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Neil Diamond and J. Cole Caught in the Crossfire as Irving Azoff and AEG's Booking War Escalates

A-list artists choosing Staples over The Forum can forget about playing Madison Square Garden, as Azoff and Jay Marciano clash over exclusives.

On Nov. 23, 2016, 10 days after William Morris Endeavor worldwide head of music Marc Geiger confirmed that his client Neil Diamond would play two August 2017 dates at the AEG-owned Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, he emailed the arena’s vp of booking and events with bad news: He was moving the show to The Forum in nearby Inglewood, Calif., an arena owned by Azoff MSG Entertainment, after “getting squeezed” by one of its partners, longtime music power broker Irving Azoff.

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At Stake in 2016: Ending the Vicious Cycle of Wealth and Power

What’s at stake this election year? Let me put as directly as I can.

America has succumbed to a vicious cycle in which great wealth translates into political power, which generates even more wealth, and even more power.

This spiral is most apparent is declining tax rates on corporations and on top personal incomes (much in the form of wider tax loopholes), along with a profusion of government bailouts and subsidies (to Wall Street bankers, hedge-fund partners, oil companies, casino tycoons, and giant agribusiness owners, among others).

The vicious cycle of wealth and power is less apparent, but even more significant, in economic rules that now favor the wealthy.

Billionaires like Donald Trump can use bankruptcy to escape debts but average people can’t get relief from burdensome mortgage or student debt payments.

Giant corporations can amass market power without facing antitrust lawsuits (think Internet cable companies, Monsanto, Big Pharma, consolidations of health insurers and of health care corporations, Dow and DuPont, and the growing dominance of Amazon, Apple, and Google, for example). 

But average workers have lost the market power that came from joining together in unions.

It’s now easier for Wall Street insiders to profit from confidential information unavailable to small investors.

It’s also easier for giant firms to extend the length of patents and copyrights, thereby pushing up prices on everything from pharmaceuticals to Walt Disney merchandise.  

And easier for big corporations to wangle trade treaties that protect their foreign assets but not the jobs or incomes of American workers.  

It’s easier for giant military contractors to secure huge appropriations for unnecessary weapons, and to keep the war machine going.

The result of this vicious cycle is a disenfranchisement of most Americans, and a giant upward distribution of income from the middle class and poor to the wealthy and powerful.

Another consequence is growing anger and frustration felt by people who are working harder than ever but getting nowhere, accompanied by deepening cynicism about our democracy.

The way to end this vicious cycle is to reduce the huge accumulations of wealth that fuel it, and get big money out of politics. 

But it’s chicken-and-egg problem. How can this be accomplished when wealth and power are compounding at the top? 

Only through a political movement such as America had a century ago when progressives reclaimed our economy and democracy from the robber barons of the first Gilded Age.

That was when Wisconsin’s “fighting Bob” La Follette instituted the nation’s first minimum wage law; presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan attacked the big railroads, giant banks, and insurance companies; and President Teddy Roosevelt busted up the giant trusts.

When suffragettes like Susan B. Anthony secured women the right to vote, reformers like Jane Addams got laws protecting children and the public’s health, and organizers like Mary Harris “Mother” Jones spearheaded labor unions.

America enacted a progressive income tax, limited corporate campaign contributions, ensured the safety and purity of food and drugs, and even invented the public high school.

The progressive era welled up in the last decade of the nineteenth century because millions of Americans saw that wealth and power at the top were undermining American democracy and stacking the economic deck. Millions of Americans overcame their cynicism and began to mobilize.

We may have reached that tipping point again.

Both the Occupy Movement and the Tea Party grew out of revulsion at the Wall Street bailout. Consider, more recently, the fight for a higher minimum wage (“Fight for 15”). 

Bernie Sander’s presidential campaign is part of this mobilization. (Donald Trump bastardized version draws on the same anger and frustration but has descended into bigotry and xenophobia.)

Surely 2016 is a critical year. But, as the reformers of the Progressive Era understood more than a century ago, no single president or any other politician can accomplish what’s needed because a system caught in the spiral of wealth and power cannot be reformed from within. It can be changed only by a mass movement of citizens pushing from the outside.

So regardless of who wins the presidency in November and which party dominates the next Congress, it is up to the rest of us to continue to organize and mobilize. Real reform will require many years of hard work from millions of us.

As we learned in the last progressive era, this is the only way the vicious cycle of wealth and power can be reversed.

Pacific Ocean To Close In 2018

The world’s largest ocean, after being open for almost 750 million years, will end its run in July of 2018. Pacific Spokesman Roland Haphausenhauer cited over-fishing, pollution, and the bad global economy as the reasons for the closure.

“This is the end of quite an era,” said the spokesman, “We tried to keep the Pacific going as long as we could but the fact is, it’s just not profitable and it’s just no longer rewarding work for those responsible.” The Pacific has seen several hundred lay-offs in recent years, with the ocean becoming less popular with tourists and new businesses. Now over 30 billion USD in debt, the ocean will file for bankruptcy and close its shores forever.

The effects will be long lasting as ships fall to the dry ocean floor, weather and water concerns go haywire, and many countries bordering the ocean dry up and their people flee in search of water. Said Japanese oceanographer Noriyuki Honjo, “Japan as we know it is essentially over with this news. Much of our economy is based on fishing, most of our contact with other countries happens by sea. With no Pacific Ocean, our land is doomed.” Most other island nations have expressed similar fears.

This is the largest geographical closure since the breakup of Pangea, a supercontinent that comprised most of the world’s landmass well into the Mesozoic, when it was hit with an antitrust lawsuit and was forced to break into smaller continents.

APPLE BUYS MICROSOFT

In an unprecedented hostile takeover, Apple Computers has purchased a controlling interest in Microsoft, effectively owning the company. Wall Street is still reeling form the news which has shocked the global computer market.

“We can’t even begin to calculate the impact,” said U.S. financial czar Morton Rumadi, “There will be lawsuits, antitrust suits, allegations upon allegations and more. More money has just shifted hands than has even before shifted in any single transaction.”

Rumadi estimates the value of the deal at 13 Trillion dollars, approximately 60% of all money on Earth. Over 7,500,000 jobs are at stake if Apple chooses to dissolve the company. But Apple is on top of the takeover: “We will not immediately disassemble Microsoft, we will do this slowly to ensure a peaceful and economically feasible action,” said Apple founder Steve Jobs, who continued to say, “We at Apple realize this has taken the world by surprise and we promise complete transparency in our upcoming actions.”

But not everyone is satisfied. Alan Greenspan has already gone on record as stating, “This is the end of the financial world as we know it. Now is the time to panic. Sell all your stock, cash in your 401K, move to a third world country and live it up while you still can!”

Barack Obama has also weighed in on the subject, “My fellow Americans, I think I speak for everyone when I state that Mac was always better, with its smooth operating system, rare crashes, immunity to viruses and only marginally higher cost. Fuck Microsoft, seriously.”

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