This Week’s Canvas: On Getting Things Right

There’s no magic trick for picking three stories to put at the top of the concerned citizen’s reading list. I struggle to survive the daily deluge of news just like everyone else. I often fiddle with the idea that this week was the week when it became impossible. Fortunately there was one headline this round that kept me focused:

What if Politicians Studied the Social Fabric like Economists Study GDP: One of Washington’s most conservative legislators on an age of polarization, inequality and fragmentation

I took the bait before I read the last word. What if? What if politicians and partisans took some responsibility for maintaining trust in our institutions? What if we all worked hard at getting things right and let the party’s wins depend on that?

And then I had this week’s list. Here’s hoping that Senator Lee’s project continues to be interesting to follow.

 It’s not Watergate

You may have noticed a new name in the headlines. Riding a blast from the past, writers jumped right over affixing a “-gate” to things and started comparing Trump’s White House to Richard Nixon’s. There are echoes, smoking guns and secret tapes to prove this is how impeachment starts. A fair comparison, however, might be more difficult than the talking points allow.

Bob Woodward talked about the comparison with the Washington Post:

It’s clearly a legitimate investigation, and Trump doesn’t like it. We’ll see. Some people think it’s a coverup already. Others think there’s no evidence, and let’s see. And what’s worrisome to a reporter interested in getting facts is, this is so polarized, this is so emotional. This is driven by tweets and assertions from people who don’t really know. It’s too bad we live in this Internet culture of impatience and speed, and it does not set us on the road to gathering facts.

Getting caught up in the pace of these comparisons makes it easy to forget that stable government requires meeting a high bar for impeachment charges. That’s one way to know it isn’t a witch hunt.

The Problem with Pre-Existing Conditions

Something that seems to have dropped out of the headlines is the American HealthCare Act. The U.S. House celebrated passing it like it was a done deal but now the Senate has it and no one is talking about it. Slate suggested it’s the Senate’s strategy to act busy. Very busy. There’s lots of legislating to do and the road ahead is complicated with many Republican concerns to navigate. The party isn’t wasting this time though. They have launched an ad campaign to shape what Americans think about the proposal even though our elected representatives seem to be a bit fuzzy on important questions like who wins and who loses. There’s also the strategy of skipping the questions.

Politics as team sport isn’t nearly as important here as understanding what the proposed changes might mean to you. Lifehacker waded through all the muck about pre-existing conditions to get straight to the point:

The ACA didn’t define pre-existing conditions, either, because it essentially outlawed the concept. Insurers had to set their rates for entire groups of people based on age and smoking status—”community rating”—and couldn’t charge you a different price due to your health status.

The new health care bill removes that provision. If a state asks for a waiver, then insurers in that state can use health status to set premiums again. For young and healthy folks, insurance will be cheap. But as soon as you get some kind of health problem, you’re in trouble. If you ever have a gap in coverage and need to go shopping again, you could find that the price of coverage is astronomical.

There’s also a concern about drafting healthcare legislation like this without including women in the working group. That tricky question about requiring maternity coverage doesn’t appear to have bothered anyone involved in drafting the legislation. See what they did there? When your “optics” are bad, there’s a good chance your policies are too.

Remembering History Like it Makes a Difference

Working to get our history right seems like a fitting task for a Memorial Day weekend. The last of the Confederate monuments came down in New Orleans this week. The effort overcame courtroom challenges and persisted despite the armed opponents that gathered in public parks. Politicolor already pointed to Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s eloquent remarks about the opportunities that come to us when we face the “searing truth” of our history and a NYT Opinion piece gave Landrieu credit for “putting some poetry back in public life.” Here’s another gentle nudge to make time for this story this week.

Listen to his remarks here. There’s something great about hearing these words, as large as the American project itself, delivered in a local voice. ABC News has video of a statue’s removal and a few interesting pictures too.

What we’ll add here are the personal stories from people who have had to carry the burden of these symbols. From Topsy Chapman, a local musician:

I passed those New Orleans monuments all the time for most of my adult life. It never dawned on me that those statues were really honoring those people. But that point was made clear to me by the people who fought to keep the monuments there.

