2/26/ – 3/6/18….


Well, here’s a good way to mark the beginning of yet another week in this endless season in Hell (“winter of our discontent” inadequate to describe the world today).

“Sinking into Sleaze” has become our best trend.  Just look at our culture’s biggest influencer — Kim Kardashian. Two weeks ago she posted an Instagram of her latest beach bathing suit photo shoot.  It said it all — there she was with her famous bare ass being “ass sprayed” by a glam squad “ass stylist.”  She got millions of hits and her enhanced ass and bathing suit went viral.  A trend is born

Should credit Blair Sabol on NY Social Diary for above.

Tyler Cowen has sent this my way: https://krebsonsecurity.com/2018/02/money-laundering-via-author-impersonation-on-amazon/

OK, troops – enough is enough! Who is stupid enough tothink up something like this? https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-26/diageo-introduces-jane-walker-scotch-in-bid-to-attract-women

Increased blood flow or narrowed arties – which is the main culprit? https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/26/nyregion/congestion-pricing-new-york.html?emc=edit_ta_20180226&nl=top-stories&nlid=2476992&ref=cta

I thought this was interesting: “Even with the fees, congestion has returned. Uber and other for-hire vehicles surged to more than 87,400 cars in 2017, up from 50,700 in 2011. Delivery vans hog the curbs as online shopping has exploded. Cyclists are vying with motorists for more space.” As a frequent rider in the city, I know (and have boldfaced) the suspect my pragmatic observations identify as the principal one. 

Interesting story about Dreckstuck‘s #1 fixer. I was interested to read that Cohen bought up a bunch of (I assume) NYC taxi medallions in the 1990s. The value of those has totally cratered thanks to Uber etc. I wonder if Cohen still has them, or did he unload them on immigrant drivers like the guy who shot himself outside City Hall last month? https://www.thedailybeast.com/trumps-longtime-lawyer-michael-cohen-knows-way-too-much-so-why-is-he-still-in-exile?ref=scroll 

I’m always game for an interesting thriller, so my curiosity was piqued when I read this in a a review of a new book, Need to Know, by Karen Cleveland, in yesterday’s NYTBR:   “Cleveland has worked for the C.I.A., so the tradecraft in “Need to Know” is of special interest. When penetrating a computer, is an analyst really given a choice between clicking on “active” or “passive,” depending on whether she wants to mess around in there? It’s possible — more likely, certainly, than a set of wedding guests unwittingly divided between C.I.A. operatives and Russian sleeper agents. Need to Know” won’t pose any threat to John le Carré because it’s all surfaces. But the surfaces are very shiny and lots of fun.” So I Kindled itThe book is indeed a page-turner; two-thirds of the way along I was turning the pages at flank speed, ten at a time, like Eliza on the ice fleeing the bloodhounds It struck me that the only person more confused than this reader was the writer. This is a typical “one idea” book. The author says to self: “Suppose…?” – but alas that’s as far as her imagination can take her. Imagine “The Americans” really badly done. My recommendation: Avoid. 

As my old friend Liquor Jack and I used to say to each other when someone made a completely ridiculous, baseless, lying boast: “Sure you would, Jose!” https://www.aol.com/article/news/2018/02/26/trump-slams-armed-florida-deputy-and-says-he-would-have-ran-into-the-florida-school-during-the-shooting-even-without-a-gun/23371357/


Not much worth thinking about yesterday. But here’s why I dig Kunstler:  “The excruciating quandary President Trump presents to the nation is dragging the sad remnant of the thinking class ever-deeper into a netherworld of desperation, paranoia, and mendacity that may exceed even their own official fantasies about the enemy in the White House.   Everything about the lumbering, blundering occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue drives his Dem/Prog opponents — or #Resistance, if you will — plumb batshit: his previous incarnations as a shady NYC real estate schmeikler, as a TV clown, as a business deadbeat, as a self-described pussy-grabber… his vulgar casinos, his mystifying hair-do, his baggy suits and dangling neckties, his arrant, childish, needless lying about trivialities, his intemperate tweets, his unappetizing associates, his loutish behavior in foreign lands, his fractured, tortured syntax, his obvious insincerity, his sneery facial contortions… and lots lots more — and of course that doesn’t even touch the actual policy positions he struggles to articulate. In sum, Trump represents such a monumentally grotesque embarrassment to the permanent Washington establishment that they will pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the removal of this odious caitiff.  And in the process abandon all reason and decency.”  http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/now-schiff-memo/

Don’t why I let it irritate me, but it does when the CultureColumn in the NYT  refers to Matisse’s Chapel of the Rosary in Venice. The latter is in Italy; the chapel is in Vence,  on the French Riviera. Perhaps I was in a state to be irritated since the error occurred in a short account of an ambassadorial visit to the Vatican by the unspeakable Anna Wintour along with such shmatte  luminaries as “Thom, you made the pants too short” Browne and his beau, Met Museum costume curator Andrew Bolton. The visit was in preparation for the Met Museum Gala in May, which will celebrate the relation of ecclesiastical garb to current fashion (sic), presumably culminating in the sprinkling of holy water on Kim Kardashian’s ass (see above). 


One of the best writers in English and in England in recent years was A.A.Gill, who died prematurely in late 2016. Weidenfeld and Nicolson have published two anthologies of Gill’s work. I have both. In the newer, Lines in the Sand,  I found the following commentary on the Trump phenomenon, written after Adrian Gill, with a few months to live, in June 2016 attended a bait-and-switch Trump University pitch. It strikes me as the best, on-point analysis of why and wherefore that I have read (to find it in easily postable format, I tracked it online to the London Times, where it originally appeared):  The millions of Americans who now vote for Trump are an unpalatable, embarrassing and inexplicable mystery to the Americans who wouldn’t consider voting for him, as they are to everyone watching from the bleachers of the rest of the world. But they were and are the natural consequence of a society that lauds and mythologises winners.  The non-winners don’t just go away to be good acquiescent losers; they get furious and bitter, and they blame the rules and the establishment referee, and they want comeuppance, someone to blame, and they attach themselves to the biggest, flashiest self-proclaimed carnival-headed winner out there.”

