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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"The Europeans are taking more risk but that does not mean that they are offering lots of protection to other buyers. And it will take time for these structures to be set up: China will want lots more detail, and to see how the Greek bond swap with private creditors goes, before it commits cash. Grand political bargains between China and Europe—money in return for more representation at the IMF, or market-economy status—seem wildly improbable. These prizes will eventually come anyway; and weak though parts of Europe are, the EU cannot be seen to trade them too nakedly. Bargaining of this sort would also require both parties to change their positions markedly. China is keen not to be seen as a source of 'dumb money', but requiring big political concessions in return for cash is a pretty clear signal that this is not a commercially attractive investment. As for the euro zone, it can hardly claim that senior Spanish and Italian debt is now safe for institutional investors if it has to horse-trade too hard to get China on board. That does not mean that Mr Regling’s trip, which now takes him to Japan, is wasted. It is plausible that China will put some money into euro-zone debt alongside other non-European countries. How that money could be used depends a bit on whether it is channelled by the IMF or some other means." (TheEconomist)

"Let’s compare the plans. The Democratic proposal, released by senator and committee member Max Baucus the other day, looks to cut $3 trillion from the budget. The Republican plan, leaked in parts to The Wall Street Journal and Politico after Baucus moved, cuts just $2 trillion. If it seems odd to you that Democrats are proposing more deficit reduction than Republicans, you aren’t alone. The reason is that the Republicans—surprise, surprise—are doing it all by cuts with no tax revenue, while the Democrats include $1 trillion to $1.3 trillion in new revenue. Now, Republicans will repeat in these coming weeks that their plan does include “revenue.” And in a way, it does. It’s just not tax revenue. Or wait—it is tax revenue! But from a tax decrease! Yes: The GOP plan says the government will raise $200 billion by cutting corporate and individual taxes. You know, the way the Bush tax cuts increased revenue, which is to say, not in the real world, but in the minds of Mitch McConnell and other delusionals who think the Bush tax cuts raised revenue. So when they go around saying “our plan raises revenues,” remember their track record." (Mike Tomasky)



"I first set foot in America 46 years ago during the summer before entering university, and I’ve since visited as often as I could. Although I live in the west of England, I write largely for American publications. I visit Austin, Tex., from time to time to lecture at the University of Texas and fully consider myself a long-distance Longhorns fan. (Yes, I know, news of the Red River massacre reached even Somerset, but as an Arsenal supporter, I have been emotionally conditioned for calamity.)  And yet I know just what G. K. Chesterton meant when he said that nowhere on earth does an Englishman feel as much a stranger as in the United States. That may be truer now, as I see very clearly that our two continents are drifting apart. Far from the world becoming flatter or smaller, the Atlantic is growing wider, politically and emotionally. For much of the past century the two sides have been bound together by what now appear to have been temporary circumstances — the series of military partnerships from World War I through the cold war. There were deep underpinnings for what Winston Churchill first called the special relationship, but what’s curious is that we should think it still exists. Will history see the years of 'Atlanticism' as a passing episode, before America turns to a manifest destiny elsewhere?  Election time only emphasizes our differences. I’m not quite sure when American politics became a contest in piety, but so it has, in a way that is simply unimaginable today in Western Europe. Faith is more competitive than even 11 years ago when George W. Bush won the election, after a fashion. Mitt Romney allays doubts about his Mormonism by nervously assuring us that Jesus Christ is his Lord and Savior. But then Rick Perry says that, too — as does Barack Obama.
It’s no wonder that this parade of faith has Europeans looking on with perplexity and derision. Despite the First Amendment, it’s Europe that effectively separates church and state." (NYTimesMagazine)



"At 89, the 20th-century’s premier scholar of Japanese literature has risen still further in Japanese estimation. Shortly after the country was laid low by an earthquake and tsunami in March, the academic said he would leave his native America for good, become a Japanese citizen and live out his last days in Japan. The announcement made headline news. Japanese spoke, many with tears in their eyes, of the courage he had given them in their hour of need. After delivering his last lecture at Columbia University, where he taught for more than 50 years, Donald Keene wrapped up his life in New York. We meet in mid-October, not long after his move to Japan. Our restaurant is in Roppongi, a high-octane district of clubs and bars. But I am underground – in the France of a different era, waiting for an American with a thousand years of Japanese literature in his head. The lone waiter is loitering nervously. The chef is pacing the pavement above, ready to greet the professor." (Lunch withtheFT)


