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Sandy and Chris at PPS

Happy Halloween! This is Sandy and Chris, employees of Project for Public Spaces whose offices are in Manhattan.

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The New York Stock Exchange on Wall St

The New York Stock Exchange on Wall St

As of the closing bell the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up almost 900 points to 9062.12, closing above 9,000 for the first time in a little over a week. Financial news organizations that were pessimistic in the extreme this morning (e.g. Paul Farrell’s piece and David Brooks’s editorial in the NY Times), and are ebullient this afternoon. What’s going on?

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Would-be Obama assassin Daniel Cowart

Would-be Obama assassin Daniel Cowart

Look closely at his face — is he wearing makeup?

Remember the line in that song, “the freaks come out at night”? Nowadays the freaks come out at the end of October — and this is no Halloween joke! (Actually I can see this becoming a popular costume this year — you know how the news cycle is — and the thought chills me to the bone.)

Check out the story here.

This intervention almost speaks for itself. The Stepford Wives of Orange county are faceless, but their pudenda speak immodestly loud.

Whoever did the bruise makeup on this poster is a genius. Kudos to you my anonymous friend. (Poster Boy, is it you?!)

This is what Reagan really felt about you.

Conservative, free market dogma states that taxes are always bad and always restrict growth. On the other hand, the more money you have in your pocket, the faster the economy will grow as you spend those dollars on goods and services. Lower taxes always and everywhere means greater growth. Arthur Laffer put the idea into econo-speak in the 70s. If you feel like reading the Wikipedia entry (written by a freemarketeer) you can see how scientific sounding defenders of this ideology are. They have spent the better part of 30 years developing ironclad, mathematical proof that taxes are inherently stifling to growth. Alan Greenspan gave the lie to this pseudo-scientific nonsense last Thursday when he said ““The whole intellectual edifice [supporting supply-side economics] collapsed in the summer of last year.

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By J. D. Oxblood

Through a random sequence of events and acquaintances I was invited to attend a party at the Crunch Gym on Lafayette, just below Astor Place.  I was a little confused—a party?  At a gym?  Like a work-out party where we all hang out and pump each other up?  Chat with personal trainers and drink some smoothies?  Rub each other down in the shower?  I am IN.  But, no, it was a party party, with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres (that’s French for “snacks”).  At a GYM.  I had to check it out.

Click to get pumped up

"Party's Over" -- NYC subway, October 2008

"PARTYS OVER" graffiti, NYC subway, October 2008

The editor asked me to write more about NYC and less about national politics. So this is it.

We’ve all heard about the vices of city living: gangs, drugs, AIDS, high taxes, poor schools, crowded apartments, and no place to park. What are the virtues of urban living?

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by J.D. Oxblood

I’ve been out of town and fairly preoccupied, and am sorry to say that
I won’t be able to make it to the championship bout this weekend due to
a pressing social engagement. However, as it’s between the Bronx and
Queens, it’s sure to be a nail-biter–vicious and epic. As this is
your last chance to catch Derby fever until next season, I encourage
any and all to get out there and scream for your fave.

Tickets here.

http://www.gothamgirlsrollerderby.com/merch/?item=tickets

Kiss kiss,
JDX

The LIBOR is down and the market is up — hooray!!! I spoke too soon yet again. It looks like the VIX is considerably down too. That means less volatility in the markets and more sustained movement. Could we see DJIA 10,000 by election day? Just soon enough to reverse McCain’s electoral fortunes!

The Fed chief said today that if we spend another $300 billion on direct financial stimulus (e.g. in the form of a WPA style infrastructure build out) we might avoid the worst of this meltdown. Sounds good to me!

I only see one problem (and this is why I’m a conservative douche bag at heart): without a little financial pain d-bags like the ones at AIG who went quail hunting after the government (that is, US) gave them $85 billion will continue to go quail hunting — and I will continue to pay more than a quarter of my income in taxes. Where is the congressional bill to make financial shenanegans illegal?

