Clemson/ City of Charleston Focus on Wind Energy – Very Impressive

Last night, I was channel surfing and happened upon a weekly show called “Carolina Business Review” on PBS, which I watch from time to time. Last night, one of the three guests was the retiring President of Clemson University, James Barker who is an architect and professor of architecture by profession. During the discussion which included Ivan Urlaub, the Executive Director of the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, Clemson’s efforts toward sustainable energy initiatives were highlighted as great examples for others to follow.

The Clemson Restoration institute, among other initiatives, has partnered with the City of Charleston, Santee Cooper, SC Department of Energy, Coastal Carolina University and US Department of Energy, to establish a Wind Turbine Testing Facility along the coast of South Carolina. This effort is backed by numerous wind energy companies who build turbines, such as General Electric, to test and improve upon the veracity of their turbines.

The goals of the Wind Turbine Testing Facility are to:

– improve the reliability and efficiency of the wind turbines;

– reduce capital cost and operating and maintenance costs;

– improve electric grid compatibility (this is key to success); and

– match generation with demand.

More on the mission and goals of the project can be found with the following link:

This effort was funded through a $98 million investment, which included a $45 million grant from the US Department of Energy. It is an ideal example of the historical public/ private partnership to fund major initiatives that will move us forward and has been a vital reason for our success as a country over time. And, this kind of investment creates jobs – 20,000 are predicted in the area. The Wind Energy industry already had 75,000 jobs in the US as of last fall, but that number is expected to grow to 500,000 if we take advantage of our wind power by 2030. Also, the industry anticipates 20% growth, which is definitely nothing to sneeze at.

For example, one of the statistics cited showed that 78% of the electricity used in the United States is within 28 coastal states. Our wind is in our plains and mountains, but there is an abundance of wind in our coastal regions, especially just offshore. This is where matching use with need comes to bear. And, unlike nuclear energy, oil derricks, and natural gas fracking sites, the worse thing that happens if a windmill crashes in the water is a splash. Please remember this, as any technology is only good as its worst operator.

Before closing, I also wanted to highlight a few other things that Clemson is doing within the Clemson Restoration Institute. They are focusing on energy initiatives such as: biodiesel, composting, electric vehicle charging, solar energy and sustainable building. President Barker is an impressive person. He has led Clemson to do some impressive things, especially around understanding the needs of businesses in the area and training his students to fulfill roles therein. I hope others are replicating his vision.


I now have two 20 year-old children – when did that happen?

It cannot be. I am still young at heart, but the guy in the mirror whose face I shave seems to be not so young. But, now it is official. I have my second twenty-old child. But, I was just in college and starting my first job. How did I get older so quickly? I mean I still get acne for Christ’s sake. I do have one more who is only 16, but she will begin the college visit process in three months. Yikes.

I think today is a reminder that we are mortal and do not get a “do over.” We can change our path forward, but trust me young folks, it is going forward. Yet, we cannot look in the mirror too long. We need to enjoy our children and experiences. We should still pursue those dreams and embark on those journeys. We should journey down the paths and make new ones. I have found a wonderful set of kindred spirits on WordPress and other blogs who seem to have the same things keeping them up at night, but relish in the laughter of friends and families. I love to read their stories and anecdotes and reflect on their pictures. I get to be a mental traveler that way.

In six weeks, I will become the speed limit in age. Like Sammy Hagar, I may not be able to drive 55, but that will be the mileage on this old body. My gosh, I can start a pension. But, that cannot be me. I just had my first child. Then another, then a third. We celebrated my second son’s birthday before he headed to college, so the day of his real birthday has given me a chance to ponder. I have done some things wrong. I have done some things I could have done better. But, I lucked up and did some things right.

My bride has put up with me for 28 years, 29 if you count the year of dating. She is easily the better half. We have three wonderfully eclectic and interesting children who get along with each other. Our biggest rule is we must be civil to each other. Plus, they get along with (or tolerate) each other’s friends. There are a few strident personalities in the mix of friends, but my children learn to ying and yang with them. I heard my daughter tell one of her friends when we bumped into one of my oldest son’s friends at a festival, “you handled him well. You just don’t want to argue with him.”

For the most part we have our health. I still have to take a couple of pills to make sure the body works reasonably well, but we have been fortunate on the physical health side. I am excited for my kids. One is a rising senior in college and the second is a rising sophomore. I love when they do stuff on their own without a parent’s instigation. I love it when they tell you they have done something that is the right thing. I am working from home now in my current job and it lets me see this wonderful young person who is my daughter more. She is funny, smart and caring. Yes, she is a teenager, but the upside is well ahead of the downside.

