The Business of Winter MLB

The Major League Baseball (MLB) hot stove season, which starts after the last out of the World Series, begins with rumors. So let’s deal with them directly, as these are the narratives the movers & shakers will be pushing this winter.

Cleveland Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti has been shopping star SS Francisco Lindor, who has two years left until free agency. Lindor is age 26, and in 5 MLB seasons has hit .288/.347/.493. He earned $10.85M in 2019, as will get another nice raise this winter in his final year of arbitration. That’s considered a bargain in MLB for that level of production.

Cleveland won 93 games in 2019, but missed the post-season finishing 8 games behind the Minnesota Twins. Antonetti already dumped RHP Trevor Bauer at the trade deadline for what he could get. More on that below, but of greater relevance here is the Yankees letting SS Didi Gregorious (2019: 82 games, .238/.276/.441) become a free agent, so look for GM Brian Cashman to make a deal. He’s interested for sure. The Yankees won 103 games, but lost in six games to the Houston Astros in the ALCS. With a Lindor type of upgrade at SS, the Yankees are better, especially with the Astros losing ace RHP Gerrit Cole to free agency.

San Francisco Giants LHP Madison Bumgarner rejected his $17.8M qualifying offer (QO), and is now a restricted free agent. He will likely become this year’s Dallas Keuchel, as both are pitchers with excellent pasts, but diminishing futures. No GM pays for past performance anymore. I speculated months ago that Bumgarner was one of these players who would do better to take his QO at season’s end.

That mid-season prediction appears to be vindicated already, as the market for him is lukewarm (at best), with draft pick compensation tied to his signing. Too many mediocre teams would rather have the draft pick, and the really good teams don’t even want him. That’s how an old, but good, player gets “middled” in free agency with a QO.

Madison Bumgarner in 2019: 9-9, 207.2 IP, 3.90 ERA. He’s age 30, with a lot of mileage, and the injuries are starting to accrue. You can’t go long-term on that. Hypothetically: what’s he worth in a 3-year deal? In this market: around 3/$45M if he was unrestricted. But with draft pick compensation tied to him, only a few teams will be interested, and at lower numbers. One year $10M. Two $18M.

Madison Bumgarner believes he’s worth more, and he’s correct; except it’s the owners & GM’s who set the market. Players have to start looking at their contracts (and CBA) in the framework of management interests vs. player interests as a united whole, instead of individually. The MLBPA (players’ union) sold them out with another bad deal that still underpays players in their primes (young stars), then only pays super-elite players in free agency, while short-changing all the rest.

That’s what the qualifying offer has done to MLB free agency, maintaining an illusion of fairness, while serving the interests of ownership & management. The MLBPA agreed to this, and sold it to the players as a good deal. They should have to answer to all the players, but instead they make excuses and deflect.

RHP Zach Wheeler will be age 30 next season, and is another interesting case. For the New York Mets he pitched 195.1 innings, went 11-8 with a 3.95 ERA. His WHIP was 1.259. It was a career year for Wheeler, and the Mets QO’ed him, but he refused it. So now what is Zack Wheeler worth? He is speculation in potential, for sure, and if some silly team (Angels) loves him with their scouting & analytics, they may make a crazy bid.

Everyone needs pitching, but once again it’s the draft pick compensation that bites. Teams like the Phillies have already publicly declared they value their draft picks. Philadelphia has been a huge buyer the last few winters. They won 81 games last year, and 80 in 2018. The Phillies need young talent to give them a shot in the arm, not more expensive veterans that cost them draft picks & young talent. That’s one less team for Wheeler & Bumgarner to go to, so I question the advice these players are getting from their agents.

Twins RHP Jake Odorizzi did the smart thing, and accepted his QO. He’ll be paid $17.8M in 2020 as a reward for his season in 2019 where he went 15-7, in 159 IP, with a 3.59 ERA for a team that won 101 games & their division. He’ll be age 30 next year, and an unrestricted free agent afterwards, which means he’ll be able to get a decent deal at age 31 because he’ll have no draft pick compensation. That’s how to beat the system, and maximize career earnings. You have to set aside your ego, and be patient.

Longtime LA Dodgers RHP Hyun-Jin Ryu accepted his $17.9M QO last November, and had a great 2019 as he went 14-5, with a 2.32 ERA, in 182.2 IP which led the staff. He’ll turn age 33 next March, but he has no restrictions, so anyone can make him an offer and all it costs is money. Any team that is spending in free agency this winter will be interested in signing him. Ryu was (and is) the test case that proves this QO market effect theory, because starting pitching is what has the most value to GM’s.

Of course I must discuss the San Diego Padres. Besides being a fan, why do I discuss them so much? 1) Because there is so much east coast bias, Padres reporting becomes necessary, as a part of comprehensive MLB coverage & fair balance. 2) They have a most-interesting front office; a GM with ambition & brains, along with ownership that is willing to spend, while being relatively “hands off.” I’ve written this since 2016, the San Diego Padres represent the newest Moneyball darling. They are a lot closer to competing for a World Series title than most people think.

Padres GM AJ Preller has declared that RHP Chris Paddack, and top prospect LHP MacKenzie Gore are ‘virtually untouchable’ in trade talks. Last winter it was the same deal with SS Fernando Tatis, Jr., whom everyone “checked in” on. I’ve pointed out repeatedly that AJ Preller controls much of the MLB trade market through his holding tight to his top-ranked farm system.

The Padres won 70 games in 2019, finished last in the NL West again, and fired their dugout manager Andy Green with less than ten games to go. Ownership wants to win & is willing to spend, and AJ Preller is not happy with his 40-man roster. His entire staff had a long season to look at their young players at all levels, as the Padres were aggressive about pushing players forward. It paid off with Tatis & Paddack, who are studs. It also gave management and scouting a chance to get a large sample size for the rest, to decide who is a keeper, and who can be traded. So look for the Padres to be MAJOR players this winter, especially in the trade market.

Preller & Antonetti have made two major deals in the past two years, the most recent a three-way deal that sent Bauer to the Reds. The Padres got a top CF prospect, and the Indians acquired LF/DH Franmil Reyes. Since the Indians are now shopping Lindor, Preller may get involved in another 3-way deal, since he has the prospects.

The Padres are also shopping OF/1B Wil Myers, who is still owed $68.5M over the next 3 seasons. The Padres will eat most of that to move him, as he’s become a liability on their roster. Wil Myers has already been involved in two of the most analyzed trades in the Moneyball era. We’ll see what his third trade brings this winter.The biggest mistake Preller made here was giving Wil Myers the big contract he hadn’t earned yet. That compounded the original error of trading SS Trea Turner.

Catcher Yasmani Grandal was another QO saga last winter. He eventually signed a $1/18M deal with the Milwaukee Brewers. After being eliminated by the Washington Nationals in the Wild Card play-in game, Grandal finally became an unrestricted free agent. A player can only be offered a QO once in his career.

Yasmani Grandal is now age 31, he hit .246/.380/.468 in 2019 which is outstanding for his demanding position. But teams look at his age, and will probably say he’s too old for an expensive long-term deal. Grandal reportedly reject a 4/$60M offer from the Mets last winter, before scrambling to get his deal with the Brewers, and the wisdom & implications of that have already been discussed. Making a mistake in the QO free agent process can set a player back by tens of millions of dollars in career earnings. 3B Mike Moustakis is another example of this.

The Boston Red Sox are shopping star RF Mookie Betts, who made $20M in 2019, and is due a raise in arbitration. Betts is age 27, and has two seasons left until free agency. The Red Sox won 84 games in 2019, after winning it all in 2018. Flags fly forever, but GM Dave Dombrowski was canned by mid-season, and it looks like a re-build may be coming– sooner rather than later– in Beantown. The Red Sox are maxed out on payroll, so signing free agents isn’t a reality. This is an old pitching staff with serious payroll commitments. Good thing they just won it, because it looks like their championship window has closed. The Yankees are younger, better, and more flexible with their payroll– plus they have a much better farm system.

