The Mueller Investigation Report – What Comes Next?

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After nearly two years of investigation that brought charges and/or guilty pleas against 34 individuals and three corporations (and, once any sealed indictments are released, that total should climb) and raked in nearly $50 million in fines, the Mueller Report has been issued. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the former FBI director who was charged with finding out whether there was collusion by the Orange Foolius campaign with any segment of the Russian government and if there was obstruction of justice in other matters surrounding the campaign, has seemingly closed the book on the ACTIVE INVESTIGATION portion of his work (more on this later). Now comes the “dog and pony” show that politicians love to put up for public view.

First off, we probably won’t be hearing anything about the Mueller Report this weekend and anyone who says they know what is in it is full of shit. There’s just too much information for recently seated Attorney General William Barr to go through to issue any type of statement on at this point. Even with an army of foot soldiers looking it over, the earliest we probably can expect for even a bullet-pointed outline of look at the findings would, in my estimations, be Monday. And that’s fine with me…I don’t want this minion of Orange Foolius rushing to get ANYTHING out about the Mueller Report.

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Secondly, and this is just personal conjecture, this is what I believe the Mueller Report will show. As to the underlings in the campaign, including Junior and Princess (I don’t think Eric could eat without a bib), they were colluding left and right with Russian agents THAT THEY WEREN’T AWARE OF. The collusion was coming as a result of trying to position themselves in the best business position possible – hell, they didn’t even conceive of winning the election, they thought they would be crushed. It has been proven in earlier cases, however, that lack of knowledge of who you’re dealing with isn’t a defense. If there are sealed indictments, expect one to at least have Junior’s name on it.

Third, Orange Foolius was unaware that these actions were going on underneath him. With his Narcissistic Personality Disorder, if it doesn’t directly affect him, he really doesn’t care. Thus, I am sure that the underlings were allowed to run free and run afoul of many a campaign law. But as far as his own PERSONAL knowledge of any collusion with Russian agents? I personally believe that Mueller will stop short of saying that Orange Foolius knew what was going on – it would take a shitload more investigation going back into the 1990s to try to demonstrate that Orange Foolius was a Manchurian candidate at the beck and whim of Vladimir Putin.

Fourth, as to the question of obstruction of justice. There are literally tens of examples of Orange Foolius obstructing justice, beginning with his statements to Russia’s Ambassador to the U. S., continuing on through his own statements to NBC news anchor Lester Holt, the obstruction through the convoluted statements regarding the Orange Foolius Tower meeting with Russian agents. Mueller knows, however, that the obstruction charge isn’t one that is going to be criminally prosecuted by anyone in the Department of Justice. And, with the current makeup of Congress, Mueller knows it isn’t going to be politically prosecuted…that’s right, that ugly word “impeachment.” Mueller’s not a fool…he’s dropping this ball in Barr’s lap and letting him decide, both legally and politically.

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The campaign finance violations questions? There will probably be plenty of that too. And Mueller’s going to point this out – he’s got plenty of evidence from disgraced Orange Foolius attorney Michael Cohen, who was a “great lawyer” and Orange Foolius’ “personal attorney” before he saw his life flash in front of his eyes and copped a plea deal with the Southern District of New York and became a “liar” and a “minor player” –  but he’s also going to put it on Barr to make the decision on what approach to take.

The bottom line for many will be this question…how much of the report will we see? I believe that we’ll see quite a bit of it, to be honest. Politically, the GOP doesn’t get any benefit from having the Mueller Report squelched. In fact, the GOP knows that stonewalling the report looks suspicious and would advise Barr (who is, under normal circumstances, supposed to be an independent body with the Department of Justice) to release everything he can.

The Democrats, naturally, are going to want it all, which sets up for bullshit Benghazi-like hearings that will take us up to Election Day 2020. And this is the pitfall that the Democrats must avoid…while they can make sure that all the information is known regarding the Mueller Report – including having public hearings where they bring in the former FBI director for testimony – they must resist the temptation to begin any “impeachment” proceedings against Orange Foolius.

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There are several reasons for this. Impeachment is a political act, not a criminal one, and in the current Congress the act would be a worthless one. Although they have control of the House and could conceivably vote through articles of impeachment, the Democrats are the minority in the Senate and any articles of impeachment would be laughed out by the GOP. Furthermore, by bringing charges against St. Orange Foolius, the Democrats would run the risk of making a martyr out of him, much like the GOP did with Bill Clinton in 1998.

