Saturday, October 30, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"There are many sources of fear in world politics -- terrorist attacks, natural disasters, climate change, financial panic, nuclear proliferation, ethnic conflict, and so forth. Surveying the cultural zeitgeist, however, it is striking how an unnatural problem has become one of the fastest-growing concerns in international relations. I speak, of course, of zombies. For our purposes, a zombie is defined as a reanimated being occupying a human corpse, with a strong desire to eat human flesh -- the kind of ghoul that first appeared in George Romero's 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead, and which has been rapidly proliferating in popular culture in recent years (far upstaging its more passive cousins, the reanimated corpses of traditional West African and Haitian voodoo rituals). Because they can spread across borders and threaten states and civilizations, these zombies should command the attention of scholars and policymakers.  The specter of an uprising of reanimated corpses also poses a significant challenge to interpreters of international relations and the theories they use to understand the world. If the dead begin to rise from the grave and attack the living, what thinking would -- or should -- guide the human response? How would all those theories hold up under the pressure of a zombie assault? When should humans decide that hiding and hoarding is the right idea?" (ForeignPolicy)

"Yet like so many things in politics, the congratulatory/concession phone calls persist because that is what tradition demands. 'Those who don’t make the call are often considered sore losers,' said Tom Daschle, the former Democratic senator. Indeed, the calls are the political equivalent of tennis players shaking hands at the net after a tough match. In most cases, the calls are pro forma — good race, good luck — and allow the losing candidate to begin his concession speech a few minutes later by saying, 'I just called congressman so-and-so to congratulate him,' at which point the crowd boos, and the loser hushes his supporters, tells them that it is time to work together, and “walks off stage cursing the other guy’s name,' said Todd Harris, a Republican media strategist. While most intra-candidate phone calls get deservedly no attention, there are towering exceptions — namely, the series of post-election calls between Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore in 2000. It began typically enough: Mr. Gore, the Democratic nominee, called Mr. Bush to concede the race just after midnight on Nov. 8. 'We gave them a cliffhanger,' Mr. Gore told the eventual president-elect according to several accounts at the time. Mr. Bush told Mr. Gore he was a 'formidable opponent and a good man' and sent along his best to the Vice President’s family. And that was that, until Mr. Gore called back around 2:30 a.m. and got all Emily Litella ('never mind') on the governor’s victory party. He told Mr. Bush that his presumed margin of victory in Florida had shrunk to 'too close to call.' 'You mean to tell me, Mr. Vice President,' Mr. Bush said, 'you’re retracting your concession?' 'You don’t have to be snippy about it,' Mr. Gore replied, ensuring that the word 'snippy' would always be associated with election night conversations between presidential candidates." (NyTimes)

"US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Chinese state councillor Dai Bingguo on the southern island of Hainan Saturday after wading into the maritime disputes simmering in Asia at a regional summit. Clinton met with Dai, China's senior-most foreign policymaker, in the VIP lounge at the airport in the resort town of Sanya, a photographer said. Her sixth Asian tour in less than two years aims to pursue what an aide called 'cool-headed, constructive diplomacy' with China and boost US ties with its Pacific neighbours. Earlier in the day, she held talks in Hanoi with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, who called on Washington to avoid "irresponsible remarks" when discussing a disputed island chain over which Beijing is feuding with Japan. Clinton had told an Asian summit that maritime rows should be settled by international law. China wants to handle such disputes bilaterally with its neighbours. The pair also discussed tensions over China's policy on rare earths, a group of 17 elements used to make everything from iPods to hybrid cars. Beijing has come under criticism for its export quotas on the minerals, and Tokyo has accused it of restricting shipments to Japanese firms amid their row over the contested islands in the East China Sea. Clinton said Yang had told her that Beijing -- which has a near-monopoly on the global rare earths market -- had no plans to withhold rare earth minerals from the market." (AFI)

"Speaking of age...Yes, he got this slot because he's hyping a book, but the former President did not stay on message, he did not need to be loved, he spoke his truth. And whether you agree with him or not, it was fascinating to see someone who'd been there and done that reflecting on the issues of the day. Jimmy Carter has not had plastic surgery. I haven't seen photos of him dancing in clubs on TMZ. He's not trying to be young and hip and that's refreshing in a world where those over fifty either see themselves as dead or act like thirty year olds, or even twenty year olds. Why can't we respect and revere our elders? Because they don't blindly consume the crap that America manufactures? That's the main reason the old are ignored. TV's not interested in them. They're not susceptible to advertising, they've seen the ruse, they're no longer impulsive, they want to make an educated purchase and this is anathema to marketers who want your dollars today and to hell with tomorrow. You can't talk about sacrifice. Jimmy put it so well... That too many Americans feel they're entitled under God to consume the world's resources and politicians enable them, afraid to stand up for what's right. There's only so much oil in the ground. We've got issues of pollution and global warming and so many Americans want to do the right thing if only someone would speak the truth and lead them." (LefsetzLetter)

"Gawker Media founder Nick Denton built a multimillion media empire with a ruthless brand of no-holds-barred tabloid blogging often aided by a wide network of anonymous, mercenary spies and tipsters. Lately, though, Gawker Media's record of protecting those confidential sources has taken a tremendous hit. In the past six months, three tipsters have been outed after talking to Gawker Media editors, victims, perhaps ironically, of the same blend of social-networking savvy and modern reporting techniques that have helped the blog network break numerous scoops about high profile business leaders, celebrities and politicians. Dustin Dominiak is the latest Gawker source to find himself in the harsh glare of the spotlight. This week, Dominiak sold a tawdry tale about a sexual encounter he allegedly had with Delaware senate candidate Christine O'Donnell in 2007 to Gawker editor Remy Stern. Dominiak was paid in the low four figures for his story, and measures were taken to preserve his anonymity, but within a matter of hours he was identified by another blog, The Smoking Gun. Dominiak's story was published by Denton's flagship gossip site,, under an anonymous byline. His face was also partially cropped out of photos that showed him alongside O'Donnell at a boozy Halloween bash on the night of their alleged tryst. In spite of that secrecy, the Gawker article contained enough clues for other journalists to easily identify Dominiak as the writer." (Observer)

"Russian counternarcotics agents took part in an operation to eradicate several drug laboratories in Afghanistan this week, joining Afghan and American antidrug forces in what officials here said Friday marked an advance in relations between Moscow and Washington. The operation, in which four opium refining laboratories and over 2,000 pounds of high-quality heroin were destroyed, was the first to include Russian agents. It also indicated a tentative willingness among Russian officials to become more deeply involved in Afghanistan two decades after American-backed Afghan fighters defeated the Soviet military there. 'This is a major success for cooperative actions,' Viktor P. Ivanov, Russia’s top drug enforcement official, told journalists in Moscow. 'This shows that there are real actions being taken amid the reset in relations between Russia and the United States.' Although Russia has a large stake in the outcome of the war in Afghanistan, the country has not participated in the NATO-led military coalition there and has seemed ambivalent about the American effort in its backyard." (NYTimes)

