Why your favorite musicians are broke [some parallels with writers]

My more experienced and accomplished writer friends either belly-ache at length about the tradpub contracts they are laboring under, or discuss their success as indie authors and share tips and tricks. (madgeniusclub.com is one place where they do so.)

My own decision to go indie was easily made. I have enough headaches dealing with scientific publishers and peer review in my day job that the idea of putting up with this after hours fills me with enthusiasm comparable to, well, watching ‘Barney In Concert’ on repeat.

Much of what is going on in tradpub parallels or follows the process that started considerably earlier in the music industry. If anything, musicians get Below is a series of three videos that looks at why so many successful popular singers or bands may not only have no money but may actually owe the record company money they don’t have!

You see, unlike advances a publisher pays to a writer (such as they are — the amounts are getting more pitiful by the day) advances a record company pays to a band are ‘recoverable’! They are meant to pay for studio time, equipment, session musicians,… and any expenses left unpaid can be defrayed by ‘recovering’ the advance(d money).

After physical record distribution became largely supplanted by first downloading, then streaming. record companies started forcing “360 [degrees]” contracts on artists, in which they claim a cut (e.g., 25%) of everything the artist does — live gigs, merchandizing,..

To some degree, the money the record company fleeces off its biggest-selling artists serves to subsidize the loss leaders — it can be hard to predict which artist will become popular enough to generate a net profit. One consequence is still more predatory contract writing, another is extreme risk averseness that leads to all ‘songs’ in certain genres sounding the same. (Have you wondered why so many popular songs are based on a permutation of the I-vi-IV-V progression? Some derpseal A&R type concluded that this is required for a hit single nowadays.)

An increasing number of music artists have reached the conclusion they need record companies like the proverbial fish needs a bike, and instead try to do as muc as they can themselves. (Generally that requires not just business sense, but a level of musical talent that the average ephemeral ‘star’ doe not have.)

The videos get some things badly wrong — most egregiously, the claim that session musicians hired in the studio share in the royalties. Nope, rare exceptions aside (session singer Clare Torrey was given a writer’s credit for her contribution to Pink Floyd’s The Great Gig In The Sky from Dark Side Of The Moon), but only after lengthy litigation) studio session musicians are compensated on a “work for hire” basis, where their session fee is considered full payment for their services.

But all in all, they offer especially writers a different perspective on their own woes, with similarities and differences. You will not regret the time spent on watching these videos.

Turtleboy of the week: Nike CEO says his company is “of China and for China” during earnings call; inaugural “profstitutes of the week” award

Via Steve Green. Good grief. He’d better get his turtle costume ready for when Chairman Xi visits the factory.

The list of “woke” or at least “socially responsible” companies that are completely mum on China’s crackdown on Hong Kong journalists, or its running a concentration“re-education” camp system for Uyghurs, is sadly very long. But the Nike CEO is a worthy “first among equals” in CCP brown-nosingsycophancy.

And as long as we’re handing out rude awards, the inaugural “profstitutes [sic] of the week” award goes to the “Professors of Language, Literacy, and English Education” who at a recent symposium declared that correct grammar is racist and there is no such thing as standard English. [Instapundit snarks they are not going far enough and should abolish their own department for good measure.]

This particular award sadly cannot be displayed on a family-friendly website, not even below the Biden-Xi meeting commemorative statue displayed above. So this image of the Moscow Museum of the History of Prostitution [profstitution?] will have to do.

“The respectable prostitute”, one-act play by Jean-Paul Sartre

The power of intolerant minorities

Item the first:

Insty linked an article called All The Lovely People by a blogger who was new to me. In a nutshell, it describes the situation in various school, nonprofit, and corporate boards — populated by nice, ‘clubbable’ [i.e., whom you want to admit to your club] people with vaguely middle-of-the-road worldviews, who allow their organizations to be hijacked by a few fanatic radicals. Nobody would stand up to the latter, lest they be known as “intolerant” or “not nice”.

[This is actually one situation where being ‘on the spectrum’ can be an asset — aspies typically don’t care much about being considered nice, while they often have a very well-developed sense of right and wrong.]

Item the second:

During a lecture (in Hebrew) on Islamism in Israel, Dr. Mordechai Kedar — a professor of Arabic who spent 25 years as a senior military intelligence analyst — was asked whether Israeli Muslims are violent.

“Oh no, not at all,” he immediately responded. “The vast, vast majority are peaceful. The trouble is that whenever, wherever you have a peaceful majority and a violent minority, the violent minority will end up setting the public agenda.”

Both are actually special cases of what Nassim Nicholas Taleb refers to as “The Most Intolerant Wins” — also the title of a chapter [freely available on Medium] in his book “Skin in the Game”.

It suffices for an intransigent minority –a certain type of intransigent minorities –to reach a minutely small level, say three or four percent of the total population, for the entire population to have to submit to their preferences. Further, an optical illusion comes with the dominance of the minority: a naive observer would be under the impression that the choices and preferences are those of the majority.

He uses “intransigent” in two meanings here, which I will call “won’t” and “can’t”. People with severe food allergies are “can’t” — some people can be in very serious trouble after eating peanuts, while the peanut-free food they require can be eaten by everybody else just fine.[*] Strict Muslims who eat Halal, and Orthodox Jews who keep strictly kosher [in practice, many traditional Jews like myself have a repertoire of workarounds if no certified-kosher food is available] are “won’t”.

Someone with a peanut allergy will not eat products that touch peanuts but a person without such allergy can eat items without peanut traces in them.

Which explains why it is so hard to find peanuts on airplanes and why schools are peanut-free (which, in a way, increases the number of persons with peanut allergies as reduced exposure is one of the causes behind such allergies).

Let us apply the rule to domains where it can get entertaining:

An honest person will never commit criminal acts but a criminal will readily engage in legal acts.

Let us call such minority an intransigent group, and the majority a flexibleone. And the rule is an asymmetry in choices.

He goes on to explain that in a situation where the minority lives in a “ghetto” of the like-minded, this effect cannot apply — it has to be living among the majority. Second, the size of the minority that can force an accommodation on the majority is proportional to the costs it imposes on the majority. If having a certain food item certified ‘kosher’ (or ‘halal’ or ‘organic’) requires no changes to the recipe and nothing much beyond paying the inspection fee, then it takes just a small minority of customers to achieve this. (The company saves itself the logistical headache of dealing with two separate supply chains, or of an upstart offering a competing product targeting the niche market.)

Consider that transgenic-GMO eaters will eat nonGMOs, but not the reverse. So it may suffice to have a tiny, say no more than five percent of evenly spatially distributed population of non-genetically modified eaters for the entire population to have to eat non-GMO food. 

There is, of course, a difference between intransigent minorities who just want to be able to observe their particular religious [or other] restriction and do not care what anybody else not part of their “club” does (I do not know any Orthodox Jews who seek to make non-Jews observe kashrut[**]), versus intransigent minorities who seek to impose their preferences on everybody else.

Figure 2 shows four boxes exhibiting what is called fractal self-similarity. Each box contains four smaller boxes. Each one of the four boxes will contain four boxes, and so all the way down, and all the way up until we reach a certain level. There are two colors: yellow for the majority choice, and pink for the minority one.