Some interesting thoughts here. No Harvard? List stuffed with colleges that – on recent form – should be prohibited from sending graduates into government, such as my alma mater (Yale), or Brown, or (God help us!) Chicago. http://thenakeddollar.blogspot.com/2018/02/the-myth-of-public-service.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheNakedDollar+%28The+Naked+Dollar%29

Very interesting article on today’s WSJ about linked transactions via which Michael Dell bought his $101 million Manhattan penthouse. The surname of Dell’s lawyer is “Riina.” An unusual monicker. Wonder if she’s related to “Toto” Riina, the Sicilian capo di tutti capi who ordered the assassinations of Falcone and Borsellino. Since transactions like this, with webs and layers of LLCs and other cut-outs, smack of “wise guyism”, the logical conclusion is: probably.  


Hmmmm. http://thesaker.is/putins-stunning-revelations-about-new-russian-weapons-systems/


Yesterday a meteorological horror show. Friends calling from twenty miles away to report power out. Chaos outside to match Hurricane Dreckstuck  from down the road. Feel sorry for Gary Cohn. what next? How about Wells Fargo? https://dealbreaker.com/2018/03/heckuva-job-there-gary/?utm_source=Dealbreaker+Newsletters+Master+List&utm_campaign=e01faad58a-MAILCHIMP_DB_DAILY&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_7b7b809044-e01faad58a-410840457

Weird. Interesting. Troubling. Who’ll write the book or make the film?  http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/03/02/cleveland/cn2Sathz0EMJcdpYouoPjM/story.html?camp=breakingnews:newsletter

Once again, my chum Dizard nails it. https://www.ft.com/content/f09dad9c-1dfc-11e8-956a-43db76e69936

Well, whadidya expect? https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2018/03/02/cabinet-full-corruption/8ZJRHGO1yBPdeVdqGGvIyN/story.html?et_rid=1758184608&s_campaign=todaysheadlines:newsletter


This piece of “art” (sic), going under the hammer next week at Sothebys London, can be yours for a crisp estimated UKP 4.2 million – 6 million. Look like shit to you? How can it be? This artist is bought at very high prices by some of the world’s most self-regarding collectors. Need to be told what you’re looking at (just as I suspect they have)? Well, perhaps this bulls*** – sorry, blurb – from Sothebys catalogue will set your fevered sensibility at ease as you nervously finger your black AmEx card: 

“Christopher Wool, Untitled.

“Having developed his practice at the critical height of the Pictures Generation – a group of artists whose appropriative, photographic strategies undermined the validity of painting in contemporary art – Wool set out to prove the critical agency of painting within a set of newly defined parameters.

“Untitled is a towering distillation of the artist’s post-modern and post-conceptual approach to painting. Pollock-esque tendrils of black enamel, drawn onto canvas using a spray gun, have been scrubbed-out and overlaid with yet more abstract marks to impart an incessant cycle of affirmation and negation.”


This is rather good fun: https://www.thedailybeast.com/what-would-le-carres-master-spy-think-of-trump-and-russia?via=newsletter&source=Weekend

Yesterday, Tamara and I acquiesced to the insistence of family and friends that we watch the Netflix show “Queer Eye,” in which a cadre of gay men, one of whom is black, lead some pretty unlikely subjects into a total makeover in terms of lifestyle, dress, grooming and self-respect. We streamed 4 episodes. This show is wonderful! Of course it’s funny and outrageous and over-the-top now and then, but that’s not the real point, which is the back-and-forth flow of profound empathy that develops between the queer guys and the objects of their attentions. Two of the former are real rednecks, as they describe themselves; one is the sort of thick-shouldered hefty Southern cop (the gay team works out of Atlanta; they find their “targets” throughout Georgia)) a cliche artist dreams of inventing. As we watched it became clear to Tamara and me that what “Queer Eye” is about isn’t fabrics and furnishing and healthy food and barbering: it’s about helping people who haven’t really got any find real self-esteem, the kind of self-esteem that doesn’t come from the gun one carries or the badge one sports, or one’s skills as a mechanic, but which is rooted in character and soul. If there’s no self-esteem in a person, all that’s left is anger. Well, that and tears: Tamara and I wept at the end of each episode – because this is what this goddamn country is supposed to be about and it’s just inconceivably moving to see it happen. Of course, the asshole brigade will clamor, it can’t happen here, who’s going to pay for all this stuff? Well, based on what I saw, the total budget would come to a fraction of what that piece of s*** now in the White House used to steal from his subcontractors in a day. 


Watched an hour or so of the Oscars then went into bedroom and polished off Swan Peak, the Robicheaux I’ve been plowing through. Obvious that le tout Hollywood had been told “Turn up…or else!” With the exception of “Dunkirk,” a real dog, we haven’t seen any of the nominated films or performances (I’ve had “Get Out” on my watchlist for months, but horror films upset me, so there it sits). Sooner or later, they’ll stream their way in.

This is interesting: https://news.artnet.com/market/jose-freire-art-fairs-interview-1235624?utm_content=from_&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=US%20newsletter%20for%203%2F5%2F18&utm_term=New%20US%20Newsletter%20List   My favorite observation: “I used to feel that curators went to fairs to look for new artists, but now I feel that they go to fairs to walk their trustees around.”

Watched “Abacus” on Amazon Prime. This is the documentary about the Chinatown bank that was prosecuted for mortgage fraud by Fed. DA Cyrus Vance Jr., a third-rater who’s made it up the greasy pole clinging to his father’s reputation like a baby monkey on its mother’s back. A top-rank addition to my MUST category. 









