Wednesday, July 27, 2016

If the campaign is going to be a "feelings" fight, is the handwriting on the wall?

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"What is truly revealing is [Antonio Sabato Jr.'s] implication that believing something to be true is the same as its being true. Because if anything, that was the theme of the Republican Convention this week. It was a four-day exercise in emphasizing feelings over facts."
-- John Oliver, on last Sunday's Last Week Tonight

by Ken

Is it possible for one and the same person to be the one who talks a would-be jumper out onto the ledge and the one who gives him the hope he needs to come back down from it? I'm all too afraid it is, which is why I'm trying to come to grips with horrors like a Supreme Court reshaped by President The Donald.

Yes, sure, The Donald's rhetoric reeks of the apocalyptic, which makes it odd to accuse him of being the candidate of "hope," while Hillary Clinton is the candidate of, well, whatever -- more of the same, say. Nevertheless, it looks to me as if an important segment of the electorate is having a ball being frothed into a rage (I'm sure modern-day brain scientists could explain the basic chemical brain processes that make this so pleasurable) while also being seduced by the promise of Making America Great Again.

Nobody would have been more surprised than John Oliver was to find the theme of the Republican Convention "accidentally" summed up by that "IMDB-page-awarded actor" Antonio Sabato Jr., "who delivered a relatively restrained speech before opening his heart regarding President Obama to ABC News."

ANTONIO: First of all, I don't believe that the guy is a Christian. I don't believe he follows the God that I love and the Jesus that I love.
REPORTER: You believe that President Obama is a Muslim?
ANTONIO: Absolutely.
REPORTER: Is that what you're saying?
ANTONIO: Absolutely.
REPORTER: And that is based on what you feel in your heart.
ANTONIO: Yeah, that's what I believe, yeah. And you know what? I have the right to believe that. And you have the right to go against that, but I believe it.
The key point here, John argued, isn't that Antonio is wrong about President Obama being a Muslim, or even that Antonio is an idiot. I've put what he found "truly revealing" here atop this post: Antonio's "implication that believing something to be true is the same as its being true. Because if anything, that was the theme of the Republican Convention this week. It was a four-day exercise in emphasizing feelings over facts," reaching its apex in the newly anointed candidate's acceptance speech.

Feelings about all sorts of things -- about crime, about the economy, and on and on -- feelings that the feelers are entitled to believe, just as Antonio says, but that don't become any more true, when the facts are otherwise, no matter how strongly they're believed.

It's what I've been grousing about here for years under the rubric of "reality substitute" -- the legacy of Ronald Reagan, that reality can be whatever you want it to be, whatever makes you feel best, even if "feeling good" for you means flying into apoplectic rages over those damn liberals. Yes, "reality substitute" requires using real names, real places (as if most Americans would know the difference between real and fake place names), and even situations with some sort of factual link or cladding. But from there, you can paint the reality you wish to acknowledge living in. Or let your favorite demagogue do it for you.


ENTER NEWT GINGRICH, THE ONE AND ONLY

Yes, it's America's own beloved former House Speaker Newt, rising to the challenge of defending The Donald's brand of "reality substitute." Confronted with the statistically demonstrable fact that violent crime is down in the U.S., Newt throws out statistical exceptions to the clear overall numbers, then retreats from, or perhaps rises above, mere numbers.

NEWT: The average American, I will bet you this morning, does not think crime is down, does not think they are safer.
INTERVIEWER: But we are safer, and it is down.
NEWT: No, that's your view.
INTERVIEWER: It is a fact.
NEWT: But what I said is also a fact.
Which brings an explosion from John: "No, it isn't! No, it isn't! It's only a fact that that's a feeling people have." And he puts up a graph showing the U.S. violent crime rate descending from 1990 to 2015 and comments, "It's not a fucking Rorschach test. You can't infer anything you like from it."
Which doesn't stop our Newt.
NEWT: The current view is that liberals have a whole set of statistics which theoretically may be right, but it's not where human beings are.
INTERVIEWER: But what you're saying is --
NEWT [starts to talk] --
INTERVIEWER: But hold on, Mr. Speaker, because you're saying that liberals use these numbers, they use this sort of magic act. These are the FBI's statistics. They're not a liberal organization.
NEWT: What I said is equally true. People feel more threatened.
INTERVIEWER: They feel it, but the facts don't support it.
NEWT: As a political candidate, I'll go with how people feel, and I'll let you go with the theoreticians.
JOHN: He just brought a feeling to a fact fight.

BUT JOHN, AREN'T CAMPAIGNS ALWAYS "FEELINGS FIGHTS"?

Especially now that consultants have taken over the strategizing? What is modern campaign science about if not identifying feelings among the electorate which can be manipulated for political gain -- and not just manipulated but actually engineered?

And among the feelings there are some that are not just understandable but legitimate, like the feeling more and more Americans have that the economic system has been gamed against them, that geopolitics and the world economic order have been so effectively targeted to benefit the neoliberal elites that there isn't much left over for anyone else. Of course the notion that The Donald is any sort of solution is laughable, but it's a feeling that doesn't lend itself well to "Let me have some more of the same." That's a feeling that wasn't helpful to Al Gore after the two terms of Bill Clinton's presidency, and Gore hadn't been demonized to anywhere near the extent that Hillary Clinton has been.

Nor does it seem to matter that Hillary has been reduced to a caricature that probably bears only occasional resemblance to any actual person, let alone the candidate herself. It sticks. While it's true that The Donald is facing some pretty heavy media scrutiny of his own, the reality of it seems to me that none of that, however true, apparently holds much interest for potential Trump voters, whereas anything bad that can be said about Hillary, however far-fetched, has an impact on her potential voters.

I have the greatest difficulty imagining what a Trump presidency would be like, but increasingly less difficulty imagining that we may find out.
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Do The Wall Street Banksters Now Own The Democratic Party The Way They Own The Republican Party?

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When Khrushchev denounced Stalin, it sent a powerful jolt through the Russian political firmament, a jolt that eventually led to the dismantling of the Soviet Union and the eclipse of Russian communism. As I pointed out yesterday, the political elites repaid Khrushchev by banning his corpse from a Red Square resting place and banishing it to the less prestigious-- in Communistic minds at least-- to Moscow's storied Novodevichy Cemetery. It's unlikely to be as earth-shakingly consequential, but the long overdue rousting out of corruption-in-politics icon Debbie Wasserman Schultz, on the eve of the Hillary Clinton convention, may have major consequences for the Democratic Party.

You probably recall that one of the instances of Wasserman Schultz's authoritarian decision-making that turned the party's grassroots against her, was diktat-- likely at Hillary's urging and Obama's condescension, reintroducing lobbyists into the upper echelons of DNC power. In a world, like Wasserman Schultz's and most Beltway hack politicians', where corruption is an integral part of the status quo, Obama's banning of lobbyists 7 years ago was looked upon as something outrageous that would have to be dealt with by someone less reform-minded, someone like Hillary Clinton. Let me remind you of this chart that helps define American political corruption since 1990:



Public Citizen and several other good government reform groups, all of whom are no doubt celebrating the downfall of Wasserman Schultz, were also celebrating reforms the Democratic Party platform is incorporating this week. "We will," the platform states, "crack down on the revolving door between the private sector-- particularly Wall Street-- and the federal government. We will ban golden parachutes for those taking government jobs. We will limit conflicts of interest by requiring bank and corporate regulators to recuse themselves from official work on particular matters that would directly benefit their former employers. And we will bar financial service regulators from lobbying their former colleagues for at least two years." That may not seem like enough to a sane, rational person but it's a giant step away from the world that Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Rahm Emanuel, Steny Hoyer, Joe Crowley, Jim Himes and Chuck Schumer have created inside the Democratic Party as they turned it into a cauldron of corruption to match the cauldron of corruption presided over by the likes of Mitch McConnell, John Conyers, John Boehner, Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor. (Note: the GOP was quicker to get rid of their human sewage-- at least in terms of Boehner and Cantor-- than the Democratic Party has of theirs, this week's Debbie dénouement notwithstanding.