Assume the smaller unit contains four people, a family of four. One of them is in the intransigent minority and eats only nonGMO food (which includes organic). The color of the box is pink and the others yellow . We “renormalize once” as we move up: the stubborn daughter manages to impose her rule on the four and the unit is now all pink, i.e. will opt for nonGMO. Now, step three, you have the family going to a barbecue party attended by three other families. As they are known to only eat nonGMO, the guests will cook only organic. The local grocery store realizing the neighborhood is only nonGMO switches to nonGMO to simplify life, which impacts the local wholesaler, and the stories continues and “renormalizes”.

[…] .As I am writing these lines, people are disputing whether the freedom of the enlightened West can be undermined by the intrusive policies that would be needed to fight Salafi fundamentalists.

Clearly can democracy –by definition the majority — tolerate enemies? The question is as follows: “ Would you agree to deny the freedom of speech to every political party that has in its charter the banning the freedom of speech?” Let’s go one step further, “Should a society that has elected to be tolerant be intolerant about intolerance?”

This is in fact the incoherence that Kurt Gödel (the grandmaster of logical rigor) detected in the constitution while taking the naturalization exam. Legend has it that Gödel started arguing with the judge and Einstein, who was his witness during the process, saved him.

I wrote about people with logical flaws asking me if one should be “skeptical about skepticism”; I used a similar answer as Popper when was asked if “ one could falsify falsification”.

We can answer these points using the minority rule. Yes, an intolerant minority can control and destroy democracy. Actually, as we saw, it willeventually destroy our world.

[*] As a footnote: a wildly popular Israeli children’s snack called “Bamba” is peanut butter-based. Not coincidentally, peanut allergies are basically unheard of in Israel, presumably through desensitization.

[**] the special case of Israel, where in some very religious cities explicitly nonkosher food can be difficult to obtain, is not relevant to this discussion since Jews are not a minority in the Jewish state.

Dark musical beauty: “Absolomb” by Periphery

Veteran producer and multi-instrumentalist Rick Beato’s “What Makes This Song Great” series figured the song “Absolomb” [sic] by progressive metal band Periphery.

The lyrics are inspired by the Biblical story of King David’s son Absalom [Avshalom in Hebrew] rising up against him, trying to kill his father, and ultimately killing himself by accident — his father grieving bitterly despite all. [“Absalom! Absalom! Would that I had died for thee!” — 2 Samuel 18:33]

Reputations made
I failed to save
The cold I seek is all I’ll feel
Today I’m selling mine after all
Watch it all fade away to gray
I sold it to rule the world
If only I could rescue you
Cleaning up the mess we’ve made
It’s not the same without your love
Do you care at all?
I don’t see a difference
Is this love at all?
We stayed so close in this life at one time
Now I watch as you fade away
behind the wall of hate inside your mind
Will we meet again?
I’ll be waiting beyond the edge
Forever frozen
Now time stops again
I’ve found that it’s all gone
The absence within us grows
Illuminate the way we choose to flow
Do you care at all?
I don’t see a difference
Is this love at all?
I hold one last feeling of hope
Our paths will meet again
Beyond the edge
Forever frozen
Time stops now

This is the full studio track

And here is an amazing cover on YouTube of this evocative, but technically very demanding piece of music

Could not resist sharing this thing of dark beauty.

COVID19 mini-update, June 27, 2021: is the delta bark worse than its bite?

Consider these three graphs starting at the beginning of 2021, all screencapped from the COVID data at OurWorldInData. Pay attention especially to the UK, which is the epicenter of the delta wave in Europe:

For the UK, note the steep uptick from the delta variant
But this is accompanied by only a modest increase in hospitalizations
And note what is NOT seen in the mortality graph

The reported case fatality rate from the UK is 0.3% for the delta variant, compared to 2% from wild type and alpha variant combined. It is reasonable to assume that this reflects most vulnerable people at this point being either vaccinated or having recovered from COVID.

In addition, Prof. Eran Segal, on Twitter, notes that the latest Public Health UK report revises the earlier estimate of “60% more contagious” down to 40%.

Dr. Campbell also notes that symptoms from the delta variant are quite different.

In a nutshell, based on data from the “COVID19 symptom reporter” app in the UK:

  • if you got two jabs and still contract COVID (remember, no vaccine is 100% effective!) symptoms are generally those of “coryza” (a headcold: headache, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat). “Fever” is only the 12th most commonly reported symptom, “shortness of breath” the 29th (!)
  • if you only had one jab and contracted COVID, persistent coughing becomes the 5th most common symptom
  • if unvaccinated, fever becomes the fourth
  • The delta variant, unlike the wild type (“classic COVID”) does not seem to cause much loss of taste and smell

Our public health authorities are watching the outbreaks of delta variant among school children in Binyamina, Modiin like hawks, but it is considered highly improbable that we will see a repeat of the horrid scenario of last winter.

Instead, our news media are filled with reports from the scene of the condo tower collapse in Surfside, an upscale beachside suburb of Miami, FL: the population was largely Jewish and many have relatives in Israel. An IDF rescue unit has flown to the US. Good luck to the rescuers and speedy recovery to the wounded.

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that three years ago, an engineering firm had estimated that the building needed over $9m in major structural repairs.

Sabbath musical delight: J. S. Bach, Pastorale in F major BWV 590 and Aria with Variations in the Italian Style BWV 989

The Pastorale in F major BWV 590 is a delightful 4-movement organ piece, clearly meant to be also suitable for playing on a small “Positiv” or “Portativ” organ. (Only the 1st movement requires pedals, and those are mostly long drones that an assistant or page turner could press.)

The second piece is a live performance by one of the new bright stars on the piano firmament, the Icelandic virtuoso Vikingur Olafsson. He is playing Bach’s Aria with variations in the Italian style, in A minor, BWV 989.

Enjoy, have a nice weekend, and shabbat shalom!

COVID19 update, June 25, 2021: the delta and “delta+” variants; ivermectin

(a) Israel has reintroduced indoor face masks effective noon today, following two outbreaks in schools in the cities of Binyamina and Modi`in. Both outbreaks appear to be the delta (“Indian”) variant (lineage B.1.617.2), imported by returnees from vacations abroad, and particularly by unvaccinated returned children. (Israel has opened vaccinations for ages 12-15 only very recently, but the public health authorities were not promoting it, just keeping it as an option.)

Public health authorities seem to be in a “let’s nip this one in the bud” mode. From July 1, vaccinated tourists were supposed to be able to enter immediately without any quarantine (not even the 1 day typically required for an antibody test — unlike many countries, Israel considers vaccinees and recovered patients largely equivalent). This has now been postponed by a month.

Experts doubt that this delta variant will lead to anything resembling the last major outbreak. There was concern that delta could be an “escape mutation”, i.e., one that can bypass the vaccine protection. However, data are available from the UK, where the delta variant has outcompeted the alpha (“British”) variant and is now responsible for essentially all new cases. The UK uses both Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines. According to a June 14 report from Public Health UK [details here], two shots of Pfizer are 96% [uncertainty interval: 86–99%] protective against hospitalization, compared to 92% [UI: 75-97%] for Oxford-AstraZeneca. Single shots of either vaccine (especially Oxford/AstraZeneca) protect noticeably less from the delta than from the alpha variant — this is an issue in the UK which followed a “maximum first jabs first, only then second jabs” strategy, unlike Israel where almost everybody got their second shots within 3 weeks.

