3/25-4/4/18…..

3/25

This is an excellent place to start. The misuse of “curate” and its cognates really gets up my nose! http://www.iasc-culture.org/THR/THR_article_2018_Spring_McClay.php

3/26

I think this is the sort of regime Dreckstuck dreams of: protecting corruption with the rule of law: (found on The Browser: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/23/how-organised-crime-took-over-russia-vory-super-mafia

No comment needed (from Wall Street on Parade)http://wallstreetonparade.com/2018/03/wall-street-is-winning-by-going-dark/

A matter of mild interest: I asked a friend who contributes to WSJ  how it is that the paper keeps Holman Jenkins, a terrible writer whose column is essentially a print version of Fox News, on the strength. He couldn’t answer, except to say that Jenkins is essentially “unfirable.” 

3/27

How about these digital fun-and-games? Bring back the landline. When we moved, my landline number was retained, but I understand the line itself was moved from copper to digital – which obviates the point of the exercise: namely, when Sandy hit, and the electricity went out, I disconnected my portable phone system, plugged in an old standard phone I retained against just such an eventuality, and could communicate with the outside world. http://www.businessinsider.com/suspect-arrested-in-1bn-cybercrime-spree-that-made-atms-spit-out-cash-2018-3?nr_email_referer=1&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_content=TechSelect&pt=385758&ct=Sailthru_BI_Newsletters&mt=8&utm_campaign=BI%20Tech%20Insider%20-%20Mon-Fri%202018-03-27&utm_term=Tech%20Select 

Just so we’re clear on what the PE game is all about: https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2018/03/winners-losers-pe-firm-cerberuss-remington-rollup-collapses-bankruptcy.html

Ah hah! https://news.artnet.com/art-world/art-market-wealth-report-1253585?utm_content=from_&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=US%20Morning%20Newsletter%203.27&utm_term=New%20US%20Newsletter%20List

Wonderful to see this at long, long last republished. One of the great camp books of all time. I remember when it was first published (1961). http://www.berfrois.com/2018/03/big-love-mrs-florence-aadland/

I wonder if Dreckstuck was under the impression that bringing Kushner into the White House would somehow insulate his son-in-law from problems in his business. After all, it would seem plausible to assume that Trump may have tutored Kushner in the reasons for his own success in real estate: stiffing creditors, suppliers and workers; locating dubious foreign investors; lawyering up at the slightest sign of financial inconvenience. 

from Bloomberg: “anyone who lacks scruples and knows how to access the system can wreak havoc or earn money at astonishing scale. As one said of Facebook: ‘They go out and find the morons for me.'” This is why I quit FB: more morons than a boy could stand. FB is Moron Central. Even bright people transmute into idiots on FB.

 

3/29

Interesting dialogue with a true immortal: https://medium.com/conversations-with-tyler/martina-navratilova-tyler-cowen-tennis-czechoslovakia-lgbt-73ee82582ad

3/31 Skipped a couple of days: Great interview conducted by my pal Tunku: https://www.wsj.com/articles/manhood-in-the-age-of-trump-1522443770

4/1

April Fool’s Day: as we have become a nation of fools, should probably replace July 4 as primary national holiday. 

Inequality, thy filthy spell is everywhere: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/03/31/for-small-private-colleges-fewer-students-means-more-worries/1jjd8ZFusBt3kGjHOcpIqM/story.html?p1=BGHeader_SmartBar_Breaking?s_campaign=breakingnews:newsletter

I sort of lean this way: https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/explaining-bond-market-complacency-by-anatole-kaletsky-2018-03?utm_source=Project+Syndicate+Newsletter&utm_campaign=fadc03c110-sunday_newsletter_1_4_2018&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_73bad5b7d8-fadc03c110-93490385

It figures: https://lithub.com/the-year-in-trump-novel-pitches-an-agents-lament/

Personally, I find Williamson antithetical in every way: gross in appearance, clumsy in style, intellectually a throwback: https://newrepublic.com/article/147667/conservative-columnist-conundrum?mbid=nl_hps_5abea51f799f00289d63dec7&CNDID=42793573Still, despicable as I find his political and social polemics, his criticism (theater etc) deserves respect. And this (pointed out by Bret Stephens in NYT) is pretty cool: https://www.nationalreview.com/2017/11/steven-mnuchin-louise-linton-embarrassing/

4/2

NO argument from this quarter: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/theres-nothing-wrong-with-a-census-question-about-citizenship/2018/03/29/aa3ee8c2-3367-11e8-94fa-32d48460b955_story.html?utm_term=.fb53ba932d17

4/3

Drue Heinz has died. Perhaps the most intensive and multifaceted Maecenas of our era, she was just great: funny, wise, smart. She installed me in her writers’ retreat at Hawthornden Castle in Scotland in 1992. Bliss then it was to be alive! A wonderful person. 

4/4

Well, Dreckstuck has now plunged us into a game of multibillion trade ping-pong. Not surprising. The guy’s entire life has been a test of the theory that bullying is the most effective form of negotiation. We shall see. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3/16-3/24/18…

3/16

Family business yesterday obliged me to skip posting on the Ides of March. So here goes anew.

