Monthly Archives: June 2010

bp image ads come at taxpayer expense

It’s been nearly a week since the disappointing culmination of the NBA Finals, and, as the dream of a Celtics 18th championship recedes from consciousness, I can finally begin to reflect on the spectator experience of watching this year’s series finale. And surprisingly, what stands out most prominently is the multitude of times BP ran a commercial attempting to convince everyone that they are taking responsibility for the socio-ecological-economic travesty in the Gulf.

As I’ve noted before, the fact that big businesses can write off their immense advertising budgets, while at the same time unfairly influencing our cultural dialogue, seems truly unjust, especially in this time of needed revenue and “corporate personhood.” But this recent BP persuasion campaign is an extra-uncalled-for slap in the face.  Continue reading

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Filed under Accountable Wealth, Advertising, Economic Justice, Fair Taxation

in memoriam: manute bol

At seven foot, six inches tall, Manute Bol was a big man on the basketball court. As a former NBA star who gave away nearly all of his life’s earnings, he was an even bigger man off the basketball court.

Manute Bol passed away a few days ago, at the young age of 47, having spent half his life using the money he made in America to fund philanthropic causes in his native Sudan.

“Overwhelmed by an amount of wealth unheard of where he came from,” reports The Huffington Post, “Bol dedicated his life to charitable endeavors.”

After immigrating to the United States in 1982, Bol was drafted by the Washington Bullets in 1985, and enjoyed a productive 10-year NBA career. Bol returned to his homeland often while playing, and even more frequently after retiring from pro ball.

He was involved in a number of philanthropic causes, including the Alliance for the Lost Boys (along with What Is the What author Dave Eggers, and current Sudanese-born NBA star Luol Deng), and the Sudan Sunrise Foundation.

He will be missed.

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Filed under Philanthropy, Social Change

slow money, part one

At the end of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, teenage protagonist Ferris Bueller notes, “Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

No truer, less intentional words were ever spoken about our economy.

We’ve all heard the phrase “too big to fail” a cagillion times in recent months. But maybe there is an essential point of view missing from our economic dialogue. Maybe the problem is that the key elements of our economy are too big to survive. Too big, too fast, and too complicated. That’s certainly how Woody Tasch views it.

A couple of years ago, Woody Tasch started Slow Money, an economic analysis alliance that specializes in merging philanthropy with sustainable investments. And their essential strategy is perfect for these lazy, hazy summer days of finance: slow money down.

“There is such a thing as money that is too fast, companies that are too big,finance that is too complex,” they note. “Therefore, we must slow our money down.”  Continue reading

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Filed under Consumerism, Economic Opportunity, Philanthropy

term of the intermittent time period: stuntertainment

Stuntertainment: n. “the undertaking of a gimmicky project or activity for the purpose of attracting publicity and parlaying said publicity into a payday.” – J. Maureen Henderson

see also: “frugality experiments

How is it that, in the midst of this economic recession, not to mention the historic implosion, or at least widespread transformation of the publishing industry, such a gimmicky genre can achieve this level of notoriety? Who is buying these books? And what does this trend suggest about popular culture’s mediation of our current collective socio-economic state?

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Filed under Class

class observations of american idol

Like some 24.2 million viewers, I watched the final episode of this season’s American Idol last week. And like nearly a quarter billion of my media-consuming comrades, I was treated to Simon Cowell’s class-consciousless rendering of the American Dream.

Idol’s star judge has long been invested in the notion that American Idol “is really about is the American Dream.” And this past season, the wealthy Briton has viewed eventual-winner Lee DeWyze though those same rosy, rags-to-riches-tinted glasses. As a final comment to DeWyze, whose job in a paint store was mentioned seemingly dozens of times, the uber-judge offered this observation: “This [a former paint store clerk getting his big chance on American Idol] is what the competition was designed for.”

It can be difficult to assess the economic realities of those around us (or even, to give an honest assessment of our own class situation). We all code up and/or down the class spectrum at various points in our lives (sometimes even during the course of our weekly routines) according to personal comforts, insecurities and desires. Class is far too complicated to be reduced to a term like “paint salesman.”

Nonetheless, Cowell’s summation seemed like an odd, almost forced insistence on such a simplified storyline. Especially given runner-up Crystal Bowersox’s own rags-to-riches storyline accolades.

Here are some observations of the two finalists regarding their presumed class stories, and Mr. Cowell’s paint-stained obsession with the myth of the American Dream, and his and Idol’s place in it.  Continue reading

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Filed under American Dream, Class, Economic Opportunity