8/14-8/20/17…

8/14

Very seldom does summer hit a perfect note, but for us, the annual August outing to friends in Atlantic Beach unfailingly does the job, washing away recent stresses (moving house should be added to infidelity and mental cruelty as grounds for divorce). Tamara gets to do what she loves best, frolicking in the waves with her 51/2-year-old granddaughter, and I get to do what I love best, hear myself talk. But we’re almost all moved. My library, 254 boxes of books, goes off to Brooklyn College shortly, with a few other boxes to elsewhere tomorrow, followed by discarded furniture – and by Wednesday night, if all goes as planned, my 17 years in 5C at 66 Water St. will have come to an end. All in all, it’s been a swell journey. And for the way we now live, 5E is just perfect. Qieter too, now that we’re on the south side of the building, away from the noisy loading docks of the Empire Stores development. At the end of the week, we will go for ten days to modest rental accommodation in Noyac. Grandchildren will be everywhere about; I’ll try to see whether I can still hit a golf ball (not how far, simply at all!) and try to figure what’s next.

Here’s a good starter for Labor Day minus three: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/

Kunstler at the top of his game: http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/smoke-and-fire/ 

Sample: “The latest iteration of feminism comes out of campuses that have been largely taken over by female Boomer pedagogues, especially the non-STEM departments, and is now fait accompli, so that the grievances still pouring out seem manufactured and hysterical. It also has a strong odor of simple misandry, and the whole package of ideology is wrapped in impenetrable grad school jargon designed to give it an intellectual sheen that is unearned and dishonest. The grim fact is that sooner or later even some intelligent men might notice this, and get pissed off about it.” Well, I can tell you that this intelligent man, a Yale magna graduate, is already plenty pissed off about it!

Anyone for a dash of Schadenfreude? (from Politico): WHAT’S IN STORE — “SoHo is Getting Pounded by the Retail Storm,” by The Wall Street Journal’s Keiko Morris: “The SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan once was a retail juggernaut, with hip boutiques battling national luxury retailers for scarce storefronts whose rents only went up. Then the retail storm that is buffeting malls across the U.S. slammed into this once impenetrable shopping fortress. Storefront availability has spiked to 23.1% in the second quarter of this year, up from 4.7% at the end of 2011. Meanwhile, asking rents for ground-floor retail spaces have fallen 12% to $478 a square foot in the second quarter, down from $541 at the end of 2015, according to real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield. The retail slump in turn has played a role in the neighborhood’s slowing overall commercial property sales market, which includes buildings with office space and apartments. In the second quarter, total commercial property sales dwindled to $79 million from a recent peak of almost $1.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2015, according to Cushman & Wakefield.” 

I may have said this before, but I’m going to repeat it because it has relevance to the day’s events. About a year ago, a friend asked me what my secret is for keeping in good mental fettle. “Spending the absolutely minimum of time – preferably none – with assholes.” I’m delighted to see the CEO of Merck shares my feeling. Trump is fifty shades of asshole.

What turned me off Wall Street (from Dealbreaker): Wall Street Trader Chris Arnade Seeks Redemption for ‘Intellectual Grift’ (WSJ)
He moved in 2006 to Citigroup Inc.’s proprietary trading desk, where he wagered as much as $100 million on single trades in government bonds and currencies. The move boosted his stress. “I used to wake up some mornings and have to vomit,” he says. Mr. Arnade lost money in the 2008 financial crisis—his only down year in two decades—but that wasn’t what turned him off trading. “The thing that got to him was hearing [traders] who had lost millions and gotten bailed out complaining that Obamacare raised their taxes,” Mr. Lox says.

A MUST READ: https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/08/changing-guard-prescient-1980-book-foretold-democrat-love-affair-neoliberalism.html

8/15

In yesterday’s and today’s NYT, two interesting examples of “the Trump Effect.” Yesterday Paul Krugman gave a first-rate demonstration of how Trump-hatred addles even first-rate minds. He said that Trump isn’t a typical American. Sadly, Trump is a typical American, although a bit more of a 19th-Century type than of today. But the same vein of greed, prejudice, ignorance and other civic vices remains strong now as then. Read Walter A. Macdougall’s great Throes of Democracy: The American Civil War Era, 1829-1877 , a wonderful book that inspires a long-range reflection on how and why we are what we’ve become.  In today’s NYT, Andrew Ross Sorkin, of all people, properly excoriates the zipped-lipped CEOs who’ve remained silent because they fear retribution from President Shithead should they speak up on the issues raised by Charlottesville and its predecessors. What kind of retribution, I ask? Surely any attempt by Trump to get even in a real way, other than by his marginally literate sub-adult tweets, by canceling – say-  big defense or healthcare orders or  using the IRS as hit man would have to go through a chain of departmental execution that would at some point involve a Trump-hating whistleblower, and that would surely pave the road to Impeachment City.

