Tag Archives: Social Security

If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?

Freebird

If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be traveling on now
‘Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see.

But if I stayed here with you, girl,
Things just couldn’t be the same.
‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now,
And this bird you can not change, oh, oh, oh, oh.

– Written by Allen Collins and Ronnie Van Zant (1974), recorded by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Full lyrics here.

For many of us (I’m certain) the listen-by date on this song expired in the early 1980s. Then it became a mocking joke that at any performer’s concert a wise guy would yell out “Play Freebird!” But the theme I was thinking about was the differences in attitudes between twenty-somethings in the late sixties and seventies and today and it came to mind as representative of a sense of freedom and self-determination that was big in music in those olden times. I listened to the song several times and in several versions and damn if it didn’t make me feel great. If you aren’t moderately head-banging the guitar solo then check your pulse because it might be bad news.

The song was kicking around for a while before it took shape because Ronnie Van Zant was troubled by the 6 chords that made up each verse (G-D-Em-F-C-D). Then inspiration came from an argument between Collins and a girlfriend where she asked him, “If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?” Or at least, that’s the story that gets repeated. The other story is that a roadie was working for them for a year named Billy Powell. They did a gig at a school and a piano was sitting on the back of the stage. Powell played an intro he had developed for Freebird and the shocked band hired him as keyboardist right there. An early recording from Muscle Shoals sessions (see video below) includes the piano intro, but the Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd version used an organ.

The producer for the album is listed as Roosevelt Gook. The producer’s real name is Alan Peter Kuperschmidt but everyone knew him as Al. Al Kooper. Kooper has played on hundreds of records, including ones by The Rolling Stones, B. B. King, The Who, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Alice Cooper, and Cream. He was a founder of Blood, Sweat and Tears (leaving after their first album) and recorded the boomer lost classic album Bloomfield-Kooper-Stills Super Session. On that album, Kooper played piano, organ, ondioline (a keyboard instrument), and 6 and 12-string guitars AND sang. Digressing, the Super Session project was intended to be completed in 2 studio days. On the first day Kooper, Bloomfield (of the Electric Flag), and the other session players recorded instrumental jams. But Bloomfield didn’t show up for the second day in the studio and couldn’t be found. Kooper called Stephen Stills, who was in the deteriorating Buffalo Springfield, and asked him to sit in. The second half of the album is Kooper, Stills and the session players without Bloomfield. To digress one more degree, Al Kooper was a teenage studio guitarist and an early job was playing behind a group from New Jersey called the Royal Teens on a 1957 song Short Shorts (“Who loves short shorts… We love short shorts.”) That song was written by Royal Teen Bob Gaudio, who later played behind the Four Seasons and wrote many of their biggest hits.

Southern rock was big on promoting a sense of freedom from the everyday things that tied people down like relationships (gulp) and employment. The Marshall Tucker Band in “Heard it in a Love Song” wrote:

I ain’t never been with a woman long enough, for my boots to get old.
We’ve been together so long now they both need resoled.
If I ever settle down you’d be my kind
and it’s a good time for me to head on down the line.

The Allman Brother’s Band in “Ramblin’ Man” wrote:

Lord, I was born a ramblin’ man,
Tryin’ to make a livin’ and doin’ the best I can.
And when it’s time for leavin’,
I hope you’ll understand,
That I was born a ramblin’ man.

Now, admittedly those are all Southern Rock songs about not being tied down by relationships but I’d argue that these are expressions of a “freedom to act” that are embedded in the rock staple of the love song. The contrast is to the modern world where youngsters are consumed by their college choices before they graduate elementary school and unquestioningly become cogs in the wheels of the machines that feed economic inequality in the United States.

This train of thinking started with two events. The first was an interview I did at work for a position where the business-like young lady made a comment about Social Security not being there for her generation. I’ve heard this from others, mostly millennials. The second was the way that the “youth” demographic showed up to elect Barack Obama but then failed to support the party that would have supported his vision for change, especially in the 2014 midterm elections. Voters ages 18-29 made up 13% of the national electorate in 2014 compared to 19% in 2012, and tended to be more Republican. So it leads me to think that the past couple of decades have somehow forged a generation more likely to feel crushed by the powers that be instead of being willing to confront those powers and fight for change.

John Mayer puts a fine point on this in the song, Waiting for the World to Change.

Now if we had the power,
To bring our neighbors home from war,
They would have never missed a Christmas,
No more ribbons on their door.

And when you trust your television,
What you get is what you got,
Cause when they own the information, oh,
They can bend it all they want.

Lorde writes in Tennis Court,

It’s a new art form showing people how little we care (yeah)
We’re so happy, even when we’re smilin’ out of fear.

