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Monday, September 08, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"tktkt











"When the town of Ferguson, Missouri, exploded last month, there was an effervescent moment when right and left agreed on the problem. The problem, Democrats and Republicans concurred, was militarized police. It was the perfect trans-ideological nightmare, combining the right’s fear of centralized authority with the left’s fear of excessive military force. In point of fact, police militarization bore only the faintest responsibility for the tragedy in Ferguson. At worst, the weaponry at the disposal of the town’s cops made them more aggressive in responding to protesters. But old-fashioned policing tools were all the Ferguson police needed to engage in years of discriminatory treatment, to murder Michael Brown, and to rough up journalists covering the ensuing protests. Police militarization was a largely unrelated problem that happened to be on bright display. Over the ensuing days, it grew apparent that demilitarizing the police might save the government some money but would not address the crisis’s underlying cause, and the momentary consensus evaporated. The shame of it is Ferguson has exposed a genuine opening for thinking about public life in a way that cuts across traditional ideological lines. The problem is what you might call Big Small Government. The town of Ferguson, while tiny in scale, is an Orwellian monstrosity. Its racially biased Police Department is the enforcement wing of a predatory system of government described in scathing detail in a recent report by ArchCity Defenders, a Missouri legal-aid nonprofit. The city’s white-dominated council governs a mostly black city, and its oppressive, biased justice system is an instrument of fiscal (in additional to social) domination. Court fines account for a fifth of the city’s revenue. Police officers disproportionately search black drivers, even though they disproportionately discover contraband among white ones. The city issues three warrants per household, and its draconian justice system appears designed to bleed its victims. The report notes, 'A Ferguson court employee reported that the bench routinely starts hearing cases 30 minutes before the appointed time and then locks the doors to the building as early as five minutes after the official hour, a practice that could easily lead a defendant arriving even slightly late to receive an additional charge for failure to appear.' While arming these officers with Green Zone–style weaponry may restrict their ability to engage in humane policing, the deeper problem is that they simply don’t want to. There are not many people who find their freedom so unjustly impaired by the government in Washington as the people of Ferguson are by their local government. And yet while Ferguson—an unusual city populated mostly by blacks and governed mostly by whites—lies somewhat outside the norm, it is hardly a freakish anomaly. Big Small Government is all around us. We simply haven’t trained our minds to notice it." (Jonathan Chait)





"Back in the very early 60s there was an uninhabited islet off the west coast of Greece by the name of Skorpios. It was wild, with neglected olive groves, and its asking price was around 60 thousand dollars. Step forward, Aristotle Socrates Onassis, who snapped it up and for good measure put some pocket change in for the even tinier Sparti Island next door. From the large Ionian island of Lefkas one can swim to Skorpios in less than an hour, wearing flippers that is. Onassis was a much misunderstood character. He had great charm, spoke many languages, was very streetwise, but his looks were against him. That and his propensity to wear dark blue double-breasted suits, white shirts, and dark, wrap-around sunglasses added to the Mafioso aura. The gomina slicked-down mane did not help. Finally, his inclination for dating very famous women landed him in the wrong kind of gossip columns of the time. When he married Jackie Kennedy, the most famous woman in the world in 1968, the Onassis name became known even among Amazon tribes who had never seen a white man. I thought of Onassis recently when a Swiss friend went to stay with the Russian oligarch who bought Skorpios last year. The oligarch is the king of shit, a manure tycoon whose wife was awarded something like four billion greenbacks in their rather unfriendly divorce—that doesn’t mean that she will collect such an amount. All I can tell you is that it’s a long social drop from the Onassis days to the present; in fact, it’s like falling off an airplane flying at 55,000 feet. Onassis invested three million dollars to turn a wild uninhabited isle into a flower-decked gem with six miles of roads through the olive groves, a beautiful harbor for the Christina (the then biggest and most glamorous gin palace in the world), a villa that blended perfectly with the architecture of the Ionian isles, and a dozen guest houses to boot. The first time I visited it was by accident. The present Duke of Beaufort, back then plain David Somerset, Gianni Agnelli, and I were the three men who had begun a cruise on Gianni’s boat in July of 1967. All three of us were married but the ladies on board were not our wives. The cruise began in the south of France, but by the time we reached Lefkas, Gianni had got rid of the tarts. “Let’s stop by and see old Aristo,” said Gianni, and the Duke, who reads the Spectator, will confirm that Onassis was not happy to see us drop anchor on his island. The reason was the widow, whom Gianni spotted racing off on a speedboat as soon as we appeared. Onassis nevertheless showed us around the place, offered us a drink, and then it was time for us to be on our way. This was more than a year before the world was shocked to hear that Jackie Kennedy was to marry the Greek tycoon. Well, I could have had a world exclusive but it was a good ten years before I began this column, with a couple of trips to Vietnam and the wars in the Middle East before the Taki name was ever heard of by the reading public. Looking back, I could have leaked it to, say, Nigel Dempster, but it was not the kind of thing people did back then. Onassis died in 1975 and Agnelli in 2003, but the Duke and I are still around, as is Skorpios, but the latter in, shall we say, rather different hands. This rambling disquisition on the distilling process of memory seems to have become a habit as I look back on a life of mostly pleasure and fun." (Taki)





