My apothegm for the New Year: Technology has made complexity too easy.
Much as I may disagree with the substance of Trump’s blizzard of executive orders, as much intellectual and moral revulsion as I feel at a lot of this stuff, it strikes me that he’s doing exactly what he told his followers he would do. I know how confusing this must be to the “swamp dwellers,” and their coastal media catamites. They’ve operated for years on the assumption that a disconnect between what’s said and what’s done is perfectly OK, because, after all, they went to Harvard. What a shock it must be for such noble minds to find themselves confronted with a fellow who actually goes ahead and does what he said he going to do, and damn the Ivy League torpedoes!
1.Years ago, reporting a Golf Digest piece on the Hooters Tour, I met a young golfer named Tom Gillis. His game struck me as much better suited to European courses, and I urged him to seek his golfing fortune overseas. He did, and built a fine career, both in Europe and back here. He tweeted this today. I say Amen! “Jason Day won’t speed up on the course. However he’s not afraid to hit into the group in front of him.”
2.Here’s an excellent long Saturday read that pretty neatly summarizes the pro- and anti-Trump economic currently buzzing in the talkasphere. http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/01/trumping-capitalism.html
1.I’m a fan of Zephyr Teachout: https://thebaffler.com/blog/zephyr-teachout-corruption-denison Here’s an observation that particularly grabbed me: “There’s lots of ways to see the Trump election. It has many different sources. But certainly one source is that there was an incredible desire to throw out what they saw as the elite corrupt establishment. And Trump’s conflicts of interest and Trump’s own corruption is really quite threatening and disturbing, and we can talk about that more. And maybe I shouldn’t have to say this but I absolutely didn’t support him and thought he was unfit to be president. But I think that you can really understand at least part of the impulse in electing him as coming from an anti-corruption impulse, even if you disagree with the way that impulse expressed itself.” My feelings exactly: Trump’s election represents a laudable aim undone by repugnant means.
2.As a consequence of the blowback, both populist and legal, provoked by Trump’s executive order on immigration, I won’t be surprised to see him rush a Supreme Court appointment so as to have a majority when, inevitably, the matter reaches the high court. I believe that the Democrats in the Senate have the legislative means to prevent this in the same way McConnell’s GOP cadres held up Obama. But that will depend on Schumer, whom I don’t trust; as we used to say on the Street, “Schumer would sell his mother below the bid.” A couple of days ago there was a photo of leaders in Congress of both parties clustered around Trump. The expression on Schumer’s face told me all I needed to know. I’m not informed as to whether my senior Senator does golden showers, but he has every other move a Trumpist whore would consider essential.
3.The existential resonance of algorithms is now so great that I think it behooves all who seek the examined life, even if not mathematically or scientifically adept, to understand what they can. I found this article helpful: https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/algorithmic-life/
4. Big Brother Watch: http://nypost.com/2017/01/27/whistleblower-site-for-wells-fargo-workers-vanishes/
5. Another smart writer. Don’t mind the source! http://takimag.com/article/humble_pie_in_short_supply_theodore_dalrymple?utm_source=Taki%27s+Magazine+List&utm_campaign=47e5061972-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f7706afea2-47e5061972-379408349#axzz4XBcuGXlp
6. Watching GOP standard-bearers like Paul Ryan fall into line reminds me of those awful moments during CBS’s Sunday golf telecasts when Jim Nantz, the Mozart of bootlicking and buttkissing, buries his unctuous snout up the posterior of the CEO of whatever insurance company is sponsoring this week’s PGA event.
Now 3 weeks since quitting FB. Doing just fine. No shakes or anxiety. Also no email or Twitter clamor for my return – which really says something! Hate to think what my fellow onetime sufferers are going through with this immigration business! Maybe it’s time to devise a ten-step AA-style withdrawal program.
