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Street Fighting Man

We live in a world where even the biggest political scandals are largely forgotten after the typical 72-hour news cycle. This is partially by design, because Donald Trump and the White House want as many distractions as possible, in hopes that his corruption goes unnoticed. It is also by accident, since almost every single thing the Trump administration does, from the First Lady wearing an “I DON’T CARE DO U?” jacket to a U.S. concent…er, immigration camp, to a White House that lies on, plagiarizes, and/or misspells almost every social media post and every news release that they publish, is marked by an astounding level of incompetence and ignorance.

It is important to remember all of the times they have screwed up, because they have been gaslighting us all for quite some time. The current White House talking points are focused on the “dangerous left”, and the supposed violent liberal agenda, which was started when (soon to be fired) Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was kicked out of a Virginia restaurant because the staff were uncomfortable with her being there.

Considering that Sanders is the mouthpiece for an administration that is utterly hostile to Hispanic immigrants, and considering that Hispanic immigrants make up a large part of the staff in the restaurant industry, it is understandable that the staff were uncomfortable with her presence.

What is NOT understandable is the fact that American white conservative “Christians” on Fox News, the Sinclair Broadcasting news stations, and far-right news websites funded by the Koch and Mercer families (and let’s not forget about all of the Eastern European social media bots) are mostly responsible for the disinformation and lies in America. The far-right media would have us all believe that immigrants will take our jobs and murder our families. The Trump administration WANTS us to believe that, and they are largely responsible for the climate of fear and hostility in our country, all while they live in their incestuous swamp of nouveau riche nimrods. They profit off of the working class to enact policies to hurt the working class. That is what Donald Trump and the Republicans want, and it is what they have been doing for the past two years.

Immigrants are not to be feared, however. The vast majority of crime in this country, including gun violence, is committed by U.S. citizens, not immigrants. In fact, immigrants are absolutely vital to the U.S. economy, especially in the farming and restaurant industries. Donald Trump himself relies on immigrant labor for his hotels and restaurants, and managed to get visa exemptions for his companies even after he became president. Immigrants are responsible for almost all of the produce picked on our farms and sold in our stores. Whenever you go out to eat at a restaurant, it is probable that an immigrant is either cooking your food or washing your dishes afterwards. If we want to talk about immigrants abusing the visa program, we should start at the top with Melania Trump, who as an obscure model was able to enter the U.S. on a “genius” visa normally reserved for those with “extraordinary ability”.

What is NOT understandable is the dichotomy of soundbites coming from these so-called Christian conservatives. Are liberals a bunch of weak snowflakes who tremble at the thought of Trump supporters driving up next to them in their American-badged but foreign parts-sourced pickup truck? Or, are liberals the violent “ANTIFA” anarchists (Antifa: anti-fascist, which is supposed to be a good thing!) who terrorize the peaceful Trump supporters?

Well, I am neither weak or violent, that I can assure you. I don’t consider myself a Democrat. I sure as hell don’t consider myself a Republican. In fact, I will admit to being a moderate and an independent, which is as unpopular nowadays as being a Trump supporter on a dating site. But if having an open mind and not being constrained to partisan rhetoric makes me unpopular, then I will gladly fly the freak flag high, goddammit.

The GOP wants to censure congresswoman Maxine Waters for asking citizens to “stand up” to members of the Trump administration, because they believe she is inciting violence. The GOP was unsurprisingly silent when Donald Trump incited violence on his rallies and on his Twitter account, however. They were silent when Republican congressman and Trump family friend Greg Gianforte assaulted a journalist. In fact, Trump and the GOP campaigned on Gianforte’s behalf. They were largely silent when a white supremacist drove through a crowd of Charlottesville, Virginia protesters in his car, killing a woman (who was recently indicted for murder). They decried the uncivility of Sarah Sanders getting kicked out of a restaurant, while they happily defaced the same restaurant (and other non-affiliated restaurants with the same name) with graffiti and slanderous internet reviews.

They accuse Democrats of being “paid protestors” and operatives of Hungarian businessman George Soros (Hungary’s president, Viktor Orban, a populist fascist symphathizer like Donald Trump, recently passed a law in Hungary which makes it illegal to support immigrants in any form or fashion). What they won’t admit, however, is the fact that Donald Trump routinely uses paid protestors himself. His staff advertises for them on Craigslist, and you actually can see low-level White House interns at many of these protests with pro-Trump agendas (such as the SCOTUS ruling on Janus, which is anti-union).