Public Citizen contends that "the platform gets to the root of a critical problem in America: Wall Street’s capture of the financial services agencies charged with regulating it. Inappropriate corporate influence at the highest levels of government is not compatible with protecting Main Street Americans, the groups maintain."

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, has been in the forefront of this fight to reform government (and the Democratic Party). "We applaud the DNC platform for its commitment to ban government service golden parachutes and limit conflicts of interest by Wall Street regulators," he told the media. "Government service golden parachutes are backdoor bribes to future government officials. They should be illegal-- plain and simple. We strongly support Senator Baldwin’s and Representative Cummings’ Financial Services Conflict of Interest Act. As long as the practice remains legal, we intend to keep pushing as shareholders to ban government service golden parachutes at the Wall Street banks."

Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, was as excited as Trumka. "We are thrilled," she said, "that the DNC platform took this landmark stand on the issue of personnel-- recognizing the inextricable link between who runs our banking regulators and how tough we are on Wall Street. Closing the rapidly spinning revolving door between government and industry and doing away with conflicts of interest are a necessary step the next administration must take to start repairing trust in government."

It certainly lays out a standard that Democrats need to hold the Clinton administration to over the next 4 to 8 years, a standard, there is every reason to believe, that will not come naturally to Clinton world. Still, Max Stahl, director of political engagement at Democracy Matters, was effusive: "We thank the Democratic Party for taking steps to realign the incentives of our government by closing the revolving door between representing elected power and representing industry. The platform language is a great first step and is a testament to the electoral power of democracy-driven messaging. However, it is vitally important that this platform leads to action. Democracy Matters students across the country will be watching." They'll need to be-- closely. Kurt Walters, campaign director of the Rootstrikers project at Demand Progress, didn't mince words or make nicey-nice.
The platform’s strong language on shutting down the revolving door is a dramatic turnaround for the Democratic Party. Still today, multiple agencies in the Obama administration are run by individuals who took millions in golden parachute bonuses from Wall Street for joining the government. Now, the official position of the Democratic Party is that those golden parachutes should be prohibited; cutting off a major way Wall Street works to rig the rules in its favor. We look forward to applying these standards during the transition to the next Democratic administration."
How serious a problem is this likely to be in a Hillary Clinton administration? Well, keep in mind that the Financial Sector (i.e., the banksters who hated Franklin Roosevelt so much that they tried financing a coup d'état against him) has written Hillary Clinton $47,519,521 worth of checks. Ben White penned a post for Politico yesterday, Wall Street Takes A Road Trip To Philadelphia, that makes you realize their bad behavior isn't being reported on by Chuck Todd and the other TV anchors, who would rather talk about angry, rowdy Bernie Sanders delegates. "Wall Street," wrote White, "is taking the Acela down to Philadelphia this week. Hordes of industry executives will descend on the city to celebrate Hillary Clinton’s nomination for president and renew close associations that vexed the Democratic standard-bearer throughout her primary battle with Bernie Sanders.

Goldman Sachs, which paid Clinton millions for private speeches, will be well represented in Philadelphia with executives Jake Siewert, a former Bill Clinton press secretary, making the trip along with Steven Barg, Michael Paese, Joyce Brayboy and Jennifer Scully, who was a major fundraiser for Bill Clinton in New York in 1992.

Blackstone, one of the nation’s largest private equity firms, will hold an official reception in Philadelphia on Thursday featuring its president, Tony James, sometimes mentioned as a possible Treasury secretary in a Clinton administration.

Hedge fund managers and top Democratic donors including Avenue Capital’s Marc Lasry and Boston Provident’s Orin Kramer will also be on the scene, as will Morgan Stanley executive and former top Clinton aide Tom Nides. Executives from Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and other large banks will also prowl the streets and barrooms of Philadelphia.

The financial contingent will be in an especially good mood following Clinton’s selection of Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate. Kaine has shown a willingness to fight for regional bank relief from the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. But more than that, he’s not Elizabeth Warren, the potential VP pick that long had Wall Street terrified.

Republicans with ties to the financial industry will also be there, a sharp contrast to Donald Trump’s convention in Cleveland, which Wall Street largely shunned over fears of the GOP nominee’s populist agenda on trade, immigration and Wall Street reform.

...Wall Street groaned as Clinton moved to the left during the primary-- especially on trade-- but the industry remains far more comfortable with the idea of another President Clinton in the White House than a President Trump.

“I think she has shown, perhaps ironically, that she has a better understanding of business and Wall Street than Donald Trump does,” said Steve Rattner, an investment banker and Democratic donor who will make the short Acela ride to Philly. “The GOP platform includes reinstating Glass-Steagall. And when you watched that [Trump acceptance] speech, Bernie Sanders could have given half of it. Putting partisanship aside, most of my Republican business friends are appalled at the thought of Donald Trump in the White House.”

So while the Clinton camp won’t boast about it, given the continuing unpopularity of Wall Street and the populist tilt of the electorate, the City of Brotherly Love will be the City of Banker Love this week. The Clinton campaign did not respond to a request for a comment.

Trump is likely to try to continue to exploit Clinton’s connections to the banking industry. On Saturday, following the Kaine selection, Trump tweeted: “Tim Kaine is, and always has been, owned by the banks. Bernie supporters are outraged, was their last choice. Bernie fought for nothing!”

Bankers supporting Clinton insist it’s not because they expect favorable treatment from her administration. Indeed, they note that she has staked out tough positions so far including supporting a Department of Labor rule hated by the industry that would put tougher restrictions on investment advisers. She’s also pushed for a tax on some kinds of high-frequency trading and for reinstating a Dodd-Frank rule that banks despise and spent millions of dollars trying to repeal that would force them to move derivatives trades into separate units.

“Wall Street doesn’t really side with a party based only on where regulation is going. We live in an environment where we know there is regulation and that we are under scrutiny,” said Robert Wolf, an investment banker and major Democratic fundraiser who will be in Philadelphia. “The bottom line is that if the economy does better, finance does better and everyone does better.”

But progressives, already dispirited by the Kaine selection, will be watching the Philadelphia convention closely and continue to resist any efforts by Clinton to stock a potential administration with Wall Street insiders.

...In some ways, Philadelphia will reveal the delicate dance Clinton has to do with the ascendant progressive wing of the party and the still-critical Wall Street donor base. On stage, the left will be heavily represented with prime-time speeches from Sanders and Warren.

But in the background, the “Rubin wing” of the Democratic Party, named for Wall Street executive and former Bill Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, will be circulating through panel discussions, Democratic party committee events and cocktail parties.

