“There are no coincidences, but sometimes the pattern is more obvious.”—Neil Innes
Attention, smart people! There is a MAJOR POLITICAL EVENT that’s happening—TODAY July 29th, 2015—across this nation that you might not have heard about for Bernie Sanders. Tonight Sanders will be speaking via the Internet to over 100,000 heavily-motivated people meeting for the first time at 3,520 Bernie-related house parties and get-togethers in bars and restaurants and union halls and church basements, etcetera, etcetera, all across the United States.
Yes, over 100,000 people have found other like-minded people in their area via this map and RSVP’d to get informed and to volunteer for Sanders’ increasingly astonishing campaign. I live in Los Angeles where there are well over 100 such gatherings. I’m married, but I would assume that a lot of smart, good-looking people would attend such events. Aren’t you even curious? Of course you are. Why not search for your zip code and see what happens?
Has there ever been a larger, more dynamic and more INSTANTANEOUS grassroots movement in American history? If there has been one, they must’ve kept it a secret. Even the Tea party movement didn’t grow nearly as fast as this. And after today’s event, what happens next?
I can’t wait to find out.
The sky’s the limit, but the goal is the White House. This can happen, people.
The 2016 election is going to be the most epiclyAmerican election in our country’s history, with all that this implies. You don’t have to be a psychic to predict that this one will be a barnstormer of high weirdness, goofy drama and unexpected twists and turns. It’ll blow 2008 out of the water and I think it’s already far surpassed 2012, which to be fair had its moments, too, but no Donald Trump or Sarah Palin.
And as if to conveniently illustrate my point of how volatile things have already gotten, here is some new polling courtesy of CNN (by way of AlterNet) that shows self-described Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders out-polling all three of the Republican Party’s major candidates (although he’s more or less tied with Jeb Bush).
If you limit the poll sample to just registered voters, Bush defeats Sanders by a single point.
This is nothing short of extraordinary news. This is one political story that isn’t about Donald Trump being at the top of the GOP field, it’s about the grumpy Socialist Senator from Vermont WHO CAN BEAT HIM IN A HEAD TO HEAD MATCH-UP.
I look at it this way: If, when all is said and done, it’s Hillary Clinton who is running against the eventual Republican nominee, hey, I will have no problem pulling the lever for her, because I would never vote for a Republican in a million years. But I am sure as shit going to be voting for Bernie Sanders in the primary, which is the vote—in Hillary Clinton’s case—that will count the most.
I strongly believe that either one of them, Sanders or Clinton, could and would, can and will, beat whoever the GOP nominates and polling backs that expectation up. But I’ve sent Bernie money twice and I just don’t think I’d ever send Hillary Clinton a single dime. I don’t actively dislike her, don’t get me wrong, but Bernie Sanders? He’s nothing less than a great American hero in my eyes.
Just sayin’... it’s going to get weird. Good weird. Deeply weird. Believe it.
The last quarter-century of political history is full of celebrity-led “get out the vote” initiatives (Rock the Vote, P. Diddy’s preposterous “VOTE OR DIE” campaign), and celebrities from outside the realm of politics recruited to goose the profiles of long-shot small parties (Howard Stern’s aborted flirtation with the Libertarian Party, Ralph Nader’s total destruction of the Green Party’s U.S. viability for probably a couple of generations), but notwithstanding satirical campaigns, non-politician notables actually attempting to launch new parties are much rarer.
This actually happened.
So I was amused to learn that founding Damned member Raymond “Captain Sensible” Burns attempted in earnest to form a political party in 2006. Calling it “The Blah! Party” (yes, the exclamation point was part of the name), Sensible endeavored to simultaneously galvanize protest votes and energize the disaffected, while taking public stances on matters like the proliferation of obesity, the imprisonment of non-violent offenders, public transport, renewable energy, and U.K. companies being bought out by international conglomerates. It was an ambitious undertaking, but Sensible had the help of a PR firm and—I’m not kidding—a potato chip company.
After all those exasperated rants from the stage during concerts over the years I have finally done the decent thing and started a political party with the aim of shaking up British politics.
