Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hunter at Daily Kos has a great idea

I think for 2012, Californians should unilaterally decide that our state will be worth 5,000 delegates. Sure, it'd be against one piffling party rule, but I fail to see why the voters of California should be disenfranchised by not seating them all.

We're a democracy, so not seating them would be like enabling Hitler.

Also, our delegates will have the power of tagsies, which means that if they touch a delegate from another state while shouting "I AM THE HIGHLANDER", that other delegate has to give them their lunch money. Deal with that, Rules Committee.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dude. You're In Public.

I was in DC a couple weeks ago, and decided to go across the Memorial Bridge from DC proper to Arlington National Cemetery, (among other things, I was looking for the grave of an Army buddy who'd been killed long ago by, of all things, a "dud" round: that's a story for another time) and was struck by something I saw: At the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was a guy of about 40 or so in a Donald Duck tee shirt, sneakers and short pants, clicking away on a noisy camera during the Changing of the Guard. Looking at this clown, I had a series of thoughts:

1. Lordy, I hope that guy isn't from California.

2. Um, dude? You're in public. You realize that, right?

3. That guy is dressed in clothing that used to characterize the clothing worn by young children.

4. Somewhere back there in the national dust, maybe we left a sense of formality and respectability that might be worth resurrecting.

I think the striving for informality that began in the late 1960s started out as a needed reaction against a certain stuffy priggishness that obtained in 1950s America. I think a case could be made that perhaps things have gone too far in the other direction.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Melismatic Excess

I'm finding that a lot of R&B singing grates on my nerves the last, oh, 15 years or so. Some of that, I'll admit up front, is my middle-aged "these-kids-today..." sort of thing. But a lot has to do with the infuriating overuse of something that, properly used, can be a valuable part of a good singer's toolchest; Melisma.

Melisma is singing more than one note during one syllable of a lyric. For example, the first word of the National Anthem ("Oh...") has two descending notes. The origin of melisma in much of American pop music is due to the forms of music from which it is derived, especially black Gospel music.

Etta James used melisma with devastating effect - she is one of the great singers in the history of American Popular music. Her Chess recordings from the early sixties are particularly legendary: her performance of "All I Could Do Was Cry" is both breathtakingly intimate and vividly expressive: it communicates pain with a plain, harrowing directness that other singers might find too revealing to attempt - but her skillful use of melisma serves the song: showing off is the furthest thing from her mind.

Her delightful "If I Can't Have You" duet with Harvey Fuqua is another gem - it is fun to hear him try to keep up with the colossal talent with which he's singing, and Etta singing rings around him, imparting a sense to the song's story-arc that Fuqua's character is in way over his head, but can't believe his luck just the same.

Her ballads are monuments of their type - Etta's well-known performance of "At Last," in spite of its lush instrumental setting, is both transcendently intimate and heartbreaking; the song of a woman who has suffered much, but finally found a rock in the storm.

Listen to these songs, and then think of, say, Mariah Carey who, like James, uses melisma and other flourishes of Gospel singing, but unlike Etta she uses it to point to her own (undeniable) virtuosity, rather than in humble service to the song. If even half the R&B belters out there had Etta James' ability to express angst or well-earned joy, top-40 radio would be a wonderland.

Well, Yes.

One of Andrew Sullivan's readers emails him:

I am opposed to abortion with every fiber of my being. But so too am I opposed to torture. And to the death penalty. And to unnecessary wars. And to children going to bed hungry at night and lacking basic healthcare in the wealthiest nation in the world. And to our elderly lacking the medicines they require. Accordingly, this pro-life voter will proudly join Professor Kmiec in voting for Obama this fall. He is, after all, the most pro-life of the candidates.

Monster Voter Registration Drive

Barack Obama's organization is undertaking an absolutely gigantic voter registration drive, especially in the South, as part of its preparation for the General Election.

500,000 newly registered Georgia! This is very, very smart of Obama, and I think reflects his background as a community organizer. Republican voter-suppression efforts will come up far short in the face of such organization.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

What Are We "Progress"ing Toward?

What does it mean to be a Progressive/Liberal in America today? How do Progressives understand that term?

That seems to me to be an extremely important question, which I touched on in my last post.

There was a split in the Democratic Party in the late sixties between (roughly) the economic justice/labor/New Deal left on one side, and the (then) "New" Left/Anti-war/Cultural Revolutionary Left on the other.

One reason Obama excites me as a candidate is that he seems to me to represent a recognition that the old fights are fading in importance: in part because 1968 is, well, 40-years-ago history - the combatants are either mostly dead (the Boomers' parents) or will be in rest homes gumming creamed spinach pretty soon (the real, actual hippies the Right still rants about); and in part because the last 8 years have established beyond a doubt that the old hippie/square shouting matches are a luxury we can no longer afford.

