Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "2009 Daniel of the Year," Dec. 19, 2009

Turf dearth

Home Depot CEO Frank Blake got a nostalgia tour as one of 130 private sector business executives invited to a White House jobs summit Dec. 3. Blake once worked for Vice President George H.W. Bush. But few execs have an inside track with the Obama administration, according to a comparative study by Michael Cembalest, chief investment officer for JPMorgan Private Bank. Starting with the secretary of commerce in 1900, Cembalest examined the prior private-sector experience of 432 cabinet members in every presidency and discovered, "One thing is clear: The current administration, compared with past Democratic and Republican ones, marks a departure from the traditional reliance on a balance of public- and private-sector experiences." While other administrations of both parties were dominated by cabinet members with firsthand experience in hiring and firing and running a business, President Obama's cabinet has less than 10 percent with such expertise. "The private sector is the dominant engine of job growth and needs to be the centerpiece of a 'solution,' to the extent there is one," said Cembalest.

Sex doesn't sell

Most films with sexual content perform worse at the box office than films with little or no sexual content. That's the conclusion of a new study published in November in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. Using data from 914 films released between 2001 and 2005, researchers Dean Keith Simonton from the University of California-Davis, and independent Vancouver-based researcher Anemone Cerridwen discovered that explicit sex and nudity actually hurt a film's performance: On average, gross sales were 31 percent lower than films without the content.

Write the authors: "It is manifest that anyone who argues that sex sells or impresses must be put on notice. At present, no filmmaker should introduce such content under the assumption that it guarantees a big box office, earns critical acclaim, or wins movie awards. On the contrary, other forms of strong film content appear far more potent, either commercially or aesthetically."

Auto woes

The government takeover of the struggling auto industry took a setback with the unexpected resignation of the federally appointed General Motors chief. Fritz Henderson's departure from the nation's largest automaker came just a day before he was to give a major speech at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Henderson became GM head eight months ago after the Obama administration forced the resignation of his predecessor, G. Richard Wagoner Jr. The federal government owns 61 percent of GM after a $50 billion rescue. "This was not supposed to have happened," Gerald C. Meyers, the former chair of American Motors, told The Washington Post. He said it would take 18 months to evaluate whether Henderson "could move the needle on sales and profits." November GM market share was 20.1 percent, down from 20.4 percent in November of last year.

Keep that Bible out

The New York State Senate rejected same-sex marriage legislation on Dec. 2, voting against it 38-24 and ensuring the bill's final defeat after the Assembly passed it earlier that week. Manhattan Democratic Sen. Thomas Duane-a gay man and the bill's chief proponent-said he felt betrayed: Not a single Republican voted for the bill and eight Democrats voted against it. During the debate preceding the vote, the bill's advocates emphasized that the question was not religious and that churches would still have the freedom to reject same-sex marriage. "When I walk through these doors, my Bible stays out," said Sen. Eric Adams, a Democrat from Brooklyn. But Sen. Ruben Diaz, a Democrat and the only senator to speak against the bill, said: "That's the wrong statement. You should carry your Bible all the time."

High anxiety

Japan topped a survey of 11 nations to measure nationwide "anxiety index"- with 90 percent of the Japanese population confessing a sense of anxiety. Russia and India took the next two spots in the survey, conducted by New York advertising firm JWT, while the least anxiety-ridden nations were China (35 percent), France (42 percent) and Canada (55 percent). The major causes of anxiety cited by Japanese were "state of the economy," "political leadership," and "cost of health care." Ironically, one of the factors that drove the Japanese scores so high was anxiety over "quality of products imported from China."

Mother wars

In a potentially precedent-setting case, a Vermont judge ruled Nov. 20 to transfer full custody of Lisa Miller's 7-year-old biological daughter Isabella to Miller's former lesbian partner, Janet Jenkins ("Are you my mother?" May 12, 2007). Judge William Cohen said the decision, which is due to take effect Jan. 1, resulted after Miller failed to deliver Isabella to Jenkins for court-ordered visits. Miller's attorney, Mathew Staver of Liberty Counsel, said they will request a stay of enforcement on the custody transfer while Miller appeals the decision to the Vermont Supreme Court. Meanwhile on Dec. 9, the Virginia Court of Appeals will hear arguments about whether Virginia must enforce the Vermont orders.

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