Lest we forget. Useful in this time of an all-deceiving (himself as well as the rest of us) president: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/12/leadup-iraq-war-timeline

Like Ian Welsh, I have never bought the “Trump is Hitler” line. http://www.ianwelsh.net/was-all-the-trump-is-hitler-rhetoric-right/ And I find Orwell a helpful complement to the “non-Hitler” line: http://lithub.com/george-orwells-1940-review-of-mein-kampf/

One of the shows I like a lot is Amazon’s “Bosch”, based on the Michael Connelly LA. noir novels.  Having watched the just-released third series, I thought I’d revisit the first two. I’m halfway into Season Two, and an offhand remark by one of the characters, about the hookup between Russian gangsters and Mexican cartels, made me wonder: am I deaf, or has Trump made no mention of Russia as source of “bad guys” immigrating into the USA? Muslims are for the visa chop, and a wall is talked about to keep Mexicans and other Central American nasties out while getting rid of the ones already here, but what about the gangster Russkies in Brighton Beach and elsewhere? Just asking. Is this oversight simply carelessness on the part of whoever concocts Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric, or is there a more sinister interpretation? Perhaps if we knew more about the Trump family’s Russian financing sources…

Hmmmm. http://fair.org/home/david-ignatius-15-years-of-running-spin-for-saudi-regime/



Tell me if I’m wrong, but as I understand it, AI – Artificial Intelligence – in the minds of its promoters and proponents goes conceptually beyond mere process automation – online matters, even chess, stuff like Silicon Valley‘s “Pied Piper” – and advances to a state where algorithms of some kind can replace thinking.  I suppose AI will prove a boon to those who possess little or none of what I think “intelligence” is: insights and reasoning that have a moral or imaginative dimension, an interest in “Why?” as much as “What?”. After all, won’t AI be to a great extent be circumscribed by the intelligence of those who write/code the algorithms? Anyway, yadayada, blahblahblah: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/04/understand-impact-artificial-intelligence-employment.html#comment-2808220

I spent much of the past night utterly absorbed in James Stourton’s new biography of Kenneth Clark (Kenneth Clark: Life, Art and Civilisation). Written with great subtlety and style, it is very rich in so many ways: the subtle depiction of Clark’s family and marriage; British society over a lifetime that almost exactly matches the time span of A Dance to the Music of Time. It led me to certain of my own bookshelves to follow up on implications and references, and confirmed my pride and pleasure in my own library and the delight and utility it furnishes (“Books do furnish a room,” as they say). A personal library is more than a mere aggregation of books, but it isn’t really a collection, either.  The objective is narrower and more close-focused than the former, but broader and more diffuse than the latter. Here’s something I recently wrote on the subject: https://issuu.com/questmag/docs/qt0317_issuu/84

Further to the post on AI, I urge everyone – but especially those over 50 – to read Farhad Manjoo’s piece on Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook in the current NYT Magazine. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/25/magazine/can-facebook-fix-its-own-worst-bug.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fmagazine&action=click&contentCollection=magazine&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=sectionfront&_r=0 It really demonstrates something that has bothered me for quite a while now: the way in which technology has overempowered young people and in the process disenfranchised wisdom. Wisdom, as I define it, has three principal components: knowledge, intelligence and experience. All three must be present. Young people notably lack the last – a selfie taken beside the Parthenon may be an experience in its way, and as millennials define it – but I’m looking for something longer in the tooth, and on the basis of what I’ve seen, data doesn’t really add up to knowledge, although over time it can add to it. The ability to write code doesn’t in and of itself constitute wisdom. Manjoo’s article confirms what I have thought and said for quite a while now: the problem with the Internet is that it gives people with nothing to say a place to say it. Also interesting in the article is the degree to which Silicon Valley was traumatized by Trump’s election. One has to wonder what percentage – minuscule, I wot – of Trump’s constituencies can write code.



