Friday, April 28, 2006


Oh, Say Can You Si?

While we're in a musical mode here at RT, please check out the new Spanish version of the national anthem and tell me what you think.

President Bush says that the anthem should be sung
in English. I tend to agree. However, I must admit that the Kidron mix has a much better hummable melody than the original version -- thus causing the song to be inevitably butchered when performed at sporting events.

I feel bad, of course, criticizing the anthem in any way because, not only does it seem to be unpatriotic, but it also, for me, would demonstrate a lack of loyalty to my alma mater.

Yes, the "Star Spangled Banner" was composed by perhaps
the most famous graduate of St. John's College in Annapolis.

And no, as far as I know, Francis Scott Key did not play
croquet (but if he had -- he would have kicked Navy ass too)!

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Forever Young: From "Ohio" To Iraq

I'm not really much of a fan of '60s "protest" or hippie music. However, there are notable exceptions.

Crosby, Stills and Nash were never musically interesting until Neil Young hooked up with them (after having worked with Stephen Stills previously in the remarkable Buffalo Springfield). To me, "Ohio" was their crowning achievement, a rare protest song that had a killer hook, a great chorus and a sharp point of view.

Young, of course, has a musical split personaiity switching between hard rock and folky genres (while dabbling in everything from rockabilly to electro-synthesizer sounds -- and even bringing in Pearl Jam as his backing band for 1995's superb Mirrorball).

I've always favored the rocking "Crazy Horse" Young. Well, he's back in a pretty big way. He updates himself for the 21st century with Living With War, an unvarnished
blast at the administration and the Iraq War.

Two things are really noticeable: First, this may be the first album by a mainstream, established, artist that has been released free on the Internet a full three days before it's "official" store-release date (I'm listening to the album as I write this). It can be found
streaming here. But this is a full-fledged Internet invasion, with both a blog site and a MySpace spot devoted to the album.

The second, and more important, thing is that this is, artistically, a surprisingly muscular and lyrically moving album.

Whether one likes Young or not (or agrees with his general politics), what I've heard does more than just make an ideological statement. Living With War is really listenable, filled with great hooks, catchy melodies and the signature Neil Young wailing guitar.

"Political" music, regardless of ideology, is usually pretty bad, because the artist forgets about the music while taking the political stand. Young though has married them perfectly here -- and I hardly endorse its overall political message. "Flags of Freedom" almost brings one to tears, while having a chorus that you'll be humming for months. "Families" is equally poignant. The full choir on closer "America The Beautiful" is heart-stirring. Meanwhile, "Restless Consumer" may actually be the song that explains the conundrum noted in Friday's New York Times article on the
A well-known index of consumer confidence has risen to its highest level in four years, according to the Conference Board, a research company in New York. In the most recent CBS News poll, conducted last month, 55 percent of respondents rated the economy as good, even though 66 percent of Americans said the country was on
the wrong track.
Actually, "Impeach The President" -- which speaks for itself and has caused the most pre-release buzz -- is one of the two that, I don't think will hold up. It works for a couple of spins and has the catchy "flip-flop" hook, but unless one is truly politically wedded to its message, it tires rather quickly. However, the Al Qaeda/Katrina line is pretty snarky. Similarly, "Looking For A Leader" comes off as too much of a rant and is rather forgettable. But, those are the only real stumbles.

It's weirdly ironic that somehow a "George Bush" always tends bring out the best in Neil Young. Two of his finest post-'70s album were Freedom and Ragged Glory -- which both came out during George H. W. Bush's presidency.

UPDATE: I pretty much agree with Mark Leon Goldberg's assessment.

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Thursday, April 27, 2006



Please see the Update to "Snow Business..." on the site's weird appearance this morning.

Sorry, kids!

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Anti-Semitism or Not?

You decide.

What would be the reaction if Pat Buchanan had
said the following:

Of course there is an Israeli lobby in America -- its leading working group is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). It calls itself "America's Pro-Israel Lobby," and it attempts to influence U.S. legislation and policy.

Several national Jewish organizations lobby from time to time. Big deal -- why is anyone pretending this non-news requires falling on the floor and howling? Because of this weird deformity of debate.

In the United States, we do not have full-throated, full-throttle debate about Israel.


I don't know that I've ever felt intimidated by the knee-jerk "you're anti-Semitic" charge leveled at anyone who criticizes Israel, but I do know I have certainly heard it often enough to become tired of it.

And I wonder if that doesn't produce the same result: giving up on the discussion.

It's the sheer disproportion, the vehemence of the attacks on anyone perceived as criticizing Israel that makes them so odious.

It seems to me the root of the difficulty has been Israel's inability first to admit the Palestinians have been treated unfairly and, second, to figure out what to do about it. Now here goes a big fat generalization, but I think many Jews are so accustomed (by reality) to thinking of themselves as victims, it is especially difficult for them to admit they have victimized others.

...Israel is the No. 1 recipient of American foreign aid, and it seems an easy case can be made that the United States has subjugated its own interests to those of Israel in the past.

Whether you agree or not, it is a discussion well worth having and one that should not be shut down before it can start by unfair accusations of "anti-Semitism." In a very equal sense, none of this is academic. The Israel lobby was overwhelmingly in favor of starting the war with Iraq and is now among the leading hawks on Iran.