Today we had Grant Turley move the bedroom bookcase from 5C and 5E, Steve from the Bridge carry away the golf books I’m giving to that club in honor of Bob Rubin, its founder and guiding spirit, and Trevor from Verizon. At times it felt like the “stateroom” scene in the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera.  

In case anyone missed this the first time I posted it, a MUST MUST MUST: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/?utm_source=nl-atlantic-daily-081417 

An  interesting point: “All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness. Eighth-graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56 percent more likely to say they’re unhappy than those who devote less time to social media.” Why? Well I have a theory (my friends know I have a theory about everything!) It’s simply that social media are perhaps the most powerful force ever for generating envy. Whether expressed as “FOMO: Fear of Missing Out,” or exhibiting possessions, or boasting of experiences,  envy’s the driver – as it always has been in our struggle to fight through the swamp of existence (in my case, sexual envy, rooted in a desire to possess, drove me crazy right into my forties). The green-eyed monster turns up early enough in life as it is; social media help it consolidate its sway in the pubescent psyche.

Three Cheers for Larry. He’s finally understood that “free markets” have come to equal “fixed markets.” And that Schwarzman, for all his money-spinning genius (sic), is still a smalltime prick suffering under the slings and arrows of short-guy ambition. Not a friend in the world except those he’s bought. https://www.ft.com/content/d7184d3f-a2cf-3d54-a6a0-3ab7d345c82e

Good stuff: https://www.newcriterion.com/issues/1989/12/redefining-culture-and-democracy?utm_source=The+New+Criterion+Subscribers&utm_campaign=3ef8936a2a-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f42f7adca5-3ef8936a2a-104736597

8/16

Dealbreaker, a good first-thing-in-the-day site for Wall Street and financial news, posts this FT observation by Stanley Fischer, former Vice-Chair of the Fed, a big deal at the World Bank and Governor of the Bank of Israel: “It took almost 80 years after 1930 to have another financial crisis that could have been of that magnitude. And now after 10 years everybody wants to go back to a status quo before the great financial crisis. And I find that really extremely dangerous and extremely short-sighted. One can understand the political dynamics of this thing, but one cannot understand why grown intelligent people reach the conclusion that [you should] get rid of all the things you have put in place in the last 10 years.”

Increasingly I find myself wondering whether what is rotten about this country has metastasized to a size and vehemence that could actually make Trump into a Hitler. Here’s some food for thought. Christopher, thou shouldst be living at this hour! https://www.vanityfair.com/news/1999/02/hitchens-199902?mbid=nl_th_59934a224012d829276c4bcf&CNDID=42793573&spMailingID=11707666&spUserID=MTQzOTExNDk1OTIxS0&spJobID=1221429765&spReportId=MTIyMTQyOTc2NQS2

Reading about Hitler led to reflections on Nazism, and these led the conclusion  that, for what it’s worth, I wholly agree with the decision of the public officials of Charlottesville to remove all the city’s monuments to Confederate soldiers. Over time, the view seems to have taken hold – and to have held fast – that the Civil War was basically about slavery. The South seceded and went to war (Ft.Sumter) to defend that vile institution. There’s an equivalence to the slave ships running from Africa to, say, Charleston, and the trains that ran from Western Europe to Auschwitz. Think about Germany: you can travel from one end of the country to another, and you won’t encounter statues or other monuments honoring Goebbels or Von Ribbentrop, let alone Der Fuhrer.  There is a place to commemorate the valor of people who gave their lives even for a despicable cause, and that is a military cemetery. I long ago visited the American, British and German cemeteries in Normandy. Obviously, the American graveyard moved me most. But the Friedhof was also impressive.

