Autographs & the Memorabilia Market

“Can I have your autograph?” That’s a deceptively simple question. Firstly, what is an autograph? It’s a person’s signature on something. Most people sign their names everyday in many different ways, without thinking much about it. As a practicing dentist, I’ve written my signature more times than I care to remember on insurance forms, lab instructions, prescriptions, doctor’s notes, etc. I’ve never had a patient or staff member insist on keeping that piece of paper for the value of my signature.

Then again, I’m not famous, so no one seeks my written signature for its inherent value. If I ever become famous, I will definitely join those who refuse to sign autographs. Oscar Wilde (below) once wrote, “The artist shouldn’t try to become more public, the public needs to become more artistic.” That is correct, so consider what that means and how it applies to autographs.

Autographs and other sports memorabilia collecting can be linked in origin to the baseball card industry, which revved up in the 1980’s and took off in the 1990’s. Before then, baseball cards (like autographs) were a mostly a childhood delight. Kids collect and trade stuff naturally, with sports heroes & other celebrities being among their favorites. Baseball cards have been around as long as baseball itself.

In 1952, Topps decided to sell baseball cards in packs, which led to a massive growth in their popularity. By the 1980’s, a number of new companies began producing baseball cards including Fleer, Donruss and Upper Deck and the market expanded considerably. Since 2000, there has been massive increase in speculation in this industry, attributable to an influx of new collectors with high disposable income. Much of this is comparable to what’s going on in the art world, with forgeries and dirty dealing being the norm.

Today, most signature seekers are actually professional autograph traders, who make their living by selling them, rather than keeping them as personal souvenirs. Celebrities aren’t stupid, and many have found their own ways to deal with this problem:

Basketball star Bill Russell (above), and actors Paul Newman & Greta Garbo all declined autograph requests in their days.

Actor Will Ferrell (above) mocks and taunts fans when they request his autograph. Makes you think twice before asking.

Talk show host Rosie O’Donnell (above) has refused to sign autographs for years, calling adult autograph seekers “sad.”  She’s correct.

Constantly overrun with requests, actor/comedian Steve Martin (above) years ago had business cards with his autograph pre-printed, or cards that read, “This certifies that you have had a personal encounter with me and that you found me warm, polite, intelligent and funny.”  Very creative.

Ex-Beatle Paul McCartney (above) announced in 2010 that he would no longer sign autographs while out, and said that “most people are very understanding because they understand privacy.”  Most do.

Here’s his former band mate, Ringo Starr two years earlier:

Professional golfer Jordan Spieth has recently commented on signing autographs. “We like to sign stuff for charity or for kids — and if you ask anybody universally it’s the same way, it’s just, they (professional autograph hustlers) frustrate us.”

Danica Patrick was recently videoed at Pocono after practice, trying to explain herself to a few merciless autograph hounds, who have no interest in anything except getting the goods for themselves:

Bottom Line: No one (not even a handicapped kid) should ever expect an autograph from anyone. An autograph is a gift that a celebrity chooses to donate. Do you go up to other people (you don’t know personally) and ask them for a gift, and actually expect to receive it?  Do you interrupt people while they are working, expect them to do you a favor, and berate them if they don’t comply?  That’s completely selfish.  Athletes are competitors, which means they are wound tightly and they don’t take this kind of crap. When celebrities are provoked by seekers, you will get any of these above reactions, which are all justifiable.

Memorabilia is about making money, not the integrity of their product. And just what is their product, anyways? A signature. A card. A ball or jersey. It produces nothing in value, and is the very definition of a speculative bubble. Dealers, auction houses and industry “experts” talk openly about finding novice buyers, which are required to perpetuate this sham industry. As long as people invest into this, it will continue.

Third-party authentication (TPA) services grade cards and other memorabilia, for a fee. Like any other business, the idea is to make money, and they do that by pleasing their customers. This means authenticating known forgeries from ‘good’ customers. Autographs are commonly sold with certificates of authenticity (COA’s) and letters of authenticity (LOA’s), while trading cards use a grading system. COA’s, LOA’s, and grades are meant to assure the buyer that the signature or item is genuine.

The problem is the entire sports memorabilia and trading card industry is run by a few people with bad reputations and/or criminal records. Third-Party Authentication giants PSA/DNA and JSA have cornered the market as the official “experts” endorsed by the major sports and collectibles auction houses, and even the online auction giant eBay.

PSA/DNA’s lead authenticator, Steve Grad, has a spot on the History Channel’s hit show Pawn Stars as their ‘on-air expert’ for autographed materials. The TPA’s are advertised as the gold standard of an autograph industry fraught with fraud, deception and forgery. The FBI has claimed that over 50% of the signed collectibles in the marketplace are counterfeits [1].

Often the services that do the authentication are also the ones that own the property and are selling it, creating an obvious conflict-of-interest. Shills are routinely used in the auctions to make the prices go up. There is an entirely unregulated industry, full of hustlers & con men.

Industry pioneer Bill Mastro (above) formulated the TPA grading system to help protect himself and his fellow auctioneers. TPA’s have also shielded themselves from any liability by stating that their LOA’s are nothing more than an opinion and guarantee absolutely nothing. Mastro has acknowledged that he trimmed the world’s most valuable baseball card, the T206 Honus Wagner (below) once owned by NHL superstar Wayne Gretzky, greatly inflating its value.

