Anthony Varriano

Anthony Varriano

Attending a first-time homebuyer workshop is a great way to prepare yourself for purchasing your first home. You’ll learn how much home you can really afford and how mortgage interest rates are determined, the importance of home inspections, what to look for in a home and how to thoroughly inspect a home during an open house. But an eight-hour, first-time homebuyer workshop isn’t enough time to completely prepare you for the home-buying process. Here are 5 things they don’t tell you at first-time homebuyer workshops.

1. Check the light bulbs and faucets when you tour a home

You’ll probably be looking at homes during the day, so you might not turn on all the lights to make sure they work. You should. When I moved into my house I found almost every light bulb dead, which isn’t a big or expensive problem, but one fixture had a connection that needed cleaning with steel wool and electronic parts cleaner. It could have been worse. I could have had to replace the entire fixture, or worse yet, the wiring to the fixture. So turn on every light switch.

Flush the toilets and turn on all the faucets, too. You might find out your kitchen faucet or sink leaks, or your toilet doesn’t flush, or your shower head needs to be replaced, or your washer or dryer doesn’t work. These are all things you should request the seller repair, and you should go so far as to request all the carbon monoxide and smoke detectors and thermostats have fresh batteries. When buying your first home, you should nitpick.

2. Check crawl spaces, attics and basements for rodents

Even your home inspector might not do a thorough inspection of your attic or crawl spaces. Their biggest concern is with the insulation of those areas, which they can see from afar. When you tour a home, check those areas for rodents or places where rodents could enter the home. If there are holes where rodents can enter, request the seller cover those holes with steel, which rodents can’t chew through. This will save you a lot of trouble you really don’t want.

3. Find out the cost of the average utility bill for the home

You can get a sense of what utilities will cost you before offering on a home by making a few calls. Call the city or county regarding garbage and water, and call the electric company to see what the monthly electricity bill will run. If your home has natural gas, that should excite you, as it’s more efficient and cheaper than electricity. Once you have an idea what your monthly living expenses will be, you’re ready to make an offer.

4. The seller can verbally accept your offer and deny it two weeks later

Even after you submit your highest and best offer and it’s verbally accepted by the seller, the seller has more than a week to sign the papers officially confirming the acceptance of your offer, which is contingent on your request for work to be done on the house prior to the sale. If the seller decides to go with another offer because they don’t want to do the work you’ve requested, they can. So don’t get too excited when your realtor says your offer was the highest and best, and the seller has verbally accepted it, because the next eight to 10 days (depending on whether your offer is accepted around a weekend) will be the longest in the entire home-buying process unless your realtor has made you aware of it. Now you’ll be prepared.

5. Owning certain dogs will raise your home insurance rates

If you’re the owner of an “aggressive breed” or “bully breed” dog, you won’t even qualify for home insurance policies with some insurers. Others will raise your rate because of the perceived risk associated with your dog, even if your dog is the gentlest dog on the planet. So before considering homeownership, shop around for home insurance so you get the absolute best policy and price.

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A three-and-a-half year NCAA investigation into academic fraud at the University of North Carolina ended with no evidence of wrongdoing being found despite UNC student-athletes taking classes that never met, had no instructors, and required just one term paper to be written and graded by a secretary.

UNC was alleged to have directed student-athletes to classes in its African and Afro-American studies program that were easy A’s in an attempt to keep them academically eligible to play sports. The NCAA couldn’t punish UNC for its African and Afro-American studies program because while most of the students enrolled in the classes were student-athletes, some of them weren’t.

Since the NCAA couldn’t find evidence in support of Tar Heels basketball player Rashad McCants’ allegations that tutors directed him to the courses and wrote papers for him, no action can be taken against the university. The only sanction taken was against the African and Afro-American studies department chair, Julius Nyang’Oro, who is retired, and it only limits his ability to obtain a job in college athletics.

So all colleges have to do in order to keep their student-athletes in the game is offer courses that require no learning to take place. Courses like billiards and bowling are apparently not easy enough, since they actually require student-athletes to attend. At my alma mater, enrollees in bowling were required to bowl a certain number of frames in order to pass the course, which could be done in a day. That’s still more than what was required of UNC enrollees in African and Afro-American studies.

Now that the NCAA has proven its inability to govern scholastic standards for student-athletes, the U.S. Department of Education needs to step in and eliminate or improve courses that have no place in postsecondary education. I’m not talking about cutting bowling and billiards. Those courses still require attendance, and you might even learn something if you take them seriously. I’m not talking about eliminating online courses, either. But I think an investigation of the term papers for UNC’s African and Afro-American studies program would prove that these courses are not of the caliber associated with accredited colleges and universities.

UNC might not have been found guilty, but everyone associated with and aware of the African and Afro-American studies program should be ashamed for depriving Tar Heel student-athletes (specifically African-American athletes) the knowledge of African and Afro-American history and culture. So instead of these athletes being informed, culturally conscious citizens, UNC is guilty of producing athletic automatons -- fast-running, high-jumping yes-men and -women with little to call on to form their own opinions and beliefs of the world around them. It’s a shame and a sham.

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It’s Elon Musk’s recurring nightmare that artificial intelligence becomes self-aware and destroys mankind. Blade Runner 2049 is the visual representation of that nightmare’s roots taking hold.