From Felix Salmon. Don’t know whether to rejoice or bewail. https://www.recode.net/2018/3/16/17126486/reuters-news-funding-10-billion-dollars-moneyi

Amen: http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/drums-along-potomac/

Sad to read this. I am a huge Peter Temple fan. His Identity Theory  is one of the best spy-game thrillers I’ve ever read. Discover him for yourself. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/mar/12/peter-temple-acclaimed-writer-dies-aged-71

3/17

Let’s start the day with a combination heartfelt dual apology and strong, unqualified recommendation. One problem with doing this website the way I do – no money in it, irregular attention – is that I overlook stuff that I think my readers will profit from. One such is www.headbutler.com, written by my friend Jesse Kornbluth. Indefatigable, probably sleepless, Jesse covers everything! From books to health aids to streaming video to…oh, you name it: he’s there, got a line on it, and will tell you whether in his opinion something’s worth looking at or into. I have consistently found his takes reliable. For instance,   I can’t exactly remember – dotage has its disadvantages – if it was Jesse/headbutler who first turned me on to Peter Temple, but it very well could have been. Here’s his tribute to Temple (and an excellent sample of Jesse’s work):  https://www.headbutler.com/reviews/peter-temple-1946-2018/   So that’s the recommendation bit. The apology is to you, my few and dauntless readers, and to Jesse for not having put the two of you together long ago. To paraphrase, the old commercial: try him, you’ll love him!

 

My pal Bob Rubin – (no, not that Bob Rubin- Robert E. – nor the wonderful Bob R. – Robert S. – but the equally great Robert M.) sent this. read (if you can) and weep! 

 

https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2018/03/nycs-fauxgressive-mayor-turning-charter-school-cheerleader.html From the day he first announced, I made De Blasio for a liar, a bullshit artist and completely phony in all his professions. And so he has turned out. 

Hmmmm. Kind of makes me wish the old boy with the hood and scythe comes calling before 2020. As long as the Dems are the party of Pelosi and Schumer, who cheat as much as Dreckstuck does but play at the penny-ante table, they have no chance. None. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-is-a-freak-of-political-nature-heres-you-can-beat-him/2018/03/14/0e59a62c-18c8-11e8-b681-2d4d462a1921_story.html?utm_term=.9b7e1bedef0c

Every American – starting at about freshmen year in college, when one has at least some developed sense of the world and what it means to be a grownup- should read Grant’s Memoirs. https://www.neh.gov/humanities/2018/winter/feature/what-drove-ulysses-grant-write-about-the-civil-war

“There are three tenets to the metrical canon. The first holds that it is both possible and desirable to replace judgment – acquired through personal experience and talent – with numerical indicators of comparative performance based on standardized data. Second, making such metrics public and transparent ensures that institutions are held accountable. And, third, the best way to motivate people within organizations is to attach monetary or reputational rewards and penalties to their measured performance.” Over twenty years ago, I made precisely these points in what has to have been the worst-attended monthly address in the history of the Century Association. The title I gave my talk was “Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest: Life in the Age of the Intelligent Machine”, and it was about the dangers of adulating computers and what they do and how they do to the point of trying to make our brains and faculties of judgment emulate them. This is an important article: https://www.project-syndicate.org/onpoint/the-metric-god-that-failed-by-jerry-z–muller-2018-03

3/19

Skipped yesterday. Family fun – and Rory McIlroy putting on as great a putting exhibition as I have ever watched to win the Arnold Palmer.

Thanks again, Tyler Cowen. This is totally cool! https://www.merriam-webster.com/time-traveler/2016

The economist Herbert Stein remarked that if something can’t go on forever, it won’t. His apothegm is usually applied to bullish phenomena, stock bubbles and the like, but it also applies to dirty business. As Chaucer put it (Nun’s Priest’s Tale): “Murder will out, that see we day by day./Murder is so wlatsom* and abominable *loathsome/To God, that is so just and reasonable,/That he will not suffer it heled* be; *concealed/Though it abide a year, or two, or three,/Murder will out, this is my conclusioun” Or, as the Clintons were supposed to have learned: you will  get caught. And so, racing fans…http://wallstreetonparade.com/2018/03/the-deutsche-bank-trump-connection-why-house-probe-abruptly-shut-down/     This administration summons up remembrances of things past, notably my time on Wall Street, when, in seeking a petroleum geologist to vet an oil deal, we always looked for a guy that we “know we can work with,” as one of my partners put it; that is, give us the number we needed to make the deal fly, irrespective of what might actually have been in the ground. Which brings me to another coinage for which I claim credit: every number exists in two dimensions, as it were: the absolute (EPS increased by $1) and the proportionate (EPS increased by 20%), and you use whichever best supports the lie you are about to tell. 

Speaking of De Blasio (above), my pal Ginia Bellafante put it perfectly in her column in yesterday’s NYT “Metropolitan” section. The man spends his time “mythologizing himself.”

Sunday is a good day for pondering the larger issues of life. Looking at the way we live now, I would say that the greatest, most tragic victim of this benighted age has been truth. I can think of no aspect of existence where Trust, or if you prefer Truth, isn’t improving, even essential. Macbeth murdered sleep. Dreckstuck and his predecessors, and all who sail in him pro or con, have murdered truth, and what that lot haven’t killed off, Mammon has. 

