Critiques & Commentary

Welcome to Midas Watch – A Mission Statement

For the last two or three years, I’ve used FB as a sort of blog, sounding- and bulletin-board and forum. I posted stuff I thought my friends might be interested in reading and thinking about. But I’ve grown sick of FB in almost every way. I’m sick of the intrusions: the ads, the puffery, the come-ons. I’m sick of the dialogue, the trolling, the cloying compliments, the unremitting delectations of the self-evident and the obvious. So I’ve decided to launch this website. If you’re looking for me, here’s where I’ll be.

I’ve given this website the title of the column I wrote from October 1987 until early 2009 for The New York Observer. Certain principles abide. I started by what the Brits call “taking a view,” and so I plan to continue. As I saw it, we had entered a new Gilded Age, dominated by what I thought of as “the Overclass”, a money-based oligarchy that was despoiling the public and private institutions of the country .  This Overclass was exhibitionistic, ruthless, shameless, solipsistic, humorless, with little concern for the sensibility or situation of those less plugged in. If you spoke to these people of noblesse oblige, you were greeted with a look that combined moral blankness and contempt. I had grown up in and with relative affluence; what I began to see ran in the face of every way I had been taught to behave, I found myself agreeing with Dorothy Parker’s famous quip: “If you want to see what God thinks of money, look at who He gives it to,” and that’s how I wrote about them. They didn’t like being made fun of, being tagged with schoolyard nicknames like “the Prince of Swine” or “the Wee Haberdasher.” I have always believed the bad guys and idiots have names – and I had no compunction naming them.

Not that I made any difference. The despoilers are more in control than ever – and not only thicker on the ground, but more contemptible and self-regarding. In 1993, Random House contracted and paid me for a nonfiction book about The Overclass (that was the working title), but for reasons that remain obscure didn’t publish it. I guess it was ahead of its time, and in American life, nothing has less cash value than that.

Speaking out – saying what you think – can cost you friends. It cost me, especially when more and more people I had been close to in younger days began to discover how much they really loved money, and to organize their social lives and acquaintanceships around the indubitable truth that wealth loves wealth. Or, as they used to say on Wall Street, friendship can’t buy money.

That sort of thing made me angry back then, but no longer. I was 51 when I began the Observer column. I had much to look forward to – or so I thought. My fuse was much shorter. Now I’m 80, and my thoughts turn mainly to the past. When shit happens – and it does – I find I’ve become surprisingly philosophical. I must also confess that after nine novels and a few false starts (including The Overclass), the inclination and mental stamina to write another book has all but petered out. Writing is great fun – but being published (or not published) is torture, and after the way my recent novel Fixers was received (raves in The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, but no other major reviews. None), what’s the point? Still, once opinionated, always opinionated, once a writer always a writer. So here we are.

And so it goes. I should end this overture as overtures should, on a joyous note. The day this website launches is the birthday of my darling wife Tamara Glenny and my grandson Cooper Thomas. He’s turning 25; Tamara’s a tiny bit older. And tomorrow, my youngest son Francis turns 30; he had just turned 1 when I began “The Midas Watch”; readers of the Observer column knew him as  “Master Francis”. My family is my greatest blessing.

One final note: I’m not trying to make debating points. here. Trolls need not apply. People whose reactions I care about can post on FB or reach me by email at [email protected] or any other address you already have.



The kleptocracy marches on.

So now what? Crosstown streets narrowed to half-a-car-width?


My pal Alexander sent the following. Seldom read anything I agree with more., because I didn’t get to Kunstler yesterday, I turn to him today and find him citing the same article with some interesting added gloss: Naturlich, the asshole set, who profit most in terms of their purse and their looking-glass (through which a great many of them have passed) from “identity” politicking, reacted to the piece with the expected Pantone dudgeon: Or this, from a site called, with an opacity that would delight a Freudian, “Above the Law”:

I must say, the only positive I took away from Trump beating HRC was the real possibility that we’d never be forced to hear another word from the latter. Boy, was I wrong! Oh, I expected the book, the sort of everyone-else’s-culpa that was as inevitable as the dawn. But the rest of it?

The Net and usual suspects are bubbling with speculation that AMZ’s second-headquarters project, with its purported 50,000 new jobs and infinite need for space, is considering Brooklyn. You can hear the real-estate development sharks,  lowest species of American commerce,  licking their lips at the prospect of being bailed out of the gross overbuilding of recent years by Jeff Bezos. AMZ has the power to rescue great but fallen-on-tough-times cities like Detroit or St. Louis. Why waste that ability on a city laid morally wasted by development greed?


9/21 is something I’ve often wondered about.


The following, by Eric Newcomer from today’s Bloomberg Technology, struck a responsive chord. Private Equity, with David Swensen of Yale in the role of Moses leading his children to The Promised Land, has become the most lucrative racket Wall Street (and affiliated satellites and co-conspirators) has ever confected for itself.  Fees based on assets under management (including intermittent suspicious valuations of portfolio holdings for which there is no market and therefore no way of getting out), calculation of rates of return concocted by Mickey Mouse, “costs and expenses” charged to specific portfolio assets that should properly be counted in the overhead of the PE firm: you name it, and they’ve figured out how to stick “the limiteds” with it. I’m affiliated with an endowment that has a number of “alternative” assets in its portfolio, and I now insist that these be looked at strictly on a “cash in/cash out” basis. Forget the reported internal rate of return: these generally reflect strict adherence to my famous formulation of the Clinton Principle: if everyone’s lying, no one is.

A master of the universe-type figure graced Bloomberg’s offices recently, chatting about some of the day’s big business themes, particularly as it relates to Silicon Valley. There was some soothsaying about the regulatory backlash that big companies like Inc., Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc. might face for their increasingly anti-competitive postures. There was a discussion of whether the stock market has overestimated the chances of tax reform.

But I thought the most interesting point of discussion was: Will the federal government more tightly regulate private companies?

The argument went as follows: Private tech deals were once limited to sophisticated investors, mostly venture capitalists. Then endowments joined the party, then pension funds, and now sovereign wealth funds. At this point, the money in companies like Uber Technologies Inc., WeWork Cos, and Airbnb Inc.—it’s not just rich people investing in these startups. Your retirement savings might be mixed in there, if you have a Fidelity 401(k). Or if you live in Saudi Arabia, $3.5 billion of your government’s ability to thrive post-oil is on the line.

So now we have a lot of money tied up in private companies. Yes, it is managed by sophisticated stewards of capital (sometimes), but they’re playing with money that some people can’t afford to lose.

And giving private companies all that money creates its own problems. It allows them to stay private longer, so they might have to figure out how to let early employees and investors sell their shares before the company is public. More money means the stakes are higher.

The current regulatory regime effectively creates an incentive for companies to stay private. Why go public when you can raise cash like a public company without the scrutiny? Why go public when you can avoid handing over information to your competitors?

And if your business is doing poorly, or you’re keeping some big secrets, the answer to that question becomes even easier. Public companies must disclose material events—like Justice Department probes. Public companies are obligated to provide audited financials that adhere to generally accepted accounting principles. Public companies often need independent directors.

Not everyone seems to think reform is on the horizon. Technology news site the Information wrote Thursday that the Securities and Exchange Commission is making it easier, not harder, to be a secretive private company. The SEC is relaxing the rules (that are already rarely enforced) around when companies need to share their financials with their employees. The SEC under President Donald Trump has also expanded the number of companies that are allowed to file privately for an initial public offering to include those with more than $1 billion in revenue.

But I find it hard to believe Silicon Valley could play much faster and looser than it already is. These are minor changes around the edges. I think the biggest factor is a single company—Uber.

I’ve been wondering over the years when the SEC would step in and make reforms: After Theranos faced myriad issues and had to pull out of pharmacies, it drew an SEC investigation. Increasing the required disclosures of material facts at the company would certainly have put pressure on Theranos to own up to its problems sooner. Zenefits, another troubled company, ousted its chief executive officer after the company failed to properly license insurance brokers. An independent board member probably would have helped bring some much-needed scrutiny to the company’s practices sooner. Though, obviously, no single solution fixes everything: Theranos had an abundance of non-executive directors.

At $69 billion, after raising more than $15 billion, I think Uber is big enough to warrant scrutiny. Shareholders who buy in at one price are typically left with no option to sell, or if they do, it’s limited to whatever price the company picks. Executives and board members are at a substantial advantage when it comes to information driving investing decisions. The question is just how bad things get.

Possible reforms are simple because they already exist for public companies: Require more standardized disclosures, stronger board controls and more transparency. As far as things go, there’s a pretty good system in place for publicly traded companies. Some of the regulations are too onerous for a small company, but if a business has raised more than $1 billion in outside capital, it might be time to treat it more like a public company in some ways.

These reforms would have an added bonus. It might encourage companies to go public. If you’re already doing some of the hard work of being a public company, why not get the benefits of a liquid stock?

Change has happened before, but it takes a big, embarrassing disaster. It took Enron and Worldcom for Sarbanes-Oxley. The financial crisis brought about Dodd-Frank. Subprime mortgage bonds—well, change doesn’t always come. If you want to see reform in the private markets, I think you have to hope the situation at Uber gets much worse. —Eric Newcomer

And the Clintons weren’t the only ones in the pocket of the money men. Lest we forget, so was Obama – from Day One:



This addresses a question that has perplexed me for some time: what’s with it with Ta-Nehisi Coates? He’s glib, a talented wordsmith, but it all adds up to blahblahblah, what a gambler might call “a rhetorical overlay”, like betting a 1-2 favorite.

