2/28/17….

Two sides of the coin (counterfeit coin, that is): This:  https://newrepublic.com/article/140273/art-con-donald-trump-swindler and this: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/02/hes-a-performance-artist-pretending-to-be-a-great-manager-214836

Here’s one of his better sets of “alternative facts”: http://davidstockmanscontracorner.com/the-orange-swan-cometh-part-2/

I guess the flavor and fragrance of proximity to high office overcomes any reservations about lies, exaggerations, lunacy on the throne etc.

This statement by Trump obviously reflects the president’s moral mentoring by Roy Cohn, whose own mentor-patron, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, was a the target of an exclamation by Joseph Welch, who represented the Army in the Army-McCarthy hearings: “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty, or your recklessness. ..Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-ryan-owens-seal-raid_us_58b58852e4b0780bac2d58c6?l4u6jemi

 

 

2/25-27/17

Nice way to start off the week (and a jacket photo!): http://wallstreetonparade.com/book-shelf/

 

Now: the main event: Among the sayings that seem appropriate to so much of modern culture is Oscar Wilde’s definition of fox-hunting: “The unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable.” There are just ever so many instances where is applicable, and I just encountered one that struck me as especially, even transcendently relevant when I picked up the Feb. 16 number of The London Review of Books and saw that Mary-Kay Wilmers’ unfailingly engrossing fortnightly has allotted five full pages to letting Clinton acolyte/apologist/catamite Sidney Blumenthal have a go at the Trumps. To connoisseur-worshippers of the u. in pursuit of the u., this truly is like dying and going to heaven.

Blumenthal’s piece is entitled “A Short History of the Trump Family,” https://www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n04/sidney-blumenthal/a-short-history-of-the-trump-family and I found it pretty workmanlike and unsurprising –  until I read the following: “What Gatsby and Trump also have in common are gangsters. Gatsby’s fortune is secretly derived from his bootlegging partnership with Meyer Wolfsheim, a character based on the mobster Arnold Rothstein, who fixed the 1919 World Series. Trump’s business has been dependent almost from the start on real-life racketeers. There was Anthony ‘Fat Tony’ Salerno, boss of the Genovese crime family, and Paul ‘Big Paulie’ Castellano, boss of the Gambino crime family, who owned the company that provided the ready-mix cement for Trump Tower, used in place of the usual steel girders. There was John Cody, the boss of Teamsters Local 282, who controlled the cement trucks and was an associate of the Gambino family. There was Daniel Sullivan, Trump’s labour ‘consultant’, who in partnership with the Philadelphia crime boss Nicodemos ‘Nicky’ Scarfo’s financier, sold Trump a property in Atlantic City that became his casino. There was Salvatore ‘Salvie’ Testa, ‘crown prince’ of the Philadelphia Mob, who sold Trump the site on which two construction firms owned by Scarfo built the Trump Plaza and Casino. There was Felix Sater, convicted money launderer for the Russian Mafia, Trump’s partner in building the Trump SoHo hotel through the Bayrock Group LLC, which by 2007 had more than $2 billion in Trump licensed projects and by 2014 was no more. There was Tevfik Arif, another Trump partner, Bayrock’s chairman, originally from Kazakhstan. Bayrock’s equity financing came from three Kazakh billionaires known as ‘the Trio’, who were reported to be engaged in racketeering, money laundering and other crimes…There was no art to these deals. Trump’s relationships with the Mob weren’t just about the quality of cement. In his defense it was said that doing business with the Mob was inescapable in New York, but the truth is that there were prominent developers who crusaded against the sorts of arrangement that Trump routinely made. From beginning to end, whether Cosa Nostra or the Russian Mafia, Trump has been married to the Mob.” 