RHP’s Gerrit Cole & Stephen Strasburg are the top free agent prizes available this winter. 3B Anthony Rendon is great, but it’s ace starting pitching that wins a World Series. Both rejected their QO’s, but their greatness makes draft pick compensation an afterthought for teams bidding for their services. You’re either too good for the QO, or the QO is too good for you, in which case that player should accept it. There is virtually no middle ground on this anymore. That’s the QO conundrum summarized.

Update: Thursday 21 Nov 2019 09:06 PM EST

The first big free agent signing happened soon after this publication, and it merits comment. Yasmani Grandal signed a 4/$73M deal with the Chicago White Sox today. I’m always for the player, so I’m happy he finally got his payday. He’s been underpaid up until now. The White Sox won 72 games in a bad division in 2019. They needed a catcher so this does it. Is it an overpay? We’ll see.

To add some context, all 30 MLB teams had to freeze their 40-man rosters by 8 PM ET on Wednesday, November 20. Any unprotected players are now eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft at the end of the Winter Meetings, which happen from December 12-14 in San Diego. The Rule 5 draft is the last day, and many teams punt on selecting, so they will have already gone home. It is considered an opportunity for weaker teams to make a talent grab. It usually busts, but when down, creative GM’s take chances like this. It’s a smart move for the bottom half-dozen-or-so teams every year.

The significance the Rule 5 draft now has on free agency is that elite teams with deep farm systems won’t be making any free agent signings (big or small), or major trades until the winter meetings are over, because they don’t want to have to add a player to their 40-man roster, and thus expose a prospect to the Rule 5 draft, to get their roster back to trim.

Most will wait until after the Rule 5 draft, then players will start to move– in free agency especially. Most free agent signings and trade deals take a few days to clear the MLB office, so deals can be announced during the Winter Meetings, before the Rule 5 draft, with no impact on the rosters.

Note that the White Sox no longer have a deep farm system, so they aren’t concerned with losing a prospect in the Rule 5 draft. Here’s an analysis piece titled “30 intriguing Rule 5 prospects — 1 for each team,” by Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo and Mike Rosenbaum. According to the top MLB prospect writers, here’s the best available White Sox prospect in the Rule 5 draft.

“Alec Hansen, RHP (No. 27) – He looked like a steal when he went from the second round in 2016 to leading the Minors with 191 strikeouts in 2017, when he showcased a mid-90s fastball, 12-6 curveball and hard slider. He since has had trouble duplicating that stuff or throwing strikes (103 walks in 103 2/3 innings), and he posted a 5.45 ERA in Double-A when relegated to the bullpen this year.”

That’s obviously a pitcher no one will select and keep on their 26-man MLB roster for all of 2020. Note that MLB rosters expand to 26 players starting next season. Keep in mind these are the #41 guys on each MLB roster according to the prospect geeks, but the point is whomever the White Sox have as #40 and now have to expose is probably just as bad, so he will attract little interest from Rule 5 selecting teams.

Thus the Chicago White Sox got a jump on free agency by striking early, but I’m pretty sure the Reds, Rockies or anyone else wouldn’t have gone that high for that length on a 31-year old catcher.

What this means is that Yasmani Grandal will have little-to-no trade value if the White Sox should decide to change course. The White Sox usually decide to stick with what they’ve got instead of admitting errors & eating contract, as this is still very much a family run team by longtime owner Jerry Reinsdorf. Everything goes through him, as he is the don of the White Sox.

They signed the player they needed early, but at a premium price. You can’t fill every positional hole through free agency, and there are still a lot of holes on the southside: CF, RF, DH and the entire pitching staff behind young righty Lucas Giolitto, and closer Alex Colomé who is getting expensive in arbitration.

Finally for the White Sox, International draft signing from Cuba 1B Jose Abreu was the other player (along with Jake Odorizzi), who accepted his QO in 2019. He hit .284/.330/.503 in 159 games. His $17.8M salary for his age 33 season is a win-win deal– IMO. Have another nice season, and then you’ll get a fair deal, because you’ll be unrestricted. That’s the QO-accepting player’s mindset.

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“Millennial Whoop”

Promo tagline: Stick this new single in your vaporizer & inhale it

Intro: Tom Pearce & I have a deal. When it’s either of our turns to go to work, that person has full control. Tom Pearce has attracted attention within the music industry as a respected producer & electronica artist. Through his new affiliation we have a new distro deal that offers us great penetration into the music business.

We have set an official release date for “Millennial Whoop” at 11/27. This song is a monster crossover single, so we’re doing everything we can to get it as much distribution as possible. “Millennial Whoop” is the first single from the 4-song mini-album: Extended Play 2019.

Note, November 27, 2019 is when this song will be available on all the major streaming services including: Spotify, iTunes, Pandora, etc… “Millennial Whoop” can be downloaded here & now for FREE, because we’re about the fans. Share it if you love it, and let the new-release, underground buzz begin!!

      1. Millennial Whoop - Ric Size

 

I’ve never done a rap/pop song to this extreme, so this was fun. A year ago, Tom sent me a YouTube link on this phenomenon in modern pop music production. Patrick Metzger coined the phrase a few years earlier in a study he published, which is now well-known & cited. Months later after learning about this, I was out and recognized it on someone’s cranked-up car speakers as they drove by, and starting singing my own improvised chorus back to them on the spot.

Millennial Whoop official video (YouTube): Coming soon!

I consider this song to be partly a public service announcement, as well as a punk cross-over single. References include: Woody Guthrie, The Sound of Music (1965), Kelly Clarkson, Coca-Cola, square dancing call-outs, Donald Trump’s aversion to people coughing, The Birdcage (1996) & Basic Instinct (1992). I ‘baby’ it up a lot, which is my hybrid of Barry White & Justin Bieber. We had a real good time together.

Rachel Decker: vocals

Tom Pearce: beats & tones

Bill Pelick: bass

Written, published, & copyrighted by Ric Size; No Cliché Songs / Infinitelink Records 2019

Produced by Tom Pearce / Last Minute Production

We are currently about two decades into the “noise wars,” which is defined as excessive compression to make songs louder for cheap mobile headphones. Car commercials which blast non-stop, louder than the rest, is the comparative to the “noise wars” in television audio production. The only way an independent artist can compete against this degradation of music is by having better songs, and knowing how to record & produce them.

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Trophy Hunting

All-in-all it’s just Another Brick in the Wall — Roger Waters, Pink Floyd

President Trump needed a political win to enforce his order to remove US troops from northwestern Syria. So killing Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during a US military raid in northwest Syria last night is a victory, if it indeed happened. Trump tweeted intimations last evening & “confirmed” it this morning in a press conference. He said that after being chased by US troops, air support & dogs, al-Baghdadi blew himself up, along with his three children, using a vest bomb.

Killing the leader of ISIS, with Russian, Syrian, Iraqi, Kurdish & Turkish cooperation gets Trump a win, and an exit plan for Syria. Trump can now declare victory & leave Syria, if that is indeed his plan. Between 200 and 300 U.S. troops remain at the southern Syrian outpost of Al-Tanf, and no one is saying much about that– yet. Either way, there will still be CIA & US special forces involvement with Al-Qaeda terrorists in Syria.

Donald Trump is impulsive & unpredictable, as he zig-zags on issues of global importance over a whim, but his overall foreign policy strategy appears to be open cooperation with Moscow in Syria, in order to make the Democrats look like the fanatical McCarthyists they are.

For the record, Russia’s Minister of Defense has rejected Trump’s boasts of killing al-Baghdadi along with Russian cooperation, so this could very likely be another Trump publicity stunt to win popularity among his supporters. if that’s the case, then Trump just shot himself in the foot again. Like everything involved with Al-Qaeda & US politics, the truth is hard to get at.

One thing is for sure, Trump is no peacemaker, as these troops are being re-deployed somewhere else in the Middle East war zone. Remember, President Trump has a record $750 billion military budget to play with. Overtures by diplomats about leaving some US troops to “keep the oil from Al-Qaeda & others” [?] have been rejected by all the nations involved, along with maintaining these 1,000 soldiers in Iraq.

