Friday, December 2, 2016

What the Democrats Can Do To Stop Trump

Congressional Democrats, paying close attention to Donald Trump's disastrous and intolerable presidential Cabinet appointees, are weighing their options and seeing what sort of initiatives and prerogatives they have in our "separation powers" system to stop Trump, despite the fact that the Republicans control everything in Washington.  Here is a list, then, of things the Democrats can do to obstruct the incoming President:     


















































Did I forget anything? :-p

Christmas Music Video Of the Week - December 2, 2016

Step Into Christmas" by Elton John  (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Nancy With the All-Too-Familiar Face

You knew it was going to happen.

Nancy Pelosi, 76, was re-elected House Democratic leader, and her septuagenarian henchmen, House Democratic whip Steny Hoyer and House deputy Democratic leader James Clyburn retained their respective posts.  A party flailing for relevance and freshness has decided to forge ahead by looking backward and resorting the old way of doing business in their approach to new issues.  And the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party couldn't be more pleased.  Some pro-establishment commentators have even heralded Pelosi's "victory" as a blow against sexism and ageism.  Oh, it's a blow, all right, but not against bigotry.  It;'s a blow against anyone who wants to infuse the party with new ideas.  And it might be a fatal one, if Pelosi and her allies insist on leading the party down the path of identity politics and elitist economic positions. 
Pelosi has promised to include younger members of the House Democratic caucus in the decision-making and leadership process - if she can find enough of them.  As Martin O'Malley might say, may I offer a perspective from my generation?  Democratic electoral losses from 2010 have made younger House Democrats more than a little hard to find.  The party elders don't seem to get the new issues; they're fighting the last battle, which they lost.  If this is how House Democrats want it to be, they will be in the minority not for a long time, but in the very low number of days in existence that the the party has left to it.      

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ryan's Hope

Today, the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives is choosing a leader.  Ohio congressman Tim Ryan is challenging House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California.  Pelosi has led the House Democratic caucus to its smallest size over eighty years, she's been in power to long, and she offers no new ideas at a time when the Democrats need fresh blood in the House.
Ryan is nevertheless considered a long shot. :-O
Ryan wants to reconnect Democrats with the working class to regain their favor, and he also wants to get a new generation of leadership in place, but the Democratic gerontocracy insists on holding onto power to the bitter end.  The party, having been battered in one election after another, is run by an old-boy and old-girl network in which the boys and girls are very old indeed.  Which would be fine if wisdom came with age.  Not here.
The Democrats are a spent force.  If Ryan doesn't become House Democratic leader, he and like-minded Democrats should just leave the party en masse and jump-start a party to replace the Democrats in time for 2018 and 2020.  It's long overdue.                 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Correction: November 29, 2016

In my review of historian Michael Holt's book about the U.S. Whig Party, I said that the party was "founded largely by Henry Clay and Daniel Webster," but the spell-checker gave Webster a sex change operation and recorded his name as "Diane" Webster.  Stupid spell check!   The error, which I so obviously regret, has since been corrected.   

Welcome Back, My Friends, To the Election That Never Ends

Just when we thought we'd washed the smell of the 2016 presidential election off our persons, along comes a whole slew of recounts - along with Donald Trump's subsequent paranoia - to stink up America again.
New York magazine reported last week that election lawyers and computer scientists were encouraging Hillary Clinton to ask for a recount of the popular vote in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, all Rust Belt states that Trump officially won.  The lawyers and computer scientists claimed that there might be voter irregularities in the computerized ballot machines and presidential vote counts, as the tallies contradicted polls leading up to the November 8 vote.  Specifically, these experts were afraid that the electronic ballot boxes might have been hacked, though there's no evidence that such a thing happened anywhere; despite concerns of Russian hacking of the vote, the Obama administration is convinced that there was no foul play anywhere in the country, and that there has been no voter fraud.
The three states cited have a combined total of 46 electoral votes; Hillary is 38 electoral votes short of a majority.  She would have to reverse the results in all three states to win with a total of 278 electoral votes to 260; Trump could lose any two of these states to her in recounts and still win.  With all three states in his column, Trump has 306 electoral votes to Madame H's 232.  The Clinton campaign was prepared to let it go, citing the victory margins for Trump and saying that there most likely weren't enough votes that could be reversed and change the outcome. 
Then Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein decided to stir up some serious stuff.
Dr. Stein pushed for a recount in Wisconsin and raised millions of dollars over the Internet to pay for it; she was able to file for one just before the deadline, and so the Badger State is counting the votes all over again.  She is not only working on getting recounts done in Michigan, which just certified its vote totals, and Pennsylvania, but she is threatening to get recounts done in as many states as she can.  She certainly can do that; she's raised more money than she needs.  Hillary's campaign has sent lawyers to Wisconsin to oversee the recount and plans to do the same elsewhere should other recounts go forward. 
Now why would Dr, Stein instigate recounts that could theoretically help Hillary Clinton, whom Stein had repeatedly bashed throughout the campaign?  Well, it certainly isn't to help the Hillary become President instead of the Donald.  Dr. Stein doesn't think any of the results will change as a result of any of these recounts; her point is that, if even the possibility of hacking the vote is there,  then recounts should be done to prove once and for all that there was no hacking, otherwise we'll never know whether or not the vote was legitimate.
Needless to say, Trump and the GOP think this is a colossal waste of time, and Trump himself has made this clear in a series of tweets.  Trump has accused Dr. Stein of raising doubts about the election to raise more money for the Greens, even though Dr, Stein has stated that the money she's collected - $6.5 million - is specifically earmarked for helping to pay for recounts.  Maybe Trump should do what Hillary is doing and send lawyers to the recounting - a recounting, remember, that Hillary never asked for - to show his support for making sure the vote was fair and square.
Astonishingly, Trump has not only dismissed the recounts, he's also opined - without any evidence whatsoever - that he should have won the popular vote (Hillary is ahead by over two million popular votes) because too many people voted illegally.  This does not make a ton of sense, considering that Trump obviously doesn't need the popular vote, having won the Presidency in the Electoral College . . . unless you consider the possibility that he's seeking a popular mandate from an electorate in which 53 percent of voters cast ballots against him.
Dr. Stein may likely emerge as the heroine of the 2016 election.  She's raised more money for recounts than she did for her entire presidential campaign, and she's cast light on the need for the United States to ensure free and fair elections. If she raises more money than necessary, she will dedicate the surplus funds toward election integrity efforts and to the promotion of voting reform, so she's hardly doing to this to help Hillary.  She's actually doing this to help the Greens by garnering favorable publicity for their progressive causes.  Recounts in more states may even get the Greens enough votes to have five percent of the vote nationwide and thus qualify for federal matching funds and automatic inclusion on state ballots in 2020.  It also undermines an already unpopular Trump as he prepares to take office.
And as if that weren't enough, Hillary supporters, who ironically mocked Trump for threatening not to accept the results of the election if he lost, are now urging 38 of Trump's electors to switch their votes to Hillary and make her President instead.  The electors, by the way, don't vote until December 19, and the ballots aren't even counted until January 6.  (If Trump should somehow lose 38 electoral votes to Hillary, then the transition to the next administarion will suddenly be very bumpy and very interesting.)  
In the meantime, the recounts are just one more thing to get through.  And when the computer experts who count the votes are finished doing that . . . maybe they can come over to my house and do something about my Internet connection periodically going out.  

Monday, November 28, 2016

Fidel

What are we to make of Fidel Castro, who died three days ago at the age of 90 after having dominated Cuban and global politics for so long?
It depends on who's making the argument.
Either he was a revolutionary leader who purged Cuba of a corrupt, reactionary dictator  and crony capitalism and brought equality, education and free health care to the Cuban people and fostered the fight for social justice worldwide while sticking it to the purveyors of imperialism, or he was a brutal authoritarian ruler who tolerated no dissent to his regime and drove his country to the brink of economic collapse , holding on to power on solely on the basis of his charm and personality.
I'm not going to take either side on this blog or anywhere else.  I will say this about Castro . . . 
. . . he had one hell of a beard.
Me, I'm romping, stomping, thankful as I romp . . . without freedom of speech, I might be in the swamp.  