I would say caution is required, and it is probably best to act while there is time to do so without economically crippling measures — but like Prof. Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute, I very much doubt we will go back to the situation during the last wave.

(b) This is my face. It is shocked. Countries that relied on Sinovac, such as Chile or some of our Arab neighbors, now find that Sinovac works as “well” as one would expect from a “gift” by Chairman Xi the turtle-“lover”. [NYT link; archive copy]

(c) now a “delta+” variant is getting mentioned in the press. What is this even? “Delta+” refers to the delta variant with one additional mutation in the spike protein: K417N, or in plain English: at position 417, it has Asparagine (N) instead of Lysine (K).

Amino acids are referred to in research by two compact notations: three-letter codes which are easy to remember, and single-letter codes which take a bit getting used to. Mutations in which a single amino acid in a protein is replaced by another are denoted XnY, where n is the position in the protein sequence, X the one-letter code of the wild-type amino acid, and Y the one-letter code for the substitute in the mutant.

Prof Ravi Gupta, Professor of Clinical Microbiology, University of Cambridge, said:

“As yet there is no clear evidence that the AY.1 is more transmissible or immune evasive than the Delta Variant.  The K417N mutation has previously occurred on a background of Alpha variant, without significant increased expansion in cases, and now Delta; it likely has little effect on infectiousness of the virus and could have a small effect on antibody binding responses post vaccination.”

(d) Dr. John Campbell [congratulations on hitting the 1M subscriber milestone on Youtube!] draws attention to a recently published meta-analysis of clinical trials with the cheap antiparasitic ivermectin.

The drug had earlier been shown to inhibit the replication of the virus in vitro — see https://doi.org/10.1016/j.antiviral.2020.104787 — but that’s still a big step away from whether it will work in actual human patients. This newest meta-analysis, however, does seem to represent a positive answer:

Bryant, A.; Lawrie, T. A.; Dowswell, T.; Fordham, E. J.; Mitchell, S.; Hill, S. R.; Tham, T. C. Ivermectin for Prevention and Treatment of COVID-19 Infection. Am. J. Ther. 2021, ASAP, 1–25. http://doi.org/10.1097/MJT.0000000000001402

Let me just quote the abstract:

Meta-analysis of 15 trials found that ivermectin reduced risk of death compared with no ivermectin (average risk ratio 0.38, 95% confidence interval 0.19–0.73; n = 2438; I2 = 49%; moderate-certainty evidence). This result was confirmed in a trial sequential analysis using the same DerSimonian–Laird method that underpinned the unadjusted analysis. This was also robust against a trial sequential analysis using the Biggerstaff–Tweedie method. Low-certainty evidence found that ivermectin prophylaxis reduced COVID-19 infection by an average 86% (95% confidence interval 79%–91%). Secondary outcomes provided less certain evidence. Low-certainty evidence suggested that there may be no benefit with ivermectin for “need for mechanical ventilation,” whereas effect estimates for “improvement” and “deterioration” clearly favored ivermectin use. Severe adverse events were rare among treatment trials and evidence of no difference was assessed as low certainty. Evidence on other secondary outcomes was very low certainty.


Moderate-certainty evidence finds that large reductions in COVID-19 deaths are possible using ivermectin. Using ivermectin early in the clinical course may reduce numbers progressing to severe disease. The apparent safety and low cost suggest that ivermectin is likely to have a significant impact on the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic globally.

But you could get censored by Facebook or YouTube for saying this last year. [The “big pharma conspiracy” theory is not entirely convincing: the corticosteroid dexamethasone, likewise dirt cheap, and quite beneficial in tamping down on ARDS in severe patients, has meanwhile become an accepted part of hospital treatment.]

Breaking: US Senate preserves filibuster, blocking Orwellian-named “For The People” HR-1

The word “filibuster” comes from the Spanish filibustero , freebooter. In a parliamentary context, it means a delaying tactic aimed at delaying a vote (e.g., because your coalition whips are still rounding MPs or MKs up). Endless speeches are one filibuster technique: here in Israel, a favored technique is submitting hundreds or thousands of trivial amendments to a law, each of which is guaranteed a minimum discussion time.

In the US Senate, a device named “cloture” exists where a supermajority of 60 senators can vote to end debate on a law and bring it to a vote. This normally guarantees that truly controversial laws cannot be voted through on narrow majorities.

The cynically named HR-1, “For The People”, which would effectively end all forms of voter identity verification and guarantee a perpetual one-party state through legalized ballot stuffing, passed the house on a razor-thin margin, and could just barely pass the Senate “thanks” to the tie-breaking vote of the Vice President. Fortunately, it stays in procedural limbo there without “cloture”, and the Deemocratic [sic] Party just lost that vote: the Senate divided 50:50 on party lines, 10 votes short of what is required.

“This is an extraordinarily cynical bill, in my opinion, even by Washington standards. It’s very ruthless, even by Washington standards,” Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana said Tuesday on Fox News.

“Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and Senator Schumer call it, I think, the ‘For The People Act,’ but I think it would be more aptly described as the Screw the People Act. It will make it much easier to cheat in an election,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has said that bill contained a “rotten core: an assault on the fundamental idea that states, not the federal government, should decide how to run their own elections.”

In his Tuesday floor remarks before the vote, McConnell lambasted “Democrats’ transparently partisan plan to tilt every election in America permanently in their favor. By now, the rotten inner workings of this power grab have been thoroughly exposed to the light.”

“It’s a recipe for undermining confidence in our elections. For remaking our entire system of government to suit the preferences of one far end of the political spectrum,” he said.

Powerline wonders if this is the week where the wheels start coming off the regressive“progressive” bus. Apparentlyy, according to a Monmouth poll the abolition of voter ID is not only deeply unpopular with the US electorate at large but remains so even with D voters (62% of whom support voter ID, compared to 87% of independents and 91% of R). In fact, minorities who are supposedly “disenfranchized” by voter ID are more likely (84%) to support voter ID than white voters (77%).

Powerline also includes data on what percent of the electorate already possesses some form of government ID: 93.71% of blacks, 95.25% of Hispanics, 97.7% of whites, and 98.78% of Asians.

Media meltdown, summer solstice edition: why Twitter is extremely unrepresentative of the public; NYT’s Jonathan Weisman is our Turtleboy of the Month

(1) Via Ed Driscoll on Instapundit, Brian Riedl tweets some surprising (?) data from Pew Research about the Twitter user base that has so many media and corporate types quaking in their boots:

  • Twitter users are D+15 – which would tie HI & VT for the most liberal state
  • The 10% of Twitter users who post 92% of all tweets are D+43 – which would make it America’s 2nd most [leftist] House district [!].
  • 3% of the population creates 90% of all tweets

As Insty quipped back in 2019, “Twitter sentiment is a styrofoam iceberg. You may think 9/10 of it is underwater, but actually, 9/10 of it is visible.” [ADDENDUM: is this Babylon Bee classic really all that satirical? New York Times To Run All Facts By Angry, Pitchfork-Wielding Mob Before Going To Print]

There has always a general tendency to overestimate support for the cause trumpeted by the loudest shouters. Tw*tter is not just the loudest megaphone radicals could ever dream of: dissenting voices are actively shut down or shadowbanned when they risk becoming heard too much.

