Friday, June 29, 2012

An Eventful Week Culminates With The Global Release of My New Album

Nobody could deny this has been an extremely eventful week. The two SCOTUS rulings, concerning the Arizona Immigration law and the Affordable Care Act, respectively, have set off a sonic boom throughout our political and social culture here in the US. The leaders of the countries of the EU are meeting to quite literally determine the fate of the Euro zone.  In Syria the rebels are in the midst of a major offensive, bringing further to the fore the tensions between all the major players involved - - the Assad regime, the US, Iran, Russia, etc.. To all this, I most humbly add my own major development: my new record, Mommy What's a Depression? is now available globally. As you know, the album first came out in Japan two weeks ago. Two great places to purchase the record here in the US, Europe and elsewhere are at CD, if you still like buying physical CDs, and Apple iTunes if you prefer digital downloads:

Alison Crockett: Mommy, What

Alison Crockett - Mommy, What's a Depression?

I started writing this blog as my brother and I were composing and recording this record.  The topics and subject matter for the blog came out of our frequent, often lengthy and wide ranging discussions about politics, music and the general state of planet Earth. When Teddy and I began working on this project in earnest, somewhere around 2008, it seemed as if the world were going to hell in a hand basket and we were watching and discussing it all like you might watch a really suspenseful melodrama in a movie theater.  Each of the songs on the record draws it's context and meaning from a world event, political or social point-of-view.  A mixture of jazz, soul and electronic music seemed to me the best way to give these messages the weight of the moment. Each of these music forms is all about creative destruction and re-invention, a process it seems we are going through right now. So I call the sonic style we've come up with, "Mixtape Jazz"; it's the sound of taking the familiar and shaping layers and layers of seemingly disparate and sometimes even dissonant components onto it in order to fashion new creative textures.  I arranged standard songs from the jazz and soul cannons that seemed to speak to our national and societal condition and, to compliment these, wrote music and lyrics that reflected my own feelings of anger, frustration, bitterness and hope about what's been going on around me. 

Here's a sampling of the stories behind a few of the tracks on the record in which the subject matter seems like it's been ripped straight from today's newspaper (or blog, cable news channel or internet news site, or wherever else you consume your propaganda - - sorry, I mean news.)

"The Old Country" was first introduced to me through my listening to my FAVORITE saxophonist Julian "Cannonball" Adderly (my favorite saxophonist other than my husband, of course!) with the fabulous Nancy Wilson. So many here in America immigrated from somewhere else and struggled to carve out a place in our society. The SCOTUS ruling last week on the Arizona law is but the most recent reminder of how visceral and raw the issue of immigration - - both of the legal and illegal varieties - - continues to be in the US. But throughout Europe as well, a simmering subtext to the ongoing financial crisis has been the challenge the northern Euro zone countries face in assimilating recent immigrants, particularly those from eastern europe and the middle east.  My brother's production on my version of "The Old Country" morphs the traditional jazz standard into modern electronica, mimicking the process that the children of immigrants have to go through in order to survive here: to be a part without being a part. On this track, for me the music tells the story -- and the story tells the music.

One of my favorite songs on the record, "H-U-M-A-N", deals with what it means to be a human being. Originally, I wrote this song in response to the casual disregard I perceive many Americans have for the lives of the inhabitants of the middle east during our wars there.  But the song really touches on the frustration that I feel about why we treat each other the way we do. Why is it OK for some to have health care and not others? Whom should be the final arbiter of who gets life saving treatment and who doesn't? Aren't we our brother's keeper?! Or are some of us valued above others, even today in 2012?! Über drummer Terreon Gully channelled the spirit of Elvin Jones and simply DESTROYS this song (not bad meaning bad, but bad meaning good! - RUN DMC, circa 1985)

I wrote "Depression" because I know what it feels like to not be able to physically move when you're mentally drained. People tell you you should be grateful for what you have but when you feel really down that can be hard to do; how do you pick yourself up? How do you keep moving? It's rough out there these days. There are people who've been searching for work for more than two, three years! It's hard to stay positive when you can't pay the bills. It's hard to be thankful when you're literally not sure if you'll ever work again, or if your life can ever be 'normal' again. Depression is real and it's invasive. My homegirl, the mega-talented Ursula Rucker, graces the track with a poignant bit of her trademark word craft.

There are many, many other stories on the record, and I will share more of them here on the blog in the days and weeks to come. That's one big reason why I started the blog in the first place - - because there was too much to say to put on just one record. Too much to say to stay in one genre. Too much going on.  It feels like the world is burning, like we're surrounded by insanity, hence, the name of the blog.  And what am I going to tell my kids about what's going on around them because they actually did ask, "Mommy….What's a Depression?"

