or the same as 2004.
No. It was 62.6 percent. That is more.

Also, turnout in 2004 was 60.1 percent. But, whatever.

Ambinder on Rahm

This makes sense:
Barack Obama doesn't seem to be too interested in everyone else's opinion of how he's supposed to run his White House. This can only be a good thing (unless you're a Republican praying for Obama to make a fool of himself). It seems that, much like with the campaign, he has some long term goals and isn't worried about engaging in small fights over things like his West Wing staffing choices.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Slander! Unnamed sources vs. Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin didn't really not know that Africa is a continent and not a country, right? I mean, I believe every word of the wardrobe stories, but this cannot possibly be true:

It's Romney '12 people spreading such lies, I assume. We can only hope their recriminations continue for days and days, because this is great stuff...

Front pages

Ours:

And many others I pulled together here.

Rahm?

The choice of Rahm Emanuel as Obama's chief of staff, if true, is somewhat dissonant and surprising. No drama? With this choice, Obama will certainly take a hit with the chatterers -- what happened to being post-partisan, etc. -- but that is a very minor, very temporary problem.

What I think this signals is an intention to be very aggressive in pursuing a legislative agenda. Rahm knows every single House member and seems to know how to get them to do what he wants.

Obama wins


He was right.

Good speech, too.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Ground game

My bro-in-law Dom emails:
So you spend months hearing about this incredible ground game Obama has, and then all of a sudden this morning, there it is. I'm driving around with Matty running a couple of errands, and they're EVERYWHERE... getting in and out of vans, escorting people into and out of houses, lining the streets holding signs... it's absurd. We ran around for about 30-45 minutes, and I saw no fewer than 40 volunteers in 7-8 locations. And this in a state where he's polling 15-25 points ahead! I'm a little surprised they're not trucking these people down to Virginia, but I'm sure they know what they're doing. Anyway, it's impressive to see.

Links perfect for killing time...

I have been posting some links over at the other place, if you, like me, are having trouble waiting for returns to come in.

I am the best

I like how Matt Bai includes a piece by Matt Bai in his list of favorite campaign coverage.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Election stuff to click at

If you're looking for stuff to read, here are a few of my recommendations to WDH readers...

Early voting = Election Day voting?

From this morning's First Read:
Obama holds an eight-point lead over McCain among likely voters, 51%-43%, according to the final national NBC/WSJ poll before the election. [...] One more thing: 30% say they've already voted, and those voters break by an identical 51%-43% margin.
Hmmm. Wouldn't you expect early voting to be more heavily weighted for Obama than a national poll? Enthusiasm, organization, boots-on-the-ground... I thought the Obama campaign's plan was to bank a huge lead in early voting.

Of course, 8 points is a huge lead, and even if Election Day results are closer than this, the Obama campaign has a cushion. Just saying...

UPDATE [11/3 9:21pm] ... Slate's Mickey Kaus has the same reaction and uses the same "hmmm" construction. I hereby retire from blogging.

UPDATE II [11/3 10:54pm] ... Now comes Marc Ambinder with this not-insignificant bit of information:
Historically, Republicans have had an advantage over Democrats in terms of absentee balloting; Democrats tend to outperform Republicans in terms of in-person early voting.
Aha! This means that simply by reaching parity with national polls, the Obama campaign has already made up substantial ground. So perhaps this is a demonstration of the campaign's superior enthusiasm/organization/boots-on-the-ground after all.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Election guide

Not surprisingly, Chuck Todd has the best, most accessible state-by-state election guide I've seen, running down each state's presidential prospects with downticket context.

Marlo for Obama

Sent by my friend Kate Ling:

Friday, October 31, 2008

Good day to be Rod

Drip, drip, drip. There should be a betting pool for when Rod Blagojevich gets indicted. I say by... April?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Is the RNC wasting money in Montana?

Matthew Yglesias thinks the RNC is throwing its money away on Montana:
Montana may or may not be competitive at the moment, but any universe in which Barack Obama wins Montana is a universe in which he's winning the election anyway.
But at this point the RNC is probably looking to minimize losses. Montana has only 3 electoral votes, but losing it would be a real psychological blow, and worse, it would come with a cost to the GOP's national image.

Consider the red states that could flip this year, and the media narrative that would go along with it. Colorado: Demographic change. Virginia: Suburban Washington. North Carolina, Georgia, etc.: Black people. Even Indiana, if it flips you can say, well, it's right next to Illinois.

Montana is a totally different animal. Not many states are as rural or as exotically Western-seeming as Montana. The Democrats who have won statewide office there recently have been greeted with numerous stories in national media saying, wow, aren't these Western Dems something? They're so folksy and Western-seeming and yet they're Democrats!

If the folksy-Westerny-white-rural voters of Montana vote for a Democrat for president, that chips away at the Republican brand. It means dudes in cowboy hats and bolo ties now vote for Democrats, and this complicates the cultural appeals the GOP will want to make going forward.

