Sunday, November 11, 2018

To be quite honest, it's not looking good for Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams at this point.  Georgia law requires a runoff in early December even if one candidate gets a majority of the vote (greater than 50%), but the margin between the two candidates is less than or equal to 1 percent. Right now, her opponent, Cheating Brian Kemp, has a 1.5% margin of victory.  Counties are required to submit their final vote tallies to the state by Tuesday, and the Abrams' campaign has done an impressive job of finding mail-in votes and provisional ballots not yet counted, but even if she does force a runoff, it still doesn't look good for her.

First of all, her success was largely due to registering and motivating a bunch of first-time voters.  It's one thing to get first-time voters to turn out once, but it's much harder to get them to turn out twice. Seasoned, old-time voters (i.e., conservatives) can more readily be counted on to vote in a runoff election.  Second, even though Brian Kemp has finally stepped down as the Secretary of State overseeing his own election, his replacement is still a Republican selected by a Republican governor, and should be expected to do everything he can to keep his thumb on the scale and tip a runoff election toward the right's favor.

Here's our unpopular political opinion - while we would like to see Stacey Abrams as Governor of Georgia and will gladly turn out a second time for a second election, it really doesn't matter who wins or loses.  We don't mean that in any existential sense, but the realpolitiks of Georgia has the Governor - any Governor, Democrat or Republican - at the mercy of the state's powerful business interests.  

Governors by definition have to be more pragmatic than Washington politicians.  They have to balance budgets and they can't print their own currency or generate new capital if they fall short on funds.  They have to match services to taxes and vice versa and they have to listen to ideas from both sides of the aisle and reach compromises with the left and the right to get anything done.  

What's more, Georgia has got to be one of the most mercantile states in the country and make no mistake about it, this state is not a non-profit organization.  After taking the oath of office, any new Governor here can expect a visit within a day or two by the powerful Atlanta and Buckhead business interests reminding them not to mess up a good thing.  This state relies on the convention and hospitality businesses, on Super Bowls and NCAA Tournaments, on annual conferences and stockholder meetings filling the Convention Center and the downtown hotels.  Georgia enjoys a burgeoning film industry and relies on manufacturers to choose Georgia ports over those in adjacent states.  As  much as a right-wing zealot might want to bring back the Confederate flag or pass some tough, new gay-discrimination measure here, anything that might cause a public outcry or embarrass the state and cause sports officials to relocate their games elsewhere or businesses to choose another state for their new HQ will not be tolerated by the powerful Chamber of Commerce and other business interests. They'll tolerate a certain amount of immigrant bashing (immigrants don't book the World Congress Center or the Mercedes Benz Stadium) and a certain amount of restrictions on abortion rights as long as they're not the most extreme in the country, but they don't want to be embarrassed, they don't want bad press, and they don't want anyone cancelling reservations. 

The business interests won't allow a Governor to screw this state up.  Try as he or she might, they literally can't mess it up.

Even if they're as dumb as Cheating Brian Kemp.

But moving on, today, as you probably know, is Veterans' Day as well as the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War I, the "war to end all wars" (how'd that work out?).  In commemoration of the day, we share a video of our favorite First World War song, And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda as sung by the inimitable Shane McGowan of The Pogues.

Saturday, November 10, 2018


A brief respite for us today, a break from recounts and runoffs, time permanence, home dentistry, and half-remembered Mingus albums.  A walk along Atlanta's Chattahoochee River, including a stop at the I-75 Cathedral, with Britney and Joel.  Welcome to the Temple of the Expanded Mind.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Dreaming of the Masters

Sadly, trumpeter Roy Hargrove, who embodied the brightest promise of the next generation of jazz musicians, passed away last weekend at the age of 49.  The cause of death was listed as cardiac arrest; Hargrove had been on dialysis for many years and was admitted to the hospital for kidney problems.  

NPR described Hargrove as "a young steward of the bebop tradition and a savvy bridge to hip-hop and R&B." 

The jazz tradition is still hanging on, if only by the thinnest of threads, and the loss of Hargrove's voice is a monumental loss to the ongoing dialogue. 

This isn't about us, the audience, though.  We should keep in mind that we are mourning the loss of a human life, not just an entertainer playing for our amusement.  Our deepest sympathies go out to Hargrove's family and loved ones.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

It's Not Over

"Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in the hospital."

