Saturday, March 30, 2013

In Case You Didn't See It

Here's Fox News on a serious song written quite successfully in the "genre" of "HeeHaw."

I'm not sure what one would think the guy attacking Carrey and the song/video is talking about. Certainly he isn't addressing Carrey's tweet, which begins the video and the Fox segment. Tossing Heston's long past support of the Civil Rights Movement into the mix is something of a misdirection, and obviously if one's past triumphs were a carte blanche into the club of privilege, Fox would have been beating Rush Limbaugh about the head and shoulders for some decades for Limbaugh's incessant ridicule of Jesse Jackson.

The gun debate is a simple thing. America is suffering horrors as an obvious consequence of the fact that America is awash with firearms, including firearms designed to kill humans by the score in a matter of seconds--and that's a literal description of what large magazines offer as a capability. Last December twenty little children were slaughtered in less than 5 minutes. Large majorities of Americans, including American voters, are appalled. They want alterations made in the system of how guns are distributed among us.

The NRA has offered a patent absurdity as a "solution." It is, simply: "we need more guns." This absurdity is actually being accepted by many in government, at both the state and federal levels. In NC today, for example, our Governor has formed a committee to study whether schools need more armed personnel. At least they're "studying" it. In Congress, meanwhile, five of the most "conservative" Republican Senators (where we might perhaps read "conservative" as a synonym for "bought and paid for by the weapons industry") have now said they will attempt to filibuster any legislation aiming to address the obvious problem. Moreover, the legislation that most obviously addresses the problem we have--legislation restoring the assault weapons ban and strengthening it by crafting a more inclusive definition of "assault weapon," and legislation outlawing large magazines--is not even in the proposed bill that the "conservatives" promise to filibuster. The weapons legislation currently being considered, as I understand it, has now been reduced to a broadening of background checks. That's it.

The NRA, and it's paid subsidiary Fox News, clearly feels that any effort to deal with the endless slaughter is a threat to their unfettered market. Instead of addressing what is now as plain as day, they strive to press the divisions in the country, the fears that go bump in the night, the George Zimmerman point of view. And if someone with the wit of a Jim Carrey crafts a spoof song that gets to the heart of the matter, well he's going to pay. At least on Fox.

Here's the lyrics to "Cold Dead Hand."

Cold Dead Hand (c) Jim Carrey, 2013

Some folks ride like the wind
With the whispering pines to guide them
And the burning light inside them
Keeps them warm in the snow

Others fear the sounds they hear
Make bandito's out of mole-hills
Fill their hearts with porcupine quills
They’re dead and buried long before they go

Charlton Heston movies are no longer in demand
His immortal soul my lay forever in the sand
The angels wouldn’t take him up to heaven like he planned
‘Cause they couldn’t pry that gun from his cold dead hand

It takes a cold dead hand to decide to pull the trigger
It takes a cold dead heart and as near as I can figure
With your cold dead aim you’re trying to prove your dick is bigger
But we know your chariot may not be swinging low

Cold dead hand - cold dead hand
Cold dead hand - cold dead hand
You’re a big big man with an little bitty gland
So you need something bigger just to fill
Your cold dead hand

Imagine if the lord were here
And he knew what you’ve been thinkin’
Would his sacred heart be sinkin’
Into the canyon of dismay

And on the ones who sell the guns
He’d sick the vultures and coyotes
Only the devil’s true devotees
Could profiteer from pain and fear

Charlton Heston movies are no longer in demand
His immortal soul my lay forever in the sand
The angels wouldn’t take him up to heaven like he planned
‘Cause they couldn’t pry that gun from his cold dead hand

It takes a cold dead hand to decide to pull the trigger
It takes a cold dead heart and as near as I can figure
With your cold dead aim you’re trying to prove your junk is bigger
But we know your chariot may not be swinging low

Cold dead hand - cold dead hand
Cold dead hand - cold dead hand
Cold dead hand - cold dead hand
You’re a big big man with an little bitty gland
So you need something bigger with a hair-pin trigger
You don’t want to get caught with your trousers down
When the psycho killer comes around
So you make your home like a thunderdome
And you’re always packin’ everywhere you roam
But the psycho’s win no matter what you do
‘Cause they’re gonna buy way more guns than you

And while you’re stumbling out of bed
They put five rounds in the back of your head
Or you get depressed ‘cause the money runs out
Then you put your own shotgun in your mouth
And your kids walk in and they find you there
Like a headless stump in your underwear
And they move the gun and it kills them too
And your wife just doesn’t know what to do
But she takes a hand grenade from her shoe
And she pulls the pin...

