Six Strings is Enough

Thoughts about music and society from guitarist/composer Mark Altekruse.

Monsanto A Documentary on GMO a must watch (by r902179)

Michigan off the deep end (again)

Dear Michigan Legislature,

Congratulations! You have slimed your way to a new low! I am now officially ashamed to tell others I am from Michigan. I now live in the State of Mississippi and you know all those moronic Hollywood stereotypes of Mississippians? Well, apparently we are FAR more tolerant of other beliefs and lifestyles than Michigan’s esteemed body of lawmakers. All states have goofball’s in high places - but this is the most intolerant, anti-Christian pieces of legislation I have ever heard being considered. This is yet another reason why there is separation of church and state. You do remember that bit of wisdom, don’t you?

If this law passes I will never spend a dime in your state again (think cars, cherries, blueberries, hotels, gas stations, auto rentals, hotels, retail shops, music, etc). Then, if your tiny brains can handle it, multiply that by the hundreds of thousands who will join me in saying go screw yourselves (biblically speaking, of course). I’ll convince my friends and family from Michigan to come and visit us in a real state.

This political video is incredibly transparent in its true meaning.  Anyone in their right mind will easily read between the lines of Gov. Perry’s message as it is a message built on hatred, fear and loathing. 

Gov. Perry, how do you have the temerity to invoke the words “religious heritage”?  In case you didn’t know this, Governor, every person in this country is afforded the RIGHT to practice faith according to their own beliefs - it is not, as you would have us believe, solely a Christian nation.  America is a nation that embraces religious freedom. 

Religious freedom is one of the founding premises of this country.  As American citizens we are free to participate (or not) in the religious practice of our choice - that means American citizens have the right to be Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.   That freedom to practice the religion of choice is granted to us without shackles of race, color, creed, or sexual orientation.  Shackles, I might add, that hundreds of thousands of American men and women have fought and died in order to keep the shackles of religion and religious extremists out of our government.

This sound principle of religious freedom affords this nation a huge advantage over so many other countries that connect, by their own accords, their laws and political existence to a singular religious belief.  In contrast to these systems, the American system of religious freedom affords us greater depth and understanding of what it means to be human - to rejoice in our commonality and continue to build understanding of our differences.  That is what makes us strong.

As a candidate running for President of the United States, your pronouncement of a one-sided ideological belief and using that as a platform for candidacy is nothing less than criminal and is, most certainly, fraudulent in the actual practice of Christianity.  Your insipid video has utterly failed to coral the Christian community as it only serves to further establish your narrow mind and ludicrous attempts at masking your profound bigotry and prejudice by hiding behind the word Christian.

Like millions of other AMERICANS, I will no longer cower behind the ugly euphemisms spewing out of the mouths of religious zealots like you, Gov. Perry, or any dolt that follows your narrow-minded line of thought and reason.

The founders of this country wisely put in place the words that nullify any attempt at creating or organizing a state run religion - its called separation of church and state.  That means separation of any religious institution and all its religious practices (and all the accompanying dogma) from those institutions that are in any way connected to the three branches of government.  Total and unequivocal separation of a single religion from local, state and national government and all local, state and national public institutions.  And that includes schools and the military!  How dare you imply that gay American soldiers serving in any branch of the military are in any way less deserving of our support for the sacrifices?

Gov. Perry, in your video statement you have proven to this American that you are anti-American.  You’re belief in state sanctioned religious practice in and around government and public institutions is pure folly and is about as anti-American and anti-democratic as one can imagine.  The only thing more foolish than your outright message of hate are the fools who follow you.

Please, drop out of the race.  And I mean the human race as you are far, far from being recognizable as human.

The Chopping Block

A number of my Facebook friends think I am a far-gone lefty pinko who loves Obama and his administration just because he is a Democrat and/or because I shared many of his ideals that were his platform for getting elected.  By a majority, I might add.

First, I still believe in the ideals of that platform embraced by Progressives for years.  And if you go back far enough in time you’ll find many Conservatives shared these ideals as well (and it wasn’t that long ago).

But Obama has proven, at least to me, that he has been unable to hold up to the strain of intense politics that are so cruel and unjust that many within the opposition will stop at nothing, including the destruction of American citizens economic stability, in order for Obama and his administration to fail.  Like many in this country I believe that is part of the strategy: failure at all costs.  That is truly a “let’s throw the baby out with the bathwater” strategy.

Second, even his own policies that offer a smidgen of hope to the millions who are out of work are riddled with holes so repugnant as they almost defy understanding.  I said almost.  Want one?  Here ya go:

There are many proposals on the table to help pay for the Jobs Bill.  Now, I am in favor of the government working with business to find methods that will get people back to work - whether that means new jobs for rebuilding infrastructure, new jobs to help secure our future energy needs, reforming and investing in education, or finding ways to motivate the greedy banks to let go of some of those billions in cash so business owners can borrow and once again invest and begin to add jobs.  It worked before and with some twists and tweaks it can work again.

