Category Archives: Current events

Stevie Ray Vaughan: Never Replaced

By ROBERT CHARELS

Stevie  Ray Vaughan must have been special.  At times, he seemed to embark in every blues cliché in the book, yet everything he did reeked with originality and style.  In a world where so many guitarists strive to pack as many notes into a solo as possible, when “SRV” did it, he changed the landscape of blues guitar forever. Today marks the 20th  anniversary of his untimely death when he went down in a horrifying helicopter crash. I remember saying this on the day he died:  “He’ll never be replaced.” Sadly, it’s pretty much the way it’s been.

We’ve heard Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Jonny Lang and “Monster” Mike Welch and Susan Tedeschi and so many others, but not a one a one of them has 1/100th  the verve, style, and originality of Vaughan.  The Texas-raised guitar master wasn’t handsome, or even particularly tasteful in his attire choices; the constant boots, soul patches, and feathered hats seemed like a desperate reach for attention; his talent was such that he didn’t need the flash.  But when he picked up a guitar – as always, buoyed by his underrated, utterly soulful singing – he was pure magic.

As I write these words, I am doing so without even a cursory glance at the Internet for notes or fact-checking. Here’s what I remember about Vaughan, and how, through the tree of blues music, he impacted my life (margin for error, 100 percent):

I first saw Vaughan in what I recall as 1981 in a small club called Radio City in Scotia, New York.  After a half-assed new wave act finished its short set, Vaughan and the rigidly rocking Double Trouble hit the stage and blew the roof off the place – almost literally. I must state it was the loudest concert I’ve ever attended; I felt physically sick for about three days afterward, I was so jarred. I stuffed my ears with napkins, but I knew, even then, I was watching the best blues guitarist in the world. It can’t be defined; like B.B. King, Albert King, and few others, Vaughan took the best of the past and enveloped it in the best of the current. Lots of licks, sure, but every one was musical, necessary, and real. That was Vaughan.

When I found out that Vaughan’s brother, Jimmie Vaughan, was the guitarist of The Fabulous Thunderbirds, I went out and picked up every T-Birds album and began to love them every bit as much as Stevie Ray. They were a vocally based blues and R&B combo, but they were every bit as great in a completely different way; Jimmie plays rhythm guitar as if he had invented the entire idea. In 1983, I walked onto a  stage as a professional blues singer for the very first time; my biggest influences were Vaughan and The T-Birds.

When Stevie Ray died, I looked for other guitarists to get into; I discovered the great Duke Robillard, who filled the void for me as a truly gifted blues star, yet very tasteful, and he could play swing music as well as anyone ever on this planet.  As fate would have it, Robillard replaced Jimmie Vaughan when he left the T-Birds; the branches of the tree started to widen. A few years later, I got to work with Duke when he produced my Metropolitan Blue album in 1999. Some musicians dream of working with a Beatle; as for me, a blues addict, I got to work with a T-Bird. I still consider the album the greatest thing I’ve ever done.

All considered, I’ve had a great life and a wonderful music career, but I’m not the story here, other than my reverence for all things Vaughan.  I can’t imagine how different the blues world would have been had Stevie Ray Vaughan not perished so young. The blues would certainly be more popular than it is today; he was that powerful and influential. And I have no doubt that Vaughan would have been changing, modifying, and honing his sound through the years. Like Jimi Hendrix, Robillard and the great jazz players of our time, Stevie was a perfectionist, and you could hear it on every recording he made.

For now, my advice is to get to the store and pick up Jimmie Vaughan’s great new album. I’ll never let the Vaughan brothers go; they are still part of my musical dreams and hopes. Through it all, neither man ever seemed to realize how truly great they were, and still are.

And as I write these words, I’m missing Stevie Ray Vaughan every bit as much as when I first heard the bad news.  Some wounds never fully heal.

Robert Smith’s professional music moniker is Robert Charels; the blues singer’s albums – Metropolitan Blue, Three Leg Dogs & Old Skool Cats, and Deception In Your Eyes – are available everywhere.