1.(thanks Joe Pompeo of Politico Media). I agree with Sullivan, who had a not altogether distinguished career as “Public Editor” of NYT, but seems to be writing pretty acute stuff at WaPo, whatever that means. This country is dying of over-analysis, like psychiatry junkies I’ve known, analysis of every kind, from algorithmic data-massaging to Op-Ed chinstroking, and a lot of the conclusions reached seem to have been just plain wrong. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/more-facts-fewer-pundits-heres-how-the-media-can-regain-the-publics-trust/2017/01/29/9c0232ba-e4a7-11e6-a453-19ec4b3d09ba_story.html?utm_term=.c3c1535f396d
2.I liked this a lot when I read it yesterday. I only hope he’s right. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/01/a-clarifying-moment-in-american-history/514868/
3. “Brooklyn Books”: First, The Brooklyn Nobody Knows: An urban walking guide by William B. Helmreich. This book’s had a lot of ink so I got it as a necessary addition to my NYC/Brooklyn shelves. Naturally, I turned first to the section on DUMBO, where I’ve lived now for 16 years. Talk about drinking the Kool-Aid! This section (I’ve read no further in the book) reads as if written by a real estate agent. The author speaks of “a neighborhood that treasures and promotes authenticity.” That’s just bullshit. Once you get past the exterior of certain industrial buildings lately converted into luxury condos, there’s no authenticity left in DUMBO. Like so many other neighborhoods, what may have been authentic about the place has been washed away by the sterile tsunami of money and attitude that the Bloomberg administration, which focused its affections on people who don’t really live in this city, set in motion. At night, you can set off a cannon in the street and hit no one. By day, however, it’s a different story: on weekdays, the streets are thronged with overpaid young tech-type people baying for organic-free lunch bars. On weekends, it’s tourists, drawn by the Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge Park – so many tourists wandering around taking mindless selfies that people like me don’t venture out. We have our high spots – how could we not? – like St.Ann’s Warehouse, three or four local restaurants that do a nice job, but the closest to a destination restaurant remains the River Cafe. I know this sounds awfully grumpy, and I’m the first to admit that I’ve no longer got the energy and orthopedic wherewithal to hop bars, but it does seem to me that Carroll Gardens, Prospect Lefferts, Sunset Park, even Park Slope, have a feeling of place and ordinary humanity that has been expunged from this part of town. My other Brooklyn book, a novel this time, is Class, by Lucinda Rosenfeld. It’s about a youngish mother with a kid in school who’s conflicted by the upscale life and values she thinks she ought to crave for her daughter versus her social conscience. As so often in the city, the conflict boils down to school choice. I absolutely hated this book for the first 50 pages – “cliche city,” I thought – but I stuck with it, and finished with a feeling of real enjoyment and respect. I’m making my wife read it; let’s see what she thinks. A strong argument for Class is the bad review it got in NYTBR from one Sloane Crosley, who writes chick-lit of the most ordinary sort but fancies herself a higher order of litterateuse.
3. OK – now who’s got the backbone to press this? http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/02/23/donald-trump-is-violating-the-constitution/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NYR%20Trump%20Is%20Violating%20the%20Constitution&utm_content=NYR%20Trump%20Is%20Violating%20the%20Constitution+CID_b91aa8db00a30afa8a5b12b581fdad39&utm_source=Newsletter&utm_term=Trump%20Is%20Violatingthe%20Constitution
It strikes me that Obama, if he so chooses (and I suspect there’s a decent chance he will, given his age, his personality and his record), can conduct an activist “leader of the opposition” ex-presidency that could have real impact.
1.James Howard Kunstler: as usual, a vital font of irate common sense: http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/furor-time/
2.Someone somehow needs to get ex-Goldman COO now top White House hand Gary Cohn under oath to testify about this. http://wallstreetonparade.com/2017/01/donald-trump-has-a-goldman-sachs-problem-derivatives/
3.Every thinking person should catch up on Tyler Cowen at least once a week. On Bloomberg and his own Blog, Marginal Revolution. Our politics aren’t really aligned; whether I’m “a progressive conservative” or “a conservative progressive” I’m not sure, but both words are in there somewhere, varying in proportion to the idiocy of the proposition or situation under review. Here’s some pretty good Cowen: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-01-31/the-left-underestimates-trump-s-economic-plan?cmpid%3D=socialflow-twitter-view&utm_campaign=socialflow-organic&utm_content=view&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter
1.Sleepless at 3AM is a good time for epiphanies, as Scott Fitzgerald more or less observed. I had a writerly one last night, one of those long nights when sleep just won’t come; not because the mind’s vexed with fretful or worrisome thoughts, but simply because of a kind of dopaminal confusion that bars the path to slumber. I’ve been thinking hard about writing a book about my life, mainly because my children insist on it. I’ve conceived what I think is a good, ingenious, original structure, but for whatever reason I can’t get down to the actual writing. What occurred to me in the wee hours of today is that some force buried deep in my mind, the mental/intellectual equivalent of a governor on an engine, has stayed my hand, in effect telling me “Don’t waste time; this really won’t work.” In other words, you gotta believe.
