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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Why isn’t Barack Obama tougher? During the week that he signed a debt deal in which the Republicans took him to the cleaners, markets tanked, and U.S. debt got hit with a historic and disastrous downgrade, several answers were bruited. It’s political: he’s in thrall to polls telling him that accommodation is what independent voters want. It’s ideological: he’s in fact (say some liberals) an aggressive moderate who’s perfectly fine with massive spending cuts. It’s psychological or biological: he just doesn’t have the tough-guy gene. All these factors are present to varying degrees. But let me offer a different explanation—one that’s a little deeper. The problem rests in the realm of political philosophy. Obama has beliefs about democratic governance, and about himself as president, that dictate his behavior in battles like the debt-ceiling brawl. These beliefs were a big part of what made him so inspirational to so many people before he won the 2008 election, but they have served him—and his voters, and the country—poorly since he took office, and especially since the Republicans won control of the House of Representatives." (TheDailyBeast)



"Would the monarchs of the Holy Alliance have supported a democratic uprising anywhere in Europe in 1820? Would Prince Metternich have backed nationalist movements in 1848? Of course not. But their supposed reactionary analogue in the Arab upheavals of 2011, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, has now come out, forcefully if indirectly, for a regime change in Syria. That makes the third time during this Arab spring that Saudi Arabia, the supposed champion of the status-quo, has thrown an Arab leader under the bus. Bashar al-Asad now joins Muammar al-Qaddafi and Ali Abdullah Saleh in the club of Arab leaders Saudi Arabia can do without. The immediate reaction to the Saudi recall of its ambassador to Damascus in many news outlets (including the BBC, the New York Times and the Washington Post) emphasized the incongruity (and the hypocrisy) of an absolute monarchy that had sent troops to Bahrain to put down popular protests calling on a fellow dictator to stop oppressing his people. But that is the wrong frame in which to understand Saudi Arabia's regional policy during this time of Arab upheaval. The right frame is the regional balance of power battle between Riyadh and Tehran. In that context, the Saudi move against the Asad regime makes much more sense." (ForeignPolicy)


"The Germans are now in possession of the only Finance Ministry in the big-time developed world whose leaders don’t need to worry whether their economy will collapse the moment investors stop buying their bonds. As unemployment in Greece climbs to the highest on record (16.2 percent at last count), it falls in Germany to 20-year lows (6.9 percent). Germany appears to have experienced a financial crisis without economic consequences. They’d donned head condoms in the presence of their bankers, and so they had avoided being splattered by their mud. As a result, for the past year or so the financial markets have been trying and failing to get a bead on the German people: they can probably afford to pay off the debts of their fellow Europeans, but will they actually do it? Are they now Europeans, or are they still Germans? Any utterance or gesture by any German official anywhere near this decision for the past 18 months has been a market-moving headline, and there have been plenty, most of them echoing German public opinion, and expressing incomprehension and outrage that other peoples can behave so irresponsibly." (Michael Lewis)


"Spain’s wealthy Duchess of Alba, 85, who is believed to have the most noble titles of any living person, has distributed her vast fortune and art collection to her six children in order to marry a 60-year-old civil servant, Reuters reports. The twice-widowed duchess, Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, is attempting to prove to her family that her suitor, Alfonso Diez, is not interested in her sizable real-estate, art collection and wealth, which is believed to stand at between 600 million and 3.5 billion euros ($4.9 billion). Her children have reportedly urged her to call off the marriage. The duchess’s art collection includes works by masters such as Velazquez, Goya and Rubens. According to Time, her eldest son, Carlos, has been given control of her Liria Palace in Madrid, where the duchess was born, and which is rich with works by El Greco and Rembrandt." (Observer)
 

"I went to 9 West, the Solow building on 57th Street just a few doors west of Bergdorf’s and Van Cleef’s. I was going to lunch at '8½' with Patsy Tarr. This is only the second time I’d been to this restaurant which is vast and spacious, and popular. There are a number of hedge funds and private equity firms with offices in the building, and so many of their executives conveniently lunch there. Yesterday was very quiet, a typical mid-August day, although James Watson, discoverer of the Double Helix was lunching with a couple of businessmen. Nearby Senator Chuck Schumer was lunching, and at another table Edgar Bronfman Jr. and guests." (NYSocialDiary)
 
 
"On Saturday, East End party hoppers had lots to deliberate over, and ample stretches of Montauk Highway to traverse in the name of socializing and philanthropy—Russell Simmons’ vibrant 12thannual Art For Life gala bash was no exception. The lavish affair, situated on the Simmons’ property, was strewn with paper lanterns in cheerful marigolds, poppies,  and classic crimson. Most of the crowd adhered to the punched-up color palette—not by colorful coincidence, but as a nod to the saffron and red tonal 'Zen of Giving' theme. The eve’s honorees included Mary J. Blige, Tamara Mellon and Edward Norton ...Meanwhile, the perpetually polished CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien hosted, while an ethereal-looking Jennifer Hudson, donning a woven cream Lela Rose frock, took the stage to belt out a few numbers shortly after dinner wrapped up. The event, which fundraised for the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation’s progressive arts programming in urban public schools, celebrated a dozen years of encouraging the arts in myriad forms, with the always delightfully controversial (and wildly talented) Kara Walker as this year’s featured artist ... For model mogul Scott Lipps, surrounded throughout the evening in leggy lovelies, took a break from nibbling on apps to discuss his dream price-is-no-object art purchase (or gift). 'I really like Damien Hirst pieces, but there is a price issue there—the issue is that the price is too much.' A casually clad Michelle Rodriguez expressed ample conviction (and saucy specificity) over what, exactly, her ideal art purchase would entail. 'I’d love to own a Helmut Newton picture of a naked chick.'" (Fashionweekdaily
 

"The latest issue of TV Guide takes a look at the highest-paid personalities on TV, and many TV news anchors are present on the list. The salaries also give a taste at how some networks are saving money, and where others are clearly making a significant investment. The highest paid news anchor is NBC 'Today' anchor Matt Lauer, who brings in around $17 million a year. The network morning shows are by the far the most profitable of all the network news shows, so the high payday is not surprising. Among the evening news anchors, 'NBC Nightly News' anchor Brian Williams leads the way with a $13 million a year contract, followed by Diane Sawyer at $12 million. 'CBS Evening News' anchor Scott Pelley makes less than $5 million a year, or less than a third of what Katie Couric was making on the program." (TVNewser)



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