Friday, December 14, 2007

Saturday Rock Show A Day Early

This weekend coming up will be just plain crazy. I won't be around at all tomorrow, and I doubt I will be able to do much more than scan headlines on Sunday, but I wanted to put up a music post anyway.

Last week, I highlighted one of the quintessential British Progressive Rock Bands of the 1970's. This is another. There are quite a few King Crimson videos available on YouTube, but I like this one because (a) it is of the third incarnation of the band, which included, along with Fripp, John Wetton on bass, David Cross on violin, Bill Bruford on drums, and the wonderfully manic yet frightfully sane Jamie Muir on percussion; and (b), because Muir left the band before the finishing touches were put on its initial release, this video of him with the rest of the band is a gem. It doesn't have the whole of "Larks Tongue, Part 1", but it does give the uninitiated a glimpse of who and what King Crimson were, and what they were capable of doing. My own preference is for later songs, including "Fracture", "Starless and Bible Black", and even the somewhat lugubrious "The Night Watch". I just wish there was a long-form video which captured the ensembles' attempt at group improvisation, such as those captured on the now out-of-print four-CD set, The Great Deceiver. One on the first CD, which for some reason Fripp gave the name "Is There Intelligent Life In the Universe, or My Mate Atom", has an opening bass line that would make plates rattle four houses over.

Watching A Train Wreck In Slow Motion

I was listening to NPR this morning, and there were two separate reports, one on the Democratic debate in Iowa, the other on the lack of any clear front-runner, or even possible front-runner, in the Republican field. Indeed, the second story focused on the strategy Rudy Giuliani is hoping will work, viz., not caring about Iowa, New Hampshire, or South Carolina, and working on the Feb. 5 primaries in 22 states, including New York, New Jersey, and California (the most populous, and biggest prize). I was thinking about doing a post on the relative merits of the two sets of candidates in general terms, when I came across this by Matt Yglesias, which in turn references this essay, which reads in part:
The GOP is not debating what it stands for, nor is it a party that knows what it stands for and is looking for the best candidate to win a general election and/or to effectively carry out the party’s program. The GOP is not trying to find a leader for the party. It is looking for a candidate who is the incarnation of the party.

I think this is either dead wrong, or right but trivial, and in either case misses the real story of the differences between the two parties. The Democratic primary is a struggle for party identity, post-Clinton. Do we embrace the Clinton legacy of baby steps, with rhetorical flourishes to the left and legislative nods to the right, or do we move forward to build a real populist/progressive coalition, a party that reflects a newly emerging political consensus in this country? There are politicians who reflect the latter (Edwards in some ways, Obama in some ways) but who communicate the vision poorly. There are politicians whose ties to the past, through institutional commitments (Kucinich, Dodd) might make them less attractive than their sound policy proposals would suggest. Finally, there is Sen. Hillary Clinton, who is transcendent in many ways, running as her husbands wife, but independent of him; recalling the 1990's while looking to the future; invoking her status as a woman while refusing to call herself a feminist.

If one takes the formula quoted above seriously, then the Republicans' problem is a wealth of choices. Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, and Mitt Romney have all been successful politicians as elected Republican officials, with records other Republicans have held up as models of their party's governance. Yet, except for the recent Huckabee bubble, few voters seem excited, and there seems to be every indication that we might emerge from the early, January, primaries, with no candidate having anything like the momentum necessary to move through the Feb. 5 primaries and clinch the nomination (this is Giuliani's hope). I think the reason this is so is simple, if one considers the current poll ratings of George W. Bush and the Republican Party. While it is true that Bush is He Who Must Not Be Named in debates, ads, and discussions of Republican politics, he is a constant presence for both the parties and the candidates. Unlike Ronald Reagan, whom George H. W. Bush embraced (as did many other Republicans in 1988), the Bush 43 legacy is one no Republican candidate wants to run on, for good reason. Yet, they are stuck with it. Voters know about it, because they live with it, and all its corrosive effects.

