Is It a Happy New Year? 2019 Could Be Great for Trump

President Donald TrumpGetting rid of Trump is like stopping the bleeding of a gunshot wound. Sure, there are many other things that must be done. But first, we have to stop the bleeding. If Trump does nothing more that is bad in his remaining time, he will continue to poison our judicial system with Federalist Society approved judges. This is, by the way, why he can appoint them so fast. He doesn’t need to vet them. Like so many things in conservative politics, there are always groups supported by rich people who just happen to have a list of judges or a model bill for “reforming” environmental laws.

Why 2019 Could Be Good for Trump

The reason this year could be very good for Trump is that the economy may crash soon. And ironically, it could come racing back in 2020 — just in time to secure his re-election. Note the irony: the economy would be doing better at least in part because people thought the federal government would soon be back in competent hands. Yet such a thing would give Trump his best chance to continue his reign of terror. Not a very pleasant thought.

Of course, if the economy crashes, Trump will lash out. He will be very unhappy because his grasp of political science is as firm as his grasp of everything else — except maybe demagoguery. My concern is not him, however. What I would prefer not to see is a bunch of liberals celebrating a downturn in the economy.

Now maybe that isn’t likely because liberals at least pretend to care about all the damage this does to working people. But I don’t doubt I will see some “think pieces” about how the silver lining is that it is bad for Trump.

And that’s just not likely to be true. We are still too far out from the 2020 election.

Trump Could Lose Regardless — But Don’t Count on It

The counter to this (which others have made when I’ve discussed this general issue) is that Trump is so unpopular that he may lose even with a rip-roaring economy. And that’s true. As I noted in a comment, Lynn Vavreck’s book The Message Matters shows how this might work. The challenger needs to make the election about something other than the economy. In the case of Trump, it would be 1976 all over again: corruption, corruption, corruption.

But I still think this is a back-up plan. I’d rather see a stagnant economy in 2020. This would doom Trump and almost certainly lead to a quick recovery because it would mean no more trade wars, no more fighting with our allies, no more chaos.

The Suburbs Might Not Safe Us

More than that, I am very concerned about this article that has been floating around for a few weeks (under different titles) at Vox, What Do the Suburbs Want? It is always subtitled with something like, “How the Republicans lost the suburbs and how this may continue.”

Unfortunately, the case it makes is entirely dependent upon what people say they care about. And I just don’t trust these suburban Republicans. The reasons they give for voting for Democrats in 2018 are reasons they should have been voting for Democrats since at least 2008.

2018 Is Not 2020

What’s more, it was easy enough for people to cast anti-Trump ballots in 2018. But what about after 9 months of Trump campaigning and consultants grooming him. Won’t happen, you say? Trump has to be Trump? If Trump sees that he is going to be a “loser,” he may well become “kinder and gentler.” He used to be a populist, after all. Then, when it looked like the Republicans really wouldn’t support him he became a standard-issue Republican.

A flat unemployment rate would almost assure Trump being relegated to the dustbin of history. What’s more, a major recession right now that is due to Trump wouldn’t help the nation, and it would be terrible for workers.

Democracy Is Not a Western Idea

Democracy Is Not a Western Idea - PericlesOne thing that drives me crazy is this idea that the Greeks invented Democracy. Even if you go over to the Wikipedia page History of Democracy, Athens as held up as the first real democracy. Gratefully, it does discuss what it calls proto-democracies. But there is a problem with this: ancient Athens didn’t have much of a democracy. And truthfully, neither does the United States.

The Important Kind of Democracy

I found an excellent article from the May 1919 issue of American Journal of Sociology, The Origins of Democracy. It is by J L Gillin of the University of Wisconsin. He notes that there are different kinds of democracies. But his interest is in “democracies that provide equality of opportunity[1] as between individuals and different classes, not only political, but educational, social, and economic, opportunity.” In other words, social democracy.

Gillin then bluntly notes, “Nowhere as yet has this form of democracy been fully realized.” I now see that this kind of social democracy as what we really need to be working toward. Conservatives, by definition, will always see the current power structure as right. Thus, when slavery was common, they saw it as the way things should be. And the extreme lack of democracy in all ways (even political) is seen as correct. The end of history!

Democracy in Tribal Groups

Gillin quoted Lewis H Morgan on the Iroquois confederacy:

The principle of democracy… manifested itself in the retention by the gentiles of the right to elect their sachem [leaders] and chiefs, in the safeguards thrown around the office to prevent usurpation, and in a check upon the election held by the remaining gentes[2].

What’s more, Morgan wrote:

When the Athenians established the new political system, founded upon territory and upon property, the government was a pure democracy. It was no new theory, or special invention of the Athenian mind, but an old and familiar system, with an antiquity as great as that of the gentes themselves.

Gillin discussed many other ancient democratic systems, including the Hebrews. But the most interesting is his contention that democracy arose out of the natural connections of small tribes of as few as 50 people.

More recent work suggests that pre-neolithic groups were generally egalitarian. It was the rise of cities and agriculture that brought social hierarchy (eg, kings, priests) and set roles for the sexes.

Hardwired for Democracy

Humans appear to be hardwired for democracy. In Nature Human Behaviour Kanakogi et al published Preverbal Infants Affirm Third-Party Interventions That Protect Victims From Aggressors (30 January 2017). What this seems to indicate is that babies as young as six-months-old have an innate sense of justice. And democracy is all about justice.