Larry Summers, a Harvard professor and former Rubin protégé who also served as Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton, will take part in a Politico discussion on the economy on Wednesday along with Neera Tanden, a close Hillary Clinton adviser and president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, a think tank some on the left now view as too centrist.

Progressives will be prowling around these events, looking to push back on anything they consider too pro-free trade or soft on banking regulation. But at least some on the left say they believe anyone looking for signs of a Rubin-wing restoration in Philadelphia will go away empty-handed.

“Clinton’s positions as they have evolved over the last year show she is not going to be soft on Wall Street,” said Dennis Kelleher, CEO of financial reform group Better Markets. “She’s for restoring the [derivatives reforms] and closing loopholes in the 'Volcker rule,'” which limits banks’ ability to engage in risky trading and investment. “She’s not going to deliver for Wall Street like some people fear, and her nominees are going to be decidedly not weighted to finance.”

Indeed, one senior lobbyist for a large bank said Wall Street executives going to Philadelphia in hopes of eventually playing a big role in a potential Clinton administration are fooling themselves. “She’s going to start her administration by picking a big fight with the left and nominating a bunch of Wall Street people?” the lobbyist said. “That’s crazy. It’s never going to happen.

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She Stole The Election Fair And Square... Is It Fair To Hate Her? (Trump, Trump, Trump)

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Someone from Bernie's campaign says Hillary didn't steal the election. Stealing an election is different from 7 or 8 people on an e-mail thread. This some real misdirection there. She totally stole the election, state by state by state. She cheated in every state and people who pay attention and keep an open mind know it. As Matt Taibbi pointed out at Rolling Stone yesterday, "the primary season was very far from a fair fight. The Sanders camp was forced to fund all of its own operations, while the Clinton campaign could essentially use the entire Democratic Party structure as adjunct staff. The DNC not only wasn't neutral, but helped with oppo research against Sanders and media crisis management. DNC chief Debbie Wasserman Schultz was forced to resign as a result of this mess." Then go state by state and examine how the party bosses stole and cheated and sabotaged and did whatever they had to do to keep the barbarians from getting through their gates.

Taibbi adds that "down the road, someone will have to address the problem of a Democratic Party structure that effectively had no internal advocates for a full 43 percent of its voters. As we've seen with the Trump episode on the other side, people don't much like having to fight against the party claiming to represent them."

I loved Sarah Silverman at the convention Monday, but no one likes being boo-ed and she tartly said, "to the Bernie or best people: you're being ridiculous," while Al Franken drooled over her shoulder like the jackass and hack he's turned into over the last 6-7 years. But what else could they do? Let Trump in? It really comes to that. You're either for the horrible, cheating, lying Hillary or you're for the even worse-- yes, yes, much worse-- Trump. Or you're of a state of mind where you feel comfortable saying "FUCK OFF with your corrupt system, go choke on it; I won't participate." (That would be me. I may sound like I'm rooting for Hillary on Twitter, but I'm not. I'm rooting against Trump, mostly holding my mouth shut about her-- even trying to see a saving grace-- but I'll never vote for her. Never. The Chuck Schumer/Debbie Wasserman Schultz Democratic Party deserves Trump; they've earned him and the horrors he'll bring.

I just had an argument with my air-conditioning and heating guy, who I've known for a decade and am very friendly with. He's an immigrant-- from Israel-- and he's voting for Trump. I tried to persuade him not to. But, there's something strange about me trying to persuade someone else to vote for her when I never will. Michelle Goldberg, writing at Slate this week tried to delve into what makes people hate her so. Sally Quinn, Democratic hostess with the mostess, told Louis Gates for his 1996 "Hating Hillary" piece in the New Yorker that "[T]here’s just something about her that pisses people off. This is the reaction that she elicits from people." Goldberg claims that "over the last two decades, the something that pisses people off has changed."

Peggy Noonan isn't the only observer who found Hillary to have "an air of apple-cheeked certitude... political in its nature and grating in its effects... an implicit insistence throughout her career that hers were the politics of moral decency and therefore those who opposed her politics were obviously of a lower moral order."

Goldberg's man on the street interviews yielded these reviews:
"Bill without the charisma... programmed and almost robotic. I don’t think her recent move to the left, or being more populist recently, is part of who she is but more of a reaction to Sanders in the race."

"She is disingenuous and she lies blatantly, but that’s what a lot of politicians do. It’s definitely more of a policy issue for me... I don’t like her support for the Iraq war. She didn’t support same-sex marriage until it became a popular issue. Her email stuff-- she is the only one that would not testify, and I think that’s bullshit. I don’t like her friendship with Netanyahu. I think they’ve destroyed the Middle East with Iraq. I don’t like that she takes money from big banks. She doesn’t support universal health care. For all those reasons. I think she’s more a Republican than a Democrat, and I refuse to vote for Republicans, ever."

"I don’t think she has a clue what people in my position need in life and certainly wouldn’t stoop to, quote unquote, my level. If I could make her a profit she’d be my best friend, but I can’t, so she doesn’t know I exist... If she was moving her lips she was probably lying about it."

"I think that Hillary Clinton is a sociopath, so I think that her main interest is in her pocketbook, and I think that’s obvious from looking at the Clinton Foundation"

"I think she’s trying to tell people, 'Vote for me because I’m a woman.' Ignore the fact that I have accomplished practically nothing significant in my whole career in the public eye, but I’m a woman, so vote for me."
A lot of that is pretty crazy stuff. "Some who loathe Clinton," wrote Goldberg, "see her as the living embodiment of avarice and deception. These Clinton haters take at face value every charge Republicans have ever hurled at her, as well as dark accusations that circulate online. They have the most invidious possible explanation for Whitewater, the dubious real estate deal that served as a pretext for endless Republican investigations of the Clintons in the 1990s. (Clinton was never found guilty of any wrongdoing, though one of her business partners, James McDougal, went to prison for fraud in a related case.) Sometimes they believe that Clinton murdered her former law partner, Vince Foster, who committed suicide in 1993. They hold her responsible for the deadly attack on the American outpost in Benghazi, Libya. Peter Schweizer’s new book Clinton Cash has convinced them that there was a corrupt nexus between Clinton’s State Department, various foreign governments, and the Clinton family’s foundation. Most of Schweizer’s allegations have either been disproven or shown to be unsubstantiated, but that hasn’t stopped Trump from invoking them repeatedly. In his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, he accused Clinton of raking in 'millions of dollars trading access and favors to special interests and foreign powers.' As former New York Times editor-in-chief Jill Abramson wrote, 'I would be dead rich... if I could bill for all the hours I’ve spent covering just about every "scandal" that has enveloped the Clintons.' After all that investigation, Abramson concluded that Clinton 'is fundamentally honest and trustworthy.' But the appearance of perpetual scandal surrounding Clinton can make it seem as if she must be hiding something monstrous, especially to those who are predisposed against her."
It could be that the reasons people give for disliking Clinton have changed simply because she herself has changed. She entered the White House as a brashly self-confident liberal. Early on, some of the president’s advisers sought to undermine her plans for health care reform because they were thought to be insufficiently business-friendly; in response, Carl Bernstein, one of her biographers, quotes her snapping at her husband, “You didn’t get elected to do Wall Street economics.” Then, after the epic repudiation of the 1994 midterms, in which Republicans won a House majority for the first time since 1952, she overcorrected-- becoming too cautious, too compromising, too solicitous of entrenched interests. As she would say during her 2000 Senate campaign, “I now come from the school of small steps.”