As a result, corporate boards and bureaucrats who think Twitter (and similar echo chambers-cum-amplifiers) to be representative of their audience will be blindsided by phenomena like the ever-louder backlash by parents against Charge-reversed Racist Tripe, er, so-called “critical race theory”. Not far from my onetime home in Chicagoland, one irate [black] father went viral with this video calling CRT out as “BS” and “teaching children to hate each other”:

(2) Competition for the Turtleboy of the Month award is always very crowded, but this one — the New York Times’s Jonathan Weisman pontificating that Winnie The Flu COVID-19 is more the fault of Trump than of the ChiCom regime — would have done the regime’s official “news” agency Xinhua proud.

The other actual crisis is a once-in-a-century pandemic that has killed at least 600,000 people in the U.S. The effort to spin up outrage over the Wuhan lab-leak theory — to blame China entirely for all of those deaths — is clearly an effort to try to make Americans forgive Trump for his mishandling of the coronavirus by convincing them it was all a Chinese plot. For the most pro-Trump partisans, that’s a slam dunk. For everyone else, it’s probably a stretch.

Even if it is somehow proved that the coronavirus was invented in a Chinese laboratory, its spread in the United States was far more the fault of Trump than of Xi Jinping.

Jonathan, let me quote to you our ancestral proverb, “A Jew can be stupid, but it is not a ‘thou shalt’ commandment” [mitzvat `aseh, מצוות עשה]

“Chairman Xi Jinping and Jonathan Weisman, by the power vested in me by the State of New York, I declare you man and turtle”

COVID19 mini-update, June 20, 2021: delta (“Indian”) variant now 99% of cases in UK; what do we know about the variants at this point; more vitamin D evidence; Israel-PA dispute on Pfizer vaccines transfer

(1) Dr. John Campbell reports that in the UK, the delta (“Indian”) variant has now driven out the alpha (“British”) variant almost completely, and accounts for 99% of cases in the UK.

However, double-vaccinated patients seem to be largely protected even against the delta variant.

If you’re confused about the new nomenclature:

  • alpha refers to the “British” or “Kent” variant (lineage B.1.1.7)
  • beta refers to the “South African” variant (lineage B.1.351)
  • gamma to the “Brazilian” variant (lineage P.1)
  • delta to the “Indian” variant (lineage B.1.617.2)

(2) What do we know about the delta variant so far? Here is a roundup. Insty thinks the variants are overhyped: I do believe some caution is warranted, but not panic nor hysterical overreactions. From the roundup:

[E]vidence suggests that two-dose immunizations with AstraZeneca or Pfizer reduced hospitalizations by 92 percent and 96 percent, respectively. Protection from symptomatic disease was reduced by 17 percent for Delta compared to Alpha with only a single dose of vaccine. Modest reductions in effectiveness against symptomatic disease were noted following two vaccine doses.

(3) More vitamin D evidence: a preprint from Galilee Medical Center

DOI: 10.1101/2021.06.04.21258358

This is a retrospective study looking at mortality at that hospital during the epidemic (which, perhaps somewhat prematurely, is being referred to in the past tense here) and its correlation with vitamin D deficiency. In a nutshell: among hospitalized severe COVID19 cases with severe deficiency, mortality reached 25%, compared to just 3% (!) if vitamin D is adequate.

In Israel, if you have light skin and spend even a bit of time outside, you get plenty of vitamin D. If you have dark skin and spend all your time indoors (or, in some population sectors, all covered up), you definitely will want to fortify your diet with vitamin D.

Besides, vitamin D and zinc supplementation are in the “a good idea from a general health perspective” category.

But “wat baten kaars en bril als de uil niet zien wil” (what good can candles and spectacles be, if the owl does not care to see)…

(4) Even during the previous government, a measure to transfer 1.2 million surplus Pfizer vaccines to the “Palestinian Authority” had already been approved in principle, but it was tied up in red tape. The current health minister has approved the transfer: now we are being accused of endangering the “health of Palestinians” with “expired” vaccines (which are weeks from expiring, but still quite effective). Khaled Abu Toameh in the Jerusalem Post, has more. Israel is in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” position here, because the other side’s regime does not really care about its own population, only about not losing precious “face”.

As my Facebook friend “Tully” reminded me in another context: The so-called ‘issue’ is never the issue. The revolution is always the issue, and the so-called ‘issue’ is but a pretext.

Catching up: Jon Stewart mocks ‘wet market’ COVID origin story; Niall Ferguson and VDH on wokeism as a religion

Insanely busy at work, including tricky academic writing. A few “in case you missed it” items:

(1) When you’ve lost Jon Stewart…: during an appearance on the Colbert Show, the comedian and talkshow host so beloved of the ‘smart set’ mocks the “bats and wet markets” origin story.

“[…] You ask a scientist, ‘So wait a minute, you work at the Wuhan respiratory coronavirus lab, how did this happen?’ And they’re like, ‘mmm, a pangolin kissed a turtle?’ No! Look at the name of your lab! It’s the coronavirus lab in Wuhan!
[…] Maybe a bat flew into the cloaca of a turkey and then it sneezed into my chilli and now we all have coronavirus.
[… It’s like] an outbreak of chocolatey goodness near Hershey, Pennsylvania. Maybe a steam shovel mated with a cocoa bean … or it’s the f***in’ chocolate factory!”

(2) In the Daily Wire, British-born Harvard historian Prof. Niall Ferguson says the US is dealing not just with the decay of traditional religion, but with something far worse:

“It’s not a secular political ideology … it’s not really about economics,” he continued. “It is about salvation, membership of the elect of the woke. It’s about persecuting heretics. It’s about elaborate rituals of speech that can only be pursued by the believers. It’s rather cult like, Matt Yglesias is not somebody I usually agree with, but he called it the Great Awokening. This was a very astute observation. So we are dealing not just with the decay of traditional religion, but far worse, the rise of new fake religions, political religions, and one thing that’s very clear from the 20th century is that when people take their religious feelings, and they apply them to political ideologies, terrible things can happen.”

“Central to what made communism so deadly, was it’s ultimately a religion, Marx is ultimately a prophet and Marxism is a kind of religion,” he continued. “The same was true of Nazism. The most ardent Nazis thought of Hitler and explicitly called him a redeemer of the German nation. So we’ve got to be very careful of political religions. Politics is not something that you should approach with a religious impulse. If you start feeling religiously about politics, take a lie down, you know, have some sleep, take a long walk and try again because politics should not be imbued with religious sentiment.”

Read the whole thing.

In a similar vein, Victor Davis Hanson dissects the anatomy of the woke madness. Read that whole thing too.

(3) Why is BLM pivoting to BDS? Brandy Shufutinsky, herself Black, answers in detail: “Follow The Money“. Once more, read the whole thing.