Trump and No.Korea:

The first time I saw paintings by Basquiat 30-plus years ago, I said to myself (and anyone else who would listen), “This guy is the real thing.” Now he’s having his first show in London at the Barbican. About time – one wonders where Tate Modern and its blabbermouth founding director were all this time:

The upcoming New Criterion, the magazine with a truly marvelous arts and culture section that redeems an often jejune political arch-conservatism inherited from its founder, my former NY Observer colleague the late Hilton Kramer, has a wonderful review by Karen Wilkin (who, even if we weren’t chums, I consider the best art writer-critic of our time, along with Jed Perl, another friend) of a show that sounds like a real dilly: “Casanova: The Seduction of Europe”. It’s now at the Kimbell in Ft.Worth, and will travel next year to San Francisco and Boston (where I intend to see it – if the Acela’s still running).

Needs no comment:

The best I have read on this subject, not least for its implied criticism of Obama as a bullshitter:

The coward, liar and fool who occupies the White House has finally achieved something remarkable: proof that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell  has a backbone.







Let’s start with this interesting interview with my slightly tarnished (because of the CNN mess) hero Tom Frank.

I think this is particularly interesting. Frank is asked about “blunders” in the 2016 election:  In terms of blunders, if you talk about unforeseen blunders, wait, remember, first back up. The main impact that the WikiLeaks emails had, and they were covered in the American press, was Hillary Clinton’s speeches to Goldman Sachs. You remember, that was I believe almost the only item from those emails that made it into the press, and it was far overshadowed by Trump’s extremely vulgar comments. Remember, when he was on the Access Hollywood tape which came out at almost exactly the same time. So in terms of blunders, I mean, Trump’s blunders were so much bigger than Hillary’s, and just in terms of, as long as we’re just talking about mistakes that might’ve cost the Democrats the election, there’s so many other things that you have to mention other than that. I mean, the James Comey stuff where he appeared to reinstate the investigation against Hillary Clinton, which was so shocking.But also, you think of Barack Obama trying to get, remember this? Trying to get the Transpacific Partnership passed all the way through the election? That’s an incredible blunder while Hillary’s trying to distance herself from it, remember? And Trump is hitting her, hitting the Democrats for this every day, and here’s Obama saying, “No, we’re going to get it done. We’re going to get it done through Congress.” That really hurt, and another one, raising Obamacare premiums two weeks before election day. What were they thinking? Just ask yourself, I mean, you and I are old enough to remember Lyndon Johnson. Would Lyndon Johnson ever have made a move like that? No, it’s just like these are beginner’s mistakes. Or not beginner’s, it’s because they had such contempt for Trump. They didn’t think he had a chance, so Obama could take what was the most explosive issue in the election, trade deals, Trump was hitting the Democrats for trade deals at every speech all the time, and Obama could just disregard that. It’s not a threat, it’s not a problem.And here’s poor Hillary, remember, trying to backpedal backpedal backpedal, get out of this, saying “Oh, I’ve changed my mind about the Transpacific Partnership, I used to say it was the gold standard but now I know different,” and Obama just subverting her. It was a terrible blunder. Which confirms my view that in spite of all the mock heroics and fancy, come-let-us-reason-together rhetoric, Obama was a phony, very much the kind of narcissist the narrator of that great political novel FIXERS describes him as being.


This explains why I’m pretty much outta there. A one-week back-roads rental lets my step-family flee the city.  And I’m not alone. Assholes to money like flies to honey. 


First day of high school for my twin grandsons. Quite a lot of excitement about what to wear and how to wear it.

I suspect Dimon’s right about Bitcoin:

This is as disgusting as it is amazing:

I have always wondered whether there isn’t a bit less to “Saint Warren” than meets the eye:

A friend reminds me that FT is behind a paywall, so here’s this text (I’m well within FT limits on cut-and-paste done by subscribers):

YESTERDAY by: Robin Harding
Growing up, I admired nobody more than Warren Buffett, the greatest investor ever. His achievement is towering. The market is an implacable opponent but here was a man who beat it year after year, making $75bn out of nothing but wisdom and charm. There was moral purity in his modesty, his ethics and his quiet attachment to home in Omaha, Nebraska. What footballer, politician or thinker could compare? 

Now 87, Mr Buffett wields huge influence over US business and finance, usually positive. He pushed companies to expense stock options, warned of danger in derivatives and taught the public to invest long term in low-cost index funds.

But how ever much you admire the man, his influence has a dark side because the beating heart of Buffettism, celebrated in a thousand investment books, is to avoid competition and minimise capital investment in the real economy. 

A torrent of recent studies show how exactly those forces — diminished competition, rising profits and lower investment — afflict the US. Economists Jan de Loecker and Jan Eeckhout chart a rise in corporate mark-ups, a measure linked to profit margins, from 18 per cent in 1980 to 67 per cent today. In a paper presented at the Brookings Institution last week, Germán Gutiérrez and Thomas Philippon show how investment has fallen relative to profitability. Mr Buffett did not cause these trends. However, they are central to his fortune. When you celebrate him, you celebrate them. 

If he had found a few truly unusual companies and bought them on the cheap there would be no issue. But acolytes are taking his methods economy-wide

Mr Buffett is completely honest about his desire to reduce competition. He just calls it by a folksy name — “widening the moat”. “I don’t want a business that’s easy for competitors. I want a business with a moat around it with a very valuable castle in the middle,” he said in 2007.

He tells Berkshire Hathaway managers to widen their moat every year. The Buffett definition of good management is therefore clear. If you have effective competitors, you are doing it wrong. 

As with many aspects of his career, Mr Buffett used to act more visibly. An example is his 1977 purchase of the Buffalo Evening News. He bought this newspaper for $32.5m, a high multiple of its $1.7m operating profit, then launched a Sunday edition and drove the competing Buffalo Courier-Express out of business. By 1986, the renamed Buffalo News was a local monopoly making $35m in pre-tax profit. At the time, it was Mr Buffett’s largest single investment. 

His concept of a moat is linked to his views on capital investment: the beauty of one is you do not need the other. One of his most celebrated purchases is See’s Candies, a company he bought for $25m in 1972. Every year, Mr Buffett raised prices. So strong was its brand that despite sales growing little, profits grew mightily, with barely any need for capital investment. “The ideal business is one that takes no capital, and yet grows,” he said last year. 

His statement is unquestionably true for an investor. For an economy, it produces the pattern above: low investment relative to higher profits. A line attributed to business partner Charlie Munger in Alice Schroeder’s biography of Mr Buffett, The Snowball, is revealing: “Munger had always kidded Buffett that his management technique was to take out all the cash from a company and raise prices.” That does sum it up. 

If Mr Buffett in his brilliance had found a few truly unusual companies and bought them on the cheap there would be no issue. But acolytes are taking his methods economy-wide.

These days, Mr Buffett has two main ways of putting his money to work. On one hand, he is finally investing in physical assets, although only in regulated industries such as electricity and railroads where returns are largely guaranteed. On the other, he is working with Brazilian private equity firm 3G as it slashes costs to the bone and drives up margins at Burger King and food company Kraft Heinz. 

Kraft now makes a 23 per cent operating margin and an enormous return on tangible capital. In a competitive market, those high margins ought to present an opportunity for rivals to invest and steal market share. Instead, Kraft competitors such as Unilever and Nestlé are under pressure from their owners — a mixture of index funds and Buffett-like activists — to match those sky-high margins. If rivals also cut, rather than invest and compete, Kraft can cut even more. A kind of Buffett equilibrium is taking hold. 

To be clear, this is not the only reason for declining investment and higher profits in the US. Nor is there a simple solution. Better antitrust enforcement would help, but recent proposals for a complete revamp of competition policy are not well founded. Although research linking lack of competition to cross-ownership by institutional funds is interesting, it does not capture the reality of private equity operators such as 3G.

We can decide who to admire. Mr Buffett is brilliant at buying into monopoly profits, but he does not start companies or gamble on new ideas. America is full of entrepreneurs who do. Elon Musk is investing in two wildly risky and competitive sectors: automobiles and space. Even the much-reviled Koch brothers built most of their fortune on investment in the real economy. Celebrate that kind of business. It is the kind America needs.


Trump voters aren’t the only idiots at large – and at the polls:

Another add-on to the pukeworthiness of Silicon Valley:

After the CNN flap. Tom Frank gets his groove back:

Here, for all Trump-haters, is a good solid recap of Reasons Why.

Oscar Wilde strikes again. The unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable: Mercer vs. the Kochs.

Another Hat Tip to Naked Capitalism:


This is exactly what’s happened in “duh Hamptons.”


Once again, the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable (O.Wilde):

My friend Amara Bhide gets to the point of a culture taken over by algorithms:


Golly! No wonder I quit FB. Lanchester has this gem: “Flaubert was sceptical about trains because he thought (in Julian Barnes’s paraphrase) that ‘the railway would merely permit more people to move about, meet and be stupid.” A precursor to my own anti-FB apothegm: the trouble with the Internet is that it gives millions of people with nothing to say a place to say it.















welcome back!


