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Welcome to my blog. Essays on my thoughts on anything and everything, original photography, philosophical musings, spiritual beliefs, political rants, and shameless promotion of things I think are good for us individually, collectively as citizens of the United States of America and good stewards of the planet Earth. We must honor our higher lights and face our inner demons in the diverse forms they appear in our world. The more people with whom we can share common awareness, regardless of our egocentric perception, the larger our personal share of the Human Spirit.

Many of the photographs on the blog are original photography taken by me with my trusty cell phones and now BlackBerry. Some others have been with an array of off the shelf digital cameras. The subtle double rainbow on the title was photographed east of my home on 10/15/2010 at 6:23 PM on my BlackBerry. For a campy, tongue in cheek look at the meaning or non-meaning of double rainbows, check this out, or if you're more interested this...

Thanks for visiting. Feel free to leave comments, pro or con. It's how we learn from each other. Peace



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For the more political commentary, original photography and a look into who I am, join me at my new blog, by the same name of course, A CALM VOICE IN THE STORM.  Here and there, your comments are always welcomed.  Come join the discussion.  Also, look for me on on my profile @GZarella.  If you know me personally, join me on Facebook for updates on home and family.  Thanks for visiting. 


Just a Silly .gif I Liked and Didn't Have Anywhere Else to Post

I've actually thought about this when I've driven past those high tension towers with their miles of electrical lines swaying in the wind.  Wish I knew where this came from, so I could credit the creator...


Happy Independence Day 2011

Zack and I wish you and your family a
Happy and Safe 4th of July!

On Friday evening, Zack and I started our holiday weekend with an annual tradition,

The Small Ships Review in Sharon PA.

Sponsored by area classic rock radio station Y-103 and downtown hot spot, Quaker Steak and Lube the weekend festivities start out with a parade of Small Ships participants through downtown Sharon, to the shrieks and thrill of hundreds of parade watchers.  Kids of course front and center to catch the tons of candy thrown from the many creative vessels on their way to the launch site on the north side of the city.

The parade was led by sponsors Y-103 and Quaker Steak and Lube's famous Wingless Chicken.

Some of the Y-103 crew got to ride in style.

One of my favorite entries was this pretty accurate replica of the US Space Shuttle Atlantis, complete with orange jumpsuited "astronauts" and crew. The booster rocket exhaust smoke was created by a nearly odorless, non-toxic smoke machine.  The float was outfitted with hydraulics that raised the horizontal spacecraft to the  nose-up attitude seen here. 

In some cases the ingenuity and creativity applied to the flotilla models is truly awe inspiring.

I was later able to catch the vessel and crew during a quiet moment on a side street, lined up waiting to launch (into the river) with the rest of the entrants.  As you may know, the shuttle fleet is being retired by NASA, so this was a nice salute to a great American tradition of adventure and discovery.  Space really is the next frontier.


Thanks to FaceBook friend Heather Ainsley
who uploaded this picture to her wall
as the shuttle "soars" over the river.
One of the crowd favorites was this full size Amish carriage complete with an authentic looking Pennsylvania Amish Dutch "family."  A local newspaper reported the day after that a local Amish family loaned the buggy and clothing to this "Yankee" family to use for the day.  They've made invaluable contributions to the local economy and history.  

The carriage is a genuine Amish buggy and harness.  It is a reminder of the diversity of the people that make up this great country of ours.   The Amish are quite prevalent in this part of the country.  In areas both in PA and over the Ohio line, within a few minutes drive, the Amish offer a variety of handmade goods and articles including tasty homemade breads, pies, pastries, jams and other goodies, handcrafted tack for horses, household goods like candles and linens, clothing and furniture.  They're work is tauted as some of the best craftsmanship in the country.  When you sit on a wooden rocker completely fabricated from wood cut by Amish axemen, you can feel the rock solid strength of their heritage and culture that goes into each item they make and sell in many local venues.  Amish stores can be found in nearby Volant, PA and northern Trumbull County, OH.

