If you are in a hurry, here is the review in brief: this album is the sound of mediocrity violently sodomizing banality.

Now that those pressed for time are gone, let me expound on this theme. This album is shit. This album is so much shit that it will forever color the way in which people think about shit. This album is so much shit that it threatens to become infinitely massive and collapse unto itself. This album is such a massive shit that it will have to be stored in a hangar designed to house zeppelins. If this album is the lowest common denominator, scientists will have to find a way to divide by zero.

For more than a decade I have been getting comedy mileage out of the joke that the title Chinese Democracy will no longer be ironic by the time the album is actually released. The in-joke, of course, was that the album would be released right about when China became the land of the free, i.e. never. But after fourteen years (!!!) and $31 million (!!!!!!!) without an album, it seemed quite likely that China would reach democracy before this album reached stores. Indeed our friends in China have taken numerous steps toward imbuing their vast economy with market principles. China is not a true democracy though, and William Bailey, aka the Pride of Indiana, aka Axl Rose made good on his, um, "promise" before the market could declare victory over the Reds.

Guns 'n' Roses are, of course, horrible. This complicates the task of reviewing the album semi-objectively. Until you torrent your own copy (please, please do not pay for this) I will do my best to inadequately convey with mere words the extent to which it is shit.

Chinese Democracy is not the bottom of the cultural barrel. It is from a parallel universe in which barrels do not even exist. Imagine the worst thing you have ever heard, then imagine yourself listening to it while being drawn and quartered. Imagine cleaning out the grease trap at the nearest White Castle with your tongue. Imagine having dinner with Joe Lieberman, Elizabeth Hasselback, and Dog the Bounty Hunter. Imagine watching your parents have sex while John Madden provides color commentary and you have some idea of what 10 minutes of this album are like.

For the first minute of the eponymous first track I feared that I had fallen victim to a digital prankster. You know, every once in a while you download a torrent labeled Frampton Comes Alive! only to discover that it is some other album and you have been duped. I thought for sure that my pirated Chinese Democracy was actually a re-labeled Hannah Montana album. In hindsight I wish it was. But I was actually listening to the "lead single" off this "album", a track I can only describe a repetitive four-chord riff written by deaf people who were raised by apes and who have never heard music. As for Mr. Rose, well, imagine an 80s butt-rock band fronted by a fat Gilbert Gottfried and you have some idea of the singer's delivery at this point in his sad, too-long life. He has the vocal range of a belt sander.

Moving along, "Better" proves to be a stunningly inappropriate title for the next alleged hit, sounding like Guns 'n Roses after listening to Pretty Hate Machine too often – plus shit. Lots of shit. If any single phrase could describe the sound on this album, it is a faux-industrial version of the G'n'R you hated twenty years ago. This track is the poster child.

If you need proof that America needs to be hit by a large comet, the critics love this radioactive dog link of an album. Rolling Stone sayeth "Like (the album), "Better" feels like classic Guns N’ Roses" which is roughly akin to praising child rape for being just like it was in 1987. Further, they note that "Rose’s growling croon in the verses could have floated out of the Use Your Illusion sessions." I must regrettably report that they intend this as a compliment. Another critic says of "Better" that it "might actually be the best song on the record." True, and Rommel was probably the nicest Nazi.

How can anyone, even some misguided soul who likes this shit, not feel let down after waiting fourteen fucking years for this monument to irrelevance? Thirty million dollars and more than a decade gone, and this is the payoff. Given equivalent resources, either your neighborhood 14 year-olds' garage band or a shipping container full of disoriented monkeys could have produced something of equal or greater entertainment value.

Maybe the last three tracks save the album. I don't know, I don't care. I could not listen anymore. If there is justice in this world, one of Mr. Rose's numerous meth labs will explode while he tends to it and spare us from future output. Whether it is one, fourteen, twenty-eight, or a hundred years from now I hope never to hear anything this uninteresting again. Chinese Democracy succeeds in only one area, and that is in the incomprehensible alchemy of making Ratt and Def Leppard sound like Chopin in comparison.

