Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Whether you are a liberal, conservative or simply moving though this world as best you can without confrontation; whether you are a friend, enemy or simply don't know nor care who I am, may you all have a very Happy Holiday Season.

From the World According to Butch Trucks

Sunday, December 18, 2011

An apology

One thing that was brought to my attention yesterday was that in my moment of anger ( never write something when you are angry) I did bring others into my rant that had absolutely nothing to do with Ed King's statement. Most importantly. Lynyrd Skynyrd.

My taste in music is very limited. It includes "Trane. Miles, The Yardbird, Herbie and many others from the field of  Jazz. Mozart. Beethoven, Richard Strauss, Debussey and Ravel and numerous other composers of orchestral music. I simply do not listen to those who would be considered my peers.

I am not a fan of Skynyrd's but that is simply one man's opinion. I will not deny that they did make their contribution to the musical canon and that they do deserve respect and their place in the history of music as such.

I hereby extend my deepest and humblest apologies for including them in my angry rant aimed at Ed King. They were not in any way complicit in his statements and, as far as I know, they have had no interaction with him for a very long time.

Guys. I am sorry.

As for my statement about Sarah Palin ( although it had absolutely nothing to do with Ed King's crap) that stands. She has had far more than her 15 minutes and she is heading back to Alaska with the millions she made playing the part of a potential presidential candidate.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Stupidest Statement I have ever read!

I just had to respond to this one. Thus sayeth the arrogant, ignorant, redneck, Ed King of Lynyrd Skynyrd (draw your own conclusions from that):

"I thought Dowd's mixes were LOUSY on everything he 'produced'. Obviously, the material was all great.

After working with Dowd in '91, I better understood the entire relationship between Dowd & the band. Dowd was a monumental kiss-up. Sure, he was a pioneer in music engineering in the 50s & 60s...but he was damn lucky to get his name on LIVE AT FILLMORE EAST. LUCK-KEEEEEE. Dowd couldn't mix two eggs.

Great engineering by competent engineers @ Capricorn made Dowd look like a genius. The Allmans' sound was already ON STAGE. Whoever engineered GBMB was INcompetent...then combined w/ Dowd's mixing ineptness, it all ended up sounding PRETTY LOUSY."

"Dowd had the gift of kiss-a$$ like no other...and somehow got Ronnie to worship him. But I know a kiss-a$$ with bad ears when I see one. And a man whose just GOT TO HAVE HIS OWN WAY. What an ultra maroon. Though I'll acknowledge his contribution to recordings early years.

I often wonder if the Dowd Skynyrd albums were made to sound like cardboard so that the Dowd Allman Bros. albums would always be better. Though I feel that LIVE AT THE FILLMORE mixed itself...well engineered (NOT by Dowd).

MY TURN.......WRONG!!!!  Tom Dowd mixed every note on that album and I was there for every one of them. It was awesome.

Then you have the LAYLA album. Talk about BAD MIXES?" Ever heard anything as god awful as Layla, or any other song from that album? Again, all mixed by Tom Dowd.

It is obvious Ed King despised Tom Dowd, and accuses him of favoring the Allman Brothers over Skynyrd to the point of Dowd sabotaging the sound on Skynyrd albums to favor the sound on Allman Brothers albums. Tom didn't have to do anything for that to happen. I promise you he gave his best to every project he did. To contradict Ed King's statement "Obviously all of the material was great." Again.....WRONG!!!! some of it sucked.

I do not even have to defend Tom Dowd in this case. All any thinking and hearing person has to do is listen to King"s "musical" catalogue and compare it with the man who mixed John Coltane's "Giant Steps" and "My Favorite Things", "Layla" and every other song on that album and just go back and check out the unbelievable list of material I added to my article about Tom Dowd. I mean "Stand By Me", "Mack the Knife" Nearly everything by Ray Charles and Aretha? Fuck, is this guy for real?

Get a copy of "Tom Dowd and the Language of Music" and listen to the tributes paid to Tom Dowd by Eric Clapton, Ray Charles and many others. Compare them and their achievements with Ed King's. Unless you consider writing "Incense and Peppermints" on a par with what those people did I think you can see what Ed King is lacking: intellect. I think he has about as much of a chance of understanding the genius of Tom Dowd as my Yorkie does of comprehending Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity.  

