Mass Shootings

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

Fifty-odd years ago there was a rash of airplane hijackings. Taking a plane to Cuba was a regular thing, you almost thought 707s were personal Ubers. But then strict security measures were enforced at airports. Suddenly there was screening for metal, i.e. guns, and not only could passengers not walk straight from the parking lot to the gate, their friends and families couldn’t either. Yes, that was a regular feature, you’d walk off the jetway and there your loved ones would be, smiling, ready to walk you out of the airport to the car. If you were a regular flier…you could arrive at the gate mere minutes before they shut the door and the plane took off. It was so much easier! But then those damn hijackers ruined it for everyone.

If the same thing happened today, if people were hijacking planes and we didn’t have layers of security, there would be an outcry at the institution of any screening, it would impinge upon people’s liberty and freedom. As for a solution to the problem, pilots would all be told to strap on guns. And if that didn’t work, then the passengers. After all, one has a right to get on the plane without personal intrusion, and if it affects the well-being of others, so be it.

Fascinatingly, twenty years ago this same swath of the public was willing to give up so many rights in the effort to fight terrorism. No liquids or blades on the plane. Sure, you could bring small containers, but even at this late date it’s always fascinating to look in the garbage cans at both ends of the security screening apparatus. They’re filled with contraband. Some are too stupid, some are uninformed, some just forget…but shouldn’t they be protected, why do they have to throw this stuff out?

This is America today. We are not a homogenous society under one president, we’re not even an homogenous society under one flag! We are not all in it together, we’re all out for ourselves. It’s caveat emptor through and through, you don’t deserve welfare and if you want to be rich pull yourself up by your bootstraps you lazy S.O.B. But if you’re going to have a disabled kid, it’s your responsibility, life is precious, it must not be snuffed.

As for mental health…

Let’s start with opportunity, jobs. You have to go to college today to get a high-paying job, a reasonable job, forget what you learn there, it’s a litmus test. God forbid you don’t have a high school degree, you’re a nonentity. Used to be you could make bucks as a blue collar worker, but now you have to run around like a rat in the Amazon warehouse, afraid of unionizing for fear Jeff Bezos will come and crush your job, while the enterprise makes you watch anti-union videos, legal under the law, because America runs on corporations, and if they’re not given welfare, how is the money supposed to trickle down to you, the rank and file?

This is not the way it used to be.

But this is the way it is now.

I’m not saying it used to be perfect, but LBJ had a war on poverty, and one can debate whether there’s less poverty today, but one thing’s for sure, no one cares about the poor, you’re the scourge of society, and if you’re doing dope good riddance. Yes, there wasn’t an opioid problem until the scions of the wealthy started to drop.

This streak of “rugged individuality” appeared in westerns, but hadn’t been the everyday life of U.S. citizens since the 1800s. But it’s back now. You need your freedom, the freedom not to get a vaccine. Back in that same era, actually about a decade before the airplane hijackings, we all lined up in school to take a plastic spoonful of polio vaccine. That couldn’t happen today. Ironically, both the extreme right and the extreme left would be up in arms. Both would distrust the government, both would question the safety and efficacy of the drug, and both would rely on bogus information to support their case. We used to agree on the facts, which were reasonable. But believing in Q and being in Congress? Impossible!

So what do we do now?

First and foremost, we ignore the ignorant. For far too long, we’ve been playing to their sensitivities, we’ve been afraid of offending them. Not only on a governmental level, but on a personal one too. Obama kowtowed to Republicans who wouldn’t work with him no matter what. And you were told you must not talk politics, you might offend someone.

But today, Biden has called foul on this governmental strategy. And Joe is supported by more than half the country, he was elected by a margin of ten million votes, his approval rating is 59% as of this writing. But those on the other side not only can’t accept this, they don’t believe it!

The sides are sliding further apart. And they must come together, falsehoods, misinformation, inanities must be quashed and eliminated.

You can’t appease anyone anymore. They’re dug into their position. Why respect one based on falsehoods. Never mind a stacked Supreme Court that believes if you’re gathering under religion, somehow Covid-19 knows and you’re immune, and therefore this behavior is protected, never mind that choir that got infected.

We’ve got to start laying down the law.