Et cetera. So I would tell that interviewee that you don’t have to wait for them to give you your Social Security dollars, it’s part of the fabric of our society and if they try to take it from you then fight for all you are worth. Clean house of the venal bums who engineer tax breaks for billionaires while denying an increase in the minimum wage. Or as FDR said in a 1938 Fireside Chat, “Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day, who has been turning his employees over to the Government relief rolls in order to preserve his company’s undistributed reserves, tell you – using his stockholders’ money to pay the postage for his personal opinions — tell you that a wage of $11.00 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry.”

Don’t jump on the bandwagon with “my vote doesn’t matter.” Is it so hard to understanding that every vote on the losing side of an election matters as a counterbalance to assumptions about mandates, as solidarity, and as a virtual fuel that encourages and sustains those fighting for change?

My generation was lucky. We had protest songs, we had Gil Scott-Heron.

The revolution will not be right back after a message
About a white tornado, white lightning, or white people
You will not have to worry about a dove in your bedroom
The tiger in your tank or the giant in your toilet bowl
The revolution will not go better with Coke
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath
The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised
Will not be televised, will not be televised
The revolution will be no re-run brothers
The revolution will be live

Fly high freebird yeah!

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I need to get back home to cool, cool rain

Today’s musings: The Who Live! Mods and Millennials. Healthcare industry backs ACA. McCain chose Sarah but rejects Susan in confusion over the meaning of “qualifications.”

Love, Reign O’er Me

Only love can make it rain
The way the beach is kissed by the sea
Only love can make it rain
Like the sweat of lovers layin’ in the fields

Love, reign o’er me
Love, reign o’er me
Rain on me, rain on me

Only love can bring the rain
That makes you yearn to the sky
Only love can bring the rain
That falls like tears from on high

Love, reign o’er me
Rain on me, rain on me
Love, reign o’er me
Rain on me, rain on me

On the dry and dusty road
The nights we spend apart alone
I need to get back home to cool, cool rain

I can’t sleep, and I lay, and I think
The night is hot and black as ink
Oh God, I need a drink of cool, cool rain

Love, reign o’er me
Reign o’er me, o’er me, o’er me
Love, reign o’er me, o’er me

– Written by Pete Townsend, performed by The Who (1973)

I share this song because it’s still reverberating in my mind after catching The Who perform Quadrophenia live last Friday. Love Reign O’er Me is the final song in the 1973 rock opera. The musical theme surfaces in many of the songs–when it finally gets played in full there’s a huge emotional payoff.

The story involves a shallow and unreliable young Mod named Jimmy who takes too many amphetamine “blues”, can’t open himself to love, idolizes the wrong people, clashes with his family, and works his way toward suicide. Then, with nothing left to live for, he surrenders to the rain and finds a sort of redemption. As Townsend has said, “He surrenders to the inevitable, and you know, you know, when it’s over and he goes back to town he’ll be going through the same shit, being in the same terrible family situation and so on, but he’s moved up a level. He’s weak still, but there’s a strength in that weakness.”

The concert featured 10 players playing like 100 and some virtual treats. Long dead Keith Moon sat in to do the “Bellboy” vocals via film (Bell-BOYYY, keep me lip buttoned down) and poor dead John Entwhistle soloed mightily from a video screen above the state in the song 5:15.

After the Entwhistle solo Townsend ripped into his own solo with a sly smile on his face. While both Daltrey and Townsend get a little ragged on vocals at times, Pete’s  guitar playing was incredible. Happy that he kept up with his mate, we saw him mouth “Fuck Yeah!” as he finished.

There’s a lot in the album that ties to our modern life. In the early 60s England was hitting the kind of prosperity that allowed youth the capital and leisure to act out as Mods and Rockers. The old days of sacrifice in post-War Britain were willfully forgotten. Style ruled over substance.

It’s possible that this kind of comfort leads us (30 years later) to the Millennials,  Gen-Y young people little plugged into politics,  highly plugged into communications technology, and with a sense of entitlement regarding employment and success, in what we Boomers (and every generation before us) learns to see and understand as cyclical developments. Boomers, having falling short of the expectations of their WWII-era parents, decided to treat their children with unconditional love and support. Little Josh never had to actually color within the lines to get approval. Now he thinks his employer is there to nurture him with a rapid succession of promotions and raises in return for average performance.

Jimmy ends up disappointed in the Bell Boy, whom he’d worshiped as a Mod leader called “Ace Face.” The former star Mod winds up working in a seaside hotel–and liking it. “Ace Face” speaks to the idea of glory days and compromise that many of us face whenever we have too much time to think.

Republicans have had time to think and Obamacare repeal apparently has less appeal. I work in healthcare and I’ve seen that the industry is mostly pro-Obamacare. So regardless of the pundits and your cousin’s husband railing against the ruinous nature of the law at Thanksgiving dinner, I thought I could share some insider’s views.