Sorry to see Thomas Frank tarnished by the CNN reporting mess. I have always found Frank to be a clear-eyed, commonsensical commentator on issues of the day, and really never thought of him as a reporter. Wonder why he allowed himself to be put in this position, reporting a single-source rumor as news and thereby playing into the hands of the lying hypocrite in the White House.

Both parts of an interesting interview:  Part Two:


Practically nothing I’ve read recently better expresses the deterioration of what we might call the “example setting” strata of American affluence better than this letter to Slate’s “Dear Prudence” agony-aunt column. Credit for calling it to my attention goes to my darling wife. Here we go:    Q. Daughter’s friend being in wedding: My 27-year-old daughter and her best friend, Katie, have been best friends since they were 4. Katie practically grew up in our house and is like a daughter to me. My daughter recently got engaged to her fiancé and announced that Katie would be the maid of honor (Katie’s boyfriend is also a good friend of my future son-in-law). The problem is that Katie walks with a pretty severe limp due to a birth defect (not an underlying medical issue). She has no problem wearing high heels and has already been fitted for the dress, but I still think it will look unsightly if she’s in the wedding procession limping ahead of my daughter. I mentioned this to my daughter and suggested that maybe Katie could take video or hand out programs (while sitting) so she doesn’t ruin the aesthetic aspect of the wedding. My daughter is no longer speaking to me (we were never that close), but this is her big wedding and I want it to be perfect. All of the other bridesmaids will look gorgeous walking down the aisle with my daughter. Is it wrong to have her friend sit out? Needless to say, “Prudence” was as dumbstruck – and acid in her critique – as we were.

Another commentator I like, Doug Henwood (Left Business Observer). There is no political capital in maintenance and upkeep. Period – end of report:

Of course, it’s probably ungracious to point out that during this period of acute underinvestment and under-maintenance, the capital that might have supported proper upkeep has gone – through stock buybacks etc. – to maintain a generous maintenance of the wellbeing of corporate and political insiders.


This is why I quit social media (with the exception of Instagram, where I only look at family stuff).


Sitting here watching Sloan Stephens play Madison Keys in finals of US Open at what I insist on calling “Forest Hills.” Stephens beat Venus Williams in a semifinal. So that was three of the four American semifinalists who are African-American, and where’s the tribute to Althea Gibson? Did I miss it?


If you’re like me, this Equifax f***up is puzzling. Only one thing seems certain to me: the credit report companies will do the minimum they can get away with and charge the maximum for it! This might help:

I’ve just finished John Le Carre’s new novel A Legacy of Spies, which is basically an extended, richly detailed (some might say overly detailed; indeed I reread the last third of the book, which I had sort of skipped through the first time) backstory to The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. If you like this sort of stuff – the tradecraft, the scheming, the geography – and can put up with the odd pomposity or longueur, you should like this book, net net net. I did.

I’ve suspected this for some time: A POLITICO review shows that the criteria used in the U.S. News rankings – a measure so closely followed in the academic world that some colleges have built them into strategic plans – create incentives for schools to favor wealthier students.POLITICO interviewed more than 20 current and former college presidents, administrators and federal education officials, and all agreed, often in fiery terms, that the lack of economic diversity is a critical problem. Many cited a common culprit – the U.S. News rankings, which began in 1983 and quickly grew to become, in the magazine’s own words, “the 800-pound gorilla of American higher education.””I think U.S. News has done more damage to the higher education marketplace than any single enterprise that’s out there,” said F. King Alexander, president of Louisiana State University.Read more:

I believe anything this doctor writes:









Back from 10 days’ vacation in modest rental accommodation out on the East End. A very good time entirely centered on family and truly close friends. Enough golf to satisfy me that my golfing life, stretching back almost 70 years, is now at its end. But there were compensations. As good a reason as any for estivating in “duh Hamptons” (aka “duh Beach” – a singular alternative locution) is August corn, and this year’s crop was the sweetest, tastiest in memory. We ate some every night.

The Hamptons now reek of people like Carl Icahn, pictured below: this is what a life scrounging for every last nickel causes one to end up looking like. Of course, if you truly believe, as people like Icahn do, that happiness can’t buy money – then this may be what bliss truly resembles.

The smartphone as an instrument of cultural vandalism:

After posting the glowing radiant visage of Carl Icahn above, I flip to my browser and find this: 


Can’t buy me love:

Aside from his more malignant qualities, Trump really is an asshole:

Make that “nutty asshole.”

Amen: Let it be noted that a signatory to this admirable document is Nicholas Christakis, a distinguished psychologist who, along with his wife, was driven from the mastership of Silliman College, Yale, by student identity-mongers. The video of Christakis being berated by a shrieking young woman who should have been sent to stand in the corner is chilling.

Something like Harvey inevitably shows people at their best and at their worst. then of course there’s Trump.  In Texas, people are pushed against the wall, but here he is in Missouri, pumping for legislation that will make the rich richer: does make one wonder whatever became of “conscience”?


An excellent piece: vanity, vanity…and entitlement:


Where is ISIS when we need them (or at least their decapitation expertise)?: 

I suppose I should comment on the eclipse, on the subject of which more bullshit has been expended than on any subject in recent memory. My wife went to the Parrish Art Museum to watch. I stayed at home, preferring to watch it on ABC, which I knew could be counted upon to coat the occasion/phenomenon with a rich layering of sanctimonious crap about “national unity.” And so it proved. Not to disparage the real thing. A friend who saw it in Idaho said the post-eclipse light was of a quality she’ll never forget!

8/31 I met Anne-Marie Slaughter once and at first blush figured her for the kind of Faculty Club-think-tank opportunist that thinks of itself as “elite.” Gimme a break!

No comment needed:

Important. My Exeter education was saturated with the views of Justice Holmes, who hated monopolies:  More:

Well, at least SOMETHING to be happy about! Pin this Robert Reich observation on your bulletin board: “Many times the most efficient way to make money is to change the rules governing how that money can be made.”


Sumer is a-goin’ out…and not an instant too soon.

I always find this kind of thing fascinating. I believe that curiosity is the most potent of all so-called elixirs of youth:


Happy Labor Day – End of Summer. Our weekend was taken up by the removal of the floor-to-ceiling bookcases in the old apartment. They’re going to a new community center in Jamaica, a country with which I had a 50+ year happy relationship thanks to the house my parents built at Tryall.

Today’s NYT has a big article on the new residential colleges at Yale, in particular “Hopper”, named after a female admiral and distinguished scientist. My guess is that most people will assume the college is named after Dennis Hopper, my first wife’s husband after me. I offered Yale what I still think was the perfect name for one of the new colleges: Levi Jackson, Y’50: first African-American captain of Yale football;  first African-American elected to a senior (or “secret’) society, in his case Berzelius; and – after graduation – first African-American executive at Ford. Naturally my suggestion went nowhere. And for the record, I think Yale President Peter Salovey is a pusillanimous jackass.

An acute piece by my pal Dizard. It calls inferential attention to the Big Change that has occurred in my lifetime: the ironic evolution, under a series of “the government is your enemy” presidents,  of Washington and its state and local siblings into bailout buckets, no matter how reckless or foolish the risk undertaken in the name of private greed or comfort, whether we’re talking about junk-bond swaps or building luxury housing in a flood zone.

I’m not at all certain how I react to this although tribalism is something that’s been vexing me pro and con for 40 years. Still, it’s such an important subject!

As they used to say, Wogs begin at Calais: 

Can’t understand why we fear the No. Koreans when we stick our institutional tongue up the butthole of the Saudis, the most conniving, cruel, lying, double-dealing swine in history!

Been looking at a lot of sports for a longtime, but tonight’s Del Potro ver Thiem in 5 sets is right up there!
















Very seldom does summer hit a perfect note, but for us, the annual August outing to friends in Atlantic Beach unfailingly does the job, washing away recent stresses (moving house should be added to infidelity and mental cruelty as grounds for divorce). Tamara gets to do what she loves best, frolicking in the waves with her 51/2-year-old granddaughter, and I get to do what I love best, hear myself talk. But we’re almost all moved. My library, 254 boxes of books, goes off to Brooklyn College shortly, with a few other boxes to elsewhere tomorrow, followed by discarded furniture – and by Wednesday night, if all goes as planned, my 17 years in 5C at 66 Water St. will have come to an end. All in all, it’s been a swell journey. And for the way we now live, 5E is just perfect. Qieter too, now that we’re on the south side of the building, away from the noisy loading docks of the Empire Stores development. At the end of the week, we will go for ten days to modest rental accommodation in Noyac. Grandchildren will be everywhere about; I’ll try to see whether I can still hit a golf ball (not how far, simply at all!) and try to figure what’s next.

Here’s a good starter for Labor Day minus three:

Kunstler at the top of his game: 

Sample: “The latest iteration of feminism comes out of campuses that have been largely taken over by female Boomer pedagogues, especially the non-STEM departments, and is now fait accompli, so that the grievances still pouring out seem manufactured and hysterical. It also has a strong odor of simple misandry, and the whole package of ideology is wrapped in impenetrable grad school jargon designed to give it an intellectual sheen that is unearned and dishonest. The grim fact is that sooner or later even some intelligent men might notice this, and get pissed off about it.” Well, I can tell you that this intelligent man, a Yale magna graduate, is already plenty pissed off about it!

