Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 Corsair Pirate Awards (Will be continuously updated until TODAY 12/31)

Another year has passed. What is that line in Abba's "Happy New Year" -- my favorite New Year's song -- "Happy new year/ Happy new year/ May we all have a vision now and then/ Of a world where every neighbour is a friend." Ando so on.

And this makes our 9th -- ! -- annual Pirate Awards season. Cannot believe that this blog has been going for eight years. All this week this blog will be re-hashing some of the fiascos, triumphs, epic fails and political coups that went down this year. The whole process will be a mix of funny, informative and (hopefully) smart stuff that people who have been reading this blog for nearly a decade are used to. I refuse to compromise with salacious content, but I do not shy away from the spice of life, as you all know. Enjoy:

Meltdown of the Year: Karl Rove. The man once known as The Architect -- also Bush's Brain --  the enabler of the War on Terror, ended this year in a personal war against Big Data. His media meltdown over the fact that his protoge Mitt Romney's loss of Ohio forced Megyn Kelly into the control room at Fox. Not his best moment, to be sure.

RIP, 2012 -- tie: Gore Vidal and Elliot Zuckerman and Chris Hitchens. The United States lost three geniuses this year, essayist Gore Vidal and musician Elliot Zuckerman and my old pal Hitchens. All three were liberally educated generalists -- a dying breed -- and they left us in quite a mess, in an age of economists. At his best Gore Vidal was perhaps the best essayist since Montaigne; at his best Elliot Zuckerman was the best, most complex musician of his age; at his best Christopher was one of the most formidable debaters in the history of the English language. Who will take their place?

Most Adept Political Maneuver: The President Pivots Populist. President Obama's pivot pacificwise was an astonishing political development internationally, but domestically, his pivot from the centrist of 2010 to the populist campaigner was flawlessly executed. And it was difficult. Throughout his first term Obama has veered between center-left to center, but to get electe3d -- the demographics proved this right -- he had to become a populist, capture all the territory to the left of Romney and with large margins.  I wrote, last January:

"Right before our very eyes last night, as if by magic, the President veered towards the populist left. It has been a long and treacherous journey, a move he had resisted in 2008 -- where he was cast as the brainy, intellectual, lofty rhetoric spouting pol with the dazzling smile. Populism, to be quite frank, was inorganic to Obama, a Democrat in the stiff Dukakis-Kerry mode (unlike the earthy, working class Bill Clinton, the unusual Democrat that carried Arkansas and West Virginia). The gloomy demographics of the 2012 race -- probably against Romney; how does one get the magic electoral college number? -- presage a negative and tactically brutal upcoming campaign."

It was not an easy task to reinvent himself in that way, but then again he had a lot of help ... from Romney. Runner up: Chris Christie.

Underreported Story of the Year: Was Arafat Poisoned? Whether or not Yasser Arafat was poisoned with Polonium 210 will be determined later on in 2013, but there is reason to believe that he may indeed have been. While holed up in Ramallah by the Israeli military in his last days, Arafat died ... abruptly. From Slate: "The body of Yasser Arafat was exhumed briefly (in November) so medical examiners could attempt to determine whether he was poisoned. Arafat’s widow, Suha, requested a murder investigation, and high levels of polonium-210 have been found on the Palestinian leader’s personal effects." Hmm. Curiouser and curiouser, said Obi Wan Kenobi.

End of a Trend: Ladies Who Lunch. Remember the "Ladies who Lunched"? Nothings quite been the same since Nan and Pat left the scene so prematurely for that great big swishy cocktail party in the sky. The Barbara Walterses, the Liz Smiths, Aileen Mehlee, Judy Taubmans, Mica Erteguns, Lynn Wyatt, Princess Firyal, Mercedes Bass, the Louise Grunwald, Susan Gutfreund, and Deeda Blair? Remember how they basically were the soft powers that made -- behind the scenes -- things move so swishily for the ruling class at noonish? But even Barbara Walters aint what she used to be, to be frank. Before her, there was Babe Paley, Gloria Guinness, Slim Keith, C. Z. Guest, the Duchess of Windsor, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. No one holds that kind of power and glamour anymore and, to be frank, it is hard to see anyone taking their place. Alas, the ladies who lunch went through assl sorts of retrospectives this year because they -- like the cucumber sandwiches they once munched on -- has become a relic of the past, like summering at Bailey's Beach.

Then again, perhaps with the change in American demographics -- as evidenced in the last election -- and an Afircan-American President, the whole debutante thing appears to be passe, as evidenced by Cornelia Guest's (daughter of CZ) all but giving up the category altogether (averted gaze).

Media Organization of the Year: (tie) Al Jazeera and Bloomberg LP. Bloomberg is the place to go for serious data-driven, business political news; Al Jazeera is the place to go for hardcore coverage of international events with a decidedly non-Western inflection. This year, underrated Bloomberg LP correspondent Juliana Goldman landed one of the best, tightest, hard hitting interviews with the newly re-elected President; this year Al Jazeera reported fearlessly and positively on the (so called) Third World particularly with reference to the Arab Spring and the possibility that Arafat was poisoned with Polonium 210. Bravo to both news organizations who have won this award two years in a row. This blogger will be watching them both religiously in 2013.

Up-and-Coming Politician of the Year: Elizabeth Warren. Warren won two major victories this past year. She slayed a rising star, Scott Brown (against a slew of Wall Street money), then won a seat on the powerful Senate Banking Committee. Although it seems impossible, could she somehow, someday make her wayto Treasury Secretary? Stranger things have happened. Remember: conventional wisdom was that she wasn't supposed to win that Senate seat. Honorable Mention: Imran Khan.

Sleaziest Organization: Pakistan's ISI. Pakistan's ISI had some tough competition this year, what with all the Russian mafia, Teabaggers, the Albanian pimps, the Nigerian dollar choppers and -- last but not least -- the Cambodian human traffickers (who can forget them?). But Pakistan's ISI, a hypersleazy group of paranoiac turds subsisting entirely of handouts from the US government while cutting backroom deals with the woman hating, illiterate Taiban, are in a class  by themselves. They rule Pakistan, lord over a nuclear arsenal with an almost cosmic sense of hubris mixed with utter stupidity.

Last year this blog wrote: "The problem is that Pakistan's ISI are paranoiac. If the ISI were an individual it would be diagnosed with severe psychological problems. They truly believe that India, the world's largest democarcy and a rising power, dreams of a land war with Pakistan. Fucking crazy paranoiac shit, on the real" And that, quite frankly, is the best that can be said about these nuclear capable assholes. Let 2013 be the year that these sleazeballs die and die hard. Fucking douchebags.

Raciest Book of the Year. Scotty Bowers's Full Service. Gore Vidal's last public appearance was at Scotty Bowers's Full Service book party at the Chateau Marmont. A fitting exit as the book is the one of the most delicious revelations of Hollywood in quite some time, a perfect mix of sex, power and money -- if you go in for that sort of thing (and everyone does). A taste, from his eulogy of Gore Vidal:
"I met him right here in Los Angeles. After World War II, he came into my gas station.
"I worked at this gas station on Hollywood Boulevard. And Gore would come from time to time, when he was available. To be honest, he came in quite often. He liked to look at all the attractive guys I had there. He would come and hang out in the evening. His type was the all-American guy next door. Sometimes he’d go off with someone and sometimes he didn’t. As I said, we were buddies. I was fixing up probably at least 20 guys or girls at the gas station back then, mostly gay clients, who couldn’t be out in Hollywood. Gore was such good advertisement for me. He would tell all his friends in Europe about the gas station.
 "... I remember Gore being tall and trim, with his shoulders out, his stomach in, his chest out, dancing with Jackie Kennedy at parties around town."
Yeah, what he said.

