11/17/16….Boy, do I ever agree with this!….

Posted by the perspicacious Doug Henwood on FB:

[This whole piece isn’t bad, but Lake’s comments are a highlight – Doug Henwood]

Celinda Lake, the renowned Democratic pollster, is very angry that her party failed to lay out an economic vision to contrast with Trump’s. During an afternoon symposium at Gallup’s headquarters in downtown Washington yesterday, where dozens of experts on public opinion gathered to discuss the lessons of the election, Lake noted that Clinton’s standing on questions about the economy kept slipping during the final weeks.

“Why would the Democrats stubbornly not have an economic message?” she said. “Sixty-seven white papers don’t make an economic message. Thirty-seven bills you’re going to introduce in the first 100 days do not make an economic message. What we as Democrats really have to deal with is the fact that we didn’t have an economic message. … Someone at a meeting I was just at said, ‘Well, this was the biggest con ever.’ Maybe. But one of the things we know in our business is that facts don’t matter. If the facts don’t fit the frame, people reject the facts – not the frame. … When we sound like we have a tin ear, we end up with Donald Trump as president.” (She also argued that racism and sexism worked against Clinton.)

Lake, who has worked for a long list of blue-chip Democratic clients, fretted that Trump will do a better job than Barack Obama at creating the sense of forward progress on the economy. She said one of her “everlasting disappointments” with the lame-duck president is that, “He didn’t do the Roosevelt thing. He didn’t engage in an ongoing dialogue about where we are and where we’re going. … In your deafening silence, you sound like you don’t get it. … Ironically, I think Trump might do more of that.”

“If Democrats don’t have something to offer on the economy, we’re not going to win elections,” she added. “That’s probably the single biggest thing we have to focus on. … You want to know who is going to win in 2020? Look at your crystal ball, and tell me who is ahead on the economy!”

There is irony that Trump won because of concerns about the economy and a yearning for change, the same mentality that in 1992 allowed Bill Clinton beat an incumbent who voters considered more qualified and experienced. Lake recalled a focus group that she conducted for Bill when he was president. She asked a voter in Los Angeles about a line he was using in his stump speech about how many millions of jobs had been created since he took office. “I know. I have three of them,” the woman replied. When Lake recounted that story to the president, he began stressing that more needed to be done to create good-paying jobs. “The candidates live in a pretty rarefied world. They don’t encounter real people that much,” she told the group of pollsters. “We provide a lot of that function.”


  1. Was the election stolen? That’s being asked wherever I turn on the Internet. Actually, the first election in which I voted was 1960 (JFK vs. Nixon). It was generally agreed that, thanks to an understanding between JFK’s father and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, the graves of Cook County had opened, releasing thousands of spirits onto the voter rolls who then voted Democratic. I think the argument could be mad that the rampant gerrymandering since 2010 amounts to rigging an election before voting ever takes place.
  2. I noticed this on FB (it’s why I keep FB – if you’re a connoisseur of blind human stupidity, it’s essential). This sort of thing is why I never read Slate.  http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/11/there_is_no_such_thing_as_a_good_trump_voter.html
  3. My principal worry about Trump is that he saw the election – getting elected – as another deal. Dealmakers say whatever needs to be said to whomever is need to get a closing. Down the road, they reckon, terms can always be renegotiated – and certainly Trump’s career seems to prove that out. But I don’t think the presidency works that way.

11/16/16…Life goes on….

Busy day. No real chance to post, but as always I turn to Kunstler for his take: http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/what-now/

There are few political commentators I respect less than Elizabeth Drew. Here she trots out all the usual excuses. http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2016/11/12/trump-victory-how-it-happened/

How about this? Despise him or not, Trump puts it all out there. His lies are patent and transparent. With HRC, there’s always the feeling that something’s hidden underneath. Of course, Trump’s now showing something that concerned me from the get-go: an apparent lack of understanding how consuming and complicated a job the presidency is. You don’t commute to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. three days a week!

