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Monday, November 21, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Just one day before the congressional supercommittee's drop-dead deadline to come up with a plan to cut trillions of dollars from the national debt, and days after the country racked up its 15 trillionth dollar of borrowed money, panel members fanned out across Washington Sunday morning—not to negotiate a last-minute deal, but to blame the other guys for messing everything up. In Washington, there is a group of folks that will not cut a dollar unless we also raise taxes,' Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, a Republican committee member, complained on NBC's Meet the Press.  'The only real breakthrough here was the Republican offer to actually increase the amount of revenue through the tax code."No sooner had Kyl finished speaking than John Kerry appeared on the same show, essentially calling Kyl a liar. 'What Jon just said is patently not true. We just cut $917 billion without one dime of new revenue. He knows it, we just did it...this is just nonsense,' Kerry said.  'If this weren't so serious I might laugh.' But nobody was laughing on Capitol Hill as it became increasingly clear that the latest supergroup of bipartisan dealmakers was about to go down in flames despite the high hopes in August, when Congress gave them the power to re-jigger the entire federal budget and President Obama vowed he would 'stay on it until we get the job done.'  But four months later, they haven't gotten the job done. And according to aides, they were never even close." (TheDailyBeast)



"On Saturday I crossed the Park (and the island) and went over to Zabar's. Before entering the store, as is my habit I stopped to peruse the bookseller’s tables in front by the curb. It often has new books at a discounted price. Up until this past Saturday, I didn’t know whom it belonged to because there is always more than one man overseeing the two or three long tables. They usually have a radio going too, always playing opera, or symphonic music (but mainly live opera performances). There are always people stopping to look ... This past Saturday, I happened to run into JH who also lives in the neighborhood. He was looking over my shoulder as I was looking at the books, until I turned to see who that guy behind me was who kept kind of crowding me as I moved along. Then he pulled out his digital and took these pictures. It started with the leaves on the books. I’m always amazed at how he suddenly finds a perfect shot. I’m looking at the same thing but he’s seeing a photograph. At the same time I picked out a book to buy: Niall Ferguson’s 'Civilization.' As I handed the money for it to the guy on the other side of the table, he said to me: “Do you ever wonder how many Niall Fergusons there are out there; writing so many books?'" (NYSocialDiary)


"I've been combing through the GOP debates and candidate speeches looking for the word 'ally.' There's a lot about adversaries -- Iranians, Chinese, Russians, Islamists, jihadists, even Venezuelans -- but not a lot on the other side of the ledger. Much of it takes the following form: 'Israel is our greatest ally' -- Michele Bachmann. Or: 'You don't allow an inch of space to exist between you and your friends and allies.' This from Mitt Romney, who went on to accuse President Barack Obama of -- surprise! -- throwing Israel "under the bus" by publicly criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In his book No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, Romney also accuses Obama of betraying U.S. allies Poland and Colombia. Is it a coincidence that the Republican candidates identify as allies the very few countries whose citizens just might vote for one of them if given the chance? Did I mention that Rick Perry has accused the Obama administration of selling Taiwan down the river? If only Newt Gingrich could come to the defense of plucky, supercapitalist Georgia, the candidates could assemble a complete list of right-leaning nations. It's as if they map America's own ideological divisions onto the world, dividing the globe into red and blue countries -- six or seven on the good side and the other 185 or so on the bad. Perhaps this also explains Romney's strange allergy to Western Europe." (ForeignPolicy)