Blade Runner 2049 is a fantastic film worth seeing in theaters despite the underwhelming box office revenue in the United States thus far. The suspenseful science-fiction film that spawned this sequel didn’t do well at the box office either, so expecting this one would is a mistake of the producers. But the movie is no mistake. In fact, it was born because it was “wanted” -- or rather, needed.

I could tell you how the set design alone is an accomplishment never realized in the history of cinema, or that Ryan Gosling gives a performance reminiscent of Drive. I could tell you that computer-generated imagery has never been so vivid and felt so real. But Blade Runner 2049’s subject matter is more relevant than ever before, with bio-engineered human beings quickly becoming a reality, as evidenced in the latest edition of Mother Jones.

Replicants are bio-engineered to be exactly like humans in every way, except they’re stronger (and smarter) and allegedly unable to reproduce (that’s what they said in Jurassic Park, too), making them ideal slaves for building infrastructure on other worlds awaiting human colonization. That is until they run, as slaves are apt to do, despite an attempt by humanity to control the slaves through vivid, fabricated memories. This is all closer to science-fact than science-fiction given the vast advancement of research in genetics and artificial intelligence.

According to Rowan Jacobsen’s article for Mother Jones, “Scientists have already identified a handful of rare gene variants that seem to be upgrades of the standard version most of us possess.” For instance, “A variant of the LRP5 gene results in ultradense, nearly unbreakable bones” -- a sort of super strength that’s on display during a fight in the opening minutes of the movie.

Choosing your child’s genes is one thing, but the real fear comes with the ability to mass produce slaves, upon which, in some form, privileged humanity has and will rely for survival. That day is fast approaching and could very well be realized by 2049.

“Last year, a team of scientists in Japan took the skin cells of mice, transformed those cells into eggs, fertilized them, and implanted the resulting embryos, which resulted in the birth of 26 healthy pups...It shouldn’t be much more difficult to do the same thing with humans.” Male skin cells could be used to create embryos just as easily as female skin cells, so same-sex couples could have children that share both parents’ genes, with the parents picking the genes of their preference.

The Matrix touches on this idea that humans can be “grown,” and in vitro fertilization was already 22 years old at that time. Within the next few decades, human reproduction could not only be achieved without sex, but without both sexes. Stanford biochemist Henry Greely calles it Easy PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis) in his book The End of Sex.

Jacobsen reveals that “Easy PGD will be far cheaper than IVF is today,” and “prices of gene printing have already plummeted. The cost of printing a base pair of genes has plunged from $600 in 1980 to a fraction of a cent and is continuing to drop...the cost of synthesizing genes had dropped to 4 cents per pair of DNA letters and was continuing to halve every two years.” When the benefit outweighs the cost, you can be sure someone will attempt to profit.

Artificial intelligence might be a bit further behind genetic reproduction research, but creating a human-like mind that can learn and replicate feelings isn’t inconceivable. Despite Musk’s fears of AI, the Autopilot feature in his Tesla vehicles is already turning machines into taxi drivers -- giving machines the keys to the most dangerous tool on the planet. One AI unit even predicted the result of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. Another, designed by Google, learned and beat Go -- a game more complex than chess.

So we have a means for slave-making already in the works. Surely the first avenue investigated will be the creation of sex slaves, a la Ex Machina. Regardless of the avenue investigated, the result will be the same. Replicants will question the definition of humanity because of the inhumane actions of humans creating self-aware, stronger, smarter beings to act as slaves. Replicants will begin to see themselves as an upgrade -- an evolved race -- and when the first replicant is born rather than built, their beliefs will be substantiated.

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Noam Chomsky speaks better than I can write. He can recite quotes from peer-reviewed journals as if he’s reading them. The man doesn’t even need to write books anymore; he can simply dictate them. His latest collection of interviews with C.J. Polychroniou originally published in Truthout might be called Optimism over Despair: On Capitalism, Empire, and Social Change, but Chomsky only chooses to be optimistic about the state of the world despite little reason for doing so. “What choice do we have?” he asks at the end.

While the same topics and answers are repeated in some of the interviews, much of what’s repeated warrants repetition. Chomsky understandably considers nuclear arms and climate change the biggest threats to the future of the human race, and those threats are more threatening than ever before. Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) reinforces the legitimacy of Chomsky’s concern.

“It is quite remarkable to see how little concern top planners show for the prospects of their own destruction--not a novelty in world affairs (those who initiated wars often ended up devastated) but now on a hugely different scale” (60).

Chomsky was speaking of nuclear weapons here, but it’s applicable to climate change as well, especially now that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has announced the end to a rule limiting greenhouse-gas emissions from existing power plants, proclaiming the end to the “War on Coal” and exacerbating the “War on the World.”

The business class has little concern over nuclear war because there’s little they can do about it. They have even less concern over their own destruction via man-made climate change because they assume they won’t be around for that destruction. But they will be around to spend the money they “earn” by destroying the Earth and the quality of living for everyone on it, even putting the homes of island peoples under water in a world where nationalism is closing borders to refugees.

“With considerable justice, Bangladesh’s leading climate scientist says that ‘These migrants should have the right to move to the countries from which all these greenhouse gases are coming. Millions should be able to go to the United States.’ And to the other rich countries that have grown wealthy while bringing about a new geological era, the Anthropocene, marked by radical human transformation of the environment” (121).

That really should be the punishment for America leaving the Paris Agreement, but mainstream media hasn’t done its job conveying vital information regarding climate change either, especially during the 2016 Presidential Election.

