Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category



They (Republicans) didn’t start thinking of the old common fellow till just as they started out on the election tour. The money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes that it would trickle down to the needy. Mr. Hoover was an engineer. He knew that water trickled down. Put it uphill and let it go and it will reach the dryest little spot. But he didn’t know that money trickled up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor fellow’s hands.

–Will Rogers, Newspaper Article 1932



I wasn’t going to comment on this today but listening to the arguments in recent days from GOP politicians has pricked a nerve. The current federal minimum wage for non-exempt employees (like farm workers and tipped employees) is $7.25 per hour. It has been at that level since being 2007 though in fact it didn’t become a reality for workers until July of 2009. 

There is a movement to include a raise to the minimum wage in the current Covid Relief bill with the rationale that the people most affected by the pandemic have been low income workers who are, even in good times, struggling to get by. Work stoppages and interruptions therefore have a greater impact on their lives. 

I am not here to argue whether the minimum wage should be raised in this bill. That’s a whole different argument that is more about politics than the well being of the American worker or small business owner.

For my part, I think it should be raised no matter how it comes about. There are plenty of reasons.

First of all, the effective minimum wage— the dollar amount the lowest wage earners in every business everywhere in this country currently make per hour–is right around $12/hour. That is the level that employers have discovered is the minimum they must pay to attract sufficient workers for their businesses. Even in the states where they have not raised the minimum wage at the state level from $7.25, the effective wage is closer to this $12 figure.

This fight to suppress the wage is actually just performance art that plays to the biases and fears of the GOP base and props up the myth of trickle-down economics.

Yesterday, a proposal was unveiled by Republican senators Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton that would raise the fed minimum rate to $10/hr over the course of four years. Four years. To illustrate how disingenuous this proposal is, you only have to look at Senator Cotton’s home state of Arkansas. where the current minimum wage is $11 per hour.

I am not well versed on the economy of Arkansas but I don’t believe it is the economic engine driving this nation. If a worker in Little Rock deserves $11/hr at a minimum, why should a worker in the same position in city or town in another state earn less? Or maybe Sen. Cotton wants to cut some of his constituents income?

Maybe that’s Arkansas Exceptionalism.

Then, also yesterday, GOP Senator John Thune from South Dakota, speaking against raising the minimum, unveiled a personal anecdote that he felt illustrated how the raise was not necessary. He said that when he was a kid he worked at a restaurant starting at $1/hr and worked his way up to making $6/hr as a cook. He said that raising the rate now would cripple small businesses.

Well, his argument makes the opposite point.

He’s 60 years old so he was working as a kid in the mid to late 1970’s in that restaurant. In that time period the federal minimum wage was $2.30/hr so, let me tell you, $6/hr was big bucks. I worked in the late 1970’s in an A&P factory and worked my way up to a skilled position as a candy cook where I was making $6.35/hr. I was able to make a house and car payment on that income at that time. 

That $6/hr that Thune was earning then was a living wage at that time, one that would be worth approximately $25/ hour today. If his employer in that restaurant was paying a kid, as he termed himself, the equivalent of $25 in the 1970’s, then $15/hr should not be a problem now. 

Another example of how ludicrous Thune’s argument is is to simply look at the income of a US Senator in 1977. It was $44,600 per year. The salary for a US Senator is currently $174,000 per year. By my calculations, that’s roughly four times what it was in 1977.

That $6 from the 1970s doesn’t look the same in 2021, does it? I am sure Sen. Thune wouldn’t be too pleased working for that 44K today in the same job. If his income deserves to go up simply because of cyclical inflation over time, why shouldn’t a worker on the lower end of the spectrum deserve the same?

Part of the problem that we’re facing is forty plus years of having the GOP shove supply-side economics down our throats. Supply-side is a cleaned up way of saying trickle-down. which is the idea of giving most of the financial assistance and tax breaks to those folks at the top of the financial pyramid who own businesses and employ workers with the hope that all this cash will flow down to all the less affluent folks below. It was first called trickle-down — as a derogatory term– by the great humorist Will Rogers who spoke of it in newspaper article he wrote in 1932. The excerpt at the top sums it up perfectly.

Money is not water. It does not flow down. Money flows up. Low wage earners more than likely will spend any extra income and, as he says, it will end up in the hands of those at the top soon enough.