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Bad Company - Run With the Pack (1976)

Run With the Pack, Bad Company's third album, is a recycling of the band's previous two albums, regurgitating hooks and riffs without anything new or fresh to offer.  So what?  It's still good, dude!  Bad Company's music was as reliable as a Dodge Dart, and it was also just as unpretentious and devoid of flash as that venerable old Dodge; that may not be how I like my cars (GTI fan that I am), but it's how I like my seventies classic rock.
Run With the Pack is a record form a band that doesn't have anything to prove and whose members are comfortable in their own skins.  Paul Rodgers continues to handle sharp, heavy rockers like "Live for the Music" and "Sweet Little Sister" and sultry ballads like "Love Me Somebody" and "Do Right By Your Woman" with aplomb, and the support he gets from his bandmates remains as solid.  Mick Ralphs still offers plenty of crunchy guitar parts with some solos that range from delicate to biting, and bassist Boz Burrell and drummer Simon Kirke keep everything together with steady, albeit unspectacular (again, who cares about that?) rhythmic backing.   
And yes, there are tracks here that stand out as Bad Company's best work throughout their original eight-year lifespan.  Not only will you find a quirky and endearing heavy-rock cover of the Coasters' "Young Blood" here, but the majestic title track, with its commanding orchestration in the fadeout, and the heartfelt tearjerker "Silver, Blue and Gold" are two of the best power ballads anyone's ever done.  Even if Bad Company were running with the pack of unchallenging mainstream rockers who were almost begging for the Sex Pistols to rise up in rebellion, they were still ahead of the pack in offering up an enjoyable record at a time when many of the rest of them were running behind. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Another Open Letter to Janet Evans About the 2024 Olympics

Four months ago today, I wrote an open letter to Olympic swimming champion Janet Evans, in her capacity as Vice Chair of the Athletes Commission for Los Angeles' bid for the 2024 Olympic Games, explaining why I thought that such a bid was a spectacularly bad idea.  Now that we've had an election with an outcome  just as spectacularly bad, I now go back, Jack, and do it again.
Dear Janet:
Yes, it's me again.  You might remember that back in July I told you that getting the Olympic Games awarded to Los Angeles for 2024 was a lousy idea, right?  And you're probably still optimistic that you and your fellow denizens of metropolitan LA can bring the Games to the City of Angels.  Well, in light of the fact that Donald Trump has just been elected President of the United States . . . sorry, Janet, it's not going to happen.  No one on the International Olympic Committee, I'm certain, wants to award the Games to a city in a nation that just chose a racist, immigrant-bashing carnival barker as its leader.
Yes, Janet, I know there's no precedent for such a rejection of an Olympic bid.  I am aware that New York's unsuccessful bid for the 2012 Olympics had nothing to do with George Walker Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq,  and that it was over a revenue-sharing dispute with the United States Olympic Committee, and that Chicago lost its 2016 Olympics bid for that reason also.  But this is different, Janet.  Donald Trump is an arrogant xenophobe and a pig-ignorant B.S. artist.  You know how Democrats in Washington are wary of working with Trump because they don't want to "normalize" his Presidency?  Well, how many people in the Olympic movement would normalize him as a leader by letting an American city host the Games?  By September 2017, which  is when the 2024 Games will be awarded to a city, Trump may very well have started a war in the Middle East, rejected the Paris agreement on climate change, caused an international crisis over trade, and possibly destabilized the Baltic States.  Okay, he may not end up doing a deed as extreme as any of those, but he's going to do something to tick the world off.  He already has, in fact; he won the election.  Janet, don't you think that the International Olympic Committee would like to punish the United States for letting a Trump Presidency happen?  
Yes, Janet, I know Hillary Clinton carried your home state of California, and that she probably won Los Angeles itself by a wide margin.  I am aware also that she even carried Orange County, where you were born and raised and still reside, even though Orange County is known for its right-wing nut-jobs.  And yes, I know Hillary won the popular vote nationwide.  But none of that matters, because Donald Trump is still going to be President.  To the world, he is America now.  The Olympics are all about fostering peace and brotherhood in the world and rising above nationalism.  Trump is not about to do either of those things, and so awarding the Olympics to an American city in this negative shadow that Trump is casting would seem like kind of a crazy idea to the potentates who run the Olympic movement.
And yes, Janet, I know that the 2024 Olympiad is so far off that Trump may not be a factor, because it's likely that Trump will only be a one-term President and be gone by January 2021.  But we don't really know that, do we?  He could very well win a second term. Why would the International Olympic Committee want to take a chance of giving LA the Games with the possibility - nay, the specter - of Trump being around as President in 2024 to officially declare the Los Angeles Games open?  Oh, it will be a disaster if that happens.  He'll make vulgar comments about the synchronized swimmers.  He'll make sexist comments about the participants in women's track and field.  And do you think any foreign Olympic teams will feel welcome, or even safe, in an America run by Donald Trump - even if he's in his last year of office?  Though I'm sure he'd be very welcoming to the Russian team, despite their steroid-use history, when they're coming into Los Angeles.  (And he wouldn't let Mr. Customs Man touch their bags, either.)                
Oh yeah, one other thing: Trump just said something that may have doomed LA's Olympic bid.  He says he backs it. 
Well, Janet, I've made my case, but I'm not about to tell you to abandon what I feel is a quixotic exercise in bringing the Games back to the States for 2024.  All I'm saying is that you shouldn't expect LA to win the bid, and that you're going to be very disappointed.  In fact, I'm willing to bet that, after Trump won, you knew that LA's chances for the 2024 Olympics went down the tubes.  But I'm sure you'll take the loss like the champion you are.  Win a few, lose a few, they always say.
You know I still love you, right?
Sincerely,
Steven Maginnis
P.S.  I noted with some levity your comment that you hid a Wheaties box with your picture on it to keep your son from eating the cereal inside.  Given the recent discovery of remnants of glyphosate - a carcinogenic herbicide - in cereals like Wheaties, which contains 31.2 parts per billion of the stuff, that was a very wise decision.   

Friday, November 25, 2016

Music Video Of the Week - November 25, 2016

"Night Moves" by Bob Seger (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Fakebook

Are you outraged by some of the stories about the presidential candidates of 2016 and the dastardly deeds they've done?  Well, guess what - it you find such stories on a Web site you'd never heard of before via Facebook, they're not true. Well, 99.9 percent of them.
Fake news sites (it's the news that's fake, not the sites) have been promoting their stories (appropriate word for them) on Facebook (founded in 2004) for months (and this is the only sentence in this blog entry interrupted by parenthetical asides that you'll have to read).  It seems that only a couple of weeks ago, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg denied that any such sites were having their links promoted on the social media site.  Now he says that Facebook knows about it and has been working on the problem.  Gee, what could have made him change his tune?  Maybe it was because he was getting a lot of flak from Hillary Clinton supporters, who figure prominently on Facebook and thought the fake stories about Hillary swung the presidential election to Donald Trump.
While this sounds like Hillary supporters looking for yet another scapegoat to blame for their candidate's loss, this is actually serious.  A lot of unreliable news sites have been proliferating all over the place, offering up "news" stories that sound too outrageous to be true, and probably are. I don't doubt that there were stories about Hillary Clinton that weren't true, but I'm sure that there were several Trump stories that were balderdash as well, and if people voted one way or another based on any of them, that's a problem.
It's relatively easy to spot a fake news site.  If it has an obscure name or anything other than a dot-com domain, you shouldn't trust it.  Take special care and beware of any sites that look like legitimate sites from the U.S. broadcast network news departments or CNN, MSNBC and the like.  If it says ".com.co" at the end of the URL, it's a fraudulent version of the real thing.  If it's foxnews.com.co, though, it's probably more accurate than the actual Fox News site.
Ha ha!  I am only kidding about Fox, of course, but this "fake news" business is still a serious problem that demands a serious answer.  Mark Zuckerberg doesn't see a social-connection site like his as a traditional media outlet.  But he'd better start treating it like one, since a majority of Americans get at least some of their news, if not all of it, from the links they see on social media.  If there are sites out there willing to take advantage of people's unfamiliarity with where real news comes from, then Zuckerberg ought to take his role as a gatekeeper much more seriously than he already has.
Me, I think I'll curtail my search for news and commentary on the Web through Facebook or stop altogether.  After all, as noted, Facebook isn't supposed to be a site to get news from.  It's a site you use to communicate with and make friends and also to establish connections with Broadway actresses.
I ain't naming names. ;-)                            
And if you've come here via Facebook, let me say again that I never claimed that this blog is supposed to be a legitimate news source. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Making Plans For Nigel