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Die, Newspapers, Die: Second In A Series

By ROBERT SMITH

Yes, leave it to Rupert Murdoch’s ever-so-tasteful, rabble rousing, sub-mental New York Post to put just the right spin on the recent, meaningless LeBron James Miami Heat signing for its Sunday, July 11 edition:

Of course, this is a country where, on one night this week, members of the public took to the streets in Cleveland, New York, Miami, and Chicago. War protests? Power grid failures? Job creation meetings? Worried about the oil spill in the gulf, perhaps?  Nahh…people wanted to know where James was going to sign as a free agent, and took to the streets – Clevelanders burned James’ jerseys, so incensed were they – to either celebrate (Florida) or scream in anguish (New York and the other cities). The Post apparently can’t get over the fact that James didn’t want to sign with the New York Knicks (owned by another enemy of a fair, balanced media, Cablevision owner James “Nepotism” Dolan, who now controls what used to be a newspaper, Newsday).

But back to the angry mobs on the avenues: Hey, dolts – when seafood is $11 a pound, you gonna take to the streets? When the neighbor’s kid comes home from the Middle East in a box, are going to pound the pavement? When temperatures hit 118 in the U.S. mainland this year thanks to “non-existent” climate change, you gonna hit the bricks?

Oh, sorry…y‘all only do what the TV box tell ya to. Forgot about that.

Thanks to The New York Post – not to mention ESPN – for keeping us so smart and informed.

© 2010 Robert Smith

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TV Review: Red, White & Puke

Macy’s Fourth Of July Fireworks Spectacular
July 4
NBC

Review by ROBERT SMITH

Photo by HERLENE SMITH

We have reached the point in the never-ending dumbing down of America that TV networks can’t even broadcast a fireworks display without the viewer eventually lusting to throw red, white, and blue bricks at his own HDTV unit.  We must ask: How in the good name of the Gruccis can they manage to mess up a televised fireworks display? Isn’t it – and shouldn’t it be –  pointing some high-def cameras at the sky, and allowing the viewing public to enjoy?

Not any longer.  July 4’s Macy’s fireworks special from New York City on NBC was unwatchable, overproduced, and, well, sickening; the event was about as sincerely patriotic as an evening in a Guyanese cathouse.  From the insipid, language-mangling host Nick Cannon to meaningless music (a lot of it taped) from the likes of flavor-of-the-month Justin Bieber to appearances from the cast of whatever Twilight film is out this week, the entire production was geared toward getting brain-addled tweens to stop Tweeting during the holiday weekend.

Sure, all of the musical mediocrity was on display pretty much before the fireworks started – but yes, Virginia, they managed to screw up even the pyrotechnics display itself.  The telecast was nothing but endless crowd shots and the worst, remade quasi-patriotic music ever recorded – they actually played a voice singing “la la la” over patriotic songs at the top of the fireworks display.  Other pure schlock music was served up by such modern pop music atrocities as the a cappella abomination Straight No Chaser, which makes Rockapella sound like Parliament/Funkadelic.

The actual fireworks – as usual, best viewed from Queens without the disgusting music – might have been great, if you were on that side of the river. On NBC, the actual fireworks were presented as pretty much an afterthought.

Know what would have been more patriotic than ogling Taylor Lautner’s pecs? How about 11,000 or so righteous, intelligent  Americans peacefully holding signs with sayings such “Our Sons & Daughters Out Of Afghanistan & Iraq Now!”  At least, it would have put a proper, somber, meaningful touch on this year’s July 4 holiday.  Our put-upon troops are what we should be celebrating, as well as an assembled wish for logic from our people and our government, with hope for peace and prosperity for all.

Instead, here’s Maxim girl Kristen Stewart, who is still a good girl since she didn’t choose Playboy in which to pose semi-nude.

What a country.

© 2010 Robert Smith

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The Greatest True Statements Ever Bein’ Gave

A few months back, we favored you with a bunch of words and phrases that we believe have never and will never be uttered by human beings. In this edition, we bring you a collection of statements and phrases that – scout’s honor – have actually been either overheard, reported, said to us, or written and actually printed. There’s some real song lyrics and other oddities reported here for lilt as well. WARNING: There is some “adult” language here, so if you’re easily offended, now’s the time to bail.

