Mortgages for those who cannot afford them and “taxation” without legislative mandate. More blind and unadvisable financial market moves by the clueless Biden Administration.
When Will Climate Change Advocates Wise Up
While we in the US wring our hands and whine about how miserable our record is in reducing carbon emissions, the rest of the world is thumbing their nose at the problem. While we build massive solar and wind energy facilities and work to scrub clean what little CO2 is oozing from our remaining traditional electric generating facilities, the world is building coal-fired plants at an increasing pace (see below).
Coal capacity climbs worldwide despite promises to slash it
- SIBI ARASU Associated Press
- Apr 9, 2023
The capacity to burn coal for power went up in 2022 despite global promises to phase down the fuel that’s the biggest source of planet-warming gases in the atmosphere, according to a new report.
Steam rises from the coal-fired power plant Nov. 2, 2022, in Niederaussem, Germany.
Michael Probst, Associated Press
The coal fleet grew by 19.5 gigawatts last year, enough to light up around 15 million homes, with nearly all newly commissioned coal projects in China, according to a report by Global Energy Monitor, an organization that tracks a variety of energy projects around the globe.
That 1% increase comes at a time when the world needs to retire its coal fleet four and a half times faster to meet climate goals, the report said. In 2021, countries around the world promised to phase down the use of coal to help achieve the goal to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit).
“The more new coal projects come online, the steeper the cuts and commitments need to be in the future,” said Flora Champenois, the report’s lead author and the project manager for GEM’s Global Coal Plant Tracker.
A young boy plays on a hill called “Teletubbies Hill,” a locally popular tourist attraction, as the chimneys of Suralaya coal power plant loom in the background, Jan. 8 in Cilegon, Indonesia.
Dita Alangkara, Associated Press
New coal plants were added in 14 countries and eight countries announced new coal projects. China, India, Indonesia, Turkey and Zimbabwe were the only countries that both added new coal plants and announced new projects. China accounted for 92% of all new coal project announcements.
China added 26.8 gigawatts and India added about 3.5 gigawatts of new coal power capacity to their electricity grids. China also gave clearance for nearly 100 gigawatts of new coal power projects with construction likely to begin this year.
But “the long term trajectory is still towards clean energy,” said Shantanu Srivastava, an energy analyst with the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis who is based in New Delhi. Srivastava said the pandemic and the war in Ukraine temporarily drove some nations toward fossil fuels.
Steam rises from a power plant located by the Turow lignite coal mine Jan. 15, 2022, near the town of Bogatynia, Poland.
Petr David Josek, Associated Press
In Europe, where the Russian invasion of Ukraine meant a scramble for alternative energy sources and droughts stifled hydropower, the continent saw only a minor increase in coal use.
Others went the other way. There were significant shutdowns in the U.S. where 13.5 gigawatts of coal power was retired. It’s one of 17 countries that closed plants in the past year.
With nearly 2,500 plants around the world, coal accounts for about a third of the total amount of energy installation globally. Other fossil fuels, nuclear energy and renewable energy make up the rest.
To meet climate goals set in the 2015 Paris Agreement, coal plants in rich countries need to be retired by 2030 and coal plants in developing countries need to be shut down by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency. That means around 117 gigawatts of coal needs to be retired every year, but only 26 gigawatts was retired in 2022.
“At this rate, the transition away from existing and new coal isn’t happening fast enough to avoid climate chaos,” said Champenois.
Srivastava added that it’s important to make sure the millions employed in coal and other dirty industries are not left behind when transitioning to clean energy, although that gets more difficult the more coal projects get locked in.
“Every day we delay a transition to clean energy,” Srivastava said, “it not only makes it harder to achieve climate goals but it also makes the transition more expensive.”
While we build and sell increasing numbers of electric-powered vehicles (which will create a couple new, difficult to solve problems) we continue to place ourselves at the mercy of the world largest oil producers. We have the capacity to out produce these fascist, authoritarian, terrorist-supporting governments and vastly diminish their geopolitical threats and war-making ability while reducing the pain our citizens are experiencing in having to choose between gas to drive to work and food for their children. All while simultaneously marching effectively to vastly, vastly reduced carbon emissions in this country in the next 10-15 years. WE CAN DO BOTH but choose not to for strictly political reasons! This as the Saudis are spending billions of our oil money on creating, of all silly things, a competing professional golf tour; while the Iranians are sponsoring terrorism; and the Russians spend billions of their oil-riches making war on the innocents of Ukraine.
Recently the Saudis decided to reduce oil production to raise oil/gas prices and fuel global inflationary pressures yet again (see this article below – Saudis, other oil giants announce surprise production cuts ) We are powerless to do anything about it because we, the Biden Administration, choose to dramatically constrain oil drilling and production on this continent because he fears the progressive left will abandon him for the 2024 election.
