Beautiful Music

When you live a certain kind of life– the kind of life that leads you to run around telling everyone that “happiness is overrated,” for example– you find that your idea of beauty might not match the rest of the world’s.

Take this song, for example. “War Memorial,” from Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood, is a melancholy song filled with disturbing imagery and death. In less careful care, this might have become something overwrought and dramatic, but these two keep the tone strangely light, even ethereal.

Lanegan’s voice–often a deep rasp– floats quietly through the gentle sweep of the music in a way that doesn’t even hint at his work in rock bands Screaming Trees and Queens of the Stone Age. For a man with such an earthy voice, “War Memorial” borders on the miraculous. Of course, for fans familiar with his solo work, this will come as less of a surprise:  studied melancholy is a bit of a specialty. For newcomers, the good news is that there is more than a decade of incredible music to discover.

But let’s start with this little gem.

April Fools

Have you heard the news? President Obama has declared April to be National Financial Capability Month with a key goal of teaching young Americans how to budget responsibly.

Together, we can prepare young people to tackle financial challenges — from learning how to budget responsibly to saving for college, starting a business, or opening a retirement account.

Financial capability also means helping people avoid scams and demand fair treatment when they take out a mortgage, use a credit card, or apply for a student loan. My Administration continues to encourage responsibility at all levels of our financial system by cracking down on deceptive practices and ensuring that consumers are informed of their rights.
The truth is that I don’t even remember when last we had a president who could claim the moral high ground on responsible budgeting, but it’s been long enough that this comes across more as April Fools joke than meaningful presidential guidance.

Politicians, budget thyself.

A Focused View of Citizens United

For those who have tended to take a shallow view of the Citizens United case, this is a good opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the legal and philosophical underpinnings of both the majority decision and the dissent, specifically in relation to the concepts of free speech. Published in the Harvard Law Review, I would suggest that it is very even handed in its analysis. Be sure to download and read the linked pdf; the web page is merely introduction.

Read the original.

Strategery in Focus

This is an important little piece from Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government blog. It’s compact, but quite important, especially when you understand what the author is critiquing:

If “Setting Priorities” is the most recent attempt to argue for a more coherent internationalist grand strategy — a worthy endeavor — then whatever weaknesses it has might throw into relief some broader problems of U.S. foreign policy.

Why important? Because of this note near the end of the piece:

… the report-like all “national security strategies” published by every administration since Congress mandated the document in 1987-is less a “strategy” document than a list of aspirations and goals.

“Strategic” foreign policy thought, as expressed by our government in the public realm, has long been reduced to talking points, wish lists, and occasional partisan sniping. Now is the time for serious discussion about the proper place of the United States in a changing international landscape of political power. Simply saying that we should show leadership or advocate for some laudable goal isn’t enough. Means, actions, and expected ends along with an honest assessment of what role the US needs to be playing in everything from “democratization” to moderating talks between warring groups.

The United States seems to be suffering a deficit of strong and wise leadership along with a paucity of serious thought in the public realm. While our last presidential election should have revolved around things like our foundering economy and our nebulous foreign policy, it instead seemed to focus on binders full of women, free contraception, and taking gratuitous pot-shots at China. We need better, although I would suggest that our reality-show obsessed culture doesn’t necessarily deserve better. I’ll consider changing that view when we start rewarding serious thought with the same acclaim that we do a bunch of dignity-stripped attention whores and fools on the latest terrifying reality TV series.

Read the original.

Blogging the Fall

Publicola is back and he’s hitting on the push in Colorado for wacky fun gun control. If you care about the issue (and you should), you need to be visiting his site and reading his words.

Stop by, say hi.

PS- Another local blogger whose watching the craziness is Billlllll. Check it out.

Quick Link: An Important Farm Revolution in India?

This is promising and exciting. If the results are found to be accurate then the techniques can not only help subsistence farmers around the world in their search for food security, but it can also help them find ways to build profitable small farms.

Very exciting.

This was not six or even 10 or 20 tonnes. Kumar, a shy young farmer in Nalanda district of India’s poorest state Bihar, had – using only farmyard manure and without any herbicides – grown an astonishing 22.4 tonnes of rice on one hectare of land. This was a world record and with rice the staple food of more than half the world’s population of seven billion, big news.

It beat not just the 19.4 tonnes achieved by the “father of rice”, the Chinese agricultural scientist Yuan Longping, but the World Bank-funded scientists at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, and anything achieved by the biggest European and American seed and GM companies. And it was not just Sumant Kumar. Krishna, Nitish, Sanjay and Bijay, his friends and rivals in Darveshpura, all recorded over 17 tonnes, and many others in the villages around claimed to have more than doubled their usual yields.

Read the rest.

On the Minimum Wage Hike

This little bit of thought from Paul Solman on PBS concerning the proposed minimum wage hike and what effect it might have on welfare. Aside from his answer, he also throws in some statistics about our current employment situation that is like a splash of cold water.

And get this: Social Security disability benefits have become so popular that since June of 2009, when the Great Recession was supposed to have officially ended and economic growth resumed, 4.7 million of us had enrolled in SSDI or SSI programs. By contrast, a mere 2.3 million jobs have been added over that same period.

This is well worth reading.

Read the rest.

Cute as Dumb Puppy Dogs

University of North Carolina students are adorable. It’s almost as if they believe they actually understand the complexities of energy policy and production in an industrialized nation that is in the midst of a severe economic downturn.

Students at the press conference called for administrators to respond to the referendum vote by allowing the Beyond Coal campaign to make a presentation at the Board of Trustees meeting in March.

Alanna Davis, representative of UNC’s chapter of the N.C. Student Power Union, spoke at the event.

She emphasized the need for demanding greater responsibility in managing the endowment, as well as the need for changing the current power structure to give students a stronger voice.

Davis urged administrators to see that divesting from coal is imperative to the future success of the University and the world.

“Leave your flawed neoliberal ideology behind — break up with the coal industry,” she said. “Join us in creating a brighter, healthier future for all.”

It’s also cute how they string words together imagining that their little political pronouncements might be mistaken for meaningful insight.

File this under “disdain.”

Read the rest.

Condi

I know that this is a little out of its moment, but I just wanted to note that is is strange to me that some people find this remarkable woman “scary.” Her resume and her achievements in life are nothing short of remarkable; she is a woman who should be celebrated.

Apologize for What?

I’ve heard that the Obama camp is calling for Romney to repudiate the release of the 2007 video of candidate Obama. This is a strange thing for Obama’s folks to be doing since it would be hard to claim that the video is anything other than what it is: candidate Obama working hard to capitalize on racial divisions and suspicions. Why should Romney repudiate the video release?

If Obama feels that his own words were wrong or that he struck the wrong tone, then it is he who should apologize and explain. If he stands by those words, then he should stand by the video, proudly, and welcome the additional sunlight.

Me, I don’t think it tells me anything I didn’t already know about the man and I absolutely hate the focus on race. But this is a recent video and it does change the way people should consider the President’s relationship with Reverend Wright (and, maybe, wonder a bit at just how willing he was to throw the man under the bus when he became a political liability). It’s fair game to release and discuss– certainly more so than the strange focus on Sarah Palin’s kids or Todd Palin’s pre-wedding DUI.

So, in all of this, what is it that Romney has to apologize for or repudiate? Not a thing.

That said, I’m sympathetic with Althouse’s view over on Instapundit. The racialist tones (including those coming from our president in the video– a notable reason that I refuse to support the man) aren’t where I want Republicans to invest their energy. I want to paint a positive, intelligent view for our future.

In politics, though, that’s a pretty rare way to win an election.