But that money passing through the hands of people who need it and will spend it will build up the economy and enrich small business owners. After all, most small business owners need customers with cash to spend and the more people with available income to spend, the better it is for them.

And for folks who make more than the minimum wage who complain that someone making $15/hr somehow diminishes their own oncome and status, perhaps they should be asking themselves why their incomes have been stagnant for so long, why they are working much harder for what seems like less money. Their income, or lack of it, is actually directly tied to keeping the minimum wage low. The low wages of others justifies their own low wages.

Higher minimum wages would ultimately result in higher wages for most wage earners. It would also raise the self esteem of those who work these jobs. Knowing that they might be able to actually live a life beyond scrimping for every small bit every day on poverty level wages is a life changer.

But we still battle the specter of trickle-down economics. It has been yelled at us by the GOP for so long that there are generations of working class citizens who have absorbed this fantastical concept that the rich will somehow benevolently pass the wealth down as fact. The GOP has used this create division. A working class voter is angrier about the occasional welfare queen, that racist concoction of the GOP, getting a few bucks here and there than they are about corporate bigwigs raiding the country’s coffers on a regular basis.

Many have bought into this charade, never knowing a life that was any different. I have lived most of my life in this system but remember a time when there was more income equality. It’s funny but most of the angry people on the right want to return to what they perceive was a better time in the past and many cite the booming 1950s. But they do this without realizing that was a time when there was much greater income equality, with a true middle class, more government spending on infrastructure, and more taxation of the wealthiest among us.

And you know what? There were still plenty of wealthy folks then. Maybe they didn’t have three or four yachts. Maybe only one or two. But they were still rich.

And you know why? Because money flows up.

Repeat that again and again. Then do it again until it is burned into your brain.

Money flows up.

Listen to Will Rogers. The wealthy still end up getting all the money in the end but we all benefit along the way with a better standard of living and more opportunities for a greater number of people to escape poverty and every negative aspect that comes with it.

Let’s get rid of this trickle-down madness, okay? 

I could say a lot more but I have went on too long this morning. Sorry for the length of this rant. Even so, I know that I missed a lot of points that I wanted to make ( such as that areas with the lowest effective minimum incomes tend to be those that struggle most economically overall which bleeds out into that area in the form of lower levels of education, higher levels of poverty, higher crime, and on and on) and didn’t address every argument or maybe even make the points I thought I made. This is all off the top of a jumbled brain so please keep that in mind.

Have a good day, okay?

Read Full Post »

Arnold Bocklin- Isle of the Dead



I was working in the studio yesterday with the television on in the background. Born Yesterday, the 1950 film that featured the Academy Award winning, tour-de-force performance of Judy Holliday as a ditzy mobster girl friend who discovers she has a brain was playing. It’s a great film to work by, easy to follow without watching closely thanks to great writing from Garson Kanin and the very distinct voices of its main  characters– Holliday’s snorts, squeaks, and honks, Broderick Crawford‘s rough barks and William Holden‘s smooth, educated eloquence.

I have seen the film several times over the years but had missed, or at least overlooked, one part that jumped out at me yesterday. It was  scene where Holden, who is a journalist paid to educate Holliday so that she can better mingle with the DC power crowd that mobster Crawford is looking to buy into, recites a portion of a famous essay from orator Robert G. Ingersoll. This caught my ear this time because I have recently become aware of Ingersoll and have wrote about his once celebrated but now fairly forgotten life here, back in September.

Ingersoll interested me because, for one thing, his childhood home and a museum dedicated to his life is not too far from me. Once this pandemic is in the rearview I look forward to visiting it. But I am also interested in people who are widely celebrated and have great influence in their own time but seem to fall into the darkness with each new generation. Ingersoll certainly falls into that category.

This particular essay, After Visiting the Tomb of Napoleon, was wildly popular in its time. It was written in 1882 and was recorded via the new technology of voice recording– invented by Thomas Edison, a big Ingersoll fan– by Ingersoll himself and other famed public speakers. It was sold on gramophone recordings so that families could hear the words of Ingersoll in their homes, a wild concept at the time.