"The more belongings, the more burdens. Small house, small burden. Big house, big burden. Many houses, many burdens. Material luxury can be measured. Your average rich person seems to live well. Their burden appears manageable. They have a house and a nice car or two, bills, payments, and responsibilities. In the extreme, the filthy stinking rich live in monumental splendor. They have many houses, many cars, boats, planes, and thousands of toys. Their burden is gigantic, and they make it so by acquiring all they have with no apparent end. Money doesn’t buy them happiness, it buys one elephantine encumbrance. One wonders what life is like for those who experience material luxury in the 0.1%. It is easy to assume they are happier because they don’t have to fly on packed planes and can go on holiday whenever and wherever they want. How nice for them to be able to simply buy their way out of a jam. The problem is that very rich people usually get into bigger jams, and the cost of getting out of them is proportionally higher. Prince Jefri of Brunei comes to mind. It is easy to envy the grandeur and the beauty a virtually unlimited bank account can afford. But such wealth is dangerous—as it should be.If you prefer materialism over happiness, you can stress yourself into oblivion by doing some retail therapy. Perhaps this is why, during these “austere” times, the luxury market is doing better than ever. Not everyone with this kind of cash spends it all. Not everyone who can afford a boat built by Philippe Starck has one, though most do. Possessing so much wealth requires a tremendous amount of management. And management means people. People means secretaries, maids, cooks, chauffeurs, accountants, mechanics, and masseurs. Rich people need people, and these are only the ones they pay for."(Mandolyna Theodoracopoulos)



"Like many people, I haven’t thought much about Newsweek recently—aside from being both amused and, if I’m honest, admiring of the magazine’s ridiculous cover from late June, featuring a ghoulishly Photoshopped 50-year-old Princess Diana strolling with her daughter-in-law. It takes nerve and vision to be so baldly and desperately cheesy, so hats off to editor Tina Brown. And anything that sells magazines, or at least draws a little attention to the medium, is a good thing in my eyes—so long as I am paid a salary by a magazine. But there’s been a run of bad news for Newsweek this week, what with two key editors resigning, the publisher getting canned, and the magazine abandoning its quadrennial post-election special issue in which catty presidential campaign workers spill backstage dramas. The New York Times revealed that the magazine’s staff has been 'straining under Tina Brown’s high-pressure management style…. People who work there, who did not want to publicly criticize their bosses, say morale in the newsroom has sunk as Ms. Brown has had more frequent outbursts in front of her employees. ‘It’s all hell, it’s agony,’ she has been overheard telling staff members about the quality of their work, according to one of them.' Is it all hell and agony?" (Bruce Handy)


"Many Democrats seem confident President Obama will face former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in November 2012 — and they are happy enough about that. Former White House aides, left-leaning strategists and Democratic pollsters alike seem almost of one mind on the issue.
Yes, they say, it would have been nice if one of the other Republican candidates had been able to make a stronger case against Romney. But, in their view, the missteps of the potential alternatives have been too severe, the holes in their credibility too gaping.'The others may not quite be toast,' Democratic strategist Chris Lehane told The Hill. 'But they’re certainly in the toaster, the dial is turned up to nine, and there is smoke coming out.' 'Oh, Democrats would love to get Michele Bachmann, of course!' said Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, who is also a columnist for The Hill. 'I’m sure there are lots of Democrats who would like to run against Herman Cain. But all of them, including Romney, have fundamental weaknesses.' The pro-Obama forces have already focused their crosshairs on the former Massachusetts governor, whom they think has weaknesses they can exploit in the fall." (TheHill)



"The professional left and the professional right are delusional in their own special way, according to two essays in this week's New York magazine, which can be summed up as 'Why can't you people be happy?' vs. 'Why are you people happy with this?' Liberal columnist Jonathan Chait argues that the psychology of liberals means they were destined to be depressed by the fruitless compromising of President Obama, just as they were dismayed by the fruitless compromising of his Democratic predecessors, whom they not hold up as pure-hearted heroes. David Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, says his party has been taken over by a 'political movement that never took governing seriously' that is now being 'exploited by a succession of political entrepreneurs uninterested in governing—but all too interested in merchandising.' Chait explains that liberals are constantly comparing Obama unfavorably to Democratic presidents of yore -- saying the old guys who have stood up to House Republicans and pushed all kinds of liberal legislation through Congress. Bill Clinton, for example, was smart enough to use the slogan, 'It's the economy, stupid.' But if you go back and look at the record, liberals weren't so pleased by Clinton in the 1990s." (AtlanticWire)

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