Media Death of the Year: Newsweek. Unburied and unsung.  Sad to say there was more of a public outcry for the possible death of Twinkies (as if that brand death would actually happen) this year than the actual death of the 80 year old American media institution Newsweek. As someone who likes Tina Brown it was especially sad to see this media tragedy happen under her watch. She should be above such humiliations. Still, this sort of thing -- a print magazine unable to adapt to a changing digital world -- will happen a lot more in 2013, Darwinian media cosmos that we now all inhabit.

Jesus Christ, girl

Sexiest Person of the Year: Anne Hathaway. Anne Hathaway must be tired. She's been running through my mind all year. The dignified way in which she handled the unfortunate paparazzi shots made me swoon -- and, jaded, I swoon rarely nowadays. Her SNL appearance, particularly her spoof of Homeland (MAJOR SWOONAGE). Her performance in The Dark Knight Rises was extraordinary -- she captured all the nuance of Selina Kyle in a way that Michelle Pfeiffer and Halle Berry could only dream about. She has earned a space in the hearts of all graphic novel geeks next to Frank Frazetta and Dark Phoenix. And although I detest the shallow hideosity of musicals, I am considering paying the full ticket price just to hear this damned sexy woman sing in Les Miserables. That she is now married is a sting The Corsair shall bear with great dignity. Runners up: Rebecca Hall, Kerry Washington.

Scandal of the Year: Paula and Petraeus. What was the director of central intelligence thinking? Universally recognized as uniquely talented and poised to become a major player on the planet, Petraeus threw it all away for sex with his biographer. How can a disciplined man who eats one meal a day and limits himself to only four hours of sleep a day ... ah, well, what is that line that Woody Allen used? The heart wants what the heart wants -- or at least the loins, in this case.

Overrated Media Event of the Year: Julian Assange on RTV. One would think that Julian Assange, one of the most controversial figures of our age -- a revolutionary thinker -- would be able to give some amazing media moments. But his show on RTV went out with a bang not a whimper. We expected fire, we got smoke up our ass. And his one million document promise for 2013 is sure to be a magnum of chloroform. Zzzzz....

Most Interesting New Media Site: BuzzFeed. There are, of course, a million great web sites going on, especially in New York. But BuzzFeed -- in that it has now a political/cultural dimension -- is one of the most interesting, and probably the one building the biggest media legacy. From The NYTimes earlier this year: "BuzzFeed is the creation of Jonah Peretti, a graduate of the MIT Media Lab with an expertise in content that is likely to be 'liked.' He took those skills to The Huffington Post, where he was the wizard in back of the curtain, brewing a bubbling cauldron of tatty celebrity news and goofy cat shots behind a front page of serious news and commentary. Using search optimization, he knew what people wanted almost before they did. Mr. Peretti started BuzzFeed as a laboratory at first, making it less about what people were searching for and more about what they might share. He developed technologies that allowed BuzzFeed to determine very quickly what media content was being posted and shared — items that were contagious, the kind of thing that ends up on one person’s Facebook page and then suddenly, many other people’s. When The Huffington Post was sold to AOL last year, Mr. Peretti left and began working on BuzzFeed full-time. With its mix of oddities, listicles and Web memes, BuzzFeed was at first something like The Huffington Post without the pretension of producing news and commentary."

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Predictions 2013 (Keep Updating! More Prediction Posts Through Monday 12/31!)

Every year around this time for many, many years The Corsair gives some predictions on politics, culture, media.

Last year this blog made many predictions -- a lot of them close. Some of them were wa-a-ay off. Like: "30 Rock will finally crack the Nielsen Top 10. Charlie Rose will be forced to cut back on his hyper-media schedule due to health concerns. Walter Isaacson will replace him on his late night talk show." That's humbling.

But this blog also got some predictions near correct, like: "ABC's Good Morning America will come within a whisker of tying NBC's Today, leading to some consternation among the suits at 30 Rock as to whether or not Ann Curry was a good replacement for Meredith Vieira."

The following is a prediction that I made for 2012: "This blog will double down for 2013. Pakistan will be rocked by mass protests against the military. Protesters will demand for the rule of law and the elevation of judges over the generals. The protesters will take Tahrir Square as their model. The instability in a nuclearized state will cause much anxiety in Washington."

2013 will be the year of Pakistan's transformation as the Arab Spring finally hits, the main theme of the protests which will rock 2013 is that no man and no general is above the rule of law. Law and Justice will be the great political forces moving through Pakistan this year.

Already you can see this force moving through India, in the wake of the bus rape. A tipping point has been reached in Central Asia as well as the Middle East. In India, Pakistan (and to some degree China and Putin's Russia as well) there will be riots and civil unrest as the people struggle to venerate lawyers and incorruptable judges to the forefront, shunning military generals and police forces and juntas.

Hillary Clinton, citing health reasons, will by the end of the year decide not to run for President. Mark Warner will end the year as the Democrat who wants it most. A grass roots campaign to amend the Constitution allowing foreign born politicians to run for President will emerge, touting Jennifer Granholme as the best bet for Democrats. Hillary will tentatively put signal that she approves.

Celebrity Politics will continue to be a force in 2013. Ben Affleck will mull a run for a Congressional seat -- and eventually a statewide Senate seat -- in Georgia (not Massachusetts), hoping to finally put it in the Democrat column. Ashley Judd will run against Mitch McConnell.

Anne Hathaway will win Best Actress at the Oscars for Les Miserables (of course). Daniel Day Lewis will win best Actor (of course).

The mobile industry will continue to expand, dwarfing the gains made in 2012. Mobile will become the number one way to read news. Newspapers, particularly, will amp up mobile-friendly editions, scuttling their tablet designs (a trend that was already beginning in 2012 with the demise of NewsCorps The Daily). Ashley Harrison, on Forbes, goes further, saying, "With publishers seeing a solid third of readership originating from mobile devices, it is likely that mobile news distribution will grab a 33 percent market share in terms of digital publishing in 2013." I believe that the number might even soar higher than that and that reading news on smartphones will be the way.

John McLaughlin will quietly retire from The McLaughlin Group after a series of embarassing gaffes, showing an increasing senility, go viral in the middle of the year.

The Italian elections will become a grusome referendum on the European Union. Berlusconi will head a formidable -- though farcicle -- anti-EU platform, seeking Italy's exit from the Union. He will be narrowly defeated, rattling world markets and causing a great conversation as to whether or not the EU even has the will to exist.

CNN's Jeff Zucker will cancel the Piers Morgan show, opting to pay out the controversial talker's contract.

Samantha Power will be nominated to become United States Ambassador to the United Nations; Susan Rice will be named National Security Advisor.

