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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Randy Newman and the Conservative Justices

Here's a fun one. Randy Newman has a new album CD called Harps and Angels, containing a track called A Few Words in Defense of Our Country. He talked about the song in an NPR interview today, explaining that the song means that, no matter how rough things are now, our public officials still are better than those in power in Rome or during the Spanish Inquisition. At one point in the song, he talks about Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito with the following:

You know, it pisses me off a little, this Supreme Court's going to outlive me.
Couple young Italian fellas and a brother on the Court now, too.
But I defy you, anywhere in the world,
to find me two Italians as tight-ass as the two Italians we got.
And, as for the brother, well,
Pluto's not a planet anymore, either.

He explained the last line as meaning Thomas's ideology reflects a "change in the cosmos."

Newman published the lyrics in a New York Times op-ed in January 2007. In today's interview, he said they edited out the stuff about the justices, as well as some lines about the Roman Caesars. Today, he said of the latter edits:

But they took out a verse about the Caesars where I say, you know, they were sleeping with their sisters, stashing little boys in swimming pools and burning down the city.... What are they protecting, Tiberius? It's like, these people have been dead 2,000 years. I mean, they're not going to — you know, Kevin Caesar isn't going to come out of the woodwork and sue 'em. I mean, what difference does it make?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 6, 2008 at 08:09 PM in Culture, Current Affairs, Law and Politics | Permalink


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'nisi bonum' -- Latin needs work...

Posted by: anon | Aug 7, 2008 8:15:38 AM

I guess Newman prefers his Italians ineffectually 'loose-assed.' As for Romans, 'de mortuis nil nisis bonum' didn't make it into the song, did it?

Posted by: anon | Aug 7, 2008 8:12:52 AM

Is Newman's "explanation" of the anti-Thomas line convincing, or even plausible? It strikes me that the line communicates, and was intended to communicate, not that Justice Thomas's jurisprudence is like a (for now, merely potential) cosmological change, but that Justice Thomas is not *really* a "brother." That Randy Newman imagines himself competent to pass judgment on Justice Thomas's bona fides as a black man (let alone on the merits of his, or any other Justice's, work) is, to me, ridiculous.

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Aug 6, 2008 10:53:54 PM

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