Cash in on Zeitgeist by selling paintings of the Ukrainian flag?

A modest-sized Jasper Johns painting of the American flag sold for $36 million in pre-Biden money (New York Post, 2014). A hedge fund billionaire might have paid $110 million for one in 2010 (NYT). Here’s a (priceless) triple-flag version at the Whitney:

Johns is 93, possibly too old to be a heavy enough Twitter and Facebook user to realize how much value there is in displaying the Ukrainian flag. Could this be an opportunity for a younger artist to step in? Imagine the above painting but with Ukraine flags instead of U.S. flags. (I mentioned this to friends and they said that it would be even better as rainbow flags.)

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Can ChatGPT save San Francisco?

I was talking to an elderly Bay Area tech industry worker at a wedding in New York City recently (see Abortion care as a wedding gift?). He said that he has switched to thicker-soled shoes for commuting via BART due to the high density of used hypodermic needles and bodily fluids on the floor. Why doesn’t he move? “OpenAI is in San Francisco and that makes the city the center of the AI industry,” he responded. “Also, for a guy like me in his 20s I have a lot more credibility here as a startup founder than I would anywhere else.” (He’s in his late 20s, which is why I characterized him as “elderly” by Silicon Valley standards.)

I wonder if this will be what saves San Francisco from suffering a “doom loop” and becoming like Baltimore and Detroit. Yes, the folks who currently live in tents and those who live at taxpayer expense in public housing will never leave (why should they?). But the opportunity to get rich quick in the AI world could keep enough workers, and the taxes that they pay, in the city.

Where else is there a competitive concentration of AI startups?

As a market enthusiast, I think we can get an estimate of the probability of San Francisco coming back, as NYC did from the 1970s nadir, by looking at residential real estate prices. Zillow says they’re down roughly 13 percent from a year ago. Adjusted for Bidenflation, therefore, they’re down 20 percent. But that only brings them back to something like pre-coronapanic values.

Let’s compare to Miami:

Owners can feel good about being 10 percent richer until they reflect that inflation in Florida has been far higher than 10 percent for almost everything!

What about the rich? With a government by the elites and for the elites let’s hope that at least the rich can get richer. Here’s Palm Beach, up by 18 percent in fake dollars;

(The recent curve looks pretty darn flat to me, however, which means that it is trending down with Bidenflation.)

So… the real estate market suggests that San Francisco isn’t going to be quite as rich as previously expected, but it will still be an in-demand place to live. On the third hand, a friend who owns a three-story building in a tent-free neighborhood has been unable to find a tenant for a vacant apartment. He has a professional agent handling the listing and the asking price is set to what the agent says is the market price, but there have been no serious inquiries in months. One area of concern that my property-owning friend raises is that he believes commercial real estate pays the majority of property taxes in the city. With office building values coming down, the city will be starved of revenue and will have to try to find a way to get it from residential property owners. I’m not sure how his scenario plays out in the Proposition 13 world. Both commercial and residential property owners are paying tax based on whatever they paid for the building some years ago. The city’s property tax receipts, therefore, shouldn’t change much even if office building values fall by 70 percent because the typical owner bought in 10+ years ago at only a fraction of the 2020 value. Even with a dramatic collapse in value, there wouldn’t be that many buildings whose property tax payments would fall after a sale and valuation-for-tax-purposes reset.

Speaking of Proposition 13, I wonder if it explains the California elites’ fondness for deficit spending and the inevitable associated inflation. Peasant renters in California are subject to the market and, except in a few rent control paradises, fully exposed to the ravages of inflation. Elite property owners, however, cannot be taxed more than 1% of whatever they paid for a house, subject to an increase for inflation not to exceed 2% per year. Elite Californians, therefore, get a tax cut in every year that inflation exceeds 2%. Who will fund their services then? While professing to be progressive, they’ve hit their peasants with a regressive 10% sales tax (varies a bit by specific location).

(For comparison, in Deplorable Florida, with no personal income tax or estate tax and nobody professing to be a progressive, sales tax is just 6-7% (depending on county).)


