Saturday, March 30, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"UNLIKE many other Asian countries—and in stark contrast to neighbouring Pakistan—India has never been run by its generals. The upper ranks of the powerful civil service of the colonial Raj were largely Hindu, while Muslims were disproportionately represented in the army. On gaining independence the Indian political elite, which had a strong pacifist bent, was determined to keep the generals in their place. In this it has happily succeeded. But there have been costs. One is that India exhibits a striking lack of what might be called a strategic culture. It has fought a number of limited wars—one with China, which it lost, and several with Pakistan, which it mostly won, if not always convincingly—and it faces a range of threats, including jihadist terrorism and a persistent Maoist insurgency. Yet its political class shows little sign of knowing or caring how the country’s military clout should be deployed. But there have been costs. One is that India exhibits a striking lack of what might be called a strategic culture. It has fought a number of limited wars—one with China, which it lost, and several with Pakistan, which it mostly won, if not always convincingly—and it faces a range of threats, including jihadist terrorism and a persistent Maoist insurgency. Yet its political class shows little sign of knowing or caring how the country’s military clout should be deployed.That clout is growing fast. For the past five years India has been the world’s largest importer of weapons (see chart). A deal for $12 billion or more to buy 126 Rafale fighters from France is slowly drawing towards completion. India has more active military personnel than any Asian country other than China, and its defence budget has risen to $46.8 billion. Today it is the world’s seventh-largest military spender; IHS Jane’s, a consultancy, reckons that by 2020 it will have overtaken Japan, France and Britain to come in fourth. It has a nuclear stockpile of 80 or more warheads to which it could easily add more, and ballistic missiles that can deliver some of them to any point in Pakistan. It has recently tested a missile with a range of 5,000km (3,100 miles), which would reach most of China." (TheEconomist)

"When Joseph Weisberg was training to be a case officer for the C.I.A. in the early 1990s, he soon learned that deception was a crucial skill, one that involved lying to his family on a regular basis. 'It was painful,' Mr. Weisberg recalled. 'Fundamentally, lies were at the core of the relationships. I lied to all my friends and most of the people in my family. I lied every day. I told 20 lies a day and I got used to it. It was hard for about two weeks. Then it got easy. I watched it happen to all of us.'  So does he find it easy to tell lies now? 'It’s had the opposite effect,' he said.  That experience, though, has been put to good use in the critically acclaimed FX show 'The Americans,' of which Mr. Weisberg, 47, is the creator and head writer ... Mr. Weisberg came to New York in 1997 by way of Chicago, where he grew up in a liberal Jewish home. His father, Bernard, was a prominent civil rights lawyer, and his mother, Lois, a well-known social activist celebrated by the writer Malcolm Gladwell in a 1999 New Yorker article as a 'connector' for her uncanny ability to navigate the city’s social strata. In 1987, Mr. Weisberg graduated from Yale University, where he took classes in Russian history, having come of political age in an era when President Reagan railed against Soviet-style communism. Three years later, he joined the C.I.A. and moved to Washington, because, he said, 'I wanted a job where I could be a cold warrior,' adding, 'where you can be a brainy, dark weirdo and do all kinds of fascinating crazy stuff.' The move startled his family and friends. 'He was contrarian,' said his older brother, Jacob Weisberg, the chairman and editor in chief of the Slate Group. (Jacob Weisberg’s wife, Deborah Needleman, is the editor in chief of T: The New York Times Style Magazine.) 'Growing up in a liberal family, joining the C.I.A., was the most transgressive thing you could do.'” (NYTimes)

"The new sheriff is a high-intensity person. Friends tell me she also reviews new apps in great detail, down to color choices. (Didn’t another successful leader so annoy people?)
The protests over Mayer’s hiring practices and (supposed) micromanagement are nothing compared to the howls of pain over Mayer’s most controversial decision: No more Working From Home. The prohibition is an affront to accepted beliefs about white-collar productivity, work/life balance, working mothers, sending less CO2 into the atmosphere. Does Mayer oppose a balanced life and a greener planet? No, presumably — but reality intrudes. Once the king of the Web, Yahoo! stood by and watched as Google and Facebook seduced their users and advertisers. In 2008, in an effort to bolster its flagging on-line fortunes, Microsoft offered more than $44B to acquire Yahoo. The Board nixed the deal and Yahoo! kept sinking. Right before Mayer took the helm in July 2012, Yahoo’s market cap hovered around $16B, a decline of more than 60%. The niceties of peacetime prosperity had to go. Unlike her 'explicit' predecessor, Mayer doesn’t stoop to lash out at the protesters but one can imagine what she thinks: 'Shut up, you whiners. This is a turnaround, not a Baja California cruise!'  In the Valley, WFH has long been controversial. In spite of its undeniable benefits, too-frequent abuses led to WFH becoming a euphemism for goofing off, or for starting a software business on one’s employer’s dime, an honored tradition.Telecommuting requires a secure VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection from your computer at home to the company’s servers. These systems keep a traffic log, a record of who connects, from what IP address, when, for how long, how much data, and so on. Now, picture a CEO from the Google tradition of data analysis. She looks at the VPN logs and sees too much “comfort”, to be polite. Mayer did what leaders do: She made a decision that made some people unhappy in order to achieve success for the whole enterprise (toned-up employees and shareholders). After seeing Yahoo! lose altitude year after year, the criticism leveled at Mayer makes me optimistic about the company’s future: Mayer’s treatment hurts where it needs to." (Monday Note)
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"When Game of Thrones premiered on HBO in April 2011, it came burdened with more uncertainties than characters, more doubt than dragons. A $60 million adaptation of an unfinished fantasy series so dense an executioner's blade couldn't cut through it? A main character who wouldn't survive to see the finale? A seemingly suicidal admission by the showrunners that the very best stuff wouldn't even appear onscreen until a hypothetical third season? Forget the neatly stylized wolves and lions; the show's sigil may have well been a question mark. Despite a quick renewal, the considerably more expensive second season also felt like a gamble, like flashing silver in Flea Bottom or seating Melisandre in the no-smoking section. Though the ratings increased, so did the world: Game of Thrones now spanned continents, and its deeply digressive plot meant that the most interesting pawns were often marooned miles from the would-be kings and queens they sought to replace. The sumptuous production — shot, simultaneously, in rainy Belfast, freezing Iceland, and along the sunny Croatian coast — cost a bundle but also bought plenty of audience patience. It was a wise purchase, especially during the free-range hours spent watching Jon Snow sink into slush and play wool-booted footsie north of the Wall. There were times last year when the casual fan had to have felt as bedraggled as a Dothraki in the desert, doomed to wander forever while string-pulling power players in Harrenhal and Hollywood got their houses in order. Thankfully, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss — proud survivors of both studio-mandated rewrite sessions and suburban Dungeons & Dragons marathons — know that you can polish your dice for only so long before you have to cast them. And so, in 'Blackwater,' the penultimate episode of Season 2, hours of story and untold millions of euros finally ignited like so much wildfire. Until then, I had been watching the show like Cersei Lannister at a dinner party: a drink in my hand, a bloodless smirk on my face. But all that time I thought I was keeping my distance — not only had I avoided George R.R. Martin's books, I could barely spell Qarth — it turns out I was actually sinking deeper. In 'Blackwater' I was finally flooded with big-screen bombast that merited the bluster of backstabbing brothers and know-it-all Martin readers alike. It was an unblinking glimpse of the savagery that had lurked beneath every alliance made and promise broken in the battle-scarred Seven Kingdoms. When Ned Stark lost his head it taught audiences that no one, not even stars, are safe." (Grantland)

