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.



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

Another great find from The Browser:

My kind of tweeter:

I give up!

Trump voter Nikolas Cruz:

Swine Watch:

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

Triple Amen:   I think Schwarzman’s amazing career shows how little in the way of . character and intellect is required to succeed in finance capitalism. This guy’s real genius is for sucking up. 

Indeed, indeed:

I have subscribed to The New Criterion  since Hilton Kramer founded it 30-odd years ago. I continue to read it despite the front of the book being frequently idiotic because the arts and culture pages are excellent. But this piece by Roger Kimball, who succeeded Hilton as editor, is so stupid that I am considering canceling.

As disgusting as it is dishonest – and that goes double for the people involved.  Is there nothing that can be done about Anna Wintour?


Should have posted this on Valentine’s Day but only now caught up to it:

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

What are friends for?


Asks vital questions:

The way we think now:

It is often said that of all political-economic systems ever promulgated, capitalism is the best overall. “Overall” for whom, I’m tempted to ask? This is important:

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

NYT had a 2/15 front-pager (posted above) about a ghastly Friend of Dreckstuck named Wolkoff who squeezed millions out of the Inaugural Committee. Here’s the lady’s husband. No further comment needed:

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


I find this both convincing and infuriating. Convincing because of the force and evidential logic of Mishra’s argument. Infuriating because its view of Obama and his presidency is that which my 2016 novel Fixers propounds, that it was from the get-go a gross deception, which only ratchets up my aggravation at Fixers‘ negligible reception by the bookchat world (the exception being rave reviews in WSJ and WashPost). My book evidently offended the delicately elite bon pensant sensibilities of the people who decide what gets reviewed and written about.

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

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


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

On Wall Street, broadly defined, there seems to be no limit to folly and ignorance:

As someone who concocts novels that postulate sinister doings behind facts that don’t add up (Fixers, The Ropespinner Conspiracy, Green Monday), I found this convincing and deeply interesting:


Add this to the Wolf Richter post on Bitcoin etc.

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

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


On his excellent blog, Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen adduces some interesting small-business statistics.

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

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

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

My alma mater gets curiouser and curiouserNot sure what any of this signifies:























You can say this for Der Trumpf: he always leaves you with something to think about.

There’s something quite sad about this. Another once-shiny tile from the mosaic of the past falls off the wall and shatters.

High “ponder quotient”:



And again:


Nomi Prins: always worthwhile:

I think this is just great!

Lot of “Amens” this week:

2/4 – “Super” (sic) Sunday

I’ve always liked Kwak’s reasoning.

Oh brave new world!

So, Joe – what do you really think of Der Trumpf? A lot of the opinions are boilerplate, but the voicing is elegant and heartfelt:–stiglitz-2018-02?utm_source=Project+Syndicate+Newsletter&utm_campaign=4bf9c5d8e0-sunday_newsletter_4_2_2018&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_73bad5b7d8-4bf9c5d8e0-93490385      And for good measure:

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


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

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

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



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

Into each life some rain must fall:

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


This column by David Brooks in yesterday’s NYT is a good example of the proper use of history:

Here’s a useful guide to why things are playing out the way they are. As usual, Greed and its stepchildren – thievery, usury and recklessness – are in charge:

No comment:


Yesterday I attended a memorial service that has left me with a good deal to think about. More on that anon. In the meanwhile, this is brilliant!

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


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

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

A tough and dirty business. I’ve always said that writing is wonderful, but being published is hell!

So what have I been howling about all this time?


My ex-wife:

Really interesting:

An object lesson in how arrogance breeds incompetence:

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

I agree:

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


Puke material:

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

Completely agree. And heading my personal  list of Golf Trumpfers who’ve destroyed the character of the game by drowning it in pomposity and money are the United States Golf Association, Augusta National Golf Club and former PGA president Tim Finchem. I’ve been watching the AT&T National Pro-Am in Pebble Beach. Back when this tournament was “the Crosby,” it involved a lot of cool Hollywood and Show Biz types, many of whom were real stars, when that word meant something. Today it’s all hedge-fund types.

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


Might this be – can we pray that it is – an augury of big business coming around to a longer view?


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

Orwell, thou shouldst be living at this hour:


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

A useful supplement:

And now this: 

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

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

Coming across something like this is why we consider to be indispensable:

Two people I greatly respect in conversation:























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


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

Also from the art world: this is transcendently stupid:    How this blogger gets any attention is a mystery to me. Squeaking wheel, I guess.

From a smart guy:


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

This makes sense. Not that it has a chance in hell of happening, given human nature and the American ignorance:

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

This Frank Bruni column perfectly supports my contention, long held, that pundits ought to be licensed like drivers, piling up penalty points for the punditical equivalent of moving violations like fatuousness, rhetorical flatulence, pomposity and so on, until a number is reached that results in suspension of license, possibly even permanently. The Patriots – and I’m a Patriot admirer but not a fan – do not field prima donnas and generally speaking keep their individual and collective mouths shut. They represent a triumph of discipline, organization, continuity and staff work. If, off the field, Brady and Kraft speak well of Der Trumpf, it’s probably because they’ve had their fill of assholes like Frank Bruni who think opinion equals knowledge. I know I have.


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

Farewell to a really good guy:

Two articles about Jordan Peterson, whom I hadn’t known about – but sign me up!  Neither article will appear in The Nation. Peggy Noonan:   Chronicle of Higher Education (thanks to New Criterion):

Watch out below!


Sidney, thou shouldst be living at this hour!  What a pair Korshak and Der Trumpf would have made, especially if Roy Cohn had been added to the mix!

Finally located the rebuttal to the extremely stupid attack (posted above on 1/23) on Brooklyn Museum’s upcoming display of a Basquiat by Lee Rosenbaum (aka “culturegrrl”):

No, s***, Sherlock! The limitless corruptibility of social media: 

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

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


Read and – if you own the stuff – weep:

Very interesting to watch a notion gain traction. Still, to paraphrase the famous line from Julius Caesar: “The fault, my fellows, is not in the software but in ourselves.”

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

Every six months or so, someone publishes an article about how we’ve gotten Adam Smith wrong, or distorted his true views, or otherwise traduced him intellectually. This one (thanks, Barry Ritholtz) strikes me as really very good: 


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

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

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

My friend Yves Smith, founder-proprietor-moving spirit of the indispensable website Naked Capitalism has written this post that asks a lot of questions about The Way We Live Now that have for some time perplexed me, mainly connected to the issue of why we all seem so unattached. I suspect it has to do something with the primacy of social-mediaworthy “experiences” over any other form of human activity and self-validation: when everyone’s haring off in search of some personalized excitement that can be exhibited on, say, Instagram, where’s the “glue” that’s supposed to bind us?

I give up!


Worth thinking about. I admire Joseph Stiglitz, but this citation epitomizes the self-defeating pointlessness of knee-jerk (with an accent aigu on “jerk”) anti-Trumpism.

For whom would you vote? I’m thinking about my choices.

Brooklyn should consider this, adjusted of course for demographic skews. Anyone dressed in a way that proclaims assholism will have his garb confiscated:


Not in a million years!
















1/15 – 1/21/18….


