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The Game Has Changed

The game has changed in American national politics. The players must change as well.

This is no longer a game between less taxes and more taxes. This is no longer a game of more government assistance programs vs less government assistance programs. It’s a much darker, much more dangerous game now. This is a game for the very nature and soul of this country. It’s effectively open combat between the forces of liberty and sanity vs. the forces of repression and madness. It’s that serious.

The Democratic Party is woefully unprepared to fight this battle. Despite a handful of stars like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the bench and most of the first string are  weak and ineffective. They are uninspiring and lack the demeanor and passion required to fight hard for what they believe. They are riding on the decades-long inertia of union and government service sector support — both of which are dead and dying — and are incapable of the shift in tone and strategy required to save this country from the Cheeto Demon and his cadre of sycophants.

This is why the House Democrats must reject Nancy Pelosi as their House Minority Leader, and find someone new. She, like Hillary Clinton, represents the old, tired Democratic Party. That party is dead, and frankly, good riddance to it.

The Democratic Party needs to swerve away from tired, old, union-fed liberalism and change their modus operandi outright. Their new strategy must include:

  • Appealing to younger voters before they are captured by anger-fueled media outlets like Fox News and Breitbart
  • Giving minorities an actual, active role in their party, instead of the chronic lip service they’ve been given over the decades
  • Shifting Democratic economic policies towards building a strong freelance economy, including the support mechanisms to enable it, which is the only way the middle class will succeed in the future
  • Shift away from tax-and-spend arguments, including the wage gap (which makes them sound like they are anti-success), and shift toward being a country whose foundation is civil liberties, sane political discourse, and social and economic progress for all Americans

Nancy Pelosi is has been one of many at the Democratic Party helm for far too long. They’ve struck the iceberg, someone else must steer the lifeboats.

 

His Fraudulency, The President of the United States

It’s been seven days since America proved, by actual vote, that it’s lost its mind. I am still utterly disgusted. Not disappointed, but actually disgusted. I know things suck in many parts of the country. I know economic statistics belie the misery of underemployment. I know there are a lot of reasons to suspect that America is up against the ropes and isn’t living up to its potential. And there is definitely something wrong with our political institutions, especially the two major parties. Still, I have to ask:

What in the world were you thinking?

I hate to break the news to you, but Donald Trump is a fraud. A masterful marketer? Yes. A reality-show diva? Absolutely. A wizard at real estate? Without a doubt [edit: but many doubts exist]. But in terms of having the knowledge, the skills, the temperament, the dedication, the wherewithal, the understanding, or even the fundamental class & decency necessary to hold the highest office in the land? Absolutely not. In all these terms, he’s a total fraud. You have been duped, my fellow Americans, and you’ve screwed us all accordingly. You elected a snake-oil salesman as President of the United States of America.

This is a man who made his billions riding the vagaries of the real estate market. That’s … pretty much it. He bought low & sold high at the right times, that’s his only primary skill. The rest? It’s all fluff and nonsense. Sure, he has a team of high-powered lawyers to screw over contractors and protect his interests. Sure, he has clever accountants who know how to ride the tax system. But what has he actually contributed to society? Nothing. At least Ross Perot created a couple of early-era tech companies, resulting in thousands of highly paid jobs. At least Michael Bloomberg ran a respected financial research company, providing millions of investors, large and small, with quality information. What did Trump do for anyone other than his immediate family and close circle of sycophants? Create crappy service-sector jobs cleaning toilets and carrying golf clubs Yippee.

Beyond that, what is he? He’s a masterful marketer and self-promoter, that’s what he is. Trump-this and Trump-that, all of these products essentially frauds. Most things with his name on them are just license arrangements, he’s only directly involved in a handful of businesses. He’s nothing but a trademark. He’s the Wizard of Oz: a big, bloated head, floating around, trying to scare people. Behind the curtain? A very small and unimportant man. He’s all show and no do; all bluster and no muster. He has done nothing but promote promote promote, always about himself, never about others. Even his charitable works are under serious suspicion. He’s even screwed over veterans’ causes. First rule of being a president is you must care about the country and its people. He has never, in his sordid history, shown the least concern about anyone or anything other than his own brand.

