Lie to Me


Suppose they give an election and no one shows

Suppose they give an election and no one shows

As I’m watching yet another set of idiotic political messages on TV, dealing with Charlie Crist’s attacks on Rick Scott’s company illegally feeding from the public trough while Scott’s campaign centers around flipping Crist being responsible for 800,000 job losses during his tenure as Florida’s Governor, I wonder why people love to be lied at, better yet apparently demand it from their leaders.

We already knew about Scott’s shady past before he was elected last time and to make Charlie Crist – not the cleanest one himself either- responsible for 800,000 job losses in Florida, when the world dove into an economic tailspin after the 2008 crash on Wall Street, is ludicrous to anyone with a basic sense of economics. Yet, millions are being spent on these messages trying to sway the voters left or right.
And then my thoughts go to the local political arena and my recent encounter with one commissioner in the local halls of social exchange, the grocery aisles at Publix Supermarket and for a brief moment I actually felt sorry for a certain class of politicians in today’s world; those that chose this path in life out of the urge to create a better society.

The commissioner in question “applied” for his job several years ago with the very best of intentions, wanting to make life in this wannabe Mayberry-town better. But as we talked, I could see that he was worn out and slightly bewildered by the facts that his constituents not really want him to fix things.
I might normally have interpreted that as some kind of excuse, but he seemed especially open at that moment, so I asked him what he thought. He sighed and told me that he really wanted to put some progress and future into this town but when he thought he had an opportunity to actually deliver on most of the things he had campaigned for (reduced government, less meddling in people’s lives, plans for a solid economic future, stuff like that) he quickly learned that whenever the issue became a “tit for that” situation, requiring a small price to pay, nobody stood with him.

“And?” I asked.
He looked at me in a worn out way and said, “No one would pay even a small price or take some minimal action to get what they said they wanted.”
I could only nod as other people we both knew pushed by with their shopping carts. I felt a bit sorry for him and thought there is so much wisdom in song lyrics, softly singing inside my head Jonny Lang’s first hit:
‘Lie to me,
Lie to me and tell me everything is all right
Lie to me and tell me that you’ll stay here tonight
Tell me that you’ll never leave
Oh, and I’ll just try to make believe
Come on and lie to me’.

That brought me to another subject, but I was hesitant to bring it up. Politician or not, this man was feeling a lot of sadness and I didn’t want to pile on. But he always was a stand-up guy, and he got there himself, so I said: “You know what that means, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I do. It means that no matter what they say, they don’t really want change… they’re not willing to ‘suffer’ for it. All their slogans are just brave-sounding words. They need politicians, so that there’s always someone to blame.”

I agreed, even though it’s not often that I feel sorry for a politician, but on this occasion I had to. This man had started with good intentions. And regardless of how badly his electorate had let him down, what really pierced his heart was learning that his voters didn’t really want what they said they wanted. That made everything he was doing meaningless. It’s tough to watch that kind of realization spreading over the face of a guy passing the prime of his life.

Some politicians really do serve as “icons of blame” for a huge number of people. Regardless of which political party you love or hate, there’s always someone to blame for your troubles: The Blues are ruining the world, the Reds are ruining the world, The Tea Party is dangerous, the “establishment” is ruining the world, bureaucracy is ruining the world.

The truth of the matter is that the productive people of the world — those of us who create and supply products and services — have the ultimate say over what happens on this planet. If any serious number of us decided that we really didn’t like what politicians were doing, we could simply withdraw our support and the political systems would crash, rather quickly I would guess. But for what it’s worth, we live in a state of special interests and that’s why this mid-term election is the most expensive one in history: $4 billion dollars of empty promises and slogans!

Tuesday is another election day that no-one is really interested in even though slightly more than $4 billion dollars is spent on this mid-term, which probably get less than half of the registered voters enough energized to make it to the polling stations. And do we really think Crist or Scott are fundamentally different people. In spite of all the slogans and accusations, they are not.

And on the Federal level, to make sure that life stays in the balance of a happy status quo, Washington and the Feds predictably put out some upbeat statements about the economy and GDP last week, so we all( except for realistic economists) can sleep in financial peace, because our wise politicians and their appointees have saved the global economy and everything is fine now. Wall Street goes through the roof on credit and debt, gold is down and the banks still don’t loan, unless you bring a truck load of cash and your first-born with you. In the meantime health insurance premiums go up 10%, Florida Power is granted another 5% billing increase and we’re all scrambling to make ends meet. The price of oil is now down to a price level ($80 a barrel) at which our newly found shale oil operations cannot make profit anymore, so expect a reversal of that Christmas gift to be coming soon.
“Lie to me and tell me everything is all right.”
Yes, I pity the poor politician who seeks office, especially in a small town, to try and improve things, to come and find, that his reason for existence is anchored in a lie. People don’t want to change, they just want someone to blame. Keep that in mind when you’re voting today.

The vast majority of politicians lie, steal, and cause lots of harm, but they persist because people want them to persist.

Trickery and Thievery vs Creative Campaigning

Texas Campaign brochure

This is enough to fool people into thinking that it concerns a black person?

Amidst the “headline news” this morning that an Act of Thievery gives the Jaguars their first win of the season and Atheists form a church to find camaraderie, there is a jewel of a piece of news in the reporting of a white guy narrowly winning a Houston schoolboard election by running a campaign that smartly implies that he is black (or should I say African American?).

Dave Wilson, a Houston Texas electrician, who previously came in the news for mailing out homophobic fliers to Houston voters against the city’s lesbian mayor, beat a 24 year incumbent with a campaign that apparently suggested to voters that he was black.

Normally I wouldn’t give a moment’s notice to a man who’s also painted by the media as an Anti-Gay activist since I have no patience for homophobic behavior. But after reading this story I wonder if the man was simply using the “Devil’s Advocate” persona to expose a huge variety of human stupidity. And then again for a state that can put someone like Ted Cruz  into the senate and believes his dad’s concocted life story, anything is possible.

And Dave Wilson chuckles as he talks about his unorthodox political campaign that ousted a 24 year long incumbent, who’d obviously had already called victory. “I’d always said it was a long shot,” Wilson was reported to have said. He didn’t expect to win, instead he figured he’d have fun running, because he was fed up with what he called “all the shenanigans” at the Houston Community College System.

Now leave it to the media to discredit the fact that the man is wonderfully original by labeling a strategy that apparently did not need a picture of him and including a clever move to have a cousin who carries the same name of a well known black politician in the district endorse him, a tricking voters.

For me this exposes the media as two-faced and trickery. Don’t tell me that they did not lay eyes on this campaign way ahead of the elections. Don’t tell me that the incumbent opponent of this man did not realize that this was an “impersonation” campaign long before voters went to the booth. If no one in his district warned him about this, he was doing something terribly wrong. What the media now imply however, is that apparently Voters are so blasé and ignorant these days, that they can be fooled into believing anything politicians throw at them.

To the contrary I think voters saw through it all and decided to upset the apple cart because it needed to be done. After all, serving 24 years on a schoolboard(?) smells like manipulative abuse of democratic principles and a guarantee that shenanigans will run rampant.
Of course I don’t know the level of  dissatisfaction over the satisfactory performance of this schoolboard in Houston, because I question the need for yet another level of political manipulation that is operated by tax payer money but my congratulations go to Mr. Wilson. I do not endorse his anti-gay stance, as it is part of the privilege of living in a democracy. But I do admire his creative ‘tongue in cheek’ election campaign. What I endorse even more, is the way it exposes the role of manipulative media in our severely crippled democracy and how their laziness to expose factual information has rendered them obsolete.

Here is a candidate, whose approach to political attraction was so full of holes in an era of internet, instant communications, cell phones, personal web pages etc. that anyone with an interest, could have blown it wide open. Yet, no one treated it as news until probably the loosing incumbent with a failing track record started whining that life is unfair if a white dude with a sense of humor and a fight to pick, upsets his 24 year tenure.

