Friday, April 29, 2011

God Save the Queen

In honor of he royal wedding and the celebration I give you the lyrics of the classic "God save the Queen"...

God save the Queen
The fascist regime,
They made you a moron
A potential H-bomb.

God save the Queen
She ain't no human being.
There is no future
In England's dreamland

Don't be told what you want
Don't be told what you need.
There's no future
There's no future
There's no future for you

God save the Queen
We mean it man
We love our queen
God saves

God save the Queen
'cos tourists are money
And our figurehead
Is not what she seems

Oh God save history
God save your mad parade
Oh Lord God have mercy
All crimes are paid.

When there's no future
How can there be sin
We're the flowers
In the dustbin
We're the poison
In your human machine
We're the future
You're future

God save the Queen
We mean it man
We love our queen
God saves

God save the Queen
We mean it man
There is no future
In England's dreamland

No future
No future for you
No fufure for me

Indiana Gov De-Funds Planned Parenthood In His State

How many people will die, get sick, or have unwanted pregnancies because of THIS GUY?

I thought the conservative cause was to preserve and protect "all life." A decision like this virtually assures more lives will be at risk or lost.

Nice going.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Will Southern States Accept Federal Assistance in Wake of Tornadoes?

A question to ponder...

Will the southern states impacted by the recent spate of tornadoes, but yet so typically conservative and anti-Federal government, accept Federal government funds? Or, will they reject them in favor of whatever their state can provide or generate?

The later would be the only answer if conservative states down in the south were to stay true to their professed beliefs and voting patterns.

However, I think I know the real answer. Of course they will be all too glad to accept the funding and FEMA assistance from U.S. taxpayers (and the sooner the better) to help clean up and address the devastation.

I don't hold that against them. This is a profound example of "we are all in this together." I want my tax money to go to help my fellow Americans.

But, as many souther state are swept up in conservative "states rights" discussion and anti-Federal government rhetoric, I think more introspection is needed by them for when the rubber meets the road - or a line of tornadoes rips through the south - we do indeed need the Federal government as a help.

Think on that.

British Royal Sons...Just Sayin'

Just sayin...who is the baby daddy for Prince Harry - Charles or James "Friend of Lady Di" Hewitt?

See the evidence and judge for yourself.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Big Oil Is The Problem - Not The Solution

Let me get this straight...
  • We have a massive budget deficit - a large portion of it due to a) huge and enduring annual expenditures to fight wars in the middle east to protect the supply of oil for our economy and b) a spectacular lack of tax revenue from big business, including big oil.
  • Oil companies are reporting massive profits. Not revenue gains...profits. Check it out HERE and HERE.
  • Prices for gasoline are at $4 a gallon and going higher - presenting a significant challenge to everyday Americans and certainly for our economy overall.
  • Our Federal government provides oil companies tax breaks and tax payer funded subsidies.
  • And now the House of Representatives, run by Republicans, is saying that it will not consider ending or reducing those subsidies. Further, we see indication that the Rs will pull out one of the oldest plays in their playbook - blaming the Ds for situations the Rs helped create.
How is this right? How is this the best way forward for the vast and overwhelming majority of Americans?

The answer's not.

The longer answer's not right and the fact that these oil company subsidies were created in the first place, have been allowed to continue and now won't be repealed are all testament to who runs the government. Big Oil and their cousins Big Business and Wall Street run it. And guess what? Leaders in those sectors are more interested in massive quarterly profit margins to boost the value of the stock they hold and so they can earn big bonuses than they are in long term energy solutions that will help the economy overall.

With billions of dollars in profit coming in to oil companies on a quarterly basis for a sustained period of time, a large or even predominate portion of their profit should be used to invest in developing long term, next generation energy sources (wind, solar, other). And certainly, we the tax payers should not be subsidizing them if they do not do so.

But oil companies will not do the right thing unless they are forced to. They will. Not. Do. It. Why would they when then can rake in billions and billions of dollars every quarter? Why would they care that gas prices are going up? And what do they care about 10, 20 or 50 years into the future. Oil companies care about quarterly profit sheets - that's profit every three months. Talking about a decade from now to them is like talking about the year 2498. They won't change on their own. So, we have to make them.

I'm no economist, but I think the solution is obvious...cut all current public subsidies to oil companies and close tax loopholes that allow oil companies to skate out on much of or all of their fair share of taxes. Then, and ONLY then, come back to them with legislation that stipulates that for them to regain (new form) tax breaks or subsidies that they will have to invest a certain percentage of their profit margins in new energy development and show resluts against a set of aggressive timeframes and metrics.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Names Of Bands Before They Became Famous

As a derivation on the "odd rock band names" theme, below is a list of names bands used before they hit it big under monikers you may know much better. Thanks to the NME for the info.