My colleagues and I have named it the Blah! Party because this is what goes through your mind when you hear our great leaders spewing out the usual old garbage…. ‘45 minutes’, ‘WMD’, ‘faith schools’, ‘nhs reforms’, education education education’.... it’s enough to make to put a brick through the TV - so have put my money where my mouth is and decided to take on the vile frauds on their own turf.
The Blah! party is ridiculously easy to join via blahparty.org and once you’ve done that you can start firing off policy ideas as we are aiming to be the most representative and democratic party of ALL…... YOU will write our manifesto! Bearing in mind of course that as I am involved it will not tolerate racism, sexism or any other unpleasantness. We aim to be a NICE party, and although we are not adverse to having some fun along the way we ARE deadly serious about holding the current ghastly crop of political clones to account on your behalf for the nonsensical decisions they all too often make.
The more members we get - the harder it will be for them to ignore us…. and the possibilities really start opening up so if YOU TOO have had enough then get over to the Blah! website and let’s shake some action!
In the 1980s, the elected-to-nothing wife of then-Senator Albert Gore Jr. made quite a splash for herself when she formed the Parents Music Resource Center in 1985 with three other prominent Washington wives. The group called attention to lascivious and offensive lyrics in pop music, including those by Prince, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper alongside more familiar targets like Black Sabbath, and was instrumental in creating the single most “1980s” cover element on CD covers, the ubiquitous “PARENTAL ADVISORY: EXPLICIT LYRICS” rectangle, often found on one of the bottom corners.
Gore, naturally, protested that she was never interested in censoring anyone but the desire to use rating systems or warning labels in a corporate context inevitably has a chilling effect on speech and explicit content.
Understandably, Tipper Gore rapidly became Public Enemy #1 for fans of heavy metal and punk rock. (Indeed, I’m sure you could do a decent compilation of songs calling out the PMRC in their very titles.) When Bill Clinton named Al Gore to be his running mate in 1992, in an election they would ultimately win and which would delight liberals of all stripes as representing the end of the Reagan era, the existence of Tipper as a potential Second Lady was for principled rock fans a serious obstacle to voting for Clinton—indeed, DM head honcho Richard Metzger has never cast a vote for Al Gore largely for this reason, and bravo to him! Whatever benefit she was providing “parents,” the PMRC represented a generational war between Boomers and their children, even though its goals would be recognized as an utter affront to so many Boomer heroes like Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Grace Slick, etc.
The PMRC singled out a few acts that represented their view of unacceptable excess in rock and roll content. They were known as the “Filthy Fifteen”:
Prince, “Darling Nikki” (sex/masturbation)
Sheena Easton, “Sugar Walls,” (sex)
Judas Priest, “Eat Me Alive,” (sex)
Vanity, “Strap On ‘Robbie Baby’” (sex)
Mötley Crüe, “Bastard” (violence/language)
AC/DC, “Let Me Put My Love Into You” (sex)
Twisted Sister, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (violence)
Madonna, “Dress You Up” (sex)
W.A.S.P., “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)” (sex/language)
Def Leppard, “High ‘n’ Dry (Saturday Night)” (drug and alcohol use)
Mercyful Fate, “Into the Coven” (occult)
Black Sabbath, “Trashed” (drug and alcohol use)
Mary Jane Girls, “In My House” (sex)
Venom, “Possessed” (occult)
Cyndi Lauper, “She Bop” (sex/masturbation)
The PMRC was the best thing that ever happened to, say, W.A.S.P.—I scarcely remember any coverage about that band that wasn’t about “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast).”
In November 1986 CREEM magazine published a letter from Gore responding to a column by John Mendelssohn in which she defended herself against charges that she was an “uptight prude who wants to ban rock.” Eager to present herself as a fan of rock and roll, even of “the normal sex and sensuality of rock ‘n’ roll,” Gore depicted herself as undertaking the “responsible action” of protesting “the current excess of a minority of powerful artists.” Not unreasonably, she also framed her campaign in a feminist light, in that she was fighting “a degrading attitude” towards women, although without ever explaining how restricting the reach of a song like Cyndi Lauper’s “She Bop” fostered that goal.
