The Comedy of Being: Martin Heidegger

Martin Heidegger (“Being and Time”) often reads like a parody of philosophy.   The first 35 pages are replete with repetitive (in my opinion) insistences that before you can analyze reality in any sense you must apprehend the being-ness of being there in the radical sense of existential being, which everybody else has failed to do.

I consider the idea that Heidegger may be a massive fraud.  I think it’s a possibility.  He is very, very esteemed in the world of cool philosophy geeks, but it is quite possible that they are entranced by Heidegger’s incomprehensibility being confused for “mystique”, combined with the language that is almost poetically inane.  “The being of being is the beingness of not-being authentically in a non-thematic ontological context that cannot be known.”  Ok.  I made that up– but it’s close.

It is quite possible that he has hit upon something that everybody already knows in a certain valid sense and has taken to describing it as if it is hidden from everyone else and must be revealed to them.  Don’t you see that we are all breathing?!  We’re all sucking air in and out of our lungs!  This has profound implications for all of life.  Read him long enough and you begin to think about your breathing.  Maybe you try breathing differently.  Two exhales for every inhale.  Try breathing through one nostril at a time.  What if I stop breathing?  By golly, he’s right: breathing is incredibly important.  We all need to think about breathing.

He is his own best argument for Wittgenstein’s argument that the world is comprised entirely of facts.  What we believe to be reality is always and only a construct of the language we use to express our experience of it.   How does Heidegger know that everyone else does not know what he knows about being?  He offers no explanation.  He only knows the language that others have used to describe time and existence and phenomena but he really has no explanation of how he can possibly know that the way this language is used is inadequate to explain the authentic meaning of being.

He seems at times to assume we have a reason for believing there are others in the world, yet I have not seen the slightest discussion of the senses through which we experience others, and the world itself.  He seems to insist that we cannot really know if they have a real existence outside of our imagination, just as he doesn’t seem to be concerned about how time can be explained if we only barely understand the meaning of our own “being there” or Dasein.   Is time linear?  Is time atomic?  Is time continuous?  I’m at page 113.  I’ll let you know if I find an answer.

According to Heidegger, Western Philosophy has it all wrong because it has skipped the most essential truth which is that “being” itself, or “being there”,  or “Dasein”, is the proper subject of philosophy and has been almost entirely ignored, at least, since the Greeks.  He is going to rescue us from this terrible omission.  Get out of your car, burn your records and books, change your diet and haircut: we have  no way to experience the world.  Being there.

Let’s get this out of the way right from the start: Heidegger believes that Western Philosophy has forgotten the essential character of “Dasein” but what it is it has forgotten, he can’t seem to remember.

There it is.  I summed up Heidegger that way at Trinity Christian College 45 years ago and I stand by it.

What prompted this reflection is my reckless urge to revisit “Being and Time” now that I have experienced a lot more of both.  I am in my 60’s and haven’t looked at this book since I was in a philosophy course taught by Dr. John Roose at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois, back in 1973.  It is the only course I ever took anywhere which I did not complete, and for which I received an “F”.   It wasn’t the difficulty:  “Contemporary Philosophy” taught by Dr. Vrieze was far more challenging– and satisfying– and of course I did well in it.  I still remember a considerable chunk of that course, on Paul Feyerabend, Imre Lakatos, Karl Popper, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and others.  Feyerabend was the first philosopher I read that convinced me that it actually was possible for 2 x 2 to not equal 4.  And Karl Popper’s discussions of paradigms is still very useful to me.

But here’s a line from Martin Heidegger that I think you might find as amusing as I do (from “Being and Time”, translated by Joan Stambaugh, page 35):

Because phenomenon in the phenomenological understanding is always just what constitutes being, and furthermore because being is always the being of beings , we must first of all bring beings themselves forward in the right way, if we are to have any prospect of exposing being.

In regard to Kant, one question that remains: if we can never know a thing in itself– only our empirical experience of that object– does it matter?  If we can never know the thing in itself, then, really, does it even exist?    And so if Heidegger insists that we don’t apprehend Dasein– being itself– does it even exist?  More critically, does it matter?  Heidegger seems to believe that we can encounter Dasein if we cast off our archaic beliefs.  This makes him a superman, since he is the only one who knows about Dasein and he is here to enlighten us.  (In fairness, he does credit some other philosophers– even Kant– with having a diminished idea of Dasein).  But again, given his explanations of how we are ignorant of the decisive importance of Dasein, how can he possibly know anything about others’ experience of it?