The Democrats would be wisely advised to pursue the Mueller Report, get as close to 100% of it in the public spectrum and SHOW the criminal activities of this Administration (which is almost unheard of in recent history – only Richard Nixon had more criminal charges brought against it). But the job isn’t done there…then the Democrats must SHOW they have something more to offer for leadership of the country than “we’re not crooks,” presenting a solid vision for the future of the country rather than the anachronistic dystopia presented by the GOP.

Present the Mueller Report evidence, present a plan, and vote the fucker out in 2020. Don’t give the GOP a firebrand for the 2020 election by allowing Orange Foolius to play the “victim” in a scenario that even Shakespeare couldn’t conceive.

The endgame of the Mueller Report will be that there’s plenty of evidence of criminal activity, financial deviance and simple malfeasance inside the Orange Foolius Mafia. This will be he albatross around this Administration’s neck. The unknown – and what might become the albatross around the neck of the “American” people – is what the body politick and the people of this country want to do about it.

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What Do You Do When You Already Know What’s Going to Happen?

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Usually when a President (note the capital letter) calls for the networks to open some airtime for him to address the nation, there is a tremendous interest from the public. I remember back when President Bush I announced the invasion of Iraq, President Clinton’s confession of his affair with Monica Lewinsky, President Obama’s announcement of the killing of Osama bin Laden, or President Bush II’s commencement of the Second Gulf War in Afghanistan following 9/11, just to name a few. All of these prime-time speeches were monumental, they Meant Something.

For the first time in decades, I have absolutely no interest in what this resident in the White House has to say, tonight or at any time. Perhaps its because of the 7000-plus documentable lies that he has told over the past two years, including the latest doozies that “all the previous presidents have told me they wished they’d built a wall (no goddamn prior President has told this asshole that)” or that “the people not working/not getting paid are behind me on this (union leaders have roundly derided that statement as false)” or “the people are calling the White House switchboard, telling me they want the wall (guess what gets shut down during a Government Shutdown, you moron? The White House switchboard).”

You might say that “politicians lie,” but this asshole has taken it to unprecedented levels. When you absolutely have no trust in what someone has to say, then why do you even want to hear them drone on about an issue when you could be watching The Big Bang Theory, Anderson Cooper 360 or, for fuck’s sake, even Hannity? But there’s a further issue at hand here – why watch it when you already know what’s going to happen?

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Normally when a President calls one of these prime-time addresses to the nation, it is a seismic moment that the President wants to calm a nation, offer them solace or explain to the country the reasons for a drastic event that is about to take place. The address from Orange Foolius tonight? It has all the drama of an episode of Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn without the “charming” children to try to make it entertaining.

Here’s how tonight’s address from Orange Foolius is going to go:

Scenario 1

The dotard gets on the screen and simply repeats many of the already disproven lies that he or one of his sycophantic minions has been spewing over whichever airwaves they can reach. Everyone has seen Chris Wallace’s dismemberment of Press Conwoman Sarah Huckster Suckabee on Fox “News” over the weekend – where Wallace basically fact-checked the brainless rube live on the air for her falsehoods – or Jake Tapper basically laughing in the face of “Acting” Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney when Mulvaney with a straight face tries to say that Orange Foolius hasn’t debased politics with his previous actions. This list is a long one, including that there is an “invasion” on the southern border (crossings are at their lowest point in years), that drugs are coming across (drugs aren’t hauled by “mules” crossing the border, they are more likely to enter at sea ports) or that “illegals” are rushing across the unprotected border (most “illegal” immigration is done through overstaying visas, not crossing on the southern border), among others.

One of the most brilliant ideas I’ve heard (and I certainly wish I could remember where I originally saw it simply to give accreditation) is to put a soundtrack on Orange Foolius’ shit spewage tonight. Put a laugh track that activates whenever he starts bragging about himself or what he’s done; have a slide whistle or a “BBOOOINGGG!” sound effect when he tries to pass off an obvious lie as a truth; go with a buzzer sound effect when he tries to blame someone else (AKA the Democrats, Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer) for the Government Shutdown because HE SAID HE WAS TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR IT. Feel free to add your own sound effects because A) it would make for a much more entertaining speech, and B) because we’re not going to get anything substantive out of it.

Scenario 2

Unfortunately, this one is serious…and unnerving.

Orange Foolius takes the mic tonight to announce that he’s calling a National Emergency at the border, immediately ordering military troops, engineers and financing from the military to pay for all activities on the border, including the insanity of a “wall” that, according to “conservatives,” will MAGICALLY shut down all border crossing and drug trafficking for the remainder of time!

If you don’t see the seriousness of this act, then you have problems. First off, to make such a declaration is one step from institution of Martial Law, which would allow a sitting president to suspend habeas corpus rights, use the military in manners that are prohibited in normal situations (the Posse Comitatus Act) and/or basically bring a fascist state to life. While “conservatives” jizz in their shorts over the potential for these things to become a reality, anyone who believes in a free society should be outraged.

