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Thursday, June 02, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Samuel Johnson, the great English author, once quipped that 'patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.' In today's China, however, state-mandated patriotism is not seen as such a refuge, but merely as one among a range of options being test-marketed by a ruling Communist Party anxious to install a code of values to replace the discarded tenets of Lenin, Marx, and Mao. Nowadays, of course, a government seeking to clarify its nation's values is nothing out of the ordinary. Prime Minister Gordon Brown sought to reach a definition of 'Britishness' for the 21st century (as usual with the British, the result was a muddle, including tolerance, liberty, fair play, and civic duty). And in France, Nicolas Sarkozy has been engaged in an ongoing debate about Gallic values, particularly the country's devotion to secularism. Both of these efforts were manifestations of a growing unease among ordinary British and French people at what they see as a failure by immigrants, particularly Muslim immigrants, to assimilate into the national culture. The fears that have stimulated China's search for values, however, are purely homegrown: a young generation that seems adrift between the rabid nationalism of Internet chat rooms and a globalized materialism unconnected to traditional family responsibilities. So worrying is the behavior of today's 'little emperors' -- the products of the country's one- child families -- that Beijing is preparing a law to impose a legal duty on young people to visit and care for their aged parents. Indeed, the proposed amendment to the 'Law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Aged' would allow elderly people to go to court to claim their right to be physically and mentally looked after by their children. Filial piety has long been a tenet of traditional Chinese culture, and is a core concept of Confucianism. Today, however, many young people nowadays not only shirk this duty, but insist that it is actually the duty of parents to do all they can to care for them, even as adults." (ForeignPolicy)


"The emperor Caligula is said to have made his horse a senator. Pope Alexander VI made his illegitimate teenage son an archbishop. In Italy today, Silvio Berlusconi has given the post of a regional deputy for Lombardy (Italy’s wealthiest and most populous region) to Nicole Minetti, a 26-year-old super-babe currently charged with procuring prostitutes for the prime minister. They met a year and a half ago, when she was a dental hygienist in training and had just finished a stint as a velina (showgirl) on one of the three television channels Berlusconi owns, a job that required her to wear a micro-mini Catholic-schoolgirl skirt and flash her butt in front of the camera. She had civil servant written all over her. Today, as evidenced by her grand entrance into the Park Hyatt hotel in Milan, she’s upgraded the uniform to suit her new position—oversize black sunglasses, tight jeans, open-toed snakeskin stilettos, enormous bored pout, two cell phones, and an entourage. Less Britney Spears, you might say, more Heidi Fleiss. As a member of the regional government, she receives 12,000 euros ($17,000) a month. Asked what are the areas in Italian life that need the most attention right now, she widens her eyes, pushes out her lips, and shrugs off the question as absurd: 'I think Italy’s a great place to live in.… Can I just go to the bathroom for a minute?' She goes to the bathroom, summons one of her handlers for an emergency conference, then returns to the table to answer the question more fully: 'It’s a lovely place to live. That’s because of the Berlusconi government. He’s doing a great job for our country.'" (VanityFair)


"Paramount Pictures is finalizing a deal to develop a feature about the romance between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, as a directing vehicle for Martin Scorsese. The film will be produced by Julie Yorn, Gary Foster and Russ Krasnoff of Krasnoff Foster Productions, and Scorsese through his Paramount-based Sikelia banner. They are assembling the resources to tell Hollywood's most famous star-crossed love story. They've optioned Furious Love, the book by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger that was published by HarperCollins last year. At the same time, the producers have a rights agreement with Burton's estate, and a pledge of cooperation from his widow, Sally Hay Burton, to make his library available as a resource. The filmmakers have also reached out to the estate of Taylor with the same hopes. A screenwriter will be hired shortly. I'm told that Paramount made the book deal as other parties pursued the book, with other suitors including Oscar-winning Black Swan star Natalie Portman and The King's Speech Oscar-winning scribe David Seidler. All this for a book that got 100 passes when initially shopped for a movie deal by the author's reps, Justin Manask and David Kuhn." (Deadline)


"Michael’s was its bustling-Wednesday’s self. Quite a few of the local gentry. Lynn Nesbit was lunching with Mark Whitaker, the former Newsweek and NBC News editor. Joan Tisch lunching with Candace Leeds (who is a Tisch pubic relations operative) and Gael Greene and Marcia Stein. Marcia runs the now legendary Citymeals-on-Wheels which was started way back when in the last century by Gael and the late James Beard and their friends ... In another corner Rick and Kathy Hilton were with their daughter Paris's manager. Paris's show debuted last night on Oxygen. They’ve got eight shows in the can. Tuesday night Paris and Kathy were on the Piers Morgan Tonight, as you may have seen; and then yesterday they were on The View. Rick and I talked about the first time the world was becoming aware of his famous daughters – in Southampton in the mid-90s. Paris and Nicky, newly teenagers were 'on the scene,' photographed everywhere in the young Hamptons nightlife. Paris was a center of controversy then (in a very small elite community)." (NYSocialDiary)


