Sorry GOP, Trickle Down Economics has NEVER really worked. 

After watching the news this morning I Googled: Does Trickle Down Economics Work? I was a teenager in the1980’s and I remember Reagan’s Tax plan along with Government Spending getting us out of the recession. It helped end the cold war at the time because the USSR simply could not keep up. BUT- It also left us in dept.

Why Trickle Down Economic Works in Theory But Not in Fact

shoppers-homeless trickledown
The benefits of tax cuts for high income earners and businesses are supposed to trickle down to everyone. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Definition: Trickle-down economics is a theory that says benefits for the wealthy trickle down to everyone else. These benefits are usually tax cuts on businesses, high-income earners, capital gains and dividends.

Trickle-down economics assumes investors, savers and company owners are the real drivers of growth. It assumes they’ll use any extra cash from tax cuts to expand businesses. Investors will buy more companies or stocks.

Banks will increase business lending. Owners will invest in their operations and hire workers. The theory says these workers will spend their wages, driving demand and economic growth.

Trickle-Down Economic Theory

Trickle-down economic theory is similar to supply-side economics. That theory states that all tax cuts, whether for businesses or workers, spur economic growth. Trickle-down theory is more specific. It says targeted tax cuts work better than general ones. It advocates cuts to corporations, capital gains and savings taxes. It doesn’t promote across-the-board tax cuts. Instead, the tax cuts go to the wealthy.

Both trickle-down and supply-side economists use the Laffer Curve to prove their theories. Arthur Laffer showed how tax cuts provide a powerful multiplication effect. Over time, they create enough growth to replace the government revenue lost from the cuts. That’s because the expanded, prosperous economy provides a larger tax base.

But Laffer warned that this effect works best when taxes are in the “Prohibitive Range.” This range goes from a 100 percent tax rate down to some hypothetical rate somewhere in the middle. If the tax rate falls below this range, then further cuts will only lower government revenue without stimulating economic growth.

Did It Work?

During the Reagan Administration, it seemed like trickle-down economics worked. His policies, known as Reaganomics, helped end the 1980 recession.

Reagan cut taxes significantly. The top tax rate fell from 70 percent (for those earning $108,000+) to 28 percent (for anyone with an income of $18,500 or more). Reagan also cut the corporate tax rate from 46-40 percent.

Trickle-down economics was not the only reason for the recovery, though. Reagan also increased government spending by 2.5 percent a year.

That almost tripled the federal debt. It grew from $997 billion in 1981 to $2.85 trillion in 1989. Most of the new spending went to defense. It supported Reagan’s successful efforts to end the Cold War and bring down the Soviet Union. Trickle-down economics, in its pure form, was never tested. It’s just as likely that massive government spending ended the recession. (Source: William A. Niskanen, “Reaganomics,” Library of Economics and Liberty.)

President George W. Bush used trickle-down theory to address the 2001 recession. He cut income taxes with EGTRRA. That ended the recession by November of that year.

But unemployment rose to 6 percent. That often occurs, because unemployment is a lagging indicator.

It takes time for companies to start hiring again, even after a recession has ended. Nevertheless, Bush cut business taxes with JGTRRA in 2003.

It appeared that the tax cuts worked. But, at the same time, the Federal Reserve lowered the fed funds rate. It fell from 6 percent to 1 percent.  It’s unclear whether tax cuts or another monetary policy caused the recovery.

Trickle-down economics says that Reagan’s lower tax rates should have helped people in all income levels. In fact, the opposite occurred. Income inequality worsened. Between 1979 and 2005, after-tax household income rose 6 percent for the bottom fifth. That sounds great until you see what happened for the top fifth. Their income increased by 80 percent. The top 1 percent saw their income triple. Instead of trickling down, it appears that prosperity trickled up.

(Source: Steven Greenhouse, The Big Squeeze, pp.6-9.)

Why Trickle-Down Economics Is Relevant Today

Despite its shortcomings, Republicans use trickle-down economic theory to guide policy. In 2017, Republican President Donald Trump proposed cutting taxes for the wealthy. He also wants to end taxes on capital gains and dividends for everyone making less than $50,000 a year. Trump’s tax plan would reduce the corporate tax rate to 15 percent. He said it would boost growth enough to make up for the debt increase.

In 2010, the Tea Party movement rode into power during the midterm elections. They wanted to cut government spending and taxes. As a result, Congress extended the Bush tax cuts, even for those making $250,000 or more.

Today the GOP led senate will try to pass a bill that will largly benefit big corporations and the already rich (like Trump). I believe it was Senator Lindsey Graham who said that his donors said, “Pass this or do not come back looking for any more contributions”. 

I do not know how this tax plan will effect me and my business. Largely because the plan has not been open to debate or overview. This is not how things should be. 

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A short course on the history of 8 Thanksgiving foods

Reading the Washington Post Thanksgiving morning I came across this article by Amanda Moniz.

(Read original article here- WASHINGTON POST)

I love two things- Food and History. This made me happy.

