The Widdershins

Good weekend, Widdershins.  I have a whopping case of laryngitis.  Therefore, it is only reasonable to spend the weekend dis cussing music about talking.  I can live subliminally through these tunes while resting my vocal chords.  My throat is scratchy, but not awful.  I just do not have a voice.  I have even stopped answering the phone, because I cannot croak at a sufficient volume to be heard.  Yes. it is awful.

So, please join me in musical conversation, or whatever else captures your fancy in this wide open thread.

(1) Sweet Talking Guy – The Chiffons

(2) Jive Talkin’ – The BeeGees

(3) Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About –  Bonnie Raitt

(4) Talk to Me – Sunny and the Sunglows

(5) Everybody’s Talkin at Me –  Harry Nilsson



So has anyone seen Chip today?  I’m sure you all know Chip.  If you’re like me and you have ever signed an online blog petition of any liberal group, once they’ve got your name and email address they are going to continue to email you and it will go on…and on…and on.  The story line is always the same:  Can you chip in $25 to help out in our fight against:  The Koch Bros, ALEC, the Republicans, every right wing kook out there.

Back during the 2008 primaries, I made a number of contributions to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.  None were that large and I certainly didn’t go over or even approach the limit of what an individual can give.  Still those actions were enough to get me on “lists”.  Between that and the online petitions I have signed, I sorta feel like the girl in high school who wondered why she got so many calls at home until she found that someone had scrawled on the boys’ bathroom walls:  “For a good time, call Suzy 555-1212″.  At first I was flattered.  Wow, it’s so important that I contribute to this campaign.  Nancy Pelosi is counting on me to help the Dems regain control of the House. Such a heavy lift there, but yeah I can do it (no I can’t – no one can help you get the House back right now). Then they started bargaining with me about how much they wanted.  “Can you just chip in $5.00 to help out?” When what they really wanted to say was “HEY!  It’s 5 measly bucks!  And besides, we know you spend more than that on:  pizza, beer, nachos smokes and the other stuff”

And then the emails got more plaintive:  “Fred I’m begging you…”.  And then the next one would be “Fred don’t make me beg again to throw some dollahs at our effort.”  Finally it was the plaintive “Please don’t delete – this is too important!”.  Yeah, okay. [del]

And then it was Mary Landrieu.  Now I have contributed to Mary several times, but I reached my limit which was self imposed.  My reasons for contributing were varied:  Landrieu is more of a centrist than to the left of the party and when it has been important (like in post-Katrina nola and Louisiana) she’s brought home the bacon and then some.  She has been successful in delivering contracts for ships to be built by Louisiana shipyards and helped secure a portion of the BP oil spill money to go to the state.  In other words, she has served her state well. And the other reason is her opponent Bill Cassidy sucks.  But I’m even getting a little tired of Mary right now.  I have done what I could within my self-imposed spending limits but she can’t take no for answer.

But then, I found out some stuff about Mary.  Mary has been two-timing me and it’s with the “big boys”.  She’s not only sending me nice little emails and letters asking me to help out but she’s courting these other fellas and I’m just not sure what she’ll have to do for them, if you get my drift.  The info below is from a blog Louisiana Voice written by Tom Aswell.

Tom did the research on the major candidates this year to research their contributions, and as he said:

Because we have long been opposed to the dominance of big money in the electoral process, particularly on behalf of the best politicians money can buy, we decided to basically ignore the individual contributions in favor of shining the bright disinfecting light of sunshine on Political Action Committee (PAC) money.

It is, after all, PAC money that reduces the role of the individual voter to that of insignificant pawn even though it is that same individual voter/insignificant pawn who must ultimately go to the polls and pull the lever for these instruments of the special interests. In effect, we vote not for a particular candidate, but for the special interest or lobbyist of our choice when we cast that ballot. And yet, because we must, in the final analysis, be the ones who actually go through the process of voting, we delude ourselves into believing that our form of corrupt democracy actually works.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sometimes, just like the confluence of rivers, events roll out just like well-choreographed troops presenting themselves for review. Last night was one of those times.Fox photo

Last evening was the one and only debate between Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes. It was an hour — sixty whole minutes — where the two candidates, who have subjected the good citizens of Kentucky to over $100 Million in ads, got to speak for themselves.

