10/31/16…From the Guardian…why I say

I read nonfiction for information and fiction for truth. This is EXACTLY how it’s laid out in FIXERS:

In one now-famous email chain, for example, the reader can watch current US trade representative Michael Froman, writing from a Citibank email address in 2008, appear to name President Obama’s cabinet even before the great hope-and-change election was decided (incidentally, an important clue to understanding why that greatest of zombie banks was never put out of its misery).

10/31/16…If, like me, you now and then feel…

the need to immerse yourself in the gilded muck that is the lifestyle of the 1%, and if, like me, you prefer what we might call “one dump shopping,” the only place to go is DEPARTURES, the magazine that goes out to American Express cardholders. Designed to suit and flatter the taste of the kind of people who use the word “exclusive,” it makes T, the Times’s Sunday occasional supplement, in which nothing costs less than $1000, read like The American Scholar. As a sort of of hypocrisy disclaimer, I should mention QUEST, for which I write a column of reflections and conversations with people whom I like and value personally, and whom I admire vocationally and professionally:  it’s a periodical that celebrates society (and what calls itself society) past and present, but unlike DEPARTURES, a lot of the stuff in it is interesting. So if you’d like to see at first hand why the 1% should have its goods, chattels and pretensions burned to the ground, preferably with all hands on board, DEPARTURES is the rag for you. The prospect of finding a copy in your dentist’s waiting-room is grounds sufficient for ordering up a complete, voluntary root-canal job.

10/31/16….Trade is an issue….

most disputatively on the table in this election. The rubric is that free trade kills U.S. jobs. Probably to some extent, but possibly less today than, say, twenty-five years ago when NAFTA passed. My question is: suppose that instead of putting tariffs on goods coming into the country, why not levy some kind of impost on jobs – including domestic suppliers – going out of the country. A tax on the value of a payroll, for instance, to be paid into a fund administered locally for retraining and sustenance of benefits?

10/31/16…a fine Mencken quote…

poached from Alex Tabarrok via Tyler Cowen:

I enjoy democracy immensely. It is incomparably idiotic, and hence incomparably amusing. Does it exalt dunderheads, cowards, trimmers, frauds, cads? Then the pain of seeing them go up is balanced and obliterated by the joy of seeing them come down. Is it inordinately wasteful, extravagant, dishonest? Then so is every other form of government: all alike are enemies to laborious and virtuous men. Is rascality at the very heart of it? Well, we have borne that rascality since 1776, and continue to survive. In the long run, it may turn out that rascality is necessary to human government, and even to civilization itself – that civilization, at bottom, is nothing but a colossal swindle. I do not know: I report only that when the suckers are running well the spectacle is infinitely exhilarating. But I am, it may be, a somewhat malicious man: my sympathies, when it comes to suckers, tend to be coy. What I can’t make out is how any man can believe in democracy who feels for and with them, and is pained when they are debauched and made a show of.

10/31/16…Musing while I await the Great Pumpkin….

Since nobody knows anything any more, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that with all the media blahblahblah about the AT&T-Time Warner deal (Rutenberg in today’s NYT is typical) there have been few references to preceding antitrust cases in the entertainment industry that involved linkups between production and endpoint distribution (Paramount), and production and control of talent.


and this (courtesy Wikipedia): In 1962, MCA entered a merger of equals with New York-based American Decca Records, with MCA as the surviving company. Decca at the time owned Coral Records and Brunswick Records, as well as an 89% controlling stake in Universal Pictures. In order to acquire Universal, MCA was forced by Robert F. Kennedy’s Department of Justice to dissolve its talent agency—which represented most of the industry’s biggest names—because owning both the movie studio and a talent agency would violate antitrust laws.[4] The agents quickly formed several dozen new firms, representing talent. Many of these are woven into the corporate fabric of today’s talent management agencies. Jerry Perenchio’s firm, UTM (United Talent Management) represented Elizabeth Taylor and Muhammad Ali. By the end of the year, MCA had assumed full ownership of Universal upon the completion of the merger.

10/30/16….Postmodern Philistinism….

Yesterday, prompted by a post from my FB friend Michael Savage, a London art scholar/connoisseur, I kindled and read The New Philistines by Sohrab Amari. Here’s my reaction (as posted on Savage’s FB timeline):
I must say I was pretty disappointed by “the New Philistines,” mainly because its scope is so narrow. We all know about jargon. Here in NYC we have our own museum devoted to exhibiting it: PS1. But there are other forms of true philistinism out there – the Met’s “digitalization” of its restored Tullio Lombardo springs to mind – worthier of outraged scrutiny. The jacket image is misleading: the by now familiar image of hordes “selfie-ing” the Mona Lisa – an example of mass-market philistinism – has nothing to do with the text of the book.

10/29/16…every new Clinton screw-up….

whether it’s Huma and her emails on her sext-crazed husband’s computer, or the political equivalent of insider-trading at the Clinton Foundation/Global Initiative, brings to mind the punch line of a joke I used to tell, in a really terrible Cajun accent, when in my cups. The joke is known as “Hebert the Bridgetender” and because it takes about as long to tell as it does to perform Gotterdammerung, I won’t do it here. But the punchline does seem to have a Clintonesque relevance:

“Any man who can’t tell the difference between a tugboat and a bull with a bugle up its ass is too stupid to go into politics!”  

10/29/16…Essential….No: Double Essential….

Here’s the opening. See if you can quit after reading this…

Of the various strata of human society the small tradesmen, clerks, white-collar workers and poorer farmers, who constitute the so-called lower middle class, would seem to the casual observer to be least capable of fulfilling a fateful role in contemporary social history. Yet the indications are that they hold a position in modern society of such strategic significance that the fate of modern civilization may well be decided by them. If this should prove true it is also fairly certain that their decision will be an unfortunate one.

The significance of the lower middle class does not derive from its possession of any particular political virtue or capacity. On the contrary it exceeds all classes in political ineptitude. But recent developments in lower middle class politics prove that social desperation may be compounded with political confusion into an independent political impulse of such fanatic power and such ambiguous direction that it may become the chief source of confusion in an age of confusion…..