Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The 6 Best Songs About Presidents (and a bunch of facts you didn't know about the debates until now, maybe?)

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Tonight is the second big presidential candidate debate, and according to everyone in the entire universe, this debate is even more important than the last debate, and might be more important than the next debate, unless the next debate is even more important than this debate.

It's possible, I suppose, that this debate is more important than all other debates combined, possibly including debates from other elections.

Whatever the level of importance in this debate is, I won't be watching, a stance that I sometimes take some flack from people for.  But I won't be watching, for two reasons:

(A) There is no way that Mitt Romney can convince me to vote for him, as the only thing anyone can be sure he stands for is that he no longer stands for the things he used to stand for before running for President, and

(2)  The debates, like the conventions and all other aspects of the political campaigns, are pre-packaged events that are extremely unlikely to lead to any information about the candidates.

You'll see what I mean -- but let's have some songs!  About Presidents!  And I'll try to relate them to the debates! But they're still cool!

1.  President Garfield's Hornpipe, 

The hornpipe is a kind of sailor's dance.  According to Wikipedia, you did the hornpipe by doing

movements ... familiar to sailors of that time: "looking out to sea" with the right hand to the forehead, then the left, lurching as in heavy weather, and giving the occasional rhythmic tug to their breeches both fore and aft.
 Hornpipes were popular  in the 16th and 17th centuries, which is explainable by the fact that they had nothing else to do back then; weekend activities were limited to "do the hornpipe" or "die of consumption," and which would you choose?

While President Garfield's Hornpipe is by far my favorite hornpipe, there are also Thomas Jefferson's Hornpipe, and Lincoln's Hornpipe:

Speaking of Lincoln, did you know that unlike the freewheeling and supposedly entertaining Lincoln-Douglas debates, tonight's affair is a tightly-controlled showpiece governed by the official rules the campaigns negotiated?

Among those rules: The candidates may not use pre-made notes, but they may use blank paper to take notes on.  And they have complete freedom to take notes on any kind of paper they like. Says rule 5(d):

"the candidates may take notes on the size, color, and type of blank paper each prefers and the type of pen or pencil that each prefers."

2.  When The President Talks To God, Bright Eyes:

I'm not sure exactly what this song refers to, but I suspect it has to do with this October 2005 story from The Guardian:

George Bush has claimed he was on a mission from God when he launched the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, according to a senior Palestinian politician in an interview to be broadcast by the BBC later this month.

Mr Bush revealed the extent of his religious fervour when he met a Palestinian delegation during the Israeli-Palestinian summit at the Egpytian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, four months after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

One of the delegates, Nabil Shaath, who was Palestinian foreign minister at the time, said: "President Bush said to all of us: 'I am driven with a mission from God'. God would tell me, 'George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan'. And I did. And then God would tell me 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq'. And I did."

Mr Bush went on: "And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East'. And, by God, I'm gonna do it."

FYI: He didn't.

But at least 119,000 civilians have died from war-related violence, making the 4,488 dead US soldiers seem like a small number in comparison.

A small, but useless, number.

Afghanistan, meanwhile, is no less useless a war, but is safer: we only just hit 2,000 casualties there.  But I'm sure eventually the Useless Afghan War will match its younger sibling in deaths.  Just keep swimming!

Speaking of talking to God...

3.  James K. Polk, They Might Be Giants.

Mitt Romney failed to electrify the electorate when his staff announced that his role model as a president was the first ever dark horse candidate, James K. Polk.  The apparent idea was to convince people that, like Polk, Mitt would get things done without worrying about a second term.

But it's possible that Mitt is hiding the truth and that his other role model is George W (the W is for Worst President Ever) Bush.  Like Bush, Mitt invokes the power of the Almighty when it's convenient for his political purposes, like when he criticized the Democrats for belatedly adding the word "God" to their platform by declaring that if he were put in charge, God would remain front and center in our politics, just where the Founding Fathers wanted it:

"I will not take God out of the name of our platform...I will not take God off our coins and I will not take God out of my heart. We’re a nation that’s bestowed by God.”
 It should be noted that a religious-based assay of the Federalist papers found no explicit references to the idea that God was responsible for creating the United States.

