No, A Tribute Band Wasn’t Going To Play Trump’s Inauguration

This blog post is a request post. Specifically, it’s at the request of my wife, Holly. You get to request posts too, if you’re married to me.

Anyway, there’s a story going round social media, backed up by links to news articles. It goes something like this:

Donald Trump is so useless that no good bands will play at his inauguration. He got so desperate that he hired a Bruce Springsteen tribute band to play, after the real Springsteen turned him down — a band that obviously hadn’t ever listened to Springsteen’s music, or they’d know not to support a monster like Trump. But Springsteen wouldn’t even give permission for them to play his songs at the inauguration, and eventually the backlash became so great that they’ve pulled out of the inauguration, and so Trump can’t even get a tribute band to play for him.

The problem is that almost all of this is false, and it has led to an innocent band getting hugely damaged.

What’s true is that Trump can’t get anyone decent to play at his inauguration. His people asked all sorts of people — the Beach Boys, Garth Brooks, Aretha Franklin, Elton John — but the best he could get is Three Doors Down and Toby Keith. That’s a terrible, terrible, line-up, and gives you some idea how badly Trump is perceived (and correctly so — he’s a monster).

(For non-Americans and people who weren’t around in the 90s, Three Doors Down are a dull southern rock band who had a few hits in the US in the late 90s/early 2000s, several lineup changes ago, while Toby Keith is a horrible country singer and bar-chain owner whose biggest hit has lyrics like “you’ll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A./’Cause we`ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the American way”.)

None of the rest of the story is true, though.

Most of the misinformation rests on a misunderstanding of the difference between the inauguration and “inaugural balls”. The former is a huge ceremony, televised throughout the US, when the US President is formally sworn in and becomes the country’s leader. It’s a big deal, and quite rightly, and it’s organised by the US Government.

Inaugural balls, on the other hand, are basically office parties that take place the night before the inauguration. There are dozens, at least, of these that take place throughout Washington and the surrounding area, organised by charities and societies. They’re basically piss-ups, and (other than the two official balls that are part of the inauguration) have no official significance at all.

Some of the inaugural balls from 2013, to give you some idea of what these things are:

  • BWUFA Youth Presidential Inaugural Ball – Crystal City Gateway Marriott Hotel, Arlington, Virginia. Black Women United for Action is hosting its second inaugural ball for ages 7-18
  • Chefs Ball – Art and Soul, Liaison Capitol Hill, 415 New Jersey Ave. NW Washington, DC. Celebrity Chef Art Smith and Executive Chef Wes Morton will co-chair the Chefs Ball, and five additional DC celebrity chefs will prepare late night bites for the event, with proceeds benefiting their charities of choice. Tickets: $75 includes late-night bites, an open bar, and live music.
  • National Association of Minority Government Contractors Inaugural Gala
  • South Dakota State Society’s Inauguration Celebration – Bistro Bistro, 1727 Connecticut Avenue NW Washington, DC. Celebrate with fellow South Dakotans. Tickets: $100.
  • That kind of thing. They range from a black-tie dinner and a relatively well-known singer to a buffet meal and a DJ. Literally anyone can put on an inaugural ball, and many organisations do, every four years. It’s a way of raising money for charity or whatever and getting drunk, and really has little to do with the President.

    One organisation that puts on an inaugural ball is the New Jersey State Society, a society for people in Washington with links to New Jersey. They do this every four years, and invite prominent New Jersey people in Washington (such as the Senators and Representatives from the state) to the ball, where they have a disco playing New Jersey music, like the Four Seasons, Whitney Houston, and Bon Jovi, and have a buffet meal. It’s a non-partisan event, and they invite members of both major US political parties to attend.

    In 2009 they booked The B-Street Band, a Bruce Springsteen tribute band, to play, because Springsteen is a popular singer from New Jersey. They went down so well that that night they were booked for the next party four years later. And on the night of the 2013 party, they were booked for the 2017 party, which they were going to play until today.

    However, the New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, is honorary chair of the party in his capacity as Governor. He’s also one of Trump’s most noted supporters. So given his involvement (which as far as I can see consists of letting them use his name and maybe turning up for a free drink) and the well-known difficulty Trump was having getting anyone to play the inauguration, some clickbait sites put two and two together and got two million, eight hundred and thirty thousand, nine hundred and sixty-six.