Like every rural area in America, our local farmers provide us a variety of fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, beef, pork, chickens and turkey, as well as fresh eggs and dairy.  One of my personal favorites is the several varieties of corn that will be ready for the table in just a few more weeks.  If you visit Mercer County, be sure to try some of the local fare.

Mercer County Pennsylvania is a decidedly conservative area of the state and home to a very active group of Tea Party Patriots  some of whom, by the way are very nice people, and whom I count among my friends and professional associates.  Although the Shenango Valley was once a bedrock of the steel industry and mostly liberal, union supported Democratic, over the years with the fall of the steel industry, union membership decline, and the rise of the Christian conservative movement, conservative politics arose out of the rural, patriotic, God fearing gentry of Mercer County, who over the last 10 - 20 years have supported primarily Republican candidates and causes  in state and federal politics.   The Mercer County Courthouse, located in the center of the county seat of Mercer, PA, about 15 miles east of Sharon, has been the sight of several well attended enthusiastic Tea Party rallies. It is easy to understand why family farm owners in the country tend to lean significantly toward the Taxed Enough Already party of American patriotism.  The Democratic Party is still active in Mercer, but today like many days, the Conservatives caught my attention.
As I was watching the boat launchings, I noticed the Tea Party Patriot having some problems getting started.  Stuck on the rocks in shallow water near the launch site.  Of course, the wheels were turning in my head on how this might make ironic political commentary about how the Tea Party is having trouble getting into the race; too many oars in the water, no unity of purpose, not working together, a rudderless ship...  It's a fun national holiday, my favorite, so in the spirit of fun, I may get in one or two little pokes.  I will say this about the USS Patriot, she was a worthy vessel, and passed easily as a replica of an early American war ship defending Boston harbor.  Kinda cool.

Never to be outdone or left behind, those hardy patriots were able to get their worthy vessel off of the rocks and into the mainstream - well the mainstream of the river.  But their ship seemed to want to keep turning right, even though the river went left.  But that feisty Tea Party Patriot, her course sure and true, finally headed off down the river to the hoots and cheers of their supporters.

Even though the river went left, the Tea Party Patriot stayed true to it's ideological bearing and set it's heading to the right, but still couldn't get away from the left bank.  Oh, that's the problem...

Before proceeding on in the race, the Tea Party Patriot had to make a stop at a riverside insurance and bank building to collect some of that reformed campaign financing from the big money corporations in town.  Ok, ok. I know - cheap shot.  But a picture is worth a thousand words.

 Finally, the Tea Party Patriot was able to "right" her course down the river and head off to the finish line to cheering well wishers, albeit not at the head of the pack.  The Tea Party Patriot survived this harrowing voyage to reach the end of the race and run another day.  Happy Independence Day Patriots!

Remember the "Rock-em Sock-em Robots" we played with as kids.  Using your thumbs to press levers that caused the arms and fists to throw fast and furious punches with the intention of "knocking your opponents block off."   In one of the most ingenious themes of the night, two life-size Rock-em Sock-em's square off on a side street while waiting to float down the river on their floating fight ring.  My money was on the red guy, but to my dismay he got his "block knocked off!"  Maybe we should make our national leaders  square off in the boxing ring and avoid some of the nasty battles in the halls of Congress.

The sun sets behind an old steel railroad bridge on the Shenango River,
after a day of unique entertainment and fun.

As the sun set over the West Hill of the City of Sharon and darkness fell, the river provided the backdrop for a classic nighttime picture of lighted cityscape and river. As I've said before, we usually don't have to travel far from home for those little photographic gems hiding around every corner. 

 Because I was so far away and used the zoom feature on my phone to take the pictures, they are a little fuzzy, but a couple entertaining kids, who were posted on top of the bank/insurance building featured in my earlier Tea Party commentary found out that they could entertain us with a 3 story high shadow show - using their whole bodies to cast 40 or 50 feet high dancers, fighters and finger shadow animals.

I wish that I had had the video camera going, because it was quite a show to see, and probably would have once again made interesting You-Tube fodder.  At least this time, I have a few stills to capture the moment.  Shortly after the shadow show, the fireworks began, and offered a opportunity to get some great pictures of fire over water.  Enjoy - and to all my friends and neighbors, Democrats, Republicans and even the Tea Party Patriots - Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!
God Bless the USA!