Remember when someone held up a sign that said “Rape Melania” outside of Trump Tower during the election, and the blame was immediately placed on liberals? It turned out that the person responsible for the sign was Jack Posobiec, a pro-Trump Twitter troll. In fact, despite Posobiec condoning the rape of his wife, Donald Trump has since retweeted some of Posobiec’s tweets, and even invited him to the White House after the election.

My point is this: we need to take our country back. One election at a time. We have already flipped close to 50 Republican held offices with Democrats since Trump illegitimately became president. The GOP speaks of a “red wave” (which brings to mind bloodbaths and certain times of the month), but the blue wave of Democrats and independents who support Democrats has shown no sign of declining. In fact, it has gotten larger and larger, like a giant wave about to crash down on the GOP swamp of corruption.

Being nice has gotten us nowhere. When we go “high”, they go “low” and they undermine all of the progress we have made. The Trump administration has made a mockery of all that we stand for. Their economic ignorance has already made us international pariahs, and has led to thousands of job layoffs, including companies that Trump himself used as propaganda, such as Carrier and Harley-Davidson. Their hostility to journalists has made ignorance of the truth a virtue in MAGA-moron la-la land. Being the better person does nothing when the world is slowly burning down around you. It’s time to fight fire with fire.

Michael Avenatti, currently famous for being the attorney for one of Donald Trump’s affair partners, just posted this on Twitter:

We need politicians who aren’t afraid to fight back.

We need citizens who aren’t afraid to fight back.

Protest. Organize. Run for office. Keep the blue wave going. Patriotism isn’t demanding professional football players “stand for the national anthem” while not even knowing the words to the anthem, such as Donald Trump. Patriotism isn’t blindly supporting anything Donald Trump does or says out of spite towards Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, liberals, or the “fake news media”. Patriotism is standing up for our country’s ideals…a country that is successful BECAUSE of diversity, the working class, and immigration.

If Trump supporters want to cry about “librul teers”, then let’s REALLY give them something to cry about.

Let’s take the power back. Our country’s future, and our children’s future, depends on it.

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How Facebook manipulated voters

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Facebook co-founder, chairman, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, standing on Red Square in Moscow, Russia.

In a contentious 2016 U.S. presidential election, social media proved to be the most important factor. How important? Brad Parscale, who was Trump’s digital director for the campaign, stated that Twitter was important, and that Facebook was “100 times more important”.¬†Why was, and is, Facebook so important? Social media allowed (and still allows, despite the obvious conflict of interest) Donald Trump to reach out to his supporters, and they reached back in the form of millions of dollars in donations. In fact, he is still using social media to get donations for his 2020 re-election PAC fund, which is currently being used to pay the dozens of lawyers for him and his staff.

Social media, Facebook in particular, also allowed “dark ads”, which are paid advertisements tailored to specific segments of account holders. For instance, if I wanted to create a Facebook advertisement promoting myself as a political candidate, I could specify that the ad would only be shown to white males on Facebook between 21 and 45 who live in the Midwest. These “dark ads” aren’t commonly known, but many of us have seen them. Many of these ads weren’t used to promote anyone, but they were used to portray people in an extremely negative fashion, and either outright lied or exaggerated the truth. Most of them depicted Hillary Clinton as a corrupt traitor who worked with foreign powers and terrorists to undermine our democracy…which, ironically, was what Donald Trump exactly did to secure the election.

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The election itself was extremely close. Hillary Clinton, despite winning the popular vote (and winning it with the second highest ever number of votes), lost to Donald Trump in electoral college points. Here in Michigan, Donald Trump only won by a little over 10,000 votes, which is an extremely small number in a presidential election.

As for Twitter, Oxford University released a study of how voters in Michigan were manipulated by “fake news” on Twitter. The researchers found out that the fake news was much more prevalent than real news, and hit its peak of manipulation one week before the election. Could this have been the difference in Michigan, where Trump only won by 10,000 votes? It certainly played an influential part.

Here is the study, in PDF format:

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Now, we have learned that “Russiagate” head investigator Robert Mueller obtained a search warrant for all Facebook ads that were linked to Russia, in particular a Kremlin-linked company called the Internet Research Agency. Facebook alone has reported over 3,000 of these ads in the past 2 years, but this number is believed to be exponentially higher. This was a mutually beneficial relationship: Facebook made extra money, and political operatives in Russia were able to manipulate people on Facebook without being traced, for a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising, and they could use blatant lies that could not be easily traced to their creators.

