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Monetary policy is not effective in dealing with a pandemic – it must support active fiscal policy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/09/2021 - 5:01pm in

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Music

It’s Wednesday and I have now settled back into my office after being stuck away from home for 9 weeks as a result of border closures between Victoria and NSW. So I am reverting back to the usual Wednesday pattern of limited writing, although today, the topic is worthy of some extended narrative. Before we get to the swamp blues music segment, I am analysing a speech made by the RBA governor yesterday on the role of monetary policy during a pandemic, whether low interest rates are driving house prices too high, and, what should be done about that. The conclusion is that he supports better use of fiscal policy – sustaining supportive fiscal deficits and dealing with the distortions that are contributing to high housing prices, via amendments to taxation (eliminating incentives for high income earners to buy multiple properties) and public infrastructure policies (more social housing).

Speech by RBA governor illustrates what fiscal and monetary policy do

Yesterday (September 14, 2021), the RBA governor presented a speech to the Anika Foundation – Delta, the Economy and Monetary Policy.

Much of the media attention has been on the projections for the economy, in which the RBA is suggesting that the “has delayed – but not derailed – the recovery of the Australian economy.”

I am guessing that this prediction is fairly sound.

We saw after the big infection wave (mostly in Victoria) last year how quickly the economy recovered. This was mostly due to the tight lockdowns that put a cap on the infections and allowed us to open up fairly quickly in a Covid free state.

I think the evidence from 2020 was clear – there was no trade-off between the economy and the health control.

Early on in the outbreak, the ‘free market’ clan were urging the governments of Australia (federal and state) not to impose lockdowns because they claimed the economy would suffer enduring impacts, which were more costly than allowing people to die. Effectively, that was their message.

They were proven wrong.

The 2021 experience is a little different because the conservative NSW government believed some of that ‘free market’ nonsense and maintained lax quarantine practices and then failed to lockdown hard and quickly enough when the predictable breach from their slack quarantine regime occurred.

Since then the debate has changed to vaccinate rather than suppress.

But, given their penchant for a ‘freedom day’, I am sure the economy will start to recover in the fourth quarter somewhat even as the death rates rise.

However, there is one major difference between this year and last year.

This graph is reproduced from the RBA Bulletin article (June 17, 2021) – COVID-19 Stimulus Payments and the Reserve Bank’s Transactional Banking Services – authored by Jiawen Chen and Kristin Langwasser.

The transition in the fiscal position between last year and this year and beyond is very stark.

Last year, the Federal government spent more than $A90 billion on the JobKeeper wage subsidies (see the red columns) and abandoned that program at the end of March 2021.

This year, and the estimates are somewhat imprecise because it is hard putting the information together from a range of sources, the stimulus the federal level is putting in the system is around $A6 billion.

The yellow bars will be a little different to the graph this year, given the extended lockdowns in NSW and Victoria, that began after the paper was published. Those state governments will be putting in more than the authors would have estimated.

The point is that the federal government is seriously undermining any hope of a rapid recovery.

But it gets darker than that.

The current record virus infections in Sydney, and, now, Melbourne (as a result of leakage from Sydney) are located in the working class, migrant suburbs of the west (Sydney and Melbourne), south-west (Sydney) and north-west (Melbourne).

These workers are typically low-paid and often work in the supply chain sectors and the essential services sector such as cleaning etc.

They are typically workers who will have multiple jobs out of sheer economic need.

Last year, the wage subsidy protected them to a degree and the bonus paid on the unemployment benefit also helped those that did not retain a relationship with their employer (which is what JobKeeper was designed to achieve).

As a result of that protection, these workers were not driven by desperation to go to work when sick or go to work in general.

Now, with all that protection withdrawn, and paltry emergency payments the only assistance on offer, these workers, by necessity, are being forced to disregard their health concerns and go into dangerous work places and mix with the community in dangerous ways.

Result? The virus is continuing to spread.

Last year, the lockdowns worked because the workers who were most vulnerable (and ordinarily unable to ‘work from home’) were protected during the lockdowns and could ‘stay at home’.

This year, no such security is being offered and the results are obvious.

Whether the federal government, which ideologically was against the lockdowns imposed by the states (under their constitutional powers), is now using this fiscal weapon to force the ‘living with Covid’ narrative – a narrative that pleases their pals in the airline industry, in the clubs and bar industry, etc is unknown.

They might just be driven by a stupid ‘sound’ finance mentality.

Either way, the result is a disaster and we are now a relatively high infection rate country after enjoying more than 12 months Covid free.

When we relaxed the lockdown from a zero infection position, it was obvious that people rushed out and spent again and the result was predictable – strong growth.

This time, as the RBA governor noted:

Another source of uncertainty is how Australians will respond to the easing of restrictions, given that the easing is likely to take place with COVID-19 still circulating in the community. This is quite different from our earlier experience, when the number of cases was close to zero, and there was a very quick bounce-back. Whether the same will be the case this time remains to be seen.

I, for one, will be adopting a very cautious approach once the governments relax the lockdown.

The vaccine is not foolproof and the virus will run through the vaccinated population and we do not know yet what that means.

So, I suspect that caution will generalise, except maybe in the younger population.

He later got onto housing prices, which is really the issue that I want to highlight here.

Australian house prices have surged since the pandemic – up 19 per cent.

Regional land prices (outside of the big cities) have gone up much more than that as professional workers who can ‘work from home’ are seeking to change their lives by moving to regions that allow them to escape the city but maintain a relatively short commute to their main office base should they need to.

He said:

… some analysts have suggested we might lift the cash rate to cool the property market. I want to be clear that this is not on our agenda. While it is true that higher interest rates would, all else equal, see lower housing prices, they would also mean fewer jobs and lower wages growth. This is a poor trade-off in the current circumstances.