All this so far and I haven’t even mentioned that Heidegger was a Nazi.



President Jill Biden

The only way Joe Biden gets re-elected president is if his opponent is Donald Trump.

The only way Donald Trump gets elected president is if his opponent is Joe Biden.

The history of aging, increasingly feeble presidents with younger, more vigorous wives is not reassuring.  And it is reassuring.  In some cases, as with Nancy Reagan and Eleanor Roosevelt , the results may be anodyne.  In the case of Woodrow Wilson in 1919, the result may have been catastrophic.

Jill Biden is a medical doctor.  She seems pretty smart, pretty capable.  If Joe Biden becomes enfeebled while president, if he suffers a stroke, if he is barely capable of leaving his bed, it would not shock me to see a situation similar to the Woodrow Wilson situation in 1919 develop.  Jill Biden relates Biden’s “directives” to his senior staff and does not permit any of them to directly converse with the ailing president.  When questions are raised, the president’s own physician reports to the cabinet and the vice-president that he is perfectly mentally capable of issuing instructions, even if, perhaps, he is not, really.   In that situation, Jill Biden speaks with the presumed authority of her husband, and it would difficult for others to bypass her to determine directly if the president is actually capable of executing his office.

The government, of course, is, for all practical purposes, actually run by the hundreds of high-level officials, White House staff, and cabinet appointees.  The president sets his agenda by appointing like-minded people to positions of power.  They will know what to do.

When it might matter, of course, is in a situation that demands a military response.  China might very well consider an ailing president vulnerable to aggressive moves by competing powers.  China might make a move on Taiwan.  Putin might become more aggressive in Ukraine.   Cuba might finally invade Miami.

It could all turn out well.  Jill Biden might be a wise and effective leader.  But she would not have been elected to be president.  Constitutionally, the cabinet and vice-president should meet to determine if Biden continues to be fit for office.  They could demand, perhaps, that an independent physician examine the president.

Here’s the thing:  it will be in the interests of many in the top echelons of political power to maintain the illusion that Biden continues to execute his office.  They were appointed by him.  They derive their power and status from that appointment.  His replacement may replace them.   His replacement may be politically weaker than he is.   Even the opposition party may be reluctant to see the presidency handed over to a younger potentially more appealing candidate.  (Right now, the thinking is that Kamala Harris is not a strong potential candidate, but given a year or two in office, who knows?)

People love to imagine unlikely scenarios and play them out but this one is strikingly possible.  It appears that Trump will be Biden’s opponent in 2024 and it is not unlikely that Biden, despite current polling, prevails in the swing states, Michigan, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Arizona.  He probably only needs one of them to win, whereas Trump needs all four.

He is obviously already suffering from various age-related challenges, physically and mentally.  It is difficult to imagine him surviving a debate with Donald Trump except for the fact that Donald Trump (strikingly, today, in an interview with Kristen Welker of NBC) also appears to be showing age-related challenges.

Here’s a prediction: neither of them agrees to a debate.



Death by Discretion

I read an account of a bear attack a while ago that I found somewhat a disturbing.  A young woman camping in a wilderness area of a park in Colorado had been pulled out of her sleeping bag in the middle of the night by a large grizzly and dragged away screaming while a friend of hers nearby, who was also attacked, fled for help.

Help was found and a group of people set out to find the girl, if they could, and scare away the bear, if they could.  The bear did wander off leaving the badly injured girl lying on the ground.  The bear had ripped all of her clothing off and inflicted several life-threatening wounds.

I read the accounts given by some of the rescuers and could not find any reference to any attempt to stop the bleeding, staunch the wounds, apply a tourniquet, or any other first aid.  When recounting the story later, what they all agreed on was that someone  immediately covered her up with a coat.  Others returned to a nearby lodge to find equipment with which to carry her up to the lodge.  After considerable time, she was brought to the lodge and a doctor there treated her wounds but it was too late and she died.

