Political guide to being an artist

Music is personal and everyone does it for their own reasons. Everyone who has tried knows that. This essay is to concisely explain my reasons, which are mostly misunderstood. I started like everyone else because I love music and wanted to do my own thing. At first the goal was to be a rock star. I eventually learned that wasn’t possible, so I outgrew the idea and became something more. I became an artist with socialist consciousness.

In the history of popular music, this has only been tried a few times, and it has always been met with virulent hostility & blacklisting from the entertainment industry & ruling establishment. The surrealists led by French writer André Breton were the earliest 20th century example of art & socialist politics meeting (through Trotsky), and their movement was deeply influential, though it was finally overwhelmed by fascism across Europe in the 1930’s. The surrealist movement deserves careful study today in terms of content, revolutionary potential, and its inherent limitations.

Mexican painter Diego Rivera, whose frescoes & murals dazzled the art world in the 1930’s, flirted with Trotsky, but eventually retreated to his mansion as World War II broke out in Europe.

Post-war art has been kept under the thumb of anti-communism, ever since President Truman laid out US Cold War policy, which has continued up to this day. Cold War policy can be summed up as: Russia is the evil enemy, and Marxism is never to be tolerated. If you were an advocate for civil rights (women, blacks, immigrants) & anti-war in this era, then you were branded as a godless communist that must be expunged from the Earth [!].

Popular folk music group, the Weavers, whose best known song was “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” were blacklisted because leading member Pete Seeger was a socialist. The Weavers had a “clean” playlist for live performance, but it didn’t matter to the anti-communists in 1950. The original Weavers disbanded in their prime by the summer of 1952, due to no gigs. They revived themselves a few years later with their famous Carnegie Hall performance, recorded Christmas Eve 1954, but not released by Vanguard Records until April, 1957.

* As a footnote. these irrational hysterics & witch hunts were brought back to life by today’s anti-communists with the Black Lives Matter & MeToo campaigns in the 2010’s. Their goal (as always) is to artificially divide the working masses through identity politics. No serious discussion of class inequality & imperialism is allowed with anti-communists. That’s when they get hostile & violent.

Bob Dylan’s working class appeal in his early to mid-1960’s era made people take sides on issues like racism, class society, the Vietnam War, etc. Fans & the establishment turned on him when he electrified (which magnified his message), to the point where he finally had to retreat & hide away.

On July 29th, 1966, a month after his final classic-period masterpiece Blonde On Blonde was released, Bob Dylan crashed his motorcycle near Woodstock, New York. He used this (relatively minor) accident as a pretext to remove himself from the political discussion in the mainstream. He did this to save his life. At this point, Vietnam was becoming out in-the-open & overwhelmingly polarizing. Bob Dylan risked being killed like Malcolm X, as he was the white equivalent at the time with his songs. MLK, and Democrat for President, Bobby Kennedy were gunned down in 1968, just to give you an idea of the times.

I don’t blame Bob Dylan for doing what he did to save his life, and neither should you. There was no organized political party on the left that he could have joined to protect himself and his political convictions. In revolutionary terms, Bob Dylan was too far ahead of his time. He had to retreat back into capitalism to carry on.

In the jazz realm, Sun Ra (pic above) stands as the shining star of revolution, with a catalog & body-of-work too vast to discuss here. His avant garde piano/electric keyboard/synthesizer style, backed by his Arkestra, seems to have come from another planet, which he claimed it did. Everything he did, from Saturn Records, to how he recorded & marketed himself, while holding his Arkestra together for 40+ years until his death (and then beyond), deserves careful study.

Sun Ra approached music as a conscious objector to WWII. He lived with, then ran afoul of the Black Panthers, a point ‘Afro-futurist’ racialists avoid. Sun Ra created his myth, to protect himself, and it worked. He died naturally in 1993, and never had to change his message.

If you are not a myth, whose reality are you?
If you are not a myth, whose reality are you?
If you are not a reality, whose myth are you?

— Sun Ra

Let the verse cited above roll around in your head for awhile, while contemplating deeply. I love Sun Ra, but I don’t want to be a myth, I’m a reality, so the question eventually became for me, as Ric Size: How do I become a revolutionary artist without having to retreat politically or descend into mysticism?

First, you must educate yourself in all spheres. You can’t be fooled by the bullshit, old & new, and you can’t rely any anyone else to tell you the truth. You must discover it for yourself & always keep it close. You must know yourself completely.

But beyond that you need help. No one is an island, and eventually everyone dies. You need to affiliate yourself with an organization that represents your political values and will survive into posterity. By the time I became serious about being an artist in the late 2000’s, such a political entity had come into existence– the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS).

The WSWS has had an Arts section from the start, at the insistence of Arts editor David Walsh. As I understand the discussions which took place back in 1998, (and I wasn’t present), it was David Walsh who insisted on the inclusion of an ‘Arts’ section as essential, and he had to convince David North & Nick Beams (among others)– and finally did. It was a far-sighted inclusion which deserves socialist merit, because it is art that sparks revolutions by defining it to the masses through songs, film, literature, paintings, etc. You can’t separate art & revolution.

Let me finish on musical artists with socialist consciousness by pointing out that there is revolution in the reggae music of Bob Marley & the Wailers, Scratch Perry, etc. Same with P-funk, punk & post-punk. Same with Fela Kuti’s Afro-beat. Same with Eno, Fripp, Byrne…

I affiliate myself with the ICFI, the Trotskyist party of international socialism. By doing this, I never have to walk anything back. My art isn’t perfect, and there is no such thing anyways. All it’s meant to do is inspire & educate. As a revolutionary artist, you light a candle so others can follow. Whatever comes after is left up to others, as it should be.

All an artist can do is continue to work. The critics & naysayers will always be there. You can’t have fans, without having haters. The idea is to love your fans and always be true to them, while appropriately dealing with the haters. It’s serious work, so make sure you find good help & trusting allies.

I’ve written a lot about baseball analytics on this site and for good reason. There is a truth in the numbers, that is often hidden through only observing. MLB is such a long season, and the subtle differences between good teams & the best team, are often too slight to see with the naked eye. If you can see them, it helps to have numbers to back up what you are scouting.

It’s like this with art & politics. Art is creative freeflow, where politics can be studied scientifically using orthodox Marxism, known as Trotskyism. To make sure your art stays true to the truth, you need Trotskyism (the WSWS) as a political guide. Once you are fundamentally sound (politically speaking), a dialectical change will occur, and then you will be able to write anthems that appeal to kids & the masses with a revolutionary spirit.

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Roe v Wade overturned by right-wing packed US Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court’s reactionary overturning of Roe v Wade has nothing to do with democracy. Wealthy women will still get abortions. This is an elitist attack on the rights of working people. On the ground, these elitist policies are carried out by anti-abortion fanatics who throw the Bible in everyone’s face, but don’t (refuse to) understand the fundamental democratic concept known as separation of church and state. These right-wing bigots never read Thomas Jefferson seriously, so they only quote him badly.

These right-wing terrorists call themselves “pro-life” by condoning harassment & murder of doctors (& staff) who perform public-service abortions at community health clinics. They proclaim to care so much about a fetus, but clearly DON’T care about anyone (except themselves) after they are born. Their hateful message gets amplified endlessly in the fake media from all sides. When it all falls apart, and no one believes them anymore, the far-right proclaims they are being “terrorized” by working people who are getting in-their-faces about all their malfeasance & criminality. This is only lies/flak, and a precursor to more violence the right-wing is secretly planning.