The event itself was lackluster for the most part — akin to anticipating a beautifully wrapped Christmas present and finding socks. Over and above the novelty of actually having a debate, what was noteworthy?

The race is symptomatic of the larger political affliction in the post-Citizen United world. It is a world where the message can be as corrosive and fantasy-infused as anything ever oozed from the addled brain of Hunter Thompson, but it is world where the messenger paying the freight on the manure haul is never identified and forever remains slithering under the rocks of a tax-exempt charity. A tax-exemption where the cost is footed by the rest of us for the privilege of corrupting the political process.

The cavalcade of organizations taking part in the Kentucky senate race would take up a good-sized phone book. There’s the NRA, the national Realtors, Crossroads, Americans for Prosperity, Bankers’ Association, sundry “Leadership” councils, Senate PACs, and the Brothers Koch masquerading as anything but what they are. To hear these purveyors of political poppycock tell it, Alison personally smuggled about 48,000 Latinos across the border in the trunk of her car and drove them to the nearest welfare office. Well, not all 48,000 — she had to drop off the ISIS terrorists and those with Ebola at daycare centers, Starbucks, or Churchill Downs.

She then drove the getaway car for thousands of home invasions where she had, just days before, personally confiscated all their guns. With her being a particularly talented multi-tasker, after she finished the home invasions, she foreclosed on their mortgages. And this is the really amazing part, Alison Lundergan Grimes is Barack Obama in drag! You might ask how, but it isn’t that difficult these days for the President to get away from D.C. for extended periods of time given the narcolepsy afflicted Secret Service.

Of course I am exaggerating — except for the part about Alison being Obama in drag. No one can prove me wrong since the two will never be seen together on the campaign trail. There have been more pictures of Obama in anti-Grimes ads than there have been pictures of her.

KET photoYou have to hand it to McConnell though. With 69 billionaire contributors and only 3% of his donations coming from contributors under the $200.00 watermark, it takes some mighty serious political danglies to have as your campaign positions: Against the minimum wage, against reducing student loan costs, against paycheck fairness, and against mortgage refinancing legislation. And what is he for: Reducing food stamps affecting 850,000 Kentuckians (1 out of 5) and eradicating “root and branch” the health insurance for over 500,000 citizens who have never before enjoyed the experience or the well-being of going to a doctor outside an emergency room.

Given the particularly rough and tumble of this year’s midterms, these ads are pretty “run-of-the-mill” stuff, but the political environment in which they run is what makes this post-Citizen United world so apocalyptic. The playbook is delegitimization. Virtually all of talk radio and Fox News, inexplicably the most watched cable channel, are 24/7/365 engaged in the systematic delegitimizing of the presidency. I don’t for a moment believe their actions can be limited to just the occupant of the Oval Office, it is atrophying the presidency itself. It was done to Bill Clinton, it has been done to Obama, and it will be attempted upon Hillary.

Woe be to us all if the Senate race in Kentucky is prophetic, we will all be drowning in the river of money unleashed by the Supreme Court in their ill-conceived and activist decision in Citizens United. In one way it has come full circle since Mitch McConnell has been at the forefront of opening the flood gates of unlimited contributions since his election in 1984.

Here’s hoping your Tuesday is a good one — take the conversation wherever you like since this is an open thread.

Good Monday, Widdershins.   Glad tidings from the Vatican today for all who claim humanity, but especially so for all of our Rainbow Widdershins.

After much soul-searching, an enclave of bishops has published a document outlining the need to find a place within the Church for gays and same-sex couples.  This is a tall order for an institution which asserts that sex is solely for procreation, but on the bright side, neither birth control nor abortion will be an issue.

The Huffington Post notes that the document did not relax the basic RC attitudes, the author called its language “less judgemental” and “more compassionate”.

