Critiques & Commentary

6/12-6/16/17….

Just back from a week in UK seeing my wife’s family and the old (in several senses) friends I care about. Lovely time. Now the move begins, and I need to get settled before resuming posts. A lot to think about, a lot to say. But first we need to survey the battlefield and establish our order of battle. Back anon.

Boston Globe  baseball writer: “I know I write dumb stuff on Twitter I wouldn’t think of writing for the Globe. That’s the case for many reporters, and we should be held accountable.” Which seems to me to beg the question:  so why do you Tweet at all, asshole!

Waited in vain for one of Trump’s cabinet to give an edge to the round-table sycophancy by saying something like, “Mr.President, I am honored to be able to kiss your giant fat ass and suck your tiny dick.”

Will try to get up to speed eventually. For the nonce, this is pretty good, although I generally haven’t voted Democrat. https://baselinescenario.com/2017/06/15/telling-a-better-story-a-new-economic-vision-for-the-democratic-party/#more-16694

One thing that occurred to me in London that I will be writing more about – someday – is that while much is made of “trickle down,” the theory being that vast accumulations at the top of the wealth pyramid must result in some part of the excess “trickling down” into the purses of lesser mortals, rather after the manner of a champagne fountain, what actually seems to “trickle down” in real life are higher costs,  and that rather than improving the lot of the poor or of those people who are marginally getting by, “trickle down” actually worsens their situation.

Today’s (6/16) WSJ reports the same of two $70 million units in one of the new condo towers abuilding in Manhattan. For some time, I’ve been puzzling over this quandary: morning comes, time to go to the office or heliport or wherever; you check your To-Do list (more chewing gum for the fading trophy wife, something from JAR for the girlfriend) descend from your 80th-floor, $70 million aerie in a more-or-less-private elevator, emerge to much uniformed and tasseled bowing and scraping, clamber into your Escalade (Wealth Rule #7: the smaller the tycoon, the larger must be the vehicle) and now what? You’re stuck in the same miserable traffic as the rest of us schmucks, breathing the same polluted air, trying to hear yourself think over the ceaseless honking clamor of what must be the world’s noisiest city. This is what the immortal J. Durante would characterize as “a revoltin’ development.” And so one asks: can special, dedicated Limousine Lanes be far in the future? Another reason to read a marvelous book I’ve mentioned before: Moskowitz’s How to Kill a City. Did you know that under Bloomberg 40% of NYC was “rezoned” – ie. handed over to developers, usually with a fake “affordable” tax subsidy. That is some amazing number.

Interesting. The prediction of robots rising up and taking over has been around a long time. My first year at Exeter (1950-51) the Dramat put on R.U.R, a 1920 play by the Czech playwright Karel Capek. Humans invent robots (this introduced the word”robot”) which then rise up etc. etc. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R.U.R. For serious students of the history of American drama, let it be noted that I – who had been a matchless Scrooge and Sniggers (in Lord Dunsany’s A Night at an Inn) at Buckley – played a nursemaid. And badly.

When the Lady Wife and I read that Cecconi’s (a branch of Soho House, or – as it is known in this apartment – “Douchebag Central” or “DC”) had opened up in the Empire Stores, we decided to stroll across Water St. to #55 to have a gander. http://mailchi.mp/guestofaguest/finally-soho-house-brings-cecconis-to-new-york?e=fe7590a783 We’re neither of us foodies, but I had a special reason for going over there. Enzo Cecconi, the eponym for the DC chain, is an old friend. That is, he became a friend because he married Sarah Coleman, with whom I played a lot of golf at Cypress Point back when we were 15 and 16. We were exactly the same age (I was born 04/18/1936 and Sarah a day later). She came from a famous golfing home (her father George L. Coleman gave his name to the gilt-edged amateur tournament staged every year at Seminole). Over time, we drifted apart and then encountered each other in 1977, when I stayed at the Cipriani in Venice, where Enzo was the General Manager. Sarah had turned him into a golf nut; I recall going 18 with him at the Lido course across the lagoon. A year or so later, they left Venice and Enzo opened his namesake restaurant in London, back of the Burlington Arcade. It was terrific, and a huge success. Enzo kept it for 20-odd years, then sold it – he and Sarah built a big house in Pebble Beach – and then it got sold again, and finally ended up in the hands of DC, which attached the Cecconi name to a string of restaurants around the world, of which the version opposite where we live is the latest. So we had a reason for going above and beyond culinary curiosity, even though a perusal of the menu online disclosed the presence of vitello tonnato,  a dish of which I am uncommonly fond, and which I have difficulty finding in nearby restaurants.

So we went over and thereby experienced as revolting a restaurant experience as I have ever had, although I suppose it was guileless of me to expect otherwise, given the utter lack of class and manners that is as much a part of today’s urban young as those stupid fedoras they affect, who throng to “clubs” run by and for people who have no idea whatsoever what a proper club is like. When we entered the restaurant, we were practically blinded by the light reflected off a sea of empty tabletops. As our vision cleared, and could see what is by any standards a pretty elegant set-up (I think Enzo would be satisfied), a snooty voice informed us that “We’re not accepting walk-ins.” The latter term, which I hate, was made to sound like “lepers.” We pleaded that we were only dropping by to have a drink, but Ms. Snoot remained obdurate. “we’re not accepting walk-ins.”  To be fair, she was probably simply reciting a script prepared by the sort of social illiterates who use words like “exclusive” a lot. Anyway, there seemed to no point in arguing, so we left, vowing never to return (and we shan’t, vitello tonnato notwithstanding), and ambled over to AlMar, one of Brooklyn’s truly great, truly underrated restaurants, for a delicious dinner.

