4/14-4/24/18….

4/14

The land of the free: https://view.email.fortune.com/?qs=c17e7d63f5877b3e91a2888a967dcf74f5f69f0797f964f4554625cefe35c53ef0aee53927b6d1c47380121659f0029e84aa410acf298e54905268764476b9505cf405141fa50c33What “they” say must really be true. The only people interested in going into politics are either crooked (Dreckstuck, leaders of Congress) or too stupid to do anything else.

4/16

I let the weekend slip by and there’s a bunch of things to catch up on.  Let’s start with this commonsensical commentary on Facebook by Gerry Stiebel, a New York art dealer ( and a very good one!) now based mainly in Santa Fe. He asks the right question. I mean – look! – nobody apart from yourself and your ego, id etc. forces or drives you to post on FB. I never put on anything that I wouldn’t happily express to the person on the adjacent barstool. Or in print when I had columns at Manhattan Inc and The New York Observer. But I have issues of self-control when it comes to curiosity, and for me the problem was that once started I couldn’t stop. Not couldn’t stop posting. but couldn’t stop hopping from one lily pad to another, usually simply to see how far and in how many varieties human stupidity, showing-off, tastes etc. could find expression. It became an intolerable waste of time and attention. Twitter was even stupider, and carried triviality – my conviction that the internet gives millions with nothing to say a place to say it – out past the darkest star. Anyway, here’s Gerry Stiebel: http://www.geraldstiebel.com/2018/04/facebook.html

https://www.alternet.org/why-racist-america-cant-stop-fighting-civil-war?src=newsletter1091067Work of this quality is why I’ve added AlterNet to my “Must” list. On this particular topic, what really happened after Appomattox, I found Chernow’s Grant a complete eye-opener and have put Richard White’s The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896 (Oxford History of the United States) at the top of my list.

Sometimes my computer goes all weird on me and with a terrible rattling drags digital skeletons out of some closet tucked away on the hard drive. Here’s why Dominick Dunne stopped speaking to me. It appeared in Spectator  in 1989. Rereading it after almost thirty years obliges me to confess that my pen was dipped in envy as much as vitriol:  

