Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Having written a fair bit about the pros and cons (mostly the latter) of a war with Iran, I feel compelled to offer a brief comment on Ronan Bergman's alarmist article in yesterday's New York Times Magazine. I say this even though I think the article was essentially worthless. It's a vivid and readable piece of reportage, but it doesn't provide readers with new or interesting information and it tells you almost nothing about the likelihood of an Israeli strike on Iran. First off, the article is essentially a reprise of Jeffrey Goldberg's September 2010 Atlantic Monthly article on the same subject. The research method is identical: a reporter interviews a lot of big-shots in the Israeli security establishment, writes down what they say, and concludes that that Israel is very likely to attack. Bergman doesn't present new evidence or arguments, pro or con; it's just an updated version of the same old story. Second, the central flaw in this approach is that there is no way of knowing if the testimony of these various officials reflects their true beliefs or not. There are lots of obvious reasons why Israeli officials might want to exaggerate their willingness to use force against Iran, and this simple fact makes it unwise to take their testimony at face value. Maybe they really mean what they say. Or maybe they just want to keep Tehran off-balance Maybe they want to distract everyone from their continued expansion of West Bank settlements and other brutalities against Palestinians. Maybe they want to encourage Europe to support tougher economic sanctions against Iran, and they know that occasional saber-rattling helps makes sanctions look like an attractive alternative. Maybe it's several of these things at once, depending on who's talking. Who knows?" (Foreignpolicy)

"The 1997 attempted coup by House Republicans against then-Speaker Newt Gingrich has been thrust into the spotlight of this year’s battle for the GOP presidential nomination. The topic is sparking questions about what happened 15 years ago, why House Republicans wanted Gingrich ousted, why so few support him now and what role Rep. John Boehner, now Speaker, played in the botched attempt. The story of the secret plot, first reported by The Hill’s Sandy Hume, rocked Washington. And although Gingrich survived in 1997, he was politically maimed, resigning in 1998 after Republicans lost seats in the midterm elections. Boehner (R-Ohio) was also removed from his No. 4 leadership post.  For this article, The Hill interviewed Republican lawmakers and aides who served in the House during that tumultuous time." (TheHill)

"After a 10-day, post-South Carolina slog characterized by relentless attacks on Newt Gingrich from Mitt Romney’s forces, Florida on Tuesday will vote in its 2012 Republican presidential primary.
With Romney and his associated super PAC outspending the Gingrich teams by a nearly 5-to-1 margin and blanketing the state’s airwaves with negative TV ads, Gingrich never found his footing here, careening from one message to another without gaining traction. Here are POLITICO’s five things to watch from Florida as the polls close, at 7 p.m. local time in both the Eastern and Central Time Zones: 1) Mitt’s margin Gingrich needs a close race more than Romney needs a blowout victory. For the former House speaker, finishing a respectable second means he can explain away a loss by arguing that he was outspent and out-organized by a superior Romney organization that was already in place and had a 2008 run under its belt. If Romney wins by a lot — say, 12 percentage points or more — it’s likely to negate Gingrich’s victory in South Carolina, making that win about as useful a yardstick as Rick Santorum’s Iowa caucuses triumph." (Politico)

"Last week, a friend of mine asked me over to watch the season debut of a television show called 'American Greed.' We were interested because the opening segment was based on the life and crime of an accountant named Ken Starr, who had a prosperous business punching numbers until he got too big for his britches and started playing at the Big Casino and making off with a lot of clients’ moneys in nefarious ways. One of those clients was our friend Jane Stanton Hitchcock and her late mother Joan Stanton. And Jane was the one who ultimately put him behind bars. Somebody had to, thank you very much. You may remember the story, which broke about two years ago. I wrote about it here. Jane broke the story because it personally concerned her: Ken Starr had illegally removed millions from Jane’s mother’s portfolio for his own enhancement and poured other millions into highly speculative, junky investments. It’s called fraud, and as you may recognize, it’s epidemic. At one point there was concern that there would be anything left to even support Joan. As it happened, she died as everything was coming to the fore ... In the beginning of his professional life, Starr had been a hardworking, small time New York accountant. Then he made the most fortuitous connection in his life -- meeting Paul Mellon, the heir of Andrew Mellon and one of the richest men in America. Mellon was not only rich but distinguished, and highly regarded as a philanthropist, art collector, horse breeder and venture capitalist. He and his wife Bunny lived luxuriously in several residences. Jane Hitchcock, then married to a cousin of Paul Mellon, Billy Hitchcock, heard about how good he was and recommended 'Paul Mellon’s accountant' to Arthur Stanton. Well .... Great minds think alike. Or would like to think so. That is how it works in the world of money: someone recommends because money was made by someone, etc. That was the whole secret to Madoff’s success. By the mid-90s, Ken Starr had a blue chip client roster through the Stanton connection, and a big Third Avenue office. He was never the kind of guy you’d associate with a grandee like Paul Mellon, ironically." (NYSocialDiary)

"Here’s a foodie tip: Do not go into a meal with Travel Channel star Andrew Zimmern if you’re hungry. Even if you’re at such a delectable West Side eatery as The Spotted Pig, and the host of Bizarre Foods provides some of the most interesting dinner conversation you’ve ever had, you will hardly be able to eat a bite. And that’s before he starts talking about Miss Manners dilemma of whether or not to eat human foreskin if it’s offered as a dish of honor in Africa. (Apologies to our very sweet dining companion, who groaned 'This is a publicist’s nightmare!' when the topic was brought up.) Over a dimly lit (and thank goodness for small favors) appetizers of pickled herring, chicken liver toast, and bacon-wrapped dates, Mr. Zimmern boasted of the Spotted Pig’s bravery. “They were on the pig thing before everyone was on the pig thing. They were one of the first gastropubs in New York that weren’t afraid to roast a pig’s head!” the big man exclaimed. (And he is larger than life: Mr. Zimmern stands at 5’10 and is amply wide enough to prove that he doesn’t just peck at those weird dishes we’ve watched him eat over the past six seasons.) Over the course of 100 episodes, Mr. Zimmern has devoured everything from jellied moose nose to cane rat; raw goat scrotum to fresh cow blood obtained by shooting a hollow dart into a bovine during a trip to the Ngorongoro Crater." (Observer)

"It wasn’t Italy’s finest hour. Not even Gabrielle D’Annunzio—poet, patriot, propagandist, and proto-fascist—could spin this into a maritime Titanic-like drama. Once the Costa Concordia hit a rock off the Tuscan coast, the passengers and crew acted like cowards. This much we know. But knowing Italy—a country that successfully switched sides in both World Wars—the truth will never emerge. Human nature’s eternal glories and failings have always played a leading part in Italy’s long and magnificent history. Heroes turn into baddies, defeats into victories, burlesque into opera. They say Italy is more of an idea than a country. Where else would a benevolent dictator’s innocent mistress be shot and hanged upside down by men who pride themselves as protectors of the weaker sex? When I first heard the news of the Costa Concordia’s sinking off an island I have sailed around more times than I can remember, I thought it was a joke gone wrong. Surely the reason was bella figura, the Italian male’s unique style of pride, all show and no substance. Since it is the centennial of the Titanic’s sinking, for one sick moment I imagined some show-off captain had tried an impossible maneuver to impress his friends ashore. As of this writing, it seems that is why he went 300 meters off the mainland rather than the required 1,500. Still, at least 17 people are certified dead. Even in Italy, Captain Schettino risks going down in history as a man who not only ran his boat aground—modern equipment notwithstanding—but one who was in the bar with two female companions and who jumped ship long before his passengers." (Taki)

