Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

The Far Side: A masterclass in storytelling

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Written by LeisureGuy

13 March 2021 at 5:04 pm

Stephen Fry comments on the difference between American and British comedy

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Written by LeisureGuy

11 March 2021 at 9:28 am

Posted in Daily life, Humor, Video

European Anthem, “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, sung by eminent baritone

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Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2021 at 12:20 pm

Posted in Humor, Video

Craig Ferguson speaks from the heart — worth watching

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This is from 11 years ago, but still relevant.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 February 2021 at 6:11 pm

Sarah Silverman just wants to make things right

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In the Washington Post Geoff Edgers has an engaging profile of Sarah Silverman (including a couple of videos). It begins:

One morning not so long ago, Sarah Silverman needed some weed. So she drove to Santa Monica and pulled into a parking space outside a dispensary.

That’s when the trouble started. A man in an Escalade got out of the car and started screaming.

“What’s wrong with you? You hit my car, you b—-.”

Whoa. Silverman was sure that she hadn’t so much as smudged his bumper. But, even if she had, did this man’s response match the crime? Standing there, Silverman had a choice: shout back or try one of her social experiments. Could kindness convert this negative energy into something positive?

“I’m so sorry,” Silverman said without a tinge of sarcasm. “Show me where the scratch is? I’ll pay for it.”

That’s all it took. The man was disarmed. He told her to forget about it; life would move on.

Except that Sarah Silverman knew the story was perfect material — not necessarily comedy gold, but funny enough and with a deeper message. She told her sister, Laura, about it in a Zoom, mentioned it to her producer, Raj Desai, and then recounted it on “The Sarah Silverman Podcast” a few days later.

The interaction is about human behavior and our ability to reshape even the ugliest confrontations by trying just a bit harder. It also highlights Silverman’s special superpower, the ability to use her glow and an awwcomeonbuddy nudge to convert all sorts of nasty mojo.

She would be delivering this story onstage now, except that there’s a pandemic and, therefore, no gigs. Or she might be telling it on TV, except that Hulu canceled her “I Love You, America” series in 2019 and HBO passed on her latest pilot last year. Then again, it makes cosmic sense that this is being told on her podcast, because it’s hard to imagine Silverman’s pot-fueled parable getting space to breathe on those other platforms. The HBO bigwigs would have told her to tighten up the anecdote. The rules of standup would have required the setup to be met by a punchline.

Which is why “The Sarah Silverman Podcast,” launched by the longtime comedian a few months ago with little fanfare and a sense of resignation, may be one of the sneakiest successes of the pandemic.

“I mean, yeah, I came to it because my hands were bound,” Silverman says in a recent Zoom interview from her apartment in Los Angeles. “I couldn’t do standup and I had no place to put stuff. But now I realize this was really what I needed to do. I just can’t believe the freedom and the messiness and the looseness. It’s maybe something I didn’t realize I was missing.”

Everybody has a podcast, she’d grumble when the subject would come up in the past. “And I get it,” says director Adam McKay (“The Big Short,” “Anchorman”), a longtime friend and one of those nudging her. “You want to do a TV show. It certainly seems bigger and cooler, but that’s changing. I honestly don’t know anyone out there right now with the reach that Joe Rogan has.”

Rogan, the former “Fear Factor” host and second-tier standup before he launched “The Joe Rogan Experience” in 2009, chums around with Elon Musk and signed a $100 million deal with Spotify last year. Rogan says the podcast has 190 million downloads each month. Marc Maron reinvented himself with “WTF,” with then-President Barack Obama showing up at his garage in Los Angeles. Conan O’Brien, with his ever-shrinking late-night show, expanded with “Conan Needs a Friend” and his Team Coco company producing other podcasts. (Silverman considered an offer from O’Brien’s company, but chose Kast Media because she thought Team Coco wanted too big of a revenue share.)

Still, Silverman had other plans for 2020.

Her big project was “The Bedwetter,” a musical adaptation of her best-selling 2010 memoir. It was set to open off-Broadway in May at the Atlantic Theater Company with a cast that included Linda Lavin and Stephanie J. Block.