The problem is that socialization leads us to accept that certain injustices aren’t. That’s where we get ideas like the divine right of kings and meritocracy. It’s funny — Isn’t it? — that the overwhelming number of meritocratic people are third basers. When believers in meritocracy are pushed on this issue, they always retreat into genetics. And not only is this contrary to what science teaches us, it is just the modern equivalent of the divine right of kings.

Short-Circuiting Democracy in the West

Most people believe we are better off now than in the past. But pre-neolithic tribes seem to have a stronger sense of democracy. And even in the last 40 years, we’ve seen the United States regress substantially with regards to egalitarianism and democracy. This has reached a point where Republicans, by and large, don’t even believe in democracy.

If we are to survive, we start by seeing that democracy is not some western concept that we just “get.” Rather, we have developed a society that does all it can to stratify us for no reason other than to make the powerful more so. And this makes sense. In a tribe of 50 people, you simply can’t be that much more powerful than anyone else. In a global society of 7 billion, you can be much more powerful.

The fact that Mark Zuckerberg has approximately a half-million times as much wealth as the median American makes no sense. Yet most people are so used to this kind of un-democratic fact that it doesn’t even occur to them that there is a problem.

We Need to Change

Social democracy is our birthright. But we have allowed a system to thrive, based on the myth of meritocracy, that deprives us of it. Democracy is not a western idea. But the west has done an amazing job of retaining the pretense of democracy while depriving it of most of its meaning.


[1] Gillin is not using this phrase as it is normally used in political discourse today as simply a way to justify actual inequality. Clearly, real equality of opportunity is not just that the poor have the same legal opportunity as the rich. There is no equality of opportunity when a poor person has no capital to start a business while the rich have millions of dollars. The use of “equality of opportunity” in this case is nothing but propaganda meant to obscure the truth and stop social change.

[2] This is a slightly difficult concept. It is basically the group of people who are allowed to vote. It’s like “property owners” at the start of the United States. But instead, the group is defined by blood-relations.

The Tiny Number of Tech Heroes

Tim Berners-LeeI found a telling sentence in an otherwise good article about HTML5, “We do things with web pages and HTML today that were never dreamt of by the early developers and implementers of the language.” It made me ill, even though I see this all the time.

Tim Berners-Lee Double Standard

What’s notable is the double standard we see. When early HTML is discussed in even a slightly negative light, as it is in this sentence, it is “developers and implementers” who are to blame. But when it is one of the thousands of times I read about “who invented and implemented the glorious web” it is Tim Berners-Lee who, as the 20th century Moses, brought it to the masses on silicon circuit boards.

The Rubbish of the Romantic Hero Archetype

I know I rant a lot about this but the Romantic Hero archetype is rubbish. It hurts society. All those conservatives who are so concerned that no one will do anything if they can’t make billions of dollars aren’t at all concerned that people might not do so much innovation if they are completely ignored while a tiny fraction of developers gets all the credit.

Tim Berners-Lee did this; Tim Berners-Lee did that; Tim Berners-Lee did some other damned thing!

The only examples I know of people who really qualify as Romantic Heroes were so ahead of their time that no one acknowledged their work while they were living. Take Gregor Mendel — the “Father of Genetics.” It took roughly 35 years after he published his work (over a decade after he had died) for his work to be rediscovered and celebrated.

I don’t even consider Einstein a Romantic Hero. What he did was part of the flow of science at the time. He took Max Planck’s work and, being much younger, saw its implications. (It’s possible to say that Einstein did attain Romantic Hero status with General Relativity. Of course, basically, no lay-person understands that work or its importance.)

Be Rich and Suddenly You Are Achilles!

And we even give Romantic Hero status to people who didn’t really do anything other than make a lot of money — like Steve Jobs. I’ve loved this scene since I first saw it. It didn’t actually happen. But everything the Steve Wozniak character says is absolutely correct. And more or less the same things can be said about Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates (although at least they all have some technical knowledge).

It Takes a Planet

I don’t mind giving people credit. But does it always have to be the same people? There are thousands of people who made the internet what it is today. Virtually no one knows who the most important ones have been.

Ever heard of JCR Licklider? Of course not! Why would you? Haven’t you heard?! Tim Berners-Lee invented the web. The fact that the web would be meaningless without people like Licklider hardly matters. We wouldn’t have Facebook selling our private communications to Netflix without Berners-Lee! It hardly matters that this is even more true of Licklider. Webpages are so much more interesting than the very idea of networking computers together!

Linus Torvalds and Richard Stallman

My go-to example is Richard Stallman. He oversaw the creation of almost an entire free Unix operating system. Linus Torvalds creates one (important) part of it and suddenly, the operating system is called Linux. (And it is mispronounced because of Torvalds’ Finnish accent.)

Good luck using an OS with a kernel and literally no other software. And what did Linus Torvalds write his kernel in? Richard Stallman’s GCC. (Note: Torvalds is also a dick.)

But Linus Torvalds is the star and Richard Stallman is that weird guy with Asperger’s — to those few who know he exists at all.