Keeping Montana is important to the RNC, in other words, because of how losing Montana would look to people who basically only understand Montana as an abstraction of "the West." (That is, nearly everyone outside of Montana.)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Palin 2012 still not impossible

Just because I can't leave well enough alone, here is another post about Sarah Palin's 2012 campaign. This TPM post takes a look at Newsweek poll numbers that shaped up this way:
If John McCain is not elected president, which one of the following three possible candidates would you be most likely to support for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012?
Mitt Romney 35%
Mike Huckabee 26%
Sarah Palin 20%
TPM concludes that this means Palin "hasn't done herself any favors" by joining the ticket. But how can this possibly be true? What percentage support would Palin have had in a poll of Republicans let's say six months ago? One year ago?

To me those data say, wow, look at how Palin's support has risen meteorically among the GOP from 0.00001 percent all the way to 20 percent! At this rate she will overtake Romney by February.

Doesn't mean she'll win the nomination. Doesn't mean any darling-of-the-GOP-base wouldn't begin at a major structural disadvantage. But surely it's a bit crazy to argue that the campaign hasn't substantially increased her national profile.

P.S. ... This post from Patrick Ruffini asks the question in an interesting way: "Is Sarah Palin the right's Howard Dean?" Here is the nut, and it is an interesting one:
Right now, with the small donor and grassroots eruption for Obama, and vibrant progressive institutions that depend on the creativity of an energized base, the Right needs a broad-based movement more than it needs the approval of elites. That means making Palin's brand of politics -- even if she isn't the one who ultimately gets us there -- a permanent fixture in the conservative ecosystem.
Let's not get hung up on all the ways Palin is different from Dean. Who else in the conservative ecosystem can even pretend to activate the small-donor/grassroots/social-networking political model?

P.P.S. ... I think Saxdrop mentioned one a few months ago...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Post about television shows

I agree with Matt Yglesias on The Godfather vs. The Sopranos vs. The Wire. No question that the Wire is a more cohesive work from start to finish, while the Sopranos had weak moments, narrative dead-ends and the occasional episode that was an out-and-out failure.

But it is significant that the Sopranos got there first. It was the first really artistically successful long-form TV show that wasn't episodic and wasn't a mini-series. So to be fair to David Chase, he is rightly counted as the progenitor of novelistic TV.

P.S. ... Am I wrong? I will entertain earlier examples... Twin Peaks? Sort of, but the narrative completely fell apart in the second season. Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Maybe, but it was pretty episodic for the first few seasons, and it only started two years before The Sopranos...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Islamophobia on the run

(I have posted about this subject on AMillionMonkeys before, and this week had a conversation with my brother about it, so I thought I would crosspost this from the other place...)

False rumors that Obama is a Muslim have dogged his candidacy from the beginning, and at times the campaign has overreacted to the rumors by accommodating Islamophobia -- firing a Muslim outreach coordinator for no good reason, or by moving women in head scarves out of the camera's frame at a rally. It has been important to the campaign that they push back against the notion that Obama is a Muslim, but at the same time, sometimes the effect has been to give credence to the idea that the word "Muslim" itself constitutes a "smear."

So a particularly moving part of Colin Powell's appearance on Meet the Press (which also of course contained his Obama endorsement), was when he confronted this issue head-on in a way that I don't think anyone so prominent had yet done:

Transcript:
I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?
Along similar lines, I found the piece of video below, taken outside a McCain rally, particularly compelling viewing. An anti-Muslim bigot is selling his wares and trying to "educate" other attendees with some paranoid nonsense. In response, a Muslim McCain campaign chairman from Virginia and some of the other pro-McCain attendees openly confront the man -- saying, among other things, "You don't believe in the Constitution":

Good for them.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Why does Sarah Palin keep contradicting John McCain?

I would file this under "cunning and self-serving" rather than "clueless and off-message," though I suppose it's open to debate. But doesn't it seem like Sarah Palin is contradicting John McCain an awful lot? If you're McCain, I would assume you do not want your VP candidate saying this kind of thing 17 days before the election:
I asked Palin whether she'd do things differently if she could repeat those weeks. She answered by silently mouthing "yes." When two aides--we were on a McCain-Palin bus with staff and security--said "yes" aloud, she chimed in, "Yes,  yes, yes, yes."
Of course, if you are Palin, and you think McCain is probably going to lose, clearly it serves your own personal political interest to have Republicans thinking that your candidacy was terribly mismanaged by McCain's people.

So add this to Palin's second-guessing the campaign's decision to pull out of Michigan and possibly her contradiction of his position on unions to the list of her public statements that turn out to be helpful to Sarah Palin's political career at the expense of John McCain's.

Can anyone think of others?

