Posted by: twotrees | June 6, 2014

The Longest Day, again

Today, June 6, is infamous as D-Day, representing the 70th anniversary of the invasion of German occupied France – landing on the beach in Normandy. War is hell in all forms but few battles compare to the one where American soldiers crossed the English Channel, landed on a heavily fortified beach and fought against well prepared German soldiers entrenched in the hills above.

Nothing captures this scene quite like the opening of Steven Spielberg’s film Saving Private Ryan. These men, who suffered heavy casualties both physical and emotional, deserve our thanks. If not for them, and the millions of others who have fought for this country deserve our thanks. Today is another example of Memorial Day.

Posted by: twotrees | January 31, 2014

Tip my hat to Pete

Pete Seeger

Although I didn’t know much about Pete Seeger most of my life, I became a big fan over the past ten years as my knowledge of American folk music grew. Seeger, died at age 94 Sunday night at his home in Fishkill, New York. The NY Times had a nice obit which gives much history about Pete and where he came from.

Pete was a man who knew his place in America and did everything he could to help his fellow-man and the environment.  His buddy Woodie Guthrie and him toured the country singing songs and encouraging common folk to organize and fight for their rights against unfair employers.  Back in the day, people weren’t much more than chattel and were mistreated and worked nearly to death.  Both Woodie and Pete sacrificed much to help such people believe in themselves and that was a better future ahead.  Seeger was one f the most optimistic people I’ve ever seen – even though he had sadness in his life, like us all.  But he thought he could help make the world a better place and by golly, he was right.

If you want a sample of what Pete Seeger was like, watch this  video of his Rainbow Quest television show featuring June and Johnny Cash.  All have cast away their showbiz shoes and settled down to a living room session that is true Americana.  Thank you Pete for being a good man, musician, music historian, role model and one hell of an American.

Posted by: twotrees | January 3, 2014

Living the Aloha

Over the holiday I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the Big Island of Hawaii. Having been to other islands in the chain, I had heard that Hawaii was more local, less touristic, mellow.   I had also heard that it was a variety of things one doesn’t expect in the tropics: Moon like, freezing, barren. All these things were true and more. One side was dry and windy, the other was calm and rainy (ala 5x per day).  It really is true – no rain no rainbows…

My take away from the trip was that the Aloha Spirit still lives in this part of the world and was a pleasant experience.  Everalohayone to a fault was nice, calm, decidedly slower than what we’re use to and are intentionally so.   

The image here is a small icon buried in the street in downtown Hilo, which I took a quick picture of while walking one day. A young man noticed this and suggested I take all the time I needed to take the image.

I live a relatively busy life but try every so often to remember the words of Mohandas Gandhi who said “There is more to live than increasing its speed.” Perhaps never more so than during and after this vacation…

Posted by: twotrees | October 2, 2013

Closed for Business?

charts

Today represents a failure of our political system.  it’s the first day of a partial government shutdown brought on exclusively because of political infighting.  Roughly 800,000 gov’t employees are officially in limbo, with no knowledge when or if their job’s or pay will be reinstated.

But how does the stock market react to such perils?  I asked Matthew Jones, a financial consultant in downtown Ventura., who shared with me a number of facts:

There have been 17 governmental shut downs since 1977

They have ranged from one to 21 days in length, with an average of six days.

During the shutdown, the Standard & Poors index has declined an average loss of value of .9%

During the three months after the shutdown, the S&P gained and average of 2.5%.

After twelve months, that increased to a 12% gain.

So it appears that while many on the government payroll feel the financial bite of politicians playing chicken amongst themselves, those who invest in the stock market seem to benefit if they are patient.  Let’s hope this brief interlude ends soon, dammed the S&P.

Posted by: twotrees | August 5, 2013

The Great Divide

99% v 1%Two interesting pieces in the local daily papers Sunday:

The first was in the Ventura County Star, which on page A1 discusses the current (and ongoing) debate about the minimum wage and how it affects job creation and employment.  The second in the LA Times entitled Middle-Class Mayday, discusses trickle-down economics and what it has done for the middle class in America.  To the first point, the analysis of whether raising the min. wage would affect job creation appears clear.  From today’s Star (available online only to subscribers):

There have been many studies, lots of data, different methodologies — but not much variation in their conclusions.   A 2009 “meta-study” by two Australian economists of 64 separate minimum-wage studies found that estimates on employment effects were heavily clustered very close to zero.  It appears, says economist Sylvia Allegretto of the UC Berkeley Institute for Research on Labor and Employment,  that something close to a consensus has emerged.   “The range of answers has become so narrow that the debate has effectively been settled,” she said. “At this point, we’re arguing over whether it results in no negative employment effects or very small negative effects.”