Authors Michael O’Keefe and Teri Thompson present a strong case that the card was actually cut from a sheet of cards, trimmed and altered. It seems that too many people have too much to lose, if this was actually proven, so the facts are conveniently ignored. No owner will allow “The Card” to be removed from its protective case to be re-authenticated, as that would risk losing all it’s value. On October 1, 2016, “The Card” sold for $3.12M in a private auction.

For those not familiar with this story, Honus Wagner was the great shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates at the turn of the 20th century. The legend is Wagner objected to his likeness being used to promote tobacco use to children (baseball cards came in cigarette packs back then) and demanded the American Tobacco Company pull the card from the market. The other claim (from researchers) is that Wagner, who chewed tobacco himself and did advertisements for cigars, was actually just holding out for more money. Whatever the reason, only between 75 and 200 Wagner T206’s ever made it to the public, as compared to the “tens or hundreds of thousands” of T206 cards, over three years (1909-11) in sixteen brands of cigarettes, for any other player. There are only ~65 known Wagner T206’s left, and most are in poor condition. Here are a few examples:

The point is, whenever someone brings a ‘newly discovered’ Wagner T206 to the market, it is greeted with both excitement & skepticism. Most of the time they are proven as forgeries. The facts point towards the world’s most valuable baseball card most-likely also being a fake, and that doesn’t bode well for this industry in the long-term. The truth is, this sports memorabilia craze is like all the rest under American capitalism, in which lawlessness & unethical behavior dominate, in order to make money from nothing.

Final point of etiquette: Parents need to teach their kids that when they ask for a celebrity’s autograph, they are making a bargain for life. The celebrity is choosing to give a piece of him/herself to the fan. If it eventually gets sold, then the celebrity isn’t making a fan, but instead feeding the machine. When this happens over & over, celebrities get jaded. All celebrities monitor this nowadays.

The overall message on everything discussed above, is that the current set-up isn’t working for celebrities or the fans.  It’s only benefiting a thin layer of parasites who are ruining things for everybody else.  Most athletes will tell you that they enjoy signing autographs for charity, and especially for the kids. They do it for that look of surprise & joy that only comes from innocent eyes, and makes a fan for life. The problem of problems is that everything under capitalism has to make money, and it’s the bleeping money that ruins everything.

…………<><><><><><><><>…………

NASCAR Notes & SHR Issues

One-third of the way through the 2017 Monster Energy Cup season and here are my NASCAR observations. The dominance that Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) had last year was purely on the engineering side– with the newly-introduced low-downforce package. Toyota nailed it better than the other manufacturers in 2016, and that’s why JGR was the dominant team, especially early. In the end, Jimmie Johnson won it because he’s the smartest driver, who works best with his crew chief (Chad Knaus, below) and the rest of their team. I expect him to be in it again at Homestead, along with Martin Truex, Jr, Kyle Larson (all above), and a Penske driver.

Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) is a mess, with sponsorship issues and a glaring lack-of-performance from top-paid driver Kurt Busch, who won Daytona this spring but has completely checked-out since. He’s suing his agent over money, which must be creating friction throughout the entire organization, as it paints SHR as a ‘second choice’ for Kurt Busch [1].  Kurt Busch seems to get involved in a lot of lawsuits and conflicts:

In the #14 car, Clint Bowyer has neither sponsorship nor a win, despite consistently having winning speed. He needs to perform or bring in money, or he’ll be out after 2017. Kevin Harvick is their top-performing driver, and the best chance for SHR to reach Homestead.

At least one JGR (Kyle Busch), and both Penske drivers have proven more consistent speed & performance than any SHR driver so far. Winning at Homestead depends very much on changes made during the season. Last year was a textbook example. The smartest crew chiefs and team owners (Penske & Hendrick) make a huge difference for their teams & drivers. Expect that to continue…

Last at SHR is Danica Patrick, who is out there to make money for everyone. Her fans understand this and don’t mind too much, as long as she isn’t being wrecked. Wonder Woman (above) was another iconic sponsor for her, as she continues to lasso in the money. You can’t lie to that.

Even Nature’s Bakery insisted on her for two races, after falsely claiming she was the reason they had failed to pay their bills, as part of their settlement with SHR [1]. Obviously SHR is recouping as much as they can from Nature’s Bakery, without putting the fig-bar company into bankruptcy.

The suit was over $31M owed to SHR, through Nature’s Bakery’s 2-year sponsorship deal with Danica Patrick. NB failed miserably at executing any kind for business plan that would capitalize on having a global icon marketing their brand. People often say that one person isn’t bigger than an institution, but that is incorrect in this media age. Danica is an icon, and Nature’s Bakery are a bunch of yahoo’s from Las Vegas, who had no idea what they were getting into with NASCAR sponsorship.

The fallout is that everyone here has to swallow some bad medicine to make this go away. Two races each for Danica & Clint Bowyer settled this lawsuit & counter-suit. This gets the #14 car (quite possibly) the only sponsorship it will have all season. Danica Patrick is presumably asked to quietly acquiesce to all this “for the good of the team.” That’s what happens when you’re a superstar and everyone knows it, which makes everyone else jealous, so they give you a 25th-place car every week…

That’s the dysfunction that is SHR (2017 above), and I can easily see this team replacing drivers and reducing to 3 cars next season, with Kurt Busch & Clint Bowyer being the most-likely cut candidates. This is a business, and there is too much waste at SHR. It can’t continue for much longer with these meager results.