We know it’s a part of history. It happened. That’s the way things were in those days. But why do you want to hold on to something so evil?

From Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy:
What we do in the memorial spaces says a lot about who we are. The American South is littered with the iconography of the Confederacy. We are celebrating the architects and defenders of slavery. I don’t think we understand what that means for our commitment to equality and fairness and justice.

Landrieu offers a “message about the future.” He sees an opportunity for citizens to work together and lead the country from New Orleans by making it “the City we always should have been, had we gotten it right in the first place.”

Here’s to a long weekend and the hard work of getting things right.

Together as One People

The original project to unite the people of the United States as one people began in May 1787. There’s a project taking place in New Orleans today that reminds us the project continues. The city started removing Confederate statues in the middle of the night. The original proposal to remove the symbols came in the wake of  the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina and encountered countless legal challenges.

The time had come to take the statues down. The opposition gathered with Confederate flags and weapons on display. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu spoke eloquently about why this project was necessary for getting our past right and for building a better future together.

You can’t do any better to remember what our veterans have fought for than to read the mayor’s full remarks.

My Fellow Americans: Good Government is a Good Thing

Shortly after Donald J. Trump took the oath of office, one of this country’s most treasured celebrities posted a new status update. I’m talking about George Takei. He told us we had to “remind ourselves that good government is a good thing,” and added a warning that,” Without this belief, we are lost.” He navigated the Star Trek universe so Takei’s lead is a good one to follow.

This belief in good government helps us make sense of our past and think through the citizen’s role today. It helps us parse the words of elected representatives who understand who we are and those who would make us something else. When you address the American people, you should remember that we’re a people who believe good government is a good thing.

Understanding our History and Ourselves

Yes, it started with a rebellion, but we are a people who were founded in the pursuit of good government. We might champion our insurgency and make a spectacular showcase of our independence every July 4th, but the fight in 1776 was a fight for good government. Look at the Declaration, the document that announced our intentions. Immediately after “the right of the People to alter or abolish” government there is the right “to institute new Government, laying its foundation” on the principles of equality, inalienable rights and the consent of the governed. This list is the stuff of good government. The principles embedded in the logic of that founding document reappear throughout our history as a test, how we know good government from bad.

In the Jefferson’s next move in 1776, he sketched an image of absolute tyranny through negligent government. Those complaints, however, also add as the American people’s repeated appeals for good government.

Declaration Drafting Committee (Photo by Mike Licht)

Good government requires laws, “the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.”

Good government requires laws to address issues of “immediate and pressing importance” without conditions requiring the governed to compromise their right to representation.

Good government requires legislative decision-making free of harassment for opposing “invasions on the rights of the people.”

Good government requires an independent judiciary.

Coming into view on the world stage for the first time, the American people introduced themselves as a people who would pursue good government while resisting designs “to reduce them under absolute despotism.”

In lobbying for the new Constitution in 1787, James Madison shared how those despotic designs might appear among the people themselves. In Federalist №10, he points to “complaints everywhere heard” that “our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties,” and that these conflicts are too often decided by “the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.” Madison suggested that “unsteadiness and injustice” marked a government with a “factious spirit.”

In Federalist №14, he pleads that his readers resist the “unnatural voice” that suggests disunion and threatens to poison the “kindred blood” of the American people. Madison’s fellow-citizens had to “excite horror at the idea of their becoming aliens, rivals and enemies.” Unstable, unreasonable and self-interested government dominated by the passion of a majority rather than the reasoned pursuit of the public good would have only one result: “rendering us in pieces.”


Patriotic Petworthians photo by HeatherMG

Thinking Through the Citizen’s Role

Madison countered this dismal picture of a faction-riddled government with the strength of the American people who persisted in their pursuit of good government. He wrote that the American people were a people who had used the “suggestions of their own good sense, the knowledge of their own situation and the lessons of their own experience” to protect “private rights and public happiness.” In adopting the new Constitution, the American people were fulfilling their duty to “improve and perpetuate” the work of the previous generation. The American project is designed to use the work that has come before us to pursue the principles that have animated that work all along.