Elizabeth Spiers will be named editor of New York magazine after Adam Moss steps down, ushering a new era of toung turks taking the helm of old(ish) media.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"The horror at Newtown, Connecticut put a damper on the unending end-of-year parties. That includes my own Christmas blast at the Boom Boom Room in honor of Lindsay Lohan and some of the Big Bagel’s prettiest girls. At times I think I missed my vocation: Protector-Confessor of fallen women or those about to take the plunge. My only salvation lies in good old Helvetia, where the mother of my children will whip me back into shape in no time. No booze, no sex, just salads and mineral water. Ugh! Mind you, I’m not so sure about my marriage to Miss Lohan. Too many cops around her, and they make me nervous. My party began at 9PM and after eight hours it was still going. My bill was bigger than the Greek debt, and then some." (Taki)

"The whole thing was white, and broken, that much was clear. A week after the presidential election, when the dreams of Republicans were dashed with President Barack Obama’s victory over Mitt Romney, we were snorkeling in the blue waters of the Caribbean. In the distance was a shipwreck. 'You could make out the pieces of it,' said Ralph Reed, the right-wing political operator who had bolstered the Evangelical Christian vote for Romney. 'It was deep and murky.' Jonah Goldberg, the National Review contributor and author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, also bore witness to the once-great vessel that foundered off the coast of Fantasy Island and was now sunken and covered in white barnacles. 'I saw the silhouette of it,' he says. But what, exactly, were we looking at? It was Friday, November 16. We were in Honduras, gazing at a wreck off a resort called Fantasy Island, near Mahogany Bay. Through my goggles, I watched Reed, in white swim trunks and black flippers, flap his way down through the extravagantly blue waters to the old sunken barge, part of the $64.95 Shore Excursion available to passengers aboard the m.s. Nieuw Amsterdam, an 86,000-ton cruise ship owned by Holland America Line. It was day five of the National Review magazine’s Post Election Cruise 2012, and the GOP’s recent problems were, mercifully, about 760 nautical miles away. The cruise, featuring the star columnists of William Buckley’s 57-year-old conservative biweekly, had been planned long in advance, and everybody had believed it would be a victory party. An ­e-mail from the magazine’s publisher arrived a few days before we embarked: 'Do not despair or fret. At least not next week.'
Onboard the Nieuw Amsterdam, no one could follow his advice. 'Who sent Obama here to destroy America?' a fiftysomething woman asked me one evening over dinner, as if it were a perfectly reasonable question. And here onboard the cruise ship, it was. If the Nieuw Amsterdam was a kind of ark of American alienation, at least it was an eminently comfortable one. The ship was a country unto itself, eleven stories high, 936 feet fore to aft, with eleven bars, six restaurants, two swimming pools, five hot tubs, a large café, and a library. There was the endless buffet on the Lido deck, slot machines and craps in the casino, an Asian lounge singer who did a mean 'Copacabana,' a discothèque and a chamber-music cocktail lounge, cigars and Cognac by the pool, gift shops, and a full-service spa." (NYMag)

"Last Thursday, JH and I hosted our annual NYSD Holiday lunch at Swifty’s. We had twenty guests, eighteen of whom are contributors to the NYSD including Sian Ballen and Lesley Hauge, who do our weekly HOUSE series with Jeff; Jeanne Lawrence, who contributes her Shanghai Social Diary; Nina Griscom, who’s given us her African Diaries; Anita Sarko, who writes Shopping Diary, Wendy Lerman, who Tweets it; Jill Krementz, who gives us her magnificent photojournalist diaries on the arts; Jesse Kornbluth (; John Foreman, who gives us his Big Old House every Tuesday, Charlie Scheips who originated our Art Set column; and Gail Karr, who sells all the beautiful ads that decorate the NYSD." (NYSocialDiary)

"It is the hottest day in Virginia history and Tyler Cowen has asked me to meet him at noon in an Ethiopian café in the Build America strip mall, a rectangular plot off Interstate 395, the spur route linking the state with Washington, DC. I arrive 10 minutes early. Cowen is already seated by the window of Seleme, peering at scattered papers from a World Bank report. He looks up and breaks the news: 'They don’t have any food.' We slope out and confront the 40C heat. Cowen has a plan B. He heads left; his hitman stride at odds with his professorial get-up – brown loafers, grey slacks and a black short-sleeved shirt. The two-sided mall has about 80 one-storey brick units and is bordered by a car park dotted with SUVs. We pass exotic cafés, hookah bars and money changers: it looks as if a bazaar has commandeered a boulevard of retirement bungalows. We find our new spot, Kebericho, which looks like the old spot.  A young Ethiopian man with half an eye on the local news sips a Corona beer at the bar. The waitress breaks off her conversation with a male friend and gestures that we pick one of the dozen tables. We opt for a central spot equidistant from the four speakers blaring arrhythmic African pop music." (FT)

"So when will it end? After the next killing, or the one after, or the one after that? When will the politicians who take the gun lobby’s money confront their benefactors? The answer is not in the immediate future. What will it take to stop the killing of innocents? Screening prospective gun buyers for criminal records is not enough. Most mass murderers don’t even have parking tickets on their resume. Adam Lanza used his mother’s guns. Why did a mother-housewife need three guns? And how typical of a mass murderer to murder his mother first, shooting her in the face. America has endured over 60 mass shootings in the last 30 years alone. I know no country in Europe that even begins to compete with this sick record." (Taki Theodoracopoulos)

"New CNN boss Jeff Zucker has been looking to raid certain print publications to beef up the network’s talent roster. We’re told he’s 'reached out to some top reporters in Hollywood to help CNN break more news in that area. He has been sounding out reporters at Variety and Hollywood Reporter.' The source added, 'You can’t turn TV people into great reporters, but you can turn a great reporter into a decent broadcaster.' Zucker also just hired Jake Tapper, ABC News’ chief White House correspondent (watch out, John King). Meanwhile, we’re still hearing Erin Burnett will be headed back to the morning show, while 'American Morning' anchor Soledad O’Brien has been promised a primetime slot." (PageSix)

"When, after years of record revenues, Burberry issued a profit warning in September, it rocked the luxury world. 'They basically said – and I’m paraphrasing – luxury is going sour and so are we,' says Thomas Tochtermann of McKinsey & Company, the consultancy. It looked as though they were right. In rapid succession, Britain’s Mulbalso issued a profit warning; Tiffany of the US announced a 30 per cent drop in third-quarter earnings compared with the same time last year and Louis Vuitton reported 'the softest growth ... in the past 12 years', Melanie Flouquet, an analyst at JPMorgan, wrote in a note. At the same time, however, Hermès raised its sales and profitability targets; and the Prada Group’s earnings were up 50 per cent in the nine months to September, compared with a year earlier. It was as though there were two different luxury realities ... After two decades of seeing luxury as a monolithic and highly profitable sector, investors are beginning to realise that they need to start taking a brand-by-brand approach. 'For a long time, whatever was luxury was successful,' says Mr Tochtermann. 'Now that has changed. Burberry was a real ‘Aha!’ moment.' The market is still predicted by Altagamma, the Italian luxury consortium, and Bain & Co, the consultancy, to grow between 4 and 6 per cent in the next two years, and Burberry and Mulberry stock has rebounded. Yet there is little consensus on how such growth will be achieved. Traditionally the sector has been divided into 'accessible' and 'high' luxury. In the former, focused on the pyramid model developed by American brands such as Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors, a luxury collection at the 'pinnacle' rests on a base of less expensive diffusion lines that provide the bulk of a company’s profits. These in turn are powered by the high-end image. In high luxury, the European model of Louis Vuitton and Hermès eschews the use of any kind of discounting to ensure pricing power and market position are maintained." (FT)

"Come January, auction house Phillips de Pury & Company will be simply Phillips, following news today that chairman Simon de Pury is stepping down after 12 years on the job. The departure, which takes effect today, comes as a result of Mercury Group, the Moscow–based investment firm that first bought into the house in 2008, acquiring his interest in the company. 'During the wonderful and exciting years I had the privilege to spend at Phillips de Pury & Company the firm has become a major taste maker in contemporary art, design and photography,' Mr. de Pury said in a statement. 'I embark on new adventures comfortable with the knowledge that the company is in an excellent position and has been going from strength to strength.' Phillips also announced that it plans to take more space in 450 Park Avenue for galleries and offices. The house first signed a lease there in 2010." (Observer)