Miscellaneous ‘Monster Mile’ Notes:

Dale Earnhardt Jr is pretty much cooked as a competitive driver. He’s winless in 2017 and currently 22nd in points. Another speeding penalty on pit road at the end of Dover, cost him a chance at a top-5 finish. He was running in back all day, and got a lucky break late (along with 6-7 other cars including Danica Patrick), when a caution came out as everyone else had already pitted on green. Junior got 4 fresh tires and came out 10th, until he was penalized and had to go to the back of the lead lap (16th). He finished 11th, which gets him no Cup points.

Kyle Busch’s #18 Toyota lost a left rear tire as it exited pit road on the first stop. Busch’s crew chief could face major penalties for the detached wheel, as none of the 5 lug nuts were attached. The rule (written in 2015) states that “loss of wheel(s) due to improper installation will result in a mandatory minimum four-race suspension of the crew chief and the tire changer and tire carrier of the lost wheel(s).”

Then again the #18 team may not be sanctioned at all, as JGR is already lobbying for a free pass [3]. When there are rules, and the puppet-masters adjust them by ‘judgment of intent’ on a case-by-case basis, then you have the anarchy that is NASCAR.

Final Dover update 6-8-17:

NASCAR actually stuck to their rules (which is a bit surprising), so give them credit here. If the #18 team wanted to avoid this punishment, then Kyle Busch’s crew chief (Adam Stevens) shouldn’t have allowed their car to leave the pit box without a rear right tire being fixed on. The rule is for safety, and intent doesn’t matter when a tire comes loose, which creates a dangerous situation for everyone on the track. Put the tires on correctly, and there won’t be a problem.
 
As far as those whining about ‘excessive punishment,’ everyone in NASCAR knows this suspension means nothing, as the crew chief is only excluded from being at the track, and can still be in radio contact with their team during the races for which he is “suspended.” The #18 team does have to find a new jackman and tire changer for the next four races, and that’s really the extent of this penalty.

………..<><><><><><><><>………..

What is Russia?

Everything in the US political media is anti-Russian propaganda.  We are daily bombarded with innuendo of ‘Russian hacking & interference in US politics,’ with most people unaware of any historical facts concerning this country.

Any timeline of modern Russia begins with the overthrow of tsarism in 1917.  Throughout the Middle Ages and into capitalism, Russia remained a feudal relic.  Its spaces vast & impenetrable, while its industry meager and confined to a few industrial centers. The most important was St. Petersburg, primarily due to its port on the Baltic Sea.

By 1871, Western Europe had solidified its nation-state system, which pressured the long-existing balance of power, eventually causing its violent break-up in “The Great War.”  Austria-Hungary was partitioned & Balkanized after WWI. The same fate would have met Russia, if not for the Bolshevik party led by Lenin– and finally Trotsky.

The Russian tsar Nicholas II (above), had thrown his backward army into the trenches in 1914, and by 1916 they had collapsed. Germany was compelled to devote most of its resources to the Western front versus England, France (and later the US).  Only this (and Russia’s vast spaces) kept St. Petersburg & Moscow from being taken by German forces.

The overthrow of the tsar (February, 1917) and the conquest of power by the Bolsheviks in October, led by the most-advanced elements of the working class, established a worker’s government in St. Petersburg. What ensued was a global reorientation by the capitalist powers, ending ‘The Great War’ (with many still-unresolved issues) in order to devote all its resources towards overthrowing the worker’s government that had been newly-established in Russia.

By 1922, the Red army had repelled imperialist forces from around the world, and established the first worker’s state in human history, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).  It’s leader, VI Lenin (above) had survived an assassination attempt, but eventually became incapacitated by a series of strokes, and died in January 1924.  This led to a factional struggle for supremacy within the Bolshevik party, eventually pitting powerful bourgeois/fascist elements led by Joseph Stalin, against Leon Trotsky (below).

Trotsky had great support among the people for his leadership during the revolution. Lenin ordered Trotsky to organize & command the Red Army during the civil war, and without him, the revolution would have surely perished. That is the value of leadership.

Great genius is always attacked, and everyone has vulnerabilities.  Trotsky’s ‘liability’ was his brutal honesty, which won him the eternal respect & friendship of Lenin, but few others. Most feared & hated him politically, and Stalin (below) was adept at laying traps, creating intrigue, and back-room politicking; where Trotsky was always advancing the Russian revolution onto the international stage.

This led to parliamentary (conservative) maneuvering, which ousted & exiled Trotsky by the end of the decade. He was exiled to outer Siberia, then the Turkish island of Prinkipo, Norway, and finally Mexico. He continued his revolutionary leadership there, establishing the 4th International (today: WSWS.org).  He was viciously assassinated by an agent of Stalin in August, 1940, while working in his study.

