Politics, Oct 2021

  • On Youngkin and Trump: “You can’t run ads telling me you’re a regular ol’ hoops-playing, dish-washing, fleece-wearing guy, but quietly cultivate support from those who seek to tear down our democracy.” 

Uh, you absolutely can, it’s the entire playbook. Whether you should is another question, but I don’t even think you can argue it doesn’t work.

  • On fatigue among Dems: “I know a lot of people are tired of politics right now. We don’t have time to be tired. What is required is sustained effort.”

I don’t think “sustained effort from you!” is a winning message for a political campaign. Often I spot sustained effort from my elected officials, but I don’t know what the effort is towards? Most often it seems towards “not doing anything that would upset existing power structures but while avoiding the appearance of giving up, while also fundraising,” which must be exhausting indeed, and is no doubt effortful, but is not effective at improving outcomes.

Anyway, that was former President Barack Obama yesterday in the Virginia governors race, where Terry McAuliffe, a guy who was a Democratic party functionary for like 30 years, who was chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, and already was governor of Virginia, is running on a program of… change? Keep doing the same stuff? The alternative is worse? Seems like the third, but I haven’t been on the ground in Virginia for a couple years.

Any Virginians with takes please weigh in.


Miles Davis

from the American Masters doc Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool


Kansas

Fragments sad, frightening, and warm in this story “In Trying Times, a Kansas Community Faced Down Its Fear of Outsiders,” by Michael M. Phillips and Dante Chinni for Wall Street Journal. It began when a woman with Colorado plates showed up and tried to buy all the town’s toilet paper. Concerned residents, worried about just who could come up I-70, formed a protection group.

Worried about its image, the group went public early this year, posting a mission statement at the Dairy Queen, feed stores and the Pit Stop gas station.

“Gove County Emergency Response Group works to help maintain peace in Gove County,” the flier said. “By educating citizens in our area of preparedness and self-defense; inviting citizens of all backgrounds and races to stand unified against lawlessness in times of disaster and civil unrest; and building strong relationships with law enforcement through cooperative community efforts.”

Concerns:

A group of women who jokingly called themselves the Enlightened Ladies Club caught wind and were suspicious. They leaned liberal for the most part in conservative Gove County and sometimes dined together to share views. “We were anticipating some sort of vigilante group,” said Patrice Ostmeyer, who works part time at the public library.

Something Rockwellian in this photo by Christopher Smith:

Some real excellence in some of these text-image-scrolling blends that the NYT, WSJ, and Bloomberg in particular seem to have mastered.


Colin Powell

I forget if I found this story on my own in Powell’s memoir My American Life, or if it was called to my attention:

in any case it stuck with me. How about this, from an Atlantic interview, 2004, with PJ O’Rourke:

SECRETARY POWELL: I knew Elvis.

P. J. O’ROURKE: Really?

SECRETARY POWELL: I met him when he was in the Army. I was a lieutenant; he was a sergeant.He was in the neighboring regiment—or combat command, as we called it—in the Third Armored Division in Germany.We were in the training area one day and I was driving my jeep around and suddenly came upon this unit from the other outfit and there he was. And so I went over and shook hands.He was a good soldier. You never would have thought he was anything but a soldier. He had a pimple on his face and everything else. He was not a big star. He was just another soldier.

P. J. O’ROURKE: I’ll be darned. Well, good for him.To change the subject completely, is there symbolic or psychological significance to your fondness for Volvos?

SECRETARY POWELL: No. They just came into my life when my kids needed a car in college and they refused to drive their grandfather’s Chevy Belair. They wanted something sporty; I wanted something safe. They wanted something distinctive; I wanted something safe.I came upon this ’77 Volvo and gave it to my son who took it to college. It was a pretty interesting car. I bought another one, an older one. I play with sophisticated non-zero-sum things all week long. On weekends, if I really want to relax—and I don’t anymore, I can’t relax because I’m too busy here—but there was nothing that was greater fun for me or more relaxing than a zero-sum problem with the car. It’s not running? You put on a new distributor cap and it either runs or it doesn’t. And so the joy for me was to take—drag—home a car. I mean literally drag it home. My driver and I would do it. We’ve been known to go through Alexandria with a Volvo on a rope dragging it home. People started calling and giving them to me. They heard about me. I was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “I’ll give you a Volvo on a rope.” The rope broke one day coming through the gate at Ft. Myer, with the MPs waving the Chairman through. We coasted until we could get another rope.We used to do this all the time. Bring them to the house and Sergeant Pearson, now Mr. Pearson, and I would take them apart. We had extra engines, we had extra radiators, had extra transmissions.


One meal a day

COWEN: To close, two questions about you. You’re famous for eating only one meal a day. Do you still do that?

MCCHRYSTAL: I do.

COWEN: Okay. The question is, what’s the meal?

MCCHRYSTAL: It’s dinner.