Fascinating to watch President Dreckstuck (German, Der Trumpf’s hereditary language, for “piece of s***”) bob and weave around the Porter scandal and the Florida shooting. One would think that this double-dip endorsement-by-silence of wife-beating and selling assault weapons to teenage nutcases could cause political trouble but apparently not. Of course, Washington is scared dreckless (sic) by the NRA, but wife-beating? Is there an NRA equivalent for spousal abuse? 

Another great find from The Browser: https://granta.com/exquisite-corpse/

My kind of tweeter: https://nypost.com/2018/02/15/florida-massacre-survivor-tells-trump-prayers-wont-fix-this/

I give up! https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-15/bitcoin-mine-causes-harmful-interference-for-t-mobile-users

Trump voter Nikolas Cruz:

Swine Watch: https://www.fastcompany.com/40531901/fcc-chairs-actions-that-benefited-sinclair-under-scrutiny

What amazes me about Dreckstuck is his utter lack of empathy. Utter. We know he’s a liar, a lecher, a deadbeat, a cheat, an ignoramus, an illiterate, small in every aspect from dick to intellect – and yet he shows not an iota of awareness of the human predicament. 

Triple Amen: https://dealbreaker.com/2018/02/steve-schwarzman-should-really-avoid-talking-about-the-real-world/?utm_source=Dealbreaker+Newsletters+Master+List&utm_campaign=cee862bdcb-MAILCHIMP_DB_DAILY&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_7b7b809044-cee862bdcb-410840457   I think Schwarzman’s amazing career shows how little in the way of . character and intellect is required to succeed in finance capitalism. This guy’s real genius is for sucking up. 

Indeed, indeed: http://ritholtz.com/2018/02/hedge-fund-expected-returns-fabricated-sales-tools/

I have subscribed to The New Criterion  since Hilton Kramer founded it 30-odd years ago. I continue to read it despite the front of the book being frequently idiotic because the arts and culture pages are excellent. But this piece by Roger Kimball, who succeeded Hilton as editor, is so stupid that I am considering canceling. https://www.spectator.co.uk/2018/02/i-wanted-ted-cruz-to-be-president-but-donald-trump-is-working/?utm_source=Adestra&utm_medium=email&utm_content=170218_Weekly_Highlights_07_SUBS&utm_campaign=Weekly_Highlights

As disgusting as it is dishonest – and that goes double for the people involved.  Is there nothing that can be done about Anna Wintour? https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/15/us/politics/trumps-inaugural-committee-paid-26-million-to-first-ladys-friend.html?emc=edit_ne_20180215&nl=evening-briefing&nlid=2476992&te=1


Should have posted this on Valentine’s Day but only now caught up to it: https://theamericanscholar.org/14-novels-of-love-gone-wrong/?utm_source=email#

Rebekah Mercer has published a “What I Believe” in WSJ. I don’t know what to think about the Mercers. They’ve tarred themselves with Breitbart and Herr President Dreckstuck, and that’s pretty tough to overcome, but when I see Sens. McConnell and Schumer, the nadir of politics made flesh, I find it close to impossible to disagree with this: “As a federalist, I believe that power should be decentralized, with those wielding it closely accountable to the people they serve. There is obviously a role for the federal government. But I support a framework within which citizens from smaller political entities—states, counties, cities, towns and so on—can determine the majority of the laws that will govern them. Society’s problems will never be solved by expensive, ineffective and inflexible federal programs.” 

What are friends for? https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/donald-trump-a-playboy-model-and-a-system-for-concealing-infidelity-national-enquirer-karen-mcdougal


Asks vital questions: https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-cant-be-debated-on-campus-1518792717?mod=cx_life&cx_navSource=cx_life&cx_tag=collabctx&cx_artPos=6#cxrecs_s

The way we think now: https://www.cjr.org/special_report/rich-journalism-media.php

It is often said that of all political-economic systems ever promulgated, capitalism is the best overall. “Overall” for whom, I’m tempted to ask? This is important: https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2018/02/free-market-threat-democracy.html

I am a devoted and unflinching fan of the “44 Scotland Street” novels of the Scottish writer Alexander McCall Smith. There are 11 in the series so far. They deal with the intelligent and varied residents of a pleasant Edinburgh Street and its purlieus. I have just finished the latest, A Time of Love and Tartan. It is a lovely, warming book – about so many things that really matter in life, including decency, the character of personas and places, little boys, respect, taking pains, the look of sea and sky, the smell of bacon rolls, curiosity – oh, I could go on and on. Ever so highly recommended!   

NYT had a 2/15 front-pager (posted above) about a ghastly Friend of Dreckstuck named Wolkoff who squeezed millions out of the Inaugural Committee. Here’s the lady’s husband. No further comment needed: https://news.artnet.com/art-world/judge-awards-6-million-5pointz-lawsuit-1222394?utm_content=from_&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Saturday%20newsletter%20for%202%2F17%2F18&utm_term=artnet%20News%20Daily%20Newsletter%20USE

Watching the Winter Olympics, I wonder what kind of of team (figure skating, for opener) the US would put out there if immigrants, LGBT etc weren’t on it. Can this be why Dreckstuck, liar, golf cheat, coward, premature ejaculating adulterer, hasn’t saluted our Olympic athletes, as every other president in my lifetime has? 


