American Elephants


Chopin Barcarolle Op 60. Artur Rubenstein, 1928 by The Elephant's Child
October 28, 2011, 7:14 pm
Filed under: Music

In March of 1928, Fred Gaisberg, the famous artistic director of the Gramophone Company (HMV) persuaded Rubinstein to make a few test recordings. None would be released without the pianist’s permission. Those that did not have Rubinstein’s approval would be destroyed. Rubinstein had serious misgivings about recording because he had heard piano recordings that were made using the acoustic process which he said made the piano sound like a banjo. (Perhaps Rubinstein was speaking from personal experience. Circa 1910, he had recorded two selections for the Polish label Farorit. This recording is extremely rare and has never been reissued. There is a tape). Gaisberg told him that the new electrical system captured the piano tone faithfully.

Upon arriving at the studio, Rubinstein was disturbed to find that one of the pianos that he was to play, a Bluthner, was not a full size concert grand.. Gaisberg encouraged him to try it. Rubinstein writes, “Well, this Bluthner had the most beautiful singing tone I have ever found. I became quite enthusiastic and decided to play my beloved Barcarolle of Chopin. The piano inspired me.  I don’t think I ever played better in my life. And then the miracle happened; they played it back to me and I must confess that I had tears in my eyes. It was the performance that I dreamed of and the sound reproduced faithfully the golden tone of the piano. Gaisberg had won.”

Rubinstein went on to record several other compositions, but for some reason the Barcarolle from the March session was not released. Of the compositions that he recorded that day, only the Chopin Waltz Op 34 No.1 (recorded on a full size Steinway concert grand that also was in the studio), and the Brahms Capriccio B minor Op.76 No. 2, were released. The following month, Rubinstein returned to Small Queens Hall, Studio C London, to re-record the Chopin Barcarolle on the Bluthner that had so inspired him. It is this recording that I have placed here. (Years ago I was trying out some pianos one of which was a Bluthner. It also had a gorgeous tone.)

In his biography “Rubinstein, A Life,” Harvey Sachs writes that this recording of the Barcarolle is “amazing in its mixture of quiet intimacy, melodic splendor, mounting eroticism and dazzling explosions of joy.



Is It A Company’s Responsibility to Create Jobs? by The Elephant's Child

An article in the Wall Street Journal today (subscription barrier) tackles the question : Are Companies Responsible for Creating Jobs?, and posits that question as one particularly raised by the Occupy Wall Street protests. Writer John Bussey stipulates that the agenda of the demonstrators is a fuzzy one “ranging from income inequality to poor housing to executive pay.”

 I am, thank goodness, far removed from the protests, so I know only what I have seen in photographs and videos, but the common conception of the protesters as young people and students is inaccurate as well. Lots of old-line communists, middle-aged sixties leftovers, socialist literature and Ché tee shirts, but they may not be camping out. Pavement is hard on old bones.

There is an enormous amount of confusion about creating jobs. President Obama clearly believes in government as a job creator. Others complain about American businesses sitting on mounds of cash, yet not observing their social responsibility to create jobs. Mr Bussey’s article is quite fair and states what the polls show as well as Milton Friedman’s take on the question:

Milton Friedman, the Nobel laureate economist, blasted the very idea of corporate social responsibility four decades ago, calling it a “fundamentally subversive doctrine.” Speaking for many capitalists then and now, he said, “there is one and only one social responsibility of business—to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game.”

Companies shouldn’t spend profits on unrelated job creation or social causes, he said. That money should go to shareholders—the owners of the companies. Pronouncements about corporate social responsibility, he added, are the indulgence of “pontificating executives” who are “incredibly shortsighted and muddle-headed in matters that are outside their businesses.” And that indulgence can lead to inefficient markets.

If a job is created, who pays the bills?  Each job comes with a salary or pay scale, and most add the cost of assorted benefits and taxes. When a new government job is created, it does indeed put food on the table of the new worker, but that salary, those benefits and the food on the table are paid for with taxpayer dollars — not ‘government money’ for in America there is no such thing as government money — for it all comes from taxpayers, and is a drain on the economy.

Who pays for jobs in the private economy? The job is a cost to a business. It is paid out of the profit. Profit is not a bad word, it is the only reason for a business to exist. If a business does not make a profit, someone still has to pay for the costs. That is the reason behind layoffs and the reason behind bankruptcy. Companies create jobs when they expect growth in the economy that will pay for the ongoing cost of the job, and when there is a real need for someone to do the work that the job entails.