In early March, Silverman was in New York with playwright Joshua Harmon, who co-wrote the book, and Adam Schlesinger, the Fountains of Wayne founder and Emmy winner, who wrote the music.

Schlesinger, years earlier, had been the one who pitched the idea of a musical after reading the memoir, a freewheeling, origin story of the anxious young girl — she struggled with enuresis, or bed-wetting, until she was 16 — who became a comic star.

In mid-March, after the NBA shutdown, the Atlantic closed its doors and postponed the show. “And two or three days later, Adam texts: ‘You won’t believe this, I think I have this thing. I have a super high fever and a cough,’ ” Silverman says. “And then, April 1, he was dead. Dead.”

By then, HBO had already passed on “Silvershow.”

Over the past decade, Silverman’s penchant for shocking, potty-mouthed material has evolved to embrace more of what she calls social politics. She’s still not above discussing, in detail, her Internet porn search words. But she also addressed the Democratic National Convention. Her philosophy, onstage and off, is that not everybody is stupid, not only her views are right, and if we listen to those we disagree with instead of rolling our eyes, we might get somewhere. Imagine being as clever as John Oliver without the snark.

“I Love You, America,” which ran from 2017 to 2019, embraced that evolution. In one early segment, Silverman traveled to Louisiana to visit a family of rabid Donald Trump supporters. During the visit, she led a discussion about health insurance, and it became clear that the family, which had been mercilessly bashing Obama, was covered by “Obamacare.”

[the article includes the dinner portion of this video:

Start at 3:45 to see that portion. – LG]

“That moment was the crystallizing moment for me,” says Amy Zvi, Silverman’s longtime manager and an executive producer on the show. “Rather than say, ‘You realize that you’re wrong and I’m right,’ Sarah didn’t correct them.”

“I don’t want to make people look dumb,” Silverman says. “Those aren’t the people I care to show up. I think people can be changed, but they’re never going to be changed by feeling judged.”

“I Love You, America” lasted two seasons, earning Emmy nominations each year and allowing Silverman to boldly confront even her most uncomfortable experiences.  . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

The concluding paragraphs:

Then there was the angry Escalade man. The incident did not end when she killed him with kindness. No, Silverman insisted, “I want to make this right.”

Then she asked what he smoked.

“I like a full-bodied high,” he told her.

With that, Silverman, Emmy-winning standup, TV host and now podcaster, walked into the dispensary and acquired a spliff of Indica for her antagonist. He smiled at the olive branch, but they were already at peace. While she was inside, he had paid her parking meter.

“I haven’t shaken someone’s hand in a year, but I gave him a big handshake,” Silverman says. “And I go, ‘Look at us. We were arch enemies and now we’re best friends.’ ”

Written by LeisureGuy

4 February 2021 at 10:08 am

Pandemic Last Supper

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Written by LeisureGuy

1 February 2021 at 12:38 pm

Posted in Humor

The Four Yorkshiremen Sketch

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2021 at 10:13 am

Posted in Humor, Video

Bob Newhart’s interview of book author

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I enjoyed this little clip.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 January 2021 at 7:46 pm

Posted in Books, Humor, Video

Brexit in the context of a coffee shop

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The British government is the customer, the EU is the barista.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 December 2020 at 10:54 am

Four Seasons Total Landscaping gets odd calls — but they’re used to it.

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Written by LeisureGuy

8 November 2020 at 10:11 am

Two strong recommendations for those who have Netflix subscriptions

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  1. Watch Nanette; then

  2. Watch Dougles; then

  3. Think about them; then

  4. Look about yourself in your daily life.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 August 2020 at 9:03 pm

Posted in Humor, Video

Speculation that Trump wants to ban TikTok because of Sarah Cooper

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For example:

See Stuart Emmrich’s article in Vogue, which begins:

Donald Trump abruptly announced on Friday that he plans to ban TikTok from the United States, telling reporters traveling with him on Air Force One that he could issue an executive order as early as Saturday to shut down the Chinese-owned video app.

