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Sunday, December 30, 2018

We The People, Getting Played Again!

My sister recently joined Better Angels and then talked me into it, too. This blog isn't about that, although it is about how both Republicans and Democrats are full of shit. They both provide us with a pack of well-crafted lies. I'd like to talk about things I hear from real people and how that connects to the bullshit being propagated out of D.C. and state capitals across this country.

First, some basic data. If it is true that 40%-45% of Americans are hard-core Republicans, it stands to reason that only a small percentage of that group believes in the course the party has set because all the historical data available points to their propensity to enrich the already rich at the expense of everyone who isn't. What I hear from real people is that lots of folks vote Republican because they are really opposed to killing babies. I hear that! Killing anyone sucks. I wish humans did a lot less of it.

To say that the Republicans have done nothing to curtail the killing of babies (in their nymph state, but we won't split hairs for the sake of this discussion), would be patently false. The party has made a considerable effort to reduce access to abortion. The irony here is that this reduced access impacts largely rural areas that are the most supportive of the party. I suppose it makes sense that you'd want your policies to be as visible as possible in the land of your party's base.

However, many folks living in the areas most affected by abortion wouldn't want one anyway. It is the heathen masses of the great cities who are most likely to pop down to the corner "family planning" (oh look! More irony) center for a post sex termination. They tend to work for companies who (remember, companies are people too - thanks Republicans for that one) are happy to pay for insured abortions, AND they actually can pop down to the corner for one.

Republican Lie #1: The party cares about killing babies.
No, they care about the votes of people who care about killing babies. If they really cared about killing babies, they would pass laws that made it harder in the cities, too. But guess what? There's a lot of votes in the cities and there's more rich people there. Some of those people are the very heathens I'm talking about. They won't take too kindly to Republicans taking away their abortions, so with a wink and a nod, everyone gets what they want...sorta.

Let's jump over to the DNC and see what the Democratic party is up to. Basically, the Democrats have given up on capitalism, but don't want to be called socialists. Nobody in the history of the world has ever figured out how to fund a socialist system and the Democrats are no exception. If you give everyone free college educations and healthcare, you're going to have to pay for it with debt, because by the time you collect enough taxes to pay for it, every wealthy person in the country will have moved their money, operations, and maybe even life, somewhere else -- because you can do that now. The rest of us are going to look pretty stupid trying to hold a capitalistic economy without any fucking businesses except fast food restaurants and liquor stores.

Democratic Lie #1: Redistributing wealth works.
We no longer live in a world in which one economy can make decisions for itself without consideration to other international trading partners. China, India, Brazil, Russia and many more countries would be happy to eat our lunch if we'll ship it to them. The choices we make to attract businesses here and keep the money here will affect our ability to pay for social programs. If we screw over rich people and they pack up and take their money with them, we're going to need quantitative easings #4, #5, #6 and possibly #7. By the way, in case you didn't know, quantitative easing is the computerized version of printing money. Maybe the debt associated with that will never affect us. And maybe, if you take a $1,000 to Las Vegas and keep gambling with it, you'll never lose. RIGHT! Even if you win for a long time, eventually you're going down.

The sad fact of history is that the vast majority of wealth redistribution has been at the end of a gun. So, unless we want to start a revolution, the only other option is to convince rich people to just hand over their money for the good of the masses. Yeah, get back to me and let me know how that works out.

As long as we have privately funded elections, nobody's going to be taking rich people's money away. They own the fucking government and if you don't believe that, put your big boy or girl pants on and  go do a little research of the facts. Massive amounts of private money are pumped into winners' campaigns. Do you really believe that there's no quid pro quo? How about the tooth fairy? Do you still believe in her too? Geez!

Was this any good? I've got plenty more lies where that came from. I really wish that people who are aligned with both parties will see that I'm not being partisan here, but rather trying to spark a conversation amongst "We The People" about how we flush the steaming pile of crap that is our government.

Building a Band: Not as Easy as You Might Think

I've been a musician most of my life and because I play bass guitar, being a solo act has always been out of the  question. That has left me with two choices: join a band, or start a band. Joining an established band is pretty easy because someone else has already done the heavy lifting for you. All I need to do is fit in, which has its own challenges, but at least I control most of them.