If Orange Foolius calls for a National Emergency, he should be immediately impeached for illegal actions by an elected official. There is absolutely NOTHING that makes what is occurring on the border a “national emergency.” It has been going on for the last 70 years, since the close of WWII, when the States of America became the preeminent country in the world. When you build something that everyone wants a part of, that says you’re doing the right thing. To then take an action that would be so outstandingly stupid, not to mention illegal, would be…just what this asshole is known for.

This is not a situation that calls for a “national emergency” declaration. It is women and children, for the most part, fleeing for their lives over thousands of miles. It is families looking to be able to save themselves and start a new life under freedom rather than dictatorships (mostly created by U. S. government policies, but that’s a discussion for another time). And it is people actually looking to avoid being used by cartels and demagogues for illegal purposes.

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The Congress isn’t to blame in this situation. They did their jobs, in the last Congress, to pass a compromise piece of legislation that was initially acceptable for the jerkoff in the White House until Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh whipped his ass with a rolled-up copy of the National Review. The House, under the leadership of Pelosi, has done the job in this Congress (the Senate, under Yertle the Turtle, won’t bring the legislation to a vote because it would pass and embarrass Orange Foolius and, by extension, themselves). The person to blame is the one who said in December he would “own” the Shutdown…Orange Foolius himself.

When 9PM rolls around tonight, I’m not giving this asshole the privilege of my viewership. I can catch up with the “post-game” shows afterwards. Of the two scenarios above, however, Scenario 1 is most acceptable, although nothing will be done from it. If Scenario 2 actually occurs, however, then the Constitutional Crisis that has been discussed for the past two years will actually come to life…which side do you want to be on?

100 Essential Albums of All Time – Queensrÿche, Operation: Mindcrime (1988)

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One of the greatest purposes of music is its ability to tell a story. Even if you go back to the times of Beethoven or Mozart, the purpose for their creations was to entertain an audience with a tale through musical composition. There is a modern-day equivalent to the masters of yore and their symphonies: the concept album.

Concept albums have been a part of the music landscape since the 1940s, believe it or not. The idea behind such creations is that the whole of the songs together on an album tell a larger story, rather than the individual songs themselves standing alone with different tales. It is thought that the first “concept album” was the 1940 release Dust Bowl Ballads from folk legend Woody Guthrie and crooner Frank Sinatra’s works through the 40s and 50s had elements of a concept album in their creation. To be honest, however, the concept album has been best done by the world of rock music.

There are several legendary rock groups that can potentially lay claim to the creative idea regarding the concept album. The Beach Boys (Pet Sounds), the Beatles (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band) and The Who (Tommy) are some of the groups that are credited with bringing the concept album to rock music, with the term “rock opera” being bandied about, in the 1960s. As the 70s came, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall, Frank Zappa’s Joe’s Garage and Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway carried the torch.

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By the 1980s, however, the “rock opera” seemed to be a dying art. With the advent of Music Television (MTV), though, it became a prime opportunity for the concept album to make a return. Duran Duran did it well with an unofficial concept album in Rio (the songs weren’t necessarily telling a story, but the videos supporting the album were all filmed in Sri Lanka and Antigua, giving them an exotic feel and a common thread).

The concept album would make its biggest return in the world of hard rock/metal in the mid to late 1980s. Foremost practitioners of the concept album was the Seattle band Queensrÿche. Building a growing following with their early releases, the band was searching for a story that they could bring to their stage performances. They would come up with one of the classic albums in the history of heavy metal and a definitive entry into the concept album/rock opera Hall of Fame with the record Qperation: Mindcrime.

Operation: Mindcrime is the story of Nikki, a recovering addict who hates the corrupt, totalitarian society that he lives in. As Nikki lies in a near amnesiac state, memories slowly come flooding back to him. As a result of his dislike of the current socioeconomic state, Nikki joins a group that is thought to be “revolutionary” but, in reality, is a team of political assassins. Nikki is used by the leader of the group, the mysterious Dr. X., who looks to use certain members of the group for his own nefarious purposes. Dr. X uses Nikki’s heroin addiction to get him to submit to brainwashing techniques that, upon Dr. X uttering the word “mindcrime,” puts Nikki in a submissive state. This is what enables Dr. X to use him for whatever purpose he desires, in particular using Nikki to kill on command.

