A real shot

Ryan then took questions. This was the first one: “The President made some new false statements yesterday, notably that there are major terrorist attacks that the media, essentially, isn’t covering. Are you getting concerned at all about his grasp of the truth?”

Ryan shrugged his shoulders.

[…finally he answers]

“Look,” he said. “I’m going to do my job. I’ll let you guys do yours with respect to how you report, or what you don’t report. The problem is we do have a war on terror in front of us. We do have isis trying to conduct terror attacks across the globe. This is a real serious problem. And what I am focussed on is doing our job and making sure our law-enforcement authorities, our military, have the tools to keep us safe.”

from this NYer piece by the great John Cassidy.

Paul Ryan has a real shot at going down in history as a pristine example of cynical soul-selling.

Are the Republicans really for:

  • the importance of virtue, morality, religious faith, stability, character and so on in the individual
  • sexual morality or what came to be termed “family values”
  • the importance of education to inculcate good character and to teach the fundamentals that have defined knowledge in the West for millennia
  • societal norms and public order
  • the centrality of initiative, enterprise, industry, and thrift to a sound economy and a healthy society
  • the soul-sapping effects of paternalistic Big Government and its cannibalization of civil society and religious institutions
  • a strong defense and prudent statesmanship in the international sphere

I didn’t pluck those out of thin air, those are exactly what Michael Anton, Bannon advisor, says conservatives should be for in this essay, The Flight 93 Election, his pre-election argument for DT.

Is DT making things better, stronger, or greater on any of those fronts?  How’s his prudent statesmanship?  What message does he send on virtue, morality, character, stability?  He’s rich (maybe) but does he demonstrate industry and thrift?  How’s he on education to inculcate good character and teach the fundamentals that have defined knowledge in the West for millennia?  “Family values?”

The Republican Party did this to us.  Reince Priebus, Trump chief of staff, is an old Wisconsin buddy of Paul Ryan.

The best case is Paul Ryan is trading all the other values for fighting “the soul-sapping effects of paternalistic Big Government and its cannibalization of civil society and religious institutions” but even he must know by now he’s fighting cannibalism by signing up with a bigger, worse cannibal.

Best case for Ryan is he makes it harder for people to pay for health care first.

Good luck!  Get ‘im, Scott Pelley!

We are better than this

User magicpiano on Wikipedia

User magicpiano on Wikipedia

NOTE: Per a conversation with a Catholic sister in New Hampshire who sometimes teaches Helytimes posts to her advanced English class, I’ve cleaned up some language here. 

The goal should be to raise the discourse.  

62,418,820 Americans voted for him.  All those people are not dumb jerks.



Many bad people in my experience end up with exactly the punishment they deserve

Many bad people in my experience end up with exactly the punishment they deserve

This is a mess and a shame.

Part of our job as citizens for the rest of our lives will be undoing this disgrace and bringing some honor back to this country.  USA has done much that’s staggeringly, tears to your eyes amazing and heroic and noble.


photo of John Young by Charlie Duke

This work sucks, because I’m very lazy and have other things I’d rather do and preferred when my civic responsibility was minimal.


Counterpoint from Rabih Alameddine about whether we are better than this or not.  He tells a beautiful story at the end.



Warren Buffett’s advice always sounds simple, which isn’t the same as easy to follow.


Loved the doc about him on HBO.  The first scene is him advising high school kids to take care of their minds and bodies.  The second scene is him in the drive-through line at McDonald’s.



from Whitehouse.gov, a shoddy website

  1. badly made or done
  2. lacking moral principle; sorid









prone to falling apart, disintegrating








Bloggers = B Players?


Working my noggin on this quote from Justin Peters’ review of Thomas Friedman’s book over at Slate:

A very perceptive barfly once explained it to me like this. In the corporate world, you’ve got A players, B players, and C players stacked top to bottom like a pyramid. There’s this documentary called Jiro Dreams of Sushi, about a perfectionist Japanese sushi chef. When an A player sees that movie, the barfly explained, she will come to work the next day determined to work harder and smarter than ever before. A B player will spend the next day raving about the movie to anyone who’ll listen; maybe she’ll write a review for her blog. A C player sees Jiro Dreams of Sushi and comes to work the next day inspired to order Japanese food for lunch.

Tom Friedman is a B player interpreting A players for the benefit of C players, and there are lots of C players, and maybe it’s that simple. But both B players and C players habitually miss the point—and, in the end, so does Thank You for Being Late

Let’s consider this:

  • this sentence occurs in a review on what is essentially a blog, so is Justin Peters self-identifying as a B player?
  • quoting a “very perceptive barfly” is a very Thomas Friedmany kind of thing to do.  Is that the joke/point Justin Peters is making?
  • are we really calling Thomas Friedman a B player?  The dude is the dominant NY Times columnist, consistently crushing it with bestselling books.

The bloggers I enjoy are all A players, I would say.

Sensitive to the fact that the word “blog” has come to connote “loserish.”  Have been struck by the fact that Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon, who are today writing the President’s executive orders, are, essentially, bloggers.

Breitbart News Daily Stephen K. Bannon interviews Stephen Miller for SiriusXM Broadcasts' New Hampshire Primary Coverage Live From Iconic Red Arrow Diner on Feb. 8 in Manchester, New Hampshire. | Getty

Breitbart News Daily Stephen K. Bannon interviews Stephen Miller for SiriusXM Broadcasts’ New Hampshire Primary Coverage Live From Iconic Red Arrow Diner on Feb. 8 in Manchester, New Hampshire. | Getty.  Source.