Returning home, my wife saw outside #55 Water St. what seemed, in the metaphorical sense at least, to be a queue of typical DC “FOMOs” (Fear of Missing Out) waiting to get in and photographed it for posterity.

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You have been warned. Assholes are as assholes do. And I should add a sad bit of news: my teenage golfing pal Sarah Cecconi died earlier this year at her home in Pebble Beach.
A confession: I continue to be unable to think, let alone speak the phrase”President Trump.”
Here’s an article that I find interesting and relevant in all its particulars, but especially (scroll through) in its suggestion of a way to look at Brexit from a “non-Yob” point of view: https://www.spectator.co.uk/2017/06/post-truth-its-pure-nonsense/

 

6/1/17….

Now begins that awful time of year when the air is full of “What’s Hot in the Hamptons?” buzz wherever one looks, and the Instagram Idiots are out in full force. My six children, now aged thirty to sixty, were raised out there in the ’60s through the ’80s, and it might as well have been a different geologic era. Houses were affordable, which among other things meant that people who worked there lived there; traffic was negligible (Southampton to East Hampton was a fifteen-minute drive; today it’s likely to be over an hour) and one didn’t have to go grocery shopping at 7AM to be sure of finding a parking spot. The tables at Shippy’s and Bobby Van’s weren’t booked a month in advance, and the bar crowd at the American Hotel didn’t make one fear for the future of mankind.  The place and the people were altogether quieter. There were open fields. Still, when someone like me reflects on “duh Hamptons” as was, I bear in mind the observation of a wise friend over lunch a few weeks ago: “It’s not the way Southampton has changed that I hate,” she said, “it’s the way I’ve changed. I’ve grown old….” And her voice trailed off, and I could guess what her mind’s eye was seeing. Housman once again got it right: “It is the land of lost content/I see it shining plain/The happy highways where I went/And cannot go again.”

And then there’s this kind of piece, sent to me by my son Michael, written by a fellow who’s a 1990s Hamptons nouveau, which in his world counts as old money. As I recall, the author is a chubby little fellow who had – may still have – a Main St. shop that sold rather ordinary “resortwear.”  http://www.townandcountrymag.com/society/tradition/a9874648/southampton-new-york-history/   One correction, I knew hardly anyone who went to Herb McCarthy’s. The place we went was Dick “Enjoy your steaks, kids!” Ridgeley’s joint out on the highway.

This site is likely to be inactive starting now, because we’re going to London for a week: T to see her mum and family, me to see old (in several senses) friends whom, aa a glance  at the actuarial tables suggests, I feel I better see now because…well, you get the point.

And then when we return, we’ll be in that special hell known as moving. Thanks to considerate landlords, it’ll only be down the hall, but I’m a bit of a packrat and the prospect of dealing with all this stuff – the books alone, the books! – terrifies me. Funny, when I moved here over 17 years ago, I failed to include in my game plan an element that’s proving to crucial: getting old. Just like the rest of us. See you in a week or so.

And while I’m away, ponder this: https://baselinescenario.com/2017/05/31/economism-and-arbitration-clauses/#more-16618

Or this. De mortuis…. http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/06/john-helmer-presidents-inferiority-complex-zbigniew-brzezinskis-russia-hating-obsession-putsch-plotter-itchy-trigger-finger.html View image on Twitter

Finally, given my jaundiced view of social media (I’ve disconnected from FB and Twitter, and on Instagram I follow a very few people,mainly family, and seldom if ever post): http://dealbreaker.com/2017/05/trolls-real-time-crowd-sourced-stock-trading-online-game-buy-tesla/?utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=52590753&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-_egDLWwSWzvkzQiyn4_xM6fjFA2pZghM6zJPZC6HO36O9RaBodSRqMmM2-GLkSEAbPsx5oAwCb6AmvNVk16-QNtSJKWg&_hsmi=52590753

 

In today’s NYT, the paper’s spinner of digital metaphysics, Farhad Manjoo, refers to Twitter as “his daily addiction.” Further down in the piece, Manjoo lists the properties that make Twitter so addictive: “It’s where political messaging and disinformation get digested, packaged and widely distributed for mass distribution to cable, Facebook and the res of the world.” Funny: I find this hardly an incentive to addiction, but then I never got crack, either.

Then there’s this: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-06-01/meal-kit-company-blue-apron-files-for-initial-public-offering Excerpt from the article: “The company’s net loss widened to $54.9 million in 2016 from $46.9 million a year earlier, despite net revenue climbing to $795 million from $340.8 million in the same period, according to the prospectus. Among risk factors listed in the filing, Blue Apron warned that it may never make a profit.” Where do I sign up!

And…finally… New York  has a long expose of Uber. The piece incorporates a striking photo of Ubermensch Travis Kalanick standing next to Super Bowl hero Tom Brady at the Kentucky Derby. The difference in height is considerable, and given Kalanick’s reputation, brings to mind one of my happier coinages of years past, to wit: that most of the world’s problems can be traced to three sources: sex, money and short men.