And it’s all on you
And your cold dead hand

performance link:

Pretty goddam on the money I'd say. Carrey's brief response to the Fox tirade is nice too. You can find it here:

Hat tip to Digby for the post that initially caught my eye.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

In the Meantime

I watched "Winter's Bone" last night. I might work up a review on it, as it is a very fine film, plus it has appearances by the wonderful musicians Jim and Kim Lansford, who live more or less where the story happens. However, this morning I ran into this piece, via Digby. I thought I should put this link up--it should be as available as possible:

It has been a good thing, this 10th Anniversary of our Iraq Adventure. I've put up some excellent links in pieces below. We should all read the Juan Cole link, and more than once. All of Charles Pierce's commentary last week was wonderful to read. Perhaps the most worrisome thing to contemplate in the long, terrible string of decisions which led the United States to attack another country for essentially reasons of propaganda and possibly private venality, is this: the United States is quite obviously vulnerable to being "flipped" like a tiddlywink by actions which should never have such a capability.

An asteroid did not hit New York City on 9/11/01. The power did not go off. A gigantic blizzard did not freeze the oceans. But 19 guys with box cutters and improvised weapons at hand did manage to get two wars started, one of which still continues. The whole path of the United States was altered. People said, seriously, that the world had changed fundamentally. Because they were powerful people, it did, even if not in the way they imagined at the time.

If the press is going to rethink what its role was and is in such events, it really ought to start with the in-depth questions. The reason why response to 9/11 should have been a police action was fundamentally that such a response is what is appropriate to a vandalism. Our actual response elevated everything. 9/11 became Pearl Harbor II. But in fact, 9/11 exposed our vulnerabilities, and our response exposed them even further, and our current political insanities, yet again and further still.

If there are any serious geopolitical dangers at the moment, we should be very concerned indeed for the fate of our country and our democracy.

Saturday Update
. This is how "news" comes to all of us sometimes. Day after Libby and I watched "Winter's Bone," and before I'd gotten a chance to drop Jim and Kin Lansford an email about how happy I was for them to have gotten that bit of recognition in a celebrated movie, the "Old Time Herald" magazine arrives in my mail box and informs me that Jim passed away last October, from cancer. In the rooms the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo. Spring arrives, and the beeches, which dot my woods, still grip their last years leaves, now a pale tan-gold, and the last reminder of the old year. Next week there will be green shoots, and red bud, and the maples will bring forth their buds high in the canopy.

Quite a long time back now, I wrote a dumb review in the Herald of Jim and Kim's first CD. He wrote me a very gracious letter about it, and I apologized, and later we became friends sharing a week at the Augusta Workshops up in Elkins, WV. Jim and Kim made a number of very strong CDs, which feature excellent pickin' and real good harmony singing. Kim's got a great voice. Jim could play all the traditional instruments, and well. Here they are, just two years ago:

The two of them ran a farm in southwest Missouri, near Galena. They raised sheep I think it was. They made the hard effort to live by their lights, and succeeded, as I hope Kim is continuing to do, dealing with her grief. They made a sweet couple, and Libby and I will always be sorry we didn't get out there to their farm for a visit. If you want to buy some of their excellent music, here's a good way to do it:

You might want to go find Gary Snyder's "Dodger Point Lookout" and give it a read too.

Friday, March 22, 2013

My Senior Class President

(Where Jim and I went to high school--I was the editor of the "Latipac", which is "Capital" spelled backwards, and a stroke of '30s genius no doubt by some callow youth of the depression era. Jim was class president, and the late Bill Weems was President of the Student Body.)

I've written here:

about the efforts to turn an ancient insane asylum's grounds in Raleigh to new use, as in part a city park in an area rapidly losing the possibility of such an entity. Our last governor, Beverly Perdue, actually set up a lease with the City of Raleigh to develop this property as a park, over the next several decades. The lease was viewed as public spirited and having a long view--something which is usually a complement.

