Critiques & Commentary

7/31-8/6/17…

Monday, Monday…

And on this cheerful but not unrealistic note…http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/narratives-not-truths/

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

https://aeon.co/essays/how-did-usury-stop-being-a-sin-and-become-respectable-finance A question I’ve been asking myself for thirty years.

Naked Capitalism pointed me to this. It is absolutely essential reading, at least for anyone the least bit curious about why the world and life have turned out the way they have. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/10/how-democrats-killed-their-populist-soul/504710/  I can add a bit of a coda. In 1977, the Carter crowd came to Washington; I was then dating a lovely lady from the District who knew most of these people. They were just ever so smart,  ever so full of themselves, and so concentrated on the higher things – namely foreign policy and economic theory – that they had little time for the workaday world of business and getting and spending and the way things work. At the same time, and Stoller would have served himself well to have mentioned this, a Fifth Column was being organized, thanks to a memorandum addressed to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce by a smart Richmond lawyer (later a Supreme Court justice) named Lewis Powell that argued that it was time for business to take back the nation. This set in train a sequence of events, manipulations and policies that would ultimately lead through Goldwater to Reagan, and thence to Clinton and the mess we’re in now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8/1

This all makes sense. Michael Jensen of Harvard Business School who published the 1980s paper that advocated that the main if not the sole function of management is “to maximize shareholder value”, a notion that gained immediate widespread currency (no pun!) to the point of becoming an eternal truth,  will in my opinion be judged by history to have been more destructive to capitalism than Marx ever dreamed of. http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/08/shareholder-value-killing-innovation.html 

No comment necessary. As gilded a lily as I’ve seen. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-1-number-sums-up-why-that-foxconn-deal-is-over-the-top-bad-for-wisconsin-2017-07-28

 

8/2

I think I wrote about this a while back. Nice to see Bloomberg catch up, as in: “Americans still tend to own slightly more than one vehicle apiece, but they are keeping those vehicles longer. The average car or truck on U.S. roads today was made in 2005. They’re still on the road because, well, they’re still on the road. Vehicles made in the past 15 to 20 years are vastly more reliable than their predecessors. The U.S. auto industry is in a pickle, in part, because it did too good of a job.” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-02/the-real-reason-car-sales-are-falling

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

Worried about biased “impeccable” journalism? A MUST read: http://www.politico.com/story/2017/08/01/trump-wall-street-journal-interview-full-transcript-241214

I find this fascinating: http://www.businessinsider.com/uber-and-lyft-mangle-car-rental-taxi-sectors-2017-7?nr_email_referer=1&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_content=BISelect&pt=385758&ct=Sailthru_BI_Newsletters&mt=8&utm_campaign=BI%20Select%20%28Tuesday%20Thursday%29%202017-08-01&utm_term=Business%20Insider%20Select%20-%20Engaged%2C%20Active%2C%20Passive%2C%20Disengaged

Amen. https://news.artnet.com/art-world/philippe-de-montebello-on-the-met-and-acquavella-1037348

My pal Robert M. Rubin says what a lot of us are thinking: https://news.artnet.com/art-world/rubin-letter-koons-gift-paris-posioned-chalice-1038512?utm_content=from_&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Combined%20newsletter%20for%208%2F2%2F17&utm_term=artnet%20News%20Daily%20Newsletter%20USE

I think I’m going to buy this book – if only as a vote in favor of its point of view. There’s a large part of me that’s old-fashioned, officer-class conservatism (gleaned from my father; having been an undergraduate father at 20, I was spared military service): officers look out for their men; always investigate the bathwater to see whether there might be a baby in it. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2017/08/02/daily-202-jeff-flake-delivers-the-most-courageous-conservative-rebuttal-of-trumpism-yet/59812c9b30fb045fdaef10a8/?utm_term=.541309994a84&wpisrc=nl_most&wpmm=1

8/3

Double Amen-no, make that a triple! https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-08-02/bust-up-america-s-monopolies-before-they-do-more-harm?utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_term=170802&utm_campaign=sharetheview If you don’t think this is a problem, compare your most recent cable bill to last year’s. Price inflation is rampant. And that raises the question: what idiot, and when, decided to exclude food, fuel and housing from the Cost of Living indices?

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

The more I read, react and worry about the way we live and hate now, the more it seems to me that the abrasive social interface (can’t think of a better word) called “disrespect” is at the root of many of the problems, whether in its real or its imagined manifestations. Certainly it’s behind the more egregious stuff happening on campuses. Or take something like this (don’t worry – I don’t ever  look at Fox News, I picked this up on Dealbreaker): http://www.foxnews.com/food-drink/2017/08/02/chick-fil-patrons-trash-restaurant-after-heated-exchange-with-staff.html?utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=54928246&_hsenc=p2ANqtz–h5ZiHsUep7gQekk4p0db-K5D4xzjX3FRP_6XUSf91_T-wAAE616yKqoUn5fRfi9L7X9stRc_fgN–ILUNbP-mV2nEvw&_hsmi=54928246 Now when I read something like this, I don’t need to look at the accompanying video (although I will, to confirm my reaction) to know the ethnicity of the offenders. Daily exposure, observation, close reading of the newspapers and certain websites have congealed into an inner algorithm that produces a response and expectation that I suppose I should be ashamed of, that could probably be called “racial bias” or somesuch, except that – goddamnit! – time after time after time after time, my “prejudice” just seems to fit the facts of the matter. To me, it’s all about the perpetrators. Whether the victims – always charged with one or another form of “disrespect” – are of color or not seems to me to be beside the point. Whether they’ve reacted to the circumstances that provoke violent physical or verbal “anti-disrespectism” in the way any normal human being might, or because they’re simply doing their job (I’m not talking about obvious police aggression), the victims cannot and should not be blamed. Take this incident, on the Dallas subway: http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Man-Attacked-on-DART-Train-Left-Motionless-on-Platform-Sunday-437937873.html Here, the victim was African-American. And something he says in the embedded video about how it pains him that “my brothers and sisters have such anger” strikes a chord. Nothing breeds anger more, I would expect (I don’t really know, having been in this position only relatively), than to be poor in the midst of plenty. If this anger ever takes into account what the wealthy of this country have done to earn their riches, if they ever understand what the Wall Street rich really do (the immortal question asked of Tom Wolfe’s Sherman McCoy by his son) to get paid all that money, then we really may get the fire this time.