A bientot, mes chers. 

5/30-31/17….

My guess is that Bezos senses a shift back toward books, provided his stores can mimic his online pricing. https://www.bloomberg.com/gadfly/articles/2017-05-30/store-killer-amazon-shows-that-physical-retail-still-matters

Amen. https://www.wsj.com/articles/if-offices-go-old-school-i-need-booze-1496155046

Like it or not, hard to argue with: https://www.forbes.com/sites/paulroderickgregory/2017/05/23/there-remains-no-evidence-of-trump-russia-collusion/#7efc6e76242c As far as I’m concerned, the only indictable (sic) evidence would have to be “reach out” contacts between members of Trump’s election team or the candidate himself, and known Russian bad guys.

Another example of MStM (Makes Sense to Me): http://www.ianwelsh.net/the-real-threat-to-europe-is-neither-america-nor-russia/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+IanWelsh+%28Ian+Welsh%29

No Laughing Matter: The Manchester Bomber is the Spawn of Hillary and Barack’s Excellent Libyan Adventure

New of Trump taking us out of the climate change accord. Of course he hates environmentalists, after the tough time they gave him on his Scotch gold course development, but still…the man’s moral philistinism knows no bounds! http://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/31/trump-paris-climate-change-agreement-238974

Further comment not needed: http://wallstreetonparade.com/2017/05/wall-street-funds-hold-hundreds-of-millions-in-sanctioned-russian-bank-subject-to-kushner-probe/

An interesting report from the front lines: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/amazons-brick-and-mortar-bookstores-are-not-built-for-people-who-actually-read

Here’s a how-de-do. It is tie for me to give my books away: Here’s the letter I wrote the librarian at Brooklyn College:

I spoke with your office this morning about the possibility that Brooklyn (or through Brooklyn College, the CUNY system) might have an interest in my personal library – for which I am seeking to find a good home.

Assembled over 60 years to provide research resources for my work as an art historian and subsequently a novelist and journalist, as well as to satisfy my indefatigable curiosity along with a case of terminal bibliomania, this is a real library. Here is an article I recently wrote about it for Quest magazine, along with a description I’ve furnished to, among others, Yale (my alma mater) – although, frankly, I would prefer to see it go to an institution where it might make more of a difference.

https://issuu.com/questmag/docs/qt0317_issuu/84

I’ve described the library elsewhere as follows: “This is a real library, accumulated with knowledge, curiosity and love over 60 years. No paperbacks, no endless shelves of books by the likes of David Baldacci or James Patterson. It is strong in music, memoirs and biography, diaries and correspondence, art history, history, essays and belles lettres, poetry, travel and foreign places, New York City and Brooklyn. In my office is an entire wall of reference books and books on finance and Wall Street (my principal subjects as a journalist and novelist).

My wife and I are moving, and I have reached the age (81) where I would rather put my books into good hands now than leave them in storage to be coped with by my family when the time comes.

I wonder whether the Brooklyn College Library would like to have them, free and clear, to be placed on its shelves, distributed through the system, even sold – whatever best serves the objectives of the college. We’re talking about – I’m guessing – 3000 + volumes (and some very handsome custom-built book cases I’ll happily include in the gift), less perhaps 100 volumes to which my wife and I are especially attached (such as leatherbound copies of most of my own books). I emphasize that these are real books, that have real research value. The donation could include some 1200 music CDs, mainly classical, and some 200 DvDs – mostly of classic American and European films.

The interesting part is, no one wants these books, and in institutions like the Brooklyn Public Library, you can’t even find someone to talk to. So if any reader has any ideas, do email me at [email protected]

 

 

 

 

 

5/26-27-28-29/17…

Great stuff – as usual: http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/no-exit/

This whole Kushner business fascinates me – especially his link to Blackstone/Schwarzman. The Blackstone CEO is a truly terrible guy,  a paragon of vulgarity and moral nullity, no matter how many buildings he pays to get his name on.

Hard to argue against: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/05/europes-faustian-bargain-big-finance.html 

Our country, right or wrong! https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/05/26/us/turkey-protesters-attack-video-analysis.html?emc=edit_ta_20170526&nl=top-stories&nlid=2476992&ref=cta&_r=0

Not entirely expectedly, we’ll be moving in the next two or three months. That means the accumulation of 17 years here in 5C will have to be winnowed and dealt with, starting with my books. So I expect my postings will be pretty irregular. With respect to the books, I’ve contacted Yale, the Strand and others are on the list. Any thoughts any reader might have regarding this particular task  will be gratefully received at [email protected]

Today’s NYT has a front-page article on Trump’s golf business. Naturally, the Grey Lady omits any mention of Trump’s most “iffy” golf venture, the takeover of Ferry Point, the “municipal” (ie. built with NYC money and supposedly open to all) track hard by the Whitestone Bridge, a short stroll from some of the city’s more desperate neighborhoods, and the scene – so ’tis rumored – of all sorts of Trumpian bait-and-switch hijinks.

The following, by James Panero in the latest New Criterion, perfectly expresses my feelings:

When it comes to the life of art, there may be nothing less gala than the Met Gala, or at least what this annual boondoggle at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has become. The scandal of this year’s iteration should serve as a sobering wake-up call for the increasingly besotted priorities of too many American museums, including our greatest institutions.