"No American president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has won a second term in office when the unemployment rate on Election Day topped 7.2 percent.  President Obama speaking on Monday at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The White House is pursuing a number of smaller initiatives to create jobs.  A sign outside a job fair in Denver last month. New figures on jobs, due Friday, are expected to bring fresh cause for concern.  Seventeen months before the next election, it is increasingly clear that President Obama must defy that trend to keep his job. Roughly 9 percent of Americans who want to go to work cannot find an employer. Companies are firing fewer people, but hiring remains anemic. And the vast majority of economic forecasters, including the president’s own advisers, predict only modest progress by November 2012. The latest job numbers, due Friday, are expected to provide new cause for concern. Other indicators suggest the pace of growth is flagging. Weak manufacturing data, a gloomy reading on jobs in advance of Friday’s report and a drop in auto sales led the markets to their worst close since August, and those declines carried over into Asia Thursday. But the grim reality of widespread unemployment is drawing little response from Washington. The Federal Reserve says it is all but tapped out. There is even less reason to expect Congressional action." (NYTimes)


"On the afternoon of May 27, a convoy transporting a large number of heavily armed gunmen was   ambushed on Mexican Highway 15 near Ruiz, Nayarit state, on Mexico’s Pacific coast. When authorities responded they found 28 dead gunmen and another four wounded, one of whom would later die, bringing the death toll to 29. This is a significant number of dead for one incident, even in Mexico. According to Nayarit state Attorney General Oscar Herrera Lopez, the gunmen ambushed were members of Los Zetas, a Mexican drug cartel. Herrera noted that most of the victims were from Mexico’s Gulf coast, but there were also some Guatemalans mixed into the group, including one of the wounded survivors. While Los Zetas are predominately based on the Gulf coast, they have been working to provide armed support to allied groups, such as the Cartel Pacifico Sur (CPS), a faction of the former Beltran Leyva Organization that is currently battling the Sinaloa Federation and other cartels for control of the lucrative smuggling routes along the Pacific coast. In much the same way, Sinaloa is working with the Gulf cartel to go after Los Zetas in Mexico’s northeast while protecting and expanding its home turf. If the victims in the Ruiz ambush were Zetas, then the Sinaloa Federation was likely the organization that planned and executed this very successful ambush." (STRATFOR)


"Lawrence O'Donnell has jumped ship from CAA to rival WME after being won over by talent honcho Ari Emanuel. The MSNBC anchor, who exec-produced 'The West Wing,' told us, 'Ari presented me with a way of handling all of my various activities that seemed the most coherent . . . from television-writing to screenwriting to MSNBC and books and other possible ventures. The MSNBC show is now at a point . . . that I can more seriously focus on other things I should be doing as well.' O'Donnell is creating an HBO sitcom he once said was about 'rich people in New York in the age of Madoff.'" (PageSix)

"French government ministers can come across as remarkably close to some of their stereotypes. Some are haughty and pander to their bosses -- the prime minister and president -- like royal courtesans. Many talk eloquently but with little substance, as though speaking well is more important than saying something meaningful. And a few act as though they believe that, as a result of their positions, they are virtually untouchable. Then there is Christine Lagarde, universally seen as the front-runner -- and Europe's strongest bet -- to become the next managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). As France's finance minister since 2007, she was the first woman to ever oversee a G-8 economy, and yet she comes across in one-on-one encounters as down to earth, warm, engaging, and a bit quirky. (In a film, Annette Bening would play her perfectly.) Surely, few other government ministers are vegetarians, have ever competed in synchronized swimming from early adolescence, or had a mother who moonlighted as a rally car driver. Those who interact with Lagarde often sense that her professionalism was shaped as much by the United States as by France. While she grew up in de Gaulle's France, she spent a year at Holton-Arms, a girls' school in Bethesda, Maryland, and she did a stint as an intern in Washington for William Cohen, a Republican congressman. Like many others, she failed to gain admission to France's prestigious École Nationale d'Administration, an elite finishing school for much of the political class, instead choosing to study law and garnering an offer from the Chicago office of the prominent international law firm Baker & McKenzie." (ForeignPolicy)


"Last night, L.A was a-buzz with excitement for Lykke Li's Wiltern takeover, lining up around the block for the Swedish songstress. Opening acts are always a tough nut to crack, but Canadian artist Claire Boucher, AKA Grimes, won the crowd over with her hypnotic fairy chants layered over heavy industrial beats. The show culminated with Lykke Li decked out in some sort of sexy monk cape, performing with a truly fantastical lightshow of smoke, strobe lights and dangling columns of fabric as she slinked around the stage. The afterparty was held at the Bar Marmont .." (Papermag)


"Mitt Romney couldn’t be more different than John McCain. But as he begins his long-anticipated presidential campaign in New Hampshire Thursday, the similarities there are hard to miss.Like McCain, who defeated him there four years ago, the former Massachusetts governor has a gold-plated organization stocked with New Hampshire primary veterans, enjoys universal name identification and owns a bank full of political goodwill stored up through repeated visits and TLC lavished on all manner of state representatives, county commissioners and sheriffs. There’s one big difference, however. Unlike the Arizona senator, Romney isn’t suffering through a summer spiral downward. Just the opposite: he’s on a torrid fund-raising pace, is driving a consistent economic message and, perhaps most important, he’s hitting all his marks as some of his most formidable challengers struggle to penetrate a news cycle focused on potential candidates as much as those who are actually running.
'All of this background noise from Sarah Palin and Donald Trump and the talk about Chris Christie and Rick Perry just benefits Mitt Romney,' said New Hampshire GOP strategist Mike Dennehy, who oversaw McCain’s two wins in the state and isn’t supporting any candidate now. “He just keeps his head down as all the attention goes to the sideshow.” (Politico)

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