"This past Saturday, PAPERMAG headed out to Chinatown chic spot Pulqueria, where we celebrated artist Sandro Kopp's gallery opening from a few days prior. Being that this was one of the first soirees we've attended since 2011 came to a close, we wondered if everyone had been keeping up with their New Years' Resolution, or if they, like us, had been spending more time at Rubirosa then the gym (we can't help it, we love pizza). 'I didn't have a New Years' resolution, but I had a resolution I started mid-year,' Bill Powers told us. ' This is really boring, but it was to go to those Apple Store classes.' And how's that working out for you, Bill? 'I'm still going!' What an overachiever -- leave it to the dapper Half Gallery owner to make us feel more lethargic/bloated then usual. It wasn't soon before we bid adieu to Cynthia Rowley's hubby that Terence Koh's all-white-everything aesthetic caught the corner of our eye ... We continued to calmly make our way around the packed party, running into familiar faces like Johan Lindenberg, Waris Ahluwalia and Vladimir Restoin-Roitfeld, but soon enough all hell broke loose as man-of-the-hour Kopp entered the space with the goddess almighty Tilda Swinton wrapped around his arm." (Papermag)

"Sandro Kopp paints his portraits differently: namely, via Skype from Scotland. And perhaps for that reason, his New York friends and famous sitters (often one and the same) have been overjoyed to have the 33-year-old artist in town—although it doesn't hurt, of course, that his plus-one is Tilda Swinton. "It's been, like, Sandro week. I think all of his friends have been throwing him parties," David Maupin said on Saturday night, where his gallery, Lehmann Maupin, hosted a dinner in celebration of Kopp's new exhibition, There You Are, at its Chrystie Street space. 'I think part of it is an extension of his charm and his personality and being an artist—to do this type of work, you have to kind of relate and open up some kind of conversation with your subject,' Maupin mused, as Michael Stipe (who'd thrown Kopp a dinner party of his own the night before) arrived with gold, letter-shaped balloons that spelled out K-O-P-P. Meanwhile, Frances McDormand was taking her co-hosting duties seriously: 'I'm the hostess; do what I say,' the actress said, cutting a swath through the cocktail area. 'We're moving to the back room. My name's Fran.'" (Style)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Over at the indispensable Cable, word comes that the White House is now pushing the line that President Obama eschews the notion of 'American decline,' and has even become a devoted reader of Bob Kagan. As presidential reading lists go, this is a welcome development. If present trends continue, perhaps the White House communications shop will soon issue a story noting that President Obama is also a reader of Shadow Government? [ed. Dream on! Are you just saying this to bait the anonymous snarky responses that will soon appear in the 'Comments' section? Or are you in denial that the President is much more likely to read Dan Drezner's blog? Who, by the way, is funnier than you -- and also doesn't believe in American decline.] All kidding aside, this is a serious issue that merits some scrutiny. On the one hand, President Obama's rhetorical rejection of American decline is significant and welcome, precisely because presidential rhetoric plays a role in forming a nation's character and actions. As I have commented before, if a nation's leadership and citizens start believing the nation is in decline, it risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy and infecting the nation's actions." (Foreignpolicy)

"President Obama and Mitt Romney are statistically tied in 12 key battleground states that will be critical in determining the outcome of the 2012 general election, according to a USA Today-Gallup swing-state poll released Monday. Romney leads Obama 48 percent to 47 percent in a poll of registered voters in those states, although the survey has a five-point margin of error. Newt Gingrich trails the president by 14 points in the swing states, according to the poll. In the same survey in December, during the former House speaker’s brief surge to the top of the GOP pack, Gingrich held a three-point lead over the president in those 12 battlegrounds." (TheHill)
NYSD via Stephanie Diani/NYTimes

"Sunday’s New York Times Style section ran an article by Brooks Barnes on the first page, 'Hollywood Fixer Opens His Little Black Book' about Scotty Bowers, a man who worked out there from the 1940s through the 1980s as a 'bartender, prostitute and handyman' and has now written the memoir with Lionel Friedberg: 'Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars' (Grove Press). I knew Scotty. Although in all the years I knew him and knew about him, I never knew his last name. I knew about his occupations also, although I never thought to identify one of them as the Times did, as prostitution. 'If,' the reporter added, his stories are 'true.' As if Scotty were the kind of guy who made things up about other people’s sex lives. I laughed at that one ... One late weekday afternoon somewhere in the mid-1980s, I happened to be taking the dogs out for their walk when across the road from my house, I saw Scotty packing up his battered pick-up, after a day’s work pruning the olive trees of my neighbor, a retired dancer named Bob Street. I stopped and was having a chat with him, when he suddenly looked at his watch and said: 'Whoops, it's almost five. I gotta ball a couple over in Brentwood at five o'clock.' I thought I heard him say: balling a couple...but did he really? What?! I had never heard anybody ever say something like that." (NYSocialDiary)

"A pair of U.K. tabloids report that a handful of U.S. networks are in a battle to secure the first stateside TV interview with Pippa Middleton, the sister of Princess Kate, and sister-in-law of Prince William. Middleton is about to start promoting a new book about party planning, so the race is on. While the tabloids all hint that a payout is in the works, another option that networks will put on the table is that of reach. NBC could offer an interview on 'Today,' an appearance on 'Ellen' and perhaps a primetime appearance. ABC could offer a primetime hour, as well as a slot on 'Good Morning America,' etc. For what it is worth, an ABC insider says that the idea of Walters pushing for a 6-figure payout is 'absurd.'" (TVNewser)

"'Oh, my God, leave me out of that story,' exclaimed Judy Taubman, the super-social wife of the shopping-mall-and-auction-house tycoon Alfred Taubman, when I told her I was writing an article on 'the Ladies Who Lunch.' 'People don’t do that anymore. Everybody’s too busy. Today I made a date with a friend, and I said, ‘Do you mind if we skip lunch and go directly to the Neue Galerie?’ 'I was never part of it,' insisted Mica Ertegun, the society decorator and widow of music-business king Ahmet Ertegun. 'I was always blessing the ceiling that I had work to do, because the thing I loathed the most is having lunch with a bunch of women—even if they’re good friends.' But what about the countless photographs from Women’s Wear Daily in the 1970s of Ertegun and her late business partner, Chessy Rayner, dashing out of fashionable East Side restaurants with Pat Buckley and Nan Kempner? 'Well, we had to eat,' the pencil-slim Ertegun explained. 'But I never organized women’s lunches.' 'First of all, I don’t classify myself as a lady who lunches,' snapped Lynn Wyatt, the wife of Texas oilman Oscar Wyatt and a veteran of the New York-London-Paris-Gstaad social circuit, with a tinge of anger in her drawl. 'I never have liked ladies’ lunches that much, because even in Houston I don’t like to waste my time.' 'I never went to lunch,' said Aileen Mehle, pointing out that she had to make deadlines for her 'Suzy' column in the New York Post and, later, W magazine." (VanityFair)