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/jul/28/is-the-world-really-better-than-ever-the-new-optimists Really?

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

8/4

Brutal day out there! Here’s an appropriate eye-opener: https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/08/austerity-one-country-case-britain.html The following is what I call getting it right: “There was a time when the Tory party reflected the interests of British business, of those firms and industries that were productive.But as their importance has declined, the hedge fund managers, asset strippers, bankers and property developers have taken their place. The fiscal policies that have been followed have favoured the extractive and destructive activities of the unproductive rich.”

The Way We Cheat Now: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/08/03/lawbreakers-just-really-lucky-mass-has-more-repeat-lottery-winners-than-any-other-state/UD2CzeJHJl5lO8R2WXftBN/story.html?event=event12

Let’s just see how this works. May be another instance of what my late stepmother described the oli business as: “All good news and no money.” http://gothamist.com/2017/08/04/community_land_trust.php?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily%20Gothamist%20Daily%20Winter%20Storm%20Warning%20In%20Effect%20As%20NYC%20May%20See%206-12%20Of%20Snow%20Possibly%20More&utm_content=Daily%20Gothamist%20Daily%20Winter%20Storm%20Warning%20In%20Effect%20As%20NYC%20May%20See%206-12%20Of%20Snow%20Possibly%20More+CID_d78d0a09e255ecc7c4a6bc18297dd075&utm_source=CM&utm_term=NYC%20Just%20Made%20Its%20Biggest%20Commitment%20Ever%20To%20A%20Radical%20Affordable%20Housing%20Model

As they used to say, “Wogs begin at Calais.” https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-08-04/neymar-and-why-government-money-is-ruining-soccer  Makes me think of Paul Erdman’s The Crash of ’79, which ends with a bombing raid destroying the Saudi oil fields. Probably not a bad idea, considering that Saudi oil production can be replaced from other sources.  

No comment needed: https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/08/wolf-richter-banks-hurt-real-economy-fdics-hoenig-senate.html

8/5

As someone whose favorite subject has been history in various forms, I’m always interested in the way it was and how we got from there to here. This is a long piece, but very fluently written and moderately argued. I recommend it: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/aug/04/how-britain-fell-out-of-love-with-the-free-market?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=The+Long+Read+-+Collections+2017&utm_term=238075&subid=23770632&CMP=longread_collection

I quit! http://www.thedailybeast.com/20-year-old-kidnapped-british-model-rescued-from-deep-web-auction?via=newsletter&source=Weekend

8/6

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

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

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

An interesting review written almost 25 years ago. Louis A. was a friend And a character in his own stories! https://www.newcriterion.com/issues/1994/12/stingless-wasp

Amen. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/book-party/wp/2017/08/03/sorry-but-i-dont-care-how-you-felt-on-election-night-not-anymore/?utm_term=.3826c50c4b02&wpisrc=nl_most&wpmm=1 Please note that practically all the writers most effulgent in their self-worshipful grief are people no one has ever heard of. Probably for good reason. This is one aspect of media viralism that repels me: the ability to find nonentities who will say what they’re asked to, if only for that momentary lightning flash of limelight. Here’s a list of the writers etc. quoted in the cited piece. How many have you heard of? “…novelist Meredith Russo,. novelist Mira Jacob, writer Nicole Chung, Stanford University scholar Jeff Chang, Pulitzer winner Junot Diaz (included in the interest of fairness) and editor Carolina De Robertis, writer Parnaz Foroutan, Egyptian feminist Mona Eltahawy, Poet Mohja Kahf , Princeton University lecturer Boris Fishman, Satyen K. Bordoloi, a Mumbai filmmaker,   journalist Andrés Miguel Rondón, Turkish political scientist N. Turkuler Isiksel, Hungarian author Miklós Haraszti, business professor Luigi Zingales (another name known to me – approvingly), novelist and “Radical Hope” contributor Luis Alberto Urrea, scholar Bernard Avishai (also a recognized name), clinical psychologist Ava Siegler, Slate’s Dan Kois (to paraphrase Lady Bracknell, “Nowadays, writing for Slate is no guarantee of respectability”),   UCLA historian Robin D.G. Kelley, filmmaker John Ziegler, novelist Katie Kitamura (sounds like someone I may have heard of)”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7/24-7/30/17….

7/24

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

I find it interesting to read Hilton Kramer 30 years after the fact. Hilton and I disagreed, sometimes vehemently, but as I myself grow older and crustier – I am now only 3 years younger than Hilton was when he died – I find myself increasingly susceptible to many of his arguments. https://www.newcriterion.com/issues/1987/9/the-happy-critic-arthur-danto-in-aoethe-nationa  I should add, more as a confession, I suppose, that I read Arthur Danto diligently and intently for years with once gleaning the slightest idea of what he was talking about.

