Scholarship Athletes Unite!

Latest update on this story [8-18-15]:  The football players voted on unionization in April 2014, and the ballot box was immediately impounded by Northwestern University & the NCAA. The votes still haven’t been counted, so the reformists don’t know what to do. [1]

Ed O’Bannon won his case, in a ruling that states college athletes can now share in the billions of dollars they generate annually.  The ruling is being appealed by lawyers for the NCAA.

The NLRB decided not to approve the Northwestern University football players request to form a union, and this issue will likely eventually go to the Supreme Court.



The regional director of the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago, Peter Sung Ohr, ruled on Wednesday March 26 that Northwestern University football players are university employees.

Employees are legally entitled to be paid and to bargain collectively.

The NCAA is a billion-dollar entertainment industry, which has had the advantage of virtually free labor for its entire existence.  In a court of law, this brings up anti-trust and worker’s rights legal challenges, which are coming to a head with this landmark ruling by Judge Ohr.  Ohr ruled that the primary function of the Northwestern football players is to make money for Northwestern University.  The Northwestern football players proved in court that the Wildcats coaches have strict control over their schedules and lives. Scholarships are contingent on athletic performance. This defines them as employees, and renders the NCAA definition of ‘student-athlete’ irrelevant.

This case is being merged with the Ed O’Bannon case and other high-profile legal action against the NCAA, in order to address the exploitation of scholarship athletes. It is being limited in scope to private universities and (as of this writing) only includes football & men’s basketball.  If the Northwestern football players win, it would set a precedent that state universities and all of men’s college basketball would have to follow, due to fundamental to free market principles.

Allowing ALL the best high-school athletes in ALL sports to be free agents, with the right to collectively negotiate employer contracts with universities, would be a revolutionary worker’s victory.  What is being crafted is a reformist solution, fronted by Ramogi Huma and backed by the United Steel Workers union leader Leo Gerard.  Gerard is intimately tied to the Democratic Party machine and organized crime.  Unions need to be understood as nothing more than legalized mafias.

Limiting this case to only football and men’s basketball, the two highest revenue-generating sports, is a conscious ruling-class decision designed to keep the process from spinning out of their control. “Limiting this case gives us the strongest case”, Ramogi explained.  What he fails to mention is that lack of strength is not the problem, as most legal experts now agree that Ohr’s decision will be difficult to overturn on argumentative grounds.

The NCAA & Northwestern University have mostly declined comment on any of the legal proceedings, and the few statements from their spokespeople are widely interpreted as red herrings or insubstantial.  This case wins on the same argumentative grounds if it includes all scholarship athletes.

So why doesn’t it?

It’s because the issues involved go to the heart of capitalist values, while touching a nerve of personal interest for sports fans.  Bringing sports into any discussion, especially a political one, generally primes people to begin screaming & cheerleading instead of thinking about what’s going on. That is the nature of sports, and that’s the danger for scholarship athletes; they’ll lose perspective through the hype.

Many U.S. college graduates are passionate alumni.  They particularly cheer its athletics, and many donate to its success.  It’s a primary reason a significant percentage matriculate to a particular institution. In the end, success in football and men’s basketball is a vicarious pleasure for alumni; a point of pride that drives it.  That, and the fact that it makes billions of dollars annually.

College sports is also a job for EVERY scholarship athlete, which they can not quit without losing their benefits.  Basketball, field hockey, lacrosse, tennis, etc.. men’s & women’s; they’re all the same.

The ridiculousness of the NCAA’s insistence on defining scholarship athletes as ‘amateurs’ can be drawn out in an analogy with academic scholarships. Academic scholarship students are allowed to attain employment while in school. Many do. Imagine a math major not being able to accept a private tutoring job, because she is defined by the university as an ‘amateur.’ By NCAA rules, if this hypothetical math genius takes the job and is found out, her scholarship is lost.  Clearly the rules & institutions for college athletics have become archaic, but what do we replace them with?