"I have always been a foreigner among foreigners in a foreign place. When one has a mixed background such as mine—my father is Greek, my mother is half-Austrian and half-Colombian, and I was born in New York—this is hard to avoid. America was a good place to grow up for someone like me. Being an immigrant among immigrants isn’t bad, though I imagine having a true homeland trumps all ... I think we have done quite well in the Swiss village my parents call home, though some of the indigenous folks might disagree. Regardless, I am grateful to the Swiss because I feel very much at home when I am there. Living among the Swiss, Spanish, Italians, English, Belgians, Germans, Arabs, Greeks, and others is only a microcosm of a greater reality, however distasteful this might be for purists.  Processing current human migratory patterns isn’t easy. Many of us are still adjusting to our ancestors’ moves. With the exception of Africans living in Africa, we might all be considered migrants or children of migrants." (Mandolyna Theodoracopulos)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"France took the lead in the EU approval of the latest round of Iranian sanctions. The move is a low-cost strategy for France, which, in light of the European financial crisis, needs to reassert itself alongside Germany as Europe's co-leader ... The European Union agreed Jan. 23 to implement a new round of sanctions against Iran, including an unprecedented embargo on Iranian crude oil. In the past, Europe generally has acted in concert with U.S. punitive measures against Iran -- with varying degrees of enthusiasm. While most EU member states have publicly supported the latest round of sanctions since talk of such measures resumed in November, France has been the most vocal proponent -- a move in keeping with Paris' perceived foreign policy leadership role in the European Union. Indeed, Paris has several political and geopolitical reasons for supporting the sanctions.Ever since Germany emerged from reunification as a major political and economic player, France has tried to manage Europe based on a perception of Franco-German parity. France understands it cannot surpass Germany as an economic leader, so Paris often has assumed the role of Europe's unofficial diplomatic leader. Indeed, Paris in many instances has served as Europe's diplomatic hub, serving as the Continent's primary point of contact for other states that interact with Europe collectively. Berlin acquiesces to this perception so that it can take a less prominent role in international affairs. This suits the rest of Europe, which is still wary of a Germany with unchecked power. Thus, France and Germany benefit from the arrangement." (STRATFOR)

"As the Sabbath evening approached on Jan. 13, Ehud Barak paced the wide living-room floor of his home high above a street in north Tel Aviv, its walls lined with thousands of books on subjects ranging from philosophy and poetry to military strategy. Barak, the Israeli defense minister, is the most decorated soldier in the country’s history and one of its most experienced and controversial politicians. He has served as chief of the general staff for the Israel Defense Forces, interior minister, foreign minister and prime minister. He now faces, along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and 12 other members of Israel’s inner security cabinet, the most important decision of his life — whether to launch a pre-emptive attack against Iran. We met in the late afternoon, and our conversation — the first of several over the next week — lasted for two and a half hours, long past nightfall. 'This is not about some abstract concept,' Barak said as he gazed out at the lights of Tel Aviv, 'but a genuine concern. The Iranians are, after all, a nation whose leaders have set themselves a strategic goal of wiping Israel off the map.'  When I mentioned to Barak the opinion voiced by the former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and the former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi — that the Iranian threat was not as imminent as he and Netanyahu have suggested and that a military strike would be catastrophic (and that they, Barak and Netanyahu, were cynically looking to score populist points at the expense of national security), Barak reacted with uncharacteristic anger. He and Netanyahu, he said, are responsible 'in a very direct and concrete way for the existence of the State of Israel — indeed, for the future of the Jewish people.'" (NYTimes)

"Bin Laden raid heroes SEAL Team Six pulled off a dramatic hostage rescuethis week in Somalia, putting special operations forces back in the news. (Not to mention the major attention they received in the president's State of the Union address.) With stabilization and counterinsurgency now out of favor, the White House and Panetta are counting on special operations forces to hunt terrorists and assist in suppressing threats posed by weapons of mass destruction. Less discussed, but a large part of Panetta's strategy, will be the use of special forces and other adviser teams to maintain training programs that build the military capacity of allies in Europe, Latin America, and Africa, areas that have been downgraded by the new strategy ... Electronic warfare, drones, and cyber operations. Panetta repeatedly emphasized the need for the U.S. military to maintain its technological superiority, to compensate for its reduced numbers and stretched geographical responsibilities. Even after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan end, the Pentagon intends to keep its ability to maintain continuous drone surveillance over 65 spots on the globe, with the capability to surge that to 85 if necessary. Advanced radar and electronic jamming are high priorities. Generous new funding for cyber operations reflects the Pentagon's concerns about the vulnerability of its networks and its interest in offensive cyber capabilities in the post-Stuxnet era." (ForeignPolicy)

"STRAIGHT actors who wanted to pay for sex in the 1990s had Heidi Fleiss. Gay ones during the late 1940s and beyond apparently had Scotty Bowers.  His story has floated through moviedom’s clubby senior ranks for years: Back in a more golden age of Hollywood, a guy named Scotty, a former Marine, was said to have run a type of prostitution ring for gay and bisexual men in the film industry, including A-listers like Cary Grant, George Cukor and Rock Hudson, and even arranged sexual liaisons for actresses like Vivien Leigh and Katharine Hepburn. 'Old Hollywood people who have, shall we say, known him would tell me stories,' said Matt Tyrnauer, a writer for Vanity Fair and the director of the 2008 documentary 'Valentino: The Last Emperor.' 'But whenever I followed up on what would obviously be a great story, I was told, ‘Oh, he’ll never talk.’Now, he’s talking.  Mr. Bowers, 88, recalls his highly unorthodox life in a ribald memoir scheduled to be published by Grove Press on Feb. 14, 'Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars.' Written with Lionel Friedberg, an award-winning producer of documentaries, it is a lurid, no-detail-too-excruciating account of a sexual Zelig who (if you believe him) trawled an X-rated underworld for over three decades without getting caught. 'I’ve kept silent all these years because I didn’t want to hurt any of these people,' Mr. Bowers said recently over lemonade on his patio in the Hollywood Hills, where he lives in a cluttered bungalow with his wife of 27 years, Lois.'And I never saw the fascination. So they liked sex how they liked it. Who cares?' He paused for a moment to scratch his collie, Baby, behind the ears. 'I don’t need the money,' he continued. 'I finally said yes because I’m not getting any younger and all of my famous tricks are dead by now. The truth can’t hurt them anymore.'" (NYTimes)       

"I went over to the Park Avenue Armory for the Young Collectors Night which also benefits The East Side House Settlement. I wasn’t wildly enthusiastic about leaving the house – the weather and all. But it has been such a quiet January (a 'dreary January' wrote one friend in an email today). I agreed. It has seemed especially quiet this year on the social calendar. Someone suggested it was because more and more people go to Florida and stay there for weeks (even months). I thought about that; maybe. The younger people are all in town. We’re just not the younger ... I did see a number of people I knew but it was interesting to see how this younger crowd were checking out the booths, which are full of treasures. I had gone through the aisles last Thursday night when it opened, so this time I tried to concentrate on things that looked especially to interesting to me. On prominent display at Kenneth Rendell (one of my favorite spots in New York for window shopping) was a page from Ayn Rand’s original handwritten manuscript of 'Atlas Shrugged.' A lot of crossing-outs on this page, number 394. She wrote it by hand!  I asked the price and learned that it was still part of the entire manuscript! But, I was told, a page like this by an author of that rank/popularity/history, etc. usually starts at about $20,000." (NYSocialDiary)