(4) There is an aphorism, widely misattributed to Otto von Bismarck, to the effect that G-d “protects fools, drunks, and the United States of America”. Boy, do they need it now with this FICUS “leadership” in charge…

The Invisible Sculpture Sale is Symbolic of the Systematic Shams Elites Expect Us to Swallow

“Everything is possible when nothing is real” (Living Colour)


Artist sells 'invisible sculpture' for $18K | Fox News

You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet:

The $18,000 “Immaterial” Sculpture

The art world is in a crisis of relevance these days. Just about the only time art gets attention outside the culture industry cocoon is when it can exemplify stupidity, envy, or a combination of the two.

Stupidity comes when a PR hungry artist performs a silly stunt, like taping a banana to the wall. Or puts their dirty unmade bed into a gallery

Envy is invoked when a stunning sales price is announced. Most understand a high value for rarity and quality, such as a presumed work by a master like Leonardo Di Vinci; the uncertain Salvator Mundi sold for $450 million in 2017. People wonder how anyone could have that much money to spend on something made just to look at, and imagine what they could do those kind of funds.

But usually the art selling for inflated…

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COVID19 mini-update, June 15, 2021: Israel drops indoor mask requirement, last vestige of COVID restrictions

As of today, Israel abolished its final remaining COVID restriction not related to international travel: the requirement to wear masks indoors in public/shared spaces. (The outdoor mask mandate was abolished about a month ago, after several weeks of non-enforcement.)

Incoming travelers from abroad still are subject to COVID test and quarantine: however, you can get an antibody test (for either vaccine or past recovery — Israel treats these as equivalent) and if you do have antibodies, get discharged from quarantine the same day. If you have a “green tag” from Israel (vaccination or recovery certificate), you can skip the quarantine altogether. (All other uses of the “green tag” have been abolished effective June 1.)

According to the Ministry of Health dashboard, we have 212 active cases in the country (presumably, as usual, half of them asymptomatic), 11 of them in isolation hotels, 53 in hospital, the rest in self-isolation at home. Of those 53, 29 are severe cases (19 on respirators, some of them hospitalized months ago), the 24 remaining ones mild cases hospitalized for something else.

Deaths are down to 1 every other day or so, from 80+ a day at the peak of the epidemic. The average over the past month is 1/day. Inside sources tell me almost everybody hospitalized now is from the Arab or Beduin sectors, which have been very vaccine-shy. The “general sector” (everybody not Arab, Beduin, or “ultra-Orthodox”) has over 90% vaccinated or documented recovery above the age of 16 — again, the working assumption of our public health authorities is that recovery imparts a level of protection comparable to the Pfizer vaccine we use here. Corona wards in the major cities in the center of the country have been shut down or mothballed for lack of patients, or repurposed as generic internal medicine wards.

One tail-end issue that came up, and has landed on the desk of the new Minister of Health, Nitzan Horowitz (a former journalist, and actually a fairly sharp cookie despite me disagreeing with pretty much everything he stands for): at the height of the crisis, emergency authorization for hiring several hundred additional doctors was given to the public hospitals during the height of the epidemic. Now the budget has dried up, and those doctors find themselves out of a job despite the public hospitals being chronically understaffed even in normal times (especially during the winter season)…

Unprecedented Israeli government sworn in: Netanyahu finally heads to opposition

Just seconds ago in the Knesset, a motion of confidence in the new coalition passed 60-59 with one abstention.

Binyamin Netanyahu, after 12 years, had to vacate his seat on the Government Bench and take a seat as an ordinary MK. So did most other ministers, except the several holdovers such as Denfense Minister Binyamin “Benny” Gantz.

And now incoming PM Naftali Bennett took the oath.

The first step of the procedure was the vote on a new Speaker of the Knesset: former Jerusalem police commissioner Michael “Miki” Levy, the candidate of the coalition, won that vote handily with 65 votes (including a few from the opposition). He was then handed the hammer by outgoing Speaker, Yariv Levin. He skipped his acceptance speech so a hospitalized MK, who and came especially to the Knesset for the confidence vote, could vote immediately and then be brought back to the hospital.

Presently, the ministers are sworn in one by one, in alphabetical order.

Netanyahu is down for now… but not out.

A few firsts:

  • unprecedented 2 minority ministers (1 Druze, 1 Arab)
  • first-ever Ethiopian Jewish minister (Pnina Tamano-Shata, minister of Immigrant Absorption)
  • unprecedented number of woman ministers, including in key ministries (such as Ayelet Shaked as Interior Minister and Yifat Shasha-Biton as Education Minister)
  • first-ever Orthodox PM
  • … but also…
  • smallest ‘home’ faction ever for the PM (just 6 MKs)
  • not even 61 MKs

Of course Netanyahu will try to stay relevant and make [his former associate!] Bennett’s life hell. Even without that, within 5 months the new government will have to get a budget approved with 61 MKs, or Bennett is done.

So I would not rush to eulogize Netanyahu — we haven’t seen the last of him.

Honestly, for many like myself it’s a bittersweet moment. Netanyahu has been a talented leader and both friend and foe admire his political cunning — but after 15 years as PM (3 years 1996-1999 and then the last 12 years) he had clearly developed a case of “Louis XIV syndrome” (l’état, c’est moi). And in the process of, slicha al ha-bitui/pardon the expression, shafting one political ally after another for short-term political gain, his mounting paranoia that “they’re out to get me” (yes, many were, but not all) became a self-fulfilling prophecy. The coalition now sworn in is an extraordinarily heterogenous one — hard left, moderate left, center, and right-wing; from hardline secularist to modern Orthodox; from hardcore Jewish nationalist to the Islamist United Arab List (Bennett back-handedly praised Netanyahu for having “koshered” Mansour Abbas by being the first to offer him to join hist coalition);…

If he is brought down permanently, it will likely be because of a putsch inside the party. Former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat as well as the outgoing health minister (Yuli Edelstein) and finance minister (Israel Katz) have all thrown their hats into the ring for the party leadership primaries.


UPDATE: Tal Schneider in the Times of Israel sees Netanyahu unseated by a new generation, many of them with media backgrounds. The only minister from the older generation is Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai, a former IDF spokesman, now 74 years old (Netanyahu is 71). The others range from their late thirties to their early sixties.

While Netanyahu has been perceived throughout the years as a wizard of tech and media, many of his successors built their public fortune in the news industry. Lapid, Labor’s Merav Michaeli, Meretz’s Nitzan Horowitz, and New Hope’s Gideon Sa’ar all worked as news professionals as columnist, reporter or anchor.

And key figures were Netanyahu’s apprentices. (The one trait about Netanyahu I personally disliked most was not one that “world public opinion” cared about, but that he systematically cut down any of his own associates who became too strong.)

Bennett was Netanyahu’s chief of staff, Yamina’s Ayelet Shaked was director of Netanyahu’s political office, and Avigdor Liberman was Likud’s director-general, a senior adviser to Netanyahu and a political partner when Likud and Yisrael Beytenu ran on a combined list in the 2013 elections. Blue and White head Benny Gantz was the IDF chief of staff under Netanyahu, Lapid was a senior minister in his 2013 government, and New Hope’s Sa’ar was Netanyahu’s cabinet secretary as well as a senior minister under him.

