Thursday, October 30, 2014

Rand Paul is right and wrong

By Richard K. Barry

Senator Rand Paul says the Republican brand sucks, and because I don't like to disagree with the Senator, I won't. I will, however, take issue with his understanding of history.

“Remember Domino’s Pizza? They admitted, ‘Hey, our pizza crust sucks.’ The Republican Party brand sucks and so people don’t want to be a Republican and for 80 years, African-Americans have had nothing to do with Republicans,” he said.

In fact, 80 years overstates the case by a fair bit, as the New York Times reported in June of this year.
In 1960, [Jackie] Robinson endorsed Nixon for president, declaring that the civil rights commitment of Nixon’s Democratic rival, John F. Kennedy, was “insincere.” In those times, an African-American Republican was by no means unusual. About 39 percent of black voters had supported the re-election of President Dwight Eisenhower and his Vice President.

The historical relationship between African-Americans and Democrats is, of course, complex. My intention here is only to report the facts.

Paul is still right that the Republican brand sucks, just to clear.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Picture of the Day - Crutches in a trash can


I took this picture this morning using my cell phone. I have no idea why someone put a pair of crutches in a trash can. Use your imagination. Maybe it was a miracle. Better yet, write a short story about how this happened. You can start any time. 



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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Nordic Giants on Kscope

By Michael J.W. Stickings

One of the most recent signings to Kscope, the great label that is home to Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson, Anathema, Gazpacho, The Pineapple Thief, and others, is Nordic Giants, a post-rock duo similar in sound to, or in a way a combination of, Sigur Ros and God is an Astronaut (though they're experimental enough to defy easy comparisons and have very much developed a sound, and style, of their own).

Kscope will be releasing the band's latest two EPs, Build Seas and Dismantle Suns (both initially self-released in October 2013), as a single LP on November 17, with a new album scheduled for early next year, but you can also find their 2010 debut EP, A Tree as Old as Me, on iTunes and elsewhere -- it's definitely worth checking out.

Here's a preview from Kscope:


And here's a clip from a show (and they're noted for their astonishing multi-media performances) at Miss Peapod's in Falmouth, Cornwall, England:

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Nothing changes

Even when it does.

By Capt. Fogg

Oh goodie, we can stop obsessing about Ebola and the Ottawa shooting and renew the obsessive hysteria about school violence until something else happens. Of course something else is happening constantly, but there's no money in discussing it when you compare it to the blockbuster ratings-boost from red-eyed, glued-to-the-tube, round-the-clock repetition of the same damned video clips under the rubric of "Breaking News!"

I suppose there will be little or no comment on the likelihood that the massive coverage will produce copy-cat incidents of suicide-by-shooting-spree and the usual refusal to attempt perspective by noting that such things seem to clump but all in all have been declining significantly -- over 50% -- for more than 20 years.

It's more profitable to claim that schools aren't safe, although impartial statistics seem to show it's more dangerous at home and that any one American school can expect to have a gun or explosives incident only about once in 12,800 years. People are demonstrably terrible at assessing risk and news providers get rich by helping them panic while other institutions of reform and anti-reform distract and misinform to promote their programs, all of them so convinced of their rightness and righteousness, truth can be damned as an obstruction and lies praised as noble.

(Cross-posted at Human Voices.)

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Friday, October 24, 2014

A peek inside the conservative mind

By Carl

WARNING: Below, you will be exposed to toxic thinking and noxious conclusions from right-wing partisans. A Level Four HazMat suit is recommended. The CDC will NOT be available for protection. You have been warned. Proceed with caution. Should you experience nausea, vomiting, tearing eyes, a rise in blood pressure SHUT DOWN YOUR BROWSER IMMEDIATELY and seek expert medical attention from Doctors Jack Daniels or Jim Beam.

**********

The Ebola crisis is, in point of fact, a manufactured crisis. Media outlets, tired of covering insipid and meaningless political horse races found a sexy and dangerous news item and not only ran with it, but decided to tie it into the politics of the day.

The prevailing wisdom, of course, is this crisis reflects badly on the CDC. I suppose when you push a false narrative, it has to. After all, the CDC is supposed to be on top of "crises" like these, and handle them with aplomb.

Tell that to the 20,000 AIDS victims who died before the CDC even got their boots on back under Reagan.

In point of fact, the real enemy of the American people is, not surprisingly, the GOP, and Texans specifically. It's no surprise that this outbreak occurred in the state least able to handle an outbreak. Texas has great hospitals -- the heart transplant was practically perfected in Houston -- and clearly there's enough oil money down there to import the finest doctors who want a live of luxury.

Before we get into this too deeply, let's take a look at the timeline of the outbreak:

On September 15, Thomas Eric Duncan becomes exposed to the Ebola virus when he accompanies a pregnant friend to a hospital in Liberia, who believes she is miscarrying. According to the cab driver, they tried four hospitals. None would see her (this echoes later in the tale. You'd like to think the States would be different...). The next day, the friend dies.

