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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"I can think of two plausible explanations for the improved performance of our economy when the federal government is divided. Under the 'politicians are idiots' view, divided governments tend to be gridlocked, and gridlock--with apologies to Gordon Gekko--is good. A paralyzed government is a boon to the economy because the changes that politicians contrive tend to be harmful. Under the 'politicians are sensible' view, divided governments produce better lawmaking because only sensible policies can achieve the necessary bipartisan support. When government is controlled by one party, common sense is cast aside as those in power use their muscle to reward friends and punish enemies. One crude way to cast light on the relative merits of the two views is to test the gridlock theory directly. Does legislative activity tend to grind to a halt when government is divided? One imperfect measurement, tallying the number of bills passed by Congress and signed by the president, counters the notion that government is paralyzed when divided. Since 1993, divided governments have passed a median of 241 bills into law each year, while unified governments have passed 210. A similar pattern holds if we expand the sample back to 1970. This is, of course, not decisive evidence, because the number of passed bills is irrelevant if the legislation is meaningless. (Anybody want to name a post office?) Anecdotally, though, some of the great moments in modern legislation, such as the Tax Reform Act of 1986 and the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996, also known as welfare reform, were passed when each party enjoyed some control in Washington. There is also some evidence that divided governments have been more fiscally responsible, especially recently. The median federal budget deficit as a percentage of GDP has been 2.7 percent since 1970 under both formats of government, slightly lower (3.1 percent vs. 3.4 percent) in divided times since 1981 and even better (1.2 percent vs. 3.4 percent) in divided times since 1993." (Bloomberg via AEI)



"In retrospect, from the moment in July 2009 when Peter Galbraith found out about the ghost polling centers being established all around Afghanistan, his future path was fixed. Galbraith was then second in command of the U.N. mission in Kabul, and he and several election officials had helicoptered onto a hilltop near the city of Khost, a creepy, bunkered spot where contractors were building fences and digging ditches to keep the Taliban out. The situation looked medieval. The country’s presidential elections were set to take place in a little more than a month, and preparations had begun. Local officials in Khost told Galbraith of polling places deep in Taliban-controlled territory. There were 175 polling places in the region, one U.N. official told Galbraith, and more than 75 were in areas so far beyond the government’s control that they would not be monitored, and would likely not attract actual voters, but would still be included in the official tally. Galbraith was suspicious. The U.N.’s political-affairs staff had long believed that Afghan election officials were more interested in reelecting President Hamid Karzai than in ensuring an honest election; here, Galbraith saw a potential mechanism for their fraud. “The people who were running the election,' Galbraith said, 'were the ones who were planning to steal it.' Some of his colleagues may have agreed with him privately, though there was enormous pressure not to derail the election—the first the Afghans would run themselves. But if you knew Galbraith, the rest was predictable." (NYMag)

(image via NYSD)

"Last night was the New York Public Library’s annual Library Lions Dinner. This is one of the most prestigious benefit galas (fundraising dinners) of the autumn season in New York. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is the prestige of the great New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. The 2010 Library Lions were Malcolm Gladwell, Ethan Hawke, Paul LeClerc (the Library’s CEO and main officer who is retiring from his post this year), Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin) and Zadie Smith ... Then there today’s supporters many of whom were there last night and many who number among the wealthiest members of the community including Stephen Schwarzman, whose $100 million donation to the Library was acknowledged by carving his name in stone on the main building. These contributions (and bequests) are what has made it possible for this Library to become one of the greatest in the world, and an inspiration and a haven to writers and scholars everywhere. Last night I was seated at the table near Robert Hughes, the eminent art critic and historian who has just finished a history of Rome which was largely written in the very room where we were dining. Another guest whom I know, Susan Fales-Hill, writes her books in this same room. She and Mr. Hughes both credit the Library and its facilities for their ability to create and complete a work." (NYSocialDiary)


"After the break Howard (Stern) came right back and had Sandra Bernhard come in ... Howard asked Sandra if Jay Leno was good in bed. Sandra said it was not pleasant. She said that he didn't go down on her. She said the most fun they had was when he picked her up on his motorcycle. Howard said she must have been cracking up when he stuck his sausage in her. Sandra said she was only 20 at the time. She said they only went out like twice. They didn't really date. Sandra said that Jeff Goldblum took her out too. She said that she didn't sleep with him. She said that he's just not present and he's not there. She said he's sweet and all but she wanted to find out if there was anyone in there. She said he's never gotten married or had kids and she feels bad for him. She said that he did have a couple of great women but she feels bad for him. Howard asked if she's happy that Jay's show isn't doing well. Sandra said she doesn't really care. Howard said maybe Conan will have her on. Sandra said he should. Howard said that Dave didn't have Joan Rivers on for years. Then he broke down and had her on recently." (Marksfriggin)


"Katie Couric opened an award luncheon-turned-roast for ex-NBC President Jeff Zucker at the Pierre yesterday with New York's latest joke. 'When my agent calls and tells me I've got a gig in a New York hotel," she cracked, "it means I'm gonna be working with Charlie Sheen.' Couric, followed by Brian Williams, Mark Feuerstein, Alec Baldwin and Lorne Michaels, picked on their former boss, who received the Frank Stanton Award from the Center for Communication. The honor came just a month after Zucker was pushed out, just as ex- Viacom head Tom Freston once got the same award soon after being ousted. "This lunch has a certain kiss of death about it," Williams joked. 'In that spirit, I've been asked by the organizers to congratulate Katie [Couric] and Diane [Sawyer].' Sony Chairman Sir Howard Stringer, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and Universal studios Chairman Ron Meyer toasted Zucker, who closed with a self-deprecating speech filled with zingers." (PageSix)



"After more than three decades, former Mary Tyler Moore Show sparring partners Mary Tyler Moore and Betty White are about to go another round. Moore has been tapped to guest star in the Jan. 19 second-season premiere of White’s TV Land sitcom Hot in Cleveland. Details on Moore’s role are being kept under wraps, but a Cleveland source hints that she will be involved in the story line that saw White’s caretaker character Elka get arrested in the season 1 finale. (Maybe she’ll be the judge presiding over her case?) This will mark the first time the comedy legends have appeared on screen together in 33 years. Cleveland — which averaged a record-shattering 4.7 million cume total viewers in its first season — was renewed in July for a 20-episode second season." (Deadline)

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