Grounds for hope: http://news.efinancialcareers.com/us-en/281579/all-the-best-people-left-banking-years-ago/?utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=51259012&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-9XFd77CuUAWpzJGj6OOrjsVn_kmchgZpHjgI9kCDu8uXCJ88d141ShbvdNm6EYuysOqIqYS4N8EX4uQKGCye5sM248_A&_hsmi=51259012 In my view the departure of the best people” is a good thing, since it’s “the best people” who dreamt up the fun and games that brought on the crash and other calamities. Of course, they were grossly overpaid for work that was socially and industrially useless, but my pleas for a retroactive “Gross Overpayment Levy” have gone nowhere.

This is pretty interesting. Four years for the WSJ  to catch on! http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/04/wall-street-journal-reports-on-appearance-of-private-equity-self-dealing-at-blackstone-and-other-firms-nearly-four-years-after-we-broke-the-story.html

General world-weariness shut me down yesterday, but after a day spent mainly in the company of (and talking to) myself and our cats, I feel refreshed. And here’s a good place to start. Paul Craig Roberts used to write the most irritating right-wing stuff anywhere, but in the past decade he’s undergone as radical a Damascene conversion as I know of. This is a solid piece on how corruption eliminates not only fairness and decency but also common sense from capitalism. Rereading it I think it’s a MUST MUST MUST: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/26/the-looting-machine-called-capitalism/  Here’s a good sample (and a strong argument for my notion of a Value Destroyed Tax): Now consider the external costs of offshoring the production of goods and services that US corporations, such as Apple and Nike, market to Americans. When production facilities in the US are closed and the jobs are moved to China, for example, the American workers lose their jobs, medical coverage, careers, pension provision, and often their self-respect when they are unable to find comparable employment or any employment. Some fall behind in their mortgage and car payments and lose their homes and cars. The cities, states, and federal governments lose the tax base as personal income and sales taxes decline and as depressed housing and commercial real estate prices in the abandoned communities depress property taxes. Social security and Medicare funding is harmed as payroll tax deposits fall. State and local infrastructure declines. Possibly crime rises. Safety net needs rise, but expenditures are cut as tax revenues decline. Municipal and state workers find their pensions at risk. Education suffers. All of these costs greatly exceed Apple’s and Nike’s profits from substituting cheaper foreign labor for American labor. Contradicting the neoliberal claims, Apple’s and Nike’s prices do not drop despite the collapse in labor costs that the corporations experience.

Pot takes a hard look at Kettle (got this off Politico’s Morning Money): http://larrysummers.com/2017/04/28/trump-is-undermining-his-own-treasury-secretary/

This is the view of Obama taken by the narrator of Fixers. In my judgement the main if not the only reason my novel wasn’t reviewed by NYT. http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/04/gaius-publius-obama-harvests-presidency.html Here’s the nut of the case: Bottom line — Wall Street invested millions in Barack Obama’s career in 2008 and 2012. That investment paid off over the eight years of his presidency to the tune of billions upon billions in profit and millions upon millions per year in executive compensation and bonuses.  Exactly as in Fixers. 

No comment needed. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/04/28/white-house-death-match-plutocrats-vs-racists?via=newsletter&source=DDMorning

I’ve been thinking about the theory put forward by the luxury real estate lobby that the mooted Queens-Brooklyn trolley line can be paid for by real estate taxes on the increased value of their properties resulting from improved transportation access. At first, I pooh-poohed the idea, but thinking it over, I’ve decided there’s a rationale there, provided that the taxes are levied against assessed values equal to true market values. 

This strikes me as a reasonable tour d’horizon. http://www.politico.com/story/2017/04/27/the-education-of-donald-trump-237669

Let’s wrap the week up here. Even though this column takes a shot at my friend Bill Cohan, he and I have agreed to disagree about some form of separation of banking powers a la Glass-Steagall. For Andrew Ross Sorkin, there is no excuse. A vintage bootlicker. http://wallstreetonparade.com/2017/04/breaking-up-the-big-wall-street-banks-is-back-in-the-headlines/

Can’t think of a better curtain-dropper: http://gothamist.com/2017/04/28/fyre_festival.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_9caa9b81efccea5d7a0e06a553a0f0b9&utm_source=CM&utm_term=Luxury%20Bahamas%20Fyre%20Festival%20Turns%20Into%20Exciting%20Survivalist%20Cosplay%20Experience And read the reactions.