“The most important news of November 8 was barely noted, a fact of some significance in itself. On November 8, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) delivered a report at the international conference on climate change in Morocco (COP22), which was called in order to carry forward the Paris agreement of COP21. The WMO reported that the past five years were the hottest on record. It reported rising sea levels, soon to increase as a result of the unexpectedly rapid melting of polar ice, most ominously the huge Antarctic glaciers. Already, Arctic sea ice over the past five years is 28 percent below the average of the previous twenty-nine years, not only raising sea levels but also reducing the cooling effect of polar ice reflection of solar rays, thereby accelerating the grim effects of global warming. The WMO reported further that temperatures are approaching dangerously close to the goal established by COP21, along with other dire reports and forecasts” (119-120).

But Chomsky doesn’t ignore the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. He tells us what really happened with the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election in a few pages while Hillary Clinton needed an entire book.

“Trump’s appeal seems based largely on perceptions of loss and fear. The neoliberal assault on the world’s populations, almost always harmful to them, and often severely so, has not left the United States untouched, even though it has been somewhat more resilient than others. The majority of the populations has endured stagnation or decline while extraordinary and ostentatious wealth has accumulated in very few pockets. The formal democratic system has suffered the usual consequences of neoliberal socio-economic policies, drifting toward plutocracy.

No need to review again the grim details--for example, the stagnation of real male wages for forty years and the fact that since the last crash some 90 percent of wealth created has found its way to 1 percent of the population. Or the fact that the majority of the population--those lower on the income scale--are effectively disenfranchised in that their representatives ignore their opinions and preferences, heeding the super-rich funder and power brokers.

In part, Trump supporters--predominantly, it seems, lower-middle class, working class, less educated--are reacting to the perception, largely accurate, that they have simply been left by the wayside...Trump’s predominantly white supporters can see that their image of a white-run (and, for many, male-run) society is dissolving before their eyes. It is also worth remembering that although the United States is unusually safe and secure, it is also perhaps the most frightened country in the world, another feature of the culture with a long history” (113-14).

In short, a bunch of working-class, white males are fed up with the state of things in America and a woman in the White House is quite literally the last thing they want to see as their white man’s world slips away.

“There are other factors in Trump’s success. Comparative studies show that doctrines of white supremacy have had an even more powerful grip on American culture than in South Africa, and it’s no secret that the white population is declining. In a decade or two, whites are projected to be a minority of the work force, and not too much later, a minority of the population. The traditional conservative culture is also perceived as under attack by the successes of identity politics, regarded as the province of elites who have only contempt for the ‘hard-working, patriotic, church-going [white] Americans with real family values’ who see their familiar country as disappearing before their eyes” (124).

So is there reason for optimism given the state of American politics? Can things get better? Chomsky offers a few reasons for hope.

“There is a very interesting article by Andrew Cockburn...reviewing studies that show that an enormous amount of the money poured into political campaigns with TV ads, and the like, serves primarily to enrich the networks and the professional consultants but with little effect on voting. In contrast, face-to-face contact and direct canvassing, which are inexpensive--but require a lot of often volunteer labor--do have a measurable impact” (107).

Well at least all the money being spent on election campaigns isn’t swaying the opinion of voters. But the time politicians spend raising that money certainly limits what can be done on the people’s behalf. But are Americans fed up enough?

“The important question is: Are people motivated to do something about it? That depends on many factors, crucially including the means that they perceive to be available. It’s the task of serious activists to help develop those means and encourage people to understand that they are available” (55).

So if the American working class is willing to join together and act on their anger by getting involved in the political process they can expect change, right? Well, given the state of America’s alleged democracy, it might take more than getting out to vote. In fact, it likely requires, at the very least, the formation of an American workers’ party.

“Thirty-five years ago, political scientist Walter Dean Burnham identified ‘the total absence of a socialist or laborite mass party as an organized competitor in the electoral market’ as a primary cause of the high rate of abstention in US elections. Traditionally, the labor movement and labor-based parties have played a leading role in offering ways to ‘influence political outcomes’ within the electoral system and on the streets and shop floor. That capacity has declined significantly under neoliberal assault, which enhanced the bitter war waged against unions by the business classes throughout the postwar period...The Democrats, meanwhile, pretty much abandoned the working class” (56).

The interviews with Chomsky also touch on the historical inaccuracies and misinformed opinions shared by a majority of Americans concerning socialism and the violent history of American labor busting, on Cuba, the Wars on Terror, on Islam and American terrorism, specifically Barack Obama’s drone program, on capitalism’s incompatibility with democracy, on guns, on the minimum wage, on healthcare, on bailouts and consumerism, and on white supremacy and radical nationalism. The ultimate conclusion: “The democratic ideal, at home and abroad, is simple and straightforward: you are free to do what you want, as long as it is what we want you to do” (144).

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Ask any punk rock record store clerk to tell you what album they believe to be the most underappreciated in punk, and none will give you a straight answer. “All of them,” someone said in the back of Extreme Noise in Minneapolis, getting laughs from his fellow clerks.

True, the genre probably gets as little attention as any from radio stations. Since most punk bands are trying desperately to be anything but pop (even country, rockabilly, stoner rock, funk, metal and, sometimes, ska), punk’s relative unpopularity makes some sense. Try as bands might, certain punk can become popular, and it’s a wonder why more hasn’t.