In a later issue, Jello Biafra wrote in to debate Gore, accusing Gore and the PMRC of playing a 1980s version of Joe McCarthy and HUAC. Biafra pointed out that the climate for censorship was already plenty chilly, what with Republican Attorney General Ed Meese going after Playboy and Penthouse.
Most of the arguments about the PMRC’s methods are somewhat abstract—will this or that act prevent or foster this or that reaction? But Biafra pointed out that the PMRC was having real-world effects on working bands, specifically Biafra’s band the Dead Kennedys, who were facing the prospect of “a year in jail and a $2,000 fine” because of “what the Dead Kennedys say with their records.” Opponents of bodies like the PMRC are quick to say that they only end up benefiting their targets by increasing their sales, but Biafra disputed this point, noting that “more and more stores are now afraid to carry our records out of fear of being dragged through the nearest kangaroo court.”
Read the exchange for yourself, it’s well worth a read. You can see a larger version of these images by clicking on them.
Biafra would remain one of Gore’s harshest critics for many years. He dedicated a lengthy chunk of his first spoken word album, No More Cocoons, to a reading of this letter, the one he wrote responding to Gore in CREEM. On the Dead Kennedys live album Mutiny on the Bay, during their song “M.T.V.—Get off the Air,” Biafra tells the audience to “buy a homemade [record] instead, before the PMRC closes the stores down that sell ‘em”.
I found this issue of CREEM at the Rock Hall’s Library and Archives, which is located at the Tommy LiPuma Center for Creative Arts on Cuyahoga Community College’s Metropolitan Campus in Cleveland, Ohio. It is free and open to the public. Visit their website for more information.
Here’s a video from that era of Biafra and Gore on Oprah. Biafra’s mention of Willie Horton places this after the 1988 presidential election, so a good while after the above letters appeared.
Sometimes the Internet truly is the giver of great things. I say that because some AWESOME person calling themselves “Donald Purrump” has set up an Instagram page that has issued a challenge for pet owners to “Trump your Cat.”
Trump your Cat’s Instagram has just under 5,000 followers, but that’s going to change pretty quickly I suspect. Since its creation, people have uploaded images of not only cats, but dogs and a lone Guinea pig to the page all sporting versions of Trump’s ridiculous comb-over-and-up. It’s quite something. Unlike Fight Club, Trump your Cat has a few rules:
Trump your Cat Guinea Pig
1. Brush your cat.
2. Form the hair you brushed into a toupee.
3. Place toupee on cat.
Artist Fernando Sosa—a Florida-based Mexican immigrant who came to the United States at the age of 11—has designed a delightful Donald Trump bum-hole plug.
I usually make Butt plugs to insult dictators, homophobes and politicians. However, when i heard [von Clownstick’s] remarks about Mexicans and latinos from south america i was extremely angry. You see I was born and raised in Mexico and moved to United States when i was 11 years old. So i don’t approve of what [F$27.99, Ted Cruz and the republican party have to say about us hard working americans.
When [Fuckface von Clownstick] decided to announce he is running for president he decided to use Latinos as a scapegoat and blame us for everything that is ailing America. Many republican politicians have done this before but never a politician running for president.
If you recall, Sosa was responsible for the Vladimir Putin plug last year. If you really got to own a Trump AKA “Fuckface von Clownstick” plug, they’re being sold on Shapeways for $27.99 plus shipping. It’s a steal!
For the past few weeks I have been emailing friends links to YouTube editing genius Vic Berger’s “trash compactor” cuts of Republican Presidential campaign announcement speeches. I have laughed myself senseless at these things. They get funnier with repeated viewings. He really knows how to highlight the absurdity of these events (like the Jeb Bush one with the guy beating his “Jeb! sticks”—what would you call ‘em?—behind the candidate. I found this screamingly funny in a Tim & Eric kinda way).
Hard to say which is the best. They’re all different and each one is a gem. Stay with the Donald Trump clip, I thought it took a little longer to ramp up than the others did, but once it gets going, Berger takes it someplace you probably won’t expect.