Nikki’s humanity begins to creep through, however. A corrupt priest who works for Dr. X gives the services of a prostitute-turned-nun named Sister Mary to Nikki. It is this relationship with Sister Mary that Nikki begins to question why he is doing the evil that Dr. X orders him to do. As his love for Mary grows, Nikki begins to assert himself, first killing the priest and then telling Dr. X that he no longer wants to work for him. Dr. X threatens to withhold his daily fix of heroin from Nikki to keep him in the fold, but Nikki refuses.

As Nikki returns to the church to tell Mary what has occurred, he comes upon her lifeless body. Not knowing whether he killed her or not due to his blackouts from his addiction, he slowly begins to go insane. The story ends with Nikki in a mental hospital under suspicion of killing Mary, now fully recovered from his amnesia but not knowing how he became the person he is today.

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Pretty intense stuff, huh?

When it was released in 1988, it WAS pretty intense stuff, especially for what some considered a “hair metal” band. But it was also hailed as one of the greatest concept albums ever done, put up beside The Who’s Quadrophenia and Floyd’s The Wall. The album made Queensrÿche superstars in the music world, spawning a sequel in Operation: Mindcrime II in 2006 (in which we learn that Sister Mary actually committed suicide after Dr. X threatened to kill Nikki to keep them apart) and sparking a musical career for the band that still exists today (albeit not with the same lineup; Tate left the group after Mindcrime II and Queensrÿche continues as a band without him).

What makes the album incredible is the story that is told. Sometimes you have to stretch to be able to grasp what an artist is trying to do with their work. With Operation: Mindcrime, however, there is absolutely no question of right or wrong in the story; it is entirely the case that Dr. X, with his evil organization, is attempting to use Nikki and, by extension, Mary, for his criminal ways. Another great thing is that, with Queensrÿche and Operation: Mindcrime, you can pick up at any point in the album and immediately know where you are in the story. The album also captures your attention, from Geoff Tate’s outstanding soaring vocals to the dual guitar attack from Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton, with the combination forming an all-out sonic assault that seems fitting for the story that is being told.

Operation: Mindcrime is not going to be for everyone’s taste. Some people won’t like the raw edge of the hard rock sound of Queensrÿche. But if that’s the only reason that people have for not hearing one of the most outstanding rock operas/concept albums of all time, then it is their fault for closing their minds.

Previous entries in the 100 Essential Albums of All-Time

Johnny Cash, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison (1968)
The BusBoys, Minimum Wage Rock & Roll (1980)
Rockpile, Seconds of Pleasure (1980)
Metallica, …And Justice for All (1988)
Rick Wakeman, Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1974)

Have Conservatives Begun to Come to Their Senses?

December 2018 was, by most accounts, one of the ugliest months in the history of the States of America. The Dow Jones dropped a total of 6.7% for the entirety of 2018 and the S&P 500 saw a decline of 7%, mostly driven by huge losses since October and, in particular, a volatile December. The losses by those two indexes are the first decline in the market since 2008 when…well, everyone remembers what happened then.

But it wasn’t just the stock market which suffered as 2018 closed. U. S. international influence was dealt a severe blow as situations in Syria and Afghanistan heated up, General James Mattis decided to step down from his position as Secretary of Defense (as well as U. S. envoy to the Middle East Brett McGurk, who was critical in the fight against ISIS). Add in Chief of Staff John Kelly (a fellow Marine who has besmirched his reputation already, but I digress) leaving his position and a government shutdown concocted for entirely political reasons entering its second week and the shakiness of the U. S. government has never been more evident.

And who is responsible for all of this?

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Oh, yeah…him.

Celebrating – or lamenting, on some viewpoints – the end of the second year of Orange Foolius’ reign of terror on the U. S. has brought about turmoil both domestically and internationally that is unprecedented in U. S. history. And this isn’t the type of “unprecedented” that is a good thing. In fact, the continuation of this administration – along with the Mueller Investigation (you know, that “witch hunt” that has charged and/or convicted 35 “witches” and paid for itself with $46 million in restitutions from Paul Manafort alone) and the continued “rats leaving the sinking ship” of personnel ditching their offices in the government – is beginning to demonstrate that perhaps the Idiot in Chief wasn’t the best choice.

Now there’s 65 million people, roughly, that would have been able to tell you that from the start in 2016. You know, the MAJORITY of the residents of the States of America that didn’t vote for him. But those people were already against this jackass and his thoughts of taking the office. But there is a change in the winds, per se, that is noticeable at this point.

While support for Orange Foolius amongst conservatives remains good, it isn’t of the level that it was previously. A survey from CNBC shows that support from millionaires has plunged as the Foolius Administration has demonstrated its depravity. How bad is it? Those conservative millionaires stated that there was only a 18% likelihood that Orange Foolius would be the nominee in 2020, with Ohio Governor John Kasich and current Vice President Albino Church Boy also garnering votes.