I encourage you to watch the following video and witness with your own eyes and ears how incredibly complicated we have become and how little the above story has to do with racism as much as it has to do with double standards.

Two Recent Incidents That Put Reality Back in Squares

When the lights went out in the Superdome

When the lights went off in the Superdome, a light went on in my head

There are moments in life that define clarity of action, but only if we are willing to understand what’s at stake. Lately I have been trying to avoid writing about economic woes, financial fears, loss of liberties to the point where fear of the future creates anxiety. I have consciously tried to just not care anymore, be complacent and pursue happiness along the lines of what I learned years ago from a Tibetan friend who shared with me that happiness is ENERGY. “Happy people are bubbly and enthusiastic”, he said, “while depressed people usually complain about lack of energy.”

So with that in mind, we (my wife and I) energetically started renovating and upgrading one of the suites in our little Bed and Breakfast on the beach. All other 5 suites went already through this process in the past 13 months, but with this particular one, we were a bit scared of what we would find behind layers of wall paper and underneath floors. And our fears were not disappointed. A building erected in 1938 clearly has some plumbing and power issues to anticipate and the layers of paint and wallpaper applied in those 75 years are enough to make structural walls out of basic room dividers.

While attacking the various problems I learned rather quickly that in those 75 years a lot of building materials and products have changed along the lines of new technologies, many of which do not necessarily play nice with the old ones. Needless to say that the 4 day project turned into 10 days and our happy energy took a beating in the process.

And while at it, I heard the story about the lights going out at the Superdome during a Superbowl that attracted 115 million viewers, who ate 1.2 billion chicken wings and drank 50 million cases of beer and I couldn’t help but think, that history will remember this one as a marker of things to come. Sorry Beyoncé, sorry Joe Flacco, sorry GoDaddy commercial, you may all have your minute in the spotlight, but history will recall this one as the one that had an overly complicated power infrastructure fail, in what is supposedly a showcase of modern technology.
That fact, combined with my micro experience at the Inn, put reality back in squares for me.

We live in an era where infra structures are getting more and more complex because of rising demand and financial austerity; so as usual we are trying to save money by connecting old systems with new systems; and that is clearly a recipe for disaster. I couldn’t help recalling astronaut turned politician John Glenn (at least I think it was him) saying something like “scary to realize that all parts of this flying object are manufactured by the lowest bidders,” during his 1962 debut in space.

On a local sidenote it kind of also makes me shiver when I read local commissioner Gass reject the continuation of the Forward Fernandina project because it is in her words “not necessary”.

This problem is not isolated to the Superdome, but is happening everywhere in North America and to a slightly lesser degree in Europe. More than half of America’s gas transmission and gathering systems were built more than 50 years ago. Power grids, sewage systems, water distribution systems; the essence of everyday life quality but often already past its life cycle. Obama is talking about 70,000 bridges in the US being defunct in one way or another, yet we’re spending trillions on homeland security instead of infrastructures. His state of the union address was laced with optimism and painting rosy pictures of energy independence. Insiders know, nothing is further from the truth.  An global economic giant like New York City can be taken off the grid by a crappy storm like Sandy, because power and communication lines are still above ground and water grid structures are past their life cycle. (I say crappy because compared to Katrina, Hugo, Isabel or any of the Caribbean hurricanes, Sandy was a category 1 storm. Of course there are always people who need different justifications and excuses to make a name for themselves, which is why Washington Post reporter Brian McNoldy wrote something about Sandy’s kinetic energy being bigger than Katrina.) Stories like this will always find supporters of non action, people with warning index fingers, giving others the justification to sit back (and relax until the next catastrophy).

Let us put things in perspective: how many cars do you see on the road that are from the ’60s? How much time and effort do you think goes into maintaining a 50-year-old car to make sure it is roadworthy? Ask some of the exhibitors during the Concours d’Elégance next month, and you’ll be amazed and awed by the answers.

The reality is that pipelines, power lines, and other energy infrastructure are getting older and more ineffective (leakage) every day and becoming more prone to shutdowns, security breaches and accidents.

Yet, in Western nations, it is becoming more difficult to upgrade facilities due to regulations, bureaucracy and irrelevant protests from environmentalists. No I’m not saying environmentalists are bad news, what I’m saying is that environmentalists need to be educated on true issues versus irrelevance. Because all the uneducated objections will lead to a downward spiral that is difficult to reverse… unless industries, governments and environmental groups begin adopting the “Sensible Solution”, an idea which could balance the urgent need to update our aging systems with the need to protect the environment.

I used the 35 minute black out in the Superdome to watch this youTube video. If energy is the face of happiness, we need to pick ourselves off the floor and start building a sustainable future.

Washington has earned the title “Tinseltown East”

From Fiscal Cliff to Economic Abyss: A Joint Effort

From Fiscal Cliff to Economic Abyss: A Joint Effort

If you want further proof how the Nation’s Capital is outbidding Hollywood for the term Tinseltown, look no further. The last minute Fiscal Cliff “deal” is all the proof you need.

Weeks of  crappy and mostly inaccurate “news” material about 2013 financial challenges were translated by Washington pundits from challenging to mysterious to horror and death and destruction and concluded into a shotgun wedding compromise between Joe Biden and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on the Eve of Destruction. At least that’s what both parties would like you to believe: that the wedding was forced. Everyone can exit the theatre with a nervous smile of relief: disaster has been diverted.

Don’t be fooled. At no point should you even consider believing that the Republicrats and Demopublicans were going to let anything remotely looking like austerity prevail and actually clip their ability to spend like the drunken frat boys they are. They’re having way too much fun for that.

Washington has become a powerful and profitable movie franchise, much more attractive that any ‘Mission Impossible’, ‘Shreck’ or even ‘James Bond’ franchise. This is a franchise with numerous Box Office Hit sequels in the pipeline: The Mysterious Disappearance of Social Security, the Return of the Evil Empire, Body Snatchers have Invaded Medicare and so on. The fiscal cliff sequel is already being lined up by executive producer B. Obama, who projects Wars on Main Street when the next issue of Lifting the Debt Ceiling is going to be tackled. Maybe the Republicrats will finally dig in their heels, just like Gandalf did when meeting the Balrog Demon in Lord of the Rings, and, staff in hand, shout with firm intent, “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”

But as real critics call the POTUS debt ceiling warning “predictable”, mainstream reporting happily goes along with another bout of deceptive massaging of the mass minds. Just like in Lord of the Rings, a scenario that demands and executes real action is pure fantasy. The finger of warning will once again poke at those socially irresponsibles, who are looking to attack entitlements and consequently the debt ceiling will lift as soon as opposition swoons.

When I caught a glimpse of above photograph somewhere on the internet, I had to wonder which party was looking from the Fiscal Cliff into the Abyss and which one was ready to drop the rock. I guess in the end it doesn’t really matter, because the majority of the population lives in movie-land anyway with a $16 cone of popcorn in one hand and a 32 oz Coke in another, waiting for the storyline to unfold.

I really need to stop saying, “How stupid can you be?”

Feeding the Financial Vortex in DC

Federal Feeding of the Financial Vortex to the Black Hole

The more I think “How Stupid Can You Be?”, the more I think some people are starting to take it as a personal challenge. Especially considering the economic ignorance that media have surrounded themselves with.

Why this rant? Because I’m so fed up with the media practice to create uneducated headlines anchored in willful ignorance, spiced and seasoned with pliable statistics and numbers they have no clue about how to interpret correctly. And this assertion is being nice, because I can easily go the other way and accuse them of being inflammatory partisan and steering elections. Oh no, could it be…?
Here is today’s headline I am talking about:

US economic growth improves to 2 pct. rate in Q3

What does this headline mean to you and do you take away from it that the economy is improving?

