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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"The rare foreign visitor to China during the Cultural Revolution often saw a huge placard at the airport boasting the farcical claim, "We have friends all over the world." In truth, Maoist China -- a rogue state exporting revolution and armed struggle around the world, and a bitter foe of the West and the former Soviet bloc -- was extremely isolated. It had a few friendships with countries like Ceausescu's Romania and Pol Pot's Cambodia; for a few bleak years, China's only true ally was tiny Albania. Forty years later, a powerful and assertive Beijing has a lot more friends. Its economic presence is warmly welcomed by many governments (though not necessarily people) in Africa; European countries regard China as a 'strategic partner,' and China has forged new bonds with leading emerging economies like Turkey, Brazil, and South Africa. Yet besides Pakistan, which depends on China for military and economic assistance, and which China supports mainly as a counterweight against India, Beijing has a shocking lack of real allies. Real strategic alliance or friendship is not a commodity that can be bought and bartered casually. It is based on shared security interests, fortified with similar ideological values and enduring trust. China excels in 'transactional diplomacy' -- romping around the world with its fat checkbook, supporting (usually poor, isolated, and decrepit) regimes like Angola and Sudan in return for favorable terms on natural resources or voting against Western-sponsored resolutions criticizing China's human rights record. And the world's second-largest economy will remain bereft of dependable strategic allies because of three interrelated factors: geography, ideology, and policy.  For one thing, China is situated in one of the toughest geopolitical neighborhoods in the world. It shares borders with Japan, India, and Russia; three major powers which have all engaged in military conflicts with China in the 20th century. It still has unresolved territorial disputes with Japan and India, and the Russians fear a horde of Chinese moving in and overwhelming the depopulated Russian far east. As natural geopolitical rivals, these countries do not make easy allies." (ForeignPolicy)


"Geographically, Myanmar dominates the Bay of Bengal. It is where the spheres of influence of China and India overlap. Myanmar is also abundant in oil, natural gas, coal, zinc, copper, precious stones, timber and hydropower, with some uranium deposits as well. The prize of the Indo-Pacific region, Myanmar has been locked up by dictatorship for decades, even as the Chinese have been slowly stripping it of natural resources. Think of Myanmar as another Afghanistan in terms of its potential to change a region: a key, geo-strategic puzzle piece ravaged by war and ineffective government that, if only normalized, would unroll trade routes in all directions. Ever since China's Yuan (ethnic Mongol) dynasty invaded Myanmar in the 13th century, Myanmar has been under the shadow of a Greater China, with no insurmountable geographic barriers or architectural obstacles like the Great Wall to separate the two lands -- though the Hengduan Shan range borders the two countries. At the same time, Myanmar has historically been the home of an Indian business community -- a middleman minority in sociological terms -- that facilitated the British hold on Myanmar as part of a Greater British India. But if Myanmar continues on its path of reform by opening links to the United States and neighboring countries, rather than remaining a natural resource tract to be exploited by China, Myanmar will develop into an energy and natural resource hub in its own right, uniting the Indian subcontinent, China and Southeast Asia all into one fluid, organic continuum. And although Chinese influence in Myanmar would diminish in relative terms, China would still benefit immensely. Indeed, Kunming, in China's southern Yunnan province, would become the economic capital of Southeast Asia, where river and rail routes from Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam would converge." (Robert Kaplan)


"Monday night I had dinner at Sette Mezzo with Joan and Philip Kingsley who are in from London – although Philip travels the Atlantic every six weeks or so to tend to his salons here in New York. Philip is the primo hair doctor in the world. A London boy, he started out as a kid, sweeping floors in the salon of an uncle. The uncle advised him that being a hairdresser was not what he was cut out for, suggesting that he instead learn about haircare. This was a new topic of popular interest when he began his business in London more than a half century ago. Since then the list of famous clientele that has darkened Philip’s salon door is long and famous and even beknighted, not to mention – so I’ve heard – Royal. Philip will never tell because he’s the master of the delicately discreet. By which I mean, he will enjoy the speculation with you while ignoring the question. Conversation at table led to the Queen’s Jubilee in early June which will include a 700-boat flotilla on the Thames with all London already claiming their spots to view this once in a lifetime event. All this led to a couple of books I’d recently read: Sally Bedell Smith’s 'Elizabeth, The Queen' and Anne Sebba’s 'That Woman,' yet another biography of Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor. I wasn’t going to read it, figuring I knew enough about the lady to have lost interest in knowing anymore. However, a friend of mine told me he felt the same way but that Liz Smith had given it to him because she felt the same way … and couldn’t put it down. I could put it down, as it turned out, but not for long. Sebba writes giving the lady the benefit of the doubt. The 'doubt' being her worthiness. She explains the duchess’ beginnings – always the most important part of the story of a life – and you see that she was profoundly challenged from birth, for physical reasons, to claim an identity which she could live with." (NYSocialDiary)