That is not to say that there aren’t public policy issues to be addressed here …

More broadly, society-wide concerns about the level of housing prices are not best addressed through increasing interest rates and curbs on lending. While monetary policy is contributing to higher housing prices at the moment, the way to address these concerns is through the structural factors that influence the value of the land upon which our dwellings are built. The factors include: the design of our taxation and social security systems; planning and zoning restrictions; the type of dwellings that are built; and the nature of our transportation networks. These are all obviously areas outside the domain of monetary policy and the central bank.

So quite clearly he is pointing to a failure of fiscal policy and infrastructure policy here.

The tax system (negative gearing) rewards those with high incomes and wealth if they accumulate multiple residences, which then drives up prices because it inflates demand.

The fiscal mindset towards achieving surpluses has starved low income workers of access to affordable ‘social’ housing. Australia has a deficit of around half a million residences at present in this category.

Low-income workers have to compete with those who are better off and have access to more credit and frequently spend too much – which also pushed prices up.

So the inflated demand for housing coming from the tax system distortion pushes up against a deliberately restricted supply (from the surplus obsession).

That is all down to government not the central bank.

Low interest rates would benefit low income workers if the supply of housing was increased as a result of a properly thought out social housing construction initiative.

The construction stimulus would help workers in that industry and the increased availability of affordable housing would provide opportunities for those on low pay to have secure housing and a chance to accumulate some modest wealth before retirement.

Win-win.

So the RBA governor is correct in pushing against the call for higher interest rates.

Those calls often come from those with a vested interest in having higher rates – the banks, those on lucrative fixed income flows, etc.

It is far better to keep rates low and then use fiscal policy to ensure the structural rigidities that are driving housing prices to ridiculous levels are sorted out.

Finally, the RBA governor talked about the QE program.

I will follow up on this topic next week, because I read a very interesting ECB discussion paper this morning which provides further analysis on this question.

But, for now, the RBA governor made it clear that is government bond buying program would continue and has been very beneficial in a number of ways:

… keeping funding costs and lending rates low across the economy; ensuring that the financial system is very liquid; supporting household and business balance sheets; and contributing to an exchange rate that is lower than it would be otherwise. It is through these transmission mechanisms that our policies are supporting, and will continue to support, the recovery of the Australian economy over the months ahead.

They are clearly going to maintain the program until at least February 2022.

The RBA recognises that:

1. There is no inflation threat on the horizon.

2. The RBA has an important role to complement fiscal policy stimulus, which they acknowledge “is the more effective policy instrument in responding to the Delta outbreak. This is because fiscal policy can use the public balance sheet to offset the hit to private incomes during the lockdowns.”

3. Conversely, “In contrast, monetary policy works mainly on the demand side and the effects on income are felt with a lag; realistically, there is little we can do to offset the hit to demand in the September and December quarters. ”

4. They have now “hold around 35 per cent of the Australian Government bonds on issue and 18 per cent of the state and territory bonds” which represents “a substantial and ongoing degree of support to the economic recovery”.

How?

By subverting any chance that the bond markets can push up yields using the pretext that the fiscal deficits are too high.

This way, the RBA keeps yields low and spurious arguments about ‘increasing cost of government spending’ etc, which are wrong in principle anyway, are not able to surface and distort the policy debate.

Everyone can see that the relatively large fiscal stimulus over the last two years (notwithstanding the reduction this year) has been injected at a time when inflation is low and bond yields are very low.

They are learning that the central bank can always control yields on government debt including driving them into negative territory.

They are learning that the narratives about government debt and yields and crowding out etc – all important myths that are used to restrain government spending and maintain unemployment rates at elevated levels are false.

So that is a good outcome from the shift by the RBA towards QE.

They are directly funding deficits – even if they claim otherwise – and the people can see the sky is still over our heads.

Music – Lazy Lester

This is what I have been listening to while working this morning.

Yesterday, I featured the post minimalism of Max Richter. Today we go to Louisiana and bring the not very well-known singer and harmonica player – Lazy Lester – to the fore.

Lazy Lester could sing, play guitar really well and feature on harmonica. In the 1950s, he was one of the founders of what has become known as the – Swamp Blues – which is a Louisiana variant that combines the traditional delta blues and R&B with – Cajun and Zydeco – influences.

Lots of shuffle patterns, with reverb and tremelo on guitars and very clean and sparse drumming.

And who took the form up in the 1960s? The Rolling Stones, Kinks and Yardbirds brought the sound to the White audience in Britain and beyond.

Appearing on guitar on this 2001 album – Blues Stop Knockin’ – is – Jimmy Vaughan

The track today is ‘Sad City Blues’ and the feature players are:

1. Derek O’Brien – resident guitarist at – Antone Records – in Austin, Texas.

2. Sue Foley – guitar.

3. Sarah Brown – house bass player at Antone’s Blues Club.

4. Gene Taylor – piano. He died earlier this year in Austin during a cold snap and he was unable to afford heating in his home.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2021 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Travelling music

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/09/2021 - 3:17pm in

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Music

The Covid situation in Australia has deteriorated in recent months after the conservative NSW government allowed it to spread (after a lax approach to quarantine – privatising the service). For the last 9 weeks or so I have been stuck in another state, away from home, and wondering when I could get back across the border again. Well yesterday I finally acquired a travel permit to cross the border between NSW and Victoria and 10 hours later (by car) I am now back at home. So I am catching up on things this afternoon (with two computer monitors – yeah) and there will be no formal blog post. But there is some music. Back tomorrow.

Music – for travelling

Sometimes you need to really concentrate on a new album and play it several times to appreciate the nuances and subtlety of the performance by the artist(s) and the mastering by the producer.