As soon as Governor McCrory arrived, along with an all Republican majority legislature, the new "public servants" set about doing what they could to change things. Much like developments in Wisconsin over the past few years, every day here in NC brings a new surprise. Most of them appalling.

More recently the Republican majority has chosen to bring to the general assembly a vote to void the lease signed by North Carolina and various Raleigh entities only a few months ago. My Senior Class President, Needham Broughton High School, '61, Mr. Jim Goodmon, appeared before the appropriate Senate body yesterday to have a say. I should say, by the way, that Mr. Goodmon is president of WRAL-TV (Capital Broadcasting), which was Jesse Helms' home base back in the '60s, before he became a national figure. Generally, Mr. Goodmon has spent his life supporting very sensible projects which reflect well on the Research Triangle area. But he is I'm pretty sure a life-long Republican, and holds views about capitalism and business which are far to the right of this writer's.

Whatever. His remarks yesterday are absolutely correct, and should be a wake up call to any remaining Republicans who are not in the thrall of the anarchist nonsense which has mostly taken over the GOP and threatens to wreck the United States. I offer you the account, as I found it, on the WRAL website:

Mr. Apodaca's immediate resort to faux victimhood is a tell of the depths to which Republicanism has lately fallen. I really don't know who the hell elects these people. Cudos to Mr. Goodmon. Onwards and upwards. Dare I suggest that your Grand Old Party has left you and intelligent people of any persuasion quite far, far behind.

Here's the idea behind the proposed park:

Shocking, simply shocking I know. The implication is, there is such a thing as "general good." These Randians say "balderdash" to such notions. After they quash the Dix Hill Park, it's on to drilling for oil and gas off the Outer Banks. I'm actually surprised that they don't cut to the chase and sell off the National Seashore--most of the Outer Banks is a National Park, and another shining example of what, for Republicans these days, is a chimera--"a public good." No doubt Mr. Romney and others of his "class" can afford to build impermeable mansions out along the banks, and who more deserving than the "job creators" to enjoy the cavalcade of seasons as expressed in one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

Meanwhile, as Mr. Goodmom correctly pointed out to Mr. Apodaca, it used to be that Republicans valued the principle of standing by one's word, as in a contract. It was the radicals, the Hugo Chavezes, the Castros, the Lenins, who tore up signed agreements with magnates, corporations, and other governments when the mood suited. North Carolina signed a lease. Now, under "new management," they tear it up. Why then, would any business choose to work again with North Carolina? If this isn't a Republican principle, what is? Mr. Apodaca's response,"Hey look, pants on fire," speaks legion.

I guess here in NC, as in Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida and other places, we'll soon find out what the new regime intends. Maybe they'll work on a principle of odd/even days.

Damn Straight, Mr. Pierce

All week Charles Pierce has written post after post concerning the vile people who started a war on a misbegotten theory back in 2003. Here's his post of today, but they're all worth remembering, passing around, reading over again, etc. Thank you Mr. Pierce.

Mr Yoo's analysis, captured therein. Wow, just wow. The legal mind.

Here, in contrast to Mr. Yoo, is some boots on the ground perspective:

Mr. Pierce's remarks on Richard Perle and the rest of the apologists-sans-apology are perhaps too kind. It's more like Henry Adams said about R. E. Lee. "We should have hung him." It says a lot about where we are that such a proposal didn't even come up.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hey NC, This is Your Republican Party

Here's one of the money quotes, but read the whole piece:

After the presenter, K. Carl Smith of Frederick Douglass Republicans, answered by referencing a letter by Frederick Douglass forgiving his former master, the audience member said “For what? For feeding him and housing him?” Several people in the audience cheered and applauded Terry’s outburst.

After the exchange, Terry muttered under his breath, “why can’t we just have segregation?” noting the Constitution’s protections for freedom of association.

Why anyone thinks there's room in the Republican Party for "Frederick Douglass Republicans" is as mysterious as why gay people still run something called "Log Cabin Republicans." Oh, yes, indeed there are still some people who are Republicans and who CPAC won't even invite to speak there. Mr. Christie, once a darling, is now banned, or at least shunned. I reckon he's still trying to square the circle up there in New Jersey. And Mr. Portman just woke up when his kid dumped a cooler of gatorade on his head.

