Thursday, June 08, 2006

Death of a terrorist

The death of terrorist leader Zarqawi in Iraq is certainly good news. Folks on the right and left can take solace in his passing:

From Daily KOS:
CHEERS to finding a really evil needle in a really big haystack.  U.S. forces rocked terrorist Abu Musab "Dick" al-Zarqawi's world last night when they tossed a thousand pounds of explosive whupass down his gullet.  They found his body in the bedroom.  And the kitchen.  And the den.  And the garage.  And the neighbor's apartment.  And I think I found an eyebrow in my Cocoa Puffs this morning.  My only regret: he didn't know what hit him.

But I find it worrisome that according to U.S. Major Gen. Bill Caldwell,

...the tips leading to the safe house had come from within Zarqawi's network.

This would seem to indicate that Zarqawi’s betrayal was a calculated move by al-Qaeda and rather than viewing his death as a defeat, they see it as us doing them a favor. It is possible that Zarqawi had become too much of a loose cannon and had outlived his usefulness for al-Qaeda. The story notes that in recent days Zarqawi’s group had begun to shift from attacks on military forces to the targeting of civilians, most of them Shiites.

In an audio statement last week Zarqawi called for the killing of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country's most revered Shiite cleric.

Hmmmmm. One week he threatens the top cleric, the Grand Ayatollah, and the next week he gets a 500 pound bomb dropped on his head courtesy of the U.S. military. Coincidence? Probably not.

So now I have one more question. Who gets the $25 million bounty that we had placed on Zarqawi’s head? Will we reneg on giving out the prize because the tipster is probably tied to al-Qaeda?

Calm before the storm

I won’t deny that the GOP victory in the California special election was a big disappointment. But I thought the headline in the Washington Post story was a bit humorous:

Victory in California Calms GOP

Fearing humiliation in a race that drew national attention, the National Republican Congressional Committee pumped about $5 million into the race to replace imprisoned former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham. The results settled Republican nerves, which have been set on edge by months of nearly relentless bad omens, including corruption scandals and dismal poll ratings for President Bush and the GOP leadership in Congress.

So they pump $5 million into a single congressional election - more than twice what the Democrats spent - in what had been a solidly Republican district and squeak out a victory with less than 50 percent of the vote. If this is enough to settle Republican nerves then good for them. The last thing I want is agitated Republicans revving up their base as we go into the November general election. I would much prefer that they remain complacent in their assurance that their redistricting shenanigans and big business-financed monetary advantage will once again carry the day and keep them in control of Congress.

But it does mean that Democrats are going to have to work that much harder and Independents are going to have to make a choice and answer a simple question, “Have you had enough, yet?” If not, then go ahead and vote to keep the Republicans in charge for the next two years. But eventually I have faith that people will get their fill of corruption, scandal, war, debt and a stagnant economy and we will finally see an electoral tidal wave that will change the face of Washington. And I’m still betting that such a storm is brewing and could strike this fall.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Top Liberal Rock Songs

Here is my first crack at a list of the top liberal rock songs. My criteria for the list was that each song had to be relatively well known and the liberal content needed to be fairly obvious. No obscure songs that were used as album filler and got no airplay. And no songs where the message is vague and muddled.

Most rock songs are apolitical and deal with universal concepts such as love and heartbreak. It’s hard to write a really good song with a strong political message that doesn’t come off sounding forced and/or preachy. The following songs, in my opinion, succeeded in getting across a mostly liberal political viewpoint while still being good, solid rock songs.

1. “All You Need is Love,” by the Beatles
2. “Give Peace a Chance,” by the Beatles

Just the titles of these two John Lennon songs tell you everything you need to know. Simple but powerful message, irresistably catchy songs.

3. “Imagine,” by John Lennon
Derided by many on the right because of its anti-religious sentiments, I think it is one of the most beautiful odes to an idealistic future that has ever been put to music.

4. “Blowin’ In the Wind,” by Bob Dylan
5. “The Times They Are A Changin’,” by Bob Dylan

I’m sure there are many other Dylan songs that could be included, but these two are probably the best known.

6. “Man in Black,” by Johnny Cash

Since the National Review decided to include one country song, I decided to pick on as well.

7. “Ohio,” by Crosby Stills, Nash & Young

Protest songs don’t get much better than this. A hard-rocking number that slams home its point with full force and doesn’t sound outdated 30 years after the tragic incident that inspired it.

8. “For What It’s Worth,” by Buffalo Springfield

A lot of the hippie protest songs from the ‘60s sound naive and outdated today, but this one has stood the test of time and is still relevant today.