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Discussion I Wish We'd Had About Healthcare...

The Supreme court is about to rule on the constitutionality of the Affordable Healthcare Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. I just want to put my two cents in as a person who is self insured. My cousin sent me an article about the stress and difficulty of dealing with medical bills. I know this first hand as, unlike many people, I see every one of my medical bills and have to pay a lot of them myself, while also having to pay insurance premiums to cover my family. In this article they profile a woman whose business is to help people wade through their medical bills. Why do they need this service? Here's why: (I encourage everyone to read the whole article)

Hospital care tends to be the most confounding, and experts say the charges you see on your bill are usually completely unrelated to the cost of providing the services...“The charges have no rhyme or reason at all,” Gerard Anderson, director of the Center for Hospital Finance and Management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Why is 30 minutes in the operating room $2,000 and not $1,500? There is absolutely no basis for setting that charge. It is not based upon the cost, and it's not based upon the market forces, other than the whim of the C.F.O. of the hospital.”
And those charges don't really have any connection to what a hospital or medical provider will accept for payment, either. “If you line up five patients in their beds and they all have gall bladders removed and they get the same exact medication and services, if they have insurance or if they don't have insurance, the hospital will get five different reimbursements, and none of it is based on cost,” said Holly Wallack, a medical billing advocate in Miami Beach. “The insurers negotiate a different rate, and if you are uninsured, underinsured or out of network, you are asked to pay full fare.”
With the exception of Medicare and Medicaid, experts say, the amount paid for services — or the price your insurers pay — is based on the market power of the insurance company on the one side and the hospitals and providers on the other, and the reimbursement agreements they ultimately reach. So large insurers that command a lot of market power may be able to negotiate lower rates than smaller companies with less influence. Or, insurers can place hospitals or providers on a preferred list, which may help bolster their business, in exchange for a lower reimbursement rate. On the other hand, well-regarded hospitals may command higher prices from insurers.
So let's say you have coverage through a high-deductible plan, where you're responsible for, say, the first $5,000 or $10,000. It's possible that you may have to pay more out of pocket for your medical services than your friend, also in a high-deductible plan, but one with an insurer that has greater negotiating power. “The ones that are affiliated with the larger insurers do best,” Mr. Anderson said, adding that the uninsured have virtually no bargaining power, which is why they are expected to pay much more.

So let's put this into context. When my daughter had multiple ear infections, and I mean like five in a six month period, she was recommended for ear tube surgery. The surgery literally takes fifteen minutes. They put a tiny slit in the ear drum, put a small tube in so the infection can easily drain out; thats it. To give a little background info, my daughter had so many issues this particular year that I wanted to pay more for my insurance so I could get more coverage as I was I paying so much more money out of pocket.  My insurance premium was about $500 a month (by the end of my time with MEGA Life and Health, I was paying over $800 a month due to bi-yearly increases, along with thousands of dollars of medical bills which were not covered by my insurance. I had to pay for all care of my second child because when she came out of my uterus, she had no insurance, therefore the baby had to pay full price for her care. TRUE STORY). I was rejected because she had recurrent Otitis Media and abnormal gait (ear infections and difficulty walking both due to normal kid infections). I was not allowed to PAY MORE FOR MORE COVERAGE because they were worried she would cost them more.  But to continue…

I was trying to figure out how much the ear tube surgery would cost. Since most of it would probably be under my $3500 deductible, I wanted to see the actual cost of the surgery so I would know how much I would have to pay out of pocket. I called the hospital. I talked to two or three people. No one could tell me how much the procedure was! I was given excuse after excuse about not knowing what was going to happen in the operating room, if there might be a problem that adds to the cost, the doctor's cost was unknown…you name it, they had an excuse for it.  The doctor I was using only did surgery in this hospital (which shall go nameless because they SUCK. I checked my daughter in myself because there was no one at the desk to check her in when I got there). I have limited money. My daughter could possibly eventually sustain hearing loss due to these multiple infections. My insurance would only cover a small part of the surgery and I wanted to find out how much the service would be and NO ONE could tell me how much the surgery costs!  But I have to get the surgery done.  Reading this article shed a lot of light on my situation.

Those of you who have insurance through your employer rarely have to go through what I have gone through as a self insured person. Your coverage is better than mine because your companies have more clout to negotiate with the hospitals. The hospital that housed my daughter's surgery didn't want to tell me the price because they didn't know how much my insurance would pay.  They could jack up the price at will depending on which insurance I was with. 

