Friday, July 28, 2017

Happy Friday!

Well - there are consequences for posting early - after all those mean things I said about John McCain yesterday, he goes out and does the right thing - the Obamacare repeal bill fails, thanks to his vote. I don't quite know why he didn't just vote no a couple days ago, and spare us al this farce - I can't imagine he thought the bill would get better in that time; it's a puzzler. Though I suspect the chance to spend another day in front of the cameras might have had something to do with it. Still - he can grandstand all he wants (he's a politician; that's that they do) as long as he votes right, and he did do that. This is a big one - a bill that would consign tens of thousands of people to death, many more to suffering and bankruptcy and anxiety and even more dependence on their employers than ever - for a tax cut for the rich. There are differences of opinion about how to run the country, and there are laws that are obviously evil and self-destructuve. we've been in the era when almost everything the Republicans actually do is the latter - it will get worse, until Republicans start breaking with their leadership. If they do, the worst aspects of the GOP might quickly crumble - we could go back to arguing about defense budgets and marginal tax rates and Obamacare vs Medicare for all - battles we can afford to lose.

And - a couple words on the Democrats, who for once, never wavered in their commitment to killing this bill; and to Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who have also been against it for a while, and voted against it consistently. Amusing to watch Trump try to bully Murkowski yesterday, and have her remind him where the money comes from - having congressmen and senators trying to govern again might be an unexpected compensation for having Trump as president. Still - good to see.

And now? Maybe some music to usher in this weekend? I am off to Vermont for a day or so, off to Bernie country, bearing gifts from the land of Susan Collins (lobstahs!) Playing around with soccer drafts - which probably confused me about times and dates, since I was looking at it a couple days ago and seeing GMT time and dates. Those crazy English and their crazy time schemes! Anyway - song, a song?

Gloria Gaynor seems relevant this morning:

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Expression of Concern

Hello, Thursday! [Edit: Oops - today's not Friday; I jumped the gun posting this; I've gotten too used to only posting on Fridays... But it is only Thursday now.] It is cooler outside, rained earlier - if anyone cares about the weather.

Some weeks I try to avoid saying much about politics, but today, I see a rant coming on. It's been a bad week in the Republic. Last week, this time, it looked like the ACA repeal effort had hit enough of a snag that we might get a breather - no! More procedural shenanigans! more tricks to sneak it through in the dead of night! Requiring a vote, which brought Honorable Republican John McCain from his sickbed to vote - where, in perfectly typical "Honorable" Republican John McCain fashion, he voted to advance the bill, while making a speech complaining about the irregular procedures used to bring it to a vote. It is almost a caricature of what we lefties have been saying about McCain for years - he will Express Concern, but god forbid he ever vote against the fascists. As a politician, he is a coward - he will never go against his party leadership (the people who control his committee assignments and power), but he also can't just embrace their villainy like he meant it, he has to wring his hands and click his tongue and let everyone know that he has Grave Concerns. All it does is convince you that he has no convictions, or at least, lacks the guts to ever vote them, whatever they are. Though more likely, he's as vicious as any Republican, but is smarter than the rest and knows how ugly and unpopular their policies are, so he votes his interests (steal from the poor, give to the rich) but pretends - something....

He's still got some chances not to leave the world on this note. we have Trump banning transgender people from military service (stir up the base Donny!), a policy even Honorable Republican John McCain can see is ignorant and evil. He has Expressed Concern. Will he do anything substantive to stop it? And of course the ACA repeal process is still grinding along, there are votes to come - will HRJM in the end decide he'd rather not help kill an extra 20,000 odd people a year? Or will, in the end, he make some speeches about it, but vote to go along, since he wouldn't want to be the one to cost the Koch brothers a few dollars. I am not optimistic, but having half-praised him last week, and trashed him this week, I would be very happy to get a chance to half-praise him again...

