John Edwards on Hardball: 12.18.07

This is a really impressive conversation. Sometimes Chris Matthews annoys me, but he asks good questions here.

quality review article

it’s not an academic article, but it reads like a review. dean baker from the amazing center for economic and policy research has published a thorough examination of the major dem candidates economic programs. guess whom baker prefers?

post i’ve been waiting to post

Been waiting to post this post since jimmy sent me a link last week. unfortunately, i had just imposed a ban on myself re: presidential ranting. Well, it’s a new week, and we’re going to do a bit more ranting before the old year is through.

In an articulate argument in the most recent issue of the atlantic, andrew sullivan lays out a compelling, earnest rationale for the Obama candidacy. It gets exultant, at times:

Yes, as the many profiles prove, he has considerable intelligence and not a little guile. But so do others, not least his formidably polished and practiced opponent Senator Hillary Clinton.

Obama, moreover, is no saint. He has flaws and tics: Often tired, sometimes crabby, intermittently solipsistic, he’s a surprisingly uneven campaigner.

A soaring rhetorical flourish one day is undercut by a lackluster debate performance the next. He is certainly not without self-regard. He has more experience in public life than his opponents want to acknowledge, but he has not spent much time in Washington and has never run a business. His lean physique, close-cropped hair, and stick-out ears can give the impression of a slightly pushy undergraduate. You can see why many of his friends and admirers have urged him to wait his turn. He could be president in five or nine years’ time—why the rush? But he knows, and privately acknowledges, that the fundamental point of his candidacy is that it is happening now.

More than the leader of a people or a program, Obama is “an idea whose time has come?” Is that enough, leftists?

Maybe.  I don’t think I’m experienced enough to answer that question. But I can tell you that I am also optimistic, if more cautiously so.   Let me explain why, though; and simultaneously question my explanation; and end up asking you a question.

I like that Obama is a non-Boomer, for all sorts of seemingly “apolitical,” or maybe even “cultural” reasons. I appreciate his background in community organizing, and I respect his ability to speak to (not for) class/race identities and issues that are usually barred from mainstream political discourse. Oh and as I’ve said, his very Habermasian willingness to engage in aggressive diplomacy and to communicate with our enemies is really satisfying. It smacks of the organizing model, to me.

But, of course, a lot of things are pretty mainstream and/or frustrating about Obama’s cv. The whole Constitutional Law, University of Chicago bit is pretty rarified, if in a good way. More troublingly, there’s the issue of his prolonged plan for getting us out of Iraq. And there’s more documentable Obama weirdness re: gay marriage, social security, NAFTA, teachers’ unions, etc.

Nevertheless, so many of us self-styled brainiacs – particularly those of us coming out of the ivory tower – have received Obama with almost-totally-open-arms….why? I’ve outlined the reasons I’m optimistic, but…why am I willing… no, why are we willing to take a leap of faith for this guy?

Is it just that he’s young, he’s not Hillary and he maybe has a chance of winning? What is it? Somebody explain myself to me? Why, when his rhetoric falls so short of the (genuine and/or disingenuous) lefty hectoring of Kucinich and Edwards? Why do we expect him to be better than his rhetoric? Are we falling victim to this old trick, again:

A friend of mine characterizes this as the “we’ll come back for you” politics, the claim that they can’t champion anything you want because they have to conciliate your enemies right now to get elected, but that, once they win, they’ll be able to attend to the progressive agenda they have to reject now in order to win. This worked out so well with the Clinton Presidency, didn’t it? Remember his argument that he had to sign the hideous 1996 welfare reform bill to be able to come back and “fix” it later? Or NAFTA? Or two repressive and racist crime bills that flooded the prisons? Or the privatizing of Sallie Mae, which set the stage for the student debt crisis? Or ending the federal government’s commitment to direct provision of housing for the poor?

I’m not really asking if we’re falling for this so much as asking why we’re falling for it so willingly.

5th place, is it, Fred?

Crooks and Liars reports Fred’s new take on the trusty anti-immigrant theme: ‘illegals’ are responsible for
the sub-prime crisis! In particular, it’s the non-english speakers.