On September 19, Duncan leaves Liberia to visit family in Texas. He cannot fly directly to the States, so he flies to Brussels, then DC, then Dallas. He is not symptomatic. Much has been made by the lunatic reactionary fringe of the fact that Duncan "knew" he had the virus, as he quit his job on September 4, and arranging a visa to the US, but that's patently untrue. The visa was of long standing and his girlfriend had moved here long before the contact.

That Ebola was an unmanageable problem in Liberia may have contributed to his decision to leave, but there is no evidence that Duncan even saw a doctor prior to Dallas, much less received a diagnosis. Indeed, all reputable sources point to the September 15 trip as the first time he even sets foot in a hospital and that was for his neighbor.

On September 24, Duncan is symptomatic: fever, and nausea. Two days later, he decides to go to the emergency room, since a) he has no insurance and b) Ronald Reagan mandated that no emergency room may turn away a patient without treatment.

At Texas Presbyterian, Duncan tells a nurse he recently arrived from Liberia but that information does not get passed along because, Texas (In NYC, by contrast, emergency rooms routinely have maps of the world that staff can refer to on which disease outbreaks by nation are charted.) Conservatives have gotten this part wrong endlessly, preferring to point to one interview where the TPH staff said no one was aware of his recent travels. Malpractice suit number one.

TPH, suspecting a low grade virus, send him home with a prescription for antibiotics. Antibiotics, it should be pointed out, are completely ineffective against any virus. Malpractice suit number two.

Two days later, on September 28, EMTs are dispatched to Duncan's home who bring him to the hospital. None of the EMTs have developed Ebola symptoms, we should note. And they would have had less reason to suspect Ebola than the hospital staff. Protocols were followed.

It's not until September 29 that the CDC receives even the most cursory notification of a possible Ebola case, when a relative of Duncan's calls them. He gets shuffled about, and the CDC has not confirmed this phone call, although the State Department, to whom the relative was referred, does acknowledge receiving a call, but that the relative and others who State interviewed denied that Duncan was exposed to Ebola (possibly fearing deportation, or at the very least, quarantine, I suspect).

September 30, four days after the first hospital visit, Duncan tests positive for Ebola. Up to 20 people would have come in contact with him prior to protocols being put in place. The hospital executives have admitted that the initial response to Duncan's case was pathetically, almost laughably, bad.

As you now know, two nurses contracted Ebola from Duncan. One, Nina Pham, was symptomatic as of October 12. It's possible that she came into contact with Duncan's bodily fluids before the protocols would have been triggered, as Ebola may, and I stress may, not have been diagnosed yet (although the mind wobbles at how you don't put full hazmat gear on for a vomiting patient, no matter what the condition).

Also on October 12, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins orders a watch list of people who came into contact with Duncan be created.

Yet, a moron, one Amber Vinson, gets on a plane the very next day from Cleveland back to Dallas. Malpractice suit number three.

Stories vary about whether the CDC okayed her travel. Vinson and her partisans have suggested the CDC cleared her. The CDC, however, maintains they tried to persuade her not to travel but ultimately relented for her return to Dallas, for reasons unknown.

Mind you, the responsibility for Vinson self-quarantining would have been TPH's and the Dallas department of health, not the CDC. Dallas authorities had already quarantined the Duncan family. The Jenkins order suggests they could have done the same as they identified potential patients.

But it's the CDC's fault. Of course. Because they are the Federal government run by the black guy in public housing.

Never mind that the combined budget for the CDC and the National Institutes of Health were cut 44% in the budget deal last year that re-opened the Federal government.

(And a side note: if this had happened in 2013 under the shutdown, the Republicans would have been revealed as the treasonous bastards they are, since the CDC would have been completely prevented from doing anything except maybe issuing warnings.)

Never mind that we still don't have a Surgeon General, who might have been able to move more quickly on this matter and certainly brought more resources to bear to deal with this problem, because the NRA has vetoed the most recent candidate.

And never mind that the last time the Feds imposed a mandatory quarantine on anyone, they ended up getting sued (although a judge threw the case out.)

This is not an epidemic. This is not even an outbreak. We may still see a few more cases in the States, but for the most part, by October 1, the disease was back under control. It's more like a wildfire than a flu. But you'd hardly know that watching the conservative media like FOX News or CNN.

The missteps here are many, and kudos to the CDC for admitting they could have been quicker on the draw -- they could have -- but the bulk of the evidence suggests the problem lies in Texas: in it's poor healthcare system, lack of universal health insurance, and "damn the rules, I'll do what I want" rugged individualism.

Also, the fact that Duncan was not white may have played a role in his treatment at the hospital. I would like to think not, but I'll keep an open mind because this is Texas, after all.