So a long road trip, when no-one else is in the vehicle and volume can be adjusted to suit the single taste (loud in this case), is a pretty good platform for accomplishing that aim.

Just such an album is – Voices – by the post minimalist composer – Max Richter.

It was released last year (July 31, 2020) and was “inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.

This article (June 25, 2020) – Max Richter Announces New Album ‘Voices’ – provides some background about how the readings were organised and sourced.

The album has a voiced section (with various readings) and then the voiceless version of the music.

Here is the full album, which uses what Max Richter refers to as a “negative orchestra” (“nearly all basses and cellos”).

At some stages in the album you think you hear a deep rumbling – one of the deepest sound the human ear can hear I suspect – and it is a very stark background to the negative orchestra.

The whole album is 56 minutes then repeats in voiceless mode.

My favourite track is Mercy with the solo violin played by – Mari Samuelson.

Mercy begins at 48:51 and then at the end of the second version of the album.

A breathtaking way to spend 10 hours driving a car I can tell you.

Here is a short video from Max Richter explaining the motivation of the album and its meaning.

He always has a very sound and progressive intent behind his music.

He commented on the album:

I like the idea of a piece of music as a place to think, and it is clear we all have some thinking to do at the moment. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is something that offers us a way forward. Although it isn’t a perfect document, the declaration does represent an inspiring vision for the possibility of better and kinder world.

He goes further in this NPR interview (August 2, 2020) – Composer Max Richter On ‘Voices,’ A New Album That Envisions A Better World.

Here is a review of the album from British Gramophone – Richter Voices.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2021 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

European growth positive but weak

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/09/2021 - 4:34pm in

It’s Wednesday, so just a few items that have passed me by this week. Eurostat published the latest national accounts data yesterday (September 7, 2021) that reveals that key Eurozone states are still lagging behind where they were before the pandemic. In some cases (Italy and Spain), they hadn’t even got back to pre-GFC levels of activity before the pandemic stuck. So a double hit to these nations in the space of a decade or so. That damage will be immense and demonstrates once again the dysfunctional nature of the currency union. Then I consider the latest nonsense from the Business Council of Australia – which is just a special pleading organisation for the top-end-of-town. They think it is time to go back to the deficits are bad narrative (except when their members are receiving corporate welfare that is). And to calm down after that we have some jazz, of course.

European growth

Eurostat released the second-quarter national accounts data yesterday (September 7, 2021) – GDP up by 2.2% and employment up by 0.7% in the euro area – which as the title suggests, economic growth has recorded a positive 2.2 per cent for the Euro area and 2.1 per cent for the EU.

The sources of growth (contributions) were:

1. Household and NPISH final consumption expenditure = 1.9 points.

2. Government final consumption expenditure = 0.3 points.

3. Gross fixed capital formation = 0.2 points.

4. Change in inventories = -0.2 points.

5. Net exports = 0 points.

So driven by domestic demand growth, mostly household consumption.

However, only five Member States out of 18 (excluding Luxembourg for which no second-quarter data is available yet) have gone past the pre-pandemic level.

The following graph shows the growth between the December-quarter 2019 and the June-quarter 2021 (in percentage terms).

I included the US and Australia as comparisons of nations with their own currency.

There is not much to sing about there.

And while Greece looks to be better than some of the other weaker nations, don’t forget that its economy is still 27 per cent smaller than it was prior to the onset of the GFC.

So, its current growth is coming off a much smaller base than the other nations.

Spain is 6.8 per cent smaller than its pre-pandemic level, and, that level was still below the pre-GFC level.

Portugal is 4.6 per cent smaller than its pre-pandemic level, and, that level was only marginally above the pre-GFC level.

Italy is 3.7 per cent smaller than its pre-pandemic level, and, that level was still 8.6 per cent below the pre-GFC level.

For Germany, 30 per cent (approx) of the gains it has made since the GFC have evaporated during the pandemic.

For France, around 43 per cent of its gains since the GFC have evaporated during the pandemic.

This is despite the fact that the Stability and Growth Pact rules have been suspended temporarily and the ECB is effectively funding all fiscal deficits in the Eurozone.

Once again, this poor performance signals a system that is biased towards recession, even when its pernicious rules are somewhat relaxed.

Consider the following graph, which shows real GDP indexed to 100 at the March-quarter 2008 for the Eurozone, the US and Australia.

In the period from the March-quarter 2008 to the June-quarter 2021, the Eurozone grew by 6.2 per cent, the US economy grew by 23.3 per cent and the Australian economy grew by 35.4 per cent.

And, to put that into perspective, the Australian economy has been constrained in growth by excessively tight fiscal policy.

There is more to life than economic growth clearly, but it does tell you something about the relative material prosperity of a nation.

The Eurozone is effectively a failed experiment.

And while they are operating a more flexible environment for the moment (with the SGP rules temporarily suspended and the ECB funding the deficits) that state will not last.

Even with that flexibility the monetary union under performs.

The Business Council of Australia up to its old story lines

It gets boring reading discussion papers from employer organisations like the BCA.

Their latest – Living on borrowed time (released June 30, 2021) – is no exception.

This is an organisation that consistently opposes wage rises for workers and lobbies government for more handouts and deregulation.

It represents the largest corporations in Australia, which have been creaming large profits for years at the expense of their workforces.

The latest data for the June-quarter – Business Indicators, Australia (released August 30, 2021) – show that:

1. Company gross operating profits rose 7.1% seasonally adjusted.

2. Wages and salaries rose 2.0% seasonally adjusted (which was a real cut in wages)

Anyway, in its latest lobbying document (cited above) it has resumed its attack on government debt (well sort of).

It repeats the myths that:

1. “Australia is also facing the global trend of an ageing population. This puts pressure on governments to fund services for a growing proportion of older Australians and decisions must be made about how to fund services from a relatively smaller pool of working Australians.”