On my son’s birthday, I wish everyone well. I wish the very best for him. He is man of many interests. That is cool. Happy birthday, Mr. D. Have a great sophomore year at college. Learn much. Have fun. Confirm or find your passions. Life is your oyster.



Words are easy, go do something about it

Although most of my jobs have been in consulting firms, I did work for about four years for one of my old clients and had a tremendous experience. Yet, as this company had a more traditional pyramid structure, with a CEO, executives, managers, line managers and staff with more of each as you descended in the ranks, I observed unhealthy behavior that was caused by a self-preservation mentality. Many people had good ideas, but very few people who would get up out of their chair and go do them? Why? It is primarily due to the fear of failure or being ridiculed for the idea.

This business example is metaphor for life. I write this today after my post a few days ago called “Teach your Children – a Tribute to CSNY” which can be read if you scroll down to the following post. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young had several songs about following your dreams. They emphasized setting sail to chase them and not be like others standing on the shore lamenting past decisions not to do so. Dreams and good ideas should be nurtured more and explored. I often quote Dr. Phil who says “the only difference between a dream and a goal is a timeline.”

In the business book “Built to Last” which I referenced in a comment on Grow Up Proper’s post this morning at,, the concept of setting BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) is an attribute of the most successful companies. They had big ideas and big goals and set their sights to achieve them. In this book the author talks about the demise of Texas Instruments, who was a darling of Wall Street at the beginning of the 1970s. A new leadership group came on board and actually scoffed at people in public forum when dumb ideas were presented. So, guess what happened? People stop sharing ideas and the bloom came off the company rose.

Getting back to my earlier example about the pyramid company, this was a very conservative, steady-as-she-goes company. People were scared to be daring. Daring to this company was wearing a blue shirt with a tie. So, people with good ideas did not share them very much. The ideas were not nurtured. The ideas were not brainstormed. So, this company never led the pack. They were big on operational excellence, but were not known for being out in front, with a few exceptions. The exceptions tended to be in smaller business units which did not get the same level of scrutiny at the corporate level. In the more visible business units, people tended to protect their turf and not dare to share. They would not get up out of their chair and go do something about good ideas.

In another more global company I worked with, some of the better ideas were created in Australia, the UK or in one of  the local US offices, as they were more removed from the headquarter city. These more remote locations felt they had license to try more entrepreneurial ideas. When they were successful and had numbers to show it, they would share the concepts for others to use. There is an old business line to just do it and apologize later.

Before he died, Steve Jobs designed the new Apple headquarters. He designed it in a way so that there would be more chance encounters with others. Each hall had accessible meeting rooms with white boards, etc. where people who bumped into each other going to get a cup of coffee or taking a rest break, could pop into a room and brainstorm on ideas each other had. Jobs, as difficult a person as he was, knew the value of idea sharing. I read somewhere in a magazine about improving higher education that innovative ideas occur at the fringes of disciplines. So, if you enable the fringe settings to occur, the innovation will be nurtured.

In California, there is a company that consults with people like Apple and others around innovation. They are thrown a problem and put teams together of people with different disciplines and backgrounds. As a result, this diversity of thought and perspective literally bubbles over with innovation. They not only do something about their ideas, they make them better through multiple brainstorming sessions that lead to a more elegant idea that is executable and sustainable. They get up out of their chair and go do something about it.

The future will change rapidly in terms of innovation. Computer power is doubling every 18 months or so. Your hand-held device has more power than most older PCs and some minicomputers (yes that is a term). The innovators have to perpetuate new ideas or could go out of business. Think of Blockbuster or Palm Pilot, e.g. And, the pyramid company I mentioned above no longer exists. They were bought as they did not grow fast enough in an industry where greater size meant more efficiency. Ironically, the company that bought them has since been bought as well. I am not saying”innovate or die,” but if you are not mindful of where your industry is headed, you will not have the necessary amount of innovation to stay up to date.

So, do not be afraid to share your ideas and go do something about them. Don’t be afraid to chart a course for your dreams and set sail. Words are easy, so get up out of your chair and go do something about it.

Teach Your Children – A Tribute to CSNY

You, who are on the road, must have a code, that you can live by.
And so, become yourself, because the past, is just a good-bye. 

Teach, your children well, their father’s hell, did slowly go by.
And feed, them on your dreams, the one they picked, the one you’re known by.
Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh, and know they love you.

