What’s the Matter With Colorado?

Mark UdallEarlier this week, I woke up with a thought in my mind, “I can’t believe Colorado is going Republican!” I wasn’t really thinking about Governor John Hickenlooper, who has been running neck-and-neck with Bob Beauprez the whole campaign. That’s bad enough. But Mark Udall has been losing to Cory Gardner. That’s right, extremist Cory Gardner! And he isn’t losing by a little. Daily Kos currently has him down by four percentage points.

It isn’t that I had been thinking much about it before. In general, I haven’t focused on specific races. But it clearly had been eating away in the back of my mind. My subconscious was screaming at me, “How can this be?!” This, after all, is Colorado: the Amsterdam of America! But you know, maybe that isn’t really the issue. I’m sure that I was effected by a great Jason Jones’ segment on The Daily Show last year, Not-So-Angry Voters.

In the segment, Jones went to Colorado to talk to John Morse, the former state senator who got recalled for his support of incredibly minor gun control legislation. The joke (in more ways than one) is that the legislation was super popular. Morse lost his seat anyway. It’s a funny and anger inspiring segment:

It still isn’t clear why Gardner should be leading Udall by an increasing margin. Is it just that only the right wing freaks have gotten the message and that, like all the people Jason Jones interviewed on streets, the reasonable majority just isn’t engaged? Earlier today, Martin Longman at Political Animal tried to answer this question, A Look at the Colorado Senate Race. He discussed a number of issues, but the most relevant is that Udall has been saving his advertising muscle for the end of the campaign as Jerry Brown did here in California so successfully back in 2010:

The best and most hopeful argument in Udall’s favor that I have heard is that he held his fire on his advertising campaign, allowing Gardner to dominate the airwaves in September in order to have an advantage down the stretch. Reports from Colorado are that Udall ads (from both the campaign and from outside groups) have saturated the markets in recent weeks and are currently ubiquitous. If progressive explanations for Udall’s deficit are accurate, that he hasn’t painted Gardner as the radical that he really is, that has changed now.

We can hope. There are only ten days left until election day. And the strategy doesn’t make that much sense. When Brown used it, he was forced to. He was running against a billionaire who simply could not be outspent. I would think that Udall, being an incumbent, would have had no problem with money. And if he were going to start hammering on Gardner, he would have done it earlier. But what do I know? Really.

There are other reasons to feel hopeful. There is, of course, the fact that midterm polling tends to be pretty far off. But again, Udall is down by four percentage points — that’s a lot. There is also the thought that maybe the Bannock Street Project — the Democrats’ increased get-out-the-vote effort — will help, as may be Colorado’s new all-mail voting system. But as Longman noted, “If the Bannock Street Project is working as anticipated, it should be at least partially evident in the current polls.” That may or may not be true; I’ve always had big questions about the polling outfits’ “likely voter” screens.

If Udall’s ad campaign is going to work, we should start to see it. And there is a tiny data point that does indicate this. The most recent poll shows Udall up by one percentage point. It is a Udall campaign internal poll and those tend to be heavily skewed toward whomever pays for them. (This doesn’t mean the poll itself is bad; but campaigns are unlikely to release bad poll results.) But looking inside the poll, it looks reasonable. For example, Udall is winning the Latino vote 57-30%. That actually seems low to me — indicating that maybe even it is underestimating Udall’s strength.

We will know what’s going on soon enough. It will all come down to who votes. The only thing necessary for the triumph of crazy is for good men to do nothing. “Vote you a**holes!”

Antibiotics Create False Sense of Security

Aaron CarrollI have lived a long and colorful life — causing myself far more pain that I was born to. Yet the most painful thing I have ever been through was a case of herpes zoster — “shingles.” For five days, I was in so much pain that I did not sleep except for passing out for a few minutes here and there. The thing about shingles is that it is caused by a virus. I finally made it to a doctor on the fifth day and they put me on some kind of antiviral drug. And it was amazing — in its total uselessness.

This only highlights just what amazing things antibiotics are. If it weren’t for antibiotics, I would be dead. At least once they saved my life and maybe more than that. So it truly is remarkable that we have these largely generic drugs that are so highly effective. And it shouldn’t surprise us that doctors give them out like candy. It is a form of defensive medicine that actually has potentially deadly aspects.

I’m not talking about the antibiotic resistance that taking the drug creates, although that is certainly an issue. Instead, I’m talking about an article by Aaron Carroll, On an Antibiotic? You May Be Getting Only a False Sense of Security. In it, he noted that doctors often don’t know if the disease they are treating is caused by bacteria. He started with an extreme example:

The best way to prevent transmission of Ebola in the United States is to identify and quarantine those with the disease as soon as possible. However, the first Ebola patient in this country was, unfortunately, released after going to an emergency room, even though he had symptoms indicative of the disease. He was sent home on antibiotics.

