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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"His presidency may be on the line. But Barack Obama—law professor, student extraordinaire—is taking a last-minute cramming approach to writing his State of the Union address. Previous presidents have entered the rehearsal phase of their State of the Union preparation several days before traveling to Capitol Hill. But with less than 48 hours to go, Obama’s speechwriting and message teams were still rewriting and cutting the text of the speech heavily, according to White House officials. Such delays and compressed timetables are uncomfortably familiar to Obama’s aides, who have faced intense last-minute pressure to complete other landmark addresses, including his acceptance speech at the Democrats’ 2008 convention. The method may be familiar, but the terrain is new—and rather unsettling. This White House has not seen this kind of crisis atmosphere before. As it seeks to pivot from the shocking upset loss of the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat to the GOP last week and regain momentum with yet another most-important-speech-of-his-career moment, Team Obama is in uncharted territory. Inside the West Wing, Obama’s aides concede that last week was the worst of their term. But they dispute the notion that the State of the Union represents a moment of reinvention for the presidency." (Richard Wolff/TheDailyBeast)



(image via nydailynews)

"Tuesday was a not-very-cold day in New York, winter sunny. Charlotte Ford invited me to join her, her sister Anne, and Liz Smith for lunch at the Four Seasons. Number one. Liz Smith is the best lunch partner in New York. And we were captivated. She can keep you enchanted, shocked, laughing and listening for an entire lunch. And it’s all done miraculously without the faintest damn. So we were all ears and much laughter. The Four Seasons is to CEOs what Michael’s is to media, a place that they can’t help lunching at ... Meanwhile yesterday, amidst our LizSmithian what’s-up, I noticed late in the lunch hour how the round table of five businessmen (clearly) across the aisle behind us were all suddenly looking in our direction. At first I thought our direction. I quickly realized, observing as I do, that they were looking beyond us, like behind me. Not once, not twice, but several times. I didn’t turn around right away (first having to delude myself that I am subtle) but finally I couldn’t resist. It had to be someone like George Bush or some amazing woman. Amazing woman. I said to Liz, 'who’s sitting behind me?' Liz said to me: 'Daphne Guinness.' I turned around; the hell with it, I wanted to see too. With Bernard-Henri Levy, the French dreamboat/ philosopher/journalist/rich boy. Ms. Guinness is astonishingly beautiful and doesn’t look like anybody else." (NYSocialDiary)



"The venue was perfect for Riccardo Tisci's latest Givenchy Haute Couture collection. This place wasn't always a Westin--and Givenchy isn't the House of Hubert and Audrey Hepburn anymore, either. Just before the show, I ran into LA's Claudio Conti who told me about the documentary he is currently filming on Peter Marino ... Givenchy is definitely the 'cool' couture designer, as young Russian-speakers and chic sexy model types typed nonstop on their BlackBerrys while waiting for the show to start ... As I left, I spotted Kanye and Amber heading back stage to congratulate a triumphant Tisci." (Fashionweekdaily)



"Few minds in China are likely to change on account of Hillary Clinton's call for 'a single Internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas.' Last week, the U.S. secretary of state laid out two competing visions of the Internet: one open and global, the other highly controlled and often used for repression. Given that China is rapidly trending toward the latter, it's time to start asking: What might a permanently fractured Web look like? Clinton's speech was not utopian. Her remarks were fairly measured about the potential political impact of network technologies. Eschewing the exuberant optimism that has characterized so much past thinking about the Internet, Clinton recognized that 'modern information networks and the technologies they support can be harnessed for good or for ill.' Still, she held out hope that the United States could strategically use Internet technology to advance freedom and human rights around the world. To tip the balance to the good, she said, the United States plans to develop and distribute technologies to help people avoid censors, foster international norms against cyberattacks, cooperate across national borders to identify and prosecute cybercriminals, and exploit public-private partnerships to build a robust cyberdefense at home. These are noble aspirations, but they will have a very limited impact on China. Censorship, hacking, and economic warfare as practiced in China are rooted in a political and economic calculus that is unlikely to change." (ForeignPolicy)



"Audience members at a screening of 'The Killer Inside Me' took director Michael Winterbottom to task for the film's excessive violence toward women, and star Jessica Alba wasn't around to support him at the Q&A session -- she had left halfway through the film. In 'Killer,' characters played by Alba and Kate Hudson are repeatedly punched and kicked bloody by Casey Affleck's character, small-town deputy sheriff Lou Ford. In one scene, a brutal beating goes on for several minutes. According to a Toronto Star report, Winterbottom appeared rattled when the lights came up on the Monday screening and the audience began assailing him with questions about why the violence was necessary." (TheWrap)



"'I feel,' Elyse Slaine said over a nine-dollar cup of coffee at the Pierre Hotel last Friday, 'like someone has to tell the truth.' The 46-year-old was wearing studded Louboutin boots, a ruby ring on her right hand and a Harry Winston diamond watch on the other. But she did not look happy. It had been a hard week. On Saturday, Jan. 16, The Wall Street Journal ran a long, lurid story naming her ex-husband, the trader David Slaine, as a key government mole in its far-reaching insider trading investigation of the Galleon hedge fund. He’d agreed to wear a wire after the F.B.I. confronted him at his home in 2007 with evidence of his own insider trading, the paper said ... And for the uptown divorcées trudging through Wall Street’s strange new landscape, Ms. Slaine has plowed an extraordinary path. The day after the Journal story appeared, she’d taken to the comments section of a blog called Sense on Cents to exclaim that her ex-husband had never worn a wire: 'The only fact you and the WSJ got right is that Slaine benches 400 pounds' ... Her defense sets Ms. Slaine apart from the other ex-wives of Wall Street, who since the near-collapse of the global financial system have been known for cinematically grand attacks, not guardianship." (Observer)