What you have here is virtually a Who’s Who of “made guys”, dating back to the days when the membership of the Bergen Hunt and Fish Club hadn’t yet yielded to patrons of various Brighton Beach steam parlors when it came to the management of the more vicious and lucrative forms of organized crime. Most of these are familiar names, although you might not recognize Felix Sater, who seems a particularly unsavory chap. Here’s some dope on him: https://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/02/24/meet-felix-sater-the-russian-bad-hombre-who-works-with-trump.html?via=newsletter&source=DDAfternoon And if you want a quick run-through on crime syndicates the wide wrld over, you can’t go to a better source than my brother-in-law Misha Genny, author of a number of authoritative works on globalized mafiosi. Here’s a start: https://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n13/misha-glenny/mobsters-get-homesick-too

Trump made the acquaintance of these people principally thanks to his morality and ethics mentor, Roy Cohn, surely one of the ten worst people ever to stalk the earth. But it would be idle to blame everything on Cohn: doing business in NYC, especially construction/development business, as Blumenthal properly notes, has always been a matter of “knowing a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy” if, say, you want a union to overlook the fact that you’re using scab Polish labor to erect a Fifth Avenue tower. And then there’s this. Back in the day – the ’60s and ’70s – when the world was simpler, younger and more naive, many Manhattan hotshots, rising players on Wall Street and elsewhere, the sort of people Trump hung out with at Le Club (where he and I were on the board!), developed outright crushes on the hard guys who frequented the same bars and nightclubs as they did (think back to the Copacabana scene in Scorsese’s “Goodfellas”.) There wasn’t any hanky-panky going on – that would come later – just a matter of buying a drink for and slinging a companionable arm across the shoulders of a guy who hours earlier might have been over in Queens breaking a few legs or torching a butcher shop. There was a kind of prestige to be a Merrill Lynch VP first-naming it with Big Vito or Frankie Torpedo. I thought it was disgusting.

But this is all sort of beside the point. As it happened, when Blumenthal’s article swam into my ken, I was well into Luke Harding’s A Very Expensive Poison: The Assassination of Alexander Litvinenko and Putin’s War with the West (Knopf Doubleday), a riveting account of several assassinations orchestrated to impress, and very likely ordered by, another person of Trump’s (claimed) acquaintance, another person with whom, like Gatsby, our President shares a partiality for gangsters.

Vladimir Putin.

Here’s a passage from Harding’s book that says it all. “Andrei Kozyrev, who served as foreign minister in the Yeltsin government, now lives in Washington, D.C. He left Russia as it became increasingly authoritarian; he now sees a disturbingly similar pattern in his adopted country. “I am very concerned,” he said. “My fear is that this is probably the first time in my memory that it seems we have the same kind of people on both sides—in the Kremlin and in the White House. The same people. It’s probably why they like each other. It’s not a matter of policy, but it’s that they feel that they are alike. They care less for democracy and values, and more for personal success, however that is defined.”  And then there’s this, from Harding’s account of the inquest that established how Litvinenko, a well-known anti-Putin journalist and MI6 agent,  was poisoned (polonium-20 in a cup of tea administered by a couple of low-lifes who left a radioactive spoor that ran from Moscow to London and back again). Apparently the Russkies go in for exotic toxicity. Another dissident was sent to heaven by a poison compounded from a plant that grows only in China’s highlands. But these are mainly for extraterritorial use. When working close to home, an ordinary mob hit will suffice, such as the shooting on a Moscow overpass of another leading dissident.

Anyway, when Harding closes with an account of the Litvinenko inquest, he summarizes the prosecutor Emmerson’s summing-up as follows: “This wasn’t about one murder, Emmerson said, rather about a government that had succumbed to a terrible criminal cancer: ‘The intimate relationship that will be proved to exist between the Kremlin and Russian organised crime syndicates around the world are so close as to make the two virtually indistinguishable. The startling truth, which is going to be revealed in public by the evidence in this inquiry, is that a significant part of Russian organised crime around the world is organised directly from the offices of the Kremlin. Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a mafia state.’ 

In fact, the aim is to blur what is true with what is not, to the point that the truth disappears altogether. By noisily asserting something that is false, you create a fake counter-reality. In time this constructed sovereign version of events becomes real – at least in the minds of those who are watching. RT, the Kremlin’s ambitious English-language propaganda channel, uses these same methods for western audiences. Its boss, Margarita Simonyan, argues that there is no such thing as truth, merely narrative. Russia’s narrative is just as valid as the ‘western narrative’, she argues. In this cynical relativistic world of swirling rival versions, nothing is really true.

Elsewhere, not by Harding,  Simonyan is quoted as declaring: “There is no objectivity – only approximations of the truth by as many different voices as possible”.