Let’s start here. I might add a disclosure point. I reviewed Michael Wolff’s 2008 book on Murdoch for The New York Observer. Afterward, Wolff – whom I didn’t know – told me I was the only reviewer who “got” his book. What that said about me or my reviewing is something I’m still pondering a decade later. Anyway:

My darling wife brought this to my attention. Good stuff!

Once more into the breach!

1/16    This resonates oddly with me. You may loathe the person VF reports as making the observation for his politics or ideology, but he’s right in one regard: Der Trump’s “s…hole” usages are the way certain types talk in bars. If you report the locutions accurately you run certain risks, although what happened to me surely won’t happen to Vanity Fair’s writer. Here’s my sad story. Around 1990, I published a “dynastic” novel about Wall Street titled Hanover Place. One of the principal themes of the book was the uneasy, now and then ugly relationship between Christians and Jews, a fraught situation I had observed at first-hand in my years at Lehman Brothers and Burnham & Co. I knew what was said – what expressions were commonplace, what language was used – in certain locker rooms and around certain dining ables by parties to the conflict and I accurately reproduced those locutions in my novel. When the book was reviewed in NYTBR, the reviewer, Judith Martin aka “Miss Manners” of The Washington Post, accused me of harboring the sentiments expressed by the fictional characters I had created in the novel. The book and I were tarred with the brush of anti-Semitism. Martin’s review effectively killed the book, since it scared my team – agent, publisher etc., who were Jewish – into pretending they had nothing to do with it. A glowing review by Stephen Birmingham, author of Our Crowd, in WaPo didn’t help. Nor did an evening a month or so later at the Harmonie Club when I was invited to “defend” Hanover Place. At the end of the session, a number of members came up to tell me that this had been one of the best club evenings ever.  

Speaking of which (last paragraph especially):

Here’s Krugman in today’s NYT: “…this new divergence reflects the growing importance of clusters of highly skilled workers — many of them immigrants — often centered on great universities, that create virtuous circles of growth and innovation. And as it happens, the 2016 election largely pitted these rising regions against those left behind, which is why counties carried by Hillary Clinton, who won only a narrow majority of the popular vote, account for a remarkable 64 percent of U.S. G.D.P., almost twice as much as Trump counties.” I feel the columnist might have pointed out that while Clinton carried counties that accounted for 64% of GDP, a significant portion of that edge must have been generated in NY which is where – ironically – Der Trump, champion of 21st Century Know-Nothingism, made his money! 


This above all: “…H. L. Mencken, … famously described American democracy as ‘the worship of jackals by jackasses’”.



Hope springs eternal.


?Quien sabe?

This sort of piece is why I’ve always been a huge fan of Phil Mushnick:

From my friend Alexander:


Bret Stephens has a very sensible Op-Ed in today’s NYT:    Like it or not, Der Trump can be given credit for the huge stock market rally in this sense. There is probably more concentrated free/investible capital loose on the world than at any time in history. Clearly the sense prevails that the USA, for a number of reasons but certainly including the regime, is the most hospitable place on the globe for Big Money to find love and comfort. I must say that the Trump regime may be coarse, gross, corrupt and chaotic, but the opposition strikes me as just plain stupid.


Every day in every way, someone – the latest being Rep. Meehan – learns the great truth to emege from the Clinton Administration, so repeat after me, children: YOU ARE GOING TTO GET CAUGHT! 











Nothing like a first-thing-in-the-day puke:

Time to hit the fallout shelter:

Can hardly wait: Der Trump posted on Twitter Jan 2, 2018 08:05:10 PM: “I will be announcing THE MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR on Monday at 5:00 o’clock. Subjects will cover Dishonesty & Bad Reporting in various categories from the Fake News Media. Stay tuned!

Unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable – or vice versa:


In all the kerfuffle – the keening and moaning – about Der Trump, who seems every day to be playing with several fewer cards than the accustomed 52, a choice piece of political-economic wisdom has gotten lost in the noise. It was promulgated by the late Herbert Stein and states, simply, that if something can’t go on forever, it won’t. I think this applies to Der Trump. The omens are gathering like vultures on a branch: the Wolff book, Der Trump’s split with Bannon (which provides the extra useful insight that the way to go after DT is to go after his children (Donald Jr’s an idiot, can be depended upon to put his foot in it), jump on their every social and business (Ivanka, Eric) move, estrange Melania from her husband  by over-reporting their young son), various leaks.  

Everyone’s talking about this:

And this:


I seldom find myself on the same side of any argument as John Podhoretz but his view here  jibes with my own view of Wolff (disclosure: I reviewed Wolff’s book on Murdoch for The New York Observer, and found it a curate’s egg, convincing in parts but also calculated to cause a stir thanks to its benign (more than most) view of The Digger). I find it hard to believe that Wolff was allowed a virtual free run of the White House, talking to whomever he pleased. I find it impossible to accept that Gary Cohn, who hasn’t gotten to where he is by being e-indiscreet, sent that scurrilous email to Blankfein. Wolff is a writer whose unquenchable thirst for stardom leads him down strange fantasist lanes. I was educated to believe that public figures can’t sue for libel (you should see the stuff that the press said about Grant!) but we shall see. Wolff vs Trump: reminds me of the tigers racing in circles at the foot of L’il Black Sambo’s tree (apologies to all you identity victims out there.)  Throw this into the mix:



Have finished Chernow’s Grant. A commanding work of history that should be read by every American 40 years or older, not only to remind them of what they may have forgotten (or may never have known or learned), but because every other page, especially those dealing with Grant’s presidency, contains thought-provoking resonances of the state in which this Great Republic now finds itself. I’m of the generation raised by learned professors and lists published in NYT  to rate Grant as the worst American president, worse than Buchanan, worse than Harding, a drunk and a dupe. How little they knew. On the basis of Chernow’s openly, admittedly redemptive biography, Grant ranks close to the top! 


Journalistic gutlessness incarnate…and yet…and yet…I have to say that there’s not been a day when I wished Hillary Clinton were president, just as there hasn’t been a day when I haven’t wished Der Trump wasn’t president…so how do I get around that?

In the last month, two friends have died whose lives I looked upon with something approaching envy (odd for me, since I abandoned envy as an existential organizing principle years ago) because it seemed to me that these two got out of life what they wanted, and that “what” jibed with my sense and definition of a life well-lived.  The first was Bob Wilmers, who died three weeks ago. The other was Gene Thaw, who died last week. Gene brought honor, style and intellectual distinction to the vocation of art dealer (a vocation I craved for myself, but was bullied away from by my father – although that’s another story). He was a consummate connoisseur, with a versatile eye that found interest and quality in everything from Old Masters to Native American art. There are art dealers who embody the “art” part of the designation – Bill Acquavella, Paul Kasmin, Cecily Langdale, Mark Brady, Richard Feigen – and art dealers who emphasize “dealer” in the way they go about their business (a jumped-up commodities-promoter like Gagosian comes to mind, or the bucket-shop operators who flog Koons and Wool to purblind hedge-fund types).  Gene was of the first part, in spades:  and a notable collector-philanthropist in the bargain. And so it goes. Ave atque vale. 

So what is one to make of this? “Cultural attractions”?

Read this:   And then read it again. 

