Monday, December 24, 2012

Holiday Music 2012

Hey!  I know I'm cutting this way, way, way, way, way too close.  However, since I forgot to do a post on this last holiday season, I want to make sure I get this in here.  As you know 2012 is winding down and 2013 is around the corner.  Since Christmas is literally here, I thought it would be interesting to highlight a few X-Mas music picks.  Yes, most of it is about a year old but I found out about it too late to post so it's new to me.  Besides it's X-mas so letting it slide would be cool and it doesn't really fit to review it like I normally would do to records/CDs/downloads, etc.  So, enjoy, listen and maybe find some new tuneage to enjoy the Holidays with in da future.

THE DOLLYROTS - "Because I'm Santa"/"Messed Up Xmas"    

Running off the strength of an album funded via kickstarter, The Dollyrots offer up two Christmas jams.  "Because I'm Santa" is an ode to Kris Kringle set to the tune of "Because I'm Awesome," keeping the songs hooky energy with a distinct Holiday vibe.  "Messed Up Xmas" is a poppier punk gem about gifts, suggestions from friends, love, et al with a hint of tongue in cheek humor and a lot of fun. 

THE PLIMPTONS - "Christmas All Over this Town" EP

This came to my attention too late to put it on the blog last year so I had to wait til now.  This Scottish pop band dish out a small batch of catchy original indie/power pop songs about Christmas full of catchy harmonies and a blend of sentiment and angst.  While the Scottish accents in the vocals may trip up some listeners, the hooks here are universal and make this a must listen.

SHONEN KNIFE - "Sweet Christmas"

I can't believe I didn't know about this until a few weeks ago.  Last year Shonen Knife unleashed some pure simple holiday spirit in simple puny pop form.  "Sweet Christmas" is typical Shonen KNife - lots of strummed guitar and a simple vocal that states its case in the way they make their own.  Also in here is a cover of "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" and an acoustic version of the title track. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

How to Tell If A Political Candidate Is Not A Moderate

 As this issue is finalized the election is literally just around the corner.  While we're trying to be on top of things, I realize that some people will be reading this for the first time after the election is over.  We also realize that, regardless of how Americans are spoon fed to think that they should only think about how things are run just around election time, that some factors related to election linger on long afterwards regardless of who wins or loses.  So, in the interest of stepping back slightly to look at the bigger picture, we decided to take a lighthearted look at one of these political tropes. 

 One of the biggest tropes of American politics, especially in the Presidential race, is the myth that prospective candidates will spend the primary part of the race doing whatever they can to appeal to the base but one the nomination happens they will quickly pivot to a more moderate position to appeal to the middle of the road.  While there may be some truth to this, if you look at the big picture one has to wonder if they really shift to the center or if one side keeps moving the goalposts so the center keeps looking less centrist than in the past.  In the 2012 race, one candidate who is known for his ever changing positions (as well as his denial of his past held beliefs) shifted gears to appear "moderate."  Is he actually so?  

While that can remain to be seen, I felt it would be fun to take a humorous look at this issue with instances involving several candidates either running for office or currently holding a political office.  We've tried to avoid simple flip-flops (though in this case, some may have gotten in.  Also, feel free to test your knowledge and try to answer which candidate is responsible for what in this list.
 So, sit back, laugh if you feel like it and enjoy the following exploration of this question (which can fit both this election and used as a guide to future ones - if we still have them in the future):

 If a candidate's foreign policy advisors include many of the same people who guided Dubya to start the war in Iraq back in 2003, the candidate is not a moderate.

If a candidate claims in a primary debate that federal disaster relief is "simply immoral" the candidate is not a moderate.

 If a candidate claims to be a scientist but states that "evolution, embryology, and the Big Bang theory are lies from the pit of hell," the candidate is not a moderate.

 If a candidate claims at a town hall meeting that 78 to 81 members of the opposition political party are members of the Communist Party, the candidate is not a moderate.