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Here is a screenshot of Facebook explaining unpublished page post advertisements, which are also known as “dark ads”.

We have already learned of the vast manipulation that Russia had undertook to undermine the 2016 election. All U.S. intelligence agencies, and intelligence agencies across the world, have said this. In fact, the only people denying any Russian manipulation are…Russia, and Donald Trump’s administration.

Of course, these intelligence agencies (in particular, “5 Eyes”, an alliance of the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand) were already monitoring all communications that were suspected to come from Russia, long before the 2016 campaign even started. This type of social media manipulation has been going on for many years. The Cold War technically ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall, but I would argue that it never really ended. We now have a new Cold War, which is being fought with the Internet. Instead of nuclear weapons, we now have computers to fight asymmetrical warfare.

As citizens, we are only scratching the surface as to what we know about voter manipulation through social media. I would wager that within the next year, we will learn the disturbing truth: that social media and “backchannel” communications were instrumental in securing the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In fact, I already believe it.

It has been rumored that Mark Zuckerberg may actually run for president in 2020. At this rate, he will be lucky not to be charged with any crimes for his complicit actions as the head of Facebook.

No Limit Records: gold albums in the golden era

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The “golden era” for rap music is generally considered to be the late 1980’s to late 1990’s. There were countless classic records from West Coast and East Coast rappers (plus many from Midwest rappers, especially in Detroit, Flint, and Chicago). Down south, however, Percy “Master P” Miller had designs of his own, having started his No Limit Records after making a name for himself in California with such albums as 99 Ways To Die and TRU’s “True”.

Anybody who remembers the rap scene back then, will certainly remember how No Limit took over the rap game from 1997 to 1999. I was a teenager then, and it seemed as if No Limit released an album every damn week. They released dozens of albums, from stars such as Snoop Dogg, Master P, and Mystikal…to the forgotten, such as Steady Mobb’N, Lil Soldiers, and Magic…to the hood favorites, such as Kane And Abel, Fiend, Soulja Slim, and C-Murder (who is Master P’s brother).

On Master P’s Ghetto Dope, he infamously sampled Eric B and Rakim’s “Eric B For President”, flipping the “make rap like this” into “make crack like this”, while rapping step by step instructions on how to cook crack cocaine up. P literally equated selling records to selling dope.

And, like every successful dopeman, Master P flooded the market with a consistent product that sold heavily. No Limit albums were easily recognizable, with the ridiculous Pen And Pixel covers (which crosstown rivals Cash Money Records would take to an even gaudier level), the different colored plastic jewel cases, the repetitive song titles and lyrics (how many No Limit songs had “Get Em” in the title? A LOT).

Good thing the music stood out, which was predominantly from the criminally underappreciated Beats By The Pound (yep, another drug/music analogy). Considering they produced THOUSANDS of songs in a relatively short time span, the beats on No Limit albums were rarely repetitive, and were like musical drugs for us teenagers cruising around listening to them. My favorite No Limit beats: “Break Em Off Something” from Master P (RIP Pimp C from UGK), Young Bleed’s “How U Do Dat”, and “No Limit Soldiers” off of TRU’s True To The Game. The Roland 808 drum machine’s closed high hat sample is one of my favorite musical sounds…it sounds almost as good as playing guitar power chords while the active guitar pickup is getting distorted to hell through a Mesa Boogie amplifier. This is one of the reasons I fell in love with southern rap music: that high hat.

And Beats By The Pound were the best southern rap producers, with the arguable exceptions of DJ Paul and Juicy J of Three 6 Mafia, and Mannie Fresh. In a golden era focused on lyricism, Beats By The Pound proved music could trump lyrics. I knew a few people who would buy damn near every No Limit record: they may have never heard, or even heard of, the artist or group on the album…but they knew that the beats would be hard as hell. And they usually were. Which is a strong testament to how good BBTP were as producers, and how good No Limit marketed themselves.