This iterative logic is central to understanding our role as citizens. Our support and opposition, both formal and informal, guide a sometimes clunky process of attaining the principles embedded in our original programming. When we refuse to let go of the idea that good government is worth pursuing, we also align to an even larger project: the work of understanding human experience.

A hopeful note appeared in The Guardian a month after Trump won the election. Rebecca Solnit initiated the essay with an understanding about the relationship between hope and taking action toward a cause:

It is the belief that liberation might be possible that motivates you to make it more possible, and pursuing hope even when it doesn’t lead to the ultimate goal can generate changes that matter along the way, including in yourself.

The explainer at the top of the article assures us that the “American people will stand up for ideals of humanity, from lawyers to tech workers to the California Senate.” And that’s how George Takei knows we would be lost without our willingness to believe in good government. The world knows who we have professed to be and has heard our appeals for good government echo throughout history in places distant from us. They have cited our example when making their own appeals.

In acting up to pursue a cause that matters to us, we serve our country, upholding its founding principles and helping to navigate complex questions or difficult controversies. We stand up for those principles, refusing to let them be whittled down to something less than what has guided us through our tumultuous past. When we persist in standing up for these principles, we realize the hopes of those who have gone before us and make hope possible for all people who seek freedom, equal treatment and self-determination.

Patriotic Boque photo by Tronoski Photography

George Takei can see the way forward. We are a people who believe good government is a good thing. We won’t recognize ourselves and the world won’t know who we are if we allow the challenge of the moment to take that away.

Echoes: Creativity and Aristotle’s Potluck

As classic works become more familiar you find those ideas are anything but dead and gone. In fact, they have us surrounded. The ubiquity of ideas you’ve come to associate with Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Federalists or Antifederalists suggests those writers captured something fundamental about how we understand the world and ourselves. Our Echoes series attempts to capture these reverberations through time. Perhaps there is new insight to be seen by presenting the past to the present and vice versa.

I recently read Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer in an attempt to keep thinking creatively despite the doldrums of dissertation writing. It’s a smooth read that attempts to match the mythology of creativity with the science behind a number of recognizable moments of genius, from the Swiffer to Pixar and from 3M’s masking tape to Broadway’s biggest success stories.

Jonah Lehrer shares his understanding of how creativity works

There was one moment, however, where I thought I saw Aristotle among these modern marvels. Lehrer was talking about why brainstorming doesn’t work.

I know a good number of you are teachers. And I can guess that some of you have used brainstorming in the classroom. With my eight years in the classroom and lifetime of thinking, I regularly came to the conclusion that I was doing it wrong. I never managed to unlock the magic mojo. It always felt silly, random and exhausting. I hated being the person at the front of the room who had to DO SOMETHING with the list once it was generated!

So, when Lehrer beat down all the magic talk of brainstorming with evidence that constructive criticism does more for creativity, I nearly threw my fist in the air and shouted, “hell yeah!”. He demonstrates how Pixar used their morning meetings of criticism and “plussing” to take Toy Story 2 from a dismal beginning to blockbuster success. Plussing makes all the difference; it’s “a technique that allows people to improve an idea without using harsh or judgmental language… whenever work is criticized, the criticism should contain a plus, a new idea that builds on the flaws in a productive manner.” Lehrer then connects this practice with an experiment conducted by Charlan Nemeth at UC-Berkley where she put brainstorming into direct competition with constructive criticism.  The group encouraged to debate produced more ideas while they worked together and had even more to add after the session had ended.

According to Nemeth, the reason criticism leads to more new ideas is that it encourages us to fully engage with the work of others. We think about their concepts because we want to improve them; it’s the imperfection that leads us to really listen. (And isn’t that the point of a group:? If we’re not here to make one another better, then why are we here?)

And the echo I heard was from Aristotle’s “pot luck” feast in Book III of Politics:

There is this to be said for the many: each of them by himself may not be of a good quality; but when they all come together it is possible that they may surpass–collectively and as a body, although not individually–the quality of the few best, in much the same way that feasts to which many contribute may excel those provided at one person’s expense. For when there are many, each has his share of goodness and practical wisdom; and, when all meet together the people may thus become something like a single person, who, as he has many feet, many hands, and many senses, may also have many qualities of character and intelligence.