UPDATE [10/20 9:48am] ... Here's a pretty big one: "Palin criticizes robocalls." Meanwhile the candidate himself is left to grit his teeth and justify them. Isn't being this off-message usually considered bad form in a running mate?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Not a plumber etc.

Oh dear:
A day after making Joseph Wurzelbacher famous, referencing him in the debate almost two dozen times as someone who would pay higher taxes under Barack Obama, McCain learned the fine print Thursday on the plumber’s not-so-tidy personal story: He owes back taxes. He is not a licensed plumber. And it turns out that Wurzelbacher makes less than $250,000 a year, which means he would receive a tax cut if Obama were elected president.
Obviously the idea of Joe the Plumber was and is and always will be quite a bit more important than the reality of Joseph Wurzelbacher. But laid out like this it kind of makes an impression.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Matthewsism

Chris Matthews, God love him, just now:
Joe the Plumber ... I mean this guy's like, now, like a character out of like, uh, I don't know, like one of these old -- I was thinking of Beowulf or something.
Beowulf!

These elections are so partisan!

I think if I were trying to figure out whether or not we are entering a new postpartisan era, three weeks before a contested national election between the major parties would not be exactly the time to make that judgment. ... This guy may be right, of course. I'm just saying things can look a lot different the day after an election than they do the day before...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Real solutions for the McCain campaign

Everybody is trying to think of a new strategy for the McCain campaign. I have an idea: Is it maybe possible for him to go back to wearing those gay sweaters...? Hey, it's a thought...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Terrified yet?

Just today listened to this new This American Life episode, "Another Frightening Show About the Economy," a sort of follow-up to the earlier great show, "The Giant Pool of Money." Very useful, very informative, and completely terrifying...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Debate question

John McCain did not bring up, or even hint at, Barack Obama's scary domestic-terrorist pals, nor his sleazy Chicago-politics past, nor his crazy pastor, nor the fact that he is a crypto-Muslim sleeper agent secretly plotting to take over America.

Q. To what extent was this decision by McCain influenced by the certain knowledge that the mention of any of these things would cause Obama to say the words "Keating Five"?

I know the answer may be "not very much," but I doubt it is "not at all."

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

In which I ask questions about McCain's strategy

It seems to me that the McCain campaign's new super-negative strategy is as likely as not to backfire on him, but I also wouldn't be surprised if it moved the polls a couple of points in his direction in these waning days of the campaign. I am generally a believer in the efficacy of negative campaigning, if not necessarily the honor in it.

But from McCain's perspective, doesn't this shift in tones come too late to be very effective? Yes, yes, a month is a long time in an election. But I would have thought the ideal time to define Obama as a scary terrorist would have been before the first debate.

About that debate: Doesn't Obama's gracious, measured performance there in front of tens of millions of voters seriously complicate the effort now to make people afraid of him? Not to say it's impossible for McCain to retroactively implant doubt in people's minds -- it's just more complicated now than it was before so much of America was introduced to him.

And here's a question for stridewideman: Isn't it conceivable that this strategy from McCain would be much more effective if Obama had treated that first debate as a no-holds-barred sparring match? If he had seemed combative and angry then, it would surely be easier for McCain to now present him as, you know, combative and angry, like a terrorist.

The best thing about this sort of counterfactual is that I am right no matter what. If these attacks backfire on McCain, well it proves my point. If they work for him, I can always say, well, they could have been even more effective...

Monday, October 06, 2008

Crime and punishment in Marathon County

For the past couple of months I have been working with Brian Reisinger, another reporter here, on a series of stories about the criminal justice system in Marathon County. This county has invested heavily in incarceration-alternatives in the past decade or so, but it still finds itself with an overcrowded jail and the prospect of spending tens of millions on a bigger facility.

This is a local issue, of course, but it's something many, many different places across the country are experiencing. If you're interested in checking out some of our reporting, see the special section here.

Or check out the individual stories on the costs of incarceration, the culture of the overcrowded jail, the role recidivism plays in the system, the limits of treatment options and the Huber work-release program. These were the main pieces in the series, though they were supplemented by a lot of secondary reporting and statistical breakouts and so on.

Here is a photo gallery of pictures taken by Daily Herald photographers inside the jail.

I also made a video of an inmate from the Marathon County Jail out on Huber which can be found on this page somewhere.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Polls of polls of polls

Aren't this and this pretty good reasons not to use the RCP poll averages anymore?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Obama's last first impression

My feeling about the debate is the same as everyone else's, I guess: No definitive knockout blows; tie goes to Obama. But I have a handful of thoughts to add.

  • I would have to assume that for people who were not very familiar with Obama prior to the debate, this would have been a reassuring, maybe even eye-opening performance. Obama has been very good at first impressions -- remember those very early primaries? -- and this is one of the very few remaining campaign events where Obama actually will be making the functional equivalent of a first impression on a large group of Americans. That's a benefit to him that may show up in the polls.

