Feb 6, 2020
Sunday Bloody NYT Sunday: Special Maureen Dowd Guess You Better Slow That Mustang Down Edition
If you’re chilling this Easter morning and thinking “gee, I wish I could be pissed off at something ASAP,” the Times has got you covered with a big piece about how Republicans aren’t content with obsessing over Obamacare, because they’re able to split their attention and do the same with the Common Core standards.
Yes, a set of relatively harmless national guidelines about what kids should learn during K-12 years, a bipartisan bit of actual smartness introduced by the governors of 44 states and DC, is now the hot new thing to hate, pretty much only because Bamz likes it.
Conservatives denounce it as “Obamacore,” in what has become a surefire applause line for potential presidential hopefuls. Other Republicans are facing opprobrium from their own party for not doing more to stop it. At a recent Republican women’s club luncheon in North Carolina, a member went from table to table distributing literature that called the program part of “the silent erosion of our civil liberties.” […] Some conservatives, in an echo of their criticism of the health care law, say the standards are an overreach by the federal government.
Given that this current crop of conservatives sees the mere existence of a federal government headed by a blah person and a Democrat to be overreach, this should not be surprising. Jeb Bush and Chris Christie still support the standards, but weak-willed opportunists like Bobby Jindal no longer do, because communism or Agenda 21 or something.
Mr. Jindal’s position, a reversal for him, shows how quickly conservative opposition has grown. He recently announced his support for a bill that would remove Louisiana from the Common Core, on the same day the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, which supports the program, released a video featuring his earlier endorsement of it.
STFU Bobby Jindal. And not just about this. About everything.
Stay pumped up and pissed off, flexing those oiled anger muscles, with Emily Bazelon’s piece on the scourge of payday lenders, which are nothing but mechanisms to take money away from poor people under the guise of helping them.
In 2003, Tonya Burke was living in North Carolina with her two children when she got into financial trouble. She had fallen $500 behind on her rent and utilities, and neither of her boys’ fathers was able to chip in. Then she needed to take time off from work when her younger son, who was only 8 months old, had to have emergency intestinal surgery. After his recovery, she started working for $11 an hour as a secretary, “but my paychecks weren’t enough to cover the back bills and the new ones too,” she says. “I was at a point in my life where I didn’t want to ask anyone else for help.” There was a payday lender across the street from her office. “It seemed like a good solution.”
Even though North Carolina made payday lending illegal in 2001, five lenders got around the law by affiliating with out-of-state banks to offer short-term, high-interest loans. So Burke was able to walk into a storefront owned by Nationwide Budget Finance and leave with a cashier’s check for $600. When the loan came due on her next payday, however, she couldn’t pay it and immediately began to fall behind on the fees. So she took out another loan to cover the first one. And then took out another to cover that one — and then another and another. Eventually she wound up with seven loans, each for only hundreds of dollars, but with annual interest rates of 300 to 500 percent. It wasn’t long before the lenders started calling, she says, threatening with jail if she couldn’t make her payments.
This is nothing new, of course, but Bazelon’s piece details how the Supreme Court’s recent decisions upholding mandatory arbitration that bars class actions (a thing that we lawsplained to you about a few days ago) is a super-effective tool for payday lenders to avoid litigation that might actually cost them money, and forces poor consumers to sue them one at a time, again and again.
Since we’re always here to stoke the flames of class warfare, let’s whip right from reading about how hard companies fuck the poor to how great it is to be a rich person and check out this week’s big real estate sale. For a mere $42 million (hey, down from $48 million, so a bargain!) you can get this.
The Prasada, on the southwest corner of West 65th Street, was built in 1907 in the French Second Empire style; the building was converted to co-ops in 1973. Besides 45 windows, the 6,500-square-foot unit has two fireplaces, four bedrooms, six baths and a corner library. There is also 50 feet of park frontage.
Who are we kidding? None of you people can ever get that, but someone can, which is why we should all burn it all down.
Speaking of rich people, there’s a piece on Robin Leach, whose guilty pleasure bit of ridiculous, the teevee show “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” debuted 30 years ago. Remember that thing?
Somehow, Robin Leach managed to fawn over the rich while yelling about them, which is kind of a feat. Now he’s relocated to Vegas to cover the opulence there, and is still an enormous dick to people that are not rich.