The rest of the world secretly laughs at our weakness and ineptitude in using the resources necessary to end this global extortion by these narcissistic, self-serving tyrants. Again, this can all be done while we pour billions upon billions into technology and innovation to both reduce carbon emissions and create the means to mitigate its effects on the planet.
Once we have assumed a leadership position and can control global oil pricing, we can squeeze the Chinese, Indians, Indonesians, et al into a descending not increasing number of coal-fired electric production facilities. We can make natural gas, a far cleaner resource, a more economic fuel by reducing the global price below that of coal as we incentivize these countries to go solar and wind production and have a massively greater impact on CO2 emissions in the next 10-15 years then focusing on what will be diminishing returns here from their domestically focused protests.
Saudis, other oil giants announce surprise production cuts
• ASSOCIATED PRESS
• Apr 2, 2023
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia and other major oil producers on Sunday announced surprise cuts totaling up to 1.15 million barrels per day from May until the end of the year, a move that could raise prices worldwide.
Higher oil prices would help fill Russian President Vladimir Putin’s coffers as his country wages war on Ukraine and force Americans and others to pay even more at the pump amid worldwide inflation.
It was also likely to further strain ties with the U.S., which has called on Saudi Arabia and other allies to increase production as it tries to bring prices down and squeeze Russia’s finances.
Saudi Aramco engineers pass by a gas turbine generator at Khurais oil field during a tour for journalists June 28, 2021, about 93 miles east-northeast of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Amr Nabil, Associated Press
The production cuts alone could push U.S. gasoline prices up by roughly 26 cents per gallon, in addition to the usual increase that comes when refineries change the gasoline blend during the summer driving season, said Kevin Book, managing director of Clearview Energy Partners LLC. The Energy Department calculates the seasonal increase at an average of 32 cents per gallon, Book said.
So with an average U.S. price now at roughly $3.50 per gallon of regular, according to AAA, that could mean gasoline over $4 per gallon during the summer.
However, Book said there are a number of complex variables in oil and gas prices. The size of each country’s production cut depends on the baseline production number it is using, so the cut might not be 1.15 million. It also could take much of the year for the cuts to take effect. Demand could fall if the U.S. enters a recession caused by the banking crisis. But it also could increase during the summer as more people travel.
Even though the production cuts are only about 1% of the roughly 100 million barrels of oil the world uses per day, the impact on prices could be big, Book said.
“It’s a big deal because of the way oil prices work,” he said. “You are in a market that is relatively balanced. You take a small amount away, depending on what demand does, you could have a very significant price response.”
The Saudi Energy Ministry said its own reduction of 500,000 barrels per day would be made in coordination with some OPEC and non-OPEC members, without naming them. The cuts are in addition to a reduction announced last October that infuriated the Biden administration.
The ministry described the move as a “precautionary measure” aimed at stabilizing the oil market. The cuts represent less than 5% of Saudi Arabia’s average production of 11.5 million barrels per day in 2022.
Iraq said it would reduce production by 211,000 barrels per day, the United Arab Emirates by 144,000, Kuwait by 128,000, Kazakhstan by 78,000, Algeria by 48,000 and Oman by 40,000. The announcements were carried by each country’s state media.
Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, meanwhile, said Moscow would extend a voluntary cut of 500,000 until the end of the year, according to remarks carried by the state news agency Tass. Russia had announced the unilateral reduction in February after Western countries imposed price caps.
All are members of the so-called OPEC+ group of oil exporting countries, which includes the original Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries as well as Russia and other major producers. There was no immediate statement from OPEC itself.
The cuts announced in October — of some 2 million barrels a day — had come on the eve of U.S. midterm elections in which soaring prices were a major issue. President Joe Biden vowed at the time that there would be “consequences,” and Democratic lawmakers called for freezing cooperation with the Saudis.
Both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia denied any political motives in the dispute.
Since those cuts, oil prices have trended down. Brent crude, a global benchmark, was trading around $80 a barrel at the end of last week, down from around $95 in early October, when the earlier cuts were agreed.
Analysts Giacomo Romeo and Lloyd Byrne at Jefferies said in a research note that the new cuts should allow for “material” reductions to OPEC inventory earlier than expected and could validate recent warnings from some traders and analysts that demand for oil is weakening.
Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a Gulf expert at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, said the Saudis are determined to keep oil prices high enough to fund ambitious mega-projects linked to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 plan to overhaul the economy.
“This domestic interest takes precedence in Saudi decision-making over relationships with international partners and is likely to remain a point of friction in U.S.-Saudi relations for the foreseeable future,” he said.
Saudi Arabia’s state-run oil giant Aramco recently announced record profits of $161 billion from last year. Profits rose 46.5% when compared with the company’s 2021 results of $110 billion. Aramco said it hoped to boost production to 13 million barrels a day by 2027.
