What were Jeffrey Toobin and New Yorker friends doing on their Zoom call?

The righteous Trump-haters at New Yorker magazine have been in the news lately, but not for their four years of anti-Trump journalism. The story that has excited public interest is mostly about Jeffrey Toobin’s unscripted appearance on camera. What I’m more curious about is the original purpose of the call. From the same VICE article:

Two people who were on the call told VICE separately that the call was an election simulation featuring many of the New Yorker’s biggest stars: Jane Mayer was playing establishment Republicans; Evan Osnos was Joe Biden, Jelani Cobb was establishment Democrats, Masha Gessen played Donald Trump, Andrew Marantz was the far right, Sue Halpern was left wing democrats, Dexter Filkins was the military, and Jeffrey Toobin playing the courts. There were also a handful of other producers on the call from the New Yorker and WNYC.

How was this supposed to be productive? A bunch of Democrats get together and half of them pretend to be Republicans for an hour or two? If you’re a journalist, what is the point of this? Why not simply wait for stuff to happen and then report on it?

(See also “Who is Casey Greenfield and when did she have a child with Jeffrey Toobin?” (The Sun, regarding a Yale Law School graduate who discovered that the real gold was in “Child Support Litigation without a Marriage”); see also a NYT story about this successful plaintiff.)

Let me sample the at-least-daily New Yorker emails that I get. I deleted a bunch of these, but Gmail says that there are 1,394 left that contain the word “Trump”!

From October 23, 2020:

From January 25, 2020, a Letter from Trump’s Washington (he owns the whole city now, not just the lease on one hotel!)…

Immigrants were our last best hope on November 24, 2019:

If only there were some way to replace or dilute the natives with these wonderful people! In the meantime, Trump was going to impeach himself on October 4, 2019:

(Little did Hunter Biden realize at the time that his most formidable enemy was the stripper with whom he’d had sex.)

May 26, 2019:

April 19, 2019:

January 18, 2019:

It was the Russians on October 8, 2018:

Trump mocks a terrified-to-fly survivor on October 3, 2018:

Admittedly, he wasn’t nearly as harsh on Christine Blasey Ford as this Canadian literature professor:

This is a professional career woman? With that little-girl croaky voice and poor-me face and the trembly “I’m going to cry at any moment” narration supposedly because of the trauma of reading out a prepared script about something discussed in therapy and rehearsed dozens, if not hundreds, of times with a legal team and other advisors. A trauma that required putting two doors on a big costly house. Yes, this is the elite professional woman that feminism has created after 50 years of nonstop grievance-mongering.

It was the Russians on July 20, 2018:

On May 1, 2018, we were running short of low-skill Syrians:

Trump was hated by “most of the population” on January 30, 2018:

It was the Russians on September 22, 2017:

On August 18, 2017, shortly before Congress cooperated with Trump to pass the most substantial changes to the U.S. tax code in 20 years(?):

It was the Russians on February 15, 2017:

On February 4, 2017, the magazine was concerned that Americans would stop thinking about “race-related history” and all things LGBTQIA+:

December 29, 2015:

New York was anti-fascist long before it was fashionable!

The passionate curiosity regarding Donald Trump’s net worth goes back at least to July 29, 2015:

Trump won’t win, but he will get in some peoples’ heads… Also, the Greeks need some more of that sweet German cash! July 8, 2015:


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Do lobbyists support Biden-Harris or Trump-Pence?

On a recent trip to Washington, D.C., I drove through Bethesda, Maryland on my way back to the airport. In the neighborhoods where successful government workers might live, Biden-Harris, BLM, and rainbow signs were common. Example:

Within the yards of those who draw a paycheck from the Federal government, not a single Trump sign could be found (but maybe the virtuous removed them?).

How about the lobbyists? I drove through a neighborhood of $2-4 million homes (not quite as nice as the Bethesda house of the climate change alarmist Thomas Friedman). Not a single political sign. It seems as though the Washington elite feels that things will be okay for them regardless of who prevails!

