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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"John Kerry on Wednesday ripped his former colleagues in Congress for contributing to public opposition to foreign aid during his first major address as secretary of State. Kerry said many Americans believe that the United States spends 25 percent of its budget on foreign affairs, instead of the real figure of just over 1 percent. He said politicians looking for an applause line have contributed to that misperception. 'Where do you think this idea comes from?' Kerry asked. 'Well I'll tell you, it's pretty simple. As a recovering politician, I can tell you that nothing gets a crowd clapping faster in a lot of places than saying: 'I'm going to Washington to get them to stop spending all that money over there.'  'If you're looking for an applause line, it's about as guaranteed an applause line as you can get. But guess what: It does nothing to guarantee our security. It does nothing to guarantee a stronger country. It doesn't guarantee a sounder economy or a more stable job market.' Kerry said people should 'say no to the politics of the lowest-common denominator and of simplistic slogans and start making real choices that protect the interests of our country.'" (TheHill)


"The Koch brothers’ political network spent hundreds of millions to win the White House and the Senate — and came up empty. So they did what any smart business executives would do: ordered up an audit. But they’re not waiting for the final report for heads to roll. Americans for Prosperity, the Kochs’ main political outlet, parted ways with its chief operating officer, most of its 100-plus employee field staff and several fundraisers. Generation Opportunity, a Koch-backed youth mobilization effort, recently replaced its president. Charles and David Koch’s network also is withholding cash from some groups pending the full audit results, and it has postponed both of its signature donor conferences this year." (Politico)


"Democrats, faced with a daunting set of Senate races in 2012, not only survived but thrived, adding two seats to their majority. The party will face a difficult map again in 2014, however. Twenty-one of the 35 seats up for election are now held by Democrats. Moreover, most the states that will be casting ballots for the Senate in 2014 are Republican leaning: 7 of the 21 Democratic-held seats are in states carried by the former Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, while just one of the Republican seats is in a state won by President Obama. Democrats could also suffer from the downside to presidential coattails. Most of the seats up for grabs in 2014 were last contested in 2008, a very strong Democratic year. Without having Mr. Obama on the ballot, and with an electorate that is likely to be older and whiter than in presidential years, some Democrats may find that their 2008 coattails have turned into a midterm headwind instead. Are the conditions favorable enough to make Republicans odds-on favorites to gain six seats and win the Senate majority?" (Nate Silver)


"A lot of my personal reading in the past several months has been related to the middle of the last century and the events and personalities in and around the Second World War. It’s a time of which I have no personal experience, just the ancillary knowledge gained by hearsay. So it is all fresh in its impact. And, I should add, deeply depressing. Not that people, some people, many people, didn’t have a good time no matter how brief. Because they did; especially those who had the spirit for it. The words 'hero' and 'heroine' sometimes emerge, however. Not all the time, but sometimes, and more often in times of catastrophe. During wartime in Britain, this quality of character became evident in all kinds and types and types from the lower classes to the Burke’s Peerage crowd. Those who were coming of age at the end of the 1930s were the first entirely modern generation – when the world went from the dark to the light and speed took on an entirely different concept and meaning. Their lives and many of their attitudes had changed radically from just the turn of the last (19th) century. The rules had changed too. When the War came, women of every class went to work in the factories doing the men’s work. It would never be the same again. Pluck and courage was the operative stance. Today we’re re-printing an obituary which recently ran in the Telegraph of London of one such person – Sarah Baring, who died earlier this month at 93. Mrs. Baring was a young English society girl, not yet 20 when the Nazis declared war on her homeland. As you will read, she had no experience of life, of the world, or even much education before that moment. She definitely had that 'inner something' that pushes people in fortuitous and unimagined directions. Mrs. Baring’s life is about that, and, of course the outcome. And the lessons." (NySocialDiary)


"All his life Tommy had diligently followed the rules. Until he turned thirty when he was thunderstruck with wanderlust. Sitting at the kitchen table in the only house he had ever known, sharing cake and coffee with his mother, nervously scraping up invisible crumbs from around his plate, 'I need more!' he declared. His mother picked up the knife and made to cut him another slice of cake. 'I need a life!' he almost shouted, yanking the knife from her hand. He told her of his plans and she broke down and wept. Tommy promised to write, but he was resolved. Before he left, he sold everything, including his truck. He kept only a guitar and whatever else he could stuff into a backpack. Everyone said he had been a cute baby. People fawned over him, occasionally mistaking him for a girl, he had always been slight and what with his shiny pelt of blonde hair and his tiny upturned nose. But he wanted more from life.He had been ‘walking’ for the past few months, which in truth involved many a hitched ride. Most often from women. On Christmas Day, somewhere in Texas, a lady in a silver pickup truck stopped beside him on the interstate and kicked open the passenger door, 'For heaven’s sake!' she yelled at him, 'C’mon! Get in! I’m feeding your skinny ass tonight!' Thanks in part to his still appealing features Tommy was offered space on sofas and guest rooms, but he declined, saying sweetly, 'If I may, I’d rather sleep on your back porch. I have a sleeping bag.' But he’ll make use of the bathroom, and the kitchen, and even another ride to the next oasis. Always maintaining the illusion of roughing it and flexing his imagination Tommy convinced himself he was experiencing freedom. Sensibly, given the weather, he was headed south." (Christina Oxenberg)



"At one of Playboy's first big bashes after going private in 2011, much seemed as usual for a brand that has embodied American hedonism for nearly 60 years. Bunnies and Playmates sashayed beneath black crystal chandeliers in The Palms Casino's Playboy Club in Las Vegas, while men in suits hit the dance floor. One of them was Scott Flanders, 55 years old, Playboy Enterprises Inc.'s first CEO outside the family of founder Hugh Hefner. But the appearance of the uninterrupted good life was largely an illusion. Mr. Flanders was in the early stages of radically reshaping the company, shrinking its staff by 75%, moving its headquarters from its historic home in Chicago to Los Angeles, outsourcing much of its business, and ushering in what many current and former employees describe as a harsher company culture. Mr. Flanders has been building on Playboy's recent strategy of morphing into a licensing company—in the process shedding the seedier aspects of its image. It remains a work in progress. 'Our favorite line is, 'Less sweatsuit, more Tom Ford,'' says chief marketing officer Kristin Patrick. Today, Playboy is both smaller and more profitable. It now has annual revenue of $135 million, down from $240 million in 2009, the year Mr. Flanders came aboard. Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization improved to $38.9 million for the year ended September, up from $19.3 million in 2009, the company said, but it fell short of a 2012 profitability target set by its lenders in loan covenants." (WSJ)

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