If you have not heard of the Met Gala, do not worry. You were not invited. Since 1995, on the first Monday of every May, the Metropolitan has handed its keys over to Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine and the artistic director of Condé Nast. Here her purported aim has been to raise funds for the museum’s Costume Institute—I’m sorry, make that the “Anna Wintour Costume Center.” Her lording over the gala’s invite list has become notorious and the subject of a documentary called “The First Monday in May.”

Of course, the potential conflicts of interest that exist between Wintour’s commercial concerns and her museum trusteeship are blatant. The specter that she has conjured up with her gala has followed priorities far beyond fundraising and certainly beyond the realm of art. Along the way these extra-artistic interests have risen up from the Institute’s basement galleries to infect not only the museum’s spaces but also its institutional tenor, and by extension the tenor of American museums at large.

Like much else in the world of art, the Met Gala and the Costume Institute itself have become unrecognizable deformations from the Institute’s founding and the event’s inception in 1946. Consider that for nearly twenty years, from 1979 to 1995, the gala was helmed by the singular society doyenne Patricia Buckley. During this time the Institute mounted exhibitions such as “Fashions of the Hapsburg Era” (1979–1980), “Victorian Dress 1837–1877” (1988–1989), and “The Age of Napoleon: Costume from Revolution to Empire” (1989–1990). The historical programming more than fit, so to speak, the seriousness of the institution that presented it.

The Wintour era has wrought, by contrast, “Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy” and “Punk: Chaos to Couture.” Even beyond its superficial, contemporary turn, Wintour’s Costume Institute has exposed the museum to the predations of celebrity culture. Worse still, the museum as a whole, a once-protected precinct of our cultural inheritance, has learned to revel in Hollywood’s demotic attention. “The Met is a place that you consider very very correct, very formal,” the fashion editor André Leon Talley explains in the Wintour documentary. “Anna has taken that out of the mix.”

The 2017 Met Gala became the apotheosis of this transformation. With the pop singer Katy Perry serving as the year’s honorary hostess, the hordes of bold-faced names, amply stocked with Jenners and Kardashians, marched up the museum’s Fifth Avenue steps and made a public mockery of the institution. “The celebrities were like animals . . . acting like they were at the Playboy Mansion!” one informant explained to Radar maga- 56 Art The New Criterion June 2017 zine. “Some didn’t even know it was a museum. They thought it was an event space with old stuff brought in to make it look like Egypt!” Many of the attendees, clearly uncertain of their surroundings, came to loiter in the museum restrooms. Here they sprawled out across the floors, spilled drinks, smoked cigarettes, and took “selfie” shots in the mirrors, which they disseminated through social media.

Some may perceive such spectacle as a tolerable distraction—even a welcome frivolity for an overly stuffy and off-putting institution. I fear the pantomime is far more anti-civilizational. It is a takeover—a commercial-grade, mass-culture affront to an institution held in disdain. Guarded by a phalanx of bodyguards, these latter-day vandals take barbarous license amidst the greatest artifacts of history. They smoke. They fornicate. They sprawl across the floors in mockery of the art around them, merely to focus on themselves. And all the while they record their debauchery on social media for millions of fanatics to emulate their cultural annihilation.

There have been many cringe-worthy moments during the reign of Thomas Campbell, the disgraced director of the Metropolitan Museum who departs this month. Perhaps the curator once dubbed “Tapestry Tom” thought he could take a major carpet ride to new money and popular adulation. Instead he opened the floodgates and drowned his institution in ridicule and debt while forsaking his scholars and curators. There should have been only one response for any proper museum steward to this year’s Met Gala: to sweep the trash out of the galleries, and to keep Wintour’s damage deposit with the suggestion never to return. Short of that, Anna Wintour’s Met Gala should be interred alongside Tom Campbell’s ignominious career.

I think this makes a lot of sense. This business of shrieking at/about Trump for anything is counterproductive. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/27/opinion/sunday/the-dumb-politics-of-elite-condescension.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=0

By now readers know how I feel about my alma mater  and its present governance. If graduate workers (most presumably working as instructors, researchers for the tenured gentry and section leaders) are treated as indentured labor, they have a right to complain. https://nplusonemag.com/online-only/online-only/just-the-beginning-yale/?utm_source=MASTER+LIST+5%2F23%2F17&utm_campaign=1224304aa6-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_01_26&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b822eb7b82-1224304aa6-399160097&mc_cid=1224304aa6&mc_eid=8f020a290a 

 

This is important, should be read and reflected upon. Quite apart from the foreground issue – Trump vs. CIA etc. – there’s something else at work here: a rising rejection by thoughtful people of knee-jerk Trump hatred (see above): https://harpers.org/archive/2017/06/security-breach/ Personally, I can’t stand complete irrationality, no matter on which side of the aisle one finds it.