4/25/17 -4/26/17…

Going to be slow today; meetings and river crossings until late PM. But this makes a good indirect case for my Value Destroyed Tax (VDT): http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/04/wolf-richter-private-equity-in-the-thick-of-bricks-and-mortar-retail-implosion.html

What in God’s name is Ivanka Trump doing on the same panel as Angela Merkel and Christine Lagarde? https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/25/world/europe/ivanka-trump-is-jeered-in-berlin-after-defending-her-father.html?emc=edit_ne_20170425&nl=evening-briefing&nlid=2476992&te=1&_r=0

To be completely amoral is one thing, but why be so vulgar about it…https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-04-25/mar-a-lago-ad-belongs-in-impeachment-file

No comment needed. http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/04/casting-away-despair.html

The terrible state of the city: the homelessness, the dilapidated transportation infrastructure from roads to railways, problems in the schools, ongoing child poverty, the awful condition of public housing: these didn’t all just happen with De Blasio – whom readers know I regard with contempt – they worsened while  Bloomberg occupied City Hall for three terms, something he might ponder when he looks in the mirror. But the rot began long before, under Lindsay, really. The question is, will anyone running for mayor ever declare a platform that says: these are the five big problems facing the city, and my first priority will be to figure out how and with what to attack them. Or is NYC really all about real estate – whether it’s the garage/parking lobby defeating congestion pricing, a trolley line that the developers who will benefit say will be paid for by increased tax yields from their increased values (how many cents on the dollar are we talking about here, really?) or luxury tax breaks.

Totally agree with culturegrrl. This proposed Met policy is really stupid, assuming the city continues to build on the Bloomberg policy of running NYC to capture a massive tourist flow-through:  http://www.artsjournal.com/culturegrrl/2017/04/out-of-towner-downer-metropolitan-museum-considers-a-xenophobic-admission-policy.html






Something like this makes one wonder whether, in view of Trump’s weird governing style, the obvious corruption that rules Congress, and the feckless attitudes of top Democrats, a third party may become possible: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/04/democrat-disunity-hypocritical-media-attacks-sanders.html

There’s a constant buzz about implementing a VAT (Value Added Tax) to redirect taxation toward consumerism. There’s a certain sense to the idea. But it’s gotten me thinking: what about a VDT, or Value Destroyed Tax, directed at corporatism? It would be compensatory, and could be based on the economic loss resulting from plant transfers (Carrier-type) or private-equity balance sheet “surgery”, and might be based on job-loss factors (aggregate payroll and benefits elimination, hits to local tax bases etc). I envision a sort of Medicaid for communities financially decimated in the name of “efficiency” or exploited by rent-seekers. A portion of VDT might be charged against the pay of the CEOs responsible and private-equity, hedge-fund sharks.  It might incorporate a sort of “Excess Profits Tax” against exploitative outfits like Valeant and Mylan.

Now this: http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2017/04/67182.html

This review prompts a possibly heretical view. NYC in the 70s was a fiscal mess and the reviewer is quite right to identify underinvestment (aka “Maintenance”) and its corollaries, undertaxation and overspending, as principal causes. But as the book under review apparently asserts, there was a certain liveliness to the city then, a bit Bohemian even, that is clearly missing today. NYC has gone sterile. This is usually blamed on the city having changed, with Bloombergian efficiency having taken hold. I think it’s the people that have changed, the human component. Changed by technology perhaps, since nothing in my lifetime has altered the way people connect or share space, or use the city, which is what cities are about, more than the mobile phone – not even the automobile.

No further comment needed. Very good:https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/trumps-elements-of-style

No shit, Sherlock: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-04-24/the-average-person-today-really-isn-t-rockefeller-rich


4/21-23/17…Weekend running notes….

I’m posting haphazardly right now because I am utter absorbed by James Stourton’s magnificent biography of Kenneth Clark (Knopf, 2016). I’ll have more to say about that anon.