A short course on the history of 8 Thanksgiving foods

Ask the people around the table on Thursday about the history of Thanksgiving, and most will say something about the Pilgrims. If any Floridians or Southwesterners are present, you might find yourself in a debate about whether the first feast was held at Plymouth, St. Augustine or El Paso. Only a few might mention the Civil War.

This has been a big year for 150th anniversaries in the United States. The Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1. Gettysburg in early July. The Gettysburg Address just a few days ago. And coming up on Thursday, Thanksgiving.

True, settlers in English and Spanish colonies celebrated thanksgivings in their earliest years. And throughout the 1800s, New Englanders held such observances with their families and friends. But as a national event, the holiday dates to 1863. That year, President Lincoln proclaimed “a day of Thanksgiving and Praise” for the nation’s blessings in the face of the Civil War that was raging.

Why, then, do we associate Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims? In the late 1800s, with immigrants — Jews, Italians, Chinese, other outsiders — pouring in, America’s cultural leaders took two bits of shaky historic evidence from the early 1600s and embraced a story of a Pilgrim Thanksgiving in an effort to Americanize an increasingly diverse population.

The myth of our holiday’s Pilgrim origins took hold. But the dishes we eat at Thanksgiving? They capture other stories about the making of the American nation.

APPLE CIDER

Cider was once the national beverage. Later, unfermented, sweet cider would become more common on American tables, but before the mid-1800s, the hard stuff was the drink of choice for Americans — New Englanders most of all. Introduced to North America from Europe, apple trees grew well in the temperate climate, with many New England families pressing cider from their own orchards.

Production was so successful that in 1767, Massachusetts colonists drank an estimated average of 35 gallons of cider per person. Many believed it was more healthful and safer to drink than water. Cider was much more than a substitute for clean water, however. The good life, a young John Adams wrote in 1765, consisted of having “Bacon, and Cyder, and Books and Girl and Friend.” Adams and his fellow New Englanders had their ancestors’ ancient foes and New Englanders’ traditional menace — the French — to thank for their favorite drink. Medieval Normans had brought cider with them across the English Channel. The people they conquered in 1066 would grow to love it and eventually took it across the Atlantic on their own quest for new lands.

TURKEY

The bird on many Americans’ Thanksgiving tables today might be about the only thing that connects our national holiday with the romanticized meal in 1621 shared by Pilgrims and Indians and studied by so many generations of American schoolchildren.

William Bradford, governor of Plymouth Plantation, tells us in his account of the colony’s early years that settlers’ diets that fall included wild turkey along with venison, cod, bass, waterfowl and corn. The turkeys might have been quite welcome to the newcomers in their harsh and unfamiliar new surroundings. Thanks to their Spanish imperial rivals, the English had been enjoying the meaty bird for decades. Spaniards had encountered turkeys in their early forays in the New World and had brought the fowl back home.

Turkey became popular across Western Europe and around the Mediterranean and was one of the first American foods to be widely eaten in Europe. So well established in England was the New World bird that English settlers brought domesticated turkeys to America in the colonies’ first years.

CRANBERRY SAUCE

Although certain varieties of cranberry grow in parts of Europe, the turkey’s most popular dinner companion tells a story of New World cultural exchange. The fruit’s name is a legacy of 17th century German settlers in America. Called in medieval England “moss-berry” and other similar terms that allude to the fruit’s boggy habitat, English-speakers borrowed their German neighbors’ term “kranberee,” which refers to the long, cranelike stamens of the plant.

The fruit’s use draws on native food culture. Indigenous peoples had long raised and eaten the berries. A 1672 account of the colonies reported that “Indians and English use it much, boyling them with Sugar for a Sauce to eat with their Meat.” Cranberry sauce has been paired with turkey, in particular, since at least the 18th century. Amelia Simmons, author of “American Cookery,” published in 1796, suggested serving roast turkey with “boiled onions and cranberry-sauce.” But, she added, the turkey might also be paired with pickled mangoes, which in the 1790s were imported from India and sold in American cities. How differently might we taste and think about Thanksgiving had the tropical fruit become the typical accompaniment instead.

OYSTER STUFFING

Americans have been stuffing turkeys with oysters for centuries. Now a treat, oysters were once plentiful and for centuries were the most commonly eaten shellfish in America. At home, cooks filled turkeys and other birds with oysters to stretch the pricier fowl. They also made loaves, sauces, pies, soups and stews with the inexpensive protein.

Eaten as cooked food at home, oysters were often consumed raw from street carts, typically run by African Americans who found grueling but independent work in the oyster trade. Americans also ate their favorite shellfish at the oyster saloons that proliferated in the 19th century as stagecoaches, canals and railroads made it possible to distribute the bivalves, which had been shipped inland in the 1700s, even more readily. Although special dishes — such as oyster stuffing in New England, Oysters Rockefeller in New Orleans or Hangtown Fry in San Francisco — distinguished particular regions, by the mid-1800s, the expanding country had a national oyster market and was united in a national oyster craze.

