Woodstock at 50: Liner Notes

I have a new column up today at the Federalist, “Not Sorry, Boomers: Woodstock Was A Bad Trip,” just in time for the 50th anniversary of the big event. It marries the “Woodstock was a mess” genre with the “Musicians badmouth Woodstock” subgenre that usually only appears in the music press. I thought the rockers who were there made good witnesses for the prosecution, as it were.

This is one where a lot got left out for space. The hyperlinks in the column itself contain a wealth of granular detail about the festival and its shortcomings. But there was even more that had to be excluded completely.

For example, there is the question of the sound system. It ostensibly represented the state of the art for rock concerts… but the state of the art in 1969 was nowhere near what it would become over the next two decades. It’s entirely possible that it was inadequate for the vast crowd that ultimately arrived. It’s also possible that it did not perform particularly well in the bad weather which recurred through most of the weekend.

As for the weather, the column focuses on the rain, but the sun also was a problem when it came out. People high on LSD would “lie down on their backs and just stare” at the sun, burning their eyeballs in the process.

I was unable to dip into the genre of essays by Woodstock attendees giving the experience mixed-to-bad reviews, including Hendrick Hertzberg — who Obi-Wan Kenobi will tell you is a name I hadn’t heard in a long time. This All Things Considered segment went by the wayside as well.

In addition, outside the Grateful Dead, I skipped assessments of the performances themselves, largely because even members of the same band would have differing opinions about them. John Fogerty refused permission to use CCR’s performance in the documentary because he felt their set was subpar — but this opinion may have been colored by his overall opinion of the event. His bandmate Stu Cook liked the set — but this opinion may have been colored by regret over the commercial boost bands featured in the film ultimately received. Now that the complete tapes are out in the wild, people can decide for themselves; my focus was more on the overall event and its meaning.

The piece also comes off more curmudgeonly than I actually am about the music and musicians of the period. For example, I get at least guilty pleasure out of the CS&N debut album and the CSNY follow-up (which contains their version of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock”). But I am not a fan of the sort of Aquarian, Woodstock-style hubris found in a song like “Wooden Ships,” which spawned answer songs from both Jackson Browne and Neil Young.

The curmudgeonly tone is underscored by my failure to note that there were no reports of violence at Woodstock. That is to the festivals credit and the promoters made decisions, including asking musicians to play longer, or perform in somewhat dangerous weather, with the idea of keeping the crowd peaceful. And yet I cannot help but think Woodstock benefits in a weird way by comparison with the Altamont free concert, which is kind of a low bar.

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Twofer Monday Again: Liner Notes

Another Monday, another double-column day for me at The Federalist. (To be honest, I don’t know how good that is for me, traffic-wise, but whatevs.)

The first piece, “Tom Steyer’s Presidential Campaign Discredits His Drive To Impeach President Trump,” was entirely my idea. Steyer’s campaign is like the donkey in the room. Once you notice its fatal flaw, it cannot be unseen. And yet I hadn’t seen anyone writing about it when reporting on his recent poll numbers. So laying out the evidence was a straightforward exercise.

The second piece, “No, President Trump Should Not Commute Rod Blagojevich’s Corruption Sentence,” was not my idea, but as a citizen of the Land of Lincoln I jumped on the suggestion. Going back over the material, Blagojevich turned out to be even worse than I remembered. So much so that toward the end of this column, I probably could have stood to use more “probablys” and “likelys,” but did not because I was a bit irked. The column runs a bit long and there was still so much bad Blago I had to leave out (e.g., his often absentee governorship, how much even fellow Dems disliked him, etc.). >Sigh<

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Twofer Wednesday: Liner Notes

I again have two columns today at the Federalist, part of my effort to help them out on the semi-breaking news front. And both coincidentally involve The New York Times. Not a great week for them so far.

The first, “After Appellate Victory, Sarah Palin’s Lawsuit Against The New York Times Goes Forward,” is a fairly straightforward analysis of the appellate court decision reversing the dismissal of Palin’s libel claim against the Gray Lady. As an attorney, it’s interesting to me that the decision barely involves the First Amendment. The trial judge here improperly tried to dispose of the case summarily. Political bias may have been an influence here, but it’s more likely that the bias was simply in favor of trying to dispose of cases quickly when possible. In my experience, judges tend to think they can dispose of things more quickly than they ought.

The second, “After Democrat Pushback, New York Times Switches Headline To One Slamming Trump,” is about more than the NYT. Even if one accepts EIC Dean Baquet’s protestations that the paper was not pressured into changing a Trump-neutral headline, the disruptions of the internet age make media outlets more beholden to their audiences. It’s just one of myriad ways in which our technological revolution has created a more populist culture.