“As far as TikTok is concerned we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump told the reporters traveling back with him to the nation’s capital after a trip to Florida, according to a pool report. Trump said he could use emergency economic powers or an executive order to ban TikTok in the United States.

“Well, I have that authority. I can do it with an executive order or that,” he said referring to emergency economic powers. (Later press reports questioned whether the president actually had that power to do so, and the ACLU tweeted that banning TikTok was “a danger to free expression and technologically impractical.”)

Earlier this month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. was looking at banning TikTok as well as other Chinese social media apps, citing national security concerns. Pompeo added that the Trump administration was evaluating TikTok as it has with other Chinese state-backed tech companies like Huawei and ZTE, which he has previously described as “Trojan horses for Chinese intelligence.”

But are national security concerns really behind Trump’s sudden pronouncement? Or is there another reason why the president wants to ban TikTok? Social media had their own answer: It’s all about Sarah Cooper.

Cooper, of course, is the actress and comedian who has come to Internet fame by posting videos of her lip syncing Trump’s speeches and interviews to hilarious effect, whether it’s him denying he retreated to the White House bunker because of a threat posed by protestors, dodging a question about what his favorite Bible phrases are, or, most memorably, recreating his now-famous “People, woman, man, camera, TV” interview. With more than half a million followers on TikTok, Cooper has been written up by The Hollywood Reporter, The Washington Post and The New York Times and appeared as a guest on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon and The Ellen Show. (“You make me so happy,” Degeneres said). A profile in the Times of London was headlined: “How Sarah Cooper’s Trump Takedowns Made Her America’s New Comedy Hero.”

And true to form, on Friday night, she posted a video lip synching to Trump’s later comments about TikTok, as he arrived back in Washington and headed to the White House. “We’re looking at TikTok. We may be banning TikTok, we may be doing some other things, there are a couple of options,” she intones, using a recording of a quick press briefing Trump gave before boarding a helicopter, which could be heard whirring in the background. “But a lot of things are happening, so we’ll see what happens. But we are looking at a lot of alternatives with respect to TikTok.” (Cooper even supplies visual effects, with her hair seemingly blowing in the wind as she mouths Trump’s words.) . . .

Continue reading.

And in addition, here’s an interview with Sarah Cooper, in which she makes some interesting points:

Written by LeisureGuy

1 August 2020 at 12:21 pm

Steve Martin: “Carl Reiner, Perfect”

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Steve Martin’s eulogic essay on Carl Reiner:

I’ve known only two perfect people in my life. One is that son of a bitch Martin Short; the other is Carl Reiner.

I met Carl in 1979 when I asked him to direct my first film, “The Jerk.” Carl was the go-to comedy director of the day, having made hits like “Oh, God!” as well as respected art fare like “Where’s Poppa?” Carl said yes, and I was thrilled. Exhausted by my previous 10 years on the road and a bit personally lost, I would now get to hole up face-to-face with Carl Reiner while we worked on a movie script. Rather than hibernating in my barely furnished condominium — the road had left my personal life bereft — I would hang out at his home on Rodeo Drive, where the sofas and pillows held indented impressions representing years of family and friends.

I was a novice film actor-writer wannabe, and I got lessons right away. Minutes after I arrived, he opened the script and said, “Here’s the first thing I do.” He started going through page by page making occasional marks. I said, “What are you doing?” He said, “I’m changing all the nights to days.” Carl was saving cast and crew the pain of unnecessary night shoots, where your body clock is severely whiplashed, as though you’ve taken a quick weekend round trip to China.

My goal as a co-writer of the script was a joke on every page; Carl’s was too, but all through the process he stressed and bolstered the tangential romance that was in the early drafts until it was in the forefront. Carl’s most valuable contribution to the movie was its emotional center, and I suspect it was those heart tugs that made the film a success.

