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

 

 

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/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2/16/17…Reflections on this Flynn/Russia/Hacking/Trump business

Last Monday (2/14/17) NYT front-paged a story with this ominous-sounding headline. 

Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence

Underneath, however, were paragraph after paragraph of yada yada of the kind journalists employ to convince readers there’s a story here when in fact there isn’t.  Finally, well down inside the paper we come across: “The officials would not disclose many details, including what was discussed on the calls, the identity of the Russian intelligence officials who participated, and how many of Mr. Trump’s advisers were talking to the Russians. It is also unclear whether the conversations had anything to do with Mr. Trump himself.”

This is what I call “non news,” and it bothers me almost as much as “fake news.” Misleading is at the heart of both types. The efficacy of “fake news” correlates with the ignorance of the recipient. “Non news” tends to correlate with the ego of the writer; it leads essentially nowhere; it is the breathless account of a dead end. What we expect to be about something turns out to be about nothing – in the best Seinfeldian sense. In other words, how much more that really matters did we know when we finished the NYT article than when we began? Essentially zilch. In this instance, what matters is what was actually discussed and where might these discussions have led? Or, to put it crudely: did money change hands? Were electoral databases hacked and altered?

I’m not alone in my skepticism. But in the material I’ve searched out so far, only my former Observer colleague Joe Conason gets to the point. http://www.nationalmemo.com/russian-dossier-ignored/

Mostly what we’re presented with is “non-news” squared. Here’s an example: it purports to explain and yet ends up more or less exactly where it started:  ttps://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/02/what-does-it-mean-to-have-repeated-contacts-with-russian-intelligence/516843/  This article does mention a purported KGB/FSB offer “to help” a Bill Clinton campaign – but what we want to know, if this assertion is to have any teeth, is what exactly is meant by “help”? Are we talking $$$$? Or blackmail (if there has ever been a president riper for a “honey trap,” it would have been Clinton, with his supersonic zipper). Or registration records hacked? Was Moscow responsible for the disappearance of all those Brooklyn registrants?

We’re told that Russia “meddled” in the recent elections, but of what did aforesaid “meddling” consist?  If you’ve read Fixers, you know that it jumps off in early 2007, with an offer by a Wall Street big shot well aware of the mess in the mortgage and derivatives business and apprehensive that if there’s a crash there’ll be regulatory hell to pay, to infuse the just-announced presidential campaign of an ambitious midwestern Senator with big money, funding sufficient to put him on an even footing with his “sure thing” primary opponent, the wife of a former president. This premise was inspired by the early (barely two weeks after 2008 election) leak that Obama’s finance team would be headed by Summers and Geithner, which suggested to me that something funny – and to voters like myself, very discouraging – was going on in the realm of “Hope and Change.” If I was starting that novel today, with the election at issue that of 2016 instead of 2008, I might well use the same plot kickoff – but this time with the campaign manager of a 2016 candidate even unlikelier than was Obama in 2007 being offered a deal by a Russian intermediary, denominated in post-Citizens United billions rather than the comparatively measly sum my characters had to work with in 2007.

I’m going to take a break now but will return later with reflections on l’affaire Flynn. 

OK:Flynn.

I’m not upset and I’m certainly not outraged by Flynn’s conversations during the interregnum with the Russian ambassador regarding sanctions. These were hastily imposed during Obama’s headlong rush to create a “legacy”  for his niminy-piminy, heed-what-I-say-not-what-I-do, two-term administration, but I’m not sure what they were supposed to punish Moscow for. Well, I do, actually, at least I know what we’ve been told. Here’s CNN:

The administration described Russia’s involvement as “Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities” and sanctioned four Russian individuals and five Russian entities for what it said was election interference. The administration also ordered 35 Russian diplomats to leave the country and two Russian compounds are being closed.
“This is the first time the names of Russian officials involved in the hacking have become public on the sanctions list.
“Russia’s cyberactivities were intended to influence the election, erode faith in US democratic institutions, sow doubt about the integrity of our electoral process, and undermine confidence in the institutions of the US government,” a White House statement said. “These actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

This is just BS. What the Kochs got up to was twice as destabilizing. Maybe the Russians opened up HRC’s emails for all the world to read, but they sure as hell didn’t write them. Why bother when useful idiots like Podesta and Huma existed to do the heavy lifting?