(As a side note, let me point out that one of the biggest bits of apologetics for Torvalds kernel is the claim that you can use the kernel without the GNU tools but not the other way around. This claim must be made by very young and ignorant people. I was using all of the GNU tools before there was a kernel. I still use them on my Windows and Mac machines. The truth is, for most work, my GNU-powered Windows machine is better than my GNU-powered Linux machine. For a server: Linux all the way. For a workstation: Windows.)

The Stupidity of All This

But I understand why people pick out a small number of people and turn them into computer Romantic Heroes: they don’t know enough about technology and its history to have a reasonable and objective view of the way that things progress.

Of course, this isn’t something restricted to technology. Humans just seem to have this kind of thing ingrained in them — or at least Americans. And we need to get past it. This fantasy of the Romantic Hero hurts us. And it hurts the supposed Romantic Heroes most of all. Linus Torvalds used to be a fairly humble and nice guy. Now he’s an asshole megalomanic — with a virtual entourage that only makes him worse.

But he can die for all it matters to me. The problem is that the “Romantic Hero” warps society. It makes it seem like we actually live in a meritocracy. It justifies vilifying the poor and worshipping the rich. And in the end, this will destroy us.

But at least no one has to know anything about the web. They just have to be able to shout, “Tim Berners-Lee!”

A Very Alpha Christmas

Alpha SantaAh, Christmas! There are many things I like about it. Well, two: giving presents and cooking. Really: if you are past the age of 30, Christmas really ought to be about giving. And for women, it mostly is. For men, well. You know men.

My Christmas

I just want to explain what my Christmases are like. I always go to my sister’s house. And the two of us cook and otherwise wait on all the men who sit on the couch and watch sports and other “reality” shows.

(Yes, I do know that I’m a man. But socially, I’m not. It’s strange that supposed alpha men who supposedly love women so much don’t want to spend time around them. But maybe it is just that they want them for sex and otherwise, they prefer to be around each other because they are culturally stunted and the source of 90 percent of all the pain in the world.)

Compromise

But in our coming and going, it might be nice to see, I don’t know, some Christmas shows. Maybe hear some Christmas music? I’m not that fond of either. But it is certainly better than yet another football game — yet another episode of Pawn Stars (AKA: the show where bottom feeders make money off desperate people).

The truth is, I don’t much care. What does matter is that there is no compromise. It is just assumed by the men that whatever they want to watch is what will be watched. And it is just assumed that they will be waited on.

Tolerance

Truly, I’m thinking that next year, my sister and I will get a hotel room. We’ll allow the the kids to come by and let the “alpha” males conquer Christmas. If pizza parlors are open on Christmas, they should have no problem. And it will give them more man time.

Anyway, Merry Christmas! Remember the reason for the season: learning extreme tolerance.

Afterword

Later, when everything calmed down, I went into the back bedroom and watched Family Feud with my great-nephew, Hector. He apparently enjoys it and I don’t mind watching it. Steve Harvey is genuinely funny and manages to mock the contestants in a way that doesn’t embarrass me. (I suffer greatly from pena ajena.)

Hector quickly fell asleep and I continued to read and watch the show. It was very peaceful — the way Christmas should be. In addition to this very pleasant time, I got to observe something very disturbing on Family Feud.

Watermelon Man

The question was, “Name something the same size as Steve Harvey’s head.” Bear in mind that Harvey is an African American. And the white contestant buzzed-in and answered, “Watermelon.”

I’m not saying that the contestant was actively racist. But such things are the result of living in a racist society. This is the main reason that I say everyone is racist. It is the same reason that everyone knew Reagan’s “welfare queen” was black (even though she wasn’t).[1] But the contestant’s answer wasn’t far from saying, “Friday chicken!”

Steve Harvey, of course, ignored the racial aspect of it and made a big deal out of the fact that his head — No one’s head! — is as big as a watermelon. It was very funny.

Indication of Broader Racism

But the amazing thing is “watermelon” was the #2 answer with one-quarter of respondents saying it. I had originally thought that the contestant was idiosyncratic. But no. People really do associate African Americans with watermelons.

That’s not a problem, of course. But it is indicative of the subconscious racism that people hold. And it does matter when employers choose whites with felony convictions over blacks with no criminal background.

Steve Harvey: Soother of White Fragility

As a result of this, I find it outrageous that the producers of Family Feud allowed that question through. It obviously required that Harvey do a 21st century minstrel act. The fact that he is a pro that handles casual racism in a way that doesn’t upset whites doesn’t really help matters.

So my first reaction was shock and horror. But Steve Harvey’s handling of it amused and calmed me (as it was meant to). But more reflection makes it even worse.

It was still better than dealing with my alpha family members. And Hector is very sweet — especially when he’s asleep!


[1] Giving Linda Taylor the moniker “welfare queen” (which Reagan popularized but didn’t invent) was not right. And it was even worse for Reagan to use her as an excuse to cut welfare. Taylor was simply a criminal. Using her as an example of a welfare recipient is like using a human trafficker who launders money through a credit union as an example of a bank customer.

Sorry on Christmas

Frank and Grumpy SquirrelSo this is Christmas. And what have you done? Yeah, we’re all thinking it so let’s just come out and say it: John Lennon was a dick.

I’ve done a lot of bad things in my life, but I never visited people way poorer than myself to hector them about how they’ve lived their lives.

