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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres










"Lee Hsien Loong, 62, became the third prime minister of Singapore in 2004 after an early life that had prepared him meticulously for the job. He is the son of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first prime minister and founding father. The younger Lee was educated in Mandarin Chinese and English and, like both his parents, went to Cambridge university, where in 1974 he earned a first-class degree in maths, and a diploma in computer science. That was followed by more than a decade in Singapore’s army, where he rose to the rank of brigadier-general. Then politics. Yet, while enjoying a gilded career, Lee has also suffered from the vicissitudes of life. His first wife died in 1982, shortly after their second child was born. He himself was treated for cancer in the 1990s.At Cambridge, he was asked to stay on and do graduate work. I ask if he was tempted. 'It would have been very nice,' he says looking wistful, 'but you can’t really do that, can you? I went on a scholarship and I had duties at home.' I ask if he always knew he would go into the family business, into politics? There is a slight edge in his voice, as he replies: 'No, I did not. It is not a family business.' With faint alarm, I recall that the PM has successfully extracted apologies and damages from media organisations, including the FT, for suggesting the Lee family has benefited from nepotism.When he was prime minister, the older Lee had constantly emphasised Singapore’s insecurity – urging his fellow citizens to work hard and be vigilant. Since Singapore is a city-state of just 5.3m people – which became involuntarily independent only in 1965 when it was expelled from the Malaysian federation – such vigilance was understandable. But, since then, Singapore has enjoyed a long period of peace and ever-rising prosperity and now has one of the highest per-capita GDPs in the world. So I ask Lee if Singaporeans still need to feel insecure." (FT)













 "Stephen Colbert is known for tearing apart politicians with an acerbic, unforgiving wit — a trademark that strikes fear in the hearts of many a public official.But if Washington’s political types were scared of being the butt of Colbert’s jokes on Comedy Central, they’ll be downright terrified when he replaces David Letterman as host of 'The Late Show' next year. That appointment, which CBS announced Thursday, will likely increase his audience threefold. Colbert has built his career by lampooning, satirizing and often embarrassing both the political class and the media establishment that covers it. When politicians visit Letterman, Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel, they can expect a relatively friendly, tame interview that leaves their reputation unscathed. A segment with Colbert, by contrast, can be a trial by fire.'He’s clearly the most political late night host, and arguably the most partisan,' said Robert Lichter, director of the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University and the author of the forthcoming book 'Politics Is a Joke: How TV Comedians Are Remaking Political Life.' 'I think he’s probably going to stir more controversy than a lot of others would,' Lichter said. 'He’s going to take his own political sensibility as part of what he does. There’s probably going to be more complaints and controversies than there would be with a Jimmy Kimmel type.' Colbert has also had an unparalleled obsession with national politics outside the show, having run for president, launched a super PAC, co-hosted a political rally on the National Mall, attended a state dinner (where he sat next to first lady Michelle Obama) and delivered a White House Correspondents’ Dinner address. Colbert even attended this year’s Gridiron Dinner, an annual white-tie event hosted by an exclusive club of prestigious Washington journalists." (Politico)








Courtesy of Patrick McMullan.



"I grew up in the countryside of Wales with my mother, Johanna. (My father, Michael, moved to America when I was five.) We lived a practical existence, but twice a year my sister, Laela, and I would go to L.A. to stay at my grandmother's house, which was like a fairy tale. I spent hours in her closet. She had all the designers—Valentino, Versace—and things she’d picked up in the market in Mexico too. We’d sit on her bed. She’d open her jewelry closet, bring out drawer after drawer, and tell us stories of her life through each piece—like her 'Ping-Pong diamond rings,' which she won in a game of Ping-Pong with Richard Burton. We lapped it up. She always said she was a custodian of her jewelry: It didn’t belong to her; she was just a part of its journey.If you were a woman in Elizabeth Taylor’s life, she’d likely dress you up. She knew she was lucky to have the things she had, and a big part of how she enjoyed them was by sharing them. In my grandmother’s house in Switzerland, she had a bomb shelter that she’d turned into her wardrobe. Everybody would go down to pick out something to wear. If it looked good on you, chances are, she’d let you keep it." (Naomi deLuce Wilding/VanityFair)













