Scrap the Air Force!

The Air Force is clearly unconstitutional.

Article One, Section Eight of the United States Constitution gives the United States the power to “To provide and maintain a Navy” and to “To raise and support Armies.” The Marine Corps and the Coast Guard might be able to be justified as extensions of the Navy, but there’s nothing in the Constitution about an Air Force. Not a word. It’s clearly a socialist plot, no? Top Gun is obviously a Soviet propaganda film, and the fact that Tom Cruise is a Scientologist is just icing on the cake.

Of course, common sense would dictate that since 18th Century aerial combat would likely have involved dropping big rocks from hot air balloons, there was really no constitutional consideration to provide for Top Gun-style combat. It’s very unlikely that the framers had any intention of limiting the technological avenues of our military. Consequently, lawmakers have felt little or no pressure to amend the Constitution in order to grant themselves the power to pay military pilots to fly in F-14s.

But if you’re a Tea Partier, you have to recognize the intellectual contradictions that your worship of “original intent” is bound to create.

Case in point: the recent health care reform law is coming under fire for being “unconstitutional.” Why? Well, it includes a mandate that everyone purchase health insurance or face government penalties. According to the Tea Party, nowhere in Article 1, Section 8 is there a provision allowing the Federal Government to force you to purchase “a product you don’t want,” to quote Tea Party darling and Senator-elect Mike Lee of Utah.

A product you don’t want. Swell.

So what can the government do, then? Well, according to the 16th Amendment, they can “lay and collect taxes,” which they can use, with their Article 1, Section 8 authority, to “regulate Commerce” and do all that is “necessary and proper” to do so. Given that health care is an international business and constitutes one-seventh of all of our economic commerce, it’s pretty hard to argue that the commerce clause gives the government no power to intervene. (That’s still what the Tea Partiers argue, but over a century of precedent makes their case untenable.)

So rather than force you to purchase “a product you don’t want,” despite the fact that everyone, everywhere, will require health care, the Feds can simply enact a massive single-payer system with your tax dollars that will remove your choices, raise overall costs, and create a bureaucracy and federal ownership that would dwarf the current obligations created by the most recent legislation.

That would be a crappy-yet-constitutional solution.

The Tea Party is looking for an intellectual silver bullet; an easy way out, a shortcut to bypass hard choices. So they dangle the Constitution in everyone’s face and presume that it has all the answers, when, in fact, it doesn’t. It doesn’t claim to have them, and it’s folly to pretend otherwise. What’s more, worship of that inspired document doesn’t provide the political will to enact policy, especially when the policy is controversial.

Consider, for instance, the push for a Balanced Budget Amendment. Senator-elect Lee has been insistent that the way to fiscal discipline is to mandate such discipline constitutionally.

Neat. Except a Balanced Budget Amendment doesn’t actually balance the budget. You still have to make the hard choices to do that.

Right now, doing that overnight would require gruesome cuts that would likely double the unemployment rate overnight, gut Social Security and Medicare, and cripple defense spending. It could also result in massive, judicially mandated tax increases. Won’t that be delightful to have the Supreme Court diddling with the Tax Code in order to satisfy the constitutional requirement for a balanced budget? Whether you’re a fan of Clarence Thomas or Ruth Bader Ginsburg, do you really want either one of them tinkering with tax policy?

The more likely outcome, however, is that you would create a Congress of scofflaws, just like California has done on a statewide level with their own superfluous state balanced budget amendment.

Notice that California has a rigorous balanced budget amendment – but no balanced budget. Every time they pass a budget, they simply ignore the law.

Tea Party Mormons, notably Glenn Beck, are particularly egregious in terms of their Constitution worship, because they cite a dubious Mormon prophecy to justify their contention that the Constitution is “hanging by a thread,” which is simply untrue. All the fundamental provisions of the Constitution remain firmly in place. What they’re trying to do is cloak their own policy preferences in highminded Constitutional language, but their interpretation of the Constitution is no less singular – or valid – than Barack Obama’s.

To quote Antonin Scalia, “You can be stupid and Constitutional at the same time.”

It’s time we stop pretending that there are any easy answers. We’re not going to solve our nation’s problems by wearing tri-cornered hats and quoting Patrick Henry with loud, angry voices. (Incidentally, Patrick Henry refused to attend the Constitutional Convention and was adamantly opposed thereto.) We have to use the inspired, brilliant 18th Century constitutional procedures, which remain firmly in place, to find 21st Century solutions.