"My penultimate move before I left town, on my way to New York for Christmas parties, was to drop my bicycle at the bike shop for a tune-up, which would include getting the chain back on the gears. I have been harsh on my green bicycle, plunging off sidewalks and knocking the air out of the tires, all in the name of fun. I knew it was time to take the bugger in when, while riding, a powerful clanking could be heard over my headphones. The absolute last thing I did before driving myself to Key West International Airport was to stop by Kermit’s Key Lime Pie Factory and purchase myself one frozen Key Lime Pie, with my Monroe County resident’s discount. The pie, resplendent in its carrying case of bright yellow plastic bag with Kermit’s logo emblazoned, caught the attention of local’s who called out, 'That’s the best pie in town!'  Had I known the exponential beneficial effects of traveling with a pie I would always have travelled with one. Usually unsmiling airport staff and security guards and fellow passengers bent over backwards reverentially, you’d think I had the Dalai Lama in a bag. Even the Security Team of screeners broke from their mean glares and offered jokes about how it wouldn’t be their fault if only half the pie made it out the other end of the x-ray machines. They were all abuzz and smiling at the very thought of pie. New York was raucous fun with Christmas parties, each of my four day visit devouring more of me until I was legless and it was a huge relief when I made it home to Key West." (Christina Oxenberg)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"When it comes to winning elections, Team Obama does it better than anyone. When it comes to winning nomination fights, not so much. Act One: Obama wins reelection, thus earning the presumptive right to name to high office pretty much whomever he wants. Act Two: The media report that Susan Rice is his likely choice for Secretary of State, but Obama waits while the Republican flash mob on Benghazi gains strength. Then disaffected Africa wonks begin to gripe. Some off-message liberals chime in. And before you know it, our cool, it’s-just-business president has abandoned the woman everyone thought he really believed in. Act Three: Late last week, the administration leaks its new team: John Kerry for State, Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense. The early stories don’t even mention criticism of Hagel’s views on Israel or Iran. In the Senate, conservative Republicans and Jewish Democrats both responded with praise. Act Four: The 'pro-Israel' right begins to object. AIPAC is said to dislike the choice. Former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block calls Hagel 'well outside the mainstream Democratic and Republican consensus' on Iran. (Block neglects to note that Hagel was also outside that consensus on Iraq, and prophetically so). In the Weekly Standard, an unnamed Senate aide bravely calls Hagel 'an anti-Semite. Act Five: The Obama administration, having just watched a potential nomination die because it allowed right-wing opposition to swell, watches right-wing opposition swell and…does nothing." (Peter beinart)

"When the Arab Spring first rumbled into Syria, it was clear that it would be a different story than the other revolutions seizing the Middle East. At the time, correspondents of all hues were scattered from North Africa to Yemen, covering what in essence were "good news" stories. The narratives were simple: Collective empowerment was breaking down tyranny. The downtrodden were clawing back dignity. Absolute power was contestable after all. It was hard not to soak in the heady scenes of Cairo's Tahrir Square or Tripoli, Libya's Green Square, or to champion the resilience of Bahrain's vocal masses. All three stories seemed enjoyable to cover. But they were curtain-raisers. Even then, Syria loomed large as the main game. As far back as March 2011, when the Syrian revolt began, I sensed that what was about to take place in the heartland of Arabia would come to define careers and potentially reshape the region's geopolitical landscape. Nearly 22 months later, Syria is still doing both. At least seven of our colleagues have lost their lives, along with dozens more citizen journalists. Many more reporters have been captured. Some have been maimed. And at least six remain missing as of mid-December. Early on, the Guardian, like other outlets, determined that there was no substitute for being there -- despite the tangible risks. Ubiquitous cellphone videos and data feeds were useful at times, but were sometimes manipulated to support often irreconcilable narratives rather than clarify what was happening on the ground." (Foreignpolicy)

"We made the case a few weeks ago that the gold price may have reached its choke level and that it was arguably capped from that point on. One good indicator of this, we noted, was the divergence between the gold price — which had been flat-lining for some time — and real interest rates. It’s also hard to ignore gold’s reaction to the latest Fed announcement, which has been intriguingly bearish to say the least. The basic theory we proposed was that gold is now seemingly responding to changes in nominal yield expectations more than anything else. If nominal yields fall, gold pushes higher. If they rise, or are expected to rise, the yellow metal falls. In which case, it’s tempting to speculate that the reason that gold has come to flat-line since the end of last year is largely connected to nominal yields on the short-side having come up against the zero bound. Since they can’t really go any lower, there’s not much potential for the gold price to rise higher." (FT)

"Continuing around the rooms: Wednesday Martin. I don’t know Wednesday Martin, but could you forget her name? And she often lunches at Michael’s on Wednesdays. She was with author Liz Welch. Continuing…nearby, Joan Jakobson was holding forth; so was Sue Perla (separate tables); and the gregarious, garrulous and thorough charming Scotsman Euan Rellie; PR man Steven Rubenstein; Sherrie Westin; the stunning Crystal McCrary with Star Jones; Steven Stolman of Scalamandre with his CEO Louis Renzo and design director Albert Sardelli; mega-agent Boaty Boatwright; another mega – PR guru Paul Witmot with designer Reem Acra; producer David Picker; Jock Reynolds; Patricia Shea; former DA and governor Eliot Spitzer; political PR consultant and political commentator Robert Zimmerman; Robert Wise; Stu Zakim; Bruce Lazarus." (NYSocialDiary)

"One of these days we’ll have another 2000-style election, where the result will be so tight that we will not know the outcome on the election evening — or for many days thereafter. Consider New York State — which a month and a half after the fact still has not certified its election results. (We remember Superstorm Sandy, but New Jersey was hit just as hard.) Even a critical New York state Senate race remains up in the air: George Amedore (R) has a 39-vote lead on Cecilia Tkaczyk (D), who is not conceding and is likely to appeal a court decision that appeared to make Amedore the winner. Our nation now takes two months to vote, and two months to count the votes. This is unacceptable. It is unwise for balloting to start so many weeks before Election Day — before the campaign has truly unfolded and many useful revelations about the candidates have unfolded. Millions of voters are writing their review of a four-act play after the second act. Worse is our seeming inability, a dozen years after Florida, to eliminate problems in the administration of the voting process and the actual counting of the votes. Examples abound, including poorly functioning equipment, the cavalier discarding of absentee ballots with the slightest imperfections, the inability to get ballots to members of the armed forces in a timely fashion, and the refusal to set up enough polling stations for the crowds that inevitably materialize on Election Day. The next time we have a presidential squeaker, we may not be lucky enough — yes, we said lucky — to isolate the recount to just one state." (CenterforPolitics)

"Saul Steinberg was the best-loved nonwriter in the history of The New Yorker. He did cartoons, fake maps, trick diplomas and tinkered-with postcards, a sketchbook from behind the Iron Curtain and another on the road with the Milwaukee Braves. Often he just did the doodles (the “spots,” as editors called them) adorning the columns of spotless prose. He even drew some of the advertisements that appeared in the magazine’s margins, until he got so rich he stopped needing the work. The Romanian-born Steinberg did his first New Yorker drawing for Harold Ross in 1941 and his last for David Remnick in 1999, the year of his death. Along the way, he did 90 covers, a number that continues, posthumously, to rise; Steinberg’s ghost most recently had the cover last week. His masterpiece appeared 36 years earlier, on March 29th, 1976: 'View of the World From 9th Avenue,' his emblem of New York self-centeredness, in which the expanses of Ninth and 10th Avenues give way to a fat strip of the Hudson, the foreshortened flyover states and the tapered specks of far-off Asia. Steinberg was an intellectual who made a big deal of not being too intellectual. With William Shawn, his friend and editor, he shared a lighthearted, no-bullshit style. 'The true lover of art,' Steinberg once said, goes through a museum “on roller skates and is extremely tired after five minutes.'" (Observer)