The decades-long U.S.-Saudi alliance has come under growing strain in recent years following the 2018 killing of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S.-based journalist, and Saudi Arabia’s war with the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
As a candidate for president, Biden had vowed to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” over the Khashoggi killing, but as oil prices rose after his inauguration, he backed off. He visited the kingdom last July in a bid to patch up relations, drawing criticism for sharing a fist bump with Crown Prince Mohammed.
Saudi Arabia has denied siding with Russia in the Ukraine war, even as it has cultivated closer ties with both Moscow and Beijing in recent years. Last week, Aramco announced billions of dollars of investment in China’s downstream petrochemicals industry.
Fiscal Policy Vacuous Behavior
The Biden Administration’s recently announced federal budget plan is an inane continuation of the feckless string of fiscal proposed actions from both parties. From the Right we have tax reduction with no fiscal constraint and from the Left we have tax increases with no fiscal constraint. Tax reduction plans come with no real effort to reduce federal spending because the Right knows talk of reduced spending spells political suicide. Tax increase plans from the Left (a prime example is represented in the commentary piece included with this post) represent supposed incremental tax offsets to endless spending increases proposed and enacted by the Left that vastly exceed the new revenues and further ballooning the deficit.
When will taxpayers demand fiscally responsible behavior by the President(s) and Congress? The answer is never as long as most taxpayers, and non-taxpaying citizens/residents, continue to enjoy the bounty of out-of-control federal spending with absolutely no reduced services or pocketbook pain.
The top 1%, that Biden proposes we raid again, cannot rally enough political clout to either sway who is elected to Congress or the Presidency or to enlighten taxpayers to the catastrophic outcome for our country when tax burden and debt burden crush the economy’s ability to produce job creation and wealth creation. Where then, when the entirety of the top 1%’s wealth has been totally confiscated, will the Left turn to fund their woke agenda?
The Heritage Foundation’s Preston Brashers’ piece below both expertly and concisely explains.
Commentary: Biden’s budget calls for more plundering of the American taxpayer
PRESTON BRASHERS Mar 17, 2023
Farmers know a thing or two about stewardship. If they don’t take care of their land, eventually it will cost them their livelihoods. Unlike farmers, who work to steadily build a better future, Vikings would plunder villages, taking all they could carry away before moving on to their next target.
President Joe Biden’s budgets take the latter approach, going after more and more of the American people’s hard-earned treasure every year.
Last year, his budget sought an additional $2.5 trillion in taxes beyond the $55.8 trillion in revenue that was forecast to be collected over 10 years. His latest budget is even more rapacious. The president is calling for $65.2 trillion in taxes and other revenues – nearly $7 trillion more than his last mega-budget.
Yet even with all the extra spoils, Biden’s budget would somehow manage to spend $17 trillion more than it would collect. This would shackle the American people with an additional $120,000 in federal debt per household by the end of the decade.
While the left portrays America’s billionaires as a bottomless well of tax revenues, the government could confiscate every penny of wealth from all the billionaires on the Forbes 400 list, seizing their companies’ assets and bankrupting them overnight, and that would barely cover half of Biden’s newest round of proposed increase in taxes. It wouldn’t even cover 5% of Biden’s total 10-year budget.
Clearly, all of Biden’s tax hikes can’t be limited to the very rich. Inevitably, they will reach the doorstep of every working American.
The Biden budget document repeatedly boasts it is “fiscally responsible.” The truth is, it is unsustainable, and it would doom the middle class to massive future tax increases.
Biden’s budget would allow across-the-board tax hikes by permitting most of the Trump individual tax cuts to expire. However, the biggest taxpayer raids would directly target upper- and upper-middle-income taxpayers. The collateral damage would be devastating and widespread, reducing investment, stifling entrepreneurship and leaving fewer good jobs for all Americans.
Biden’s proposed tax hikes on the upper middle class are a foreboding sign for the middle class. In the days of the Vikings, if a richer nearby town was hit with repeated raids, surrounding villages had even more reason to fear they could be the next target.
Biden’s raid on taxpayers would hit in several waves.
Under Biden’s plan, federal taxes on wages for upper- and upper-middle-income Americans would rise from 37% to 44.6%. If they invested some of their after-tax wages in stocks, they would face a 28% tax on any profits at the corporate level (up from 21%) and up to 44.6% tax at the investor level (up from 23.8%).
President Joe Biden attends a press conference after a trilateral meeting with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during the AUKUS summit in San Diego on Monday.
And that’s just the federal income taxes. Factoring in inflation and multiple layers of state and local taxes, many investors would be left with none or almost none of their investment gains after the government ransacking. It’s insulting that Biden refers to this as their “fair share.”
