Friday, January 24, 2020

Post-Surgery: You should see the other guy

It's not the brain surgery that's giving me issues post-surgery, it's the nose.

Packed up, still bleeding, taking medications to ease the pain and hurry up the healing, it's mess. I look like I survived twelves rounds vs. Tyson not a deviated septum.

It will take awhile to heal.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Tomorrow I Go Into Surgery

I may have posted a few words earlier on that I have a growth in my head - on the pituitary gland in particular - and because of where it is the growth is threatening my optic nerves.

So tomorrow I go in, a nose surgeon will fix a deviated septum first and then after that the neurosurgeon goes through a nasal sinus to drill into the skull, scoop out the growth, patch up the hole, and hope I don't leak any spinal fluid for the next few years.

This is the first major surgery I'm having ever since I was five years old. I had little comprehension what was going on, and it was just eartubes trying to straighten out my hearing for a few months.

I'm quite nervous about it.

The research on the surgery tells me the risks are minimal and that I should recover, but we're talking about my head here. And yes, you trump-worshipping nabobs, I have a brain worth keeping.

But I can't avoid it: If I don't get the surgery I'm going to lose my sight.

So I'm going in. It feels right now like getting ready for a plane trip: I have a huge fear of heights but if I gotta go somewhere I gotta go and I've flown enough times to treat it now as a mild annoyance. I'm trying to rationalize this as a plane flight.

The thing bothering me most right now is that my parents are here to help me out getting to the hospital and back, and making sure I'm good as I heal up. The thing is my Dad's a Fox News watcher, and I've had to suffer through far too much Tucker Carlson than I ever want to. Surgery would be less painful right now. I need Fox Not-News on my TV like I need a hole in my head (yes, I went there).

So in my mind, I'm traveling tomorrow morning.

I hope to see you on the other side.

If I don't make it though: AVENGE ME. STOP THE REPUBLICANS.

And put my Twitter messages into a book collection for posterity, it might be good for a library or two to keep.

Monday, January 20, 2020

What the Impeachment of donald trump Means

Tuesday - tomorrow - the Senate trial of donald j (aka The Shitgibbon) trump begins regarding two articles of Impeachment:

trump, of course, wants it all to go away and pretend he's vindicated (via Jessica Hullinger at The Week):

President Trump's lawyers filed a brief on Monday urging the Senate to dismiss the impeachment charges against him and calling the House's impeachment process a "perversion" of the Constitution, The Associated Press reports.
The 110-page brief calls the House's impeachment case "flimsy," insists Trump did "absolutely nothing wrong," and says he has "been the victim of an illegitimate partisan effort to take him down," The New York Times reports. The House filed two impeachment articles against Trump — abuse of power for withholding aid to Ukraine in order to pressure that country to investigate his political rivals, and obstruction of Congress for blocking the House's impeachment inquiry.
The brief "does not deny that Mr. Trump pressured Ukraine to open investigations into Democrats," the Times writes. Instead it argues that this was within Trump's rights as president. As to the obstruction of Congress article, the lawyers say the president has a right to confidential deliberations.

The "President Can Do What He Wants" defense is pretty much the only one trump and his lackeys have. Problem is, legal precedent says FCK all to that. Let's refer to Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine for more:

The first problem with this argument is that it rests on incorrect facts. At the time President Trump was withholding military aid to Ukraine, officials inside his administration worried that he was breaking the law by refusing to allocate spending that had been passed by Congress. But the legality had not been officially settled at the time, which is what allowed Trump’s supporters to insist that he had not broken any laws. But last Thursday, the Government Accountability Office formally ruled that withholding the aid did violate the law.
This ruling doesn’t mean Trump is a criminal who needs to be impeached. But given the weight his supporters have placed on the lack of a formal legal violation, it is quite significant. When you rest your defense upon a technicality, you’re in trouble when the technicality turns out to be technically wrong.
Second, as a historical matter, there is no evidence that impeachment was designed to deal solely with violations of federal law. The framers debated impeachment and the record suggests a broad range of concern, ultimately leaving the definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors” to Congress to decide. Alexander Hamilton defined it as “the abuse or violation of some public trust.” Historically, less than one-third of impeachments of federal officials have charged a criminal violation.
Finally, as a constitutional principle, the notion that a president cannot be removed for abusing his power, but can be removed for a criminal violation, however small, would turn impeachment into a ludicrously ill-fitting solution for the problem it was designed to solve. It implies Trump could not be impeached for promising to pardon anybody who murdered his political rivals, but could be impeached if he resold a mattress that was missing its tags...

Simply put: trump and his legal puppies are trying to set up an environment where abuse of power isn't real unless a President commits a by-the-book crime except for the fact they're also arguing that no President can be charged with a crime so why even bother.

/headdesk

The thing is, Impeachment is now set to go in the Senate, and it's looking like Senate leader Mitch McConnell will try to do everything to block the proceedings from public view. Considering how the cable news channels - Fox and CNN - of the day covered Clinton's trial, this is hypocrisy of the highest order. Republicans are hoping to God that "Out of Sight" means "Out of Mind."

This is all part of McConnell's hopes to quickly kill the whole proceeding before enough damning testimony is allowed to air in the first place. There is a genuine fear that if enough critical information about trump's actions blocking Ukrainian aid and then covering up those attempts got out, it would make it harder for the Republican Senators to blithely vote Not Guilty and walk away.

Even with the slight majority the GOP has in the Senate, this IS an election year and a third of the Senate is under voter review: There's at least three Senators in the crosshairs of angry voters back home - Collins in Maine, Ernst in Iowa, Gardner in Colorado - that they could refuse to play Mitch's game. And there's a few more Senators - maybe Murkowski, maybe even Mitt Romney now in a Utah with his own base of support - who may be safe enough from any trumpian retaliation to deny McConnell an easy ride. Mitch can't afford to lose two of his coalition: three or more and the Democrats can vote to have every last document tracing trump's misdeeds and a column of witnesses testifying submitted as evidence.

Granted, there's a lot of hope riding on that last paragraph. We're still looking at the most obvious end of the Impeachment process: trump gets acquitted because there's not a two-thirds supermajority to find him guilty of even one charge for removal.

But accountability still matters: Voters are going to remember how the Republicans behaved during all this. The GOP brushes this off, gives trump an easy acquittal, and enough angry voters back home supporting Impeachment will blame the Senate for ignoring their duty. The Republicans are going to have to play this just right: Show enough concern and handle the process as serious as required, pretend to listen to enough evidence to convince the media they're not faking, and then acquit trump and have a huge party at his Doral resort.

But I doubt it. These Republicans have shown little care of how they're viewed by the American majority. They'll be sloppy and reckless with the rules like they've been for decades.

And the only way this ends well for the United States is that each Republican bastard failing in their oath of duty gets kicked out of power for good.