I find this both convincing and infuriating. Convincing because of the force and evidential logic of Mishra’s argument. Infuriating because its view of Obama and his presidency is that which my 2016 novel Fixers propounds, that it was from the get-go a gross deception, which only ratchets up my aggravation at Fixers‘ negligible reception by the bookchat world (the exception being rave reviews in WSJ and WashPost). My book evidently offended the delicately elite bon pensant sensibilities of the people who decide what gets reviewed and written about. https://www.lrb.co.uk/v40/n04/pankaj-mishra/why-do-white-people-like-what-i-write?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=The+Long+Read+-+Collections+2017&utm_term=264470&subid=23770632&CMP=longread_collection

My father came from Ft. Worth. I lived in Dallas and my third son and his family still does.In my finance days, I did a lot of work in the oil business and before that, at 18, I drove a truck for Halliburton in Duncan OK. These are all by way of a disclaimer of any prejudice informing my view that Rex Tillerson was absolutely fantastic on “60 Minutes.” The young woman interviewing him needs to be beaten with a rubber truncheon! 

Dreckstuck tweeting today: “My great friends from NASCAR are having their big race today, The Daytona 500. Brian France and the France family are special people. Enjoy the race!” Unless I’m terribly mistaken, we have a large contngent of fine young American athletes competing in the Olympics. But as the Olympics defies cheating, President Dreckstuck  can’t comment, being a liar, cheater, fast-firing adulterer etc.  


Here’s how clearly-certifiable President Dreckstuck greets President’s Day. Not with a salute to George Washington, but this (from the invaluable Trumptwitterarchive.com): “Just watched a very insecure Oprah Winfrey, who at one point I knew very well, interview a panel of people on 60 Minutes. The questions were biased and slanted, the facts incorrect. Hope Oprah runs so she can be exposed and defeated just like all of the others!”  Actually I watched the Oprah segment on “60 Minutes”, on which a number of Trump-lovers faced off against a number of Trump-haters. All the two sides had in common was obesity, with the pro-Trump faction having a slight edge in the “tipping the Toledo” department. Contrary to what Dreckstuck asserts, the dialogue was absolutely balanced, with both sides allowed to speak their piece and no effort by Oprah to get them to change their opinions or to moderate their language. My personal favorite was the fattie who excoriated the elites for advocating an inheritance tax, which he argued robs parents of the right to bestow the fruit of their lifetime labors on their children. It was clear that the offspring for whose inheritance interest this guy was arguing was himself. 

On Wall Street, broadly defined, there seems to be no limit to folly and ignorance: https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2018/02/wolf-richter-blockchain-stocks-completely-disintegrate.html

As someone who concocts novels that postulate sinister doings behind facts that don’t add up (Fixers, The Ropespinner Conspiracy, Green Monday), I found this convincing and deeply interesting: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-02-19/aliens-bigfoot-illuminati-do-conspiracy-theories-stand-up


Add this to the Wolf Richter post on Bitcoin etc. http://www.businessinsider.com/elliot-management-a-34-billion-hedge-fund-says-a-denouement-is-approaching-and-it-doesnt-bode-well-2018-2?

I find this sociologically interesting on several fronts. 1) the episode itself is pretty amazing; 2) Given the racial tensions the country seems caught up in, not sure “Ace of Spades” is the right name for an extravagantly-priced, rapper-owned champagne marque; 3) tip works out to 14%, really very cheesy by rapper-NBA star -Hollywood standards:  https://pagesix.com/2018/02/19/jay-z-racked-up-an-epic-bar-tab/

The fine economist Herbert Stein notably postulated that “If something can’t go on forever, it won’t.” I feel this way about Dreckstuck. Let him continue. Raise hell only if really – and I mean really  – supported by unarguable facts. Fight him the way Grant fought Vicksburg: lay siege to the main target,  but go hard on the margins and salients, starting with Murdoch (aka “the Dirty Digger” in Private Eye). Leave Fox News alone. The Murdoch family, personally and institutionally, must be the target for tonight, starting with Patriarch Wrinkledick. In one lifetime, Jerry Hall has married Mick Jagger and Rupe-e-doop. She must have a thing for facial excess. And $$$$, of course. Let Lachlan and James answer to their families for supporting President Excrement (for the linguistically impaired, a useful translation of Dreckstuck.)


On his excellent blog, Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen adduces some interesting small-business statistics. http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2018/02/five-smallest-industries-firm-size.html

This is by way of endorsing a new book by Atkinson and Lind, Big Is Beautiful: Debunking the Myth of Small Business (MIT). Here’s AMZ’s summary of the book:  “Why small business is not the basis of American prosperity, not the foundation of American democracy, and not the champion of job creation. In this provocative book, Robert Atkinson and Michael Lind argue that small business is not, as is widely claimed, the basis of American prosperity. Small business is not responsible for most of the country’s job creation and innovation. American democracy does not depend on the existence of brave bands of self-employed citizens. Small businesses are not systematically discriminated against by government policy makers. Rather, Atkinson and Lind argue, small businesses are not the font of jobs, because most small businesses fail. The only kind of small firm that contributes to technological innovation is the technological start-up, and its success depends on scaling up. The idea that self-employed citizens are the foundation of democracy is a relic of Jeffersonian dreams of an agrarian society. And governments, motivated by a confused mix of populist and free market ideology, in fact go out of their way to promote small business. Every modern president has sung the praises of small business, and every modern president, according to Atkinson and Lind, has been wrong. Pointing to the advantages of scale for job creation, productivity, innovation, and virtually all other economic benefits, Atkinson and Lind argue for a “size neutral” policy approach in both the United States and around the world that would encourage growth rather than enshrine an anachronism. If we overthrow the “small is beautiful” ideology, we will be able to recognize large firms as the engines of progress and prosperity that they are.”

This strikes me as technocratic propaganda, since it posits a view of enterprise solely in terms of “scalable” technological advances, “success” (which I guess means profitability) and other (what these sorts of people call) “economic metrics.” One of the most vital aspects of small business, as I see it, is the very real possibility of failure – and yet people in garages, tinkerers, folks who just plain don’t want to work for someone else and others keep going back to the well. If you’re going to go after the principle of small business – again as as I see it – how about the arguable proposition that one of Cowen’s categories – finance – has all but wrecked the moral basis of the American project? Somehow I don’t think this is what Atkinson and Lind have in mind. And what about the Internet, which gives any artisan with a better mousetrap access to a supply-demand-dissemination chain of a size and variety that only a few decades ago would have been open to only the biggest corporations. 