Over the course of several Presidential election cycles (1968-1980) we watched the slow implosion of the (Presidential) Democratic Party, as it struggled with the legacy of Vietnam and the Great Society, as well as the racist Southern Strategy of Richard Nixon pulling the Yellow Dog South into the Republican camp. Bill Clinton was able to win in 1992 partly because he had lived out the struggle and came out the other side, with scars. He had not served in Vietnam, for reasons both base and principled (as were the reasons of many of those who opposed the war) and he embraced parts of the Great Society vision, while rejecting others, and transforming still more. The post-Clinton Democratic decision is whether this is a proper ideological stance.

I am looking forward to the Republican primaries. I am looking forward even more to the post-election post-mortem, as the Republican Party makes its first tentative steps towards figuring out "what went wrong". Of course, the answer will be simple, and they will have to live with the legacy of eight years of George W. Bush as President for as long as the Party exists.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Why Does The Republican Establishment Not Want Mike Huckabee?

Left-wing humor site Sadly, No! has endorsed Mike Huckabee for President. In doing so, they ask a question, and debate among themselves the answer - why does the Republican establishment not like Mike Huckabee? Why are they working to keep him from getting the nomination?

Late last summer, I wondered why Huckabee wasn't getting more endorsements, wasn't polling better, wasn't getting more money from connected conservative Christians Republicans. Huckabee is one of their own, after all. He doesn't have Romney's chiseled good looks, or Giuliani's extensive public record (which should hardly be a selling point with Republican voters anyway; that and he's just batshit insane). He's the anti-Clinton in many ways - from the same small town, a Baptist, a good speaker, governor of Arkansas, fighting long odds against foes that just don't seem to conform to Party standards as much as he does, but get all sorts of support anyway (remember, before he came in second in New Hampshire, the runaway favorite in polling in the 1992 Democratic primary race was Paul Tsongas). Only now, as Romney and Giuliani destroy one another in one of those political fights that is interesting to watch, Huckabee's appeal to Republican voters is rising. His appeal to Republican voters, especially Republican primary voters couldn't be more clear.

Some of the folks at S,N! think that, like Buchanan in 1992, the party establishment doesn't like Huckabee because he has no idea how to couch the repellent ideas of the Republican Party in the kind of palatable language that George Bush was able to use in 2000 to hide the fact that he was just a tad to the left of Attila the Hun. Huckabee, in contrast, just kind of let's it all hang out there. Others at S,N! think that it is mere practical concerns - Huckabee drags the Republican Party to even more ignominious defeat than any of the other candidates. In a nice graph they put up recent polling numbers and projections; except for a head-to-head match-up between Sens. Clinton and McCain, none of the current crop of Republican front-runners come close to beating any of the Democratic front-runners. A loss is a loss.

I really can't fathom what is happening here. I still think Huckabee should be a shoo-in for the nomination.

Does anyone have any insight here in to internal Republican politics that can help me figure this one out?

I Voted And All I Got Was This Lousy Congress

They can't seem to stop a President who has about a quarter of the country behind him. They can't get serious hearings or ask serious questions of the multiple allegations of illegality and criminal behavior. They can't even hold a hearing on the impeachment of the President for what are clearly high crimes and misdemeanors. Yet, they can get all but nine present members of the House of Representatives to vote for a resolution in support of Christmas.

While Peter King is both stupid and ignorant, I blame Nancy Pelosi and the Democratically controlled rules committee for allowing this to come to a vote. Why can't these people be even slightly as ruthless as the Republicans were? Why can't they block nonsense like this?

Lord help me, but even the Democrats in Congress have been slimed by the Bush Administrations ability to damage and destroy everything they touch.

UPDATE: I should be fair, and not blame Bush for the weakness and callowness of the Democratic "leadership". I think Glenn Greenwald is correct. I think these people are afraid someone might say something bad about them. They are children, essentially, and the right-wing press are the leaders of the biggest clique in town, the clique no one wants to upset.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Discipline Of Patience - We Aren't God

Pastor Dan's Progressive Bible Study on James 5:7-10 got me thinking. Many liberal Christians love the passage in which the author writes "faith without works is dead" (unless that liberal happens to be a Lutheran; Luther wanted James banished from the canon for that phrase alone). Yet, in the passage under study today, the author counsels patience on the coming of the Lord.

In his commentary, PD cites several passages in James on the role of discipline, especially on "disciplining one's tongue". Reading the passages cited (James 3:5b-12) I am almost embarrassed by my own failings in this particular discipline.