  • What this debate didn't have was some kind of defining takeaway line or moment. But that's a good thing, right? It means voters can focus on the arguments put forward and the policies advocated rather than gaffes. We'll see what shape reaction takes over the next few days, of course, but in a no-defining-moments debate, if that is what it was, the guy who is ahead probably benefits.

  • I really liked the format, and thought Jim Lehrer did a good job. Very much liked the direct addressing each other and the interrupting each other and the "I just have to respond to that, Jim."

  • Everyone is focusing on McCain's "Obama just doesn't understand" mantra, and indeed no doubt it was a messaging decision for him to hit that note a dozen times. But I remember from my creative writing workshops that you are supposed to show, not tell -- and even if viewers disagreed with Obama's views and arguments, he certainly didn't come off as clueless or over his head.

  • It was really a lot of story-time for McCain, no? And a ton of historical references. Probably part of the same I-am-experienced messaging, but to me at least the effect was to make his responses seem kind of fuzzy.

  • Stark, clear differences in the candidates' policy positions. There were even a few moments in the debate (on Iraq, e.g.) where I felt like both men actually explained their positions clearly, the positions were radically different, and voters may now have a decent sense of their real choice. Of course, there were other moments that were, uh, less honest and straightforward.

    What did you guys think?
  • best line on the bailout

    "Government control of capital is government control of capitalism."

    From George Will's McCain-eviscerating column.

    Tuesday, September 23, 2008

    Chris Rock on Letterman

    It is pretty great the way Chris Rock takes on Bill Clinton, who had been sitting in the exact same seat just moments earlier...

    Monday, September 22, 2008

    This is not my beautiful house

    Best music video ever? Most rock and roll bow tie ever?

    Monday, September 15, 2008

    R.I.P. DFW Pt. II

    I have a few more extended thoughts about David Foster Wallace that I will not have time to put down until late tonight, but I thought I would post a link to my Stop Smiling review of his 2006 essay collection, Consider the Lobster. It is basically a negative review, but I think it's a thoughtful one. Wallace always was a polarizing writer, no need to pretend otherwise now. Very sad death. More later.

    P.S. ... See also, "David Foster Wallace stranded on a desert island."

    UPDATE [9/16 12:54am] ... Here is some of what I wanted to get down on paper. I think I may try to rework this somewhat and give it more of a shape and see if I can convince someone to publish it. Not sure. But here is a first go at an essay on the death of David Foster Wallace:
    I read Infinite Jest in the second semester of my freshman year of college, and I was, wow, a true fanboy. Certainly, I liked it a little too much.

    People did make fun of me for my obsession with David Foster Wallace. I did strike up at least one friendships based on mutual love of the writing and thinking of David Foster Wallace, a kid in my sophomore creative writing class named…I can’t remember his name. I did write stories, as the undergraduate creative writing major that I was, that were love-letters to the style and priorities and structures of a story by David Foster Wallace. I did not use footnotes. I don’t think I ever got quite that bad. Limits.

    *
    I grew up in a small cornfield town in central Illinois, about an hour away from the small Illinois cornfield town where David Foster Wallace grew up. There was something deeply thrilling about being a creative writing student and reading “Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley,” the first essay in Wallace’s collection A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, and knowing firsthand the landscape it described. I still love that essay. Plus, Wallace was a professor at Illinois State University in Normal, where I was from -- I felt I had a connection. I went to school in Ohio, but I still went home plenty, and I knew people who had Wallace as a professor. My best friend, Mike Perillo, was in Wallace’s class. More on that later.

    One time I sat directly behind him at the Normal Theater at a screening of a movie about alcoholism called “My Name is Joe.” Should I have approached him? No, what for? I did not need him to know what a huge fan I was -- I knew.

    *
    Someone I know’s older brother had David Foster Wallace as his AA sponsor, or maybe it was NA, I don’t know. I do remember sitting in this kid’s living room and asking questions about what David Foster Wallace was, you know, really like. Nice guy. Treated his dogs like his kids.

    I’ve told this story before, but it is a good one. The first story Mike Perillo turned in to Prof. David Foster Wallace came back with the message on it: “I swear to God if you ever turn in a piece of shit like this to me again I will flunk your ass. I shit you not.” Mike said he wrote the same message on a lot of people’s first assignments. A motivational tactic, perhaps? Who knows, maybe the stories really were that bad.

    Maybe. But it seems to me now that there is also a certain need to dominate in a note like that. It's the same kind of urge that drives one to write a 1,000+ page novel with 100+ pages of footnotes that more or less runs down the OED but doesn't even have an ending. The same urge that would lead one to write, in a magazine called Gourmet, an essay about the neurological processes by which a lobster experiences excruciating pain as it's being cooked. (Although that one is kind of cool, I admit.)