  • San Francisco happens to be one of the few rent control paradises in California. The economic planners allowed landlords to raise rents by 2.3% for March 2022-2023 and will allow 3.6% this year (rules). The ministers note that “A landlord must be licensed to increase rent” and “A landlord may increase a tenant’s rent by the allowed amount once a year provided they’ve obtained a current rent increase license by complying with the City’s Housing Inventory requirements.”
  • “The Biggest South Florida Housing Boom Is Near the Rail Stations” (Wall Street Journal): “While mass transit systems throughout the U.S. are suffering from decreased business as more people work from home, Brightline reported a 68% increase in ridership in March of 2023, compared with the same month last year. … Property values near the [Miami Brightline] station were up 83% in price over that period, compared with a 38% median increase for the Miami area. … Rent has also increased at a higher rate near the Brightline train stops. In Fort Lauderdale, rental premiums are up most, 28% higher than the market average, according to Tina Tsyshevska, an analyst at Green Street.”
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New York as a breeding ground for vaccine-resistant SARS-CoV-2 variants

New Yorkers were among the most eager followers of Science. Two-year-olds were ordered to wear masks until June 2022, for example (NYT). Science required poor kids to keep wearing them (see “Toddler mask mandate remains for federally funded NYC programs” (New York Post, June 17, 2022)) through the hot-due-to-climate-change summer of 2022.

What are the righteous doing now? Did they move to the suburbs so that they wouldn’t have to be on top of each other anymore? Wearing their N190 masks (double N95s) if for whatever reason they decided to stay in the city? Avoiding crowds by walking or biking instead of taking the subway?

Here are some photos taken this month…

(Note the mask-over-beard technique for keeping out an aerosol virus.)

With rare exceptions, New Yorkers are crowding together without masks. Given that nearly all are vaccinated, what better way to create vaccine-resistant variants of SARS-CoV-2 and other deadly respiratory viruses?

Compared to in Florida, the chin diaper is extremely popular in NYC.

Here’s a front desk worker at the Dia Chelsea (not selling tickets because the museum/gallery is free). She wore a chin diaper for the entire time that I was there, never adjusting it to cover her mouth or nose/mouth. Maybe she was saving it for a subway ride home?

Virtuous exceptions at the Whitney:

(But if they are afraid that a virus that kills humans at a median age of 82 will kill their 10-year-old children, why did they take their 10-year-old children to the crowded museum?)

Here’s a city-funded homeless shelter (the unhoused will soon be ejected to make room for asylum-seekers?), the Flemister House, that is still following CDC guidance:

My hosts would have been prepared for this. Here’s a table next to their apartment door:

What if someone does get COVID-19? Healing marijuana is never more than a block or two away:

Summary: if an evil scientist (lowercase) wanted to breed vaccine-resistant SARS-CoV-2, he/she/ze/they could not create a better laboratory than New York City right now. The behavior of New Yorkers would make sense if they had, like Floridians, spent the global pandemic years irresponsibly partying in clubs. But I can’t figure out how the current behavior of New Yorkers is consistent with their previously expressed and never-renounced views regarding the appropriate role of humans with respect to a contagious virus.

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Meet in Bozeman, Montana on Sunday? Or June 16 in Salt Lake City?

Folks: Although there is no place better to spend the summer than South Florida, I’m heading to the Mountain West on Saturday. For altitude adjustment, the first two nights will be spent in Bozeman, Montana. If anyone lives out there and wants to meet, please email ( I should also be available on the way out, June 16 in Salt Lake City. (In between there will be stops at all of the usual places: Big Sky, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Bryce, Grand Canyon (North Rim), Lake Powell, Moab.)

I had to make some last-minute changes to wardrobe, packing, and itinerary as a result of “Montana first to ban drag performers from reading to children in schools, libraries” (NBC):

Montana has become the first state to specifically ban people dressed in drag from reading books to children at public schools and libraries, part of a host of legislation aimed at the rights the LGBTQ community in Montana and other states.