A woman has the right to control her body. That’s a Constitutional right. Anything else is bigotry & fascism disguised as “morality.” This watershed far-right ruling has been anticipated for months, after it was leaked to the public and met with mass disdain. It inevitably happened today because their is no backbone for this fight within the Democratic Party leadership. The US Supreme Court has been packed with Bush (HW & W) and Trump appointees. They get to stay for life, and in this political climate are virtually unimpeachable.

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Witness everything we have learned (so far) from the 1/6 House Select Committee hearings concerning Ginny Thomas, and then her husband Clarence for not recusing himself in cases where his wife is implicated. These are reactionaries & phonies who only care about their ends, and will use any means to get themselves there. I say We the People need to overturn the US Supreme Court.

This marks a qualitative shift in the US two-party system. Grassroots liberals have been abandoned by Democratic Party leadership. Neither Bernie Sanders, nor AOC, did anything to stop the US Supreme Court from enacting its reactionary agenda. What will happen to this critical constituency in the eyes of the ruling class? This splits the Democratic party, just like Trump split the Republicans on 1/6/21. New political entities are being established. It’s now ‘Trump supporters vs. all his political opponents’ in official politics. Basically, Joe Biden has merged the Democratic Party into what’s left of the traditionally conservative Republican constituency. “Team normal vs team crazy” is how they spin it in the fake media. Joe Biden’s mantra is, “We must have unity with the fascists.”

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Electrified! promo/update

I went to a Catholic high school and then a Jesuit University. I’ve recently been thinking about what I’ve done that most offends these people, and it’s probably “Atheist Psalm” from this record.

As true-believing Christians, I seek your forgiveness on this. I’m not apologizing for it. “Atheist Psalm” is rated ‘Explicit’ by YouTube, Spotify, etc, when there are no swears in it. That’s a measure of its shock value & how much the censors hate it. The rest of Electrified! (2015) does the same. That’s why it’s so hard to find.

Electrified (2015)

There is a fascist paramilitary element that wants to overthrow the US Constitution and establish a personalist dictatorship in America. The US Constitution says ALL people are allowed to express their political feelings without fear of retribution violence, blacklisting, etc. It also explicitly expresses that there needs to be a separation of church & state.

If you disagree, then consider this thoughtfully instead of resorting directly to Biblical hysterics, guns & violence. That’s the difference between acceptable political debate and what fascists did on 1/6/21. The idea that politics is ideological discussion & ethical debate of history, class inequality, etc; and NOT hand-to-hand combat, is not yet for everybody– I understand. But someday it will be. It has to be for our species survival.

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Pussy Riot & Ukrainian ultra-nationalism

Preface: Music & art are aptitudes of mine, and you REALLY can’t fool me when it comes to punk rock. I know it because I’ve loved it since I was a kid.

A few weeks back it was announced with sensational fake media coverage that two members of the so-called “art collective” Pussy Riot, Masha Alyokhina & Lucy Shtein escaped from Russia.

Pussy Riot refers to themselves as an “art collective,” but gets promoted like a band. They are neither. Pussy Riot are foreign agents, as declared by Vladimir Putin’s Justice Ministry. Since December 30, 2021, when Nadya Tolokonnikova & Nika Nikulshina were added to the Russian government list of “foreign agents,” they have been required to start every tweet with this disclaimer:

THIS MESSAGE (MATERIAL) CREATED AND DISTRIBUTED BY A FOREIGN MASS MEDIA PERFORMING THE FUNCTIONS OF A FOREIGN AGENT

“These people systematically distribute materials to an indefinite circle of persons, while receiving foreign funds,” the Russian Justice Ministry said in a statement. For the record, this author declared this conclusion a year-and-a-half earlier in this report.

These foreign agents (AKA Pussy Riot) have mostly fled Russia since Putin’s reactionary invasion of the Ukraine began in late February 2022. The NYT breathtakingly describes their escape to Lithuania as a heroic dash to freedom. “A lot of magic happened last week… It sounds like a spy novel.” Maria Alyokhina said, perhaps revealing more than she meant.

Another agent of Western imperialism, Maria V. Alyokhina, said, “I still don’t understand completely what I’ve done,” in the New York Times propaganda piece, again revealing more than intended, because you don’t just escape from Putin’s Russia without knowing what you are doing!

These agents were under Russian police surveillance and forced to wear ankle bracelet ID trackers, etc. You need serious help from Western intelligence to escape that. Since Pussy Riot are simply patsies for US imperialism, they don’t fully understand the “magic” that made it possible. It’s somehow connected to a Turkmenistan embezzler, Swiss bank accounts, and $20M in cash that disappeared after he turned up dead in a hotel room. Murky, murky

Getting back to what we know, it is a historical fact that US President Joe Biden provoked Vladimir Putin’s desperate invasion. Biden and his colleagues have authorized $40B (& counting) in US taxpayer money for weapons & ammo to arm the Azov Battalion, Right Sector, etc, who are all fascist SS progeny. Their historical leader is Ukrainian ultra-nationalist Stepan Bandera, who collaborated with Adolf Hitler in his war to exterminate Marxism & Jews in WWII. That is history. The rest is de-evolution.

Pussy Riot screams “Glory To Ukraine,” during all their “performances” across Europe now. This is the battle cry of the ultra-nationalists, CIA mercenary scum of the Maidan Putsch & Odessa Massacre of 2014. It is a historical fact that “Glory To Ukraine” is a Nazi anthem.

Since fleeing to the West with a lot help from their friends in Langley & Washington, Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova & Maria Alyokhina now concentrate much of their activity on their anti-Russian (CIA) propaganda outlet, Mediazona. If you were a foreign agent posing as an art collective or punk band, you would do exactly this right now.

In late April 2022, the Dartmouth Political Union hosted a virtual event with Nadya Tolokonnikova, who had been booked months in advance, well before the Putin invasion. Of course, she was not asked if she is an agent of the US, but when asked how she comes up with ideas for “art protest” Tolokonnikova said “that it is not so much about the quality of the performance as it is the quality of the protest.”

As a revolutionary artist I can tell you that it is ALL ABOUT the quality of the performance, with politics being an essential part of it, but genuine art also has humor, humanity, love, science, culture, etc. That’s the difference of thought between a real artist and agents of imperialism.

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Uvalde Memorial Day Services

Most people don’t really understand what war is, much less what side they are on. Memorial Day is where we remember those soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice so we can live the American dream. These dead soldiers are the latest casualties. Most of these brave heroes had reached the rank of elementary student before they were cut down in the line of duty.

We also honor those teachers killed, while the cops did nothing. To them on Memorial Day, we say, “Thank you for your service & sacrifice.” They died so fascists can be free to carry guns anywhere and shoot whomever they please. The police won’t stop that. It’s the American way under capitalism. Up until a few days ago these valiant soldiers had survived COVID-19 in the classroom, immigration discrimination, rising living costs, etc. Now they are dead, so don’t forget to wrap yourself in the American flag this weekend and drink a toast to all these brave soldiers. They died too young.

Everyone throws the word “freedom” around, especially these weekends, but do they really know what it is? Some people define freedom as the “right” to dominate, intimidate, provoke, and/or silence whomever they please by whatever means they choose. Fascists distort the true meaning of the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution (which Trump tried to overthrow on 1/6/21), through the NRA, police, and far-right paramilitary groups such as the Proud Boys. That’s called fascism, expressed politically through the various right-wing power constituencies of the Republican party. It is important to understand that the Republicans have been fractured & split since 1/6/21.