It appeared to me that the rescuers were more concerned with the propriety of looking at a young woman’s naked body than they were with saving her life.  Nobody involved describes even examining her carefully to determine where the wounds were, let alone attempting to stop the bleeding.  It is by no means certain but it seems possible that her life could have been saved if someone had made a serious attempt to staunch the most critical wounds.

It is quite possible that she would have died anyway.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone.  Here’s an account of a man in Japan who admirably attempted to save the life of a woman by applying a defibrillator (an AED or Automated External Defibrillator) only to be labelled a pervert by a bystander.   Now, I personally have wondered for years about how an AED is used– does the skin have to be bare?  A surprising number of people don’t know.  According to the information I found, it must be applied to bare skin, on the chest.

So if, I came across a woman suffering from a serious heart ailment and attempted to apply an AED, would someone watching would be outraged and demand that we all let her die rather than see her naked breasts?

I learned that the AED kit comes with a scissors, and yes, you absolutely should remove any clothing over the chest area, especially the bra (which may have an underwire in it).  

And good luck with that.  I know exactly what you will encounter.  You will encounter some asshole who thinks he’s a god-almighty guardian of public safety and good order and he will forcefully demand that you wait for a nice respectable ambulance to come along and handle the emergency.

I am quite confident that people have died because of people’s delicate sense of decency and that you will never hear about it.


Best Joke in Dr. Strangelove

The best joke in Stanley Kubrick’s insanely brilliant “Dr. Strangelove” is not, as is widely repeated, “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here: this is The War Room”.  It’s not a bad joke.  I always thought it was a bit obvious given the pedigree of the rest of the movie, but it’s okay.

The best joke is when the President demands of General Turgidson how a mentally unfit General could possibly have launched a nuclear attack on Russia all by himself, without presidential authorization.  Turgidson responds  with this:

I think I’d like to hold off judgment on a thing like that, sir, until all the facts are in…I don’t think it’s quite fair to condemn the whole program because of a single slip up, sir.

The absolute brilliance of those lines lies in the allusion to standard business and political wisdom: don’t judge until you have all the facts.  This pedestrian axiom is familiar to everyone, widely accepted, and almost applicable to situations in which a “slip up” has relative anodyne consequences.

To insert this line in the middle of an intense discussion of actions that may, as a consequence, result in total war with the Russians and ultimately annihilation of the human race, is more than just schadenfreude.  It is profoundly revelatory about the nature of the nuclear arms race and politics.  It hammers home profoundly the fact that these incredibly powerful weapons, capable of wiping out all life on the planet, are the hands of mere men, and “Dr. Strangelove” reveals to us just how absurdly unqualified the men who control these systems are, how petty, and clumsy, and sometimes stupid, and how the consequences of their short-comings can actually result in the destruction of the world.

Let me say that, on the surface, these men, Muffley, Turgidson, Ripper, Mandrake, and the others, would appear to the public to be competent, intelligent, and rational.  But when Ripper talks about the threats to our bodily fluids and President Muffley argues with Premiere Kissov over just who is the most sorry about the turn of events, and Bat Guano tells Mandrake that he is going to have to answer to the Coca Cola Company, we realize that humans are just too wrapped up in our immediate concerns and perspectives to comprehend the majesty and might of nuclear weapons.

This motif resurfaces time and time again through-out the movie.

Another line that is far funnier than the war room quip.  Turgidson, after hearing a description of the new Soviet weapon that can destroy the entire world, says “Gee, I wish we had one of them Doomsday Machines, Stainsey”.

And this why “Dr. Strangelove” is, perhaps, the greatest film of all time, and the one that is most relevant to our current age.  You could substitute climate change, pandemics, massive bank failures, whatever you like for nuclear war and you would have same fundamental factors at play: foolish men with constricted perspectives making decisions of extreme consequence for the human race.

And the nuclear issue remains.




Hogeweyk for Elderly Politicians

What we need is a Hogeweyk for elderly politicians. We should recreate the White House and Capitol buildings on a smaller scale and let them wander around freely, negotiate treaties and pass legislation, without harming any real people. Paid staff would circulate around telling them all they still have it and only they could do what they do. They could even hire fake reporters to wander around so the elderly politicians could experience the excitement of hiding from them.

It will be tricky getting them in though: we’ll have to wait until they go to sleep and then move their beds into the village, like the head counsellor in “Meatballs”.

