Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Pineapple Thief: "A Sense of Fear"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Here's a great video from another of Kscope's great acts, The Pineapple Thief, a fantastic band that released the truly fantastic album Magnolia, which includes this song, last year.

This isn't the first time I've mentioned them here.

For The Pineapple Thief admirably covering Pink Floyd's "Money," see here.

For the song "All the Wars" (one of my favorites of 2012) by The Pineapple Thief, from their album of the same name, see here.

For the song "Frozen North" (one of my favorites of 2013) by The Pineapple Thief's Bruce Soord and Katatonia's Jonas Renkse, see here.


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Friday, August 21, 2015

The Receiver: "Transit"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Wow, it's been a long time since I last posted anything. Other things going on, other priorities. Alas. But we're still here, we're still blogging, and, well, let's get back into it this Friday evening with some music.

Specifically, a song by The Receiver, a couple of brothers from Ohio, Casey and Jesse Cooper, who recently signed to my favorite label, Kscope (home of Steven Wilson, Porcupine Tree, Anathema, The Pineapple Thief, and Gazpacho, among others, the absolute best in "post-progressive" music).

The Receiver's new album is called All Burn, and this is one of the highlights.



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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Gov. Kasich jumps in because, you know, why not?

By Richard Barry

Whatever one may think of John Kasich as a presidential candidate, and he’s certainly not my cup of tea, the man has the kind of resume you would expect from a serious contender: Governor of Ohio, member of the House of Representatives from 1983 to 2001; a commentator on Fox News Channel, hosting Heartland with John Kasich (2001–2007). He also worked as an investment banker, as managing director of Lehman Brothers’ Columbus, Ohio, so he’s got the private sector covered.

On Tuesday Kasich will announce his bid for the presidency, making him the latest entrant in a very crowded field of Republican contenders.

The question is will anyone care?

His strategy appears to be built on the fact that there is no presumptive nominee so anything could happen, particularly as Jeb Bush hasn’t been able to get the job done.
“He hasn’t caught fire, and that’s why there’s so many people running,” said John Weaver, Kasich’s chief strategist and a veteran of presidential politics, who argued that for the first time in more than half a century the party lacked a presumptive nominee. “There’s not a front-runner in this race.” As he sketches out a path to the nomination, Kasich — who waged a short-lived bid for the presidency in 2000 — is preparing to make his most aggressive stand in New Hampshire, the famously independent-minded state where, his advisers believe, his plain-spoken approach and pugnacious style will garner the most appeal.

Now, there’s a campaign slogan: “Anything Could Happen, So Give Kasich a Look.”

(Cross-posted at Phantom Public.)

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Monday, July 20, 2015

A tale of two (Wisconsin) priorities

By Frank Moraes

Kevin Draper over at Deadspin reported, Wisconsin Senate Votes To Give $250 Million To Billionaires. This is in reference to the Wisconsin state senate voting to give a quarter billion dollars to build a new sports center for the Milwaukee Bucks. The owners of the team — Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens — are both billionaires. But that’s the great thing about being rich: you never have to pay for anything. Well, not much anyway. The two of them are going to throw in a total of $150 million dollars. So the actual owners will pay a whole 37.5% of the cost of their new home. And I don’t know the deal, but I assume that these guys are also getting huge tax breaks. So it is questionable whether they are paying any part of this.

Some people will claim that this is a great thing for Wisconsin to do. You know: the Bucks will bring in all kinds of money to the area. But as David Cay Johnston has noted in Free Lunch, the tax breaks and outright payments for sporting venues almost never pay for themselves. The big economic boost that is supposed to take place around the arenas, never comes. Instead, people drive to the events, spend their money at the events, and drive away. There is no spreading out — no trickle down.

What’s more, Johnston has done the calculations. It turns out that if it weren’t for taxpayers providing all the money they do for the millionaire and billionaire owners of the teams, none of the four sports leagues — baseball, basketball, football and hockey — would be profitable. We taxpayers spend $2 billion per year subsidizing all these teams. Obviously, the owners don’t need the money. They own these teams because they like it. But apparently, they don’t like it enough to pay for it. Regardless, as I said: the rich are used to not having to pay for anything.

Johnston noted something else interesting about our 43rd president. He’s a great example of how these things work, “George Bush owes almost his entire fortune to a tax increase that was funneled into his pocket and into the use of eminent domain laws to essentially legally cheat other people out of their land for less than it was worth to enrich him and his fellow investors.” He’s talking about the time that they built a great stadium for the Texas Rangers in Arlington. One of the best ways to make money is to take a team from a crummy venue and move it to a nice one. All you have to do is get someone else to pay for it.

But the case in Wisconsin is particularly interesting. Because just a few days ago, “Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed a state budget that includes cuts of $250 million to the University of Wisconsin system, among other cuts to public education funding.” But this is the standard way for the modern Republican Party. Gone is any pretense of what conservatism used to mean. Now it is all about taking from the poor and giving to the rich. We’ve seen this in Kansas recently, where previous tax cuts for the rich blew a big hole in the budget. When it came time to fill in the hole, the Republicans in Kansas raised taxes on the poor.

