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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"As Time magazine anoints Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke as its 'Person of the Year,' I am reminded of the contributions of another economist, Paul Volcker ...Volcker met recently with an old source of mine, a former banker at Goldman Sachs. The meeting, I am told, focused on Volcker’s belief that last year’s financial meltdown can be traced back to a decision back in 1999, to allow banks that hold customer deposits to merge with investment banks that take risk on their trading desks. It was, of course, Volcker who helped save the nation from the hyperinflation of the 1970s and early 1980s, when he was Fed chairman, withstanding political pressure to keep pumping free money into the system, because he knew there’s no such thing as free money. Volcker’s legendary style—analytical brilliance combined with his gruff demeanor, as he smoked one of his cheap cigars when questioned about his policies during congressional hearings—made him a legend." (Charlie Gasparino/TheDailyBeast)



"'I’m not even angry at those who have done all of this to us. I just feel sorry for them, because they’re so unenlightened. They just don’t know, you know?' 64-year-old Charlene Marshall sighs in her living room. It’s a sad November afternoon, foggy and dim. Her husband wears a blue-striped shirt and red tie and has a badge from William Holden’s Mount Kenya Safari Club on his blazer. No one ever looked so starched, crisp, elegant—and beaten. Anthony Marshall, 85 years old, sags in an armchair near his wife like a ruined prime minister." (Observer)



"Holiday parties. Down at Swifty’s we had a holiday luncheon for our contributors to the New York Social Diary. This is of no particular interest to readers, I know, but it does amaze me and JH that there is a core group who provide interesting edit for the NYSD on a weekly basis. Present at the luncheon were: Jeanne Lawrence (SF and Shanghai Social Diary), Alex Lebenthal, the chronicler of changing times amongst the Wall Street crowd; Jesse Kornbluth, book review blogger (Headbutler.com), social commentator, and our literary Boswell of the world; Hilary Geary Ross who pens the Palm Beach Social Diary during the season; Charlie Scheips, the loquacious and peripatetic curator, art historian and uber-gadfly of the world of the creative arts .." (NYSocialDiary)



"The lines most cited in Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech were those about evil: 'Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince Al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism--it is a recognition of history, the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.' These lines won approbation from both liberals and conservatives. Former Clinton aide Bill Galston praised them as an example of Obama’s 'moral realism.' According to neoconservative Bob Kagan, Obama didn’t 'shy away from the Manichaean distinctions that drive self-described realists (and Europeans) crazy.' Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson said the lines marked the speech as 'very American.' 'He didn’t speak as kind of the citizen of the world, as sometimes he has in the past,' Gerson added approvingly. I am not a self-described realist, and I am a Chicagoan by birth, yet I don’t care for these lines. While I don’t object to the idea of just war, and have supported the various wars that Obama cited in his speech, and wouldn’t balk at calling Al Qaeda or Hitler evil, I think Obama ventured onto dangerous terrain by invoking the existence of evil as a justification for war." (John Judis/TNR)



"T he Russian aphorism that 'the Kremlin has many towers' is a comment not just on its architecture but on the rivalries that pervade the regime that sits within it – maintaining an outward veneer of autocratic rigidity but roiling nonetheless with bureaucratic turf battles. Since the start of the decade, the tallest tower has belonged to the so-called siloviki, the former officers – security men, soldiers and spies – who have flooded into state structures on the coat tails of Vladimir Putin, former KGB officer, two-term president and now prime minister. With the end of the Putin presidency in 2008, however, the siloviki have retreated. Their representation in top government ranks has ebbed for the first time in 20 years, putting a question mark over their future. According to Olga Kryshtanovs­kaya, a University of Moscow sociologist who monitors elite groups, the siloviki – literally 'strong guys' – hit their apogee in 2007, when they accounted for two out of every three members of the president’s administration. But following the accession to the presidency of Dmitry Medvedev, they are this year down to barely one in two; their representation in other areas has fallen as well. Ms Kryshtanovskaya is among those who believe this shift may foretell a gradual move towards civilian government and a more liberal zeitgeist among the elite." (FT)

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