2016 Midyear Music Round Up

With June almost gone now seems like as good a time as any to talk about the best new music I’ve discovered this year thus far.  The following list is not ordered from best to worst or vice versa.

  1. “Real Love” – Florrie

Florrie (English singer Florence Arnold) has been active in music for many years now and has released a lot of great, 80’s influenced, pop music, but her latest single “Real Love” (released just in time for Valentine’s Day) is her first song to be released by a major label serving as a first taste before her debut album comes out late this year.  “Real Love” is an amazing pop love-ballad with good lyrics and Florrie’s usual stellar vocals.  Just a side note, the song is just a little similar to Taylor Swift’s “Style” a song Florrie said she loved and has even covered.

  1. “Hummingbird” – Kyla La Grange

An incredible electro-pop song about being unable to decide between two choices because of self-doubt (like a hummingbird I’ll hover/but never taste the fruit) it’s been one of my favorites since it came out in April and is a solid pick for one of the best songs of 2016.

  1. “In My Blood” – The Veronicas

The first new music to come from the Aussie rock/pop duo since their 2014 self-titled album.  “In My Blood” is a different sound from what we’re used to from The Veronicas being the kind of dance pop you’d except to hear at night clubs or music houses, but regardless it’s an amazing dance song for the summer.

  1. “Criminal + Dreamers” – Willa

A more obscure release from electro-pop Canadian new comer Willa (Ali Milner) who debuted her first single “Stay the Night” (Track 4) in 2014.  This debut EP features 8 songs and overall makes for a very good listen; album opener “Swan” (which also has a radio edit at the EP’s end) is more rock-influenced with Willa belting out some defiant lyrics about not being eye-candy (I’m not a swan/pretty in the pond).  The next two tracks “Criminal” and “Hey” as well as fifth track “Stare” are my favorites featuring some interesting and solid production and wonderful vocals from an artist who all fans of pop should keep an eye on.

  1. “Hero” – Maren Morris

For whatever reason, most of my favorite LPs for each year are released in the second half of the year; which probably explains why this debut from Texas native Maren Morris is the only album to be featured on this list.  This is a solid country album with more to offer than just Morris’ breakout hit “My Church” (about the strong connection between music and driving) and follow up single “Rich”, which I would recommend particularly to fans of Kacey Musgraves.   Favorite tracks include, “Sugar”, “80’s Mercedes”, and “Drunk Girls Don’t Cry”.

  1. “Summer EP” – Cassadee Pope

I very much enjoyed Pope’s debut album “Frame by Frame” (2013) and eagerly anticipated her follow up album all of last year; whether the release of this EP is a sign the album is coming sooner or later is unknown to me.  Either way, the four tracks presented here are all very good and very much what Cassadee Pope fans have been hoping for.  Opening track “Summer” is a fun, upbeat, perfect for the summer song, but I personally prefer either “Piano” or “Alien” for their superior writing.  Third track “Kisses at Airports” is the only genuine low point for me, but is still fine; a great EP overall.

  1. “Bella Goldwin”

Another debut EP from a rising Canadian female pop artist; the real outstanding track here is opener “Higher Than Life”, which is a deeply moving about death and wishing to be reunited with a lost loved one.  The performance here by Goldwin is absolutely amazing and is the heart of this incredibly sentimental and touching song.  The rest of the EP also features the artist’s quality vocals (except for third track “Hey Pimp”, which is almost entirely instrumental) and good song writing; definitely worth a listen.

  1. “Bubblebath” – That Poppy

This is a very fun debut EP that features four standout songs; taking them in order

“Low Life”: a more reggae inspired love song about how a lover can turn bad times around (baby you’re the highlight of my lowlife/take a s****y day and make it alright).

“Money”: a very fun, upbeat pop song.

“Altar”: another bubbly song and the kind That Poppy shines the most on; my personal favorite.

“American Kids”: the EP closer slows things down and in it That Poppy shows some genuine lyrical depth and offers some good thoughts about being a young person today.

Overall, That Poppy has made a solid EP that should appeal especially to fans of bubblegum pop.

  1. CHVRCHES

The marvelously talented band that defies genre description and released one of my favorite albums from 2015 released a good song for the video game “Mirror’s Edge Catalyst” called “Warning Call” written from the perspective of the game’s heroine.  They also just came out with a different version of one of the best tracks off their last album “Every Open Eye”, but this time featuring none other than Hayley Williams front woman for rock stalwart Paramore; both these songs our definitely worth a listen.

 

That’s what I’ve been listening to and loving so far this year, again like I said most of my favorite music is released in the second half of the year, but still I’m both pretty happy with the music that’s come out this year and also very optimistic for the future.  Speaking of the future, I’m greatly anticipating three LPs in particular from pop stars Tove Lo and Charli XCX as well as from the amazing sister band HAIM.

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Review: “Emotion” by Carly Rae Jepsen

I’m preface by saying that I did not come into this album as a Carly Rae Jepsen fan, and as such cannot commit on how her latest album compares to her prior work. Like the rest of the general population, I was swept away by “Call Me Maybe” hysteria, however many summers ago that was, but that and “I Really Like You” were my only encounters with her music. “I Really Like You” was enough to make me interested in this album, and after someone at Billboard mentioned how it was already being called the best Pop album of 2015 I suddenly was very interested what sounded like an album with some good pop music.

Simply put, I was not disappointed by what I heard. “Emotion” is overflowing with amazing upbeat and catchy pop gems. The meaning behind most you can easily surmise by listening to Jepsen’s two major hits (so far) “Call Me Maybe” and “I Really Like You”; songs like “Run Away With Me”, “Emotion”, and “Your Type” are all great love songs I’ve come to like as much as “I Really Like You”
Some might use the standard pop criticism against this album; that modern pop songs sacrifice good lyrics and meaning for a good hook and beat. I don’t see that here and feel like Jepsen (who has writing credits on all the songs here) did a good job of making this album smarter than what is usually expected of the genre. And as Spencer Kornhaber put it over at The Atlantic, “Carly Rae Jepsen isn’t likely to inspire any graduate-level seminars on the poetry in her pop. But she should get credit for being more thoughtful than most.”

They are also some songs that stand out as diverting from the “Call Me Maybe” mold; one good example is “All That”, which is a slower love ballad that has a lot more lyrical depth. Now, while I’m not a huge fan of the song I do think it is noteworthy for being where Jepsen tries something different and I’d say succeeds.
Another interesting song is “Boy Problems”, where Jepsen’s been bringing down her friend with her relationship woes and then wisely chooses friendship over romance (What’s worse/losing a lover or losing your best friend?”). The chorus also hints that sometimes in life being in a relationship (and having it end badly) isn’t the most important thing in the world (“I think I broke up with my boyfriend today/and I don’t really care/I’ve got worst problems”)
Then there is “LA Hallucinations”, which is about a girl coming to L.A. with her lover only to let the city and fame come between them, “We said we’d always be the same/but we lost each other in the game.” She seems to eventually realize her mistake and try and make things right, “So take me into your arms again/and shake me from LA hallucinations”. Personally, I like songs about rejecting fame to get back to what’s really important, so I’m a big fan of this one.