The Strand...became the band The Libertines

On A Friday...became Radiohead

Tony Flow And The Miraculously Majestic Masters Of Mayhem...became The Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Polka Tulk Blues Band, Polka Tulk, Earth...all early names of the band that eventually was called Black Sabbath.

Gothic Plague, Fixed Penalty, Rocket Baby Dolls...all early names for the band Muse.

The Detour, The Who, The High Numbers...all early names for the band that eventually settled on the name The Who.

Smile...became Queen.

Mammoth, Genesis...became Van Halen. NOTE: The briefly also considered the name Rat Salad.

The Rain...became Oasis.

The Blue Velvets, The Golliwogs...became Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Seymour...became Blur.

Sweet Children...became Green Day.

The Larry Mullen Band, Feedback and The Hype...all early names for the band that settled on the name U2.

Stiff Kittens, Warsaw...became Joy Division.

Skid Row, Pen Cap Chew, Bliss, Ted Ed Fred...all early names for the band Nirvana.

London SS, The Weak Heartdrops, Psychotic Negatives...early names for the band that became The Clash.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Funny, Outrageous and Odd Rock Band Names

Next up on the category of funny, outrageous and odd rock band names is none other than...

Poop Attack

That's right, Poop Attack.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rs on Federal Budget - Do As I Say, Not As I Do

As conservatives wage their war on the Federal budget this spring, fueled by rhetoric critical of the governement, here are a couple things to keep in mind.

Conservative states in the USA accept the most (and benefit the most) from Federal government spending and programs. Info HERE and HERE. This is quite interesting for a lot of reasons, but esspecially given that, generally speaking, more liberal leaning states (CA, NY, IL, MI, MN, etc.) have much bigger populations than coservative ones (OK, TX, GA, WY, KS, ND, SD, ID, TN, etc., etc.).

And, Republican governors - despite rhetoric to the contrary - are all too happy to accept Federal money. Info HERE.

And of course you should remember that the spectacular Federal budget defecit, financial and housing market meltdown and growth of goverment all happened under Republican control of the Federal goverment (WH + House + Senate from 2001-2007, WH + House 2007-2009).

Keeping all that in mind, several adages come to mind when thinking about conservative attempts to drastically cut back Federal goverment spending:
  • "Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it." I mean, hey, the states that will suffer most with drastic cutbacks will be the states run by conservative politicians.
  • "Do as I say, not as I do." While rabble rousing their supporters on a jag of "small goverment" speech, Republican governors quietly take the Federal money they say should not be spent in the first place. Hypocrcy.
  • "You made your bed, no lay in it." Republicans and conservative economics got us into this mess, and my opion is that they should be the ones to suffer with whatever remdy is decided. This might happen in conjunction with the "be careful what you whish for" situation because if these people bring down the type of cuts their talking about, voters in their states may decide it's time for someone new.

Funny, Outrageous or Odd Rock Band Names

I think I'm going to start a series of posts called "Funny, Outrageous or Odd Rock Band Names."

I seem to come across them pretty regularly. No judgement on the music, just funny names.

To start it off, here's one I saw today...

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs

Monday, April 18, 2011

Top U.S. Muscle Cars - Old and New

You like American "muscle cars?"

I do.

Check out these two online reviews - one for the top classic muscle cars and the other for a listing of their modern counterparts.

(Below: 1970 Boss 302 Mustang by Ford. Picture from linked article above.)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Album Review: Glasvegas - Euphoric Heartbreak

One of my favorite bands of recent years, Glasvegas, has dropped their second album called Euphoric Heartbreak. It's out on U.S. iTunes now and as I understand it, it will be in stores and Amazon on May 17.

The new set represents change and forward movement for the band, and for me it's quickly becoming a favorite. If their debut was equal parts Roy Orbison + Phil Spector girl group + wall of sound + outlaw rock then their new one is bombastic U2 + mellow Coldplay + a dash of something like the Libertines and...perhaps a sign of maturity by Allan and the band. And for that, I think like most successful records, this one has it's own sound. (Above: Album cover for Euphoric Heartbreak.)

On the upside, this progression is a great sign. After all, who wants to hear the same thing over and over again. All the songs on this new album really do express either heartbreak, euphoria or - more often - both. As I understand it, the theme is inspired by main man James Allan's recovery and positive outlook now after experiencing the heights, challenges and exhaustion of fame as Glasvegas hit it big a couple years ago. All this, combines with some artful tune-smithing really deliver a quality modern rock album that is both different than most of what's out there as well as accessible for anyone. It's a high quality effort by this group. Good stuff.