It is insufficient to declare that I do not like this album. More accurately I am offended by its existence. It will find no audience beyond hipsters enjoying it "ironically" or as misguided nostalgia for people who were retards in 1991 and remain so today.


I applaud the efforts of the National Buy Nothing Day campaign as well as the general idea that the December holidays should not be a socially-mandated orgy of frivilous spending. I'm guessing that if you read this site regularly you are unlikely to be the kind of person who spends post-Thanksgiving at the nearest mall, so I won't preach said message to said choir.

For the next thirty days the media (and specifically the CNBC crowd) will watch consumer spending like a nervous parent checking Baby's temperature. They are all aware, as are you and I, that for all the talk of mortgage-backed securities and the auto industry the foundation of the American economy is people buying disposable shit they don't really need. And extending them credit so they can keep buying shit when the money runs out. When people stop buying, things get nasty. And we are about to learn a harsh lesson in how swiftly a failure of consumer confidence can kick the legs out from beneath our economic house of cards.

It is easy to forget the fact that we are in the midst of considerable economic turmoil. We see plunging gas prices, we no longer read daily of bank failures, and we have elected new leaders who will undoubtedly fix everything in a few days, max. Given our society's drosophila-like attention span, those who have yet to be directly affected are quick to forget. A disappointing holiday season of consumer spending, which will prompt another wave of difficulties throughout the economy, will serve as an abrupt reminder.

My point is, the frightening thing about the economic turmoil of the past few months is that we have only experienced the beginning – and it already blows. Things are going to get worse before they get better. The banking industry and the financial markets trembled and we all felt it. But the aftershocks are forthcoming. How much Christmas shopping will a 55 year-old whose retirement account lost 30% of its value in the past six months do this year? How many gifts will be under the (insert co-opted pagan symbol of your choice) of the millions of people who have lost jobs – or the tens of millions more who fear that fate in the near future? How much shopping can we expect of people whose homes declined in value precipitously or went into foreclosure?

The current predicament of the Big Three will be the fate of other industries as well when the long-term effects of insecurity and decreased wealth hit home. The best thing for all of us to do, theoretically, is to spend as usual rather than to deny the economy our dollars. If you're like me, however, and enjoy anything less than 100% job security, you're much more likely to tell the kids that Christmas will be a little less spectacular this year and go into Unnecessary Spending Lockdown.

Sorry, retailers. I've got nothing for you.


As proof that things will get worse before they get better on the right, let's take a too-early but not-really-too-early look at the 2010 Senate races. Yes, believe it or not, in 10 to 12 months the campaigns will become active and the races will begin to take shape.

There will be 35 races – Class III plus special elections for the Obama/Biden seats. That number could increase if a Senator from another class dies and requires a special election in 2010 to replace him or her. It could happen. Byrd is 91. Inouye, Akaka, and Lautenberg will all be 86. All four are Democrats. The GOP would have a good shot at replacing the elderly West Virginian with a Republican should Byrd give up the ghost.

Some Class III retirements have been announced or are expected. Sam Brownback (KS) is retiring. Ted Kennedy, Arlen Specter, and Jim Bunning will be 78, 80, and 80 in 2010. All are in poor health. One or all may opt to retire. Inouye will be 86. Yikes.

Of the 35 races, 19 are GOP-held compared to 16 currently occupied by Democrats. Again the numbers put the GOP in an uphill battle. Many of the 16 Democrats will be in cakewalk races – Leahy (who was in The Dark Knight. No, really.), Schumer, Lincoln, Mikulski, Reid, Bayh, Feingold – or in open races in states like IL, DE, or MA. Not a lot of vulnerable Democrats ready to be conquered.