What’s the yard sign situation here in the Boston area? From a public sign forest in the center of Lincoln, Maskachusetts:

Note that one wag had decided to taunt the righteous with a Trump 2020 sign. This was at least the second iteration of the taunt, the first sign that I saw having been removed within 24 hours. By October 18, the Trump 2020 sign was gone, but we learn about a “Local GAY teen (& dad) 4 Biden”:

Why isn’t the local GAY teen’s “mom” (or “daddy #2”?) also “4 Biden”?

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Rainbow flags for our prisons?

Here’s a luxury resort in the Catskills that you might not want to visit… Federal Correctional Institution, Otisville:

As we looked down from the Cirrus SR20 (IFR training), it occurred to me that the prison is lacking one thing: a rainbow flag. I’m hopeful that President Harris will correct this and then the prison can be renamed “Ministry of Love is Love”.

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What’s a good (and slim) 55-inch TV for Chromecast?

The Samsung UN55ES8000 that was state of the art in November 2012 ($2500) has failed after perhaps 2 hours per month of use. When it can be turned on at all, the screen is filled with a random pattern. One thing that was awesome about this was the depth: just 1.2 inches. The TV is mounted in a fairly small room where one has to walk past it.

I assume that the $2500 TV is now 1080p junk and not worth repairing.

What’s a good 55-inch flat screen TV replacement? This won’t be hooked up to cable. It would be nice to have a TV with built-in Google Chromecast since that seems to be the most convenient way to watch Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus (Hamilton every night 4-Ever!).

I am reluctant to spend big $$ again given that this thing failed after not too many hours of use.

(Should I perhaps also give a shout-out to Panasonic? A 50-inch plasma TV purchased 12 years ago and used far more than this dead Samsung is still working perfectly! It is rather thick and only 1080p resolution, but it shows no sign of flaking out. Panasonic quit the U.S. TV market in 2016.)

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I was proved wrong about Goldman Sachs

From How to steal $billions (September 2019), regarding the combined exploits of Jho Low and Goldman Sachs as chronicled in Billion Dollar Whale:

Despite connections to the Obama White House, things do begin to unravel for Mr. Low. I don’t want to spoil the suspense, though. The worldwide civil and criminal litigation is ongoing, but it seems safe to say that Goldman gets to keep all of its fees!

Turns out that I am wrong yet again… “Goldman Sachs Malaysia Arm Pleads Guilty in 1MDB Fraud” (NYT):

Goldman employees, the bank said, took part in a scheme to pay $1 billion in bribes to foreign officials. The bank, in turn, arranged the sale of bonds to raise $6.5 billion that was intended to benefit the people of Malaysia but was instead looted by the country’s leaders and their associates.

In the end, the scandal, which netted the bank a relatively paltry $600 million in fees, will cost Goldman and its current and former executives dearly. The bank itself will pay more than $5 billion in penalties to regulators around the world, more than it had to pay for peddling bonds backed by risky mortgages a decade ago. And it has moved to recoup or withhold more than $100 million in executive compensation, a rare move for a Wall Street bank.

(It is fascinating how the NYT characterizes a 10 percent fee for selling bonds (more typical is less than 1 percent, according to the book; the super high fees Goldman was able to get made it obvious that fraud was involved, said the author) as “relatively paltry”)

This is a good time to check in with Malaysia. Like Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, the country has enjoyed a low death rate from Covid-19:

“Amid coronavirus surge, Malaysia asks what went wrong as Muhyiddin and other politicians take brunt of criticism” (South China Morning Post, two weeks ago):

Three months after an initial strict lockdown ended, the country faces a sharp uptick in Covid-19 cases

Wikipedia has Malaysia down as 85-percent masked, as of August 9, compared to 90 percent in renewed-plague Spain, 83 in renewed-plague France, 75 percent in the always-plagued U.S., 65 percent in Germany, and 4 percent in Denmark.


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AFAF: How do I find a gay bar if every bar has a rainbow flag in front?