Reading the deep state’s intent, it appears the “plan” is for the US military is to blow-up Syria’s oilfields before abandoning them to Damascus, creating another disaster on every level. All forces are now pushing in on the Al-Qaeda terrorists, including their former friends.

Syria & Iraq are no-win wars, debacles unfolding in front of the world’s eyes. It appears Trump wants out of Syria, and is letting US intelligence agencies & establishment politicos take the heat for their Al-Qaeda affiliations. Commenters all over the internet now understand this murky situation much better, and are venting their anger towards the fake media & its puppet-masters.

Trump has already been forced to back-pedal several times on withdrawal, as new Defense Secretary Mark Esper seems to be the deep state’s point man for channeling the Don towards the establishment way of thinking, which is keeping US troops in Syria. Mark Esper has been in the media a LOT lately, I’ve noticed. He’s the new kid on the block. One thing about the NKOTB: I don’t have a favorite.

Iraqi Defense Minister Najah al-Shammari, center right, and U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, center left, stand for their country’s national anthems during a welcome ceremony at the Ministry of Defense, Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019 (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

The Syrian pullout is feeding protests & insurgencies– globally. Trump & his planners know he needs to appear to get out of at least one of these “endless wars,” to have any hope of getting re-elected in 2020. But deep state Democrats & Republicans want all these wars to continue, and for Trump to be defeated. That’s the conflict in NYC, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Washington & Langley right now.

Once again, there’s a ton of fake media propaganda flying around on all sides, with every new development. This Syrian situation could start World War III, so it is up up to Trotskyists/socialists everywhere to take class-conscious action. This is the only way fascism & barbarism can be pushed back & defeated.

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Squeezing out Uncle Sam & Al-Qaeda

There is a furious ongoing diplomacy war being waged internationally through the media. These Reuters headlines (all from today) tell much of the story. On the US deep state side of the propaganda war, the headlines read like this:

U.S aim is for troops pulling out of Syria to leave Iraq eventually: Pentagon chief [1]

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is in Afghanistan acting as a representative of the US deep state. As Trump’s lieutenant, he’s in a tight spot, as he clearly supports troops remaining in Syria & Iraq, but what he doesn’t realize or admit is that it’s already a lost cause.

Syria wants its sovereignty back, and Turkey wants the US-sponsored Al-Qaeda terrorists gone from its border. Russia is the new sheriff in town, and if you are a supporter of the US deep state, that really burns your ass.

Kurdish families stuck in crowded schools after fleeing north Syria conflict [2]

This is a human interest piece on innocent civilians & families of Al-Qaeda terrorists who are all impacted by this. They need our help! We must act!! This is a humanitarian crisis, and we can’t abandon our allies!!!

Syrian Kurdish [Al-Qaeda] forces tell U.S. they met truce obligations: U.S. official [3]

“The commander of YPG Kurdish forces in northeast Syria told the United States he had met all obligations set out in a U.S.-brokered truce, a senior U.S. official said on Tuesday, as Washington warned it would punish Turkey if it resumes hostilities… blah blah blah.” Erdogan obviously isn’t impressed…

Turkey replaces four more pro-Kurdish mayors as crackdown widens [4]

The Kurdish separatists are being persecuted, politically & militarily, for their ties to terrorism (PKK). Who will protect them?

For Syrian Kurds, a leader’s killing deepens sense of U.S. betrayal [5]

This entire CIA/Al-Qaeda alliance is murky-murky, all the way back to its inception with the mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980’s. One of the more-recent sordid chapters in this relationship occurred on October 3, 2019, when U.S. State Department representatives visited the Future Syria Party’s headquarters in the Syrian city of Raqqa to meet Hevrin Khalaf and party president Ibrahim al-Kaftan.

“Yes, there was encouragement from the Americans to set up a party,” Kaftan said. Apparently there was much discussion that the Kurdish YPG militia had become too powerful in the region, as Washington was moving towards mediation in Syria. Hevrin Khalaf was killed a few days later during the Turkish offensive into Syria. Murky, murky.

Calling Erdogan a ‘thief’, Syria’s Assad tours Idlib frontline near rebels [6]
This can be read as a western propaganda attempt to inflame Erdogan, and split him from Assad & Russia, but it’s too late.

Iraq says U.S. forces withdrawing from Syria have no approval to stay [7]
The problem for Washington are the 1,000 US troops that Iraq doesn’t want, as this exceeds their already maxed limit of 5,000. What’s become apparent is that treaties signed & agreed to by the US are worthless, as it’s the ever-changing conditions on the ground that determine their interests & insatiable demands.

This is creating a revolutionary upsurge globally, as US imperialism has been exposed as weak & corrupt to its core. There are over 60,000 US troops stationed across the Middle East, and only the Arab absolutist monarchies want them there.

There are US troops in: Saudi Arabia, Turkey (hard to believe, but still a NATO ally), Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar & Afghanistan. Of course Israel is a “special friend” of Washington, and both deep states have infiltrated, and work closely with, Al-Qaeda proxies. These “endless wars” ever end, they just get shifted around to keep people confused. This began in earnest with 9/11.

Smoke pours from the World Trade Center after it was hit by two hijacjked passenger planes September 11, 2001 in New York City in an alleged terrorist attack. (Photo by Robert Giroux/Getty Images)

The five-day truce in Turkey’s cross-border offensive to allow the withdrawal of Kurdish YPG fighters from the border area ends at 10 pm locally– 1900 GMT; 3:00 PM EDT– today. Or 2200 GMT, depending on whom you read. President Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly stated that Turkey will press on with fighting if the YPG remains in that region.

As he flew to Russia for talks on Syria, Erdogan said hundreds of Kurdish fighters remained near to Syria’s northeast border despite the truce demanding their withdrawal. Erdogan has stated that 700-800 YPG terrorists have been evacuated from the “safe zone” but that 1,200-1,300 more remain as of Tuesday morning.

Right now Erdogan is talking with Putin & Assad on how to crush the remnants of Al-Qaeda in Syria, since the US military “cut & ran” from their allies in the northeast. Washington wants another “timeout” to gain time in hiding & redeploying what’s left of its Al-Qaeda proxies.

But this isn’t so easy, because these YPG “allies” now feel betrayed by the US, and are throwing rocks & potatoes at them as they leave. Erdogan is insisting on sticking to the negotiated agreement, and has already stated he’s turned a “new page” in US-Turkey relations.


US imperialism doesn’t need that oil in Syria, it just wants to keep it away from it’s designated enemies– and Russia & Syria are on top of that list. The US war machine need theaters & markets for its existence, but the greater loss here is the exposure of all this imperialist murkiness to a global audience.

Al-Qaeda has nowhere to go, and the US (which created them) doesn’t want to own up to its own responsibility in Syria. The CIA & US imperialism created this Frankenstein, and watching this mess disintegrate so quickly, one gets a sense that blowback is in the future. There are too many hard feelings & double-crosses here, which means there will be repercussions– sooner or later.

Russia Today has been pumping out articles too. Here’s their latest headlines, which again tell much of the story:

Russian & Syrian forces to deploy to northeastern Syria outside Turkey operation zone – Putin-Erdogan agreement [8]

Trump approves $4.5 million in aid to ‘White Helmets’ in Syria [9]

Quoting RT, “Washington pledged $5 million in aid to the group at a conference back in March. Last May, the Trump administration had announced it would stop funding the White Helmets, only to backtrack a month later and send the group $6.8 million… Trump authorized the latest package on Tuesday, calling their work “important and highly valued.”

In reality, the White Helmets are mercenary scum, as this terrorist organization is funded by MI6 & the CIA. You need to keep your head on a swivel to keep up with Trump’s zig-zags.

This $4,5 million can be seen as a rapprochement for Uncle Sam bailing on them in Syria. “Here, forgive us for abandoning you.” This money will forge a closer alliance between Al-Qaeda & Washington until the money runs out, then these terrorists will need & demand more– and get it. This is what the deep state is for. You don’t think these fanatical idiots could exist on their own, do you?

According to RT, “Currently the White Helmets operate solely in the parts of Idlib province controlled by Al-Qaeda militants. Photographs of armed militants with “White Helmets” insignia, participating in the Turkish-backed ‘Operation Peace Spring’ against the Kurds in northern Syria, have appeared on social networks over the past two weeks.”