All that being said, just like on her last album there are a few places on the album, where things get a real sensual and messages get a bit mixed. A good example being “I Really Like You” where despite being pretty sure that this isn’t the right guy for her, she still let’s things get physical between them (Late night watching television/but how’d we get in this position/it’s way too soon I know this isn’t love). At the end of the day, I guess, most of the edgy material here isn’t too objectionable as Jepsen doesn’t go too deep into details.

Conclusion:

Track Highlights: “Run Away with Me”, “Emotion”, “I Really Like You”, “Boy Problems”, “Your Type”

To be honest, I do like this album; I like this kind of love centered pop, I like Jepsen’s sound and some of the lyrics here are really good. As I said at the beginning, I’ve never heard Jepsen’s prior work, but I think now I might have to now. Will we be hearing all these great readymade hits on our radios in the coming months? Maybe, although considering we are talking about a tragically underrated artist maybe not. But I digress; I’ll give “Emotion” three stars out of five, a good album, consider giving it a listen.

Guide to Islam and the Global Jihad (Part 1)

It is, put simply, the most important issue of our time and it is time I wrote about it here. The global Jihad is, more or less, the attempt by a loosely united group of the followers of Islam attempting to spread their ideology through-out the world. No matter what the cost. This is by no means a new conflict considering the nearly 1,300 years of warfare between Islam and anyone who had the misfortune of living within striking distance of the Jihadists of the time. However, in the years since 9/11 governments and other groups the world over had to struggle to deal with the pressing question of what to do about Islam.
This piece, is going to try to be something I wish I had, when I first discovered the Jihad issue; a kind of FAQ to counter the modern propaganda surrounding Islam that each and every one of us has had shoved down our throats, in schools, in history books, in the news, in colleges, and at the feet of politicians who want to make sure we all have a very positive view of Islam. I only hope it is true what they say that God rewards based on effort and not results.

This first part (of two) will deal specifically with Islam’s doctrines, teachings, and history, while the next part will discuss more with contemporary issues related to Islam and Jihad.

Question 1: Isn’t Islam a Religion of Peace?
Just about the first thing everyone learns about Islam is that it is not inherently violent; the numerous deaths caused by Islamic terrorist organizations such as, Boko Haram, Islamic State, Hamas, the Taliban, and Al Qaeda (among many others) is chalked up to a tiny minority of extremists. Arguably, the sheer number of deaths caused every day by Islamic terrorists should make anyone question how peaceful Islam really is.

Either way, there are no fewer than 109 verses in the Quran calling for Muslims to make war against non-believers. If that is not proof that Islam is not a peaceful religion I don’t know what is.
Some people argue that just because Muhammad urged his followers to practice Jihad doesn’t mean he called for violence; since Jihad (they claim) literally translates to “struggle” as in, “My jihad is to pray five times a day.” To quote author on Islam and director of the documentary “Islam: What the West Needs to Know” Gregory M. Davis,
“As in any case of trying to determine Islamic teaching on a particular matter, one must look to the Quran and the Sunnah. From those sources (see above) it is evident that a Muslim is required to struggle against a variety of things: laziness in prayer, neglecting to give zakat (alms), etc. But is it also plain that a Muslim is commanded to struggle in physical combat against the infidel as well. Muhammad’s impressive military career attests to the central role that military action plays in Islam.”

Again, the 25,000 deadly terror attacks perpetrated by Muslims since 9/11, and nearly 1,300 years of warfare with various nations and religions should clearly show that Islam is inherently violent and that ergo, where Islam is more widespread so will be violence between said Muslims and (in most cases) anyone who has the misfortune of living with or near them.

Question 2: But, aren’t Most Muslims Peaceful?
I’ve heard numerous great answers to the question of why more Muslims aren’t terrorists despite Islam’s clear mandate of warfare against non-believers. The one I always use is, “I no more believe every Muslim follows what is in the Quran than I believe that every Christian follows what is in the Bible.” Or as Davis put it more bluntly, “Hypocrites are everywhere.”
They are various reasons for the discrepancy between what Islam says and what individual Muslims do. As with all religions and ideologues, they are people who are very devoted to the cause and those who are just there the ride; their religion is merely a symbol they have on the outside. Also, due to the decline of the Islamic Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth century Islam went through a period of secularization, leading to many Muslims around the world being simply unaware of their religion’s true teaching.

But, the bottom line is that you do not judge what a religion does or does not teach based solely on the actions of some or many of its followers. Many use Stalin and Hitler as examples of “bad Christians” and indeed they were, because they completely disregarded and ignored Christ’s teachings; why don’t critics of Christianity look to the best followers of Christ, people through-out history like St. Francis, Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Katharine Drexel and countless others? So too, if we apply the same methodology to Islam, than (based on the teachings of Muhammad) the greatest follower of Islam is probably Osama bin Laden and other ruthless Islamic terrorists like him; from this point of view, it is true that the only good Muslim is a bad one, because a good Muslim follows what I doubt many would argue is a bad religion.

As to the idea that just because all Muslims don’t practice violence means that not all Muslims are radicals, overlooks one thing; one need not be violent to be radical, after all the Westboro Baptists have never killed anyone, but no one would hesitate to label them as radicals. Ben Shapiro, once made an amazing video showing how Muslims around the world hold and support incredibly radical positions. Using this methodology, the idea that there is moderate Muslim majority becomes unfounded.

Question 3: Aren’t Other Religions Just as Bad?
First, what another religion does or does not do has absolutely nothing to do with how violent Islam is or isn’t and instead it only serves to deflect attention away from Islam’s darker side. However, as I pointed out earlier how many other religions can you think of that have international terrorist organizations? (Yes there are Christian terrorists, but they are pathetic groups compared to the mass murdering Jihadists around the world)
Furthermore, it is difficult to justify much of the Christian terrorism and violence of the past using the Bible or any other Christian teachings; the same cannot be said for the Jihadists around the world who frequently invoke the Quran to justify their crimes.

Question 4: Don’t Other Religions and Women Receive Better Treatment in Islam than in other Faiths?
In a word, no; many like to argue that Islam is a religion that produces pluralistic societies where woman are accorded equal rights. Nothing could be further from the truth. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap, nineteen of the twenty worse nations for women are Muslim majority nations. This is not at all out of line with the Islamic teaching, to quote the “Myths of Islam” page on the prominent Islam learning site, The Religion of Peace:
“There is no ambiguity in the Quran, the life of Muhammad, or Islamic law as to the inferiority of women to men despite the efforts of modern-day apologists to salvage Western-style feminism from scraps and fragments of verses that have historically held no such progressive interpretation.”