Keys that turn in too many locks

Michael M. Thomas
PEOPLE LIKE US by Dominick Dunne
Sidgwick & Jackson, f12.95, pp.403
It is difficult to judge what a British reader will make of this novel of New York manners or lack of them. In America, its bestsellerdom was assured by a very artful pre-publication publicity campaign de- signed to pre-empt any consideration of the book on its merits. Not once, but twice, first through an ‘unaccountable’ leak of `purloined’ pages to a fashion weekly, then through provision of a somewhat revised MS (earlier, biting characterisations are believed to have been ameliorated) to the city’s leading gossip columnist, prospective readers were tantalised with a gossipy `Who’s Who’ of real-life prototypes for the dramatis personae. Whether the `hook’ of gossip about a group of well-known, well- fixed but in the main way of things inconse- quential New Yorkers having lunch together will snare London readers seems on the face of it questionable. To put the matter another way, is there a London audience ready to pay, so to speak, 95p for the roman and £12 for the clef — which strikes me as a reasonable apportionment of the novel’s price between its literary and tabloid virtues?
The matter of the book is familiar: the comings and goings of a social set — united by enormous wealth, mainly new, and a desire to go out in society, in which some are rising, some falling, and others simply trying to stay abreast — seeking what Fitzgerald in Gatsby called ‘the comforting proximity of other millionaires’.
The evisceration of these in a novel is surely a worthwhile task, but it has its risks. Truman Capote did it, motivated, it seems, more by self-destruction than an obsession with literary or moral truth, and paid for the resulting obloquy and ostrac- ism with his mental health and, ultimately, his life.
For all the talk in the tabloids, Dunne’s view is not nearly so tough. His roughest punches are the literary equivalent of what is elsewhere known as `beating up on the cripple’. With the big, juicy targets, he hedges his bets. That is the problem with the roman a clef as a literary form, and why perhaps Edith Wharton, who knew how to write about New York society best of all, described such novels as the lowest form of fiction. I would not go quite that far, but very definitely the form has limitations which require an extra leap of moral and artistic imagination; otherwise no involve- ment, no bonfire, if you will, is kindled in the reader’s mind. Genius can transform a Sadleir into Merdle, or Charles Haas into Swami, fully-realised creatures of the im- agination cut loose from their prototypes; lacking that genius, the characterisations must stay pretty close to the bone, or lose their reality and thus their point.
While Dunne has invested many of his characters with the triviality I know most of them to possess in the flesh, triviality left to its own devices soon degenerates into sheer boringness, a muddled hash of de- tails. Take Dunne’s Elias Renthal who, with his wife Ruby, storms the citadels of fashionable society and then is disgraced. Elias Renthal seems physically to suggest Sotheby’s proprietor Alfred Taubman, with hints — by reference to certain possessions, such as the famous Sargent from Londonderry House — of Henry Kravis and Saul Steinberg, and these are all men of power and moment and display, and at the centre of things, socially speak- ing, or so the newspapers say, but in the end Renthal goes to gaol for the sins of Ivan Boesky, who never — but never went out in society. Thus is created a basis of identification which transforms one of us Into a stock figure of them. Thus are the fangs of the novel’s notional social criticism pulled. A roman a clef must at the very least engage its audience and outrage its targets with its specificity; what we have here are characters that are diffuse walking mosaics of other people’s attributes: often in terms of their possessions as much as their personalities, a la Judith Krantz.
For some, it undoubtedly helps to be told that loelia Manchester’ is probably the mining heiress Annette Reed rendered blonde, or that man-about-town connois- seur Jamesey Crocus ‘is’ man-about-town connoisseur-scholar John Richardson. The trouble is they aren’t. The Loelia of the Page is a whingeing bore; the real-life Original is a bright and lively riot. When Jamesey Crocus speaks of art, he does so with an expertise and eloquence that the average cow in the field would find simplis- tic. Some portraits are closer to home. The Butterfield, the swank men’s club to which Renthal is admitted by WASP patri- cians grateful for stock-market tips, may Possess the Knickerbocker Club’s stair- case, but otherwise it more closely resem- bles the Brook, which used to be a good club, but now consists principally of men who seem to be trying to sell each other life-insurance.
The social rise and fall of the Renthals, the death of an old money son and heir from Aids, and the tale of his own vengeance on the murderer of his daughter are the principal storylines from which the laundry is hung. The novel is narrated, in a manner of speaking, by Gus Bailey, a man-about-meals journalist who is very like Dominick Dunne himself; indeed Bailey seems to be the only character to whom more than the most cursory autho- rial consideration has been given. The revenge leitmotif is poignant if you know Dunne, whose own story it is, but while I don’t consider its use here as shameless exploitation, as did one American review- er, its point in this tangled web seems conjectural. There’s a great deal of busy- work here, often to little effect. The book lacks the narrative drive of Dunne’s earlier novel, The Two Mrs Grenvilles, although there the writer had the advantage of having his plot provided by fact and by Truman Capote.
And so it goes throughout the book. There is simply not one character about whom it is possible to care one way or the other.
Every now and then the book descends to depths which, since no literary point is made, I find morally offensive. Let the book speak for itself.
