The Widdershins

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Hello Widdershins!

It’s a bananas world out there. Let’s stay on top of it, but let’s also chillax a little with some music. Our theme today is: favorite covers. Sometimes the cover is better than the original! (I think that’s basically true of everything Bob Dylan’s ever written.) Sometimes the cover is different enough that they both work. Sometimes a song’s been covered so many times (Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” must be in the dozens at this point.) So what are some of your favorites? Here are a few of mine. This is not exhaustive and will be amended in the comments!

 

The first show Letterman hosted after 9/11 featured Tori Amos singing Tom Waits’ “Time.”

Boy George and The Pet Shop Boys recorded a brilliant cover of Dave Berry’s “The Crying Game” for the movie of the same name (which was named after the Berry song).

Madonna made a powerful cover of Marvin Gaye’s “I want you” with the British electronic duo Massive Attack.

Sophie B. Hawkins’ magnificent cover of Bob Dylan’s “I want you” (not to be confused with Gaye’s) impressed Dylan himself.

The Civil Wars’ surprising cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” is a work of genius.

Gavin Friday made a wonderfully spooky cover of U2’s “The Fly.”

Adele’s cover of The Cure’s “Lovesong” is wonderful.

A ravishing cover of Queen’s “These Are The Days of Our Lives” by George Michael, Lisa Stansfield and Queen.

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It’s a mess. All of it. The whole damned thing is a disaster. Dump nukes NATO, issues an executive order to fire some judges, nominates a hyper-partisan former Bill Clinton hunter and Bush White House torturer to be the new SCOTUS (which justice Kennedy might have used some unethical backchannel shenanigans to make happen), Roe is on the chopping block, etc. etc. I don’t need to make a full list, you already know. So where the bloody hell is the Democratic leadership? Chuck? Nancy? Bueller? I think we have all been asking this question for a long time. Why are the national Democratic leaders not leading protests and rallies to oppose Trump? Why is Maxine Waters the only member of Congress to seemingly be an avowed member of The Resistance? They may not have the votes to stop him and McConnell/Ryan – but why are they not making any noise to make it seem like they give a damn? It’s demoralizing, yes? I’ve been raging at them for some time, I know you have too. A few days ago The Hoarse Whisperer wrote an interesting thread on twitter that attempted to answer that question. And I think he made a very compelling argument for why Nancy and Chuck are not on TV every day screaming at Trump and McConnell and generally wreaking havoc, and why it may actually be the correct strategy.

The Hoarse Whisperer argued that by placing themselves in front of the camera as “leaders of the Resistance” Chuck and Nancy and Kamala, etc., will make every single election around the country about the Democratic leadership, not about the specific Democratic candidate, and that would be a disaster for Democrats. Imagine San Francisco liberal Nancy Pelosi every day on TV calling Trump a dumbass. One reason Democrats have managed to flip almost every special election, even in deep red states, is that although Republicans keep trying to tie Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer or Kamala Harris to each candidate, the “establishment” leaders of the party – by staying largely out of the way – allow each candidate to disown them and run on local issues…and then win. (Pelosi actually said recently that she doesn’t care if Democrats like Connor Lamb bashed her as long as they win their elections.) The public thinks their absence a sign of weakness or lack of determination to fight Trump. (It may actually be with Schumer, who is a wuss, but definitely not with Pelosi, who is a legislative warrior.) The public wants to see Pelosi storm the barricades because it will feel like she’s doing something even though legislatively there is nothing she can do at the moment. But in reality all Nancy Pelosi storming barricades would do is make each special election, in every red state, about Nancy Pelosi, the San Francisco liberal. So it’s not a sign of weakness; it is a strategy for Democratic party leaders to stay out of the way and let others be the faces of the Resistance. And the special elections results so far are evidence that the strategy is working.

What do you think about this? I actually was convinced by this argument.

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Another question: this photo of Melanie Trump is from Brussels. Does it look like she had kidney surgery?