To say that his statements are beyond preposterous and absolutely without merit would be the understatement of the year. He "knows a kiss ass when he sees one?" Hell he wouldn't know a baseball bat if it hit him up side the head.  What the hell is a maroon? Ed King is a moron. I guess that was the word he was looking for. A fact for his empty head:.Tom Dowd engineered every single note on Fillmore East, as I stated earlier. The only ABB albums engineered by the engineers in Macon were ":Brothers and Sisters" and "Win, Lose or Draw." Both very poor sounding, even if one was a success. It was only after Tom rejoined us for the "Enlightened Rogues" album that we got a decent sounding record again. Sad to say we changed labels and that was the last time we worked with Tom and it shows.

Ed King is a complete airhead and does not have the credentials to make any assessments about the accomplishments of Tom Dowd (unless writing the classic bubble gum tune Incense and Peppermints" is considered a MAJOR achievement) . Tom was one of the greats of the music industry. Ed King is a very minor ant on the ass of, hell I wouldn't even call what he played music.

For making that statement he deserves to have his wife's (if any woman can stand him) or girl friend's pubes turn to fish hooks. Ed, I would suggest that you avoid ever being in the same room with me again. Tom was like a father to me and you don't bad mouth my family.

DAMN!!!! Tom was as instrumental in making that redundant sounding band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, successful as anyone. He deserves Ed King's adoration and thanks. For him to make that statement simply shows him for what he is and what he is not. Grateful being toward the top of that list.

Damn shame that this has to be my first article in a very long time. I have been trying to put together a piece on the Occupy Movement. Stay tuned.

Tom, I miss you and always will. Ed King please just go the fuck away. This would be a better world. I hear Sarah Palin is looking for a private grounds keeper as she makes her way back to Alaska. Would be a perfect gig for your butt.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Duane Allman: Oct 20, 1946 - Oct 29, 1971

As you can see today is the 40th anniversary of his death. I will miss him as long as I live but one thing Duane would not want is for anyone to mourn for him. Rather I will add a copy of his discography. Spend some time today reveling in the joy of life that Duane left behind in the music he played. You have much to choose from. Remember Duane Allman. He made this world a better place.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Racism, Niggerhead Ranch and the ABB

Been a while since I have posted. I guess it's a combination of being busy and trying to find a subject that needs my attention. I keep waiting for this Occupy Wall Street to take some focus. So far I can't really put my finger on it enough to write about it. So I will continue to watch and hope that it might do something to turn what I believe is probably the inevitable end of the American democracy in another direction. Stranger things have happened.  Until it does I'll sit, watch and listen along with all of you and hope.

This week there was an incident that Hit The Note with me. It was the discovery that the Darth Vader of Texas, Rick Perry, has a hunting ranch that includes a very large entry stone at the entry with Niggerhead written on it. Of course Governor Perry just fluffed it off as a vestige of the racist past and insisted that it had "absolutely nothing" to do with him or his views, however, African Americans make up 12% of the population of Texas but 44% of the prisoners there. His execution rate is about the same proportion. I know Rick Perry can't take all of the blame or credit for this but it does indicate that, despite what the right would have us believe, racism is still rampant. The percentage of prisoners that are black compared with white is not just a Texas problem it is the norm country wide. Unemployment for blacks stands at 17% and 8% for whites. The average income is totally skewed in favor of whites and the list goes on.

I'm going to tell a story about the Allman Brothers Band traveling the deep south, southern Alabama, circa 1971, and just one of the times we were faced with blatant racism.

We had just finished playing The Warehouse in New Orleans. The Windbag (our Winnebago Camper) was in the shop so we were traveling in a pair of rental cars along with Black Hearted Woman (an old U-Haul truck that we had fixed up, painted black and were using to haul our equipment). We had hung at some party in N'awlins and pretty much everyone had done something illegal after the show. Dickey had gotten a couple of hits of some fairly effective acid and after we climbed into the cars decided that he didn't want the world to look like it was looking while crammed into a car with all the rest of us "hardlegs" (dudes). He had gotten a bottle of some type of downer, I think it was "reds" ( seconal) and was eating them like candy in an attempt to slow things down.