The lyrics of “Teach Your Children” are highly representative of the songs of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I was torn with leading off with a number of their songs, yet I chose this one as the song starts with teaching our children to seek their dreams and letting them go with your guidance and love. The song is even more profound today, as it concludes with a stanza on “teaching your parents well.” With technology so rapidly expanding and changing our world, the song is emblematic that we can learn from each other.

David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and later Neil Young formed a group of songwriters and singers who wrote and sang eloquently. Their harmonies made great songs even better. I have an entire post devoted to Young, so I will not highlight some of his many contributions, but let you take a peek at your leisure with this link: Young added guitar-might to the stage presence of the initial trio and had played earlier with Stills in Buffalo Springfield. Crosby was a key part of The Byrds and Nash was with The Hollies. So, CSN and then CSNY became a blend of some prolific musicians and songwriters.

LIke earlier posts, I will leave off some of mine and others’ favorite songs. My intention is to highlight a few songs that resonate with me and leave others for your perusal. If you have not dived into CSNY, I would encourage you to do so. Many of their lyrics will be apropos today, like those in the above song.  One that is hauntingly compelling and so simple is a lament over those who pay the ultimate price fighting wars in the name of freedom. From Nash’s “Find the Cost of Freedom” here is only a small taste:

Find the cost of freedom
Buried in the ground
Mother Earth will swallow you
Lay your body down

I started to quote more lyrics, but I thought these words state the obvious very succinctly and could be used easily to describe those honorable, young men and women who died in Afghanistan and Iraq for uncertain ends. To me, the next song can be used for multiple separations from those you love, but I interpreted it along the above lines of someone going off to fight a war. I will let you judge from the sample lyrics from “Just a Song Before I Go:”

She helped me with my suitcase,
She stands before my eyes
Driving me to the airport,
And to the friendly skies.

Going through security
I held her for so long.
She finally looked at me in love,
And she was gone.

They have so many great songs: “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” which is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to Judy Collins, “Our House” which even our kids know word for word, “Deja-vu”, “Helplessly Hoping,” Helpless,” “Southern Cross,” “Marrakesh Express” and “Guinevere” are just a few. I also won’t highlight “Ohio” which I did in the earlier post about Young. It needed its own space as it spoke volumes against President Nixon who called out the national guard on US college students at Kent State and a couple of kids got shot. This was a stain on Nixon before his Watergate Waterloo.

Another favorite is “Wooden Ships” as it is a great tune with great lyrics written by Crosby and Stills:

Wooden ships on the water, very free and easy,
Easy, you know the way it’s supposed to be,
Silver people on the shoreline, let us be,
 Talkin’ ’bout very free and easy…
Horror grips us as we watch you die,
All we can do is echo your anguished cries,
Stare as all human feelings die,
We are leaving – you don’t need us.

To me, these words say go live your life and pursue your dreams. Don’t stand by and watch life pass you by. Don’t save it for later, so take time to explore and you will learn something about yourself. Otherwise, you may be on the shore waiting to die. This same theme is picked up by Nash’s song “Wasted on the Way:”

And there’s so much time to make up
Everywhere you turn
Time we have wasted on the way

Oh when you were young
Did you question all the answers
Did you envy all the dancers
Who had all the nerve

Look round you NOW
You must go for what you wanted
Look at all my friends who did and got what they deserved.

There is so much more to write about Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I would love to see newer artists start covering their play list more. Their songs need to be heard by more people. Let me close, with their most iconic song “Woodstock:”

Well, then can I roam beside you? I have come to lose the smog.
And I feel myself a cog in something turning.
And maybe it’s the time of year, yes, said maybe it’s the time of man.
And I don’t know who I am, but life is for learning.
We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

“I don’t know who I am, but life is for learning.” These are profound words. I have tried to teach my children this. Never stop learning. I often say you can judge people’s intelligence by their awareness of how much they don’t know. And, getting back to the theme, even old farts like me, learn something new everyday. So, teach your parents well. Thanks guys for the journey which has not stopped.

A Day in the Life – A Few Miscellaneous Musings

Using the wonderful Lennon-McCartney title from The Beatles’ “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band” album, let me offer a few miscellaneous musings on various events around the globe. As with anything I write, please view these as opinions from an Old Fart who hopes to spawn a little conversation in our non-black and white world.