In our fast paced world with little time and often less understanding of economic intricacies, you may take this headline as something positive and conclude that maybe Obama needs a bit more time to make it all happen. Well by taking some layers of obscurity away, the reasons for this almost insignificant economic pick up is in reality anchored in the Keynesian principle of massive consumption and government spending during recessions. Actually I will show you that the “heralded” economic pick up is a scam of massaging the statistics and interpretations.

We have been fighting this politicizing of the economy process since the bottom dropped out under our economy in 2008, yet the White House still considers it credo and the right thing to do. Young and inexperienced media reporters fall for it time and again, and the result is that Headlines become the News, and the headline writer is usually the dumbest one in the bunch, who glances at the story, and without understanding the majority words a headline people on the street will take as the news. It’s scary how easy news can be manipulated these days.

But the reality behind the above headline is this:

1. All numbers and statistics come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Commerce Department, two government institutions who are known to massage the numbers every month.
2. We know first hand that Economic Growth is anemic and trails last year’s meager 1.8% by an even measlier 0.06% (clutter in the margins)
3. The “growth” in the headline is partly attributed to a moderate growth in consumer spending. Turns out that this spending was fueled by auto sales (loans) and back to school credit card sales. Not much real fuel or longterm indicator to the end of a sluggish economy.
4. The accredited spending increase in the housing sector improvement is majorly a result of loan related home improvements and seasonal construction timing. The moment winter hits, this growth will drop like a hot coal from a carpenter’s hands. Another consideration should be that a 14% increase in housing spending (which only contributes 3% to GDP) comes from 5 years of market contraction to less than half the size it was before the financial crisis. In addition many potential home improvers are also applying for box store credit cards and both Lowe’s and Home Depot are reporting that their credit card sales are exponentially growing.

And then last but not least The Federal Government conveniently decided to sharply increase defense spending by no less than 13%. Actually this was the largest increase in 3 years. Do you sense the irony in this charade this close to the elections?

So did the Economy grow in the third quarter?

Subtract all increased government spending from these data and the GDP stayed exactly the same. How ’bout them apples?

No doubt the Obama campaign will quickly politicize the “improved” economy and crow about this “uptick” in GDP improvement, especially since the mediocre media reporting will only produce headlines that mislead and fool many in the electorate.
Now I’m not saying that the Republicrats have a better grip on reality than the Demopublicans, but overriding reality is that if we don’t bury Keynes’ Spending Doctrines quickly and get spending under control and lower, businesses will keep cutting back on investments and investors, local and foreign, will stop buying US paper and demand repayment of outstanding debts in a currency/value that will not be debased and devalued out of existence. But in the meantime count on unemployment to stay high for years to come.
And that my dear friends is the real story behind a massively deceiving headline this morning.

I’m a Stranger and I Love the Night

Scrapomatic by Susan Tedeschi

It says something about a "bloodline" if your band's publicity picture is taken by Susan Tedeschi

The last time I received a band’s CD from Fernandina Music Promotor Michael Rothschild to review, I was blown away by the unfortunately deceased Sean Costello. But it opened my eyes to the fact that Michael has some stellar talent in his Landslide Record label.

When I received the material on SCRAPOMATIC and their latest release “I’m a Stranger (and I love the Night)” I was in the midst of the Blues Festival madness last month, but when I finally put on the CD this morning (I still think in terms of vinyl, needles and record players!!) I was literally blown away once again.

Scrapomatic have been at it for thirteen years.  But don’t let the absence of so-called “overnight” success fool you into thinking that we have another ordinary group of angry young men trying to make it big. Scrapomatic is essentially a creative engine (outlet) where a couple of extremely gifted singer-songwriters get together and make music beyond the cookie cutter studio formatting.
Four albums later, the initial duo, now a trio, is flooring audiences with their uncompromising sound.  “It’s like song craft and the blues had unprotected sex,” says vocalist and co-songwriter Mike Mattison.  “We’re not sure what it is, but it’s spreading.”  Not surprisingly, the band’s latest Landslide Records release, I’M A STRANGER (AND I LOVE THE NIGHT) continues its distinctive forays into an intoxicating variety of American musical styles.  “Blues, roots, Americana, country, yeah, that’s us,” adds Mattison.  “But in updating our sound, we always remember the acts who’ve inspired us along the way:  Taj Mahal, Nina Simone, Tom Waits, Dr. John, and Sly Stone.” Well there you a concoction for greatness in my opinion.

Band History

Mattison, who also sings and writes songs for the Grammy Award winning Tedeschi Trucks Band, and Paul Olsen, an in-demand New York musical director with two ASCAP songwriting awards to his credit, met in 1994 at a Minneapolis P-Funk concert.  Mattison had just graduated from Harvard with a degree in American Literature while Olsen was completing his studies in music composition at the University of Minnesota.  It was the beginning of a rich creative relationship.  “Immediately, collaborating was a snap.  If one guy couldn’t finish a line or a musical idea, the other one would.  I think we shared a midwestern worldview: somewhat fatalistic, laced with dark humor.  That’s what drew Paul and I to the blues.  To Howlin’ Wolf, Skip James, Charley Patton: Their musical and lyrical tone made sense to us.  People think of the Midwest as the ‘Heartland,’ a wholesome place.  But it’s not really–it’s often pretty dark too.”

The duo moved to New York City, formed Scrapomatic and made a name for themselves on the singer-songwriter circuit.  “We were playing the same joints as Norah Jones, Joseph Arthur, all of those early-2000s people.  We developed quite a following, but in a programatic world, I don’t think audiences knew where to file us.  Bands were whisper-singing about their ex-girlfriends, then here came Scrapomatic screaming about transvestite motels, spittle flying everywhere.”

Producer John Snyder (Etta James, Ornette Coleman, James Cotton, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Chet Baker, Derek Trucks Band) found Scrapomatic through his son Ben, and understood where the boys were coming from.  “Snyder got it.  And we got him.  He put together a crack band down in Maurice, LA, at Dockside Studios; the best of New Orleans: Johnny Vidacovich on drums, Bob Sunda on bass, and Larry Sieberth on keys.  Making that first album was like getting a funky PhD.”  Scrapomatic’s eponymous debut was released on Snyder’s revamped Artist House label, and was eventually named one of the Boston Globe’s “Top Ten Hidden Gems of 2003.”

Derek Trucks and Tedeschi-Trucks

Landslide Records signed Scrapomatic in 2006 and released the follow-up production by Snyder, ALLIGATOR LOVE CRY, which BLUES REVUE called “one of the year’s most impressive releases.”  With the duo expanding its touring vistas through the U.S. and Europe, a third album, SIDEWALK CAESARS, this time produced by Mattison, appeared in 2008 and garnered unanimously positive notices, typified by ALL MUSIC GUIDE’s praise:   “Original tunes that pulse with authority, conviction and above all, personality.”

As Scrapomatic’s star rose, Mike was picked up by slide-guitarist Derek Trucks and began touring as the lead singer with the Derek Trucks Band.  “It was fortuitous,” says Mattison.  “Derek was in a jam since his singer (Javier Colon) had left and would go on to win season one of NBC’s ‘The Voice.  Snyder, who also produced Derek’s first three records, recommended me; as did Chocolate Genius [singer-songwriter Marc Anthony Thompson] with whom Scrapomatic had done some shows.”  Mattison would soon win a Grammy with The Derek Trucks Band for 2009’s Best Blues Album, “Already Free.”  In 2010, The Derek Trucks Band announced a hiatus, and Mattison joined the new group, Tedeschi Trucks Band, as a backing vocalist and songwriter.  He won another Grammy with TTB for 2011’s Best Blues Album, “Revelator.”   His compositions, “Bound for Glory” and “Midnight in Harlem,” received significant airplay and the latter was featured in the band’s performance for the DVD of Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010.

