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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"The crisis Japan is managing at four of its nuclear reactors constitutes both a human tragedy and a national security nightmare. The security challenge flows from both the physical threat of a radioactive plume spreading over the countryside and the widespread human suffering caused by the massive earthquake and tsunami. The lack of energy supplies and rolling blackouts in Japan are disrupting industrial production across the country. Such physical challenges are triggering other psychological reactions that, though understandable, exacerbate the physical effects: the sell off of stocks in flagship companies such as Toyota, Honda, and Japan Electric, the resulting rise in the yen, and speculation about the future of other industries that might be affected. These consequences extend far beyond Japan itself. Experts question whether the future of nuclear power can ever be bright again, and what this might mean for plans to curb global warming. Suddenly, nuclear power does not seem as 'clean' as it once did. As the Japanese government seeks to manage the security implications of its catastrophic national disaster, officials should recall that secrecy can harm more than help. Some reports of workers exposed to 40 rem an hour at the Daiichi complex are frightening, given that 400 rem can be fatal. If such reports are true, why did the news take so long to come out?" (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)


"A group of us hung out that winter and spring. There were rumors that John (Kennedy Jr) liked a girl at Spence, but when he was with us, he was alone—a follower, under the tutelage of the older boys. We went to parties en masse, to Sweet 16s at Doubles, and to Trader Vic’s on someone’s father’s charge. We tumbled out of the Plaza with gardenias from the Scorpion Bowls tucked in our hair and continued on to Malkan’s, the East Side kiddie bar before Dorrian’s caught on. We trolled Central Park at all hours, slipping through the Ramble, a wooded section where muggings and beatings were frequent. We felt safe those nights in the park, the Secret Service trailing behind us at a respectable distance. John’s mother insisted they be invisible, and they almost were. But we always knew they were there. They had our backs. Or, rather, John’s. And we’d wander off trails on moonless nights, clogs and sneakers stomping dead leaves. Invincible, 15, and jazzed by the spark of danger. After high school, John and I both ended up at Brown University, and theater became a bond between us. I went to see him in plays, and he came to see me. In the fall of 1981—my senior year and his junior year—we moved into a cream-colored row house with maroon trim partway up College Hill, on the corner of Benefit and Court Streets. We remained friends; he had a girlfriend and I had a boyfriend. After I graduated, I moved to New York to study acting at Juilliard, and in 1985, almost 10 years after the winter we had roamed the city streets as teenagers, we were cast in a play together at the Irish Arts Center. The play was called Winners, and we fell in love. The longest courtship ever, he said. We were together for the next five and a half years, as he studied law at N.Y.U. and began at the Manhattan D.A.’s office, and I performed in plays and acted in television and independent films." (Christina Haag/VanityFair)



"Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer performed a great service for American progressivism when they sought to rehabilitate American patriotism for the liberal left in their book The True Patriot. Their contribution to Democracy’s 'First Principles' symposium, 'The ‘More What, Less How’ Government,' [Issue #19] is also provocative and insightful, but they repeat too much of the discredited conventional wisdom of the neoliberal movement of the 1980s and ’90s. Liu and Hanauer are right to note that, while Tea Party conservatives offer 'little more than a reprise of unworkable ideas and worn rhetoric about ‘limited government,’ ' in reality 'there is not a single example to be found of a nation that practices ‘limited government’ and is wealthy, secure, and stable.' They are right as well when they complain that progressives are 'in a defensive crouch' and there is a need 'to articulate, during this time of flux, an affirmative progressive theory of government.' Their proposed alternative theory of government is the opposite of what they call the 'mushy amalgam' of the mid-twentieth century. In their account, the 'mushy amalgam' combines the conservative belief that the federal government should concentrate on providing a few basic public goods with the liberal belief that many, if not most, of those goods could be provided most cheaply and efficiently by direct, national government action. In place of 'the New Deal/Great Society template,' they propose a government that does more things—but does them indirectly. The 'more' category includes an expansion of the federal government’s role beyond providing basic goods, to projects like peacetime national service. They endorse Cass Sunstein’s proposal that 'choice architects' in the government should 'nudge' people toward doing the right thing in matters like diet or energy use, rather than relying on direct prohibitions or commands. While their ideal government would pursue a greater variety of social goals than midcentury New Deal government did, it would do so less directly on the national level, by privatizing and contracting out more government services, and by 'radical' relocalization of other public functions." (Michael Lind)


"Bill Clinton and Harvey Weinstein were locked in an intense discussion over lunch at Michael's yesterday. Sharing a table with Clinton's close aide, Doug Band, and the movie mogul's longtime friend, Nicolas Rachline, they dined on grilled branzino and shared a plate of fries. A source told us, 'Harvey has been friends with Clinton since 1992. Clinton told him, 'If you win the Best Picture Oscar, I'll buy you lunch,' so this was their celebration for 'The King's Speech.' ' Other spies said the two appeared to be in deep conversation, with Clinton doing most of the talking." (PageSix)