SWEET POTATOES WITH MARSHMALLOWS

For many, the Thanksgiving meal must include sweet potatoes with marshmallows (I personally think this is GROSS). The happy marriage of the tuber with caramelized, gooey goodness owes itself to two developments of the 1800s. In the late part of the century, in the decades when the national Thanksgiving holiday took hold, Northerners discovered sweet potatoes — long eaten in the South — and incorporated them into the special meal.

Meanwhile, marshmallows had been recently invented by those culinary trendsetters, the French, who beat the roots of the marshmallow plant with egg whites and sugar to make a chewy treat. Handmade and something of a luxury at first, marshmallows became more affordable after entrepreneurs substituted more widely available gelatin for marshmallow root and, in an era that was developing mass production techniques more generally, figured out how to manufacture an affordable product on a grand scale. In 1917, the Angelus Marshmallows company distributed a recipe booklet that taught Americans how they might use marshmallows. With that, the classic pairing had arrived.

TAMALES

Relatively new to the Thanksgiving meal, tamales are one of the oldest American foods.

A Mesoamerican dish that dates back millenniums, tamales in their simplest form are masa (maize dough) wrapped in either corn husks or banana or plantain leaves, steamed and then unwrapped to be eaten. The masa can also be filled with beans, meat, vegetables or cheese.

Tamales are an everyday food but also have special places on holiday tables in Mexico and Central America. In Mexico, they are eaten at Day of the Dead celebrations in early November. In the U.S. Southwest, a region where culinary traditions have long been shaped by ties to what is now Mexico, special tamales filled with beef and red chilies are made for Christmas. Thanks to recent Latin American immigration to the United States, tamales are increasingly showing up on Thanksgiving tables as well. With a name derived from the Nahuatl word “tamalli,” this hearty newcomer to our national meal highlights the fact that Latin American immigrants often have Indian ancestry. Mexican-American Indians are now the fourth-largest native group in the United States.

RICE

Whether it’s served with beans, in risotto or pilaf, as a stuffing or simply steamed, rice has a leading place at our national meal. It also has always had a leading place as an American export crop. In the British American colonies, rice farming began in the 1600s and relied on enslaved Africans who supplied not only the brutally hard labor but also the knowledge of rice cultivation that made the crop succeed.

By the 1800s, South Carolina, the heart of the early American rice industry, exported millions of pounds of rice to the West Indies and Europe. After the Civil War, the Carolina rice industry declined and rice production shifted southwestward. Today, the United States is the third-largest rice-exporting nation in the world, with the rice industry now centered in Arkansas. On Thursday, as millions of us sit down to meals that feature rice, so, too, will millions around the world enjoy the grain, thanks to American farmers.

PUMPKIN PIE

The quintessential pie marries an indigenous American food already familiar to English colonists, thanks to the vegetable’s introduction to Europe in the 1500s, with an economical English culinary tradition of filling crust with meat, vegetable or fruit. Colonists cultivated pumpkin from their earliest years in the New World, and English cookbooks featured pumpkin pie recipes from the 1600s.

The dessert did not often show up on Thanksgiving tables until the early 1800s, but by later in the century, pumpkin pies were so closely associated with the holiday that in 1869, the (Hartford) Connecticut Courant referred to the pie, along with turkey, as the “inevitable” Thanksgiving dishes. Lately this classic has been showing up in a new guise, thanks to one of the newest movements in American cuisine: Pumpkin pie has gone vegan. Vegan cookbooks, mainstream food magazines and grocery stores feature pies made with pumpkin, tofu (for structure) and the traditional spices, but no eggs, butter or milk: Influenced, often unknowingly, by the Buddhist religion’s compassion for animals, vegans eschew eating animal products. English piemaking, a Central American vegetable, and an Asian religion meet in this new twist on an old American dessert.

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Cranberry For All Seasons

NATIVE FRUIT: CRANBERRY FOR ALL SEASONS

I have 2 passions. History and Cooking. I think in my next career I will be a food historian. Maybe put together a cook book (with a much better cook than myself- DAN KLUGER– any interest?) and have the history of main ingredients.
SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE posted this article (see original article here) My apologies for not posting the link originally. It was as unfortunate oversight and I am embarrassed by the mistake.

Is there a food in North America more intrinsically linked with the landscape of the past and nostalgically intertwined with a holiday feast than the cranberry? From Cranberry Lakes in Nova Scotia, Cranberry River of West Virginia, Cranberry Pond in Sunderland, Massachusetts, the Cranberry Isles of Maine, Cranberry Mountain in New York, Cranberry Meadow in New Jersey, and many a Cranberry Bog dotting coastal areas, the plant deserves the appellation of First or Founding Fruit. It is one of the indigenous foods in North America widely cultivated today. The narratives of the places where the berries once grew wild and of the loss of these habitats can be recovered from historical sources.

