Ibeyi: Soon To Be Superstars

Theatre District, Boston

Theatre District, Boston

Ibeyi means twins in Yoruba and is the name of a twin sister band who trace their roots to Nigeria and Benin through their father, the late great Cuban percussionist who played with Irakere and was best known for work with the Buena Vista Social Club.  The Diaz twins, Naomi and Lisa-Kainde, were born in Paris and spent some formative years in Cuba. They recently launched their music careers with their self-titled debut album. I was fortunate enough to catch their act in Boston, the second to last stop on their first world tour.  A mix of Afro-Cuban fused pop, European electronica and a unique blend all their own, Ibeyi brought down the house last night.

The house where the twins performed happened to be the Royale in Boston, a tiny club that seats or stands less than 1,000 people in the heart of Boston’s Theater District.  Ibeyi sports a sparse stage setup included an Akai synthesizer atop a Roland 700 digital piano for keyboardist Noami and an electronic drum machine, a cajon, a sort of drum box that is sat on and played, and a set of bata drums for percussionist Lisa-Kainde. A video screen hung in the background to project abstract black and white videos of urban scenes to accompany each song.

There was a spacious bar in the back, a small dance floor in the middle in front of the stage where most of the crowd packed and balcony seating all around for those who preferred to chill in the distance. The venue did not appear to be at maximum capacity, but the crowd, mostly Gen. X’ers and Millennials, was nonetheless enthusiastic and welcoming. I attended with my daughter, a recent college graduate, who is a big fan of Ibeyi. I was one of the oldest in the crowd, no doubt.  One funny aside, as the concert was held in the Theatre Distict, and we were running a little late getting there, we hurriedly walked up to get in line with a group of patrons who looked much older than we would have expected for an Ibeyi concert. I asked the ticket taker what band was playing and to my amusement, he said “Kraftwerk”.   We were at the wrong theater and I could not help but laugh at the thought of Mike Meyer’s SNL “Sprockets” routine. Fortunately, Ibeyi was playing right across the street and we got there just a few minutes before they walked on stage. And even though I had never heard Ibeyi’s music before, I liked their sound instantly, something I could never say about Kraftwerk.

It is hard to describe Ibeyi’s music and I am probably not doing them justice, but I can say that they harmonized, vocalized, memorialized with tributes to their late sister and father, and mesmerized with captivating beats, melodies and rhythms.  It was the kind of music that makes you move and sway but also takes you by surprise, especially the percussion work. The tunes were emotional, yet upbeat with a spirit that brought smiles to all in the crowd.  It was a night I won’t soon forget.  And I am betting that as their sound reaches more ears, their popularity will increase.  I predict stardom in the twins’ future!

Here’s their setlist from the Boston concert that I found on setlist.fm. Do yourself a favor and go have a listen!

Who do voters dislike the most?

In my estimation, the three candidates most likely to win a party nomination – Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Jeb Bush have some serious questions to resolve, namely how they are perceived by the electorate.  Based on recent polling done by Quinnipiac University, Clinton and Trump have serious unfavorability ratings to overcome – Clinton at 51% and Trump at 54%.  63% of Hispanics view Trump unfavorably as do 79% of Blacks. Bush’s numbers are less dramatic.  He is viewed unfavorably by 41% of prospective registered voters.  Though trailing Trump badly, Bush is viewed unfavorably by 17% of Republicans vs. 30% for Trump.

If Bush and Clinton win the nomination, which is the most likely scenario as I’ll explain, Clinton will face a tough road.  In a head to head battle, according to the the poll, she beats Bush by 2% points, but, and here is where she runs into big problems, her negatives could give Bush the ultimate advantage.

