Sunday, February 26, 2017

The New Democratic National Committee Chairman

It's Tom Perez.
Although Keith Ellison and several other candidates for the post of Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman fought the good fight, the 447 members of the committee, who voted yesterday (the vote was not scheduled for today, as I had stated earlier), chose a party insider who has been loyal to the establishment and is seen to be friendlier to wealthy donors and to the Clintons than to the millions of people who backed Bernie Sanders and the dozen or so of us who were for Martin O'Malley.  (O'Malley, who made Perez his Secretary of Labor, Licensing and Regulation when he became governor of Maryland, wouldn't back Perez for the DNC chairmanship.  That should tell you something.)
The Democrats could have gotten someone new and fresh  - alas, South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg withdrew at the last minute - but chose instead a political hack who is seen, according to journalist Glenn Greenwald, as "a reliable functionary and trustworthy loyalist by those who have controlled the party and run it into the ground."  Indeed - he blindly supported Hillary Clinton (that's the only way you could do it - blindly) in the 2016 presidential primaries (and O'Malley was clearly getting even by supporting Buttigieg, not that it mattered), and he's pretty much at Bill and Hillary's beck and call.  In fact, he advised Hillary Clinton during her 2016 primary campaign, and he suggested that she paint Sanders as the "white candidate" to build and shore up her support among minorities.  And isn't it weird that Hillary Clinton herself would put out a video message of resistance to Donald Trump on the eve of the DNC chairmanship vote to convince us that she's still relevant?  (She wants to run for President again.) 
Oh yeah, on a separate vote, a resolution that would have banned "registered, federal corporate lobbyists" from serving as at-large DNC members was rejected.  Money talks, and the people walk.
Although Perez made Ellison his deputy chairman to quell angry progressives and promised to go after the working-class and rural and exurban voters who backed Trump in 2016, most liberals realize that the Democratic Party no longer represents their interests (and hasn't since the Vietnam War ended) and are ready to bolt the party.  There have already been calls for a convention to found a new party . . . similar to the calls for meetings in Michigan and Wisconsin in 1854 that led to the Republican Party, which quickly supplanted the Whigs and recruited ex-Whigs Abraham Lincoln and William Seward, as well as the Frelinghuysen political dynasty in New Jersey, among others.  And the Huffington Post has been circulating a petition to make it happen.
I predict that Perez's elevation to the DNC chairmanship is going to accelerate a mass exodus from the Democratic Party and cause the first major change of the nation's two-party system in 160 years.  Any Democrat currently eyeing a White House run in 2020 will have to make a decision whether to stay with the old party or join the new one.  All Democrats now have to understand that they should either lead, follow, or get out of the way.  
We all know what the DNC chose to do. :-(
(Some good news: Stephanie Hansen won the state Senate special election in Delaware.)

Saturday, February 25, 2017

"Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" - Fifty Years

Fifty years ago this month, the Beatles released their first record of 1967, a record that made a complete break with everything they'd released before.  A double-A-side single, "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" were radical for the times, the former song using backward tapes, variable speeds and liberal editing, and the latter song lyrically inventive with unconventional (for rock and roll) arrangements.  (The single was released on February 13, 1967 in the U.S, and on February 17, 1967 in the U.K.) For those who missed it when I posted the promotional clips of both songs as my Music Videos Of the Week, here are my comments (slightly reworded here), with pictures.

(The front cover of the Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever" / "Penny Lane" picture sleeve.) 
Both songs had been intended for the LP that the Beatles were recording to follow up Revolver, but both their manager Brian Epstein and their American label Capitol wanted a new single out as soon as possible.  It had been since August 1966 when the Beatles last released any new product, and at the time their manager and Capitol were pressing the group for a new release, four months had passed since the release of Revolver.  In the late sixties, that was a long time to wait for a new record from a recording artiste.  So the first two songs the Beatles finished for their eighth album - they apparently had started it as a theme album about their childhoods, hence "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" were both about growing up in Liverpool - were released as a single instead, at a time when British rock acts kept singles and albums apart.  So neither song ever appeared on a Beatles album that the foursome assembled themselves.
John Lennon wrote "Strawberry Fields Forever" while filming the movie How I Won the War in Spain, musing about the Strawberry Field Salvation Army orphanage in Liverpool, the wooded grounds of which he would play in as a boy, and how he found his identity in its haven.  When he presented the song to producer George Martin and the other Beatles, the group taped a magnificent first take in their first session for what became the Sgt. Pepper album (in November 1966).  But John wasn't satisfied with how it turned out, and six more takes were later recorded with an electric-folk arrangement, take 7 being the best of the lot.  John then decided he wanted "Strawberry Fields Forever" classically scored instead, and Martin delivered.  Nineteen takes of the classically scored version - using backward cymbals - were recorded, the last take, called take 26, being labeled "best."
John loved the orchestrated take 26, but he also liked part of the electric-folk take 7.  He then went to Martin and suggested that the first part of  the electric-folk version be joined with the second part of the classical version.  "There are two things wrong with that, John," Martin replied.  "First, they're in different keys, and second, they're in different tempos."
"Well, George,"  John replied, "certainly you can fix it!"
Martin then went over the two versions of "Strawberry Fields Forever" with recording engineer Geoff Emerick and realized that both versions could be joined by slightly speeding up take 7 and dramatically slowing down take 26, radically altering John's voice.  They pulled it off, creating a final master that John gave a hearty thumbs-up to, and song was finished.  (Later, after the Beatles broke up, John would express dissatisfaction with the final master.)  "We gradually decreased the the pitch of the first version at the join to make them weld together," Emerick later explained.
The edit is approximately a quarter of the way into the song and Martin and Emerick joined the two versions so well that, fifty years later, most people still don't know exactly where it is.  (It's exactly one minute into the song, if you want to seek it out; once you do, though, you'll most likely always hear it after that.)
As for the end . . . the reason it fades out and fades back in is because Ringo Starr made a drum mistake when someone was talking to him, and Martin wanted to cover it up.  The group would use the fade-out and fade-back ploy again in "Helter Skelter" on the White Album.  (During a session ten days before Christmas, John uttered the words "cranberry sauce," likely looking forward to his planned holiday dinner or maybe word-playing on "strawberry fields."  He did not, in fact, say "I buried Paul.")