It goes a s follows:



After Visiting the Tomb of Napoleon
by Robert G. Ingersoll, 1882

A little while ago I stood by the grave of Napoleon, a magnificent tomb of gilt and gold, fit almost for a dead deity, and gazed upon the sarcophagus of black Egyptian marble where rests at last the ashes of the restless man. I leaned over the balustrade and thought about the career of the greatest soldier of the modern world.

I saw him walking upon the banks of the Seine contemplating suicide; I saw him at Toulon; I saw him putting down the mob in the streets of Paris; I saw him at the head of the army of Italy; I saw him crossing the bridge at Lodi with the tricolor in his hand; I saw him in Egypt in the shadows of the pyramids; I saw him conquer the Alps and mingle the eagles of France with the eagles of the crags. I saw him at Marengo, at Ulm and Austerlitz. I saw him in Russia, where the infantry of the snow and the cavalry of the wild blast scattered his legions like winter’s withered leaves. I saw him at Leipsic in defeat and disaster, driven by a million bayonets back upon Paris, clutched like a wild beast, banished to Elba. I saw him escape and retake an Empire by the force of his genius. I saw him upon the frightful field of Waterloo, when chance and fate combined to wreck the fortunes of their former king. And I saw him at St. Helena, with his hands crossed behind him, gazing out upon the sad and solemn sea.

I thought of the orphans and widows he had made; of the tears that had been shed for his glory and of the only woman who had ever loved him pushed from his heart by the cold hand of ambition.

And I said I would rather have been a French peasant and worn wooden shoes. I would rather have lived in a hut with a vine growing over the door and the grapes growing purple in the kisses of the autumn sun. I would rather have been that poor peasant with my loving wife by my side, knitting as the day died out of the sky, with my children upon my knee and their arms about me. I would rather have been that man and gone down to the tongueless silence of the dreamless dust than to have been that imperial impersonation of force and murder known as Napoleon the Great.

And so I would ten thousand times.



The essay talks of visiting Napoleon’s grave and recalling all the highpoints of his celebrated life. But after taking it in, including all the human suffering that took place due to this man, Ingersoll decides that he would rather live the life of a French peasant that lived a poor life but one that had love and family in it.

Hearing and reading this brought two things to mind. The first was a conversation I had while walking down King Street in Alexandria with another artist, many years ago now. This artist was much more celebrated than me, his work selling for much higher sums than mine which made it appealing to those in power, both in government and in the corporate world. He rubbed elbows with that crowd much more than I. As we walked, he talked about the proximity to power there in Alexandria, how you could almost feel it in the atmosphere.

He asked if being that close to it made me wish that I could access that kind of power. I didn’t even think a bit about it, answering no immediately. I knew that I was an artist for just that reason, that I didn’t want to feel the weight of responsibility that I knew I would take on in such a position. If I were to change people’s lives it would have to come on my terms, as a gentle influence and not with the power of force and will that has the potential for death and destruction in the lives of others.

To the best of my knowledge, my painting has never killed anyone nor caused anyone to lose their homes or livelihood. That sounds like a goofy thing to say but it has great comfort for me. I already worry about so much that to add the wellbeing of a whole constituency would be a burden I couldn’t bear. 

My answer surprised my companion who seemed much more open to the idea of having power. This morning, this memory along with the Ingersoll essay made me think about the 500,000 Americans who have died in the past year due to covid-19. It’s a figure that is most likely at least 10% higher when you consider excess mortality figures and take into the fact that the mitigation efforts put in place for covid-19 have more or less eradicated deaths normally seen from the seasonal flu.

But even if the figure is right, half a million folks dead and half a million families affected is a sobering thing. To be somehow responsible for even a portion of those lives would be a burden I certainly would not want to bear. I think of the former president** and his administration’s laissez-faire response and it rings a bell similar to those lines from Ingersoll. To have such a thing take place under one’s watch and to only selfishly concern yourself about one’s own desires– the cold hand of ambition as Ingersoll called it– would be Napoleonic, to say it one way.

Criminally cruel and negligent is another way.

No, I wouldn’t want the life of Napoleon or our former president. I would rather gladly live the life of a French peasant with wooden shoes. Or a simple artist painting away as the snow fell outside his studio  in the woods. 

And I would ten thousand times.

Have a good day in whatever position you are.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Texas

 

Austin Texas February 2021



There could be only one result . . . If men insisted on being free from the burden of a life that was self-dependent and also responsible for the common good, they would cease to be free at all. Responsibility was the price every man must pay for freedom. It was to be had on no other terms.