Quinnipiac asked voters to give the first word that came into their mind about the candidates.  I only saw the listing for Trump, Clinton and Bush.  The results were revealing and not very flattering for Clinton and Trump, to put it mildly, and not very encouraging for Bush, but Bush arguably performed better on the metric.  I analyzed the descriptors for each candidate and organized them into three categories, positive, negative and neutral.  For example, the comment “brilliant” pertaining to Clinton would be positive; the comment “liar” would be negative and the comment “sec-of-state” would be neutral.  I tallied up the number of responses in each category and divided by the total number of responses to get a percentage for each category and found that 28% of the comments for Clinton were positive; 57% negative and 15% neutral. For Trump, the numbers were 19% positive; 64% negative and 17% neutral.  For Bush it was 22%, 22% and 56%

Clinton has a big problem of public perception.  She is thought to be dishonest, untrustworthy and a liar.  However, she is also mentioned time and again as smart, intelligent or brilliant. Fully 5% of the responses had to do with her intelligence.  By comparison, the number is 1% for Bush and less than 1% for Trump, despite the fact that he keeps telling everybody that he is smart.  Clinton could still turnaround her untrustworthiness numbers by being more forthcoming about the email server affair and assuring the public she hasn’t covered up anything of real importance.  As Eugene Robinson suggests, if she would just say she was wrong about having a private server and apologize for the bad judgement, she might be forgiven.  However, she has yet to fully do so. Instead she’s tried to explain it to the public as something very complicated and nuanced.  And while it may be true that she did everything within legal boundaries, to many Americans, this just sounds like CYA talk.  She has to put the matter to rest by owning up to using a worst as opposed to best practice with respect to the management of her electronic files.  Once she is allowed to pivot, she needs to focus on her achievements and show the population that she is capable of successfully governing.  She should spend less time attacking the Republicans and Trump’s hair and more time repairing her reputation.  She has many accomplishments as first lady, senator and secretary of state that she should be talking about on the campaign trail.

Bush’s numbers indicate that he has not inspired much enthusiasm for his ideas.  Many of the comments that prospective voters gave suggested that he hasn’t yet separated himself from the family legacy.  The first things that came to people’s mind in the poll were “Bush” and “family”, followed closely by “brother” and “dynasty.”  Either he needs to embrace this and turn it into a positive, which would be hard to do with respect to W’s reign, or he needs to take some bold positions with creative plans on say immigration reform, gun control (like universal background checks) and climate change.  This would separate him from the Bush name and possibly get him banned from the family.

While Trump is leading the other candidates, there is evidence in the poll that part of the reason is that he has been covered by the press so much more than the other candidates.  For example, among Republicans, 58% indicated they haven’t heard enough information about Gov. Kasich to form an opinion as to whether they view him favorably or unfavorably. This number was 43% for Gov. Walker; 44% for Fiorina; 32% for Carson; 33% for Sen. Cruz; 25% for Sen. Rubio and remarkably, 24% for Jeb Bush.

My theory is that once the other candidates get more coverage, Trump will fade and Bush will gather some momentum that will earn him the nomination over Rubio, Cruz, Kasich and Walker, his closest competitors.  He’ll face Hillary Clinton who will beat him by a razor thin margin if Trump doesn’t get in as a third party candidate.  If he does, Clinton beats Bush and Trump by 16% points according to the poll.

So who do voters dislike the most?  And he’s leading in the polls.  You guessed it, Trump, who was described in the most unflattering of terms by respondents, and who has alarmingly high negatives and very little support among Blacks and Hispanics.

New poll questions mislead on Iran “deal”


Quinnipiac poll released today shows that most Americans polled in the swing states of OH, PA and FL don’t approve of the Iran nuclear deal.  In Florida, and Pennsylvania, 61% were against it; in Ohio, 58% opposed the deal. By similar margins, those polled thought the deal made the world less safe.