Donald Trump offered his latest pick for a top diplomatic post, but it wasn't an American one.  He suggested that United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage - who champion the British departure form the European Union and campaigned for Trump in the presidential election - be appointed the British ambassador to the United States.  
Except for one thing - Farage has no diplomatic experiences whatsoever. His only qualification for the job, apparently, is that he knows and likes Donald Trump.
American Presidents of both parties have a tradition of choosing cronies and campaign contributors for ambassadorial posts, and sometimes even actors - Shirley Temple as Nixon's and Ford's ambassador to Ghana, John Gavin as Reagan's ambassador to Mexico - so from Trump's perspective, it makes sense for the British to appoint Farage.  But unlike us silly and stupid Americans, the British - and the people of other European countries - tend to appoint seasoned career diplomats for such posts.  And Her Majesty's Government has made it clear that Kim Darroch, the current British ambassador to the United States, is staying in that post.
I'm sure Donald Trump will say that if the British want Kim Darroch to stay in Washington, he'll be fine with that and hopes to have a good relationship with her.  Then he'll find out that Kim Darroch is a man.  Kim is, in fact, his middle name.  His first name is . . . Nigel.
I think ambassadorial posts to the United States are going to be the short straw picked by foreign diplomats who would have preferred Canberra.

Monday, November 21, 2016

O'Malley For President In 2020 . . .

. . . but not necessarily as a Democrat.

Martin O'Malley has decided not to seek the post of Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman after expressing interest in the job. He explained his reasons for bowing out of contention in a letter to his supporters:
"While I'm grateful to the supportive friends who have urged me to consider running for DNC Chair, I will not be seeking our Party's Chairmanship.  The DNC needs a chair who can do the job fully and with total impartiality. The national interest must come first."
By that, I suspect he means that incoming Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer must have gone to O'Malley and told him in no uncertain terms that Bernie Sanders - who has since reverted to being an independent, even though Senate Democrats have tapped him in an "outreach" role for the party  - wants Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison for the job.  If O'Malley's interest in the job was mentioned in news stories about the DNC, it was more often than not an afterthought in a story about Ellison or another DNC chair candidate, former DNC chair Howard Dean.  
So guess what - O'Malley is now free to run for President again.
But as a Democrat?  Seriously?  I get the impression that the Democratic Party still wants nothing to do with the man from Maryland.  Despite his firm command on the issues and his passionate defense for immigration reform and clean energy, and despite the fact that he was right when he suggested early on that nominating Hillary for President was a very bad idea,  no one takes him seriously as a presidential prospect.  Still.  Articles about potential Democratic presidential candidates for 2020 mention Michelle Obama (!) and Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders - both of whom will turn 80 in the presidential term beginning in January 2021 - but not O'Malley, who turns 58 in January 2021.  As I said in my blog entry from this past September, Democratic interest in and respect for O'Malley is non-existent to the point where he should just tell the party leaders to go f--- themselves (though I think they already did f--- themselves on Election Day) and help form a new party to promote progressive values while the Democrats go full Whig.  And tapping Keith Ellison for the DNC chair post is nothing short of asinine, not because he's black and a Muslim but because he's an incumbent congressman, and party rules specifically state that a party chairman can't be an officeholder.  But that didn't stop President Obama from naming Debbie Wasserman Schultz to the post - bad move - and now Schumer doesn't see a problem with installing Ellison in the post either, citing Ellison's organizing skills as proof he can do the job while remaining a congressman.  Right.  Not unless he clones himself.              
So, yes, I would like to see O'Malley help form a new party and become its standard-bearer for 2020.  I don't think an existing party, like the Greens, would replace the Democrats.  A new party is more likely to do so, and it would quite possibly form the way the Republicans did in the 1850s - through a coalition of like-minded members of existing parties, organizing gradually on a state-by-state basis. And the acceleration of communications technology could help it form and fill the void the Democrats have already left by losing everywhere much faster than the Republicans formed and filled the void left by the Whigs, getting it ready for 2020.
Be that as it may, Martin O'Malley will likely run for President again as a Democrat, if he in fact does run.  If he does run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, he will be a de facto front-runner, what with the party's talent pool being far too shallow to field new candidates after having been repeatedly drained at the ballot box since 2008.   But O'Malley faces some tough challenges.  He faces accusations that he took a megalomanical, micromanagement-based approach to running the Baltimore police as that city's mayor, destabilizing an already dysfunctional police force and creating the culture that led to Freddie Gray's death at the hands of Baltimore police in 2015.  Rumors of an affair with a Baltimore TV newswoman are bubbling under the surface, with some charges that O'Malley got her a job in New York to keep her quiet (I won't reveal the name of the newswoman here, because I find the rumors to be without merit, as the stories I've read about this accusation come from irreputable sources).   And O'Malley has to contend with the unpleasant fact that Larry Hogan, his Republican successor as governor of Maryland, sees his popularity increase every time he rolls back an O'Malley policy or tears it out altogether.  Nothing new here, though, which means he has plenty of time to deal with all this before 2020.  But if he wants to run, he should get started now.  
And fast.  Donald Trump may already be figuring out how to have the next presidential election canceled.            

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Billy Joel - Turnstiles (1976)

Billy Joel's fourth album, Turnstiles, wasn't exactly a commercial success - its highest album chart position was in the triple digits - but it was the album on which he found his voice; his commercial breakthrough, The Stranger, couldn't exist without it.  Joel had just returned to the New York City area after having toiled in California, and on this record, he's relieved to be home.  Indeed, Turnstiles is both a love letter to New York and an ironic salutation to the LA lifestyle he left behind.  But it's more than that; it's also an album about moving on from youth, with middle age ahead over the horizon. 
From the brash Spectorian rock of the opening cut, "Say Goodbye to Hollywood," to the intense and somewhat terrifying "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)," a churning number  imagining the destruction of his beloved Big Apple, Joel offers on Turnstiles (the very title implies change) some witty and personal insights on how his life has evolved. The music is a professionally played hodgepodge of styles, from progressive rock to straight pop, with touches of jazz and even some reggae, illustrating Joel's love for all forms of music.  He doesn't always strike a solid note - as always, he's better as a pop-rock singer-songwriter than as a straight rock and roller - but when his lyrics and his music are in sync, he manages to impress.
"Summer, Highland Falls" is a beautiful piano ballad about the possibilities and fears of dealing with the times, and "James," with its understated keyboards, is a sympathetic effort to connect to an old friend.  Joel finds himself growing up in an unstable world where he appreciates the smallest pleasures in life even as he ponders the ironies of being dissatisfied with larger ones, and he takes comfort in his new life in his old locale.  He has a tendency to overdramatize things - "Prelude/Angry Young Man" goes over the top with its sarcastic put-down of youthful rebellion and its excessive piano introduction, and "I've Loved These Days" is as excessive as the drink and drug culture it seeks to satirize - but  he's finding his voice and he knows where he's going with it.
To be honest, though, Turnstiles, for all its strengths as an album of a singer-songwriter coming into his own, won't impress you unless you're a die-hard Billy Joel fan; the casual fan should instead opt for The Stranger, where Joel perfected his artistic vision.  For the die-hards, however, perhaps the best reasons to own this album are the cheeky "All You Wanna Do Is Dance," with its lighthearted steel-drum-like sound (I don't know what those instruments are) and its somewhat flippant look at mid-seventies pop-cultural values, and the decidedly gorgeous "New York State Of Mind," a stately celebration of New York City (with a saxophone performance from Phil Woods that rivals his own tour de force on Steely Dan's "Doctor Wu" of a year earlier) that makes you (and Joel himself) wonder why he ever left.   
It's either sadness or euphoria . . . 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

They Were Right

Remember these guys?


