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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

Pro-independence campaigners in George Square, in central Glasgow, a day before the Scottish independence referendum.
Pro-independence campaigners in George Square, in central Glasgow, a day before the Scottish independence referendum. Credit Photograph by Tolga Akmen / LNP /
"The cheerfully innumerate humanist enters into economic debate not just with trepidation but wearing a Kevlar vest and a combat helmet, plus a parachute for quick escape. But this non-economist might offer some insight into the psychology of the European players who, right now, are so baffling and frightening the punditariat in America. I refer to the French and the Scots, the Auld Alliance, as it’s called, after the—well, old—alliance that brought the late-medieval and early-modern kingdoms of Scotland and France together against the English. (There is still a pub in the Marais, in Paris, with just that name.) Why, we hear, are French politicians so reluctant to put up a fight against Angela Merkel and the politics of austerity, despite the harm they’ve done to the French economy? How can the Scots consider disuniting themselves from the English, when it’s plain that the economic consequences are likely to be disastrous?" (Adam Gopnik)

"Though Iran has been broadcasting pictures and videos of top state officials and noted foreign dignitaries visiting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the hospital, the health of the man who has held the most powerful post in the Islamic Republic remains unclear. The unusual public relations management of what has been described as a prostate surgery suggests Tehran may be preparing the nation and the world for a transition to a third supreme leader. Iranian efforts to project an atmosphere of normalcy conceal concerns among players in the Iranian political system that a power vacuum will emerge just as the Islamic republic has reached a geopolitical crossroads.
Any transition comes at the most crucial time in the 35-year history of the Islamic Republic due to unprecedented domestic political shifts underway and, more importantly, due to international events.
Pragmatic conservative President Hassan Rouhani's election in June 2013 elections led to a social, political and economic reform program facing considerable resistance from within the hard-right factions within the clerical and security establishments. The biggest issue between the presidential camp and its opponents is the ongoing process of negotiations with the United States over the Iranian nuclear program. After an unprecedented breakthrough in November 2013 that saw an interim agreement, the negotiation process has hit a major snag, with a final agreement not reached by a July 20, 2014, deadline, though the deadline for negotiations was extended to Nov. 24, 2014. Some form of partial agreement had been expected, with talks kicking into high gear ahead of the opening session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York on Sept. 18. A mood of pessimism in Tehran has since been reported, however, with senior Foreign Ministry officials prepping the media for the eventuality that the talks might fail. The risk of failure comes from the fact that Rouhani can only go so far in accepting caps on Iran's ability to pursue a civilian nuclear program before his hawkish opponents will gain the upper hand in Iran's domestic political struggle. Stratfor sources say Rouhani did not want to attend this year's General Assembly, but Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif reportedly convinced the president that his visit might help the negotiating process. As if the negotiation itself was not enough of a problem for Rouhani, the U.S. move to support rebel forces in Syria that would fight both the Islamic State and Iran's ally, the Assad regime, is a major problem for Tehran. U.S. and Iranian interests overlapped with regard to the IS threat in Iraq. But in Syria, the United States must rely on anti-Iranian actors to fight IS and the Obama administration seeks to topple the Assad regime. Accordingly, less than a year after the two sides embarked upon a rapprochement, tensions seem to be returning. On top of this stressor, uncertainties surrounding Khamenei's health have shifted Iran's priorities to the search for a new supreme leader. The unusual manner in which Tehran continues to telegraph Khamenei's hospitalization to show that all is well -- while at the same time psychologically preparing the country and the outside world for the inevitable change -- coupled with the (albeit unverified) 2010 release by WikiLeaks of a U.S. diplomatic cable reporting that the supreme leader was suffering from terminal cancer suggests the political establishment in Tehran is preparing for a succession." (STRATFOR)