“The Jerk” was filmed during the gas crisis, so Carl would pick me up for work every day in his Honda Civic. That seemed reasonable, so I bought a Honda Civic. Carl had seltzer water in blue bottles delivered weekly by the last remaining seltzer-water delivery service in Beverly Hills. That seemed reasonable, too, so I had seltzer water delivered to my WASP-y bachelor household. Carl’s influence on me was just beginning.

On the first day’s drive to the set, he confided, “Whenever I start a film, I hear the child’s voice in my head singing, ‘We’re makin’ a movie, we’re makin’ a movie!’” I was already excited, but I was glad to see this old pro so gleeful at starting yet another project. On these drives we began conducting little thought experiments to see if we could improve the day’s work. Once, we got so giddy over a scene we had to pull over. Here was the scene:

My character, Navin Johnson, was hitchhiking from a small farm in Missouri to the big city. A car pulls over to give me a lift. The driver shouts to me, “St. Louis?” Puzzled, I say, “No, Navin Johnson.”

The joke didn’t play as well as we expected — I finally admit 41 years later — but it did give us an afternoon of uncontrolled hysterics.

Carl knew how to direct comedy, of course, and while we were shooting, he gave me the best comic direction I ever received. We were filming a scene and slightly stuck. After about the fifth take, he stopped shooting and took me aside. I was expecting a lengthy discussion of motivation, character and possibly a discourse on comedy, but he said only, “Funny it up.” Not a Stanislavsky direction, but one I could understand.

At the end of the film, I got another practical tidbit. He invited me to a “color temperature” screening, a mysterious affair where the movie is shown to the director and cinematographer to determine if the color is accurate. We watched without sound and at double-speed to make the process easier. At the end of the screening, Carl said to the cinematographer, Victor Kemper: “Great. Now lighten it up two points.” I surreptitiously whispered, “Why?” He said, “Lighter is funnier.”

During my five or six creative years with Carl, we had lunch together almost every day. We ate at Ma Maison, a restaurant where a young Wolfgang Puck created innovative dishes that Carl and I marveled over.

Those lunches at Ma Maison were fascinating. The names Sid (Caesar) and Dick (Van Dyke) came out of his mouth regularly, accompanied by stories, reminiscences and, to break it up, his current political outrages, which he would dissect with rabbinical clarity. The stories were so vivid I can recall them from memory. One lunch, he described a foreign spy sketch he did with Sid:

“I approached Sid on a railway station. I told him all he had to do was deliver a briefcase to the next stop. I said, ‘When you get off the train, you will see an exceptionally beautiful blond woman with long lŭurious legs. That woman will be me.’”

Another time, he told me this story about the maddest he ever got:

“I wanted to hire Dean Jones for an episode of ‘Dick Van Dyke.’” (Dean, a born-again Christian, was booked to do some intermittent religious duties exactly when Carl needed him.) “But Dean wanted to do the show, so I worked out a schedule where I would shoot two different shows shuffled together over two weeks. I could shoot Dean on Monday on Script 1, then on Tuesday shoot part of Script 2, then get Dean back on Thursday to shoot for two days, and then repeat the process the next week. I was moving actors around, moving shooting days around and moving locations around. When I called Dean to tell him the plan, he said, relieved, ‘I knew the Lord would find a way.’”

I’ve heard several people say Carl was like a father to them. But, to me, Carl was not fatherly. He was exemplar. Five years and four films later, I was a different person because of a subtle osmosis of traits from Carl to me. Carl’s manner on the set taught me how to behave on the set. His interaction with people gave me a template of how to be better, nicer, how to lead with kindness. His directorial results were the same as the nastier directors I ran into later in my career. He taught me about modesty, too. I called him late one evening to discuss the next day’s shooting. I asked, “Am I interrupting you?” He said, “No, I’m just lying here going through a litany of my failures.”

When I perform comedy, I can still hear echoes of my influences coming through. Jack Benny, certainly, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Lenny Bruce, Steve Allen, Carl Reiner, too. But it is not Carl’s comedic advice I cherish. Rather, it was how he affected my everyday life, the part that has nothing to do with movies or acting. Sometimes I deal with people in meetings, social dinners and plain-old conversation with a buoyancy foreign to me and realize, “Oh, that’s the way Carl would have done it.”