"On April 1, 2001, an American EP-3E Aries II reconnaissance plane on an eavesdropping mission collided with a Chinese interceptor jet over the South China Sea, triggering the first international crisis of George W. Bush’s Administration. The Chinese jet crashed, and its pilot was killed, but the pilot of the American aircraft, Navy Lieutenant Shane Osborn, managed to make an emergency landing at a Chinese F-8 fighter base on Hainan Island, fifteen miles from the mainland. Osborn later published a memoir, in which he described the 'incessant jackhammer vibration' as the plane fell eight thousand feet in thirty seconds, before he regained control. The plane carried twenty-four officers and enlisted men and women attached to the Naval Security Group Command, a field component of the National Security Agency. They were repatriated after eleven days; the plane stayed behind. The Pentagon told the press that the crew had followed its protocol, which called for the use of a fire axe, and even hot coffee, to disable the plane’s equipment and software. These included an operating system created and controlled by the N.S.A., and the drivers needed to monitor encrypted Chinese radar, voice, and electronic communications. It was more than two years before the Navy acknowledged that things had not gone so well. 'Compromise by the People’s Republic of China of undestroyed classified material ... is highly probable and cannot be ruled out,' a Navy report issued in September, 2003, said. The loss was even more devastating than the 2003 report suggested, and its dimensions have still not been fully revealed. Retired Rear Admiral Eric McVadon, who flew patrols off the coast of Russia and served as a defense attaché in Beijing, told me that the radio reports from the aircraft indicated that essential electronic gear had been dealt with. He said that the crew of the EP-3E managed to erase the hard drive—'zeroed it out'—but did not destroy the hardware, which left data retrievable: 'No one took a hammer.' Worse, the electronics had recently been upgraded. 'Some might think it would not turn out as badly as it did, but I sat in some meetings about the intelligence cost,' McVadon said. 'It was grim.'" (NewYorker)

"Well, the short answer is that for all the brilliance of the Obama campaign, and the kudos earned by Rahm Emanuel for the Democratic gains of 2006 and 2008, these people have played some pretty dumb politics. Emanuel’s recruitment of a whole host of conservative-leaning Democrats in places that normally send Republicans to Congress created an entire class of legislators who, either for reasons of ideology or perceived political vulnerability, felt more comfortable undermining the president’s agenda than supporting it. (Can you believe that the campaign actually considered naming this guy vice president?) When combined with a recalcitrant Republican Party whose leaders held no interest in cooperation but plenty in stringing the White House along until it pulled the rug out from under him, Obama was forced to water down his agenda until the bills he fought so hard to pass lacked the essential elements necessary to make them matter to people." (EricAlterman)

"PASSING through California on a mid-term campaign swing, Barack Obama made a point of stopping off to see Steve Jobs, the boss of Apple. He also hob-nobbed with executives from Google and other Silicon Valley companies. More than any of his predecessors, Mr Obama likes to pay homage to the titans of technology. They, in turn, have lavished him with praise and political donations. But now many tech folk are worrying out loud that his government is not as serious about supporting innovation as it purports to be. The tech crowd thought the latest occupant of the White House was one of their own. An enigmatic politician with strong convictions, Mr Obama in many ways resembled the driven young spirits that venture capitalists love to take a punt on. And during the presidential campaign he wowed Silicon Valley with an elevator pitch that envisaged using social media and other technologies developed there to fashion a new and radical political order. Everything from Mr Obama’s addiction to his BlackBerry to his keenness to see maths and science promoted in schools suggested he would be the most tech-friendly president in history. Small wonder, then, that the techies swooned over him. Nor is it surprising that many of them are now starting to feel badly let down. 'There’s a strong feeling that this government really lacks direction,' says Gary Shapiro, the head of the Consumer Electronics Association. Many of its 2,000 members, he adds, are unwilling to invest in new initiatives while there is so much uncertainty about future policy. That is a familiar refrain." (TheEconomist)

"At last night’s MSNBC 'Lean Forward' launch party (look for the full write-up later) MSNBC president Phil Griffin told TVNewser that of all the talent lined up for election night, the one with the most challenging evening will be Chuck Todd. Todd, who anchors 'The Daily Rundown' on MSNBC and is also political director for NBC News, will be making regular appearances on both the broadcast and cable network throughout the night. In a lengthy profile, Columbia Journalism Review profield the man who 'might be the busiest politico on television.' The juiciest bits involve Todd’s back-and-forth with columnist Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald has long been a critic of inside the beltway journalists–of which he counts Todd–accusing them of not being adversarial enough to those in power." (TVNewser)

"Howard (Stern) said it's weird that Charlie (Sheen) was making out with (Capri Anderson) in front of his ex-wife. Howard said the guy is real trash and not classy at all. Howard said no one is defending Charlie Sheen but CBS will. Howard said someone wrote an article about how CBS will never criticize the guy. Howard said what matters is that his show 'Two and a Half Men' is the most watched sitcom in prime time. Howard read the article and they were talking about the big ratings they get with that show even though it's been around for 8 years. Howard read that it generated $155.1 million in ad revenue for CBS. Then you have to add in syndication and DVD sales. Howard said one person did come out and defend Charlie. It was Tabitha Stevens. Howard read a note she wrote about the whole thing and she said that she's known Charlie for a long time and she doesn't think Charlie would do anything to hurt that girl. She said that she thinks Charlie was just partying hard and the girl was afraid. She said she hopes things get better for Charlie. Tabitha said that he's actually an awesome person and he's been nothing but respectful to her. Howard said there are defenders out there. Robin (Quivers) just said 'Wow!'" (Marksfriggin)

"HBO has picked up Veep, a D.C.-set comedy pilot about a female Vice President of the U.S. from British comedian, writer and director Armando Iannucci. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is in talks for the lead in the project, set 'very near the White House' and centered on former Senator Selina Meyer who finds being Vice President is nothing like she expected and everything everyone ever warned her about. Iannucci co-wrote and will direct the pilot as well as executive produce with Chris Godsick and Frank Rich under the New York Times columnist's deal with HBO." (Deadline)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Obama mentioned three Democratic House members who he said had taken tough votes to support his policies. It's worth noting that all of them—Tom Periello in Virginia, Betsy Markey in Colorado and John Boccieri in Ohio—are trailing their Republican challengers by a few percentage points in recent polls. Perhaps the president was giving them a calculated shout-out. Stewart wasn't afraid to wander into the weeds on health care. And when he questioned the hiring of Larry Summers, Obama stepped in it by echoing W.'s praise for Brownie, saying the economist had done 'a heck of a job.' 'You don't want to use that phrase, dude,' Stewart shot back. That, of course, took place within the confines of a Washington studio. By what standard, then, should we judge the Stewart stagecraft on Saturday? Certainly not by the crowd size, or whether the host is better than he was at the Oscars. If the rally is merely entertaining, he will have failed to make a larger point. If the rally is excessively political, he will have sacrificed a bit of his comedic credibility in favor of earnest activism. Or Jon Stewart could hit the sweet spot between being provocative and preposterous. And that would be a truly sane outcome." (Howie Kurtz)

