Friday, April 17, 2009


"All government is ultimately and essentially absolute." - Samuel Johnson

I believe that at one time, the idea of a conservative grass-roots movement might have been a real possibility, but those times ended ages ago if, in fact, they ever existed. It's not like Fascism swelled up from the streets. In the modern world at least, all conservative "preserve our wealth" movements necessarily find their genesis in high birth. It's true that many present-day conservatives really could not care less about nor do they even understand the basis of true political conservatism. Anyone who voted against gay marriage, for example, is not a true conservative, because a true conservative believes that the government has no right to control that area of your life. A true conservative may be against abortion, but to put the power in the hands of the government to stop it is unfathomable. Interestingly, the people who want to call themselves conservative today seem to hold few philosophies of true conservative thought.

The recent "teabagging" fervor is a great example of this. I find it interesting that these people who are "protesting" taxes by bringing a packet of black pekoe to the federal building cannot see the irony of their actions. First, the original Boston Tea Party was about being taxed without restraint by a government in which we had no voice. Second, it was by today's standards not a protest as much as an act of economic terrorism. Remember, these guys were not parading a teabag around the square, they were breaking into ships and ruining entire shipments of somebody else's product. If you wanted to make a reasonable comparison to that act, you'd be better off comparing the Boston Tea Party to the Californians who burnt the car lots a few years ago in protest of environmental issues. The Boston Tea Party destroyed huge amounts of somebody else's money. Today's protesting conservatives would never be able to stomach something like that without somebody ending up sentenced to one of our illustrious privatized prisons.

The most ironic thing is that while these people are protesting the omnipresent government that their own party is responsible for unleashing, the only part that they seem to want to rid themselves of is the IRS. The rest of it is okay as long as it creates no interference with their personal cash-flow. They say "no socialism!" But none of the old white people out there waving teabags are trying to get rid of social security, even though social security accounts for more paycheck deductions than the federal tax and state tax (where applicable) combined. What is the other larger-than-taxes deduction on your paycheck? Medicare. Don't see any of those people protesting to get rid of that either, even though they say that they're against universal health care. The teabaggers seem not to be against big socialist government, but against that government using
their money to operate. It's a delusional thought. The very people who wallowed in the gluttony produced by the dynamics that have brought us to this place are the ones who now don't want to take any responsibility for it. They say it under the guise of "not wanting our children to pay for it," but what they really mean is that yet again they want those of us who have languished in the past for their luxury to continue to do that in the future. The CEOs of the corporations which provided them with ridiculous returns on their stocks over the last two or three decades are making off with huge contractual sums of money, and they're being stuck with the bill, which is only right because they're the real owners in the first place. By all rights, they should be in favor of taxes going to bailout, because that means that all of us, shareholders and non-shareholders alike, are footing the bill for the shareholders' responsibilities. When one delves deep enough, the reasoning behind this new wave of conservative protesting falls apart. Are they ignorant, or are they malevolent?

The problem seems to be that those who have profited and hoarded since Reagan convinced everyone that money flows downward have never in their lifetime had to give back in relation to what they've gained. Those of us who have lived a significant time under the median income range have known all along that "trickle down" didn't refer to money. When the system is based on greed (which it always is) money must flow upward in order for the rich to gain. In the past, the middle class has always been big enough to provide enormous incomes for those above them on the scale. Problem is that they've been disappearing like a South American rain forest. They've either "made it" through their investments, or they've slipped through the rungs of the ladder and landed flat on their asses among the ranks of the working classes. The working class doesn't invest. Sure their retirement plans (if they have one) are based in mutual funds or government bonds, but let's face it, the future and availability of retirement plans are no more solid than this quarter's returns. They have no real disposable income either. Paycheck to paycheck is the name of the game down here, and we can't compete with foreign laborers who make in a week what we need to make in a day in order to survive. Therefore, the bulk of the profits made at the top reflects an ever increasing inability for the bottom to make their way. Conservative deregulation has allowed this to happen. If you want to make this year's $20M profit next year's $30M profit, move your factories to Asia or South America. Let someone else hire these expensive Americans. Or, we can hire the bulk of our employees as part-timers, pay them less money and save even more money by making them ineligible for retirement plans and health care. But we're against government taking over these benefits, because then we'll have to pay higher taxes to make them available. We'd rather spend our tax money paying arms manufacturers and war contractors to protect our overseas investments and pay privatized prisons to house our disenfranchised. In fact, we'd rather not pay taxes for that either. Can you see where this heads? It's an impossible scenario to sustain. At some point, there is no one left below to be the consumers to support the rich. Small groups of well-to-do, aging, and (let's face it) Caucasian people prancing around the federal building's steps with tea bags are not going to do a damn thing to change it.