Sound familiar? Right out of the Kellyanne Conway/Sean Spicer playbook.

Finally, as a gloss, there’s this, from Russian-born journalist Masha Gessen: As it happens, I have list of nine similarities between Putin and Trump. Let me just focus on the ones that I can reel off the top of my head without looking at my notes. You’re right, they’re very, very different. They’re very different in affect, they’re very different in background. They’re very different in the way that they address the public. One uses raw emotion and the other actually prides himself on never betraying an emotion. And they inherited vastly different political systems and historical legacies. That said, they have a number of traits that are actually typical of autocrats and bullies — and they’re both bullies and they’re both autocrats…One huge one is the way that they lie. It’s taken Americans a while to understand how Trump lies. That he doesn’t lie in order to make you believe what he is saying. He lies in order to assert power over reality. And it’s basically a bully in the playground kind of stance: ‘I’m going to say that it’s not your hat that I’m wearing. What are you going to do about it?’ It’s the ‘What are you going to do about it?’ that’s always the message. And it’s always about power.” http://www.themillions.com/2017/02/surviving-trump-masha-gessen-wants-you-to-remember-the-future.html

So 0there you have it, racing fans. What a wevoltin’ pwedicament, as Elmer Fudd would exclaim. Hardly comforting. Especially if you wrap the foregoing in this MUST MUST MUST MUST read: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/06/trump-putin-and-the-new-cold-war

So now to other stuff:

When I read this very shrewd piece, it reminded me that close to twenty years ago I hypothesized then when the great Gibbonian history of the Rise and Fall of the American Republic comes to be written, 1973 will be seen as the defining moment at which our history turned. Not for the reasons adduced in this Aeon article. I looked at 1973 quite differently – as the point at which the three legs of the metaphorical throne of American hegemony were kicked out from under us: with Watergate, our moral hegemony. With OPEC, our economic hegemony. With Vietnam, our military hegemony. No nation in history could withstand a from-all-sides shellacking of this immensity and intensity. (H/T Barry Ritholtz) https://aeon.co/essays/how-economic-boom-times-in-the-west-came-to-an-end  

Speaking of which: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-02-26/intellectual-intolerance-stunning-speech-stanford-university-provost-exposes-threat- I hope a copy of this is sent to the pusillanimous president of Yale, Peter Salovey.

I think I’ve posted this before, but never often enough. The opioid numbers are terrifying: https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/our-miserable-21st-century/

People say that offstage, Trump is a pleasant person. Unfortunately, you don’t govern offstage:  http://ijr.com/2017/02/810965-trump-ditched-the-press-to-have-dinner-heres-how-the-president-acts-when-no-one-is-watching/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social

State socialism on the march. How can this happen? (from Politoco’s Real Estate newsletter – H/T Sally Goldenberg)

HOMEWRECKERS – “Inside de Blasio’s ‘land grab’ aimed at boosting affordable housing data,” by New York Post’s Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein: “Mayor de Blasio is attempting a Soviet-style takeover of 1,200 privately-owned co-op buildings in what critics charge is a blatant effort to artificially boost his affordable-housing numbers. The Stalinesque secrecy of the plot – developed over two years behind closed doors – has alarmed some lawmakers, who wrote to the city last week to put the plan on hold. The private co-ops were once derelict buildings in neighborhoods like Harlem, Washington Heights and the Lower East Side that the cash-strapped city sold to residents beginning in the 1980s for as little as $250 per unit. The city was happy to off-load the headache properties, which had been abandoned by absentee landlords or seized from tax deadbeats.

“They resembled urban war zones, with blown-out windows, no doors, heat or running water and junkies overdosing in the hallways. Over the years, the homesteaders banded together to create livable apartments, and at the same time revitalized blighted neighborhoods. Now, the city wants to seize control of what have become valuable assets, and livid residents are preparing for a legal war to stop it. … The plan would have to be approved by the City Council, and the co-ops believe a measure – likely hidden in a larger, omnibus bill – would be carried by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito before she leaves office at the end of the year. A spokeswoman for Mark-Viverito said ‘We are currently reviewing the administration’s proposal.’ ‘Unless we take steps to protect our stock of HDFC coops, we risk losing one of the most valuable sources of affordable homeownership in the city,’ said Elizabeth Rohlfing, an HPD spokeswoman.”