Some will misconstrue this as a list of pop punk albums that weren’t quite pop enough to be popular, but that’s not its intent. The bands on this list were never pop enough to be the next Green Day or Blink-182 or they would have been the next Green Day or Blink-182. Blink-182’s most popular albums are decidedly pop punk. Both Enema of the State and Take Off Your Pants and Jacket sound like what anyone would imagine pop punk would sound like. Both sold more than 14 million copies, but Dude Ranch, a decidedly un-pop album, sold just a million.

So staying punk and going platinum is a goal to which punk bands can aspire, and how the following records missed hitting big, we can only speculate. So here are some of the most underappreciated albums from the most underappreciated genre.

Big Boys' No Matter How Long the Line is at the Cafeteria, There’s Always a Seat! (1984)

Big Boys’ Lullabies Help the Brain Grow was recommended by Extreme Noise clerk Abraham in Minneapolis, who is incredibly helpful and knowledgable. But it was the second album of the double-disc set that best fits the underappreciated album moniker because of how radio-friendly it is. There isn’t any language unfriendly to radio and two songs on each side of the record had the legs to be hits had they gotten any radio play whatsoever.

For some reason, Red Hot Chili Peppers got the radio play their biggest influence didn’t. RHCP used to open for Big Boys and were known to some as the Little Big Boys due to their similar sound. They released their debut in 1984 and sold about 300,000 records while the Big Boys were riding off into the sunset as a pioneer in hardcore punk rock. RHCP just missed the Billboard Top 200 that year, while Big Boys never came close. But Big Boys’ No Matter How Long the Line… was better than RHCP’s debut then and now.

After opening the record with perfect representations of their hardcore punk sound in “No” and “Narrow View,” Big Boys’ start experimenting, blending genres.

“I Do Care” is more funk than punk, featuring a bass line that’ll make you move and think RHCP’s Flea wasn’t all that innovative. Big Boys come back with a classic punk track with “Listen” before getting funky again with “What’s the Word,” which should have been all over the radio in 1984. It’s the perfect summer party song that put Randy “Biscuit” Turner’s vocals on display, which are Steven Tyler-like in their sexy raspiness.

On Side B, Big Boys provide a hip-hop interlude with “Common Beat” before returning to the hardcore punk for which they’re known with “No Love.” They follow it with what should have been a third hit on the record -- “Which Way To Go” -- and provide another funky, punk interlude called “Killing Time” before closing with a fourth radio-ready hit with which everyone can relate.

“Work” is the perfect workers’ rebellion song about workers who can’t afford to rebel after recovering from the Reagan Recession. “I work and slave for my pay / Do things I hate for a living / I want my freedom before it’s too late / Economic circumstances cause misgivings.”

The economic circumstances of the music business in 1984 certainly contributed to Big Boys’ misgivings. It turned out 1984 was a really tough year to be anyone but Michael Jackson or Prince, who owned the top album spot for a combined 37 weeks. The other 30 percent of the year was divided amongst just three other albums, one of which was Huey Lewis and the News’ Sports, which was number one for a week. Most everyone was listening to the same stuff in 1984, and it wasn’t punk.

All’s Allroy Sez (1988)

This is an easy one. The departure of Descendents lead singer Milo Auckerman to pursue a graduate degree in biochemistry put All behind the eight ball from the start. And despite a fantastic replacement in the form of Dag Nasty’s Dave Smalley, Allroy Sez, nor any All record, could overcome the absence of Auckerman when it came to record sales and popularity. His return to the band in 1996 lifted the Descendents into the Billboard Top 200 -- and as high as twentieth with their latest record, Hypercaffium Spazzinate (2016).

Allroy Sez might not be a Descendents’ record, but it deserves more listens and buys than it gets. Three of the 12 tracks appear on All’s greatest hits compilation. The opener, “Pretty Little Girl” is like a 1950s pop, love song played on fast forward, and the fantastically funky baseline of “Hooidge” follows.

“Sex in the Way” has a chorus that should have been blasted from radio stations and bellowed by teens everywhere in 1988. “With sex in the way, I can’t see a thing” speaks to anyone who’s not a virgin, but reserved radio DJs of 1988 must have had a problem with the word “sex” or something.

The fun “Alfredo’s” contains some explicit language, so while it might not be radio-friendly, any All fan would likely tell you it’s one of their favorites. “Just Perfect” is just that -- another 1950s pop, love song played a bit faster and harder than The Monkees were willing to play. The same goes for the impressively fast bass line of “Paper Tiger.”

“#10 (Wet)” is another radio-ready song that got no love from radio, and after the metal-like “A Muse,” All closes the record with yet another hit that never was with “Don Quixote.” All in all, All’s debut is a solid album, beginning to end, that was never fully appreciated. Worse yet, it wasn’t appreciated at a time when Bon Jovi, U2 and Def Leppard albums (not even their best albums) were topping the charts. Guns ’n Roses’ Appetite for Destruction was the top album of 1988 for four weeks, and George Michael’s Faith was the top overall seller for 12 weeks.

The Suicide Machines’ Destruction by Definition (1996)

The Suicide Machines obviously didn’t care if they ever heard themselves on the radio, or they might have reconsidered their name. But the band is responsible for some of the best “skacore” albums of the late ’90s. Because The Suicide Machines’ debut, Destruction by Definition, is more ska-infused than their more hardcore followup album, Battle Hymns, it makes this list because it might have fared better on the radio, despite the lyrics being a bit more explicit.