Either that, or we need to scrap the Air Force.

The Lesser Songs

I’m actively recording music again. As such, I have a need to return to this blog and finish my songwriting journey so I can actually blog about other stuff and post new recordings. Because I know you want them.

Bald was very much a lesser tune, although it’s a crowd pleaser when it’s performed live. I have several other songs from that era, none of which deserve an entire blog post to themselves. So I thought I’d dump ‘em all on you at once as I attempt to reboot this blog for the umpteenth time. (Look, it’s not like you’re paying for this or anything, right?)

1. The Laundry Song was attached to a melody that had been floating around in my brain since the early ‘90s. It began with the words, “Clean Your Clock/You’ve got God on your side/You’ve got nothing to lose/So you’ve got nothing to hide.” I actually still like that, but that’s all I could come up with for years, and I have no idea where to go with it. I also feel wildly uncomfortable writing religious-themed music. I hate pop/rock religiosity, and I also don’t take myself seriously enough to write real hymns. So the stanza became “Clean Your Clothes/You’ve got soap on your side/You’ve got nothing to lose/Except your animal pride.” Problem solved.

I fleshed out the song, such as it is, some time around the turn of the century. This was recorded at Tuacahn in the summer of 2001. It’s a terrible recording, and the song really bugs me, only because it doesn’t really have a third verse. The one that’s there is a placeholder, filled with nonsense. I really like this tune, though – I’ve used it for a number of things, including a parody I sang for the final MBA awards dinner in 1999 when I was the evening’s entertainment.  I think there’s a fine lyric that should be attached to this tune: just wish I knew what it was.

2. The Dog/Birdie War was written while I was bored at the Utah State Fair sometime in the mid-to-late 1990s.  I sang the first verse to my wife off the top of my head – “Got a load of birdseed, and fed it to my dog/ The bird got very angry and said I shouldn’t hog/ All the seed for the dog when the bird needs it more/ That was the start of the dog birdie war.” I was impressed with that spontaneous burst of creation, so I spent the rest of the night coming up with the rest of the story. It all fell together very quickly.

It’s a fun conceit, but the song doesn’t work, because it has no chorus, and it’s too busy – it’s all exposition, and it needs somewhere to land. The verse about the drooling dog named Otis bugs me, too – it doesn’t move the story ahead at all, and it was just written as an excuse to mention drooling. Because, come on, who doesn’t like drooling?

I’ve retooled the song with a chorus, and it’s much better, but I haven’t rerecorded it yet.  This recording was from the fabled Tuacahn sessions of 2001. It was recorded in the key of C but then digitally lowered a full step, because I liked hearing my voice sound lower than it is, and almost everything else I recorded was in the key of C, and I wanted to be a bit more diverse.

3. The Pterodactyl Flies has its roots in spontaneous jam sessions I used to have with an old USC buddy, where he’d vamp out a chord structure and I’d start improvising a lyric. The one that always brought down the house was the one that began with sentence, “I sing a song of pterodactyls screaming through the sky.” When I got an mBox mini recording studio for Christmas of 2002, I decided to put it to good use and write a whole song around the theme. I don’t really like it – it doesn’t have the playfulness that was inherent in its original inspiration. It has the feel of an academic exercise, and it has too many verses, none of which are particularly funny.

4. Dig was written while I was filling the baptismal font for my second daughter’s baptism the day after Christmas in 2006. There was only so much hot water in the tank, so you had to get there early in the morning to empty the tank of hot water, wait a few hours, and then fill it again. I really enjoyed this song while writing it, and I hoped to record it with a real heavy metal feel. My limited musicianship skills killed that idea. I still think the song has its moments, but it meanders and has no real conclusion. The most painful part in the recording is my attempt at a guitar solo. It sound like a pathetic piano solo, but it’s really an even-more-pathetic attempt at a guitar solo.

Some have asked me if this song was inspired by the character The Shoveler, played by William H. Macy in the underrated movie Mystery Men. The answer is that, no, it wasn’t, but it should have been. It was, however, partially inspired by an old SNL sketch with Will Ferrell where people dig tunnels across the world and then die.

Ironically, this song was written the day after The Miracle of the Christmas Poo, which became the inspiration for one of my better tunes, about which I have already blogged.

I think these are all the songs I have recorded at the moment. More shall come. That’s both a promise and a threat.