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Taxes with Tea

us1There was nary a breeze in the well-paved over downtown of Stuart, Florida.  The temperature hovered over the registered 80, as the 90% humidity and heat waves bounced off of the asphalt and up at the Tea Party underway.  The streets in front of the US Post Office are lined from end to end and flowing onto Federal Highway 1 where the intended message of revolution would get better exposure.  News cameras were interviewing anyone who had something to say and lawn chairs started taking up prime curbside real estate.  There were hundreds of people pounding the pavement for governmental change, like fiscal responsibility and term limits in the congress.

The people have something to say and, via keen online organizational strategy that mimics Gov. Howard Deans in the 2004 election, have opted for an evolved Tea Party to exercise their first amendment rights.  The interesting thing about this well-publicized event is that it was not the grass-roots event as it was advertised, but instead a well-organized, cyber-based partisan push against the current administration.  When you have Strategic Activism, LLC organizing your events, Visual Enterprise Systems, Inc., designing your copyrighted ‘grass-roots’ campaign and one of the movement’s national organizertheshows being the founder and director of “Top Conservatives on Twitter”, there is only one more way to show your partisan stripes: having Fox News host a live broadcast on this ‘American Tradition’.  Oh, they did that too.

Being April 15th, everyone is still buzzing from their annual tax shot, so the statements being made were even more poignant as individuals with slogan t-shirts walked around with home-made placards screaming everything from “No New Taxes, Cut Government Spending” to “Fire Congress” to “Freedom Not Tyranny”.  Tea-bags were pinned to hats, shirts and earrings, and for every voice of dissent there was a horn supporting it.  Horns for gun rights, horns for impeachment and horns for that really cute blonde girl with the ‘Freedom Not Tyranny’ sign.

tyrannyThe air was electric with revolutionary spirit and the South Florida Action Committee was out canvassing the youth to get them thinking about democracy and activism.  Standing behind their Gadsden flag handing out pamphlets to the fresh blood, it seemed like the youth were more energized by the social energy that accompanies upheaval and dissent.  The new sons and daughters of liberty were using loud angry voices paired up with the Gadsden flag and it’s desfacfiant, “Don’t Tread On Me” motto, an exciting thing for any age.  The activist energy must have worn off, as the kids who were approached by Action Committee volunteer got impatient during her spiel and just asked how they could get one of those yellow shirts with a snake on it.

A gentleman who wanted to only go by Carl, was giving out leaflets on a corner where the surrounding people were in the midst of the chorus of “God Bless America”.  When asked if he had come up with the “I’ll Keep My Money-Guns-Freedom.  You Keep The Change” message, he said no.  Someone had seen his car all-dressed up for the event that they had asked him to give these out.  He insisted on giving me two.  One for me, and one for the friend that wasn’t with me.

Standing on the curb waving her American flag was another woman whom I asked why she was there.  She questioned me who I was reporting for and I replied that I was doing some citizen journalism for the Huffington Post. yellow She turned to me and from behind her big sunglasses said, “I have three kids.  One who just lost a job.  One who is on the fringe.  And one who is on the other side of the desk laying people off.  Stop taxing and stop spending.  And you can tell that to Adrianna!”.  Then she promptly turned around and started waving her flag again.

Passing cars were as much a part of the demonstration as the troops on the ground.  One old lady screamed from the comfortable front seat of her SUV, “Fire all of the Idiots!”, then smiled, waved and drove off.  A few photos later a man in mineral blue PT Cruiser comes through the big intersection making a left hand turn and yells, “You lost the election, get over it, Assholes!”, and proceeded to speed away before anyone threw a bottle thredrough his window.  Cars were honking so loud that picketing parents had to take their children out of their strollers and hand them off to the other parent who could take them away from this ruffled feathers parade.

One of the less fierce protesters was 6 year old Philip who was dressed in a t-shirt that read, “No More Zer000,000,000,000s”.  Little Philip was an entrepreneur with his parent’s help, running a lemonade stand.  All proceeds from the lemonade and snack sales were going to be sent right to Washington.  I sat back and thought where they were going to send this to.  Maybe to President Obama or maybe to the congress.  What type of note would they include?  Here is all of our six year old’s money, take it now and don’t bill him for it later.  All I knew is that it was still a hot day and people were moving away from the Post Office where people were still driving through and dropping off their taxes in the drop box.  So I decided to donate a couple bucks to Philip’s mission and cool myself off at the same time.  As I handed the cash over, philipPhilip’s dad turns to me and says, “That is the most expensive glass of lemonade you’re ever going to buy.”  He was probably right.