On a grassroots level, Trump supporters meme, “Let teachers carry” to demonstrate their support for neo-Nazis through ignorance, while showing no respect for the dead. The sociopathic demagogue Donald Trump is at it again, after his January 6, 2021 coup attempt to become American dictator failed. Predictably, he’s been allowed to remain free & unquestioned (shielded) by the Democrats, Department of Justice, etc, so everything from Joe Biden to AOC is no better politically.

Obama/Biden and the rest of the CIA Democrats provoked Putin’s reactionary invasion of the Ukraine by orchestrating their Maidan coup in 2013-14, and generally refusing to end the Cold War. It is a historical fact that the Ukrainian Azov Battalion is Waffen SS, virulently anti-Semitic & anti-socialist. The Nuremberg War Crimes Trials of 1946 established Heinrich Himmler’s SS as a criminal organization in its entirety. These are the “freedom fighters” Washington is arming to the teeth in the Ukraine to kill Russians and start World War III.

Donald Trump aims his fascist wrath at China & Hispanics due to his inherent racism. Trump insists on building walls when Israeli-occupied Palestine proves that massive security walls don’t work. Trump lost money in the casino business in Atlantic City, if you need an early measure of his business acumen. He’s never built anything of value that lasts, only his brand & führer cult.

No respect for history or science, while being completely counterproductive, makes the entire political establishment reactionary. The aim in Washington & Langley is regime change and colonial subjugation of Russia. Then it’s China, so as we can see, this is madness. The fake media on all sides NEVER allows serious discussion of the October 1917 Russian Revolution led by Lenin & Trotsky. The fact that Russia is the 2nd-largest nuclear power (China 3rd) is also minimized in the fake media. There is only freedom of speech if it’s the “correct” speech. That’s what Americans are Memorializing.

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Universal DH Era

The MLB players & owners finally came to their senses and their lockout was settled amicably by March 2022. Opening Day was moved back only one week to April 7, with many doubleheaders to come this summer. The big story of the MLB season is the universal DH and the deadened baseball. I like both.

Slugging percentage has been quelled, and in many ways this unofficially ends (or at least suppresses) the steroid era. Owners now have the power to unilaterally manipulate the baseball as the players get stronger. That’s easier than moving the fences back in all 30 MLB parks.

Once again you have to be a true slugger to go opposite-field upper deck, and that’s the way it should be. I’m going to commend both sides, players & owners because it appears each side actually listened to the other. They both found a way to respect the game and move it forward for the fans. Analytics have been a HUGE part of this. Online criticism & commentary gets noticed when the money is this big. It certainly wasn’t the haters in the fake sports media that led the charge for this improvement. All they do is blabber & rant.

Less than two months into the 2022 MLB season I’m christening this the Universal DH era, as this rule change has radically impacted the game in a good way, which is refreshing. Pitchers no longer have to take batting practice, work on bunting, learn batter signs, and ultimately stand in a batter’s box and try to execute.

That’s one less place for them to get injured. The bases are another, as pitchers now don’t have to concern themselves with running the bases, unless they volunteer to be a pinch runner for their manager in need. It creates a completely different dynamic for them to channel themselves and stay healthier.

That’s a LOT off of their workload, as now they can concentrate exclusively on being a pitcher on the mound. Look at how pitchers have done in 2022 by comparing the slashline batting stats from the past five seasons this one inclusive. You would think that with pitchers not batting, the slash lines for MLB hitters would go up, since starters no longer drag down the league average. But it’s the opposite.

MLB  BA  OBP SLG

2022 .238 .309 .383    (thru May 27)
2021 .244 .317 .411
2020 .245 .322 .418   (60 game season, universal DH)
2019 .252 .323 .435
2018 .248 .318 .409

BA is down 6-8 percentage points, OBP is down 8-12 percentage points, and SLG% is down at least 30-40 points. This gives pitchers a chance again. Another thing that has helped pitchers is K-zone technology, which hold umpires accountable. It’s harder than ever to be a good MLB pitcher, or even an average one. Fielding, holding runners, avoiding sign detection, umpire performance, etc, are all measured by MLB front offices, scouts & fans*.

* To be honest, much of the fan interest in analytics is fueled by gambling promoted by ESPN, etc. This gambling addiction explosion started with fantasy sports, and was accelerated when ESPN began broadcasting Texas Hold ‘Em poker, promoting it as a mainstream sport, but I digress.

This analysis of the universal DH rule impacting MLB pitching mostly applies to starters, as relievers don’t hit as a rule, but they had to as they developed. All these distractions of being an incompetent batter are now gone at the highest professional level, so the rules for developing pitchers now change everywhere. It’s more specialized, and you have to commit to a position earlier now. MLB is a global game, with a re-codified international draft, Japanese League transfers, etc.

Now the rules are the same in the AL & NL for the first time in MLB since 1972. That makes sense. This allows pitchers to hang around longer, which is good since they don’t grow on trees. The universal DH also makes the game much easier for the manager in the dugout. No longer will a manager have to consider taking out a strong pitcher with a few innings left, for a pinch hitter. This helps the bullpens of all 30 teams, and keeps relievers healthier. Fans, players & owners like that. It took a lockout that threatened the entire 2022 season for owners & players to get this done.

The idea is that pitchers have needed a break ever since José Canseco. The newly expanded post-season, with a third Wildcard is fine too. The two teams with the best records in each league get byes, while the best-of-three play-in series are entirely at the field of the teams with the better record, or tie breaker winner.

That respects the 162-game season, which hasn’t really happened since 1993, the last season before MLB adopted the Wildcard. Expansion in the 1960’s ushered in the pennant race era from 1969-1993, where you had to win your division (East & West in each league), to get into the post-season. This set up two 7-game league championship series to determine the World Series match-up. It was cruel & elegant. But MLB expansion (Marlins-Rockies, then Diamondbacks-Devil Rays) necessitated a third (Central) division in each league, and thus the Wildcard was stillborn in 1994.

Big-spending franchises that were previously shut out (Red Sox, Giants, Cubs) by perennial powerhouses like the Yankees/Dodgers, benefited from the Wildcard system. It began in 1994, but that season was cancelled by MLB commissioner Bud Selig after his owner colleagues provoked a player’s strike, which denied the owners of their coveted post-season television, attendance and merchandising revenues. The 1994-95 MLB players’ strike was a bitter dispute that dragged on too long. Opening Day wasn’t until Tuesday, April 25, 1995 for the Dodgers-Marlins, and the next day for everyone else.

The fact that both players & owners cooperated to settle their differences (for now), and play ball brings a measure of hope to die-hard fans. They say “hope springs eternal” in baseball, but much of that is naive. Baseball is big business, just like all professional sports everywhere. Championships are won in the off-season, like when the Dodgers acquired RF Mookie Betts. Or when the Nationals let RF Bryce Harper & manager Dusty Baker go, and signed free agent LHP Patrick Corbin and brought in Dave Martinez to manage their dugout in 2019.

On the other end, there’s no hope for the Pirates or Reds in 2022. The Cubs are now almost finished dumping assets for prospects, and will be done by the 2022 trade deadline. The Rockies & Diamondbacks have no chance in the stacked NL West. The Giants, after a swan song for Buster Posey’s final season in his Hall-of Fame career, succumbed to the Dodgers in 2021, and that was that.