Oh, no!!!  Those are not the first words you want to hear in the morning. That's not what you want to hear anytime, but it's what we first heard when the alarm-clock radio woke us up this morning.  "She's recovering from a fall she took yesterday."

Whew, that's better, we thought.  Anyone can fall down, and it's more likely to hurt an 85-year-old woman than some others.  No need to panic.

"She fell while in her office Wednesday night," the report continued.

WHAT?!  Why is she falling over in her office? We can understand a parking lot, out shopping, or while skate-boarding, but why is the Notorious RBG falling over in her office?  

This does not bode well.

The other news this morning was better - Republican Karen Handel, WDW's most reviled politician, conceded the House race to her opponent, the Democrat Lucy McBath.  Do you remember a few years ago when a black teenager got shot and killed in Jacksonville for the unpardonable sin of allegedly playing music too loud?  Lucy McBath is that kid's mother, and she decided to run against Handel this year for the U.S. House on a strong gun-control platform.  She won, and in Newt Gingrich's ultra-conservative old district at that.  We don't live in that district and couldn't vote for her (we live in John Lewis' district), but we're glad to see McBath win.

Meanwhile, Stacy Abrams is keeping the good fight going, demanding that all absentee, write-in, and provisional ballots be counted before she either concedes or demands a runoff election.  Last night, Samantha Bee covered this story and reiterated almost everything we said here yesterday.

But this isn't a political post (at least not anymore) - this is a dentistry post.  We finally got to the dentist today after self-extracting a tooth last weekend.  The outlook is not good and it looks like at least four more teeth have got to come out, so I guess I'll be busy this weekend.  No, just kidding, I won't be self-extracting again.  I'll let the dentist do it next time.  The first two come out the Monday after Thanksgiving and that's just the start.  It'll be a long road ahead for us, but this is when our contemplative Stoicism will come into practice.     

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Voter Suppression In Georgia

As you may have heard, 24 hours after the polls have closed here in Georgia, we still don't know who won the Governor's race.  

The most recent count has the Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp ahead with 1,967,523 votes (50.4%) and Democrat Stacy Abrams trailing with 1,899,564 (48.7%).  In Georgia, a candidate has got to receive over 50% of the vote and lead by more than 1% to avoid a runoff election.

Technically, Kemp has that now and earlier this evening he declared victory, but Abrams has not yet conceded because all votes haven't been counted yet, especially absentee and provisional ballots.  Her campaign believes there's enough votes out there in her favor to force a runoff.

But here's the real rub - Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp's office oversees elections in Georgia, and many have protested that it's unfair that he gets to manage the same election in which he's running.  Secretaries of other states have recused themselves from their SOS duties when running.  But Kemp has not only not done that, he has engaged in some of the most blatant acts of voter suppression imaginable, and even former President Jimmy Carter waded in and asked for his recusal, saying that at the very least, the appearance of impropriety is enough to tarnish the election and question the legitimacy of Kemp's victory, if that's the final outcome.  Kemp has refused to step down.

Kemp massively purged voter rolls, reportedly to remove dead people and people who haven’t voted in recent elections from the records, but in such a sweeping way that Democrats fear it took legitimate voters, particularly minority voters, off the rolls.

In one of his better known acts of suppression, Kemp announced a new zero-tolerance policy on registrations, and demanded that all registration records had to be an "exact match" with all other records the state had on file for an individual, such as driver's licence, tax returns, business records, etc.  If there was any difference in use of hyphens, maiden names, or useage of "Jr.," "II," etc., the registration application was placed on hold to be resolved sometime after the election.

That might not sound too bad at first - how can you justify non-matching records? - but it turns out that some 53,000 registrations were placed on hold and that some 70% of those were for voters of color (and Georgia is only 32% black).  What's more, a majority of those voters just so happened to be from Gwinnett County, which has gone from being 90% white in 1990 to 70% non-white today.  Full disclosure: the company for whom I work and my office are in Gwinnett County (but I live in the City of Atlanta and Fulton County).

A Georgia judge finally intervened and ruled that the 53,000 registrants were to be given provisional ballots, but they still had to "clear" their registrations with the SOS office by the end of the week for their votes to count.  The burden of having to fill out a provisional ballot and then to have to go through some unspecified bureaucratic process to convince a belligerent SOS (who, we'll remind you, is one of the candidates) that you're really who you say you are was likely enough of a hurdle to discourage many first-timers from voting. I know it would probably discourage me.

