Monday, March 31, 2008

50 pulls a John Lewis

50 Cent switches his political allegiance from Clinton to Obama. I wonder whether Timbaland is contemplating something similar...

Friday, March 28, 2008

Someone does not like Slate's new feature

Jeff Jarvis flips out. Shouldn't blog drunk, Jeff.

I been thinkin

Where is the standard-bearer for male neo-soul/R&B vocals? I grew up reluctantly chewing on the offerings of Tevin Campbell, Brian McNight, and Tony! Toni! Tone! It all seemed a little too over seasoned, but I knew underneath was cuisine that was comforting and difficult to refuse. This of course led me to sample the culinary tour de force that inspired the whole genre, via Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, and my clear favorite Bill Withers.

Then came D'Angelo. Brown Sugar was a revelation, and yet it was completely expected -- it was familiar, unchallenging, and inspiring at the same time. All of which would seem bland next to his pathbreaking follow-up Voodoo. The use of a superstar live group (?uestlove, Charlie Hunter, Pino Palladino) which throughout rivals any other studio assemblage revealed what I had been looking for all along -- the flavor I noticed but couldn't identify. As a technical matter, if one were to analyze any one beat on any track, you could classify it in isolation as "incorrect," but when viewed as a whole constitutes a tight groove, that elusive undefinable characteristic that any jazz musician could lecture you on for hours. The rhythm is flexible, teetering on the edge of tenuous, and all the while undeniable.

Now I suppose I'm to believe that John Legend has raised the mantle overhead and placed it on the surface of his own baby grand, but am I the only one who finds him antiseptic? I just can't find the compulsion, the groove, the motion forward in his songs or lyrics.

So I guess my point in all this is to ask: D'angelo, where have you gone? Lest I've been missing your capable replacement, the world needs another 12-track set from you stat. And apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so. John Mayer penned this letter to D'Angelo a while back basically mirroring my own thoughts.

As an amuse bouche for those making it this far in the post, I offer Exhibit A in the trial of D'angelo as lone neo-soul pusher:

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Maybe not a convention floor-fight?

No protracted, all-the-way-to-the-convention Democratic fight? Based on the (very, very) brief interview posted here, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid does sound awfully confident:
Question: Do you still think the Democratic race can be resolved before the convention?
Reid: Easy.

Q: How is that?
Reid: It will be done.

Q: It just will?
Reid: Yep.

Q: Magically?
Reid: No, it will be done. I had a conversation with Governor Dean (Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean) today. Things are being done.
For what it's worth, Sen. Russ Feingold this morning was equally confident, also in a casual, offhand sort of way, in stating that superdelegates won't decide the nomination. And that's counter to the conventional wisdom, and to the apparent realities of the delegate math. But "things are being done"...!

So, what gives? Are Reid and Feingold just delusional or is there some kind of behind-closed-doors movement afoot among party elders? If I find a third example, it's a trend!

P.S. ... My full story about Feingold's appearance won't be available online until tomorrow for some reason, but a short web preview is here.

UPDATE [3/27 8:33am] ... Here is that full story.

[xpost What's Your Beef]

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

On Judas

Even I am getting sick of paying attention to politics these days, and I've more or less ignored or shrugged at the constant back-and-forth bickering. But isn't Carville's comparison of Bill Richardson to Judas for endorsing Obama exactly the reason why the Clinton crew is so creepy?

God forbid a politician acted out of, say, judgment rather than loyalty (though I imagine political reality played more of a part here). God forbid a politician fails to see the policy world through a lens of debts and favors.

Superstar remix

Here is a pretty great remix of the Lupe Fiasco song "Superstar" on which Young Jeezy, Lupe and T.I. all have good verses:

I love Jeezy rhyming "Honda Accord" with "Honda Accord." And his verse also contains a Wire reference!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I am in Las Vegas

I'm about to go play nickel slots and have a bloody mary. Someone call me if the Democratic race is over in the next few days. Otherwise I will probably have to catch up next week.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

If this is a hip-hop and politics blog

then we totally got scooped on this:
Q. Are you following the presidential race?
DMX: Not at all.

Q. You’re not? You know there’s a Black guy running, Barack Obama and then there’s Hillary Clinton.
DMX: His name is Barack?!

Q. Barack Obama, yeah.
DMX: Barack?!

Q. Barack.
DMX: What the fuck is a Barack?! Barack Obama. Where he from, Africa?

Monday, March 17, 2008

David Kuo loves Obama

I am not sure whether this is news, but I came across the BeliefNet blog of former Bush administration adviser on faith-based initiatives David Kuo, and he has apparently become a big Barack Obama supporter. See for instance here and here and here.