Egypt is a powder keg that is exploding

Democracy is hard work. It took the United States a long time to make it work reasonably well with slavery taking four-score and seven years to be abolished, almost 150 years for women to get the right to vote and almost 190 years for true civil rights to take hold for African-Americans. Expecting a fledgling democracy to be immediately successful is a pretty high bar to achieve. So, Egypt’s first elected President was less than inclusive than he should have been and did not tend to some basics – the economy, making sure services ran smoothly, etc. Mohamed Morsi did not do what Nelson Mandela did, but few leaders have. Morsi was not perfect, but to me it was a not reason enough to overthrow him in a coup d’etat (yes, President Obama it was a coup d’etat). From today’s news reports, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Egyptian military wants to squash the Muslim Brotherhood. Now, normal Egyptians will see bloodshed and violence when more reasonable approaches could have been deployed. Things will get far worse before they get better.

A few glimmers of hope in Congress, but it probably won’t last

From reaction to what has been transpiring in Egypt, to dealing with the NSA security versus liberty debate, to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s efforts to get better governance in the military over rape cases, to finally passing something –  the interest rate on student loans bill, there have been some positive signs of bi-partisan behavior and a mix of some interesting bedfellows (sorry, I could not think of a better word). Yet, I am not hopeful it will last as we face the next debt limit crisis and a budget showdown. If Congress lets the government shut down, every one of them should be showed the door especially the Republican leaders in the House. And, why we cannot pass immigration reform is beyond amazing. If Boehner called for a vote right now on something close to the Senate bill, it would pass with enough Republicans joining the Democrats. That would be bi-partisan and would help the economy per the Congressional Budget Office.

Can we address some real problems for a change, like poverty?

In the absence of constructive debate with real information, our country is not addressing the problems we face collectively. I must give the President credit for trying in some areas, but we need an active and open-minded Congress to listen to people other than their lobbyists. We have a poverty problem in our country (and around the globe). Few of the missing middle class moved up in ranks, with most moving into a paycheck-to-paycheck world beneath or just above the poverty line. The answers are not blindly cutting programs to help those in need, although we must test the Return On Investment (ROI) on each or trying to forestall the expansion of healthcare to more people. The largest reason for personal bankruptcy in the US is lack of (or poor) healthcare insurance. And, poverty is an equal opportunity offender impacting people of all races, genders, ethnicities, urban and rural locations. And, as the Florida experiment showed with real data, drug testing welfare recipients does not enhance the ROI as the drug tests showed welfare recipients had about 25% of the drug usage than that of  mainstream society.

Global warming is here and man-influenced, so let’s do something

This is one key reason why it is good Mitt Romney did not win the Presidential election as we would continue to wear blinders as a country on one the greatest perils facing us. Today, it was reported in The New York Times that 200 global scientists have concluded there is a 95% certainty global warming is man-influenced. The GOP and fossil fuel industry public relations campaign against the need to act has put the US behind by about ten years of where it needs to be. To the President’s credit, the push a few years ago for better fuel efficiency in cars has helped. Also, the continuation of energy development tax credits and the statements he made a few months ago are critical. To his detriment, the embrace of more fracking gives many pause, as the end result of burning more natural gas, comes at a dear price of using significant amounts of water in areas where it is extremely dear and the air and water is contaminated by the process. A Duke University Environmental Science study just confirmed ground water contamination from fracking, but the industry already knows this and is not shooting straight with the American people. The industry is actually using the same public relations firm to disinform people on fracking that was used on a similar global warming disinformation campaign. Solar and wind energy continue to grow at rapid paces and there are technologies with other renewables that show promise. This is where we should invest more.

More guns is not a path forward

Let’s close your eyes and repeat the next phrase a few times. “The solution to reducing the number of wildfires is more matches.” Why is the solution to reducing the number of gun deaths in America, more guns? The US leads the civilized world by far in gun deaths and children gun deaths. In a representative poll by Elon University, 93% of North Carolina citizens want better background checks. A similar number want more elongated waiting periods. Even NC Republicans with over 70% tallies want the same. And, yet our NC General Assembly decided concealed weapons in bars and playgrounds was OK and that hunters could use silencers on hunting rifles. Pick up a paper any day of the week and count the number of gun death stories. I am not surprised when a four-year old kills another child anymore. I grieve for those parents, but they contributed to those deaths. The influence of the NRA must decline, as we are making ludicrous changes that will not improve on the number of gun deaths.

China sure does have influence on the Boy Dictator

On a positive note, I read this past week that North and South Korea are reopening the closed manufacturing facility were both sets of Koreans worked together toward a common purpose. It had been closed earlier this year when the Boy Dictator was making waves. I also read today that Korean families separated due to the Korean War Armistice back in 1953 may be able to visit each other in the near future. It is pretty obvious China told the Boy Dictator (and his military leaders) he needed to share his sand toys with the other children in the sand box. That is a very positive sign, especially given his posturing earlier this year.