If anything comes from this retro-revolution it just may be that Lipton’s second quarter revenue is going to outpace prior estimates, otherwise it may just be another whopping success in proving the power the internet can play in amassing momentum for a cause.  As an exercise in flexing one’s first amendment might, it was quite visible that people care in this little Florida town, where home foreclosures are through the roof and unemployment is growing by the day.  It seems there was a voice for every issue on the table.  Voices for the left, voices for the right, and voices that just want someone to look out for the people on Main Street.   Many of the voices came from pensioners that found this to be a great time to bond with their kids and their grandkids, especially seeing how everyone is affected by the downturn.  This little tea party might just end up being that really fun day after Easter where the family all got together, made patriotic banners and got loud on the town like it was July 4th all over again.lipton

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USA, Your Door Is Now Ajar…

Can a better future be seen, even from the top floor?

Can a better future be seen, even from the top floor?

We collectively exhale one of many held breaths as President Obama is living up to another part of the campaign promises.  This time it is the one to facilitate a more humanitarian relationship with Cuba. What exactly does that mean? Does that mean that we can all travel unhindered between Cuba and the US, take bike tours of the Vinales valley and do an oooh-aaah tour of Guantanamo’s military prison after some breathtaking peak-bagging in the Sierra Madres? No, think again. Like every valuable coin there are two sides that one must pay attention to. One side with a smiling face on it and the other side with the symbols, numbers and gritty language.

While our currency always states on it’s emblematic seal, E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one) it should probably state the converse, Ex Uno Plura (out of one, many), because as we are now a singular nation, we are more so a body of voices that all want to be heard individually and are willing to say what they should not just to be heard. Obama made promises, or declarations, and is now, in the face of quite intense abnormal forces, aiming to be a man of his word. Though these actions rarely affect one person, but instead hordes who all hold different beliefs on the subject matter. For every person who believes that we need to loosen our policy against Cuba, there is another person who will tell you the difference will be made when the other side takes its own actions. Undoubtedly will relief be felt from the reduced travel restrictions and by empowering people to do more for their family that remains in Cuba then they were able to before the changes. However, giving cell phone flexibility and greater mail parcel value will not change Cuba. This is where the flame gets its heat.

Many devotees to the Cuban cause believe that actions such as these only assist in propping up a communist regime that truly keeps its people under its thumb. Until the Cuban government stops its biast and archaic practices, the Cuban people will never be free. Yes, they will have quick and free access to healthcare and everyone will know how to read, but the Cuban people will never be free.It is impossible to feel free when your government can throw you in jail for not-supporting the system.  By this I do not mean revolting and being outspoken, but more so as by not following the recommendations to the letter.  There is a reason that Cuba boasts that there are nothing but criminals in  Cuban prison, becuase from dissenters to artists, anyone expressing counter-communist beliefs are deemed criminals.

There have been numerous cases where charges such as peligrosidad, dangerousness, has been cited as the chief complaint. Peligrosidad is an article defined as behavior or action that contradicts socialist morality, thus the offending individual has a special proclivity to commit crimes. Thus peligrosidad, under the penal code, can be used as a security measure to sentence someone up to four years in prison. In the past peligrosidad has been used to send punk rockers to jail, gays to jail and, now, rock climbers. However, as per the latter, it is not because of the activity itself, it is because the activity puts Cubans in contact with foreigners on a regular basis thus possibly altering the individual’s belief in their government’s system.

So the government has concocted the idea that Cuban climbers are growing marijuana on the mogotes, the picturesque limestone mountains, that have made the Pinar del Rio province famous. The authorities have stated that using heat-sensitive photography they have evidence of such activity, though they have never shown anyone accused or restricted from climbing, or anyone else really, these pertinent photos. Anyone indigenous to the area knows the error in the argument. The only thing that climbing has in common with drugs is that climbing is like a drug. Once you start there is a probability of addiction. Once addicted you just need to climb all of the time.

The problem with climbing often is that it makes you not want to work more and it exposes you to all sorts of worldly people as well as nurturing one’s instinctive analytical nature to question and test boundaries. This does not sit well with the Cuban government. However, returning to the original argument, no matter the energy that the US throws into the Cuban issue, it will not relieve the situation for Cubans, and thus only slightly for Cuban-Americans. The only thing that can be done is to place multi-lateral pressure on the Castro Regime to free it’s people.