Edith Hamilton, The Echo of Greece [1957]



I was looking for a song to play for this week’s Sunday Morning Music and I stumbled across a Chris Rea song from the 1980’s, from an album of his that I listened to quite often back in the day. I searched the blog’s archives to make sure I hadn’t played it before or too recently.

I found that the last time I used a Chris Rea song here was last April. It was the title song, The Road to Hell, and it was used in a blog post about how people were using the word freedom in those early days of the pandemic as an excuse for refusing to accept any responsibility or accountability to their fellow citizens. For example, their right to get their hair cut–or wear a mask, god forbid!– was greater than any responsibility they held for the safety and welfare of those folks that they came in touch with.

In that post I employed some quotes from the late Classicist scholar/mythologist Edith Hamilton that described the lack of responsibility and accountability that marked the downfall of the Athenian empire. There was the quote at the top along with this:

When the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again.

Her words really struck me last April in that it was the same shirking of duty and responsibility that we have been experiencing here in recent times, a trend that really stood out during our time of greatest need. People wanted to say they were free but only with the implication that it meant that they were free from all, responsibility, accountability, empathy, or conscience. 

That might be some sort of libertarian wet dream but that ain’t freedom, folks. At least, not for a country as wide and as varied as we are.

I’ve said it before: Freedom ain’t free.

Reading this blog post from last year reminded me of the situation that has been taking place in Texas. Now, I don’t claim to know all the intricacies of Texas power ( or political power) system so I can’t really make any informed commentary but it sure seems like what took place in recent times there pretty much lined up with Edith Hamilton’s words.

Put plainly, people entrusted to provide necessary services grabbed all the cash they could while doing as little as possible to maintain or improve the system or to accept any sort of personal responsibility for the citizenry they served.

The privatized power system was a cash cow that was there to be milked until it fell over and died. Then they thought they could simply walk away, buckets of cash in hand.

That’s how it looks to me but like I said, I don’t jack about what really goes on down there. But privatizing something so important as the power system without having a mechanism for accountability seems like a recipe for disaster. And this disaster, while labeled as a natural disaster, was more of a man-made disaster, one of great negligence.

I don’t think this is the same sort of freedom that Texans think they were told that this would provide.

End of commentary. Well, close to the end.

Anyway, this post reminded me of another Chris Rea from that same album, a song called Texas. It’s about a guy in, I Believe, Ireland who dreams of Texas, fantasizing about its size and wide open spaces. He sees it as a place of escape. A place where a man can be free. 

Hopefully, his idea of being free is not the same sort of freedom that we’re seeing come to fore at the present. 

Anyway, here’s the song Texas set to a wonderful slideshow of the natural beauty and wonders that make Texas an exceptional place. That exceptional is code for one of my Texas friends. He’ll get it. 

To my friends in Texas, glad to see the cold weather moving past you now. Now comes the hard work of cleaning up and restoring some sense of normalcy. Let’s work on our empathy and our responsibility to those around us so that we can all weather the next storm.

 After all, freedom ain’t free, my friends. Have a good day.



 

Read Full Post »

 

“Memoir” – At the West End Gallery



As machines become more and more efficient and perfect, so it will become clear that imperfection is the greatness of man.

—Ernst Fischer 



I’ve wondered about the concept of perfection for some time, given the way some folks are always going on about it and seeking it.

Not me, of course. Quite some time back, I came to that conclusion that perfection is not a human quality, that we are defined by our imperfections and how we cope with them. How we adapt and compensate for all the area in which we are lacking.

And that’s somewhat what the quote above says, as I read it.

When I read it, it struck me at once but I had never heard of the writer, Ernst Fischer.  Looking him up, I found him to be an Austrian Marxist writer/journalist born in 1899 who waved the banner for Stalinist policies for many years but in his later years– he died in 1972– Fischer came to regret his past. His memoir of his life began with a chapter that was titled Was That Me?, indicating his astonishment at looking back and seeing the many phases and changes he went through in his life.

I think most of us could start our own memoirs with that same first chapter title.

I know I could, even though I feel that I am very much the same at the core now as I was in my earlier days. However, my actions were not always consistent with that core and didn’t really reflect well on me. I did some things that were–how should I put this?— less than perfect. I was then, and am now, a walking exhibition of flaws, imperfections.