Understand, if everyone in the country is insured, the price premiums go down. If everyone is in the same insurance pool, there is the possibility that prices are more stable. This is part of the law:

But one of the overarching ideas behind the law, according to Mike Hash, acting director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, is to eventually encourage insurance plans to provide detailed information on, say, the quality of care and how much your share of the costs will be if you choose to have your knee surgery, for instance, at one provider versus another. He also expects more clarity on out-of-pocket costs, which will be capped at reduced amounts for people who buy insurance through the state-run insurance exchanges and meet certain income requirements. But other out-of-pocket limits will apply to other people who buy plans inside and many plans outside the exchanges, experts said.

People go bankrupt because of medical bills! It's awfully difficult to shop around for the best cost when you have stage 4 cancer, time factors such as prognosis for survivability and needing medicine right now and all…. When you have a broken leg, you need it set immediately. It's not a good time to price check.  Clarity in pricing means a little more certainty as to what is coming: I had found the best doctor to do my daughter's surgery.  Shouldn't I be able to know how much I have to pay before hand??!  I hope this part of the AFA is not struck down.  I wished that America had had a real discussion about health care rather than a political one.  It took me YEARS to pay down my medical bills, switch insurances, and understand how to negotiate my way through the morass that is the current health care system. Obamacare my not be the entire solution, but it's at least a start.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

My own Journey Through The Secret Life Of Plants...

In the mornings, to get my head on straight, I garden. It's spiritual renewal. It engages all senses. In the moving stillness of the morning, full of communicating birds and the rising sun, I put my hands in the soil. I find inspiration in the physicality of it. I revel in the beauty of what I'm creating. My mind wrestles with a proper placement of plants that is both aesthetically pleasant and healthful to the plant. You get in touch with your ancestors, my immediate ones were farmers as were my ancient ones. I am connected to the whole, the spirit, humanity as planetary nurturer. Stevie Wonder's 1979 album Journey Through The Secret Life of Plants is one of my absolute favorites. Come Back as a Flower embodies the meditative spirit that I receive through gardening many mornings. My version features the great poet/performer Urusula Rucker, take a quick listen:


...And please be sure to pick up my new album, "Mommy, What's A Depression?" when it's released here in the US and elsewhere in the world this upcoming Tuesday, June 26th!! The record is already out in Japan, so if you're in that part of the world you can go out and buy it NOW!! :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Soundbite Legislation For a Soundbite Nation

Last week I wrote about how facts don't always persuade people to see thing differently. I'd like to continue this meme for a moment. I believe that right now, more or less, we are legislating and processing legislation through soundbite.  If it sounds good in 15 words or less, then it must be good.  If it can be said succinctly on a bumper sticker and fits your political philosophy, then it's clear and easy to understand; simple and, thus, correct.  But often when you break such an idea down, it doesn't always work the way someone thinks it does.
For example, on my motherhood board, a poster asked about welfare recipients and drug tests. Should people be receiving welfare in Florida without first being drug tested? Well, the legislation passed and welfare recipients in the state are now being manditorily drug tested.  The comments from both sides of the spectrum were interesting on this one.

What you find is: most who have little to no experience with welfare or public assistance or know anyone who has gone through it seem to have no problem with PA recipients getting drug tested. They have to for their jobs. Why shouldn't those getting money from the government be using their benefits for drugs?!  

Commenter: Any job I have ever had I have been drug tested, they did a hair test for my current one! That being said, I am all for people on PA being drug tested. Why? Because if they have the money to spend on drugs they have the money to buy their own groceries, pay their own bills, and pay their own insurance. After all, your not really seriously looking for a job if your abusing drugs are you? 
Commenter: I was drug tested when I started my job, why shouldn't they? Seems only fair.
Commenter: They should be and being on assitance should NOT be a lifelong option, it should be viewed as a short term, help my life get out of a rut!I am not sure why this isn't mandatory anyway, every time my husband has been offered a job he had to prove he was not on drugs to get the job! For him to EARN/work for money for our family....crazy how this system is so skewed.

Those who have some experience with public assistance, regardless of political ideology, seem to tend to say, "You might want rethink this…" It breaks down into a few categories:

1. Cost savings are negliable.  Whose going to administrate the test? And if you see this kind of fraud happening so regularly, would testing them in order to take offenders off the rolls really save money?

