It's Still Not Enough: Saying Goodbye to the Tragically Hip - "The Hip has been a constant companion as we've experienced our own lives," writes Bob Cesca. "And now, as with any love affair, be it lifelong or temporary, we have no choice but to part ways. We meet, we fall in love -- and no matter how vigorously we promise to stay (until the wisteria fades), we move on. If we're lucky, a magical troubadour like Gord Downie will join us for the ride."
A Sexual Harassment Scandal Where Everyone Involved Is Terrible - Chez Pazienza weighs in on the Andrea Tantaros/Roger Ailes harassment suit that involves two of the nastiest people in television. While expressing sympathy for Tantaros, it would be "really nice to find someone not kind of loathsome here," says Chez.
The Clintons Must Stop Saving Millions of Lives - Tommy Christopher examines the Everest-like peak that Clinton Derangement Syndrome reached this week.
It's Still Not Enough: Saying Goodbye to the Tragically Hip
by Bob Cesca
Gord Downie often screams bloody murder during the final measures of the Tragically Hip's "Grace, Too." If you aimed your attention northward and listened carefully, you might've heard it. Saturday night, in particular, it was the screaming of a man who was confronting the end of all things: his relationship with his family, with life. With everything.
The fleeting nature of life on display. And nothing short of everything's enough.
It's likely you have no idea what the hell those first sentences mean -- any of it -- considering how I'm referencing a band that's not so well known in the United States, but which competes with Rush for being Canada's most popular and revered recording artists. Formed in the middle 1980s, The Hip has defied the odds, holding together as a troupe of five friends who have, together, released 13 studio albums, nine of which have gone number one in Canada; that's nine platinum records; two diamond records and one gold.
Writing for Vox.com, Rachel Sklar described The Hip's popularity in Canada as being equivalent to Bruce Springsteen's notoriety in America. That's about right -- maybe if there were five Springsteens playing as a collective. Sonically speaking, there's no other band quite like them, shattering genres not unlike their neighbors from Toronto, Rush. For the uninitiated, imagine REM by way of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers by way of a bar band you'd hear performing from behind a chicken-wire fence in a Memphis dive. At the helm are Gord Downie's unpredictable performance-art vocals, ranging from sweet to borderline insane, and layered on top of basic (though never simplistic) blues-rock riffs and pulse-pounding jams.
Earlier this year, The Hip announced that Downie, at the too-young age of 52, had been diagnosed with what's known as a gliobastoma, an incurable form of brain cancer that'll surely kill him long before his work here is done. Indeed, its victims are usually dead within a year of being diagnosed.
Downie's hourglass was turned over last December.
Merely typing those words re-engaged the tears I cried while watching Downie's final concert, streamed live from the band's home town of Kingston, Ontario this past Saturday night, complete with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the box seats, joining us in saying goodbye to The Hip as we know it. All of Canada, as well as scores of us here in the States, were locked into the show as a matter of both Canadian national pride and as a cursory means of embracing a man who's contributed so much to the soundtracks of our lives.
Like I said, Downie emotes quite loudy on stage, and he's done so hundreds of times while performing the dangerous lyrical content of "Grace, Too," which was apparently inspired by the 1944 film-noir Double Indemnity, about a man and his female lover who plan to murder the woman's husband.
He said, "I'm fabulously rich, come on just let's go"
She kind of bit her lip, "Jeez, I don't know"
But I can guarantee, there'll be no knock on the door
I'm total pro, that's what I'm here for
I come from downtown, born ready for you
Armed with will and determination, and grace, too
The secret rules of engagement are hard to endorse
When the appearance of conflict meets the appearance of force
But I can guarantee, there'll be no knock on the door
I'm total pro here, that's what I'm here for
I come from downtown, born ready for you
Armed with skill and it's frustration, and grace, too
In recent years during the tail of the song, Downie unloads on stage, screaming into his microphone, then offering the mic to the audience, inviting us to do our own screaming. But Saturday night, Downie appeared to completely break down on stage, overwhelmed by the rapidly diminishing beat-count of the final night performing his life's work, ever. He openly sobbed between outbursts of what seemed like unspeakable emotional pain and fear. For those who witnessed that moment, it was soul-crushingly sad, as well as a little shocking. A dying man revealing the full force of his mortal grief in the face of an entire continent. The fleeting nature of life on display.