And the grand finale begins. The end of a great fireworks display.  It was pretty cool because as far away as I was, I could hear the Y-103 simulcast of patriotic music, including Lee Greenwood's, "Proud to Be an American!"  Today, party politics aside, we can all be proud to celebrate the great heritage of the Untied State of America!

My own photograph of the Shenango River just below the dam at the Shenango Reservoir in Sharpsville PA.  The river provides trout fishing, along with a variety of other pan and sport fishing.  Ecology efforts have restored a once dying river to a vibrant little spot in our valley to enjoy nature and freedom.
 The Shenango River that runs from the Shango Dam and Reservoir provides a waterway that locals use to fish and canoe.  Before the dam was built, spring and summer floods were common place in downtown Sharon, inundating riverside business and industry.  Locals formed the Shenango River Watchers to help clean-up and preserve the natural beauty of another of our inland waterways. 

If you would like to support the river preservation efforts, click the picture below.


Every American Has A Right to Equality.

Stop Institutional Discrimination

Stop Individual Discrimination

"...our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation,
conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that
all men are created equal. "

Abraham Lincoln
Thank You @BrainyQuotes

A message from the US Senate:
It Gets Better


My Education in Conservative Supply Side Economics

A Friend's Attempt to Teach Me the Benefit of Supply Side Economics
                                                                       - No thank you, I'll pass.
Gerard J. Zarella 20011
                                                                                        with contribution from a Facebook friend.

     After I published the following post on my Facebook page, an admitted Conservative/Libertarian friend of mine thought that he should educate me in Conservative supply side economics.  This same friend in other posts thinks that people who haven't made it just haven't tried hard enough, which I've heard and read from other pundits on the Right.  What they just don't get, historically Reagan-esque supply side economics - trickle down economics - or the name I like - Voodoo economics - doesn't work!  History bears out the fact that after Republican tax cuts, the economy does not react in the manner that the high priests of Voodoo economics want us to believe.  Supply side economics is simply the manipulation of popular economic theory that doesn't pan out in practice.  I've only edited bad grammer and spelling in my comments.  Sometimes, writing quickly on forums like Facebook doesn't demonstrate our best writing ability in the name of brevity.

The original post:
Gerard Zarella  GOP-Tea Party Voodoo Economics Explained - Raise taxes lower revenues - lower taxes raise revenue. Really? YumaSun: 
My friend, whose name I've redacted here to protect his privacy begins my enlightenment: 
****** Um, yes - really. Money doesn't have to pass through government hands in order to benefit the general population. And, lower taxes stimulate the economy, not artificial stimulus packages. More business and home sales and commerce means more collected in tax revenues. Has always worked this way and always will. You need to take an introductory economics course.
I'm always impressed by the way the Right seems to think we need educated - Even though I'm a liberal arts major, I studied economics in college and continue to read how economics affects us every day. 
Gerard Zarella   After EVERY tax cut since Nixon, the economy surged and then quickly slumped. Taxes were cut on upper earners and corporations and you're right it resulted in a quick surge in the economy, and then every tax cut was followed by a recession... - Reagan/Bush recession of the late 80's that by the way, Bill Clinton brought us out of while balancing the budget, the last recession that we've still not recovered from followed the Bush tax cuts. History does not bear out your theory ********. The stimulus package did seed several companies that are now doing real hiring. You need to take a history course *******. I understand macro and micro economics - studied it in college, and [moreover], I've seen what the GAO and other economic and financial writers have written about your idea that cutting taxes and regulation stimulates growth. It is a fact of history that the economy did well during the Clinton administration when taxes where at a higher rate and that the economy tanked every time a Republican president starts giving welfare to corporations and the small percentage of people at the top of the food chain.