This poll comes out a time when there has been intense pressure on Congress to vote no on the deal by AIPAC, the conservative pro-Israel lobby and the GOP who oppose the President on everything. The just say NO Congress and their band of conservative presidential candidates lead by Trump have fear-mongered on the Iran “deal” question to the point that most Americans believe the deal will lead to the destruction of the world, which in my view is a far more likely thing to happen as a result of GOP climate denying.  The fringe is certain that all of Iran’s own money that will be freed up by the deal when sanctions are lifted will be spent on terrorism and building nuclear bombs, despite the fact that the deal is exclusively ABOUT nuclear disarmament.

But here’s the other thing, the poll asks the question in the wrong way, in fact all the political pundits have been talking about the “deal” in the wrong way.  It’s actually not so much a deal as an agreement and it’s more than the just an agreement between Iran and the U.S.; it’s actually an agreement between Iran and 6 countries:  the U.S., China, France, the UK, Russia and Germany.  And the agreement is called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  If the poll question were rephrased to: “Do you support or oppose the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement concerning Iran’s nuclear program between Iran and the U.S., China, France, the UK, Russia and Germany?” my guess is that more would be in favor than opposed.

Also, the media continues to perpetuate the notion that Iran will do its own inspections, which is patently false.  This aspect concerns a side deal that has nothing to do with the agreement and pertains to a deactivated site where some testing with nuclear materials had been performed in the past.  Iran will present samples from this site to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), for verification.  The main agreement covers Iran’s active nuclear sites which will be under constant monitoring by the IAEA and subject to periodic site visits.

How can a denuclearized Iran make the world less safe? What people seem to be responding to is the idea that Iran will use all the money freed up from sanctions to fund global terror.  First, how can we be so certain and how do we know they aren’t already supporting terrorist groups to achieve political objectives?  Second, have we forgotten that the Iranian people are suffering and have put a great deal of pressure on the regime to invest in their own economic and social needs.  If Iran ignores the needs of their own people, this would be a disaster and threaten the regime’s viability. Third, the prospect of a nation with a nuclear bomb that has been openly hostile to Israel poses a great threat to the world.  The agreement prevents that possibility. Last, the agreement is one that deals solely with the nuclear question.  It doesn’t tackle foreign policy objectives, the hostage situation or anything else.  If these other questions were put into the mix, there would be no deal, which is what many on the right would prefer.  And if there were no deal, the only solution would be war.  And in my judgement, war makes the world less safe and secure.  Our recent exploits in Afghanistan and Iraq should be lessons for us all that war is not the answer.

Election Prediction – Clinton Takes the Top Prize

Partriotic Cow

Despite the polls, the U.S. electorate is unlikely to vote an outsider into office.  What I mean by outsider is one with either no political experience – Fiorina, Trump, Carson- or a candidate who is not a true member of one of the two parties – Trump and Sanders.

For better or worse, the U.S. has just two functioning parties, and one, the GOP, is struggling to stay relevant as it’s been hijacked by Trump and is very close to becoming a fringe party of loud unelectable extremist voices.  In a fierce battle to rescue the party, the leadership will turn its back on Trump and its long line of clowns, which spells defeat for Cruz (the most conservative of the bunch based on rankings from GovTrack.us), Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, Kasich and Rick Perry.  Lindsay Graham and Bobby Jindal have no chance polling at less than 1%.  This leaves Bush and Rubio to duke it out and as flawed as Bush numero tres happens to be, I expect him to come out on top.

On the Democrat side, while Sanders, like Trump has attracted large crowds, most won’t vote for a self-described Socialist, much to the dismay of Republicans who praise Bernie as a serious and honest candidate. The GOP would also like nothing better than for Biden to get into the race and even apparently persuaded Quinnipiac to poll Biden’s numbers even though he is not yet running. The GOP and the Press have relentlessly attacked Hillary Clinton over the email server affair hoping to turn it all into a scandal so that Biden runs and wins the nomination.  If he does, Bush may not trounce Biden but he’d have a much easier time beating Biden than he would Hillary Clinton.  However, despite the GOPs attempts to manipulate the Democratic race, I expect Clinton to survive server “scandal” and the rehashed assaults over her role in the Benghazi attack and win the nomination fairly handily over her competitors and take the general by a hanging chad, thanks to Trump’s last minute 3rd party disruption, a la Ralph Nader and Ross Perot.