This could solve a lot of problems.

Little Richard’s Revisionism

Suppose a notorious prostitute gave up her profession, joined a church, went to seminary, became a preacher, established a church, built up it’s membership so that it was able to build a lovely new sanctuary, and then retired.  And suppose that after her retirement, a large group of former customers decided to give her an award for being the best prostitute in the business.

She would refuse, right?  She would prefer that people not even know about her past, but if they did, she would certainly renounce it.  She would publicly return all the money she earned from prostitution to a charity for unwed mothers (or something).

Suppose it was discovered that she financed her new church sanctuary with money she had earned as a prostitute?

Suppose that hundreds of young women read books and articles about her early career and announced that they wanted more than anything to become great prostitutes.

Yes, a very weird story, isn’t it?  It is the story of Little Richard.  Yes it is.

Let me make absolutely career: Little Richard’s rock’n’roll career was not in any manner really prostitution or like prostitution.  I am saying that Little Richard himself, by his own standards as a Christian preacher, came to regard it as such.  Insofar as it goes…

Little Richard was perhaps the greatest genius of the early rock’n’roll era.  If you have never seen a good video of one of his early performances– and I don’t mean just a clip– you must see it.  He is utterly remarkable.  Here’s another.   And another.  He was a whirling dervish of dance and vocals and whoops and hollers and piano, and absolutely mesmerizing.  He excited people so much they sometimes broke into a riot.

Watch Paul McCartney sing for the Beatles in the early years.  You are watching Little Richard.  Watch Mick Jagger, Elvis, David Bowie, Prince, Madonna– all owe an enormous debt to the original, Little Richard.  Even Bob Dylan, someone you would not immediately think of as influenced by Little Richard, listed, in his high school year book, the ambition of joining Little Richard’s band.

And then Little Richard got religion.

Little Richard, who had been brought up in the church, of course, always believed in scripture, in Jesus, in the Ten Commandments and the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t care at first.  He was flamboyant, charismatic, and absolutely homosexual.  He lived the way he wanted.  But in the early 1960’s, he embraced the religion of his upbringing and repudiated rock’n’roll.  He refused to sing any of his hits.  He sang gospel tunes, spirituals.  Sometimes he would spice them up with a performance that suggested if not replicated his early career, but mostly he stood on stage in a suit and sang into a microphone while barely moving his body.

He says he gave up homosexual relationships.  I’m not sure I believe him.  He was still surrounded by gay men at times.  It’s very hard to tell because Little Richard was not known for his honesty or candor when it came to his personal history.

The point is, Little Richard believed that his early career was a sinful expression of a sinful lifestyle– like the prostitute in my fable above.  He begged God to forgive him.  He tried to go straight and reform.


As the documentary, “Little Richard: I am Everything” makes clear, unlike the prostitute of my fable, he wants it both ways.  He demands recognition for the very things he repudiated in his later life.  He demands honors and money for behaviors he now condemns, in his earlier self, and, by implication if not directly, in others.

He complains bitterly about not being paid for his sinful expressions.

I found the last half hour of the documentary a bit offensive because of that.  That, and the the rather clumsy attempt to blame everything that was denied to Little Richard on homophobia, as if the Beatles, and Elvis, and Tom Petty, and Joni Mitchell, and everyone else go their due, except for poor old gay, black Little Richard.  It’s simply not true.  Little Richard did not get compensated fairly for his work because the music industry systematically rips off every young artist whatever their color, religion, or sexual orientation.

Do you think there’s a whole lot of straight male artists out there who were paid fairly and who feel that the industry treated them well?  Or contemporary female country artists?

Leonard Cohen, incidentally, did the smart thing and retained control of his publishing rights… until his agent talked him into selling the entire catalogue to Sony Music and then pilfered the money forcing him to resume touring again.

More on the Music Industry

And on Excessive Demands from Copyright Owners

On How the Music Industry Brilliantly Extended Ripping off the Artist into the Napster Era

On Ani Di Franco’s lovely resistance.

On the unfortunate delusion embraced by Little Richard’s that authentic sexuality is in conflict with his religious faith and Jesus would never love him as the gay man that he is and always will be.