Yet, how does one square the counsel of patience with the insistence that Christian faith without action is dead? I think the answer is simple: acting out of our faith should not include making any kind of ultimate determinations on the faith (or lack thereof) of others. Nor should we ever make the category mistake of thinking that our actions in any way shape or form are God's actions. We do not move forward by one nanosecond the final consummation of God's creation by the most selfless act of Christian love for others. Nor do we have it in our power to determine the faithfulness or lack thereof of others. Disciplining our tongues is part and parcel of disciplining our lives to conform to what God wants us to be.

It is convicting to read a rebuke of loose speaking, of angry words (no matter how honest the anger may have been, or how justified one might think the anger may have been), especially when one considers anger to be righteous anger. If we are schooled in patience, then anger, whether at a personal slight or at systemic injustice and oppression, will not be a source of rage, but a moment for us to remember that we live not by any power we possess, but through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are on God's time now, however much it may irk us that God seems to be moving a bit slow. Like Abel's, the blood of millions of innocent victims cries out to heaven, and we stand around, wondering at the silence. Yet, are we not as responsible for that blood, and therefore for doing justice, as God?

Do we surrender at each dashed hope? Do we say, "That's the way the world is", and retreat to our little enclaves, debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Do we "curse God and die", in the counsel of Job's wife?

Or do we remember that we are God's, and God waited for "the fullness of time" to bring forth Jesus, and his ministry and life and death and resurrection for the reconciliation of a world lost to sin? Do we continue to hope, believing that the resurrection has, indeed, changed everything far more profoundly than any evil deed by any human being?

For all that we are to be about the work of God . . . we aren't God. Every step forward, no matter how small, is always accompanied by a step back somewhere else. The process, the doing and the living of the faith, requires a disciplining of our lives - including our tongues - so that we remember we are not God.

Moral Worth

ER got me thinking. Again. How do we determine the relative worth of any human life at any given time?

Is the perpetrator of a horrific crime of less intrinsic worth than those of his or her victims? As a practical matter - and I do not mean this lightly - it might be necessary to kill another human being to prevent the deaths of others. Does this mean, however, that this killing is morally justifiable? Does it lessen the burden of responsibility that exists upon the one who kills the perpetrator?

Sometime between the fall of 1993 and spring of 1994 (it had to be then, because I saw it when we lived in Washington), Lisa and I watched an NBC Nightline special on Jeffrey Dahmer. Journalists and producers had managed to piece together a portrait of this cannibalistic serial killer, from his earliest murder as a troubled eighteen year old until his self-confessed multiple slayings and incarceration, and the end result for me was to transform my own view of him from some kind of fiend in to a sad, troubled man whose life might have been different had those closest to him acted on his pleas for help. He may have spent many years institutionalized as a potential danger to himself and others, but his victims would still be alive, as would he. Somehow, the more I learned about Dahmer, the more human he became, the more explicable became his crimes, and the more compassion I felt for him.

I mentioned in comments over at ER's post that a young woman I once knew sat up with Ted Bundy's mother the night he was executed. It took a long time for the meaning of that to sink in, but sink in it did. These men who committed these horrible crimes were, for all they were disturbed, even deranged, still men - in Bundy's case with a mother who had to live with the fact that her son had done horrible things to countless women, over and over again, on a compulsion that drove him even as he knew the authorities were closing in. The short version of all this is that I no longer think of such individuals as "monsters", a term that at once dehumanizes them and elevates my own moral standing, and distances their actions from any set of actions I could possibly perform. They are human beings. Their crimes are within the realm of possibility for any human being, for all that they are evil.

I do not believe there is any moral calculus that can determine the absolute value of any human life, even in the midst of a horror such as a church shooting, or a serial killer in the midst of destroying a human life. I think we are all convicted by the example of the Amish actively forgiving the young man who killed several students at one of their schools. Yet, it is inarguable that it might be necessary, in the heat of the moment, to destroy the life of one person to save the lives of others. Should we, however, surrender to this practical necessity and call it a moral act?

I do not have an answer to this question; I honestly doubt there is an answer to it.