Asking for a friend…

Here’s a bar in Portland, Maine:

Note that the largest and most prominently featured signs are a rainbow flag (in a city with 358 gay households) and a Black Lives Matters sign (“Black people — many of them immigrants — make up less than 2 percent of Maine’s population but almost a quarter of its coronavirus cases” (Washington Post)). You have to scan down with your eyes and read a smaller font to see the name of the bar: Portland Hunt & Alpine Club. Maybe these symbols are like the crosses that adorn the top of church facades? Christian believers expect to see a cross that is larger than the text providing the name of the church.

How would a person seeking a gay bar find a gay bar, if every bar signals that its primary mission is serving the LGBTQIA+ community?

Also from Portland, October 15, every other table featured COVID-19 fatalities..

When a break-up requires a trip to the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles…

When you don’t have to lock your car because young people don’t know how to operate the four-speed transmission:

Don’t invite anyone out on your boat, including family members:

While you wait for the next order from the governor and wear the Church of Shutdown’s hijab, never forget that it was some other county in which tyranny prevailed. Fragments of the Berlin Wall:

Fill the door to your shop with color-coordinated Covid-19-related messages, including “Don’t dilly dally”:

(If stopping Covid-19 is our nation’s only goal, why do we still have retail stores?)

Circling back to the bar, what does it mean when the rainbow flag and the BLM sign are larger than anything identifying the business?

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How did the Biden-Trump debate go?

I didn’t watch the debate (my vote is irrelevant here in Maskachusetts), but now it is time to look at the transcript

Trump and Biden on COVID-19:

[1:03] Trump: So, as you know, more 2.2 million people, modeled out, were expected to die. We closed up the greatest economy in the world in order to fight this horrible disease that came from China. It’s a worldwide pandemic. It’s all over the world. You see the spikes in Europe and many other places right now. If you notice, the mortality rate is down, 85%. The excess mortality rate is way down, and much lower than almost any other country. And we’re fighting it and we’re fighting it hard. There is a spike. There was a spike in Florida, and it’s now gone. There was a very big spike in Texas, it’s now gone…

In other words, humans are in charge of the virus.

[3:12] Biden: 220,000 Americans dead. If you hear nothing else I say tonight, hear this. Anyone who’s responsible for not taking control — in fact, not saying, I take no responsibility, initially — anyone who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain as President of the United States of America. We’re in a situation where there are thousands of deaths a day, a thousand deaths a day. And there are over 70,000 new cases per day. Compared to what’s going on in Europe, as the New England Medical Journal said, they’re starting from a very low rate. We’re starting from a very high rate. The expectation is we’ll have another 200,000 Americans dead by the time, between now and the end of the year. If we just wore these masks — the President’s own advisors told them — we could save 100,000 lives.

Humans are in charge and it is as simple as wearing masks (why are the fully-masked-for-months Europeans now suffering from exponential infection?). If true and if obvious, why does it matter what a U.S. President says and does? State governors and mayors can and did order masks (typically starting in April and May; see also Dr. Fauci on masks).

The moderator then asks about a vaccine and when it will show up. Is this a fair question for politicians with zero training in biology or medicine? They’re supposed to have special insight into when a drug or vaccine gets approval and whether the drug or vaccine is effective? Trump eventually gets around to something that a politician could potentially influence, i.e., distribution:

I think my timeline is going to be more accurate. I don’t know that they’re counting on the military the way I do, but we have our generals lined up, one in particular, that’s the head of logistics. And this is a very easy distribution for him. He’s ready to go as soon as we have the vaccine, and we expect to have 100 million vials as soon as we have the vaccine, he’s ready to go.

For Joe:

[6:12] Welker: Vice President Biden, your reaction? Just 40% of Americans say they would definitely agree to take a coronavirus vaccine if it was approved by the government. What steps would you take to give Americans confidence in a vaccine if it were approved?