Ironic that it’s Bloomberg reporting this sorry business, since it was Michael Bloomberg who, as mayor, turned the city over to the real-estate sharks as a central policy in his attempt to make NYC a world-class city – as he defined it: that is, of, for and by the rich. https://ny.eater.com/2017/7/24/16020548/blue-water-grill-republic-closing-union-square

Amen! https://ny.eater.com/2017/7/24/16011652/do-not-order-burgers-at-restaurants

7/25

NYT reports that its most-eyeballed story yesterday was its recap of the latest “Game of Thrones” episode. What this signifies about our general culture I hate to think. (Disclosure: I have never  watched a whole episode of GoT – and probably never will. Just as in my lifetime I doubt I’ve watched ten minutes total of Fox News.) Add this: http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/07/the-agony-and-the-anxiety-of-the-new-york-times?mbid=nl_th_59765ee3fe060e64db80eb48&CNDID=42793573&spMailingID=11548052&spUserID=MTQzOTExNDk1OTIxS0&spJobID=1202207708&spReportId=MTIwMjIwNzcwOAS2

Worth a Ponder: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/07/chapo-trap-house-bernie-sanders-discourse I have to say this whole “Russia” business leaves me cold. Unless it can be proved that Russian hackers or whoever actually tampered with the vote count, who cares? This is all about the Democrats (including the past administration as well as the Hillary campaign) and Trump-haters trying to find an issue (sic) that will distract the country from their own failings.

7/26

No comment needed: http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/07/department-of-energy-risks-michael-lewis?mbid=nl_th_5977c39b7c67a060584ba939&CNDID=42793573&spMailingID=11559140&spUserID=MTQzOTExNDk1OTIxS0&spJobID=1202330385&spReportId=MTIwMjMzMDM4NQS2

7/27

This transgender ban really does underscore what a tenth-rate human being Trump is: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-07-27/trump-s-dishonorable-transgender-ban

To the above, add this: http://inference-review.com/article/trump-and-the-trumpists

7/28

Increasingly I find a soulmate in T.Frank, who for me is the voice of common-sense political thinking: http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/07/its-time-to-let-go-of-donald-trump?mbid=nl_th_597a67e2e3e3375c6a06ed44&CNDID=42793573&spMailingID=11573982&spUserID=MTQzOTExNDk1OTIxS0&spJobID=1202504125&spReportId=MTIwMjUwNDEyNQS2

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

Terrifying! http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/07/27/dea/TFsSiM6h83snc5f9cbRAdN/story.html?et_rid=1758184608&s_campaign=todaysheadlines:newsletter  And shows how futile and ineffective the “war on drugs” has proved to be.

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

http://www.ianwelsh.net/a-world-without-poor-people-sort-of/

7/29/17

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

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

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

May he rot in hell, an eternal cacophony of buses belching and subways thundering: https://ny.curbed.com/2017/7/27/15985648/nyc-subway-robert-moses-power-broker

You do the voodoo… Why we’re falling apart as a political economy. https://aeon.co/essays/how-economists-rode-maths-to-become-our-era-s-astrologers

7/30

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

 

 

 

 

7/15-7/23/17…

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

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

7/16

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/trump-russia-russiagate-magnitsky-affair-linked-again-w492290

7/17

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

https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/the-secret-history-of-the-banking-crisis#login

7/18

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

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

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

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

7/19

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

7/21

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

7/22

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

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

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

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

7/23

Glued to Open Championship on TV.

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

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

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

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

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

Two worthwhile closing notes:

https://theintercept.com/2017/07/22/donald-trump-and-the-coming-fall-of-american-empire/

https://thesmartset.com/hes-got-the-fever/

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7/10-14/17….

Can’t resist. From The Boston Globe today

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

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

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

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

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

7/12:

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

The latest iteration of what I call “the Clinton Theory”: if everyone’s lying, no one is. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/07/the-everybody-does-it-defense-of-collusion/533325/

As I was saying…http://nypost.com/2017/07/11/donald-trump-jr-is-an-idiot/amp/

7/13

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

Hmmm! https://therealdeal.com/2017/07/12/sales-at-apples-fifth-avenue-store-plummet-by-over-100m/  Incidentally, the owners/landlords of many of these big vacant spaces “earn” more by leaving them empty than by renting them at less than optimum market rates. I personally regard this as an unconscionable subsidy.

I would hope so. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/12/technology/what-we-lose-when-the-world-moves-on-from-email.html?em_pos=small&emc=edit_ct_20170713&nl=technology&nl_art=3&nlid=2476992&ref=headline&te=1

I really like David Brooks’s Tuesday column on class, class markers and exclusion. I think these are rampant on our elite campuses. For instance, the recommendation (NB) of a Harvard faculty committee to punish students who join “final clubs” like Porcellian, Fly etc. Just imagine what the alumni of these clubs represent in terms of financial and legacy firepower and reckon the odds of the Recommendation being enacted as Harvard policy. That said, the final clubs are markers of the kind of undergraduate class distinction that ignites resentment. Let’s see if Yale goes after Skull & Bones. some of the responses to Brooks’s column are priceless. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/13/opinion/its-not-the-fault-of-the-sandwich-shop-readers-debate-david-brookss-column.html?ribbon-ad-idx=14&src=trending&module=Ribbon&version=origin&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Trending&pgtype=article Throw this into the hopper: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/13/opinion/republicans-elites-trump.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-right-region&region=opinion-c-col-right-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-right-region

And to close out the day, from my admired friend Melik Kaylan: https://www.forbes.com/sites/melikkaylan/2017/07/13/the-secret-history-of-the-trump-putin-meeting-and-its-consequences/#10f876b74cbd

7/14

David Brooks is very good today, but for those of us condemned to watch the antics or (asBill Buckley would put it) the tergiversations of the whore-poseur who is NYC’s mayor, this is a good place to start: https://jacobinmag.com/2017/07/new-york-fiscal-crisis-debt-municipal-politics-elections-socialists

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

Who is the world’s leading economic power?