As for how Islam treats other religions, The Open Doors’ World Watch List (an annual compiling of the nation’s with the worst persecution of Christians) reveals that forty of the fifty listed nations are Muslim majority nations, with the top ten consisting of nine Muslim nations. Obviously, near daily accounts of crimes perpetrated against Christians by both Islamic terror groups and average Muslims the world over shows just how “tolerant” Islam really is.

You could say Muhammad was treating women according to the standards of his time and that it is unfair to single out Islam when plenty of people from history were misogynistic or racist because that was the society in, which they lived. This leads us to…

Question 5: Does It Really Matter How Muhammad Acted?
First, you would think that the prophet of the self-proclaimed true religion would be more morally outstanding then the average person of any time. Either way, what people don’t realize about why it matters how Muhammad acted is that the Quran strongly emphasizes that Muhammad is the most perfect example of human conduct. That should be particularly worrisome considering, Muhammad was a brutal cult leader and hate preacher who had people murdered, tortured, and stoned; was a slave owner, who gave his men the permission to rape women in front of their husbands and urged his followers to wage endless wars against anyone he spoke ill against.
One example of how Muhammad’s conduct centuries ago still has repercussions today, is last year when Pakistan’s legislature was discussing a bill enforcing (the generally ignored) ban on child marriage the countries’ Council for Islamic Theology opposed the law saying it was against the teaching of Islam. It was against Islamic teaching because Muhammad married his favorite wife Aisha when she was six (and he was fifty-four).

There are many more falsehoods and misconceptions about Islam I could cover here, but won’t for the time being, but be sure that I will cover this vital topic in future posts here. In the meantime, I hope that some of you, readers, will go beyond what politicians and the mass media tell you about Islam and use the sources I’ve linked to here and learn more about what Islam actually teaches. In the war against the Jihadists I won’t say knowledge is the greatest weapon we have for turning the tide, but it may be the greatest weapon for at least starting a genuine attempt to roll back the terror and human rights abuses of the world’s most misunderstood religion.

The Big Green Myths: Overpopulation and Climate Change

Today, we are going to look at two of the largest environmental, social, and scientific myths and alleged issues of the age. Let’s start with the one that is so easy to debunk I’ve often said it is an argument you can never lose (assuming you now all the facts that is): overpopulation.

Overpopulation is actually an older issue than you would think; an English vicar Thomas Robert Malthus first warned of the dangers of overpopulation in 1798; Paul Ehrlich more or less began the modern obsession with overpopulation in 1968 when he published his book, “The Population Bomb”. Since then, many proponents of the threat of overpopulation have said that in order to address this rapidly approaching crisis we (i.e. the U.N./government) needs to push reproductive health services on anyone who doesn’t want them.

First things first, there are about seven billion people in the world currently; that is a lot of people, but who says that is too many? If we took all the people in the world they could all live in the state of Texas with a better population density than New York City. Some maintain that too many people is the cause of poverty and while it’s true that poor Niger has a population density of fifteen people per square mile, that is not even half of America’s thirty-five people per square mile. The Netherlands has a population density of five-hundred people per square mile and in Hong Kong it’s over 6,800, but they are also both very wealthy nations.
Now, no rational person thinks that the sheer number of people is the problem; they will at least admit that there is room for all of them. Thus, they often raise the concern that even as man’s population grows we still only have the same amount of fuel to meet their energy needs and the same amount of land to grow food to feed them all. This does not take in to account that thanks to advancements in agriculture people have learned how to grow more food on less land. Having left the plow behind, we have synthetic fertilizer, modern irrigation, and hydroponics (the science of growing food without soil). And according to some scientists if the continent of Africa were cultivated using modern farming methods it could produce enough food to feed the entire planet. But, that would probably be overkill, because the world right now produces enough food to feed ten billion people. I’ll get more into how there can be hungry people if that true later, but first it’s time to answer the question: what about energy needs? Aren’t we almost out of oil?
Simply put, it seems there is plenty of oil. In the book, “Bottomless Well” from Peter W. Huber and Mark P. Mills explains how man’s energy needs can be met for centuries to come; sounds like energy won’t be a problem in the future.

This leads us to the second big issue, Climate Change, the idea that man’s overuse of fossil fuels is heating up the planet with devastating consequences. Now, I understand that they are different things people mean when they say climate change and that it is the opinion of many people (although not as many scientists as people think) that the science of climate change is so settled that it shouldn’t even be discussed anymore. I completely agree, the science of climate change is settled and the verdict is that this is not a crisis—man made or otherwise.

Obviously the planet is warming, although not as much as everyone believes. After all, there has been a global warming pause for the last eighteen years, not to mention that the Roman and Medieval Warm Periods were as hot as anything we’ve seen this century. After the warm period came what some scientists call “The Little Ice Age” when temperatures fell. Further evidence that carbon count has less effect on earth’s temperature than many believe is the fact that there have been ice ages when the carbon count was four times greater than it was today. So, the world has been much hotter in the past regardless of man’s carbon footprint and you think people are the main cause of climate change? That doesn’t sound like a crisis to me; in fact, Lennart Bengtsson, a Swedish scientist who had long been a proponent of climate change, has said that were it not for modern instrumentation (i.e. satellites that measure earth temperatures from space) we wouldn’t even have noticed that the earth was getting hotter.

My argument against climate change scare is essentially this: climate changes and has always changed regardless of what people at the time were doing and thus, that we shouldn’t worry about something we can’t change or effect.

There is something else overpopulation and climate change have in common, the fact that the doomsday prophets keep failing in their predictions. Thomas Malthus said mass famines would hit in 1890, Paul Ehrlich, the author of “The Population Bomb” said the world would run out of food in the 1970’s,there have been dozens of warnings saying how long man had to reverse climate change before apocalypse. Time and time again the predictions failed.

According to the World Food Bank, the chief causes of hunger are poverty, conflict, and lack of infrastructure. No overpopulation to be seen. There is plenty of food, but what good is it if can’t get to people who need it for various reasons. If the government over regulates the economy or doesn’t protect the rule of law and property, than people have no incentive to become entrepreneurs since they might not be rewarded for their hard work. If the government spends all its time hording the food and aid sent by clueless western nations than it won’t build infrastructure that will let food get to the hungry; conflict can also lead to “William T. Sherman” tactics that end up destroying crops and infrastructure. Aside from perhaps conflict there is a common trend to these causes; bad governments or more precisely, overgrown anti-capitalist governments. Think about, when was the last time anyone ever starved due to an actual lack of food? The Ukrainian Famine of the 1920’s, which killed about five million people, was caused by the cruel Soviet government set on crushing Ukraine’s national spirit. The Free Market is the reason America and a lot of countries that emulate it are rich; most of the starving countries in the world are ruled by cruel governments who squish free market principles and property rights. The number of people doesn’t matter the causes of hunger will still be there.