  • Travels with Samantha, a 1993 trip through some of these same places in which there was no need to make reservations! (photos below)
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Question for readers who are old and genetically defective (progressive lenses)

Because I voted for Bernie I wear progressive eyeglasses. These fix a touch of adolescent myopia and astigmatism (for distance vision) and old-guy-needs-reading-glasses on the lower portion. To show my support for our 2SLGBTQQIA+ brothers, sisters, and binary-resisters, these are “Transitions” lenses that darken when I venture out with Mindy the Crippler. The dark glasses ensure that we aren’t recognized by the Paparazzi.

I recently got an updated prescription and things have changed a bit since my previous exam (pre-coronapanic). My frames are in good shape (hard to damage your eyeglasses when you’re ordered to stay at home) so the place that did the exam suggested that I replace the lenses… for about $780:

If memory serves, which it probably doesn’t, the complete frames+lenses back in 2019 were about $400 each. Now the lenses alone are over $600 for the ghetto version. As Californians have recently discovered, living one’s progressive ideals isn’t always cheap. What’s the difference among these three options within the Varilux line? The optician says that it is all about the field of view. This sort of makes sense if you consider eyeglass lenses to be like binoculars, but I’m not sure why they should be.

Muddying the waters to some extent is the fact that Varilux is made (in China?) by Essilor, a French company. They were the pioneers in this area and the French have some history with optics, e.g., Angénieux makes some great lenses for cinematography. Nonetheless, France is not one of the nations that comes to mind when great optics are being discussed. What do the Japanese have to offer? Nikon has a web page, but hardly any retailers in the U.S. Canon and Sony don’t seem to be in this product area at all. Seiko makes eyeglass lenses. Asahi-Lite offers progressives in the U.S. It looks as though Tokai and TALEX are also Japanese companies. I can’t figure out which of these is the best or if any of them compete with Varilux. How about the Germans? Leica offers “Variovid Superior Progressive Lenses”. Zeiss seems to be the big competitor to Varilux in the U.S. market for high-end progressives. Rodenstock, the view camera photographer’s favorite, makes progressives starting from an individual eye scan:

(Sadly, this is available only in Europe and the UK. Is it U.S. regulations or the U.S. legal environment that are keeping this amazing company out of our purportedly competitive market? As noted in the comments, I talked to a Dutch optometrist who sells Zeiss lenses and isn’t all that impressed with the Rodenstock idea. The best Zeiss photochromic lenses over there are €1220 for a pair. For the fancy Rodenstock it would be €1358. Then add a little something for frames!)

I can’t find good information about any of these products, though. I’ll be getting two pairs of lenses, so we’re talking about potentially $1500+ in spending plus 7 percent sales tax (6 percent to support the fascist tyranny of Ron DeSantis and 1 percent to keep Palm Beach County’s luxurious services going).

Readers: Have you ever gone from “basic progressive” to “premium progressive” and noticed an improvement in field of view? Have you figured out which brand of high-end progressive lenses is the best? (I guess there is always the option of assuming that Costco has figured this out and rolled it into their optical shop.)

Update: As part of my two-year boycott of the Jupiter, Florida Target, I stopped into the Jupiter, Florida Walmart. The optical department there sells Nikon wide-field progressive lenses for $$280 plus $85 for the Transitions feature. If you want to show your support for the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community without glasses that darken in UV light, Elton John-brand frames are available:

Nikon seems to be playing the same game that the mattress companies use. The Nikon wide-field progressive lenses at Walmart are branded “Nikon Focus”. At independent opticians, Nikon offers “Presio” and “Seemax”. Is this an alternative to the Essilor Empire? The web site has a copyright banner across the bottom that references Essilor:

It’s a little confusing, but it might be because Nikon is using the Essilor TotalShield anti-scratch anti-reflective coating. That’s confusing because Nikon has been coating lenses since at least the 1950s (some mostly-peaceful Germans developed modern A-R coatings in 1935).


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Who was able to listen to the Ron DeSantis-Elon Musk discussion?

After 3 years of operation, Clubhouse has a 5,000-user/room limit. Zoom offers video as well and limits to 1,000 users for their high-end subscriptions (another 49,000 can listen passively). Elon Musk tried to push the everyone-can-talk-to-everyone software frontier out to 500,000+ users and, at least for me, failed.