Kuo was pretty critical of Bush in his book Tempting Faith. Still, he was a bona fide White House insider. So the fact that he's supporting Obama feels significant.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Circa 2010, a right to prostitution will have been decided, or so suggests Michael Stokes Paulsen. See here for the majority opinion (written by Kennedy and joined by Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer and Clinton (!)).

HT: Orin Kerr at Volokh Conspiracy who rightly points out, the Scalia dissent on this case would be a classic: "Today’s opinion is the product of a Court, which is the product of a law-profession culture, that has largely signed on to the so-called hooker agenda . . . ")

Political Alchemy and the Mirage of Aggregation

Economist Bryan Caplan, whose runaway political science hit The Myth of the Rational Voter hit the scene late last year like a ton of bricks, recently spoke at the SxSW Interactive festival in Austin, TX (affectionately called ATX by locals, I found out last year). Here is one summary/response to his talk. Here is his own summary of the experience. And here is an online experiment inspired by Bryan's talk (with lots of insightful commentary).

If you haven't familiarized yourself with Caplan's book, you really are missing out on one of the most important contributions to public choice and democratic critique of the last 10 years (and it's not just me who thinks so). His basic argument could be glibly summarized in the Homer Simpson quote: "When will people learn, democracy doesn't work?" But of course there's a little more to it than that.

Friday, March 14, 2008


Now with more Academy Award-winning!

A Road to Damascus moment

Longtime playwright David Mamet, and one of my favorite screenwriters, admits to a recent conversion.
I'd observed that lust, greed, envy, sloth, and their pals are giving the world a good run for its money, but that nonetheless, people in general seem to get from day to day; and that we in the United States get from day to day under rather wonderful and privileged circumstances—that we are not and never have been the villains that some of the world and some of our citizens make us out to be, but that we are a confection of normal (greedy, lustful, duplicitous, corrupt, inspired—in short, human) individuals living under a spectacularly effective compact called the Constitution, and lucky to get it.
My favorite part:
I began reading not only the economics of Thomas Sowell (our greatest contemporary philosopher) but Milton Friedman, Paul Johnson, and Shelby Steele, and a host of conservative writers, and found that I agreed with them: a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than that idealistic vision I called liberalism.
Be still my heart.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


No idea where this is coming from, but uber-insider Mark Halperin has the following on Michigan/Florida negotiations in the Democratic party:
–Michigan's 156 delegates would be split 50-50 between Clinton and Obama.

–Florida's existing delegates would be seated at the Denver convention—but with half a vote each. That would give Clinton a net gain of about 19 elected delegates.

– The two states' superdelegates would then be able to vote in Denver, likely netting Clinton a few more delegates.
If I am the Obama campaign, I take this option in a heartbeat. Sure, he could probably do better than 50-50 in a Michigan revote. But that would require the clusterfuck of setting up revotes in both states, which would be just one more excuse for the Clinton campaign to stretch things out.

If I am the Clinton campaign, though, don't I benefit from more chaos and uncertainty about what is going to happen in these states? Wouldn't this agreement be just further proof that Clinton can't make up the delegate gap?

Those Were The Days

Is the subject matter a little a tired? Sure. But something about her face is captivating and this is no doubt Lady Sovereign's most comprehensible song so far (no doubt a push by her record label). Plus the groove would be right at home on a Little Brother or the Roots track. If this is an indication of where her songs are going, she may turn out to be a reverse-Nelly Furtado: starting out in rap and later moving to sweet-as-saccharine pop songs.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Lavinegate's bonus Steve Rhodes angle!

Eric Zorn returns to Lavinegate again today, posting a long pro-Lavine letter from advertising prof Tom Hayden, who I never had, along with his own interstitial commentary picking apart Hayden's fairly desperate, disingenuous argument.

It occurs to me that there is a bonus Steve Rhodes angle to Lavinegate, which is that Rhodes, who went to Medill, used to work for John Lavine. Here he is calling it an "amazing experience."

Thinking about the story, you might think it hits on a number of Rhodes's points of specialization: It's Chicago-related, scandal-related and journalism-related. (It provides no opportunity that I can see to bash Obama, but I am sure an inventive writer could find a way.) And yet Rhodes, arbiter of all things journalistic, has not had a comment yet.