"It’s the last Wednesday power lunch of the year (or the last one ever if you believe those wacky Mayans), and the usual suspects at Michael’s came bearing gifts to be traded over Cobb salads today. Some regulars (Linda Fairstein) were hosting year-end catch-ups with pals, while others (Steve Stolman) broke bread with their bosses. Of course, even if Christmas is less than a week away, there are those who mean business with lunch. I caught up with Eliot Spitzer while he was waiting for his guest to arrive and asked him how he’s faring over at Current TV. 'Nobody’s watching, but I’m having a great time,' he told me. 'I don’t mean to be facetious, but I am really enjoying myself. It’s like having a cocktail party with friends every night.' Pausing for a moment he added, 'Somebody needs to buy the network.' And perhaps they will, he mused, if for no other reason than to snap up Current’s distribution system. Either way, New York’s former governor isn’t quitting his day job, so to speak. 'I’m glad all my investments are in real estate, not media companies, but if someone can make money at it, great.' Indeed." (Diane Clehane)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Lunch at Michaels

I just got back from a wonderful Bloody Mary fueled lunch at Michaels with fellow international man of mystery Euan Rellie. I've known Euan as a digital personality for probably close to ten years, but only recently met him in person and so it feels as if I've known him for quite some time (which I have, but only superficially). The always awesome Steve Millington noted that we were an odd pairing. There is some truth to that, but in essence Euan and I have quite a lot in common, including political centrism, an international background, parents that were involved with international organizations, difficult to pronounce names and a love of all things media-related. 

Michael's during the holidays is one of my favorite places in the city. The holiday music creates an almost fugue-like state as the media luminaries -- acquaintances old and new --   socialize and eat. It is very close to a club, and during the holidays the club gets quite festive.

Spotted among the media luminaries: David Zinczenko, Elliot Spitzer, Boaty Boatwright, radiant birthday girl Julie Macklowe, Paul Wlmot and Mayor of Michaels Joe Armstrong.
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Although it’s nice out (let’s get back to the weather, no?). For a change of scenery: Last night I went over to Jeff and Liz Peek’s Park Avenue penthouse for a book party for Valerie Steele, the Director and Chief Curator for the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Liz Peek is one of the key board members on the Couture Council of the Museum. She and her associates can claim a lot of credit for putting the Museum at FIT on the map in New York, and for raising money to assist them in their programs as well as their exhibits. Yaz Hernandez, who is the Chair of the Council, was there last night, as were several other members including Eleanora Kennedy, Michele Gerber Klein, Charlotte Moss, Jean Shafiroff. Alexandra Lebenthal is President." (NYSocialDiary)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Several years ago, Gene Healy wrote a book called The Cult of the Presidency, which offers one of the most enduring insights into our political culture. Americans, Healy argued, have come to regard the president as a national father figure and mythical monarch, a cultural understanding that is impossible to reconcile with the limited and enumerated powers the presidency shares with co-equal branches of government. Healy’s analysis is essential for understanding Bloomberg’s plea, and the general outpouring of emotion directed at President Obama in the wake of the murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School. There are powers Obama may have and things he can do, but preventing 48,000 deaths is not among them. When Obama promised last night to 'use whatever power this office holds,' he was in all likelihood committing himself to far more limited steps than the poetry of his address might have implied or that his supporters may have hoped, because the powers of just one branch of government over law is very finite. One bit of fuzzy thinking that has crept into the debate is a conflation between America’s epidemic of routine gun violence and America’s epidemic of mass murders. Both may be horrific stains upon our national fabric, but they are different things, and very different in scales, requiring different solutions. Routine gun violence — hunting accidents, burglaries, heated arguments — kill orders of magnitude more people than the four mass murders to which Obama referred. If you have lost a loved one, it doesn’t really matter if they were killed alone or killed en masse. It matters, of course, to the rest of us. Massacres are visceral events that seize the entire nation’s attention. I have almost always found myself in the uncomfortable and slightly guilty position of feeling no emotion at all in the face of what most others see as gut-wrenching events. I was a nonplussed eighth grader unable to understand why my classmates were distraught — even crying! — at the explosion of the Challenger, a pattern that has repeated itself through episodes of national grief, catharsis, and joy for everybody, it seemed, but me. But parenthood has transformed me into a weepy, emotional wreck when it comes to matters relating to children." (Jonathan Chait)

"Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, may be headed back to the political spotlight as he’s considered a likely interim replacement for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). President Obama is set to tap Kerry to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of State, according to media reports. This means Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) needs to find someone to fill Kerry’s seat until a special election can be held in the late spring or early summer. Dukakis, who is 79, has remained politically active. He campaigned for Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) this fall and teaches at Northeastern University. The Democratic primary for Kerry’s seat will be intense and Patrick is expected to tap someone as an interim replacement who would promise not to run in the special election. 'He’ll most likely appoint a placeholder. A lot of people speculating that’s Mike Dukakis,' said Jim Spencer, president of the Campaign Network, a Boston-based political consulting group. 'That’s the most obvious choice. Everybody thinks it’s Dukakis.' David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, said he has heard Dukakis floated as an interim successor along with Vicki Kennedy, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) widow." (TheHill)

"More than half of Americans say the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, reflect broader problems in society rather than an isolated act of a troubled person – more than after other recent shooting incidents, suggesting the possibility of a new national dialogue on violent crime.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll also finds that 54 percent of Americans favor stricter gun control laws in general, numerically a five-year high, albeit not significantly different than in recent years. Fifty-nine percent support a ban specifically on high-capacity ammunition clips, a step on which partisan and ideological gaps narrow substantially and 'strong' support peaks. At the same time, sharp divisions among population groups – regionally, between men and women, and politically – mark the difficult nature of the gun debate. And this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that more Americans continue to say that enforcing existing laws is a better way to reduce gun violence than passing new laws, although by the narrowest gap in a decade." (ABCNews)

"New York Times staffers are placing bets on how long their new, embattled CEO Mark Thompson will stay in the job, according to sources who tell us an office pool has been started. Thompson, who’s embroiled in the BBC 'Newsnight' scandal in the UK, was supposed to hold two 'town hall' meetings with Times staffers this month. They were to include a discussion of his role in the BBC shelving an investigation into abuse claims against suspected pedophile TV host Jimmy Savile while Thompson was the BBC’s director-general. But those meetings have now been pushed into next year. No word on how much money is in the pool. A Times spokeswoman didn’t get back to us for comment." (PageSix)

" A grey, rainy Sunday, cold and damp. Appropriate weather for the way the nation was feeling, after the catastrophe in the school rooms in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday. I had lunch on Friday at Swifty’s with Nina Griscom. I wouldn’t call it a working lunch but I always come away knowing more about something than I knew before we started. Nina is good company because her life is full of interest ( so there’s a lot of change to report. I mention the lunch only because in retrospect it was a great way to start my weekend (which is basically Friday and Saturdays that I don’t have a deadline). So when we departed Swifty’s, I could say to myself, this was a nice day. Until I got home and learned the news. The business of Guns and Gun Control returns to the fore. There are now hundreds of millions of handguns in private hands in America today. Would it even be humanly possible to confiscate them? The boy’s mother had several guns, and she liked 'shooting' with her children, teaching them how. The ultimate irony: One child used one or more of them, to kill her and more than two dozen other people including 20 innocent little children who were first terrorized by this monster. For he was a monster, in the end. The question arises: what if the boy had never been taught to use a gun? What if there were no guns in that woman’s house? The question cannot be answered." (NYSocialDiary)

