The $4K Concert Ticket

“Regardless of the commentary about a modest number of tickets costing $1,000 or more, our true average ticket price has been in the mid-$200 range,” he continued. “I believe that in today’s environment, that is a fair price to see someone universally regarded as among the very greatest artists of his generation.”  NY Times

I never find it not weird that people will pay astronomical sums to sit squeezed into a sports stadium to see McCartney, the Eagles, Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, and others, mainly for songs they created 40 or 50 years ago (which recent McCartney song did you really want to hear?).

Full disclosure: I recently went to see Bruce Cockburn at the Centre in the Square in Kitchener.  But he performed solo, just him and his voice and acoustic guitars, and he didn’t cheat.

Years ago, we paid a wee little amount to see Nellie McKay in Toronto at the legendary  El Mocambo. We were right up at the front of the stage, and we got to chat with her afterwards (I still have my autographed CD). She was at the stage of her career where she was producing the songs that people would today be paying $4,000 to hear, had she not opted out of the plastic-ware star-making music machinery because of creative differences with her publisher.

It was a fabulous concert experience, amazing songs, engaging… so much better than sitting in row 9,999 a thousand feet away from the stage to watch someone who, to be generous, is somewhat past his prime. Sometimes, as with the Beach Boys, the REAL keyboard player is in the shadows behind the drummer. Sometimes the real drummer is behind the drummer. Very often, the performance is autotuned, “live”. Very, very often additional instrumentation has been pre-recorded and added in– even vocals.

At least I rather expect that Springsteen won’t be autotuned. But then again, the logic seems to be “if everyone else is doing it” (and they are)…

If you like live concert experiences, I heartily recommend looking for an up-and-coming performer playing smaller, intimate venues.

The Coming Convergence and the Blessings of Being a 10-year-old Mom

I am surprised by the views expressed by “pro-life” individuals in this survey and interviews in the New York Times.

What is striking is how flexible these individuals are about when abortion should be legal and when not.  Years ago, Right to Live declared that the minute a sperm fertilizes an egg, you have a human life that is entitled to the full protection of the law, even in cases of rape or incest.   They still declare that, but real people– real Republicans– don’t believe it.  They seem to be open to the idea that there should be “reasonable” limits– even up to 12 weeks.  And they believe that abortions should be allowed in cases of rape.

They are also under the mistaken belief that a mother’s life is more at risk of death or serious injury in an abortion than she is in child birth.  That is flatly not true.  Stunningly, even the pro-choice panel the New York Times convened for the same purpose believed it.  That messaging from Right to Life has taken hold.

How stupid are the Republicans?  Well, I bet Mitch McConnell understands that the Republicans need to embrace a “safety-valve” on the issue: tolerate some flexibility and some exceptions so they can say they haven’t banned all abortions.  But other hot-heads in the party seem determined to take a hard line, even when it comes to that 10-year-old girl (perhaps, one commentator asserted, she doesn’t appreciate the blessings of being a mother).

What remains to be determined is just how much of a factor this might be in the coming mid-term elections.  Probably, the economy will matter more, even when the perception that the economy is in a mess is wrong.  Inflation is a problem, but employment, consumer spending and confidence, hiring, and productivity are all favorable.  Nobody cares: they want to believe that Biden is a feeble old man who is out of his depth, so they insist that the economy is a disaster.

The New McCarthyism

There are two kinds of news sources prominent today. One, the older institutional part, identifies a story, sends a reporter, interviews people, acquires documents, submits to an editor, contacts the parties for possible confirmation or not, and then publishes. The other one goes to air to millions of listeners immediately with, for example, provocative claims that there is no 10-year-old girl in Ohio who was raped at 9 and was pregnant and had to go out of state to get an abortion, claiming this was all a plot by the Democrats to steal more votes. When it emerges that the story was true, they don’t apologize because … well, why don’t they? Because their listeners don’t really care about facts and information? I don’t know. It’s not just this one story: there are dozens of examples, maybe hundreds. They rarely publicly admit they got it wrong, or lied, and even more rarely apologize. They have discovered that most of their listeners don’t seem to mind; they aren’t about to change the channel.

Their listeners aren’t watching the January 6 Congressional Committee hearings, even if almost every witness has been a staunch Republican, and Trump’s own appointees to the judiciary have consistently rejected claims of a stolen election. The “Deep State” is so deep that even Trump, apparently, was fooled at times.

I don’t know how we get past polarization if people don’t listen even when their own side is telling them they are wrong. People like Mitch McConnell, Lindsay Graham, Marco Rubio are complicit: they don’t like Trump but are frightened of standing up to him.