The Giants still spend a ton to remain respectable, which is okay, but it’s not enough to win without another HOF-er. Ever since LF Barry Bonds was retired by MLB in 2007-08, the Giants have focused on pitching, drafting & development. That’s how they won 3 WS, 2010, 2012 & 2014, one as a Wildcard. They finished 6 GB the Dodgers in 2014, won the NL West by 8 games in 2012, and by 2 games in 2010. The Diamondbacks won the NL West in 2011. There was much more inter-divisional balance back then.

Now it’s the haves & have-nots. The Brewers are the “haves” in the NL Central as long as their pitching holds up. The universal DH helps Craig Counsell manage his rotation, and gives them a better chance in the post-season where pitching matters most. The Brewers have never won a WS. I predict the Brewers or the Padres are going to be the next MLB team to lose their virginity, so to speak.

The Milwaukee Brewers have the formula with pitching and developing it internally. They get the best out of their starters and keep them relatively healthy. Can they keep it going? The LF Christian Yelich extension cripples the Brewers financially, and they really can’t afford it. His back is injured and this has sapped his power. The Brewers are paying him $26M per season through 2028, with a $6.5M buyout.

That’s why I favor the Padres in this quest to be World Series christened. The Padres have more payroll, and they need it against the Dodgers. People who don’t follow the NL West don’t fully appreciate how the Dodgers win. They have the most talent & money. They draft & develop. They’ve had an international presence since forever. If you’re bad, or even borderline, the Dodgers don’t just beat you, they punish you. It’s demoralizing if you’re trying to develop young players with fragile psyches.

It’s why Padres GM AJ Preller had to trade young LHP Eric Lauer to the Brewers for more experience & consistency in RHP Zach Davies in 2020. After one good season, Davies was flipped to the Cubs for RHP Hu Darvish. The Padres need frontline championship starters who can face the Dodgers. That, and Coors Field with Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, etc, can blow-up a LOT of young pitchers.

That was a real possibility for Eric Lauer (above), so his brilliant GM did the right thing by trading him to a NL competitor for maximum value. The NL Central works better for Eric Lauer, so the trade benefits everyone, both teams, AND all the players involved. That’s rare, and therefore noteworthy.

It is instructive to note that the Brewers & Padres have made many recent deals with the Rays which have benefited all sides. See: SS Willy Adames, 2B/UT Jake Croenenworth, OF Manny Margot, RHP Drew Rasmussen, etc. This is a NL round-up, but I will throw-in that the Rays are a really smart organization, so GM’s need to know what they’re doing when dealing with them, otherwise the Rays swindle the other side even when they are dumping. The Rays are always dumping. Baseball Reference has the Rays around $75M for 2022, which is bottom-five (or close, it’s murky) in MLB payroll again.

The Cardinals are an organization that knows what they are doing, so they will hang around and probably snatch a Wildcard in 2022. This is a franchise that benefits from post-season expansion. This is the final MLB season for 1B/DH Albert Pujols, C Yadier Molina & RHP Adam Wainwright, so the Cardinals are in it to win it for sure.

The NL East is the murkiest division in the senior circuit. I have never believed in this version of the Phillies, as they have too many holes. The Nationals are rebuilding, and made a HUGE mistake re-signing RHP Stephen Strasburg to that crazy extension. He basically hasn’t pitched since, due to injuries, and that was the obvious risk. That may cost them LF Juan Soto.

The Marlins are futile, and new GM Kim Ng busted with her first free agent splash in LF Avisail Garcia. Historically speaking, GM’s don’t get many second chances to spend with Marlins ownership. Clearly, the Mets have the divisional edge in payroll. In March, team owner Steve Cohen said the Mets “probably will” go over a $290M payroll for the 2022 season. Spending over that threshold gets taxed by MLB at 80%. Here are the new CBA numbers on the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT):

Tax tier  Threshold    Tax rate
First        $230 million   20%
Second   $250 million   32%
Third       $270 million   62.5%
Fourth     $290 million   80%

It’s hard to determine exactly how much MLB owners are taxed when their franchise goes over the CBT, as it’s formulated by average annual value of all (multi-year) contracts, salary dumps, etc. Suffice to say I see the $270M threshold (3rd tier) as the divider for many MLB owners who don’t want to pay 62.5% tax on anything. 32% is more doable for a MLB owner willing to spend over $250M, but 62.5% bites hard at $270M. Maybe once as a final plunge, otherwise only the wealthiest, most egotistical owners will spend that kind of money. Usually it’s a bad idea that fails, but uncontrollable egos won’t listen to reason.

The Mets signed FA RHP Max Scherzer, and RHP Jacob deGrom isn’t getting any younger, so the Mets are in World Series-or-bust mode in 2022. The Mets finally have an owner who can afford to spend what their fans expect, but health remains an organizational issue they need to solve to compete for a championship again.

The Braves benefited immensely from the Padres collapse in 2021, as AJ Preller only tried for Max Scherzer at the trade deadline and he lost out to the Dodgers who also acquired SS Trea Turner in their deal with the Nationals. No one else available was worth him trading for, so AJ Preller throwing in the towel on 2021 opened up the acquisition market for GM Alex Anthopoulos, who retooled the entire Braves outfield at the deadline at a bargain, which helped them win the WS. The Braves had been languishing for much of the 2021 season, until they got reinforcements who payed-off bigtime, while the Mets collapsed. The Braves would have been buried in the NL West with the Dodgers & Giants in 2021, and through 1993 that’s where the Atlanta Braves were.

As a reminder, the previous two trade deadlines before 2021, Padres GM AJ Preller had gobbled-up much of the best available talent to surround their young phenom SS Fernando Tatis, Jr who was brought up in 2019. Short outings from their starters, inconsistent defense (Tatis, Jr in particular), and injuries derailed the Padres by August 2021. Their off-season began with Preller firing manager Jayce Tingler, and then snatching Bob Melvin from the A’s, who are again in dump mode. AJ Preller double-dipped (again) by also getting LHP Sean Manaea from Oakland, and added FA RHP Nick Martinez from Japan.

The Padres have RHP Mike Clevinger back from his 2nd Tommy John surgery, but it’s still questionable what they will get out of him. He is currently on the IL with a triceps issue. Rookie LHP MacKenzie Gore is the key for the Padres. With LHP Blake Snell, RHP Joe Musgrove & RHP Hu Darvish, the Padres have 7 starters. They are stacking the 4/5 spots in their rotation on normal rest, while being prepared for the doubleheaders to come. An example of stacking would be Nick Martinez going 5 innings, then MacKenzie Gore going 3. This gets the game to their closer, without using regular relievers.

As a note, the Brewers did this very successfully in 2021 with Eric Lauer. It’s a strategy that wins in the post-season. Bullpens are typically chewed-up by October. The trade deadline can bring in reinforcements, but as a rule, managers should stick with starters, and use 4/5 starters as relievers in the post-season.

Pitchers now must face at least 3 batters per relief appearance, and that can be an eternity when a bullpen guy blows up and loses a championship, like the Astros in 2019 to the Nationals in Game 7. RHP Gerrit Cole will never forgive Astros manager AJ Hinch for that, and he shouldn’t. The metrics have been clear on this since Moneyball (2003). As a manager, don’t use your 3rd-or-4th best reliever in an elimination situation, unless that’s all you’ve got. Starters on short rest are always better.