This “creature” of many feet, hands and senses gets to a qualitative assessment of how we come together over brainstorming or plussing or any effort at collective action. The trick is in designing an experience that not only seeks to have everyone contribute but seeks to have everyone contribute according to their strengths and unique perspective.

Cicero’s View from 100,000 Miles

How is the first picture of Earth from space the most powerful political picture ever published? Marking the 40th anniversary of the famous picture, a British newspaper, The Independent, remarked that the three astronauts of the Apollo 8 mission “went to the moon, but ended up discovering the Earth.”

The British cosmologist, Sir Fred Hoyle, had predicted the first image of Earth from space would forever change how we view the planet. Reviewing a photo of the Earth brought back from the Apollo 11 mission, Carl Sagan explained just how our perspective had changed, “Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.” Concerned with their own orbit, the necessary calculations to safely land on the moon, and all the instruments readings that would guide them, the Apollo 8 astronauts almost let this spectacular image slip by them unnoticed. Imagining that moment you can almost hear Africanus’s words to Cicero reminding him to keep his mind on these higher regions.

Truly great acts might require a universal understanding of life, the events of its past and the promises of its future. Michael Collins, an Apollo 11 astronaut who landed on the moon in 1969, shares this Ciceronian perspective in his book Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journey, published in 1974. As you read his words and imagine this view of the planet from 100,000 miles, you hear Cicero’s Dream of Scipio resonate with the potential of this modern accomplishment.

(Michael Collins’s words in bold; Cicero’s words from the Dream of Scipio in block quotes)

“I really believe that if the political leaders of the world could see their planet from a distance of, let’s say,100,000 miles, their outlook would be fundamentally changed. That all-important border would be invisible, that noisy argument suddenly silenced. The tiny globe would continue to turn, serenely ignoring its subdivisions, presenting a unified facade that would cry out for unified understanding, for homogeneous treatment”

First picture of Earth from space

First picture of Earth from space

‘Instead, Scipio, be like your grandfather here, and me, your father. Respect justice and do your duty. That is important in the case of parents and relatives and paramount in the case of one’s country. That is the way of life which leads to heaven and to the company, here, of those who have already completed their lives. Released from their bodies, they dwell in that place which you see–a place which you have learnt from the Greeks to call the Milky Way. (And in fact there was this circle shining with dazzling radiance among the fiery bodies.)’

When I beheld the whole universe from that point, everything seemed glorious and wonderful. There were stars which we have never seen from this earth of ours, each of a size which we have never imagined to exist. The smallest star, which was furthest from heaven and nearest to earth, was shining with a light not its own. The spheres of the stars easily exceeded the earth in size. Now the earth itself seemed so small to me that I felt ashamed of our empire, whose extent was no more than a dot on its surface.

As I gazed more intently upon it, Africanus said ‘Well now, how long will your thoughts remain fixed on the earth? Do you not notice what lofty regions you have entered?’

“The earth must become as it appears: blue and white, not capitalist or Communist; blue and white, not rich or poor; blue and white, not envious or envied. I am not a naïve man. I don’t believe that a glance from 100,000 miles out would cause a Prime Minister to scurry back to his parliament with a disarmament plan, but I do think it would plant a seed that ultimately could grow into such concrete action. Just because borders are invisible from space doesn’t mean that they’re not real—they are, and I like them. . . . What I am saying, however, is that all countries must begin thinking of solutions to their problems which benefit the entire globe, not simply their own national interests.”

I gazed at all these things in amazement. Then, pulling myself together, I said ‘What is that sound, so loud and yet so sweet, that fills my ears?’

‘That,’ he said, ‘is the sound produced by the impetus and momentum of the spheres themselves. It is made up of intervals which, though unequal, are determined systematically by fixed proportions. The blend of high and low notes produces an even flow of various harmonies. Such vast motions cannot sweep on in silence, and nature ordains that low notes should be emitted by one of the boundaries and high notes by the  other. From the uppermost of the heavenly orbits (that which carries the stars) comes a high note with frequent vibrations, in that its cycle is more rapid. The deepest note emanates from the lowest orbit, that of the moon. The earth, which is the ninth sphere, remains fixed and immobile in one place, filling the central position of the universe. Those eight rotating spheres (of which two [being an octave apart] produce the same effect) give out seven distinctive sounds according to their intervals. That number is more or less the linchpin of everything. By imitating this system with strings and voices experts have succeeded in opening up a way back to this place, as have others who, in their life on earth, have applied their outstanding intellect to heavenly subjects.’

