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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Obama opens up 14-point lead in CBS poll

Posted By on 10.14.08 at 07:37 PM

That's a big lead, though including third-party candidates knocks it down to 12 points, as Nate Silver explains; his analysis is, as you might guess, sound. Here are some points that jumped out at me:

"Among independents who are likely voters - a group that has swung back and forth between McCain and Obama over the course of the campaign - the Democratic ticket now leads by 18 points. McCain led among independents last week.

"McCain's campaign strategy may be hurting hurt him: Twenty-one percent of voters say their opinion of the Republican has changed for the worse in the last few weeks."


"McCain's favorable rating has fallen four points from last week, to 36 percent, and is now lower than his 41 percent unfavorable rating. Obama, by contrast, is now viewed favorably by half of registered voters and unfavorably by just 32 percent.

"Obama holds a considerable edge over his rival on having the right 'personality and temperament' to be president, with 69 percent saying Obama does and 53 percent saying McCain does."

And here's the punchline:

"One in three voters say they have heard 'a lot' about Ayers, and 31 percent say they have heard something about him, though far fewer - 9 percent - say the association bothers them.

"Four percent of voters say that it bothers them that Obama is a Muslim, which he is not. Fifty-six percent say nothing about Obama’s past bothers them."

In other words, the difference between an active theme they've been pushing and a completely insane rumor is five points. Now, I take that to mean bringing up Ayers tomorrow night will only hurt McCain, and would surely be the takeaway moment instead of any new economic proposals. But now he's said he would. Oops.

McCain's even running behind Barack on the question of who would raise your taxes. In other words, he's finding new ways to fail. Stay tuned for my attempt to compete with Gwen Ifill, due after election day: Change: John McCain's Campaign Was Awful Plus a Sexier Thesis TK.

Update: Ian Welsh turns a skeptical eye on Obama's economic plan. His general thesis bears mentioning: don't be disappointed, what with all the enthusiasm and mixtapes and Walgreens T-shirts and whatnot, if Obama turns out to be a Clintonian neoliberal. I mean, be disappointed, I guess, but don't be surprised.

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Christopher Buckley quits the National Review

Posted By on 10.14.08 at 07:22 PM

Author Christopher Buckley says things got ugly fast when he endorsed Barack Obama for president at Tina Brown's new The Daily Beast, and in response he's quit his column for the National Review, the conservative magazine founded in 1955 by his famous father, William F. Buckley. He says National Review editor Rich Lowry "rather briskly" accepted the resignation.

Buckley's vastly better known for his novels (Thank You for Smoking, The White House Mess, Supreme Courtship), than for anything in the National Review, and his resignation strengthens the already compelling argument that a witty conservative has become a contradiction in terms. His resignation can be read, of course, as an act of defiance against the memory of his father, who died in April, but Buckley explains persuasively that it's his way of saying, "Dad, it's not the same place without you."

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You Shoot: Dash of Blue

Posted By on 10.14.08 at 06:54 PM

Patrick O'Neil

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What does "green" mean?

Posted By on 10.14.08 at 06:31 PM

Mayor Daley and his top aides--and by extension most aldermen--are big on the idea of making Chicago the greenest city in the country. In fact, some seem to believe it’ll be true if they simply say it enough. The incantations are now uttered at just about every city event remotely linked to an environmental issue—it doesn’t take much except a nearby trash can and accompanying blue recycling bin—and Tuesday’s joint meeting of the City Council’s finance, environment, and economic development committees was no exception. One after another, aldermen and business leaders described their city as green and getting greener: "one of the world leaders in the green and sustainable economic market . . . "; “the premier green market for the world . . . "; "a model for the world . . ."; "a huge success . . ."; "a leader in the environmentally friendly green cities in the world . . ."; "building on the reputation we’ve already developed . . . "; "more in Chicago than any other city . . . "

Amid the environmentally friendly backslapping, though, a serious and complicated discussion was slowly getting started: Aldermen were talking about a resolution, introduced by the First Ward’s Manny Flores, that called for a hearing to create city standards defining a "green business."

"What is considered 'green' or 'sustainable'?" Flores asked. "Barack Obama’s talked about creating five million new jobs in clean technologies—well, how do we determine whether or not these companies we might be allocating public dollars for are indeed 'clean technologies'?"

The issue, Flores went on to explain, is that city leaders widely agree that Chicago's economy will increasingly depend on recruiting and supporting green businesses—those that make a minimal impact on the environment as well as those that help others do so, from wind turbine factories to banks that lend to sustainable startups. But there’s no way the city can responsibly and effectively offer tax breaks, grants, or other incentives to sustainable businesses without first determining which ones truly are. Flores said that’s why the city should gather business leaders, academics, developers, legal experts, and environmental advocates to draw up measures of what "green" means. Voicing support, administration officials said they believed Chicago would be the first city to set these kinds of standards. 

And what might the standards be? There the discussion enters a bit of a gray area. Working out of energy-efficient buildings? Developing sustainable energy sources? Promoting “social equity”? Perhaps an ever-evolving list of these things and others, according to several experts who testified, including George Nassos, director of the environmental management program at IIT.

"We should move on this and move quickly," he said. "If we have a standard like this in place it will draw the companies here that are truly environmental so they don’t have to compete with companies that are just greenwashing."

Others agreed, while warning it may not be so easy to lay out clear definitions. "This is a crucially important issue to the city," said Peter Nicholson, founder of the Chicago Sustainable Business Alliance. "That said, it’s an enormous challenge. . . . What may be green today may not be green later. It’s a process, and it has to be updated regularly."

That process wasn’t going to get much further at this particular meeting—aldermen weren’t about to start hashing out the city’s "green matrix" in their first public conversation about it, and in fact they recessed without any formal decision to do it at all. But it would have been hard for them to miss the message from their expert witnesses.

"We risk losing our advantage to other countries and to other regions," said Nicholson, "if we do not move and move aggressively on these issues."

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How well do we know Barack Obama?

Posted By on 10.14.08 at 06:21 PM

David Samuels, writing in the New Republic, says Barack Obama's memoir Dreams From My Father is a "terrific book--an insightful, well-written, cunningly organized black male bildungsroman that also serves as a kind of autobiographical rejoinder to one of my favorite American novels, Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man."

But Samuels argues that the author decided to run for president by becoming a variety of Ellison's invisible man, "disowning the most striking parts of his own voice and transforming himself into a blank screen for the fantasy-projection of the electorate." Ellison knew what he was talking about, says Samuels, who's not sure Obama could get elected any other way,

But he's guardedly optimistic about an Obama presidency. The candidate not only grew up in the four corners of the earth but did so inside the skin of the people who inhabit those four corners. Samuels comments hopefully, "The same qualities that make Obama invisible to America make him visible to the rest of the world."

In the same issue, the New Republic's Noam Scheiber makes the trek to Wasilla to get the lowdown on Sarah Palin from some friends and more foes who knew her when. I think one reason Palin excites journalists so much is that she gives them lots of brand-new rocks to look under. Samuels's meditation on Obama is journalism without the rocks, and to me it was a tonic.

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There's nothing like the smell of bacon in the morning, even if it's only the smell . . .

Posted By on 10.14.08 at 06:09 PM

Wake n' Bacon, an alarm clock that wakes you up to the smell of cooking bacon, has been around a few years. But only since I've been on the bacon beat (ugh!) has it come to my attention. Here's how it works: you place a slice of frozen bacon in the cooking tray, set your clock for ten minutes prior to the time you want to get up, then drift off to sleep on the dreamy thought you'll be awakened by the smell of bacon frying, the work of two halogen lamps tripped by a microchip signaled by a hacked digital alarm clock. Designed by an NYU grad student and a couple of his cronies back in 2005, the device still doesn't appear to be available commercially. But that's not for lack of demand:

Anyone else think it's adorable but slightly perverse that it's in the shape of a pig's head? "Please wake up and enjoy part of my belly coming out of MY HEAD."

[h/t Julia]

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Tony Malaby shows off yet another side of himself

Posted By on 10.14.08 at 05:21 PM


For next week's paper I've written a Critic's Choice about upcoming gigs at the Hungry Brain (10/19) and the Chicago Cultural Center (10/20) by New York saxophonist Tony Malaby, bassist Ingebrigt Haaker Flaten, and drummer Nasheet Waits; in it I discuss two of Malaby's recent trio recordings. What I didn't get around to was his very different Cello Trio, which celebrates the release of a brand-new album called Warblepeck (Songlines) Wednesday night at the Hideout. It was recorded earlier this year with percussionist John Hollenbeck (Claudia Quintet) and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, who'll both join Malaby here.

The album alternates between tender, lyric pieces and open-ended exercises, and aside from tunes by Bill Frisell, Angelica Sanchez, and Eivind Opsvik, Malaby composed everything. Throughout it's marked by exquisite attention to textural intricacies, from the puckers and pops Malaby wrings from his saxophones to the delicate melodic counterpoint Hollenbeck lays down on xylophone, marimba, or glockenspiel (sometimes while drumming).

On the freest tracks the trio exercises great restraint, displaying a highly refined level of interaction in its feather-stroke give-and-take. Though I've heard plenty of players in similar contexts get so polite and tentative that the music shrivels up, here the silence and space carry as much energy as the loud, visceral passages. And they're pretty loud: on "Remolino" Lonberg-Holm scrapes at his amplified cello to produce screaming Hendrix-worthy freak-outs and Hollenback bashes and slams his kit in a cymbal-heavy barrage with the force of a Hawaiian pipeline.

The huge distance between these two extremes helps the group keep things lively and varied. The three players work in pretty disparate scenes these days--Malaby mostly in freebop contexts, Lonberg-Holm in sometimes woolly, sometimes introspective free improv, and Hollenbeck in increasingly composition-oriented settings--which gives the group a big palette. But each musician can also operate comfortably in either of his partners' area of specialization.

Today's playlist:

Fanfara Tirana, Albanian Wedding (Piranha)
Lafayette Gilchrist, Soul Progressin' (Hyena)
Dead C., Secret Earth (Ba Da Bing)
Wayne Shorter, Native Dancer (Columbia)
Bill Frisell, History, Mystery (Nonesuch)

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The art of vinyl obsession

Posted By on 10.14.08 at 04:38 PM


Artist Stefan Glerum has created a series of beautiful and surreal drawings called "Crate Digging, Don't Do It!" that depicts the many hazards of record obsession. Several of them depict things that actually influenced my decision to cut back on my own crate digging. Let's just say that "Imaginary Records Will Haunt Your Sleep" sounds a little familiar, and the image in "You Won't Make Friends" gave me some crazy flashbacks to the old Dusty Groove basement sales, which tended to inspire furious competition among record geeks and always seemed a hair's breadth away from descending into a scene reminiscent of the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The only big one I can think of that he missed is "You Will Spend Years Searching for a Record and as Soon as You Find It Someone Will Post It on BitTorrent."

(via Metafilter)

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Music downloads of note

Posted By on 10.14.08 at 04:21 PM

* Numero Group (see Gapers Block for more) has a new release coming out next week of music from East St. Louis's Young Disciples collective; Gorilla vs. Bear has a download.

* The Russell Simmons/DJ Lantern Obama mixtape is out. Writes Chicagoland correspondent S.: "I make no gurarantees. But since DJ Green Lantern and Russell Simmons were involved, it represents some kind of serious apex of Obama-related folk culture." Track listing here.

* Also via S.: Big Black Talk About "Fucking"

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Only three weeks left of the crazy

Posted By on 10.14.08 at 03:19 PM

* Tribune Company star columnist Jonah Goldberg FTW: Barack Obama has it easy because he's black. Double standards sure make it hard for white candidates in America. Apparently if he was white, the McCain campaign would be hitting him "twice as hard," and obviously that would be working out swell because the real problem with the McCain campaign is that it's way too positive.

I find his piece incredibly offensive and loaded with guilt-by-association: Peter Beinart is not a "Liberal Democrat."

* Not to worry--the McCain camp has a special plan to bring out their "best material for the last ten days of the race." Until then they will presumably continue to use the same lackluster, confused approach that torpedoed McCain's greatest appeal. And just in time!

* One of the crushing flaws in McCain's attempt to paint Obama as a radical/liberal/etc is that it's really a play for staunch Republicans; meanwhile, Obama is actively courting the moderates that were supposed to be in play for McCain and might have been if his campaign, like, tried.

* Goldberg's National Review colleague Christopher Buckley endorses Obama and bails from his dad's mag.

* Ezra Klein has more on the Employee Free Choice Act.

* Uh oh.

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Khruangbin, Mattson 2 Lincoln Hall
April 19
Jeremy Pelt Quintet Jazz Showcase
April 19

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