The funding is simple. Press some computer keys at the central bank.

The only thing we will require from the “smaller pool of working Australians” is that they are more productive, if we want to preserve existing material living standards (which is a questionable goal given climate change).

Increasing the productivity of existing workers and our future workers will require large government outlays on education, training etc.

2. “the government’s principal strategy for paying down the debt and funding services into the future appears dependent on increasingly high taxes on the relatively smaller pool of Australian workers.”

Which means they should forget about ‘paying down the debt’. Simple.

3. “Government must be on a sustainable footing. We can’t carry high debt levels forever as we will need the buffers to meet future challenges – and there is no way of knowing what crises may come our way.”

Completely false.

The federal government can carry whatever debt level it chooses and for as long as it chooses.

There is never a question that the debt is unsustainable or risky.

That statement by the BCA is equivalent to saying that the non-government wealth that is represented in risk-free government debt cannot rise forever. Of course it can.

Further, the other myth is the “buffers” claim – that somehow the government has to save up its own currency to ensure it can spend it in the future.

It is an absurdity.

Saving is the act that households engage in to forego spending in the current period in order to have greater spending prospects in the future.

They have to sacrifice current consumption to expand their future consumption possibilities because they are financially constrained and are limited in their spending by their income sources.

The same logic does not apply to the currency-issuing government, which can spend however much they like whenever they like, irrespective of how much they spent yesterday.

There is no feasible concept that the government has to say the currency that it issues.

It makes no sense to say that.

Just more of the same from the BCA – and perhaps the government should look to cut the massive industry assistance first and see whether the BCA thinks that it’s a good move.

The Wire

One of the earliest box-set shows I watched, before streaming came along, was – The Wire.

It was a magnificent series (5 seasons).

One of my favourite characters was Stringer Bell, who ran B&B Enterprises in the first two seasons (as in the partners in crime Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell).

B&B was the legal enterprise (property development, etc) that acted as the money laundering operation for their drug revenue.

Stringer was studying macroeconomics at the Baltimore Community College in his spare time and he wanted to run B&B according to the macroeconomic principles he was learning.

He declared at one meeting, while Avon was interned that “We gonna handle this shit like businessmen”.

This encourages all sorts of deviations from the plans that Avon had – such as market segmentation with Proposition Joe, a new cartel arrangement and other things he learns from economics.

I think the writer David Simon got confused between macroeconomics and microeconomics.

Stringer was really applying orthodox microeconomics principles.

Stringer wanted to be an economist and move beyond his criminal operations.

I was reminded of this earlier in the week with the death of Michael K. Williams who played the role of Omar Little, who was also a brilliant character who continually interrupted the Barksdale operation through his hold-ups.

He was my favourite character.

His death in the show (Season 5) was very sad (in the way that fictional media does that to you).

His early death in real life is shocking.

Music – Chill out day

This is what I have been listening to while working this morning.

After last week’s experimental album from Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, I thought we had better go mainstream today and one of the better albums in that regard was – Night Lights – which was released by – Gerry Mulligan – in September 1963.

I didn’t get this record until about a decade later and it suited by mood at the time – chilled.

This is baritone sax at its coolest.

It was recorded in New York city at the Nola Penthouse Studios and featured:

1. Gerry Mulligan – baritone sax and piano.

2. Jim Hall – guitar (one of my favourite players).

3. Bob Brookmeyer – valve trombone.

4. Art Farmer – flugelhorn.

5. William Crow – bass.

6. Dave Bailey – drums.

Here is track 3 – In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning – which was a song made famous by Frank Sinatra in 1955.

So relax and listen to the breathing on that sax.

Here is the whole album if you want to go further:

As an aside, in 2014, the Nola Penthouse Studios were forced to move after their building on 111 West 57th Street was sold. They had been there for 70 odd years.

Not long after in 2017, its co-owner and main mixing technician – Jim Czak – died.

Just Taking Orders

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/09/2021 - 1:42am in

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poem, Music, poetry

New song.

https://medium.com/media/a866aad4d226431af74eaddd4f79bd95/href

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The Diasporic Quartets: Identity and Aesthetics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/09/2021 - 3:48pm in

Keynote lecture in the Diversity and the British String Quartet Symposium, day 3, held on 16th June 2021. Part of the Humanities Cultural Programme, one of the founding stones for the future Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities. Chair: Dr Nina Whiteman
Speaker: Dr Des Oliver
On our final day, we begin with a keynote lecture from composer Dr Des Oliver on his ‘Diasporic Quartets’ projects.
You can learn more here https://www.torch.ox.ac.uk/diversity-and-the-british-string-quartet-0#/

The string quartet takes residence: class, community, curricula

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/09/2021 - 3:42pm in

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Music, Diversity, class

Keynote lecture in the Diversity and the British String Quartet Symposium, held on 14th June 2021. Part of the Humanities Cultural Programme, one of the founding stones for the future Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities. Lecture by Professor Laura Tunbridge (University of Oxford)

Chair: Dr Wiebke Thormählen (Royal College of Music)

We will hear from Beethoven and string quartet expert Prof Laura Tunbridge on the history of performing quartets working in UK universities.

Charlie Watts: Farewell to the gentleman drummer

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 29/08/2021 - 5:00pm in

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Music


 Farewell to the gentleman drummer

Charlie Watts, the gentleman drummer for one of the world’s most notorious, sexiest, wildest and loudest rock groups ever – the Rolling Stones – has passed away peacefully in hospital, aged 80.

He was born Charles Robert Watts on 2 June 1941, in Bloomsbury, London, to a truck driver Dad and housewife Mum. As a child, Watts grew up in Wembley, which was regularly bombed by the Luftwaffe during World War II. He found solace in his large collection of 78 RPM jazz records and became interested in drumming at the age of 13.