Then, just a few days before the election, the official Secretary of State’s website declared with no evidence that Democrats had attempted to hack the state’s voter registration system, a bald-faced lie that one election law expert  called “perhaps the most outrageous example of election administration partisanship in the modern era.”

What's more, yesterday there were excessively long lines at a lot of polling places.  In predominantly black South DeKalb County, one precinct wasn't given power cords for the electronic voting machines used in Georgia, effectively shutting it down.  At historically black Morehouse University, some of the precincts didn't open until 4 or more hours after the official start of polling, throwing off people's plans for the day and probably discouraging more voters.  After yet more judicial intervention, the Morehouse precinct was allowed to stay open until 10:15 p.m. (the polls are supposed to close at 7), but who wants to run back out at 9:00 p.m. to try and vote again, especially considering you had already set aside time to attempt to vote in the morning, and some new trick might just shut the precinct back down?

Stacey Abrams has not yet conceded the race, and her campaign issued the following statement today: 
"We remain committed to ensuring that every single vote is counted, particularly given the significant irregularities in various areas of the state. In Fulton County alone, lines stretched for hours despite a warehouse with 700 voting machines that stood ready to be deployed but never were. Given the effort that Georgia voters made to make sure their voices could be heard, we owe it to them to fight on to make sure that every vote is counted. (As a reminder, the election results won't be certified by counties until Monday or Tuesday of next week.)"
For whatever it's worth, I had to wait in line at my precinct for about an hour, where there were only three voting machines.  My neighborhood is mostly college educated and white, and we went for Clinton in 2016.  A coworker from solidly Republican and suffocatingly white East Cobb County told me she waited less than 5 minutes to vote, and that there were "dozens" of voting machines available.  Only three machines in a Clinton District, and "dozens" of machines in a Trump District?  Hmmmmmm.

Brian Kemp is a Trump-style Republican, and the devil himself came down to Georgia several times to campaign for him.  During a press conference today, Pumpernickel even took credit for Kemp's "very big margin" of victory, and then took the opportunity to mock Oprah Winfrey for "working hard" for Abrams.  Kemp's campaign ads claimed he needed such a large pickup truck in case he had to round up some illegals and deport them himself, and in another one he pointed a shotgun at a teenage boy he claimed was interested in dating his daughter.  

Kemp's shenanigans are clear proof of why the Voting Rights Act needs to be fully reinstated.  A few years ago, the Supreme Court struck down provisions of the Act that gave the federal government oversight of Southern states' voting laws, claiming that the years of institutional racism and Jim Crow-era restrictions were long since over, but states like North Carolina, Georgia, and Texas almost immediately resorted to minority vote suppression, usually under the excuse of protecting the electoral process from largely imagined to virtually nonexistent "voter fraud."  

On a brighter note, it appears that former Georgia Secretary of State and long-time WDW nemesis Karen Handel lost her reelection bid to Democrat Lucy McBath.  As you might recall, just last year Handel waged one of the most expensive campaigns in history against Democratic upstart John Ossoff for Newt Gingrich's former congressional seat.  She narrowly won that campaign, but fortunately for Georgia and probably America, it looks like she's now lost it a mere one year later (we really dislike Karen Handel).  The results still aren't final, but McBath has a pretty commanding 3,000 vote lead.  There might be a runoff, especially if Handel has anything to say about it.

Finally, on a still brighter note, let's not let these little anomalies to yesterday's election make us forget that the Democrats regained control of the House yesterday and that Nancy Pelosi will once again be Speaker of the House.  Pumpernickel's legislative agenda is now officially dead in the water, the investigations and inquiries (and arrests and impeachments) can begin in earnest, and redistricting after the next census should be in reliably Blue hands.      

Monday, November 05, 2018

Why You Need To Vote Tomorrow

Depending on how you feel about this video, your vote tomorrow will either help to make it happen or help to avoid it.  Get out there and vote tomorrow, people, and if you early voted already, get out there and vote again (just kidding).  

But seriously, vote.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Adventures In Home Dentistry

Last night, with the assistance of a pair of needle-nosed pliers, dental floss, and some cheap whiskey, I self-extracted a tooth.