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7/6-9/17…Time Off notwithstanding….

THIS JUST HAS TO BE READ! http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/g-20-in-hamburg-and-the-problems-facing-our-world-a-1155721-2.html PASS IT ON!

I haven’t turned off my mind, and when I read something I think might be of interest, I’ll post it – without comment: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-07-06/the-daunting-cure-for-new-york-and-dc-subway-woes

Check out the Nick Bilton video. Exactly how I feel: http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/07/is-donald-trump-too-offensive-to-be-president?mbid=nl_hps_595fff86cfd9536ab4c3119d&CNDID=42793573&spMailingID=11429341&spUserID=MTQzOTExNDk1OTIxS0&spJobID=1200628307&spReportId=MTIwMDYyODMwNwS2

If they gave an Oscar for gobbledegook: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/07/some-remarks-on-mmt-marxism-in-light-of-david-harveys-marx-capital-and-the-madness-of-economic-reason.html

 

 

 

7/3/17…Happy Independence Day…

Public Service announcement;  Midaswatch.com is going to down tools and take the summer off. Moving house (apartment, actually) has sapped my octogenarian time and energy. All this stuff! I can’t imagine what I was thinking – frankly, it seems I wasn’t – to accumulate all these books that I might read or consult someday, only to find that someday has come and gone and my job now is to find them a good home. Same with office supplies: filing materials, paper, notebooks, pens; I could open a Staples branch with what’s here. Anyway, God willing, see you in September.

As I trip out the door, one thought for the birthday of the once-great nation. Trump is in a perverse way doing us all a considerable public service. In one vulgar, ludicrous package he daily embodies all the very worst traits of America: ignorance and stupidity (not quite the same) , greed, a love of sharp-dealing, a tolerance amounting to a passion for bullshit, prejudice, exhibitionism, gluttony, insensitivity regarding anyone except himself, contempt for the rules, cruelty, an indecent disrespect for the opinions of mankind,  moral opacity, disdain for truth…you fill in the rest. When it comes to deficiencies of character, intellect and moral stability, I believe he represents what’s called “one-stop shopping.” And, of course, there’s the Big Giveaway, the question the man’s personality and behavior really begs: does this guy have any friends? Maybe Carl Icahn, who famously declared, “If you want a friend, get a dog.” Has Trump ever had a pet?

6/26/17-7/2/17

Good place to start: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/06/lee-camp-heres-no-legitimate-healthcare-debate-country.html

Score another for Fixers! Exactly as my novel predicted: http://mayorschallenge.bloomberg.org/

Here are two letters written two years apart to Roger Altman, whom I hired at Lehman Brothers and who has gone on to make a great success. These, I think, speak for themselves (the letters, along with other stuff I’ll be posting, turned up in a review-and-discard of old files preparatory to relocating):

Michael M. Thomas 66 Water St. – #5C Brooklyn, NY 11201 tel: 718-694-6872

 

2004

 

Mr. Roger D.Altman

Evercore Partners

65 East 55 St.

New York, NY 10022

 

Dear Roger:

 

The other night, I was at a party in a very grand apartment in a very grand Manhattan building. The company assembled was pretty much of a certain age, with me (68) being at the younger end of the spectrum. Apart from Arthur Schlesinger, most were people who, I would expect, would vote Republican two times out three. Many owed their high standard of living to inherited wealth; all, I think, would have benefited from the Bush tax cuts.

 

And yet a funny thing happened. At one point, the President’s name was mentioned, and an audible ripple of disgust and revulsion ran around the room.

 

While I’m quite aware that it’s dangerous to extrapolate from anecdotal evidence, I think there’s a lesson here for the Kerry campaign, in which I understand you’re involved. It is this: by and large, Bush has made a lot of well-off people in this country ashamed of their advantages.

 

I’m one of them. But I’m also like a lot of people in my position: horribly worried about the direction the country has been taken since 2001, and not particularly keen to vote for a fellow member of the Fence Club on the basis of his campaign so far. How he voted in the Senate doesn’t concern me. The qualities and behavior patterns that go into making an influential Senator are not necessarily those that make a good or effective President. I don’t know Mr. Kerry; I do know his wife, for whom I have a tremendously high regard (indeed I was at her wedding in Pittsburgh to my late friend John Heinz.)

 

Reflecting on all of this has emboldened me to send you a short book I wrote in 1992 that was never published, although it was commissioned and paid for by Random House. I expect the ideas therein were considered too radical by Harry Evans’ patrons. But I think it has a number of ideas that you might find useful in helping your candidate articulate a vision of what kind of country this ought to be and how we should get there. Mr. Kerry’s great opportunity, as I see it, lies in just that: to oppose his own overarching vision of America against a President who doesn’t have one. I happen to be related in an Episcopalian fashion to the Bushes (my late godfather Jimmy Walker was G.H.W.B’s uncle,) and I was handpicked by Will Farish for the Zapata Board when G.H.W.B was bailed out, and one thing I do know about that family is that they believe in absolutely nothing other than that someone will always be there with a basket.