    That was kind of the problem with my personal Wallace-obsession. For a self-conscious 20-year-old, maybe the best, most admirable thing about David Foster Wallace was that you could be assured he was the smartest person in any room. He studied philosophy of mathematics! Look at all the words he knew!

    *
    My professor, Steven Bauer, sort of liked Wallace’s writing, I think, but he told me I was hiding behind DFW, not just as an aspiring writer but also as a reader. I should not be into Wallace when I had not read any of the traditional, non-flashy, non-ironic, non-experimental works of fiction that Wallace was struggling so hard to break from. Really, Steven Bauer wanted me to grow up in all sorts of ways, and one of the main ones was to stop being so self-serious and super-smart all the time. Very good advice as it turned out.

    So guess what happened? In time, I sort of broke up with David Foster Wallace. I remember actually writing an email to Steven Bauer at one point declaring my independence from Wallace. Of course I still read his stuff, but I did start to read it a bit differently. I could understand why some people hated him.

    That way of seeing Wallace sort of culminated with the review of his essay collection Consider the Lobster I wrote in 2006 for Stop Smiling magazine. I did not tear Wallace a new one. But I was writing from a position of strength: I knew the subject inside and out.

    *
    This news means the cruise essay, "A Supposedly Fun Thing," really is the best single piece of writing Wallace ever produced. You could do worse; that essay is hysterical. And there are a lot of other essays of his that really stand up as literary works, along with not a few of the stories and Infinite Jest. But this news means that unless there are posthumous publications, these will remain his best work, forever.

    Part of me wants to say that all this stuff from my own life made it hard for me to know how to feel at the news of David Foster Wallace's suicide, but it really didn't. I knew exactly how to feel about it. Bad.

    No-No

    "September" ... "1st place" ... "no-hitter" ... "Cubs" ... "not on the losing end"

    I've been cheering for the Cubs for more than 30 years, and I can't believe the terms above could be put together in a meaningful (and factually correct) sentence.

    Read about Carlos Zambrano's accomplishment here.

    Sunday, September 14, 2008

    Saturday, September 13, 2008

    President McCain

    I think we're approaching that point in the campaign... the point at which it's time to deal with the increasingly real likelihood of a McCain victory in November.

    When was the last time the general populace in the U.S. actually impressed you with its wisdom?

    When a significant chunk of the electorate pledges to vote for the ticket containing a woman, even one who is the polar opposite (on every meaningful issue) of their choice in the primaries, it's "President McCain."

    When a significant chunk of the electorate equates banning assault weapons in crime-ridden metropolitan areas with Uncle Sam showing up at their bucolic homestead to effect a mandatory surrender of their gran'pappy's ol' shotgun, it's "President McCain."

    When a significant chunk of the electorate feels that someone who married into a $100 million fortune, and spent the last 3 decades in D.C. is somehow the candidate "most like me" (or however those asinine poll questions are phrased), it's "President McCain."

    When a significant chunk of the electorate deem even the most effective domestic programs to be "wasteful spending" while somehow turning a blind eye to hundreds of billions of dollars flushed down the proverbial toilet in Iraq, it's "President McCain."

    You know this list could go on and on and on. I didn't even mention "abortion," "experience," "drilling," or "commander-in-chief" among many other loaded terms. I'm just sayin', people... get yourselves prepared for the worst.

    Friday, September 12, 2008

    Song

    The rap references to Barack Obama are coming too fast for me to keep up with now, but I thought this one was worth posting, "Barock Star" by Mims (remember Mims?) and Jr. Reid:

    Tuesday, September 09, 2008

    It's a thought

    Should Obama get (subtly) to McCain's right on immigration? Twofer: Targets a certain set of persuadable voters, picks at a scab within the Republican party.

    What plays may come


    From Savage Chickens, a series of post-it note cartoons which bear a strong resemblance to Life is Hell (in tone, not in character).

    Monday, September 08, 2008

    Why Palin? Why not Hoeven?

    My initial reaction to the selection of Palin was anything but enthusiastic, but decidedly not dismissive. Over time and after her selection speech, I started to drink the kool-aid on her merits. Not her policy merits, mind you which she is obviously lacking in, but in her political merits.

    But for all her faults, I never really bought the line that this was a pure vote-grab to the XX chromosome-holders. Yes, it was a benefit of her selection, but I saw it as more of a windfall then a motivation. This TNR piece makes the case that influential conservatives were rattling the trees for her selection well before we knew what the general election picture would look like (indeed, even going back to 2007 when we were certain McCain would not be the Republican nominee). In fact if you looked at her positions without any reference to her gender or residence, she's about as ideal a candidate as one could imagine. To paraphrase Triumph, she looks like she was created in a lab from parts from lesser conservatives. She's as much a vote-grab to the right as she is to women.