"The aftermath of the fall of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi continues to generate drama. The current mystery is the disappearance of four family members from Libya’s neighbor Algeria. In a fresh twist to the outsize dynastic saga, Gaddafi’s second wife Safia, his daughter Aisha and his sons Mohammed and Hannibal have vanished without a trace from their comfortable exile in an upscale seaside community outside Algiers. Safia and Hannibal are both subject to international arrest warrants issued by Interpol at the request of Libya’s new government. So far, there is no clue to where the four have gone. 'I cannot comment on their whereabouts,' Nick Kaufmann, a Gaddafi family attorney, told TIME on Monday. 'There is no information I can pass on to you.' For weeks, reports in Arab-language media speculated that Safia and three of her offspring appeared to have quietly slipped out of Algeria. When TIME traveled to Algeria last month, officials would say only that interviews with the Gaddafis were out of the question, but refused to say exactly where they were living. The first confirmation that they had in fact left the country came on Saturday, when Algeria’s ambassador to Libya, Abdel-Hamid Bouzaher, was quoted by the Libyan news agency saying that the four Gaddafis had left Algeria “a long time ago.' He did not say when they had left, how or where they were headed. When rebels stormed into Tripoli in August 2011, the Gaddafis scattered in different directions as fighters closed in on their fortress-like compound in the capital." (Time)

"Flipboard is a content aggregator. It knows what you like and what you don’t like. The idea is you never have to go anywhere else to read relevant, interesting content. Having launched in July 2010, it announced in August last year that it had 20m readers. Now, just seven months later, it has 50m readers. By the end of the year it is on course to have more than 100m readers, meaning it will reach 25 times more people than the print edition of The Times. This week Flipboard marked that achievement by launching its latest version: Flipboard 2.0 lets users create their own magazines. Content aggregation, developed to meet the needs of the consumer in its purest, most concise, sense, has already handed an amount of control to the consumer. This latest move marks an even bigger, more significant step, taking the principle of a personalised and interactive internet, and bringing that to mainstream content delivery. When users see something they like, they simply click a button to add it to their own magazine, which can then be shared with others. Put simply, we can all be editors now. This move confirms that the nature of content delivery is changing." (Telegraph)

"In Hollywood circa 2007, as Funny or Die CEO Dick Glover described it, the cost of creating content was rising and social media was just starting to gain a foothold among consumers. In stepped a humor site that counted Will Ferrell and Adam McKay as founders. Their new model, Glover said, was built in three ways. 'Put talent first. Enable great creative people. Second, marry the best of two very disparate cultures -- Hollywood and Silicon Valley. And, then, third, be nothing like Kevin Costner,' Glover elaborated in a talk at a TEDxHollywood event on Wednesday. He invoked Costner's Field of Dreams -- where the actor hears a voice saying, 'If you build it, he will come' and builds a baseball field -- to explain the reference. That model, Glover said, 'resonates very, very well in the Hollywood system, where millions and millions and millions of dollars are spent on projects that may never even come into existence.' But for Funny or Die, the CEO elaborated, the famous quote is reversed to: 'If they come, we will build it.' He says, 'We don’t spend money on development; we don’t spend money that we won’t see immediate return.'Glover was one of several speakers at TedxHollywood, an event held on Wednesday at UCLA's Freud Playhouse featuring talks, live music and sessions that grouped together contributors under themes like "Succeeding Outside the System." The event was hosted by organizer Ken Hertz, an attorney at Hertz & Lichtenstein media law, one of the sponsors of the event." (THR)

"'I guess I felt—and now feel—as though I was 19 when I wrote it,' Renata Adler said of her first novel Speedboat. 'And maybe still am. And by Pitch Dark, I was maybe 19-and-a-half.'
In fact, Ms. Adler, a slight, bespectacled woman who was seated across from me a few weeks ago at a café near Grand Central, was turning 38 when Speedboat was published in 1976. Pitch Dark came out seven years later. Both, long out of print, have just been reissued by NYRB Classics, but not before other writers drummed up interest about Ms. Adler’s work. The National Book Critics Circle campaigned for Speedboat to be reissued, and David Shields, whose 2010 book Reality Hunger helped introduce a new generation of readers to Ms. Adler’s debut, wrote in an email to me, 'A crucial part of the performance of her literary persona—in Speedboat and Pitch Dark and elsewhere—is how resolutely un-nice she is while remaining deeply civilized' ... Ms. Adler is—to tweak a line she used in a notoriously negative review of Pauline Kael’s criticism—page by page, line by line, and without interruption, brilliant. Few writers articulate as deftly the position of the clever, skeptical, frequently isolated outsider. She also has an impressive pedigree: graduate of Bryn Mawr, the Sorbonne and Harvard; recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship; winner of the O. Henry prize. Member of the special staff of the House Judiciary Committee from January to August 1974; staff writer at The New Yorker; New York Times movie critic from 1968 to 1969. And it’s not as though her novels, Speedboat and Pitch Dark, in which another Adler-like narrator, Kate Ennis, attempts to resolve her affair with a married man, didn’t have powerful allies. Ms. Adler’s original editor on Pitch Dark was Robert Gottlieb, then the editor in chief of Knopf. (Both novels were later licensed in paperback to HarperCollins.) Her agent was and remains the formidable Lynn Nesbit, who helped launch the careers of John Cheever, Joan Didion and Hunter S. Thompson. So why did she disappear?" (Observer)

"A thick mist descends on London as I make my way to Mayfair to meet Africa’s richest woman. It seems apt. Isabel dos Santos’s name is more widely known since, earlier this month, Forbes declared her the continent’s first female billionaire but, in her native Angola, she belongs to an elite that is so secretive it has been described as a 'cryptocracy'. Her father, José Eduardo, has been Angola’s president for 33 years. Renowned for his inscrutability, he keeps his petro-state, the continent’s rising power and one of China’s biggest oil suppliers, in the tightest of grips. His regime has, according to critics, become synonymous with the diversion of public funds into private pockets.
Isabel dos Santos, his eldest daughter, is regarded as a symbol of the confluence of power and wealth in Angola. I have been pursuing her for an interview for more than a year and, despite repeated assurances from aides that she doesn’t do them, she has consented to have lunch during a business trip to Britain. Her choice of venue is Scott’s, a swanky fish restaurant frequented by hedge fund types and luminaries such as Bill Clinton and Tom Cruise." (FT)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Israel is in the process of watching a peace treaty unravel. I don't mean the one with Egypt, but the one with Syria. No, I'm not crazy. Since Henry Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy in 1974, the Israelis have had a de facto peace agreement of sorts with the al Assad family. After all, there were clear red lines that both sides knew they shouldn't cross, as well as reasonable predictability on both sides. Forget about the uplifting rhetoric, the requirement to exchange ambassadors and the other public policy frills that normally define peace treaties. What counts in this case is that both sides observed limits and constraints, so that the contested border between them was secure. Even better, because there was no formal peace agreement in writing, neither side had to make inconvenient public and strategic concessions. Israel did not have to give up the Golan Heights, for example. And if Syria stepped over a red line in Lebanon, or say, sought a nuclear capacity as it did, Israel was free to punish it through targeted military strikes. There was usefully no peace treaty that Israel would have had to violate.  Of course, the Syrians built up a chemical arsenal and invited the Iranians all over their country and Lebanon. But no formal treaty in the real world -- given the nature of the Syrian regime -- would likely have prevented those things. In an imperfect world of naked power, the al Assads were at least tolerable. Moreover, they represented a minority sect, which prevented Syria from becoming a larger and much more powerful version of radical, Sunni Arab Gaza. In February 1993 in The Atlantic Monthly, I told readers that Syria was not a state but a writhing underworld of sectarian and ethnic divides and that the al Assads might exit the stage through an Alawite mini-state in the northwest of their country that could be quietly supported by the Israeli security services. That may yet come to pass." (STRATFOR)

