Sunday, December 24, 2017

Is The Donald A Punk Rocker? More Than A Few People Think So


Johnny Rotten ended the last Sex Pistols show— at Winterland in San Francisco— exactly the way Rotten's current day hero, Señor Trumpanzee should exit the national stage: "Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated." (I was standing with Bill Graham at the side of the stage, each of us eager for the band to exit so we could pick up all the quarters that were tossed at the band by the audience.)

Friday, the NY Times carried a piece by Sean Howe about that Pistols tour and why a film of it has languished for 4 decades. Howe wrote that “After seven electrifying, antagonistic performances, the band broke up.” A journalist interviewed me last week about the tour and I think its coming out next week. He found an old review I had done of the show in Atlanta, which I can’t remember writing, let alone having been at. But I do remember the penultimate show at Winterland. The write told no one liked that show except me and one other journalist.

Lech Kowalski filmed the tour without permission from the band… or anyone else. It’s called DOA: A Right of Passage. It only showed a few times at the Waverly Theater in NY (1981) and “has since existed as a cult totem, popularized by word of mouth and circulated illicitly in degenerated quality. The film briefly appeared on videotape, issued by HarmonyVision in 1983, before separate clearances for home video were de rigueur, but it quickly went out of circulation. This month, almost four decades after filming began, it finally got an official home video release from MVD Rewind, but Mr. Kowalski, 65, is reluctant to speak about it.”

They financing the movie, Tom Forcade, founder of High Times magazine, “hought the Sex Pistols were the first sign of the Armageddon and the complete disillusionment with the American government, and this was going to be the beginning of chaos. And it wasn’t a mercenary kind of thing-- he really thought he was filming a documentary on the collapse of Western civilization.” The tour manager had his security team throw them out [of that first show in Atlanta]. Johnny Rotten later wrote in Anger in an Energy about his suspicions that High Times was a front for the C.I.A. The crew was thrown out of every show but managed to bribe its way back in each time.
The subsequent interview that Mr. Kowalski landed with Sid Vicious was nearly incoherent, an intimate but harrowing glimpse into the heroin-doomed lives of the bassist and his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. Sid Vicious was arrested and charged with killing Spungen in October 1978. Mr. Forcade shot himself in November. Sid Vicious died from a heroin overdose in February 1979.
It sounds like the Trump Regime. Out the same day as Howe’s Pistols piece, the New Yorker ran one by Steve Coll, The Distrust the Trump Relies On. “Since the 1970’s,” he wrote, “Gallup has been polling Americans annually about their confidence in their country’s institutions— the military, the Supreme Court, Congress, the Presidency, organized religion, the health-care establishment, and public schools, among others. Over all, the project describes a collapse in trust over time, even though the surveys started amid the disillusionment of Watergate and the failed war in Vietnam. In 1973, more than four in ten Americans had ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of confidence in Congress. This year, the figure was twelve per cent. Trust in churches and other religious institutions has fallen from sixty-five per cent to forty-one per cent in the same period. Confidence in public schools has dropped from fifty-eight per cent to thirty-six per cent. The loss of faith in the ‘medical system’ has been particularly dramatic— a decline from eighty per cent in 1975 to thirty-seven per cent this year. There are a few exceptions to the broad slide. Confidence in the police has held steady at just above fifty per cent. Confidence in the military has increased, from fifty-eight per cent in the aftermath of the Vietnam War to seventy-two percent this year. Otherwise, it isn’t clear where citizens have redirected their faith, or whether they have at all.”

No one would claim Vladimir Putin was behind any of this… until this year, as America began reaping his machinations that put an utterly incompetent, unprepared and psychologically deranged chief executive into the White House. Huge payoff for Russia!
Even in a stable constitutional republic, a cynical or unmoored citizenry presents an opportunity for demagogues and populists. As much as stagnant wages in former manufacturing regions, glaring economic inequality, or white backlash after the Obama Presidency, the country’s disillusionment with institutions enabled Donald Trump’s election. Trump had a sound instinct as he took office that public disgust with élites, including those running the Republican Party, ran so deep that he—even as a New York billionaire—could get away with outrageous attacks on people or agencies previously believed to be off limits for a President, because of the political backlash that the attacks would generate. After his Inauguration, for example, Trump did not hesitate to denigrate the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies for promoting their independent judgment that Russia had sought to aid his campaign. And the President’s opportunistic assaults on less popular institutions— such as the news media and Congress— have riled his base.