There is nothing but hypocrisy here, as Erdogan is claiming to be “cleansing terrorists” in his Syrian offensive, but is actually employing the same mercenaries he’s asserted to the world that he’s fighting.

When it gets this murky-murky in real-world covert ops & terrorism, I put on The Octagon (1980), a ninja classic for relaxation. With a LOT of help from his supporting cast, director, and many others, Chuck Norris kicks ass while not being too concerned about the facts, which wear thin on him.

The martial arts are amazing, particularly Richard Norton as Kyo the killer (and also Longlegs the henchman). But the REAL star is Art Hindle as A.J.– the wanna-be sidekick who goes fanatical in his inimitable American kamikaze stupid style– straight into hari kari. There are three leading ladies in this flick, and two of them get killed. Delicious.

The Octagon is a confused mess, with a lot of dangerous & misleading cliches. For instance, the fat Jew fur dealer as the “underbelly of terrorism” according to US intelligence. But it is still an action classic, just as re-watchable as The Terminator (1984) or Robocop 2 (1990). If you agree, then check out my comments on the linked movie for more STUFF!

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Lessons of the Syrian debacle

“We don’t cut & run on our Al-Qaeda allies in Syria!” — fake news mantra

Below is a photo of Kurdish YPG militia in Syria. We are told that these brave fighters are our friends, and that you should never abandon your allies. One week ago Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was officially a longstanding US ally. Today he condemned by CNN & Fox News for committing unspeakable war crimes, invading Syria to persecute YPG terrorists– recruited, trained & armed by the CIA.

The ruling class doesn’t like it when CIA assets are attacked by a nominal ally, as this has evoked a hysterical response in the fake media. Trump has been forced to react with economic sanctions (surprise!), but they will have very little impact as the EU is Turkey’s main trading partner, and they do business differently than Trump.

Being an “ally” of the US under president Donald Trump requires bourgeois nationalists to be flexible & ready to find new partners at a moment’s notice. This is why the deep state is in such conflict with Trump, as he destabilizes long-term objectives for his own personal interest.

As discussed in my last post, the Trump administration with all its belligerence & stupidity has succeeded in isolating the US in its foreign policy. The mightiest military machine & intelligence apparatus in human history, in terms of GDP spent on it, has failed in Syria. Trump, like his predecessor Obama, had the direct support of powerful blood-stained Middle East regimes including the House of Saud & Israeli Zionism, but have used up all their political capital to accomplish nothing in Syria.

Every entity connected with US imperialism in this region has been weakened, discredited and/or abandoned. Russia is now signing major trade deals with Saudi Arabia for oil, gas, foodstuff, et al. This is considered nothing less than a disaster for US hegemony in the region.

All that remains of the US military presence is a small base in Al-Tanf at the southern border with Jordan. The US will eventually be forced to ingloriously abandon this last Syrian outpost. It’s only the humiliation & admission of defeat that sticks in the craw of deep state Democrats & Republicans. Not the dead, wounded, and displaced; nor the billions of dollars wasted.

No lessons can be learned from this debacle made in Washington & Langley, which was completely predicable as it is the result of class arrogance & historical ignorance. No lessons learned is always the message in the fake media. In the end, they’re all fanatical, blood-thirsty tribal Arabs anyways, so who cares…right? If you know how to read in-between the lines, that is the media message being pitched right now.

Donald Trump is a racist sociopath who doesn’t care if more Arabs are killing each other again. In fact, he likes it, and so do his hardcore supporters. Plus, Trump gets to piss on fanatical CIA Democrats in the process, so it’s a double-win for him– and that’s all that matters to him.

Shifting political sands have forced new alliances, which seem contradictory to the naive, but reveal two immutable facts to the wise: 1) there are no permanent alliances among bourgeois factions, only permanent interests– each trying to get itself a bigger slice of the pie; and 2) the only hope of unwinding tensions & bloodshed in the Middle East (and anywhere else) starts with the US military & CIA leaving.

Reference Notes: This is an informative & well-written article from Reuters, outlining the failures of Kurdistani nationalist politics in Turkey, Syria, Iran & Iraq. It’s a muddle of alphabet soup politics & ethnic nationalism; using terrorism, religious chauvinism & diplomatic maneuvering to promote selfish interests. It needs to be whole-heartedly rejected by the Kurdish people, in favor of class solidarity with working brothers & sisters internationally.

US imperialism out of the Middle East!!

It’s October 15, 2019, Trump has ordered the last 1,000 US troops from northeastern Syria, and he isn’t changing his mind this time– because he can’t. It’s now beyond US control, as Turkish president Erdogan has responded with an offensive to create a “safe zone” for refugees. Professional hacks on both sides of the US aisle, from Nancy Pelosi to Mitch McConnell, are screaming “humanitarian crisis.” So where are the heroic & brave White Helmets?

Moscow is leading the re-drawing of lines in the Syrian war, as it has long anticipated a US collapse in the region. Compare this to Trump’s disorganized withdrawal, announcing it to the world via Twitter, and then leaving it to the US military to get it done in haste. They needed to, as Erdogan & Putin-Assad moved in immediately to fill in the power vacuum on both sides. The laws of Marx in political economy prove the same as the laws of physics.

We’re a long, long way from “low-hanging fruit.” The vast majority of American soldiers don’t want to be there. Need proof of that? This video, of a retreating US military convoy (flying the stars & stripes!) passing Syrian armed forces in Toyota pickups & motorcycles racing to take the abandoned camp, is surreal.

In the annals of military history, I’ve never heard of (much less seen footage of) active enemies-of-war passing each other on a highway, one side advancing & the other retreating, with neither offering battle. From an American perspective, this is the most confusing & ill-conceived war we’ve ever seen.

In summary, US imperialism backed reactionary causes such as Kurdish separatism (YPG) & Islamic terrorism (ISIS) for the purpose of regime change in Syria. Now the YPG has been abandoned by the US, as Erdogan unleashes Al-Qaeda fighters upon the Kurdish population in this illegal invasion. Ethnic chauvinism & bourgeois realpolitik are the root causes of all this conflict.

To the point of US presidents wanting to start wars-of-aggression, there are none. War hurts their popularity, and all US presidents want to get re-elected. They all get pushed into these wars by the deep state– Korea, Vietnam, 9/11, et al. The last time the American population approved of war was December 7, 1941.

I don’t think there are any Russians and there ain’t no Yanks, just corporate criminals playing with tanks

— The Call, “The Walls Came Down” (1983)

Mopping-up update: Thu 17 Oct 2019 09:40 AM EDT

The American people have no respect for cowardly Democrats who “cut and run” on abused immigrants, shredded democratic rights, and lowered living standards at home. The next thing you know, the US military will “cut & run” on their dirty wars in Iraq, Afghanistan & Yemen too. This raises the prospect of peace breaking out in the Middle East, which horrifies US politicians. Do you realize what that would do to Lockheed-Martin & Exxon?

The USAF has flexed its muscles for the past few days, now reduced to bombing their own abandoned bases. But even this impotent display of strength will soon end. The abandonment of US ground troops in Syria, means Russian anti-aircraft batteries are being moved in to deter any more “muscling in” by air. Mercenaries & Al-Qaeda proxies, as much as they’ve been valuable CIA assets in this adventure, don’t defend US military air bases– for some unexplained reason.

Meanwhile, Mike’s Pompeo & Pence visit Erdogan today in Ankara. The president of Turkey is being urged by Extinction Rebellion supporters to take Trump’s “Don’t be a tough guy” letter out of the trash & have it recycled.

Bipartisan Spin

Election 2016 was a debased spectacle and possibly the last US presidential election, as it is now open political warfare on both sides of the aisle with new alliances being abandoned & formed on a moment-to-moment, ad hoc basis. Notice how this parallels their foreign policy. The 2020 presidential campaign already reminisces 1860.

