Monday, December 08, 2014

WHEN DO THE ANTI-OLIGARCHY RIOTS START?
(updated)


The much-quoted Frank Rich interview of Chris Rock included this exchange:
For all the current conversation about income inequality, class is still sort of the elephant in the room.

Oh, people don’t even know. If poor people knew how rich rich people are, there would be riots in the streets. If the average person could see the Virgin Airlines first-class lounge, they’d go, "What? What? This is food, and it's free, and they ... what? Massage? Are you kidding me?"
Yup, and Rock's description just scratches the surface. Here's more conspicuous consumption, as reported by The New York Times:
... In an article titled "Here Comes L.A.'s Biggest Residence," The Los Angeles Business Journal announced in June that [a] house, conceived by Nile Niami, a film producer turned developer, with an estimated sale price "in the $150 million range," will feature a cantilevered tennis court and five swimming pools....

... houses the size of Hyatt resorts [are] rising in the most expensive precincts of Los Angeles.... "Twenty-thousand-square-foot homes have become teardowns for people who want to build 70-, 80-, and 90,000-square-foot homes," Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz said. So long, megamansion. Say hello to the gigamansion.

... ground was recently broken on a 70,000- to 80,000-square-foot Mediterranean manse for a citizen of Qatar, while Chateau des Fleurs, a 60,000-square-foot pile with a 40-car underground garage, is nearing completion. Not long ago, Anthony Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, built a boxy contemporary residence for himself in Beverly Hills that covers just shy of 50,000 square feet. And Mohamed Hadid, a prolific and high-profile developer (he has appeared on "The Shahs of Sunset" and "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills"), is known for two palaces that measure 48,000 square feet each: Le Palais in Beverly Hills, which has a swan pond and a Jacuzzi that seats 20 people, and Le Belvédère in Bel Air, which features a Turkish hammam and a ballroom for 250....

Le Belvédère was reportedly purchased by an Indonesian buyer, and Le Palais sold to a daughter of President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan. According to [Jeffrey] Hyland [of the real estate firm Hilton & Hyland], the market for these Versailles knockoffs is "flight capital." "It's oligarchs, oilgarchs, people from Asia, people who came up with the next app for the iPhone," he said....

The very busy Mr. Niami (he also built the Winklevoss twins' perch above the Sunset Strip) constructed a 30,000-square-foot Mediterranean-style house in Holmby Hills that locals have called the Fendi Casa because it was filled with furniture and accessories from the Italian fashion house.

The residence also offered indoor and outdoor pools, commissioned artwork by the graffiti artist Retna, and an operating room in the basement. "It’s not like it's set up to take out your gallbladder," said Mark David, a real estate columnist for Variety, who has toured the house. "It's for cosmetic procedures -- fillers, dermabrasion, that kind of thing." The house sold, with all its furnishings, to an unidentified Saudi buyer for $44 million.

A relatively humble 23,000-square-foot modern spec house currently on the market in Beverly Hills's Trousdale Estates neighborhood has an infinity pool with iPad-controlled fountains and a subterranean lounge with floor-to-ceiling candy dispensers on one wall and mounted tequila bottles and machine guns on another. The lounge opens onto a 16-vehicle garage with a Bugatti Veyron revolving on a car turntable, just like at the dealer's. According to TMZ, Beyoncé and Jay Z looked at the property twice. The asking price is $85 million, not including the Bugatti....
I'm not holding my breath waiting for riots -- I can't see them happening here, where right-wingers express outrage when you "punish success" and everyone else just wants to live vicariously like the rich. Homeless people crowd our streets while the owners of such luxury accommodations stay in them only a few days a year, but we don't care.

And there certainly isn't going to be much rioting in the countries where the non-American zillionaires come from -- in Uzbekistan, for instance, if you cross the government, you run the risk of being boiled to death by the Karimov regime.

I wonder if the Karimov daughter who bought Le Palais is this one:
She is described as an "exotic Uzbek beauty" in the posters adorned with her face that have sprung up across US cities, and the biography on her website describes the aspiring pop star Googoosha as a "poet and mezzo-soprano". She even placed a cover advert on a leading US music magazine to promote her recent dance single, "Round Run".

But there is one thing that all the publicity for Googoosha, usually pictured with layers of make-up and lips suggestively parted, fails to mention: her real name is Gulnara Karimova, and she is the daughter of one of the world's most brutal dictators, Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov....

An American diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks showed just what ordinary Uzbeks think of her: "Most Uzbeks see Karimova as a greedy, power-hungry individual who uses her father to crush business people or anyone else who stands in her way," it stated. "She remains the single most hated person in the country."

Not so successful with gaining friends at home, she is trying to win popularity abroad. "Love Kylie Minogue? Check out exotic pop sensation Googoosha!" gushes her official Twitter feed....

Long talked of as a potential successor to her ageing father, the 40-year-old dictator's daughter studied at Harvard and has since embarked on a series of attempts to give herself international legitimacy, including as a fashion and jewellery designer. A fashion show of hers at New York Fashion Week was cancelled last year after protests from human rights groups....

The website for Googoosha does not give any hint as to her parentage. Instead, it shares photographs and videos of the wannabe starlet, as well as various musings. "My poems are rhymed thoughts, sensations and feelings, that is why they have become really valuable to me," she writes.

"The flavour of self-comprehension in these poems made them sound like melodies of life. These are Googoosha's life experiences...listen, dance, celebrate and reflect." ...
Here's "Round Run." Dance, riot, or just get on with your day -- your call:



*****

UPDATE: In comments, Yastreblyansky provides more up-to-date information than I gave you:
Readers may be relieved to know that Gulnara Karimova is not only under international investigation but has also fallen out really seriously with her papa and has been living under house arrest, deprived of her Twitter account and able to communicate with the outside world only by subterfuge since March. Uneasy lies the head...
More here.

5 comments:

Victor said...

I refuse to watch or listen to that.
And you can't make me, Steve!

That seems like it would be like Stalin's daughter doing Ella Fitzgerald songs.

Missy Vixen said...

Shows like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and all of those reality programs that celebrate the extremely wealthy have convinced extremely silly and very poor thinkers that ONE DAY THAT WILL BE ME. The programming literally programs them unable to recognize the massive wage theft being perpetrated on them.

flipyrwhig said...

@Missy: To an extent I disagree. The effect of watching conspicuous consumption on reality TV is that you learn to hate these people. But it's still programming: by watching you learn that there are rich assholes reveling in their asshole-ish-ness, so you hate _them_, not the rigged system from which they benefit. It's easier to hate a plastic-surgery-obsessed socialite than to hate the Koch Brothers' alliance with ALEC.

Yastreblyansky said...

Readers may be relieved to know that Gulnara Karimova is not only under international investigation but has also fallen out really seriously with her papa and has been living under house arrest, deprived of her Twitter account and able to communicate with the outside world only by subterfuge since March. Uneasy lies the head...

Steve M. said...

Thanks for that. I added it to the post.