Individual voices have been selected throughout time to express the happiness of the Cubans, and I am not here to debunk this. For some Cubans the life they have is all they could ever want. Unfortunately there are many Cubans who want a lot more. Here is a link to a post by a Cuban with a perfect record to wishes to exercise their will to travel, as it has been affirmed by the president of the Writers and Artists Union of Cuba (UNEAC), “that all Cubans can travel, except those who have a debt to the justice system.” This is not the truth and it is unfortunate that misleading information makes its way into the popular media without the appropriate filters or counter-voices.

So, in as much as I applaud our new president for his actions and courage to make the touch decisions that his predecessors could not, I say it will not be enough. It will not be enough until a second revolution originates from the same limestone caves and dark corners that the first revolution did. It will not be enough until Cubans have the right to travel, to earn respectable wages based on their own ambition or to pursue their own dreams as life has bestowed unto them. It will not be enough until the Castro Regime turns the government over to the populous from the greedy hands of a highly-centralized and imbalanced control of power. If the sentiments and declarations of the revolution that just celebrated its 50th anniversary had been universally followed then it might actually have been enough.

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Going Full Circle on Fear


Truly the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.   FDR had his heart in the right place.   And as he faced a country in the grips of the great depression he took the podium and gave a speech meant to be heard by all Americans.  During the campaign Roosevelt was criticized for not divulging his plans for the country that he was aiming to lead.  Not many of his close working relationships, aside from his wife, even knew him that well.   His speeches were buoyant and optimistic, yet solemn as the economic doldrums affected the national demographic.  It seems that these characteristics would have worked against FDR, yet he still triumphed the challenges before succumbing to illness.   Many great things came about from his presidency.

First off, FDR was the only president to serve more than two terms, acting as president for four consecutive terms, though his poor health decided his fate early in his fourth term.   During these terms he created the New Deal, and its vast array of programs, and dealt with World War II.   Legacies such as the Social Security System, the SEC, the FDIC and the National Labor Review Board are the signs of his time spent leading the nation.  His presidency was monumental to say the least.

Today we find ourselves facing a world of eternal challenge and have faithfully elected a president who is capable of greatness.  However, Barack Obama is more often compared to JFK than FDR.  This association is likely due to his energetic and youthful nature, air of sincerity and sense of responsibility that has brought the people together in a time when a leader was desperately needed.  Anyone can be a decider, but few can be a leader.  With the dismal economy and the constant war on terror, Obama seems aligned to take steps that coincide more with the absolute and enduring impact that FDR had on our country.  Assuming all goes well maybe we will get lucky and Obama will have a chance at more than two terms.

To bring this thought on course, it is the lack of fear that Barack shows towards an agenda that has nothing but daunting tasks in its lineup.  The thought alone of what he faces in his daily planner is daunting: stabilize the economy, create 3 million jobs, rekindle respect for the US, nurture the national hope, broker some peace in the world and raise to daughters in an urban environment.  Though, going on a first couple weeks impression, it suggests the right man was chosen for the hardest job in the world and his outlook appears to be that the man is at least as great as the task.  Thus, the only thing that Barack fears, is fear itself.  And maybe another crackberry crash.

Now, to lower the bar to a human level, yet keep with the theme, I look back at some of the situations I have put myself into and the fear I faced.  Now I wonder if it was really just fear.  The first on that list of fearful situations is when I climbed the Nose Route on El Capitan in Yosemite with my friends, Tim Kemple and Dave Hume.  It was twenty three and a half hours of jugging and climbing.  The two rope guns definitely took the lion’s share of the sharp end, but I got my fill as well.  Aiding the Great Roof and bounding through the joyous laybacking of the pancake flake had to be some of the most fun big walling on granite I have ever encountered.  Yet waiting just a handful of pitches above was the last jumar to top out.

Cutting loose from the last belay there is over 3,000 feet of air underneath you that drops away and comes back as up drafts, one of which stole my chalk bag a few pitches earlier.  I felt the knot slide off as I was lay-backing and I watched the bag rise from behind me and get carried off on a breeze.  I never did find it and was entranced by the sack as it danced away on a cloud of its own chalk.  When I saw the movie, American Beauty, the video of the plastic bag dancing brought me right back to that moment in time, the blur of Middle Cathedral standing in the background.

As my hand left the final belay and I started to swing out, a host of thoughts bombarded my mind. First I thought to close my eyes, but my eyes would not close.  Instead they just stared down and around at the abyss that could swallow me at any second.  Then, all of the falls and abuse that the little pink PMI rope ever took catalogued themselves in my brain; I should not be using this cord.  Knowing that over-thinking never solves a situation I just set my feet and started jugging.

