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When Alan Met Ayn: "Atlas Shrugged" And Our Tanked Economy

Originally published April 12th, 2011.

That pill-popping, boy-crazy nincompoop Ayn Rand has got a lot to answer for. Indeed, it's not too much of a stretch to say that we owe at least part of the recent economic crisis to her and her philosophy of Objectivism, since former Fed chief Alan Greenspan was a lifelong disciple of both.

The two first met in the '50s. Back then, a gang of acolytes, calling themselves the Collective, used to gather at Rand's apartment on East 36th Street every Saturday night so they could tell each other how smart they all were. Along came Greenspan one evening, shy and somber.

It [...]

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Death To Zombies

Our paranormal epics, action flicks, and monster movies are stuffed with metaphor. The billion-dollar success of Christopher Nolan’s bleak Dark Knight alerted studio executives back in 2008: metaphorical thinking was in. Summer blockbusters could grapple with bigger themes and darker allegories without turning off their sebum-soaked ticketholders. This gimmick has seeped across all the blockbuster industries: graphic novels, television, young adult books. You’re surely familiar with the biggies by now: The mutant struggle for assimilation is about gay civil rights. Vampires represent our anxiety about dying alone or, worse, never dying alone. Zombies, their uprising, and our anticipated armed struggle against the undead horde is metaphor for plague—specifically, AIDS.

Zombie [...]

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How Are You Coping With The Great Twitter Downage?

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Dick Joke

Oh dear, here we go again: “Wall Street is a meritocracy, for the most part,” an irate but of course unnamed onetime Citigroup executive confides to junior father confessor Gabriel Sherman in this week’s hallucinatory New York magazine cover story, “The Emasculation of Wall Street.” “If someone has a bonus, it’s because they’ve created value for their institution.”

In the jumpy, suggestible universe of Gabe Sherman, Wall Street sleuth, things really are that simple: The beleaguered financial overclass creates value, in a rationally ordered system of maximally awarded talent. And the clueless public sector, intoxicated on post-meltdown regulatory prerogative, meddles with the primal forces of nature, skews executive [...]

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Bow To Coleen, Queen Of The WAGs

A column dedicated to explaining Britain's manufactured celebrities to an American audience.

Heartening news for those unjaded souls who, in the face of relentless evidence to the contrary, hold dear the notion of Great Britain as a bastion of civility: a new research study has debunked “the common perception of a Rude Britannia.” Apparently, in between drunken fisticuffs, sticking pins into crudely formed likenesses of Kate Winslet and casting votes on reality shows, the denizens of Her Majesty’s Kingdom are quite polite to one another.

Through my shock, I ponder the possible impetus behind this investigation, and thus call to mind a display of decency and breeding such [...]

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Los Angeles, April 29 – May 4, 1992

April of 1992 seems like paradise now, in certain ways. The economy was bouncing back nicely, thank you, even if it wasn't yet fully obvious. We users of Prodigy, Compuserve and AOL were all yapping incessantly on our BBSes, and we were about to try out that newfangled "e-mail" thing. "Are you on e-mail?" people would soon be saying. Bill Clinton had only just clinched the Democratic nomination. (That Arkansas governor! Did you know he was a Rhodes Scholar, too?)

But the year before, in March, a man named Rodney King had been tasered twice and then beaten half to death by a pack of Los Angeles police officers. The [...]

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England Forced to Notice Young, Poor, Angry People

And now we enter phase three of massive social unrest, in which the media wonders: who are "the looters" and why might they be "upset"? Literally: "The crowds involved in violence and looting are drawn from a complex mix of social and racial backgrounds." Oh I see. And: "Two girls who took part in Monday night's riots in Croydon have boasted that they were showing police and 'the rich' that 'we can do what we want.'" Why didn't anyone tell the media before that England was populated with a huge resentful underclass? WHY WAS THERE NOT A PRESS RELEASE ABOUT THIS?

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What Can China Teach London About a "Harmonious Society"?

Tonight, at PowerHouse Arena, it is the Brooklyn Launch Party for Tom Scocca's Beijing Welcomes You, a nonfiction chronicle of what Beijing has so recently become. As China is now (well, as usual) so much in the news, we asked him some questions!

Choire Sicha: Tom Scocca, as you have written a book called Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future, which is brand new and good and also a book I have read, you are the only expert on China.* (*That I personally know.) Is this a great week for China or what?

Tom Scocca: If you set aside the fact that all [...]

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This Weekend in London

After Mark Duggan was shot by police in North London, in Tottenham, four days ago, the family conducted a peaceful vigil and march to the police station (as one does in black communities around the world; standard practice in Oakland, East New York, etc.). There were discrepancies in the account of Duggan's death, as usual. (Police said he'd shot an officer; instead, as usual, an officer apparently shot an officer.) Family and friends waited outside the police station for hours and were ignored. Later that night, a different kind of demonstration emerged, and 26 police were injured in what ensued. Over the weekend, riots and mini-riots "broke out" from [...]

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May 21: The Rapture Meets My 40th Birthday

As lead-ups to fortieth birthdays go, I recommend steering clear of subway preachers who forecast the Rapture for the very day you're most dreading. For 18 months now, End-Timers have been gathering daily, at the top of the stairway to the train I take home from work, to press “Judgment Day” tracts on unsuspecting commuters. I'm sure someone else, someone who lacked my fundamentalist baggage, would've laughed at the coincidence and shaken it off, but to me it felt personal when the men turned up there, with their pamphlets and placards and dire predictions, as though the God I grew up fearing and eventually turned my back on [...]