In other words, people hated Hillary Clinton for being one sort of person, and in response to that she became another sort of person, who people hated for different reasons. But this doesn’t explain why the emotional tenor of the hatred seems so consistent, even as the rationale for it has turned inside out. Perhaps that’s because anti-Hillary animus is only partly about what she does. It’s also driven by some ineffable quality of charisma, or the lack of it.

No doubt, this quality is gendered; Americans tend not to like ambitious women with loud voices. As Rebecca Traister wrote in her recent New York magazine profile of Clinton, “It’s worth asking to what degree charisma, as we have defined it, is a masculine trait. Can a woman appeal to the country in the same way we are used to men doing it?” Elizabeth Warren’s forthright authenticity is often favorably contrasted with Clinton’s calculated persona, but when Warren was running for Senate against Scott Brown, she was also widely painted as dishonest and unlikable.... This fits a broader pattern. Marianne Cooper, a sociologist at Stanford’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research and the lead researcher on Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, says that women who are successful in areas that are culturally coded as male are typically seen as “abrasive, conniving, not trustworthy, and selfish.”

What’s happening to Clinton, says Cooper, “happens to a lot of women. There are millions of people who will say about another woman: She’s really good at her job, I just don’t like her. They think they’re making an objective evaluation, but when we look at the broader analysis, there is a pattern to the bias.”

Among hardcore Trump supporters, the misogyny often isn’t subtle. The Republican National Convention seethed with a visceral, highly personalized, and highly sexualized contempt toward Clinton. Men wore T-shirts that said, “Hillary Sucks but Not Like Monica” on one side and “Trump That Bitch” on the backs. Buttons and bumper stickers read, “Life’s a Bitch: Don’t Vote For One.” One man wore a Hillary mask and sat behind a giant yellow sign saying “Trump vs. Tramp.” Another, an RNC volunteer, was dressed up like Septa Unella from Game of Thrones and held a naked blowup doll with Clinton’s face attached, re-enacting a scene in which Cersei Lannister, a murderous queen, is stripped naked and marched through the streets before jeering throngs. The right-wing fantasy of seeing Clinton degraded and humiliated has rarely been performed so starkly.

Most Americans, however, are not frothing partisans. For many of them, something in addition to sexism is at work in Clinton’s unpopularity-- some mystery of mass media connection. There’s a reason actors do screen tests: Not everyone’s charm translates to film and video. For as long as Hillary Clinton has been in public life, people who’ve met in her person have marveled at how much more likable she is in the flesh than she is on television. “What’s remarkable isn’t that she can be funny, spontaneous, and mischievous, and has a loud, throaty laugh; what’s remarkable is the extent to which she has sequestered her personality from the media,” Gates wrote in 1996.

Twenty years later, Traister discovered a similar disconnect. “The conviction that I was in the presence of a capable, charming politician who inspires tremendous excitement would fade and in fact clash dramatically with the impressions I’d get as soon as I left her circle: of a campaign imperiled, a message muddled, unfavorables scarily high,” she wrote. “To be near her is to feel like the campaign is in steady hands; to be at any distance is to fear for the fate of the republic.”

Republican strategist Katie Packer sees parallels between Clinton and Mitt Romney, for whom Packer served as deputy campaign manager in 2012. “In a lot of ways her weaknesses are very similar to Mitt’s weaknesses,” Packer tells me. “She’s somebody who is kind of a policy nerd, somebody who is very solution-oriented. She just does not have great people skills. Because of that, whenever something goes wrong, people don’t give her the benefit of the doubt. They don’t trust her.” Politically, this is a hard dynamic to overcome; Clinton’s efforts to appear relatable only make her seem more calculating. “It comes across as stilted and staged and for a purpose, so it defeats the purpose,” says Packer.

For Democrats, the silver lining is that Clinton’s running against Donald Trump. “I think she won the lottery ticket,” Packer says. According to Packer, there’s a way to make independent and moderate Republican women soften toward Hillary Clinton: Go after her husband’s infidelity. “One thing that causes them to come to her defense is when they feel like she’s being blamed for her husband’s bad behavior,” Packer says. Trump has done exactly that, attacking Hillary as an “enabler” of her husband’s sexual misdeeds. “The one Republican who is incapable of not bullying her is going to be her opponent,” says Packer. “The one Republican who is incapable of showing any empathy in his own right is going to be her opponent.”

That makes it more likely that many voters will do what Brian Greene did and vote for Clinton despite their distaste. Should that happen, it remains to be seen if Hillary hatred shapes her ability to govern. Cooper thinks it’s possible that once she’s no longer explicitly competing for power, the widespread public dislike of her might ebb. “When she announces she’s running for something, her unfavorability increases,” Cooper says of Clinton. “When she’s in a role, her favorability starts to creep up again.” Figures from the Pew Research Center bear this out. Clinton’s favorability ratings fell to 49 percent when she was running for Senate in 2000, then went up to 60 percent when she entered office. They’ve fallen below 50 percent during both presidential campaigns but reached 66 percent when she was secretary of state.
The Democratic Establishment stole the nomination for her-- whether a little or a lot-- and that was a boneheaded move because they may well lose to Trump. Like I said, people like Wasserman Schultz and Chuck Schumer deserve Trump. Their discomfit is even more of a reason for me to vote for Jill Stein. As Darlene Glanton wrote in the Chicago Tribune yesterday, "Bernie Sanders' supporters have a right to be angry. The leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee apparently confirmed what they have said all along-- that the political system was rigged against their candidate in favor of Hillary Clinton. Top Democrats essentially dismissed Sanders as a viable candidate during the primaries, attempted to undermine him with voters and even took steps to derail his campaign, according to hacked emails that were recently made public by WikiLeaks. In doing so, Democrats tarnished the electoral process and alienated a large constituency of voters that they will need to help lift Clinton to victory in November... [T]he email controversy has contributed to suspicion and mistrust many voters already had toward Clinton... It's unlikely Sanders supporters will switch courses and go all the way over to the other side. But this is the sort of thing that could make some voters stay home in November."



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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The War On Drugs And The Deterioration Of Police-Community Relations

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My old friend and sometime neighbor, film-maker (Super High Me) and marijuana legalization activist Alex Campbell, was very much there for me when I was undergoing the ravages of chemotherapy. He talked me into trying marijuana to help alleviate the devastating and life-threatening side-effects of chemo. It worked. Today I asked Alex to explain the connection between the War of Drugs and the accelerated friction between police and the communities they're supposed to be serving.


An American Police State
-by Alex Campbell


If you live in the United States of America, you live in a police state. You may say, no this is not possible, not in my town. Not my neighborhood.

Unfortunately, it is now an undeniable truth of our society in the U.S. We have all the hallmarks of a police state-- our electronic communications are the subject of surveillance and our movements on the roadways are monitored by license plate readers. Asset seizure without legal due process has become the norm. Political speech is met with force-- see Ferguson and Occupy Oakland.