Consider this Politico profile of Stephen Miller by Julia Ioffe.  At Duke:

But mostly he used the column as a lightning rod, a way to court angry reaction and put himself at the center of major campus controversies. He wrote that interacting with the population outside the campus was overrated. “Durham isn’t a petting zoo,” he chided. “The residents won’t get lonely or irritable if we don’t play with them.” He was a strong supporter of the war in Iraq and called Ted Kennedy a “traitor” for criticizing American use of torture.

Miller invited another media figure, David Horowitz, to Duke, and that led him to Jeff Sessions:

The name he made for himself in fighting the university establishment, through his column and in inviting Horowitz to speak, would later reap benefits. It was Horowitz who, in 2009, would recommend Miller to his old friend, Jeff Sessions.

President DT himself would not be president if his Twitter micro-blog were not so stimulating and provocative. The Trump movement comes out of provocative media networks.  How on Earth is the left losing that battle?

Wonder if — hear me out — an effective force for anti-Trumpism and resistance could be mini-networks, newspapers, arguments, alternatives, ideas, forums for strong takes.  Reach people and really change their minds, is the idea.

Write to me, lemme know what you think!




some pretty saucy pics on the website for the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace.  Should there be a warning for kids?


source: wiki

Was checking it out because it occurred to me that TR must be the last president before you-know-who who was born in New York City.


Thurgood’s take, and Yoichi Okamoto


From Stephen L. Carter’s 2017 predictions, via Tyler Cowen.  (Helytimes is increasingly becoming a Tyler Cowen processing center).


That photo is by Yoichi Okamoto:


Looking a bit like Fredrik Wikingsson there, and here are more by Yoichi:




found at this NYT slideshow of his work from 2013.

One last chance?


stirred the pot the other day with this tweet.






screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-11-10-03-am screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-11-10-43-am

I mean, I like being lumped in with the #coolkids.

When I tweeted that, I meant what I said: it would be a cool movie.  The Electoral College members are mostly, as I understand it, a bunch of ordinary schmoes. 99 times out of a hundred their job is rubber stamping, a comical bit of leftover political inanity.

But what if, one day, it wasn’t so easy?  

What if, one day, these ordinary citizens were called upon to make a tough choice.  

A choice that would bring them right into the line of fire.

A choice that would change history.  

The idea of Trump in the White House makes me sick.  61,900,651 Americans disagree, obvs.  An Electoral College revolt is a crazy fantasy.  But I enjoy thinking about it!

What is right and wrong for the Electoral College to do?

Says the National Archives:

There is no Constitutional provision or Federal law that requires Electors to vote according to the results of the popular vote in their states. Some states, however, require Electors to cast their votes according to the popular vote. These pledges fall into two categories—Electors bound by state law and those bound by pledges to political parties.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the Constitution does not require that Electors be completely free to act as they choose and therefore, political parties may extract pledges from electors to vote for the parties’ nominees. Some state laws provide that so-called “faithless Electors” may be subject to fines or may be disqualified for casting an invalid vote and be replaced by a substitute elector. The Supreme Court has not specifically ruled on the question of whether pledges and penalties for failure to vote as pledged may be enforced under the Constitution. No Elector has ever been prosecuted for failing to vote as pledged.

Today, it is rare for Electors to disregard the popular vote by casting their electoral vote for someone other than their party’s candidate. Electors generally hold a leadership position in their party or were chosen to recognize years of loyal service to the party. Throughout our history as a nation, more than 99 percent of Electors have voted as pledged.

The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) has compiled a brief summary of state laws about the various procedures, which vary from state to state, for selecting slates of potential electors and for conducting the meeting of the electors. The document, Summary: State Laws Regarding Presidential Electors, can be downloaded from the NASS website.


From the NASS website, here’s how it goes down in my home state of California:

Whenever a political party submits to the Secretary of State its certified list of nominees for electors of President and Vice President of the United States, the Secretary of State shall notify each candidate for elector of his or her nomination by the party. The electors chosen shall assemble at the State Capitol at 2 o’clock in the afternoon on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December next following their election. In case of the death or absence of any elector chosen, or if the number of electors is deficient for any other reason, the electors then present shall elect, from the citizens of the state, as many persons as will supply the deficiency. The electors, when convened, if both candidates are alive, shall vote by ballot for that person for President and that person for Vice President of the United States, who are, respectively, the candidates of the political party which they represent, one of whom, at least, is not an inhabitant of this state.

That seems pretty standard.  In some states they meet in the governor’s office or the office of the secretary of state.  In Massachusetts they will meet in the Governor’s office:

Barry Chin for The Boston Globe, found here.

Barry Chin for The Boston Globe, found here.

Here’s what the good ol’ Constitution says about the EC.


Now, what is the point of all this?  If you’ve read at all about the EC, you will know that Hamilton made the case for it in Federalist 68, which you can read a summary of here or the real thing here.


You’ve probably seen this quote:

Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States

But to me, the more interesting one is this one:

Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one querter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.


Now, I hear the argument that the cool kids are always changing the rules.  I don’t think I agree with the logic of this petition, which is half “Hillary won the popular vote” (who cares, that’s not the rules we were playing by) and half “Trump is unfit to serve.”

The Trump being unfit to serve bit was up to the voters.  Seems very dangerous to me for the Electoral College to start making that call.  That is some wonked aristocratic bullshit that the Constitution maybe intended, but which the Constitution as practiced and understood has moved away from?

But if it were proven Trump colluded with a foreign power, then I think hell yeah!  If you believe, as I do, that the Constitution is a genius mechanism full of checks and failsafes, isn’t the Electoral College designed exactly to be one last chance for good old-fashioned citizens to stop a presidential candidate who allowed a foreign power to gain an improper ascendant in our councils?

