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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



 
 
"We’re three years from the next presidential election, and Hillary Clinton is, once again, the inevitable Democratic nominee. Congressional Republicans have spent months investigating her like she already resides in the White House. The New York Times has its own dedicated Clinton correspondent, whose job it is to chronicle everything from Hillary’s summer accommodations ('CLINTONS FIND A NEW PLACE TO VACATION IN THE HAMPTONS') to her distinct style of buckraking ('IN CLINTON FUNDRAISING, EXPECT A FULL EMBRACE'). There is a feature-length Hillary biopic in the works, and a well-funded super PAC—'Ready for Hillary'—bent on easing her way into the race. And then there is Clinton herself, who sounds increasingly candidential. Since leaving the State Department, Clinton has already delivered meaty, headline-grabbing orations on voting rights and Syria. The last time Clinton ran, of course, the issue was Iraq and the gleaming new mug was Barack Obama’s. This time the debate will be about the power of America’s wealthiest. And, far more than with foreign policy, which most Democrats agreed on by 2008, this disagreement will cut to the very core of the party: what it stands for and who it represents.On one side is a majority of Democratic voters, who are angrier, more disaffected, and altogether more populist than they’ve been in years. They are more attuned to income inequality than before the Obama presidency and more supportive of Social Security and Medicare.1 They’ve grown fonder of regulation and more skeptical of big business.2 A recent Pew poll showed that voters under 30—who skew overwhelmingly Democratic—view socialism more favorably than capitalism. Above all, Democrats are increasingly hostile to Wall Street and believe the government should rein it in. On the other side is a group of Democratic elites associated with the Clinton era who, though they may have moved somewhat leftward in response to the recession—happily supporting economic stimulus and generous unemployment benefits—still fundamentally believe the economy functions best with a large, powerful, highly complex financial sector. Many members of this group have either made or raised enormous amounts of cash on Wall Street. They were deeply influential in limiting the reach of Dodd-Frank, the financial reform measure Obama signed in July of 2010 ... Which brings us to the probable face of the insurgency. In addition to being strongly identified with the party’s populist wing, any candidate who challenged Clinton would need several key assets. The candidate would almost certainly have to be a woman, given Democrats’ desire to make history again. She would have to amass huge piles of money with relatively little effort. Above all, she would have to awaken in Democratic voters an almost evangelical passion. As it happens, there is precisely such a person. Her name is Elizabeth Warren." (TNR)
 
 
"For everyone but the top 1 percent of earners, the American economy is broken. Since the 1980s, there has been a widening disconnect between the lives lived by ordinary Americans and the statistics that say our prosperity is growing. Despite the setback of the Great Recession, the U.S. economy more than doubled in size during the last three decades while middle-class incomes and buying power have stagnated. Great fortunes were made while many baby boomers lost their retirement savings. Corporate profits reached record highs while social mobility reached record lows, lagging behind other developed countries. For too many families, the American Dream is becoming more a historical memory than an achievable reality. These facts don’t just highlight the issues of inequality and the growing power of a plutocracy. They should also force us to ask a deeper set of questions about how our economy works—and, crucially, about how we assess and measure the very idea of economic progress. How can it be that great wealth is created on Wall Street with products like credit-default swaps that destroyed the wealth of ordinary Americans—and yet we count this activity as growth? Likewise, fortunes are made manufacturing food products that make Americans fatter, sicker, and shorter-lived. And yet we count this as growth too—including the massive extra costs of health care. Global warming creates more frequent hurricanes, which destroy cities and lives. Yet the economic activity to repair the damage ends up getting counted as growth as well. Our economic policy discussions are nearly always focused on making us wealthier and on generating the economic growth to accomplish that. Great debates rage about whether to raise or lower interest rates, or increase or decrease regulation, and our political system has been paralyzed by a bitter ideological struggle over the budget. But there is too little debate about what it is all for. Hardly anyone ever asks: What kind of growth do we want? What does 'wealth' mean? And what will it do for our lives?" (Democracy)


"I suppose the secret of death is to choose not to expire on the same day as famous people. I read in Lapham’s Quarterly that JFK, C. S. Lewis, and Aldous Huxley all met with the man in the white suit on November 22nd, 1963. John Jay Mortimer, a friend of very long standing, died last week and I attended his funeral in Tuxedo Park, the seat of his very old and fine family. After his daughter Minnie gave the reading, Lewis Lapham, the renowned editor of Harper’s and now Lapham’s Quarterly, spoke in a quiet and unemotional tone about his old friend ... And now it’s my turn. John Jay Mortimer’s innocence was matched by his kindness and inability to ever say a bad word about anyone. If malice is a greater magnifying glass than kindness, there has never been a microscope invented to detect a malicious thought or act where John Jay was concerned. He observed the world and human nature like a scientist: with curiosity, kindness, and most of all understanding. There is an aphorism that says a man is sometimes extolled to the skies for the very thing that occasioned his misfortune. In John Jay’s case, there was no misfortune. He simply refused to participate in vulture capitalism. The wise men of Wall Street might cackle and label him a loser, but they’re fat and ugly and know only the price of things but never their value. On a beautiful autumn day, north of the city with nature at her finest, John Jay was laid to rest by his family and surrounded by friends who know all about values. I waited until the end to pay my respects to his widow, Senga. Being Greek, I almost shed a tear because John Jay and I had pursued her at the same time and he had won hands down, but I managed not to cry. A great lunch followed at Gigi and Averell Mortimer’s house nearby, a house that reflected the gentility and grace of an era long gone with the wind but one that shows life can still be lived well. The right to be called a gentleman used to be a patent of nobility. John Jay inherited these values, but he would have acquired them even if he had been a dustman’s son. He was, as I said, the perfect definition of a gent, which is  'one who never inflicted pain or offended unintentionally.' " (Taki)


"I went to lunch at Swifty’s which was jammed. At a table nearby Lisa Schiff was being feted for her birthday (they brought in a cake with ONE candle; she made a wish and blew it out). I ran into the legendary jazz piano virtuoso (I can’t say enough), Miss Barbara Carroll who told me she and Mark Stroock got married six months ago. The second time around, folks. Barbara is appearing at Birdland this coming Saturday. Doors open at 5 PM ... The city wasn’t quiet last night either. Over at the Mandarin Oriental Pratt Institute was hosting its annual Scholarship Benefit Honoring Icons of Art and Design. This is a fashionable dinner. They honored David Easton, an alumnus and a renowned interior designer; the legendary Pete Hamill; Margaret Russell, the Editor-in-Chief of Architectural Digest; and James Turrell the contemporary artist. Great New York crowd including Kurt Anderson, Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel; David Walentas, Margot Bingham (“Boardwalk Empire”), Mario Buatta, Juan Montoya, Judy Collins, Richard Meier, Carmen Marc Vlavo, Jeffrey Banks (Pratt alumnus also); Martha Stewart, David Rockwell, Ted Allen.While up on Park Avenue and 68th Street, at the Council on Foreign Relations, the old Harold Pratt mansion, The American Friends of Blerancourt (you read about it here yesterday) hosted their black tie dinner to honor The Honorable Craig R. Stapleton, former American Ambassador to France. The piece de resistance: Chef Daniel Boulud personal prepared the dinner." (NYSocialDiary)


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