In conclusion, it’s the National League and this DH rule change that’s the story in MLB in 2022. The NL now has the benefit of the DH. The only other year the NL had this was in 2020, the 60-game pandemic shortened season, and it was understood that it was only for that year. It took the 2021-22 lockout with 100 days of posturing and then finally some serious negotiating by the interested parties to get uniform rules which make the game a bit more fair & interesting. As far COVID-19 goes, it’s still with us, and remains a factor in professional sports. It will be until it is eradicated, and it will take a LOT more than a 100-day stand-off between millionaires & billionaires to get that done.

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Crypto Crash

The problem with crypto currency is that it has no material backing, unlike fiat currency which has gold & a national economy behind it. Whatever DCA (dollar cost average) you apply to crypto, it is simply a made-up value. Pegging it to the dollar, or backing it with Treasury notes (so-called “stable coins”) doesn’t add any real value to the crypto itself. In economics this is known as an asset bubble or a Ponzi scheme.

Only massive speculation by interested investors keeps the entire crypto market from going to zero. On top of this, there is massive energy waste that is unaccounted for with crypto. Eventually, all this fictitious capital will get wiped-out, and that’s where crypto is going. That is a Marxist assessment.

Everyone in the crypto industry now knows Elon Musk is the Bitcoin whale. That explains why he just backed-out of buying Twitter for $43B, after planning its takeover for months and putting it into motion. His supposed $240B is mostly a giant asset bubble, built on fictitious capital in the form of crypto currency. The rest of Elon Musk’s wealth is stolen from super-exploited workers. With what he owes to banks, he’s probably bankrupt when the crypto market implodes.

Tesla’s valuation is a joke, and SpaceX is a boondoggle. I lived in Central FL, so I know all about what goes on at Cape Canaveral. It’s always on the local news. NASA has been privatized and contracted to Elon Musk’s SpaceX. His mad vision is to colonize Mars and commercialize space travel, but the problem is Musk can’t get a reusable rocket to land without exploding. Billions & trillions of dollars are being wasted on all this, with no progress & no end in sight.

SpaceX controls many of the satellites which have communication & military value. This is how the class war is being fought. We’re talking about the supposed richest man in the world being bankrupt in terms of real value. There couldn’t be a more damning indictment of capitalism than that. Everyone one of these billionaire tyrants must be exposed as a fraud and their wealth expropriated for public use on an international scale.

This all started on Wednesday, May 11 and has been a panic since Thursday, May 12. This is Bitcoin as of this publication on Saturday:

Elon Musk now has to put all his cash into Bitcoin to weather the storm and eventually re-inflate the crypto bubble. That’s his plan. How much longer can Bitcoin hold out? That depends of Musk’s support in the market, with working class awareness & resistance looming on the other side. If investors still trust him with their money, then Bitcoin will be made to look legitimate again. If the money dries up, Musk is toast.

The tendency of fascism is to maintain any useful demagogues, in case a fuhrer is needed. Donald Trump & Elon Musk are of the same kind– ignorant, ego maniacal mad men. They both personify the madness of capitalism in its death throes, and must be dealt with by the working masses of the world in order to prevent nuclear annihilation.

This is the realpolitik being discussed by elites privately. Once they are completely defeated ideologically, the elites resort to provocation, intimation & outright violence. The Proud Boys, etc, are their right wing paramilitary forces which are to be unleashed upon the working masses to maintain this ruling class madness.

If Elon Musk’s wealth can’t be maintained as believable, then fascism must step in to crush the masses, because a crypto market crash will bring down the entire global financial system. The notoriously corrupt US-backed dictatorship of El Salvador just officially adopted cryptocurrency as legal tender. This crypto crash affects that rollout.

It’s now apparent to many that there are serious issues of legitimacy & sustainability with Bitcoin and the crypto market. How long can this fiction be maintained to the masses? That’s the question no one in the industry can answer.

Money managers bankers, hedge fund investors, etc, found a way to make a lot of money off of crypto in terms of fees, commissions, charges, etc; but nothing productive was ever made from it. It’s been such a horrible waste. It’s fool’s gold in cyberspace that produces even more global warming.

What happens when every nation goes to war and you can’t connect to the internet or grid because fascist forces in every country control all of them? What is Bitcoin worth then? These are questions to be considered as the entire US establishment led by the Democrats & Joe Biden provoke the Russia-Ukraine conflict, threatening a world wide conflagration which ends in mutually assured destruction.

People need to start thinking in these terms because this is what’s going on. The Coronavirus War is the war to prevent WW3. It can only be won by the international working masses united under the banner of Trotskyism. Read the World Socialist Web Site and become a member/supporter, etc.

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SCOTUS to overturn Roe v Wade

For over two decades a right-wing packed US Supreme Court has undemocratically decided the politics of our nation, and thus the world. In December 2000, the Bush v Gore decision to intervene and halt the counting of tens-of-thousands of uncounted ballots in heavily Democratic-voting Miami-area districts, and therefore hand the election to Bush/Cheney, when Al Gore would have won (as every TV news network had projected) if all the votes had been counted.

I lived in Central Florida before, during, and long after this, so I know the story. Americans mostly “know” the official narrative of Election 2000, because nothing like it had happened before (at least since 1876), and the truth was too shocking to admit. Historically speaking, the stolen Election of 2000 was a harbinger for 9/11.

The lesson from Election 2000 is that the ruling class always defers to the right. It meant that, according to the Supreme Court, since the Electoral College decides the Election, your vote doesn’t count. It means reactionary Republicans always win in the end, even when they’re dead wrong & everyone knows it. That’s why Donald Trump isn’t in prison for his January 6, 2021 coup attempt, but instead waits in exile at his luxurious Mar-a Lago compound in South Florida.

      1. Primary Colors - Ric Size

 

Ron DeSantis is running for re-election as Florida Governor, which is seen by Donald Trump as a springboard for DeSantis making a play for the 2024 Republican party nomination. There is a significant constituency of die-hard Republicans who: 1) hate Donald Trump; and 2) don’t believe Trump can beat Joe Biden. That’s a serious split, and it can’t be papered over because Trump has overwhelming grassroots support among the fascists.

There is a faction of the Republican party that wants Ron DeSantis to lose this podunk 2022 governor’s race, and it’s called Donald Trump. It will never happen as long as the Republicans control the state machinery, which they have since 1998. It’s going to take something significantly more than a Democratic party manufactured “rising star” or Trump’s meddling, to take the political machinery out of the hands of good ‘ol boy Republicans in Florida.

Trump & Ron DeSantis used to be political allies & fake friends, but when the Republican party was finally forced to concede that Trump had lost the 2020 election (sometime that weekend) by over 7 million votes nationally and decisively in the Electoral College, Trump responded by splitting the Republicans.

Trump has still never conceded that he lost the 2020 election. In fact, it’s the central tenet of his current campaign. Hence we get conspiracy theories from everyone right-wing hack getting amplified in the fake media, ad nauseam.

Like Adolph Hitler, whom he admires & studies, Trump demands unwavering obedience from his supporters. Only his inner circle of family & trusted advisors have direct access to his insanity. These people lie, by reflex.

Führers are weak-minded & unstable demagogues. They crave idolatry & praise from the masses, whom they simultaneously despise. They fear truth, art & beauty, because it exposes their evil ugliness, which is why they seek to exterminate artists & leftists. Both these historical madman, Hitler & Trump, thrived at unstable periods of global capitalist development. Fascism is a world-wide ruling class ideology held as a final resort in its perpetual war against the working masses.

This Roe v Wade media leak has caught EVERYONE off-guard. For instance, what the HELL is the MeToo campaign supposed to do with this? What about the Democrats in the White House? Nancy Pelosi, etc…?