Kunstler clearly has:


Yesterday, NYC came as close to urban Gotterdammerung as I dare say it has in a good long time. During the morning commute, no less than 15 subway lines had problems. The LIRR’s main lines broke down for a time. There were a number of water main breaks, including one that affected the UN department where my wife works, shutting down electronic apparatus essential to her job as a translator-editor. In the afternoon, my area’s Spectrum (formerly Time-Warner) internet connection was out for several hours.  And they were still trying to sort out JFK!

I like this:

Interesting but troubling. Seems to imply a way to keep people in “distraction bondage” even as they grow older and should be giving up this stuff:


From the absolutely indispensable website, The Browser. I have given annual subscriptions (only $20 per) to my family. I urge you to subscribe. The Browser  is the best assurance I have that time spent wandering the Internet isn’t the complete waste it usually is. Of course, Galbraith’s Op-Ed goes directly to the Putin-Russia-2016 Campaign business that has the collective knickers of the self-regarding and  self-important in such a twist:


I never believed in Wriston, the 1980s Messiah of all-new American banking (my novel The Ropespinner Conspiracy stems from the premise that a Soviet “financial mole” rises to the top of U.S. banking and sets out to destroy it by doing exactly what Wriston was doing at the time at Citi):


I like this

I agree with Noonan. And with H.G.Salsinger. veteran Detroit sportswriter, who on the retirement of Ty Cobb wrote: “We shall not see his like again. For the game has changed. And not for the better.”

Triple amen! I no longer read “the front of the book” in The New Criterion, to which I’ve subscribed from Day One, thirty-five years ago. 


Curiouser and curiouser:

This explains it:


Really quite satisfying:

Watched the Patriots clobber the Titans in a clear case of the former utterly outcoaching the latter. All the talk-show lead-ins, plus Tony Romo, who was doing the “color” on CBS,  emphasized that the only chance Tennessee had was to rely on its behemoth linemen on both sides of the ball. OK, fair enough, but if that’s your game plan you better have at least a dozen of the aforesaid mastodons, because if they have to run side-to-side (“East and West” in NFL parlance) they wear down quickly and need to be rapidly cycled in and out (for confirmation, check out the Atlanta fatigue factor in the 2017 Super Bowl). Going in, however, I think I heard someone say that the Titans were down to five defensive big boys – and that proved to be that. Brady & Co. went side-to-side and quick stuff on the wings.  By halfway through the second quarter, even on TV you could see the Titans were gasping. Game over






















Took a few days off to read, deal with family, wonder if, as 2018 approaches, I shall see the coming year out. Will do a wrap up, but for the nonce can say that I find Ron Chernow’s Grant quite simply one of the best-written books of my lifetime. Absolutely absorbing; the handling of stupendous research is graceful, the narrative flows, the whole man and his whole life are depicted and, it seems to me, captured. Right up there with Gibbon. I’ve sent 5 copies to friends and family already and more will surely follow. If I had one cavil, it would be that the book needs maps, but to do those in a manner that befits the elegance and comprehensiveness of the rest would surely make the volume impossibly heavy and costly. 

I really like this sort of thing. Gets the reflective juices bubbling.

Incidentally, I found the above at, a site a friend has just gone to work for. David Brooks cites Browser in his column today, and once I figure out how, I shall send a subscription to my family and a few friends. You might consider doing the same.


An excellent interview, full of good ideas, conducted and reported by my admirable friend Tunku Varadarajan:

I must say, I don’t see what’s wrong with the idea of a two-step digital identity card. 

So Chernow’s Grant  has taken me through Appomattox and the end of a monstrous war fought so that, among other things, a free people could someday put a lying, cowardly, ignorant pig in the White House. 

A disturbing observation: it seems today that when journalists confront a serious, newsworthy situation, their first reaction isn’t “How should I report this?” or “What does this really  mean?”  but “What am I going to Tweet about this?” Which makes them intellectually little better than Der Trump. 

This is Sam Clovis, the Trump campaign official who brought Papadopolous on board. How many words is a picture worth?



No comment:


Happy New Year, Bret Stephens:


Today’s NYT Op-Ed offers David Leonhardt’s 7 wishes for 2018. I should like to add an eighth: that in future I be spared the anodyne, insightless piffle that Leonhardt offers as commentary.  

Last week we got a Christmas card from Sen. Michael Bennett (D, CO). Run-of-the-mill-stuff: I gave a bit of money to Bennett’s campaign a few years back, hence my presence on his Christmas card list. But the card got me thinking about Bennett, a smart, attractive, family-oriented candidate who I think could beat Der Trump like a drum. So why haven’t we heard much about or from him? Partly, I suppose, because Colorado politics needs sorting out; most states have zero attractive, ethical Democratic political figures; Colorado has two: Bennett and former Governor John Hickenlooper (who used to be married to my dear Observer  colleague Helen Thorpe). But also because Bennett may be playing the subtlest big-stakes endgame in politics today. He’s keeping his powder dry, and since that powder includes the affections of Michael Bloomberg (in whose house I met Bennett), formidable ammunition should the opportunity arise. Why not leave the impotent palavering to useless nothings like Schumer and Pelosi? See how events play out. The inhabitant of the White House, a delusional narcissist surrounded by yes-people, will cut his own tiny nuts off, given time and the absence of little grey cells (as I recently suggested to a friend: Der Trump has got North Korea exactly where they want him). So here’s my advice: keep your eye on Michael Bennett, a decent man and a proven winner.  

This recently came to my attention. It’s one of those impressive tours d’horizon that I like. That I missed it when it was published in mid-2017 is shaming (actually, I may not have missed it, but I’m too lazy and preoccupied to go back and check). Do read it!    Here’s a sample:    If I am correct, the post–Cold War period has come to a close, and the industrial democracies of North America and Europe have entered a new and turbulent era. The managerial class has destroyed the social settlements that constrained it temporarily in the second half of the twentieth century and created a new kind of politics, largely insulated from popular participation and electoral democracy, based on large donors and shifting coalitions within a highly homogeneous coalition of allied Western elites. Following two decades of increasing consolidation of the power of the managerial class, the populist and nationalist wave on both sides of the Atlantic is a predictable rebellion by working-class outsiders against managerial-class insiders and their domestic allies, who are often recruited from native minorities or immigrant diasporas.


David Brooks has a commendable Op-Ed in today’s NYT .  His subject is tribalism.  Here’s a statement that caught my eye (the Bruckner” to whom Brooks refers is a French intellectual, Pascal Bruckner):  Bruckner states that “…being guided only by the lantern of his own understanding, the individual loses all assurance of a place, an order, a definition. He may have gained freedom, but he has lost securityIn societies like ours, individuals are responsible for their own identity, happiness and success. “Everyone must sell himself as a person in order to be accepted.” We all are constantly comparing ourselves to others and, of course, coming up short. The biggest anxiety is moral. We each have to write our own gospel that defines our own virtue.” It seems to me that if you take the insecurity-out-of-individualism thesis to the next logical step you arrive at the key to the moral and social stranglehold social media has on those who are entangled in its coils. It’s all about “I am/have/am up to” with the implication that you might not be/have/be experiencing. In other words, social media are driven by envy as much as by any other moral, material or psychological force. 



12/18 – 12/24…..


A dear friend called late yesterday with the shocking news that Bob Wilmers has died. All things considered, I don’t hold much esteem for bankers – an antipathy that 2007-2008 and since has only only strengthened – but Bob was the exception. He built M&T into a real force and he was a most interesting man. There’s a special place in my pantheon for people I like personally and admire professionally, in each case without reservation. Bob was a good guy, a friend, a thoughtful cultivated man with a huge range of interests, real citizen of the worlds he moved in – from wine to journalism to finance. Bless him, bless his memory.