But it isn’t just the millionaires that he has to worry about. It is conservatives overall who have just about had enough of the shitshow that they are looking for a change.

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I’ve spoken to many a conservative that have reluctantly commented that their choice in 2016 was the wrong one. In many cases, they thought that the Fool on Capitol Hill would become more “presidential” as he got into the job, that he would moderate his stances and actually try to do the job. The problem is that these people forgot an old adage – “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” In other words, you can’t teach a 70-year old racist, misogynous, xenophobic bastard how to become “couth” and rein in his basal instincts.

It goes beyond that, however. These same conservatives are concerned about the current status of the White House. The departure of essentially everyone from the administration that signed up at the start (remember Reince Priebus? Sean Spicer? And don’t forget that Sarah Huckster Suckabee will be leaving soon (good riddance) along with Mattis, Kelly and all the others) has left the “B Team” of sycophants and recipients of nepotism trying to satiate the Orange Glob. That they have not the talent nor the skills to be able to do this job – run a government – is what is scaring many conservatives.

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It is also concerning to many conservatives that all the investigations that have been going on regarding Orange Foolius and his activities have essentially proven to be true. The aforementioned Mueller Investigation continues to plod along, sweeping up guilty pleas left and right. The Steele dossier, long ridiculed by conservatives, has been proven to be true for the most part, save the salacious “pee pee” parts. Further investigations by the Southern District of New York have dropped the hammer on the “charitable” Foolius Foundation and the family, putting the potential for not only Orange to go to the slammer but also the potential for Ivanka, Junior and Eric to serve time in prison (Tiffany and Baron will be spared because their mommas, Marla Maples and Melania, kept them out of the family business of grifting, lying and stealing). And the longer these investigations go on – and the wealth of info that any Democratic House investigations WILL bring up – the more corruption is shown by these cretins.

All of the evidence is mounting up against Orange Foolius. And conservatives are beginning to feel the heat.

For the most part, conservatives aren’t saying they’ll quit the Republican Party. It’s just that they’ll quit supporting a conman of infinite degrees. And that’s OK…this country needs to have the base ideas of conservatism – strong defense, commitment to business, fiscal responsibility (although the current crop of GOP needs a refresher course on this) – to be able to function. You cannot go too far one way or the other, left or right, in governing philosophy. There has to be a line in the center that takes into consideration all aspects of governance. One of the main tenets of government should be to hurt as few people as possible, and it is only through compromise and discussion (something that has been tremendously lacking in the past 20 years or so) that this can be assured.

What is happening is that many, liberal and conservative, are either beginning to see the error of their ways or holding back from saying “I told you so.” Now the work begins of keeping the ideas of the Founding Fathers in place until the elections of 2020, when correcting this humongous mistake can actually take place.

Is the New “Presidential Alert” a Good Thing or a Bad Thing?

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Yesterday ushered in a new day for governmental contact with its citizens. At precisely 2:18PM (Eastern Time) on Wednesday, the federal government issued the first ever Emergency Alert over cellphones. It was a simple statement, much like what you have when they perform this same test monthly on radio and television (“This is a test of the Wireless Emergency Alert System. This is only a test.”). And not everyone received it; according to many that I have spoken to (admittedly a small group), there were couples that one received the message while the other didn’t (even if they were in the same room), there were those that received the message even though they had shut their phones off (don’t ask this layman how that happened) and those that got the message right on time.

Naturally, everyone lost their shit over the text message. A lawsuit (one of many) was filed in New York looking to stop the deployment of the “Wireless Emergency Alert System,” arguing that it violated the First and Fourth Amendments of the U. S. Constitution. Attorneys argued that the system was a “violation of Americans’ First and Fourth Amendment rights to be free from Government-compelled listening, as well as warrantless, non-consensual trespass into and seizure of their cellular devices.”

It is reasonable that these people believe the veracity of their arguments. While people can get on “Do Not Call” lists, opt out of Amber or Silver Alerts (the Silver Alert is for older people who are in jeopardy) and other bothersome contacts, this particular Alert cannot be opted out of because of federal regulations. But the problems that some people have is perhaps not as much about the Alert but about how it was billed.

At the top of yesterday’s Emergency Alert test was, in bold print, Presidential Alert. Now, just who would currently be the president (and I put it in lowercase because he doesn’t fucking deserve upper)? That’s right, it is Orange Foolius, a petulant man-child whose propensity for hate-Tweeting is well-known. When presented with the ability to reach 330 MILLION cellphones in this country, the Narcissist in Chief has a megaphone that he can use to spew his garbage to the entirety of the country.