We were headed to a gig at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and were planning to take the major highways. We had enough sense to know that the back country between New Orleans and Tuscaloosa in 1971 was not the safest place for ten long haired hippie type white guys and one muscle bound Afro haired black guy. Unfortunately Red Dog, who was driving the lead car, missed a turn and sure enough there we were driving down twisting two-laned roads way out in the boondocks.

I don't know what genius came up with the idea, but someone decided that they wanted to eat breakfast so the next little diner we came upon witnessed a sight seldom, if ever before, witnessed by the citizens of that area of the USA.

Several of the guys, including the malfeasant Red Dog, had fallen asleep in the various vehicles so they stayed in them while the rest of us, including Jaimoe, went in to eat. I remember about seven or eight of us pulling together some tables and sitting down hoping for some grits and eggs. I also remember from where I was sitting watching the unfolding scenario that was beginning to play itself out.

A woman in a waitress uniform started to walk to our table. She stopped, turned around and walked over to a booth on the other side of the diner and. low and behold there sat the sheriff and  a couple of his deputies. I could see the woman lean over and say very clearly to the sheriff "I ain't servin' that nigger." My guts began an exercise in getting a small as possible. I am certain you all know what I mean. At first the sheriff just shook her off and told her to go take care of her business.

Unfortunately Dickey's state of mind had chosen that particular moment to switch from an acid state to the reds. So here we sit in the diner with this mad as hell waitress (who, it turned out was the sheriff's wife), the sheriff and his deputies, all of us carrying multiple illegal substances, either on our bodies, or in our luggage and Dickey is outside, between the cars puking his guts out.

The waitress made a couple more trips in our direction but would stop, look at Jaimoe and do a rerun of her first trip. Finally the sheriff decided that that woman was not going to let him have his coffee in peace so he and his boys went to work. Dickey was the easiest, they just took him to a police car. Next they began a search of the guys that were asleep in the cars. One of them reached across Red Dog, found a coat laying next to him and found about 1/2 of an ounce of pot in a pocket. Bingo, we were fucked.

They came into the restaurant and told those of us trying to get breakfast that they had found drugs on those in the cars and they were taking them to jail. This began a parade of all of us there heading to the restromm where the sound of the toilet flushing was pretty non-stop for quite a while.

What the sheriff and his crew were unaware of was that we had an extra rental car parked away from where all the action was taking place. After getting rid of everything we had on us we all piled into that car and made a bee line north as fast as we could. I remember Gregg getting out his suitcase and stuff flying out of the windows as we tried to make out get away. Well it didn't work.

As soon as the peace officers realized that we had a way out and, as they thought, were not trapped at the diner, they sent a car to bring us all back to the jail. And that's where we went. Directly to the four cells of the Grove Hill, Alabama city jail where we were told to go get in those cells. We were never told that we were under arrest, why we had to get into those cells and I doubt if Miranda meant anything to those rednecks at all. Getting Dickey's fingerprint was a real adventure for them. He kept missing the page.

The picture from the top of the page is of the five white members of the band from that morning: our mugshots. Jaimoe was taken somewhere else but we'll get to that in a minute.

Believe it or not we were beginning to have a ball. Dickey had stopped puking and started singing Hank William's I'm in the Jailhouse Now and we all joined in. Before too long there began a stream of young local boys walking by and looking into the cells. You'd hear a male voice saying something like " Son, I want you to walk down that hall and see what that long haired hippy shit'll getcha." Soon a very frightened boy, mostly preteen to early teens would slowly and with a lot of trepidation come walking by. Well Augie (Red Dog) decided to do something about this and the next unlucky little boy that came walking by was greeted by a skinny, buck naked, red headed dude jumping out from the back of the cell and jumping high up onto the bars and shaking himself while he howled like a wolf with genitals flailing. That kid turned about five shades whiter, screamed and ran out. No more little boys came down that hall that day.

Later that evening we were put into squad cars and transported to the county jail in Jackson. This is where we caught up with Jaimoe. It seems that in 1971, in this part of the country, jails were still segregated. Since Jaimoe was with us, luckily we were all put into the black side. I doubt if we would have fared very well with the rednecks on the white side.