I’ve often expressed my admiration for Matt Taibbi’s journalism. It seems that, in younger days, he had an “Animal House” phase. Who didn’t?


I’m a Kunstler fan, but there’s a point when you have to batten the hatches, lash yourself to the foremast and let come what may. Kunstler needs to dial it back.

This seems to support Kunstler’s thesis:


Here are the first three items on “Dealbreaker” today. Considered together, weighed and plumbed for meaning beyond the numbers, these together constitute a pretty fair (and discouraging) picture of what a “financialized” economy amounts to: 

Broken bonds: The role Wall Street played in wiping out Puerto Ricans’ savings (CNBC)
A CNBC investigation found that UBS was not forthcoming about the extent of the risks of those bond funds from both its clients and brokers, even as the values of the funds plummeted. By the end of 2012, more than $10 billion in assets were invested in UBS’ bond funds. That represented about 10 percent of the island’s gross domestic product at the time. Today, those investments have been nearly wiped out.

Hedge Fund Managers Expect a 39% Bonus Bump (BBG)
Hedge funds climbed about 6 percent through the end of November, compared with a 2.8 percent rise for the full year of 2016, according to indexes tracked by Hedge Fund Research. “With assets not substantially increasing and with fees continuing to be under pressure, it may be wishful thinking that the bonus pools would have swelled so considerably,” Anthony Keizner, partner at Odyssey, said in an email.

Money Markets Are Going Haywire, Blame the Government (WSJ)
The sudden swings in the money markets and the spillovers into government debt show that banks aren’t responding in the way the regulators want. Instead of being less complex, better capitalized and smaller all year, banks are being managed to the targets set in the rules for December 31. That isn’t good for the financial system in the run-up to New Year, but it is utterly predictable for anyone who has ever looked at how humans respond to numerical goals.


Double Amen! No – make that a triple!


This is the must must MUST read of the day, the week, the year.


And now – for all decent people everywhere, this lump of stocking coal. I should note that Trump and Trumpism is simply the logical endgame of what I have called the Clinton Theory: that if everyone’s lying, no one is.

Totally agree. Points up what a complete a**h*** Krugman has been on this subject.

No comment needed:

Writing this awash in tears after watching the 1951 Alastair Sim “A Christmas Carol,”  the most perfect transmutation I know of a very great book into a very great film.  Blubbing because of the great story perfectly visualized and enacted; blubbing because it brings memories of my mother reading it to my brother and me in 1944 or 1945 (or did we hear it first read on the radio by Lionel Barrymore?); blubbing with thoughts of how much today’s money-crazed culture needs to read this (and the East Wing bedroom needs a visit from the Three Spirits).


Got to say this for the lump-of-coal guy. He sticks to his last (sorry for the mixed vocational metaphor). “Sharenting, a term to describe parents who actively share their kids’ digital identities online, is rampant in the United States, with 92 percent of toddlers under the age of 2 already having their own unique digital identity. As 2017 comes to a close, it appears to be a phenomenon that shows no sign of slowing down.” 92 f*****g percent! “Sharenting”? Are we nuts? Don’t answer that!

In line with the above, I posted this a while back, but it needs to be reread and reread and reread…..

In a few hours family will start to arrive. What a comparison, our modest celebration, the joy of reunion, with the image of Der Trump, with his fat ass and tiny cock (attested to by a generation of models and flight attendants ca. 1970), tarting it up in the halls of Mar-Al-Lago, extending his boots to be licked by the glitterati of Palm Beach, people who perfectly exemplify my father’s definition of “the upper crust”: a bunch of crumbs held together by dough. 




















Got my wife’s terrible cold. Mucus production worthy of a medical museum. 

Now: we need someone to construct an Excel-type spread sheet laying out the specifics of harassment alleged against various individuals. There’s too much vague speculation on offer. From what we know, the offenses range from rape (Weinstein) to the merely repulsive (Wieseltier, Weinstein again) to upskirt peeking (Matt Lauer) to styles of masturbation (Louis C K, others) but what did Charlie Rose DO? When a young woman states that an e-mail from John Hockenberry “made her uncomfortable,” what exactly does she mean? Did he write, “I’d like you to give me a BJ” or was it “You look cute today”? My money leans toward the latter, which I don’t consider harassment, and if the young lady does, she’s too stupid to hold a job at NPR. At WNYC, Leonard Lopate professes utter puzzlement at allegations about him; I’ll buy that. On the other hand, my antipathy toward Matt Lauer is so pronounced that I’ll jump to put the worst construction on any allegation concerning him. Bottom line: I suspect that a ton of office flirting has been transformed by the combined alchemy of allegation, victimism, identity thinking and rumor into much more dire sexual overtures.  

This is smart:

For  a truly revelatory insight into the dim-wittedness of 90% of the Internet:

Why I admire Bret Stephens:

The Mystery For The Ages: Bitcoin!

Yesterday I posted a solid piece of analysis of last year’s election from The Atlantic: here are some numbers I really find interesting (and in their way disheartening): “Trump defeated Clinton among white voters in every income category, winning by a margin of 57 to 34 among whites making less than $30,000; 56 to 37 among those making between $30,000 and $50,000; 61 to 33 for those making $50,000 to $100,000; 56 to 39 among those making $100,000 to $200,000; 50 to 45 among those making $200,000 to $250,000; and 48 to 43 among those making more than $250,000. In other words, Trump won white voters at every level of class and income. He won workers, he won managers, he won owners, he won robber barons. This is not a working-class coalition; it is a nationalist one.”

Dickhead’s tweets today are all about Pearl Harbor. It never ceases to amuse me how much pleasure liars and cowards get from tooting the militarist trumpet. Who do they think they’re fooling? 


This is so great! It is to declasse what Hamlet  is to theater.

And now – turning from the utterly classless to the utterly classy – I am very much looking forward to the HBO documentary on Gianni Agnelli. I knew him the tiniest bit but used to observe him fairly frequently in St.Moritz. Don’t let the name of the fancy resort in the Engadine imply airs on my part. My Swiss stepmother of 50 years, Poppi Thomas (nee Ruppaner), came from there. Her father, Ernst R., was the top doctor in the Engadine (still, incidentally, as beautiful a place as I know), and her ties to the valley were deep. She even spoke Romansch, the ancient language of the region (perhaps 30,000 in the world speak it, perhaps less). After my father died in 1977, and Poppi grew older, the call of her birthplace intensified and she bought a little house on the hillside overlooking the Suvretta House. I and my family would visit her there. Because I was a member of White’s, the self-regarding London club, I could get a guest card to the Corviglia Club, the plebians-need-not-apply gathering place at the summit of the cog railway. The Corviglia was the natural habitat of l’Avvocato (“the Lawyer”); there he could be observed at the top of his game. Ah, those, those were the days – and what a man he was: elegance personified.   



Lost the weekend thanks to this merciless cold. 