“Derek has been such a great friend and mentor, as has his wife, Susan Tedeschi,” Mattison says.  “I’ve learned musicianship, professionalism, how to tour and how to navigate the music business.  Invaluable stuff.  And I’ve seen the world!  We’ve played on five continents, played in every state (except Alaska); appeared on Leno, Conan and were invited to the White House.  I’ve been blessed to sing onstage with legends like Taj Mahal, the Allman Brothers, Santana, Herbie Hancock, Solomon Burke.  It’s mind-boggling.”

Their other exploits aside, Mattison and Olsen continue to write together and share lead vocals and harmonies while meshing distinctly different approaches into a compelling amalgam of rootsy styles.   With I’M A STRANGER (AND I LOVE THE NIGHT), they’ve added a new member, Alabama-bred, multi faceted guitarist, Dave Yoke, while again featuring the classy, tight knit Atlanta rhythm unit of Ted Pecchio (bass) and Tyler Greenwell (drums).   Yoke has been a professional musician since his teens, mostly in the Atlanta area and, like Olsen, clocked time in Susan Tedeschi’s band.  “Yoke is the missing ingredient,” says Mattison.  “He’s not just a blues guy.  He can go ‘Jazz Olympics’ or straight Chet Atkins if he feels like it.  Plus, he and Paul have uncanny guitar intuition.  You just press play and let them run.”

I’m a Stranger and I love the Night

With all original material by Mattison and Olsen, the new album showcases each man’s ample singing and songwriting talent to its most sublime level yet. Olsen’s “Alligator Love Cry” (old title, new song) provides a perfect backdrop for Mattison’s achingly gruff vocal take on a low down, vengeance-ridden tale.  In contrast, the nostalgic title track, written and sung by Olsen, beautifully evokes elusive love amidst the dreamy night air of the city. Pecchio and Greenwell provide righteous propulsion to Mattison’s hard hitting love rocker, “Rat Trap,” and the darkly comical “Mother Of My Wolf” while more eclectic offerings, like “Don’t Fall Apart On Me, Baby,” “The Party’s Over,” and “Gentrification Blues” illustrate a deep, soulful range laced with poignancy, irony and subtle humor.

Produced by Mattison, with mixing and mastering from veteran Atlanta engineer Rodney Mills, I’M A STRANGER (AND I LOVE THE NIGHT) brings forth the essence of an ongoing and fruitful partnership.  “Thankfully, Paul and I have the creative engine of Scrapomatic,” says Mattison.  “It’s where we go to refuel.  Paul’s ability to turn out song after devastating song still amazes me.  And unlike so many in this business, Paul is musically generous.  He’ll sit down and write a tear-jerking masterpiece in front of your face and then tell you that YOU wrote it.”  Mattison pauses to explain the band’s growing momentum.  “I used to say coy stuff about how we honor roots music while looking to the future.  But now I just say: ‘What’s not to love?!'”

Scrapomatic may just have ‘finally’ found the perfect line up to push them to the top of their genre, because I’m telling you, this album has it all; great songwriting, great voices and fabulously tight musicianship while the titles move through surprising twists and turns. Certainly intriguing enough to keep this old blues dog sniffing for more.
Available at Landslide Records and Amazon

Democrat? There’s an App for that!

Obama Campaign App to locate Democrats

Obama's App to locate Democrats; creepy on so many levels

A sign of how much the times have changed may come from the realization that privacy is a word that in future will only be archived in dictionaries as: a word that described a time when an individual or group had the ability to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby reveal themselves only selectively. Wikipedia says When something is private to a person, it usually means there is something within them that is considered inherently special or personally sensitive.

It also states that privacy intersects with security and in this arena we have seen privacy taken a backseat to constitutional rights since September 11, 2001, a development that now pus Privacy on the endangered species list. The privacy to not have to reveal your earnings publicly, or your religion or how many times you have been married or your sexual preferences, mishaps of your younger years or who you support politically is now a thing of the past. Even though the issue of privacy has occasionally moved to the forefront of discussions since the Internet came into existence, it is safe to say that the Battle for Privacy has been lost, not in small part because of the success of Facebook.

So to witness the Obama Campaign coming out with an App that reveals which one of your neighbors is with you and who is against you, to loosely borrow a phrase from Bush the Younger, marks just another nail in the Privacy coffin.

But this one takes me back to the abuse of knowledge in the 1930s and 40s when Nazi Germany knew exactly where to find the Jews and the Gypsies when it was time to send another train to Dachau.

Is it a sign of the times that we don’t care anymore or is it a sign on the wall. Obama’s Campaign released the App last week, which includes a Google map for canvassers that recognizes your current location and marks nearby Democratic households with small blue flags. And for each of the targeted addresses, the display gives first name, age and gender.

No doubt a wet dream for campaign planners but I can’t help thinking that it also may create a new source of information for hate mongers and unstable characters who pull loaded guns out of their pants and walk into theaters, schools or temples, because they think they have a score to settle.

And what really bugs me is the paternalistic replies from those involved in bringing this app to the market. A Spokesman for the Obama campaign, who ironically enough declines to be named said: ” The app has built-in mechanisms to detect when people are misusing the data. The campaign is strongly committed to ensuring the safety and privacy of the public and follows up with appropriate action, including alerting appropriate authorities if necessary, in any case of abuse or inappropriate behavior.

Honestly this is one of the creepiest lines I have ever hear. Never mind the question who decides what is appropriate here and what is not, the threat of alerting the appropriate authorities to follow up with appropriate action against inappropriate behavior is so all around scary, that sleeping at night just became a tad more difficult. Appropriate is a very iffy word, as it changes its meaning depending on who’s mouth formulates the word.

Furthermore, if appropriate action is demonstrated by the (appropriate or inappropriate) inaction or inability to act of Aurora Colorado authorities, after being alerted by a doctor breaching her oath on patient/doctor confidentiality that could have averted a mass killing, than Hitler’s Nazi Germany will be a bleak reflection of which typical crimes against humanity will be possible as a result of this app.

Or as one commenter inappropriately said: “How helpful when I need to locate a Democrap woman,” and another one surmised that “Democrats more likely than not have no guns to defend themselves against intruders”.

Bend me, Shape Me, Anyway You Want Me

Bend me shape me anyway you want me

Bend me shape me anyway you want me, as long as you love me it's alright

Bend me shape me anyway you want me, as long as you love me, it’s alright.

The first time I heard this tune performed in 1968 was by the neo Christian British rock band “Amen Corner”, who had picked up the song from an American Christian Band called “The American Breed”, who in turn had taken it from a Cleveland Ohio band called The Outsiders, not to be confused with the Dutch band The Outsiders fronted by Wally Tax and most definitely not a Christian band.

Sounds confusing?

Well, after reading the Tim Young compilation of  “50 Shades of Romney : Hint They’re All White” now available on Amazon Kindle, I cannot escape from the thought that “Bend Me, Shape Me” must have been Romney’s favorite song growing up.

As a complete unknown to most of us not directly connected to the State of Massachusetts, Romney seems to have perfected flip-flopping into an art of presidential grandstanding. From pro-life/pro-choice to obamacare/romneycare to the right to bear arms…or not, to foreign policy switches and stands on the military and on and on, Romney seems to have perfected the qualities of a Chameleon, changing colors with a changing environment.

Tim Young is a comedian/writer, – I’m sure he also writes for the Huffington Post, and he has a blogsite called Absolute Rights. It is no surprise that this mini-book (62 pages) is filled with humor and sarcasm. If Tim would be partisan, the content would be considered devastatingly clarifying, but he isn’t. He just feels the need to point out that America is no more and the US is left with no political choices of any quality. Besides he has promised to publish a similar exposé of Obama in the very near future!