 

Most of what I forecast in the attached has come true. The illustrations may seem out of date, but these can easily be fixed by changing a few names and adding a zero or two to the footings. The larger principles involved- tax as rich what is rich; if we’re going to make the poor sing for their suppers, reward them if they hit the right notes; develop the concept of “the Public Capital” and hammer it home: this is your money, damn it! – might play well politically.

 

For most of my writing career, I have been exploring what I see as the decline and degeneration of the socioeconomic class into which I (and Mr. Kerry) was born, in which I was educated and in which I first obtained employment. A way of life in which, as I put it in the book, it seldom took more than two phone calls to get what I was after. A way of life that had at its heart the concept of noblesse oblige.

 

You are not going to win this election talking about tax plans that it will take clever lawyers and accountants fifteen minutes to figure out how to circumvent. Nothing is solved by further complicating what is already too complicated. Bold strokes, a bold vision, a brave new world: these are called for. People are worried about the kind of America their children and grandchildren are going to find themselves living in. Address this.

 

Anyway, I thought you might find my book useful. I have spent my entire working life learning to think creatively, even if it means cultivating wholly new habits of thought. The Pete Peterson model of dealing with crisis – hold a panel discussion, take out an ad in the Times, on to lunch at the Four Seasons – has proved inefficient, to say the least.

 

Onward!

 

And then this, two years later:

Michael M. Thomas

66 Water St. – Apt. 5C

Brooklyn, NY 11201-1080

718 694 6872 / 347 596 3437

[email protected]

 

April 17, 2006

 

Mr. Roger C. Altman

Evercore Partners

55 East 52 St.

New York, NY 10055

 

 

Dear Roger:

 

You may recall that I wrote you a couple of years ago in connection with some ideas for the Kerry campaign. I didn’t hear back, which I suppose didn’t surprise me, although now that I think about it, the fact that I gave you your first job in investment banking, from which you have springboarded to ever greater visibility and prominence, might have entitled me to at least the minor courtesy of a rubber-stamp acknowledgement.

 

You may also recall that I sent along a copy of an unpublished book I wrote back in 1992 about where I thought this country was headed wrong and what to do about it. That the book never saw publication looks in retrospect to have been a pity, since all of the more dire prognostications I laid out have come true. To make these required no genius on my part, although it did take a form of thinking conspicuously absent in what I then described as the American “overclass”: intellectual honesty – not to mention a touch of moral imagination.

 

In the book I also put forward a number of prescriptive notions, some radical in fact, others only so in perception, that basically involved the application of common sense both to the way we live now and to the way we seem quite happy to see others live. Among these were suggestions regarding Congressional pay and staffing, a sensible tax structure, market-based incentives for individual educational accomplishment and so on.

 

 

My purpose in writing that book was to suggest, by example if you will, that it is no longer practical, even if eminently feasible, to attack the ills that beset this great Republic with further dosages of bullshit, although I recognize that in some circles this substance, of which Prof. Frankfurt has written with uncommon eloquence, is thought to have the same therapeutic effect on overclass social guilt that Zoloft does on clinical depression.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

As always,

 

It should go without saying that neither letter received a reply.

 

This makes a lot of sense to me: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/06/26/trump-president-style-mayor-215294

 

Read the first two posts: http://wallstreetonparade.com/

ENORMOUSLY IMPORTANT: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/06/purdue-university-kaplan-privatization-austerity

 

Just finished The Force, the new NYC policier  by Don (The Cartel) Winslow. THE BEST of its kind I’ve read in years! Puts Price, Child and the rest in the shade! Ten-star recommendation!

How clearer can it be that we have a lunatic in the White House: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/06/29/trumps-latest-attack-on-mika-brzezinski-is-dripping-with-sexism/?utm_term=.ef1847860a0a&wpisrc=nl_most&wpmm=1

Bret Stephens remains solid: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/29/opinion/trump-cnn-fake-news-russia.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-right-region&region=opinion-c-col-right-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-right-region

 

Odd Coincidence: perhaps the two worst owners in professional sports , Jim Irsay (Indianapolis Colts) and James Dolan (NY Knicks) are both amateur rock musicians. I guess the lesson is: the more things you do badly, the worse you’ll do each of them.

Speaking of sports, is there a bigger asshole in sports journalism (Rick Reilly always excepted) than Colin Cowherd on ESPN. Shallow, glib, uninformed, showoffy. Blecch!

Lunatic in White House: http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/donald-trump-will-go-down-in-history-as-the-troll-in-chief?mbid=nl__not_daily&CNDID=42793573&mbid=nl_062917%20Cassidy%20Post%20Newsletter%20(1)&CNDID=42793573&spMailingID=11374696&spUserID=MTM5NDI5NzAwMDY4S0&spJobID=1182591330&spReportId=MTE4MjU5MTMzMAS2

Indispensable. Why there seem to be so few honest “public intellectuals” (Zakaria and similar filth)  around.  https://newrepublic.com/article/143004/rise-thought-leader-how-superrich-funded-new-class-intellectual Niall Ferguson, a person for whom I have zero respect, “did it for the money” – just as Black Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte “done it for the wife and kiddies.” Selling out is selling out – a rose that stinks by any name. How’s this strike you: “The evidence in Drezner’s book contributes to a startling picture of a country in which the superrich actively seek to sabotage institutions that have formed the backbone of consensus and public trust for a large part of the twentieth century. Because their wealth comes largely from finance and is no longer attached to the country’s material infrastructure—they are not steel magnates or railroad barons—modern plutocrats no longer use their fortunes to secure a legacy of contributing to public needs. Instead they weaponize their wealth, with the aim of creating even more capital and remaking society according to their own, unrepresentative political beliefs. “Only 35 percent of wealthy Americans support spending what is necessary to ensure good public schools,” Drezner notes, “a sharp contrast to 87-percent support from the general public.” The wealthy also support cuts to government spending and social programs much more strongly than the rest of the public—which fits with their compulsion to spend millions on trying to buy academic legitimacy for unregulated capitalism.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6/19/17-6/25/17….