After completing his high school education, Watts enrolled in an art college and found work as a graphic designer for an advertising agency. He was artistically gifted and later contributed graphic art and comic strips to Rolling Stones album covers.

In mid-1962, Watts met Brian Jones, Ian “Stu” Stewart, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards via the London Rhythm and Blues (R&B) club scene. He agreed to play with their fledgling band, the Rolling Stones – initially for no pay – because he loved the R&B genre and the musical possibilities it presented. The Stones made him a permanent band member in 1963 and Watts remained with the group until his death, making him one of the band’s longest-serving and most faithful members.

As the Rolling Stones pumped out hit after hit, Watts became renowned for his gentlemanly behaviour, which was in stark contrast to the wild hijinks of fellow band members Brian Jones, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

Watts was never a flashy drummer but he held his own with early hits like '(I Can't Get No) Satisfactionand 'Jumping Jack Flash'.

Watts was also the driving force behind 'Brown Sugar', which the Stones famously performed on the back of a flatbed truck in New York City, in the middle of Manhattan’s teeming traffic.

In 1964, Watts married the love of his life – Shirley Anne Shepherd – who bore him a daughter, Seraphina, in 1968. Seraphina later gave birth to Watts’ beloved and only grandchild, Charlotte.

Watts was unusual in the rock world because he was always faithful to his wife and did not succumb to the groupies that threw themselves at rock stars with monotonous regularity.

He famously wrote that he

'wasn’t interested in being a pop idol, sitting there with girls screaming'.

When invited to the Playboy Mansion in the 1970s, Watts took advantage of Hugh Hefner’s games room and remained oblivious to the scantily clad Playboy bunnies laid on for him and the rest of the group.

Despite never holding a driver’s licence, Watts liked to collect prestige cars and would sit in them in the driveway of his country home, enjoying the luxury.

In addition, Watts was known as a very snappy dresser. A British newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, named Watts was one of the World’s Best Dressed Men and Vanity Fair magazine inducted him into the Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 2006.

However, even quiet and unassuming gentlemen drummers have their breaking points. According to Stones biographer Stephen Davis, one night on tour, Keith Richards took Mick Jagger out for a night on the tiles. By the time they returned to their hotel at five in the morning, Jagger was absolutely plastered.

He called up Watts, who was fast asleep in his own room and started shouting into the phone:

“Izzat my drummer then? Where’s my fucking drummer?”

The mild-mannered Watts, always the quiet one in the group, crawled out of bed and had a leisurely shave. He donned a crisp white shirt and the best suit Savile Row had to offer. He shined his shoes, knotted his tie and padded quietly down the stairs.

Upon reaching Jagger’s room, Watts knocked discreetly and was shown in. Watts suddenly grabbed a most astonished Jagger and felled him with a roadhouse punch.

“Don’t ever call me 'your drummer' again. You’re my fucking singer.”

In our critic’s choice selection – 'Ruby Tuesday' – we agree. This shows off Watts’ drum work to great aplomb.

As the Stones went from strength to strength in half a century of rock stardom, Watts garnered several accolades. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and Modern Drummer magazine named Watts – along with Ringo Star, Keith Moon, Steve Gadd and Buddy Rich – as members of their Drummers’ Hall of Fame.

Influential music critic Robert Christgau called Watts "rock's greatest drummer".

Watts briefly dabbled with drugs and alcohol but dealt with his demons in a quiet and unassuming manner. That said, his health deteriorated in later years and he had to beg off the Stones’ 2021 'No Filter' tour because he had to undergo an unspecified medical procedure.

Watts’ death prompted a flood of tributes from the usual rock suspects and a few quirky people like Yoko Ono, who offered sincere condolences to Watts’ beloved family.

Surviving Stones members let pictures do the talking. Lead guitarist Keith Richards shared a photo of Watts’ Gretsch drum kit with a “closed” sign hanging from the mike stand while lead singer Mick Jagger tweeted a sweet picture of Watts smiling while playing the drums.

Elton John described Watts as

'the ultimate drummer, the most stylish of men and such brilliant company'.

Paul McCartney said Watts was

“a rock and a fantastic drummer — steady as a rock”.

Brian May of Queen said that Watts was

'the nicest gent you could ever meet... and such a pillar of strength for the Rolling Stones'.

The '90s grunge band Pearl Jam wrote:

'The impact he’s had on musicians and listeners across the planet is profound.'

Several rock critics noticed that when the Stones toured, the applause was always loudest for Mr Charlie Watts.

Jenny LeComte is a Canberra-based journalist and freelance writer.

#1529; In which Strings are pulled

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 29/08/2021 - 3:01pm in

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comic, art, Craft, Music

Glassblowing? Hot harpmaking. Piano playing? Sideways harpmaking (testing phase). Performing an opera? Meaty harpmaking (the tiny harp in your throat).


Immanuel Kant on money and more

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 25/08/2021 - 4:33pm in

Today is Wednesday and we mourn the death of Charlie Watts. But while we are doing that, here are some snippets on C18th philosophy and Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), the ideological poverty of German politics, vaccines, and then some Charlie.

Immanuel Kant on Money

A reader (thanks Justin) sent me an interesting tract that he had come across in his own reading.

The discussion below is from the 1797 book – The Metaphysics of Morals – written by the German philosopher – Immanual Kant.

For some unknown (now) reason, I skipped that work after I had read the 1785 work – Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals – during my days of catching up learning about the great moral philosophers.

The full text is available – HERE.