2.It may confuse followers of this website that I post, with praise, commentary from purported right-wing Op-Ed folks like Megan McCardle. I read this stuff for common sense, and when I find it, I post it, regardless of political coloration. This McArdle column makes sense to me. I happen to find many of the anti-Trump protests etc as self-destructive in real world terms as they may be laudable in motivation. Ends and means, guys, ends and means. https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-02-02/liberals-will-not-like-how-this-revenge-plot-ends
3.I went to Super Bowl I in the LA Coliseum in 1967 and to about ten after that, including Joe Namath leading the Jets over the Colts in Miami (SB III). It was fun. Relaxed, easy, unostentatious. But gradually the Big Money took over. Now it’s disgusting. https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-super-bowls-private-jet-problem-1486060235
4.Being a “completist,” I’m catching up on “Homeland,” a show that has completely lost it. Any illusion that the series bears any relation to reality is dispelled by the final scene of the latest episode in which Carrie, now a resident of Brownstone Brooklyn, drives home after a busy, confused, made-no-sense day and finds a parking spot right in front of her house.
5.Confused guy of the day, having a “what the f***” moment: B. Netanyahu. Welcome to our president, Benny.
6. As the great trio in Faust begins, “Alerte, alerte – ou vous etes perdus”: http://observer.com/2017/02/we-tried-a-michelin-star-version-of-silicon-valleys-plant-burger-that-bleeds-like-beef/
1.How stupid can you get? http://pagesix.com/2017/02/03/sarah-silverman-urges-military-to-overthrow-trump/?_ga=1.121027727.649613920.1455118452 This suggests that someone in the Trump opposition ought to do a Bannon and tell celebrities to shut up. Especially C-listers like Sarah Silverman. The opposition should go after Trump where he’s really vulnerable: where he lies, for example, to advance or support a particular policy. Put a microscope to his financial and business involvements around the world. Say nothing until the ducks are in a row.
2.How we came to live The Way We Live Now: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/02/why-the-maximize-shareholder-value-theory-is-bogus.html
3. Why I wrote FIXERS: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/02/02/how-we-the-people-were-screwed-by-obamas-bogus-recovery/ (thanks to my pal Alexander).
4. In case anyone’s worried where productivity went, a story on Snapchat in today’s NYT Biz section reports: “The average user opens the app more than 18 times a day, according to the prospectus, and the service’s users send more than 2.5 billion messages and images each day.” Then there’s this, written by a presumably educated person. Check out where she gets her Snapchat kicks. https://www.wsj.com/articles/whats-so-great-about-snapchat-anyway-1486133169?mod=cx_picks&cx_navSource=cx_picks&cx_tag=poptarget&cx_artPos=4#cxrecs_s
5.No comment necessary. http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/from-drain-the-swamp-to-government-sachs?mbid=nl_170203_Cassidy&CNDID=42793573&spMailingID=10362318&spUserID=MTM5NDI5NzAwMDY4S0&spJobID=1100272597&spReportId=MTEwMDI3MjU5NwS2
6. From Naked Capitalism:
Trump Plans to Undo Dodd-Frank Law, Fiduciary Rule Wall Street Journal. Two quick comments. Trump can’t “undo” existing law with an executive order. And the SEC’s budget is approved by Congress. We’ll see if this executive order is a handwave for his base or whether his team found a way to do some damage. Separately, the idea that Dodd Frank is stymieing business lending is a Big Lie. Big companies access the capital markets and to the extent they’ve been borrowing, it has overwhelmingly been to fund buybacks. Small business can’t get loans save for secured loans (against real estate, against equipment purchases) because banks pretty much exited small business lending in the early 1990s, since small business lending requires individual assessment. They’d quit training credit officers and turned retail branches into “stores” that only dispensed loans of the sort you could do based on FICO scores. Plus since the crisis, there isn’t much evidence that small businesses have found lack of lending to hinder their growth. Surveys show owners regularly citing lack of confidence in demand.