The police state began with the rise of the military industrial complex, it became institutionalized with the Nixon administration and was sent well on its way with the Reagan era "war on drugs." And then 9/11 happened. Which brought the Patriot Act and accelerated the militarization of the police and the erosion of the rights of the citizens of America in the name of protecting us.

The truth is, we need to be protected from the police now. The police forces in this country have adopted an "us against them" mentality. If you are a person of color in America, you are more likely to be killed by the police then you are by a terrorist. If you are traveling on the interstate roadways and you are carrying more than a thousand dollars in cash and you are pulled over and the police find the money, they are going to seize it and claim that it is proceeds from drug crimes. Because no one carries cash anymore except drug dealers. There is no due process, no trial. The money is taken and in most cases, people don't fight the charges because it costs more money in legal fees than the sums that are taken. This process is called "for-profit policing" and in many localities the police use the proceeds to buy more "toys" aka specialized weapons and tank-like vehicles.

The police in this country used to be viewed as friendly fixtures in the neighborhood. The local beat cop lived in his beat, knew the people who lived there, and cared about his neighborhood. Now the local beat cop commutes to his job and views his position as an occupying force to maintain law and order over the underclass. The LAPD's motto is "To Protect and Serve." The real slogan should be "To Oppress and Control."

Recent technological advances have exposed the lies of the modern police state, namely dashboard and body cameras that police are required to wear, as well as citizens who record police interactions with their smart phones. FBI Director James Comey spoke out against what he called the "Ferguson effect" of viral videos and said that the recent uptick in violent crimes could be due to police being afraid to do their jobs because they are concerned they will end up in a video. Public comments such as this are no doubt a precursor to legislative attempts to make filming the police an illegal act. And in North Carolina, legislation was recently passed that requires a court order to release dashboard and body camera footage, further hiding what the police are doing. The governor of North Carolina said that the new law would bring "transparency"-- a truly Orwellian turn of phrase.

With the recent spate of violence against police officers, you can be sure there will be renewed calls for new laws protecting the police. And hidden within these new laws will be more ways for the police state to dodge accountability and hide their activities-- all in the name of protecting the citizenry but in truth protecting the illegal and unconstitutional activities of the police state.

Our judicial system has become corrupted by the lies police tell in order to make "righteous busts." The prosecutors and the judges are complicit in these lies. I saw this corruption firsthand as a medical marijuana activist over the past ten years in California. In case after case that I have attended, I have seen narcotics officers outright lie on the stand to support warrantless entries or to support weak cases. And watched as the judge and the prosecutor all played along with the kabuki theater, all in the name of stopping the war on drugs.

All police lie to support their illegal actions. There is even a word they use privately to describe this behavior-- "testilying." Our policing systems in America are broken and we will not survive as a republic if the police state is allowed to expand unchecked. It has turned into "us against them"-- the very institution that is supposed to protect and serve the American people now views the American people as the enemy. And many Americans, especially those of color, view the police as an enemy.

I believe that if we can end the war on drugs, we can help change the way policing is done in America. The war on drugs has given the police cover to commit egregious acts and allowed the police to become a quasi-military force where they make the rules. Ending the drug war will give less reasons for the police to oppress the citizens--there will be no more stop and frisk policies such as existed in New York City. Nor more unlawful asset seizure without due process No more no knock warrants. And the police can turn their attention back to their original purpose--protecting and serving the community. A huge level of fear of the police will disappear overnight if the drug war ends. And that alone should help shift police and civilian relations.

This post was inspired by a recent letter to the editor in the Arizona Republic:

Ending The Drug War Would Help Bridge Police-Citizens Divide

After all the police shootings, only the Libertarian Party provided a viable solution:

"If we truly want to reduce situations in which police are pitted against the people they are sworn to protect, we would end the war on drugs. The constant escalation of prohibitionist policies have increasingly pitted police and citizens against each other for decades and are largely responsible for the militarization of police forces across America.

"Ending the violence means ending the policies that lead to black and gray markets, the highest incarceration rate in the world, and reduced economic opportunities in the formal labor market for huge swaths of Americans. Ending the violence means ending the war on drugs.

"Ending the drug war will do more to heal the divide between police and citizens than any other measure. It is the best way to save lives: both those of innocent police officers and innocent citizens."

- Dr. Richard W. Morris, Phoenix

While making Super High Me, Campbell become radicalized after being repeatedly threatened by DEA and California law enforcement officers over his filming of their raids of medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivators. He moved to Oakland and started working with Richard Lee in Oaksterdam. Campbell delivered the cannabis plants to the first set of classes held at Oaksterdam University, which at the time were in a small storefront in downtown Oakland. In 2008, Campbell opened Oaksterdam Nursery, Los Angeles and was the first medical marijuana cultivator to provide a trusted source of genetics to multiple dispensaries around the state of California, everywhere from Sacramento south to Orange County. Oaksterdan Nursery is widely recognized for releasing the first legitimate cutting of the fabled OG Kush strain, the availability of which reduced wholesale prices of cannabis by 25%.

Campbell was the second largest donor to the Prop 19 campaign in 2010 throughout much of the campaign and was involved in the day to day operations of the campaign. His financial political activities were curtailed when DEA and LAPD agents raided his legal cultivation facility in Los Angeles during the middle of the Prop 19 campaign, a precursor to the larger raid of Oaksterdam in 2012 that was widely viewed as payback for putting Prop 19 on the ballot.

Campell is currently in post-production on two documentaries. The first, titled Super High Me Redux, is a comedic sequel to Super High detailing the difficulties the filmmakers had in making the original film. The second film is titled Oaksterdam Now and is the story of the Prop 19 campaign and the subsequent large scale police raids that resulted in no indictments.


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Where's Patrick?

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When I moved back to America after living a vagabond/hippie life style for close to seven years in Asia and Europe, I didn't have a career path. I tried a few things based on my experiences in Europe, teaching photography, working in health food restaurants, writing... Eventually I wound up in San Francisco and got a job working in a public relations firm. My job was to get stories about our clients-- the Rocky Horror Show was one, the Oakland Ballet, a band called Country Porn... But p.r. 101 was to create a buzz by getting friendly journalists who I may have, say, taken to lunch or been friendlier to than I might have otherwise, to write stories about our clients and to coordinate them so they came out strategically. Believe me, when you see even legitimate newspapers like the NY Times and Washington Post come out with a story on the same day, it's because someone was out pitching it to them. And when it's something like Politico you can be 100% positive its coming from a press shop. The flurry of bad press for Alan Grayson today was coordinated by Chuck Schumer. John Bresnahan and Marc Caputo should be ashamed, embarrassed... both. Politico... a classless gossip rag exists so that political operatives like Brooklyn lowlife Schumer, who would sell access to his wife's ass if anyone was interested-- be careful Amy, he'll sell you too if he gets a chance-- can spread his poison far and wide. The deranged woman who tricked Grayson into marrying him-- their marriage was annulled-- is working for Schumer to poison Grayson's Senate primary campaign against Wall Street-Schumer shill, Patrick Murphy. And someone like Jason Zengerle dragging New York into the world of Schumer-stenography... that is embarrassing! What about David Nir? That must be coming momentarily. This is no different from what the DNC attempted to do to Bernie to rig the election against him. And it's no different from what Lolita Grayson did 3 years ago-- when the police-- looking and listening to tapes-- found she was out of her mind and her charges completely unfounded.