As I am still trying to beef up enthusiasm for what some call the most important election of our lifetime, I do realize that  this Presidential election literally pitches a President who hasn’t accomplished much (insert your favorite excuse here) against the worst challenger in the history of men. You thought John McCain was inadequate? Give me a break. To use a sports analogy, something we Americans are big in,  it’s like  holding the Olympics on a Tuesday morning, charging an exorbitant ticket price and it’s not even free bobblehead day. Would you show up? The competitors could essentially leave the billion-dollar stadiums and compete on the street and no one would watch… In fact, drivers who were attempting to head home would just honk at them to get them out of the way. Fact is I’m not excited about this election, odds are you aren’t excited about the election and most of America isn’t excited about this election.

Any stirring up is welcome. And even though I think Young is trying to ride high on the 50 Shades of Grey notoriety, while pitching this, – 20 shades would have been plenty to illustrate Romney’s shortcomings. However I must say I learned more about candidate Romney’s shortcomings than I did in the past 12 months of wondering what’s wrong with today’s Republican Party.

Nominating one of the most grandiose flip-floppers in history, to be the Republican Party’s nominee for the Presidency, borders on blasphemy, unless Republicans feel strong enough to just vote republican, no matter what.

Funny enough that was what I read in the many comments on Young’s book, something in the line of: Read this essay with a lot of humor and than go vote Republican!?

Listen to this…they’re nominating the guy who “wrote” or “formatted” the major piece of legislation he (and the party) are running this campaign against. That’s twisted. Seriously… all Republicans have been against Obamacare since it started, and now they are standing behind the very person who was the first to successfully sign it into law.

What are Republican voters supposed to do in this situation? It just seems to me like no one really knows who Mitt Romney is, other than the most inconsistent politician in the history of modern politics. In fact, whatever his campaign theme is, it should be changed to ‘Bend me Shape Me, Anyway You Want Me,’  because that’s just how he speaks. He has consistently changed and tailored his political views to every single group he has ever spoken to. Sure, he looks like a politician, but so do Morgan Freeman and a host of other Hollywood actors… the difference is that the Hollywood actors know how to stick to a script, even Alec Baldwin if he has to.

If you can logically vote for a man who has changed his mind so many times on so many important issues, go right ahead…cannot be worse then re-electing an incumbent who almost 4 years into his term is still wondering what went wrong with the economy and continues to chip away at our constitutional rights.

Truly, I think the 2012 presidential elections are far less crucial than the need to elect a congress that can decisively steer this country back to fiscal accountability, based on the right mix of austerity and sustainable growth. Everything else is secondary.

Young, Tim (2012-07-26). 50 Shades of Romney : Hint They’re All White (Kindle Locations 824-829). Lioncrest. Kindle Edition.

There is a flipside to the coin called Employment Outsourcing

There is much more to outsourcing than meets the eye

There is much more to outsourcing than meets the eye

With political rethoric reaching crescendos, especially in the Obama Campaign, accusing Romney to be a leader in Employment outsourcing to the extent that it almost equals national treason, it seems like a good idea to point out that outsourcing is an economic move, not treason or even unpatriotic.

Here is for example the announcement from Airbus that it will establish a manufacturing facility in the United States to assemble and deliver A320 Family aircraft. A move that creates some 1,000 jobs at the Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile, Alabama.

It will be the company’s first U.S.-based production facility. Airbus stressed that the assembly line, which will create jobs and strengthen the aerospace industry, is part of its strategy to enhance Airbus” global competitiveness by meeting the growing needs of its customers in the United States and elsewhere.

The facility in Alabama will assemble the industry-leading family of A319, A320 and A321 aircraft. The company said construction of the assembly line will begin in summer 2013. Aircraft assembly is planned to start in 2015, with first deliveries from the Mobile facility beginning in 2016. Airbus anticipates the facility will produce between 40 and 50 aircraft per year by 2018.

The motivation for Airbus to expand in America,” said Fabrice Brégier, Airbus President & CEO lies in the fact that the U.S. is the largest single-aisle aircraft market in the world – with a projected need for 4,600 aircraft over the next 20 years – and this assembly line brings us closer to our customers.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley said: “We owe thanks to so many people who helped make this effort a success. This project will create 1,000 stable, well-paying jobs that the people of this area need and deserve.
Airbus is the largest export customer for the U.S. aerospace industry.  Since 1990, the company has spent $127 billion with U.S. suppliers – $12 billion last year alone.

As I pointed out this is a financial-economic move, yet politicians in France  will use it in the same way as their US counterparts and cry foul for outsourcing of French jobs to Mobile Alabama. If we add up all the foreign companies with offices and production facilities here in Florida alone, we should remember that wherever these companies are headquartered across the globe, these countries “lost” some 300,000 jobs because management thought it financially more attractive to move some production overseas. Even though it may be hard to swallow for diehard patriots here, we should remember that Anheiser Busch is now owned by a Belgian brewery and Chrysler Motors is really FIAT.

The Impact of the Travel Industry

On another level there is the travel industry which has proven recently to reverse negative employment trends. In an industry that employs 7.6 million in the US alone, it is important to note that since the employment recovery began in March of 2011, the travel industry has created 271,000 new jobs and has created jobs at a pace that has been 26 percent faster than the rest of the economy.

There a two main reasons why employment growth in the travel sector has been outpacing the rest of the economy in recent years:

• jobs in the travel industry cannot be outsourced abroad
• jobs in the travel industry cannot easily be replaced through automation

Yes, the travel industry is also experiencing a slow down, because of economic problems in Europe. Still the travel industry is more internationally engaged than most sectors of the economy, which is why it is important for US policymakers to enact sensible long-term reforms that will make it easier for travelers from other areas of the world, such as Latin American and Asia, to visit the United States.  It takes the spending of roughly 33 overseas visitors to support one US job. As an island tourism destination Amelia Island needs to take heed in these numbers.

I had the relative pleasure this morning to hear all the GOP candidates for the upcoming August 14 elections to give their “spiel” in Central Park in Fernandina Beach. As a matter of fact, we video taped it. I heard the word experience out of everyone candidate’s mouth as the most important contribution to their plea of being elected. No one that I heard mentioned creativity in finding solutions to the socio economic problems of our times. Almost everyone was proud of their 25 or 30 years of being part of the respective boys and girls clubs of past standing. Candidate Weinstein thought it was important to mention how much money he was throwing into a campaign that at best would bring him a $28K job per year. Some candidates were touting the always popular election promise to bring manufacturing jobs to the county, and I think back to an impressive presentation a couple of days ago, given by AC MacDonald, general manager at the local Rayonier plant for the European American Business Club. The company has a major impact on Nassau county’s economy, yet has only 275 or so people employed – because that’s all it takes for them to be successful at this stage of the game.

All in all I did not hear any candidate talk about tourism; about developing travel marketing plans, infra-structures, long term employment and educational opportunities, in spite of the fact that both the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island and the Omni Amelia Island Plantation have enough confidence in our tourism future to invest a combined quarter of a billion dollars in their properties.

And that lack of vision  is discouraging, when our tourism potential is so much greater than any other business sector in the county, that is either already over-presented in the Greater Jacksonville Area, or is simply geographically at a disadvantage.
It is not good enough to call for change. We already fell for that misnomer 4 years ago in Washington DC. There is place for some new thinking far beyond the “good ole’ boys clubs. Every economy is local and it is time to pass on the torches and start presenting creative long term solutions, answers and directions for our future.

Does Obamacare Encourage the Incarceration Option?

The Crime of the 21st Century; becoming Comfortably Numb

Being incarcerated in the US is starting to look pretty good; at least that is a conclusion that comes from studying the Obamacare Law. Let me back up a second and explain.