  If a candidate appears at a "Christian" church where the pastor calls homosexuality "immoral and unnatural" and airs a video that claims gay people can be cured of their sexual orientation, the candidate is not a moderate.

If a candidate speaks out in favor of America's legacy of slavery claiming that it was good for black people and eventually allowed them to become US. citizens, the candidate is not a moderate.

If a top surrogate for a candidate continues to use dog whistle comments to appeal to the implied (and often open) racism of the citizenry in order to stir up votes, the candidate is not a moderate.

If a candidate claims to object to Ayn Rand not because of the general themes in her work theme that the poor and people who need help are worthless parasites that will destroy the protagonist but that Rand was a pro-choice atheist, the candidate is not a moderate.

If a candidate has a female opponent and implies that her debate performance was "unladylike" and later compares her to a dog, the candidate is not a moderate. 

If a candidate can't easily answer whether he or she supports equal pay for women, the candidate is not a moderate.

If a candidate's criticism of a talk radio host claiming a woman advocating contraception coverage in Obamacare a "slut" and a "prostitute" who should be "forced to put a sex tape on the Internet so we all can watch" is that he wouldn't use those words rather than the sentiment in his rant itself, the candidate is not a moderate.

If the candidate's refuses to denounce fellow candidates who try to redefine what rape is, the candidate is not a moderate
If a candidate's "moderate" position on abortion would still make the procedure illegal in 90% of all instances, the candidate is not a moderate.

If a candidate is on tape agreeing with Glenn Beck that "progressives are a cancer" that should be wiped out, the candidate is not a moderate.

 If a candidate's fund raiser features appearances by both Dick Cheney and Glenn Beck, the candidate is not a moderate. 

This is merely the tip of the iceberg.  If you feel like coming up with other examples in this vein, feel free to do so.  Regardless of how the 2012 election goes, keep these examples in mind when a candidate suddenly known for extreme positions seems to claim said views are similar to the average American.  In an era as polarized as this one, it's hard sometimes to know where the middle exactly is and, unfortunately, the extremism seems unlikely to go away in our lifetimes. 

 For now, play this and have fun.  Only when we're aware of how wacked out things really are can we begin the long, sometimes roadblock ridden road to change things for the better.   One thing is for sure, if people remain unaware than the pattern of candidates like the ones in the examples will be destined to continue until people speaks up.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Second Debate Tonighta

Okay, I know you're probably tired of hearing about it but the second Presidential debate is tonight at Hofstra University.  We've heard all the details by now (town hall format, the worry from both sides over moderator Candy Crowley, etc), so let's focus on what we do know will have to happen tonight.

As we all know Obama lost the first debate even though Romney interrupted everyone and basically changed every position he had in the past.  That the challenger would win the first debate is a TV staple since every incumbent president uses loses the first debate as they run for re-election (though Clinton in 96 was an exception; the rule also includes Ronald Reagan.  Hopefully he realizes that he can't appear absent or focused on some other thing.  Yeah, Biden's performance in the VP debate helped a bit (though he basically did what should've been done the first time around) but Obama will still have to call Mitt when he tries to lie about his record (which he will do).  Will the war on women or the 47% quote will come up?  Who knows.  What we do know is that talking points will come up and that regardless of what happens, the mainstream media will still probably gloss over the real issues we have to deal with.

In a truly just world, there would be third party candidates to offer their views and give the public a real choice.  Unfortunately, we don't have that in this country or election cycle.  Thus, we're dealing with the few undecided voters and some likely voters trying to decide the next four years to some degree off of these performances.

What happens from this is anyone's guess. We'll have to wait until tonight to find out.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Justice Still Denied For Pussy Riot

Yesterday three members of the punk rock activist collective Pussy Riot (Nadezhda “Nadia” Tolokonnikova, Maria “Masha” Alyokhina and Yekaterina “Katya” Samutsevich) appealed their two year convictions for “hooliganism” in a Moscow court.   Like the last trial, the defendants weren’t fully allowed to make their case though there was a twist as Samutsevich, with new lawyers, was released on either probation or a suspended sentence (depending on which article you read) while Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina’s two year sentences on a penal colony were upheld (the original sentence was from time of arrest so seven months have already been served according to some sources).

