Veto the Sanctions

Forget about “optics” or whatever. During your campaign you suggested we would have better relations with Russia if you were elected. Now is a great time to start delivering on that, Donald.

Let me ask—who is running this show: You, or the press? I, for one, did not elect “The Press.” They were not on the ballot. I did not check a box for “Washington Post.” As my mentor might say, “Wag the dog, the tail must not.” (Yes, my mentor is Yoda. So what?)

In all seriousness I advise you to (a) refuse to sign the sanctions bill against Russia passed by the congress, and (b) definitely invite Putin to the White House for a beer. Let the usual suspects rant and rave all they want. Let Maxine scream “impeachment” from the highest rooftop in Inglewood. Dude, you are the President! No one said it would be easy, right? You will be criticized, sure, but what else is new? You can take it, and further, it’s your job to take it.

As my mentor might say, “If heat you cannot take, out of kitchen you must get, hmmm?”

Good luck.

Response to David Brooks

Response to the June 2 NYT opinion piece titled “Donald Trump Poisons the World,” by David Brooks. Certain not to be read by David Brooks.

I used to admire your writing, David. You wrote well and your political commentary was insightful. Then something happened to you: President Trump.

The problem is that you are not recognizing the revolution happening now, in real-time, nor understanding the need for it. When Gil Scott rapped that The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, he was more or less correct. Talking heads on CNN, voices on NPR, the New York Times, none will tell you about the revolution though you may see it in reflections of their panic. I see it in your panic, in your opinion piece “Donald Trump Poisons the World.” Are you hiding under your bed right now?

Our elected so-called representatives had become a bloated, slothful, self-interested monstrosity of elites, out of touch with the people they were ostensibly representing. And when those of us who had been living in quiet disagreement with the way things were being done around here found someone who seemed ready to shake things up, we said go for it, man!

This freaks you out no end, and I guess pulling out of the Paris climate accord finally pushed you over the edge. But President Trump sees the world as it is, not as you pretend it is. He’s a good person, and Americans are good people, your whining notwithstanding.

You have lost sight of who we are, blinded as you are by your disdain for the President. We are charitable and peace-loving, but that’s our business. Trump’s job is to keep the hounds at bay, to keep a watchful eye over this country, and to lead us forward. He’s doing fine, and would do even better with a little help. You should take a break.

Fake News: A Textbook Example

Anybody who doubts the existence of Fake News should read the May 15 Washington Post article, “Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador.” In the text that follows that damning headline, we read in the first sentence that the source is “current and former U.S. officials.”

But you’ll search in vain for the names and positions of these “officials,” who were evidently not at the meeting themselves, in which case what we have is cheap gossip. Read waaaay down and you’ll see that sources who are able to be identified by name and position (national security adviser HR McMaster and deputy national security adviser for strategy Dina Powell), and who were actually at the meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador, call the accusation false.

I’m not saying I know what was, or was not, said in the meeting; but good journalism would require the Post to get some kind of attributable corroboration before publishing an inflammatory accusation that is clearly denied by people who were present. So, those people (if they exist) who are making the claim that the President made dangerous statements to his Russian guests need to step forward, or there is no story.

The Post doesn’t care. The headline stands, and the smear marches on as other “news” outlets report on the Post’s report. Thus the story, based on nothing, becomes the story: “According to a Washington Post report…”

Classic Fake News.

President Trump’s First 106 Days

As we review President Trump’s first 106 days, let’s be honest: he is facing intense domestic political headwinds. The Left has gone off their rockers to the point where even when they stop rioting and try to use their words, they are incoherent. The mainstream press has all but given up any pretense of fairness, and even members of the President’s own party keep messing with him. So even though I have a couple areas of disappointment about his nascent Presidency, my instinct now, my responsibility even, is to first say lets be supportive of our President. We are a democracy, we elected him. If you have a policy issue, then fine, state your case in a civilized, constructive way.