So Carl, I raise my glass of seltzer and . . .

Continue reading. Of all the qualities Carl Reiner exhibited, Martin points to one not often mentioned as a characteristic of famous people: decency.

I will point out that what Martin describes is the transmission of memes — of behavior, of how to look at things, of what to be aware of — from Reiner to him, memes perhaps acquired by Reiner from exemplars he himself admired. That’s the sort of afterlife we have: our affect on other people, the spreading ripple of the memes we pass along.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 July 2020 at 6:35 pm

Buddy Hackett — two brief videos

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Written by LeisureGuy

29 June 2020 at 7:18 pm

Posted in Humor, Video

Sarah Cooper, aided by President Trump, shows how to Bible

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Written by LeisureGuy

8 June 2020 at 8:35 am

The Cooper Review is insightful as well as funny

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Take this post, for example: 9 Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies for Women. And browse around the site.

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Written by LeisureGuy

31 May 2020 at 7:34 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Humor

Trump said, “I have the best words.” Sarah Cooper shows how.

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The article begins:

Donald Trump has some ideas about fighting the coronavirus. “We hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light,” the president says, to the bafflement of nearby aides. “Supposing, I said, you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or … in some other way,” continues the president, gesturing toward her —

Her? I should explain. The words are 100 percent Donald J. Trump’s. The actions belong to the comedian Sarah Cooper, whose homemade lip-syncs of the president’s rambling pandemic-related statements have become the most effective impression of Mr. Trump yet.

Ms. Cooper posted that first video, titled “How to Medical,” to TikTok and Twitter in April. In a 49-second tour de force, Ms. Cooper illustrates his musings on light and disinfectant using a lamp and household cleaning products, playing the president’s puzzled aide in cutaways.

She captures her Trump entirely through pantomime. She crosses her arms and bounces on her heels, like a C.E.O. filibustering through a meeting while the staff suffers. Plenty of wags seized on Mr. Trump’s bleach prescription for easy jokes, but her performance gets at something deeper: the peacocky entitlement of the longtime boss who is used to having his every whim indulged, his every thought-doodle praised as a Michelangelo.

Ms. Cooper has been on a tear since, her karaoke Trump holding forth on the math of disease testing and wrestling with what it means to test “positively” for a virus. Channeling the president’s announcement that he was taking the drug hydroxychloroquine (against prevailing medical advice) as a Covid preventive, she’s a manic Willy Wonka, handing out a blister pack of pills to herself as a girl in pigtails.

Long before he was elected, Donald Trump posed the challenge of being easy to imitate, and thus nearly impossible to satirize. Everyone has a Trump, and when everyone has a Trump, no one does.

A big problem comes when a writer tries to take the president’s belligerent spoken jazz (“I know words. I have the best words”) and force it into comedic 4/4 time. Even the most lacerating satire has to impose coherence on Mr. Trump, which — like news reports that try to find a narrative in his ramblings — ends up polishing the reality, losing the chaos essential to the genuine article.

Which maybe destined Donald Trump to be the TikTok president. The service was built around the concept of lip-sync videos, and to spoof this president, the perfect script is no script.

Before Ms. Cooper’s “How to Medical,” other TikTok users riffed on a Trump ramble about the power of “germs.” Kylie Scott posted “Drunk in the Club After Covid,” lip-syncing Mr. Trump’s words as a rambling inebriate, finding 80-proof logic in the teetotaler president’s musings.

“The germ has gotten so brilliant,” she mouths — cradling a drink, squinting her eyes and spiraling a finger toward her temple — “that the antibiotic can’t keep up with it.” (A TikTok search on “#drunktrump” yields a growing crop of examples.) . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 May 2020 at 9:03 am

Sarah Cooper is my new favorite insightful person

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Consider, for example, this post. Anyone from a corporate workplace will recognize all of this.

Of look through the short videos in her Twitter feed. (I discovered the easy way to turn on the sound, which is needed, is to restart the video by click the start of the video progress bar.)