Is there a more irritating character on TV than Carrie, the character played so skillfully by Claire Danes on “Homeland”? But that show’s lead-in, “Our Cartoon President,” seems definitely to be finding its chops.  

http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/2018/3/16/homeless-students-falling-through-cracks-nyc-schools-stringers-report

It seems to me that any polity that not only allows  but in fact facilitates child homelessness by making public policy of deferential treatment of rent-extracting real estate swine, was never “great” the first time. How about “MADA” – Make America Decent Again! We might start here: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/kushner-family-business-submitted-false-paperwork-city-article-1.3882159?cid=bitlyBut if you’re looking for a reason to despairhttps://www.politico.com/story/2018/03/19/kelly-to-tap-kushner-ally-chris-liddell-as-deputy-chief-for-policy-470654

Now here’s an issue that has always perplexed me: the valuation of extreme personal wealth. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-19/zuckerberg-s-fortune-falls-3-8-billion-over-data-exploitationNow there’s no denying that the decline in value represented by the last posted sale of FB, which could have been 100 shares, or 100,000, or 1,00o,000, would reduce the total notional value of Zuckerberg’s FB stock. But as to its real  value, whoa! Let’s suppose Zuckerberg gets fatally hit by a runaway coffee machine and his executors decide to bail. His FB holding would probably take a hit of a great deal more than $3.8 billion. On the other hand, if, say, Saudi Arabia made an offer for FB – the whole – it would have to pay a fat premium over market. So the $3.8 big ones is a fun figure but bears no relation to probability; it’s like saying that because Dreckstuck  told the truth once, when he was, say, seven, you can take him at his word – especially when it comes to his net worth. My first assignment at Lehman Brothers, back in 1962, when I really didn’t know anything, was to value an estate block of Texaco stock. I quickly discerned that if I used my imagination to concoct various scenarios that might affect this block or Texaco shares in general, I could come up with a defensible valuation embodying a 30% swing. See my observation above about absolute and proportional. 

3/20

Alexander Nix

“There’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face.” Thus saith King Duncan early in Macbeth. Oh, yeah? Well, take a look at the beady, devious, so-clever-by-half features (above) of one Alexander Nix, CEO of Cambridge Analytica, the dirt-slinging operation founded by Bannon and Mercer, and tell me if that face doesn’t tell you all you need to know about a character (sic) that UK media have caught on camera and microphone boasting about the smorgasbord of dirty tricks and fixes his firm offers to people willing to pay to skew politics their way. Alexander Nix? More like Alexander Fix! Here’s the skinny: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/data-war-whistleblower-christopher-wylie-faceook-nix-bannon-trump

A bad day on the obit page: news of the passing of two fine guys named Bob. First, Bob Grossman, the great cartoonist, whose work often adorned the front page of The New York Observer. Even though our stints overlapped at the paper, we didn’t really see much of each other, as neither of us visited the premises very often. When we did, we enjoyed each other’s company, and he was one of the greatest cartoonist-caricaturists of our era, worthy of being mentioned in the same class as Gillray and Nast. 

It also seems, finally, that death has allowed the great Bob Rubin – Robert S. – to rejoin his beloved wife Marty in the Empyrean. Bob and I were colleagues at Lehman Brothers back in the ’60s-early ’70s. We became partners on the same day: January 1, 1967 (along with another notable Bob, Robert F. Shapiro). Bob was one of the good ones: smart, decent, honest, modest. For a time we were co-heads of Lehman’s corporate finance department, but in my view “co-” in name only, because he knew what he was doing. He went on to become one of Brooklyn’s all-time greatest philanthropists, at a time when – unlike today – there wasn’t a whole lot of wealth in this borough. His and Marty’s patronage of the Brooklyn Museum and St. Ann’s School is as much a part of those institutions as the stone they’re built from and the cultural enrichment they dispense. His (theirs) was a life that by any thinking person’s standards must go down as enviably well-lived. 

Do yourselves a favor. Check out https://thebrowser.com/

You know you read about someone like Betsy DeVos and you can’t help concluding that if this great republic is to carry on,  a way has to be found to separate fools from their money – or at least neuter that money so that it can’t buy its possessor’s way into politics or public service (sic). Maybe the moral equivalent of an IQ Test? https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2018/03/19/imagine-secretary-education-who-understands-public-education/SC94CJJZLKxrrZiCxlwJWN/story.html?et_rid=1758184608&s_campaign=todaysheadlines:newsletter

I don’t look at Twitter (I plucked this via a link on Politico’s “Morning Media”) but David Simon (The Wire) has a point. These tech companies are started by very young people, people too young to have acquired the experience that is a key component of judgment, wisdom and perspective. Microsoft wasn’t unalike – but I feel Bill Gates had his father’s stabilizing hand to count on. Where are the adults in the room? Or – better yet – at the keyboard?  And leave us not forget that Goggle brought in Eric Schmidt, then 46, to hold the hands of Page and Brin.  https://twitter.com/aodespair/status/975921015875407877?refsrc=email&s=11 

Totally agree! I thought “60 Minutes” performance was chickenshit of the lowest order. https://theintercept.com/2018/03/19/the-cbs-interview-with-saudi-arabias-mohammed-bin-salman-was-a-crime-against-journalism/

Now it starts to get fun: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/03/20/trump-summer-zervos-lawsuit-474026

I wonder if someone – Roger Stone seems likely – persuaded Dreckstuck to go forward with his campaign on the theory that, if elected, all the trouble he’d stacked up in his past would go away thanks to some kind of presidential immunity. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/03/20/trump-summer-zervos-lawsuit-474026 And it only gets better: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/20/us/ex-playboy-model-sues-to-break-silence-on-trump.html?emc=edit_na_20180320&nl=breaking-news&nlid=2476992&ref=cta

I think this is bloody good. https://www.chronicle.com/article/academics-are-too-scared-to/242817?key=HnRoS7rGU2F1XrEi2rMQqgYeSK1qlMghd_8f1XdQaxex1aXtyiCaO1UDBe4cOiB8RGZ6blp2LUhxUVUyQ0ZLQkgzLURSaVBnZk5KTEZkRkJkZ3BJOENrOTRxcwInterestingly, before I happened on this (thanks, Naked Capitalism), I had read the account in the great dealer Richard Feigen’s Tales from the Art Crypt about how the clown car of “theory” pulled up outside university art history departments and disgorged the Three Stooges – T.J.Clark, Michael Fried and Clement Greenberg – who promptly set about them with the pedagogical equivalent of whoopee cushions. 