They are, of course, Hillary Clinton's opponents for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, clockwise, from top left, Bernie Sanders, Jim Webb, Martin O'Malley, and Lincoln Chafee.  None of them were given a fair shot at the nomination because the Democratic National Committee tipped the scales for Hillary - even though all four of these guys turned out to be more in touch with political reality than the nominee.
First, let's start with Martin O'Malley.  I don't need to tell you again that he was right when he said that more debates would help the party get its message out and when he said that Donald Trump could possibly win the Presidency, but I will add that he said, when he declared his candidacy for the White House, that the Presidency is not a crown to just give to anyone or to pass between two families at a time when the 2016 general election looked to be a Jeb Bush-Hillary Clinton race. The Democratic establishment, as we all know now, disagreed.  Ironically, Republican rank-and-file voters did agree with that assessment; that's why they rejected Jeb Bush.
Now, Bernie Sanders.  He said that Democrats needed to adopt a progressive agenda and energize the base, but Hillary supporters laughed him off as a candidate whose supporters were too narrow-minded in their focus on income inequality.  But he was right.
Jim Webb?  He distinguished himself as a candidate who could talk to the white working class and said that the Democrats needed to reach that demographic.  That and a buck only got him a newspaper.  When he said earlier this year that Trump might appeal to the very people he focused on in his own presidential campaign, a commentator on MSNBC - I can't remember who it was - had a two-word response to Webb's comments: "Who cares?"  But Webb was right.
And Lincoln Chafee?  On Bill Maher's talk show once, Chafee expressed concern over the ethically dubious aspects of Hillary's career and thought they would be a problem, and both Maher and fellow guest Alex Wagner responded with dismissive groans.  But Chafee was right.
Yes, they all were right . . . but not as right as the Democrats will be wrong if they think the party can go forward doing what they've been doing.   

Friday, November 18, 2016

Music Video Of the Week - November 18, 2016

"Whipping Post" by the Allman Brothers Band (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

New Jersey Politics In a Nutshell

Where do I begin?  I've spent so much time on national politics these past few months that I completely overlooked the political landscape of my home state.  Well, let me try to sum up the state of the state of New Jersey in one mind-numbing post . . .  
Governor Chris Christie let the Transportation Trust Fund, which funds our road and rail projects, expire in July, idling several road construction projects across the state.  I assumed it would be fixed by the governor and the legislature in a couple of weeks.  Nothing could have prepared me for how long it took, a period of several months.  But Christie and the Democratic legislature finally got a bill passed, and everything was taken care of.  We simply have to pay 23 cents a gallon extra for gas now. 
Meanwhile, Democrat and former Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy, a former Wall Street executive, announced his candidacy for governor in 2017.  It looked for awhile that Murphy, a relative unknown, might end up becoming the Martin O'Malley of New Jersey politics . . . a nice Irish guy overshadowed by two big political stars, in this case two guys named Steve - State Senate President Steve Sweeney and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, both of whom had wanted to run for the New Jersey Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2017.  But Sweeney and Fulop, noting the size of Murphy's wallet - he's a millionaire who can finance his own campaign - both took themselves out of the running, pretty much clearing the way for Murphy's nomination.  He's so progressive on the issues, you'd never know he used to work for Goldman Sachs.  He'd prefer that you not bring that up, of course . . . :-D  But I still plan to vote for him.              
Also, Christie aides Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly were found guilty in their apparent conspiracy to close traffic lanes on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge in order tie up traffic in the town of Fort Lee, where the bridge links Interstate 95 and U.S. Routes 1 and 9 (that's right, the George Washington Bridge is part of three highways) between New Jersey and Manhattan.  The lane closures were meant as payback against Fort Lee's Democratic mayor because he refused to endorse Christie's re-election bid in 2013.  Both defendants are appealing.
Christie hasn't been charged with anything, but he is reported to have known about the lane closures at a time when he insisted he knew nothing.  He's damaged goods, and Donald Trump knows that he's irrevocably damaged, which is why Christie will likely not be heading for Washington to become the new President's Attorney General or become anything else.  Oh, he's not damaged in Trump's eyes because of the bridge scandal.  It's because Christie prosecuted Ivanka Trump's father-in-law, developer and bank mogul Charles Kushner, for tax evasion and got him sent to the slammer for a year, something Kushner's son Jared - Ivanka's husband - wasn't too happy about, believing his father to be innocent.  Trump used Christie to win, then dropped him like a hot potato.  Christie, who once thought he'd be succeeding Barack Obama in the White House, is likely going back to New Jersey, and with less heat that he had a couple of years ago . . . and even a couple of days ago.          

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

RIP Gwen Ifill

She was gracious on the air, professional in her work, and standard-setting for everyone in her field.  Gwen Ifill, who died of cancer at 61, was one of the few print reporters (she wrote for the Baltimore Sun and the New York Times) who made the transition to broadcast journalism on NBC and then PBS with ease.  She was always sharp and to the point in her questioning of Washington politicians and her insight on whatever story she reported, be it public affairs or popular music.  You will hear and have heard a lot about how she inspired other black women in journalism, but she inspired me as a reporter too.  Because she told everyone what happened and what it meant without any bias.  Obviously, I'm not talking about what I write here, but when I have more reporter's hat on, I try to follow Ifill's example.
I always found her work solid and substantial, and I remember defending her in Internet chat rooms and message boards from folks who found her reporting less than stellar, though on one occasion I did write her to critique a discussion with members of Congress and failing to return to an issue after her attempt to ask about it was interrupted by her guests.  I never got a reply, but I can only assume that she learned from whatever criticism she did receive to do her best, and that is pretty much anyone who is a reporter can do. And overall, Gwen Ifill's best was pretty good.  We're all going to miss her . . . especially in this brave and scary new era. :-( 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Song For You

Leon Russell, who died the other day at the age of 74, was a musical genius.  The Oklahoma-born Russell began as a session musician in Los Angeles in the sixties and honed his skills as a producer, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist working with various performers and playing in the house band for Jimmy O'Neil's  pop show "Shindig."  He was called the Master of Space and Time for all of the sessions he worked on in such a short period.  By the time Russell released his debut album in 1970, he had already co-produced Joe Cocker's second album and led his Mad Dogs and Englishmen touring band.  Russell's sour, abrasive voice brought his personal, evocative lyrics to life.  His greatest songs - "Delta Lady," the haunting ballads "This Masquerade" and "Hummingbird," the gospel-tinged "Stranger In a Strange Land," the biting protest song "Alcatraz," and the intensely personal ballad "A Song For You," among others, have become classics, and his songs have been covered by the Carpenters, B.B. King, Ray Charles, George Benson, and Joe Cocker.  His own covers of Bob Dylan and George Harrison songs were just as accomplished, showing his skills as an arranger.
I was lucky enough to see Leon Russell perform at a concert in New Jersey on March 27, 2015, forty-five years to the day after his and Joe Cocker's historic Mad Dogs and Englishmen show at the Fillmore East in New York.  He walked to the piano with a cane, and he was not the wild man he had once been, but his spirit and talent remained, as well as his ability to tell some wonderfully humorous anecdotes about his career between songs.  It was probably one of the best concerts I'd ever seen.  And we'll never see his like again.  But now that is his life as over, remember when he was singing his songs for us.  R.I.P.    