An accurate synopsis of the USSR (above) is that it greatly advanced Russia through its socialized property relations, catapulting it to super-power status by the end of WWII. The Stalinist bureaucracy attached itself to the state (which owned everything), and gorged itself until it collapsed from within. The Soviet people were suppressed by a totalitarian police-state (KGB), but their standard-of-living was much higher than it has been since capitalist restoration [1].

This leads bourgeois historians to generally omit, distort, or gloss-over the Soviet era (1917-1991) from any discussion of Russia.  The US ideology towards the Soviet Union (during its existence) was hysterical red-baiting. Any solidarity with the Soviet people or appreciation for their beautiful land made you a “communist.”  Hollywood actors, musicians and other artists were blacklisted after WWII for these offenses. The FBI, led by J Edgar Hoover, investigated whomever he pleased with no accountability for democratic rights.  Most of the rest just got in line.

US ‘anti-USSR’ propaganda began to soften by the mid-1980’s, with perestroika (capitalist reform).  The failed USSR invasion of Afghanistan (1979-89) betrayed their military weaknesses.  The CIA & US special forces trained radical Islam ‘warriors’ to wage a terror war against the invading Soviet forces, and were largely successful.  This US-created Frankenstein mujahideen became the progenitor of Al Qaeda/ISIS.  The Chernobyl nuclear meltdown in the Ukraine (above), revealed severe limitations in the Soviet Union’s ability to provide basic necessities to its people.

In 1989, the Berlin Wall was opened (above), which re-integrated East Germany back into the west.  Finally the Soviet Union was liquidated in December, 1991.  Bourgeois analysts, intellectuals and historians were completely shocked at these events, while unanimously proclaiming the “end of history,” whatever that was supposed to mean?

Their point was: capitalism ‘won,’ and socialism had failed. As far as their analysis of how & why, Trotsky still explains it better than every bourgeois historian/propagandist, in his classic book cited above.

The break-up of the Soviet Union downsized Russia’s territory by approximately one quarter. This comparison map below illustrates the regions that have been ‘liberated.’  Note that these are important geo-strategic areas, along with new countries in central Asia that have HUGE untapped oil & natural gas reserves.

In bourgeois ‘thinking’ there are no permanent allies, only permanent interests.  That’s what’s always in play with the anti-Russian hysteria– deep state interests. The deep state is the hidden US apparatus that controls all the economic, military, political & media levers-of-power.  It is currently in a raging conflict over how much to escalate their ‘war on Russia.’  This war has never stopped, and as the global influence of the United States continues to decline– both economically & politically (Trump), then the more it resorts to militarism as a solution.

Right now, the power to annihilate humanity is in the hands of some very unstable & angry people.  These fascist forces can not be reasoned with, they must be met with organized political resistance.  Those are the hard facts that liberals always avoid.  Liberals prefer to be ostriches, continuing along with the heads in the sand, as if things will (somehow!) work themselves out.  They can’t be bothered with careful consideration & sacrifice, as they’ve done enough of that already. That is their collective psyche, and that is why Marxism orients itself towards the working class & students.

So why do American’s know so little about Russia?  First, there’s a language barrier. Even their Cyrillic alphabet is foreign, so Americans get little news that’s direct from Russia. Can you read any of this popular Russian newspaper shown above?  Everything we see on Russia is through the US-government propaganda lens.

Russia has a long history, much longer than the US.  Their contributions to literature, music, dance, science and political theory remain landmarks of human culture & civilization. To not embrace it is philistine.

To not appreciate the natural wonders of Russia, is to simply turn off one’s humanity. I will end this post with a small sample of it’s magnificent beauty, and ask why we have to be at war with this?

……….<><><><><><><><>………..

Medical Marijuana & Florida Politics

Amendment 2, which legalized medical marijuana was approved by 71% of Florida voters on Election day 2016.  but it never had a chance of become reality. The Florida legislature had 60 days to pass this amendment in law, and willfully ran out the clock in defiance of the voters of Florida.

Before this amendment was publicly passed, Republican party machinery worked behind the scenes to make sure that widely-available legal marijuana never happened.  With backroom deals made to venture capital & hedge fund investors, Florida is being setup as the new model for legal marijuana under corporate control.  “Vertical integration” is the term that keeps being bandied about in the local media (and in Tallahassee, photo below), meaning monopoly control for a few hand-chosen cannabis distributors.

Background: In 2015-16, twenty-four nurseries applied for the five (5) to-be-available state licenses for medical marijuana, in a secretive process by a board appointed directly by Florida governor Rick Scott, with each coughing up a $60,000 non-refundable application fee.  Licenses were awarded to Costa Nursery farms of Miami, Knox Nursery of Winter Garden, Hackney Nursery Company of Tallahassee, Chestnut Tree Farm of Alachua and Alpha Foliage (Surterra Therapeutics) of Homestead.

Click on any of the five hyperlinked entities above, and you will notice that none of them grow marijuana!  For example Jake Bergman (photo above) is the CEO of Surterra Holdings, Inc. a cannabis-based therapeutics company, seeded by Wall Street hedge fund firm Vakyrie Capital. Surterra has a well-documented history of using pesticides (medically harmful), and their plants have been denied and returned by the State of California due to pest infestations. [1]  Alpha Foliage is simply a Florida-based shell company which gets Surterra their coveted license. Marijuana growth & production will be outsourced to behemoth cannabis cultivator MJardin.