The first one to call me on the issue was my good friend and Blues Festival partner Jeff Malone, who asked what I thought about the Supreme Court’s decision/opinion that the US Congress does have the right tot tax Americans on what they don’t do. Of course we’re talking about Obamacare. More specifically about NOT having Health Insurance. Since then, many friends and family for some reason or another also asked my opinion on this hot topic, probably because I hail from a country where National Health Care has long been an established “government directed service”; the Netherlands. Well my personal opinion is that any advanced society should have a National Health Care program in place, but decidedly not one that is dictated by Government with no consideration for the essential human liberty called: having a choice to participate or not.

Here is a rudimentary rundown  for many out there who have no real clue about the consequences of Obamacare; and no I’m not talking about quality and price of healthcare, because that will always remain a matter of market conditions and supply and demand. If you have money, you can get great health care. If not, you may have a problem. Pretty much the same as with legal representation. If you have money you can retain a Dream Team of Legal Eagles. If you don’t, the court may direct you to a public defender, who in his spare time drowns himself in a bottle of Jack Daniels, because life hasn’t been fair to him.  So, keep that in mind when you decide to rob the local liquor store and become a candidate for incarceration.

You see that are certain groups excepted in the mandatory clause of Obamacare. For example, a convicted felon serving time is one of the few exceptions The Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act, also known as ObamaCare, which became law on March 23, 2010, offers to Americans to refuse a private health insurance coverage.

As the Law reads: Any American who does not meet the ‘individual mandate’ to purchase private health insurance, will have to pay a penalty, up to 2.5% of his/her income, to the IRS.
This individual mandate was one of the provisions that was contested and argued all the way up to the Supreme Court: is it possibly Constitutional that Congress can penalize Americans… tax Americans…for something that they -don’t- do?
As it turns out, yes… at least, in the opinion of the court. So, within the law, there is a provision that requires all Americans to have private health insurance coverage starting in 2014.

And on Thursday June 28, the Supreme Court announced that Congress does, in fact, have the right to tax Americans on what they don’t do, i.e. NOT having health insurance.

But a rule is not a rule if it does not have exceptions…n’est-ce pas. So here’s the ironic part that pertains to incarceration and a  handful of exceptions to the individual mandate clause:

1) If you’re flat broke. The law stipulates that anyone whose income falls below 133% of the federal government’s decreed ‘poverty line’ can receive taxpayer and Chinese-funded Medicaid. I guess more and more Americans will go this route in the near future. Another question remains what do poor people do when they need medical assistance?

2) If you’re religion disallows it. There are a few recognized religions out there which are adamantly opposed to medical care. As such, people of these faiths are exempt from the individual mandate to buy healthcare coverage.  Don’t ask me why, but this is one of those mysterious relationships between church and state, I guess.

3) If you’re incarcerated. That’s right. If you’re serving prison time, you are also exempt from the individual mandate. Ironically, this means that convicted felons will have at least one freedom that the rest of us wandering around on the streets don’t have.
Oh yes, there’s actually one more exemption–

4) Expats. The law exempts any US citizen or resident alien who is not “lawfully present in the United States.” Well even this clause is a bit confusing and it would be good to explain which Americans fall into this category
What does ‘not lawfully present’ mean exactly?

Well there are three test criteria:
A) You are a resident of any US possession; right now this includes American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands;
B) You are outside of the United States for at least 330-days in any 12-month period.
C) You are a bona fide resident of a single foreign country for an entire tax year.
This may partially explain why there is a substantial increase in US expats who are living full time (or most of the time) overseas.

So if you’re looking to ditch ObamaCare, you can either become destitute, change your religion, rob a liquor store… or start living a new life full of freedom and opportunity overseas.

Even if I would consider the liquor store option, as my friend Ric suggests, I have another dear friend who is serving time for a minor infraction, and he reports that the Florida Correctional System is running out of edible food and toilet paper, courtesy of Governor Rick Scott. And since I already lost my religion since Michael Stipe and R.E.M. recorded that song in 1991 as the opener of the aptly called Album “Out of Time”, I guess it’s time to start looking at overseas options before 2014 has passed.

Europe: Finding a Balance between Austerity and Growth?

Austerity measures put Greeks into the streets

Greece may be just a first example of the chaos to come

Just to be clear, the people in Greece can riot a bit more and seek a violent outlet for their austerity anguish, because they know that leaders in Europe’s largest economies will do anything in their power to keep the Eurozone in tact. German cancellor Merkel’s meeting with newly elected French President Hollande last Tuesday moved the focus from austerity to sustainable growth as the direction to go. Eurozone President Barroso declared today: “We are doing a root-and-branch reform of our budgetary and economic policies,” he said. “And, beyond the so-called ‘sound and fury’, we are making good progress in laying firm foundations for strong economic recovery and sustainable growth.”

And the G8 meeting this weekend at Camp David is looking to sugarcoat realities with softer stances and words. And Tiny Tim Geithner is applauding the whole charade as if economic recovery were a matter of goodwill, decency and government sponsored public works projects.
All the while Obama is sitting between a rock and a hard place in this election year. If the Eurozone tanks, the US economy will face a severe setback, even before voters cast their preference in November.
But for argument’s sake let’s assume for a minute that Europe will avoid the meltdown and actually move towards a slow recovery. Then what?
Well, since none of the fundamentals of why the global economy almost imploded in 2008 have really been tackled or corrected, let’s play along with the economic scenario many market participants are hoping for: a calmer Europe.

A Calmer Europe?

If the “old country”” does recover, will we be able to put on the party hats and celebrate? Well, not really. Sure, the pressure on equities would ease up, causing a brief rise in the market. But then what? Are we really out of the woods, entering a rose garden?
If Europe escapes this mess without a major crisis, it’s only because leaders are just kicking an already deflated ball yet a bit further down the road. Besides it should also be clear that those PIIGS countries won’t come back at a promising pace. The path to economic recovery will still be a long slow crawl. Too long for constituents to be happy about.
Also, China continues to have growing pains of its own. What started as talk of a Chinese slowdown is now turning into real – and worrisome numbers. Sure, China isn’t doing horribly, but it’s hardly the hot market of a few years ago. It’s also clear that economically the country has now entered fascism as its economic model, while still trying to hold on to the communist principles. It’s clear however, the promise of never-ending growth with minimal risk just isn’t materializing.
Then there are other top tier players with mixed performances. With commodity prices cooling a bit, Brazil’s GDP growth is projected at 3.2% in 2012, just a slight improvement from last year’s 2.7% growth. However, only a few years ago, predicting double-digit growth rates would have drawn no laughter, based on Brazil’s impressive 7.5% growth rate in 2010.
And yes, then there’s the US story. The job market is “recovering” at a snail’s pace. If the euro crisis ends, it won’t mean a burst of growth for the US – instead it could mean some additional headwinds. US Treasuries will no longer be shielded by buyers protecting themselves from the worst-case scenario. As soon as the storm clouds over Europe clear even a bit to a drizzle, Treasury investors will leave in droves, either flooding back into equity markets or higher-yielding euro countries.
And then Fed Chairman Bernanke will once again find the ball in his court, resulting in two barriers for the US economy. First, US interest rates will feel strong upward pressure and The Fed will have to pump yet more money into the system to keep the rates low as promised. And second, the US dollar will tank again. The EUR/USD exchange rate has essentially been a risk-on/risk-off trade for the past six months. Like a jojo in heat we have witnessed the games that are played and at the slightest bad news in Europe, the US dollar gets a little stronger. Then over the next few days, as nothing critical happens, the euro starts to creep back up. If Europe turns into a real recovery, the dollar will slide from the current $1.30 EUR/USD to last summer’s $1.45 EUR/USD in no time at all.
Remember, the dollar isn’t strong. After the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy of the last few years, the USD has been ravaged. It has only managed to stay afloat as a result of Europe’s underperformance and other problems. If those pressures let up and the Eurozone again shows promise, the dollar is going straight down. Believe it or not, the European Central Bank is still more responsible than the Federal Reserve… and if investors have an equivalently safe option between the two, many will choose Europe.
So, even if you believe the story of parting clouds ahead, don’t get too excited; this isn’t the end of it. In the best-case scenario, we can stop worrying about Greece and can start worrying instead about a weakening dollar and a sluggish economy. Perhaps that’s better than expecting a crash just around the corner, but all the elements of kicking the can way further down the road are still in full play. It’s certainly no picnic either.