No Limit Records was a pioneering independent music label, and they had plenty of gold and platinum albums to back it up. Sure, most of them are probably best forgotten…but the TRU albums, the Down South Hustlers comp, and Master P’s Ice Cream Man, Ghetto D, and MP Da Last Don had some classics on them. Go check em out on YouTube, cause that’s what I’m about to do…

Greg Ginn is still cooler than you

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Greg Ginn hasn’t had the best of reputations. Between his contentious relationships with ex-Black Flag members, recurrent allegations of non-payment of album royalties, and allegations of abuse toward family members, Ginn just hasn’t seemed very cool lately. Especially compared to his brother Raymond Pettibon, who has had somewhat of a renaissance in the art world in the past decade. Nonetheless, Greg Ginn is still cooler than you. And here’s why:

1. He founded the most important American punk band that isn’t the Ramones.

Black Flag is widely acknowledged as one of the most important bands in the punk rock scene. Not only that, but Black Flag basically started the American hardcore punk scene, due to music that was faster and heavier than traditional punk rock, with the angry self-involved lyrics that hardcore music is known for. Ginn, who wrote the majority of the music, who was the leader of the band, and who released the music on his own record label SST (Solid State Tuners), is the biggest reason why.

2. Greg Ginn is a hugely underrated and influential guitarist.

When people talk about great guitar players, it’s rare for punk rock musicians to be mentioned. Then again, Ginn was never constricted by conventional punk rock “three-chord” songwriting, and he thought nothing of playing atonal guitar solos or adding some jazz influenced riffing. When Black Flag slowed down and got more progressive, it pissed off a lot of people…but it would eventually influence a hell of a lot more people. Some of his finer work was with his instrumental band Gone, which featured the bad-ass rhythm section of Andrew Weiss and Sim Cain, who would later be poached by former Black Flag vocalist Henry Rollins to start the Rollins Band.

3. Greg Ginn was the biggest singular influence on the 1980’s independent music scene.

SST Records in the mid-1980’s was a ridiculously prolific indie label. At one point or another, they signed Sonic Youth, Soundgarden, Bad Brains, Husker Du, The Minutemen, the Meat Puppets, and Saint Vitus…all of whom released albums that, for the most part, are considered classics today.

4. Greg Ginn was a big influence on how bands would tour, record, and get exposure.

With Black Flag, Ginn would be responsible for booking shows himself, with tour schedules that bordered on insane. He would rarely turn down a show, and saw the importance of getting maximum exposure for minimum expense. He did all album production in-house, and he got some quality album recordings. He would inspire countless bands to stop waiting for record label handouts and to get out there and do it themselves. D.I.Y.

5. Greg Ginn doesn’t give a fuck about what you or I think of him.

What has Greg Ginn done in the past 5 years? Well he released the latest Black Flag album, “What The”, which wasn’t very good, largely due to the shitty production and laughable cover (the cover was created by Ron Reyes). He did a performance at Coachella in 2012, which was basically him stoned out of his mind jamming on a guitar while backing tracks played. He lost a court case where he had tried to get exclusive rights to the Black Flag name, and in the court of public opinion he may have lost even more. He kicked Reyes out of the band in 2013 and enlisted skateboarder Mike Vallely to become the new frontman, and did a short tour in 2014. And…that’s pretty much it.

The consensus between most people is that Greg Ginn is basically an asshole. Well, I’ve never met the guy, nor have I done business with him, but he doesn’t seem like an asshole at all. He seems like a laid-back stoner who has no tolerance for bullshit, and who is (rightly) defensive about the backlash that he gets. I’m sure part of it is good old brotherly animosity between him and Pettibon (Pettibon did the album art for almost all of the Black Flag albums and designed the famous “bars” logo). I’d guess that the laughably juvenile Reyes album design on “What The” was actually a big fuck you to Pettibon.

Regardless, Ginn doesn’t give a fuck about you. He doesn’t give a fuck about me, and he surely doesn’t give a fuck about this article if he happens to be reading it. Give him a guitar, a solid state amp, and some fire ass weed and he’s gonna do his thing.

 

Protect Ya Shk(reli)

Martin Shkreli, the “most hated man in the world” and recently indicted former Turing Pharmaceuticals C.E.O., just recorded a video dissing Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan. For those who are unaware, Shkreli was the person who bought the Wu-Tang Clan “Once Upon A Time In Shaolin” album for $2 million. Ghostface called Shkreli a “shithead”, which led to the making of this amusing video:

 

A few thoughts:

-Shkreli is small AF. Seriously, one of Ghostface’s gold eagles is bigger than this dude.

