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November 19, 2011

it's the beginning of the beginning

The overall impact of Occupy Wall Street is tough parse while we're in the middle of it, but I will say that it is inspiring some totally awesome work on the part of writers and journalists (though mostly of the unpaid variety, sadly).

Yesterday was a superb case in point: once you've watched the horrifying UC Davis video (no link, try CNN), wash the taste out of your mouth with this totally inspiring story of the OWS BatSignal that was deployed in NYC Thursday night, splashing slogans on the side of the Verizon building, stories high.

And then bring yourself back to earth by reading Choire Sicha's brief piece which starts out discussing how the mayor's office misused a bit of #OWS reportage Choire did and then moves on to totally nail an underlying truth that's keeping the people in the streets:

But we believe that the finance industry and other related corporate enterprises have created a vast inequity, one that is nowhere more visible than in New York City itself. Here is where they have tortured capitalism into a sick thing that is actively bad for humanity.

Please write more Choire Sicha.

Also, best slogan from the BatSignal: IT'S THE BEGINNING OF THE BEGINNING.  Let's all put our backs to it and make that a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:45 PM

November 18, 2011

how much more do tv sets cost?

Hey there, new piece up at The Awl right now, all about how much television sets cost and poverty.  Also there are some bits about the Heritage Foundation in there, so big mwah to them.

A sentiment that did not make the final edit is one that I feel is worth stating here: if we are talking about whether or not ownership of a television disqualifies one from federal assistance, it is also important to remember that not five years ago the financial services industry would issue credit cards to anything that moved, and on top of that there is an entire Rent-To-Own industry that predates on the poor to induce them into buying one of these conveniences at a price two or three times the retail price.  So who's to blame?  Why, that would be society.  Or capitalism, but that's kind of the same thing, right?

Posted by mrbrent at 1:38 PM

the liar that is newt gingrich

This explanation from Newt Gingrich of why he received $300,000 from Freddie Mac during the height of the fiscal crisis is precisely why Newt Gingrich should run for president of everything ever, and repeatedly:
I have never done any lobbying, every contract that was written during the period when I was out of the office specifically said I would do no lobbying, and I offered advice. And my advice as a historian, when they walked in and said to me, we are now making loans to people who have no credit history and have no record of paying back anything, but that's what the government wants us to do, is I said — I said to them at the time: This is a bubble. This insane. This is impossible.

That is the prevarication of a five year old — "Not only did I not do the thing that I obviously did, but I did the opposite, commendable thing that I of course didn't do."  And Gingrich does it with a straight face, without wiping his brow with a hankie and without oopsing.  It's not so much that he's a talented liar, more that he lives in a moral universe where there is no such thing as the truth.

And that's why he should always run for everything, no matter how many wives he cheated on with the subsequent wife, no matter how many times he gets run out of Congress: he's just that fun.  Someday Michele Bachmann's brittle insanity will actually shatter; someday Herman Cain will realize that it would be more lucrative to be the general manager of WWE Smackdown than the president of the United States.  And Newt will still be there: imperious, pompous, but most of all, pathologically mendacious.

(The quote is from this Washington Post takedown of the veracity of the statement, which is worth a read.)

Posted by mrbrent at 9:55 AM

November 16, 2011

#OWS #N17

OK, so this is pretty obviously a day with Shit Going Down, at least as far as the nation-wide Occupy movement goes, and in between pretending to work and following the various feeds for news I'm feeling more than a little bit guilty for not going down there and getting myself arrested like everyone else.

In the meantime, you should read this blog post by my old friend John Clancy, who is an all around dashing and smart dude who has been there and done that, talking about the Mayor's press conference Tuesday morning, after Zuccotti Park was rousted:

They cleaned this town up, friends. It's still Rat City, you're never going to exterminate those brutes, but the town I moved to, the town of CBGBs and Alphabet City and the old Times Square and all the rest of it is a beautiful, doubtful memory.

And every old-timer says the same thing, it's Burt Lancaster in Atlantic City, I know, I know but that doesn't mean it's not true.

So there was Mike, saying it without having to say it: we don't let anything actually dangerous happen here anymore. You can do what you want up to a point, sure, but after that point, we shut you down.