The War On Science

I was going to put up something about this yesterday, but I had the crazy idea I should spend time with my wife and kids. I'm such a nut.

At Alan's place, called "Some Amusing Blog Pun" (for some reason I left out the "amusing" part when I put it on my roll), he has a tidbit on the on-going war against science by the Bush Administration. A few days ago, Parklife posted two variants on the theme of right-wing fear and misunderstanding of what constitutes knowledge and science (my favorite was the link to the blogger who wrote the following: "As I always say, the myth of Global Warming can be easily debunked by the use of simple common sense and logic.") I used to think that the on-going war against scientific openness and real scientific research was simply a non-starter as an issue. How hyped up can the general public get about the way research results are or are not promulgated? How incensed are most people by the fact that most of the "scientific" proposals of this Administration, from the Moon-to-Mars program at NASA to abstinence-only sex education are scientifically untenable? Yet, there is far too much time and energy spent by those on the right on Intelligent Design, denying global warming, demanding an end to embryonic stem cell research, and frothing over Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize to think these are the precincts of the specialists. The right-wing War on Knowledge, fed by an almost comical (if not for the horrid results for national policy) scientific illiteracy, is an important issue, and should not be shunted off to the side, even in the face of war, recession, and the various illegalities of the Bush Administration.

Part of the reason, I think, that there is so much confusion about any number of these issues is there is a lack of understanding of what, exactly, science is. Stemming from the Latin word for "knowledge", science is usually considered to be just that, a body of knowledge, irrefutable, indisputable, and rooted in an understanding of the way the world really is. In fact, science is a specific way of understanding certain aspects of the physical world. It is, in essence, nothing more than a term denoting a method of learning. The remarkable thing about modern science, since its inception in the late Renaissance is the way it often violates what we think of as "common sense". When Copernicus postulated that astronomical calculation might work better if we put the sun, rather than the earth, as the center of celestial motion, the results of his calculations were only slightly better than geocentric astronomy, and had not yet done away with various epicicular motions that Ptolmaic astronomy continued to insist were necessary to explain the movement of planets. When Galileo peered through his telescope, some thought him either mad or possessed by demons or perpetrating a hoax because he saw things through the telescope that no one else could see . . . except through the telescope. When Isaac Newton offered up gravity as the "unmoved mover", a universal power acting at a distance, he was stumped when he tried to explain what, exactly, gravity was. He was uncomfortable with the notion of action at a distance; it seemed occult. Effects had to have identifiable causes, and simply saying something happened "because of gravity" was no more an explanation than saying opium put people to sleep because it had certain properties that made one sleepy. Yet, he refused to let the idea go, even though it violated common sense, because it was the only explanation that made sense.

More recently, such non-scientific ideas such as creationism and intelligent design have managed to survive the repeated destruction wrought by both law and science because they are often presented in the guise of some scientific enterprise. Creationism "Journals" are printed, including long articles with all sorts of equations in them attempting to prove carbon-dating wrong; intelligent design is based on the old deist "clock-maker" thesis, appealing to a notion of hierarchy and increasing complexity in nature that seems obvious - even commonsensical - to most people. Global warming is often attacked in the name of science using either trumped-up data, misunderstandings of the nature of various physical and chemical processes, or (failing that) the invocation of the smallness of humanity in the face of the wonders of nature, and our ignorance of so much of the world.

Any appeal to ignorance, however, reveals the true nature of so much of the anti-science mind-set. Scientists are extremely knowledgeable about all sorts of details of the world. Creationists demand examples of evolution; there are detailed fossil records of the evolution of all sorts of animal genera, from whales, dogs, and human beings, to such soft-tissue parts as the eye (still the sine qua non of examples used by creationists to deny evolution, as if scientific literature on the eye simply didn't exist). This example, more than any other, is revealing. They do not know the literature on these topics is vast, detailed, and vetted thoroughly. The most amazing spectacle lies in the fact that, despite being debunked again and again, the same old, tired arguments ("Evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics!"; "The fossil record isn't the same everywhere on the planet!"; "How can global warming exist when I've got snow on my lawn?") they continue to crop up. It is one thing to raise serious, substantive questions about the accuracy or predictability of this or that scientific theory; science does that all the time. When the forces of anti-science continue to trot out the corpses, and even skeletons, of various war horses long defeated, one should be pretty clear on what one is dealing with.

