Soundtracking the Resistance - My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done

Donald Trump Jr.'s Russia Meeting (Plus Radiohead, Algiers, Kid Rock, and Sufjan Stevens)

Jul 14, 2017 Web Exclusive By Stephen Mayne Bookmark and Share


This week we focus on a different Trump causing problems after Donald Jr's. desire to thrust himself into the center of the Russia allegations emerged. We also throw in a little bit of healthcare, race relations, Radiohead, and a worrying new political candidate.

The Big Event

Poor Donald Trump Jr., he never stood a chance. If people often find themselves defined by the labels attached to them, to be named after the 45th President of the United States could only end one way. Thus Jr., the living embodiment of papa Trump's desire to splash his name over anything that comes before him, seems to be heading down the same path of questionable behavior, blithe disregard and offensiveness blazed by his father. And Senior certainly isn't going all Jarvis Cocker and wishing he could have set a better example.

Before we get to his efforts to crash the Russia party, let's take a moment to remind ourselves Jr. has form when it comes to dubious conduct. This is the guy happy to mix Skittles and Syrian refugees, quick to jump on the ridiculous pizzagate bandwagon, and ready to comfort Londoners in the wake of a terrorist attack by using out of context comments to chastise a mayor who just happens to be critical of his father.

All that's small change compared to his entry into the ongoing Russian ties debacle. Allegations surrounding contact between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin have been swirling for months and won't go away. To add to the confusion, it turns out Jr., that consummate political pro, took a meeting with a Russian lawyer in June 2016 who may have links with the Kremlin. An earlier email exchange suggests information that could be used against Hillary Clinton was offered. If he were ever to follow in his father's footsteps, which the President would no doubt be delighted by, he's yet to display political acumen, and unlike Thom Yorke's plea in "Sail to the Moon," it's not certain he'd care about knowing right from wrong.

As ever, nothing is clear, and he might be guilty of nothing more than poor judgment. The email exchange seems to suggest he was quick to jump at the chance to get hold of damning research on Clinton and her campaign with little thought to where it came from. The subsequent meeting, one in which he dragged along then campaign manager Paul Manafort and Trump son-in-law and apparent master of everything the President can think of, Jared Kushner, could have involved anything really. Jr. suggests it was all innocent chat about adoption.

Before any conclusions are jumped to, there's no guarantee this is anywhere close to being a smoking gun. For those hoping to bring the President down, more will be needed. Nor for that matter is it even clear this will lead to any kind of proof. It is, however, yet another brick in the wall gradually surrounding the President (and like Pink Floyd he's quick to call on everyone to leave his kids alone no matter what they do). Even if it comes to nothing, it's yet more distraction from a legislative agenda big on noise and so far, short on delivery, no matter how much Trump brags.

Of course, with Republicans sticking firmly behind their man (and his son), and the Trumpian press happy to proclaim it the fake news they believe it to be-and given Jr's. willingness to run with pizzagate stories you'd imagine he knows all about fake news-it might not matter how much the opposing side pushes the issue. America is split on so many issues. The fact half the country seems willing to believe the President, or at the very least those around him, might collude with a foreign power to destroy a rival, while the other half believes it to be the very definition of nonsense, is pretty startling.

We've also been here before on Russia and many have thought the bell has rung for Trump only to find it amounting to nothing. For those getting worked up into fits of excitement, it's probably best to cool your jets, and for those continuing to deny anything suspicious is going on, it's becoming increasingly hard to turn away before it's investigated fully.

But hey, if nothing else, Jr. gets to join the party at least. With Ivanka and her husband already center-stage, he's seized his moment in the spotlight by plunging the administration into yet more controversy. Now we can sit back and wait to see what Eric has been up to.

What's Going On

The scramble to pass the Republican healthcare bill before anyone works out what is in it continues. The GOP is desperate to get it through the Senate, revealing a new plan before a lengthy recess that would allow opposition to rally and hold them to account, or in the case of their own party provide time to advance alternative plans as Senate members Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham are threatening to do. Healthcare professionals and patients are joining the fight too as more people wake up to the detrimental impact the plan will have on health coverage nationwide. Trump remains as inconsistent as ever, declaring he'd be "very angry" if the Senate doesn't complete the task. This comes after previously criticizing a very similar version for being "mean" while also saying last month it would be regrettable but "okay" if it didn't reach his desk.

While hanging out with his other world leader pals at the G20 last weekend (a few agreements were made on trade but everyone else refused to alter the Paris climate agreement), Trump met good friend Vladimir Putin. He claims to have pressed him hard on Russian election interference, but Putin denied it so that's all been straightened out. He wouldn't lie, right? The ludicrous idea of a joint cyber security unit was also floated to much derision within the U.S. intelligence community.

When does a 19-year-old woman with hair who weighs 115 pounds and stands 5-foot-2 inches tall look like a 25-30-year-old bald man 55 pounds heavier and 8 inches taller? According to police in Bakersfield, California, the answer is when they both happen to be black. Police grabbed Tatyana Hargrove while she was biking to buy a Father's Day gift, managing to punch her in the mouth and set a dog on her in the process. The altercation took place on June 18 but gained wider attention recently when the NAACP shared a video of Hargrove's account on Facebook.

Speak Up!

The row over Radiohead's decision to perform in Israel shows no sign of abating. We've highlighted this argument before and it keeps coming back. Veteran film director Ken Loach wrote an open letter to again criticize their decision.

As before, Thom Yorke won't go quietly, responding directly to Loach to set out his view and pointing out that they still perform in America, despite Trump being our leader.

Kid Rock, outspoken Trump supporter and general pot stirrer, has started teasing a potential Senate run with the appearance of this website. He might just be having fun of course, but if not, it's harder to laugh these things off given the man currently sitting in the Oval Office (or golfing in Florida).

It's no secret we're big fans of Algiers over at Soundtracking the Resistance, but when the music sounds as it does, and comes so politically charged, it's hardly a surprise. The band have now released a video for "Cleveland," a brutally sad track referencing a number of black people killed by law enforcement. Given the violence faced by Tatyana Hargrove, it's a problem that remains as pressing as ever.

Song of the Week: Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner & James McAlister - "Space Oddity" (David Bowie Cover, Live in Paris)

While touring their excellent Planetarium album this week, the impressive quartet rocked out a cover of "Space Oddity" in Paris as a tribute to David Bowie. We could talk about the beauty of Earth, the things humanity can achieve when it wants to, or the creeping sense of alienation Bowie laces throughout the song, but really, it's just lovely to hear talented musicians paying homage to Bowie. With all the usual chaos going on, it's nice to take a breather from time to time.

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