8/17

Strikes me that this sort of thing is what we ought to be wondering at and thinking about. The war of the rich on the poor, which I suppose we might call “re-redistribution”, enters the state house: https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/08/charter-school-fight-in-illinois-billionaire-ex-private-equity-governor-rauner-v-2-million-students.html

Posted without comment: http://prospect.org/article/steve-bannon-unrepentant

This piece by the always reflection-provoking Thomas Frank seems to dovetail with the Trump-Hitler-equivalence ruminations I posted earlier: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/08/trump-is-ready-to-go-down-in-flames?mbid=nl_th_5994c105ecb01b1b45476232&CNDID=42793573&spMailingID=11713349&spUserID=MTQzOTExNDk1OTIxS0&spJobID=1221496724&spReportId=MTIyMTQ5NjcyNAS2

Apropos of my earlier post on Confederate statuary: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2001/04/12/southern-comfort/  And add this: https://news.artnet.com/art-world/trump-charlottesville-robert-e-lee-symbolism-1053683?utm_content=from_&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Combined%20Newsletter%20for%208%2F17&utm_term=artnet%20News%20Daily%20Newsletter%20US      What I think is particularly interesting is that cornerstone Southern myths of valor – not only Lee and the Confederacy, but the Alamo as well – celebrate people and forces who lost battles. President Shithead has made clear his detestation of “losers.”   Yet here are two of the foundational myths of Southern chivalry, a noble calling involving the murder of young children among other disgusting accomplishments, that are based on lost battles, lost wars – and that were promoted into Dixie myth by apologists beginning in the 1890s, long, long after the actual conflicts (Lee died in 1870, the Alamo was fought in 1836.) Of course, the malignant narcissist  (1) in the White House knows no history, and his ignorant constituency – I always say the whiter the collar, the redder the neck – couldn’t care less.(1) The description of Trump as “a malignant narcissist” was proposed to me today at Pilates. Here’s Wiki: “The social psychologist Erich Fromm first coined the term “malignant narcissism” in 1964, describing it as a “severe mental sickness” representing “the quintessence of evil”. He characterized the condition as “the most severe pathology and the root of the most vicious destructiveness and inhumanity”. Edith Weigert (1967) saw malignant narcissism as a “regressive escape from frustration by distortion and denial of reality”, while Herbert Rosenfeld (1971) described it as “a disturbing form of narcissistic personality where grandiosity is built around aggression and the destructive aspects of the self become idealized”.Developing their ideas further, the psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg pointed out that the antisocial personality was fundamentally narcissistic and without morality. Malignant narcissism includes a sadistic element creating, in essence, a sadistic psychopath. The malignant narcissist thus represents a less extreme form of pathological narcissism than psychopathy. Malignant narcissism can be distinguished from psychopathy…because of the malignant narcissist’s capacity to internalize “both aggressive and idealized superego precursors, leading to the idealization of the aggressive, sadistic features of the pathological grandiose self of these patients”. 

Throw in this from Bloomberg, on Trump canceling plans for a council on Infrastructure: “Trump had tapped New York developers Richard LeFrak and Steven Roth, whom he described as friends, to lead the panel, which he established by an executive order on July 19. But he had not made any formal appointments to it. Neither LeFrak nor Roth immediately responded to requests for comment.” LeFrak and Roth are nice guys by all accounts, but infrastructure? Not unless infrastructure means luxury condos!

C’mon, David – tell us what you really  feel!  More Keynesian Gibberish From Bubble Blind Central
By David Stockman. Posted On Thursday, August 17th, 2017
If you want stunning proof that monetary central planning is a clear and present danger to capitalist prosperity just read the Fed’s stock market discussion in yesterday’s minutes. It amounts to a clueless confession of willful incompetence, and evidence that the FOMC members are so mesmerized by their Keynesian academic models that they can’t see the real world starring them in the face.What’s right in front of their collective noses, of course, is a domestic and global financial system that is everywhere booby-trapped with massive and incendiary financial bubbles, unsustainable leverage in both overt and covert forms (i.e. options), and relentless, liquidity-fueled speculation that infects the very warp and woof of most financial markets. Even the core blue-chip 10-year UST market is a speculators’ haven where on the margin pricing is driven by complex, leveraged arbitrages, not the bid of trust department managers in behalf of widows and orphans.Indeed, the evidence of an impending financial blow-up is palpable and plenary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8/7-8/13/17….