Now this responds to another of those Internet-generated “stories” that I think are absolute balderdash:      We got an Alexa and like it a lot. It plays music and radio for us, period. If it’s eavesdropping on conversations in this apartment, so be it. I think that most security/surveillance concerns are expressed by persons who wish they were important enough to merit attention. That’s the thing about the Internet: it may be many things, but as a medium for self-puffery it’s unsurpassed. I might add it also gives voice to the truly insane, like this “alt-right” fellow Cernovich, who we heard on a memorable NPR segment. That’s a side blessing of the Internet I never thought about until now: in ordinary life, most of us never encounter people who really are nuts, so we have no idea what they sound like up close and personal. Now, thanks to the ‘Net in all its forms, we do – starting with the White House. 

Department of “No shit, Sherlock!”:–34kZZLs1qWZktYmy-q-_gHHc4TkXw8oJL3GBSSo22IH-i25mk41uHJw5LtrG3uwKa2oSIF_Jlr_eUvoGkQtYWK369LQ&_hsmi=59275192



I admire Stiglitz more for his clarity of presentation than his originality – althoughin this time of “alt-right” and Trumpspeak, who’s to say that clear and creative aren’t virtually synonymous:–stiglitz-2017-12?utm_source=Project+Syndicate+Newsletter&utm_campaign=392dbac202-sunday_newsletter_10_12_2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_73bad5b7d8-392dbac202-93490385 


This is an interesting report about the efforts of Breitbart etc. to character-assassinate Matt Taibbi, a journalist I admire without reservation. It concludes with an important question: “…What are we to do with old humor that time strips of context?” Trump and the vermin who congregate in his shadow clearly represent the (sad to say) inevitable apotheosis of the Clinton Doctrine that if everyone’s lying, no one is. The Clintons left a trail through the public life of this country that strikes this observer as the equivalent, in moral terms, of the slimy track left by garden slugs on a lawn. 

In the world of money, there’s no one I respect more than Stanley Druckenmiller. He’s a friend I admire both for his private values and his professional attainments.

A rare occasion when the Internet actually serves the public weal:


I have written of my hope that Michael Bloomberg will seize on the current disorder emanating from the White House and organize a national initiative – let’s call it “The Unity Initiative” or “Unity Coalition”-  built from the ground up – mayors, state legislators and the like – to oppose the New Autocracy. Let’s pray this is a first step.

Here’s an interesting quote: “Yet Trump is making the same mistake that Barack Obama made in his first two years in office — believing that his party’s congressional majority gives him license to govern without the other side.” Obama’s “mistake”? I’m not so sure. Read my novel of last year, Fixers. 

Since Larry Summers was knocked off his horse on the Damascus Road, so to speak, he’s become positively agnostic. And worth listening to. Since nothing Trump, McConnell or Paul Ryan has ever advocated has been less than crooked, this is worth reading:–summers-2017-12?utm_source=Project%20Syndicate%20Newsletter&utm_campaign=9104a12024-op_newsletter_2017_12_15&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_73bad5b7d8-9104a12024-93490385&barrier=accesspaylog 

I’m not sure what I think – or what to think – about Adam Gopnik. After reading this, I remain puzzled.


Lee Child’s new Jack Reacher book, Midnight Line, has gotten rave reviews. I found it utterly disappointing: tiresome, full of pointless topographical detail (more than once you’re crying out for a road map) – including one sequence that consumes a lot of paper in which Reacher sneaks up on an enemy position only to find it unmanned – and in general weary, flat, stale and unprofitable. I have written some of this stuff, and I appreciate the difficulties of writing a “one big idea” thriller: in this instance the “big idea” is Reacher investigating how a West Point ring (“The corps, and the corps, and the corps”) came to end up in a pawnshop window. The issue is: how does one build on the idea. The easy answer is to bring one’s pet memes marching onstage like the parade f the wooden soldiers.  There are two kinds of page-turner, defined by the rate at which the reader turns the pages: steadily, one at a time, savoring twists of plot and characterization, or rapidly, in increasing gobs, as boredom and impatience set in. Moreover, Child has bred his own stable of cliches (Reacher taking on a bunch of local toughs all at once etc etc). In Midnight Line he deploys them all. 

Roubini’s an irritating sort – but perceptive:

This is great! this  is my idea of how to make an important point:” It’s worth making the blindingly obvious hypothetical comparison to a notional nominee under the last president. Let’s say Barack Obama had put forward an utterly unqualified person for a lifetime judge’s job – someone so useless that they hadn’t even boned up on basic legal terms any judge would need to know. And let’s say that nominee was a person of color. What do you think the public reaction would be?”

Extremely worthwhile. Yves as usual on the ball.     “In other words, while blacks turning out at high levels for a special election was important, there was no way Jones could win without significant support from whites. And as Brunig shows, the swing in the white vote was what was responsible for Jones’ win, contrary to that the Might Wurlitzer of orthodox opinion has been pumping out.”

A useful tour d’horizon: 

Very very very interesting:

















I like to start a new week in the right spirit.

Somehow missed this:

No comment needed:

From Politico’s NY Real Estate Report:  “Trump Tower among buildings that continue to bar the public from public spaces on site,” by PIX’s James Ford: “Nearly every inspected building that’s supposed to give full access to public space on its premises has failed to do so. That’s what a new audit by New York City’s top investigator concludes. Among the buildings on the list of non-compliance is Trump Tower. New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer made that declaration on Tuesday, half a year after his office first found that a large percentage of private developers had fallen short of agreements they’d made with the city which allowed them to build higher and more dense buildings than applicable zone regulations allow. In exchange for that privilege, developers were required to include privately owned public space, or POPS, on the developed property. …

“Stringer did not blame the buildings or their developers — including President Trump — for their non-compliance. Instead, he said that the agency tasked with enforcing POPS standards was responsible. ‘The Buildings Department is totally asleep at the switch,’ the comptroller told PIX11 News. ‘They’re not enforcing the agreement. They’re not enforcing the law. Shame on them.’ For its part, the Department of Buildings issued a statement on Tuesday: ‘We agree with many of the audit’s recommendations and will be conducting regular inspections of all POPS in the city.'” Read the story here . Read the report here.” “Asleep at the switch”? Perhaps – but wide awake by the little tin box? I suspect so.

Earlier today, I sent the following to a friend whose grasp of postmodern finance I trust:  “Perhaps when we meet in January, you can explain Bitcoin – which will then be changing hands at either $200,000 or zero – to us. What sets it apart other than its attraction as a vehicle for speculation? I’ve traveled up one side of Google and down the other and can find no easily comprehended explanation for the surge other than the perception that Bitcoin is perhaps a purer speculation – that is, less tied to externalities like central banks – than whatever else is on offer right now. Still, at the end of the day, for Bitcoin to have any economic utility, it has to be cashed in, presumably into some recognized medium of exchange (currency, gold or other commodity, whatever) that can be used to pay for stuff. There’s something about this that vaguely reminds me of the Eurodollar boom of the ’70s; deals and transactions could be denominated in Eurodollars, without the Fed’s by-your-leave, to the extent that by 1980, no one had any clear idea how many Eurodollars were in circulation. It was then that my friend Martin Mayer observed that a country that can’t control the amount of its money in circulation will soon not be able to control much else about itself.  Blockchain I can grasp, barely, because it seems to have a certain operational utility. Indeed I believe that is how it was originally promoted by Blythe Masters and others. ”  Then I subsequently read this:


