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November 16, 2012

eu recession

Just to clarify what I was yammering about yesterday, yes, the coordinated protests in Europe two days ago was about austerity, but it was also the commemorate the fact that the Eurozone is back in recession, which makes it officially a "double dip," which is a pretty dingbat portmanteau for hotshot economists to think of, but whatever.

So all the fiscal austerity required both by EU regulations and then later by the so-called Troika as conditions for bailouts?  It's pretty tough to argue that it's a universal cure for what ails Europe.  In fact, I'd call it class warfare, and clumsily prosecuted.  Take Greece, which is being forced to cut another $17 billion from budgets in order to receive the next bailout installment of $40 billion.  Greece is in terrible shape, with unemployment up near thirty percent, but in order to please the banks of the world, Greece is willing to cut from its budgets an amount equal to nearly 10% of its economic output.

The people of Greece are being punished so that the bad investments of the banks is protected.

And since this is a site devoted to the carelessly spoken word, dig this:

...Chancellor Angela Merkel’s special envoy to Greece, Hans-Joachim Fuchtel, said studies showed that 1,000 German local government officials could do the work of 3,000 Greek officials.

Europe is on the precipice, and Germany (which is not in recession, by the way) feels the need to be a dick about it, in a Germanic-exceptionalism which has some pretty scary echoes (but isn't really much more vulgar than American exceptionalism).

And there are air raid sirens in Jerusalem as I type this, to boot (for what that's worth).

Posted by mrbrent at 9:53 AM

November 15, 2012

good morning 11.15.12

There's an awful lot of meaningful news out there that does not involve shirtless FBI agents or fiscal cliffs.  For one, Israel is preparing for elections in the traditional way, by air-bombing Gaza, which could be a tricky situation, but thankfully it's taking place in a region long known for its stability.  And meanwhile, in Europe, yesterday saw a continent-wide coordinated series of general strikes and protests.  I know, it's Europe, so what's the big deal? but you are not reading so much about this because the people are taking to the streets over the austerity which is the consensus solution to the global slowdown, which austerity does not work for anyone other than The Banks.  (And which austerity is not entirely dismissed by our current administration, keep in mind.)  Fun times for everyone.

But before you run off and digest all that, here's your didja-know of the day — 5-Hour Energy not only boasts one of the dumbest tag lines ever, it also is killing people.  Really!  Two ounces of liquid with as much caffeine as two cups of coffee. 

Actually, not the craziest idea for a product (I've taken a No-Doze once or twice, on long drives, or cramming for the exam), but in the hands of knuckleheads... well, there's always time to contemplate the error of your ways in the back of an ambulance.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:21 AM

November 14, 2012

romney finally free to open up to donors

Remember a couple of days ago I was worried about the pending embrace of Mitt Romney as a Really Great Guy now that he's lost the election?  I take it back.  Actually, it's looking like there's no chance of that happening:
Mitt Romney told his top donors Wednesday that his loss to President Obama was a disappointing result that neither he or his top aides had expected, but said he believed his team ran a “superb” campaign with “no drama,” and attributed his rival’s victory to “the gifts” the administration had given to blacks, Hispanics and young voters during Obama’s first term.

Obama, Romney argued, had been “very generous” to blacks, Hispanics and young voters. He cited as motivating factors to young voters the administration’s plan for partial forgiveness of college loan interest and the extension of health coverage for students on their parents’ insurance plans well into their 20s. Free contraception coverage under Obama’s healthcare plan, he added, gave an extra incentive to college-aged women to back the president.

You know that that is?  It's basically the same forty-seven percent shit he was spouting the last time someone recorded Mitt Romney talking to the rich dudes that were trying to buy him the presidency.

And in his call, did he mention that he got fleeced by a bunch of pollsters who fed him what he wanted to hear, in bald contravention of math, and by web developers who basically sold a sleek GOTV robot that turned out to be some cardboxes and blinking lights?

He did not.

If this crypto-racist bullshit continues, it's going to be a very interesting struggle for the soul of the Republican Party.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:50 PM

making fun of guy fieri

The Awl's Choire Sicha is right to express some doubt over the unmitigated awesomeness of Pete Well's hilarious takedown of Guy Fieri's big new restaurant in Times Square.

I mean, I loved it.  (Read it!)  It's funny, and probably true.  There was a small twinge of something like disapproval, though, as David Roth has really owned the making-fun-of-Guy-Fieri beat for years.  (This would be a decent example.)  But on the merits, a nice fun little drive-by.

But the point Sicha makes is:

This food shack does in fact sound truly terrible! I fortunately already knew that I would not need to eat there, long before the Times saw fit to inform me. Which, then, I have questions: is there a service component to this kind of criticism? As you generally expect from a restaurant review? Not at all, really. You were going to eat there, or you weren't. You likely weren't, except as ironic torture.