[6:25] Biden: Make sure it’s totally transparent. Have the scientific world see, know, look at it, go through all the processes. And by the way, this is the same fellow who told you this is going to end by Easter last time. This the same fellow who told you that, don’t worry, we’re going to end this by the summer. We’re about to go into a dark winter, a dark winter, and he has no clear plan and there’s no prospect that there’s going to be a vaccine available for the majority of the American people before the middle of next year.

Why would a U.S. president need to be involved in “transparency” regarding vaccine trials. Isn’t it likely that most of the vaccines will be developed outside of the U.S. and the results published outside of the U.S.? We don’t have a monopoly on pharma research.

An argument about who wanted to shut down China earlier ensues. Trump then makes my Your lockdown may vary point!

We can’t lock ourselves up in a basement like Joe does. He has the ability to lock himself up. I don’t know, he’s obviously made a lot of money, someplace, but he has this thing about living in a basement. People can’t do that. By the way, I, as the president, couldn’t do that. I’d love to put myself in the basement or in a beautiful room in the White House and go away for a year and a half until it disappears. I can’t do that.

(See Town and Country for photos of Joe Biden’s mansions, the first of which was a 10,000 square foot former DuPont mansion purchased in 1974 “as a young senator”.)

Biden succumbs to gender binarism:

That man or wife going to bed tonight and reaching over to try to touch their, out of habit, where their wife or husband was, is gone.

What about spouses with the 48 other gender IDs who die from the Trump-caused Covid-19?

How about young slender healthy American Progressives voting themselves into another year or two of lockdown in order to protect old fat unhealthy Republicans?

[12:33] Welker: OK, let’s talk about your different strategies toward dealing with this. Mr. Vice President, you suggested you would support new shutdowns if scientists recommended it. What do you say to Americans who are fearful that the cost of shutdowns, the impact on the economy, the higher rates of hunger depression, domestic and substance abuse, outweighs the risk of exposure to the virus?

[12:51] Biden: What I would say is I’m going to shut down the virus, not the country. It’s his ineptitude that caused the country to have to shut down in large part — why businesses have gone under, why schools are closed, why so many people have lost their living and why they’re concerned. Those other concerns are real. That’s why he should have been — instead of in a sand trap at his golf course — he should have been negotiating with Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democrats and Republicans about what to do about the acts they were passing for billions of dollars to make sure people had the capacity.

[13:21] Welker: You haven’t ruled out more shutdowns

[13:24] Biden: Oh no, I’m not shutting down the nation but there are, look, they need standards. The standard is, if you have a reproduction rate in a community that’s above a certain level, everybody says, slow up. More social distancing. Do not open bars and do not open gymnasiums. Do not open until you get this under control, under more control. But when you do open, give the people the capacity to be able to open and have the capacity to do it safely. For example schools — schools, they need a lot of money to open. They need to deal with ventilation systems, they need to deal with smaller classes, more teacher, more pods, and he’s refused to support that money, or at least up to now

Is Biden disavowing his previous promise to listen to the Science Karens and shut down whenever they say to do so? (CNN, August 22, 2020) Also, if the schools needed better ventilation systems (like my idea!) and they are under state and local government control, why weren’t they already installed over the summer?

Maskachusetts is featured! We had a powerful shutdown in mid-March, masked city residents starting in April, and a statewide mask law with high compliance starting in early May. We’ve been at least as successful as the early-shut early-masked Peruvians!

[14:46] Welker: Let me follow up, President Trump. You’ve demanded schools open in person and insisted they can do it safely. But just yesterday, Boston became the latest city to move its public school system entirely online after a coronavirus spike. What is your message to parents who worry that sending their children to school will endanger not only their kids, but also their teachers and families?

[15:04] Trump: I want to open the schools. The transmittal rate to the teachers is very small, but I want to open the schools. We have to open our country. We’re not going to have a country. You can’t do this, we can’t keep this country closed. It is a massive country with a massive economy. People are losing their jobs, they’re committing suicide. There’s depression, alcohol, drugs at a level that nobody’s ever seen before. There’s abuse, tremendous abuse. We have to open our country.