Grayson's daughter Skye (21), a friend of mine, and a level headed student at Columbia University: "My mother has always struggled with emotional issues. She physically lashed out at me, my siblings and our father, and then blamed us for it, victimizing us. This resulted in a considerably troubled childhood home. Her harsh and volatile behavior eventually caused my siblings Star and Sage and I to choose to live with our father exclusively. It has been a highly difficult experience to move on from this, both personally and publicly. All that we've asked for is a little privacy in what is supposed to be a strictly family matter. The fact that my pains, my younger siblings' pains and my father's pains are being put on display for political purposes is deeply callous. Our lives are not pawns in a game for power, and our futures should not be called into question by a political opponent. Let's stick to the relevant issues, and preserve some small degree of honor in the process."

Watching Bernie's and Elizabeth Warren's uplifting convention addresses Monday night made me think how much better off the Democratic Party would be if a two ion truck were to run over Schumer today and the Senate Democrats got to elect Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders to be the party leader instead. But that's not how it happens. Evil-- dark, dark evil, the spawn of Satan-- wins these contests. And there is no one-- not on either side of the aisle, more evil and vile and contemptible than Chuck Schumer. As Elizabeth Warren said, "Bernie reminds us what Democrats fight for every day.' Does Chuck Schumer? No, he reminds us what republicans fight for every day, particularly Wall Street his political raison d'être. $25,853,291... that's the total amount in bribes, at least reported bribes they call campaign contributions, that the Financial Sector gave Schumer since 1990, more than to any other member of Congress other than a few who have run for president-- but far more than what the Wall Street banksters gave to Boehner ($12,202,398), McConnell ($11,756,576), Paul Ryan ($8,174,380) or Harry Reid ($6,268,342). Schumer delivers for therm far more than any of the others, all of whom are what you could easily term "a notorious Wall street whore."

And this year, largely at Schumer's urging, Wall Street is delivering for his greasy little puppet, errand boy Patrick Murphy, voted Congress' least effective member-- $1,472,869 so far... more than any other non-incumbent running for the Senate. In the House, the Wall Street bribes to Murphy were eclipsed only by what the banksters have given to Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McCarthy.




Meanwhile, Murphy has announced he isn't going to the Democratic Convention. Since in his heart and soul he's still a Republican, why should he anyway. Just the way so many Republicans-- from McCain, Rubio, Toomey, Kasich, Ayotte, Blunt, Flake, etc didn't want the taint of association with Trump stinking them up-- avoided the Cleveland convention, Patrick, perhaps embarrassed he had been one of only 3 Democrats who voted with the GOP to authorize the Benghazi witch-hunt against Hillary Clinton, told the media he was staying away. Over the weekend, he was collecting bribes from wealthy friends of his daddy's (both his crooked father and crooked Schumer) on the family yacht, Miss Cocktails up off Newport, Rhode Island. "With the election less than 40 days away, it’s also important to be here in Florida, hearing from voters and talking about his plan to grow the economy and protect Social Security,” said his campaign flack. That was a lie, of course, like everything else about Patrick's campaign. He was at a Philly fundraiser, while slimeball fellow New Dems like Kyrsten Sinema and hopped up coke freak Pete Aguilar.

Yesterday a frustrated Grayson staffer sent out an e-mail about the darker side of Democratic Party politics, not the lovely speeches by Michelle Obama or Sarah Silverman but the backroom manipulations by vile figures like Schumer and, until recently, Wasserman Schultz.
Being a Democrat hasn’t been easy these last few days. Through the DNC email leak, we’ve found definitive proof that our party has been working to sabotage the campaigns of other Democrats, including our own Alan Grayson. We’ve seen how the sausage gets made in our party, and it ain’t pretty.

From here on out, it’s going to be hard to trust our leaders, and even harder to believe that there are still genuine progressives out there, when our party leaders work so hard to thwart and purge them. But I want to tell you a quick story about why you shouldn’t give up quite yet.

Once upon a time, I was a high school student, watching MSNBC, when I saw a clip of my Congressman on the House Floor. He was explaining that the GOP Healthcare Plan was “Don’t get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly.” At the time, my own family was struggling to convince our insurance to cover treatment for a terminal illness, and so his words really hit home to me. I did some research, and the more I read about him, the more I liked him. He was bold, courageous, and progressive. And most importantly, at the time when my family needed his help the most, he stood up for us.

They say you aren’t supposed to meet your heroes, because they’ll just end up disappointing you. Well, I met my hero, Alan Grayson. I’ve worked with him for years now, and he’s never disappointed me. In fact, I believe in him now more than ever. I’ve seen him get upset and frustrated at policy that he fears will hurt people-- like the TPP, and proposed Social Security and Medicare cuts. I’ve gotten emails from him at 3 AM when Congress is in session, because he’s up that late working on getting amendments passed to try to make bad bills better.

And I’ll even admit this: it’s my job to make sure we have the funds we need to win this election, and in times of desperation, I’ve asked him to quiet down about an issue that might be controversial. He has refused. Every single time.

Alan Grayson is the real deal. And he is the reason why I will not give up on this election cycle, and why I’m asking you not to either. We can’t throw away our shot at getting a genuine progressive champion elected to the U.S. Senate.
A contribution for Grayson's Senate campaign, is a contribution to keep Schumer from ever becoming Senate Democratic leader as well.
Goal Thermometer

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GOP Crackpot Candidate of the Week-- Two Violent Nuts, One In Florida And One In Georgia

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The first week of our new feature and I can't even choose between the two finalists, a pair of extremist House candidates from the Southeast. The guy in the video up top, Rick Kozell, is running to replace fake Democrat Patrick Murphy on Florida's Treasure Coast. We thought the DCCC found the perfect clone of Murphy for the job, crooked multimillionaire-- and not a Democrat-- Randy Perkins. He's already self-funded $3,017,688. He has a primary battle against Jonathan Chane, but feels confident he can buy the nomination and, needless to say, the DCCC is helping him do just that. There must be half a dozen Republicans running in the red-leaning district (R+3) where Romney beat Obama 52-48%. Perennial candidate Carl Domino, an ex-state Rep., is probably best known, but his reputation took a major hit when as weak a candidate as Patrick Murphy kicked his ass in 2014-- 60-40%-- in a strong Republican year. Mark Freeman, a rich doctor, has self-funded $1,207,756 into his campaign-- most of which has already been spent-- and the other Republicans with considerable cash-on-hand for the August 30 primary are Rebecca Negron ($635,739), Kozell ($360,327), Brian Mast ($332,441) and Domino ($232,105).

As you can probably guess from the video, Kozell is the most extreme of the FL-18 candidates. But we found someone even more extreme up in Georgia, where there's a runoff election today to fill the seat of retiring nincompoop Lynn Westmoreland in GA-03, a deep red swath of territory southwest of Atlanta from the suburbs of Fayette, Coweta and Henry counties all the way down to Columbus. The Republican primary yielded up two right-wing maniacs-- state Senator Mike Crane and dentist and former West Point Mayor Drew Ferguson. Crane was ahead in the primary, 15,343 (26.9%) to 15,277 (26.8%), just 66 votes. I would have bet on Crane today but then he stepped in it big time. Formerly best known as a "religious liberty" bigot-- something they love in backward districts like GA-03-- he's now best known for advocating shooting policemen. No, really, he did. The idiot actually managed to wind up far to the left of #BlackLivesMatter by raising the old GOP trope about how your home is your castle and that if a cop comes on your property-- even with a search warrant-- you can shoot him. And he said he would and told his supporters they should too! State Senator Crane apparently doesn't think white people need to respect the police, only blacks.