As I recall, at the time of his death, he was worth roughly a hundred million dollars — enough money that he could have used $20 bills to wipe his ass for the rest of his life, even if he had lived to be old. But this is not what I want to talk about.

An Apology

I want to apologize for being a dick myself. A lot of people have supported this website for a long time. And I’ve really let it go. I don’t post much and I take forever to answer comments. But I’m trying to change that.

An Excuse or Explanation Depending on Whether You Like Me

This neglect is not due to any animus against the site or its readers. The truth is that for the last year and a half, I haven’t been doing well. I’ve never been suicidal, but if I had had the ability to simply not exist, I would have taken it.

Brain chemistry is a strange thing. It’s weird how the whole universe changes based on your brain chemistry.

“Suddenly Everything Seems So Easy”

I keep thinking about the film As Good as it Gets. In it, Greg Kinnear’s character was a successful artist who has been violently robbed. His whole life has fallen apart. And he is going to see his estranged parents to ask for money to get back on his feet. But he has a magical evening during which he begins to draw again. So he decides not to ask for money from his parents.

Jack Nicholson thinks this is crazy, “What are you talking about? You got real problems.”

And Kinnear replies, “I know. I’m a little bit nervous. Suddenly everything seems so easy.”

Universes of the Mind

This goes along with Ken Baldwin’s experience jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, “I saw my hands leave the bridge. I knew at that moment, that I really, really messed up. Everything could have been better, I could change things. And I was falling. I couldn’t change that.”

There are lots of cheap responses to this. “Wisdom comes to some suddenly.” Or: “Suicide is a long-term solution to a short-term problem.” But for Baldwin and Kevin Hines and countless others, it isn’t necessarily an irrational choice to take their lives.

It’s just that there are two universes that they are living in. One is filled with pain. The other hope. In general, I believe the universe of hope is the more objective one — at least for the vast majority of people.

Hope

By “hope” I’m not talking about the hope that your material situation will improve. I’m talking about the hope that continuing on is worth doing at all.

For the month of September, I billed less than a thousand dollars. That’s not sustainable. But I just couldn’t face work — not even my own work. That was a very bad month, but it’s been this way for roughly a year and a half.

November and December have been better financially. I’ve been working more here and on Psychotronic Review. And I’ve even had a major breakthrough on a play that has been stalled for the last year and a half.

I’m hoping to do a better job around here. The days of having things to say but just not being able to sit down and write them seem to have passed — at least for now.

Merry Evil Christmas

So after this depressing and self-indulgent post, let me wish you a happy whatever. Now go and watch Christmas Evil (AKA: You Better Watch Out). Christmas, art, slasher film. By today’s standards, it’s hardly violent at all. But it’s fascinating. John Waters says he always played it at his Christmas parties. You’ll see why: it’s also kind of a fetish film.

Ho ho ho! And now a song that would offend most people:

The Early Career of Steve Forbert

Steve ForbertIn 1998, the Timberline Lodge outside Portland, Oregon was filming a number of acoustic sets of notable musicians. One of them was Steve Forbert. But the lodge was snowed in. No one could get there, so I was one of maybe 5 people in the audience. I sat about a foot away from him as he performed. It was a magical moment because Forbert had been a hero of mine since I was in my teens.

In Loudon Wainwright’s great “Talking New Bob Dylan,” he pegs Forbert pretty well as a variation of Bob Dylan:

Yeah, I got a deal and so did John Prine
Steve Forbert and Springsteen, all in a line
They were lookin’ for you, signin’ up others
We were new Bob Dylans, your dumb ass kid brothers
Well, we still get together every week at Bruce’s house
Why, he’s got quite a spread I tell ya, it’s a twelve step program.

Discovering Steve Forbert

I was at the mall recently and over the sound system, I heard little Steve Forbert. It reminded me how much I used to like him.

The song was, of course, “Romeo’s Tune” — the only song of his that was ever a hit as far as I know. Of course, I haven’t followed his career for about two decades. But unless all his intelligence and talent left him, I can’t imagine how he would have found himself in the top 40 again. Anyway, I figured it would be a good idea to start with it because most people don’t know who Steve Forbert is.

“Romeo’s Tune” is off his second album, Jackrabbit Slim. So I’m going to jump back below because I love his first album.

But the nice thing about Steve Forbert’s hit song is that it is fully in keeping with his other work. It’s a wonderful song. And as a lyric writer, he’s more of a poet than almost any songwriter I can think of. “Let me smell the moon in your perfume”? That’s such a lovely enigmatic line!

Goin’ Down to Laurel

Alive on Arrival - Goin' Down to LaurelOkay, let’s go back to the beginning of Steve Forbert, Alive on Arrival.

I remember reading that the agent who originally snagged Steve Forbert found him playing in a punk club. Although in a certain way, that seems bizarre, in another way, it makes perfect sense.

To me, punk isn’t about a style of music, but an approach to music. Listen to that first Bob Dylan album and tell me if that doesn’t sound punk to you. Steve Forbert on album doesn’t sound so very punk, but he does live. It’s the production. Most of his albums have been really beautifully produced, and that is not very punk.