We arrived at night and we ushered into a sleeping cell that consisted only of us. There were several other cells and after we finished a rousing rendition of The Coaster's Get a Job we were greeted by some of our fellow inmates. Red Dog was his usual vociferous self and started trading jive with a couple of the other guys.

We got some sleep and next morning were all lead into the common room for breakfast. I recall lookin around the room at razorblades laying in several places and thinking I sure hope we can be friends. About that time a short cannonball of a guy they called Louisiana Shorty and an older man started wrestling around close to me. Shorty got the older man in a hold right at my feet and I'll never forget him saying "is this what you're gonna do to that red headed fucker?" My guts resumed their contracted position.

Soon the jailers came to see if any of us wanted cigarettes, cokes or anything for the day and we bought cartons and bottles for everyone. This broke the ice and we would up having a great time while we were  

For some reason it took a couple of days for our lawyers to bail us out and The University of Alabama made a public announcement that we were not welcome on their campus ever again. We all headed home, I believe, and took a few days off.

The outcome of all of this was that the prosecutor for that part of Alabama was coming up for reelection and this was the biggest thing to hit there like in forever. He knew he had no case. The searches were done incorrectly, the arrests were the same, but he also knew that the judge handling the case was his father-in-law.  He was right up front with our lawyers and told them that, although he knew he had no case he was going to set a date for trial when we had a big concert and we would all have to be there. It would be delayed and the next time we had a big show that would be the date of the next trial. He would wind up costing us a fortune and a ton of hassle. We would up pleading guilty o disturbing the peace and paid $50,000.00 for that disturbance.

The disturbance was, after all, taking a black man into a diner full of racists. This was just one of many indignities that we and most of all Jaimoe suffered back then. If you believe that is all gone now and racism is a thing of the past, just look at that rock in Texas.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To 1974!

 March 13 and 14, 1970, was the first time the Allman Brothers played the Warehouse in New Orleans. The place was magic. It was an old cotton warehouse on the docks where they use to store cotton for shipping. It was built of wood and had the best acoustics and the best vibes of just about any venue we played back then. December 31, 1970, was the first time we played The Warehouse on New Year's Eve and this led to us doing the same thing every New Year's Eve until Dec 31, 1972. By this time Eat a Peach had gone multi-platinum and we were selling out places like Madison Square Garden and the Spectrum so playing a 2,000 seat venue, like The Warehouse was something we did because we had a ball playing there and those New Year's Eve gigs became the stuff of legend. We loved playing there for New Years and did for three years until it closed in 1973.

We were facing New Year's 1973, without The Warehouse and management and Bill Graham came up with the idea that we play The Cow Palace in San Francisco for two nights, December 31, 1973 and January 1, 1974. Both shows sold out very quickly and it was decided to put the show up on live, coast to coast radio. This was to be and it actually did turn out to be the largest radio audience since FDR's Fireside Chats. I believe it is still the largest radio audience ever.

Anyway, here we are getting ready to play for 20,000-30,000 people live and millions on the radio and someone tells me that The Dead had showed up to jam. Well I had had an adventure once before when we played with The Dead at The Fillmore East. The Dead had a "roadie' named Owsley Stanley that was the chemist that made the LSD for most of the civilized world. It was his goal to dose every living person, That night at The Fillmore Owsley poured enough pure acid into our garbage can of beer that if you drank a beer you'd get enough LSD from the ice water around the can to get totally loaded. I had more than one beer and by the time we were half way through our show that night I was unable to play.

Upon hearing that he was around that New Year's eve at The Cow Palace I grabbed my bottle of wine, open the lead and held it close and made sure that I drank nothing else. I did not want a repeat of what had happened at The Fillmore. Well...... New Year's came after our first set. Here's a link to the radio broadcast of 1974 arriving.

So far, so good. We then kicked off our second set and about an hour or so into the set, just before Les Brers in A Minor, that was to include Jaimoe and my drum duet, my drums started just drifting off into space. When I could actually hit one it was like hitting a marshmallow. I just went, oh hell, he got me again. I turned around and there stood Bill Kreutzman looking just like Jesus, complete with the halo, and I held out my sticks and asked him if he would play my drums, I couldn't catch them. He did and went on to play what was to be my big time in the sun before an audience of millions. I moved to the side of the stage and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the show which included the following jam with Jerry Garcia and Kreutzman still on my drums.