7. Well, you never know, do you? http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/01/30/3-ways-to-get-rid-of-president-trump-before-2020-impeach-25th-amendment-coup/
8.Get down on your knees and pray: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/02/steve-bannon-donald-trump-war-south-china-sea-no-doubt Caveat: Bannon expressed these views in March,2016 – before Trump was even taken seriously as a nominee. This is why people mistrust media. Alteration or distortion of context is a key element of propaganda.
9. Barf! Go Falcons! https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/02/01/magazine/the-uncomfortable-love-affair-between-donald-trump-and-the-new-england-patriots.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=2&referer=https://t.co/IIMWebr79l
1.No business like show business. On the one hand: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/03/arts/review-metropolitan-opera-rusalka.html?ref=todayspaper And on the other: https://nyoobserver.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/rusalka_met.jpg?quality=80
2. Glad to see N-Y Historical Society has mounted an important tattoo exhibition. Ten years or more ago, I forcefully urged Th Brooklyn Museum to do such a show, global in scope – in different societies, tattoos have varied cultural and spiritual significance – as opposed to the N-YHS show, which sounds very New York-centric – understandably so, given the venue. Given BM’s surrounding demographic, then less gentrified (ie white) than now, I thought such a shw would b a home run. Personally, I don’t like tattoos, especially on servers in restaurants, but what do I know?
3.Time, I think, to rename “the Deplorables,” as Hillary characterized hardcore Trump voters. How about “the Stupids”? Trump (sorry – I can write either “Trump” or “the president” but can’t make myself write “President Trump”) has systematically re-empowered the crony system he swore to dismantle. Hard cheese, suckers. He promised “to drain the swamp.” Looks to me like he’s pumping in more sewage. http://wallstreetonparade.com/2017/02/trump-to-sign-orders-today-making-wall-street-more-dangerous/ And This: http://www.commondreams.org/news/2017/02/03/spectacular-betrayal-trump-hands-economy-back-over-wall-street
4. Today’s NYT Op-Ed offers an appealing piece opposing Education nominee De Vos. It’s by Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and emphasizes nominee deVos’s ignorance of various longstanding policies and regulations, notably aid to students with disabilities. It seems that Sen.Hassan’s son suffers from cerebral palsy but has benefitted from educational opportunities and assistance offered by public-sector institutions. Well and good, and three cheers, say I – but Sen. Hassan might have mentioned that her husband was principal of Phillips Exeter from 2009-2014, which presumably helped.
5. Nothing cheers me more than the emergence of new, resonant critical voices at NYT. Yesterday’s Arts section carried a review of the Sisley exhibition at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich (CT). The latter is one of the inadequately recognized gems in our cultural diadem, and has gleamed brightly since the arrival in 2001 of Executive Director Peter C. Sutton, as formidable a museum all-rounder as can be found today (save for one glaring administrative deficiency: an indisposition to suffer fools gladly, or otherwise). Anyway, Farago’s essay-review recently impressed me as just what art criticism should amount to: knowledgeable, visual, original, zestful, focused on the work and the artist. Also on my A-list of bright young things are two NYT music critics: Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim and Zachary Woolfe. Their stuff is unmissable, a relief from the tired voice of senior critic Anthony Tommasini (the same can be said of NYT art #1, Roberta Smith, although Holland Cotter definitely still has game). Check out the da F-W-Woolfe colloquy on Bruckner that ran last week in conjunction with Bareboim’s cycle with the Staatskapelle Berlin. Add these to Alastair Macaulay on dance, an art form I know nothing about but Alastair’s work is essential reading – I think he’s the best staff arts critic working anywhere on any art form – and NYT is building the critical equivalent of the Golden State Warriors.