Today has been as bad a traffic day as I can recall in 75+ years of living in NYC. Early this AM, a power failure at W 53 St. shut down most of the subway system. An hour or so later, a there was a vehicle fire on the BQE to which the NYPD responded and followed their inflexible policy of handing any traffic/highway incident in a manner that will inconvenience and enrage every driver within a ten mile radius. But that’s not really here or there. Accidents happen. Here’s what’s troubling me. In the past, when emergencies occurred that affected large numbers of NYC residents and bit into the flow of life and commerce in the city, mayors showed up. Think of Giuliani, someone I detest, on 9/11. But what about that boastful useless piece of shit who now occupies City Hall?  Did he show up? Not for a minute. He was doing what he thinks a mayor’s real job is: to explain himself to Brian Lehrer on WNYC. Nobody expects the mayor to wave a magic wand and make problems vanish, but they at least expect him to f***** show up! But not this c**ks**ker! I didn’t vote for him because I thought he was exactly the lying, miserable, self-regarding prick he’s turned out to be, with no moral, visceral connection to the city. I did expect that the Park Slope/Upper West Side assholery would give him City Hall – just as their snooty, looking-glass Weltanschauung delivered the White House to Trump  –  and so they did. I would wish someone to shoot De Blasio, but he’s so armored in self-regard he probably wouldn’t notice.

For the nonce, then, let’s start here. https://www.city-journal.org/html/we-few-we-miserable-few-15145.html I’m a fan of Heather Macdonald, even though she’s doctrinally further to the right than I am, and sometimes lets those yearnings carry her over the top. I was led to her account of her unpleasant time at Claremont by David Brooks’s Op-Ed in today’s NYT.  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/21/opinion/the-crisis-of-western-civ.html?ref=opinion&_r=0 I had been aware of Macdonald’s Claremont experience, but frankly hadn’t paid enough attention to it: having inoculated myself against the idiocies of the present day by watching, several times, the video of the former master of Silliman College at Yale being subjected to a harangue from a student that represented, in my view, the absolute apex of illiterate, race-exploiting moral thuggery, behavior that, were I running Yale, would have had the student, and those who supported her by snapping their thumbs as if they were at a rock concert while she shrieked insults at the beleaguered professor and his wife, on the first bus out of New Haven – and I am no hidebound Old Eli growling into the fire as I sip my old-fashioned and wishing we were back in ’07 (that’s 1907), but enough is enough! I am no fan of Ann Coulter, to put it politely, but I equally deplore the way she has been prevented from speaking at UC Berkeley, a university that likes to flaunt its open-mindedness. It does seem to me that it’s time to put on the table a couple of considerations that no one wants to talk about. The first falls under the heading of cultural appropriation, namely the adoption, starting – what? – twenty-five years ago, of black hip-hop music, black styles of dressing, what we might call “ghetto talk”, by privileged white kids. I thought then, and remain convinced, that as laudable as this might seem in terms of showing respect by imitation and emulation, it might be asking for trouble down the line. The second has to do with class on campus. Wealth inequality doesn’t stop at the door to the freshman dorm. If anything, its disparities tend to be felt more intensely by the young. I cannot help feeling that the gulf between, say, a Jared Kushner, whose father apparently coughed up $100,000 to get him into Harvard, and a poor kid from the Bronx plunked down on an Ivy League campus with little or no spending money ( unless, of course, he plays a major NCAA sport at Harvard), is a chasm into which a great many of more civilizing values have been shoved. FOOTNOTE (Saturday): This might throw some light on this touchy matter: http://www.thestranger.com/features/2017/04/19/25082450/the-heart-of-whiteness-ijeoma-oluo-interviews-rachel-dolezal-the-white-woman-who-identifies-as-black

(Sun AM) The way we live now. Air travel today is so fraught, conducted in a manner to put everyone’s nerves on edge, that incidents like this and the United Airlines mess are likely to become more common. “Stroller rights” are considered by the mothers who feel free to wheel them anywhere to enjoy quasi-Constitutional protection. http://www.businessinsider.com/american-airlines-suspends-flight-attendant-who-hit-passenger-with-buggy-2017-4?nr_email_referer=1&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_content=BISelect&pt=385758&ct=Sailthru_BI_Newsletters&mt=8&utm_campaign=BI%20Select%20Weekend%202017-04-23&utm_term=Business%20Insider%20Select%20-%20Engaged%2C%20Active%2C%20Passive%2C%20Disengaged