Small businesses – and those who rely on them – wouldn’t escape the wrath of Biden’s new taxes. Currently, small business active income is exempt from the net investment income tax, a surtax applied to investment income. Biden’s plan would extend this tax to directly hit most small business income and would raise the surtax from 3.8% to 5%.
Even death may not protect businessowners from Biden’s new taxes. The president’s proposal would nearly triple the number of taxpayers subject to the 40% death tax in 2026. If the deceased owned a business, the tax would apply to any increase in the value of a business since it was started or acquired. These changes would punish families for experiencing tragedy and force more owners of family businesses and farms to liquidate their assets to pay the steep taxes.
When businesses and farms are ruined, it’s not just the owners who suffer. Store clerks, janitors and laborers will struggle to put food on the table when their employers are forced out of business.
For too long the president and Congress have treated taxpayers as though they should be allowed to keep only what the government decides, as though taxpayers serve at the pleasure of the government. This is precisely backward.
The government exists – at the consent of the governed – to defend us against threats to life, liberty and property, not to take our liberty and property in a less violent way.
©2023 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Preston Brashers is a senior policy analyst in The Heritage Foundation’s Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget who focuses on tax policy. His research centers on tax and fiscal reforms to promote economic growth, simplify taxes, and reduce the role of the federal government in Americans’ everyday lives.
Letter to the Editor the Richmond Times Dispatch Refused to Publish
City Pandemic Spending
In reviewing the RTD February 10 article “How Richmond will spend $155 million in pandemic relief aid” I find it remarkable that virtually none of the funds were spent preparing the city for what will doubtlessly be the next pandemic.
Where is the funding to improve the delivery of healthcare in the city? Funding to attract more Primary Care Physicians, Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners to establish practices in the city. The creation of new, as well as improving existing, clinics for those with limited or no medical financial resources.
Most of us have experienced the disappointment of how increasing demands on healthcare professionals have led to longer waits for services. Clearly the trend is disturbingly more akin to the extraordinarily long waits experienced every day in countries with nationalized, single payer healthcare systems. Yet our own state legislature just this session refused to act to increase the independent availability of Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners by reducing the extraordinary amount of time these highly trained professionals must remain under the total supervision of a licensed physician. Might the AMA lobby be responsible for the failure of this legislation to reduce future physician competition?
And why were no funds allocated to helping school children recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic on learning? Clearly these children could use some rescuing using the resources provisioned by the “American Rescue Plan Act” as the source of this funding.
Finally, this funding plan (i.e., $2 million in city beautification efforts, $9 million to purchase and develop the James River Branch Trail as well as other proposed irrational spending where any reasonable person might struggle with how this relates to the pandemic) is deficit spending; vaper funds with no taxing source that will eventually fall on future generations to pay.
Socialism, the Unhappy Life of Mediocrity
It seems, where democratic capitalism exists successfully, there will always be an appeal by fringe elements for so-called Democratic Socialism. Some call it a cry for an “even playing field”.
What does an “even playing field” really mean? Does it suppose all, or nearly all, humanity might have bestowed upon them a life in a bucolic setting devoid of discrimination, inequality, injustice, violence and aggression? One where all would be engaged in some government preordained endeavor that provides adequate housing, food, healthcare, public transport, furnishings, clothing, as well as other essential, and even sundry needs or wants such as occasional entertainment opportunities? Essentially, all life’s basic requirements plus?
All of these blessings bestowed for no other reason than you exist. All provided equally to eliminate jealousy or envy. Quite possibly all extraneous wealth would be confiscated. All second amendment rights suspended, once a full and final constitutional amendment is approved, and all firearms confiscated as well.
Might all of this suggested reality be conceived, organized and provisioned by some form of government entity? All provided with no regard for one’s education or other forms of qualifications, mental or physical capacity, heredity/race, age, sex, on and on? Is this an all-in assumption that everyone has the same needs for mental stimulation, achievement, recognition of accomplishment and would be forever happy with every player on the “team” receiving a “participation trophy”; all while declaring “winning” a false God?
Wait! Stop! Of course, of course all of these are silly notions that would never, ever have even a prayer of success given the truth of human nature.
So what do these “even playing field” types really want? Quite possibly they want Democratic Socialism. A system, where attempted, that has failed to eliminate poverty and injustice while dooming its citizens to a life short of its potential. A system that would eventually whittle away any sort of achievement of wealth (either created or inherited) with withering taxes, and the stifling of innovation that would ultimately lead to the destruction of our capitalistic democracy and all the amazing benefits such a system provides for so many.
Are some who underachieve marginalized by our system, well, yes. Our system, however imperfect, has been the beacon of hope to the entire world for over two hundred years. The beacon that tells of an opportunity to toil mightily and take risk in order to achieve something close to one’s potential while reaping the rewards that no other system can offer. We should scrap this entirely to achieve this so called “even playing field”?