In the 1950’s, McCarthyism had the same dynamic. Respectable conservatives didn’t like him but were scared to call him out. Eventually, he was found to be ridiculous and people moved on. (He once accused Santa Claus of being a communist infiltrator.)

One can only hope.

Celebrating Incidental Achievements: the Home Run Jacket and the Blue Jays

I always felt that Cal Ripken’s “ironman” streak of consecutive games hurt the Orioles’ chances of winning the division. It put the focus on individual achievement at the expense of team success. In the same way, I don’t believe the Blue Jays will go anywhere until they ditch the home-run jacket. It’s not what you’re there for. It’s a distraction. It celebrates incidental success rather than game-winning performances, like Hernandez’s single in today’s game or Garcia’s terrific two innings of work. It’s like, “look at us, we hit home runs!” instead of “we had the bases loaded with nobody out in a one-run game and actually drove in a couple of runs” or “we put in a pinch runner for our best hitter and he didn’t get picked off” (Zimmer did get picked off at a critical moment in the game) which they haven’t done a lot of lately.

The Death of Stalin

You thought “Succession” was hilarious?  The story of minor-league talents battling it out to take over the family business from a toxic patriarch?

“The Death of Stalin” is a terrific movie about the end of the life of quite possibly the worst dictator the world has ever known.  It is reported to be one of Barack Obama’s favorite films.  It was banned in Russia, which, of course, is hilarious.  It was also criticized by some for historical inaccuracies, which, of course, is also rather absurd: it is a comedy.  The comedy lies in the kind of chaos created when an authoritarian, melomaniac, paranoid leader dies without leaving a clear line of succession.

It drives me insane to read, in IMDB, an explanation of why they made the “strange” decision to have the actors speak in plain English, instead with an amusing Russian accent!  The assumption is that they should have had them speak with Russian accents, which is actually a really, really strange idea.  But these are Russians talking to each other in Russia.   Do viewers think that Russians or Germans or French people speak to each other with funny accents?

If you say, that’s what people expect, it is only because they have been trained to expect that moronic approach, the way they have been trained to believe that bullets arrive at their target simultaneously with the sound of the gun being fired: they have been trained by early Westerns which chose not to allow audiences to learn the truth.

The best solution is for them to speak in their real, native tongue, with subtitles, but having them speak fluent English is a good option, and far, far, better than the stupid accent idea.

Stalin

Estimates vary, as they will, but Stalin was probably singularly responsible for the deaths of millions of people.

Key players:

Lavrently Beria

  • Became head of the NKVD in November 1938.
  • Proposed and master-minded the Katyn Massacre in March 1940.
  • just before Stalin’s funeral, he had the army units in Moscow replaced with his own NKVD units and cancelled all the trains coming to Moscow.

Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor)

  • Closely associated with Vladimir Lenin.
  • Ran Soviet Missile Program during World War II.
  • Discredited Georgy Zhukov to curry favor with Stalin who was jealous.
  • Briefly succeeded Stalin as Premiere and “first among equals” (March 5, 1953)
  • Eventually sidelined by Nikita Khrushchev.  Attempted a palace coup against Khrushchev in 1957 and expelled from the Presidium and exiled to Kazakhstan.

Vyacheslav Molotov (Michael Palin)

  • Negotiated the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Germany in 1941.
  • Part of the Central Committee meeting after Stalin’s Death to plot things out.
  • his wife, Polina, had been arrested by Beria, with Molotov’s passive consent.  Three days after Stalin’s death, Beria did indeed release Polina to Molotov, presumably to cultivate support in the ongoing power struggle at the Politburo.

Nicolai Bulganin

  • Part of the the Central Committee meeting after Stalin’s Death.

Lazar Kaganovich

  • Part of the the Central Committee meeting after Stalin’s Death.

Anastas Mikoyan

  • Part of the the Central Committee meeting after Stalin’s Death.

Nikita Khrushchev

  • Brought back from Ukraine to Moscow in 1949
  • Regarded by British Diplomats as mouthy and misinformed and inarticulate.  They were far more impressed b y Malenkov, though the movie portrays him as a bit of a dunce.

Vasily Stalin

  • Stalin’s son
  • Called to his father’s side after his cerebral hemorrhage, he was drunk and angry, shouting at the doctors

Svetlana Stalin

  • Stalin’s daughter.  Reported that her father’s death was “difficult and terrible”.
  • Beria had been very friendly with her as a little girl, like an Uncle

Maria Yudina.