The Bush Administration's war on scientific openness, specifically in regards to global warming, is well-documented. Its root causes most likely lie in two things that are hallmarks of the past seven years - an affinity for energy companies that fear any legislation curbing carbon-based fuel consumption; a penchant for secrecy. Aided by well-funded forces of ignorance and anti-science, we have the spectacle of a multi-front struggle in which the scientific establishment is under siege. The results could be devastating, not just from the perspective of our national economy (with basic research in all sorts of areas tied to all sorts of non-scientific restrictions, the federal money pool has dried up), but also just from a consideration of what is our human heritage of understanding about the world, about life and its development, and about our ability to cope and deal with this world that too often violates common sense. The political manipulation of scientific research should be an offense against the most basic principles of what it means to be an American.

No Presidential election, or Administration, will ever be judged by its approach to scientific matters alone. Yet, the way the Bush Administration, and its socially and culturally conservative allies treat science and technological research is of a piece with their approach to the rest of society. Understanding the war on science, on both a political and social level, will go a long way to understanding the larger war on American principles of freedom and openness that Bush and his Administration have been waging since Jan 20, 2001.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What's All This Press Criticism Got To Do With Jesus?

N.B.: This is one of those boring "meta" posts that I am sure most people find dull. Skip at your leisure.

I feel the need to do a bit of self-justification here. I think I feel that I do not spend the proper amount of time dealing with "church" issues here, dealing rather with political ones, very often zeroing in on the way the major media and pundits attempt to frame our national discourse. I think it is important to make some kind of connection between the two, not only for readers who come here thinking they might find some good religious stuff and come away stumped, but also to clarify things for myself.

Part of it, as should be obvious, is personal. I am dealing with stuff that interests me. I suppose, however, that should not, nor never really, be enough to justify what I am doing.

Part of being a Christian in America is that we have the freedom to relate our faith to our public life without fear. We also have the responsibility to do so wisely, thoughtfully, and carefully, never allowing our judgments to end up being, "Because the Bible says so," because that's not an argument. In order to figure out how we should live responsible public lives as Christians, we need to carefully, and prayerfully, consider the best information possible. Too often, however, our major media outlets - the four networks, the cable news shows, the national dailies (except for The Christian Science Monitor, which deals more with international news), and the pundits - offer us meager fare at best. Now there are many who inhabit the left wing who insist there is something somewhat nefarious about the stupidity that reigns in our national discourse; Bob Somerby is the best example of this. Others, like digby and atrios, I think attribute it to some kind of social cohesiveness, similar in many respects to the kind of social networking in any small community. Still others highlight bad reporting that betrays simple ignorance of the underlying issues; Glenn Greenwald's recent smackdown of Joe Klein is a great example of this kind of thing.

I guess I dismiss the "partisan" argument out of hand. The other two, however, I think capture more of the reality we face than anything else. Underlying the silence of much of the Washington-based media on the issues that are the hottest topics here on the Internet - torture, the crimes of the Bush Administration, impeachment, a desire for serious campaign coverage - is a belief in the integrity of any Administration. While the Nixon Administration should have been an object lesson for any journalist who may have harbored such beliefs, whether they were active at the time or not; while the Reagan Administration served as another example of lawless behavior on the part of the Executive Branch; I believe the media accept the maxim that there is no qualitative difference between the actions of the Bush Administration and others. Their actions may or may not be popular; their policies may or may not be driven by purely political, even partisan, reasoning; underneath all these differences, however, is the simple fact that the mechanisms of government, the institutions of Congress, the Presidency, the courts, all seem to be working, functioning as they always have. There is the presumption that any serious breaking of the social and political and Constitutional contract our governing class has with the American people would be accompanied by some kind of institutional breach that would be blatant. That we have been witnessing the whithering of this self-same contract over the past seven years has been obvious to anyone who pays attention to the details. Perhaps they haven't been paying attention.

