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Unreality Check #12: The Second Playlist

As I continue querying (is anybody out there?) I spend time between letters putting together a ‘soundtrack’ for ‘Unreality.’ I’m happy at this point to unveil the second of four I plan to complete. This list was inspired by the second quarter of the book, in which the stage has already been set and the madness ahead begins to reveal itself.

Some of the selections are based on the narrative, so playing it in order makes sense. But ALL are based on the tone and themes and I’ve found that shuffle also creates an enjoyable ride.

This list starts with Humble Pie (also featured on the first…can you really have too much ’Pie!?) and ends with early-2000s Sacramento metalcore heroes Catherine. Artists tickling your ears in between range from DNCE to Slayer, with Anderson .Paak, Biggie (x2), DJ Shadow w/Run The Jewels, Ministry, and many more pouring out of your speakers before the ride is over.

At 50 songs (~3.5 hrs) long it’s perfect for your next house cleaning, poker game, pool party, barbecue, or smoke sesh. Listen today. Listen again tomorrow!

Unreality Check #11: Do stuff, you guys!

Come to find out this vaccination that’s going around is just one small part of a psyops campaign to enslave us all. Or it’s an RNA suppressant being unleashed as a population control mechanism. Let’s go with the first one for now. There’s less hard science involved.

It’s going to be wild to see what happens once Americans are back to grilling, and boating, and baseball, and stuff like that. You know, basically setting disposable income on fire for our own enjoyment. We’ve been trained for generations that it’s the path to happiness. The new campaign is going to have to be a BEAST if it’s going to overwhelm the one already in place, especially regarding keeping us all in line.

We’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, don’t forget that COVID-19 is transmitted by 5G and that Bill Gates is funding the vaccine to microchip us all.

Such claims are not only being pushed now but echo the tone of many of those used against the smallpox vaccine 136 years ago. That illustration above is the top of an antivax pamphlet from 1885. The one below, its conclusion.

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Here’s something else to think about. If you DO stuff, you don’t have to walk around talking about doing stuff all the time. It’s DONE. People can look at it. Experience it. It’s there.

On the other hand, if you want to seem like you’re doing stuff, but actually lack the will or ability to get it done, you’d best be spending as much time as you can talking about it to make sure nobody finds out what the real score is.

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I’m pretty sure “you guys” is a gender-neutral expression.

Unreality Check #10: Beisbol, Lt. Dan, and record stores

In case you didn’t notice, Republicans are trying to cancel Major League Baseball because they object to its position on voting rights. And they’re carrying on as if they think they have a chance of doing so (#GetWokeGoBroke?…puhleaze).

That didn’t work so well with the kneeling and the NFL did it? Games are still selling out. TV contracts are still getting signed. When will they realize they’re outnumbered?

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Newly ‘blonde’ Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is a ridiculous snowflake.

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If you’re starting to get out into the world for the first time in…a long time, plan a trip to your local independent record store. Not only will you come home with something you’re happy you bought, but the visit will do wonders for your reorientation (nostalgia being the powerful drug it is), and you’ll help a business that (if it’s lucky) is only just now starting to emerge from a 12-month winter.

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American oilfield services and equipment sector employment rose by more than 23,000 jobs in March, according to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Higher crude prices are good for the industry and adding to payrolls to this degree is one of the clearest indicators yet that the industry is starting to feel like they’re going to stick around.

And in a win for the environment (and therefore all we creatures who live in it) the DC Circuit granted the Biden administration’s request Monday to vacate a rule left over from the Trump cabal that would have prevented the EPA from setting standards to reduce greenhouse gas pollution produced by so-called stationary sources, such as refineries.

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One of the things those afraid of “socialized medicine” wave around most frequently is the plethora of choices and lack of waiting our current system provides us. What a crock. I called to make my daughter a virtual appointment after school with her OB/GYN. Even on a remote basis they weren’t going to be able to get her in for 2 months with that timing. So now it’s tomorrow at 1:30. In the middle of the school day. Guess WE have to figure that out. While paying several thousand dollars/year in premiums. To be part of a network I didn’t choose. And then pay the doctor anyway to meet the deductible.

Unreality Check #9: Codename Hillary

The Evergreen Marine Corp.-operated ultra-large container vessel Ever Given ran aground in the Suez Canal yesterday during a sandstorm, closing the vital shipping route. It remains stuck in the canal today. Eight tugboats are working to float it. The vessel, one of the largest container ships in the world, was en route to Rotterdam from China.

Oil prices rose due to the temporary disruption of tanker traffic, halting a two-week decline. As of this morning there were seven laden tankers carrying a total of 6.3 million bbl of oil waiting to enter the canal, two northbound and five southbound. Commodities intelligence firm Kpler estimates that if Ever Given remains grounded through the end of the week three more tankers will join this queue, adding 2.5 million bbl of oil.