The Gerontocracy

Obviously, most voters don’t want an incapacitated leader to remain in office. But in a district or state in which one party will always prevail because it has an unassailable majority, voters don’t get to choose. A minority– a tiny minority– of party officials and managers ensure that the incumbent stays as long as he likes, because they benefit from his patronage and influence. Kentucky won’t vote out Mitch McConnell and California won’t vote out Diane Feinstein because their parties have solid majorities among the voters. Their parties won’t remove them because of deeply embedded patronage. They won’t remove themselves because of deeply embedded egos (when Biden said he would only run for one term, I laughed). And the Senate won’t vote for term limits on themselves for obvious reasons. The Supreme Court?

The U.S. is ruled by a gerontocracy. Not much choice about that but it would be less distasteful if these people would at least stop insisting that some kind of invisible popular will actually wants them to stay in office no matter how old.

If, in some fantastical sequence of events, Ramaswamy ends up the nominee and has a debate with Biden, I’ll tune in. It would be wonderfully weird.

I also note that neither party is in a good position to argue that their opponents are too old. Maybe they could at least stop insisting that they are going to “clean up” Washington.

Sports Oppression

The essential dynamic of most national sports teams is this: there is an administrative infrastructure of privileged coaches and managers and administrators who have the power to decide who plays and who doesn’t and why and when, and then there is the talent who actually achieves (or not) the desired results and provides the real “value” of sport: the entertainment of watching a competition.

When Canada decided to play Christine Sinclair and America decided to play Megan Rapinoe at the 2023 World Cup, it was the administrative side in action, deciding that certain players were “owed” the right to take the field in critical games even if their talents have largely faded and there were better players on the bench.  Look at the best players on the winning teams:  they are invariably young.

When Spanish players protested the ridiculous regimen coach Jorge Vilda imposed on the team during training (checking their rooms at night to see if they were there, searching bags for purchases, taking the bus instead of a plane to matches), management refused to hear them and demanded that they apologize before they could be considered for the national team.  Think about it: we do not play, we do not have the skills, we do not train, we do not diet, we do not sweat, but how dare you question our decisions of what you must do.  It’s obscene.  Bend your knee.

And then there was the kiss.   I note that most news outlets conspicuously did not broadcast the video of the horrible, shocking, terrible, disgusting, misogynistic, patriarchal buss.  I think it’s obvious why.  It was incredibly brief, and we see Jenni Hermosa embrace Rubiales as part of the transaction.  That doesn’t alter the fact that it was inappropriate and unwanted, but the context makes it less clear that this was some kind of monstrous gesture that must be punished with dismissal.

The Inevitable Double Standard!

I am not exaggerating.  But I have to stop a minute and insist here loudly that there is a monumental effect going on in which everyone must be swept up into and compelled to join the stampede and denounce the incident as a terrible act of sexual aggression.  It is not that.  It is trivial.  It is incredibly transient.  It is a stray impulse, a clumsy gesture.  It does not deserve the attention it is getting and I refuse to kowtow to the hoards on it.  And I am getting more and more disgusted by the movement behind it by the minute.

Many are calling it a “sexual assault”.  Oh, that’s smart: the next time someone hears the term “sexual assault” they will think it might refer to a kiss that lasted less than a second.   Or it could be rape.  Or forced sodomy.  Who knows?  It’s all sexual assault.

And now, it has ridiculously, absurdly, comically made the FRONT PAGE of the NEW YORK TIMES.  Yes, it has.  A fucking kiss that lasted less than one second.

Jenni Hermosa has released a statement.  I cannot confirm it but I would be willing to bet a pocketful of change that it was written by a feminist probably connected with the player’s union, and not by Hermosa.

A video has surfaced of the women’s team on the bus after the game making light of the incident, joking about it, shouting “kiss, kiss” when another man enters the bus, and looking at video of a female journalist kissing a member of the Spanish men’s team after a victory a few years ago.

There was a time when some anti-communists cited concerns about Santa Claus being a pernicious red influence on our children.  They should have stuck to Stalin.  The Santa Claus reference is remembered for ever as an exemplar of an overwrought movement that lost it’s mind getting hysterical about imagined insidious elements everywhere.  The feminists should learn from them and stick to real sexual violence.