In order to be faithful citizens, we need to have the best information possible. This is not an ideological concern (or at least it shouldn't be). It is, or should be, the concern of any citizen who loves this country and wants it to function within the bounds of the Constitution. When there is abundant evidence that is is not, nor has for many a year, faithful citizens need to ask what is the role of faithful citizens in dealing with this dilemma. Do we concern ourselves with "social" or "cultural" issues such as the rights of sexual minorities or abortion, the content of cultural products such as movies, music, television, and video games; or, do we seek to redress the grievance that our government has broken its side of the compact with the American people to operate within the letter and spirit of our Constitution, thus betraying the faith of the people?

We can't begin to address these question, however, if we do not have a proper bead on things. This is where the failings of our Washington Press Corps become a scandal - they are part of the process of letting the American people know what is happening, as well as putting it in context. If they fail to do so, for whatever reason, they fail in their role as faithful reporters of the realities we face. If we do not have the information we need, how can we figure out, no matter how prayerful we are, no matter how earnest we are, no matter how concerned we are, how we should respond, or even be proactive in the public sphere?

It isn't necessary to salvation to be active politically. It is a part of the life of any Christian, however, to be active in the life of the community. To do so, we need to know what is really happening. When the vehicle for getting this information is broken, however, we are limited in the ways we can be faithful citizens. The failings of the press burden us all with the struggle to find out what is really happening.

"It's All Over, Folks. Nothing To See Here."

Like a beat cop in a bad movie, it seems we now have to face the spectacle of David Brooks telling us that we are now in a post-war period.
The world still has its problems, but it no longer seems to be building toward some larger crisis. The atmosphere of fear and conflict has at least temporarily abated. With the change in conditions, the election of 2008 is beginning to feel like a postwar election. American voters are coming out of the shells constructed after Sept. 11th and are looking for a new normalcy. They’re looking for something entirely different.


It’s clear that voters are not only exhausted by the war, they are exhausted by the war over the war.

Along with this line of crap, we have to force our eyes past the word "zeitgeist" twice.

David Brooks inhabits a universe where the on-going occupation of Iraq, as well as our losing efforts in Afghanistan, no longer exist. Sadly for this inept cultural commentator, the American people just don't live up to his expectations.(N.B.: The poll was conducted by and the results appear in the same paper as Brooks' column; does he even read his own publication?)
More people cite the Iraq war as the most important issue facing the country than cite any other matter, and though 38 percent say the dispatch of extra troops to Iraq this year is working, a majority continue to say that undertaking the war was a mistake.

As Matthew Yglesias writes in his comment on Brooks' stupid column:
[M]edia elites who control the debate questioning process don't want to talk about the war.

The Nixon White House tried to make Watergate disappear in the summer and fall of 1973, after Nixon fired Erlichmann and Haldeman (or was it Haldeman and Erlichmann?). Apparently, he thought tossing his two closest aides to the wolves would save his Administration. It didn't work out that way for him.

Each day, I think our national political reporting has reached about as far down as it can get. Lucky for my own sense of outrage, there's always David Brooks ready, willing, and able to write something this damn stupid to remind me that there is no bottom to the pit of stupid into which we have plunged.

Monday, December 10, 2007

It Is Unseemly . . .

. . . to beg, but I feel compelled to do so. I have had the Amazon Honor donation thingee up since mid-October. I suppose it is a tad moot at this point to remind readers, but it exists to assist me in my efforts to keep this little blog up and running. The donations will go in to a fund, 20% of which will be split evenly between Poplar Grove UMC and its ministries and a non-profit of my choosing. The rest will be gratefully appreciated as a help in my own modest, meager efforts to keep this whole thing going.

It is anonymous. It is quick. It is easy. It will be appreciated more than you know.

Excuse me while I wipe the dirt from my knees now.

