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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"If there was any state that announced that something very big had happened in American politics with Barack Obama’s election in 2008, it was the state he will visit on Tuesday. Virginia had not voted for a Democratic president since 1964 when it went for Obama. And if there was any state to warn Obama that the independent voters who gave him his historic victory were deeply disaffected, it was again Virginia.Just a year later, in 2009, Republican Gov. Robert McDonnell, running against Obama’s record in the White House, won independents by a 2 to 1 majority in a victory that served as a prelude to the massive GOP gains of 2010. Obama’s return visit to the state Tuesday as part of a three day bus tour that started Monday in North Carolina shines a vivid light on the continuing importance of Virginia in his electoral calculus as well as an enduring mystery of his presidency: Why has this president had so much trouble crafting an effective strategy for keeping independents by his side? ... But compared to other states, Viriginia’s economy is in relatively good shape - its 6.3 percent unemployment rate is well below the 9.1 percent national average. So pollsters see a larger issue than simply the bad economic times working against Obama - not just in Virginia, but in other states as well. 'His inability to get things done in Congress since the midterms, makes him look like a weak leader to independents,' said Peter Brown of Quinnipiac. 'In 2008 everybody was angry and he offered hope. In 2011, everyone’s still angry and they are giving up hope in him.'" (Politico)


"With market confidence in Greece and Italy further eroding, Germany's cash reserves are now the last best hope for the euro. Without a bold, continentwide rescue effort led by Germany, the single currency is likely to disintegrate. Yet it now seems clear, as indeed it should have for the last three years, that Angela Merkel's government would rather risk the euro's collapse than act decisively. Germany has profited mightily from the adoption of a common currency. Blessed with a dynamic export economy that does most of its trade within the eurozone, it has gained more than anyone else from the greater ease of doing business with its neighbors. What's more, even Germans who remain nostalgic for the Deutsche mark should realize how catastrophic a collapse of the euro would be. The world economy would fall back into recession. German exports would shrink precipitously. German banks, which have large holdings of Greek and Italian assets, would require vast sums from taxpayers to survive. Unemployment and the national deficit would skyrocket. Germans, in other words, ought to be falling over themselves to protect their currency from meltdown. And yet, at each and every turn, they have done as little as they possibly could. When pushed to the brink, Merkel has been willing to make available modest funds to avoid immediate financial meltdown; under intense international pressure, she has recently persuaded the Bundestag to increase Germany's contribution to the European Financial Stability Facility, a bailout fund for the euro. But despite periodic promises, she has not even tried to look for a large-scale political or financial plan capable of ending the crisis. In fact, she continues to oppose any proposal -- like a truly harmonized fiscal policy or the introduction of Eurobonds -- that might help European economies regain the confidence of the markets. Why?" (ForeignPolicy)

"Maybe a day after then-married socialite Mercedes Bass threw a dinner roll across a crowded ballroom at then-married billionaire oil heir Sid Bass in June 1986, the two began conducting the kind of affair that very rich people conduct: Sid and Mercedes holed up in a suite at the Carlyle, while his financial advisers waited in the lobby, in vain, for him to make meetings concerning his vast portfolio. Sid and Mercedes taking a private jet to Paris, cocooning themselves at the Plaza Athénée. When they finally venture outside, they strolled through the streets hand-in-hand, sure that no one they knew would see them. Until, of course, someone they knew saw them.  And so nine weeks after Mercedes, then 41, lobbed that fateful piece of bread, she called her husband, Ambassador Francis Kellogg, from her five-star Parisian hotel suite. 'Goodbye, darling,' she said. 'I’m marrying Sid.'  On Dec. 10, 1988 -- after Sid divorced his first wife, society queen Anne, settling with her for somewhere between $200 million and $500 million -- the couple married in a $500,000 gala at New York’s Plaza hotel.'They were the top,' says David Patrick Columbia, founder and editor of NewYorkSocialDiary.com ... So what happened? Why would one of the richest men in the world -- Forbes has valued Sid’s net worth at $2.1 billion -- go through another astoundingly expensive, high-profile divorce at the age of 69? Why not stay together but live separate lives -- quite easy to do when you own three properties in three states -- and avoid all the unpleasantness? Is there someone else? If so, who’s cheating? Friends and observers say there are very few clues." (NYPost)