I'm ashamed to confess that soon after discovering The Hip, it took me a while to get used to Downie's live performance style. On stage, Downie's dark passenger invariably emerges in full force, amplified beyond the walls of the room as a means of not just singing the lyrics, but becoming them. Downie once said he's always looking for something to do with his hands while his bandmates, Gord Sinclair (bass), Rob Baker (guitar), Paul Langlois (guitar) and Johnny Fay (drums) chill their way through instrumental passages and improvised rock-outs. And in pursuit of keeping busy, this will absolutely do.
I didn't get it until I fully understood that Downie was adding new dimensions to the pathos and, often, the desperation of the characters who inhabit his poetry, adding an audiovisual spit-coat on top of what was already on the page, enhancing it beyond expectations. He'll scream. He'll grunt. He'll rant in non-sequiturs. He'll dance awkwardly. His face will contort and his hands, demanding constant business, appear to twitch and tic in awkwardly human ways as if the song was liquefied, heated and pumped into his veins, forcing him to involuntarily illustrate the mood of his songs in every possible configuration.
Saturday night, he sobbed between screams.
As opposed to his often devilish concert style, producer Bob Rock, who helmed the recording of The Hip's "World Container" (2006) and "We Are The Same" (2009), once referred to the subtler side of Downie's vocals as his "hotel voice" -- his sweeter, less disruptive, less vocally caustic side that's so emotionally inviting; as heard in songs like "Now For Plan A," "Fiddler's Green," "Ahead By A Century" and "Bobcaygeon." Each song, among others, often conjures the animus to Downie's in-concert dark passenger, and each song is completely and unexpectedly touching for unique reasons.
Like many other enthusiasts of The Hip, the latter song, "Bobcaygeon," was the first I heard by the band, and I immediately fell in love with it. I should explain: perhaps as a reaction to my former career in music radio, I don't listen to a variety of music, randomly mixed and matched. With music, I don't often have one-night stands. Instead, I tend to fall in love. I fall in love with bands and engage in long-term affairs with the music, listening to albums like mantras on endless loop until I wear them out (literally so, before the digital era). I fell badly for "Bobcaygeon" and, with it, The Hip.
"Bobcaygeon," the centerpiece of 1998's Phantom Power, is quite nearly the perfect love song. As opposed to "Ahead By A Century," about first loves, this one's about adult love. New love. Even if you've never experienced it, listening to the song provides a taste of what it's like. It's about those first nights together at her place making love, then leaving the next morning for work -- perhaps dangerous work -- wishing for time to speed on by so we can wheel back to that new warmth; to nourish that electric love turning our stomachs inside-out as the sun rises. It's nauseating-in-a-good-way; it's the excitement of the romantically unknown and its myriad possibilities.
I left your house this morning
About a quarter after nine
Could have been the Willie Nelson
Could have been the wine
When I left your house this morning
It was a little after nine
It was in Bobcaygeon, I saw the constellations
Reveal themselves one star at a time
Drove back to town this morning
With working on my mind
I thought of maybe quitting
I thought of leaving it behind
I went back to bed this morning
And as I'm pulling down the blind
Yeah, the sky was dull, and hypothetical
And falling one cloud at a time
It's among the most beautiful songs ever recorded.
In keeping with The Hip's humble Canadian attitude, however, Downie once told an audience, "I wrote this song walking to a Baskin-Robbins. Sorry to disappoint you." He later elaborated that the name of the Ontario town, Bobcaygeon, just happened to rhyme with "constellations." So there. And hence the song. But like any great works of art, we apply our own meanings, and this one is galactically powerful to me. Perhaps as a matter of harmonic convergence, it's a song about new love, and it happened to spark a new long-term love affair with a band, while, years later, it provided the soundtrack to falling in love for real. Sometimes gorgeous things emerge out of the mundane. Love and music. Everything.
From this one song bloomed so many others that've run concurrently with the events of my adult life, having discovered the band, at the time, more than ten years into its career.