But this seems to be pretty typical. Here, the doctors thought that Thomas Eric Duncan had a sinus infection. The problem with that is that sinus infections are usually viral, not bacterial. So even if Duncan had had a sinus infection, the doctors probably didn’t treat it properly, “Yet antibiotics are regularly prescribed in this manner.” And the issue isn’t just with the people treated.

Carroll is a pediatrician and so he is very familiar with conjunctivitis — “pink eye.” The general rule is that children with this disease are not allowed back at school until they’ve been on antibiotics for 24 hours. One of the problems with this rule is that pink eye is usually caused by a virus. But even when it isn’t, “Drugs simply work differently in different people.” He noted that people with pink eye could be contagious up to ten days after they start a course of antibiotics! The bottom line:

Even in the best-case scenario, being “on an antibiotic” isn’t much protection for others. And often, antibiotics offer no protection at all.

So what do we do about this? Carroll doesn’t have much of a recommendation other than for doctors to recognize that they often prescribe antibiotics more for themselves than for their patients. But I have a thought that has nothing to do with medicine. I think the problem is that our culture has changed in ways that are hurting us. It isn’t just that we pretend that everything must get done now now now! (I have friends who work for content providers and they are on deadline constantly; there is no normalcy.) But the bigger issue, I think, is that now most households have two people who work outside the home. So it is really important to get the kids back to school. It’s madness. And it is probably killing us in more ways than one.

On a personal level, you might want to make sure that what your doctor is giving you is correct. But even if it is, it doesn’t mean you aren’t contagious. Streptococcal pharyngitis – “strep throat” — which is treated really well by antibiotics, doesn’t do much to stop it from spreading from the patient. So try to slow down and spend a little time alone. Learn to meditate. Or start a blog! The two are really not that different.

Afterword

I want to be clear that I think who manages the home ought to be a couple’s choice. But the big problem is that most jobs don’t pay enough to support a family anymore. I find it interesting that conservatives spend so much time whining about the dissolution of the family, yet they aren’t willing to support economic policies that would facilitate family cohesion. Managing a household is a full time job. We have two income families now because the business community wants higher profits and the government has enforced policies to assure that. It isn’t that way because the American family was just itching to have someone else raise its kids.

Conservatives Love “America,” Hate America

DigbyThis morning, Digby wrote a few choice words about what she rightly calls, The New “Blame America First Crowd.” It follows from an interview with Douglas MacKinnon about his recent book, The Secessionist States of America: the Blueprint for Creating a Traditional Values Country… Now. He wants to found a new country called “Reagan.” Digby quoted him arguing that the Civil War was illegal, and that Lincoln went to war because the “North realized very quickly that it could not survive economically without the power of the South.” That’s a thigh-slapper! The South had largely missed the industrial revolution because of its reliance on slaves. It was an economic backwater then and to a large extent remains one to this day.

But the point of Digby’s article isn’t that MacKinnon is delusional; it is that MacKinnon, like so many on the far right, hates America. People like him love “America,” of course. “America” is some ideal that they have in their minds in which everyone agrees with them and they are never taxed, yet the Social Security checks keep coming. Mostly, “America” is a big deal in areas where people get a lot more from the federal government than they pay. But most of all, America constantly and always disappoints “America.”

Digby expressed my frustration perfectly:

It’s fine with me if they hate America. Everyone has the right to do that if they choose. But it would be nice if they could be the tiniest bit consistent about this. When the left complains about American policy it is accused of being un-American and called traitors to their country by these same people. And yet when they don’t like American policies they can call for secession and maintain their reputations as All American Patriots at the same time.

In fact from now on I’m going to refer to every right winger who is mad about abortion rights or marriage equality or high taxes the “blame America first crowd” because they have earned that title as honestly as any lefty who complains about America’s foreign policy or criminal justice inequities.

It is extremely weird that we on the left have been labeled un-American when all we want are marginal changes to the current state of things. On the right, they are quite explicit that their patriotism is entirely dependent upon America doing exactly what they want. And despite what many people think, this is not a new phenomenon. It was true at least as far back as the 1950s. The most striking thing in Claire Conner’s Wrapped in the Flag is how often the people at that time repeated what is now the clarion call of the Tea Party, “Take our country back!” The implication is that America as it actually exists is invalid.

What it really all comes down to is that we liberals are supposedly wrong because we complain about foreign policy. But you see, this is part of the whole “America” love problem. Part of the conservative love of “America” depends upon the country being able to do whatever it wants militarily. This is why despite the US spending almost as much as the entire word combined on the military, conservatives claim that we must spend more on the military. The point, however, is that liberals are blaming “America” because we are against fascism and imperialism.

Conservatives think they are the arbiters of what America is all about. Liberals do not share in that delusion. In fact, liberals are quite explicit in thinking that there is a battle for the soul of America. So when a conservative bloviates about how abortion should be illegal, liberals may disagree, but they don’t claim the country wouldn’t be America if Roe v Wade were overturned. It’s all about purity, which is a well established conservative obsession. And this is what allows conservatives to claim that liberals hate America, when it is the conservatives who are always wanting to separate from the country. They care about “America,” and “America” only exists in their minds.