"Two years after their merger, seated side by side in a corner conference room at AOL’s (AOL) Manhattan headquarters on March 20, Chief Executive Officer Tim Armstrong and Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington say they couldn’t be happier. 'Our relationship is the strongest it’s ever been,'Armstrong says, adding that he’d happily sign a new contract to keep Huffington past February 2015. She’ll re-up, she says, provided he stops throwing things at her. (She’s joking.) When Armstrong paid $315 million for HuffPo in early 2011, he sought to reposition AOL away from its declining dial-up Internet access and search businesses in favor of ad-supported original content sites. His other gamble: making Huffington, the left-leaning doyenne of cable talk shows, the face of the new company, with a four-year contract and control of all of AOL’s editorial content, including Patch, TechCrunch, and more than a dozen other sites. The Arianna brand had digital cachet: She launched her news aggregator in 2005 largely on personal charm and connections, and built it into a clicks machine whose Web traffic, when AOL bought it, matched that of the New York Times. Announcing the acquisition, Armstrong called Huffington 'a master of the art of using new media to illuminate, entertain, and enhance the national conversation.' Armstrong, like Huffington, is media-savvy and idea-driven. Credited as a principal architect of Google’s (GOOG) ad-sales operations, he jumped to AOL’s top job at 38 when Time Warner (TWX) spun off the company in 2009. He’s built a reputation for being patient with products—notably Patch, the money-hemorrhaging local-news hub—but fickle with people, having fired a string of high-level managers. Just how these two outsize personalities would cohabit was one of the big unknowns surrounding the merger, by far Armstrong’s biggest acquisition. Despite the smiles and repartee, their relationship has been strained by HuffPo’s heavy spending and lackluster ad sales, and they’ve both explored the idea of dissolving the partnership, according to three people familiar with the conversations who were not authorized to speak on the record. Armstrong and Huffington say that’s untrue. By last year, however, Huffington’s responsibilities had been scaled back to just HuffPo, and in the last few months, Armstrong has begun to surround her with his allies on the business side, naming entrepreneur Jimmy Maymann HuffPo’s CEO and making AOL board member Susan Lyne CEO of AOL’s Brand Group, which includes HuffPo." (Bloomberg BusinessWeek)

"In his search for a new morning television host that lasted months, the new head of CNN, Jeffrey Zucker, considered dozens of names, some boldface and some unknown. It wasn’t until he paired Christopher Cuomo, the former ABC anchor he hired in January, with a young Washington correspondent named Kate Bolduan that he thought he had a perfect match.On Thursday, in something of a surprise, Mr. Zucker named Ms. Bolduan the co-host of CNN’s forthcoming morning show, which has attracted considerable interest in the television business this year, given Mr.
Zucker’s past life as a former producer of NBC’s “Today” show.“We were floored with excitement when we saw Chris and Kate together on screen,” Mr. Zucker said in a statement, referring to the “screen test” of the two hosts that took place about four weeks ago.Mr. Cuomo and Ms. Bolduan will lead the new show, which will have its premiere in the late spring, replacing “Starting Point,” which was hosted by Soledad O’Brien.They will be joined by Michaela Pereira, a new hire by Mr. Zucker who is a morning host on KTLA, the most popular local morning newscast in Los Angeles. “Chris, Kate and Michaela are a dynamic team that will give our viewers in America a new way to start their day,” Mr. Zucker said in his statement.Mr. Zucker has declined interview requests since taking over as chief executive of CNN Worldwide in January. But his pairing of Mr. Cuomo, 42, and Ms. Bolduan, 29, suggests that he sees an opening for a morning show that is generationally different — or, to put it more bluntly, a morning show that has younger faces." (Brian Stelter)

"When Shane Smith, one of the founders of Vice Media, pitched a television show to MTV in 2010, it seemed unimaginable that the company that came out of Vice magazine could establish itself as a respected informational source about, well, anything (other than how to decorate your heroin stash). And yet the network bit, and The Vice Guide to Everything ran for eight episodes, balancing ridiculous segments against heavier fare. With its latest television program, VICE, which premieres next Friday, the media company is once again trying its hand at American television. Not just television. HBO. And this time, it’s not trading on its nihilistic reputation. Instead, it’s asking audiences to trust in its international-relations acumen. It wants to be taken seriously. Or at least as seriously as it takes itself. 'This is the grown-up, smarter, more erudite version of Vice,' Eddy Moretti, Vice Media’s executive creative director (and one of the producers of VICE), told Off the Record. In addition to being more earnest than its predecessor, Mr. Moretti said, this show is intensely researched. Like Vanguard but shorter and with more cursing, VICE features three correspondents whose job it is to 'expose the absurdities of the modern condition': Mr. Smith, Dos & Don’ts book editor Thomas Morton and a former intern named Ryan Duffy." (Observer)

"I went to lunch at Michael’s. Traffic was light on the way and traffic seemed lighter than usual at Michael’s. Although I noticed the tables were occupied, for a Wednesday it seemed they turned down the Sound. I was lunching with Nina Griscom, who’s just back from a five day trip to Paris with her daughter. This was a foodie’s delight, according to Nina. Two over from me Debbie Bancroft was lunching with Michael Boodro the editor of the very hot Elle Décor. Next to them Hilary Geary Ross, who often contributes to the Palm Beach Social Diary, was with Dailey Pattee. In the Bay at Table One, where the gang, Bonnie Fuller, Gerry Byrne and Carlos Lamadrid usually hold forth with their guests on Wednesdays, was just two guys yesterday: Bob Barnett and Howard Wolfson. You know about Bob Barnett? You do if you’re Somebody. He’s a Washington lawyer (although I see him fairly frequently at Michael’s), a partner of the venerable Williams & Connolly -- the Edward Bennett Williams/John Connolly -- law firm. He is married to the wonderful Rita Braver, whom you know from CBS News. I  met him once. I can’t recall where – perhaps in Washington at some event, and remembered him because of his famous wife who had a very pleasant husband. However, I soon learned he wasn’t exactly Mr. Rita Braver, as often it goes in the world of show biz media. This guy represents, or has represented an army of stars, boldfacers, VIPs and even Presidents on book and media details, including Bob Woodward, Ann Curry, Tim Russert, James Patterson, Barbra Streisand, James Carville, Mary Matalin, Dick Cheney, Lynne cheney, James Baker, Karl Rove, Queen Noor, Sarah Palin, David Petraeus, Tony Blair, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Laura Bush, Madeline Albright and Barack Obama. The list tells you all you need to know. Whatever he does for his clients, nobody does it better. Barnett’s lunch partner, Howard Wolfson, is counselor to the Mayor and a well known Democratic strategist. Another Washingtonian in the room was Jonathan Capehart, also once associate of the Mayor, and now a columnist for the Washington Post. " (NYSocialDiary)