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Donald Trump Playlist (Or, the iPod of Doom)

While Hillary Clinton was trying to show how current she was by playing Sara Bareilles' "Brave" and Rachel Platten's "Fight Song" at her rallies and getting Katy Perry and BeyoncĂ© to perform concerts for her campaign, Donald Trump was playing classic rock songs from the Rolling Stones, Queen and Free at his rallies over the objections of Mick Jagger, Queen's Brian May, Mick Jagger, and Free's Paul Rodgers, respectively.  (Thanks to a detail in copyright laws allowing politicians to buy the rights to songs for one-time events like rallies, I've been led to understand, Trump could do that.)  But then Trump knew that his favored demographic pines for a time when such rock and roll giants walked the earth.  Yes, we middle-age white guys love our classic rock, but that doesn't mean we all subscribe to Trump's politics!  Classic-rock artists certainly don't.  I believe it was Pink Floyd's Roger Waters who called Trump "pig-ignorant."
Be that as it may, I've taken to going on YouTube and listening to a slew of rock songs, classic and otherwise, that, in one way or another, capture my feelings about Trump's presidential election victory.  Sort of like an iPod of doom.  And I guarantee you that the Trumpster won't be playing any of these songs at his re-election campaign rallies in 2020. Here they are, in no particular order:
"When The Levee Breaks," Led Zeppelin (an impending man-made disaster)
"Band On the Run," Paul McCartney and Wings ("If we ever get out of here . . .")
"Katmandu," Bob Seger (that's where I'm going?)
"The Best of Times," Styx ("The headlines read, 'These are the worst of times'; I do believe it's true")
"Only Women Bleed," Alice Cooper (in Trump's America, anyway)
"Something In the Air," Thunderclap Newman ("Because the revolution's here")
"Runaway," Jefferson Starship (You don't know how much I want to!)
"Black Friday," Steely Dan (Trump gets sworn in on a Friday)
"Peace Frog," the Doors ("Blood in the streets of the town of Chicago")
"Fallen Eagle," Stephen Stills and Manassas ("Fly on up to Canada, this country isn't safe anymore")
"Lit Up," Buckcherry ("Tell me, are you f--king high?")
"Harry Truman," Chicago (America really does need him!)
"Free Me," Roger Daltrey ("Take me to hell, and let me stay, if that's the price I have to pay")
"Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out on Broadway)," Billy Joel (an apocalyptic sci-fi song coincidentally set in the year Trump takes office)
"Atlantis," Donovan (because I'd rather be on a sunken continent than in Trump's America!)  
"My Last Mistake," Dan Auerbach (I think we just made it!)
"Run With the Pack," Bad Company ("I'm leaving you . . . you won't even see me, no no, for dust!")
"Wooden Ships," Crosby, Stills and Nash (leaving a wasted land for a better place)
"Space Captain," Joe Cocker (because while some of us may be able to escape America, none of us can escape the planet)
"Time," Pink Floyd ("One day closer to death!") 
 And of course . . .
"Bad Moon Rising," Creedence Clearwater Revival (about the end of everything)
Hope you are quite prepared to die.  Looks like we're in for nasty weather.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Chuck Berry - The Great Twenty-Eight (1982)

Chuck Berry, who just turned ninety years old, invented rock and roll.  Period.  Despite its country origins and the hillbilly sensitivity that Bill Haley and Elvis Presley brought to the nascent form back in the fifties, Berry created the blues-based template that the best rockers have adhered to for the past six decades.  The proof is in these twenty-eight songs that were released between 1955 and 1965 and featured in this 1982 compilation.
The Great Twenty-Eight doesn't assemble all of Berry's greatest songs, but it comes damned close.  All of these songs crackle with energy and sizzle with wit, and many of them derive from three simple chords.  When Berry illustrates the more innocuous scenes in life, from dating pretty girls to rocking out in the dance halls, he provides the most detailed descriptions in only a few words.  The sexual tension of the car-chase song "Maybelline," the innocence of "Sweet Little Sixteen," and the teenage rituals of "School Days" all feel like a release.  But many times Berry's words leave us with something to think about as well as entertain us - the parables of rock and roll dreams and stardom in "Johnny B. Goode" and its sequel "Bye Bye Johnny," the sense of freedom in the road trip song "You Can't Catch Me," the racial pride of "Brown-Eyed Handsome Man," the ironies of "Back In the U.S.A." -  while getting us to dance, or at least play air guitar. Now that's genius.
Berry has always considered himself an artist, something Elvis was never able to consider himself so long as Colonel Tom Parker directed his career.  Only a sharp observer like Berry could come up with something as perfect as "Memphis," a heart-rending tale of a man separated from the love of his life (and if you've never heard it, you'll be in for a surprise), or explore what happens after high school and the pleasures of youth in "Too Much Monkey Business."  The deceptive simplicity of his music and the bite of his impeccable guitar set the standard for rock and roll - a standard that still shines under the dross of overproduction and hyperprofessionalism that has long since overtaken pop.  Although rock and roll is going to a tough period these days, the best way to resuscitate is to get today's kids to hear The Great Twenty-Eight . . . and all of Chuck's children will continue to play his licks.      

Democrats By the Numbers

Number of U.S. House seats the Democrats have in the 115th Congress: 194 (out of 435)
Number of U.S. Senate seats the Democrats have in the 115th Congress:  48, including 2 independents (out of 100) 
Number of Senate seats Democrats could have in the 116th Congress: 40
Number of filibusters they could have after 2018 with that number of Senators: 0
Number of Democratic governorships: 15
Number of Democratic-majority state legislatures: 31 (out of 99)
Number of state legislative seats Democrats have lost since 2008: about 900
Number of states in which the Democrats have the governor's office and both houses of the legislature: 6
Number of presidential possibilities for 2020: 0 
the last time a party was in such dire straits: 1852
Number of years that party in dire straits - the Whig Party - lasted after then: 4
Imagining former Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz in a bar in Miami Beach getting plastered: priceless
There are some things money can't buy.  For everything else, there's Citizens United.  

Saturday, November 12, 2016

New Leadership

Pundits and analysts from Chris Hayes to the insufferable Chuck Todd are finally saying what I've been saying for months - the Democratic Party has been thoroughly decimated and is completely bereft of leadership.  And Martin O'Malley, long rumored to be a possibility for the job of Democratic National Committee chairman, has indicated his desire for the job. 
O'Malley should get the job on the basis of his ability for seeing this catastrophe coming.  He warned the Democratic National Committee (DNC) about how the Democrats were in serious trouble at the state level, but his warnings were ignored.  During his presidential campaign, he called for more primary debates among the Democrats vying for the party's presidential nomination (one of them being himself, of course) to challenge the outrageous statements of "that racist carnival barker," Donald Trump, and added, in reference to the DNC tipping the scales for Hillary, "We're the Democratic Party, not the Un-Democratic Party."  Here's the reception he got from then-DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz after he said all that in a speech to a DNC meeting in Minneapolis in August 2015:
Her very expression says, "I'll bury you, you bastard!" Now she's been buried by the weight of her own hubris.
O'Malley got it.  He still gets it.  He should run the Democratic Party, hands down.  But he has competition.  Howard Dean, who pursued a fifty-state party-building strategy as DNC chair from 2005 to 2009 only to see it inexplicably abandoned by his successor (former future Vice President Tim Kaine), wants his old job back, and Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison has voiced interest in the position.   But Dean is a former Clinton confederate who voted for Hillary as a superdelegate to the Democratic convention despite a complete lack of support for Hillary for the nomination in his home state of Vermont, and he's become a health-care lobbyist working to prevent single-payer health care.  Ellison is a decent guy, but he's an incumbent U.S. Representative, and as Wasserman Schultz proved, you can't represent your constituents in Congress and be party chair and do both jobs effectively.  (And Debbie did neither job effectively.  Nonetheless, she was re-elected to the House - a triumph of establishment politics.)  However, Ellison's handicap as an incumbent House member hasn't prevented him from getting support for the DNC job from incoming Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer and Senator Bernie Sanders (wait - isn't Sanders an independent once again?).
I have a feeling that O'Malley, never well-respected in the Democratic Party, is about to get dissed again.  And if he does, well, screw the Democrats!  F--- 'em!  Let  them go the way  of the Whigs!  In the event that O'Malley is rejected for the DNC position, I hope he leaves the party and coalesces with the Greens, other progressive Democrats, and left-leaning independents to form a new progressive party . . . . and challenges President Trump and the presidential nominee of what's left of the Democratic Party for the White House in 2020.  
Back in February, I wrote that I wouldn't forget the slight against O'Malley.  I still haven't.  I'll be furious if the Democratic Party slights him again.  Forgive and forget?  Sure, I'll never forgive myself if I forget to stay angry at the Democrats.            

Friday, November 11, 2016

Music Video Of the Week - November 11, 2016

"Bad Moon Rising" by Creedence Clearwater Revival (Go to teh link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

President Trump???

