Saturday, July 01, 2017


Sometimes It's Best Not to Post
A lesson our President cannot, or will not, learn.  I was completing a brief essay on the prospects for the Senate vote of the Bupkis Completely Repugnant Act, their version of repeal and replace, but the plans for an early vote collapsed before I could complete it.  I will not put it past the wily turtle, Majority Leader McConnell, to figure out how to bribe, cajole, or threaten enough of the recalcitrant Republican Senators for it to squeak through soon, but I think it more likely that the proposal will need more than minor tweaks to appeal to both moderate and extreme right-wing holdouts.

I shouldn't offer advice, but I think the likeliest proposal would be along the lines that Rand Paul, one of the most determined opponents of the current bill, has proposed:  focus simply on repeal; get rid of the individual mandate and the employer mandate and the medical taxes.  Probably every Republican in Congress could vote for that.  What to build up in its place, as the insurance exchanges under Federal sponsorship are allowed to crumble from neglect, would be the matter for an extended debate, one that could even possibly include some Democratic participation. If they must do the evil deed--and politically it is close to an imperative for the Republican Congress--they would do better not to compound it with benefit cuts and tax cuts for the wealthy which would practically write the script for Democrats to nail them in 2018.

I only post this because I'm pretty sure they won't be listening; just making a sort of prediction of what I see as being possible.  This legislative exercise could be an example of actual compromise, unipartisan though it would be.

Back to the Drumpfster, his latest outrage tweet about Zika Brzezinski has shocked the nation to the point that even right-wing news outlets and most Republican Congressmen are begging for him to STFU with the Twitter, already.  My view:  since they feel his posts hurt him and hurt their cause, I have to lean towards encouraging him to keep it up.  It should be easy:  "Great job, Donald!  You really hit the mark with that one--your fans will love it/your enemies will suffer."  I'll accept the further decay of our civic dialogue that comes from his grotesque and ugly communication--one way or the other, it's coming anyway.  At least until he becomes Reaganesque and just reads the scripts his lackeys write for him.

Moving toward a Summer Focus on the Arts
Some of you may have noticed an absence of any comment in recent months in this blog about the special elections held in several House districts. That is because there is precious little of value to say about them:  Their importance was always overstated, the expenditures were ridiculous, the outcomes basically foregone and trivial in real-world importance.

They represent a few isolated data points, but those soundings do show that the disastrous start to the Trump Administration has so far not dissuaded rank-and-file Republicans from continuing to support the party.  One should not expect anything different, really; though there may not be anything that seems likely to reward them for their blind loyalty, there has been no flash of light which would open their eyes or jolt their optic nerves into function.  I am still holding to my explanation of "Why Democrats Lose":  too many Republican voters.

As for the Russia thing, as I have said, there is something there, some evil, ugly, corrupt, and contemptuous set of actions and omissions, something that should fill us with firm repulsion and newly reinforced determination to resist, but nothing that is going to lead to a "change in control"--of the executive, or even of Congress.  The Democrats will have to find their breakthrough elsewhere, though the distraction from actual policy implementation and legislation has its value.  I don't imagine I will need to comment on this in the months to come.

As for future elections, there are two meaningful elections for governor, in Virginia and New Jersey, both of which are ones the Democrats "should" win (as opposed to those Congressional races they lost).  They are important, but they will get more attention and campaign contributions than their true importance will merit.  I suggest token contributions to those campaigns this year, and to the DCCC, which has a mighty and urgent task for next year, but not to get sucked in:  keep the powder dry.

Instead, it is a very good year to give to charities and causes that will suffer due to the Drumpfenreich, both domestic and international.

It's an even better year to support the arts, and the development of an artistic counterforce to the tragic direction our country is taking.

Songs of Resistance
I'm going to start with a plug for a rap group, Swet Shop Boys.  I'm no expert on the genre, but their rap combines exotic Orientalist (or Middle Eastern, if you prefer) backtracks with some loaded lyrics on the subject of Islamophobia.  Second-featured artist is Riz Ahmed, the star of the superb "The Night Of..." TV mini-series of last winter.  Here is a video of their debut on Stephen Colbert the other night.

Generally speaking, I think we can count on rap to lead the way with the heaviest topical attacks on the neo-Fascist xenophobic regime.  Kendrick Lamar and others who do not fear commercial retribution will give at least as much abuse as they will get. However, I do not think we should write off rock 'n'roll; even rising country star Sturgill Simpson will bring something to the table, though it may sound more like antiwar populism than partisan progressivism.  I would say that is the general theme in rock's protest music, along with Platonic forms of love (the romantic and procreative ones are far more prevalent, but irrelevant here); the key in the immediate timeframe is to turn the energy from anti-government to pro-engagement.