"We get it. It’s a dirty, terrible world out there and anything and every one is fair game. So when some guy was willing to trash Christine O’Donnell, the Republican candidate for United States Senate in Delaware, for the small money Gawker paid for the scoop, it was just one more step down the road to clickable perdition. Except even as she was being fed into the digital wood chipper, various other parties on the Web began to step back and wonder why a pretty average night between seemingly normal people was being pathologized. Even those of us who take issue with Gawker Media’s willingness to plunk down cash for scoops routinely amble by the site at lunch, or goaded by Twitter, stop in to see what’s blowing up on the Manhattan gossip site. Gawker is a daily playground of misanthropy, but this one landed with a clank: Anyone who clicked on this particular drive-by, which brought the site half a million page-views, had to feel a little implicated by the time they got to the bottom. An anonymous guy recounted going out with Ms. O’Donnell three years ago on Halloween night in Philadelphia. She was wearing a lady bug costume and flirted with him. 'We’d probably knocked back five Heinekens when Christine leaned over and whispered in my ear that she wanted to go back to my place.' The account – it got a work over from a ghost writer at Gawker — takes that bit of cliché as a jumping off point and goes dark and skeevy after that, including a description of (non)intimacies and intimate physical features. We are all probably supposed to feel O.K. about mousing over this because Ms. O’Donnell has championed chaste living in her public life. 'Some people think we were passing judgment on her, and that’s not the case at all. We’ve sort of humanized her,' the Gawker editor Remy Stern told The New York Observer. Certainly that was one of the unintended consequences of the post, but not its primary gesture." (NYTimes)

"Tony Baratta of Diamond Baratta design is a conundrum: we had real fun interviewing him because he’s given to loud bursts of infectious laughter, giving us the kind of un-canned answers that we love. The hilarious pictures in their book, 'All-American, The Exhuberant Style of William Diamond and Anthony Baratta,' of he and his long-time business partner, Bill Diamond variously posing on giraffe-print thrones or looking coy in silk pyjamas, would indicate that neither of them take themselves too seriously—at least this was our interpretation of those pictures" (NYSocialDiary)

"The New Zealand parliament has passed emergency legislation ensuring that the 2 back-to-back Hobbit films get made in the country. The legislation bypassed usual parliamentary committees, prompting New Zealand MPs to call it a 'day of shame.' One held up a redesigned national flag with the Warner Bros logo in one corner. 'What is the government going to do next – give in to any multinational that asks for a labour standard to be diluted in return for some form of investment?' asked opposition MP Charles Chauvel. The amendment was passed by a 65-50 vote. The government’s decision to rush through amended employment laws – stopping below-the-line workers from being treated as full-time employees, with all the rights which go with being a salary man -- has divided local opinion. The above political cartoon is from a New Zealand newpaper. Meanwhile, some actors union officials though have received death threats after threatening a boycott.Prime Minister John Key has defended his government’s tax deal that secured The Hobbit movies as being far less generous than the opposition’s Lord of the Rings deal." (Deadline)

"As to money, the New York Times reported Wednesday that, actually, in the 109 most contested House races, Democratic candidates have outspent Republicans, $119 million to $79 million. While the Center for Responsive Politics reported that pro-Republican independent groups have outspent pro-Democratic groups $177.2 million to $83.1 million so far, it turns out that the biggest outside spender is the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, at $91 million, according to the New York Times. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is second at $75 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. Karl Rove’s group, American Crossroads, is third at $65 million. But the Service Employees International Union is fourth at $44 million and the National Education Association is fifth, at $40 million. Let’s stipulate again, corporations ought not be spending stockholders’ money on campaigns — as Congress first decreed in 1907 — and unions shouldn’t spend member dues, as Congress ruled in 1947. Contrary to the opinions of the five conservatives on the Court, corporations and unions are not “persons” entitled to First Amendment rights." (Mort Kondrake)

"A dazzling crowd gathered at the Chateau Marmont on Wednesday night in honor of the amfAR Inspiration Gala, an evening designed to celebrate men’s style and raise funds and awareness for AIDS research programs. Hosted by Kylie Minogue and themed 'Black Tie/Black Leather,' the philanthropic soiree featured a poolside fashion presentation by DSquared and Jean Paul Gaultier, a live auction of luxury items, dinner and a special burlesque performance by Dita von Teese. 'I’m excited to perform tonight, because it’s a racier show that I haven’t done in too many places. A lot of people have seen me perform in a giant martini glass, but tonight’s going to be a little different. This crowd can definitely handle it!' said von Teese with a wink. And admitting to a bit of a girl crush on the burlesque dancer, Natasha Bedingfield watched von Teese from afar and confided, 'I like her sexiness, her power as a woman. I think it’s quite amazing. When you think of a strip tease, you don’t think of the femininity and power that comes with it, but Dita’s bringing it back.'" (Fashionweekdaily)
Huffington Post Game Changers Awards Last Night

(image via broadwayworld)

"I'm 43 years old, but excuse me while I put on my reading glasses," said Anderson Cooper last night as he presented a Huffington Post Game Changer award to Sean Penn at 275 Hudson Street. The event was jam packed with interesting people (and these are just the ones I saw): Mayor Bloomberg (who, uncharacteristically, made a somewhat bawdy Charlie Sheen joke), Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Nora Ephron, a very glamorous looking Mika Brzezinski, Paulina Porizkova, Top Chef Master Marcus Samuelsson, journo Matt Taibbi, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Mayor Cory Booker, Geoffrey Canada, Ted Olson, Jann Wenner and -- of course -- the ubiquitous Arianna.

I say ubiquitous because before Arianna took the stage to MC the event, she was seemingly everywhere -- in every picture, talking to the honorees, meeting appreciative fans. This woman has tremendous energy and it is no womder that the Huffington Post is showing better numbers than The New York Times. Huffington knows how to command a room, even one as large as 275 hudson. Too bad the Huffington Post holds so few parties, because this one was amazing: the crowd, the food, the drinks, the DJ, the venue. The last HuffPo party -- at least the last one that I was invited to -- was the 2008 election night event.

More parties, Arianna!

Sean Penn was the most moving speaker (although educational reformer Geoffrey Canada came close). Little known facts: Michael Bloomberg sent 300 firefighters to Haiti, they saved lives, Penn is absolutely passionate about Haiti. Anderson cooper, who introduced Penn, essentially said that Penn has spent much of his time in haiti, in the disaster aeras -- even after the cameras have stopped rolling. I came away admiring the man quite a bit more than I have in the past.

Another little known fact: Heroic educational reformer Michelle Rhee is really, really attractive. Striking. Unfortunately -- for me -- she has an adoring husband (darn) who was attached to her hip. Rhee is also something of a celebrity among celebrities. From on the stage several award winners gave her a shout out, and she blew air kisses from the crowd. Educational reform is not a very sexy issue, but it is arguably the most important issue with regards to the American economy's competetiveness in the future. And while the voters of DC did a terrible, terrible disservice to themselves by getting rid of Adrian Fenty -- and, by proxy, Michelle Rhee, school's chancellor -- it is good to know that among "Game Changers" she is still a fierce force to be reckoned with.We have not seen the last of Rhee.