This is not good.
The Democrats had an excellent chance to keep the White House and possibly win back the Senate, and they blew it.  There were several good reasons to keep the Democratic hold on the executive branch, but the party's now-discredited establishment couldn't think of one.  All Hillary Clinton offered was that, under her administration, Americans would be "stronger together."  And now Donald Trump is to become the forty-fifth President of the United States!
Before I continue, I have to address the fact that I voted for Green Party presidential nominee Dr. Jill Stein.  I don't regret casting my ballot for Dr. Stein one iota.  I would never have voted for her if I thought for a second that she could win enough votes in New Jersey to deprive Hillary Clinton the state's fourteen electoral votes and give them to Trump.   And, she didn't.  Hillary won the Garden State with 53 percent of the vote.  I'm proud of my vote for Dr. Stein; I did my part to help her get to the five-percent threshold necessary for the Greens to get federal matching funds for the 2020 presidential election . . . even though Dr. Stein didn't quite make it.
That out of the way, I now turn to the election results. Trump won on fouls, using every epithet in the book against women, racial and ethnic minorities, and Muslims, and feeding into people's paranoia and resentments.  He exploited the legitimate concerns and grievances of the cratering middle class and turned them against convenient scapegoats.  And all Hillary Clinton could offer in response was that she was not Trump.  She never offered a positive domestic program to help people get ahead and never explained why her interventionist foreign policy proposals would make America safe.  She merely promised more of the same of President Obama's policies without explaining why this would be good enough.
There's a whole class of people who feel alienated from the natural constituencies of both major parties, Republican fat cats and Democratic cultural elitists.  They resent Wall Street bankers for getting rich at their expense and entertainers who live good lives paid for in part by their fans. Many of them are working low-wage jobs and seethe with resentment toward these constituencies and for a long time were like powder kegs waiting to explode. That sound you heard on Election Day was those same people going "Kaboom."  And Donald Trump lit the fuse.
It didn't have to be this way.  The Democrats had presidential candidates who had the same ability to speak to disaffected Americans that Trump did.  Joe Biden, who ultimately decided not to run, had it.  Bernie Sanders had it.  Jim Webb had it.  Certainly Martin O'Malley had it.  Hillary didn't.  But the Democratic establishment wasn't interested in anyone other than Hillary being their standard bearer.  Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her minions tipped the scales for Hillary, discouraged and silenced those Democrats who wanted to run for the nomination against Hillary, and brought the hammer down on those who did.  Hillary's supporters happily approved.  They didn't care that she was  a fundamentally flawed candidate. They didn't seem to mind her ties to Wall Street.  They overlooked her hawkish call for a no-fly zone in Syria and how it risked a military confrontation with Russia.  They were all too busy chanting, "La la la,  first female President!"
I saw how the Democratic establishment pushed Hillary and stifled alternative voices.  As a Martin O'Malley supporter, I saw my candidate ignored when he called for more primary debates.   I saw how he was marginalized, along with Webb and Lincoln Chafee, and not given the chance to make his case.  Then, after O'Malley dropped out and Bernie Sanders surged and had a realistic shot of winning the Democratic nomination, Hillary's underlings undermined Sanders at every turn. Despite the fact that Hillary was a flawed nominee, they forced her on the electorate and assumed, once it became apparent that Trump would be the Republican nominee, that Hillary would win because she was not Trump.  Hillary herself acted like she was entitled to the Presidency, not so much because she's a woman, but because her husband had been President in the 1990s and because she thought it was her turn.  The Democrats could have come up with a strong nominee who could beat Trump had they held a fair nomination contest, but they gambled everything on Hillary, and now they're paying for it.
Not only was the Democratic establishment so smug about the 2016 election, so were Hillary's rank-and-file supporters.  I quit several Democratic Facebook pages because of the nasty comments from so many Hillary fans about her competitors for the nomination  - O'Malley's obscurity, Sanders's far-left policy proposals - and the ridicule and insults I got simply for supporting O'Malley.  When I  backed Dr. Stein in the general election, Hillary supporters ridiculed her and her movement to build up the Greens.  Then they tried to gaslight me into voting for Hillary because they said a vote for Dr. Stein would help Trump by splitting the anti-Trump vote.  They weren't reaching out to me with friendly persuasion; they were chewing me out with angry threats.
All through this campaign, from the start of the nomination contest in the spring of 2015 to the nominating conventions, I kept saying that Hillary was a flawed presidential candidate, and Hillary supporters laughed at me.  Several of Hillary's opponents for the Democratic presidential nomination kept warning that Trump could win, especially Martin O'Malley, and so did I.  Hillary supporters kept laughing.  It looks like I have the last laugh now . . . although I don't feel like laughing.  The Republicans have all the power in Washington, having kept control of both houses of Congress, and the Democrats are completely devastated . . . and, like I once said, looking very Whiggish.
I can't let this go without calling out the media for being complicit in anointing Hillary as being inevitable and treating her opponents for the Democratic presidential nomination with contempt while giving Donald Trump the free media that proved to be the oxygen for his victorious campaign and thinking it wouldn't lead to his victory.  The press let us down as much as the Democratic establishment.
If there's any bright side to all this (and I'm stretching it here), it's that Hillary Clinton appears to have won the popular vote, and the Democrats gained two seats in the Senate in Illinois and New Hampshire . . . and may win a third Senate seat in Louisiana next month, thus denying the GOP a three-fifths filibuster-proof majority.  Trump doesn't have the mandate he thinks he has.  So the opposition has to get its act together and do what Martin O'Malley asked of his supporters - "hold strong."  Liberals in the Democratic Party ought to be ready to bolt the Democrats and form a new progressive party with the Greens.  I hope O'Malley himself does what his mentor Gary Hart did the night Ronald Reagan was re-elected President - begin recruiting for another presidential campaign for the next election.
In the meantime, the notion of "President Trump" is a reality.  And to Hillary supporters, I hate to say I told you so, but . . . I told you so. :-(

Monday, November 7, 2016

Election 2016: No Endorsements (Except For Jill Stein)

I normally post endorsements in select political contests in various parts of the country just prior to Election Day.  Not this year.
This blog endorses no one for any office up for election this year, except for Jill Stein of the Green Party for President, and I made that endorsement back in June.  I have not followed any of the crucial House or Senate races, or the small number of gubernatorial races, for 2016, and I see no reason to waste my time making any endorsements for them now.  Why should I?  I'd only endorse the Democratic candidates because they are not as bad as the Republicans (though I have in the past endorsed Republicans on occasion), and I'd be endorsing these Democrats for their interchangeable, predictable stands on the issues - issues that, incidentally, haven't been resolved for a quarter of a century.  Why am I still bitching about high-speed rail years after the publication of Joseph Vranich's book on the subject urging that it be built in America?  Why are we still talking about campaign finance reform?  Why are we still trying to do something about a shrinking middle class?  What does it matter if I endorse a candidate who says he or she is going to do something about a problem when I know full well that nothing is going to be done about it?
As for the major-party presidential candidates . . . to hell with them.  Donald Trump is a bigot and a megalomaniac who should never have gotten this far. Hillary Clinton is a flawed, untrustworthy candidate who got the nomination of her party through the bullying and the neutering of her opposition.  Hillary is the Democratic nominee not because she's a woman but because she's a Clinton, and I am sick and tired of living in a system that recognizes dynastic entitlement - Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton, with a period of Obamus Interruptus - at everyone else's expense.  At this point, I don't care that the FBI has cleared her of any wrongdoing on the basis of the last of these newly discovered and mostly redundant e-mails. 
The Presidency, as Martin O'Malley once said,  is not a crown to be passed between two families.  Or three.  Trump is not from a family that has produced a President before, but if he wins, you can bet that his adult children will end up helping him run the country, with their own little fiefdoms in the executive branch.  Although one may take comfort in the idea of Ivanka as White House chief of staff, one cannot take any comfort at all in the suspicion that Trump has always treated his presidential bid as a money-making scheme, and if you think it's bad now, imagine how he and his family could use the Presidency for their own collective enrichment! 
So, yes, I'm voting for Jill Stein.  I have been told that if you don't vote for Hillary, you're essentially a sexist, and if you vote for Jill Stein, you are a sexist who is voting for a woman whom you know isn't going to win simply to hide your misogyny.  Let's get something straight; I was ready and eager to vote for whomever got the Green Party presidential nomination, male or female, and it's actually hard to vote for a minor-party candidate when you know she isn't going to win simply because of that fact.  But the Greens need five percent of the vote on Tuesday to get federal matching funds for 2020, and ballot access in all fifty states (something they couldn't quite achieve this time), and even though I may be marginalizing myself by voting Green, I am prepared to do just that . . . in the interest of helping to dismantle the two-party system as we know it.
Sadly, Jill Stein is the only Green Party candidate for any office in my precinct.  I'll vote for Democratic or write-in candidates in the down-ballot races, but I'm pretty steamed over the fact that I have no other Greens to vote for.  If you can vote for Greens in down-ballot races, and if you feel comfortable voting for them, you should do so.
Okay, I'm off my soapbox.  I won't be blogging on Election Day, because I understand that hackers, possibly from Russia, may be wrecking havoc with various Internet sites and possibly the Internet itself.  I'll be back Wednesday or Thursday after this mess of an election is over.  As Dan Rather would say, courage.  Go out and vote.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Book Review: "The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party" by Michael F. Holt