As are we all. At least, that applies to everyone I know.

Maybe it’s when we recognize what sort of person we want to be that we begin to alter and align our actions to what we are at our core. Then life becomes somewhat easier to swallow and our imperfections become less evident, not worn on our sleeves for all to see.

I’m not talking about trying to acquire perfection. No, I mean that we just try to recognize the flaws that make up each of us and to accept them. Life is in toleration- of others as well as of ourselves. And in adapting to and overcoming our shortcomings.

Please bear with me here. One of the negative aspects of doing a daily blog is that I often post things as though I were writing them in a journal, unedited and just as they fall out of the mind. They are not always fully realized thoughts or ideas and will soon be questioned in my own mind.

It’s like reading an old journal written when much younger and wondering, “What was I thinking there?” or, echoing Fischer, “Was that me?”

You hope that, as we age and gain experience, that this is a less frequent happening in our lives.  But writing in this public forum, forcing out words each day, it sometimes reappears. One’s imperfections become apparent.

Phew!  I don’t know what I just said here and I don’t really want to reread it so I’ll let it hang out there for now, flawed though it may be. Someday in the near or distant future I just know I’ll read it and ask myself, “Was that me?”



This post first ran back in 2010. Some things never change.

Read Full Post »



If you only had brain in your head you would be as good as man as any of them, and a better man than some of them. Brains are the only things worth having in this world, no matter whether one is a crow or a man. 

― L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz



Watched the end of the impeachment trial yesterday. Sad day for this country and for every American as the former president* was acquitted.

Acquitted but not exonerated in any way.

It was actually more of an embarrassing day for republican voters who see themselves as being American first then republican. I believe there are a few still remaining out there. These folks witnessed and understood the criminality– which their party leader readily admitted was present in the words and actions of the president– that put our democracy in peril, knew that it went against everything that our country once claimed as virtues.  But they saw the majority of their craven senators say that it didn’t matter, that their partisanship and short term self-interest was more important than doing what was right for the future of our nation.

These senators seem intent on following the road to disgrace to its bitter end.

Their votes to acquit made this political in a proceeding that, at its heart, was not apolitical. It was necessary and for the majority party to have not went down this path would have been betraying their sworn oaths to the Constitution and to the future generations of this country. The House Managers laid out a compelling and convincing evidentiary argument that won the day.

57-43 is a victory in a way. It was an acquittal but, as I said, not an exoneration. No innocence was implied or proven. The majority of the country recognizes and approves of the guilt attached to this vote. I say majority because the 57 senators who voted to convict represent 76.7 MILLION MORE Americans than the 43 dissenting senators.

The people know. 

Let’s move on now to the Sunday morning music for this week. I was working on the small painting at the top the page yesterday while listening to the impeachment proceedings. I don’t know what made the idea of a person standing in the field as scarecrow come to mind but it appeared around the time the voting was taking place. I can’t quite put my finger on the feeling I get from it or its origin but it seemed to fit the moment.

Maybe it cam from the quote at the top from L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz? If they only had a brain…

The piece itself reminded me of the old John Cougar Mellencamp song, Rain on the Scarecrow, from 1985. He started his career with the cheesy stage name of Johnny Cougar before attaching his actual Mellencamp last name and eventually getting rid of the Cougar altogether.

In 1985, he was still John Cougar Mellencamp. He had a great trio of albums in the late 1980’s starting with this album, Scarecrow, followed by The Lonesome Jubilee and Big Daddy. They were all strong. complete albums. This song has been a favorite from when I first heard it back then. I also want to note that John Mellencamp is a talented painter as well.

But here’s Rain on the Scarecrow to go along with the new piece at the top which is simply called Scarecrow.

Be careful out there and have a good day.



Read Full Post »



The impeachment process is not meant to determine criminality leading to statutory charges.

It is by definition a political act.

It is meant to determine whether the impeached elected official should be removed from office or, if the impeached person is no longer in office, be barred from ever holding public office again.

That’s the simple premise of what we are watching right now in this country.

The Republican senators have made it clear that they have no desire to give any weight to the very real evidence presented on the Senate floor, if they listen or watch at all. There are multiple reports of some reading newspapers and playing video games while the proceedings go on. The majority of them will cast a purely partisan vote to acquit, a decision that was made beforehand for many of them.