All this, I should say, makes me wonder what my own senator, Susan "if she were a guy I'd settle this Aaron Burr style" Collins is doing right. She loves to Express Concern over things as well, but she also manages to cast a lot of votes against the GOP. I know, these are probably meaningless votes - she probably gets permission to vote no, as long as the bill is going to pass - but she seems to be the one who gets that permission most of the time. She must have some juice to be able to do that all the time. That has to help. Though again - we'll see if she ever votes against the GOP when it counts - but she certainly shows more guts than McCain.

All right. I have a lot of rants stored up. I'll end with this one - got into a bit of an argument yesterday about health care - someone quoted a Canadian wondering why American's couldn't do what every other rich country on earth does,and provide reasonable health care to its citizens. Someone started arguing, the usual mash up of Canadian wait times and Obamacare premium hikes and Obamacare wait times and NHS cost triage and the like. It was all generic enough, and the others started congratulating each other on the value of intelligent discussion and being able to disagree and still be civil - so I became somewhat less civil - what's tens of thousands of deaths and bankruptcies among friends?

That brought a response, telling me to check my facts because bankruptcies went up under Obama. Now - I knew that was false, having seen a couple stories on the subject over the last week or so - but it's worth seeing what you could find. 5 or 10 minutes later and I went back, pointing out that a bit of google work told me How Obamacare Helped Slash Personal Bankruptcy by 50%. I added that though that was a news story, I found the same info on the court sites. To which he replied, where did you read that? probably some site that fits your ideology! well, gentle reader - did not react civilly. I posted the link to the federal courts: US Courts bankruptcy data, and the word "imbecile" might have come up. I mean, if someone says they looked it up on the court sites - maybe they did!

Anyway. I don't post that just to brag about winning an easy fight on the internet - I post it because sometimes it's people like this guy who drive me crazy more than the straight up Confederates you run into online. Libertarians - both sides do it types. He writes complete sentences; he doesn't call names or lost his temper; he doesn't straight up defend the Republicans in their latest assaults on the Republic, but he weasels around them. He argues with people advocating for single payer; he cites horror stories about Obamacare (and Canada and the UK; if he'd heard of France or Germany,and could find horror stories out of France or Germany, he might have cited them too, though I know that's harder work). He tells you as if it were true that government never works, he says he doesn't want government or an insurance company telling you what health care you should have. He is very proud that he thinks for himself. And all of it adds up to support for repealing Obamacare and killing 20,000 people a year.

That stuff gets under my skin, more than the unpaid Fox News propagandists do. The Confederates have the courage of their convictions, at least - they defend what they stand for. Maybe they have to defend it by lying about it, but at east they are willing to lie about it. The other guys - the McCain types - give cover to the open fascists. They fill the discourse with bullshit, but presented in complete sentences and in the shape of a real argument, and with a veneer of politeness, that is meant to neutralize opposition to whatever the GOP is up to. They are civil - you call one of them an imbecile, and you're the uncivil one. But it's all maddening. There is no reason to be civil to someone who says government run health care doesn't work - it works. It's been tried and proven. Europe has had it 60 years or so, and it works. It's a settled debate. Why do I have to be nice to people who claim otherwise? Why do I have to be nice to someone who complains about their premiums going up, and then complains because someone in England was denied coverage for something? Why do I have to pretend to take someone seriously when they say they don't want anyone, government or insurance company, deciding what medical care they should have? Why do people say things like that? What on earth could something like that actually mean?

If someone is paying for your health care, that entity is going to have some say in what you can buy. That, in itself, is an argument for government health care, because the government is answerable to its citizens. Now - in the USA, which is barely crawling along as a democratic state, government is a dubious force... But we are not alone in this world. There are many places in this world where the government works reasonably well - where people vote, where they have rights, where they participate, where they hold governments accountable. Even here, I would have more control over my health care if the government ran it than if Blue Cross Blue Shield runs it. If we had a functional government, this would be indisputable.