YouTube has several. Here’s one:

Written by LeisureGuy

28 May 2020 at 11:12 am

The Sprint-T-Mobile Merger: A Jump the Shark Moment for Antitrust?

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Matt Stoller writes in Big:

Jumping the Shark

In season five of the sitcom Happy Days, the writers had the main character Fonzie jump over a shark while on waterskis, coining the term ‘jump the shark’ to denote a moment when something that once made sense becomes stupid, irrelevant, and self-evidently ridiculous. That’s what just happened with libertarian antitrust doctrine. A New York Judge, Victor Marrero allowed Sprint and T-Mobile to merge in an already concentrated telecom industry. His decision is fascinating, mostly because it’s so badly done, and reveals, unwittingly, both the hollowness at the core of modern antitrust doctrine and why we see concentrated power across the American economy.

Just a warning here. I’m not going to do much merger analysis, you’ll just have to trust me that cell phone companies like money. If you don’t buy that underlying assumption, then the rest of this won’t make sense to you.

Why This Merger Is Bad

From an industrial organizational perspective, the problem with the Sprint-T-Mobile merger is obvious. Mobile phone services is a very concentrated industry. It has four main players, and the merger seeks to bring that number down to three. As John Kwoka shows, mergers in concentrated industries tend to raise prices, which is a no-no even under the narrow antitrust standards we have today. T-Mobile is what is called a ‘maverick firm,’ challenging the industry with aggressively low prices. Going from four to three in a concentrated market, when one of the players merging is a maverick, is *exactly* what the laws against illegal monopolization are designed to prohibit. Yet Marrero cleared it.

The main evidence against the merger was that executives were going to raise prices. How do we know? Well the head marketing executive from Sprint texted a colleague not only on how excited he was to raise prices after the merger, but how everyone in the industry would raise prices. As it turns out, corporations don’t like competition. Instead they prefer money. I know, crazy, right?

Regardless of what you think about the industry, let’s look at the underlying logic of the judge. The Clayton Act, which is our main anti-merger law, prohibits mergers that may substantially lessen competition. There are various ways to understand what that means, like market share thresholds, but the gist of the law is that if there’s a reasonable chance a merger will reduce competition, especially in concentrated markets, it shouldn’t be let through. Executives excited to hike prices would seem to be evidence of a good probability it’s a bad merger.

Marrero’s view of how this would work out is different.

In this Court’s view, in the intensely competitive and rapidly changing environment in which complex and dynamic markets operate, the anticompetitive business strategies and market effects Plaintiff States predict are unlikely…

Against a backdrop of T-Mobile’s longstanding business strategy as the self-styled maverick and disruptive Un-carrier, it would be counter-productive, even self-defeating, for New T-Mobile soon after the merger to invest, innovate, and improve network speed, capacity, and quality, or to refrain from offering products incorporating the most advanced technologies, enhanced content, and improved service plans, and ultimately to lower prices, as market dynamism would demand and more reliably predict. By embarking on the polar course Plaintiff States foresee, New T-Mobile would effectively imperil its own future.

Marrero is claiming that US telecom incumbents, who pretty much face less competition that anyone in most of the industrialized world and are routinely cited for consumer protection violations, wouldn’t use anticompetitive tactics. He also just believes T-Mobile’s branding campaign – in which its CEO called the company the Un-carrier and wore magenta t-shirts, and imagines that this is the first merger motivated by altruism.

I’m being flip, but it’s just hard to take this decision seriously. At a certain point, he contrasts the ‘market dynamism’ of cell phones to other products, because telecom is complicated. By contrast, “milk is milk,” he wrote, comparing cell phones to what he imagines is a simpler product and thus a less “dynamic” market. Marrero is fooled in two ways. He falls for the branding that products like cell phones, which are actually forty plus years old, involve technology, and so he’s dealing with mystical wizards not normal businesspeople. He also ignores genuine complexity, infrastructure, and technology in agricultural markets because he doesn’t realize that food isn’t actually grown in supermarkets. He understands milk because it’s, you know, milk, but cell phones are magic.