(The back cover of the "Strawberry Fields Forever" / Penny Lane" single, showing the Beatles' childhood photos.)
"Penny Lane" was a much more direct recording, done in nine takes with a piano and wind-instrument arrangement.  Paul McCartney had been inspired to write a song by that title because he liked the poetry of it.  Penny Lane is, of course, the name of not just a Liverpool street but also the neighborhood around it. Paul's song introduces us to the colorful characters that populate the district - a barber who keeps his shop along the street, the local banker who doesn't wear a raincoat when it pours, and a patriotic fireman, along with a nurse selling poppies for Remembrance Day (Veterans Day in America) at a bus shelter in the middle of what the Brits call a "roundabout" and what folks in New Jersey call a "traffic circle."  The three men eventually end up together in the barbershop in the middle of yet another rainstorm.
"Penny Lane" was a stately, tasteful piece of pop lyricism, but Paul managed to work in a couple of naughty slang lyrics as well; he later admitted that he had more than fire engines in mind when he sang about the fireman keeping his "machine" clean, while the term "finger pie" is Liverpool slang for something you don't find at a local bakery next to the petit-four cakes.  (Think about it.)
There was also some clean slang in the lyrics.  A "four of fish" refers to four pence worth of fish and chips, while a raincoat is referred to as a "mac."
The song was recorded in nine takes, and Paul was pleased with how it turned out, but it still lacked a special touch.  Paul figured out what it was when he was at home one night and watched a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach's second Brandenburg Concerto on BBC Television.  Paul, who'd taken up the trumpet as a boy, recognized a high-pitched trumpet sound.  The next day, Paul spoke to George Martin at EMI Studios at Abbey Road.
"Great sound I heard last night on the telly," he said to Martin, "a high-pitched trumpet."
Martin immediately knew what Paul meant.  "Yes," he said, "a piccolo trumpet."
"Well," Paul said, "do you think we could get the chap who played it in the Bach concerto last night to play it on 'Penny Lane'?"   
Martin thought that was a splendid idea, and so they got that chap, trumpeter David Mason (not to be confused with the guy who co-founded Traffic) to play on "Penny Lane."  Mason played solos in the middle eight and toward the end of the song; a coda solo got mixed out, but not before it was included in a mix for a promotional single sent to American radio stations.  It's one of the most collectible Beatles records ever.
Both songs were so good that the Beatles decided to release them as a double-A-side, which meant that either song could be recognized as an A-side; this was the third such single the group put out.  "Both songs are brilliant and brimful with confidence and high ability," Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn wrote in 1988.  "And each is a perfect counterpoint to the other even though they share a similar theme."
Martin later regretted not choosing one song as the A-side, leaving the other for what became Sgt. Pepper, and making "When I'm Sixty-Four," the only other song during the Sgt. Pepper sessions that the Beatles recorded up to that point in the sessions, the B-side.  Had he done so, Martin believed, the Beatles would have had another number-one hit in the United Kingdom.  Instead, the single only got up to number two there.  It had actually sold as many copies as their previous singles but simply could not outsell Englebert Humperdinck's "Release Me," which stubbornly held the top spot on the British singles chart (until Frank and Nancy Sinatra's appropriately titled "Somethin' Stupid" displaced it).  In America, though, "Penny Lane" topped the Billboard singles chart for the week ending March 18, 1967 while "Strawberry Fields Forever" made it to number five.
John Lennon took the single's relatively disappointing chart action in the U.K. in stride, saying there was room for all sorts of pop music on the charts.  "I don't mind Humperbert Engledinck," he said. ;-)

(A scene from the "Strawberry Fields Forever" promotional video.)
The Beatles made two videos for the record.  The video for "Strawberry Fields Forever," filmed in the English county of Kent outside London, is a surreal interpretation of the song, as cosmically edited and as laden with special effects as the song itself, while the video for "Penny Lane" shows the Beatles supposedly walking on that very street in Liverpool and having a formal picnic on the outskirts of the city.  In fact, the street scenes showing the Beatles were filmed in the Chelsea section of London, while the picnic scenes were filmed in Kent.  These scenes, along with clips of the Beatles on horseback, were then interspersed with footage of the real Penny Lane in Liverpool.  Both clips emphasize their facial hair (George Harrison has a goatee) to make it clear that they were no longer boys.  Now they were men.

(A scene from the "Penny Lane" promotional video.)
"Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane," because of their reminiscences of childhood, were considered the first concept 45-rpm record.  The musical innovation and the lyrical inventiveness of both songs make this one of the greatest singles of all time and certainly the greatest double-A-side single ever.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Music Video Of the Week - February 24, 2017

"We're In This Love Together" by Al Jarreau (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Crash Years

The United States is the Howard Cosell of nations. That is, we're so wrapped up in our own self-importance that we have no idea how much the rest of the world hates us, at least until we elect a dim-bulb conservative to be our President - then we get a sample of such antipathy.
Ironically, Donald Trump is causing antipathy among European nations for having no idea how important we are to them.  He's had to have Cabinet members like Defense Secretary James Mattis, quickly becoming the jewel in the tin crown of an administration (though I'm willing to give Secretary of State Rex Tillerson the benefit of the doubt for now, and new national security adviser H.R. McMaster looks to be a sensible guy), assure European leaders that the Trumpster will not pull back from the NATO alliance in the face of Russian expansion.  Oh yeah, and we're not out to grab Iraqi oil either.  
Also, Vice President Mike Pence went to Munich over the weekend to reassure fellow NATO members that the alliance is strong.  The fact that he's a heartbeat away from ultimate power couldn't possibly have reassured the Europeans, though, because whereas Trump is a vulgarian, Pence is just a rube.  He denies climate science and evolution, and he tried to regulate women and preserve legalized homophobia as governor of Indiana.  European leaders tend to be rather sophisticated, like a gourmet meal.  Mike Pence is the political equivalent of ham and raisin sauce. 
While the United States tries to avoid a collision with its own allies (can you really call them "friends"?), the Democratic Party is trying to avoid an internal crackup - a crackup that, I believe, is as inevitable as Hillary Clinton's perpetual campaign for the Presidency if Clinton stooge Tom Perez is chosen as the Democratic National Committee's (DNC's) chairman.  Perez will undoubtedly push the party toward the Clintons' corporate agenda and split the party down the middle.  Diana Price of made this point quite acidly in a recent column in which she also noted that, while the Russian government may very well have colluded with the Trump campaign, the Democratic e-mails uncovered, whether leaked by the Russians or by WikiLeaks acting alone, showed how the party establishment favored Hillary and was pulling every possible trick to ensure her nomination at the expense of other candidates, including Martin O'Malley and the front-running anti-Hillary, Bernie Sanders.
"It's the height of hypocrisy," Price wrote, "for the corporate Democrats and the DNC to complain about election manipulation when the DNC emails leaked verify that the DNC - and former DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, in particular - was gaming the primaries for Hillary Clinton."  Not only were debates limited, but - and this kills me - there was widespread voter disenfranchisement by reducing the number of polling sites in some areas and many voters were purged from the primary and caucus registers. Among other things.  Now that the election is over, Hillary backers in the party establishment are not only unrepentant, they keep ignoring O'Malley and disrespecting Sanders.  They even got angry at Sanders for proposing that less expensive Canadian drugs be legalized for importation into the United States, a bill amendment that every Republican and also thirteen Senate Democrats - including the heir apparent to the Hillary faction, New Jersey senator Cory Booker - refused to support.  Also, Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison. the "Sanders Democrat" in the DNC chairmanship race, has actually demanded that Sanders give his mailing list to the party establishment, which would most certainly be against the wishes of Sanders supporters.
So, imagine what will happen if Perez is chosen as the party chairman?   
So, even if the Russians worked in concert with the Trump campaign - and that is a very serious charge, and one that is grounds for impeachment should it be proven - that doesn't change the fact that whoever leaked these e-mails only proved that the Democratic establishment, by trying to silence the anti-Hillary members of their party and getting them to hold their noses and vote for Hillary in November, is more to blame for Trump's victory than the Kremlin.  If Sanders or O'Malley had been the Democratic presidential nominee and WikiLeaks or the Russians or the Trump campaign or whomever found evidence that the Democratic primary process was fair and clean and that rank-and-file Democrats were happy with the nominee, there would have been nothing for Trump to capitalize on, and, likely thus, no Trump victory.     
Price sums things up nicely:
"With the huge grassroots following behind Bernie Sanders, do you really want to push that argument that Sanders is not someone you want helping shape the Democratic Party, and, in fact, Sanders is someone who offers voters an alternative party to Democrats? This is yet another example of the arrogant thinking by the DNC that voters have to choose either their chosen corporate Democrat juiced into lobbyist interests or choose a Republican. Apparently, the DNC and establishment Democrats don’t realize they are promoting a mass exodus and the demise of their own party with that argument and are incapable of learning their lessons."
A Democratic National Committee chairman who serves the interests of the Clintons rather than the interests of the rank-and-file party members will surely trigger such a mass exodus the same way Whig squeamishness over slavery triggered a defection of its northern and western members to the nascent Republican Party in the 1850s.
At which point Martin O'Malley will do what Abraham Lincoln did in 1856 - tell his old party to screw themselves and join a new party, in the present case a party that Sanders will have already formed.   