Trump and the parties pathways to victory


I know why all the GOP candidates didn’t take on Trump in the first GOP debate – they’re afraid of him.  Afraid he’d turn the audience against them; afraid he might sue them if they crossed him; and afraid that he’ll run as a third party candidate.  And he just might if enough of the field were to attack him at some point.  Their strategy was to go easy on Trump and not goad him into slinging zingers, like the one he slang on Rand Paul who tried to call him out early on.

Almost everyone has written the Donald off as a serious candidate, and possibly even conservatives who until the debate, liked what they heard, but I wouldn’t write him off just yet.  He might continue to surprise and could even win the nomination.  And if he did, and the GOP united in support of him, which seems unlikely, but if they did, he would give Hillary Clinton a good fight, though she would win with ease.

In my opinion, Trump would be the least electable of the lot, alongside Gov. Rick Perry, Senator Lindsay Graham whose candidacy makes me think of House of Cards, Gov. Jindal who had the awkward family reveal, and Gov. Huckabee whose incendiary rhetoric is both dangerous and pitiful. The most electable candidates and the ones Democrats like me should fear the most are Gov. Jeb Bush, Senator Marco Rubio, Gov. Rick Kasich and Gov. Scott Walker.  The union busting Walker may have some appeal outside the Midwest where people tend to hate teachers and the unions who protect them. Marcus Rubio may gain the backing of several billionaires in the coming months and whip the tea party into a frenzy with his memorized talking points.  Rick Kasich, who I first thought was the lead vocalist for the band the Cars, appears to be a moderate who could draw support in others regions, not the South, and take some votes from Jeb Bush.  And of course if Jeb Bush wakes up and finds a little fire in his belly, he could emerge as the one to beat.  But none of the candidates did themselves much of a favor in the debates.  They sounded scripted, timid and uninspiring.

The question is, will the Republican base turn out to vote for Rubio? If Bush were nominated, would the base support him or throw their support to Trump, the spoiler.  Bush and Rubio are Clinton’s biggest threats.  Which is why her best pathway to victory is for Trump to run as an Independent if not nominated by the GOP.  And though he’d take some of her votes, he’d take more away from the GOP as disaffected right wingers – who don’t believe in science, regulations, the separation of church and state and who generally don’t like government and prefer it be run as a business, because we all know that corporations are people – clamor to register their angst. But this scenario could also have the effect of turning out both bases of the two parties.  The GOP’s best pathway to victory, then, will be to continue to push voter suppression laws, because if the elderly, students, Blacks and Latinos can’t vote, many of whom are registered Democrats, it’s all over for the former first lady, Senator and Secretary of State. It is.

Ask Brody the GOPbot

Brody is a GOPbot developed with the knowledge of key GOP positions on most issues.  If Brody were a debate participant, it’d sound like any one of the candidates and should produce gaffes with the best of them.

Moderator:  What do you think about the Iran deal?

Brody:  I ran because I want to make the country great again.

Moderator:  No, Iran, the country, not why you ran.  The Iran nuclear deal.

Brody: There is no clear deal.

Moderator:  Nuclear.

Brody:  As Ronald Reagan said, “trust but verify”.

Moderator:  So it’s a good deal?

Brody.  No, Iran took our hostages.

Moderator:  That was 1979.

Brody: A very good year for Bordeaux and the band Peaches and Herb.

Next question:  Where do you stand on climate change?

Brody:  We stand united.

Moderator: That’s not a complete thought, can you tell me more.

Brody:  Fly the friendly skies, of United…excuse me while I compute…we stand united that the earth is 900 years old and flat.

Moderator:  You can’t be serious?

Brody:  Do Ya think I’m sexy?

Moderator:  Excuse me?

