Archive for the ‘politics’ Category
Best sentence of the day refuting conventional wisdom about a particularly odious Republican presidential candidate
This theory is a lot like that Red Lobster menu, seeming to present an endless array of options, but most of them are just the same limited palette of cheap ingredients reconstituted in different ways.
– Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight.com
I am often at my happiest when I am at my most ridiculous. I don’t act on that self-knowledge often enough, but I did today when I spoke before the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight in favor of “Roadrunner” by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers becoming the official state rock song. An official rock song? Isn’t the whole purpose of rock’n’roll to upend that sort of thing? Maybe, but politics is the art of the possible and not the perfect. So is rock’n’roll, if you think about it. Regardless of the rock’n’rollness of the setting, “Roadrunner” is as close to a perfect rock’n’roll song as you’ll find. If we’re going to have an official rock song in this weird state, this is surely it. And I got to deliver my testimony as part of a hilarious lineup of a hearing that including two bills regarding clam chowder (one as official state appetizer, another as official state dish) and acts designating, among other events, Sleep Deprivation Awareness Week, Aviation Awareness Week, and Narcolepsy Awareness Day.
Here’s my testimony:
I am here as a longtime citizen of the Commonwealth to register my support for “Roadrunner” as our official rock song. Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers said all that needs to be said on the matter in four minutes and six seconds, so I promise I’ll come in way under that.
“Roadrunner” is profound and it’s profound in the way it celebrates the mundane. It makes art out of driving to a Stop and Shop, out of driving around your state late at night, listening to the radio, trying to make yourself feel better. Is there anything more American than that?
Or, to consider it another way, is there anything more American than wasting gas? “Roadrunner” was recorded in 1972, a year before the OPEC oil embargo, back when the stuff was cheap, $3 a barrel, and seemed to go on forever. Is Richman wasting gas? Or is he investing in gas? You can’t put a price on the feeling you can only get driving late at night listening to the radio.
That’s only one of an infinite number of mysteries in “Roadrunner.” I’ve got plenty more of ‘em, including one involving the Natick Mall, but I’ll just share a few reasons why “Roadrunner” is the only possible choice for official rock song.
It’s educational. Most songs only count off to 4, this counts off to 6. That’s 50% more math than most rock songs. At a time when communities are convulsing over math test scores, we should accept “Roadrunner” as a gift to the children of the Commonwealth. And, in lines like “going faster miles an hour,” it creates a whole new brand of English syntax — born in Massachusetts.
It’s for everyone. With only two chords and the occasional hint of a third, it’s a song almost anyone can learn to play. It’s been celebrated as one of about 1,000 songs that invented punk rock, but its influence goes way beyond that. It’s the only song that the jam band Phish, the electronic artist M.I.A., and punk stalwarts The Sex Pistols have all covered. If you’ve come up with something that Phish fans, M.I.A. fans, and Sex Pistols fans can agree on, you have truly captured the universal.
And it’s about triumph. You try shouting “radio on!” over and over out an open car window and not feel victorious. A little embarrassed, maybe, but victorious. Not that I would know from personal experience.
I admit it: There may be better bands from Massachusetts. There may have been better songs written and recorded in Massachusetts. But there’s no other song that so simply captures the complex delights of living in this beautiful, strange Commonwealth. It comes out and screams what no other song in the history of rock’n’roll ever has: “I’m in love with Massachusetts.”
Thank you very much.
Thank you to Joyce Linehan for making all this happen and to my friends for pointing out ways I could improve my testimony.
“Valérie Trierweiler, the partner of President François Hollande, supported a Socialist Party dissident who is trying to defeat Mr. Hollande’s former partner and the mother of his four children in Parliamentary elections.” — An endorsement from France’s First Lady causes a stir
There are 22 stories on the front page of NYTimes.com right now (Sunday night, March 13, 2011, 815pm). None of them are about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
There are 64 links on the front page of NYTimes.com right now, not counting navigational tools or administrivia. None of them lead to stories about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Good morning, friends. We made it. Eight years of lies, disregard for the Constitution, and world-wrecking incompetence are behind us, although I suspect we’ll all be living with the damage, direct and collateral, for decades. It is amazing, though: A man who two generations ago would have had problems being allowed to even vote for President in a large swath of this country is now taking the office. Obama appears to be thoughtful and interested in facts, which already places him far beyond the outgoing administration. The U.S. needs a little good news, and today, for a change, we have some.
Obama assumes responsibility for a unique collection of environmental, military, political, and social catastrophes. No human can reverse all that in a mere four or eight years. He can turn the country in the right direction, though, no matter how far behind course we are, no matter how far this country has to go to live up to its ideals. Better to be in the first few feet of a marathon in the right direction than to continue stubbornly limping in the wrong direction. Remember: If the election had gone the other way, even the committed atheists among us would have been going to sleep tonight praying desperately for four years of good health for John McCain so his vice president doesn’t take over. I am thrilled that Obama is being sworn in as President, particularly considering the alternative. And I’m thrilled even without that: the word “unimaginable” is overused in our culture, often used to mean “not very common.” But his ascendance, until very recently, was unimaginable. Nice to have an unimaginable positive surprise, for a change.
Obama is not leading us into Paradise. He is a conventional middle-of-the-road Democrat in many ways, and he has already begun backpedaling from some of his more progressive campaign positions. Despite his reading a good book about the last American president who was in a similar mess, it appears that Obama’s economic turnaround plan may be too timid for today’s emergency.
Timid for whom, though? I think for the country, but I probably mean too timid for those of us on the left side of most arguments. (I’ll be happy to see Gene Robinson up there today, but don’t get me started on Obama’s refusal to support marriage equality.) We on the left represent, at best, maybe half the country. Obama’s job is to rescue the whole damn country, not just approved-by-committed-lefties issues. If we on the left were not criticizing him for being too timid, he would not be doing his job leading the whole country.
Where does that leave me/us? With one foot inside and one outside. Is that enough? No. But it’s a tremendous improvement over trying to overcome an administration that built its legacy around torture, misdirection, and failure. The country tonight will be a better place than it was last night. Enjoy it. Throw a party. Sleep well. And tomorrow morning, come out fighting.
Now that Caroline Kennedy is on her way to being appointed to her uncle’s old Senate seat, the analysts and bloggers and bloggers who think they’re analysts are arguing whether she is qualified for the gig. It’s early, but there are signs that Kennedy might be subjected to the full Palin treatment.
I’m not here to argue whether Kennedy is Senator-ready; to be honest, I have no idea (although I do think that starting one’s career as an elected official at such a high level is presumptuous and possible only to celebrities, including the current governor of California, who is related to Kennedy in a way too complicated for me to figure out).
I am, however, here to argue that these questions about qualification tend to be directed far more at women than men. If I lived in Minnesota, chances are I would have voted for Al Franken for Senator. But I’m under no illusion that anything in the guy’s history of ad hominem jokes about Republicans makes him qualified for the office. Harry Reid ran for Senate leader on a platform to end the war in Iraq and then was completely ineffective at that (and plenty of other things). No one talks about whether Harry Reid is qualified for his job. Why? Because he’s a man.
I’m a committed lefty. I’m relieved Sarah Palin is back in Alaska, where she can do far less damage than she could in Washington, D.C. But I have no doubt that plenty of the attacks on her were because she was a woman. Let’s not do it again, guys. Considering the moronic men who roam the Senate chambers, it’s just stupid.