    But then came John Hoeven. He is, by some measures, the most popular governor in the country. He's the longest-tenured sitting governor int he country (eight years). He is a former CEO of a bank (a state-owned bank at that, which in light of the current GSE takeover seems pretty relevant). On the issues he is pretty near or spot on the RNC platform. He is from a small, Western state, so that's a wash. But it's a swing state so that's a point. He's been on the national radar for at least a couple years because the RNC (even going up to the White House) leaned on him heavily to run against Kent Conrad for his Senate seat.

    Running mate selection is at its most basic, a study in opportunity costs. There is always a potentially less bad selection to be made, but of course their are many different margins and angles which do not always point in the same direction. Hoeven may not even be that great a candidate, but my suspicion is that the McCain camp didn't cast a wide and deep net because obvious alternates with just as many positives and probably fewer negatives exist.

    I'm starting to think politicians may actually be self-serving...

    Saturday, September 06, 2008

    Mike Murphy's problem with Palin

    I don't doubt that John McCain's sometimes-adviser Mike Murphy is quite sincere in his lukewarm reaction to Sarah Palin. In fact it's absolutely true that if Palin turns out to be a polarizing pick, as Murphy thinks she will, the choice will turn out to be a net loss to McCain.

    But isn't there something sort of self-serving about Murphy's assessment, too? In early July, there was some talk that McCain might bring Murphy on as a campaign adviser. It didn't happen, but it remained possible to imagine a campaign trajectory where, come September or so, McCain brought in Murphy to save the day and ride with him to a general election victory. It was possible to imagine that until precisely the moment that Palin's candidacy was unveiled.

    This is because the Palin choice indicates a political strategy opposed to Murphy's own, what he called on live-mic his experience from the blue/swing state governor world. That's the substance. The personality part is that the choice sure seems to come out of a Steve Schmidt strategy, indicating that Karl Rove's protege is the strategist holding the reins. (More background on personalities here.)

    Did Mike Murphy secretly hold out hope that McCain would eventually call him into the fold? Who knows! But even if Murphy thought of it as a 1 percent chance, the fact is that it is now a 0 percent chance. That may not be the main reason Murphy doesn't like Palin, but it's got to be in there somewhere.

    Thursday, September 04, 2008

    My co-bloggers won't like it, but...


    Thomas Sowell has a new column up at NRO discussing what it really means to have experience, foreign policy or otherwise. Perhaps somewhat glibly:
    a plain fact should be noted: No governor ever had foreign-policy experience before becoming president — not Ronald Reagan, not Franklin D. Roosevelt, nor any other governor.

    It is hard to know how many people could possibly have had foreign-policy experience before reaching the White House besides a Secretary of State or a Secretary of Defense.

    The last Secretary of War (the old title of Secretaries of Defense) to later become President of the United States was William Howard Taft, a hundred years ago. The last Secretary of State to become President of the United States was James Buchanan, a century and a half ago.

    Why the media should apologize [to Palin]

    In case you missed it, from Roger Simon's latest column:
    On behalf of the elite media, I would like to say we are very sorry.

    We have asked questions this week that we should never have asked.

    We have asked pathetic questions like: Who is Sarah Palin? What is her record? Where does she stand on the issues? And is she is qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency?

    We have asked mean questions like: How well did John McCain know her before he selected her? How well did his campaign vet her? And was she his first choice?

    Bad questions. Bad media. Bad.
    ...
    we should stop reporting on the families of the candidates. Unless the candidates want us to.

    Wednesday, September 03, 2008

    Diddy on Sarah Palin

    [Video removed because it annoyingly starts automatically, which we do not need on our blog once we've seen it once. But if you haven't, by all means click here to hear Diddy's vlog entry on Palin.]
    (Via Julianne Shepherd)

    Friday, August 29, 2008

    How Sarah Palin is like Alan Keyes

    This Sarah Palin VP choice reminds me a bit of the time, in 2004, when Jack Ryan had to drop out of his Senate race because of something to do with Seven of Nine, and so at a rather late-in-the-game moment the Republican Party needed someone to challenge Barack Obama. And apparently they decided that they needed a to put a black guy up against a black guy, so following a national search they very wisely drafted the extremely well-qualified and not-at-all-insane Alan Keyes, a bona fide Republican black guy, who promised to take the fight directly to the Democratic black guy.

    In the end, of course, Barack Obama managed to eke out a narrow victory in that race with only a 43-point margin.

    How is Palin like Keyes? Republican essentialism! Keyes was a way of saying, "We have black guys, too!" Palin is McCain reacting to Hillary Clinton candidacy by saying, "We have women, too!"

    Listen, there is something significant about having a woman on a national ticket, period. It's even possible that Palin could turn out to be a tactically smart pick -- if Palin does a bang-up job, or (more plausibly) if Democrats overplay their hand in attacking her.