Don't try this at home folks.  I'm a professional geologist, and now that I say that out loud, I realize that gives me absolutely no qualifications for what I did.  I thought about not posting this at all for fear that someone else might take it as encouragement or use it for on-line instruction, and also because this is intensely personal, but this is real life, folks, and yesterday felt about as real as it gets.  

Self-extracting an adult tooth is one of those irreversible, no-looking-back moments, like a tattoo, or better yet a facial tattoo.  The tooth ain't coming back, and what's done can't be undone, at least  in this lifetime.

Some background:  I've got fucked-up teeth.  Always have and always will.  I'm used to it, I've learned to live with it, and I'm comfortable with who I am, short-comings and all.  But one of those pearly-white, perfectly aligned smiles?  That's not us, kiddo.  In fact, I consider it a kind of badge of honor or street-cred authenticity - the man behind that imperfect smile obviously didn't grow up wealthy and didn't lead a life of  privilege.  My smile bonds me to the common folk far from the top 1% of wealth and indicates that whatever I've earned and achieved, I've earned and achieved on my own - mine isn't the toothy shark-smile of a trust-fund baby.

Nevertheless, I have gotten my two front teeth capped over a decade ago, and that's helped my appearance a lot.  But my lower front teeth have always been too crowded and misaligned. What's more, because they are so crowded and misaligned, it's nearly impossible to brush all the random surfaces between the tight crevices, so they're often discolored and look like a bunch of randomly oriented candy corns in my mouth,  Fortunately for me, I also have, among other problems, an overbite, so most people don't even notice my lower teeth.  

Funny story - I was at a wedding a few years ago and a precocious little preschool girl, the daughter of someone in the wedding party, was talking to me and did notice my lower teeth.  She asked me to see them (she was too young to know her proper manners) and when I complied and pulled down my lower lip, she screamed and ran to her mother.  

So, with that as background, about a month ago I was out eating lunch and suddenly experienced a sharp, shooting pain in my lower mouth.  I wasn't sure what had just happened and I thought to myself "I think I just bit my teeth." When I got to a bathroom mirror, I saw that one of the lower front teeth had somehow got pushed out of the misaligned row in my mouth and was now standing alone in a second row behind the first.  Worse, it was also loose and wobbly back there by itself.

This was far worse than the appearance I'd come to know and accept.  It made me very self-conscious and undermined my confidence.  Worse, the loose tooth was sensitive to pressure and I had to chew around it, but since it was in the front, it was hard to bite into anything hard (e.g., apples) or that required tearing, like the meat in a sandwich.  With time, it just got looser and more sensitive and eating solid food got harder by the day.

So, you're wondering, why didn't I just go to the dentist?  That's a very good question and I wish I had a good answer for you.  I was busy - a scheduled trip to Iowa, several imminent deadlines at work, but we both know that's no alibi.  For some reason, I had subconsciously decided to endure it (I was going to say "grin and bare it," but as a matter of fact, I was trying not to grin or frighten more small children by baring it).

However, late last week, it got to the point of unbearableness.  Friday, while out eating the softest chopped pork barbeque and Brunswick stew I could find, I decided I was going to take matters into my own hands and extract the tooth myself over the weekend.

Early Saturday afternoon, before the Georgia Bulldogs football game started (I didn't want to miss that - the tooth was a problem, but I had my priorities), I took a pair of unsanitized needle-nosed pliers out from the tool kit and tried to figure how to go about it.  As I looked in the bathroom mirror trying to adjust the right angle to use, a moment of clarity suddenly emerged, and I thought that if there were a wife or friend or significant other present, they would be yelling at me to stop what I was doing that very moment and would be calling a dentist for me.  This is madness, I realized, and picked up my cell phone to make an appointment with the dentist.

The receptionist sounded quite concerned when I explained the situation (the loose tooth situation, not my impulse to self-extract -  I didn't tell her that part).  She told me that the dentist was not in Saturday afternoons, but that a painful, loose adult tooth was an emergency that needed immediate attention.  She had several backup dentists on call for just this kind of situation, and one of them would be calling me back. "The average response time is about 20 minutes," she advised me.

You probably won't be surprised that after 20 minutes, no one called me back.  No one called within an hour, or before the start of the Bulldogs game (they won!), or before 5:00 p.m. No one called at all.  