All this occurs over a backdrop of precisely one Ebola death, the fellow who brought it here, and two additional confirmed cases.

Keep in mind that in the same time frame that this "crisis" has unfolded, there have been a thousand deaths by gun in this country.

That's a crisis.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Is rational political dialogue in America still possible?

By Richard K. Barry

I haven't written much about politics lately. I've mostly concentrated on music at another blog. It seems that nothing changes in the so-called national dialogue and saying the same thing over and over gets tiring. But just when I thought I might want to jump back in, I come across a comment by Fox News resident psychiatrist Keith Albow.


Tom Kludt at TPM describes Albow's recent's comments about our president:

"I think that we became psychologically mired in a form of national Stockholm Syndrome," he said of Obama's election victories during his radio interview last week. "We said to ourselves, and the world, 'Look at this guy. We're going to elect this guy president. Why would you attack us? We're not even voting for somebody who likes us. This guy, who has names very similar to two of our archenemies, Osama, well, Obama. And Hussein. Hussein. Surely you won't attack us now because we've got a shield here of a guy who, as the leader of our country, says we're bad.'"

I know it's only one asshole at Fox, and, given the source, it doesn't surprise. I suppose that's the problem. Tired, tired, tired.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

A preview of the forthcoming Steven Wilson album

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As you may have seen, we haven't been posting much lately. Suffice it to say, we've been busy, and preoccupied with other things. But we'll try to keep up the blogging now and then, so stay tuned -- and, you never know, we may turn our collective attention back to this blog before too long. In the meantime, some sporadic posting...

And so why not, this Saturday evening, turn not to political commentary but to music, so much a part of this blog as well, and specifically to one of the best of the very best, Steven Wilson (about whom I've written before on several occasions), whose next solo album (with the amazing band he's had for most of his recent "solo" career) is set to be released next February.

Count me incredibly excited. His first three solo albums -- Insurgentes, Grace for Drowning, and The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories) -- got progressively better, one after the other, though it's very close for the last two and I'm actually quite partial to Grace, though they're all fantastic and I prefer not to rank them. But where Insurgentes is very much a Porcupine Tree-style album, and not as distinctly solo, and where Grace is a bit all over the place, The Raven is a cohesive masterpiece of the prog rock genre, in many ways a quite retro, '70s-style album, but also post-prog given its vision and breadth, and very much a towering rock album by any standard.

And now Wilson is saying that his forthcoming album is a combination of all his solo work, maybe all his work. Which would be pretty impressive, for sure, but I have no doubt it'll be magnificent -- and what's certain is that it will be another leap forward for Wilson, who never does the same thing but prefers to keep challenging himself and, with each new work, breaking free from his own past.

Here's a short film, by frequent collaborator Lasse Hoile, of Wilson and his band recording the new album at AIR Studios in London. Enjoy!

Steven Wilson at AIR Studios, London - September 2014 from Kscope on Vimeo.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Bring in the McClowns

By Capt. Fogg

It seems I write the same things over and over again because the Republican pattern repeats indefinitely.  It's OK when we do it or say it or demand it, it's anti-American, tyrannical, too little, too late, too much, too soon when they do it. Even if Republicans invented it or pioneered it or used it until yesterday it's different when "they" do it.

How long ago was it that John McCain and  Fox News and the rest of the merry bunch made a circus act with all three rings full of how Obama is a "tyrant" for appointing all those Czars?  "More Czars than the Romanovs," tweets the funny man.  So where's the big red nose and oversize pants when John McCain tells us that hapless weakling Obama isn't appointing the Czars we need?  That's right, John McCain has joined Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), sponsor of H.R. 3226 (111th): Czar Accountability and Reform (CZAR) Act of 2009  in condemning the administration for this egregious failure, invoking the "if it's bad, it's Obama" clause in the Party rules. 2009 is when George W. Bush left office -- just coincidentally -- and of course George had 33 of them, but let's keep that quiet.


Of course there's no public office with the title Czar on the door as far as I know. It's a media epithet that began in the 1940s and of course there's nothing unconstitutional about the President appointing "other public ministers" no matter how much they chuckle and chortle and lie in the Fox newsroom.
But quoting history and public record never seems to have much effect on the magic thinkers and pea-brained partisans of any stripe.  The public's eyes are always on the jugglers and clowns and what they're doing now, not what they did ten seconds ago.

"No one knows who's in charge," says McCain, his face revealing nothing of how his party, with the help of the NRA has blocked the nomination of a Surgeon General, an office designed to take control and coordinate the process of informing the country of what's being done.  Yes, the NRA, because the Surgeon General might just get involved in gun policy.  Can't have that. Better a plague than risk a gun grabber liberal doctor commie near our weapons. Better this country perish from the earth.


 (Cross posted at Human Voices)

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