It is often argued that overpopulation will lead to ecological disasters as man gobbles up everything in his path. I’m sure this conjures up images from Hollywood movies of greedy capitalist destroying the environment to get rich(er) at the expense of Mother Nature, however, it should be noted that communist and socialist nations have a pretty bad ecology streak too. The Soviet Union, for example, more or less destroyed the fourth largest sea in the world, the Aral Sea, by pursing a government river diverting scheme.
The free market gives people an incentive not to abuse the environment since it would mean destroying their lively hood, that’s not to say that capitalism is not also guilty of “eco-crimes”, but it doesn’t have nearly as bad a streak as command economies.

There are many other facets of the overpopulation and climate change myths that many people believe, but don’t realize are also not true. No, we aren’t running out of drinking water, the polar bears are just fine, extreme weather has nothing to do with climate change, we have more natural forest than in the seventies and the list goes on.

Now, there is one last argument made by the more rational population control advocates that shows very well the mindset of the overpopulation and climate change crowd. The question is not how many people the world can feed, but how many rich people it can feed. In other words, there is simply no way that people in the third world can live like as rich westerners and therefore, they need to adopt (or have forced upon them) population control methods and cut back on their industrialization before they ruin the planet for everyone.  As has been shown by very serious scientists and researchers when you look at the world’s resources you really can have a “more-the-merry” attitude about population. More people mean more minds to invent new technologies and come up with new ideas and make the world a better place.

In the end the anti-population growth argument is very narcissist; the idea that anyone has the right to say who can and can’t have wealth and comfort is, quite frankly, disgusting. The third world has every right to walk down the path the western world took long ago without worrying about myths like climate change and overpopulation. In the meantime, the U.S. and other Western nations will continue to spend countless dollars trying to “fix” climate change as well as fund population control in third world countries via the United Nations. All this, because of two of the age’s greatest myths.

Sources and Further Learning:

Overpopulation is a Myth.com: The Science

Pop.org: Overpopulation Debunked in Three Easy Steps

Climate Depot.com: Marc Morano, Bill Nye Debate

“The Bad War”: Should The Allies Have Fought World War Two?

Should the Allies have fought World War II? It is probably a question that has not occurred to you before; this is certainly forgivable considering for generations the Second World War has been immortalized as “The Good War” and is considered by some to be the last moral war. Too bad the truth of that terrifying conflict is very different then the often repeated myth.

One of the darker parts of World War 2 that it seems people are becoming more open to discussing is the conduct by the allies at varies times of the war known simply as Allied War Crimes.
You might have heard about some of these ignored events of Second World War during your history class, but it is unlikely that any of them took the next step and called the entire morality of the war into question. Now, this is perfectly logical, just because something immoral occurs during a war does not change whether it was a just war to begin with. Of course, the list of atrocities committed by the Americans, French, British, and other Allied Powers in World War 2 is actually quite lengthy and ugly. For instance, when the Dachau concentration camp was liberated several American soldiers simply lined up and executed several nearby S.S. troops without anything resembling a fair trial. Operation Keelhaul saw Allied soldiers force Russian refugees and prisoners on to vehicles at gun point back to the oppressive Soviet Union they had tried to escape and some had taken up arms with the Nazis to fight against. Several times during the war (at Normandy for example) no quarter was offered by Allied soldiers to surrendering Nazis. No quarter was particularly brutal in the Pacific where, according to historian Neil Ferguson, the Americans saw the Japanese soldiers the same way the Nazis saw the Jews and Communists, as “untermensch,” life unworthy of life. The firebombing of Tokyo was another fine example of Allied terror bombing and took more lives than either of the atomic bombings, which themselves were highly immoral.
As I’ve said, war crimes committed during a war do not invalidate a war’s just cause, although they should, of course, be discouraged and punished, but they do not suddenly turn a just war into an unjust one.

Many students of World War 2 history know that the two situations in Europe and the Pacific were separate and unrelated situations (aside from the defensive pact between Germany and Japan) and I will thus deal with them individually.
The main basis for the morality of the war in Europe is basically this: the evil Adolf Hitler and his Nazis wanted to take over the world and commit mass genocide against the inferior races. If it weren’t for “the greatest generation” we would all be speaking German.
I won’t try in any way to say Hitler and his cohorts were not incredibly evil and morally depraved, (because they were) but I will disagree strongly with the common justification for the war; no I don’t believe world domination was on Hitler’s agenda, nor do I believe that the Holocaust was anything other than a war crime—but what if there had been no war?
Patrick Buchanan author of the landmark work on the causes of the World Wars, “Churchill, Hitler, and The Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost its Empire and How the West Lost the World” has argued that if there had been no world war there would have been no Holocaust. After all, when the war started Hitler had reduced Germany’s Jewish population by 50% and killed “only” hundreds in the process (and many of those killed were not Jews). Most of those Jews either fled Germany (mainly due to the oppressive Nuremberg Laws) by their own will or were deported by the Reich. However, it was not until the war was halfway through that alternative solutions to “the Jewish question” were brought forward. To quote Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, in 1942, “Fortunately, a whole series of possibilities presents itself for us in wartime that would be denied us in peacetime. We shall have to profit by this.” Essentially, it was the Second World War that put most of Europe’s Jewish population in the clutches of the Nazis and it was the war that moved the Nazis to begin the extermination of Jews, whereas before they had been content to force Jews out of Germany through less violent means.

When addressing Hitler’s war aims I think it really comes down to accepting one of two Hitlers—Hitler the idiot and a Hitler who was expansion minded, just not in the direction everyone thinks he was.
Historians point to numerous points in WW2 where it seems that Hitler was utterly incapable of conquering the world; most accept this as evidence that Hitler just wasn’t a mad genius, but I say that it is because Hitler simply did not want to take over the world. Why let the British expedition force escape at Dunkirk? Because Hitler was hoping that he could still make peace with the British who had declared war on him. He let the French keep their fleet after they surrendered in 1940 because he knew his plans needed no naval force. He built a Luftwaffe based on a short-ranged bomber that couldn’t reach Britain from Germany and built a Kriegesmarine not even half the size of his World War One predecessor the Kaiser. Is it possible that Hitler’s goal was not to take over the world, but instead the much less objectionable goal of destroying the Soviet Union and by extension global Communism? If you look at Hitler’s writings he states that the Germanic people needed to continue their halted migration eastward, which would set Germany on a collision course with Russia. Certainly, Hitler also wanted to rebuild the Germany destroyed at Versailles, which is why he seized Austria and Czechoslovakia, but he made no claims for lost German territories in the west, another sign of which direction Hitler had his sights on.