On the downside, moving away from topics like social workers, missing parents, the death of a child and whatever the Hell Stabbed was about on their debut in favor of songs about love, loss and regret seems like perhaps a regression. After all, as Joe Strummer said about why the Clash didn't do love songs, "the subject's been covered." But, on the other hand - and to their credit - Glasvegas turn the "love song" on its head at least once in this album. Also in my opinion as a detriment is the album opener and closer. Good effort to do something different there and I get it. Not the worst thing I've heard, but put it this way...the middle nine tracks truly outshine the opener and closer. (Below: The band. James Allan in white.)

But hey, all this is relative. Euphoric Heartbreak is good album full of catchy songs that make you think. Can't do much better than that, and while music is subjective to the individual taste I submit that this one is worth checking out. I give it a big thumbs up.

I've had the full set plus some b-sides at my disposal now for about a week, and below is my review song-by-song. Some recommendations for what to get are after the review.

Pain Pain Never Again. "I'm overcoming the obstacles of the ubiquitous demon named shame." This is the first of the bookend dirges that open and close this album. Featuring a woman speaking in French, James Allan's voice eventually comes in as he speaks the English lines of the track, submerging the woman's voice under his and an increasing lawyer of synth and echo. Just about when you've had enough...the next track on the album begins.

Anyway, best I can tell, this is an ode to moving past ones problems and addictions an on to a better place - leaving behind the heartbreak of that. If you think of it more as a prelude or intro to the whole set of songs, perhaps it finds its place. I'm not a fan of this "song" and will likely just skip over it when listening to the album.

The World Is Yours. "You don't need me as much as I need you." Excellent song. As disappointing as the opening track is, this song is the real deal and quite the contrast. Things are looking great! This is what Glasvegas is about. Moving, compelling, building, epic, this one delivers euphoria and heartbreak with both barrels and a massive tune and a lyric that centers on the notion that the singer has a love who he wants to win or win back - or perhaps just is aching to earn approval from. Professing to give over completely to his love, there is questioning and dreaming as much as clarity of purpose such as, "since my eyes met yours, if I'm your world the world is yours." Yates, Keats, Hemmingway? No. But clear. A key element in this song is a "dropout" section in the middle where the music fades to low and Allan is virtually speaking his lyrics professing that he wants the "stars to align" so that he can ensure his love knows how he feels. And then, it builds back up again steadily to the precipice of "that undeniable truth" and the payoff explosion of "you don't need me as much as I need you!" This is the heartbreaking element present and't need I....(desperately)...need you. And that's what this song is about. Finishing in a rocking clatter, this is the star of the entire album if you ask me.

You. "A life long debt I don't mind owing." OK, to me this song has the right spirit and the tune is good, but the lyrics are weak. Bordering on nonsense I am not sure what to make of this one. To me this seems to be an ode to the profound feelings felt for that one special person you love - "you" from the perspective of the singer. But, stuff like "my glow in the dark sea horse never not glowing" makes me wonder. Enjoy this one for the overall feel rather than anything that it might be trying to say. On the strength of the music and tone of vocal delivery this is possible, especially as bridge to the next song.

Shine Like Stars. "Spare a thought for the one that matters." Starting with some electronic sounds and a vocal lead in that forwards the notion that while the past might not be so great, the present and future is looking pretty good. In fact, you might say it's time to "shine like stars." The song settles into a driving beat and guitar groove that makes it the most traditional rock and roll song on the album. This is the first appearance on the album of an all "euphoric" perspective. No heartbreak in sight. Indeed, the future is so bright that while shining like stars James Allan and anyone listening just has to wear shades (and if they happen to be Ray Ban Wayfarers or a pair of vintage Jean Paul Gaultier 56-8171 metal frames that Allan prefers, all the better). Nothing but goodness on this tune. Rock out.

Whatever Hurts You Through The Night. "If there was a way with me, would you run away?" Following the ramp up of the preceding three songs, this one brings the listener back down to Earth with a contemplative song about longing love from a distance - perhaps by one stranger to another, perhaps by people who know each other. Imagined and longed for escape from someplace else...someplace better. That's the sentiment. Musically, one song that came to my mind when listing was by Life In a Norther Town by Icicle Works. (Remember that from the 80s?) That song is a bit different, but that icy, cold, longing sound and feeling is apparent in this song by my ear. Somewhere I read that this one would be right at home in the movie Pretty In Pink. Might be. Meantime, Allan's vocal delivery and ability to emote the passages in different phrases that rise and fall in pitch perfectly to support the notion of the lyrics and, at least for me, leave you with appropriate melancholy.