In the meantime, here's hoping for a big show of witnesses backstabbing each other in ways to make the surviving afternoon soaps look like Disney Junior cartoons.

#ImpeachTrump

This Should Be a Martin Luther King Birthday To Honor Peace and Justice

Instead today we got a bunch of gun nuts holding a rally in Richmond VA to try and intimidate the state government into not passing stronger gun safety laws.

This is an intentional insult towards a man who won a Nobel Peace Prize for promoting non-violence protesting, and a sharp reminder that Reverend King was gunned down because of his civil rights and anti-poverty campaigns. Yes, for a time King owned guns during the early days of the Civil Rights efforts - when his house was attacked and threats on Black lives very real - but by the 1960s he gave them up because they conflicted with his message of nonviolent protest and a realization that justice should not have to rely on violence.

But tell that to to mostly White and mostly racist Second Amendment Cosplayers taking over the streets of Richmond today.

The turnout is expected to be just the goddamn gun worshipers: the Far Left and the Gun Reform groups had declined to counter-protest to avoid triggering any violence in the streets... which is something the Far Right Gun Violence groups are eager to provide today.

This is sad. We should be focusing on what Martin Luther King Jr would be focusing on: affordable housing, better jobs, safer streets and not just for Blacks or minorities but for all the poor.

So what would Martin Luther King say about all this? From the "Drum Major" speech in 1968:

...And the other thing is that it causes one to engage ultimately in activities that are merely used to get attention. Criminologists tell us that some people are driven to crime because of this drum major instinct. They don't feel that they are getting enough attention through the normal channels of social behavior, and so they turn to anti-social behavior in order to get attention, in order to feel important. And so they get that gun, and before they know it they robbed a bank in a quest for recognition, in a quest for importance.
And then the final great tragedy of the distorted personality is the fact that when one fails to harness this instinct, he ends up trying to push others down in order to push himself up. And whenever you do that, you engage in some of the most vicious activities. You will spread evil, vicious, lying gossip on people, because you are trying to pull them down in order to push yourself up...

We are watching tiny souls give themselves over to the worship of a weapon, a machinery of death, on the one day we should be respecting life and peace. All so they can push themselves up at the expense of instilling fear in everybody else.

On a day where we shouldn't have weapons.

Happy birthday to Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. We should be honoring you better.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Hark! A Retrospective of Beatles Albums

One of the things that happened in 1970, the year of my birth, was the end of a rock band.

The Beatles in that moment were one of the biggest musical performers on the planet. At a level on par with Elvis in terms of rock and roll, at a level in popular music with maybe Sinatra or Ella, they were a band out of Liverpool that became a hit in the UK by 1962, a trans-Atlantic hit in the US by 1963, a global hit by 1964. They set the formula for rock acts as a four-man group: one on drums, one on bass, one on lead guitar, one on rhythm guitar/piano, with each of the bandmates leading or backing on vocals. Individually the band members - John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr - were not exactly the best at what they did - although Lennon would become a good lyricist (just not on par with Dylan), McCartney a great melodist and arranger that truly did outclass everyone (including Dennis Wilson), Harrison grew into a guitarist with excellent range and experimental skill (just not at a level of a Hendrix or Clapton), and Starr an effective drummer who could work at any level (be honest, not everyone can be Bonham or Peart).

Above all, the Beatles excelled at harmony, an aspect of music where different performers meshed what they were doing to form a beautiful work, each part complementing the whole. There are few acts that can achieve it at the level they did, and they excelled at it for 8 years... and then falling apart by April 1970. It ended an era of Sixties music, of harmony in general, and heralded a fractured age of music and culture for the Seventies, and haunted us well into the Eighties and beyond.

The Beatles never existed in my own lifetime - I was born in May - but by the time I was eight or nine I was old enough to listen to music on the radio and comprehend it, and they were a band that would bounce off the speakers of the local 98 Rock station as much as the easy pop stations my mom listened to. My first album I asked for was Sgt. Peppers because that was the one "everyone" was saying was the best album they ever made.

And then in December 1980 a madman assassinated John Lennon. On a personal note, this was during a period of my life starting in November 1980 where a series of murders and shootings both local and global shocked my 10-year-old self. By the time the Pope was shot in May 1981 I was firmly convinced there was something wrong with the human race.

And yet even with Lennon's death the Beatles remained a constant cultural presence. Their movies played on the local indy channel 44 ("Help!" in particular is a family favorite, quote a line to my brother and he'll start quoting the rest of the scene that line is from). I got so used to hearing Beatles musics during the anniversaries of Lennon's passing that I associate Beatles music to Christmas more than actual Christmas songs.

When CDs became the format of choice over vinyl, one of the first artists I fully got on compact disc was the Beatles when they did a big re-issue of the UK versions in 1987. Not even U2 or Led Zeppelin, or Police/Sting or Bruce Springsteen - my other big artists of my teen years - got that effort until years later.

When I did a review years ago of U2 albums, I debated my interest in reviewing the other artists in my life, and figured doing the Beatles... and then life got in the way (I blame trump). Well, with other issues pressing on me, I'd like to get a few things checked off my bucket list and so doing a big review of the Fab Four ought to do it.

Here's the deal: Previously with U2 I ranked albums by weakest efforts to epic efforts. This is a problem with the Beatles for two reasons 1) too many great albums and 2) this is a band that unlike any other evolved over the years from a rather simple rock/blues sound of the late 50s into a completely dynamic, broad-ranged, lyrically intense sound of the Sixties that honestly changed rock as a genre (they may have invented subgenres like Progressive, Metal, and Punk (!) rock) forever. In a way, you have to listen to the Beatles from the very beginning to the very end just to comprehend exactly what they did to make themselves the biggest band in the world...

So here we go, by the official United Kingdom release and 1987 CD Release to include the big non-album singles (the US releases shortened albums, inserted singles, and tried to generate extra albums from the leftovers to bump more sales):

Title: Please Please Me
Importance: The first official recorded album released 1963 (after becoming a huge live act across the UK in 1962). While they recorded a number of cover tunes and arrangements by other songwriters (a common thing for recording artists of the age), they also contributed a large number of their own songs, establishing themselves as songwriters in their own right. The recording session itself took a day - 12 hours - and essentially went through a regular set of their live performances. What this album is, in effect, an example of what it was like to attend a Cavern Club performance by the lads. Done while Lennon was suffering a fever, with his own voice cracking and shredding by the end when they recorded their cover of "Twist and Shout," this album represented the first stage of Beatlemania. And when it was released, it blew the doors off of everything.
Epic Song(s): "I Saw Her Standing There." "Please Please Me," "Love Me Do," "Do You Want to Know a Secret," "Twist and Shout"
Great Song(s): "Boys," "PS I Love You," "Honey"
Good Song(s): "Ask Me Why," "There's a Place"