What MJardin offers to the Florida growers is a turn-key cartel service to licensed Florida cannabis businesses. The five license holders merely partner with this Colorado company that steps in and puts the operation in place– for a healthy piece of the action.  Rick Scott (with Trump below) and the Florida legislature provide political protection to the five ‘growers,’ while MJardin monopolizes the Florida marijuana market. [2]

Florida legislators have engineered regulations that shut out small businesses, and prohibit personal home cultivation.  In states like Colorado and California, where the industry was developed before legalization, the medical market was initially served by thousands of small farms. This allowed patients access to a more genetic diversity and a much wider range of product offerings, which led to the discovery of the medical utility of CBD in the first place. When home cultivation is banned and genetic diversity is not allowed to flourish, the true medical potential of marijuana remains hidden in favor of cartel profiteering.

The legislative debate over medical marijuana is an instructive example of capitalist politics overriding democracy and the will of the electorate. The original Florida House of Representatives measure banned smoking, eating, and vaporizing; which meant that despite a constitutional amendment, Floridians would have been banned from actually ingesting marijuana!

After public pressure, the House backed off and authorized vaping and edibles, but still banned smoking & home cultivation. The Senate haggled on their end, and then came back with more edits… back & forth until time ran out.  All this murk makes it difficult for most people to understand who’s to blame, much less what actually happened?

After the annual legislative session closed, pro-pot advocates began turning on each other, in an attempt to shift blame & avoid the political fallout.  Orlando-based trial attorney John Morgan is the one who bankrolled Amendment 2.  Morgan is a longtime Democrat, with ambitions for governor in 2018. He also has a bit of a drinking problem as revealed by his past DUI record, and this idiotic tweet (since deleted) late Friday (May 5) evening:

The next morning Morgan stated in a interview, “Ben Pollara fucked the patients. The first thing I am going to do is make sure the people who helped me pass Amendment 2 know not to give Ben Pollara another red nickel,” Morgan said.

Ben Pollara (above, left) was the campaign chairman for Amendment 2, and the political brains for the entire operation. Pollara told Sunshine State News, “The cartel’s position was unlimited dispensaries for themselves and their investors. Their lobbying team was very successful at holding that position. They got what they wanted and the bill died. My instructions to my lobbying team today were to get a bill – any bill – passed.”

Amendment 2 now moves to the Florida Department of Health, to implement without direction of the Florida Legislature. It has until July to put rules into place. However, the department is under Gov. Rick Scott’s control. Scott is anti-marijuana, so expect no further progress, and this whole mess likely ends up in court.

The silliness of all this is the fact that Florida has been growing some of the finest kinds of marijuana for generations, and yet it can’t legalize it due to bureaucratic ignorance & corporate greed.  The reason being legal marijuana is a major threat to distilleries, breweries, tobacco, and big pharma.

Those are major industries with serious political clout, which stand to lose billions in revenue, perhaps even threatening their very existence. Marijuana is a weed, which means you can grow it anywhere. In many ways it is the most ‘socialized’ plant, ubiquitously used– recreationally and medically.  In many ways, the fight for legal marijuana is a necessary attack on the entire capitalist healthcare system which favors monopolization, and that is why it is hated & feared by so many bourgeois politicians.

Thanks to Orlando Weekly for covering this issue intensely, as much was revealed in only their reporting.

See also: Medical & Recreational Marijuana

1. Rolling-Stoned.mp3     

 

……………<><><><><><><>……….

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheating in Sports

1. 06_Old-Friends-Ric-Size.mp3     

 

ESPN/NASCAR 5-1-17: Joey Logano starts from the back and ends up front [1]

My posted comment: “I like Joey Logano, but I do have a question. What was the ‘unauthorized transmission adjustment’ that sent him to the back of the field to start? He went from last to race winner, so it definitely worked. Just seems unfair, at least until the fans know more.”
Like · Reply · May 1, 2017 11:21am

ESPN/NASCAR 5-4-17: Joey Logano’s win at Richmond won’t count toward playoffs [2]

NASCAR announces Logano’s car was ‘illegally modified’ and that his Richmond win is “encumbered,” meaning he doesn’t get the points or free pass in the Chase. Amazing that no one else in the media initially asked the question, huh?

Cheating is endemic and part of the fabric of NASCAR. Certain teams are allowed to cheat more, depending on their favor with Brian France. For the serious Chase competitors it’s about pushing this envelope, and keeping good political relations with Steve O’Donnell & France. Power owners like Roger Penske, Joe Gibbs & Rick Hendricks get decisive edges for their teams.

Some drivers are more strictly censured than others. There are some whose best interest is NOT to cheat. For instance, Danica Patrick never gets busted for illegal modifications, failing laser inspections, loose lug nuts, etc. It’s not in her interest to cheat, because of how she markets herself to her fanbase of women & kids– as beautiful & fair-minded. That’s how she attracts major sponsorship, and notice that Aspen Dental is now the “official dentist of NASCAR.”  [3]

She consistently runs ~25th, and can never win a race because she isn’t trying (cheating), but with Dale Jr. retiring, Danica will easily become their most valuable commodity. That is the paradox of NASCAR, and it’s the reason she’s so loved & hated [4].