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Bowling Green Est Sweden

On behalf of the residents of Bowling Green, Kentucky, a city I have never set foot in, which works out fine since I've never set foot in Kentucky either, I can state without fear of contradiction that they, 63,616 people strong, the survivors of a terrorist attack that never happened . . .
. . . express their sincerest and deepest solidarity with the people of Sweden, a nation most Kentuckians have historically derided for having high taxes, a king and government-run health care, as the Swedish people cope with the absence of a terrorist attack against them that did not happen this past Friday.
And I've never been to Sweden ether.  Neither, apparently, has Donald Trump.  I'm pleased to know, though, that he takes his role as President of the United States seriously enough to inform us of these terrible attacks on no one and the horror of  these infamous non-deeds.
Thanks for everything, Trump.  You're a guy. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

2017 Grammy Update

Last week I wrote that I was relieved when Kanye West didn't jump out of nowhere to hijack Adele's acceptance speech for the Record of the Year Grammy with a protest on Beyoncé's behalf.  It turns out he was never at the ceremony.  He had threatened to boycott the Grammys if hip-hop/R&B performer Frank Ocean wasn't nominated for anything.  Ocean then declared that he didn't want to be nominated for any Grammys, neutralizing West's boycott threat, but West stayed home anyway.
Adele, of course, dedicated her wins to her Beyoncé, even saying that Madame Knowles-Carter should have won those same awards.  A friend of mine on Facebook said that this was because Adele didn't deserve to win the, and she knew it.
And I don't know why this person is a friend of mine.
I do know that some observers are suggesting that Beyoncé lost seven out of nine Grammy nominations because of racism - this suggestion being made at a time when hip-hop/R&B records dominate the music awards as much as the pop charts and when traditionalist rock bands can't even get arrested.  Perhaps racism had nothing to do with n Beyoncé's losses.  Maybe she's just overrated and overexposed. 
All hateful comments from Beyoncé fans telling me what I can do with myself will be unpublished and deleted.  Kanye, you've been warned. :-p

Monday, February 20, 2017

Floating FLOTUSes

I know I mentioned this before, but on this Presidents' Day I have to repeat it again, if only because it's so ridiculous - there are Democrats who are talking about running Michelle Obama for President in 2020.   
Don't get me wrong, I love the woman.  But again - who in the Democratic Party had the spectacularly dumb idea to run Mrs. Obama on the grounds that she's qualified as a result of having been First Lady?  Fortunately, Mrs. Obama is not interested. 
This is no doubt just another ploy on the part of the Democratic Party to return a popular former First Couple to the White House to circumvent the Twenty-Second Amendment, which limits a President to two terms, in the absence of any credible presidential possibilities.  Well, at least in the absence of any credible presidential possibilities that anyone wants to bother with (*cough cough*, Martin O'Malley, *cough cough*).  Why do you think the Democrats ran Hillary Clinton?
Heck, if it's an ex-First Lady you want at the top of your presidential ticket, Democrats, you have a third choice!  
Rosalynn Carter in 2020! 
Of course, if the Democrats feel they need someone younger, they can always go for this Mrs. Carter!
Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter for President! Think about it - she can put her husband in charge of the National Endowment of the Arts!
Oh God, the Democrats can't go the way of the Whigs soon enough!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Cases For and Against Scott Pruitt

FOR:  Scott Pruitt should be the director of the Environmental Protection Agency because he is eminently qualified to streamline the EPA's bureaucracy and devolve authority to the states, where local control is essential to guaranteeing clean air and water to residents, and he understands that the EPA's responsibility does not reach into the free-market realm of energy production, this interpretation of the EPA's mission being a gross and overly broad misrepresentation of its powers.  He is an independent thinker who will take a balanced approach to protecting our environment.
AGAINST:  Scott Pruitt is a corporate douche-bag who's in bed with Big Oil and Big Coal.  And his e-mail correspondence proves it!
It's settled "Against" wins!  Unfortunately, Pruitt has already been confirmed as EPA director despite a court order demanding that he release the e-mails between him and the greediest polluters in America when he was Oklahoma Attorney General.  So, even though the argument against him wins, we Americans all lose.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

An Open Letter To Donald Trump

Dear Mr. President: You're pissing me off.
Do I mean your policies?  No, of course not, even though I oppose all of them, except your infrastructure program, because apart from you being for what used to be called "internal improvements" in the nineteenth century, I really didn't expect you to be any worse than Reagan of the younger Bush.  No, you're pissing - er, ticking - me off because you're giving me way too much to talk about!  I mean . . . I mean . . . I mean . . . I mean, I'm sitting here at my computer, trying to comment on your general incompetence as a leader, and then your national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigns when it's revealed that he had discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador a month before you even moved into the White House!  And if that weren't enough, then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates - the same woman you fired for not enforcing your faulty executive order on immigration - warned you that Flynn may have opened your administration to blackmail by misleading officials, including Vice President Pence, about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.  Mr. President, what am I supposed to say about that?  I'm at a loss for words! And before I can even find the right words, your choice for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Putz or whatever his name is - a fast-food executive who advocated relying more on automation than on real, live human burger flippers - had to step down after having hired an illegal immigrant to clean his house!
Mr. President, you're giving me too much material!  I can't keep up!
And your press conference . . . well that was so bizarre.  You showed the attention of a goldfish, your hair showed the color of a goldfish, you kept questioning the veracity of thoroughly researched news reports, and you thought that black reporter April Ryan was friends with the Congressional Black Caucus - and expected a tough question with her - on the basis of her race?  You actually asked her to help set up a meeting with black lawmakers because you figured that she, being black, must know them personally?  The only time you seemed engaged is when you talked about your wife.  Which is ironic, because your wife has been seen less often in the past month than Elvis.  Yeah, it's my second Elvis reference in regard to your White House this month, but what the hay . . . 
Look, Mr. President, I don't want to have to talk about you all the time, even though I know you'd love to have me talk about you all the time, because even bad press for you is good press, but I would rather talk about other things - competitive swimming, Volkswagens, adorable kittens, ice cream with chocolate syrup, anything - than your screw-ups.  I have enough time trying to avoid typos and misaligned paragraphs in this one-man show that is my blog without you giving me enough material to keep the entire Huffington Post staff working overtime.  So please, Mr. Trump, I beg you . . . if you're going to be a lousy President, show some restraint in your lousiness and give me a break!  You're killing me, man!
And next time you have dinner with a foreign leader at a public gathering space, feel free to talk about an international crisis all you want . . . but don't leave classified information lying around for all the world - and Melania - to see!
Steven Maginnis
P.S.  Regarding the inauguration . . .Tony Orlando?  Really? 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Music Videos Of the Week - February 17, 2017

"Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" by the Beatles  (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Breakin' Away