And further down the list of New Hope lawmakers, the connections continue: Ze’ev Elkin was a minister in Netanyahu’s cabinet as well as a confidant of the premier, Yoaz Hendel served as Netanyahu’s communication director and Zvi Hauser is a former cabinet secretary.

The lawmakers making up the foundations of Israel’s next coalition studied in Netanyahu’s academy, learning from the best.

This is the next generation of leaders. They reached this position thanks to him, but also despite him.

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post, whose new editor Yaakov Katz has been beating the drum against Netanyahu to such an extent that he alienated many of the paper’s longtime readers, published an editorial hard to imagine in the US hyperpartisan mediascape: We must recognize Netanyahu’s achievements despite his flaws

[T]here is a Jewish tradition of hakarat hatov –  expressing gratitude. Netanyahu is a human being with faults and failings, but he is also someone who has dedicated his life and career to the Jewish state, and has achieved an impressive list of accomplishments.As we have noted, Netanyahu realized early on the need for a broad corona vaccine acquisition and distribution campaign, and he managed to achieve it even as he was being ridiculed by some members of the new government.Netanyahu can also take credit for the Abraham Accords, normalizing relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. The impact of these new relations should not be underestimated: they helped create a new Middle East to the benefit of all.

Netanyahu’s pushback on the threat from a nuclear Iran was one of the themes that ties his different terms in office: when most of the Western world was far from seeing the threat, Netanyahu was already fighting it.In fact, his approach to this issue played a significant role in preparing the ground for relations with the Sunni Arab states that felt similarly threatened by Iran. Netanyahu was willing to stand up to Barack Obama in a last-ditch effort to prevent the signing of the nuclear deal in 2015. While this angered many Democrats and severely undermined bipartisan support in the US, it was noted by other US allies that similarly felt threatened, such as Saudi Arabia.

As The Jerusalem Post’s Herb Keinon has noted, “Everything is interconnected in this ‘Bibi doctrine.’ … He leveraged Israel’s strengths – agricultural expertise, technology, innovation, intel, security expertise – into things that it could provide the world.”Under Netanyahu, there were improved diplomatic relations with Russia, China, India, South America and Africa.

It should also be noted that while there was the usual criticism in the UN of Israel’s response to the recent Hamas rockets, there were several countries, including Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Panama, where the Israeli flag was flown on government buildings in solidarity during Operation Guardian of the Walls. […]

It is too early to say how exactly Netanyahu will be remembered in history, but it’s not too early to thank him for his service to our nation. We do not forget his divisiveness but we also do not forget his contribution in transforming Israel into a military and economic powerhouse.

Can you imagine a US major newspaper writing a similar editorial about Trump instead of falling back on infantile “two minutes hate for Emmanuel Goldstein”?

UPDATE 2: there were a few last-minute changes and swaps in the cabinet list. Here is the final portfolio distribution as of 23:30:

Prime MinisterNaftali Bennett (Yamina)
Alternate Prime Minister/Foreign Affairs: Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid)
Deputy Prime Minister/Defense: Benny Gantz (Blue and White)
Deputy Prime Minister/Justice: Gideon Sa’ar (New Hope)

Finance: Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu)
Education: Yifat Shasha-Biton (New Hope)
Interior: Ayelet Shaked (Yamina)
Health: Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) 

Transportation: Merav Michaeli (Labor)
Environmental Protection: Tamar Zandberg (Meretz)
Public Security: Omer Bar-Lev (Labor)  
Communications: Yoaz Hendel (New Hope)
Economy: Orna Barbivay (Yesh Atid) 
Labor; Social Services and Social Affairs: Meir Cohen (Yesh Atid)
Energy: Karin Elharrar (Yesh Atid)
Diaspora Affairs: Nachman Shai (Labor)
Intelligence Services: Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid)
Tourism: Yoel Razvozov (Yesh Atid)
Religious Affairs: Matan Kahana (Yamina)
Culture and Sports: [Yechiel] “Chili” Tropper (Blue and White)
Aliyah and Integration: Pnina Tamano-Shata (Blue and White) [1st-ever Ethiopian Jew in cabinet]
Agriculture and Negev and Galilee Development: Oded Forer (Yisrael Beytenu)
Construction, Ministerial Liaison to the Knesset: Ze’ev Elkin (New Hope)  
Regional Cooperation: Essawi Frej (Meretz) [Arab]
Science and Technology: Orit Farkash Hacohen (Blue and White)   
Social Equity: Meirav Cohen (Yesh Atid)  
Minister in the Finance Ministry: Hamed Amar (Yisrael Beytenu) [Druze]

Knesset Speaker: Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid)
Finance Committee chairman: Alex Kushnir (Yisrael Beytenu)
Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman: Ram Ben Barak (Yesh Atid)
Law and Constitution Committee chairman: [Reform] Rabbi Gilad Kariv (Labor)
Aliyah and Diaspora Affairs Committee chairman: Yair Golan (Meretz)

Several commentators have pointed out that the single most powerful figure in fact, if not in the public eye, will be finance minister Avigdor Liberman from the Russian immigrants party Yisrael Beiteinu, whose associate Alex Kushnir also chairs the Finance committee.

UPDATE 2: Instapundit calls it “another win for the bad guys” and doesn’t expect this to end well. I can understand the latter; but as to the former, the one person most responsible for bringing down that undeniably highly talented leader is none other than the same leader himself — or, to be more specific, his egotistic belief in his own irreplacablity, his ceaseless cutting-down of any associate who might become too prominent, and his taking political Macchiavellianism to such extremes that essentially nobody still believed any promise he made.

Even Winston Churchill, whom Netanyahu sees himself as an Israeli version of, and whose ego was as big as Netanyahu’s, realized he would have to leave the stage one day. Thus, he carefully groomed a successor (Anthony Eden) over the course of more than a decade in and out of power.[*] Netanyahu, in contrast, simply seems to have been in denial about the fact that his unprecedentedly long tenure (at 15 years total, he is Israel’s longest-serving leader in history, outdoing even David Ben-Gurion) would have to come to an end one day, let alone that he planned for who would step into his shoes.

At any rate, he is supposed to have a meeting with the new PM — again, his onetime BFF — this afternoon about the transition of power. Boy, would I love to be a fly on the wall there…

Newly elected Prime Minister Naftali Bennett waves, with Yair Lapid (left) and Gideon Sa'ar (right) alongside him, after their new coalition wins Knesset approval, June 13, 2021 (Haim Zach / GPO)

UPDATE 3: via Gil Hoffman on Twitter, this group picture of the new government by press photographer Marc Israel Sellem


(Sitting between the two alternate PMs is [mostly ceremonial] President Reuven “Ruby” Rivlin.)

[*] Even so, as Andrew Roberts explains in great detail in his priceless biography “Churchill: Walking With Destiny”, Anthony Eden finally had to force the hand of the octogenerian Churchill to step down — though this happened away from the limelight, and Churchill was allowed to retire gracefully and to overwhelming public accolades. (He was even offered the Dukedom of London, but turned it down under pressure from his son Randolph Churchill MP who feared he would have to leave the House for the Lords after his father would go on to the hereafter.