In 2012, The Hip released Now For Plan A, inspired in part by Downie's wife's fight against breast cancer. The title track is a haunting bookend to "Bobcaygeon." The music is more sorrowful, dirtier, and the lyrics take us through an existential conversation between a man and a woman who've been together for decades, facing a health crisis that could separate them forever. Downie's vocals are joined here by Sarah Harmer, who represents his wife, doubling his words as this couple vows to fight on together, one for the other.
Yeah, I know, I know, I know
It's still not enough
Nothing short of everything
Nothing short of everything's enough
No matter how wide or how tough
Nothing short of everything's enough
Yeah, I know, I know, I know
Now for Plan A
I'll stay till the wisteria fades
And falls on L.A.
No matter how high or how rough
Nothing short of everything's enough
In your face the endless patience
The fleeting nature of life on display
(And nothing short of everything)
(Nothing short of everything)
I'll stay till the wisteria fades
The way it falls all over L.A.
More often than not, it seems that we're stripped of the closure that goes along with saying goodbye to that which moves us...before it's gone. When Robin Williams died, we all craved a chance to go back; to give him a hug and to whisper "thank you" in his ear. How many of our loved ones have died before we could do the same? With Gord Downie, the world shared a hug with this beautiful man while he's still here and very much alive.
Thank you for that.
Thank you for everything.
It makes so much sense that Downie would spend a sizable chunk of what could be his final days touring Canada -- the fleeting nature of life on display -- saying goodbye while raising money for cancer research. The Hip has been a constant companion as we've experienced our own lives, and now, as with any love affair, be it lifelong or temporary, we have no choice but to part ways. We meet, we fall in love -- and no matter how vigorously we promise to stay (until the wisteria fades), we move on. If we're lucky, a magical troubadour like Gord Downie will join us for the ride.
And, yes, amid the gratitude and the memories, the end will make us all scream a little.
Next: A Sexual Harassment Scandal Where Everyone Involved Is Terrible - by Chez Pazienza
A Sexual Harassment Scandal Where Everyone Involved Is Terrible
by Chez Pazienza
I had no idea Andrea Tantaros had even gotten fired from Fox News -- not until she began complaining publicly about it. Granted, the only time I heard from Tantaros before she lost her gig was whenever some frenzied, completely insane reactionary nugget came tumbling out of her mouth, and admittedly that was pretty regularly. All told, Tantaros was a nice little cottage industry for me among the Fox News "talent," given that she was never an A-lister, which meant that it at all times felt like she was working extra hard to get noticed by management so they'd bump her up to the majors. By "working extra hard," what I mean is that Tantaros could always be counted on to respond to any situation or news item by saying the craziest thing humanly possible, devoid of context or nuance and in a tone that bordered on the apocalyptic. It was her heavy-handedness that made her appear so desperate, as if she were a sorority little sister to Fox's cadre of unrepentant sexist frat boys -- douchebags like Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade -- and was always eager to please.
It was Andrea Tantaros, mean little troll that she was, who urged viewers to hit Obama supporters "in the face"; who managed to bring every scandal, even Ray Rice punch-gate, somehow, back to Obama; who figured that any good news announced by the president was just a calculated distraction from Benghazi or some other such horseshit; who excitedly injected conspiracy and paranoia into the official talking points of Fox News on a whim; who acted as the tip of the spear in the network's war on women; who generally just fired off nutjob rant after nutjob rant. Watching Andrea Tantaros try to formulate these complex ideas was always entertaining -- like watching a stuck kitten try to get its head out of a milk bottle. And that's the thing: Tantaros is an idiot and did a lot of harm while at Fox News, even in her somewhat abbreviated on-air role. She doesn't deserve an ounce of sympathy for the nonsense she regularly spewed across the airwaves and into the media bloodstream. Like most at Fox News, she did a hell caused serious damace before her era was brought to an untimely end.