You want to fly on an airplane? You’ve got to be vaccinated. Just like with guns. We’re not saying we’re taking away your guns, we’re just saying you can’t fly with them, it’s your choice.

Same deal with going into public spaces. Concerts, even grocery stores. It’s for the common good, for all our health. And why is it you believe in individual freedom but are depending upon the rest of the population to achieve herd immunity so you don’t have to get a vaccine, for either Covid-19 or measles? We’ve got to stop accommodating the crazies.

As for guns…

They must have security features. Forget being able to defend your home, statistics tell us you shoot innocent people, never mind yourself. And if guns are in your home, they must be locked up. Tell me again why an unlocked, unprotected gun is necessary in your home? So your kid can play with it and shoot his brother or sister?

And we need background checks and high penalties and…

A governmental safety net, so if you lose your job you can survive. Lose your gig and you lose not only your salary, but your health insurance! If we had national health care, fewer would shoot up workplaces.

And these independent insurance companies should be forced to pay for mental health care, which even if the law says they should don’t, or limit.

But we must attack guns at the source.

Let’s start with the Second Amendment. Even if one could interpret it as the right to defend oneself against a militia…we don’t fight wars that way anymore. You can’t overthrow a government today with personal firearms. The key to victory today is computers. And every adult American has a smartphone. Sure, you can keep your smartphone, but you can’t use your gun to defend yourself.

Change the Second Amendment first. Make it clear. Don’t tell me it can’t be done, think big, put it in the national discussion. Think of the leaders in Silicon Valley, they don’t say it can’t be done. And isn’t it funny that we’re using Elon Musk’s rockets to go back to the moon. We used to rely on the government, but for forty years the government has been excoriated, but when there’s a national disaster, everybody’s got their hands out.

But truly, this isn’t about guns, this is about Americans. They’ve been sold a bill of goods. They’ve been told everyone can be rich and famous even though taxes are low and the school sucks. They’ve been told that praying will solve problems. They’ve been told that unless they blindly dig in their heels they’ll lose something dear. They’re so afraid of losing something that they abhor change, in every walk of life. You’re scared you’re gonna lose out in the future. And if you do, it’s always someone else’s fault. It’s like everybody wants to go back to the pre-seatbelt, pre-airbag days, after all it’s expensive and uncomfortable, shouldn’t you have a choice?

No you should not! It’s the same deal with motorcycle helmets, you may not want to wear one, but if you crash we’re the ones picking up the tab for not only your medical bills, but possibly for welfare in the future when you can’t work.

Furthermore, we can’t even hold the culprits accountable. We can have hearings over social media, but we’re told the companies are self-policing. There can be no restrictions. But then what they say can’t be done is, like technology to flag copyright infringement. They kick Trump off of Twitter and calm returns. You can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theatre, why can you do so on the internet? Never mind the bankers who blow up the economy and get away without going to jail. Have an air-freshener hanging from your rearview mirror and you might not only end up in jail, you might end up dead, because the rules are different for the rich and the poor, never mind people of color.

Just like with JFK in the sixties, we need to think big. We need moon shot goals. We need to point everybody at the same target. And we must trust government to get things done and government must try to get things done. We should have a ten point list, and then we should do our best to achieve it. And since no one can agree on anything these days, it must come from the individual, one in power.

Come on, how about the elimination of false information on the internet. Why do you need the right to spread bogus info?

Same deal with guns in public. Enough with the hogwash about needing to defend yourself, if anything you’ve got the cops, which these same people laud, so anxious and trigger-happy that they’re shooting innocent people.

Right now there’s no control in America. Things are pretty good in California, both economically and virus-wise, but not quite half the population demonizes the Golden State because…exactly why? No one is forcing anyone to move here, and so much of the technological breakthroughs originate here. And California drives the economy of the nation. What’s the problem here again?

Big problems demand big solutions, end zone passes. How many people are complaining they can’t bypass security at the airport? None. How many people are gonna bitch when everybody is vaccinated and Covid-19 is eradicated? None. People have short attention spans. Deliver success and they forget about their complaints.

But we must take action. We must stop wringing our hands and saying problems are unsolvable, we must stop letting the tail wag the dog. Freedom is being alive and able to live without fear, not being able to do what you want to 24/7 irrelevant of your fellow citizens.

