Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Why John Kerry Was Born To Be Secretary of State

 
 
John Kerry, doing the job he was born to do

Even with all the shuttle diplomacy, the lack of time with his wife and family, the state of the world and the declining international reputation of the United States ... John Kerry looks ten years younger. He positively looks like he is having the time of his life.

John Kerry was an inept Presidential candidate, but he is fabulous Secretary of State. His energetic style -- especially when contrasted with Hillary, who took the job after a grueling campaign -- is astonishing. There is an energy -- quiet and sometimes ebullient -- that animates him in his new role as he strides the globe like a well-coiffed colossus. The fact that President Obama, who served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with him, is hanging back only adds to the impressiveness of the way in which Secretary Kerry has conducted himself in his tenure thus far. It almost looks as if he is handling the US foreign policy -- Arab Spring, Iranian nuclear ambitions, Middle East peace talks, Snowden and Putin -- all on his lonesome while the President battles with an intractable, tea-party infused Congress on the domestic front.


Let me re-state: Kerry was a terrible Presidential candidate. Really and truly, Kerry sucked ass on the campaign trail. His answers were convoluted and twisty, his air testy, aristocratic and haughty and he looked more at home sipping a Montrachet while listening to Grieg than drinking beer and watching the game. His hair may have been perfect for the role, but he was incapable of connecting with people in places like Iowa, like Colorado, in Ohio, in West Virginia and in Florida (places, we cannot fail to note, where he should have been more competitive). Windsurfing is par for the course for Ambassadors, but if you want to run for President, you have to learn to clear brush and watch football while munching pork rinds. John Kerry doesn't even like spicy food. What kind of an American does he think he is?!

Kerry's nuanced flip-flops are far better suited to the world of diplomacy -- of Richlieu, or Morganthau, and of, absolutely, Kissinger -- than to the retail democratic politics of kissing babies and not wind surfing.


His fellow Massachusetts pol Tip O'Neill once said, "all politics is local," but for John Kerry, all politics is international. On the campaign trail in 2004 he seemed more interested in a foreign policy agenda than in anything else. Even as he Chaired the Foreign Relations Committee from 2009-2013 he was campaigning, effectively, to become SecState. And when he was to be confirmed SecState, Kerry sailed through the Foreign Relations Committee, his old club. John Kerry's Machiavellian campaign against Susan Rice to succeed Hillary was masterful. Kerry almost certainly did not cry foul when his old Senate pal John McCain -- a swell guy, to be sure -- all but torpedoed her nomination. After that, Kerry was a lock!



Kerry was the son of an Ambassador, a "diplobrat." I know whereof I speak. I, too, was the son of an Ambassador. Diplobrats -- like Army brats -- are raised in many countries young and tend to be held to high standards by their parents. This does something. It has taken me years to figure it out. In many ways it makes such a person unable to be a good democratic politician. At an early age all diplobrats as well as all army brats learn that the world is a big and dangerous place. There is no such thing as "the neighborhood." The world is the neighborhood. There is no black and white -- only shades of gray. Fundamentalist views of the world are provincial and laughable.

John Kerry was fooling himself if he thought he could win certain states with that inborn attitude. He is a fine and energetic Secretary of State. this is the job he was born to do.

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

 

"China has become a metaphor. It represents a certain phase of economic development, which is driven by low wages, foreign appetite for investment and a chaotic and disorderly development, magnificent in scale but deeply flawed in many ways. Its magnificence spawned the flaws, and the flaws helped create the magnificence. The arcs along which nations rise and fall vary in length and slope. China's has been long, as far as these things go, lasting for more than 30 years. The country will continue to exist and perhaps prosper, but this era of Chinese development -- pyramiding on low wages to conquer global markets -- is ending simply because there are now other nations with even lower wages and other advantages. China will have to behave differently from the way it does now, and thus other countries are poised to take its place ... There is no single country that can replace China. Its size is staggering. That means that its successors will not be one country but several countries, most at roughly the same stage of development. Taken together, these countries have a total population of just over 1 billion people. We didn't aim for that; we realized it after we selected the countries. The point to emphasize is that identifying the PC16 is not a forecast. It is a list of countries in which we see significant movement of stage industries, particularly garment and footwear manufacturing and mobile phone assembly. In our view, the dispersal of industries that we see as markers of early-stage economic growth is already underway. In addition, there are no extreme blocks to further economic growth, although few of these countries would come to mind as having low political risk and high stability -- no more than China would have come to mind in 1978-1980. I should also note that we have excluded countries growing because of energy and mineral extraction. These countries follow different paths of development. The PC16 are strictly successors to China as low wage, underdeveloped countries with opportunities to grow their manufacturing sectors dramatically. The new activity is focused on Africa, Asia and to a lesser extent, Latin America. When you look at map, much of this new activity is focused in the Indian Ocean Basin. The most interesting pattern is in the eastern edge of Sub-Saharan Africa: Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia. Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Myanmar and Bangladesh are directly on the Indian Ocean. The Indochinese countries and the Philippines are not on the Indian Ocean, and even though I don't want to overstate the centrality of the Indian Ocean, they are nearby. At the very least we can say that there are two ocean basins, the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. You might want to read my colleague Robert D. Kaplan's book Monsoon on this region. There are some countries in Latin America: Peru, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Mexico. A special word needs to be included on Mexico. The area north of Mexico City and south of the U.S. borderlands has been developing intensely in recent years. We normally would not include Mexico but the area in central-southern Mexico is large, populous and still relatively underdeveloped." (STRATFOR)


"In 2011, Huma Abedin had support from her friends and Clinton associates when she decided to stay with her husband, scandal-plagued New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner.The past week, that support has morphed into concern. Their worry is as much about what she is going through personally — a rapid turn from years of glowing media coverage of Abedin to front pages questioning her judgment — as it is about her decision to stand by and encourage politically a husband who several Democrats now believe is way past the point of redemption. Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s top aide and the wife of mayoral candidate-turned-national-joke Anthony Weiner, has become the focus of media coverage that’s gone, in short order, from sympathetic to savage. She remains in charge of running Clinton’s transition team, a slim staff of about a half-dozen aides, some of whom have other jobs – though she is a full-time employee. The feelings about Weiner in Clintonland are unequivocal, according to one someone close to the couple: 'Everyone’s done with him.' Multiple sources familiar with the Clintons’ thinking said they would be delighted for him to disappear from public consumption. (The fact that Weiner, who began the campaign name-dropping Bill Clinton repeatedly, declared at a mayoral forum Monday night that he wasn’t overly concerned with the opinion of non-New York City residents like the Clintons probably didn’t help). The feelings are far more complicated and emotional about Abedin, who actively encouraged her husband to run for mayor and who has spent her entire adult life working in some capacity for the Clintons. 'Everyone loves her to death,' said a Clinton ally who’s worked with her. Abedin did not give Clinton a personal heads-up that she planned to defend her husband at a hastily-called press conference last week. Still, Clinton was aware ahead of time that she planned to do it, having been alerted from others in her orbit, sources said. There are no current plans for the Clintons to ask Weiner to bow out of the race, although several of their allies have made clear how they feel about him. For them to do so formally would tether them to a publicity train wreck." (Politico)


"This past weekend I read 'I Told You So; Gore Vidal Talks Politics/Interviews with Jon Wiener.' The opening page after the copyright page contained the quote of Gore: “The four most beautiful words in our common language: I told you so.” The blurb on the cover has a quote by Dick Cavett: 'Best talker since Oscar Wilde.' Although Mr. Cavett couldn’t have been around when Wilde was propounding his poetic wit for any and all to listen to. I never imagined what that would have been like until I read Cavett’s quote. Because Gore Vidal is endlessly interesting on a number of levels ... If you like Gore Vidal, you will not be disappointed. If you don’t like Gore Vidal, you shouldn’t waste your time. When we read with rancor we deprive ourselves of truth.Then after the Vidal interviews — it was a quick read, a very nice little book; like watching it on TV with no noise in the room — after that one I picked up the new 'My Lunches with Orson; Conversations between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles.' Edited by Peter Biskind. If you’re a fan or an historian of movie lore, or even if you just like watching those great old movies on TCM. Like a compulsive habit; buy this book. Orson Welles at table. I once saw him there. He was the size of the table — round table — sitting in a tiny nook of a private room, separated from public view by a curtain in the old Ma Maison on Beverly Boulevard. Dressed all in black, vast in size, somewhat darkly menacing yet oddly sorrowful in presence, it was almost like Hollywood noir come to life; 'The Third Man' sixty years later.  I moved along that day I saw him, knowing I wasn’t supposed to be there." (NYSocialDiary)


"America was stunned when 'poor little rich girl' Casey Johnson, the troubled first-born daughter of billionaire New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, was found dead at age 30 in January 2010.
The Band-Aid heiress had been cut off from her fortune and family, whose help she refused. Her death from complications of diabetes sadly ended a short but scandalous life. Now, Casey’s turbulent world is ex-amined in JERRY OPPENHEIMER’S new bombshell unauthorized biography, 'Crazy Rich: Power, Scandal, and Tragedy Inside the Johnson & Johnson Dynasty.' Casey’s socialite mother, Sale Johnson, along with relatives and friends, spoke candidly for the first time since her death. Now, in an exclusive excerpt, Oppenheimer paints an astonishing picture of the doomed heiress and the role her mother and father played in their daughter’s life and tragic end . . . " (NYPost)


"Thirty years ago this past week, Sire Records released Madonna's debut album. Although it only created one pop icon, Madonna the album was the culmination of months of effort by diverse artists, photographers, executives and musicians. 'The first new wave disco music,' as one of her friends described it, carried plenty in its DNA: bouncy R&B grooves; traces of the last gasps of the pre-AIDS Downtown NYC culture; and, of course, the force of personality of the future Queen of Pop.
In early 1982, Madonna was 23 years old. In the four years since leaving Detroit for New York City, she'd earned her starving-artist bona fides, working at a Dunkin Donuts, sleeping in an abandoned Queens synagogue and rocking studded bracelets, ripped jeans and bleached, cropped hair ... Reggie Lucas: 'When Warner Brothers called me about working with Madonna, I was the big score. It seems ridiculous in retrospect, but I was an established professional and she was a nobody. I met with her at a tiny little apartment she had in the Lower East Side. I thought she was vivacious and sexy and interesting, and had a lot of energy. I signed on to do the record, and then 'Everybody' came out and it made a little noise. It sold 100,000 copies, so I was like, 'All right! This artist became a somebody before I even started on the album.' So that was nice, that was encouraging. Most of the people around Madonna at the corporate level did not get her and for the most part did not like her. You could see them recoil from her bohemianism. Everybody thought she was crazy and gross. I would never say she was a punk rocker, but she used to wear little boys' shorts, and white t-shirts with holes in them, and then she had little ring things in her ears. She wasn't the weirdest person I'd ever met, you know? I'd worked with Sun Ra! So after hanging out with the Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, Madonna didn't seem particularly avant-garde. Michael Rosenblatt: While Reggie was making the record, nobody at Warner Brothers gave a shit at all. Madonna was just a little dance girl. Reggie Lucas: She was poor. She borrowed Jean-Michel Basquiat's apartment while he was in Paris, and so I spent a good hour and a half during the record meeting with her at Basquiat's place. He had his art up there, nobody knew who he was." (RollingStone)


"Word is going around New York that Leonard Lauder will marry his friend, the lovely Linda Johnson, President and CEO of the Brooklyn Public Library, on August 18th.  The family knows; everyone has met, and everyone couldn’t be happier for the couple. So too their many friends. Now, to move to the other side of the marital universe, the Divorce Bel Air Style. Robert Day, the billionaire Superior Oil heir and international investor, is divorcing his beautiful wife Kelly. The Days have been married for a number of years, and quite happily according to close friends. But evidently Mr. Day, who is from one of the rich oil families of Los Angeles, the grandson of William Keck (who founded Superior Oil), a man who is now celebrating his 70th year, wants to go it alone ..." (NYSocialDiary)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

 
"Given that Woody Allen works in a closed creative eco­system (no musical or theatrical influences after 1960, no cinematic ones after 1970), it’s amazing how skilled he is in making his old ideas seem fresh, lively, even urgent. His new drama Blue ­Jasmine comes this close to being a wheeze. But he sells it beautifully. Allen has borrowed his setup (and theatrical attack) from A Streetcar Named Desire, which he brings into the present by making Blanche DuBois a younger Mrs. Bernie Madoff. Cate Blanchett plays Jasmine (née Jeanette), once impossibly wealthy and ensconced in New York society, now broke and homeless — and forced to move in with her working-class sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), in a cramped San Francisco apartment. When she’s not insulting Ginger’s dopey-prole boyfriend, Chili (Bobby Cannavale), Jasmine swallows anti-depressants and goes in and out of fugue states, babbling to anyone and no one while we’re whisked back in time to scenes of her life with her husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin), in Manhattan and the Hamptons. That Blanchett played Blanche onstage (under the direction of Liv Ullmann) less than five years ago is a mixed blessing. She knows this song too well — she must have had to labor to keep the southern cadences out of her speech. In her first scene, in which she holds forth in a plane (all the way to the luggage carousel) to an unfortunate fellow passenger, Blanchett seems too theatrical, too fluent. Wouldn’t it be better to have a less external actress — a Judy Davis type, with a filament of real hysteria? Maybe. But Blanchett does end up carrying scenes that would trip up a less polished performer. She’s wonderfully funny in her next, in which she punches in a cell-phone number while chattering away to a poor, accommodating cabbie and then turns and says without missing a beat, “Can I have some privacy, please?” Her alarmingly statuesque posture, the uptilt of her head, the precision with which she holds her designer purse: This is Blanchett playing a woman playing an urban sophisticate. The powerful perfection of Blanchett’s mask makes you believe it could have truly subsumed whatever person was once beneath. Did Jasmine know her husband was defrauding investors? She didn’t want to—not with shopping and yoga and Pilates and all those charity events. She looks like a golden statuette. She was never meant to live in the real world." (Vulture)
 
 
"Twenty-five years ago Wall Street, and much of America, was transfixed by a sweeping set of insider-trading investigations centered on the greatest financier of the age, junk-bond king Michael Milken, of Drexel Burnham Lambert. Day after day, week after week, month after month, stories of U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani’s relentless investigation dribbled out to the press. One by one, Giuliani picked off Milken’s minions, confronting them at their homes, handcuffing them at their offices, pulling them before secret grand juries, indicting a few, pressing for evidence that Milken had broken the law. It all took on an inexorable quality. In their hearts, most everyone knew that Milken was going down sooner or later—and he did, paying more than $1 billion in fines and spending 22 months in prison. He was banned for life from the securities industry, and his firm was dismantled.Twenty-five years later it’s all happening again. Once more a relentless U.S. attorney, this time 44-year-old Preet Bharara, has seemingly targeted the billionaire investor Steve Cohen, founder of SAC Capital Advisors, the $14 billion hedge fund based in Stamford, Connecticut. One by one, Bharara has picked off onetime SAC traders and analysts, confronting them at their homes, pulling them before grand juries, bringing criminal cases, and pressing them for evidence that Cohen has broken insider-trading laws. So far Cohen has not been charged with anything, but there is the same sense that Bharara, like Giuliani before him, has too much invested in all this to lose. 'If Steve Cohen gets off,” one hedge-fund manager observes, “he will be the O. J. Simpson of insider trading.'
In almost every way, though, today’s scandal surpasses the one that brought the Roaring 80s to an end. There have been more arrests, many more convictions; C.E.O.’s have fallen, lives and companies have been ruined, all in a campaign that has increasingly put one man in the government’s crosshairs: Steve Cohen, thought to be the most brilliant trader of his generation.Simply reading the headlines this spring, one could be forgiven for being a bit confused. In mid-March, after years of scoffing at every suggestion any of its traders might have done something untoward, SAC agreed to pay, without admitting guilt, the largest fine in the history of the Securities and Exchange Commission, a stunning $616 million, to settle charges of insider trading in only two trades. Some on Wall Street called it a victory for Cohen, who paid a pittance—for him—to make a messy situation go away. Others were not so sanguine, observing—correctly—that blood was finally in the water, that an S.E.C. fine did nothing to curtail the ongoing criminal investigation, which has already led to guilty pleas from and convictions of at least five onetime SAC employees." (VanityFair)
 
 
"Some version of this occurs almost everywhere Caroline Kennedy goes. A perfectly well-intentioned person she has never met approaches her to say that a relative is entering politics because of her father, John F. Kennedy. Or expresses sympathy for the loss of her brother, John F. Kennedy Jr., who died in a plane crash in 1999, or her mother, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who succumbed to lymphoma in 1994. These interactions happen on the subway (the main way she gets around New York). They happen on Martha’s Vineyard (where she spends her summers). They happen at the ballet, at the movies, when she is on a book tour and when she’s visiting one of New York’s public schools, a cause she has been involved in for years. Ms. Kennedy is said to be patient and gracious during these encounters, as she deflects and gently parries, leaving the other person feeling as if he or she has had a significant conversation, even if almost nothing at all was really said. Sounds like perfect training for an ambassador. On Wednesday, the Obama administration nominated Ms. Kennedy, 55, as the next United States ambassador to Japan, which would give her the kind of formal public role many have long predicted for her (but that had seemed permanently derailed by the off-and-on-and-then-finally-off flirtation with Hillary Rodham Clinton’s vacated Senate seat in 2009). As a longtime family friend, the director Mike Nichols, said, it’s a job for which Ms. Kennedy is ideally suited. After all, he said, 'In the course of her life, what has she learned if not diplomacy?'" (NYTimes)
 
 
 
"A few months ago, Eric Cantor was ready to bring his latest brainchild, the 'Helping Sick Americans Now' bill, to the House floor. The move was pure Cantor—a smarmy, ultrapartisan ploy. The bill proposed to eliminate funds the Obama administration needs to set up and run the health-care exchanges that are the central mechanism in the health-care law, but then Cantor’s bill would use those funds to help a handful of sick people get health insurance. There was no chance this, or anything like it, would be signed into law, as Obama obviously would not agree to tear down a program to insure millions of Americans in return for insuring a tiny fraction of that number. It was a message vote whose purpose was 'embarrassing Obamacare,' as one conservative activist gloated, by forcing Obama to deny immediate aide for the uninsured. As a soulless exercise in disingenuous spin, it was well conceived. It failed, however, because a crucial faction of ultraconservative House Republicans threatened to vote against it. The trouble was that Cantor’s bill purported to 'fix' Obamacare rather than eliminate it. 'Why the hell do we want to fix it?' complained conservative pundit Erick Erickson. 'We should want to repeal it.' Since they have already voted 37 times to repeal Obama­care, one might think that the House Republicans’ appraisal of the law’s general merits had been made sufficiently clear. But just the pretense of working to improve the law, even while actually crippling it, offended the right. In the face of unmoved conservative opposition, Cantor had to pull his pet bill from the floor. It wound up embarrassing the House Republicans, not Obama­care.Spectacles like this have turned into a regular feature of life in the Republican House. The party leadership draws up a bill that’s far too right-wing to ever become law, but it fails in the House because it isn’t right-wing enough. Sometimes, as with the attempts to repeal Obamacare, the failures don’t matter much, but in other instances the inability to pass legislation poses horrifying dangers. The chaos and dysfunction have set in so deeply that Washington now lurches from crisis to crisis, and once-dull, keep-the-lights-on rituals of government procedure are transformed into white-knuckle dramas that threaten national or even global catastrophe." (NYMag)
 
 
 
"All tan, tailoring, big red ties, hollered greetings and firm handshakes, Sir Peter Lampl cuts an unusual figure in the corduroy world of British education, the arena he entered 15 years ago to fill his busy retirement. The former private equity executive greets me with a hoot: “Chris! How you doin’?”
Mosimann’s, a private dining club in London’s Belgravia, seems an unlikely place for a discussion about the educational attainment of Britain’s poorest children but it is one of Sir Peter’s usual haunts. Joking with the staff, who drop by intermittently to say hello ('Good to see you!'; 'You’re always used to me paying. This makes a change ... '; 'Is that a tasting portion? Bring him the full one!'), the genial, chatty multimillionaire orders a spiced tomato juice. Deferring to his local knowledge, I copy him.
Sir Peter, 66, tells me he did not set out to become a fixture in the world of the great and good. 'I had no intention of doing this, you know. I was working on my golf game. I thought maybe I should do something on the side.' Yet the Sutton Trust, the charity he funded and founded in 1997, has shaped and guided the debate on social mobility in the UK. Britons tend to think of their country as less stratified than it once was. But research by the Sutton Trust in 2005 revealed that while class deference might have largely disappeared, poor children in Britain are more likely than ever to become poor adults – and this fact is now widely known and accepted." (FT)
 

"Silda Spitzer is privately telling friends she plans to divorce her hooker-loving husband, Eliot Spitzer, Page Six can exclusively reveal. Multiple sources tell us long-suffering Silda — who, he last night admitted, will not be joining him on the campaign trail — 'has had enough' and plans to start divorce proceedings after his run for New York City comptroller is over. One source tells us, 'Silda is telling her female friends that she is done with him. She will file for divorce after the [Nov. 5] election.'  A second source told The Post’s Sally Goldenberg, 'Silda is saying she is going to wait until this is all over. She has been telling friends, ‘This is too hard. This is too rough.’ 'Page Six exclusively revealed in May that the Spitzers were living apart, with Eliot staying at 800 Fifth Ave. — less than 20 blocks from the home he shared with Silda at 985 Fifth. While his rep has insisted they are 'still a couple,' Eliot last night admitted Silda will not be seen at his side, reports The Post’s Beth DeFalco. Spitzer said, at a Bronx campaign stop, 'I think it’s fair to say I’m running for office. No other member of my family is running for office. And I think the public is going to judge me, not who else is with me or not with me. She’s got a career. There are other things I think the public appreciates — I’m out here fighting every day for them.'" (PageSix)


"The first time I went out for the 'Drivers Test' with my learner’s permit, I encountered what it’s like to be on the road with a lot of people who don’t watch out, and even people who are 'watching' something else, i.e., their cell phones, while driving. Anxiety entered the picture. I was re-entering the brave new world via the automobile. Yesterday was graduation. My friend, neighbor and NYSD 'Art Set' columnist Charlie Scheips drove me up to Yonkers to a quiet four lane (with island) strip, where the test begins, on the edge of the city near the Cross County Parkway. There were four cars waiting for the two officials giving the tests. I got in the drivers seat of the car, we drove up the road. It was a local neighborhood of single family houses, slightly hilly, little traffic. He instructed me to take a right. I did. Down another road to a light. Red. I waited. Some other cars passed. I was instructed to take a left. I did. Another stop sign. Okay, now a right. Down another road where he told me to stop and make a three point U-turn. I did. Back up the road. Another stop sign. Parallel park the car behind a car. Not a problem. Then back to the corner; a left, a left, and presto, it’s over. Ten minutes." (NYSocialDiary)


"THUN, SWITZERLAND—'Mokuso!' All 200 of us who are already on our knees and sitting on our heels in the Japanese 'seiza' position remain dead silent at the command. No loud breathing, no movement whatsoever, just “mizu no kokoro,” a calm mind, like the surface of undisturbed water. “Kaimoku,” the next command, signals the end of inner contemplation, followed by 'Shomen ni rei,' where we all touch our foreheads to the ground, saluting the father of karate. 'Sensei ni rei' is the last command uttered by the senior karateka, who happens to be me, saluting the instructors. Then it’s time for “'suki no kokoro,' a mind like the moon, which refers to the need to be constantly aware of the opponent’s movements, just as moonlight shines equally on everything within its range.
'In my 48 years of practicing karate I don’t think I’ve had a more satisfying week ... After four days of training we give the last salute and applaud the two instructors. We’re drained but happy and content. My only thoughts involve how much longer I can do stuff like this. I drive Richard, his wife (a great yoga instructor), and Steve back up the mountains of Gstaad, which give off an opalescent glow as we arrive late in the afternoon, with rainbow-like colors appearing in the setting sun. I open up some good wine and proceed to get pleasantly tipsy." (Taki)

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 )

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Howard Stern on George Zimmerman Verdict

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Israel and the Palestinians agreed to restart direct peace talks after more than three years, as months of diplomacy by Secretary of State John Kerry showed tangible, if tenuous, signs of progress.
Senior Israeli and Palestinian officials will meet in Washington within the next two weeks to establish a time frame and other details before a more formal relaunch of the Middle East peace process, Mr. Kerry said at a news conference late Friday in Jordan. ... After Palestinian leaders rebuffed Mr. Kerry's proposal on Thursday, the secretary of state—on his sixth trip to the Mideast since taking his post in February—returned to Ramallah on a Jordanian military helicopter on Friday to make a last-ditch effort to sway Mr. Abbas. U.S. officials said that meeting with Mr. Abbas late Friday was crucial to forging an agreement. Mr. Kerry told the Palestinian leader that he brought fresh pledges secured from Mr. Netanyahu during a two-hour phone call with the Israeli leader on Friday, a senior aide to Mr. Abbas said. The secretary of state told Mr. Abbas that the Israeli government had agreed to quietly halt building in Jewish West Bank settlements, but wouldn't make any public announcement to that effect, according to the aide. He said Mr. Netanyahu had also pledged to release some Palestinian prisoners before the first day of talks in Washington. Mr. Kerry gave Mr. Abbas his own guarantee that peace talks would resume on the basis of Israel's pre-1967 borders, the aide said." (WSJ)


"President Obama delivered an impromptu, instantly historic soliloquy on race today at the White House press conference, occasioned by the acquittal in the George Zimmerman trial. Obama has rarely spoken about race directly since taking office, but here was the unprecedented spectacle of an African-American president essentially explaining structural racism to America. Obama does not disagree with the legal verdict but found the shooting itself troubling. But he used the occasion to speak more expansively on race from the perspective of an African-American than he ever has before — arguing how, verdict aside, the case triggered legitimate anger. African-Americans, he said, "'et frustrated, I think, if they feel that there's no context for it or — and that context is being denied. And — and that all contributes, I think, to a sense that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario, that, from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different.' While acknowledging that there is no way for the federal government to intervene directly in cases like the Zimmerman trial, he suggested a few ways in which the government might respond: more racial bias training for law enforcement, closer examination of laws like Stand Your Ground, 'some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African-American boys,' and "some soul-searching.' Why is Obama saying this? And why now? There are three things to bear in mind for how Obama approaches the subject of race." (NYMag)


"He has accumulated five marriages, eight children, a $12bn-$14bn fortune and countless legal bills from run-ins with family members, business associates and regulators. So it’s not a surprise that Ron Perelman collects restaurants, too. The pugnacious dealmaker has invested in establishments from Graydon Carter’s Monkey Bar in Midtown Manhattan to Harlem’s fashionable Red Rooster. He once fought to close the bistro Le Bilboquet because of 'illegal' outdoor tables on his block, only to fund its move to a larger venue two streets away. Perelman, one of the 'barbarians' of the 1980s junk bond-fuelled takeover boom, has no stake in Michael White’s celebrated Italian seafood restaurant Marea but seems at home here. Maybe because he is a regular or maybe because its laminated wooden walls make the place shine like a billionaire’s well-polished yacht: it’s midday on a Friday and the 70-year-old looks ready to head for what he describes as his 'little boat in the Mediterranean', the 257ft yacht C². His pale blue shirtsleeves are rolled up, two buttons are opened to reveal a white undershirt and faint stubble spreads from his scalp to his chin. When I arrive he is at a corner table, watching the summer crowd walking along Central Park South with the wide, easy smile familiar from gossip column photographs. Perelman’s diverse holding company, MacAndrews & Forbes, unites businesses selling mulch, military vehicles and scratch cards. He is also the controlling shareholder of the cosmetics giant Revlon. He has few insights into how a place such as Marea wins two Michelin stars, though. 'I’m not a real foodie,' he confesses. 'I like the theatre of restaurants more than I care about the food.' He finances restaurants to support friends or to boost their local communities, he says, and in 2009 backed an East Hampton margarita joint called the Blue Parrot with art dealer Larry Gagosian, singer Jon Bon Jovi and actress Renée Zellweger even though he hates Mexican food. The chefs there serve him grilled fish instead. He wastes little time with Marea’s menu, despite putting on spectacles with comically thick round green frames to consult it." (FT)


"The sky on the outskirts of Taos, N.M., that September afternoon was a drenched cerulean blue. The air was warm, caressing and scented with sage. I sat in bright sun in a parched meadow looking at the distant black ridge of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. They looked mystical and Tolkien-like, reminding me of youthful reading trances and of my childhood belief in mystery and reward. Though it was a hot, beautiful day, I felt bereft and frozen. I was 25 that summer, but I felt old, sere and without hope. The previous year I had fallen in love with a handsome, kind, intelligent stranger. After a two-week courtship we got engaged, carried forward on an irresistible wave of optimism. A few months later, we married. When we met, I had only just emerged from a long college love affair that had ended painfully; my boyfriend had said that at 23 he was too immature to marry, and he was right. For me to meet an appealing, honorable man so soon after that breakup and to become his wife so effortlessly had felt like salvation. But things did not continue as they began. In the first days of our marriage, exhilaration turned to dismay as we learned we were not well attuned. He was reserved, I was direct. He harmonized, I soloed. He was patient, I was impatient. We were desperately polite but desperately mismatched. We felt no accord; we did not touch or hold hands. At night we lay still on our sides of the bed like figures on a stone sarcophagus. Inwardly, I reeled at my physical isolation; I wept silently in the dark. As the months passed, I came to see myself as a child trapped in an unending game of house who didn’t want to disappoint her playmate by ending it." (Liesl Schillinger)


"Jennifer Lopez didn’t let controversy surrounding her singing 'Happy Birthday' to allegedly oppressive Turkmenistan leader Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov for $1 million ruin her own birthday. J.Lo was seen celebrating Thursday at Miami nightclub Wall. Spies said rapper Pitbull jumped into a booth with DJ Irie to serenade Lopez, who sat with boy-toy Casper Smart and 15 pals in a banquette. The group ordered bottles of Belvedere and Moët Rosé, though Lopez stuck to water, spies said, and stayed till 3 a.m. We hear the 'On the Floor' singer — whose 44th birthday is Wednesday — will continue celebrating Saturday at her new $10 million Water Mill estate. 'It’s going to be a lovely all-American party like it’s the Fourth all over again,' said a source. We hear there’s an 80-person guest list for the hush-hush bash. The Human Rights Foundation accused J.Lo of raking in $9 million over two years by playing private gigs for “dictators.'" (PageSix)


"If you’re not a political inside-baseball junky, you may have missed the proliferating conservative campaign to vilify Senator Rand Paul, the Kentucky libertarian with presidential aspirations. Catch up quickly via the vigorous work of Jennifer Rubin, author of the Washington Post’s Right Turn blog. Rubin advocates purging Paul based largely on his employing as a Senate aide one Jack Hunter. According to Rubin, Hunter “has a history of outlandish statements (as late as 2009) including opposition to the Civil War that would make Pat Buchanan cringe.'" (Businessweek)

 


"I grew up during Woody Allen’s not-so-memorable middle period—'Mighty Aphrodite,' 'Deconstructing Harry,' 'Sweet and Lowdown.' (When I was in the sixth grade, Allen filmed a scene from “Everyone Says I Love You” in a stately home down the block from my elementary school, in the Bronx, and I skipped class with my best friend to get his autograph.) But I was fortunate enough that my parents had an old tape of Allen’s album 'Standup Comic: 1964-1968,' and our family often would listen to it on long car rides. Many of Allen’s anxious, absurdist one-liners—'I had a pain in the chestal area' (from the bit 'Eggs Benedict'); 'He made a remark' ('Mechanical Objects'); 'Gertrude Stein punched me in the mouth' ('Lost Generation')—became regular family sayings, and the routine about the moose was, and still is, an oft-invoked favorite. So it set my chestal area aflutter to read yesterday on the New York Timess ArtsBeat blog that Allen is maybe, possibly considering a return to standup comedy. Allen’s new movie, 'Blue Jasmine,' includes the standup comics Andrew Dice Clay and Louis C.K. among its cast members, which prompted the Times reporter Dave Itzkoff, during a recent interview with the filmmaker about his many distinctive female characters, to inquire about the possibility of Allen returning to his nightclub roots. Allen responded that the casting of Clay and C.K. was coincidental (he’s a huge fan of C.K., and found Clay to be a surprisingly sympathetic actor), but admitted that he has been “toying with the idea” of developing new standup material." (NewYorker)

Game of Thrones: In Memoriam

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Daily Show on Spitzer - Weiner

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

 
"The arrest of Los Zetas leader Miguel 'Z-40' Trevino Morales marks the most significant capture involving a Mexican organized crime leader since 2008. On July 15, Stratfor sources confirmed Mexican and U.S. media reports saying that Trevino was arrested in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state, and that he was being transferred to Mexico City. Reports indicate that he was arrested late July 14, though that has not been confirmed. At least one source claims Trevino's nephew was also arrested.
Trevino became the leader of Los Zetas, one of Mexico's most prolific and most territorial organized crime groups, sometime in 2012 shortly before then-leader Heriberto 'El Lazca'  Lazcano Lazcano was killed by the Mexican navy. Trevino's arrest could change Mexico's criminal landscape substantially if Los Zetas begin to unravel in his absence." (STRATFOR)
 

"Netflix today became the first digitally distributed outlet to score an Emmy nomination in the series categories, with House of Cards landing one of the Best Drama slots and Arrested Development's Jason Bateman earning a nod for Best Actor. This is a big deal: The TV Academy didn't even allow cable shows to be nominated for Emmys until 1988. Once it did, it was five years before HBO's The Larry Sanders Show became the first cable show to get a series nomination, and fourteen years until Michael Chiklis became the first actor to win an Emmy for a basic cable show. Netflix managed to land a whopping fourteen nominations in only its second year of streaming big-budget scripted shows (Lilyhammer was eligible last year). Not surprisingly, Netflix's chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, is very, very happy about this development. 'Big change usually comes very slowly,' he told Vulture today. 'House of Cards, the way it came together, releasing all the episodes at once … those are big changes. A single nomination in any category would have been a victory.' Instead, House and Arrested both landed in the big categories, while horror series Hemlock Grove got some tech noms.
Sarandos does not deny Netflix wanted these nominations, not that he really could, given the aggressive Emmy campaign it launched. 'We went after it, for sure,' he says. 'We did everything you're supposed to do, and I think we did it well — including the facilitation of the creation of great television.' Just as HBO and Showtime use their Emmy hauls to build their brands as quality entertainment hubs, Netflix should also benefit from the TV Academy love." (NYMag)
 
 
"At a premiere of her movie 'Red 2,' Catherine Zeta-Jones wouldn’t comment about her husband, Michael Douglas, connecting his throat cancer to HPV. When she was asked at Tuesday night’s Cinema Society screening, “Have you been mortified that your husband, in some ways, has become the poster boy for the dangers of oral sex?' the classy actress smiled, and said, 'Next question.' Zeta-Jones was more open about Douglas’ HBO film on Liberace, in which he shares love scenes with Matt Damon. 'I loved everything about it,' she said at the MoMA event. 'It was so lush and wonderful . . . I feel like I’m part of it, but I’m not.'" (NYPost
 

"The Michael's lunch was a typical Wednesday lunch. A madhouse. All kinds of people doing business even if that means social. The list; around the room. David Thalberg, Exec Director of Krupp Kommunications (K2) with Diane Clehane, the Brenda of Mediabistro. The ying and the yang. Nearby, Joe Armstrong, Duh Mayah and his pal David Zinczenko; Miki Ateyeh and Diane Fogg; Stu Cantor; Alexandre Chemia; Joanna Coles, E-I-C of Cosmo, with Michael Wolff, media columnist for The Guardian; Lisa Dallos of the HL Group with Nicole Purcell and Suzan Gursoy of Adweek; Alice Mayhew; Ellin Delsener, Bettina Zilkha, Annette Tapert; Lee Eastman (son of John; Lee's aunt was the late Linda McCartney, and his cousin is Stella); Bob Gutkowski; Bruce Paisner and Cathie Black; Shelly Palmer; Alan Patricof; Eddie Pollack; David Poltrack; Newell Turner, editorial director of the Hearst shelter magazines .." (NYSocialDiary)


"In 2009 I first came to Pamplona to run with the bulls. I was terrified in that complete and overwhelming way that total ignorance brings, standing on a street corner and waiting for death to come. I comported myself honorably but not brilliantly and did so again two days later before boarding a train to Barcelona and vowing never to come to the city again. The relentlessly loud and bad music, the all-day drinking by people who clearly hadn’t washed in some time, and the fact that the corridas were made abysmal with music played by multiple bands in the audience in apparent competition with one another, all combined to set me firmly against this Navarran Fiesta. The place seemed crude, cruel, and uncouth compared to the sun-blasted, deathless dignity of Andalusia where my aficion for the bulls was formed. My two earlier runs in ‘09 to one side, I had spent the year of 2010 dodging toreando cattle around Spain and Portugal, leaping into the streets with a confidence I have not since recovered, running directly between two bulls in my old high-school athletics blazer.
This year I returned for the Festival of San Fermín, the summer fair dedicated to Pamplona’s first bishop. The obvious advantage of having a bull in front of you in the street is that he clears a path through the 2,000-4,000 people packed into that half a mile. The one behind is the real problem: The picture linked above was snapped at the moment the bull’s horn was cracking the screen of the iPhone in my right pocket, a contemporary variant of the cigarette case stopping the opponent’s bullet in a duel. (I had the detail image as the screensaver on that cell phone, which I never had repaired, as a memento until it was stolen a year later at a bar less than a hundred yards away from that spot. Such is Pamplona. This year I took an actual silver cigarette case in its place just in case.)" (Alexander Fiske-Harrison)


"New Yorkers seem to be going along with this heat despite its intensity. Last night some friends took me to dinner at Sette Mezzo. The place was jammed; lots of friends and friends of friends; a New York local. One of my dinner partners had just finished a book I recommended 'Citizens of London,' and loved it. Everyone I know who has read that book has loved it. There’s a reason they do. All those historic characters whose names are household words are presented with warts and all (yes, Churchill; yes, FDR), and you can 'get' them. You can see how much we are who we are All of us. This is positive bad news. I was asked what else. I told them 'The Patriarch' the Joe Kennedy biography. Big. I think 800 pages. An emotional experience if you take it seriously. You like him, you don’t like him, you’ve met people like him, known people like him, you get how he could be charming, you see how he was very shrewd, driven and clever, and cut-throat  in business. He was an operator, a horse’s ass at times; a schemer, a publicity hound, a world class fooler-arounder, a devoted husband, and most of all a devoted father. You see how Roosevelt could outfox him and he couldn’t do a thing about it (except pretend to try). You see how this man accomplished what he did. The fatherhood was it for me. He gave his love to his children. And his money too, but that’s another part of the forest; love was first. Now you know what I think. I tell this story because right after describing the man to my friends, I looked up, and sitting at a table directly across the room, waiting for her dinner partners, was the surviving child of that father and his famous brood – Jean Kennedy Smith. (who was dining with Phyllis Newman and Joe Armstrong). This is New York." (NYSocialDiary)


"Carla Bruni needs no introduction. The singer, model and ex-First Lady of France is one of Mr. Mickey's biggest idols and also one of the classiest dames alive today. While in town to promote her new record, Little French Songs, Mickey was lucky enough to sit down with the always belle Bruni and chat with her about stage fright, the language she uses for love, and Edith Piaf ... MB: And you're a French citizen and an Italian citizen? CB: I'm both, yeah. MB: So do you relate more to your French side or your Italian side? CB: I've been Italian a good third of my life, or even half of my life. And then I became French when I got married, and my grandmother was French so I was always very connected to French culture and French language. I think I write in French because my grandmother must have been talking French to me [my] whole [childhood], because she wasn't speaking very much Italian. She was married to an Italian man, but still French was her language. So, I feel Italian but maybe my language is French because I came to France when I was six ... CB: And did you play when you were a kid? MB: A little bit. I wish I could sing, but I really have no musical taste except to dance along to little French songs. CB: It's also an education. They took very young kids in Romania once, like one to two-year-old kids and they educated their ears and they realized that actually every human being has a [good] ear. It just has to be taught. Some people have it spontaneously. You know, I can write with rhymes but if I had to be a journalist it wouldn't be easy. When I have to write without rhymes it is very confusing and slow, like when I have to write a letter to someone. If I could write a letter and rhyme it, it would be faster. Everyone has their skills and I don't think it's good to force. There's not enough time, you know? You can really do something well when you do it with desire. " (Mickey Boardman/Papermag)


"Denise Rich threw a lavish carnival-themed party in St. Tropez harbor last night. The songwriter, whose fugitive ex-husband, Marc Rich, died last month, threw the rager on her yacht the Lady Joy, with guests including casino mogul Steve Wynn, Joan Collins, Ivana Trump (who’s back with her much younger ex-husband Rossano Rubicondi), Star Jones, Dori Cooperman, Magic Johnson and Blackstone’s Steve Schwarzman. Denise recently dumped her US citizenship for tax reasons. A spy told us, 'The entire dock is covered in red carpet. Huge stars are hanging like balloons. Women are doing circus acts above the dance floor, which is rotating in a circle with a big top over it. Oh, yes.'" (PageSix)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

 

"Where the Americans had previously been guided to a great extent by Henry Stimson's famous principle that 'gentlemen do not read each other's mail,' by the end of World War II they were obsessed with stealing and reading all relevant communications. The National Security Agency evolved out of various post-war organizations charged with this task ... The Pearl Harbor dread declined with the end of the Cold War -- until Sept. 11, 2001. In order to understand 9/11's impact, a clear memory of our own fears must be recalled. As individuals, Americans were stunned by 9/11 not only because of its size and daring but also because it was unexpected. Terrorist attacks were not uncommon, but this one raised another question: What comes next? Unlike Timothy McVeigh, it appeared that al Qaeda was capable of other, perhaps greater acts of terrorism. Fear gripped the land. It was a justified fear, and while it resonated across the world, it struck the United States particularly hard. Part of the fear was that U.S. intelligence had failed again to predict the attack.  The public did not know what would come next, nor did it believe that U.S. intelligence had any idea. A federal commission on 9/11 was created to study the defense failure. It charged that the president had ignored warnings. The focus in those days was on intelligence failure. The CIA admitted it lacked the human sources inside al Qaeda. By default the only way to track al Qaeda was via their communications. It was to be the NSA's job. As we have written, al Qaeda was a global, sparse and dispersed network. It appeared to be tied together by burying itself in a vast new communications network: the Internet. At one point, al Qaeda had communicated by embedding messages in pictures transmitted via the Internet. They appeared to be using free and anonymous Hotmail accounts. To find Japanese communications, you looked in the electronic ether. To find al Qaeda's message, you looked on the Internet. But with a global, sparse and dispersed network you are looking for at most a few hundred men in the midst of billions of people, and a few dozen messages among hundreds of billions. And given the architecture of the Internet, the messages did not have to originate where the sender was located or be read where the reader was located. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack. The needle can be found only if you are willing to sift the entire haystack. That led to PRISM and other NSA programs. The mission was to stop any further al Qaeda attacks. The means was to break into their communications and read their plans and orders. To find their plans and orders, it was necessary to examine all communications. The anonymity of the Internet and the uncertainties built into its system meant that any message could be one of a tiny handful of messages. Nothing could be ruled out. Everything was suspect." (STRATFOR)


"I lived on a point of the hill of North Doheny Drive that actually had a side walk. I used that to walk the dogs a couple times a day. We’d walk around the bend to the upper Bird Streets, beginning with Robin Drive (where Larry Flynt, I think, still lives). This is a shot of Doheny close to the top of the hill.  On that same spot looking southwest is West Los Angeles and Santa Monica, and the Pacific from which you could see Catalina on a day that was clear. That’s what they call a marine layer clouding the cluster of tall office buildings in the distance. They are Century City which was built on the backlot of 20th Century Fox in the 1970s. The tall building that is closer is on Doheny Road in what is called Beverly Hills Adjacent, and home to many famous stars. In the lower left of the picture, you can see the sidewalk curving (to go up the hill). The reddish rooftop was that of a house belonging to Madame Alex who was the number one madam in Los Angeles. Her girls came to the house for their assignments. I often saw them on my dog walks. They were all gorgeous, usually brunettes, always drove Beamers and stayed only briefly. One early evening I saw a cortege of three stretch limousines deliver about a dozen Arabs in full regalia – no girls – evidently for cocktails. Or something." (NYSocialDiary)


"Cairo and Alexandria had little in common with the barren and sandy hinterland of the Sahara and the Nile. Groppi’s was the best restaurant/nightclub in Cairo, and one that Field Marshal Rommel had boasted he’s be dining in just before his supplies ran out. It was jasmine-scented and as attractive a place I’ve ever been. English and French were the lingua francas. The Levantine women were to die for: none of this covering-up crap, and their fashion was the latest from Paris. I was madly in love with a married lady who teased me nonstop but never gave herself to me. We would go to a piano bar called Santa Lucia, where Grace would lie on the piano and sing  'Dimmi quando tu verrai, dimmi quando, quando quando..…' She was straight out of Durrell’s Justine, a real heartbreaker with whom I spoke over the telephone a few years ago. 'I want to see you,' I said. 'I wouldn’t if I were you,' came the not-so-cryptic answer. Muslim Princess Toussoun was another lady for whom one would throw himself into the Aswan Dam. She was married to an older Turkish prince with a handsome French diplomat as escort. The youngest and most beautiful was Katie Sursock, who is now Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan, a widow, but one I see weekly here in Gstaad." (Taki, AKA  À la recherche du Imperialisme perdu)


"People magazine is fast becoming the supermarket tabloid it doesn’t want to be. Confidenti@l has learned that when managing editor Larry Hackett’s contract expires at the end of this year, it likely will not be renewed. 'People is now under a lot of pressure since parting with parent company Time Inc. Now the magazine must stand on its own two feet, and it can only do so by becoming more tabloid,' a source tells us." (NYDailyNews via MediaMix)


"When Jack Handey sold his first jokes to Steve Allen in 1977, Allen sent him a letter offering him $100 and telling him his name sounded like a product, not a person. 'Say homemakers, take a look at the new Jack Handey,' Allen wrote. 'Just the thing for slicing, dicing, mopping, slopping, stamping, primping. . . . ' The longtime 'Simpsons' writer Ian Maxtone-Graham, who worked with Handey at “Saturday Night Live,' recalled that everyone he told about Handey asked if that was a fake name. “I wonder why that is,' Maxtone-Graham said. 'I guess because it sounds like, if your car breaks down, you should have a Jack Handey.'  'I hope your article can clear up all the confusion,' Senator Al Franken told me when I contacted him. 'Jack Handey is a real person, and he wrote all the ‘Deep Thoughts.’ Not me.' Jack Handey is a solidly built man of 64 with a swoop of graying hair; when he smiles, his teeth are blindingly white. We were sitting around the island in Handey’s Santa Fe kitchen as his wife, Marta, made huevos rancheros for breakfast. Jack and Marta have been together for 36 years. I asked if he helped out around the kitchen, and he said, 'I can cook Cheerios.' 'You can cook a hard-boiled egg!' Marta said brightly. 'I’m getting pretty good at that,' he agreed. Handey is best known as the writer and performer of 'Deep Thoughts,' a series of quasi-philosophical cracked aphorisms that ran on 'Saturday Night Live' from 1991 to 1998. The license plate on Handey’s car is DPTHOTS; on the wall of the garage is mounted the plate he purchased initially but never used: DEEPTHT. That’s because the day Handey was screwing it on, Marta’s brother asked, “Why does your license plate say ‘Deep Throat’?' The four 'Deep Thoughts' books hogged bookstore checkout counters for much of the 1990s and sold, in total, about a million copies. Now he has written a novel, his first, titled 'The Stench of Honolulu,' available this month." (NYTimes via MediareDEFined)


"Tony Soprano left us in a cut to black that still fuels debate about whether it signified his getting whacked or just our getting shut out of the story. Vic Mackey ended up alive but alone in the purgatory of a desk job. While it's likely that Walter White will get killed or arrested due to the discovery of his drug business or a resurgence of the cancer that started his journey, it's also possible to imagine him back as a miserable teacher in some witness protection program somewhere, somehow, wallowing in his own stifled rage and resumed powerlessness. But Dexter Morgan? Dexter needs to die." (IndieWIRE)