Person of the Year 2008

The Bureau Staff picks the year’s most notable individuals.

Kanye West

Rapper to use auto-tune on blog, complain more. Last year, TIME picked Vladimir Putin as the Person of the Year, which, I imagine, is a choice they’re still regretting. In 2007, my choice for the distinction was Kanye West. Do I regret that decision? Hell no. In fact, I’ve chosen Kanye West as my pick for Person of the Year again.

Kanye West2008 was an impressive year for Mr. West. He gave up rapping on his fourth album, 808s & Heartbreak, for an outstanding record of lo-fi, electronic R&B backed by danceable new wave synths. He was even daring enough to perform tracks from that album live, even though the pitch-correcting power of auto-tune force his voice to the right notes. 2008 will also mark the year he won four Grammys, performed at the Democratic National Convention, started a new clothing line called Past Tell (get it?), attacked two paparazzi in a span of a month.

But none of those reasons come close to why Kanye West deserves to be the person of the year. No, Kanye deserves the distinction because he became the World’s Greatest Blogger. Despite the fact that he plagiarizes (and may even have a ghost blogger), Kanye’s excellent design meets personal soapbox of a blog exemplifies the best of what the web—and really, the world—has to offer. Here are some quotable nuggets of wisdom from Mr. West:

I’m typing so fucking hard I might break my fucking Mac book Air!!!!!!!!

and…

Call me any name you want…. arrogant, conceited, narcissistic, racist, metro, fag whatever you can think of….  BUT NEVER SAY I DIDN’T GIVE MY ALL!

and…

MY PRODUCTION MANAGER TRIED TO LOAD IN FOR 24 HOURS BEFORE I WENT ON STAGE BUT THE FESTIVAL WOULDN’T ALLOW US TO DO ANYTHING UNTILL PEARL JAM LEFT THE STAGE. PEARL JAM ENDED ONE HOUR  
LATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  AT THAT POINT WE’RE RACING AGAINST THE SUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And that’s all from the same post. (Also, see Kanye on anger management.) When he’s not blogging about how hard he’s blogging, Kanye posts links and pictures to creative design, fashion, and supermodels. It’s seriously Moco Loco meets Vogue meets Maxim meets your eleven-year-old sister’s LiveJournal.

Kanye keeps his blog locked down. — Kevin

Paul Krugman

Paul KrugmanEconomist wins Nobel Prize for beard. I would have chosen Paul Krugman for the same reason that the Nobel Committee awarded him the Prize for Economic Sciences—”for his analysis of trade patterns and location of economic activity”—if I knew what any of that meant. But I can certainly recognize excellence in gloating. Not that Krugman bragged about his Nobel win; if anything, it made his blogging a little self-conscious. But no one got more mileage than Paul Krugman out of the two big American stories of 2008: the Democrat’s triumph and the economy’s collapse.

Krugman’s blog and recent book are both titled “The Conscience of a Liberal,” so this quip from his November 7th New York Times column should come as no surprise: “this year’s presidential election was a clear referendum on political philosophies—and the progressive philosophy won.” After eight long years, we Democrats craved the power to ignore slightly-less-than-half of our country, and Krugman did us proud. Who better than a tenured Princeton professor/Times columnist to give the finger to the Republicans?

The Return of Depression Economics

Then there’s Krugman’s other book, The Return of Depression Economics, which, given its hasty republication, makes him one of the cunning few to profit from the Financial Fimbulvetr. Krugman’s Keynesian background also gives him the perfect amount of I-told-you-so to revel in the horrific failure of free-market economics. And revel he has, writing about a month’s worth of columns “reminding” us why the economy collapsed—namely because no one listened to him and other liberal economists. Even in today’s column Krugman can’t resist sticking in this little barb, even though it has nothing to do with his larger argument:

John Boehner, the House Republican leader, has been reduced to using his Web site to seek “credentialed American economists” willing to add their names to a list of “stimulus spending skeptics.”

So, Paul Krugman is my person of this sad year for allowing us a refreshing dose of schadenfreude. And also for being the first Nobel laureate to explore the intellectual possibilities of LOLcats. — Nick

Muntader al-Zaidi

Mutader al-ZaidiIraqi upset with U.S. President, motives unknown. Muntader al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist, is my Person of the Year. You might know him better as The Shoe Thrower.

The Shoe Thrower wins not because of his aim, which was plainly not good enough, but because he snuck shoes back onto the international stage. Not since Khrushchev banged one of his on the podium at the UN in 1960 have shoes been used to make a point.

I don’t condone violence against President Bush, and I don’t wish copycat attempts upon him, but I also don’t condone the violence Bush has done to the citizens of Iraq, so if one of the Iraqi people was going to effectively protest the latter and not really commit the former, this seemed as good a way as any.

The Shoe Thrower took on the role that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have tried in vain to play since gaining control of Congress in 2006—that is, provide direct dissent to the President’s actions. It didn’t work that well—while Bush got off some of the best one-liners of his administration, The Shoe Thrower was being beaten within an inch of his life out in the hallway.

It takes a certain amount of guts to speak truth to power; it takes a greater amount of guts to throw shoes at it. — Josh