"The most important moment in what may prove the most important debate of the Republican presidential nomination fight came right after the first commercial break, when Newt Gingrich went after the only opponent he detests more than Mitt Romney: whoever is the moderator. In Jacksonville, Florida, Thursday night, that man happened to be Wolf Blitzer, who asked Gingrich whether he was 'satisfied right now with the level of transparency as far as [Romney’s] personal finances.” Gingrich, eyes gleaming, shot back at Blitzer, 'This is a nonsense question,' to hoots and hollers from the audience. 'Look, how about if the four of us agree for the rest of the evening, we’ll actually talk about issues that relate to governing America?' The MSNBC host Alex Wagner has likened Gingrich to an angry teddy bear, but in this case of ursid-on-canid action, the wolf got the better of the scrap. Instead of backing down, Blitzer calmly pointed out that Gingrich himself had made an issue of Romney’s Swiss and Cayman Islands bank accounts. Gingrich tried once again to intimidate Blitzer, but the moderator stood firm—and when Gingrich then sought to squirm away, Romney dove in for the kill, challenging him to put up or shut up. The crowd turned on Gingrich, laughing and jeering; for the rest of the night, he behaved more like an overfed, declawed, zoo-dwelling panda than a ferocious wild grizzly. Although Gingrich’s attack-the-moderator gambit did not work out so well in Jacksonville, it’s easy enough to understand why he tried it. Time and again, his mau-mauing of the media has earned him big points, and not just from the GOP base but the press corps itself. Just a week earlier, Gingrich’s deboning of Blitzer’s CNN colleague John King had been praised to the skies by the commentariat as a brilliant display of headline-stealing strength—as well as Meryl Streep–level thespianship and Al Pacino–esque scenery-chewing. And among the assembled journalists in Jacksonville, there was palpable disappointment at Gingrich’s failure to pull off a similarly galvanizing performance. All of which highlights a larger dynamic that’s at once curious, ironic, and of no small long-term import: that the very 'liberal media' that Gingrich delights in excoriating are, in fact, in his corner in his battle with Romney." (NYMag)

"Karl Lagerfeld understands decor as well as he knows fashion. The premises for his new signature collection Karl are an opulently minimal series of salons in an hôtel particulier on the Left Bank, so it made sense that the food for the dinner party he hosted on Wednesday night to launch the line should also focus on the bare opulent essentials: caviar, foie gras, and lobster, with a logo-fied iPad as a takeaway. One of the T-shirts in his Karl range features a fanciful self-portrait with the handwritten message 'I Love Gossip.' Plenty of that in a room full of fashion people, though I spent much of the night talking about obscure Eastern European films with the encyclopedically informed Anja Rubik. How often do you get the chance to have a real talk with anyone about Dusan Makavejev's scatological Sweet Movie? Especially while chunks of foie gras are drifting back and forth under your nose." (Style)

"We meet at Teatro Goldoni, one of Washington’s best Italian restaurants, located on the infamous K Street, home to many of the town’s lobbying groups. It is also a block from the Center for Strategic International Studies, one of DC’s biggest think-tanks, where (Zbigniew) Brzezinski, national security adviser to Carter from 1977 to 1981, is a trustee. I get there a few minutes early to fiddle with my tape recorder. Brzezinski strides in on the dot of our agreed time and grips my hand firmly. Dressed in a low-key suit and tie, Brzezinski is leathered and lean and still has almost a full head of hair. He talks in paragraphs, virtually without pause. Though I have known Brzezinski for years – and received news tips from him by email and fax – I still feel unsettled by his piercing gaze. Many of his Soviet interlocutors and White House colleagues were reportedly kept off balance by his hawkish manner ... When talking about the state of the world, Brzezinski, who still has traces of a Polish accent, chooses his language more forensically. His father was a Polish diplomat and Brzezinski, who was educated at a British prep school in Montreal during the second world war, had spent most of his first decade at diplomatic compounds in France and Hitler’s Berlin. Brzezinski Sr must have done something very right, or very wrong, to get posted to Canada after that. “In those days, the British still referred to it as BNA,' Brzezinski says. 'British North America.' Brzezinski attributes his verbal skills to his prep school. 'I entered the school not knowing a word of English and at the end of the first year in June I picked up a prize for literature,' he says. It must also have been there that he acquired his knowledge of food, I think to myself. I spent the previous night reading through Brzezinski’s new book – Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power. 'That must have been a sad evening,' says Brzezinski, chuckling. I had no difficulty staying awake, I reply. The book offers a bracing portrait of a “receding west” with one half, Europe, turning into a 'comfortable retirement home', and the other, the US, beset by relative economic decline and a dysfunctional politics. In this rapidly changing new world, America’s growing 'strategic isolation' is matched only by China’s 'strategic patience' in a challenge likely to strain the electoral horizons of US policymakers." (FT)

"No one can put a precise date on when ABC News started. But it was in 1962 that the network established an assignment desk and newsgathering capabilities: the guts of a TV news organization. And so today, ABCNewsers celebrated 50 years of providing news and information to American homes (and now workplaces and mobile devices). Employees packed ABC’s TV Studios 1 (former home of “'Who Wants to Be Millionaire' and 2 (current home of 'The Chew') which were festooned with images of ABC News anchors and reporters past and present. In addition to hundreds who packed the studio, employees from bureaus around the country and the world were patched in for the celebration. ABC News president Ben Sherwood was the emcee and was joined by two former ABC News presidents: Bill Sheehan (1974-1977) in Washington, DC and David Westin (1997-2010) in New York. Kaycee Freed Jennings, widow of Peter Jennings, also attended.The celebration included a video lookback, as well as the first (and probably last) Meatball Awards, presented by Lara Spencer. (The award for tightest t-shirt worn during a natural disaster was a three-way tie going to David Muir, Jeffrey Kofman and Matt Gutman.)" (TVNewser)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Michael McCarty, the man behind the power lunch spot Michael's, recently launched a new Korean-influenced bar bites menu and seasonal cocktail list that's drawing younger media types to the bar after work. His 27-year-old executive chef, Kyung Up Lim, has developed delicious snacks like spicy beef tacos, fried oysters and Korean-style, fried chicken drummettes to go along with Michael Flannery's creative, seasonal cocktails. McCarty took some time out to talk after a hectic Wednesday lunch, the day when bold-face names often converge. Papermag: I have to ask you about the devastating review Frank Bruni gave Michael's in 2008. Michael McClarty: That was a completely ridiculous review, the dumbest thing I ever read. There might have been a few clunkers on the menu, but it was an insult to my restaurant, to my chef, to my industry. He was mad because he got sat in what he thought was Siberia. Go fuck yourself, buddy." (Papermag)

"The Wednesday’s Michael’s lunch was predictably jam-packed. Just inside the door Michael Douglas was lunching with Ari Emanuel, the Hollywood mega-agent, founder of the Endeavor Agency, whose brother is the Mayor of Chicago. Next to them Star Jones was lunching with a distinguished looking gentleman. In the bay at Table One Bonnie Fuller was hosting her monthly confab which included Gerry Byrne, Enka Slezak, Mallory Andrews, Tommy Hilfiger, Amanda Foreman, Ben Sherwood, Ramona Singer, Lisette Sand-Freedman, Carlos Lamadrid. Next door, PR honcho, Richard Rubenstein. Next to them William Lauder, Cindi Lieve and Bill Wackermann; and next to them Michael Mailer." (NYSocialDiary)