Anyway, when there’s major regime change, policy changes are expected, and people who know each other will often get together to discuss what’s next. Flynn has a long history with Moscow. He wasn’t an official of the government although I’m sure he knew he was likely to be asked to serve. He made no commitments. So what’s the big deal? Anyway, this just came up online. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/02/15/515437291/intelligence-official-transcripts-of-flynns-calls-dont-show-criminal-wrongdoing?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social

This reminds me of a similar episode in my own life. Back around 1974, the controversial Broadway producer David Merrick started buying stock in 20th Century-Fox, of which I was a director and handled the company’s investment baking. Darryl Zanuck, then Fox CEO, had a shitfit. I decided I’d go see Merrick and try to get a line on his plans for Fox, to see what he was up to. Not that I was out to save Zanuck’s ass; he was one of the 10 worst people I’ve ever known, with zipper problems to challenge Bill Clinton (we’d just spent $6 million to make Hello, Goodbye, a clunker starring DFZ’s then-squeeze, Genevieve Gilles, that “grossed $600K domestic,” as we say in The Industry), but Merrick didn’t rank far behind in the shithead sweepstakes. And Fox at that point was hardly in a position to endure the expense and distraction of a proxy fight or hostile bid. So I had dinner with Merrick at “21” and came away knowing little more than when I’d sat down, although as I recall I assured Merrick that I and my firm would do what we could to avoid a destructive and distracting corporate war. A week or two later, I was summoned to the office of Fred Ehrman, Lehman’s then executive partner/CEO. Ehrman was a world-class prick in his own way, and a misanthrope in the bargain, which put the firm in the interesting position of being a people business run by a people-hater. Ehrman told me that he’d had a call from Zanuck alleging that I was conspiring with Merrick to take over Fox, and that unless I quit the Fox board (and account), and Lehman replaced me with another partner, Zanuck would take his investment banking elsewhere. “Tell him to shove it up his ass,” I replied tactfully. “He has no business to give out. No one on the Street’ll touch him.” But I knew Ehrman, and I could see a certain word light up in his mind, because back then, to people Ehrman’s age (late 60s), “Hollywood” meant that part of the female anatomy where our new president by his own account likes to grab ’em. I was cooked. I bowed to pressure and – guess what! – my place on the Fox board was taken by Ehrman.

Now none of this means that I’m a Flynn fan. I think there’s a lot of funny business going on here. For instance: David Ignatius’ Curious Role in the Mike Flynn Story . My impression is that Flynn is extremist to the point of borderline nuts, but that wouldn’t bother Trump, who operates on the principle “it takes one not to know one.” We’re probably better off without Flynn on the poop deck – I can’t say that without noting that my all-time favorite gay porn double-feature, glimpsed years ago on the marquee of a Times Square speciality art house, was “Poop Deck” paired with “Rear Admiral” – but this business with the Russian ambassador strikes me as just so much hysterical persiflage.http://www.moonofalabama.org/2017/02/the-dangerous-precedence-of-the-hunt-against-flynn-and-trump.html#more

Speaking of which, this just in: http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2017/02/16/trump-slams-democrats-media-press-conference/eHrQlhkDEOt6Z4lDrkTX1N/story.html

Finally, to change the subject, another nail in “legacy” coffin: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/01/12/obama-obamacare-and-single-payer/

 

 

 

2/15/17…

From now on, the website will display in a larger font for readers whose eyes are my age.

 

1.Sunday night, a line in “Midsomer Murders,” recalled Terry-Thomas’s immortal pronouncement: “The man’s an absolute shower.” And he didn’t even know S. Schwarzman! T-T should be part of every thinking person’s comedic vocabulary. In “Man in a Cocked Hat,” he’s told by the Foreign Secretary that he must travel immediately to a distant part of the globe to prevent life on earth being destroyed in a nuclear holocaust. T-T shows himself to be in the moment. “But that means I shall miss Ascot,” he objects. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry-Thomas

2. From an online site peddling cheapie ebooks, I’ve downloaded a mystery written by the Lockridges featuring husband-wife detectives Mr. and Mrs. North. I read a bunch of these in the summer of 1947 in Nantucket when I had mumps (or was it measles?) They were a riot then. Curious to see how they stand up now. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Lockridge#Mr_and_Mrs_North_series

3.Don’t tell me “High Castle” isn’t taking over my mind! I’ve always addressed my wife as “Trade Minister.”