The person who leaked this memo is to be exiled from the legal community for telling the people of America the truth. It’s the Julian Assange principle for elitists.

Since the stolen election of 2000, the SCOTUS has been packed with reactionaries by Republican Presidents and its complaint Congresses. These right-wing “Justices” have a strong majority (6-3, at least) and have insulated themselves from the VAST majority of society to the point where this overturning of Roe v Wade was supposed to be a fait accompli.

Well over 60% of Americans support a woman’s right to a safe abortion if she chooses. These numbers have held steady for a long time, and will only increase as people become more enlightened. Overturning a women’s right to a safe abortion, if she chooses, is the latest ruling class attack on democratic rights.

Both Democrats & Republicans are responsible for cuts in education which have debased the best efforts of teachers & concerned parents interested in having kids learn in a safe & constructive environment. Since the Columbine High School mass shooting & attempted bombing on April 20, 1999, things have only gotten worse for our schools. Today it’s COVID-19 in the classroom, which kids, teachers & parents are supposed to “live with.” Politicians on both sides of the aisle, along with the union leaders acting as workforce police, have failed to protect our kids and therefore must be removed from power and replaced with workers committees.

Science says these teachers & kids will only continue to get sick & die until we taken a Zero-COVID strategy globally. We can end this pandemic forever in 2-3 months. That’s the science. The problem is capitalism, as Wall Street & the banks universally agree there can be no more lockdowns, or any other public health measures or mandates that save lives & prevent the spread of disease, because that impedes their profits. Basically, the billionaires can no longer be allowed to call the shots. Politically it’s either revolution, or WW3 ending with nukes, as the US-NATO provoked crisis in the Ukraine is revealing to the world.

We the People have an arch-reactionary US President who is brain-dead & hell-bent on War, which coincides with the interests of all those who hold close to the levels of power. It is We the People who must directly confront these puppets of power AND the puppet-masters who pull their strings. It is this parasitic social layer that must be smashed to bits in war. Nothing can remain for billionaires except prison chains and the public expropriation of their ill-gotten wealth.

Historical courts are already cataloging their crimes, and this research will only accelerate as more facts see the light of public scrutiny. That is when there will be a reckoning and true justice will prevail.

All solutions must be global in perspective. That means we do what is best for the planet and everything on it. We value life in all forms. We understand the necessity to use science as the guiding force in all medical, health & technological areas. Politically, socialists must be guided by an atheist position on religion. Philosophically, Marxism means dialectical materialism, which particularly studies changes in matter and its revolutionary implications.

Trotskyists tell the world’s workers & youth these truths, which is why we are so virulently attacked in the mainstream media of every country. Corporate broadcasts have now universally earned their moniker as fake news. Television, even sports, is now unwatchable. As is Hollywood, Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Disney…

Every once in awhile something like House of Cards, or the Beatles’ documentary Get Back comes along so you find a way to see it. But most working people have tuned-out when it comes to TV anymore. Ratings are down across the board, which confirms this diagnosis: there isn’t nearly enough interesting content in the mainstream.

There are material reasons for this. The MeToo campaign has taken out quite a bit of talent, especially straight men in film, TV & music. Anyone who attempts to defend an artist against the MeToo campaign will find themselves accused, tried by the media, and blacklisted. That’s the CIA Democrats in action. Do you see why I don’t like the entertainment industry?

Television Awards shows (it’s been the season) are political theater in gender politics, contrived & unreal, where no deviation is allowed. Most people skip past this anymore, and if there’s some STUPID shit like Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars, we watch the YouTube clip a few times, maybe get some background, and then make up our own mind.

As a side note, the women’s fashion at these awards shows can largely be described as outrageously bad. There are a few who know how to look good, and that’s what people talk about the next day at work, not who won a trophy that everyone knows is fake.

All this “pop culture” is accessible with a mobile device which everyone over age-12 owns anymore. The problem for the ruling class is that young adults & kids don’t believe the fake media anymore. These kids & workers are starting to realize they are actually smarter than their authority figures. That portends a mass shift in social consciousness to the left in the near future.

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All about music & divas

I’m an underground musical artist on hiatus. No more songs to give and certainly no money or gigs. So when something like COVID-19 comes along, and it just isn’t going your way, you give it up before it consumes you to death. It’s called listening to that inner voice that’s telling you, “Listen to your mother.” So now I’m just a music fan again, which means I can catch up on what’s been going on for the last 25 years or so in popular music.

When you become an artist you commit yourself to the process and believe 100% in who you are and what you are doing. You must have this approach because no one else will believe in you. You rely on yourself because only you know what is in your head & heart. This is why I haven’t paid much attention to what’s been happening in the popular music realm these past two decades plus.

What I did musically (& with this blog) can be defined as underground. This is the realm of revolution. I always look at making a record as trying to set a standard that’s hard to beat. When you seriously listen to AC/DC’s Powerage (1978), or any of their other great records, you finish shaking your head & saying to yourself, “That’s hard to beat.”

That’s what inspired me over the years. I was always trying to make that song, EP, or LP/CD that was hard to beat. You have to know it’s going to be great before you record a note. Every great record you’ve ever heard in every genre had that. They all knew they were about to do something great, and then they did it. It’s a great feeling when it’s done. You know it’s going to be a classic because it’s hard to beat.

It’s harder than ever today to make a great record. It starts with great songs which have become scarce. A dirty truth of the music industry is that their popular music stars rely heavily on professional songwriters. These manufactured stars just don’t have much to say, and I get bored with that. I know I’m not the only one.

Songwriting is also a dividing line for those such as myself with punk ethics. Underground music in 100% organic, meaning it is not using professional songwriters, but instead creating its own material. Most of it isn’t very interesting, but there are genuine artists in every genre at all times, you just need to know how to find them. They’re all more interesting than Diane Warren & Max Martin.

For decades, you had to be a fan to know who the major artists were, especially in more esoteric genres such as electronic, dance, etc… Today, AllMusic & YouTube provide any eager listener with everything they need to decide who they really like. The basic rule for going into unfamiliar genres is to do early research and figure out who the major artists are– past & present. How long has the genre been around? Who started the genre, and who is the best artist today? Work your way forwards & backwards from there and you won’t get too lost. Lost means you don’t know and buy too much junk.

Let’s take country music as an example, as I’m not the biggest country music fan in the world. I lived in central Florida for over 25 years, and I’ve been around a lot of country music fans so I understand how they feel about it, but generally their contemporary stars don’t move me. I love Bob Wills, Bill Monroe, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Willie, Waylon & Jessi. But contemporary country largely doesn’t catch my ear. George Strait, Reba McEntire & Garth Brooks were the best & biggest country music artists through the early-1990’s, which is where I left it, so I’m looking for the best since then up to the present.

As you may have guessed, I’m more interested in songwriters & story tellers, especially in the country music genre. Contemporary country largely has the same problem that pop & rap absolutely have; there’s so few vital voices/performers who are their own songwriter anymore. The last time there was an “excess of originality” in songwriting was when indie grunge & hip-hop turned major label artists from John Mellencamp to Winger into has-beens overnight, when Nirvana hit with Nevermind in September 1991.