Is this odd, or not? Lavinegate is not the biggest story in the news right now. But it's a battle over journalistic ethics raging in the Chicago area. The Tribune weighed in with an editorial. Isn't this the sort of thing the Beachwood Reporter comments on?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Get Busy

I kind of lost track of the Roots for a few albums there, but I really like this new song, and the video which is apparently set in your office:

Sunday, March 09, 2008

A monster!

Trenchant interpretation of the race from Reihan Salam of The American Scene:

Friday, March 07, 2008

Why isn't Ohio like Wisconsin?

It's overdetermined, so it's impossible to really point to a reason "why" the gains Barack Obama made with working class whites in Wisconsin didn't extend to Ohio. But I have lived and voted in both states, and my experience tells me that they are not that much different culturally. Why did their Democrats vote so differently?

I can think of six possible reasons, and I bet there are more:

1. NAFTA. Wisconsin has lost manufacturing jobs, too, but not as many as Ohio. No doubt the weird NAFTA flap in the couple of days before March 4 hurt Obama badly.

2. Race. Is Ohio more racist than Wisconsin? If this feels like a cheap explanation, it is, and to me it feels unlikely. But it's actually not so easy to dismiss. Analysis of Ohio exit polling here finds that the percentage of white voters "who voted for white candidates partly because of race" was only 6 percent in Wisconsin compared to 11.4 percent in Ohio.

3. Campaigning. The view put forward by an aggrieved anonymous commenter below was that Obama neglected campaign stops in rural Ohio, and as a result basically conceded every county except the heavily urban Franklin and Cuyahoga counties.

I think there's something to this. I don't know that much about Obama's campaign stops in Ohio, but he was all over Wisconsin, even up here in the north. If he had only stopped in Madison and Milwaukee, that absolutely would have been held against him by white rural Wisconsinites.***

4. What about the power of political endorsements? Usually the conventional wisdom is that endorsements don't move a whole lot of votes, unless maybe they are mayors with access to a political machine. But it's worth noting that Wisconsin's governor endorsed and campaigned for Obama, while Ohio's governor endorsed and campaigned for Clinton.

It seems to me that endorsements would hold the most sway among "low information" voters, in other words those who aren't political junkies who have been following the campaign since the beginning. And that group would presumably include a lot of, yes, working class whites.

5. That stupid 3 a.m. ad. I wasn't in Ohio when this ad dropped, and I really haven't seen data assessing its effect. But the specific type of national security appeal made by the Clinton campaign with that ad was never made in Wisconsin, and it is reasonable to assume that it caused a flicker of doubt about Obama's readiness in at least some voters' minds.

6. Saturday Night Live. Even though she had always been ahead in Ohio, Obama's 12 straight wins made Clinton an underdog in the campaign storyline. The blame-the-media shtick rolled out by SNL and seized upon by the Clinton campaign certainly caught on in the culture, triggering both some sympathy for Clinton among voters and some apparent "toughening" in press treatment of Obama.

To me, numbers 1 and 3 feel like they probably explain the most; numbers 5 and 6 seem the weakest. But I guess you never know what resonates with people. Ohioans, how would you rank the importance of these factors? Also feel free to pick apart these theories or add your own...

*** Of course, Wisconsin is a much smaller state than Ohio, and during the lead-up to its primary Obama wasn't simultaneously campaigning in another huge state with multiple urban centers. Wisconsin had its primary on the same day as Hawaii, a state Obama won by a margin of something like 99-1 without even a campaign stop. Ohio had its primary on the same day as Texas, which, well...

The Amazing Race

Bruce Reed would like to the thank the voters of Texas and Ohio (not the least which because he is an avowed Clintonite):
The permanent campaign turns out to be the best reality show ever invented. Any contest that can sustain that kind of excitement is like the World Series of poker: The value of the pot goes up with each hand, and whoever wins it won't be the least bit sorry that both sides went all-in.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Upon Further Reflection...

...Ohio still SUCKS! Screw Ohio. Go to college, jag-offs.

At least the exit polls show they were honest about the degree to which their own blatant racism influenced their voting.

Maybe we can rally the Amish in Pennsylvania to put this thing to bed once and for all.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Lavinegate not dead yet

Here Michael Miner of the Chicago Reader sees the Linzer letter for what it is -- a whitewash:
Lavine's sin was to publish a quote that he did not attribute and later could not support. Linzer's sin is the opposite. His letter is all unsupported attribution and no quotation. He does not produce the report whose conclusions he's announcing. He tells us the committee concluded that the quotes in question were true to the spirit of student sentiment -- but that's never been the issue. He writes "no evidence" when there is.