As early as 1993, in an unpublished but paid for book The Overclass (thanks, Random House, Jason Epstein and Harry Evans), I predicted that this was the direction in which the country was now headed. No graphs or Big Data, just common sense and the powers of observation: Response to the above, here’s what I submitted on Dr. Sachs’s web page: In 1993, at the modest height of my reclame as a columnist for The New York Observer (1987-2009), I was commissioned by Random House to write a book about what I thought was going on in the country. The book I wrote, paid for by RH but unexplainedly never published, The Overclass, grew out of a (also paid for but also unpublished) short book, The Invisible Infrastructure, that contended that even as we were neglecting our visible infrastructure – highways, bridges, power grid, mass transit etc – we had better pay attention to the constellation of ideals, statements of purpose, jurisprudential outcomes etc. that constituted a kind of “invisible” infrastructure as essential to the country as its bridges etc. The RH book picked up this theme, focusing most closely on the cadres working to take over the country and suggested a number of remedies. I knew whereof I was speaking because I had been born into and educated by the elite, and by 1980, at the age of 44, when I began to write, I had been a corporate finance partner of two substantial Wall Street firms, had sat on the boards of important corporations and public and private institutions, owned a (small ) piece of a major professional sports franchise and otherwise enjoyed (if you will) life at the top. Your thinkpiece in the Boston Globe struck a responsive chord, although I fear it is too late really to do anything substantive short of a violent upheaval. The only answer lies at the polls. The moral indolence of the majority has submitted the nation to a not-so-virtual tyranny of the minority, while gerrymandering and other forms of voter exclusion, not to mention court decisions, have consolidated these distortions. The problem is worsened, at least in my perception, by the fact that those most physically and emotionally capable of wielding pitchforks and torches and operating guillotines (and AK-15s) voted for Mr. Trump. Best regards – Michael M. Thomas

This really says all you need to know about the moral gravity of the corporate types slavering for a tax cut. Alaweed must saying to himself “With friends like these…”

Pretty good audio-visual and verbal representation of a pig with small trotters:


It now seems clear that the person in the Oval Office is like a psychotic frog jumping from one Twitter lily pad to another, the distance between pads growing longer with each leap. Twitter was always going to be his undoing. Retweeting the loony anti-Muslim stuff was  bad; pointing a finger at Andrew Lack crosses the line!

This makes sense to me:–nXh6o4EtTfS5IB4JGVM2cRFJ1irhWCbOUTgQN0UpZt1uxINHVFUmZcW1bvhidPbTtBau4HtlTxIeSodyJH6BdsgRpDw&_hsmi=58893838


All right, I yield. The guy in the White House really is as bad as – worse than – the most ardent Trump-haters prophesied. A tax on tuition grants! Tweeting “terrorist” videos originally posted by a UK nutjob. You watch: he’ll now disclaim any responsibility for the most odious parts of the tax bill. He is his base: brimming with grudges fueled by an inferiority complex – and I don’t know how it can be reversed, since red-statism in its many aspects has been made secure by gerrymandering and a Congress of bought men and women. Just read this stuff (I don’t use or read Twitter or FB, but link to a useful site called “Trump Twitter Archive): 

  1. Nov 30, 2017 08:05:21 AM – Stock Market hits new Record High. Confidence and enthusiasm abound. More great numbers coming out!
  2. Nov 30, 2017 07:25:00 AM – The Chinese Envoy, who just returned from North Korea, seems to have had no impact on Little Rocket Man. Hard to believe his people, and the military, put up with living in such horrible conditions. Russia and China condemned the launch.
  3. Nov 30, 2017 07:15:08 AM – The Failing @nytimes has totally gone against the Social Media Guidelines that they installed to preserve some credibility after many of their biased reporters went Rogue! @foxandfriends
  4. Nov 30, 2017 07:01:25 AM – The Failing @nytimes, the pipe organ for the Democrat Party, has become a virtual lobbyist for them with regard to our massive Tax Cut Bill. They are wrong so often that now I know we have a winner!
  5. Nov 29, 2017 09:23:14 PM – Funny to hear the Democrats talking about the National Debt when President Obama doubled it in only 8 years!
  6. Nov 29, 2017 09:00:23 PM – “Had the information (Crooked Hillary’s emails) been released there would have been harm to National Security….” Charles McCullough Fmr Intel Comm Inspector General
  7. Nov 29, 2017 08:09:42 PM – The only people who don’t like the Tax Cut Bill are the people that don’t understand it or the Obstructionist Democrats that know how really good it is and do not want the credit and success to go to the Republicans!
  8. Nov 29, 2017 08:03:30 PM – The House of Representatives seeks contempt citations(?) against the JusticeDepartment and the FBI for withholding key documents and an FBI witness which could shed light on surveillance of associates of Donald Trump. Big stuff. Deep State. Give this information NOW! @FoxNews
  9. Nov 29, 2017 08:02:06 PM – [email protected]_May, don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!

The dumbest attitude we of decent faith can assume is what I see all around me. To be Trump-phobic while turning a blind eye and deaf ear to what he actually spews.   

Today’s NYT carries the sad news that Jane Stebbins Greenleaf has died, age 81. She was perhaps the best friend of my prep-school and early college days (1952-55), that brief but oh-so-halcyon time. In writing her brother Ted, the distinguished historian of American painting and sculpture, I observed “…so many memories came flooding back: of an era, a milieu and a time in our lives that for ever so many reasons truly does seem golden. Jane really was the dearest friend of my boyhood. We had such good times together – and so many laughs! Somewhere among my albums is a photo of Jane being escorted by yours truly at the Debutante Cotillion in 1954, both of us in full fig. My God, how young we were, how full of joy and optimism.”  It was a time when, as Thomas Bergin, who taught me Dante at Yale, wrote in an obituary note on the death of Charles Garside, friend, mentor and the greatest teacher I ever had, “,,in the middle-1950s, time seemed to stand still…” Why that was bears some thinking about, but on reflection I recall young people thinking that the grown-ups were in charge, and rightly so. We are no longer vouchsafed that luxurious way of thinking in this country – and that is a tragedy. xxxxxx

News that Teenydick intends to give Tillerson the boot is glad tidings for Trump-haters. Tillerson is a highly-respected CEO with a worldwide acquaintance. The administration will doubtless try to negotiate a zipped-lip deal, but my guess is that Tillerson’s beyond their grasp. Besides, why keep your word to a c**ksu**er who’s never kept his! 

The vulgarity of this passeth all understanding:

You have to admire Teenydick’s strategy with this tax bill. When it passes, and the 1% and their C-Suite cronies gobble up the incremental cash flow, Td will assert that he got a tax bill passed; not his fault if greedy CEOs and swamp-fillers took away the fruits. Take it out on your Senator or Congressperson, but don’t blame me!


This is by/about a friend, Susan MulcahySays it all:

Amen!   A sample: “So powerful is the impetus towards the collective fake that it is now an effective requirement of finalists for the Turner Prize in Britain to produce something that nobody would think was art unless they were told it was.” 

Listening to economist-propagandist Stephen Moore on Brian Lehrer’s WNYC show, I found myself reflecting on lying. Always a constituent of the art of politics, lying was elevated to an ironclad principle by the Clintons’ philosophy of prevarication: If everyone’s lying, no one is. Of course, lying is a two-faced business: lying about intention, which is an intensified type of hypocrisy, and lying about facts, which is…well…lying!   In both cases, you’re looking at fraud, at motivated untruth. Trump, of course, is the greatest all-rounder in the history of lying. 