No comment necessary. It’s interesting what has happened with Tom Frank, long among my favorite commentators. Since he acquired the Vanity Fair  platform, and presumably reaches a larger, more diverse audience, and is better paid to do it, than when he wrote mainly for low-circulation platforms inhabited mainly by chatterati, his works seems stronger, wiser and wittier than ever while just as commonsensical: http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/04/please-god-stop-chelsea-clinton-from-whatever-she-is-doing

Pity poor Rupert Murdoch. He is stuck between two stools. He feels compelled to suck up to Trump, who espouses the same troglodytic business practices as the Dirty Digger, but he’s married to (and presumably fond of) Jerry Hall, who can’t stand Trump, not least because of the chauvinism our president incarnates, of which Ms. Hall had taste enough – crammed down her throat, let us say, when married to Mick Jagger. Although Murdoch’s sons are being credited with overcoming their father’s objections to Fox News’s dumping Bill O’Reilly, I can’t help wondering whether Ms. Hall might not have helped grease the skids with a word or two in her husband’s nacreous ear. Would Murdoch have acceded to O’Reilly’s fall as readily were he still married to the Dragon Lady, the previous occupant of the adjacent pillow? Hard to say – but I rather think not.

I’ve been thinking a bit about inflation, and its possible correlation with income equality. As my readers know, my definition of “inflation” differs from the standard one. By my lights, inflation is an increase in price without a commensurate gain in utility. A simple example would be miles-per-gallon with gasoline priced at 2.50/gallon as opposed to $4.50/gallon a few years ago. Another good example would be executive compensation, which today is many times what it was say twenty years ago, whereas corporate profits and their effect on stock prices haven’t begun to keep pace. And that might also be said of working peoples’ compensation, which has grievously lagged what the muckedty-mucks pay themselves. Yale costs a high multiple, even in relative dollars, of what it did when I went there in the Pleistocene (1954-58), but can anyone claim a Yale education is X times better? Or more useful? Unless you’re one of those philistines to whom the whole point of higher education is a net incremental gain in projected lifetime earnings. There’s gross wealth inequality, to be sure, but there’s also gross COL inequality. Of course, we hear a lot about how great it is to be rich, but do we ever hear how expensive it is to be rich? Keeping up with the Joneses was costly enough, but keeping up with the Abramovitches, Zuckerbergs or Jack Mas beggars (sic) the imagination. What the tsunami of riches unleashed in China, Russia and India, in the Persian Gulf and in the kleptocratic states of Africa and Eastern Europe has done to the Luxury COL index is truly mind-boggling! A Hermes Birkin bag today costs 5-6 times what I paid for my first car (Imagine if Lady Bracknell were told today about the price of a Birkin. Her memorably explosive utterance “A handbag!!!” – I can still hear Edith Evans – would have to go thermonuclear.) What put me in mind of all this was the following: https://www.wsj.com/articles/brick-and-mortar-stores-are-shuttering-at-a-record-pace-1492818818. Online shopping accounts for much of the decimation, but landlord greed shouldn’t be discounted. And in response to a rent hike, a retailer has to find a way to generate greater dollar yield per square foot, the yardstick by which retail results are normally measured. Perhaps he can find a way to accomplish greater volume, either with higher prices or more units sold, unlikely with AMZ grunting and snuffling in the underbrush. Otherwise he has to reduce costs – and that generally means people. I think AMZ, just now moving into brick and mortar, is about to discover that none of this is easy.