The first three songs of Destruction by Definition all had the legs to be radio hits. “New Girl,” “S.O.S.” and “Break the Glass” are all fantastic party songs with pace and radio-friendly lyrics. “S.O.S.” says a lot about humanity people might not like to hear, but paired with the reggae-like rhythm, it delivers the band’s somber message in a most effective manner. That message is more true today. “Man's inhumanity towards another man / It's man's insanity and ignorance again / And now the time had come to stop what's going on / The hatred's building up, exploding like a bomb / It's a bomb with a short fuse / And I know it seems like no use / The tension's building a reaction / This is a call to action / S.O.S. we need help.”

“No Face” continues the fun with a fantastic keyboard riff that you’ll find yourself whistling for days. The Suicide Machines go a bit more hardcore with the intro to “Hey,” but the menacing horns quickly go ska, making for another song perfect for parties but with one f-word that would keep it off the radio.

The pace picks up immensely with “Our Time,” “Too Much” and “Islands,” tracks that display the hardcore punk sound more utilized on Battle Hymns. “Real You” might have been a hit had it not been for the final verse before the chorus, which is basically just screamed obscenities. The same could be said for “Face Values” had the song been longer than 1:22. Besides one f-word, “Punk Out” doesn’t have either of those issues, and an edited version of the song probably should have gotten more radio play than it did. “And God only knows what'll keep us from dying / Because every time I look around I see life as a big lie / Yeah, everybody's saying ‘Yeah, I'm the one,’ yeah / ‘Everybody come running to me’ / But that's not how it works and it never did.”

The Suicide Machines follow “Punk Out” with a hardcore song about shoes, “Vans Song,” but with “fag” being the seventh word of the song, it’s understandable why it wasn’t all over the radio. “Who the hell would write a song about shoes?” lead singer Jason Navarro asks at the end of the track. Answer: only a punk band. Hell, The Dickies wrote a song about Pep Boys, so what’s wrong with writing about shoes?

“Insecurities” keeps the pace coming, and despite the song’s lack of lyrics, it sounds like a hit. Nothing holds back “Inside/Outside,” though. It’s one of the best songs on the record, and too good for one s-word to keep it off the radio. “If you wanna know the answers, then you've gotta ask the questions / ‘Who am I?’ and ‘who is she?’ / And ‘does it matter anyway?’ / You've got to look for love on the inside man / Don't look for love on the outside / Doesn't matter what the others say, 'cause all that shit gets in the way.”

The record closes with pace. “Zero” and, eventually, “So Long” get the toes tapping. “So Long” has all the elements that make a hit, with relatable lyrics and a catchy hook: “You know you make me want to say so long / You know you make me wanna say goodbye....(goodbye).” A hidden cover of Minor Threat’s “I Don’t Want to Hear It” closes the album just perfectly.

The Loved Ones’ Keep Your Heart (2006)

All but one song on Keep Your Heart received five stars on iTunes from my 22-year-old self. After seeing Dave Hause as part of the Revival Tour, I became addicted to the record for a little over a month.

The record opens with “Suture Self,” a pure punk track fueled by pace, thick electric guitar riffs and the lovely voice of Hause. Following that might be The Loved Ones’ most recognizable guitar riff from, “Breathe In,” and then quite possibly the band’s best song, “Jane.” “Jane” has the anthem-like chorus and pace fit for a hit, making for a great song to see live in concert -- whether it’s played acoustically or electrically. It gets the crowd hopping.

“Over 50 Club” was the only song that didn’t receive five stars on iTunes from my 22-year-old self, but “Please Be Here” continues the near-perfect production of Keep Your Heart. “Hurry Up and Wait” should appeal to just about anyone: “Hurry up, get in here now, oh no, you'll have to wait / Did you sanitize your hands? Oh that's the part I hate / To be told it's so helpless / If we get out of here in time / Maybe we'll pinch ourselves / And this nightmare could just work out fine.”

The Loved Ones prove you don’t need pace to make great punk songs with “Sickening,” another one that’s great live and acoustic. I would consider “Living Will Get You Dead” the fourth hit on the record along with the first three tracks. The chorus is hard to forget: “If that's how it's gonna be / Wake me up wake me up / Pump me full of meds / Don't let me drink from that cup / Slide a little pill down my throat / I'll try to keep it down / Or pull my plug and don't be frightened by the sound.”

Hause’s songwriting ability shines through again on “The Odds,” and the pace of “Benson and Hedges” gets the toes tapping and head banging -- a song Hause did with his previous band, The Curse. “Arsenic” continues to deliver pace and the auditory pleasantries of deep riffs and Hause’s voice. “100K” is another hit that wasn’t for whatever reason, despite it being released on an EP prior to being included on the album. “Player Hater Anthem” aptly closes out the record, another hit in my opinion, which brings the total to six or seven. I’ve lost count.

The Loved Ones released just one more record in 2008, produced by members of The Bouncing Souls. They never officially disbanded, but didn’t get the recognition they deserved then or now. Why? Well, RHCP finally had an album reach number one in 2006 with Stadium Arcadium, but rap ruled the charts just over a decade ago, with T.I., Busta Rhymes, Jay-Z, Rick Ross, The Game and Young Jeezy all reaching number one on the Billboard album chart.

The Flatliners’ Cavalcade (2010)

The Flatliners’ third album was the Toronto band’s second attempt at a more intense punk rock sound as opposed to the ska sound that frequented the songs of the band’s youth. It was mostly well-received and ranked as the fourth-best punk album of 2010 by Exclaim! and considered another step in the right direction for the band.

