Trumps Voting “strategy” is Immoral… and stupid.

On the day before the election, my thoughts go back six months. The Democrats had proposed a stimulus package for COVID-19 that included many provisions to maintain and improve voting systems during the pandemic. Trumps response:

“The things they had in there were crazy. They had things, levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

The predominant reaction from the center and left was, omigod, he just gave away the game. He said it out loud finally – the GOP suppresses the vote because they can’t win unless they do.

My reaction is a bit different. Let’s go back four years, when the GOP made a choice to stand for positions in the minority. After the 2012 Romney loss to Obama, they did an well-known autopsy report. They understood that in order for them to win, they needed to (among other things) moderate their position on immigration and reduce the tolerance for racism within the party. Instead chose a different path, of doubling down on anti-immigration and anti-minority speech and policy. It was a foolish strategy. It was not a strategy at all, it was the radicalized base defying the more sensible parts of the party. And it certainly would never have worked if Trump hadn’t been fortunate enough to be running against the hated Hilary Clinton.

Now here we sit four years later. Trump got worse and worse on everything the GOP took from their 2012 shellacking. And when Trump can’t get enough voters to win on policy, he doesn’t think about changing policies. The policies are the given to him. What is not a given is voting rights. Rather than fight for policies the majority of the country supports, he chooses to fight instead against the law and Democracy.

I wonder if he ever made the choice consciously. I wonder if he even considered for five minutes how easy it would be to get re-elected if he would simply do what Americans asked him to do. I don’t think he ever thought about it. His policies are the given. Voting rights are not.

(I have used Trump and the GOP interchangeably here. In this regard, they are the same thing.)

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Kavanaugh is profoundly wrong about voting

The Supreme Court decision on Monday barred the counting of mail-in ballots in Wisconsin that arrive after Election Day. That was probably the right decision. State do have the rights to run their elections as they please to a large degree — tie goes to the state. But Kavanaughs opinion is ridiculous and disturbing.

He wrote that Election Day mail-in deadlines were devised “to avoid the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after Election Day and potentially flip the results of an election.”

Justice Kagan had it right: “There are no results to ‘flip’ until all valid votes are counted.” Until all votes are counted, there are no results. Only projections and predictions. That is why states don’t certify their election results for a couple weeks after Election Day.

If projections and predictions legally matter, than Hillary Clinton should be president. She was projected and predicted to win. There is no qualitative difference between refusing to count some ballots and all ballots.

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Welcome Canadian Army!

Nice to have a few more readers.

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My Latest Favorite Song #19: Frank Turner – Recovery

Acoustic punk is a thing I guess? Wonderful lyrics with attitude.

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Fifty years of The Who: An Appreciation

Seeing The Who again this week got me thinking about my relationship with my favorite band. I was born the same year as Tommy. The Who has been my favorite band for thirty six years, I’ve been seeing them live for most of that time. Writing about this last show made me remember many of the good times I’ve had as a Who concert goer (I’ve seen them around 20 times). Here are some of them.