“The smoke from the Saar Valley may pollute half a dozen other countries, depending on the direction of the wind. We all know that, but it must be seen to make an indelible impression, to produce an emotional impact that makes one argue for long-term virtues at the expense of short-term gains. I think the view from 100,000 miles could be invaluable in getting people together to work out joint solutions, by causing them to realize that the planet we share unites us in a way far more basic and far more important than differences in skin color or religion or economic system.”

Image from Apollo 11 mission


Though listening with astonishment, I kept turning my eyes repeatedly back to earth. Thereupon Africanus said ‘I notice you are still gazing at the home and habitation of men. If it seems small to you (as indeed it is) make sure to keep your mind on these higher regions and to think little of the human scene down there. For what fame can you achieve, what glory worth pursuing, that consists merely of people’s talk? Look. The earth is inhabited in just a few confined areas. In between those inhabited places, which resemble blots, there are huge expanses of empty territory. Those who live on earth are separated in such a way that nothing can readily pass between them from one populated region to another. More than that, in relation to your position, some people stand at a different angle, some at right angles, and some directly opposite. You certainly cannot expect any praise from them.’

‘…That entire land mass which you occupy has been made narrow from north to south and broader from east to west. It is like a small island surrounded by the sea which you call the Atlantic, the Great Sea, or the Ocean. Yet observe how small it is in spite of its imposing name. Has your fame, or that of any of us, been able to find its way from these civilized familiar lands to the far side of the Caucasus, which you see here, or to swim across the Ganges, there? In the remaining areas of the east or west, or in those far to the north and south, who will ever hear your name? When all those regions have been cut out, you can surely see how small is the area over which your glory is so eager to extend. And even those who talk about us now–how long will they continue to do so?’

“The pity of it is that so far the view from 100,000 miles has been the exclusive property of a handful of test pilots, rather than the world leaders who need this new perspective, or the poets who might communicate it to them.”

‘Since, then, it is clear that what moves by itself is eternal, who could deny that this property is possessed by minds? Everything that is propelled by an external force is inanimate; but an animate being is moved by its own internal power, for that is the peculiar property and function of the mind. If the mind is the one and only entity that moves itself, surely it has never been born and will never die.’

‘Be sure to employ it in the best kinds of activity. Now the best concerns are for the safety of one’s country. When the mind has been engaged in and exercised by those concerns it will fly more quickly to this, its dwelling-place and home. And it will do so the more readily if, when still enclosed in the body, it already ventures abroad and, by contemplating what lies beyond, detaches itself as much as possible from the body.’

Collins, Michael. Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journeys. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux,

Cicero, Marcus Tullius. The Republic and The Laws. Translated by Niall Rudd. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

***Thanks to National Academy alumni Stacy Miller for finding the Michael Collins excerpt and sharing it on Facebook

Campaign 2008 in the Box

Sparking curiosity and provoking puzzled stares, Professor Harris proposed his model of Federalist and Antifederalist thinking provides a useful lens for understanding this year’s presidential candidates. Those of us who want to draw a straight line to match today’s political parties to the Federalist and Antifederalist perspectives were baffled. How in the world did Hillary end up in the same set of boxes as McCain and Bush?

The categories proposed for each candidate include…

Barack Obama is a red box Federalist driven by his understanding of us as a people committed to particular principles and one another.

Hillary Clinton is a blue box Antifederalist driven by a commitment to government and the solutions it should provide the people.

John McCain is a red box Antifederalist driven by a belief in who we are as one people of a particular nation.

And, another note of interest, George W. Bush is a green box Antifederalist driven by a firm faith in natural order, what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil.

Each of these explanations could benefit from additional elaboration. What I’ve provided is simple and most definitely incomplete.