Al Jarreau, who died this past Sunday, was a singer who helped popularize jazz and brought a breezy, effortless style to his own records.  While his signature song, "We're In This Love Together," the hit single from his 1981 album Breakin' Away, might be heard as the very definition of early-eighties MOR, right down to its saxophone solo, the song showed that Jarreau's subtle phrasing and his earthy sensibility were very much in the jazz tradition.  He brought that same dexterous and clever vocal delivery to bear on other worthwhile songs such as "After All" and "Trouble In Paradise," as well as on his cover of the standard "Teach Me Tonight."
Even Jarreau's 1983 hit "Mornin'", possibly one of the silliest songs ever written - the lyrics find Jarreau saying good morning to his kitchen radio and his breakfast - shows his precise enunciation and his impeccable range.  When he sang on that record about how he could reach out and touch the face of God, his voice reaches a moment of transcendence few if any of his peers could reach.  In fact, of all the eighties pop singers rooted in jazz (and there weren't that many of them), only Anita Baker, who recently announced her retirement (ironically, Jarreau had announced his own retirement from touring a couple of days before his death) was in his league.
It seems poignant that Al Jarreau died on the night the 2017 Grammy Awards were presented, as he had been the recipient of seven such awards.  The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) certainly recognized his awesome talent, though when pop critic Robert Christgau called Jarreau "NARAS's idea of a jazz singer" and meant it as a calculated insult, he failed to realize what it was about Jarreau's abilities that made his music such a wonderful idea to contemplate.  RIP. :-(    

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

25 Skidoo

Adele won Album of the Year for 25?  Great, I can now say I own a copy of an Album of the Year Grammy-winning LP that was released in this century! :-D 
And she also won song of the Year and Record of the Year for "Hello." She dedicated her wins to Beyoncé, who won only two of the nine Grammys she was up for; Queen Bey won Best "Urban Contemporary" [read black] Album and Best Music Video), and, fortunately, Kanye West was nowhere to be seen in the hall. 
Adele's wins shouldn't fool anyone in to thinking we're ready for a revival of sensibility and taste in popular music.  As I once pointed out on this blog, her style is a throwback to the days of 1960s British songstresses like Dusty Springfield, Petula Clark and Cilla Black, and her success has hardly helped the rest of pop return to a sixties-type standard.  (Best New Artist?  Chance the Rapper.)  But rock is still hanging in there, with Cage the Elephant, one of rock's more interesting current bands, winning Best Rock Album Grammy for Tell Me I'm Pretty.  But you know that rock is still in trouble when you realize that Bowie won four Grammys despite being dead. :-O
And Beyoncé's pornographic-Lady-Madonna-priestess schtick?  See how they run; even people who have long been in Queen Bey's corner are distancing themselves from her Grammy performance.  She might have just pole-vaulted the shark.  No wonder Kanye was nowhere to be seen.  You think he was going to try to defend that?       

Monday, February 13, 2017

How To Rebuild a Party - The O'Malley Way

Martin O'Malley not only wants to run for President again in 2020, he wants to save the Democratic Party from itself.
The former Maryland governor and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate is wasting no time in helping to put Democrats - now on the verge of extinction - back on the road to recovery by putting his money where his mouth is.  You might recall that O'Malley had pleaded with Democratic leaders to pay more attention to state and local races and was ignored, and the results of that inattention can no longer be dismissed.  (The party itself is being dismissed.)  So that's what he's doing - addressing the problem.  He was in Delaware this past Saturday campaigning for Stephanie Hansen, the Democratic nominee for the special election for the Delaware state Senate seat  in the Tenth Senatorial District, which Democrat Bethany Hall-Long recently vacated to become the state's lieutenant governor.  The outcome of this election decides party control of the state Senate.  The election is scheduled for February 25.
Hansen (below) is the sort of Democrat that O'Malley wants to see at all levels of government.  She is for preserving open space and balancing development with open space preservation, improving public schools, and preserving property tax credits for elderly constituents on a fixed income.  In other words, she, like O'Malley, is a progressive but not a nut about it. 
O'Malley has already campaigned for Democrats in state legislative races, most notably for Jim Lykam in a special state Senate election in Iowa, which Lykam won.   O'Malley knows that, if the Democrats have any chance of coming back for 2018 and 2020 and avoid the fate of the Whigs in the 1850s, they have to win at the local level and work their way up. They need state legislative seats, school board seats, municipal council seats, mayoralties, and county executive positions - then they need to regain governorships and U.S. congressional seats.  And they need to engage voters on the local level and find out what's on their minds, not just read opinion polls.  That's why O'Malley is supporting this man for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairmanship. 
He is Pete Buttigieg, the current mayor of South Bend, Indiana. An openly gay man who served in the Navy Reserves during the Afghanistan War (and while he was mayor, at that), he has made redevelopment of South Bend a top priority in his administration, and he's made a point in getting things done and showing how municipal government can work.  More to the point, though, he's young, he's experienced, he's smart (he was a Rhodes Scholar) and he's a Midwestern Democrat who knows how to talk to people in a region of the country that went solidly for Donald Trump in the 2016 election.  Which is why he's perfect for the job . . . well, not entirely perfect.  He's still an incumbent officeholder, and that may impede him should he be elected chairman.  But Buttigieg, a millennial, represents the future of the country far better than Tom Perez or Keith Ellison; he's mostly been  unsullied by inside Washington politics.  (Buttigieg did work for an international-policy consulting firm in Washington for a year.)  
Alas, I have a feeling that Buttigieg won't get the nod to run the DNC.  Why?  Because he's a logical, sensible choice - can't have anything like that in the Democratic Party!  But maybe Democrats, who choose their national committee chairman on February 26, should heed Buttigieg's words ("We have to have the humility to figure out where the party fits in the broader movement, not the other way around," he told a DNC forum in Baltimore) and those of his chief backer.  Because guys like Buttigieg and O'Malley know what the Democratic establishment apparently doesn't - the party has to get back to its roots and reconnect with working people, else it will disintegrate the same way the Whig Party did after the Whigs found out too late that nominating another old war hero for President (Winfield Scott) wasn't enough to endear themselves to the electorate.  Similarly, nominating another Clinton for President wasn't enough for the Democrats to endear themselves to the voters either.     

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Because The Wind Is High a Third Time . . .

Oh, wonderful.

My electricity stayed on during the snowstorm this past week all right, and it looks a threatened snowfall for this coming week may not amount too much but tomorrow my area may be - and will likely be  - under a high wind warning for a third time this winter (there's a high wind watch as I type), with the promise of another outage opportunity.
All over New Jersey, in fact.
Forget terrorism.  My biggest fear is the weather.  Trump would make me feel a whole lot better if he suddenly realized that climate change is a bigger threat to our safety and happiness than the Islamic State.
Did I happen to mention that AccuWeather is predicting an ice storm for early March?
Okay, it's eighteen days out, and AccuWeather's predictions for an ice storm for fewer days out than that have proven to be erroneous in past winters, but there's always a first time for AccuWeather to live up to its name, isn't there? :-O      

Who Cares About the Grammys?