And what of the event that started the war in Europe, the Nazi invasion of Poland. As writers on this subject like Buchanan and Thomas Woods Jr. pointed out, the British actually thought that the German desire to return the Polish City of Danzig to Germany was a reasonable grievance to be rectified. It is well noted by historians that German resentment against the Versailles Treaty that ended World War One was one of the main causes of World War 2 (after all Hitler gave a speech titled, “The Treaty of Versailles” almost a hundred times). The treaty stated that Germany must surrender a tenth of its land and a tenth of its population to other countries, hand over its navy, and pay the equivalent of one billion dollars in reparations to the Allies (a debt not paid off until 2010). Worst of all, for many Germans, was that the Treaty said that the blame of the war was strictly on Germany, as if the Allies were completely innocent in the affair. Eventually many of the Allied leaders wanted to reverse some of the treaties’ harsher measures, unfortunately, this come too late for the weak Weimar Republic who was replaced in the early thirties by the Third Reich. Danzig was made up of about 95% ethnic Germans, many of whom wanted to rejoin the Reich. Despite this, the ability to start a massive world war was put in the hands of the Poles via the Polish War Guarantee.

Let’s now look at the Allies stated war aims, which I think many, would agree were left unfulfilled by war’s end. It was certainly a noble aim to stop the Holocaust, but nearly two-thirds of Europe’s Jews had been killed by war’s end; if the goal was to save Poland from an evil dictator then why was it basically handed over to evil Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin after the war ended along with almost half of Europe who would live under Soviet oppression for decades to come.
The blunders of the Allies are not confined to deals with the Germans alone, in the early 30’s Italian dictator Benito Mussolini wanted to make an alliance with Britain and France in order to draw a line in Western Europe Hitler could not cross, which presumably would drive Hitler against the empire of evil that was the Soviet Union. Instead, the Allies sanctioned and isolated Mussolini, following his invasion of Ethiopia and as Patrick Buchanan put it, this ended up, “…driving him straight into the arms of Hitler.” The end of the Anglo-Japanese alliance has a similar effect on the Japan who restrained their brutality and imperialism for the sake of a prosperous treaty with the respectable British. Once the alliance was over (mostly on the urgings of the Americans) Japan was alone and resorted to imperial ambitions to protect itself from a vicious Soviet Union to the north. Indeed, President Herbert Hoover did not involve American in the Second Sino-Japanese War both because he saw no reason for America to take part in that war and because he thought the Japanese need for a buffer zone between the home islands and the Soviets was a legitimate one.

If Hitler had not been dragged into war by the Allies he might have stormed into Soviet Union and begun the Great Nazi-Soviet War, in which two of the worst empires in history would have torn each other to shreds leaving the West unscathed and ready to deal with the winner. Yes, Hitler might have won since he was able to hurl all his strength against one front instead of two, but it is just as likely that history would have repeated itself with the Russian winter defeating the invading Nazis. Either way, the West would not have gotten involved in a war that was none of its business, nor compromised its morality by allying with Stalin to defeat the alleged greater of two evils (despite the fact that Stalin’s total murders was about five million more than Hitler’s). I say alleged because Nazism was built on a race, if not a man, and therefore had little appeal in the greater world. The American Nazi Party of the 1930’s did not get off the ground until they extended membership to non-German Europeans. Contrast this to the huge appeal Communism had to all peoples of all nations; following the war several nations fell to Communism sometimes with the direct aid of the Soviet Union. If Hitler had crushed the U.S.S.R. in the 1940’s would Communism had been able to spread so far?

To end things where we started, the moral justification at the time, and indeed today, for outrageous war crimes was that Hitler and his Nazis needed to be stopped at whatever costs—the best “the end justifies the means” argument I’ve ever heard. This rationale also applies to the admittedly sketchy activities of F.D.R. leading up to American entry into the war. Such activities including the forging of a map “revealing” a Nazi plan for an invasion of South America (not that anyone believed the Nazis could cross the Atlantic Ocean at a time when they proved they couldn’t cross the English Channel) and his ignoring of Congress’ neutrality legislation. In the Pacific, when the American minister to Japan begged F.D.R. to enter negotiations initiated by the Japanese who even offered to withdraw their troops from certain areas of conflict the president snubbed them, cut off Japan’s American assets and waited for the attack he knew would “Awaken the sleeping giant,” and galvanize an America unwilling to send it’s men to die in foreign wars that did not concern it. Pearl Harbor, of course, was that attack.

Many questions are frequently repeated to crush such unwanted deviation from popular opinion that I have written here; is not all this talk against World War 2 unpatriotic? Doesn’t this dishonor the memory of the greatest generation?
I say, that we Americans cannot sweep such important moral questions under the carpet because we must face up to the evils of the past so we can build toward a better future. Not to mention, it is very hypocritical to endlessly remind the Germans and Japanese to never forget their war crimes when we have done the exact same thing when it comes to our crimes committed in that very war. On the unquestionable valor of the Allies in the war, I’ll echo the sentiments of Buchanan, “The Americans and British fought nobly, but only after they got themselves into their predicament.”
One last thing, the things I have written are less unique than you would think; Buchanan and Tom Woods I’ve already mentioned have both written at length on this subject. Contemporary British historian Neil Ferguson, who wrote the massive one-volume history, “The War of the World”, had this to say about the Second World War:

“It’s hard to see this as a good war in any real meaningful sense except that it had a good outcome compared with the old available alternative outcome of an Axis victory. I’m certain that that would have produced a worst world than the world that we inherited in 1945. That is as much as I think one can say about World War II.”

I, for one, highly doubt that and maybe someday most Americans will think the same.

Selected Bibliography/Further Learning:
“The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History” – Thomas Woods Jr.
“Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War” – Patrick Buchanan
“The Tom Woods Show: Pat Buchanan on Churchill”
“Harry Truman and the Atomic Bomb” – Ralph Raico
“Did Hitler Want War” – Patrick Buchanan

Review: “Not an Apology” by Bea Miller

Bea Miller rose to fame on the X-Factor, when I don’t know because I discovered her this past April through her “Young Blood EP” which came out last year. I really enjoyed the four songs included on it and thus I’ve been looking forward to the release of Miller’s debut album all year. Easily one of my top three most anticipated albums of 2015 (“Pageant Material” by Kacey Musgraves and Chvrches’ sophomore album due in September being the other two) and did it live up to my expectations? Read on to find out.

What are my impressions of “Not an Apology”? Well, first let me say that my most obvious thought has been articulated better by both Brian Cantor at Headline Planet and the guys at Billboard magazine; Miller’s personality strongly comes through on every song on this album, whether you like it or not or like what she has to say, you can’t deny that if you listen to this album you will hear it loud and clear. I suppose in this respect it makes for a perfect introductory album. Angst, overflowing confidence, and defiance to authority, are all to be found here on “Not an Apology”.

Track-by-Track:

First track both here and on the EP is “Young Blood” Miller’s most successful song so far. It certainly is one of the best exemplifiers of Miller’s attitude and a great anthem.

#2 “Fire N’ Gold”, is probably her next most successful song, and my least favorite off the EP (because I like the other three more, not because it a bad song), but still a good performance by Miller is found on here.