“You know, that son of a bitch…you try to teach the god damn kids right from wrong, and this is what happens, god damn it.”
– A frustrated Little League father complaining about an umpire’s bad call

“I wanted to quit smoking, so every time I get the urge for a cigarette, I reach for some coke. Helps me lose weight, too.”
– A very bad female date of one of ours

Now offered for sale at places like CafePress.com and GulfCoastBands.com, perfect for the debonair ladies’ man in your life: T-shirts with statements such as “Bitch – It Won’t Suck Itself” (see photo).

“None of your business. I will kill you.”
– A trucker to this writer, asking why he was delivering milk and dairy products in an un-refrigerated delivery truck

“We’re going to have the greatest concerts ever bein’ gave.”
– A crackpot concert promoter on a phone answering machine in an infamous underground comedy tape

“If you wanna talk to me, then shut your fuckin’ mouth.”
– Raymond to Peter in another infamous underground comedy CD culled from actually sticking a tape recorder microphone through a screaming alcoholic neighbor’s wall, “Shut Up Little Man!”

“Get fucked, Texas slut!”
– A chant directed at a blonde woman being jeered by an entire section of fans at Yankee Stadium for wearing a Texas Rangers cap during a playoff game (when the woman complained to a security officer, he joined in the chant)

“You’re nothing but a big bullshit. I want my god damn tape recorder!”
– Woman complaining to a Long Island Radio Shack employee that her tape recorder didn’t work

“You stupid instable.”
– God bless him, a relative of one of ours

“The Beatles ruined this country and all the kids in it.”
– Man buying an Ernest Tubb cassette in a Poughkeepsie, New York Record World store, 1981

“Jesus Christ, everywhere you look nowadays.”
– A vending machine rack jobber, filling a gumball machine; the brand of gum on the machine featured a photo of an African-American woman

“Where’s all the douche bags at?”
– An actual female customer in an upstate New York drug store

“To our seniors, I have a message for you: You’re going to die sooner.”
– Sen. Tom Coburn (R- Okla.), scaring old people before health care reform passed

“Hey, this kid could be the Mets’ center fielder for the next 10 years.”
– Former baseball player – and former baseball commentator – Fran Healy, summing up New York Mets rookie Jason Tyner. To date, Tyner has been up-and-down from the minors to the majors, and played 440 games for four teams over eight seasons, and has been released or waived several times

“The rule states that if your team is here and ready to play, and the other team isn’t here and not ready to play, there should be a forfeit, and we believe there should be a forfeit.”
– Classy New York Yankees president Randy Levine, upset that the Tampa Bay Devil Rays weren’t in New York for a baseball game – the day after devastating hurricanes in Florida in 2004

“That mines? That MINES?”
– A refined apparently homeless gentleman lunging for a shopping bag dropped in Times Square in 1991

“Tar baby! Tar baby!”
– Professional wrestling manager Lou Albano, shouting at African-American wrestler S.D. Jones – during a televised match, no less, circa 1974

More T-shirts we’ve actually seen people wear:
“I Fucked Your Girlfriend” (seen at a baseball game)
“I Made Linda Lovelace Choke”
“Ho” (worn by a teenaged girl)

Real Statements That Have Been Printed On Panties:
Baby, This Is As Far As You Go
Never On Sunday
Heaven (with an arrow pointing toward the crotch)
Sweet As Honey
Juicy
Fuck Time
Here Comes The Bride
You Wish
Yummy Mummy

“What sizes does this medium fit?”
– Buyer at a country music concert T-shirt concession

“Standing in line marking time–
Waiting for the welfare dime
‘Cause they can’t buy a job
The man in the silk suit hurries by
As he catches the poor old ladies’ eyes
Just for fun he says “Get a job”
– “The Way It Is,” the 1986 hit by Bruce Hornsby, which, in a pop songwriting first, rhymes “job” with “job”

“Next time I fall in love
I’ll know better what to do
Next time I fall in love
Ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo”
– Peter Cetera’s “The Next Time I Fall,” which rhymes “do” and “ooo,” which makes Hornsby’s songwriting prowess seem like Shakespeare

“I don’t want you reading those books. They give you ideas.”
– Numerous husbands to wives since, say, 1940, in Greene County, NY

“The only good Latin is a dead Latin.”
– Professional wrestling manager, the aptly named “Classy” Freddie Blassie, in a statement actually said on television

“If I wore pink ferrets for slippers, I would never – ever – want to clean another ashtray.”
– From the Survey Central website (surveycentral.org)

“What are your dogs’ names again … Kierkegaarde and Ed Asner?”
– Said by Robert Smith after he met his eventual wife’s dogs, which were actually named Kodi and Spooky

“Ooh! I tooted.”
– Said by a very large female convenience store clerk after she let go of a very pronounced fart, Norfolk, Virginia, 2007

JUST ADDED!