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-What’s with the fake goons in the background? Rocking North Face hoodies and affecting tough guy voices doesn’t make you intimidating. Those guys remind me of some drunk frat boys who just listened to a Stitches song.

-“I butter your bread”?!? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Sounds sketchy.

-How would Shkreli actually erase Ghostface’s rapping from those CD’s? Seriously…

-It’s bad karma to mock Killah Priest for being arrested and “copping pleas”, when Shkreli will undoubtedly cop any plea that the feds offer his skinny ass.

-“Don’t ever mention my name again, or there will be more of a price to pay than this video.” Potential repercussions be damned, Ghostface has mentioned Shkreli the Shithead a few times on Twitter since then.

I think Ghostface summed it up best on his 1996 song Daytona 500: “Rhymes like retail, make sure shit sell / from where we at to my man’s cell”, since Shkreli will ultimately be listening to “Once Upon A Time In Shaolin” in his prison cell.

 

 

We can get paid $100 just to read an email? Sign me up!

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The Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) is an incredibly important tool that forces transparency on businesses and governments that, many times, would rather keep things on the “DL”. Of course, this tool can come at a high cost, as a local high school student recently found out.

Chris Robbins, a Plymouth-Canton (Michigan) high school student, decided to submit a FOIA request for emails pertaining to the school’s policy regarding blocked websites. The school district sent him an almost $9,000 bill, which is apparently because it will cost $100 to read each email, when it will cost $50/hr with a 2 hour time allotment. Why it would take 2 hours to search a single email is beyond me. Even if you were to double, triple, and quadruple check each email, it shouldn’t take any more than 10 minutes for each one, and that’s being extremely generous.

Personally, if I wanted to pay $100 an hour just to get screwed, I’d walk down to Michigan Avenue and find a hooker. Last I heard, they charge considerably less than that, which means you’re getting even more bang for the buck! Oh, I love terrible puns.

 

Jericho the lion is not dead, releases statement on dead friend

Cecil the lion was brutally murdered this past week by an American dentist in Zimbabwe. No, the lion didn’t die from a heart attack from reading his dental bill; he died from an apparent staged hunt. These staged hunts consist of rich people with high powered rifles who kill big game, and are the types of people who would cower in fear if that rifle jammed up and it suddenly became a fair fight. His friend Jericho was also reported to have been killed, but it turns out that it was a hoax. Since Jericho is actually alive, I decided to fly down to Zimbabwe and get an interview with him:

Good morning Jericho, I offer my condolences to your friend Cecil.

ROOOOAAARRRR…. (I look for my lion interpreter)

Thank you. I do appreciate how many people worldwide have been concerned about Cecil. But, the truth is, Cecil and I have been living hard lives here in Zimbabwe. He had been suffering for years, and he is in a better place now. I can’t call it heaven because of President Mugabe’s religious persecution against Christians, but I assure you it is something LIKE heaven.

Wait, so all of these people outraged over his killing have misdirected hostilities?

That is a good way to put it. Mugabe has been in power for decades now, and ever since his racist policies of stealing farmland and animal conservation parks from people simply because they were white, our lion prides have had less and less places to safely live. Lions like Cecil have been killed constantly in Zimbabwe for many years now, and it is ironic that it takes an American doing it to finally shed light on it.

Is Zimbabwe really as corrupt as you say?

Oh, it’s worse. Zimbabwe is one of the places with the most censorship and corruption in the world. Us lions actually have it easy compared to the millions of human beings who have suffered, and thousands who have been tortured and killed due to Mugabe’s regime.

What do you think about these canned hunts?

Well, us lions are apex predators, and no one can fuck with us, not even human beings. Unless they have a gun, of course. Why would someone want to shoot us? So you can brag about it to your friends and coworkers, much like when American policeman needlessly shoot unarmed human beings? We just want to live and let live.

I understand. Is there anything you wish to say to the American media?

I would ask that the outrage directed at this man for killing my friend should also be directed at Robert Mugabe for his decades of inflicted suffering upon us lions. He stole land from landowners and gave it to people who don’t care about us lions. And his corrupt regime has allowed people to poach our population for many years now. Also ask yourselves if stealing lions from their natural habitats and imprisoning them in zoos just so people can point and stare at us is not another form of animal cruelty. Please become informed about my country, and animal conservation groups that will help us live in peace. Thanks…I mean, ROOOAAARRR!