Can more be done to even the playing field? One would assume so. But would it ever be enough to satisfy the critics of our system and the decriers of a system that produces both wealth and poverty (no different than any other system conceived or attempted)? A system that relies primarily on earnest effort and achievement. Yet one that includes a substantial safety net for those who truly need it and that totals in excess of a trillion dollars in wealth transfer programs each year.
A great deal has been done in the past 100 years, with a significant uptick in new entitlement and anti-discrimination programs since the 1960s. These entitlements amounted to trillions and trillions of new wealth transfer programs enacted. Funding made possible by a system that generates trillions in wealth creation through the magic of capitalism, without which, aid programs, both public and privately charitable, would not be nearly as well financed.
All poverty and injustice cannot be completely eradicated by any governmental/political system. But more can be and is done by our system; more than could ever be achieved in a system of socialism. Socialistic countries like France are proof of that undeniable fact. Regardless of how “socialistic” their system of government is, there is constant social unrest, strikes, protests and rioting. Unrest because whatever is done is never enough.
From “The Lincoln Highway” by Amor Towles
Once in a great while you read something that affects you profoundly. Something that simply states the values you hold dearest.
“After a few minutes, as if he had needed the moment of silence to in order to gather himself, Ulysses continued.
-I am of the opinion, Professor, that everything of value in this life must be earned. That it should be earned. Because those who are given something of value without having to earn it are bound to squander it. I believe one should earn respect. One should earn trust. One should earn the love of a woman, and the right to call oneself a man. And one should also earn the right to hope. At one time I had a wellspring of hope – a wellspring that I had not earned. And not knowing what it was worth, on the day I left my wife and child, I squandered it. So over these last eight and a half years, I have learned to live without hope. Just a surely as Cain lived without it once he entered the land of Nod.
To live without hope, said Woolly to himself as he nodded his head and wiped the tears from his eyes. to live without hope in the land of Nod.”
Letters to the Editor that the Richmond Times Dispatch would not Publish
Letter submitted 5-30-2022
Thank You Judy Davis
As a dedicated voter, I found encouragement in correspondent Judy Davis’ letter “Light a Candle”.
We have suffered with uninspiring leadership at a national level over the past four administrations and eight congressional sessions. Red lines crossed with no consequences, instigating seditious riots over false claims, and overspending creating out of control inflation are just a few possible headlines from a very unfortunate long list of disappointments.
Yet where are inspiring national leaders to be found willing to endure relentless 24/7/365 intrusive scrutiny, deceptive campaign messaging and blatant bias from a rudderless fourth estate?
How do we find electable national leadership candidates with the courage to truly bring a proven bipartisan foundation to the task? Leaders representing with equal respect those who pay no taxes, those who pay most of the taxes, and everyone in between. Where are the leaders who will emulate FDR, Eisenhower and Kennedy, elected by the greatest generation, as well as Reagan by the Boomers?
Unfortunately it will take more than lighting a candle to return greatness to the Whitehouse. I will need to read Ms. Davis’ letter every day to keep the faith.
Glen Allen VA
Letter Submitted 7-12-2022
Once and for All
Once and for all, AR (as in AR-15) does not stand for “Assault Rifle” or “Automatic Rifle”. The A represents the name of the first manufacturer (Armalite) of this style of rifle.
The AR-style rifle that a typical American can legitimately buy in a gun shop is a semi-automatic, single shot (a single trigger pull – a single round fired) firing mechanism. True assault rifles typically have an automatic fire option (a single trigger pull – multiple rounds fired). These weapons are difficult for the typical citizen to own. Legal purchase of an automatic rifle takes months to a year to complete the approval process and costs several thousand dollars.
Obviously there is criminal access and no amount of regulation can seemingly curtail criminal access in this country as well as around the world. Military and law enforcement agencies are typically authorized for automatic weapons. The federal agency ATF controls access per federal regulation.
So please stop calling AR-15s, AR-10, etc. “Assault Rifles”. You are further misleading the poorly informed and stigmatizing a perfectly legitimate sports rifle that is no different in its firing mechanism than any other semi-automatic sports rifle legally used by millions of Americans for a variety of purposes, including hunting, competition shooting, personal or family protection and as a hedge against tyranny.
So, for those of you who continue to call AR-style rifles “assault rifles”, you are revealing your ignorance about the world of firearms thus diminishing the veracity of any point you are attempting to make. If you wish to continue to opine about the illegal use of sporting rifles by the criminally insane, do so in a fashion that gives the appearance of knowledge and thus a hint of credibility.
Glen Allen VA
I am binge watching on-demand TV program “Body Cam”. So interesting and vitally important. Every American should be required to watch at least the first three episodes. Anyone with a heart and brain will then be hooked. So enlightening and illustrative of what our policemen, policewomen and their departments are truly about; to protect and serve. The danger they endure every day is mind blowing when you see the undeniable truth of the body camera footage. These heroes truly deserve our respect and support.