My source wrote:

As to page numbers, the standardized page numbers from the standard German edition of Kant’s work, Kant’s Gesammelte Schriften, are by volume and page. The standardized page number for the above passage is 6:288. The translation I quoted is from the Practical Philosophy volume of The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant. The page numbers for the Cambridge Edition are pp. 435-436. In this section of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant also refers and quotes Smith’s labor theory of value. The Metaphysics of Morals was published in 1797.

The German Text, paragraphs 14-27 (Source)

Wie ist es aber möglich, daß das, was anfänglich Waare war, endlich Geld ward? Wenn ein großer und machthabender Verthuer einer Materie, die er anfangs bloß zum Schmuck und Glanz seiner Diener (des Hofes) brauchte (z. B. Gold, Silber, Kupfer, oder eine Art schöner Muschelschalen, Kauris, oder auch wie in Kongo eine Art Matten, Makuten genannt, oder wie am Senegal Eisenstangen und auf der Guineaküste selbst Negersklaven), d. i. wenn ein Landesherr die Abgaben von seinen Unterthanen in dieser Materie (als Waare) einfordert und die, deren Fleiß in Anschaffung derselben dadurch bewegt werden soll, mit eben denselben nach Verordnungen des Verkehrs unter und mit ihnen überhaupt (auf einem Markt oder einer Börse) wieder lohnt. – Dadurch allein hat (meinem Bedünken nach) eine Waare ein gesetzliches Mittel des Verkehrs des Fleißes der Unterthanen unter einander und hiemit auch des Staatsreichthums, d.i. Geld, werden können.

And the translated English text is:

But how is it possible that what were at first only goods finally became money? This would happen if a powerful, opulent ruler who at first used a material for the adornment and splendor of his attendants (his court) came to levy taxes on his subjects in this material (as goods) (e.g., gold, silver, copper, or a kind of beautiful seashell, cowries; or as in the Congo a kind of matting called makutes, in Senegal iron ingots, or on the Cost of Guinea even black slaves), and in turn paid with this same material those his demand moved to industry in procuring it, in accordance with exchange regulations with them and among them (on a market or exchange). – In this way only (so it seems to me) could a certain merchandise have become a lawful means of exchange of the industry of subjects with one another, and thereby also become the wealth of the nation, that is, money.

MMT stands on the shoulders of giants.

Immanuel Kant was certainly that.

And while we are running a ‘German’ theme

The latest electoral polls are showing that the September 26, 2021, German Parliamentary elections are getting very close, with the SPD at 22 per cent (and shooting up) and CDU/CSU at 23 per cent (and diving) (Source).

The Poll of Polls shows that the ruling CDU/CSU has come off a steady support base of around 36 per cent to drop to its new low since February 2021.

Conversely, the SPD has surged from a relative stable base of 15-17 per cent to its new high since late July 2021.

The current reports covering the upcoming German election in September are suggesting that the awful SPD leader Olaf Sholz could become Chancellor.

I suspect the CDU/CSU will still win though.

Which means there will not be much change if this Tweet from the CDU, put out this Tweet last week (August 21, 2021), is anything to go by.

So “Oldie but Goldie” is what?

Translated it says:

Yes, we confess, we have a little fetish: Solid finances without new debts! That is intergenerational justice in practice! And it is the best prerequisite for investing in the future. We are concerned with both. And our budget shows: Both are possible!

Die Schwarze Null for all those who thought the fiscal debate in Europe had transcended the moronic Stability and Growth Pact fiscal traps.

Oldie and Mouldy!

Please read:

1. Die schwarze Null continues to haunt Europe (May 21, 2018).

2. Dr Die Schwarze Null still not thinking beyond more austerity (April 19, 2021).

Australian Vaccine situation

This updates my thoughts on the disastrous vaccination roll-out in Australia, which has been created by the incompetence of the federal government (who tried to ‘save’ money and didn’t order enough), the conflicting messaging from our health authorities, and the incompetence of the NSW conservative state government who claimed they were the champions of freedom and didn’t need lockdowns to control the Delta variant.

Today, NSW recorded the record number of cases, deaths are rising and more regions are being impacted.

Meanwhile state borders against NSW are firmly shut (and I am stuck in Melbourne unable to get back to Newcastle easily).

I often compare Australia as a federation to the dysfunctional Eurozone and claim that there is unity in our federation that makes it work.

I am now in the process of changing my view on that given that Australia has almost ceased to exist in this pandemic and by dint of the Constitutional responsibilities the States and Territories are at the forefront of the health situation (they run the hospitals and health legislation mainly), while the Commonwealth (federal government) really had only two responsibilities – external quarantine and vaccine purchases and distribution.

The federal government has severely botched both of its responsibilities which is why we keep getting infections escaping quarantine and there is a severe shortage of vaccines.

But Australia has become a collection of separate states and territories and the ideologies within each boundary has to some extent determined how the pandemic has been handled.

By far the majority are zero Covid states and have mostly achieved that with occasional outbreaks being controlled by short, sharp lockdowns.

Victoria, also desires a zero situation, but due to quarantine failures last year, endured a very nasty second wave, which was controlled, ultimately, by a harsh, 110-day lockdown.

NSW has been lucky until now.

But another quarantine breach triggered a Delta outbreak and the conservative government there decided they didn’t need any significant restrictions.

Wrong.

The outbreak is now escalating and damaging the national economy because the other states have isolated NSW.

Now the mantra from these neoliberal idiots is that we have to vaccination our way out of the problem because they have failed to bring case numbers down.

NSW has been forced to impose restrictions now but they are somewhat lax and mostly concentrated (the harshest) on poorer, low-paid communities.

But we are being berated every day by the politicians to get vaccinated so we can be free when we get to 70 or 80 per cent of adult population, which is only about 55 per cent once you add in the children under 16.

And it is the children that are now getting infected by the Delta variant.

The problem is that without sufficient supply, the federal government decided to define who could get AZ (in greater supply) and who could get Pfizer (hardly any available relatively).