Preston Plummer Premiered for Full House

Location where most of The Diary was filmed

The long awaited premier for the locally filmed “Diary of Preston Plummer” happened for a full house last night at Carmike Theater on 14th Street. There was not an empty seat in the theater when writer-director Sean Ackerman expressed his gratitude to Amelia Island’s population in a video taped opening segment. As he promised , the 1 hour and 25 minute big screen feature film showed a large amount of beautiful island scenes, while unfolding a well structured story of mystique and drama.

What is credited as an Indie movie, turned out to be a display of very good acting and skillful camera operation. Rumer Willis may not have the exceptional looks of her famous mother Demi Moore, but she definitely inherited her acting talent…and body. Young Mr. Plummer was perfectly portrayed by the talent of Trevor Morgan and veteran actor Robert Loggia was superb in his role of grandfather John.

The screenplay was masterfully crafted without any loose ends, which is usually my pet peeve in many of today’s flicks and aside from a couple of minor editing glitches (only noticeable by insiders I would think), the Diary of Preston Plummer, mostly filmed in the lush, quiet and beautifully rustic environment of Oyster Bay Yacht Club, is a production we can all be proud of.

Having said that, there is a Centre Street sequence when Preston and  Kate explore the town and their growing feelings for each other, that is beautifully lighted by the tree lighting the City decided to remove last year. Maybe they should take a look at how special Centre Street looked with these festive lights and order them back up.

If you get a chance, go see the movie, it is absolutely worth your while.

A $60 Light Bulb – Progress or Idiocy?

Longlife Phillips LED bulb

It looks quite cool actually

Okay so Sunday is Earthday and Philips uses the occasion to introduce a state-of-the-art LED light bulb with a $60 price tag.
Now I’m all for saving resources and giving mother Earth a break from our relentless rape effort to strip her, but come on, a light bulb that lasts a purported 20 years and costs $60, seems a bit extreme, or is it?

Quickly estimating the light points in my house at about 60, including bathrooms, garage and outdoors, I’m looking at an investment of roughly $3,600 to light up my house. Breaking it down over 20 years still adds up to $180 per year, so what could I expect to save on my light bill? Well that part is not entirely clear yet as the bulb is only advertised as the most energy-efficient yet, a claim being qualified by the fact that the 10Watt bulb produces 60Watts of light.

The 60 Watt was stipulated by Congress when it launched the L Prize contest in 2007 with the goal of creating a bulb to replace the standard, energy-wasting “incandescent” 60-watt bulb. The requirements were rigorous, and Philips was the only entrant. Its bulb was declared the winner last year, after a year and a half of testing. The contest stipulated that the winning bulb be sold for $22 in its first year on the market.

In that context, the $60 price tag has raised some eyebrows. Ed Crawford, the head of Philips’ U.S. lighting division, said it was always part of the plan to have utility rebates bring the price down to the $22 range.
Utilities already offer rebates on energy-saving products such as compact-fluorescent bulbs, or CFLs. In return for efforts to curb energy use, regulators allow utilities to raise their rates. The discounts are invisible to consumers – the utilities pay the stores directly.

It actually may be a good investment

For $25, or even $35, the bulb looks like a good investment compared to an incandescent bulb. It uses only 10 watts of power, meaning saves about $8 per year in electricity if it’s used four hours a day. It’s expected to last at least 30,000 hours, or 30 times longer than an incandescent. At four hours per day, that’s 20 years.
But the Philips bulb is not only up against $1 incandescent bulbs. CFL are nearly as energy efficient. They use about 15 watts for 60 watts worth of light. They’re much cheaper too, typically costing around $5. The Philips bulb might have to fight interior decoration perceptions as the light-emitting surfaces are yellow when the bulb isn’t lit, yet shine white when it is. And yes there are people who don’t like the color yellow to be part of their interior design – believe it or not!

The Philips bulb has some other advantages over a CFL: It lasts three times longer and gives off a more natural-looking light. It doesn’t contain the toxic mercury vapor inside CFLs, which creates a minor hazard when they break.

The race is now on to produce LED bulbs that produce 100 watts worth of light. The incandescent equivalents are no longer made or imported, victims of a federal ban that kicked in at the beginning of this year. They’re now starting to disappear from store shelves. Squeezing enough LEDs into a bulb-sized space to produce that much light is a big technical challenge – LEDs generate heat, which destroys them over time unless they’re well-cooled.

We don’t seem to have a choice but allocate future funds toward the purchase of LED bulbs since incandescent bulbs of 40 watts and above will be banned 20 months fro now. With a potential replacement price tag of $3,600 to $4,000 (I forgot the closets in my previous calculation) I wonder if light bulbs that last 20 years should now be treated as assets, require depreciation amounts on the balance sheet and if I should consider removing them when I move to another home. And what do I do with my Easy Bake Oven that requires the 100 Watt incandescent bulb?

Another consumer concern I have is the 20 year lifespan. Probably in another 5 years there will be a much more efficient light bulb, which in turn will then become a government mandated replacement and if I don’t comply, Google and Facebook would have capability to report me to the Authorities.

No doubt that somewhere in the catacombs of Washington’s underbelly, someone is working on answers to these questions in a modern version “fiddling while Rome is Burning”. Happy Earth Day!

Tax Freedom versus Cost of Government Day

Tax Freedom?

Tax Freedom, Really??

Today is according to some sources the day Americans “celebrate” Tax Freedom Day this year, a mere four days later than last year due to higher federal income and corporate tax collections. That means Americans will work 107 days into the year, from January 1 to April 17, to earn enough money to pay this year’s combined 29.2% federal, state, and local tax bill. For those who get it, isn’t it ironic that yesterday was Emancipation Day, a day to commemorate abolishment of slavery?

In any case Tax Freedom Day is a vivid, calendar-based illustration of the cost of government and it gives Americans an easy way to gauge the overall tax burden. The latest ever Tax Freedom Day was May 1, 2000—meaning Americans paid 33.0% of their total income in taxes. A century earlier, in 1900, Americans paid only 5.9% of their income in taxes, meaning Tax Freedom Day came on January 22 in that year. And to show that not all states are created equal, Tennessee this year “enjoyed” the earliest Tax Freedom Day on March 31, while New Yorkers have to work exactly one month longer to fund its combined government’s expense budget.

tax freedom day map per state

My take on taxes is slightly radical for most and primarily reared by the fact that in 1979 my personal Tax Freedom Day in the Netherlands was September 7. As a result of that burden the next year I moved away, as did many of my peers in those days as we vividly experienced how the parasite overwhelms and kills the host.

The media called it the year of Brain Drain. And that’s where America is going today.

Here’s why. If this year’s budget deficits were included in the calculation, tax freedom day would be May 7 and considering the growing National debt, it is only a matter of time before our Tax Freedom Day here will move to late summer.

And these are taxes to feed a bloated, corrupt government with a danger streak. And to be sure, this is not an isolated gift to the American people. Most governments across the world today are on a fiscal rampage and what concerns me most is that a lot of people have accepted taxation as part of the natural order of things, like rain or day and night. Death and taxes are seen as the two inevitable things in life, and you are a silly idealist – if not a dangerous madman – if you believe otherwise.