RIP Vincent Scully. An amazing, inspiring teacher, and in his prime, an ass-man of the very first water!

Read and weep!


I think of taxation as a form of dredging, cutting channels in harbor bottoms. For instance, take this theory that corporations will somehow use the cash flow cut free by the tax “reform” to invest, pay better wages and otherwise do stuff that will benefit the general good – but that anyone with practical, first-hand experience of the corporate mind will recognize as anathema absolute to C-suite thinking. So how about a tax on retained earnings net of new investment? And a surtax on stock grants to executives?  

I tend to agree. I haven’t bought into the “overvalued” view. With so much liquidity loose in the world, with the spectrum of acceptable-risk investment possibilities narrowing, and with many companies seeing expanding margins thanks to globalization and technology,  we could be looking at an upward revision of multiples with real longer-term staying power.


Totally agree:


One or two important Christmas parties that were bright lights on the holiday social calendars of many people (disclosure point: I wasn’t an invitee) have been canceled. I think this reflects that apprehension present at the end of 2016, following the election, have been realized with interest. The tax-bill seals the deal, aimed as it clearly is at New York, California, New Jersey and other states perceived to be native habitats for despised “elites” and their colluders in the media. The country is clearly in the hands of the angry mob, with a mindless, manipulative thug at its head.  I wish I saw a way out of this, short of an assassin’s bullet, but I’m not sure that even this might get things turned around. xxxx   


I think the current situation of the Democrat party offers a singular opportunity for Michael Bloomberg to step in, not as a Democrat but as an Independent, and pull together the various anti-Trump or otherwise disaffected elements of the electorate, like the strands of a cable, into a single force capable of reshaping the 2018 election picture. Bloomberg is a great manager, and that’s what’s needed now. He can orchestrate and conduct a policy program that has everyone playing from the sheet music that sounds best in their section of the country. He won’t have to campaign. I think the current disorder perfectly suits Bloomberg’s temperament, intelligence and political and governance instincts. He could create what I think of as “The Unity Coalition”.  (Feel free to forward this to him; I’ve lost his email address).

Once again, Dorothy Parker in a timeless subject: “If you want to see what God thinks of money, look at who He gives it to.” Salvador Mundi: an odd choice for a Wahhabist.   

I’m not a big fan of Friedman, but this makes sense:


Nowadays, really good news is hard to come by. Too bad Sean Hannity wasn’t sacked out in the guest room.


And here’s why the media stink (quoting from the above): “There’s very little evidence of Trump being openly racist or sexist,” Colvin insisted. “It wasn’t until he started running for president that all these stories started coming out. I don’t believe it. I’ve done the research.”  “Research,” my ass! At this point, the reporter/story should ask: “What research?” I had a great English teacher at Exeter, the immortal H. Darcy Curwen, who – when I or anyone would venture a bold generalization – would demand “Name two.” We seldom could. 

The Paris Review has dismissed Lorin Stein as Editor for “Inappropriate Behavior.” This is so stupid it defies belief! No one is going to cancel their PR subscription or refuse an interview because of anything Lorin – a brilliant editor – may have said to an intern. Speaking of which, I’ve Googled through the complainants in one situation after another, and to put it politely, 90% are women you wouldn’t f**k with someone else’s d**k. Of course, when I saw that the PR board is chaired by Terry Mcdonnell, I knew to expect the worse. 
























Thanksgiving Week. Last night an interesting coincidence. My wife and I, side-by-side in bed, reading. She: Tina Brown’s Vanity Fair Diaries 1983-1992; me: Chips: The Diaries of Sir Henry Channon (1934-1958). Two diaries by people of some consequence in the spheres they coveted; two accounts of what ambition looks and sounds like, stripped naked and given its head, written by skilled and successful practitioners of the art. Of course, the types of ambition are different: hers professional, his social, but they express themselves in oddly similar way: he fixated on who will come to his parties and in whose company he’s to be seen; she in what big names she can “get” for an issue and hangs out with. Both are strong books, however, remarkably clear-eyed. They invite the reader to correlate what he thinks of the diarist and what the diarist apparently thinks of her(him)self. Or, as Anthony Powell notably put it: “It is not what happens to people that is significant, but what they think happens to them.” I wonder if there are book groups out there devoted to reading and discussing diaries, starting with Pepys (or perhaps St.Augustine). They might take Powell’s observation as their motto.
Speaking of the former, this past Friday – can’t recall off hand whether I mentioned – we saw a rather odd little diversion based on Pepys called “17c” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. A real curate’s egg – “good in parts”: mainly off point, except for one monologue (and what is a diary except a monologue?). 

In his entry of June 11, 1936 (I was just short of two months old then, in my cradle on the other side of the Atlantic), Chips Channon gives a dinner party which the newly-crowned King Edward VIII, who will abdicate and turn into the Duke of Windsor six months later, graces with his royal presence. Channon writes, breathlessly: “…It was the very peak, the summit, I suppose. The King of England dining with me!” I like that “I suppose.” Lets slip a self-awareness essential to a great diary. But Channon’s social ecstasy also brought forth an amusing memory. It would have been around 1954. My father and stepmother were giving a cocktail party in their Long Island house, and one of the invitees had brought her houseguests, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Just after the house was graced with royal presence, my father’s butler, John Hare, a resolute Scot of the kind that wins wars, came to him and said, “Mr.Thomas, I canna serve that man. He did not do his duty!” He was speaking of the Duke. Joe Thomas understood perfectly, and immediately dragooned me (or my brother) to bring HRH his whisky. Sic semper tyrannis!   

So – with a week behind us to reflect – what do we think about the $450 million Salvador Mundi by Leonardo? First of all, my own sense is that the original was by Leonardo and that his matchless skills are still evident in the blessing hand, the lower passages of Christ’s hair, the orb and the hand that holds it. With respect to the latter, arguments have been put forward that since the reflections in the orb aren’t flipped, it can’t be by an artist whose passion for scientific accuracy and tricks of the eye is a matter of (his own) record. This is idiotic. There’s a Salvador Mundi in the Metropolitan Museum (Friedsam Bequest) of roughly the same date (1500-05) painted by Albrecht Durer, an artist of punctilious observation, that commits the same optical “errors” as the Leonardo. All this said, the Leonardo isn’t a picture I’d want to own; there’s something about Christ’s face and expression that I find off-putting. Purely artistic issues aside, two final thoughts. Bendor Grosvenor, who writes what I consider the best art blog ( considers that Christie’s did the greatest marketing job in auction-house history, and I wholly agree. And perhaps more important: the price of anything can only be evaluated in terms of what the money paid means to him or her who paid it.




OK – Time Out! Charlie Rose has now been put in the stocks reserved for those purported to have harassed. The last such alleged incident was six years ago! This is now getting ridiculous. I have a feeling that, back then, alcohol may have been part of the equation. It is no longer. And on and on drone the media about some woman’s memory of having been rubbed up against, while in Washington the proven liar, swindler and butt-pincher in the White House, along with his cronies, conspires the steal the country out from under us! CBS and PBS have put Charlie on ice. They ought to be given a good swift kick for not standing up for a man who’s a good guy and saying they will take no action pending an investigation. And Charlie should get ready to sue their asses if they don’t! 