Here’s something else I wrote in 1995.

 

The deal everyone’s yakking about. An interesting take: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/06/wolf-richter-amazon-slash-jobs-whole-foods-dump-cashiers-switch-cheaper-products-price-war-wal-mart.html And read the Comments.

It continues to surprise me that while everyone declares the Mainstream Media (MSM) risk being put out of business by Social Media, the newspapers and networks continue to report, say, Trump’s tweets as if these are real news and not simply the midnight ravings of an egomaniac.

From Audacious Hope to Hope Abandoned: the presidency of Barack Obama. It’s what got us where we are. And has gotten him (and the missus) a $60 million book deal.

You’ll recall my earlier post on Cecconi’s, the new restaurant across the street. Here’s a squib from the Observer:  “But those who are concerned that Jones’ Italian restaurants are just as exclusive as his member’s only clubs have no reason to worry: “It’s a restaurant that all sorts of people of all ages go to, everyone comes to Cecconi’s.”  Well, not quite, I can think of two people who won’t be dropping in.

A nation mourns. The news that the actor Stephen Furth, who indelibly played Kent Dorfman, aka “Flounder,” in Animal House  has me bent double, keening and rending garments. As must be the case with the millions of others of my age and a bit younger, people (especially men) who know the deepest of mortal verities: that Animal House contains ALL TRUTH. No character in the film better embodied this Parnassian quality than Flounder (“Women – can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em.”) A deity has passed. I shall do what needs to be done at such a grave, grievous moment and pay the respect that is called for: I shall take down the DVD (“Special Anniversary Edition”) and watch the movie for what must surely be the 20th time.

I’m getting to know R.R. Reno, editor of First Things, the influential journal founded a quarter-century ago by Father Richard John Neuhaus to argue the relationship between religion and public life and as a counterforce to secularism. Reno is a very impressive guy. Here’s a sample: http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/issues/november-18th-2016/the-meaning-of-donald-trump/    Here’s something I recently wrote to an e-correspondent: I believe that our political system leads to certain tendencies, perhaps inherently, that can all fairly be described as suicidal. Racism is certainly one. Money-worship is another. Institutional corruption, whether in the public or private sector, is a third. Secularism should probably be in there somewhere, perhaps as a stepchild of the previous three. Another, perhaps the most toxic, is ignorance, which no power that ever was on earth has done more to foster than the internet and social media. As I am fond of remarking: the trouble with the internet is that it gives millions of people with nothing to say a place to say it.
Now: if a number of these tendencies come alive simultaneously, as seems to me to be the case today, you have a perfect storm that can wipe out everything in its path. Starting with a phenomenon that absolutely baffles me: it is one thing to ignore the plight of the poor, that’s been going on for millennia. But to actively wage war on the poor, as now seems to be the case, would appear to invite the wrath of God in whichever form He is worshipped, and in whatever way He chooses to manifest His fury. I should add that I’m not a religious person – I am in church only for weddings and, more often at my age (81), funerals – but I have to say that climate change strikes me as having elements of divine anger.  In other words: does God lose patience? Ever?

Good question: http://dealbreaker.com/2017/06/rentec-cftc/

Preparatory to relocating, I’ve been going through boxes and cabinets of old files, throwing away 90% of what I come across. Somewhere I found this, written by me at the end of 2012. https://www.commondreams.org/views/2011/12/28/big-lie-wall-street-has-destroyed-wonder-was-america How could I have gotten the outcome so wrong? The only answer has to be that my formative years – childhood through college – coincided with the years (1941-1960) that America showed itself to best advantage and left me with a residue of optimism and idealism that it has taken decades to scrape away. It’s very disheartening to reflect on the likelihood that for over fifty years I’ve gotten my own country wrong. That reflection played an important role in designing Fixers,  in which the narrator has to come to terms with the realization that the WASP traditions he was raised to revere and emulate – discretion, noblesse oblige properly understood, concern for others, the responsibilities that go with privilege – have been stamped into nothingness under the heavy tread of money-worship, unconcern for others, me-firstism and so on.

 

Interesting thought: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/06/not-just-working-class-service-class.html

A view from the front: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/Block-Amazon-11243628.php I like this:

The Wal-Mart in a small, central Texas town never made a profit.

For 10 years, the megastore operated in Hearne, north of Bryan, with lower prices and better deals than local businesses. Wal-Mart eventually pulled the plug, but not before Hearne’s downtown was littered with empty storefronts. After the megastore closed, the closest place to buy basic necessities was a 26-mile drive away.

Reading about Amazon’s plans to buy Austin-based Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, you’ve got to wonder how much longer until the entire nation ends up like Hearne.

When China exports tires or steel at a loss and puts U.S. competitors out of business, we declare it illegal and call it “dumping.” When Wal-Mart, Amazon or Uber does it, we declare it a good investment opportunity and call it the free market.