"If you read Condoleezza Rice's books, she has exhaustively explained how the U.S. worked with Benazir Bhutto and General [Pervez] Musharraf to form their own type of puppet government. Now this government is responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians and soldiers who have been killed in [the war on terror]. With the extent of corruption that this government has been indulging in, it was inevitable that they had this clash with the Supreme Court. The day the Supreme Court had called the NRO [National Reconciliation Ordinance] government unconstitutional, it was decided right then that this government couldn't have survived a good relation with [the Supreme Court]. Sadly, we have had no genuine opposition in this country. [There might have been] an opposition within parliamentary members who could have stood up and questioned the government, but that did not happen. The government did not resign, and everyone else was busy trying to save democracy -- while of course the government was trying to save their corruption. The Supreme Court of any state [is the institution that should have] the highest reliance and authority. Such an institution in a democratic state has no [ground for] military intervention and has the highest power to launch a control system for the corrupt actions, or a corrupt state. If and when any other democratic institution fails to perform, the Supreme Court can control them and make them accountable. No one can challenge the Supreme Court. Our government, on the other hand, is a corrupt government." (Imram Khan/Foreignpolicy)

"Midway through our visit to the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, your blogger decided it would be a good time to stop and assess the slushy, star-studded scene on Main Street and beyond. Ahead, the most notable films, festival-goers, and swag in Park City so far this year. Be warned: your opinion of Lil Jon, agency parties, and 'meal-soup chalets' may never be the same ... Best star sighting in Park City: Sean Penn, in town to promote This Must Be the Place. Most diverse celebrity crowd: A three-way tie between Friday night at Tao, the club that entertained both Paris Hilton and Harvey Weinstein simultaneously; Saturday night at the Bing Bar Drake concert, which was attended by William H. Macy, Anthony Mackie, Quincy Jones, and Melanie Lynskey; and every day at the Bertolli Meal Soup Chalet, which has fed the likes of Seth Rogen, Andie MacDowell, and Casper Van Dien. Funniest public putdown: After Cuba Gooding Jr. stormed the Bing Bar stage during Aziz Ansari’s underwhelming comedy set on Saturday night to quiet the inattentive audience ('Have some respect for the black men onstage!'), the Parks and Recreation comedian—who, it should be noted, is not black—cracked, 'Y’all would be paying more attention if we were showing Boat Trip up here!'" (VanityFair)

"Edmund Wilson was America’s premier man of letters during the middle of the 20th century. The Wound and the Bow, To the Finland Station, and Memoirs of Hecate County are still in print, as are his journals about the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. He was a literary critic par excellence, a friend of both Scott Fitzgerald (whose death at 44 shook him greatly, as Wilson was only a year older) as well as Hemingway, who counted Wilson as one of the few men he would not bully. Wilson was often married, his third wife being the beautiful Mary McCarthy—as good a writer as he was—whom he divorced in 1946 for champagne heiress Elena Mumm Thornton. I admire Wilson’s prescient thoughts on Greeks back in 1945, when he flew into that tortured country reporting for The New Yorker. One of the first Americans he met on the ground asked him whether the war between Sparta and Athens was still going on. Wilson does not comment on the breadth of the man’s ignorance. He lets it stand by itself, which does the job perfectly. Uncle Sam’s foreign policy has always and will always be based on total ignorance of history. Mind you, there was a war going on back in 1945. It was a civil war, but Athens and Sparta were not the protagonists; nationalists versus communists were on center stage. But at least the poor ignoramus who asked the dumbest of all questions long before George W. asked about Sunnis and Shi’ites had an excuse—he was a simple military adviser, not president of the United States." (Taki Theodoracopulos)

"Luckily, your Daily got just that at last night's second Cinema Society screening of W.E. at the Ziegfeld. This time, The Cinema Society paired up with the diamond purveyors at Forevermark for a second go at premiering Madonna's directorial debut, followed by a bash at the Boom Boom Room (do Vita Coco cocktails make for a lesser hangover? The jury's out on that one....). What was different this time around? The lady of the eve—well, she's the lady of any eve!—brought out another starry coterie, including co-stars like James D'arcy and Andrea Riseborough (decked out in a marvelous Marchesa number, andpeppered with Forevermark gems, like a number of other glittering, bauble-d starlets), Martha Stewart, Jerry and Jessica Seinfeld, Helena Christensen, Lou Reed, Julia Stiles, Ewan McGregor, Gina Gershon, chef Alain Alegretti, and Andre Balazs. Also in attendance: a bunch of serious fashion stalwarts—Donna! Calvin! DvF!—plus a large number of runway successes, like Proenza's Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, Cynthia Steffe, Rachel Roy, and Zac Posen (avec a dramatically crimson-clad Crystal Renn). 'I can't remember if it was at the DJ booth at the Palladium, or at Studio 54,' reminisced Klein of his first encounter with Madonna. Why did the dynamic duo strike up a friendship amid the glammed-out zenith of the clubbing days of yore? 'Um...we were both looking for the same thing! We all were.'" (Fashionweekdaily)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Obama Veers Populist

Right before our very eyes last night, as if by magic, the President veered towards the populist left. It has been a long and treacherous journey, a move he had resisted in 2008 -- where he was cast as the brainy, intellectual, lofty rhetoric spouting pol with the dazzling smile. Populism, to be quite frank, was inorganic to Obama, a Democrat in the stiff Dukakis-Kerry mode (unlike the earthy, working class Bill Clinton, the unusual Democrat that carried Arkansas and West Virginia). The gloomy demographics of the 2012 race -- probably against Romney; how does one get the magic electoral college number? -- presage a negative and tactically brutal upcoming campaign. Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times called eerily it in November:
"Back in the short-lived 'recovery summer' of 2010, Mr. Obama and his aides were looking at a version of Ronald Reagan’s 1984 'Morning in America' campaign. Now, with unemployment stubbornly at 9 percent and consumer confidence at or near record lows, they are settling on a strategy that incorporates the combativeness of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1936 drive, the anti-Congress zeal of Harry S. Truman’s 1948 campaign and the disciplined focus of George W. Bush’s 2004 blitz against Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.       
"The result is not your college-age daughter’s Obama campaign of hopeful, transcendent politics. If 2008 was about lifting Mr. Obama up, 2012 will have at least some strong element of dragging down his Republican opponent (who the campaign believes will most likely be Mitt Romney). If 2008 was about 'Yes We Can' and limitless possibility, 2012 will be to some degree about why we couldn’t ('Republican intransigence'), and why we shouldn’t, at least when it comes to anything the Republican nominee proposes ('His party got us here in the first place'). As Mr. Obama recently told a group of supporters in the deflated liberal bastion of San Francisco, 'The Hope poster is kind of faded and a little dog-eared.'"
The State of the Union address last night bookended the President's much-commented upon Kansas Teddy Roosevelt speech (populist, fair tax policy strategy and all the usual Democrat Party sweet spots), fully forming finally that Roosevelt-Truman-FDR nexus -- aka, as this blogger likes to call it, full-on  re-election mode. Of that speech, RealClearPolitics said:
"Despite all the TR trimmings, the president’s message is rooted in contemporary Democratic campaign themes -- echoes of 'the people vs. the powerful' and 'putting people first.' The president will continue to argue that Republicans in Washington have opposed economic policies with his name on them just to score political points and because the GOP sides with the wealthy and special interests instead of the middle class.
"The president this week also is urging Senate Republicans to confirm his nominee to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a creation of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law."
And, curiously, on the cusp of the State of the Union Obama appointed New York Attorney General Eric Scneiderman to head this new mortgage abuse unit. This appears to be a part of the Obama-Plouffe-Axelrod strategy, tack left and use the executive branch powers (advantage!) to make an actual appointment. An actual appointment, as opposed to soaring rhetoric-- that stuff that elevated him to the Presidency in 2008. That stuff thatnow  needs to be more grounded because, to borrow from the President, "'The Hope poster is kind of faded and a little dog-eared.'" Fool me once shame on me; fool me twice ...