  • famous pianist who played piano at reception at Stalin’s lying in state
  • 9 years before his death (unlike in the movie which places the event the very night of) she had played the concert shown in the movie, and had been roused out of bed to repeat the concert for a recording
  • Wrote a note to Stalin which she placed in the record sleeve saying:  “I will pray for you day and night and ask the Lord to forgive your great sins before the people and the country.”  She was not arrested.  She died in 1970.

Georgy Zhukov (died June 1974)

  • got along well with Eisenhower; tried to supply food to Berlin after war
  • however, did nothing to stop the brutal rapes and pillaging by Russian soldiers
  • unlike everyone else around Stalin, he refused to kowtow; openly dismissive of Stalin, and openly contradicted him at times
  • did loot Berlin; was caught and made an abject apology
  • Brilliant Soviet military general who guided the stand-off in Stalingrad.
  • his arrest of Beria did occur, but 3 months after the funeral (June 1953), and Beria did get a trial and was executed in December 1953.
  • supported Khrushchev’s bid for power, but, by 1957 lost favor and was forced to retire
  • never returned to a position of influence after that
  • some historians believe he exaggerated his role in WW II.

Normal Text

 

Inventor of the GPS

Dr. Gladys West, The Black Woman Who Invented The GPS, Gets Honored By U.S. Air Force At The Pentagon  [BusinessGhana]

That seems remarkable.  Not just a woman– a black woman!  Of course, those mean men in charge of the Pentagon made sure she didn’t get credit.   For inventing the GPS.  Everybody knows its true.

Or is it.

The first clue is that most of the websites that refer to Gladys West (the “Dr.” came much later in life– she was not a “Dr.” when she worked for the Air Force)  is the oblique tone of the reference: her work contributed to, was essential to, helped, contributed largely to, and so on.

You ask yourself: is it in the interests of the Air Force to quietly accede to some exaggeration here?  So they could be seen to be honoring a black woman?  So they could be seen to be addressing a historical injustice?  So they could be seen as progressive and enlightened?  If someone thought they were now exaggerating her role, would that person dare to speak up?

The header, “The Black Woman Who Invented the GPS”, is a lie.  She was involved in some of the research required for the project, but to say she “invented GPS” is a gross distortion of her role.   It’s the kind of lie Hollywood embraces.  It’s the kind of lie middling America adores.  It doesn’t really offend conservatives (because it makes it look like they always were colorblind when it came to talent) and it totally gratifies white liberals because it vindicates their politics and their self-satisfaction, and everyone else is glad to feel like they are not really racist because, after all, they enjoyed this film, just like they enjoyed “The Green Book” and “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”.

It does not help your cause to exaggerate.  To lie.  The next time I see a headline insisting that a black woman saved hundreds of lives or stopped a war or built an airplane or solved pi or defeated the Nazis– well?  Did you really?

The Implications

Today it was revealed that the Supreme Court is likely to rule to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

Everyone is hopefully clear on the fact that overturning “Roe vs Wade” does not make abortion illegal.  It throws the problem back to the states which now may either ban it, partially ban it, or allow it, depending on the whims of state legislators.

States will now be allowed to compel women to carry a pregnancy to full term whether they wish to or not, even in the case of incest or rape.

If this indeed is going to be the ruling (which will be handed down in June), there are some enormous implications.  Off hand, I can think of these:

  • The Democratic base will be energized going into the fall congressional elections.  This is Mitch McConnell’s nightmare.  Mid-term elections generally favor the opposition party at least partly because the government doesn’t have a burning issue to run against– it is the government many people like to vote against no matter what stripe.  But overturning Roe vs Wade may light a fire under the Democrats.
  • The issue should play well for the Democrats.  About 60-65% of Americans support the general right to abortion, though they also think limits should apply.  Democrats can cite the government telling women what they may or may not do with their bodies.  Republican state governments are going to “compel” women to carry pregnancies to term which can be spun as intrusive or egregious or over-reach or patriarchal.  Republicans cannot really run on “life begins at conception”– at least, I’ll believe it when I see it.
  • Further to that — evangelical Christians will not be satisfied with overturning Roe vs. Wade.  They want the Supreme Court to go further and ban all abortions.  Life, to them, begins at conception.  They may begin to demand that their Republican trolls reflect that in their legislation, which may be a bridge too far for independents and moderate Republican women.
  • Why stop at Roe vs Wade?  There are host of privacy rights implied in the principle that the Constitution does not protect them.  Strip searches?  Infrared scans of homes?  Drones?  Cell phone messages?  Library records?  Who says we (the FBI, Homeland Security) can’t look?   Who says those records are private (unless the police have a warrant)?
  • So when really does life begin?  If state governments begin debating this issue, and pass legislation, and this legislation is appealed to the Supreme Court, we will have an even bigger can of worms.
  • State Senate races in close states could swing.  Susan Collins is safe for now– she has five years left in her term.  Lisa Murkowski– lucky for her– voted against Kavanaugh, so she is probably safe.  But many other Republicans running in purple states will have to answer the question of who they would confirm to Supreme Court given that they might make another really stupid decision.  (Is “stupid” a blunt instrument?  I mean, Alito and Thomas are obviously not fools, but I stand by my conclusion of the fundamental soundness of their reasoning behind their votes on Roe vs Wade.  In the totality of their disregard for history, culture, justice, and just plain common sense: stupid.  Just plain stupid.  It can stand with the Dred Scott decision– that negroes are not “persons”.)

