Soundtracking the Resistance - Pardoning the Unpardonable

Plus the Barcelona Attacks, the Solar Eclipse, Allah-Las, and Amber Coffman's Anti-Trump Song

Aug 25, 2017 Web Exclusive By Stephen Mayne Bookmark and Share


This week we're going to spend a little time looking at presidential pardons as Trump hints at throwing one to a most undeserving man. There's also inappropriate political rallying, Barcelona attacks, and a solar eclipse scored by TV on the Radio in the mix.

The Big Event

To pardon or not to pardon, that's the question. Actually, it's not really the question because a president always makes sure to pardon plenty. Not as many as in the good old days it turns out, but perhaps we're a little less forgiving of letting crooks off the hook these days. Still, Donald Trump is president, so there are plenty of people forgiving of an awful lot to have allowed that to happen.

Trump is currently shouting about a pardon for sheriff Joe Arpaio, the undeniably unpleasant former Arizona law enforcer convicted of contempt of court after he was found to have a violated a court order stopping him from detaining people merely because they were suspected of being illegal immigrants.

He has a long back-catalogue of other transgressions, ranging from creating a Tent City in which inmates were said to have been left in temperatures of up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, to pursuing the ridiculous birther claims with his idiotically named Cold Case Posse. You'll be shocked to hear they found nothing.

Basically, the man is not someone who should be let anywhere near power, which makes him prime fodder for a controversial Trump pardon skipping the usual processes. Usual processes are not a strongpoint of the President after all.

Of course, this is Trump, so he's only hinting at a pardon. Given sticking by his supporters is not really his thing, he could just as easily not follow through. If he does, it will hardly be the most controversial pardon in presidential history. Gerald Ford's decision to let Richard Nixon escape the law has to take that particular prize.

There are egregious examples all over the place though. In recent years alone, George H. W. Bush made sure to let a few Reagan officials off the hook for that whole Iran-Contra thing, and Bill Clinton pardoned Marc Rich, a hedge fund manager who broke sanctions and avoided taxes. If you go a little further back, Dwight D. Eisenhower pardoned a member of the Armed Forces who admitted to killing a child, and in the distant past Andrew Johnson showed clemency for people linked to the conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.

For once, when it comes to dubious behavior, Trump is hardly out there on his own, although dishing out pardons in your first year has become somewhat rarer after Ford effectively tanked his own career when he did just that for Nixon. Dishing out pardons in general is rarer these days than it used to be, and there is a process that's supposed to be followed, including suitable degrees of remorse and a cooling off period following the conviction. Sheriff Joe would not find these applying to him, though Trump undoubtedly cares little.

His willingness to give a free pass to someone happy to ride roughshod over the rights of American citizens who happen not to be white enough to escape immediate scrutiny, and the general disdain with which he treats anyone even suspected of not being a citizen are not exactly a surprise, but it yet again sends out a bad message. Maybe Trump will back down and do the right thing, but it's not worth putting any money on that.

What's Going On

Because courting controversy is pretty much Trump's MO, he rocked up in Phoenix this week for a rally in which he bashed the media and anyone who has dared to criticize him, and did little to walk back his appalling refusal to offer much in the way of condemnation for the white supremacist groups raising hell in Charlottesville. Cheering crowds met him, and protesting crowds gathered as well, because there is nothing the President does better than polarization. The event was officially paid for by a campaigning committee so it kind of counts as a re-election rally, perish the thought.

The by now regular fight over the debt ceiling is rearing its head again as the country lurches towards a potential fiscal crisis at the end of September. Trump has been busy bashing Republican leaders on the Hill for not managing to resolve the situation, while also threatening to shut down the government if the new spending bill doesn't include funds for his border wall. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell were both targets of Trump tweet attacks on Thursday, with plenty more expected as this one rumbles forward.

Barcelona was the latest city to suffer a terrorist attack in which the assailants used a vehicle to ram into pedestrians. Fifteen civilians were killed across two attacks with well over 150 injured, while the police shot dead a number of terrorists, including the main suspect caught several days later. The Spanish Prime Minister referred to it as a jihadist attack, and responsibility has been attributed to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. It also appears worse was planned with an accidental explosion killing two members of the terrorist cell and wiping out some of their explosives the day before the attack.

Speak Up!

In the wake of the Barcelona attacks, Los Angeles rock band Allah-Las found their Rotterdam show cancelled on Wednesday after Dutch police arrested two men in a vehicle carrying potential explosive materials. There were also words of condolence in the aftermath of the Barcelona attack itself from the music community.

Lady Gaga:

Liam Gallagher:

Aaron Dessner of The National:

Regina Spektor:

On Thursday former Dirty Projectors singer/guitarist Amber Coffman shared a new anti-President Donald Trump song. It is sung from the perspective of his daughter, Ivanka Trump, cutting together her real words from interviews with her (as per the song's video). But in an amusing twist, Coffman has very effectively mimicked the vocal stylings of Lana Del Rey for the song. It's entitled "My Father" and is credited to Ivanka Del Rey. The video was produced by Super Deluxe. Watch it below.

Song of the Week: TV on the Radio - "Staring at the Sun"

As much as we might ignore the natural world, happy to squabble amongst ourselves and run the planet into the ground, occasionally a little bit of grandeur creeps in. Monday saw a solar eclipse visible across the country, with particularly spectacular views available in a strip ending in Oregon. The one thing every child is told from an early age is not to stare at the sun, advice that had to be repeated ahead of the eclipse. In honor of those unwilling to listen to sound medical practice (yes Mr. President, you're included), TV on the Radio get song of the week.

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