So it's actually culture criticism, and a New York-specific kind. There's a time and a place for a New York publication to throw down some boundaries about what we will and not "allow," as snobby New Yorkers.

Valid!  But the point that I would counter with, and the reason I don't find blind rage hatred of Guy Fieri inappropriate at all, is that the food of Guy Fieri, the bizarre stoner fusion, the Frankenstein's monster experimenting, is actually something that would sound like something I would want to eat if Fieri clown-ass spiky hair and high fives weren't attached to it.  In fact, it's related to the efforts of chefs like David Chang and Wylie Dufresne (apologies to both for the comparison).

That is to say: if the food of one of Fieri's money-pits actually tasted as good as the doofy descriptions implied, and were vended on a national basis (like say in a chain), then that would be a good thing.  I would eat there.

So what Wells is doing is not protecting NYC from this kajillionaire dingbat, but rather protecting me (and people like me) from my worse instincts, from going there in hopes that it's actually more sizzle than steak, more cowboy than hat.

So now I don't have to.

(For what it's worth, I tweeted that I would buy and read a book comprised entirely of goose-egg reviews of the restaurants of Guy Fieri, and I stand by that.)

Posted by mrbrent at 11:02 AM

November 13, 2012

paul ryan's bold stab at relevance

Feels weird to post something so soon on ole Paul Ryan, he who ran for vice president, he whose granny-starving budget is central to the version of the Republican Party before they were forced into a round of abyss-staring, but he's back, and he's making his round of Why We Lost interviews.  And just because he lost an election doesn't mean that he has to stop saying generally vile things:
“The surprise was some of the turnout, some of the turnout especially in urban areas, which gave President Obama the big margin to win this race,” Mr. Ryan said in an interview with WISC-TV.

I don't need to explain to you that "urban areas" is fecklessly transparent bit of a dog-whistle, and contained in an assertion that is demonstrably untrue.

But I do find it cute that, after a week of hand-wringing GOP leading lights speaking out about refining the message as to attain a more broad appeal, you have your Number Two not only embracing the patronizing attitude that pisses "urban" voters off, but also revealing that it's not the message or the messaging that's the problem.

It's the underlying beliefs.  Boy Wonder legit believes that he got the Naval Observatory stole from him by the ghettos.  That is where the Republican Party is at, and there's not enough message-softening in the world to make that palatable to non-racist folk.

Posted by mrbrent at 5:06 PM

sandy day fourteen

I have no idea what percentage of you live outside the Greater Metropolitan Area as we call it, but those of you that do (and some of you that don't), you should know this concerning Hurricane Sandy — it's not really all better yet.  I'm not talking about the West Chelsea galleries downstairs from my office that haven't reopened yet, or the restaurants that my friends have to rebuild in Red Hook.  On the fringes (more accurately: on the Atlantic-facing coasts) it's pretty much post-apocalyptic.

The city is undergoing an unprecedented volunteer relief effort.  FEMA is around to take applications for grants/loans, and the Red Cross has a presence, but the magnitude of the devastation in the affected areas is waaay beyond their scope.  Building by building, block by block, people are organizing to care for the weak and infirm.  But two NGOs are kicking ass and saving lives.  First is the ad hoc Occupy Sandy, an effort of the Occupy Wall Street kids.  They are using the lateral organizing principles they used last year to yell in the streets to effectively accept donations and get them to those in need.  And the second, and according to my relief-worker friends, ninja bas-ass NGO is Team Rubicon, who are a bunch of military vets who banded together to use their military skills for disaster-relief good.  I've heard that walking into their command center in the Rockaways is like walking onto the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.  Thank God for both of them, and if you're sitting on some cash, give it to them.

The mayor, and the New York State Housing Authority?  Well, from what I've heard, don't thank them so much.  Power and services are spotty to say the least.  I've heard from one legal aid volunteer that the Gowanus Houses (not in one of the devastated areas) not only lost power for a week and a half, but went without any NYSHA presence (i.e., employees) at all for that time.  So NYSHA, specifically, can eat a bag of dicks in space, and I hope they enjoy the journalistic spotlight that's coming for them real real soon.

But don't just take my word for any of this — take the word of the New York Times.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:46 AM

November 12, 2012

vikram pandit's sad payout

So this it the story that got swept under the carpet with a Friday afternoon news release: Vikram Pandit gets a $6.7 million payout as a severance from Citigoup.  Citi of course says that the payment is not a severance at all, but rather an "incentive award," which makes you wonder exactly what kinds of incentive targets financial services CEOs have.

But now that I've had the weekend to chew that over, between you and me, doesn't $6.7 million dollars seem like a sad little number?  Like, that's not even the down payment for the kind of apartment titans of industry like Pandit live in.

Is it that Citi is worse off than we thought?  Hell, when they pushed Chuck Prince of the ledge five years ago, they gave him $10.4 million.  Pandit's getting hosed.

This is just not the right time to be an embattled CEO.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:48 AM