We can make progress. It all depends on leaders, who speak truth, who refuse to worry about naysayers, and are just concerned with doing what is right.

But too many Americans are focused on what is wrong. They’re right, you’re wrong. Really? There can’t be any consensus? Right now we live in a Tower of Babel society, driven by the internet. And nobody with any power seems to realize this. We’ve lost control. We must use all available tools to bring control back. Otherwise, we’re going to lose not only lives, but our nation. I’m willing to sacrifice for the common good, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country!

The Apple Letter

The people on Spotify are much more active listeners.

The debate has been about money when it should always be about reach, have enough reach and there’s plenty of money. In other words, the public has spoken, if you love music, if you just can’t get enough of it, you’re on Spotify. Never mind that Spotify is the company that continues to push the envelope, never mind this week’s car device, how about the extra playlists generated based on your listening history…far superior to Discover Weekly and Release Radar, and the other companies haven’t even touched those.

So, Apple pays a penny a stream!

But that’s just because there are fewer streams. Apple is for the casual listener, subscribing to the service because they trust Apple, and are scared of laying down their credit card for Spotify. Also, Apple has a great reputation that it just works, and that pays dividends, i.e. signups here.

But the stealth operator is Amazon, which released opaque numbers today. But bottom line, with Amazon it’s all about the bundle. Apple is trying this, but failing, it’s just not enough of a discount. It is with News, but the further bundles of all their services…they don’t incentivize anybody to upgrade, you’ve got to give me more off.

So Amazon sells you Amazon Prime, which every Amazon customer must have, for the two day delivery, its cost is a no-brainer, and it comes with all that video for free, and it comes with hobbled music for free. And, got to give Amazon credit for offering a higher res music option, which Spotify says it’s going to provide, but it hasn’t happened yet. In other words, you’d pay for Prime even if nothing else came attached, but you get so much more! Furthermore, Prime also sells so many other streaming platforms… Many people sign up for Disney+ and HBO Max and other channels via Amazon platforms, and therefore Amazon gets even more revenue, read this article: 

“How Amazon Strong-Arms Partners Using Its Power Across Multiple Businesses – A heavyweight in retail, cloud computing, digital advertising, streaming and smart speakers, the tech giant compels vendors in one market to engage with it in others”:

Yes, this article is behind a paywall, but just like you’re paying for TV, you’ll find you’ll have to pay for news. Did you see Reuters just went behind a paywall? This is the evolution of the internet…everything for free? Fuggetaboutit!

Meanwhile, knowing margins are so low on music, and the business doesn’t scale, Spotify has diversified to stay alive, podcasts and more, and they’re winning here too!

“Spotify podcast listener numbers will surpass Apple’s this year”:

Apple had a first mover advantage and squandered it. Apple didn’t need podcasts, Spotify does, amazing what hunger will have you do.

So, instead of bitching about Spotify, you should be embracing it. The war has been fought, Biden’s bringing home the soldiers from Afghanistan, can’t you understand that physical and files are dead? (Don’t e-mail me about the de minimis numbers of vinyl or the declining numbers at the iTunes Store, that’s the definition of an ostrich, someone whose head is so buried in the sand that they can’t see the overall picture.)

Spotify can’t increase payments, IT CAN’T! If it does, it will go out of business. But try explaining math to a musician, never mind the inane reporters in mainstream publications who eat up and spew out this crap. And in the Apple letter the company says:

“Like others, we have looked at alternative royalty models. Our analysis has shown that they would result in a limited redistribution of royalties with a varied impact to artists. Per play rates would cease to be the same for every play of a song. But more importantly, the changes would not increase what all creators earn from streaming. Instead, these changes would shift royalties towards a small number of labels while providing less transparency to creators everywhere.”

Every study says this. I’m not against trying it, and maybe Apple doesn’t want to pay for the infrastructure, but Deezer has…but the major labels won’t allow them to try it, because the greedy labels hate change when in this case their partner says payments to them will actually go up!

So if you tie up with Apple, get on their homepage, the results will be less, whoever embraces your music will embrace it less. (Of course there are active users on Apple Music, but I’m speaking generally, you get it…or maybe you don’t.)