The short history of the Whig Party in the United States is usually presented as thus: A party is formed in the 1830s to oppose President Andrew Jackson, his Democratic Party, and their policies, but the new party's members have little to unite them other than their opposition to Jackson.  Ironically, their only success in winning the Presidency is to run two old soldiers who remind the voters of Jackson, and when a third old soldier can't defeat an appalling Democratic presidential prospect such as Franklin Pierce, the party, already divided over slavery, rolls over and dies.
Michael Holt's 1999 book "The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party" brilliantly makes it clear, over the course of a thousand pages, that noting could be farther from the truth.  Holt uses numerous historical sources and exhaustively studies voter turnout in the states that made up the Union between 1834 and 1856 to show how the Whig Party was more than just reflexive opposition to the Democrats.  Holt presents the party, founded largely by Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, as a cohesive political organization intensely devoted to preserving republican self-government and economic vitality and opposing the Democrats' disdain for active government while advocating for a system that provided opportunity to all Americans rather than let the economy sort itself out.  Holt presents a fascinating story of principled Whig politicians in both the North and the South who strove for a strong Union and fought to balance sectional interests to keep the country together.  
Holt doesn't necessarily say that the slavery question could have been settled once and for all without a civil war, but he credits the Whigs for their efforts to avoid such a conflict.  He seems myopic, though, by suggesting that the Whigs might have prevented a war as bad as the one that actually transpired.  Historians have argued whether the United States was destined for Armageddon, as Michael Harwood once put it, in settling the slavery issue, but Holt doesn't seem to probe this question far enough.
The book's most obvious fault - an overemphasis on the inner workings of politics - is also, perversely, one of its biggest strengths.  Holt shows how differently American politics operated in the antebellum years, and the reader comes to understand how the Whigs prospered before they eventually withered.  Their basic program - low tariffs, a national bank, improved infrastructure - sustained them early on.  But Holt demonstrates how numerous issues - the war with Mexico, the struggle to craft the Compromise of 1850 that tried to handle slavery expansion territories ceded by the Mexicans, the undermining of the bonds between northern and southern Whigs over the Kansas-Nebraska Act - caused disagreements within the party.  The party's leading figures - Clay, Daniel Webster,  John Quincy Adams, Thomas Ewing, William Seward - are large players here, of course, but the roles of lesser-known Whigs like Robert Toombs, Truman Smith, and John Bell are also highlighted here.  And the party's two last Presidents - Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore - are reassessed as major figures of their day in their efforts to govern the nation and preserve the Union.  
Holt also describes the efforts at new Union parties and a new party around President Taylor in great detail, with  a dissection of how factors in addition to slavery - the growing irrelevance of old issues such as banking and tariffs, patronage, disputes between conservatives and moderates in state Whig organizations, the divisions caused by the rise of the anti-immigrant Know-Nothing movement - divided the party and set it on a course for extinction.  Despite the academic, dry prose of Holt's text, the central argument of why the Whig Party died - it became too out of step and too slow to realize changes in the American body politic - becomes clearer with each passing chapter.  With the two-party system in America at a greater risk of collapsing than at any time in the 1850s, this book is required reading for anyone who might want to save the dying parties . . . or figure out how to start a new one.    

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Standing Their Ground

After four hundred years of being pushed around, the native peoples of North America have had enough.

The Dakota Access oil pipeline, which was planned to go through land in North Dakota sacred to the Sioux and cross the Missouri River - and would thus contaminate the Sioux tribe's drinking water if it were to leak after being so routed - has aroused ire and indignation among the Sioux and their Native American allies.  They've occupied the point where the pipeline would cross the river - at Standing Rock - and they have been protesting the pipeline's proposed route.  In the time that has passed since the protests began, authorities have arrested many protesters and have used violent means to get them to disperse - much to the shock and disgust of the American people.  Law enforcement has treated white men who occupy federal land with kid gloves but has brutally tried to suppress Indians claiming what is rightfully theirs.
President Obama's position on this interesting, to put it mildly.  Saying that his administration is "monitoring this closely," the President  has stated that the Army Corps is examining possible ways to re-route the pipeline. 
"We're going to let it play out for several more weeks, and determine whether or not this could be resolved in a way that is properly attentive to the traditions of the First Americans," Obama says.  Let it play out?  Given that the protest site is looking like a war zone, that doesn't look like - no, isn't - a strategy.
In any case, the native peoples of this country - this country that was stolen from them - have made it clear.  They will not be pushed around any more.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Music Video Of the Week - November 4, 2016

"I Can Play That Rock and Roll" by Joe Walsh (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)   

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Far Out West

David Crosby is a crusty, mean old curmudgeon.  And I'm grateful for that.
The 75-year-old veteran rocker drew a lot of flak in 2015 for dismissing Kanye West as a poser.  Rap fans and contemporary pop critics were quick to denounce him as an aging white male rockist who just didn't get that popular music had changed and that rock and roll was being defined by someone who was reclaiming it for the black Americans who invented it back in the fifties.  Well, Crosby doubled down on his criticisms only recently, saying that West "certainly can’t play anything, and he certainly doesn’t sing."
The Cros could have stopped there, but he had more to say on the issue. "The thing that bugs me about him is the 'I’m the world’s greatest living rock star.' Somebody needs to drive him over to Stevie Wonder’s house right now so he understands what a real one is."  He also said that West should listen to Ray Charles records to learn how to sing.
It would be easy to dismiss Crosby as someone as a musician hopelessly set in his ways, but such a dismissal wouldn't hold water.  Because even though he's admitted to having problems with rap in general, he's developed a respect for the form, which he admitted to starting out having hated.  As I recall, in a 1991 television interview, Crosby endorsed the messages in rap lyrics and singled out one Dana Owens of Newark, New Jersey (that would be Queen Latifah, of course) for special praise.  More recently, Crosby gave a thumbs-up to Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of the acclaimed musical Hamilton, for being a fantastic songwriter.  So Crosby's problem with Kanye West is not so much with the fact that West is a rapper as it is with the fact that West is . . . Kanye West.
And it was shrewd of Crosby to compare West not to Bob Dylan or his buddy Neil Young and instead compare him to Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder, and not necessarily because Charles was and Wonder is black.  He compared West to Charles and Wonder because they are heralded as geniuses, and West is famous for labeling himself as one.  As if to drive the point home that one does not have the right to anoint oneself a genius, Crosby used that very word to describe . . . Lin-Manuel Miranda.
None of this, of course, is going to insulate Crosby from further criticism.  But give him credit; in he past quarter century, he's shown himself to be more broadminded about rap than I'll ever be.  (That would also go for Stephen Stills, who let a rap act sample his Buffalo Springfield song "For What It's Worth," and and for Graham Nash, who endorsed rap for its political lyrics.)   I understand that West is more broadminded about rock than I am about rap and has experimented with fusing the two forms on his records.  Yeah, well, that's what I've been told.  That's not going to change my opinion that rap isn't music.  Nor is it going to change my opinion about West, who clearly will resort to any trick to aggrandize himself.  (Do you want to know how many people got apoplectic when West teamed up with Paul McCartney?  Plenty!)  But I am aware that, for all my protests against rap, I'm going to be seen as an intolerant white guy by more than a few people.  Those of us who reject rap as music could make an argument against it purely based on aesthetics and win the debate with little effort.  But when rap fans set the aesthetic issue aside and bring up race in response, what can we do?     