Then the medical authorities that sanction the safety of the vaccines determined that AZ was risky for under 60s and so authorised Pfizer for that group.

But there is not enough to go around.

The federal government then decided that it would lose the next federal election (within the next 8 months or so) if the vaccination rates stayed low and, without consultation, told us all that anyone could take AZ even though the medical authorities had declared it undesirable for certain age groups.

The doctors then rebelled and on June 28, 2021, the Australian government bowed to pressure from the medical professionals and announced it would fully indemnify doctors from any damages claims arising from the vaccine program.

This was in the context of the Government going against the advice of the medical authorities.

They didn’t offer any of the citizens are similar indemnity against damage.

Meanwhile, there are growing (but small) number of cases every week of people dying from the side effects of AZ, or, at least, becoming very ill from thrombocytopenia syndrome or TTS.

The medical authorities then reneged as the NSW crisis exploded and decided that people below 60 could have AZ if their doctor was okay with it.

The messaging has been terrible.

And, as a result, a significant number of people are not prepared to take AZ and are waiting for the next major shipment of Pfizer, which apparently is due later this year.

Meanwhile, the supplies of Pfizer has been reallocated to 16-39 year olds because the NSW Wave 3 is infecting kids in great numbers and the government wants to restore ‘freedom’ quickly.

It is a major mess.

Meanwhile, the evidence is that all the confusion is resulting in people baulking at AZ and also not turning up for bookings and/or not making bookings.

Further, anecdotal evidence is that because of all the mess, vials of Pfizer are not fully used on some days which means they go to waste, despite a massive demand for the injection.

And to make matters worse, the 60 year old plus group are even denied a choice and are forced to take AZ or nothing and the evidence is that 27 per cent of the above 55s are refusing that unfair choice, despite being proclaimed by the medical authorities to be the group that is among the most vulnerable to get serious and fatal illness if they catch Covid.

Taken together, the neoliberals are pushing the politicians into a position to ‘open up’ the society in a situation where the population is significantly unvaccinated and has not had any serious viral load over the last 18 months.

But the basic point is that until they give the 60 plus group a choice – that group is now the only one without a choice – the nation cannot get close to the 80 per cent threshold they are defining as the ‘freedom’ day.

The best thing to do, given that appointments are not filled each day and vaccine is going to waste is to just open the queue to everyone with the assumption that you can nominate your preferred vaccine when the appointment is made.

The queue will be long – millions.

But at least the Federal government will then know how much Pfizer they have to get and when the 80 per cent mark will be achieved.

They will also know how many anti-vaxxers there are – that is uncertain.

And on a daily basis, all available slots would be filled and no vaccine would go to waste.

The other point is that the health officials are keen to tell us that the ‘best vaccine is the one that is available’ as a means of trying to force us to take AZ, given there is grossly insufficient supply of Pfizer available.

It is clear that the vast majority of Australians prefer Pfizer.

Just today, they have made it available to 16-39 years and the take up of appointments has increased quickly whereas that cohort was not convinced they should take AZ.

But the authorities keep quoting the average deaths from AZ, which are small.

The problem is, as all statisticians know, no-one is the average.

This US CDC article (July 2, 2014) – Nobody is average but what to do about it? The challenge of individualized disease prevention based on genomics – is interesting.

The authorities can quote the low average AZ clotting deaths and illness for all they like, but those numbers are meaningless for any one individual, who might be in the ‘death’ cohort.

The authorities don’t know the individual risk.

So for some, they are unknowingly being given a lethal injection.

Several are in that category in Australia.

And it is that reality that has created the 27 per cent of over 55s who are not anti-vaxxers but who don’t want to see if the AZ injection is lethal or benign.

Here are some interesting numbers.

All the talk in Australia has been about so-called ‘vaccine hesistancy’ as opposed to ‘anti-vaxxer’.

The two cohorts are clearly different.

I am personally, hesitant, because I am not being given a choice, whereas as I am very strongly pro vaccine.

The Report from Imperial College London – COVID-19 Global Behavioursand AttitudesThe Year in Review – which covers the period April 2020-April 2021, is interesting and covers survey evidence from “29 countries, areas and territories”.

The survey questions covered a number of areas relevant to the public health response to Covid-19 including reactions to lockdowns, trust in government, vaccine sentiment and more.

One section focused on “How has willingness to get the COVID-19 vaccine changed?”

The Report found that:

Compared to November 2020, willingness to get the vaccine has increased in all countries surveyed except Australia.

“To what extent do you agree or disagree that if a COVID-19 vaccine were made available to you this week, you would definitely get it?”

1. For Australia, 55 per cent ‘Strongly Agree’ or ‘Agree’ as at November 2020.

2. By April 2021, the number had dropped to 51 per cent.

3. 24 per cent ‘Disagree’ or ‘Strongly Disagree’ as at November 2020.

4. By April 2021, the number had increased to 27 per cent.

“To what extent do you agree or disagree that you are worried about potential side-effects of a COVID-19 vaccine?”

1. For Australia, 47 per cent ‘Strongly Agree’ or ‘Agree’ as at November 2020.

2. By April 2021, the number had dropped to 44 per cent.

3. 26 per cent ‘Disagree’ or ‘Strongly Disagree’ as at November 2020.

4. By April 2021, the number had increased to 32 per cent.

“To what extent do you agree or disagree that if you do not get a COVID-19 vaccine when it is available, you will regret it?”

1. For Australia, 51 per cent ‘Strongly Agree’ or ‘Agree’ as at November 2020.

2. By April 2021, the number had dropped to 47 per cent.

3. 23 per cent ‘Disagree’ or ‘Strongly Disagree’ as at November 2020.