4. Even Nixon, when caught,  deferred to a higher conception of his office. Not this president. Here’s a good take from Naked Capitalism (link to Politico, comment by Yves Smith):  President Trump Has Done Almost Nothing Finally, some official confirmation of what NC has been saying: “Tune out the noise coming from the White House. So far, very little has actually happened…So far, Trump has behaved exactly like he has throughout his previous career: He has generated intense attention and sold himself as a man of action while doing little other than promote an image of himself as someone who gets things done.” The hysteria about Trump is way out in front of events. The MSM has fallen down either by accident or design by screeching about every executive order rather than parsing which have real legal impact, which are basically just press releases, and which are a mixed bag.

5.Strong thoughts. It is from The Guardian, however: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/14/wealthy-retire-austerity-pensioners-work

 

 

2/14/17….

Happy Valentine’s Day. “Un Village Francais” returns to MHZchoice today. Two episodes a week concluding 2/28. Be still, my heart!

I suppose there’s no way to prove that the Russians showed HRC emails to Flynn?

1.I posted this link before, but it’s worth a second look. http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/02/09/considerations-on-cost-disease/ Here’s an interesting quote (thanks to Tyler Cowen): “The overall pictures is that health care and education costs have managed to increase by ten times without a single cent of the gains going to teachers, doctors, or nurses.” This is exactly what I’m talking about when I define inflation as an increase in price without a commensurate gain in utility.

2.Dunno how I missed this. Douthat has become a very shrewd observer-commentator on the general subject of this great republic’s abstention from common sense: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/07/opinion/the-comforts-of-the-betsy-devos-war.html?_r=0

3. “Man in the High Castle” is wonderful in every way – if only I could figure out what’s going on!

 

 

2/13/17…..

The love affair between new technology and old age is a sometimes thing. For me it’s worked pretty well. AMZ is a cornerstone of my existence since getting around is no longer the piece of cake it once was. The sector I call “Distractibles” isn’t one I use. The magic of Snapchat eludes me. I dropped off Facebook. I look at Instagram to see what my kids and certain friends are up to. I do Twitter more than I did before I left FB, but it takes me much less time and attention to skim it. Google is indispensable, since I’m afflicted with a curiosity that would daunt a cat and I like being able to check facts, usages, spellings and definitions in the moment.

Talking light bulbs and refrigerators, and “Hello Alexa” or “Hello Siri” don’t interest me. The pride of our household technology is our Roku box, which offers clear and calculable economic benefits. My wife’s work schedule and the other stuff we’re involved in renders an afternoon or evening at the movies difficult. So we stream a lot. If there’s a film out that piques our interest, I add it to the Watchlist of one or another Roku channel. Then, when the time is propitious (in the spirit if not the specifics of those Viagra commercials they show during sports events) and the picture’s available, we watch it. If there’s nothing new that catches our fancy, there’s always “Midsomer Murders,” 18 seasons which combine the effects of certain properties of Ambien and DCI Barnaby’s local’s best bitter, or our current focus: trying to figure out what in God’s name “The Man in the High Castle” is all about.  Now and then something in the way of “destination viewing” will come along. Tomorrow night, “A French Village”, the best series ever  returns to MHZchoice Not even an invitation to attend Steve Schwarzman’s 70th birthday party (see below), vuvuzela  in hand to salute the birthday pig, could tear us away from that!

But I digress. I spoke above of “calculable” economic benefits. Here’s what I mean. Last fall a film was released called “Nocturnal Animals,” directed etc by Tom Ford, the Gucci designer and whatever else. What I read about it interested me. A chum whose judgement I trust advised me to steer clear. “Absolutely worthless,” he declared. “Just awful!” I noted his opinion, but when I read that the picture was going to stream on Vudu, I told myself “What the hell,” and added it to my watchlist. The other day, I was notified that the picture could now be viewed. Yesterday, Madam being off at a reading group, I watched it. My friend was wrong about “Nocturnal Animals.” It’s ten times worse than what he told me. “Pretentious and pointless,” is what I emailed him as the credits unscrolled. People have oohed and aahed over the performance of an actor with a hyphen in his name who plays a key role in the “Deliverance” knockoff that is the Yin to a second subplot’s Yang. The latter consists mainly of Amy Adams looking pained. The only interesting thing in this tirsome exercise is a pretty amazing job of makeup that leaves Laura Linney look like she’s dressed for lunch at River Oaks (sounds like it, too). But here’s the thing. To screen it cost me maybe $4. A theater would have extracted at least $20 for the wife and me ( would never go to a theater without her), so I’m ahead, even using Trump accounting, by $16 – and that’s without adjusting for house snacks, assholes talking in the theater and the risk of being caught either entering or leaving “Nocturnal..” by someone whose respect respect.  A decent deal by any standards, wouldn’t you say?