It was also interesting how Obama absorbed Rick Santorum's freakishly stubborn Iran hawkishness and the almost cartoonish Gingrich-Romney's out pro-Israeliing each other into the State of the Union. The Jewish vote -- which Obama won handily with over 70% in 2008 -- will figure prominently in places like Florida, a crucial state, and Obama will not concede it without a fight.

One final, curious note: Obama last night spoke about more than just fair taxes, but paths to use community colleges for job training -- a nod to the embattled working classes, white and black -- suggesting that, despite the recent reports, Obama as President of us all has not entirely abandoned that demographic (white working class, over 50s, particularly) as unattainable. They are a traditional Democratic constituency -- one that has been skeptical of Obama and probably, with unemployment at a stubborn 9% may not be so sympathetic this time around. That having been said, here was the fantastically gloomy assessment from the Times this past November:
"Teixeira, writing with John Halpin, argues in “The Path to 270: Demographics versus Economics in the 2012 Presidential Election,” that in order to be re-elected, President Obama must keep his losses among white college graduates to the 4-point margin of 2008 (47-51). Why? Otherwise he will not be able to survive a repetition of 2010, when white working-class voters supported Republican House candidates by a record-setting margin of 63-33.
"Obama’s alternative path to victory, according to Teixeira and Halpin, would be to keep his losses among all white voters at the same level John Kerry did in 2004, when he lost them by 17 points, 58-41. This would be a step backwards for Obama, who lost among all whites in 2008 by only 12 points (55-43). Obama can afford to drop to Kerry’s white margins because, between 2008 and 2012, the pro-Democratic minority share of the electorate is expected to grow by two percentage points and the white share to decline by the same amount, reflecting the changing composition of the national electorate."
Which would also explain the insitence on immigration reform, which everyone knows would be DEAD-ON-ARRIVAL in the Republican controlled House of Representatives. But -- in a move right out of Machiavelli's il Principe -- it doesn't hurt for the President to bring it up. Motivates the base, if you go in for that sort of thing.

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"China will break with a 30-year tradition by not sending high-level officials to the World Economic Forum at Davos, which falls this year in the middle of Chinese New Year festivities. Beijing approached WEF organisers early in 2011 and suggested they move this year’s gathering to an earlier date, making it possible for senior Chinese officials to attend the event. 'Can we imagine that this event takes place in Christmas?' asked Cheng Li, a China specialist at the Brookings Institution in the US. 'A more telling point is that nowadays an international economic forum without the presence of China is an embarrassment, not for China, but for the forum organisers.'" (FT)

"As the global elite gather for the World Economic Forum this week the topic of discussion is less about creating wealth for the less fortunate or helping the developing world -- it's about saving the core. Perhaps not surprisingly, economist Nouriel Roubini says don't hold your breath, calling 2012 a year of 'no progress.' But Eurasia Group's Ian Bremmer is also worried about the retreat of democracy and inequality becoming a global class war ... (Ian Bremmer): Last year's Davos fell in the middle of the financial crisis, and then Egypt hit right in the middle -- and no one knew what to do with that. Looking at it a year on, it's not like we've moved back to Frank Fukuyama and the 'End of History.' This has not been a year where democracy is bursting out all over; it's vastly more complex than that. Part of the reason is the existence of major economic disjunctures, but part of it is because the global backdrop is not one where Western, democratic values or the free market is actually leading the charge. In the old days, you had the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank providing money, but they also influenced economic shock therapy and political reform. Well, the Chinese have no interest in doing that. The Chinese Development Bank is putting more money on the table than the World Bank and the IMF combined. Nouriel Roubini: 'Last year was one in which there was a whole series of tail risks that led to uncertainty, to volatility. They optimists said that these were just temporary shocks: rising commodity prices, the Arab Spring, the Japanese earthquake, the eurozone problems, the worries about the U.S. fiscal environment. But if you look at all these things, they're not temporary, they're not reversible, and these shocks are going to persist -- and the sources of uncertainty as well.'" (ForeignPolicy)

"Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper has called off his engagement to fashion designer Tara Subkoff, who’s just told friends and Hooper that she’s a few months pregnant with his child, according to sources. The pair were quietly engaged in Paris in May after meeting around the Golden Globes in January last year. 'They had just celebrated their one-year anniversary,' said a source close to the couple. But 'The King’s Speech' director last weekend broke off their relationship and left New York for London, as Subkoff suspected she was pregnant. Sources close to Subkoff say the couple had been trying for a baby for months, and, 'She took several home pregnancy tests,' after he left for London. Now 'Imitation' creator Subkoff is telling friends a doctor has confirmed her pregnancy and she is 'distraught' about the end of their relationship. However, a source close to Hooper confirms he broke off their engagement, but insists he had no idea she was expecting until Subkoff left him a voice mail yesterday. 'He broke up with her on Friday, and the last time they spoke was Saturday. He did not know she was pregnant — there was no discussion of her being pregnant,' the source said. 'Then he got this voice mail [yesterday] from Tara saying she’s pregnant. He doesn’t know what to do.'" (PageSix)

"On Monday, there was an official 'premiere' screening by the Cinema Society of Madonna’s new film W.E., about the Windsors – Wallis and Davidthe Duke and Duchess of Windsor and their now immortal romance. I haven’t seen it and at this rate I may never see it because having read as much as I have about them, and heard as much as I’ve been told by many who knew them intimately (spent a lot of time in their company), they remain an enigma whose mystery has dissolved to myth. From the many incidents recounted to me by those who were part of their social circle, as a couple, they were most interesting in almost every way because of Who they Were, and not because it was some great love affair. The real life eyewitness version of their love affair actually sounds kind of vapid and even a crashing bore. But then that’s not unusual with people who have an inordinate amount of time on their hands, with little to do other than visit their friends or shop." (NYSocialDiary)

"The founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, will be getting his own TV news program on RT (formerly Russia Today). RT has ordered 10 episodes of the talk show, which it says will feature Assange interviewing “iconoclasts, visionaries and power insiders” from inside the home where he is currently serving house arrest in England. No word yet on who Assange’s guests may be, or when the series will debut." (TVNewser)

"U.S. special forces staged a daring raid in Somalia on Wednesday morning, rescuing two foreign aid workers including an American.The aid workers, American Jessica Buchanan and Dane Poul Thisted, were being held by Somali pirates reports said. President Obama praised the successful rescue in a statement released by the White House. 'On Monday, I authorized an operation to rescue Jessica Buchanan, an American citizen who was kidnapped and held against her will for three months in Somalia,' Obama said. 'Thanks to the extraordinary courage and capabilities of our Special Operations Forces, yesterday Jessica Buchanan was rescued and she is on her way home. As Commander-in-Chief, I could not be prouder of the troops who carried out this mission, and the dedicated professionals who supported their efforts.' CBS News reported that the assault was carried out by members of the same SEAL team responsible for killing Osama bin Laden. The SEAL team parachuted into the heavily-guarded compound, secured the hostages and left in helicopters. Many Somali militants were killed in the assault, but there were no reports if any of the American troops were wounded" (TheHill)