Anyone for a dash of Schadenfreude? (from Politico): WHAT’S IN STORE — “SoHo is Getting Pounded by the Retail Storm,” by The Wall Street Journal’s Keiko Morris: “The SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan once was a retail juggernaut, with hip boutiques battling national luxury retailers for scarce storefronts whose rents only went up. Then the retail storm that is buffeting malls across the U.S. slammed into this once impenetrable shopping fortress. Storefront availability has spiked to 23.1% in the second quarter of this year, up from 4.7% at the end of 2011. Meanwhile, asking rents for ground-floor retail spaces have fallen 12% to $478 a square foot in the second quarter, down from $541 at the end of 2015, according to real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield. The retail slump in turn has played a role in the neighborhood’s slowing overall commercial property sales market, which includes buildings with office space and apartments. In the second quarter, total commercial property sales dwindled to $79 million from a recent peak of almost $1.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2015, according to Cushman & Wakefield.” 

I may have said this before, but I’m going to repeat it because it has relevance to the day’s events. About a year ago, a friend asked me what my secret is for keeping in good mental fettle. “Spending the absolutely minimum of time – preferably none – with assholes.” I’m delighted to see the CEO of Merck shares my feeling. Trump is fifty shades of asshole.

What turned me off Wall Street (from Dealbreaker): Wall Street Trader Chris Arnade Seeks Redemption for ‘Intellectual Grift’ (WSJ)
He moved in 2006 to Citigroup Inc.’s proprietary trading desk, where he wagered as much as $100 million on single trades in government bonds and currencies. The move boosted his stress. “I used to wake up some mornings and have to vomit,” he says. Mr. Arnade lost money in the 2008 financial crisis—his only down year in two decades—but that wasn’t what turned him off trading. “The thing that got to him was hearing [traders] who had lost millions and gotten bailed out complaining that Obamacare raised their taxes,” Mr. Lox says.



In yesterday’s and today’s NYT, two interesting examples of “the Trump Effect.” Yesterday Paul Krugman gave a first-rate demonstration of how Trump-hatred addles even first-rate minds. He said that Trump isn’t a typical American. Sadly, Trump is a typical American, although a bit more of a 19th-Century type than of today. But the same vein of greed, prejudice, ignorance and other civic vices remains strong now as then. Read Walter A. Macdougall’s great Throes of Democracy: The American Civil War Era, 1829-1877 , a wonderful book that inspires a long-range reflection on how and why we are what we’ve become.  In today’s NYT, Andrew Ross Sorkin, of all people, properly excoriates the zipped-lipped CEOs who’ve remained silent because they fear retribution from President Shithead should they speak up on the issues raised by Charlottesville and its predecessors. What kind of retribution, I ask? Surely any attempt by Trump to get even in a real way, other than by his marginally literate sub-adult tweets, by canceling – say-  big defense or healthcare orders or  using the IRS as hit man would have to go through a chain of departmental execution that would at some point involve a Trump-hating whistleblower, and that would surely pave the road to Impeachment City.

Today we had Grant Turley move the bedroom bookcase from 5C and 5E, Steve from the Bridge carry away the golf books I’m giving to that club in honor of Bob Rubin, its founder and guiding spirit, and Trevor from Verizon. At times it felt like the “stateroom” scene in the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera.  

In case anyone missed this the first time I posted it, a MUST MUST MUST: 

An  interesting point: “All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness. Eighth-graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56 percent more likely to say they’re unhappy than those who devote less time to social media.” Why? Well I have a theory (my friends know I have a theory about everything!) It’s simply that social media are perhaps the most powerful force ever for generating envy. Whether expressed as “FOMO: Fear of Missing Out,” or exhibiting possessions, or boasting of experiences,  envy’s the driver – as it always has been in our struggle to fight through the swamp of existence (in my case, sexual envy, rooted in a desire to possess, drove me crazy right into my forties). The green-eyed monster turns up early enough in life as it is; social media help it consolidate its sway in the pubescent psyche.

Three Cheers for Larry. He’s finally understood that “free markets” have come to equal “fixed markets.” And that Schwarzman, for all his money-spinning genius (sic), is still a smalltime prick suffering under the slings and arrows of short-guy ambition. Not a friend in the world except those he’s bought.

Good stuff:


Dealbreaker, a good first-thing-in-the-day site for Wall Street and financial news, posts this FT observation by Stanley Fischer, former Vice-Chair of the Fed, a big deal at the World Bank and Governor of the Bank of Israel: “It took almost 80 years after 1930 to have another financial crisis that could have been of that magnitude. And now after 10 years everybody wants to go back to a status quo before the great financial crisis. And I find that really extremely dangerous and extremely short-sighted. One can understand the political dynamics of this thing, but one cannot understand why grown intelligent people reach the conclusion that [you should] get rid of all the things you have put in place in the last 10 years.”

Increasingly I find myself wondering whether what is rotten about this country has metastasized to a size and vehemence that could actually make Trump into a Hitler. Here’s some food for thought. Christopher, thou shouldst be living at this hour!

Reading about Hitler led to reflections on Nazism, and these led the conclusion  that, for what it’s worth, I wholly agree with the decision of the public officials of Charlottesville to remove all the city’s monuments to Confederate soldiers. Over time, the view seems to have taken hold – and to have held fast – that the Civil War was basically about slavery. The South seceded and went to war (Ft.Sumter) to defend that vile institution. There’s an equivalence to the slave ships running from Africa to, say, Charleston, and the trains that ran from Western Europe to Auschwitz. Think about Germany: you can travel from one end of the country to another, and you won’t encounter statues or other monuments honoring Goebbels or Von Ribbentrop, let alone Der Fuhrer.  There is a place to commemorate the valor of people who gave their lives even for a despicable cause, and that is a military cemetery. I long ago visited the American, British and German cemeteries in Normandy. Obviously, the American graveyard moved me most. But the Friedhof was also impressive.


Strikes me that this sort of thing is what we ought to be wondering at and thinking about. The war of the rich on the poor, which I suppose we might call “re-redistribution”, enters the state house:

Posted without comment:

This piece by the always reflection-provoking Thomas Frank seems to dovetail with the Trump-Hitler-equivalence ruminations I posted earlier:

Apropos of my earlier post on Confederate statuary:  And add this:      What I think is particularly interesting is that cornerstone Southern myths of valor – not only Lee and the Confederacy, but the Alamo as well – celebrate people and forces who lost battles. President Shithead has made clear his detestation of “losers.”   Yet here are two of the foundational myths of Southern chivalry, a noble calling involving the murder of young children among other disgusting accomplishments, that are based on lost battles, lost wars – and that were promoted into Dixie myth by apologists beginning in the 1890s, long, long after the actual conflicts (Lee died in 1870, the Alamo was fought in 1836.) Of course, the malignant narcissist  (1) in the White House knows no history, and his ignorant constituency – I always say the whiter the collar, the redder the neck – couldn’t care less.(1) The description of Trump as “a malignant narcissist” was proposed to me today at Pilates. Here’s Wiki: “The social psychologist Erich Fromm first coined the term “malignant narcissism” in 1964, describing it as a “severe mental sickness” representing “the quintessence of evil”. He characterized the condition as “the most severe pathology and the root of the most vicious destructiveness and inhumanity”. Edith Weigert (1967) saw malignant narcissism as a “regressive escape from frustration by distortion and denial of reality”, while Herbert Rosenfeld (1971) described it as “a disturbing form of narcissistic personality where grandiosity is built around aggression and the destructive aspects of the self become idealized”.Developing their ideas further, the psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg pointed out that the antisocial personality was fundamentally narcissistic and without morality. Malignant narcissism includes a sadistic element creating, in essence, a sadistic psychopath. The malignant narcissist thus represents a less extreme form of pathological narcissism than psychopathy. Malignant narcissism can be distinguished from psychopathy…because of the malignant narcissist’s capacity to internalize “both aggressive and idealized superego precursors, leading to the idealization of the aggressive, sadistic features of the pathological grandiose self of these patients”. 

Throw in this from Bloomberg, on Trump canceling plans for a council on Infrastructure: “Trump had tapped New York developers Richard LeFrak and Steven Roth, whom he described as friends, to lead the panel, which he established by an executive order on July 19. But he had not made any formal appointments to it. Neither LeFrak nor Roth immediately responded to requests for comment.” LeFrak and Roth are nice guys by all accounts, but infrastructure? Not unless infrastructure means luxury condos!

C’mon, David – tell us what you really  feel!  More Keynesian Gibberish From Bubble Blind Central
By David Stockman. Posted On Thursday, August 17th, 2017
If you want stunning proof that monetary central planning is a clear and present danger to capitalist prosperity just read the Fed’s stock market discussion in yesterday’s minutes. It amounts to a clueless confession of willful incompetence, and evidence that the FOMC members are so mesmerized by their Keynesian academic models that they can’t see the real world starring them in the face.What’s right in front of their collective noses, of course, is a domestic and global financial system that is everywhere booby-trapped with massive and incendiary financial bubbles, unsustainable leverage in both overt and covert forms (i.e. options), and relentless, liquidity-fueled speculation that infects the very warp and woof of most financial markets. Even the core blue-chip 10-year UST market is a speculators’ haven where on the margin pricing is driven by complex, leveraged arbitrages, not the bid of trust department managers in behalf of widows and orphans.Indeed, the evidence of an impending financial blow-up is palpable and plenary.