In Paris, attractive Greeks had always en- joyed a popularity, because, as Bijou McCord Thomopolous, the great hostess, who had married several Greeks, said, ‘They are such wonderful dancers, and they know how to treat their women.’
This last assertion, pace High Life, will come as a revelation to several women of my acquaintance. These citations also give an idea of the style in which the novel is written. Consid- er this:
Justine was fastidious about herself, not only in her neatness of grooming, but in the care of her body, which always carried the expen- sive scents of deodorants, and bath oil, and powder, and perfume.
It is difficult to reconcile prose on this level with the lucid, workmanlike style of the essays under his name in Vanity Fair with which Dunne has become celebrated as a chronicler and analyst of America’s top people.
Still, stylistic crudeness, not to mention unspeakable editorial slovenliness (on p.187, ‘the final of the nineteen coats of persimmon lacquer . . .’ becomes, a mere eleven lines below, `. . . the twentieth and final coat . . .’) can be overlooked if harnessed to vision and passion, although it helps, as in the case of Proust and Mrs Wharton, if the prose is as elegant as the banlieue.
In another passage, “…a workman, Julio Martinez . . . fell (nine stories) to the ground. As if aware of the exclusiveness of the neighbourhood he uttered no sound as he plunged to his death.”
Perhaps this is meant as a joke, but — as I found myself obliged to ponder over and over again — I don’t, in the end, think it is, not if in the author’s voice. What does strike me as a joke is a generalisation like this: skilful novelist of high manners, Gore Vidal correctly observed that to portray a class accurately from within must consti- tute a form of betrayal. People Like Us resounds with pulled punches, muted jibes, inexpensive shots at stereotypes (the WASP patrician too feckless to grieve for her dying son; lower orders, servants and workmen, who are without exception Puerto Rican). To write effectively of people like these, the writer must have filed for divorce from them and shown us that he intends to make it stick, even if a few regrets attend his leavetaking. That does not seem to be the case here.
Michael M. Thomas writes The Midas Watch,’ a weekly column in The New York Observer and is the author of four novels.
Now: back to the real world. I expect people are talking about “60 Minutes”‘ report yesterday on Allegiant Air. Based on reports of in-air and on-ground malfunctions, Allegiant must have the most offhanded maintenance procedures of any airline. They must have the greatest pilots in the world, however, because the airline has never had a fatality, despite all the stuff that’s gone on. And the plane Allegiant flies, the MD-80, must be as tough as its workhorse ancestor, the Douglas (that’s the “D” in “MD”) DC-3. No fatal crashes in the airline’s 20-year history (same as Jet Blue, regarded as the gold standard), and on top of that, based on the people Steve Kroft interviewed for the segment, Allegiant would appear to have the fattest passenger loads going. I wonder whether Allegiant’s “in spite of” safety record may have something to do with a budget-minded management’s reluctance to invest in the kind of fancy “fly-by-wire” technology that can go tragically haywire (no pun intended). Steve’s interview with John Duncan, head of the FAA’s Flight Standards division, was amazing. Duncan sure sounded like a guy who’s in the pocket of a member of Congress who in turn is in the pocket of Allegiant or its lobbyists. A web search reveals that Washington Post  was on this story two years ago: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/allegiant-air-with-ultra-low-fares-draws-faas-attention-over-safety-concerns/2016/09/01/08c0f202-28f5-11e6-ae4a-3cdd5fe74204_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.f46b5f191921
Comey vs. Trump. Yet another iteration of Oscar Wilde’s famous characterization of fox-hunting: “The unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable.” 
Late last week, we saw the Royal Shakespeare Company production of King Lear, starring Anthony Sher. We liked it enormously; NYT’s Elizabeth Vincetelli, a critic I respect, not so much. Lear is often played basso profondo tragico, infused with sorrow and the notion that here is a larger-than-life mortal brought low by his own failings. This production is, well, lighter, less grave. From the outset, Lear is obviously not thinking clearly, which isn’t the same as early-onset dementia or Alzheimer’s, and his mind becomes more confused and helpless as the action proceeds. In a way it’s like a poker game in which the player with the money doesn’t understand the game as well as the other bettors. 
On Saturday, thanks to my stepson Mickey, I was led to a Henry St. hole in the wall, Lillo, where I enjoyed as noble a cacio e pepe as could be imagined: sublime down to the last flake of cheese and peppercorn. The sort of place that exists by the dozens in Italy: think of a food cart without wheels. Five-star. 
4/17
Saw “Coney Island” Cosi fan tutte at the Met last night.Musical values terrific – especially the blending of the two pairs of voices – but as usual at Lincoln Center, far too much stage busyness – which is tiring to watch. One of our quartet wasn’t feeling well, so we left after one act, but that sufficed for a most pleasant evening, including dinner and dessert at Grand Tier restaurant.
4/18
Turning 82 today. God help us! 
4/19
A lovely birthday meal en famille  last night at Meadowsweet.
A few posts ago, I mentioned Richard White’s The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896 (Oxford History of the United States) as on the top of my reading list. I’ve gotten into the book, and it is extraordinary; the parallels between the era of Reconstruction/Gilded Age and today are breathtaking. A must for anyone interested in seriously considering how we are today and we got here. And yet (p.59): “It never occurred to the vast majority of Americans that property was beyond public regulation or control or that its use should be left solely to private arrangements.”