The potential GOP pickups are few. Ken Salazar (CO) is beatable in theory, but the GOP has had a hell of a time conjuring up decent challengers (as evidenced by the recent Udall-Schaeffer beatdown) and the state took a turn for the blue in 2008. Chris Dodd (CT) was seriously affected by his Countrywide/Freddie scandal and could be vulnerable if challenged by Republican Governor Jodi Rell. I question whether she would surrender the security of the Governor's mansion to challenge a nationally-recognized incumbent Democrat in this climate. If she does, this will immediately be among the most hotly contested races. Otherwise, Dodd cruises. Barbara Boxer (CA) could face term-limited Governor Schwarzenegger. If nothing else, the race would be entertaining. Is he a legitimate threat or a sideshow?

The GOP also has some safe seats, including Shelby (AL), Bennett (UT), and Crapo (ID). But there is a whole mess of seats they are going to have trouble defending. Briefly:

  • The Kansas open seat. This is the early contender for race of the year. The GOP will probably nominate House member Todd Tiahrt. The Democrats will counter with wildly-popular but term-limited Governor Kathleen Sebelius. Yes, most competitive and entertaining race could be in…Kansas. Seriously. No Democrat but Sebelius could make this a race.
  • Murkowski (AK) is in for a fight. She is not popular, with considerable public resentment at the fact that her now-disgraced father appointed her to the seat. She won with just 49% of the vote in 2004. A strong Democratic challenger (none spring to mind – maybe Knowles again?) could topple her. Then again, so could a certain primary challenger.
  • Voinovich (OH) is in trouble. The Ohio GOP remains a mess and any one of a number of Democratic Reps could challenge him, as could Iraq War veteran and activist Paul Hackett.
  • Burr (NC) is the strongest early contender for the "Incumbent who loses by 15%" title. I bet the man has not slept in about three weeks. Elizabeth Dole just went down – by 10% – to a weak challenger. Dole is considerably better known, more powerful, and richer than Burr. Burr's challenger could be a powerhouse like Gov. Ensley or rising House star (and former NFL player) Heath Shuler. Yeah, it's early, but I'll go out on a limb and say Burr is about to get cornholed.
  • Jim "I'm Bat-Shit Insane" Bunning will be 79 and is in big trouble if he does decide to run. After a nobody got within 1% of Bunning in 2004, Congressmen Ben Chandler and John Yarmuth or Governor Steve Beshear are all in great position to topple Bunning if he defers retirement.
  • If Specter (PA) dies or retires this is almost certainly a Democratic pickup, but at the moment he claims he will run. Regardless of challenger strength, I have a hard time picturing PA voters casting an octegenarian six-term veteran with cancer out on the street.
  • Martinez (FL) won by a hair in 2004 and may not be so lucky again. Treasurer Alex Sink has already thrown his hat in the ring, but more well-known opposition could come from Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz or Robert Wexler. I have an unsubstantiated feeling that Wexler could pummel Martinez.
  • John Thune (SD) narrowly beat Tom Daschle in 2004 and could be in trouble against Stephanie Herseth or in a rematch with Daschle (unlikely).
  • David Vitter (LA) only won in 2004 because the Democrats ran three candidates thanks to Louisiana's unique election rules. Against a strong challenger, Senator Call Girls will be in trouble.

    Races that could be exciting under a limited set of circumstances include:

  • Gregg (NH) is in trouble if Gov. John Lynch runs, but there's little incentive for him to do so against the popular Senator. No one else can test Gregg.
  • McCain (AZ) would have been in trouble against Gov. Napolitano (hypothetical matchups had him badly behind) but she accepted a Cabinet post, making her foray into 2010 electoral politics unlikely.
  • If 77 year-old Chuck Grassley (IA) retires, former Democratic Gov. Vilsack is the clear favorite to replace him – or perhaps challenge him.
  • Coburn (OK) could be threatened by (and only by) 45 year-old Governor Brad Henry, who was re-elected with an overwhelming 68% of the vote in 2006. He has stated that he will not run. If he does, watch out. But I suspect he is waiting for 2012 to take down Inhofe, at which point Gov. Henry will still be a mere 49 years old.