“Warning: Driver Masturbating”

– Bumper sticker spotted on a car in Westbury, NY, June 28

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Dear Joe Barton: I’m sorry you’re scum

by Jon Pine

Representative Joe Barton (R-Texas) apologized this week – on behalf of you and me and all the rest of the American people – to British Petroleum for President Obama’s $20 billion “shakedown,” otherwise known as partial restitution for the laid-off oil workers and others who have been financially devastated by the Gulf oil well disaster.

Jon Pine

The apology, which came during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the disaster, might have made a tiny bit of sense, except for Barton’s dirty little secret: It turns out that his top campaign contributor is a company that owned 25 percent of the Deepwater Horizon drilling project – the very well that is still gushing viscous crude into the once-pristine waterway. The company is Anadarko Petroleum, whose PAC and employees have contributed a total of $146,500 to Barton since 1989.

Later the same day, Barton came back and apologized for his apology. Sort of. What he did was apologize that people “may have misconstrued” his use of the word “shakedown” to mean, well, a shakedown. How foolish of us!

All the apologies this week have put me in an apologetic mood myself, so here goes:

To Rep. Barton: I’m so sorry that you care more for the third largest corporation in the world than you do for the Texans in your own constituency who are now out of work because BP made multiple errors in judgment, and may have even broken several laws, resulting in the largest environmental disaster in American history.

I’m sorry that you’re sorry that BP was asked to set aside some money so that people whose careers have been destroyed by BP’s carelessness and possible criminal negligence will get some help with their bills now, not months or years from now after a protracted legal battle.

And I’m sorry that your desire for some sort of twisted political victory, and your Obama hate, caused you to open your fat mouth and say something so stupid, so insensitive, so wrong on many levels, that the leaders of your own party nearly soiled their three-piece suits when they heard what you said.

To BP’s Tony Hayward: I’m terribly sorry that your comfy country club life has been upset by this “small leak” all the way across the pond, as you described it in the first days following the conflagration that incinerated 11 rig workers. I’m sorry, but no, you can’t “have your life back” because there are 11 families who won’t ever get their lives back, thanks to your company’s actions.

I’m sorry that you lied and obfuscated and lied some more about the actual rate of the leak, so much so that our government did not respond as quickly and as mightily as it should have. I’m sorry that you’re still lying about the flow rate, and that your private security forces are perpetuating even more lies and obfuscation by preventing the media from seeing and reporting on the devastation up close.

And I’m sorry that our president had to ask you to do the right thing and set up a $20 billion emergency fund and that you didn’t do it yourself weeks ago. Hell, BP will make more than that in profits this year alone.

To Glenn Beck: I’m sorry that you are so myopic and deluded that you think President Obama didn’t rush to meet with BP’s executives because they are white. Are you that paranoid, Glenn? Did some black boys beat you up on the playground when you were little? If so, I’m sorry about that, too.

Next, Beck said that Obama was going to politicize the Gulf oil disaster and use it to push for his green energy initiatives. Well, duh! Of course. This is a perfect real-life lesson in what is wrong with our oil-addicted culture – that we would rather take phenomenal risks and stay on oil than to invest in safer, cleaner forms of energy. Even a third-grader sees the wisdom in using this tragedy as a real-life object lesson.

Sorry, Glenn!

To Sarah Palin: I’m sorry, Sarah, that you still don’t get it – nobody really believes that your chants of “Drill, baby, drill!” during the last few years were really only about onshore drilling. There’s a little invention called videotape, perhaps you should look into it. They show dozens of instances where you had the opportunity to clarify things, but you didn’t. For some strange reason your 15 minutes of fame keeps getting an extension, but your credibility ran out long ago. Sorry!

