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Les Paul, “Father of the Electric Guitar,” Dead at 94


I heard it on the car radio earlier today. Les Paul has died. For the past week, I’ve been reminiscing a lot about 1969. This weekend is the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival, and I don’t really have much desire to hear about it for days on end. But it does give me pause to realize that the music that was played at that long ago festival could not have happened without Les Paul’s innovations and inventions.

Adam Bernstein at The Washington Post:

Mr. Paul first came to prominence for his fast and flashy jazz-guitar style, which backed such entertainers as Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole. In the 1940s and early 1950s, he and singer Mary Ford, his wife, had hits with “How High the Moon,” “The Tennessee Waltz,” “Vaya con Dios” and “The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise.”

All along, he refined musical inventions in his workshop. He was an early designer of an electric guitar that had a solid body, and his model managed to reduce sound distortions common to acoustic instruments.

He actively promoted such guitars for the Gibson company, and the Les Paul line of guitars became commonplace among such musicians as bluesman Eric Clapton and rockers Pete Townshend and Jimmy Page.

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It’s About Who Decides (One More Time)

Being forced to die against my will would be terrifying. And I, personally, wouldn’t care whether the death panels making that decision were staffed by private bean counters from an insurance company — our current situation — or government bean counters from the Liberal Nazi Socialist Death Squad Agency — as imagined by the more crass or hallucinatory right wingers.

Being forced to live against my will is terrifying. Strapped into a chair so I can sit in front of a TV set. Or with a tube down my throat while my brain screams somewhere. Or . . . anyway, I can’t even stand to think about it. And I, personally, don’t care whether the people condemning me are on a private hospital “ethics” panel or represent the power of the State.

I’m not sure why any of this is hard for anyone to grasp. It’s not about death. It’s about who decides.

My right to control my life and death: essential. Somebody else controlling my life and death: hell on earth.

Unfortunately, I can only say that in bald and boring words. Terry Pratchett recently weighed in on this. Nothing further remains to be said.

Let me make this very clear: I do not believe there is any such thing as a ‘duty to die’; we should treasure great age as the tangible presence of the past, and honour it as such. …

But neither do I believe in a duty to suffer the worst ravages of terminal illness. …

Life is easy and cheap to make. But the things we add to it, such as pride, self-respect and human dignity, are worthy of preservation, too, and these can be lost in a fetish for life at any cost.

I believe that if the burden gets too great, those who wish to should be allowed to be shown the door. …

[M]y father’s problem was pain, and pain can be controlled right until the end.

But I do not know how you control a sense of loss and the slow slipping of the mind away from the living body – the kind that old-timer’s disease causes.

I know my father was the sort of man who didn’t make a fuss, and perhaps I would not, either, if pain were the only issue for me. But it isn’t.

I am enjoying my life to the full, and hope to continue for quite some time. But I also intend, before the endgame looms, to die sitting in a chair in my own garden with a glass of brandy in my hand and Thomas Tallis on the iPod – the latter because Thomas’s music could lift even an atheist a little bit closer to Heaven – and perhaps a second brandy if there is time.

Oh, and since this is England I had better add: ‘If wet, in the library.’

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The View From The Belly of The Beast: Part One

Wow, first post! Thanks to the other front-pagers for inviting me – I’m truly honored. I plan to do a three-part series on healthcare, with the first two parts detailing what is so wrong with the system, and the third part offering what I think are the solutions. I’ll be showing you what this looks like from the provider side, rather than the patient side.


The place I’d like  to start is identifying why I think the system is broken. Let me say at the outset that I am not a big-government person, nor am I a small-government person. I’m a constrained-and-watchdogged, effective and fiscally responsible government person.   I’m a liberal centrist, and mostly a pragmatist, and I could care less if a demonstrably good idea came from Dennis Kucinich or Newt freaking Gingrich. If it’s logical and it works, I do not care.  My approach to the whole question of healthcare reform is not rooted in ideology. At all.