 

Long before colonists landed on the shores of New England, Native Americans harvested cranberries from peaty bogs and marshes. In the present day, the Aquinnah Wampanoags of Martha’s Vineyard celebrate their most important holiday, Cranberry Day, on the second Tuesday of October. Called sasemineash by the Narragansett and sassamenesh by the Algonquin and Wampanoag tribes, the tart berries were an important food source, as early European settlers came to discover. To make pemmican, the fruit (or another berry) was incorporated with pulverized dried fish or meat and melted tallow, and formed into cakes baked by the sun. An endurance athlete of today knows that a proper combination of fat and carbohydrates is necessary to fuel the body. Pemmican was the original power food as this provision provided energy, lasted for months, and was easily portable on long journeys. Following the Pilgrims reliance on the fruit, cranberries became vital for North American fur traders and explorers during the long winter months.

We proceeded to Cranberry Lake, so called from the great quantities of cranberries growing in the swamps … this was one inducement for settling here which was increased by the prospect of a plentiful supply of fish, rice and cranberries … —  John Long in Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader (London: Printed for the Author, 1791)

Native Americans also made the first cranberry sauce. Poet, lawyer and chronicler of the French exploration of Acadia (Maine and the Maritimes in Canada) Marc Lescarbot (c. 1570-1641) observed natives eating cranberry sauce with meats in the early 17th century. He also came to the conclusion that cranberry jelly was excellent for dessert.

Everywhere there is life, spreading mats of crowberry and the beautiful coast juniper where they are deluged by the ocean spray in winter storms; clothing wind-swept granite heights, wherever there is crack or cranny soil can gather in, with partridge-berry, blueberry, and mountain cranberry; penetrating the forest shade and profiting by the dense northern covering of leafy humus that it finds there; and rich, wherever nature has not been disturbed, in infinite variety—of mosses, fungus growths and ferns as well as flowering plants. Few forests in the world, indeed, outside the rainy tropics, clothe themselves with such abundant life, and there are none that bring one more directly into touch with nature, its wildness and its charm. Histoire de Nouvelle-France, 1609 (Purchase translation link here)

 

 

However, cranberry sauce was likely not shared between the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony and the Wampanoag Nation, who had been harvesting cranberries for 12,000 years.

There is a cousin to the red cranberry in England (Vaccinium oxycoccos), and sour fruit sauces or relishes there were traditionally served with meat. Colonists soon adapted the acidic, native cranberry to a familiar cuisine where fruits were often used in both sweet and savory dishes. One of the earliest references of meat being eaten with cranberries is in John Josselyn’s New-Englands Rarities Discovered (printed in London in 1672). This is a charming narrative of the author’s long stays and a catalog of what he saw and learned in the New World in 1638 and, returning, in 1663.

The Indians and English use them [cranberries] much, boyling them with Sugar for Sauce to eat with their Meate, and it is a delicate sauce, especially for Roast Mutton. Some make tarts with Them as with Goose Berries. — New-Englands Rarities Discovered

 

By the mid-17th century, with the growth of the slave trade from the West Indies (Barbados, Jamaica and the Leeward Islands), sugar became widely available in New England and cranberries were used more frequently in pies and tarts. In honor of present-day Thanksgiving traditions we will mention that Josselyn also observed “pompions” (pumpkin) pie and for the first time in print fully describes the wild turkey.

 

 

The plant was named “craneberry” by Europeans for the resemblance of the berry flowers in June to the sandhill crane; how the flowers bend to the ground, arcing like the crane; or, perhaps, how the birds favored the berries. Mossberry and fenberries were other names (fen, along with swamps, another spongy place), as was bounce berries (as you can imagine). And, from the reliable, observant Josselyn:

Cran Berry or Bear Berry, because Bears use much to feed upon them, is a small trayling Plant, that grows in Marshes, that are overgrown with moss; the tender Branches (which  are reddish) run out in great length, lying flat on the ground, when at distances they take root, overspreading half a score of acres … — New-Englands Rarities Discovered

The English author was interested in the healing properties of organic materials as applied by Native Americans (whom he admired) and settlers (he was not so fond of the Bay Colony Puritans). So Josselyn relays the information that cranberries “are excellent for the Scurvey. They are also good to allay the furvour of hot Diseases.” Apart from fevers, other medicinal uses of cranberries by the indigenous populations included poultice for wounds, and treatment for indigestion, swelling, blood poisoning, and seasickness.

Cranberries have loads of vitamin C and benzoic acid, a natural preservative, so they made a perfect ship’s provision stored in barrels. Thus, they became a desired commodity in the Atlantic World.