I caught a glimpse of the popular CBS sitcom “Two Broke Girls” last night, in which the sentiment was created that it is a proud patriotic and joyful event to pay taxes, almost like an honor. I found it distastefully sad evidence of herd manipulation in the fight for who owns the moral high ground. The state, the media, teachers, pundits, corporations – the entire establishment, really – all emphasize the moral correctness of paying taxes. They call someone who doesn’t do so a “tax cheat.” And that is a sad perversion of the reality because if you give the tax authorities the moral high ground, you’re looking at a communist system in the making. I had a good friend in the Hungarian resort city of Balatonfured who “owned” and worked a vineyard. In the early 1970s the communist government physically took 90% of his harvest and allowed him 10% to live off. That’s what we’re looking at here.

Taxes are, at best, an artifact of a primitive feudal world and actually no longer necessary in an advanced, free-market civilization and my point here is that you can’t give the tax authorities the moral high ground. That’s important because decent people want to do the morally right thing. This is why sociopaths try to convince people that the wrong thing is the right thing.
If an armed mugger or a gang of muggers wanted my wallet on the street, would I give it to them? Yes, most likely, because I can’t stop them from taking it, and I don’t want them to kill me. But do they have a right to it? No. And every taxpayer should keep that analogy at the top of his mind.

Keep in mind that if people really wanted anything the state uses its taxes for, they would, should, and could pay for it in the marketplace. Services the state now provides would be offered by entrepreneurs making a profit and employing people. I understand, and am largely sympathetic, to the argument that a “night-watchman” state is acceptable; but since the state always has a monopoly of force, it inevitably grows like a cancer, to the extent that the parasite overwhelms and kills the host. That’s where we are today in my opinion.

People also once thought the world was flat, that bathing was unhealthy, and that there was such a thing as the divine right of kings. Many things “everyone knows” just aren’t so, and this is one of those. A government – for those “practical” people who think they need one – that stuck to the basic core functions of police and courts to defend people against force and fraud and a military to defend against invasion, would cost a tiny, tiny fraction of what today’s government costs, and that could be funded in any number of ways that essentially boil down to charging for services. As it is now, the average US taxpayer probably works half of the year just to pay direct and indirect taxes. And that doesn’t even count the cost of businesses destroyed or severely hampered by regulations, restrictions, absurd demands and a million other ways governments burden, obstruct, and harass people and businesses.

A better perspective of the road ahead is to look at the real cost of government day. In 2011, Cost of Government Day fell on August 12.  Working people had to toil 224 days out of that year just to meet all costs imposed by government, which was a full 27 days longer than 2008. This year we’re looking at August 21!!
In other words, in 2011 the cost of government consumes 61.42 percent of national income. Looking at the current growing deficits, the US is rapidly approaching the 69% I paid in combined taxes in the Netherlands in 1979. The writing is on the wall.

I don’t believe in utopia, but I do believe our world could be far freer, healthier, and happier than it is today – without any divine intervention, magic, or changes in the laws of physics. Just a different path, every bit as possible as the one we’ve taken to where we are today.

Birthday Musings

Liam's First Birthday Party

Liam's First Birthday Party

We celebrated the first anniversary of little Liam last Saturday and as so common in the life of a proud new mother, it was a party of excess. Too many toys, too much food, too many babies and toddlers and probably long after we left: too much to drink.

I’m not much of a party animal, primarily because I detest boring and trivial conversations and have not learned to wash that obvious shortcoming away with alcohol. Talking about American Idol, the weather, world series or march madness, bores me out of my skull and unfortunately most parties here are drowned in too much alcohol to be memorable.

Our son-in-law is in the Navy and although I do like him a lot and he is a great father, as a husband he basically operates his life as if the Navy and his buddies are first priority and wife and household assistance come in second. I have had several opportunities in recent years to witness this phenomenon of disconnect and last Saturday was no different.

The first thing I observe is the routine of arriving guests and the formalities of food, presents, cake and celebratory singing in that order. The guys, mostly Navy in this instance, quickly separate from the women and children (and other guests), open a keg or oversized cooler and beer starts flowing. Now in normal Southern working class circles this would be Natural Light or Bud Light, but in Navy circles we’re talking elusive micro brewing brands like Yuengling, Sam Adams, Holy Grail, Witchbrews and more exclusive hop concoctions.

And from the moment the “games” start, wive and children become invisible to the “unit”. Discussing this with my wife, who has had ample experience as a military wife, she enlightens me with the words: “It has always been like that! Young girls want to get married and have babies. They seek out “protector profile men” with security and often end up with military. These young guys have excessive hormones but don’t necessarily want to get sucked into the drama of a young family. So they give the young girls what they want, babies mosstly, so they can return to having fun with the guys in the unit.”

Enlightened by her wisdom, I witnessed all the young mothers with babies on their hips, occasionally glancing at the guys getting louder and having more fun, while their own conversations circle around baby food, doctor visits, pregnancies and everyday household topics.
Taking this scene in I realized that my frequent stories on this website about debasing currencies, economic hard times ahead, political totalitarianism and other concerns are absolutely no part or concern in these kids’ lives. They are the country’s protectors in a dangerous world, with apparent job security as long as all citizens believe that safety is more important than liberty.

And so I gaze at some 15 babies and toddlers at my grandson’s 1st birthday party, who from a myriad of expensive gifts and wardrobes clearly shows most interest in a little handheld educationally programmed phone my wife gave him, and I can’t help but wonder if his early interest in technology may one day lead to him, and some of his buddies being the only real hope for turning back the tide of the rising state and I hope that he will be clever enough to avoid detection and suppression and unleash something that trumps and foils the authorities in their mounting campaign for control and conformity at all costs.

I know I won’t be around but until my final song is sung, I will probably not be able to resist writing the occasional rant against the machine.
And if you think it should be rage instead of rant. Don’t think so. My rage is reserved for my generation, which lackadaisically allowed the world’s bureaucrats to turn earth into a place where conformity and control rule.
I have never learned to keep my head down, quietly do my work, pay my taxes and don’t complain too much, simply so life’s trains can run on time. But at this point in time that would be my humble advice to anyone who understands what this story means.

And by the way I took another observation away from the same party, after my ear caught a conversation about an older hyper kid who clearly by most of the women was “professionally” classified as having a severe case of ADHD and the need to put him on drugs.
I was going to waltz into the conversation, but decided against it. None of these 20 something women would take my viewpoint, so why waste it, rather than write it. Here is what I think of the new age phenomena diseases.

The real cure for ADHD is time — not drugs

Show me a little kid who DOESN’T have the supposed symptoms of ADHD and I’ll show you a kid who’s in a coma, beaten into submission or at least asleep.
Kids who have “too much” energy aren’t hyper and they don’t have attention deficits. They’re merely kids — kids who need more time to grow up and more discipline… not drugs.

And guess what, a new study brings my point home perfectly.

Canadian researchers looked at data on close to a million kids between the ages of 6 and 12 years old and found that the youngest girls in any given class were 70 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than the oldest.
And naturally, these kids were also 70 percent more likely to be drugged for it.
For boys, those numbers were 30 percent and 41 percent respectively — smaller, to be sure, but there’s really nothing small about them.

But why is this a stunner? Other studies have found the same thing — including one two years back that found younger kids are 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed and treated for ADHD than their oldest classmates.

In other words, these kids don’t act up because they have some phony disease that needs treatment. They act up because they’re younger and less mature and need to be TAUGHT how to behave.

Sure you can call me old-fashioned, but isn’t that what parents and teachers used to do?

Forget ADHD, ADD and any other set of letters they throw at you and your kids or grandkids. The only letters you need to remember are the two D’s: Discipline and Diet.

These days kids are so hopped up on sugar, caffeine, videogames and processed foods it’s honestly a wonder that they can even think at all. Get rid of it all and get back to basics, and your kid or grandkid will start to act like a human being again.

Then, don’t be afraid to be a disciplinarian instead of a BFF (that’s kid-speak for “best friends forever”). Kids who understand that bad behavior will be met with real punishment will learn to behave fast, guaranteed. We did.

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