Following publication of the article, which was the Post’s Sunday wood, titled “Man of Steal” accompanying a picture of de Blasio, City Hall spokeswoman Melissa Grace emailed the following statement: “This proposal is an effort to protect the city’s important HDFC coops. Without strong reforms, we risk losing one of the most valuable sources of affordable homeownership–more than a quarter of which are in the brink of financial insolvency. The goal is to get all HDFCs, which receive significant public benefit, on solid footing and ensure their long-term affordability.” She also said the plan has “has nothing to do with ‘boosting’ the housing plan numbers.” http://nypost.com/2017/02/26/inside-de-blasios-land-grab-aimed-at-boosting-affordable-housing-data/ 

I’ve been following (reading about, not watching) the hearings to confirm Wilbur Ross as Secretary of Commerce. I’ve known Wilbur for a long time, and consider him a decent fellow, even if he does hang out in Palm Beach a fair amount of the time. It seems to me that Wilbur’s business success implies trade-immigration linkages that never seem to get talked about. While I have no doubt that Wilbur has in a number of instances replaced jobs here with lower-cost jobs there, “there” being Mexico mainly, it strikes me that he has created  jobs “there,” Mexico and Vietnam, that would never have been created here. When he builds a textile plant in Vietnam that employs 15,000 people, doesn’t that reduce by some significant fraction of 15,000 the number of people who might seek to emigrate to the USA or elsewhere? Same with Mexico. Jobs made available on home ground eliminate job-seekers heading north. And then there’s this (which certainly doesn’t bear on Wilbur’s confirmation). Everyone talks about the terrible things NAFTA has done to US markets. But what about what we did to Mexican agriculture? Read this, see what you think. http://www.ase.tufts.edu/gdae/policy_research/AgNAFTA.html Every Mexican farming family put out of business by US-subsidized dumping of soybeans etc. hiding behind NAFTA is a family loose on the land, a family whose eyes must inevitably turn to El Norte. It seems pretty straightforward to me. Globalization creates immigration – but we want to have it both ways, and shut our gates to people whose livelihoods our globalizers have destroyed. Free-trade globalization seems to have had the same effect on Mexico that the potato famine of the 1840s had on Ireland.

 

 

 

2/24/17…

Remarked on everywhere is how Trump dominates our awareness of what’s going on. It is striking, but not as remarkable as one might think, when you consider that among people who care passionately and vocally about such things, 50% hate and fear the guy and 50% worship and trust him, which by any standards is amazing market penetration. I follow Naked Capitalism closely; every day the site posts a number of links (as I do) to stuff thought worthy of attention. Today, NC lists 49 links. Of these, 12 are related to Trump! For a site like NC, that’s a big number.

I think this gets it right: http://www.danspapers.com/2014/07/the-25-best-modern-seinfeld-tweets/ For the complete run: https://twitter.com/seinfeldtoday?lang=en

These people really are nuts. Any organization with an iota of principle should stay away from the Correspondents Dinner. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/24/us/politics/white-house-sean-spicer-briefing.html?_r=0 Well (it’s Sunday now), an institution (the Presidency) currently in an iteration utterly without principle, has announced it/he will not be attending the WHCD – so I guess that solves the problem. Of course, this is a guy who may be thinking about contracting ISIS for a suicide bomber or two come the big event. You can be sure Bannon is.

 

 

2/23/17…

Start with this. I always thought that Isherwood was twice the critic Brantley is. http://www.vulture.com/2017/02/why-was-times-theater-critic-charles-isherwood-fired.html

For the umpteenth time, students, if you’re going to use Orwell to interpret Trump, the book for you isn’t 1984, it’s Animal Farm: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_Farm#Plot_summar

Last night T and I and her daughter Margie went to a “friends and family” soft opening of the new Blue Ribbon Federal at 84 William Street just a block or two from where I toiled happily and then unhappily at Lehman Brothers in the 1960s and early ’70s. T’s son Sam Ehrlich is the wine guy at Federal. He knows his stuff; the Rioja he recommended went wonderfully with my bavette,  a type of skirt steak you don’t see everywhere. Everything was delicious, and service first-rate. Not sure exactly when BRF will open, but I urge you to sign up now. This place is a winner!

I’m going to check this out. http://observer.com/2017/02/a-millennial-reviews-seinfeld-a-send-up-of-the-clintonian-liberal-elite/

No Comment: https://fabiusmaximus.com/2017/02/21/andrew-undershaft-explains-american-politics/

The chatterati and chinstrokers keep expressing wonderment at how it could be that so many people, in voting for Trump, voted against their own best interests. I think an analogy that works might be with another of the blahblahblahyadayada set’s favorite targets: the lottery, which Very Serious People condemn as a fraud committed on the less-advantaged (less-connected), given the astronomical odds of winning the jackpot. But I would submit that when it comes to the prospect of economic or social betterment, given a choice between SOME chance, however minuscule, and NO chance, people will opt for the former, no matter what the elites’ algorithms argue.

I think this should be read by anyone who, prompted by generational or intellectual concerns, asks “What’s with these video games, anyway?” The author’s answer, in a word: happiness. http://www.vulture.com/2017/02/video-games-are-better-than-real-life.html

 

 

12/22/17…

For something of this genius, $100,000 seems hardly adequate. http://www.americantheatre.org/2017/02/22/taylor-mac-and-matt-ray-win-2017-kennedy-prize/ Thoughts of the amazing Mac-Ray achievement prompt a reflection on an aspect of Trump that until now, with talk of eliminating NEA, PBS etc., hasn’t really been commented on as much as it should be and may prove as broadly toxic as his other qualities (sic): his depthless philistinism. This man epitomizes “ny kulturny” as his Moscow chums might say. Culture has played zero role in his life, even less than courage. He did go to Wharton/Penn, but that hardly qualifies as an education. Let us hope that the Treasury Secretary’s father, Robert Mnuchin, a former GS top trader who left to become a distinguished art collector-dealer, can have a word with his son on the importance of the arts and all our cultural institutions, and that Mnuchin2 can pass this along to his boss.

I used to go to London once or twice a year, sometimes more frequently. No longer. Age has something to do with it, but more to the point is my impression, from reports coming in from all sides, including old  London friends, is that the capital of Great Britain – England – bears no resemblance to what it was. Tanya Gold, who wrote this, is the restaurant critic for The Spectator. http://harpers.org/archive/2017/03/city-of-gilt/ I think Cavafy got it wrong: the barbarians are never  a kind of solution.

This is about as effective an advertisement for napalm as I can imagine. http://guestofaguest.com/miami/real-estate/inside-mar-a-lago-donald-trumps-private-palm-beach-home-away-from-home

George Saunders Lincoln in the Bardo  starts off as #1 on NYT bestseller list. I’m predicting that over 3/4 of the people that buy this book won’t finish it.

 

 

2/21/17…

I’m a big fan of Kunstler, but I think he’s going off the track with this “oil dependency” obsession. There is enormous wealth piled up around the world (real wealth, not the kind produced by taking the closing price of 100 shares of FB and multiplying that number by the total number of FB shares outstanding) that will eventually be distributed through investment, taxation etc. There’s the urbanization (or, if you will, the desuburbanization) that’s reducing the automobile>petroleum dependency he’s fixated on. And so on…and so on.  http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/fumbling-towards-collapse/

1.Fortune Editor Alan Murray’s Daily Letter:

Good morning.

The quick collapse of Kraft Heinz Co.’s $143 billion bid for Unilever over the weekend has sparked lots of analysis about what went wrong. Some say Kraft, which is backed by the Brazilian private equity firm 3G and by Warren Buffett, was surprised by Unilever CEO Paul Polman’s vehement opposition to the deal. Buffett has a well-known aversion to hostile bids. Others cited cultural differences between the two companies.

I think Julian Birkinshaw of the London Business School has it right when he says this one represented not just a culture clash, but a clash of two distinctly different models of capitalism. The Kraft Heinz model focuses ruthlessly on providing profits to owners by slashing costs, as my colleague Geoff Colvin chronicled in this Fortune cover story last month. Polman believes his obligation is not just to owners, but to society as a whole, as Vivienne Walt showed in this story in the most recent issue of our magazine. Both stories are required reading for anyone trying to run a business in today’s world.