COWEN: What do you prefer to eat for the one meal, if you have your way?

MCCHRYSTAL: I’m not a foodie; I’m basic. I like salad, but I like a very basic dinner. I like a lot of chicken. If you take me to a fancy restaurant and you try to serve me fancy food, I’ll eat it because it’s my one meal a day, but the reality is, it’s completely lost on me. I just don’t get any satisfaction. It’s very basic food in significant quantities at night.

intrigued by this diet described by Stanley McChrystal to Tyler Cowen. I believe I heard elsewhere that McChrystal supplements this with dry pretzels.


Technical Analysis

Picking up the morning racing paper like Hemingway, I spot an interesting* item:

* interesting to maybe four or five people? Seth Klarman is a famed value investor and billionaire, author of Margin of Safety, a used copy of which will run you upwards of $800, or you can go to the Central Branch of the LA Public Library and read it for free. Apparently he’s been in the horse game for some time with a not too shabby record.

Asked how much different investing in a thoroughbred is to investing in a stock, mutual fund or company, Klarman said, “In my regular life, I’m a long-term investor, so we make patient, long-term investments on behalf of our clients. This is gambling, this is a risky undertaking. This is not at all like what I do the rest of my life, but it does provide one of the highest levels of excitement that a person can have.”

source for that

I put out the word to a few people I thought might be interested:

I’ve kept the correspondent here anonymous but trust me when I tell you: I believe he is being genuine!

My examination leads me to believe there is no “margin of safety” wagering on this horse, your safest bet in my opinion might be 10, Closing Remarks, to show, but where’s the fun in that? Analysts seem to think Aidan O’Brien can turn around Empress Josephine after just a week’s race – he’s done it before – but I dunno, I’d be tired!

Update: Technical Analysis came in 2nd, so if you’d made a “margin of safety” place or show bet, you would’ve done well: $2 to place paid $4.20, $2 to show paid $3.80. Seth Klarman, teaching us even through horses!


Hemingway at the track

I thought I would go down and buy a morning racing paper. There was no quarter too poor to have at least one copy of a racing paper but you had to buy it early on a day like this. I found one in the rue Descartes at the corner of the Place Contrescarpe. The goats were going down the rue Descartes and I breathed the air in and walked back fast to climb the stairs and get my work done. I had been tempted to stay out and follow the goats down the early morning street. But before I started again I looked at the paper. They were running at Enghien, the small, pretty and larcenous track that was the home of the outsider.

So that day after I had finished work we would go racing. Some money had come from the Toronto paper that I did newspaper work for and we wanted a long shot if we could find one. My wife had a horse one time at Auteuil named Chèvre d’Or that was a hundred and twenty to one and leading by twenty lengths when he fell at the last jump with enough savings on him to —-. We tried never to think to do what. We were ahead on that year but Chèvre d’Or would have —. We didn’t think about Chèvre d’Or.

from “A Moveable Feast.” We see here in Hemingway an example of the psychology that leads to the welldocumented “favorite-longshot bias” at the track.

They still run at Enghien:

The next chapter is called “The End of an Avocation”:

We went racing together many more times that year and other years after I had worked in the early mornings, and Hadley enjoyed it and sometimes she loved it. But it was not the climbs in the high mountain meadows above the last forest, nor nights coming home to the chalet, nor was it climbing with Chink, our best friend, over a high pass into a new country. It was not really racing either. It was gambling on horses. But we called it racing.

Racing never came between us, only people could do that; but for a long time it stayed close to us like a demanding friend. That was a generous way to speak of it. I, the one who was so righteous about people and their destructiveness, tolerated this one that was the falsest, most beautiful, most exciting, vicious, and demanding because she could be profitable. To make it profitable was more than a full-time job and I had no time for that. But I justified it to myself because I wrote it. Though in the end, when everything I had written was lost, there was only one racing story that was out in the mails that survived.

It looks like Hemingway wrote a sort of tone poem about the track for the Toronto Star in 1923.


If anyone has Bergson’s On Laugher in the original French…

I’d like to know what word translator Cloudesley Brereton rendered as “merry-andrew.”


The book is dense with a lot of references to French plays I don’t know, but two points worth thinking on: Bergson says notice something comic in the mechanical, when a mechanical process overrides how we should react. He gives the example of a man who stumbles in the street.

Perhaps there was a stone on the road. He should have altered his pace or avoided the obstacle. Instead of that, through lack of elasticity, through absentmindedness and a kind of physical obstinacy, as a result, in fact, of rigidity or of momentum, the muscles continued to perform the same movement when the circumstances of the case called fro something else. This is the reason of the man’s fall, and also of the people’s laughter.

Wile E. Coyote still running over the canyon came to mind, although Bergson died before he could see that. If we review comic characters, a misguided rigidity does seem to come up a lot. Consider Sheldon.

Bergson notes our vanity is a common source for comedy, and comedy may serve to correct for vanity.