Every heave on the rope created a new and stomach twisting creak.  After each upstroke I caught myself staring at the taut rope as it pointed straight up and went over the edge of the capstone above.   Each jerky movement of that free-hanging jumar made the rope drag side to side on the rough granite above.  Was that a core shot I could see or a figment of my glycogen deprived brain.  Honestly I probably should have puked my fear right out and into the void below.   Yet the idea of someone getting killed by a vomit rocket at terminal velocity did not sit well with me.  Also that we had run out of food and water about 10,000 burnt calories before, I doubt anything would have arisen anyway.  To my great relief, the cord held and I made it over the top and then endured one of the most epic walkoffs ever, but that is a whole other story.

So, as you know, I am still here to relay the story. That must mean that the fear, of real and present danger, is still just fear.  If finishing off that route was so inevitably fatal then no one would endeavor to take on equal or greater gauntlets.  When we find ourselves in front of a demanding task that seems greater than ourselves for one reason or another, one only needs to slow down and acknowledge a couple simple truths:

  • We probably would not be there if we could not handle the situation and succeed at the task.
  • Confidence and calmness will aide you as you ready the necessary tools and engage yourself.
  • There is nothing to fear, but fear itself.

As for that little pink cord, that was its last journey.  Not a bad way to finish.  If you are ever in Yosemite, follow the Merced river down to El Portal.  A little past the post office there is a pull out on the left for a great swimming hole.  The rope swing on the tree across the river is where that mighty pink rope makes its last stand.  How it got up there was a whole other story as well, but fear not and go swing on it.

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The Locomotion of Change

The change has already begun.  Right from the beginning, the new administration is keeping its promises, whatever those may be.  Many people balked at the Obama campaign before the election for the lack of details on a few topics.  A campaign that touted change for the better is not a new thing around these parts was the competition’s retort.  Truthfully, politics, DC and false promises go together like Larry, Moe and Curly.  What is different about the show these days, is that people are not laughing at the cliche any more, but getting critical instead.  Movements and decisions with the national welfare in mind are already being made and it seems that there will be plenty more.  Now the people are going from doubting to nods of assent.

For a while many people have been worried about the future of print in daily news delivery, there may be a solution now: there will be news to print.  If the headlines of war mongering and death to poor grammar and even worse critical thinking skills will be replaced.  It seems the new headlines actually have news.  There are no glam photo sessions of this president, just tag-lines and newspaper content.  In two days there has been a tidal change in the quality and moral direction of the subject matter .


Tim Geithner’s name emerges from text that tells the story of the administrations stance on Chinese currency manipulation.  Our trade deficit with them is substance enough, yet since stances were not being taken (cowtowing is more like it), such an important topic did not get the proper media.  Can you hear the crickets (not the whining)?  After a 60-34 senate confirmation no one is talking about back taxes or domestic help.  Ahh…just as it should be.

There are stories about the closing of the Guantanamo military base to curtail or reallocate current Defense spending.  This is an opportunity in many ways.  Communications with Cuba can be opened, the trade embargo can go to the wayside and more peace can exist in the world.  A smear on American integrity equal to Abu Graib and a vestige of the cold war era will be swept away to make room for better relations.  There are so many positive aspects about opening up relations with Cuba, the majors being: a new market for American goods; a travel destination (chaching!) that combines old world culture with UNESCO protected countryside; a new source for importing raw materials like sugar and cobalt.  So Cuban exports may not solve our current economic dilemma, but it cannot hurt.

The kicker, to round off this trio of current domestic news items with international twists, is the permission for stem-cell research to be performed on humans.  So this is not exactly a treasure chest of federal monies, but it is an astral leap compared to the last administration.  Federal monies are better served in other federal programs right now, ones that will give a more immediate jolt towards stopping this slow churning locomotive of economic depression.  Once we stop that steam breathing demon we can all get aboard and go for a much, much better ride.

This thread is just the beginning.  This is change.  It is only the first week, but already there is a renewed spirit matched with action.  Up markets, up people and a feeling that good things are on their way up too; this bodes for a better future.  This new well-spring of news is the tapping of an aquifer that has always known to be there, as it has been tapped a few times in the past, yet for some reason became an El Dorado.  Now the national GPS has put a way-point on it and will keep going back, so as to keep this new engine of change a’going.

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An Inauguration for the Ages

Sitting here in Dunkin Donuts, in a town that resonates middle class America.  As I watch the TV and the beginnings of the day of the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama there is a welling in my chest.  This is monumental.  It can be felt and we may not be sure exactly why, yet innately, we all do know.

The world is at a crossroads between the way of the few or the way of the many.  This is a turn down the way of the many.  In one of America’s biggest economic slumps, where the news about commerce, war and people is in the doldrums, the morale still swells.  There is something stunning happening today, as if we are all becoming better people just for being a part.