Still and all, this is what Republicans are now. In a word, racists, and proud of it, and working hard to make racism the actual way of life in the United States. Just like it once was, not so very long ago.

It's really hard to know how long we're going to endure when ignorance and stupidity and just plain meanness are running the show. Here in NC, the Scott Terrys won the last election, and are running the show in Raleigh, full tilt. It's a sad thing to watch. No doubt Mr. Scott Terry has never read Mr. Douglass, or even heard of him beyond the name of the pitiful organization trying to polish the Republican image concerning race so that a few more black people might mistakenly cast votes for someone with an R next to their name. It's hard to read much of anything when you're head's that far up your arse.

On the other hand, maybe if Mr. Terry looks hard enough through his proctoscope, he might just find Mr. George Tierney of South Carolina:

Sunday Update: Response to the Terry story from the right has included a lot of flap about Terry being a "dirty trick." Mr. Axelrod's name has even been attached to the incident, which is pretty myopic. Strikes me that it's just a classic and typical case of projection, and something often heard when people pointed out that there were an awful lot of racist signs at Tea Party rallies. I don't believe the reality based community needs to bother with provocateurs when CPAC features their usual lineup of speakers--people like LaPierre and Coulter and Trump are provocateurs enough. Maybe Terry was really Mr. O'Keefe is some new getup?

Also. I made brief mention above of Mr. Senator Portman's late conversion to global climate change. It's not like this phenomenon isn't commonplace amongst the authoritarian-addled part of humankind:

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Speak Memory

Last weekend I viewed Andrzej Wajda's superb film Katyn, which gives life to the historical fact that in April, 1940, the Soviet Union freely chose to murder some 20,000 Polish prisoners of war, including some 12,000 members of the Polish Army Officer Corps. These officers had surrendered on orders, since they viewed the Soviet Army as essentially on "their" side, and expected to be held for a time, then released back to Poland, possibly to fight again. They were instead transported to their murders, one at a time, pistol shot to the back of the head, in the Katyn Forest in the Soviet Union. They were buried in mass graves. When the graves were discovered, the Russians claimed that the Nazis had perpetrated the atrocity. (And, indeed, the Eastern Front was so unbelievably horrible that the Nazis had in fact perpetrated a similar atrocity on many thousands of civilians in Belarus, in an area called Khatyn.) When the Soviets took control of Poland at the end of World War II, they maintained their institutional lie concerning the Katyn massacre by force of terror. One of the most searing scenes in this altogether searing film is a conversation between two sisters who are taking the gravestone of their brother to be placed in their family tomb, in Poland. One sister has had the stone made, paying for it by selling her hair. On the stone is the correct date of her brother's death, April 1940. Since this gives the lie to the Soviet version, the sister is committing a political sedition. Her sister, who has found a place in the "new order," says that there is no hope of Poland ever becoming a free state again, that one must simply find a way to live with reality. The other sister refuses--I won't join with the murderers of my brother she says. The two part company. Later we see the stone, broken, the date "1940" missing entirely.

Katyn is a perfectly made film. By that I mean that it manages in two or so hours to show us what cannot literally be told. Every moment has depth, visually as well as in dialog and motion. It imparts life to a dry, historical fact. It even literally shows us, for a few brief seconds, what that dry, historical fact looks like--grainy news reels of the rotted corpses, of the skulls with bullet holes, of people pulling the rotting clothes away from the bones. It is horrible enough, but there is a comforting distance, a way to think, ah well, another time, over there far far away. In the film we come to know individuals, families. The final scene in the film, an extended version of the massacre which includes all the main military figures we've come to know through the film being shot, close up, one at a time, is remarkable for its power and horror. We know these people. There are also many details which I find stay in my mind, to think about. As has been remarked and written about concerning Nazi atrocities, this business of mass murder takes a lot of time, it is a labor. In the case of the Katyn massacre, first it is done one by one. That proving no doubt too slow, it is then done faster, more in groups, at the very grave side. Russian farm boys knew how to slaughter. A human abatoire was constructed. Young soldiers are given the job of dispatching the Polish officers, one by one. Bullets are dispensed with penury, eight at a time. A second soldier loads the weapon of execution. First the killing takes place indoors, with another soldier washing the blood away between murders, and the bodies, one by one, dumped down a chute and into a waiting truck. Later things are speeded up, and the murders happen quickly, at the very rim of the mass grave. Wajda uses a gigantic bulldozer, shot close up, in motion and sound, to symbolize the mechanical quality of this atrocity. There is no suggestion of anything spontaneous. This is entirely calculated, as a Polish officer says beforehand, to chop down the very people who might after the war have brought this vanquished country back to life It is the "genius" of Stalin. The Germans, of course, came to similar solutions.