*3 vacancies in House: 2 Safe D, 1 Safe R

"Another week is down the drain in the race for the Senate, and while our overall outlook is unchanged — a five to eight seat gain for the GOP — some of our ratings are in need of adjustments.
One of these comes as a surprise, as Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) is proving to be quite resilient.Several Democrats privately expressed to us earlier this year their pessimism about Hagan’s chances. They didn’t think she had the wherewithal and entrenched image of someone like Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who is a much more respected campaigner. But now those same Democrats, to their surprise, believe Hagan can now win. And we’ve seen a lot of polling, both public and private, indicating that she is ahead, though she’s closer to 45% than 50%, which is still tenuous territory for a Democratic incumbent in a Republican year. The problem for Republicans in the Tar Heel State is that Thom Tillis, their candidate and the speaker of the state House of Representatives, has particularly poor numbers for a challenger: His unfavorables are usually higher than his favorables, and not just by a few points. It’s not hard to imagine that a more generic Republican who is not tied to the unpopular state legislature — someone like Landrieu’s main challenger in Louisiana, nondescript Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) — would be doing better here. Hagan’s numbers aren’t great, either, though they appear to be improving: There’s some indication that her favorability is inching up to near an even split, meaning her favorability and unfavorability ratings would be about the same. And even though the president remains unpopular nationally, this state is several points more Democratic than Alaska, Arkansas, or Louisiana, three states where Democratic incumbents with deeper roots and better reputations as campaigners are in more trouble than Hagan is at the moment. President Obama’s not the drag here that he is in those states, though he is still a drag. For all these reasons, we’re moving North Carolina from Toss-up to Leans Democratic." (SabatosCrystalBall)

"CNN’s Fareed Zakaria is facing a growing list of plagiarism accusations with several recent examples coming from his CNN show. On Tuesday, the site OurBad Media, which has released previous examples of alleged plagiarism by Zakaria, released more than 20 new examples. We’ve reached out to CNN multiple times about the new claims, but have not received an on-the-record comment. A spokesperson referred us to previous comments given during earlier claims of plagiarism. The most recent example is a video compilation showing a clip from a 2011 episode of 'Fareed Zakaria GPS' matched with a 2010 documentary called 'Justice for Sergei.' The 'GPS' segment uses footage from the 2010 documentary, with an upper left courtesy, but Zakaria’s narration is lifted, nearly word-for-word, from the documentary. In another 2011 segment, Zakaria tracks a package on the lack of an operating government in Belgium. Parts of the wording in that story are identical to sections of a TIME article on the same subject." (TVNewser)

Taken from across the room with a zoom and terrible light. Paul, Judy and Tracey.

"Yesterday I didn’t get to the Michael’s lunch because my date canceled. I usually revel in cancellations especially if there’s a lot going on later in the day. Although I like seeing the crowd on Wednesdays because it gets an added zip to the turnout. Not infrequently stars – all kinds, political, business, media, movie, tv – appear and jazz up the atmosphere especially on Wednesday. So I wasn’t there, but I got a list from Steve Millington, the general manager, that gave me the rundown. A lot of familiar names to this reporter and probably to you too if you’re a regular reader even if you don’t know who the hell they are. I often don’t know either. Except New York works like any other neighborhood – if you see them around enough, and then you eventually hear a word or two about them or even meet them, and suddenly you 'know' them. Yesterday’s lineup looked like this. Joan Gelman and sons Josh and Gregg (Gregg is on our HOUSE); Nikki Haskell and Rikki Klieman; next to them were Shari and Ed Rollins with Robert Zimmerman at Table One. Just at Joe Armstrong’s usual table (he’s in Texas for the week) were Duh Boyz, Dr. Imber, Gerry Della Femina, Michael Kramer, Jeff Greenfield, Andy Bergman. At their usual table – next to the one they were at – was Linda Fairstein who was celebration her wedding with her pals Lynn Scherr, Esther Newberg, Faye Wattleton et al. Meanwhile at my usual table was Wednesday Martin with a gang of producers, Jason Binn of Du Jour  was right next door ... Last night I was the official host along with the beautiful Judy Collins for a booksigning and reception for Paul Williams and Tracey Jackson. Their book is called 'Gratitude & Trust; Six Affirmations that Will Change Your Life.' Paul, as you may know, has a story to tell that includes a trip down the rocky road to addiction and alcoholism. When he was at the top of his game." (NYSD)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