It also demonstrates how we have dumped the issue of mental illness in their laps. State governments must step up and fully fund programs to assist those most seriously ill. So many are potentially dangerous to themselves, their loved ones, the public and most egregiously to the police. Police who truly wish to help yet do not have the training and resources necessary to prevent potentially life-threatening escalation into crisis.
It’s a Manic, Manic, Manic, Manic World!
For those recently retired, the vow was to jettison the cares of the everyday working world, to chill, to use this newfound freedom from employment frustration and hassle to de-stress and be happy all the time, well, at least most of the time. Certainly way more than when we were working, right? Yes, there will be the challenges of family, home and nest egg management. The balancing of how close and engaged you are with your children and grandchildren’s lives. Not to mention the increasing focus needed on healthcare.
But, hey, every day is Saturday now right? How stressful can life be? Comparing it to the workday filled with the congested, frustrating commute, office politics, suffering under narcissistic, self-serving bosses, and narcissistic, self-serving clients; what’s not to love?
The sad truth is, unless you truly disconnect by isolating and leaving the “grid” behind, the world will make you manic; whether retired, working, boomer, millennial or adolescent. Let’s examine some of the forces at work in American society today that seem to have everyone on edge in an attempt to deal with a rapidly changing US of A.
Bad Drivers and Declining Enforcement
Whatever happened to adequate driver education? Either it is inadequate, or, many on the roads are given to just ignoring the rules of the road (even if you think you know them you probably don’t – take a peek at the sites referenced below to test your knowledge1,2 ) and are unwilling to put forth the effort toward common courtesy. For those who learned to drive 40, 50 years ago, rules of the road were drummed into our heads and then tested regularly to ensure competence and compliance.
Observed behavior says many post-boomers generational drivers have had inadequate driver training. Poor driver education, compounded with modern day life pressures, has many in too big a hurry trying to cram too much into each day leaving them constantly behind a desired schedule. This is their rationalization for running red lights, speeding, dangerous, aggressive driving and flying off the handle any time someone attempts to call them out for their contemptuous behavior.
A part of the reason they do it is there is little to no traffic infraction enforcement. This defund the police nonsense is only exacerbating the situation. Too many competent police officers are retiring or resigning, based largely on a lack of due respect. Significantly reduced budgets are preventing the hiring of replacements. Even if we come to our senses and re-fund the force to an adequate level (hopefully well above previous “defund” inadequate levels), the rookies will take years to replace the competency lost.
Combine all these factors with frightening level of distracted driving occurring on our roadways and the notion of defensive driving has gone from an oft touted media mantra to a second by second requirement for survival. It feels like the battle for reason on the roadways is lost.
The din of political rhetoric is enough to drive you mad if you even try to stay informed. The belligerent tone and tenor of political discourse is just adding to citizen mania. The bifurcation of both parties (Socialists to moderates on the left and moderates to Libertarians on the right) is adding to the difficulty of accomplishing anything even slightly controversial. The perceived ineffectiveness of government, and the relentless, criminally intrusive ,media has led to a reluctance by anyone competent and rational to run for national-level office.
And, by the way, neo-Nazi skin head racist whackos never have and never will be accepted into any reasonable political discourse sponsored by conservatives associated with the Republican Party. Ultra-progressive avowed Socialists, however, are inching closer and closer to the mainstream of the Democrat party.
The bifurcation of the left, and to a lesser degree the right, consistently results in vacillating behavior by elected leaders regardless of party affiliation. The left’s injection of a racism perspective into EVERY political conversation, combined with the notion that white people are inherently evil, has turned the heat up on the political stove to new, seemingly unbearable levels. Conservatives attempt to paint all Democrats with the Socialist brush where fiscal responsibility equates to raising taxes necessary to pay for endlessly increasing social programs. The last twenty years have demonstrated that Conservatives are only slightly more fiscally cautious having their brains beaten in at the ballot box for any sort of demonstration of fiscal courage. This leaves everyone enormously frustrated and stands in the way of any coherent, logical dialogue toward bipartisan political accomplishments. This leaves us with endless brinkmanship as we march from one time-driven crisis to the next creating yet more unnecessary stress.
Each party has consistently had a “radical wing” that hold positions that the centralist portion of both parties would never broadly advocate for during formation of campaign-driven party platforms or the policy positions of those in power. That statement has held true until the Biden presidency.
President Biden has typically sided with the radically progressive wing of the Democrat party in major policy matters during his time as President. The election of Joe Biden as a centrist has proven to be a fairy tale.