Democratic firebrand upstart Tulsi Gabbard is being suppressed in the media for being too far left. She’s popular among younger voters, as the 2020 updated version of Bernie Sanders, who is now 78 and just had a heart attack on Oct. 1, which was downplayed in the fake media as “heart surgery.” Bernie is seen by many as outdated & no longer able to carry the torch of liberal betrayal for the Democrats. He still has influence, but is being slowly “put out to pasture,” as they say in politics & horse-racing.

We know from WikiLeaks 2016 that the DNC fixes their primary; through funneling money, media manipulation, super-delegates & vote rigging, so I still see it as Biden-Warren 2020. The question is, can Biden survive the scandals & criticisms? If not, the Democrats are scrambling because they don’t want another old woman leading their ticket in 2020, as that’s considered a win for Trump by the pollsters. Everything else is window dressing in this “contest.”

The US deep state has two major security leak sources at this time, and dialectically they are on opposite ends of the political & philosophical spectrum. The foremost is WikiLeaks– the good guys, whom the entire global political establishment is persecuting in the US-UK led campaign of silencing, jailing & torturing Julian Assange. Assange is still being held in a UK dungeon with no care, in solitary confinement, amongst the most-violent convicted criminals in England.

Julian Assange is there for jumping bail on phony US-Swedish rape allegations, by seeking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. After being spied upon & confined during the Obama years; Trump, Pence, Bolton & Pompeo had UK police drag Assange out of the embassy over six months ago, and “convicted” him in a kangaroo court.

All this is part of a US extradition process, as it’s the NSA, CIA & US military fanatics who hate Assange most, and want him permanently silenced for revealing very inconvenient truths to the world. Trump is a gangster, so no appeals can be made to this fascist White House cabal. Democrats & Republicans both want Julian Assange to die in prison, and are doing everything in their power to make it happen– short of direct intervention a la Jeffery Epstein. This is why freeing Julian Assange is a spearhead issue in the international campaign against US imperialism.

The second source of US intelligence leaks comes from Trump’s Twitter account. From JFK to 9/11 & Al-Qaeda, this huckster has slipped in some very inconvenient truths over the years– enough to brand himself a populist with his supporters. When Trump tweets the PKK, YPG & SDF (Al-Qaeda) are “no angels,” the CIA & deep state goes bonkers.

Of course, Trump is a fascist demagogue; a product of privilege, who couldn’t exist without his elite handlers, advisors & confidants. Trump tweets intelligence “open secrets,” which gives him credibility when he needs it, like in an election cycle. It’s always all self-interest with Trump.

Thursday 17 Oct 2019 ~2:35 PM EDT

Just minutes ago, this breaking news headline from Russia Today:

Turkey to halt military operation against Kurds in N. Syria, ceasefire will last for 120 hours – US VP Pence

The fact is the Turkish offensive had already bogged down, as Moscow & Damascus moved in quickly to halt early advances. It turns out that 15,000 Al-Qaeda invaders, armed to the hilt, still aren’t very reliable. Who knew?

I’ve been looking for a resolution to this nightmare essay, and here it finally is. The White House just sent its diplomatic A-Team to the Middle East to pull the plug on a major terrorist black-op debacle, which means this story will go dark quickly in the American media.

The US military & its media diplomacy have been defeated in Syria, with all their dirty lies exposed. The entire US establishment is part of this criminal conspiracy of aggressive foreign wars. They are the true enemy that must be defeated.

Saturday 19 Oct 2019 11:59 AM EDT

Hidden dimensions of this humanitarian crisis: US imperialism owns the Al-Qaeda terrorists, and by extension their families. After all, terrorists are people too.

February 23, 2019 – Baghouz, Rojava, Syria – Baghouz Area / The Kurdish YPG of the coalition (Syrian Democratic Forces AKA SDF) are taking thousands of women and children of Daesh jihadists (ISIS) out of Baghoz, the last jihadist stronghold in Syria, in trucks to drop them at Al Hol camp a few hours away. (Credit Image: © Chris Huby/Le Pictorium Agency via ZUMA Press)

The YPG-SDF terrorists can’t leave northeastern Syria because they have families, with women & children who can’t move or dodge bullets & artillery fire at a military pace. They have only themselves to blame for dragging their loved ones into this war zone, since they started this mess with a US deep state partnership. Murky, murky to infinity.

“What’s going to happen here?”, is the big question. Will these terrorists & their families be taken by Russian-Syrian forces, or will the US military & CIA be able to evacuate them? How will Erdogan play into all this?

Erdogan wants to turn a new page in this relationship, because he REALLY didn’t like the last one he read from Trump. The biggest fear in the US deep state is that this could be Al-Qaeda’s Stalingrad. Everything else is distraction & propaganda.

The fighting has now been reported by Reuters as infrequent & low-level along the Syrian border. I don’t hear any more saber-rattling from Erdogan either. He & Putin are scheduled to meet next week, and with Assad, to surely negotiate an arrangement for northeastern Syria. Russia has sent Turkey military hardware, and also has pipeline deals, so look for cooperation among these imperialists, with less violence in the region– directly proportionate to any US & Al-Qaeda evacuation.

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US-led war in Syria collapsing

A few days ago, when Donald Trump ordered the removal of a few dozen military advisors embedded within the Kurdish YPG militia in northern Syria, he pulled the pin on a powder keg. The YPG is yet another a terrorist branch of Al-Qaeda, which the CIA sponsors, and uses in its illegal & dirty war to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Kurdish people in northern Syria did not invite the CIA into their region. The CIA is a global mafia don. It moves in and recruits local gangsters around the world, who will do dirty work in the interests of Wall Street. Everything else is propaganda.

Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) stand outside a house in Raqqa, Syria June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sent in 15,000 Turk soldiers who have rapidly proceeded south, overrunning their previously stated 30 km “safe zone” objective. This is imperialist Turkey invading Syria, for the purposes of 1) annihilating the YPG, which it considers to be a terrorist organization, just like the rest of the world; and 2) ethnically cleansing the Kurdish population to create a DMZ where Syrian refugees can he relocated. Approximately 3.5 million of Syria’s 5.6 million war refugees are currently bivouacked in Turkey.

Demonstrators hold placards in support of Syrian refugees during a protest against Turkish government’s recent refugee policies in Istanbul, Turkey, July 27, 2019. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

On July 15, 2016, the CIA & Obama administration tried to remove Erdogan through a military coup, which failed. Already shaky relations have further eroded under Trump’s foreign policy of “maximum pressure,” so the remaining 1,000-or-so US soldiers better get out of Syria soon– before they lose their heads. The Kurdish-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have reportedly reached an agreement with Damascus, which will see the Syrian government troops arriving in the northern Kobani region in 48 hours.

The one thing all these armed forces agree upon, is their hatred for the US military, especially now the YPG terrorists, who feel double-crossed by this sudden American withdrawal. In reality, this is a complete collapse of the US-led war for regime change in Syria. The concurrent illegal Saudi-led war in Yemen, backed by 3,000 new US troops, is going about the same after four-and-a-half years. This colossal waste of resources from these US military adventures must be understood, before they can be paid for by those responsible.

Perhaps if these indignant YPG cowards chose their friends better, then they would learn to face their enemy like real soldiers, and die like men when the time comes. It would at least save a shred of honor for their reactionary cause. But it’s not in their DNA. Instead, these YPG terrorists melt away (with CIA help– as always), leaving the Kurdish population of northern Syria to face the brunt of Turkish reprisals. Officials in Washington & the fake media pretend to be aghast at the horrors going on, while the deep state secretly relocates its Al-Qaeda proxy army operational base.

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Econ 101: Servicing Debt

When rich people owe money to other rich people, say for instance corporate banks & hedge fund operators owing debt they can’t repay to the Fed & US government– a bailout eventually occurs. That’s because any bourgeois government is a committee of the ruling class.

So when rich people owe money to working people, say in the form of pension fund obligations, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid– financial theft & bankruptcy of those institutions eventually occurs. There simply is no money for a bailout. The “taxpayers” can’t afford it.

When working people owe money to rich people, in the forms of credit cards, student loans, mortgages, auto loans, medical bills, et al– every form of coercion known to man is used to extract full repayment with interest.

When nations go to war, all foreign debts are cancelled by the rich winners, and heaped upon the poor losers.