It's ironic then that, particularly considering how well she played along with the network's relentless sexist agitprop, that Tantaros is now at the center of the latest salvo against Fox News and its Hutt-like former chief, Roger Ailes. If you haven't heard by now, it's Tantaros who filed a lawsuit earlier this week alleging not only that she was one of the many women at Fox News sexually harassed by Ailes -- and that she was eventually fired for rebuffing his advances -- but that there exists at Fox a system that protects the myriad harassers there and which throws their victims to the wolves. According to Tantaros, she was the unwilling recipient of sexual advances from Ailes, but also from Bill O'Reilly, whom she claims tried to lure her out to a "very private" spot in Long Island where she could show him her "wild side." The suit also goes on to point a finger at Fox's new chief, Ailes's replacement Bill Shine, who she says told her to keep her mouth shut about Ailes's advances. So, yeah, a lot of dirt being thrown around here.
Now it hopefully doesn't need to be said, but given the sensitive nature of the subject I'll say it anyway: Andrea Tantaros by no means deserved to be sexually harassed at work. And it's admittedly easy to believe that this kind of awfulness really was going on within Fox News given that Ailes has spent months being on the receiving end of allegations of harassment from Fox's many female reporters and anchors. An internal investigation into the accusations, one of which even came from FNC star Megyn Kelly, eventually led to Ailes's ouster. So it's pretty likely there's a lot of truth to what Tantaros is alleging. But there are also problems with some of the accusations made in the suit. It's not airtight in terms of its claims and the lawyer who represents Tantaros has even admitted that much and is now apologizing to those the suit called out who, it turns out, had nothing to do with anything untoward.
Case in point: CNN media savant Brian Stelter is reporting that not everyone inside Fox News is buying into Tantaros's version of events. “There is, to be blunt, a tremendous amount of skepticism inside Fox News about these charges,” he says. Mediaite double checked his sources and apparently came to the same conclusion. Why Stelter's reporting in particular matters on this is he's already heard from Tantaros attorney Judd Burstein about a "glaring inaccuracy" within the lawsuit. It alleges that Fox News planted stories in the media meant to discredit and demean Tantaros, specifically the website TVNewser, with the suit claiming that “…it is common knowledge within the industry that TVNewser was created and controlled by Ailes.” Except that that's crap. Because it wasn't and it isn't. Stelter himself created TVNewser back in 2004. And Chris Ariens, with whom I worked at MSNBC in the early 2000s and who runs TVNewser now, denies any Ailes control. "Former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros makes some pretty fantastic, and wrong, claims about TVNewser in her lawsuit against Fox News," he says, leaving nothing up in the air.
None of this is meant to suggest that Andrea Tantaros wasn't the victim of sexual harassment while at Fox News. I have no doubt that, given the culture there -- which has always come down solidly from the top -- she faced quite a bit of alpha-male sexist bullshit, up to and including harassment. But Tantaros fed that worldview on television and she shouldn't be let off the hook for it just because she's now potentially a victim, making her a much more inviolable and delicate creature to those on the left. Fox News sucks. It's a monstrous organization that since the beginning up until not long ago was led by a no-doubt monstrous misogynist who made life very uncomfortable for those under his purview unfortunate enough to be born with two X chromosomes. Andrea Tantaros's claims, either almost entirely or only somewhat, are probably true. And it's also true that sometimes women in positions like the one she claims she was are forced to do unthinkable things to keep their jobs.
But Tantaros sure as hell seemed to take a lot of delight in pushing Fox News's most toxic sexism and ugliness out to the masses. One more time for the cheap seats: this doesn't mean she deserved to be sexual harassed or inundated with unwanted advances. She didn't. Nobody does. I realize you can't always do it in situations like these, it'd just be really nice to find someone not kind of loathsome here.
Next: The Clintons Must Stop Saving Millions of Lives - by Tommy Christopher
The Clintons Must Stop Saving Millions of Lives
by Tommy Christopher
This week has confirmed something that I have long suspected, but which my friends have all told me I'm definitely wrong about. As crazy and obstinate and deranged as the opposition to Barack Obama has been these past eight years, I've often felt that it would have been even worse if Hillary Clinton had won the nomination in 2008.
When it looked like Obama might win, Republicans were all too eager to talk up Hillary, so a lot of liberals forgot just how much these people hated Hillary, but I never did. And if Hillary had won, she'd have had to face deranged hatred from both sides.
So, what's so special about this week that's led me to confirm my former belief? The Clinton Foundation "scandal" that's been presented as the "other side" to balance out Donald Trump's disgusting racist campaign this week.