8/7

Amen – alas! http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/just-wait-little/

I was practically brought up in “21,” and ate there regularly until I moved some years ago to the charming village of Reduced Circumstances. Those were the great days of Pete Kriendler, Sheldon Tannen, Walter, Mario and the rest. Among regulars Trump was considered B-list, no matter what he claims. http://pagesix.com/2017/08/06/donald-trumps-tall-tales-about-the-21-club/ Gosh! Guess who doesn’t rate a mention in the following report?  http://www.nytimes.com/1987/02/15/magazine/making-old-21-young.html?pagewanted=all

Hmmmm. http://www.businessinsider.com/rest-and-vest-millionaire-engineers-who-barely-work-silicon-valley-2017-7

These numbers add up to a pretty convincing brief for “activist” investing. https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2017-elliott-management/?cmpid=BBD080717_BIZ&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_term=170807&utm_campaign=bloombergdaily

8/9

Been preoccupied with moving.

This is good. My favorite restaurant doesn’t allow Instagramming. http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/food-dining/2017/08/07/instagram-ruining-food-and-might-only-one-who-cares/GlZVsoSzmMKRpzrtenjfQN/story.html I give up! “Chef Chris Coombs will soon open a second branch of his South End steakhouse, Boston Chops, in Downtown Crossing, in the former Mantra space. It will have an Instagrammers’ table with its own special lighting system, for food photography.”

Anything and everything that Bacevich writes is worth reading and thinking about:  http://www.unz.com/article/slouching-toward-mar-a-lago/ Such as:  “The three presidents of the post-Cold-War era — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama — put these several propositions to the test. Politics-as-theater requires us to pretend that our 42nd, 43rd, and 44th presidents differed in fundamental ways. In practice, however, their similarities greatly outweighed any of those differences. Taken together, the administrations over which they presided collaborated in pursuing a common agenda, each intent on proving that the post-Cold-War consensus could work in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary.” Or this:
“By extension, Americans should come to see as intolerable the meanness, corruption, and partisan dysfunction so much in evidence at the opposite end of Pennsylvania Avenue. We need not wax sentimental over the days when Lyndon Johnson and Everett Dirksen presided over the Senate to conclude that Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer represent something other than progress. If Congress continues to behave as contemptibly as it has in recent years (and in recent weeks), it will, by default, allow the conditions that have produced Trump and his cronies to prevail.”

8/11

Moving: boxes, boxes, boxes. 254 boxes of books, essentially the entire library I have built up over 60 years, will soon (this coming Mon.) be on their way to Brooklyn College.

This is what I was getting at when I worried on this website about the disproportionate portion of US GDP (and the obscene portion of Silicon Valley GDP) devoted to the manufacture of distraction. https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/08/flagging-productivity-growth-how-much-is-due-to-bad-management-to-blame.html

We need more of this kind of thing: http://dealbreaker.com/2017/08/the-ceo-of-adp-went-on-television-to-sht-all-over-bill-ackman/?utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=55176677&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8GSsmfg2l7YCZOBSyNQqeejHsIaUwZYXE19dLZTZikCALs2GXYEP_fs6FC4pVbv-Pg3V_d9Kz60XEEdKvB1iqxo2_Fkw&_hsmi=55176677

8/12

In my experience, the kind of blustering militaristic braggadocio that Trump has been dispensing from the bully pulpit is rooted in physical as well as moral cowardice. The sort of stuff you expect from a proven draft-dodger and congenital liar. I’m constantly reminded of that ludicrous photo of Trump with his parents when he attended a military school of the kind that used to advertise in the back pages of The NYT Magazine, all spit-and-polish, Duke of Plaza-Toro “leading from behind” stuff, the strap of his shako under his nose, the very personification of what Thomas Paine meant by “the summer soldier and sunshine patriot”(a phrase I’ve quoted before).

Kunstler and Dizard make good points: first, Kunstler: http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/battle-of-the-behemoths/ Quote: The condition that will flavor events going forward is scale. Everything organized at the giant scale is going to fail. We have made all the systems of daily life too large and they will not function in the long emergency (and the fourth turning), an age characterized by universal contraction. This is true of corporations, institutions, schools, hospitals, farms, governments, virtually all organized enterprise. Now Dizard on how the shortage of “ethically sourced” cobalt could affect Tesla, especiall conssidering how sanctimonious a figure Musk cuts : https://www.ft.com/content/16436eea-7dcd-11e7-9108-edda0bcbc928 Basic Point: There is not enough cobalt production from existing mines, or mines under construction, to meet the demand projected by Tesla along with Chinese and European auto manufacturers over the next five years.

Offered without comment – other than a snicker with a bit of a nod: http://www.unz.com/ishamir/bring-me-the-head-of-jeff-bezos/