The modest proposal from what’s left of liberalism, is mostly an attempt to confuse and disorient these young exploited workers.  It’s handling is important to the ruling class because this is happening at institutions of higher learning, where revolutionary ideas & impulses can spread quickly.  Scholarship athletes still largely have open minds, and that is understood as a danger to elite opinion.

If the current agenda of Huma Ramogi and his Democratic Party backers win their way through the courts, then little will change for most university scholarship athletes in football & basketball.  The black market pay-for-play system will simply be converted into an open market pay-for-play system.  The few top recruits that receive large university contracts will make the headlines, but the new revenue sharing deal with the NCAA and the universities will mostly flow to union bureaucrats and machinery. Very little money will flow down to less talented players or to other sports, since they were never part of the discussion.

What needs to be done is the organizing of ALL scholarship athletes, across the U.S. & beyond, into their own union.  Athletes need to be their own leaders and represent themselves, otherwise few of their grievances will be addressed.  What can Leo Gerard & the Steel Workers Union possibly understand about the lives of college athletes?  Can these athletes trust the SWU leader, who has facilitated a list of corporate mergers which have destroyed hundreds of thousands of jobs in the process, to represent their interests? These questions need to be asked & rationally answered, out loud.

University athletic programs will be shuttered whether this case is upheld or overturned, due to the depressed condition of the free market.  This modest proposal as-is will only accelerate that process, as open bidding will allow the biggest conferences to monopolize the best talent. Those smaller conferences and institutions that can’t pay the market rate for athletic talent will wither & die.

Every university should have a competitive athletic program that: 1) fairly compensates athletes with full employee rights; 2) does everything possible to protect athletes from injury; 3) treats the athlete for as long as necessary when injury does occur; 4) allows the athlete time to finish his/her education, even after their playing eligibility expires.

This can only happen if ALL college athletes unite democratically under their own leadership.

Sony Open Tennis Diary

March 2015 Notes:  This year it’s the Miami Open, with a new corporate sponsor, a Brazilian bank [1].

Have you ever seen a city with so many banks, and so little manufacturing?

Of course, Miami banks are notorious for laundering South American drug money, so the Miami Open presented by Itaú is a synergistic fit.

Clearly, the Miami Open lacks the prestige of Indian Wells, CA; as Roger Federer skipped Miami this time around.

This Master Series 1000 event should probably change its surface to clay; as it would then have the dual-upside of; 1) being valuable for individual ranking points, as well as: 2) being an early French Open tune-up.

Many top players like like being paid to come to Miami, but also don’t mind exiting early; as it is another punishing hard-court, just when everyone wants to transition to clay.

For those who don’t know, tennis on clay is much easier on the body; and both the men’s (ATP) & women’s (WTP) professional tours are a tough grinds. After Miami, there are no professional hard-court tournaments, until after Wimbledon in July.

For those on a budget, the escalating cost of attending professional tournaments makes the Tennis Channel a fan’s best value.  A viewer can watch & learn from the top players, year-round–men & women, singles & doubles; with (mostly) helpful and expert commentary.

As always with television, using the ‘mute’ button appropriately helps.

When you’re ready for any tennis gossip, Mary Carillo (still cute as a button) has it all with a smile.


Night Session Costs Extra

Night Session Costs Extra

Second Round Play  Friday 3-21-14

All matches are best-of-three

This tournament used to be called the Sony Ericsson Open, but is now the Sony Open because big fish eats little fish.

Forecast: Beautiful weather, sunny with a light breeze. Low-mid 80’s. Bring a good hat & sunscreen.


The stadium is full for the first afternoon match, featuring Roger Federer (SUI); probably the most beloved athlete in the world.

No one cheers Ivo Karlovic (CRO) after any of the 20-or-so times [stats not available] he aces Federer. It’s a crowd rule: you can’t cheer the opponent doing anything good against Roger Federer, unless that player is a superstar.  I wonder how Roger Federer feels about that?

There is one break of serve in the entire match, the first game when Karlovic wasn’t quite warmed up. It cost him any chance at the match.