In a sane world, there would be absolutely zero counter-narrative to a presidential candidate literally asking voters "What the hell have you got to lose?"
In the insane world that we're all used to living in, say, the Obama-era world of "both sides" journalism, the counter-narrative would be some much less significant false equivalence, like a bullshitty list of "violent quotes," or something dishonest like hanging a couple million lost jobs on him that were left over from Dubya's cratering of the economy, or something made-up that they could pretend was sort of a good point anyway, like "death panels," but it would be something. It would be a thing that, if you had an Obama opponent explain it, would be, you know, a thing.
At the very least, even if there were no facts to support it, there would be a rational thesis at the center of anti-Obama theories, and this used to be true of Hillary Clinton conspiracies as well. Even though it is insane to accuse Hillary Clinton of, say, murdering Vince Foster (which Hayley Barbour says might have or might have not happened), at least we can all agree that murdering someone is bad. If Hillary was somehow simultaneously asleep during Benghazi and also ordering action-ready troops to stand down, at least we can all agree those would be bad things.
But that requirement for a rational thesis began to erode, most noticeably with regard to "Emailghazi," which, at its very, very fucking worst, proved that Hillary and the State Department were not good at email, and even though someone could theoretically have been hurt, nobody was. She didn't get hacked, none of the emails were marked classified, and everything else is an argument between government agencies.
What we've got here, though, is pretty much the opposite of a rational thesis. The mainstream media and Hillary Clinton's opponents essentially agree that the Clinton Foundation must stop saving millions of lives because saving those millions of lives is making Hillary Clinton look bad.
That sounds like an exaggeration, but it's really not, and let me explain why it is you should keep reading instead of concluding that I'm just shilling for $hillary.
It's no secret that I like Hillary Clinton, and I very much want her to beat Donald Trump, but I'm not some blind Hillary loyalist. As a political analyst, especially as a liberal political analyst, it is absolutely essential that I understand all the strengths and weaknesses, assets and liabilities, of all the candidates, or my analysis will have no value at all. Many opinion journalists see it as their job to persuade. I see mine as to influence, so if my candidate is fucking up, it's my job to point it out and explain how to fix it, not to deny it.
That's why, many months ago, I advised Hillary Clinton to apologize for the email bullshit, because not doing that was screwing her up. Hillary people got mad as hell at me, but then she did it, and it worked.
So it was with this mission in mind, as well as a natural curiosity, that I watched this Clinton Foundation story unfold, and approached it with the fresh eyes of a news consumer.
Many months ago, during the Republican primaries, Carly Fiorina pressed an attack on the Clinton Foundation that said they only spend 6% of their donations on actual charity, and Donald Trump picked up the narrative as well, accusing the Clintons of enriching themselves, and of spending on lavish expenses.
In January, Bill O'Reilly pressed Trump on his donations to the Clinton Foundation, and Trump said "I thought that money was being put to very good use," adding that "I didn’t know about the private airplane rides all over the place and if you look at the kind of expenses that they charge and the way they lived, I had no idea that, but I will say, that as far as the foundation’s concerned, I assumed it was being put to good use."
That attack was debunked by Factcheck.org, which pointed out, among other things, that the 6% figure represented grants only, not direct spending on charitable programs, which is most of what the Clinton Foundation does. Counting that, according to CharityWatch, the foundation spends 89% of its donations on charitable activities, whereas the industry average is about 75%.
In fact, since this story resurfaced with some emails that were turned over to Judicial Watch, pretty much everyone agrees that the Clinton Foundation does really good, really important, even life-saving work. Trump's own campaign manager made a point of going on record to say the foundation "does a lot of good work."
As a news consumer, this is not something I already knew, because to be honest, the foundation never interested me enough one way or the other for me to look at it on my own, so all I really heard was the noise from "both sides," and I also knew that Bernie Sanders never bit at it, and even Jeff Weaver took a hard pass.
I probably assumed, as is the point with these smears, that the truth was somewhere in the middle, when apparently, it's all the way on Hillary's side.
Trump also told O'Reilly, in that same interview, that Bill and Hillary Clinton "never really did anything for me" in exchange for the donation, which cuts against another element of this "scandal."