So, to arrive at a conclusion, there seems to be no affect on hiring when the minimum wage is increased.  Still, some lawmakers (mostly on the right side of the isle), don’t let the facts get in the say of a good fight to keep the minimum wage at its current $8 per hour.  Fifteen years ago, the minimum wage in California was $575, making the present $8 per hour twenty nine percent higher than in 1998.  That sounds decent: a 1.93% annual increase over that period.  But looking at the reality of living in the Golden State, one has to factor in the increased costs of living:  housing, food, energy, etc…

Nationwide, home prices are 75% higher than they were in 1998 but in California, they are well over 125% higher.  The stats for rental units are similar.  Food prices have doubled and in some categories tripled in that time.  And gas prices were right around $2 per gallon fifteen years ago (reflecting a nearly 100% increase since 1998).  A movie ticket cost $4.69 on average (and has doubles since), etc…

The point is – LIFE costs a lot more now, yet those on the lowest end of the pay scale have not kept up, not by a long shot.  And when millions of Americans don’t have enough money for necessities, they are no longer consumers.  Which means, retailers (wth the exception of WalMart, KMark and similar discounters), suffer.

In Middle Class Mayday, written by Hedrick Smith in the LA Times (read it here), the argument that ‘trickle down economics has worked out terribly for most Americans’ is made.  Simply put by President Obama, ‘the average CEO has gotten a raise of nearly 40% since 2009.  The average American earns less than he or she did in 1999.

Was a time when workers, as well as their employers, benefited financially when productivity increased.  That’s no longer the case.  According to Smith’s piece ‘productivity has increase by 80% since 1973, yet employee income has risen only 10%.  “Our growth problem is weak demand’, which ties directly into how Americans should be but can’t afford to be the consumers of the past.

So as Congress takes a long and not particularly deserved summer vacation, Americans should consider why we must continue to battle over lower taxes for the 1% who’s income has accelerated over the past two decades, when it’s become very clear that very, very little trickle-down to those who need it most.

Posted by: twotrees | June 9, 2013

Le Gran Teton Sur la Mer

San Onofre power plantThis week Southern California Edison announced that it will be permanently closing the San Onofre Nuclear Generator Plant, situated on leased ground, north of  Camp Pendleton.  Operating since 1968, the SONGS facility has been the most visible and recognizable nuclear power station in California, an unavoidable visual blight along highway 5 south of San Clemente.

Because of its age, Edison made the decision to shutter the plant, which was costing $1 million per day in spite of the fact that it’s not producing power.  Built over nine years, the decommissioning and dismantling is no easy task, with risks and an estimated $3 billion price tag.

And then there’s the hazardous material to be dealt with.  Along with radioactive fuel rods and gigantic infrastructure that must be carefully disassembled, there’s “an estimated 3 million pounds of spent fuel…that is so radioactive that no repository exists that can handle it,” writes Ralph Vartabedian in today’s LA Times cover story on the subject.  So while we can rejoice in the fact that san Onofre will no longer be operating,  it will be years (perhaps decades) before the toxic site is remediated.

Posted by: twotrees | March 5, 2013

One More Saturday Night

Bob & PhilBob Weir made a rare appearance at the Ventura Theater Saturday night.  Rare in that he had heretofore, not been known to tour solo acoustic.  And while he did some of that, he played much of the show with a couple of friends nearby.  Bob is the youngest and currently most well-known of the living members of the Grateful Dead. 

The show was attended by a mix of dead heads from back in the day and a younger set who are Phish and Further Festival experienced.  The show started off with opening act Jonathan Wilson, who looks like a modern-day version of what Weir looked like back in 1966.  He plays and sings well enough and joined Bob during the second set.

Weir, who will turn 65 this year, came out and immediately started in with Hell in a Bucket, then a Dylan cover, followed by Dark Hollow, On the Road Again… Local favorite Phil Salazar came out with his fiddle to a warm greeting by the audience and the two  them proceeded to launch into Mexicali Blues.  After that Bob veered into The Other One, which was the first time of the evening I truly missed the drums of Hart/Kreutzmann and the thunder-clap of Phil Lesh’s bass.  If you’d like to hear a version from 1971, here’s a good one: 

My first experience of Ventura was hitching to a Dead show at the Fairgrounds in 1977.  It was another scene, but I remember more dirt than many of the other venues…I also recall seeing some friends from elementary school there – can’t say I remember much else about that show though.