The Geo-political Caldron
The perceived threat of socialism; plus Chinese, Russian, Iranian and North Korean aggression and genocide; rising crime rates; porous borders; a rebirth of effectual terrorism in Afghanistan (thanks to our recent “surrender” to the Taliban), Syria and elsewhere; inflation; a flagging economy; lingering effects of the pandemic and climate change are just some of the perceived problems mainstream media bludgeons us with 24/7. If you care even the least bit about this country, a place where hundreds of millions have flourished over the past 245 years based on the foundation laid by the genius of our founding fathers, then you have to feel pain.
The Left has a not-so-secret agenda associated with opening the southern border to virtually anyone. Their not-so-secret belief centers around this notion, if the mostly illegal immigrants are showered with government services (free education, free healthcare, housing support, etc., etc.), as they become citizens (or the Left finds a way to give non-citizens the vote), they will remember that Democrats were the supporters of fully open borders and purveyors of an endless flow of government benefits. Given the open door and all the “party favors”, the belief is illegal immigrants will eventually become strident members of the Democrat party. Should this theory become reality, then the millions of new Democrat voters will ensure overwhelming victory at the polls for decades.
What the Progressives fail to consider is that the vast majority of these immigrants experienced a Judeo-Christian upbringing. Where hard work, lack of government handouts, and self-reliance represent the singular path to success in this world. The vast majority pursue a working life, regardless of how initially menial, and many find that their hard work yields financial success and the desired self-esteem that comes with it. Often, a significant number attempt to become entrepreneurs. And many of those recognize that the political organization that espouses these Judeo-Christian principles as well as low tax, smaller government, work ethic credos or beliefs, typically beneficial for small business, is also the party with conservative principles.
Regardless, it appears this early immigrant factor, combined with the naivety of millennials and later generations (according to credible research the majority of Millennials state that Socialism is a desirable form of government) ensure a statistical numerical voter advantage for the progressives over the next 5-7 years. This advantage may persist long enough to allow progressives to alter the balance of power and enact legislation that permanently suppresses conservative political power.
The Extinction of Common Courtesy
Aside from a posable digit, the other human development that distinguishes us is the existence of common courtesy. Something most of we boomers learned from the greatest generation and, with diminishing success, attempted to pass on to our children.
Common courtesy has been very strongly present in western societies. In a number of cultures around the world common courtesy is not a thing. A strong caste system exists supposedly empowering some to treat those “beneath them” with indifference or distain. These tribes to nations, some with the capability of considerably dominant military-style violence, can go well beyond the absence of common courtesy to unconscionable, soulless, wanton destruction of homes, schools, cities and, most egregiously, human life on an unimaginable scale.
In America, the disintegration of common courtesy is more subtle. During the past three decades, so many here appear to be so crazed with the pressure of everyday modern life that they have little time for common courtesy in driving, shopping, and virtually every facet of their so-called lives.
A significant catalyst to this elixir of anxiety is the coddling of violent criminals and the identification of criminals as victims. Most people with common sense as their guide cannot fathom how we came to this place where the world seems so up-side-down. Where government has thrown up their hands when it comes to adequately dealing with mental illness. With illegal guns so readily available to felons and the severely disturbed alike, guns become the easier target of outrage instead of demanding government successfully address mental illness and the incarceration of dangerous criminals.
It’s no wonder half the country is on Xanax (or other similar potions) and the other half are frequently doing neurotic, manic and even psychotic things causing that other half to have so much anxiety that they are taking Xanax all day every day. It’s a manic world we live in. Which causes one to ponder, where do we go from here?
1Rules of the Road and the Golden Rule of Driving – 2022 | DMV Practice Tests (puedomanejar.com)
2 Right of Way in Every (Driving) Situation (defensivedriving.org)
Walter Becker – Jazzy, Bluesy, Rock Rhythm Section Genius
Few bands, more accurately, songwriting and performing duos like Becker and Fagen, remain supremely relevant for more than one or two albums let alone decades as in the case of the Becker-Fagen creation “Steely Dan”. Clearly their work evolved and arguably improved over the years but always stayed true to the Steely Dan style; so distinctive and brilliant.
Walter Becker was a classic nerd musician always tinkering with technology but had a visceral, uncanny sense of style that is found eminently present in every studio effort regardless of the use of ever advancing technological aids. This, combined with the abandonment of a “band” construct notion, led to masterful collaboration efforts with partner Donald Fagen and a host of the best session players the industry had to offer. The premise for reaching their creative musical goals was simple; seek perfection and then surpass it until perfection was achieved with natural ease. By engaging the best musicians in the business, these surrogates became virtual band members for a single track or two. Very specific guidance, followed by focused rehearsal, led to achieving the exact desired sound. Repeated rehearsal gradually gave way to a natural ease in achieving the precise musical performance recorded in a fashion that implied those engaged had spent years perfecting this beautiful sound.