The PunkNews.org staff review says the second half the of the record “drops off,” but I disagree vehemently. Maybe because I like a little pop punk mixed in with my punk rock, but regardless of my biases, nothing about the pace and intensity drops off. “Monumental” monumentally kicks off side B, which just continues with pure hardness all the way through, peaking with “Sleep Your Life Away” and providing a pop interlude with “Count Your Bruises,” a song appropriately used to close shows, before taking a turn back to speed and anger with “New Years Resolutions,” which has it’s own pleasant interlude and crescendo to end the record.

Why Chris Cresswell’s voice isn’t all over the radio should be a surprise to anyone who’s heard him -- especially with the even more radio-ready Inviting Light now out. On the bright side, it’s why I got to see him and The Flatliners at The Triple Rock in Minneapolis instead of at a bigger venue for three times as much.

But why didn’t Cavalcade provide The Flatliners a path to superstardom? Well it was 2010, which meant it was 2008 on rock radio. Shinedown’s The Sound of Madness, released June 2008, had two songs in the Billboard top fifteen in 2010, and 2010’s top song was also from 2008. Rise Against’s “Savior” was still ruling the radio, and people were just getting to know London’s Mumford & Sons -- a British invasion of sorts.

Sandwiched between all of that and a Foo Fighters record responsible for two of the top three songs of 2011 made for a short shelf-life for Cavalcade.

So given my research and the assistance of Extreme Noise Records, those are the five most underappreciated albums in punk rock. Your list is probably different than mine, but I’d venture to bet at least one or two of mine are also on yours.

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Wednesday, 04 October 2017 20:01

The world needs more one-game playoffs

Target Field staff played a delayed feed of the national anthem on the Jumbotron while Brian Dozier homered to open the game and Eddie Rosario followed it with a two-run dinger, but despite missing nearly all the action, and the game becoming predictably uncompetitive, I still think the world needs more one-game playoffs.

The Minnesota Twins were the David to the Goliaths of the Major League Baseball Playoffs. ESPN’s Sports Nation staff ranked Minnesota’s roster last amongst the MLB playoff teams in all three areas -- lineup, starting pitching and relief pitching.

The Twins were huge underdogs not just to win the American League pennant, but the Wild Card Game. A $100 bet on the Twins to beat the Yankees would have paid $225. Those are the worst odds in the short history of MLB one-game playoffs. In the first American League Wild Card Game, a $100 bet on the Baltimore Orioles to beat the Texas Rangers paid $195.

Better yet, a $100 bet on that guy who had never boxed before against that guy who had never lost before would have paid just $40 more than a bet on the Twins to beat the Yankees. Apparently 50 million Americans watched that fight, which would be 15 percent of the U.S. population. The overnight rating for the American League Wild Card Game was 5.2, meaning Nielsen estimates 5.2 percent of households watched the game -- up 58 percent from last year.

So people watched because anything can happen in one game -- and did it ever. We saw baseball like never before because of the one-game playoff format. For better or worse, we saw how managers can affect a game -- something that isn’t the case over the course of a 162-game season -- or even a seven-game series.

Paul Molitor might win the American League Manager of the Year Award, but Joe Girardi was the better manager Tuesday. He made all the right moves. Girardi lifted starter Luis Severino after a third of an inning before his postseason ERA ballooned over 100 (it’s 81.00). When the Yankees badly needed to strand two runners in scoring position with just one out down three runs in the first inning, Girardi called on Chad Green, who struck out Byron Buxton and Jason Castro -- who didn’t touch a ball and probably should have been lifted for a pinch hitter at some point with three catchers on the Twins’ roster.

Molitor could have lifted Ervin Santana after a third of an inning, too. Santana was visibly struggling with his command, but instead of going to Trevor Hildenberger with two runners on, Molitor left Santana to allow the home run that tied it and sucked whatever mojo the Twins had stolen in the first half of the inning.

Girardi used his best bullpen pitcher (by the numbers at least) in the most dire situation while Molitor used his best bullpen pitcher, Trevor Hildenberger, to start the sixth inning down three runs -- with nobody on base! And instead of lifting Santana for Hildenberger, Molitor went to Jose Berrios, who like Santana, struggles to find his command early in games. Berrios predictably allowed a home run that put the Twins in a seemingly insurmountable three-run hole with the best of the Yankee bullpen yet to come.

Whatever mojo Molitor might have had in negotiating an extension with the Twins, he’s lost it in my opinion. When one game is your season, that game must be managed flawlessly. But that’s part of the beauty of one-game playoffs. Managers are faced with situations that don’t exist outside of a one-game playoff -- like removing your starting pitcher with one out in the first inning.

Anything could have happened on Tuesday in New York, but the better team won, as is mostly the case in MLB one-game playoffs. The favorite is 7-3 in MLB Wild Card Games, with those previously mentioned 2012 Orioles being the biggest underdog to advance. The 2014 Kansas City Royals were barely underdogs against the Oakland Athletics at +101, and the 2015 Houston Astros and Yankees were basically drawing even, but the Astros were playing in New York.

So if the better team wins the one-game playoff 70 percent of the time, the world needs more one-game playoffs. I’m not advocating the expansion of the MLB Wild Card format, but in a world where so much is wrong, one-game playoffs like that of the MLB and NFL Playoffs and NCAA March Madness provide wildly entertaining relief. I hope there’s a tie for a division championship or a three-way tie for a Wild Card spot next season.