I don’t think we have the proof that Trump did that.  But I think the Electors are totally within their rights to think about it and decide what to do.

In closing my feelings are well summarized by Ben White:




Faithless electors


Salving myself with fantasies of whole state delegations of presidential electors tossing out Trump when the Electoral College voting goes down.

The Electoral College never actually meets as one body. Electors meet in their respective state capitals (electors for the District of Columbia meet within the District) on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December, at which time they cast their electoral votes on separate ballots for president and vice president.

The history of “faithless electors” doesn’t break a five on a 1-10 scale of interesting (with 10 being reasonably interesting) but the case of the last faithless elector is kind of funny:

1 – 2004 election: An anonymous Minnesota elector, pledged for Democrats John Kerry and John Edwards, cast his or her presidential vote for John Ewards [sic],[8]rather than Kerry, presumably by accident

There’s some talk of the Electoral College in The Federalist 68, which seems a little optimistic at the moment:

The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States.

Small note


in the wilderness

After seeing Horrible Trump at the RNC, I was in a terrible mood, you can hear it in my voice in the episode of Great Debates we recorded right after.

Talked about it afterwards in Great Debates News, and I get upset anew when I remember what I thought then:

Here’s the simplest and worst thing I can say about a Trump rally: you’re way more likely to say “I hate you” to somebody afterwards.

Can already feel this feeling happening again, to me and to people around me.  This is a nasty guy and hearing him and seeing him makes you feel nasty.  For myself, gonna try hard to not get worse, ruder.  

Need to think on some new judo.

Trump at Gettysburg

Pickett's Charge from a position on the Confederate line looking toward the Union lines, Ziegler's Grove on the left, clump of trees on right, painting by Edwin Forbes

Pickett’s Charge from a position on the Confederate line looking toward the Union lines, Ziegler’s Grove on the left, clump of trees on right, painting by Edwin Forbes


Disgusted afresh with this one, from NY Mag: “Final Days: Trump’s advisers are working hard to plan their own futures while riding out the roller-coaster end of the campaign.” by Gabriel Sherman.

I mean, this is what happened at Gettysburg:


An American president should not visit that place without some sober thought about how it came to be that 7,058 people murdered each other there in three days (perhaps our worst ever mass shooting?)

Starting to seem like Trump has never read


Or even Shelby:


Has he not at least had Sam Waterstone read him the Gettysburg Address?:

The whole point of the Gettysburg Address, he might’ve reminded himself, was that we can’t let all this horror have no meaning, we must use it to remind ourselves of how we got here, what is good about us, what values we must work for.

UGH!  I’m with Ken Burns.

Also what about this:


I know everybody deserves a lawyer, but is it not a tad revolting that Ailes lawyer is Dukakis’ former campaign manager?


Maybe there’s more to the story, but this seems, from my distance, like an easy example of a valueless incestuous intertwined gaggle of political and media elites who care about nothing but staying in the game.

I’m sure in defeat Trump will have all the dignity of Lee:


He was engaged in rallying and in encouraging the broken troops, and was riding about a little in front of the wood, quite alone–the whole of his Staff being engaged in a similar manner further to the rear. His face, which is always placid and cheeful, did not show signs of the slightest disappointment, care, or annoyance; a he was addressing to every soldier he met a few words of encouragement, such as, “All this will come right in the end: we’ll talk it over afterwards; but, in the mean time, all good men must rally. We want all good and true men just now,” &c. He spoke to all the wounded men that passed him, and the slightly wounded he exhorted “to bind up their hurts and take up a musket” in this emergency. Very few failed to answer his appeal, and I saw many badly wounded men take off their hats and cheer him. He said to me, “This has been a sad day for us, Colonel–a sad day; but we can’t expect always to gain victories.” He was also kind enough to advise me to get into some more sheltered position, as the shells were bursting round us with considerable frequency.

from the account of Fremantle, who was there, a version less dramatic than this one:


Who is this?


I’ll give you a hint.  She is running for Vice-President of the United States.

It’s Mindy Finn!  Alert reader Dave sends this our way.  Ms. Finn used to work at Twitter, she’s a former reporter for the Waterbury, CT Republican-American, she’s a mother of two and she’s either 34 or 35.

Here’s a ready for primetime interview with her:

She’s running with former CIA operative Evan McMullin.  I gotta say, I’m won over a bit by the homespun nature of this campaign and I wish them well.


She reports she was shocked for “a couple minutes” when she was asked to join the ticket.

Popular Journalism Writing


I’ve had Hillary’s book staring back at me on my desk for weeks now.  It’s pretty boring, here’s a passage more or less at random:


On the other hand, increasingly convinced that politics should be boring.  The thesis of the book might be that life, especially international relations and politics, is full of hard choices with no good answer.  She seems dedicated to taking on the grim, serious job of making those hard choices, and determined to make those in sober and rational ways.  Recommend reading this NY Times article:


Some excerpts:

“Near existential” is how Tim Kaine recently described this campaign, and it did not come off as complete hyperbole.

Trying to wrap your head around Trump:

the blustering mogul had endured — or rather perpetuated — a series of self-immolations that included a fat-shaming Twitter assault on a Latina beauty queen (one of those things you never thought you’d write during a presidential campaign, and yet it barely registers a blink), a few pages of his 1995 tax return finding its way to The New York Times and the ensuing revelation that Trump had declared a $916 million loss, which could have enabled him to avoid paying 18 years’ worth of federal taxes.

How about this:

“It does feel much different,” she said. “If I were running against another Republican, we’d have our disagreements, don’t get me wrong, and I would be trying to make my case vigorously. But I wouldn’t go to bed at night with a knot in the pit of my stomach.” She enunciated her T’s (“knoT in the piT”) as if she were spitting out the words.

