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...


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"


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.


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


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.


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.