Superb Owl Has Taken Over Times Square

Superb Owl Has Taken Over Times Square

Colbert is calling it the Superb Owl in order to get around the very litigious NFL and their trademarked “big game” (wink wink).

I got this picture of Cletus, a 15 foot tall version of the usually digital Fox Sports robot, festooned upon their remote broadcast booth in Times Square. The entire 5 blocks of pedestrian walkways are now taken up by temporary broadcast facilities from Fox, ESPN, NFL Network and key sponsors. Then down each block you have the support trailers that feed the broadcasts and underfoot are the 1000s of feet of wires linking all.

While taking the picture I was propositioned by Minnie Mouse. A diminutive young lady who makes a living taking pictures with tourists while dressed in a plush Minnie Mouse costume came over to me and asked in a decidedly Asian accent if I wouldn’t like her picture. I didn’t have a child with me. So it felt weird and not a little like a come on. I politely told her I was not interested in taking her picture. Then when I was walking away I noticed her dancing suggestively in front of one of the many Times Square cleaning crew members who was enjoying it way too much.

Kinky boots indeed.

Barry Ritholtz – Global Warming Battle is Over Market Share, Not Science

Barry Ritholtz’s The Big PIcture Blog is terrific. He’s an investor and finance guy who explains economic issues in approachable terms. He also writes for Bloomberg and makes frequent appearances on Stand Up With Pete Dominick on Sirius 104 to talk about economic issues. 

His very realistic approach to the climate change issue is thus:

My perspective on global warming is different from some. As a car and boat enthusiast, the various gasoline-powered vehicles I own crank out a few thousand horsepower and generate a not-insignificant amount of pollution. However, I don’t pretend climate change is a hoax or that it won’t matter in the future. So long as creating pollution is cheap and legal, we won’t see many people changing personal behavior. The most likely fix for this is some form of a carbon tax.

To Ritholtz the scientific debate is over. What remains is the debate about how we’ll remediate and to a very large degree who will win the jockeying for “market share” and who will adapt and invest or disinvest wisely. Unfortunately, our best hopes for coming up with a plan that’s politically viable is for business interests other than oil and coal to decide what’s in their best interest and influence legislation. Make no mistake they will be doing it to bolster their bottom line firstly, and to save mankind secondly. 

Business and the military have been modeling potential global climate change scenarios for years. They’re well ahead of the stupid political debate where one side calls it a hoax and nothing gets done.

Investors should be considering this as a fight over market share, not a scientific debate. That is the approach taken by McKenzie Funk in a new book, Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming. The impact is across many industries. It’s time to throw out your preconceptions of climate change as a fight between green hippies and Big Oil. This is far broader and more complex. And it goes far beyond energy, to include agriculture, insurance, transportation, construction, recreation, real estate, energy exploration, food production, health care minerals and even finance.

The right has to come to reality and stop science denial. The left has to realize that short of getting money out of politics and fearlessly enacting real change like a carbon tax, our real allies in this fight are our natural “enemies” of industry and the military. We will have to work with them to move the GOP and the public towards a consensus for reasonable action.

The Genius of Bipartisan Compromise II – The Minimum Wage Reckoning

On Jan. 17 I noted that 75 economists were urging our brilliant and honorable leaders to raise the minimum wage and the GOP were sticking their fingers in their ears and singing “nah-nah-nah, I can’t hear you” (Grammy winner, best taunt song 1973).

Now 602 economists are urging them to do it. That’s 300 buff, greased warrior economists defending Sparta’s economy – times two!  PLUS TWO!

The 602 economists — including seven Nobel laureates and eight former presidents of the American Economic Association — have signed an open letter calling on President Obama, House leaders John Boehner (R-OH), Eric Cantor (R-VA), and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Senate leaders Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2016, and index it to protect against inflation thereafter.

The GOP could ignore the 75. Can they defend their kingdom of Stupidstan against the 602? King Boehner the Orange has stood stalwart against such a raise in the minimum wage claiming that raising the price of labor will cost jobs.

According to the PhDs who signed the EPI letter, however, Boehner is flatly wrong.

“In recent years there have been important developments in the academic literature on the effect of increases in the minimum wage on employment, with the weight of evidence now showing that increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market,” the letter reads. “Research suggests that a minimum-wage increase could have a small stimulative effect on the economy as low-wage workers spend their additional earnings, raising demand and job growth, and providing some help on the jobs front.”