Instead, it’s rooted in the years I have spent in the healthcare field. As a retired nurse, married to a Family Practice physician, I have spent many years observing how our system works from the inside. I was both nurse and office manager, billing/referral/pre-authorization clerk, phone person, lab tech, and chief cook and bottle washer for my husband’s solo private practice. I helped him set up that practice from scratch, with all the insurance contracts, credentialing, inspections, and everything else it entails.

So, now that I’ve established that I know (at least a little) what the hell I am talking about, let’s talk about insurance companies. Let’s talk about what goes on, on a daily basis, in a real live medical practice. We’ve all heard the horror stories from the patient end, the big denials. Those exist in abundance, but I’m not going to address that here, because we all know those stories, and we are familiar with them. Instead I’m going to try to show you, and hopefully help you understand and get a feel for, the sheer, crushing volume of all the other, “small” stuff. The dailyness of it all, that has become overwhelming.

It’s a chess game, played mostly blind, in which the rules and players on the board change constantly, at the will and whim of something much bigger than you are. It’s exhausting. It’s frustrating. It’s a real morale-killer. Oh, you thought I was talking about diagnosing and treating disease? No, I was talking about getting anything a)covered and b)paid for. You will see later that those two are not the same thing.

So – let’s check in at the office. What’s it really like, behind the scenes?

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Thursday Morning News: Summertime, summertime, sum-sum-summertime

At this time next week, I will be lolling on a beach in Maui.  Ahhhhh.   I can hardly wait to get out of the stifling humidity of NJ, a humidity I haven’t been able to escape now that my AC is kaput and I am determined to ride out the rest of the summer without it.  (Well, that plus the fact that a replacement is supposed to cost me nearly $6000 for my modest townhouse.  Does that number seem high?)  The AC went out after the plane tickets were bought so Maui it is and I do not regret it.  If the pictures are accurate, here’s where I’ll be having breakfast next Thursday.


On to the news:

Corzine is still trailing Christie in the race for New Jersey’s governor.  It doesn’t look like Corzine has closed the gap much.  Christie leads by 12+%  The DailyKos poll has him leading by only 8%. which is the most optimistic poll.  With DailyKos polling only the Obama supporters who are men between the ages of 14-30, with jobs in the finance industry who have posters of Jon Favreau on the walls of their bedrooms in their mom’s house, that’s still not good news for Corzine.  Ya’know, you can’t blame this on racism, not that the Kossacks won’t try. Hmmm, maybe Corzine should have tried harder to be a good Democratic governor instead of a DINO placeholder.  Oh, well!  Too late to cram for it now.

Simon Johnson at baselinescenario is following the Fed’s claims that it can protect consumers better than a new Consumer Protection agency of the type that Elizabeth Warren favors.  Johnson’s not buying it.  It’s not part of the Fed’s scope or mandate and it doesn’t work in the Fed’s favor.   Part of an ongoing series of arguments that are not to me missed.

Alegre points to a piece by Peter Daou on the Overton Window at The Huffington Post.  I can’t disagree with anything in Daou’s piece but I think what is getting overlooked is the reason that Obama started in the center and worked his way right.  I think this was part of the design in electing Obama in the first place.  The establishment press loved him because they knew he would be weak and beholden to them for getting him into office in the first place.  It explains why Michelle has been deep-sixed on the political stage and relegated to a Republican First Lady style public role.  It’s to keep the press at bay.  So much for feminism in the White House.  Obama’s reluctance to start left and negotiate from there indicates a fear of the press, who would have savaged him on the health care issue.  So far, the media is supporting his plan, with the exception of the Limbaughs and other right wingers.  That worries me because the establishment media doesn’t like change.  Obama could have used his political capital and his majorities in both houses to come out of the inauguration like gangbusters and take everyone by surprise with a well constructed universal health care plan that would cut out the middle men.  That didn’t happen and I don’t think it was just fear of the media that prevented him from doing it.