It takes two cellphones, a bejeweled Pippo Italia wristwatch, a spreadsheet and a ruthless sense of efficiency to get it all done. “I will meet you at exactly 1 p.m., and you will have me until exactly 2 p.m.,” he had warned me by telephone. (He actually stayed until 2:03, but only because he spent a few minutes chastising our waiter. “Who did your hair?” Mr. Leach demanded. “One of your co-workers and not a barber? That explains it, then.”)
We will, however, cut Leach a tiny bit of slack for being willing to play himself in Jermaine Dupri and Nate Dogg’s “Ballin’ Out Of Control” video, because that means at least Robin Leach has a sense of what an absurd symbol of wealth-seeking and wealth-fawning he really is.
If you need to bring that blood pressure back down, the Times has just the thing, fortunately, with several great features with snappy media remembering the 1964 World’s Fair as we hit the 50th anniversary. If those pieces grab you, you might consider picking up Joseph Tirella’s great book on the fair, Tomorrow-Land,that came out earlier this year.
There’s not much in the way of our poor beleaguered social etiquette guy today, as he’s only forced to field a few relatively routine questions (should you talk in crowded public bathrooms on your cellphone? nope, not really!) and doesn’t have to take any questions from rich parents behaving badly, which is what we really love. Good for etiquette guy, sad for us.
Thomas Friedman’s column is also a bit of a letdown this week, mostly because he just lets Laszlo Bock, the person in charge of hiring at Google, yammer on about what Google wants in an employee. What does Google want? People who take hard classes, like computer science, and get Bs, but not easy classes like English, where they get an A+, except the liberal arts are also too still important, but really only economics is important. All of this is probably totally true and useful advice about how to get hired at Google, but we bristle at his breezy denunciation of huge swaths of knowledge regardless. Sadly, we can’t really lay the blame for this at the feet of Friedman, as this reads more like book report/interview than vintage Tommy.
We’re not nearly as lucky as Ross Douthat, because they let him write about economics this week under the guise of talking about Thomas Piketty’s big new econ book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. In the most quintessential Ross moment of all Ross moments, he actually says he doesn’t understand the economic models of the book but will nonetheless yell about the social implications he has somehow divined from the thing. So what does Ross get out of a Big Book on Marxist theories? That REAL Marxists should now think what Ross Douthat thinks, duh.
And somewhere in this pattern, perhaps, lies the beginnings of a more ideologically complicated critique of modern capitalism — one that draws on cultural critics like Daniel Bell and Christopher Lasch rather than just looking to material concerns, and considers the possibility that our system’s greatest problem might not be the fact that it lets the rich claim more money than everyone else. Rather, it might be that both capitalism and the welfare state tend to weaken forms of solidarity that give meaning to life for many people, while offering nothing but money in their place.
Which is to say that while the Marxist revival is interesting enough, to become more relevant it needs to become a little more … reactionary.
Yes, Marxists everywhere. throw off the chains of believing that the state is actually obliged to provide a bare minimum of sustenance and opportunity so that you don’t die alone in the streets, and embrace the hot new RossMarxist idea that the welfare state sucks, which is somehow totally consistent with Marxism we have no idea why.
Christ, the very worst thing about reading Douthat is that the Times pretends he is some sort of Renaissance Man who is uniquely qualified to write about anything he wants. The greatest service that could be done for humankind right now is for someone to deflate Douthat’s enormous ego.
Oh wait. We are wrong. The greatest service that could be done for humankind right now is clawing out our collective eyes so we do not have to read about Maureen Dowd owning an iconic 50-year-old Mustang that is still so sexy, because it carries with it the uneasy subtext that Maureen Dowd is still sporting sexy curves at 62, goddammit, and you need to know.
IT’S weird to be jealous of your car. But I am.
Men look at my car with such naked lust, their eyes devouring the curves and chrome, that I often feel as though I’m intruding on an intimate moment. […] It’s the Proustian madeleine of cars, stirring old dreams and new. Guys sometimes follow in the American beauty’s dreamy wake, by car or by bike, and leave mash notes on the windshield with their numbers, pleading for me to sell it.
Keep being jealous, MoDo, because you are damn right that car is sexier than you will ever be or have ever been, probably because the 1965 Mustang is not weirdly obsessed with the lifestyles and penises of past presidents. No one — and we mean NO ONE — is looking for that fixation in a partner. Or a car. Sorry not sorry MoDo.