So how do I think the Grammys will turn out?  I don't give a twit.  Because rock and roll is pretty much left out of the major nominations, what with all the rappers and the popsters and the good ol' country boys dominating everything.  Here is the list of nominees for Album of the Year:
25, Adele
Purpose, Justin Bieber
Views, Drake
Lemonade, Beyoncé
A Sailor's Guide to Earth, Sturgill Simpson

Obviously, Adele is the only artist here that I'm interested in, and I would love to see her win this award.  But I know that Beyoncé is going to win it, if only because Kanye West will disrupt the ceremonies if she doesn't.  I say, give the award to her to shut him up.  And she'll probably win Best Urban Contemporary Album for the same LP as well.   But Beyoncé picking up the Album of the Year prize would be better than seeing the the Album of the Year Grammy to go Drake or . . . Justin Bieber?  How did he get in here?  If he wins, I hope Kanye does take the stage in protest.  As for Sturgill Simpson, I don't know much about him . . . I know he's a country singer, and he doesn't have a chance anyway.  Suffice to say that I am not a big fan of contemporary country.  
And here are the Record of the Year nominees:
"Formation," Beyoncé
"Work," Rihanna, Drake
"Hello," Adele
"7 Years," Lukas Graham

Again, I'd root for Adele if I cared about these awards, but the other mononymic performers will be in a dead heat for this one.  As for the Lukas Graham and TWENTY ØNE PILØTS . . . never heard of them.  Shows how much I know about current music when I listen to a college-indie station play current artists that don't sell a lot of records, assuming they sell any.   Beyoncé will likely get this Grammy too, over Rihanna and Drake.  And Beyoncé will likely win Song of the Year and Best Video for the same song.
If rock didn't have its own award categories, it wouldn't win any Grammys at all anymore.  But at least Beyoncé wouldn't be nominated for anything there, right? Wrong.  Her song "Don't Hurt Yourself" - considered a rock song because Jack White is featured on it - is up against "Joe" by the Alabama Shakes (at last! a current band I've heard of!) David Bowie's"Blackstar" and "Disturbed's astonishing cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence."
And she'll probably win that too.
It's obvious, though, that, even if Queen Bey weren't a factor, hip-hop and electronic pop are in vogue and rock is so out.  Beck's Album of the Year win for Morning Phase may very well have been the last time a rock album won a Grammy award without having to be in its own special category.  Which means that even though Kanye West - who has a problem with rockers like Beck winning anything - isn't up for a lot of Grammys this year . . . even if he doesn't get an award tonight, he's already won.
Forget it, rock fans - our time is up.

Note to Beyoncé fans who think I'm putting her down and are ready to leave hateful comments telling me to go to hell and giving me directions . . . I never said Beyoncé is not a good performer.  I merely note that she's not a rocker.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Explaining the Trump Administration

"Hey Rube!"
"Hey, Elvin, it's been awhile.  I was out of the country, I was in France teaching the locals how to grow genetically modified tomatoes."
"The French don't eat genetically modified tomatoes, Rube." 
"Oh, they don't want them to eat.  They want to grow these really big tomatoes to throw at politicians.  Speaking of which, I ain't kept with politics back here  in the States.  So how's President O'Malley doin'?"
"I got bad news for you, Rube.  Our candidate never even got the Democrat nomination.  Hillary done got it and lost in the electoral college despite winning the popular vote."
"Serves her right, nasty woman, the way she made fun of Marty at the debate.  So a Republican's President, eh?  That don't bother me none, so long as it ain't Donald Trump."
"Rube, I got bad news for ya . . .."
"Trump is President, Elvin?"
"Didn't ya read them French papers?"
"I don't understand French."
"Anyway, Rube, Trump done all sorts of foolish things, but the biggest damn fool thing he done is ban people from seven countries where everyone's a Moslem from comin' here."
"He can't do that!"
"That's what the courts said.  So he appealed."
"It gets worse here, Rube.  He done nominated that old bigot Jeff Davis Sessions as attorney gen'ral, even though he don't know nothin' bout no civil rights."
"Triple negative there, Elvin."
"Well, so is Sessions.  Also Betsy DeVos, dumb as cow pie, big Republican donor got to be Secretary of Education."
"And the Democratic Senate approved all these 'pointments?"
"How do I break this to you, Rube?  Dem Dems was supposed to get back the Senate but they done lost it again, 52 Republicans to 48 Dems.  They gonna vote for confirmin' Sessions, see, but Liz Warren wasn't allowed to speak on it because of some letter from Coretta Scott King she read, about Sessions being a threat to civil rights when he was appointed to be a judge but didn't get the seat.  Disrespectful to Senate colleagues, they told her."
"But she persisted to get the letter out in the open.  And, Rube, Dems got a chance to stop DeVos when two lady GOP senators came out against her.  They needed one more Republican to stop her, just one more."
"Well I'm glad they stopped her."
"They didn't, they tied on her, Vice President Pence cast the tie-breaking vote--"
"Mike Pence, that fool from Indiana?"
"The same, Rube, now we got an idiot running the Education Department.  And Sessions is in the Justice Department on a party-line vote!  And we may get a new Supreme Court justice to replace Antonin Scalia, he died last year."
"Last year?  Why din't Obama fill that seat then, Elvin?"
"You don't wanna know the story about that, Rube.  Anyone, Trump's choice, Neil Gorsuch, is a purty rightie kind of guy, but when the court ruled aginast Trump's travel ban, Trump blasted the judge that done handed down the rulin,' and even Gorsuch didn't like that.  Seems this guy may have a conscience at least.  Folks in the White House sure as hell don't.  One White House aide done endorsed Trump's daughter's clothing line, violatin' gubmint rules.  Even the GOP chairman of the House Oversight Committee was appalled.  N Trump's press secretary, he lies like a dog, makes up terror attacks in America to justify this here travel ban . . . Rube, I tell you, it's a mess."
"I knowed itted be, Elvin. Worse than I ever thought."
"Just a minute, Rube, my cell phone done pinged . . ..  Well!  That's good news.  Trump lost his appeal on the travel ban!  The system works!  By the way, you got one of those genetically modified tomaters on ya, I'm hungry."
"Here, Elvin, but you shouldn't eat  genetically modified vegetables."
"First of all, tomaters are fruit, Rube.  Secondly, genetically modified fruits and veggies are done good fer ya, I read it in a book."
"What was the book called, Elvin?"
"'Alternative Facts.'"

Friday, February 10, 2017

Music Video Of the Week - February 10, 2017

"Love Of the Loved" by Cilla Black (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Winter Forecast: Snow Bright Side

The winter storm predicted for today is expected to be worse - much worse - than previously anticipated.  
What was expected to be two to four inches in northern New Jersey is now expected to be six to ten inches, with as much of a foot in some places.  But the warm temperatures from yesterday have made the ground too warm for the snow to stick too much, right?  Wrong - the sharply colder temperatures will freeze the ground pretty quickly.  But wasn't the storm supposed to start out as rain, which would theoretically hold snow totals down before the changeover?  It's going to start as snow and end as snow.  Period.
But the storm will end soon, right?  Perhaps you weren't paying attention - we could get up to a foot!  If it ends as quickly as expected, we could see snowfall an inch an hour - or more.  But it will only be disruptive, not crippling, right?  It's going to be heavy, wet snow - and if it falls as fast as predicted, it could take down some power lines . . . right before temperatures dip into the teens.
Don't look for a mitigating factor.  There is no such thing with this storm.  Stay tuned.  I may be back. :-O 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

French Twist

The French political world in chaos.  While conservative presidential candidate François Fillon is dealing with charges that he gave his wife a sham job to pay her a generous salary, France's former conservative president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is going to be tried for the charges of illegally financing his failed 2012 campaign for re-election and surpassing the legal campaign-spending limit in France (yes, the French have campaign-spending limits, unlike These States).  Sarkozy is alleged to have attempted to hide the excess spending - $20 million, according to one source - by having a public relations firm bill the party instead of the campaign. 
And to think . . . all that spending, and he didn't even win.
The Socialists in France, after five years of President François Hollande, have been discredited by mismanaging the economy.  François Fillon looked to be the next president for his impeccable credentials and his clean image, now sullied by his own scandal.  He vigorously defended himself earlier this week in an attempt to salvage his own campaign in advance of the spring presidential election, but if the French press is anything like the American press, he's not going to convince anyone of his innocence that easily.  
It seems to me that the conservative party in France - called the Republicans, by the way - is in danger of forfeiting its moral leadership in a country looking for a president with strong principles, which could add to the already unraveling political situation there . . . in favor of National Front presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.  A Le Pen victory in the presidential election would be an even bigger earthquake than Trump's election to the U.S. Presidency, because it would call France's reputation for equality and fraternity and for upholding the values of European republicanism completely into question.
Not that the center-right haven't done a good job in doing much of that already . . ..           