And a bit of literature trivia: The Booker Prize is a prestigious British literary award, given each year to an English-language work of fiction published in the UK. To commemorate their 50th anniversary the Bookers decided to create a special award this year, to recognize the best novel out of its past 50 winners. It’s an impressive list made up of Salman Rushdie, William Golding, Hilary Mantel, Kazuo Ishiguro, Margaret Atwood

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Michael Ondaatje

and many other writing geniuses. The judges narrowed the list down to 1 title from each decade and then they let the big words loving public vote on the ultimate winner. And the prize was given to….Michael Ondaatje’s “The English Patient.” I’m sorry to our friend Pat, a former member of our blog, who detested Anthony Minghella’s movie adaptation with every fiber of her body. It’s a shame because I consider it to be one of the top 10 best (English language) movies ever made. And Ondaatje’s novel – quite different from the movie in some key story points, but breathing the same fire in spirit – is truly a masterpiece of words. When I read it I would go back and re-read entire pages because of the beauty of Ondaatje’s language. It is poetry in prose. And the characters he created are magnificent and rich with life. From the title character, the “English” patient – a man who betrayed everything he believed in for a woman he loved; to the young nurse, Hana, who tries to give him comfort in his final days because he reminds her of her loved dead ones and she is desperate to hold on to her memories for as long as she can; to the young Indian sapper Kip, whose life is consumed with finding bombs to diffuse and if he misses one – he knows people will die. “He spends all day searching,” Hana says at one point, “and at night he only wants to be found.” One of the most beautiful passages in the book – read in its entirety in the movie – is from a journal the Patient’s beloved, Katharine, left behind in a cave where she died alone.

My darling, I’m waiting for you — how long is a day in the dark, or a week? The fire is gone now, and I’m horribly cold. I really ought to drag myself outside but then there would be the sun. . . I’m afraid I waste the light on the paintings and on writing these words. We die, we die rich with lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have entered and swum up like rivers, fears we have hidden in, like this wretched cave. I want all this marked in my body. We are the real countries, not the boundaries drawn on maps with the names of powerful men. I know you will come and carry me out into the palace of winds. That’s all I’ve wanted — to walk in such a place with you, with friends, on earth without maps. The lamp is gone now, and I’m writing in the darkness.

Good Sunday Widdershins!

I don’t know about elsewhere but here in the south summer is definitely here. And I know that because when I see the temps shown they also show that awful heat index.  Then add in the humidity and ugh!

Below I’ve added some summer time “classics” .  I’m sure y’all have some that are your faves also so please add them in the comments.

Open thread of course.

(1) Summer in the City~Lovin’ Spoonful

(2) Summertime~Ella Fitzgerald/Louis Armstrong

(3) Summertime Blues~Eddie Cochran

(4) Hot Fun in the Summertime~Sly & the Family Stone

(5) Summer of ’69~Bryan Adams

(6) The Boys of Summer~Don Henley

* * * *

There you go Widdershins – six nice “summer” songs.  Share some of yours below.

Open thread of course.

 

 

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It will be here sooner than we think. Trump announcing his pick to replace Justice “I really don’t care, do you?” Kennedy on the Supreme Court. McConnell says he wants to schedule hearings in September. I suspect the process will be quick. McConnell wants this victory as much as Trump does. The ongoing degradation of America and a functioning government by Mitch McConnell is, well, ongoing and will keep going until he’s all dead. There’s nothing really Democrats can do to stop him. There are no secret rules that they can whip out. Josh Marshall published a letter he received outlining the danger of Trump’s pick, dangers outside of Roe v. Wade and whatever other established laws Republicans want to kill. The danger is Mueller’s investigation. I’ll just link to the article and you should read it in its entirety (it’s not very long.)

I think the only two options Democrats have going forward are 1) change the number of justice on the Court and pack it with liberals and 2) impeach and remove the justices Trump appointed because an illegitimate and criminal President should not appoint anyone. Of course chances of Democrats doing that are about negative 100%. They are always civil to Republicans. (Far more civil to Republicans than they are to fellow Democrats.) So what does it mean for the future? Does anyone know a really good psychic??