The mafia which runs the corrupt music industry machinery weathered this crisis and adapted by buying-up all the indie labels & college radio stations. U2, REM, Metallica, Soundgarden, etc, were then canonized into classic rock. 1980’s indie label bands such as the Minutemen, Husker Du, the Pixies, Fugazi, Sonic Youth, etc, never reached mainstream radio. They had too much VU & Andy Warhol in them. The mafia that owns & runs the music industry hates its artists because they can’t control them. They hate artists for devaluing all of their mediocrities & posers which they throw stupid money at to promote. If the kids only knew…

Artists take everything seriously which means they must develop a razor-sharp sense of humor with ironic sensibilities in order to get along. You can’t be serious & on-point forever, especially without money, as it will burn you out and/or kill you. You have to be able to let it go & adapt.

I celebrated Record Store day during the few weeks leading up to it, as well as the day itself. It was April 23 this year, the day after Earth Day. The truth is every day is Earth Day and I wrote that long before it became a meme.

Vinyl costs a lot for a good reason. Its expensive & dirty to produce. New CD’s now list for roughly half the cost of vinyl on new releases. It is my professional record collecting opinion that records have gotten too expensive in every sense, therefore I go for what I only absolutely need on vinyl, otherwise I go for CD. I’ve always been like that in building my music collection: whenever the market is zigging, I zag.

That’s how you find the best deals and stay on budget. Records now cost ~$25 apiece. If you want 1000 records in your new collection that’s $25,000 cost. The used record bins have all been scoured at this point, and there are very few bargains remaining, with too much to hunt through to get to them. That’s my feeling on record buying at this point.

I’m not so much about the format anymore as I am about having the music itself. CD’s & records let you play what you want, without an app tracking you & sending you messages. Put mp3’s on an external Ipod and connect it into an auxiliary input on your stereo. That’s how you have a rocking music collection that doesn’t need to be online.

Until my recent record store binging, I hadn’t considered 21st-century artists very seriously for the reasons stated above. When I began my artist journey it was Alanis Morrisette, Brittany Spears & American Idol coming online. That didn’t impress me much. But Shania Twain did, so I bought all her classic stuff that she made with her then-husband, the famous rock producer who did so many records I love. Shania Twain is perfect pop, with irresistible hooks & a beautiful voice. She translates best to CD in terms of top sound quality and typical album length which exceeds the LP format.

Compact discs are perfect masters which means they can be ripped onto a computer & pirated, which is what happens everywhere. CD’s have wav files of the songs with all the metadata. When Napster came along, kids who had ripped their CD’s shared them online as compressed audio files known as mp3’s. YouTube is mp4, an audio & video file. Compression means some loss of fidelity. The gain is smaller files which are easier to share. I review all this basic stuff because this is how you look for & buy music today. You research & listen online. After you figure out what you really like, go to the record/CD store and buy what you love.

Vinyl is the original format of rock & roll. It was 45’s when Elvis Presley hit in 1955. Black artists such as Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Little Richard & Bo Diddley became huge stars. Jim Crow racism had kept black artists down, but when rock & rock was unleashed it was irresistible to the kids. After Elvis hit, rock & roll became bigger than Jesus, and young Presley was vilified for it along with all the rest.

Scandals & tragedy took most of them down, except for Fats Domino. It wasn’t until Elvis first became a GI and then returned as a teen idol, hopelessly behind-the-times that he became mainstream with adults. He still produced hits, but when the Beatles arrived in 1964, Elvis & the rest went into the oldies bin. AM radio formats this “golden hits era” as oldies, as compared to the FM dial’s classic rock. It’s the difference between mono & stereo.

Rock in 1955 was 45’s in a jukebox format. Kids would meet wherever there was a jukebox and room to dance. 45’s are different than albums which are 33.3 RPM. 45’s are singles, so you’re always looking for that GREAT song that grabbed you from the first time you heard it. If the artist who made that song never made another one, then get that single on 45 or mp3. Most flip-sides of 45’s aren’t good songs, but occasionally there will be a gem.

When vinyl (33’s & 45’s) was deleted by 1990, the singles format disappeared, as CD’s don’t work as singles or as EP’s. This was a creative problem for nearly a decade until mp3 sharing came about, because there are many, many more artists who can make a great song or two, versus those who can make a great album. Those who can make multiple great albums are the major artists.

The advantage of CD’s (over records) is their ability to hold up to 80 minutes of length. A vinyl record sounds best if the album can be split into two 22+ minute sides. Anything at or over 23 minutes/side degrades the sound quality significantly, meaning you must either make it a double album or else go to CD.

My advice for young artists is to make great CD’s. The CD revolution was not only a quantum leap in audio fidelity, but also creativity. If you’ve got 75 minutes of great music you can put it online & onto CD. Then people like me will want to hear it. Once you impress enough people and become a huge success, then you can sell that album as a double LP on vinyl.

Making records involves the use of toxic petrochemicals which degrade our Earth’s ecosystem. Therefore my rules on vinyl are these. Reissue only great & very good records. No more Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Supertramp, Yes, ELO, etc, re-issues. These such albums sat unclaimed in used bins I looked through for years, so why is the industry still pumping out fresh copies of this mediocre, industry-produced fodder? It’s the great rock records of Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers, Mott the Hoople, along with the groove of P-funk & David Bowie that represent the best of 1970’s rock. Punk, reggae, funk & disco are what people covet most from the 1970’s.

Releases from 1990 onward are universally considered CD’s. Genres like pop, rap, country & rock are all recorded digitally with in-studio multi-tracking. Songs are constructed over hours, days, weeks & months on computers with the musicians, engineers & producers. This allows the sound geeks to get the best (loudest) sounds.

This has led to the “loudness wars” an industry term extensively discussed by serious sound professionals in online forums. Basically everyone in pop, rock & rap wants the loudest records, so we’ve reached the point where there is so much compression on all the tracks (guitars, bass, vocals, drum kit, etc) that the music lacks heart & soul. It’s sounds too slick & digitized because it is.

No popular artist in any of these genres does live-performance studio recordings on their albums. It’s kinda been that way since the Beatles did Sgt. Pepper’s in 1967. You can always make it cleaner & louder if you multi-track, because it allows sound separations and treatments (reverb, compression, etc) of each individual track.

So which format (record/CD/mp3) is best? Here’s my rule, if it has great songs and performances it will sound great on any format. Pre-1990, everything was released as a vinyl record. Pre-Beatles was 45’s, except for Bob Dylan who was always an album artist. Note that these are guides and that when you are record shopping you have to adapt to what is actually there. Don’t go insisting on a certain format when it’s unavailable or too pricey everywhere. The best deals today are on used CD’s. Major artists past & present in every genre populate the “used CD’s” bins, so find them.

Good stuff can be hard to find, and when it’s a good deal you should jump on it. If it moves you and has great songs from start to finish it will sound great in ANY format. The exception is cassette tapes, which degrade over time no matter what you do. Cassette tapes always have hiss, and are susceptible to getting eaten by vehicle tape decks & boom boxes.

It was always considered smarter to buy vinyl, and then record it onto a blank 45/90 cassette tape, than to buy pre-recorded cassettes. That way you got two albums per tape and if it got eaten or lost, just record another. Turntables were considered a nuisance by most as the 1980’s progressed, as CD players changed the music market.

VCR’s had revolutionized television watching habits and opened up new avenues in home recording. MTV hit in 1981 and popular music was never the same. From MTV on, you had to look good in front of the camera, otherwise you had no chance with the kids. Before MTV, oldies bands & performers could hide & hang-on as “rockers”. MTV immediately assigned REO Speedwagon, CSN, Rod Stewart, Bob Seger, etc, to “classic rock” & “adult contemporary” status.