4. By April 2021, the number had increased to 26 per cent.

“How much do you trust COVID-19 vaccines?”

1. For Australia, 67 per cent ‘Very much’ or ‘Moderately’ as at November 2020.

2. By April 2021, the number had dropped to 66 per cent.

3. 33 per cent ‘A little’ or ‘Not at All’ as at November 2020.

4. By April 2021, the number had increased to 34 per cent.

The point being that while it is difficult to know how many Australians are strictly anti-vaccination as opposed to waiting for a choice, it is likely the former category is substantial.

Reset Australia – which is part of a global effort to “counter digital threats to democracy”, published a report (May 17, 2021) – Anti-vaccination & vaccine hesitant narratives intensify in Australian Facebook Groups – which found that the “national pro-vaccine campaigns are being undermined by online disinformation and misinformation proliferating in Facebook groups.”

They examined “13 Public Facebook Groups between January 2020 – March 2021” in Australia, and, found that:

As of March 2021, these groups had a combined total of over 115,000 members, generating over 2.66 million interactions throughout the period of analysis. During the research period, subscription to these groups grew by 280%.

These groups that have been aided and abetted by conservative elected politicians in Australia are at the extreme end of the resistance.

Reset said the groups were the “tip of the iceberg” given they had only covered a small amount of the available public evidence of anti-vaxxer views.

Other surveys suggest the strict anti-vaxxer cohort is around 11 per cent (Source), which would mean that that resistance “are not a roadblock to getting back to normal”.

But the same research found that there were “27 per cent of Australians … who said they would get vaccinated, but not straight away.”

Much of that group reflects the fact that the denial of choice between AZ and Pfizer and the inconsistent and variable warnings about the dangers of AZ has created the ‘wait’ strategy.

In June 2021, around 50 per cent of the over 55 year old cohort “were willing to get vaccinated, but had not been yet, were waiting for Pfizer to become available.”

The daily vaccination data is available at – Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

The data is broken down in a number of ways and makes interesting reading.

I did some calculations based on this table, which captures the situation on August 23, 2021 in Australia.

We can assume that those who have already taken the first dose are not anti-vaxxers.

You can see that in the above 70 years cohort, they are already meeting the 80 per cent threshold or more.

So it reasonable to assume that the 27 per cent of those who are waiting are in the 55-69 years group, which has had AZ available to them for months and have low relative take up rates

The younger groups have low rates too but have only recently been allowed to access the vaccines.

In June 2021, around 50 per cent of the over 55 year old cohort “were willing to get vaccinated, but had not been yet, were waiting for Pfizer to become available.”

I don’t think the daily berating that the politicians give us to stop waiting will work.

And there is no way that the nation can get to the 80 per cent threshold while that older group of Australians are denied a choice.

It is simple arithmetic.

Which means that the delays in getting to the 80 per cent threshold come back to the poor decisions made by the Australian government in mid-2020, when they tried to ‘save’ money (that they have in infinite supply) and failed to purchase enough Pfizer stocks.

That shortage of supply has worsened because the medical bodies have authorised only Pfizer for the under 60 year olds, even though they have hedged now and said it is up to the individual to take the risk on AZ if they choose.

But the simple and obvious point is that the government must get more Pfizer before we will go beyond these damaging lockdowns.

Then that 27 per cent of older Australians will be falling over themselves to get in the queue to be vaccinated.

Music – Goodbye to Charlie Watts

Charlie Watts – died yesterday.

This obituary (August 24, 2021) – Charlie Watts, Rolling Stones Drummer, Dies at 80 – is a good account of his contribution.

I last saw the Rolling Stones live on November 15, 2014 at the Hope Estate in the Hunter Valley (outside of Newcastle).

Around 18,000 other people joined me and I think all left with the same impression – fabulous show.

I watched Charlie Watts the most during the night because he held the band together.

His timing was really constant and tight, unlike a lot of drummers who speed up during a number as the intensity increases.

I was mesmerised by his playing – a really soft, almost jazz touch on the skins (playing R&B), with a really strong bass drum beat.

I though this video of the Stones from the German (Bremen) – Beat-Club – program was interesting because it focuses, somewhat on the drumming, given that Mick Jagger is largely absent.

Every great band and musician of the time appeared on the Beat-Club.

This recording was done in 1972 in Montreaux.

The sound isn’t great and the guitar players look bored (particularly Mick Taylor) but you get a real sense of the touch of the drummer and the way he sets the bottom end up with Bill Wyman.

No more Charlie.

If you like jazz then some of his Quintet and Big Band albums are excellent. I have several of those.

Here is a sample, which features the long-time, Rolling Stones backing vocalist – Bernard Fowler – singing the George and Ira Gershwin – I’ve Got a Crush on You – which is off the 1997 album Long Ago and Far Away.

That album is fabulous and features the London Metropolitan Orchestra.

And then there was the 1972 album – Jamming with Edward! – which was a spin-off session during the – Let it Bleed – recordings, while the Rolling Stones waited for Keith Richards to turn up.

The – Full Album – features Nicky Hopkins on piano, Ry Cooder, guitar, Mick Jagger, vocals, harp, Bill Wyman, bass and Charlie Watts.

The old R&B song – It Hurts Me Too – is a particular standout from a host of great numbers.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2021 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

In the Dead Archives

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 21/08/2021 - 12:20am in

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Music


Kahle, the Internet Archive’s founder, tells me that he wishes more of the web was shaped like the Dead Archive. “What you’re looking at,” he said, “is from an era of the Internet that I think is best typified by what Tim Berners-Lee called ‘pages.’” Today, he said, instead, what dominates is the “feed.” (“Horrible word,” he added.) Facebook and Twitter scroll by endlessly, unaccountably, and unpleasantly, but “it wasn’t always that way, and it was a choice.”

Pages