George Clooney Just Pulled a Paul Newman!

Not all news that makes it to print is bad news. Sometimes the good guys win. I think George Clooney is one of those good guys and boy, did he ever win this time!

Geroge has been on a roll in life, with his marraige and kids. And now his tequila company was just sold to Diego for around —- $1 billion-.

Wow!

When you read the story, it is hard not to remember how Paul Newman did something similar with his salad dressings. Paul made high quality products, and got his name connected with them. They sold like hot cakes.

Of course Paul never sold his company, and Paul donated his profits to charity. I am sure George will be generous as well.

But to the point, this is a classic life style business success story. George and his friends love sipping tequila together, decided to make their own, their own way, and there you go.

I am sure that they are celebrating. And more power to them!

Climate Change Has to be a Hoax, Right?

This is not a post to argue that climate change is a hoax or is not a hoax. It is isntead, a post to point out a basic logic behind these very different points of view.

Persons who are concerned about climate change generally say that it is prudent to do something about it — even if we are not 100% about the mechanisms that are causing it. The risks are just too great.

Persons who are opposed seem not to hear that argument. Instead, they are persuaded that the data about climate change has been manipulated. They stand firm that nothing is wrong.

Think about it for a second. If climate change is real and ppotentially threatending, we need to take it serioulsy. That is logical. And we cannot address the problem in a serious way by acting only on a local level. There has to be some sort of global coordination. What? Global coordination?

Hold on a minute!

You might recall that a half century ago, the groups that argued that medical evidence linking cigarettes smoking to health problems … were the cigaratte manufacturers.  They fought tooth and nail to discredit the evidence. And they were able to slow down the process of getting people to stop smoking.

You might also recall that around 40 years ago, when a British researcher by the name of John Yudkin, started finding correlations betnwee higher intake of sugar and helath problems, his career was destroyed … by the food processing industry.

Start to see a pattern here?

So what groups would stand to lose if we have global coordination on reducing CO2 levels in the atmosphere? And what do you think they are saying about climate change?

Interesting.

There is a more basic point here. The Reagan revolution brought to the mainstream the idea thta the private sector solves all problems. Government is th eproblem. but you can see that the privte sector does not slve problems when it is not in its interest to do so.

Like it or not, there are times when we need other ways to get at the truth and deal with it.

A Day in Trumpistan

Trump a year ago

“I know the guys at Goldman Sachs. They have total, total control over [Ted Cruz],” Trump said in South Carolina during the 2016 primary election. “Just like they have total control over Hillary Clinton.”

“I know the people on Wall Street … I’m not going to let Wall Street get away with murder,” Trump also said at a 2016 campaign rally in Iowa. “Wall Street has caused tremendous problems for us.”

Trump yesterday in Iowa

“So somebody said, ‘Why did you appoint a rich person to be in charge of the economy,” Trump said to a group of his supporters at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids. “I said, ‘Because that’s the kind of thinking we want … because they’re representing the country. They don’t want the money.”

“And I love all people — rich or poor — but in those particular positions, I just don’t want a poor person,” Trump continued. “Does that make sense? If you insist, I’ll do it — but I like it better this way.”

Errr … so. Does that make sense? You be the judge.

Remembering the Hound of the Baskervilles

Julian Symons was once an English Trotskyite wannabe, then war combattant, and then prolific crime story writer.  He also wrote a definitive criticque of the crime novel

Symons’s 1972 book Bloody Murder: From the Detective Story to the Crime Novel (published as Mortal Consequences in the US) is one of the best-known critical works in the field of crime fiction. Revised editions were published in 1985 and 1992. Symons highlighted the distinction between the classic puzzler mystery, associated with such writers as Agatha Christie and John Dickson Carr, and the more modern “crime novel,” which puts emphasis on psychology and motivation.

He also wrote the introduction for the Folio Edition of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” that came out in 1987. His introduction starts off this way

It was in December1893 that readers of The Strand Magazine read with delight but dismay, “The Adventure of the Final Problem”, the dismay springing from the fact that the story saw the apparent death of Sherlock Holmes. The sound of public protest was loud and did not, as Doylke had expected, fade away, but instead became of Wagnerian power. Newspapers, editorials, pleas from Conan Doyle’s mother and from friends, were joined to thousands of letters like one from ‘three ardent admirers’ in Baltimore urging the author ro ‘favour us with another one of your works on the famous detective Sherlock Holmes’. After several years Conan Doyle gave way and wrote “The Hound of the Baskervilles“, although he made it clear that this was an early adventure. Later, he accepted Holmes’s immortality , brought him back from the Reichenbach Falls, and published another novel and three collections of short stories.

Doyle apparently heard of the legend of a spectral hound from his friend, Fletcher Robinson. The two had met in South Africa during the Boer War.  According to Symons, The Hound of the Baskervilles is the most successful the Holmes novels. It is also my favorite. Why?  I think it is because of the hero – Sir Henry Baskerville.  A brave young man wanting to do the right thing with his inheritance.

The story starts off this way

Mr. Sherlock Holmes, who was usually very late in the mornings, save upon those not infrequent occasions when he stayed up all night, was seated at the breakfast table.  I stood upon the hearthrug and picked up the stick that our visiitor had left behind him the neight before.

And so the adventure begins.

BTW, this particular edition includes illustrations by Edward Bawden.

Here is a sample from Dawdwn

Image result for Edward Bawden Hound

I rather like it!