You're either for having a government, or you're against having a government. If there is no government, then the money becomes meaningless. If there is a government, well, I believe the quote from Mr. Johnson at the beginning of this post says it all. As for me, I'm having coffee.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Another Year Older...

In seeking wisdom, thou art wise; in imagining
that thou hast attained it, thou art a fool.
-Ben Sira

Well, I guess it's impossible to avoid. Another year has passed for yours truly. I always thought that age was supposed to bring with it wisdom. The truth, if there is such a beast, is that I now have more questions and less answers than I ever did before. I certainly am not getting wiser at the rate that my children are getting older. Despite my efforts, neither am I gaining wealth, success, access, nor acceptance. I do not say these things to garner sympathy, or to bitch and complain. It simply is.

I generally do not participate in holidays, especially if they are of a religious nature. It is not a statement of protest, I just can't think of any reason that my participation is necessary. So, around my house, birthdays are the thing. We often celebrate a family member's birthday for a couple of weeks. Last year, I turned forty years old. Typically, forty is considered the most "difficult" birthday. A crossroads, if you will, into the second half of your natural life. While I did pay attention last year, it didn't get me down. However, this year feels more strenuous. It could have to do with the financial strains I'm feeling right now, I mean who isn't, right? But, the truth is that I've been pretty much submerged in financial woes for the last 8-10 years. Maybe I'm just feeling the wear and tear of it all, but I'm still not all too attached to fiscal well-being, even if I am beginning to recognize that my age is becoming a factor in any attempt I make to change that. At some point, it is harder to reinvent yourself. Hopefully, I'm not quite there yet. So, what is it? The gray in my beard? While I do keep it shaved for stage work (no one wants to see gray hair on a rock'n'roller unless they've earned it in the public eye), offstage it fails to get under my skin. How about attractiveness? Well, truth is, I think women find me more attractive now than they ever have. Is it the steady approach of my impending walk into old age and eventually death? That's getting closer, but death truly doesn't bother me. Actually, it's really the only thing that you can completely depend on in this life. Believe me, we are ALL going to die. I don't look forward to watching my once lithe and agile body disintegrate into anything less, but at least it's lithe and agile now. No, I think the answer lies behind me.

I'm halfway through my life now, and so far I've produced nothing that will outlast me besides one beautiful child. She is my heart, but honestly, most people produce children at some point or other, and usually more than one. I don't subscribe to the idea that one must immortalize one's self in order to have made a statement with their life. It's just that I always thought, somehow, that I would. Maybe that's the problem with me this year. I've officially crossed over into middle-age without having made a lasting statement with my life, and faced with my declining years as they advance toward me, I'm feeling a little less inclined to believe that I ever will. That's the hard one.

So, I will continue to thank everyone as they wish me "happy birthday", and I will continue to be myself throughout the next year and beyond. I will continue the long march, but without the burden of the tyranny of expectation. It will make these boots a little heavier, but the backpack will be lighter. Perhaps therein lies a little wisdom.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


2008 was the year for the word "elitist." It was the battle cry of the Republican political machine, leading us to wonder when they became so populist. How dare they expect us to stand for the degradation of having our government fall into the hands of educated and rational people, er, in other words "Elitists!" At one time, being called elite was not an insult. It meant that you were the best, or the pick. Sometimes it was used to describe the conspicuously wealthy. Voltaire was an elitist. He believed that the general masses were far too undereducated and stupid to take the helm of governance. He felt that the business of governance needed to be guided by those whose education and experience gave them a cause as well as the tools for deep consideration of political philosophy. How many guys down at the docks have read Machiavelli, for example. Do you suppose that "Joe the Plumber" was familiar with Hegel and Locke? How many congressmen and senators do you suppose are familiar with them? Do you suppose it matters?

Yes. If you insert Jethro into a position of power alongside a well-read and thoughtful Machiavellian, and expect him to do anything other than become another pawn in the game of power brokering, you need to wake up. Coming at it from the other side, being a moron is not an indicator of honesty. Some of the most dishonest people I can think of came from humble beginnings and were never really educated. There's a reason we prefer to make nighttime ATM withdrawals in a nicer neighborhood.

In many ways, I consider myself a "populist." For example, I like the idea of socialized health care. (I'll approach that one in a different post.) I, however, hold no idealistic view about the abilities and motivations of the masses when it comes to wielding political power. Power corrupts. Sudden power when you've never had it corrupts absolutely. The world needs ditch-diggers too. Now if you want to have a conversation about why the ditch-digger can't have a house and a car and send his kid to college... But, I digress.