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Except it isn’t supposed to be used in that manner. President Barack Obama actually instigated the Wireless Emergency Alert System back in 2016 when he signed a law authorizing its creation. In that law, the usage of the system was just like that of television and radio – that it was only authorized in the case of a national emergency. The actual language in the law state that a president (and, since President Obama isn’t in the office anymore, we’re speaking about the jackass there now and future office holders) “shall not be used to transmit a message that does not relate to a natural disaster, act of terrorism, or other man-made disaster or threat to public safety.” Arguments against the Alerts state that this is “unconstitutionally vague,” and that is reasonable.

If they had simply called it a “Wireless Emergency Alert System” and left it at that, I don’t think people would be as upset as they are. Most people don’t even watch television or have radio anymore – the old ways that the Emergency Alert System was to inform people in case of an emergency. But it seems that everyone has a cellphone, which is awake 24/7 and never sleeps. Thus, shouldn’t there be a way for the federal government to reach people in a time of emergency (let’s leave out the questions of when cell service wouldn’t reach people, such as a hurricane or other weather-related phenomenon)?

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While President Obama started this law, it was accelerated after an incident earlier this year. In January in Hawaii, there was an inaccurate Emergency Alert sent out about an impending nuclear attack coming in. The ballistic missile warning was sent over the tradition Emergency Alert System and the Commercial Mobile Alert System (covering all televisions, radio and cellphones) that stated firmly that “this is not a drill.” People were panicking across the islands for almost 45 minutes (this occurred at roughly 8AM local time) before authorities could get out word that the alert was false. This particular wireless system, in theory, could have gotten the message out quicker (don’t ask me how) and corrected the inaccurate report.

Where the feds fucked this up is in calling it a “Presidential Alert.” With the divisiveness of this asswipe in the WH currently, there’s more than half the country that is going to despise it, not to mention those that believe in the libertarian philosophy of less government intrusion into private lives. Let’s not even get into the legal and/or ethical situations of tapping the 911 lines to be able to hunt you down so you get precise alerts (that’s why Amber Alerts work wherever you go and always for that area). I do think this should be examined, but it could have been avoided with a little research into branding the product.

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Furthermore, there is some credence to the fact that citizens of the States of America have given up an extreme amount of freedom. Since 9/11, the freedoms of the Average Joe have been eroded bit by bit. The Patriot Act opened up that Pandora’s Box under the pretense of the “war on terrorism” (an unwinnable engagement because there isn’t a set opponent or location to actually fight the war) and, for the most part, U. S. citizens have acquiesced to the invasion of their privacy. That invasion continues to grow, mostly without anyone even noticing that the once large arena of personal liberty has shrunk to a small room.

The bottom line is that the situation could have been avoided by a little smarter work and a little better branding of the product by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (the government organization in charge of the usage of the Emergency Alert System). With Mushroom Dick in the office currently (and his approval rating floundering around 35%), such actions as this aren’t going to be viewed in a good light. But instead of arguing about whether Orange Foolius is going to be using the “Presidential Alert” to send out his latest Twitter missives aimed at those he believes have “wronged him,” we ought to look at the overall picture of security for the country and then determine if this step is really necessary to ensure that all citizens of the States of America can be informed in the case of a TRUE national emergency.

New Prince Album Reveals the Creative Process; Slash Just Rocks the Joint on His Return

In the world of music, there is nothing that is more interesting than the creative process. Hell, with ANY artistic endeavor, the most interesting thing is the process of bringing disparate parts together into a cohesive and entertaining form. The late Prince Rogers Nelson were arguably one of those people that had a tremendous artistic process, something that he often kept in secret for simply privacy’s sake. With his new CD, Piano and a Microphone 1983, we see the artist just before his big explosion on the musical scene, working out the kinks on some compositions that would go on to be huge for his career and some that have never seen the light of day. On the other side of the dial, Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash is continuing on without Axl Rose (again) and his new collaboration, his third time teaming with Alter Bridge singer Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, just flat out rocks.

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In 2016, the music world lost one of its greatest voices and one of its greatest creative musicians when Prince passed away from an opiate overdose. But back in 1983, Prince wasn’t the icon he had become by 2016; Prince was still a man looking to make his mark in the music world. Coming off a highly successful double album in 1999, the man known as the Purple One was considering his next step. One night, with only a microphone and a piano as accompaniment, Prince put some of those ideas onto a simple cassette tape.