1600 Hypocrisy Ave., Washington, DC: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/04/23/trump-loves-media-reporters-white-house-215043

A real confidence builder with which to close out the week: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-dangerous-mental-illness-yale-psychiatrist-conference-us-president-unfit-james-gartner-a7694316.html







The category of “the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable” (O.Wilde on foxhunting) seems limitless: http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a54602/new-york-times-clinton-coverage-book/

This is interesting, even obliging me to suppress my antipathy toward Melville House,  which “published” (sic) Fixershttps://qz.com/953783/our-cult-of-genius-is-blinding-us-to-true-genius-all-around-say-leonardo-da-vincis-biographers/

This is the company that Ackman, the hedge-funder, evidently an amoral shit, took a billion-dollar bath on. Just deserts.: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-04-18/valeant-drug-company-benevolence-and-the-silence-of-the-sick?utm_campaign=sharetheview&utm_campaign=sharetheview&utm_medium=email&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_source=newsletter&utm_term=170419&utm_term=%7Bdate%28%27yyMMdd%27%29%7D Any institution or endowment with the slightest pretense to ethical standards ought to withdraw any money it has with Ackman.

Bill O’Reilly’s departure from Fox News leaves this household unmoved. Normally, I spend a little time  checking out what extreme opinions sound like, right and left, clever and obtuse, but O’R struck me as so obvious and uninteresting I doubt we watched him for a total of an hour over the past ten years. His was the expertise/wisdom of the guy two stools over who teaches at the local community college.

These should play well in flyover country. Trumpists, take heart!  First Family Dignity: http://guestofaguest.com/new-york/celebrities/tiffany-trump-parties-the-night-away-hard-with-fellow-rich-kids&slide=8





I had a lovely birthday. Heard from all the kids. Kids? Four sons and two daughters who range in age from sixty to thirty. Tamara and I took the two youngest, the only ones who live in the city (the others are scattered from Italy to Oregon), to a very nice restaurant called Finch in Ft. Greene. I’d read about it somewhere and it delivered. Nice place, nice people, excellent booze and chow (although my cavatelli was a touch more “dente” than I like it; the gold standard for this particular pasta remains Frankies Spuntino 457). Nine times out of ten, if I go out to a restaurant, it’ll be to Frankies or, if I chance the perilous East River crossing, Le Veau d’Or. If I’m eating in the neighborhood: Almar or Archway. But a change is nice, although I’m certainly no foodie. Indeed, I think foodies, with their herd values, noisy hey-look-at-me presences and relentless Instagramming should be driven from the earth.

It seems to me that a lot of ink has been spilled recently about retail, or shopping. Consumer options have changed and with them consumer preferences. People still want the same stuff – well, perhaps less of it, what with an aging population, stagnant wages from the upper-middle on down, the unspeakable cost of housing, the flight to the cities and smaller living spaces by the better-earning millennials, and let’s not overlook social media and its emphasis on experiences  – but the ways of getting their hands on it have changed so radically, thanks to Amazon etc., that an entire economic realm has been violently upended. Blair Sabol writes a shrewd observant column for my pal David Columbia’s “New York Social Diary,” and today’s offering seems especially apt to me, from the big “macro” points down to the possible end of the reign of the disgusting Anna Wintour, under whose sway the Metropolitan Museum has pimped itself into shmatte vulgarity. http://www.newyorksocialdiary.com/guest-diary/2017/no-holds-barred-the-shoppers-journey

Today, a foundation colleague and I lunched with Colin Bailey, Director of the Morgan Museum and Library. After lunch, Colin led us through the Morgan’s current exhibition (until May 14) of works of Art – French XVIII century paintings and Old Master drawings (XV-XVIII century) – collected by the Swedish Count Tessin in Paris between 1739 and 1741 and now housed in the National Museum in Stockholm. This show is a MUSTMUSTMUST!!!!! Not only are the works on exhibit of the highest possible quality – we’re talking Chardin, Boucher, Durer, Rembrandt, Watteau – but they are by a long mile THE FRESHEST works of this standing that I have ever seen. The signature work, Boucher’s Triumph of Venus (1740) may be the most beautiful painting, considered purely qua painting, that it has been my pleasure and privilege to encounter. DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW! You will not see its like again; it’s here only because the Stockholm museum is closed for long-term renovation.

Oh yes, and upstairs at the Morgan, there’s a crackerjack, absorbing exhibition about Emily Dickinson.