Some of the proposals on the table to help pay for the proposed bill include cuts or restructuring Social Security and Medicare.  OK - enough already!  Stop it.  These should never be on any butchers table because they are funded by taxpayer dollars.  So just shut up about it.

Yet, there is one proposal to help pay for this Jobs Bill that seems to be lost in the sauce.  And NO ONE is talking about it.  On the table is a proposal to reduce tax deductibility of donations to non-profits to a measly 28%.  Now, before some of you go off half-cocked and say, “well, so what?” let me give you some facts about just one sector of the non-profit industry - that being arts and culture.  And no, I’m not talking about funding art projects featuring urine in a jar with a cross, OK?

I am talking about things like museums and symphony orchestras - a $166 billion dollar non-profit industry that increases the value of the communities they serve by bringing in added commerce and trade and helping to make those communities livable.  Not my words; but the words of the US Conference of Mayors - an organization comprised of Republicans, Democrats and Independents all seeking ways to solve problems and improve their communities.  Additionally, the arts and culture non-profit industry employ over 5.7 million people who bring to the table over $12 billion in federal tax revenue.

Now, non-profits are funded by individuals and businesses who want to help make their communities more livable and also use these donations as a tax write off.  Sounds fair, right?  We can even write off donations to organizations the support people when tragic or catastrophic events happen here or elsewhere in the world; during these crisis’ many of us reach into our pockets and give what we can to support people, right?  And 100% of that is tax deductible.  Why?  Because it is the right thing to do.  It helps us help those in times of need and, as so many of us are not rich, if we can write off those donations, it helps a little bit every April 15th. 

But, if that tax write off is set to a limit of 28% of what we donate what do you think will happen to the non-profit industries?  And now I’m talking about all non-profit organizations.  Many will have to shut their doors, and with the closing of these good (and often great) organizations will go millions of those jobs and billions in federal tax revenues.  You might want to know that the GAO shows that 1 in 10 Americans earn some or all of their income from non-profits. 

So, in the mind of our President - or some of his advisors - does he really think that killing jobs to make new jobs is a good thing?  Where is the offset analysis on this proposal - one that will give us enough information to understand the long-term impact of this proposal?  I have searched for this but found nothing.  Will there me more jobs gained than lost?  No one knows.  Will the gain in the number of jobs be equal in pay and tax revenue to those lost?  No one knows. 

Helluva a way to design a bill. 

So, as you can see, I am not a huge fan of Obama nor of how unbalanced our government has become over the past 30 years.  But tearing down the current system to build up a new system that favors another unbalanced and unattainable ideology (laissez-faire economics, for example) is not the answer.  What we have in principle - a Representative Democracy - is the approach that has worked prior to all the reductions of nominal constraints ensuring that everyone has a fair shake at the American Dream (whatever that is).

It seems to me we all want what so many have fought and given life and limb to protect: “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people (that) shall not perish from the earth.”  One that puts the needs and desires of its citizens ahead of any and all decisions.

Is it possible that a true Representative Democracy is as unattainable as any other ideological form of governance?  Maybe so.  Maybe not.  Regardless, it is worth the fight to keep it alive if for only the sake of its purpose: balance and equality and a fair shot to achieve some measure of economic security - that somehow along the way has been equated with happiness.

Tone Fiend

Great new blog by guitarist, composer and author/columnist Joe Gore.  Great reads!

Kindred Spirits

The 30 year musical relationship between Canadian luthier Linda Manzer and guitarist Pat Metheny.  This is a great story about a wonderful and continuing journey.

Everybody’s Business - Decline and Fall of the U.S. - A View From 2089 -

In May of 2009, Ben Stein wrote this piece in the NYT from the perspective of a fictional author/journalist looking back on the events of the past few years as seen from 2089.  Using the data of the day and looking out past 2012 it is remarkably accurate - except the part about Obama being re-elected.  After the events of the past two days (S&P downgrading our credit rating and the stock market plunging in excess of 600 points) I would suggest that this will be the end of the Obama Presidency.  It would take a literal miracle to think otherwise.  But before those who have been anti-Obama from the start (I was not one) let’s consider with, great care, who would be the next milquetoast puppet to take up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

[Obama’s] chances of reelection fell along with the stocks. That’s the price he’s paying for bargaining poorly during the debt negotiations, for not putting forward a bigger stimulus plan initially, and for not forcing the banks, as he was bailing them out, to help out homeowners. The Republicans smell blood—and it’s his.