Let’s start here. The more one looks at the evidence, the more plausible seem my suppositions, in Fixers,  about the moral character of the Obama administration: http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/blow-back/   Is it conceivable that Obama may have been as fixated on/afraid of Hillary as Der Trumpf is? That’s the thing about the Clintons. Even if it (perhaps) seems they aren’t, they’re always up to something.  Like dogs spraying a hydrant, they infuse any sphere they’re operating in with a miasma of mistrust. They’re never down for the count. 


Yesterday was a busy art day. Lunch with my old friend Marco Grassi, the restorer-dealer, who’s recovering from serious surgery, and then to the Metropolitan Museum for a tour of the great exhibition of Michelangelo drawings, our guide being the brilliant Carmen Bambach who conceived and executed what is surely one of the great exhibitions of my 60+ art-going years. Here’s a hint, though. This exhibition is almost too much, so reserve two or three visits, and make these as early in your day as possible, before the noisy hubbub of NYC life saps your powers of attention and your ability to see. If you can get the use of a forklift, study the catalogue.

Also from the art world: this is transcendently stupid: https://www.artsjournal.com/culturegrrl/2018/01/pay-to-play-maezawa-sponsors-brooklyn-museum-show-of-his-110-5-million-basquiat.html    How this blogger gets any attention is a mystery to me. Squeaking wheel, I guess.

From a smart guy: https://causeandeffect.fm/oxfams-excellent-inequality-report-1822314028


Every now and then, a book by a first-time writer receives so much in the way of critical attention and immediate commercial success that I spend a little Kindle money to see what the fuss is all about. The latest comet is a suspense novel called The Woman in the Window by (pseudonym) A.J.Finn. Right to the top of NYT bestseller lists. Well, don’t waste your money. There’s really nothing original and compelling about this book except the depth and variety of its ponderous, repetitive and yet overwrought mediocrity. Perhaps ominously, it comes with an AMZ blurb from Gillian Flynn whose own Gone Girl enjoyed similar supernova success but turned out to be a complete cheat (the champion in this department remains Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent). Interestingly, Flynn gushes that she’d like to share a bottle or two of pinot with Finn – when we are told on practically every page that the narrator’s (and presumably the author’s) tipple of choice is Merlot. It does make one wonder how close attention the blurbist paid. 

This makes sense. Not that it has a chance in hell of happening, given human nature and the American ignorance: http://www.businessinsider.com/henry-blodget-better-capitalism-1-2018?nr_email_referer=1&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_content=FinanceDaily&utm_campaign=Post%20Blast%20%28clusterstock%29:%20What%20you%20need%20to%20know%20on%20Wall%20Street%20today&utm_term=Finance%20Insider%20-%20Engaged%2C%20Active%2C%20Passive%2C%20Disengaged

Well, this is interesting. From a 1956 Paris Review interview with Dorothy Parker (courtesy of The Browser):  “Being in a garret doesn’t do you any good unless you’re some sort of a Keats. The people who lived and wrote well in the 20’s were comfortable and easy-living. They were able to find stories and novels, and good ones, in conflicts that came out of two million dollars a year, not a garret. As for me, I’d like to have money. And I’d like to be a good writer. These two can come together, and I hope they will, but if that’s too adorable, I’d rather have money. I hate almost all rich people, but I think I’d be darling at it. At the moment, however, I like to think of Maurice Baring’s remark: “If you would know what the Lord God thinks of money, you have only to look at those to whom he gives it.” I realize that’s not much help when the wolf comes scratching at the door, but it’s a comfort.” When I first encountered that aphorism about God and money, it was attributed to Ms.Parker, and I’ve continued the error. Now I learn that Maurice Baring (whose Have You Anything to Declare? is the greatest of commonplace books) originated the remark. It’s funny: to stand corrected at a ripe old age feels great! 

This Frank Bruni column perfectly supports my contention, long held, that pundits ought to be licensed like drivers, piling up penalty points for the punditical equivalent of moving violations like fatuousness, rhetorical flatulence, pomposity and so on, until a number is reached that results in suspension of license, possibly even permanently. The Patriots – and I’m a Patriot admirer but not a fan – do not field prima donnas and generally speaking keep their individual and collective mouths shut. They represent a triumph of discipline, organization, continuity and staff work. If, off the field, Brady and Kraft speak well of Der Trumpf, it’s probably because they’ve had their fill of assholes like Frank Bruni who think opinion equals knowledge. I know I have. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/23/opinion/patriots-super-bowl.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fopinion&action=click&contentCollection=opinion&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=6&pgtype=sectionfront1/25


These are the sorts of places in which one encounters the sort of people who use the word “exclusive.”  https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-25/why-private-member-clubs-are-booming   They are about as exclusive as the credit cards their members use to settle their accounts. Odd, exclusivity (sic): when Cameron was PM, the press liked to say that he was the only person ever to resign from White’s. Wrong. The proprietor/author of this website did just that in the 1990s.  In my view, “exclusive” designates clubs from which I’ve resigned, like The Brook (for admitting Kissinger), White’s (for general assholery) and another (unnamed) club that I call “the world capital of self-congratulation” that rejected my resignation. 