And finally…

To the birds, sea life and the human life that will be poisoned or killed: I’m sorry that BP’s executives consider us “the little people” and actually had the gall to say, “The Gulf of Mexico isn’t the only place with shrimp.” I’m sorry that money and power is what matters most to these cretins, and that they are too self-absorbed to understand that centuries-old livelihoods of tens of thousands of people are being snuffed out while they fret and fritter over their precious corporate image.

I’m sorry that BP felt it necessary to first pay dividends to their shareholders before setting up disaster relief for devastated Americans.

But most of all, I’m sorry that we all allowed previous administrations to permit other deepwater wells in environmentally sensitive areas, and that we all failed to do a better job of curbing our oil addiction.

So, so sorry.

© 2010 Jon Pine

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Die, Newspapers, Die

By ROBERT SMITH

They’re at it again.

In yet another attempt at cheap heat directed toward the dumbest of sports fans, the once-great Chicago Tribune – founded in 1847 and the place where Roger Ebert has penned some of the best film reviews ever written – printed this photo as a full-page poster, ostensibly to get local fans riled up for an upcoming Chicago Blackhawks versus Philadelphia Flyers NHL Stanley Cup Finals game.

This, of course, is a blatant rip-off and complete steal from last fall’s now-infamous New York Post cover that lampooned the Philadelphia Phillies, who had the unmitigated nerve to serve as the National League opponents of the New York Yankees in the World Series. Wait a moment: Aren’t there female baseball and hockey fans?

Journalism, we hardly knew you, particularly in the sports section.

Years ago, there was a weathercaster named Tim Welch, who worked at a television station in Albany, New York, who gave the shortest and most profound summation of his job as a TV journalist: “We’re not here to hurt, we’re not here to help. We’re here to report.”

Unfortunately, it’s easy to assume that Welch is in another line of work by now. Today’s newspapers, even in large markets such as New York and Chicago, have decided to become pom-pom waving cheerleaders for their area’s sports teams, but that’s only part of the problem. Instead of printing “Let’s Go Whoever” color posters in their papers, they’re printing name-calling, bullying war cries instead. This, of course, is right up the alley for today’s beered-up louts that make attending a major sporting event akin to walking into Mugsy’s Pub in the worst part of town and calling the proprietor “you old fart.” Today, it’s not enough to root for your team – one must vilify the other squad, as if simply singing a contract with an out of town team makes a person evil beyond human redemption. Gee, we thought that’s what a .226 batting average did, but we’re old school.

Fox News is ruining television news, broadcast by broadcast, and now other newspapers are whiffing Rupert Murdoch’s fart stench and deciding it smells like roses. It’s easy to remember the days when periodicals like the Post would write the headline “Mets Nip Cubs 3-2” on the back of the dailies the morning after a game. Gee, somehow that would tell us all we needed to know, wouldn’t it? Now, headline writers come up with pith and pandering and jibes and insults, as if the punniest headline wins the tabloid booby prize. Whatever happened to simply letting readers know what the heck happened?

Currently, a bunch of tabloid newspapers in New York are having a field day with Debralee Lorenzana, who is reportedly suing Citigroup for allegedly firing her just for being too attractive and dressing in a manner some deemed inappropriate for the workplace. There have been editorial cartoons mocking and editorials ripping the beautiful brunette – and, of course, at the same time those same papers are printing as many sexy photos of her as they can get their exploitive mitts on.

As someone who tried to learn journalism, who yearned to learn style and syntax and skill, who tried, no matter what size publication I’ve worked for, to adhere to the highest standards that I could, I now say this to the newspaper industry: Go to blazes. Day after day, newspaper after tabloid, more publications are yellower than a canary’s butt, rife with factual errors and typos and pure hype. Columnists take sides instead of reporting; gossip lowers the human experience; sports pages, where there once were agate columns of batting averages and box scores, are now filled with name-calling and sordid locker room mongering. Small town newspapers are just as bad, but in a different way; they print only what their advertisers dictate. Trust me, I’ve been there.

It’s all over. As someone who used to pick up four newspapers a day and seek them out in any city I’ve traveled to, I’ve had enough. Editors are now just salesman, pandering to the dumbest of the dumb, scrounging for loose quarters like hobos on street corners. They’ll print anything at all as long as it creates self-promoting “news” about their own publications, instead of having faith in their readerships to covet, as Joe Friday once uttered on “Dragnet,” just the facts.