Commenter: Well, it was designed to "Save taxpayers dollars" and we have saved...drum roll please....negative 45,000 (I think that was the last figure any who).
Commenter: All this sounds great and fine, but it will add a huge cost to implement. Not only do you have to pay the people who are administering the test (watching the peeing so no one can cheat), but also those who transport the specimens to the lab, the lab technicians who run the tests, the second set of technicians who "confirm" "dirty" tests (every dirty test is run through again to confirm) and then the people who process the paperwork and file the results in each claimant's file and then the ones to do the paperwork to terminate benefits. 
It is a whole lot of man hours and associated cost. People are screaming now about how much the welfare system costs - it will be much worse if they tried to do this.

2. So we drug test them and they test positive. What then? What happens to the kids? 

Commenter: So a welfare recipient tests positive for some form of drug and then what happens? Their welfare benefits are taken away so now they can't feed and clothe their kids. So the kids are taken away and now they are in "The System". The System pays a foster parent (or two) 4 times more than the welfare amount to care for the kids. How does that make sense? 
We want to throw mandatory drug tests on top of all of this? How much more hoop jumping do we need? How much more do we need to PROVE that we need assistance? That our children NEED food on the table and health insurance? That we need help getting community college job training paid for because of repeated "rainy days" depleting our rainy day funds? How do you prove need like that when all anyone wants to think is, "I'll bet they're doing drugs."

3. You can get around the drug test easily if you're really on hard drugs. So who does it really help? And then isn't a drug addict worthy of help too?

Commenter: I have had several "friends" (sarcastic quote marks!) who were on public assistance and were addicts. ALOT of the harder drugs don't stay in your urine for more then a couple days. If someone knows they have a drug test they wait a couple days then go back to drugs (sometimes a stronger amount leading to more overdoses, oh and have you ever been in an ER around the first of the month after SS checks go out. Flooded with overdoses) Addicts are very good at getting around things. Plus why take away certain programs that could help them get off drugs? Such as medicaid for treatment….
Commenter: i don't think that needing aid is in and of itself suspicious. and if lindsay lohan can live big while jet-setting, do we really feel that a beaten-down dad who cannot find a job, and whose wife is home with 4 hungry and maybe sick kids, and takes solace in a doobie, is not worthy of some help? 
Commenter: I don't see how it makes sense. Does someone who is a drug addict somehow not need food? Or shelter? We have as a society decided that either it is morally wrong for us to allow people in our country to starve to death or that it is simply uncomfortable for the well off among us to have to see starving people dying on the street. Either way we have decided to provide them with food, some medical care and shelter. Hopefully also education, job training and drug rehabilitation so they can stop being dependent upon us taxpayers. I fail to see how drug users would not still have these needs or why if we provide help to the 'morally upstanding poor' we would not provide them to people with addiction (a medical condition).There are also very few jobs where drug testing seems to make any sense. Of course pilots should not be high on the job. But do I care if my supermarket checker smokes pot on the weekend? Not my business
4. Then you have those who are living through public assistance right now. They really know the system and like it or not, it's tough. Now you want to add getting a drug test to all the hoops you have to go through just to get the aid? 

Commenter: My first thought - if only it were that easy. To answer your question directly, I don't mind the requirement and I'm sure most on assistance wouldn't also. However, I'm not entirely sure it's going to fix any problems and I do question seriously the cost effectiveness. Based entirely on my experience the system as a whole is a broken dadgum mess run by bunch of utter idiots who epitomize government employees at their dead level worst….. I have privately wondered how on earth people defraud either system. They are such a time sucker to even stay on them and the rules are so freaking arbitrary. At the end of it all I know my mother wouldn’t object to peeing in a cup to prove she’s not doing anything wrong other than trying to get by. It’s just one more hoop to jump through for a person who has worked her entire adult life but is now stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Commenter: The children in this country that are below poverty level are hungry. We are sending aid to countries that will stab us in the back given the right opportunity, but we are making it harder and harder for Americans to get enough food to eat. Jobs are going to illegal aliens, Americans cannot find jobs that will even pay their rent. Minimum wage won't cove basic needs in a family.
What I see here is that sometimes ideas may sound like they make sense, are reasonable and simple to implement, i.e., drug testing welfare recipients. Upon further thought and through experience, what looked like simplicity in reality only serves to add complication within a system already fraught with complication. When one has experience with a thing, one can talk. Many people pontificate about stuff that they don't really know anything about. Then they advocate legislation without truly thinking through the implications because it satisfies a certain philosophy. I don't pretend to be an expert, but I can read and I can think. This kind of soundbite legislation is one of the major problems confounding our society today. And you can get a solid idea of just how much simply by listening to the wisest people on earth: Moms.