Shouldn’t a president have some knowledge of how the world truly works? If you think he (or she) should, have you ever listened … I mean really listened … to anything Donald Trump says? Stereotypical marketing blather, that’s all. His statements on how to “make America great again” contain as much understanding and wisdom as an Axe Body Spray commercial. His quotes are right up there with “I’ll paint any car for $99.95” and “makes your colors bright and your whites white” (hmmm, that last one may have been a poor example for a completely different set of reasons). There’s even serious evidence that he’s functionally illiterate. Why would you want such a person in high office? For the lulz?

Finally, shouldn’t a president at least have some dignity? The president represents the entire country. The job simultaneously requires strength and gravitas, neither of which Donald Trump has ever shown. He is weak-willed and goofy, he has skin as thick as a ripe peach and all the seriousness of a bag of gummy worms. He sends vitriolic tweet storms against low-grade comics who pick on him on TV, and spent his debate appearances defending his own penis size. He’s his own caricature, a walking punch line, a joke of the worst sort. This is even before considering his constant stream of insulting remarks made over the last 18 months. How is any of that presidential? Sure, it makes the average fourth-grader laugh, but how does that represent our country, our values? If you voted for Donald Trump as president, you clearly have as much respect for the country as you have for a high school pep squad.

I don’t get it. I honestly do not get it. I do have a suspicion as to where this country is heading, though. Four years from now, it’s gonna look something like this:

 

 

Mourning in America

Today, I weep for our country, the place of my birth, my home.

american-flag-distress-signal_rt1

Important Things

It’s That Time Again

Ah yes, fall. Pumpkins. Halloween. Leaf peeping. And what else?

It’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nomination season!

This year, they’re looking at 15 possibilities. They’ve put them up for a vote on their website. Well, your votes don’t actually count, but it’s fun anyway. You can vote here if you like.

Here are my own picks for entry into the class of 2016.

The Cars

2016 Rock Hall Nominee The Cars

The Cars (rockhall.com)

The Cars are the last of the important 80’s acts to be nominated for the Hall.  Unlike other Rock Hall acts that happened to exist in the 80’s (like REM and U2), The Cars embraced and epitomized the style of rock & roll during that decade. That decade was perhaps the most over-the-top decade in music, with advancements in synthesizers and stylized production, loud and obnoxious fashions, and (most especially) the heyday of music videos with the creation of MTV, and The Cars dominated all those facets.

Unlike most of the stereotypical 80’s acts, The Cars were extremely prolific. During that decade, they produced. The last, Door to Door, was pretty weak, but the rest were strong, resulting in hits such as “Bye Bye Love”, “Candy-O”, “Magic”, and, of course, “Good Times Roll.” The Cars were no “one hit wonders”, they took that 80’s sound and made a solid career from it.

They also set a truly high bar for music video production. Like it or not, music videos are as much part of rock-and-roll as Elvis’ swinging hips, and few acts were more important to that facet of rock music than The Cars. Their videos were legendary and led to an awful lot of copycats.

Every decade deserves its representative in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and there’s no better group to represent the 80’s than The Cars.

Cheap Trick

2016 Rock Hall Nominee Cheap Trick Nominee Bio Page

Cheap Trick (rockhall.com)

So this pick is controversial, but fuck it. I’m picking Cheap Trick for one and only one reason: At Budakon. This is one of the most influential rock albums of all time. It’s definitely a Top 20 just the game-changing nature of that one piece of vinyl. Cheap Trick may not have been the most talented band of that era, and they certainly did not create arena rock, but they absolutely perfected it and turned it into a genre all by itself. The story of At Budakon is amazing (check out The History Rat for more), and it set Cheap Trick on the road to success.

Normally, I’d say artists should only go into the Hall if they have a body of work to support it. But At Budakon had such a monstrous impact on rock & roll, Cheap Trick deserves to be in the Hall because of it.