The Republican senators will cast their votes on the outcome of this impeachment trial not on a determination of what is right or wrong but based on their own political aspirations and loyalties.

As I said, a political act.

But what we are witnessing goes far beyond the political, beyond one’s own desire for power and future offices. 

No, we are seeing actions, both by the terrorists who stormed the Capitol and those who incited and designed the attack, that are anything but political.

It is pure criminality, from the smaller scale of the personal assaults that took place to the grand scheme to overthrow a lawful election and, by extension, the existing government.

This is an existential choice about our nation’s future. An acquittal is future permission for other would-be dictators to do whatever they want to hold on to power, to use the vast tools at hand to serve their own desires.

These Republicans who believe they could be that next dictator or at least a power player under that person are playing with fire. That kind of power is not controllable or predictable. They might be granting permission and setting the stage for a future coup from forces that they might not be able to envision with their limited imaginations.

Who’s to say that the next violent insurrection– and possibly successful based on lessons learned from this failed attempt– won’t be a leftist revolution? One that gains a toehold in legitimacy via the permissions granted by these Republicans who can barely see past the end of their noses into the future. 

All I am saying here is that this trial needs to transcend the political. It needs to uphold our past and our future. It need to provide accountability.

There needs to be accountability for what has happened. Without that, there can be no reconciliation nor unity going forward. How could there be? Why would anyone trust or unite with those who say that overt incitement to violence is allowed in order to hold on to power? How do you trust someone who says it’s okay for their supporters to attempt to kill you?

I am certainly cynical of the Republicans doing anything but that which fits their personal agenda but I remain hopeful.

There. Like it or not, I have had my say for the morning. Let’s have a song, okay?

This morning, I am playing a song from famed folk singer/songwriter Malvina Reynolds, who you might know her best from her song Little Boxes which was used for the opening credits of the series Weeds. This song is No Hole In My Head and it has to do with how we have to be careful about the info with which we fill our heads. There are a lot of folks who want to fill it with trash, as you know. Maybe me, who knows? It might even be the reason we’re where we are as nation today.

I am playing two versions here, the original from Malvina Reynolds (1900-1978) and a brand new, less folksy one from the evergreen Tom Jones. The man is 80 and still wails the hell out of everything he sings. Plus he still looks to push his art, to stay current and not dwell on his past glories. Check out his other new tune Talking Reality Television Blues, which contains a similar message to No Hole In My Head. in how we are shaped by what we see, hear, and read. He’s a marvel. Gives me hope. 

Pay attention today and in the future. We need everyone to participate. And have the best day you can.



Read Full Post »



“I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong. If we will only allow that, as we progress, we remain unsure, we will leave opportunities for alternatives. We will not become enthusiastic for the fact, the knowledge, the absolute truth of the day, but remain always uncertain … In order to make progress, one must leave the door to the unknown ajar.”

― Richard P. Feynman



The post below is from several years back and deals with my constant uncertainty, a theme that has ran through my life. I added the Feynman quote above because I like the idea of uncertainty opening the doors to new possibilities and futures that would not even be imagined if we held too tightly to our beliefs and saw them as absolute. Here’s that post:



I don’t know…

I would guess that I’ve said that phrase a couple of hundred thousand times in my life. Or maybe even a million times.

But then again, I don’t know.

As years pass, I am constantly fascinated by how little I know despite consciously trying to obtain more knowledge. It turns out that there are an awful lot of things out there that I will never know.

That doesn’t make me happy but I have learned to live with it and take some comfort in knowing that I am not alone. I don’t think any of us really knows as much as we let on. Oh, some speak with absolute certainty and and an air of confidence but that’s just bravado or a simple failure to recognize their lack of knowledge.

I do know that.

From personal experience, unfortunately.

So I cringe a bit now when I spot that arrogant certainty in the declarations coming from myself or others. Then I cast a doubtful eye towards these claims, my own included.

What does this have to do with the price of a gallon of milk in Kokomo?

I don’t know. I’m just blabbing in order to set up a song from the Irish singer Lisa Hannigan and is titled, fittingly, I Don’t Know. I particularly like this version shot in a Dingle pub. Lovely.