Monday, June 18, 2012


So the disrespect continues. President Obama gets called a Monkey President by a talk show commentator in Arizona (no surprise there, I guess), and in a press conference a "journalist" heckles the president while POTUS is in the middle of a statement.  I don't think anyone can be surprised that this is happening.  Especially if you are a black man.  What did you expect?! At what moment in time have black people not had to do better, run faster, speak more eloquently, jump higher, all while not becoming frustrated, or god forbid the biggest no-no of all: angry?

Why do we expect that Obama will have any different experience than many black businessmen and administrators who make it up the career ladder only to find people think they're threatening or menacing because, for example,  they want to know where a lost package is.  The racist zeitgeist is all around us.  Am I calling those who disagree with the POTUS racists: no. That would be stupid. But to break it down I'll compare this to food: do those of you who eat a regular american diet think that healthy food is tasteless? Many a person who's had food that is fresh and wholesome says,"Dang that's good, but maybe the next healthy thing won't be…" Why is that? Because antipathy for 'health food' has become ingrained within the ether of social consciousness. You don't have to be against healthy food consciously to KNOW that it's nasty. It's nasty alright. And that's why all them healthy people are so thin and energetic.  But I digress….

Just because an individual is trying to be open minded doesn't mean that he/she actually is open minded. Ask married people about that. They'll give you an earful.  It's long been part of the social climate that black men are angry so if the president even gets remotely angry -- ever -- there is a problem.  Black people are shiftless and aren't good with money.  Hence, many of them are in jail or in debt.   Black men are physically stronger and sexually virile. So you get  the monkey statements or (see my earlier blogpost) get compared to animals.  They just don't think as well.

With all of this running around in our collective national subconscious, is it any wonder that there is so much outright disrespect of the POTUS? But here's the real kicker: So the hell what?! We (black people, that is) have had to deal with this issue for centuries. We've always had to prove ourselves. Now is not any different.  It's the president's job to deal with all this crap, so just deal with it. I feel frustrated because I think such disparagement of the office of the presidency is wrong, but…Oprah had difficulties with walking in to stores when she was just a small-time gazillionaire. Remember when she was in France, went into a Hermes store and they told her they were closed? The store was closed to OPRAH WINFREY?!?!  What makes folks think that just because Obama is president he won't have to deal with the same issues, overcome the same hurdles, deal with the same stuff all blacks have to deal with. Some of us have been more successful at coping with these remnants of oppression and some of us, less so.  We'll see how Obama does.

Friday, June 15, 2012

You're Not Entitled To Your Own Facts

You know, lately, it seems I've been getting into more frequent debates, well, to be honest, arguments with people about various politically tinged topics and of course, I always believe I'm right. I research a topic to the best of my ability and then speak my opinion based from what I think are the "facts" of the matter at hand. But I'm finding that people are not always convinced by facts. "My "facts" are more factual than your "facts"," seems to be the standard tact. Then The Boston Globe pointed this out:

Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger…. appears that misinformed people often have some of the strongest political opinions. A striking recent example was a study done in the year 2000, led by James Kuklinski of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He led an influential experiment in which more than 1,000 Illinois residents were asked questions about welfare — the percentage of the federal budget spent on welfare, the number of people enrolled in the program, the percentage of enrollees who are black, and the average payout. More than half indicated that they were confident that their answers were correct — but in fact only 3 percent of the people got more than half of the questions right. Perhaps more disturbingly, the ones who were the most confident they were right were by and large the ones who knew the least about the topic. 

I read Bruce Bartlett's recent New York Times article about the fiscal legacy of George W Bush. This man worked in the Reagan and Bush 41's administrations. So I figured, if Bartlett says there are issues in how the general public is perceiving the fiscal policies pursued by the Bush administration, I could count on his relatively knowledgeable view. Bartlett basically says Bush 43 messed up. He asserts that tax cuts alone do not grow the economy and points to the CBO's numbers which show Clinton's tax increases actually stimulated the economy and left us with a large surplus. The subsequent tax cuts of the first decade of the 21st century that were supposed to make the economy grow didn't do anything of the sort.

The 2001 tax cut did nothing to stimulate the economy, yet Republicans pushed for additional tax cuts in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2008. The economy continued to languish even as the Treasury hemorrhaged revenue, which fell to 17.5 percent of the gross domestic product in 2008 from 20.6 percent in 2000. Republicans abolished Paygo in 2002, and spending rose to 20.7 percent of G.D.P. in 2008 from 18.2 percent in 2001.