As you would think is obvious, the ruling is at odds with conservative ideals about government being restrained from intruding into areas of personal freedom.  The government should not be able to require you to wear a mask  around vulnerable people even if you could be infected with Covid 19, but it should be allowed to compel you to carry a pregnancy to full term.

 

“Because of the Thoroughness With Which the Accuser Was Discredited”

Paul Takakjian, a criminal defense lawyer who is not involved in Bauer’s case but previously served as a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, said he saw Thursday’s ruling as “a harbinger of maybe good news” for Bauer in his criminal investigation “because of the thoroughness with which the accuser was discredited in the judge’s eyes.”  NY Times [2022-04-30]

I post this link with no pleasure, but because we are all continually confronted with advocates for women insisting that women never lie about sexual assault.

It appears that the woman let slip that she hoped to extract a large sum of money from Hoffman as a result of her allegations, and in spite of lavish evidence that she consented to his actions in the bedroom.  In fact, the woman initiated contact with Hoffman and requested “rough sex” and, apparently, even specifically asked for actions by Hoffman that she later alleged were abusive.

I am disappointed– but not surprised– that Major League Baseball suspended Hoffman for 2 years regardless of the facts.  It is not logical.  Either the woman has been discredited or she has not.  If she was discredited– and she certainly was after a “thorough” investigation– then Hoffman’s behavior may have been distasteful and offensive to the more mainstream (public) preferences of Commissioner Rob Manfred and his colleagues but it should not be grounds for a suspension, and I would not be surprised if Hoffman wins his appeal.

I repeat that– it was a thorough investigation.  No judge would be eager to dismiss charges in an explosive case like this but the judge,  Dianna Gould-Saltman — yes, a woman– had no choice.  The evidence was clear and convincing.

This reminds me of the Jian Ghomeshi case in which several women also lied about the incident– to the police and in court– and then coordinated their stories.  Ghomeshi’s lawyer provided the court with convincing proof that the women had lied and the case was dismissed.  Yet the feminist establishment continued to behave as if he had been found guilty.

They will behave the same way in the case of Trevor Hoffman and that is why MLB suspended him in spite of the court case collapse.  If they had let him resume his career, they would have been relentlessly savaged in the media and nobody wants to have defend someone whose taste runs to rough sex, and nobody wants to even mention the fact that the woman requested it because feminist orthodoxy is that the woman never asks for it.

 

 

The Father of Violence

The logic of the militarist is this. The only way to stop the enemy from committing violence against us is to threaten to retaliate as swiftly and surely as possible. The proof for the militarist is this: immediately after we have retaliated, the enemy, applying the same logic, will commit more violence, justifying further decisive and immediate retaliation.

Inevitably, there will be peace talks in the Middle East because even mule-headed politicians like Ariel Sharon eventually get it through their thick skulls that this is not a war he can win.

Arafat is a different problem. Arafat had led a war against Israel for thirty years. Confronted with the real prospect of peace at Camp David in 2000, he demurred. Why? Possibly because he was afraid that the entire structure and culture of his power, the on-going struggle against the imperialist west, would be washed away into a complex labyrinth of regulation and policy. Without administrative skills, his power would be diminished and hemmed in by the demands of constructive engagement.

Is Sharon all that different? His reputation is built upon his military successes. Without Arafat to bash around, he would have to develop real economic and social policies that would benefit the voters. Anger and threats don’t settle strikes, reduce inflation, or generate jobs or tourism.  But the country rallies, usually, around a war-time leader.