When carefully gathered in the Fall, in dry weather, and as carefully packed in casks with moist sugar, they will keep for years, and are annually sent to England in considerable quantities as presents, where they are much esteemed. When the ships have remained in the Bay so late that the Cranberries are ripe, some of the Captains have carried them home in water with great success. – Samuel Hearne, A Journey from Prince of Wales’s Fort in Hudson’s Bay, to the Northern Ocean (London: Printed for A. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1795)

 

 

Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon), wild in only certain parts of the Northeast and Pacific Northwest, are not an easy plant to grow commercially. Uncultivated stands of cranberry are now rare but Native Americans once had large ranges to harvest and no need to cultivate the berries as a source for the food. The cranberry plant is particular to its environment, with a short Fall season, needing acidic soil, coarse sand, abundant water, and lack of frost while growing. But beginning in 1816, Revolutionary War veteran Henry Hall, captain of the schooner Viana, began successfully to cultivate vines in Massachusetts. By then, the wild environment was quickly receding in America, along with the naturally growing indigenous fruit and the native inhabitants.

Thus, there are layers to the story before cranberries became a major commercial crop. Early writings found in the Smithsonian Libraries help to recover and inform an early cultural history of the native cranberry—along with the blueberry and Concord grape—the most American of fruits.

 

Notes

Sarah Whitman-Salkin, “Cranberries, a Thanksgiving Staple, Were a Native American Superfood,” for National Geographic, November 28, 2013 (link here).

“Cranberries: The Most Intriguing North American Fruit,” The American Phytopathological Society site.

“A Brief History of Cranberries,” Smithsonian.com

“When New England was New” (link)

Stephen A. Cole and Linda S. Gifford. The Cranberry: Hard Work and Holiday Sauce. Gardiner, Maine: Tilbury House Publishers, 2009.

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FEMA Is Spending Billions, and Some Questionable Companies Are Getting Work

Source: FEMA Is Spending Billions, and Some Questionable Companies Are Getting Work – Bloomberg

FEMA Is Spending Billions, and Some Questionable Companies Are Getting Work

A surge in disaster contracts from hurricanes has put the agency under pressure to bypass the usual competitive bidding process.
Volunteers and U.S. Virgin Islands National Guardsmen distribute hurricane-relief supplies to local residents on Oct. 10.

This year’s record hurricane season has led to the biggest spike in government disaster contracts in more than a decade, testing the government’s ability to manage the unpredictable and growing costs of climate change. Since Hurricane Harvey struck Texas on Aug. 25, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has awarded $2.2 billion in contracts, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Government. That’s about twice what the agency typically awards over an entire year.

With parts of Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico in desperate need of help, FEMA is under pressure to put money to work as fast as possible. One way to speed things up is to bypass the usual competitive bidding process. In the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, FEMA awarded $178 million in noncompete contracts, more than twice as much as the year before. The danger in sidestepping competitive bidding is that the government may pay more than it needs to and that companies may not get the necessary scrutiny. And with 85 percent of its staff deployed to cope with the effects of natural disasters around the country, FEMA’s personnel may have a harder time than usual making sure contractors are doing their jobs. “There’s not enough people to go around,” says Sandra Knight, a former deputy associate administrator at FEMA who’s now at Dawson & Associates, a Washington consulting firm. “They’re moving 200 miles an hour.”

Federal watchdogs have warned FEMA about situations like this. In 2015 the U.S. Government Accountability Office found the agency still hadn’t fully implemented changes to its contracting process that were legislated by Congress after Hurricane Katrina. It cited FEMA’s “risk of developing gaps in contract oversight during major disasters.” Kirstjen Nielsen, President Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Homeland Security, was George W. Bush’s head of the Homeland Security Council Prevention, Preparedness and Response directorate. That body was “at the apex of the policy coordination framework for responding to Hurricane Katrina,” according to the 2006 Katrina postmortem by a congressional commission.

One risk is that contractors with questionable track records get taxpayer money again. Since Harvey, FEMA has awarded $215 million to a company called Composite Analysis Group Inc. to provide bottled water. According to a federal contractor database, Composite Analysis is also called Lipsey Mountain Spring Water Inc., which got $81 million in 2005 for services that included providing bottled water to areas hit by Hurricane Katrina. Lipsey missed at least 9 of 14 deadlines, failed to document its orders properly, submitted “improper or inaccurate documentation,” and was paid $881,000 in unsupported costs, the U.S. Department of Defense’s inspector general later concluded. Composite Analysis didn’t respond to a request for comment. FEMA declined to answer questions about its vetting of the company.

On Oct. 2, FEMA awarded $1.6 million to Inner Parish Security Corp. The U.S. Department of Laborfound that Inner Parish committed hundreds of federal wage and labor violations dating back to at least 2002, according to records reviewed by Bloomberg, some on FEMA contracts. Inner Parish didn’t return calls seeking comment. FEMA declined to answer questions about whether it knew about the company’s legal history when deciding to award or continue the latest contract. 

While some FEMA money went to large public corporations, including International Business Machines, Verizon Communications, and Envision Healthcare, millions also went to smaller companies with limited records of disaster relief. On Sept. 5, Gibbco LLC got a $74 million award to build mobile homes for Hurricane Harvey victims. Gibbco’s only public presence is a GoDaddy website, which lists neither a phone number, an email address, nor information about who runs the company. According to a contract database run by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Gibbco has five employees and annual revenue of $200,000; the address listed as its headquarters belongs to a house in a residential neighborhood in Longwood, Fla.