"Embattled Sen. Blanche Lincoln continues to defend her support for health care overhaul even as she looks to forge a path to re-election in an inhospitable environment complicated by her vote in favor of the comprehensive legislation. In the space of a year, Lincoln has gone from being on relatively solid political ground to among the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents of the 2010 cycle. But at least on Capitol Hill, she has managed to maintain her cheery demeanor ... Last week’s stunning election of Republican Scott Brown in the Massachusetts special election to fill the seat of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy has indefinitely stalled progress on the health care initiative. But Lincoln’s support for the $871 billion Senate package late last year was crucial to its passage. Yet that hasn’t stopped top Arkansas Democrats from openly mulling looking around for a candidate deemed more viable in the November general election. Meanwhile, Republicans are on the attack, as survey data has increasingly shown Lincoln in jeopardy of not winning re-election to a third Senate term and that voters back home do not support the Democratic-led effort on health care." (CQPolitics)



"Global unemployment hit a record in 2009 and is likely to remain high over the coming year despite a recovery in the world economy, the International Labour Organisation has warned. In its annual Global Economic Trends, the UN agency says the number of jobless worldwide soared by an unprecedented 34m over the two years from end-2007 to reach nearly 212m or 6.6 per cent of the global labour force. These are the highest figures since the ILO began collecting data on a comparable basis following the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1991. They would have been even worse without the economic stimulus measures put in place by many governments, the report says. Juan Somavia, ILO director-general, said avoiding a jobless recovery should be the top political priority of decision-makers gathered in Davos for the World Economic Forum. 'We need the same policy decisiveness that saved banks now applied to save and create jobs and livelihoods of people,' he said." (FT)



"A couple of months before last year’s presidential campaign, I was having a casual lunch with a conservative friend who suddenly announced that he would be voting for Barack Obama. The news was especially surprising for me because up until that moment I had never heard this individual speak of politics, except on the occasions when he would proudly announce that his views on governance were to the right of Marie Antoinette’s. Adding to my shock was the fact that my friend’s family, a highly influential American dynasty, had close ties to many Republican Party leaders and helped to raise millions in support of conservative congressional candidates. At the time, I took this unexpected bit of news as a sign that Obama had succeeded overwhelmingly at seducing the rich. In addition to the endorsement from my monarchist friend, the then presidential candidate had garnered the favor of nearly all the nation’s most prominent billionaires, including Warren Buffett and even, according to some insider reports, right-wing media mogul Rupert Murdoch. By working his charm and displaying certain touches of upper-class refinement, Obama persuaded the super rich to embrace his liberal vision for America. And it almost goes without saying that his unique ability to capture the admiration of wealthy patrons, especially those who had traditionally voted Republican, helped him immensely on Election Day, as well as in the earliest stages of his presidency. But now, as troubles are mounting for Obama at the end of his first year in office, the wealthy are swiftly abandoning him and returning to more familiar political ground. His clumsy handling of health-care reform, his failure to install a candidate of choice in Ted Kennedy’s former Senate seat, and his escalating criticism of bankers all seem to be pushing affluent voters back to their conservative roots." (Vanity Fair)



"CBS Films claims it's going full steam ahead with its slate of movies despite the disastrous flop of Harrison Ford's 'Extraordinary Measures.' A source told Page Six the unit was considering 'slashing all marketing and production budgets by 50 percent' after the $31 million Ford flick -- about a father racing against time to cure a rare disease killing his kids -- was panned by the critics and took in a measly $6 million its opening weekend. The picture flopped despite an extensive marketing campaign across CBS's television shows and billboards. The Post's Lou Lumenick drubbed it as 'basically a tear-jerking TV disease-of-the-week flick on the big screen,' and the LA Times called it 'a film that wouldn't make the Showtime [also owned by CBS] or HBO quality-cut.' The failure of the picture -- the first from CBS Films, which was created a couple of years ago to put the network in the feature business and produce up to six movies a year with budgets of up to $50 million -- has led to doubts among some CBS suits." (PageSix)



"Hear that drum beating? That’s Rupert Murdoch, getting ready for war with Arthur Sulzberger Jr. The Wall Street Journal is continuing to staff up its new New York edition, and the project increasingly is looking like a direct assault on The New York Times. The Journal’s New York bureau, expected to launch on April 12, will be staffed with roughly three dozen staffers, three times more than the dozen or so the paper had planned for just three months ago. As we’ve reported, Mr. Murdoch has set aside a budget of $15 million for the project. There are plans for a daily stand-alone New York section, an Albany bureau, a City Hall bureau, a crime beat, a sports section and a culture section—in other words, a new, full-fledged New York paper, and one, incidentally, that is looking increasingly like the now defunct New York Sun." (Observer)



"This week in Paris is devoted to the art of haute couture: made-to-measure fantasies for the uppermost echelons of the upper crust. But let's talk about underwear. Natalia Vodianova carved out a little time on the schedule for a runway show for her collaboration with lingerie brand Etam at the Ritz hotel ... After the show, concert, and dinner, all the cool kids in France—Charlotte Casiraghi, Alexa Chung, Margherita Missoni, Alexia Niedzielski, and so on—filed into yet another series of Ritz salons for a dance party with Mark Ronson on the decks. 'I won't bite,' Ronson hollered into the microphone, coaxing the crowd to his end of the party. His girlfriend, Josephine de la Baume, was quick to add: 'Yes, he does. But not that hard.'" (Style)

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