No comment needed: http://www.corriere.it/la-lettura/17_maggio_19/damien-hirstdredgings-from-the-wreck-of-the-oh-wow-c725c848-3caf-11e7-bc08-57e58a61572b.shtml?refresh_ce-cp

Even less comment needed: https://redux.slate.com/cover-stories/2017/05/louise-mensch-and-the-rise-of-the-liberal-conspiracy-theorist.html

This sort of thing gets one a seat at top tables at PEN galas. As far as I can see, that is its only use: https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/awakening-from-trump-nightmare-by-bernard-henri-levy-2017-05?utm_source=Project+Syndicate+Newsletter&utm_campaign=7ad4f0b43f-sunday_newsletter_28_5_2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_73bad5b7d8-7ad4f0b43f-93490385

Among all the Jared Kushner fuss, leave us not forget that he is universally credited with “brokering” the $110 billion arms sale to the Saudis. Isn’t it conceivable that Riyadh paid the Trump “senior advisor” a commission under the table? I think we should be told. How smart is Kushner anyway? Around the Observer, during the time (2006-2009) my tenure overlapped with his ownership,  I never heard anyone utter a single syllable in praise – or amazement – of our new proprietor’s intellectual capacity. As regards the “Russia connection,” I think we need to separate any collusion pre-election and afterward. Only the former concerns me.

The 6PM news, is a veritable feast of quotidian toxicty – a Navy Seal dead in NY Harbor; a woman slashed in Grand Central; eight people shot to death in Mississippi a nightclub shooting in Paterson; four men shot on the sidewalk in Chelsea and so and so on, including te information that my daughter’s  estranged husband is golfing with Giuliani. This   all poisons the spirit, and “quite o’ercrows my spirit,” as it did Hamlet’s, I am going to make myself a strong drink. More tomorrow. Maybe.

Well…one last nosegay for the pillow. https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-history-will-repay-your-love-1495755666

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY!

And let’s start off with Kunstler, who takes – as do I – a skeptical view of the motives and likely efficacy of what he terms “the so-called “Resistance.” http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/the-so-called-resistance/ And from this Kunstler column may I quote an “advertisement” – if you will – for Fixers. It was to illuminate precisely this failure that I wrote the novel, to lift the lid off Obama’s Pandora’s Box of duplicity and broken commitments: Here’s Kunstler: “The best opportunity to accomplish that would have been the early months of Mr. Obama’s turn in the White House, the dark time of the previous financial crash when the damage was fresh and obvious. But the former president blew that under the influence of high priests Robert Rubin and Larry Summers.” The use of creative imagination to suggest how how and why said opportunity came to be “blown” is what my novel is about.

If Dante’s Hell had a tenth circle, this would be it:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/28/business/corporate-profit-margins-airlines.html?_r=2

More on “the Resistance”: http://www.salon.com/2017/05/27/wake-up-liberals-there-will-be-no-2018-blue-wave-no-democratic-majority-and-no-impeachment/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5/23-24-25/17….

Away we go! http://dealbreaker.com/2017/05/mick-mulvaney-crazy-budget/?utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=52300472&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8VPJkIGUIOGw_OpMsc2QhnxZvYkAVFtLejhhoJiWeHExcIDPRNgpZGgl_qulnvS2YmSD9BLupHTHPZ68KRpXaneGOVAQ&_hsmi=52300472

Meetings through Tues – Wed. Will resume Thurs 5/25/17.”

Michael Lind is thought by some to be controversial, but this account of the way things have gone strikes me as pretty realistic. A “corporate” oligarchy, whether investor- or board-supported, or state-sanctioned and empowered, has seized the controls and locked the entry to the engine room. https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2017/05/new-class-war/ 

Good stuff: https://thebaffler.com/salvos/outsmarted-perlstein How can one argue with a statement like this? “…even as we moderns spend enormous amounts of our conscious energy making evaluations about who is sophisticated and who is simple, who is well-bred and who is arriviste, and who is smart and who is dumb, these are entirely irrelevant to the only question that ends up mattering: who is decent and who is cruel.

This supports my amatur grasp of the tyranny of algorithms: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-05-25/what-if-robots-did-the-hiring-at-fox-news

New Greek Deal Fails To Take Greece Into Account

Ya gotta love it. Watching the Golf Channel, at a commercial break they start with a VERY idealistic Cadillac commercial about how, as a itizens, we need to look out for one another. And then they dump two loudmouth pitches for a couple of NJ dealers, Toyota and Subaru respectively, that pretty well illustrated why we oughtn’t to look out for anyone!

 

 

5/21/17-5/22/17…

More on Ailes – the larger picture. His ultimate trophy of degradation, I suppose, being our President. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/how-roger-ailes-degraded-the-tone-of-public-life-in-america

Why hasn’t the Mainstream Media picked this up? Has the White House? http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-lights-are-going-out-in-the-middle-east

For the nightstand? https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-blighted-urban-areas-transform-into-trendy-gentrified-communities/2017/05/19/9592b07c-1002-11e7-9d5a-a83e627dc120_story.html?utm_term=.6f7df5b53a83 From How to Kill a City, one of the books under review:  “Meanwhile, during Michael Bloomberg’s tenure as New York’s mayor, thousands of rent-controlled apartments were deregulated, resulting in tens of thousands of evictions, with 29,000 during his last year in office alone. Under Bloomberg, 40 percent of the city — and most of Brooklyn — was rezoned to create high-end developments. In neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Greenpoint, 170 blocks were rezoned in 2005; rent has increased 78 percent in those two neighborhoods over the past two decades, helping to make Brooklyn the least-affordable market in the country. Moskowitz, who was himself priced out of the Greenwich Village neighborhood he grew up in, relocated to Brooklyn and is mindful of his own complicity in the cycle he bemoans. “I represent the domino effect,” he writes. “I know my existence in this borough comes at the cost of the erasure of others’ cultures and senses of home.” He adds: “If people saw themselves as part of a system perpetuating white supremacy, brunch would be less fun.”