A phone call to a number associated with the company was answered by a man who refused to provide his name or answer questions, saying only, “We don’t give information away unless it’s approved by the government.” He referred questions to FEMA, which declined to answer them.

David Berteau, chief executive of the Professional Services Council, a trade group that represents federal contractors, says FEMA usually vets companies in advance of natural disasters. But during a hurricane season like this, the agency often needs to expand its list of vendors. “You’ve got to take the best you can get,” he says. —With Daniel Flatley and Susan Decker

BOTTOM LINE – Since Hurricane Harvey hit, FEMA has given out $2.2 billion in contracts, some of which are being awarded to companies with past violations for similar work.
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10 Best Things About Booze

1. It shines a light in the darkness.

“When I need a light inside me, I walk into a pub and drink 15 pints of beer.”

—Shane MacGowan

It happens to everyone.  You wake up submerged in a pitch black mood where the whole shebang seems an immense waste of time. When any and every move you could possibly make not only seems ill-advised, but a sure path to utter ruin.

Then you have a drink. You may have to force yourself to do it, because even drinking seems a big hassle. Suddenly the weight of the world shifts a little off your neck, not much, but enough to notice. Then you have another and, you know, things still suck, but it isn’t the end of the world, for crissakes. Then you have a third and a sliver of light pierces the gloom and you can actually make out the dim shapes of some of the good things around you. Six or seven more down the pipe and—Shazam!—you’re not only out of the pit of gloom, you’ve somehow managed to leap atop some gaudy and magnificent peak, surrounded by vast rolling plains of hope and opportunity.

Oh, sure, there will always be those who will shrill that it is false optimism driven by a chemical reaction in the brain, but so what? As any motivational speaker will tell you, a positive attitude, attained by whatever means, is the first step toward accomplishing anything of value.

Where there’s hooch, there’s hope.

 

 

Inflames2. It inflames the imagination.

“For art to exist, for any sort of aesthetic activity to exist, a certain physiological precondition is indispensable—intoxication.”

—Friedrich Nietzsche

 

It’s no wonder teetotaler artists and writers are especially eager to rail against alcohol—drinking provides an unfair advantage. It’s steroids for the creative set. It not only allows you to look at something from a fresh angle, it pries open the door to the subconscious, the primordial muck from which all ideas spring.

The Roman philosopher Seneca said, “Drunkenness is nothing but voluntary madness,” and he was dead right. Applied liberally, alcohol makes you go out of your mind, and by that I mean it allows you to poke your head out of whatever mental rut you’re trudging along in. Which is important, because that ditch doesn’t offer much of a view.

Granted, some of the sheen and shine will fall off those grand ideas come morning, but a few nuggets will almost always glitter from those ink-stained cocktail napkins.

 

 

Unity3. It unites the tribe.

“The secret of drunkenness is that it insulates us in thought, whilst it unites us in feeling.”

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Thanks to TV, the Internet, cell phones, telecommuting, pharmaceuticals and video games, the average person presently spends more time physically alone than in any other era in human history. It’s an irony of the times—technology brought us out of the caves and into the cities and now it’s leading us back to the caves. We’ve been reduced to hermits shouting at one another from digital windows.

Which is no way to go through life, if you ask me.  Communicating with a fellow human through fiber optics and satellite signals may be convenient, but it’s a sorry substitute for face-to-face contact.

There is nothing like alcohol to get you out of your cave and into the crowd. A handful of drinks and you suddenly feel the world could well benefit from your exalted presence. It makes you want to seek out human companionship, and once found, it sheds the veils behind which we hide. Put 20 strangers in a room and serve them water, and you’ll get some strained conversation at best. Give them booze and you’ve got yourself a party. Unrestrained laughter breaks the surface tension, friendships are formed, romance is sparked.

You’ll eventually return to your cave, to be sure, but perhaps you’ll bring someone back with you.

 

 

Unity4. It makes you more human.

“In a world where there is a law against people ever showing their emotions, or ever releasing themselves from the grayness of their days, a drink is not a social tool. It is a thing you need in order to live.”

    —Jimmy Breslin

During a typical day, the average person’s emotional pendulum swings perhaps ten degrees in either direction, from mild annoyance (spilling a cup of coffee on your desk) to mild amusement (a coworker spilling a cup of coffee in his lap). Baring your emotions, society has taught us, equates vulnerability, which is another word for weakness. We’re not only encouraged to keep our emotions off our sleeves, but buried deep inside, where they can keep our ulcers company. And there we are, glorified monkeys who learned to make machines, and now, for some inexplicable reason, we’re attempting to become those very machines.

Which is a sad state of affairs. The finest examples of humanity, all the great figures in history and legend, were men and women who roared through life with an excess of passion.

And there’s nothing like booze to fan the fires of passion that smolder within. It serves as an emotional catalyst, it gives that pendulum a shove, allowing it to swing in a broad arc. It lends you the energy and excuse to exercise the full gamut of human emotion, from righteous Moses-coming-down-the-mountain rage to deepest, purest romantic love. (And on a good evening, both within the space of five minutes.)

