7/15. I usually find Trump-bewailing tiresome, but as a bill of particulars, this is pretty solid: http://www.thedailybeast.com/so-this-is-what-american-greatness-really-looks-like?via=newsletter&source=Weekend

More on my favorite subject: the idiot son who wants to be a player: https://thebaffler.com/latest/donald-trump-jr-schwartz


I find this fascinating. Not sure what it means – if anything: http://ritholtz.com/2017/07/where-the-cranes-are/

And this. Barry Ritholtz (The Big Picture) is certainly on his game this week: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-bots-beat-us-now-what/ I will show you fear in a handful of chips.

Posner was a year behind me at Yale and often pointed to on paths and in corridors as “the brightest man in the college.” http://abovethelaw.com/2017/07/judge-richard-posner-rips-on-scotus-oldsters-and-no-hes-not-a-troll/?rf=1

ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL: Hopefully this is accessible. https://www.wsj.com/articles/can-the-tech-giants-be-stopped-1500057243  Here’s a sample: Advertisers are critical not just of the duopoly itself but of the whole measurement system used by Google and Facebook to get paid. AdNews recently reported that the “viewability scores” for Facebook video ads are as low as 2% when compared with the standard used for TV ads. In other words, scrolling past an ad for as little as two seconds counts as a “view” for which Facebook charges, while for TV the whole 30-second ad must be viewed. Reminds me of the practice of Yale and other elite institutions to count as “alumni” persons who may have attended the school or college for as little as a single semester. Hence Trump house idiot Donnie Jr is listed as a Buckley alumnus, although vague flickerings in memory suggest that this is what’s called “positioned truth.”  Funnily enough, back in the late 1980s, after I wrote some insulting stuff about the Trump family’s Buckley shenanigans in the Observer, the school made me a non-person in the best Stalinist sense and cut me off from all alumni communications, functions etc., notwithstanding that my name is inscribed on a goodly portion of the trophies for this and that in the front hall. Only about ten years ago did it occur to me to call Buckley and rectify the situation.

THIS is what art history has degenerated into? And at Williams – where S. Lane Faison nurtured generations of great museum directors. http://www.basquiatdefacement.com/home



A good Monday sharpener: http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/boomerangski/ I especially like the characterization of Washington as “a matrix of rackets..”



Yesterday Netflix announced that its business is booming, although with very slim profit margins, and the stock promptly shot up 10% (it would be nice to know how much of this spike can fairly be attributed to algorithmic trading). The company has huge programming commitments going forward, which as I read the release, might involve $4-$6 billion the company doesn’t have and can’t reasonably be expected to generate – at least as I read the release. Seems fair to ask where that money will come from. I’m not the only one. https://www.bloomberg.com/gadfly/articles/2017-07-17/netflix-earnings-investors-watch-happily-as-money-pit-blazes?utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_term=170717&utm_campaign=sharetheview

I thought Dimon’s remarks were spot on, even though it was clear they were phrased so as not to infuriate the psychopathic asshole in the White House. Good comment by El-Erian: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-07-17/jamie-dimon-is-right-to-raise-the-alarm?utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_term=170717&utm_campaign=sharetheview  But frankly, for the first time in what is now starting to feel like too long a life, I despair we have gone past the point of no return in the stupidity, corruption and mindlessness department. My wife and I found this New Yorker piece absolutely terrifying in its import for the longer term. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/07/24/how-trump-is-transforming-rural-america    And let me say that I don’t lay all of this at Trump’s feet: “Cometh the hour, cometh the man” – and to “hour” add “Zeitgeist,” with overtones of Yeats’s “rough beast, his hour come at last” flavoring the mix. Obama paved the way for Trump or something like him. He fooled me and millions like me into believing that he really stood for something other than himself. As I say in Fixers, Obama too is a narcissist of the first water. That is a conclusion I am not allowed to articulate in this household, but I am certain of its validity.

An essential contribution from “Mathbabe”: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jul/16/how-can-we-stop-algorithms-telling-lies

Now for something truly important: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jul/15/which-is-greatest-jane-austen-novel-200-anniversary-of-death


Ah, modern life! Here’s the text of an email I sent to my wife and others yesterday:

Cannot tell you what I have been through with DirecTV today. I Started with their Moving department, they couldn’t help (reasons too complicated to spell out) so sent me to Customer Service, who couldn’t help either, who sent me to Tech Support – who sent me back to Moving! Talked to a nice woman there, but she couldn’t solve the tangle, and wanted to send me back to Customer Service, at which point I surrendered gracefully. FIOS here we come! I should add that DirecTV’s current TV advertising is all about how easy they make it to move!