Brody:  Rod Stewart, 1979.  And then there was Rod Laver, 1969 and Rod Sterling, 1959.

Moderator:  Brody, let’s focus. What do you think about planned parenthood.

Brody:  Parenthood should be planned.

Moderator:  That’s it?

Brody:  That 70’s show.

Moderator: What?

Brody: That girl, Marlo Thomas.

Moderator:  One last question.  Gun control or gun rights?

Brody:  Right, the far right, The Far Side.  Bill the cat is all that.

Thank you Brody for a most illuminating conversation.

GOP Debate Coach for Hire

If the GOP candidates need advice for the big first debate in Cleveland, I’m their guy.  Full disclosure – I’m not a Republican, but almost became one on a road trip through Europe in 1984. I remember praising President Ronald “Raygun” Reagan for doing his part to keep the exchange rate favorable to the dollar over the Lira and the French Franc, but did an about face in Switzerland where I ran out of money -dang Suisse Franc, that my spell checker advised me to call Issue.

The big debate should be a first class clown show and the spoils will go to the one who makes the most noise.  So how does one make noise?  Well, it is a debate so it’s best to expose the weaknesses of the opponents, but with charm and good humor.  American voters love to be entertained and respect a good one liner – “Senator (Quayle) you’re no Jack Kennedy.”  Here are some crib notes on some of the “big guns”.

Governors Christie and Kasich are polling at 3%.  How relevant can they be? Isn’t Christie the guy from the auction house? And wasn’t Kasich once running for President as a Democrat? Wait, that was Kucinich.  When I first saw a picture of the Governor, I thought he was ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, his doppleganger.

The known stars of the GOP – “Also Ran” Rand Paul whose father once ran for President on the Libertarian ticket, and the Canadian born Ted Cruz – are polling at 5%. If I were a candidate, I would simply say to Rand, “stop whining” and to Senator Cruz, “you sound like a Sunday morning televangelist” and look out at the crowd and say, “and soon he’ll be passing the plate around asking you for a donation.”  Now Trump was big on the birther thing so he should causally mention that Ted Cruz was born in Alberta, Canada and then say something like – “nothing against Canadians, but they do like their medicine socialized.” That would scare the bejesus out of GOP voters.

Carson, Huckabee and Rubio are running at a modest 6% in the polls.  Dr. Carson is a world renowned surgeon, but has never been elected to public office. Huckabee has made so many desperate, incendiary comments that he’s likely to flame out on stage and is best ignored.  Marco “Polo” Rubio is still exploring the issues and is not even the favorite in his home state, trailing Jeb Bush by 12 points in the latest Florida poll.  “Senator Rubio, it’s not your turn yet.”

And the big three – Trump, Bush and Walker.  Walker, Bush and all the others should just say that Trump has no experience and ignore him.  Bush should say that Walker is a divisive union buster with a mean streak and Trump, Walker and all the others should say, “please, not another Bush” and argue strongly against a monarchy. 12 years and 3 wars is already 12 and 3 too many.