MadamaB is busy with her move (post move actually), work and is also sick! So this is an open thread (as always.)

 

Yesterday, Wednesday, June 27, 2018 was a bad day. A very bad day. A shitty fucking day. I can’t even begin to process the news about Justice Kennedy’s resignation. And yet – why are we surprised? We knew he was ready to go. Supreme Court vacancies were on the ballot in 2016. We talked about it. Hillary Clinton talked about it. Some of us considered that to be a really big deal. And others did not. Others dismissed our concerns as hysterics and fear mongering. We all know who they were: Bernie and Jill Stein voters. I know some of them personally. I got yelled at repeatedly for fear mongering. Funny enough, I got yelled at yesterday on Facebook for the same thing. A former colleague I haven’t seen in about 10 years declared that I was toxic by posting so much negative news, that no doubt I thrive on all the bad stuff and he was unfollowing me because I was making him anxious. He then sent me a private message reiterating his position. I told him to fuck off and then blocked him. It’s interesting to see this come full circle.

Some smart people with big platforms really thought Trump wasn’t going to be that bad.

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Lizza and Hayes were far from alone from holding those positions. And I’m yet to see any person in the media come out and say: “You know what? I was actually wrong, I fucked up, holy shit, I’m sorry.” Not one. Each and every person either defends their position (see the entire NY Times political desk, plus…well, everyone everywhere actually.) Those that don’t defend their positions pretend they never held them (like Chris Hayes; he doesn’t think Trumps left of Hillary on anything, but he doesn’t acknowledge entertaining that thought in the past.)

I am worried about the fallout from this. McConnell has already said he wants to vote on this in early autumn. Remember he earlier cancelled August recess. (Question to ponder: did McTurtle know about Kennedy’s retirement and cancel the August recess for this reason?) I’m worried about what Democrats will and will not do about it. Truthfully, there’s nothing they can do. There are no hidden levers of power they are not pulling. They are sitting ducks. But I hope at the very least they make a stink of such intensity that people will talk about it in history books. That’s what we need, it’s what the electoral wants. I’m not convinced Schumer and Pelosi understand that. Certainly Schumer has shown himself to be too weak and accommodating in these Trump times to inspire any confidence. Pelosi is a better fighter, but both she and Schumer just threw Maxine Waters under the bus because of “civility.” That tells me we have a lot to worry about. Since our Democrat leaders still consider “civility” to be so important, do we really expect that they will wreak havoc in Congress? They can’t block McConnell – but it doesn’t mean they must roll over and be civil about it. We are living through time of pure, raw political power. Republicans made that. Somehow Democrats still haven’t recognized this reality.

One reporter tweeted that he ran around Congress trying to get Republicans to comment on their desire to overturn Roe v. Wade with the new Justice and he said not one Republican would talk about it. Each one downplayed the significance of Roe v. Wade, if they agreed to discuss it at all. This is clearly coordinated. Republicans will vote to confirm whatever right wing nut job Trump nominates because they want to fulfill their lifelong dream of overturning Roe v. Wade. But they don’t want to talk about it. Our last hope rests on Collins and Murkowski. Collins said she supports Roe v. Wade and considers it settled law, but she has lied to us on ACA before. Murkowski also says she supports Roe v. Wade, but it’s only one of many considerations. So, our last hope is most likely fool’s hope.