Have a good day and be wary of those who seem a bit too certain. Or not.

I don’t know.



Read Full Post »



Quite a day. Day of joy.

There are a lot of things from yesterday on which one could focus.

One of my favorites was seeing Eugene Goodman, the Capitol Police officer who came to fame for his bravery and quick wits in facing down, delaying, and luring the insurrectionists away from the Senate chamber a mere two weeks ago. Yesterday, he was the security escort for our new Vice-President and her husband at the swearing in ceremony and has been promoted to Deputy Sargent at Arms. A good deed rewarded.  And the sight of this Black hero with Kamala Harris, whose presence in her new position breaks all sorts of glass ceilings, was truly an inspiring sight.

Of course, there was Lady Gaga with a stunning and emotional rendition of The Star Spangled Banner and Jennifer Lopez delivering lovely performances of America the Beautiful and This Land Is Your Land.

And President Biden gave an Inaugural Address that was memorable and powerful in its call for unity while offering strength, determination and humility. Humility. Remember that? His address was not filled with self-adulation nor did it focus on recrimination and demonization of his opponents. It was sincere and forward looking. If you watched that speech and found it divisive and dark in any way then we are truly living on different planets.

But the star of the day was slight young Black woman who delivered a poem that spoke so directly to the moment that it became one for the ages. I hate to admit it but I wasn’t aware of Amanda Gorman, all 22 years of her, until she burst onto the national stage yesterday like a comet in a golden coat. She is the first Junior Poet Laureate of the United States and the youngest person to ever deliver an Inaugural poem. Her poem, The Hill We Climb, and her delivery of it became a viral sensation.

It is a poem of hope, strength, and a unified vision for this country. It very much echoed the tone of the day and if we carry this feeling and determination forward, we will get up that hill one day.

Below is a video of her delivering her, The Hill We Climb, and the full text is below that.

As I said, it was a good day but there is much work to do and so many challenges before us. Over 4,400 Americans died yesterday from covid-19. And we must deal with those who will fight against the future at every turn, those who seek to move this nation back into a darker age of racial and societal division. 

We can and will persevere though. As Ms. Gorman puts so eloquently:

So, while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.

Now get to work. Have a good day.






When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.
We braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.
And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.
We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.
And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.
We are striving to forge our union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true.
That even as we grieved, we grew.
That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried.
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.
It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.
This is the era of just redemption.
We feared at its inception.
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour.
But within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So, while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.
We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, become the future.
Our blunders become their burdens.
But one thing is certain.
If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.
So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the golden hills of the West.
We will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked South.
We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.
And every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.
The new dawn balloons as we free it.
For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

 

Read Full Post »



What a diff’rence a day made
Twenty-four little hours
Brought the sun and the flowers
Where there used to be rain



It’s almost over.

Just a few more hours and a dark period in our nation’s history begins to fade into the background. The dustbin of history where those who formulated and did the dark deeds over the past four years along with those who enabled them will be given the harsh judgement they so deserve.

Oh, it’s certainly not over by any stretch of the imagination nor will it be easy going forward but already there is a palpable change in tone and attitude. For example, last night the President-elect presided over a moving ceremony on the National Mall that paid tribute to those Americans who have lost their lives to covid-19.

Over 400,000 citizens.

Actually, the count is most likely at least 10% higher than that, more like 450,000 or even more, when you factor in the excess mortality rates that are well above that number and the fact that the number of deaths we normally experience from the seasonal flu and the common cold is almost non-existent due to the mitigation efforts put in place for covid-19. 

In that short ceremony in the evening before he would actually take on the mantle of the presidency, Joe Biden provided comfort and empathy for the for the 400,000 families who suffered loss as well as the whole of the American people. It was far more than his predecessor ever even attempted during this past horrific year. 

Yes, the change of tone is evident.

We have endured thus far.

Thank you to those who resisted, who spoke out against the many wrongs that were being perpetrated. It was not an easy choice for most folks, many who are not used to speaking up, who in other times might just shrug and go about their business. But the time demanded it and without those gathered voices, their tireless efforts at organizing and affecting change, we might be looking at a whole different scenario and future on this very morning.

That scenario would most likely make the chaos of the past few weeks seem like a cakewalk.