I’m starting to think that we may need “social media control” in this country every bit as much as we need “gun control.” Hard to say which represents a greater threat to the values if not the survival of this great republic.  

My alma mater gets curiouser and curiouserNot sure what any of this signifies: https://news.yale.edu/2018/02/15/joyce-mercer-appointed-bushnell-professor-christian-nurture?utm_source=YNemail&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ynalumni-02-19-18


Some years ago I read one (can’t recall which) of James Lee Burke’s Louisiana mysteries featuring a flawed, thoughtful cop named Dave Robicheaux. I thought it was OK. Pressed by friends to read Burke’s latest, simply titled Robicheaux, I dutifully did so, and if Burke isn’t one of the best novelists writing today, I don’t know who is. The title character remains complex – recovering (AA) alcoholic, poetic – and reflective. A main character isn’t based on our current president, but the sources of his appeal to his “base” are, and the nature of that “base” is affectingly described, analyzed and pondered. Five stars. 

Anyone who reads the following and still doubts the social and intellectual degradation of NYT needs work. These are the sort of people who use the word “exclusive” a lot. In a short essay in another context, I quoted a passage that seems to me to constitute the last word on the subject.  “Here is the Anglo-Australian man of letters Clive James on the subject (in his immortal 1980 review of Princess Daisy by Judith Krantz): ‘Mrs Krantz, having dined at Mark’s Club, insists that it is exclusive. There would not have been much point to her dining there if she did not think that. A bigger snob than she might point out that the best reason for not dining at Mark’s Club is the chance of finding Mrs Krantz there.’” Here’s the NYT link: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/21/style/la-goulue-restaurant-upper-east-side.html

Further to my mild suggestion that this country may be in as dire need of “social media control” as “gun control,” I find myself wondering what the correlation might be between social media and gun violence. I’m not suggesting it’s causal, but it does strike me that so many of these episodes – especially those involving young shooters – have a social media riff or hook that some connection might be made. 

http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20180221/FEATURES/180219923  This is bullshit and this comment says it all: Claiming that the congestion in the Central Business District is due to Uber/Lyft etc, doesn’t add up, from the article’s own data. The article says that there has been a major 5% reduction in cars entering the CBD in the past bunch of years, so the car services can hardly be the cause of congestion if the total quantity has gone down. My guess would be that the massive reduction (perhaps 30-40%) of traffic lanes throughout the city are the cause of the congestion. So, blame Bloomberg and DiBlasio who “designed” this reduction, not the car services.

No comment needed: https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2018/02/trumps-bogus-infrastructure-plan-takes-u-s-road-rentier-capitalism.html

Am I nuts! Or isn’t Jared Kushner or his family still connected to the Observer? http://observer.com/2018/02/kremlin-officials-began-planning-donald-trump-us-presidency-in-2014/?utm_campaign=daily&utm_content=2018-22-02-12317843&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Daily-Plus-Active-Engaged-Other-Lists

“The Science of Well Being”? Is there no end to this kind of thing? “The most popular class in the history of Yale will be available online in March, joining 20 other Coursera classes taught by Yale faculty. The class, Psyc 157, “Psychology and the Good Life,” is taught by psychology professor Laurie Santos. Nearly a quarter of all Yale undergraduates have enrolled in the class in its inaugural year — a fact that attracted media attention around the globe. The online course, titled “The Science of Well Being,” will feature lectures by Santos on things people think will make them happy but don’t — and, more importantly, things that do bring lasting life satisfaction. The course will be offered in March, and registration is now open.”

This makes a lot of sense to me. I think all pre-Crisis theories of this and that no longer apply, including the causes of inflation: https://dealbreaker.com/2018/02/despite-not-knowing-how-inflation-works-the-fed-soldiers-on/?utm_source=Dealbreaker+Newsletters+Master+List&utm_campaign=32acf76df4-MAILCHIMP_DB_DAILY&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_7b7b809044-32acf76df4-410840457 

Calling all tumbrels! https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/21/style/la-goulue-restaurant-upper-east-side.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Ffashion&action=click&contentCollection=fashion&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=5&pgtype=sectionfront

No problem here. Dreckstuck  will give this guy a job since in his (Dreckstuck’s) world of cowardice and bluster, simply to pack heat is the point of the exercise: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/22/us/nikolas-cruz-florida-shooting.html?emc=edit_na_20180222&nl=breaking-news&nlid=2476992&ref=headline


The Way We Live Now. The solipsistic mindlessness on offer/display here really does argue for a confiscatory wealth tax. What a cast, including what I suppose you’d call “a vaginista.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/21/style/la-goulue-restaurant-upper-east-side.html

I found this David Brooks Op-Ed interesting and I agree with his conclusion, reached after heaping conditional praise on Stephen Pinker: the modern attitude is that everything is a market, and markets by their nature, clear. But they don’t, because like it or not there are no moral algorithms. http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2018/02/value-studying-foreign-language-high-school.html    And then on that essential website, The Browser,  I found this: https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/books/2018/02/unenlightened-thinking-steven-pinker-s-embarrassing-new-book-feeble-sermon

I should add that, unlike King Duncan in the early-going of Macbeth, I do believe there is an art to find the mind’s construction in the face,” and that people generally look like what they are. Look at Pinker (photos in both the Brooks and Gray pieces): the snotty mouth, the bullshit Wieseltier coif,  the obvious camera-aware pose  of it all, and you know that here’s a guy who thinks (and has been told) he’s the smartest guy in the universe. 