The high level of interference we are seeing is to be expected, though, given what he is trying to accomplish. And I don’t mean repealing this, or building that. I mean establishing a new paradigm for how we do things in Washington. As the President has said, he is not just leading a change from one party to the other one; he is prying the country away from the political machinery and giving it back to the people. I call that populism, and I like it. Of course there are those who will, uh, “resist” him; those who (a) like it best the way it was because they were doing quite well, and (b) those who are manipulated by (a).

But as it becomes increasingly clear how unscrupulous was the previous administration, we should appreciate that the bad behavior is only being revealed because, thanks to President Trump, those who were in power are losing their power, and with it, the ability to conceal their mischief. Oh, they will say they only meant to protect their lovable little sheep, who would never understand the High Concepts that motivate the elites who must bear the burden of leadership. But good grief—what a bunch of hosers we had running this place for the previous eight years! Holder, Lynch, Rice, oh, and Hillary, are like those outlaw gang members in the old westerns—they weren’t the stars, but they backed up their the boss when he got in a tough spot. Obama: “You want to take me in, sheriff? My boys here might have something to say about that.” Ah, but the sheriff is a new guy, with strange ways. He distracts them, confuses them, and they flee.

No, no one else was going to run that gang out of town, not Jeb, not Marco, nothing except the weirdness that is The Donald. Some crazy-sounding tweet about getting wiretapped, and the next thing you know—uh oh, some truth to that. Huh. Sure, Obama is articulate and intelligent, and a lot of people miss him, but he did a lot of damage, and I’m thinking that in time more will be uncovered about the wreckage wrought by his arrogance, his ineptitude, his lack of appreciation for American accomplishments, and his failure to understand who we are as a country. And if you think I’m being unduly harsh, see what you think after a few more months of revelations.

Regarding my disappointments with President Trump during his first 106 days, I have just two. One is his fixation on repealing Obamacare. I wish he’d just find a way to let that one go, and in any event, it’s too late to repeal Obamacare unless you want to go to single payer or socialized medicine (which we might as well do). And, from what I’ve heard, this bill the House just passed with all the hoopla only pretends to repeal Obamacare. (Wait just a minute…maybe he did find a way to let that one go.)

The other disappointment is our current strained relations with Russia. The moment when candidate Trump won me over was when he asked during his campaign, “Wouldn’t it be nice to be friends with Russia?” Yes! So what happened? Is he spooked by all the yammering about Russia meddling in our election (“meddling” = providing the American people with information) or inferences of some kind of collusion between his campaign team and Russia (which, if there is any kind of actual evidence of a crime, let’s see it)? Mr. President, if you’re reading this—and you should be!—do what you know is right, and let the Left, the warmongering neocons, and the idiots in the press sort it out later. Russia is not our natural enemy. Invite Putin over for a beer. You are the President!

All in all, I’d say President Trump has had a pretty good 106 days, but it’s just a start. If everyone will just give him a break, and maybe turn down the volume a tad, we’ll all be better off. This is a very interesting moment in our country, and for me, it’s exciting to witness it.

Calm Down about the Syrian Airbase Attack

I admit to having mixed feelings about President Trump’s decision to bomb the Syrian airbase in response to Assad’s chemical attack. It is certainly worth a moment’s pause to wonder if we are now Team America World Police. Time will tell, and I make no prediction, but in itself, sending cruise missiles into Syria did not necessarily represent any change in the President’s stated non-interventionist policy. Let’s see what happens before we get all hysterical and start jumping off the Trump Train. I love Laura Ingraham, but she was freaked out about it. I guess my man Michael Savage was too. Okay, let’s think this through together.