I mentioned this because I am presenting “Goin’ Down to Laurel” first. Forbert was born in Meridian, Mississippi. It’s a town of about 40,000. And Laurel is about 50 miles south of it — with a population of a bit less than 20,000. But there were more people in Laurel when Forbert was growing up — it’s been falling steadily. So maybe when he sings, “It’s a dirty, stinking town,” he is right.

But what I find fascinating about the song is that he is singing as something of a bad boy — or at least a confident one who is in his element. He’s going down south to see a “little girl” who he says is “a fool” for loving him. And I suspect that as long as he was in Mississippi, he was that person. But the same album has the songs that he clearly wrote after he moved to New York. I’ll highlight one of those songs later. But for now, just bask in self-assurance. And remember it.

Big City Cat

After the last Steve Forbert song “Goin’ Down to Laurel” where he plays the bad boy, I wanted to offer a very different track off Alive on Arrival. The song is “Big City Cat.”

It’s a funny song. He’s talking about his life after moving to New York. Most of the song is just about the feel of the big city with its sights and sounds. The only indication that things are not going that well is when he says, “I’m getting so skinny it hurts to sit down.” This reminds me of once a few years ago when I got down to 99 pounds and it did indeed hurt to sit down.

But the whole song turns into a kind of musical version of The Zoo Story toward the end. He’s living in one of those dreary places with a shared bathroom. And some kind of “lunatic” has been following him. Now the guy is hanging out in his hallway, leading to him being afraid to use the bathroom.

But he ends the song with the wry observation that this is all that he wanted, “I’m supposed to be happy; I’m here where it’s at; I’m a face in the crowd; I’m a big city cat!” Yeah, maybe Laurel wasn’t such a dirty stinking town after all.

Say Goodbye to Little Jo

Jackrabbit Slim - Say Goodbye to Little JoOkay, now we move back to Steve Forbert’s second album, Jackrabbit Slim. It was his most popular album because of “Romeo’s Tune.” But it also had “Say Goodbye to Little Jo,” which I think got a fair amount of play — at least on AOR stations.

It’s a lovely song. It’s about a break-up. The implication is that it’s kind of a pep-talk the singer is giving to himself: let her go; don’t be a jerk; it’s your own damned fault anyway. There’s also the implication that Little Jo was the one. Break-ups before were easy enough to get through, but this one is going to be different.

This song reminds me a lot of Jules Shear. But that’s hardly surprising. There’s a reason why I admire the two of them so much. But this song has the emotional complexity that I associate with Shear. It’s kind of like one of my all-time favorite Shear tunes, The First Freeze After The Fall. But that song is more about grabbing hold of the pain and cherishing it. That’s in “Say Goodbye to Little Jo,” but it isn’t the focus.

Cellophane City

Little Stevie Orbit - Cellophane CityNow we move to Steve Forbert’s third album, Little Stevie Orbit. It’s actually a very upbeat album — even a bit unhinged at times. But the song I most remember from it is the subdued “Cellophane City.” It’s one of the songs that brings to mind William Goldman’s line about Hollywood, but which applies equally well to the music business, “No one knows anything.” It sounds like a hit to me — at least on AOR. It wasn’t.

Typical of this period of Forbert, the production is exceptional. Or it is just the kind of production that I most like in popular music. Sure, I may admire the more flashy production of Bob Ezrin and Jim Steinman. But its music like this that I listen to again and again. It is probably because it is really creative, but it never crosses that line of being an end in itself. I think Forbert brought that out in producers, given he had different ones.

The refrain in the song “cellophane city” gives the wrong impression about its meaning. It’s really not about some Peyton Place. It’s about one man and how he deals with the infidelity of what sounds like a wife, “He stood in the kitchen, she told him a lie; she left around 7 and kissed him goodbye…” But he gets over it.

The last verse is definitely the best because it puts the man’s previous behavior in context and shows that there is a better way:

You try to be Jesus, you try to be boss
You pulled a few tricks and you hang on a cross
This sepulcher is emptying, yeah all is at peace
We know you’re with Magdalene and you’re sailing for Greece.

That’s right: everyone knows; no one cares; get on with your life. Martyrdom is for chumps. Like a lot of Steve Forbert songs, it manages to be didactic but without the listener knowing it. So there you have your lesson for the day! And a really beautiful song:

Lost

Steve Forbert - LostSteve Forbert’s fourth self-titled album was, well, weird. It was all over the map. Whereas his earlier albums were incredibly consistent, he decided to spread out on this one. I can’t blame an artist for wanting to do this. But from the standpoint of a listener, it can be a bit disconcerting. It didn’t do well. It led to him losing his record contract.

But I think it’s a fine album. I do think it’s over-produced, and that’s too bad given his first three albums. But it has Steve Forbert’s usual range of emotion and wit. I don’t think it has a single bad song on it. There is a feeling I have a lot with him that I’d rather just listen to him alone with a guitar. He doesn’t need production, even if he was usually served well by it.

I’m going to highlight probably the most low-key song on Steve Forbert, “Lost.” I still think it is over-produced. But it’s such a fine song. And it’s from a perspective we don’t hear much in music — at least like this. It’s about the other man. The singer is talking to the ex of his new lover. The refrain is, “I’m lost in your sweetheart’s arms.” It’s what the other man in The Tennessee Waltz would sing.