The landscape of women’s tennis has undergone a seismic shift recently. Serena Williams announced her pregnancy (congratulations!), and very likely is leaving professional tennis as quietly as possible. I don’t see a comeback at her age, with all she’s already accomplished. Motherhood will likely motivate her more.

The other bombshell is Maria Sharapova returning, in top form it appears. She’s definitely among the early favorites at Roland Garros, with plenty of motivation & support. Her May 16th official announcement for the French Open is being promoted, so what does that tell you the decision to let her play will be?

Any Sharapova vs. the WTA scandal-mongering in the media is flak designed to distract people from the political & controversial nature of her suspension from the start. Player gossip covers these hidden interests. Maria Sharapova is double-edged, as the tour needs her star power, but she is personally disliked by most players. Rafa Nadal (below) welcomed Marin Cilic back by saying, “Only thing that I can say is I am happy to see Marin back on tour. He’s a good guy and a great player.”

But Nadal didn’t advocate for Sharapova’s return as a wild card under similar circumstances. Sober tennis fans see what’s important here. Cilic is accepted by the players, while Sharapova (an even greater player in the women’s game) is not, due to her unpopular status in the locker room.

Maria Sharapova has won the career grand slam and the French open– twice. Of course she deserves a wild card, and her current situation is why they have such a thing. This entire affair has been a political vendetta, with Sharapova’s Russian nationality being at the heart of it [5].

Serena & Venus Williams were/are allowed to compete with therapeutic-use exemptions (Serena TUE below) for schedule II narcotics & banned steroids, without even a hint of media scrutiny or sanction from the US-backed ITF or WADA. This hypocrisy is staggering, and the response from most of the players is disappointing in it’s selfishness.

Racialist (definition): 1) One who insists that all differences in society are based on race, instead of class. 2) A form a racism.

Genie Bouchard (above) also spoke against Sharapova even being allowed to return [6]. Bouchard’s current situation is beyond bizarre & messed-up, as she is suing the USTA, while her game has fallen apart [7].  Background: in October 2015, Genie Bouchard slipped in the locker room at he US Open In NY, when she couldn’t find a light switch after a late-evening match.  She claims a “serious head injury” with lingering concussion issues [8].

The USTA has destroyed evidence (locker room video) and is at least partially at fault; but this ultimately falls on Bouchard herself.  She would win more support from everyone by becoming an advocate for better locker room conditions for all the athletes.  When you speak selfishly about others, they won’t stand with you when you need them.

As we can see, there is much cheating going on everywhere in sports; men & women, white, black, and any other skin pigment.  It’s inherent ugliness is why it’s hidden, until someone eventually reveals it to the rest of us. It’s motive is to selfishly put oneself ahead of others. Cheating diminishes our souls because it values trophies over character, and that understanding is its best deterrent.

……..<><><><><><><>…….

What is meant by “fake economy?”

Over seven billion humans currently live on this planet. Human civilization has mostly operated (for several hundred years) under an economic system called capitalism, which is predicated on individual profit & loss. By 2017, in order to maintain extreme levels of social inequality, illusions have had to be constructed & sustained. This is where our fake economy comes in.

Under feudalism (and before that, slavery in antiquity) illusions also had to be maintained, as all human societies have been ruled by class forces. The Romans gave their plebeian class “bread & circuses,” until they were overrun by barbaric hordes. Medieval royalty ruled their domain with their knighted class, and the mysticism of organized religion in the Catholic Church. The Crusades were about conquest & power, but peddled as a “Holy War” against Islam. We can therefore see that ‘fake news’ and manipulation of public opinion are not new phenomena. Only the tools & techniques change, as their purpose & interest always remain the same, which is to railroad public opinion towards war.

Fake jobs & industries under capitalism include: sales, business, investing, consulting, management & politics. Education is a crucial area for ideology, as corrupt ivory tower academia provide ‘proofs’ for every absurd irrationally of the profit system and all its malignancies.  It’s easier to manipulate fake people, as zombies don’t know how to think for themselves. Here in the United States, children are taught how to think & act at a very young age, with a consistent propaganda message. That message is to consume things that give instant pleasure. Sugar is the most addicting substance to man, and children are bombarded with targeted advertising in all media programming for unhealthy food from infancy onward.

Now people have fake bodies which aren’t healthy, so they need fake cures. “Selling sickness” is a nefarious industry secret in medicine, dentistry & pharmaceuticals. People are susceptible to this pressure because they have become so insecure about themselves. Any salesperson recognizing this can target weaknesses and close in. When a body is ugly with fat, one has a hard time socializing. One smells bad, so one needs more deodorant, and so on…

1. 11_Money-Bug-Ric-Size.mp3     

 

After a while, many obese people give up on themselves and don’t go out anymore. Luckily there is the Internet and social media, when one can project whatever one pleases. While the Internet & social media are real technology, there is a large element of distortion and inherent falseness in most social media posting over time. We tend to project what we want other people to see, and filter out the rest. It’s much harder to do that in real life, with real people.

The news on the Internet is virtually all fake, outside of the WSWS.org. Capitalism runs every publication, which employs Madison Avenue advertisers to tell everyday people what’s important. This includes the entertainment industry (music, film & TV), sports & fashion. All of these are fake economies, endlessly generating useless content 24/7 for mindless consumers who must be kept entertained in order to distract them from world-significant events happening all around them.