It has become about something else.  It has become something Megan Rapinoe can seize upon as evidence of how horrible her life is because she is bullied and oppressed by the patriarchy even though by any objective standard Rapinoe lives an incredibly privileged life and even gets invited to play in a critical game when she is well past her prime (check out her performances at the 2023 World Cup: she was distinctly terrible– she couldn’t even lift corners into the box.)  To witness Rapinoe trying to leverage this incident into just how much she personally has suffered is more than obscene.

The kiss has become the Trump of the World Cup: sucking all the oxygen out of the room when it should be better spent on describing how remarkably exciting and beautiful the games were: the final games of the tournament were simply outstanding: thrilling passing, great shots, passionate defense, and compelling narratives.  You idiots– yes, I mean it– are obsessing over a trivial incident that is robbing the tournament of distinctive achievements.  You make this trivial gesture a monumental issue and then complain that it is Rubiales who distracted everyone from your glorious championship.

If the argument is that the entire regimen, the control and power exercised by the administrative parasites who plague all major sports should be deposed, the Royal Spanish Football Federation, I am enthusiastically on side.  Let’s dismantle it.  Fuck the coaches and managers: give the power to the players.  Let them elect the coaches and managers, or dismiss them, as is their wont; let’s please, please, please dump the vast array of parasitical support staff that accompany athletes to tournaments, get the best seats, stay at the best hotels, take away their medals if they smoked marijuana, and are never really kissed by anybody.

National Review’s writer Charles C. W. Cooke claimed that the women’s game is substandard.  As he recently put it, “It’s not good sports.” The final had exactly what he accused the women’s game of lacking: a fascinating clash of tactics played with speed and mesmeric flow, tense and fierce.  Atlantic

I hope activists fuck off with their hysteria about a kiss and take on the real enemy, the structure of international sports organizations, the fascistic culture of FIFA and the International Olympics Committee, the parasitical coaches who are as often as not women, and the flag-waving rabble of rabid nationalists who only care about a sport if their team wins the medals.

But they won’t.  Rubiales will resign and most of the world will breathe a sign of relief and act as if the crisis is over and the real powers of Spanish Football will remain untouched and unharmed and will all be sitting in the best box seats again at the next tournament.  You fools.  You have been gaslighted again.  And you will be again and again and again.

Incidentally, I have been unable to determine if the short video of “the kiss” that I found online is sourced from ESPN, FIFA, or what.  I don’t know if the medal ceremonies are as protected as the game itself.  Maybe it is.  Either way, one wonders how much taxpayers contribute to the costs of training, transportation, game facilities, and so on, and then, why the hell should they be denied the right to see video of the games, at least after the live broadcast?  I have not seen CBS, PBS, NBC, the New York Times, or anyone else post video of the kiss or of any part of the game.

Just how many parasites are there?

May be an image of 3 people, people playing soccer and people playing football

When the Beatles dropped by to see Elvis in the mid 1960’s, they were astonished that he had about 11 assistants living with him to take care of his every whim and need.  The Beatles at the time had 3 for all of them.

Elvis was a shallow, credulous, fat, drug-addled pop star by then.  The Beatles went on to create some of the most remarkable music of the 1960’s.

No coincidence.

Not so Swift

Taylor Swift recently posted a modest, tasteful, but firm tirade about the monsters in the investment industry who purchased her back-catalogue from  another monster, Scooter Braun.

I haven’t been able to locate much real information about this deal through Google but I am pretty sure what happened was this: Taylor Swift, early in her career, was offered a typical music industry contract that offered her fame and riches in exchange for, oh, don’t read the fine print, just sign…. here.  Thank you.  As the years went by, she, like the Beatles, and Tom Petty, and just about every other musical artist, discovered, to her astonishment, that she had signed away the rights to “her own” masters and the actual mechanical recordings of her albums.

I put “her own” in quotation marks because Swift is obviously a product of the machinery of super-stardom, the system that creates, manipulates, and manufactures celebrities who do something “act”, “sing”, shoot baskets, and then get promoted to death through social media, talk shows, magazines, and so on.  Those albums are certainly partly hers, and substantially the product of her “artistic” vision, but they are also certainly partly the product of the “star-maker machinery” (as Joni Mitchell termed it).  This is not Bob Dylan walking into the studio and the engineer pressing “record” and putting the result on vinyl.