    I just think it's not great politics for a party to allow the machinery of its decision-making to be quite this transparent. Like Keyes, Palin fits one essential characteristic but comes with a whole menu of more serious political problems. My gut feeling is that this right now is the best day of publicity McCain will get out of his choice.

    Wednesday, August 27, 2008

    Kucinich requested the pierced tongue!

    Okay, this is not exactly firsthand or verifiable, but I cannot keep it to myself, as it is perhaps the biggest scoop of my career. We have a delegate from Wausau who is attending the DNC and blogging about it for the Daily Herald. Today, she called in, and in the course of chatting, said that she sat behind Dennis Kucinich's hot wife while Kucinich was about to give his speech. And according to our woman in Denver, Elizabeth Kucinich was overheard to say:
    Yeah, Dennis told me to get my tongue pierced because he thought it would be better for sex.
    !!!

    How boring was Kathleen Sebelius?

    Excruciatingly boring! This is the problem with experiencing politics mostly on paper, as an internet observer, which is what I do. I believed Sebelius could have been a good VP choice because of all sorts of stats and figures and policies and attributes I knew about her -- all things that seemed to make sense in the abstract. But I literally had no idea that she was so boring.

    Not that it takes away from any of her policy accomplishments, but my goodness, I am sleepy just remembering that speech...

    Tuesday, August 26, 2008

    Most eybrow-raising line I read today


    "Fewer people visited Barcelona in 1992, its Olympic year, than in 1991."
    From Tim Harford's post on what London can expect from the next Olympic games. He goes on to write:
    "If a sporting spectacle was all that was promised, the games would be an unproblematic affair. The Los Angeles games in 1984 focused on the sport, using existing facilities and renting student dorms instead of building an athletes’ village. It turned a huge profit."
    I always suspected the economic effects of an Olympics are vastly overblown. But perhaps the diplomatic effects still make it worthwhile in some cases, hence China's heavy lobbying for this year's games. Read more of his column here. Here is one article skeptical of optimistic claims. Here is one convinced Atlanta hit the jackpot in 1996.

    Oh Scarborough...

    Shuster has always been a very appealing talking head to me, and this clip makes me like him even more. The basic structure of this argument seems akin to any number of drunken bar debates which, as far as I understand, were not broadcast nationwide. I always felt like Scarborough, with his 6 hour morning time slot or whatever it is, was an otherwise sensible man driven to talk radio like antics because of the need to fill dead air.

    If you make it through, dig the clip at 8:30 where Joe tries to reconcile, while still insulting Shuster.

    Meanwhile RNC fundraising ticked noticeably upward

    "Bill Clinton appeared to undermine Sen. Barack Obama again Tuesday.

    "The former president, speaking in Denver, posed a hypothetical question in which he seemed to suggest that that the Democratic Party was making a mistake in choosing Obama as its presidential nominee.

    "He said: 'Suppose you're a voter, and you've got candidate X and candidate Y. Candidate X agrees with you on everything, but you don't think that candidate can deliver on anything at all. Candidate Y you agree with on about half the issues, but he can deliver. Which candidate are you going to vote for?'"

    Monday, August 25, 2008

    "In order to create a more perfect union..."

    My insider contacts tell me this video will will be prominently played at next week's Republican National Convention.

    Saturday, August 23, 2008

    Biden and me

    Obama's choice of Joseph Biden as VP candidate has a mixed reflection on AMillionMonkeys. I was touting his foreign policy knowledge back in fall 2006, and by December 2006 I was proposing him as a potential Obama VP candidate.

    By all rights, this should be a day of triumph for me, and I should be crowing and touting my prescience to everyone who will listen. But then in March 2007, probably as Biden was getting in trouble for one or another verbal gaffe, I wrote that "My idea that he'd potentially make a good VP candidate surely ranks among this blog's most embarrassing errors in judgment." Noooo! I snatched pundit defeat from the jaws of pundit victory.

    (The only thing that keeps that post from being an utterly embarrassing error in judgment is that I was still pushing Biden as Secretary of State.)

    Lesson: Never, ever change your mind!

    The Old Man and the "B"

    So as I'm reading the early AP stories about Barry's run with Biden, I come across the usual blather about other short-listers -- Sibelius, yadda yadda, Bayh, yadda yadda, Kaine....Chet Edwards!??

    Apparently I wasn't the only one who had this reaction. Drudge linked to another story with the teaser "Chet?" Am I the only one who missed this name? CNN has this line in their Veep story: "This month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi touted Edwards as a dark horse contender for the No. 2 spot on the ticket."

    Really? Where was I? Man, not having a TV is really making me feel out of the loop. I mean, did his name even show up at Wonkette? If not then this is some seriously deep cover shit.

    Friday, August 22, 2008

    game changer?

    we all know obama's crew registered loads of new voters... but a 72 percent increase in registered democrats in ohio?


    that's pretty heavy.