Getty Images

"The Republican Party’s path to Senate control runs straight through the South, leaving Democrats fighting not to be wiped out completely in the region. 'You’ve got a number of the key races in the South this year,' said Emory University Professor Alan Abramowitz, who’s studied the region’s political history extensively. Sens. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) are all in tough races, as is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and both parties are contesting the open seat in Georgia. If Republicans can sweep the South, they’ve already won a Senate majority. The GOP needs to net six seats and is a near-lock to pick up open seats in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia, leaving it three seats shy of a majority. But if Democrats can win two or more Southern seats, the GOP’s path to the majority narrows considerably, as it would have to pick off Alaska and Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado or another swing state to reach the majority. The region has been trending away from Democrats for decades, as conservative white voters abandon the party that once dominated the South. But North Carolina, Georgia and other areas with major urban centers have the potential to swing back to the Democratic Party thanks to big growth in those states’ nonwhite populations and an influx of white voters from less conservative parts of the country. Arguing history is on their side, Republicans are predicting extensive victories in the region. 'We feel we’re in a position to sweep the South,' said National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) spokeswoman Brook Hougesen. 'Right now each of the Democrats are spending heavily to tread water, their numbers aren’t moving at all. Undecided voters are likely to move to Republican candidates.' Democrats say they have the right kind of candidates to win in the tough region, banking on their centrist incumbents with long family history and state ties to bail them out.
'There’s no question the path to the majority runs through the South, where Democratic candidates are running smarter campaigns with better candidates who are out-raising and outworking their Republican opponents,' said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Justin Barasky. Democrats are feeling best about Hagan’s chances." (TheHill)

"The first time I laid eyes on Joan Rivers on a red carpet, she was wearing a muumuu and teased hair like my grandmother in Miami. I was covering the 1997 Oscars for Women's Wear Daily and stationed next to the E! camera crew -- and Joan, well, she was puking, it seemed. On camera.
I had just spotted what became one of the all-time most revered Oscar looks: Nicole Kidman's chartreuse chinoiserie-embroidered Dior gown. 'John [Galliano] made it for me, and I love it. I don't know if people will get it,' Nicole told me. "But if they don't, well, maybe they should." WWD gave her dress the next day's cover, pronouncing Galliano's ascension to red-carpet king. Up until this point, awards shows were predictable affairs -- parades of stately Armanis and sexy Versaces. Kidman brought the crackling excitement of couture, but Rivers wasn't having it. Knowing the dress would be controversial (it was on almost every top 10 or bottom 10 list, sometimes both), she yelled in her most obnoxious whiny New York Jewish accent: 'Nicole! Come tell me why you wore such an ugly color!' Whether the actress heard or not, she sailed by, leaving Joan screaming, 'I hate that color! You are making me puke!' And then Joan mimed puking noises. Graphically. Some of the other reporters were hysterical; some, cringing. This was exactly the response Rivers was going for. But in the fashion world, this kind of radical ambivalence was unheard of. 'If this is her idea of a fashion review,' I recall thinking, 'she's going nowhere in the fashion world.' Oh, how wrong I was. Sure, elitist journalists found her crass and turned up their sculpted noses when Rivers and daughter Melissa started E! red-carpet coverage at the 1994 Golden Globes. They knew nothing about fashion. All they did was bicker and hurl (literally, sometimes) insults. It didn't even seem like they meant their sartorial snark. And you weren't going to find Joan or Melissa in Valentino, Dior or Armani.While I interviewed her for a notorious W magazine piece in 1999 -- as it was becoming clear that ratings, not runways, were determining who got the last wardrobe word -- Rivers admitted she knew next to nothing about fashion. 'No, I don't go to fashion shows,' she said proudly. 'I couldn't tell you about Karl [Lagerfeld]'s last season. But I do know what I like, and that's what fashion is really about. I don't care what those snobby people think. I'm laughing all the way to the bank -- at least I'm laughing! They never crack a smile. They all have sticks up their tiny asses!' Rather than try to take down Rivers in print myself, I called upon Amy Spindler, the now-late legendary fashion critic of The New York Times. Spindler dismissed the comic's commentary as the worst trash and became Rivers' favorite new target on her radio show: 'Why should I be the only one to say we don't like the fashion section of the Times magazine? I want to see if she can wear a pink thing with a safety pin, which she featured last week. I have a feeling she's one of those all-in-black ladies.' Spindler shot back: '[Rivers] told everyone she did windows at B. Altman, so I could ask her if she used Windex when she did the windows.' But what the high fashion world of the late '90s failed to grasp was the beginning of its sinking relevance, as bloggers were ascending and fashion was going the way of armchair home critics." (THR)