Amen – alas!

I was practically brought up in “21,” and ate there regularly until I moved some years ago to the charming village of Reduced Circumstances. Those were the great days of Pete Kriendler, Sheldon Tannen, Walter, Mario and the rest. Among regulars Trump was considered B-list, no matter what he claims. Gosh! Guess who doesn’t rate a mention in the following report?


These numbers add up to a pretty convincing brief for “activist” investing.


Been preoccupied with moving.

This is good. My favorite restaurant doesn’t allow Instagramming. I give up! “Chef Chris Coombs will soon open a second branch of his South End steakhouse, Boston Chops, in Downtown Crossing, in the former Mantra space. It will have an Instagrammers’ table with its own special lighting system, for food photography.”

Anything and everything that Bacevich writes is worth reading and thinking about: Such as:  “The three presidents of the post-Cold-War era — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama — put these several propositions to the test. Politics-as-theater requires us to pretend that our 42nd, 43rd, and 44th presidents differed in fundamental ways. In practice, however, their similarities greatly outweighed any of those differences. Taken together, the administrations over which they presided collaborated in pursuing a common agenda, each intent on proving that the post-Cold-War consensus could work in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary.” Or this:
“By extension, Americans should come to see as intolerable the meanness, corruption, and partisan dysfunction so much in evidence at the opposite end of Pennsylvania Avenue. We need not wax sentimental over the days when Lyndon Johnson and Everett Dirksen presided over the Senate to conclude that Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer represent something other than progress. If Congress continues to behave as contemptibly as it has in recent years (and in recent weeks), it will, by default, allow the conditions that have produced Trump and his cronies to prevail.”


Moving: boxes, boxes, boxes. 254 boxes of books, essentially the entire library I have built up over 60 years, will soon (this coming Mon.) be on their way to Brooklyn College.

This is what I was getting at when I worried on this website about the disproportionate portion of US GDP (and the obscene portion of Silicon Valley GDP) devoted to the manufacture of distraction.

We need more of this kind of thing:


In my experience, the kind of blustering militaristic braggadocio that Trump has been dispensing from the bully pulpit is rooted in physical as well as moral cowardice. The sort of stuff you expect from a proven draft-dodger and congenital liar. I’m constantly reminded of that ludicrous photo of Trump with his parents when he attended a military school of the kind that used to advertise in the back pages of The NYT Magazine, all spit-and-polish, Duke of Plaza-Toro “leading from behind” stuff, the strap of his shako under his nose, the very personification of what Thomas Paine meant by “the summer soldier and sunshine patriot”(a phrase I’ve quoted before).

Kunstler and Dizard make good points: first, Kunstler: Quote: The condition that will flavor events going forward is scale. Everything organized at the giant scale is going to fail. We have made all the systems of daily life too large and they will not function in the long emergency (and the fourth turning), an age characterized by universal contraction. This is true of corporations, institutions, schools, hospitals, farms, governments, virtually all organized enterprise. Now Dizard on how the shortage of “ethically sourced” cobalt could affect Tesla, especiall conssidering how sanctimonious a figure Musk cuts : Basic Point: There is not enough cobalt production from existing mines, or mines under construction, to meet the demand projected by Tesla along with Chinese and European auto manufacturers over the next five years.

Offered without comment – other than a snicker with a bit of a nod:












Monday, Monday…

And on this cheerful but not unrealistic note…

My neighborhood has been overbuilt, over-promoted and overcrowded. The Bloomberg legacy at its most intense. Yesterday we drove to Fairway, stopping at Red Hook Lobster Pound (highest recommendation) for a bite. Amazing how quiet it became once we turned off on Van Brunt. This from an ad agency exec who’s moving his business from DUMBO to Red Hook: “As much as we like Dumbo, it’s starting to feel a little hectic,” he said. “What we like about Red Hook is that it’s got a very neighborhood kind of feel, and it feels like it does move at its own pace.”   I’m not moving because I like my apartment and at 81, I’ll go no more a-roving. A question I’ve been asking myself for thirty years.

Naked Capitalism pointed me to this. It is absolutely essential reading, at least for anyone the least bit curious about why the world and life have turned out the way they have.  I can add a bit of a coda. In 1977, the Carter crowd came to Washington; I was then dating a lovely lady from the District who knew most of these people. They were just ever so smart,  ever so full of themselves, and so concentrated on the higher things – namely foreign policy and economic theory – that they had little time for the workaday world of business and getting and spending and the way things work. At the same time, and Stoller would have served himself well to have mentioned this, a Fifth Column was being organized, thanks to a memorandum addressed to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce by a smart Richmond lawyer (later a Supreme Court justice) named Lewis Powell that argued that it was time for business to take back the nation. This set in train a sequence of events, manipulations and policies that would ultimately lead through Goldwater to Reagan, and thence to Clinton and the mess we’re in now.

Today’s NYT  Arts has an article on a LA painter called Mark Grotjahn, for whose work the usual suspects (M-J Kravis, Tom Hill, Geffen, Marron, Cohen and I’m sure the Broads own a few) are falling all over each other to drop millions. From what I can see online, the work is pleasant enough, although highly derivative. The artist has been compared to De Kooning and Rothko; neither comparison works for me, but stuff like this needs a legend to support the pricing, which in Grotjahn’s case (the following is from the Gagosian website) has to be made of pure horseshit.   “While at first glance, Mark Grotjahn’s oeuvre appears bound purely to aesthetic in modernist discourse, references to nature and movement abound. His butterfly motif, one of several recurring references to the natural world, has yielded extensive permutations in both painting and drawing. The ongoing Butterfly series foregrounds modes of perspectival investigation, such as dual and multiple vanishing points— techniques used since the Renaissance to create the illusion of depth and volume on a two-dimensional surface.    These iconic compositions of complex, skewed angles and radiant, tonal color allude to the multiple narratives coursing through the history of modernist painting, from the utopian vision of Russian Constructivism to the hallucinatory images of Op Art. The elegance of Grotjahn’s work is frequently tempered by visible scuffs and markings that attest to the contingencies of process in his otherwise highly controlled compositions.”

This is our guy Nik, superintendent of our building. Because the WSJ works behind a firewall, I’m posting the whole article:

By Michael M. Phillips
July 31, 2017 11:51 a.m. ET

BROOKLYN—On any given day, building superintendent Besnik Sokoli might be in the boiler room working on the furnace.

Or he might be in the boiler room working on his skiing.

Mr. Sokoli, a war refugee and super of five apartment buildings in the hip Dumbo neighborhood between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, entered his first serious ski race six months ago, when he was 35. Now he’s making a long-shot bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

After work each day, Mr. Sokoli sets aside his walkie-talkie and tool belt, slips on a weighted vest, dons a mask to mimic high-altitude oxygen deprivation, and climbs onto a secondhand ski simulator braced between a broken cooling unit and a tub of snow-white paint. Then he spends 45 minutes swiveling from side to side, imitating a run down a slalom course.

Says Mr. Sokoli: “It doesn’t get any more Brooklyn than this.”

Mr. Sokoli’s natural athletic ability and preternatural competitive drive are surprising world-class skiers, who won’t rule out the possibility he will earn a spot competing for his native Kosovo in PyeongChang, South Korea, in February. He finished near the top in a series of East Coast races this winter and is currently racing in international events in South Africa, Chile and Argentina to try to earn Olympic-qualifying ratings.

“It’s preposterous—but intriguing as all hell,” says University of Connecticut ski coach Bruce Diamond, who finished behind Mr. Sokoli at a race this winter. “If anybody can pull it off, I’m starting to think it’s Nik.”

Mr. Sokoli’s quest calls to mind other unlikely Olympians of lore: the Jamaican bobsled team that caught the public’s imagination at the 1988 Calgary games, and Michael “Eddie the Eagle” Edwards, who took up ski jumping in part because Britain had no other Olympic athletes in the event.

Mr. Sokoli raced at the Booster Strap Summer Fun Nationals at Mt. Hood, Oregon, in July.
Mr. Sokoli raced at the Booster Strap Summer Fun Nationals at Mt. Hood, Oregon, in July. PHOTO: JAKE NICOL/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Mr. Sokoli was born in Kosovo in 1981, when it was still part of Yugoslavia. He skied as a child, but not seriously. Sometimes he would grass-ski on pieces of plastic his dad cut from milk crates.

Boxing was his sport. Compact and powerful—today he crams 190 pounds into his 5-foot-7 frame—Mr. Sokoli fought his way to the finals of the Pristina city championships at 14. Before the bout, he proudly told his dad that at least he would get silver.

His father, he says, slapped him and yanked him from the tournament for displaying an insufficient desire to win. Mr. Sokoli sees the episode as a valuable lesson. “I’m not going to go to the Olympics to experience it and have fun,” he says. “I’m going to push as hard as I can to do way better than I think I can.”

By the time Mr. Sokoli reached his late teens, Yugoslavia had splintered, and Pristina, Kosovo’s capital, was racked by street fighting between ethnic Albanians and Serbs. Mr. Sokoli, an Albanian, survived being shot in the face once and stabbed in the back twice. His father sanitized the knife wound with beer and cauterized it with a match, he recalls.