Monday, Monday….

Good place to start from. Perhaps if not four years of free college, at least two years: http://observer.com/2017/05/public-service-student-loan-forgiveness-program-donald-trump/

So what did anyone expect? I do like Sen.Wyden’s characterization of Mnuchin’s career: http://wallstreetonparade.com/2017/05/as-fiancee-looks-on-mnuchin-faces-hostile-senators-on-banking-committee/

I like anything that helps me understand aspects of life that both my intuition and my education can’t grasp: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/05/22/inside-the-head-of-dylann-roof-a-terrorist-paradigm?via=newsletter&source=DDMorning

Well, hello! It seems that Americans have taken a dim view of the republic’s poorly-maintained “moral infrastructure” every year since Gallup started asking the question. That was 2002. Figures. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-05-22/americans-see-u-s-moral-values-at-a-seven-year-low

I was “put down” for St.Paul’s when I was born. Would have been 4th generation on my mother’s side. Guess I missed a bullet (or something else!): https://www.wsj.com/articles/elite-st-pauls-school-admits-to-past-sexual-abuse-by-faculty-1495478287

Kunstler: http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/do-you-mr-jones/:

Oddly, no mention of W.J. Clinton after a brief mention early on. Ailes was an animal, but it really wasn’t Fox News that unzipped Clinton’s fly. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/22/opinion/monica-lewinsky-roger-ailess-dream-was-my-nightmare.html?action=click&contentCollection=Europe&module=Trending&version=Full&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article

 

 

 

 

 

5/20/17…

As someone who’s invested, directly and as a fiduciary, in a small way, in private equity, I found this interesting. But I think it misses or slides by a couple of important points. First, it really is difficult to know exactly what the returns have been, especially if your PE investment was made just before the crash, in 2007 and early 2008, as the ones I’m familiar with were.  PE sponsors tend to report returns on a position-by-position basis. This exaggerates “IRR” since it features the good stuff only. I think the only way one can get any idea of how well one’s doing is by applying the hoary test of “cash in, cash out.” As a given fund approaches its winding-up, as the ones with which I’m familiar are, the lines representing what the fund’s telling you its IRR has been, and what your own eyes and common sense are telling you, will tend to converge. Only then can you really get an idea of how well or badly you’ve done. It’s all rather like that game of “Battleship” that many of us played when young, where opponents each have a sheet of graph paper on which they deploy their flotillas by filling in squares, five squares for a battleship, four squares for a heavy cruiser and so on down to one square for a submarine. The cheat who “keeps his submarine in his pencil” always wins. So it is with much PE accounting: reported IRR will always include sponsor valuations of stuff that’s still on the balance sheet, illiquid. Second, and to my mind, most important, is the fact that the real money for PE sponsors is in the 2% fee on AUM. This encourages a focus on size, often leading to an asset pool too large to deploy in the moderate-sized investments that generally offer flexibility and the prospect of decent returns, and a commitment to investments possibly beyond the intellectual grasp of the sponsor.  In a word, “Where are the customers’ McMansions?” In every generation, there is a prophet who carries all before him. Long decades ago, it was McGeorge Bundy at the Ford Foundation with his “total return” (operating money sourced from capital gains should be considered the equivalent of money sourced from dividends and interest and spent freely). The investment/endowment >T>T> Baptist of this generation has been David Swensen at Yale, the outspoken advocate of PE – or “alternative investments” as the category is known.  Maybe he has done as well as is claimed with Yale’s heavy emphasis on alternatives, maybe he hasn’t. As the man says, “Don’t count yo’ chickens until they is hatched.” http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/05/private-equitys-lousy-governance.html

This is Naked Capitalism‘s “must read” for today. It’s an excellent example of description without prescription – and there’s nothing wrong with that, if the analysis takes into account the complexity of human affairs, as the writer certainly does, and what he describes seems in touch and in tune with real life. https://newleftreview.org/II/104/wolfgang-streeck-the-return-of-the-repressed

I’m reposting this from yesterday, since it fits nicely with my notion that a great problem of today is “the over-empowerment of the young” thanks to technology. http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/05/notes-from-an-emergency.html

My friend Marina sends this, a NYT interview with a founder of Twitter in which he deplores the state of the internet. https://nyti.ms/2rCy0Vf A quote from the piece perfectly illustrates “the tyranny of the algorithm”: The trouble with the internet, Mr. Williams says, is that it rewards extremes. Say you’re driving down the road and see a car crash. Of course you look. Everyone looks. The internet interprets behavior like this to mean everyone is asking for car crashes, so it tries to supply them.” Pure “Quantativity,” to coin a word.

 

 

 

 

5/19/17….

The art world has been buzzing last night about the Basquiat painting for which a Hong Kong collector paid $110 million. Too much? Maybe, comparatively speaking, at least to my eyes, not that much. I think – have thought practically from the outset – that Basquiat was the best painter among those who came on the scene when he did and have gone on to be auction-house star attractions. His color sense is amazing, his images arresting; his “wall presence” compelling; I would love to own one. Forget the $110 million bid last night. To me, if one converts artistic quality, originality and interest into dollars, Basquiat is worth five times what anyone’s paid for a Richter, which works out roughly $250 million, and twenty times  the top price ($17 million) so far (and, I suspect, forever), for Christopher Wool, or $340 million. Next to those numbers, $110 million looks pretty cheap.