"It's no secret that James Brown had a dark side. This summer's biopic Get On Up left out many of the weird, uncomfortable, and simply violent incidents that Brown instituted or participated in. But it wasn't until now that we've been able to get a look at just how frightening the singer could be. Earlier this month, his daughter Yamma Brown published a memoir titled Cold Sweat: My Father James Brown and Me (co-written with Robin Gaby Fisher) that details her life growing up with her often volatile dad. In the excerpt below, Yamma flashes back to a moment when Brown beat her mother in front of her and her sister, then writes about how that violent legacy stayed with her into adulthood.''The beatings always begin the same way, with the same terrible sounds. My parents are in their bedroom, behind closed doors. First comes the boom of my father’s voice. 'Dee Dee! Goddamn it, Dee Dee!' Then I hear what sounds like thunder rolling through the house. That’s Mom hitting the wall. I wait for her to scream, but she doesn’t. She whimpers. She must have learned long ago that screaming incites him. I swear that during those fights, I could feel the whole house shake with my father’s crazy rage. Whenever he’d start, my sister Deanna and I would run for cover, usually in a closet or under our beds, and cry quietly into our cupped hands. I shook a lot as a kid. My hands. My face. My knees. A 5-year-old with tremors. As my grandma used to say, 'Ain’t that just the saddest thing?' Sometimes the fights lasted only minutes. Sometimes longer. The monster would appear, wreaking havoc on our lives, and then the rumbling would stop and we’d hear our mother’s muffled cries. After that, the house would go completely quiet. The sound of the silence was the worst because that’s when Deanna and I would wonder if our mother were alive or dead and if we would be next. My father never beat us, but sometimes I think a beating would have been less hurtful than hearing the sounds of him using my mother as his punching bag. " (NYMag)

"Smiling Through the Apocalypse" at Lincoln Plaza Cinema, playing today, Sept 17th and Thursday

"Right now over at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, they’re showing 'Smiling Through the Apocalypse', a biography/documentary by Tom Hayes about his father the late Harold Hayes, the editor of Esquire magazine in the 1960s. Esquire was one of the most popular, most influential, most talked about magazines of the time, all under the direction of Harold Hayes. The film has recollections of Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe, James Baldwin, William F. Buckley, Gore Vidal, Gay Talese. I don’t really know the story about Mr. Hayes, his life or his personality although I knew of his days at Esqiure, because it was what we now call 'cutting edge,' a must read, and it was because of Harold Hayes.What drew my attention to Tom Hayes’ film was my own very brief but important experience with Harold Hayes back in Los Angeles in the early 1980s when I was out there struggling without any success to make a career for myself as a writer. It was a very difficult time for me emotionally. I’d been out there for two years and making little headway, and even littler money. I had a terrible job working as an assistant to a film producer named Lester Persky who had very little going on in terms of production and was often in New York. Finally I managed to get a couple of writing assignments – helping someone put together a chapter and outline for a memoir, and writing a chapter and outline for another writer who had been contracted to write a book about Elvis Presley.Nevertheless both assignments were temporary and I was at my wit’s end. My only real writing was my daily journals much of which was an ongoing litany of complaints and inconsequential injustices that afflict the struggling artist, would be or otherwise. Aside from my personal drama, one night after a day at the fatigue-inducing assignments for other people’s projects, I sat at my desk and started going through my journal pages, looking for something that I could maybe turn into a story, or a script, something  that was mine. Aside from my mental dramatics I also wrote what I continue to do on these pages: about the day, what I saw, what I heard, where I was. And it happened. There was an entry, made in late 1980 about Truman Capote who had come to Los Angeles to meet with Lester Persky about a story he had originally written for Interview Magazine called 'Hand-carved Coffins' that he had just published in a book of his work called 'Music For Chameleons.' Lester was buying the film rights for $500,000. Truman was a major author and celebrity whose reputation at that point had been touched with notoriety. This was big time. " (NYSD)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Card Tricks with Willie Nelson