Music Monday

I suppose I am showing my age by admitting this, but I am a much bigger fan of old analog synthesizers and keyboards than of the new digital ones. One of my favorite pieces of musical equipment from the sixties and seventies is the mellotron. Essentially, the mellotron was a tape player - there were tape loops (strings and voices) that played at various tones. It provided a "string" background without the necessity of hiring an orchestra. It also gave an interesting harmonic texture. The earliest mellotrons were used by the Beatles and the Moody Blues, but they were utilized by everyone from King Crimson (who used two in concerts during the '73-'74 incarnation) to Lynryd Skynryd (you can hear it in the background of the opening of "Free Bird" of all songs). One band that used it a lot, if not always imaginatively, was Genesis. Their best mellotron passage occurs in the opening of the following song, which is also one of their best Peter Gabriel-era songs (please note Gabriel's make-up and other accouterments). "Watcher of the Skies":

Another favorite is the big, rolling sound of a Hammond organ run through the rotating Leslie amplifier (oddly enough, Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead ran his bass through a Leslie, which gave it an interesting sound). The best utilizer of this particular way of playing was, without doubt, Keith Emerson. This is from 1970, with a great demonstration of what a Hammond so amplified could do, on "Knife Edge":

When I saw Dream Theater on their Octavarium tour, I was surprised to see a big old bank of plugs and knobs behind Jordan Rudess' keyboard setup. Normally, all he had was his Roland, which could be programmed with pretty much any sound, sometimes multiple sounds. Yet, for one solo in particular, in the middle section of the title track to Octavarium he used an old analog synth. There is just something about this sound that is so much better than the digital synth sounds. It occurs toward the end of this clip. Please note that the bank of plugs and wires sometimes required a tech during the concert to move the plugs around to get different sounds, so unless you were trying to show off (Keith Emerson), you kept the thing off stage. I think DT kept it on stage just to show they were really using it.

I just realized that Rudess uses a Korg synthesizer, not a Roland. My bad.

Please, No More Culture Wars

Jane Hamsher informs us that Sen. Hillary Clinton has joined with the usual gang of idiots (Sens. Lieberman, Brownback, and Bayh) to begin some kind of investigation in to the video game rating systm. Quoting from Sen. Lieberman's website:
In a letter to the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB), the Senators detailed how the change in rating opened the door to widespread release of the game, which depicts acts of horrific violence.

Let's see now. The rating system was designed to do nothing more than alert consumers, particularly parents, that a game contained potentially unsettling graphic images that might be unsuitable to minors. The game was released with the rating, and sold well.

Yeah, it sounds like the entire system is broken.

Leaving aside the rest of the post, which is a bit of a whine ("Why don't they go after the awful Left Behind video game and leave our Manhunt 2 alone?"), I just want to place a plea before the United States Senate:
In the future, will you confine your complaints about the content of cultural products, whether movies, music, or video games to the privacy of your own homes? You have no power - zero - in your official capacity to alter one jot the content of movies, of popular music, or of computer games. While your influence may intimidate some people, the forces pushing the content of all sorts of cultural products are wide, diverse, and far stronger than any resistance put up by a bunch of Senators.

As someone who is a consumer of massive amounts of some of these cultural products, I have yet to see where all the huffing, puffing, speechifying, Congressional hearings, and even rating systems have done anything to alter the direction in which cultural products trend. It may make some of you feel better to go on the record as saying, "This is just awful". It may be. Yet, that doesn't alter the fact that, whether it's Manhunt 2, rap music, Quentin Tarrantino movies, or what have you will be done the way the culture decides (in the case of music and movies, there is input from the respective industries - it's the market at work, folks).

In other words - STFU.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

No One Left To Turn To

The most quoted story today, without a doubt, will be this one at The Washington Post. Entitled "Hill Briefed on Waterboarding in 2002", and written by Joby Warrick and Dan Eggen, it details a 2002 briefing the CIA gave for leaders of both parties, which included information on torture. Among the Democratic leaders briefed were then-minority leader, now House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and current House Intelligence Chair Jane Harman.

This story only solidifies the disdain I feel for the "leadership" in the House. A year ago, I, along with many others, rejoiced at the prospect of a Congress in which both Houses were controlled by the Democratic Party. I, along with every one else to the left of Joe Lieberman, was excited by the prospect of the first woman elected Speaker of the House, the third highest office in the country. After twelve months of a whole lot of noise and not much else, as well as the determination that any real action to stop the Bush Administration will not pass either House of Congress, I am as disgusted with Pelosi, Hoyer, Reid, and the rest of these enablers as I am with Bush, Cheney, and the rest of the Administration.