As of 2 weeks ago Ferguson had raised $782,044 and Crane has raised $417,072. Both went into the final 2 weeks with approximately the same amount in their campaign war chests, just under $200,000. Club for Growth has spent $813,981 for Crane. (The ad just above is what they've been running to smear Ferguson, a right-wing nut but not as much of a right-wing nut as Crane.) The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Ending Spending Action Fund and the American Dental Association spent, respectively, $650,150, $493,049 and $170,359 bolstering Ferguson and attacking Crane.

This weekend, a clueless and still-dazed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was in Atlanta campaigning for Crane, proof if anyone needed it that Crane was the more extreme of the two candidates. Wait 'til someone tells Trump that Cruz was campaign for the cop-killer! This ad from Drew Ferguson should end Crane's political career permanently-- unless Georgia Republicans are even crazier than I thought they were! Yes-- and of course Crane is being heavily backed by the NRA and the Tea Party.



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Sandy Pearlman, Who Pretty Much Invented Me, Died This Morning

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I'm bad at remembering dates things happened. I remember my birthday; not much else. But other things besides numbers-- markers-- remind me when significant events happened. So many of them in my life have it do with Sandy Pearlman. I met Sandy at freshman orientation at Stony Brook in 1965... wow, 5 decades ago, my first day at school. Neither Sandy nor I ever imagined we'd live for 5 more decades after our time at Stony Brook. He wasn't a freshman that day. He was a senior-- a senior-plus. He was spending an extra year at Stony Brook because he had been elected moderator, head of the student government, in the spring. There must have been some other reason, like not having finished something he needed to do to go on to the next step... graduate school at Brandeis, something to do with his Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, something to do with the band he was working with as songwriter, manager, producer, inspirer, the Blue Öyster Cult. I'm getting ahead of myself.

This morning when I got up at 4, I found an e-mail from Robert and Roni Duncan, our old friends. They've been watching over him this year. "His suffering is over. He passed peacefully, surrounded by love, with Mars peeking in the window, at 12:30 am, July 26, 2016, in Marin County, California." If it wouldn't have been today it would have been tomorrow or the next day. Sandy was dying. When I looked back at the posts he had done for DWT, I found one, basically a lecture he did at McGill-- where we were both teaching music classes for a time, he more seriously and consistently than I-- about frisson, "What Makes Music Thrilling?" As an intro, I wrote that Sandy has been one of my closest friends since 1965. He introduced me to music. Probably best known as the producer (and writer) for Blue Öyster Cult, he also produced albums for The Clash, The Dictators, Pavlov's Dog, Dream Syndicate and many other artists. He also introduced me to politics-- music and politics... a pretty big chunk of my life. And more than that; he inspired me to dream and think outside myself; that's a big deal. He asked me to embed Holst's "Mars, the Bringer of War" from The Planets to illustrate the piece.

I was a cook once, in Amsterdam's meditation center, the Kosmos, for a few years. I arranged a photo album in a macrobiotic cookbook, pasting the pictures from my life over the recipes, each chapter representing another astrological house. I put pictures of Sandy in the 9th House, Sagittarius, meant to represent the superconscious mind-- understanding, expansion of horizons-- in other words, spiritual philosophies and visions, intuition, inspiration, long journeys... a different place for pictures than, say, a chapter about friends or lovers or personality. I always thought of it as my guru chapter-- my teachers. There are a bunch of Sandy snapshots pasted over recipes for Ter-Yaki and some French dishes.


Sandy-- anytime between the late '60s and now

Sandy, if I recall, was a philosophy major-- maybe sociology and philosophy. He would have been 73 had he lasted another couple of weeks. But last year he had a stroke, hit his head hard on the pavement when he fell and was in a coma for a very long time. At one point he came out of it and I thought he was going to recover. He wasn't; it was just something I told myself to make it lesser horrible.

About 7 years ago Sandy did a couple of posts for DWT, one on his old and dear friend Patti Smith, who he introduced me to when she was a poet living above a shoe store on 14th Street in Manhattan with a photographer named Robert Mapplethorpe. It seemed pretty bohemian. I was visiting from Amsterdam and he wanted me to meet her and to see her perform in a church basement. I told him it was one of the most thrilling performances I had ever seen but that it could never be captured on vinyl. Years later, the first week I was hired as general manager of Sire Records, I managed to find the masters of "Piss Factory" and "Hey Joe," which my boss, Seymour Stein, had financed in 1974, and released them, for the first time, on a CD. I felt I was making a contribution to culture that day.

The other post he did for us that year was an obit for Ellie Greenwich, one of his idols. In a writing class somewhere along the way, a professor of mine taught the class that when you're writing about an artist, the hardest-- and most important-- thing would be to convey the art itself. The 3 links about Ellie, Patti and frisson posted above make that part easy. Please read them for a better idea about Sandy. He was always a much better writer than I ever was.

He wrote Imaginos, a collection of poems, which would become Blue Oyster Cult songs, while we were still at Stony Brook. Up top is "Astronomy" from that collection, produced many years later by Sandy, himself... his dream come true on some levels. Maybe you can get a sense from it how he helped open a new world for me, an unformed teenager from Brooklyn searching for... an idea of who I was. I went up to him on that first day of freshman orientation-- the first guy I had ever spoken with who was an authority figure of around my own age and the first guy who I had ever spoken to who had long hair. He told me about the Rolling Stones and asked me to run for freshman class president. I was hoping to score some pot from him; he had never tried it. Later that year I was walking around in Greenwich Village with a joint in my pocket that I had just bought. It started raining and I was getting wet. I heard a tinny little beep beep and looked up and it was Sandy in his little green Sunbeam. Like me, he often found his way from Long Island to the Village. I jumped in and lit up my joint. He didn't want any, but at least I didn't have to take the Long Island Railroad back to Stony Brook. We drove that route in his Sunbeam countless times, usually to hear music or see a film. He's tell me about extraterrestrials long after midnight on the Long Island Expressway.

What did I discover with Sandy? The Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol. The Jefferson Airplane. The Grateful Dead. The Doors. The Byrds. I had my first acid trip with him, Bill Graham, Paul Kantner and Marty Balin. Sandy didn't take any acid; he was driving. And I think he thought drugs would fuck him up profoundly. Later he introduced me to The Clash and I introduced him to U2. I don't know what to make of his passing. I'm glad he isn't suffering any more-- stuck inside a body wracked with pain, partially unable to move, unable to communicate for the most part, trapped. I need to think about it today.

Christopher Walken played the Sandy-based character on one of Saturday Night Live's most iconic skits once. Sandy, always the philosopher, took it in good stride and always laughed about it. My friend is dead.