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Music Catalog Review

As the 2010’s close out, this is a review of all my albums and their songs. When people ask me, “What is your best song?” I reply, “I have a lot a great songs, go to Spotify, et al, and pick a title that looks interesting.” Then people ask me, “What are your best songs?” That’s tough again, because I feel I can easily fill any top-10 (20, 30…) list with songs that no one in my era can beat. My personal top-3 are “Ridiculous”, “Anna Rex”, and whatever other song you love. I have a lot of amazing songs. Much depends on what you prefer.

I was really excited, and very naive, when I finally released my debut album Magnified in January 2012. It was really fun to record with Jay Stanley, who is a songwriter, turned producer. He had a great studio on the 2nd floor of his house in Ocoee, Florida. It was separated from everybody else, which allowed us to work well together without interruptions in the summer & fall of 2011.

I would come in with my songs, and we would usually record 2 per two-hour session. I laid down the guitars, vocals, bass and harmonica– in that order. Jay would loop the rhythm guitars & bass to keep it tight to the click track. Then Jay would drop in beats electronically, as I would monitor & make suggestions. I’ve said it before– in many ways this is a rock-electronica album. I did the beats (mostly looped) on “Mercury Rising,” and the hi-hat on “Pay to Play.” The rest were done by Jay, and I feel he was very creative with them.

The biggest limitation of this album is in its production. Jay Stanley isn’t a professional producer, which is a skill that takes decades to master. He has the passion for music, which can get you a long ways, but there’s a lot of harshness of sound & distortion clipping on Magnified. I wanted that punk, trebly edge, but there’s too much in hindsight– IMO.

There’s also very little bass, which is under-mixed, and a common error among under-experienced producers. There’s a lot of wash in the sound, but I accepted that knowing I played everything, and that much of it was looped. For a debut album, this is a 4.5 star effort on the 5-star album scale. Every song is an anthem, and it’s delivered on time. It was a lot of fun to make, and nothing else from 2012 sounds anything like this underground classic. I dubbed it revolution rock, and established this site with the help of webmaster Tom Pearce to promote the record.

I wanted better sound separations, and more live playing for my follow-up album. I went back to Jay Stanley in the summer of 2013, who had by then moved his residence (and home studio) to Apopka. I was to be among his first clients in this new studio, which is a suburb garage converted into a music studio. The acoustics and sound-proofing were problematic from the start.

This is when I brought in Tom Pearce to be my drummer. Tom is a professional musician and sound savant. He immediately began making me aware of issues with the recordings. I intended Electrified to be my best album, and as Tom began to challenge my conceptions of what this album could sound like, I began to butt heads with Jay. There was one time where Jay’s needy girlfriend busted in on our session (again), and Jay flipped out. He left the control room in anger, then came back and said to me, “The session is over.” I had been there for 20 minutes.

I packed up & left, stopping at the first gas station to relax and gain my composure, when Jay texted me that I could come back, and that the issue was his girlfriend is an alcoholic. I went back in a mood, pulled out my Stratocaster and told Jay to record. It was the guitar riff to “Brothers.” I remember singing those sobering lyrics to him in the soundbooth. That’s an example of the intensity level throughout the recording of Electrified.

I also brought in videographer Susan Cameron to film a studio session, and it was inserted into my attempt at a documentary movie of the same title. There was a lot going on, for sure. By autumn all the songs had been tracked (except for Rachel’s vocals), and I asked Jay to do a rough mix-down. I was asking him to impress me, but he didn’t. It was at that point I asked for a copy of all the tracks to Electrified. Jay wasn’t happy about it, as anyone would be, but to his credit he acquiesced and put the tracks on an external hard drive. From this point, onward, everything I have recorded has been produced by Tom Pearce.

As mentioned, I made an attempt at a feature length motion picture. Electrified! the movie died in the rough cut phase because: 1) no more money, and 2) creative differences between myself & Susan Cameron– my partner on the project. I financed the project, and she was underpaid for sure. Susan Cameron was an amazing inspiration to this film, and we patched it together in a little over a year– using entirely local talent.

All it needed was some production polish & final editing, but when I introduced the “Marxist lecture” portions of the film (near the end of shooting), she suddenly lost interest. By January 2014, local businesses & influencers had gotten wind of Ric Size, so they threw a bunch of money at her to do their overblown projects while abandoning the film. That’s my version of what happened. I’m not bitter, just disappointed.

When it came to forming a list of potential promotional partners (sponsors) for the film, Sue kept suggesting Bill Maher, et al. I kept insisting it could only be a revolutionary superstar artist, such as Madonna or Brian Eno. Sue is a liberal Democrat producer, and I ‘m a Trotskyist artist with creative control. In the end we did amazingly well to get that far into production (~98% finished) before breaking up. It’s still a powerful film, and the original soundtrack is all Jay Stanley mixed.

Orson Welles was asked near the end of his life at a press conference, “What is the best part of making movies?” A once-again defeated Orson Welles candidly replied, “When you know the money is in the bank.” Don’t attempt to make a film, unless all the money is there to finish & distribute it. That’s a hard lesson.

Tom had to transfer the digital files out of ProTools (Apple), and convert them into PC format so he could use Studio One, which is the software he decided upon. It has been a great choice, as it records very clean, and I am doubly happy because I paid for all this.

ProTools mucks-up the recorded sound with its built in effects. ProTools is the “industry standard,” but it’s also why so much of today’s music sounds the same. Many serious musicians have moved away from ProTools in the past few years for the same reason. Tom & I have been leaders in this movement towards better sound quality & the return of dynamics.

There were many tracks on Electrified that had to be re-recorded after my split with Jay Stanley, due to poor or faulty microphoning, especially on the drum kit. Tom used his own snare, but the rest was Jay’s in-house kit, which was mic-ed by at least 8-10 microphones. Some worked, and some didn’t. Lots of spillage, etc. There were 30-40 tracks for each song, due to this style of microphoning, along with digitally duplicated tracks. Many were just empty air.

Once again, this isn’t good professional technique, and I want people to understand how much work it was for Tom Pearce to wade through all this jumble, and piece this album back together. This was also very frustrating for the songwriter, as I knew these were great songs, but the studio engineer/producer kept dropping the ball and making me look bad, when he’s supposed to be covering my mistakes and making me sound good. Like I said, there’s lots of tension on this album, but in the end it was worth it. I thank Jay Stanley for giving me what he could. At least he was willing to “go there” with me, which no one else would do. It takes balls.

The biggest improvement on Electrified are the professional musicians & producer. The song quality is roughly equal to Magnified, perhaps a bit better. Tom’s live drumming shows up instantly in “Spirit of the Road” and is an essential element to this 5-star classic. There is (again) not a bad song on this album, and I’m pushing every button. I’ve got what sounds like a backing band, but in reality, are supremely artistic musicians helping out. Electrified may be the best rock album of the past 25 years or so. I know I haven’t heard anything better, or even close to it. If you have a suggestion I’d love to hear it.

Craig Roy did all his bass in two sessions– Anna Rex, Old Friends, Tip of the Cap, Listen to the Woman, Brothers, Moneybug & More Like Us. Bill Pelick did his guitars & bass (Tip of the Cap & Just Because) in one session. Jessica Lynn Martens did her violin & vocals (Anna Rex, Old Friends & Moneybug) in one quickie session. Rachel Decker did her vocals twice, because Tom accidentally erased her initial session for “Listen to the Woman.” That’s kinda how it went.

The biggest blunder I made with Electrified was the cover. I already had the image, which is shown above as Tom & I playing live in Apopka in summer 2012. The photo was taken by Laura Rivera, my ex-step daughter. But I eventually switched the cover to a black & white screenshot from the movie, as a promotional tie-in. Big mistake, as the movie was never finished, and the live image is better. Tom says he wants to re-mix & re-master Electrified, and when he does, Laura’s live photo will be the cover.

Tom worked on producing this record, night & day, for nearly two years. He had finally opened up a watch repair shop of his own in a tin shack at the corner of Highway 19 & Main St in Tavares, FL and set to work on producing when things got slow– which they mostly were.