Years later I ran into Owsley and he told me that he had filled a water gun with LSD and got close enough to my wine bottle that was under one of my floor toms and shot it till he hit it enough to do the trick. Well it certainly did.

Thought it was time to lighten up the conversation.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

You Have To Read This One!

I was reading the op-ed section of the paper this morning with my morning coffee as I usually do and, as usual read both sides (The Palm Beach Post has two op-eds everyday. One from the "left" and one from the "right"). This morning's "from the right" was from Cal Thomas of Fox News fame. It was titled "Ron Paul was right" and was about Ron Paul's answer to Wolf Blitzer's hypothetical question about whether society should just let a young healthy thirty year old that opted out of health insurance and then fell into a coma just die. As most of you probably know this brought a few cheers of "yeah" from the audience. Mr. Thomas mentioned that they probably came from the previous debate where Rick Perry's pride in his lead in executions was wildly applauded. I would say that rather than try and tie that outburst to a simple answer it seems to me to be the prevailing ethic of  the day and for some time now is an "I got mine, screw you" attitude that has become more and more the norm. It is the basis for most of the  "ethical" differences that have brought governance to a screaming halt. (the obvious effect of money we'll just acknowledge as a major part of that ethic and move on.)

Where I had to stop and read what Cal Thomas wrote several times before I could even believe what I was reading was in a section where he was saying that he agreed with Ron Paul: that we should assume responsibility for ourselves and then went on to write about instances of people assuming responsibility for the needy. He said he was "intrigued by a story he read last month in London's Sunday Times. ........The headlines read "Tory Ministers to 'Adopt' Jobless Families. The ministers have pledged to set an example by volunteering to become "family champions" to the unemployed."

He went on to ask why this wouldn't work in the U.S. government? Why can't president Obama and his family, his cabinet members and agency heads each "adopt" an unemployed family and help them find meaningful employment. Then he asked the same about the Republican candidates, of course pointing out Bachman's experience in adoptions. Then he hit me with the WTF? Thus sayeth Cal Thomas of Fox News. "Warren Buffett and Bill Gates say they should pay more taxes. CAN'T THEY BE ASKED TO DO MORE TO HELP OTHERS? THEY WOULD SET A FINE EXAMPLE. " WTF? RIGHT?

How in the world could a person that writes for the public, works for the countries leading "news" organization not know about The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation? There has never been a better example in the history of the world than Bill Gates and Warren Buffett when it comes to "setting an example for helping others." You can ( and so can Cal Thomas) find out in all of thirty seconds by a fast Google search that so far they have donated over thirty billion with a B each to this foundation. They both have committed to adding greatly to that sum and eventually have pledged to give over 90% of their wealth to trying to help those that need it. They have also gotten a long list of very wealthy people to agree to join in. As Cal Thomas wrote, they also both agree that they should pay a greater share of the tax burden. Warren Buffett says he feels it is a sorry state of affairs when his secretary pays a larger percent of her income in taxes than he does.  Taxes in the USA are at an all time low. Especially for the wealthy. I'll repeat that: an all time low. When we are in a recession and so deep in debt I submit that this is not the time to have historically low taxes. Let's get the economy moving, pay down some debt and then have the debate on where taxes should be. I digress.

You have to wonder what makes it through the Fox News filters to have something this wrong come out of one of their guys. You also need to ask yourselves which side do you consider yourself to be on in the battle for America that is going on right now. Warren Buffett and Bill Gates or The Koch Brothers? It wasn't that long ago that there was no reason to even ask this question. What happened?

Again, thanks to my wife for the painting. In case you can't tell it's of me. :-)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

TOM DOWD: The Greatest Record Producer Who Ever Lived

I have written about the man that had the biggest impact on my life, Duane Allman. Today I want to talk about the man that ranks right up with Duane. Tom Dowd was as exceptional a human being as you could ever know. Tom became a part of the Allman Brothers Band very near the beginning and stayed a part of it until his death,  October 27, 2002. He was the greatest record producer that ever lived, in my book. There are many very successful musicians out there that will tell you the same, starting with Eric Clapton, Ray Charles and a list far to long to put here.

