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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Some of my loyal readers took me to task last week for suggesting that the Opening to China engineered by Henry Kissinger on behalf of President Richard Nixon might not have been the great diplomatic achievement it has long been presented (especially by Kissinger) to be. Some of the comments were quite good, and I feel I should respond with more than just a quick reply. I tried to make two main points. The first was that the opening didn't have much if any payoff for the United States in terms of reducing its national security burden. The second was that, whereas before the opening China was poor, weak, and unable to challenge the U.S. in any way, since the opening China has become a great power that is widely displacing U.S. power and influence. The main thrust of the criticism was that I went too far in attributing a wide range of U.S. and Chinese policies and actions over a long period to Kissinger's negotiation of the opening. This is a fair criticism, and I accept that I overstated the significance of the opening with regard to later developments that have tended to expand China's influence while eroding that of the United States. Nevertheless, I don't think we should let Kissinger off the hook with regard to his influence upon and responsibility for the course of some of those later developments. Power has always rested upon an economic base. The rise of China is due to its rapid economic growth and increase in competitiveness while the decline of America is the result of its eroding competitiveness. As I have noted extensively both in this blog and in several of my books and articles, these trends are the result of many causes both domestic and international. But one element in the erosion of U.S. competitiveness, power, and influence has been the impact of Chinese strategic industrial policy and mercantilist, export-led growth policies on the American free market/free trade system. To mention just one well known aspect of this situation, China's undervaluation of its currency has been widely recognized as a serious problem not only for the United States, but also for the entire global trading system. Policies that make market access conditional on technology transfer and indigenous development have also raised issues. By the same token, U.S. policies emphasizing military over competitive priorities have also eroded U.S. competitiveness, power, and influence." (ForeignPolicy)

"I had lunch recently with a good friend who is a veteran of the CIA and one of those spies who is a study in grays—handsome enough, but always in the background; never the first person you’d notice in a crowded room, and very possibly the last. Given his profession, I thought he wanted to be that way. So I was surprised when, early in the conversation as a college student served us iced tea in the diner, he said to me that one of the worst things about getting older is that you become 'invisible to women.' It’s not just that they aren’t interested in you, he said, 'it’s that they don’t see you.' Not many men admit this, I think, although I am sure that many men in their 50s and older, and not a few in their 40s, must feel it. And I suspect that it is this sensation of invisibility that makes some men—especially politicians and actors who have made careers trying to be loved in public–make ridiculous spectacles of themselves as they get older. For Rep. Anthony Weiner , 46, the fear of invisibility would seem to be so profound that he took to tweeting pictures of his depilated chest and distended crotch to complete strangers on Twitter and Facebook." (TheDailyBeast)

"To get to the Manhattan trading floor of Harbinger Capital Partners, the hedge fund run by Philip Falcone, you walk up an exposed curving staircase to what feels like the deck of a spaceship hovering 31 floors above Park Avenue. Falcone’s glass-walled office sits off to the side, and from this captain’s chair, with New York City seeming so still and quiet down below, you would never guess that Falcone, 48, is under siege. But, oh, he is. A few months ago, Falcone says, he almost took off the Ganesh charm—the elephant-headed Hindu deity that represents good fortune—that he wears around his neck. 'I thought, You have got to be kidding,' he says. 'I get very superstitious.' Falcone’s is a classic rags-to-riches story. The question now is whether it will end in ignominy worse than rags. Born in a small, fading iron-ore mining town in northern Minnesota, he made his escape to Harvard. That led to a career on Wall Street, which led to a successful hedge fund. By then Falcone was very, very rich. But rich turned into unimaginably, inordinately rich when, starting in late 2006, he began to put in place an enormous bet that subprime mortgages would default. When they did, Harbinger made some $10 billion, and in 2007, Falcone took home $1.7 billion. At its peak, Harbinger managed $26 billion. Suddenly, Falcone was one of the biggest, best-known, and most highly paid hedge-fund managers in the world. And if you believe the tabloid stories, he began acting the part. In mid-2008, when other rich New Yorkers were retreating from conspicuous consumption, he and his wife, Lisa Maria—who, with a childhood spent in Spanish Harlem, has her own rags-to-riches tale—bought the 25,725-square-foot, 27-room mansion right off Fifth Avenue that had belonged to Penthouse founder Bob Guccione. 'Let them eat cake' is how one person characterizes that purchase. The couple promptly embarked on a reported $10 million renovation, which included enlarging the existing swimming pool and adding a gym, a sauna, a steam room, a private movie theater, and not one but two walk-in closets for Lisa Maria." (VanityFair)


This past Sunday night, actress Emily Blunt hosted the 5th annual American Institute for Stuttering (“AIS”) Benefit Gala at The Tribeca Rooftop where Arthur Blank, Co-Founder of The Home Depot and Owner of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, was presented with the Freeing Voices Changing Lives Award. It was a heartfelt presentation as a Home Depot employee who also stutters, and who has long admired Arthur, surprised him on stage. Colin Firth received an award in absentia for his amazing contribution to stuttering with his Oscar winning performance as King George VI in The King’s Speech. Colin taped a gracious thank you for the audience from his film set in London. The Ballroom was filled with past award honorees and friends of AIS that included communications strategist Michael Sheehan, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Clarence Page, Sir Harold Evans, Tina Brown and Sam Waterston. A few surprise guests included Ken Langone who co-founded Home Depot with Arthur Blank and actor Matt Damon. Vice President Joseph Biden, a longtime supporter and friend to AIS, sent a poignant video in recognition of the Institute’s work. It was a moving tribute and a highlight of the evening."



"The intrepid entrepreneur striking out on his own has always been an essential part of America’s image of itself. Pulling himself up by his bootstraps—or setting up her e-business on a laptop in a coffee shop—the self-made individual is the engine that drives the American economy. This is even truer in times of economic crisis. According to one study, more than half of Fortune 500 companies were founded during a recession or bear market. Moreover, new firms tend to be where new jobs come from. On average, one-year-old companies add nearly three million new jobs in their first year, while existing firms lose one million jobs per year. Washington has started to pay attention. The Obama Administration has pushed forward some major changes aimed at boosting entrepreneurs, from low-interest loans to tax breaks for startup companies to training for veterans who want to start businesses. Policy-makers continue to focus on measures that would encourage the growth of entrepreneurs. But there is much more that can be—that needs to be—done. The United States faces not just the challenge of digging itself out of a very deep hole. We also have to contend with economies that are catching up to our lead. All over the world—China, India, Brazil, and elsewhere—entrepreneurs are springing up. We might think of entrepreneurial vitality as an especially American trait, but it is a trait we are starting to see in others too. Faced with tougher competition, we need to replenish our supply of ideas, lest we lose our status as the world’s great seedbed for entrepreneurs. Progressives have an important role to play in this mission. Government has been an important partner to entrepreneurs over the course of American history. From the railroads to DARPA’s invention of the Internet, government has been vital in opening up new opportunities for self-made Americans. But government restraint has also been crucial to entrepreneurial booms of past years. Striking that right balance, between a helpful public sector and an unobtrusive one, will be essential to the future of the American entrepreneur." (Democracy)

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