Here’s the lede from a story published last week in The Washington Post:
“The Trump administration repeatedly interfered with efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year to issue warnings and guidance about the evolving coronavirus pandemic, six current and former health officials told congressional investigators in recent interviews.”
The objective, no doubt, was to minimize the horrendous potential—and we now realize, actual—consequences of the COVID-19 virus on the population. All of the happy talk about how great, fantastic, unbelievable, and otherwise amazing everything was coming from the administration, including the president himself, was bullshit.
The virus would just go away, was the claim. Warm weather would do it. Summer would do it. Internal bleach would do it. Don’t worry. Live your lives. Do what you’ve always done. It would be happy days before you’d know it.
Regardless of behavior. Masks? Nonsense. Staying at home? Why? Teach kids remotely? Crazy.
It’s day-whatever in the never ending 2020 election and despite the long, drawn out process, there aren’t really any surprises. Sure, expectations weren’t met as far as a blue wave sweeping across the Senate and state houses, but those expectations were more wishes and dreams than realistic results. We are, after all, in a country where a lunatic has maintained a 40+ percent approval rating. In the end, the characters are playing their parts as we would expect, as in a trite sitcom, which is maybe all we are anyways.
Sitcoms have a formula and one of the truest components of that formula is the Golden Moment (known in the biz as the “moment of shit,”) where all the loose ends are bound up and the lessons of the day are learned. Here we are as a nation at our moment of shit and I have to wonder what lessons have we learned?
First: A Beginning
There’s been a bit of chatter out there about Abraham Lincoln and his first inaugural address. The south had seceded and Lincoln wanted to cool shit down and speak directly to those people who’d left the Union. Lincoln knew that the cost of a civil war would be terrible (though ultimately a cost we’d have to carry) and tried to plead with the south to reconsider:
I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
Lincoln was an optimist. He believed in the human spirit and that deep, deep down we are good people, bonded more by what we have in common than divided by our differences.
Couple that with Donald Trump’s first (and only) inaugural address where he painted a bloody picture of American carnage and unending grievances. Almost from the beginning, Trump drew battle lines and called on his followers to remember whose side they’re on:
The establishment protected itself but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs. And while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land. That all changes starting right here and right now. Because this moment is your moment. It belongs to you.
It’s true that America’s working families were not in on many of the triumphs; they had been left to flounder as billionaire’s raked in more. But that was directly due to Republican tax policy and corporate pandering. Four years later, billionaires have billions more and you got a $1200 check. Did that feel like your moment?
Now: An Ending
It’s the Friday after the election and we’re still waiting for the race to officially be called even though we all know Biden has won. And I do mean we all know. Donald Trump doesn’t want to face it, but he knows it’s over. He knows Biden got more votes and his only play now is to simply deny. Donald Trump has lived a lifetime of denial; of his responsibilities to his wives and children, to his creditors and business partners, to his patriotic duty to pay his fair share toward what Makes America Great, and to the reality that every fraud eventually gets caught.
SAD Donald Trump has spent the last several days trying to undermine faith in our most sacred system by undermining the integrity of our votes. We are nothing if we lose faith that we, the people are in charge. Rather than admit that Joe Biden had the better campaign and vision to garner more votes (by 4 million and counting), Donald Trump is trying to tear down the whole system around him. By doing so, he’s further boxing himself in. How can he admit defeat and follow the tradition at the heart of our nearly 245 years of self-rule and peaceful transition of power by conceding?
Four years ago, Hillary Clinton did it. Her first words were for her country:
Last night, I congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work with him on behalf of our country. I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans.
Sure, she was disappointed and probably shocked and had a couple not-so-subtle jabs in the full text of the speech, but she’s a patriot and wished for the best for America. Right up to the end, she saw the promise and the possibility for America:
Finally, I am so grateful for our country and for all it has given to me. I count my blessings every single day that I am an American. And I still believe as deeply as I ever have that if we stand together and work together with respect for our differences, strength in our convictions and love for this nation, our best days are still ahead of us.
Can you imagine any of that coming from Donald Trump? If this week is any indication, we’re in for two and half months of his undermining bullshit. I doubt he’ll concede at all or even show up to participate in the peaceful transfer of power at Biden’s inauguration. We’re likely to have two and a half more months of the oil barrel of lies we got last night. The vote is not rigged, you fucking lost. As we were told in the aftermath of 2016: Get over it.
It’s the day after and where are the good people? We should be cleaning up balloons and confetti and gobbling Excedrin like candies to relieve jubilant hangovers, but we’re waiting. We’re waiting to see if predominantly black voters can save us from the hypocrisy and greed of predominantly white voters. More pointedly, white male voters. It turns out that America is still sick from its original sin and I am not sure if there even is a cure.