    If you read any of the articles at all — rather than just the headlines — you can see that this is what happened. They glossed over the facts, but did all say “the New Jersey State Society Inaugural Ball”. But as no-one *does* bother to read articles at all any more before sharing them, people saw “inauguration”, “Chris Christie”, and “tribute band”, and decided that this was a story about a tribute band playing Trump’s inauguration.

    Which would be OK as far as it goes — ha ha, he can’t get anyone better to play, that’s funny — except that it led to a bar band who had agreed to play what is essentially someone’s office piss-up two years before Trump even decided to run for election suddenly becoming the centre of an international media feeding frenzy, and all the social media horrors that go with it.

    And now this bar band have had to cancel a gig they were booked for four years in advance, a few days before the gig, at what will be a *considerable* cost to themselves for breaking the contract, because of stuff that has nothing to do with them.

    Now one could certainly argue that they should have cancelled as soon as it seemed likely that Trump was going to become President, but that could be said of any of the many acts that are playing these events. I don’t think it’s right that these people have been singled out, worldwide, based on a false story, for not wanting to break a contract. Reading an interview the band’s leader did with Rolling Stone, from before they decided to pull out, almost broke my heart:

    “We’re contracted,” Forte says. “I’ve been in enough litigation in my life. I have four kids. I’m 63 years old. I can’t make stands like other people can. I’m not in that position.”

    To my mind, the B-Street Band are no more at fault for not having broken their contract straight away than the bar staff or cloakroom attendants are. They’re working people who can’t afford to break contracts, and the inaugural ball is a non-partisan event. The fact that they’ve been forced to break their contract and take a financial hit because of a clickbait controversy — and now they’re getting abuse from the other side as well, for pulling out — is utterly shameful.

    Trump needs opposing on every level, *at* every level. His policies, his appointees, his behaviours, need to be stopped for the good of humanity. Tweeting abuse at some poor sod who’s done nothing other than agree to play the keyboard part from “Born to Run” at a works junket in order to feed his family is not the way to do that.

    But if you’re going to do stuff like that, at least do it on the basis of having read the articles, and not just the headlines.

    This blog post was brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them?

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    A Couple of Things Re: My Patreon Account

    First, I didn’t have any takers at all about last week’s Patreon-exclusive comics review suggestions. Are these something people have got bored of, or was the lack of interest just down to that week? Do let me know if that’s something you want to continue (I’ll be going to the comic shop tomorrow: if you have suggestions for what to review, let me know…)

    Secondly, and something that might be of interest to current non-backers: right now, Patreon makes up quite a big chunk of my income, but not quite as big as it may seem looking at the page. It says I get $80 per blog post, but that’s not quite true — I get $80 for the *first* Patreon-backed blog post of a month (Also, if people aren’t aware, I only charge for the thousand-word-plus ones, with the message about backers at the bottom. I’m not charging people for the linkblogs, status updates, and so on, nor will I ever), but then for each one after that I get less, as people put caps on their donations. Towards the end of the month I get closer to $20 per post.

    But I would like to make the Patreon-backed stuff a bigger part of my work, so I’m going to make a new offer. The first month I make more than $1000 from Patreon, I will start work on a Patreon-exclusive book. Every backer (at whatever level) will be able to suggest a topic for me to write (at least) a thousand words on, and I will do a book of those essays, which will only go to backers. And I’ll do that once a year if that level of support keeps up.

    And finally, I’d just like to say thank you again to all my backers, and to all the people who have ever backed me in the past. It’s ridiculously generous of you all, and after a year that left me with little faith in humanity as a whole, I’ve found myself in tears recently at the kindness of people who have decided that they will pay even a penny towards this nonsense I do, which they’re getting for free anyway. (And not just my current backers. Some people used to back me and currently can’t. They’re still ridiculously lovely people for ever having done so. The thanks go to them too.)

    My Patreon is here for those who would like to back it. But as always, there’s no obligation to do so, and this blog will continue to be free (and to be free from advertising).

    Proper post tonight.