CUBS WIN!

Congratulations to baseball's Chicago Cubs, World Series champions for the first time in 108 years.  :-D :-)


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Sue Digs Jill!

Life ain't easy for a girl named Sue.

  
Especially if the "Sue" in question is actress Susan Sarandon, who has not drunk the Kool-Aid and gone over to Hillary, like other past supporters of Green Party presidential candidates have - Michael Moore, how could you? - and has received nothing but scorn and ridicule for refusing to go along with the rest of the Hollywood "liberal elite."  Sarandon has made it official - she's endorsing Jill Stein for President.  No compromising positions here.
So here's the deal.  Sarandon, a one-time Bernie Sanders supporter, had seriously been considering a move like this for a long time, and for good reason.  Hillary is not a progressive, but she plays one on TV.  But Sarandon knows better than to be fooled by Hillary's rhetoric and by her commitment to a liberal Democartic Party platform that Madame H will forget exists as of November 9.  After all, Sarandon has long espoused liberal causes such as the $15 minimum wage, GMO labeling, and breaking up the big banks.  Hillary supports none of those things.  And while Sarandon opposes hydraulic fracturing in oil exploration, offshore drilling, and military aid to Israel with no strings attached, Hillary supports . . . all of those things.
It's Madame H's foreign policy proposals - and Donald Trump's as well - that really gets Sue's knickers in a knot.  She's afraid that either one of them will get us into World War III.  And, again, for good reason.  Hillary supports a no-fly zone over Syria, as previously noted, which could get us in a military conflict with Russia - as previously noted.  Donald would likely appease a Russian takeover of Estonia.  And either one of them could start a war with Iran.  
"They’re both talking to Henry Kissinger," Sarandon says of the two major-party candidates.  "[Hillary] did not learn from Iraq, and she is an interventionist, and she has done horrible things - and very callously. I don’t know if she is overcompensating or what her trip is. That scares me. I think we’ll be in Iran in two seconds."
And here's what Sarandon said of Dr. Stein: 
"I'm therefore very happy to endorse Jill Stein for the Presidency because she does stand for everything I believe in. It's clear a third party is necessary and viable at this time. And this is the first step in accomplishing this end. Fear of Donald Trump is not enough for me to support Clinton, with her record of corruption. Now that Trump is self-destructing, I feel even those in swing states have the opportunity to vote their conscience."
So there you have it - Dr. Jill Stein's first major celebrity endorsement, and it's a prestigious one, coming from one of America's finest and most learned actresses.  Meanwhile, Hillary has a basket of deplorable pop stars and reality-show stars  backing her, everyone from Kimye, Katy Perry, and Mr. Shawn Carter (BeyoncĂ©'s husband) to the spectacularly insufferable Madonna, who has been trying to get votes for Hillary by offering oral sex to undecided voters.  Meanwhile, Oprah Winfrey has come out for Hillary, and she's even come up with a catchy slogan for Madame H - "You don't have to like her."
No, but it would sure help. 
The Green Party likely won't win the Presidency, and it has an uphill battle to get the five percent support at the polls that it needs to qualify for federal matching funds for future elections - especially when media rhymes-with-glass-poles like Chuck Todd push the narrative that support for all minor-party candidates is dwindling.  And Susan Sarandon, must know, like I do, that, because of that fact, we Green backers could be riding off a cliff much like Louise Sawyer, Sarandon's character in the 1991 classic movie Thelma and Louise.  But it's a joyride I'm happy to take.  I'm sure Susan Sarandon herself would agree.        

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Clintons Treat Jill Stein Beastly

Having bitch-slapped Bernie, emasculated Marty, and put themselves in a position to watch the Donald hang himself with his own rope, the Clintons are now dealing with another e-mail controversy that involved newly discovered e-mails about the e-mail issue, found on a laptop shared by Hillary aide Huma Abedin and her estranged and strange husband Anthony Weiner.  On top of that, the FBI, as I've been led to understand, had tried to get a search warrant for Wiener's electronic devices without success but decided to push ahead anyway, suggesting that either FBI director James Comey is trying to influence the outcome of the election or Attorney General Loretta Lynch is trying to keep damning information from hurting the Democratic ticket.  With the campaign entering the home stretch, and with Hillary Clinton to win, the Clinton campaign has been counting on trying to run out the clock before anyone else or anything else trips them up.
And even before the latest e-mail issue broke, the Clintons were already working to make sure that Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein doesn't trip them up.
A recent piece in the Daily Beast by Yashar Ali unmasked Dr. Stein, just before Halloween, as a hypocrite because she and her husband, Richard Rohrer, have investments in mutual funds that in turn are invested in oil companies and big pharmaceutical corporations.  Well, there's just one thing wrong with that - the investments that Rohrer and Dr. Stein are retirement accounts, which as many as fifty million Americans, including teachers, police officers, tradesmen, or anyone who works for a company whose benefits include 401ks or IRAs, have.  These Americans are saving money for their retirements, and sometimes the mutual funds that the accounts are tied to are invested in big companies.  There's little if anything that the people with such accounts can do about that.  One would have to wonder why Ali sees this as big deal, until one notices that Hillary Clinton's daughter Chelsea is on the board of directors of the the Daily Beast's parent company.
What a devoted daughter Chelsea is.
So why shouldn't Dr Stein be considered a hypocrite because of her investments?  Well, let's look at comparison Dr. Stein herself has cited. Fox News has sneered at environmental activists who work to combat climate change yet drive cars.  Yeah, well, in America it's pretty hard to get around without a car, because public transportation in this country has been all but decimated.  And yes, I myself am a big Volkswagen enthusiast who supports public transit.  So what?  I've never been against cars, I just think we Americans rely too much on them.  If I could take a light-rail line to get somewhere, and if it had frequent reliable service, I would take it, because even people who love cars don't want to rely on their cars all the time and want to save wear and tear on them.  But just as we have to use less energy-efficient means of transportation because better alternatives don't exist - while we work to bring those better alternatives into existence - we also have to deal with economic reality as it is before we can change that reality.  Or as Dr. Stein explains, "The Daily Beast is suggesting that participating in the American economy is incompatible with working to change it . . ..  Unfortunately, to change public policy, one must participate in the economy enough to generate the resources to create change, ideally in a way that minimizes damage and maximizes change."
But, you'll probably believe the Daily Beast's spin, and you'll probably forget about the time Hillary said that anti-fracking activists should "get a life," or maybe you'll overlook her distinctions between a private position and a public position (remember her husband's promised middle-class tax cut, and how we didn't get one?), or maybe you'll even overlook her support for a no-fly zone over Syria that could provoke a military confrontation with Russia and lead to the world war she says Trump would instigate . . . because Hillary's media mouthpieces have already convinced you that a vote for Jill Stein is a vote against your personal interests, and maybe even a vote for Trump, and if you know what's good for you, you'll vote for Hillary.  
Don't buy it.  Hillary is not going to lose the presidential election because of Dr. Stein.  She's comfortably ahead in the polls, and she's even farther ahead in a few swing states, as well as in reliably Democratic states like my own New Jersey.  The Clintons aren't afraid of Jill Stein being a spoiler.  They're worried about Dr, Stein getting five percent of the vote and thus qualifying the Green Party for federal matching funds to make it competitive for the future.  This would actually allow a real progressive party to challenge the Democrats for the liberal voting bloc in this country.  That would be a disaster . . . for the Clintons.
"Let's be clear: this attack wasn't to point out a conflict of interest with Jill," Stein campaign manager Gloria Mattera wrote in a fundraising e-mail to Dr Stein's supporters.  "It was to silence all dissent to the coronation of Hillary Clinton."  "Coronation" is an appropriate word, since one prominent Hillary supporter once said that the Presidency is not a crown to be passed between two families like the Bushes and the Clintons.  (Alas, that prominent Hillary supporter was Martin O'Malley.)  Now, more than ever, we must resist efforts by the Clintons to silence the liberal opposition.  Now, more than ever, we must work to make the Democrats go full Whig if they keep pushing their disastrous neoliberal agenda.