Years earlier, Mr. Sokoli’s father had saved a Serb from drowning; now the same man offered to get 17-year-old Besnik to safety. The escape was harrowing, with Besnik carrying a pistol to pass as a Serbian militiaman.

Mr. Sokoli crossed into Montenegro, Albania and finally Macedonia. He found his parents there; they had been ousted from their home at gunpoint after Besnik’s flight. The three resettled in Arizona when he was 18. He arrived with English learned watching “Beverly Hills, 90210”; now barely a trace remains of his Kosovar origins under his thick New York accent.

In 2006 he met Brooklyn-born Flutura Qosaj through and moved to New York. Now the couple, their three young children and Mr. Sokoli’s mother share a two-bedroom apartment that comes with his job.

For fun, he sparred at Brooklyn’s storied Gleason’s Gym.

“Whenever he boxes or plays, he does it to the fullest extent until he wins,” says Mrs. Sokoli, an office manager. In one neighborhood basketball game, Mr. Sokoli refused to quit despite a broken bone piercing the skin on his hand.

The Sokolis bought a small house in the Poconos so their children could grow up skiing. On a lark, Mr. Sokoli entered a giant-slalom race in January on Belleayre Mountain. N.Y. He won, and was hooked.

A third place at Bear Creek Mountain Resort. A first place at Shawnee Mountain Ski Area. Each time, he attracted a throng of curious racers.

“We saw him coming down pretty fast, and we noticed that he didn’t have a perfect technique, but he had huge potential,” says French skier Tristan Mollet, who coaches at Shawnee and finished behind Mr. Sokoli.
Soon Mr. Sokoli was hitting races every weekend and some weekdays, bolting from the city after 10 hours at work. Two months into his skiing career, he returned home late from a race and sat with his wife at the cramped kitchen table. “How serious is this?” she asked.

“I’m taking this to the Olympics,” Mr. Sokoli replied.

He jotted down his estimate of how much he would have to spend: $17,000. “This is the point where people turn and say, ‘Forget it,’ and give up on their dreams,” Mr. Sokoli said.

Mrs. Sokoli reached for the paper. “The last thing I want for you,” she told her husband, “is to be 80 years old, sitting on the couch watching the Winter Olympics and wondering if I could have made it.”

At season’s end, Mr. Sokoli was ranked No. 1 in New York state in giant slalom among Nastar racers, and 151st in the country. Nastar is a program that allows skiers to compare themselves with U.S. national team pacesetters.

In the spring, Mr. Sokoli discovered he could qualify for the Olympics only by entering races that allotted International Ski Federation, or FIS, points. Competitors begin with 990 points, and reduce that number the better they perform. Mr. Sokoli needs to reach around 130 points by January to race in South Korea.

He called the Kosovo Ski Federation, which cheerfully added him to the small national team and endorsed his entry into Olympic-qualifying races. If he makes it, the federation promises a racing suit, a helmet and a hat and jacket for the opening ceremony. Maybe some skis.

“Unfortunately we don’t really have much equipment to give him,” says Selim Maloku, secretary-general of the Federata Skitare e Kosoves. “Our state isn’t going well economically.”

The Sokolis maxed out their credit cards, and in April Mr. Sokoli traveled to Norway for his first qualifying race. As usual, he drew a crowd.

“There was one guy on bad skis and bad ski boots,” recalls Austrian-born Simon Breitfuss, the sole skier on the Bolivian men’s team. “His [gear] was like a tourist’s, not for racing.”

Mr. Breitfuss and his father, his coach, were on a budget, too, and were sleeping in their car. Mr. Sokoli invited them to bunk in the house he had rented.

Canadian Johnny Davidson, coach of the Norwegian national team, spotted Mr. Sokoli in the lodge. His first thought: “This guy looks really old.” Every man on the Norwegian team had started skiing before the age of 4; one of them lent Mr. Sokoli skis that met FIS standards.

Mr. Sokoli finished last in both slalom and giant slalom. But he finished; about a third of the racers didn’t make it through the slushy course without falling or missing a gate.

He arrived in Norway with 990 points in giant slalom; he left with 375.5.

Mr. Sokoli returned to Brooklyn, to patrolling the halls, straightening carpet tiles and picking up stray wads of paper. He acquired another credit card, ordered top-notch Austrian skis and left for his races in the southern hemisphere. On Friday, in his first slalom race in South Africa, he finished 44th out of 56 entrants and slashed his FIS points to 258.74.

Says Mrs. Sokoli: “One-hundred percent he believes he’s making it to the Olympics.”

Four topless girls on the roof across Water St. and my binoculars are packed away!


This all makes sense. Michael Jensen of Harvard Business School who published the 1980s paper that advocated that the main if not the sole function of management is “to maximize shareholder value”, a notion that gained immediate widespread currency (no pun!) to the point of becoming an eternal truth,  will in my opinion be judged by history to have been more destructive to capitalism than Marx ever dreamed of. 

No comment necessary. As gilded a lily as I’ve seen.



I think I wrote about this a while back. Nice to see Bloomberg catch up, as in: “Americans still tend to own slightly more than one vehicle apiece, but they are keeping those vehicles longer. The average car or truck on U.S. roads today was made in 2005. They’re still on the road because, well, they’re still on the road. Vehicles made in the past 15 to 20 years are vastly more reliable than their predecessors. The U.S. auto industry is in a pickle, in part, because it did too good of a job.”

This (WSJ by Philip Delves Broughton) from a new book (Steven Clifford, The CEO Pay Machine) on the pitfalls implicit in present-day theories of CEO compensation (WSJ has a paywall so I’m quoting a bit of text): “Mr. Clifford blames the emergence of the CEO pay machine on three people: Michael Jensen, Milton Rock and Bill Clinton. Mr. Jensen is the Harvard Business School professor who argued that the single best measure for managerial performance is a company’s stock price. He wrote that the CEO’s main job is to maximize shareholder value, and the way to ensure that the CEO does that is to give him shares so he acts more like a “value-maximizing entrepreneur” than a bureaucrat. It turns out, though, that stock awards and bonuses often don’t align the interests of managers and shareholders; they encourage short-term boosts to earnings rather than investing for long-term growth.”

Worried about biased “impeccable” journalism? A MUST read:

I find this fascinating:


My pal Robert M. Rubin says what a lot of us are thinking:

I think I’m going to buy this book – if only as a vote in favor of its point of view. There’s a large part of me that’s old-fashioned, officer-class conservatism (gleaned from my father; having been an undergraduate father at 20, I was spared military service): officers look out for their men; always investigate the bathwater to see whether there might be a baby in it.


Double Amen-no, make that a triple! If you don’t think this is a problem, compare your most recent cable bill to last year’s. Price inflation is rampant. And that raises the question: what idiot, and when, decided to exclude food, fuel and housing from the Cost of Living indices?

Listening to various talking heads and blatherskites, starting with Trump, talking about how immigration affects jobs for otherwise hard-working Americans keeps reminding me of what someone I know with a business out in Carriage Trade Central, aka “dud Hamptons,” tells me: despite the existence of a large African-American community, with – presumably – large numbers of possible employees, he could not keep his business running without immigrants. Pay isn’t the issue; it’s willingness to work, for whatever reasons. Then there’s a lot of yada yada about “the mobility factor,” with these indices being at postwar lows. Since we know what drives someone from Guatemala or Jalisco to El Norte, with all its risks and uncertainties, is the feeling that the possibility of something is better than than the certainty of zero (the same gamble that is taken by poor people who buy lottery tickets despite the fearsome odds), why shouldn’t this be impelling people to migrate from Detroit or South Bronx projects, say, to Colorado or Omaha? Part of the answer must be human nature. A reluctance to uproot oneself, to leave behind a community, such as it may be, that is at least familiar if nothing else. But there must also be other reasons. Much can be attributed, I suspect, to the war being waged against America’s underprivileged, disadvantaged and outright poor by its wealthier and better-connected and their stooges in Federal, state and local government, a conflict that takes fewer and fewer prisoners with each passing month. I must say, if you were brought up and educated the way I was, it is shaming and disheartening to watch this, and be helpless to stop it (nothing I’ve ever written, writing being my only weapon in the cause of civil and economic decency, has ever made a damn bit of difference!).