With that decree, three Russian judges (most likely under orders from Putin – who made a TV appearance a couple days before denying a role but supporting their conviction) managed to make Pussy Riot into martyrs for freedom of expression and focused attention on the flaws in the Russian legal system that aren’t likely to go away anytime soon.
Supporters of the sentence claim the members of Pussy Riot were motivated by religious hatred, yet  given the protest appeared in the midst of a crack down of opponents of the Putin regime,it is safe to say that this wa a political show trial (especially since only one side got to fully state their case).  All of this over a protest of church/state comingling that, if the regime and the church had let it slide or treated with a fine, wouldn't be in the news right now.  

In the most recent print issue (and a piece I shared online) I pointed out  the obvious - that with the conviction they lost the war on perception internationally,. By sending Nadia and Masha to a remote penal colony (Russia is reported to have some of the roughest prisons in the world), Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church aimed for a short goal only to turn much of the world's attention to how things actually are in Russia.  

As for Katya Sanutsevich's release, some people think this is a  game of "divide and rule.."  A fact that Samutsevich herself has attacked the game and promises to keep up the fight.  It can be said that Katya's release is intended as a possible reestablishing of independence for the courts.  However, with PUtin's approval of the verdict just before appeal, the appearance of independence remains just that - an appeareance that means little.

Meanwhile, the case isn't going away.  They remain prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International and Pen International is calling for their unconditional release.  Pussy Riot's legal team claims they will take the case to the European Court of Human Rights, if necessary.  

Time will tell how this tale unfolds.  However, as Nadia and Masha prepare to be sent to remote penal colonies, the fight to have them release looks to continue as an overreaction to an action that was previously punished with a fine has made Pussy Riot a symbol of dissent and freedom of expression.  

VP Debate Tonight

As almost anyone in the U.S. knows (whether they want to or not) the Vice Presidential candidates debat eis happening tonight in Dan ville, KY.  While every one of these things could go any number of ways one can only hope that Biden doesn't let Paul Ryan get away with what Obama let Romney do via a ton of lies. 

It will be far from perfect.  The lack of third party candidates is a definite downer on these.  I know most people in this country are only going to vote for Obama or Romney, but I do feel people should kow all their options.  Also, third party candidates could keep the two main guys honest, putting things in perspective and let people know how things really are. 

However, that ain't going to happen this year (or likely in the near future).  While Romney did win last week (Obama wasn't expecting Willard's moderate pose plus, in all fairness, incumbent presidents running for re-election usually lost the first debate historically anyway) one can only hope that they learned from that and are ready to attack before more people start to believe the perforance rather than the actual positions. 

What will happen?  Who knows.  However, even when expecting a tough race, this should be easier than it is now. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

GOP Convention – The Debut of Romnyan

First, my apologies for neglecting the blog lately.  I had a spell of burnout and needed to take a break.  Now on with the post.

Today is the third night of the 2012 GOP Convention that will officially announce what we’ve already known for a while: they will publicly debut the ticket of Willard Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as their ticket for President and vice President of the U.S. (hence the name: Romnyan).   Amidst the fears of Hurricane Isaac hitting Tampa (it landed near New Orleans instead – on the 7th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting NOLA) causing the first night to be reduced to ten minutes,  the convention has left a series of questions still unanswered in regards to Willard and whether he should be president or not. 

First, why should we trust someone with Swiss bank accounts and tax shelters in the Caymans to run the one remaining superpower?  Romney still hasn’t released those tax returns outside of 2010 and part of 2011.  Yes, he’s said he’s released all he’s required to.  However, when your father set the precedent back in 1967, Mitt should’ve gotten the hint that this might be a good thing to get out in the open (in fact, the reasoning George Romney used was that just releasing one good year could be considered a fluke).    Mitt claims releasing the forms would just provide more ammo for his critics and, thus, will not release any more. 