#3 “I Dare You” is a lot of fun and continues the album’s defiant confidant tone, as does next track “Paper Doll” which is probably one of my favorite songs off the album.
Tracks five and seven, “Perfect Picture” and “Force of Nature” are not necessarily forgettable, with “Force of Nature” (the single released after “Young Blood EP”) being notable for being one of the few songs to slow things down, but they just don’t resonate as much with me as some of the other songs.

#6 “Enemy Fire” is a great song off the EP, and it is still one of the best ones here; this is one of the few songs on the album where the lyrics really drew my attention and, of course, it has a great sound although I’ve been told this is not her best performance.

#8 “This is Not an Apology”: the titular track and is about a girl (Miller?) calling things off with a guy who seems completely incompatible with her. It also features some fun lines like, “I like it loud/you turn it down, you want to talk/but what about,” “Don’t need two hours to get out the door/you’re supposed to be the guy/why do you need more?” “I needed a hero/and I got a zero.” For me, it’s a real gem.

#9 “Dracula”: my favorite song off the EP, it is a song essentially describing Miller’s attraction to—“darker things” especially her taste in boys apparently. (I love, I love/the tragically beautiful) Even though Miller has said that this doesn’t really fit her anymore, I still like this song a lot for what it is about.

#10 “We’re Taking Over”: This is a stand out anthem and, like most of the messages on this album, really good when it’s put in the right context.

#11 Rich Kids: This is an interesting song as it is essentially in the archetype of songs taking shots at rich people. On it Miller sings, “Rich kids never have to pay/ everything’s funny when you’re young with money and mommy and daddy will pay the way. Although I’m a bit cautious about jumping on something detracting from the rich (because I believe everyone should be treated fairly, not because I support big business) this is still in the best of fun I think and further more a good song. Plus, Miller herself admits on the bridge, “Maybe they’re just like me…you can’t judge a book by the cover.”

An important question, for me, to evaluate is: what exactly is Miller saying on this album? Well, as I’ve mentioned already this album is overflowing with confidence and self-assertion. Now I’m not going to be too hard on Miller because she is obviously not exceptional in the promulgation of what could be called the obsession with confidence. In so many words, confidence in oneself is a good thing when it is in proportion, but it is most certainly not the greatest virtue in existence—that would be humility, which (ironically) places belief not in oneself, but in other things and people.

So, aside from rampant narcissistic messages of self-confidence and such, what are some other questionable messages here? Not too surprising in the culture we live in (although certainly not as prominent on this album) is that some lyrics get a little edgy here and there sexually. “Force of Nature” has Miller singing, “I can taste the danger/but I don’t want to run/so hold me to the ground and I won’t put up a fight.” “Dracula” also features the line, “If you were Dracula/I’d be letting you take that bite.”

Finally, “We’re Taking Over” is supposed to be an anthem for the underdog, great, but it does support the flawed Gay Marriage movement (“this is for the ones who took their lives… this is for the chicks who like chicks”). Now, I applaud any attempt to defend the persecuted, I just don’t like how Miller (like a lot of people) alludes to the tragedy of suicides by homosexuals due to bullying and helps over-magnify an issue that has already been blown out of proportion for the sake of building a victim narrative.

In Conclusion:
Track Highlights: “I Dare You”, “Enemy Fire”, “This is Not an Apology” and “Dracula”.

In the end, while I do object to some of the messages here, and it might limit how much I listen to some of these songs in the future, I do really like this album. It is right up my alley as it is pop, but with a few rock tinges, Miller has a good voice, and there are some fun and good lyrics here. It is also technically a teenager marketed Disney pushed album (although Miler is not a Disney starlet), but I think it certainly rises above the genre to be a very good album.
Now, I’m asking myself how much I will replay this album after the initial hype is gone; well I think some songs I won’t like as much, I do think they’re a lot of greats songs here and this album will definitely be on my list of my favorite albums of 2015. It met all my expectations, four out of five stars, if you like pop check this out you won’t be sorry.

The College Myth

When dealing with such a delicate topic as this, it is usually a good idea to state the thesis I am scrutinizing to make sure everyone reading knows what I am trying to say. The thesis: college is the surest, if not only, road to success in the modern world and therefore everyone should go to college no matter what the cost.
All right, I agree that is not the stance most people take today, per say, but no one can deny that the view reflected by the mass media and politicians and I think held by most Americans is that everyone should go to college. As per usual, this blog post was written to turn the world’s expectations and conventions on their head.

First, the tale of the average college student; they took out huge student loans to pay for a four degree from some prestigious university, since they most likely had no idea what they wanted to do in life, they got a generic bachelor’s degree since they were sure the specific degree did not matter.
They graduated and just like in the case of half of all their employed fellow graduates got a job that did not require a college degree at all. Cases in point, about fifteen percent of all bartenders and baggage carriers are college graduates. Why did they accept jobs that their degrees should have made beneath them? The simple reason is a generic bachelor’s degree is in actual fact, “A hunting license for a job,” to quote one career counselor. This arguably would not be too terrible if the students received valuable life lessons or knowledge from their time in college, but let’s not overlook one thing. Remember, all those debts everyone took out to pay for their college? Well, do you honestly believe they’re going to be able to pay off those debts with low level jobs? We’ve all heard stories of college students who blew sometimes a hundred-thousand dollars of their (i.e. their parent’s) money or took out nasty loans to pay for some fancy, superficial, degree only to end up in a dead end job.

How did they end up like this? Well for one, none of them had any idea what they wanted to do with their lives, so they followed the national advice of “investing” in oneself through college. I don’t blame them, necessarily; after all did you know what you wanted to do with the rest of your life at the age of eighteen? Now, I won’t disagree that for all the people with the grades, ambition, and talents, to become the doctors, lawyers, and engineers of the future college is great idea, but for ever one else I’m not so sure.
Speaking of grades, here is an ugly statistic, people who graduated in the bottom forty percent of their high school class have a small chance of graduating from college even if they’re given six years to complete it. The fact that colleges recruit these types of kids sounds almost immoral, but ignoring that aspect it is certain that many of those underemployed college graduates were those people who were unqualified and merely followed the herd into college. What most of these people will and do get is to quote John Stossel, “mainly debt and disappointment.”

Now, I agree that a couple of generations ago a college degree was very impressive and many employers still see it as such; but the sad truth is that the huge proliferation of college degrees has made it to quote Dr. Marty Nemko, career counselor and education consultant, “America’s most overrated product.” Sure, employers will still hire and train college graduates because of their college degree, but it was the training that made them more valuable as employees. But, it wasn’t just the training, because the average college graduate is a different kind of person—more hard working, more dedicated, and smarter. In other words, they would have made more money than kids who didn’t go to college even if they themselves didn’t go to college. Once again, Dr. Nemko, “You could lock the pool of college bound kids in a closet for four years and they would still make just as much money.”