The more I read, react and worry about the way we live and hate now, the more it seems to me that the abrasive social interface (can’t think of a better word) called “disrespect” is at the root of many of the problems, whether in its real or its imagined manifestations. Certainly it’s behind the more egregious stuff happening on campuses. Or take something like this (don’t worry – I don’t ever  look at Fox News, I picked this up on Dealbreaker):–h5ZiHsUep7gQekk4p0db-K5D4xzjX3FRP_6XUSf91_T-wAAE616yKqoUn5fRfi9L7X9stRc_fgN–ILUNbP-mV2nEvw&_hsmi=54928246 Now when I read something like this, I don’t need to look at the accompanying video (although I will, to confirm my reaction) to know the ethnicity of the offenders. Daily exposure, observation, close reading of the newspapers and certain websites have congealed into an inner algorithm that produces a response and expectation that I suppose I should be ashamed of, that could probably be called “racial bias” or somesuch, except that – goddamnit! – time after time after time after time, my “prejudice” just seems to fit the facts of the matter. To me, it’s all about the perpetrators. Whether the victims – always charged with one or another form of “disrespect” – are of color or not seems to me to be beside the point. Whether they’ve reacted to the circumstances that provoke violent physical or verbal “anti-disrespectism” in the way any normal human being might, or because they’re simply doing their job (I’m not talking about obvious police aggression), the victims cannot and should not be blamed. Take this incident, on the Dallas subway: Here, the victim was African-American. And something he says in the embedded video about how it pains him that “my brothers and sisters have such anger” strikes a chord. Nothing breeds anger more, I would expect (I don’t really know, having been in this position only relatively), than to be poor in the midst of plenty. If this anger ever takes into account what the wealthy of this country have done to earn their riches, if they ever understand what the Wall Street rich really do (the immortal question asked of Tom Wolfe’s Sherman McCoy by his son) to get paid all that money, then we really may get the fire this time. Really?

Trump is a liar, a coward and a blowhard. Gen. Kelly, apparently, is none of these. He lost a son in Afghanistan while “the president” he now serves (sic) begged off service with a bone spur (bullshit!) Should be interesting.


Brutal day out there! Here’s an appropriate eye-opener: The following is what I call getting it right: “There was a time when the Tory party reflected the interests of British business, of those firms and industries that were productive.But as their importance has declined, the hedge fund managers, asset strippers, bankers and property developers have taken their place. The fiscal policies that have been followed have favoured the extractive and destructive activities of the unproductive rich.”

The Way We Cheat Now:

Let’s just see how this works. May be another instance of what my late stepmother described the oli business as: “All good news and no money.”

As they used to say, “Wogs begin at Calais.”  Makes me think of Paul Erdman’s The Crash of ’79, which ends with a bombing raid destroying the Saudi oil fields. Probably not a bad idea, considering that Saudi oil production can be replaced from other sources.  

No comment needed:


As someone whose favorite subject has been history in various forms, I’m always interested in the way it was and how we got from there to here. This is a long piece, but very fluently written and moderately argued. I recommend it:

I quit!


Our last Sunday in 5C – after 17 years. The furniture shifts down the hall to 5E on Tuesday and on Thursday and Friday, the library I have lovingly and carefully built up over 60 years gets boxed en route to a new and I think productive second life at Brooklyn College. My golf library is going to The Bridge in honor of its founder Robert M. Rubin, as a token of the high, essential regard in which I hold our friendship.

This morning brings news of the death of Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann, a real and respected friend and a great scholar of Dutch and Flemish art who for thirty years oversaw the immense scholarly labors that resulted in the 15-volume scholarly catalogue of the Robert Lehman Collection. On Sundays, we always play church music. As a token of my affection and admiration for Egbert, I’ve put on the very moving Requiem Mass by Antoine Brumel (1460-1512).

I find myself worrying the question of race in America, of racialism and postracialism, of black social pathology (whenever I read of some really awful act of violence, often homicidal, I instinctively murmur “Please, God, don’t let the perp be black” – but 8-9 times out of 10 the perp is – more fodder for the troglodytes). This makes a bunch of good points: Here are a number of excellent points with which to start: “Where Obama solemnly obeyed every command that issued from America’s meritocratic superego, Trump has slithered directly into the Oval Office from the heart of our white business civilization’s political id. Where Obama extolled bipartisan reason, Trump stokes social-media resentments; where Obama pursued chimerical “grand bargains” with the GOP Congress and its private-sector retainers, Trump claims to embody the sharp-eyed “art of the deal”—i.e., the art of presiding over a gamed system in which he’s always assured to take the other contracting party for a ride.”  A point I made in the MS of my novel, but which people close to me insisted that I take out, is that Obama was every bien-pensant white person’s ideal black man.

An interesting review written almost 25 years ago. Louis A. was a friend And a character in his own stories!

Amen. Please note that practically all the writers most effulgent in their self-worshipful grief are people no one has ever heard of. Probably for good reason. This is one aspect of media viralism that repels me: the ability to find nonentities who will say what they’re asked to, if only for that momentary lightning flash of limelight. Here’s a list of the writers etc. quoted in the cited piece. How many have you heard of? “…novelist Meredith Russo,. novelist Mira Jacob, writer Nicole Chung, Stanford University scholar Jeff Chang, Pulitzer winner Junot Diaz (included in the interest of fairness) and editor Carolina De Robertis, writer Parnaz Foroutan, Egyptian feminist Mona Eltahawy, Poet Mohja Kahf , Princeton University lecturer Boris Fishman, Satyen K. Bordoloi, a Mumbai filmmaker,   journalist Andrés Miguel Rondón, Turkish political scientist N. Turkuler Isiksel, Hungarian author Miklós Haraszti, business professor Luigi Zingales (another name known to me – approvingly), novelist and “Radical Hope” contributor Luis Alberto Urrea, scholar Bernard Avishai (also a recognized name), clinical psychologist Ava Siegler, Slate’s Dan Kois (to paraphrase Lady Bracknell, “Nowadays, writing for Slate is no guarantee of respectability”),   UCLA historian Robin D.G. Kelley, filmmaker John Ziegler, novelist Katie Kitamura (sounds like someone I may have heard of)”



















After that incredible Open performance by Spieth, time to tee it up in other directions. Here’s a good starter:  A Sample: What’s especially striking in similarity to the court of the Bourbons is the utter cluelessness of America’s entitled power elite to the agony of the moiling masses below them and mainly away from the coastal cities. Just about everything meaningful has been taken away from them, even though many of the material trappings of existence remain: a roof, stuff that resembles food, cars, and screens of various sizes.
But the places they are supposed to call home are either wrecked — the original small towns and cities of America — or replaced by new “developments” so devoid of artistry, history, thought, care, and charm that they don’t add up to communities, and are so obviously unworthy of affection, that the very idea of “home” becomes a cruel joke. Amen.

I find it interesting to read Hilton Kramer 30 years after the fact. Hilton and I disagreed, sometimes vehemently, but as I myself grow older and crustier – I am now only 3 years younger than Hilton was when he died – I find myself increasingly susceptible to many of his arguments.  I should add, more as a confession, I suppose, that I read Arthur Danto diligently and intently for years with once gleaning the slightest idea of what he was talking about.

Ironic that it’s Bloomberg reporting this sorry business, since it was Michael Bloomberg who, as mayor, turned the city over to the real-estate sharks as a central policy in his attempt to make NYC a world-class city – as he defined it: that is, of, for and by the rich.



NYT reports that its most-eyeballed story yesterday was its recap of the latest “Game of Thrones” episode. What this signifies about our general culture I hate to think. (Disclosure: I have never  watched a whole episode of GoT – and probably never will. Just as in my lifetime I doubt I’ve watched ten minutes total of Fox News.) Add this:

Worth a Ponder: I have to say this whole “Russia” business leaves me cold. Unless it can be proved that Russian hackers or whoever actually tampered with the vote count, who cares? This is all about the Democrats (including the past administration as well as the Hillary campaign) and Trump-haters trying to find an issue (sic) that will distract the country from their own failings.


No comment needed:


This transgender ban really does underscore what a tenth-rate human being Trump is:

To the above, add this:


Increasingly I find a soulmate in T.Frank, who for me is the voice of common-sense political thinking:

Everyone must read Ryan Lizza’s New Yorker interview with “the Mooch.” This guy was a highly-regarded hedge-funder to whose Las Vegas gatherings all the hedge-fund/private-equity swine flocked in all their slavering greed. To me, he embodies what the late-unlamented British prime minister Edward Heath called “the unacceptable face of capitalism.” I do take one exception to criticisms of the Mooch. His characterization of Bannon is derided by some as a physiognomic impossibility. Connoisseurs of early porn will recall Ron Jeremy performing just such an act in a film whose title eludes me now (might it have been “Inside Seka”?) Perhaps the Mooch saw it himself – in younger and rowdier times?

Terrifying!  And shows how futile and ineffective the “war on drugs” has proved to be.

This brought back memories (from NYT today): “Catholic church may cash in on East Midtown air rights deal,” by the Times’ J. David Goodman and William Neuman: “The Archdiocese of New York may know something about divine intervention. But to get to Mayor Bill de Blasio on a real estate negotiation potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars, it hired lobbyists. The archdiocese, seeking to influence the rezoning of East Midtown Manhattan, where St. Patrick’s Cathedral is, has paid Kasirer Consulting $320,000 since 2014, according to city records. The archdiocese wanted the city to pass a rezoning plan that would allow it greater freedom to sell the valuable air rights from the cathedral, estimated at 1.1 million square feet, to developers. The church ultimately got much of what it wanted in the rezoning plan, which was approved Thursday by the City Council’s Land Use Committee, all but ensuring its adoption by the full Council next month.”  Long years ago, Francis Cardinal Spellman told my father, “Mr.Thomas, I’m very sound on doctrine, but I know everything about Manhattan real estate!”