Thanks for reading my little potpourri of musings. Please feel free to comment on or debate my opinions. They are welcome.

Stop being hypocritical – Obamacare is largely a GOP Idea

Several Republican politicians in the US Senate, US Congress and NC State General Assembly have said in the press or in correspondence written in response to my queries have described Obamacare as “National Health Insurance.” I have responded when I could that Obamacare is not national health insurance. It requires health insurance coverage through employer plans, exchanges of plans with more insurance and expanded Medicaid. For those who make below certain income thresholds (basically 4 x the poverty level) an increasing subsidy for the premiums is offered as the income level decreases.

What I also universally tell people is Obamacare is largely a Republican idea that was presented in early forms back in 1994 by Senator Bob Dole, as an alternative to the national health insurance proposed by President Clinton. The idea was liked so much, that Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts implemented a variation for his state which is working pretty well today. Senator Jim DeMint, Mr. Tea Party, even endorsed Romney and his plan in 2008, before he did the ultimate flip-flop once President Obama was able to get the very similar Obamacare passed. But, don’t take my word for it, here are selective news quotes from news stories the past few years and even a campaign website.

From the Bob Dole/ Jack Kemp Presidential Campaign website in 1996 – “In1994, Dole introduced a health care reform bill which had no price controls, no mandates and no taxes. The bill took on a common sense, free market approach to health-care reform, focusing primarily on insurance reform, while offering subsidies to help low-income Americans buy health insurance.”

Per Ezra Klein of The Washington Post on July 1, 2012 “In 2007, Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina sent a letter to President George W. Bush. DeMint said he would like to work with Bush to pass legislation that would ‘ensure that all Americans would have affordable, quality, private health coverage, while protecting current government programs. We believe the health care system cannot be fixed without providing solutions for everyone. Otherwise, the costs of those without insurance will continue to be shifted to those who do have coverage.’

“In the 2000s, Romney used the individual mandate to make Massachusetts the first state to actually achieve near-universal coverage. On the national level, Republicans as diverse as Newt Gingrich, Lamar Alexander and (Trent) Lott joined him. Republicans sometimes like to present their support for the individual mandate as a youthful indiscretion, but as late as June 2009, Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, was telling Fox News that ‘there is a bipartisan consensus to have an individual mandate.’ on March 5, 2012 – “Sen. Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.) told that both Obamacare and Romneycare are unjust laws because they wrongfully mandate that individuals must purchase a product prescribed by the government. asked DeMint in an Online With Terry Jeffrey interview, if he believed that the ‘type of health-care prescription and mandate’ enacted in Massachusetts under Gov. Mitt Romney was ‘a violation of the natural right of liberty.’ ‘Yeah, I think it is,’ said DeMint.”

From Right Speak News on March 19, 2011 – “If I sound like a broken record with my ‘individual mandate is a conservative creation’ posts, it is only because I am determined to not let spineless, conservative leaders rewrite the history of the conservative movement. DeMint can pretend all he wants that he believes that the individual mandate is horrible, but he can’t hide from the words he uttered less than three years ago. I personally saw DeMint live smothering Romney with praise at a Republican event in 2007. He had no qualms about Romneycare at the time. No qualms.”

Obamacare is not perfect, but it moves the ball forward in a huge way and has already helped millions with the earlier implemented provisions – no pre-existing conditions for children will deny coverage, adult children can stay on their parents’ plans until age 26, no more lifetime maximums, and refunds to participants if an insurance company makes too much profit on your premiums, e.g. The forthcoming exchanges are an excellent idea and one that the GOP should embrace. In fact, my GOP Congressman has advocated repealing Obamacare and offering exchanges with subsidies (er, that is what Obamacare does).

I have written several posts on Obamacare. One such example follows:  It is complex, but it is much-needed with so many lacking coverage and the US having the highest costing healthcare in the world with only the 38th best quality of care per the World Health Organization. I am frustrated with our GOP friends for making Obamacare a political chess game. For GOP led states choosing not to expand Medicaid to help millions of citizens around the country and economically benefitting the healthcare delivery system is poor stewardship and the pawns are the ones who suffer, not the politicians.

I have written my GOP Congressman several times to cease the Obamacare repeal votes and asking him not consider defunding it. I have also asked him to push our state legislature to reconsider the Medicaid expansion decision to not help those in need. These efforts make the GOP look poor and are not in the best interests of our country or state. And, if you read the above, it makes them look hypocritical.