Ivo Karlovic is 6’11” and has a serve that sits at 132 MPH– reaching 138 MPH. Federer stands helplessly as ace after ace go whizzing past him.  Luckily for his opponents, Karlovic has a poor backhand, with even worse lateral movement. It is an interesting match, even though there are only a few rallies. Federer makes only 3 unforced errors [!] and wins 49 of 52 points on his serve, prevailing 6-4, 7-6 (4).

Final thoughts on Roger Federer: I don’t think he can win any more majors, but he’s still beautiful to behold– slipping ever so gracefully. It was a privilege to see him play.

This is followed by Novak Djokovic (CRO)/ Jeremy Chardy (FRA), with the stadium 1/4 full at the start of the match. It never even approaches half-full. I don’t understand why so few people care to see the best tennis player in the world?

The first thing you notice about Djokovic is his conditioning. He is clearly in the best physical shape of anyone out there. In fairness, I didn’t get to see Nadal.

Jeremy Chardy played well until he badly sprained his right ankle at break point to go down 5-3 in the second set. He couldn’t possibly play anymore, but insisted on finishing the match. I thought to myself, “If I was him, I wouldn’t go back out there. He can’t push off his right foot and it doesn’t prove anything to stand out there and get aced/service-winnered four times, then walk off.  He needs immediate ice, compression, elevation and ibuprofen; then an evaluation for a possible MRI.”

It is in the nature of these serious athletes to refuse to quit, even when they are injuring themselves more.  It seems worth considering why this is?  Djokovic moves on 6-4, 6-3.

This is followed by a complete emptying of the stadium for the next match: Romina Oprandi (SUI)/ Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)– the #3 seed and tournament women’s champion in 2012.  The first set went 6-0 for Radwanska in about 20 minutes. Time to find another match.

Sony Open Miami 2014

The men’s field is much deeper, with many exciting & competitive second-round matches on the outer courts.

Alejandro Gonzalez (COL)/ Richard Gasquet (FRA) was hard fought mid-day contest of youth vs. experience. Gasquet withstood the young Latin 7-6(7), 6-4 in a match that had high tension, numerous memorable rallies and great shot-making.  Match of the day for me.

Marinko Matosevic (AUS) /Kei Nishikori (JPN) in the evening was another interesting battle. Neither player has an overpowering serve and both are scrappers, attacking everything with heavy topspin. The difference is consistency & control, with Nishikori completely breaking down the hot-tempered Matosevic in the second set– winning 6-4, 6-1. Skill & physique-wise, these players are fairly evenly matched.  The difference is mostly in what’s between the ears.

Matosevic sent a tennis ball deep into the evening out of frustration during the second set, and then spit on the court after losing match point.  He’s one of those guys you want to like, but keeps acting badly; lots of potential, but needs to find a serious coach and listen to him.

[Late Entry 3-29-13] Kei Nishikori would continue to play well in Miami; beating Grigor Dimitrov, David Ferrer and Roger Federer. A re-injured groin in the Federer match would force Nishikori to withdraw from his semi-final match-up against Novak Djokovic. Ironically, this time the fans protested not being able to see Novak Djokovic.

21-year old up & comer Sloan Stephens (USA)/ Zarina Diyas (KAZ) was another cool-of-the-evening match.  Stephens displayed good strokes, but needs to improve her focus. Perhaps more importantly, she needs a much stronger first serve if she’s going to step up to the next level.  Only one ace in the match, but it was enough to get by Zarina Diyas 7-5, 6-3.

As a side-note Diyas had (by far) the worst outfit of any women’s player I saw. To be fair, she was a qualifier, but her outfit was ghastly.  Yellow top, black/grey skirt with red & green shoes. Congratulations Zarina: nothing matches.

Day Session passes last until 8:00 PM, after that you can’t access the Stadium Court without a Night Session ticket. This leaves most of the crowd watching the big screen outside as Venus Williams (USA)/ Anna Schmedlova (SVK) play in front of empty seats.

The early rounds of a major tennis tournament are like spring training in baseball.  Things aren’t too serious yet, so fans can get really close to the action. This is a great opportunity for enthusiasts to see the game’s stars, while developing a deeper appreciation of tennis and learning proper etiquette.