I was working on a list of notable protest/resistance songs, when I saw one with a few picks from several different music artists in Vanity Fair (I saw it recently, though it's actually from their April issue).  It has three overlaps with my own list:  "Clampdown" by The Clash, "Ball of Confusion" by the Temptations, and "Masters of War" by '60s era Bob Dylan (contributed by Q-Tip, Brittany Howard, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, respectively).   Here are 22 more, to fill out a top 25 (no order--no repeats of artists), with some comments (I am staying away from rap, for the most part, because I'm not qualified):
  • "Ohio" - Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young - I'm pretty much compelled to include this one, which is also musically outstanding, and it edges out the song with the same name from The Pretenders; 
  • "Volunteers" - Jefferson Airplane - a call to get involved, which I like
  • "What's Going On" - Marvin Gaye--Platonic love, this time. 
  • "You Haven't Done Nothing'"  - Stevie Wonder; there were several other valid choices. 
  • "Free Nelson Mandela" - The Specials.  Asked and answered; and while I'm on the topic of South Africa,  "Biko" - Peter Gabriel. 
  • "Holiday" - Green Day.  Not too hard to figure out where they're coming from, politically. 
  • "Cult of Personality" - Living Color.  Extremely relevant today. 
  • "Epitaph" - King Crimson.  The music sounds a bit like the theme from "Lassie", but the lyrics are poignant, trenchant. 
  • "Doo Doo Doo Heartbreaker" - Rolling Stones. They are not usually very political; this one from the '70's goes to the Black Lives Matter theme. 
  • "The Unforgettable Fire" - U2.  Many other possibilities--this one is about nuclear war, and not their only one on the subject. 
  • "Big Yellow Taxi" - Joni Mitchell - early eco-pop, much imitated and frequently covered; there are many other possible choices from Ms. Mitchell (including "Woodstock"). 
  • "Effigy" - Uncle Tupelo.  Very non-specific song on the theme of rebellion, but mainly 'cause it rocks like hell. 
  • "B Movie" - Gil-Scott Heron.  Reagan is the target of this early rap; I chose it over the presumably factually incorrect "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised"; there were other good candidates. 
  • "Born in the USA" - Bruce Springsteen - of course, there are many other possibilities from the Boss, who is both politically aware and an activist,  but I like the irony of how this song is widely misunderstood. 
  • "What's So Funny About Peace, Love, and Understanding" - Nick Lowe (most famously by Elvis Costello) - I say it fits here, and I'm writing this. 
  • "Imagine" - John Lennon.  Of course. Musically, I would opt for "Instant Karma", but this one is more  truly a political statement.
  • "When the President Talks to God" - Bright Eyes.  A bit shrill, maybe, but devastating on Bush II. A good case could be made for "Old Soul Song (For the New World Order)", about an experience at an antiwar rally, pre-Iraq invasion. 
  • "Keep on Rockin' in the Free World" - Neil Young.  Bush I-era manifesto
  • "in the Ghetto" - Elvis Presley.  Maybe a little politically incorrect, but I'll give him credit for the effort. 
  • "Fortunate Son" - Creedence Clearwater Revival . A clear statement about whose side they were on in the battle between the people and the elite. 
  • "Call to Arms" - the aforementioned Sturgill Simpson.  Very current, very strong statement (though hard to distinguish the lyrics), great music. 

I opted against including songs from The Who (more about personal spiritual development--closest would be the generic anti-government "Won't Get Fooled Again", and please don't bring up "My Generation"), Talking Heads (politically incoherent, closest would be David Byrne's idealistic solo song "Ain't Got  So Far To Go"), Gang of Four (they have a very coherent view of politics and history, but it's so negative), or The Beatles themselves (the opposite of Gang of 4, in each regard).  Pink Floyd ("Us and Them") deserves mention but is a bit too vague about what it is protesting. I will admit I should have something from the very politically-aware band R.E.M., but I couldn't pick something specific; similar admission with regard to such other "woke" artists as The Kinks, Arcade Fire, and Prince.

I hope this will spur readers to look up some of these, if unknown, but even more to inspire future artistic product with quality thinking.


Chin Shih Tang said...

If you're interested, here is a good video of Surgill's song: It is simplistic musically, a great base to riff upon, but seriously kicks--in any musical language.

Chin Shih Tang said...

Here's another omission: I basically stayed away from pop--some artists like Katy Perry and Beyonce are stepping forward a bit, and of course there's Madonna. I admit the omit.