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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"A mixture of Hollywood figures and industry chieftans were among those greeting President Obama as he swung through Los Angeles for a series of fund raisers on Monday, as he tried to boost the prospects of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) as she faces one of the most difficult reelection battles of her career. In contrast to his last visit nearly a year ago, when the honeymoon of his presidency had yet to wear off, these events were marked by warnings from Obama on the difficult political terrain ahead, as well as the spectacle of hecklers who momentarily stopped his speech to some 1,000 donors at the California Science Center ... With less than 24 hours spent in Los Angeles, the primary reason for Obama's trip was to help Boxer, who faces a difficult reelection against one of three potential Republican challengers: Carly Fiorina, Tom Campbell and Chuck DeVore. All told, the evening was expected to raise almost $3.5 million, with most of the proceeds going to Boxer's campaign and the rest to the Democratic National Committee. Investor Sim Farar, who is Boxer's national finance chair, said they well exceeded their goals. 'We were sold out,' he said, adding that he was 'overwhelmingly surprised' given the tough economy .. Obama and Boxer appeared at a $2,500-per-person VIP reception at the California Science Center; a $250-per-person general reception, also at the science center, and featuring entertainment India.Arie; and a more exclusive $17,600-per-person dinner at the nearby Natural History Museum, where guests dined on steak and au gratin potatoes in an elegant setting surrounded by animal dioramas. Among those also present at the dinner were CAA's Bryan Lourd, music executive and producers Clarence Avant and Berry Gordy, producer Lawrence Bender, musician Will.i.am, novelist Judith Krantz, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and philanthropist Eli Broad. The dinner was co- hosted by John Emerson, chairman of the Los Angeles Music Center, and Ken Solomon, CEO of the Tennis Channel." (Variety)



"The big question in political circles is: Who leaked Defense Secretary Robert Gates' classified memo to the New York Times, if it wasn't Gates himself? The paper published quotes from the memo -- about the lack of a coherent policy on Iran's nuclear weapons development -- on its front page on Sunday, the same day that Times public editor Clark Hoyt had a big piece lamenting the use of anonymous sources. 'There's no question Gates leaked that memo,' said one Democratic Party insider. 'He's a Republican. He served under [George W.] Bush. The Obama administration needs Gates to give themselves credibility. And this was his insurance policy. No matter how mad they are, they can't fire him after this.'" (PageSix)



"If everyone hits the notes they're supposed to, Tuesday’s Madonna-themed episode of 'Glee' is going to leave the Material Girl very very happy -- and not just from the female empowerment motif or Jane Lynch's stylized version of 'Vogue.' For one thing, it’s the only episode so far of the hit series dedicated to a single artist. 'I could see it happening again infrequently in the future,' Adam Anders, 'Glee’s' music producer told TheWrap. 'But Madonna was a great choice to start with because of the depth of her catalogue.' Indeed, that catalogue will hand Ms. Ciccone a nice chunk of financial joy from the licensing fees for the 'New Directions' kids’ performance of 10 of her songs. Licensing, like live performance, is one of the few areas of the music business that is still actually growing." (TheWrap)



"Some two dozen executives from large corporations will be descending on Capitol Hill today to make the case against over-regulating derivatives. The 'fly-in' is being organized in part by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce through a group called the Coalition for Derivatives End-Users, according to the Chamber’s Ryan McKee. Many corporations use derivatives to hedge against fluctuations in the price of their inputs—for example, an airline might sign a contract to lock in future fuel prices, thereby passing the risk along to someone else. And so, on one level, it makes perfect sense that the executives and the Chamber would take an interest in derivatives legislation. But, on another level, the pilgrimage by the so-called corporate 'end-users' is a little mystifying. That’s because the legislation that’s piqued the executives’ interest—a derivatives bill that Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln unveiled last week—explicitly exempts derivatives used in commercial activity, as in the jet-fuel example. What the Lincoln bill would regulate is the use of derivatives for more speculative purposes, like a straight-up bet between two Wall Street firms on the future price of oil. Which suggests another explanation for today’s fly-in: Big financial firms like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan generate billions of dollars each year as derivatives dealers. But, over the past several weeks, as Democrats’ have escalated their rhetoric and explicitly targeted Wall Street, the big banks have had trouble getting their message out on Capitol Hill. All the more so thanks to Friday’s SEC complaint accusing Goldman of fraud. 'The banks’ credibility, their ability to influence this, is limited,' says one derivatives industry lawyer." (TNR)