For example, it isn’t that Hillary only sees government or the blue box but that her campaign was largely a matter of policy proposals. When she needed support for her proposals, she appealed to an understanding of who we are as a people or what we should understand about natural rights. The American people are fighters who believe health care is a universal right. The category distinction a matter of where each candidate is most likely to stake out their first position and then where they look for support.

When I saw this video of John McCain’s new ad, I thought it spoke directly to the assertion that he is a red box Antifderealist. The conclusion and his purported slogan for the general election is the best: John McCain, putting country first.

If McCain is putting country first, he has red written all over him! Watch the video and consider what it says about who we are as a people and what we will do through government as a result.

If you find similar links to support or challenge the categories proposed for Clinton, Bush, and Obama, please post them in the comments!


I’ve been exploring the boxes through music, and it’s been pretty darn sweet. Minus the Norm-like bar tab, the search has offered continuous insight into the layers.

As last summer, I’ll think that I have it figured out, then realize that I’m deconstructing or simplifying. It interests me to juxtapose anti-fed v. fed with political parties with human behaviors with fate/ free will!

The tracks list represents some of my leisure. I wish I could play music on this site. Alas..! I can and will mail a copy of the disks to interested parties. My first version has been revised and shall continue to be. (Nature of the beast. Pun.)

Like Forrest Gump (one of only many traits we share. Run, Hobbesie, Run!), I’m seeing how “maybe we’re both” or all of the boxes at once. That there’s a pull every bit as real as that between the three branches. Music seems to represent this polynomial, and factoring it presents me with a challenge I’ve enjoyed.

A word on the selections. I’m finding that a few of the songs could fit on any of the disks. One could argue that each of them is federalist, in that they are creative, for instance. “Jump Around” is a high-energy, aggressive song which I placed on the “States of Nature” disk. However, much can be said for the fact that rap handles aggression in a positive way. Phrases which some interpret as violent are most often simply a way to blow off steam. In other words, as sports, music allows a release. I could’ve just as easily placed the piece on disk three.

Anti/ Federalist Vol. I: States of Nature

“Me and a Gun” Tori Amos

“April 29, 1992 (Miami)” Sublime

“Bulls on Parade” Rage Against the Machine

“Pain” 2Pac

“Sabotage” Beastie Boys

“Jump Around” House of Pain

“Wrong Way” Sublime

“Animal I Have Become” Three Days Grace

“Come Out and Play” The Offspring

“Teenagers” My Chemical Romance

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” Nirvana

“Santeria” Sublime

“Been Caught Stealing” Jane’s Addiction

“This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arm Race” Fall Out Boy

“U.S. History” Flipsyde

“Testify” Rage Against the Machine

Anti/ Federalist Vol. II: Meltdown

“All in the Family” TV Theme from All in the Family

“Enter Sandman” Metallica

“Faint” Linkin Park

“Intro” Matthew Sweet

“Ugly Truth Rock” Matthew Sweet

“Enth Nd” Linkin Park

“Army of Me” Bjork

“Duel of the Fates” John Williams

“The New World” X

“You Better Be Doubtful” The Housemartins

“The Shadow Government” They Might Be Giants

“Political Science” Randy Newman

“Holiday” Green Day

“I Fought the Law” Green Day

“Gunslinger” John Fogerty

“Beer for My Horses” Toby Keith and Willie Nelson

“The Government Totally Sucks” Tenacious D

“Wake Me Up When September Ends” Green Day

“Wonderful” Everclear

“Pride (in the Name of Love)” U2

“Pacing the Cage” Bruce Cockburn

“The Way It Is” Bruce Hornsby and the Range

Anti/ Federalist Vol. III: Energy Renewed

“Vertigo” U2

“Icky Thump” White Stripes

“Fight for Your Right” Beastie Boys

“Minority” Green Day

“Float On” Modest Mouse

“Signs” Tesla

“Warning” Green Day

“Everything I Am” Kanye West

“Unwritten” Natasha Bedingfield

“In a Big Country” Big Country

“Closer to Free” BoDeans

“The Middle” Jimmy Eat World

“The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” Cindi Lauper

“New Song” Howard Jones

“Centerfield” John Fogerty
“I Take My Chances” Mary Chapin Carpenter

“Upside Down” Jack Johnson

“Closer to Fine” Indigo Girls

“This Moment” Matthew Sweet

“Lights and Virtues” Jackson Browne

“Imagine” John Lennon

“This Land Is Your Land” Woodie Guthrie

A look will reveal certain biases: Green Day, my exposure, my age and sublurban upbringing… Also, I realize that the voices of women are under-represented. Perhaps, with your input, that’ll change! Thanks again to Shellee, Larry, and Laura for their evolving input.