"Oliver Stone’s The Untold History of the United States is a very courageous effort to set the record straight. Stone is an old adversary of mine with whom I’ve recently made my peace. I agree very much on certain parts of his extremely controversial theories about his country. But unlike most other historians, Oliver has paid his dues. He won a Bronze Star in Vietnam as a grunt, whereas he could have gotten deferments, since he was at Harvard and near the top of his class. Stone sees Uncle Sam as a rapacious imperialist. He cites American repression of the Filipino struggle for independence around the turn of the 20th century and the repeated US interventions and covert operations in Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. He names capitalism as the bogeyman. He also says that the United States, not the Soviet Union, bore the lion’s share of responsibility for perpetuating the Cold War. That’s not what the great Greek historian Taki has taught us all these years, yet Stone has a point. Stalin never trusted the West, but he had no designs on taking us over from the outside. Trotsky did, but thank God someone stuck an ice axe in his head in 1940. Ironically, I disagree with Oliver only on empirical grounds. I traveled throughout the communist world all during the late 1950s playing tennis, and what always struck me about people living behind the Iron Wall was the lack of smiles. I’d seen very poor black townships in the American South, as well as the poorest sections of Harlem in New York, yet the smiles were there. Not in Budapest, Bucharest, and Warsaw, nor in Moscow, where I found myself in 1957. Where I totally agree is Stone’s take on the two atomic bombs we dropped on the gallant Japanese. They were wholly unnecessary and the US knew it, for the Japanese were willing to surrender by May 1945." (Taki)

"Lady Gaga, Johnny Depp and 150 other glittering guests gathered at the Carlyle after midnight yesterday to celebrate the final gig in the Rolling Stones’ 50th anniversary tour Saturday night. The celebration went on till the wee hours, spies say, and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards each hosted their own private tables for family and friends in a discreet corner at the back of the hotel’s restaurant. The pair, plus band mates Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood, were in 'jubilant moods,' an observer added. They’d played with Gaga hours earlier in Newark, as well as Bruce Springsteen, John Mayer, Gary Clark Jr., former band member Mick Taylor and blues-rock duo The Black Keys, to cap off their latest tour. With no dates scheduled in 2013, the Carlyle bash took on added significance with some guests wondering whether they might be saying goodbye to more than just this tour. " (PageSix)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"The Masters of the Universe can be identified by their socks. Their millions of dollars, their vast power over commerce, and their socks, which must protrude four inches below the cuff of their suit pants when seated. Any greater length of sock exposure would indicate that the wearer was sitting with his legs crossed. The Masters of the Universe sit with both feet on the floor. These are the alpha dogs. Yesterday, in the bright and airy Times Center in Midtown Manhattan, a select few of the Masters of the Universe assembled to be lightly grilled at The Dealbook Conference. This was not the old and cranky capitalism of the Wall Street Journal, or the hungry and predatory capitalism of Bloomberg, but rather the enlightened, idea-based capitalism of The New York Times, in which the market-moving capabilities of capitalism's titans are an outgrowth of their status as Men of Ideas, rather than vice versa. I was curious mostly just to lay eyes on these men, whose influence is so pervasive that you must mentally journey through all the earth's nations and all of our economy's functions just to catalog its reach. You can read a newspaper to find out a Wall Street CEO's thoughts on the fiscal cliff, but it's not every day you can close enough to them to really inspect the cut of their suit.Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, a global financial conglomerate whose various consumer and investment banking services and shepherd money from the time it exits the government's printing presses and throughout its life of financing business projects and all the way into the slot of your local ATM machine, wears an attractively tailored navy suit, with the perfect amount of sock shown, legs uncrossed. His friendly interrogator, NYT whiz kid Andrew Ross Sorkin, did cross his legs, in typical journalistic interrogator fashion. Dimon, despite the staggering power of his position, plays the gruff, no-bullshit, native New Yorker persona to great effect, tinged with just enough gentleness to avoid a reputation for being surly. He looks like a rougher-around-the-edges Richard Gere. His hair has gone grey but remains full and lustrous, as is central casting's preference for CEOs." (Gawker)

"We do not yet know the exact number of districts with split House/presidential results, but we know enough now to have a ballpark estimate. So far, Daily Kos Elections — a left-leaning web site that does an outstanding job of providing reliable information about presidential performance by congressional district — has tabulated these results in about two-thirds of all districts, and that combined with our own analysis suggests that there were about 20-30 districts with split House/presidential results (we’ll update with a final number when the results become clear). Even at the high end of the estimate, that’s only 7% of all districts. Such a level of polarization is not necessarily unprecedented, though — incomplete figures in Vital Statistics go back to the turn of the last century, where such polarization in congressional districts was common. For instance, Vital Statistics notes that of 310 districts where data were available in the 1904 election (out of 391 districts in that Congress), only five districts picked a different party in their House and presidential contests (only 1.6% of the districts measured). Given that the complete data from that election are not available, we cannot definitively say the number of split districts was lower than the number produced by this election, but the results from 1904 (a blowout victory for Theodore Roosevelt) still indicate a rather remarkable lack of ticket-splitting. More recently, in 2004 — which, like this presidential election, was relatively close in the national vote — only 59 of 435 districts (14% of them) divided their presidential and House votes between the two parties. In 2008, there were 83 such divided districts (or 19% of all seats). Because districts with split results are the most obvious targets for congressional strategists on both sides of the aisle — if your party’s presidential candidate can win a district, it would stand to reason that a good congressional candidate could too, even potentially against an incumbent — the small number of crossover districts would seem to suggest a rather limited House playing field in 2014. Of course, a House wave in one direction or the other could crack open the map and put some more seats in play. " (CenterforPolitics)

"The Queen Sofía Spanish Institute proudly honored four Gold Medal recipients at its 2012 Gala last Thursday evening at The Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Barbara Walters hosted the festivities as Mistress of Ceremonies and Board Chairman Oscar de la Renta led the awards presentation. This year’s outstanding honorees were Norman R. Foster, Baron of Thames Bank; Elena Ochoa, Lady Foster of Thames Bank, Luis A. Ubiñas, President of the Ford Foundation, and Gonzalo Ulloa, partner in the law firm Gomez, Acebo & Pombo. The Gold Medal Awards are given to outstanding individuals from Spain, the United States and Latin America who have played a significant role in strengthening the relationship between the Spanish-speaking world and the United States. Mayor Michael Bloomberg was in attendance at the sold-out event as Ambassador Ramon Gil Casares (Ambassador of Spain to the United States) bestowed the prestigious medals on the honorees. The Mayor added his own congratulatory wishes to the recipients and joked about being promised a walk on the runway for Oscar de la Renta’s next show. Both the Mayor and Barbara Walters made a commitment to Oscar de la Renta that they would take Spanish lessons at the Institute after twisting the pronunciation of the names of several Spanish dignitaries. Mayor Bloomberg spoke admiringly of Barbara Walters, saying he was her 'Arm Candy' for the evening since long time Institute supporters Javier Bardem and Antonio Banderas were not able to attend the dinner. Barbara Walters enthusiastically returned the compliment, reminding the audience that she had chosen Mayor Bloomberg as her 'Fantasy Husband' on a segment of her popular show The View." (NYSocialDiary)