Swift wrote three of the album’s songs alone and co-wrote the remaining eight with Rose, Robert Ellis Orrall, Brian Maher, and Angelo Petraglia.  Wiki

She was signed to Big Machine Records by Scott Borchetta and here’s where the original sin probably happened.  Here is where her contract probably specified that BMR owned the master recordings.  Here is the deal with the devil: BMR invested in Taylor Swift, bought studio time, paid expenses for engineers and back-up musicians, make-up artists, fashion designers– who knows– and, in return, took ownership of the masters.  [BMR would argue that that is only fair– look at how much they invested.  They would argue that they made Taylor Swift.  I would argue that it’s still exploitive and unfair and if they can’t live with an agreement that requires them to defer ownership of master recordings to the artist, then tough– go screw somebody else.]

Enter Scooter Braun.  He arranged the deal.  He had his entity purchase Borchetta’s entity (and Borchetta may be the more appropriate target of Swift’s fury) and thus ownership of the masters.  It’s a common deal in the industry and Swift, to be fair, does point that out.  Fair enough.  And fair enough that a young artist in the process of being signed is vulnerable to exploitation and the exploitation here is in persuading them to sign contracts that, if they are successful, benefit the agents and managers far more than the artist.

She discovered that Scooter Braun was a businessman, not an aesthete.  Braun got into the business by — I’m not making this up– organizing parties for touring musicians Eminem and Ludacris.

Taylor Swift examined his cv and decided, yes, that’s who I want managing my career.  Well, not exactly.  But Braun,  like so many of the unseemly people who work in the entertainment business, quickly grasped how to leverage himself into bigger and bigger roles within the industry.  He got Ludacris to endorse Pontiac.  Yes, the car company owned by GM.  Then he helped the Atlanta Hawks squeeze more revenue out of their fans.  And then he saw Justin Bieber on a Youtube video and he was off to the races.

The point is, Braun is a kind of the madame of an entertainment brothel and it does strike me as a little disingenuous of Taylor Swift to suddenly jump up and scream about who she is working for.

Braun, it is reported, made over $400 million by selling Swift’s catalogue to Shamrock.

In 2022, Braun met with Joe Biden in the White House to discuss the rise in hate crimes against Asians.

And this is delightful:

In 2018, Braun was honored with the Music Biz 2018 Harry Chapin Memorial Humanitarian Award for his philanthropic efforts in 2017.[67] He also received the Save the Children’s Humanitarian Award that year.  Wiki

You get the complete picture.  You’ve seen this character over and over in movies about the industry, the hustler, the glib manager, the guy who snorts cocaine with hip rich party-goers, makes the right noises about the environment and justice and Democratic politics, donates to the right causes, attends or hosts the right fund-raisers.  He’s a walking cliche.

He donated to Hilary Clinton and Kamala Harris.

He married a Canadian, Yael Cohen, founder of “Fuck Cancer”, in 2014.  Alas: divorced in 2022.

Taylor Swift is also known for her liberal politics.  It’s a bit odd to see this clash play out this way.

She is right to be outraged.  Not so right to blame it all on sexism.  Seriously?  She thinks the men in her industry don’t have this problem?  She thinks that it’s only the men who perpetuate this arrangement?  You think Tom Petty was given a pass because he was male?

Here is my response on Facebook:

I really doubt that male artists in the same predicament are not just as supportive as female artists– it doesn’t need to be made into an issue of sexism, even if that plays well with a certain segment of fandom. I also suspect that Swift signed a contract that gave control of her master recordings to these entities, something young artists find it hard to resist when a prospective glittering career is on the line. But I agree with her 100% that these deals are exploitive and unfair and I have long believed that Congress should regulate such contracts to protect young artists from signing away rights that should absolutely belong to them as artists in perpetuity. I also think a law should prohibit industry producers, arrangers, managers, recording engineers, etc., from claiming co-writing credits for songs on which their contributions were marginal at best. Bravo to Swift for standing up to the creeps.

So, yes, I generally support her, but I almost wanted to rescind my support when I realized that she– probably knowingly– decided to try to exploit the wave of feminist support by blaming institutional exploitive arrangement on men.