Gerard Zarella With Reagan-Bush and Bush the national debt continued to rise. Fiscal conservatives that decreased revenue and increased spending. Under Clinton the debt disappeared when he balanced the budget that we all know that Bush II utterly destroyed within several months in office. Obama now has inherited the fiscal mess that Bush left and shouldn't be blamed for doing anything more or less than both Bushes and Reagan did. Get over it ******. Republican economics did not, do not and will not work.
***** Yeah, great quote. And bogus numbers. Under Reagan, the economy didn't 'spike', unless you call 10+ years a spike. 'Quickly slumped'? Nonsense. And national debt is a separate issue from corporate and personal tax rates, much more about government spending than tax revenues.  
Why do people resort to arguing that the information is "bogus" or worse, they try to discredit the reporter with disparaging descriptions of their political philosophy when they disagree with it.  But yet, they listen to FOX, Rush and Glenn and never question a thing they have to say?  In fairness, my friend claims to watch all sources of news, but refers to anything not FOX as the "MSM" or liberal (implied) mainstream media, a way to disparage the source.
Gerard Zarella No ****** not bogus numbers - go look at the sources before you dismiss something you only took a 2 minute look at.

Gerard Zarella Corporate and personal tax rates are what pay the national debt down. WTF are you talking about.

*********  I can find numbers to support the opposite viewpoint. These numbers are slanted to support the argument, of course. Yes, tax rates pay the national debt, my point is the government should be buying less. Raising taxes isn't going to solve any problem, never has and never will. Letting working citizens keep more of their salaries will.

Gerard Zarella Find them and show me *******. 
He didn't show me any numbers - I thought teachers brought their sources with them - but I looked for something to support his case and found it here, referenced a little farther on in our exchange.  And apparently he missed the evidence I provided that both the Reagan and Bush tax cuts led to recessions, not economic booms like predicted.
Gerard Zarella Yes the government should be buying less corporate support and quit selling off the poor, underprivileged and disenfranchised.

**********  Yes, agreed. Governments historically are only good at 2 things : making war and collecting taxes. Everything else should be out of their purview, and the latter should be done as little as possible.
 That would be Republican governments.  The last few Democratic governments did as much as they could to keep us out of wars and to keep our military actions as limited as possible.  And yes, even Republican governments raise taxes, ask President Reagan and GHW "Read my lips..." Bush.
Gerard Zarella Here ******- supply side economics explaiined - the Laffer curve (an apt name by the way) Even this that is supposed to support your theory, actually says that it's not really true given the infinite possibilities that can satisfy the boundaries defined [within] the curve. 
 Gerard Zarella As you can see *******, it's easier to find evidence to refute the popular belief that tax cuts increases revenue. It just isn't born out by the facts and practice.
I think our exchange speaks for itself.  I think we're still friends, though. We both live to debate another day!

Voodoo Economics - The Beginning
Picture Credit


Score One For Obama

President Blames Oil Speculators for Rising Gas Prices
And, he was right.
Gerard J. Zarella 2011
Photo Credit

      David R Baker of the SFGate home of the San Fransisco Chronicle reports today that researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst added some erudite credibility to President Obama's blame on oil market speculators for the rising gas prices we've been experiencing over the last several months. (The paper, How Wall Street Speculation is Driving Up Gas Prices Today is here.)  The researchers looked at oil prices over the last ten years and controlled for various market factors including the price increases caused by speculation in the market.

      As would be expected, the speculators were making out pretty good in their venture.  They added an additional $.83 a gallon at the peak of the price spike last spring.  In May 2011 the profit taken by speculators cost the average driver $41.00 additional on their monthly gas bill. The report goes on to say that the profit drive by speculators put a ONE BILLION dollar drag on an already sluggish economy.  What I find incredibly obnoxious about all of this is that even after Mr. Obama issued the warning to speculators in April, and of course the GOP-Tea Party tried to refute despite evidence to the contrary, the speculators kept up their attack on our wallets.  That takes some gall.  Money does strange things to people.  Greed is one of the Cardinal Sins.  Wonder why?

