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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Media-Whore D'oeuvres



"Major shifts underway in the Chinese economy that Stratfor has forecast and discussed for years have now drawn the attention of the mainstream media. Many have asked when China would find itself in an economic crisis, to which we have answered that China has been there for awhile -- something not widely recognized outside China, and particularly not in the United States. A crisis can exist before it is recognized. The admission that a crisis exists is a critical moment, because this is when most others start to change their behavior in reaction to the crisis. The question we had been asking was when the Chinese economic crisis would finally become an accepted fact, thus changing the global dynamic. Last week, the crisis was announced with a flourish. First, The New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-recipient Paul Krugman penned a piece titled 'Hitting China's Wall.' He wrote, 'The signs are now unmistakable: China is in big trouble. We're not talking about some minor setback along the way, but something more fundamental. The country's whole way of doing business, the economic system that has driven three decades of incredible growth, has reached its limits. You could say that the Chinese model is about to hit its Great Wall, and the only question now is just how bad the crash will be.' Later in the week, Ben Levisohn authored a column in Barron's called "Smoke Signals from China." He wrote, 'In the classic disaster flick 'The Towering Inferno' partygoers ignored a fire in a storage room because they assumed it has been contained. Are investors making the same mistake with China?' He goes on to answer his question, saying, 'Unlike three months ago, when investors were placing big bets that China's policymakers would pump cash into the economy to spur growth, the markets seem to have accepted the fact that sluggish growth for the world's second largest economy is its new normal.' Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs -- where in November 2001 Jim O'Neil coined the term BRICs and forecast that China might surpass the United States economically by 2028 -- cut its forecast of Chinese growth to 7.4 percent. The New York Times, Barron's and Goldman Sachs are all both a seismograph of the conventional wisdom and the creators of the conventional wisdom. Therefore, when all three announce within a few weeks that China's economic condition ranges from disappointing to verging on a crash, it transforms the way people think of China." (STRAFOR)


"It might be good to be the king, in the words of Mel Brooks, but for a long time, it wasn't so good to be the king's preteen. For much of history, the young children of British monarchs were primarily raised by nannies, almost never mixed with commoners, and spent much of their time being drilled by private tutors in history, decorum, and various dead languages. It seemed a little like being a tiny lieutenant in a very well-heeled navy: Once, a young son of King George V arrived for his daily meeting with his dad wearing a knickerbocker suit -- the kind with baggy-kneed trousers -- and was ordered out of the room to change into a more appropriate outfit. Over time, though, the lives of young royals have become less cloistered and stiff and more like those of other extremely rich, famous children. They still live in wildly luxurious surroundings, attend the most elite schools, and have round-the-clock nannies and guards, but more recently, royal parents have tried to make princes and princesses feel more 'normal' and to allow them to experience the struggles of the less fortunate. These days, the baby-monarch lives less like Marie Antoinette and more like Madonna's kids." (TheAtlantic)


"The defection of statistics-wrangler Nate Silver from the status peaks of the New York Times for the flatlands of ESPN and ABC News puts a dent in the newspaper’s self-esteem and the orthodox view that for journalists, a Times position equals career success. Instead of second-guessing Silver’s decision to leave the Valhalla of journalism, media writers are playing his move as a blow to the paper. Like LeBron James bolting Cleveland for Miami, writes Marc Tracy of the New Republic. 'It’s a huge loss for the New York Times,' assesses USA Today’s Rem Rieder. ESPN and ABC 'stole' Silver, as Politico‘s Mike Allen puts it, and in his new perch he’ll be allowed to expand beyond his FiveThirtyEight political stats-and-predictions blog to explore whole new realms of data journalism, including sports, education, economics, weather and Oscars predictions. 'No way to sugarcoat this one: It’s a huge blow for the Times,' offers Forbes‘s Jeff Bercovici. 'He’s outgrown the New York Times,' states Business Insider’s Walter Hickey. Adding blood and broken bones to the psychic wounding others inflicted upon the Times was Adweek‘s headline, 'Nate Silver Dumps New York Times for ESPN.' From the outside, Silver’s departure looks a breakup between a nerd and a beauty. 'I want to date other sections'” you can hear an almost weepy Silver telling the newspaper as the end arrived." (Reuters)


"I went down to Michael’s to lunch with Linda Fairstein ... Linda Fairstein is just publishing her fifteenth Alex Cooper crime novel, 'Death Angel.' It’ll be in the stores a week from today 7/30. She writes one every year. I am in awe of her productivity, not to mention her success. The crime novel genre is big all over the world; but you probably know that. I’ve known Linda for several years. We have one of those New York friendships that are practically impossible anyplace else in the world. We see each other for lunch or at a dinner maybe three or four times a year. But: we talk. It all spills out. In the course of these conversations, we get to know a lot about each other. And enjoy it. That’s friendship. She’s a very industrious individual but always of good cheer (I’m sure there are moments when she’s not but you can see that she’s motivated and that is her pleasure). I’m always interested in how people’s lives develop and acquire definition. Linda’s life, for example, has been marked by older men of great influence, beginning with her father who was a doctor, practicing in Westchester. When she was about to go away to college, he asked her what she wanted to pursue in her life. She said: she wanted to write. She had been brought up on books, been going to the library since early childhood and she wanted to create them. Dr. Fairstein had another way of looking at it -- and a not uncommon one: write and starve. He urged her to have a profession and following her father’s advice she became a lawyer. Linda graduated from Vassar with honors and then attended the University of Virginia School of Law. Her first big job out of college was working with District Attorney of New York County Frank Hogan. DA Hogan had a staff of scores of male lawyers and seven female lawyers. He hired Linda on the recommendation of a professor of hers whom he held in high esteem.In those days, women were not allowed to even be exposed to a lot of criminal cases that involved sex and violence. She was assigned to do research and worked in the municipal libraries. She loved it." (NySocialDiary)


"Five years ago, Eliot Spitzer got caught paying women like me. And now he is stumping, smiling for photographers, and topping the political polls for New York’s next comptroller.Meanwhile, here I am, working on building a living as a former sex worker, with no full-time job since I lost mine as a schoolteacher three years ago. Today, I spend a lot of my time writing about being a former sex worker (which I have done many times by now). I also teach new writers, including those at risk of sexual exploitation, on how they can tell their own stories. I would be fine with Spitzer’s return to politics if sex workers were allowed the same dignity of returning to normalcy. But apologizing and getting my career back wasn't exactly an option our society supports.I used to think that sex work was empowering, until I figured out that this was true only in a financial sense — which is no small thing, but it’s not everything, and for a long time, I refused to acknowledge what that 'empowerment' cost. In fall of 2010, after I published an op-ed on the Huffington Post under my real name arguing that not all sex workers were victims of trafficking or under the control of a pimp (I certainly wasn’t), I was abruptly sent to the 'rubber room,' an administrative office turned holding cell for New York City’s unwanted educators.  Four years after transitioning out of prostitution, winning a coveted position as a New York City Teaching Fellow, earning my master's degree in education, and giving lessons on art and creative writing at a struggling elementary school in the South Bronx, I sat in that drab room until the City could find a way to fire me. (I was tenured, so that required a hearing.) Yes, it’s true, I had brought this scandal upon myself, but I could have never anticipated the fallout, or that my candor would make me a victim in another way. Like Spitzer, I was put on blast on the cover of the New York Post, then ridiculed in the national press. I was shamed by the City, including Michael Bloomberg himself. Ultimately, I was forced to resign from a career that I loved. Where, I asked myself, do you go from here? What do you become when the whole world, it seems, has found you guilty of 'conduct Unbecoming'? Can a woman ever be taken seriously after her sexual exploits have been made into front-page news? What if she doesn’t ask for forgiveness? What would society make of an unrepentant whore?" (Melissa Petro)



"The stigma of dropping out of college is—what stigma? Half the movers and shakers of the world today seem to have traded college life for the rat race halfway through and, far from suffering for it, those Zuckerbergs and Gateses, with shocking speed, ruled as the king rats. The high school dropout, however, wears a badge of incompetence if not a virtual certificate of feeblemindedness. This might be irrelevant to the busboy or the guy who waves the flag at roadside work sites, but to someone anticipating a life in the arts—and since all I'd ever done since childhood was write and draw, the arts seemed the only place I belonged—a meager yield of formal education drags behind you like the anchor of the S.S. Brobdingnag. Only a high school dropout who has chosen to pit himself against his documented intellectual betters can know the sense of perpetual humiliation and social inferiority triggered by this belly flop in life's first real challenge. To have abandoned high school well before finishing is to feel trapped in a social and professional underclass, forever academically outgunned in editorial offices and at dinner parties; to ache with envy of all the privileged brats who automatically passed Go, while you languish there on life's Baltic or Mediterranean avenues. From day one of my freshman year at Malvern Collegiate in Toronto (whose student body at one time or another included Glenn Gould, Norman Jewison, and opera singer Teresa Stratas), I proceeded to relentlessly fail, flunking grade nine two years in a row before being shunted into grade 10 via a remedial class designed to groom the filing clerks of tomorrow. Made narcoleptic by bookkeeping and bored with punching the keys of a Victorian-era calculator called a comptometer, I bolted the next year to a technical high school and a commercial art course, where at least I knew what to do with my hands. And that was it. When our family moved cities that summer, the principal of my new school glanced at my anemic academic record and ordered me back to grade 10. I declined this final insult, and by lunchtime that first day, what there had been of a formal education had officially concluded.I had grown up in the cultural vacuum of a small Ontario farming town in the 1940s, by age 11 already a veteran perpetrator with pencil and paper of what I regarded as mischievously humorous writings and drawings." (TownandCountry)


"It’s hardly helpful to a bankrupt Detroit to say 'I told you so,' but I did tell you so. In the October 1995 issue of the Atlantic, I suggested that large Rust Belt cities such as Detroit, whose populations had declined drastically during the postwar era, needed to consider planned shrinkage. This may sound like a declaration of defeat. Yet as I wrote, 'Downsizing has affected private institutions, public agencies, and the military, as well as businesses. Why not cities?'  When a city loses population, it loses residents, but keeps the same amount of infrastructure. The same streets must be policed and maintained, the same streetlights repaired, the same water and sewer systems operated, the same transit systems run. It is like an (impoverished) elderly couple having to keep up a large house after all the kids have grown up and moved out. This imbalance has several deleterious effects. Because the city has fewer taxpayers, the quality of its municipal services goes down. For example, police response time to 911 calls in Detroit is currently said to be 58 minutes. It expends scarce resources on nonproductive uses; Philadelphia pays $20 million a year just to maintain 40,000 vacant properties. Moreover, because urban vitality depends on density, without an adequate concentration of people, corner stores close, streets become empty -- and dangerous -- and abandoned buildings become haunts for criminal activities. According to a 1973 study by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the tipping point in a community occurs when only 3 percent to 6 percent of properties are blighted; many neighborhoods of shrinking cities passed that point decades ago. A few cities such as New York and Washington have reversed their earlier population losses. Others, such as Boston, are smaller than they used to be but have developed a solid economic base. Cities that are unlikely to get bigger or richer have two options. The first is consolidation. Residents of underpopulated areas are encouraged to relocate to other parts of the city, these neighborhoods are reinforced, and the abandoned areas are essentially mothballed, with all municipal services cut off. The second option, even more drastic, is divestiture. Historically, cities have grown by annexing neighboring communities. They could shrink by doing the opposite: selling off land in large tracts to private developers who would be responsible for providing their own municipal services (as they do in the suburbs) without the burden of city taxes and bureaucracy. Cities wouldn’t gain taxpayers, but they would divest themselves of unproductive land, and at the same time, people and economic activities would be attracted back into the urban vicinity. Although no cities have attempted divestiture -- the political, social and legal obstacles are simply too great -- in the last decade some cities have begun to consider planned shrinkage. Flint, Michigan, and Youngstown, Ohio, have adopted strategies to encourage downsizing." (Witold Rybczynski )

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