One last thing, Ms. Swift.   I’m glad to see you on your high horse about principles and integrity and honesty and truth and justice and all that.  May I bring up a little item you can do something about?


Perhaps someday we might hear you perform songs from your glorious catalogue in your real honest voice.

One critic says:

Though some of her loyal fans will never admit it, we all know deep in our hearts Taylor is an average singer at best. Taylor Swift is flawed, clumsy, and in many ways, uncool. She’s a flat-chested, pencil-thin, pale and awkward little girl with perpetual neurotic love drama brought on by self-esteem issues.



The First Republican Debate

Just some  off-the-cuff notes:

  1.  Vivek Ramaswamy is a shrill twerp. But he’ll do well with the young segment of the Republican base who really believe the federal government can improve education by abolishing the education department. I like the fact that he thinks his first job in government should be as president. Like Reagan, on his first day on the job he’ll ask where the “War Room” is because he watched “Dr. Strangelove” once.
  2. Pence did better than I thought he would– but it won’t help him because he torpedoed Trump on January 6 and the MAGA base will never forgive him.
  3. Haley is aiming for the general election. She was rational, thoughtful, smart, and astute. Doomed in the primaries, but, curiously, not setting herself up for VP as I thought she would.
  4. Christie fell flat because Trump, his main target, wasn’t there, and attacking Ramaswamy puts him in “shoot the messenger” territory. He didn’t charm or even amuse anybody.
  5.  Asa Hutchinson and Doug Burgum might as well pack up and go home.
  6.  DeSantis shut down Florida just like everyone else did at the start of the pandemic. Forget that, please. Those in the audience with short memories cheered his claim that he never did. He was probably the most brazen liar in the bunch. His abrasive style didn’t fool anybody: he’s also a nerd.
  7.  Republicans are counting on voters to not know– as they surely do– that the vast proportion of illegal drugs come right through the ports of entry in many of the millions of vehicles that cross every day, and not in the pockets of illegal migrants.
  8.  The idea of “defunding the police” has never had traction within the Democratic party but the Republican base loves to think it has.
  9.  It is absolutely stunning to me that Mike Pence, of all people, has abandoned a position on abortion he has always declared to be inviolate and now advocates a 15-week limit. Absolutely stunning, and that tells you how worried Republicans are about that issue in the upcoming election. His problem is that the state legislatures aren’t listening to him. It also reflects poorly on his sincerity as the most forward Christian in the group.
  10.  I keep reading that Tim Scott is supposed to be the sunshine candidate in this group. He was the one that sounded like ChatGPT mindlessly trotting out those stale Republican tropes about “weaponization of the Justice Department”, blah, blah, blah. I think he blew his one chance to make himself stand out.
  11.  Where was “woke”? Where was CRT? LGBQ issues? Nobody picked up DeSantis’ favorite whipping boys. Worried about the general election, gentlemen? Not much about Hunter Biden either.
  12.  Haley did Biden a favor with her very forthright endorsement of U.S. support for Zelensky and Ukraine.

I’m puzzled about where this is all heading. Trump’s lead is kind of insurmountable so conventional wisdom is that most of these candidates are lobbying for the now vacant VP nomination. Ramaswamy is going to be too toxic. Hutchinson and Burgum bring nothing to the table. Pence and Christie are obviously right out. Haley would seem well-positioned as long as she is careful about what she says about Trump. She’s a woman, a minority, and she has some appeal to independent voters and soft Democrats. Tim Scott is in the right position– sucking up to Trump enthusiastically– and he is more in the Pence mode which Trump might prefer to the sometimes electrifying Haley. Trump will not have anything to do with a candidate that might upstage him.

How does it all end? Ramaswamy picks up support in Iowa, as does Haley. Hutchinson and Burgum go home. Christie runs out of money. Pence and Scott hang in there for the first few primaries then drop out. DeSantis slowly, painfully, mercilessly fades out as primary voters discover that they just don’t like him very much. Then, if Trump really is as smart as his fans think he is, he makes Nikki Haley his running mate and she starts quietly laying the groundwork for a run in 2028. If Biden stays reasonably healthy and inflation continues to drop, Trump loses the election; Haley is president in 2028.

I’d lay equal money on Trump signing up Scott as his running mate. I don’t think that will play well and I doubt the two would have the slightest genuine rapport.