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July 1, 2011

more debt ceiling

The stand-off over the debt ceiling is still under my skin, and rather than restate my belief that the GOP bad-thing bad-thing I will share with you some links.

First, Andrew Sullivan comes down hard against the GOP, going so far as to invoke the phrase "economic terrorism":

For the GOP to use the debt ceiling to put a gun to the head of the US and global economy until they get only massive spending cuts and no revenue enhancement is therefore the clearest sign yet of their abandonment of the last shreds of a conservative disposition. A conservative does not risk the entire economic system to score an ideological victory. That is what a fanatic does. And when that fanatical faction was responsible for huge spending binges in the recent past, for two off-budget wars costing $4.4 trillion, a new Medicare benefit, and tax revenues at a 50-year low relative to GDP and tax rates below the levels of Ronald Reagan, this insistence is lunacy, when it isn't gob-smackingly hypocritical.

I not only agree but think that fact is as clear as the nose on your face and do not understand why it has not filtered into the mainstream.

Also, this morning brings us a nice column from Paul Krugman that serves as a primer to the convoluted and head-scratching crisis:

So what’s really going on is extortion pure and simple. As Mike Konczal of the Roosevelt Institute puts it, the G.O.P. has, in effect, come around with baseball bats and declared, “Nice economy you have here. A real shame if something happened to it.”

The only thing I would add to the hostage-taking meme is that, in this particular instance, the hostage-taker stands to benefit by either of the capitulation of the hostage-takee and harm befalling the hostage, an economic crisis would be a neato thing to run against Obama with.

But TGIF, amiright?  In a month either this will all be a memory, or we'll be fighting cannibals when we're not waiting in bread lines.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:43 AM

June 30, 2011

scooped by the awl

So the NYT has a story out on Philly Pinoy, which is a neat little place in Red Hook, Brooklyn, which serves Filipino food, mostly catering to the crews that work on the Queen Mary 2 and the Caribbean Princess when they are in port.

I know about this because The Awl ran a very similar story two weeks ago, which story I wrote.

So, since no one else is going to do it, let me say in public that The Awl scooped the New York Times.  Their version is better reported than my version, but their version has one glaring omission: "...as initially reported by The Awl."

This should be a woo-hoo moment, but between you and me, I feel a little bit like my wallet got nicked on a crowded subway car.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:46 AM

June 29, 2011

playing politics with the economy

Josh Marshall's fellows have been hitting this pretty hard, but it's an important little bit of knowledge that needs to spawn and make more of itself:

The Republican Party is only interested in addressing the economy if they are in power.

It goes something like this.  We are still mired in a recession — the economy may be growing, but people are still unemployed and broke.  Historically speaking, broke, unemployed people tend to vote out the party that hold the White House.  Therefore, it is in the interest of the GOP, who would very much like to regain the presidency, to insure that the state of unemployment and brokeness remains.

That is of course theory.  This is the practice.  In the negotiations over raising the debt ceiling (which is deadly boring and could throw the nation into outright depression), GOP is demanding all sorts of capitulation from the Democrats, since the Democrats only control the Senate and the White House.  Democrats, being Democrats, looking for ways to appease the GOP, suggest a tax cut, specifically a payroll tax holiday.  Not only is it a tax cut, but it serves as a direct stimulus to normal people out there.  Also, did I mention it's a tax cut?  It was flatly rejected as a "short-term gesture" or a "short-term gimmick".

Josh Marshall on the implications of the language of the rejection:

Boil these statements down and they amount to: we're interested in long term structural changes to the economy not short term measures to boost jobs or growth. Nothing wrong with wanting long-term structural changes. Democrats want those too, just different ones. But I don't think anyone could get elected today in anything close to a competitive state or district writing off any kind of immediate effort to create jobs and economic growth. But that's what they're saying.

I feel pretty silly whenever I'm accusing someone of playing politics.  I mean, that's what politicians do, just by definition, and guys I don't like do it, guys I do like do it, etc.  But there has to be a line drawn somewhere, a point at which playing politics totally subsumes the act of governance.  And even though I've held the belief that the GOP is only concerned with the naked acquisition and maintenance of power for years now, I would say that tanking the economy on purpose for the sake of an election is too far to go.