Tom grew up on the upper west side of Manhattan. He was so smart that he was going to Columbia and studying physics by the age of 16. When WWII broke out he was enlisted into a program known as The Manhattan Project. For any of you that aren't familiar with that title it is the program that developed the first nuclear reactor (Tom was there under Soldier Field in Chicago the night they removed the rods and produced the world's first nuclear reaction) and then created the bombs that ended WWII. Tom told me that the devastation of those things never really hit him until he saw the first underwater test. That's when he left the Army and thought he would head back to Columbia and finish his physics degree. Trouble was the physics that was used to develop the bomb was still classified, so Columbia was still teaching an outdated course and Tom just couldn't see himself studying a subject where he knew more than his professors. So, lucky for the world, Tom decided to go to work as a recording engineer. His first recording was done straight from a mic onto a disk. It was "If I Knew You Were Comin I'da Baked a Cake", by Eileen Barton in 1949. The list of people he went on to work with as an engineer and later as a producer is amazing:

Blow your mind and look carefully at this list

For those of you that don't have the time to read that very long discography I'll just give you some high points, The Drifters, The Coasters, Lavern Baker, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, John Coltrane, Cream, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eric Clapton, Derek and the Dominos, Joe Bonamassa, just a small sampling.

Tom was a genius. He had the musician's touch but he had a way of working with musicians that was more like a psychiatrist. He could pull the very best out of any musician. Most producers have a sound that they bring with them to the studio. Tom's genius was that you could never tell that one of his works was done by him.  He was simply the guy that showed us how to play the best music that we were capable of playing. 

There was a time in 1970, Tom was at Criteria studios in Miami, with Eric Clapton and a group of players that either already were or were soon to become The Dominos.  There was all of this talent and some incredible material but Tom just didn't seem to be able to get things rolling as well as he knew they could. The Allman Brothers had recently finished our second album (our first one with Tom), Idlewild South, and it just so happened that we were playing a concert on a field in Miami Beach. Tom asked Clapton if he had heard of Duane Allman and after a few minutes of "you mean that chap that played slide guitar on Wilson Pickett's, Hey Jude......." it was obvious he had so Tom mentioned that we were in town. Well that night may be the only time I ever saw Duane nervous. We walked onto the stage and sitting right across the front of the crowd was Clapton, the rest of the Dominos and Tom Dowd. We proceeded to blow the roof off of the place and after we finished they all came back stage and we got acquainted. We decided to head over to the studio where we spent most of the rest of that night jamming on a lot of old blues stuff in various configurations. Duane and Eric spent the time between jams talking about things like Robert Johnson, Willie McTell, etc and by night's end you could see a bond forming. 

Eric asked Duane if he would like to come play on their record and, as they say, the rest is history. From that collaboration came one of, if not the best album of the '70's:  Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. This was how Tom worked. He saw what needed to be done and then set about getting you to do it, he never told you to do it. If we got bogged down on a song Tom would do something like "remember that lick you played earlier?" and more often than not the suggestion would get you unstuck and, although that lick was almost never used, it would be the impetus to get the song finally finished the right way. 
I could write a book and I may one day about this great man. You can see the kind of man he was by getting a very good film made about him that was completed shortly before his death. The film is called Tom Dowd and the Language of Music and I'm sure you can get it from or some place like it. Trust me it is a film well worth having. Many special guests in it including Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, myself and many more.
Tom had an amazing zest for life. He loved people and music and wallowed in the fact that he was able to live his life being with people he liked (for the most part) and respected and make music with them. In all my years of being his very close friend (I was fortunate enough to live a one hour drive from him so we spent many nights together at dinner or some social affair) I never saw Tom unhappy nor ever heard him utter a single derogatory remark about anyone. Tom was my friend and my mentor. I loved him deeply and I will miss him for as long as I live.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Where Do We Want To Live!