 

Now, what went round comes around, isn’t that what they say? For the past two years I’ve watched the conversion of the Empire Stores, the famous coffee warehouses directly across Water St. from us, memorably photographed in the 1930s by Berenice Abbott, into what is essentially a mixed-use commercial mall, with shops, eateries and offices. Early word was that the roof would be home, at about the 7th floor level, to two roof-garden restaurants, one of which would be affiliated with Soho House. I don’t know Soho House, although I know of Soho House. My impression is of Douchebag Central. A couple of days ago, word circulated online that one of these would be Cecconi, which turns out to be  the Soho House affiliate.

What memories and associations that brings back! The original Cecconi was a swank London restaurant started in 1977 in Burlington Gardens. The founder-owner was Enzo Cecconi, who had been general manager of the Cipriani Hotel in Venice. It was one of a breed of restaurants world-wide that were proprietor-driven as opposed to chef-driven as today (hors classe of this style in New York was Henri Soule’s Pavillon, which spawned La Caravelle and La Grenouille among others. Anyone interested in New York dining in the grand manner can read about it in Joseph Wechsberg’s invaluable Dining at the Pavillon). The place caught on immediately. London had never experienced high-style Italian cooking (as it happened, 1977 was when I took Marcella Hazan’s class in Bologna). Enzo was a bit of a rascal, but he knew his stuff, and the restaurant soon attracted HRH-level patronage – and this was back when that mattered.

He and I became friends, because Enzo was married to Sarah Coleman, with who I had played golf regularly at Cypress Point when we were both 16 or 17. Sarah came from important Oklahoma money. Her parents were divorced. Her father, George L. Coleman, the eponym of the famous amateur golf tournament played annually at Seminole, lived in Palm Beach. Indeed this inspired Enzo to take up golf, even though his father-in-law didn’t like him. Enzo and I played 18 in 1977 at the Lido, the island off Venice where fate befalls the protagonist of Death in Venice. 

Sarah’s mother Elizabeth was by then married to the Duke of Manchester; it had been in the course of one of the Manchesters’ annual summer sojourns at the Cipriani that Sarah and Enzo had met. Enzo really liked being the son-in-law of a Duke. I recall going with him and Sarah to a country pub famous for its cooking. He somehow got hold of the ducal Rolls, and I’m here to tell you he really  got off  on the Manchester coronet painted discreetly on the door.

I’ve not seen or heard of either of them in a long time, although Sarah did call once, years ago, when passing through NYC to Pebble Beach, where to judge from Google, she now lives. I’d love to catch up. Funny how the cartography of life works.

 

Here’s some other good stuff:

I suggested that to Yves Smith that she include this in the group of links that her Naked Capitalism  calls “Guillotine Watch.” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-13/schwarzman-parties-at-70-with-camels-cake-and-trump-s-entourage

https://www.truthaboutdeception.com/lying-and-deception/confronting-a-partner/compulsive-lying/types-of-liars.html Can our President be persuaded to take the quiz at the end. Seems to me he incarnates all forms.

http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/made-for-each-other/ Kunstler’s drastic apocalypse scenario follows the classic formulation about how one goes bankrupt: “slowly…then all at once!”

Our beloved elitists at work and play. They follow the emotional reasoning of six-year-old children: that a sincerely-expressed (but not necessarily sincere) apology solves everything. https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20170213/chelsea/high-line-citylab-robert-hammond?utm_source=Manhattan&utm_campaign=2f2a811da5-Mailchimp-NYC&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_7456974fe2-2f2a811da5-139053101

sounds like a very worthwhile read: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/02/book-review-econocracy.html

As was once said of someone else I knew, squat beside a basket, play a few notes on a recorder and Maurice Greenberg will slither out. http://wallstreetonparade.com/2017/02/wall-street-journal-goes-with-alternative-facts-in-hank-greenberg-saga/ I recommend that readers interested in Wall Street and its goings-on bookmark wallstreetonparade.com and check it out regularly.