UPDATE: From Our Friends Helen Klein and Michael Bart

Through Howie, I met Sandy early in my freshman year at Stony Brook, in the fall of 1967. He was the hippest, coolest, most brilliant guy, immersed in rock ’n roll, and I was in awe of him. At college concerts, and there were many, there was Sandy, standing off to the side, dressed in black and wearing a hat and sunglasses, bopping his head to the beat. Lucky for me, he considered me a friend and opened up my world. He knew what was in the forefront of culture and I went along for the ride. Sandy took me to the first Star Wars movie when it opened at the Ziegfeld, my first Bruce Springsteen concert at the Palladium and so many other events. He even brought me along to hang out with Joe Strummer of The Clash. I listened to the Blue Oyster Cult, aka the Soft White Underbelly, in college lounges and went to a Texas barbecue with the Dictators when they played there. Being in his company and listening to him speak was amazing. He was the most interesting person I ever had the pleasure to meet. I had not seen him often in recent years, but I cherish our interaction. I spent time with him in Austin at South by Southwest, and he surprised everyone by showing up at a Stony Brook gathering at a friend’s house in Napa, regaling everyone with his wit. He came to my house for decade-celebrating birthday parties. His discussion with my physicist friend was so high level it was incomprehensible to me. Our last communication was in the fall. I love you Sandy and I will miss you terribly. Your were a great influence on my life and a wonderful friend.

-Helen

Sandy with Mick and Joe of the Clash in NYC, 1978


Until I met Sandy Pearlman I thought that I was the only motor-head who appreciated the psychedelic music coming out of San Francisco. Then I read his Crawdaddy article about the the Byrds with the cryptic title, "Beyond Andy Granatelli." I immediately made the connection between race-car builder Granatelli, his development of STP engine additive, and Sandy's sly reference to the drug by the same name.

I was pretty certain that only a small handful of people on the planet would've connected those dots. It was that sort of elliptical thinking and broadly-informed creativity that attracted me to Sandy.

My first LSD experience took place on the Stony Brook campus during the summer of '68. I don’t remember where or how, but I ended up in a room that was filled with BOC equipment. Sandy appeared at one point, dressed all in black leather. In my delirium, I was convinced that he was the devil, but I made it out of there with my soul intact.

About eight years later, the devil surprised me with an act of kindness. I was at a particularly low point in my life, and Sandy let me crash at his Setauket digs while Joan was vacationing in Europe. After all, someone had to walk the dogs-- Angelina and Elflandria-- and take the Porsche in for servicing.

Sandy put me to work fulfilling mail order requests for BOC lyrics and merchandise. After much wheedling on my part, he took me to the NYC studio where he was in the process of mixing one of the Cult's albums. I had the opportunity to watch him earn his "more cowbell" reputation as he put the individual musicians-- Donald in particular-- through endless takes.

It was a real eye opening lesson in how the "sausages" of rock and roll are actually made. On another occasion he let me tag along to a Grateful Dead mixing session. Garcia and Lesh were working on “Anthem of the Sun.” Jerry ordered Sandy and me to lie flat on the floor so as not to disrupt the sound pumping out of two speakers-- each the size of a large refrigerator. It was a weird and wonderful experience, and something that you took for granted if you hung out with Sandy for any length of time.

In spite of our proximity, Sandy always maintained an aloofness, and I gladly accepted my place as a young "hanger on." He was brilliant, and I was struggling to keep up with his restless imagination.

Then, as the years rolled by, Sandy mellowed, and our infrequent interactions became more personal. We met up at South by Southwest a few years back and again at an impromptu Stony Brook reunion in Napa. On both occasions, I encountered a much mellower and more welcoming Sandy.

 
And that's how I will remember him-- for his wit, his brilliance, his creativity and his generosity.

-Michael

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Sherrod Brown Wants To Fight Payday Lenders-- Or Does He?

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The above is an e-mail I got yesterday from Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown. I agree with every word of it. Shred is usually right about domestic policy. He's been a dependable leader on fair trade for as long as I can remember him in Congress. And he's one of the best in Congress on reining in Wall Street's predatory excesses. No one's perfect, of course, but Sherrod's craven vote to support Bush-Cheney on torture, made it hard for me to get over this kind of betrayal for perceived political gain trust him again.

Brown sold out progressives by voting for Bush's torture legislation because he wanted to win an election. Ugly. Now he's selling out his own campaign against pay day lenders by backing Patrick Murphy against Alan Grayson in the Florida Senate race. Pay day lenders give their political bribery-- "campaign contributions"-- al;most entirely to Republicans and it is primarily Republicans that push the toxic pay day lender agenda that Brown is fighting. The pay day lenders are playing in the battle to win the Senate this year-- but, in the crucial Florida race, they're playing on the same side as Sherrod Brown: electing Wall Street errand boy Patrick Murphy:




Richard Shelby is the Chairman of the Senate's powerful Banking Committee, the committee Sherrod would become chairman of if the Democrats take back the Senate in November, the committee that oversees the activities of the pay day lenders. The industry's $82,700 to Shelby isn't a surprise to anyone. He protects their bottom lines. They are also significantly helping finance reelection campaigns for two other members of the committee: Tim Scott (R-SC) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), each of whom pays slavish devotion to the demands of the pay day lenders. But so far this cycle Patrick Murphy, who isn't even a senator yet-- but serves on the House Financial Services committee and champions the pay day lenders there-- is the second biggest recipient of pay day lender bribes of anyone running for the Senate. Patrick Murphy is a crook and Sherrod Brown is well aware of that. But Chuck Schumer, who can make it easier or harder for Sherrod to get his committee chair, asked him to endorse Wall Street's candidate for the Florida seat, so Sherrod sent out this:
I’d like to introduce you to Patrick Murphy. He’s a Congressman from Florida running a tough race for U.S. Senate this cycle. You may not have heard of Patrick’s campaign yet, but I can assure you, the Koch brothers and their Republican allies have already taken notice. Earlier this month, the Kochs' group, Americans for Prosperity, ran a full-page Op-Ed attacking Patrick for opposing Citizens United. Special interest groups spent more than $40 million against me-- one of the most expensive races in the country. And I can tell you who one of their top targets will be this year: Patrick... Patrick is the kind of person I want to work with in the Senate. He’s a tireless advocate for the middle class, and he has a track record of doing what’s right for his district.
That's all a big fat expedient lie from a politician it's getting harder and harder to trust. A few months after Sherrod started serving in the Senate, he was asked by Cenk Uygar of the Young Turks why he had voted for Bush's torture bill-- the only progressive in the House to have done so. "It was a bad vote," he admitted. "I shouldn't have. A vote I'll correct ... when it comes... I take responsibility. It was the heat of the campaign and I made a mistake." Yes he did make a mistake, a very grievous one-- making him the first and only candidate Blue America had ever endorsed and then unendorsed. And by backing Wall Street shill and so-called "ex"-Republican, Patrick Murphy, against Alan Grayson, Sherrod Brown has made another grievous mistake. Grayson, decidedly not the candidate of the Wall Street banksters or their paid political shills like Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, has a very clear vision of what he'd like to see done in regard to payday lenders. "What we need," he just told us, "is a normal banking system that covers everyone equally, like Elizabeth Warren’s post office banking bill, drawing upon the experience in Japan (where the post office is the largest bank, with branches in all neighborhoods, rich or poor). Large banking institutions have abandoned poor neighborhoods, relegating the poor to second-class banking." Please help Grayson get into the Senate, where he, unlike Murphy, will help Sherrod Brown fight against the corrupt practices of the payday lenders and Wall Street banksters.


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