Sober, we are soulless robots and about as fun. Drunk, we are cavorting monkeys willing to have a good time. Which would you rather be?

 

 

Unity5. It’s a sure path to adventure.

“It’s like gambling somehow. You go out for a night of drinking and you don’t know where you’re going to end up the next day. It could work out good or it could be disastrous. It’s like the throw of the dice.”

Jim Morrison

 

Daring  types once sought out adventure by setting out to the edges of civilization with loads of expedition gear. Now that the edges of civilization have overlapped, the bold must find adventure in familiar surroundings, they must eke it out of the commonplace.

For adventure to exist, two elements must be in place: risk and the courage to engage it. Alcohol provides both, in spades. Which is why the daring presently set out for the nearest bar and load up on booze.

Inebriation increases the possibility of adventure by pumping up the X Factor. No matter how well you become acquainted with the effects of drinking, there is always the possibility something unpredictable will happen, especially when you consider those around you are tempting the same fates with every lift of their glass.

Booze also lends you the necessary courage to face that inherent danger, it instills the confidence and devil-may-care attitude essential to taking that first step into the metaphorical jungle.

Now, some may decry this brand of bravery as “Dutch” or false courage, but what does it matter from which quarter courage springs? Do you think Genghis Khan gave a damn whether it was bloodlust, loyalty to his command, or a bellyful of fermented mare’s milk that encouraged his horseman to swoop down on a rival tribe?

Nowadays people crave the thrill of adventure but would prefer to do without the danger, which is ridiculous. That’s not adventure, that’s a ride at Disneyland.

Drinkers are risk takers, they’re willing to throw the dice, and don’t let modern society’s namby-pamby, play-it-safe ethos make you believe that’s a bad thing. Taking risks is what makes a life a life, as opposed to a life sentence.

 

 

Unity6. It’s a fool-proof escape plan.

 “Modern life is often a mechanical oppression and liquor is the only mechanical relief.”

 —Ernest Hemingway

 

Your life is a prison. You, sir, live in a cage.

Hold on, you say. I love my life. I have a swell time! I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

Well, sure. I’m not saying it’s not a gilded cage with amenities galore, and I’m certain you’ve learned to play all sorts of delightful tunes when you artfully rattle the bars.

What I am saying is you are trapped in a prison of conformity and routine: you must go to work, you must pay your bills, you must feed your pets, you must be at certain places at certain times and if you aren’t then you’re going to have to find a new cage to live in.

The first thing getting drunk does is make you aware that you are in a cage. Fuck that job, you’ll think. It’s a fucking drag. And fuck going to your in-laws’ for Christmas, like you do every goddamn year. And you sure as hell don’t want to go to church tomorrow.  Suddenly you can see the bars, and I don’t mean the ones you’re drinking in.

The second thing it does is make you forget the cage exists. You get so wrapped up in the good times everything else seems a distant blur, a vague childhood memory where nothing much happened. Drink enough and you’ll have a hard time telling the cab driver on which street your cage is situated. Whoever said alcohol won’t drown your worries didn’t fill up the bathtub with enough booze.

Of course, employing alcohol to escape reality is vilified these days. Somehow it’s a terrible thing. The bars of the cage are there to protect you, they’ll tell you. What they don’t understand is that the thing you’re trying most to escape is right there in the cage with you. Namely, you.

 

 

Unity7. It makes you pay.

“The hangover became a part of the day as well allowed-for as the Spanish siesta.”

    —F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

I know what you’re thinking: “Why in high hell would a rabid proponent of drinking celebrate the hangover, of all things? Hangovers are the sworn enemy of drunkardom!”

I disagree. Hangovers are good things, and here’s why:

First, they provide a balance. Every Yin must have its Yang. I know it’s hard to appreciate that when you’re Yanging over the sink the morning after, but consider this—what sort of crowd would you find in the bars if it was all good times, if there was no punishment lurking behind the pleasure? A gang of fair-weather pussyfoots is what you’d have, and who wants those types getting in the way of your next drink?

Hangovers make drunks a tougher breed of character. The hangover is the mean older brother who toughens you up and teaches you how to fight back. Don’t believe me? Tell you what—you gather the gang from Starbucks and I’ll assemble the boys from Kelly’s Pub and we’ll meet in the parking lot. The caffeine crowd won’t even manage to throw a punch, they’ll be too busy texting the cops: OMG! DRNKS TACKNG US! HLP!

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, hangovers teach the art of the rebound. It instills the idea that if you grit your teeth and fight through the pain, soon enough you’ll be able to get back up and start swinging again.

You can’t keep a drunk down. Especially once Happy Hour rolls around.

 

 

Unity8. It imparts self awareness.

“It is most absurdly said that a man is disguised in liquor; for, on the contrary, most men are disguised by sobriety.”