We need more stories like this: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5418077/Peace-dog-slept-masters-grave.html


Dreckstucktweeted eulogy for Billy Graham. Note the priorities implicit in his praise of the great preacher: “We will never forget the historic crowds, the voice, the energy, and the profound faith of Billy Graham!” It occurs to me that only someone who has no friends would put such emphasis on crowd size. With one exception, and excluding those who are paid to like and praise him, I can’t think of anyone who qualifies as this guy’s friend. He really is a man without a soul. 

The Atlantic asks the question of the day: “Is Corruption the New Normal?” Seems so to me. 


Amen. Interesting how this game works. Lee Child’s recent books have really stunk up the joint, but praise has been heaped on them. Could this have anything to do with the fact that every mystery-thriller type newbie carries a blurb from Child? And from Gillian Flynn, whose Gone Girl  was not only lousy, but the biggest plot cheat since Presumed Innocent.  https://thebaffler.com/alienated/in-praise-of-negative-reviews

Great stuff from a great website: https://lithub.com/14-great-books-that-would-make-terrible-movies/

TV Notes from all over. If you have Netflix, watch David Chang’s “Ugly Delicious,” a food show that’s not only eye- and palate-opening, but reminds the viewer of the cultural variety and vitality that immigrants bring to wherever they settle.  A double-barreled  rebuke to that cheeseburger-chomping Dreckstuck  in the White House. And tomorrow night, on AMC, “McMafia” begins. It’s based on my brother-in-law Misha Glenny’s riveting bestseller of the same name and is chockablock with all kinds of globalized villainy and hugger-mugger. 

“What makes private equity dangerous is the use of debt—and the use of phony accounting to conceal the riskiness of these leveraged bets. The average PE deal is 65 percent debt financed, and whereas the valuations of public equities are determined by transparent, liquid public markets, PE firms determine the valuations of their own portfolio companies. Unsurprisingly, they report far lower volatility than public markets.” This, which has been my complaint all along,  is from https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2018/02/private-equity-overvalued-overrated/

WaPo does fine job of showing difference between pearls and swine: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/mueller-and-trump-born-to-wealth-raised-to-lead-then-sharply-different-choices/2018/02/22/ad50b7bc-0a99-11e8-8b0d-891602206fb7_story.html?utm_term=.7fe9fddf4016

I find this amusing. The way the story is presented is utterly misleading: it suggests that Uber, Lyft etc are making city traffic worse because of the increased number of ride-hailing vehicles. The number has increased, but if you read the story closely, you can’t avoid the conclusion that the growing popularity of these services, and the increased vehicle count, can reasonably be attributed to the lousy service supplied by public transportation/mass transit, which as increased demand for alternatives. https://nypost.com/2018/02/25/uber-lyft-drivers-are-making-city-traffic-worse-studies-find/


































You can say this for Der Trumpf: he always leaves you with something to think about. https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2018/02/international-economic-consequences-mr-trump.html

There’s something quite sad about this. Another once-shiny tile from the mosaic of the past falls off the wall and shatters. https://www.theartnewspaper.com/news/dreweatts-1759-buys-struggling-mallett-from-stanley-gibbons

High “ponder quotient”: https://news.artnet.com/opinion/state-of-the-culture-iii-1210424?utm_content=from_&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=US%20newsletter%20for%202/1/18&utm_term=New%20US%20Newsletter%20List


Amen. https://www.wsj.com/articles/mayors-say-no-to-amazon-1517175734?mod=cx_picks&cx_navSource=cx_picks&cx_tag=undefined&cx_artPos=4#cxrecs_s

And again: https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2018/02/trump-win-follow-dark-money.html


Nomi Prins: always worthwhile: https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2018/02/nomi-prins-trumps-financial-arsonists.html

I think this is just great! https://news.artnet.com/art-world/mfa-boston-philadelphia-museum-super-bowl-1214306?utm_content=from_&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Saturday%20newsletter%20for%202/3/18&utm_term=artnet%20News%20Daily%20Newsletter%20USE

Lot of “Amens” this week: https://hbr.org/2018/02/if-we-all-hate-business-jargon-why-do-we-keep-using-it?mbid=nl_hps_5a75154ad5eed56505b822f3&CNDID=42793573

2/4 – “Super” (sic) Sunday

I’ve always liked Kwak’s reasoning. https://baselinescenario.com/2018/02/02/hey-democrats-the-problem-isnt-jobs-and-growth/

Oh brave new world! https://boingboing.net/2018/02/01/dole-bludgers-under-beds.html

So, Joe – what do you really think of Der Trumpf? A lot of the opinions are boilerplate, but the voicing is elegant and heartfelt: https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/davos-ceos-tax-cuts-trump-by-joseph-e–stiglitz-2018-02?utm_source=Project+Syndicate+Newsletter&utm_campaign=4bf9c5d8e0-sunday_newsletter_4_2_2018&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_73bad5b7d8-4bf9c5d8e0-93490385      And for good measure: https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/davos-trump-liberal-world-order-by-ana-palacio-2018-01

It would appear that in Der Trumpf’s sexual encounter with “Stormy” he didn’t wear a prophylactic. Probably couldn’t find one small enough. Remind me to check with Hannity on this point. 


Good Super Bowl – but don’t understand Collinsworth’s pro-Patriotism and Belichick’s decision to hold out Malcolm Butler.