Spontaneity is indeed the deep opposite of this black "science." There is one moment, after the war, as the Soviet occupation grows more and more stringent, when a romantic Polish boy tears down a poster. He is pursued by Russian soldiers, and rescued for a moment by a pretty girl who knows where to hide. (Possibly she's hidden on this roof before, from Germans?) The two hide, watching the soldiers searching in vain. It is a romantic moment, and they kiss before they part, with a plan to meet at a movie the next evening. Then the boy turns a corner and walks right into the soldiers, and is killed, fleeing. Over and over through the film, Wajda shows us the contrast--love versus calculation and indifference, life versus death. The mother and wife of the central husband/soldier argue over it, the wife saying with bitterness that he chose his loyalty to the military over his vows to her.

The film is also bookended with brutality. Almost at the start we see the entire faculty of a Polish university, all distinguished men in their forties and fifties, dressed in suits to meet with a Nazi commandant, simply group-arrested by soldiers at the end of the meeting and shoved into waiting trucks for transport to camps. When the University President objects briefly the commandant simply asks him, "do you want to die right now?"

Katyn is about the atrocity then, but it is also about surviving, and thus it is about the wives and sisters and mothers of the soldiers. First they survive (some of them) the Nazi occupation. Then, when the war is over, they still find they must survive the Soviet occupation. The Soviet Union finally admitted, to some degree, that they were responsible for the Katyn Massacre. They did this, grudgingly, in 1990.

I can't recommend this film too highly, although it is not an easy film to watch. For a better review than this, see:

After you've read her review, you might want to read this excellent piece by Juan Cole:

If someone tells you that empathy is for weaklings, run, do not walk, to the nearest exit. That path leads to horror and death. Indeed, this film, depicting as it does remarkably precise affronts to human empathy, offers all of us an exemplification of fascism in action, and makes clear that Hitler and Stalin are brothers under the skin. For fascism denies empathy at it's core, and asserts that power proves justice and even truth itself, and can obliterate even the most obvious contrary. One can only believe, when confronted with fascism, that Martin Luther King, Jr., was still correct--that the long arc of history does bend towards justice. One can at least make this arc out, dimly, as events unfold. Search Youtube for the trial and execution of Nicolae and Elena Ceaucescu, for example. Or find the photo of Mussolini's grubby end, which rivals the Ceaucescu's. These later events are the exemplification of not-vain hope. Sadly, they hardly balance the vast injustices that preceded them.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Another World

I had the pleasure of playing a little gig with the CHWN Combo the other night. Took off work at noon, and had a relaxing afternoon at home of a Thursday, including a nice hot bath and a bit of fiddle practice. Hadn't picked up the little wooden box since we'd played down in Aberdeen, NC, back around Christmas of last year. The pegs has slipped in the dry winter air and all the strings were loose, but otherwise the instrument sounded as good as I could make it, which is not at all as good as it might well sound under the hands of some other operator. And on the other hand, I've kept it in one piece, even when it decided to fly quite apart back in '08 or '09 I think it was, an event I discovered when I climbed up on a stage at a going away party for a great friend who was moving to Boston. I opened the case--it was August, very hot. The fiddle was there, but disassembled. I closed the case and went directly home. At least this had been at a party. The next week the CHWN Combo had a fancy-dancey concert at the Pocahontas County Opera House in Marlinton, WV. If I hadn't happen to look in the case, that would have been a real problem. As it was, Mr. Newberry brought his fiddle along on the road trip and I had something nice to play that evening, in the hometown of Burl and Maggie Hammons.