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Wild Winter Weather

It was somewhat mild yesterday, but it's be warmer with rain today, followed by a mild springlike day tomorrow in advance of . . . three to six inches of snow tomorrow night into Thursday??
What is this, March?
Well, no, it's February, and you don't normally see winter get this volatile this early, and the thought of snow later this week wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that this is expected to be heavy wet snow that could fall at an inch or two an hour. It's not supposed to be a nor'easter, and it should be out of the way quickly, but the nature and rapidity of the snowfall could be as bad as any long blizzard.
The first half of winter is over, but the second half could get more, uh, interesting.  After a brief cold snap, we could get rain this coming weekend.  Some long-range forecasts show a major rainstorm bringing in March like a lion around the first weekend of the month.  
And Donald Trump doesn't believe in climate change.
Meanwhile, French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, well aware of Trump's ignorance of the subject, says that, if elected, he will encourage American scientists and renewable-energy entrepreneurs to move to France and continue their work without fear of being undermined.  It looks like America could be on the wrong end of a brain drain that benefits the French.  Only it's not going to be jazz singers and actors we're losing to France this time.      

Monday, February 6, 2017


A federal judge (or so he's called ;-) ) in Seattle - James Robart, a judge appointed by noted liberal George Walker Bush - blocked Trump's executive order banning people from seven Middle Eastern countries and refugees from Syria in particular from entering the country.  Wow, it was temporary! :-D
The administration tried to get the stay on the order overturned on appeal, but another judge sided with Robart.  It could go to the Supreme Court now, given all of the efforts for and against the order churning in the system.  Theoretically, by the time it reaches that court, it could be after the ban was set to have expired.  Needless to say, this only underscores why the Democrats - and whatever party replaces them after the 2018 midterms (the Dems are headed for Whig-like extinction, remember) -will be hell-bent on stopping Neil Gorsuch or anyone else Trump appoints for Antonin Scalia's Supreme Court seat for the next four years.  
Meanwhile, people from the affected countries are coming to America again. It looks like Trump may not win this battle.  But the war has only begun.
And am I upset that Trump's favorite football team has won the Super Bowl?  No, because I'm not a football fan.  If I were, though, I'd be even more upset that a rock and roll band - a real rock and roll band, not a light-rock ensemble like Coldplay - can't get a Super Bowl halftime gig anymore because the NFL has decided instead to book dance-pop divas for them from now until the end of time (which, thanks to Trump, could arrive before the next Super Bowl).

Sunday, February 5, 2017

BREAKING NEWS: Bowling Green Massacre News Disrupts Douglass Appearance at White House

Donald Trump, the President of the United States, was hosting a Black History Month event in the White House this past week to honor a special guest when tragedy struck.
Trump, accompanied by special White House communications director Omarosa Manigualt, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and other aides with spell-checker-unfriendly names, was lauding his guest, black social reformer and writer Frederick Douglass, for his ongoing achievements.  "He's done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice." Trump said. 
Douglass, who still looked imposing despite having been dead since 1895, rose to thank Trump for his comments.  "I am humbled, sir," he said, "to be a guest in this hallowed house for the first time in over a hundred years, and I am glad you have finally taken note of my writings and my service as ambassador to Haiti."
Trump, unaware that Douglass was no longer the U.S. ambassador to Haiti on account of a federal rule prohibiting dead people from continuing to serve in the diplomatic corps, was beginning to ask Douglass about the current state of affairs in Port-au-Prince when White House aide Kellyanne Conway frantically ran in to tell Trump of a terrorist massacre in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Fountain Square Park, Bowling Green, Kentucky, moments before the terrorist attack.
Conway gave the grim report.  The attack, said to have been carried out six years earlier, did not happen.  It involved no Arab terror commandos, nor did it involve any deadly weapons. As many as 63,616 people - the entire population of Bowling Green - were not killed or wounded.  No one else was injured.
Fountain Square Park, Bowling Green, Kentucky, moments after the terrorist attack.
Douglass, upon hearing the news, looked unnerved.  "Mr. President," the long-deceased historical figure said, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress.  It thus follows that if there is no attack, there is no crisis.  I am very saddened to hear about this terrorist incident that didn't happen, and I am as shocked by it as you are.  I pledge my full support to you in your commitment to do nothing and to take no action in responding to this dastardly non-deed."
Trump nodded.  "Thanks, Fred," he said.
Douglass made himself available to go to Kentucky and comfort the residents whose lives were not torn apart by terrorism and went on without incident.  He hoped to speak to the workers at the local General Motors assembly plant that is famous for producing the Chevrolet Corvette and the Cadillac XLR, workers at the headquarters of the Fruit of the Loom undergarment company, and the Fruit of the Loom guys. 
Trump graciously accepted.
Douglass then conferred with Trump in the Oval Office (below).  Moments after Douglass left for Kentucky, British Prime Minister Theresa May called Trump and offered to send MI-6's top secret agent, James Bond, to Kentucky to help American intelligence not investigate what didn't happen in Bowling Green, and Trump expressed his gratitude, quoting Ronald Reagan's admiration for Bond.  "James Bond is a man of honor," President Reagan said in 1983, "a symbol of real value to the free world. Of course some critics might say that Bond is nothing more than an actor in the movies. But then we've all got to start somewhere."
UPDATE:  Douglass is still in Kentucky, touring Bowling Green in a Cadillac XLR, fresh off the assembly line - astonishing, given the fact that production of the XLR ceased in 2009 - being driven by Elvis.
(Disclaimer:  The opening quote from Trump and the Reagan quote are both true.) 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Where Paradise Lay

See this?
Well, you're going to see a whole lot more of it.
Congress just passed a law repealing former President Barack Obama's regulation against dumping coal sludge in waterways without proper testing.  Trump is expected to sign it.
Environmentalists are reportedly "concerned"  (actually, more like "outraged," but let that pass).  On CNN, reporter Rene Marsh explained that environmentalists were afraid that this could lead to more pollution, while coal companies complained that the regulation was too cumbersome and cost jobs.  And that was it . . . and that was all.  No in-depth look at the regulation.  No probing questions about the coal companies' opposition to it.  Only that it was repealed, and so anchor Jake Tapper moved on to something else, which I can't remember.  
Meanwhile, a Senate committee, with only the Republican majority in attendance, approved for full Senate consideration polluter Scott Pruitt's nomination to be Environmental Protection Agency administrator, despite a boycott by committee Democrats.  The GOP simply waived the rules that the minority committee members have to be present.  This is the third time Senate Republicans have suspended committee rules to get a Trump nominee sent to the full Senate for a vote.  The Democrats might as well have not even bothered to attend committee meetings . . . and so begins one-party rule.
But, you probably missed these stories about the fascists in Washington laying waste to the environment . . . because you were too busy following the news about Beyoncé being pregnant with twins.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Music Video Of the Week - February 3, 2017