Winston, despite no longer having the mental vigor he still had during World War Two, had gotten misgivings about Eden’s ability to do the job. Sadly, he proved to be right. However, Eden was succeeded by another Churchill protégé, the pragmatist Harold Macmillan.

Sabbath musical delight: “La Folia”, to the Baroque era what “the 12-bar blues” is to the 20th century?

I once was asked whether improvisation over a fixed harmonic scheme — like the 12-bar blues — was a new invention of the 20th century.

I started explaining about the passacaglia and the chaconne in Baroque classical music, or the even earlier “ground” in Renaissance England — but these are primarily centered on the bass line and do allow reharmonization (or minor-major interchange, as in the middle section of Bach’s immortal Chaconne in D minor for solo violin).

A more direct equivalent is “La Folia” (literally “the madness”). Below the bass line is given in G minor, and the harmonic scheme spelled out in Roman numeral notation. (CC:BY 3.0 “Hyacinth” from Mediawiki.)

In modern jazz/rock notation — which is absolute rather than relative — this would translate to (in G minor):

Gm | D | Gm | F7 | Bb | F7 | Gm | D | Gm | D | Gm | F7 | Bb | F7 | Gm – D | Gm||

This scheme supposedly originates in a tune called “Les folies d’Espagne” or “La Folia d’España” from the 16th century. For our purposes, the essential thing is that multiple composers from the Baroque era (and later) wrote series of variations over it, which they simply called “la Folia” the way we’d speak of “the 12-bar blues” today. And indeed, group improvisation over the Folia framework appears to have been a thing then, presumably then as now ranging from the sublime to the utterly banal, depending on the musical skill and inspiration level of the performer.

Here is a lecture, with musical examples, about La Folia at Tel-Aviv University, given during the pandemic via Zoom.

Here is Vivaldi’s version (in Baroque chamber tuning, i.e., a half-step down from modern concert pitch):

This is Itzhak Perlman playing Kreisler’s solo violin arrangement of Corelli’s version

One “La Folia” version that movie buffs know as “the Barry Lyndon theme” is of course Händel’s sarabande from keyboard sonata in D minor HWV 437, embedded below in the orchestral arrangement used for the movie:

For a more modern tribute to La Folia, see the closing section of “Force Majeure” by German electronic music pioneers Tangerine Dream, which starts at 15:51 into the movie. (I hope the embed preserves the timestamp, otherwise click here).

Have a nice weekend, shabbat shalom, and enjoy!

UPDATE: J. S. Bach’s quasi-Folia: the aria “unser trefflicher, lieber Kammerherr” (in B minor) from the Peasants Cantata BWV 212:

Economic “long COVID” aftereffects: Apple Campus and normalization of remote working; global chip shortage; Bidenflation

(1) Steve Green, Bill Whittle, and Scott Ott (remember “Scrappleface”?) comment on “what if you built the biggest, best, greenest headquarters office space and nobody came”?

“Over the last year, we often felt not just unheard, but at times actively ignored. Messages like, ‘we know many of you are eager to reconnect in person with your colleagues back in the office with no messaging acknowledging that there are directly contradictory feelings amongst us feels dismissive and invalidating.”

Leaving aside the dripping sense of entitlement[*] and the nauseating pop-psych speak, the COVID19 pandemic triggered a number changes waiting to happen. One of them was the normalization of telecommuting (a.k.a. “remote working”) for many office jobs: we saw first-hand that yes, many of these can be done from home just fine.

I telecommuted for months myself: since my employer worked under a quota, they asked everyone who could work from home to do so, in order to free up quota slots for essential lab workers. How efficiently one can work from home depends on a number of factors: some of us cannot deal with auditory distractions, others thrive on noisy environments (these are the ones who, pre- and post-pandemic, might go to cafés to go write or design). There’s the stereotype of the blogger / writer in pajamas; others (like yours truly) made a point of dressing for work even at home — to flip the “you’re at work now” switch in the brain, so to speak.

I’m certain there are plenty of jobs at Apple that can be done just fine from home with a fast internet connection, and using Zoom (or, since everybody at Apple is in the Apple ‘ecosystem’, Facetime) instead of long meetings. (I actually prefer online over realspace conferences, personally: trying to outshout each other doesn’t wo

But I was also reminded of something not mentioned in the video: Parkinson’s Law of the perfect headquarters building. The British naval historian C. Northcote Parkinson make several trenchant observations about the dynamics of large organizations, collectively known as “Parkinson’s Laws”. [Archive of original article in the Nov. 19, 1955 issue of The Economist; ] Some you may have heard of include: work expands to fill the time available to completion; officials make work for each other; officials want to multiply subordinates, not rivals; and Parkinson’s Law of Triviality, according to which the more trivial the expense, the more debate it entails.

Parkinson also observes that:

During a period of exciting discovery or progress there is no time to plan the perfect headquarters. The time for that comes later, when all the important work has been done. Perfection, we know, is finality; and finality is death. […]

Great hopes centered on the League [of Nations] from its inception in 1920 until about 1930. By 1933, at the latest, the experiment was seen to have failed. Its physical embodiment, however, the Palace of the Nations, was not opened until 1937. It was a structure no doubt justly admired. Deep thought had gone into the design of secretariat and council chambers, committee rooms and cafeteria. Everything was there which ingenuity could devise– except, indeed, the League itself. By the year when its Palace was formally opened the League had practically ceased to exist. [It is presently the United NebbichNations office at Geneva.]

C. Northcote Parkinson, “Parkinson’s Law”, book into which the Economist article was expanded. [PDF available here.]

Yes, I know Apple has a market cap over $2 trillion, and that their just-released M1 CPU has the potential to be transformative. (I’ve been an Apple user for over 35 years myself.) At the same time, I can see “bureaucratic entropy” affecting Apple as it becomes ever more invested in luxury beliefs and ever further from the Steve Jobs-era passion for making ‘insanely great’ products.

Now they have a perfect headquarters building, into which enormous amounts of time, money, and energy have gone — and a substantial percentage of its own employees prefer to telecommute from their spare bedrooms…

(2) Global chip shortage. This is not all about COVID: as this ColdFusion video explains, a perfect storm has hit the chip manufacturing sector: a historical drought in Taiwan (chip fabbing is very water-intensive); increased demand for GPUs due to historically high cryptocurrency prices (leading to record ‘bitcoin mining’, generally done on GPUs); … Go watch the whole things

The big shock to me was just how high a percentage of the semiconductor ‘foundry’ market is held by just one company: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, better known as TSMC.

What ‘fabless semiconductor’ companies are TSMC’s most important clients? AMD, Apple, Nvidia, Qualcomm, Broadcom,…

(3) “Bidenflation”: it’s a thing now. Just three links via Insty:

NOTHING TO SEE HERE, MOVE ALONG:  Deutsche Bank Issues a Terrifying Warning for America Under Biden. “Already, many sources of rising prices are filtering through into the US economy. Even if they are transitory on paper, they may feed into expectations just as they did in the 1970s. The risk then, is that even if they are only embedded for a few months they may be difficult to contain, especially with stimulus so high.”