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    On Maximum Wages and Inequality

    In his recent burst of activity, UK opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has made several fairly controversial statements. Some I agree with him totally on (the crisis in the NHS due to underfunding), and others I disagree with him totally on (needing to keep the foreigns out). I would imagine my regular readers probably already know my positions on those issues.

    The other idea he’s floated recently, though, is rather more interesting. I think he’s wrong about a maximum wage, but not for the right-wing reasons most commenters are trotting out.

    Corbyn has said, simply, that there should be a cap on wages in order to reduce inequality — that he’d be in favour of an absolute maximum on what anyone could be paid.

    Now, at first glance, I’m OK with this idea — no-one should have billions while there are people on the streets or starving. And I could eventually be persuaded to support a maximum wage, but only after other things have been tried first.

    You see, most truly rich people *do not make their money from wages*. They don’t do a job, which they get paid for doing by an employer — or if they do, that doesn’t make up the source of most of their money. They make money, mostly, from already having money. From share dividends and share price rises, from rents on land or houses they own, from having “property” they own — usually as the result of legislation skewed their way, granting them monopolies on things that should be public goods. That money isn’t wages.

    To use a simple, clear, example, since I’m listening to a Paul McCartney live album while I write this, we’ll take McCartney. He’s a very rich man — obscenely rich — but there are two very different ways he makes his money.

    (There are probably dozens of ways, because the super-rich have all sorts of private arrangements, but these are a couple I know about).

    The first way he makes his money is to go out and play concerts, where people pay a ticket price they think is worth it to see him play, and he does the job they’ve paid him to. That is, basically, a wage. He’s doing a job of work, and getting paid by the people who want him to do that job.

    (It’s almost certainly more complex than that in terms of the legal arrangements around his tours, but you get the idea — in principle this is no different to a plumber coming round and fixing your washing machine).

    The other way he makes his money is by owning a music publishing company that exploits the copyrights to thousands of songs, many of them by people dead for fifty years or more, which he had nothing to do with creating and to which he has a legal monopoly largely because of legislation influenced by other hugely rich people.

    If a maximum wage were brought in, McCartney would presumably stop doing the concerts — which are an actual useful service to paying customers, which have some social value, and which are actual new work being done. But he wouldn’t stop collecting money every time anyone played “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody” (a song written in 1918, by people who died between 1939 and 1959) or “That’ll Be The Day” (written sixty-one years ago by someone who died fifty-eight years ago) on the TV.

    The same thing goes for capping executives’ pay. All a cap on executives’ pay would achieve is to leave companies with more money to go to shareholders, so the end result is to redistribute money from people who are doing *something* to people who are doing *nothing*.

    Collecting money from “investments” such as shares and property is the ultimate in privilege in the most literal sense — private law — it’s only possible because of particular legal systems that have been created for the benefit of the rich, and is only accessible to the rich. It’s a way for the rich to get richer without working, a way for money to make more money and to widen inequality.

    And currently, in the UK, that money is taxed under Capital Gains Tax — which is taxed at a *far* lower rate than income. We currently have a system that actively discourages working for a living in favour of just sitting back and taking money from other people — people who *do* have to work for a living.

    Fundamentally, I think that people should be able to keep most of their income — if someone is doing an actual job of work, which other people are willing to pay them for, they’ve earned that money. They should have to pay as much in taxes as is necessary to fund public services, keep society going, and provide a decent safety net so the poorest can get by, and so on, and there’s a good argument that the amount they should be paying is much higher than it currently is. But fundamentally, when you’re a worker by hand or brain, you should keep the fruits of your labour.

    But if you’re a rich person who inherited a few million from daddy, bought a load of houses cheap, and turned the few million into a few billion by jacking up the rents and inflating the property market… well, you haven’t earned anything at all, and all you’ve done is take away money other people have earned.

    If we’re going to work on inequality, yes, it may well eventually be necessary to go after the merely very rich people who get paid huge amounts of money for their job. But I’d argue that that should *only* be done after going after the even richer people who get even huger amounts of money and do nothing for it.

    Unless and until capital gains are taxed more than income — and at the top end taxed *far* more — a cap on income will tend to exacerbate, rather than to decrease, inequality. Cap capital gains — tax the 1% properly — and then we can talk about capping income if there’s still a problem.