Our last last hope is that if Democrats ever retake control of Congress and the Presidency, they might increase the number of justices to re-balance the court. They should do this. I’m afraid that they will not. We will just live with what we have for generations. And everything is on the table: from Roe. v. Wade to gay marriage to Trump prosecution. Where we go from here…

Speechless

Posted on: June 21, 2018

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I have spent the last 2 days thinking about what the subject of my weekly post here would be. Honestly – I’m just at a loss for words. The revelations about the concentration camps Donald Trump is building for children – including babies – just kind of takes my breath away and leaves me speechless. Over the last couple of years, as we have watched Trump rise, many of us began comparing him to the Nazis, seeing parallels between his rise to power and Hitler’s. There are many who really believe in Godwin’s law that comparisons to Hitler are inevitable and once you compare someone to Hitler you’ve lost the argument. Except we’ve now jumped the shark and even Mike Godwin himself has cancelled his own law. “By all means, compare these shitheads to Nazis. Again and again. I’m with you,” he tweeted in August 2017. I don’t think you need to have millions of people burn in ovens before you say: “You know, maybe it’s not too early to call them Nazis.” As awful as Trump has been, I just was not ready for “concentration camps for babies” awful. Though it should be noted Hillary Clinton warned us about that too: in one of the debates she said Trump intended to take children away from their parents. But who would believe such a thing was possible! All the pundits who laughed at Hillary, called her “over prepared,” and openly shilled for Trump are now dismayed that Trump would do such a thing. Well, she tried to tell you. When Hillary said “I’m the last thing standing between you and the apocalypse” – perhaps the hyperbole wasn’t that big.

So here we are, with baby concentration camps courtesy of Donald Trump. Kirstjen Nielsen, who was at the center of Dubya’s catastrophic Katrina response, has thrown herself into this with body and soul. Trump will wrap this disaster around her neck and throw her overboard soon. She will be the latest casualty of Trump’s magical ability to grind people and their reputations into dust. People like Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, General MacMaster, Rex Tillerson, James Comey, etc. etc. Don’t feel bad for them. Each and every one was a willing participant in this charade. So it will be with Kirstjen Nielsen when Trump blames her for everything and fires her. The disgraced secretary who had no idea most people in Sweden were white will crawl away licking her wounds and not peep a bad word against Trump. And let her crawl away all the way into hell. I am not a religious man, but times like these make me hope there is, in fact, a God who damns evildoers to hell. Because that’s where people like Donald Trump and Kirstjen Nielsen belong: in the fires of hell, for all eternity, amen.

Everything I’m about to say is that obvious. Rights are rules that benefit everyone the same way and make life easier. All the rest — privileges, abuse, crimes — don’t work that way. Considering how simple it is, I’m convinced that when people pretend not to get it, it’s because they don’t want to. That implies talking about it isn’t very useful. The problem lies deeper. But since I don’t know how to fix the actual problem, I’ll talk about it anyway.

Planting seeds

First a few definitions. Rights, the way I’ll be using the word, are based on a given concept of fairness. In a grim development, “fair” is losing its meaning through overuse as every Tom, Dick, and Harry, and especially Donald, uses it to whine about not getting their own way. For the purposes of this discussion, I have to ask you to forget all the abuse of the word and pretend it could actually mean something.

Fairness intuitively means equal treatment, but there are problems with that definition when context is willfully ignored. If a nonexistent equality of circumstances is assumed, then in no time the magnificent impartiality of the law allows rich and poor alike to buy their own fast internet. Willful ignorance always leads to bad consequences, so keeping in mind that context is an integral factor of fairness, let’s look at equal treatment specifically.

The simplest definition of equality is the absence of double standards. What is allowed or punished for P is the same for Q. It’s not a rigid list allowing only specific things. It’s the equal application of general rules to specific situations as they arise.

For instance, let’s say you wanted to keep email secure. You could tell everyone, equally, that they must have their correspondence on a specific IBM server running a specific operating system and use two-factor authentication. But then Person A, let’s call her Amanda, uses a Hewlett Packard server, which is not the one specified. Bad, even though everything is still secure. Person B, on the other hand, let’s call him Egbert, uses the right setup, but has an automated script accessible to anyone to avoid the authentication bother. The specifics are all fine, he’s just added a layer that’s not in the book, so he’s good, even though nothing is secure. Everybody’s immediate reaction to that is, well, that’s stupid. That’s what I mean when I say the specifics of the particular situation are not the point.