Also, Spotify has its free tier, which killed piracy overnight (10% of the people will never pay, but that same 10% never bought physical either…you know, these were the people who needed to borrow your records to tape.) Free dilutes overall payments, because the rate to rights holders is lower. As is the rate on Pandora and other streaming radio platforms, as opposed to on demand. But you can’t teach the truth to someone categorically against it. Hell, what are the odds people can understand how streaming works when they won’t even get a Covid-19 vaccine. Yes, I’m so right I’m going to DIE rather than accept the truth!

You’re better off getting a lower rate for more listens on Spotify. Because more listens means you have more dedicated fans, and they are what support your career, not those who come for the hit and then disappear. Active, not passive users, never forget it.

And if you’re bitching about the per stream rate…you’re probably not making that much to begin with, because if you’ve got hundreds of millions of streams, you’re making serious dough.

Also, Spotify has said that the rich are not getting richer on its platform. That the overall share of streams/revenue to top artists has been declining! But rather than acknowledge that and have a sliver of hope, people on the bottom can’t stop bitching that instead of their royalty payment being $10, it should be $12. Come on, it doesn’t make a difference, $2 won’t even buy you a cup of coffee!

As for all those articles saying so and so artist can’t survive in music… They wouldn’t have had a career at all in the old system, they wouldn’t have even been able to participate! But, this generation believes everybody should get a trophy, everybody should win. And the boomers hate change, they keep yearning for the past, many are now adopting streaming, but they’re the last on board. They’d prefer to play their favorite CDs, when the truth is both of my computers and my car stereo are CD player free.

So on paper it looks like the one cent per play at Apple Music is superior to the payment at Spotify, but it’s not.

Data and transparency are the ethos of the era. I applaud Apple for releasing this information. But please, you must read it all in context, as opposed to applying the Steve Jobs reality distortion field.

And, you must applaud the huge numbers of streaming subscribers, it’s good for music, it’s good for acts. You can reach people all over the world for almost nothing. If you start a fire, people can feel the heat and go to their platform of choice and immediately listen to your music. And never forget, the recording is just the beginning.

It’s hard, I know. But the smarter, the more educated you are, the better you play the game, only losers sit around bitching about streaming payments that they don’t fully understand anyway!


“Valley of Tears” was too violent for Felice. But I recommend it, it’s an Israeli series on HBO Max about the 1973 war, incredibly well done, not that I’ve finished it yet, I’m six episodes in, and when Felice dropped out I switched to my iPad and it just didn’t have the same effect, it needed the big screen, making me wonder how people’s perceptions of visual entertainment are affected by the screen they use. This is not about theatre versus home, that ship has sailed, it’s about getting a 65″ screen that is state of the art or…watching on an old TV. As for movies… If I see one more VOD movie reviewed in the New York or Los Angeles “Times” I’m gonna puke! Do you know how much I’m paying for cable/internet/streaming? Do you really think I want to pay another ten or twenty bucks to see some film? The truth is today I can live without ANYTHING! Other than food and water and shelter, I’ve got no necessary needs. I can miss anything. But purveyors don’t seem to realize this. Put up an extra payment, on your film, on your music, on your newsletter, and I’m out. Do you know how much I subscribe to that I rarely read/watch? I’m not lacking for input, I’m not bored, if anything I wish I had three lives, one to work, one to read and one to watch television, there’s just that much out there and I have just that much desire. The papers should be reviewing TV shows, not movies, but the news is always one step behind, even in its own business of journalism.

So checking my list for a new show, I came across “Undercover” on Netflix. It’s a Belgian/Dutch series. Yes, you can watch it dubbed, but please turn on the subtitles. It turns out that the flatlands of Belgium are a hotbed of ecstasy production, the world’s number one, who knew? And Ferry and his compatriots are ecstasy dealers and…

Now we are not familiar with the actors. But having said that, they perform so well that I believe that’s who they are. This is not the casting of America where first we consider your looks and your fame, the people look like those you encounter in real life. And Bob and Kim are cops who move into a trailer park to snare the bad guys and… They believe in their jobs. They’ll sacrifice anything for their jobs. And Kim refuses to take a back seat, she’s innovative, she tests the limits.

Most people are not passionate about their jobs, no matter how much money they make. It’s about the money. Especially if you’re in banking…I mean who cares? But in order for life to be fulfilling, you need something to live for. In this case, catching the bad guys, which is very hard to do.