The result of the recording session was the latest release from “The Vault,” the treasure trove of Prince material that was locked up for decades in his Paisley Park home. Entitled Piano and a Microphone 1983, the nine-song CD clocks in at less than 40 minutes (37, if you’d like the exact number). But what Piano and a Microphone 1983 shows is the artist in the midst of the creative process as well as some of the genius behind that process.

Leading off the album is “17 Days,” one of your typical Prince-type songs that one would expect but, stripped down to just the piano, is riveting. The fact that it is a “Prince-type song” isn’t surprising as Lisa Coleman and Wendy Melvoin, who were part of The Revolution, helped in the writing of the song (along with Revolution keyboardist Matthew “Doctor” Fink). From there, Prince goes into a little noodling of what would become “Purple Rain,” but the version found on this album is melancholier then you might expect. Other songs that Prince would become known for – “International Lover” from 1999 and “Strange Relationship,” which would show up on 1987’s Sign O’ the Times, also make their experimental debuts here.

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It is when Prince delves into new material that the CD takes on a life of its own. Prince performs a cover of the African-American spiritual “Mary Don’t You Weep,” with a blues styling for the song bringing out so much emotion you can actually feel what Prince is trying to say. The song was used in director Spike Lee’s latest film BlacKKKlansman because Lee felt it was perfect for the film. After unveiling the emotions for “Mary Don’t You Weep,” Prince then goes back into his “funky era” with a song called “Cold Coffee & Cocaine,” complete with James Brown-esque yelps and howls. He wraps up the compilation with a beautiful song called “Why the Butterflies,” an amazing coda to a short practice session.

Even though it is fascinating to listen to the creative process that Prince is going through with the creation of this music, I’m still a little bit disappointed. It is obvious that Prince never meant for these tapes to be released; at certain points in the recording, he clears his throat, speaks directly to the technician in the studio recording this session (surprisingly, Prince tells him to turn the tape over, as if he knew how long he had been playing) or clears his throat with a cough. For Prince’s family to release these songs from “The Vault” as the first posthumous music from Prince, I feel it takes a little bit away from not only the man himself and his tremendous process in creating such wonderful music but also cheapens what should have been a grandiose occasion.

Even with this criticism, Piano and a Microphone 1983 is a priceless piece of music from what was one of America’s greatest artist. Prince may not be with us anymore, but “The Vault” should provide us with decades of music to come. Just imagine what jewels await us from Prince? Piano and a Microphone 1983 is simply the first chip off the diamond that Prince and his music was.

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Somebody who may be as prolific as Prince in the musical output department is Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash. While Axl Rose was sitting around for the decade or so after Guns N’ Roses’ last release in 1993, Slash would go on to do his own music with a dizzying array of talent backing him up. Counting the five albums he did with the Gunners, Slash has also put up two albums with Velvet Revolver, two with Slash’s Snakepit, and one straight solo album, not to mention guesting on several songs by such artists as the late Michael Jackson, Lenny Kravitz, Bad Company’s Paul Rogers and Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies, Alice Cooper and Rhianna. Slash’s latest album is Living the Dream (technically his 13th studio release) and it features some of that talent in vocalist Myles Kennedy from Alter Bridge and an array of talented musicians called The Conspirators, who are joining Slash for their third album together.

Although his time in Guns N’ Roses has made him a hard rock and metal icon, Slash goes into his own style when he picks up with Kennedy and The Conspirators, a simply hard driving, blues-based rock and roll approach that you really don’t hear much of anymore. From the start with the song “The Call of the Wild,” Slash and Kennedy groove together instantly, with Kennedy’s soaring vocals only outdone by Slash’s crunching guitars. This continues on through such songs as “My Antidote”  and “Mind Your Manners,” but there are two songs in particular that deserve mention from this record.

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First song of note from Living the Dream is “Lost Inside the Girl,” a very good up-tempo rocker that is a love song about a lady that has entranced Kennedy. The song that is really the piece de resistance on the album is its first release, “Driving Rain.” It is a typical trope for rock musicians – a song about being out on the road and having to come through a whole lot of pain and torture to get to the one that you love  – but it displays both Kennedy and Slash at the top of their game. Both of these tunes are well worth the price of admission for Living the Dream.

Whether you’re looking for the remembrance of a great artist that has passed far too soon or you’re looking for something from a rocker who is still cranking it out at 53 years old, you can’t go wrong with these two releases.  Piano and a Microphone 1983 from Prince and Living the Dream from Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators, while offering greatly diverse material, will give you plenty of enjoyment if you’re willing to take the ride.