Deep Purple

2016 Rock Hall Nominee Deep Purple Nominee Bio Page

Deep Purple (rockhall.com)

Probably the biggest travesty of Rock Hall nominations to date: Deep Purple has not yet  been inducted. How can you not include Deep Purple in an institution called the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Good lord, bands who came after them, who owe them everything, are in the Hall before they are. Metallica, Van Halen, AC/DC, all owe a lot of their sound to Deep Purple. Personally, I would have put them in before Black Sabbath (they just couldn’t beat Ozzy Osbourne’s personal publicist).

Janet Jackson

2016 Rock Hall Nominee Janet Jackson Nominee Bio Page

Janet Jackson (rockhall.com)

I have to admit something terrible. When I see a female nominee, I find myself thinking “is this deserved, or is it a token nomination?” There is a tremendous, cultural effort out there to make sure women get recognized for their achievements, and that’s all terrific, but sometimes it seems like a woman has been nominated just because they couldn’t find another woman who fit that category.

When it comes to Janet, that idea is absolute bullshit. Janet is beautiful, super talented, a great singer, and constantly knocked it out of the park no matter what genre she attempted. She definitely “rocked it” far more than her “royal” brother ever did.  In terms of sheer talent, she easily dominates over her contemporaries, even 2008 Inductee Madonna. Janet Jackson absolutely deserves to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

N.W.A.

2016 Rock Hall Nominee NWA

N.W.A. (rockhall.com)

For those of you who say “rap ain’t rock”, get over yourselves.

Rock & roll is rock & roll because of one, key element: rebellion. Rock is full of rebellion, from James Brown’s stage antics to Jimmi Hendrix’ guitar style to Bob Marley’s protest songs all the way through to Nirvana and beyond. It’s rebelling against authority, and conservatism, and oppression, and whatever. It’s what rock is! And it’s what rap is! So rap = rock, it’s that simple.

There’s no better symbol for rebellion as N.W.A., quite literally the voice of an entire generation of the disenfranchised. They hit the scene with a bang, and deserve to be put in the Hall because of it.

The Rest

Unlike prior years, where I had trouble limiting my choices to five, this was pretty easy. The other bands just don’t pass muster for induction into the Hall (in my opinion).

Chic

Ugh, no more disco. I accepted the Bee Gees because they defined the genre, and you can’t deny Saturday Night Fever was a monster. But think about “rock = rebellion”: how does disco speak to rebellion? Bleagh, it was weak, and trite, and pointless. No more disco in the Hall, please.

Chicago

I always found Chicago to be more pretentious than interesting. Steely Dan (inducted 2001) was also pretentious, but at least their music was interesting.

The J.B.’s

The J.B.’s — initially James Brown’s backing band — are simply in the wrong category. Great artists, fantastic sound, they just belong in the waaaay underused Sidemen category. I’d love to see the Rock Hall revitalize that category and start putting folks like the J.B.’s in it, with all the honorifics they deserve.

Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan feels like a cynical pick. I’m sure someone sat in the corporate offices and thought “we need another woman in there”. I don’t have anything particular against Chaka Khan, she’s just not a rock artist. Of course, there are plenty of inducted artists who aren’t “rock artists”, but that doesn’t mean we should put more in there.

Los Lobos

Los Lobos is a fine band, but I’m not convinced that they’ve been that influential. They had a couple hits, they did bring in some Latin sounds into contemporary rock, but I don’t see too many modern bands paying tribute to “that Los Lobos sound”.

Nine Inch Nails

I friggin’ love Nine Inch Nails, the founders of Industrial Rock. These were guys who wrote hard, played hard, performed hard, and rocked hard. Nine Inch Nails was creative and unique and made a sound that was truly their own. They may not be as well-remembered as Nirvana or Pearl Jam, but they absolutely belong in the strata of great 90’s bands, and deserve to be in the Hall. But not quite yet. Deep Purple should be in first.

The Smiths

I never knew The Smiths, I never listened to The Smiths, I don’t know anything about The Smiths. It’s odd: I came of age in the 80’s, lived through the decade, and thought I heard it all, but I never heard of them. I’m dead serious. People like to talk about how “influential” they are, but, well, I guess I have to take their word for it. But that doesn’t mean I have to pick them.