Kunstler: http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/8912/      Here’s what I said to a friend in an email: “Thoroughly agree – and I hate Der Trumpf and think he’s doing immeasurable harm to this Great Republic through his conduct of the presidency. BUT…until a substantive case can be brought against him, a case without any “prosecutorial” conflicts of interest such as those Kunstler enumerates, I’m not buying. Putin etc must have thought they’d died and gone to heaven when Trumpf moved to political center-stage: (a) he loves dictators and (b) has a lack of knowledge and self-control that renders him a “useful idiot.” For Russia, it’s a win-win. No need to tamper with ballot boxes or voter rolls, either: not when you have Google, Twitter and Facebook to do your electoral subversion. “

Here are a bunch of great reads from Wall Street on Parade, a site I admire for its irreverence and clear-sightedness:






Sensible market commentary from Naked Capitalism: But another way to read it is that this particular downdraft is a symptom of how much owners of securities think that what is good for workers is bad for them. This is a reversal of the old post-war economic model, in which policy-makers focused above all on rising wage rates as the driver of prosperity. That went out the window with the 1970s inflation. The Fed, starting with Volcker, has made curbing inflation a bigger target than fostering growth, and has become more and more eager to create more unemployment in order to curb wage growth, which they see as the driver of inflation. That is a pretty dated view of the economy, since in the 1970s, not only did labor have more bargaining power, but many companies had formal or informal policies to increase wages in response to inflation, which had the potential to create accelerating inflation. Not only does that practice no longer exist outside the executive suite, where pay consultants seem expert at creating excuses to increase CEO pay vastly faster than inflation or performance would warrant, but much of what looks like inflation occurs in selected sectors (health care, broadband prices, higher education) as a result of aggressive use of pricing power.

Into each life some rain must fall: http://www.newyorksocialdiary.com/across-the-nationacross-the-world/2018/divorce-palm-beach-style

I’ve been around finance since May, 1961, when I went to work for Lehman Brothers, and in that time I’ve watched some very dramatic short-term market breaks (“flash crashes”) – starting on May 28, 1962 when Roger Blough, CEO of US Steel, and JFK went head to head over steel prices. The Dow was off 35 points that day, almost 6% (the index was then trading in the 700s), and the effect was traumatic. But the financial PTSD lasted only until the next day, when the Dow went back up 29 points and glasses clinked all around. 1987 was the worst. It caught even the toughest, most experienced investors off guard; at least one important money manager I knew displayed symptoms  of shell-shock.  The present disturbance strikes me as utterly predictable: big investors have been looking for a signal to lighten up on equities; no one wanted to go down with the Titanic, and all eyed each other edging toward the lifeboat. The employment/strong economy numbers gave the signal, one seller begat a bunch, both psychologically and algorithmically (and algorithms include a lot of psychological “fact” in their math), and away we went! 


This column by David Brooks in yesterday’s NYT is a good example of the proper use of history: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/05/opinion/how-nations-recover.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fopinion-columnists

Here’s a useful guide to why things are playing out the way they are. As usual, Greed and its stepchildren – thievery, usury and recklessness – are in charge: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-06/volatility-inc-inside-wall-street-s-8-billion-vix-time-bomb

No comment: https://www.thedailybeast.com/cash-for-coalition-against-trump-going-into-consultants-pockets-instead?via=newsletter&source=AMDigestOrig_ABTest


Yesterday I attended a memorial service that has left me with a good deal to think about. More on that anon. In the meanwhile, this is brilliant! http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2018/02/06/can-thank-new-york-city-trump/ideas/essay/

And on that subject, here’s a quote that appears early in The Republic For Which It Stands, a history of Gilded Age America reviewed on Bloomberg today by Justin Fox and immediately Kindled by yours truly. You might say that this is, alla breve, the story of my own life: “…in Howells’s lifetime, and during the twentieth century, businessmen who amassed wealth on a scale never seen before in American history became the face of the period. Contemporary caricaturists and later historians named them the Robber Barons, but this, as well as their later incarnation as farsighted entrepreneurs, gave them too much credit. They never really mastered the age. When Howells wrote of “the insufficiency of the uncommon,” he probably had them in mind, seeing them as insufficient to the demands of the period for the same reasons as Charles Francis Adams, who had aspired to be one of them and then dismissed them in his Autobiography. “I have known tolerably well, a good many “successful” men—“big” financially—men famous during the last half-century, and a less interesting crowd I do not care to encounter. Not one that I have ever known would I care to meet again, either in this world or the next; nor is one of them associated in my mind with the idea of humor, thought or refinement. A set of mere money-getters and traders, they were essentially unattractive and uninteresting.”    White, Richard. The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896 (Oxford History of the United States) (p. 7). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.


If you’re as confused as I am. The only thing I think I absolutely grasp here is that these are transactions that can only be done by computers, leaving human instinct and judgment (the only advantage we have over the machines) in the dust: http://kiddynamitesworld.com/xiv-volpocalypse-sea-disinformation-ignorance/

Down Memory Lane: I remember going to see this film. There’s one scene, in an orange grove, when Smell-O-Vision pumped out an effusion of citrus scent that practically knocked the audience out! http://www.cabinetmagazine.org/issues/64/turner.php

A tough and dirty business. I’ve always said that writing is wonderful, but being published is hell! http://www.bookforum.com/inprint/024_05/19155

So what have I been howling about all this time? http://prospect.org/article/time-to-ban-stock-buybacks


My ex-wife: https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2018/02/the-untold-story-of-brooke-hayward-and-dennis-hoppers-hollywood-home

Really interesting: https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2018/02/wizards-prophets-face-off-save-planet.html

An object lesson in how arrogance breeds incompetence: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/09/us/politics/us-cyberweapons-russia-trump.html?emc=edit_na_20180209&nl=breaking-news&nlid=2476992&ref=cta

Go ahead – make my day! Donald Trump’s hair blown apart by the wind

I agree: https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/02/09/why-russian-meddling-is-a-trojan-horse/

Two days ago, Michael Goodwin in NY Post had a column critical of our Mayor. I sent Goodwin the following email. Were I still doing the col I wrote for the Observer for 20-odd years, I would surely have addressed the same issue as your col of yesterday (2/7) but with less elegance and verve. I think you should continue to pursue our great Mayor, perhaps along the following lines: 1) how far along does De Blasio think he is in carrying out what is obviously a two-term project to render the city completely unlivable? I think we are owed a progress report. 2)as he has shown himself to be completely in the pockets of the special-interest lobbies and fixers who represent real estate development and construction, livery (including for-hire black cars – Uber etc), parking and trucking and so on, are there other categories of corruption and incompetence he intends to explore and exploit, and what might these be? 3) certainly his role so far on an important front in the 30-year war on the poor and disadvantaged that this great republic has shamefully carried out has been worthy of a medal, but doubtless work remains to be done to insure that they are brought finally to a state of complete misery (freezing in public housing is a useful start) and penury. Are his campaign preparations complete and in order?