There’s been a lot of crap written recently on the Op-Ed pages of NYT  and elsewhere about how John McCain is a hypocrite and turncoat because he came back to Washington and voted “Yes” on the motion to bring Obamacare repeal bill to the Senate floor, after having previously declaring himself opposed to repeal. Most of this garbage has spilled by Op-Ed blitherers whose idea of courageous duress under fire is being asked to wait an extra five minutes for a table at Michael’s. Frankly, my own reading of McCain in this matter is that he set a parliamentary trap for that lying (if crafty) piece of shit, Mitch McConnell. What needs to be noted is that McCain’s initial “Yes” vote was on a matter of procedure, but that his subsequent “No” vote was on a matter of substance, which was where the crucial issue would be decided once and for all.  In the mind of someone like McConnell, procedure equals substance, and he was lulled, I think, into a false confidence. We know that McCain hinted to Schumer that when pitch came to shove he had a plan. I think McCain, like anyone who’s seen combat, let alone POW imprisonment, is entitled the benefit of the doubt, certainly more so than the sunshine patriots and summer soldiers pontificating in the media. Glioblastoma is no fun. I had a half-brother killed by this particular cancer. As the disease progresses, at least in Bobby’s case, it ate at his mind as well as his cells. I wish Senator McCain all the good luck there is.

Trump has an exaggerated, Mussolini-like notion of the political value of crowds. Hence his incessant carping about the size of his Inauguration Day turnout. So why doesn’t he go on the air – I’m sure Fox News would oblige with some choice prime time, and the other major outlets would follow – and exhort those of his true believers who are currently receiving some form or another of Obamacare to quit?  We all might learn something. And it would at a minimum offset the some of the millions who would be deprived of medical insurance by the passage of McConnell-Ryan repeal.

While in London a month or so ago, reflecting as flaneurs do when they watch as they wander, it struck me – I think I made this point in an earlier post – that what “trickles down” as the rich are made richer aren’t rewards but penalties, higher prices for the quotidian necessities that everyone needs – food, gas, a roof – but that the poor have a tough time paying for as wages remain stagnant while profits on capital increase.

May he rot in hell, an eternal cacophony of buses belching and subways thundering:

You do the voodoo… Why we’re falling apart as a political economy.


Trump-haters are really going to hate this. The author’s partisanship is never less than obvious, but, that said, his arguments are worth thinking about. The “car affordability” metric is interesting, although it seems to me that cars are being built to last longer, with proper maintenance (something that cannot be said of public sector infrastructure, obsessed as its controllers are with electoral politics). Anyway: 






7/15. I usually find Trump-bewailing tiresome, but as a bill of particulars, this is pretty solid:

More on my favorite subject: the idiot son who wants to be a player:


I find this fascinating. Not sure what it means – if anything:

And this. Barry Ritholtz (The Big Picture) is certainly on his game this week: I will show you fear in a handful of chips.

Posner was a year behind me at Yale and often pointed to on paths and in corridors as “the brightest man in the college.”

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

THIS is what art history has degenerated into? And at Williams – where S. Lane Faison nurtured generations of great museum directors.


A good Monday sharpener: I especially like the characterization of Washington as “a matrix of rackets..”


Yesterday Netflix announced that its business is booming, although with very slim profit margins, and the stock promptly shot up 10% (it would be nice to know how much of this spike can fairly be attributed to algorithmic trading). The company has huge programming commitments going forward, which as I read the release, might involve $4-$6 billion the company doesn’t have and can’t reasonably be expected to generate – at least as I read the release. Seems fair to ask where that money will come from. I’m not the only one.

I thought Dimon’s remarks were spot on, even though it was clear they were phrased so as not to infuriate the psychopathic asshole in the White House. Good comment by El-Erian:  But frankly, for the first time in what is now starting to feel like too long a life, I despair we have gone past the point of no return in the stupidity, corruption and mindlessness department. My wife and I found this New Yorker piece absolutely terrifying in its import for the longer term.    And let me say that I don’t lay all of this at Trump’s feet: “Cometh the hour, cometh the man” – and to “hour” add “Zeitgeist,” with overtones of Yeats’s “rough beast, his hour come at last” flavoring the mix. Obama paved the way for Trump or something like him. He fooled me and millions like me into believing that he really stood for something other than himself. As I say in Fixers, Obama too is a narcissist of the first water. That is a conclusion I am not allowed to articulate in this household, but I am certain of its validity.

An essential contribution from “Mathbabe”:

Now for something truly important:


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

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


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

No comment needed:


7/20 For this one gets a Nobel!



Today’s MUST:


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

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

Restores my faith in Yale: that at least something intellectually creative is going on there other than “trigger”-happy people screaming at one another.



Glued to Open Championship on TV.

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

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

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

An excellent primer:

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

Two worthwhile closing notes:

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



















Can’t resist. From The Boston Globe today

Lack of visa workers has Cape and Islands hotspots in a bind
The Fourth of July has come and gone, and for Cape and Islands employers grappling with a worker shortage, reality has set in. This is going to be a rough summer.

Businesses are getting by — hiring anyone who walks in the door, bringing on more students, even giving shifts to foreign workers brought to the United States by other companies, which is against the law. But training and overtime costs are starting to pile up, and some employers have had to turn away banquet business and cancel landscaping contracts, for example, because they don’t have enough employees.

So where are all the workers Trump claims are losing jobs to foreigners?

Sentiments with which I thoroughly agree. The customary usage, pace Nassim Taleb, is “idiots savants.” Be sure to click this referenced link:  Here’s a sample: “Even at the height of religious persecution of heretics, top theologians were engaging more honestly and openly with the best heresies than Harvard does today. The Overton window has become an Overton bubble, with most respectable people trapped inside of it, unable to hear or think thoughts outside it…And so now we are stuck with a really nasty situation: A closed bubble of mainstream left-wing thought unwilling and incapable of engaging with anything outside itself, which is rapidly shifting so that almost all principles of good governance and civilization are outside it. And on the other side an uncontrolled free-for-all outside the bubble, not mature enough to reliably settle on truth and the principles of civilization, but quite economical enough to organize effective and fully hostile challengers to the elite consensus.”

It strikes me that Donald Trump Jr. is exactly what Trump haters and would-be impeachers have been praying for. The dumb son who wants to be a big shot. As I recall, there was some kind of academic dustup involving Don Jr. at the Buckley School that led to rumors of a fat gift to get the kid into Buckley being reneged on when he couldn’t cut it brains-wise.


There’s a person on The Lord High Executioner’s “little list” (Mikado) to whom I often refer when commenting on people who seek high office without any idea of what’s involved and how to comport themselves: “The lady from the provinces/Who dresses like a guy/And who doesn’t think she dances/But would rather like to try.” No – I’m not thinking of Trump. He thinks he dances. But I think this fits our incompetent Mayor De Blasio  perfectly. By “incompetent” I mean an absolute zero sense of occasion.

The latest iteration of what I call “the Clinton Theory”: if everyone’s lying, no one is.

As I was saying…


How about a little “fake news” from the good guys? Really fake – such as a rumor that Jared Kushner blew the whistle to the media on Donny Jr. to strengthen his position in the family internecine  wars? I’ve long felt there’s good work to be done on the Jared/Ivanka vs. Donny Jr/Eric front. Speaking of which: An interesting quote: “It’s a theory and tale of intra-family backstabbing that has gained traction on pro-Trump, right-wing, and alt-right media sites—which often baselessly blames Kushner for things—but is seen as straight-up laughable to Kushner and his allies, as well as others in the White House.” Now if I was a Trump-hater wishing to discomfit the bad guys, alt-right etc. are exactly those whose knicker a leak would seek to twist.

Hmmm!  Incidentally, the owners/landlords of many of these big vacant spaces “earn” more by leaving them empty than by renting them at less than optimum market rates. I personally regard this as an unconscionable subsidy.

I would hope so.

I really like David Brooks’s Tuesday column on class, class markers and exclusion. I think these are rampant on our elite campuses. For instance, the recommendation (NB) of a Harvard faculty committee to punish students who join “final clubs” like Porcellian, Fly etc. Just imagine what the alumni of these clubs represent in terms of financial and legacy firepower and reckon the odds of the Recommendation being enacted as Harvard policy. That said, the final clubs are markers of the kind of undergraduate class distinction that ignites resentment. Let’s see if Yale goes after Skull & Bones. some of the responses to Brooks’s column are priceless. Throw this into the hopper:

And to close out the day, from my admired friend Melik Kaylan:


David Brooks is very good today, but for those of us condemned to watch the antics or (asBill Buckley would put it) the tergiversations of the whore-poseur who is NYC’s mayor, this is a good place to start:

This is from Fortune editor Alan Murray’s daily post. Interesting:

Who is the world’s leading economic power?

My former colleagues at the Pew Research Center have released their latest poll asking that question of publics in 38 nations. They found a median of 42% pick the U.S., while 32% name China. But it depends on where you ask.

Across Latin America, most of Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, the U.S. is still seen as the stronger economic power. And by a 51% – 35% margin, Americans name their own country before China. U.S. esteem is highest in South Korea (66% to 27% for China), Japan (62% to 19%), Israel (52% to 33%) and Vietnam (51% to 17%).

But in seven out of 10 European Union nations, China comes out on top. It leads the U.S. by 47% to 37% in France, where President Trump is spending Bastille Day. The polls show neither Xi Jinping nor Donald Trump rank particularly high in global esteem. A median of 53% say they don’t have confidence in the Chinese leader to do the right thing in world affairs, while 74% express little or no confidence in the U.S. president.