I have been working this week trying to write a post about a very special person. It has turned out to be much more difficult than I anticipated so I have decided to wait for some inspiration on that piece and write about an issue that has been nagging at me since I first read it. It was a part of the first post I put up from Oteil and it really disturbs me. I feel sentiments like this are the driving force behind what I am afraid may the death knell of the USA as a democracy. Oteil said: "The liberal notion that the Federal gov’t is supposed to give out money freely is wrong to me because it first depends on the theft of my money by the IRS. I am all for giving liberally individually but not federally. If I am allowed to keep more of my money I can guarantee it will get to the local homeless shelter, food bank, school, etc... when it is stolen from me by the IRS and given to the Federal gov’t it disappears into thin air." 

Let's think about this statement.  First a few hundred years ago our ancestors decided to form a society. One based on a here-to-fore untested system using a tripartite government. This government contained a system of checks and balances with the idea that this would keep any branch from gaining too much power and insuring that the people in this society could always have the final power using one man - one vote to replace any government that might abuse its power. This is a very simple definition of who we are and how we got here. That is the USA. The concept of "society" (groups of people forming unions) is as old as mankind himself. The concept that in all societies that members of these groups contribute to the common good is also as old as "society" itself. 

Let's take a group of very early humans that have formed a tribe for their mutual benefit. How can they benefit from this association?  It's simple enough, the men form hunting parties and provide the food. Women farm, take care of the young and keep the homes together. Each contributes to the common good. I doubt if one healthy young man would have simply said "you guys are just stealing my time and labor. I think I'll just hang here while you go get the food" and lasted very long. As humans evolved and societies became larger and more sophisticated then that labor became something else. Eventually it became taxes. Once societies formed into more complex entities then maybe some became the warriors, some the farmers, some the tradesmen, whatever but, along with their skills most societies for thousands of years have built projects on a societal scale and it took taxes to pay for them. 

After stating the obvious let's ask ourselves, given that we all know that the transcontinental railway system could have never been built by allowing the population to operate under the "If I am allowed to keep more of my money I can guarantee it will get to the local homeless shelter, food bank, school, etc... when it is stolen from me by the IRS and given to the Federal gov’t it disappears into thin air." way of thinking.  Really, do you think it remotely possible that the railways, the interstate system, the air traffic control system, our public school system (surely you can't believe that public education should not be provided), our Armed Forces (whether you agree with what they are doing that they are needed I am sure we can all agree upon), The Hoover Damn, etc. would have been built if we just left it up to the goodness of the average person to pay their share, or not? Do you think that we would have had any chance in hell of winning WWII without some very serious taxation that turned into most every American giving all that they could for the war effort, over and above those taxes? Do you have any illusions that this country with it's national electrical grid that was built with tax dollars and was the backbone for the industrial boom here in post WWII America could have ever happened? Really? Theft? Otiel, imagine a tour without the transportation infrastructure created by tax dollars. Think about all of the public services we use and just take for granted. There is little doubt that a lot of our tax dollars have been used for many corrupt purposes and that there is, has and always will be the need to monitor where those dollars go. I know of one story in Iraq where several truckloads of dollars, amounting to several b with a billion dollars just vanished. Shit like this goes on far too often, but to call paying taxes federal theft? Really? It all just disappeared into thin air? Really? The lack of those taxes are putting school teachers, fireman, policemen and public workers of every stripe out of work. Is this really what we want?

For the last couple of decades we have been headed (ostensibly) toward the conservative version of what the government should be (although the massive increases in our deficit happened under the three Republican Presidents, Reagan being the worst) . Taxes are at an all time low. Regulations on business are almost non-existent.  We are in the middle of a recession brought on, in a large part, by these policies. In the past when this happened the electorate usually went oops and the pendulum swung back the other way keeping us away from the radical right or radical left. What scares hell out of me right now is that we know that we are in a recession brought on for the most part by these conservative views. We see the evidence everywhere. The Bush tax cuts and unregulated corporations and Wall Street Companies were the major causes of this mess. We should be headed back the other way. It doesn't seem to me that we are. 
We now sit having blown trillions on idiotic wars and for the first time in the history of this country, while a few fought and died, the rest of us sat on our butts got very nice tax cuts and went to the mall. Now here we are facing what may be the defining election in our history. Where are we going? Where do you want to go? Do you really want to turn things over to people that are telling you that paying your taxes is nothing more than a rip-off? Really? If so, what will the society that replaces the one that requires you to pay taxes and the institutions that run it look like? It won't have any money, unless you feel like giving  it some. Really think that system has much of a chance? Good luck.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I just Couldn't Let This Slide.