Regarding Robert Grossman, don’t miss these! http://o-manlandcomics.blogspot.com/

Acting the part

 

step up to the mike

The story of O

FYI: https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2018/politics/meet-the-mueller-team/index.html

3/21

Pete Peterson has died age 91. I considered him a friend, with this caveat: I never was involved in business, in any way, with him. If I had been, I might feel differently because Pete was a consummate bullshit artist, a bullshit genius in my estimation, a talent he perfected (I suspect) as Marion Harper’s protege at McCann-Ericson at the beginning of his career, and which carried him to ever greater heights in corporate life, in government, on Wall Street and high finance, and which reached its apotheosis in the Hamilton Project, to my mind the Sistine Ceiling of bien pensant patrician American BS. I think it was this that caused Pete’s detractors to speak of him with such vehemence. Well, hard cheese to them! In this country you get where you want to go by exploiting what you have, and Pete may not have been a whiz with the numbers – he had people like Glucksman and Schwarzman for that – but when it came to the kind of blahblahblah that has the big hitters reaching for their checkbooks, he had no equal. None of this affected me professionally. I took the BS for what it was and found him entertaining, decent and quirky: have him for dinner and he’d insist on helping with the dishes afterward. There was one irritating aspect of our relationship: Pete was a pain in the ass to play golf with, because he’d hit his shot and then take off up the fairway in the cart leaving yours truly standing by my ball screaming at him to come back because he had my clubs with him.  Anyway, he had a hell of a life, the kind that lets its begetter bask in his achievements, his acquaintanceship, his family, his prominence, his material well-being and -never underestimate this as a source of existential joy – the ill-will of those who criticized him or ran him down out of simple envy. I wish his widow Joan, and his children Holly and David and their siblings whatever comfort they can find. Quite a guy, quite a trip!  

Speaking of the Hamilton Project, readers of this website might be amused by the following excerpt from a letter I wrote to one of the Project’s sponsors (not Pete, although I said pretty much the same to him) back in 2006:

“And that brings me to the Hamilton Project, the Wall Street Journal report on which prompted me to look up your website and download the mission statement. This I read with great interest, several times, and what I read prompts me now to write to urge that you and your colleagues in this amazingly self-congratulatory undertaking cease and desist.

I say this in a kindly, even condolatory way. The “Project” has absolutely no chance of success – unless, of course, you equate (and it occurs to me that by now you may) a certain measure of PR exposure with achievement. For one thing, there are no new ideas in the statement. “Economic security and economic growth can be mutually reinforcing” is not a new idea, nor is any to be found in the page-long gloss that follows the enunciation of this bold new “principle.” If I may paraphrase Churchill’s well-known apothegm on the late Soviet Union, what we have here is platitude wrapped in cliché inside bromide – over and over and over. And this begs the question, for this nation at least, of a nation-fixing mission statement that nowhere (unless I am blind) includes the word “immigration.”

Another reason that the Project has absolutely no chance of success is – how am I going to put this gently? – the people behind it. Your Advisory Council consists of 25 individuals. Of these, twelve come from Wall Street, broadly considered. I cannot say for sure whether experience in grossly-overpaid lines of work such as hedge funds and derivatives trading and private equity and giving merger advice, which do not in the ordinary course of their business concern themselves with such matters as how to get a job, pay the doctor, put food on the table, equips one to understand, let alone deal with the vexations faced by the people in this country we need to worry about, but it seems conjectural at best.

Another ten members of your Advisory Council come from Academe, which requires no further comment, a consideration that also applies to the member who comes from the Never-Neverland of management consulting. Two others make their home in think tanks, and the last is in publishing. At a time when enterprises like General Motors and Ford are back to wall, one might have thought some representation from the “make and do and hire and fire” sectors of American commerce would have proved helpful, even insightful. Perhaps even someone from Wal-Mart.

That said, I have no doubt that the Project will achieve its real goals. It will commission studies, enable consultants, stage conferences and symposia and panels, publish full-page newspaper ads, generate press coverage and the like, in the same inspiring manner as its ancestor in blather, the Concord Coalition of blessed memory.

But is this really the point? If there were some way to monetize self-congratulation, or to convert into BTUs the energy released by stroking the chin while gravely pursing the lips, I would argue otherwise. But the chances seem twofold: slim and none. The sad truth seems to be, at least in the eyes of one who has spent enough time at the Four Seasons to have a sense of how this stuff works, that this really isn’t a program about helping the less-advantaged or getting the country straightened out in a fiscal and intellectual sense, this is an advertisement for a government-in-waiting.

In conclusion, let me say that this letter is written in darkest self-interest. The day you receive this letter I shall turn 70. Years ago, I took my design for living from a famous New Yorker cartoon, in which a very fancy mother says to her son, “Eat your broccoli, dear,” and the lad, after inspecting his plate dubiously, replies, “I say it’s spinach and I say the hell with it!” The sun will soon enough go down for the last time for me, and already the chances are that its final twinkling rays will be blotted out by the giant mounds of spinach with which the American landscape has been heaped by self-aggrandizing Panglosses in pinstripes. I beg you not to add to the pile.