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"The idea of Scottish independence has moved from the implausible to the very possible. Whether or not it actually happens, the idea that the union of England and Scotland, which has existed for more than 300 years, could be dissolved has enormous implications in its own right, and significant implications for Europe and even for global stability. The United Kingdom was the center of gravity of the international system from the end of the Napoleonic Wars until World War II. It crafted an imperial structure that shaped not only the international system but also the internal political order of countries as diverse as the United States and India. The United Kingdom devised and drove the Industrial Revolution. In many ways, this union was a pivot of world history. To realize it might be dissolved is startling and reveals important things about the direction of the world.Scotland and England are historical enemies. Their sense of competing nationhoods stretches back centuries, and their occupation of the same island has caused them to fight many wars. Historically they have distrusted each other, and each has given the other good reason for the distrust. The national question was intertwined with dynastic struggles and attempts at union imposed either through conquest or dynastic intrigue. The British were deeply concerned that foreign powers, particularly France, would use Scotland as a base for attacking England. The Scots were afraid that the English desire to prevent this would result in the exploitation of Scotland by England, and perhaps the extinction of the Scottish nation. The Union of 1707 was the result of acts of parliaments on both sides and led to the creation of the Parliament of Great Britain. England's motive was its old geopolitical fears. Scotland was driven more by financial problems it was unable to solve by itself. What was created was a united island, acting as a single nation. From an outsider's perspective, Scotland and England were charming variations on a single national theme -- the British -- and it was not necessary to consider them as two nations. If there was ever a national distinction that one would have expected to be extinguished in other than cultural terms, it was this one. Now we learn that it is intact. We need a deeper intellectual framework for understanding why Scottish nationalism has persisted ...
The possibility of Scottish independence must be understood in this context. Nationalism, the remembrance and love of history and culture, is not a trivial thing. It has driven Europe and even the world for more than two centuries in ever-increasing waves. The upcoming Scottish election, whichever way it goes, demonstrates the enormous power of the desire for national self-determination. If it can corrode the British union, it can corrode anything. There are those who argue that Scottish independence could lead to economic problems or complicate the management of national defense. These are not trivial questions, but they are not what is at stake here. From an economic point of view, it makes no sense for Scotland to undergo this sort of turmoil. At best, the economic benefits are uncertain. But this is why any theory of human behavior that assumes that the singular purpose of humans is to maximize economic benefits is wrong. Humans have other motivations that are incomprehensible to the economic model but can be empirically demonstrated to be powerful. If this referendum succeeds, it will still show that after more than 300 years, almost half of Scots prefer economic uncertainty to union with a foreign nation. This is something that must be considered carefully in a continent that is prone to extreme conflicts and still full of borders that do not map to nations as they are understood historically. Catalonia, whose capital is Barcelona, the second-largest and most vibrant city in Spain, has a significant independence movement. The Treaty of Trianon divided Hungary so that some Hungarians live in Romania, while others live in Slovakia. Belgium consists of French and Dutch groups (Walloons and Fleming), and it is not too extreme to say they detest each other. The eastern half of Poland was seized by the Soviet Union and is now part of Ukraine and Belarus. Many Chechens and Dagestanis want to secede from Russia, as do Karelians, who see themselves as Finns. There is a movement in northern Italy to separate its wealthy cities from the rest of Italy. The war between Azerbaijan and Armenia is far from settled. Myriad other examples can be found in Europe alone." (STRATFOR)

