Dan Balz of the Washington Post. Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times. Michael Isikoff of Newsweek. These are the names one conjures when thinking of quality political coverage. One most certainly does not conjure up the name ELI SANDERS, who for the past 10 months has been tormenting us with his repeated (and repeatedly inane) attempts at political reportage while mainly highlighting the vast gulf that exists between himself and those he would wish to consider his "peers." Nor, when thinking of quality political coverage—or even coherent political coverage—does one conjure up the name CHARLES MUDEDE. That is, in fact, the very last name one would ever want to see atop an article meant to inform the citizens of this great democracy. I'm not even sure Mr. Mudede is a citizen, and that is only the first item in my long list of disqualifying concerns about him. And yet here we have it: Mr. Mudede, The Stranger's most oft-lubricated pencil, wading into the election season muck this week in order to wax incomprehensible on Barack Obama, that dirge known as "hiphop," and whatever else his corrupt intellect was able to coax from the wine bottle. The result is exactly what one would expect from a paper known more for its drug cheerleading and escort advertisements than its political wonkery: a piece that is rambling, insulting, embarrassing for all involved, and, ultimately, quite bad for the democracy whose freedoms Mr. Mudede crossed oceans to enjoy and now gleefully abuses. (As to whether The Stranger has now turned over its political coverage to a man who isn't even a citizen: I will be launching a full investigation and contacting the appropriate law enforcement agencies as needed.)

Elsewhere in this week's travesty, we find The Stranger's news squad—consisting, as far as I can work out, of a gaggle of mouth-breathers who somehow managed to pass typing class—tackling such weighty topics as feuding restaurant owners, the ugliness of townhomes, and taxi licenses. I suppose we should all be grateful that the section's standard lineup of overflogged horses (night clubs, the aforementioned drug cheerleading, hysterical complaints about police conduct) are given a breather for the week. Still, such a shallow section reminds one of The Stranger's chief "strengths": consistency—in the form of being able to fail on both a national, and local, level. Kudos, I suppose.

Finally, giving a brief turn through the remainder of the book, we find the usual suspects of college dropouts and snarky degenerates furthering the demise of quality criticism, be it in music, theater, or film. The lone standout is SHERMAN ALEXIE, whose brief "Sonics Death Watch" column on the very last page has received some rather undue attention recently from the more established press. Note to Mr. Alexie: You are a fine writer, and your love of basketball is readily apparent. But when the term "Stranger columnist" becomes attached to your name, no amount of awards and national recognition can rescue your résumé from the pyre. Be wary. recommended