Believe it or not, none of what I’ve mentioned so far is the most notable part of the opinion. What’s even better is Marrero’s view of experts and the law. Here’s how Marrero frames the various paid experts testifying about the deal and the amount of homework everyone had to do.

The qualifications of litigants’ specialists, impressive by the titles they have held and the tomes of their CVs fill, can be humbling and intimidating… Together, counsel and experts amass documentary and testimonial records for trial that can occupy entire storage rooms to capacity.

He goes on to note how impressive all these wonks are with their mathematical models, complimenting the various economists and technical experts who educated him on telecommunications. And then he throws up his hands and says, well both sides have such experts, so I’m going to not care about any of it. You think I am kidding, but I am not.

“How the future manifests itself and brings to pass what it holds is a multi-faceted phenomenon that is not necessarily guided by theoretical forces or mathematical models,” he writes. “Instead, causal agents that engender knowing and purposeful human behavior, individual and collective, fundamentally shape that narrative.” The net of his argument is that court should turn to their “traditional judicial methods,” which is to say, “they resort to their own tried and tested version of peering into a crystal ball.”

The evidence on telecom consolidation is clear – less competition means higher prices and worse service. But Marrero just shrugs. In point of fact, his decision comes down to his belief that the T-Mobile executives were good guys, or as he puts it, watching “their demeanor” at trial.

The great achievement of antitrust scholar Robert Bork, who structured our current pro-monopoly framework, was to subvert the law through the judiciary. This isn’t obvious, because Bork couched his arguments under the notion of bringing rationality and certainty to antitrust. “I use the word ‘science’ deliberately,” he wrote in one of his endless attacks on judges and prosecutors for trying to restrain monopoly. Bork essentially persuaded policymakers of two things. One, antitrust doctrine should be based on complex pseudo-scientific theories of economists, rather than traditional legal notions of equity and justice, or even basic common sense. It’s a science, and if you don’t know lots of math, butt out. Two, antitrust law should be judge made, especially if a judge wants to go easy on corporate concentration. If judges make law, then more democratic branches of government, like legislatures and regulatory agencies, lose power. Bork’s arguments were as much a theory of constitutional structure as anything else, a way to protect concentrated power from democratic checks.

And it worked. The reason we have concentrated power in our markets today in everything from cheerleading to movie studios is because Bork’s philosophy has been in practice since 1981. Judges have been persuaded by the libertarian notion that mergers are extremely complex scientific endeavors, and to stop a merger means to meddle with nature. Marrero has full-on bought into Bork’s ideas, and revealed how stupid they actually are. Lest you think this is some partisan jab, it’s not – Marrero was appointed by Bill Clinton.

Judges are supposed to execute the will of Congress, and Congress has been clear four times, in 1890, 1913, 1936, and 1950, that the antitrust laws are designed to protect competition, small enterprise, and economic liberty. But here’s Marrero, “Adjudication of antitrust disputes virtually turns the judge into a fortuneteller. Deciding such cases typically calls for a judicial reading of the future.” But antitrust is not about turning Federal judges into central planning agents guessing about future economic outcomes. It should be about clear standards to block illegal mergers rather than judges being impressed with CEOs who wear magenta.

There is an upside, here, even though it’s a horrible decision. A random judge, based on his gut feel about a charismatic CEO, just concentrated a swath of the American economy, which will end up raising prices for consumers and hurt telecom employees, probably within a few years (and starting with people in poverty, since prices to them are less noticeable for elites). But in doing so, Marrero accidentally noted that Bork-style antitrust is basically just a ruse, an annoying multi-million dollar costume party of economic experts dressing up in fancy clothing carrying around big stacks of paper while a judge flips a coin.

In other words, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2020 at 3:15 pm

Whatever it is that great comedians have, Victor Borge had it in spades

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And this is Victor Borge well along in years. He was amazing.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 January 2020 at 8:15 pm

Posted in Humor, Music, Video

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