Now, that was just Trump protecting himself, you might argue, but every report I've seen on this "scandal" ends with the reporter saying that there is absolutely no evidence that there was ever any sort of quid pro quo for donors, only emails that raise "troubling questions."
On the emails, those "troubling questions" include wondering if people like Bono and the Crown Prince of Bahrain scored meetings with Hillary because they donated, the answer to which is, well, they're Bono and the Crown Prince of Bahrain. They probably could have gotten a meeting with any secretary of state, and in both cases, the foundation was told to go through proper channels.
Then, the Associated Press ran a story that raised other "troubling questions":
At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press. Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million.
Once again, though, the people in this report were people who you would expect to be meeting with the State Department anyway, and as the Clinton campaign pointed out, the report was culled in a deceptive manner:
"She was secretary of State. She was meeting with foreign officials and government officials constantly, so to pull all of them out of the equation, cherry-pick a very small number of meetings, is pretty outrageous."
So far, as a news consumer, I'm having a very difficult time understanding why I should give a good fuck about any of this, other than to wonder why these assholes don't leave this nice charity alone.
Neither can any of the reporters hyping the story, mind you. On Tuesday, some random dayside anchor on MSNBC completely stumped two print journalists who had to admit that there's nothing at all to this story outside of bad optics.
No offense to Stephanie Ruhle, but Socrates she ain't, and she took this whole thing apart in 33 seconds by asking "Would we not need a smoking gun?"
Everything is a relationship, and if you think about some of the e-mails that one would point out, the crown prince of Bahrain. Bahrain is an ally to the United States. The Crown Prince could get a meeting with anyone. A message from Bono asking if he could use a space station, I’m pretty sure Bono can call anyone, so were these clear favors that only the secretary of state could give, and that she did?
The last refuge of this "scandal," then, is for journalists like Andrea Mitchell to ask ", why was it okay for her to accept foreign and corporate donations when she was secretary of state, and not if she were to become president? Why would one be a conflict and not the other?"
The answer to that is, of course, really fucking simple: it wasn't wrong before, and it isn't wrong now, but since Andrea Mitchell and Judicial Watch will never ever shut the fuck up about it, this way is better.
But maybe there was something I was still missing, and on Tuesday night, I got my best shot at finding whatever it was. Chris Hayes, probably the smartest person on cable TV and definitely the most likely to deeply examine every possible angle of a story, was back from vacation, and he had on David Sirota, also a very thorough, very intelligent, very derganged Hillary Clinton critic, so if ever there were going to be an effective presentation against Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, this was going to be it.
On the pro-Hillary side, though, there was a Boston Globe columnist named Michael Cohen who argued that if you're going to say that these donations led to access at the State Department, you have to prove that happened. And every story I've seen proves the opposite. Donors go trying to get help with things, and they're rebuffed or not responded to."
As he's saying this, Sirota is shaking his head, and I'm thinking, this is it, Sirota is going to have some kind of example that Cohen will have to explain away, or something to suggest that something, anything, happened.
Except he doesn't. Hayes challenges the idea that a Nobel Prize-winning scientist couldn't have scored a meeting sans donation, and Sirota's big rejoinder is "Well, we can't know."
According to Sirota, "a perception or a potential conflict of interest" is enough, which makes any and all of the reporting on these emails and meetings irrelevant. The mere fact of the Clinton Foundation's existence while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State is enough to condemn it.
So, what we have here is a story in which literally everyone agrees that the Clinton Foundation does great, lifesaving work, and that nothing Hillary Clinton or Bill Clinton did in connection with that foundation has been demonstrated to pose any sort of conflict of interest or undue influence, or anything at all beyond the fact that it doesn't "look good," and as a consequence, the whole thing should either be shut down, or drastically hamstrung, and the fact that Bill and Hillary Clinton have taken steps to address the concerns that people have raised is proof to these people that the Clintons were wrong all along when they did the things that no one is saying were wrong.
Or, in other words, the Clintons should stop saving so many millions of lives because it is making them look bad. That is at least as insane as anything I've seen them throw at Obama, and it's a window into the next eight years, especially if the Democrats don't pull off a miracle and retake the House.