"The sidewalk outside the Beauchamp Club was buzzing more than it ever had when the club was open. A virtual riot was forming in front of the unmarked building off a charming little street near Harrods. As I watched from across the road on that sunny winter day, punters and creditors furiously banged the door to number 30. Through the din of snickering I expected the proprietor to emerge with his checkbook and some answers, but he was nowhere to be found. The door did not open. The lights never came on inside. Now all anyone wants to know is whether the man who opened—and then suddenly closed—the club is a crook or a chump. All we know for certain is that he behaved like a coward. For those of you who have never heard of the Beauchamp, it was a small London club that opened its doors back in 2009. The man behind the venture was one Farhad Farman-Farmaian; let’s call him FFF. He had been around rich people all his life. He attended Brown University and claims to descend from Persian nobles, but he was not especially rich himself. After successful stints at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles and Annabel’s in London, FFF decided he was ready to go solo. He managed to gather up enough money to open his own place, which was no surprise considering his sole talent is befriending rich people, artistic types, and the upper classes. I suspect he imagined the club would rival Annabel’s or the like, but it never did." (Mandolyna Theodoracopoulos)


"What recession? As the specter slowly lifts, the rich folk who never knew it happened in the first place have been carrying on like there's no yesterday. And nosebleed and all, I've been perfectly willing to join them, awkwardly clinking my swizzle-sticked Shirley Temple with their double Between the Sheets. And wines! In came an invite to commingle with 'the winemakers of Le Cercle Rive Droite de Grands Vins de Bordeaux for a VIP dinner celebrating the select wines of the Right Bank of Bordeaux, paired with chef Philippe Bertineau's exquisite menu.' That was in so many foreign languages for me that I felt like I needed injections and a visa just to attend, but it was at the chichi Benoit bistro, and Countess LuAnn de Lesseps and boyfriend Jacques Azoulay were hosting, so I was extremely there, with extra-nice bags on my surgical shoes. The meal was indeed lovely, from the 'organic salmon choisy' (from the Choisy Shore, I guess) to the 'filet mignon with potato boulangère and young carrots"—so young they would surely have been arrested if the cops had raided the place. 'You can't get drunk from red wine,' insisted LuAnn, which is good news because the stuff was going like paper towels at a Republican debate. 'This was awesome,' said author Jay McInerney, poignantly lifting an empty bottle of Chateau Barde-Haut that everyone had wantonly finished ... Also at my table were LuAnn's fellow Housewife Kelly Bensimon, hollywoodlife.com editor Bonnie Fuller, and Ann Dexter-Jones, the writer, jewelry maker, and mother of the prodigious Mark, Charlotte, and Samantha Ronson. Ann's ex-husband, rocker Mick Jones, used to have a vivid taste for the booze, 'but the second I said goodbye, he stopped,' Ann told me. " (Musto)

"A budget plan introduced by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would add more to the deficit over 10 years than if Congress kept the status quo, undermining claims of its fiscal impact. Ryan’s blueprint, 'The Path to Prosperity,' would add $3.127 trillion to the deficit during the decade spanning 2013 to 2022, according to a table on page 88 of the plan. The Congressional Budget Office estimated in its March 2012 projections that if 'current laws generally remain unchanged,' the federal government would incur deficits totaling $2.887 trillion from 2013 to 2022. In other words, Congress would save more money over the next decade if it allowed current law to continue than if it adopted Ryan’s budget. The CBO baseline, however, assumes several developments that congressional insiders consider highly unlikely, such as expiration of the Bush-era tax rates and the implementation of scheduled cuts to doctors' Medicare reimbursements. A spokesman for the House Budget Committee did not immediately return a request for comment. This comparison will likely rankle conservatives who want deeper spending cuts to balance the federal budget within the next 10 years." (Alexander Bolton)



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