Five Quick Reasons Why Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution is the Most Amazing Book Ever Written

Trotsky's Writings on the USSR

1. Beautiful narrative

2. Precise characterizations & magnificent portraits of significant historical figures

3. Masterful Marxist understanding of the materialism & dialectics

4. 1300+ pages

5. An authentic non-fiction historical masterpiece, written by one of the event’s central participants; which makes it unique


If the current stand-off between the US & Russia in the Ukraine proves anything, it is this; people everywhere must understand the historical significance of the Soviet Union, or else we all will be annihilated. Mankind can not survive a Third World War, and we are far too close to that reality.

Tsar to Lenin (1937/2012): A Film Discussion

Tsar to Lenin Cover

It has generally been conceded by film historians, that All Quiet on the Western Front released in 1930, is the first great talkie and the greatest film of its era. Lewis Milestone directed the cinematic adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s instant-classic World War novel, and it deserves to be seen by film-goers and critics alike as a compelling movie and an early peak in American cinematic art. It’s long-standing reputation as the greatest early-American talkie film now needs to be put in serious question with the re-release of Herman Axelbank’s Tsar to Lenin.

Most critics prefer not to compare documentaries to conventional movies, but in this case it is necessary, due to the similarity of the material covered, as well as the epoch of the films themselves.  Tsar to Lenin was completed in January 1931; which makes it a contemporary of the Milestone classic. Talking films were in their infancy at that time, and most of the output from Hollywood was so poor in quality, that by today’s standards they are unwatchable.  Many of them have been lost forever.

Tsar to Lenin wasn’t released until 1937, and then only for a handful of showings in New York City, before it was blacklisted by the Communist Party on orders from Stalin.  Most people never knew the film existed.

The SEP and Mehring books, have righted that injustice with their DVD release of Tsar to Lenin, and it is quite simply a triumph for art and humanity. It far supersedes any film of it’s time, in content and emotional impact.

The clips, as the film’s introduction reads, were gathered from more than 100 cameras, over the course of 13 years, from a broad range of perspectives including: the Tsar’s royal photographers, Soviet photographers, the military staff photographers of Germany, Great Britain, Japan and the United States, and other adventurers. The film’s footage is completely authentic, and is presented in chronological sequence to provide as complete a picture as possible of the Russian Revolution and its Civil War aftermath.

This is truly the most complete and authentic film document of its kind.

Herman Axelbank’s footage is the star of the film, but Max Eastman’s narration is the film’s twin co-star. Today more than ever, these events need explanation.  Eastman provides it beautifully and without it, we would have a collection of film clips that would make little sense to most people. Eastman’s descriptions reduce each scene to its understandable essence, while occasionally allowing ironic wit to come through, thus adding subtle tones to the narrative.  It is instructive to quote him at length to gain a better sense of the film’s impact.


The film begins with portraits of Russia under Tsarist autocracy–great leisure for the Tsar and the landowners, while the masses toil in ignorance and extreme poverty.  One scene of Tsarist leisure has him and his entourage aimlessly throwing many balls around on the lawn. Eastman comments dryly, “A Russian [Tsarist] conception of the World Series.” After some more frolicking, the Tsar challenges his minions to a game of tag, and Eastman points out that they don’t dare play seriously, “[That’s] one kind of fun that a Tsar can’t have.”

Tsar_Nicholas II

The footage of the Tsar at the military front in 1914, shows him to be highly agitated and unable to focus on anything; completely unsure of himself and almost child-like in his silly, self-conscious manner.  Every moment of his public life is one grand charade.

The following is Max Eastman’s brief narration of the first two years of the World War for Russia:

“Russian armies were soon defeated by the superior organization and equipment of the Germans.  By the end of 1916, their retreat had become a national disaster. The soldiers were being herded into battle; hungry, ill-clad, without ammunition, even without guns.  Corruption, treachery, neglect, and profiteering had ruined the Tsar’s military organization.  Two-and-a-half million dead.  Five million wounded.  They were lying, like piles of rubbish outside the hospitals; too crowded to contain them; wounded and dying with no clothes on their backs. Two-and-a-half million dead, with no time to bury them.”