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: View From The Couch

I had family in Las Vegas this week, so when I read that one man -- just one -- killed 58 people and injured another 515 at a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip, I naturally called to make sure they were alright. They were, because they’re not into country music, which might have been why the concert was targeted.

My aunt said despite being just “next door” at the Luxor (half a mile away), they couldn’t hear gunfire coming from the 32nd-floor window at Mandalay Bay, where 64-year-old Stephen Paddock fired upon thousands of innocent concert-goers.

While ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, of course they have. It’s the deadliest mass shooting in United States’ history, which is exactly the kind of press ISIS seeks. But despite FBI Las Vegas Special Agent in Charge Aaron Rouse saying they’ve found no connection between the shooting and an international terrorist organization, it would make more sense if they do find a connection with ISIS.

If Paddock was indeed acting as an agent of ISIS, an outdoor, country music concert in Las Vegas is a prime target for an ISIS attack. It certainly makes more sense than an Eagles of Death Metal concert in France. First, it’s Sin City, so regardless of who the terrorist shoots, in his mind, she’s a sinner -- guilty by association. Secondly, the country music fan is almost certainly an American infidel, which couldn’t be said about any other genre.

A thoughtful editorial by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria opines that radical Islam is the product of "broken politics and stagnant economics of Muslim countries," so while the Quran endorses violence, it specifies a very vague enemy. Even Muslims trying to make it in America are targets of terrorism because they’re accepting the vulgarities of the modern world that’s left the Muslim world behind.

Regardless of whom a follower of Allah determines to be an enemy of Islam, they should not be able to injure over 500 people and kill more than 50 in a matter of minutes without strapping a bomb to their chest. Had the gunman been forced to shoot people with a single shot rifle or pistol, he would have been killed by police before he could reload. Automatic weapons with detachable magazines serve no purpose but to wage war; recreational entertainment is not a purpose.

Our entertainment is not reason enough to continue to allow more people to die en masse from gun violence than any other country in the world. I like firing automatic weapons, but I don’t need to fire automatic weapons, and neither do you.

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Lock ‘n Load

If the tax plan presented by Donald Trump and Republicans is adopted, the average American stands to benefit very little. According to a new report by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, four-fifths of American taxpayers can expect their after-tax income to increase .5 percent or less, while the top fifth of earners would see a three percent increase in after-tax income.

The study also found that 80 percent of tax benefits would go to the top one percent of American earners. Households making more than roughly $900,000 a year would save $200,000 on average. The top one percent of American earners can expect a tax cut of 9.8 percent between now and 2027. Repealing the estate tax would cost the federal government $240 billion in tax revenue over the first decade, most of which would stay in the pockets of the super rich.

Big businesses stand to benefit from the Trump tax plan, too, thanks to a decrease of the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. But businesses that rely on debt to finance their investments, like real estate companies, private equity firms and financial companies, will likely see costs increase, because Trump’s tax plan proposes limiting the deductibility of corporate interest.

Realtors have been especially opposed to the Trump tax plan, because while it preserves the mortgage interest deduction, fewer people would benefit from itemizing their mortgage interest given the plan’s proposed increase to the standard deduction, which is closer to a 15 percent increase than a doubling of the standard deduction. This could make homeownership less attractive and hurt the housing market.

High-tax states like New York and California would be especially affected by Trump’s plan to eliminate the state and local tax deduction, which allows taxpayers who itemize to deduct property, state and local taxes. Congressional Republicans in high-tax states have already expressed their concern, so Trump’s tax plan might not pass without the state and local tax deductions being preserved.

Who is paying for these tax cuts for businesses and the super rich? The Tax Policy Center found that a majority of households earning between $150,000 and $300,000 would pay more in taxes under Trump’s tax plan, as would almost 30 percent of Americans earning between $50,000 and $150,000 annually.

Trump’s tax plan also doesn’t come in under budget. The tax plan would increase the deficit by $2.4 trillion over the first decade, and by $3.2 trillion over 20 years. And while the Royal Bank of Canada thinks Trump’s tax plan will raise gross-domestic product by .5 percent annually, even if that were sustainable over the next 20 years, Trump’s tax plan still increases the federal deficit by $1.252 trillion.

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, The Tech Night Owl, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show, Free Talk Live

Prior to the Minnesota Twins taking on the New York Yankees to close out their regular season series in New York, I wrote that I thought the Twins were a better team than the Yankees in a five-game series. The Twins proceeded to be swept by the Yankees in a three-game series at New Yankee Stadium, proving me wrong and leaving an all-too-familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach.

All-too-familiar Odds

That all-too-familiar feeling is the result of 12 consecutive playoff losses by the Twins, nine of which came at the hands of the Yankees. And with 12/1 odds to win the American League pennant and 20/1 odds to win the World Series, the Twins are the short stack at the Major League Baseball final table.

On paper, the Yankees are overwhelming favorites in the American League Wild Card Game. They’re playing at home, where they will have played their final seven regular season games and where they have hit 134 of their 235 home runs this season. So the Yankees will be comfortable, especially coming off a three-game sweep of the Twins at home.

All-too-familiar Pitching Matchup

New York will run Cy Young candidate Luis Severino to the mound against Ervin Santana -- a right-handed, fly-ball pitcher in an unforgiving ballpark for right-handed, fly-ball pitchers. And Santana has been susceptible to the long ball, especially in New York. He allows one every five innings at New Yankee Stadium.