Of all of the classic rockers, it was Tom Petty who best survived the 80’s into the 1990’s when grunge & hip-hop exploded. By then Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Michael Jackson, etc, no longer had the kids attention, and were then considered legacy artists along with Billy Joel, Elton John, Eric Clapton, etc.

Grunge proved that kids liked bands influenced by the Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart & the Stooges better than those championed by the classic rock dogmatists. The music industry canonized classic rock in the 1970’s under the institution of Rolling Stone magazine in which a few ex-musician hangers-on anointed themselves as the preeminent critics on rock, country & pop music.

Since the grunge wave of the early 1990’s, Rolling Stone has lost much of its credibility as the unassailable critics of music & pop culture. The more one learns of this institution, the more it can be seen for what it is: a tool of the music industry which employs its legion of hack writers, fake journalists & unserious critics to prop up the latest project the music industry deems important. These industry creations will always get a positive review in Rolling Stone; and depending on their industry clout, they may also get anything from a quick (positive) write-up, to a cover with full interview. That’s mainstream popular music in all genres. It’s totally a business, and that’s why it sucks so hard.

Divas are the explosive phenomenon in popular music in the last 25 years. The last divas I loved were Gloria Estefan & Madonna back in the day. Before them, Deborah Harry (Blondie) & Pat Benatar were my original favorites. MTV & the internet made divas more possible. The original modern diva in pop culture was Marilyn Monroe. In rock music it was Nico with the Velvet Underground & Warhol. Nico was the original bad girl, and a fascinating study in the ephemeral character of divas. They all want to be considered as artists.

The previously mentioned Shania Twain was first American pop music diva of the 21st century. Just to define the term, divas have to be beautiful, stylized & talented. Divas are coveted by all straight men, so they set the standard for women. Country music never really had a diva before Shania Twain. The original female country star was Patsy Cline. For a long time Dolly Parton was the closest thing to a country music diva in a genre dominated by wholesome-image female artists.

Country music since the 1970’s (at least) can be classified into two distinct styles: Nashville sound & outlaw. It must be understood that all country records are recorded in Nashville, TN, but there is a difference in style. Outlaw is rootsier and appeals to purists, while Nashville sound is slicker and more pop oriented. Contemporary country has been profoundly changed by pop, rock & rap. I listen to country songs that have a singer with a twangy voice, but if it’s a fast song, it’s rock music. Maybe they throw-in a harmonica & steel pedal guitar track to countrify it, but it’s basically rock. All the country ballads are basically pop & rap production.

In contemporary country music, the biggest pop diva has been Carrie Underwood since she won Season 3 of American Idol. Her first CD Some Hearts (2005) had the entire music industry behind it, so it was going to be a success no matter what, kinda like Titanic (1997). My listening of her first few albums is that they are highly polished, with some good singles, but also with too much well-constructed filler. Carrie Underwood has an amazing voice, but I never much cared for Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, etc, and that’s her style. It’s too much syrupy pop for my taste, which leans towards rock. My best chance of finding something I like in country music was in the outlaw style that takes Waylon & Willie as its roots.

The biggest star in country music for the past 15+ years has been Miranda Lambert. Like Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert also came from reality TV, and released her debut album Kerosene in 2005. Reading both these album credits today provides definitive clues in advance as to who would be the enduring artist in country music.

Carrie Underwood’s Some Hearts has only one song that she wrote, “I Ain’t in Checotah Anymore,” while Miranda Lambert wrote (or co-wrote) every song on Kerosene except one. Both their follow-ups are they same way, and so on…

Miranda Lambert does use professional songwriters, but I get a sense that she really gets to pick the songs she likes. She also collaborates with these songwriters much more, in order to get them right for the album. Carrie Underwood had the material handed to her, and if Max Martin insisted that his song be on her CD, it got done. Carrie Underwood does the best she can, but too much of her material isn’t very inspired.

The songs that Miranda Lambert writes have more depth, heart & soul. These are songs of a restless artist who has the songwriter gift. I have nothing but respect & admiration for that because I know how hard it is. Carrie Underwood is more of a true diva, where Miranda Lambert is more of a Woodie Guthrie folk singer. They’re both country singers and both divas. Miranda Lambert is the true artist.

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Nationalism breeds war fever

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine is reactionary, has no progressive content, and is condemned by all socialists. And so are the provocations by US/NATO imperialism led by Joe Biden & Antony Blinken.

The war crisis in the Ukraine has been fueled by the Biden administration arming neo-Nazi terrorists, such as the Right Sector, Svoboda & Azov Battalion, with the purpose of making them proxies in their never-ending war against Russia. It’s an extension of the 2014 CIA-backed coup, misnamed the “Maiden revolution” by Western propagandists.

All this because the US ruling class has no answers for the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation, social inequality, etc; so Joe Biden needs to project himself as a wartime president. It echoes Wag the Dog (1997), but on the most serious scale. The working people of the Ukraine, Russia, Europe, and United States must oppose this maniacal drive to World War 3. The war we need to fight & win is the war to eliminate COVID-19, to which capitalism has surrendered.

To understand the origins of this current crisis, it helps to know some history. Ukraine has historically been part of Russia, and was part of the USSR until its dissolution in 1989-91. Russia & the EU formed out of this liquidation of the remnants of the October 1917 Revolution, beginning with the carve-up of Yugoslavia (and the rest of the Balkans) by US/NATO imperialists. The eastward expansion of NATO since, onto Russia’s doorstep now takes the form of the US-led provocations in Ukraine.

The endless anti-Russia propaganda in the media reflects desperation. It is full of lies and absent of supporting facts. Those politically disoriented supporters of the Democratic Party’s attempt to start a shooting war with nuclear-armed Russia are victims of historical ignorance. It is this nationalistic, red state vs. blue state mentality, that has led the world to the brink of an abyss.

Not a single prominent Democrat opposes this reckless war drive. Bernie Sanders has spoken in support of Biden’s saber-rattling with Russia, while Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has remained silent. This constitutes the “liberal left” wing of the Democratic Party, which is actually a party of Wall Street & war. Any opposition to WW3 must come from an internationally united working class.

Trump supporters have remained notably silent on these events, while they organize more fascist convoys (pic above) disguised as mass protests. The fact that white supremacists & neo-Nazis in the Ukraine are being armed by the Democrats, proves that their essential function is to provide support & political cover for right-wing fascists. That’s why the Democrats have refused to prosecute Donald Trump & his cronies for their January 6, 2021 coup attempt. It’s also why the Democrats support Al-Qaeda as proxies in Syria, as well as neo-Nazis in the Ukraine. Of course, none of these inconvenient facts ever get discussed in the fake media.

Let’s recall that Donald Trump was twice impeached by the US House of Representatives, the first time for holding up arms shipments to Ukrainian far-right paramilitaries. This interfered with the CIA/Pentagon policy of always provoking Russia with a Cold War mentality. This was all part of the Trump-as-an-agent-of-Putin narrative the Democrats used (and re-used, etc, ad nauseum) for four years after Hillary blew it in 2016. Then Trump was impeached for leading the January 6, 2021 coup attempt. Both times he was acquitted in the Senate.

These outdated Cold Warriors of the last century will never stop fighting the Russians, in the name of rabid anti-communism, despite the fact that Russia under Vladimir Putin (and the Stalinists that preceded him) have nothing to do with socialism. It’s an ideological class war that is being fought, with the working people of the Ukraine, Russia & US who are being made to pay the cost. That is the political logic behind this homicidal madness. Working people everywhere must resist this reaction, with a program of socialism in the name of historical truth.

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