Sean Penn -- the only man, I believe, to have ever smoked on the Charlie Rose set -- apparently went outside for a smoke and my friend Dylan Stableford's friend apparently bummed a smoke from the Academy Award winning social activist. How cool is that? Elliot Spitzer was also there, although I missed him. I walked in alongside civil rights activist Julian Bond, which I think might have been the high point for me.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"If current polls hold, Republicans will make significant gains in the Senate and likely take the House of Representatives, elevating a set of lawmakers to new heights of power and complicating Obama's efforts to execute his foreign-policy agenda. 'You can imagine an opposition controlled Congress raising a lot of hay. There will be a lot of static, a lot of flame throwing,' explained one senior Republican congressional staffer. 'You're not going to see the GOP giving the administration the benefit of the doubt.'  Here's a list of 10 GOP figures in Congress who will be crucial actors on the foreign-policy stage when the dust settles after the Nov. 2 election." (ForeignPolicy)

"Back in the days when the Letterman team were haggling with NBC over their exit—the network had given The Tonight Show to Leno over Letterman following Johnny Carson’s retirement—CBS and Dave’s representatives hammered out a contract stating in explicit detail that Dave would be programmed each night directly following the late local news on CBS’s stations. The time-period stipulation remained in Dave’s deals forever, and Morty knew Jay had the same guarantee. 'You guys got that for Conan, too, I’m sure,' Morty said. He waited while watching Rick and Jeff exchange a little look. 'You didn’t?' Morty asked, holding back his next thought, which was: You’ve got to be kidding me. Both Rosen and Ross indicated that they knew it could be a risky situation, but they didn’t dwell on it. Neither did Morton. But as he left the dinner that night he made a point to remember the conversation: there might be consequences down the road." (Bill Carter/Vanity fair)

"Howard (Stern) asked where they went until David (Arquette) answered. He said they went to a club. Howard asked what club it was. David said he didn't want people putting things together and manufacturing stories. He said they went to a club that some guys take over occasionally. Howard said David must have made love to her that night. David said he just had fun. Howard said he thinks that Courteney (Cox) and David's marriage is over. David said he's not acting in the appropriate way to keep it going so it's kind of his fault. Howard said he understands why he's doing what he's doing. Howard said he went through a tear for a short time after his divorce. He said it was kind of disgusting actually.  David said after the first girl he slept with he was crying. He knows that's not very sexy but he was going through the end of his intimacy he shared with his wife. He said that it was like putting that away and starting something new." (Marksfriggin)

"Election Day is still five days off, but already Republican strategists are whispering that they out-maneuvered their Democratic counterparts. The National Republican Congressional Committee and certain other GOP-allied groups adopted a reasonable but risky strategy, which proved effective. Those strategists decided to spend their limited financial resources early and in some not-so-obvious cheap media markets, hoping to put more seats into play and generate momentum for the cycle. They hoped that buzz about increased GOP opportunities would create more fundraising opportunities, and they bet that increased opportunities would encourage a more aggressive approach by 'outside' Republican-leaning groups, some of which seemed more focused on Senate races. They have won their bet. On Oct. 5, Roll Call published a chart showing that through Oct. 2, the NRCC had spent $11.3 million through its independent expenditure on the general election campaigns, while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had spent only a little more than $4.1 million through its IE." (CQPolitics)

"Former George W. Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman was met with icy stares at a private soiree attended largely by gay men in the West Village the other night, according to a guest. Some weren't ready to forgive the former Republican National Committee chairman who pushed anti-gay policies before recently announcing he's gay himself. 'Now he wants to mingle with us after he did everything he could to hurt the gays,' one partygoer said to us. But Charles Myers of Evercore Partners, who brought Mehlman as his guest, told us, 'There was no drama or suggestion of anyone being unpleasant.' Mehlman said of the report, 'Not true.'" (PageSix)

(Dominique Richard and her mother, Alice Mason via NYSD)

"Comin’ in outta the rain; the Wednesday Michael’s lunch: The place was packed. I was lunching with Alice Mason, the legendary doyenne of private residential real estate in Manhattan. Alice has retired from the business now but for decades the media and Wall Street tycoons never bought so much as a closet without asking her advice first. And she was famous for telling it like it is whether they wanted to hear it or not. Her objective: finding them the perfect domicile for their needs, their public images, their wives and families, and their egos. And oh the tales she could tell. But won’t ... Around that time Alice met Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, a first cousin of Gloria (and father of, among others, Wendy); and the most famous Vanderbilt scion of his time ... Vanderbilt hired Alice as his agent to find him an apartment in New York. In those days real estate brokers for the blue bloods used the Social Register as their phone book. If your name wasn’t in the Social Register they wouldn’t call you because they didn’t have your number. Alice discovered it wasn’t so easy finding Alfred Vanderbilt an apartment in the better co-ops because, as it was explained to her by those in the know, the Vanderbilts were '1880s' and the better buildings were only interested in people who were the '1620s.' In other words, the Vanderbilt family wasn’t 'old' enough for the 'good' buildings. This came as a surprise to Alice, and it later motivated her to challenge that hard unspoken rule. Over time she was largely responsible for breaking down the barriers not only for the 1880s but also for many other groups who were not '1620s' in New York. Eventually she found Mr. Vanderbilt a penthouse on the top of 31 East 72nd." (NYSocialDiary)

"Rubi came to mind because of this Granatino man who just lost his case on appeal. 'Granatino' sounds Italian, but he’s a wealthy French industralist’s son. The French are rightly proud of their gigolos, Thierry Roussel having held the record for years—$100 million out of Christina Onassis—until eclipsed by Francois-Marie Banier, who got more than a billion Euros from Liliane Bettencourt across the Channel. Poor Rubi, he was the only real man among them, and he got peanuts in return. When Rubi died he was almost dead-broke. His widow sold their beautiful house west of Paris for a large sum to Paul-Louis Weiller and has lived a comfortable life ever since. Rubi was planning a coup just before the accident. He had his eye on JFK’s sister Pat Lawford, but I’m not sure it was a good idea. The Kennedys are notoriously tight-fisted, and Rubi liked to live well, something the Kennedys never managed to understand or do. Roussel sued me about twenty years ago, and a Greek court awarded him one drachma. He was always a lowlife but managed to get out of debt with his marriage to Christina Onassis, whom he ripped off mercilessly and unashamedly. He now lives in Switzerland off his winnings." (Takimag)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Lavish is not a word normally associated with book parties. Most of them are characterized by warm white wine and pallid cubes of cheese. Unless you are a member of the celebrated Guinness family, in which case your guests will be treated to Blood Orange Bellinis and delicate crab cakes in a mind-blowingly glamorous apartment in the right slice of Park Avenue. And Ivana Lowell is a Guinness whose searing memoir, Why Not Say What Happened?, was just published by Knopf. A soaringly high New York society crowd gathered at hostess Danielle Ganek's vast apartment to hear about Ivana's extraordinary family life, including stories about her grandmother, Maureen, the Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava; and her mother, writer Lady Caroline Blackwood (who was once married to Lucien Freud). Ms. Lowell, a slim brunette stylishly turned out in an Alexander McQueen sweater dress, described herself as more of a storyteller than a literary genius like Robert Lowell, her late and beloved stepfather." (Observer)