Hope you leave some comments on the songs if you know them or share in the dialogue by requesting the disks! 🙂

What Are the Most Federalist Songs?

Something Will said this Summer boomeranged and smacked me into thinking about Federalist songs.

What would make a song distinctively Federalist?  I began to brainstorm characteristics which I thought Federalist in nature: SCIENCE, FUTURE, HOPE, FREE, WORLDLY, REGENERATING, OPEN-MINDED, and so forth.  Many songs are upbeat, and do convey multiple aspects of Federalist thinking.  In fact, I think that when some people think about the spirit of ROCK, they do so with a very Federalist ideal: think Jack Black in School of Rock or Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny.

I’m going to withhold my favorites in hopes that we get some traffic going here at the site.  PLEASE (you know you love it when I beg) respond and leave your ideas for the most Federalist songs.  Additionally, feel free to add comments on the nature of Federalism in music, as I tend to focus on lyrics.  (Yeah, I’m tone deaf.)

There can also be submissions for songs that are ANTI-Antifederalist, as I believe “Signs” to be.  You remember that one: “Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign…”, right?

If I can find a way to post music, as I think I might be able to at MySpace, I can do some of that, too.


How I Realized I Was a Federalist (or Christmas in July)

Once upon a time, there was a beast. He chose to live on the outskirts of society; he chose to let his anger fester. He watched and he boiled as the people lived their lives, free and happy. One day, however, the people’s joy stabbed him so fiercely that he decided to strike back. He terrorized the people: he invaded their sanctity and tried to destroy their world.

What does the paragraph describe..? Osama bin Laden? A gangbanger? A bullied student who phones in a threat?

Each fits.

What’s crucial, though, is what happened next…

The people, realizing that they’d been violated, did not call for revenge. They didn’t arm the rocket-launchers, strap on the bandoliers, or place daggers between their teeth. They came together, and they sang.

Although told in a much plainer style, you may recognize the plot from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss, a book which holds a new place for me since the National Academy.

Rewind a few weeks. Drowning in Hobbes, yet still asphyxiated by Aristotle, the notion of Seuss crept into my swirling consciousness. Compelled (and newly-determined to be accurate to the text), I made my way to the Barnes & Noble in Marina Del Rey. It was a few days before the madness of Harry Potter 7. And July. As I slid the decidedly yule tale across the counter, I half-expected a smart-assed comment; but, instead, the bookseller urged me to look into Horton Hears a Who: her own personal fave. I assured her I would, but for now this was what I needed. Like oxygen.

I opened the text, and here we were: humans drawn as beasts. And there wasn’t much to separate the Grinch from the Whos other than the frown: he was clearly one of us. Here was Hobbes; here was the reality of what we could become. For, the Grinch has become a What. He’s lost his identity, his place of belonging amongst the Whos. He’s a creature without a country.

Now, I’m the first person to call for justice. I want to see wrong-doers put in their rightful place. And I get damn pissed off when Cindy-Lou Who gets her Seusscycle ripped off. However, I also realize that punishing someone doesn’t solve any problems: the Grinches of our people remain outside.

Those who commit serious offenses need to be brought to trial. But what of those who can be helped? What about the everyday decisions that I make: what are their consequences, their causes?

Surely, there’s a lesson in Seuss’s story. When disaster strikes, the people come together. They sing. And what, do you imagine, is in that song?

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A Day at the Beach

It was the first weekend of the National Academy. In a daze, Keith made his way to Venice Beach and found he was surrounded…


Cicero at Venice Beach







And perhaps worst of all, he knew he was trapped in a covenant he could never leave…


–posted by Shellee with many thanks to Keith for the pictures