My thoughts on this started out with a newsletter piece pointing to this article at USA Today. “Weak Obama Debate Showing Hurts Health Stocks.”  Most stocks in the hospital sector tumbled between 1.5% and 2.5% after the first debate and Obama’s poor showing. Of course, when I went back to dig into this by checking stock prices after each debate and the election (as someone who makes a living doing analysis is wont to do), I saw that the market moved after each debate and after the election. But guess what, the market is always moving. I quickly remembered that Nassim Taleb in The Black Swan (a book about once-in-a-lifetime events, not ballet craziness) wrote of this. He discusses an instance where he caught the same media outlet explaining market movements in both directions using the same bit of news:

When Saddam Hussein was captured, Bloomberg News offered the following headline: “US TREASURIES RISE; HUSSEIN CAPTURE MAY NOT CURB TERRORISM”. But a half hour later, Treasuries moved lower. The headline was changed to “US TREASURIES FALL; HUSSEIN CAPTURE BOOSTS ALLURE OF RISKY ASSETS.”

So I abandon the stock market angle except to say that if Obamacare was going to punish the for-profit hospital industry or insurers it certainly isn’t showing in their stock prices.

So let’s read what some industry leaders are saying about the ACA:

Susan DeVore, president and CEO, Premier: “Now that the elections are behind us, we need to, on a bipartisan basis, get back to the task of removing the barriers to transforming healthcare. The payment and delivery reforms in the Affordable Care Act provide a framework to move us in the right direction. We need to build on those reforms to align payment incentives and measurement with effective patient care. Patients and healthcare providers will be harmed by continual payment cuts unless we empower providers with the flexibility to improve care and drive out waste.”

Lloyd Dean, president and CEO, Dignity Health: “We think that healthcare in a country like ours is something this is a right as opposed to a privilege. We have been, as you know, supporters of the ACA because we acknowledge that right and we believe through the results of the election that momentum and actions will continue to full implementation of the act. We continue to believe that this will allow us to do something that is very important, which is to address and bring forward solutions to the national healthcare crisis in our country. … One thing there is no debate about on either side of the political spectrum is that the current status of healthcare, prior to some type of reform, was not sustainable. … Even if the act itself had been modified severely, we would still move forward with what we think is important to figure out a way to reduce costs, improve efficiencies, to raise the bar for quality and to increase access.

Dr. Robert Laskowski, president and CEO of Christiana Care Health System, Wilmington, Del.: “We’ve always been great supporters of the Affordable Care Act and the principle that it embodies; there’s always a few things in there that could be improved but overall the direction is clearly the right way. What the election did was clarified and made our lives simpler. … In the longer run the direction of the necessity for us to pay attention to value, to improve care and to make sure that the care is affordable to all citizens in the country—that was going to be independent of the results of the election. But there would have been rhetoric changes if the election had been different, and it would have slowed us up in the work that we need to do. So we’re happy for the clarity and think that taking care of our neighbors is vitally important.“

Dr. Donald Berwick, former CMS administrator under Obama, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress: “If Congress reads this as an endorsement from the public of healthcare reform, I’m hoping we can move into a phase of further exploration and adjustments of the law. However, the current breakdown between the House and Senate remains the same so the risk is if the opposition remains intransigent and uses funding to starve the implementation processes. … I hope that all of the states come on board (with the ACA’s Medicaid expansion). The people who would be covered under the expansion are getting care now—they’re just getting it late, when they’re sicker and their care is more expensive. For the states that turn down this money, it doesn’t solve their problem. It increases states’ burdens to care for these vulnerable people. It’s an unwise policy and it’s an incorrect moral stance.”

This is what you can take to the bank: Our current system is very expensive. We pay twice as much per capita as other developed nations and have fewer people covered and more people going broke. The incentives in the system are all wrong as we pay doctors per procedure and visit instead of for outcomes and quality. The ACA was a step in the right direction and to get to the finish line we need an honest dedication to the truth, not political gamesmanship.

LB_Rule

Bizarro World:

Senator John McCain of Arizona, said on Fox that he would be “very hard-pressed” to support Susan Rice if she were nominated to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. In 2005, President Bush was considering a recess appointment for John Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations, McCain said: “I would support it. It’s the president’s prerogative.” Flip flop or pure hypocrisy?

One thing we should remember, McCain, by picking Sarah Palin as his running mate, forever disqualified himself from commenting on any nominee for any high office.

House Republicans try to drag Social Security into the budget talks.

The Boehner “counter-offer” seized on raising the Social Security retirement age to 70 and cutting back on benefit increases. Heaven forbid we raise taxes on a billionaire when we can save money by taking it away from thousands of fixed income seniors!  Why don’t they watch this and learn from their guru?

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