The swine are circling the sties: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/04/19/giuliani-to-join-trump-legal-team-538371

4/20

Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-20/hedge-fund-titans-pull-money-from-funds-to-pay-massive-tax-bills

I’m interested in the gender-pay-gap issue because I have a slightly different take on how pay differentials became what we might call a “human resources culture.” Back around 1970, when I was co-head of the corporate finance department at Lehman Brothers, I decided we should add women to our investment-banking strength. This was not an initiative to which our senior partners reacted favorably. After all, these were men 50 and older, for whom it was an article of faith that a woman’s place was by the stove, planning that night’s dinner with “Cook” or waiting by the phone to be available for a little cinq a sept action. To them the idea of sending a young woman to make new business calls in, say, Texas or Los Angeles, was truly mind-boggling. To convince them to go along, I argued (and here I am not making a sexist pun) we could get more bang for our buck, in that it was a given that we could pay newly-minted female MBAs a bit less than their male counterparts. My argument carried the day, and what was a hiring gambit pretty quickly hardened into policy.  Within five years, I was gone from LB and could have no further influence in this matter.  

 

 

 

4/5-4/13/18…..

4/5

Thanks, Browser, for this great piecehttp://www.austinmonthly.com/AM/April-2018/God-Save-Austin-Lawrence-Wright/

Been watching “Billions”: it’s become a really good show. 

On the other hand, the new Tiger Woods book is a zero. Gives new resonance to the epithet “journeyman.” 

 

4/6

Makes sense: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-04-03/silicon-valley-and-washington-are-now-in-

charge

4/7

Friends in the hospitality industry in NYC are very concerned abut this: https://www.eater.com/2018/3/23/17109608/airbnb-short-term-rentals-new-orleans-neighborhood-restaurants

Terrific Stuff! https://www.wsj.com/articles/when-keynes-played-art-buyer-1522422454

The way we cruise now. In 1055-56 I crossed on the Constitution and Independence. now this: http://www.wired.co.uk/article/ms-symphony-of-the-seas-royal-caribbean-largest-cruise-ship

4/8

Today’s NYT has a front page story on the vulturization of The Denver Post by a NYC hedge fund called Alden Global Capital. In typical fashion, NYT  tiptoes around the story, exuding high-minded virtue like Old Spice, but dodges the essential bullet: who the hell is Alden Global Capital? The sort of thing that makes me wonder if the Alden people are tight with the Sulzbergers.  Fortunately, Bloomberg’s Joe Nocera, a good and gutty writer-reporter, supplies the stuff NYT should have: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-03-26/alden-global-capital-s-business-model-destroys-newspapers-for-little-gain

4/9

“Gosh Dad, if you make me take Professor Auden’s course I’ll have to give up the webinar in Gucci,” (lament of a Brown sophomore): https://www.chronicle.com/article/The-Hardest-Course-in-the/242896?key=HnRoS7rGU2F1XrEi2rMQqrwppoXgIr2IjPSPFLl4HVIE1frNERzrIPfrUG_b1dn6MnVXVnp5UlpoWWRPN3FBMkpHaXROZ3JnOTB2WWc3a1RxSG9ld01hRjhDMA

A useful survey that makes a good point. I got off FB because I lost tolerance for the stupidity and triviality on offer, but I can see that for many, leaving aside personal tics, FB is a business and social necessity. My novel Fixers probably might have done better if I’d promoted it more astutely on social media. https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/04/deletefacebook-or-not-deletefacebook-not-question

Inevitably, this: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2018/apr/08/captain-america-patrick-reed-mastersOK, Reed isn’t the physical type the “patrons” go for; he walks with a bit of a waddle; is a regular “chubby cheeks.” But he can flat out play. This Masters opened Sunday with the strongest Top Twenty I can remember. Reed hung in there and made the shots he had to make. This Guardian piece fails to mention that the “finger to the lips” incident (sic) occurred after Reed dropped a longish birdie putt on top of one McIlroy had just made in their famous Ryder Cup mano a mano, which sent the gallery into an uproar that Reed’s gesture quelled: “…But one scornful look from Casey and the multitude was awed.” Never forget that the game’s great idol, with Palmer gone, is now Nicklaus – who when he came out, a fat kid who could play, whom Arnie’s Army resented and made that animus known.  Throw this into the mix: http://www.golf.com/knockdown/2018/04/08/masters-patrick-reed-estranged-family-complex-mix-emotions?utm_source=Subscribers&utm_campaign=a20c4f4be9-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_04_09&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28a08c87c2-a20c4f4be9-149972881

So whither Farhad Manjoo? Not seen in NYT since his purported (but NOT!) disconnect from social media and other things back in early March. It would seem that the paper of record has caused its star tech columnist to disappear – either banished forever or relegated to witness protection of a sort until it’s OK to reemerge. 

Good rock-and-hard-place stuff: https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/04/06/hill-and-dons-honduran-caravan/

I may have to take up this practice. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/library-mystery-scotland-old-people-books?utm_source=Atlas+Obscura+Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=ef1d40f4de-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_04_09&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f36db9c480-ef1d40f4de-63378865&ct=t(EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_4_9_2018)&mc_cid=ef1d40f4de&mc_eid=52a8ddceb0

“Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me, the old saying goes. So, tread carefully through the minefields of propaganda laid for the credulous in such low organs as The New York Times. There are excellent reasons to suppose that the American Deep State wishes strenuously to keep meddling all around the Middle East. The record so far shows that the blunt instruments of US strategic policy produce a consistent result: failed states.” Ironically, I made this very point to Madam before reading the foregoing in Kunstler: http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/state-of-failure/

4/10

Working on my memoir – finally.