And the bad guys are not dumb. Trust is truly off the table. Ferry knows not to go too big, because then attention is drawn. And just like with the Mafia, once you’re in you can’t get out, cross Ferry and cronies at your peril. And even if you’re innocent, they might still believe you’re guilty.

But what makes the show so inviting is the mood. This is not the fast and flat cinematography of typical TV movies, never mind regular shows, the images are rich, they feel real, you’ve been there, to a camping site where it’s not always sunny, but you accept it. And where everybody is not always rich. And it all doesn’t look like “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” because you don’t want to draw attention to yourself if you’re rich. Trump never got this memo, he was skating on his tax shenanigans, now he’s probably going up the river. The nouveau riche think it’s about totems, showing off, those with real money, who’ve been in the game for a while, are low key.

So, what does it take to make friends? Can you read a room? Know when to talk and when not to? Danielle can’t, and therefore she’s rejected and lonely, ready for Kim/Anouk’s entreaties. As for Bob/Peter…he’s actually not as skilled as Kim in infiltration, but he’s the one who has to snare Ferry. As for Ferry… He’s played by Frank Lammers, and he’s so good, if this was an American show he’d win an Emmy or a Golden Globe or whatever phony award they’re giving out this week. The truth is these criminals rarely look like an Adonis, like they’re out of a fashion spread. Ferry is far from classically beautiful, and he’s got a beer gut, but he can be intimate and off-putting, he shows the range of all emotions while calculating all the while and…

The hits just keep on coming. Some literal, some figurative, the plot keeps moving forward, and the cops don’t always win! In real life it doesn’t always go the cops’ way, and the truth is to be a really successful criminal you’ve got to be very savvy, not a hothead, you’ve got to learn from experience, and keep your eyes open at all times.

“Undercover” is akin to “The Sopranos,” but without all the family interactions that made that series the best of all time. But when it comes to the crime, the interaction, that’s similar. But Tony and his gang are part of a family, Ferry’s organization is independent, and much smaller. And the cops are savvy, but they’ve got to catch him in the act…you can know someone is guilty, but proving it can be very difficult.

So if you’ve watched the biggies…”Spiral,” “The Bureau,” “Borgen,” “Prisoners of War”…and you’re looking for another intense drama, I highly recommend “Undercover.” You’ll want to watch it. That’s the criterion, all day do you think about when you’ll be able to park your butt and watch, if not…it’s not a hit. And you feel like you truly know these characters, who are far from one-dimensional, they are not cardboard cutouts, they are patently three-dimensional and real.

As usual, I don’t want to tell you plot details, I don’t want to ruin it, I want you to be constantly surprised, thinking you’ve got it figured out, but you don’t.

I’d say they could remake “Undercover” as an American show, but there’s no need, the original is just a click away on Netflix. And if they did redo it, they’d get famous actors who would overshadow the roles, I’ve never seen a movie with Meryl Streep where I didn’t see Meryl Streep. A few U.S. actors can transcend their real life identity, but not many. Maybe because we make them into stars, when the truth is in other countries there’s less money to be made and acting is seen more as a profession.

As is viewing.

We live in an incomprehensible world. All day long we deal with incoming. Even worse, we never feel like we’re caught up. We end alienated, disconnected, wondering where we fit in. But when I watch “Undercover” I realize life is really just about your little world, and that most people, no matter how rich, are not instantly recognizable and don’t live a life of perks 24/7. We’re all the same under the skin. But what profession do we pursue? You don’t need an education to be a criminal, but to succeed you’ve got to be really damn smart. Ferry is sharp, but he’s not the Professor in “Money Heist,” he’s got a violent streak and he runs on feel, on instinct, which can be right, but can also be wrong. Ferry is taking it day by day, just like you and me. As for Bob and Kim? Their lives are their jobs, but they think their jobs have meaning. Do they? I’ll let you decide.

Slava Rubin-This Week’s Podcast

Slava Rubin was a cofounder and CEO of crowdfunding platform Indiegogo and in addition to being a founder and managing partner of investment firm humbition, he is now executive chairman of Vincent Alternative Investments, check it out: We discuss Slava’s history, but we also go deep into alternative investments, i.e. NFTs and other assets you can purchase all or just a slice of. If you want to know all about cutting edge investments, this is the place!