The document will be the basis for discussion for the second and final week of the assembly, known as a synod, which was called by Pope Francis and focuses on the theme of the family.

It will also serve for further reflection among Catholics around the world ahead of another, definitive synod next year.

“Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a further space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home,” said the document, known by its Latin name “relatio”.

“Are our communities capable of proving that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?” it asked.

And this:

It said that the 1.2 billion-member Church should see the development of its position on homosexuals as “an important educational challenge” for the global institution.

While the Church continued to affirm that gay unions “cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman”, it should recognize that there could be positive aspects to relationships in same-sex couples.

“Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners,” the document said.

Pope Francis has said the Church must be more compassionate with homosexuals, saying last year: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge.”

The Church teaches that while homosexual tendencies are not sinful, homosexual acts are.

The document also showed considerable opening to heterosexual couples who were married only in civil services or who were living together, mentioning “positive aspects” of such unions, especially if the couple saw them as a prelude to marriage in the Church.

No doubt, this represents a sea change in the Holy See.  Whether it is an actual invitation to the gay community or just part of  the time-honored “hate the sin, love the sinner” principle remains to be seen.

This is an open thread.


Happy Friday Widdershins.  It’s the weekend and I’ve found some out of the ordinary items for your weekend perusal. Enjoy!

Broken BadlyBreaking Bad

Three terrified people screaming out of an upper-story window at a house in Dothan, Ala., on August 24th drew police in a hurry. They were trapped, they yelled–unable to escape because intruders were still inside, shooting at them. One “victim” said she had been stabbed–and the blade broken off inside her.

With their own shotgun, the three had blown out several windows and walls defending themselves. They had even ripped out an upstairs toilet and sink and dropped it on an intruder, outside. Police calmed the situation and later told reporters that there never were intruders–that the “hostages” had imagined the whole thing except for the estimated $10,000 damage and the woman’s superficial, “defensive” stab wounds.

The home’s methamphetamine lab apparently remained intact.

Homeland Security

Apparently, there’s growing concern that the Islamist State of Iraq and Syria could attack the United States from within — cops just don’t believe that terrorists will start by hiding in cars on Mississippi school property.

That allegedly didn’t stop Lisa Carol Roche from using ISIS as an alibi. The Hurley woman is accused of burglarizing cars in the parking lot of her children’s school, then telling officers that she was “looking for ISIS terrorists,” according to Gulf Live.

Roche, 41, was allegedly caught stealing sunglasses and other items from cars at East Central High School, FOX 10 reports. She remained in Jackson County Adult Detention Center Friday.

She’s been charged previously with careless driving, felony fraud and felony embezzlement. She faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted of commercial burglary.

Gawker points out that it’s unclear whether she’ll be questioned about her terrorist intel in court.

I’m gonna need more Kleenex

Whale spoutingThe job of determining stress levels in whales is itself apparently stressful. The most reliable information about tension lies in hormones most accurately measured by researchers’ boarding a boat and sidling up to a whale and waiting until it blasts snot out of its blowhole. Catching enough of it (or wiping it off of their raincoats), scientists can run the gunk through chemical tests. However, a team of engineering researchers at Olin College in Needham, Mass., told the Boston Globe in September that they were on the verge of creating a radio-controlled, mucus-trapping drone that would bring greater civility to the researchers’ job (and reduce the add-on stress the whales must feel at being stalked by motorboats).

Fries Are Extra

Ha! Lowly peasant. Your burger is topped with Salish Alderwood sea salt and shaved black truffles? That sounds boring.

Sit down, expensive burgers of yore. The “Glamburger” is here to kick your privilege in the face. All fancy burgers have Hamburgersome form of black truffle and a Kobe Wagyu beef patty from Japan — this one throws in lobster, beluga caviar, venison, a duck egg and an edible gold leaf. And it only costs $1,768!

That’s right, kids. A layer of gold on your burger. To eat!

Chris Large, head chef at Honky Tonk in London, teamed up with Groupon to create this monstrosity in celebration of selling its five-millionth food and drink voucher in Britain. He told UPI that he plans to hold a contest to give away a free, 2,618-calorie Glamburger.