Could Michelle Nunn Actually Win Georgia?

Michelle NunnAndrew Prokop reported over at Vox yesterday, Election Forecasters Now Give Democrats a Slight Edge in Georgia. And that’s true. Michelle Nunn has been hammering David Perdue who spent most of his career outsourcing, and thinks it is something people should applaud him for. They haven’t been applauding.

It’s the same old story: the things Republicans actually believe in are really unpopular. But I’m sure in the social circle that Perdue is in, it’s a different universe. In it, outsourcing is great, only property owners should be allowed to vote, and taxes must be eliminated for the “job creators.” They are shocked when they get out into the real world and find that these are not widely supported ideas. And this is why conservatives think that liberals shouldn’t be allowed to vote. Unless they understand what “everyone I talk to” knows, they must be ill informed.

If you look at the polls, Nunn really does look like she is beating Perdue — by roughly 2 percentage points. But don’t get too excited. She doesn’t just have to beat Perdue. She has to get over 50% of the vote. If she doesn’t, it goes to a runoff in January. There are two problems with that. First, there is a libertarian, Amanda Swafford, who is consistently getting about 5% of the vote. As I’ve discussed before, libertarians tend to vote Republican. So most of those libertarian votes will go to Perdue in January. The second problem is bigger: voter turnout will be even worse in January, which will help Perdue.

But it is possible that Nunn could get to 50% in the general election. The Daily Kos election model currently has Nunn getting 48.2% of the total vote. As I discussed yesterday, the nationwide polling data for midterms has been off by an average of 2.9 percentage points. The polling for Nunn would only have to be biased against her by 1.8 percentage points. It isn’t out of the question. Just the same, maybe the polls are biased the other way around and Perdue will get 50%. (That’s unlikely; they would have to be running 3 percentage points against him.)

Let’s give the runoff a thought. I think if Nunn loses but still forces a runoff, it’s over. But if Nunn wins and they go to a runoff, I think there will be a lot of resources put to her campaign. And I don’t especially seeing the Republicans’ resources as changing things all that much. Nunn would have two months to continue to beat up on Perdue about how much he thinks it rocks to send jobs overseas. And with an aggressive get-out-the-vote operation, she might just be able to win. But I think it is clear that this is less likely to happen than that she is going to out perform the polls and win outright on 4 November.

It is important to remember, however, that none of this should even be possible. The Georgia electorate is changing, but it hasn’t changed that much. According to the polls, the Democrats are greatly out performing expectations. The Republicans really have nothing to feel good about in this election. And if the Democrats do manage to hold the Senate, there really ought to be suicides on K Street. I don’t expect to see this, however. The Republicans will take what will regardless be gains in the Senate as another reason to continue on with their scorched earth resistance to actually helping the country. Regardless of what happens, this will be the election that people will look back on and say, “That’s when the Republican Party started to lose its grip on national politics.”

Georges Bizet

Georges BizetOn this day in 1838, the great composer Georges Bizet was born. Had he lived longer, he doubtless would have been hugely influential — especially with regard to opera. But he died suddenly and young. So he exists as a kind of idiosyncratic bit of musical genius in the second half of the 19th century. He is especially known for his great melodies and I think in this way (and many others), he is comparable to Mozart. Sadly, most of Bizet’s professional life was spent arranging and orchestrating the works of others — skills that also shine brightly in his own work.

Bizet’s focus was on composing for the human voice — both opera and song. But he was also a fine composer for orchestra. In fact, the only real success he had during his life was the suite he created based upon incidental music he wrote for the play L’Arlésienne by Alphonse Daudet. But that doesn’t mean the rest of his orchestral music wasn’t great. Take, for example, Petite Suite based upon his Jeux d’Enfants, which was a collection of a dozen piano duets. It is a wonderfully charming work:

Probably the biggest reason that Bizet did not have success as an opera composer during his life is because he worked with poor librettos. In particular, two of his later operas — Les Pêcheurs de Perles and La Jolie Fille de Perth — are great from a musical standpoint, but make weak drama. I don’t tend to think about that much; to me it is all about the music. But that wasn’t the case for the audiences at the time.

Bizet’s last composition is his greatest and his most renowned, Carmen. Sadly, the first performance of the opera did not go well. Ironically, it didn’t go well for the one of the reasons that it has become a classic: it is racy. It tells the story of Jose who is led astray by the seductress Carmen. And after abandoning everything in his life for her, she dumps him for a toreador. In a fit a jealousy, Jose stabs Carmen to death. Here is the last number from the opera, “C’est toi! – C’est moi!” There are no English subtitles, but it should be clear enough what’s going on. Let me just note that after the stabbing, there is a small fantasy sequence. Carmen wasn’t secretly in love with Jose; this is just his brief delusion. Regardless, this is beautiful production:

Happy birthday Georges Bizet!