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Let's Talk 'Hammer Of The Gods': Quaaludes, Sharks And Baked-Bean Baths

Full disclosure, my darlings! Not only am I reading Stephen Davis' SHOCKINGLY RAD Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga for the very first time (at the behest/demand of the dissipated-yet-charming Alex Balk), but my initial Led Zeppelin knowledge base was as follows: they are not the same people as Def Leppard, whose music was featured in the recent art film Balls of Fury. (I also have "Kashmir" and "Whole Lotta Love" on my iPod, and, although I would have been unwilling to swear to it in a court of law prior to reading this book, I could probably have identified them as the "Stairway To Heaven" guys.) I'm [...]

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Epidemic of Looting Terrorizes… the Media

In the wake of the devastation of last week's weather—178 tornadoes in two days! Hundreds dead, many missing—states from Tennessee to Alabama to Texas are beset with looters, we hear. Seven in Ohio! Three in St. Louis! Two in North Carolina! Maybe 20 all told in Alabama! Literally, perhaps three dozens of people have been arrested for looting in the past week.

(Can we have a sidebar? "In Alabama, businesses are prohibited after disasters from increasing the price of items for sale or rent by 25 percent or more above the average price charged in the same area within the last 30 days." [...]

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How Everyone Got Away With "Collective Embezzlement"

It's worth taking a long, slow read of this morning's Times story on lack of prosecution in general and particularly the lack of Justice Department civil or criminal cases regarding the "financial crisis." For one thing, there are at least two instances of someone directly lying to the reporters in the story (although it is unknown to us which of the parties giving conflicting accounts is lying). Elsewhere, people put the blame on regulatory inaction: "In 1995, bank regulators referred 1,837 cases to the Justice Department. In 2006, that number had fallen to 75. In the four subsequent years, a period encompassing the worst of the crisis, an average [...]

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When Alan Met Ayn: "Atlas Shrugged" And Our Tanked Economy

That pill-popping, boy-crazy nincompoop Ayn Rand has got a lot to answer for. Indeed, it's not too much of a stretch to say that we owe at least part of the recent economic crisis to her and her philosophy of Objectivism, since former Fed chief Alan Greenspan was a lifelong disciple of both.

The two first met in the '50s. Back then, a gang of acolytes, calling themselves the Collective, used to gather at Rand's apartment on East 36th Street every Saturday night so they could tell each other how smart they all were. Along came Greenspan one evening, shy and somber.

It took a while for Greenspan and [...]

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Some Ways That the Egyptian Revolution Could Still Die

It definitely now seems certain that the Egypt protest movement will not be petering out! It also sounds like tomorrow will be a huge, huge day. Yet still there are a couple of ways in which the protest movement there can be destroyed or damaged—and "total state crackdown" is an unlikely one. The state most likely does not have those kind of resources, and the movement has reached a state where state-sponsored violence will be met with resistance.

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Stand-Up in the Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland: Journal Excerpts of the Omega Comedian

9/22/12 New opening bit: Who do we got out here tonight? Hold on a minute. Is that…? Is that the Road Warrior out there? Do we got Mad Max out in the audience this evening? Wait. No, that’s just Tina Turner’s weave from Beyond Thunderdome. (Start singing “We Don’t Need Another Hero” and try to get the audience to sing and clap along.) Segue into: How is Mel Gibson still racist? There’s only one skin color now—dirt—and he’s that color, too!

9/26/12 Did a show at an actual comedy club instead of some six-legged-rat-infested dump—must still be in use because of its basement location/surplus of booze they had on Doomsday—and [...]

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Pedro Espada: Down For The Count?

It resonated richly, bouncing off the walls on Bainbridge Avenue: "Mierrrrrrrrrrrrrrrda." Pedro Espada, Jr., his squat frame gone tense, just received word of a massive lawsuit filed against him by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. It was April 20th. A day later, the FBI came. At least that's how I imagine his response. The endless saga of the Bronx politico's corruption and malfeasance is so farcical, so theatrical, that it easily could be scripted by David Simon. For a moment, it appeared that Espada would evade his ethical conundrums, scot-free, just like another Democratic State Senator, Clay Davis from Maryland. But now the state's Democratic party is trying to purge [...]

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A Complete List of "Worried" Goldman Sachs Clients Presented by the 'Times'

"Goldman's many hats – trader, adviser, underwriter, matchmaker of buyers and sellers, and salesperson – has left some clients feeling bruised or so wary that they have sometimes avoided doing business with the bank." –

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The Crash Of '10: An Oral History

The Great Market Crash of May 6, 2010, affected everyone in different ways. With the passage of time we can look back at the events of that day from a historical standpoint. In three separate interviews we got the perspective of a trio of bloggers from The Awl, a semi-popular website of that era.

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Let's Go Do Some Crimes In Colorado City

If you are into raping or looting or arson or jewel thievery or what have you, might we suggest you ply your trade in Colorado Springs, CO? Due to that municipality's distaste for taxes, "More than a third of the streetlights in Colorado Springs will go dark Monday. The police helicopters are for sale on the Internet. The city is dumping firefighting jobs, a vice team, burglary investigators, beat cops – dozens of police and fire positions will go unfilled." On the negative side of the ledger, the parks and pools are all going to fall to shit, so your recreational activities will be somewhat curtailed, but you'll probably [...]

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