Archive for August, 2009

The McKinsey Summing

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Though this appeared yesterday on my new favorite blog, The Awl, I cannot get it out of my mind and so I am posting on it now. Alex Balk, one of the two wit mavens running the thing, came up with a brilliant parody of the death throes of luxurious media company CondeNast as it prepares to be pared down by a swarm of McKinsey consultants. Oh, and he did it in the form of “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats. A bit insidery, perhaps, but it works.

Here is the original:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

And here’s Balk’s version, “The McKinsey Summing“:

Kerning and kerning in the widening spire
The editor cannot spurn the consultant;
Things fall apart; Balthazar is on hold;
Mere sandwiches are loosed upon the world,
The Orangina-dimmed tide is lost, and everywhere
The ceremony of heated basalt stone massage is disallowed;
The best lack all subscriptions, while the worst
Are full of fashionate intensity.

Surely some termination is at hand;
Surely the McKinsey Summing is at hand.
The McKinsey Summing! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Edwin Coaster
Troubles my sight: a cramped and crowded Gehry-land;
A shape with doughy body and a coif beyond grand,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sunglasses of Anna Wintour,
Is buying its stir-fry, while all about it
Unmanicured nails of the indignant Glamour girls.
The darkness drops again but now I know
The fault was not just with Portfolio
No, fifty years of charging it to Si
Have ended gift bags and the car service guy,
And what daily beast, its Nobu dinners in the past,
Slouches towards 1166 Sixth Avenue to be born?

(1166 is where CondeNet is housed, according to a media reporter friend.)

What the Bottleneck Drinks

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Best detail from the Times story on Obama’s behind-the-scenes maneuvering to push through healthcare reform before the next millennium: Max Baucus, the senator many believe to be the pernicious bottleneck of this whole ordeal, has a fridge stocked with Coke Zeros. I don’t know why, but I find this amusing.

Making War Just Got a Whole Lot Easier

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

Russian legislators summering in Sochi got a special visit from President Dmitry Medvedev yesterday when he came into town to introduce a bill that would radically expand his powers to declare war and move troops outside Russia’s borders.

The law, as it stands now, is fairly narrow. Russia can mobilize to protect itself from invasion and to fend off aggression. That’s it. Medvedev’s proposed additions, however, would allow Russian troops “to protect the interests of the Russian Federation and its citizens, world peace, and Russian troops” anywhere in the world. Russian forces would also be allowed to fight piracy, preempt aggression, and intervene in any conflict … anywhere in the world. This is, to say the least, quite broad and gives Medvedev more flexibility to use force in the future, and he made no effort to mask the more immediate impetus for the change, either. “This is connected to the well-known events of last year,” he said, referring to the August war between Russia and Georgia. “These matters must be clearly regulated.”

But the real kicker is the procedural difference: Now, the Russian president can declare war, but the Federation Council (the upper house of parliament) has to approve it within 24 hours. Last year, when Russia invaded South Ossetia, the Council was on vacation and decided they didn’t feel like coming back to approve what they said was a mere peacekeeping operation in a region full of Russian citizens. A few weeks later and when the war was already over, the conflict devolved into a legal mess: Had it been a legal use of Russian armed forces, or not? Didn’t they need approval to go past Ossetia and into Georgia? As Russia found itself backtracking and defending its invasion internationally, the Council jumped to the rescue and approved the war. But Medevdev’s proposed amendment offers an even better way to clean up the confusion. It gives the president a wide window to get the Council’s approval to mobilize troops–in fact, there is no defined time window anymore–which means that the Council’s belated blessing in 2008 falls squarely within the time limit now, which means the Council wasn’t late at all, which means Russia’s invasion of a sovereign nation last summer was, actually, perfectly legal. Neat, huh?

Making War Just Got a Whole Lot Easier [TNR]