Then, a few seconds later: “The bodies of the Russian peasants, who had tilled the soil for the Tsar and the landlords, were dumped out like manure in the frozen field”, while a camera precisely records such an event.

Eastman’s descriptions of the February & October Revolutions are delightful in their concision.

“The funeral for the martyrs of the February Revolution was not a funeral, but a gigantic, triumphal march of the people.”

Then later, “Everybody who has an ideal; inscribes it on a banner, hires a brass band, and demands that it be realized by the new [provisional] government being born in the Tauride Palace.”

And finally after the October Revolution, “There was no government. Joy was the sovereign over all of Russia!”

Perhaps the film’s most unforgettable set of images is during the Civil War, when Admiral Kolchak’s troops execute Red prisoners-of-war in the field.  A Red soldier laughs as he awaits the firing squad.  They are shot in groups of three, and we see it five different times before his turn comes.  “The Red soldier is still laughing!”, Eastman narrates in defiance, just seconds before bullets rip through the Red soldier’s flesh; sending him into pit of fresh corpses.

White Army executions

Those were not Hollywood stuntmen, pretending to die, as they were in Lewis Milestone’s film.


Eastman’s portraits of the principle figures, and the dozens of minor ones, is just as exact. Axelbank’s footage reveals much of Alexander Kerensky, who is first shown surrounded by bourgeois supporters in Petrograd. They are thrusting him forward, while he is trying to shrink back.  He is obviously a feeble and terrified man, who doesn’t rise to the top through brains and force of will, but instead is thrust forward by others who prefer to remain behind the scenes. Later after the October Revolution, we see Kerensky in Paris with heavy bags under his eyes. He looks decrepit and defeated, as Eastman has a few final words of irony for him.


Historian, Paul Miliukov (above) was the puppet master for the Russian bourgeoisie in the Provisional Government.  Film footage of him shows him precisely as Trotsky describes him in his History of the Russian Revolution; crediting him as the bourgeois leader who most deeply understood there could be no compromise between the demands of the people and the interests of the capitalists.  He pops up over and over, and is at the center of every counter-revolutionary conspiracy discussed in the film.

Kerensky’s program of trying to reconcile the people’s demands of “Bread, Peace & Liberty” with “War & Fatherland”, quickly led to disillusionment among the workers & soldiers (peasants) who instead “flocked to a new, more powerful leader–Lenin!”


The footage of V.I. Lenin is powerful & fascinating.  He, like Trotsky, spoke to huge crowds without aid of a microphone.  Lenin was not a tall man, and Eastman comments on this in a scene from 1920, where he is having a discussion with Parley P. Christensen, the Farmer-Labor candidate for U.S. president.  Lenin keeps his hands in his pockets and leans back to look up at his adversary, while never taking his eyes off of him.  Eastman notes of Christensen, “He towers over Lenin…physically.”

The film’s final scene is about a minute of Lenin speaking, which we can not hear.  Eastman is eloquently narrating the life’s purpose of this brilliant revolutionary leader, who entirely dedicated himself to the cause of freeing humanity from the chains of inequality.  Lenin’s eyes shine as he is speaking with the whole of his being and intellect.

Trotsky appears in the film too, and is no less important.  His slogans and Lenin’s were the same: “Kerensky is a tool of the landlords and capitalists!”, “Stop the War!” “Confiscate the Land!” “Russia Belongs to the Workers & Peasants!” “All Power to the Soviets!”; and he delivered them with the same intensity.  Lenin and Trotsky were the planners of the Bolshevik Revolution which ousted the capitalists (Provisional Government), and established the first workers government in human history.  It was also the beginning of the end of the World War, and the ushering in of a bitter Civil War; in which 14 hostile foreign armies surrounded the newborn Soviet government, in an attempt by imperialism to strangle the workers revolution.