"Imagine you’re a scientist in some sci-fi alternate universe, and you’ve been charged with creating a boot camp that will reliably turn normal but ambitious people into broken sociopaths more or less willing to do anything. There are two main traits you’d want to cultivate in your recruits. The first would be terror: You’d want to ensure that the experimental subjects were kept off-­balance and insecure, always fearful that bad things would happen, that they would be humiliated or lose their position and be cast out. But at the same time, it would be crucial that you assiduously inculcate a towering sense of superiority, the belief that the project they happen to be engaged in is more important than anything and that, because of their remarkable skills and efforts, they are among the select few chosen to be a part of it. You’d want to simultaneously make them neurotically insecure and self-doubting and also filled with the conviction that they and their colleagues are smarter and better and more deserving than anyone else. As chronicled in Kevin Roose’s 'Young Money,' this is basically how the first two years of a Wall Street investment banker’s life work. Roose found eight young aspirants who agreed to let him into their lives in exchange for anonymity, and he follows their trajectories as they move from college internships to grueling lives as Wall Street grunts. (One note of caution: In order to protect his sources’ anonymity, Roose writes in a prologue that 'many personal details have been altered or obscured, and a few events have been reordered chronologically or given minor tweaks to make them less recognizable to the people involved.' That stuck with me as I read the book and had to wonder just what 'events' and 'personal details,' which are the stuff of narrative, weren’t actually accurate.)The first-year Wall Street analyst gig is a classic Faustian bargain.Glamorous recruiters show up on college campuses with promises of excitement, intellectual stimulation and money. They wine and dine recruits, barraging the most promising with solicitous emails, and the wooing works: 36 percent of the 2010 Princeton class who had full-time jobs at graduation went into finance. (In 2006, before the crisis, 46 percent did.) The head of the University of Pennsylvania’s career services tells Roose: 'To come to Penn is to, at some point in your undergraduate years, ask yourself the question, 'Should I think about investment banking?’ 'But once the job starts the young analysts are treated like serfs: worked to exhaustion, berated, belittled, hazed and made to feel terrible about themselves. They play 'misery poker,' in which they try to one-up their colleagues with tales of preposterous last-minute assignments, dates canceled, family events missed. They ruin relationships and sometimes jeopardize their own selves; a first-­generation striver named Arjun learns he has a rare disease and spends all of his time in treatment worrying he’s losing out at work.That said, even Arjun has it better than a vast majority of American workers." (NYTBR)




"AUDIENCES today manufacture hordes of celebrities because true talent, trained professional stars are rare. The rise of reality TV is the worst thing to happen to culture — ever. It encourages every sort of bad behavior and has diminished and devalued real talent. An entire generation has grown up literally not knowing what talent is. Everything now is 'merely the mock' turtle soup to quote Cole Porter. If just one zillionaire could remount the old studio system that trained talent into stars and had actual rules and guidelines, I wonder what would happen? It probably wouldn’t work. Young talent wouldn’t want to be restricted to things such as seven-year contracts and morals clauses. (Although even back in the day, those were easy to avoid, if one was a big enough star.) Everybody wants to be independent and be free to create as they like. That nothing of much originality is being created these days doesn’t seem to matter to this era’s writers, producers, directors or an audience that accepts mass mediocrity. In the end we would be back where we are, screaming over nothing and getting together because we can’t stand to be alone with our thoughts — with only our gadgets to bring us to a semblance of being together." (NYSD)





"White House senior adviser John Podesta is running against the clock. Time is winding on Podesta’s objective, which is to make sure President Obama put points on the board in the final three years of his second term through either legislation or executive action.With Obama and the White House flailing in late 2013, Podesta returned to the West Wing in January as part of an Obama reboot.
A little more than three months later, the former chief of staff for President Clinton gets good marks from Democrats and fellow West Wingers for helping to improve the White House’s strategy and communications.They say Podesta has improved the White House’s chances of moving meaningful regulatory actions through the government while better coordinating with Democrats in Congress.
'Lawmakers feel more engaged now,' said one former senior administration official, who called Podesta a 'hell of a supplement' to the White House legislative affairs office.A senior Democratic aide who had grumbled about relations with the White House in previous months, said it has been 'a lot better than before' under Podesta.Podesta has been tasked by Obama to oversee a 90-day review of big data and privacy on the heels of the National Security Agency controversy.  The review continues to take up a chunk of his time as the deadline approaches in the coming days. He also has been labeled what one senior administration official called 'the implementer-in-chief' of Obama’s climate and natural resource plan, tackling specifically how the administration can use executive action to set climate policy. Colleagues say Podesta takes a very hands-on approach at the White House.As part of his 'implementer-in-chief' task, each Wednesday morning, Podesta gathers a group of senior policy heads from environmental agencies around a table at the White House to discuss what they’re each accomplishing and how they get to the finish line." (TheHill)

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