"MSNBC’s Chris Hayes would like to see more hosts of color on the cable networks – including his own.“It’s a problem,” says Hayes, a lifelong Caucasian. “People’s opinions, interpretations of news, journalistic instincts, editorial concerns are the product of the people they are, the experiences they have, the way they move through the world.“It’s why organizations, companies, the Senate, the U.S. Supreme Court benefit from diversity. … Diversity produces people with a specificity in their world view, and it benefits the product.”Hayes’ product, ‘All In with Chris Hayes,’ debuts Monday in the 8 p.m. slot formerly occupied by Ed Schultz. Rachel Maddow (Hayes’ mentor) follows at 9, with Lawrence O’Donnell at 10.It is a Murderers’ Row of liberal brainiacs. It is also, like the prime-time lineups at CNN and Fox News, blindingly white – a state of affairs to which Hayes says he has given “obsessive thought.”Diversity is his top priority, he says. ‘All In’ will feature a wide variety of guests, especially conservatives. Hayes followed the same practice on his MSNBC weekend show, ‘Up with Chris Hayes,’ which debuted in 2011.“I can’t control my gender, race or sexual orientation,” says Hayes. (He and his wife, law professor Kate A. Shaw, have an 18-month-old daughter.) “I can control who we have on and what voices we introduce to viewers.”" (TVNewser)

"After the last few head-spinning Wednesdays at Michael’s kept me ricocheting between Hollywood A-listers (Meg Ryan) and tabloid targets (Rachel Uchitel), it was something of a relief to turn my attention to the restaurant’s core constituency of authors and their agents (remember books?) who have always viewed the dining room at 55th & Fifth as a de facto company cafeteria. When I arrived a few minutes before noon and overheard Tom Connor telling L’Oreal Sherman he was meeting Gretchen Young for lunch, I just had to go over and introduce myself. Gretchen was my editor at Hyperion, and we worked together on two bestsellers: I Love You, Mom! a collection of celebrity essays I edited and Objection! which I co-wrote with Nancy Grace. Like I always say, in certain circles, all roads lead to Michael’s. Now vice president and executive editor at Grand Central Publishing, Gretchen recently signed Tom’s clients Willie Geist and his father Bill Geist to write a father-son book scheduled for publication next year to coincide with Father’s Day. When Willie (who, it should be noted, is quite the snappy dresser) arrived, I asked him if the dapper duo had ever worked together before. “Aside from some yard work, no,” he told me. The yet-to-be-titled tome does have a subtitle: Birds, Bees and Other Conversations We Never Had. “It’s not going to be one of those super earnest father-son books,” says Willie. Bill describes the book as something “born out of our experiences and what we’ve learned from each other.”' (Diane Clehane)

"Consider these assessments of two 2012 Senate races, from Roll Call’s election preview published about a month before Election Day last year:

Nebraska: “The Senate race, once expected to be one of the top races of the cycle, has slipped away from Democrats ever since state Sen. Deb Fischer surprised many — even some of her own staffers — by winning the GOP nomination.”
North Dakota: “If there is one race this cycle that proves campaigns and candidates matter, it’s this one… [T]his once-sleepy race has become one of the most competitive of the cycle."

"File these away. If a month or two before Election Day 2014, the common descriptions of the Senate races in South Dakota and West Virginia sound like Nebraska — where the Democratic candidate is widely regarded as a longshot — then Republicans might be on the way to winning the Senate. If they sound more like North Dakota — essentially, a toss-up that could (and did) go down to the wire — then Democrats likely will once again have staved off the GOP in the Upper Chamber.
That’s because in the wake of Sen. Tim Johnson’s (D-SD) unsurprising retirement announcement Tuesday, the Mount Rushmore State and the Mountain State stand out as two Democrat-held Senate seats that Republicans, on paper, should carry. Capturing both are necessary but not sufficient conditions for a Republican Senate victory. Think of them as the first two dominoes that need to fall for the GOP. How quickly they fall — or if they fall at all — will tell us a lot about the overall Senate picture. Which is why Republicans need to put them away early, like 2012’s Nebraska or 2010’s Arkansas (where ex-Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln was obviously dead in the water months before the election) and North Dakota (where now-Republican Sen. John Hoeven blew out his overmatched opponent by more than 50 percentage points in an open, Democrat-held seat).
As mentioned here previously, Republicans need to pick up six net Senate seats to capture the Senate." (CenterforPolitics)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Republican Minority Outreach

James Franco on Howard Stern

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Operation Desert Schmooze, President Barack Obama’s two-day charm offensive in Jerusalem, achieved its central goal of convincing Israelis that the U.S. president, to invert an ancient stereotype, doesn’t have horns. Obama’s achievements were partly symbolic. Merely by smiling and saying comforting words about Israel’s inherent legitimacy, he went a long way toward neutralizing a Republican propaganda campaign that was meant to convince Israelis (and American Jews) that he was the bastard offspring of Jimmy Carterand Haman. Jonathan Tobin, formerly an acidic critic of Obama’s approach to Israel, wrote on Commentary magazine’s website that many of the president’s 'Jewish and Democratic defenders have been to some extent vindicated and his critics chastened, if not silenced.' The achievements were also substantive. Obama somehow convinced the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, a man who does not spend his days looking for people to apologize to, that he should call the obstreperous Turkish prime minister,Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to say how sorry he was for the loss of Turkish lives during the notorious flotilla conflict off the Mediterranean coast in 2010. The apology is helping clear a path for cooperation between the two countries on other matters, including the fallout from the coming disintegration of Syria." (Jeffrey Goldberg)

"It's no secret that E.L. James's Fifty Shades trilogy is the kind of monster publishing success that comes along only once or twice a decade. Last year, Barnes & Noble attributed its stronger-than-expected second-quarter earnings to the series' megasuccess. And around the holidays, Random House — which had the good fortune of publishing the books — gave its employees $5,000 bonuses in celebration of how well Fifty Shades has done. But we didn't know the full extent of the Fifty Shades financial bonanza until yesterday, when Random House's parent company —the giant German media conglomerate Bertelsmann AG — released its preliminary annual report. What the report revealed is that Fifty Shades's success has propped up not just Random House, but the entire corporate structure above it. The first thing you learn in Bertelsmann's annual report (PDF) is that it is very, very excited about the sales of the Fifty Shades books, which topped 70 million copies in 2012. The series is mentioned fifteen times in the report, including in the 'Highlights section' —where it gets its own mini-chapter called 'Book Publishing Passion to the Power of 70 Million' — and the 'Overall Economic Developments' section, where it's called a 'record-breaking success.' That success was visible on Bertelsmann's balance sheet. Look at this chart, which shows that Random House revenues made up 13.4 percent of the conglomerate's entire haul in 2012, making it bigger than its Be Printers division, and nearly as big as Gruner + Jahr, its European printing arm." (NYMag)