I recently received a post pointing me to an article in Forbes Magazine, 08/06/2011. The title of the Article was: "A Failed Presidency -- The American Problem." Written by John Mariotti. The person simply said "another opinion you may be interested in reading." The article is the usual Obama bashing, nothing really new. If it were written today it would probably blame the fact that Obama went to Martha's Vineyard for the hurricane that's about to nail the North East.  

I read the entire piece and found many problems with it. The author said something about if he were to list all of the problems with the Obama presidency it wouldn't fit into a blog. Well, that's how I feel about the blog itself. I did notice something that really points out a major reason why we are in the pickle we are: the ability of writers like this to make totally false statements, that in the past most Americans would have known were false, and get away with it. It is NOT "another opinion" it is simply false, as in a lie. Not enough people seem to care enough to call these guys on these types of lies. It points out a major factor in why we are losing our democracy, a lack of basic education. 

As I have written before and I am sure everyone reading this knows, our government is a tripartite system consisting of the executive (the president and his staff), the legislative (the house and the senate), and the judicial (the Supreme Court and our system of federal courts). Each with restricted and very specified powers. The idea is that this creates a system of checks and balances that allows our democracy to flourish. Our system, as Thomas Jefferson said numerous times, must have an educated electorate or problems like this one start to emerge. This being an excellent example of a major, respected magazine feeding misinformation to an uneducated readership and these readers simply take it at face value. 

I am writing about a Republican, right wing article, but this problem is endemic. Both side share the blame and if we can't do something to educate the populace then this great experiment in representational government is doomed. (It is my feeling that we have already past that point, but I will write that piece later).

Here is the offending statement: Obama’s irresponsible Feb. budget, which was voted down 97-0 by a Democratically controlled Senate. 

Here's the drill: 

The President, according to the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, must submit a budget to Congress each year. In its current form, federal budget legislation law specifies that the President submit a budget between the first Monday in January and the first Monday in February. In recent times, the President's budget submission, entitled Budget of the U.S. Government, has been issued in the first week of February

The House and Senate Budget Committees begin consideration of President's budget proposals in February and March. Other committees with budgetary responsibilities submit requests and estimates to the Budget committees during this time. The Budget committees each submit a budget resolution by April 1. The House and Senate each consider those budget resolutions and are expected to pass them, possibly with amendments, by April 15. Budget resolutions specify funding levels for appropriations committees and subcommittees.

The next step is the drafting of a budget resolution. The United States House Committee on the Budget and the United States Senate Committee on the Budget are responsible for drafting budget resolutions. Following the traditional calendar, by early April both committees finalize their drafts and submit it to their respective floors for consideration and adoption.

A budget resolution, which is one form of a concurrent resolution, binds Congress, but is not a law, and so does not require the President's signature. The budget resolution serves as a blueprint for the actual appropriation process, and provides Congress with some control over the appropriations process. No new spending authority, however, is provided until appropriation bills are enacted.

Once both houses pass the resolution, selected Representatives and Senators negotiate a conference report to reconcile differences between the House and the Senate versions. The conference report, in order to become binding, must be approved by both the House and Senate.

Conclusion: It is not possible for the senate to vote down "Obama's irresponsible budget."  Neither the house nor the senate CAN vote on the President's budget. They must vote on what their own committees on the budget have made of the President's budget.

Of course now that the statement: "Obama’s irresponsible Feb. budget, which was voted down 97-0 by a Democratically controlled Senate" has appeared in this article it will become more fodder for "The Failed Presidency." The fact that it is a lie does not matter and for the most part those that read that article now simply have another piece of information to use against the President. 

I don't care if the President is Obama or Howdy Doody our system cannot function when we are flooded with this type of misinformation. It did happen under Bush and, unless we do something about it, it will only continue to get worse. 

Thanks to my wife: Melinda, for the painting. It's of the Balinese God  Layak Barak. I found it somehow appropriate.