      So this is the market running freely?  This is what happens when markets run freely.  This is what happens when middlemen in insurance, health care, finances and oil gouge the American public in the name of free market profit.  Oil prices, being constantly driven up by greedy speculators, who have to be doing what they're doing intentionally and with design to make as much profit as they can (read greed), drives everything else up.  Why are food and other commodities going up.  It takes an awful lot of oil to get fresh produce and the rest of our consumer goods to market.  And don't forget.  Speculators are buying and selling futures in a lot of the other products we use.  What happened to good old American industry.  It flew out the window when the market started running itself.


Fiscal Conservative?

 The Republican Charade
That dog won't hunt.
Gerard J. Zarella 2011

         The Republican Tea Party propaganda machine is running at full throttle.  In what some are calling  politically motivated manipulation of the oil market just before a long national holiday weekend, President Obama authorized the Department of Energy to join their international counterpart, the International Energy Agency (IEA) to release collectively from the Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPR) 60 million barrels of crude oil into the world  market over the coming months.  The much tauted reason is to attempt to drive summer gas prices down and to give a jolt to our sluggish economyFree market hawks are going bananas over the government interfering with the will of the market.  Some are predicting that this will only cause more fluctuation and speculation.  Oil industry pundits, who certainly have no stake in this,  say that the fix will be small and temporary, with the possibility of gas prices spiking higher as the market rebounds from too quick a drop over a short period of time

       The jury is out  yet.  Let's see what happens.  I'm a little skeptical of anything the Republicans try to tell us about money management.  Their fiscal track record is less than stellar.  Repeatedly refashioned, repackaged, ill-conceived Conservative fiscal policy hasn't worked in the past.  Should it now? Trickle-down Reaganomics was a farce and did little to improve the economic outlook.  "Reagan delivered on each of his four major policy objectives, although not to the extent that he and his supporters had hoped."  More recently they voice unrelenting opposition to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  The Right keeps telling us that the stimulus only made a bigger mess of things, contrary to what many respected economists say.  Ah, but those liberal number crunching socialists must be misrepresenting the facts!

      The Obama administration, with constant aggressive resistance from the Right, is trying to do something to facilitate a spark to jump start the lagging economy.  The President continues to invite the Republicans to the table, only to be stonewalled at every turn. 

       The Right keeps barraging us with self-righteous fiscal rhetoric peppered with copious warnings and admonitions about the socialist conspiracy to take over the Republic. Right-wing operators raise people's fear and angst by trumpeting doom and gloom financial and political prognostications.  They sweeten the pot by telling us that they're primary agenda is all about jobs creation - by repealing or over riding "job killing" legislation and regulation. 

      Their bourgeois policies at the state and federal level have left a wide path of job destruction, fear and confusion about the future for many who had dedicated their lives to public service.  Throughout the nation, union busting legislation and slash and burn budget cutting has resulted in  the furlough of hundreds of thousands of local, state and federal unionized employees.  They've created chaos, new hardship and very few  new jobs.  They're using budget choking legislation to force their right-wing political and social agenda down the throats of the American public.  It's all smoke and mirrors to cover their cozy relationships with corporate supporters as they subsidize profitable industries and pull the rug out from under grandma, veterans, the environment and the kids.  Reuters reports, "The layoffs of thousands of government workers may threaten the already slow-motion economic recovery in many U.S. metropolitan areas, according to a report released on Wednesday by the Brookings Institution."  So, the right-wing attack on the American worker is doing what for our economy and the recovery?  Oh, IT'S NOT WORKING!

      They can dress it up any way they like.  They can put lipstick all over that pig, but their Plan for America's Job Creators is nothing less than corporate welfare and gifts to the rich.  To pay for their patronage they are obliged to cut support for people with real needs, inhibit the regulatory power of government agencies, ignore the waste and fraud in their own programs, and recklessly expose the environment to irrevocable damage. If they cannot overturn regulatory legislation, constitutional law or social convention, they use the congressional power of the purse to place those with whom they have pique in a crippling strangle hold. Woe to any targeted government agencies, and  NGO's who depend on government guaranteed grants and loans to fund varying portions of their operational budgets.  The party of greenbacks used congressional prerogative before to create a climate in which corporate greed and corruption found a foothold and flourished into financial failure on a scale rivaled only by their smug camera mugging, self-righteous, self-promoting pompous projection of patriotic piety to God and country. Get government out of the way and give the market freedom to run on its own.  Everyone wins! Happy Days Are Here Again!  None of it is true! That tired old dog ain't gonna hunt!  No more trickle down Voodoo economics.  No more corporate control of the government and politics.  Didn't we learn our lesson the last few times they've dragged us through this faulty financial fantasy of theirs?