"I'm not the biggest fan of Chelsea Handler, but yesterday on Howard Stern she said she had sex with 50 Cent and their relationship ended because she used an epithet that was borderline racist, likening his behavior to that of the street. Whew! You're not supposed to answer these questions, you're supposed to be evasive, it's supposed to be private. But now privacy's for pussies, the hoi polloi give it up online day after day, it's the celebrities who are out of touch, no wonder they're fodder for ridicule. Used to be we looked up to celebs, now we've got contempt for them. I believe the whole paradigm was delineated accurately by Barney Frank in last Sunday's 'New York Times Magazine':  'Lawyers are very, very good at keeping you out of prison, but they will sacrifice your reputation and credibility to do so. So dont be evasive and dont be cute. And unless you think there is a serious chance youre going to jail, dont listen to your lawyer'  Once upon a time, musicians were revered for being honest, and the resulting credibility made for long careers. Today the acts are evasive, worried about offending a potential audience member, and they come and go. Lay it out there. Then not only is it behind you, you garner respect from those who care, for being forthcoming, for being honest. Dishonesty is for politicians." (Bob Lefsetz)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Some Thoughts on Mittens Versus Gingy

Romney, barely concealing his patrician disgust at the oily Gingrich

This blogger has several thoughts on the present epic political GOP struggle: Pisces (Romney, the two fish) versus Gingrich (Gemini, the twins) battle. My thoughts:

An Early White House Christmas

"Axe" Axelrod and Plouffe are probably arrogantly smoking cigars -- as smugly as Joseph Sobran used to --  over this GOP frisson. The greatest nightmare of Obama's re-election was originally Huntsman, who was immediately (and unkowingly) neutralized once he accepted the Beijing position. The second greatest threat to Obama's re-election campaign was the possibility of Romney sweeping the nomination early, then collecting a heap of corporate money with which to defeat a weak President.

Gingrich's win in SC and his continued closing in the polls in Florida assures us, at the very least, that the contest will go until March (February has only Gingrich-leaning Arizona and Romney-guaranteed Michigan contested). As long as Romney is still trying to close the deal and convince the GOP that he is their man, Gingrich will continue to surge, and the President can lean back and raise money for the re-election, unchallenged, noting all the fault lines being constantly exposed in his rivals' campaigns. A White house Christmas, essentially.

La Donna e mobile

Both Geminis and Pisces are mutable signs, and no one could doubt that these two -- or, quite possibly, four? -- pols are hugely changeable beings. Gingrich is being attacked as not being a true conservative, of switching his platform often in his many decades in the arena. And Romney quite frankly has completely shifted -- 180 degrees -- from his entire platform as a moderate northeast Governor.

What a difference four years can make! In 2008, Obama was inexperienced, wet behind the ears. Now, in 2012, Obama will be the hallmark of stability with foreign policy successes to boot against either Romney or Gingy.

Rick Santorum

Pity Rick Santorum (or, maybe not). Santorum is the unluckiest bastard of 2012 and it is only January. He won the Iowa caucus, but took too long -- round midnight -- to frame the "Comeback Kid" narrative
to make the newspaper headlines the following day. That was more lack of skill than luck. But weeks later, on the cusp of South Carolina amidst the Second Gingrich Surge, is was discovered that he actually won the first contest. Had this information come earlier he might have had the wind at his back in New Hampshire; had this been known earlier, he -- and not Gingrich -- might be the anyone-but-Romney candidate. As it is he is now a big, fat nothingburger one primary away from dropping out and endorsing Gingrich. That poor bastard!
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Last week, I wrote on the strategic challenge Iran faces in its bid to shape a sphere of influence stretching from western Afghanistan to Beirut on the eastern Mediterranean coast. I also pointed out the limited options available to the United States and other Western powers to counter Iran. One was increased efforts to block Iranian influence in Syria. The other was to consider a strategy of negotiation with Iran. In the past few days, we have seen hints of both ... The Iranians have claimed that the letter the U.S. administration sent to Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that defined Iran's threats to Strait of Hormuz as a red line contained a second paragraph offering direct talks with Iran. After hesitation, the United States denied the offer of talks, but it did not deny it had sent a message to the Iranian leadership. The Iranians then claimed such an offer was made verbally to Tehran and not in the letter. Washington again was not categorical in its denial. On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a meeting with the German foreign minister, 'We do not seek conflict. We strongly believe the people of Iran deserve a better future. They can have that future, the country can be reintegrated into the global community ... when their government definitively turns away from pursuing nuclear weapons.' From our perspective, this is a critical idea." (Stratfor)

"Yesterday morning at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, they held a 'Celebration of The Life of Evelyn H. Lauder,' who died last November 12, three months to the day after her 75th birthday. A ten o’clock is early for me since we rarely put the Diary to bed before 2 or even 3 – and one doesn’t immediately fall asleep thereafter. A ten o’clock across town meant an 8 o’clock rising. That means four or five hours sleep, if I’m lucky, which isn’t enough to for me. Once when talking about the subject of sleep with a group of people in the media world, Martha Stewart asked me how much sleep I got. I told her six hours if I were lucky. 'Oh you get a lot of sleep,' she said almost dismissively – like 'toughen up, boy.' I asked her how much she got. 'Four.' Geez ... got to Lincoln Center (heavy traffic on the West Side) about five after ten, and to my seat less than ten minutes later. There were a number of us, including Daryl Roth, the Broadway producer, and Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, who didn’t seem to know where he was sitting. Those of us 'latecomers' found seats (and a great view) from the second Ring (there are five). The program had not yet started. The orchestra and finally the first and second Rings were filled. There must have been about 3000 guests (it was by invitation only)" (NYSocialDiary)

"The 84th annual Academy Award nominations have been announced. While the likes of 'Hugo' and 'The Artist' expectedly led the nominees overall, there were also many surprises this morning. For better or worse ... Gary Oldman, Oscar nominee. Finally, we can no longer say that Gary Oldman is one of the greatest living actors to have never received an Oscar nomination. He deservedly snuck into the best actor category for 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,' which also took screenplay and score nominations ...  Melissa McCarthy, Kristin Wiig, Bret McKenzie and Jim Rash all get nominated: While none of these nominees are really that surprising (though it's still quite something Melissa McCarthy made it in the end), collectively they made for a great morning for funny people primarily known for television. McCarthy ('Mike & Molly'), Kristin Wiig ('Saturday Night Live'), Bret McKenzie ('Flight of the Conchords') and Jim Rash ('Community'). Interestingly, only McCarthy was an acting nominee. Rash and Wiig both got in for writing (Rash for 'The Descendants,' Wiig for 'Bridesmaids'), while McKenzie wrote the nominated song from 'The Muppets.'" (IndieWIRE)