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Fear and Loathing at the DCCC: Liner Notes

I have a new column today at The Federalist: “Democrats’ Identity Politics Civil War Expands To Campaign Committee.” This was the assignment that kept yesterday’s Liner Notes short. The story, on which Politico has done yeoman’s (yeoperson’s?) duty was being discussed internally at The Federalist, so I volunteered to do a version for those who had not been following what is otherwise fairly inside baseball.

As usual, there’s always an issue with “breaking news” pieces at an outlet not really built for it. So there’s a graf that’s a little clunky because I was able to add a key staffer’s resignation after I submitted the piece. And after that, Politico reported that “in the next 10 hours, much of the senior staff was out: Jared Smith, the communications director and another Bustos ally; Melissa Miller, a top DCCC communications aide; Molly Ritner, political director; Nick Pancrazio, deputy executive director; and Van Ornelas, the DCCC’s director of diversity. ” Yesterday, they settled all family business.

The latest story also notes: ” A staff turnover of this magnitude seven months into the Democrats’ majority is jarring, and will present Bustos with a set of new challenges. She will be forced to rebuild the committee’s top leadership from scratch in the middle of a presidential campaign that has much of the party’s best talent tied up.” No kidding. It underscores the point of my column: the DCCC’s critics on the left have priorities that are not the same as the DCCC as an institution.

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Twofer Monday: Liner Notes

I have two columns up at The Federalist today, “In The Next Debates, Democrats Need To Explain Themselves On Decriminalizing The Border,” and “Media Reports Arizona Governor Supports Legalizing Weed. He Doesn’t.” I’m mildly surprised both ran today, but I’m not complaining.

The first piece was inspired by the fact that “The View” is one of the few outlets questioning Democratic candidates about Trump’s biggest issue, i.e., how seriously we are going to treat having borders — and that candidates were having trouble answering. I recalled the hand-raising question from the second debate night in June, but could not recall how it was handled the first night. Once I saw how much everyone but Julian Castro was dodging when not forced to raise hands, I knew I had to write about it.

As for the second column, an associate alerted me to this incident of media bias. I generally try to avoid writing straight media bias critiques, as longer-term readers know. But I became intrigued by the idea of highlighting it in the context of a political stance which, while still popular with Arizona Republicans, is becoming less popular in real time. I probably should have included the example of Chesterton’s fence.

I have to cut this entry a bit short, as a new assignment has already arrived with the morning news.

Update: Since publication, a journalist has inquired about the claim that “marijuana-related traffic deaths increased by 48 percent in Colorado after the state legalized recreational use of the drug. ” The source is a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, which is cited in the Washington Post story in the immediately preceding sentence of my column.

The same journalist also included a link to a 2018 story from Colorado’s Gazette, noting ” traffic fatalities in which drivers had enough marijuana in their bloodstream to be deemed legally impaired dropped sharply, from 52 in 2016 to 35 last year.” The story also reports ” the number of fatalities involving positive tests for marijuana has nearly doubled since recreational legalization in 2014, from 75 that year to 125 in 2016 and 139 last year,” and “deaths where drivers tested positive for cannabis, any alcohol and other drugs tripled — from eight in 2016 to 25 last year.”

I am not surprised the Colorado Department of Transportation chooses to focus on deaths involving the legal standard for intoxication. However, I am also old enough to recall that the legal standards for drunk driving were tightened years ago because traffic deaths were considered too high. These standards are matters of political judgment of the costs of legal intoxicants, as noted in the column.

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The BDS Blow-Up: Liner Notes

I have a midday column up at The Federalist, “Far-Left Bucks Bipartisan Consensus To Back Anti-Israel Boycott.” It covers the House vote to condemn the BDS movement, over the objections of “squad” members like Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib — a story which got some, but not big play yesterday evening.

This is one of those “tough to do breaking news” columns. Only after I submitted the piece was it reported that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez voted with Omar and Tlaib, while Rep. Ayanna Pressley broke ranks with the “squad.” AOC’s comments are a multi-layered onion of dumb:

“Ocasio-Cortez said Tuesday that BDS is ‘a tough issue, especially for constituencies back home,’ but told BuzzFeed News that ‘ultimately it comes down to protecting free speech. And my concern with being overly punitive on nonviolent forms of protest is that it forces people into other channels and I would hate to be a part of, you know, paving that kind of path.”‘

First, as my column explains, the resolution in no way encroaches on the right to free speech; there is no way AOC would say this about a resolution condemning President Trump’s rhetoric. Second, a non-binding resolution is the opposite of “overly punitive.” Third, mere criticism does not force people to make like Palestinian terrorists.