And, finally, who says Hallowe’en only comes once a year? Or possibly casting call for Act 1, Scene 1 of Macbeth

Image

1/8/17…Hmmm…..

Enough already! http://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/01/07/tv_anchor_says_alexa_buy_me_a_dollhouse_and_she_does/

Spent yesterday watching first round NFL playoffs. REALLY boring. The first game made virtually unendurable by commentator Jon Gruden. The WORST. Couldn’t help thinking back to Jan. 2 1982 and “The Epic in Miami.” We were staying with friends in Southampton and settled down to watch Dolphins vs. Chargers, figuring to go upstairs and change afterward as our hosts were giving a big dinner. Unbelievable game – rendered more so by the realization it was eight o’clock and guests were arriving for dinner as “the Epic” went into overtime and there my host and I were, transfixed.

This is sad. http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/business/2017/01/06/limited-closing-all-brick-and-mortar-stores.html# These were great stores once. A reminder that while I dig most activities in which pigs play a central role, starting with barbecue, private equity isn’t one.

This has been going on my entire life, it seems. I remember my father saying – this would have been around 1950 – that he didn’t see a moral justification for displacing a people – Palestinians – from land they had occupied for thousands of years. http://takimag.com/article/the_solution_slips_further_away_allan_massie/page_2#axzz4VCY5nVBJ

Years ago, a book tour took me to Pittsburgh, where I participated in a two-writer bookstore event with Monica Crowley, a ghastly Ann Coulter wannabe, then a complete nonentity, now something of a figure in Fox-driven politics. This doesn’t surprise me. Nothing about the young woman, from the roots of her hair to the depths of her soul, seemed genuine, http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/01/trump-advisor-monica-crowley-plagiarized-parts-of-2012-book.html

All deserving candidates by the sound of them: https://thereadersroom.org/2016/12/22/worst-books-of-2016/

Whenever I read something arrantly specious attributed to a specific individual, I go online and see what I can find out about the individual in question. Here’s an example. In a story reporting the surprise dismissal of Gina Pollara, the recently-hired director of the Municipal Arts Society, defender of the NYC skyline and other historic material,   the NYT stated “The leader needs a balanced approach to fund-raising needs and vocal advocacy,” Christy MacLear, a board member who voted to replace Ms. Pollara, said in a statement. “That’s our fiduciary responsibility.” As this essentially declared, “F**k the skyline, go for the bucks,” I thought I’d see who this Christy MacLear, with her powerful feeling for fiduciary duty, might be. Just as I suspect, Ms. MacLear recently joined that ardent promoter of municipal aesthetic welfare, Sotheby’s, to hustle the Richie Riches of the art world.

And so this great republic corrodes further into a buzzing hive of fraud and usury.

 

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1/7/17…Good day to stay inside and figure out how the hell…?

I think I’m going to cut back on this blog – or whatever it can be called – to 2-3 times a week. More frequently is a drain on my fading energy and my readers’ and visitors’ attention. So there ’tis.

I must say, all this hoohah about the Russians and the election strikes me as more than faintly ridiculous. What are campaigns, anyway, if not propaganda – – con as much as pro. If it can be shown that Comey was paid off by Moscow to intervene at that late moment, that’s one thing. If sinister people in bad suits speaking bad English were observed crouched behind voting machines, tinkering with the machinery, that’s another. Anyway, this morally pluperfect nation has a long record of meddling in other countries’ politics, going way back over sixty years to the CIA-engineered coup in Iraq in 1953. I’m like a lot of people – Alan Bennett, whom I admire, has a real gasping pearl-twister on this matter in the latest London Review of Books – who woke up November 9th with a vague but generalized feeling that the world had changed irreversibly for the worse overnight. But the more I look at the numbers, the more I think back to other elections and White House changes in my lifetime, going back to the Truman succession in 1945, the more my hysteria abates. Obama’s presidency has been 99% a triumph of style in my opinion. His big accomplishment, the ACA, doesn’t seem to work actuarially, and it has to, if universal health insurance is to be something other than a redistribution of middle-level resources (the income/wealth cohort to which my wife belongs, not yet 65, belongs: at 80, I enjoy Medicare (also getting more expensive – deduction adjustments for premiums are about to reduce my monthly Social Security payout by over 10%) to those with little or no money. The Executive Class needn’t worry; their gilt-edged health plans are paid for by the stockholders.