The Spinners

This is another act that I have absolutely nothing against. I guess I don’t see that they added anything that any of the other inducted R&B vocal groups (The Temptations, The Miracles, The Impressions, so many more) already added. I think inductees should stand out in the field, and not simply be a member of a field that is great.

Yes

First, I am a big Yes fan. I love their music, and listen to it all the time. But … I don’t think they fit in the Hall. They have some very talented musicians, to be sure, but I think there’s a far better representative of “progressive rock” out there. More on that in a bit.

Steve Miller

OK, here it comes. Here comes my #1 bitch about rock & roll in general. You’ve heard me gripe about disco, and about pretentiousness, and about pop. But nothing, and I mean nothing, has been more damaging, more contradictory to the true spirit of Rock & Roll than the two words I’m about to type.

Corporate Rock.

Corporate rock almost killed the genre. When we talk about 90’s grunge, we talk about rebellion. And what was 90’s grunge rebelling against (I mean, besides boy bands)? Corporate rock. The same, bland crap that all “classic rock” stations played, over and over again, ad nauseum. Horrid, wretched, uninteresting. Songwriting by committee, assembled in some stuffy boardroom. That’s what corporate rock is.

Who are these horrid purveyors of corporate rock? A list of the bland and uninteresting: Bad Company. Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Foreigner. Post-Gabriel Genesis. Bob Seger.

And Steve Miller.

I listened to Steve Miller when he was big. Some of his stuff (like “The Joker”), is pretty cool. But overall? Where’s the rebellion? Where’s the edge? Where’s the creativity? I’m sorry, but I just can’t do it, I can’t click that checkmark next to his name. I’d rather pick all the disco in the world …

Who’s Missing?

I think the nominating committee has still missed two Hall-worthy possibilities. I’d love to see these guys nominated in coming years.

J. Geils Band

J Geils (AllMusic.com)

The J. Geils Band (AllMusic.com)

I love the J. Geils Band. J. Geils returned rock to it’s garage-band roots. A great live act, honest and raw, they were brilliant. Their intense live shows didn’t necessarily translate to the studio, but they still had solid songs like “Give It To Me”, “Detroit Breakdown”, and “Whammer Jammer”,  I’d love to see them in the Hall. They would blow the roof off the Waldorf-Astoria during the induction ceremony.

King Crimson

King Crimson

King Crimson (AllMusic.com)

Earlier, I gave Yes a hard time. This is why: King Crimson is, by far, the better band. In terms of sheer musical talent, there has never been a better group of individuals assembled. They are the best of progressive rock, and their “tendrils” (members of the band throughout the years) impacted musical acts all across music. Pink Floyd, Yes, Alice Cooper, REM, Nine Inch Nails, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Genesis, Frank Zappa, Talking Heads, David Bowie: all these acts were influenced by past members of King Crimson. King Crimson is the Kevin Bacon of rock & roll: you’d be hard-pressed to find any act that’s more than a few links away from King Crimson. I’d love to see them get their due in the Hall.

And Finally …

If the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction committee doesn’t put Rick Rubin into the Hall as a non-performer this year, it’ll be a travesty. This guy saved music, and I don’t mean that lightly. He created Def Jam and brought hip-hop to the mainstream. He put Public Enemy on the charts. He launched the Beastie Boys’ career. He introduced Run-DMC to Aerosmith.He produced The Cult’s Electric. He produced the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s monstrous Blood Sugar Sex Magik. He worked with inductees Tom Petty, Donovan, Mick Jagger, and more. He produced Jay Z’s “99 Problems”.

He produced Johnny Cash’s American Recordings, one of the greatest albums ever, for chrissakes!

Here’s an article Forbes Magazine did on Rick a couple of years ago. If anyone deserves to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, it’s Rick Rubin. That’s the online poll I’d love to see: how many rock artists would agree with putting Rick Rubin into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a non-performer? He’s the Ahmet Ertegun of our age.

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What do you think? Do you like my picks, or am I full of crap? Who would you like to see in the Hall?