9. “Get Up Stand Up,” by Bob Marley

A rousing rocker that spun in my head the whole time that my son was learning to walk.

10. “What’s Goin’ On,” by Marvin Gaye

I never paid much attention to this song until Cuba Gooding Jr. sang it in the film “Jerry Maguire.” It has grown on me ever since.

11. “Living For the City,” by Stevie Wonder

I love this song. Very powerful and moving.

12. “War” by Edwin Starr

One of my favorite political cartoons from the start of the Iraq war shows a picture of the White House and someone inside is singing “War! Huh! Good God, y’all! What is it good for?” And then someone from the other side of the room (probably Karl Rove) says “Put a sock in it, Colin.”

13. “Pride (In the Name of Love),” by U2

It seems like such an obvious thing now, juxtaposing Christ’s crucifixtion and Martin Luther King’s assassination, but when I first heard the song it seemed profound.

14. “Fortunate Son,” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

A populist shot across the bow of the U.S. military establishment that relies on the American underclass to supply its cannon fodder for the wars started by the privileged sons of the wealthy. It speaks very loudly to this day.

15. “Born in the USA,” by Bruce Springsteen

Ronald Reagan tried to co-opt it for his re-election campaign, but he obviously wasn’t listening very closely to the lyrics.

16. “Pink Houses,” by John Mellencamp

Populist, patriotic and progressive all wrapped into one catchy tune.

17. “The Way It Is,” by Bruce Hornsby

The man in the silk suit telling the old beggar lady to “get a job” is an image that has stuck with me from the first time I heard this song.

18. “Sowing the Seeds of Love,” by Tears for Fears

They threw everything into this song including the kitchen sink, but somehow it still works.

19. “Tom Sawyer,” by Rush

“His mind is not for rent, to any God or government.”

20. “American Idiot,” by Green Day

The most recent addition, but notable in that it came out in 2004 before the election when the Bushies were still riding high.

21. ”Allentown,” by Billy Joel

A personal favorite and similar in structure to “Born in the USA.”

22. ”Ebony & Ivory,” by Paul McCartney

Yes, it’s sappy and syrupy, but its liberal message is unmistakable and everyone knows the song by heart whether they like to admit it or not.

23. “Land of Confusion,” by Genesis

I can’t listen to this song without seeking the MTV video with the puppets of Reagan and Gorbachav.

24. ”We Are the World,” by Michael Jackson

Back when Michael Jackson still had the Midas touch, this was a monster hit in the late ‘80s that helped to raise lots of money for African famine victims.

25. ”Sun City,” by Little Steven

Written around the same time as “We Are the World,” this was an even better protest song that became the anthem for the anti-apartheid movement.

26. “In The Ghetto,” by Mac Davis

Covered most notably by Elvis, this song by Lubbock, Texas native Mac Davis paints a haunting picture of life in the urban jungle.

27. “Big Yellow Taxi,” by Joni Mitchell

As suggested by Ann, this song takes on the developers who keep paving paradise to put up another parking lot.

I’m sure there are more and I will be adding them as I think of them...

First Update:

28."Fly Like an Eagle," by Steve Miller Band

Feed the babies, shoe the children, house the people! Yes, there IS a solution. It's called government get off its ass and start providing for the general welfare rather than wasting hundreds of billions on never-ending wars around the globe.

Second Update:

29. “Saturday Night Special” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

The NRO list claims these southern rockers as right-wing partisans because they wrote “Sweet Home Alabama” in reponse to Neil Young’s angry swipe at the south in “Southern Man.” But I have little doubt that these long-haired southern rockers would have been chased out of any GOP convention by wild-eyed, screeching gun nuts for penning these lyrics:

Hand guns are made for killin
Aint no good for nothin else
And if you like your whiskey
You might even shoot yourself
So why dont we dump em people
To the bottom of the sea
Before some fool come around here
Wanna shoot either you or me

30. ”The Wall,” by Pink Floyd

It’s hard to pick out just one song from this magnum opus, so I am including the entire album here.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Conservative rock songs

As someone who loves music and making silly lists, I can hardly resist commenting on The National Review’s recently published list of the Top 50 Coservative Rock Songs.

Just looking at the Top 10, however, it is obvious that they ran out of steam after No. 7.

1. “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” by The Who.
2. “Taxman,” by The Beatles.
3. “Sympathy for the Devil,” by The Rolling Stones.
4. “Sweet Home Alabama,” by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
5. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” by The Beach Boys.
6. “Gloria,” by U2.
7. “Revolution,” by The Beatles.
8. “Bodies,” by The Sex Pistols.
9. “Don’t Tread on Me,” by Metallica.
10. “20th Century Man,” by The Kinks.