When he finally finished production and put Electrified online in October 2015, he then asked me with a smile, “What’s next?” I told him I wanted to make a “Beefheart record.” Tom instinctively understood what this meant, and so he closed the watch shop for a few hot afternoons in October-November. We recorded six songs live in the makeshift studio he had built. I had taken up the slide by this point, as it was apparent I was never going to find a stable backing band for live shows. A slide adds an element of attack and sound separation to guitar playing. A solo performer can use this effect to stand out.

We recorded “Haters, Step Aside”, “Rolling Stoned”, “Problem Solved” and the rest in two sessions, I took the album art pictures immediately after the final session, and TomP shot me while I was playing. Tom recommended the title, the format of me playing solo, and doing it as an EP. Today, Highway 19 & Main St already stands as one of the best rock EP’s ever. Tom & I both like this record better than Electrified, because it’s recorded live and we were having fun.

We then recorded 16 covers for what I titled Fully Covered, but never released officially, because of licensing rights. Fully Covered was only released on YouTube and linked through this page on my site in November-December 2016 & January 2017, with videos for every song. I provided most of the content, and TomP put the images together to produce the videos.

YouTube has brutally censored my content, so this project hasn’t been allowed to receive the distribution it deserves. We’ll eventually release Hwy 19/Fully Covered on a single CD. Honestly, I don’t believe any solo performer can do these types of covers as well as I do, so everything that Tom & I recorded in this tin shack is a 5-star classic.

After these landmark underground albums were released in rapid-fire succession, I focused on blogging, as no touring or live performance opportunities were available to me. My influential blogging career began in earnest in 2016, and has continued up to the present, as there are still no live performance opportunities for me.

I was sent an eviction notice in the spring of 2017, and had to move from my Mount Dora apartment by July. Before I left, I told Tom I wanted to record my last batch of songs. I wanted to make sure this final album would get made, as I wasn’t sure where I was moving to, and if I would be able to record with Tom after I had moved.

Over & Out was released that summer, and was somewhat a rush job, as everything except “Yes/No Wave” was recorded in one session that May. Tom brought his recording rig to my apartment, and was experimenting with different techniques, which is why some of the recordings sound a bit different. If you really listen to this album, you realize how intense & serious these thoughts are. To keep them in one’s head indefinitely can only lead to frustration & insanity. That was my motivation to get this record done, and for its title.

This was another solo, acoustic record. Tom added beats & effects to “Up Around the Clock” & “Many Miles.” We now have a rehearsal recording of “Up Around the Clock,” with Tom on drums & Bill on bass from fall 2018, and maybe someday we’ll release it, as it’s surely better than the album version. The song I really don’t like on Over & Out is “Waves,” as I had issues with my capo, which I rarely use. The songs on Over & Out are strong, but could have used some help from other musicians in certain areas. I rate this as a 4-star record, as the best songs are really strong and it does hold together, but could have been better.

One of the hardest things to do as an artist is to let go. Once an album is done & released, it’s not yours anymore. It now belongs to everybody who listens, and it’s what they think that counts– especially the kids. I’ve spent a lot of time here, nitpicking at my work, which is what you have to do to be a honest critic of yourself. It’s not easy, and definitely not fun, but it’s necessary– since it is the only way you can control your narrative. If you don’t do this, then someone else will, and they may promote a version you don’t approve.

I really did think I was finished with music after Over & Out, but somehow a few new songs crept into my head and wouldn’t leave me alone, so by late 2018, I had informed Tom of my intention to record a new single– at least. This morphed into a 4-song EP which is currently in production.

I think Extended Play 2019 will be the best batch yet. The songs are strong, and the playing & production have overwhelming technique– it’s remarkable. It’s a lot more fun this time, because I have great help everywhere. It’s easier to do now, but that’s only because of all the challenging experiences I’ve had in the past. Actually it’s never easy making art. It’s fulfilling, but always challenging. Making it look easy is the genius part.

Final Critique: What TomP & I have accomplished, with a little help from our friends, is nothing less than revolutionary. How many rock artists are considered as a serious political leader & theorist? None, until I came along. This has opened up new artistic fields for musicians, as blogging has become THE influential underground internet journalism format. Now everyone makes their own movies and uploads them to YouTube. I still say Electrified! is the best of the bunch, and deserves a sponsor to produce & distribute it.

The fact is that even the best songwriters can’t write a really great song every day, week or even month. Artists can fill that creative void in music, by reading & analyzing world events in all fields: economics, politics, sports, art, science, literature & pop culture. That was never possible before the internet & social media. What the persona of Ric Size did was show everyone how to do it. I got essays, mp3s, pics, videos & a movie. That’s hard to beat, especially considering it’s all DIY and in the establishment’s face. Imagine if I had some real money to work with…

When it comes to “Artist of the Decade,” it isn’t close. No one has been the artist I have been in this era. No one has been more influential in revolutionary politics & youth pop culture. That’s why I am blacklisted. So I will never appear on any mainstream lists of this “decade’s best.” The further reality is that 2nd place isn’t even close, and that really can’t be acknowledged. That’s the current impasse with me not being critically acclaimed. It’s the power of art.

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Are you critically acclaimed?

“Critical acclaim” is a nebulous topic in entertainment, by design. Music, film, theater, etc is meant to entertain, and it’s a business first. Never forget that. Anything beyond this is considered a bonus for fans, but often a negative for the industry. When entertainment becomes art, it educates & electrifies the masses, which is something the establishment always seeks to contain. These are the ideological (political) issues which determine access to art.

Critical acclaim is used as an instrument to manipulate public opinion on art. When an artist is blacklisted, such as the Velvet Underground (Andy Warhol) were in the 1960’s, their records don’t sell. When their catalog becomes unavailable in the 1970’s, they become “critical darlings”– because no one else can hear their music, so critics get a monopoly of opinion. It’s about who controls the narrative. Censored artists also have a hard time touring in any era, due to few good opportunities & low pay. It’s a grind, and it’s the reason brilliant bands like the VU break-up the way they did.

Captain Beefheart is another example of an artist who was censored & undercut by the industry, because he was too far ahead of his time. Beefheart was branded “critically acclaimed” with Trout Mask Replica (1969), and that label unfortunately stuck. If revolutionary artists such as the VU, Beefheart, the Stooges, Graham Parker, Wire, the Minutemen, Husker Du, Sonic Youth, Bikini Kill, et al, are never played on classic rock radio (or any other industry-defined format), then how are music fans supposed to find their music?

Where’s the critics’ support for getting these artists on FM radio, so we can randomly listen to them in our vehicles? This “critic support” doesn’t exist, because “critical acclaim” is a fraud. For decades, the music industry had a stranglehold: payola for radio promotion; distribution through record/CD stores & touring for sales; Rolling Stone magazine, et al for media publicity– meaning favorable critical opinion of established major-label performers.

If you weren’t “plugged in” to that network machinery, then you couldn’t exert much influence, or get paid. The significance of the grunge movement (late 1980’s/early 1990’s) was that college radio stations & indie record labels became an influential force outside of industry control. By the late 1990’s, reaction had set in, and nearly all the college stations & indie labels had been bought-up & corporatized.

This is why the internet rules today, because it democratized music availability– when Napster came along. YouTube & Facebook are social media platforms which exchange content & ideas, and despite the worst efforts of corporate ownership to manipulate users with AI & algorithms, it’s now impossible to keep revolutionary music from reaching listeners– young & old. If you want to find something you will, and that wasn’t always the case.

This is why these “critically acclaimed” (ie- suppressed) artists are now finding greater audiences. Being “critically acclaimed” has always been a fallacy, because it’s the critics who most fear & hate revolution, as it threatens their comfy & lazy pencil-pushing existence. When their “expertise” is called into question, there’s nothing left but blabber & smoke. If these phonies are exposed, they may be forced to get a real job, and they don’t want to do that.

A “critically acclaimed” artist has precisely half the weight of critical opinion in support, and the other half hating. This means everything washes out to a net zero in total impact. Who do you believe as a reader, the positive or negative critic? Comparing critical opinions often comes down to who is the better writer, or worse, who is more powerful in the industry. The problem, of course, is the better (or more powerful) author may be prejudiced. If this person becomes editor, he/she controls the flow of many opinions.