Which model is right? Birkinshaw argues we need both: “Take the 3G model to extremes, and people become narrow, short-term, and greedy. Take the Unilever model to extremes, and people become unfocused, comfortable, and complacent.” Polman can no longer afford to be complacent; he now faces the challenge of showing he can deliver shareholders greater value than the Kraft Heinz bid promised. That won’t be easy; the stock dropped 8% Monday after the bid collapsed.

Separately, Bill Gates told Quartz he’s sympathetic to the idea of putting a tax on robots, to raise money to retrain people displaced by automation.

More news below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray
[email protected]

2. In an Op-Ed in today’s NYT,  financial journalist Eric Uhfelder points up something that has bothered me for years: this idiotic business a sticking a few units of “affordable” housing into luxury developments rather than taxing these developments and using the proceeds to improve housing in other less affluent neighborhoods. More bang for the buck.  “Affordable” must involve neighborhoods as well as individual housing units.

3.David Brooks’s Op-Ed in today’s NYT about “The Broken Century” reads as very reasonable – although I wondered about some of his statistics. Just came across this. http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/yes-folks-david-brooks-is-making-up-his-own-facts-again?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

4.A useful taxonomy-cum-lexicon: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/02/term-deep-state-focus-usage-examples-definition-phrasebook.html

5. The compulsion to be in on what’s currently “hot” exceeds the bounds of idiocy: http://patch.com/new-york/new-york-city/supreme-branded-metrocards-sell-out-more-be-released-soon This idiocy is funded by too much money.

6.Last night we had a lovely family dinner at a restaurant called “Next Door”, located on Emmons Ave. alongside the inward finger of Sheepshead Bay. Everything good: food, service, booze. A menu unlike many restaurants today in that everything on it sounded good to eat and what we chose, was. The wine list did, however, remind me the four great wine scams of my lifetime, “scams” in the sense that certain wines developed a snob appeal that induced aspirational bibbers – both the predecessors of today’s “foodies” and the sorry present Millennial lot – to pay premium prices for wines that weren’t much above generic. The four were: A) La Doucette Pouilly Fume, which Francoise and Oscar de la Renta put on the snoot map; B) Sta. Margherita Pinot Grigio: I played golf with this wine’s importer; he couldn’t believe what he was getting away with, pricewise; C) Domaines Ott Rose – any rose priced at more than $20 in a store is a heist; (D) And Now: Whispering Angel Rose. Bullshit wine of the Decade! I dined a while back with a real connoisseur – rich, buys his wines at auction the way real pros do- and when WA was poured he demanded of his wife: “What is this shit?”  These wines constitute what you might call “oenological claptrap for the groundlings.”

7.To close, I met a lot of BS-spouting assholes in my thirty years around Wall Street, but none bigger than Steve Forbes: http://davidstockmanscontracorner.com/steve-forbes-enough-of-your-economic-claptrap/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2/20/17…

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/02/19/what-don-know-about-trump-and-immigration/FrQVhneeFYe6TRYeCjynpO/story.html

Readers know that I am fond of citing what’s called Hanlon’s Razor, which holds that one should not attribute to malice that which can as plausibly be explained by stupidity. Watching our president, I’m tempted to put into play what we might call Hanlon’s Razor 2.0: one should not attribute to stupidity that which can as plausibly be explained by insanity.

No comment. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2016/06/09/donald-trump-unpaid-bills-republican-president-laswuits/85297274/

 

2/19/17…

Not going to do much today, but WSJ columnist Bret Stephens’s Daniel Pearl Memorial Address this past week at UCLA is brilliant, no other word for it. http://time.com/4675860/donald-trump-fake-news-attacks/ Here’s a sample: “I personally think we crossed a rubicon in the Clinton years, when three things happened: we decided that some types of presidential lies didn’t matter; we concluded that “character” was an over-rated consideration when it came to judging a president; and we allowed the lines between political culture and celebrity culture to become hopelessly blurred.”