It doesn’t seem likely that college is what gave them such character traits, but does college at least make people smarter? It’s true some people who go to fancy colleges are pretty smart, but they were also pretty smart when they started college. Although, this is implying that college professors are trying to educate their student, but the sad truth is that professor actually make more money publishing studies in specialized journals no one reads. In other words, professors don’t have incentives to teach students, but to do small studies on pointless subjects.
If young people are not going to college then where should they go? Well, how about they go to trade school or some other specialized program that teaches them valuable skills to make a living. There are plenty of alternatives to college, which actually deliver the education you paid for. The number of successful college drop-outs is staggering;

Now, there is an important objection to all this talk of making money, which goes something like this, “Isn’t the whole point of going to college to further one’s education? And isn’t all this obsessing over making money a bit anti-educational?” Well, it’s true as Stossel points out that college is good for people who love learning and can land jobs in academia, but that’s not most people. More importantly, tens of thousands of dollars in debts is a high price to pay for what, as I pointed out above, may not be a huge boast to one’s education.
And why should universities be the only place of learning? Does anyone honestly expect me to believe that in the age of Youtube’s education section, dozens of educational sites, and thousands of scholarly articles online, all at the fingertips of anyone with an internet connection that college is the only way to further your education? Not to mention the fact that lending libraries are still plentiful throughout the land. The only limit to anyone’s education is one’s own desire.

Some argue that all we need is the government to pay for college tuition then everything will be alright, but it’s the government that made college tuition rise in the first place. Not surprisingly, when someone with a bottomless well of cash (and the government’s tax base is limitless as long as we all keeping paying) shoves huge money toward tuition, of course, the price of college will rise faster than inflation.

Now, I fully admit that issues like; whether the point of education is to prepare for the real world or learn the humanities and who should and shouldn’t go to college are a very complex subjects, but can we at least agree that considering many of the points I’ve (and people smarter than me) made that maybe we should at least not tell young people they have to attend college to succeed?

Acknowledgement:
I owe a huge debt to John Stossel for opening my eyes to the college myth and many other myths on a wide variety of subjects and I want to thank him for providing so much for my personal education.

Was The Gunpowder Plot a Government Conspiracy?

Remember, remember the fifth of November! Most people have heard the story of the Gunpowder Plot; how twelve Catholics tried to alleviate the persecution of Catholics in England–by blowing up the House of Lords in an attempt to kill King James I and half of parliament. But today I’m here to offer an unusual historical theory; that the conspirators had been set up by the government to cause King James to increase his persecution of Catholics.

For those not familiar with the plot here is a basic outline of the conspiracy; on October 26, 1605 the Catholic Lord Monteagle received a poorly written, anonymous, letter essentially warning him not to attend Parliament’s opening on November 5. Monteagle brought the letter to Secretary of State, Robert Cecil, the Earl of Salisbury who passed it to King James who thought that a passage in the letter involved gunpowder. The cellars of Parliament were checked and Guy Fawkes was found on November 4 and arrested. The following day thirty-six barrels of gunpowder were found and after three days of torture Fawkes revealed the names of the other conspirators who were soon captured. Eventually, they were all executed for treason and James, who had a ridiculous fear of gunpowder, cracked down even harder on Catholics in Britain. The story sounds simple enough; just a genuine conspiracy by twelve lunatics: Robert Wintour, Thomas Wintour, Thomas Percy, Christopher Wright, John Wright, Francis Tresham, Everard Digby, Ambrose Rookwood, Thomas Bates, Robert Keyes, Hugh Owen, John Grant, Robert Catesby and of course Guy Fawkes.

But, in the 1670’s the country was once again gripped by anti-Catholic hysteria stemming from the so-called Popish Plot, which claimed to reveal a massive conspiracy to assassinate the king, start civil wars, and pave the way for a French invasion of England. The fact that the Popish Plot is also called the Oates Plot shows what virtually everyone agrees today and did by the 1680’s; that the government had made the entire thing up to create distrust against Catholics. Twenty Catholics were ultimately executed for allegedly being tied to the plot.

The common questions raised by supporters of the idea that the gunpowder plot was a government set up are as follows: one, gunpowder was a government monopoly so how did the conspirators acquire so much of it? More importantly, how did they smuggle it to the house next to parliament from which they tunneled underneath the House of Lords? Who rented a house so close to parliament to Catholics? Why were two leading conspirators killed outright rather than captured for interrogation?
They’re many good counter-arguments to the points made above. True, only the government could sell gunpowder, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a black market for it. Not to mention the fact that Catholic France would have been a ready provider for potential rebels of England; although, this does not explain why Robert Cecil did not allow an investigation of several barrels of gunpowder missing from the Tower of London. (1) The conspirators also had government contacts and alias that would have made it easier to rent the house next to parliament and, once it was discovered that the tunnel idea wouldn’t work, to rent the cellar under parliament where the gunpowder was set to blow. (2)
Yes, two conspirators, Thomas Percy and Robert Catesby, were killed outright rather than taken in for questioning, but this was because they got into a firefight with their pursuers. One of whom, received a rather large pension probably because he killed two would-be assassins of the King, not because he killed two men who knew too much.

There are, of course, more difficult to debunk claims such as why was a half dug tunnel never found under the house the conspirators rented; why did the house’s owner die inexplicable on November 5th and why were several members of the conspiracy captured before Fawkes ratted them out? (3)

The two most mysterious events surrounding the Gunpowder Plot are arguably the aforementioned Monteagle Letter and the death of Francis Tresham. It is believed that Monteagle’s cousin, Francis Tresham, wrote the letter to warn him, but the authorship of the letter is still up to debate. The fact that Monteagle had the letter read aloud by his servant is also somewhat suspicious. And the most obvious point, why would anyone in their right mind give such an obvious warning to someone in a position to foil their plot?

The next issue revolves around, once again, Francis Tresham; as C. N. Turnman wrote;
“Here was an important member of the gang who could know a great deal about other conspirators who were not actually yet caught. Once arrested, he was locked in the Tower of London – England’s most feared and secure prison. Tresham was locked in a cell by himself. He died on December 23rd 1605, and he was found to have been poisoned. How did he get the poison? Did he knowingly take it? Or did someone want to silence him before he talked? It is possible that Tresham had the poison on him and took it rather than suffer the butchery of being hung, drawn and quartered. If someone else had access to him, and fed him poisoned food or whatever, he would have been a very important person as only the most important would have had access to this valuable prisoner.” (4)

In light of the fact, that Guy Fawkes did not mention being set up in his confession (maybe because he thought no one would believe his confession given under torture) and instead stuck to his story of being asked to join the plot by Thomas Wintour in 1604. Wintour is also the only one to give a confession of the plot’s events from beginning to end and he too makes no mention of any government conspiracy. Thus, if the government did set up the plotters it is more likely that someone in the government, perhaps noted anti-Catholic Robert Cecil, discovered the plot early on and secretly aided them, while simultaneously setting a trap to make it appear he had uncovered a massive plot against the king.