    Democrats will not have Obama on the ticket to boost turnout, but implausably the party is in great shape to pick up even more seats in 2010. I have a hard time identifying a lot of vulnerable Democrats but no such trouble amassing a list of Republicans who won by a hair in 2004, which was a very favorable year for the GOP. If the first 18 months of the Obama presidency go well, the post-2010 Senate might be almost inconceivably lopsided. Republicans will need to mount something of a rally before 2010 in order to keep their numbers from dipping into the mid-30s. Ouch.


    Joe Biden will be replaced by his longtime Chief-of-Staff Ted Kaufman. Net effect: absolutely none. Kaufman curiously noted that he's "OK with retiring in two years" which will do little to calm talk of Biden's Iraq veteran son replacing him in 2010.

    Obama's replacement will come down to Jan Schakowsky, Luis Gutierrez, or Danny Davis, three House veterans who will blow away whatever dipshit the GOP finds to oppose them. Insert your own "a Jew, a Latino, and a black guy walk into the governor's office" joke here.

    Coleman-Franken drags on and will drag itself right into court sooner or later. Bank on it.


    I am starting to think that the Miss America pageant will become for the Republican Party what the Iowa Caucuses used to be. The right has the most amusing tendency to find its salvation in beauty queens (or alleged ones) who are lauded for their intellectual merit while mouthing the exact same script as everyone else in the movement. It is the Coulter-ization of conservative politics.

    Actually, scratch that. At least Ann Coulter's hysterical horseshit is largely original. I'm more fascinated by the B-squad of Great Conservative Minds who are indistinguishable from Jonah Goldberg except for their Great Conservative Tits. And the right isn't shy about objectifying, exploiting, and (we assume) angrily masturbating at the thought of these D-list minds, elevating them to the A-list in short order.

    Unless you're really lucky, you've seen the "Pretty in Mink" 2009 Calendar of right-wing pin-up girls from the Clare Booth Luce Institute. I will unironically applaud the Institute for having the decency to picture these women fully clothed; I am not sure that the world could handle the alternative. I also understand that a calendar of this sort is intended to feature attractive people. Nonetheless I think this offers excellent insight into the nature of these womens' celebrity in conservative circles.

    Take, for example, Amanda Carpenter. She's everywhere – on all the major cable shows, in print, and online – two whole years after walking away from Ball State with a journalism degree. She has never had an original thought, has had no notable success as an investigative journalist, and adds nothing to the cable network stew that Robert Novak doesn't already provide. The difference, of course, is that unless something is seriously wrong with you, you'd totally hit this over Novak.

    How about Michelle Malkin? What is it about anorexia that makes the right manhandle their puds so energetically? Michelle vituperates about affirmative action all the goddamn time, of course, apparently under the delusion that it is her Deep Blue-caliber mind that makes her a celebrity. Someone should let her know that the reason she's a wealthy celebrity and not a 5th-string blogger on PowerLine is that she is female, not white, and, in the far-right's dedicated circles of doughy eunuchs, fuckable.

    We could go on. Mary Katherine Ham (another "undergrad-to-Fox News-in-3-years" success story). Kate "GOP Chairman in Virginia, 2004-2006" Obenshain. Coulter. All the usual bits of crumpet that a misogynist, patriarchal movement trots out before the cameras to simultaneously feign diversity and provide a fantasy marital aid to their core supporters.

    It's amazing, by which I mean not amazing at all, that the Party of Ideas is so faithfully wedded to a core orthodoxy that it demands little more than rote repitition of the creed from the most appealing spokesmodel. Sure, everyone likes his or her own preferred eye candy in healthy doses, but folks like the CBL Institute and the millions of daily readers who follow these Hotties seem to have dangerously conflated visual appeal and intellectual contributions to the movement. Like 58 year-old fans at a Styx reunion show, the right only wants to hear the same hits over and over. But they don't merely demand to hear "Come Sail Away" – they want a hotter band to play it.