Moved, seconded and passed by acclamation:–UKOAzVyJuW0CmvsM7eY2zi7RnM0FCXEapj8zkSa8TQuSAr_WCYuAFSubFczxmUeTvEnDKLD7cypZCNGNUNrJisRjR2Q&_hsmi=58629372

This is what I’m waiting for, source to be decided: “And then she told me that if I’d go down on her, she’d see I got the VP job I’m in the running for.”


OK: read this carefully. If what’s in here is what Charlie Rose has been decreed guilty of, then we truly are in the Golden Age of Whine in which perceived “disrespect” (a word and notion I hold in contempt: is equivalent to sexual harassment or (as the squib captions it) “creepy” behavior. There’s not a whiff of matters erotic in this protracted howl from a young woman who obviously didn’t know how to behave in the presence of an older man (and superior) who did.


There’s a mighty brouhaha on Instagram about Tom Campbell’s purported “criticism” of Diane Modestini’s restoration of the $450 million Salvador Mundi by Leonardo.  I’m with Campbell. Below are the images of the painting pre-restoration (top) and as restored and sold. There is just something about the face in the earlier state – call it”sharpness,” or “masculinity” or “directness” – that is lacking in the later condition, where a kind of emotional intensity has been lost, especially around the mouth and in the gaze. This isn’t to deprecate Diane Modestini’s work. She is a fine, skillful restorer. But great restorers aren’t necessarily great artists, and there’s a unified physical and emotional presence – a strong focus -at work in the unrestored version that could only come from inside a great creative talent. Hand and face, gesture and expression, have a strength and cohesion – a power – that simply isn’t there in the restoration. Or I don’t see it. Funny. I once took Diane’s late husband  Mario Modestini through the Yale Art Gallery to see the Jarves paintings fresh from an absolutely catastrophic restoration, and I thought that if he could have, Mario would have then and there strangled the “restorer” who all but wrecked some of the greatest Italian primitives in this country. Diane Modestini has probably done as well as any restorer could – but she isn’t Leonardo. Who is? 



Image result for salvator mundi

From the sublime to the…give me a f***ing break!

Why we live the way we live now. Happy Thanksgiving. There may not be many more:


THANKSGIVING DAY. In NYC, bright and clear, the way Thanksgiving ought to be. For whatever reason, my mind goes back to similar Thanksgiving Days long, long ago – in Southampton, where my second wife Wendell and I were raising a young family. We’d all join in a big touch football game, five, six, seven families, each with three or more children, forty or fifty bodies all on the field at the same time. It was so different then. Money – and the sort of people who consider wealth the ultimate empowerment – hadn’t taken over life. Southampton was a quiet kind of place. We were a real community. All scattered and dispersed now. I took a self-timed photograph one Thanksgiving Day – fifty of us, I guess, tall and small, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, the odd in-law. A few of us have stayed close, but the rest have scattered, there have been deaths, divorces, remarriages and most of the young children in that photograph are fifty now (give or take a few years) and have children of their own. Southampton has changed beyond recognition, physically and in spirit.  “Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit,” as Virgil puts it in The Aeneid: “Maybe someday you will rejoice to recall even this.” I do.  And here – from Michael in Texas (fifth from left, seated – just turned 56) – is the photo.

Madam returns from downstairs bearing a box in that unmistakeable Tiffany blue with an envelope addressed to me. “You have a secret admirer,” she announces with mock suspicion. We have no idea what it could be. Well, I swan! It’s from American Express – two handsome champagne glasses – thanking me for having been a cardmember for fifty years. My God, how time has flown! 

We turn on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. I miss it as it was when just balloons. Now most screen time seems to be devoted to Disneyfied singing groups and it seems cheesy to me but the crowds on-camera seem to love it. Another Miniver Cheevy moment for yours truly. 


We’ve been the only Trump-loathers at a Trump table:

Food for thought: origin of “Dilbert.” Who knew?

Help! Someone’s spilled horses**t on my Op-Ed page:  I can see them sitting around Riyadh asking each other “Who’s a major Western media burnoose-kisser who’ll take dictation from us and present it as his carefully considered opinion?’

Well, that – 18 holes at Mar-al-Dickhead – does it for me with Tiger Woods. Will never root for him again. Johnson was always a peckerwood, so no loss there.  


Schadenfreude Dept: Alabama loses to Auburn! Deeply satisfying. Wonder how Coach Saban’s black players feel about representing a racist state that may well deny them of their voting rights when they graduate (if they do)? Wonder if they actually know they’re representing such a state?


Last night a friend came for dinner; she;s now representing The Browser.Com in the USA. I had forgotten what a really terrific all-rounder Browser is, the perfect place for the curious, cultivated mind (which I fancy mine is) to turn to once email and the quotidian horrors of TWAT (The World According to Trump) have been scanned on Bloomberg and WSJ. This Christmas, I intend to give Browser to my children and certain close friends. It’s only $34 a year. I can think of no better gift. I’m going to recommend that certain business acquaintances do the same, rather than send clients art books of a generic kind. Now I know what you’re going to say: we all already have too much ‘Net stuff in our lives. But one can never have enough really good, mind-opening stuff. Every week I hit the “unsubscribe” button at least two or three times. 

Speaking of which, here’s  a sample from today’s Browser

Project Syndicate is another fertile, reflection-provoking website. Here, Lord Skidelsky reminds us of an essential truth: economic and social policies that stem from a calculus whose base unit is thousands need to be thoroughly rethought when that base unit rises into the millions:

Globalization takes a lot of hits for this nation’s woes, and I think most of them are deserved. One deeply-felt, long-lasting source of economic and political disruption, seldom commented on,  is that globalization severs the bond between business owners and executives and the people who work for them, an essential component of that sense of community that many of us think has been trampled under in the West by greed and rent-extracting. 

I think this guy is always worth listening to:–roach-2017-11?utm_source=Project+Syndicate+Newsletter&utm_campaign=3cb5da1806-sunday_newsletter_26_11_2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_73bad5b7d8-3cb5da1806-93490385    If you link Roach’s commentary to my reflection on the most pernicious social effect of globalization, the breaking of the bond between corner office and factory floor, you could argue that the corporatization of pending tax reform deepens that slicing to a point where it’s beyond repair. 


And now this son-of-a-bitch – of whom I’ve been suspicious since first he hove into prominence. He makes Friedman look like Gibbon:   Here’s an example: We have an apocalyptic politics in part because Halperin helped promote an apocalyptic approach to political coverage. It made him and his little scoops seem hugely important: that conversation he overheard between McConnell and Schumer meant everything. The title of his career-making book, 2008’s Game Change — which sold over 350,000 copies and netted him and his coauthor John Heilemann a $5 million advance for a follow-up — says everything. Politics is a game and its rules are constantly being transformed. Its intentionally hyperbolic, breathless text presented details like the fact that Obama “woke up late … and went for a haircut with his pal Marty Nesbitt” the way an ancient monarch’s courtiers used to examine his every sigh for divine omens.” Or as in ancient times, the ruler’s turds were  examined for auguries. But what if the ruler himself is a turd?

And now, to close, this is what a traitor to his class looks like:   On the other hand, this may well be what his class truly is.