—Thomas de Quincy

 

It’s crazy. People attend seminars, meditate, indulge in astrology, consult palm readers and take any number of personality tests, all in an attempt to figure out who they truly are. All those poor souls are walking around wondering, “Who and what am I really?” When all they need to do is get good and stinking drunk.

Nothing reveals your inner nature, to yourself and those lucky enough to be around you, like a good booze-up. Drink by drink, alcohol strips away all those carefully applied layers of deceit. It knocks loose the gaudy ornaments of pretension and affectation, finally laying bare what hides beneath.

I’m going to say it flat out: anyone who’s never been drunk doesn’t know a damn thing about themselves. All they know is the conscious voice in their head, and that voice is an expert liar. It’s only when that preacher is shoved off the podium—so the rest of the congregation can speak—that you become aware of the true dogma of the self.

Drunks have a very fine understanding of their true selves. They are keenly aware of every dimension of their psyche—they’ve sung with their angels and raged with their devils. They’ve examined that inner face from so many different angles they can render an accurate sculpture from memory, flaws and all.

Which is important, because as Plutarch preached, you cannot entirely love someone until you entirely know them.

Which brings up the next best thing about boozing.

 

 

Unity9. It allows you to believe you are a better person than you ever imagined you were.

“When I have one martini, I feel bigger, wiser, taller. When I have the second, I feel superlative. When I have more, there’s no holding me.”

—William Faulkner

 

Ever notice how drunks rarely seem to mind being the center of attention? Not only don’t they mind, they practically demand it, even if it means breaking your things and yelling at the top of their lungs.

Why would this be so? Because when you’re drunk you’re certain you deserve the spotlight. You might be the shyest, most reticent mouse while sober, but load you up with enough liquor and you’re John Barrymore shouting Shakespeare, however unintelligibly.

Booze burnishes to a high gleam every quality you’re lucky enough to possess, and some you weren’t even aware you had claim to. It certainly makes you more generous—there isn’t a barista on earth that makes as much as a bartender. It elevates your sense of humor, surely—no one laughs at a bad joke like a drunk. It reveals you to be an expert dancer, deft conversationalist, brilliant philosopher, gifted singer and the most sensual of lovers. And good looking? You’re so damned handsome you’d have to beat the girls off with a stick if they weren’t so intimidated by your sheer, well, handsomeness. And tough—you’re so hard you could deck half the guys in the room with a single punch if they’d just stay still for a goddamn minute.

Alcohol lets you love yourself. And I say that’s a fine thing. Everyone should feel that way every now and then. Why must you go through life acting like an accountant or salesman or carpenter, just because that’s what you do for a living?

Why should only kings get to feel like kings?

 

 

Unity10. It brings the joy.

“Why on earth aren’t people continually drunk? I want ecstasy of the mind all the time.”

—Jack Kerouac

 

There isn’t enough joy in the world, and that’s a fact. If there was, alcohol would have been dismissed as a mere disinfectant long ago.

I know, I know—we should just get “high on life” and then we wouldn’t have to bother with the booze. And I’ve noticed that it seems to work for some people. What I’ve also noticed is those people all seem a little, well, insane.

I’m not saying there isn’t opportunity for “highness” in the sober world; I’m just saying those instances are too few and far between. Think about it–how often do you feel genuine unbridled glee while sober? Once or twice a week? You can’t count on it. You can’t expect the neighborhood kids to launch a glorious foul ball right through the living room window of your asshole neighbor every day of the week. No matter how much you pay them.

It always amuses me when I read about some hand-wringing do-gooder wondering why-oh-why do seemingly sensible people pursue alcohol with such fervor. What dark motivation, what genetic flaw must drive them? What the Drys don’t seem able to grasp is that a drinker can walk into a bar, and a handful of transactions later, attain the same level of euphoria that the teetotaler would have to strangle a half dozen or so kittens to achieve.

It’s joy on demand. Your fifth drink goes down and a sense of well-being rises up. Then, as the night reels along, the feeling expands into a real sense of euphoria. There’s nothing fake about it. It’s a three-pronged attack: you feel good because stress is released, self-image is elevated, and your inhibitions get the old heave-ho.

And what a joyful feeling it is, knowing that joy is always and only a walk to the bar away.

Source: 10 Best Things About Booze | Modern Drunkard Magazine

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TONY RETROSI

Source: TONY RETROSI

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NRA- Nonsensical Rifle Addiction

I Just returned from FIG World Championships (Gymnastics) in Canada. There were thousands of people from all over the world attending each proudly wearing their team colors.fullsizeoutput_48caThe day after the shooting in Las Vegas I overheard many speaking about the USA’s addiction to guns. In one store there were displays of knives made by local artists. The kind of knife that you are more likely to display than to actually cut anything with. There was one gun, a revolver, in the case. I heard one of the team members from Italy say in Italian, “That must be for the Americans”. (I speak Italian so I understood what he said) All his teammates laughed at his joke.

I am a proud American. I have represented the USA at International Competitions throughout the world. No one like to be laughed at. But you know what, he was probably right.

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