Also, if Romney wants to be President shouldn’t he tell us what really went down?  At first he ran on his experience as CEO of Bain Capital but when people at Bain owned companies who lost their jobs come up, then Romney claims bringing up how Bain may have played a role in closing some factories and losing jobs is an attack and that his business experience should be beyond debate.  However, if that’s what you run on, then one should expect everything to be dug up.

This leads to the big question in regards to Mitt in the oval office.  What exactly does he plan to do?  What will he replace Obamacare (a/k/a: The Affordable Care Act or the program whose individual mandate Mitt enacted when he was governor of Massachusetts) with?  How exactly will he balance the budget without raising taxes, especially if defense spending goes up (as Romnyan says they want an increase)?    What programs will die to get the tax cut for the top 1%?    Romney has previously been tight lipped on actual specifics when asked and these details should come to light  

 In addition his annoyed reaction when the press asks questions regarding his campaign may have been considered acceptable as a CEO for Bain Capital.  However, becoming a politician means dealing with the press and this could be a problem for him is he gets elected.

So where does Romnyan’s official debut as  a team stand?  Hard to say.  Given that Romney’s convention speech was overshadowed by Clint Eastwood and Invisible Obama,  whether he managed to actually pivot and gets swing voters is hard to say (especially with the Democratic Convention literally this coming week).  Also, when the ratings for the Convention are lower than for Honey Boo Boo, that’s kinda sad.  Time will tell on this. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Anyone Else Wish They Could've Been There in Person.

I know this is a big news day in some ways. However, sometimes you have to take a break. When I came across this clip of Corrosion Of Conformity from a secret show at a Raleigh, NC punk house in December 2010, I had to share it. Who else wishes they coulda been there. Now doing the song "Your Tomorrow" (then unreleased, the album came out a couple months back) is C.O.C. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sometimes Things Aren't What They Seem - Fast & Furious Edition

By now it seems that the Fast and Furious scandal has been one of those things that people have tried to force into our sense of outrage. For some it appears that guns appeared in the hands of drug lords in Mexico and somehow a border agent gets killed by one of them. However, the House subcommittee investigating this has been trying to paint that this was a plot by Obama to get an agent killed and then use public outrage over this to take people's guns away.

While this has been the drumbeat leading to a party line vote in order to try and get Attorney General Eric Holder held in contempt of Congress (over not releasing some papers that may or may not be part of ongoing investigations), there has been a relative shrug from the general public (they have their own problems after all). Over the last week or so this meme seems to be unavoidable. However, an article today in Fortune tells a completely different story.

What hadn't been heard is that ATF agents weren't openly walking guns over the border in hopes of snaring drug dealers. In fact, they were hoping to nab straw weapons sales. However, attempts to seize weapons fell apart due to prosecutors not wanting to enforce existing laws that were reportedly extremely weak in Arizona.

This revelation comes as a surprise in a news cycle that seems to have been hit over the head with the Obama will use this to take away our guns meme. This is ironic given that President Obama expanded gun rights. Under his watch people can bring guns into national parks. In addition, people in America can now bring guns onto Amtrak trains. This is a far cry from the image of someone coming after thier guns whether you want to give them up or not.

However, we currently live in a world where people took Ronald Reagan;s 1988 quip that "facts are stupid things" as a mantra. Their response to why Obama hasn't went for the throat on gun control is...well, I'll let Wayne LaPierre of the NRA say it himself.

Yup, you heard that right. According to LaPierre, Obama's relatively hands off stands on weapons is just a conspiracy so he can take everyone's guns once he's re-elected. And he's been pushing this for months now.

So what's next? I wish I knew. Odds are even if Holder gets held in contempt of Congress, it might not go anywhere. Obama has claimed executive privilege on said documents (which may not have much to do with the investigation and has more to do with Rep. Darrell Issa (R, CA) doing grandstanding in an election year). the right is pissed over this (though were extremeley silent when Dubya invoked it on a number of occasions between 2001-2009.).

