Archive for May, 2008

Playing the Cherokee Cane Flute

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

Candace and her buddies recorded a bunch of wedding songs last Saturday at Rich Adler’s studio that Candace and Janne Henshaw had written for various weddings of friends, Candace’s daughter, and for other wedding gigs. The plan is to put up a website and offer custom wedding songs to people.

I hadn’t planned on staying for the whole session. Recording sessions are basically very boring affairs, sitting around doing multiple takes of the same song, and agonizing over what are, to me, minuscule deviations from perfection. But I wound up staying for the whole thing. The music was fabulous, the repartee and the vibes were sublime. I couldn’t tear myself away. It was fun. Besides Candace, Janne, and Carol Levack doing the vocals, there was Al Goll on dobro, Todd Lombardo on guitar, and Rick Diamond on stand-up bass.

At one of the gigs that Candace, Janne, and I did for a wedding at a 3,000 acre estate in East Tennessee, complete with airstrip, I played a blessing on the Cherokee cane flute just before the vows. So at the recording session, I got to play a little minute long improvisation on the cane flute, which you can listen to here.

And here’s another one of Candace’s songs that got recorded at the same session. It’s not a wedding song, but it’s beautiful, one of my favorites. It’s called Wandering Indiana.

Cognitive Dissonance: The Candidates and the Issues

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Where they each stand on each issue, and what the actual truth is on each issue. Everything in quotes is either a direct quote from the candidate, or a quote from the candidate’s web site.

Issue: Global Warming (or is it now climate change? I can’t keep up.)

Obama: “I believe it’s one of the greatest moral challenges of our generation.”

Clinton: “It will take a movement for change from the ground up.”

McCain: “…climate change and energy independence is a national security issue.”

The Truth: There has been no increase in global temperature for the last ten years. In fact there has been a slight decrease. Even the alarmists are now saying there won’t be any temperature increase for the next ten years either. But after 2018, boy, watch out! This is a giant hoax, designed to bring wealth and power to its advocates. The polar bears are not in danger. McCain is at least right about energy independence, from oil, being a national security issue.

Issue: The Gas Tax Holiday

McCain: drivers would “have a little money left over, maybe to buy a better meal, maybe to buy something for their kids.”

Obama: “a phony scheme that nobody thinks is going to work.”

Clinton: “…her proposal would save the average family $70 this summer, and she would ensure the oil companies will pay through her windfall-profits tax.”

The Truth: The oil companies have a much smaller profit margin than Microsoft or Apple. Why not take away their windfall profits? Over half of the shareholders of oil companies are pension funds and asset management firms, i.e., just folks. Why should anyone make a profit? Let’s take them all away. The average oil company makes ten cents on a gallon of gas. The federal government makes twice that. If you live in New York, each gallon costs an extra 68 cents in state and federal taxes. The oil companies will just pass through any increase in their costs as higher prices, so nobody will save anything. Obama gets a gold star on this one.

Issue: Iraq

Clinton: “Our message to the president is clear. It is time to begin ending this war — not next year, not next month — but today.”

McCain: “I do not want to keep our troops in Iraq a minute longer than necessary to secure our interests there. Our goal is an Iraq that can stand on its own as a democratic ally and a responsible force for peace in its neighborhood. Our goal is an Iraq that no longer needs American troops. And I believe we can achieve that goal, perhaps sooner than many imagine. But I do not believe that anyone should make promises as a candidate for President that they cannot keep if elected. To promise a withdrawal of our forces from Iraq, regardless of the calamitous consequences to the Iraqi people, our most vital interests, and the future of the Middle East, is the height of irresponsibility. It is a failure of leadership.”

Obama: “Obama will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months. Obama will make it clear that we will not build any permanent bases in Iraq.”

The Truth: What McCain said.

Issue: The Economy

McCain: “Cutting the corporate tax will expand the U.S. economy, creating jobs and opportunities for prosperity.”

Clinton: This is the most specific prescription for the economy that I could find from Hillary clinton: “To jumpstart our investment in alternative energy, I will establish a $50 billion Strategic Energy Fund to develop clean energy technologies like biomass and bio-fuels grown right here in Iowa to combat global warming and end our dependence on foreign oil.”

Obama: “He will use trade agreements to spread good labor and environmental standards around the world and stand firm against agreements like the Central American Free Trade Agreement that fail to live up to those important benchmarks.”

The Truth: The President has almost nothing to do with the economy. The Congress can hurt the economy, but can’t really do much to help it. The government does not create wealth. Private enterprise, especially small businesses, create wealth. The less the government does about the economy, usually the better for us all. So-called “regulation” is almost always legislation designed to shore up and protect monopolies and oligopolies, and is bought and paid for by campaign contributions from large corporations. Fortunately, we now know that Obama doesn’t really mean any of the nonsense he has said about NAFTA. That’s a relief. McCain is dead-on right about the corporate tax, which should ideally be zero. What a crock, making people believe that if we tax corporations, we are somehow not taxing people.

Issue: Health Care

Obama: “If you already have health insurance, the only thing that will change for you under this plan is the amount of money you will spend on premiums. That will be less. If you are one of the 45 million Americans who don’t have health insurance, you will have it after this plan becomes law. No one will be turned away because of a preexisting condition or illness.”

McCain: “While still having the option of employer-based coverage, every family will also have the option of receiving a direct refundable tax credit – effectively cash – of $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families to offset the cost of insurance. Families will be able to choose the insurance provider that suits them best and the money would be sent directly to the insurance provider. Those obtaining innovative insurance that costs less than the credit can deposit the remainder in expanded Health Savings Accounts.”