If fact, “critical acclaim” is given more generously to those with little-to-no talent, for the opposite effect, but same purpose. This is the hyped garbage which is elevated by the media, and is meant to replace art. Armies of establishment critics universally praise this gobbledygook when solicited by their paymasters. They must, it’s what pays the bills.

These days the industry prefers to produce its superstars, instead of letting them happen out-of-the-blue, which is why Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, et al dominate the teen music market. These mega-stars are created (and then re-created) by the industry machinery, and rely on it to sustain their success, which makes all of them easy to control. It’s a long way from John Lennon & Mick Jagger, for sure.

Critics pose as experts by using their learned knowledge of human experience, to consolidate bourgeois opinions on art & pop culture through the media. Take jazz music for example. You can’t be a respected critic in this field, unless you bow down to certain sacred cows– Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, et al. As a critic, you have lists of all sorts in your head; best songs, albums, players, genres, eras, and so forth. These critics are always ready to pounce on any heresy, with pre-formed sound-bites & arguments. These are the sort of fakers which real artists & serious listeners despise.

But to stick with this example in jazz, let’s say something fresh & revolutionary hits, from an unknown artist, which merits that level of reverence. Will that work be immediately recognized as genius by the critics, on the same level as these acknowledged masters? Not a chance. You see, these experienced critics “know” that no one can be that good anymore, so this can’t be a genius of that order.

That is every establishment critic’s “thought process.” The kids & music freaks LOVE this new prodigy, and share it with everybody. The critics will certainly notice this, because true critical opinion comes from the kids; but the critics will not acknowledge it, or at best be cold & demeaning towards it, because it replaces sacred idols. Their lists are set in stone.

If this new artist is indeed the real thing, then the work will hold up, which means more underground fans, but still no mainstream critical acknowledgement, much less praise. What happens over time is that critical opinion changes, as new critics join the field, as long-standing fans of that artist. At this point, the artist is now “critically acclaimed,” despite the fact that 99+% of their support comes from fans.

Conclusion: If you approach art with the goal of pleasing the critics, then you are on a path towards failure. Most critics don’t care, they only pretend to care using sophistry. There is very little passion for art with critics. But it’s that passion which keeps us young, which connects artists to the kids. Nowhere in this equation is the critic helpful, unless they approach art with historical experience & an open mind.

Music as art is all about the artists & the kids. Once the kids are hooked, they become fans for life. My goal as an artist is to reach everybody, but the kids are always first. Are the kids going to like this? Does this send the right message? These are the questions real artists grapple with during the creative process.

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Advanced Liner Notes: Extended Play 2019

In this era fans want/expect to be informed– as things are happening. So in that spirit, here’s a good chunk of the liner notes from the upcoming 4-song EP.

Extended liners: We lined-in dry on all guitars & bass. Lining-in means direct cabling from the instrument to the soundboard that links to a computer, which records the performance. Dry means no effects. If you are studio recording “live as a band,” then effects can be used, as long as they are kept under control. But if you apply effects to the guitar/bass during multi-track recording, insisting “that’s the sound I gotta have,” then the guitarist is leaving the producer with little-to-no headroom for sound treatments, including the three most important parameters: reverb, equalization & compression.

Those three effects are ~95% of properly-done sound production– in any era. Getting the best sound is the purpose of multi-track recording, and it’s how most music is put together. To all those guitar heroes with racks of effects & foot pedals, here’s some good advice from studio experience: save them for the live shows. They are mostly useless in the studio today, due to computers & digital-effects software.

We are currently about two decades into the “noise wars,” which is defined as excessive compression to make songs louder for cheap mobile headphones. Car commercials which blast non-stop, louder than the rest, is the comparative to the “noise wars” in television audio production. The only way an independent artist can compete against this degradation of music is by having better songs, and knowing how to record & produce them.

With this in mind, what you need from a guitar in the studio is a clean & strong signal. If the player(s) get it right, and the engineer records it properly, then the music has a chance of eventually smashing all the loud junk on the radio, MTV, American Idol, AGT, et al. Effects muddle the input signal, which hurts the cause, so apply them only in the mixing stage, not during recording.

Marketing, social media & internet censorship: Once uploaded to the internet, mp3’s quickly proliferate onto all the streaming services, big & small. But don’t be deceived, each service has their own proprietary algorithms which mysteriously work against independent artists. I’m at the top of these blacklists. YouTube, Facebook, et al, are revolutionary social media platforms, which have been hijacked by corporate ownership to work for the military-intelligence apparatus.

Therefore, don’t waste too much time in these domains, because they can (& will) turn you down, make you invisible, & de-platform you without your consent or knowledge. Make quickie thumbnail-image videos for the songs, and let your fans speak for you in the social media forums. That way you’re not devastated if/when videos get taken down, turned down, etc… Fakebook has designed its AI algorithms, so you’ll only see your haters if Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t like you.

The greater truth is that most kids today download mp3’s either through the artist’s site directly (free– like me), or through an illicit sites (if not free). The message is: make your mp3’s free, as their quality isn’t that of wav files– which is compact disc quality sound. Free mp3’s maximizes distribution, and the name-of-the-game is making new fans.

Streaming is internet radio, so don’t expect to get paid, because you won’t. You don’t have the industry clout. This scientific understanding & revolutionary approach is how underground artists can keep their sanity, while fighting fascist censorship & winning the loudness wars.

Final thoughts on recording: You must be able to work with a click track in order to get set pieces like “Patch Me Up Doc” or “Millennial Whoop” to work. Set pieces are defined as songs you don’t play live. They are more studio creations than anything else. A songwriter typically needs lots of help with set pieces, in musicianship & production. The Beatles “A Day in a Life” is a classic example of a set piece.

It often depends on what instrument the songwriter plays, to determine the order of recording. Does the songwriter have perfect time? Most often, the answer is “No.” The rock music songwriter must find a way to match up melody, riffing & lyrical ideas, with beats.

If both the songwriter & producer aren’t drummers, then the drum track should be recorded first, followed by the bass. This is typically recorded by placing a microphone in front of each guitar & bass amplifier, and around the drum kit. That is a traditional recording sequence & microphone technique when multi-tracking.

You have to know the circumstances & your strengths, while having no weaknesses when studio recording, otherwise you will crack– wasting time, money & relationships. Your team is there to cover your weaknesses with their expertise & skills. It’s a lot easier with digital, if you know what you are doing. My colleagues on this project are true professionals, they are as talented as anyone, and have my eternal respect & gratitude.

What happens to the original tracks & recording masters? Today, any independent musical artist & record label needs to be at the cutting edge to make an impact– both creatively & in business practice. The model we’ve developed is low-cost & top-notch because it’s revolutionary DIY, using the latest technology & boldest ideas from start to finish. Every studio recording that I’ve ever made, dating back to 1997, has been uploaded to a Google share drive. TomP does the same thing with his ex08 project, and everything else.

The Universal Music Group (UMG) fire that blazed through its irreplaceable archives in 2008 (and then was hushed-up for over 10 years) is a valuable lesson in corporate priority & artist responsibility. UMG is a conglomerate money-making machine, with little sense of artistic value towards it archives. They kept things quiet, and collected the insurance money, while the artists whose masters were torched didn’t even know what had happened. UMG allowed the works of many, many legends it was supposedly safeguarding, to carelessly burn to ashes. Many of these incinerated archives were never transferred digitally, or uploaded to a cloud server– so they are lost forever.

Of course, Tom & I have these files on our computers & external backup drives too, but a cloud-based share drive is how to communicate large amounts of data, such as multi-track recordings, final masters, videos, etc, with a producer. The other benefit is that it protects the music & art from being destroyed into posterity.

This also means a private corporation (Google) has all my stuff in its cloud. And by extension, it means the NSA, FBI, CIA, et al, also have them. That’s the price an artist has to pay today, to protect the existence of content. This takes confidence that you have maximized your abilities, knowing that no one else can do it as well. These songs be proof.

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