Behind the scenes

Ten great Michael Nesmith songs

When I was a kid, I didn’t want to be a fireman or an astronaut. Nope. I wanted to be a Monkee. I wanted to be in a band where we all live in the same house and have wacky adventures.

As it turned out, when I was in college, I was in a band called The Naughty Bits where we did all live in the same house for a while (except the drummer who was still in high school and should not have been allowed to play in the clubs we were in), although we never had many wacky adventures.

And while my musical tastes changed over the years, I still remembered fondly the Monkees, and come on, they had some great hits. Why not? They had some of the greatest songwriters of their time penning music for them: Carole King, Neil Diamond, Boyce and Hart, Neil Sedaka, David Gates … and Michael Nesmith.

I’ve since co-written two books about the Monkees and their music, and have seen them in concert a number of times. We saw Micky Dolenz and Mike Nesmith just a few months ago in their farewell tour. Mike looked very ill, but was determined to carry on, knowing this was his last chance. And Micky clearly loved the guy, looked after him, made sure he hit his cues, and, well, it was heartwarming and sad at the same time.

People don’t realize how much Mike influenced music, bringing country rock to the foreground with the Monkees, writing songs for Linda Ronstadt and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. He pretty much created MTV with his show “Popclips,” later won the first Grammy for “best video,” starred in his own TV show “Elephant Parts,” and financed films like “Repo Man” and “Tapeheads.”

And he wrote songs.

So here’s a random list of ten of the songs he wrote for the Monkees and for his solo career that I think showcase his talent. These are not his greatest hits; they’re just some of my favorites.

Schroedinger’s President

Robert Ariail

Merry War on Christmas, everybody!

Anger drives ratings, as Fox News is well aware. And that’s why they created the War on Christmas. Those poor Christians, being attacked and persecuted and treated terribly — how awful it must be to be a discriminated against majority. All those laws requiring people to never say “Merry Christmas” …  oh wait.

Every example Fox News gives for a “War on Christmas” always boils down to something like “They won’t let us force kids to sing our religious songs!” or “They say ‘Happy Holidays’ which acknowledges that not everyone is a Christian and therefore they are attacking us!” or “They are refusing to allow us to use their money (taxpayer dollars) for a religious display.”

You never heard of a “War on Christmas” until Fox News made it up as a way to gain ratings, because they have learned that the angrier they get their viewers, the more they tune in. So they create fake controversies each week, with this being the annual rerun.

So here we go again. It’s now the 9th year where I have challenged anyone to give me an example of a real “attack on Christmas,” because every one of these examples is, in reality, fought in defense. You wouldn’t even hear about them if these particular Christians weren’t trying to require everyone to obey their beliefs.

cartoon by Nick Anderson

Acknowledging other beliefs by saying “Happy holidays” does not diminish the belief in Christmas one bit. Those who complain are just mad that you aren’t treating them special. That’s hardly a war — it’s the temper tantrum spoiled kids get when you give attention to someone else.

Or else they’ll point out one misguided grinch who complains about a decoration or something as if that was evidence of a vast, coordinated attack.

So there’s my yearly challenge: find me one example of anyone trying to prevent people from celebrating a religious Christmas. Just one.

I have a feeling I know what the result will once again be.

EDITED TO CLARIFY: I’m talking about the US only; clearly there is a war against various religions in other countries that is not limited to Christmas

(And yes, of course, just to clarify: #notallChristians)

Tips for Future Protesters

Judges can be biased, too

I had a case one time where the judge ruled against me in a pre-trial motion. My client was mad. “You said the law was on my side!” he said.

“It is,” I replied. “The judge is wrong.”

His expression told me he had never considered that, but you have to realize that becoming a judge often has more to do with getting elected or appointed and not necessarily because you’re an unibased person or a great legal mind. In fact, sometimes it’s because you have a bias that you get elected or appointed.

Just something to keep in mind when analyzing why someone might win or lose a case. A judge has a lot of power, through their rulings, to sway the case in a direction they want it to go.

One of the themes in my book on the Constitution is “all law is politics” and if you always keep that in mind, things make a lot more sense.

Or, in the case of Rittenhouse, nonsense.