You get to a gig well before it starts. This one was at a place called the Blue Note Grill. It's a nice restaurant/music venue/bar in a little strip mall off of 15-501 Business, in Durham. They have good burgers, very good beer, and a terrific wait staff. The owner really likes music. Mostly they have duos and singles, blues oriented. There's that famous picture of Robert Johnson, "King of the Delta Blues," in a hallway leading to the bathrooms. There were only two photographs taken of Robert Johnson, in his whole life of 27 years. Or at least only two that survived him. This one is probably on some wall in every state in the United States, and most countries in the world. Robert Johnson recorded only 24 songs. You would recognize quite a number of them I'd expect, even if you'd never heard the original recordings. Mick Jagger make one of 'em famous, and I was watching a bit of a Stones movie on one of the dish channels last night, and there was Mick, as beautiful as he was in 1972, singing the hell out of it, with Mick Taylor, stiff as a statue, bottle-necking between verses. "The blue light was my blues, the red light was my mind." That's as good a line as you can find in the history of poetry.

Before the show there's lots of little things to do. Mr. Watson does the set lists:

I didn't even see that my CD was in the shot when I took it with my phone. The other CD is Mike's newest. The other guys in the Combo are always putting out new CDs. I need to get with it. I have this notion--had it for a long time--that I have one good fiddle "record" (as the kids used to say) in me. But if I don't do it before long, I might find myself as broke down as that fiddle was back in '08, and that'd be that. After the lists and the sound check, which came after getting the sound set up arranged, came some really good complementary burgers. Then we were off to the races.

(I'm the fat guy in the foreground.)

We got done about 9 pm, as planned. Strangely, our audience has gotten older through the years, but I recognized quite a few faces from back in the day, when we were playing the Cats Cradle club in Chapel Hill, one weekend a month. We were doing that gig all through the late '70s. Set up a tour, go out on the road, then we'd get back and have that anchor to tide us over. We did a live record at that club in '79. It exists in a kind of out-of-print limbo. It's called "Chuckin' the Frizz," because at the time we tended to toss frisbees around to get exercise after long van rides. Probably one of the more obscure titles around. A guy named Dale Ashby did a great remote engineering job at the Cradle. He had a whole sound studio packed into an Air Stream trailer, backed it up to the back of the club. He specialized in recording gospel groups in churches, and had spent a year recording Laura Nyro at home. He said she would pick a particular phrase from a particular time through, cut it in. They made the record that way, bit by analog magnetic tape bit. Boy oh boy would Dale have loved digital recording. Six degrees of separation.

I was concerned, when I practiced in the afternoon, about being out of shape to play a whole show. Fortunately, I seemed to warm up quite well. The show flowed along, start to finish. We found our muscle memories, and how we connected in the music, piece by piece. Mike did a new song, a solo. He used to always do a solo, in the old shows from the Cradle days. It's a nice way to change the mood, add drama. Back in the day he used to do "Mythic Times" now and then. "These are the mythic times...." I can't get him to dust that one off. In the second set Joe set a much faster tempo for his song "Lonesome Dove," which was a great musical idea. When you change the tempo a lot of different things are affected, and you find (sometimes) new approaches to a line or a phrase. At least for me, this faster tempo beckoned my cajun licks, and I could hint at that from time to time, around the lyric, and in my break.

I got home about 10:30, got to bed by 11. Everything would have worked great except the three cats had been missing me all evening and wanted to poke at me and get me to pet them. The little grey boy, the one who worries all the time, has discovered that if he flicks at a human's face with his sharp little claws, they will by gawd get the hell up right away. What this human did was eventually put him behind a closed door into the living room. I'm not one to toss a cat at a wall. But the world of my job was not as easy, yesterday, as I'd hoped, even if the Momma cat was willing to come into the kitchen and eat breakfast as though she was a "pet" like her children to start off the day, which was pretty cool:

I sure do miss the life I used to lead, back before the economy changed so much that I wasn't able to make a living doing stone work and music, setting my own schedule, finding the spaces to think when I fancied. Not that I don't like and appreciate my day job. Far too many folks don't have day jobs. I think I read recently that we're down to just 20% of the manufacturing jobs we once had in the US in the '70s. There's too damn much desperation, and a stupid negligence on the part of the folks we've elected as stewards of the country, starting around, um, 1980. So it's great to know I've got an office to head off to, on Monday, and a paycheck to count on. But it's also quite nice to be able to step back into that other world, even if only now and then. It's way better than to just have a fading memory. I say to customers at work, "nice to see you." One guy, the other day, grinned and said, "Nice to be seen."