    As the song says, “why should we work hard and let the landlords take the best?”

    This blog post was brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them?

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    Linkblogging For 09/01/17

    I’ve not been at my most mentally well the last few days — and given Trump’s nuclear posturing, my occasional suicidal ideation has started to feel more like wanting to leave early to avoid the rush (don’t worry, not going to do anything about it, and I know who to contact if I felt like I was). I simply haven’t been able to get myself to complete a piece of writing in the last couple of days, so you get links…

    Opposition in the Age of Gish-Gallops
    A piece on Arthur C Clarke by Michael Moorcock, looking particularly at his thoughts on 2001. The most interesting bit to me was the idea (which I’d not heard before) that it was intended as a narrated pseudo-documentary, which would tie in with my own thoughts about the film.

    A look at the different types of liberty and how they might apply to software

    Over a hundred of Big Finish’s audio dramas, including many of their best, are available on Spotify under artist names Doctor Who, Iris Wildthyme, Bernice Summerfield, and so on.

    Everyday authoritarianism is boring and tolerable

    Why high-dose vitamin C kills cancer cells. My understanding from a biochemist relative is that the first part of this, about oral vs intravenous doses, is based on a flawed study and similar levels *can* be reached orally, but that the rest of this is right.

    And finally, I only learned about this browser extension because Google banned it from Chrome, having apparently never heard of the Streisand effect, but Ad Nauseam is an adblocker that not only blocks tracking ads, but also sends clicks to all of them, adding noise to their tracking databases.

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    “My” Skype Account Compromised

    I technically have a Skype account. I’ve only used it once, for a podcast I did with Phil Sandifer and Jack Graham two years ago, because Skype doesn’t play well with GNU/Linux, but it exists. It’s apparently been spamming people, so if you’ve added me as a contact, it’s not me. I can’t do anything about it right now because I don’t have Skype installed on my machine.

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    Linkblogging for 06/01/17

    Leaving the comics reviews til tomorrow, because Patreon has been having problems sending email notifications so people might not have seen the request for comics to review. If Patreon’s not working yet then I’ll leave it til Monday.

    So for now, links:

    An interesting fact — people have been saying that UKIP are going to do well in Leave-voting areas while the Lib Dems are going to do well in Remain ones. In fact, in post-referendum elections, the Lib Dems have done best in both types of area, and are doing better in leave areas than remain ones, while UKIP are doing badly in both but worst in leave ones…

    Hormonal contraceptives are linked to depression

    Wesley Osam on UBIK by Philip K Dick

    Trump and the Batman Effect (NB Slate Star Codex so comments almost certainly crawling with fash)

    Charles Stross’ three-part predictions for 2017. Personally I think he’s wildly overoptimistic.

    On the erasure of Islam in popular English translations of Rumi

    And for those of you who use Comixology, the first issue of Transrealities (a comic written by my friend Abigail Brady and lettered by my friend Aditya Bidakar, among other excellent creators) is out now (US) (UK) for $0.99. I picked up a physical copy at Thought Bubble, and it’s very good, and I would say so even if I didn’t know some of the creators. If you like clever pop superhero time travel stories (the things it reminded me of most stylistically were Bulleteer from Seven Soldiers and The Wicked And The Divine, with perhaps a little hint of Kevin Maguire in Steve Horry’s linework), or stories with trans protagonists, then you’ll like it.

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    What Comics Should I Review For Patreons This Week?

    (Proper post later or tomorrow)

    I know, I never did the last set of comics that were suggested — I intended to, and definitely *packed* them for my US trip. But that trip was more stressful than I anticipated (as it always is — I’m *really* bad at predicting such things) and I thought they were still in the suitcase. But I went to look earlier today to do belated reviews, and they weren’t. So they’re lost somewhere, possibly 6000 miles away. I may review them in future if they turn up, as a sort of time capsule…

    I do intend, though, to do the comics reviews every week this year, barring major incidents or all my Patreons saying “please stop, we don’t care”. So suggest something you’d like me to review that came out yesterday, and I’ll do it tomorrow.

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