As American Songwriter so well describes, “because Becker & Fagen’s song spirits were forever linked, as people they were different. Walter was a genial, funny and intellectual guy. He produced Rickie Lee Jones’ great Flying Cowboys, one of many non-Steely projects which distinguish the Becker sensibility. Like his own solo albums, it’s got a looser, funkier vibe, more bluesy and acoustic than electric jazzy, and with a gentle, crystalline focus of purity on each song.
Asked how to describe him, Rickie Lee said, “Well, you know he is way smarter than the other humans.”
It’s true. As Dan fans know well already. As soulfully funky, precise, fluid and expansive were their songs and records, it is the sheer brilliance of their accomplishment – their ability to wed the complex harmonies of jazz with the groove and funk of rock and R&B, combined with lyrics of richly dimensional, often sardonic humor – that distinguishes the Dan forever.”2
As noted in The Pitch piece by Stephen Thomas Erlewine, “Donald Fagen fronted Steely Dan but that was a matter of circumstance….Fagen took over vocal duties but Becker remained somewhat in the shadows, especially after Steely Dan retired from the road in 1975 so they could craft albums with the best studio musicians money could buy. This raised a question: if Steely Dan could hire the best guitarists in the world, why would they need Becker to play a solo?
The answer is pretty simple: Steely Dan always favored “feel.” Those endless hours in the studio were a quest for the right sound, one with precision and vibe—the kind of sound Becker could achieve. Once he and Fagen holed up in the studio, he started to play more guitar, not less, soloing on nearly half of their 1977 landmark Aja. Becker developed a fluid style, one based on the blues but as fleet as hard bop. It was the perfect complement to Fagen‘s keyboards, adding a bit of grit to the sophisticated chords and rhythms. This hint of dirtiness also underlined how the characters populating Steely Dan songs were often unsavory types; underneath that shiny surface, there was dirt.
Since it’s impossible to discern precisely what lyrics belong to either Becker or Fagen—the two shared the same sardonic sensibility and gift for wordplay, something that becomes evident on the pair’s solo albums, records that feel as if they’re part of the Steely Dan canon—guitar winds up as the place where it’s the easiest to hear Walter Becker’s individual voice. Alternately sharp and eloquent, his solos suit the beautiful, cynical spirit of Steely Dan.
Pretzel Logic is the first of Steely Dan’s albums to be recorded with numerous studio musicians and this coincided with Walter Becker dropping bass for guitar. On the title track for this 1974 record, Becker doesn’t have the finesse of Jeff “Skunk” Baxter or Denny Dias—the recording fades out as he’s bending notes as if he’s in a garage rock band—but this rawness suits the song’s loping, winking blues.
Like “Pretzel Logic,” “Black Friday”—the opening track to 1975‘s Katy Lied—is a blues song, but this one is hyper-charged and filled with complicated chords. Against this cloistered swing, Becker spits out shards of blues runs. It’s tense but his solo also benefits from elongated phrases that make his flurries of notes sting harder.
Arriving right after “Black Friday” on Katy Lied, “Bad Sneakers” is the song’s polar opposite: a jazzy, hooky slice of elegant isolation. Becker’s solo is wonderful, its long phrases seeming especially lyrical when contrasted with the band’s hard swing.
The concluding cut on Aja, “Josie” finds Becker playing off Fagen’s vocal, at first mimicking the melody before sliding into a solo that pushes the song from its soul foundation toward jazz. On an album as impeccable as this—the VH1 Classic Albums documentary on its making is a masterclass on album production—it’s notable that Becker’s solo has an airiness that gives the illusion that it was tossed off, not constructed with an ear for every slight pause.”1
The pitch piece goes on further describing subsequent efforts by the duo after Aja in an attempt to exhaust their creative magma below the lava dome. The truth is, unlike many quality songwriters who experience a single yet cataclysmic display of talent, Becker and Fagen’s ability to tell stories about life in a beautifully melodic and profoundly lyrical fashion seemed inexhaustible. They continued to constantly attempt to surpass themselves, and together, to achieve more than what many thought were previous seminal and final efforts.
Finally, American Songwriter notes, “Steely Dan was a band formed around a songwriting collaboration, that of….Walter Becker & Donald Fagen….It was always about their brilliance, their friendship, and their singular mission of merging soul and rock with jazz in compelling, sardonic and remarkable songs.”1
Together, Becker and Fagen were a precious gift and inspired match. The fact that they came together at all is arguably fodder for fate devotees versus those who see divine intervention. Their musicality presented itself through brilliance with different instruments but their dazzling collaborations in song writing, arranging and production can be described as unsurpassed in a generation of immense talent spanning the sixties through the nineties. Yet Becker can be singled out for his brilliance in all those things but especially in his rhythm section support of melodic genius.
18 Songs That Show Walter Becker’s Brilliance | Pitchfork
2The Secret Soul of Steely Dan: Walter Becker – American Songwriter