The lure of PED’s in athletics is a form of ‘fake health.’ It plays on competitors’ deepest doubts & insecurities, leading into a chemical morass. Eventually male users need Cialis to get an erection, which begs the question: if you’re so hard, why do you need help there? Steroid use makes no sense when thought out rationally, but our society has taught people to ignore consequences for perceived short-term gains. The problem is the gains aren’t real, and they are more than offset by the detrimental side effects.

The healthiest way to interact is to listen & learn from others, while being influential (in a positive way) where appropriate. Don’t go for popularity because:

1) It’s shallow and accomplishes nothing for anyone else
2) Everyone else is doing it, which means it’s old already

The only way humans can be truly happy is when they are allowed to express themselves freely, without repercussions & without hurting others. That is impossible under our current fake economy. We need to starting getting real with everything, in order to replace these illusions with something real, as nothing else works.

2. Problem-Solved.mp3     

…….<><><><><><><><>……….

Aluminum Aluminium 的中文翻譯| 英漢字典

This is aluminum, a silvery-white, soft, nonmagnetic, ductile metal; remarkable for it’s low density and its ability to resist corrosion [1]. It is widely abundant in the Earth’s crust, but also hazardous in many ways. The most-noted hazard is its link to brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Aluminum’s unmentioned hazard is rooted in capitalism, as China now manufactures most of this commodity, which is used in anything that has metal in it. This is because China does it cheaper than everyone else, super-exploiting their workers & destroying the environment in the process. This is “killing us,” so US national insecurity throws up trade barriers which precede war.

Our economy is GLOBAL and can no longer be ruled by competing nation states, as it inexorably leads to world war. That is the essential historical lesson of the 20th century, which must be learned & applied now– by the workers & youth of the world in revolutionary action!

 

1. 13_More-Like-Us-Ric-Size.mp3     

 

…………..<><><><><><><><><><>…………

ADA News & Dentaltown

This arrived in my PO Box. I’ve asked to be removed from their mailing list many times, but this is a big deal for the American Dental Association (ADA), so I get this issue:

Licensure exams are a huge source of corruption, graft & bureaucratic waste.  Every dentist has to submit to the unfair practices of each state or regional board, who define clinical competency on their own terms.  Basically many state licensure exams (Florida in particular) are a blatant pay-offs to the good ‘ol boy network & connected cronies.  Hence the ‘skeptics’ who are assured their graft is protected, as this be be a only be a suggested model (available by 2020) according to the ADA at the very end of the article:

One of the most powerful figures in dentistry is the Howard Farran, DDS (photo below, bottom middle). He is the creator of Dentaltown, which became THE social media forum for dental professionals, so no surprise that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is speaking at their annual ‘Townie’ meeting:

Many years ago I visited Dentaltown frequently, but never posted.  Handle: DocEric.  I was there to learn, and I learned a lot– on many, many facets of dentistry. That is the power of the Internet and content sharing.

Dentaltown’s archive is massive and pretty much complete, meaning that every issue that has ever come up in modern dentistry has probably been discussed there.  Farran’s specialty is business, but each clinical forum has expert moderators. It’s the best place for professionals to go for current, real-world answers to dental problems.

1. 11_Money-Bug-Ric-Size.mp3     

 

For the rest, this mp3 (above) should do.

…………..<><><><><><><><><><>…………

Proxy Perils

These corporate clowns had no answers for angry shareholders concerning their bank’s financial malfeasance at their annual stockholder’s meeting today.

Wells Fargo Chairman Stephen Sanger (L) and CEO Tim Sloan (R) leave a meeting with reporters after the annual shareholder meeting in Jacksonville, Florida, U.S., April 25, 2017. REUTERS/Phelan Ebenhack [1]

Wells Fargo is being pressured by Institutional Shareholder Services, Inc. (ISS), a proxy advisory firm for short-selling hedge funds, which own shares of numerous companies. ISS advises shareholders and votes their shares (often unknowingly) in stockholder voting.

Proxy season is the period during which many companies hold their annual shareholder meetings. It usually occurs in April, as most companies end their fiscal years on Dec. 31 and hold their annual meetings the following spring. By ISS’s own estimate, its opinions affect the governance decisions of professional investors controlling $25 trillion in assets — half the value of the world’s common stock. [2]

I.S.S. is controlled by Gary Retelny, CEO (photo above). It was the first, and is now the largest firm to advise institutions on voting, offering ‘research’ for 35,000 companies in 15 countries; making recommendations on issues including mergers, poison pills, and the fitness of directors. It also collects and transmits corporate ballots. Around 75% of the votes it transmits require a signoff by the client, or are cast by specific instruction. About 25% are on a policy of implied consent, under which votes are cast according to I.S.S.’s annually updated guidelines.

Stock value is the only indicator that matters to financial capitalists such as these. Non-performers will have their directors targeted for removal by a proxy campaign from this powerful Black Hand [3].

At most S&P 500 companies, director support averages around 95% of votes cast, according to pay consulting firm Semler Brossy. Typically a recommendation from ISS that investors vote “against” a director will reduce support they receive by an average of 17 to 18 percentage points.  If 80% is considered the threshold for maintaining a corporate director position (and it is), then ISS’s influence is decisive in corporate governance.

