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February 10, 2012

allen west speaks truth

There's a lot of reasons to mock and deride Allan West, who is a representative from Florida, happens to be Republican, happens to be an Iraq War vet and ex-talk radio host.  Pretty much all of them revolve around the outrageousness of the things that come out of his mouth.  He is, after all, an ex-talk radio host, and saying outrageous things is how the bread gets buttered.  I think he said something last week about how the Nancy Pelosis of the world should leave the country.  Outrage!  Oh, the truth to power!

But sometimes he says something that you really can't argue with, like recently at CPAC, where he was "firing up the base," I'm sure:

"We also realize that the public good is a misnomer, created by our liberal friends," he said. "It is not the public good that matters, it is the personal good."

It's true, the last thing in the world that Allen West or any of his conservative fellow travelers are concerned with is the public good.  Which is largely why Allen West and people like him should stay out of government, because public good is what government is supposed to fucking do.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:09 PM

February 9, 2012

super PACs good news for dying medium

So the age of the super-PAC. is here, and its effects are already plainly evident, as two seriously underfunded GOP candidates got boot-strapped to anyone-but-Mitt success thanks to a single deep-pocketed supporter (Newt Gingrich and his rich guy Sheldon Adelson and Rick Santorum and his rich guy Foster Freiss, respectively).  In each case the "uncoordinated" super-PAC floods the market with TV ads, and a candidate that ten years ago would've had to quit the race for lack of funds suddenly is no longer constrained.

And now the president has signaled that he's not going to be bringing a knife to a gun fight, in the light that Karl Rove/Charles Koch funded super-PACs have set fundraising goals up around a half billion dollars.

So the horse is out of the barn, and until the efforts of Stephen Colbert reach their logical conclusion and embarrass either SCOTUS to reverse Citizens United or the Congress to legislate against it, we're looking at a national election that is potentially going to be decided by the whims of billionaires.

But the aspect of this whole mess few people are talking about is that while these campaign finance deregulations are an impediment to democracy and everything decent in the world, they represent an enormous payday for our media industries!

Take TV, for example (which is what I'd assume is the primary mass media for political ads, based on years of consuming media).  Let's take Rove/Koch at their words, and then assume that the Obama-supporting super-PACs roughly match fundraising (a generous assumption).  That puts a billion dollars on the table with which to buy advertising.  And what was the total ad buy for the 2010 Super Bowl, the biggest TV advertising event of the year?  A little over $205 billion.

So basically, this spigot of political money with the handle snapped off means roughly the equivalent of five additional Super Bowls' worth of ad buys.

So while it's a bad time to be a citizen, it's certainly a good time to be a TV network.

Posted by mrbrent at 6:59 PM

fox business hates wealth

This is useful discussion to have: so two days ago, the majority of NYC hotels and the housekeepers and other service workers thereof agreed to the terms of a new seven-year contract, which provides for a twenty-two percent increase over the term of the new contract (which is expected to be ratified next week).

But the contract, and the windfall for the employees, attracted the attention of an organization naturally predisposed to supporting exorbitant salaries: Fox Business Network.  From "Fox & Friends" yesterday:

“Listen to this,” [guest Stuart Varney] began. ”This is a financial program, so let’s talk about money”. Discussing a recent union proposal to give panic buttons to maids, Varney brought up maids’ pay and their union’s push to raise it to $60,000 over seven years.

“This is a nightmare,” added his guest, saying that the move will hit “everybody who has to foot the bill”.

Stuart Varney is English, you see, which is why you could forgive him for confusing "nightmare" with "dream of the particularly American variety," because, as we all know, in the world of business reporting, success is always virtuous no matter how it's attained!  So when these maids and bellhops start pulling salaries in the high Fifties (in 2019, mind you), which salaries are literally less than one percent of what your Wall Street titans will be making, all the financial reporters, even the ones working for Rupert Murdoch, will stand up and cheer, because it is un-American to blame the wealthy for their wealth.

We await a correction from "Fox & Friends."

(For you non-NYers, the city is in the middle of a tourism boom, with new hotels popping up all over the place, and rooms averaging out at $275 a night, so even on the surface this is less the story of a pushy overachieving union than it is an industry that wanted labor peace and was sharing the wealth.  I.e., if the hotel owners agreed to that rich a deal, you know they could've afforded more.)

Posted by mrbrent at 8:31 AM

February 7, 2012

brief return of rich people things

There are many interesting reasons for you to read the (one-shot?) return of Chris Lehmann to The Awl.  One would be that you, like me, are happy to see his return.  Rich People Things is a colossal beat, and since he's been gone, off editing things, we've missed him.  Another would be that the piece is a nice primer to the State of the State of Wall Street, which can be a topic tough to keep your eye on after all these years of being accused of class warfare.

Apparently, this week's New York cover story on the "emasculation" of Wall Street types moved Lehmann so deeply that he felt forced to slowly, lovingly, refute the cover story in its entirety.  And in doing so we get to read pearls of wisdom like this:

Sure, there was that awkward business that sent the global finance sector to the brink of ruin, plus a devastating tsunami in Japan and whatnot—but the true culprit sending Wall Street titans back into their bedrooms to listen to Interpol on auto-repeat and cut themselves is of course the specter of government regulation. The Dodd-Frank financial reform act, a largely toothless measure lousy with loopholes and lobbying dosh, becomes in the alternate universe of Adam Moss’s New York magazine a rash bid to expropriate the expropriators. Even though the full provisions of the already anemic bill don’t go into effect until 2016, the very thought of a somewhat straitened financial playing field so terrifies Wall Street’s stout corridor of wealth creators that, well, they’re bidding farewell to the most valuable commodity of all—their big swinging dicks.

Of course we all write ourselves into our narratives as heroes, but very few of us are lucky enough to have New York magazine do it for us.  That the virtue of financial services-derived wealth is somehow axiomatic is one of the biggest scams going, and its writers like Lehmann that push back against it.

Hope to see that his return is not merely temporary.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:49 AM

rain forests not military units

Let me distill this morning's David Brooks for you, because why on Earth would you want to read something that?  The weaponized version goes something like this:
In order to end poverty we need rain forests and not military units, because contraception is demoralizing Catholic hospitals.

I guess in a different era of the Internet you would call that the shorter version, but I can't remember if that particular turn of phrase was proprietary or not, so I sidestep away!

I think the Brooks is about the uproar of churches concerning the fact that the health care reform will force them to cover their employees with common sense, 60s-era preventative care (like, you know, the pill), because it kind of starts there, but then it wanders into fourteen year-olds having children and then even before you get a chance to lower your eyebrows there's a couple of paragraphs about technocracy.  Does it end?  I think so; it's kind of hazy.

And speaking of shorter/longer versions, today is the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, the man who discovered the secret of plotting a novel: getting paid by the word.  In honor of this event, everyone write 6,000 words before lunchtime.  Go!

Posted by mrbrent at 9:55 AM

February 6, 2012

thank you new london

This the annual "New London, CT is awesome!" post, as we just completed our annual visit, which included, as usual, the best Chinese New Year (Obsv.) Party ever, and the trip to the Book Barn of Niantic, CT, which remains my favorite used bookstore on the Eastern Seaboard, and is impossible to leave without a box of books measured more easily by weight than by number.

And as a bonus I ran into old friend Brendan Tobin, who has been on a roll lately, scoring a gig with Comic Book Resources consisting of weekly witty, engaging recovers and reimagining of comic book characters.  Good to see him, and good to see him doing well.

But thank you, New London, for being a very nice (and under-recognized) destination for a long weekend.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:44 AM