The Democratic Party Coalition

Digby has an interesting conversation going over at Hullabaloo, in which she speculates about the dynamics of a possible (probable?) Democratic controlling majority in Washington in the aftermath of a likely Republican debacle this coming Fall.


The Republicans kept their "moderates" on a very short chain and consciously governed with as few cross over votes as possible in order to keep the other side frustrated and the caucus "pure." They got things done for a while, and protected their president with the loyalty of feral pit bulls, but ended up destroying themselves.

My thoughts: Depends what you mean by "progressive" - if you mean politicians who champion, in a front-burner way, the sorts of things that get the Republican base riled up (Dean's "God, Guns and Gays"), I think you're likely to see problems and rancor - a squandered opportunity.

But if you mean the sorts of things that the New Deal Generation were in consensus about (and that there is still more of less a consensus about - Labor rights, teach-them-to-fish style antipoverty programs...and just the general idea that one of the legitimate and important functions of government is to help balance society by keeping things more equal than they would be under a laissez faire regime) then I think we may see significant progress.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The reason I'm looking haunted tonight...

So at work today, the office manager decides that she's going to celebrate her demented love for [I can barely type this] Celine Dion.

One @#$%^%$&* album...over and over and over...each song more weepy and histrionic than the last.

You would have thought she would have noticed the rest of us in the office, after 2 hours of this, holding our hands over our ears and screaming over and over, "For the love of God, make it STOP!!!" but no, each repeated playing of every sappy song only seemed to increase her blissful rapture.

Tomorrow, I'm going to take her CD player and, after feeding it through the big, industrial document shredder, hire a deaf person to flush the confettied remnants down the toilet.


Via Vox Nova, one Professor Kmiec has been denied communion, due to a decision, not by a Bishop, but by a chaplain.

Awesome - so I guess chaplains can, at their discretion, now refuse communion to Catholic National Review columnists who are insufficiently opposed to torture? Any Catholic politician who has failed to oppose the Iraq War?

Is a Catholic politician opposed to the pastor’s social justice group? Back to the pews with you.

The Communion line is going to get pretty short, unless Bishops put an end to waging the culture war during Mass.

I give up: I think I’ll recommend to my pastor to refuse communion to any admitted Republican, until they publicly sign a renunciation of support for Unjust War, Torture, and Racism.

Of course, this will be countered by the Republicans in my parish, who will agitate for the denial of communion to anyone who has ever voted for a Democrat, until such time as they sign a renunciation of support for Abortion, Gay ‘marriage,’ and Pre-Marital sex.

So, I imagine Mass is going to turn into a situation of everyone checking carefully who receives, and the pastor, before offering the Body and Blood, asking for ID and checking a book to verify that each recipient is authorized to receive; meanwhile, we’ll all thank God that we are not like other men, especially those reprobate Demoncrats/Rethuglicans who are surely going to hell on roller skates.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Godwin's Law

I've always been somewhat suspicious of Godwin's Law. Imagine the following scenario:

"They are acting like Nazis!"

"Ah! Godwin's Law! You lose!"

"B-but, they're herding Jews onto trains, and burning Synag--"

"What? You're still here?? You already lost by comparing them to Nazis!"

In other words, sometimes comparisons to Nazis are apt and necessary. Otherwise, what does "Never Forget" really mean?

Edwards to Endorse Obama

According to CNN.

Republicans Bracing for Electoral Ruin

In the wake of recent Congressional losses in reliably Republican districts, it is a near certainty that the Republicans are going to get their clocks cleaned come November - and Republicans are in full panic mode. Here's Minority Leader Boehner:

The election "should serve as a wake-up call to Republican candidates nationwide."

"As I've said before, this is a change election, and if we want Americans to vote for us we have to convince them that we can fix Washington," Boehner said. "Our presidential nominee, Senator McCain, is an agent of change; candidates who hope to succeed must show that they're willing and able to join McCain in a leading movement for reform.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Please, Republicans, Run More Ads Like This

The Republicans ran the ad below against Travis Childers in Mississippi's 1st Congressional District. They have said they will tie Obama to every Democrat running this year.

Tonight, Childers won this district by 8% of the vote, in a district Bush carried in 2004 by 63 to 37 percent.

Heck, I'll contribute money to finance ads like this.

Thoughts and Prayers...

The Earthquake in China has killed at least 12000, and 18000 more are now estimated to be beneath the rubble.

May God be with the rescuers, the victims and their families.

New Blog

"Katherine", an occasional commenter over at Vox Nova, has a blog of her own. I'm delighted to add it to my blog roll. Go check it out.