This year was a very big year in the history of the word "elitist." Its meaning was battered by politicians, reporters, and ultimately the general population. Its sound became a hiss emanating from the fearful and confused corners of middle America. "That man expects me to elevate my conversation above the level of Jerry Springer and Pat Robertson. - He must be an elitist, if he's not going to dummy-down everything he says to the third-grade level adopted by the nation's newspapers so that my undereducated ass can understand it." "She talks just like me, and apparently doesn't understand our system of government any better than I do. She must be for the people, because she's definitely of them. She's a populist in a $150,000 dress!"

So, to the word "elitist," I offer to you the thanks of our people for making yourself so abundantly available for use by everyone, and likewise let me offer the apologies of our people for the years it's going to take for you to have any meaning at all again. You've had your fifteen minutes of fame. Congratulations.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Six Months Later...

"I wasted time, and now doth time waste me." -William Shakespeare

Six months later... here I am.
After months of wandering through the desert and the accompanying hallucinations (talking to fires, watching the sea part for me...) I'm ready to once again take the helm of this ship of fool. I wish that I could say that it's been a particularly interesting six months. I wish that I could say that I've had my reasons not to write. Truth is, while the last six months have contained some interesting events, the only reason I've had not to write is that I'm a slacker. (It says that in my profile.) This reminds me of the smattering of journals that lie around my house cluttering shelves and corners that otherwise would contain, well, nothing. Since I began college, back in the days before electricity, I've tried many times to keep journals. When you look at them today, one journal may have three weeks worth of entries, and another maybe a month, and the next one perhaps a week. My photographs are the same way. I always used to wear long hair. About a year before I left West Virginia for South Carolina, I got all of my hair cut off. It was the first time my hair had been short since I was still in high school. I do not have a single photograph of myself from that entire two-to-three year period! A friend's father photographed my first wedding for the cost of materials. We never had a single photograph reproduced or enlarged. As far as I know, my ex-wife still has two albums full of proofs from our wedding.

What do these things say about me? I can't commit to a long-term project? I know that already. I don't have enough self-esteem to document my life? I would argue that I don't have enough ego to document my life. I'm usually too caught up in actually experiencing my life to stop and photograph it or journal about it. That's my New Year's rationalization. I don't make resolutions very often, but rationalizations are one of my many addictions. How long can you go without a rationalization?

Well, this time is different. I lost some faith in this blog because I took the time to write it, and no one was reading it. At the moment, I still don't have much faith in people reading it, but my reason for writing it is a little different. Most of my writing these days is about promoting my band. We won't get into how successful that's been either. I need an outlet. A pressure release valve, if you will. So, I will begin anew with this beast that I've not yet come to know intimately. Maybe someone will find it and find some value in it as well. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My Piece-o'-Shit Volvo!

Wow, has it been that long since I last posted already? Well, I've got a lot more going on in my head than in my fingers. I mentioned my car a couple of weeks ago, so let me tell you more about it.

About two-and-a-half years ago, we bought a used Volvo. We needed a reliable car (the story of my life for the last ten years), and we had a couple of years' worth of tax returns in our possession, so we decided to buy a "good" car that was a little older, but more likely to stay on the road than perhaps a newer but cheaper car. It had worked before. I owned an '85 BMW 535i that had 185,000 miles on it when I bought it, and I still managed to put another 75-80,000 miles on it myself before I sold it to a guy who's still driving it. After that experience our idea felt right, so we paid outright for a '96 Volvo 960. It felt good, drove well, and had working air-conditioning (certainly more than a convenience here in South Carolina). I hadn't had a car (including the Bimmer) with working a/c for several years!

The car came with a three month warranty. So, you guessed it, in the fourth month it made its first trip to the garage. That time we had to replace the radiator. The next month it was a coil pack. The next month it was another coil pack. A few months later, it was the timing belt, and more coil packs. By the time a year was up, the a/c was shot too. Then there was one of the control arms. Then the transmission needed rebuilt. Are you starting to get the picture? As we speak, it's sitting in my driveway unable to be started.

I know what you're thinking. "Didn't you get a Carfax report?" Yes, we did. According to the report, it had never been in an accident, hurricane, earthquake, nor been abducted by aliens. Apparently, it made it's own decision to become a piece of shit.

So, a year and a half ago, we bought another car. A brand new Suzuki XL7. I cannot express enough how nice it is to have a vehicle that starts when you want it to, stops when you want it to, and circulates air under 95 degrees! Meanwhile, the Volvo keeps the rain off of part of our driveway.

This post is not to say that Volvo makes bad cars. I cannot speak of any other Volvos, because it's the only one I've driven. However, I will say that I used to be one of those people who stood around saying "I don't know why anyone would buy a new car. The only difference is that with a new one, you lose $2000 the minute you drive off the lot!" Now, I sing a different tune. Seeing as how I'm not a person to trade cars every couple of years (provided the car runs), I am not really so concerned about resale value. By the time I get rid of a car, it's usually a "fishing" car, at best. So, for my money, I'd rather be paying a monthly note for a car that's going to run well than paying a monthly mechanic bill for a car that's not worth the cost of repairs.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My Weekend In Raleigh Turns Up Jesse Helms!