4.  A Long Long Time, Guy Forsyth.

 Blink and you'll miss it:

We Americans are freedom-loving people and nothing says freedom like getting away with it.
We went from Billy the Kid to Richard Nixon.
 In the debates, neither candidate is supposed to address the other with questions or proposed pledges or demand future or more debates; wouldn't you like to see Romney and Obama simply talk to each other for 90 minutes, with no questions and no idea what the guy is going to ask?

You won't get to.

Here's something to mull over, since you won't hear about it tonight or get any substance:  Mitt Romney promises to reduce taxes across the board by 20%.  That's mathematically impossible without substantial spending cuts that Romney refuses to be specific about making.  But equally important is that Mitt's nonspecific growth plans, spelled out (sort of) in his "Five Point Plan," suggest that those tax reforms -- which, again, are impossible, mathematically, absent spending cuts -- would increase GDP by only 0.6%.

The GDP has grown by anywhere from 0.4% to 3.9% over the past two years, during which time there has been "uncertainty" (Mitt's term) over the future of tax rates, and during which time taxes have been higher (by 20%) than Mitt suggests they should be.  Increasing that GDP by 0.6%, as Mitt suggests his (mathematically impossible)(nonspecific) tax cuts would do, would have caused GDP to range between 1.0% and 4.5% over the past two years.

During the 1970s, annual GDP growth averaged, from January 1970 to December 1979, 2.8%, with only two years in which GDP didn't grow (1974-1976).  GDP growth hit a peak of nearly 8% in 1973.  During that time, the top income tax bracket was seventy percent.

Wouldn't you like if someone asked Mitt Romney not only to be specific about his proposals but to explain why his tax-cutting proposals would spur only 4.4% growth in the GDP when 70% top marginal tax rates allowed for annual growth of as high as 8%?

Nobody will, which is why I don't watch the debates.

5.  The Presidents, by Jonathan Coulton.

One other thing you won't hear asked tonight? Nobody will be able to ask the candidates "Sausage or pepperoni?"  Pizza Hut had been going to offer a free pizza a week for 30 years (which was termed a "lifetime supply" of pizza by people who are unfamiliar with the concept of "24 Hours Of Pizza,") to anyone who asked the candidates at tonight's "Town Hall" debate the question: Sausage or pepperoni.

Such a question clearly divides America into just those two categories, ignoring the minorities who prefer mushrooms, or weirdos who think "cheese" is a kind of pizza.

Don't you find it annoying when "cheese" is listed as a potential topping on pizzas you order for delivery?  Don't all pizzas have cheese on them?  Isn't that one of the basic tenets of being a pizza?  (Hard to define as it is, given that the question of what makes a pizza a pizza is a koan-like riddle).  Whenever I see cheese listed as a potential ingredient, I get all nervous and think that I have to order cheese or I'll get just crust with some sausage sprinkled on it, and then I suspect that I am simply being charged extra for putting the regular amount of cheese on it, because how am I supposed to know if I got a pizza (including cheese) with extra cheese as a topping?  I have no idea how much cheese goes on a pizza regularly, so no way to gauge how much extra cheese I'm getting.  If any.

Also: All questions asked by "Town Hall" participants tonight were pre-selected by the moderator.  Will we ever be told which questions were not selected, and why?


6.  Peaches, The Presidents Of The United States Of America:

 Not technically about presidents, I'm including this because this song is every bit as meaningful as the debates people get so excited about watching.

UPDATE: Having come back to look at comments, I've given some thought to that "Sausage or pepperoni?" question and the more I think of it, the more I'd like to see the candidates asked that, because I think their answers would speak volumes about them.  What do you want to bet Romney would give a mealy-mouthed "I like both of them, to tell you the truth" answer?  I bet you his entire fortune that's what he'd say.  I bet he'd go on to say he likes all kinds of toppings and compare it to the "Melting Pot" of America even though nobody has done more to avoid America being a "melting pot" than the Mormons, unless it's the Republicans.

