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Monday, July 07, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



From top left, clockwise: Mitch McConnell, Terri Lynn Land, Mark Begich, Joni Ernst, Mark Pryor, Kay Hagan, Scott Brown and Mary Landrieu are shown in this composite. | AP Photos












"With four months until Election Day, Republicans are as close to winning the Senate as they’ve been since losing it in 2006. Six months ago, the GOP path to the majority was narrower: Republicans essentially had to sweep seven races in states Barack Obama lost in 2012 but where Democrats currently hold seats. Unlikely, in other words. Now Republicans have more options. They’ve landed top recruits to take on first-term senators in New Hampshire and Colorado, nominated credible female candidates in open-seat contests in Michigan and Iowa, protected all of their incumbents from tea party challenges and thwarted more conservative candidates that could have hurt the GOP’s chances in states like North Carolina and Georgia. With the general election field all but set, Republicans are looking to turn the midterms into a national referendum on Obama. Democrats want the focus to be squarely on the candidates, and they’re spending the typically quiet summer months trying to define Republican hopefuls as unlikeable and extreme.Obama’s approval rating continues to hover around his all-time lows, especially in the GOP-leaning states that will decide control of the upper chamber. Obamacare is not as toxic now as during the disastrous HealthCare.gov rollout, but it undeniably remains a drag on Democrats. The jury is still out on the economy: The Commerce Department announced a 2.9 percent decline in first-quarter gross domestic product late last month, but then the Labor Department reported last week that the unemployment rate in June had dropped to 6.1 percent. Republicans are expected to pick up seats in South Dakota, West Virginia and Montana, where longtime Democratic incumbents are retiring or have already resigned. From there, they need to net three more seats to take control of the chamber. Fifty-five senators currently caucus with Democrats, 45 with Republicans. With that in mind, here are the 10 truly competitive races, ranked in order of likelihood of a party change." (Politico)





"Ah, July! What a great month for those of us who celebrate American exceptionalism. There’s the lead-up to the Fourth, countrywide Independence Day celebrations including my town’s local Revolutionary War reenactment and fireworks, the enjoyable days of high summer, and, for the fortunate, the prospect of some time at the beach. Sorry, but this year, July isn’t going to work for me. That’s because of a new kind of American corporate exceptionalism: companies that have decided to desert our country to avoid paying taxes but expect to keep receiving the full array of benefits that being American confers, and that everyone else is paying for. Yes, leaving the country–a process that tax techies call inversion–is perfectly legal. A company does this by reincorporating in a place like Ireland, where the corporate tax rate is 12.5%, compared with 35% in theU.S. Inversion also makes it easier to divert what would normally be U.S. earnings to foreign, lower-tax locales. But being legal isn’t the same as being right. If a few companies invert, it’s irritating but no big deal for our society. But mass inversion is a whole other thing, and that’s where we’re heading. We’ve also got a second, related problem, which I call the 'never-heres.' They include formerly private companies like Accenture ACN -0.50% , a consulting firm that was spun off from Arthur Andersen, and disc-drive maker Seagate STX , which began as a U.S. company, went private in a 2000 buyout and was moved to the Cayman Islands, went public in 2002, then moved to Ireland from the Caymans in 2010. Firms like these can duck lots of U.S. taxes without being accused of having deserted our country because technically they were never here. So far, by Fortune’s count, some 60 U.S. companies have chosen the never-here or the inversion route, and others are lining up to leave." (Fortune via Paula Froelich)
 
Photo: The Marshall Project



"After 30 years at the New York Times, including the better part of a decade at the top of the masthead, Bill Keller decided it was time to start again from scratch. His new undertaking, forthcoming this fall, is a nonprofit journalism start-up focused on the American criminal justice system — seemingly a niche topic, but perhaps not in the most incarcerated nation on earth. The dream of reporter-cum-hedge fund manager (and Koch director) Neil Barsky, the Marshall Project, named for civil rights attorney and Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall, will run on about $5 million per year in philanthropy. Keller, then, is its public face, its pitchman, and the old-media center of its journalistic creditability. He’s also the editor-in-chief. The newsroom veteran spoke to Intelligencer before the holiday weekend — ahead of lunch with a potential donor — about prepping for launch, the site’s grand plans (to affect the 2016 presidential election), his new digital brethren, and the big ship he left behind." (NYMag)









"The thing about being murdered, it usually comes as a surprise. Even in Naples, where the criminal clans known collectively as the Camorra are again struggling violently for control of the streets, no victim wakes up expecting on that given day to die. He shaves carefully, dresses in his beloved clothes, slips on an expensive watch, and maybe squeezes his wife before heading out to meet with his friends. If he suspected his fate, he might at least kiss his wife good-bye. But the neighborhood has been home for generations to everyone he knows who counts. He deals there in extortion, protection, narcotics, and counterfeit goods. He abides by alternative rules. For this he is respected. He rarely carries a gun. His experience until now has been that murder happens only to others. Then someone comes along and kills him. It is a strangely final event. There may be a moment of recognition at the end, but by then the man can no longer stay alive. Recently, in a northern district called Secondigliano, it was obvious that the victim knew his fate for about seven seconds before he died. Secondigliano is an old farming town that has been swallowed by the city. It has evolved into one of Europe’s largest open-air drug markets and a working-class stronghold for the Camorra. The victim was a mid-ranking member of one of its clans involved in a typically convoluted struggle, and not known to the police before. He was in his mid-30s and beginning to bald. He was immaculately dressed and groomed. As was his habit, he had come to a small street-front gambling shop to play a bit of one-armed bandit. Surveillance cameras there captured his demise. It was broad daylight. As a cautionary measure he had placed three guards outside, one of whom was burly, but none of whom was armed. The gambling shop was narrow and had space for only six machines against one wall. In the back was a closed door. The victim was alone in the room. He sat on a stool to gamble." (VanityFair)