Of course, it is Molly Ivins saying it -- defending John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard University, authors of an already-notorious "Israel Lobby" paper.

Which raises the question: How does one truly assess anti-Semitic (or racist, or any "-ist") intent in a political argument affecting one specific "minority" group? How much "benefit of the doubt" should be given an author or a speaker who ventures into these sensitive topics? How much should one's previous background or statements factor into the general assessment (Ivins says that it doesn't seem to matter if someone has been previously supportive of Israel.)

But, Ivins' complaint could easily be re-written in the context of debate over affirmative action, immigration, education and other hot-button issues. It's very easy to silence or maneuver debate with an "-ism" charge that allows any substance in a particular argument to be ignored.

Richard Cohen enters into similar disputed territory.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Snow Business Like Snow Business

Andrew Sullivan points to George Stephanopolous' generally positive take on the White House's hiring of Tony Snow but adds a cautionary note:

What Bush has -- typically -- done is get a spokesman, who doesn't set policy, to appeal to alienated conservatives. It is literal window-dressing. Unless, of course, more is going on than meets the eye. Here's hoping that's true.
Is there more going on than meets the eye? Good question. At this point, one wonders whether even Snow knows. On the one hand, as far as can be determined (so far), Josh Bolten doesn't seem to have the devious sensibilty to just hire Snow for "show." However, Brit Hume asked Snow in an "exclusive" Fox News interview if he would have a policy role in addition to being spokesman.

Snow responded rather hesitantly that that would circumstance would work itself out "in time."


Well, Tony, if it hasn't been written in stone by the time you've been announced, it's ain't likely to happen.

Snow has enough smarts to handle a combined policy-communications role, but if the White House going forward is as closed-in as it has been heretofore, nothing is going to change.

Before taking the job, Snow should have (perhaps he did) spoken to Mike McCurry, who demanded in 1995 that he would be in the room when policy decisiions were being made (his predecessor, Dede Myers, famously, was not). The fact is that Clinton's press coverage -- in terms of substance, not scandal -- improved with McCurry. But that was because he knew enough about the policy that he felt comfortable with what he could and could not share with the press (and the public). As would Snow.

McClellan was so ineffective because it was blatantly clear that -- even in comparison to Ari Fleischer -- he wasn't "in the loop" when it came to what was going on in the White House -- either on policy or politics (
hello, Patrick Fitzgerald!) . Ultimately, Tony Snow will be as effective as the White House (Bolten, Rove, et. al.) allow him to be.

UPDATE (Thursday, Noon): Sorry about the weirdly truncated post that was up for about 12 hours, folks. I did an update last night from my PDA at about the same time there was a outage. Somehow most of the last paragraph just got eliminated. I wish I could remember exactly what great words of wisdom were there. Take my word for it -- I solved all off the White House's problems in about 150 words. Alas, after little sleep last night -- I've forgotten all the golden advice. I assumed it was still on the site until I looked at it this morning. AAARGH, damn you to heck, Blogger demons!!! You blew it up! You maniacs! You blew it up!!

Anyway, I recreated what I could. Normally, I would have checked in on the site over night (if nothing else, to see if Bill Barker had finished writing the Third Testament in the Comments section). But, of course, I was busy trying to get my cable broadband to work on two computers!!! On that score, I ended up batting only 50-50. Damn you to heck, Dell Inspiron (and Cablevision too, while we're at it)!

Gotta love that technology...

Oh well, I shouldn't complain too much. After a little more than a year doing this, this is actually the first real Blogger meltdown (visible on the site) I've had. Let us count our small blessings.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Three Headlines...

...that may explain everything.

Bush orders inquiry into sky-high gasoline prices


Bush to Suspend Oil Reserve Deposits

So, now we know what "strategic" in Strategic Oil Reserve means -- political strategy!

Bush Says Parents Did Nothing Wrong

Well, at least, it's refreshing to se the president refuse to blame his increasing abandonment of principles on the parenting skills of George H.W. and Barbara Bush. Clearly, they did the best they could under the circumstances!

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Monday, April 24, 2006


A Great Way To...

...spend a Sunday in Annapolis (which I did).

And Order was restored with the Johnnies
reclaiming their rightful possession of the Annapolis Cup!

coverage here.

Oh, one word about the Johnnies decision to wear bright red shirts emblazoned with a hammer-and-sickle and "SJCCCP." It wasn't just a combination of the phrase "St. John's College Croquet Club Party" with communinist-leaning sensibilities, as the article suggests by quoting an Academy plebe ("Maybe the reason why their shirts have sickle and hammers is because they're a little bit to the left, and we're a little bit to the right.")

The Johnny attire was a pointed rejoinder to the Naval Academy's "USA! USA!! USA!!!" victory whoop after last year's stunning upset.

I asked another Midshipman about that and he said, "We do that every time we win, regardless of the opponent." I asked, what about when they play one of the other military academies. He said, "We just yell, 'You voted for Kerry!' You voted for Kerry!'"

And there you have it.

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Sunday, April 23, 2006


St. John's College-U.S. Naval Academy Croquet '06

Oh yeah, SJC won -- 5-0!

Take that, squids! ;-)

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