Author Archives: Cmsciabarra

Libertarian PBS

I know this is making the rounds, but still, it’s hilarious. H/T to my friend Ryan Neugebauer 🙂

Facebook as Deity?

Another Classic from Stephan Pastis and “Pearls Before Swine

Coronavirus (31): Dose #1 for a “Fake” Virus

Having recently attacked everything from Big Pharma to the medical-science-state-corporate nexus that plagues U.S. healthcare in the thirtieth installment of my Coronavirus series, I nevertheless want to make a few things clear about how I have personally dealt with weighing the risks and benefits of taking any of the three major COVID vaccines currently available in the United States (from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson).

First a few words to the Covidiots among us, who continue to deny the extent, seriousness, or even the very existence of COVID-19. My friend and colleague Roger Bissell addressed this issue first on Facebook (back in October 2020), and in addendums to that in a paper he shared with me (dated December 12, 2020), which I excerpt below. Roger focuses exclusively on the issue of “excess deaths”—for “if they exist,” he writes, “then the disease and its reported death toll are likely real; if not, not.” He continues:

Being an equal opportunity skeptic by nature, I was intrigued by an online claim, supposedly supported with data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), that there are in fact no excess deaths this year, and thus that 2020 will ultimately end up with approximately the same number of deaths from all causes as the most recent preceding years.

As reported by the CDC, the 2016, 2017, and 2018 figures for United States deaths from all causes were, respectively: 2,744,248; 2,813,503; and 2,839,205 (see here, here, and here). CDC figures for 2019 will apparently not be available until at least January 2021; however, hot off the press, as reported by the CDC, is the figure for United States deaths from all causes from February 1 through October 30, 2020: 2,347,341. Since this period is essentially three-fourths of the calendar year 2020, multiplying that number by 1.33 will produce a reasonable projected estimate of total 2020 United States deaths for all causes: 3,121,963.

From this, some simple arithmetic shows that in 2020, there will (likely) be more than 300,000 “excess deaths” compared to 2017. As of October 30, 2020, the number of United States deaths from COVID-19 was 235,158; a reasonable projection (based on an average of 1,000 deaths a day between now and the end of the year) would be about 295,000 deaths for the full year.

To me, this is solid proof (without all the technical bells and whistles from academic statistics) that we are dealing with a real, new disease, not some result of phony, fraudulent manipulation by people trying to pull the wool over our eyes. Whatever this disease really is, and whatever other questionable categorizing and reporting of deaths there may have been, about 300,000 more Americans [will have] … die[d] from all causes [in 2020] than have died from all causes in typical past years, and those deaths will likely be due to COVID-19.

On December 12, 2020, Roger provided additional analysis of the preliminary data (based on this data source):

The 2020 deaths from all causes for February 1 through December 9 is 2,703,232. If COVID is fake and there are no “excess deaths” for 2020, then all we need do is divide 2,703,232 by 313/366 (the ratio of days from Feb. 1 through Dec. 9 to the total days in 2020).

Simple math: 2,703,232 divided by 313/366 = 3,161,675.

So, the projected total deaths for 2020 is 3,161,675. The deaths for all causes for 2018 (above) is 2,839,205.

More simple math: 3,161,675 minus 2,839,205 = 322,470.

Does that look like COVID is fake to you? Something will have caused over 300,000 extra deaths [in 2020]. To paraphrase SNL’s Church Lady: “Could it be … COVID?” [YouTube link]


Now that we’ve gotten that issue out of the way, let me turn to a more personal issue. I’ve detailed throughout this series, the nightmarish extent of the death that I have witnessed in my hometown, New York City. A summary of my thoughts can be found in my last installment. But given my own lifelong health problems, clinically referred to as “comorbidities,” I had to weigh the risks of taking a relatively new vaccine (of whatever variety that is currently on the menu for U.S. citizens) versus the risks of contracting COVID, given those comorbidities. I spoke with all of my doctors, and the overwhelming consensus was: Take the vaccine, because the risks of dying from the vaccine are far lower than the risks of dying from contracting COVID, given my pre-existing conditions.

More than that, whatever problems I have had throughout my life, I am now the primary caregiver to my sister (“Ms. Ski” to all the students whose lives she changed dramatically throughout her nearly forty years as an educator), whom I love dearly, and whom I nearly lost in mid-November 2020 due to a non-COVID-related serious illness. She spent a solid month in the hospital, and after three months at home, returned to the hospital last Monday, due to complicating factors now requiring surgical attention. She undergoes major surgery tomorrow morning. We are hoping for the very best of outcomes.

So, again, this is a very personal decision and I would not for a moment engage in context-dropping (it’s against my dialectical sensibilities) to assume that I could make this decision for any person other than myself. And given my libertarian predilections, I’m not inclined to put a gun to anybody’s head to force them to take any vaccine—or to put a gun to anybody else’s head to force them to open their establishments to those who refuse to take vaccines of any kind, and whose inaction might put others at risk for deadly diseases that have been essentially eradicated (like smallpox).

After a couple of months of trying to get an appointment, I finally lined up one on Tuesday to receive the first dose of the Moderna vaccine late this afternoon. I arrived on time and it took about a half hour to receive the inoculation, sit for observation, and set up the date for my second dose in mid-April.

As yet, I have not sprouted any new ears, limbs, vestigial or highly active new parts of my body above or below my waist. I don’t suspect that the vax was designed to combat any alien virus straight out of “The X-Files“—or to create any alien-human hybrid race.