As always,”

I long ago quit Twitter and FB because I found their capacity for distraction and foolishness to be an existential multiple of their utility. But I do bookmark a site called “Trump Twitter Archive” which reports Dreckstuck’s digital emissions.  Here are today’s: “Mar 21, 2018 06:29:03 AM – “Special Council is told to find crimes, whether a crime exists or not. I was opposed to the selection of Mueller to be Special Council. I am still opposed to it. I think President Trump was right when he said there never should have been a Special Council appointed because…..
Mar 21, 2018 06:11:17 AM – …there was no probable cause for believing that there was any crime, collusion or otherwise, or obstruction of justice!” So stated by Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz. ” These strongly suggest that if Dreckstruck  should be driven from Washington, he’s unlikely to make a good living competing in spelling bees.  

Like Tyler Cowen, I’m having trouble assessing exactly how much the Cambridge Analytica-FB “collaboration” affected the 2016 elections. One characteristic I’ve noted in social media is how much “birds of a feather” operations they are, bully pulpits for those who preach to the already converted. Cowen has pointed to an article of Bloomberg by Leonid Bershidsky for a common-sense tour d’horizon of the matter. Here’s an excerpt: 

The relevant question, however, is what a campaign can actually do with the data. CA’s supposedly sinister skill is that it can use the Facebook profile information to build psychological profiles that reveal a person’s propensity to vote for a certain party or candidate. When matched against electoral registers, targeted appeals are possible.

But no one should take the psychological profile stuff at face value. No academic work exists to link personality traits, especially those gleaned from the sketchy and often false information on Facebook profiles, definitively to political choices. There is, however, research showing that values or even genetic factors trump traits. It’s not even clear how traits affect political behavior, such as the tendency to vote and donate to campaigns: Some researchers, for example, have found a negative relationship between emotional stability and these measures; others have found a positive one.

This is not to say Facebook data, including data on a user’s friends, can’t be useful to campaigns. The Obama campaign actually asked its active supporters to contact six specific friends suggested by the algorithm. So 600,000 people reached 5 million others, and, according to data from the campaign, 20 percent of the 5 million actually did something — like registering to vote.

But did the Trump campaign need CA and the data it acquired from Kogan to do this kind of outreach in 2016? Likely not. Facebook cut off the friends functionality for app developers because it wanted to control its own offering to clients interested in microtargeting.”

I’m no fan of Eric Asimov’s wine and spirits column in NYT.  Like most of NYT “lifestyle” journalism, everything it endorses seems awfully expensive. Today he and his panel cast eye and tongue on blended Scotch. I didn’t expect my tipple of preference – The Famous Grouse – to make the cut, and it didn’t. The list was topped by Buchanan (blenders of Black & White, my late father’s pleasure) and Teacher’s. Apparently the standard is influenced by how much malt comes through in the whisky – in which case Asimov might have mentioned “Black Bottle” an amusing blend of Islay malts. I’m not going to defend my preference over Asimov’s, other than to point out that there is one area on the world where Famous Grouse rates #2, behind Bell’s (not available in the USA). And that is? Oh, gosh, Scotland. 

Just wondering: might Putin be in possession of Dreckstuck’s tax returns?

These (from Trump Twitter Archive) are the ravings of an unstable personality, trapped in a carapace of ignorance and narcissism: Mar 21, 2018 01:56:14 PM – I called President Putin of Russia to congratulate him on his election victory (in past, Obama called him also). The Fake News Media is crazed because they wanted me to excoriate him. They are wrong! Getting along with Russia (and others) is a good thing, not a bad thing….They can help solve problems with North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, ISIS, Iran and even the coming Arms Race. Bush tried to get along, but didn’t have the “smarts.” Obama and Clinton tried, but didn’t have the energy or chemistry (remember RESET). PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH!

3/22

Mitchell Moss, a new friend who is Henry Hart Rice Professor of Urban Policy and Planning and Director of the Rudin Center for Transportation at NYU/Wagner, sent me this: http://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-bill-de-blasio-president-mayor-855228  As I emailed Mitchell along with my thanks, I agree with every syllable. 

Thanks for this, Tyler Cowen: https://www.wired.com/story/facebook-cambridge-analytica-response/?mbid=social_twitter_onsiteshare What I find fascinating about this FB-Cambridge Analytica brouhaha is that it strikes me as having the same “no there there” quality as the purported Trump “collusion.” Quite apart from the discomfort caused to two sublimely unlikable people, Dreckstuck and Mark Zuckerberg, where’s the beef? Most of the people complaining about Cambridge Analytica having absconded with “vital” personal data were happy to commit indiscretion and disclosure on FB for all the world to see. Most had their minds made up on matters of political economy. If FB “manipulation” encouraged them to go out and get the folks up the street to vote Trump, so what? What’s the big deal here? What’s new? Google “Vance Packard” and you’ll earn that his book The Hidden Persuader sold a million copies back in thev 1950s, when a million really meant something. In Madison Avenue USA, Martin Mayer exposed the subliminal manipulations postulated by Ernest Dichter. I got off FB/Twitter because, when I turned 75, I vowed to spend the minimum amount of time I could in the company of fools, philistines and charlatans. Which is what FB and Twitter struck me as being mainly about.   

Today’s prize tweet from Dreckstuck: Mar 22, 2018 05:19:57 AM – Crazy Joe Biden is trying to act like a tough guy. Actually, he is weak, both mentally and physically, and yet he threatens me, for the second time, with physical assault. He doesn’t know me, but he would go down fast and hard, crying all the way. Don’t threaten people Joe!

What’s happened to Farhad Manjoo, the NYT digital star who wrote about how he unplugged from the ‘Net – except it turned out he didn’t? I Googled him and it appears he’s tweeting on his personal @, but he’s not in the paper. I think we should be told. 