You Don’t Own Me – Lesley Gore’s Anthem for Women Everywhere

Being the father of a teenage daughter, my wife and I try to raise our young lady to be self-sufficient and to not let anyone take advantage of her. Fortunately, she has a great sense of humor and can use it to diffuse people who are overbearing towards her or who may want to take advantage of a situation. With that context, recently we were watching one of those retro-look shows which focused on female singers from the 1960s. Lesley Gore had a couple of huge hits “It’s My Party” and “Judy’s Turn to Cry” which are more the standard fare for teenage girls. Yet, amid those songs, she sang “You Don’t Own Me” which is extremely powerful whose words resonate for all women.

Ironically, the song was written by two men – John Madara and David White – but when these terrific words are sung hauntingly by Gore, it becomes her song. Here are the lyrics which are very straightforward.

You don’t own me, I’m not just one of your many toys
You don’t own me, don’t say I can’t go with other boys

And don’t tell me what to do
And don’t tell me what to say
And please, when I go out with you
Don’t put me on display, ’cause

You don’t own me, don’t try to change me in any way
You don’t own me, don’t tie me down ’cause I’d never stay

Oh, I don’t tell you what to say
I don’t tell you what to do
So just let me be myself
That’s all I ask of you

I’m young and I love to be young
I’m free and I love to be free
To live my life the way I want
To say and do whatever I please

A-a-a-nd don’t tell me what to do
Oh-h-h-h don’t tell me what to say
And please, when I go out with you
Don’t put me on display

I don’t tell you what to say
Oh-h-h-h don’t tell you what to do
So just let me be myself
That’s all I ask of you

I’m young and I love to be young
I’m free and I love to be free
To live my life the way I want

Since her version needs to be heard, I have included a link to enable you to do that.

The song did resonate with many and was included in the movies “The Big Chill” and “Dirty Dancing.” Yet, it may have been heard by fewer people (than it should have) as Gore actually turned her back on stardom to go to college limiting her career and notoriety. She was born in 1946 as Lesley Sue Goldstein and sang “It’s My Party” in 1963 at the age of 16, the same age as my daughter is now. She turned down major contracts and eventually went on to Sarah Lawrence College in New York. To me, she may have been living the words to this anthem – “you don’t own me” and if I want to go to college, then that is my choice.

Having written earlier about Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s “Half the Sky” about the maltreatment of women around the world, this song had additional meaning. A link to this post is  I am not naive, so I know that women who are treated like chattel in some parts of the world would be killed or severely beaten if they uttered these words.That is the purpose of “Half the Sky” to tell these stories, highlight the bravery of the local champions who have rebelled against maltreatment and collectively give women a voice to say “you don’t own me.” Or, at a very minimum, I will not tolerate you treating me this way.

Yet, even in more gender egalitarian countries, the same words could be said. In the US, there seems to be a new onslaught to limit women’s reproductive rights, forty years after this issue was supposedly resolved. Here in the US, we have had over 26,000 women (and men) who have been sexually assaulted in our military ranks just last year, but only 3,400 of these sexual assaults came to trial. And, the solution presented yesterday is only a good first step, but will not solve the problem (listen to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand folks) Here in the US, women still need the deserved opportunity to lead, be it in business or government. Here in the US, we still have insufficient protection for domestic violence victims, which is more about control and ownership. Here in the US, it should be OK to marry your Lesbian partner anywhere in the country. I could go on.

If you know this song, please relive it with me and share with others. If you don’t know it, give it a listen and, if you like it, share it as well. If you have not read “Half the Sky,” you should, but know this; it will be one of the hardest books you will ever read. If you don’t want to go down that path, at least click on the link above to my earlier post.

You don’t own me. Powerful words. Thanks Ms.Gore and Messrs. Madara and White.

This North Carolina Voter is Embarassed by New Voter ID Law

My state of North Carolina is getting more national attention, but not the kind that puts us in a favorable light. This on the heels of a legislative session that brought us notoriety in the New York Times, Esquire Magazine, Real Times with Bill Maher, and various science magazines. The recent Voter ID Law is the latest example, which is
unfortunate. From this Independent, former GOP voter’s vantage point, the new
Voter ID Law solves for the wrong problem. The signficant problem in our country
is not the wrong people voting, it is not enough people voting. Our country and
state lag behind other democracies around the world in the numbers of voters who
turnout at the polls. We should be passing laws to enable more voters, not block
the path for more voting.

The ID part of the law is one element of the blocking. As a 54-year-old white man, it is hard for me to walk in the shoes of people who are disenfranchised or discriminated against by how they look. I can empathize, but I truly don’t have that perspective. And, I am amazed by the recent Supreme Court verdict that says we have insufficient discrimination in our country to continue parts of the national law to assure voter
non-discrimination. I wonder what country they live in, as discrimination still
exists today. This North Carolina and laws like it from around the country are prima facie evidence that this discrimination still exists – it is codified now.

When you add the voter ID with the elimination of Sunday voting, with the elimination of same day registration, with the reduction in time period for early voter, with the elimination in straight party ticket voting, with campaign disclosure changes, with the elimination in early registration and with not standing by your political advertisement, I see a law that is horribly flawed and not serving the mission of the people. One of its drafters was on PBS Newshour last night and kept referring to a survey that said 60% or 70% of North Carolinians support this law. First, off which is it – 60% or 70%? Second, I would like to see the survey as I would wager it is from a biased sourced and did not ask about all of the stuff passed with the Voter ID part of the law.

To this point, this morning, The Charlotte Observer reported the results of the newest NC poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP) on the new Voter ID law. only 39% of NC voters support the law, with 50% opposed to it. Tom Jensen, the PPP pollster noted that while the ID part of the law is supported by more voters, when the other parts of the law, many of which are noted above, are added in the law becomes “a loser.” For example, only 33% of voters support the restriction to the early voting period, with 59% opposed with even higher opposition with Independents and Democrats.

My GOP friends have told me and I have read claims that this is law is not designed to suppress the vote and is not Jim Crow like. Of course it is. Almost every feature passed in the law will be harmful to African-Americans who tend to vote Democratic. To say otherwise, is an insult to my intelligence. This is why our Attorney General in NC who is a pretty smart guy, is having a crisis of conscience. He will be asked to defend law suits claiming unconstitutionality and discrimination when he knows the litigants are correct.
I don’t know if the courts will be unduly influenced by the Supreme Court, but
in this person’s view I agree with the AG. This law is unconstitutional and
makes NC look backward.

I know a few of our legislators have shown a bent to label folks, if that makes what has been done alright. Anyone against the law is a liberal Democrat. One of the same folks has called anyone a tree-hugger for wanting to protect the environment, and so on.  I am not a liberal Democrat, but that should truly not matter. I voted for our GOP governor nine times in his campaigns over the years for Charlotte mayor and NC governor. He led Charlotte as a moderate and I was hopeful he would be able to hold back the tide against poor legislation like this, rather than sign it. Based on his signing this law among other laws passed this year, there will not be a tenth.

This law should be repealed along with a few others that are harming people and our economy. It is not in our best interests. Our taxpayers will have to spend a lot of money
defending something that is indefensible.

Inherit the Wind

One of my favorite movies of all time is “Inherit the Wind” about the Scopes Monkey Trials. Yet, I am only borrowing this title to emphasize that we are using the wind more so than ever to power our country at 5% of the nation’s production capacity per Trevor Graff of McClatchey’s Washington Bureau. Nationwide, we have 60 gigawatts of wind energy deployed, yet, we have a 135 more gigawatts of potential wind production awaiting development and connection to the electric grid.

Per Graff’s piece, the problem is the grid was designed for getting and distributing power based on older modes – coal, nuclear and hydropower plants – so the wind power production has to “idle” on occasion due to electric transmission congestion. “There hasn’t been a lot of investment in the grid for the last two decades,” said Michael Goggin, a senior analyst at the American Wind Energy Association. This is not unnoticed by the Department of Energy which notes that decision-makers must decide on funding these infrastructure improvements and deal with getting electricity from these more rural, windy areas such as Texas, Minnesota and Kansas where wind energy is in abundance.

As of last fall, wind energy was in 39 states and with the industry employing 75,000 workers. With the ability to triple our wind energy with infrastructure development in the electric grids, those activities would also create jobs. But, they would also increase our renewable energy use in a major way. Combined with the significant uptick in solar energy deployment, these infrastructure investments are key to our future. Given what is happening in Japan with nuclear reactor leakage into to ocean, Duke Energy shuttering a nuclear plant repair due to unrepairable cracks, and Germany’s decision to cease reliance on nuclear energy, the nuclear path forward seems to have challenges.

Fossil fuel retrieval is not as safe as portrayed by the industry and even if it were, it is only as good as the worst operator as being witnessed more and more often with leaks, explosions on water and on land. The cement casings around fracking piping fail 5% of the time immediately. With 10,000 fracking sites, that is 500 failures. And, per a fracking engineer, they are seeing more failures over time since the process has become more inventive adding even more stress to the man-made piping. Duke University’s Environmental Science group just completed its third study which shows clear evidence of groundwater contamination due to fracking.