Around the turn of the 20th century, an Oxford professor named John Alexander Smith concluded the prefatory lecture in his course on Moral Philosophy with the observation that what his students were about to learn would be of no practical use whatsoever to men headed for the City, the Bar, the Military or the Civil Service “save only this: that if you work hard and attentively, at the end of this course you will have a very good idea of when another man is talking rot – and that in my view is the main if not the sole purpose of education.” Smith’s remarks come back to me whenever I read about “social media addiction,” which really seems to be a thing – as today’s parlance puts it. It must be two years now since I shut down Facebook and Twitter and I don’t miss them for a second, a fact (and it is just that!) that I put down to an education that taught me to prefer the mindful to the mindless. I still look at Instagram, but I limit my exposure to me immediate family and a very few friends: all strictly personal.  


“The 2016 Supreme Court ruling in the corruption case of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell narrowed the definition of what constitutes an “official act” under federal bribery laws – concluding that public officials setting up meetings, calling other public officials or hosting events in exchange for gifts, favors or donations did not meet the threshold.

The Court’s decision came several months after federal prosecutors began their investigation into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fundraising practices, and months before those prosecutors ultimately decided not to bring any charges against either de Blasio or his aides, not because they’d found no evidence of quid pro quo, but because of both the high burden of proof they faced, and the difficulty of proving corruption without “evidence of personal profit.”

Which could explain why, over the course of the last year, two donors to de Blasio’s campaign efforts have pleaded guilty to bribery of the mayor’s office, even after no charges have been filed against anyone in the mayor’s office. The first was Jona Rechnitz, who has said he donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the mayor’s campaigns and causes in exchange for access to de Blasio, which he certainly got. And earlier this week, Long Island restaurateur Harendra Singh’s guilty plea in another case was unsealed, showing he pleaded guilty to donating to de Blasio in exchange for help from the city, in the form of meetings arranged and calls made as he sought to renew a lease on a waterfront restaurant.

It’s worth noting the donations and the meetings that donors pleaded guilty to in their respective quid pro quo schemes all took place before the Supreme Court made its determination that those actions weren’t criminal under federal bribery laws. De Blasio has insisted that he and his aides “acted in a manner that was legal and appropriate and ethical throughout.” Former Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim, the prosecutor who announced charges wouldn’t be filed against de Blasio and who recently left the office after a nomination was made to replace him, took the rare step of issuing what appeared to be a public rebuke to the mayor in the pages of a newspaper last week, calling on the mayor to hold himself to higher standards. “As a private citizen, I certainly hope that a decision by a prosecutor not to bring criminal charges is not the standard that we should expect from our leaders.””

Information, please: what is the moral distinction between what de Blasio’s people did and what Der Trumpf’s are constantly accused of? This is the problem today. Much as I loathe Der Trumpf and what he stands for and whom he speaks for, his opposition ranges from the morally degraded (Hillary, De Blasio) to the utterly impractical (Soros in Davos).  

Farewell to a really good guy: https://www.dallasnews.com/arts/visual-arts/2018/01/23/dallas-art-historian-philanthropist-william-jordan-died-77

Two articles about Jordan Peterson, whom I hadn’t known about – but sign me up!  Neither article will appear in The Nation. Peggy Noonan:  https://www.wsj.com/articles/whos-afraid-of-jordan-peterson-1516925574   Chronicle of Higher Education (thanks to New Criterion):  https://www.chronicle.com/article/what-s-so-dangerous-about/242256

Watch out below! http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/happy-landings/


Sidney, thou shouldst be living at this hour! https://www.vanityfair.com/news/1997/04/The-Man-Who-Kept-The-Secrets  What a pair Korshak and Der Trumpf would have made, especially if Roy Cohn had been added to the mix!

Finally located the rebuttal to the extremely stupid attack (posted above on 1/23) on Brooklyn Museum’s upcoming display of a Basquiat by Lee Rosenbaum (aka “culturegrrl”): https://news.artnet.com/market/the-gray-market-how-to-run-an-acid-test-on-museum-scandals-and-other-insights-1203194?utm_content=from_&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Saturday%20newsletter%20for%201%2F27%2F18&utm_term=artnet%20News%20Daily%20Newsletter%20USE

No, s***, Sherlock! The limitless corruptibility of social media: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/01/27/technology/social-media-bots.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=photo-spot-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news 

This is from a 1903 review of Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth (thanks to Lithub.com) No comment needed. Nothing changes: “To a normal observer the most pitiable figures in life are the well-bred, impecunious hangers-on of the rich. What life must theirs be! What a sacrifice of self-respect! What an effacement of individuality, of pride, of honor! What a life of lies! And all in order to lie soft and fare well at others’ expense; to live in the limelight, and possibly gain some permanent material advantage or connection.”