The mentality at her level:

Given that, I asked Clinton if Nov. 8 scared her. “No, not really,” she said slowly. I clarified that I was talking about the prospect of her losing. She knew what I was talking about. “I’m not going to lose,” she said. She shot me a knowing grin.

This is the standard politician’s answer when asked to contemplate defeat — even candidates who are down 30 points — but Clinton seemed to mean it. “I don’t go there,” Clinton said. Trump is such an unnerving figure, partly because in getting this far he has already defied so many predictions, largely on the strength of his ability to command the media fun house. This has been the enduring, defining characteristic of the race. His mania for being seen and heard and mentioned has proved exceptionally well suited, maybe codependent, to the current age.

Interesting point:

Bill Clinton’s campaigns for governor of Arkansas were relatively simple, small-scale and stable productions, conducted via traditional television, news radio and print outlets. But from the moment the Clintons went national in the early 1990s, their ambitions have met head-on with a series of transformative new media adversaries. His presidency was the first to suffer a sustained assault from conservative talk radio, particularly in its first term, when Rush Limbaugh was establishing himself as the most influential radio host of his generation. The Monica Lewinsky scandal and Clinton’s subsequent impeachment were driven heavily by revelations on a new website, the Drudge Report, and covered exhaustively by the emerging force that cable news was becoming.

How about this?:

[Hillary] described a meeting with a group that had developed online mental-health programs. One woman predicted to her that a big challenge in mental health over the coming years would be “how to undo the damage that the internet has caused young people.”

…Trump, of course, both shares and feeds his audience’s addiction to stimuli and entertainment.

I mean this is a shameless, but kind of cool move?:

He can be undeniably fun and, to a point, seductive. My first encounter with Trump, more than a year ago, came in an unsolicited note that said simply, “Mark, It’s Time for a Cover!”

Is this true or a cutesy fiction?:

“My husband and I laugh sometimes about the ‘Antiques Roadshow,’ ” Clinton told me, referring to the PBS show about antique appraisers that she watches devoutly. “Sometimes we feel like we are the antiques on a roadshow when it comes to politics.”

A view of the media:

There are many more women and minorities in the group (as in, there are more than almost none); there is considerably less drinking, and no one smokes; and while reporters 40 years ago paid their dues and scrapped like hell to cover a presidential campaign, many of today’s cast members are in their first journalism jobs. They are competitive but collegial. Their tech savviness is astounding (actually it made me scared). It’s easy to see why a control-freakish enterprise like the Clinton campaign might be terrified of an army of smartphone dynamos who are just dying to tweet out what color cough drops the candidate was popping (Halls, yellow).

This is great:

People inside the Clinton orbit mourn the familiar shirts and skins of going up against a more conventional Republican nominee. They dealt in familiar Republican themes and operated within certain boundaries. You hear a surprising amount of Romney nostalgia: Several Clinton aides I spoke to brought him up in almost wistful terms, as well as John McCain and George W. Bush. They are now fondly recalled as familiar predators in the political habitat, like the characters from that old cartoon “Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog.”Ralph and Sam show up to work, punch the clock and greet each other amiably before starting their daily game — Ralph trying to corral sheep while Sam thwarts him. Each episode ends with the adversaries punching out their timecards and bidding farewell to each other until the next installment.

Popular journalism writing:

Whenever she is asked questions that touch on possible sexism and double standards, Clinton tends to assume a slow, sarcastic and vaguely disdainful voice. She declared the topic “interesting”; she would “leave it to others” to determine. On whether she is being treated differently as a female candidate, Clinton suggested that it would be a great topic, in the future, for “a lot of Ph.D. theses and popular journalism writing.” She then wrapped things up, disappeared behind her curtain and left us to our “popular journalism writing.”

A scene from the plane:

“O.K., so I was back here a few minutes ago, and everyone was laughing and throwing an orange around,” Merrill said, assessing the situation. “And now I come back again, and suddenly everyone is really tense.” Correct. In any case, Merrill clarified that the clementine had not actually reached Clinton, but rather he picked it up first and read the question aloud. To which Clinton remarked that she had once eaten dinner with Putin. Merrill then circled “Putin” and rolled back the clementine.

Everyone tweeted out Merrill’s clarification. The tension lifted; Merrill headed back to the front cabin and, as he passed my seat, said, “I can’t wait to read four paragraphs of this stupidity in your magazine story.”

I thought this was a rare slip:

After Bill Clinton was elected, his wife vowed that every letter sent to the White House, especially from a child, would receive a response. I have no idea how well they actually executed on this, but Clinton was making a bigger point here, about the importance of connection and the sharing of stories in a political world overrun by snapshots, caricatures, fragmentation and reality distortion.

Well I mean aren’t you a reporter?  Find out!

Earlier [Hillary] had mentioned the 1985 book “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” by Neal Postman, about how television has oriented politics more and more toward entertainment.

Interesting!  I no longer have my copy, but I remember Postman predicted exactly The Daily Show: a parody news show would arise that would show how ridiculous TV news was, but that the stars of the parody show would inevitably become famous themselves and continue the cycle of amusement without confrontation?  something like that.


The secret key to Hillary?:

In college in the late 1960s, she resisted revolutionary change in favor of grinding out incremental progress inside the system. She has no patience for messianic rhetoric and hyperbolic slogans and grandiose speeches.

Is that really what conservative conspiracy theory subject Saul Alinsky taught Hillary and Barry O?:


A distressing vision

from FRONTLINE’s doc The Choice 2016 which I watched on my PBS app last night.  Recommended viewing, though it won’t make you feel good!