Despite what is looking more and more like a win for Biden-Harris, It shouldn’t have ever been in question. That is, if we’re really that Shining City on the Hill. Exit polls are bearing out what the early polls showed re: Trump’s base of support. White males support Trump in large numbers, this despite an economy tanked by Trump’s bungling of a national health crisis, scattered civil unrest brought on by systematic police brutality, and four years of continued ugliness. Somewhere upwards of 60% of white American males looked at the mess Trump has created the last four years and decided they’d like more.
There was a lot of hope this week that Florida (and Texas!) would be bellwethers of America’s disgust with Trumpism. Serious people who sniff out the political winds really thought we’d see an acceleration of the purpling of these states–not driven by demographics, but by decency! White males instead created bulwarks and stopped the march in its place. While there are some real questions to ask about Biden’s under-performing among Hispanic/Latinos, the fact of the matter is that white males like Donald Trump and the congressional Republicans who enable Trumpism.
Posts like this are usually met with a chorus of “not all Trump supporters are racist!” I guess. But one thing is as clear today as it was in 2016: Trump supporters are not as disgusted by racism and race-baiting as good people should be. That’s been true for generations in America and it’s true today.
As I wrote yesterday, every election is an inflection point. It’s our opportunity to right the ship and put us on the path to achieving that “more perfect union.” That very idea is at the core of American Exceptionalism. As a patriot, I love America but have to admit I hate Americans. There is nothing exceptional about people facing permanent and inevitable demographic changes clinging to the scraps they have while the 1% clears the table. That’s begging and it’s demeaning. And I guess that breeds cruelty, but it’s maddening to see the ire misdirected year after year. We have a lot to clean up still and I’m just not sure we’re up to the job.
Well, this is it, folks. Election Day 2020 is upon us and while it’s certainly not the end of the Trump nightmare–we have at least until January 21 for him to blow up the whole shithouse–it is the beginning of the end…one way or another. The big question before us these next few days and weeks is what exactly is coming to an end?
Will voters take back control of their government and toss out a serial liar and fraud, or will we enter a period of accelerated disintegration? What does The End look like?
Before we get to the end, I’m not even sure when it started. Was it Bush v. Gore some 20 years ago when the United States Supreme Court stepped in to stop a recount that Al Gore was winning to hand the election to a dim-witted son of a President? Was it before that when right-wing radio rose up to scream in the faces of delivery guys and salesmen stuck in rush hour traffic and mourning the loss of the Shining City on a Hill first promised, then condemned with the election of a Clinton?
Or was it in an earlier, darker time when the whisper of a “silent majority” who valued law & order over justice was waiting in the wings standing back and standing by for the order to attack? And attack they did, with billy clubs, tear gas, mandatory minimums and a gerrymandering scheme to make LBJ blush.
Who knows? All elections are an inflection point and this year is no different, except it’s not governing philosophies that are at odds, but the entire concept of a free and fair election. Will this be the end of four years of rampant grift, fraud and cruelty or the end of American-style republican (small “R”) democracy? Will the whole experiment blow up in our faces as an abject failure? The next few weeks will tell us.
This year is another clear test of character, represented on either side by everything that’s at stake. In one corner we have a flawed, but capable and decent man who has adjusted his messaging (and more importantly, his policy) to recognize the changing times we’re in. Joe Biden has been in the game a long time, which means he not only knows how to win but he knows how to govern. He knows politics is about compromise–not giving up what you believe in, but listening to others and finding the space to move closer.
In the other corner we have Donald Trump. A compulsive liar and cheat who is considered a joke by everyone who actually knows him and his brand of “business.” The saddest part of this whole thing is that he’s duped a good 40% of this country into thinking he’s anything more than a clown with bad intent. He’s not even a good conman, yet here we are. We’ve been talked into a lemon, will we now double-down on the extended warranty?
We opened the National Affairs Desk in 2006 with a short piece on how straight shootin’ George W. Bush couldn’t hit the truth if it was the side of a barn. It seems quaint now, but the Valerie Plame story was heating up the charts back then. It was a real scandal (no, really) when the White House played fast and loose with classified information and the identity of covert officers whose husbands had the gall to submit intelligence that undermined the main argument for a war of choice.
“Ah, but that’s just how hardball is played!” you might say. But it’s not baseball we’re playing here, gang. It is a much more lethal game played by sharp-teethed reptiles like Mitch McConnell who will rip your fingers off like a snapping turtle. Yes, a Snapping Turtle.
One defining chapter was when Cocaine Mitch blocked the hearing for Merrick Garland, holding an open court seat for almost a year hoping his bet on the worst person in America winning the 2016 election would pay off. He hit the trifecta and handed the court to Donald Fucking Trump to shape for a generation. That turtle bites.