Reflecting back on the elections and my conversations with those who voted Republican, the votes were cast along party lines.  Where those with certain agendas maintained their loyalties because that was the right thing for them to do, for their minds and, mostly, their wallets.  Yet even though Obama took the election, there are very few, even those who voted for another candidate, that feels like they have been wronged or the improper person is about to take office.  Everyone that I have encountered, putting blatant racists and the top .01% of the wealthy aside, feels like this is the right step for the nation.

Barack Obama instills a sense of duty, a sense of thoughtful patriotism reminiscent of our forefathers that has been absent in many of the last presidents.  If this man does not solve our problems he would still stand to be one of the greatest tenants of the White House ever.  If this man would lead our country into war, one could hypothesize that it would be for the right reasons, that people would even enlist to support our nation.  This man would make Mark Twain proud of his government again, because it would be equaled with being proud of one’s country.

Sitting here waiting for my car to get fixed, I feel like my national soul is coming out of the shop.  This day is uplifting and brings about a feeling of being vechlempt.  Tears well up and may fall upon these often dry cheeks and the reasons may not be known why.  Perhaps you know why, perhaps you empathize with the feelings that are running hot right now.

583 miles away from the packed National Mall I rose from my pink an orange table for the taking of the oath of the Office of the President.  Our new 44th president, the hope for a proper guiding light, is now in position.  This bodes well for the majority of people in the world.  There is very little bad news today, aside from Ted Kennedy’s seizure, except for the injustice to John Stewart.  What is he going to do for material without Bush in the White House?

After eight years of one of Lucifer’s minions and his Howdy-Doody doll running amok in this world, we finally have tenants in the White House that, we can be almost sure, will be able to get their deposit back.  And early on we are getting the picture that even gods have tarnishes.  Similar to the first week of Governor Patterson of NY, when he quickly spilled the beans on extra-marital affairs after taking over office from a corrupt pervert.  We have a candidate that is coming clean early, while still in the safety shadow of predecessor’s blunders.  As Obama’s cabinet is confirmed there is extra attention on the now Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner, former head of the NY Fed.  He forgot to pay $34,000 in social security and medicare taxes from self-employment payments, and he failed to monitor the immigration status of a housekeeper that had worked for him.

For one, I doubt this guy does his own taxes.  Two, he knew via a 2006 audit that he erred in 2001-2004 in his taxes (at least he’s consistent) and had already paid back half of it.  Three, the pay was from work he was doing for the IMF, a fairly respectable agency.  Four, he is the best qualified individual to hit the ground running (despite that MythBusters proved this physically would not really help you get up to speed faster) to assist in brokering the most adequate and comprehensive financial bailout and recovery plan that is needed, at a time when it is really needed.  Who better to help rewrite some of the oversight and regulatory copy then someone who intimately understands government and markets.

And lastly, number five, anyone who has had domestic help knows how when you have good help you don’t let them go, illegal or not.  And if the government learned to use some low-wage labor every once in a while, we may not have such a hefty tax burden.  I do not even know how this tangent started, but it could not be stopped and it is all relevant to today.  Though we may expect the most from these public servants, they are still human and can fault as such, and calling them out on it is part of our public duty.

Still, there are so many questions.  Will we be able to overturn any ‘safety’ measures taken by the last administration so that key figures can be held accountable for, oh you know, say minor infractions like making large decisions that negatively impact the well being of the nation.  Going against the Geneva convention; deliberately falsifying evidence so as to justify invading nations with the obscured premise of oil; for repealing some of the most basic EPA regulations to payback the favors of big business; to make shady transactions between the government and private companies that are oh so altruistic in their ‘rebuilding effort’ in war torn nations; being consciously blind of the vagaries, fraud and corruption running rampant in the financial industry as it ran further off the leash from the Fed and SEC.  There are so many of these blatantly irresponsible misuses of power that it’s best to just forget about it.  The power of attraction should not be wasted for that, but for the good that is karmically coming our way.

2009 is a new start, not just for the nation, not just for a new president, but also for many out there looking for jobs.  This current economic debacle is going to reorient our economy, our investments and our lives.  Many of those in manufacturing may decide for a brighter future and accept job traning for another career.  Many of those who indirectly defrauded people out of their pensions will hopefully go to jail and get fucked, thus opening up positions for people with a greater conscience.  Many people may start to see the world more as ‘our’ place than as ‘my’ place.  May this infect us all for the sake of our economy, for the sake of our environment and for the sake of the generations to come.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways.  – Corinthians 13:11