Stronger Than Dirt. "Thoughts of me and you forever, the rest can go to hell." This song is one of two on Euphoric Heartbreak that speaks from the perspective of homosexuality. To be precise, the idea here is that society as a whole frowns on homosexual love, but that this love is as valid as any other male/female love...and what often times people in homosexual relationships have to hide or skirt around given those societal feelings. I give Glasvegas a lot of credit for this track because it would have been VERY easy to make it about heterosexual love and how "they just don't get it, and we'll be together no matter what they say." But they didn't. No, James Allan has said in the media that he thinks that prejudice against gays is wrong and this song backs it up with his lyric about how the two protagonists who are up against such prejudice are, in fact, bound and determined to be "stronger than dirt" to make their love work.

For those of you who may not be too comfortable embracing this notion, try. It's thought provoking. And hey, at minimum, I think most people can relate to the fact that any love situation - gay or straight - requires those in it to be strong.

Dream Dream Dreaming. "I know you're out there somewhere." Music is subjective. I have read that this song is about a deceased relative of singer James Allen, but in reality it could be about missing a love who has died or who is perhaps imagined...someone who can only be seen when dreaming. Ether way, this song pulls at the heartstrings - something Glasvegas are good at. I like this song as it makes you think about that special someone in your life and how unbearably sad and it would be if they were gone or - if you go with the other interpretation - it makes you think about what might be possible knowing that the one, that one, is indeed out there somewhere. These sentiments are wrapped in a clever tune that complements the subject well. The song builds from almost a drum-aided lullaby into a bombastic ending - also a Glasvegas specialty - that pays off the emotion of love in a really compelling way in my book. Good song.

I Feel Wrong. "Once a day, I think about killing myself." This is the other song on the album that addresses the issue of homosexuality. It is direct, blunt and makes you think. To summarize, the song is about how guilty the protagonist feels about being gay, but he cannot help it. The shame he feels, the knowing disapproval from his family, the fact that society does not condone his sexuality...all achingly present. A mid-paced ballad backed with shimmering guitars, synths and a steady drum beat, this song shines a spotlight on something that all too many people are walking around feeling about themselves. Again, bravo to Glasvegas for taking this on. While neither this song nor Stronger Than Dirt will be mega hits, they matter.

Euphoria, Take My Hand. "Heartbreak, I'm not holding your hand any more." This is another all-euphoria song and it feels good! Whether it's about the actual achievement of overcoming heartbreak with a new love or the desire to do so, the sentiment here is unmitigated, unleashed love directed in a positive direction. All things are possible and the future is brilliant. Allan belts his delivery and you believe. As the first single off this album, the song has seen chart success in the UK and I see why. This is a first rate song and you should give it a listen. (Right: James Allan on stage live.)

Lot's Sometimes. "The birds sing for you and me in the morning, lots sometimes."  This song is a list of things the singer thinks about someone (could be a lover, could be a parent, could be someone else), cleverly delivered using the device of "lots sometimes." My interpretation is that the list is being recited by someone who has a love who he wants around, but who is not. Again, the balance between euphoria and heartbreak. Ranging from unrestricted love and longing, animosity, nostalgia, the future and more, the list grows in length and diversity as the tempo picks up steadily as the the song progresses. By the end Allan is singing fast and furious against a brisk drumbeat and feedback as he desperately articulates the many ways he feels about his love. This approach is different. It's effective. It works for me. I like how it makes you think about the many different ways you relate to your partner, your family and friends. Quite a corker from Glasvegas and an unexpected favorite. Oddly, after the song is over, the last 30-40 seconds of the track sounds like a muffled recording of a birthday party - starting with some fireworks and conversation then the birthday song. OK whatever.

Change. "Before you change for me, change for you."  This is the second of the bookend dirges to close the album. Again, it's slow, plodding and features Allan and his mother reading the lyric. In the first part, Allan is saying that he knows he is on a stray path but afraid to change. In the second part, his mother saying, essentially, it's never too late to change and you can do it, son. OK, so, nice sentiment. And, from what I've read about Allan and the way he dealt with quick success and non-stop touring, this lyric is an all-to-real dialog. In any case, he seems to have got past it as evidenced by the existence of the Euphoric Heartbeak album. All well and good...and hey, thumbs up for artistry and trying something different...but this song is not a favorite for me and closes the album on the same down note as it opened. Given all the good stuff - bitter and sweet - in between, it's too bad.