Scott Browns Path Back to D.C. Widens

"Former Sen. Scott P. Brown’s path to victory in the New Hampshire Senate race has widened.
Once a second-tier race that seemed unlikely to impact control of the Senate, a trio of recent polls show the race between Brown and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., has tightened.A CNN/ORC poll released Monday had the race tied at 48 percent. A WMUR/UNH poll from early August put Shaheen ahead, 46 percent to 44 percent. A CBS/New York Times/YouGov poll conducted in the final weeks of August and early September had Shaheen with 47 percent to Brown’s 41 percent.
Shaheen remains the front-runner, but even Democrats acknowledge the race has moved to a single-digit contest — and Republicans are more bullish about Brown’s chances than ever. 'Everyone is more optimistic, almost without exception, than they were two months ago,' New Hampshire Republican political operative Charlie Arlinghaus said of Republicans. 'Part of it is that it just feels more Republican on the ground than it did, it feels like the mood leans more right than it did.'Republicans say Brown has impressed with his campaigning and suggest voters have largely moved past the idea that the former Massachusetts senator is a carpetbagger. 'He’s a bear on retail politicking, and I think that’s a big thing here,' said New Hampshire Republican operative Tom Rath. 'He’s been at every pub and diner in the state, and he seems to just relish that.'As for the carpetbagging, Rath said people have sort of gotten over it. 'We know he’s a Red Sox fan,' Rath said.
Democrats acknowledge the race is competitive, but say they believe it will break in Shaheen’s favor by single digits. 'I think Jeanne Shaheen will win,' said Kathy Sullivan, a former chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. 'It could be six points; it could be seven or eight.'" (RollCall)

The Hedge Fund Scam Is Unraveling

"CALPERS is America's largest pension fund, with $300 billion in assets. It just announced that it is pulling all of its money out of hedge funds. Why? Because everyone knows that hedge funds are a ripoff. CALPERS had about $4 billion invested in hedge funds. They paid $135 million in fees on those investments last year. They are pulling all that money out of hedge funds, citing both their complexity and their expense. Hedge funds operate by convincing investors to pay extremely high fees to hedge fund managers (whether the hedge fund makes money for investors or not) because hedge fund managers are presumably magical geniuses. Sadly, time has shown that hedge funds as an asset class are not worth the price. There seems to be a distinct shortage of actual magical geniuses.
Honest finance experts have long known that the idea that investing in hedge funds will earn you better returns than investing in other, plainer, cheaper things like stocks and bonds is "a demonstrably wrong perception." In CALPERS's decision, we have a large-scale acknowledgment of that fact.
The people who will continue to defend hedge funds are either A) People who have something to gain, such as hedge fund employees; B) People who have themselves invested in hedge funds, and are holding out hope that they will be the ones to beat the odds and strike it rich, much like lottery players hold out hope of finding the unlikely winning ticket; or C) People who do not know what they're talking about. "  (HamiltonNolan/Gawker)

"There was a book party last night. Celia and Henry McGee and Geraldine Baum and Michael Oreskes gave a party for their friend Mark Whitaker and his new book 'Cosby: His Life and Times' (Simon & Schuster, publishers). I haven’t read it yet, haven’t even seen it yet, but it’s had a lot of attention because Cosby is the biggest laidback version of a Big Star that there is out there. I mean, there’s no ballyhoo about the guy — he lives a very quiet life (last I knew he was living for years with his wife in a major limestone mansion on the Upper East Side). I don’t think I’ve ever seen him around the nabe (which doesn’t mean he doesn’t go out), and aside from the tabloidal scandals which include a terrible family tragedy, you never hear much about him. But he’s a big star, has had a successful career for a half century, still goes out there and plays to large sold out houses doing his monologues a hundred times a year, and even allegedly had a major influence in the consumer culture that even the Kardashians can’t complete with. I’m talking about the 'sneaker' story. I say allegedly because I was told the story years ago by someone in the television production business who’d worked on or with the Cosby show. The story is this (and I’ve told it on these pages before): Back when Cosby was doing the show, and taping in Los Angeles, one day the star came onto the set wearing what we used to call sneakers. They were a major name: Adidas or Nike, something like that. This doesn’t sound remarkable today, but until that moment people — stars — didn’t wear 'sneakers' (which is what they were called for decades before) to the set. By that time, however, the athletic shoe and the aforementioned labels among them, had begun to build their market — although .... After a couple of weeks, the directors and the writers and other actors started following the Star’s fashion choice, and wearing sneakers to the set. And after a couple of months maybe, everyone on the set was wearing them. And a few months after that, everyone in the business was wearing them.It was a trend at the time, a change of costume. Nothing new about that — from the late '60s on, Americans have been trending in their costume, all in a 'more relaxed' direction. Within a year or so, the world  was wearing sneakers as everyday footwear. Cosby did that; no credit needed. Probably never saw a dime from it.  In other words, the man’s influence is quiet and wide, and profoundly cultural. There is an article in last week’s New Yorker by Kelefa Sanneh which you can get online that covers the story at some length." (NYSD)