Puke material: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-02-08/this-mall-is-only-for-the-rich-and-it-s-doing-fine

Not long after perusing the above, I was reading a review in Spectator and happened upon this quote from Veblen: “Luxury is a form of waste designed to confer status on an essentially useless class of people.” 

Completely agree. And heading my personal  list of Golf Trumpfers who’ve destroyed the character of the game by drowning it in pomposity and money are the United States Golf Association, Augusta National Golf Club and former PGA president Tim Finchem. I’ve been watching the AT&T National Pro-Am in Pebble Beach. Back when this tournament was “the Crosby,” it involved a lot of cool Hollywood and Show Biz types, many of whom were real stars, when that word meant something. Today it’s all hedge-fund types. http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2018/02/09/trump-making-golf-horrible-again/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NYR%20Segregation%20Iraq%20Suburra&utm_content=NYR%20Segregation%20Iraq%20Suburra+CID_b5354909d5c14d13f6093d62662b9ef8&utm_source=Newsletter&utm_term=Trump%20Making%20Golf%20Horrible%20Again

One of the best new mystery writers is Mick Herron. In his latest, This Is What Happened (Soho Press), I found the following, which I think makes great sense: All those gadgets which once seemed gifts to the adulterous—mobile phones, email systems—were now links in the chains of evidence used to drag guilty parties through the divorce courts. So pens and paper were reached for instead, which she thought an improvement. An erotic email was pornographic, one more speck of dirt in the landfill of the Internet. An erotic letter you could put under your pillow, out of the reach of Googling fingers.”


Might this be – can we pray that it is – an augury of big business coming around to a longer view? https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-12/how-apple-plans-to-root-out-bugs-revamp-iphone-software


Why I am – and everyone should be – careful about the Internet. I got off FB and Twitter a year ago, and feel my life, sanity and intellectual integrity are better off for it (I do continue with Instagram, but limit my exposure to family and a couple of art-history posters). https://www.buzzfeed.com/charliewarzel/the-terrifying-future-of-fake-news?utm_term=.vp0XnJPNw#.jiaEg0dQ7    In a nutshell: there has never been a more effective force for thuggery – political, economic, “populist” – than social media, which have made ignorance and resentment “scalable,” as the digital crowd might say. 

Orwell, thou shouldst be living at this hour: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-13/it-s-becoming-harder-to-use-cash-in-china


Happy Valentine’s Day. This is long but worth a skim. https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2018/02/financial-markets-taken-economy-prevent-another-crisis-must-brought-heel.html Here’s the substance: The economic ideology that created the crash remains intact and unchallenged. There has been no reckoning and no lessons were learned, as the banks and their shareholders were rescued, at the cost of about everyone else in society, by massive public bail-outs, zero interest rates and unprecedented liquidity creation by central banks. Finance staged a major come-back—profits, dividends, salaries and bonuses in the financial industry have rebounded to where they were before, while the re-regulation of finance became stuck in endless political negotiations. Stock markets, meanwhile, notched record highs (before the downward ‘correction’ of February 2018), derivative markets have been doing rather well and under-priced risk-taking in financial markets has gathered steam (again), this time especially so in the largest emerging economies of China, India and Brazil (BIS 2017; Gabor 2018). In the process, global finance has become more concentrated and even more integral to capitalist production and accumulation. The reason why even the Great Financial Crisis left the supremacy of financial interests and logic unchallenged, is simple: there is no acceptable alternative mode of social regulation to replace our financialized mode of co-ordination and decision-making.

A useful supplement: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/mini-crash-class-warfare-180213092139661.html

And now this: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/02/12/trump-wants-to-slash-food-stamps-and-replace-them-with-a-blue-apron-type-program/?utm_term=.ce55093f0844 

I poached the foregoing from Naked Capitalism. Here’s Yves’ commentary: Help me. First, the box looks guaranteed to produce more Type II diabetes, not that it’s easy to eat on a low income and steer clear of cheap, high glycemic index foods. Second, what about people who have allergies? Third, clearly no one proposing this has ever been poor. How do they propose to deliver the box safely? I don’t know a lot of poor people who live in doorman buildings or have servants waiting to receive deliveries at their house or trailer….or parked car. What Yves points up is that in addition to his obvious moral, behavioral and intellectual deficiencies, Der Trumpf seems to be utterly without empathy. He must really have had a desperate childhood – I also suspect there’s a pretty formidable quotient of sexual frustration in there –  and somehow he’s arrived at a position that that enables him to take it out on the rest of the world. Yeats didn’t live long enough (1865-1939) to see Trumpf – but he did see Hitler – and if you substitute “Washington” for “Bethlehem” in Yeats’s famous poem Second Coming’s most famous line,  you have what strikes me as a pretty uncanny representation of what we’ve been landed with, a “rough beast” in the White House: 

The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? \

Coming across something like this is why we consider thebrowser.com to be indispensable: https://www.bigissue.com/opinion/public-deceived-gdp/

Two people I greatly respect in conversation: https://medium.com/conversations-with-tyler/matt-levine-tyler-cowen-finance-bitcoin-19e380b7430