Accessories to Murder

Criminal justice, Cops and Crime

I was recently a guest on an excellent vlog with other writers (all of whom are, unfortunately, older white males) discussing issues such as Black Lives Matter, The “Me Too” movement, Defunding the Police, and what sorts of reforms are needed. Check it out!

Party messaging

Dace Whamond

Why Democrats lost (and why they didn’t): 2021 election results

“This is a terrible day!” liberal commentators are saying. “A Republican won the governor’s race in Virginia! Democrats are doomed! Doooooomed!”

Let’s first put things into perspective. Most states did not have major elections last Tuesday, but in Virginia and New Jersey, governor’s races were up.

Virginia has a term limit law preventing a governor from running for re-election so there’s never an incumbent. And in 10 of the last 11 elections (that is, for the last 44 years), the party not in power in Washington has won the governorship. In other words, if there’s a Republican President, the governorship goes to the Democrat.

So this year was no different. History predicted this.

In New Jersey, governors rarely win re-election. Until now. Democrat Philip Murphy will stay in office.

The media is downplaying it. “He only won by 2.7%! It’s a narrow victory!” they scream.

Meanwhile in Virginia, these same pundits are saying “The Republican won by 2.2%! It’s a major landslide!”

So instead of the headlines being “Democrats break losing streak as predicted by history,” instead we get “The Democratic party has lost hugely! They’ll never recover! It’s all over!”

Look. Anyone who studies politics knows this: The party in power in the White House loses in the off elections, as people vote against whoever is in there. During Trump’s four years, the Democrats won the House and the Senate, and in next year’s midterms, there is a good possibility the Republicans will take back the House. That’s normal. There’s only been a few exceptions to that rule.

But there are other reasons Terry McAuliffe lost in Virginia when he probably should have won. There are all the main reasons (Democrats don’t vote in the same numbers as Republicans even though we outnumber them; voter suppression; gerrymandering discourages participation, etc.) but let’s discuss problems Democrats always have.

First: We tend to nominate smart, competent people who would make good leaders but are wonky insiders who don’t have a lot of personality. (Michael Dukakis, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry…) Terry McAuliffe is one. He was not hugely popular in his first term, so why Democrats thought he’d be a good choice to run again is a mystery. Republicans know personality is more important, so they nominate completely incompetent people who have charisma (at least to their voters).

Dancing like this didn’t help, Terry

Second reason: The Republican party has become a cult — the cult of Trump. In a cult, you don’t question your leaders, and you don’t fight among yourselves. It’s even easier when almost everyone in the cult is the same (white, Christian, male, straight).

We Democrats represent the rest of the country, and we don’t all get along. That is part of the problem. Even though we have the White House, Senate, and House, we can’t even get a bill passed that many Republicans support, because we’re fighting among ourselves. Meanwhile, the GOP votes in lockstep to prevent us from accomplishing anything, even bills that they supported when they were in charge.

That means we have nothing we can brag about at election time. Thanks to Senators Manchin and Sinema, no candidate could point to any accomplishments of President Biden in order to ride in on his coattails. We shoot ourselves in our own foot often.

Third: We’re not good at fear. Republicans know fear drives people to the polls and that’s why they make up fake boogeymen to scare their cultists to the polls. “They’re going to force our kids to get vaccinated, fear them! They want to make children learn about racial injustice! They’ll force your daughters to have abortion while giving them free marijuana while they spit on the Bible and declare a War on Christmas!”

“The American people are smarter than that,” Democrats say, ignoring the American people saying, “No, we’re not!”

Come on, there’s a huge chunk of the Republican party that believes JFK Jr. was going to reappear from the dead and run as Trump’s Vice President. They believe every QAnon claim despite the fact that not one has ever come true. They’re crazy. You can’t fix that.

So we need to be inspiring to get our people to the polls. Obama was a nerdy wonk of the type we like, but he also had the charisma we needed at the time. And Terry McAuliffe? He’s no Obama.

So the election didn’t go the way we wanted, but at the same time, it wasn’t the shellacking the media wants to portray it as. (Here in my purple county in Pennsylvania, we Democrats did quite well actually, holding back the GOP cultists trying to take over the school boards and local governments).