"That's according to his Kiss band member (and onetime roommate) Ace Frehley in Frehley's new book, No Regrets. Writes Ace: 'Fastidious if not downright anal in his professional life, Gene was an utter mess in his personal life. As I quickly discovered, Gene was an epic slob.' Ace remembers multiple instances of Gene--whom he admits might have been affected by all that flame swallowing--spitting all over the place. One time, he says, 'Gene cleared his throat, dragged up a thick wad of phlegm, and spat it onto the carpet. 'What wasn't understandable was his insistence on spitting all over the floor. I was afraid to walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night for fear of stepping in a pile of mucus.' And speaking of bodily fluids, there was also some wacky sexual behavior. Says Ace:'Gene would fuck almost anything (and I think he's admitted as much). We all opened our beds to companionship on a regular basis, but somehow Gene was the one who would end up with bugs in his bush.'" (Michael Musto)



"Drug use has been a key conservative talking point used to undermine the various Occupy camps around the country. In Occupy Los Angeles, though, smoking weed has become a wedge issue dividing the camp into increasingly entrenched groups. As one original organizer of Occupy LA described it, 'on one side there’s the hardcore Politicos-Get-Shit-Done process freaks and on the other are people who think they are starting a new society.' Smoking weed cuts to one of the main dilemmas within a leaderless, horizontal, movement like Occupy Los Angeles: who makes the rules? Who enforces the rules? Going even further: should there even be rules? Is this a narrowly focused social movement bent on economic reform through massive but nonviolent participation? Is it a petri dish of something new?¹ There is a wing of the Occupy LA that sees their encampment as a radical new mode of living; one that not only rejects income inequality, but any sort of action that enables one group to represses any other. This means contempt for anything like a parliamentary up or down vote, or adopting the same drug laws as 'the outside.' When someone lights up, especially during daylight hours, there is an instant sense of polarization between those who are willing to behave and those who aren’t. Finally those differences exploded." (TheAwl)



"New York Times Op-Ed columnist Nick Kristof is in Vietnam shooting a documentary for his 'Half the Sky' project. He flipped on the TV Saturday morning and felt he needed to Tweet ... " (TVNewser)


"But what makes us so neurotic? One answer seems to be space. Or the lack thereof. 'New York is mental illness, drug addiction and eating disorders served on a silver platter,' Mr. Preven said. 'A lot of us are cognitively challenged. There are so many different worlds here and we all overlap and bump up against each other. I call Grand Central a human particle accelerator.' There do seem to be a lot of neuroses that are particular to our city, some of which might be better described as micro-neuroses. For instance, 'Air-conditioning drip,' a condition that was pointed out to us by two separate friends (both of whom, oddly, are employed by Conde Nast), which is a fear of being struck by drips and drops of water from air-conditioners in the apartment windows overhead.And there’s a common meta–micro-neurosis, of which almost everyone contacted about this article displayed symptoms. One by one, they detailed their personal peccadilloes—followed by the panicked, paranoid cry: 'Don’t quote me!,' or 'Don’t make me sound crazy!,' or 'No, you can not use my full name, people will make fun of me,' or 'Shit—I sound nuts right? Can I get quote-approval?' For our purposes, we will stick to the bigger neuroses, and look at how they’ve changed in the 75 years since (Karen) Horney published her original list." (Paula Froelich/Observer)


"Ever since The Shield debuted in 2002, FX has become synonymous with quality male-oriented programming. And so many devotees of the network — loyal fans of such shows as Louie, Justified, and Damages — were concerned, unnerved, and even outraged by yesterday's announcement that this summer their trusted network would be airing Charlie Sheen's return to TV in the sitcom Anger Management, based on the 2003 Jack Nicholson–Adam Sandler film of the same name. From a capitalist perspective, it is unfair to tut-tut. It's a good business decision: Sheen's return to TV will undoubtedly have at least an initial huge tune-in. FX is a company; they can’t be faulted for going after such a big potential audience. It's na├»ve to expect that TV networks will behave morally, as if they’re people, and to leave a sweetheart deal with Sheen on the table because his behavior has been erratic at best, illegal and brutal at worst. And yet, FX can only blame itself for its disappointed fans. Over the past nine years, they've worked hard and spent millions getting us to think of them as a specific kind of personality (or, if you want to use the term of art, a brand): rough but with integrity, brash but savvy. And when dumb, smart dumb. So FX can cash in if they want, but they shouldn’t expect us to like it. In many ways, the network itself seems unable to give the idea a full embrace. The network is not producing the show, but rather is simply acquiring what's essentially a syndicated show. (Lionsgate, the company that also produces Mad Men, is Anger Management's producer.) This has a big financial upside, as they won't be responsible for the budget or the day-to-day headache that is Charlie Sheen in his less lucid moments; they'll simply pay for the right to air it, just like they do Sheen's Two and Half Men reruns. But it also means that they won't be branding it an 'FX Original,' as they do shows like Louie. It feels like it gives the option for full deniability." (NYMag)

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