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Thursday, October 07, 2010

I like music, and thus, I like YouTube. Though most of the videos flirt with copyright violations. Anyway, I got roped into a "Wow, Toto is amazing!" phase yesterday, [waiting while you look up "Africa"and cower in the corner, hoping not to get caught] and I happened to come across a song called "Lea." Now, more experienced Toto fans know that they like naming songs after members of the fairer sex, and that they've changed lead singers a couple times, for whatever that's worth. My first thought was, "What an outstanding pop song," and my next one was, "Why didn't Babyface cover this on his remake album 'Playlist'?" Don't even act like it's not right up his alley. [Babyface should pay you.--ed.] I know, right? Why didn't Toto's label release "Lea" as a single in 1986? [Because they're stupid, and they think we are, too.--ed.] Even so, follow the Money Train...er, that is, the Soul Train. As long as we are amorous and/or sad, there's a market.
Besides that, I had read that Welcome to the Black Parade by My Chemical Romance was one of the better-regarded albums of 2006. Not instantly a fan of the whiny, emo pop-punk on offer this past decade, I was suspicious. But I recalled their single from that album, and I've always liked it. The first two minutes is like a counterfeit messiah story, unfolded like an arena-rock ballad. I love that. One professional critic compared them and it to the best of Queen, and that's exactly right. Being the sap I am, I hoped they'd do the whole song like that, but it's enjoyable enough.
A brief note on page views: This blog crossed over 3000 page views 6 days before Christmas, 2009. As of last night, we have 5200. It's not monumental, but I thank those who read and enjoy my occasionally intelligent blather. [Your page views are inflated because you read your old posts.--ed.] That'd be reasonable, but for the fact that it tells me when I'm inflating the counter. So eat it!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

5 Reactions to the Foreign Service Officer Test (Yes, I promise, Uncle Sam, not a word as to its content)

5. It was fun. There was a time crunch, but it was enjoyable.

4. There was a bit of liberal clap-trap on the test, but less than I thought there'd be.

3. A lot more people whose heads are filled with useless, random information (like mine) should think about serving your country like this. You're d--- skippy, I felt patriotic taking the test, and well I should.

2. It wasn't hard. I will eat crow if I failed, but it was easier than I expected.

1. I think I passed, consequently.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

I cannot get away from politics, hard as I might try, and I can only hope that I keep the spheres separate enough that noone reading this blog is tempted to think the Christian gospel is linked to the political fortunes of one group or another. I sure don't feel that way, and I hope you don't, either. That said, not only do I have opinions, but I have some training as a political scientist/analyst, (which in truth is nothing more than the collection of a few insidery terms, a dash of history, and a love of the political process, which frankly anyone can have) so I see the world through those eyes also. I need to tell you about the 2006 midterm elections. Here in the US, every seat in the US House of Representatives is contested every 2 years. In 2006, the Republican Party (henceforth "GOP" for 'Grand Ole Party') controlled the House, the Senate, and the presidency leading up to the elections. The GOP lost the majority in both houses of Congress. Gary C. Jacobson of UC-San Diego argued that it was a referendum on Bush and the Iraq War in a prepared paper to the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association in the spring of 2007, but I think otherwise. I think spending played a far more significant role. Also, the personal scandals of GOP members played a major role. With the GOP in total control of the legislative and executive branches of government, there was no other way to signal dissatisfaction with the GOP than voting against them (and for the Democrats), but the nature of that disaffection was varied, to say the least. In fact, I had predicted that the GOP would begin an intra-party revolution in 2006, hoping that they could retain control while completely changing the ideology (at least by appearances) that underlied it. By 2006, the internal tensions between libertarians (free markets, radical downsizing of government in accordance with their view of the Constitution, generally anti-war) and 'conservative' Republicans (generally in favor of US military force, less market-driven, socially conservative) were too much, especially in light of the personal scandals of the GOP members of Congress (lobbying, sexual indiscretions). In fact, the so-called 'base' of the GOP had no trouble associating the profligate spending ways of the majority with its ethical lapses. I think the war cannot have been the primary reason for the electorate's disaffection, because Congress did not move in the direction of ending the war in 2006. It seems clear that a willingness to de-fund the war was a distinctly left-liberal position even among the Democratic caucus in 2006. What may bolster Jacobson's thesis, however, was the deliberate vagueness of the national Democratic message on Iraq: "A New Direction for Iraq," which, as you might guess, could encompass those opposed to the war from the beginning AND those who believed that the strategy for victory being followed was 1) too conciliatory toward Muslims, and 2) not likely to succeed. Democrats going forward were quite correct to surmise that the electorate, though not blessed with infinite patience as to the time-frame of this mission and to its costs, (both personal and economic) were quite ready to punish those who let the rebuilding nation collapse just to make a point. Even anti-war candidate Obama in 2008 spaced out his timetables on withdrawal of US forces so far as to make his anti-war stance irrelevant, in context. It was simply a matter of excellent timing: the supposed anti-war candidate benefits from the end of major hostilities, while garnering the support of outraged doves for his outspokenness! No, the war did not drive the elections. The Bush team had already put the surge strategy in place by the US elections. One could reasonably argue that the GOP's single-minded focus on the war (which still had the quiet support of most elected Democrats anyway) opened the way for their demise on spending. The candidates recruited by the Democrats to furnish the majority were from the South, pro-business, pro-Iraq war, and often pro-life (and other GOP-friendly views). It was a referendum on Bush, but not Bush's war. In fact, candidate Obama even cast his dovish war rhetoric against the backdrop of Bush's stubbornness, free spending, and perceived incompetence, not on the decision itself. I still think the combination of Jack Abramoff, Mark Foley, Larry Craig, et al. did in the GOP, not Iraq. Samantha Power was asked to leave as an adviser to Obama when she let slip that Obama's true views and plans on Iraq were the same as Bush's plans. However, if that's true, it helped Obama, not hurt him.
In short, the Tea Party is nothing if not a populist budget-hawk movement that might have gone unnoticed by the Democrats if they hadn't/weren't: 1) benefitted from it; and 2) completely and utterly clueless. The last two years at least is the tale of Obama (as the leader of the Democrats) completely misunderstanding the nature of his winning coalition, especially in terms of economics and spending. The entry of social conservatives (like Glenn Beck) into the fray is a complicating factor. In essence, if he or another major known figure on the right (like Palin) becomes the de facto head of the Tea Party, it will signal that fusionism (the historic alliance of social conservatives and fiscal libertarians) has been revived. This seems unlikely to happen, in my view. On the other hand, the Tea Party may itself fracture over national defense/war, or other issues, especially while Christians debate nationalism and bioethical issues, as they discover that the new movement doesn't share their concerns, at least not directly.