According to the C.B.O., by the end of the Bush administration, legislated tax cuts reduced revenues and increased the national debt by $1.6 trillion. Slower-than-expected growth further reduced revenues by $1.4 trillion.
These are facts, detailed by someone who knows quite about the subject matter. Plus, he once was a batter for the home team. The tax cuts did not work. Obama continued them, essentially administrating like a moderate Republican. But Republicans now say this is not good enough, and MORE tax cuts are being demanded. We're seeing what's happening in Europe. The facts are on clear display.  We're watching it happen, LIVE. Austerity is destroying countries in Europe.

We seem to not want to look at facts and actually believe them. Then another person that is highly regarded (at least up until now) in the Republican party says this:

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, speaking to editors at Bloomberg, also said his father, former President George H.W. Bush, would have trouble fitting in with today's Republican Party.
"Ronald Reagan would have, based on his record of finding accommodation, finding some degree of common ground, as would my dad – they would have a hard time if you define the Republican party – and I don't – as having an orthodoxy that doesn't allow for disagreement, doesn't allow for finding some common ground," Bush said, according to the website Buzzfeed.

Many people are saying that Republicans are not willing to find compromise.  They themselves say they're willing to sit down and talk. The GOP spent two years saying no to literally everything that President Obama proposed, even ideas that they themselves had previously endorsed. And due to rules they themselves altered in the Senate, they could filibuster and stop or slow legislation.  Here we have, JEB BUSH, a man who knows the people in question, is saying that Ronald Reagan wouldn't fit in today's GOP. Of course, he's just misguided.  

I hope when I hear something that I don't agree with, I will listen, study and see what is factually correct, to the best of my ability. I'm not perfect , I don't know everything, and I do have my opinions, but everything cannot be commentary. Everything cannot be opinion. Climate change is happening. Water is Wet. Too much sugar makes you fat. Facts. I hope we as a country can at least learn to agree on what they are, if not what to always do about them.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Let's REALLY Think Long And Hard About Vouchers

Bobby Jindal of Louisiana is trying a statewide voucher program for families earning less than $60,000 a year. What I'm always concerned about with vouchers is, what happens to the school system left behind? Though there needs to be some shake up, I think this is not really well thought out. People forget, public schools have to take everybody, no matter the issue, no matter the problem. Also, what qualifies the school to teach the information that we need as a society:

The school willing to accept the most voucher students -- 314 -- is New Living Word in Ruston, which has a top-ranked basketball team but no library. Students spend most of the day watching TVs in bare-bones classrooms. Each lesson consists of an instructional DVD that intersperses Biblical verses with subjects such chemistry or composition. 
The Upperroom Bible Church Academy in New Orleans, a bunker-like building with no windows or playground, also has plenty of slots open. It seeks to bring in 214 voucher students, worth up to $1.8 million in state funding. 
At Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake, pastor-turned-principal Marie Carrier hopes to secure extra space to enroll 135 voucher students, though she now has room for just a few dozen. Her first- through eighth-grade students sit in cubicles for much of the day and move at their own pace through Christian workbooks, such as a beginning science text that explains "what God made" on each of the six days of creation. They are not exposed to the theory of evolution."We try to stay away from all those things that might confuse our children," Carrier said.

Uh-huh…yeah. We live in the 21st century and we're still debating evolution, the basis of scientific thought. That same scientific thought that allows a Steve Jobs or a Ben Carson to exist. Are we sure we want our future doctors and researchers learning that things don't evolve? Like bacteria and the oh so famous computer worm that escaped from Iran centrifuges? We want to give our money to schools that don't believe in such things?

Now I'm sure there are well deserving schools which are privately run that are great. Let me explain, in a nutshell, why many private schools often have a great track record: THEY CAN TAKE WHO THEY WANT AND REJECT THOSE THAT DON'T FIT! The public school system cannot reject the autistic kid who masturbates in a corner while you're teaching class yet not tell you the teacher, what the problem is due to privacy issues (true story). They cannot reject the kid who disrupts the class over and over and over and over and over and over (and over) again by talking, cursing, walking around the room, and throwing things.  They cannot reject the manic depressive 10 year old who rolls around the floor and screams at the top of his/her lungs for 15 minutes in class.  They cannot reject the student who just transferred in who cannot speak ANY ENGLISH WHATSOEVER.  Nor can they reject the student whose parents work long hours and have little time to do parenting activities like check homework, or make sure the child goes to bed before 10pm.  They must service all children, no matter their status, no matter their parental or family issues, no matter their health, NO MATTER WHAT. I'm not saying that the public school system and all teachers are perfect; far from it. But to not take into consideration the reasons why private schools can do good jobs with certain students is extremely short sided. 