Bawden was much admired by Edward Gorey, whose work you may have seen on TV. Gorey’s work looks like this

Image result for Edward Gorey

The charming creepiness of it all!

London in Film and Reality

What is your favorite film set in London?

Hmmmm … the first film that comes to my mind is My Fair Lady. Of course, that is not set in London in any real sense of the word. The London of My Fair Lady is mostly a stage set. So too for those old Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films. The London in those films is what we think it should look like.

Hadley Freeman has had enough of this. And she has a point. London has become a backdrop for mildly nauseating romance stories where the perky American gal warms up the somewhat stodgy Brit. Hadley would like films to depict London more as it is — a place where posh and gutter are noit so separated.

And of course, that takes us back to My Fair Lady. Is it the ultimate story of that sort? Perhaps. And there is, of course, The Horse’s Mouth, where the posh and the arty meet.

But for my money, London comes off the best in an old Hitchcock film, Foreign Correspondent. Why? Perhaps it is just the magic that Hitchcock was able to bring to the screen. But that movie has a firm hold on my imagination.

What do you think?

What if Trump and Putin Were the Future?

It is hard to believe that Vladimir Putin has been in power in Russia for nearly 2 decades now. That seems like a long time. Long enough to call it an “era”. So what will folks say about the Putin era in 50 years?

Of course, that depends on how Putin’s era ends up. Life in Putin’s Russia is not a bed of roses, except for the privileged. Moreover, Putin’s foreign adventures are expensive and risky, and do not offer immediate strategic advantages. So there is reason to be cautious before anointing him Vlad the Great. And yet, despite everything, Putin’s hold on power seems as secure now as ever.

To us,  Putin holding onto power for 17 years seems like a long time. By historical standards, however,that is not so. For example,  after 17 years on the throne, Henry VIII had not yet even married Anne Boleyn. The great split with Rome was still in the future.  He would reign for another two decades after that, for a total of 37 years. And his daughter Elizabeth would reign for 45 yerars.

Using Henry’s reign as a yardstick, one would find Putin’s hold on power weakening in 2037. using Elizabeth’s, 2045. 2045?   Putin would be 92 by then.

No doubt, Mr. Putin likes exercising power and, all things being equal, would like to continue doing so for as long as possible. But does he have a vision for the future?  If so, what is it?

One would have to be naive in the extreme to expect him to reveal the answer to those questions. But would it be too bold to speculate that he sees himself as the master pupeteer?   And btw, would it be too bold to speculate that Donald Trump shares the same self-image? Is that what Trump finds so fascinating about Putin – that he has been able to hold onto power for so long?  That like Trump, Putin is the master manipulator? The master of the game?

Let’s assume for a moment that this is the case. Their ability to manipulate depends upon their ability to project images that are larger than life. And indeed, both seem obsessed with that type of thing. Putin is not just the dictator of a regional power. He plays global strategic games with the great powers in Ukraine and Syria. He is not just leader of Russia. Nothing happens of any consequence in Russia without his approval. Trump is not just wealthy. He is a billionaire, and sued an author who claimed otherwise (he did not win that suit). Trump is not just a real estate developer. He is a master negotiator. You can see why, as president, he rages that he cannot claim huge successes in Washington. Something must be wrong — with Washington!

Here is the Donald summing up his presidential record so far to a crowd in Iowa jus the other day

“All we do is win, win”, he told a cheering crowd.

Notice the hint of fantasy in all of this? Perhaps more than just a hint?

I mentioned good old Henry earlier for a reason. The reason is that Henry played pretty much the same game. He was a master of marketing his image. Perhaps he was the first king to realize the power of PR:  Indeed, his famous jousting accident in 1536 that rendered him unconscious for 2 hours, caused Anne Boleyn to miscarry a baby boy, and perhaps cost Henry his sanity, was  a failed PR stunt to show that he was still virile even though he was already in his 40’s. Ooops!

But there is a difference between what Henry saw around him and what Putin and Trump see now.

Many years after Henry died, the west underwwent an intellecutal revolution. That revolution posited that men did not need the fantasy based trappings of kingly power. They could govern themselves using reason to guide them. This idea seemed absurd at first. But in the 20th century, after great wars, it was accepted in the west as conventional wisdom.  I do not claim here that  our systems are actually based on reason. I do claim that it is our belief. Our mantra. Our sense of history. Or as Churchill put it

Democracy is the worst form of government, except compared to all of the others.

Is it too much to ask whether Putin and Trump would prefer that this revolution and transition had not happened? Would they be more at home in the type of world that Henry lived in? And if so, and these men are in power, are we at risk of going back to that sort of life?

If so, our path there will be through seduction. The fantasy of the great leader, The so called “man on the white horse”, He who must be obeyed. What holds us back from this seduction? Well, our history, for one thing. We have been there. We have seen where it ends up.

Haven’t we?

Magic Johnson Puts on His Strategy Cap

The Lkers have been in a funk for a while now. So they brought in Magic Johnson as GM to see if he could shake things up and move the team forward. He is doing just that.

Magic just completed a big deal with the Nets, sending the overpaid Mozgov and under performing Russell for a slimmed down Brook Lopez and  a late first round pick. As BI reports, this looks like Magic will go for Lonzo Ball to replace Russell at the point and that he wants to clear out space for a big free agent in 2018. Lebron?

Stay tuned.