These are small volumes. Daily global production currently totals roughly 75 million bbl. About 10% of the world’s crude shipments travel through the Suez, so a prolonged closure would be problematic. But this unlikely and a more salient contributing cause for the higher oil prices was US gasoline consumption reaching its highest level in four months.

Despite this, be ready for Ever Given’s grounding to be used as the reason for higher prices on any number of goods and for this in turn to be cast as evidence that the United States needs to buy as little as it possibly can from other parts of the world.  

Evergreen is based in Taiwan and was founded in 1968. Either Hillary Clinton took her US Secret Service name from the company or the fact that the two are the same is coincidence. There is so far no evidence that any of the containers on board are shipping babies.

For additional mirth regarding the grounding, check the Twitter thread below:

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The 3 most on-brand GOP reactions so far to the recent shootings (in the order encountered)

1. It was a false-flag operation

2. What about the border? (and whataboutism in general)

3. The Boulder shooter was Muslim (as shared by @DonaldJTrumpJr and parroted by his minions since)

Unreality Check #8: Go Coogs!

University of Houston men’s basketball has made the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament for the second season in a row. These are great times for Cougars fans like me, who were one of 1,000 or so students who lived on campus and would walk to Hofheinz Pavilion as a study break when there was a game happening.

Guy V. Lewis was still coach for my first season as a Coog, but Hakeem had held his press conference the previous spring (on the very day I was visiting campus from Michigan no less) to declare for the NBA draft and Phi Slamma Jamma had left campus with him. Rickie Winslow was my favorite player that first season. He ran hard, dunked a lot, and led the team in rebounds (aka, he was fun to watch). Alvin Franklin, Greg Anderson, and Reid Gettys were other notables on that squad.

The last few years of Cougar basketball have been a joy to watch. The team plays hard, is a legit eight players deep before even the first small drop off, and when it’s on can either swamp or smother the opposition, often both. DeJon Jarreau has the heart legends are made of and Tramon Mark is a killer we’ve only seen the faintest glimmer from yet. In between is a roster that takes the court as one…Every. Single. Night.

You don’t have to be an old head like me to enjoy the ride though. There’s plenty of room on the bandwagon—and pro sports in town are wasteland—so get on board!

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From the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point —

Mary McCord serves as Executive Director at the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP) and Visiting Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center. McCord was the Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the U.S. Department of Justice from 2016 to 2017 and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division from 2014 to 2016.

Previously, McCord was an Assistant US Attorney for nearly 20 years at the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. Among other positions, she served as a Deputy Chief in the Appellate Division, overseeing and arguing hundreds of cases in the US and District of Columbia Courts of Appeals, and Chief of the Criminal Division, where she oversaw all criminal prosecutions in federal district court.

CTC: In the wake of the storming of the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, what is your assessment of the threat posed by the extreme far-right in the United States?

McCord: If anyone were ever inclined to discount the threat of far-right extremist violence in the United States, the insurrection at the US Capitol certainly should have changed their views. We witnessed our fellow Americans violently assaulting US Capitol Police, forcibly entering and overrunning the Capitol Building, and attempting to kidnap elected officials and prevent the certification of the electoral college vote. They succeeded in delaying the counting for several hours. Although it was shocking to witness because of the sheer number of people willing to use violence to overthrow the government, it was not surprising that extremists led the charge. This is something that has been building up for some time now.

The former president sowed the seeds for this even before the election as he claimed that mail-in ballots were particularly susceptible to fraud and that the only way he could lose were if the election were rigged. He doubled down after the election, refusing to concede and actively spreading disinformation about election fraud, for which there was no credible evidence produced in court after court in states around the country. He bought into the “Stop the Steal” rhetoric and propagated it, adding a veneer of credibility because of his position of power and influence. The false narrative gave the extremists a “cause” that he urged them to fight for, explicitly calling on them to “never concede” and “fight like hell.” We worried before January 6 that Trump’s most extreme supporters would take him literally, and they did.

The lies and rhetoric that spurred extremists to commit the assault on the Capitol—and our democracy—is the kind of rhetoric that often spurs individuals and groups to commit some sort of act of terrorism. We’ve seen disinformation used this way before.

For example, the El Paso shooter, he’s never been traced back to a particular group, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t radicalized by consuming toxic disinformation and violent rhetoric on social media, which came through in his manifesto. The Michigan plot [to kidnap the state’s governor] was a terrorist plot—a plot to influence a policy of government through intimidation or coercion, specifically because of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s pandemic-related policies. That’s terrorism. And that wasn’t done by an individual; that was a group that plotted together over a course of months, acquired weapons, built weapons, created strategies, cased out various places for this crime to take place—all the type of plotting that I’ve seen by terrorists in my career, oftentimes connected to a foreign terrorist organization.