"You don’t need psychic powers to know that September has been rough on astrologer to the stars Susan Miller: Her monthly report arrived late Friday night, nearly halfway into the month. With each passing day, Miller made allusions to the chronic illness (intestinal ulcers, injections, Humira, lowered immunity, side-effect drowsiness) slowing her normally heroic output via Facebook and Twitter. And, as usual, Miller gave all 48,000 words (the equivalent of Slaughterhouse-Five) away for free. But that wasn’t enough to appease the Susanistas — the anti-Miller faction formed last time her reports ran late, in July — from griping on Miller’s Facebook page. They are accusing the astrologer of abandoning them, lying about her illness, unprofessionalism, and generally jerking them around. The Cut talked to Miller about the brewing backlash." (TheCut)

'An electorate reshaped by a growing presence of liberal millennials, minorities, and a secular, unmarried and educated white voting bloc will most likely force Republicans to recalibrate. … When Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980, white voters without a college degree made up 65 percent of the electorate; by 2012, that number had dropped to 36 percent.'
The latter statistic is more complicated than it seems, in large part because more people than ever are getting college degrees—33.5 percent of people between the ages of twenty-five and twenty-nine had a bachelor's degree in 2012, versus 24.7 percent in 1995 versus 21.9 percent in 1975, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Given that the rise has benefitted minorities and, in particular, women, while the share of people from low-income families attaining those degrees has "remained relatively flat over the last several decades," what's been eroded, in part, is the bastion of white men who were able to skip college and attain a middle-classish existence, leaving the remaining uneducated whites exposed and isolated, economically and, increasingly, socially—making them angrier and louder and, unfortunately for them, their views ever more toxic to the nationally minded politicians who once clamored for their votes. If Democrats can win today on issues of reproductive rights and gay marriage in the South—if only occasionally, for now—who will be left representing the poor, conservative white man in a decade? " (TheAwl)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Are Monopolies Good?

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Sen. Tom Harkin on Sunday said George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton were the two best presidents he’s worked with and listed George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter as the more difficult presidents he's seen in the White House. '[Bush] was just good to work with and then Bill Clinton; 'We had a great relationship and, you know, Bill Clinton only had a Democratic Congress for two years. He had a Republican Congress from then on' and he had the impeachment and all that. But even in the face of that, we had one of the best economic growths we’ve ever had in this country,' Harkin said on CNN's 'State of the Union.' George H.W. Bush signed Harkin’s Americans with Disabilities act into law. And Harkin said he had 'great esteem' for his work in the White House.The Iowa Democrat did not elaborate on why George W. Bush and Carter were his least favorite presidents." (Politico)

"Ibiza—This island is the Spanish equivalent of the Greek sex rock of Mykonos, except its waters are murkier, its nightclubs and restaurants far more expensive, but its hookers first class and not to be compared to anything selling itself in Greece ...No, I did not indulge, but I invited a few girls very late at night to come on board for a drink, and once done with their libations they offered sex. Now, sex is a hard subject to deal with in print, and I haven’t ever gone into details about it—it’s simply not my way—and I plan to keep it so. Perhaps if I had the comic talent of Jeremy Clarke, who recently wrote 900 words about how he held back a mob of Spaniards trying to burst into a public lavatory where his girl was chopping up coke while he was servicing her, then maybe. But my style is more suited to fulminating against social wrongs and crap such as PC, hence sex remains unmentionable. Which doesn’t mean that a young Spanish hooker who stripped to the waist and offered me a condom to help me make up my mind wasn’t a real beauty. The trouble was the day was just breaking, both Michael Mailer and I were dead drunk, the crew was casting anxious stares as the girls were freely circulating in and out of cabins, and the big race was about to start. So sex took a backseat for once, and off we went with high hopes for victory, as during the practices my boat was the fastest by far ... One thing that puzzled me was my friend Michael Mailer’s travel plans. He flew out from Spokane, Washington State, where he was scouting locations—Michael is the producer of the greatest film ever made, Seduced and Abandoned, starring Taki, Alec Baldwin, Ryan Gosling, and some lesser stars—via Los Angeles, New York, Berlin, then Ibiza. Now, I was never any good in geography, but going east in order to go west simply doesn’t make sense. Had Michael been drinking? My lips are sealed, but somehow his compass went all wrong. He flew for 20-some-odd hours to spend 48 hours without sleep on board my boat, to then fly another 20 hours back. He must be a travel agent’s dream, but I’m seriously worried about his health." (Taki)