But what is preventing Obama from doing it?  I keep reading “faith based” musings from Democrats and liberals who assume that Obama has some greater purpose that he isn’t telling us yet.  Like this one from Robin Wells:

Joking aside, I have this fervent belief that Obama has somewhere, deep down in his pockets, the keys to escape.

Or this one from Michael Moore:

I take all of the things that make me nervous about the decisions that Obama has made, and I look and them through that lens – that it’s some kind of master plan. It’s like his continued support of a government-run option for health care. If a true public option is enacted – and Obama knows this – it will eventually bring about a single-payer system, because the profit-making insurance companies won’t be able to compete with a government plan and make the profits they want to make. At some point most of them will probably have to bow out of the business.

It sort of reminds me of Saint Paul telling us that we see through a glass darkly but soon all will be made clear.  Surely, the judgment day is coming when Obama will return and smite his enemies and usher in an era of liberal paradise.  We cannot know the day or the hour.  But it’s coming.  We mere mortals shouldn’t question his ways of Obama.  Um, this is creepy.  I even see Paul Krugman almost slipping into this mindset.  But the signs do not point to an Armageddon followed by 1000 years of New Deal-Great Society 2.0.  Can we just put away the glazed out expressions and deal with reality here?  Obama is not a god and we don’t have to make burnt offerings and read the smoke to figure out what he wants.  There is no such thing as 11 dimensional chess.  He’s just not a very strong or progressive president and he’s not going to save the day.  Period.

And here’s a cold dose of reality from the New York Times for the believers.  In Obama Injects Himself Into Health Care Talks, the veil is pulled back to show that Obama already cut deals for undermining the public option back in the spring:

In pursuing his proposed overhaul of the health care system, President Obama has consistently presented himself as aloof from the legislative fray, merely offering broad principles. Prominent among them is the creation of a strong, government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers and press for lower costs.

Behind the scenes, however, Mr. Obama and his advisers have been quite active, sometimes negotiating deals with a degree of cold-eyed political realism potentially at odds with the president’s rhetoric.

Last month, for example, hospital officials were poised to appear at the White House to announce a deal limiting their industry’s share of the costs of the overhaul proposal when a wave of jitters swept through the group. Senator Max Baucus, the Finance Committee chairman and a party to the deal, had abruptly pulled out of the event. Was he backing away from his end of the deal?

Not to worry, Jim Messina, deputy White House chief of staff, told the lobbyists, according to White House officials and lobbyists briefed on the call. The White House was standing behind the deal, Mr. Messina said, capping the industry’s costs at a maximum of $155 billion over 10 years in trade for its political support.

Some Democrats and industry lobbyists now argue that, in negotiating deals through Mr. Baucus’s panel with powerful health care interests, the White House was tacitly signaling as early as last spring that it might end up accepting something more modest than the government insurer the president has said he prefers.

The Rapture ain’t coming.

I don’t like to dwell on the trivial and distracting but here are two takes on Hillary’s (quite understandable) retort to a student journalist in Africa who asked whether she deferred to the Big Dawg while doing her job.  Suzanne Goldenberg of The Guardian thinks Clinton is due some respect for the job she has taken on and gets no credit for.  Tina Brown, that middle aged mean girl at The Daily Beast writes the most loathesome piece of tripe I’ve read since Sally Quinn told Hillary to take some time off after the primaries and visit an ashram or something to get her moral bearings.  (Wasn’t Sally Quinn the woman who ended her husband’s first marriage with an affair?  Someone remind me.)  One can almost imagine MoDo, Quinn and Brown doing lunch and plotting their next nasty knifing of a powerful woman.  What exactly is their problem with powerful women anyway?  Is it that nastiness is the only power they possess?  Ok, I’ve given these people waaay too much time.  Moving on…

Yes, that’s Tina Fey playing teacher.

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