Even less fairness can be achieved if Amanda is punished for incorrect email handling, while Egbert keeps his work on AOL and nobody cares. Equal treatment requires the relative distance of each from the goal of security to be judged and for the punishment to be proportional to that distance. That would be equal application of the rule, without double standards.

Keeping the avoidance of double standards firmly in mind, the distinction between rights and not-rights is easy.

Rights are those things we can do which do not curtail anyone else’s ability to do the same thing. They require no double standards, no inequality. My freedom to speak does not limit yours. My need to be free of physical harm doesn’t change your life in any way. My intention to marry someone doesn’t affect your ability to get married. None of those limits others’ abilities to have the same benefits or protections. Those are rights. I’ll go into some examples in a bit.

Privileges, on the other hand, depend on an asymmetry of power. If they’re applied to everyone equally they lead to absurdity in a couple of steps. The asymmetry can come from subtle social privilege or not so subtle economic or military force, but whatever the source, it’s used to allow some actions that would cause impossible situations if everyone did them.

For instance, if you insist on a right to make others live according to your religion, then, since it’s a right, I can equally insist that you live according to mine. But my religion is to kill all members of your religion. (That’s not just an impossible thought experiment. Both Christianity and Islam have clauses, best ignored, about holy war against heathens.) We’ve reached an absurd situation in exactly one step. There’s no way to resolve it on the basis of rights. One side has to have more power to force compliance from the other.

The crowning irony is that nobody has freedom of religion in that system since at any moment others could grab enough power to impose their will instead. Rights impose limits but allow more freedom than a complete free-for-all.

Violence is another easy example. It’s sometimes necessary to stop criminals or invaders, and yet if everyone had license to kill it would be impossible to have any kind of a society. Even the top banana, the last one standing, would soon die. That’s why the state is given a monopoly on the use of force, because some force is necessary but it cannot be a right. Freelance gun nuts are incompatible with having a life, as we’re finding out in the U. S. of A.

Another current example is vaccination. If it’s not voluntary, it’s taking away a person’s control over their own body, which is a very bad idea. There’s no way to apply that loss equally to everyone, and it has to be based on mere power to force compliance. On the other hand, an unvaccinated person can spread preventable disease, which is another kind of attack on a person. Given that spreading disease is a hugely bigger harm than a vaccination, that’s one case where it’s appropriate for the state to enforce compliance.

(Medically, voluntary compliance is much more effective. But purely as a matter of rights, there is no right to spread disease. Vaccination is a good example of how seamlessly rights come to mean what-I-think-is-good-for-me rather than what is good for everyone. We’re all susceptible to it, not just corporate executives and Donalds. Another tangent: obviously, if vaccines caused neurological problems that would be a major harm and change the balance of rights. But they do not. Vaccines do not cause autism. The links are a scientific article and a pdf that list many studies showing no connection and including millions of people. And on the other side is the one Wakefield study which did say there was a connection. That was based on 12 patients, with no controls in the experimental sense, and which turned out to be fraudulent. Developmental neurological issues do happen, unfortunately, but not due to vaccines. Disbelieving the mountain of evidence on vaccines is somewhere between rejecting evolution and rejecting the reality of climate change.)

Rights, unlike the previous examples, involve those actions which can be done by everyone equally. That has an important corollary. Once they’re applied in a way not available to everyone, they’re no longer rights. They’re the abuse of one or another kind of privilege.

Consider, for instance, free speech. It’s mainly interpreted as a right not to be silenced, and that is important. But our bigger problem now is being drowned out. With ads and clickbait shouting at us 24/7, what we need is a complementary right to silence. (Some of my thinking on that and the following issues here.) If we could all broadcast all the time, there would be no point trying to communicate at all. It’s a less bloody version of of the murder free-for-all. Nobody is heard, not even the person shouting.