"Sunny day, yesterday in New York; not warm and not so cold. It was about the traffic. Midtown was gridlock, mainly on the side streets where turning right or left is prohibited preventing all natural flow to Michael’s late. I’m always late, or so it seems. Five, ten, fifteen minutes. This is not by intention but consistency would challenge that statement. I was having lunch with Jackie Weld Drake, a writer who is very patient and has written among other things, a fascinating biography of Peggy Guggenheim. Jackie is also a big supporter (and force) of Literacy Partners and Casita Maria. When I arrived she was talking to the table next to us: Anthony Shriver, his wife Alina, the great Latin American artist Romero Britto, and Richard Zieglasch who had been a long time supporter of Shriver’s 'Best Buddies' organization. If you didn’t know, Anthony Shriver started Best Buddies in 1989 to help people with intellectual disabilities, through friendship, jobs, and mentoring. Best Buddies now reach more than 700,000 people in 51 countries. Shriver’s father, the late Sargent Shriver, was the founding head of the Peace Corps, under President John F. Kennedy, the brother of Anthony’s mother, Eunice." ( NySocialDiary)

"When Lawrence O'Donnell made his first trip to Malawi to try to furnish a classroom with locally made desks, he was convinced he wouldn't be able to do it. Now, his K.I.N.D. project helps bring them to classrooms all over the country. The MSNBC host and Unicef have raised more than $4.5 million through Kids in Need of Desks. The nonprofit has donated more than 45,000 desks to schools where students previously had to sit on the floor (with another 37,830 soon to be delivered). This week, it launched a scholarship program for female students. Mr. O'Donnell made the lead gift of $25,000 toward the new project and has donated an estimated $20,000 to the first initiative. It was a friend who first mentioned Malawi to Mr. O'Donnell. She recently visited and talked to local teachers and principals. When she asked what they needed most, the answer was always chairs. 'They simply wanted chairs to get the kids up off the floor,' he said. 'It was beyond their wildest dreams to ask for desks. When I heard this, I found myself saying: 'We could get them chairs. I mean, I could get them chairs.' So he went to Malawi with a few thousand dollars in cash and spent the week looking for a place to supply the furniture. He connected with a Unicef employee who led him to a wood shop that had a prototype of a one-piece desk and chair for a student. They were able to hire local workers to help make 30 of them fast.  When the desks were delivered to the first school, Mr. O'Donnell said the delivery men were unnecessary; the students were so excited, they unloaded the truck themselves." (WSJ)

"The Manhattan apartment CNN’s Arwa Damon has been camping out in this past week is a disaster zone. Among the flock of pashminas and well-worn jeans are all the trappings of a Boy Scout: fingerless gloves; bottles of DEET; dry shampoo; a bandanna that, with a pen, can be jury-rigged into a tourniquet; LED headlamps; small black nylon hoods ('because here’s the deal: We’re using night-vision cameras with bright screens, and we don’t want to be seen,' she says); size 8 combat boots; three cell phones (­American, Libyan, Lebanese); a heap of dark clothing. 'I buy colors, but I don’t wear them,' says the diminutive blonde, her hair tucked into a paperboy cap. 'Black is easier.' She throws it all into a suitcase, forming a pile twice its height, and points to a backpack in the corner. 'When I’m on assignment, everything I need has to be carried on my back.' She climbs on top of the suitcase and zips it closed. In the weeks since Damon discovered the personal diary of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in the burned-out American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, this 35-year-old television reporter has been at the center of a developing story—never a comfortable position for someone whose job is to break the news, not create it." (Vogue)

"A few days in New York at a pal’s. From the second floor window, where puffs of overheated air insisted from the radiators, I watched bundled New Yorkers walking in the cold rain, hands jammed in pockets, hunched tight shoulders, heads cast down, staring at the cement sidewalks they marched across. Quick steps moving them along, they kept to themselves, never making eye contact, everyone isolated in his individual pod of pensées obscure. From my position I could see directly into the apartment across the street. I watched a man moving around, talking on his phone, with his free arm performing arabesques. He was smiling widely and occasionally bursting with laughter. I liked the ambiance of him. Then, in a burst, I realized I knew him. I could see the walls of his apartment were smothered with gorgeous paintings. It was artist Ron Ferri and he was gesticulating wildly, chatting on his telephone and obviously laughing. Mountains of time have passed since I’ve seen this old friend. Through the years, of all that which I have emotionally bonded with, and then lost, scattering, blown to bits, in the wind, people is all I miss. To call anything ‘mine’ is to suppose a sense of domination, yet things break, things get stolen, get lost, rot; people die. Ownership is sleight of hand, at best." (Christina Oxenberg)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Dino Eli Gallery

Tout le downtown bohemian set was at Dino Eli's Orchard Street gallery to toast Max Noy's amazing photography exhibition Duality of Sand. The textures expressed in the photographs -- weathered wood, grains of sand shadows (anti-texture) -- are astonishing when placed alongside one another. The pictures were taken in Montauk. "And then I went back to that place and it was completely different," Max told me last night.

The pictures, which run from the $750-$1,000 price range would look lovely in a summer home, or year round. They are especially poignant when viewed in Winter -- when the memories of summer and the beach are best savored during the cold evenings.

Spotted among the beautiful people, artists: Damon Shair, Lisa Lozanno, Dino Eli, Ray Kelly, Anja Koestler, Joe Bendik and Curtis Valentine.
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Politico editors Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen today have published what may be the most revealing piece I have ever read about the Washington power elite. The value of the piece is almost entirely anthropological. That is to say, read at face value, it tells the reader almost nothing new. But examined as a cultural specimen, it offers profound insight. The piece reads as if it were written by Upton Sinclair, if he were taken prisoner and trying to smuggle messages out to the world past a particularly literal-minded group of censors. The subject of the piece is Allen and VandeHei’s report that broad agreement exists on the correct policy agenda, as revealed to them through 'conversations we have had over the past three months with top lawmakers, officials, their senior aides and the CEOs who advise and lobby all of them.' The story proceeds to describe the obviously sensible agenda agreed upon by these sources: It is vital to reduce the deficit through tax reform and stingier entitlements, along with more free trade, resource extraction, and liberalized immigration. This is far from the Randian paranoia that has spread among so many millionaires in the Obama agenda. Indeed, I find most of it fairly sensible as policy. What makes the consensus so astonishing, and even nauseating, is the degree to which those who share it show no awareness of their own insularity. Their shared sense of a smart economic growth strategy excludes any monetary or fiscal plan to bring down unemployment through higher consumer demand, a position that commands strong support among economists. Their list of ailments also excludes skyrocketing income inequality and out-of-control carbon emissions. (Though, at the end of a passage extolling the glorious possibility that American oil production will exceed that of Saudi Arabia within a decade, VandeHei and Allen do note, 'No doubt, there are environmental concerns, especially for drinking water.' Well, yes. Also for the future of the human race.) Obviously, the CEOs, lawmakers, and top aides have a shared economic interest in defining the agenda this way. Mass unemployment doesn’t hurt them, and rising inequality helps them." (Jonathan Chait)