  • Tommy is released in May of 1969. I was two months old. Two months later humans would land on the moon. These are all equally important events!
  • Age 13, at camp I had a cassette tape with Pinball Wizard, Baba O’Riley, and Won’t get Fooled Again on it. I played it a lot, but didn’t know much about them. I thought Roger was the only singer, and didn’t yet know that Pete Townshend was what I really liked.
  • Age 14, on a day like any other, I returned to the house worn out after ultimate frisbee. I snuck into my oldest brothers room and put on side one of Tommy album. Those next twenty minutes would change my musical life. Half-awake, I was transported by those songs. It was like nothing I had ever heard. I sunk into a state of rapture. I haven’t come out of it yet.
  • 1989, thirty years ago, I saw them live for the first time. The tour was derided for its prominent Budweiser branding, “Who on Ice” feel of many musicians, semi-deaf Pete Townshend playing acoustic in a glass box, and mostly that they were on tour at all after having called it quits publicly only seven years earlier. I didn’t care. They blew me away. (In retrospect, the thin air of Colorado may have added to my euphoria.)
  • 1993 (?) Pete Townshend on the Psychoderelict tour. It was my first time meeting fellow hard-core fans, as the local contingent of the Odds & Sods listserv gang went whale watching in the morning. We hit it off with another couple and were fast friends for the next several years. The show was fantastic. It closed with a full choir for Listening to You. The best part was when everything went wrong. The enormous then-cutting-edge video screen failed several times. Townshend stopped the show, went backstage to yell at somebody. He came back pissed off, picked up the electric counted 1-2-3-go and launched into a furious rendition of Magic Bus. (I would see him do that another show, Magic Bus seems to be his default when he’s angry.)
  • 1996, driving to New York City and seeing three of their tour-opening Quadrophenia shows at Madison Square Garden, featuring a one-eyed Daltrey. The first time I heard John Entwistle play a bass solo (during 5:15), literally dropped my jaw.
  • 1996? Dragging the young girls from the office to see them. Roger was over fifty, but still made one of them say, “ohmygod, for five minutes with that man…”
  • 1996? Catching Simon Townshend (Pete’s little brother) for his first album  (he should have released Medicine as the single) twice. Great shows. Not surprising at all he went on to be the second guitarist in The Who, and frankly plays the hard guitar parts these days while Pete gets all the credit.
  • 1998, on a vacation out west with my new girlfriend. Driving through New Mexico, the radio announce that John Entwistle would be playing that night. We changed our plans right there to see the show. It was terrible! A ratty little bar and Entwistle played so loud our ears rang the next two days. Couldn’t hear a damn note, just a wall of noise. (The trip was so great, it later turned out we were independently thinking, I could see being with this person forever. We’re at nineteen years and going strong.)
  • 2000, two weeks before my wedding catching another show. I still remember the crushing huge notes to end the guitar solo of Love Reign O’er Me – three simple notes played with such incredible authority and tone over those wonderful strings and chord changes. Simon had played great lead most of the night (including breaking a string during the complicated instrumental Quadrophenia song and simply switching to other voicings of the notes in real time), but Pete taught him a lesson right there.
  • 2007? In an otherwise average Who show, Townshend rips the living hell out of Eminence Front.  Much like this performance (from Vancouver 2006).
  • 2012, Quadrophenia. Bringing my 9-year old, for his first rock show. We ponied up for 3rd row seats. It’s a whole different concert. Probably the last time I was truly blown away by the whole show.
  • 2015, The Who Turn Fifty.  After seeing them in Atlanta, flew back to Boston and took my cousin. I had paid a princely sum for 2nd rows seats, figuring it was the last time I’d ever see them. It was a good show, but retroactively disappointing – the first time I felt Roger just couldn’t cut it, and the sound mix was terrible.
  • 2019, I’m no longer willing to pay lots of money. I get front row of the “100s” section, and have an enjoyable night. I think, “60% of the greatest live band ever is still more than most any other band will ever get”. There are just enough great moments to keep me going, and then the closers of Love Reign O’er Me and Baba O’Riley are transcendent and I leave with an unusually open smile on my face for the next hour.

Fifty years of my life and thirty years of live shows sprinkled throughout my adult life. If there’s never another one, it’s been a great ride. Thank you boys!

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The Who: Moving On Review (Sept 18, 2019)

The Who (now in their 70s) performed with an orchestra. They kicked things off with a suite of Tommy songs.

  • Overture/Didn’t Hear It: The first notes of the overture played with a full orchestra had the audience going early. Unfortunately the mix was poor, a common complaint of mine the last few tours. Except for the bass and snare drums, Zak was inaudible. Together with the bass, there was a thudding noise instead of the engine that drives the music and the many dynamics in the songs. The orchestral timing was often subtly off from the rest of the band, removing the sharpness of hitting the notes just so on the beat. And The Who is all about hitting the beats hard.
  • 1921: A wonderful short song that usually doesn’t get their live treatment.
  • Amazing Journey / Sparks
  • Pinball Wizard: Here is the dynamic these days. Simon does the real work on the acoustic guitar. Pete idly strums on the electric. The screens focus on Pete doing not much interesting musically and the crowd goes crazy. It’s amazing how much of the real work is being done by Simon.
  • We’re Not Gonna Take It / Listening to You
  • Who Are You: Ah, now we’re getting warmed up.
  • Eminence Front: Hey, Pete’s awake! The old man is suddenly starting to play that guitar like he means it.
  • Imagine A Man: Much like on Daltrey Sings Townshend, the orchestra makes this song work. A wonderful deep cut.
  • Hero at Ground Zero: One of their two new songs. It’s hard to judge songs by a live performance, but it sounded ordinary. I could swear the chorus used the same backing chords as The Punk Meets the Godfather.

The orchestra left for a while. This was good, the less people on stage, the more the band could let loose.

  • The Kids Are Alright
  • I Can See For Miles
  • You Better You Bet
  • Won’t Get Fooled Again: One of the high points of the night. Pete on acoustic, Roger singing, and nothing else. A modern reprise of Pete’s performance on Secret Policemans Ball. Did you know that together with Bon Jovi, that was the genesis of MTVs: Unplugged. Yep, look it up.