3. amazing what crap sells for: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-11-16/allen-s-jet-painting-sells-for-25-6-million-at-phillips-auction

4. High up on my “Detest” list is Schumer, a real whore: http://wallstreetonparade.com/2016/11/protesters-target-senator-chuck-schumers-office-along-with-trump-tower/

5. I’m a huge fan of Ritholz. More and more grownups of my acquaintance are quitting or seriously cutting back on Facebook: http://ritholtz.com/2016/11/the-trouble-with-facebook/ Also this: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/11/16/48-hours-in-facebook-s-unreality.html?via=newsletter&source=DDAfternoon

6. And this: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/11/14/get-ready-for-the-worst-thanksgiving-ever.html



11/14/16…Adjusting to the Apocalypse….

  1. These numbers (taken from an article by Ashe Schow in the Observer) provoke reflection:

“Under Mr. Obama, Democrats have lost 13 net Senate seats, 69 House seats, 11 governorships, a whopping 913 state legislature seats and 30 state legislature chambers, according to analysis from the Washington Post.”

First of all, the implications for successful gerrymandering are staggering. Second, while the Washington Post analysis indicates that every administration from Eisenhower to the present has sustained losses in the same categories, I think these numbers suggest how utterly this administration, the President and his party have failed at the local level. A conclusion supported by the disgracefully low turnout. Mrs.Clinton garnered 6.6 million fewer votes than Obama did, while Trump fell short of Romney’s total by only 1.9 million. Some of this disparity can probably be traced to disgruntled Obama followers crossing over – as I considered doing, but in the end couldn’t – but probably not enough.

2. Here some other numbers to think about. http://www.forbes.com/sites/eriksherman/2016/03/08/wall-street-bonuses-are-more-than-all-minimum-wage-worker-earnings/#7df4b52c5d1a You expect this in Zimbabwe. In the USA?

3. Another example of why I think Naked Capitalism is the smartest blog going: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2016/11/three-myths-about-clintons-defeat-in-election-2016-debunked.html


11/14/16…Sorry to see Observer print edition close…

In the summer of 1987, Arthur Carter and John Sicher asked me to write a column for a new weekly paper that Arthur was backing. I agreed – and in October of that year the adventure began. I would go on to write the column, which I called “The Midas Watch,” after the notional transmutational power of money that seemed to be afflicting American life,  until 2009, with one or two interruptions and absences along the way. It was quite a trip.

At first, the Observer was a serious paper, in keeping with Arthur’s prior service as publisher of The Nation.  John Sicher was a lawyer, not a journalist. I saw that as a kind of a strength, but the paper didn’t seem to be going anywhere. Then Graydon Carter succeeded John and the tone of the paper changed. The focus became lighter and sharper, so to speak. The writing acquired personality. Sex in the City was born. And so it went.

Today, the Observer is revered as one of the great journalistic enterprises of all time. Its alumni’s bylines are everywhere. But this needs to be understood. The paper had a lifestyle influence but little else. Conrad Black put it best. At one point the Canadian newspaper entrepreneur was exploring buying the paper. A mutual friend, Arthur Ross, thought it made sense for Conrad and me to meet. After the usual pleasantries, I asked what he thought of the Observer as a newspaper. “The Observer isn’t a newspaper,” Conrad replied, “it’s a mascot.”

I’m afraid that’s true. We made a fair amount of sound and fury, but signified relatively little. In all my time there, we never unmade a politician, unmasked a swindler, uncovered an important scandal, brought about an important reform. Our circulation remained stuck. The truth was, at least as I saw it, our readers outgrew us. Once they found themselves having to get and spend in a grownup world, they dropped the paper. Our writers outgrew us, too. They moved on to media that people who had real influence took seriously.

There has to be more to a paper than smartass young journalism. In spirit and style, the Observer often seemed to be a kind of postgraduate Harvard Crimson. Still, I salute it as it lowers its print flag for the last time. It was a fun ride and I’ll never regret having been on board.

11/13/16…And we go on….