IMG_0221In my opinion, the main reason for the opposition to the Iran nuclear deal has nothing to do with security and everything to do with politics.  The Republicans need an issue that gives them some traction in the election cycle.  The Republicans claim the deal will unleash the terror prone state of Iran to make all sorts of mischief in the middle east.  Before the agreement, the Republicans argued that the biggest threat to the middle east was the nuclear state of Iran. And so the deal removes that threat and the region is safer and we can breathe a collective sigh of relief, but the Republicans aren’t buying it and are saying things like – “we didn’t get anything for the deal” (as if a non-nuclear Iran were nothing), and that Iran will use the “signing bonus”, which happens to be their own money previously tied up in economic sanctions, “to sponsor terrorism.”  They say we didn’t get the release of American hostages, which is regrettable, but never the point of the negotiations.  46 Republicans, in an effort to derail U.S. negotiations, even went as far as to write a letter to the supreme leader of Iran saying that any deal would have to be approved by congress. Such action is unprecedented in U.S. politics and shows a complete disrespect for the President, the will of the people who support him and borders on treason. This isn’t the first time that Republicans have refused to work with the Obama administration or tried to derail policies that the majority of Americans support – in fact they have attacked him relentlessly since 2008, and not just his politics. They’ve used incendiary rhetoric, compared him to Hitler, called him a liar, questioned his birthplace, demanded his college transcripts, hinted that he was not a Christian, and now claim that the Iran deal effectively makes him a terrorist who hates America.  They’ve obstructed, filibustered, wearing out the word NO in the process, and have shown more respect to the Israeli head of state than to the their own U.S. President. Unwittingly, they’ve done such a great job of whipping the conservative base into a frenzy that a billionaire reality star and real estate mogul, is now the leading GOP presidential candidate. Surprisingly, the candidates have done very little to discredit Trump because they are not used to standing up to billionaires.  And because of the tactics of the right, the GOP is now an entertaining party of scary clowns.

What the Frack?

The EPA found fracking has not caused widespread pollution of drinking water relative to the number of fracking projects in operation.  Are they serious?  This would have been a good April Fool’s joke, but we’re in June.  The FDA admits that the study’s conclusions are based on limited data and that in some isolated situations, ground water had been contaminated and that’s putting it nicely. The key word is widespread and I would add that the impact may not be widespread yet, but unless you enjoy flammable water, you should be concerned and call for a ban on fracking in your community.

Look, I think we can agree that water is a precious resource, in fact, a prerequisite for life, and if we spoil what natures provides, we are in for trouble. Unlike wind and solar power, water is not a renewable resource, there’s only so much.  Ok, true, we have lots of ocean water, but I challenge you to find a practical way to desalinate the stuff and anyway, thanks to climate change, plastic trash with a half life of 2 billion years and all those rogue jelly fish, our oceans are becoming ever more polluted and acidified.

So are we now ok with fracking?  Does the study give the green light to the oil and gas industry? Do we trust them to protect our water and land resources? Are we ok with the risks associated with fracking including earthquakes? I’m not.

Meat Labelling Humor at the WTO

Chiles Con Carne 3

Well, I was reading a story about some kind of meat labeling treaty or something discussed at the World Trade Organization (WTO).  From what I could gather from the article, the U.S. insists that meat be labeled as to country of origin.  This apparently had Mexico and Canada up in arms with chants of fowl play.

U.S. consumers might prefer the raised and slaughtered in the U.S. label rather than say Uruguay or some other meat producing places, like Canada and Mexico.  Now as a carnivorous American, I want to know where my meat comes from.  I would rather eat locally grass fed beef and cage free “home on the range” chicken and eggs.  And I would like to be reasonably confident that the beef, pork and fish I consume do not also come with a broad spectrum of antibiotics, fattened by GMO grains.  Of course, we can’t be sure.  The irony here is that the U.S. favors labelling meat but does not favor GMO labeling.

As I read more of the article, I did find one point the Canadians made to be amusing and it went like this – because of the integrated nature of the industry, “animals might cross the border multiple times”.   Now just how these animals manage to cross back and forth across the border is an intriguing question.  They must do it in the stealth of night.  I suppose the chickens just fly right over the border undetected.  The pigs I guess dig their way across or access heavily traffic tunnels.  The cattle, well I don’t know how they do it, but they might disguise themselves as tourists with fake id cards.

I do remember crossing over to Canada once and was asked if I had any pork, beef or poultry of any kind on my person and I confessed that I had just eaten a chicken club sandwich and was allowed to cross but only after guards inspected my car and documents, apparently on the look out for stray animals looking for safe roaming across the border. I was so afraid that I promised to become a vegetarian during my stay in Canada.  They actually may have suspected me of being a cow, I do have a deep voice, and though I am sometimes as messy as a pig, I am not a cow, nor have I ever been.


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