At the end of the day, while the questions raised are interesting, none can prove that the government or Cecil or anyone else was behind The Gunpowder Plot. Still, even if we cannot know for sure what really happened almost four-hundred and ten years ago I think it is good if we all remember that there is another side to the story of one of the most infamous conspiracies in history.

References:
(1) “Christ the Lord of History” by Anne Carroll pp 295
(2) BBC Bitesize
(3) “Christ the Lord of History” by Anne Carroll pp 296
(4) History Learning Site

Bibliography:
Mysterious Universe.org
The Catholic Encyclopedia at New Advent.com

Why Taylor Swift (and a lot of people) are Wrong About Spotify

In November of 2014, Taylor Swift removed her catalog of songs off the popular music streaming site Spotify on the grounds that it does not compensate artists fairly for their work. She wasn’t the first person to object to Spotify, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke being another notable opponent, but she has more or less become the poster girl for resistance to Spotify. The common arguments against Spotify are various: according to Swift it creates the perception that music isn’t valuable because people listen to it for free. According to Yorke it pays artists a pittance while steaming owners get rich, and many believe it will be the end of the music industry as it hurts traditional music revenue sources.
I’m here to tell you that not only is Spotify in the right, but also that it may well be the future of the music industry.

First, what is Spotify? It is a music streaming site started in Sweden in the early ‘00’s; unlike most other music streaming sites Spotify has a “freemium” tier where non-paying users can listen to any of Spotify’s 25 million+ songs for free with ads. Upgrading to Premium for just $9.99 a month will allow listening without ads, better sound quality, and allows users to download playlists to their phone or computer. The way Spotify pays artists is like this: users listen to songs, with a few fractions of a cent being put paid per listen. At the end of the month all the money earned by listens is put into a big pot which is then divided based on who was listened to the most; that money is given to the rights holders who make sure it gets in the hands of music companies and artists.

Now, as Tim Worshall at Forbes points out, it is important in this debate to define what a Spotify play is—it is the performance of one song to one person one time. Thus it is more proper to compare Spotify streams to radio plays; using this method Worshall found that Spotify pays about sixteen times as much as radio. That is actually pretty good, considering how (relatively) small Spotify is. Spotify has about 65 million users last count, which is pretty small, compared to Itunes half-a-billion users and Youtube’s one billion monthly users. The fact that Spotify has paid out more than two billion dollars to the music industry with this user base is downright admirable and certainly makes one think about how much money streams will make when/if Spotify gets one-hundred million paid users. Spotify’s team has been insistent that their “freemium” tier is essential to building a large subscriber base.
Also, keep in mind that due to their focus on building a customer base, Spotify has been reporting annual losses of 60-70 million dollars for years. I’d hardly call that getting rich at artists’ expense.

Although at the end of the day, Spotify is not necessary supposed to be an artist’s sole source of revenue; it is rather a discovery tool and a way to make free music profitable for artists.
Way should free music exist at all? Because, of the evil known as piracy; Spotify’s founder Daniel Elk specifically created Spotify with the intention of defeating piracy by creating a free listening system that actually compensates artists for their work. This is a task it has done admirably; some studies suggest that in areas of Sweden where Spotify use is more prevalent, piracy is less prevalent.
Ben Berry of up-in-coming band Moke Hill wrote a wonderful article, where he shows that Spotify gives hope to new musicians by giving them a chance to be noticed and listened to. Taylor Swift argues that her opposition to Spotify (and to an extent streaming in general) is for the good of new artists who don’t have her prominence. Well, the long and short of it is that the end of streaming won’t hurt established superstars like Swift, but it will make it much harder for new artists to break into the industry. Once a band gets on someone’s radar, their fans will then buy their music or see them on tour; because of course touring is nowadays an artist’s most significant source of revenue.
One thing that should be noted is that artists are not getting as much revenue from streaming as they should for the simple reason that the money is still split about 70/30 between record labels and musicians. This was probably fair in the days when record companies had to spend huge sums to produce large album runs, but since the physical medium is more or less dead why then do record labels still take so much of an artist’s revenue? Lawsuits have been filed by artists in order to get a fairer chunk of their streaming dues.

As to Swift’s claim that free music creates the perception that music isn’t valuable, arguing instead that music is worth as much work is put into it, this is simply an economic fallacy. It is an economic principle that goods are worth what consumers will pay for them not the labor put into them.

All that being said, it would be unfair to not mention one of the several valid criticisms of Spotify. “Freemium may indeed be”, well, too free and therefore not give listeners enough incentive to switch over to the paid service. I might suggest increasing the frequency of ads, but one must be cautious not to make “freemium” so restricting so as to force people back to piracy.
Either way, a great change is happening or rather has been happening in the music industry, a change toward streaming. But Swift’s and her allies against streaming will only hurt new artists chances of making a living in this new music business, while they can afford to oppose change and stay on their lofty statures. Spotify is not the death of the music industry it is arguably its best hope.

Bibliography/Suggested Reading:

Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty for Using Spotify” – Charles Ubaghs, The Quietus
Rockonomics: Spotify versus Itunes, when are streams-over-time worth as a sale today?” – David Touve
Spotify didn’t kill the music industry you did” – Prentice Mathew
Taylor Swift Doesn’t Understand Supply and Demand” – Nilay Patel, Vox.com
The Truth about Taylor Swift and Spotify” – Music. Licensing, Youtube.com
Taylor Swift is Fighting the Wrong Part of the Music Industry” – Jonathan Ford, Financial Times
Concert Photographer calls out Taylor Swift for “hypocritical” Apple Open Letter”

Also, here is an interesting post over at Spooky & the Metronome, here at WordPress, about how streaming is merely continuing the legacy of music lending libraries popular in the late nineteenth century.

Review: “Pageant Material” – Kacey Musgraves

“Pageant Material” 

This sophomore effort by country outliner Kacey Musgraves was well worth the two year wait; on this album Musgraves’ lives up to her reputation for combining a traditional country sound with modern messages. In my opinion, the only thing that outshines the sound and Musgraves’ vocals is the album’s stellar songwriting (from Musgraves and her familiar writing team).

Track Highlights:
“Late to the Party” is not just one of the best songs on the album, but one of the best songs of Musgraves’ career; a lovely sounding romantic song. “This Town” and “Family is Family” are some of the songs with the best themes; “Biscuits” (which is very reminiscent of Musgraves’ previous effort “Follow Your Arrow”), “Pageant Material” and “Dime Store Cowgirl” are all very fun and good songs.

Final Thoughts:
In one line, “This is great country music”; some might be turned off by the too traditional sound or the artist’s personal views, but I think this a great pick for all county fans. Four Stars out of five.