He takes no pleasure in the pain he is inflicting on the other man. And he’s not even sure if the woman loves him, “Is she poison? Man, I just can’t tell.” But he’s so in love that he wants her to run off with him and get married. It reminds me of how I used to think when I was younger: that men should be willing to sacrifice their desires out of a kinship of manhood. Think of the ending of Casablanca. But if men can’t do that, they can at least be aware of what they are doing, as in “Lost.”

In saying this, I’m well aware that this a male-centric way of looking at relationships. This is partly why I no longer look at relationships in this way. (More important is that I just don’t see monogamous relationships as being that realistic or healthy.) But overall, everyone would be happier if they at least noticed the pain they cause others.

Steve Forbert Live

Steve Forbert 2015For years, I’ve looked to see if that 1998 concert ever came out on video. It didn’t. Part of it is on the album, Timberline Acoustic Series. But that’s just audio.

There is surprisingly little Steve Forbert live online. I am getting used to the fact that my tastes are not those of other people. Talking to Will a couple of years ago, I learned that he doesn’t think that much of Forbert. But I must note that in his old age, Will’s taste in music has really deteriorated. Then he made me listen to the Meghan Trainor song NO. All I could think to say was that it sounded like a Meghan Trainor song.

Anyway, the only suitable video I could find was the following 1979 performance at the Capitol Theatre in New Jersey. It’s good, but I’ve already featured the first two songs of it: “Romeo’s Tune” and “Goin’ Down To Laurel.” And it limits his work to the first two albums. But it’s a fine performance. And it’s an excellent way to spend an hour.

Recent Work

Here is a short set from 2015 in support of his album Compromised, which is very good:

Is It Really Time to Say Sherrod Brown Should Be President

Is It Really Time to Say Sherrod Brown Should Be PresidentI have been really annoyed listening to people talk about who the Democrats should nominate for president. It’s been made all the more annoying listening to The Villagers gush about Joe Biden. That’s nothing against him. I like him. He’s a great retail politician. I loved watching him beat the crap out of Paul Ryan during the 2012 Vice-Presidential Debate. But who cares? He’s run for president twice and lost both times. Democrats like him but they don’t want him as their presidential candidate. He’s polling high because people know his name. That’s it. If he runs, he will again embarrass himself.

For months, my choices have been Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Sherrod Brown. But I’ve evolved on the issue.

Elizabeth Warren

Even though I defended Warren on her Native American heritage business, there’s no doubt that she handled it poorly. Ultimately, I think that Donald Trump — the trust-fund baby with half a brain — managed to out-maneuver her.

But don’t get me wrong: the Democrats can run a little yellow dog. It doesn’t matter. If the economy is tanking in 2020, that little yellow dog with a (D) after its name will win. And the Democrats could nominate the second coming of Jesus Christ and if he had a (D) after his name, he’d go down in flames (Haha!) if the economy has a minor recession next year and comes roaring back in 2020.

But I just don’t think that Warren is going to make a great president. I fear it will be too much like Obama’s presidency where her naivete will hurt the country. (This is in an “opportunity cost” way: she won’t get as much good work done as she could have.)

Of course, if she is the nominee, I will proudly vote for her.

Bernie Sanders

And then we come to my choice in 2016: Bernie Sanders. I still like him — a lot. But there are things about him that do bother me. But rather than go my own way, I think I will address Mehdi Hasan’s article, Critics Say Bernie Sanders Is Too Old, Too White, and Too Socialist to Run for President in 2020. They’re Wrong. He counters five arguments against Sanders, so let’s go through them.

He’s Behind in the Polls

I’ve already addressed this to some extent. Hasan is right: Biden is beating Sanders in the polls. And this has all the relevance as the fact that my truck needs an oil change. We are one month short of two years from the 2020 presidential election. We are over a year from when the primaries even start. As Hasan noted: at this time in 2014, Jeb Bush was not just the front-runner in the Republican primary, he was the front-runner by double-digits! Fun fact: Jeb Bush suspended his presidential run after South Carolina — the third primary contest!

He’s Too White

On this issue, I don’t think that Hasan did a very good job. He noted two things. First, a number of high-profile African Americans supported him. Second, Sanders has done a lot of outreach to the African American community. I can counter both of these. Sanders didn’t get very many high-profile endorsements and he’s continued to make racially insensitive errors.

A much better argument is just to note that Clinton did poorly with blacks in 2008 and great with them in 2016. If Sanders does manage to have a lot of support in the 2020 primary, I expect him to do much better with the African American community.

So even though I don’t find Hasan’s arguments persuasive, I agree with him. Bernie is not “too white.”

He’s Too Old

This is probably my biggest problem with Sanders. Hasan notes that Nancy Pelosi is older than Sanders. Yes, but not as old as when he runs for president and not nearly as old as when he finishes his first tern. He notes that Biden is almost as old as him. But who cares? I could be wrong, but Biden doesn’t even exist in my political universe.

Hasan also mentions that Warren will be 71. And that gets to my main point: brain function. Adult brain function doesn’t normally change that much over time — until the mid-70s. So I’m not really concerned about Warren. She would be 79 at the end of her second term. She was an academic and that helps with brain function. And she is a woman and they do not generally decline as fast as men.