Clinton: “Hillary’s American Health Choices Plan covers all Americans and improves health care by lowering costs and improving quality. It speaks to American values, American families, and American jobs.”

The Truth: Four things need to happen to improve health care availability: 1. Health care insurance must be separated from employment. 2. Federal and state regulations restricting what types of health care insurance are allowed to be offered, must be removed. 3. Health savings accounts must be available to everyone. 4. Individual health care insurance (and savings accounts) must be tax-deductable. McCain is the only one saying anything close to this. That government take-over of health care will improve efficiency and lower costs is bs.

Issue: Supreme Court Appointments

Obama: “We need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that’s the criteria by which I’m going to be selecting my judges.”

McCain: “My nominees will understand that there are clear limits to the scope of judicial power, and clear limits to the scope of federal power.” He likes Roberts and Scalia, but maybe not necessarily Alito, and he voted for Bork.

Clinton: “As the Supreme Court recognized in Roe v. Wade in 1973, this issue is complex and highly personal; the rights and lives of women must be taken into account. It is precisely this erosion of our constitutional rights that I warned against when I opposed the nominations of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito.”

The Truth: I can’t really claim to be the arbiter of objective truth here. Clarence Thomas is my favorite justice, so, given the alternatives, I like McCain.

Issue: Abortion
Who cares? What’s the Presidency got to do with it? If Roe v. Wade is overturned, it won’t make any difference anyway.

Issue: Gay Marriage (Is this still an issue?)
See Abortion. The only thing I wish is that this wouldn’t be dictated by the courts. If a majority votes for it, fine, go ahead, make marriage meaningless.

Brains are Doing It for Themselves

Monday, May 12th, 2008

This is an interesting article about Google, about it’s a great place to work, so why are so many people leaving? To paraphrase the Eurythmics and Aretha, brains are doing it for themselves. I was just thinking the other day that there must be a huge brain drain happening at Microsoft. The days of becoming a millionaire from stock options are over. Microsoft is not doing anything exciting or interesting. The original smart people have all already cashed out. Microsoft has a terrible reputation among the cognoscenti. Why would anyone want to work there? They’ve always hired people mostly straight out of college with no experience, at low wages, who join for the cachet and the stock options. But there is no cachet or stock options anymore. They must be getting the Computer Science dregs these days.

Google is another matter of course. They may be slightly on the downside of the glory days, but they are still a happening company. However, the internet, and Google for that matter, are bringing about the age of the individual entrepreneur. Being one myself, I can say that all of the stresses and sacrifices of being on one’s own and trying to start a business from scratch, are made up for by not having to put up with jerks and fools. I lament the many years I spent taking orders from idiots and making other people rich.

These guys who are leaving Google are leaving with vastly more money than I have ever had, access to venture capital, youth, and considerably more technical chops. Of course they’re leaving! I’m very happy being out here on my own, but I only did it because I had no other choice, and after two years of no income, I make a middle-class living. The ex-Googlers have options I’ve never dreamed of.

As the future unfolds, this is going to be a problem for every company that succeeds and becomes huge as a result. They will lose all their brains, the only capital asset that matters anymore, become stupid, and die. Microsoft is now in a death spiral, albeit a very slow one. Google is not there yet, but the end is inevitable. Not that Google will disappear. They will become a utility. Everyone who has played Monopoly knows what the utilities are worth. Microsoft, on the other hand, will just go under.

Apple is somewhat of an anomaly. It is really an example of an individual entrepreneur. It is Steve Job’s baby. You can still get rich on options there, and it is exciting, and has plenty of cachet, but without Steve Jobs, Apple is dead meat. Apple stock is my entire retirement plan, and so far it is working out nicely. As long as Steve Jobs is alive, Apple will continue to take market share from Microsoft until it is all gone. They will also become the dominant player in music, TV, and movies. At that point, they may become a utility, but I will have already retired.

Not So Fast

Thursday, May 8th, 2008
The media chorus is unanimous. The race is over. Barack Obama has won. Hillary should drop out. Tim Russert and Time Magazine have declared the winner, and it is Barack Obama. No it isn’t. He doesn’t have enough delegates to be the nominee. Neither does Hillary. It is mathematically impossible, as we are constantly reminded, for Hillary Clinton to win enough delegates in the remaining primaries to clinch the nomination. What is never mentioned is that it is also mathematically impossible for Obama to win enough delegates in the remaining primaries to clinch the nomination.

The nomination will be decided by the superdelegates. The superdelegates have not yet weighed in. Why would that be, I wonder? Could it be because they are waiting to see what will happen? Does Tim Russert know what is going to happen? It doesn’t seem crazy to me at all to think that something might happen between now and the end of June that would cause the superdelegates to vote for Hillary, or that would cause the Florida votes to be counted. What if Tony Rezko fingers Obama? Obviously the superdelegates agree with me. If they thought the race was over, they would say so. They, and they alone, have the power to make it be over.

The pundits have so far been wrong about pretty much everything in this election season. A couple of weeks ago, the conventional “wisdom” was that Obama was going to win Indiana. Now that Hillary has won, the CW is that she didn’t win by enough. A big deal is being made of Obama’s double digit win in North Carolina, a win that is entirely the result of his 91% share of the black vote. In the general election, the Democratic candidate will win 91% of the black vote no matter who it is. Hillary won a majority of the votes in North Carolina that will matter in the general election.

The degree to which the mainstream media is in the tank for Obama is truly stunning. I understand being in love with the idea of Obama. Electing our first black President would be a wonderful thing on so many levels, but this blatant rush to judgment is unusually unprofessional.