Let me say another thing. One main reason children at private schools do better is BECAUSE THE PARENTS ARE PAYING FOR IT. When you pay for something, you're going to get your money's worth. Also, if you are paying for education, most likely, you've got a very involved parent, heavily vested in their child's successful education.  Louisiana will pay for $8000 of a child's education. Last time I checked the best private schools are generally about…oh..lets see here…$26,000…for pre-school.  It goes up a few thousand once they actually get into kindergarden. My child better do well if I'm paying for a mid sized luxery car every year to get that child educated.

I don't know about y'all, but I pay for all my child's after school activities and I will tell you that she's going every time, no matter what, unless she's sick as a dog.  She will learn that dance, practice that karate chop, read that book, whatever she has to do because I paid for that daggum class!! Don't you waste my money, chile….(see me with hands on hips in standard mother you-bedda-not-mess-wit-me pose)

Also, are these private schools tested? Do their teachers have to pass all the same type of evaluation processes that public school teachers do? Do they have to take the same No-Child-Left-Behind pain in the ass child anxiety producing tests that the public school kids do?  I'm a Christian, but I don't want my tax dollars going to a school that does no better than a public school and doesn't teach basic science and math concepts.  I don't want my money going to a school with specific political agendas beyond the edification and upliftment of children's education.  And if the private school happens to be an islamic or wiccan or a buddihst based school, would money go to them as well? Isn't church and state supposed to be separate? Would those same voucher advocates be for tax money going to those types of schools?

I know that there are new ideas that need to be tried to improve education, but we have to really think clearly about this giving money to any private school simply because it's private. I'm not so much anti-voucher program, I'm anti-dumb-voucher program.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

More Talkin'

Once again, news as opinion. My favorite "news" show wizard, Jon Stewart hits it on the head, AGAIN. This time about how Scott Walker got re-elected and the coverage of the "news" networks.

This is why I have difficulty watching the "news", and why, when I have time, I watch the Daily Show. Because…Stewart's actually saying what the mainstream media isn't willing to -- cable news ain't worth sh-t I mean, a penny. 

New Album Is Released in Japan Today!!

Today's the big day!! My new album, "Mommy, What's A Depression?" comes out in Japan today!

To all my Japanese friends and fans, I sincerely hope you enjoy! A lot of the lyrical subject matter on the album has roots in the social and political system here in the US but I believe the themes are universal ones that everyone can relate to: living in the difficult times, questioning the wisdom of our leaders, a desire to help make this world a better place.

Here's some links to purchase in Japan:

Club Beria
CD Journal

The record will be released in the US and throughout the rest of the world on Tuesday, June 26th. ぜひ聴いてみて ! Zehi-kiite mitene !!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Good Hustlin' Gone Bad (aka Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game)

What happens when you push otherwise ordinary, law abiding people to their breaking point?

The Depressing Rise of People Robbing Banks to Pay the Bills

...Three weeks before the Mississippi fiasco, a woman named Gwendolyn Cunningham robbed a bank in Fresno and fled in her car. Minutes later, police spotted Cunningham's car in front of downtown Fresno's Pacific Gas and Electric Building. Inside, she was trying to pay her gas bill… 
In October 2011, a Phoenix-area man stole $2,300 to pay bills and make his alimony payments. In early 2010, an elderly man on Social Security started robbing banks in an effort to avoid foreclosure on the house he and his wife had lived in for two decades. In January 2011, a 46-year-old Ohio woman robbed a bank to pay past-due bills. And in February of this year, a  Pennsylvania woman with no teeth confessed to robbing a bank to pay for dentures. "I'm very sorry for what I did and I know God is going to punish me for it," she said at her arraignment. Yet perhaps none of this compares to the man who, in June 2011, robbed a bank of $1 just so he could be taken to prison and get medical care he couldn't afford.

You know it's getting bad when people are ROBBING BANKS just to pay bills. I am a Hustler in my head and in my actions. I work hard to create the monetary sustenance my family needs to survive.  But when you can't even work hard and make enough money…you know there's a bad, bad problem. Dang.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Exciting News! "Mommy, What's A Depression?" To Be Released in Japan Next Week

Exciting news!! I'm proud to announce that my new album, "Mommy, What's A Depression?" is being released next Tuesday, June 13th in Japan on Octave Lab/Ultra-Vybe records. You can get it here in the US and elsewhere throughout the world through portals such as CD,, iTunes and many others starting Tuesday, June 26th.