The other problem I see is the massive federal debt. When is too much debt too much? When will the chickens laid by all the coke snorting, whore banging d-bags on Wall Street come home to roost? Because all debts must be paid, one way or another. Who is going to pay for feckless wastes of skin to go on hunting junkets in Europe? You and me obviously. But so far we haven’t felt like we’re paying it. What will it feel like?

Massive inflation is my guess. Maybe even hyper inflation. Because all debts must be paid in one way or another. It’s as good as the law of gravity.

The New York Post is reporting that nearly 3,000 people showed up for the Chelsea Job Fair yesterday (Wednesday October 15th). They compared it to a bread line. Remember when I said the world-wide intervention by governments to save the banks would at least keep us out of bread lines? <Gulp.>

You’re probably saying to yourself, Zach, have you lost your mind? How can you, a big city liberal, think Palin makes sense?! She is the antithesis of everything you believe in!

Well friends, in the first place Zach ain’t no big city liberal. He’s actually a small town conservative trapped in the body of a big city liberal. In the second place, Zach doesn’t think Palin is competent, he merely thinks she’s qualified for the highest office in the land. Still scratching your head?

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It looks like the bank rescue plan is going to work! Yay! Happy days are here again! This was the shortest Great Depression on record, lasting only three days, from Black Friday (October 10th, 2008) to Happy Mondays! (October 13th, 2008). After the DJIA lost over 50% of its value from its peak over the summer, it gained back 11% on Monday, and if the DJIA follows other world wide indexes today it stands to be back at 14,000 by Christmas.

Some Debby Downers are already saying this looks like a classic “Bear Market Bounce”. They say that — markets be damned — until Americans feel enough pain to make them give up their profligate, spendthrift ways the same mindset that brought us the problem will create new and unforseen problems.

But one thing is for sure, government intervention in global capital has never been this big in the entire history of the world. Whatever the new problems are, they won’t look like your grandparents’ problems. There probably won’t be bread lines in Manhattan (thank God!), nor will there be runs on the banks as frightened citizens desperately try to get greenbacks out of battered ATMs.

I’m gonna play Nostradamus here, and predict that the new problems will have less to do with the money supply (a problem the government has found an elegant solution for) and more to do with inflation. Bad debts are inescapable, as is the hangover they produce. It’s just a feature of overproduction and speculation. They must still work their way through global economies. But people won’t lose their cash. Instead the brand new, guaranteed bills governments all over the world are creating to make sure there is still money in your purse will loose their value when it becomes apparent that they aren’t redeemable for real work. (That’s what happens when people default on their debts — you can’t get the work they promised out of them.) How they deal with 2009’s inflation will be something to see.

The Nobel commission announced that Paul Krugman won the Nobel Prize in economics. Krugman won for his work on “the effects of free trade and globalisation and the driving force behind worldwide urbanization” as reported by the BBC.

On this side of the Pond we know and love Krugman for being one of the only public figures with the courage to stand up to Bush, Cheney, and Rove’s palpable lies when they were selling us the Iraq War and selling us (and our children and grandchildren) into debt.

Congratulations professor Krugman!

No, the picture above isn’t the Old West, or Kansas in the 1930s, or a movie set. This ruined house is in urban Buffalo, 2008.

Stephen Dubner of Freakonomics fame asks the question: why is it that major macroeconomics texts books gloss over the fact that periodical economic crises are endemic to capitalist accumulation? The discipline of macroeconomics came into being as a reaction to the Great Depression of the 1930s. Its purpose as an academic endeavor was to minimize or eliminate the business cycle.  The promise of macroeconomics tells us, if we’re smart enough we can think our way out of what looks like a permanent feature of capitalism.

The financial crisis of the last month has given the ultimate lie to the thought that economies can grow without also shrinking. (With two small exceptions in 1990 and 2002 the US has had sustained growth for 25 years. The unwinding of the current asset bubble in housing is the final end of that growth period.) Conservatives fear the business cycle because in a crisis the people look to the government to keep them from starving, and that, they feel, is socialism. This essay by Murray Rothbard puts the free market fundamentalist case eloquently. Liberals are hoping Obama can turn disaffection over jobs into votes, though liberals also are wary of being too gleeful about the impending crisis.