Yesterday I was in my office when suddenly the air went all aflame with schadenfreude as my wife rushed in to tell me that Roger Ailes had died. After she retreated, suitably rebuked on grounds of simple humanity if not ideology, I reflected on Ailes. His was a remarkable talent for turning pigs’ ears into silk purses. He made a star out of Sean Hannity, one of the most repellent media figures of my lifetime, who makes Rush Limbaugh sound like Logan Pearsall Smith. He took a man with the face of a Jersey City priest defrocked for molesting choirboys, one William O’Reilly, and made him a superstar. Only today it is disclosed that Mitch McConnell, truly one of the most dreadful, dishonest and cowardly legislators I have ever observed, owed his first election to Ailes. And of course Ailes’s greatest feat must be reckoned to be the part he played in getting Trump to the White House. But in the latter context, one cannot help reflecting that was as great as Ailes’s gift for talent-spotting and talent-engendering, he was – like Trump – lucky in his enemies. Fox News treated politics as serious business, of mortal importance. The opposition – the Jon Stewarts, the Colberts (I loathe Colbert!), the MSNBC and CNN opinionators -treated politics as an excuse for showing off, a receptacle for ever-so-clever irony ever-so-far over the heads of HRC’s “deplorables,” surely the ugliest, best cause-for-defeat epithet ever uttered by a candidate for high office. There’s a passage in Henry IV, Part One that perfectly characterizes the so-called “progressive” style.

Hotspur, a character O’Reilly would be perfectly cast as, speaks:

My liege, I did deny no prisoners.
But I remember, when the fight was done,
When I was dry with rage and extreme toil,
Breathless and faint, leaning upon my sword,
Came there a certain lord, neat, and trimly dressed,
Fresh as a bridegroom, and his chin new reaped
Showed like a stubble land at harvest home.
He was perfumèd like a milliner,
And ’twixt his finger and his thumb he held
A pouncet box, which ever and anon
He gave his nose and took ’t away again,
Who therewith angry, when it next came there,
Took it in snuff; and still he smiled and talked.
And as the soldiers bore dead bodies by,
He called them untaught knaves, unmannerly,
To bring a slovenly unhandsome corse
Betwixt the wind and his nobility.
With many holiday and lady terms
He questioned me; amongst the rest demanded
My prisoners in your Majesty’s behalf.
I then, all smarting with my wounds being cold,
To be so pestered with a popinjay,
Out of my grief and my impatience
Answered neglectingly I know not what—
He should, or he should not; for he made me mad
To see him shine so brisk and smell so sweet
And talk so like a waiting-gentlewoman
Of guns, and drums, and wounds—God save the mark!—
And telling me the sovereignest thing on earth
Was parmacety for an inward bruise,
And that it was great pity, so it was,
This villanous saltpeter should be digged
Out of the bowels of the harmless earth,
Which many a good tall fellow had destroyed
So cowardly, and but for these vile guns
He would himself have been a soldier.

Ailes’s genius was to have his players speak to their audience’s pain and anger. For Stewart et al, pain and anger were unfit seed-grounds; irony was to be all. Smartass instead of passion. Zero empathy. And over the decades, the progressives lost the gift of commitment, no longer knew how to do real fire and brimstone, could only do shrill and snarky (look at Samantha Bee’s terrible show!) and Krugmanesque technowhine. Keep your friends close, goes the saying, but keep your enemies closer –  and when you have enemies like these, buy ’em dinner! Hell, they’re the best assets you have!

Moving on….

Alert! http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/05/notes-from-an-emergency.html

Always on point: https://www.wsj.com/articles/democracy-is-not-your-plaything-1495149082

High-class guys doin’ high-class “bidness”: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-05-19/-ringing-the-register-homey-citi-traders-revel-as-lehman-dies 

A prime candidate for what Naked Capitalism calls “Guillotine Watch.” I know the parents or grandparents of a number of these young “ladies.” (sic) Obviously such a thing as “upbringing” no longer exists: http://www.sothebys.com/en/news-video/blogs/all-blogs/all-that-glitters/2017/05/white-baaz-debut.html?cmp=email_Magazine___selects_white_baaz_button5_19-may-2017  

 

 

 

5/17/17 – 5/18/17….

Why so much contemporary art disgusts me. http://theartnewspaper.com/comment/reviews/the-road-to-the-venice-biennale-is-paved-with-good-intentions/?utm_source=daily_may17_2017&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=email_daily&utm_source=The+Art+Newspaper+Newsletters&utm_campaign=b8b302ad42-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_05_17&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c459f924d0-b8b302ad42-60919593

Well, thank God! https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/what-the-digital-resistance-movement-might-look-like

Good stuff: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/taibbi-how-did-russiagate-start-w482262