All this suggests the need for a certain realism and vigilance about the rising volume of attacks by Trump and his allies on Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the investigation into possible Russian interference in the election and (increasingly) related issues, and on the F.B.I., whose agents carry out much of the investigative work. Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton all denigrated the counsels who investigated them. Nixon went so far as to fire some of those he saw as his tormentors, in the infamous Saturday Night Massacre. Judging by the indictments of certain Trump associates, such as his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and the coöperation agreements by others, notably Michael Flynn, his former national-security adviser, it is conceivable that during the next year Trump will face a choice between radical action— issuing preëmptive pardons, firing Mueller or the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein— and allowing someone close to him, perhaps even a family member, to face criminal charges. It is hard to imagine him reacting to that dilemma with care or caution.

On Wednesday, Senator Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, apparently alarmed by the attacks on Mueller, delivered a warning in a speech on the Senate floor. “Any attempt by this President to remove Special Counsel Mueller from his position or to pardon key witnesses in any effort to shield them from accountability or shut down the investigation would be a gross abuse of power and a flagrant violation of executive-branch responsibilities and authorities,” Warner said. “These truly are red lines, and we simply cannot allow them to be crossed.” The White House attorney Ty Cobb responded that “no consideration” was being given to firing Mueller, but, given Trump’s record of saying one thing and doing another, and of overruling his spokespeople, it was hardly a persuasive denial.

Warner said he hoped that senators and members of Congress from both parties would speak out similarly, to make clear that his position represented an institutional consensus, not a partisan attack. That seems unlikely. Many establishment Republican leaders might be pleased if the facts uncovered by Mueller so damaged Trump that it weakened his grip on the Party and discredited his nativist, America First movement. But, if a significant number of Republicans challenge Trump in public during the 2018 midterm cycle to defend the prerogatives of Congress or the F.B.I., they would be showing a kind of courage that few members have offered since Trump won their party’s nomination, in 2016.

It is tempting to think that an institution like the F.B.I. enjoys such credibility and public support that its agents and officials— and Mueller himself— can rely on cross-party backing in a crisis, even if Republicans remain silent now. Perhaps. But this was a party that refused to challenge Trump’s backing of Roy Moore in Alabama’s Senate race. And an understanding of what core Trump supporters believe about the F.B.I. and Mueller has to take into account Gallup’s trend lines. While celebrating this new year, it will require a certain degree of evidence-light optimism to be convinced that the center will hold.

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At 11:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not a punk rocker. just a punk.

For lack of confidence in institutions, it takes both halves of the political spectrum (since physics only allows for two in the usa) being corrupt betrayers of all the voters.

If the democraps truly represented the people, they'd enjoy a permanent plurality in government at all levels and would make sure public institutions worked.

When the democraps decided to sell their souls, in about 1981, their service to people and institutions ended. Today, only the most deluded cock-eyed optimists could possibly be confident in them.

This is why we have trump and his Nazi admin and ryan and mcturtle and the rest of congress. Good people who have nobody and nothing worth voting for tend to stay home.

Of course, if they were just a little better, they'd be in the streets by the 10s of millions with torches demanding able reps and punishing those who betray them. But we're not good enough for that.

At 2:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I largely agree. But we keep expecting the younger generations to act as those of the 1930s did. The last gasp for that was the Vietnam war protests. What protests happen now tend more to be social events and not harbingers of political movements erupting.

I feel that younger people not living in want for extended periods of time has much to do with this. Too many pleasant distractions to care that the good things of life are being taken away from us while we aren't paying attention.

By the time we do notice, it will be too late.

At 7:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

2:21, no shit!

I've long thought that it's a combination of whites mostly not living in want combined with everyone else living in some level of oppression and want but being taught over the years that their plight is hopeless.

You might think the recent spate of extrajudicial killings of unarmed blacks is unusual. It ain't. They know this. And the latinos know that they are likely to be extradited back somewhere, regardless of how long they've been here nor how valuable they are to all of us, should they capture the attention of the authorities. This has been true since 2009.

Plus, the poor have been placated for decades with real cheap drugs, a lot of which were initially supplied by the CIA.

Sadly, when the opportunity has presented itself, voters have proven to be much less than up to the task.

Given that the democraps sold out almost 40 years ago and nobody has emerged to point that out to enough voters, it's already too late. At this point, we're along for the ride.


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