For the MUST list: http://www.chronicle.com/article/The-Gadfly/240311?key=2ZIPoiHsy9X3ZNGVLN4YvrK9ZZs1KWhBz010O-PCftXT1KFIDXHagaaR3q7QmshNZUZBRDV0YzJXemFoekJiQTIyelFpYjBXRVhNdS0zeV9TZVMwbHJHUFo5dw

What we need is compassion with brains: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/nancy-pelosi-democrats_us_594d808ce4b05c37bb767d21 High IQ noblesse oblige, shall we say?

 

 

 

6/12-6/16/17….

Just back from a week in UK seeing my wife’s family and the old (in several senses) friends I care about. Lovely time. Now the move begins, and I need to get settled before resuming posts. A lot to think about, a lot to say. But first we need to survey the battlefield and establish our order of battle. Back anon.

Boston Globe  baseball writer: “I know I write dumb stuff on Twitter I wouldn’t think of writing for the Globe. That’s the case for many reporters, and we should be held accountable.” Which seems to me to beg the question:  so why do you Tweet at all, asshole!

Waited in vain for one of Trump’s cabinet to give an edge to the round-table sycophancy by saying something like, “Mr.President, I am honored to be able to kiss your giant fat ass and suck your tiny dick.”

Will try to get up to speed eventually. For the nonce, this is pretty good, although I generally haven’t voted Democrat. https://baselinescenario.com/2017/06/15/telling-a-better-story-a-new-economic-vision-for-the-democratic-party/#more-16694

One thing that occurred to me in London that I will be writing more about – someday – is that while much is made of “trickle down,” the theory being that vast accumulations at the top of the wealth pyramid must result in some part of the excess “trickling down” into the purses of lesser mortals, rather after the manner of a champagne fountain, what actually seems to “trickle down” in real life are higher costs,  and that rather than improving the lot of the poor or of those people who are marginally getting by, “trickle down” actually worsens their situation.

Today’s (6/16) WSJ reports the same of two $70 million units in one of the new condo towers abuilding in Manhattan. For some time, I’ve been puzzling over this quandary: morning comes, time to go to the office or heliport or wherever; you check your To-Do list (more chewing gum for the fading trophy wife, something from JAR for the girlfriend) descend from your 80th-floor, $70 million aerie in a more-or-less-private elevator, emerge to much uniformed and tasseled bowing and scraping, clamber into your Escalade (Wealth Rule #7: the smaller the tycoon, the larger must be the vehicle) and now what? You’re stuck in the same miserable traffic as the rest of us schmucks, breathing the same polluted air, trying to hear yourself think over the ceaseless honking clamor of what must be the world’s noisiest city. This is what the immortal J. Durante would characterize as “a revoltin’ development.” And so one asks: can special, dedicated Limousine Lanes be far in the future? Another reason to read a marvelous book I’ve mentioned before: Moskowitz’s How to Kill a City. Did you know that under Bloomberg 40% of NYC was “rezoned” – ie. handed over to developers, usually with a fake “affordable” tax subsidy. That is some amazing number.

Interesting. The prediction of robots rising up and taking over has been around a long time. My first year at Exeter (1950-51) the Dramat put on R.U.R, a 1920 play by the Czech playwright Karel Capek. Humans invent robots (this introduced the word”robot”) which then rise up etc. etc. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R.U.R. For serious students of the history of American drama, let it be noted that I – who had been a matchless Scrooge and Sniggers (in Lord Dunsany’s A Night at an Inn) at Buckley – played a nursemaid. And badly.

When the Lady Wife and I read that Cecconi’s (a branch of Soho House, or – as it is known in this apartment – “Douchebag Central” or “DC”) had opened up in the Empire Stores, we decided to stroll across Water St. to #55 to have a gander. http://mailchi.mp/guestofaguest/finally-soho-house-brings-cecconis-to-new-york?e=fe7590a783 We’re neither of us foodies, but I had a special reason for going over there. Enzo Cecconi, the eponym for the DC chain, is an old friend. That is, he became a friend because he married Sarah Coleman, with whom I played a lot of golf at Cypress Point back when we were 15 and 16. We were exactly the same age (I was born 04/18/1936 and Sarah a day later). She came from a famous golfing home (her father George L. Coleman gave his name to the gilt-edged amateur tournament staged every year at Seminole). Over time, we drifted apart and then encountered each other in 1977, when I stayed at the Cipriani in Venice, where Enzo was the General Manager. Sarah had turned him into a golf nut; I recall going 18 with him at the Lido course across the lagoon. A year or so later, they left Venice and Enzo opened his namesake restaurant in London, back of the Burlington Arcade. It was terrific, and a huge success. Enzo kept it for 20-odd years, then sold it – he and Sarah built a big house in Pebble Beach – and then it got sold again, and finally ended up in the hands of DC, which attached the Cecconi name to a string of restaurants around the world, of which the version opposite where we live is the latest. So we had a reason for going above and beyond culinary curiosity, even though a perusal of the menu online disclosed the presence of vitello tonnato,  a dish of which I am uncommonly fond, and which I have difficulty finding in nearby restaurants.

So we went over and thereby experienced as revolting a restaurant experience as I have ever had, although I suppose it was guileless of me to expect otherwise, given the utter lack of class and manners that is as much a part of today’s urban young as those stupid fedoras they affect, who throng to “clubs” run by and for people who have no idea whatsoever what a proper club is like. When we entered the restaurant, we were practically blinded by the light reflected off a sea of empty tabletops. As our vision cleared, and could see what is by any standards a pretty elegant set-up (I think Enzo would be satisfied), a snooty voice informed us that “We’re not accepting walk-ins.” The latter term, which I hate, was made to sound like “lepers.” We pleaded that we were only dropping by to have a drink, but Ms. Snoot remained obdurate. “we’re not accepting walk-ins.”  To be fair, she was probably simply reciting a script prepared by the sort of social illiterates who use words like “exclusive” a lot. Anyway, there seemed to no point in arguing, so we left, vowing never to return (and we shan’t, vitello tonnato notwithstanding), and ambled over to AlMar, one of Brooklyn’s truly great, truly underrated restaurants, for a delicious dinner.