Who was able to listen to Ron D and Elon chatting? What did they say?

(I’m not going to cover the Ron DeSantis Presidential campaign too heavily here in this blog, despite the Florida angle, because I don’t think he is prepared to tell Americans what they want to hear (e.g., that they will become richer without working harder) and, therefore, cannot win a general election.)

The Zoom page:

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Checking in on the rainbow flag religion during a recent visit to one of its sacred places: New York City. The celebration begins at Newark Airport, Terminal C:

(Note the possibility that this reflects a charitable donation by the “All Gender” family, just as the “Dolby Family Terrace” is not a terrace in which surround sound occurs, but rather the result of a donation from the Dolby family.)

Here’s the gender non-conforming “family” depicted on the door of the All Gender Family Restroom:

(Apologies for the skewed photo, but I was rushing past!)

What if an out-of-towner wants to suit up in native garb? American Eagle is ready to supplyi:

Once in Greenwich Village, one finds a somewhat hateful display (trans-exclusionary?) on an old-school establishment:

The window decals raise a question… why don’t Deplorables get upset about Miller Lite if they objected to Bud Light’s waving of the rainbow flag?

Dia Chelsea invites everyone to use the Women’s room:

Billboards in various parts of the city remind New Yorkers that 2SLGBTQQIA+ combined with youth is hazardous:

(If the city has run out of space for the tens of thousands of asylum-seekers who’ve recently arrived, how are they ever going to provide homes for the “homeless youth” mentioned?)

We are informed that #NewYorkStrong may not be quite strong enough to handle Ibsen’s 1879 A Doll’s House (“This production contains themes that some people may find upsetting”). If a fainting couch is required, however, anyone may use the Women’s room:

Canines who rejected gender binarism and cisgender heterosexuality are catered to:

The Whitney museum has two single-user restrooms next to each other, but they’re labeled differently:

A typical restaurant downtown:

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Excess deaths by state map (for assessing coronapanic effectiveness)

I’ve long yearned for a state-by-state map that has similar “excess death” data to what Our World in Data delivers for countries (no-lockdown no-mask-order Swedes holding steady at 5%, substantially lower than the countries celebrated for their police- and military-enforced lockdowns).

Courtesy of heretic Stanford Medical School professor Jay Bhattacharya, I finally have one! It’s from the cheerfully named web site “US Mortality”. Here’s a link directly to the map:

In my opinion, the map tends to show that the Church of Sweden MD/PhDs were correct when they predicted, back in March 2020, that government policies in the West would have at best a small effect on total death rate. How does the map show this when different states are in different colors? SARS-CoV-2 likes to kill those of us who are carrying extra pounds. Here’s a CDC map of adult obesity:

(No data for Florida? You’d think those CDC folks would love to be on South Beach and Marco Island rating body shapes!)

To my eyes, the obesity map explains most of the pattern that we see in the excess deaths map. (You’d also want to look at percent of population over 65; a state that is all young people should have an extremely low rate of both COVID deaths and excess deaths.)

A few highlights…

California with its Science-following fully-masked schools-closed vaccine-papers-checking population suffered 22.4% excess deaths compared to 20.4% in Science-denying irresponsible Florida (inherently vulnerable due to 21% of population over 65). Considering how many Californians were paid to stay home (either working as members of the laptop class or not-working as members of the welfare class) and considering that Californians are slender (CDC map) and young (only 15% of population over 65), this might be the worst performance among all states. Colorado was a close second (slender, young, and a 22.8% excess death rate).

The geniuses at University of California, Berkeley celebrated Vermont, Alaska, and Maine as “the three most effective states in responding to the coronavirus pandemic last year”. How did the Scientific prediction from March 2021 work out? Without a city of substantial size, Vermont had 21.5% excess deaths, almost the same as New York (19.1%). Alaska was off-the-charts bad at 27.7%. Maine turned in a reasonable 16.3% performance, so long as you didn’t mind lockdowns, mask orders, school closures, and vaccine coercion (through May 13, 2022).

Kristi Noem was pilloried for refusing to follow Faucism in South Dakota, but her state had 17.1% excess deaths despite a high percentage of obese adults (see CDC map above).