"Immigration Man" by David Crosby and Graham Nash (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Thursday, February 2, 2017


Hillary Clinton is beginning to speak out about Donald Trump and his insane policies.  Now her supporters are talking about her doing something insane - running for President again.
This is no joke.  She is even rumored to be considering the idea of hosting a TV show about politics as a vehicle for a political comeback. 
Clearly, someone has to put a stop to this.
Hillary was a lousy presidential candidate and a smug politician with a sense of entitlement.  Why would anyone want her to be the Democratic presidential nominee again?  Oh, right, because she got three million more popular votes than Trump.  Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000, but didn't win as big a margin as Hillary did in 2016.  His narrow popular vote win allowed Democrats to come up with all sorts of excuses why he shouldn't run again.  (And he didn't.)  Plus, Hillary is a woman.  So what if playing the gender card - running as a female candidate rather than as a candidate who happened to be a woman - backfired?  La la la, first female President! 
Seriously, I wish she hadn't done as well as she did in the popular vote, because now the Hillary cult is even more determined to push her again in 2020.  And she and her supporters continue to blame everyone else - the Russians, the white working class, the Bernie Sanders supporters, even former President Barack Obama (for not doing enough about the Russians) - while Hillary refuses to take the blame herself for simply being a bad candidate.
Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster, found out something very interesting during one of the fall presidential debates.  He was with a focus group in Ohio, watching the debate, and the voters reacted more viscerally to Trump because he was presenting himself as a fighter despite being a lousy, ill-prepared debater, while Hillary showed no fight and no empathy despite being correct and learned on all the issues.  I remember that debate (it was the second one, and the only debate I bothered to watch).  They both looked awful, but Hillary looked so self-satisfied, she looked as if she had already won the election and was ready to claim victory before anyone had even voted.  Overconfidence will do that to you.   
And there's another thing . . . Remember when Donald Trump called Hillary a nasty woman?  Now, I'm not going to suggest that Hillary is a nasty woman, but I seem to recall that, in the December 2015 Democratic presidential primary debate, Martin O'Malley spoke angrily and passionately about gun control, and a pompous Hillary cackled, "Get a grip, Martin!"  Whether Hillary is nasty or not, that was a nasty thing to say.   
Anyway, the 2016 presidential election revealed that Hillary was running for President based on of a sense of entitlement as much as Donald Trump was running for President based on of a sense of ego.  She clearly didn't care about anything else, as evidenced recently by the fact that Bernie Sanders took part at a women's march on January 21 in Montpelier, Vermont and Martin O'Malley attended the women's march in Washington that same day . . . and Hillary didn't march at all.  She only appeared at the Washington march in the form of life-size cutout images.  And they were more lively than she is. 
2020? Maybe Hillary should just . . . cut out.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Donald Trumps the Court

Donald Trump has made his choice for the vacancy on the Supreme Court.  And the winner is . . .
. . . Neil Gorsuch, a judge from Colorado who sits on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Be afraid.  Be very afraid.  Not only is he an originalist and a strict constructionist like Antonin Scalia, but he has ruled against federal agencies in their interpretation of the law, and he ruled for the religious freedom of companies to deny contraceptive coverage to women (the Hobby Lobby case?  it came from his court ruling on its way to the Supreme Court).  He also bitched about how liberals try to force the judiciary to legislate their agenda, saying that they "have become addicted to the courtroom, relying on judges and lawyers rather than elected leaders and the ballot box, as the primary means of effecting their social agenda" while "failing to reach out and persuade the public."
Well, I can't argue with that, given the disastrous results of Democrats in every major election (and most of the minor ones) since 2008.
Oh yeah, his mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford, was President Reagan's first EPA administrator, and she used her office to help and serve polluters.  Her biggest distinction was mishandling the chemical-waste cleanup fund to help political cronies. 
Be that as it may, Gorsuch was confirmed with broad bipartisan support for his current judicial post in 2006 when George Walker Bush named him to the Tenth Circuit.   Democrats wanting revenge for the way Republicans blocked Obama nominee Merrick Garland will find it pretty damn hard to exact it now.  Especially when the Republicans still control the Senate and are prepared to shove the Gorsuch appointment right down the Democrats' throats.
Meanwhile, the White House is scrambling to put the best face on its odious travel ban, continuing to insist that it's not an anti-Muslim ban when there are seven countries cited and there are several other Muslim-majority countries from which people can travel to the United States without any problem.  Would they still be able to so even if he didn't have business interests in those other countries? 
Martin O'Malley posed that question.  Seriously.  

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Volkswagen Does It Again (But Not In America)

Volkswagen is back on top . . . outside the United States.
The German automaker is now the best-selling car company in the world, having sold 10.3 million vehicles globally last year (2016) compared to Toyota's 10.1 million.  The basic reason for this achievement, according to automotive journalist Maria McCarthy, is that most people consider VWs to be generally solid cars overall, despite a few teething problems with some of their more mundane components.  Also, McCarthy says, many consumers worldwide have forgiven Volkswagen for the diesel emissions scandal and have developed respect for the firm for handling how it's handled it since the affair broke.  
Alas, only a few of those 10,300,000 vehicles VW sold found their way into American driveways; as noted earlier on this blog, Volkswagen sales are still down in These States.  Again, we Americans are not a forgiving people.  Many of us Yanks are still pretty darned ticked off (to put it mildly) about VW's sins, and even those of us who are VW enthusiasts are embarrassed by the whole thing.  Still, this is good news.  It means that VW is getting its mojo back.  And in America, it has nowhere to go but up and is setting its sights on an upward trajectory.
Maybe the Atlas SUV and the Golf Alltrack wagon will be the catalysts for a robust VW comeback.  Maybe, as a result, the retro Microbus will finally get built, and maybe a subcompact below the Golf will finally join VW's U.S. and Canadian lineups for the first time since 1993.  Then again, maybe VW will get killed in the United States by the 20 percent Mexican-import tax Donald Trump has proposed for products like the Puebla-built Golf and Jetta. :-O    