My God! http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/07/21st-century-form-indentured-servitude-already-penetrated-deep-american-heartland.html For the life of me, given the way I was brought up and educated, I cannot understand this war being waged against the poor and unconnected by the wealthy and advantaged. There is a wonderful passage in James Fenimore Cooper’s The American Democrat (1838), a book that should – make that “must” – be read by every American who really does care about this country and its character, in which Cooper states that the first (that is, the primary) obligation of that American whom “the accidents of fortune” have raised to a position of privilege is to look out for the liberty of his fellow citizens, all of them.

No comment needed: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/07/18/to-my-fellow-plutocrats-you-can-cure-trumpism-215347


7/20 For this one gets a Nobel! https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/19/despot-disguise-democracy-james-mcgill-buchanan-totalitarian-capitalism



Today’s MUST: http://www.thedailybeast.com/when-will-republicans-learn-that-donald-trump-hates-them?via=newsletter&source=DDMorning


TheOpen Championship has my full attention. Looking at stuff pretty much between commercials.

But this has to be read. Posting it on Naked Capitalism, Jerri-Lynn Scofield asks why this had to be published on the other side of the Atlantic. Good question. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/21/media-war-trump-destined-fail Incidentally, I agree: the way the media has fastened on small stuff – this Russia business is ridiculous – only makes people have less respect for the media, and that includes me. I think the problem is that the hotshot reporters have all come out of journalism school, and of the wider world, and history know too little, if not nothing. It’s also the shortcoming of source-based journalism, where so much energy is spent flattering and protecting sources that important or interesting angles are missed or deliberately omitted.

Restores my faith in Yale: that at least something intellectually creative is going on there other than “trigger”-happy people screaming at one another. http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/middlemarch-gets-winningly-adapted-as-a-web-series

Interesting: http://www.themillions.com/2017/07/a-booksellers-elegy.html


Glued to Open Championship on TV.

But one thing I have been pondering is this business of landlords “earning” (as the media put it) more by keeping prime commercial vacant than if they rented the space at less than the market rate (realtyspeak for “maximum greedhead rent”). Obviously this is only possible if there are all sorts of tax breaks, subsidies and other fiddles – which you and I and other taxpayers pay for. Which in my mind raises the question why such neighborhood-blighting and demeaning vacancies aren’t taxed rather tax-sheltered? Which leads me to reflections on the various sociopathic tendencies fundamental to the landlord/developer mentality. But don’t get me started. It’s a nice Sunday and the game’s afoot!

Here’s Robert Shiller on Project Syndicate: In some cases, a city may be on its way to becoming a “great city,” and market forces should be allowed to drive out lower-income people who can’t participate fully in this greatness to make way for those who can. But, more often, a city with a high housing-price-to-income ratio is less a “great city” than a supply-constrained one lacking in empathy, humanitarian impulse, and, increasingly, diversity. And that creates fertile ground for dangerous animosities.  https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/real-estate-prices-housing-inequality-by-robert-j–shiller-2017-07?utm_source=Project+Syndicate+Newsletter&utm_campaign=1e93941972-sunday_newsletter_23_7_2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_73bad5b7d8-1e93941972-93490385

Fortunately, commercials allow for a bit of grazing. This is a subject that greatly interests me. http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/07/productivity-growth-becoming-irrelevant.html   A sample: Look around the economy, and it’s striking how much high-talent manpower is devoted to activities that cannot possibly increase human welfare, but entail competition for the available economic pie. Such activities have become ubiquitous: legal services, policing, and prisons; cybercrime and the army of experts defending organizations against it; financial regulators trying to stop mis-selling and the growing ranks of compliance officers employed in response; the huge resources devoted to US election campaigns; real-estate services that facilitate the exchange of already-existing assets; and much financial trading.

An excellent primer: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/14/globalisation-the-rise-and-fall-of-an-idea-that-swept-the-world

Well, the Open is over, with Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar, two of the classiest – maybe the classiest – guys in golf finishing 1 and 2. A great tournament – and a reminder that there is still, somewhere in the world, “class” that is not defined by getting and spending, as noisily and visibly as possible. With real talent to go along with it.

Two worthwhile closing notes:



See you next week (tomorrow). This move makes me understand how Eisenhower felt organizing D-Day.