Single Euphoria Take My Hand came with two b-sides. Both are slowish atmospheric numbers...

Georgia Walk With Me. "Have I asked you, could us two be one?" Backed with syths, Allan is singing a ballad of a sort in which he is asking his song love interest - Georgia I strongly suspect - to walk with him. Simple as that - I love you, would you be mine and "walk with me?" I like it.

7 AM Eternally. "I don't mind if I have to stay forever and a day at 7 a.m. eternally."  The first minute of this song is a sample of a NASA launch countdown audio with a cheeky, plucky guitar over the top and then when the rocket lifts off in the sample the song itself starts. As mentioned, it's an atmospheric number with Allan's voice backed by what sound like either syths or possibly some strings - or maybe both. The main point here seems to be that Allan saying there's no place he'd rather be than where all things are fresh, new, dawinging and possible....he'd like to be at 7 AM, eternally.

So there you go. Overall, I would say this is a very solid "sophomore" effort from this band. Lots to like here - and more than just sometimes if you know what I mean. Seriously, check this stuff out. I don't hear anything like this out there.

If you are someone who is thinking about buying the entire album - do it. I'll guess it ends up being one you listen too quite a bit.

If you are someone who typically only downloads individual songs, here are my recommendations...
  • Must have: The World Is Yours, Euphoria Take My Hand, Dream Dream Dreaming, Shine Like Stars, Lots Sometimes
  • Good, but not essential: Whatever Hurts You Through The Night, Stronger Than Dirt, I Feel Wrong, You, Georgia Walk With Me, You (but ignore the lyrics)
  • Skip: Pain Pain Never Again, Change, 7 AM Eternally

A Bunch of Things Happened On This Day In History

Today, April 15, is a pretty significant day in history. I didn't know it, but check out all of these things that have happened on April 15...

1755 - the first ever dictionary in English is published
1865 - President Lincoln dies after being shot.
1912 - the Titanic sinks on its maiden voyage.
1944 - The Soviet Union's Red Army captures Tarnopol in Poland in a signifant blow against Nazi Germany.
1947 - Jackie Robinson breaks major league color barrier.
1959 - Castro visits the United States.
1970 - U.S. 1st Infantry Division withdraws from Vietnam.
1998 - Cambodia's Khemer Rouge dictator Pol Pot dies

Lincoln, Robinson and the Titanic are the biggies on the list in my book.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Income of Wealthy Has Grown 275% Over the Past 35 Years, Has Yours?

It's tax season.

The Feds are debating economic and tax policy.

As you experience and observe these things, here's a piece of data to keep in mind...

"Over the past 35 years, the bottom 90 percent (of the U.S. population) have seen their income rise only by a tiny fraction of total (income) growth, while income for the richest 1 percent has exploded by upwards of 275 percent."

See the chart and article HERE.

In addition to the explosion in wealth among the already wealthy, I think the other interesting thing about the stats in this accounting is how much more aligned they were during that "golden" period between the Great Depression and the middle 1970s. That is pretty much the only period in U.S. history when our economy and society was prosperous across income levels. This also coincides with the time when it was taken by the majority that things like common sense regulation, taxation and social policy were indeed territory for the government to be present. Before that and after, not true. Some further thoughts from me on that issue are HERE.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

2 Video Clips from The Joy Formidable Last Night In Seattle

The band The Joy Formidable played in Seattle last night at the Crocodile Cafe.

HERE and HERE are clips of two songs they played.

9 Things The Rich Don't Want You To Know

As Obama and Congress debate the budget and economic policy, HERE is an article worth a read titled "Nine Things The Rich Don't Want You To Know."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

British Sea Power Plays Seattle - A Review

I went to see British Sea Power at Neumo's in Seattle on April 2. This is a band I've followed for a few years now primarily based on the strength of two singles (Carrion, Remember Me) and two albums (Do You Like Rock Music? and Vallhalla Dancehall). However, I've never seen them live. So, when I saw they were coming I jumped at the chance.

To use a cliche, I'd call British Sea Power "indie rock." But I would also say that they are not quite your run of the mill band with run of the mill indie rock songs. Lets start with the lineup. Yes, there are a couple guitars, bass and drum. But add in keyboards and a full time violin player to the mix and things start to get interesting. And their lyrics tend to be better and more thought provoking than most rock bands. "I'm a fan of the local library, I just read a book but that's another story." Or, "I wish protesting  was sexy on a Saturday night." Just a couple examples. And I would say their creative use of foliage on stage is not something I've seen before either.