"Congratulations, Sandra Bullock: You've managed to avoid the Best Actress curse. We're not talking about the unfortunate trend of Best Actress Oscar recipients losing their husbands after the win — that one famously claimed Bullock as a victim, too — but instead, the just-as-dire career misfortunes that tend to befall most of the ladies who've picked up golden hardware over the last ten years. If all goes according to plan, Bullock's next three films will be Gravity, an ambitious space drama directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men), an adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer's acclaimed novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Stephen Daldry (The Hours), and an untitled comedy that would find Bullock co-starring opposite A-listers like Meryl Streep and Oprah Winfrey. Finally, Bullock is making the great-sounding movies we always hoped she would make! You would think more actresses would have done this after winning their Oscars. You would have been wrong. Sure, some major names have won that Best Actress trophy over the last decade — Reese! Charlize! Halle! — but instead of leveraging their Oscars to get into fantastic movies, their careers almost always hit a post-kudos rough patch." (Vulture)

"Up on Madison Avenue and 75th Street, the Whitney Museum of American Art was holding its annual gala benefit and after party. This is always a big, festive, black tie party with hundreds attending. While over in Central Park under at tent at Rumsey Playfield (at 72nd Street) , the Central Park Conservancy was holding its annual Green Ball, known to one and all as the Halloween Party. Fantastic costumes or non-traditional black tie was the dress code. More than 400 attended the oostume/dinner dance and they raised $700,000. Costume Contest Prize Winners were: Best Group: The Tea Party, made up of the John Stossel Table; Best Individual: The Concession Lady, Julie Smith, who took a couple of weeks to make her costume. She took pictures of the real things and then modeled her “Stand In” stand after them. It was so real that as she was walking into the party, people asked if they could buy some chips; Best Green Costume: The Tea Bag Couple: Rosalind and Ken Landis. They stapled green tea bags all over his suit and her dress; and Best Couple: Sully and the Wayward Geese: Rick and Ana Blank." (NYSocialDiary)

"China, in fact, understands this dynamic much better than its Western hemispheric rival; the reality of enduring American strengths and significant Chinese weaknesses is better appreciated in Beijing than in Washington. China knows that American power and influence in Asia is based on two things: its military and economic pre-eminence and Washington's unmatched several-decade record of underwriting peace and prosperity in the region. The vast majority of Asian states welcome the presence of the U.S. Seventh Fleet -- critical support, as America's forward deployments depend heavily on their acquiescence and cooperation. China, by contrast, may be the loneliest rising power in recent history. Other countries in the region may look forward to the economic opportunities presented by China's rise, but Beijing has few genuine or reliable allies. It remains distrusted by almost every maritime power in the region. Domestically, even China's Premier Wen Jiabao recognizes that China is a potentially unstable combination of a strong and rich state ruling over a poor and weak country. Beijing's lead in forging regional free trade agreements has helped enhance its economic clout. But for China to translate its economic growth and size into political leverage, it will have to become the dominant center of consumption in Asia." (ForeignPolicy)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"We are a week away from the 2010 U.S. midterm elections. The outcome is already locked in. Whether the Republicans take the House or the Senate is close to immaterial. It is almost certain that the dynamics of American domestic politics will change. The Democrats will lose their ability to impose cloture in the Senate and thereby shut off debate. Whether they lose the House or not, the Democrats will lose the ability to pass legislation at the will of the House Democratic leadership. The large majority held by the Democrats will be gone, and party discipline will not be strong enough (it never is) to prevent some defections. Should the Republicans win an overwhelming victory in both houses next week, they will still not have the votes to override presidential vetoes. Therefore they will not be able to legislate unilaterally, and if any legislation is to be passed it will have to be the result of negotiations between the president and the Republican Congressional leadership. Thus, whether the Democrats do better than expected or the Republicans win a massive victory, the practical result will be the same. When we consider the difficulties President Barack Obama had passing his health care legislation, even with powerful majorities in both houses, it is clear that he will not be able to push through any significant legislation without Republican agreement. The result will either be gridlock or a very different legislative agenda than we have seen in the first two years." (STRATFOR)

"In early March 2006, Donald Rumsfeld called a Pentagon news conference to declare Iraq peaceful -- and to say that U.S. reporters in Baghdad were liars for reporting otherwise. Contrary to the jumble of 'exaggerated' reporting from Baghdad, the then-secretary of defense said at the Washington press briefing, Iraq was experiencing no such thing as the explosion of sectarian violence that myself and many of my fellow journalists in Baghdad were covering in the aftermath of a fateful February 2006 bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra. Certainly, some Iraqis were trying to incite civil war, Rumsfeld acknowledged. But Iraq's own security forces had 'taken the lead in controlling the situation,' he insisted, and quick action by the Shiite-led government had 'a calming effect.' Rumsfeld also made clear at the time that U.S. officials were fighting another kind of war over Iraq -- the battle for U.S. opinion. The 'misreporting' on the death toll was driving down U.S. support for the war, the defense secretary complained. Four years on, however, WikiLeaks' release of contemporary troop logs raises serious questions about who, exactly, was doing the lying." (ForeignPolicy)

"Howard (Stern) said Charlie (Sheen) already had a bad reputation so why did she think she was going to change him. Denise (Richards) said that she wasn't trying to change him. She said his past was his past and she was moving on. Howard said everyone was waiting for the bomb to drop on that marriage. Howard asked what the defining moment was for her. Denise said that it was a moment, that's for sure. Howard asked how long it took. She said it was a year into the marriage. Denise was pregnant with their first. Then the stuff started trickling out. Howard said that Elvis was like that too. He'd stop loving them as soon as they got pregnant. Denise said that she and Charlie are getting along now. She said that it's more than just that issue with him. Howard said that some women just don't see through to the reality of what's going on. Howard said Denise could have had any guy in Hollywood. Denise said that it was great in the beginning. She said that Charlie is a very unique individual and he should stay single. She thinks he'd be happy if he stayed single. She said that she's told him that too. Denise said that he probably will get married again though ... Howard said that he heard that when Charlie went to jail he called their daughters from jail. Denise said she tried to tell them that when adults do something wrong they get a ''time out'' so that's what daddy was doing. She said that the kids asked what he did to get the time out but she told them that he'd explain that to them. He never did tell the kids what he did." (Marksfriggin)

"When most of us lose our wallets, we putter around the house for a bit, cursing out the empty pockets and purses we were certain those wallets were left in. Charlie Sheen does not do things this way. In fact, here is how Charlie Sheen did things last night, culled from reports filed by the Post, TMZ, and Life and Style: After losing his wallet, he got drunk and nude, threw tables and chairs around his room in the Plaza hotel, damaged a chandelier, allegedly terrified a naked escort hiding in the hotel closet, admitted he had been "out partying" when cops were called to the scene, and was hospitalized." (Vulture)