Remember what I wrote a while back about the production of distraction being an important element in our GDP? This from “Zero Hedge” which offered it without comment.

This is great! https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-04-19/silicon-valley-s-400-juicer-may-be-feeling-the-squeeze

A wonderful, lovely, high-achieving person has died, Lyda Ann Quinn Thomas, who was married to my first cousin Jerry and became close to my Dallas-based son Michael and his family. I loved her and respected her and was grateful to have known her. Quite a life! http://cw39.com/2017/04/19/former-galveston-hurricane-mayor-lyda-ann-thomas-dies-at-80/  

More fuel for this fire: http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2017/04/67102.html

Until tomorrow, then…






Turned 81 today. Feels like a very long life, almost too long.

In keeping with my waking frame of mind, let’s start with this: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/04/gaius-publius-new-evidence-syrian-gas-story-fabricated-white-house.html

OK, I admit it, I watch “Girls.” Why? I suppose because I’m trying to “get” the zeitgeist. Or perhaps just morbid curiosity that people like the “Girls” principals, male and female, exert a certain cultural clout. But I must admit this aspect of the final show utterly baffled me. http://nypost.com/2017/04/17/girls-goes-out-with-one-last-racial-gaffe/

Totally absorbed by Dave Eggers’ The Circle. And by this Facebook killing, which to me further signifies the evil, intrusive potential of FB, which can be the Dark Web with a bland face. As I think I said a day or so ago, it’s a month or more since I quit FB. I feel like I got a significant part of my life back. Not only the time spent, but the energy wasted in frustration, hostility, useless venting – part of my soul, if you will. And frankly, how can anyone be certain that FB actually delivers the goods to advertisers? In the three or four years I looked at FB with any regularity, I clicked on an ad possibly ten times, and can’t recall buying anything as a result. Advertisers should be focused on sales, but the techie have convinced them that exposure is the key. Add in this: advertisers by the dozens dropped Bill O’Reilly but how many left FB when a killing was posted?

If you’re wondering what Groucho looks like in an admiral’s hat: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/18/world/asia/aircraft-carrier-north-korea-carl-vinson.html?emc=edit_na_20170418&nl=breaking-news&nlid=2476992&ref=headline&_r=0

Goodnight, sweetheart: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-04-18/the-best-late-night-snacks-from-around-the-world-top-chefs






This is the guy young Kushner brought in. http://www.nationalreview.com/article/446749/peter-navarro-trump-china-adviser-bad-economics

Every day I read something that makes me really, deeply glad that I quite Facebook. Today it’s about some creep murdering someone on his feed. Twitter will be next. I look at perhaps 20 tweets at a time, two or three times a day – and seldom find something interesting. I do use Twitter to push this website now and then, but as I don’t meter www.midaswatch.com. I have no idea whether those tweets do any good. I suspect they don’t.  But this is all beside the point. Certain books and certain readers have inflection points at which they should come together and shouldn’t. I recently started a novel that I heard a great deal about 3-4 years ago when it was published, but decided it didn’t sound like something for me, so skipped it -although I did put it on my Kindle. Now, for whatever reason, probably because I saw something about it being made into a “major” film starring Tom Hanks and Emily Watson, I’ve started it – and I’m here to tell you it’s wonderful, striking some many responsive chords that I feel like the timpani section of a symphonic orchestra. The book? The Circle by Dave Eggers. Try it. If the state of play today makes you nervous, curious, resentful etc – whatever – I think you’ll like it. Oh yes, and while I’m on the subject of good novel writing, I’m in the process of sending Fixers to someone, and while getting it ready, I skimmed a number of pages. It really is very well written – and right on the money. That it didn’t do better is a scandal, and that’s now just angry author whining. It was published with a combination of bad faith and incompetence, and I got what they deserved.

Remember my curiosity about why the Chicago Airport Police were involved in the United Airlines scuffle? Well…https://www.wsj.com/articles/behind-united-airlines-fateful-decision-to-call-police-1492384610

A lovely tribute to a really good guy – and great doctor: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-endangered-good-doctor-1492442831