Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Music XVI

Hey, it's been a while, but I'm back. And in that spirit, I give you a massive guilty pleasure song, but a deadly serious one too, given its subject.

The Cranberries, "Zombie"

Michael Tomasky hits the nail on the head

This is exactly what the President should do:
[T]here are some legitimate legal questions surrounding the use of the 14th Amendment that could lead to political nightmares down the road, like an adverse decision from the Supreme Court. And after all, as long as the GOP controls the House, the odds would be at least decent that they actually would drum up some phony charges and impeach him, leading to a trial in the Senate. But in fact, this would in many ways be a gift to Obama. Calls for impeachment would likely perform the nifty trick of getting both left and center on his side, galvanizing his enervated left flank for battle heading toward reelection and persuading independents that the Republican Party needs to start holding its caucus meetings in rubber rooms (what, impeaching a president for ensuring the good credit rating of the United States?).
If Boehner, Cantor, and McConnell want to keep cow-towing to the dead-ender wing of the Republican Party and destroy the national economy to sharpen a political axe, Obama has to call their bluff with the 14th.  Go on national television, explain the stakes, and then dare them to impeach him, because short of a Supreme Court ruling from a Court that's been very sympathetic to broad executive power arguments in recent memory (which would effectively be a ruling saying that the 14th Amendment doesn't actually mean what it says on its face) the only remedy would be impeachment.

Josh Lyman had the right idea.

H/T: My wife, who spotted the article, and has gotten her fill of my desperation for Obama to just end the crisis by invoking the 14th Amendment.

Monday, July 18, 2011

[Redacted]'s Cycling Adventures, Part I

I used to be quite the cyclist, and I'm trying to start riding more often.  So, when I was invited to go on the 80 km route of the Titletown Bike Tour yesterday, how could I refuse?  Of course, I accepted that invitation a couple weeks ago, before I knew that yesterday's temperatures up here would approach blast furnace levels.   I made the smart choice and didn't even bother asking about the heat index until we were done.  Even worse, we had that annoying southwest wind to deal with - the kind that was blowing the same speed we were riding, meaning even having a tailwind (which should be a wonderful relief on a hot day) ended up basically putting us in a sauna.  That, and I'd completely forgotten that there were three successive rather steep hills at the end of the route.  In short, I am hurting this morning.  But it's a great ride, well staffed and supported, and apart from those irritating hills it's a good route.

So, what did you do this weekend?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

It's on now

A number of district, including my own, are voting today.  If your district is one of them, go out and vote.

Decisions are made by those who show up.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday Music XV

Apologies for the slight hiatus this week. Normal blogging will resume next week.

Pet Shop Boys - "Integral"

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ruminations on the National Anthem

One of the many reasons I enjoy watching international sporting events is the chance to compare the national anthems of different countries.  There are a few nations with some very stirring anthems - "O Canada" and "Advance, Australia Fair" immediately spring to mind.  "La Marseillaise" is also excellent, but it's rather creepy once you know what the last few lines ("Marchons, marchons! / Qu'un sang impur, / Abreuve nos sillons!") translates into.  A few could probably be replaced by something better, but at least aren't that bad - I'd put the "Deutschlandlied" and "God Save the Queen" in this category, although the British don't seem to realize that "Jerusalem" is a vastly better song, despite it's obvious religious overtones.  It's just a very moving piece of music.  I'm even partial to "Rule, Britannia!" but such imperialistic sentiments are probably inappropriate in the 21st Century.

Which brings me to the rather troubled national anthem of these, our United States.  First off, it's unsingable.  How often must we suffer through trained performers screwing it up before this becomes clear?  Second, the song is almost unique in the world of national anthems, in that it is a description of an event (the shelling of Fort McHenry), rather than simply an ode to the nation and its virtues.  Third, the tune simply isn't (to my mind) all that great.  And, as it happens, there's a much better piece that solves all these problems and is already quite well-known: "America, the Beautiful."

Yes, it invokes the almighty in the refrain, but in the form of a request, not an assertion.  I get a lot less upset at "God shed his grace on thee" than the ridiculous "Annuit coeptis" on our currency, as if we are all certain that God or providence has, in fact, favored our undertaking.  But beyond that, the lyrics are truly moving, especially the fourth verse:
Oh, beautiful for patriot dream,
Which sees beyond the years.
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears.
I still recall Dan Rather breaking down while reciting these words on David Letterman's first broadcast after 9/11, and remarking that "We can never sing those words the same way again."  No, we can't.  If nothing else, the sentiment is perfect for a post-9/11 America.  And the melody is evocative too, unlike the current national anthem, which sounds like what it is: the tune of a drinking song, namely "To Anacreon in Heaven."  Ew.  And so, here in the early 21st Century, we ought to do away with our substandard anthem, and replace it with the first or, better yet, fourth verse of "America, the Beautiful."

And while I'm on the topic of official songs, I'm quite a fan of "On, Wisconsin," but "Maryland, My Maryland" really needs to be stricken as the state song of Maryland.  Why?  Because the song was written by a secessionist hoping Maryland would join the Confederacy.  And it refers to our greatest president as a "tyrant," a "vandal," and a "despot."  Why the Hell is it Maryland's state song?*  And before you say "But, [Redacted], state songs and national anthems are traditions and cannot be changed," check out Colorado.  That's right!  In 2007, the State of Colorado changed their state song to that atrocious John Denver diddy, "Rocky Mountain High," causing stoners everywhere to snicker.  Tennessee has had eight different state songs, and the current one is a 1980 country song by Ronnie Milsap.  I guess "Rocky Top" got boring or something.  "Georgia on My Mind" only became the state song of Georgia in the Seventies.  So while I'm advocating for our national anthem to be changed to "America, the Beautiful," can someone please write a song about Maryland, so that the Old Line State can finally have a non-secessionist state song?

*Also, on an aesthetic note, the song isn't helped by being set to the hokey and groan-inducing strains of "O Tannenbaum."

Friday, July 1, 2011

Friday Music XIV

In light of the mounting debt crisis, and the utter inability of our political leaders to agree on, well, anything really, I have to go in the obvious direction.

R.E.M. - "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)"