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Monday, May 14, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"When Lyndon Johnson endorsed path-breaking civil rights legislation in the mid-1960s, he knew that he was irrevocably changing the Democratic Party. As he was affixing his signature to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he reportedly remarked to an aide that he was 'signing away the South for 50 years.'President Obama’s decision to endorse gay marriage may yield a similar outcome by weakening beyond repair his party’s links with less educated, socially conservative white voters ...
Early last year, I noted that Obama’s political advisors were tilting toward what I called a 'Colorado strategy' for the reelection campaign. Their focus was on an emerging new Democratic majority—a coalition of young people, minorities, unmarried women, and upscale professionals. This tilt would come, I noted, at the expense of the 'Ohio strategy'—my shorthand for an effort focused on retaining support from white working class voters. To be sure, this tilt toward Colorado as the electoral template was intended as a matter of emphasis rather than a flat-out rejection of Ohio alternative. After all, Obama won both Colorado-type states and Ohio-type states in 2008. It seemed reasonable to suppose that he could fortify the Party’s new beachhead in the Rockies without jeopardizing his standing in the heartland, the traditional key to presidential contests. The issue of gay marriage will test that optimism. Consider Ohio. The most recent Quinnipiac survey, conducted before the gay marriage announcement, showed the presidential race tied—Obama 45, Romney 44. (Adding Rob Portman to the Republican ticket moved the race to a dead heat, 45 to 45.) If the prospect of gay marriage antagonizes older conservatives more than it mobilizes younger liberals, Ohio could shift back into the Republican column. Or take North Carolina, one of the two rim-South states that the 2008 Obama campaign wrested from the Republicans. The state just passed—by 61 to 39 percent—a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage. This suggests that about one-fifth of Obama’s winning 2008 coalition disagrees with him on the issue. It’s hard to know how many of these voters will regard the president’s support for gay marriage as a deal-breaker. But common sense suggests that it is likely to be more than enough to swamp Obama’s 14,000-vote victory of four years ago." (TNR)


"Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision not to attend the G-8 summit and send Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as a stand-in has been seen by many as a bold snub to Washington and has raised important questions about the Russian leader's motivations. Beyond that looms the larger, and much more important, question about the future of Russia's foreign policy and its relations with the West. What if Putin's real motives, however, are exactly as advertised by his Kremlin aides -- that he needs to focus on forming a new government at home? If that's true, it offers a remarkable insight into the process of power balancing among the clans that make up Russia's cabinet. Either way, it's a hell of a way to begin a new term. Unlike Putin and Medvedev's announcement last September that they had long planned to swap places, the G-8 decision must have been made only in the last few days. When Putin announced that he would not attend the May 20-21 NATO summit in Chicago, he did confirm for the May 18-19 G-8 summit, which was then moved to Camp David by Barack Obama's administration. Until early May, U.S. and Russian diplomats were working hard on the Obama-Putin meeting to be held at the White House on the margins of the G-8 summit. Putin's public statements on the eve of his May 7 inauguration indicated his willingness to work with the United States on matters of mutual interest and even 'go really far' in that direction, as his foreign-policy aide put it. For that, of course, Putin requires a working personal relationship with Obama, the current and likely future president of the United States. Snubbing him would make no sense. So, something must have happened quite recently to make Putin change his mind. Of recent developments, two things stand out: the demonstrations in Moscow on the eve of and on Inauguration Day and the remarkable tardiness in the shaping of the 'Medvedev cabinet.' The May 6 clashes with the police in the streets of Moscow added more bad press to Putin's mountain of criticism in the Western media. Were he to show up at the White House, he would run the risk of being asked uncomfortable questions at a Rose Garden news conference." (ForeignPolicy)


"The giant $2 billion trading loss at JPMorgan Chase highlights a central problem in President Barack Obama’s case for a second term: Four years after the financial crisis nearly brought the nation to its knees, very little appears to have changed. No high-profile bank executives are in jail. Special multi-agency task forces to go after financial fraud and mortgage market abuses appeared in State of the Union addresses, only to issue a few news releases and mostly vanish from public view. And now one of the largest banks in the United States, headed by a Democrat and operating with government guarantees, has turned in the kind of headline-grabbing, casino-style style loss that drives voters crazy and that Obama’s financial reform bill was supposed to stop. It’s now led to the immediate retirement of Ina Drew, the bank’s chief investment officer, along with a statement from Dimon pressing that the JPMorgan Chase remains 'strong.' Senior administration officials make a nuanced and largely credible case that they pushed for the toughest law they could get through Congress. They say the JPMorgan trades might not have happened if banks were not lobbying like crazy to water down financial reform. And they argue that higher capital requirements mean banks can better handle large losses such as those suffered by JPMorgan. If a giant bank fails now, they say, it will be liquidated without taxpayer support. Obama campaign officials point out that their presidential opponent, Republican Mitt Romney, wants to get rid of the Dodd-Frank overhaul legislation entirely. They’ve also launched a new assault on Romney’s experience at Bain Capital Monday morning, attacking their opponent with a new ad and website for the job losses and profits he made as a venture capitalist. But average voters don’t attend Commodities Futures Trading Commission hearings or read comment letters on complex proposals like the Volcker Rule provision in Dodd-Frank that is supposed to ban banks from making such huge bets. Instead, they open newspapers and turn on televisions and see what looks like 2008 all over again." (Politico)


" They’re saying that the Duchess of Cambridge (whom I still think of as Kate Middleton) is 'lobbying hard' to reopen the Inquest into the death of her late mother-in-law, Princess Diana (convened in 2007/2008).  This past winter, the duchess, it is said, read John Morgan’s 'Inquest: Who Killed Princess Diana.' (available on Amazon), and became quite 'distraught.' Also, it is said that the duchess has had some interesting conversations about the matter with her Grandmother-in-law, the Queen. The two women are said to get on very well with each other. It is also believed that the matter will be re-opened, sometime later in the year after the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics. Although no one believes there will be new evidence that will cast greater doubt on the reported and/or official story. Diana’s death was one of those that remains in memory in terms of “where you were when” you first heard about it. I happened to be in Southampton at a big party that David Koch gave every end-of-summer at his house on the beach. The news broke just as guests were arriving about 7:30 – 8 o’clock. This was a big party – several hundred guests. The news, however, dominated the night and the party never really got going. A few days later I was talking to an astrologer Joelle Mahoney, who once gave me a very accurate reading about myself. I asked Joelle if, as an astrologer, she foresaw, or could have foreseen that demise. She told me that she hadn’t foreseen it (probably hadn’t thought of Diana) but that the death was 'not an accident' and that eventually, the truth would be revealed to the world." (NYSocialDiary)


"Ashton Kutcher wants to do for digital media what Robert Redford did for independent film. Google gave Kutcher’s production company one of YouTube’s 100 new original channels, which he has titled 'Thrash Lab.' In an interview with Bloomberg TV’s Gigi Stone, Kutcher said he thinks, 'These new channels are going to be synonymous with ABC, NBC, Fox, CBS and Bravo.' When asked why he is taking this risk, he responded, 'If you’re not trying to replace something that you’re working on with something that is the future . . . eventually you’ll get replaced.' Sounds like the recent brownface ad furor hasn’t damaged his confidence." (PageSix)


"Still grossing far more than all other movies combined in its second weekend, the mighty super hero megahit The Avengers easily held onto its crown at the North American box office while the worldwide tally smashed the $1 billion mark in a mere 19 days with plenty of worldwide fuel still in the tank. Johnny Depp's latest eccentric offering Dark Shadows opened in second place as expected but with a smaller audience than had been anticipated while many holdovers enjoyed small declines. Disney and Marvel celebrated another weekend of sheer dominance as The Avengers followed its record-shattering opening frame with a very good hold dropping 50% to an astounding $103.2M. That easily broke the record for the best sophomore weekend gross of all-time for any movie in history. Avatar - another big-budget 3D action title - held that record with $75.6M over the Christmas holiday session in 2009 while 2008's The Dark Knight did almost as much with $75.2M in its second round four summers ago from its 2D-only release. After just ten days of domestic play, the S.H.I.E.L.D. team has amassed a jaw-dropping $373.2M - the best ten-day start ever beating Knight's $313.8M. However, if four years of 2D ticket price increases and 3D surcharges are factored out, the Caped Crusader actually sold more tickets during this span. Still, Avengers also broke the $300M and $350M barriers in record time (nine and ten days, respectively) beating the previous industry titleholder Dark Knight which needed ten days to hit the triple-century mark and 14 days to surpass $350M. The Joker flick also holds the $400M speed record doing it in 18 days but that milestone should also be crushed by Avengers which will do the deed in 13 or 14 days. Nick Fury and his team have quickly zoomed up the list of all-time-domestic blockbusters reaching number 18 after just ten days of release. Given the positive audience buzz, the upcoming Memorial Day holiday, and the fact that college students will quickly be going on summer vacation over the coming week, The Avengers is on track to beat The Dark Knight to become the third largest domestic grosser of all-time trailing only Avatar and Titanic. " (BoxOfficeGuru)


"I’m 30. By virtue of that fact, I should be qualified enough to tell you about how to get your finances in order during your twenties. Luckily for you, I am not going to dole out the same tired financial advice that you’ve heard time and again. I bet you already know all the “right” things you are supposed to do with your money. And there are probably a lot of reasons why you’re not doing them. But what I will tell you is that you’ve got to figure out why you spend (or don’t spend) money if you’re going to start solving your own financial woes. Everyone has his or her own very personal and unique relationship with money. Looking back on my twenties, I realized that I spent my money mainly because I wanted to feel richer than I actually was. This single desire was probably the most fundamental problem I had with money during my twenties, and admittedly, it is one that I still struggle with today." (TheBillfold)

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