Trump is totally out of step with his cower-in-place fellow citizens! He hits many of the same points as “The COVID-19 shutdown will cost Americans millions of years of life” (The Hill) without recognizing that Americans now care only about COVID-19 deaths, not deaths or loss of life-years from any other cause. Biden is more aligned with the American people that I recognize:

[15:51] Biden: Simply not true. We’re gonna be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. We ought to be able to safely open, but we need resources to open. You need to be able to, for example, if you’re gonna open a business, have social distancing within the business. You need to have, if you have a restaurant, you need to have plexiglass dividers so people cannot infect one another. You need to be in a position where you can take testing rapidly and know whether a person is, in fact, infected. You need to be able to trace. You need to be able to provide all the resources that are needed to do this and that is not inconsistent with saying that we’re going to make sure that we open safely. And by the way, all you teachers out there — not that many of you are going to die, so don’t worry about it.

In other words, trillions of dollars have been spent so far, but if Americans spend another few $trillion on Plexiglas, we will show coronavirus who is boss. Biden is also in sync with American priorities. Marijuana and liquor stores are essential and can never be closed. Schools should be the last institutions to reopen. (Contrast to Ireland; in the most severe lockdown so far, everything is closed except for schools, universities, and adult education.)

For a guy who owns hundreds of $millions of NYC real estate, Trump is not going to be selected by the Chamber of Commerce to promote the city:

[16:39] Trump: I will say this, if you go and look at what’s happened to New York, it’s a ghost town. It’s a ghost town. And when you talk about plexiglas — these are restaurants that are dying. These are businesses with no money. Putting the plexiglas is unbelievably expensive, and it’s not the answer. I mean, you’re going to sit there in a cubicle wrapped around with plastic? These are businesses that are dying, Joe, you can’t do that to people, which again, take a look at New York and what’s happened to my wonderful city. For so many years, I loved it. It was vibrant. It’s dying. Everyone’s leaving New York.

Joe Biden doesn’t see color:

[17:34] Biden: Take a look what New York has done in terms of turning the curve down, in terms of the number of people dying. And I don’t look at this in terms of what he does, blue states and red states. They’re all the United States. And look at the states that are having such a spike in the coronavirus. They’re the red states.

In other words, Biden beats up the red states (not that he looks at states in terms of “red” and “blue”) for doing exactly what the

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Investment Idea: Short snow tires

People buy snow tires because they are forced to drive in the snow, right? Workers have to get to work. College students have to get to school.

In a cower-in-place Nation of Shutdown, however, we don’t have to go anywhere on a typical day. We can stay home when the weather is nice, when the weather is mediocre, and when the weather is nasty. We can stay home, in short, nearly all of the time.

What is the value of snow tires to a worker when the office is no longer a destination?

This gives rise to my latest brilliant investment idea… short snow tires! Who in their right mind would purchase this product in 2020?

Bonus: Mindy the Crippler using her built-in snow tires…


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COVID-19 vaccine being tested on the Russian elite

A Russian IFR student told me that his parents back in Moscow are participating in a Phase 3 trial of a COVID-19 vaccine. I responded that I was informed by the U.S. media that this vaccine development had been rushed, that it was likely extremely dangerous, and that Americans would expect the Russians to be testing this on condemned criminals. How did his parents end up as guinea pigs?

“My dad is the CEO of a big industrial company,” he responded. “And found out that all of the top politicians were getting it. So he managed to get himself and my mom into the trial.”

How about masks? “My parents complain that nobody is wearing them. They’re compulsory in the metro, though, and also disposable gloves. But the gloves are provided.”

(Separately, we did an IFR training trip to Washington, D.C. He and his (Russian) wife walked around the White House and Mall, their first time in the Nation’s Capital. What did they think? “I was amazed at how many police with military weapons there are,” he responded. “Even the Kremlin is not that intensively guarded.” I wonder if the $64 million White House fence is done!)

From a 2017 trip to Moscow:

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