“After sourcing the best possible ingredients to create this masterpiece, the winner will certainly have a dinner to remember,” Large said.

The Guinness Book of World Records lists New York’s Le Burger Extravagant ($295)as the most expensive burger. A $500 burger in Beverly Hills unofficially topped that record in 2012 with its flashy ingredients, and the largest commercially available burger weighs 777 pounds and costs $5,000.

Government Work

Megan Campbell’s parked car was hit by a van driven by a city worker, so now she wants the city to pay for the damages. Sounds reasonable. But Campbell was the city worker driving the van that hit her own car. The city is reviewing the incident.

Wow, What a Ride!

Soulful and adrenaline-pumped, cyclist Danny MacAskill’s stunt ride through the gorgeous Cuillin Ridgeline on his native Isle of Skye in Scotland will keep you on the edge of your seat.

The Ridge” has collected more than 10 million views in a matter of days. At about 4 minutes in I got that weak knee feeling even though I was sitting down.


Please take the conversation in any direction you desire since, as always, this is an open thread.




Good Thursday, Widdershins.  Welcome to the big, wide, wonderful world of Level 4 pathogens.

Ebola is not new – the first cases were described in 1976.  June of 1976 brought an epidemic in the Sudan;, then another erupted in August in Zaire, which is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The Ebola virus is named according to various sites where the various epidemics began.  The Ebola River contributed the name of the virus, then Bundibugyo (BDBV), Tai Forest (TAVF), Sudan (SUDV), Reston (RESTV), and Zaire (EBOV) lent their name to the five known types.  All but the Reston can infect humans with varying degrees of severity. Ebola Zaire is the worst of them, and sadly is also the one currently running rampant in West Africa.

EBOV has the highest mortality rate, averaging 80-90% in previous epidemics.  Since many of these episodes occurred in less than desirable medical settings, I cannot help but believe that a more controlled environment would have better results.  Nigeria has eradicated the problem by using barrier nursing and proper burial techniques.

Please understand that EBOV is spread through contact with body fluids from an actively infected person.  Body fluids include urine, feces, blood, saliva, and stomach contents.  In an abundance of caution, many also include sweat and tears in this list.  Essentially, EBOV is spread the same way as AIDS and Hepatitis, but there is a much shorter period before the disease becomes apparent, and a much smaller window of opportunity for treatment.  You will not get Ebola because you sat next to someone whose cousin’s next-door neighbor’s best friend sat three rows behind a person who later developed Ebola,  (Don’t laugh.  I used to get calls at the hospital of a similar stripe whenever meningitis came to town.)

So here we find ourselves with the index case having already died, and a contact en route to the hospital with some early symptoms.  Clearly, the home team fumbled the kick off and need to regroup.  As a nurse who spent twenty or so years at triage, I am still shaking me head over the first ER visit, when Thomas Eric Duncan spoke to the triage nurse at Dallas Presbyterian.  The nurse apparently documented that he had a history of foreign travel, sent the chart and the patient back for treatment, and things went downhill thereafter.  Now, the earliest symptoms of EBOV are generic – fever, abdominal pain, general malaise – and could be a zillion other things, but Mr. Duncan’s point of departure was a really big red flag that somehow got missed.  Of course, the hospital initially blamed the nurse (it’s always either the bloody nurse or the will of God), then made the horrifying discovery that she had documented appropriately.  Then it was the fault of the EMR that the screen did not interface with the physician’s, then it was something else.  Of course, I have to ask myself why the nurse never followed up on this.  I can absolutely promise you that if I thought I had triaged an Ebola patient, I would have been on that phone asking questions at regular intervals.

It all goes downhill from there.  Mr. Duncan’s poor family needed intercession from CDC and PHD to get him re-admitted to the hospital, at which time they found themselves trapped in an apartment full of contaminated linens, towels, floors and the like without the supplies to clean it up.  Of course, that would presume that they had the knowledge base to knew how to do a terminal disinfection.  We don’t think that the virus lives all that long outside of a host, but it can’t be terribly pleasant.