Obama’s failed American Jobs Bill proposed to deliver a $4,000 tax credit, one time, for businesses that created a job for someone who had been unemployed.  Even if the job paid only around $25,000 a year, the employer is on the hook for benefits, FICA, unemployment insurance, as well as all the office space, equipment and amenities that the job requires. Why would Obama believe that a one-time $4,000 tax credit would be an incentive for a cost that continues for years?

Jobs are created by a growing economy, not the other way around.

So the question is not how do you create jobs— the question is how do you create a growing economy? You don’t do it with infrastructure banks, nor with government jobs programs, nor by turning government into a venture capitalist to support fledgling businesses that real venture capitalists find too risky.  Creating jobs does not lead to growth and prosperity.  Growth and prosperity create jobs. A growing company has more work than its employees can complete. A growing company needs more hands, more experience and more ideas.

According to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Americans spent 8.8 billion hours filling out government forms in fiscal year 2010. Those hours are sucked out of the productive economy — whoever filled them out was paid for their time. A new regulation for grocery store food labels to indicate which foods are healthy foods would entail endless hours complying with the regulation and endless dollars in expense for producing new lables.When you have government offices full of people who have never worked in a business, they do not understand the costs their ideas involve. At $20 an hour, those 8.8 billion hours wasted on compliance activity would come to $176 billion, which is way more than the cost of stimulus jr. that Obama is trying to flog through Congress.

We have a president and an administration that want to create jobs for the unemployed; they just don’t get how it is done, and they have a mindset that refuses to accept the ways to create a growing economy. They despise corporations, think they have too much power, and cannot conceive reducing the corporate income tax (the world’s highest), reducing regulation (corporations are evil and must be controlled), cannot conceive of a corporation that would not pollute unless forced (by wise regulations) to save the planet.

Conservatives keep explaining how growth is created, and liberals keep turning it down. Go figure.



The Long Nose of Government is Inserted in Your Grocery Cart and in Your Pantry. by The Elephant's Child

More people are planting gardens or raising a few hens, planning to enjoy the bounty of their own fresh food. Not so fast, the judicial system has something to say about that:

You grow a garden; you expect to be able to harvest the food from that garden and eat it. You raise a cow; you expect to be able to milk that cow and consume the milk. You raise chickens; you expect to gather eggs and eat them. It’s uncomplicated, simple, a fundamental right. Perhaps you wouldn’t feel this way if you lived under some other form of government, but here, now, in America and other democratized countries, this is what you expect.

According to Wisconsin Judge Patrick J. Fiedler, you do not have a fundamental right to consume the food you grow or own or raise. The Farm To Consumer Legal Defense Fund, the pioneers in defending food sovereignty and freedom, recently argued before Judge Fiedler that you and I have a constitutional right to consume the foods of our choice. Judge Fiedler saw no merit to the argument and ruled against the FTCLDF. When they asked him to clarify his statement, these were his words:

“no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to own and use a dairy cow or a dairy herd;”“no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to consume the milk from their own cow;”

“no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of their choice

As the judge interpreted Wisconsin law, only a’ license holder’ or an individual ‘who has a bonafide ownership interest in the milk producer’ can make milk available. This seems to be a ruling to conform to the government idea that no one be allowed to drink raw milk.  For those of us who were raised on raw milk this seems especially offensive.

We didn’t use raw milk out of a prejudice against pasteurization, but because it was the only thing available. We bought our milk from a neighboring rancher, and did without when the wild onions came into bloom.  No dairies. There are large groups of people who, for whatever reason, seek out raw milk because they believe it to have some healthier qualities. I don’t understand that either.

The groups supporting raw milk seem to have an unwarrented faith in anything “natural” or “organic,”which if you consider the alternative “unnatural foods” shows a little of how silly these designations are. And yoou’d better check with your doctor before getting into any “natural” cures.

Governmental interference, however, is increasing. The new, new thing is a program to change the labels on food in the grocery store (They never understand that changing labels is not free, but an enormous expense) to indicate which foods are healthy, and which contain too much sugar, salt, fat, trans-fats, corn syrup,or flavor to be considered, by the feds, as healthy. I added the ‘flavor’ to the list because by the time  you eliminate all the other stuff, the food won’t have any flavor anyway.

What this should indicate is offices in the federal government establishment that are ripe for elimination by the Deficit Commission, since they are offices that clearly don’t  have enough real work to do. And the Deficit Commission is having a terrible time trying to find spending that they can eliminate.

How about a new protest movement?  We march on Washington DC to demand the cuts that would cut the government back to size. Members of Congress may have a hard time finding anything to cut, but ordinary citizens would have no trouble coming up with things we can do without.




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