Indeed, indeed: https://nypost.com/2018/04/10/yet-more-evidence-of-de-blasios-corruption/

So f*****g what! http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/04/09/the-troubled-truth-behind-masters-champ-far-more-revealing-than-packaged-pageantry/KkKi7l635MlJRo7s0vaIJM/story.html?s_campaign=breakingnews:newsletter

4/11

To quote a woman who makes matches for billionaires: It all depends on how discrete you want us to be, how much travelling you want me to do, how much of my team you need. The more tailored you want it — the more we charge. A lot of people need to be hand held and we’ll look after them from start to finish.” I guess spelling doesn’t count. http://www.businessinsider.com/how-billionaires-date-according-to-an-elite-matchmaker-2018-4?nr_email_referer=1&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_content=StrategySelect&pt=385758&ct=Sailthru_BI_Newsletters&mt=8&utm_campaign=BI%20Strategy%202018-04-11&utm_term=Strategy%20Select

4/13

At BAM last night, we saw “King Lear” Anthony Sher. I rate it among the best “Lears” I’ve seen (which in recent years include Plummer, Jacobi and McKellen). Sher shows Lear descending into dementia for the very beginning, as opposed to being driven mad in the course of the action. Very convincing. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2/26/ – 3/6/18….

2/26

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/

2/28

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). 

3/1

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.  

3/2

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

3/3

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.”

3/4

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. 

3/5

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2/15/18-2/25/18…

2/15

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

2/16

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

2/17

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? 

2/18

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.  

2/19

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

2/20

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.)

2/21

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

2/22

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

2/23

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

2/24

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. 

2/25

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/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2/1-2/14/18….

2/1

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

2/2

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

2/3

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. 

2/5

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:

 http://wallstreetonparade.com/2018/02/kochtopus-wants-the-little-guy-to-buy-stocks-as-the-market-plunges/

http://wallstreetonparade.com/2018/02/as-sec-chairs-family-grows-rich-from-corporate-secrecy-firm-u-s-named-2-facilitator-of-illicit-money/

http://wallstreetonparade.com/2018/01/wall-streets-top-cop-cant-shake-money-ties-to-mysterious-firm/

 

2/6

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! 

2/7

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

2/8

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.

2/9

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

2/10

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?

2/11

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.”

2/12

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

2/13

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

2/14

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1/22-1/31/18….

1/22

Let’s start here. The more one looks at the evidence, the more plausible seem my suppositions, in Fixers,  about the moral character of the Obama administration: http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/blow-back/   Is it conceivable that Obama may have been as fixated on/afraid of Hillary as Der Trumpf is? That’s the thing about the Clintons. Even if it (perhaps) seems they aren’t, they’re always up to something.  Like dogs spraying a hydrant, they infuse any sphere they’re operating in with a miasma of mistrust. They’re never down for the count. 

1/23

Yesterday was a busy art day. Lunch with my old friend Marco Grassi, the restorer-dealer, who’s recovering from serious surgery, and then to the Metropolitan Museum for a tour of the great exhibition of Michelangelo drawings, our guide being the brilliant Carmen Bambach who conceived and executed what is surely one of the great exhibitions of my 60+ art-going years. Here’s a hint, though. This exhibition is almost too much, so reserve two or three visits, and make these as early in your day as possible, before the noisy hubbub of NYC life saps your powers of attention and your ability to see. If you can get the use of a forklift, study the catalogue.

Also from the art world: this is transcendently stupid: https://www.artsjournal.com/culturegrrl/2018/01/pay-to-play-maezawa-sponsors-brooklyn-museum-show-of-his-110-5-million-basquiat.html    How this blogger gets any attention is a mystery to me. Squeaking wheel, I guess.