But what would Obama say, is more the question:  We know he'd start with "Let me be clear..." but how would he finish up?  Is Obama a sausage guy? Pepperoni guy?  Is he man enough to pick one or the other?  If he picked pepperoni would people say that was proof he sides with foreigners?

I've got to think about this.

But I think they should be asked the question, and the follow-up:  Why?


PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

Yeah really these debates are worthless. If you decide who to vote for purely on this, you're a complete moron. Speaking of morons, I was in a restaurant on Saturday and this old lady was going on about how she thinks only people who have been 5-star generals should be allowed to run for president. First off, do we even have 5-star generals anymore? Second, the history of generals running the country beyond Washington has been pretty iffy. Andrew Jackson was like the George W of his era. Harrison, Garfield, and I think it was Zachary Taylor all died not long after taking office. Eisenhower was pretty meh; I mean can anyone think of one specific thing Ike actually DID? Mostly he just seemed to be one of those caretaker presidents. So yeah, that old lady is full of shit. The problem is idiots like that get to vote too. Viva democracy!

PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

Oh yeah and I forgot Grant, who ran one of the most corruption-plagued administrations ever. Hooray!

Briane P said...

Five-star generals didn't technically exist until 1944:


Only five men have ever held that rank, and they're all dead.

So basically, your commenter was suggesting that nobody living is qualified to be president, while simultaneously arguing obliquely for a quasi-military dictatorship. But I believe that the forefathers were insistent that the military have a civilian commander-in-chief, so that's a pretty big shift in the fundamentals underpinning our system.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

What gets me in my state is that they get all fired up about the debates and Mitt for no reason. I try talking to them by saying, "Uh...you can relax because your vote doesn't count. The whole state is going Red and that's the way it always is. Why do you even pretend to know the issues. It doesn't matter. One party state."

Briane P said...

You should look into vote trading. Remember when "Nader Traders" or whatever traded their votes? There must be some way to get Romney supporters to vote for Obama in some states if you promise to vote for Romney in a red state. Romney voters won't figure it out, will they?

"Hey, Mr. Ohio-an, I will vote for Romney in Utah on your behalf if you vote for Obama in Ohio on my behalf."

That way, Obama gets the swing state and Romney gets more of a landslide in a safe state.

Andrew Leon said...

What about "Land of Confusion" by Genesis. I'm not sure if it fits your criteria or not, but in the video there was the whole SuperReagan thing.

I have never been interested in watching a debate before this year. The last debate steams me up, because Romney gets credit for "winning" because he's more charismatic and, actually, broke the rules of the debate. Why is it we're more willing to follow a charismatic liar than someone who is thoughtful and honest?

Well, you know, honest-er. I'm not sold on the "honesty" of any politician, but I think Obama is the closest we've had in a long time. And I do believe he's interested in helping "the people," not just "the rich people."

joeh said...

Would someone ask PT just whom should be allowed to vote.

I know I would hate to be the one to define who was capable and worthy to vote and who wasn't.

Viva Demopcracy...PT style!

Briane P said...

Andrew: If you read "Rembert Explains The 80s" on Grantland, and saw his review of "Land of Confusion," you know it was hilarious.

I didn't include it because I don't personally like that song, but it WOULD fit the category.

Joe H: PT only suggests that people who choose how to vote based on pro forma debates ought not to be allowed to vote. I'm kind of with him on that. The level of information the average voter has is alarmingly low, and the debates provide NO further information.

Andrew Leon said...

I'll try to look that up at some point. No time, right now. Have too much to do before I leave for class.

PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

I honestly think there should be an IQ test and current events test to determine who's smart enough to vote. But I'm sure some people would complain it's designed to discriminate against certain ethnicities and so forth. Electing George W twice has just convinced me there are way too many dumb people voting.

As for the great pizza debate Obama should answer pineapple and ham. I mean he's from Hawaii (unless you believe Donald Trump) so obviously Hawaiian style should be his favorite. Of course he's also lived in Chicago, so Hawaiian style deep dish.

The Mitt Romney pizza should be cheese, onions, and alfredo sauce instead of tomato sauce to make it the whitest, blandest pizza ever. And served on a thin crust for how thin his ideas are.

Liz said...

I don't do debates, either.