Now the orchestra starts sliding back in.

  • Behind Blue Eyes: Featuring a violin and cello.
  • Ball and Chain: Their other new song, stronger than the first. The verse/chorus is overly simple, but the musical break between verses is quite interesting. On the subway home, I was informed this song is derived from a Pete Townshend solo song, Guantanamo.

On to the Quadrophenia suite (with Orchestra) and closing:

  • The Real Me
  • I’m One: This should always be acoustic. Roger played blues harmonica over it. It shouldn’t have worked, but it did. Now the orchestra and the band are sounding great together.
  • 5:15: Seems sad to have no bass solo.
  • Quadrophenia (the song): Nice to see Simon and Pete trading off the parts with each other. The orchestra is wonderful. Simon rules.
  • Love Reign O’er Me: I have never heard of Loren Gold, but I’m a fan now. He took the piano intro and made it his own. He captured all the melancholy feel of the album but with an extended classical take on it, a few minutes worth. Roger now sings the lyrics correctly (on the album, he reversed the lines, The night is hot as black as ink/I sleep and I lay and I think” which makes far less sense). After the song was over, Pete introduced the band with the piano player as “The gent who played that incredible piano part for two and half hours or so.” This is a song that’s hard to get right. Pearl Jam comes the closest, but somehow misses. Even with Roger unable to hit so many notes with power, all the feel and emotion comes across. With a full orchestra, this was a wonderful closer to the main show. And thanks be to heaven, they didn’t play the ridiculous fake encore game. (Lights go off. Everyone claps. They cheer some more. The band comes back on. Repeat at next venue.) There was a few minutes pause as they talked to the audience for a bit, then launched into the closer.
  • Baba O’Riley: Goddamnit, what a song. I don’t care how old they are, how bad the sound is, that Pete almost falls over while closing the song out or anything negative. This is just the best. The violin player (Katie Jacoby) absolutely destroys it (start at 3:15). That same huge grin on her face was planted on mine the rest of the night. To quote Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, “Marvelous.”

Notable cuts from the setlist: I Can’t Explain (their traditional opener), My Generation, Tea & Theatre.

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Nine Thoughts on the Mueller Findings

  1. My overwhelming reaction is positive. It’s been easy to lose track of what the investigation was about. It’s not about getting Trump out of office. I’m glad that Trump is essentially cleared of collusion. Our president shouldn’t be working with Russia and shouldn’t be betraying America to be President. I’m glad he didn’t. (Yes, yes, collusion is not a real crime. I use it as shorthand for the concept we all understand.)
  2. 15 months ago I predicted the outcome of the investigation. It was quite spot on. 
  3. Don’t lose sight of the real story. Russia interfered in the election. If Trump didn’t actively collude, he was a willing recipient of their aid (and some of his campaign and friends were actively colluding). Efforts by Obama and others to do something about the interference were blocked by Mitch McConnell. Efforts to do anything to beef up election security continue to be stymied by the Republican party.
  4. Is Trump guilty of Obstruction of Justice? Hard to say without seeing the underlying evidence, but I’m inclined to defer to Mueller, Barr, and Rosenstein, all of whom say there is not enough there for a criminal indictment.
  5. Don’t lose sight of differing standards of evidence. There may not be enough to indict Trump on collusion. At the same time, there may be more than enough evidence to impeach him in regards to Russia and election interference.
  6. Don’t lose sight of the scope of the special counsel. Unlike Kenneth Starr, Mueller was restricted to issues relating to Russian interference in the election. Unlike the Starr investigation, he was not allowed to go chasing whatever else came up along the way. Ergo, being ‘cleared’ by the Mueller investigation does not mean Trump and crew are innocent of other crimes. As we know from the investigations Mueller has passed off to the New York DAs.
  7. Don’t lose sight of how much was uncovered by the investigation. Flynn, Manafort, many others…  this many indictments is a big deal. It’s not a witch hunt when you find real witches. Manafort particularly is a traitor to the country and should be put in front of a firing squad.
  8. AG Barr: Lots of liberals are jumping all over him. Relax. He said he’ll be more transparent, give him a chance to follow through before threatening more lawsuits and investigations.
  9. Let’s give Trump some credit. Despite the incessant liberal fear-mongering, it does not appear that Trump interfered with the investigation in any meaningful way. He resisted, explored what he could do, but didn’t do anything material to undermine it. The GOP refused to pass bills protecting the investigation, claiming they were unneeded. It appears they were right.
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