  1. Chris Hedges is a fine writer and a terrific polemicist. Sometimes, however, he goes a bit over the top, as here: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/its_worse_than_you_think_20161111

2. I find this interesting and worth thinking about. And very probably accurate: https://hbr.org/2016/11/what-so-many-people-dont-get-about-the-u-s-working-class

3. I’ve been trying to understand why I voted for HRC:  it was all negative. Trump himself seemed no worse, although I felt there was a greater likelihood of him being forced out of office – impeached, shot, sentenced in court – and that did matter to me. I felt Trump had asked a number of the right questions, although come up with wrong or dubious answers. Then, this morning, reading the Times, I felt a shiver of Pauline revelation and knew what really had tipped my scales anti-Trump. It was the ascendancy of Giuliani in the Trump campaign/machine. I think Rudy Giuliani is one of the five worst people in the world. Someone who should never ever again be allowed near any levers of power or influence. And here he was, next to Trump. Enough, already, said my Id last Tuesday.


10/12/16…A marvelous letter from Joe Califano…

former Cabinet secretary, published on Facebook by his stepdaughter, a friend of my children. It is in response to letters sent out by his grandchildren’s (presumably) elite schools about how to “deal with” the constitutional democracy they live in:
Dear Claudia,

Please do not accept such emails without realizing that they express the “conventional wisdom” (a phrase Ken Galbraith crafted when I was young) of the elite folks at the big corporations, universities, private schools and national media, living in affluent suburbs and urban enclaves. Their school leaders easily imagine (that’s the “in” feeling) that their kids would be shaken by this troublesome, traumatic exercise in democracy and so offer “counseling.”

These elites just can’t accept the relentless pain of parents who must send their kids to (often lousy) public schools, who work two or three jobs to keep their families together, and who think their kids are locked in a caste system with no upward mobility. These parents are hurting because government in Washington has not been working and has let them down for decades.

As Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others.” To me it’s appalling that schools like your children’s don’t say: “This is democracy. Learn from it. Learn that there are lessons here. Learn that most people don’t live like you do. Work to make the world a better place for all, and when you grow up don’t vote just for your own good (lower taxes, etc.).”

I remember when Harry Truman succeeded Franklin Roosevelt and the elite, including your most conservative grandmother, my mother, said, “Terrible. Awful. He’s part of the criminal Prendergast political machine and a haberdasher.” But he turned out to be a great president.

I remember when John Kennedy was assassinated while I was working in the Pentagon. I went into my boss Army Secretary Cy Vance’s office and said, “I’m going back to New York. Lyndon Johnson’s a southerner from Texas; he’ll be a second rate president,” and Vance said, “Stay around.” Thank God.

I didn’t vote for Trump; I didn’t like him or his ideas, but we are one nation—like an airplane we have only one pilot. So your schools should have quoted Barack Obama’s eloquent statement about our democratic system, instead of writing emails like the ones you sent me.

I love you and the children too much to let this pass. Just as you make up your own mind, teach your children to do the same.

Love, Dad


2. Protests in the street! You’d think the electoral college methodology had been foisted on the public under  cover of darkness on Monday night by the Trump machine. What bothers me most is what a nation of crybabies we’ve become – and are encouraged to be by so many of our “elite” institutions. As the comedian Jonathan Pie says in his brilliant harangue (link below), “Grow the f*** up!”


3. OK troops. While you’re grieving for the insult to your sensitive souls, and lamenting the terrible moral injury that our constitution has visited on you, take a moment to watch this video. It shows an MBA management twerp telling the workers at a Carrier plant in Indianapolis that the plant is being moved to Mexico and taking their jobs, at which some of these 1400 about-to-be-displaced worker can safely be assumed to have worked for a decade or more, with it – because it makes business sense. I doubt they show this sort of thing at Spence or Avenues, but just put yourselves in the shoes of the workers, and then see if you can figure out where Trump came from! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OaK-8lcudz4

4. Ha! Today’s NYT, which I had not seen when I posted (3) above puts the Carrier story on A1.

5. This seems to cover it all. Worth the time: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2016/11/mark-blyth-and-wendy-schiller-election-2016-what-happened-and-why.html

6. Years ago, writing in the Observer, I expressed the opinion that, despite considering itself the most cosmopolitan city in the world, NYC had become really very provincial.  I think that needs to be taken into account when contemplating the shock and awe that the election has induced in the writhing, keening masses on Park Avenue and in Park Slope.