At that point, it was back to Plan A - self extraction.  I wasn't going to wait around until I got a call, or until Monday when the real dentist was back in the office.  Using some dental floss to tie off the tooth (the needle nose pliers couldn't keep a firm grip on the wet tooth, and I didn't want to squeeze too hard and shatter the tooth in place) and the pliers to pull, and some cheap Canadian whiskey as an anesthetic and for courage, I pulled once, I pulled twice, and, determined, I managed to get the tooth out on the eighth or ninth tug.

Your moment of Zen - while I was pulling on the tooth, my mind was clear and focussed and not thinking of other things.  Mindfulness by self-surgery.  I was there in the moment, that here-and-now then and there, without distraction or delusion.   

Immediately, I felt better.  Other than a brief nano-second of shock, I felt no pain and my mouth and tongue were immediately relieved not to have the errant tooth sticking out of line.  I soaked my mouth in Listerine for like an hour as a disinfectant, and then relied on the alcohol in the whiskey after that.  Curiously and reassuringly, there was almost no blood.      

What's more, the teeth now look better that they did before.  With one less tooth in the jumble, the lower teeth aren't as crowded.  Sure, I can probably still frighten little girls, but now the surfaces are more accessible to toothbrushes and floss, and my smile is now slightly less Appalachian, slightly less "white trash" than before.  There's no soreness or pain today, and no indication of infection or other malady at the extraction site.

Yes, I will go to the dentist to take a look at things once I can set up a normal, non-emergency appointment.  But no, I don't regret my self-extraction procedure, other than I realized that I needn't have waited so long. 

If you're thinking of pulling a tooth, my advice is don't do it - go to a dentist if you can at all afford it and let a professional do the job.   But if you can't afford it or your mind is already made up, then all I can say is don't be afraid, you can probably do this, and don't forget to use some Listerine.

Be sure to come back for the next installment of this series, titled Adventures in Appendectomies, followed by Trepanation for Fun and Profit.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Voter Suppression In Georgia

Efforts to suppress the vote here in Georgia, fortunately as well as recent court victories overturning many of those efforts, have been making national and even international headlines.  Former President Jimmy Carter even criticized Georgia, comparing us unfavorably to some third-world elections under dictatorships that he's supervised in his humanitarian efforts.

The Republicans obviously know how unpopular their policies are and are going to extraordinary lengths to thwart the will of the people.  But come this Tuesday, the will of the people will be heard, despite the GOP's best efforts, and we will vote their anti-democratic asses out of office.     

Friday, November 02, 2018

Dreaming of the Masters

If you ever wondered what the big deal with Archie Shepp was all about, he runs the voodoo down and explains it all in this cut, aptly named Frankenstein.  We recommend you play it loud.

The recent Halloween holiday probably reminded us of the title, but the urgency of the music convinced us that this was the Friday, the weekend before Election Day, to post this composition.

GET OUT THERE AND VOTE NEXT WEEK, PEOPLE!  Vote for the sake of 1968 Archie Shepp. Vote the hateful white patriarchy out of office, and replace your corrupt, bigoted Republican governors and senators and representatives with some of the beautiful, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual sisters and brothers running for office this year.  Let's elect Stacy Abrams and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Andrew Gillum and Beto O'Rourke.  We won't last another two years under the current insane clown posse of an administration allegedly running the country now! 

In Frankenstein, Shepp channels all the rage and anger of 1968, the year that saw the assassinations of RFK and MLK, escalations of the Vietnam War, and the police riot at the Democratic National Convention, among many other horrors, and used his art to express his outrage and then to soothe the rawest of emotions, all while never giving up the righteous moral stance. It's a powerful performance, even these 50 years later, and if this doesn't make you want to go out and change the world, I don't know what to tell you - there may be no hope for you, my friend.

Thursday, November 01, 2018


Last night, Halloween evening, I had my first trick-or-treaters in nearly 10 years.  Four girls, early teens from the look of things, out after dark and by themselves.  Adventure. . . . 

Honestly, I can't remember the last time someone graced our doorway looking for candy.  On my block, the houses are few and relatively far between, with steep driveways to walk up. I like to think that's what keeps them away, not the stigma of a strange old man living there alone doing god knows what. 

Anyway, I'm glad I had candy on hand - despite the fact that no one ever shows up, I buy a bag of mini-candy bars every year just in case and usually wind up eating all the Baby Ruths and Butterfingers by myself.  I gave each girl a big generous handful of bars and wished them all happy trick or treating.