NY businessman banned from Monaco after ‘Battle Royale’


"Beefy NY businessman Adam Hock has been banned from Monaco and threatened with arrest if he sets foot in the principality following the infamous 'Battle Royale,' during which he punched Princess Grace’s grandson Pierre Casiraghi in a NYC club dust-up.Page Six can exclusively reveal Hock was ordered out of the principality by head of state Prince Albert after he arrived on a yacht for the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix in late May.A source confirmed Hock sailed into Monaco from Cannes with friends including Canadian billionaire and Cirque du Soleil CEO Guy LaLiberté ahead of the prestigious Formula 1 race, and had headed for dinner in Monte Carlo. A source told us, 'Upon arriving in Monaco by boat, they handed their passports to the authorities, as is required, and headed into Monte Carlo for dinner with friends on May 21 at Cipriani. The next night they drove to the AmfAR gala in Cannes, but while there, Adam got a call from the captain of his yacht, saying he wasn’t allowed back into Monaco, on the orders of Prince Albert.' Adam’s friends called Prince Albert and tried to intervene on his behalf, but he would not relent, and '[Adam’s friends] had to take his belongings off the yacht, which remained in Monaco, while Adam went on to Ibiza. The incident was the talk of Naomi Campbell’s birthday at the Billionaire Club in Monte Carlo, which Adam was supposed to attend, on May 23.' Casiraghi, who is the second youngest of Princess Caroline’s four children, was hospitalized after suffering a suspected broken jaw when he was sucker-punched by Hock during the brawl at former hot spot Double Seven in the early hours of Feb. 18, 2012. Prince Albert was said to be furious over the incident, plus the ensuing lawsuits, and the embarrassment it caused the Monaco royal family." (P6)




"The area was known by its individual towns, not so much the Hamptons. Each area had its own personality/demographic in terms of summer inhabitants. After the season the towns returned to their small town village-ness, run mainly by the small businessmen and big landowners, many of whom were farmers, especially potato farmers, some from families that had been working the land since the 17th century. The summer residents opened up their houses around Memorial Day and closed them up after Labor Day until the following year. This was partly because of the access. The LIE got about as far as Patchogue by the early 60s, and then you were on two lane blacktop most of the rest of the way. There was also another year round community in the towns east and north of Southampton of writers and artists and their exponents in life style. The area in the colder weather had a semi-rural feeling, far away from the city's smells. The artists and writers lived comfortably but modestly no matter their prominence. Truman Capote had a simple beach house in Bridgehampton for years, which after his death was purchased by artist Ross Bleckner. Real estate was cheap. That first summer I was out there in 1963 we rented a four-bedroom two-bath (and two-kitchen) house set south of the highway, just outside Southampton in the middle of a potato field. It was owned by famous men's fashion editor named Robert D. L. Green. The place slept eight comfortably, and the rent for Memorial through Labor Day was $1200. Total." (NYSD)


Vodkas in Arcadia



"To Fort Belvedere for a ball that most likely will discourage any more balls because of its brilliance and perfection. Galen and Hilary Weston, who lease the historic house, once the playground of Edward VIII and the venue where he signed the Instrument of Abdication in front of his three brothers, are amazing hosts. In this age of gushing exhibitionism, their restraint and good taste leave one speechless upon arrival. On a brilliant June evening, with the weather holding, 400-some guests arrived in Windsor Great Park and descended the rolling impeccable lawns of the Fort. On the right, on a perfect grass court where once upon a time I used to regularly play with Galen, a mixed doubles game was in progress. The ladies wore long 1900s dresses and large hats. The men were in impeccable long whites. The rackets were wood. But there was something wrong. This foursome could play. On a wet slippery court in long whites and dresses, the four of them whacked the ball back and forth and the rallies were longer than the queue waiting to greet the Westons. They were obviously pros hired by Galen to add to the weekend house party atmosphere. It was an exquisite touch only spoilt for me when I told some wise guy that I had played a lot on that court and he asked me what the Duke of Windsor’s game was like. Galen never ceases to amaze me, and I’m not the type that courts business tycoons. He’s not only the number one in his profession, but was as good an amateur tennis player as he was a polo player, and by that I mean top class. He’s a bit younger than me and the last time we played it was a tie, the difference being he’s brilliant in business and I have trouble with subtraction and spent forty years just playing tennis. But back to the party. If there was a theme it had to be Arcadia, the dreamlike vision of pastoral harmony with nature. Hilary Weston was lieutenant governor of Ontario, a place one can fit ten times my country within and still have lots of room to roam, and her cherry-blossom garden with tree trunks planted on the ceiling had me confused after only three double vodkas. So I asked my friend Debbie Bismarck whether it was age or had someone spiked my drinks. 'It’s a mirror, you fool,' she answered rather rudely, but thinking about it later on, how was I supposed to know these things? Everything that led to anywhere was festooned with roses, something even a philistine when it comes to decoration like myself noticed without Debbie’s help." (Taki)

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