100 Essential Albums of All Time – Johnny Cash, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison (1968)

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If it has something to do with music in the States of America – be it country, rock, gospel…pretty much anything short of opera – the legendary Johnny Cash has to be, if not in its Hall of Fame, then pretty damn close to it. One of only two people that is in both the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame (the other is Elvis Presley, although an argument could be made that there are three with Sun Records owner and producer Sam Phillips), Johnny Cash is without a doubt one of the icons of music in this country. But can you believe that there was a time when Cash was on the verge of being shunned by the music industry?

After making his name in country music and, alongside his wife June Carter and the Carter Family, to a lesser extent in gospel music, Cash was at a crossroads in 1968. Battling the demons of drug and alcohol abuse, his record label, Columbia Records, was very wary of what would come next out of the “Man in Black.” Cash had a controversial idea for what approach he wanted to take for his next record:  a live recording at a state prison in California, from the man who in 1955 penned and sang the song “Folsom Prison Blues.”

The idea for this live album had been in Cash’s mind even before he wrote that famous song. Cash, while in the Air Force Security Service in 1953, saw a film called Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison. It was that film that inspired Cash to write about his views of what prison would be like. The results of that inspiration was “Folsom Prison Blues,” which became a staple of the Cash library along with “I Walk the Line,” and “Ring of Fire.”

While Cash thought that a live album at a prison would be an outstanding move, Columbia Records wasn’t as wild about the idea. It wasn’t until Cash was teamed with producer Bob Johnston from Columbia that someone from the label embraced the idea. It is rumored that Cash and Johnston contacted two prisons, Folsom State Prison and San Quentin State Prison, with Folsom winning out because they replied first.

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The result, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, became one of the benchmarks of Cash’s career despite little investment from the label and even less promotion. Cash and Carter, along with the Tennessee Three (Cash’s backup band of Luther Perkins, Marshall Grant and W. S. Holland), Carl Perkins (no relation to Luther but an occasional member of the “Tennessee Three”), the Statler Brothers, Cash’s father Ray and Reverend Floyd Gressett (who counseled inmates at Folsom), journeyed to Folsom Prison for a day of rehearsals and a day of performing. After the rehearsals and back at the hotel for dinner, then California Governor Ronald Reagan heard that the entourage was in the building and came by to encourage the group and wish them well for the performance the next day.

On January 11, 1968, the group hit the stage at Folsom State Prison. There were two shows scheduled for the day, one at 9AM and one at 12:40PM, just in case there were any issues that arose from the first show. After performances by Perkins and the Statler Brothers, Cash took the stage and blew away the prisoners in attendance with a scintillating performance. Of course, he would lead off with “Folsom Prison Blues,” but he also mixed in other tales of woe and sorrow such as “Cocaine Blues,” “25 Minutes to Go (about being on death row),” “The Wall,” “Dark as a Dungeon,” and the Tennessee Three stretched their legs with a classic version of “Orange Blossom Special.”

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When it was released in May 1968, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison was hailed for Cash’s realism with the songs. Al Aronowitz of Life stated that Cash’s songs sounded like “someone who was…one of the people that the songs were about.” The emotional grip of the songs was emphasized and the audience – the inmates of Folsom Prison, whom the warden had been worried about possibly being unruly during the shows – were grateful for the performances and responded enthusiastically to seeing such acclaimed musicians considering where they were.

For Cash himself, the album marked a “rebirth” of sorts and, arguably, MADE him the legend that he would become. “(The album) was where things really got started for me again,” Cash would note in an interview with Rolling Stone. It would lead to a second “prison album,” Johnny Cash at San Quentin (1969), where a man by the name of Merle Haggard would hear him and vow to change his life so he could perform like Cash. Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison would also be the kickoff point for the remainder of Cash’s career, which ended sadly with his death in 2003.

The laurels that Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison has received are almost too numerous to mention. Along with being chosen by the Library of Congress for its National Recording Registry, the album has also been named one of the top 100 albums of all time by such outlets as Rolling Stone, Time, and Blender and was named the #3 country music album of all time by Country Music Television.

What makes Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison so special? First, it was a “live recording” in an era that wasn’t exactly embracing the format. Second, Cash’s career at that point was sputtering – some would say on life support – and his record label’s lack of support for the record could have spelled the end of his career. Finally, it was a stroke of genius to do such a record for such an audience, displaying to music fans that the people in this situation WERE actually people, people that deserved respect. It was a “liberal” idea for the time, breaking the tradition of country musicians being considered “conservative” (and something shown of late by another country music legend, Willie Nelson in his support of Democrat Beto O’Rourke in the current Texas Senatorial race).

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The music world – ANY music world – was greatly enriched by Johnny Cash. But without Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, it is conceivable that the “Man in Black” could have disappeared from the annals of music history.