My friend NY Post columnist/film critic Kyle Smith (he also does first-rate theater criticism for New Criterion) decries comparisons of Trump administration with George Orwell’s 1984. I think he’s right. I may have noted this before on this site, but to my mind the correct Orwell novel for comparison purposes is Animal Farm – in which the pigs take over.

2/18/17….

Today’s MUST MUST MUST READ is the review by Martin Filler of Lynne B. Sagalyn’s Power at Ground Zero: Politics, Money and the Remaking of Lower Manhattan along with two other books on the post 9/11 rebuilding of the WTC area. In addition to detailing the waste, manipulations and territorial skirmishes that are integral to any big NYC project that melds (sic) private interests with public wealth, Filler voices his own criticisms of the mediocre architecture of what has been built so far, especially Calatrava’s soaring (brochure word) transit hub. What I found most interesting was how unsuccessful were the efforts of the Bloomberg administration, usually regarded as highly partial to corporate interests, to get a handle on the overall project and prevent it from becoming a nosh pit for swine like Larry Silverstein and the litigation community. Sagalyn’s book sounds like it should go on the shelf right next to Robert Caro’s immortal study of Robert Moses, whose ghost must have beamed up approvingly from where it surely resides at the goings-on downtown. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/03/09/world-trade-center-new-yorks-vast-flop/

Here’s a stunning reminder that no one does “tacky” better than the English: http://www.sothebys.com/en/news-video/slideshows/2017/some-like-it-hot-night-erotic-art-performance.html?cmp=email_L17322___aur_Erotic:-Passion-&-Desire_21717-21717#slideshow/2017.some-like-it-hot-night-erotic-art-performance/21

From today’s Naked Capitalism, link with comment: The Rise of the Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine Scout. Chuck L: “This is positively frightening.” One implication: you either need to stay off Faceborg OR use a buddy’s account to access the few times you must OR mess up your profile in a big way, such as liking things that don’t represent you and don’t go together, like Hello Kitty, Nascar, fine dining somewhere you don’t live and never go, high end cruises and Dollar Store-ish sites, PETA and pro-meat lobbying groups. Readers, can you add specific suggestions for underming Faceborg’s understanding of you? Please circulate this article and encourage friends and family to corrupt their Faceborg profile deliberately and see what fun results!” One reason I got off FB and a good motive for being inconsistent and unrepetitive.

For much less money, you can stay at the Fountainebleau Hotel and meet an altogether better class of people. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/18/us/mar-a-lago-trump-ethics-winter-white-house.html?emc=edit_ta_20170218&nl=top-stories&nlid=2476992&ref=cta Can you imagine having to look at Bannon over breakfast?

All this yadayada about FB controlling people strikes me as vulnerable to an argument similar to “guns don’t kill people…” Nobody is forced to go on on FB – other than by their Id, their ego or their desperate need to look significant. http://nypost.com/2017/02/18/why-facebook-feeds-division-and-stress/

And, as always: http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/that-war-you-ordered/

This will be out shortly. I pre-ordered it back in August when I first heard about it. http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/02/edward-luce-reviews-complacent-class.html From the review: “America would turn into a place where people ‘wear themselves out in trivial, lonely, futile activity’, (Tocqueville) predicted.” Speaking of FB….

Just got back from seeing the Classic Stage Company’s production of Corneille’s “The Liar.” Absolutely sensational! It’s on through 2/26. if you can go, do! Everything about this production is five-star, starting with the text by David Ives, which combines bits of everything from Corneille’s alexandrines to the Bard to modern slang – and all to wonderful effect. The cast is terrific. At the risk of being arraigned for second-degree pot-kettleism, I’m compelled to report that on the basis of those I saw around me, a good portion of the audience may have been present at the play’s opening night in Paris in 1643. For my own part, I felt I was back at Exeter in 1952, involved in “Les Cabotins,”  the PEA French Club, presided over by two professorial paragons: Georges Roncalez and DeVaux Delancey.