Riding over to Manhattan today, in a sic-and-span car supplied by Juno (the service I use because every driver I’ve spoken with says that Juno treats them much better than Uber), we jolt from pothole to pothole, the Brooklyn Bridge and FDR Drive are held up by repair crews, and it occurs to me that this is all attributable to one ongoing feature of our system of governance at  every level:  a total lack of infrastructure maintenance. I’m speaking of maintenance of both our physical and our moral infrastructure. Neither sphere is worth much political capital. The money and perks are all tied into new stuff, because new stuff is what gets a politician elected and reelected. . And what that suggests to me is that the only way for this country to get out of the mess it has evolved into is to impose strict term limits at every level of governance. Starting at the top: two four-year terms for the President as at the present, but then the fun starts: a single six-year term for Senators, three three-year terms for the House. And emulate this right down the line. Albany is a hive of crooks because our state legislators get elected and stay elected. If it was up and out after four years, things would get better. Bloomberg had three terms – twelve years – to hand the city over the the real estate and tourism promoters. A single six-year term limit for mayors might well have saved the day. To impose term limits country-wide from the top down will either at the outset or at the conclusion require a Constitutional amendment – but I think it might have a shot.

Cowardly draft-dodger hangs tough: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/17/us/politics/trump-saying-he-is-treated-unfairly-signals-a-fight.html?emc=edit_ne_20170517&nl=evening-briefing&nlid=2476992&te=1

Roger Ailes has died. Sad news about a bad guy. Can’t helping paraphrasing the great line from Macbeth:  “He should have died heretofore. ..”

Interesting. http://time.com/4783932/inside-russia-social-media-war-america/ OK: but what I don’t understand is why the good guys don’t hack back, identifying the same subgroups and offering a pitch that points  out that the targets’ chains are being jerked by KGB, FRS or whoever. For instance (and I quote): The vast openness and anonymity of social media has cleared a dangerous new route for antidemocratic forces. “Using these technologies, it is possible to undermine democratic government, and it’s becoming easier every day,” says Rand Waltzman of the Rand Corp., who ran a major Pentagon research program to understand the propaganda threats posed by social media technology. How come the quote can’t read “Using these technologies it is possible to support democratic government…”  ? Here’s my guess: it’s in the nature of technocracy to present itself as ideology free, and to concentrate on how  something gets transmitted rather that what  is being transmitted. Here’s the aforesaid Waltzman’ s CV:

Rand Waltzman is acting chief technology officer (Washington, DC) stationed in the SEI’s Arlington, VA, office. He is also SEI associate director of research and is part of the management team responsible for the SEI’s internally funded research program. Before joining the SEI in 2015, Waltzman was a program manager for five years at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington. At DARPA he originated, secured funding for, and managed the Anomaly Detection at Multiple Scales (ADAMS) program in the area of insider threat detection and the Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) program. Prior to his work at DARPA, Waltzman was chief scientist for the Distributed Systems Lab at Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Laboratories in Cherry Hill, NJ, where he provided technical leadership for R&D in the broad areas of advanced software development and physical simulation and modeling. Before that he spent more than 16 years at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, as an associate professor of computer science, where he developed and implemented innovative techniques in artificial intelligence applied to decision support, entertainment, and human-machine communication through machine-guided, goal-directed conversational dialogs.

Waltzman earned a PhD in computer science from the University of Maryland, College Park; a master of science in applied mathematics from the University of Washington; and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Probably never took a philosophy course, or one in political science, or art history, or history, or Marxism and its discontents. To such people, if it ain’t algorithmicable, it just ain’t. Period.

Just click through. Then stay off the roads. And we think the LIE is the worst! https://weather.com/travel/commuter-conditions/news/world-cities-worst-traffic-ranked-top-20

 

 

 

 

 

5/16/17…

Having just canceled Twitter – and am I glad I did, what with this business of Trump leaking intelligence information to Russia – and thus freeing myself from all social media except Instagram, which I limit to family and a few close or interesting personal friends, I think I know what an AA member feels like in the first flush of sobriety.

As Lord Acton said, all power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We live under a strange new absolutism, the tyranny of the algorithm, imposed on us by Silicon Valley, a festering hive dominated by young people with little experience in practical affairs and no real grasp of what was once called “the examined life.” Here’s a good example: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-05-15/don-t-grade-teachers-with-a-bad-algorithm?utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_term=170516&utm_campaign=sharetheview

Dizard strikes again! Brilliant! https://www.ft.com/content/ff51fb36-36e9-11e7-99bd-13beb0903fa3

A reader complains that FT links are unopenable. Here’s what FT tells me: Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our T&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email [email protected] to buy additional rights.
https://www.ft.com/content/ff51fb36-36e9-11e7-99bd-13beb0903fa3

I’m frankly reluctant to copy the entire column, mainly because I play by the rules and respect copyright.

Israel>Trump>Russia. They must be going batshit in Tel Aviv!

Here’s a truly sad story. Heartbreaking. But scroll down and read the tweets/comments and you’ll understand why I could no longer endure social media: http://gothamist.com/2017/05/16/plane_vanishes.php?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily%20Gothamist%20Daily%20Winter%20Storm%20Warning%20In%20Effect%20As%20NYC%20May%20See%206-12%20Of%20Snow%20Possibly%20More&utm_content=Daily%20Gothamist%20Daily%20Winter%20Storm%20Warning%20In%20Effect%20As%20NYC%20May%20See%206-12%20Of%20Snow%20Possibly%20More+CID_b33be5662c9fba8a7617c9555b7c5c45&utm_source=CM&utm_term=Plane%20Carrying%20NYC%20Designer%20Young%20Sons%20Disappears%20Near%20Bahamas