Sanders would be 87 at the end of two terms. I do think humane instincts are more important than mental power. But this is an important job. And you know what Harry Callahan said:

He Isn’t a Democrat

This is something that annoys me a little bit. The reason is that Sanders is not a socialist. I would vote for Jeremy Corbyn over him any day because Corbyn is a socialist. Sanders is just a typical New Deal Democrat. And that’s great! But why the big deal of refusing to join the Democratic Party? We don’t have a parliament. We have a two-party system. Sanders is a Democrat and he should just accept it.

Hasan’s primary argument is, “So what?” That works very well for me. Personally, I feel that Sanders was treated almost as badly in 2016 as Jesse Jackson was in 1988. Unfortunately, it matters a great deal for a whole lot of Democrats. There are a lot of Clinton supporters who seem to hate Sanders more than Trump. And if that’s a bit hyperbolic, a lot of people hold Sanders partly responsible for her loss. That’s totally unfair, but since when was politics fair?

He’s a Socialist

Hasan says the usual things: the word doesn’t have much power anymore; among democrats “socialism” is more popular than “capitalism”; it’s going to be hard for Republicans to demonize him with the word since they called Obama and Bill Clinton — both conservative Democrats — socialists. I’ll add another one: he’s not a socialist!

Why I’m Not Keen on Sanders

It should be clear that my main problem with Sanders is his age. But I also don’t like the fact that the Democratic establishment is going to go after him even harder this time. Just the same, I hear a lot of Democrats on Twitter saying, “We are united!” When I hear that kind of thing it makes my ass twitch. It’s the kind of thing people say right before a major screw-up.

But there is another reason I’m not as keen on Sanders. Although I agree with him on most things, we part ways significantly over policing and guns. That wouldn’t be a problem if there weren’t someone else who I agreed with more.

But again, if he is the nominee, I will proudly vote for him. Sadly, just like a lot of the ignorant Jill Stein voters in 2016, I feel certain that a lot of establishment Democrats will not vote for Sanders if he is nominated. All this tribalism drives me crazy.

Sherrod Brown

I’ve always like Sherrod Brown. He’s kind of my perfect politician: a labor Democrat. In terms of policy, he really isn’t different than Warren or Sanders. But Brown has deep ties with organized labor. And I really think if workers are ever going to get any power in this country, it’s going to take more than policy; it’s going to take a revitalization of organized labor.

But earlier this year, I didn’t know that much about Brown outside of his economic positions. So I researched him. And I found that other than a mixed record on drugs, I agree with him pretty much across the board. He has everything Bernie has going for him and nothing he has going against him.

And he has something else that was critical to Sanders in 2016: authenticity. He is not a latecomer to this party. He’s been pushing the same policies for decades. In the 1990s, he wasn’t a New Democrat.

Summary: 2020

So I hope that Sherrod Brown runs. I think if he does, he’s going to blow away the pretenders like Biden, Harris, and Booker. But who knows? He may not even run. I’ll vote for whoever the Democratic candidate is. (Yes, even the little yellow dog.) I’m united with that cause. Sadly, I’m not so sure about a lot of other Democrats — and that includes people on both sides of this ridiculous conflict.

#SherrodBrown2020

Trump Is Not the Problem

Mike LeeIt shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone at this point that Trump is not some pernicious force in American politics. He is, instead, just a symptom of a Republican Party that has lost all of its moorings to liberal democratic government. This has not been a surprise to me. In the early 1990s I noticed conservatives talking about how democracy wasn’t that great. And for good reason! They saw that what they believed in as not popular.

But I bring this up because most Americans do see Trump as some outlier. My father, for example, hates Trump but absolutely cannot see that other than being personally coarse, Trump is a standard issue Republican. Indeed, Trump is in many ways better than you garden-variety Republican. Let’s look at the case of Chai Feldblum.

Chai Feldblum

Feldblum is a member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Obama first put her on the board, but Trump just waved her through for her second term. And why wouldn’t he? She is an LGBT advocate and a lesbian. And Trump really doesn’t have problems with the LGBT community. (Obviously, if it comes to it, Trump will demagogue anything and anyone.)

But standard-issue Republican Mike Lee has a problem with Chai Feldblum: she’s anti-religious! So he’s holding up not just her confirmation but two others. I’d go through his complaints, but there really isn’t anything to them.

It’s really just what I’ve talked about with regard to the supposed War on Christmas. The problem for conservative Christians is that not treating Christianity as the One True Religion is the same as attacking it. Saying “Happy holidays!” isn’t good enough. They want, “Happy holidays but remember that unlike those other religions, Christianity is true!”

Mike Lee

That’s what Mike Lee is up to. Feldblum has called for more inclusive kinds of group structures: “partnerships, households, kinship relationships, and families.” Notice: families is in there. But the fact that it isn’t the only structure that is in there is not good enough for Mike Lee and the other Good Christians™ with all their Christian Love™.

It’s a shocking thing, really. Mike Lee wants to limit the franchise of marriage — explicitly. Yet he has the hubris to say that Feldblum is the one who is an opponent of marriage.

This is Mike Lee! He’s been a Republican in the Senate for 8 years. Certainly, he has been considered conservative. But there was no outrage because nothing really stands out about him compared to other Republicans.