Above: British Sea Power on stage in Seattle at Neumo's on April 2, 2011. Picture by Marc Osborn.

Anyway, the band came on to a 2/3 full venue and quickly hit their stride with a few of their better know tunes and graduated on to some deeper cuts and circled back to play some hits. To me, musically, this was a good show. It was loud for sure, but vocals were understandable and the music made an emotional impact.

Beyond the songs and sound, another set of things I like to use as criteria in judging a show is a band's effort, interest and interaction with the audience. British Sea Power scored nicely on effort and clearly they were delivering a heartfelt performance. So, good there. However, they were not too talkative or interactive with the audience. So, not as good on that.

You can sample one song from the gig on video HERE. The song proper starts about 1 minute into the video.

With tickets at a mere $15, this was a no brainier show to go to, and my expectations were met...not to mention again seeing a band in a small setting that would fill a large venue in the UK. So, thanks British Sea Power for visiting Seattle and putting on a quality show.

Right: More British Sea Power in Seattle. Picture by Marc Osborn.

This was a good, solid and fun show. Was it the greatest gig I've ever seen? No. But, here's the main was compelling to me because it proved anew to me that fresh, interesting and authentic rock and roll is still being created and performed by artists who are 100% committed. This is something lacking in today's general music scene I think. And of course the other thing that's great about gigs like this is that you can see a quality band for cheap and up close and personal...really cool. Hey, life is about getting out there and living a little. While you can't mistake going to gigs for the most profound things in life, doing so does add spice and punctuation to your normal know, gets you out of your sleep, eat, work, kids/gym, eat, sleep regimen.

NOTE: Use of the pictures in this post is not permitted for any purpose except by prior written permission by Marc Osborn.

150 Year Anniversary of the U.S. Civil War - Something to Remember

Today is the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War in the United States. You'll probably see some media coverage about this on CNN and other cable news outlets and other places. I've also seen that PBS is running the Ken Burns documentary on the conflict this week too.

But as you read, listen or watch about this war, there is one thing to remember - the South started it, did so to preserve their slave-based economy and they lost the war.

All of these may seem obvious to the casual observer, but it's not so obvious to some - especially in the South.

For example, you will hear some people say things like:
  • Able Lincoln started the war by "forcing" the South to take up hostilities
  • The war was not about was about state's rights and the control of the Federal government
  • The South didn't really lose the war more than they just stopped fighting

I have heard each of these positions articulated in the U.S. South within the last two years. All of this is simple ignorance at best and revisionist history at worst. And, according to recent research, nearly one quarter of American sympathize with the Southern states that were part of the Confederacy and more than 4-in-10 say slavery was not the reason for the Civil War.

But, let the facts speak to the history:

The South started the war. They did. It's a fact. Look it up. The. South. Started. The. War. Period. Upon Lincoln's election in Nov. 1860, South Carolina left the Union. Within three months six other Southern states followed and formed The Confederate States of America. At his inauguration, Lincoln called the Southern secession as "legally void,"but he did not threaten hostilities nor did he advocate eliminating slavery where it already existed. None the less, on April 12, 1861 Confederate forces fired cannons on the U.S. Army garrison holed up in Fort Sumter out in Charleston bay. And from then, the war was on. Claims that somehow Lincoln was to blame are simply bogus. The South wanted out of the Union and would not hear of any other the degree of starting the war over it. (Above: Fort Sumter. Photo by Marc Osborn)

It was about slavery. The South seceded from the Union and started the war because leaders and wealthy in the southern states felt the very foundation of their economy - slave labor - was under threat by the growing abolitionist movement, emerging Federal law and issues over slavery in new states admitted to the Union. No matter what other issue bitter Southerners can conjure up as the "real" reason for the start of the war - sectionalism, tariffs, state's rights, etc. - the are all are based on the fear of losing slave labor in the Southern economy. It's that simple people. (Right: Slave market building in Charleston, SC. Photo by Marc Osborn) 

The South lost the war. They were beaten and surrendered. Southern Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender to Union forces under Gen. U.S. Grant in Virginia gets the most play in history, but the South's surrender was actually a series of surrenders by defeated Confederate armies all across the South. While the South initially put up a good fight and had the North on the ropes early in the war, ultimately the industrial power of the North combined with its greater population and economic power overcame Southern successes with the U.S. Army and Navy defeat the South on the field of battle. Based on their inability to sustain their forces and win battles, the Southern armies surrendered in 1865. After nearly four years of war and more than 600,000 dead or wounded, the war was over.