I wonder if Michiko Kakutani has any parallels in mind as she reviews Hitler: Ascent 1889-1939 by Volker Ullrich

• Hitler was known, among colleagues, for a “bottomless mendacity” that would later be magnified by a slick propaganda machine that used the latest technology (radio, gramophone records, film) to spread his message. A former finance minister wrote that Hitler “was so thoroughly untruthful that he could no longer recognize the difference between lies and truth” and editors of one edition of “Mein Kampf” described it as a “swamp of lies, distortions, innuendoes, half-truths and real facts.”

The fun twist is f you read The Art Of The Deal or anything about Trump you see maybe his #1 enemy is The New York Times.  The more they scorn him the more he seems to thrive, he puts them down as out of touch and elitist (can you imagine?) and corrupt.

Plus, according to Roger Stone and Omarosa, the whole reason Trump is doing this is because the snobs made fun of him!

Quite a pickle!

Key factor in the rise of Hitler: post-Versailles Germans felt humiliated?

One to watch for at the next debate: will Trump bring up Hillary failing to pass the DC bar exam, which FRONTLINE suggests was a real turning point in her life?

Experience vs. Incompetence

hrc-2Recommend investing the considerable mental energy required to read this Tyler Cowen post, entitled “Are lies better than hypocracy? with special reference to some current events.”  An excerpt:

You are more worried about the hypocrite when you see bigger decisions and announcements down the road than what is being faced now.  You are more worried about the hypocrite when you fear disappointment, and have experienced disappointment repeatedly in the past.  You are more worried about the hypocrite when you fear it is all lies anyway.  Lies, in a way, give you a chance to try out “the liar relationship,” whereas hypocrisy does not.  You thus fear that hypocrisy may lead to a worse outcome down the road or at the very least more anxiety along the way.

But note: for a more institutional and distanced principal-agent relationship, it is often incorrect, and indeed dangerous, to rely on your intuitions from personalized principal-agent problems.

When it comes to how the agent speaks to allies and enemies, you almost always should prefer hypocrisy to bald-faced lies.  The history and practice of diplomacy show this.  Allies and enemies, especially from other cultures, don’t know how to process the lies the way you can process the blatant lies of your children, friends, and spouse.  They will think some of these lies are mere hypocrisy and that can greatly increase uncertainty and maybe lead to open conflict.  North Korea aside, the prevailing international equilibrium is “hypocrisy only,” and those are the signals everyone has decades of experience in reading.

SUNDAY TAKE: is this the election of 1828?


jq2John Quincy Adams



Very annoying.

Dad was president.

Former Secretary of State.

Front row kid as Chris Arande says.


Imacon Color Scanner

Andrew Jackson



Slave trader.

Pretty much a murderer.

Prone to fits of wild anger.

Considered by the JQAs of the world to be impossibly vulgar.

Some ways in which Jackson was better than Trump:

  • Jackson was a legitimate self-made man
  • Jackson had done something of service to his country (Battle of New Orleans)

(What to make of the Seminole War?


Having a hell of a time finding the source of this image, which Wiki says is “Marines battle Seminole Indians in the Florida War–1835-1842.” — Department of Defense, U.S. Marine Corps (Photo #: 306073-A)

The result?


Jackson won.

Some of things he did were

  • deport 45,000 Indians
  • more or less shut down the national bank
  • paid off the national debt
  • preside over an economic panic


READERS: what do you think?  Comments are open.

First got this idea from a questioner in New Zealand, who (I believe) admired Jackson.

1828 could’ve also been compared to the  the Gore Bush election of 2000 (with Martin Van Buren as Karl Rove)

I’ve got to consult:


Is Trump like Jackson?  WORSE?  BETTER??

Is JQA like Hillary?

JQA was later in Amistad with Matthew McConaughey.



The Wheelchair President


This is what a documentary about FDR would be called in a Simpsons episode.


Here are some takes and items for your Sunday enjoyment!

The coach on Netflix doc series Last Chance U:


The most compelling, complex character on “TV” right now


In an old folder of articles I found this one, about Peter Thiel’s Zero To One


Thiel and his ideas are interesting to me.  I’m open to the Vali/OwenE take that he might just be a kinda smart guy who got lucky and thinks he’s a genius.  He definitely should not be on the Supreme Court.

I loved Zero To One, but Thiel’s support for Trump makes him seem like a much darker and more troubling figure than I felt he was when I was reading it.

Two interesting points in the article that had new meaning in light of Thiel being a Trump guy:


Is that something like what Trump did (old grouchy white men?  white American nationalists?  you’d think they’d be served by a lot of political competitors but maybe there was a hole in the market)?  What about this?:


Unfortunately, Trump is good at sales and Hillary Clinton is kind of bad at sales.

Sometimes this campaign we get a reminder of how good at sales Bill Clinton is.  Here is Bill talking about the Clinton Foundation.  This clip is used by GOP and conservative sites as I guess kind of scummy because Clinton compares himself to Robin Hood:

Maybe comparing yourself to Robin Hood is a little much, but when I hear Bill explain the Clinton Foundation as asking for money from people who have a lot of it and giving it to people who don’t have any, it makes it sound a lot better.

Does anyone effectively refute the claim that almost 10 million more people in more than 70 countries have access to life-saving medicines through the Clinton Health Access Initiative?

Silence Of The Lambs


Not topical or relevant at all but for forever I’ve had in my phone a bunch of screenshots of this movie, one of the most gripping movies ever.  Saw it on TV some months ago and was struck by how much of it is just a closeup of a person’s face.  How unsettling/compelling!