I voted for Obama twice. The first time with real hope and faith, but two weeks after the 2008 election, with the Summers-Geithner “leak,”  I began to suspect I’d been played for a sucker, that the Wall Street fix was in (hence my novel Fixers). Continuing the bailout engineered by the Bushies was akin to giving a medal to the commander of the Japanese fleet that did for Pearl Harbor. Talk about not letting the punishment fit the crime! My suspicions were confirmed by O’s curiously flat first inaugural address (also discussed in Fixers). Where was FDR a la 1936: “Wall Street hates me, and I welcome their hatred!” All hat and no cattle, as they say: a perception not lost on McConnell and the other hog-shrewd GOP pols on Capitol Hill, who managed to back into a corner a president-elect whose party held majorities in both houses of Congress. I suspect they feared that the successful implementation over 30 years of “the Powell Memorandum” (qv.) might be undone. Instead, by employing the intransigent attitude and intellectual style of a child who refuses to eat liver against a president whose sense of politics was based on the approval and advice of his mirror, they now control the games in town, and the strategy seems more solid than ever.

Still, I voted for Obama again in 2012. I found Romney personable and highly intelligent, but he made his money – too much of it – from work that doesn’t deserve to get paid that well, work in which I simply don’t believe, making a few people a lot of dough while costing thousand jobs and pensions and wrecking the tax base of not a few communities.

Let’s be devil’s advocate and say Putin does not want a war with U.S. on any basis. In that instance, based on the record, he’d prefer Trump to Hillary.

More anon. Have to deal with the litter box. Preferable these days to trying to talk common sense about politics, Trump, Obama.

Searchers after common sense will like this. http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/01/trumps-win-americas-failures-of-representation-and-prospects-for-democracy.html I’d also like to see it circulated from the top down in the new administration, not that it’s likely to win over ideologues.

As far as the Democrats…http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/01/gauis-publius-elephant-room-donkey-reflections-kamala-harris.html

Interesting if obvious. http://www.cjr.org/the_feature/trump_journalism_press_freedom_global.php

For any number of reasons, I’m a keen student of what “society”, properly considered, is and isn’t. Indispensable to my studies are websites devoted to the coming and going, getting and spending, of the sorry, unmannerly  lot that we are given to believe constitutes la jeunesse doreee.  One of the most revolting is called “Guest of a Guest”. Yesterday,  my trawling yielded this: http://guestofaguest.com/london/nyc-society/a-mans-world-inside-londons-most-exclusive-gentelmens-club The club in question is White’s, on St. James’s St. in London, descended from a coffee house founded in the mid-17th century. According  to GofaG, the annual dues at White’s are $112,000! I seriously doubt this, since White’s includes some of the biggest freeloaders in the world. How would I know? How do you spell the word “duke.”? Let me skip ahead to another statement in GofaG‘s White’s  post: “Much later, David Cameron publicly renounced his membership in 2008. Never had a member disaffiliated. The only way to terminate a membership was either naturally (death) or being ejected (very rare).” This is patently untrue. How would I know? Let me just say that my wife is married to a man who resigned from White’s – back in the mid-1990s, after I’d been a member for almost twenty years. Among my motives was that after the Lloyd’s debacle went through the individual mites of the White’s membership like the wolf on the fold, the club, seeking to make up the revenue from straitened Debrett’s types without obliging them to resign, raised the annual subscription to the level (notionally) paid by UK members (not even within two zeros of today’s purported level). I thought this was wrong, especially since I seldom visited the club, although frequently in London (one time I went, I took a bookseller friend into the snug bar mainly populated by assholes discussing money while pretending to be talking about grouse-shooting and the results of the 4:45 at Cheltenham, and was afterwards reprimanded for bringing a “not our sort” chap into the sacred precincts.) I preferred the Garrick, to which I then had access. Resigning from White’s wasn’t easy, let me say. I got several letters from London friends (sic) that included the words “How a man of your social and financial standing…” Well, I was born into what was called “society” – as defined by its bought-and-paid for sycophants and publicists – and my life  has constituted a gradual withdrawal. Some years ago I resigned from one of Manhattan’s most sought-after men’s clubs, where I had been a member for twenty years, when it admitted a former Secretary of State for whom I then and now felt undisguised contempt. Anyway, my White’s time did furnish me a bon mot that I’ve always been rather proud of. Here’s the background. Whatever its failings in my perception, White’s has the best loos in the world: great spacious cabins with ample knee room and soft tissue (no rugged Gordonstoun butt-wiping here, even though the DofE is a member) and furnished with an excellent range in reading matter. Keep this fact in mind. Now recall that every year during this time, Private Eye magazine ran an annual competition for “White’s Club Shit of the Year.” Put these together, and you will grasp why, when asked if I went to White’s when I was in London, I came up with the rejoinder: “I only go to White’s to take a shit – or to meet one.” Rather good, don’t you think, Your Grace?