The Flickr user diepuppenstubensammlerin (the name means “the dollhouse collector”) has a remarkably wide-ranging and detailed series of galleries documenting dollhouses from Germany, with many of the sets pictured dating from the 1950s through the 1970s. The set pictured here came from a company called VEB Grünhainichen, if I understand correctly, and it was in East Germany, in fact on the border to what was then called Czechoslovakia.
The notion of children playing with dollhouses that have this kitschy wallpaper and kitchen tiles or tasteful/chintzy furniture of indubitably modern design. All you need is a Trabant driving by outside or the tones of the Klaus Renft Combo emanating from the hi-fi system and the picture is complete.
This all ties in vaguely with something we covered a couple of years ago, “Ostalgie,” which might be translated as “Eastalgia,” a coinage that refers to nostalgia for the old German Democratic Republic, or the DDR as it is known in German.
Helpfully, diepuppenstubensammlerin supplies a little explanation as to what we’re looking at:
VEB Holzspielwarenfabrik Grünhainichen
Die Fabrik wurde 1952 in Grünhainichen, damals DDR, als Volkseigener Betrieb durch die Verstaatlichung der Großhandelsfirma Cuno & Otto Dressel gegründet. Sie produzierte hochwertiges Holzspielzeug auf einem künstlerisch anspruchsvollen Niveau. 1966 wurde die Fabrik im Zuge der totalen Verstaatlichung aller Betriebe mit anderen Fabriken zu dem Kombinat VEB VERO zusammengeschlossen.”
Which basically means, the factory made wooden toys in Grünhainichen in the German Democratic Republic. The factory was founded in 1952 as the state-owned version of the company that had been known as Cuno & Otto Dressel. The factory produced high-quality wooden toys of a high artistic quality. In 1966, as part of the total nationalization of all businesses, the factory was combined with other factories to create the VEB VERO company.
If nothing else, acquring these dollhouses would enable children to stage their own versions of Ali: Fear Eats the Soul or any number of Rainer Werner Fassbinder classics. (Yes, Fassbinder mostly worked in West Germany, but the aesthetic of these toys fits either way…..)
The presidential election is 17 months away—egad—so that means that according to recent tradition, it’s the season of “lots and lots of candidates.” This time around, the Democrats have a strong presumption that Hillary Clinton will be the eventual nominee, and that has limited the number of potential candidates willing to enter the race. But on the Republican side, no worries—the New York Times currently lists 16 people who either are running or are “probably” running as Republicans. Because that Times page will change over time, let’s record here what those names are: Jindal, Trump, Perry, Graham, Pataki, Santorum, Huckabee, Fiorina, Carson, Rubio, Paul, Cruz, and Bush are listed as “running,” with a trio of governors, Kasich, Christie, and Walker, listed as “probably.”
Fast Company, a business website that has often championed “branding” as the key to corporate success, hired well-known death metal logo artist Christophe Szpajdel to create new branding identities for some of the contenders. Szpajdel, who is from Belgium but lives in the U.K. has been a professional logo designer since 1977 and is responsible for the logos of more than 7,000 (!) black metal bands, including Morgawr, Anamorph, Fistula, Arcturus, Old Man’s Child, and Moonspell. It sounds like Fast Company got the right guy, at least. Here’s a coffee table book of Szpajdel’s logos.
Here are side-by-side views of each campaign logo with Szpajdel’s black metal-style creation. For Trump, amusingly, they used a toupee in lieu of his actual “TRUMP” logo. In every case you can click on the logo to see a larger view.
In June of 1983, in her first bid for reelection, Margaret Thatcher won “the most decisive election victory since that of Labour in 1945,” according to Wikipedia. For the unionists, punkers, anti-nuke activists, and enemies of the National Front, it was a depressing outcome, parallel to Reagan’s easy reelection in the U.S. a year later. Labour’s platform was stridently left-wing, seeking unilateral nuclear disarmament, withdrawal from the European Economic Community, abolition of the House of Lords, and the re-nationalization of the major industries Thatcher had privatized.
Labour Party MP Gerald Kaufman later referred to his own party’s platform as “the longest suicide note in history.” Labour was in the same predicament the Democrats in the U.S. found themselves in, led by standard-bearers like Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis.