So why care about this today on the 150th anniversary of the start of the war? Why clarify it? Two main reasons:

1) These issues continued to plague the U.S. after the war in the form of civil rights issues and economic development. And, race to this day is still an issue in our country, and prior to the 1960s and civil rights legislation, the status quo down South - while not slavery - was extremely prejudice against people of color. To understand our race issues today, you need to understand why the Civil War started and ended at least at a basic level. Otherwise, you're just spouting off without knowing what you are talking about.

2) Because today a lot of people don't know the above and/or refuse to acknowledge it. This fuels their fantasies about "nullification" or "states rights." Think about those stats I referenced earlier in this post. Right now, we've got a quarter of our population sympathizing with the Confederacy and nearly half thinking slavery was not the primary reason for the war. Hey, if you believe the South was "forced" into the Civil War, was fighting to defend "state's rights," and that they didn't lose as much as stop fighting...then you might be someone who today hates the Federal government and regulation of any kind, still harbor racist attitudes and resents the rest of the nation that is economically better off. Sound familiar?

NOTE: Photos in this article are taken by Marc Osborn and are not authorized for any use without prior written permission from Marc Osborn.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rs Demonstrate Savvy Negotiating Tactics With Budget Proposal

With the short term Federal budget crisis averted last week, attention in DC will now turn to longer term solutions for the spectacular budget deficit this country has.

And as this debate starts, here's something to ponder...

While the proposal from the Republicans to cut out $6 trillion in spending, together with more tax breaks for the wealthy is WAY, WAY off the deep end of reasonable, it will accomplish one thing even if none of it is exactly adopted. And what is that? It moves the debate over what to cut, what not to cut and what to offer as tax policy radically to the right.

By staking out a position so far on one side, conservatives can "negotiate" away a lot of their official plan, but still end up with what they want - spending cuts or elimination of big domestic programs (but not defense) and big tax cuts for the wealth and corporations. I'll save judgement on how effective that economic recipe will be for the economy (although I think you already know), and just say that I think that's what's going on here. That's what the Rs are up to with this radical initial proposal.

What should the Democrats do? Well, with the White House and Senate in their control, my humble opinion is they should simply say, "No, we reject out of hand what you are proposing. It is a non-starter. The provisions you are proposing have been proven again and again as failures. Try again. And oh by the way, here is our plan." And that plan better be sound, good and promoted big time to the American public. That would at least attempt to cut off the "move the debate to the right" strategy of the Rs and re-establish the debate somewhere near the real middle of the political and economic spectrum.

What will the actually Democrats do? Well, if recent history is any guide, they'll play the game. They'll try to chisel away some of the elements of this Republican plan so they are not as bad as initially proposed, but in the end they'll sign off on legalisation that is very, very conservative.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Wow....that is some bad baseball

Ok so I am watching the Ms home opener tonight as they are getting clobbered 11-0 and...

...exactly how is baseball more exciting than soccer?

At least I can clear my sports watching calendar of baseball this summer...with the exception of the one game I will go to with buddies. That will be fun no matter how pathetic the Mariners are.

Shutdown Debate Comes Down To Funding for Planned Parenthood

Yesterday I wrote that my opinion is that the government shutdown debate is all about politics.

Well, well, well...seems like I am right.

Today, it turns out the issue keeping the sides apart is abortion. Yep, abortion...or more accurately funding for Planned Parenthood. Story HERE.

As part of their budget proposal, the Rs are including a "rider" that defunds Planned Parenthood - an organization that provides a wide, wide range of family health and planning services that includes abortion counseling and services.

This rider is a direct effort by Republican leadership to pay off the support the Tea Party provided in the last election - attempt to reduce the possibility of abortion by defunding an organization that has that as part of their set of services. All red meat for the base if you will.  Reminder: abortion is legal in the U.S.

And this is the thing that Democrats are drawing the line on. Which of course I agree with because many people who cannot afford care rely on the health services from Planned Parenthood (and mostly NOT abortion), but I can also see is a political move too. After all, the Ds are the party of "choice" and if they give that up, they lose a lot of support.

So, we're all being held hostage by the abortion issue. Great.

Why am I not surprised?

I'll leave you with this to ponder when thinking about who to blame more on all this...

The last time the Federal government shut down, the circumstances were very similar. A Democrat had been elected President (1992 election) with a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress. Following a two year bash-o-thon against the President and his healthcare reform plan, the Republicans took both houses of Congress (1994 elections) and within a short period of time (1995) the Rs had forced a government shut down over funding for Medicare, education and public health. Info HERE.

Sound familiar?