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With the economy making us all feel like it’s Halloween 24/7 out there, let’s look a little closer at NYC’s 365 Halloween and costume headquarters, Halloween Adventure, located at 104 4th Ave near Union Square. This store has managed to stick around for 16 years, growing and expanding to serve the needs of freaks, geeks, Goths, nerds, fetishists, exhibitionists and party-goers all year round. I’d like to say I just went to the store and observed the employees and customers, studiously taking notes and watching them from afar like some urban Serengeti journalist, but alas, that would be a lie. For you see, I am a casualty of these scary economic times, and as a means of self-preservation I took a job there so that I could have a reason to get up and out of the apartment in the morning, instead of obsessing over my non-existent career and meeting with yet another headhunter who is unable to get me a job earning a living wage. So I thought, “Why not see if I can find a seasonal job selling costumes for Halloween? They MUST be hiring.” And that’s exactly what I did. I put on my gothiest outfit and did my gothiest make-up and went down and got myself a job. So here are some of my findings thus far:

1) The economy is bad, but people’s escapist tendencies are in full swing. Even though the store says it’s figures are down from last year, the place does HUGE business. I happen to think that this is going to be the last BIG Halloween for a while, for 2 reasons:

A) Halloween is on a Friday this year. Parties all weekend! More parties = more costumes.

B) This is the last year regular, non-trust-fund, non-Wall Street people are going to be able to cling to the illusion that they have enough disposable income to blow hundreds of dollars on a costume and a night out for a pagan holiday (with economic depressions come piousness. Why is that??? Rhetorical: I’m familiar with the concept that God favors the good with prosperity.) Most costumes start off at around $50 and go up from there. A decent one is gonna run you closer to $100. And rentals are about $200. Even with my employee discount my costume came to $65. And that’s not counting the special modifications and additions I need to make to it or all the drinks that will be consumed.

2) No matter what the weather is like, girls wanna dress like hoochies on Halloween. It is the one day in our culture when women are expected and encouraged to wear as little as possible (We all know the “slutty” thing. You’re not just a nurse, you’re a slutty nurse. You’re not just Marie Antionette, you’re slutty Marie Antionette). This is NYC, folks, not Miami. And this year is shaping up to be a cooooolllllldddd Halloween! I’m working down in the “Adult” costumes and lemme tell ya, these girls can’t find outfits SHORT enough. Except if they’re hispanic and come in with their b/fs. Those guys practically want their g/fs in gorilla costumes. I thought these guys would love to have their girls show off their goodies! With all the white couples the guys wanted their g/fs to dare to bare as much as legally possible; with the hispanic guys, not so much. These guys don’t want their g/fs to look like hos, and they tell them so. Some more forcefully than others.

3) We don’t get a lot of requests for political or current events costumes down in the “Adult” costumes. Maybe it’s just that the political masks are readily found upstairs, or maybe people just aren’t doing the McCain/Obama/Palin thing this year. I’ve heard they’re selling fairly well, I just haven’t seen it. People tend to stick to the archetypes: Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Pirate, Queen, King, etc. My fave this year is Beer Garden Wench. V cute, and you get to try to get your b/f to do a couples costume, and for him that means lederhosen. Priceless.

4) And lastly, the biggest hooligans like the sexy cop uniforms. Go figure.

So enjoy this last big Halloween. Party likes it’s 1999. Because this may be the last good time we collectively have for a while. I’m even predicting a quiet New Year’s Eve this year. It’s scary out there!

This guy can't believe Palin's nerve.

This guy can't believe Palin's nerve.

Right now — today, October 5th, 2008 — the world is deciding to quit believing in a brighter future and start hoarding white rice and gasoline. The Dow Jones is down 700 points at the time of this writing, and European shares had their biggest one day drop ever.

If you want to see how bad it can be, check out this web lecture by Chris Martenson. If we contract to pre-bubble levels, we’re looking at Dow 6,000 — and the way things are going today that might not be too far off.

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