Years ago, the Yankees’ Chuck Knoblauch made an error during the World Series. The next day, a local New York paper’s headline was “Blauchhead.”

Nope, that was I – for continuing to support an industry that no longer boasts even the lowest standards; they’re only in it for the money. And it’s not working; papers are closing up week by week, day by day.

May the printing presses slow and stop, one by one.

Robert Smith has been an editor and writer for … ahh, go look it up. Why should we print facts when no one else does?

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How is a raven like a writing desk?

by Jon Pine

In Tim Burton’s version of the Lewis Carroll classic “Alice in Wonderland,” Johnny Depp, as the orange-haired, googly-eyed Mad Hatter, asks, “How is a raven like a writing desk?” The answer to the question is of no consequence – rather, it’s the Hatter’s obsession with the question itself that makes him mad.

Jon Pine

I can’t help but compare supporters of the Tea Party movement to Mad Hatters, obsessed with bombastic questions, unconcerned with the answers, displaying a comical detachment from reality.

Some of their favorite nonsensical queries: “How is a centrist President like a Socialist dictator?” Or “How are the lowest taxes in 50 years like being ‘taxed to death’?” And, of course, the lulu of them all, “How are decades of deregulation, tax breaks for the mega-rich and tax loopholes for corporations like ‘big government’ running out of control?”

I’ve long ago stopped wasting my breath trying to talk the Mad Hatters down from their hallucinations. You can’t. Never mind that when the government was in their hands it underwent the largest expansion in recent history. Now that it’s in the hands of the Democrats and our first African American president, it is seen as a bloated, treacherous, treasonous Jabberwocky, and there’s only one solution – “Off with its head!”

Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter (c) Walt Disney Productions

Like all delusional paranoids, they have no idea what they’re saying. Abolish the IRS? Really? Turn corporations loose in a deregulated “free market”? Deep-six the Environmental Protection Agency? The Department of Education? Reverse portions of the Civil Rights Amendment?

Let’s slow down a bit and try to imagine what America would look like as One Nation Under the Tea Party, shall we?

Abolish the IRS. Well, for starters they don’t really mean abolishing the IRS – just the progressive tax. We’d still need a federal agency to collect taxes. Most Tea Party adherents say they prefer a so-called flat tax. But do they really understand what that would mean? It would mean that taxes for the majority of those in the middle class would go up. No more deductions for children, for charitable donations, healthcare expenses, college tuition, mortgage interest.

Over the past three decades or so, the tax burden has already, slowly but steadily, shifted away from the rich and toward the middle class. A flat tax would finish the shift, creating huge tax reductions for the rich and mega-rich. The theory, of course, is that rich people will then create jobs for the rest of us. But history has proven that to be a false premise. Job growth was actually higher during the Clinton years when taxes for the middle class went down and the taxes on the rich went up; during the Bush years, when the tax burden was reversed, job growth actually slowed.

Deregulate, baby, deregulate. Hmmm… If only there were some recent examples of deregulation gone awry. If only mass deregulation of, say, the financial and banking industries turned out to be not such a good idea. Or if, maybe, a huge industry like the oil, gas or coal industry flaunted environmental or safety regulations to a disastrous end. If only…

I lay awake at night fretting about the coming of the slick, which satellite photos now confirm has entered the “loop current” and may very well show up on the beautiful beaches here in Vero Beach, Florida. It could conceivably continue northward in the Gulf Stream and befoul beaches and fragile estuaries all along the Atlantic coast. And the more we learn about this catastrophe, the more we learn it should have been prevented.

Even the minimal regulations in place weren’t adhered to properly, and the small government blowhards want to deregulate further? Are you freakin’ kidding me? With nearly 4,000 oil and gas rigs in the Gulf of Mexico already, we don’t need one single more. Not there, nor anywhere else offshore. Yet, the Palins, the Pauls, the Becks and the other Mad Hatters are screaming again to “drill, baby, drill!”

Their justification? We need to “get off foreign oil,” and by that, what they really mean is get off of oil from the Middle East. I’ve got news for you – we can do that without drilling a single new well.