From a smart guy: https://causeandeffect.fm/oxfams-excellent-inequality-report-1822314028

1/24

Every now and then, a book by a first-time writer receives so much in the way of critical attention and immediate commercial success that I spend a little Kindle money to see what the fuss is all about. The latest comet is a suspense novel called The Woman in the Window by (pseudonym) A.J.Finn. Right to the top of NYT bestseller lists. Well, don’t waste your money. There’s really nothing original and compelling about this book except the depth and variety of its ponderous, repetitive and yet overwrought mediocrity. Perhaps ominously, it comes with an AMZ blurb from Gillian Flynn whose own Gone Girl enjoyed similar supernova success but turned out to be a complete cheat (the champion in this department remains Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent). Interestingly, Flynn gushes that she’d like to share a bottle or two of pinot with Finn – when we are told on practically every page that the narrator’s (and presumably the author’s) tipple of choice is Merlot. It does make one wonder how close attention the blurbist paid. 

This makes sense. Not that it has a chance in hell of happening, given human nature and the American ignorance: http://www.businessinsider.com/henry-blodget-better-capitalism-1-2018?nr_email_referer=1&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_content=FinanceDaily&utm_campaign=Post%20Blast%20%28clusterstock%29:%20What%20you%20need%20to%20know%20on%20Wall%20Street%20today&utm_term=Finance%20Insider%20-%20Engaged%2C%20Active%2C%20Passive%2C%20Disengaged

Well, this is interesting. From a 1956 Paris Review interview with Dorothy Parker (courtesy of The Browser):  “Being in a garret doesn’t do you any good unless you’re some sort of a Keats. The people who lived and wrote well in the 20’s were comfortable and easy-living. They were able to find stories and novels, and good ones, in conflicts that came out of two million dollars a year, not a garret. As for me, I’d like to have money. And I’d like to be a good writer. These two can come together, and I hope they will, but if that’s too adorable, I’d rather have money. I hate almost all rich people, but I think I’d be darling at it. At the moment, however, I like to think of Maurice Baring’s remark: “If you would know what the Lord God thinks of money, you have only to look at those to whom he gives it.” I realize that’s not much help when the wolf comes scratching at the door, but it’s a comfort.” When I first encountered that aphorism about God and money, it was attributed to Ms.Parker, and I’ve continued the error. Now I learn that Maurice Baring (whose Have You Anything to Declare? is the greatest of commonplace books) originated the remark. It’s funny: to stand corrected at a ripe old age feels great! 

This Frank Bruni column perfectly supports my contention, long held, that pundits ought to be licensed like drivers, piling up penalty points for the punditical equivalent of moving violations like fatuousness, rhetorical flatulence, pomposity and so on, until a number is reached that results in suspension of license, possibly even permanently. The Patriots – and I’m a Patriot admirer but not a fan – do not field prima donnas and generally speaking keep their individual and collective mouths shut. They represent a triumph of discipline, organization, continuity and staff work. If, off the field, Brady and Kraft speak well of Der Trumpf, it’s probably because they’ve had their fill of assholes like Frank Bruni who think opinion equals knowledge. I know I have. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/23/opinion/patriots-super-bowl.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fopinion&action=click&contentCollection=opinion&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=6&pgtype=sectionfront1/25

1/25

These are the sorts of places in which one encounters the sort of people who use the word “exclusive.”  https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-25/why-private-member-clubs-are-booming   They are about as exclusive as the credit cards their members use to settle their accounts. Odd, exclusivity (sic): when Cameron was PM, the press liked to say that he was the only person ever to resign from White’s. Wrong. The proprietor/author of this website did just that in the 1990s.  In my view, “exclusive” designates clubs from which I’ve resigned, like The Brook (for admitting Kissinger), White’s (for general assholery) and another (unnamed) club that I call “the world capital of self-congratulation” that rejected my resignation. 

1/26

Around the turn of the 20th century, an Oxford professor named John Alexander Smith concluded the prefatory lecture in his course on Moral Philosophy with the observation that what his students were about to learn would be of no practical use whatsoever to men headed for the City, the Bar, the Military or the Civil Service “save only this: that if you work hard and attentively, at the end of this course you will have a very good idea of when another man is talking rot – and that in my view is the main if not the sole purpose of education.” Smith’s remarks come back to me whenever I read about “social media addiction,” which really seems to be a thing – as today’s parlance puts it. It must be two years now since I shut down Facebook and Twitter and I don’t miss them for a second, a fact (and it is just that!) that I put down to an education that taught me to prefer the mindful to the mindless. I still look at Instagram, but I limit my exposure to me immediate family and a very few friends: all strictly personal.  

From POLITICO: 

“The 2016 Supreme Court ruling in the corruption case of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell narrowed the definition of what constitutes an “official act” under federal bribery laws – concluding that public officials setting up meetings, calling other public officials or hosting events in exchange for gifts, favors or donations did not meet the threshold.