Nursing staffs should know how to care for an Ebola patient, as they are taught from the time that they are students how to maintain Secretion Precautions.  We cover our hair, wear long disposable gowns with snug cuffs, double gloves and a mask.  In these cases, a mask with an eyeshield would be even better, as eye splashes are a nasty way to transmit pathogens.  What nurses are currently objecting to – and most strenuously – is that they see staff members at Emory as well as decontamination techs suited up like a casting call for Ghostbusters while someone hands them a paper gown and a box of gloves. I can’t blame them one bit.  Someone is going to have to pony up the funds for top quality gear, or we will have few nurses. There’s already a shortage, so if we make them sick/kill them off/scare them away, it will be really counterproductive.  A police sergeant who never touched anything while delivering an order of quarantine has developed some symptoms, so the old “abundance of caution” principle is now in high gear and he has been hospitalized.

We had a similar sideshow in Miami over the weekend.  A twelve year old who had arrived from Africa to go on a cruise developed flu-like symptoms and presented to a local hospital for treatment.  Said local hospital decided to rule out Ebola and transferred him to Jackson Hospital.  A number if my friends still work there, and told me that everyone got all suited up at 8 am, then waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Seems that the Mayor of Miami Beach and the Governor needed to make speeches prior to transfer, and Fire Rescue decided to line their unit with plastic.  Somewhere around 2 the patient arrived, just before the initial – and negative – blood test came in,  Chalk it up to a drill, folks.

Here’s the problem, as I see it.  Hospitals, health departments and CDC have all had funding slashed. All have fewer people working harder.   CDC is now worrying about seat belts and auto safety as well, rather than spending full time concerning themselves about controlling disease.  They virtually eradicated malaria, so we know  they can do it.  We have no Surgeon General because the Repubs are horrified that the nominee has the temerity to consider gun safety a health issue.  The whole thing looks ominously like the early days of AIDS when we missed the bus completely, only now we’re not even certain who’s driving.

There’s also the tiny problem of how to treat this.  There are few effective remedies, but some show promise.  The initial cases were treated with convalescent serum and an Ebola-specific antiviral.  They did well, but there apparently is no specific anti-viral left.  Convalescent serum is gleaned from the blood of someone who has made a recovery from Ebola, and I doubt that there is a current donor pool of any size. There is another drug which failed Mr. Duncan, but may have better results if used earlier in the course of the illness.   It’s a good opportunity to track the pharmacology, establish a treatment protocol, and strive to establish a good supply of whatever seems to work best. .  A vaccine would be even nicer, but a high level of cooperation between drug manufacturers and government will be needed, and recent history suggests that this may not go so well.  A nurse in Spain has died from EBOV, which demonstrates that the virus has found its way into Europe.  This will not make screening any easier. As of now, traveler’s from West Africa are screened and asked to see a doctor if they develop symptoms within 21 days. Adding travelers from Europe to the mix will blow those numbers through the roof.

For now, let’s just cross our fingers and hope that this brings out the best in mankind.

This is an open thread.


Just in time for the “holiday season”, Wal-mart decided it couldn’t wait to hand out the lumps of coal to its employees.  The company has decided it can no longer afford to offer health insurance coverage to its part-time employees.  Further, they decided they also needed to increase the cost of coverage for their employees who will still have coverage.

The world’s largest retailer said it would raise health insurance premiums for its entire U.S. workforce beginning in January. In addition, Wal-Mart will end coverage for employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week, a change that will impact 2 percent of U.S. workers, or about 30,000 people.

Okay…fair enough.  The company says it is experiencing “higher health care costs” and also “It said more people than expected had enrolled in its plans and its annual forecast for health care costs had risen by 50 percent.”.  Okay, I think I get this now:  Wal-Mart offered health care coverage to its employees…employees signed up for that coverage…Wal-Mart goofed and didn’t expect that many employees to sign up. (?)  Huh..what?  The largest retailer in the world doesn’t employee HR or finance people smart enough to guestimate how many folks would sign up for their health care plans?  Well I certainly think heads should roll, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of their rank and file employees.