Baltimore can be quite a fun town if you have the right guide

Baltimore can be quite a fun town if you have the right guide

This guy:



This jumped out at me

In a not otherwise “sexy” article about English literary critic William Empson’s book The Face Of The Buddha:


William Empson:



Enjoyed the caption on this one, from National Geographic’s Instagram:




Thomas Frank, profiled in the Politico 50 list:


Frank went to University of Kansas, University of Virginia, and University of Chicago.  Can he be trusted?

Doing some reading about AquAdvantage salmon, a genetically modified animal

Am I ugly?

    Am I ugly?

A growth hormone-regulating gene from a Pacific Chinook salmon, with a promoter from an ocean pout, was added to the Atlantic salmon’s 40,000 genes. This gene enables it to grow year-round instead of only during spring and summer. The purpose of the modifications is to increase the speed at which the fish grows without affecting its ultimate size or other qualities. The fish grows to market size in 16 to 18 months rather than three years.

Asked Anonymous Investor to take a look at the financials of the AquaBounty company.

I haven’t looked into the science, but if their salmon is all that they claim, AquaBounty should have a big pricing advantage. Because their fish grow so much faster than a normal salmon, they should be much cheaper to produce, and sell — undercutting their competitors.

This reminds of the tiny speculative biotech companies I invest in.  There’s no money coming in, only money being burned.  But you’re hoping someday for a big FDA approval that will open sluices of torrential cash.  In this case, the FDA approval has come  But the primary problem (they have a few) is that major buyers like Kroger and Target vowed not to carry the product.  My guess is the company will eventually make inroads, just as Monsanto, Syngenta, etc, have in the past. But it might take a long time. Big money usually wins in the end. And the hippies, as always, will go whining back to their yurts.

AquaBounty is selling for around 64 million dollars.  Not a bad price for a what looks like a pretty decent lottery ticket.

Not sure why AquaBounty only trades in London.  The volume is extremely thin.  This is a stock not on many people’s radar.

I do know that AquaBounty is controlled by Intrexon (the same company trying to battle Zika via their patented breed of mosquitos). They own over 50% of AquaBounty.  Intrexon trades here under the ticker XON. It’s a 3 billion dollar company.  (A year ago it was worth more than 6 billion).  Intrexon does a lot of interesting Monsanto-type things, and the stock is sort of a darling of Wall Street.  But lately doubt has crept into the story.  Intrexon has been slow in providing evidence for many of it’s scientific claims.  The company says they don’t want to divulge their trade secrets by releasing too much data.  Skeptics speculate that they’re not disclosing much, because, they believe, much of the science probably doesn’t work.

Interesting.  Here’s what Intrexon (NYSE: XON) has been up to:


“I couldn’t be more pleased with the birth of these adorable kittens,” noted Blake Russell, President of ViaGen Pets. “As the largest global provider of genetic preservation services for companion animals, we look forward to expanding the life-enriching connections that people form with their pets. Our goal is to bring this opportunity to all pet owners and their families.”

Sure.  Anonymous Investor adds:

 In the salmon world, AquAdvantage salmon are considered “ugly”. In a test 95% of salmon chose to mate with wild salmon over AquaBounty salmon.


American Dad co-showrunner Brian Boyle has a very fine set of glasses with the AD characters on them.


One fan’s opinion? the show should do more with Reginald.



 The Flemish Giant

Somebody at work mentioned that the biggest kind of rabbit is called a Flemish giant.


Well worth the image search.

Boston accents:


A good, clear discussion of an often misunderstood issue from this classicbostonians-2

On the subject of Boston:


In Australia this kind of coconut frosted cake is known as Boston bun.  Everyone was baffled when I told them I’d never heard of it.

A Boston bun is a large spiced bun with a thick layer of coconut icing, prevalent in Australia and New Zealand. Traditionally the bun contained sieved potato, and modern versions sometimes contain raisins. It is often served sliced, to accompany a cup of tea. The origin of the name is unknown.

In New Zealand they’re often called a Sally Lunn, especially in the North Island

Still reeling


from good times in Australia.  A bizarro version of the United States, upside down and weirdly (to a USA observer) developed in all kinds of ways.  For instance, Australia people talk about “the deep north” as like a joke on the way we talk about the “deep south.”

Important to remember that on the other side of the equator, you have to flip countries upside down to think about them.  Their south is our north.  If you think about that pointy part of Queensland as Florida, the Northern Territory as Texas, Tasmania as Newfoundland or Nova Scotia, Melbourne as Boston and Sydney as New York, you’re still way off but getting somewhere.

Ok but flip Australia upside down in your mind.

Ok but flip Australia upside down in your mind.

Huge thanks to the many people of New Zealand and Australia who helped me out.  Puts me in mind of this week’s scripture, Matthew 25:35.

Bummed to miss

Had to come back to the USA before the Brisbane Writers’ Festival, so I missed Lionel Shriver of We Need To Talk About Kevin fame apparently light it up with a wild speech about cultural appropriation (attacking what seems to me to be a ridiculous straw man?)

I can’t find a photo of her wearing a sombrero, as she is alleged to have done.  Did she really refer to herself as a “renowned iconoclast”?

Which Australian state library is the best?

I enjoy Melbourne’s State Library of Victoria so much:


photo by Wiki user Brian Jenkins

I mean how can you not admire that they have Ned Kelly’s armor on display?:


Some great illustrations on Ned’s wiki page:


“A strange apparition”: when Kelly appeared out of the mist-shrouded bush, clad in armour, bewildered policemen took him to be a ghost, a bunyip, and “Old Nick himself”.

a bunyip:


Let’s take a virtual look at Australia’s other state libraries:




Would a better state library be a step towards helping Tasmania’s insane illiteracy rate?