The Court’s decision came several months after federal prosecutors began their investigation into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fundraising practices, and months before those prosecutors ultimately decided not to bring any charges against either de Blasio or his aides, not because they’d found no evidence of quid pro quo, but because of both the high burden of proof they faced, and the difficulty of proving corruption without “evidence of personal profit.”

Which could explain why, over the course of the last year, two donors to de Blasio’s campaign efforts have pleaded guilty to bribery of the mayor’s office, even after no charges have been filed against anyone in the mayor’s office. The first was Jona Rechnitz, who has said he donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the mayor’s campaigns and causes in exchange for access to de Blasio, which he certainly got. And earlier this week, Long Island restaurateur Harendra Singh’s guilty plea in another case was unsealed, showing he pleaded guilty to donating to de Blasio in exchange for help from the city, in the form of meetings arranged and calls made as he sought to renew a lease on a waterfront restaurant.

It’s worth noting the donations and the meetings that donors pleaded guilty to in their respective quid pro quo schemes all took place before the Supreme Court made its determination that those actions weren’t criminal under federal bribery laws. De Blasio has insisted that he and his aides “acted in a manner that was legal and appropriate and ethical throughout.” Former Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim, the prosecutor who announced charges wouldn’t be filed against de Blasio and who recently left the office after a nomination was made to replace him, took the rare step of issuing what appeared to be a public rebuke to the mayor in the pages of a newspaper last week, calling on the mayor to hold himself to higher standards. “As a private citizen, I certainly hope that a decision by a prosecutor not to bring criminal charges is not the standard that we should expect from our leaders.””

Information, please: what is the moral distinction between what de Blasio’s people did and what Der Trumpf’s are constantly accused of? This is the problem today. Much as I loathe Der Trumpf and what he stands for and whom he speaks for, his opposition ranges from the morally degraded (Hillary, De Blasio) to the utterly impractical (Soros in Davos).  

Farewell to a really good guy: https://www.dallasnews.com/arts/visual-arts/2018/01/23/dallas-art-historian-philanthropist-william-jordan-died-77

Two articles about Jordan Peterson, whom I hadn’t known about – but sign me up!  Neither article will appear in The Nation. Peggy Noonan:  https://www.wsj.com/articles/whos-afraid-of-jordan-peterson-1516925574   Chronicle of Higher Education (thanks to New Criterion):  https://www.chronicle.com/article/what-s-so-dangerous-about/242256

Watch out below! http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/happy-landings/

1/27

Sidney, thou shouldst be living at this hour! https://www.vanityfair.com/news/1997/04/The-Man-Who-Kept-The-Secrets  What a pair Korshak and Der Trumpf would have made, especially if Roy Cohn had been added to the mix!

Finally located the rebuttal to the extremely stupid attack (posted above on 1/23) on Brooklyn Museum’s upcoming display of a Basquiat by Lee Rosenbaum (aka “culturegrrl”): https://news.artnet.com/market/the-gray-market-how-to-run-an-acid-test-on-museum-scandals-and-other-insights-1203194?utm_content=from_&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Saturday%20newsletter%20for%201%2F27%2F18&utm_term=artnet%20News%20Daily%20Newsletter%20USE

No, s***, Sherlock! The limitless corruptibility of social media: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/01/27/technology/social-media-bots.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=photo-spot-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news 

This is from a 1903 review of Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth (thanks to Lithub.com) No comment needed. Nothing changes: “To a normal observer the most pitiable figures in life are the well-bred, impecunious hangers-on of the rich. What life must theirs be! What a sacrifice of self-respect! What an effacement of individuality, of pride, of honor! What a life of lies! And all in order to lie soft and fare well at others’ expense; to live in the limelight, and possibly gain some permanent material advantage or connection.”

Understood. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/01/26/donald-trump-twitter-addiction-216530    It does occur to me that if the media would stop using Der Trumpf’s tweets “as hooks for stories,” we’d all be better off. The more we reduce the size of the congregation to whom Der Trumpf preaches, the less widespread the importance the press bestows on these utterances, the more he’ll be isolated: just him and his base, howling at the moon. It’s OK for the media to read this garbage, just don’t report it. It’s not news. 