"With a week to go until Election Day, House Democrats face the potential of a political bloodbath the size of which we haven’t seen since the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The largest midterm House loss for the president’s party during the last 50 years was 52 seats in 1994. The previous largest losses were 55 seats in 1942 and 71 seats in 1938. While some Democrats say their party will keep Republican gains to fewer than 39 seats, Democratic losses are likely to be much higher. Democratic district-level polling suggesting manageable losses is contradicted by GOP surveys, which show more than eight dozen Democrats under 50 percent in general election ballot tests, and dozens of Democratic nominees either trailing their Republican opponents or sitting in the mid-40s.In wave elections, incumbents of the party at risk tend not to receive the votes of people who are undecided late, so most Democrats need to hold comfortable leads and be near the 50 percent mark if they are going to survive on Election Day. (Even if third-party candidates draw more support than usual, their presence on district ballots isn’t likely to help Democrats win more than a race or two.)  Political handicapper Nate Silver has challenged the rule of thumb that incumbents don’t get the undecided vote. But he incorrectly assumes that the rule applies to all elections. In fact, it is relevant only for wave elections, when voters are dissatisfied with incumbents and the direction of the country, not for status-quo elections, when incumbents are more popular." (Stuart Rothenberg)

"Not surprisingly Gloria (Vanderbilt) has many loyal friends, (some dating back to her childhood) – including her housekeeper and steadfast friend Nora Mulkerins Marley who is a contemporary of Gloria’s and has been with her for most of her long adult life, as well as Nora’s daughter GG who is also part of Gloria’s extended family that she began creating at an early age as her birth family was ebbing. It’s a beautiful book, alluringly designed and art directed by Chip Kidd. It’s full of fascinating archival photos dating from the beginning right up to today. Gloria once told me that many years ago when she was traveling constantly all over the country promoting her famous line of Jeans, that someone came up to her in an airport and said to her: 'Congratulations on your life.' Those kinds and simple words touched her so deeply that she found herself sobbing in reaction." (NYSocialDiary)

"But that was nearly a year ago. Mr. Taibbi, freshly married and now 40 years old, has a major book, Griftopia, an expansion of the squid profile and its main ideas, out Nov. 2 through Random House. It does not have a chapter on king-hell speed binges, like his first book, or, like his second, anecdotes about gobbling acid before interviewing the former White House Drug Policy head and Kerry aide, in a Viking outfit. In fact, the book has no stunts or gags in it, and barely any mugging for the camera. 'I'm worried about it, because it's not a particularly funny topic,' he said. When he was writing, he caught himself trying hard to amuse. 'Some of those things ended up being so unfunny that we had to actually remove them from the book.' Since at least 2008, when he won a National Magazine Award, then began shifting from politics to Wall Street, his name has been a byword for a certain kind of worldview and writing. It is infuriated; inquisitive; indecorous; agog. Except for its lack of psychotropics and costumes, the book is a summation of what his name means to the landscape of financial journalism. But, especially recently, it's also become a schoolyard put-down." (Observer)

"Scott Rudin Productions has acquired screen rights to David Leviathan and Rachel Cohn's new novel Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, and has attached Tiny Furniture writer/director/star Lena Dunham to write the script and direct. Rudin, who'll produce, hasn't yet set it yet at a studio.Leviathan and Cohn previously wrote the novel Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist, which was turned into the Peter Sollett-directed film. Knopf publishes Dash and Lily's Book of Dares today. Two teens, left alone in Manhattan for Christmas, develop a connection when she leaves a notebook full of literary clues at the Strand bookstore and he follows the clues and leaves some of his own. There are dares in the book that lead the characters to crowded places like Macys and FAO Schwartz. Along the way, they reveal information about themselves, leading to an inevitable meeting." (Deadline)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Bob Woodward's latest book, Obama's Wars, discusses how, during the debate within U.S. President Barack Obama's inner circle over the best military strategy for Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus was the main proponent of a classic 'protect the people' counterinsurgency strategy. During the debates, Petraeus railed against Vice President Joe Biden's proposal for a narrower 'kinetic' counterterrorism approach that would focus on killing al Qaeda and Taliban leaders with bombs, missiles, and special-operations raids. Obama eventually gave Petraeus's plan the nod. Attempting to implement the soft touch recommended by counterinsurgency theory, former commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal severely limited the use of airstrikes and artillery and ordered U.S. ground units to disengage from firefights rather than risk firing into occupied buildings. But that was then. Under pressure to show measureable results, Petraeus now seems to be warming up to Biden's approach more than he is likely to admit." (ForeignPolicy)

"The more the rest of the media abandons the field, the more important NPR’s foreign reporting becomes. Yes, there are now websites overflowing with information about everything in the world, but very few have the resources and expertise to do the kind of reporting NPR does. And since America is increasingly buffeted by decisions made in other countries, our national ignorance is becoming a threat to our national security. Once upon a time, there was a wing of American conservatism that recognized that there were public goods and cultural standards that needed to be insulated from the whims of the market. Today, that’s considered elitist. Flagrant ignorance, by contrast, especially about the rest of the world, is a sign of populism, a sign that you don’t think you’re better than anyone else. On the right today, Sarah Palin isn’t adored in spite of her parochialism; she’s adored because of it." (Peter Beinart)

"Tina Brown has always had a thing for older men—years ago, she’d married one. There was S. I. Newhouse, her admiring boss and patron at The New Yorker and Vanity Fair. There is Barry Diller, funding her current buzzy, money-losing Internet venture, the Daily Beast. And here she was again, on the verge of tying the knot. This time the suitor was Sidney Harman, a 92-year-old audio-equipment magnate—a young 92, he hastens to add: 'I know I don’t look or act my age.' Looking for another, perhaps final act, Harman had bought Newsweek magazine for $1 (and substantial liabilities)—the deal was announced August 2—and he needed someone to run it. He’d been searching for a partner for the past four months, and now, at last, he seemed about to win over Brown, once the most glamorous and sought-after editor in the city. Brown, too, wanted a new, expanded act. And there were, or at least everyone said there were, endless synergies between the Daily Beast and Newsweek, which would merge in the deal to get Brown. The newsy Beast needed serious ballast, a big mainstream identity—about the only asset the failing Newsweek still had—while Newsweek needed to make peace with the modern digital world. But there were a couple of hitches, as there would be, given such a complicated union of companies and missions and egos." (NYMag)

"After lengthy negotiations, NBC has closed a deal for Jamie Foxx's drama project Tommy's Little Girl based on the trailer Foxx shot with Selma Blair, Paul Sorvino, Tony Sirico and James Russo. The network also has picked up Life Is Good, a comedy from Unhitched creators Chris Pappas and Mike Bernier and Hangover 2 writer Scot Armstrong. Based on Foxx's idea, Girl is described as Le Femme Nikita meets The Sopranos and centers on a young girl (Blair) raised in a mafia family who is hidden away in an orphanage after her family is murdered by a competing mafia crime boss. She grows up to become an attorney by day, and a deadly, well trained killer by night, as she avenges her family's murder and attempts to locate her last living relative." (Deadline)

(Photo: Eleanor Bentall via NYSD)