A useful addendum to the Bershidsky post mentioned yesterday: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-03-21/cambridge-analytica-s-real-business-isn-t-data

It will be interesting to see how Dreckstuck responds to today’s break in stock prices, which seems by universal chatterati agreement to be fueled by trade-war fears. I doubt he himself will much affected, although whatever securities he owns are probably hocked to the gills on margin and other loans. But his base doesn’t include the “investor class,” at least those with a billion or more (wondering how my old friend Sec. Wilbur is feeling) so what’s a few million here, a few million there? The folks in the middle (high seven to mid eight-digit net worth) may be taking it on the chin. Smallholders like me are probably not getting really creamed. We can’t afford to lose money so our mites are invested on the (at least theoretically) safe side. If the break holds, one big loser will be NYC real estate, which is coming on stream with a lot of overpriced housing. 

A reader reminds me that Trump>China Tariffs>724 point market drop uncannily resembles the manipulation at the heart of Green Monday, my first novel. There it was OPEC triggering the action. Wonder if the Kushners stocked up on S&P put options?  

A guide for the vexed and perplexed: https://qz.com/email/quartz-obsession/1235589/

re Manjoo (above) just found this in an article: “You probably read New York Times tech columnist Farhad Manjoo’s piece about going “offline” for two months. Two days after Manjoo’s piece was published, the Columbia Journalism Review raised questions about his process, showing that Manjoo was actually almost constantly on Twitter during his self-professed period of digital news abstinence. Manjoo, as much as he wanted, could not log off, which seems like a lost opportunity for a much more interesting and honest piece he could have written. He tried to quit, but he just couldn’t. I reached out to Manjoo to talk about it, but, as of this writing, he hasn’t responded.” Here’s the link: https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a19505007/internet-broken-brain/

3/23

I don’t believe this. The realty site Curbed routinely runs a feature on the theme of “What $X gets in NYC”. Readers vote on which of 5 well-illustrated rentals at, say, $3000/month they would go for. Inevitably, Manhattan locations prevail over more commodious, more fully-featured offerings in other boroughs. https://therealdeal.com/2018/03/22/nyc-renters-care-more-about-price-than-location-study/

Amen. My hero, Andrew Bacevich: http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176400/

As opposed to Bacevich, consider this conjunction of lunatics: https://mailchi.mp/941fa220e28a/tac-on-appointment-of-john-bolton?e=ef6d4ebf1f

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3/7-3/14/18…

3/7

I like to start a new weekly post with something to think about. The following is not only enlightening and interesting, but expresses its argument in a clear way: http://techcrunch.com/2018/03/05/when-venture-capital-becomes-vanity-capital/

Thanks again, Tyler Cowen: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2018/03/one-smart-guys-frank-take-working-major-tech-companies.html

“Power Point” has been added to my list of two-word phrases that generate fear, loathing and an urge to head for the exit. Others are “Family Tennis,” “Native Entertainment” and “Panel Discussion.” Here’s a good critique: http://armedforcesjournal.com/essay-dumb-dumb-bullets/

Yesterday I watched an absolutely marvelous “American Experience” documentary on “The Gilded Age.” It’s available on PBS streaming. There are numerous striking parallels with the present day. Among the most striking is a plug for “trickle down economics” enunciated in around 1880 in pretty much those words exactly – a full century before Laffer, Kudlow and those other clowns would announce they’d discovered the economics equivalent of gravity. 

Always provocative – but I do wish Taleb was a better writer: https://medium.com/incerto/what-do-i-mean-by-skin-in-the-game-my-own-version-cc858dc73260   (Thanks to The Browser)

Yours truly has long held that the three worst influences on golf have been the USGA, Augusta National Golf Club and the money-mad dwarf who recently retired as head of the PGA Tour. http://www.golfchannel.com/video/walker-glover-rip-usga-over-distance-issue/?cid=Email_WednesdayNL_20180307

Amen (from Ryan Sutton’s Eater review of the new Joel Robuchon joint): “Questions of relevance aside, what’s frightening is how representative L’Atelier actually is of contemporary New York. It symbolizes a city overrun by an affluent corporate monoculture, from boutique spin classes that charge thousands for yearly memberships to fast-casual salad chains that don’t take cash to sushi chains where a $200 starting price almost seems like a break.” https://ny.eater.com/2018/3/7/17084180/latelier-joel-robuchon-nyc-review

People are talking about Jane Mayer’s New Yorker  piece about the Steele dossier. I don’t endorse the following (thanks, Naked Capitalism)  – on what basis could I? – but think it should be read: http://www.moonofalabama.org/2018/03/the-new-yorker-attempts-but-fails-to-boost-the-steele-dossier.html 

Fortunately for Icahn, past performance means he has a closetful of asbestos trousers: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-07/icahn-says-had-no-knowledge-of-tariff-before-selling-steel-stock

3/8

Just for the fun of it: https://dealbreaker.com/2018/03/donald-trump-proves-immune-to-gary-cohns-mesmeric-grundle/?utm_source=Dealbreaker+Newsletters+Master+List&utm_campaign=72c9fc4b56-MAILCHIMP_DB_DAILY&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_7b7b809044-72c9fc4b56-410840457

So what do I know? Nothing – it’s clear. The Christopher Wool painting I mocked in last week’s post made $15 million in London, 2 1/2 times its estimate. 

How about this? https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-07/magic-leap-raises-461-million-from-saudis   And what does this company do? “The Florida-based company, which employs about 1,400 people, is working on an augmented reality headset that superimposes 3-D virtual images on the real world.” Please somebody tell me what this device is for. Another big leap in the U.S. economy’s conversion to the manufacture of distraction. 