7. For skeptical common sense on my issues, I recommend Wall Street on Parade  http://wallstreetonparade.com/

8. Gosh, this sounds like FIXERS.  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/13/business/how-letting-bankers-off-the-hook-may-have-tipped-the-election.html

9. At least one friend has posted on FB about moving on to the next stage of (post-election) grief. I won’t comment editorially about what I think of this kind of public posturing (see La Derelitta by Botticelli) but it did impel me to recall Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The whine-and-weep set seems about halfway along the curve, although based on what I’m obliged to listen to so far, bargaining and depression need to change places in the AT (After Trump) sequence.

11/11/16…Day Three of the Singularity…

1.The idiots are in charge. Check this out:


Presumably this is to protect these children from the shock of undeserved tax cuts, higher interest returns on their trust funds…..

And just heard on WNYC that Brooklyn Museum has set aside “a safe space” for sensitive souls traumatized or otherwise afflicted by the election. Museums are supposed to be above politics.

2. Now here’s an interesting if controversial take…


3. I should add that the capable and decent bankers I know (I’m aware that this characterization may sound oxymoronic) agree to a person that Dodd-Frank as it has evolved is counterproductive, adds to banking costs and needs to be severely pared. We needs to get Uncle Sam out of the loan guarantee/bailout business while keeping the depositors’  money safe.

4. It’s interesting to compare the way the GOP and its adherents handled Obama’s 2008 election with the way HRC voters are behaving following DJT’s win last Tuesday. Both, let us remember, involved real outsiders not only winning big, but heading to Washington with their party holding majorities in both houses of Congress. Today, the HRC forces are whining and weeping all over Facebook, taking to the streets in Portland and New York, and putting their ever-so-sensitive grieving souls on display for all to sympathize with. In 2008, the GOP hardnoses stayed off the streets, got together and dealt with a situation. It hasn’t been pretty, and I think it may prove ultimately damaging to the country, and of course the luck of the census allowed for a gerrymandering orgy – but it got done and it worked.

5. NYT grimly reports insults, violence etc. against minorities on college campuses. College campuses are breeding grounds for offenders and the offended both. What most bothers me are reports of the educational process being disrupted by political action. Read this:  http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/05/30/the-new-activism-of-liberal-arts-colleges

6. A rare grain of retrospective common sense:  https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-11-11/revenge-of-the-deplorables

7. TODAY’S MUST READ: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/president-trump-how-america-got-it-so-wrong-w449783

8. This is what concerns me about Trump and why I voted for HRC:  namely, that he could be tied up in lawsuits relating to his actions as a private citizen. I asked Google for enlightenment and got the following from a presumably reliable legal website: “A private citizen may sue the President over alleged actions undertaken before or independently of the Presidential office. When the President acts on the authority of his office in any way, he is shielded by the doctrines of immunity.”

9. I pray daily for that which the poet Burns himself prayed: the gift to see ourselves as others see us. My friend Tunku Varadarajan has written what seems to me a very sensible analysis of the election. Link is below. As far as I’m concerned, here’s the whole story:

SO HOW DID Trump win? In the most basic terms of electoral arithmetic, he won because Hillary got many fewer votes—6.6 million to be precise—than Obama did in his re-election in November 2012. That isn’t a mere fall, it’s a bungee jump (without reliable elastic). Yes, Trump, too, got fewer votes this year than the Republican Mitt Romney did in 2012, but only by 1.8 million.

Here’s the link to Tunku’s essay.






11/10/16…Will there be life after Trump?

One interesting story that’s gotten buried by the election was John Oliver’s evisceration of Herbalife specifically, along with other period schemes (the MBA term is “multilevel marketing”). Bill Ackman couldn’t have written the script better himself.

Why we could be in deep doodoo (clue: it isn’t DJT himself): 


Nothing is a bigger turnoff than the prospect of Giuliani, one of the certifiably worst people of all time, having any meaningful job anywhere!