As with any major election, the subject was on everyone’s lips for a time. Smash Hits, the U.K. magazine, printed a two-page spread in its June 9, 1983, issue—the issue that would be on the newsstands when voters cast their ballots—in which they asked various prominent musicians “What Would You Do If You Were Prime Minister?” Included in the spread were Elvis Costello, Mark E. Smith of the Fall, Boy George, Gary Numan, and Malcolm McLaren.
The answers given by Costello and Smith are terse, and, each in its own way, perfectly representative. Boy George and Numan actually appear to have given the question some thought and give detailed answers. In general the answers are thoughtful but overall, especially with McLaren’s answer, tend to give credence to George Orwell‘s 1946 reference to “the irresponsible violence of the powerless.”
Probably the most attention-getting item on the page is Numan’s avowal of admiration for Margaret Thatcher, whose perceived image among left-leaning musicians was roughly that of the Wicked Witch of the West, as it remains today. Numan’s received plenty of flak for his early views—in 2006 he expressed regret that he had ever supported Thatcher, telling DJ Jonty Skrufff that “I voted for Margaret Thatcher once and it’s lived with me ever since. ... Like a noose around my neck.”
Support for Thatcher (or Reagan) wouldn’t be high on my list of attributes I’d seek in a friend, but the way I see it, Numan’s original answer was thoughtful and heartfelt and, most important, it took true guts to counter the orthodoxy of the artsy crowd he was running with at the time.
Here are quotes from some of the participants:
Steve Severin, Siouxsie and the Banshees:
I’d stop the Cruise missiles, ban fox-hunting and animal experiments, change the licensing laws to open all the time—well, possibly—and I’d ban censorship, if such a thing were possible. I’d probably abolish the BBC or get it burnt down. One of the two. I’d also make Glenn Hoddle stay at Tottenham.
Personally, I’d like to see all the closed-down factories being incorporated into the school system so they can train school-leavers. I really like Maggie Thatcher—she’s everything that we needed and made me proud to feel British. The way the country’s going I really think that we’re on the way to recovery. Business is picking up and I liked the way she handled the Falklands’ crisis. But it’s hard for me to talk about British politics being rather outside it all.
If Maggie wins again, I think I’d just take all the programmes off the air and just play Stevie Wonder’s “Heaven Help Us All” for the next 24 hours.
I don’t think any politician is in touch with the realities and pressures that normal working class people have to live with. I realised that after seeing Margaret Thatcher on Jim’ll Fix It. There’s so much money and glamour involved in politics today that I can see why it’s hard for politicians to stay in touch. If I was in power I’d lean more towards ecology—improving the environment people live in. You have to understand why Coronation Street is so popular. It’s because people like the kind of environment where they can communicate with each other. The worst thing that ever happened to this country was council-built, high-rise blocks. I would spend more money on renovating old buildings in an attempt to preserve Britain’s character. I’d make a lousy politician, though, because I’m too soft.
Mark E. Smith, The Fall:
I’d halve the price of cigarettes, double the tax on health food, then I’d declare war on France and introduce conscription for all members of CND [Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament].
The Union Jack to be pulled down and a new flag with a big banana to be hoisted in its place. Free transport for everyone. An instant law that would shut out all TV, radio and press, encouraging everyone to invent their own truth. All public clocks to be put out of order.
The requisition of British Airways in order to transport all people under 16 to some more exotic part of the world. Parents must go to school and children to their Mum or Dad’s place of work. Everyone to write their own personal cheer, for example (sings): MY NAME’S MALCOLM—I COMMUNICATE/IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT, YOU DON’T RATE/UPSIDE, DOWNSIDE/TURN THE TIDES MY SIDE/YOU—SHUT UP!
Everyone’s cheer shall thereafter be yelled by themselves throughout my term of office.
I found this issue of Smash Hits at the Rock Hall’s Library and Archives, which is located at the Tommy LiPuma Center for Creative Arts on Cuyahoga Community College’s Metropolitan Campus in Cleveland, Ohio. It is free and open to the public. Visit their website for more information.
Here’s the full spread—click for a much larger view: