America That Was 


After the bombs rained down, the world entire was an open wound; it was in those bleeding years that I became a man. I was twelve on November 8, 2016, the day America lost its collective mind, a day which now lives in infamy for those of us who remain, the few that survived The Fall.

I recall that my father never believed the country would elect The Donald; we used to laugh at the news shows as a family, shaking our heads in disbelief at the words spewing out of the man’s mouth, and marveling at the way so many decent people were willing to overlook the threats he made. It was all there, nothing concealed. The racism, the misogyny,the blatant lack of human decency was on full display on television and on the internet twenty-four hours a day during the months leading up to the last election. The other candidate had some issues with emails. No one remembers what those were anymore.

That was back when we had email and televisions and cell phones. Kids go blank now when we try to explain those devices, because that technology is so far outside the realm of reality, children don’t believe it ever existed. The old-timers who were there are viewed with great skepticism and a certain disdain, as though we are woefully ignorant of U.S. history.

Back when there was a United States, we used to learn history. Most of our history now comes from legend and lore, and history is no longer written, but spoken and sung.

But I remember.

The dollar collapsed. (This was when currency existed, before the time of barter). After that, the entire global economy imploded. Civil unrest spread like wildfire throug the city streets across the United States and western Europe. Nationalism surged, and interment camps sprouted up on both contingents, where refugees and dissidents were rounded up and never heard from again.

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Russia invaded the Balkans, and the west cowered in fear. NATO no longer existed, weakened by the U.S. pullout, and the EU itself was ripping itself apart. There was no way to stop the horde of armor rumbling across eastern Europe. The United States stood idly by, vowing to act on behalf of England and Germany, but staying out of the fray. “There will be peace in our time,” the President promised. Another lie in a long line of them.

I don’t know who launched first. Maybe it was the U.S. Maybe it was Russia, or Iran or Israel. It escalated too quickly from several tactical launches to full-scale global nuclear war to be sure. ICBMs streaked past one another through space and pounded major population centers. Submarines stationed off coastlines unleashed payloads onto military installations and vaporized navies.

We were on our way to the family farm in Tennessee when the Emergency Broadcast System blared in the middle of the night. I asked my father what the glow in the sky was, far off to the south, where the horizon looked like the sun was about to rise, the darkness cut with orange streaks.

“That’s the world dying,” my father said.

Later, when skeletal families showed up at the farm dying from radiation sickness, dysentery, starvation, or plague, I remembered what Dad said. He was right. The world was dying, and I watched the death throes every day for years. After the initial die off, there were more years of anarchy, when we were attacked by roving bands of people that didn’t seem like people anymore. They were animals, bent on death and destruction, murdering for fun and food, raping for pleasure, enslaving others because they could. The law of the jungle was the law of the land.

I’m lucky to be alive, I know. I lost my family during the years following the Fall. Now, when my kids ask me about it, they wonder why America didn’t do something to stop it. I tell them that most people are kind and decent, but that the really bad ones have a way of convincing everyone else to overlook the truth. I tell my children that because there’s nothing else I can think of that makes sense, and the words leave me with a hollow feeling.

Maybe there is hope, though. Maybe my kids will get it right, and the next generations will be better than the ones that came before.

Solar Wars

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A long time ago, in a state far away, the idea of public utility companies was born from the idea that electricity was a basic need that the government should provide its citizens.  The first public utility in the U.S. was a grist mill in Massachusetts. Since then, utilities, both public and private, grew into massive monopolies. A monopoly, by its nature, despises competition and will do whatever it takes to preserve its share of the market. It’s why anti-trust laws challenged monopolies in the era of robber-barons, and why we have the Public Utilities Commission, which in theory places checks and balances on the utilities.

In North Florida, JEA and FPL are the two existing monopolies, and both are threatened by the idea that consumers should have a choice between generating their own electricity and purchasing it from a behemoth.  As a result, the utilities have behaved the way that monopolies always do, looking out for their own best interest and attempting to bolster their bottom lines. Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of the general public. While they are not necessarily an “evil empire,” they have displayed a shocking ruthlessness and outright deception in order to obtain their goals. They have decided to strike back at the growing solar industry in Florida.

Despite the fact that Florida ranks far ahead of almost the entire country in terms of solar potential, the Sunshine State lags behind the snowy northeast, coming in at a dismal 17 for actual solar production.  That’s the way the utilities want to keep it.

The Trojan horse: Amendment 1

Nov. 8th

The group Consumers for Smart Solar ran a well-executed campaign to deliberately mislead voters and detract from the momentum of rooftop solar in Florida. This group is funded by the utilities, along with oil and gas interests. The Florida Supreme court upheld the language the group is placing on the ballot for voters in November.

In her descent, Justice Barbara Pariente offered harsh words of criticism: “Masquerading as a pro-solar energy initiative, this proposed constitutional amendment, supported by some of Florida’s major investor-owned utility companies, actually seeks to constitutionalize the status quo.”

The utilities pushed this through by telling citizens they were signing a pro-solar petition. The campaign they’re running now is “Vote yes on one for the sun.” It was a sneak attack, a Trojan horse in every way.

Justice Pariente went on to say “The biggest problem with the proposed amendment lies not with what the summary says, but rather, with what it does not say.”  And here is where that deception becomes crystal clear. “There is already the right to use solar for individual equipment for individual use afforded by the Florida Constitution and existing Florida Statues and regulations. It does not explain that the amendment will elevate the existing rights of the government to regulate solar energy use and establish that regulatory power as a constitutional right in Florida… this ballot initiative is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

The language of the amendment and the slick marketing campaign behind it, all funded by utilities,  is designed to make voters believe that they are actually voting to help make solar more affordable and accessible to the citizenry of Florida. As an apparent afterthought, this language also appears in the amendment: “consumers who do not choose to install solar are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do.” That sounds fair and good until the reality emerges that it is the utilities who get to decide what constitutes a subsidy and what doesn’t. It hands the ability to regulate and stifle solar to the very entities who are actively trying to kill it.

A New Hope:  Amendment 4

August 30

In the August primary, voter turnout will be much lower than in November, and this presents a real opportunity for activists and concerned citizens to make a tangible difference in the state’s future.  The ballot will include Amendment 4, giving significant tax breaks to property owners and businesses. If we can get this amendment passed, it will slow the momentum of the utilities, who are working to stop this initiative. Should the amendment pass, lawmakers will decide what incentives to create, spurring the growth of more renewable energy production in Florida.

So, vote No on 1 in November..

Vote Yes on 4 in August.

Your vote matters to the future of our state.solar wars pic

Trump: don’t laugh, cry

Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for President of the United States. In the most recent polls, he is running neck-and-neck with Hillary Clinton. These are the two most disliked candidates in our history. Quite frankly, it’s not funny anymore. Because while both candidates are dangerous, Donald Trump is a threat to the human race, a scourge worse than the plague and meteors.

Hillary Clinton is not a good candidate. She has lied many times about the email account she used as Secretary of State, and faces a very real indictment from the FBI. The co-mingling of responsibility and funds for the Clinton Foundation is disturbing, at the least. She is the embodiment of an establishment politician focused on power rather than results, and this drives everyone in America nuts. Even the ones who like her.  She should be better, but she’s not. It would be great to see a woman sitting in the Oval Office who isn’t blowing a president, but who is actually the Commander and Chief.  I don’t like her because she feels that she is entitled to this job, and have the sense that she doesn’t care what it takes to earn it.  She will emerge as the nominee, California notwithstanding, and folks will be in a fruit-juicy-uproar about that.

I don’t like Hillary, but I’ll damn sure vote for her before I vote for Jester Trump.

Trump is the court-jester that vies for the throne. That comic relief character that farts and insults his way closer and closer to the crown; when the actor puts it on his head, the crowd cheers because it is absurd and unexpected. When Trump takes his bows, the world will convulse. A buffoon in the Oval Office.  When the nation that defeated Hitler elects its own, the world will shudder.

When the world shakes, people die.

Donald Trump doesn’t care.

He wants to be President because it means power, not because he can do good. He is blinded by his arrogance and essential meanness, and his schoolyard-bully mentality that has somehow won over American voters.

In the good stories, the bully looses, and perhaps is even redeemed. Darth Vader even got it at the end. Evil is defeated and good triumphs when people recognize the difference between words and deeds, and then act.

If you vote for Donald Trump, you are voting for smoke and mirrors and lies and the destruction which comes from those things, and worse, a man who believes he can control the outcome. His arrogance knows no bounds. Anyone that speaks of themselves in the third person so redundantly should be excluded from public office.

His foreign policy is based on the illusion of absolute power. (I hit back ten times harder). Escalation is not necessarily the answer when nuclear weapons are in play. The nukes in the Russian triad alone, between bombers, subs, and ICBMS, would be enough to wipe out the human race. Trump has no concept of this. His arrogance can kill the world.

Trump promises to “Make America Great Again,” which assumes that America isn’t already great. America is great, by every metric available. Yes, we could be better, but we still lead the world in might, production, technology, and individualism. To all of you who disagree with me about this, I say, “fuck you. You are arguing on the internet.” The internet exists because of America. Read your history and statistics. We’ve still got the biggest GDP, military spending, and natural resources in the world, on top of the greatest minds that migrate here, because, well, we invented rock and roll and jazz and put a man on the moon.

Trump is dangerous, while Hillary is annoying. There is a huge difference, and it’s not a reality show any more. Trump could be the idiot that launches ICBM missiles because he feels disrespected, and he gets angry at 1:00 EST with a sandwich in one small hand and the nuclear codes in the other.

We survived Bush. We survived Obama.  We won’t survive Trump.IMG_0673

 

 

 

 

JEA: Take the Power From the People

JEA
Thomas Jefferson said “the sheep are happier left to themselves, than under the care of the wolves.” As the Jacksonville Electric Authority eyes proposed changes to regulations for roof-top solar, this public utility must decide what sort of entity it is: will it build community, which is its motto, or destroy it. At the recent board meeting held on the opulent 18th floor of the JEA tower, the board listened patiently to members of the Jacksonville business community and concerned citizens . Let’s hope they actually heard.
What is the plan?
In broad terms, JEA would like to reduce the buyback rate for grid-tied solar by 36%, which will do great harm to the burgeoning industry and the community itself. Essentially, they would like to charge homeowners one fee for the power they use, but reduce the credit given for the electricity the resident creates with a solar array. This makes solar less economically attractive for business owners and residential customers alike.
Why would utilities do this?
The unfounded argument that utilities use to justify proposals like this is that consumers without solar subsidize those who do. This has been refuted over and over again all over the country. Policies like this are incredibly short –sighted. JEA has an enormous solar farm, and is committed to adding to this over the course of this year. That’s a good thing, something to be applauded. What is unacceptable is the underlying idea that the utility would like to generate its own solar power, but crush the ability of the average homeowner to do the same thing. JEA seems to believe that the two are somehow mutually exclusive, when the reality is that more generation capacity is a good thing.
Hostile Takeover
If these proposed changes go into effect, JEA will have quietly committed the hostile takeover of solar in its service area. Public-owned utilities aren’t supposed to behave this way. In Nevada, something similar is occurring now, where a utility owned by Berkshire Hathaway destroyed the economics of roof-top solar overnight with the stroke of a pen. In Jacksonville, solar accounts for a tiny fraction of the total electricity generated. While it is true that the utility is losing some revenue stream, it is also benefiting from the increased production of energy. There is no justification for a utility owned by the people to follow Sun Tzu and act like there is a war, because the people will wind up losing.
Impacts
Real people with real jobs will be put out of work by these proposed changes. The economic ripples will wash over families and communities. Can a company with the motto “building community,” move forward with a plan which will actively destroy lives and smash an entire sector of that very community?

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Perception
Renewable energy is the future, and Jacksonville would like to define itself as a forward-thinking, vibrant city of tomorrow, rather than the slightly smelly backwater the name conjured in years past, where folks are set in their ways and change is seen as a threat. We are better than that, on our way to becoming vibrant, diverse, and truly metropolitan.
Our city needs to attract more businesses, more intellect, and the energy of youth. One of the most impactful speakers at the Board of Directors meeting was a self-proclaimed millennial. He pointed out that the eyes of the country are upon us. This proposal is a step backwards in every way for this great city, for these changes will stifle growth and stain the community with small-mindedness and stagnation.
Conclusion
The people overwhelmingly support solar in Jacksonville and around the country. President Bush set up the federal tax credit in 2008 to spur the growth of the industry, and the growth of solar has exceed all expectations. Our citizens want solar.
This proposal from JEA runs counter to the will of the people it is chartered to serve. So call your congressman, write the Mayor’s office, bug your city councilman, and let them know that you think these changes are unfair. Beat back the wolf.

The Divided States of America

There is much gnashing of the teeth and shrill screaming  about politics these days. Everyone with internet access has an opinion and a voice. Many people are outraged about something. Social media is choked with hate, politicians point fingers, and any sort of reasonable discourse seems to have fled the country.

The things people are screaming about are distractions, while the things they should be paying attention to go largely unnoticed. We, the people, are being played.

Money and politics

Both parties are equally beholden to the almighty dollar. There are no good guys, as far as I can see, and those who actually seem to have a heart for the American people and are willing to buck the system have no chance of actually being able to be a force for positive change because their voices are drowned out by the hatred, the money, and the discord. That seems to be the idea.

Republican Governor John Kaisch of Ohio announced his bid for the 2016 election; he is an example of a moderate who has accomplished great things in his home state, and of course, he has no chance at winning. The Koch Brothers won’t be helping him.

Hillary Clinton portrays herself as the champion of the middle class, yet she is an example of the ivory tower liberals who are not only disconnected from most of America, but who also reap millions in corporate campaign contributions. She is above all else a political animal.

The banking industry, working behind the shadows is one place where true power resides. Energy is another. Power has almost nothing to do with politics, and is essentially the ability inflict one’s will upon another. The United States possesses the strongest military the world has ever seen.

But the real power lies not in the new F-35, the stealth bomber, or the ICBM, but in those who decide when and where these weapons will be used. Where we will go to war and why.

Be angry and mean and certain!

That’s what they want. Whoever the hell they are.

It doesn’t seem to matter who the figureheads are, though I’d love to believe otherwise. We can argue about guns and rebel flags and gay rights, and it appears that there is profit somewhere for someone in that discord. We howl about Obama and lose respect for the office of the President, and that’s just fine with those guys. They’re playing both sides of the fence, and are laughing at us from their private islands.

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The insults and name calling between parties has never been worse, and it’s spilled over from Congress to Main Street and even the dinner table.

So what should we be paying attention to?

The way money buys power. Decisions like Citizens united. Corporate welfare.

Climate change. It’s happening. The planet is growing warmer according to 99% of climatologists. Sea levels will rise, weather patterns will shift. Water shortages and droughts will worsen in some areas, while other parts of the world will see floods.

ISIS, China, and Russia.

The Islamic state is spreading like wildfire, and now boasts a well organized and supplied army. The guys behind the guys don’t know what to do about them yet, and the whole Arab spring caught them off guard, along with the power vacuum in Iraq. The middle east is nuke waiting to blow. The aftershock will shake the world.

https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/books/book-detail-page?ie=UTF8&bookASIN=B00IK7MH9M&index=default&parentASIN=B00ISZJOSS&tabName=

China is on course to overtake the United States in military power over the next two decades. They have an aircraft carrier, a fleet of submarines, and the desire to project power into the Indian Ocean and South Pacific. They are building islands out of the sea, placing air strips on them. China owns trillions of dollars in U.S. debt and manipulates its currency to the great detriment of the United States. Of course, the multinational corporations don’t care about what is good for the United States. They’re in the business of making money for shareholders, so will continue to ship jobs to China because it’s good for the bottom line.

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Russia is eager to reclaim its stature as a superpower, and Putin, a former KGB officer with an ego the size of his country, is unpredictable, ruthless, and bent upon taking more land and resources. The annexation of Crimea proves this, along with the war in the Ukraine, the relentless incursions into NATO airspace, and threatening posture of flights off the U.S. coast. Bombers within forty miles of California? Yes. That happened this week, again. Russia has simulated nuclear attacks against Sweden, and they are actively militarizing the arctic, building bases to go after oil resources as the ice packs melt.

Ourselves

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More dangerous to this great nation than these other threats is the one we present to ourselves.

For a house divided cannot stand.

amazon.com/author/seantsmith

War on the Poor: Death of the American Dream

With Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio throwing their hats into the ring for the Presidency, the battle for the Oval office is beginning in earnest, and Americans can brace themselves for exhausting months of harsh rhetoric, attack ads, and promises that will be broken. The poor of this country will continue to suffer.

poverty 1

Steinbeck’s brilliant novel The Grapes of Wrath depicts the hopeless, terrifying poverty of the Great Depression in an era before “safety nets.”  Since the recession which began in 2008, the middle class has been hit hard, with the number of people receiving some kind of public assistance soaring, many good jobs vanishing, earnings remaining stagnant, and the cost of living steadily increasing. We keep hearing about a recovery, and indeed Wall Street is enjoying record highs. Main Street has yet to reap similar rewards.

Against this backdrop, the hard-core conservative talking heads have embarked on a systematic strategy of demonizing the poor, portraying them as lazy, dependent, entitled, and faintly evil. This campaign has worked. People like Reince Preibus, the chairman of the RNC, have framed the issue in such a way that the shrinking and embattled middle-class, one paycheck away from needing help themselves, buy into the distorted caricature. Democrats have fueled the fire in some ways, and have fired back by seeming to couch the debate in ways that make it seem as though class-warfare is actually happening. Both sides are wrong.

The country is losing

If there is any sort of class war it is so one-sided that labeling it a war is like calling the United States invasion of Grenada a war. The elites, the upper 1% are crushing the rest of us. The irony is that they’ve managed to convince the nation to fight for them. It’s a shell game on a global scale. People like the Koch Brothers are buying and will continue to purchase elections for their own economic gain.While the average American saw savings shrink, retirement accounts vanish, jobs go to China, those at the top of the food chain got richer. And many of them did it with corporate welfare which dwarfs any sort of public assistance programs. The hypocrisy is astounding.

U.S._Distribution_of_Wealth,_2007

Banks bailed out by the Federal government held on to that money, earning billions from interest, while still not making loans and injecting more capital into the economy.  Here’s a link to ten corporations with billions in earnings that didn’t pay taxes. It includes Bank of America and Facebook. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/10-us-companies-paying-no-taxes-2013-03-26

Average CEO compensation is up %50 over the last year, with top CEOs earning upwards of Fifty Million bucks. Meanwhile, the multi-national corporations are staunchly opposed to increasing the minimum wage for workers and continue to shift jobs overseas. To distract us from this fact, the media blitz focuses on the poor. Politicians buy into it, left and right, taking the money doled out by lobbyists for entities which don’t give a damn whether the average person lives or dies. Despite the absurd Citizen’s United decision by the Supreme Court, corporations are not people. We all know that.

I have absolutely nothing against wealth, but I do take issue with unadulterated greed which leads to great evil.Rather than pulling together as a great nation, we are increasingly divided, pointing fingers and accusing rather than trying to solve the problems we face. We are being manipulated.

Poverty is not an issue which should be owned by either the left or the right, for it is an American issue. Conservative Christians might take notes from the life and words of Jesus, who spent his time with the poor and the outcast, the disenfranchised and the hurting. Liberals should take a hard look at the Democratic party and the candidates they are continually presented with, who are just as much in bed with corporate money as the Republicans are.Politicians speak out of both sides of their mouths, held on short leashes constructed with money. Movements like Occupy Wall Street end up being polarizing and accomplishing nothing, as the protesters are marginalized and look foolish, the rest of the nation turning up their noses as the cliches of poverty and lassitude are displayed on national television.

“Since the market is right, poor people get what they deserve.”

poverty 2

Poverty must be a choice, then. Rather than try to improve their lives, the poor enjoy wonderful lives of lavish vacations, new cars, and mansions gilded with gold. Some of them even have phones. Damn them!

The fact is, no one wants to be poor. Furthermore, they don’t want to remain so. I’ve been reasonably well off, and I’ve been poor. At the moment, I routinely work fifty hour weeks, plus spend another twenty or thirty hours writing. I don’t want to remain poor. Since the market crashed, the company I worked for went out of business, my customers have less money, and I work harder to earn less. I struggle every month just to keep a roof over my children’s heads and keep the lights on. I know personally other people in the same predicament.

Solutions

Education is the best way to combat poverty in the long run. Rather than cutting funding for schools and teachers, the Federal and State governments need to focus on this issue.  Job training and trade programs should be much more accessible, and should begin in High School. Our education system does not prepare the majority of high school graduates for the real world. The fact is that most grads do attend college, yet school programs focus on this carreer path almost exclusively. As manufacturing jobs have fled the country to go to China, there is a great vacuum left for jobs which pay a living wage. Upward mobility, a crucial aspect of our culture is becoming a thing of the past.

Recognizing our similarities and common humanity, rather than focusing on our differences would go a long way toward restoring a hurting nation. It’s always easier to point a finger at some one else, rather than looking in the mirror, though, so America’s war on the poor will continue while the rich get richer and the American Dream dies a slow death. I pray every day for my beloved, broken country.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Perseid-Collapse-Series-Sunshine-ebook/dp/B00T41JBYM