We are leaderless. In fact, we are ruderless. At Sadly, No!, Bradrocket writes:
Why do I even bother voting for Democrats again? I mean, WTF. It would be nice, really really nice, to have at least one godsdamn party in this doomed nation that stands fully against torture. Jesus H., you horrible assholes. Don’t you have any damn principles? Don’t you have any ethics? Have you ever, at any point in your miserable lives, taken a principled stand on any issue?

It is concise and to the point. I no longer have a political home. I put no faith in the Democratic Party to make any serious changes in this country. Getting rid of Pelosi and the rest of these jackals will not solve the problem that they have completely destroyed any moral authority the Democratic Party might have had (and that was always thin at best anyway).

This is a depressing day.

Romney, Religion, And Republican Politics In An Age Of Torture (UPDATED)

I was interested to read today's column by David Broder, in which the Dean of Wanker . . . I mean Punditry reminds readers that Romney's father, he was a candidate for the Republican nomination for President in 1968, also had to speak his mind on his Mormon faith (and where are all the pundits talking about a child of privilege, Harvard-educated, who was groomed for the Presidency? Oh, that's right; it's only bad when a Democrat is like that; for Republicans it's a plus). One of the passages Broder highlights is interesting in light of something I read earlier this week, to which I shall repair momentarily.
[Co-author Stephen Hess and I] quoted George Romney's 1966 Lincoln Day speech in Boston: "I believe that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are divinely inspired documents, written by men especially raised up by their Creator for that purpose. I believe that God has made and presented to us a nation for a purpose -- to bring freedom to all the people of the world."

We commented that this is "purest Mormon teaching. . . . Thus a paradox in Romney turns out to be a paradox in Mormonism itself. These people, whose beliefs and practices are so idiosyncratic, and who actually took arms against the United States government, are also as hyper-American as a rodeo or county fair."


For me, with a lifetime of nothing but very positive relationships with Mormons, Romney's religion is as much of an asset as his family heritage. He was raised right by a couple I greatly admired, and the values they gave him are exactly those I would hope a leader would have.

In a post yesterday at Hulabaloo, digby writes the following:
And I would suggest that there is ample evidence that the Republican candidates for president this time, in different ways, have all shown a similar penchant for a nasty, simple-minded meanness or outright sadism. But the press is ignoring that once again in favor of predigested GOP spin which explores in detail such character revelations as Clinton's "brittleness" and Obama's "aloofness" and Edwards' "inauthenticity." Never mind the people who say they want to start deporting massive numbers of people because they are all diseased criminals or those who want to "double Gitmo." As far as the press is concerned, their biggest problem is figuring out which ones are the most Christian.(emphasis in original)

Of course, Broder doesn't address this conundrum, because it just isn't an issue. These are among the great unspokens of the various campaigns. That it should be front and center would be obvious in a sane universe (of course, if it were a sane universe, the whole thing would be moot, because torture simply wouldn't be something an American Administration would positively pursue from the top down).

It should be a scandal that the Republicans are falling all over one another (and the Democrats, too, although to a lesser extent, and with much scorn from the Washington Commentariat) declaring their undying Christian faith and their undying support for more Gunatanamo Bays, more wiretapping, more of pretty much every abuse of power this Administration has wrought. Even as George W. Bush disappears from the scene among the Republican candidates, his legacy, which includes torture as a tool of American policy, is very much present and accounted for.

I sometimes wonder how these people reconcile any of this in their minds. Whether it's Mike Huckabee's role in the release of convicted rapist Wayne Dumond (a Michael Dukakis/Willie Horton moment if ever there was one), or John McCain's cozying up to Jerry Falwell toward the end of Falwell's life, or Giuliani's general sociopathy, none of it squares with any understanding of "Christianity" of which I am aware. Yet, the journalists and pundits who cover the race all act as if there were nothing wrong, nothing amiss, nothing askew. These are questions that need to be asked, issues that need to be addressed. Does discrimination against sexual minorities and a desire to end abortion all it takes to be a Christian anymore?

UPDATE: Writing at Eschaton, Avedon crystallizes the total depravity of our entire political class, Republican and Democratic. She quotes lambert from corrente wire who writes:
Well, I guess now I know why impeachment was “off the table.”

Virtual Tin Cup

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More