"The Schedule yesterday turned out to be about women in public life: media and entertainment. I started out down to the Waldorf at noon where New York Women in Communications was celebrating its 40th anniversary and presented its 2010 Matrix Awards. This was an amazing event with a star-studded cast of honorees and presenters. There were 1500 guests, and NBC’s Brian Williams was emcee. I’ve never seen the Waldorf Ballroom so packed ... Honorees were: Susan Chira, foreign editor of the New York Times with her award presented by Jill Abramson, managing editor of the Times; Sheryl Crow, whose award was presented by Mariska Hargitay; Tina Fey, executive producer, head writer and star of '30 Rock,' whose award was presented by Seth Meyers, head writer and 'Weekend Update' anchor of Saturday Night Live ... Gayle King, editor-at-large of O, the Oprah Magazine, with her award presented by Oprah Winfrey ... I had an additional luncheon engagement but was able to see Oprah’s presentation to Gayle King. The two women have known each other since they were in their very early 20s in Baltimore where Oprah was a newscaster and Gayle was a production assistant when they met. The friendship was immediate in forming and it turned out to last for a lifetime. Oprah spoke about Gayle with an effusive intimacy. Gayle is her rock, and she is very comfortable in the role, perhaps because by nature she is endlessly curious about and interested in other people. They are like sisters. She has grown up with Oprah, professionally, is the one person Oprah can lean on, fall back on, depend on for loyalty, support. And she is devoid of envy and jealousy. That’s a tall order to fill especially for someone of Oprah’s celebrity (not to mention wealth)." (NYSocialDiary)



"The pressure is on David Cameron. A week or so ago the Conservative leader was confident of winning Britain’s general election. Whatever their misgivings about the Tories, the voters showed no enthusiasm for five more years of Gordon Brown’s government. A colleague was overheard saying that Mr Cameron was already thinking about the choreography of his first 100 days in 10 Downing Street. That was then. A dull, seemingly predictable election has become, well, less predictable. A surge in support for Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats has challenged the fundamental assumption of Mr Cameron’s election strategy: that the Tory offer of change would trump Gordon Brown’s prescription of more of the same. 'Change' still looks a winning card. But Mr Clegg may wrest it from Mr Cameron’s grasp. The third party revival sparked by Mr Clegg’s strong showing in the first of the leaders’ televised debates may yet prove to be a shooting star that dazzles and disappears, rather than an asteroid about to shatter the status quo. The Lib Dems have had their hopes of breaking through the two-party system raised before; and seen them dashed by the bias in the first-past-the-post electoral system." (FT)



"Six years ago, a divorced and discontented Atalia Katz quit her job as a real-estate executive in Israel and traveled through Thailand, Vietnam, Morocco and Ethiopia, carrying her Canon and Leica cameras. 'I was looking for myself,' said the 58-year-old blond, green-eyed Israeli, in an interview in New York. The search resulted in 'Voice of Ethiopia,' an exhibition of 30 color photographs and a video at Zone: Contemporary Art gallery on Manhattan’s West 57th Street. Many of the 12,000 photos Katz took during a two-week visit in January focus on 8,000 Ethiopian Jews of the Beta Israel community who are waiting in the city of Gondar for entry visas to Israel. 'All of them have first-degree relatives in Israel,' Katz said. 'They are recognized as Jews but the paperwork takes time. Sometimes it takes years. In the meantime, they are separated from their brothers and sisters' ... Prices of the photographs range from $1,500 to $20,000, depending on size and edition, and 10 percent from the sales will be donated to the Beta Israel community, Katz said." (Bloomberg)



"In Britain, an American-educated third party politician is riding a wave of American-style rave reviews after an American-style television debate to an American-style bounce in pre-election polls. Nicholas Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, is now (suddenly) the most popular politician in Britain, and the eyebrows of the political elite are struggling to out arch their unusually frozen arch-i-ness. Clegg is even being peppered with American-style analogies -- last week's debate was his 'Iowa' moment, in that the threshold issue for Clegg was to persuade British voters that he and his party are plausible leaders, and that voting for the LibDems won't waste a vote (much as, or similar to, Barack Obama's having to convince the Democratic establishment that he could win white voters in Iowa). Irony of ironies: the calcification of British politics may be dissolving because of an American-style scandal: members of parliament were caught padding their expense accounts. (British style scandals are sex scandals, and gay conservative politicians were being caught in flagrante delicto well before Larry Craig was in diapers...as a baby, I mean.) Clegg is being compared to President Barack Obama: 'He's the outsider, the face of an antipolitics movement -- or anti-old politics, at least. He's the man who will 'do things differently' and is mining widespread discontent with two party politics and the Westminster village elite, particularly among younger voters.' And it could happen, although it probably won't." (TheAtlantic)

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