 

At the Metropolitan Museum in New York, however, it is clothes that have been causing a stir of late. Indeed, as 26-year-old New Jersey resident Eliza Vincz discovered last weekend, one should think twice before dressing up for a visit to the institution. Vincz, who describes herself as an ‘historical seamstress specializing in late 18th and early 19th century big fashion’, had volunteered to take part in a tour of the institution’s costume department, wearing a blue silk taffeta dress she had made based on period clothing.

But within moments, as she writes on her ‘Silk and Sass’ blog, Vincz was ‘accosted’ by a security guard, who told her that her costume ‘would distract [other visitors] from the museum’, and asked to leave the premises. Vincz claims that the zealous Met employee implied that she had stolen the costume, saying that she was ‘treated like a criminal’. To add insult to injury, she says, she was stopped by the same guard on her way out, who once again told her to leave. ‘I have never been so embarrassed in my life,’ Vincz states. Talk about a costume drama…

3/9

It is rare to have a truly celestial restaurant experience, but last night we did. Tamara and I were the guests of my old friend John Dobkin at Meadowsweet, the Williamsburg restaurant founded,  and run by his son, Michelin-starred chef Polo Dobkin, and Polo’s wife Stephanie. The restaurant is at 149 Broadway (up and across the street from Peter Luger). For a restaurant experience to be heavenly, the gastronomic stars must be in perfect alignment and shining their brightest. These are food and drink, venue, staff and atmosphere. All matter greatly to me, but as readers of this space know, I am especially keenly sensitive to the last: the problem with restaurant life in NYC today is that in too many places one finds oneself surrounded by people who have more money than is good for either them or us and who behave according to a code whereby “rich” equals “sophisticated.” People who measure their social standing in terms of the deference of headwaiters. The crowd at Meadowsweet displayed none of these traits (only one young women spent her meal studying her smartphone screen; these phones have a lot to answer for, but top of the list is that they prevent one from ever leaving the office, as it were, or the office from leaving one alone – and I can happily report that I saw no Instagramming). The menu, again unlike many places with virtuoso chefs (see Pete Wells’ recent NYT review of Joel Robuchon’s new joint), actually offered dish after dish that one would really want to eat. Look up the menu online (www.meadowsweetnyc.com). My choices were tasty to the point of rapture. And, of course, a restaurant that offers The Famous Grouse as the house scotch has got me by the short and curlies before I’ve even looked at the carte. The staff and service, like the cooking, were light years beyond complaint. The place has a great look: spacious, comfortable and uncomplicated: “rich but not gaudy” as Polonius advises his son. As the evening progressed, my mind and palate kept returning to Joseph Wechsberg’s essays on dining at La Pyramide when Point was still alive. I didn’t see the check, but places like Meadowsweet can’t give their food away, and so it’s a simple matter of estimating the cost, comparing that to the family budget and scheduling one’s visits accordingly. At any price, a dining experience of this overall, all-around quality represents sublime value. As we drove home, I couldn’t but conclude that Meadowsweet is what happens when a family notable for its refinement, artistic taste and sophistication produces a son or daughter who turns out to be a kitchen genius. 

The totals made at this week’s auctions in London by Christie’s, Sotheby’s and now Phillips seem to confirm the sagest remark about the art market I’ve ever heard. It was made at the end of the 1980s art boom, when the market, bulled by the the likes of British Rail Pension Fund and new Japanese money,  regularly achieved prices that defied the imagination. A seasoned observer of the art world was asked whether he thought the art being bought was worth what was being paid for it. “it’s not that the art isn’t worth the money,” he answered,  “it’s that the money isn’t worth the money.” Hard to look at today’s valuations (sic) and shrug this off. 

This makes a lot of sense: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/07/opinion/oscars-irrelevant-decline-ratings.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region

This is the deepest-rooted reason I  detest the swine in the White House: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/03/08/making-america-great-again-one-ruined-family-time/8quCtIIFUMnfIdfXhtATRM/story.html?s_campaign=breakingnews:newsletter

Nonetheless, balance argues that some credit is due: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-03-09/manufacturing-keeps-adding-jobs-amid-trump-s-tough-talk

Good stuff: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1948/03/oscar-night-in-hollywood/305705/

My pal Tunku knocks it out of the park: https://www.wsj.com/articles/will-putin-ever-leave-could-he-if-he-wanted-1520635050

Another friend’s four-bagger: https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2018/03/michael-hudson-trumps-travesty-protectionism.html

3/10

Michael Hudson’s observations above prompt speculation as to what Trump Tower might have coat had the steel used in its construction been subject to a 25% tariff. Of course, Der Dreckstuck would have taken any cost disadvantage out of the already-submarket wages of the undocumented Polish workers who built the building. 