The reality is that the citizens of Sparta, Persia and America all agree that the minimum wage should be raised. I expect that Boehner the Orange will continue his opposition. The issue then will go to the ballots in 2014 and be for Democrats what gay marriage was 10 years ago for Republicans, inspiring their base to come out and vote and boosting the electoral chances of Democratic tickets across the country.

The Genius of Bipartisan Compromise

Nobody gets everything they want.

Nobody gets everything they need.

Problems get only partially addressed and then linger on for decades often getting worse and metastasizing into ever more complicated problems that are even less likely to be tackled by cowardly pols.

Frightening as it may be, this is actually one of the better case scenarios. The above is still better than not being addressed at all and benign neglect. So count your blessings that we live in the best system yet devised for human government.

A compromise was reached on the $1 trillion farm bill that has been in negotiation for 2 years

The bipartisan agreement, two years after lawmakers began work on the nearly $1 trillion bill, is a major step forward in reauthorizing hundreds of farm and nutrition programs that must be renewed every five years. And, at least for now, it brings an end to the partisan fighting that stalled two previous attempts to pass the legislation. The bill would reduce spending by about $23 billion over the next 10 years.

So the House GOP wanted to cut $40 billion from food stamps and drug test recipients. They voted against a bill that would only have cut $20 billion. The Dems in the Senate proposed cutting it $40 million to fulfill their role of self-compromising invertibrates.

Many Dems argued forcefully that any cuts to such an essential, life-sustaining program, in the midst of harrowing economic conditions, was irresponsible. But arguing about irresponsibility to a body that believes that people on the terrorist watch list should be able to purchase assault weapons is a pretty futile act.

So blah blah blah we need to be thankful that our fellow Americans who are food insecure will only have to endure, if it passes, an $800 million cut.

“The bill is a compromise,” said Ray Gaesser, an Iowa farmer who is president of the American Soybean Association. “It ensures the continued success of American agriculture, and we encourage both the House and the Senate to pass it quickly.”

Antihunger advocates criticized the agreement.

“They are gutting a program to provide food for hungry people to pay for corporate welfare,” said Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.

Ain’t democracy grand? 

A Funny Tree Grew in Brooklyn – When Marijuana Grew Wild in NYC

The Brooklyn Public Library’s blog has a fascinating story complete with pictures illustrating the NYC Sanitation Dept. effort in the early 50s to eradicate marijuana plants grown by the enterprising Nancy Botwins of the Truman era. Pot-trepreneurs cultivated marijuana in massive numbers in the open lots of Queens and Brooklyn until they were confronted by the General Inspector of the Sanitation Dept. fulfilling the role of the overstuffed fuddy-duddy always obsessed with the idea that somebody somewhere is having a good time. He directed his special “White Wing Squad” to find and destroy the devil weed.

The fact that there was a special squadron of incorruptible garbage men like a sanitation version of the Untouchables is hilarious enough. As they say, “NY was no friend to pot.”

Over the course of the summer about 41,000 pounds of marijuana were uprooted and destroyed during a campaign to eradicate the psychotropic stuff from vacant lots in the city. After Queens, Brooklyn accounted for the largest haul — about 17,200 pounds…

The (Brooklyn) Eagle reported that the “drug plant” was growing here in “lush impudence.”

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They do not talk about the early disastrous effort to burn the plants, which, when the wind changed, caused a massive run on the the record stores and pizzarias of Brooklyn and the Great Jazz Record and Pizza Shortage of 1951 my parents told me about. 

Koch Brothers Trying to Buy 2014 (while we fiddle about 2016)

Stories about Hilary “super PACs” and such are sadly expected. In the meantime, there’s 2014 and the Koch’s and their ilk are opening up the spigot in the hopes of another 2010 and a further plutocrat takeover of our government.

The Democrats have smaller versions of these operations, though they are more focused on building a super PAC to collect unlimited donations supporting Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2016, and they lack the resources to compete with the Kochs at this stage.

I know it’s inevitable that all the media attention will be on pretty and shiny 2016 rather than rumpled policy wonk 2014 and I might as well be screaming at clouds, but Jeez! If Democrats focus 1 second or 1 penny on 2016 that could be pointed at any of the senate, house and state house races of 2014 that will decide who decides, shame on them.

If 2014 goes badly (knock wood, cross fingers), then Pres. Hilary will be playing from behind and fighting the continuing dismantling of the 20th century rather than implementing any sort of 21st century progress.

I’m focusing all my money and attention on 2014, please do the same, rinse, repeat.