Another current perversion of the right to free speech is spewing hate speech. The confusion between the two is in the process of destroying democracy, but we’re petrified to do anything about it in case it opens the door to government control over what can be said. That’s not an idle fear. Look at how quickly every resistance to people in power was labelled terrorism, whether it had any of the hallmarks of terrorism or not. Look at how quickly the Donald started labelling everything he didn’t like “fake news.” If he had a hope of shutting it down, he would. It is very important not to go down that road.

But it’s equally important to preserve democracy, which depends on free speech. Somehow, the right to free expression has to be limited to communication and has to exclude hate. I think we could make a start by improving the definition of what constitutes speech. At its essence, it’s about communicating something. Sharing ideas is a fundamentally different process than bamboozling or hurting people. Communication can be universal, hatred cannot be (in a functioning society). It ought to be possible to draw a more accurate line between them.

It’s interesting in this context that the people who use hate speech seem to know quite well what they’re doing, even if they won’t usually admit it. I’ll never forget when Steve Bannon left the White House to return to Breitbart where he’d once again be free to spout anything. “I’ve got my hands back on my weapons,” he said. Speech as a weapon should be no more protected than knives can be used to “communicate.”

If we could wrap our minds around the rights of the situation, we could stop getting sidetracked into thinking punching Nazis will get us anywhere except down the spiralling hole where violence always leads. If we have a right to punch them because we think they’re bad people, they have the same right to punch us because they think we’re bad people. Might makes right is not the route to a fun life. Instead, understanding rights means we know the solution is to figure out the definition of hate speech and then to shut the poison down.

One last example of how not to twist free speech is the policing of discussions of trans issues. Part of the trans activist community feels that transwomen must be considered women in all respects, not just socially but also when biology is in conflict with that categorization. (There is no noticeable equivalent pressure on behalf of transmen, i.e. people born female.) To do other than that is considered transphobic which has such a severe impact on transwomen it can lead some to suicide. Therefore any discussion that does not accept those assumptions is lethal hate speech and must be stopped.

That thinking requires an obvious double standard. We can’t all be on the edge of suicide and demanding from others that they do everything our way or they’re guilty of pushing us into it. Nobody would be able to do anything if emotional blackmail was a legitimate tactic to shut people down.

Transpeople, men and women, do suffer violence, but as with most violence, it is committed by men. (For instance, globally 96% of homicides are committed by men p.95.) Assault and murder are already illegal. They’re also in a different class than speech one doesn’t like. Free speech definitely covers unpopular topics. Trying to police women, for instance discussing pregnancy, by using emotional blackmail because men are committing crimes is very much an illegitimate suppression of speech that should be free.

As the free speech examples show, distinguishing between rights and their abuse gets into some gray areas. But just because there are murky zones doesn’t mean we have to give up on the clear ones. When there is actual doubt, by all means let’s give that area the benefit of the doubt. When it’s pretty clear that something is nothing but trash talk, we should stop protecting it and throw it out.

I’ve tried to show how it’s possible to distinguish rights from privilege by seeing whether the action in question can be done by everyone equally. When not, people aren’t demanding their rights. They’re demanding special treatment. The title isn’t totally facetious. Rights are like a dance where everyone follows the same rules to everyone’s benefit.

Crossposted from Acid Test


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July 2018
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Kellyanne Conway’s new job

Take the kids to work? NO!

That moment when *your* pussy gets grabbed

You go gurl! h/t Adam Joseph

“The” Book

Nice picture of our gal

Time till the Grifter in Chief is Gone

Hopefully soonerJanuary 21st, 2021
2.5 years to go.

Mueller Time!

Wise Words from Paul Ryan

B-I-N-G-O!

Only the *best* politicans bought by the NRA

Marching for their lives

Perfect Picture

Rudy: oh shit the pee tape IS real!

Need Reminders?

Never too early to shop for Christmas

“Look this way”

Manafort’s Jail Photo

Indeed who?

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