"Dear Ben: May I ask you something? How long did you spend on BuzzFeed before deciding to invest $50m? I’m not talking of Jonah Peretti’s PowerPoint deck or spreadsheets, which, I’m sure, must be quite compelling. But did you sample the real thing, the BuzzFeed site? And how many times a day do you log in? Please, don’t tell me it’s part of your mandatory media diet, I’ll have to struggle not to express polite disbelief. Frankly, your investment leaves me bewildered.Judging by your blog and your remarkable book (I energetically proselytize both), you embody a mixture of vista, courage, combining focus on details with broad systemic vision, all supported by deep hands-on experience. In addition, you are of the generous type and I was even happier to buy two copies of your book (including a paper version for a friend) knowing all proceeds will go to Women in the Struggle — a noble cause. In short Ben, I have a great deal of respect for you. You are the type of person our modern economy needs. Except that I don’t share your vision of the news business. In fact, I’m standing at the polar opposite of it. Let me be clear: I do not question the goals and means of the VC business you’re in. In fact, I think this extraordinary ecosystem of financing innovation has long been a vital booster to the economy. Whenever I get the opportunity, I preach this in France, only to find out that my plea is beyond the cognitive grasp of the French governing elite (our VC perimeter is 33 times smaller than yours for a GDP only 6 times smaller.) The whole system sounds fine to me:  investors gives you money — $4.15bn for Andreessen Horowitz at my last count –  your mission is to multiply, you create scores of high qualified jobs. Great. But is BuzzFeed really such a good multiplier?" (Monday Note)


Manna from heaven for Joan.


"Her 'act' was self-deprecating in the beginning, and hilarious from the start. There was delicious bite in her delivery. Slowly, while still using herself as a target, she morphed into over-the top attacks on the famous. Elizabeth Taylor’s weight gain in the late 1970s was manna from heaven for Joan. She took the reins of Taylor’s over-indulgence and rode it to an entirely new career and persona. Joan’s take-no-prisoners insults and observations on concert stages, red-carpets and on her E! "Fashion Police" show didn’t endear her to everybody — polarizing, would be putting it mildly — but in the tradition of all great comics, she wouldn’t/couldn’t censor her act, or modify. (Although, she let up on Elizabeth after they met socially at a dinner in Joan and Edgar’s Bel Air home with Roddy McDowall orchestrating and George Hamilton escorting a by-then slim, elegant Miss Taylor. I know because I was there!) The more people were afraid to express themselves, the more out-on-the-ledge Joan took it. She was the scourge of the politically correct. And she was right because being P.C. and outraged at useless celebrity offends the intelligent. Publicly, Joan was extreme. Privately, she was not brash, with wonderful manners, rather insecure, melancholy at times. Life had not always been a bowl of cherries for this funny lady; surprisingly thin-skinned, considering her comic bread and butter. " (Liz Smith)













"These were the final days of Joan Rivers. Heavy, humid, torpid. Joan, did you do that just to make a point? Well, you made your point. We won’t ever forget you. The outpouring of sorrow for Joan Rivers’ demise was enormous, maybe more enormous that we might have imagined for her, but that’s because we didn’t know. And Americans would like nothing better than a distraction from the real news. I’ll bet Joan didn’t know either. Like her compatriot Robin Williams, she touched many of us in ways quite contrary to the one-liners that poured from her. The funeral/memorial was yesterday at Temple Emanu-El on Fifth Avenue. I didn’t go but a friend who did told me that there was enough police presence that she asked one of the cops what it was for. 'Labor Day parade,' he answered. It was for Joan. There was a moment when Hugh Jackman got up and sang the song he sang in 'The Man From Oz' which Peter Allen wrote about his once-upon-a-time mother-in-law Judy Garland, “Quiet Please, There’s a Lady Onstage.” When it came to the line ;... put your hands together ...' and clap ... well, they did: the entire crowd joined in. That was Joan." (NYSD)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Ron! Lola & Patti here from Fashsmashon/papermag. Long time no see. P&L besties since meeting in 97 on Paper. Who knew. Fun to bump into your blog. Xoxo

Ron Mwangaguhunga said...

love u guys. Lets go to the papermag 30th anniversary. Um, u got tix?