So, it is clear to this independent voter who sees the Return on Investment (ROI) of treating our environment and its inhabitants well, our country needs to invest more in the electric transmission infrastructure to glean even more wind (and solar) energy. To his credit, the President is laying down the gauntlet admonishing global warming deniers and emphasizing the need to act. Yet, to his discredit, he has instructed his EPA to be less transparent on fracking taking a page from Dick Cheney’s playbook. The real data over the dangers of fracking is getting out – we just hope it is heard.

Let’s inherit the wind. Let’s harness it better, along with the sun’s energy, and distribute it more cleanly to our users. That is the cleaner path forward to our future. And, the ROI for clean energy in the long run dwarfs the ROI of going further down the rabbit hole of fossil fuel energy and repairing problems due to global warming which we are witnessing today with increased sea levels, more wildfires and greating flooding, not to mention cleaning up fossil fuel messes which impact humans and the environment.

This Elvis is an acquired taste, but worth it

If you ever get a chance to see Elvis Costello in concert, please give him a shot as you won’t regret it. He has an abundance of well crafted, sometimes bizarre songs, that are very entertaining both for the music and lyrics. When we saw him two years ago, he had this large spinning wheel of his play list of some 40 or so songs and he invited someone from the audience to do the spinning. On occasion, he would correct the spin, as he did not want to play his encore too soon. But, his small band, provides quite a big, pulsating sound and you will leave the concert spent.

His biggest hit is one of his more straightforward songs – “Alison.” His words of lament and haunting name of Alison make this a powerful song that resonates with many:

I’m not going to get too sentimental
like those other sticky valentines,
’cause I don’t know if you’ve been loving some body.
I only know it isn’t mine.
Alison, I know this world is killing you.
Oh, Alison, my aim is true.

A more fun song is called “(The Angels want to wear my) Red Shoes” which is about angels getting bored and wanting to paint the town again.

Oh I used to be disgusted
and now I try to be amused.
But since their wings have got rusted,
you know, the angels wanna wear my red shoes.

One of my favorites of his is “Brilliant Mistake” which is looking back with regrets over what the title implies. Here is a neat sampling of his wordsmithing:

Now I try hard not to become hysterical
But I’m not sure if I am laughing or crying
I wish that I could push a button
And talk in the past and not the present tense
 And watch this hurtin’ feeling disappear
Like it was common sense

Costello has penned some interesting songs that are quite clever in how he hides some true meaning. “Oliver’s Army” is usually on a short list of his great songs as he comes down against war, by starting out so simply:

Don’t start me talking I could talk all night
My mind goes sleepwalking
While I’m putting the world to right

Some other great songs that I enjoy include: “Man Out of Time” about a bigwig who no longer is such, “New Lace Sleeves,” “Everyday I Write the Book,” and “Watching the Detectives” which is played as the soundtrack for the PBS show “History Detectives.” Yet, I want to close with my favorite three Costello songs, one which he did not write.

My third favorite is his best concert song, “Pump It Up,” which he usually does after a softer song to get the crowd rolling. The words here pale in comparison to the beat, but it is a very catchy tune:

I’ve been on tenterhooks, ending in dirty looks,
list’ning to the Muzak, thinking ’bout this ‘n’ that.
She said that’s that. I don’t wanna chitter-chat.
Turn it down a little bit, or turn it down flat.

Pump it up when you don’t really need it.
Pump it up until you can feel it.

My second favorite is “Radio Radio” about how kids blindly follow what they are being told on the radio. He wants them to think for themselves. Here are a few lyrics:

Radio is a sound salvation
Radio is cleaning up the nation
They say you better listen to the voice of reason
But they don’t give you any choice
’cause they think that it’s treason.
So you had better do as you are told.
You better listen to the radio.

However, my favorite of his songs is one he did not write; it was written by Nick Lowe, a British songwriter – “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding.” I wrote a post early last year with this title as my theme, which can be viewed with the attached link: I won’t belabor this song, as its meaning is clear in the title. Lowe’s writing and Costello’s singing address squarely what is wrong about talking about peace not war? What is wrong about talking of love not hate? What is so wrong with trying to understand our differences, not use them to divide?

I will grant you, Elvis Costello is an acquired taste. But, listen to the music first, then listen to the words. You won’t regret it. And, please forgive me if I did not list your favorite Costello song. There are many to choose from.