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Trump’s Electoral College Plan: Liner Notes

My column for today at The Federalist is “President Trump Could Lose 5 Million Votes And Still Win In 2020.” It’s a synthesis of what a number of data analysts have been realizing about the effect of the Electoral College and the rural/urban split on the 2020 election.

Of course, it’s an unlikely scenario, as I note in the column. With more space, I would have emphasized this more. But the extreme example is useful to get the focus on the structural advantages President Trump currently enjoys (it’s a long, long way to Election Day, obviously).

Although I have written about Trump doing a round of the mainstream media as part of an appeal to more moderate voters, the current realities of the Electoral College are driving his re-elect campaign. Eventually, the tension between those two approaches will probably become more apparent. President Obama was the first since Washington to win his first re-elect with a smaller popular and electoral vote. Given how narrow Trump’s victory was in 2016, he probably cannot afford to lose those five million votes.

But for now, it looks like the campaign is very much thinking about another narrow win, ground out in probably ugly ways. Fortunately for Trump, he does not mind winning ugly.

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Canceling the Moon Landing: Liner Notes

My latest column at The Federalist posted yesterday: “The Left Dumps On Apollo 11 As A White, Male Enterprise.” I was deluged by (generally good) things yesterday, so these are the bleated notes.

At the time I submitted the piece, The New York Times had not published a third piece dumping on NASA in favor of the diversity of the Soviet space program. Karol Markowicz has that one handled, as does Cathy Young:

As I note in my column, NASA had the same sorts of issues with race and sex as the rest of the culture (ask Ed Dwight, who was selected for training but ultimately rejected as an astronaut — both likely because of race). But dwelling on these stories at the 50th anniversary, rather than looking at the achievement, reflects the left’s assessment with fixing blame rather than fixing problems.

The Soviet angle would have been useful because — as my reference to Walter Mondale in my column indicates — there was always a faction of the left that opposed the space program. There were those who thought the money would be better spent on welfare programs; there were anti-anti-communists who did not like us winning a round in the Cold War.

If you watch the archival TV coverage of Apollo 11, this sentiment bleeds through into interviews where Neil Armstrong and other notables get asked whether the lessons of Apollo can be applied to domestic problems. Jerry Seinfeld later joked about how the moon landing launched a culture of complaint. But it may be that one reason the left has never liked the moon landing much is that it implicitly exposes that space engineering — as difficult as it is — remains easier than social engineering.

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The Far Left Gets Sick of Obama: Liner Notes

Today’s Federalist column is “Far Left Prepares To Throw Barack Obama Into The Dustbin Of History.”

Last weekend’s Netroots conference provided a flesh-and-blood example of the disconnect between the Democrats’ woke activist class and the black voters whose interests they claim to champion (and Democrats generally). It’s also a tale of two conferences, as the contrast between Netroots and the annual LULAC confab was striking. And I get to take a couple of digs at Dave Weigel, which is only becoming more fun as his partisan hackery becomes ever more servile.

What got left out? I have written plenty about the Democrats’ “Upstairs / Downstairs” coalition that I could have re-supplied, but I viewed this piece as an opportunity to “show, not tell,” which can be more effective. Sometimes, the writing of a column just flows naturally, so I went with the flow.

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The Democrats’ Uncivil War: Liner Notes

I have a column up at The Federalist, “House Democrats’ Uncivil War Is Fueled By Identity Politics.”

Given that the news was a moving target and the inevitable delay of the editorial process (not complaining about that; I noticed a couple of things that were fixed in editorial), my approach is generally to illustrate larger points. Here, the piece sums up the Democrats’ internecine warfare to make a point about what it means for disputes to be filtered through identity politics.

What got left out? The column demonstrates that last weekend’s acrimony — which will return — was instigated by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti. Their roles at Justice Democrats (a group from which AOC had to detach herself and now the subject of two FEC complaints), threatening to primary mostly black colleagues, could have been emphasized more. That AOC is not requiring Chakrabarti to make the financial disclosures usually filed by a chief of staff is also raising eyebrows. These sorts of vulnerabilities would normally make people more cautious, which is a measure of the hubris in AOC-land.

Also left for later consideration is the fantastic passive-aggressiveness of these fights within the left. They will back down on the rare occasions they asked directly whether they are accusing a colleague of racism, choosing to label them as enablers of a racist system. The media loves to make Republicans squirm over Trump’s xenophobic tweets and chuckle over the lack of direct answers. The coverage of Democrats, as always, is a bit different.

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