Daydream Nation, Again

As I’ve previously stated, if I dislike an album, I usually wait six months and give it another chance. Well, six months after I last listened to Daydream Nation, I tried again today. As with Return to Cookie Mountain, time made everything better. This album is clearly made of awesome. “Teen Age Riot” is riff-tastic, “Silver Rocket” rocks hard, “The Sprawl” has dueling guitar goodness, “‘Cross the Breeze” is indeed the right f’ing jam, etc., etc.
P.S. As part of my holiday reconsideration of critically-beloved artists (poor babies), I also gave Low another spin. Side two’s still too ambient for me, but I don’t know how I could have ever hated side one. I mean, “Breaking Glass” is so cracked out and delicious.

What Will Iowa Mean?

With Iowa only five days (!) away, it’s worth considering what the implications of each possible outcome would be. Here’s Noam Scheiber’s theory:

First, the three easy scenarios: 1.) Hillary wins by more than a point or two, in which case the race is basically over. 2.) Obama wins convincingly (five points or more), in which case it starts looking pretty good for him and Edwards is done. 3.) Edwards wins convincingly and Obama is third, in which case Obama is probably done and Hillary and Edwards duke it out (with Hillary enjoying a near-prohibitive financial advantage).
Short of one of these things happening, I think we’re looking at the muddle Mike was talking about last weekend. But here’s the thing: An inconclusive muddle actually benefits Obama. The reason is that a muddle kills Edwards, who needs the kind of fundraising and free-media boomlet that only a clean victory can provide. And without Edwards in the race, Obama consolidates the anti-Hillary vote, which nudges him over the top in what’s now a dead-even race in New Hampshire, makes things look pretty good for him in South Carolina (where he’s been closing but still has to convince some African-Americans he can win), and generally gives him the upper hand for the nomination.
So, somewhat counter-intuitively, Obama may have at least as many if not more “paths” to the nomination as Hillary, which is worth keeping in mind.

I hope this is true, and for the most part I think it is. One scenario he doesn’t account for is an Edwards win with Obama second, which I think would be spun as a defeat for Hillary, rather than an Edwards victory. Edwards is too far behind in New Hampshire to translate a win in Iowa into a win here, but I think that a Hillary third-place showing would drive people deciding between the two front-runners into Obama’s camp, leading him to win. Of course, I’m far from an objective observer, but Edwards just doesn’t have the base or organization (not to mention money) to go anywhere in NH.
More importantly, though, I think Noam, and Mike Crowley, overestimate the chance of an inconclusive result. Remember, the results out of Iowa are the percentages of delegates won by each candidate, not how many individual supporters they have. This means that, even as polls show a statistical tie, a strong winner comes out of the actual contest. The 2004 race is a good illustration of this. The last poll before those caucuses came out the day before them, January 21st, from the Des Moines Register. It showed Kerry in the lead, followed by Edwards, then Dean, then Gephardt. This is the order in which the candidates actually finished. However, while the Register showed all four candidates bunched close together – Kerry at 26%, Edwards at 23%, Dean at 20%, and Gephardt at 18% – the actual results were far more spread out. Kerry got 37.6%, Edwards 31.8%, Dean 18%, and Gephardt 10.6%. The point is that the caucus process amplifies even a small advantage for a candidates to give them a decisive victory. So while a “muddle” would certainly be an interesting outcome, I don’t think it’s all that likely.

Billy Kristol

By now, you’ve probably heard that Pinch Sulzberger decided that the left end of the NY Times op-ed page’s foreign policy writers, represented by such notable radicals as Nick Kristof and Tom Friedman, needs to be balanced by Bill Kristol. On a certain level, this isn’t awful news. Kristol is so transparently trigger-happy, and presents arguments so obviously shallow, that it’s unlikely his presence on the page will convince anyone who doesn’t already share his firm conviction that military force can solve any and all problems. On the other hand, this means that Bill Kristol will be paid money to write things, which is a clear affront to justice.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I need to get myself a position on an op-ed page. It doesn’t seem to require a base level of coherence or intelligence, and it pays the big bucks.

Bhutto Dead

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated; there was first a gunman firing at her at close range, followed by a suicide bomber who killed her and at least 14 people total.
I think it’s too early for accusations of Musharraf’s involvement; obviously, there are other possible culprits, including the same Islamist groups who have tried to kill Musharraf in the past (I imagine the only thing they’d like less than him is a nominally democratic, female PM). Also, it’s possible that this will allow Nawaz Sharif to emerge as the anti-Musharraf, presenting a more united front against him than previously existed, which surely wouldn’t be in Musharraf’s interest. That said, if Musharraf takes the opportunity to declare another state of emergency, it’ll be pretty clear that he’s trying to disrupt the upcoming elections and consolidate power, and involvement on his part would appear far more likely.
Bhutto’s advisers, for their part, are already accusing Musharraf. Barrett Rubin, a Pakistan expert interviewed by TPM, says that Bhutto’s presence allowed the US to minimize the democratic opposition to her, one non-threatening, hugely corrupt figure, and thus secure Musharraf’s stay in power. Now that she’s gone, U.S. strategy is, in Rubin’s words, “in tatters”.
There’s still a lot left to be learned about the actual event, and what happens next will be interesting. I’ll try to post updates as things progress.

Hillary’s Experience

A few months ago, I was talking to a New Hampshire voter trying to decide between Edwards and Obama. “So you’re not considering Hillary, huh?” I asked. “Yeah,” she replied, “I hate that she claims to have experience. I wouldn’t want a brain surgeon’s wife operating on me.”
Pat Healy’s front-pager in the New York Times today elaborates on this sentiment. Short version: while Hillary did visit a lot of countries, she wasn’t making policy, or even influencing it in a meaningful way. And without this experience, Hillary’s time in public office is far closer to that of Obama or Edwards than Dodd or Biden; indeed, Obama’s been in public office a good four years longer than her. And if that’s the case, her “experience” argument – which is now her closing argument – is pretty much bunk.
But no matter. Kay Steiger says pointing this out is just plain sexist:

after reading the article, there was something left unsaid: Hillary Clinton has great experience for a woman. There are few women as qualified as Hillary Clinton for a candidacy. There’s a smattering of female governors, a mere 16 female senators (two of whom were elected in 2006 midterm elections), and a handful of high-ranking and high-profile secretaries. There just aren’t a lot of “qualified” women to pull candidates from. And, as Hendrik Hertzberg said a while back, most women tend to sail into office on the coattails of their deceased or retired husbands.

And after all, Bill Clinton had nothing to do with Hillary’s election to the senate, or success in this election. Steiger goes on:

I’m not saying that Clinton’s experience as a first lady qualifies her to be a presidential candidate — there are plenty of legitimate reasons to pick on Clinton — but it does beg the question: If women are barely represented in high-level offices, how are they supposed to “qualify” themselves for a presidential run?

Um, perhaps by the same method every other presidential candidate does: by getting elected to the Senate, or the House, or as a Governor. Just because women aren’t represented equally in those positions doesn’t mean that they’re any less necessary for a successful presidency. And Steiger’s suggestion that female candidates be held to lower standards than male ones is extremely distasteful, and quite shocking to hear from a female writer.