So, this is it. This is when we’ll find out if “America [is] just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.” Hunter S. Thompson thought so, but he was one for hyperbole employed with dramatic flare. The question remains: how uncomfortable are you, really? Are you the salesman or the mark? Today’s vote will tell the world once and for all.
A new version of a song originally released during the George W. Bush administration, Neil updates the lyrics for today.
We got our election
But corruption has a chance
We got to have a big win
To regain confidence
America is beautiful
But she has an ugly side
We’re lookin’ for a leader
In this country far and wide
Good old Neil. We know he recently sued the Trump campaign for using his music at his rallies and now he’s calling him out in song.
Just like his big new fence
This president’s going down
America’s moving forward
You can feel it in every town
Scared of his own shadow
Buildin’ walls around our house
He’s hiding in his bunker
Something else to lie about
We’ve given Neil crap over the years for dashing out lyrics without putting much craftsmanship into the effort but sometimes the directness works. This is one of those times.
We don’t need a leader
Building walls around our house
Who don’t know black lives matter
And it’s time to vote him out
Yes it is. Make sure you’re registered. And make sure you cast your ballot. And if you don’t trust the USPS, you can drop off your ballot in person. Find out where. Your place probably has a secure dropbox where you don’t even need to get within six feet of anybody. Do it!
“Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.”
“The Mourning Bride”, William Congreve, 1697
It may be hard to conceive, but there was actually legislation presented in the US Senate this week to help keep the spotlights on and the amps operating at small music venues.
Why is what is literally named the “Save Our Stages” act so surprising is because it is sponsored by two people who seemingly have nothing more in common than the fact that they work in the same building.
One of the sponsors is Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the woman who had been running for the Democratic presidential nomination with the message that a bit of common sense and decency (contrasted with the ways and means of the current resident of 1600) are in order.
The other is John Cornyn (R-TX), the man who is generally seen only standing behind Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, positioned in such a way that you have the sense that he would take a bullet for Mitch, the senator who has proven to be as craven as is conceivable.
The word from Klobuchar is “Minnesota’s concert halls, theatres, and places of entertainment, like First Avenue in Minneapolis, where Prince famously performed, have inspired generations with the best of local music, art, and education. This legislation would help ensure that small entertainment venues can continue to operate, and serve our communities for generations to come.”
Which has a sense of Midwestern practicality and forthrightness about it: she evidently understands that the arts are not superfluous to the education of people of all ages.
Cornyn said, “Texas is home to a number of historic and world-class small entertainment venues, many of which remain shuttered after being the first businesses to close. The culture around Texas dance halls and live music has shaped generations, and this legislation would give them the resources to reopen their doors and continue educating and inspiring Texans beyond the coronavirus pandemic.”
Given that the reopening of Texas—based on the explosion in the number of cases of COVID-19—occurred a bit too soon thanks to Governor Greg Abbott’s evident fealty to the King Who Is Wearing No Clothes, one hopes that this means that the reopening Cornyn is referring to is something that will happen only after there is control of the virus.
Cornyn strikes me as the kind of politician that only Hunter S. Thompson could have adequately described.
What is interesting (and laudable) about the act is that it would provide six months of financial support to venues (including paying employees; it would allow the Small Business Administration to make grants that are equal to the lesser of either 45% of operation costs from calendar year 2019—you need to base the amount on a normal year—or $12 million) that are not arms of giant organizations.
“. . . the clock is ticking, the hours are going by. The past increases, the future recedes. Possibilities decreasing, regrets mounting.”
–Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance
The theater where I saw the Faces—with Ronnie Wood and Stewart hiding behind the amps–, the Birmingham Palladium, no longer exists.
The Grande Ballroom, where I saw the original Fleetwood Mac—the one with Peter Green—is gone.
The Eastown Theater, where I saw Derek and the Dominos, is a memory. As are Derek and the Dominos.
What is important: the building or the memories? One could point out that were it not for the building there wouldn’t be the memories, which is absolutely true. But were I to drive down Grand River and see the sad remains of the Grande (if you’re interested in seeing it, the address if 8952 Grand River, Detroit; Google Maps has an image of the remaining structure), would it make much of a difference with the exception of a brief wave of nostalgia? If the Grande was purchased by some corporation and transformed into some faux-hip venue, would that make my memories any better?
Two miles southeast of the Grande on Grand River, the Olympia Stadium once existed. There is now an Army National Guard facility on the site and most of the property appears to be a shitty parking lot. Olympia was opened in 1927 (the Grande opened as a dance hall in 1928), closed in 1980 and was torn down in 1987.