    Thursday, August 21, 2008

    Lame comeback

    Today on a political story published on my paper's site, someone posted a rather passionate comment about the number of Americans without health insurance, the slowing economy, the war in Iraq. Passionate but not without some thought behind it. And someone else responded this way:
    Yeah what a crappy country. Why don't you abort some babies you'll feel better!
    And some people say the Internet debases the discourse...

    Angry debate guy

    Sure, we've seen the angry debate coach who moons a classroom:

    We've even seen the remixed version...

    Here is that same guy, in a somewhat more contemplative mood, about how the whole thing is really just about the magic of debate and keeping hegemony from marginalizing and running over the opposing viewpoints and so on.

    Tuesday, August 19, 2008

    Please

    Let's everyone stop comparing homosexuality to pedophilia, from now on, forever. Homosexuality is one thing, pedophilia is another thing -- a different thing. Everyone is perfectly comfortable keeping it that way: two different, not-related things. People, for the last time, not everything is a slippery slope.

    There are worse jobs than yours

    Sunday, August 17, 2008

    I am like Michael Phelps

    My column about the many striking similarities between myself and Michael Phelps can be read here.

    Thursday, August 14, 2008

    Job Opening

    This job posting has been making the rounds on the Hill recently:

    Staff Assistant Congressman Hova’s Office has an immediate opening for a Staff Assistant. Responsibilities include running the streets, stacking cheese, and assisting House offices in tasks such as rain making and “tricking hoes in polo clothes”. Applicants should be motivated, detail-oriented, possess excellent knowledge of gangsterness. Please send resume to H to the Izzo V to the izzay at JZ@rockefellarecords.com. NO SNITCHES!

    [HT: FamousDC]

    Sunday, August 10, 2008

    R.I.P. Isaac Hayes

    Great singer, also an underappreciated songwriter. With David Porter, Hayes wrote a slew of Sam & Dave's best songs, including "Soul Man":

    And of course there was also "Chocolate Salty Balls"...

    Wednesday, August 06, 2008

    Obama should not have thrown Mazen Asbahi under the bus

    My friend Aziz at City of Brass asks the Obama campaign, if it is going to keep firing Muslims for no real reason, "why even have a Muslim outreach advisor?":
    Mazen Asbahi, appointed as national coordinator for Muslim American affairs by the Obama campaign, has resigned from his volunteer position because of claims that he has "ties" to the Muslim Brotherhood, and served on the board of advisors for an Islamic fund at the same time (8 years ago) as another member, Jamal Said who is a fundamentalist imam. Asbahi actually resigned from that position after only a few weeks, once he learned of allegations against Said. In other words, Asbahi got the jihadi cooties, which are kind of like a mixture of anthrax and herpes.

    Obama continues to disappoint on this score. He still remains unable to state publicly that "no, I am not a muslim but it would make no difference even if I were." It would have truly been a hope-inspiring change to see him defend Asbahi and take on the whisperers, because caving to them makes them all the stronger. That would be audacity I can believe in.
    I guess I am a bit less optimistic than Aziz when he says, later in the post, that "If any politician had the power or the pulpit to take on the ugly, dark side of American culture that Islamophobia represents, it's Obama." I think maybe no politician has that power -- and even if Obama it's possible Obama has it, right in the middle of a hard-fought campaign might not be the time to find out.

    But that's not a defense of firing Asbahi, and it's not a defense of Obama's overall approach to dealing with "The Muslim Issue."

    The campaign is right to have poured resources into combating the misperception that Obama himself is Muslim. But he needs to couple that with a statement -- at least one statement -- that although he is Christian, his fight-the-smears campaigns should not be understood to mean that all Muslims everywhere are bad.

    I very much doubt that saying so would have a significant political cost, but it would have real benefits -- political, and even better, moral.

    UPDATE [8/8 5pm] ... This wasn't just a bad call, it was a terrible call, as detailed by an emailer to Five Thirty Eight. (Thanks Matt for pointing me to this.)

    Look, I think the moral case has to precede the political one here. But the political question raised by Haahnster is a fair one, and it's one addressed by the emailer directly:
    If Obama doesn't want to stand up for Mazen on principle, how about standing up for him on pragmatism? Maybe he doesn't feel he needs to, since it's not like Michigan is a tipping point state in this election or anything. And it's not like Michigan has one of the highest concentrations of Muslims of any state in the union. And it's not like Mazen is from Michigan and his resignation is certain to depress turnout in the state from one of the Obama campaign's most reliable demographic bases. Seriously, who made this decision? Karl Rove?
    By most measures (FiveThirtyEight's, prominently), Michigan is among the very most important swing states in this election. So besides having the effect of furthering a form of bigotry, this decision should be counted as a serious political fuck-up by the Obama campaign.