"NYSD readers know that I am avid reader of obituaries. I remember as a kid making fun of my mother for reading them avidly and daily. The joke’s on me. Although not all obituaries are good or even interesting. The Americans tend to look at one’s life in terms of what they’d 'done.' While this may be laudable, it often leaves out the life. The best I find are in the (London) Daily Telegraph. Their writers are excellent and the lives they chronicle are rich and telling.  Today’s includes that of Natasha, Lady Spender who died last Thursday at 91. Lady Spender was the widow of poet Sir Stephen Spender. The story of her life is dramatic, romantic, poetic, and inspiring. She was a daughter, a wife, a mother, and a professional woman who had two careers, one of which resulted from an infirmity that came upon her. Every paragraph of her life seems to contribute to her initiative and self-reliance and the ability to adapt and make the most of what is given." (NYSocialDiary)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Hundred In The Hands: Commotion

How much do I love this? It is insidiously good.
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"The drama of rewriting the postwar social contract is taking place across Europe. Over the past generation, globalization has challenged Western economic dominance and forced wages downward throughout the industrialized world; the economic crisis that began in 2008 delivered the coup de grace. The crop of European leaders unlucky enough to hold office amid all this has been stuck with the unpopular job of offering solutions. British Prime Minister David Cameron has proposed a radical assault on the benefits of social democracy, including not just deep cuts in welfare spending, but the elimination of cherished middle-class subsidies. Cameron has also proposed raising the retirement age -- to 66. Greece, where a wildly intrusive and inefficient government brought the country to within a hairsbreadth of bankruptcy, has been convulsed by popular resistance to Prime Minister George Papandreou's proposed cuts. Germany is widely admired for having made painful changes to labor laws without endangering social peace, but the Social Democrats who drove those reforms were booted out of office in a spasm of public anger. What Sarkozy is proposing is quite modest by comparison. Raising the minimum age to 62, and the age at which a full pension kicks in from 65 to 67, hardly solves the problem of a smaller and smaller number of workers supporting an ever increasing number of retirees." (James Traub)

"When Kanye West spoke Friday evening at the New York screening of his mini-movie 'Runaway,' he mentioned the film’s massive worldwide premiere this Saturday reminded him of the way Michael Jackson used to debut his music videos on multiple channels. It would be an outrageous statement, if it wasn’t already true considering MTV, MTV2, BET,,, and will air 'Runaway' simultaneously at 8 p.m. EST. Kanye explained 'Runaway' was a film made from the perspective of his five-year-old self, back when he “wasn’t told what to like, and wasn't told what not to like.' The description was fitting. 'Runaway' is a cross between an epic music video and a charming indie-house flick. The plot, a simple love story about a man who witnesses a beautiful phoenix (played wonderfully and effectively by model Selita Ebanks) fall to Earth, and then takes her home, only to end up falling head over heels for her, despite the fact that she is half-human, half-bird. On the surface, none of it makes sense, but considering Kanye's goal to tell a story from the perspective of a five-year-old, 'Runaway' is a vision fully realized." (wsj)

"Now that the X-Men Origins: Wolverine 2 directing job went to Darren Aronofsky, The Hunger Games was gobbled up by Gary Ross and Zack Snyder got the Superman job, there are only a couple films left that have directors hot and bothered. One is Pride, Prejudice and Zombies, the Lionsgate film that David O Russell departed, and Mike Newell is still frontrunner to direct Scarlett Johansson and Bradley Cooper. But for sheer ambition and budget scale, the big directing job is the James Cameron-produced Fantastic Voyage at 20th Century Fox. I'm hearing that Cameron's choice is Louis Leterrier, whose last film, Clash of the Titans, grossed around $500 million worldwide for Warner Bros. Cameron and the studio have a strong Shane Salerno script, and Cameron's Avatar designers have done everything but build sets for a film that could be ready to shoot early in 2011. Of course, the studio is still figuring out the budget and logistics, as is the case with the other major 3D pic that Cameron is producing, the Guillermo del Toro-directed At the Mountains of Madness at Universal." (Deadline)

"It's been almost 40 years since Bryan Ferry first blazed across the pop cultural heavens as Roxy Music's glittering centerpiece, four decades that add up to a whole lot of scenes he's made, 'in' crowds he's been in with. All of them were represented—from fashion nabob Sir Philip Green to design legends Antony Price and Stephen Jones to a serious muso contingent led by David Gilmour—at Tuesday night's dinner at London's Dean Street Townhouse to celebrate Olympia, Ferry's latest album. The glamorous, glorious tradition of Roxy/Ferry cover icons is upheld on the new release by a Dior-clad Kate Moss. The supermodel spent the evening huddled with dinner companion Lucian Freud." (Style)

"'Tell them to stop leaning on the fence!' Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia and the first woman ever elected head of state on the continent of Africa, ordered the leader of her security team. We were driving along one of the scarce paved avenues in her nation's capital, Monrovia. With her convoy rode United Nations gunmen, part of a peacekeeping force of 10,000 charged with preventing a conflagration in the aftermath of 14 years of horrific civil war. The fighting ended in 2003, but outside the windows of Sirleaf's S.U.V., the skeletons of abandoned buildings and the cries, at once thrilled and desperate, of the onlookers along the president's route were signs of the country's position near last on any list of how well the world's nations are functioning." (NYTimes)

"For a generation, Prince Bandar bin Sultan was Riyadh's man in Washington. As the Saudi ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005, he was even dubbed 'Bandar Bush' for his close ties to that powerful American political dynasty. After leaving Washington, apparently burned out, he returned to Saudi Arabia to head the newly established Saudi National Security Council, the function of which was not, and still is not, clear. However, he continued to sneak back into the United States periodically because the king quickly decided he preferred Bandar over his successor, Prince Turki al-Faisal, as his channel to the White House -- a situation that eventually led Turki to resign in protest. And then, around 2008, Bandar vanished from the public eye. Exactly what caused Bandar to fall out of political favor remains unclear, but he had acquired no shortage of enemies, even within the royal family, over his long tenure as the principal contact between Saudi Arabia and its most important ally. Bandar's disappearance prompted a number of conspiracy theories. The Iranian media, for example, has rather creatively accused him of masterminding al Qaeda's activities in Iraq and funding al Qaeda-affiliated Sunni Islamist groups in Lebanon in an attempt to undermine Hezbollah. But now, Bandar is back. A brief Saudi Press Agency story last week reported: 'Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz, Chief of Saudi Intelligence, welcomed Prince Bandar home at the airport.'" (ForeignPolicy)

"Lately, the rich have been boring—or at least that's how it would appear to anyone skimming through the popular media. Recent headlines about self-righteous hedge funders publically excoriating Obama, or -- even more topical -- wealthy politicos failing to accurately recite the minimum wage represent the best coverage of the upper crust that reporters have been able to offer. Interestingly, what seems to be happening is that the very richest Americans are concealing their extravagances for fear of inciting fanatical resentment among the general population. Ever since the economy collapsed and the government bailed out Wall Street, flagrant exhibitionism has been steadily losing its outward appeal. The wealthy no longer flaunt their out-sized fortunes and elevated social status with pride. Instead, they put on middle class airs and disingenuously espouse mainstream values, hoping to avoid the populist fury that has been spreading throughout the nation. Just to set the record straight, I've assembled a short list of recent incidents where fabulously wealthy individuals have accidentally let slip a true penchant for luxury. Here are three prime illustrations of conspicuous consumption from my recent, personal experience .." (Jamie Johnson/Vanity Fair)