Enough. Whether we have a functional government is a rant for a different day.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Stars, No Stars

Happy Friday, if happy is what it is. It has turned hot, even here in the vacation state - making it a challenge to find ways of getting around the heat. I stick to my chair - it is warm. There is respite here, though, it ids always cool by the river...

I should, coming in here once a week, manage to find something to say about the world. Donald Trump is still president, though still a fool; Republican health care savagery is on hold, though it's hard to get rid of it; John McCain is gravely ill, leading to a certain amount of hand wringing, at least on left - he voted against us, he got a free pass sometimes for talking like he might vote differently, but he never did - but you still had to respect the man. I certainly suspect that if he'd managed to win the residency in 2000, we'd be a lot better off... I hope he recovers, as a person, and really - if all Republicans were John McCain, we'd be a lot better off. It is a luxury to have opponents you can respect - who can respect Donald Trump? What kind of monster would respect Donald Trump?

On the other hand, McCain did elevate Sarah Palin to prominence, and that is part of why we have the scum we have now in Washington, so... I've never quite been able to shake the conviction McCain did that to make sure he'd lose in 08 - that's a mighty price to pay for getting Obama elected though.

Enough politics. I could note the passing of another rock star, Chester Bennington or Linkin Park - however, the less said the better, lest I bring up my opinion of Linkin Park. Its too bad about him, though. All musicians are, in fact, heroes, as musicians - I don't have to be a fan to respect them, and mourn their passing. Though I'm not posting any Linkin Park at this blog...

What else? TV countdown at WITD, but I hope you know that my now. My parts of that are still a ways off, though I hope to do some writing on the subject here, too... On that score - TV? I am, for the first time in a long while, watching a TV series in (nearly) real time - Twin Peaks Return, of course. I could be watching Game of Thrones in real time - I have HBO these days, first time in ages (I had it in 2010 just long enough to watch the first season of Treme in real time - that was a promotional offer, so that was all of that.) I did watch 4 seasons of Game of Thrones in a bunch a couple years ago, then read the books - so it might be tempting. But it is on opposite Twin Peaks: it is incomprehensible to me why someone would watch GOT over Twin Peaks. (Obviously, in this day and age, you DVR both - it comes down to which you watch first.) Maybe it isn't incomprehensible - GOT is a fine show (well - the first 4 seasons were - the 5th sounded like it jumped the shark pretty badly; even though I hadn't read the books when it came out, it sounded as though the show went completely off the rails that season. It sounded like a violation of the books - and of the show that I had seen to that point, since the show still felt like it matched the books, more or less. Maybe - through 3 seasons anyway. That is a topic for another day.) But even at its best, compared to Twin Peaks - it feels like, I don't know - comparing Lord of the Rings to Ulysses. For all of Tolkien's powers, it shrivels to nothing beside Joyce.

I know that's a minority opinion, all of it - that Twin Peaks is that much better than Game of Thrones - that Joyce is that much better (and worthy of your time) than Tolkien - and, probably most of all, that Joyce is that much more enjoyable than Tolkien (though that is true: Ulysses is a joy to read; LOTR is a chore. The Hobbit or the Silmarillion, I can make a case for - but reading the Lord of the Rings would be work, and I'm not going to do it. This is as a source of pleasure alone - never mind quality...) A minority opinion, though getting back to the TV shows - one that might mark certain boundaries. Twin Peaks is probably the cinephiles' choice - it certainly seems that way on Twitter. It's a show for movie lovers - though probably a minority form of movie lover - cinephiles - taken in all its connotations... The difference tends to bring out the way TV and films are different - GOT is TV, all the way - and TV is far more literary than film. That is one of its strengths - it can tel different kinds of stories, differently - long, complex stories, with complicated relationships among characters, with the stories, relationships and everything else made explicit, explored - words are powerful, and TV allows for words to be used differently than film, as such... This version of Twin Peaks puts it all in the images and sounds, the editing, the flow of information - a film; if you were making literary comparisons, more like a poem than prose....