(There are more pictures, etc. posted over at the band site, which is linked at the top right. There's also ways to buy our CD over on that site, and other associated CDs. Craver might have a few copies left of that "Chuckin' the Frizz" CD at his store. We did a song or two from that CD the other night, including "Aragon Mill." I don't sell nuffin here.)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Hannity Just Keeps On Digging

On the drive home today I picked up a tad of Hannity's malarkey, after a fairly long musical interlude due to some kind of problem with the satellite. I was hoping maybe Mr. Obama has just pressed some button and shot the fucker down, but apparently not. As he said the other day, he's not a dictator or a despot, just President.

Hannity was talking with former Congressman and highly successful I'm sure black conservative J.C. Watts, about how the sequester really hadn't had any consequences, so haha, it's just like the millennium, Y2K all over again. It's hard work. The right needs to convince everyone that these cuts don't make any difference. It's like whispering to boiling frogs. Meanwhile, in the real world, Charlie Pierce writes the following today at his Esquire Politics Blog (which you can click to off my links any time you want, and you should do that frequently:

Everyday Miracles
By Charles P. Pierce
at 4:45PM

Anyone who had Mississippi in the In What State Will A Cure For AIDS Be Found? Pool may stand to win an awful lot of money.

The infant underwent remission of HIV infection after receiving antiretroviral therapy, or ART, within 30 hours of birth. Medications used were Zidovudine, Lamivudine and Nevirapine. A series of tests showed progressively diminishing viral presence in the infant's blood until it reached undetectable levels 29 days after birth. Gay switched Nevirapine with Kaletra for long-term therapy. The infant remained on antiviral drugs until 18 months of age, then became hard to follow up with for a while and stopped treatment. Ten months after discontinuation of treatment, the child underwent repeated standard blood tests, none of which detected HIV presence in the blood. "At that point the mom admitted that she had not been giving the medicine for several months, and I expected the baby's viral load to have gone back up," Gay said. "But, when we drew the test we got back still an undetectable viral load. That was a surprise to me."

As is obvious, a program like the one in which this infant was treated requires a great deal of time and effort and, yes, money -- and even then, the infant in question fell off the radar for a while. This money, for Mississipi and everywhere else, of course, is presently being held hostage in Sequesterland.

Laboratories at major universities and medical centers are already laying off scientists, even before the latest round of cuts is scheduled to take effect. And local public health officials, hit by years of cutbacks, are scaling back immunization campaigns and other efforts to track and control infectious diseases. "They are doing cuts on top of cuts on top of cuts," said Eric Hoffman, director of the Center for Genetic Medicine Research at Children's National Medical Center in Washington. Hoffman's labs have had to delay several major projects, including new research into muscular dystrophy in children.

But we're going to keep the carried-interest deduction, so it's all good. Our great-grandchildren are going to disown us entirely and claim we are an extinct species, like the Neanderthal.

As usual, Hannity and his employers assume that each individual loss and wound will only be noticed by a very tiny minority of us. For the rest of us, things are pretty much as they were Saturday. It's an incremental assault, small bits of the boat go missing, but the water's still "down there."

You have to wonder how long this is going to take, and how much will be lost. Those two guys looking at the test tube? They might have to shut it down and get jobs doing something else. That green stuff they're looking at will get flushed or otherwise destroyed, along with whatever information it might contain. That might just be really too bad, possibly even for Mr. Hannity, and that tiny cellular oddity he hasn't even noticed developing where the sun don't shine. Just sayin'.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Larger Consequences

Ted Frier raises the larger issues masked by the sequester flap, and the on-going stalemate between the Congress and the President. There is also a nod, in Frier's spot-on analysis, to the breath-taking remarks of a Supreme Court Justice this week, concerning the alleged sociological coercion at work upon even (gasp) Virginia's senators, who voted with the majority to reinstate yet again the Voting Rights Act, in 2006. Mr. Scalia cited an unnamed theorist ("it has been written about") for the view that when in comes to "racial entitlement," once "they" gets it "they wont's let its go." On these "grounds" he proposes to overturn a 98-0 Senate vote!