"Members of the deficit-reduction supercommittee have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from special-interest groups, including a significant chunk from healthcare interests that want the panel to fail. Healthcare political action committees gave more to the deficit panel members than political action committees (PACs) representing energy, defense and agriculture interests, which could also be under the knife, according to fundraising reports filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), the third-ranking member of the House Democratic leadership, does not sit on any regular committees with jurisdiction over the health industry, but has raised more than $57,000 from healthcare-related PACs since his appointment to the debt supercommittee. Some of his contributions come from interests that want to minimize cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, such as the American Hospital Association, HealthSouth Corp., DaVita Inc. — which provides kidney dialysis treatment — and HCR Manor Care, which specializes in assisted-living care. Other supercommittee members on both sides of the aisle have won contributions from healthcare interests since being named to the panel. Hospitals, medical-device manufacturers and home-care experts in general would prefer that the supercommittee fail to reach a deal, say lobbyists familiar with the health industry’s strategy toward the panel." (TheHill)

"At noontime JH and I went over to the Mandarin Oriental where the Board of Directors of the Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy hosted its annual Fall Luncheon. Marcia Mishaan was Chairman and Suzanne Johnson and Cynthia Lufkin were Co-Chairs. Guest Speaker was Bette Midler. I’m a Bette Midler fan. I’ve always been a Bette Midler fan since her first album came out way back when. I think it was called The Divine Miss M with beautiful cover portrait by the late great illustrator and graphic designer Richard Amsel that is now a classic. She came on the scene in the late 1960s, first famous in an “underground” (or below the first floor) way giving performances at a gay club in the Ansonia Hotel on Broadway and 73rd Street where she was nothing short of a sensation. Her accompanist was even more unknown, a guy named Barry Manilow. Stardom soon followed and then a movie career and the rest is history. Bette Midler yesterday at the podium of the Mandarin Oriental, is now not only a star of movies, TV and Las Vegas, but a major philanthropic force in New York City with her New York Restoration Project." (NYSocialDiary)


"'It’s the kind of school, if you told people you wanted to end up at Goldman Sachs, they would probably chase you out of the dorm,' said John Borthwick, class of ’87, a double major in developmental economics and art history and co-founder of the Chelsea-based betaworks. “Radical transparency, open access to information, disrupting traditional media, these were the secret handshakes at Wesleyan.' The term Wesleyan Mafia has long been used to describe a cadre of graduates in Hollywood: successful directors, studio heads and writers. In music, too, graduates of the small liberal arts college in Middletown, Conn.—about two hours from New York—have had unusual critical success that stirred talk of a Connecticut Cosa Nostra. But it’s less surprising to hear that Michael Bay and MGMT attended Wesleyan, since the school is well known for its film and music departments. While computer science has never been among Wesleyan’s specialties, alumni seem to have found an especially prominent place of late among Silicon Alley’s elite." (BetaBeat)



"No one in Israel is calling the agreement signed for Gilad Shalit’s freedom a good deal. On many levels it is terrible. Israel is releasing more than 1000 prisoners, several hundred of them hardened terrorists, for one soldier. For the first time, the Jewish state essentially acquiesced as a terrorist organization dictated the list of prisoners to be released, including several responsible for mass deaths of Israeli citizens, a notion that would once have been unthinkable. Israel may well have given its enemies incentive to kidnap more soldiers. And the terrorists now being released are likely to attack and kill Israelis in the future. Despite these facts, the deal for Shalit passed a cabinet vote by an overwhelming margin (26 in favor and only three opposed), and the vast majority of Israeli citizens support it. In agreeing to this prisoner swap, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli public chose to return to their roots, to revive a central tenet of old-time Israeli ideology: we do not leave our sons in the field. The tenet is as old as the country itself. It stems from the fact that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is a citizens’ army, in which conscription is universal and every family knows that it could face the same tragedy as the Shalits. And in the army itself, the “stretcher march,” in which soldiers in training are ordered to carry one of their heaviest comrades on a stretcher up hills and down valleys for miles, is a formative ritual meant to instill one message: there is never a case in which soldiers cannot bring their wounded home. This ethic is taught in other armies, too, but it resonates differently in Israel. From the moment of his capture, Gilad Shalit has been a household name. Compare this to the silence in the United States regarding Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. soldier held hostage by the Taliban since June 2009. Ever since Shalit’s kidnapping, Israeli society has been wracked by a sense that it failed in its obligation to him." (ForeignAffairs)


"Don’t have your people call my people. That’s the message President Obama’s inner circle sent Bill Clinton’s camp after the ex-president’s posse tried to give advice on how to win re-election. The pols’ aides didn’t see eye-to-eye when Obama’s chief of staff Bill Daley, who was Clinton’s secretary of commerce, called in former Clinton advisers including Steve Ricchetti, Doug Sosnik, Joel Johnson and Joe Lockhart for a powwow with White House aides. 'It was like water and oil,' a source said. 'They didn’t seem to appreciate the advice.' There was also 'Obama-bashing' at a Clinton reunion in Little Rock, Ark., on Oct. 3." (PageSix)

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