The idea of this book makes great sense, especially when you consider that this country seemed to function best when WW2 and Korea were alive in the idea of conscriptive national service. http://www.wsj.com/articles/democracy-is-dependent-on-war-1483741787

Frank Johnson, the late editor of the London Spectator, once asked: “What exactly is a public intellectual?” His answer was mischievous: “Is it the same principle as a public convenience? Excuse me, officer, I’ve been caught short conceptually. Could you direct me to the nearest public intellectual?” (from WSJ review of a book about so-called “public intellectuals”.

Conrad Black’s new book, Backward Glances, has arrived. Conrad can be a bit bumptious, and for a man as bright as he is, is surprisingly deferential to the sort of people one thinks of when someone says “Palm Beach,” but he is indelibly etched in my memory for something he said to me once. It was back toward the end of the ’90s, and Conrad was fiddling with the notion of buying The New York Observer, for which I was then writing a weekly column and at the height (about three feet above sea level, if that) of my modest reclame. A mutual friend brought Conrad and me together for drinks. At some point, I asked him, “What do you think of the Observer as a newspaper?” He shook his head. “The Observer isn’t a newspaper,” he replied. “It’s a mascot.” Truer words have seldom been spoken.

Does it get any better? http://observer.com/2017/01/joey-no-socks-mobster-hospitality-award-donald-trump/?utm_campaign=Observer_ArtsEntertainment&utm_content=A%2BE%202017-01-06&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=New%20York%20Observer%20Culture

 

Money quote from an article on Obama’s speeches. “These orations come to us as the lucubrations of a solitary wise man, grappling with American history, with race, with fate and freedom. They suggest writerliness.” I think this is meant as praise, but I would suggest that it is really an admission of what went wrong with Obama’s presidency. Less writerliness (sic), I would argue, is what’s needed. I’m not going to dignify this jejune piffle with a link, but it’s a typical extract from n+1, a magazine edited by a young friend of mine – whom I intend to take aside and have a quiet word with.

Here’s another n+1 gem: “We look at Ivanka Trump — perhaps the most privileged woman in America, the beneficiary of an international domestic-labor market that frees her from housework by leaving it to underpaid women from Asia, Africa, and South America; a woman who hardly pays her factory workers in Dongguan for sixteen-hour days making Ivanka Trump shoes; who poses for Vogue while her Chinese nanny, Xixi, watches her three children — we look at this woman and think even she needs feminism. What else could compel her to change?”

Well, for openers,  I wouldn’t call Ivanka the most privileged woman in America. I can think of a dozen more privileged.  I would submit that Ivanka is “freed” from housework by her family’s – father’s and husband’s – wealth and nothing else, certainly not “the international domestic-labor market”, whatever that might be.  I suspect that the supplier of Ivanka shoes pays the going rate in Donguan, and I assume that Ivanka got into the shoe business long after it had left this country (her customers don’t ordinarily wear Rockport or Sam. Hubbard.) Ask the nanny XiXi if she’s happy with her job; she watches the kids while Mommy works (which, in fashion, with stuff to sell, means posing for Vogue). What Ivanka doesn’t need, nor does the nation, is more juvenile socially illiterate assholism – whether it styles itself as “feminism” or some other form of whining gender victimization.  

Day’s End: After reading n+1 and looking over Facebook, I’ve concluded (with Plato) that there is an absolute need in a democracy for censorship, and that the only possible censor must be intelligence (not the spy variety). Unfortunately, we have rendered that species extinct.