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March 6, 2014


This morning national treasure Gail Collins tackles a pressing issue that I spend way too much time thinking about: is the American Dream really just an oligarch problem?
My question for today is: Do you think it's fair to call these guys [that would be the Koch brothers] oligarchs? We have been thinking about oligarchs lately since our attention has been fixed on the former Soviet Union, which is Oligarch Central. In fact, the new Ukrainian government just responded to the tensions in its eastern region by dispatching two billionaires to serve as provincial governors.

"Oligarch" sounds more interesting than "superrich person with undue political influence." The Koch brothers have a genius for being publicly boring, while plowing vast sums of money into political action groups designed to make it difficult for anybody to make a good estimate of how much they've given to promote their goal of, um, saving the country.

Now, I realize that since it's become a proscribed strategy of the Democrats to demonize the Kochs, it might be a little less interesting to talk about them.  But I find the casual reference to the Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs noteworthy.  Obviously, the Kochs (and the ideologue billionaires more adept at keeping their names out of the press) don't seem to have the over-reaching power of the Russian moguls, but they certainly are spending an awful lot of money, and a lot of the ideas they espouse (the government's too big! taxes are theft! wealth is virtuous!) are calcifying into common sense amongst the angry Caucasian set that is the Koch's target audience, and the Kochs are not exactly being transparent about how they're spending their money.

I guess ultimately "oligarch" is a whole different thing than "billionaire," and I think that the negative connotation is deserved, at least in the case of these people who think that elections can be bought.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:29 AM

March 4, 2014

domino sugar deal reached

This is maybe not the best news in the world, but the developers of the Domino Sugar Factory on the Williamsburg waterfront have reached a deal with the de Blasio administration.
The plan had previously been delayed due to City Hall concerns that the 660 affordable housing units set aside from a total of 2,300 were too few. In the new deal, developer Jed Walentas has now agreed to reserve 700 units for low and moderate income residents and to up the configuration of affordable units to two and three-bedroom layouts. In exchange, Walentas' firm Two Trees will be able to receive a zoning exception allowing the project to rise 55 stories -- 20 higher than current regulations.

I mean, the project will continue (and it is terribly ugly), but the Mayor did use his muscle to get concessions.  (The affordable units will not be grand-fathered out, BTW.)  Maybe it's just cosmetic, but de Blasio is not rolling over for developers like the previous two mayors.

Of course, Barclay's Center, the arena that a neighborhood got knocked down for, has long promised 2,000 affordable units, which ain't here yet.  So there might be a bit of keeping the eye on the ball on this, too.

Posted by mrbrent at 5:47 PM