        The Conservative direction is backward to failed policies and practices. They've spent the last six months undoing anything that the Left accomplished over first two years of the Obama presidency to reign in their malfeasance in managing corporate and financial oversight and responsibility.  The new majority in the House grabbed Obama's new broom out of his hands and broke it into pieces, so that he could not continue to clean up the gargantuan mess left by his predecessor.  With George W. Bush at the helm, these fiscal compassionate Conservatives had control of the White House and Congress.  They increased the national debt by 25%.  Their helmsmanship created the toxic environment of fiscal irresponsibility that followed in the wake of their blatantly political, money fueled folly. The only budget reduction was on the revenue side after the Bush tax cuts that subtracted almost 25% from the Clinton balanced budget.  The entire Republican Tea Party is in denial of the pile of crap that the Bush administration left behind.  They're trying to block any progressive legislation that Obama and the Democratic controlled Congress enacted before the 2010 mid-term.  They've absolutely dismissed the Affordable Health Care Act, condescendingly dubbing it "Obama-Care". Their solution to the failing health care system is to throw a fat bone to the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries in the form of vouchers in place of Medicare.  Rather than re-examine and revise AHCA, the Right is doing everything within their power to repeal it.  For education the grand experiment in Washington DC with school vouchers seems to be leaving some children behind.  Currently, they're playing chicken with the debt limit while admitting that default on the US debt could lead to worldwide fiscal calamity.   Not exactly what you would expect from conservative fiscal hawks, is it?

      From An Analysis of the Presidents Who Are Responsible for the Borrowing, "Every time we have seen massive tax cuts there was a bubble in the economy followed by a recession." And, "...under all five Republican Presidents, since Nixon, government revenue has decreased and spending has increased.  This is positive, unambiguous proof that cutting taxes does not increase revenue.  Yet Republicans are still trying to sell that old canard.

     The conservative leaning Supreme Court   overruling campaign finance reform added fuel to the fire and credibly demonstrates that the Right is all about money.  They want to completely repeal  McCain-Fiengold opening the door to allow corporate influence to poison the well of our political system.  That ruling has now opened the flood gates for incredible amounts of corporate cash to flow into political coffers on both sides under the guise of freedom of speech.  The only thing I think the Court did was to put a high price on free speech.

      Conservative talking points are intentionally deceptive and  incongruous with the way Republicans conduct the country's business.  They don't care about people or the nation.  They are motivated by their love of money.  I think that we've heard that phrase before, "The love of money..."  The flag and Christian cross are distractions that they wave in front of us to take our attention away from the special interest money changers operating in the dark corners of the national temple. They can pompously portray all of the patriotic theater they can muster, but most of their hearts are not with the flag.  Their hearts are with the dollar sign.  They crave unconditional power.  In their superficial ideological culture money is Power.  To secure their grasp on political control they will continue to play to big money to make sure their war chests are full for the upcoming campaign season.  History is not kind to the results of the fiscal policies of the Bush administration and his drum beating, flag waving, hypocritical Republican Congress. Speaker John Boehner and the rest of the Republican controlled House of Representatives are leading us on the same type of path to economic disaster and greater hardship for many Americans.   "...the nation's mounting debt is largely attributable to wars, a recession and tax policies put in place under [the Republican] watch."  The Republican Tea Party is selling off the US federal and state governments to the highest corporate bidders.  Someone needs to put that grand old pooch out of it's misery. Time for a new champion.  That poor, worn out, old, flea bitten, crippled mutt just ain't no good no more! That dog won't hunt!

Portal to Existential Bliss or You-Tube Infamy?