A major factor in the Red Army’s success in defending the revolution was Trotsky’s brilliance in military organization.  A Russian army that had been shattered by Germany in the Great War, had to be rebuilt in the furnace of a life-or-death struggle for survival.  “Show me one man who could organize a model army within a year.  We have such a man!”  Those were Lenin’s words on Trotsky.

The last, best chance for imperialism to quickly kill the revolution is depicted in the scenes showing General Yudienich, backed by materiel from Great Britain, leading the flower of the Tsar’s army, with one officer for every eight men, on a march from Estonia to St. Petersburg.  “It was stifled by the Red Army, which was revived by Trotsky.” Those were the observations of Paul Miliukov and a White Army officer.

Also mentioned is Trotsky’s brilliant pamphleting while the White Army is in full flight.  His leaflets offered payment in rubles for desertion and the turning in of weapons; and also urged the soldiers of Yudienich to shoot non-complying White-Army officers on the spot. “Death to capitalists and their hirelings!”

In the footage of Trotsky leaving the conference of Brest-Litovsk without signing the peace, something never done before; he tips his hat to the camera, as only a man completely confident of his place in history can do.

Eastman then describes Lenin during a later discussion, as a man who willed the signing of the Peace of Brest-Litovsk, against a Central Committee majority to fight, “by force of personality and cold reason”, proving there was no fundamental disagreement on the matter with Trotsky, only tactical ones which often reflected their individual styles.

As mentioned above, there are dozens of other lesser characters shown in the footage that provide insight into reality, and give Eastman plenty of opportunities to apply his dry sense of humour.  Max Eastman’s narration in Tsar to Lenin is sublime in its masterful understanding of classical Marxism.

Axelbank has footage and Eastman commentary, of Kaminev “expounding as of yet without extreme conviction, Lenin’s demands for a Second Revolution.” Kaminev, whom Eastman describes as a “mild Bolshevik”, is also shown with Cheidze, Tseritelli, and other opportunists of the Provisional Government.  This footage seems to foretell of the triumvirate he would later join with Zimonev and Stalin to oust Trotsky after Lenin’s death.

The Friends of the Soviet Union provide a moment of pure comic embarrassment, with all the propaganda value of a bomb blowing up in your face. A British suffragette proudly inspects the all-women battalion, a few of the remaining ‘reliable’ soldiers are left with the task of defending Kerensky from the millions of Red supporters before the October Revolution.  The suffragette then poses for a handshake with a male loyalist soldier, who obviously doesn’t want to shake hands.

And once again there is Admiral Kolchak, the leader of the White Army in Asian Russia, and self proclaimed “Supreme Ruler of Russia”. During the Civil War, Vladivostok was an international war camp, spearheaded by Japan and the U.S., for the landing of troops & materiel for the counter-revolutionary war effort.  Eastman describes: “Anti-Bolshevik forces of the entire world pinned their hopes to the Supreme Ruler [Kolchak]; the cossacks acknowledged his supremacy; the native chiefs brought him bread, salt, and live geese in token of their friendship…and he didn’t quite know what to do with them.” Herman Axelbank’s footage is verifiable proof of Eastman’s words.

“On November 14-15, 1920, 135,000 troops on 126 ships leave the Crimea. The world is defeated and all of Russia is now a Soviet Republic!” Shortly after this description by Eastman, at precisely 59:21 into a movie that runs just over 63 minutes, Joseph Stalin first appears.  Evidently there is no earlier footage of Stalin’s activities as a Bolshevik, which of course leads one to rationally conclude that nothing Stalin ever said or did, was thought to be worthy of filming by anyone connected with the Russian Revolution.

There needs to be a sense of great sadness when looking out into the faces of the masses that Lenin is speaking to in the film’s conclusion.  Those millions to whom he patiently explained socialism, and would come to believe him; would 15 years later be exterminated for that very reason during the Moscow Trials and blood purges of the Old Bolsheviks.  Those who managed to survive were then fed to imperialism during a Second World War.

It is a great reminder to all revolutionists of the terrible cost of not completing such an important task.  It is everyone’s duty as a human being to completely understand this film for the purpose of finishing a task Lenin & Trotsky set out for mankind over a century ago.