Consider that more than half the oil we consume comes from domestic sources. Of the rest, 80 percent is from foreign sources here in the Western Hemisphere – countries with whom we have no serious beefs. With just a little effort, we could eliminate the remaining 20 percent of imports (10 percent of total consumption) that come from the Eastern Hemisphere.

Start by temporarily increasing imports from our friends in the West. Then raise CAFE standards for new vehicles over the next 5-10 years, while also raising the price of gasoline with a federal tax, the way that it was done in the 1970s under President Carter. Now, as then, consumption will decrease more than 10 percent; the gas tax can be used to fund development of alternative energy sources – just like it was used in the ‘70s.

Deep-six the EPA. This is perhaps the most foolish idea of them all. The Environmental Protection Agency was initiated by Richard Nixon – no tree-hugger, he. Why? Because unregulated – there’s that word again – chemical companies had been spraying DDT, dioxins, and all sorts of nasty pollutants directly into the environment, making millions of people sick. For a conservative guy like Nixon to take such an action, it had to be really, really bad.

During the eight years of the Bush II Administration, hundreds of EPA actions and regulations had been weakened or abolished altogether. But don’t take my word for it; just read Robert F. Kennedy’s excellent account, “Crimes Against Nature.” You’ll find a synopsis of the book here: http://www.commondreams.org/views03/1120-01.htm

And now the Tea Party folks want to do away with the EPA altogether? They truly are Mad Hatters!

Close the Department of Education. Another puzzling idea, which was championed by Ronald Reagan almost immediately after Jimmy Carter established it in 1979. “Established” is really not an accurate description of what Carter did, however – previously, education was part of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and Carter merely separated the education office so that it was its own cabinet-level department.

Most people erroneously assume the Department of Education oversees curriculum development, regulates education quality standards, or makes other intrusions into the education system, but this isn’t so. Rather, it oversees federal funding for education, and makes sure that schools honor citizens’ privacy and civil rights. Important stuff, right? Not to Tea Party Mad Hatters, apparently. Rand Paul wants to give businesses the right to refuse service to minorities; apparently he feels that schools should also have that same right. Say hello to segregated schools! Thank you, Tea Party!

Ironically, the one instance in which the Department of Education did set standards for education was George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind Act” – an abject failure by most people’s accounts.

Are you beginning to get a vision of what a Tea Party Laissez-Faire Utopia might look like? All kinds of new “freedoms” – including the freedom of corporations to do and say pretty much whatever they like. The freedom to pay more taxes so rich people and corporations can pay less! Woohoo! More taxes, less benefits – sounds good, right? Bring it on!

Freedom from government interference – if you’re black or Hispanic, you can consider yourself free to leave my store now, thank you very much, and the government can’t do a thing about it. You’ll also be free to study with other minorities, but not alongside my white kids – sorry! The government can’t help you there, either.

Or maybe you’ll want to put your kids to work – there will be no federal child labor laws to stop you. And none of those pesky OSHA standards to guarantee safe working conditions for the little buggers – or for you, for that matter. Just don’t expect fair wages – the “free market” means the government can no longer regulate utilities, so the company will make it up by cutting wages, and the government can’t stop them. No such thing as a minimum wage anymore! Isn’t that grand? And don’t try to unionize – that won’t be legal anymore, either.

This is just a glimpse of what you can expect. You can say goodbye to 10 percent unemployment – and hello to 20 or even 25 percent unemployment. We’ve just shit-canned millions of federal employees, remember? They’re all out there scratching and clawing for your job now – only there won’t be any guarantee of access to healthcare. The Mad Hatters have overturned healthcare reform, and they’re coming after Medicare and Social Security next.

We live in a huge, complex country, growing larger and more complex every day. We need more government, not less; more regulations, not fewer. The Wall Street debacle and the oil that is still oozing in the Gulf of Mexico demonstrate that our problems are growing larger and more complex, too – and that corporations and the free market, left to their own devices, will not protect us. But they will do all they can to protect their own profits.

The goal here should not be smaller government, but rather more efficient government. Instead of “Off with his head!” we should be calling for “Tame the Jabberwocky!” Government is not the enemy. Why would we listen to anything the Mad Hatters say?

A raven is like a writing desk – indeed!

© 2010 Jon Pine

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