"Howard (Stern) came back and had Chelsea Handler come in. Howard said she's sold 3 books and her fourth one came out just recently. Chelsea said that it actually came out a year ago. Chelsea told Howard these hours are brutal. Howard said they are but he's only doing it 3 days a week now ... Howard and Chelsea talked about Jennifer Aniston for a short time. Howard said that Jennifer Aniston has a great ass. He saw her at a Paul McCartney concert and he saw this great ass in the audience and it turned out to be Jennifer. Howard said he doesn't see her as sexual but that night there was something going on. Howard asked Chelsea about her relationships with men. She said that a lot of men are intimidated by her. She said that she loves men and being with men. She said she's not a cheater either. She dated 50 Cent. Howard asked how he is. She said that he's very sweet and he has great energy and he's like a big, black Teddy Bear. She said she's had a thing for black guys and it must run in the family because her dad is into black women. Howard asked Chelsea if it's more exciting to be with a famous guy than with a businessman. He said there is something exciting in that. Chelsea said she tries not to date other celebrities. She said that everyone is such a mess and it's not a real thing. She said that she and 50 Cent dated for a few months and then things just fell apart. Howard asked if there were a lot of black people at his house. She said there were. She said that he wasn't into smoking pot or doing anything like that. She said that's what she likes to do." (Marksfriggin)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"While some were off to the sliding, others were working, like this entrepreneur across the street from me. You can’t say these people aren’t willing to do anything. As I’ve noted before about this growing recycling workforce, it’s not a job that would be anyone’s first, second, or third choice. Maybe it’s the very last on anyone’s list. But it pays something, no matter how small. I’ve noticed that as this kind of workforce has increased in size all along the Upper East Side. It’s also grown more organized and is clearly prospering. I know that statement is relative. But as you can see, this man is well dressed for the weather, protected and very organized. It’s just he and the wagon and the bags of aluminum and plastic. He works fast. He knows what he’s looking for and he loads it up quickly and on his way. Fortitude, self-respect. Self-starter. Self-reliant. Admiration. He knows a lot of something that still escapes a lot of us, employed and not." (NYSocialDiary)

"Safely reducing debt and clearing the way for economic growth in the aftermath of the global credit bubble will take many years and involve difficult choices, as MGI’s 2010 report showed.Two years later, major economies have only just begun deleveraging. In only three of the largest mature economies—the United States, Australia, and South Korea—has the ratio of total debt relative to GDP fallen. The private sector leads in debt reduction, and government debt has continued to rise, due to recession. However, history shows that, under the right conditions, private-sector deleveraging leads to renewed economic growth and then public-sector debt reduction. These are the principal findings of MGI’s latest perspective on deleveraging, which revisits the world’s ten largest mature economies to see where they stand in the process of reducing debt ratios (United States, Japan, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, Spain, Australia, and South Korea). It focuses in particular on the experience and outlook for the United States, United Kingdom, and Spain—three countries covering a range of deleveraging and growth challenges." (McKinseyGlobalInstitute)

"Amid growing concerns about security in Damascus, the Obama administration is considering closing the U.S. Embassy in Damascus unless the Syrian government can guarantee security in the area, The Cable has learned.An administration official confirmed to The Cable Friday that U.S. officials have been in discussions with the Syrian regime in an effort to negotiate new security agreements for the streets surrounding the embassy, which have become more and more dangerous for U.S. personnel as the violence in Damascus has drawn closer to the central city. Those streets house several other foreign embassies as well, meaning that if the Syrian government does not meet requests for better security guarantees, several countries could be forced to roll up their diplomatic presence in Damascus, despite their preference to stay.'We've had serious concerns about the fact that the mission is exposed, as have other embassies,' the administration official told The Cable. 'We've been in to see the Syrians to request extra security measures. They are deciding what they can do. If they can't meet our concerns, we're going to have to consider closing [the embassy].'Over the past few months, U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford has worked to keep the embassy open and functioning amid physical attacks on him and the embassy building, usually by groups of thugs who support the Syrian regime. Unlike newer embassy designs, the U.S. facility in Damascus sits right on the street, dangerously exposed." (ForeignPolicy)

"With total partisan war (still) consuming Washington, the Obama White House spent the last two weeks blasting away at an unlikely antagonist: 36-year-old New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor, author of the new book The Obamas. The text, while containing embarrassing anecdotes detailing schisms between the First Lady and West Wing advisers, largely presents its titular couple in a favorable light. As Jon Stewart put it to Kantor last week: 'The book seems to portray Michelle Obama as a complex yet human individual, struggling with this unbelievable situation yet remaining the moral compass and center of an administration trying to find its footing. I guess the only thing I would say to you is, how dare you?' The joke had the ring of truth; for this particular president, Kantor’s sin was in writing her book at all. Of course, as soon as reports of Kantor’s seven-figure advance put the book on the administration’s radar in 2009, it was certain to be scrutinized. The Obamas’ tightly choreographed debut via a page-one Times excerpt—and the follow-up coverage of the most tabloid-friendly anecdotes—then guaranteed that the White House would have to respond. Still, the ferocity of the White House’s push-back, which was directed by Eric Schultz, the press officer more commonly tasked with scandals like the Solyndra bankruptcy, was striking. 'I’ve been writing highly personal stories about [the Obamas] for five years,' Kantor told me. 'And nothing like this had ever happened before.' But the White House’s reaction starts to make more sense if you consider this fact: Barack Obama is the country’s first memoirist-in-chief." (NYMag)

"Midway through our visit to the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, your blogger decided it would be a good time to stop and assess the slushy, star-studded scene on Main Street and beyond. Ahead, the most notable films, festival-goers, and swag in Park City so far this year. Be warned: your opinion of Lil Jon, agency parties, and'“meal-soup chalets' may never be the same. Films Hottest movie: The documentary Searching for Sugar Man, the first film to find a distributor at Sundance this year and one that left its audience in tears. Biggest dud: The Comedy, the other Tim & Eric movie that was clearly not a hit, if the steady flow of audience members leaving its first screening on Sunday is any indication. (Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim’s Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie met a slightly happier fate.) Biggest disappointment: Lay the Favorite. At best, this gambling comedy from Stephen Frears is a fun Friday-night movie, but when an ensemble cast includes Rebecca Hall, Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Vince Vaughn, you expect much, much more. Most controversial film: Compliance. Based on real-life events, Craig Zobel’s provocative drama centers on a teenage fast-food worker, played by Dreama Walker, who follows humiliating orders from a telephone caller claiming to be a police officer. At the Saturday-morning premiere, The Hollywood Reporter reports, the screening was followed by boos and cheers, while some in the audience catcalled the cast." (VanityFair)

"The man who is schooled in the art of political destruction sits in a mahogany bar called Morton’s in Washington, D.C., a hangout for Republican consultants and lobbyists, and occasionally Congressman John Boehner, who meet to drink cocktails and talk shop under pale lights. A veteran of past presidential campaigns, and an associate of Mitt Romney’s team, he sips a stiff drink and talks about the imperatives of the 2012 presidential election. 'How are we going to punch him every fucking day in the face with the best fucking message that is going to drive voters in our favor?' he asks. The face in question is that of President Barack Obama. 'How do we do it nationally? How do we do it in the states? How do we do it over and over and over? We’re not going to win the fight with a knockout punch; we’re going to win it with kidney blows that make your opponent so feeble that he can no longer raise his hands to cover his face.' It’s going to get ugly—it always does, and this year, it already has. But by almost every measure, the 2012 election is going to be the most negative in the history of American politics." (NYMag)

"One performance that had Sundance buzzing Saturday wasn’t by an actor. After reports that Nicholas Jarecki cast Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter in his directorial debut, 'Arbitrage,' the audience at the premiere was surprised to see the role was substantial. 'He has two scenes that are really good, playing the head of a bank,' said producer Laura Bickford." (PageSix)