First of all, President Trump did not just out-of-the-blue decide that chemical weapons are a different kind of bad. Chemical weapons have a special place historically in the arsenal of hideous things humanity has dreamed up to torture itself with, and to our credit, we at least have tried to stifle the impulse to use them. Look up the 1899 Hague Convention, and the Declaration which sought to ban the use of projectiles to release “asphyxiating or deleterious gases,” which unfortunately did not hold up during WWI, so we tried again with the “Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare,” signed  in Geneva in 1925, again not completely successful so,  still trying, we have the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993, to which most of the world today belongs (including, by the way, Syria since 2013). Notwithstanding the spotty effectiveness of these agreements, the point is that chemical weaponry has a longstanding reputation as something that is especially awful, and deserving of at least some attempt to stop nations from using it.

By the way, what’s wrong with us, as people, that we would think up something like using poison gas to kill each other in the first place? Conventional weapons are not nasty enough? I remember a time in science class back in…probably the 6th grade, when the teacher was discussing the atomic bomb, and how, ideally, it would not hit the earth, but explode higher up in order to, his words: “kill more people.” So me and Tom Murphy, sitting in the back of the room, started to whisper to each other “kill more people, kill more people” in a lobotomized, deranged manner. We thought it was hilarious (6th grade), the idea that someone would seriously want to figure out the optimal height for an atom bomb to go off for maximum death toll, an idea that is itself couched in the absurdity of someone thinking up such a weapon to begin with. Or a weapon like sarin gas. Hey boss, I’ve been messing around with this stuff in the lab, and I think if we were to put it in bombs we could not only blow shit up, but also spread a deadly neurological poison that would kill more people, kill more people.

That’s crazy; we’re crazy. So, if we come to our senses from time to time and agree that, as a civilized world, if we must fight, we will at least use some restraint and not use chemical weapons, that’s good. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad crossed the line on April 4 when one or more of his warplanes dropped sarin gas on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in northwestern Syria, and innocent people died horrible deaths as a result. Of those facts, there is little doubt, and if anybody anywhere was going to do anything meaningful about it, it was going to be the United States or absolutely nobody.

The Left will, of course, either not understand or pretend not to understand the rationale for bombing the Syrian airbase from which the attack was launched, and will find a way to slime President Trump over it. A case in point, Paul Krugman of the New York Times writes, “…what we know of the decision-making process is anything but reassuring. Just days before the strike, the Trump administration seemed to be signaling lack of interest in Syrian regime change.” Which is like saying I don’t understand why he ate that banana when he just said yesterday he was not interested in spaghetti. (Choose your own examples.)

So, it is possible that, unprompted by any additional instance of chemical weapons use, President Trump will send troops into Damascus tomorrow and I’ll feel like the idiot here. But so far so good. And I do understand that there is no shortage of horrible things going on in the world today—Laura mentioned Africa—but the choice is not a binary, Respond to Everything, or Respond to Nothing. We need to start somewhere. We need to pick our spots, and this was a good one.

ObamaCare: Our Choices

So President Trump attempted to make good on his campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, and pundits were tripping all over each other to tell us how miserably he had failed when the plan he championed did not even come up for a vote. What does this mean for his agenda? they wondered.

It means Trump may have placed too much faith in the House politicians who voted repeatedly to repeal all or part of Obamacare, safe in the knowledge, apparently, that they could not over-ride a Presidential veto and therefore did not need to worry about passing an actual alternative. Voting as political theater, in other words. It means Ryan and the House Republicans are inept, but that is not exactly a news flash at this point. It means they need to get their act together.

Trump’s speech after the three ring repeal/replace fiasco should have been, “Ok, I gave it a shot. All of you who think Obamacare is so wonderful, make it work. If you haven’t signed up for it, do that immediately and get all your friends to sign up too.” That would have been very Un-Donald, but it would have been a genius move. Cheerleading, as he did, for the system to collapse was not a good look.

Maybe I’m an outlier in the Trump Supporter population, but Obamacare repeal was never an issue for me personally. I’ve written about this before. Obamacare is a hairball that should never have been passed, but it was passed, and it has been in effect for seven years now, meaning we are well past the point where free-market reforms will fix it. That ship has sailed, my conservative brothers and sisters, because despite it’s flaws, too many people are enrolled—even my daughter has benefited from it. I can’t imagine saying to her yes, Obamacare was there for you, but here’s an even better idea: we’ll take it away! Yay!