The decision to reduce coverage came a week before the company’s chief executive, Doug McMillion, is due to face fund managers and analysts at an annual meeting for the investment community. Wal-Mart has been struggling to boost profits, with U.S. same-store sales flat or declining for the last six quarters.

Wal-Mart said the move would bring it in line with many of its competitors. Target Corp and Home Depot Inc recently announced cuts to benefits in light of the Affordable Care Act.

Ah yes, the good ole A.C.A., aka Obamacare.  Well I guess they had to blame it on something.  Now, reading the article I could not help but laugh out loud at this:

Wal-Mart’s Welborn [senior vice president of global benefits] said on a conference call that the company had not yet figured out how much it would save by cutting benefits. The company said in August it expected to spend $500 million on U.S. healthcare this year, up from its estimate of $330 million just a few months earlier.

The yahoo article points out that the decision “would primarily hurt lower-income workers, many of whom are being left behind in the economic recovery.”.  And that brings up another interesting little fact that I’m sure some of you are are aware of,, either by personal experience or stories from family members and it’s called the great wage slowdown.

The typical American family makes less than the typical family did 15 years ago, a statement that hadn’t previously been true since the Great Depression. Even as the unemployment rate has fallen in the last few years, wage growth has remained mediocre. Last week’s jobs report offered the latest evidence: The jobless rate fell below 6 percent, yet hourly pay has risen just 2 percent over the last year, not much faster than inflation. The combination has puzzled economists and frustrated workers.

The Times article goes into a lot of economic stuff which I’m just about totally unfamiliar with.  The writer does say Obama gave a speech touting the unemployment drop and that surely good times will be here again soon.  One thing I found ironic from the Times piece was this little nugget:

As for the other entry in the ledger, the biggest reason to think economic growth may translate more directly into wage gains is the turnabout in health costs. After years of rapid increases, they have slowed sharply in the last three years. Mr. Obama likes to give more credit to the 2010 health care lawthan most observers do, but he’s not wrong about the trend’s significance.

Ohhhhhkay then.  So health costs have gone down (sharply?) yet they are high enough that Wal-Mart must stop offering coverage for some of its part-time employees.  My head is spinning here.  I guess the good thing for the Wal-Mart employees affected is that they will be able to look for health care on the exchanges since they won’t have company-sponsored insurance any longer.  After all, Wal-Mart has got to watch that bottom line, especially if any of the Wal-Mart heirs still have company stock.  And speaking of those Wal-Mart heirs…

When people speak of the uber-rich, they surely have the Wal-Mart heirs in mind.

Consider the Wal-Mart heirs: Since 1983, their net worth has increased a staggering 6,700 percent. According to a report released last week by the union-backed Economic Policy Institute, here’s how many American families earning the median income it would have taken to match the Waltons’ wealth in a given year:

  • In 1983, the Walton family’s net worth was $2.15 billion, equivalent to the net worth of 61,992 average American families, about the population of…Peoria, Arizona
  • In 1989, the Walton family’s net worth was $9.42 billion, equivalent to the net worth of 200,434 average American families, about the population of…Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • In 1992, the Walton family’s net worth was $23.8 billion, equivalent to the net worth of 536,631 average American families, about the population of…San Antonio, Texas
  • In 1998, the Walton family’s net worth was $48 billion, equivalent to the net worth of 796,089 average American families, about the population of…The State of New Mexico
  • In 2001, the Walton family’s net worth was $92.8 billion, equivalent to the net worth of 1,077,761 average American families, about the population of…Chicago, Illinois
  • In 2013, the Walton family’s net worth was $144.7 billion, equivalent to the net worth of 1,782,020 average American families, about the population of…The State of Louisiana

I just have to wonder if that’s what Mr. Sam had in mind.

Okay, this is an open thread.  Talk amongst yourselves (if you wish!).




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