This is the pressure on the markets, and it is bursting at the seams everywhere.  There is basically no long-term productivity left, as financial capital insists on short-term results every time.  It’s less than 100 days into the Trump administration, and it is clear that U.S. capitalism is now rudderless. Donald Trump is so unstable and such an unreliable leader, that it’s created a power vacuum in political economy & the military. After being shot down by stiff popular opposition, the preferred Trump administration option always becomes the ‘nuclear’ one.

A video shows the moment a MOAB, or “mother of all bombs”, struck the Achin district of the eastern province of Nangarhar, Afghanistan, bordering Pakistan.
DVIDS/Handout via Reuters TV

There are now a few hundred powerful individuals basically controlling the world economy. The deep state is a nexus of Wall Street power brokers, CIA/intelligence experts, Pentagon brass and political royalty. They are ideologically & ethically bankrupt, and do nothing but exist in isolation in order to further monetarily enrich themselves.  The first revolutionary task is to specifically identify these individuals, and understand the depth of their criminality.  Once that has been widely achieved, the intervention of the working masses into this mix will quickly sweep this elitist rubbish into the trash bin of political history.

1. Weird-Ideas.mp3     

 

…………………<><><><><><><><><>…………………

Celebrity: To Be or Not To Be

Everyone wants to be famous, right? Then you are well-known and everyone listens to what you have to say, so you can make a difference! That’s what most people believe. Celebrity reality (an oxymoron) is much different.

People naively believe that if you work hard and are amazing at what you do, then you will (somehow?) become a celebrity. Wrong!  You become a ‘star’ when the ruling class selects you to be one of their representatives. That’s where the big money comes from to pay these superstar contracts. Celebrities are spokespersons for capitalism, whether they are movie stars, rock stars or famous athletes– they are all sponsored by finance capital. These are the circuses which decadent capitalists enjoy, but primarily serve as a distraction (fake economy) for the underprivileged working masses.

The deal you make when you become a celebrity is that you NEVER speak badly about the sponsors, ie. capitalism. Since they are paying for your enhanced status, they expect full cooperation across the board. This definitely reaches into celebrities’ private lives, as they are simply no longer allowed to mingle with non-celebrities, unless there is complete control of the setting. This celebrity insecurity is a lonely disease. That fact that nearly every Hollywood/celebrity marriage ends in divorce substantiates this thesis. This leads to the ever-constant celebrity fascination with sex, probably because they aren’t getting any, or if they are it is of poor quality.

The fact that the vicarious public knows every detail of these figures & figurines demonstrates that they are allowed no privacy themselves; as famous lives are endlessly analyzed, dissected and discussed everywhere in the corporate news & social media. Any slip of the tongue on a bad day can be ruin.  This is the tightrope the glamorous & famous must gracefully walk every day.  If that sounds like an impossible amount of work, that’s because it is. Eventually every celebrity is wrecked or quietly taken down, and this entire fake economy lurches forward with new ‘stars.’ The bankers & corporate heads that control everything remain the same, and stay hidden.

As a celebrity, what you get to say for yourself hardly matters. Big capital owns the important parts of your brain which determine ethics & character. The rest is basic functions, fluff & bragging backed by lots of money.  Working people aren’t stupid, they’re just overworked– so they are a little slower in seeing all this. Many have already ‘cut the cord’ and that trend will accelerate as working people can no longer afford these spectacles, which are increasingly being recognized as fake.

The cult of celebrity is a major hurdle for the working class to clear on its way to a successful socialist revolution. The role of modern finance capital in creating a privileged ‘buffer layer’ to insulate the ruling 1% from the working masses has been an effective innovation. This ~10%  buffer includes celebrities, who mesmerize many working people.

1. 03_Ridiculous-Ric-Size.mp3     

 

This is because workers are trained to believe their own lives don’t matter, because it’s only money & fame that count. This is not only wrong, it is exactly the opposite of the truth– a Big Lie technique. It is the workers who are real, as they are the ones who produce the material value for society. Celebrities are part of this vast fake economy which is crumbling all around us– daily. In spite of this reality, these charlatans must continue to dance to the music, no matter how banal & vapid it is.

It is correct to say that artists should be rewarded no more than any other worker, under socialism. Under capitalism things are unequal, and therefore artists hold the highest rank of importance in bourgeois society. Without Pablo Picasso, Orson Welles, Mile Davis, Stanley Kubrick, Andy Warhol, John Lennon, etc., there is no culture and no beacon for truth. True artists are of precious value, because they can be taken away in one act of violence by a ruling class that will stop at nothing to preserve its privilege and avoid being exposed.

Marxism uses the dialectical method to analyze society historically & materially. Dialectics means that everything is always moving & changing, so it is critical to understand the process in order to project the future. At one point most celebrities had noble aspirations. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux is attributed with the proverb, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” Even this noble saint had progressive thoughts, but when it lacks Marxist discipline & critical dialectical thinking, it inevitably becomes an idealist morass, which always funnels back to god & bourgeois capitalism in the dead-end form of the Democratic party in the US.

……….<><><><><><><><>………….