Here's Mr. Frier, drawing on Walter Lippmann:

Republican calls that President Obama show "leadership" in this crisis by "capitulating" to their political demands are the same cynical wordplay we've become accustomed to hearing from Republicans, to be sure. Like those who said we needed to destroy the village in order to save it, Republicans say the President needs to save the nation from the "devastating" consequences of $85 billion in budget cuts by cutting $85 billion from the budget.

But the darker side of these calls for executive action to overcome legislative gridlock is the one that Walter Lippmann understood so well decades ago. It's one the President referred to obliquely in his press conference yesterday when he reminded reporters asking why he did not just "do something" that presidents under our Constitution are neither kings nor "dictators" (Obama used that word) able to dispatch the Secret Service like a Praetorian Guard to prevent legislators from catching their planes, or forcing these duly-elected, if recalcitrant, democratic leaders from doing a thing if they have a mind not to.

It does not take a genius -- or unhinged conspiracy theorist - to imagine that one strategy a right wing authoritarian movement might embrace to concentrate political power in the hands of a few might be to: First, allow the wealthy to make unlimited, undocumented political contributions; Second, rule the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional as part of a package to disenfranchise the opposition; and finally, make democracy unworkable so that the public will choose "authority to freedom" just as Lippmann said, even against its will.

All the pieces are in place. It's a very disturbing situation we're in, and what is the alternative view? Possibly that the entire charade is just that--a way to mask responsibility for the destruction of our safety net in the cause of a "debt crisis" that is utterly a figment of imagination. For it is quite true that Mr. Obama also favors draconian reductions, and the argument now seems to turn on mere details, and whether sequestered cuts are or are not "blunt" enough, or too much. I experienced a weird small shift in perception last night, watching Ed Schultz and Ms Maddow. Mr. Obama became rather small and frail, his gestures weak, puny. One of the primary "stories," in show after show, was a concern with whether a mixed Star Wars/Star Trek metaphor was a blunder, or a stroke of subtlety.

A ghastly civil war once ended, it was thought forever, an understanding of the United States as a collection of small governments which had surrendered their sovereignty provisionally, and could take it back if they so decided. Blood decided that this way of looking at things was never again to be a true perspective. Yet, today, states rights are everywhere, and the government of the United States sits for the most part, silent.

And a Supreme Court Justice alleges that some deus ex machina is coercing the votes of Senators in the cause of "race privilege."

Friday, March 1, 2013

Payback Nation

Here in NC, the old idea of state government has been replaced with a bunch of angry people aiming to pay the world back for proving them wrong about everything. And in the process, they're hoping to make personal millions on natural gas. The stories just keep coming. Here's one from yesterday:

Briefly, a group representing NC farming interests (used to be farmers in NC were a pretty big deal too) is complaining that too stringent immigrant labor laws are actually stopping the farmers' ability to farm. You'd think maybe our Legislature would have some concern. Among other things, NC farmers are mostly Republican voters these days, at least unless they're black farmers who learned better long long ago.

But here's the salient response, buried deep in the story per WRAL style:

Hise said patience is running thin at the General Assembly when it comes to immigration issues.

"I think we're dealing with a Congress and a White House that's probably incapable of renaming a post office as they move forward, but that doesn't stop our needs here as a state to be able to do what's in the best interest of North Carolina," he said.

You may recall that efforts to rename the first post office built in the South after the end of hostilities was proposed by our right-wing Congressional Representative Renee Ellmers to be renamed for Senator Jesse Helms. This idea was pretty much stomped into the red mud by rational people in state and out. As I recall, even Charlie Pierce took note.

Thus, Rep Hise (R, some county or other) responds.

According to the NC Legislature and Gov. Frack You, stewardship is for suckahs. Take it to the bank, and pass them peanuts over heah.