Chris Lehmann

Chris Lehmann

Most Recently: Dick Joke

Germans Are Making Brand-Slaves of Your Children

It’s that magical time of the year when brand preferences are being lodged in the consumer psyche by any means necessary, be it free online shipping offers or conventional “doorbuster” style shopper stampedes. (Plus, in an admirable show of advance conditioning, there are those sidebar Four Loko-fueled parking lot brawls.) READ MORE

Our Rich Culture Heroes Are Shilling Perma-Adolescence

The great social prophet in consumer society is the bearer of taste refinement. This is a figure who can assuage our innermost disquiet over the dizzying rounds of having, holding and re-leveraging that make up our economic lives. Sure, we might, from time to time, inspect the great storehouse of disposable junk and value-free financial instruments that sustain the fictions of our pecuniary well-being, and find a still small voice offering variations of the great existential questions “what does it all mean?” or “why bother?” But tastemakers can briskly smooth over our worry-ravaged brows; they realign the often brutal prerogatives of the market with the heaving tremors of the soul, and divine in the passing stuff of our consuming fancies the very essence of our expressive being. READ MORE

When They Say "Everyone" Must Sacrifice, They Mean Poor People

There is no spectacle quite so stirring as the pundit swaggering to the bar of public opinion to deliver a good and shrill scolding. So let us tend to the chastisements of Washington Post columnist David Broder—recently heard hailing an invasion of Iran as an economic stimulus measure—as he now urges the stiff medicine of the Bowles-Simpson deficit-reduction plan on a feckless American public. Broder is, after all, the dean of American political journalists (though I’ve always found this locution puzzling, since so few political journalists actually seem to graduate—and perhaps more to the point, when was the last time anyone reported an actual dean saying anything remotely relevant to anything outside his or her own chosen bureaucratic warren?) But let such caviling pass: Deans are also in the business of study-body discipline, so let’s glumly don our letter jackets and shuffle over to his office waiting-room for our paddling. READ MORE

The Devaluing of London's Marital Bond Market

While other overclass miscalculations spark bailout after bailout, dissolving alpha-grade marital bonds is a far trickier business. There is, for instance, the matter of shielding your liquid assets from a grasping ex, to say nothing of the messy personal details that tend to come out in bitterly contested divorce proceedings. READ MORE

Democracy’s Rich Pageant

Happy Election eve, everyone! We’ve already been solemnly instructed on how tomorrow’s vote is a referendum on a poncey New Elitism, the hardy, head-stomping virtues of the Tea Party, and our ever-precarious national sanity. But the 2010 midterms are really the coming-out party for the political bagman class, fortified by the Supreme Court’s 2009 Citizens United decision knocking down the last anemic remnants of campaign finance regulation. With a final infusion of GOP money down the homestretch, this year’s midterms are the most expensive history, clocking in at around $4 billion, outpacing the $3.1 billion price tag for the 2000 presidential cycle, and possibly inching toward the $4.14 billion tab for 2004, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. READ MORE

The Fraudulent Case for the Benefits of Wealth Inequality

Americans, having seen the fruits of their productive lives waste away over the past decade in a free-market fantasia, have evidently resorted to the most efficient psychic adjustment on offer. They steadfastly refuse to believe that we live in conditions of dire wealth inequality—while also persisting in the belief that the comparatively level social order of their fond imagining needs to be more equal still. The sheer scale of this fancy calls to mind the epitaph that William Holden delivers for Gloria Swanson’s character in Billy Wilder’s classic study in Hollywood delusion, Sunset Boulevard: “Life, which can be strangely merciful, had taken pity on Norma Desmond. The dream she had clung to so desperately had enfolded her.” READ MORE

The Last Mortgage Robo-Barons

For people saddled with unsustainable mortgage payments, foreclosure proceedings come with a heavy emphasis on the "closure" part-since they mean eviction, devastated credit and near-permanent status as a financial pariah. But the purveyors of the fraudulent debt instruments behind the nation's present foreclosure tsunami play, as always, by a different set of rules. For even in managing the wind-down of home loans poisoned by their own special brand of recklessly securitized debt, American banks continue hewing to the same fee-seeking, asset-stripping mode of enterprise that originally jeopardized the U.S. housing market, and much of the broader economy along with it. Now, as then, they've distorted the housing market with howlingly unprofessional and dubiously legal conduct. And now, as then, they're pursuing short-term financial incentives that have nothing to do with the actual provisions in the contracts they're legally obligated to honor. READ MORE

After Goldman Sachs, the Value of Greece, Isle by Isle

The Greek island known variously as Holy Ghost, The Island of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, Holy Trinity, or just plain Trinity, owes its greatest renown, despite its lavish New Testamentish nomenclature, to the cameo role it played in the pagan classical age. This 12-acre slip of an atoll was a staging ground for the Persian armies laying siege to Thermopylae, the famed last stand of those hot, well-oiled Spartan souls hymned by our own latter-day Thucydides, Frank Miller. Now, however, Greek government officials are straining to find a way to convert Holy Ghost, and the nation's 6000 or so other island outcroppings into liquid assets, so as to begin paying down the country's colossal €400 billion debt flowing from the European Union's bailout of the basket case known as the Greek economy. READ MORE

The Gold ATM Comes to America

It is, perhaps, the logical sequel to a decade in which Americans were encouraged to use their homes as ATMs: the recent announcement that next month will see the debut of the first gold-dispensing ATMs in the United States. As any casual Glenn Beck viewer will tell you, the gold market is booming; the metal eclipsed the $1,300-an-ounce threshold recently, the highest price it's reached in history. That's nearly double the price it fetched in 2008, and nearly four times its price when the current gold craze took off in the early aughts. READ MORE

Reality Television

The eternal, baffling conceit of all television is that it's showing you something real, when, more often than not, it's telling you how to think. This is especially the case now that producers have deranged the very notion of reality into a genre convention all its own. Viewers of the reality genre are expected to double down on the myth of televisual exposure, since reality TV purports to dig deeper into the human drama than mere entertainment fare does. READ MORE