In Wisconsin, we are seeing the same thing. Education has to be cut! So they have money to give to rich guys who own sports teams. Welcome to modern America.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Move over Ted Cruz, there's a new fool in town

By Richard Barry

Donald Trump? Seriously? 

The problem with running a campaign based on channelling voters' grumpy old man is that there is always a possibility of being out-grumped. This seems to be happening to Sen. Ted Cruz who, according to a new poll of insiders by Politico, is suffering the most from Trump's unlikely recent success.
Insiders say ... Trump ... is as uncompromising as Cruz on hot-button issues like immigration - and can deliver the message with even more fiery rhetoric," by Katie Glueck: "Roughly a third of Iowa and New Hampshire Republican insiders pointed to Cruz as the candidate who is damaged the most in their states by Trump's rise in the polls. [An Iowa Republican:] 'Cruz, the incumbent proxy for the disaffected GOP "Hell No!" Caucus, has been virtually starved of oxygen since Trump entered the race.' ..

Sure, Trump is a jerk, and having to endure his enhanced celebrity status is annoying, but just for today I am going to take some pleasure in how unhappy it must be making Ted Cruz. The enemy of my enemy is a temporary source of satisfaction.

(Cross-posted at Phantom Public.)

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Could there be hope for Martin O'Malley?

By Richard Barry

Anything can happen in politics. We’ve all seen improbable outcomes. Though pundits will sometimes deny this, it is usually unwise to suggest there is, in an absolute sense, no hope once a candidate decides to jump in.

And, no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump and the embarrassment his current small degree of success is causing for anyone with a conscience nor how so many of us will feel should he survive too far into the process.

I am thinking about former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and how strange it must be for him to contemplate Bernie Sanders’ success – the same Bernie Sanders whose full legal name many must think is “Self-Described Socialist Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders,” as I don’t think I’ve ever read an article about him without that phrase in it.

O’Malley knew from the start that the only way to run against Hillary Clinton was from the left, as so many Democrats don’t trust Mrs. Clinton to be a voice of true progressivism and find her, fair or not, to be on the side of wealth, power, privilege, Wall Street, etc.

When Sen. Elizabeth Warren chose not the run O’Malley must have seen a clear path to a credible candidacy and many months of robust media attention.

So, that hasn’t happened, at least not in the short term.

In a recent piece in the Des Moines Register, it was said that O’Malley is looking to Iowa where he will go “all in” in an attempt to present himself as the “anti-establishment” option and the real alternative to Hillary Clinton.

As the Register rightly points out, O’Malley has little choice. It’s easy to make the case that he either establishes himself as a real threat here or goes home as New Hampshire is next, a state that has long been good to the Clintons and is in Sanders’ backyard. After then it’s on to South Carolina and Nevada, states with significant numbers of minority voters, also fertile ground for Clinton success.

Much of the Register article outlines the work O’Malley’s team intends to do in Iowa including hiring paid staff, a travel schedule that would see him meet as many eligible voters as humanly possible, and investing more in resources than in any other early-voting state.

As we know, Iowa is not without its magic. In 2008, the state was a springboard to then-Sen. Barack Obama’s eventual Democratic nomination win, which is still probably not a great topic for conversation at the Clinton household. On the Republican side, in 2012 Rick Santorum came out on top and positioned himself for many as the anti-Romney.

The point is that it’s a funny little process in Iowa and odd things have been known to happen even if, according to recent polling, few people in Iowa seem to know who Martin O’Malley is. He’ll have to change that.

At a minimum, O’Malley has to come out of Iowa as Hillary Clinton’s main opponent, which obviously means he has to leap-frog Bernie Sanders. The thing is, I actually believe O’Malley might be able to do that based on one observation, which is that the Democratic Party, from coast to coast, especially away from the major media centres, is not as liberal as it would need to be for the Bernie Sanders wave to continue unabated. Sure, O’Malley will position himself to the left of Hillary Clinton, but he could do it in a way ultimately more palatable to Democratic voters.

I am just saying that I wouldn’t count Martin O’Malley out mostly because he is a very good retail politician in a caucus process where that counts for so much, and his opponent for second place is still “The Self-Described Socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.”

If O’Malley comes out of Iowa with only Mrs. Clinton ahead of him, that changes everything including how hard it will be for Mrs. Clinton to win the nomination. In other words, Clinton should prefer Bernie Sanders as her main opponent.

By the way, I’m not saying I want it to happen, only that it could.

(Cross-posted at Phantom Public.)


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Monday, July 13, 2015

They used to love you, Rick Perry, but it's all over now

By Richard Barry

What's that they say, in love and politics it's all about timing? Well, maybe they don't say that but they should.

The team at NBC News notes that Gov. Rick Perry has terrible fundraising numbers this quarter ($1.07 million) compared with the $17 million he raised in the first quarter of his 2012 campaign. Back then he started out hot as a pistol but sounded too much like a moron as things progressed to be taken seriously, although you'd think sounding like a moron would be an asset for a Republican candidate.

Anyway, the consensus is that Perry has improved significantly as a candidate since 2012 but, as his fundraising figures would suggest, no one cares.

One appropriate cliche could be that it's all about timing, but a better one is that you don't get a second chance to make a first impression.

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