So, thank you to all who spoke up, who took to the streets in peaceful protest, who volunteered, who stood in long lines to votes— all 81,200,000 of you! Thank you to those who knew that we could be better than what we were witnessing if we simply came together. Thank you.

And to those of you who gathered behind the flag of this corrupt and malevolent wannabe dictator, we now fully know who you are.

We see you.

There’s a lot of hard work ahead and accountability for the misdeeds of the past must be part of it. But the President-elect will most certainly not be obsessed with the retribution and revenge we would expect from his predecessor. No, it’s a different perspective coming into the White House.

You might not agree with everything he does- I doubt that I will- but you can rest assured that he will believe that what he is doing is the best course for us as a whole.

And that is a breath of fresh air.

What a difference a day makes.



I wasn’t going to write anything this morning but felt I wanted to comment on the transition to the presidency. I was planning on just playing a song and at first songs with a little snark came to mind– Ding Ding The Witch Is Dead, I’ll Be Glad When You Dead You Rascal You, or Hit the Road Jack, which was played by one of the military bands yesterday as they rehearsed in front of the White House. A classic bit of thrown shade as ever there was. [Late addition and apology: Later discovered that the video showing the band playing “Hit the Road Jack” was a doctored piece of film with another song actually being played.  I bit. My bad.]

But I decided not to go with snark and decided to go with the cool and brightness of What  a Difference a Day Makes from the late, great Dinah Washington.

I am tired of being angry and disgusted. A change in tone is what we all need right now.

Be well on this historic day. And keep up the good work.



Read Full Post »



“They are all in the same category, both those who are afflicted with fickleness, boredom and a ceaseless change of purpose, and who always yearn for what they left behind, and those who just yawn from apathy. There are those too who toss around like insomniacs, and keep changing their position until they find rest through sheer weariness. They keep altering the condition of their lives, and eventually stick to that one in which they are trapped not by weariness with further change but by old age which is too sluggish for novelty. There are those too who suffer not from moral steadfastness but from inertia, and so lack the fickleness to live as they wish, and just live as they have begun. In fact there are innumerable characteristics of the malady, but one effect – dissatisfaction with oneself. This arises from mental instability and from fearful and unfulfilled desires, when men do not dare or do not achieve all they long for, and all they grasp at is hope: they are always unbalanced and fickle, an inevitable consequence of living in suspense. They struggle to gain their prayers by every path, and they teach and force themselves to do dishonourable and difficult things; and when their efforts are unrewarded the fruitless disgrace tortures them, and they regret not the wickedness but the frustration of their desires. Then they are gripped by repentance for their attempt and fear of trying again, and they are undermined by the restlessness of a mind that can discover no outlet, because they can neither control nor obey their desires, by the dithering of life that cannot see its way ahead, and by the lethargy of a soul stagnating amid its abandoned hopes.”

― Seneca, On the Shortness of Life



I was reading an article that referenced the essay De Brevitate Vitae ( On the Shortness of Life) from the Stoic philosopher Seneca that written sometime around 49 AD. The passage above really struck me because it seemed to describe the dissatisfaction so many people have with their lives and the actions that result from this.

I can’t quite put my finger on it but it feels like the underlying current of what we’re seeing take place these days in this country. I have tried to discern what the desired outcome for the insurrectionists is or what drove them to act as a violent mob and I keep coming up with blanks.

What do they want?

They are not the downtrodden nor poor. They are not voiceless or without political power. There’s a high probability that most of them have livelihoods and assets that place them well above that of the average American. They are not trying to gain rights for themselves or others that have been denied. They are not fighting injustice.

And if they succeed, they have no plans for a future. Certainly not a future that will be in any way better.

All they have is anger and dissatisfaction with their lot in life. As entitled and privileged as they are, their lives lack purpose, lack meaning. It is a spoiled and bored existence, devoid of real consequences for bad behavior and fortified by the highs and unreality of video games and action flicks combined with conspiratorial bravado and cosplay costuming.

And that’s a recipe for disaster. 

This is just an observation this morning. Like I said, I am not sure I have a finger on what really is behind it. I am just trying to understand it so that I can begin to make sense of what I am seeing.

Still not there.

Here’s a topical song, Unsatisfied, a favorite of mine from The Replacements and their great 1984 album Let It Be.

Be careful out there and have a good day.



Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: