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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres







"Ukraine's independence from the Soviet Union was followed by the privatization of state-owned assets, giving birth to a powerful class of business leaders known as oligarchs. Since the country's founding, they have played a crucial role in the political system -- there are close ties between Ukraine's oligarchs and the evolution of the country's political crisis. This was most recently illustrated in Donetsk on March 9, when Ukrainian presidential hopeful Vitali Klitschko met with Rinat Akhmetov, the country's richest man, to discuss the ongoing situation. The oligarchs function as a bridge between the Western-leaning interim government and Russia's interests in the country, especially in the Ukrainian east. They will play a key role in negotiations over Ukraine's political future and will prove pivotal in shaping any Ukrainian administration's relationship with Russia.Similar to Russia, the rapid transition to capitalism in Ukraine allowed politically connected individuals to amass tremendous wealth as they acquired and monopolized assets spanning the country's metals, chemicals and energy distribution industries, among others. But Russia has a long tradition of centralized power, and as the Kremlin regained its strength, Moscow subsumed or eliminated these wealthy individuals. Kiev wields no such political might. Ukraine's oligarchs were never fully subordinated by the government; their power only grew. The result is a political system in Ukraine that continues to depend highly on the patronage and support of oligarchs. All major political parties and candidates for powerful posts in parliament and the executive office have their respective oligarch backers. For instance, figures such as Akhmetov, who holds a dominant position in the country's steel and coal production, and Dmytro Firtash, a major player in the power and chemicals industry, have been leading financiers of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich's Party of Regions. Other oligarchs, such as Igor Kolomoisky, a banking and industrial magnate, have kept out of direct politics, forging short-term situational alliances with various politicians." (STRATFOR)






Rob Lowe missed his chance with Madonna






"It seems Rob Lowe wanted to sleep with Madonna  — not dance with her, as he writes in 'Love Life,' the sequel to his bestselling 2011 memoir, 'Stories I Only Tell My Friends.' The Brat Pack star, who says the new book (due out April 8) is racier than his first; it tells of meeting Madonna after a show in Los Angeles in 1984. 'She was cute and she was young and she was single, and so I sat front-row . . . she was a revelation,' Lowe writes. 'Madonna would like to see you backstage,’ a security guard said as the house lights came up.' 'She had flawless skin and eyes that imparted secrets … she asked what movie I was working on and so I told her a little about ‘St. Elmo’s Fire,’ which I had just finished. ‘I play the bad boy,’ I said. Madonna just smiled. She seemed to like that.' Months later, they made a date to meet up at the Palladium, 'a giant dance club that was filled with rabid ‘boy-toy’ doppelganger fans of both sexes. It was a madhouse.' After a harrowing trek through the 'grabbing and pawing' crowd, Lowe reached the VIP section. 'Madonna and I were discussing where we would sneak off to at the end of the evening when she suddenly jumped up and said, ‘Let’s dance!’. . . ‘I’ll wait here,’ I said.'‘Suit yourself,’ she replied as she waded beyond the velvet rope into the fray.”
But, unlike the free-spirited singer, Lowe had no desire to rub elbows with his fans. He writes: '‘You’re crazy,’ I said, half meaning it. ‘No I’m not,’ she said . . . ‘I’m just not going to let success f–k up my fun.’'" (Richard Johnson)






Xander Feng and VP Frank Underwood on House of Cards. (Netflix)





"We have a feeling this guy hasn’t made it to the last episode of Season 2. Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai told a panel gathered in Beijing for the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, 'I have seen both seasons of House of Cards, which I think embodies some of the characteristics and corruption that is present in American politics.' Notable perhaps, because of how season two portrays  Xander Feng, the Chinese billionaire investor who is originally brought to negotiate with Frank Underwood for … something involving a bridge, we think. No, it was the WTO lawsuit, and he wanted the U.S. not to drop it. But he also wanted a bridge. And to have weird sex with a plastic bag over his head. Most of VP Underwood’s decisions about what to do with China are portrayed as petty power moves to either undermine or bolster Feng and Raymond Tusk, meaning that Tiankai’s remarks boil down to saying, 'You guys are petty as fuck.'" (Observer)













"Yesterday was Wednesday and so it was the Michael’s lunch. The place was packed with all kinds of media and financial people. The media people all sit in the front so they can see who’s coming and going, and the bankers and hedge funders like to sit in the Garden Room where they can discuss business get the light and the garden with everything growing. I was lunching with CS Ledbetter and George Gurley, the journalist who wrote the first interview with me fourteen years ago in the New York Observer when JH and I started the NYSD. George was something of a rookie then but he got the story right. That’s not as easy a task that you might think, even with a tape recorder (which George always carried). We had a lot to talk about.Next door, Joan Jakobson was lunching with Barbara Liberman, Suzanne Maas and Tim Hogan. Joan and I met in 1969 when we were both volunteers in the Carter Burden Councilmanic campaign here in New York. Tim had an official job in the campaign. Carter Burden was well known in New York as a Vanderbilt scion who was married to Amanda Mortimer, Babe Paley’s daughter, and was said to be following in the footsteps of his mentor, Senator Robert F. Kennedy whose office Carter had worked in. So for us kids, it was an 'of the moment' time and we were young adults and New York was the most exciting city in the world where everything was happening." (NYSD)






An attendee attempts to grab U.S. one-dollar bills in a promotional booth at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas, U.S., on Tuesday, March 11, 2014.






"Sometime around the third day of SXSW Interactive, I started forgetting exactly why I'd come. The Austin-based event I'd signed up for had been advertised as a tech conference, but when I arrived, I found it was just an all-purpose capitalist carnival – a shrieking, neon-lit billboard for every kind of conceivable product or service. Pennzoil and American Express were there, as was Kleenex, which had rented a house-sized exhibit to show off its Cottonelle toilet paper to the estimated 30,000 techies in attendance. None of these are tech companies, per se. But it may not matter – because what really happens at SXSW these days, amid the barbecue and free booze, is a clumsy appropriation of the tech world's rhetoric by the corporate marketing complex. Hacker culture, which was once rooted in Silicon Valley's countercultural history, is now being used by Fortune 500 corporations to sell stuff to people." (NYMag)

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