So this might be one of things you might want to bring up with your friends, or even write about, so that it might calcify into consensus.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:27 AM

June 28, 2011

obvious headline of the day: rent too damn high

Yesterday the city approved the rent hikes for rent stabilized/controlled apartments here in NYC — 3.5% for one year leases, and 7.25% for two year leases.

The rent regulations are intended to be a safety net, to ensure that the majority of us that aren't in finance won't get priced out of the city.  Whether or not this works is a larger topic, obviously, but I am curious about this: is there anything else in NYC that's increasing by 3.5%?  Public transportation, maybe, fuel costs, definitely, food prices, I'm pretty sure.  I can think of one thing that is not, however: wages.  In fact, when was the last year that real wages increased at a rate even comparable to the cost of living?  Are we not slowly choking each other to death?

I can't say exactly what it is symptomatic of, but it can't be anything good.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:47 AM

michele bachmann overdrive

I'm not sure to thank in the consensusphere for promulgating the idea that Michele Bachmann is somehow a mainstream candidate, but whoever it is: nice freaking job.  I don't think there's a media outlet in America that has not run the "Bachmann: Legitimate Candidate?" story in the past forty-eight hours — it is a stunning and indelible example of Beltway idea-herding.

And I just want to thank you because she is not a viable candidate.  Even if you take away the shrill and the crazy eyes (and those are two big things to take away), what you get is a lightweight with a slim resume and no intellectual/leadership heft.  Her ideology pre Tea-Parties the Tea Party, and, while very attractive to the 10% of the electorate that may agree with her, is anathema to everyone else.

But!  If insiders keep touting her as the Next Thing, then she will become the next thing, and then will stay around to say crazy and abhorrent things for my own personal entertainment.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:12 AM

June 27, 2011

archers of loaf at webster hall

Amidst the well-deserved Pride in Manhattan yesterday evening, I went and saw the Archers of Loaf play at Webster Hall.  Webster Hall is a nightclubby establishment that sometimes hosts bands.  It's serviceable.  The Archers, however, are one of those things that either you've heard of or you haven't.

This was not the case fifteen years ago, which ended up being two years before they broke up. The Archers of Loaf were a critic's darling from Chapell Hill, NC, which epitomized a certain sound that never quite became commercially successful (both the sound and the band). They were very solidly post-punk, with a knack for creating a sonic backdrop for the generational anthems and the small elegies to entropy that the band put out at the time.

I've been reluctant to partake in any of the indie-rock reunions that have been sweeping the country.  It seemed to me to be a bit distasteful, an echo box for all the Permaslacks to show each other the exact ways that they are refusing to grow up.  Happily, last night was nothing like that.  There was some gray hair, but the crowd (which was large) seemed to be more music fan than nostalgia.

And the Archers were as good as I've ever seen them.  Relaxed, bemused even, without even a hint of joylessness.  And standing there, listening to thousand of people join in on a refrain of "NOSTALGIA!" and crooning along with, "The underground is overcrowded," I realized that not only does the music of the Archers hold up over all these years, but also that back then, when I was a kid, when I was young, etc., I never really understood how good that shit was.

I'm glad I went.

(Here's a bit of Youtubery from last night's show.)

Posted by mrbrent at 10:01 AM

June 26, 2011

mcdonald's is terrible

I just broke my No-McDonald's rule on account of last night's final Saturday Night Saloon being a total smash and someone bringing a sack of airplane bottles of gin resulting in me being too lazy to cook this morning.  First McD's in, like seven months, because that swill is not good for you, plus also it tastes like poo.

As I'm walking out, a little old lady points to my bag/drink and says, "That looks delicious! Enjoy it."  It looks WHAT?  Little old lady, there is no eatable/drinkable thing visible in my hands, only the packaging.  This clearly must be the McD's version of Walmart's greeters — retired people there to Gramma you into thinking that you're lucky to be eating that crap.

Crap?  Oh, crappy as always, with each component closely resembling an actual thing (egg! cheese!), but made in test tubes because Chemistry Food is one-tenth of one cent cheaper to make than real food, and multiply that by a billion.  Even the wax paper that wrapped my sandwich was engineered to be exactly as shitty as McD's can get away with, disintegrating as you unwrap.

What did I expect?  McD's is the perfect example of the free market: success through monopoly, quality subsumed by profit margins and masked by marketing, blinding increasingly obese customers into thinking that a meaningful transaction has taken place.

But the Saloon last night was good.  You should've been there.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:54 AM