Understood. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/01/26/donald-trump-twitter-addiction-216530    It does occur to me that if the media would stop using Der Trumpf’s tweets “as hooks for stories,” we’d all be better off. The more we reduce the size of the congregation to whom Der Trumpf preaches, the less widespread the importance the press bestows on these utterances, the more he’ll be isolated: just him and his base, howling at the moon. It’s OK for the media to read this garbage, just don’t report it. It’s not news. 


Read and – if you own the stuff – weep: https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/why-bitcoin-is-a-bubble-by-nouriel-roubini-2018-01?utm_source=Project+Syndicate+Newsletter&utm_campaign=376e4a8ce7-sunday_newsletter_28_1_2018&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_73bad5b7d8-376e4a8ce7-93490385

Very interesting to watch a notion gain traction. Still, to paraphrase the famous line from Julius Caesar: “The fault, my fellows, is not in the software but in ourselves.” https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/internet-platform-monopoly-threats-by-roger-mcnamee-2018-01?utm_source=Project+Syndicate+Newsletter&utm_campaign=376e4a8ce7-sunday_newsletter_28_1_2018&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_73bad5b7d8-376e4a8ce7-93490385

No comment needed, apart from the observation by Naked Capitalism (where I found this post):  “But that is America’s task, not the world’s. The world’s task is this. Should the world follow the American model — extreme capitalism, no public investment, cruelty as a way of life, the perversion of everyday virtue — then these new social pathologies will follow, too. They are new diseases of the body social that have emerged from the diet of junk food — junk media, junk science, junk culture, junk punditry, junk economics, people treating one another and their society like junk — that America has fed upon for too long.” I especially like the phrase “cruelty as a way of life,” which perfectly describes the 30-year-war waged against the poor by the rich and bribable. https://eand.co/why-were-underestimating-american-collapse-be04d9e55235

Every six months or so, someone publishes an article about how we’ve gotten Adam Smith wrong, or distorted his true views, or otherwise traduced him intellectually. This one (thanks, Barry Ritholtz) strikes me as really very good: https://aeon.co/essays/we-should-look-closely-at-what-adam-smith-actually-believed 


I think Der Trumpf has maneuvered the Dems into a corner. To me, it’s even money whether Russia played the Trump card on Twitter and in social media because they think he’s an idiot, or they think he’s a potential ally – and he could be a combination of both. What we used to call “a useful idiot.” I think the “collusion” charge is bullshit. He seems to be dialing back the “Fire and Fury” now that he’s got the opposition sputtering and clutching their pearls. This guy has gotten away with the s*** he’s gotten away with by being a devious, bullying negotiator (sic) utterly without scruple. Deflection is always the name of the game: get the other side focused on the immaterial, marginal, provocative stuff while you clean out the cash register, 

I agree (from NYT via Politico): “The Subway Is Next Door. Should New Yorkers Pay Extra For That?” – New York Times’s James Barron: “Today, with the subway in precipitous decline and the city enjoying an economic boom, some policymakers think the time has come for the subway to profit from the financial benefits it provides, including its considerable contribution to property values. Proponents point to the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where co-op and condominium prices in a 10-block stretch near the Second Avenue subway have risen 6 percent since it opened in January 2017, according to figures from the Corcoran Group, a large real estate firm. In Manhattan’s main business corridors, from 60th Street south, the benefit of being near a subway adds $3.85 per square foot to the value of commercial property, according to calculations by two New York University economists. 

– The notion that property owners should pay extra for their proximity to the subway is called “value capture” and has long been debated in urban planning circles. Now Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo , a Democrat, has made value capture a prominent part of his plan to salvage the subway system by proposing to give the Metropolitan Transportation Authority the power to designate “transit improvement subdistricts” and impose taxes. The plan’s final contours are a long way off and would need legislative approval. But at a moment when the subway is facing its worst crisis in decades, there is a growing consensus that property owners should shoulder more of the cost of a subway system that has nourished their bottom lines.”

My friend Yves Smith, founder-proprietor-moving spirit of the indispensable website Naked Capitalism has written this post that asks a lot of questions about The Way We Live Now that have for some time perplexed me, mainly connected to the issue of why we all seem so unattached. I suspect it has to do something with the primacy of social-mediaworthy “experiences” over any other form of human activity and self-validation: when everyone’s haring off in search of some personalized excitement that can be exhibited on, say, Instagram, where’s the “glue” that’s supposed to bind us? https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2018/01/anything-working-less-not-solve.html

I give up! https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-great-bookshelf-debate-of-2018-spine-in-or-out-1517167114


Worth thinking about. I admire Joseph Stiglitz, but this citation epitomizes the self-defeating pointlessness of knee-jerk (with an accent aigu on “jerk”) anti-Trumpism. https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2018/01/ilargi-shithouses.html

For whom would you vote? I’m thinking about my choices. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/01/25/the-five-most-important-public-intellectuals-in-america-today/?utm_term=.0359d399c3ed

Brooklyn should consider this, adjusted of course for demographic skews. Anyone dressed in a way that proclaims assholism will have his garb confiscated: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2018/01/solve-dutch-equilibrium.html


Not in a million years! https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-01-31/facebook-really-wants-you-to-come-back