"The New York Post reported yesterday that Anthony Marshall, the son and only child of the late Brooke Astor, has lost his appeal on his 2009 conviction for 'trying to steal $60 million from his mother.' Evidently Mr. Marshall who appeared in court in a wheelchair last December 'begged the court to spare him jail time given his age, health, military service, public service and lack of prior criminal history.' Justice Darcel Clark of the New York Appellate Court responded that 'we are not convinced that as an aged felon Marshall should be categorically immune from incarceration.' Mr. Marshall will be 89 at the end of May. 'The lack of a criminal history is an ordinary circumstance that does not vitiate a prison term for obtaining millions of dollars through financial abuse of an elderly victim,' the judge declared and the Post reported. And so ends The Final Act of The Tale of Roberta Brooke Russell Kuser Marshall Astor, daughter of a Marine Commandant (on duty) born in Portsmith, New Hampshire one hundred and eleven years ago, and died six years ago this August in her mansion at Briarcliff Manor, New York, a wisp of her former self at 105, and woebegotten. It is a saga, and the final chapters have yet to be told. I did not buy the story the way it was presented in the media. The public relations strategy beginning with the innuendo accusing the son of elder abuse was entirely untrue and an outright smear. As much as its proponents reveled in it, they besmirched the memory of the mother with it. There were several forces operating and all, obviously, in their own interest, the son and his wife notwithstanding. It may be that Mr. Marshall fiddled with the facts of his mother’s will. This is not an unusual circumstance, and yes it is illegal. Wills are Wars and often fought to the death beyond the death. Furthermore, the mother had made more than 30 different wills in her life and each of them saw substantial changes in terms of bequests and the bequeathed. So it remained a power tool for the lady as well it should." (NYSocialDiary)

"Earlier this month an NBC executive contacted Anderson Cooper with a question that would flatter and intrigue just about anyone. Would Mr. Cooper, the biggest star of CNN, consider replacing Matt Lauer on the 'Today' show in the months to come? Mr. Cooper may have told NBC he was not interested. Nonetheless, the entreaty indicates that NBC executives are actively talking about a succession plan for Mr. Lauer, whose future on 'Today' has been the source of widespread speculation in recent months. Mr. Lauer, a star of the 'Today' show for the better part of two decades, signed a contract last year — believed to pay him $25 million a year — that keeps him at the network at least through the end of 2014. But the recent outreach to Mr. Cooper, described by people on condition of anonymity, suggests that NBC might remove Mr. Lauer from his co-host chair before then, or that Mr. Lauer might ask to be replaced. The call from NBC was first reported Tuesday night by It was so surprising that some television industry executives thought the story was untrue, chalking it up to troublemaking by agents or rival networks. But three people with knowledge of the call confirmed that it happened, and said they too were taken aback by it. The people insisted on anonymity because the call was considered confidential. It is unclear who at NBC made the call to Mr. Cooper. The news division does not currently have a president. Patricia Fili-Krushel, the chairwoman of the NBCUniversal News Group, who oversees the news division, previously worked at Time Warner, the parent of CNN, for nearly a decade. An NBC News spokeswoman declined to comment about the circumstances of the call or about’s report that Mr. Lauer later called Mr. Cooper to 'express his disapproval.'" (NYTimes)

"(Lisa Robinson) Do you still love doing the Fallon show or do you feel trapped in this day job?
(Questlove).: I definitely thrive on it. After being the hip-hop, touring version of the Grateful Dead or Phish for 17 years, the Roots wanted to retire off the road. Also, most of the band are domesticated with wives and kids. And this show had the power to make the Roots do something we’d never done—rehearse. For the first two years here, we did three to five hours every day—we needed a database because they were constantly coming to us saying, we need a Motown reference, we need a Doors reference. L.R.: Are you settled down with anyone? Q.: I cannot keep a girlfriend longer than seven months. I have 12 jobs. I don’t have time for my personal life. I’m fully aware that this is the sacrifice. I hate holidays because it’s the quietest; it’s the most deafening sound in my apartment. L.R.: You’ve said that your parents were very strict, you couldn’t curse, and you had to hide your Prince albums? Q.: I had to come home at exactly four P.M. If Oprah comes on [the TV] and you’re not in the house, you’re grounded for the next two weeks. I’m sure part of my dad’s plan was to keep me home, drumming in the basement and away from the streets. But also to cement my future." (Vanityfair)

"Don’t count out Jeffrey Deitch just yet. It looked like the former New York art dealer’s days as the director of the cash-poor Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles might be numbered when the rival Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) recently proposed a merger. But two of Deitch’s biggest supporters stepped forward yesterday with $40 million. Jeffrey Soros, a nephew of hedge- fund billionaire George Soros, and Eugenio Lopez, the heir to Mexico’s Jumex fruit-juice giant, pledged to triple MOCA’s endowment to $60 million. Asked if the move was basically telling LACMA to take their merger offer and shove it, Deitch told The Post’s Los Angeles correspondent Richard Johnson: 'The option is still open, but the MOCA trustees are committed to trying to stay independent.'" (PageSix)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Media-Whoere D'Oeuvres

"Once compared to Citizen Kane’s Xanadu, Palazzo Chupi, the pink West Village mansion where Julian Schnabel presides over his large family and a cavalry of assistants, is an ornate doily of concrete, a symbol if not of Cupid, then of cupidity. I arrived there on Valentine’s Day. Mr. Schnabel’s studio is on the third floor, a large white space, paint-splashed, with a single sliver of a window letting in light from the sun, which was beginning to set over the Hudson River. Two assistants watched as Olmo Schnabel, Julian’s college-age son, tinkered with a five-foot-tall cardboard sculpture shaped like a missile. The room was hung with Mr. Schnabel’s 'Goat' paintings, a recent series of enormous canvases made from a reprinted image taken from 19th-century Dufour wallpaper. They depict a Redcoat army marching through a bucolic valley, a scene onto which the artist has drizzled purple paint and transposed an illustration of a large white goat. A realist portrait of Dennis Hopper, high up on a wall, gazed over the goats like a shepherd. Mr. Schnabel entered the room quietly, almost sheepishly, and everyone kept going about their business. He is 61 and on the short side, with a slight paunch, a patchy beard and slicked-back hair. He was wearing yellow-tinted glasses and a black jacket with an image printed on the back of one of his “Big Girl” paintings—a blond girl in a blue dress with a sinister smile and a slash of black paint obscuring her eyes. Mr. Schnabel has been known for walking around the city in paint-splattered silk pajamas, a gesture considered by some to be the pinnacle of 1980s hedonism, but that day he was in jeans and work boots. He went over to his son and asked what the cardboard sculpture was for. It was a project for an art class at Bard College. 'I have to spell out my name somewhere on it,' Olmo Schnabel said.Mr. Schnabel picked up the sculpture. 'I’ll tell you what,' he said, pointing to the square bottom of the piece, 'you’ve got an ‘O’ right here.' He gestured to a crease running roughly through its center. 'And that’s your L. You can use duct tape to put an M right here.' Olmo stared blankly. 'I’m just worried that there are requirements—' 'Listen,' Mr. Schnabel said. 'Screw them. They don’t know what they want.' He suggested his son style the sculpture so he could do something practical with it later, maybe use it as a lampshade. He placed the sculpture on his head, then held it to his eye and looked through the hole in the bottom. 'You should do what you want,' he said, 'but I think that’s what you should do.' Mr. Schnabel turned to me. 'I’ve been making these portraits of the Brant children. Plate paintings. Would you like to see them?'" (GalleristNY)
Media Whore D'oeuvres