The thing about joining someone else's band is that its difficult to find something that's just what I want, so I need to come to it in the spirit of supporting the existing mission. By mission, I mean the type of music, the places the band wants to play, and the frequency of rehearsal. Even if all that works out, having longevity with a group of musicians is hard.

Let me be clear, the secret to a successful band is simple -- stay together! It really is that simple. I know what you're thinking. There needs to be talent. There needs to be good material. There needs to be organization. Well, yeah, but that will all come with time (okay, maybe not talent). The old saying that even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while is true for a lot of things. Even a no-talent group of musicians will create some good tunes once in a while, so if they stay together long enough, they will eventually have some good material.

So, what's the secret to longevity? The family model comes to mind. Families are formed when two people fall in love and then they produce some offspring. The Offspring don't get a say in the matter, so building a family is a lot easier than a band, where every member of the family has to be recruited.

Beyond that, the characteristics that go into a tight knit family are similar (with some additions).

Reliability - I have limited tolerance for unreliable people. Others may be more flexible about this, but I expect bandmates to do what they say, so things break down quickly when people don't keep their word.

Passion - I am committed to being a musician and all that it means. Other things may vye for my time, but some of them will need to get in line behind music because I'm not giving it up. People who are just passing through a musician phase probably won't have the staying power needed.

Work - Having a strong work ethic is common across all successful people (assuming they were self-made). I can't tell you how many times we've tossed out a musician who chronically showed up to rehearsal unprepared. It becomes a giant waste of everyone's time and gets annoying really quickly.

Commitment - Commitment to what? Good question. For me, the most important things are goals. Setting them and staying on the path to reaching them. I suppose I could have also called this one persistence because it goes hand in glove with commitment. Commitment isn't something you can have every third Tuesday. It's an every day sort of thing.

Patience - Everything is not going to go right. Well, maybe it will, but I never count on it. When obstacles emerge, dealing with them harshly or hastily can often result in emotional damage that is hard to repair. Not all problems require the kid glove treatment, but sometimes you just need to give people time to get back on track when things happen (family issues, work issues, etc.)

Transportation - This one could be left out, but having dealt with people who did not have reliable means of getting around, I decided that I couldn't bury it under reliability. I've been in bands with a musician that didn't drive and they were always reliant on someone else to get them to rehearsals and gigs. It's never worked.

Now, all the things above could be applied to any endeavor, but there are some things that apply specifically to musicians.

Musical Preferences - Given that there are countless genres and subgenres of music, finding people that want to play what you want to play can be challenging. So challenging in fact, that we often compromise on this one. The problem with this is that compromise has a nasty way of gnawing at you over time. I've left a few good bands because I just couldn't enjoy the music anymore. Hard as it was to walk away from something that was working on all other fronts, I'm in it for the love of the music first.

Equipment - This isn't usually a problem, but I have had situations in which band members had faulty or inadequate equipment and the frustration eventually boils over. I was in one band many years ago in which the drummer was so broke that he couldn't afford sticks. This was compounded by the fact that he was a banger and regularly broke them. One time, he showed up to a major gig with one pair of sticks. In fact, one flew out of his hand during Jimi Hendrix's Manic Depression and he had to finish with his hand while I attempted to flag down a roadie (who was busy chatting up a girl) to fetch it for him.

Skill - I put this one last, not because it is least important, but because it may be the best one of these characteristics to sacrifice. If someone has all the other qualities listed here, lack of skill should be a transient issue, meaning it will be resolved over time. Now, if you're looking to start a jazz/rock fusion band, you may want to stay away from beginners, but most genres of music can be played in fairly basic form. If you have more skill that other members of the band and become frustrated, see patience above.

There you have it! What are the odds of finding a whole group of people that share all of these characteristics? If that isn't enough, it's always helpful when you actually enjoy each other's company. You can build friendships just around music, but it helps longevity if you actually want to be together anyway. I have many lifelong friends who performed with me somewhere along the way, but now don't. We still get together to jam sometimes, but we're not in a band anymore.

If you want to assemble your own band, make a checklist of the things above and make sure all of the members of your newly formed band have them. You're going to be tempted to look past a few of these when you find a really great musician or someone you really like. Good luck with that!