I saw the Rolling Stones there. That band apparently continues to exist. I have no interest in seeing the present incarnation of the Stones. That the site where I saw one of the best concerts of my life is now something entirely different doesn’t much matter.
Right now we are in the midst of a plague. A plague that is burning through our lives, leaving charred and devastated rubble in many cases. Things that we did, places that we went to, activities that we were a part of are in all-too-many instances irrevocably changed. They won’t come back.
In a letter sent to Congress in efforts to get financial assistance for the ~800 operations that are members of NIVA, assistance in the form of loans, tax relief, insurance, and other measures, Dayna Frank, board president and owner of First Avenue & 7th St Entry in Minneapolis, writes, “Our stages give artists like Adele, U2, Keith Urban, Prince, Lizzo, the Eagles, Wu-Tang Clan and Foo Fighters their start. The world could be without the next Lady Gaga, Kenny Chesney, Chance the Rapper or Bruce Springsteen if we cease to exist.”
The letter is addressed to Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Kevin McCarthy, and Mitch McConnell.
Does anyone think McConnell would be convinced by that argument?
To her credit, Frank also points out, “While we are small businesses”—and aren’t the Republicans the bulwarks of small business?—“the estimated direct annual economic impact we bring to our local communities is nearly $10 billion.”
We’ve now officially begun another election year cycle, a testament to the privileges of our nation, but one that reflects an increasingly polarized climate where many voters have already cashed out on our great American Experiment. The manner in which we nominate Presidential candidates continues to evolve and mirror the reality of our country–for better or worse–while allowing a much needed discussion about the process itself.
Many voices from this self-reflection wonder if having two small and predominately white states (Iowa and New Hampshire) remains the best first-step for this effort, particularly when much of the divide in America is rooted in the lack of tolerance toward one another. Should we continue to allow two states that don’t accurately represent the demographics of our country the privilege of determining a suitable voice for this critically important effort?
Front and center was the 2020 Iowa caucus. The “first in the nation” state proved to be a complete shit show, mired in chaos from the ineptitude of Iowa Democratic Party leadership, the lack of effective training for local party volunteers assigned with the task of running their precincts and the failure of a smart phone reporting app that was rushed-to-launch days before the caucus itself.
When the dust settled and Iowa was still not any closer to providing the rest of the country with results days after the caucus ended, the calls to initiate changes to the process began ringing with more intensity and with greater resolve.
How was Iowa blessed with their first in the nation status? The answer originated in a different time. It was a world in which the backroom deals of our two major political parties created a process of selection that would be obediently followed for decades, without much dispute.
This began to unravel in 2016 when Iowa caucus-goers seemed to split evenly between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. The moment our state was unable to declare a candidate’s decisive victory was when those frustrated began to try to learn more about the process, perhaps with the intention to help us dumb yokels provide the results in a manner that was easier to explain and more efficient to report.
In their discovery, they began to learn about the informality of our caucuses. Our process lacked real transparency in terms of how delegates were appointed and it was filled with antiquated methods like raw vote counts and coin tosses. The entire event was hard to understand and even harder to explain among the journalists and reporters who flocked to our state with barely hidden resentment at having to spend the winter with a bunch of hayseeds, flipping quarters between Bernie and Hillary.
It was the Sanders camp that first approached the Democratic National Committee with their apprehension about the Iowa caucuses. The DNC then met with Iowa State Democratic leadership to introduce their concerns and request the first real meaningful changes to our process since 1972. Iowa responded positively to these suggestions, even telling our national party leadership of an aggressive initiative to transition our antiquated caucus process into a digital platform that allowed party members to vote from their smart phones.
When questions about the access and security of such a reporting method arose, state leaders backpedaled and considered a more measured solution. Iowa would implement a paper process for their candidate selection, but enable precincts to report the results of their caucus through a phone app. This app would help calculate the raw votes into appropriate delegate numbers while providing the state party with immediate, real-time results. The paper trail would provide a way to audit and verify the results if there was any uncertainty.
I believe it when Janelle Monae says, “I lost my mind to rock and roll.” She’s one of the most exciting things happening in music today. She’ll be headlining Coachella and Glastonbury this summer, which has ruffled some old school rockers’ delicate plumage, but what do they know? Like her mentor Prince, she’s a free-ass motherfucker.
I like how “Screwed” is overtly political without sacrificing any of its party jam fun. Apparently written in the wake of the 2016 election, Manae expressed what everybody was thinking: We’re all screwed. But then she optimistically flips the sentiment on its head:
Let’s get screwed
I don’t care
You fucked the world up now
We’ll fuck it all back down
Let’s hope so. Janelle Monae for President in 2020. She’s got my vote.