New South Wales:

Mitchell Library without banners


Impressive.  Classic if slightly dull exterior, solid interior, I rate it a 9 (out of 11).




A big swing on the exterior, the interior kind of interesting but also kind of a like a weird mall.  I’ll give it a 7.

Northern Territory:


No independent library building, it’s housed in the Parliament House which is kind of cool.  DNQ for the rating system.

Western Australia:



Trash exterior, interior so weird as to be kind of interesting.  8.  

The old version, once housed in Hackett Hall, appears to have been pretty cool:


South Australia:




Aw yeah!  11/11.

Short Books

Australia/New Zealand publishing is so good at short books.  I read a bunch of short books while traveling.


This one began as speech Flanagan gave, focusing on his disgust for the abuses, catastrophes, and inhumanity at Australia’s offshore detention centers for asylum seekers, but also about a general disappointment in political and cultural life:

Conformists par excellence, capable of only agreeing with power however or wherever it manifests itself, they are the ones least capable of dealing with the many new challenges we face precisely because those challenges demand the very qualities the new class lacks: courage, independence of thought and a belief in something larger than its own future.

The new class, understanding only self-interest, believing only in the possibilities of its own cynicism, committed to nothing more than its own perpetuation, seeks to ride the tiger by agreeing with all the tiger’s desires, believing it and not the tiger will endure, until the tiger decides it’s time to feed, as the mining corporations did with Kevin Rudd, as News Limited is now with Julia Gillard.

He goes on about the alternative:




If I may make a crude summary Flanagan’s argument could be he wishes Australia remembered Matthew 25:35 a little more.

Flanagan and I once shared a publisher, and I’m told his books are masterpieces, especially Narrow Road To The Deep North.

Also good, and more lighthearted if at times equally scorching:


Here’s a taste, where Pieper is digressing about a dog he adopted:pieper-2

Took a page out of Vali’s book and wrote Mr. Pieper a short and simple fan letter complimenting him on his book.  He wrote a gracious note back.  Gotta do this more often.

I can’t write to the great New Zealand short story writer Katherine Mansfield because she’s dead:


If I could, I would compliment her on “The Garden Party.”  This story starts out so boring and stodgy and Victorian I really thought I was in for it.  But it pays off.  Spoiler alert this is the last page:


What life was she couldn’t explain.  No matter.  He quite understood.

Isn’t it, darling?’ said Laurie.



This scene, on Brisbane’s Southbank, really reminded me of this one, in Paris a hundredsome years ago:


Richard Bell


Impressed by this massive painting at the Milani Gallery in Brisbane by Australian indigenous artist Richard Bell.

(The price in Australian dollars is 55,000.)

Bell caused controversy in April 2011 after revealing that he selected the winner of the prestigious Sir John Sulman Prize through the toss of a coin.


No / Leave / Trump


I thought the UK Remain camp would win in the Brexit vote, because I could remember following the 1995 Quebec separation referendum.  (What teen boy isn’t mesmerized by Canadian politics?)  Canadian Tanya Krywiak remembers:

It was a night many will never forget. Twenty years ago, on Monday, October 30, 1995,citizens across Quebec went to the polls to decide the future of their province — and Canada.

The 1995 Quebec vote seems like an apt analogy to Brexit.  Really close, emotional, a kind of impractical vote that came to pass due to political posturing.  And then:

An astounding 93.5 per cent of those eligible turned up to vote either yes or no to sovereignty. At 10:20 p.m., the “no” side was declared the winner with 50.58 per cent.

Quebec voted, just barely, to remain in Canada.


At the time the narrow win for No was partly chalked up to the huge Unity rally and similar rallies across Canada:

The Unity Rally was a rally held on October 27, 1995, in downtown Montreal, where an estimated 100,000 Canadians from in and outside Quebec came to celebrate a united Canada, and plead with Quebecers to vote “No” in the Quebec independence referendum, 1995 (held three days after the rally). Held at the Place du Canada, it was Canada’s biggest political rally until 2012.

Highlighting the celebrate a united Canada part.  Because maybe that’s what the Remain people in the UK failed to do.

The Canadian Unity Rally was a celebration, it was for something, even just a feeling and a song.  It countered an emotional argument with an emotional argument.

There was something exciting and satisfying about exiting the EU.  Did the Remain people offer anything to celebrate?

In fairness there’s not a ton there.  I mean the EU’s flag sucks:



There’s no good song, either.  (There’s the “Anthem of Europe” I guess).

Compare that to the 1995 Unity rally.  From the NY Times:

150,000 Rally To Ask Quebec Not to Secede

MONTREAL, Oct. 27— In an eruption of national pride, tens of thousands of Canadians poured into Montreal from across Canada today to call for unity and to urge Quebec to remain part of their country.

At the Place du Canada in downtown Montreal, a crowd estimated at 150,000 waved the maple leaf flag of Canada and the fleurs-de-lis flag of Quebec and sang the national anthem, hoping to convince the Quebecers to vote No on Monday in their referendum on whether their province should secede from Canada.

Take this to the most visceral level.  In the Trump vs. Hillary election, if you’re undecided, which side feels more emotionally satisfying?

Voting for Obama was emotionally satisfying, a celebration:

Role Play: you are Hillary’s top advisor (or Hillary herself).  How do make a vote for Hillary feel like something more emotionally satisfying than anti-Trump?  A celebration of what’s best about the USA?