As though on a mission to vindicate Naomi Klein, the government continues the desecration of New Orleans,
while simultaneously enacting the symbolic desecration of any and all remnants of the welfare state. It’s like a neoliberal version of Sherman’s march to the sea.

minutes of record reviews

rose melberg cast away the clouds: this is nice. beautiful voiced, intelligent woman doing acoustic galaxy 500-style sonnets. the delivery is as watercolor-y as the album cover. the lyrics are really arresting, and sly in a serious way. none of this sweater-wearing, belle and sebastian fan with a blackberry gesticulating. maybe you should download the title track for a buck somewhere and see what i mean.

background-wise, melberg is from the softies, and more generally from a wide, subsidiary area of collective conscience in and around k records in the booming 90s. i don’t know a damn thing about that scene except for that i seem to have overlooked/underestimated it, probably for parochial reasons or by mere chance. can anybody fill me in?

mission of burma obliterati: ha. i’ve mentioned my approval of the breadth and depth of the New Heavy Music thing that’s going on. but then you listen to old timers like shellac and bardo pond, let alone the American Northeast’s mission of burma.

let’s just say this: i like this record, as a record, more than any of its “classic” predecessors (and i love them, too). the roger miller/bob weston gtr/tapes interplay is as heady as anything conjured on those flabbergastingly urbane sonic youth records w/ o’rourke. oh, nonetheless the songs continue to have “hooks,” sometimes.

guided by voices power of suck: let me be honest and say that this band has effected my biological life and my own awkward attempts at songwriting as much as any other, bob dylan or neil young or anybody. so there’s that.

anyway, i’ve got to say that having an 18-year old around who’s becoming an enthusiast for early 90s lo fi stuff, i’m enjoying not having to be the custodian of gbv coolness. lately, even when i go back to my all-time arty faves like vampire on titus, a voice inside me says ‘not now.’ dan talks famously about having reached a point where he could no longer imagine wanting to hear gram parsons; au contrair, i’m just having a “not now” moment with gbv. that’s confirmed by acquiring and checking out this alb, which was never released as such but the songs ended up getting parsed and sprouting many legendary tributaries. objectively it’s great, but, well, ‘not now.’

it’s the second album i’ve heard that was reprocessed and ultimately spat out the fabulous under the bushes, under the stars elpee. kim deal on the production, albini on the knobs.

ryan adams follow the lights: maybe i listen to ryan adams too much. i spend too much time in my own head, making arguments for how he’s actually somehow cool. but in the end it may be a very personal thing: i identify with his self-indulgence, or his 1974 fm dreams, or his succession of personal failures that bely all outward successes, or his always falling short of feeling cool?

who knows why this ep was released? it features precious little new material, and a bunch of mostly deep cuts reworked in the newly-enshrined cardinals’ style. yet i still wonder if this ep – why was it released? – shouldn’t’ve been the one put in the starbucks kiosks. album rock for james blunt fans, but also good? i know it’s weird.

you know, noel/stroke it, noel

you know to be honest, eugene, OR is exactly where i want to be spending christmas.

not jersey. even though every year it gets a little bit more comfortably awkward, forced and glacial, the semiotics of jersey – which for me are also the semiotics of memory as such – will always yank me like i’m told whale boat’s harpooners would yank whales back to the big boats.

not portland, because even though portland has infinitely better restaurants, and probably better coffee but i’m not ready to committ….. well, portland also is the arena of my little universal struggle, as some of you know. thus, being “comfy” or even “thankful” in portland is currently a little bit impossible.

no, i’ll take eugene, OR. every time it rains for four months and i’m prancing around in flooded converse, i’ll be manic and afraid in a grocery; then, i’ll see some hippie dad hand a canvas sack to an ambiguously-sexed, adolescent snowboard hippie. the sack will consist of a radish; some sort of flabby, gory sliver of seaflesh; carob-flavored soy nuts; a purple-labeled liter of beer named after a (ziggy) marley song, and maybe another canvas sack.

i see that scene and think, see, this is where i can hop from lilypad to lilypad without being seen by anybody but who i want to see me. of course, that only holds true once in a while. but that weird feeling, the one i’m trying to evoke but cannot accurately describe… that feeling comprises the thing about eugene that reminds me most of sewanee. and it may be more of a ‘people’ thing than a ‘place’ thing.

happy holidays to all beloved friends, especially those who’re celebrating while simultaneously advancing the secularist vanguard’s War On Christmas.