This weekend I had an errand to run in Raleigh, NC. Actually, we left for there on Sunday and made our way back on Tuesday evening, so weekend is a loose term. A few years back, Alex lived in Raleigh for a year, so we are reasonably familiar with the area. The place has a good feel to it. If you find yourself there, I recommend checking out this place called "ArtSpace." It's a two-level building designated for art studios right on the edge of the downtown area. Don't go on Mondays though. In fact, Raleigh seems to close on Mondays. We spent half the day on Monday just trying to find interesting businesses that happened to be open. We thought that maybe it was people trying to squeeze an extra day out of the long weekend, but upon closer inspection, we realized that it just seems to be a local quirk.

Another note about the city is that it was the home of Jesse Helms who passed on Friday, July 4th. It was interesting being there during the posthumous debate over his "contributions." On the one hand, you had the loyal constituency putting up signs calling him a "great American patriot" and talking about "how appropriate it was for him to die on July 4th". On the other hand, you got the feeling that Jesse Helms' death really made this year's Independence Day Celebration a little sweeter for the rest of Raleigh's residents.

We seem to have this tradition of not speaking ill of the dead, but I don't share that tradition. If you spend your life being an asshole, I don't see any reason to pour the perfume when you're dead. Let's face it, Jesse Helms was a bigot. He even made attempts at reversing desegregation! When I was growing up in the 80's, his name was synonymous with old-school down-south segregationist politics. What I didn't know about him was that during his entire ride in the senate, his highest margin of victory was 55%/45%. Apparently, North Carolina had just enough fearful, bible-beating whites to eke him by in each election, thoroughly embarrassing the rest of the population. Sound familiar?

I agree that July 4th was an appropriate date for which Jesse Helms to give up the ghost. It made me feel one powerful white-supremacist lighter.

Friday, July 4, 2008

July 4th!

You know the thing that I really like about the 4th of July is that it's a day when even non-rednecks get a chance to get loaded and handle explosives. Isn't that what America's all about? Booze and fire. I wonder what happens on the 4th of July if your drunken aim ends up sending a bottle-rocket into your waving flag. That would be an interesting charge. "He's charged with inadvertant flag burning...and public drunkenness." Maybe that's like getting a non-intentional face masking penalty. If you're out watching fireworks, just make sure that you're near a port-o-potty. This would be a good night to get caught pissing in public. That'll get you arrested on a sexual offender charge. Wouldn't it suck to have to report your whereabouts for the rest of your life just because you had a full bladder? It's funny to a point, but here in this great land of freedom there are plenty of people with sex-offender status because they couldn't hold their piss or their baby needed fed at the wrong time. You know that the only reason we have bodies is to offend others with our sexuality. I mean, really, when was the last time you had sexual thoughts about a wino taking a piss on the sidewalk? I'm quite a perv, but breast-feeding (unless I'm involved) doesn't turn me on. That's not to say that I wouldn't try to catch a glimpse of nipple if possible, but that's also true of moms wearing halter-tops while giving their carriage-borne children ice cream cones. (I know that's extremely random, but it happens to be the way I saw my first public peep-nipple. I was about ten or eleven and grabbing a snack at an amusement park, and obviously it caused me to be voyeur for the rest of my life. Someone should have arrested that woman! I was actually thinking of handcuffing her right there.)

Anyway, this is supposed to be about the 4th of July not prepubescent nipple gazing. Though you must admit that nipple gazing is more exciting (and generally less expensive) than fireworks. Speaking for those of us carrying our sex organs on the outside of our bodies, if the choice was between watching the sky for the next firework to go off and watching the girl standing next to us as her breast works it way out of her ill-fitted top...

So, I found myself thinking about how those who signed the Declaration of Independence would view our modern Independence Day celebrations. You know many of the men who signed that decree ended up dead because of it. Kings don't generally have much tolerance for such things. Neither do loyalists. So, how do you suppose Thomas Paine would feel about being killed as a traitor so that 200 years later it could be celebrated by a guy with two names who's had five too many and is now working on his ninth finger? Man, I've had too much to drink to do that kind of math. I may be working on five too many, but I've got all ten fingers left (although I admittedly don't have any fireworks handy - get it? handy - with which to start subtracting digits.) I can't bring myself to buy fireworks. Every time I see a good explosion I'm thinking, "Damn, I couldn't have burned twenty bucks that fast!"

If you're reading this, I hope you had a great holiday. If you happen to go by two names (Jim Bob, Bobby Joe, etc...), well, stop using one of them and maybe you won't be so offended the next time. Catch you on the next post.