Title: With the Beatles
Importance: While not a strong second album (few groups have a second album better than the first), this contains a number of cover tunes that filled their performance rotation on the road as well as several radio favorites like "All My Loving" and their cover of "Roll Over Beethoven." It does include Harrison's first written song for a Beatles album "Don't Bother Me," and it also involves one of the most iconic album covers - JUST LOOK AT THAT COMPOSITION OF SHADOW AND LIGHT - in rock history.
Epic Song(s): "All My Loving," "Roll Over Beethoven," "I Wanna be Your Man," "Money (That's What I Want)."
Great Song(s): "It Won't Be Long," "Don't Bother Me," "Not a Second Time"
Good Song(s): "All I Got To Do"

Title: A Hard Day's Night
Importance: TWANG! You know what I'm talking about. The opening chord to the title song that pretty much announces the band's presence with authority. As the soundtrack to the movie made as Beatlemania exploded across the planet, Hard's Day is arguably one of the key moments in the band's history. It's the first album filled entirely with new songs written by the bandmates themselves, half as part of the movie and the rest like a regular album (not filler, by the by). It's also the album that demonstrated improved harmony and vocals, greater range of music and melody, and lyrics that showed more introspection than "She Loves You Yeah Yeah Yeah." Where the first two albums were good, this is the first great album the band produced.
The movie itself is important to cinema history: forged as a faux documentary of a day in the life of the Beatles on tour, it contains absurdist humor to a barely-there plot - the lads have to watch over Paul's con artist grandfather (really an actor) - but also captures on film the frantic madness of Beatlemania. It was heralded as a brilliant work in its own right and went on to influence a lot of art films of the Sixties. The clip to "Can't Buy Me Love" of the four lads just running around a sports field can be viewed as one of the earliest music videos ever made.
Epic Song(s): "Hard Day's Night," "I Should Have Known Better," "If I Fell," "And I Love Her," "Can't Buy Me Love," "Any Time At All," "Things We Said Today," "You Can't Do That," "I'll Be Back"
Great Song(s): "I'm Happy Just to Dance With You," "Tell Me Why," "When I Get Home"
Good Song(s): "I'll Cry Instead"

Title: Beatles For Sale
Importance: If you can tell by the album cover, this is the point where the Fab Four was getting plain tired of the Beatlemania whirlwind of 1964. Notable as having more cover songs than usual - due to a lot of original work going into the previous one, and the lads recovering from a world tour - the original tunes reflected a growing melancholy, with the love songs starting to show regret and a sense by the band of being a product (the title is a dead giveaway) rushed to stores every day of the week. It's not their weakest album because the epic songs on here - "Eight Days a Week" especially - lift it above With The Beatles, but it not the game-changing album that the coming works will be. It's like they're getting their rockabilly feels out of their system.
Epic Song(s): "I'm a Loser," "Rock and Roll Music," "I'll Follow the Sun," "Eight Days a Week"
Great Song(s): "No Reply," "Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey"
Good Song(s): "Mr Moonlight," "Every Little Thing"

Title: Help!
Importance: Soundtrack - at least half of it - to their second movie, a more absurdist romp falling into camp, spoofing the growing spy movie genre of the Bond films (it includes a musical riff from the Bond movies to make it obvious). What's interesting here is the sudden jump from the earlier works that were up-tempo straight-up rockers to a more polished, multilayered sound (this is around the time the lads were learning to tinker with studio equipment). The songs themselves show greater improvement to the lyrics. And that's just the first half of the album meant for the movie. Side Two contains arguably one of the greatest song compositions in music history: "Yesterday," a moody aching song about love and loss that ended up in the record books as the most covered pop song of the modern era (only "Summertime" from the Porgy and Bess musical from the 1930s tops it as most covered song ever). What does it tell you when a band's "filler" material for a soundtrack album can be better than the hit songs of any other band's?
And as I mentioned earlier about the movie, it's the one that me and my brothers watched as pre-teens back in the day, and as such it influenced a lot of our sense of humor, cultural references, and so forth. Ask my brother Phil "Boys! Are you buzzing?" and he'll quote the rest of the movie from there I kid you not.
Epic Song(s): "Help!" "The Night Before," "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," "I Need You," "You're Gonna Lose That Girl," "Ticket To Ride," "Act Naturally," "I've Just Seen a Face," "Yesterday,"
Great Song(s): "Another Girl," "Tell Me What You See"
Good Song(s): "It's Only Love"

Title: Rubber Soul
Importance: This is where a lot of fans start dividing the history of the band between BEFORE and AFTER. This is the album where the Fab Four delved hard into experimentation, adding new instruments than just the standard rock band set (say hello to the sitar), this is where they tried new things with the recording methods, this is where they started writing song lyrics that all weren't about falling in love ("Nowhere Man"). Above all, this is where rock and roll stopped being about the singles and more about the album reflecting an overall theme or mood. While the Beatles did and still would release standalone songs as part of the industry trends, this was the first time a band focused on a whole album as a piece of work (previously, albums were either full soundtracks, live recordings, or jazz jam sessions). The impact of this album can't be understated: Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys heard it and realized what it meant, and responded with his band's contribution to rock evolution with the epic Pet Sounds.
On a personal note, this is the one I rank as their best album - with one glaringly problematic song "Run For Your Life," which in hindsight is a monstrous ode to domestic violence - of all time. People will argue Revolver, White Album, Abbey Road, even Sgt. Peppers. This is as close to poetry the boys will ever get IMHO.
Epic Song(s): "Drive My Car," "Norwegian Wood," "Nowhere Man," "Michelle," "Girl," "I'm Looking Through You," "In My Life," "If I Needed Someone"
Great Song(s): "The Word," "Wait"
Good Song(s): "Think For Yourself," "What Goes On,"

Title: Revolver
Importance: Where Rubber Soul expanded what the Beatles could do with rock and roll, this album is where they expanded what they could do with music, period. Going with a mix of every possible popular music format (and even classical music with "Eleanor Rigby") known at the time from Motown to Country, it even started a few like Psychedelic Rock ("Love To You" and "Tomorrow Never Knows"). This is where the band found a deeper - sometimes darker - meaning in what they were writing about. These are a lot of the reasons why a large number of critics and fans consider Revolver the best album the Beatles ever made... my take on it is that they were creating a mixed bag of sound styles, a roulette wheel of choices to listen to (hence the title, eh), while some of the songs stand the test of time there are some I can't abide. Sorry.
This is also where the band would take the fateful decision to stop touring. Granted, their live performances were getting harder to handle as the crowd sizes were losing the intimacy the lads enjoyed, while their changes in musical tastes were becoming harder to drag out of the studios into the open air.
Epic Song(s): "Taxman," "Eleanor Rigby," "Love To You," "She Said She Said," "Tomorrow Never Knows"
Great Song(s): "I'm Only Sleeping," "Yellow Submarine," "Good Day Sunshine," "For No One." "Got to Get You Into My Life"
Good Song(s): "And Your Bird Can Sing"

Title: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Importance: Hailed as a work of art when it was released - Jimi Hendrix famously learned the entire album by ear over a weekend before performing the entire thing live - over the years Sgt. Peppers has diminished somewhat due to the hype fading. Originally conceived by McCartney as a concept album - a fake band's performance as part of a "live show" - the album itself had few interconnecting themes to it past the first two songs and a handful of others on the second side. Balanced between a baroque style that would help form Progressive Rock later on and the psychedelic elements of the previous albums, what makes Sgt. Peppers an epic work is the level of studio mastery behind it, a technical marvel of sound mixing and layers of music upon music, capped by perhaps the most powerful and best remembered Beatles song ever "A Day In The Life." It's that level of technical wizardry that also hurts its reputation among rock purists. This is where the album as a whole is weaker than hoped for... but the songs themselves are incredible works that never sink below expectations.
Epic Song(s): "Sgt. Peppers," "With a Little From My Friends," "Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds," "Getting Better," "Fixing a Hole," "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite," "When I'm Sixty-Four," "Lovely Rita," "A Day In the Life"
Great Song(s): "She's Leaving Home." "Within You Without You," "Good Morning," "Sgt. Peppers Reprise"
Good Song(s): None. Wow.

Title: Magical Mystery Tour
Importance: Coming off of the experimental high of Sgt. Peppers, McCartney - slowly taking control of the band's direction while Lennon abandoned a lot of his earlier leadership - wanted to continue the experimentation with a movie project - a free-floating avant garde effort of taking cameras out on a road trip with circus performers and hoping something would happen - and with songs to fit the eventual results. What happened was a muddled affair and arguably the first big mistake the band made. The movie ended up having nothing happening, with bits of comedy that never panned out and a lackluster sense of a wasted effort. And while the songs from this project - some held over from Sgt. Peppers, others from an EP that merged into this soundtrack to create a full album - were rather good, a sense of self-indulgence was seeping in, a loss of focus from the tight, technical style the band was good at. There's still a lot of classic songs here - "I Am the Walrus" in particular a brilliant attempt by Lennon to fck with people who were taking the lyrics too serious (unwittingly giving them even more to obsess over) - but it's not the lads at their best. This is the point where the harmony was getting overwhelmed by the overt attempts at singular greatness...
Epic Song(s): "Fool On the Hill," "I Am The Walrus," "Strawberry Fields Forever," "Penny Lane," "All You Need Is Love"
Great Song(s):"Magical Mystery Tour," "Blue Jay Way," "Baby You're a Rich Man"
Good Song(s): "Flying," "Hello Goodbye"

Title: The Beatles (AKA The White Album)
Importance: The album so iconic there's not even a cover for it (I kid. It's all-white except for the band's name). After the heartache of MMT not working out, the band attempted to take a holiday to India and find themselves studying Hindi mysticism, only to come back disgruntled from a troubled visit. Without much genuine focus, the lads tried to work on a new album but found themselves at odds with each other's frustrations and visions. Harrison was expressing his outrage at being limited to just two songs per album of his own work, which had been getting better but which Lennon and McCartney ignored. Starr was feeling abused and overlooked as the drummer (he had been coping with the criticisms of being the weak link in a great band, and felt like an add-on even though he was good friends with the band years before he was hired to replace Pete Best). Lennon was letting his new girlfriend Yoko Ono join in at the studio, throwing the other three for a loop because girlfriends and wives were previously not part of the process. Their regular producer George Martin lost control of them and the entire process. And nobody could agree on what songs should end up on the album.
The result was a double album of a lot of songs the band recorded with (and without) each other's help. Session performers show up here more than any other time in the band's history. Harrison famously brought in Eric Clapton as a guest guitarist (and also as someone for moral support in a hostile environment) on his epic song "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." This result provided arguably the most diverse mix of music styles the band ever presented even more than Revolver... but it was also lacking the harmony that earlier albums had, and it was overwhelming to where audiences had no idea how to receive it. It took years later for fans to appreciate half of what the work represented, all the while noting how it contributed to new rock subgenres of Country Rock ("Rocky Raccoon"), Heavy Metal ("Helter Skelter") and Punk ("Revolution 1" but the uptempo single version) to songs about gender roles ("Ob-La-Di" where Paul flubbed a line but kept it in because it was funny, and most people accepted it).
And like a lot of double album projects, this one suffers from the guessing game of "What Should Have Been Left Out," where entire nations have figured out their playlist selections for what a single-album version would look like. Nobody can agree on one set.
This was the Beatles album of 1968, a year universally recognized as one of the most divisive and bloody years in American, European, and global history. This is where the cracks between the band's unity were showing. (This is also the album Charles Manson really shouldn't have listened to while on acid... oy)
Epic Song(s): Oh Good God do I have to list all of them? Sigh. "Back In the USSR," "Dear Prudence," "Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Martha My Dear," "I Will," "Birthday," "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey," "Helter Skelter," "Savoy Truffle,"
Great Song(s): "Glass Onion," "Bungalow Bill," "Happiness Is a Warm Gun," "Blackbird," "Rocky Racoon," "Don't Pass Me By," "Why Don't We Do It In the Road," "Sexy Sadie,"
Good Song(s): "I'm So Tired," "Piggies," "Julia," "Revolution 9," "Good Night"

Title: Yellow Submarine
Importance: By this time the Beatles were burning out and unwilling to keep up with commitments, one of which was making another movie or two. Tied up with real-life woes, they agreed to let an animation team make a movie based on the Revolver song "Yellow Submarine," along with various other songs between Rubber Soul and Magical Mystery Tour that would fit the dream-like psychedelic elements the directors were aiming for. Not having any good hope for it - they hated the television animated show made early in their career - the lads created songs they felt - at the time - perfunctory and beneath their efforts. The result was an album that was part greatest hits and lukewarm new hits... which in time still sound incredible because it's the fcking Beatles. "All Together Now" sounds like a children's tune to teach kids how to rhyme and harmonize, but it has a quality far above other songs of its ilk. The movie itself became a popular hit in its day and lives on now as a drug-trip classic.
This is, on a personal note, the movie where me and my brothers learned to roll the tongue when we say our "R's".
Epic Song(s): "All Together Now,""It's All Too Much," "All You Need Is Love" (originally a single but added here)
Great Song(s): "Only a Northern Song," "Hey Bulldog,"
Good Song(s): Eh.

Title: Abbey Road
Importance: This wasn't the next album project after White Album or Yellow Submarine, but it was the next one fully recorded and released. Coming at the moment the band fell apart during the disaster of the "Get Back" sessions, this was the album where the four agreed to return to the oversight of producer Martin and focus on a work they mutually understood was going to be their last. This was also a recording at a time when the studio equipment had gone through an upgrade, allowing for a "softer" sound that still provided incredible effects to their playing styles (Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon was recorded with similar equipment). While it has fewer of the psychedelic elements of the last few albums, it does carry a few tunes that would fit right in to the Progressive Rock that would dominate the early Seventies. A notable element to this album was McCartney's growing love of medleys - having one song blend into another and then another - that would cover most of the songs on Side Two of the album. The songs themselves reverted lyrically back to the Rubber Soul/Revolver era of a simpler poetic aim. In particular, Harrison's "Something" - an ode to his then-wife Patti Boyd, who probably has more songs written about her than any other woman since Helen of Troy - was hailed by Frank Sinatra (who mistakenly attributed it to Lennon/McCartney) as a great love song.
The impact of Abbey Road wasn't fully understood when it came out in late 1969 and early 1970. The New Sound caught most fans off-guard, who wouldn't be able to warm up to it until they heard later works by other bands to compare them with. It wasn't until the Eighties - after Lennon's death - that the album was recognized as a classic on par - or even better than - Revolver or Sgt. Peppers. It's now at the top of a debate - between Hard Days, Rubber Soul, Revolver, and this - as the best album the band ever made.
Culturally speaking, the album cover itself has a major impact. Photographed as the band is (symbolically) walking away from their recording studio at Abbey Road, the poses, outfits, and surrounding items (the VW Beetle!) was obsessed over, analyzed, parodied, and more (partly for the "Paul Is Dead" conspiracy rumors, but also for every sign of what the Beatles were doing as they were breaking up). That part of road is now the most famous street crossing in the world. People visit it as a pop culture Mecca and it's designated a historic heritage site. It's still a working road so... Just watch out! OH! She came in through the bathroom window... okay I'll stop...
Epic Song(s): "Come Together," Something," "Octopus' Garden,"  Here Comes the Sun," "You Never Give Me Your Money," "Mean Mr. Mustard / Polytheme Pam / She Came In Through The Bathroom Window (Medley)," "Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End"
Great Song(s): "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," "Because," "Her Majesty"
Good Song(s): "Oh Darling," "Sun King"

Title: Let It Be
Importance: In terms of getting a sense of what the forces were that pulled the Beatles apart, the documentary film about the "Get Back" sessions that led into the Let It Be final product would give you a better understanding. This album wouldn't show it other than underscoring the lack of quality this has compared to other works (including the ragged mess that was the White Album). Hastily produced and without final input of the band, what comes out are songs that could have done with more thought ("Across the Universe") or done with less overlayering ("The Long and Winding Road"). Released post-breakup with little fanfare, Let It Be suffers a reputation as an unwanted stepchild of an album, even though it contains some heartfelt and touching performances. The highlight songs are the ones recorded for the Rooftop Concert, a cultural milestone and Trope Codifier that showed the Fab Four just plugging in, rocking out, and in a rare moment in that tempest enjoying themselves (bringing up the sad What If the Beatles had tried to perform live again for real before the breakup would be permanent).
Epic Song(s): "Two of Us." "Dig It," "I Got A Feeling," "For You Blue," "Get Back"
Great Song(s): "Across the Universe," "I Me Mine," "Let It Be," "One After 909"
Good Song(s): "Maggie Mae," "The Long and Winding Road,"

Title: Past Masters Volume I
Importance: Not an actual album released between 1963 to 1970, this is the CD-only release in 1987 to cover the single-only songs the Beatles released early in their career. While the albums mattered, the singles did too: The only other way to list them here would be to list the confusing American-release albums, which we kinda don't want to delve into. What is great about this two-part set are the songs, most of them genuinely great hits that could have fit on the original albums if only the 33 RPM size of vinyl allowed more room (CD technology would). As the albums reflect, the singles also track the evolution of the Beatles' sound and style, from simple Fifties-era rock to the more progressive style they'll create by 1965. Consider "I Feel Fine": the opening sound is feedback, a sound John recognized could be controlled just as easy as plucking guitar strings. This is the first time any artist did that in a song. Mindblowing.
Epic Song(s): "Love Me Do," "She Loves You," "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," "I Feel Fine," "She's a Woman,"
Great Song(s): "From Me To You," "Long Tall Sally," "I'm Down"
Good Song(s): "Thank You Girl," "Slow Down"

Title: Past Masters Volume II
Importance: Where Volume I covered the early years, this volume covers the experimental years where the Beatles relied less on singles to survive. As the later albums reflected, these songs would range from baroque to obtuse to weird. From songs protesting their very nature of writing love songs ("Paperback Writer" came about because McCartney's aunt asked why he wrote only 'silly love songs') to actual protest songs ("Revolution"), to songs that heralded the divisions breaking the band apart ( "You Know My Name Look Up The Number").
Epic Song(s): "Day Tripper," "We Can Work It Out," "Paperback Writer," "Rain," "Lady Madonna," "Don't Let Me Down"
Great Song(s): "Inner Light," "Hey Jude," "Ballad of John and Yoko," "Old Brown Shoe"
Good Song(s): "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)"

And that's all she wrote... except for the archives from the Anthology series... and the missing 29-minute track of "Helter Skelter"... and all the other things we see we miss every day...

And In The End/
The Love You Take/
Is Equal To the Love/
You Make/
ahhhh ahhhhhhhhhhh!

(pause)

Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl/
But she doesn't have a lot to say/
Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl/
But she changes from day to day/
I want to tell her that I love her a lot/
But I gotta get a bellyful of wine/
Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl/
Someday I'm going to make her mine/
oh yeah/
Someday I'm going to make her mine...

(end of album) (end of Beatles in their lifetime) (insert crying here)

Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Fredos of the trump Mafia Reveal Their Ukraine Scheming (w/ Update)

When last we left our inept henchmen involved in trump's Ukraine extortion racket, they were stewing in U.S. custody offering to provide evidence of a large-scale effort by trump and his inner circle capos. Thing was, with trump's loyal Attorney General William Barr sitting on that evidence, it took the U.S. House Intelligence to get a court order for all that info dump handed over just last week.

This week, the information got out.

AND OOOOHHH BOY.

Lemme refer to my wiser and angrier fellow Floridian Betty Cracker via Balloon-Juice:

I was distracted last night with the debate and cooking dinner and arguing with my husband about the thermostat and having a glass or five of red wine because I was COLD, so I first started trying to make sense of the Parnas document dump this morning. I confess I am still agog...

She then refers to Charlie Pierce over at Esquire:

...As it turns out, Marie Yovanovich was even braver than she looked in front of the House Intelligence Committee. And, as it turns out, Speaker Nancy Pelosi really knows what she’s doing. At the end of the day on Tuesday, just as the Democratic presidential candidates were taking the stage in Des Moines and the president* was taking the stage in Milwaukee, the House Democrats unleashed the hounds. They dumped a whole truckload of ugly from the files of Lev Parnas, Rudy Giuliani’s great and good “associate” and, apparently, one of the great sleazebags of the western world.
Also released were a bunch of texts from a Trumper in Connecticut named Robert Hyde. He was in touch with Parnas, and there were text messages between the two in which Hyde seemed to indicate that, at the very least, Yovanovich was being monitored—which, I will grant you, sounds a bit grandiose coming from a landscaper from Connecticut. Nevertheless, this stuff is positively ominous...

Let's just take a moment to consider this tidbit: trump's low-level thugs were plotting to stalk a then-sitting U.S. Ambassador (Yovanovich) using dialog and ideas that suggest "hitting" her that at BEST points to physical assault, an act of terror, and maybe even killing her all because she was interfering with trump's attempts to withhold aid to Ukraine in exchange for Ukraine's help in defaming a potential 2020 political opponent (Joe Biden).

Not to mention "hitting" Yovanovich was seen as a favor to a former Ukrainian prosecutor Lutsenko so that Lutsenko would help trump dig up dirt on the Biden family (and maybe take care of Manafort's ongoing legal woes over there).

Back to Betty Cracker, who takes a moment to look at a newly-arrived player to the game in Robert Hyde, a Connecticut-based trump backer currently running for Congress and suddenly dealing with public revelations like this:

Here’s another bizarre fact in this thoroughly crazypants scenario: the Connecticut landscaper/hit-man purveyor was Baker Acted (involuntarily taken into custody by authorities under Florida law for a psych eval) at Trump’s Florida golf club last year... (EDITORS NOTE: OF COURSE Florida was going to get involved, dammit)
...What in the wide world of fuck? It’s tempting, if only for the sake of one’s own sanity, to surmise Hyde is just a random nutbag who wasn’t really commissioned by the president’s personal attorney to at least surveil — if not actually harm — a U.S. ambassador abroad. But, as in the case of Rudy Giuliani’s henchmen, including Parnas, there are tons of photos of Hyde with Trump, Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka, Giuliani, etc. Hyde has also donated tens of thousands of dollars to Trump and other Republicans. It seems to be a pattern, no?
Anyhoo, even aside from the increasingly alarming and accumulating evidence that Trump is running the federal government for his personal and political benefit via mafia-style shakedowns and intimidation tactics, the Parnas document dump blows multiple absurd impeachment defenses right out of the water...
Just an aside to the voters in Connecticut: Hyde can't handle his alcoholism. You've been warned.

Ever look at the bulletin board of a police or FBI office in them TV shows where there's an organizational flowchart of who's connected to whom and which way the orders flow down and the money flows up? This is what trump's inner circle is looking like, an army of Fredos with the top guy in trump being the most reckless Fredo of them all.

Everything about this story is horrifying. The casual way Giuliani abuses attorney-client privilege. The way the low-level handlers can get the trump family from Daddy to Junior to tweet out any message they want. The buying and selling of American integrity at one million dollars a chat.

And above all, the sobering reality that the ONLY WAY all of this criminal bullshit stops is if 100 million Americans say ENOUGH and show up this November to vote every Republican crook (hi, Moscow Mitch!) and every Republican enabler (hi, Lindsey!) out of office.

Update: Just BREAKING this morning, but Ukrainian prosecutors have announced that they WILL be investigating criminal activity... but they'll be investigating the trumpian lackeys who were illegally surveilling Ambassador Yovanovitch. Nations do have an obligation to uphold the safety and security of foreign representatives in the name of diplomacy, after all. And it's telling that they're willing to do this while our own State Department under Pompeo won't...

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Predicting Character: Warren Is Planning for Everything

Man this has been on the back-burner for the longest time, stuff keeps popping up, I keep getting all these distractions like I need a hole in my head (and yes, black comedy is keeping me going at the moment),

But I can't hold off on this much longer. The primaries officially kick off in less than two weeks I think, and my surgery is set almost a week away. So no more delays...

I've been tracking the habits and behaviors of the top four Democratic candidates facing off against Loser of the Popular Vote trump, having visited my personal fave Kamala Harris, then Joe Biden, then Bernie Sanders, and finally with this post Elizabeth Warren. During this stint, Harris had to drop out as she couldn't keep her early debate win momentum going (as well as keep up with the fundraising), all the while watching the dark horse candidates like Pete Buttigieg get a week or two in the spotlight much like any other primary with 2000 candidates all vying to be the Not-Hillary uh Not-Biden swaying the Democratic voting base to side with them.

We're at the point the field is winnowing (which is good) but we're also at the point where the candidates are starting to play the state-by-state pandering game that sells well in Iowa and New Hampshire but doesn't do so well for the bigger states like New York, Florida, Illinois and California where most Americans live anywho. (Yes, I am ranting in favor of a 50-state one-day primary thank you again)

All except for Warren as far as I can tell. Warren's been campaigning in a different style than most of the other front-runners. She's been campaigning as the Idea Candidate.


"Warren's Got a Plan For That."

Want Medicare 4 All? Warren's got a plan for that. Cancelling college student debt. She's got a plan for that. Robbing three casinos in one night? You damn betcha she got a plan for that!

Okay, I kid about the Oceans 11 thing (but hey if Warren calls me needing that guy on the computer to hack into the mainframe, I'll refer her to somebody and take the driver's gig instead), but Warren is serious about putting out plans and proposals for families and workers and everyone who's key to the Democratic voter turnout. It's why Warren has been getting a solid number of support groups like the Working Families PAC to switch their votes from Bernie to Warren.

As such, Warren is more of a threat to Bernie's hold on the Progressive Left forces in the Democratic ranks than she is a threat to Biden's hold on the Moderate/Centrist forces. Even though given Warren's range of topics she's supporting and covering puts her as a major candidate for BOTH factions.

So why isn't she polling any higher?

Because Biden's lead as a Passive-Positive figure appealing to a majority of the Democratic base is kinda hard to punch against. Because Sanders' True-Believer BernieBro faction isn't going to give up their ideal Utopia of a revolutionary democratic socialism... something they believe Warren isn't really going to support if she wins this November. Because the mainstream media still has a problem with women candidates and the harsh coverage shows.

Which is a damn shame because Warren's character traits suggest she'll be a strong Adaptive figure in the White House that trends towards an Active-Positive administration.

To refer to this New Yorker article by Sheelah Kolhatkar:

...Warren is one of the country’s foremost critics of Wall Street firms and big banks, which make much of their profit, in her view, by abusing consumers and taxpayers. It’s a perspective that has grown out of Warren’s work as an academic and has shaped her ideas as a politician, propelling her from Harvard Law School, where she was a professor specializing in bankruptcy law, to the Senate, where she has represented Massachusetts since 2013.
On many economic issues, Warren has been remarkably prescient. She has spent decades warning Americans about the pernicious effects of income inequality, predatory corporations, and consumer debt, and about the failures of our financial system—issues that are at the heart of the 2020 Presidential campaign... She is attempting to position herself as a pragmatic advocate for the middle class, someone who can bring systemic reforms to education, health care, and democracy itself. But, unlike the Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Warren doesn’t describe herself as a “democratic socialist,” and says that she isn’t trying to do away with capitalism. “I believe in markets,” she says, over and over. She says that she simply wants to make them work better for more people...

As I noted, it's that last bit - Warren's unwillingness to join the Far Left completely, even as she pushes for reforms that would clearly fulfill a lot of what the Far Left hopes for - that scares the BernieBro faction. But it shouldn't (back to Kolhatkar):

...With the help of advisers working from her headquarters, in Boston, Warren has been releasing a torrent of detailed policy proposals. She has issued a plan to dramatically reduce student debt and to offer free tuition at public colleges; a plan to unwind large agriculture conglomerates in order to make the market more equitable for family farms; a plan to require large corporations to pay more in federal taxes; a plan to dismantle the behemoth technology companies and regulate them like utilities; and new legislation to address opioid addiction, modeled on a bill passed by Congress in 1990 to combat the H.I.V./aids epidemic. She has announced an “Economic Patriotism” plan, intended to create opportunities for American workers, and has issued proposals targeted at Donald Trump, including one that would make it permissible to indict a sitting President.
Together, the proposals promise a new level of government intervention in almost every aspect of economic life. Some of the ideas are pragmatic; others seem aimed more at marketing than at implementation. Regardless, “I have a plan for that” has become a rallying cry for her campaign—an echo of the way that “Nevertheless, she persisted” became a tagline for Warren supporters after Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, used it to describe Warren’s refusal to stand down during the confirmation hearing for Jeff Sessions, Trump’s former Attorney General. In May, the comedian Ashley Nicole Black wrote, on Twitter, “Do you think Elizabeth Warren has a plan to fix my love life?” Warren responded, “DM me and let’s figure this out...”

There's a couple of things to point out here about character traits: Warren's self-deprecation with that last bit, but overall a detailed, comprehensive view of every problem facing the nation and a willingness to answer those problems. A lot of this fits into what Professor Barber established as Active-Positive traits: Problem-solving, engagement, and a willingness to take stands.

When confronted with the challenges of running any election, specifically her run at the U.S. Senate in 2012, this came up:

Many voters saw Clinton as flip-flopping and opportunistic; Warren comes across as straightforward. She rarely brings up breaking the “highest and hardest glass ceiling,” as Clinton often did, although she acknowledges its existence. She told me that, when she was considering running for the Senate, in 2012, people advised her against it because of her gender. In the previous election, Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts attorney general, had been beaten by an inexperienced Republican, Scott Brown. “Massachusetts is not going to elect a woman. It’s just not going to happen,” Warren was told again and again. “Every time I heard that,” she said, “I’d think, I’m definitely getting in this race...”

As I mentioned before about Truman, an A-P figure relishes the challenges of a political fight not for their own sake but for the issues and communities affected. As an aside, it should be noted Coakley didn't do a good job of campaigning, even failing at proper support of local sports teams - it's Bawston, it mattahs - while Warren proved adept at the game.

When I asked Warren how she would survive all that, she said, “I know how to fight and I know how to win.” She pointed to two of her major accomplishments in Washington: the creation of a new regulatory agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in 2010, and her Senate campaign against Scott Brown.
“After the financial crash, I knew that we needed a consumer agency to keep big banks from cheating people,” she said. “People told me two things: ‘It’s a great idea’ and ‘Don’t even try it. You can never get it passed into law. The big banks will never permit this. They’ll fight you every inch of the way.’”
She paused. “But we got organized. We fought for working people. We built a grassroots movement. And President Obama signed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau into law.”
A little more than a year later, Democrats encouraged Warren to challenge Brown for his seat, despite considerable odds. “I decided that I was not going to wake up on the day after the election and he would still be my senator, voting against my values, and I would have done anything less than everything I could to stop that from happening,” she said. “And I went from down seventeen points to beating Brown by seven and a half points...

While this attitude shares the ambition of the Active-Negative, you'll notice a good amount of "we needed," "we fought," "we got organized." A good Active-Positive speaks in the "We Can" voice (opposed to the "I Must" of the A-N), which tends to be the overall delivery from Warren.

And speaking of Warren's work with the CFPB:

A person involved in the effort to get the C.F.P.B. included in the bill told me that Warren’s drawn-out bankruptcy battles had helped her acquire the skills to get things accomplished in politics. “She was pretty good about both the inside game and the outside game, and how the two intersect,” he said. “The inside game is very important: you need to get a bill passed in Congress, and she understood this and got C.F.P.B. into Dodd-Frank. And then she did a lot of press interviews and a lot of things to engage the public.”
After the legislation was approved, in 2010, Warren seemed the obvious choice to lead the new agency. But Neil Barofsky, who oversaw the bailout with her, told me that her desire for the role never entered into her decision-making. The head of the new agency would initially report to Geithner, and Barofsky recalled a hearing in which Warren aggressively questioned Geithner about his treatment of the insurance company A.I.G., which had paid its traders generous bonuses after taking taxpayer funds. “If she had pulled punches in that hearing, nobody would have known,” Barofsky said. “And she just eviscerated him, and exposed the hypocrisy and the failure of the program.”
News outlets later reported that Geithner opposed the idea of Warren running the C.F.P.B. He wasn’t alone. The financial industry mobilized to derail her potential nomination. “You remember preapproved credit cards?” Warren told me. “I was a pre-rejected nominee...”
...Obama, facing intense resistance, nominated Richard Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general, for the role. But he asked Warren to help set up the agency; she spent a year doing that. Under Cordray, the C.F.P.B. forced financial institutions to return twelve billion dollars to customers who had been targeted by scams such as unauthorized overdraft charges and illegal fees for student-loan repayments. Congressional Republicans kept up their opposition; by 2017, they had introduced a hundred and thirty-five bills and resolutions to weaken or eliminate the agency...

One measure of respect in politics is the class of enemies you make. Warren is arguably the most hated Democrat among the super-rich financial institutions and corporations trying to squeeze more money out of Americans (and the world) than ever before. In that regards, she deserves serious consideration to run against the most corrupt financial figure of the last 50 years in trump.

So how would I grade her as a candidate for the Presidency?

Elizabeth Warren - Senator, Massachusetts.
Positives: Popular Senator who has had national coverage since her consumer advocacy in the 2000s, has worked as a major player of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is aware of the challenges of reining in fraud and financial corruption, she would be the one of the few candidates if elected to hold businesses accountable and do a lot of things to end the income inequality threatening the nation. Would be the first Woman President to actually sit in the Oval Office (sorry Hillary). Would be someone capable of undoing a lot of the fiscal damage trump has done since 2017. Also, Kate McKinnon can play her on SNL.

Negatives: Along with Biden and Sanders, Warren is part of an aging Boomer population (despite the appeal she has to a lot of Gen X and Millennial liberals/moderates). Still is answering for questionable past behavior revolving around a college-period claim of Native American ancestry (which trump and fellow haters are using to drag her real name through the mud). Is too Pragmatic a figure for the Progressives to accept and too Reformist for the Moderates to trust. Like Hillary before her, Warren has to overcome a legitimate problem with sexism in our nation's media and voting population.

Chances: She's currently in the mix in the early primary / caucus states for the Democratic primaries, but she's low on funding compared to Biden and Sanders (and also to the rich guys Steyer and Bloomberg who are spending millions in ads she can't afford to make and air yet). If she can pull off an upset or two early on - maybe Iowa, maybe New Hampshire - and weather the push by the media to drop out before the big states, she may gain momentum the way Obama did in 2008.

Character Chart: I've already pointed out how I view her as an Active-Positive figure. She shows the Adaptive trait of accepting and taking on policy ideas of fellow candidates (with a willingness to admit where she got the ideas from), working with a level of Self-Confidence (her primary trait IMHO) and Long-Term Planning (the gamemanship skills of a Kennedy/Obama) that other A-Ps have deployed. Like Truman before her, she does the homework to debate her points with aplomb and directness. If I had to compare Warren to anyone, it would be FDR (A-P), a reform-minded charismatic willing to fix a broken system rather than replace it outright.


Okay, that's all I got for the four three main candidates for the Democrats to choose from. Having lost my primary candidate in Harris - whom I supported for her early advocacy for better teacher pay and boosts to education funding - I've decided to put my support to Warren, whose agenda mostly matches my own hopes for a better government taking care of the citizenry. Past all that, I am willing to support ANY Democratic candidate - even Sanders but definitely NOT Gabbard - due to the reality of how dangerous it is letting trump and the Republicans retain ANY power in our government.

If I had a preference order, it'd be 1) Warren, 2) Booker, 3) Klobuchar, 4) Biden, 5) Sanders, 6) Maybe Mayor Pete, I'm not sure who's left in the equation 7) Anybody but Gabbard.


Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Florida 2020: Voter Turnout Still a Must, Get Everyone Registered, Even If Republicans Are Being Assholes About It

One of my biggest personal interests in politics is civic engagement AKA voter registration and getting everybody to vote every election to get their voice hear.

I was thrilled in 2018 when my home state of Florida passed a state referendum amendment easing the right for ex-felons who've served their time to regain their power to vote. Previously there was a convoluted and unfair request process through the Governor's office that saw a decreased disinterest - especially with Republican governors - in granting voting rights to people who should be encouraged to re-engage our society. As long as the ex-felons served for non-violent crimes (violent ones had to stick to the petition process) they would get that right automatically.

So the state legislature and Governor - Republicans all - decided to be assholes about it and passed a law in 2019 curbing that Amendment by requiring the ex-felons had to repay all fines and debts - essentially a goddamn POLL TAX - before they could get re-registered. Considering 1) many ex-felons are poor to begin with and 2) those fees could range to thousands of dollars, this would have stopped them from regaining their civil rights.

All because Republicans are terrified of point 3) many ex-felons lean toward voting Democratic... and the number of them doing so would clearly tilt the partisan demographics of Florida a solid Blue for 2020.

Funny thing about that: The Republicans may have been too clever by half. Per Mark Joseph Stern's article in Slate:

After Floridians approved an initiative to restore voting rights to approximately 1.4 million people with felony convictions, Republican lawmakers immediately moved to sabotage the historic effort. The GOP-controlled legislature passed a law along party lines that effectively required a poll tax from a majority of those poised to regain their right to vote. The GOP’s brazenly partisan measure, however, appears to be backfiring. Democratic counties are taking advantage of a compromise buried in the statute to give residents their voting rights. Meanwhile, Republican counties are taking a hard line against suffrage—meaning a substantial majority of Floridians who do manage to register to vote are likely to be Democrats.
For more than a year, Florida’s politicians have been embroiled in a fight over Amendment 4, which 65 percent of Florida voters approved in 2018. Amendment 4 abolished a Jim Crow era law that permanently stripped the right to vote from anyone convicted of a felony. But Florida Republicans quickly kneecapped it, passing a bill that forced individuals to pay all fines and fees associated with their sentences before regaining their voting rights. This legislative assault on Amendment 4 threatened to take away the franchise from more than 1.1 million Floridians; the state is a pioneer of cash register justice, imposing a mind-boggling array of “user fees” on defendants to finance its criminal justice system.
Following immense backlash from Democrats and civil rights advocates, though, legislators added a conciliatory section to their bill. It allowed courts to modify “the original sentencing order to no longer require completion” of the initial sentence. In other words, courts can waive fines and fees imposed as part of a sentence. By doing so, courts can clear the way for former felons to complete their sentences and immediately become eligible to vote.
To implement this section, Florida’s four most populous counties created “rocket dockets” to waive fines and fees en masse. Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Hillsborough—which, together, make up more than a third of the state’s population—launched programs to identify individuals who owe fines and fees and fast-track their cases to the courts. A judge then waives their financial obligations (except restitution to victims) and provides them with a court order declaring their sentences complete. This order reestablishes their right to vote. Courts, prosecutors, and public defenders all support these programs, and celebrity activist John Legend helped to publicize them by sitting in on a “rocket docket” session. Local officials provide individuals with voter registration forms as soon as their fines and fees are waived...
..There is little doubt that GOP legislators opposed the amendment because they feared it would disproportionately enfranchise Democrats. But their bill has led to a bizarre system in which Democratic counties are reenfranchising their voters while Republican-majority counties are not. Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Hillsborough all overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016. They are Democratic strongholds in a state with notoriously close elections. In 2016, Trump beat Clinton by about 113,000 votes. Meanwhile, Miami-Dade hopes to grant about 150,000 former felons the right to vote. The reenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of voters in primarily Democratic counties may very well swing the 2020 election...

This doesn't automatically mean the Dems win and the GOP loses. Voter turnout still matters, even in solid Blue counties (some of which will be the centers of massive Far Right disinformation and voter suppression efforts no matter what). Those voters - every single one who has a vested interest in key Democratic issues like affordable health care (still), better wages, an end to trumpian corruption - have to keep involved with early voting, absentee balloting, handling long lines at the precincts, and keeping up with oversight and counting results to make sure every ballot is counted fairly and accurately.

This is all what 2020 is about, Floridians: GET THE DAMN VOTE OUT.

And for the Love of GOD, kick the cheating vote-suppressing Republicans out of every office we can.