For US-based organizations, there is no lawful structure for designating a domestic terrorist organization. Congress would have to create a new authority to do that. That bumps up against First Amendment rights because people and organizations in the US have the right to express views, peacefully assemble with each other, and petition the government with their grievances. The Supreme Court has never had to rule on whether it would be lawful to designate a domestic organization as a terrorist organization since there has never been such an attempt, and we don’t have the legal authorities to do it. I think it’s not an impossible thing to do, but it would be subject to immediate challenge, First Amendment challenge, and I think it would be extremely controversial in Congress to consider authorities for designating domestic terrorist organizations.

(read the whole interview here)

Unreality Check #7: Led Zeppelin 4.1 (via ‘Badmotorfinger’)

Have there ever been four better songs to start an album than ‘Rusty Cage’, ‘Outshined’, ‘Slaves & Bulldozers’, and ‘Jesus Christ Pose,’ the opening quartet from Soundgarden’s ‘Badmotorfinger’?

My suspicion when I first asked the question was that there were likely a multitude of alternatives that were as good, but none that were better. That feeling is still generally intact.

‘Takin’ a Ride,” ‘Careless,’ ‘Customer,’ and ‘Hangin’ Downtown’ from the Replacements’ ‘Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash’ was the first alternative candidate offered. Undeniably great, and at least as visceral, but missing a certain depth.

From the complete opposite end of the rock spectrum came Rush with ‘Moving Pictures’ and ‘Tom Sawyer,’ ‘Red Barchetta,’ ‘YYZ,’ and ‘Limelight.’ Definitely deep and retaining great human feeling and songcraft despite the technical prowess on display, it fell solidly into the “as good” column.

The Stones got a nod with ‘Brown Sugar,’ ‘Sway,’ ‘Wild Horses,’ and ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,’ from ‘Sticky Fingers’ (probably my favorite album of theirs). I guess this works. But only if you like ‘Wild Horses.’ It’s always driven me to distraction. I find the melody unimaginative and the bulk of the lyrics cliched; neither in a way that qualifies it for ‘simple beauty.’ But to each their own.

‘Welcome to the Jungle,’ ‘It’s So Easy,’ ‘Nightrain,’ and ‘Out Ta Get Me,’ from Guns n’ Roses genre-resurrecting debut ‘Appetite for Destruction’ was another completely legit contender and also likely rises to the level of as good.

It was when someone proposed the first four from Led Zeppelin’s fourth, however, that the dialogue took its first real twist. To my estimation Side 1’s ‘Black Dog’ and ‘Rock n’ Roll’ were held back by ‘Battle of Evermore’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ On this basis I suggested ‘IV’ would make a better Last Four Songs candidate (‘Misty Mountain Hop,’ ‘Four Sticks,’ ‘Going to California,’ ‘When The Levee Breaks’) than First.

After some back and forth, my interlocutor and I came up with an alternative track listing and created a stronger version of the album. I present ‘Led Zeppelin 4.1’: ‘Black Dog,’ ‘Rock n’ Roll,’ ‘Misty Mountain Hop,’ ‘Levee’ // ‘Four Sticks,’ ‘Battle of Evermore,’ ‘California,’ ‘Stairway.’ It’s majesty and might are inescapable.

The last word on the Best First Four topic occurred when ‘Abbey Road’ was thrown into the ring. First of all, I consider it the greatest rock album ever, and holding that accolade should disqualify it from the lesser category discussed here. Then there’s the fact that it’s essentially one piece of music, none of which can be disentangled from the rest.

But this is the stuff music conversations are made of, and I’m happier than ever that I asked!

Unreality Check (#6)

Last week the Texas 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Tarrant County Community College v. Sims, that Texas’s state law prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sex also provides protections against discrimination for LGBTQ workers. The favorable decision provides state-level protections for LGBTQ workers for the first time under Texas state law.

The Texas appeals court’s opinion included language that interprets the Texas Commission on Human Relations Act (TCHRA) consistent with the recent US Supreme Court decision Bostock v. Clayton County that determined discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by federal law. 

In January, The Human Rights Campaign filed a “friend of the court” amicus brief on behalf of the plaintiff. The brief argued that Texas state law is clear — the US Supreme Court’s interpretations of Title VII apply to analogous provisions in the TCHRA.

Some light from down here in Texas after a long string of self-inflicted pies in the face.

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Pres. Biden’s pause on new leases for oil and gas drilling will have marginal impact on production, according the US Energy Information Administration. The agency expects crude production in 2022 to fall by fewer than 100,000 b/d on average as a result of the administration’s order on leasing.

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Note that the same people who are upset about a handsy French cartoon skunk getting ‘cancelled’ were fine with a presidential candidate who “grabs ’em by the pussy.” At least they’re consistent.