Too good not to conclude today’s harvest with: http://delong.typepad.com/egregious_moderation/2009/01/matt-taibbi-flathead-the-peculiar-genius-of-thomas-l-friedman.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

2/17/17…

Apropos of yesterday. http://crooksandliars.com/2017/02/us-allies-conduct-intel-op-trump-staff I have absolutely no idea whether any of this has a basis in fact. But that’s not the main point as I see it – which is that it’s time for people in positions of sensitivity to go back to their landlines or to find some means other than computer-to-computer for conducting potentially radioactive exchanges. In today’s WSJ, Peggy Noonan makes sense: “Nothing about the story of Mr. Flynn is satisfyingly clear. Most people would say discussing the views of the incoming administration with the Russian ambassador would be an anodyne act—harmless, maybe even helpful. But few know exactly what was said. That he misled the vice president about discussing sanctions is bad. That the vice president later vouched for him is embarrassing. That Mr. Flynn’s phone conversations were subject to surveillance is strange. That information about the call or calls was leaked to the press is unprecedented.”

One of the aspects of modern life that I find as disgusting as it is amazing is the complete disregard we (I’m using the rhetorical “we”) have for privacy, our own as much as anyone else’s. Trolling our way through our lives, we go public whenever we can with whatever we think we’ve got.  One reason I left FB was exhaustion with stuff people put up in which not only did I have no interest, but was somewhat shocked to see put on display. What happens in Las Vegas no longer stays there, but is disseminated around the world pronto.  I feel badly for Jacob Bernstein of NYT, who was ratted out for the sort of offhand dinner-table remark, involving Melania Trump and the word “hooker” that in a civilized era would have gone nowhere. We still don’t know if what he said was on the order of “Melania Trump looks like a hooker,” or “You know, there were reports she worked as a hooker” (in current parlance “escort” equals “hooker”). In the event, he dropped this casual observation in the presence of one Emily Ratajkowski, who immediately spread it on the internet as an instance of arrant anti-feminism. Ms. Ratajkowski was unfamiliar to me – I thought she might be that young woman, an alleged victim of campus rape,  who has been dragging a mattress around the Columbia U. campus in the way Diogenes toted his lantern through the ancient world – so I looked her up on Google. Well, racing fans, I tell you! Ms. R. is a publicity hound if ever I saw one. Sorry – that’s a masculinist-chauvinist misuse of canine nomenclature. Strict gender correctness – presumably applicable to our animal friends as well as our human enemies – would probably require describing her as a publicity bitch.  Her Wikipedia entry is longer than Abraham Lincoln’s, and includes a complete listing of her magazine cover appearances as well as 231 footnotes! Somehow this gives the impression that the entry was written either by Ms. R. herself, a publicist in her employ or the Ford Agency, which represents her. I doubt the latter, because the first image of Ms.R on the entry is hardly flattering: sort of a C-list Lady Gaga unmade up. Anyway, poor Jacob Bernstein had to abase himself in a series of tweets (imagine if Martin Luther had had to post his 95 Theses on Twitter!) and his employer, in another of its almost-daily displays  of its need for a complete spine transplant, scolded him several times over. Here’s a proper feminist take:  http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2017/02/14/emily_ratajkowski_called_out_a_journalist_who_told_her_melania_trump_was.html

Today’s Naked Capitalism is chockablock with great stuff. Start with this, from Jeremy Grantham, one of the few real intellects I encountered in all my years on and around Wall Street: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/02/grantham-twas-capitalism-killed-capitalism.html 

I found this article interesting, especially by comparing  North American big-game practice to Africa. Also because the villain-protagonist of my 1995 novel Bakers Dozen has scored his “Grand Slam of American Sheep”: Rocky Mountain Bighorn, Dall, Desert and Stone. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/16/sports/bighorn-sheep-hunting

And yet we are told over and over again that the world produces more than enough food to feed its entire population: https://thewire.in/109515/four-famines-mean-20-million-may-starve-next-six-months/

No comment: https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-02-17/kushner-s-use-of-u-s-backed-apartment-loans-poses-conflict-risk

In a world dominated by bad guys, let’s hear it for a good one. And watch the embedded video! http://nypost.com/2017/02/16/fan-favorite-bartolo-colon-brings-joy-wherever-he-goes/

This is what being a dad & granddad really means: two wonderful daughters and their fantastic four kids in Madonna del’ Campigli, Italy (daughter #1 lives in Italy)! Wish I still skied!