Feel like she did a decent job of this with the help of both Obamas at the DNC:


Four Bits About Trump

1) Trump as Tim Ferriss

Does the best analogy come to us from Tim Ferriss, who has written about how he won his weight class 1999 (US) Chinese kickboxing championship by exploiting anomalies in the rules?  From Wiki:

Chinese kickboxing

Ferriss has stated that, prior to his writing career, he won in the 165 lb. weight class at the 1999 USAWKF national Sanshou (Chinese kickboxing) championship through a process of shoving opponents out of the ring and by dramatically dehydrating himself before weigh in, and then rehydrating before the fight in order to compete several classes below his actual weight – a practice known as “Weight cutting”.

Ferriss has acknowledged using anabolic steroids, specifically “a number of low-dose therapies, including testosterone cypionate,” under medical supervision following shoulder surgery, as well as using “stacks” consisting of testosterone enanthate, Sustanon 250, HGH, Deca-Durabolin, Cytomel, and other unnamed ingredients while training.

Shoving wasn’t part of the Chinese kickboxing game apparently, it was just assumed you wouldn’t shove.  If you have no stake in the integrity of Chinese kickboxing turns out nobody can stop you once you start shoving.

Now, knowing no more details than how Ferriss tells the story, what Ferriss did sounds like clever if devilish fun with no real victim except maybe the guy who came in second or people really vested in the USAWKF.  

Trump seemed like that too for awhile.  Can’t deny taking pleasure in it.  But it’s one thing to make a clown show of the 1999 national Sanshou championship,  even the Republican Party primaries.  But it’s a whole other category to make a clown show out of the United States.

An amazing move right now for Trump would be to bail.  That’s what I would legit advise him to do.  Would be hilarious. Republicans would pass out with relief and then maybe even beat Hillary.  Meanwhile Trump goes out undefeated, can enjoy adoring crowds for the rest of his life without ever having to be President.

Some suggestion Trump does think of all this as no more than a fun competition:

“I have to tell you, I’ve competed all my life,” Trump said, his golden face somber, his gravity-defying pouf of hair seeming to hover above his brow. “All my life I’ve been in different competitions—in sports, or in business, or now, for 10 months, in politics. I have met some of the most incredible competitors that I’ve ever competed against right here in the Republican Party.”

No suggestion yet he thinks it’s best to stop here.

2) Anonymous Intelligence Analyst Weighs In

Our friend Anonymous Intelligence Analyst has been dead on in his Trump predictions for some time.  He wrote me back in February with some thoughts, as well as a Master Plan that I think is well worth considering:

Caveat: please remember that I am not endorsing Trump. I’m not voting for him but I am fascinated by the whole thing.
  • Sanders & Trump tap into the same frustration: middle to lower-class Americans have not seen their lot improve in a long time
    • Sanders claims that large banks and corporations have captured the regulators and we should basically blow up our economic system and become socialists. At the core, he’s right about the regulatory capture.
    • Trump claims that our trade and immigration policies have been a screwjob on Americans. I am rabidly pro-trade and pro-immigration but I do believe it’s benefited elites while not being a good thing for a lot of people in the bottom half.
    • They both pitch that the parties are trying to screw the people, which is totally true. I mean the people are calling for Trump and the GOP is trying everything they can to sink him. The people are calling for Bernie but Hilary already bought all the super-delegates. The fix is in.
  • I agree with you that a core attraction of Trump is that he says tons of stuff that no other politician would say and that’s refreshing. He is also authentic. He is definitely a giant douche, he speaks like a douche, and you are convinced he believes in his own bullshit. That’s so attractive! I like Bernie despite his crazy economic policies because I can tell he basically believes in them…I can respect that.
  • Instead of debating Trump, here’s my master plan for defeating him. The establishment on both sides hates him so much. Republicans should cede the nomination to him as he has rightly won it. Then jam whoever they love (Rubio?) on him as VP. First day in office, conspire with the Dems to impeach Trump! President Rubio takes over. It’s a layup and would be incredible drama as well — can you imagine the look on Trump‘s face!

That’s great.  Would be a hilarious prank on Trump.

trump eagle

 What Is The President’s Job, Exactly?
Summarized in a not very long part (Article II) of the Constitution:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.


He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.


The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

That’s pretty much it.  Tl;dr for “what is the President’s job” might be:
to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
That’s what it says in the Oath of Office laid out back in Article II, Section 1:
Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:-“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Well, ok, say what you want about Hillary Clinton.
Hillary in Time
She is definitely a part of the problem of regulatory capture AIA identifies above.  It’s cool that Bernie keeps putting her feet to the fire on that.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders takes the stage for a campaign rally outside his childhood home (rear) in Brooklyn on April 8. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

But I do think she would be better than Trump at all the above President jobs.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greets Haibao, the mascot of the Shanghai World Expo 2010, while touring China's Pavilion in Shanghai, May 22, 2010.  US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in China on Friday for a visit set to culminate next week with wide-ranging talks in Beijing, with tensions running high over North Korea.     AFP PHOTO / POOL / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greets Haibao, the mascot of the Shanghai World Expo 2010, while touring China’s Pavilion in Shanghai, May 22, 2010.AFP PHOTO / POOL / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Also Trump is a straight up jerk, unreal that this is even a conversation.
Constitutional Mischief

from this great blog, Process and Preserve, of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, this post by Matt Shoemaker, don’t see more info about the photo: https://processandpreserve.wordpress.com/2010/02/05/what-constitutes-a-physical-copy-of-the-u-s-constitution/

The Constitution, re: The President, specifically says He.  Would be funny* if Trump claimed it was unconstitutional for Hillary to be President.
*also unfunny all Trump stunts now tear further at American constitutional cohesion and make the United States and Earth a weakened and more unpleasant place to live.