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The GOP now has another entertainer’s back (Tucker Carlson) instead of the military’s.

President Biden announced that two female generals were in line to become combatant commanders and that initiatives were being pursued to recruit and retain women to the US military.

Tucker said, among other things that “China’s military becomes more masculine … our military needs to become, as Joe Biden says, more feminine.”

The Pentagon issued a statement attempting to address Carlson’s ignorance, adding that “What we absolutely won’t do is take personnel advice from a talk show host.”

Noted veteran Col. Alexander Vindman put it this way: “Tucker Carlson dishonors the service and sacrifice of all women who have served in the Armed Forces. Many who paid the ultimate sacrifice. He’s never served anyone but himself, but would deny soldiers the means and equipment to be effective. #HereRightMatters”

And Republicans side with Tucker.

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Even so, like Jefferson, I would prefer newspapers without government to government without newspapers.

Unreality Check (#5)

Photo from studentenergy.org

It looks like there might be some wiggle room on energy in the both the new administration and Congress. Congressional Democrats, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), have made a series of proposals intended to modify the terms under which oil and gas leasing can occur on federal lands rather than banning it outright. They’re also trying to get President Biden on board. Grassley called on Congress to increase royalty rates, describing the current system (in place since the 1920s) as “corporate welfare.”

Yes, Grassley represents the state that produces far more ethanol than any other, but sometimes you take help where you can get it.

Democrats likewise want to raise royalties paid to the government and are also pushing for remediation of abandoned wells, tougher regulation of methane emissions, and increased public input into the process. Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), chair of the energy and mineral resources subcommittee, described Congress’s actions as an effort to provide Biden with ways to fix a broken system rather than simply throwing it out.

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Republicans in the Texas legislature are keeping the pedal to the metal, putting forward a bill that would ban all abortions from the moment of fertilization. The bill would charge women who have abortions and doctors that perform them with murder. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) on Mar. 9 signed a bill into law banning abortions for any reason except saving the life of the mother.

Unreality Check (#4)

Agencies shall consider ways to expand citizens’ opportunities to register to vote and to obtain information about, and participate in, the electoral process. 200-day deadline from Mar. 7. Includes modernization of websites and digital services.

The above summarizes some of the key points of an executive order issued Mar. 7 by Joe Biden. I’d heard about this one, but in general it’s been so quiet, relative to recent times, that I’d kind of lost track of what he’d been doing.

The following are some of other things that happened in just the first seven days of this month:

• The Senate passed the $1.9-trillion American Rescue Plan Act.

• The February jobs report showed 379,000 jobs added to the economy.

• The Defense Production Act was engaged to make enough vaccines to supply every American by the end of May 2021.

• Biden met with President of Mexico Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to discuss immigration, COVID-19, and economic and security cooperation.

• Biden spoke with the Guatemalan president to discuss immigration and regional security.

• Secretaries of Commerce and Education were sworn in.

• Biden assessed the mental acuity of the governors of Texas and Mississippi.

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Introducing George Floyd’s drug use as a defense strategy is no different than pointing out “provocative dress” on the part of the victim during a rape trial

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Instead of pushing this rapid reopening, why don’t GOP governors just tell everyone to work harder. I mean, that’s all poor people have to do, right?

Unreality Check (#3)

‘To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth,’ released in 1997, is Swedish metal band Entombed’s fourth album. It was a step away from the band’s death metal roots, providing the cornerstone for the then-nascent metal subgenre, death n’ roll (yes, a blend of rock n’ roll and death metal).

Most fans would choose one of the three albums that preceded it as their favorite Entombed record, but ‘Too Ride…’ has a special hold on me. It was the soundtrack of my first trip to Rio de Janeiro. Rio in 1997 was better than Rio even three years earlier, but it was still a place where it was never clear who the bad guys were and in which nightclub madness could turn into actual chaos in the blink of an eye. Gunfire rang from the favellas well into the night and police sweeps of Copacabana were non-stop once the sun went down.

‘Too Ride…’s’ overdriven everything, nearly continuous swing, and lyrics focused on the perpetual struggle for sanity (or at least peace) made the perfect musical accompaniment for a new visitor to a society on the edge. Vocalist LG Petrov didn’t write the words he sang, but he delivered them with such unfettered disgust, amazement, and ferocity that they were inescapable.

LG died today, taken at age 49 by bile duct cancer. He was a unique and striking personality in a genre full of them. But I have ‘Too Ride…’ forever. And the journey’s just getting started.

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So it looks like everyone’s cool with Marilyn Mansion getting cancelled. Let’s use that common ground to build something. You know where to reach me. #bipartisanship

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When Trump backed COVID relief legislation it was urgently needed aid that got broad support from both sides of the aisle, but now that it’s Democrats it doesn’t even merit consideration. How can anyone take the GOP seriously? That’s a real question.