All I'm saying is, look at the track record. Which party brings this upon the nation? Which party ran things when budget deficits were run up to historical levels?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Government Shut Down - 100% Politics

If the Federal government shuts down this week because of the inability for the Rs and the Ds to hammer out a budget compromise, it will be because of politics rather than fundamental issues or doing the right thing for the American people.

The Republicans will scream loudly that the Democrats are to blame because they want a shut down in order to make the Republicans look bad (as happened in the 1990s when this situation occured) and/or that Democrats are unwilling to see past their blind devotion to "outdated" and expensive "big government" programs to the degree that they'd rather see the whole government shut down.

Democrats will say that Republicans are to blame because they are trying to shove down Americans' throat massive cuts based on ideological premises instead of seriously addressing budget balancing and/or they are playing to their newly found base of the right wing Tea Party activists who actually want to shut the government down because it's the natural extension of their political beliefs and general dislike for all things government.

There's probably truth to both, and that's the's all politics. It's about the next election. Who comes out of this looking worse? The Republicans for again forcing a shutdown that forces people out of work and cuts off benefits to millions...not to mention stops paying military service men and women? Or, is it the Democrats who will look worse because they will be perceived as not taking budget balancing seriously?

It seems that both parties are deciding this week that they're willing to let the government shut down and then try to make the other party take the blame...all in anticipation of how that will play out in 2012. That's a pretty aggressive and irresponsible strategy if you ask me. But...that's politics in the USA today.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

New Republican "Fixes" for the Economy Are A Sham

Today we see what Republicans in the House have in mind when they talk about cutting the budget deficit.

Why? Because they've floated their outline for budget planning over the next 10 years, and it includes slashing spending by $5 billion, privatizing Medicare and cutting big from Medicaid. However, it also includes exactly $0 tax increases or other revenue sources. So, it's only touching one side of the budget ledger - spending. Story HERE.

You may recall a couple recent posts I wrote about the importance of addressing both sides of the ledger (spending and revenue) as a responsible way to balance the budget HERE and HERE.

Not surprisingly, the "new" ideas from the Republicans are exactly the same as their traditional ideas on economy and government. To me, this proves they are not serious about responsibly reducing the budget deficit and/or they are wholly blind to their addiction to"voodoo economics" of tax cuts for the rich and corporations combined with roll-back of government programs. This approach not only does not work but makes things horribly worse.

As evidence of this claim, I give you the entire history of the United States of America from the 1770s to the 1930s. That's right. Our history is one of boom and bust, boom and bust, boom and bust...all with a relatively small middle class, virtually no government programs or regulation and with wealth concentrated at the top among a very few.

Only in the period roughly between 1934 and the early 1980s did we REALLY break out and grow our middle class and society into the unquestioned economic, cultural, military and standard of living leader of the world. And what do you think was one key differentiation in that 40+ period of time from everything that came before? Responsible government programs and laws - Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Civil Rights legislation, regulation of financial markets and banks and others.

None of that stuff existed before 1932 and much of it has been under attack or rolled back since the mid 1980s. Only when government asserted itself responsibly to address the economic disaster of the Great Depression, mobilize the country for World War II and pass Federal civil rights laws did we flourish as a world power with a broad, deep, employed and comfortable middle class the likes of which had not seen by any society before.

Flash forward and back to recent times. Our current budget crisis was created by turning our back on the fundamentals that made us a great nation. Conservative economic theory and leadership over the past 10-12 years has been wickedly efficient of producing wealth for the already rich and big companies, but as it did so it created the massive budget deficits, shrinking middle class, rising unemployment and overall erosion of our society that we see today.

And what to the Republicans propose as of today to fix the problem they created...more of the same thing.

That's why I call "sham" on what they're proposing. It won't never has...and is most likely just a new way to funnel money to corporations or the wealthy. And we know how that always works out for the rest of us.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Nullification? Go Ahead, Make My Day.

It seems some on the right are now more openly talking about something called "nullification." You may not recognize the term, but it basically boils down to a state or states opting out of the USA - secession.

Story HERE.

If that movement gains momentum, here's my suggestion for how to resolve it...

Go ahead, let them leave the Union.

And when they do, we'll be happy to take our armed forces, Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, social programs, access to natural resources, our or healthcare system, student loan program and a WHOLE lot of other things (and the jobs that go with them) those wanting to leave the United States are not even thinking of as connected to the Federal government.

Good luck to those of you espousing this as your big answer. If you ever need help fending off invasion, solving an energy crisis, rolling back disease or even paving your freeways...please feel free to ask some other country to help you out. The USA will be done with you.