"For years before the crisis, Cyprus promoted itself as an offshore financial center by creating a tax structure and banking rules that made depositing money in the country attractive to foreigners. As a result, Cyprus' financial sector grew to dwarf the rest of the Cypriot economy, accounting for about eight times the country's annual gross domestic product and employing a substantial portion of the nation's work force. A side effect of this strategy, however, was that if the financial sector experienced problems, the rest of the domestic economy would not be big enough to stabilize the banks without outside help. Europe's economic crisis spawned precisely those sorts of problems for the Cypriot banking sector. This was not just a concern for Cyprus, though. Even though Cyprus' banking sector is tiny relative to the rest of Europe's, one Cypriot bank defaulting on what it owed other banks could put the whole European banking system in question, and the last thing the European Union needs now is a crisis of confidence in its banks. The Cypriots were facing chaos if their banks failed because the insurance system was insufficient to cover the claims of depositors. For its part, the European Union could not risk the financial contagion. But Brussels could not simply bail out the entire banking system, both because of the precedent it would set and because the political support for a total bailout wasn't there. This was particularly the case for Germany, which would carry much of the financial burden and is preparing for elections in September 2013 before an electorate that is increasingly hostile to bailouts. Even though the German public may oppose the bailouts, it benefits immensely from what those bailouts preserve. As I have pointed out many times, Germany is heavily dependent on exports and the European Union is critical to those exports as a free trade zone. Although Germany also imports a great deal from the rest of the bloc, a break in the free trade zone would be catastrophic for the German economy. If all imports were cut along with exports, Germany would still be devastated because what it produces and exports and what it imports are very different things. Germany could not absorb all its production and would experience massive unemployment. Currently, Germany's unemployment rate is below 6 percent while Spain's is above 25 percent. An exploding financial crisis would cut into consumption, which would particularly hurt an export-dependent country like Germany. Berlin's posture through much of the European economic crisis has been to pretend it is about to stop providing assistance to other countries, but the fact is that doing so would inflict pain on Germany, too. Germany will make its threats and its voters will be upset, but in the end, the country would not be enjoying high employment if the crisis got out of hand. So the German game is to constantly threaten to let someone sink, while in the end doing whatever has to be done." (STRATFOR)

"He had just flown across the country after an exhausting campaign day in Oregon and South Dakota, landing at the White House after dark. But President Bill Clinton still had more business before bed. He picked up a pen and scrawled out his name, turning a bill into law. It was 10 minutes before 1 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21, 1996, and there were no cameras, no ceremony. The witching-hour timing bespoke both political calculation and personal angst. With his signature, federal law now defined marriage as the union of a man and woman. Mr. Clinton considered it a gay-baiting measure, but was unwilling to risk re-election by vetoing it.  For nearly 17 years since, that middle-of-the-night moment has haunted Mr. Clinton, the source of tension with friends, advisers and gay rights supporters. He tried to explain, defend and justify. He asked for understanding. Then he inched away from it bit by bit. Finally this month, he disavowed the Defense of Marriage Act entirely, urging that the law be overturned by the Supreme Court, which takes up the matter on Wednesday on the second of two days of arguments devoted to same-sex marriage issues. Rarely has a former president declared that an action he took in office violated the Constitution. But Mr. Clinton’s journey from signing the Defense of Marriage Act to repudiating it mirrors larger changes in society as same-sex marriage has gone from a fringe idea to one with a majority. 'President Clinton has evolved on this issue just like every American has evolved,' said Chad Griffin, who worked as a junior press aide in Mr. Clinton’s White House and now heads the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s most prominent gay rights organization." (NYTimes)

"What parts of America have been growing during these years of sluggish economic growth?Answers come from comparing the Census Bureau’s just-released estimates of metro-area populations in July 2012 with the results of the Census conducted in 2010. The focus here is on the 51 metro areas with populations of more than 1 million where 55 percent of Americans live, most of them, of course, not in central cities but in suburbs and exurbs. Two growth champs stick out — Austin and Raleigh. A half-century ago, neither of them amounted to much. The counties now in metro Austin had 300,000 people in 1960. Those in metro Raleigh had 260,000. Now metro Austin is 1,834,000, and metro Raleigh is 1,188,000. Austin’s population grew by 6.9 percent and Raleigh’s by 5.1 in 2010-12. That’s huge growth in just two years. Both are high-tech centers with major universities. They had the biggest rate of domestic in-migration of any million-plus metro areas in 2010-2012. They both have reputations as cool cities. More important, they both have creative and vibrant private sector economies, fostered by relatively low tax rates and sensible regulation. Raleigh’s taxes and cost of living compare favorably with those in most states in the Northeast. Austin is attracting a lot of people from California, where the top income tax rate is now 13.3 percent. Texas’s income tax rate is zero. Next on the growth list are Texas’s three other million-plus metros, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, which grew by 4.3 percent in 2010-12. Their populations grew by 622,000 people. That’s 12 percent of the entire nation’s population gain during that period. It’s more than metro New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, Hartford and Providence combined. Texas is making a huge contribution to the nation’s demographic and economic growth. Not far behind are Orlando, Fla., with its tourism industry; Denver in healthy Colorado (the nation’s lowest obesity rates); Metro Washington, DC, which has the advantage of federal tax dollars pouring in; Metro Miami, where growth is greatest in farther-north Broward and Palm Beach counties; Charlotte, NC, the nation’s No. 2 banking center; Oklahoma City (natural gas); Phoenix, Ariz. (though immigration is way down); Nashville, Tenn. (health care and music); Salt Lake City (high birth rates); Seattle (high-tech, despite the rain); and Atlanta. On the other end of the growth list, metro Cleveland, Detroit and Buffalo are continuing to lose population, as their central cities empty out and inner suburbs age." (Michael Barone)