    The more I think about the relative positions of the two parties negotiating the auto industry bailout the more I am reminded of one of my favorite anecdotes of all time, from the 6th Century Chinese philosopher Shih Teng.

    A wealthy man drowned in the Wei River and his corpse floated onto the property of a peasant farmer. The farmer demanded a large sum of money to return the body. The deceased's family sought Teng's advice and he told them, "Wait. No other family will pay for the body."

    After the corpse lay in on the farmer's property for several days it grew quite unpleasant. He grew worried, and he also asked Teng for advice. "Wait," Teng said, "From no one else can they obtain the body."


    Let me quote myself on October 13 of this year, discussing the Senate races in the home stretch:

    If the big victory they can take away from this election is "We have enough Senators to threaten a filibuster!" then the GOP has truly suffered a beating of historic proportions.

    The battle to get to 58 will be a pretty easy one but there will be rapidly diminishing returns beyond that point. Fighting their way to 60 will require an improbable victory and a few more years of kissing Joe Lieberman’s ass, bending to his every whim.

    And here we are, the Democrats hitting 58 Senate seats with two clusterfucks yet to be resolved. The odds of hitting sixty are not great; in fact, let us go ahead and assume that the GOP wins either the Franken-Coleman recount showdown or the Martin-Chambliss runoff. At this point I would like to cue streamers, fireworks, and celebratory 80s rock anthems. Congratulations guys, you did it! That is the big victory for the year: holding on to 41 Senate seats. G-O-P! G-O-P! G-O-P!

    I think all of us who were thrilled by the outcome of this election are mindful of hubris. We know how quickly tables can turn in American politics. But looking at this election in isolation, I struggle to find the silver lining for the GOP.

    The Fox News crowd were prepared on Election Day to give McCain a big "exceeding expectations" win. That is, if McCain avoided losing in a complete rout they could note that, given all of Obama's advantages, McCain did far better than he should have. Alas, the Electoral College was lopsided. McCain lost every major swing state, including his Hail Mary state of Pennsylvania. Obama's victory was big enough that without CA and NY he still would have won. Ouch. No Kerry 2004 "Well, it should have been a Bush blowout but we made it close with a terrible candidate, so that's good!" silver lining here.

    The popular vote could be a source of solace. The Electoral College magnifies victories and makes reasonably close elections feel lopsided. The popular vote gap was 7% – nearly 9,000,000 votes. Not an overwhelming blowout, but certainly nothing to be happy about from the right.

    The Senate? Well, if losing eight or nine seats in one election (bringing the total over the last two races to at least -13 R) counts as a victory it is a victory for the forces of delusion. The practical impact of the Democrats' failure to attain sixty seats is almost nil.

    The House? We pay so little attention to the poor old House. Certainly it offered a glimmer of hope for the GOP? No, they lost another 21 seats (possibly more when the few remaining races are sorted out). Their deficit is now more than 80 seats: ~256 to 175. High-visibility and ultra-conservative incumbents like Marilyn Musgrave and Steve Chabot lost. Moderates like Christopher Shays and Jon Porter lost. Dennis Hastert's seat is now held by a Democrat. The GOP lost a House race in Idaho. Ouch.

    Perhaps the GOP succeeded by experiencing defeat today to set up tomorrow's victories. This election could be salvaged if they established a clear Obama Alternative, a dynamic leader to bring better outcomes in 2010 and 2012. Well, they established Palin…as a punchline to several years' worth of late-night jokes.

    I'm sorry, folks. I just do not see the "bright side." The only good thing about this election for Republicans is that it is over. Maybe the magnitude of their defeat will turn out to be the silver lining. With the other party solidly in control of the Federal government, the GOP's best bet may be to hope that things go poorly and start pointing fingers.