Kentucky’s Democrat governor was celebrated for “halting the spread of COVID-19” while the Republican fool running Tennessee was slow to order lockdowns (The Guardian). Tennessee ended up with a lower excess death rate. (Possibly explained by a higher obesity rate.)

Not counting Hawaii, Maskachusetts and New Jersey had the lowest rates of excess deaths. Some of this is probably explained by the fact that people in MA and NJ are virtuously thin (CDC map). There are also a large percentage of laptop class folks in both states who were able to stay home in their suburban bunkers. But maybe I will be forced to admit that closing Boston schools for more than a year, ordering people to wear cloth face rags on quiet suburban streets, and demanding that children show their vaccine papers were effective measures!

(People who aren’t cisgender white heterosexuals might nonetheless want to avoid Massachusetts, home to “the country’s second-highest number of white supremacist propaganda incidents in 2022” (considering the small population of the state, this is off-the-charts bad per capita). “Hate in the Bay State: Extremism & Antisemitism in Massachusetts, 2021-2022” (ADL):

Amidst increasing nationwide threats to the LGBTQ+ community, Massachusetts has also witnessed a spike in anti-LGBTQ+ activity, including waves of harassment against Boston Children’s Hospital, drag performances and LGBTQ+ events. And as the numbers of antisemitic incidents continue to rise across the country, Massachusetts was no exception. According to ADL’s annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, it was the sixth most affected state in the country in 2022.

Massachusetts saw a dramatic rise in antisemitic incidents, according to ADL’s annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents. In 2022, the number of incidents increased 41% over 2021 levels…

ADL documented 34 white supremacist events in the state in 2021 and 2022, including protests, meetings, flash demonstrations, banner drops and marches.

In 2022, ADL documented 465 instances of white supremacist propaganda distribution across the state, an increase of 71% from 2021 (272).

In May 2022, a student in Waltham brought a knife to school, threatened his Jewish classmates and held the knife to the throat of a Jewish classmate.

Since 2021, the Nationalist Social Club, also known as NSC-131, has grown rapidly to become one of New England’s most active white supremacist groups; their presence is particularly robust in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts is a hotbed for anti-LGBTQ+ extremism, which increased nationwide in 2022

Patriot Front is a Texas-based white supremacist group with members all over the country, but they have become increasingly active in Massachusetts because of the state’s ties to the founding of the United States.

The last point strikes me as odd. Wouldn’t the Patriot Front need to find enthusiastic supporters in a state in order to be “increasingly active”? The history of the state doesn’t seem relevant.

The mention of Waltham made me nostalgic. When we lived in adjacent Lincoln I used to offer neighbors whose lawns sported Black Lives Matter signs a free trip to Waltham in our minivan: “You can have a look at some actual Black people.” This did not make me as popular as I expected.)

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Any clarity on the Jordan Neely situation?

I got on the subway at the Broadway-Lafayette stop where Jordan Neely died (Wikipedia). At Houston and Broadway, a block west of the station:

Some photos the station (note the fancy new credit card reader that can collect a fare from a standard Visa card):

I’m wondering if there has been any clarity yet regarding what happened and whether Daniel Penny acted reasonably or criminally. It seemed as though there was a rush to judgment. For example, Ron DeSantis, 1,100 miles by road from the station:

Note that this was from his personal Twitter account, not the official Florida governor’s feed. I’m wondering how Mr. DeSantis can know whether Mr. Penny was indeed a “Good Samaritan”. He posted just 12 days after the death of Mr. Neely. (Also, why does he want to get involved in this? If New Yorkers are brawling on the subway, sometimes with fatal consequences, that’s actually helpful to Florida’s economy. If New York prosecutors are being unfair and unjust toward Mr. Penny that’s not a Florida problem that the Florida governor should be worried about. (If the Florida governor wanted to crusade against injustice there are plenty of places around the world that offer more compelling examples.))

What’s actually been learned in the three weeks since the unfortunate event?

Separately, when does the station get renamed to honor Jordan Neely’s memory? (Or, if not the station then perhaps the entire New York City Subway system?)

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