The GOP Is the Problem

And that’s the point: the Republican Party is horrible. The difference between a Donald Trump and a Mike Lee is that Trump is obvious in his vileness and Lee is worse in his vileness.

Yet if Mike Lee had been president, I don’t think that the Democrats would have picked up 40 House seats last month. And this is terrifying.

Let’s face it, the next Great Demagogue will be a whole lot smarter than Trump. And he’ll be smooth! People won’t be marching in the street because he seems like an okay guy. Sure, we may disagree with him but at least we can speak reasonably with him. And then he will instruct the military to shoot migrant children at the border.

Seeming Reasonable Isn’t Enough

But isn’t it better when our beastly behavior comes from a man who seems reasonable?

Well, no; no it isn’t.

And this is why we have to continue to focus on the Republican Party itself and the way that it is destroying our country. We must destroy the Republican Party before it can destroy the United States as a relatively free and democratic country.

Your Guess Is as Good as Ours!

Risk Hedge

The Industry for Those Who Dream Only of Money

Stephen McBride is the editor of RiskHedge Report — a stock analysis company. You know the kind of thing: a must-read website (used to be a newsletter) for people who are bigtime stock traders who are inexplicably not rich. How could following widely circulated tips not be a foolproof way to beat the competition?

McBride is such a successful stock trader that he is the editor of the modern equivalent of a tip sheet and a writer for another magazine of the inexplicitly non-rich, Forbes.

Netflix Is Shockingly Not a Good Investment Anymore

Thus, you might not be surprised when McBride reported, Netflix’s Worst Nightmare Is Coming True. I read the article because I thought McBride might have something to say about the increasing cost of bandwidth. But no, his point was that you shouldn’t buy Netflix for the same reason you shouldn’t by IBM: it seems to have peaked in its current state.

I don’t doubt him. This is the reason I don’t trade stocks: by the time I hear about a good company, everyone else knows. Netflix has been streaming video since 2007. And that is when the company really started raking in the money.

Disney Will Destroy Netflix

McBride’s main point is that Netflix is now getting major competition. So it’s dead. The problem is that Netflix has had competition since, well, 2007. Like Hulu. And Amazon Prime has been nipping at Netflix’s heals for years.

The big change is that Disney is coming out with a streaming system, Disney+, next year. (McBride knows it will be successful because he has a child so McBride will be Disney+.) Disney is planning to pull all of its content off Netflix at that time. That will cost Disney $300 million per year.

More Like Consumers’ Worst Nightmare Than Netflix’s

This move will require most people who want to keep streaming Disney films to buy Disney+. But if they want to continue to watch what are mostly exceptional Netflix-original shows and films, they will still need to continue their Netflix subscriptions. Most people will rightly blame Disney’s usual greed.

Side Note: Porno Mickey Is Coming!

McBride also claimed that Disney still had exclusive use of Mickey Mouse. Either he doesn’t realize that this annoying rodent goes out of copyright in 4 years, or he thinks that Disney will again be able to get the copyright term extended. I’m highly skeptical. At 95 years, no one without a major financial stake can think that a longer term will do anything but hurt creative work.

McBride’s Worthless Data

Netflix NASDAQ

But McBride’s only real data is that Netflix stock went up at a very high rate for the first 6 months of this year and has since gone down. Now it is back to its trend line from 2014 until the beginning of 2018. In other words, his big scoop is… nothing.

McBride Might Have Been Right!

It is clear that the only purpose of this article is to allow McBride to brag about what an awesome company RiskHedge Report is since it has been skeptical (for reasons so obvious I know them) for some time. If McBride were really secure, he would have waited another 6 months to publish this when the data would be clear. Right now they aren’t at all. So I suspect that he published now because he knew there was roughly a 50 percent chance that in that time the data would show the opposite.

In the article, he also recommends that people buy Disney stock because of Disney+. But I’ve already mentioned a couple of reasons to be skeptical. Another one is that Disney has never run a streaming company. This could all be a catastrophe. But what do I know? Maybe all start-ups prefer to start each year $300 million in the hole.

Stock Analysts Aren’t Worth Much for Society

My point in discussing this is not to say that Netflix is a better investment than Disney. Or vice versa. Rather it is to note that places like RiskHedge Report are more dream factories than Disney and Netflix. The argument by Stephan McBride is so facile that only someone desperate to believe would.

And on a broader level, how is any of this good for our society? This isn’t a situation where Disney+ will make costs go down. Oh sure, maybe each one will cost less than they now do. But most consumers will end up paying slightly less than twice what they now pay. And it’s all because $12.5 billion per year in net profits just isn’t enough for Disney. And note, they make so much because they’ve been so successful in manipulating the government into forcing consumers to pay much more by enacting unconscionable IP laws.

No one can ever say of me, “If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?” I really don’t care about money. Even making the little I do, I still end up giving a sizable percentage of my income to people even poorer than I am.

But Stephan McBride clearly cares a lot about money. But there is no reason to ask that question of him either. He clearly isn’t smart. He’s nothing more than a professional psychic. It’s just that the people who listen to him are richer than those who call The Psychic Hotline. And they think the fact that the drones at RiskHedge Report can push numbers around in a spreadsheet makes their proclamations any more believable.

It’s just a bunch of people with big but shameful dreams.