What I do know is while the brouhaha over Fast and Furious has gained a small amount of traction, the far right's attempt to make it worse than Watergate is overblown. For most people, this is a problem but one that pales next to the economy and other issues that affect us all day to day.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Remembering Dr. Tiller Three Years After His Murder

Today marks the third anniversary of the murder of Wichita, KS abortion provider Dr. George Tiller while serving as an usher at his church. I was openly going to mention this in passing, especially since this article from Jessica Valenti and a post from Chloe on Feministing, expressed things better than I could on the topic. However, upon reflection there is something on my mind as I contemplate those events.

Many of the people who are anti choice/pro forced pregnancy in the U.S. claim to be so for religious reasons (mostly Christian, but there are those of other faiths as well). The most extreme amongst them even like to cite scripture as the justification for their actions. However, does anyone else see the cognitive dissonance in this when one takes into account that Dr. Tiller was murdered in a church. He was gunned down by Scott Roeder in the house of the Lord a lot of these people claim to worship. While I know there are those out there who have found ways to excuse that, do they really think that their god would be copacetic to killing someone in his house? I'm not religious but I think there might be some repercussions for pulling this kind of shit when Roeder reached by sweet bye and bye.

On the here and now women's rights are more under attack on both the government and from domestic terrorists. Between plans to try either to outlaw contraception outright or make abortion unavailable via paperwork, certain (mostly male) politicians think women are too ignorant and unaware to know what to do with their own bodies, much less have autonomy over them. On the other front, attacks on clinics continue either via so called investigations by pro forced pregnancy groups or Congress or literal attacks by extremists organizations (most recently the fire at a women's clinic in Georgia). Regardless of approach, their goal is the same - to coerce women and their supporters into being in a situation where they are unable to make the best decisions for themselves in a safe and legal way.

This brings us to today. AS politicians and fanatics go to extremes to remake this country in their own moral image, the outrage remains from women and their allies who are pissed off that they want to take something that's personal and make it something needing state approval. Such actions are supposedly done to protect "life," but given that they rarely want to help underprivileged kids and have government aid go to help people with special needs, it appears they care more about DNA then about the real circumstances that actual people have to go through.

Dr. Tiller was known to wear a button saying the phrase "Trust Women." It's a sad shame that it seems so many people don't.


As I type this, we are about five days away from the WI recall election. Polls seem to reveal this to be a close election between Republican Gov. Scott Walker (whose efforts to dismantle collective bargaining rights for public workers have created a firestorm that led to recalls last year in the legislature as well as the coming election on Tuesday) and his challenger, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett. While polls vary from Walker being ahead to a dead heat, a heated climate on both class (the effort to destroy unions) and social issues (Walker quietly overturning WI’s equal pay law) has created a political climate where there are next to no people undecided on the election. What surprises me on this is that Walker is still holding on. I know this is mainly because of money from a few select business interests and some billionaires allowing him to spin things, but one would think that his attack on workers would basically sign his death warrant (people seem to forget that Republicans are members of unions, for example). While Walker has claimed his actions were needed to balance the budget and that he wasn’t doing this for political reasons, a clip from a documentary film (As Goes Janesville) finds Walker telling a billionaire would be donor a different story (the scene in this preview appears at about 7:30 into it.) Why this didn’t bury Walker is something that’s hard to understand. However, in an age when unlimited money gives one an advantage in the political sphere, waters can be easily muddied when the usual campaign ads and smears go into hyperdrive. Thus, at this point, things are in a dead heat in the third gubernatorial recall election is U.S. history. Add to this the RNC going into Wisconsin to help Walker in his recall race and the line should become slightly more clear. At this point it appears that whoever wins on Tuesday will be the candidate who gets more people to the polls. Thus in an inexplicable way this could go either way when people vote in a few days. What we do know is this: however this turns out will have an effect far beyond Wisconsin.