"Steven A. Cohen, whose SAC Capital just settled two insider-trading lawsuits with the government for $616 million, has bought himself a gift — Picasso’s 'Le Rêve' for $155 million, Page Six has exclusively learned. Billionaire Cohen secretly bought the masterpiece from Vegas mogul Steve Wynn, who famously put his elbow through the 1932 painting of Picasso’s mistress, creating a six-inch tear. The price is estimated to be the highest ever paid for an artwork by a US collector — and it’s even more impressive because Wynn had previously agreed to sell the masterpiece to Cohen for $139 million in 2006, but accidentally tore the painting the following day. A source told Page Six, 'Steve bought ‘Le Rêve’ as a gift to himself. This was supposed to be a top- secret sale because of the government investigation and settlement.' It reaped a hefty profit for Wynn, who also got a $45 million insurance payout after he elbowed the painting while showing it off to friends including Nora Ephron at his Las Vegas office. Wynn, who suffers from vision problems, agreed at the time to release Cohen from the sale and repair it. Now he has sold it to Cohen for $16 million more than the pre-damage price. Another source told us, 'Steve has wanted that painting for a long time. The timing of the sale is just a coincidence.' In what officials are calling the largest-ever settlement of an insider-trading action, SAC Capital Advisors LP agreed March 15 to pay securities regulators more than $600 million to resolve a civil lawsuit related to improper trading." (PageSix)

"Which, speaking of Palm Beach, it’s not quiet down there. The Season is in full swing. For those who keep track of these things, the high season starts its glorious wind down after the Preservation Ball, which is the first Friday in March. In the 1930s and 1940s the last time Palm Beach had this kind of social dynamic, the season lasted six weeks – February 10 through the end of March. And then it was on to the next. Nowadays with easy jet travel, they come and go throughout the colder months up north. And a lot of these fragile ones begin to get chilly up north by late October. Meanwhile, Rosita, Duchess of Marlborough arrived in PB on March 10. After a few weeks in Barbados. And she will be in PB until the end of this week. Rosita lives near Blenheim Palace at Lee Place where her former husband, the duke, grew up. When Rosita and the duke were married, they lived in the house during the summer when there were many tourists visiting Blenheim Palace. Rosita was given the house as part of her divorce settlement. She also has a house in London, what some say is a jewel of a house in St. Jean Cap Ferrat. Let’s hope so. Sunny, The Duke of Marlborough and his Duchess, Lily Mahtani are also in Palm Beach, at their apartment at the Everglades Club. Sunny (whose nickname derives from his first title Earl of Sunderland) has been coming to Palm Beach since he was a little one, visiting his grannie, another former Duchess of Marlborough, Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan and her husband Jacques. Another former little one, Lord Charles Spencer-Churchill, brother of the duke, who has been coming to visit grannie since he was knee high to a grasshopper, has also been in Palm Beach recently, along with his charming best friend Sarah Goodbody. Those Brits never liked those big old draughty country houses when all those March winds are howling about." (NYSocialDiary)

"Speaking of private islands reminds me of a time long ago when I sold up and relocated to a private island in French Polynesia. My senior year was at a high school in the Rocky Mountains where I met Taha, a Tahitian lass. We bonded over our love of adventure and even engaged in a few explorations of our own devising. After high school Taha went west and I east and for the next decade or so we kept in touch by phone. The years piled up and we toiled in drab jobs. One day Taha learned she had inherited a cute little atoll in Tahiti. In a trice Taha took up residence and invited me to join, 'Just bring a bicycle, stay as long as you like,' she said. I was tantalized and soon I was extricating myself from a job and an apartment I did not love. A cab dropped me at JFK and left me in a pile on the curb with my brand new bicycle, my bags and my ticket to ride, and thus began the thrills. First one plane to LA and then another out into the middle of the Pacific Ocean. We landed in Papeete in a hurricane and were advised by the police to immediately seek shelter. My bike had been crushed by so many handlers so I dragged the thing out of the airport and there was Taha. We hugged and shrieked, as females do, and then we drove for half an hour past trees bending horizontally and metal roofs peeling from houses. At last we parked in a gated garden bordering a bay. Half a mile out was the island, a bushy green headdress of palm trees. 'We’ll come get your stuff tomorrow,' said my hostess, locking up the car. We hopped into a canoe and Taha paddled us off to paradise. That night we got plastered and Taha played the ukelele quite at odds with the noisy storm. Next morning Taha handed me a cup of coffee and then startlingly, she dashed up a palm tree and untwisted a coconut which she slashed with a machete and poured the milk elixir into our coffees. I was stunned. 'I’m never leaving!' I declared and we clanked cups. We got back in the canoe and oared across to the mainland to fetch my stuff. Scattered on the sandy ground all around the car were glass particles, like snow. The back window was smashed. And all my gear was gone, including the bike." (Christina Oxenberg)

Monday, March 25, 2013

The McLaughlin Group 3/22

The Walking Dead

On MSNBC's News/Opinion breakdown

via tvnewser
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"To MSNBC president Phil Griffin, news is war. And not one of those fancy modern wars fought by drones and computer hackers, either. 'We are in a knife fight for every viewer,' he says often, and: 'We are on the battleground.' So, this winter, as Blizzard Nemo was bearing down on New York City, Griffin bunkered his top executives at the downtown Ritz Carlton for the cable news version of a military training exercise. A Navy SEAL spoke to them about how to manage fear during combat. They toured the September 11 museum, where they discussed the pressures of public scrutiny with the museum’s president. And, later, they participated in drills designed to sharpen their competitive instincts, including one where teams of two each created a specialty cocktail they felt 'embodied MSNBC.' Bill Wolff, Rachel Maddow’s executive producer, joked that the last event combined two things that Griffin loves most: 'talking about MSNBC and having a cocktail.' One pair chose a Michelada (beer, lime juice, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce) and explained that the drink conveyed MSNBC’s spice and unpredictability. Another chose a champagne cocktail (sugar cube soaked in angostura bitters, an ounce of cognac, champagne, and a twist of lemon), describing it, and the second-place cable news network, as classic, original, and unafraid to tell the 'bitter' truth. A third mixed Gosling rum, Mezcal, and chocolate bitters and dubbed it 'The Heart and the Fist,' which was the theme of the day’s activities and also the title of the SEAL’s memoir. In its cocktail incarnation, it was intended to convey MSNBC’s strength and compassion. Griffin, a vodka drinker, picked a Guinness. It was an “acquired taste,” he explained." (TNR)

“if Matt Lauer doesn’t want to be seen with sharp knives, it’s because last summer his co-host Ann Curry was discovered with one in her back. She was swiftly replaced by a younger, more genial woman, Savannah Guthrie. Ever since, Lauer has been the prime suspect in Curry’s virtual demise. Five million viewers, the majority of them women, would not soon forget how Curry, the intrepid female correspondent and emotionally vivid anchor, spent her last appearance on the Today show couch openly weeping, devastated at having to leave after only a year. The image of Matt Lauer trying to comfort her—and of Curry turning away from his attempted kiss—has become a kind of monument to the real Matt Lauer, forensic evidence of his guilt. The truest truism of morning-TV shows is that they are like families, or aspire to be—it’s a matter of practiced artifice, faked from the first minute to the last. But reality can’t always be kept out of the picture. On Curry’s final day, Lauer realized the scene was catastrophic even as cameras rolled. ’I think we all knew it at that moment,‘ says Lauer during an interview with his current co-hosts, Al ­Roker, Natalie Morales, and Guthrie. ‘And it just seemed like something—there was nothing we could do as it was happening, and we all felt bad about it.’ What followed was the implosion of the most profitable franchise in network television. After sixteen years as the No. 1 morning show in America, Today was worth nearly half a billion dollars a year in advertising revenue to NBC, the bedrock of its business. In the aftermath of the Curry debacle, the show lost half a million viewers and ceded first place in the ratings war to ABC’s Good Morning America, losing millions of dollars overnight. Blamed in the press for his co-host’s offing, Lauer has watched helplessly as his reputation gets battered week after week. When Chelsea Handler joked to him on Today earlier this month, ’You have a worse reputation than I do,‘ Lauer’s smile sharpened into something that wouldn’t make it past airport security.” (NYMag)

"Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-Ohio) son says he 'was pretty relieved' when his father wasn’t selected as GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s running mate. In an open letter about coming out to his family and friends published Monday in the Yale Daily News, Will Portman writes that the relief came from avoiding the glare of the media during the 2012 presidential race. He said Sen. Portman told the Romney campaign he was gay, and that Portman would be open about it on the campaign trail. 'When he ultimately wasn’t chosen for the ticket, I was pretty relieved to have avoided the spotlight of a presidential campaign,' Portman wrote. 'Some people have criticized my dad for waiting for two years after I came out to him before he endorsed marriage for gay couples. Part of the reason for that is that it took time for him to think through the issue more deeply after the impetus of my coming out. But another factor was my reluctance to make my personal life public.' Portman’s note details the college junior’s struggle to reveal his sexuality to his father and his dad’s decision, announced earlier this month, to reverse his stance and support same-sex marriage. While Portman’s son — one of the 57-year-old lawmaker’s three kids — says it’s been 'strange' to have his personal life splashed on the front pages of newspapers, he also calls it 'a privilege,' saying, 'Now, my friends at Yale and the folks in my dad’s political orbit in Ohio are all on the same page.'" (TheHill)

"But back to Paddy and his circle of friends. The leading players were the painter Niko Ghika, George Seferis (the ‘Colossus of Maroussi,’ as Henry Miller immortalized him), George Katsimbalis, and our hero Paddy. I only met Ghika and Paddy once—in 1978 or ’79—under unfortunate circumstances. Ghika is Jacob Rothschild’s father-in-law, and his paintings throughout his life have been fresh and clean and pure and naked of all pretense. I was lying at anchor in Corfu on Gianni Agnelli’s boat when my host asked me to go up at the Rothschild villa and ask them down to lunch. Back then it was the only way to communicate, unless the Rothschilds understood Morse code ... I went and ran into a strict nanny-like woman sunning herself on the terrace, asked her if Jacob Rothschild was there and was told he was out, so I left a message that the Agnellis were expecting them for lunch in the bay below. The nanny was not best pleased. In fact she was downright rude, but I don’t do rude from foreigners in my own country, so perhaps I was a tiny bit rude also. ('Listen you old hag, just give them the bloody message.') Then the Ghikas and the Rothschilds arrived, me never having met any of them before. And they looked rather peeved. The nanny turned out to be Dame Peggy Ashcroft, who had stayed behind. The atmosphere did not improve after Agnelli asked me to do the introductions—a strange request, as I had not met Paddy or Ghika before. I got them right, of course, but then introduced Jacob’s wife as his mother and his mother as his wife. Had it not been for Paddy’s brilliance (he recited poems and sang and told nonstop stories), the lunch would have been a disaster. Afterwards the Rothschild woman went to theSpectator’s editor, called me scum, and asked that he fire me." (Taki

”‘I was booted from boarding school in Connecticut, for being a punk rocker glued to a skateboard -- the official reason was lying about leaving campus without permission and it would have been my Pomfret School record-breaking fifth time in front of the 'DC,' the Disciplinary Committee. (Think a court-like scenario made up of grouchy preppy teachers and nerdy students -- my worst nightmare. So the second I got home to NYC, I snuck out and of course went clubbing. Naturally, I was busted by my parents. My mother told me, through fake, overly dramatic tears, that I was 'done' amongst nice people and belonged in jail. My mom always takes things next-level. It was late February and my parents were going on their annual trip to stay with fancy friends like Annette de la Renta in Lyford Cay in the Bahamas. My mother was 'terrified' to leave me 'to my own devices' in Manhattan. 'You're coming to Lyford with us and you'll work as a gardener the whole time at the house.' Needless to say, I never raked a single leaf. I was pissed at Pomfret and missed my hooligan friends. So I bought a bunch of those 'It's Better in the Bahamas' postcards with bodacious bikini babes and wrote every member of the [Disciplinary Committee]: 'Everything worked out for the best. I'm on the beach in the Bahamas and happier than ever. I heard Connecticut is really cold now. Off to Paris next.' Bad boys finish first!" (PeterDavis)

”Today we are featuring another one of those great obits from theThe Daily Telegraph of London. This one about a jewel thief. It’s impossible to read it and not think of the famous Alfred Hitchcock film ‘To Catch A Thief’ starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in which Grant plays a retired cat-burglar. That film was based on a real character named John Robie. The Telegraph obit is about an Englishman operating about the same time as the film, all over Europe. I was reading a lot of financial and economic news and commentary about chicanery that’s been going on internationally (I also saw Sheila Bair, former head of the FDIC on Bill Moyers, talking about it -- ‘not one person has gone to jail,’ she remarked) -- as well as the potentially mysterious death of another Russian oligarch, Boris Berezovsky over in the UK.  So the following story of a professional thief, came with a ‘lightness,’ the humorousness of this particular man’s life of crime. And it was crime; and he had not only a record but served several stints in prison for his crimes. Yet he took the high road in ‘confessing’ (he wrote a memoir) chosen profession and his victims, portraying himself as a kind of 20th century Robin Hood, milling about among the elites in the guise of a confrere.“ (NYSocialDiary)

"I went to a prep school called Lawrence Academy in Groton, Massachusetts, where the big pre-Spring Break treat was (and still remains) its 'Winterim' program, where for two weeks in March everyone chooses an 'intensive course of study' -- sailing in New Zealand or learning French in Paris or something. Anyway, my hockey player/student government boyfriend and I were caught having sex in his dorm and so we couldn't go to Costa Rica together to build houses for the poor or something. I dunno what we were going to do -- obviously the real plan was just to have more hot illicit teen sex! In abandoned doghouses or something. Anyway, I got suspended from Winterim as punishment and sent home to D.C. To get the project credit, I had to do two weeks of grueling psych ward rounds with my arch-nemesis to this very day: my bitchy hotshot psychiatrist DR. DAD! -- Who was so mad he wouldn't TALK to me, and we were in the car together three hours a day! (Not that I WANTED him to!) We left the house every day at 6:40 AM and got home every night at 8 PM. It was f-ing miserable and the only time in my life I felt true empathy for my aforementioned always-in-a-bitch-mood father. I wound up getting expelled from Lawrence for drugs like a month and a half after I came back from spring break -- just before graduation. But this time, I came home pregnant! Yes, with a giant Xanax bar. No, I had a gory second trimester abortion. The End." (CatMarnell)