Thanks, Naked Capitalism, for posting this: http://www.thebookoflife.org/the-secret-sorrows-of-over-achievers/

Good stuff here: http://crimereads.com/val-mcdermid-on-the-remarkable-rise-of-tartan-noir/

One cannot look – at least I can’t – at the history of this country without concluding that there is a real causal connection between what has been worst about us and our history and the omnipotent belief in the sanctity of property that lies at the heart of the American experiment.Whether that property is another human being or an AirBnB unit that violates one rule and regulation after another, matters not: Property rules. That is it. If yu don’t like it, well, go to war – which is what we were obliged to do in 1860. https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/03/what-airbnb-did-to-new-york-city/552749/?utm_source=nl__link1_030918&silverid=MzEwMTU3NDcxNjczS0

 

This article illuminates the distinction and suggests the cause/effect connection that links ignorance and stupidity: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/10/style/the-man-who-knew-too-little.html?emc=edit_ta_20180310&nl=top-stories&nlid=2476992&ref=cta

This is what I consider really good journalism: written to a point and written well: https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-curse-of-666-fifth-avenue-the-skyscraper-that-could-sink-the-kushners?via=newsletter&source=Weekend

Finally, as I pour another tequila and contemplate setting the clock ahead, this: http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/another-quandary/

3/11

Amen: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/opinion-mastromonaco-trump-blackmail_us_5aa1ab97e4b01b9b0a398ad4

Phenomena like Jordan Peterson interest me, although since I don’t do social media, I have only a vague idea of them and rely on online commentary like this: https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/a-messiah-cum-surrogate-dad-for-gormless-dimwits-on-jordan-b-petersons-12-rules-for-life/#!

Hard to argue with: https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/blockchain-technology-limited-applications-by-nouriel-roubini-and-preston-byrne-2018-03?utm_source=Project+Syndicate+Newsletter&utm_campaign=c44f3b5fc9-sunday_newsletter_11_3_2018&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_73bad5b7d8-c44f3b5fc9-93490385

No comment: https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2018/03/russian-connection-what-happened-moscow-inside-story-trump-obsession-putin-david-corn-michael-isikoff/

3/12

Amazing (thanks again, Tyler Cowen): http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2018/03/worlds-biggest-field-experiment.html

My own observations indicate there’s something to this. And this doesn’t take into account the self-generated (decency prevents me from using the descriptor “phony”) rates of return that many PE firms report to their investors.  http://prospect.org/article/national-security-agencies-have-spoken-private-equity-ownership-imperils-americaI can’t help thinking of today’s PE investors as “mullets,” the term we used in “the awl bidness” to characterize the people we inveigled into drilling deals. And I urge my friends to do as I do. Read http://marginalrevolution.com/ first thing every morning. 

No comment needed: https://niskanencenter.org/blog/tale-two-moralities-part-one-regional-inequality-moral-polarization/   Just imagine if America was governed according to the values on offer and on parade in Brooklyn, where the Clinton campaign foolishly, and with an astonishing display of  social and political tone-deafness, located its headquarters. Would the country be better off than it is with Dreckstuck in the White House? In the perceptual short-term, probably – certainly less cringe-making. But over the longer run? I’m just not so sure. 

Since I took myself off social media (except Instagram, where I follow only family and certain art-historical “‘Grammers”) I read Farhad Manjoo’s NYT  piece about absenting himself from infelicity with a high degree of agreement – notwithstanding that I feel there’s something “off” about the fellow. Well… https://www.cjr.org/analysis/farhad-manjoo-nyt-unplug.phpSo here’s the fun part, assuming this CJR report is accurate. Manjoo clearly delivered “fake news” that misled his readers. Will NYT  can him, as they should? They’re denying that Manjoo put out an untruth. Bullshit! 

Double Amen! https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-03-12/share-buybacks-work-better-in-theory-than-in-practice

3/13

Commentary on the “ignorance><bliss” correlation that deserves consideration: https://felix.substack.com/p/nota-bene-ignorance-is-bliss

From “the Browser” (bless ’em!) a fascinating story: https://www.buzzfeed.com/anthonycormier/felix-sater-trump-russia-undercover-us-spy?utm_term=.jgVzxKyE5#.nbv91GyJb

Dreckstuck is trumpeting that a GOP-dominated congressional committee has cleared the Trump campaign of any collusion with overseas internet meddlers. I’m puzzled: did Russia meddle – which the committee confirms – without any point? We have in place an administration that operates by coded winks and shrugs; collusion need not be noisy. 

Dreckstuck has announced that Tillerson is departing as Secretary of State. I’ve read somewhere that the White House is resisting efforts to pin the latest exotic poisoning, in the UK, on Russia. So is this why Tillerson got canned? (From The Guardian):   “The US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, said the attack “clearly came from Russia” and would have consequences. His remarks went further than those of prime minister, Theresa May, who told the House of Commons on Monday it was “highly likely” Russia was behind the attack.” Did Putin pick up the phone and order Dreckstuck to fire Tillerson or else…? Non-collusively, of course.

Further to Mr. Manjoo (above) this program note from WNYC’s “On the Media”:  “**Note: This program originally contained an interview with the New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo discussing an experiment in which he got his news only from print journalism and “unplugged from Twitter and other social networks” for two months. That interview was pulled after further reporting revealed that he did no such thing.**”

3/14

The Met Opera’s firing of James Levine strikes me as the worst sort of institutional exhibitionism. There have been rumors about Levine and young boys for as long as I can remember. Presumably Bing or Chapin should have taken him aside somewhere along the way and said “Jimmy, there’s a lot of whispering going on…” but of course back then people looked the other way. So why not let Levine resign, rather in the spirit of Edward VIII: “In the face of the rumors and innuendo…etc etc…I can’t do my job”? 

Dreckstuck appears to have taken it on the chops in PA. Those “epic crowds” he boasted of in Moon Township – EPIC CROWDS? MOON TOWNSHIP! – seemed to have forgotten to vote. Interesting he’s been tweetless on the matter – instead engaging in 140-character bloviation in typical gutless fashion of his fealty to and admiration for the Halls of Montezuma, as if one can acquire gallantry, or honesty, or bravery, or character – qualities unknown to, and undiscoverable in our current First Magistrate – simply by talking about them.