Santana did show improvement over his career numbers at New Yankee Stadium (0-5, 6.43 ERA, 1.714 WHIP) in his last start, however. He went five and two-thirds innings allowing seven hits and two earned runs, but he did allow a first-inning home run to Aaron Judge that might not have carried out of Target Field. The Twins will need the Santana who showed up that day to have a chance at ending the Yankee playoff curse.

Despite the Twins having so few at-bats against Severino coming into the game, they showed an ability to at least make contact in an 11-3 loss two days after Santana’s start. All three runs were charged to Severino, as he struggled to put Twins hitters away over the course of three innings and 71 pitches. The Twins connected on 21 foul balls to extend at-bats against Severino. That patience will be a key to success again for the Twins, as the earlier Minnesota can get into the Yankee bullpen the better their chances will be to win.

All-too-familiar Youth

While the Twins are young, so are the Yankees. In fact, the Twins’ active roster has an average age of 28.1 to the Yankees’ 27.8, so the Twins are actually more experienced than the Yankees on average.

When it comes to playoff experience, though, the edge goes to New York -- big time. The Yankees have 14 players on their active roster with playoff experience to the Twins’ six. The Yankee players with playoff experience are more likely to get into the Wild Card Game, too.

Of the 14 Yankees with playoff experience, seven of them are position players. Of the Twins’ six players with playoff experience, just Joe Mauer and Jason Castro are position players. Mauer is 10-for-35 in the playoffs. Castro has just one hit in 14 playoff at-bats.

Yankee players have 466 playoff at-bats and are hitting .253 as a team in the postseason. Their starter in this game, however, has not pitched in the postseason, but Dellin Betances, David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman have.

The Twins can call on closer Matt Belisle and, perhaps, Glen Perkins, for bullpen arms with playoff experience. Perkins might not make the Wild Card Game roster, though, so no lead is big enough for the Twins on Tuesday in New York.

All-too-familiar Recipe for Success

So if the Twins can score early and often and get into the Yankee bullpen, keep the ball in the ballpark and play clean defense, and score runs like they have since the All-Star Break (5.67 runs per game is second only to the Cubs), they can end the Yankee playoff curse. At least an incorrect call on a double down the third base line won’t be their undoing this time.  

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Now that Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare are finally dead -- this time for good -- Congress can actually do what the American people want, which according to a poll, is improving Obamacare -- not repealing it.

The Congressional Budget Office released a preliminary report revealing that the Republicans’ last-ditch effort to repeal and replace Obamacare would result in millions of Americans losing health insurance. The result was Maine’s Republican Senator Susan Collins opposing the bill, which was a third vote Senate Republicans couldn’t afford to lose.

The now bipartisan effort to improve Obamacare, for which Republican Senator of Arizona John McCain has called, began with a health care debate broadcasted on CNN, Monday. It revealed opportunities for Congress to improve upon Obamacare -- if Republicans are willing to work with Democrats to pass legislation.

The four Senators participating in the debate were Democrat Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and the Republican writers of the latest effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. The debate remained cordial for the most part, with moments of consensus indicating a bipartisan bill is indeed possible.

Graham pointed out that since the passage of Obamacare, the money has continued to flow away from Americans to health insurance and pharmaceutical companies. He cited the profit increases of the major health insurance providers, with all six of the biggest seeing their stock hit all-time highs this summer. This was music to Sanders’s ears, who acknowledged his Medicare-for-All bill introduced in the Senate won’t pass and that a bipartisan effort to improve Obamacare should be the short-term focus of Congress.

Cassidy even seemed to agree that something needs to be done to reign in the prices Americans pay for prescription drugs. Since Congressional Republicans held the longest roll-call vote for the Medicare Modernization Act, or Medicare Part D law, back in 2003, the federal government has been barred from negotiating prices with pharmaceutical companies.

According to a 2016 Reuters report, prices for four of the nation's top 10 drugs increased more than 100 percent since 2011. The report also shows that sales for those 10 drugs went up 44 percent between 2011 and 2014, even though they were prescribed 22 percent less. Prescription drug expenditures account for 20 percent of healthcare costs. But when Sanders asked Cassidy if he would vote for a bill to reverse the Part D law, much like Klobuchar’s Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act, Cassidy instead called Sanders a Socialist who wants to commandeer the formulas for medicines to be produced by the State and disincentivize medical innovation.

A 2016 Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that Cassidy is part of a very small minority on the subject, with 93 percent of Democrats and 74 percent of Republicans in favor of the government negotiating Part D prescription drug prices. The problem, though, is that Congressional incumbents rely on pharmaceutical companies to win elections, which will make both Republican and Democratic votes hard for Klobuchar to attain. Senators Richard Burr of North Carolina, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Roy Blunt of Missouri will likely join Cassidy as “no” votes on Klobuchar’s bill, given the donations their campaigns received from the prescription drug industry totalling $4.35 million between 2003 and the middle of last year.

Another obstacle for Klobuchar’s bill is the fact that this time last year, there were 894 pharmaceutical lobbyists to the 535 members of Congress, with more than 60 percent of them having previously served in Congress or worked other government jobs. It seems the prescription drug industry provides nice retirement work for former government officials, which incumbents won’t want to see go away.

So while CNN’s healthcare debate provided opportunities to improve Obamacare, Congressional corruption presents obstacles to overcome in order for Americans to see their healthcare costs decline.

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