Who ever heard of “Bodies” by the Sex Pistols? Not to mention how silly it is to include anything by the Sex Pistols on a list supposedly touting the top “conservative” rock songs in the first place. Also, “Don’t Tread on Me” by Metallica and “20th Century Man” by the Kinks are not exactly rock-n-roll standards that everyone is familiar with.
The rest of the list is apparently a mish-mash of songs with a few standards, a lot of album filler and several that are total mysteries (”Government Cheese” by the Rainmakers?).

11. “The Trees,” by Rush.
12. “Neighborhood Bully,” by Bob Dylan.
13. “My City Was Gone,” by The Pretenders.
14. “Right Here, Right Now,” by Jesus Jones.
15. “I Fought the Law,” by The Crickets.
16. “Get Over It,” by The Eagles.
17. “Stay Together for the Kids,” by Blink 182.
18. “Cult of Personality,” by Living Colour.
19. “Kicks,” by Paul Revere and the Raiders.
20. “Rock the Casbah,” by The Clash.
21. “Heroes,” by David Bowie.
22. “Red Barchetta,” by Rush.
23. “Brick,” by Ben Folds Five.
24. “Der Kommissar,” by After the Fire.
25. “The Battle of Evermore,” by Led Zeppelin.
26. “Capitalism,” by Oingo Boingo.
27. “Obvious Song,” by Joe Jackson.
28. “Janie’s Got a Gun,” by Aerosmith.
29. “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by Iron Maiden.
30. “You Can’t Be Too Strong,” by Graham Parker.
31. “Small Town,” by John Mellencamp.
32. “Keep Your Hands to Yourself,” by The Georgia Satellites.
33. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” by The Rolling Stones.
34. “Godzilla,” by Blue √∂yster Cult.
35. “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” by Creedence Clearwater Revival.
36. “Government Cheese,” by The Rainmakers.
37. “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” by The Band.
38. “I Can’t Drive 55,” by Sammy Hagar.
39. “Property Line,” by The Marshall Tucker Band.
40. “Wake Up Little Susie,” by The Everly Brothers.
41. “The Icicle Melts,” by The Cranberries.
42. “Everybody’s a Victim,” by The Proclaimers.
43. “Wonderful,” by Everclear.
44. “Two Sisters,” by The Kinks.
45. “Taxman, Mr. Thief,” by Cheap Trick.
46. “Wind of Change,” by The Scorpions.
47. “One,” by Creed.
48. “Why Don’t You Get a Job,” by The Offspring.
49. “Abortion,” by Kid Rock.
50. “Stand By Your Man,” by Tammy Wynette.

The list has already been shredded, ripped apart and lampooned by people more eloquent than me. They have made the obvious observations about how much of a stretch it is to claim many of these songs for the conservative cause, based both on the actual lyrics of the individual songs in the context of the times they were written (i.e. The “new boss” in the No. 1 ranked Who song “Won’t Be Fooled Again” refers to President Richard Nixon) and the politics of the artists who wrote and performed them (John Lennon, Mick Jagger, U2, etc.) And what a slap to right-wing rocker Ted Nugent that he gets no mention on the list.

But I do want to object to the notion that themes such as suspicion of the government, opposition to Soviet-style communism, objections to excessively high taxes and promotion of marital fidelity are somehow strictly “conservative” values, as if the opposites are supposed to be “liberal” values. If that were the case, then I guess we could say that “love” and “peace” are liberal values, leaving conservatives to value “hatred” and “war.” That’s hardly fair.

Finally, the cheap shot at Hillary Clinton at the end of the list is wholly undeserved. First off, Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” is clearly a country song, not rock, and if you are going to delve into country music then there are a whole host of songs that should be on the list starting with Merle Haggard’s “Okie From Muskogee” and Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.” But secondly, it should be clear to anyone that no politician today is more represetative of the “Stand By Your Man” sentiment in Wynette’s classic tune than Hillary Clinton, who has managed to keep her marriage together despite Bill’s widely publicized issues with fidelity. Why don’t we contrast that with the marital values of the potential field of Republican presidential candidates for 2008 - how many divorces can we count between Rudolph Guiliani, John McCain, and Newt Gingrich?
Clearly, “conservatives” do not hold any kind of monopoly on marital fidelity today.

But to play along, I will shortly be posting my list of the top “liberal” rock songs of all time. Stay tuned.