Saturday’s show was well attended and  enjoyed by all, perhaps some more than others.  Maybe it was the beer, maybe I’m getting on, but I nodded off for a song or two before the night was through…

Posted by: twotrees | November 26, 2012

I dream of Heaven

The day after Thanksgiving brought the passing of Larry Hagman, a gentleman, activists, man of the sixties and seventies and actor.  Larry was a genuinely nice guy, who gained success in television but never let it go to his head.  Larry and Maj, his wife of 58 years, had a home up Sulfur Mountain Road that he called Heaven.  And in many ways, it was.  High enough to reach the clouds, with a view of the mountain range and Pacific Ocean as though taken from an airplane, Larry had built a compound with a lot of neat features.  Id been there a couple of times, one of which was when we did an interview of him for Ventana Magazine (http://www.ventanamonthly.com/article.php?id=334&IssueNum=31y)

On that particular day, Larry and Maj were both home and  Larry was giving us the nickel tour.  Through the house we went, into the spa grotto that Maj had designed, past the giant sliding doors on to the south patio.  Up the stairs to the roof (where he proceeded to walk the roofline,).  Then into his den, ending up in the kitchen for a nice chat.  All the while, he had a little bell which he would jingle now and then, which prompted Maj to ring back with her bell of a different tone.  It was how they communicated…

Larry was from Texas but didn’t care for the local politics of the family Bush.  Throughout his life, he did his part in helping progressive candidates move along.  He was also an advocate of solar power, converting the energy at Heaven to become one of the largest residential installations in the U.S.

It’s too bad that this happened now.  Just has Dallas was making a comeback.  As many of the things that Larry had worked for are   coming to fruition.  Mr. Hagman was a gentleman and an all around nice guy.  We need more people like him…

Posted by: twotrees | November 26, 2012

Adios Renaissance Man

My friend Enrique Candioti died earlier this week.  Enrique, aka Henry, aka DJ Ambassador Jr., was a very interesting man who did many different things.  Some knew him only as the art director of the VCReporter and Livety Outerwear (http://www.facebook.com/livity.creations) an L.A. based hipster clothing company ; some knew him as the world-class DJ who hosted many a reggae party ( including performances in NYC, playing gigs for the Marley family, etc…);  others knew Enrique as the founder and chief peddler of Henry’s Frozen Delight (http://www.henrysfrozendelight.com), a dairy free vegan ice cream line that was  ridiculously good and expensive to make as well. You’d find EC making the ‘ice cream’ late into the night in a rented kitchen or out at the Ojai Farmer’s Market on Sunday giving free samples to anyone who wanted a taste (Mariel Hemingway was a regular customer)  Some knew him as the young successful freestyle skateboarder back in his native Argentina.

Some knew him as father, son, husband and friend.  About a year ago, Enrique, who was the cleanest living guy I knew, was diagnosed with cancer of the brain and abdomen.  He immediately went in for surgery and seemed to be doing what he has always done – beat the odds with a calm demeanor and a smile on his face.  Over the past year, I’d seen him a few times and was hoping that all his good karma would help him in this battle.  Three weeks ago I took Enrique out for lunch in Ojai (photo enclosed) and aside from being a little slow walking, had no outward complaints.  He said that he was to get an update two days later.  I had heard that he had been refered to hospice, which is when doctors give up on their patient.  But I know Enrique never gave up – he was built differently than that.  I’m sorry for him, sorry for his wife and young son and sorry I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.  Adios Renaissance Man…

Posted by: twotrees | September 15, 2012

A win for brick and mortar

Effective today, internet shopping for Californians means paying sales tax.  It’s about time.  For many years, internet sales have had an unfair advantage over local stores throughout the land in that they didn’t have to collect sales tax.  This difference, often 7-9% meant real price differentials for consumers, who often don’t value local retailers as much as they did saving $$.  But the reality was that those savings changed the equation for local municipalities, who needed those tax dollars to pave streets, paint schools and hire cops.

In California, where a very large share of internet purchasing is generated, this menat that hundreds of millions of potential tax dollars were not generated. And that profits from sales made by companies in other states and beyond, didn’t stay in our community.  Buying from Washington state based Amazon meant that founder Jeff Bezos and his shareholders would benefit from those profits far more than California residents ever could.  And the much lower warehousing costs for merchandise in North Dakota helps create jobs there, but is difficult to match here in California.  These are important points often lost to the average consumer.

There was a time when general merchandise profits ranged from 20-40%.  But in the hyper-competitive world market we now live, I know retailers who eek out a living on less than ten percent profit.  And for many, it’s hard to compete with the free delivery, no sales tax, liberal exchange policies that many online retailers offer.

During its nascent years, the internet needed some help to establish itself.  As I recall, Amazon lost money its first six years, big money.  But the idea was sound and more people started buying online.  So too with thousands of other sites (eBay, Overstock, etc…).  Now these companies are very much in the black and don’t need the unfair advantage they have enjoyed the past decade.  It’s about time…

Older Posts »

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.