I made this decision for my own health, and as a responsible caregiver to my sister (who will eventually be vaccinated herself). True, it is not clear if getting vaccinated will prevent any of us from being asymptomatic carriers of the virus (though one study has suggested that those who took the Moderna vaccine might be able to prevent two-thirds of asymptomatic transmission after a single dose).

The decision is yours. I’ve made mine.

#IGotTheShotNYC

Postscript (19 March 2021): My sister’s surgery had to be postponed to Monday, March 22. Watch this space for updates! Thank you to all those who have expressed their love and support.

The Poetry of Rap

As a mobile DJ back in my college days, I learned early on just how to keep the crowd moving by spinning (yes, vinyl records back then!) hip hop and rap hits. Whether it was a party anthem, like the “Good Times“-fueled “Rapper’s Delight” [YouTube links] by The Sugarhill Gang and the Old School street sounds of Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel, Kurtis Blow, and Afrika Bambaata (whose cousin was one of my best friends: RIP, dear Ronnie) or, later, Run D-MC and the Beastie Boys, it never failed to pack the floors at a school dance or a senior prom. Over the years, I wrote a few essays about rap (especially its relationship to improvisational art forms like jazz), including one on the controversial Eminem.

So I was very impressed by an article published in the March 7, 2021 issue of The New York Times Style Magazine, “Free Flow” by Adam Bradley, which focused attention on the ways in which rap artists were dismantling the barriers between rap and poetry, especially during “a renewed era of American racial reckoning.” Discussing everything from the nature of sampling, the role of improvisation and the use of literary allusions (going as far back to Homer and Shakespeare), Bradley writes:

[A] line of demarcation persists between rap and poetry, born of outmoded assumptions about both forms: that poetry only exists on the page and rap only lives in the music, that poetry is refined and rap is raw, that poetry is art and rap is entertainment. These opinions are rife with bias — against the young, the poor, the Black and brown, the self-educated, the outspoken and sometimes impolite voices that, across five decades, have carried a local tradition from the South Bronx to nearly every part of the world.


Yet today, a new generation of artists, both rappers and poets, are consciously forging closer kinship between the genres. They draw from a common toolbox of language, use the same social media platforms to reach their audiences and respond to the same economic and political provocations to create public art. In doing so, rappers and the poets who claim affinity with them are resuscitating a body of literary practices mostly neglected in poetry during the 20th century. These ghost appendages of form — repetition, patterned rhythm and, above all, rhyme — thrive in song, especially in rap.

The article is well worth your attention.

Song of the Day #1859

Song of the Day: The Wizard of Oz (“Ding Dong the Witch is Dead”), music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by E. Y. Harburg, is one of the highlights of this 1939 film classic. Check out the original film version [YouTube link], along with many other renditions: Ella Fitzgerald (and here too), Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney (with solos by Scott Hamilton on tenor sax, Ed Bickert on guitar, Dave McKenna on piano, Warren Vache, Jr. on trumpet), a swingin’ Sammy Davis, Jr. with the Buddy Rich Band, Barbra Streisand with Harold Arlen himself and alternative versions by The Fifth Estate and Klaus Nomi. And with that, our Seventeenth Annual Film Music February comes to an end! Tonight is the airing of the 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards, where some of the composers we’ve featured in this year’s series are nominated. But we’ll have to wait till Oscar weekend (24-25 April 2021)—at which time I’ll feature a couple of additional Film Music tributes—to find out who takes home the prizes for the cinema music categories. Stay tuned!

Song of the Day #1858

Song of the Day: The Karate Kid (I-II-III-IV) (“Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link], composed by Bill Conti (well known for his soundtracks to the “Rocky” franchise), brings a perfect combination of energy, contemplation, and triumph to the whole film series (1984-1994). I recently re-watched the original films in their entirety—the first three with Ralph Macchio—as a prelude to the fun Netflix “Cobra Kai” series (see Xolo “Miguel Diaz” Mariduena’s FB page), in which Macchio reprises his role as Daniel LaRusso [YouTube link to the hilarious “Sweep the Leg” video by No More Kings]. I enjoyed the films on a whole other level than I did when I first saw them. Maybe it was a wider appreciation for all the wisdom coming out of the mouth of Mr. Miyagi! It’s not Bruce Lee, but it’s got a special poignancy for me.

Elizabeth Ann: Long Live The Ferret—and My Sister!

Whatever your views on cloning endangered species (we’re not talking about bringing back the dinosaurs, here, a la Jurassic Park!), I have to admit that both my sister—who is dealing with her share of health issues—and I got a bit of a thrill from this story about “the first of any native, endangered animal species in North America to be cloned.” A black-footed ferret, Elizabeth Ann was born on December 10, 2020, two days before my sister came home from a difficult one-month stay in the hospital.

As it happens, my sister’s name is Elizabeth Ann Sciabarra. My sister has been emboldened by her namesake’s birth. We all hope that her recovery mirrors that ferret’s fortune!

Three Cheers to Two Elizabeth Anns!

Song of the Day #1856

Song of the Day: Motherless Brooklyn (“Main Theme”) [YouTube link] was composed by Daniel Pemberton, who brings a Miles Davis-influenced sound to this 2019 film. The score also includes some classic jazz recordings along with other original songs, performed by such artists as trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.