That's part of it, though not all. It is also simply true that Twin Peaks is better than Game of Thrones - the way Ulysses is better than Lord of the Rings. (Or A Song of Ice and Fire, for that matter.) It's art - or better art; it beats it at its own game. And to be honest, some of that is due to the fact that TwinPeaks - at least this version of Twin Peaks - is completely in the care of David Lynch. I am very fond of David Lynch - in ways I can sometimes articulate and sometimes not. I'm not quite sure I can articulate why Twin Peaks The Return is so good, yet - but it is, and it is something I can't miss.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Bastille Day

Happy Bastille day, France, and Francophiles everywhere. Try not to dwell too much on the appeal of the tumbrel in these troubled times, as our (sort of) elected leaders demonstrate how Louis XVI ad co weren't the worst you could do....

I know this is another placeholder type of post - I don't know when that will change. As always, for the next few months, don't miss the TV countdown at Wonders in the Dark; don't miss the new Twin Peaks. Baseball starts back up after its all star break. And the Tour de France rolls along, with a twist - Chris Froome and the invincible Sky Team have lost the lead! Though no one seems to npticethe obvious: the current leader, Fabio Aru, got it yesterday by winning a sprint up the side of a wall after rding the entire race on Chris Froome's wheel. If Sky is so invincible, don't beat em - join em! Make them pull you through the mountains!

Good enough. Music? Kraftwerk can bring you the sport:

And as usual - a bit of French pop is in order - here's Johnny Hallyday:

et encore - live, 1960!

Friday, July 07, 2017

A Berry Nice Friday

Happy Friday again. A busy kind of week, with the holiday and all, at least the beginning of it. Lots of summery stuff! parades and fireworks, fried dough, barbecues, strawberry picking, jam making, lots of shortcake eating, you name it. Along with watching bicycle racing, complete with Controversy! - involving stray elbows, not doping this time... Major star #1, Peter Sagan, collides with major star #2, Mark Cavendish, and Cavendish crashes and breaks a shoulder. Sagan gets kicked out of the tour for it. Everyone who cares has an opinion, and most of them think Sagan was badly done by - there area couple angles on the crash, one of them looking like Sagan whacked Cavendish with an elbow as he went by, the other looking like Cavendish ran into him first, and Sagan's elbow came up after Cavendish was already down. The more you lookat the picture, the less Sagan seems to be to blame - but the tour kicked him out.

Anyway - there's plenty of bike racing to come, for those of us who care about that sort of thing. No Sagan, which drains a lot of the fun out of it, but plenty of Chris Froome and the invincible Sky Team, for those who love the Yankees.

I could say something about politics, though as usual, it is nothing but depressing. Trump feuding with CNN, some dipshit making a dim witted wrestling meme of Trump tacking CNN - which Trump, being more dimwitted and classless even than his fans, retweeted. Followed by controversy over whether CNN should name the dipshit who made the meme. All of this creating noise while Trump and company continue to work on dismantling the country. Trump abroad, where he's soiling himself among other world leaders and getting ready to meet the boss. God.

So maybe I won't write about politics. Do't forget to look in on Wonders in the Dark's TV Countdown. Don't forget to watch Twin Peaks when it comes back this Sunday. (I actually have pay cable these days - I can watch these things when they air!) Don't forget to enjoy the summer as much as you can.... And eat all the strawberries you can. To which end - some music:

Brother's Johnson!

Strawberry Alarm Clock!

An obscure group from a northwestern English seaport!

Monday, July 03, 2017

Television Countdown

This is a busy week, but I want to get this out there - a new countdown has stared at Wonders in the Dark, devoted to the 80 Greatest TV shows of all time (as voted by participants and friends of the blog.) That will be going all summer. As aways, expect plenty of fine writing and a few arguments along the way. Check it out!