"For people saddled with unsustainable mortgage payments, foreclosure proceedings come with a heavy emphasis on the "closure" part-since they mean eviction, devastated credit and near-permanent status as a financial pariah. But the purveyors of the fraudulent debt instruments behind the nation's present foreclosure tsunami play, as always, by a different set of rules. For even in managing the wind-down of home loans poisoned by their own special brand of recklessly securitized debt, American banks continue hewing to the same fee-seeking, asset-stripping mode of enterprise that originally jeopardized the U.S. housing market, and much of the broader economy along with it. Now, as then, they've distorted the housing market with howlingly unprofessional and dubiously legal conduct. And now, as then, they're pursuing short-term financial incentives that have nothing to do with the actual provisions in the contracts they're legally obligated to honor. As Ariana Eunjung Cha and Zachary A. Goldfarb explain in the Washington Post, the nation's financial institutions are processing the greatest volume of home foreclosures in our history-now numbering more than 2 million properties, with another 2.3 million seriously delinquent–'through a mass production system of foreclosures that was set up to prioritize one thing over everything else: speed.'" (Chris Lehmann/TheAwl)

"Matthew Yglesias points to the massive spending cuts in the U.K. budget as a reason conservatives should support majority rule: I do hope that American conservatives will look at the UK and recognize that even though they may have enjoyed the filibuster in 2009-2010, the extremely cumbersome nature of the American political process will make it forever impossible to enact these kind of sweeping cuts in the United States. From where I sit, the system they have in the UK where you can simply sweep opposition objections aside is actually the right way to do bipartisanship. Call it bipartisanship by alternation. When Labour wins the election, Labour has the chance to implement a bold agenda creating and expanding programs in a way that they think will make Britain a better place to live. Then when the Tories come in, they’re able to be brutal in their efforts to pare back or eliminate things that they think aren’t working. Over the long term, you get a trajectory where programs survive if and only if they’re so widely regarded as successful that no mainstream party would dare abolish them. But is it really the case that the British Tory budget is something American conservatives want? Leave aside the fact that it preserves a system of true socialized medicine -- not just single-payer, which means government paying for private health care but actual doctors and hospitals working for the government." (Jonathan Chait)

"U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a petite woman with pale-blue eyes and perfectly coiffed blonde hair, is sitting at a long table in a huge barn on a farm in upstate New York. There are great sacks of onions piled up to the ceiling on pallets and a few pieces of hulking equipment used during the harvest. It’s a safe bet that this barn has been spiffed up for the senator’s visit, a very special occasion for the family that lives here. It is one of those intoxicating August afternoons—cool and dry with a gentle breeze and big puffy white clouds set against a brilliant blue sky so perfect it seems fake. This kind of event, when staged by a different sort of politician, one less finely attuned to small-town attitudes, could strike a casual observer as too perfect to be real. But Gillibrand is nothing if not genuine, and through sheer force of personality she bends the occasion to suit her style, which is essentially folksy and earnest. She radiates kindness. But she is also direct and no-nonsense. Despite the fact that she is a Democrat (and a fairly progressive one, at that) and worked for fifteen years as a hotshot Manhattan lawyer, she seems utterly at ease among this crowd of mostly Republican farmers, with their rough hands and weathered faces." (Vogue)

"A FEW days after Rajiv Shah was sworn in as the head of the United States Agency for International Development, he stopped by to see its rapid response center, a high-tech command post for disaster relief, which on that day stood empty and still. Twelve hours later, an earthquake devastated Haiti, and for the next two months the center became Dr. Shah’s round-the-clock home. A brainy, 37-year-old physician with little government experience, Dr. Shah suddenly found himself coordinating a desperate emergency relief effort under the gaze of President Obama.  The pace has barely let up since: catastrophic floods in Pakistan, the surge of aid workers into Afghanistan, a top-to-bottom review of American foreign assistance — all have heavily involved Dr. Shah, turning him into one of the administration’s most visible foreign policy players.  But for this politically astute son of Indian immigrants from Ann Arbor, Mich., who is now the highest-ranking Indian-American in the administration, it is his ambitious campaign to rebuild Usaid that will ultimately determine his success or failure in Washington. 'He’s inherited leadership of an agency that was nearly broken over the last two decades,' said Richard C. Holbrooke, the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan who has testified alongside him on Capitol Hill. While Mr. Holbrooke said Dr. Shah had a 'limitless future,' he added, 'He’s going to be tested like few others are in government.'" (NYTimes)

"How do you get to be the world’s most successful art dealer? The steely-eyed, silver-haired 65-year-old who steps discreetly into C London in Mayfair is not giving much away. 'I’m a kinda lowbrow guy,' Larry Gagosian says, acknowledging the greetings from tables full of international collectors in town for the Frieze art fair as he slips into a corner seat beside me. 'I couldn’t put it better than Woody Allen does, ‘Just give me a good game and a good beer.’ I’m just like the next guy.' In black trousers, open-necked shirt and checked jacket, he has certainly tried to look ordinary. Tanned and trim (when at home in New York, he works out in the pool at his Manhattan town house), Gagosian speaks softly, slowly, deliberately, as if to undercut his powerful image. But to say he is 'just like the next guy' is straining the truth. Gagosian is masterminding the careers of blue-chip names such as Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami and Damien Hirst. He owns nine (soon to be 10) galleries round the world." (FT)

"After consecutive elections marked by big gains in Republican territory, the Democratic Party of 2011 is poised to shrink back to its form before the GOP’s downward spiral: more coastal and urban and less Southern, Midwestern and rural. Based on the state of the political map two weeks out from the elections, the famed red vs. blue model that followed the 2004 presidential race appears to be returning to shape, with enough grave threats to Democratic officeholders to suggest that the party — as it is expressed in Congress, at least — could end up even narrower than that. Republicans are already well-positioned to capture scores of House, Senate and gubernatorial seats across the South and the heartland. And depending on the strength of the party’s performance on Nov. 2, the GOP is also close to penetrating citadels of Democratic strength in places like Washington, California, Oregon and Massachusetts. Even if Democrats are able to prevent a total wipeout, it’s likely that this year’s elections will mark a return to the familiar political universe that characterized the decade before 2006, when the GOP controlled swaths of politically conservative and moderate parts of the country." (Politico)

"In a testament to the GOP’s advantage in the midterm elections, CQ Politics has made 25 changes to its race ratings that for the most part show Republicans gaining steam as the Democrats attempt to maintain control of Congress on Nov. 2. The re-election races of five Democratic incumbents have been moved to the Likely Republican category. Three of the Democrats now in this category were elected in districts that supported President Barack Obama in 2008 but President George W. Bush in 2004: Reps. Debbie Halvorson in eastern Illinois, Steve Driehaus in southwestern Ohio and Mary Jo Kilroy in central Ohio." (CQPolitics)