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Monday, March 08, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"Sitting in his office in Tokyo last week, a senior official pointed to a recently published volume called Japan Rising. 'I look at that book every now and then to cheer myself up,' he said. It is easy to understand why. Right now, Japan has got that sinking feeling. China is about to overtake Japan as the world’s second-largest economy. The country’s national debt has hit an awesome 180 per cent of gross domestic product, (un)comfortably the highest in the world among rich countries – and there is no credible plan in place to hack it back. Toyota, a company that used to embody Japan’s reputation for quality, is enmeshed in a safety and public relations nightmare. Last year, the Japanese economy shrank by more than 5 per cent. And the high hopes that surrounded the reformist government of Yukio Hatoyama, the prime minister who was elected last summer, have quickly dissipated. Mr Hatoyama’s approval ratings are sinking and the Japanese business and civil service establishment seem eager to dismiss him as an ineffectual clown. How Japan reacts to this new sense of weakness – exaggerated though it may be – will matter to the whole world. The country’s size and strategic importance make it critical to America’s Pacific strategy and to China’s geopolitical calculations. As it adapts to Japan’s new circumstances the Hatoyama government has, almost unwittingly, initiated a debate about the value of Japan’s alliance with the US. Some western observers in Tokyo muse that perhaps Japan is once again following its historic policy of adapting to shifts in global politics by aligning itself with great powers. Before the first world war the country had a special relationship with Britain. In the inter-war period Japan allied itself with Germany. Since 1945, it has stuck closely to America. Perhaps the ground is being prepared for a new 'special relationship' with China?" (FT)



(image via JH/NYSD)

"Michael’s busy with the usual suspects. Francesca Stanfill was lunching with Sally Bedell Smith who was up from Washington. Sally is working on a biography of Queen Elizabeth II. She told us she’s about a year away from completion. But she spends a lot of time in London working on it. I asked her if it were 'authorized' because she has spent time with the Queen. She did not say it was authorized but she did say that they had been helpful in making research accessible. Francesca is also working on a history. Sarah Simms Rosenthal stopped by as she was leaving. She too has a book coming out next month. Senator Gillibrand was also there but I don’t think there’s a book in the offing as much as an election. The senator has slimmed down noticeably; she looks good, and energized." (NYSocialDiary)



"When top Obama administration officials went to Beijing last week, they had a broad agenda for discussion, including Iran, climate change, and North Korea. What did the Chinese want to talk about? Taiwan, Taiwan, and Taiwan. Several China experts close to both sets of officials said that Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and National Security Council Senior Director Jeffrey Bader went to China with the understanding that they would have substantive discussions on some key issues of U.S. interest, but the Chinese side used the opportunity to try to bargain for an end to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, something Beijing has wanted for decades and now feels bold enough to demand. 'It was all about Taiwan,' said Bonnie Glaser, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), 'The message that the Chinese are giving us is We've had enough; we're fed up. We've been living with this issue of U.S. arms sales for too long and it's time to solve it.' The Obama team has been noticing increased confidence on the Chinese side when dealing with the United States, and some officials see that as partly a result of the rise of hard-liners within the Chinese system who advocate a tougher stance toward Washington. But asking the Obama administration to end Taiwan arms sales shows a profound misunderstanding of U.S. foreign-policy decision making, several experts said." (ForeignPolicy)



"At a reunion for George W. Bush's administration on February 26, the Decider joked about his upcoming memoir. 'This is going to come as quite a shock to people up here that I can write a book,' Bush said, 'much less read one.' Of course, Bush is writing the tentatively-titled Decision Points in the presidential sense—that is, he's putting it through the word processor of a loyal aide. The aide is Christopher Michel, a 28-year-old former White House speechwriter. In a phone interview from Dallas, where he is knee-deep in the manuscript, Michel says, "The president is working on it pretty much constantly, and that means that I am, too.' How Michel (pronounced Mi-SHEL) landed in Bush's inner circle is one of the most intriguing untold stories of the last administration. He arrived at the White House as a fresh-outta-Yale rookie in 2003. Within a few years, without much of the public noticing, he had inherited the mantle once held by Karen Hughes and Michael Gerson—he was Bush's voice." (TheDailyBeast)



"Sarah Palin and reality-TV titan Mark Burnett are about to collaborate on a 'docudrama' about Alaska? Ha! A pundit on Fox, a comedian on Leno, and now a producer and most likely star of her own TV show—surely, by cheapening herself and making herself look ludicrous as an entertainer, Sarah Palin is destroying (thank heavens) her political ambitions. Surely, especially at a critical historical moment like this, even the most disaffected Americans will reject a political aspirant who has turned herself into a TV buffoon." (TheDailyBeast)



(CBS's Bill Plante via NYSD)

"Be careful what you wish for, especially if you are a Virginia wine maker who submits some beloved treasures to a blind tasting by a group of Washington’s leading wine experts. They may be on your side, but they also are brutally honest. The setting couldn’t have been more late winter beautiful. The large, round and sun dappled country kitchen of Beverly and John Fox Sullivan’s Georgetown home, which is not to be confused with the Sullivan’s country home in the heart of Rappahannock County, Va., a region that has staked a claim as the Washington area’s rural 'foodie' stomping ground. John, CEO of Atlantic Media and publisher of The Atlantic, and Beverly, a noted collector and dealer of Haitian art (see NYSD), are devoted food and wine lovers. They welcomed the wines, the wine tasters and other friends to the marathon on behalf of a Rappahannock based food magazine, Flavor, and its publisher, Melissa J. Harris, and editor, Jennifer Conrad Seidel. The Sullivans provided their kitchen while Harris and Seidel chose the 68 wines that would be tasted (yes, 68) and the tasters. It was a Monday. They started at 11 a.m., which might sound shockingly early to civilians, but as much as this event was serene and friendly it was also business. The official tasters were Harris and the elite of Washington area restaurant sommeliers and mixologists: Andrew Meyers of CityZen, Todd Thrasher of Restaurant Eve, Derek Brown of The Passenger & Columbia Room, Gina Cherevani of PS7, and Scott Calvert of The Inn at Little Washington. Rounding out the group was the capital’s number one wine connoisseur, CBS News White House correspondent Bill Plante. Bill’s famous for his love and knowledge of wine, and for always finding time for a fine meal and an excellent bottle, even while traveling round the world with every president since Ronald Reagan." (WashingtonSocialDiary)

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