So I was relieved when Ryan’s plan went down the tubes without a vote, because it would have replaced a cluster owned by the Democrats, with one owned by the Republicans. Now what? I will tell you, but you won’t like it. When Obamacare collapses to the point where people will be grateful for a real solution, it should be replaced with either (a) single-payer, such as Medicare for everyone or (b) socialized medicine. That’s it. No, allowing insurance companies to sell across state lines is not going to fix anything. Not health savings accounts either. Just stop. Our choices will be (a) or (b).

Why I Like M83

“Why do you like M83?” Mrs. Beifong asked me the other day, implication being that she is not that crazy about the group. Not an unreasonable query, given that she knows I’m basically a cranky old folkie guitar player who looks askance at anyone who uses a capo and who has said that “looping” does not belong in live performances. Regarding the latter, it’s getting to where I hear it everywhere. Or think I do. I was watching a jazz funk band play the other night at a small club, and the drummer was very good. So I was watching him closely, but what I was hearing did not match what I was seeing him do. So during a break I complimented him on his playing, then asked him if he was doing some looping. He looked at me and went “Looping? Wha…?” Never mind. I didn’t press it (but he was looping).

I first caught on to M83 by listening to studio recordings (where, as I figure it, electronic shenanigans are quite all right) and the music was fantastic. Lush instrumentation sprinkled with interesting electronic glips, highly processed vocals, engaging melodies, and lyrics that range from tranquil to emotional to dramatic to hopeful. But never angry. The driving force is a guy named Anthony Gonzalez, a very talented musician from France, and some of their songs are in French. Tres bien!

I had two of their albums (Saturdays = Youth and Hurry Up We’re Dreaming) but had never seen them perform live. In fact, I had the chance to see them once in Seattle, but figured they would not be very good in person. I realized the depth of my stupidity on that one when I fell ill last winter and, since I was spending some time in bed, I flipped on YouTube and watched the M83 concert at the 2016 Sasquatch festival in Washington State. Huh. They were great!

There were 5 of them: a sax player, an energetic guitar player (who looks to be about 13), the drummer was a rhythmic maniac, a woman on keyboards with a lovely voice, and there was Anthony front and center, standing next to a steampunk box with patch cords going every which way, and a keyboard. (Yeah, I wondered about the patch cords too…) All around them was this awesome light show, and the Sasquatch crowd was on their feet and loving it. I had the flu and I loved it.  And as the sharp falsetto doots of “Midnight City” rang out, the Sasquatchians took it up a notch, jumping off the ground, waving, and cheering. They were responding purely to the power of the music. Well, see for yourself—here’s the opening lyric:

Waiting in the car.
Waiting for a ride.
At night the city grows.
Look at the horizon glow.

Nice. The words are softly poetic, calming you might say, yet the crowd was nearly hysterical with joy. A friend who was at the concert has told Mrs. Beifong that it was “magical.” That is the power of music. I would have loved to have been there, and I must have watched that video, beginning to end, six times by now. What an amazing show and yes, it included beaucoup looping and other effects. But M83 clearly demonstrated that live performance + electronic processing can actually work.

So I now plan to resign as president of the I Hate Live Looping club unless we can amend the bylaws with an M83 exemption. And such an exemption would make sense: the text would stipulate that in the case of a band which is by its nature electronic…and so on… notwithstanding whatever…(still working on it).

I will not pass up the next chance I get to see them live but, alas, I worry that I may have missed my only shot. Anthony is, as I said, very talented, and I’ve read that he is going to be the composer and musical director for a Cirque de Soleil production. Will he stop touring as M83? Well, I suppose I could go to see the acrobats…as long as there are no capos involved! (smiley face)