"After amassing a private collection of African-American Art over four decades, Bill Cosby and his wife Camille plan to showcase their holdings for the first time in an exhibition planned at the Smithsonian Institution.The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art announced Monday that the entire Cosby collection will go on view in November in a unique exhibit juxtaposing African-American art with African art." (P6)

"(Bill) Cosby’s comedy is a celebration of the inevitable. The birth of a baby, the rebellion of a teen-ager, the irritation of a spouse: these are things to be endured and, if at all possible, enjoyed. But with the “pound cake” affair Cosby was calling for change, for a black cultural revolution, and in the process he inadvertently proved just how little influence he had, even—or especially—among African-Americans. For many who had been following his career, the dream of Cosby as the nation’s wise paterfamilias began to fade in 1989, when he gave a startling interview to the Los Angeles Times in which he discussed his daughter Erinn, then twenty-three, whose time at a drug-rehabilitation clinic had recently been uncovered by the National Enquirer. The news of her struggles was surely less damaging than Cosby’s intemperate reaction: he described her as 'really very selfish,' adding that she 'uses her boyfriends' and that she had the emotional maturity of an eleven-year-old.
According to Whitaker, Cosby reconciled with Erinn only after a tragedy: the death, in 1997, of his son Ennis, the model for Theo, who was murdered next to a California freeway by an eighteen-year-old immigrant from Ukraine. The same day that Ennis was killed, Cosby received a blackmail threat, via fax, from a young woman named Autumn Jackson, who claimed to be his daughter from an extramarital affair. Cosby denied paternity, and she was eventually convicted of conspiracy, extortion, and crossing a state line to commit a crime. But it was true that Cosby had had an affair with her mother, and the case forced him to acknowledge his infidelity. Whitaker acknowledges it, too, though he is scarcely more enthusiastic than his subject. He mentions Cosby’s 'roving eye' twice and tells a brief story about an unnamed 'longtime girlfriend.' To mark the demise of their relationship, Cosby invited her on what must have been a very strange goodbye date with him and her own mother. Stories like these can’t help but inform the way we hear Cosby’s routines depicting marriage as an ongoing project to train and socialize husbands. He once said that he knew he was getting older when he was no longer tempted by the prospect of 'sex with a young, beautiful girl who has plenty of energy.' But it’s not clear that age has rendered him entirely immune to such temptations. One night in 2003, filling in for David Letterman, Cosby conducted a rather unsettling interview with SofĂ­a Vergara, the Colombian actress, leaning in to her and murmuring inane questions in a pseudo-Spanish accent." (NewYorker)

"THIRTEEN YEARS ago I watched the historic and horrible events of 9/11 in real time from the windows of my 26th floor apartment in New York’s Murray Hill. I had a cinematically dramatic and unencumbered view of the Twin Towers as they burned and then fell. Although it seemed inappropriate to consider show biz and gossip and trivia, I did continue to write — although my first post 9/11 column began, 'To Hell With Gossip!' Then, on September 21st, I wrote the syndicated newspaper column that appears below, forNewsday and the New York Post. The latter’s editor refused to print this column, saying it was “maudlin and sentimental.” He was probably correct, but my syndicate and all my other sources did print it and the Reader’s Digest later immortalized it.Having marked another 9/11 anniversary last week, I thought I’d run that column past you again." (Liz Smith/NYSD)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Anna Wintour