Read the whole thing, please.

We're at a moment of crystallization of something, and it's up in the air if this something is going to be something beautiful that we will all treasure, or if it's going to be a turd.  Again.

Safety to all the courageous being civilly disobedient today, and to the law enforcement (even the Hippie-beating assholes).

Posted by mrbrent at 4:55 PM

occupy wall street and the poh-leese

Surely you heard, rest of the world, that yesterday was the day that the NYPD rousted Occupy Wall Street in paramilitary fashion in the dead of night.  But did you hear that part of the secret ambush plan was the deliberate suppression of the press?  Well, check this, and then please read the whole thing:
At 2.43am, the New York Observer reported that photographers with credentials were barred from Liberty Square. Seconds later the director of editorial operations at Gawker reported that a CBS news chopper were ordered out of the sky by the NYPD. New York Times journalist Jarid Malsin went to jail in zipties. And 20 minutes later, we heard the NYPD was cutting down trees in Liberty Square, and from our office space we could hear the deployment of a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), a sound cannon. To be certain, we could see and feel that this operation had been planned carefully to exclude all media coverage, sending out a loud message about how dissent will be treated in this democracy.

Also, did you hear that our police commissioner, Ray Kelly, a man believed to be jostling to become the next mayor, is of the belief that reporters do not have the right to report on news events?  Which is not exactly the current mayor's line, who told reporters that the press was barred from being present for their own safety.  Gentlemen: get your fucking stories straight.

Why block reporters from being present?  So that there would only be second hand reports of the vindictive destruction of property and general assholery of cops who've been waiting for two months to kick some hippie ass.  This not to say that the event is unreported.  Take for example this awesome piece of reportage from Captiol's Matthew Wolfe, which comes off more like a piece from C.J.Chivers than it does something from the Metro desk.

How's it gonna end?  No idea.  But I do know this: yesterday afternoon, I met my family, in town for a visit, in Times Square for a pre-theater supper.  Standing on the corner, looking across the ped malls installed, painted a weird shade of blue, I saw four of five cops, leaning on a patrol car, hands in pockets, shooting the shit.  And my first reaction was rage, then disdain.  And I haven't felt that for nearly twenty-five years, back when New York's finest were cracking punk skulls at Tompkins Square.

And the sad thing is that this should not be about the mayor who believes that the financial services industry has no responsibility for the Great Recession, or a chief of police that believes that a police state is a good thing.  This should still be about a country with ingrained income and wealth inequality, from federal policy to the public sentiment encoded by our popular entertainment.

But if Bloomberg and Kelly want to make it about them, if only for a little bit, I'm happy to rise to the occasion.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:25 AM

November 15, 2011

good morning 11.15.11

Of course the day the Mayor decided to sneak up behind Occupy Wall Street and attack it with a steel chair is the day that the B line decided that ongoing maintenance of one of the trains should take place while said train is stalled at the Prospect Park station, making today the first day that I got through the entire NYT in the span of one train ride.

And then emerging, an hour and a half late, to see that, as usual, when news happens I am usually intractably stuck somewhere in my city's public transit system.

But whatever: Hey, Occupy Wall Street: Bloomberg found that relevance that you thought you misplaced sometime last week! Take better care of it this time.

[I'm cross-posting this from the Tumblr, as the above time on the B train ate into my "write something long" time today.  Someday I'll merge the all the various online entities and save myself some time.]

Posted by mrbrent at 11:25 AM

November 14, 2011

cbs is a den of snakes, pursuing a liberal agenda (!?!)

I would hate to be anything like skeptical when talking about Michele Bachmann (who I've loved writing about since she death-gripped President Bush's shoulder after a SOTU speech, eyes rolling in her head like marbles), but if there is any one thing that she will have contributed to the national conversation, please oh please let it be that CBS is a bastion of liberalism.

Because, dude, if CBS is one, that means that every single organization this side of the Heritage Foundation is one too.  And then that would be a whole lot more interesting than news outlets constantly giving voice to dumbass contrarianism in the interest of equivalency, which is frankly boring me out of my shoes.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:54 AM