I thought real long and hard about what I wanted to say with this record.  Just like with this blog, I want my words and voice to make an impact towards making things better in this world. I'm tackling a lot of issues with the songs I chose to record, some of which I've already begun to talk about on the blog here and here and here. I think of the blog as an extension of the album; I found I have so much more to say than I could put into lyrics and sounds. The point is that on this record I'm trying to make more than just music. On this record I want to reach your brain (or at least your subconscious) even as it makes you move your behind.  And If you been following the blog from the beginning then you have watched as many of these songs developed, like in this post and this one and this one and this one. Can't wait for you all to hear it all shiny and brand spanking new and sincerely hope you enjoy!!

Monday, June 4, 2012

H-U-M-A-N: Syrian tragedy

I have been watching the news about Syria.  Well, let me amend that, I have been listening and closing my eyes -- literally.  I cannot watch. I have children and there are certain things I cannot see without breaking down, because I see my children in the place of the dead or dying children on the screen. 

Now, President Assad is claiming that crackdown and massacre of over 100 people including children is similar to a "surgeon" who's just not neat.  !?!?!

"When a surgeon in an operating room ... cuts and cleans and amputates, and the wound bleeds, do we say to him your hands are stained with blood?" Assad said in a televised speech to parliament. "Or do we thank him for saving the patient?"

Saving the patient?!?! What kind of sadistic Mutha F---- is this?!?! The killing of tens of thousands of people is just like an intern in an emergency room trying to save a critically ill patient?!?!  If that is how you "save" a country, I think I would just want to try my chances with a a tablespoon of Robotussin.  Is he serious?!

More importantly, what are we going to do? The world is paralyzed because frankly, America is tired of war. We as a nation want to take the "S" off our chest and hand over our cape and tights to another country for a minute. The rest of the world is saying, we too are tired and if the US doesn't lead, we aren't gonna do anything either.  American's have war fatigue: one finally finished in Iraq, one winding down after 10 years in Afganistan, and one short, undeclared war in Libya. The Houla massacre, though brutal and awful, is just another in a long line of killings perpetrated by the Assad regime for the past 15 months. People were killed BEFORE when the demonstrations were entirely peaceful.  No one responded then either.

I wrote H-U-M-A-N because I was thinking about who gets access to full "human rights" - us or them? Rich or poor? Sick or healthy? First world or third? Who decides which set of human beings are ok to live and prosper? What factors go into making that decision? We Americans see death and destruction on large and small scales. In the Iraq war nearly 5000 american soldiers were killed, but hundreds of THOUSANDS of Iraqis were killed.  How do we justify our lack of feeling of scale? Is one American death equal to 100 non-American deaths because that's the way it seemed in news coverage and subsequent public response?

Are the Syrian people less deserving of rescue than the Bosnians, the Libyans, the Afganis….anyone?!  I understand that this is a very complicated situation politically, economically, and militarily for the US, but who deserves help? Who deserves to be treated like a human, and what does that mean….

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Musical Joy in the Congo

This 60 Minutes story about the creation of a symphony orchestra in the middle of poverty stricken Congo is a great reminder of what music can do for people.  It brings them together.  It provides them with solace.  It shows people a world where life is beautiful even in the midst of terrific ugliness.  Music is ubiquitous in our country.  The farthest you have to go to listen or to create it is rolling over in your bed to pick up your iPhone or walking one step to your computer.  It's in our cars, our grocery stores, at our doctor and dentists offices, on the airplane, in our places of employment…. We in the "First World" are drunk and engorged on music that is stuffed down our gullets. Some would say that pop music now is the simple carbohydrate of musical forms: fills and fattens you up but doesn't really have much nutritional value, leaving your spirit malnourished.

There is nothing like making music with people. I've conducted quite a few choirs, and been in quite a few bands. The rush of joy when the music feels good is cathartic and addictive.  The connection between people you feel when you are truly listening to someone in order for there to be literal harmony is like nothing else. Music is the great healer, expresser, and educator. The joy of creating live music can make people do things that seem outlandish to some.  Walking 90 minutes each way up and down a  mountain so you can play some music…that's for me.  We could learn a lot from the joy these people have created for themselves. This is what music does. This is why I'm a musician.