Monday, January 30, 2017

The New Odor

Donald Trump has done one thing remarkably well; he's keeping all of his promises before February.  The Democrats, meanwhile, go around looking like they've been slapped around.
Trump announced an executive order banning citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries entering the United States for 90 days, along with a 120-day ban on admitting refugees and an indefinite pause on admitting Syrian refugees pending a review of the vetting process - a vetting process that may already be one of the most thorough in the world.   The countries are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.  Not surprisingly, people all over the world and all over America are outraged and are taking to the streets demanding that something be done about it.  Congressional Democrats, as always, have merely been whining about it. True, Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer has pledged to sponsor a bill repealing the order, but what power do the Democrats have to get it passed?  In the Senate, maybe, but in the House?
The White House said that these seven countries were singled out not because of their Islamic-majority populations but because of "concern" that these particular countries breed terrorism.  The administration has been quick to note that forty-odd Muslim-majority countries are not affected - including Saudi Arabia, the country all but four of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers came from.  And why is Iraq on the list, when the Iraqis are helping us fight the Islamic State and trying to take back Mosul from that same would-be nation?  This is something even John McCain can't comprehend.   
To be fair, the White House's bans on these countries and on non-Syrian refugees are temporary, and they could easily be rescinded sooner than scheduled if the Department of Homeland Security sees fit.  But Trump has been overplaying the bans and downplaying their temporary status to the point where people think they're permanent, causing a very serious public relations problem.  Nor did the Trumpster do himself any favors by exempting refugees fleeing religious persecution such as Christians in many of these same Muslim countries.  If he expressed any welcome for Muslims under religious persecution in countries dominated by non-Muslims, I must have missed that.
Meanwhile, leaked audio from the congressional Republican gathering in Philadelphia revealed that the House and Senate GOP leadership have no idea on how to replace the Affordable Care Act - though they're still hell-bent on repealing it.  Paradoxically, they're wringing their hands over the possibility of angering voters who have benefited from Obamacare by taking away their health insurance, though offending the Trump supporters within their base seems more suicidal.   The Democrats, again, offer talk but not much action, at least as far as I can tell from my vantage point - which is a laptop in my kitchen as I type this, so I suppose I have to make some allowances.
The truth of the matter is, though, that while the Republicans have firm group on the three branches of government despite their internal disagreements, the Democrats seem to be at loss for how to use what little power they have to stop Trump's worst initiatives in this new order that has descended upon Washington.  While people take to the streets and demand justice and fairness, Democrats in Washington react as if the old rules still apply.  The people are well ahead of the Democrats - supposedly the party of the people - and the party is losing the fight while increasingly showing signs of Whiggishness.  To wit: When it comes to political power, it's the GOP's world.  The Democrats are simply dying in it.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

King Donald

Trump issues an executive order limiting implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Trump issues an executive order instituting a gag rule against abortion providers overseas receiving U.S. funds overseas.
Trump issues an executive order expediting construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Trump issues an executive order silencing experts at the Environmental Protection Agency. 
Trump issues an executive order barring people from Muslim-majority countries entering the United States!
Trump issues an executive order doing this!  Trump issues an executive order doing that! 
Trump thinks he's the king of America!
I'm sorry . . . I'm too stupefied to comment any further on this . . . 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

She Made It After All

Mary Tyler Moore, who died this past eek at the age of eighty, was all things to all people - the ideal wife, the spunky career woman, America's sweetheart - but she was first and foremost a feminist icon.
On "The Dick Van Dyke Show" in the 1960s, she played Laura Petrie as an opinionated spouse with a mind of her own, someone who was not afraid to establish a different identity from her husband - and wore pants instead of skirts.   As Mary Richards on her own namesake sitcom, she was not afraid to be without a husband - she didn't rule out marriage but making it on her own came first.  She was her own woman in every way.  She dated.  She took the pill.  She ran WJM-TV's news department like a top.  Just as important, Mary Richards was the calming, professional presence in the newsroom of a third-rate local newscast full of cranks - the curmudgeonly Lou Grant, the frustrated news writer Murray Slaughter, and the dimwitted cheapskate anchorman Ted Baxter.  Of course she was appreciated for her input - why else would Lou, Murray and Ted be seen hugging her enthusiastically ( a bit too much for Ted's hat) in the opening credits?
Of course, Mary Tyler Moore was a force of nature off camera.  She co-founded with her late ex-husband Grant Tinker (he died in November 2016) the MTM production studio (remember the meowing-kitten logo? a gentle parody of the MGM lion), which produced not only her own show but the "Rhoda" spinoff with Valerie Harper and both of Bob Newhart's hit sitcoms, and her life as a diabetes patient and her concern for animal welfare made her an eloquent spokeswoman for diabetes research and animal rights.  
Still, the beauty of Mary Tyler Moore's talent was her ability to be socially relevant and also funny in conventional yet unexpected ways.  Case in point?  "Chuckles Bites the Dust," the funniest "Mary Tyler Moore Show" episode ever made, where Mary Richards chastises her coworkers for laughing over the fate of WJM children's show host Chuckles the Clown - he went to a circus parade dressed as his character Peter Peanut and a rogue elephant tried to shell him!  Then, at the funeral, as she hears the eulogy for Chuckles and memories of his work ("Remember Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo's little catch phrase, remember how when his arch rival, Señor Kaboom, would hit him with the giant cucumber and knock him down? Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo would always pick himself up, dust himself off and say, 'I hurt my foo-foo'"), she starts to laugh uncontrollably,  Encouraged by the minister to laugh for Chuckles, because nothing would have made him happier, she starts . . . crying.  Of course. :-D
I'll continue to laugh for Mary, as I still watch "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" on MeTV, and I'll continue to do so, knowing full well that we'll never see her like again.  RIP.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Music Video Of the Week - January 27, 2017

"Something In the Air" by Thunderclap Newman (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Caroline, Yes?

Ready for more dynasty politics?
John F. Kennedy's daughter Caroline Kennedy, having completed a relatively successful three-year stint as U.S. ambassador to Japan, is now being talked about by New York State Democrats for a run for a U.S. House or Senate seat in 2018 (wait - isn't there a female Democratic U.S. Senator from New York up for re-election then?).  Not only that, she's being mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for President of the United States in 2020.
Okay, so what do I think of this?  Well, I wouldn't be here talking about this story if I didn't have an opinion of it.  As the ambassador to Japan, she was highly skilled in dealing with nuclear disarmament and world trade - two issues that clearly distinguish her from Donald Trump.  As for her experience in other issues, well, it's . . . wanting.  Bear in mind that Caroline Kennedy was talked about for a congressional campaign in New York in 2009, but that went nowhere.  And three years of government experience in appointive office hardly matches Hillary Clinton's four years of government experience in appointive office plus eight years in elective office before that.
The dynasty issue, however, is moot.  Caroline's father's Presidency was over fifty years ago, and should she be elected President in 2020, there would be a 57-year gap between her and her dad's administration - longer than the eight-year gap between the Bushes or the 24-year gap between John Adams and John Quincy Adams (and longer than even the 48-year gap between grandfather William Henry Harrison and grandson Benjamin Harrison).  In other words, since there's only been one Kennedy in the White House - for a thousand days in the early sixties, which was quite long ago - the dynasty issue doesn't really apply here. The family has been out of the White House so long that voters will shrug it off.  I already have.
It's amazing though, how things turn out. Back in the '70s, some people thought that maybe John F. Kennedy, Jr. might one day run for President - say, in the year 2000. We all know what happened; in 2000, John F. Kennedy, Jr. was dead and another presidential son - from a Republican family - got in the White House instead.  No one ever considered JFK Jr.'s big sister as a presidential prospect, but Hillary Clinton has made that possible now.
If Caroline Kennedy is the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, I'll vote for her.  But I have to admit that the reliance of the Democrats on familiar faces and names is redolent of annual summer rock festivals that keep booking sixties and seventies acts because no one can name anyone from the current crop of rock acts.  This is the Democratic Party's way of admitting that they have no interest in cultivating new faces (they keep losing to Republican faces in elections, anyway) and are increasingly falling back on a curious brew of Baby Boomer nostalgia and gender-identity politics to win back power in a nation full of millennials who just want a President who'll work for everyone regardless of "identity."  And truth be told, being a Kennedy - even a female Kennedy - doesn't automatically guarantee electoral success.  Caroline's cousin Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, daughter of Robert Kennedy, was a Democratic lieutenant governor of Maryland who ran for the state's top job in 2002 and lost to Republican Robert Ehrlich; she never ran for office again.  When Ehrlich ran for re-election as governor of Maryland in 2006, he was defeated by an upstart Democrat who was not from a powerful political family.
That would be this guy. ;-)              
Whatsa matter, can't you take a hint? :-D