Related:  CPI inflation indicator hits 5 percent. “Trillions of dollars of proposed new deficit spending would further increase inflation, and would mostly stimulate the politically connected. The Federal Reserve should resist political pressure to further flood the money supply in hopes of stimulating a faster COVID recovery.”

DO TELL:  Not a drill: Inflation is here. “The optimists, including those at the Fed, believe that the current inflation is temporary — a combination of demand spiking as the economy reopens while the supply chains haven’t fully recovered from the disruptions of the pandemic lockdowns. But this understates the scale and scope of what we are seeing. There are reasons to believe that the current moment is different from previous economic recoveries.”

And what for?   Half of the pandemic’s unemployment money may have been stolen. “Criminals may have stolen as much as half of the unemployment benefits the U.S. has been pumping out over the past year, some experts say. . . . Blake Hall, CEO of ID.me, a service that tries to prevent this kind of fraud, tells Axios that America has lost more than $400 billion to fraudulent claims. As much as 50% of all unemployment monies might have been stolen, he says. Haywood Talcove, the CEO of LexisNexis Risk Solutions, estimates that at least 70% of the money stolen by impostors ultimately left the country, much of it ending up in the hands of criminal syndicates in China, Nigeria, Russia and elsewhere.”

But the most telling item, perhaps:

INFLATION:  Why is Blackrock buying every single family house they can find, paying 20-50% above asking price?Why would they pay such a premium?

Gee, whodathunkit? Runaway gov’t spending fueled by what amounts to money printing: this isn’t quite the 1923 Weimar Republic [Biden: “hold my beer”], but as Herbert Stein’s law goes: “that which cannot go on forever, won’t”…

[*] not to mention the unpunctuated run-on sentence, a hallmark of a certain overcredentialed, undereducated generation

Three quick takes

Been an insane day at work, but just two quick takes:

(1) So in the US Senate, it appears that the Orwellianly named “For The People Act”, which should properly be called “The Perpetual One-Party State Through Ballot Stuffing Act” is dead in the water as Joe Manchin (D-WV) refuses to support it and also does not support ending the filibuster. (For non-US readers: in the US Senate, a motion to end debate and hold a vote requires a mini-supermajority of 60 votes.)

Powerline points out that, unlike congresscritters from gerrymandered whackadoodle districts, senators represent the entire state, so may lose their seat if they move too far out of step with their constituents.

(2) Meanwhile here in Israel, the main principles of the coalition agreement for the “Change Government” have become public. The two alternating prime ministers have veto power over each other, an arrangement that cannot help reminding me of the two Consuls in the Roman Republic.

Caretaker PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving PM in history, seems hell-bent on tarnishing what is otherwise an enviable legacy. His latest claims about “massive election fraud” do not even pass the laugh test: Israel’s voter ID is so stringent that this is basically impossible, and we only have remote voting for cases like diplomatic personnel on duty abroad.

Netanyahu supporters are anguished about his having to step down, and look for conspiracies everywhere except for what is plainly under their nose: that 3D chess master of tactical political maneuvering has finally run out of allies he hasn’t, pardon my French, screwed over yet. It’s no accident that many of the parties in the “Change Coalition” are either led by former close Netanyahu associates, or have such downticket, or both.

(3) Some European reporters cannot understand why Israelis even in the center are now adamantly against giving up ‘settlements’ in the disputed territories and ‘have adopted the extreme right position’. Well, guess what: the last time we voluntarily dismantled settlements (the 2005 Unilateral Disengagement from Gaza) we saw the territory used as launchpads for terrorist attacks and rockets fired indiscriminately at civilian residential areas. Gee, I have no idea how this would affect the popularity for the ‘land for peace’ position…

This isn’t like the Netherlands and Belgium negotiating about the future of the province of Limburg or the enclave of Baarle-Hertog. It isn’t even France and Germany negotiating the future of the Saarland. If it were a matter of giving up land for others to live on peacefully, some would oppose and some would support the move. Likely, if the other side were genuinely renouncing violence, ‘land for peace’ would carry the day with the center and even parts of the moderate right. ‘Land for terrorist rocket bases so moral narcissists can feel good about themselves ’ , however, has no appeal at all outside the far-left fringe.

77th anniversary of D-Day: the somewhat under-appreciated Juno Beach landings

Today, 77 years ago, an Allied armada carried out the largest-scale amphibious operation in history in Normandy.

Elaborate deception maneuvers (I will blog about “Operation Mincemeat” another time) had led the Germans to expect the invasion elsewhere, at the Calais Narrows.

The major landings were divided into five “beaches”: from west to east:

The one name nearly everybody remembers is Omaha Beach, by far the bloodiest of them all (2,000-5,000), as featured in the movie “Saving Private Ryan”. Utah Beach has the lowest casualty figures of all (under 200), unless those of the Airborne landings inland are added to the count. The two British landing sectors, Gold Beach and Sword Beach, cost 1,000-1,100 casualties (of which 350 dead) and 700 casualties, respectively.

What about the Canadian Juno Beach? Wikipedia (caveat lector) lists 340 dead, 574 wounded, and 47 captured. Here is a 5-part YouTube video about it:

I am keenly aware that I likely would not have been here without the landings. So many of us owe our very existence to the brave warriors putting their lives on the line on that day.


Sabbath musical delight: Händel’s keyboard suite in D minor, HWV 428

Georg Friedrich Händel (or George Frederick Handel, for the English) is best known for his orchestral music (e.g. “Water Music”, “Music for the Royal Fireworks”) and his oratoria (particularly the “Messiah”). Being an organist and harpsichordist himself, he also wrote a large collection of keyboard and organ music. (There is a story about a musical “duel” at the Saxon court between him and Domenico Scarlatti: the judges ruled the contest a draw, with Händel superior on the organ and Scarlatti on the harpsichord.)

Händel’s organ concerti are somewhat well-known (and crowd pleasers): his works for solo keyboard have been neglected a little, standing in the tall shadow of Scarlatti, and both of them in the tallest shadow of them all, J. S. Bach.

A few solo keyboard pieces are well known, particularly the tuneful “Harmonious Blacksmith” variations from the Suite in E major HWV 430, and of course the grave, stately Sarabande from the suite in D minor HWV 437 is widely known as an orchestral arrangement, especially since its use as the theme music of Stanley Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon”. (It is based on La Folia, a set chordal sequence that filled some of the same roles to musicians and improvisers of the day as the 12-bar blues does to blues and rock musicians. I will blog about that one another time.)

The suite in D minor HWV 428, as its fifth movement contains a charming set of an aria with five variations (“Air and Double 1-5”) that I like a lot. Below follow some performances of either the whole suite or just the Air and Doubles.

Sviatoslav Richter’s performance, as always a little idiosyncratic but enlightening. The Air starts at 8:42, the variations at 13:51.

Eric Heidsieck (V. Aria and Variations, audio only)

Dutch pianist Daria van den Bercken on AVRO TV, the whole suite

And finally Vasilisa Bogorodskaya, with score displayed along with the music. (She does not observe repeats, hence her recording is shorter even allowing for tempo differences.)

Enjoy and shabbat shalom!