1/28

Read and – if you own the stuff – weep: https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/why-bitcoin-is-a-bubble-by-nouriel-roubini-2018-01?utm_source=Project+Syndicate+Newsletter&utm_campaign=376e4a8ce7-sunday_newsletter_28_1_2018&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_73bad5b7d8-376e4a8ce7-93490385

Very interesting to watch a notion gain traction. Still, to paraphrase the famous line from Julius Caesar: “The fault, my fellows, is not in the software but in ourselves.” https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/internet-platform-monopoly-threats-by-roger-mcnamee-2018-01?utm_source=Project+Syndicate+Newsletter&utm_campaign=376e4a8ce7-sunday_newsletter_28_1_2018&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_73bad5b7d8-376e4a8ce7-93490385

No comment needed, apart from the observation by Naked Capitalism (where I found this post):  “But that is America’s task, not the world’s. The world’s task is this. Should the world follow the American model — extreme capitalism, no public investment, cruelty as a way of life, the perversion of everyday virtue — then these new social pathologies will follow, too. They are new diseases of the body social that have emerged from the diet of junk food — junk media, junk science, junk culture, junk punditry, junk economics, people treating one another and their society like junk — that America has fed upon for too long.” I especially like the phrase “cruelty as a way of life,” which perfectly describes the 30-year-war waged against the poor by the rich and bribable. https://eand.co/why-were-underestimating-american-collapse-be04d9e55235

Every six months or so, someone publishes an article about how we’ve gotten Adam Smith wrong, or distorted his true views, or otherwise traduced him intellectually. This one (thanks, Barry Ritholtz) strikes me as really very good: https://aeon.co/essays/we-should-look-closely-at-what-adam-smith-actually-believed 

1/29

I think Der Trumpf has maneuvered the Dems into a corner. To me, it’s even money whether Russia played the Trump card on Twitter and in social media because they think he’s an idiot, or they think he’s a potential ally – and he could be a combination of both. What we used to call “a useful idiot.” I think the “collusion” charge is bullshit. He seems to be dialing back the “Fire and Fury” now that he’s got the opposition sputtering and clutching their pearls. This guy has gotten away with the s*** he’s gotten away with by being a devious, bullying negotiator (sic) utterly without scruple. Deflection is always the name of the game: get the other side focused on the immaterial, marginal, provocative stuff while you clean out the cash register, 

I agree (from NYT via Politico): “The Subway Is Next Door. Should New Yorkers Pay Extra For That?” – New York Times’s James Barron: “Today, with the subway in precipitous decline and the city enjoying an economic boom, some policymakers think the time has come for the subway to profit from the financial benefits it provides, including its considerable contribution to property values. Proponents point to the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where co-op and condominium prices in a 10-block stretch near the Second Avenue subway have risen 6 percent since it opened in January 2017, according to figures from the Corcoran Group, a large real estate firm. In Manhattan’s main business corridors, from 60th Street south, the benefit of being near a subway adds $3.85 per square foot to the value of commercial property, according to calculations by two New York University economists. 

– The notion that property owners should pay extra for their proximity to the subway is called “value capture” and has long been debated in urban planning circles. Now Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo , a Democrat, has made value capture a prominent part of his plan to salvage the subway system by proposing to give the Metropolitan Transportation Authority the power to designate “transit improvement subdistricts” and impose taxes. The plan’s final contours are a long way off and would need legislative approval. But at a moment when the subway is facing its worst crisis in decades, there is a growing consensus that property owners should shoulder more of the cost of a subway system that has nourished their bottom lines.”

My friend Yves Smith, founder-proprietor-moving spirit of the indispensable website Naked Capitalism has written this post that asks a lot of questions about The Way We Live Now that have for some time perplexed me, mainly connected to the issue of why we all seem so unattached. I suspect it has to do something with the primacy of social-mediaworthy “experiences” over any other form of human activity and self-validation: when everyone’s haring off in search of some personalized excitement that can be exhibited on, say, Instagram, where’s the “glue” that’s supposed to bind us? https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2018/01/anything-working-less-not-solve.html

I give up! https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-great-bookshelf-debate-of-2018-spine-in-or-out-1517167114

1/30

Worth thinking about. I admire Joseph Stiglitz, but this citation epitomizes the self-defeating pointlessness of knee-jerk (with an accent aigu on “jerk”) anti-Trumpism. https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2018/01/ilargi-shithouses.html

For whom would you vote? I’m thinking about my choices. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/01/25/the-five-most-important-public-intellectuals-in-america-today/?utm_term=.0359d399c3ed

Brooklyn should consider this, adjusted of course for demographic skews. Anyone dressed in a way that proclaims assholism will have his garb confiscated: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2018/01/solve-dutch-equilibrium.html

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Not in a million years! https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-01-31/facebook-really-wants-you-to-come-back