Returning home, my wife saw outside #55 Water St. what seemed, in the metaphorical sense at least, to be a queue of typical DC “FOMOs” (Fear of Missing Out) waiting to get in and photographed it for posterity.

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You have been warned. Assholes are as assholes do. And I should add a sad bit of news: my teenage golfing pal Sarah Cecconi died earlier this year at her home in Pebble Beach.
A confession: I continue to be unable to think, let alone speak the phrase”President Trump.”
Here’s an article that I find interesting and relevant in all its particulars, but especially (scroll through) in its suggestion of a way to look at Brexit from a “non-Yob” point of view: https://www.spectator.co.uk/2017/06/post-truth-its-pure-nonsense/

 

6/1/17….

Now begins that awful time of year when the air is full of “What’s Hot in the Hamptons?” buzz wherever one looks, and the Instagram Idiots are out in full force. My six children, now aged thirty to sixty, were raised out there in the ’60s through the ’80s, and it might as well have been a different geologic era. Houses were affordable, which among other things meant that people who worked there lived there; traffic was negligible (Southampton to East Hampton was a fifteen-minute drive; today it’s likely to be over an hour) and one didn’t have to go grocery shopping at 7AM to be sure of finding a parking spot. The tables at Shippy’s and Bobby Van’s weren’t booked a month in advance, and the bar crowd at the American Hotel didn’t make one fear for the future of mankind.  The place and the people were altogether quieter. There were open fields. Still, when someone like me reflects on “duh Hamptons” as was, I bear in mind the observation of a wise friend over lunch a few weeks ago: “It’s not the way Southampton has changed that I hate,” she said, “it’s the way I’ve changed. I’ve grown old….” And her voice trailed off, and I could guess what her mind’s eye was seeing. Housman once again got it right: “It is the land of lost content/I see it shining plain/The happy highways where I went/And cannot go again.”

And then there’s this kind of piece, sent to me by my son Michael, written by a fellow who’s a 1990s Hamptons nouveau, which in his world counts as old money. As I recall, the author is a chubby little fellow who had – may still have – a Main St. shop that sold rather ordinary “resortwear.”  http://www.townandcountrymag.com/society/tradition/a9874648/southampton-new-york-history/   One correction, I knew hardly anyone who went to Herb McCarthy’s. The place we went was Dick “Enjoy your steaks, kids!” Ridgeley’s joint out on the highway.

This site is likely to be inactive starting now, because we’re going to London for a week: T to see her mum and family, me to see old (in several senses) friends whom, aa a glance  at the actuarial tables suggests, I feel I better see now because…well, you get the point.

And then when we return, we’ll be in that special hell known as moving. Thanks to considerate landlords, it’ll only be down the hall, but I’m a bit of a packrat and the prospect of dealing with all this stuff – the books alone, the books! – terrifies me. Funny, when I moved here over 17 years ago, I failed to include in my game plan an element that’s proving to crucial: getting old. Just like the rest of us. See you in a week or so.

And while I’m away, ponder this: https://baselinescenario.com/2017/05/31/economism-and-arbitration-clauses/#more-16618

Or this. De mortuis…. http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/06/john-helmer-presidents-inferiority-complex-zbigniew-brzezinskis-russia-hating-obsession-putsch-plotter-itchy-trigger-finger.html View image on Twitter

Finally, given my jaundiced view of social media (I’ve disconnected from FB and Twitter, and on Instagram I follow a very few people,mainly family, and seldom if ever post): http://dealbreaker.com/2017/05/trolls-real-time-crowd-sourced-stock-trading-online-game-buy-tesla/?utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=52590753&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-_egDLWwSWzvkzQiyn4_xM6fjFA2pZghM6zJPZC6HO36O9RaBodSRqMmM2-GLkSEAbPsx5oAwCb6AmvNVk16-QNtSJKWg&_hsmi=52590753

 

In today’s NYT, the paper’s spinner of digital metaphysics, Farhad Manjoo, refers to Twitter as “his daily addiction.” Further down in the piece, Manjoo lists the properties that make Twitter so addictive: “It’s where political messaging and disinformation get digested, packaged and widely distributed for mass distribution to cable, Facebook and the res of the world.” Funny: I find this hardly an incentive to addiction, but then I never got crack, either.

Then there’s this: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-06-01/meal-kit-company-blue-apron-files-for-initial-public-offering Excerpt from the article: “The company’s net loss widened to $54.9 million in 2016 from $46.9 million a year earlier, despite net revenue climbing to $795 million from $340.8 million in the same period, according to the prospectus. Among risk factors listed in the filing, Blue Apron warned that it may never make a profit.” Where do I sign up!

And…finally… New York  has a long expose of Uber. The piece incorporates a striking photo of Ubermensch Travis Kalanick standing next to Super Bowl hero Tom Brady at the Kentucky Derby. The difference in height is considerable, and given Kalanick’s reputation, brings to mind one of my happier coinages of years past, to wit: that most of the world’s problems can be traced to three sources: sex, money and short men.

A bientot, mes chers.