"How much does it take to feel wealthy these days? For many millionaires, it’s about $7.5 million, according to a survey by Fidelity Investments. 'Wealth is relative, and to some extent the more you have the more you realize how much more you need,' said Sanjiv Mirchandani, president of National Financial, a subsidiary of Boston-based Fidelity, that provides clearing and custody services to broker-dealers, in an interview before the survey’s release today. The more than 1,000 households surveyed had an average of $3.5 million in investable assets. About 42 percent said they don’t feel wealthy, saying they would need about $7.5 million to feel rich. The 58 percent of respondents who said they do feel wealthy were younger on average and have a greater number of remaining years in the workforce, said Mirchandani.  A 65-year-old millionaire is 'looking at potentially the loss of a paycheck as they retire, and 30 years in retirement, with inflation on the horizon,' said Mirchandani. 'So they kind of go Well, $3.5 million, $4 million, isn’t what I thought it would be. I’d like to have more. There are about 5.5 million U.S. households with at least $1 million in assets, or about 5 percent of the population. Millionaires control 56 percent of the country’s wealth, according to Fidelity, which is the second-largest U.S. mutual- fund company after Vanguard Group Inc. Household wealth was $56.8 trillion at the end of 2010, according to the Federal Reserve. The survey found millionaires’ outlook for the future is the most positive it’s been in at least four years." (Bloomberg)



"Observers of world affairs often speak of 'unimaginable' events, developments which like the end of the Cold War, the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, or the recent Arab revolutions prove stunning not so much because they are illogical but rather because they fall outside the normal range of experience and prediction. The surprise, in other words, arises from a failure of human imagination. Japan's recent disaster fits this pattern. In hindsight there was only a single "black swan" anomaly: the 9.0 earthquake. That such an event, once it had happened, would trigger an enormous tsunami was surely predictable, as was the impact on nuclear facilities that were designed to withstand only more limited shocks and the sickening human and social devastation that would ensue. The political, economic, and strategic implications of the continuing disaster are likewise more foreseeable than was the disaster itself." (Foreign Policy)


"President Obama has appeased elements of his liberal base in recent months by repealing the Pentagon’s 'Don’t ask, don’t tell' policy, reversing course on the Defense of Marriage Act and pursuing new gun-control measures. Since enduring a near-mutiny among his political base during the debate on the extension of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts late last year, the outrage from the left expressed in the last Congress has noticeably subsided. And it’s no accident. Obama advisers have stepped up their outreach to liberal activists, and the so-called 'professional left' that then-White House press secretary Robert Gibbs derided last year has been focusing more on potential GOP White House hopefuls. In 2010, there was a lot of chatter in Washington about Obama being challenged from the left in the Democratic presidential primary. But that, too, has dissipated as potential candidates, including ex-Sen. Russ Feingold (Wis.) and former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, have ruled out such a bid. The change in the political winds has been surprising, especially in the wake of historic GOP gains in the midterm elections. Many political pundits predicted that the rift between the left and Obama would intensify as he and his administration moved right, talking about reducing the deficit, extending the Afghanistan war and pursuing trade deals. But the exact opposite has happened, and Obama’s approval ratings — as well as his chances for winning reelection — have improved." (TheHill)


"Monday night was the SAB Winter Ball, last night was the Save Venice Un Ballo in Maschera (Masked Ball) in the Grand Ballroom at the Plaza ... Save Venice was started more than forty years ago by Bob and Bea Guthrie and a group of friends who love the city known as the jewel of the Adriatic, and wanted to help keep it, through ongoing restoration projects ... Aside from those pleasures, over that time, Save Venice has raised more than $20 million to restore more than 400 works of art and architecture in Venice. Every year, the Board of Save Venice, as well as a Projects Committee of renowned experts, selects restoration projects in collaboration with the Venetian Superintendencies of Monuments, Fine Arts and Museums. Save Venice currently has more than 30 projects underway throughout the city. This has been made possible with support from individuals, foundations, and Chapters in Boston and California. Last night’s grand Ballo In Maschera (A Celebration of Carnival and 40 years of restoring art in Venice) at the Plaza was a fund-raiser for these projects. The room, designed for the evening by Ron Wendt, was spectacular, immediately suggesting the other-worldliness of Venice and drawing you in to its opulence. Valentino and Bulgari supported it. It was their biggest ballo ever, and most successful (under the aegis of Save Venice’s new president Matthew White). Co-Chairs were Adelina Wong Ettelson, Dayssi Olarte de Kanavos, Mary Kthryn Navab, Carlos Sousa and Matt White. International Co-Chairs were Eva Jeanbart-Lorenzotti and Nadia Swarovski. And Young Friends Co-Chairs Olivia Chantecaille, Amanda Hearst, Alexandra Lind Rose, and Luigi Tadini." (NYSocialDiary)

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