"(Nicholas) TALEB: Let me -- first define what fragile is and well, that's fragile is. Fragile is something that doesn't like disorder. It doesn't like volatility, it doesn't like variability. If something happens, it breaks. So probably a very fragile place, needless to say, would be Saudi Arabia or as an example I gave, before the Arab Spring, was Egypt. OK? It has the same regime for 40 years. Something robust doesn't break, doesn't care. And something antifragile never wastes -- has a lot of political volatility. It never wastes an error. Improves -- error -- from error to error. (Fareed) ZAKARIA: So, that's important. So there's -- there's fragile systems, as you say, that are kind of rigid, brittle. TALEB: Exactly. ZAKARIA: Like Saudi Arabia, Egypt before the crisis. Then those robust systems ... TALEB: Exactly. ZAKARIA: ... which are better than fragile, but anti-fragile for you are those that actually view change and volatility as an opportunity.  TALEB: As fuel. Use disorder as fuel. Exactly. So, it's sort of like hydra is the antifragile, symbol of antifragility. Hydra -- you cut one head, two grow back. So, the last thing it needs is for you to harm it. So, we have these three, you know, three categories, visibly. ZAKARIA: Right. Nicholas TALEB: And we know what fragilizes. Top down, Soviet style fragilizes. Bottom up, like Switzerland, guess you are close towards antifragile. ZAKARIA: So, Switzerland is good because it's this commune- based, decentralized political system ... TALEB: Yes. ZAKARIA: Where there's a lot of experimentation?TALEB: Exactly." (CNN GPS)

"The intractability of the problem in Egypt is caused by the presence of three, not two, parties to the current dispute. The first of these parties is the protesters: those demanding a civil state and a proper constitution guaranteeing human rights for all, which the current draft does not. They are women and men, old and young, Christian and Muslim, poor and rich. The second is the state, represented by the three-headed hydra of Morsy, Badie, and Shater. President Mohammed Morsy is the public face of the beast. Mohammed Badie is the Brotherhood's Supreme Guide, whose words address the members of the Brotherhood. Kairat al-Shater is the organization's most powerful man and its most prominent strategist. The panic of these three men introduced the third party into the current dispute. This third party is the hordes of Muslim Brotherhood supporters. They are columns of men -- almost always men -- who are bussed into Cairo from outlying neighborhoods and cities for use as the Brotherhood's foot soldiers. They serve as protesters at one moment, as hired guns at another. The reasons they so obediently follow orders is twofold: First, the Muslim Brotherhood indoctrination method requires absolute faith in the group's hierarchical leadership. Second, those in charge are force-feeding them with hatred of the protesters, and they are correspondingly convinced that those who oppose Morsy's decisions are in fact godless heathens who are also paid foreign agents who want to ruin Egypt and allow men to marry men. (There's a very strange fixation on the matter of gay matrimony within Muslim Brotherhood propaganda I find very puzzling.)  And this is where the problem becomes intractable." (ForeignPolicy)

"In English: you can hold on to your bonds and hope to get paid out in full, if you want — rather than accepting 33 cents on the dollar right now. But be aware: Greece has to do what its official-sector paymasters tell it to do. And if it takes “further steps to put its debt on a sustainable path”, who knows how much money you might end up with when it’s all over. Are you sure you don’t want to just take those 33 cents? Joseph Cotterill makes a good point: with the Greek banks now having been taken out of their bonds, the low-lying fruit for any future restructuring offer is now gone, which means that in any future restructuring, Greece is going to be dealing with hard-nosed hedge funds rather than complaisant domestic banks. That said, Greece might conceivably now have a nuclear option in its back pocket: the comments to Cotterill’s post are full of speculation that Greece might be able to find a way not to cancel the bonds its buying back. In which case it could use its new supermajority vote to cram down a very bad deal indeed on any holdouts. All of which is to say that this buyback deal is increasingly feeling a lot like a second default, just months after the first one. It’s good for the optics of Greece’s debt-to-GDP ratio, and it doesn’t seem to be triggering any CDS. But it’s a useful lesson for any other European countries (Ireland and Portugal are the obvious next candidates) who are thinking about restructuring their private debts. You don’t necessarily need to do the whole deal at once: especially if you are clever in your use of collective action clauses, you can start with a small and insufficient haircut, and then follow it up with a second restructuring a bit further down the road. If your creditors are largely domestic banks, that could work out much better than socking them with one-off monster losses." (Felix Salmon)

"I was having lunch last week at La Grenouille. My lunch guest and I were seated next to two women I know, one a friend. When the other woman went to the powder room, my friend leaned over on the banquette, with a big smile as if she were about to laugh from shock, and said: 'I’m hearing so much gossip.' I told her that lately I'd been hearing a lot of stories about the neighbors too. I said it must be in the air. Or the water. 'So tell us,' I urged my friend who is not what you’d call a gossip, or anything but amazed when she hears about the webs we weave when it comes to deceive. She said, 'She said I could,' referring to her lunch partner who was off powdering her nose. It so happened I knew the couple in the story. I met them when I came back to New York in the early '90s. She was the very wealthy widow of an heir to a famous American manufacturing fortune. With two small children. Forty-ish; and he, mid-twenties. She is a very nice woman, down-to-earth, empathic, simpatico, intelligent, a welcoming hostess, easy to talk to, a good listener and obviously liked people.  I knew about her financial background the way most of her friends knew. Rich husband, the land of eternal trust funds. She handled her widowhood by getting out there and participating in the community. She was active in the charity circuit and a committed philanthropist. She had a big house in town, with a river view, and an estate in Southampton. Nothing pretentious about her, however; nothing. He was ... a kid to these eyes. A proper young man, yes; neatly buttoned up and tied-out, hair slicked back, well-groomed. Maybe in a training program downtown? A bank? An investment bank? I didn’t know, I was guessing and I never asked. At that first dinner party at her (their) house, he stood up after the main course, at one end of the table (for twelve), and gave a long toast to her at the other end. How wonderful and loving she was, he shared; what a great friend, so generous, so kind. And how beautiful, and courteous, and a good mother, and a great friend and the most wonderful woman a man could ever be so lucky to meet. Every time he looked at her over his glass of champagne, he sighed ... She beamed when he spoke, and her lady friends seemed to be pleased to hear of his thrill ... A few years ago, I heard that they’d 'separated,' and that he’d got his real estate license, no doubt planning to use all the 'connections' he’d made in her world to get into high end private residential market in Manhattan. It sounded almost like Junior had grown up and moved out of the house. He also, I was told (not by her), had a new interest: a boyfriend." (NYSocialDiary)

"Sales topped an amazing $1.5 billion at Art Basel, with many wealthy stars lining up alongside the world’s top art collectors to snap up pieces. Former Giants star Jeremy Shockey bought two fiberglass tigers painted by Domingo Zapata for $100,000 each. Zapata was honored at a Hublot event at the SLS Hotel on Friday, and among the 2,000 guests was famed artist Damien Hirst — who was spotted giving Zapata a kiss on the lips. Beyoncé and Jay-Z were also seen perusing the works on show at America’s hippest art fair. We’re told Jay snapped up a $20,000 painting titled 'Everyone’s Scared' by 31-year-old Chicagoan Hebru Brantley, who won the Basel showing as a finalist in the Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series produced with Russell Simmons’ Rush Foundation. We’re told Miami Heat superstar LeBron James’ manager Maverick Carter caught sight of the piece on Sunday and sent a digital message to Jay, who asked Brantley to deliver the work directly to his hotel room later that evening. Sean 'Diddy' Combs took home an Iván Navarro sculpture with the word 'Scream' reflected in a mirrored tunnel for approximately $65,000 from the Paul Kasmin Gallery. Rick Ross bought a $20,000 photo by Richard Mosse called 'Love Is the Drug' Dennis Rodman bought a mixed-media piece by Gym Class Heroes frontman Travie McCoy created from Nike Air Force 1 sneakers. Mega collector Peter Brant was seen escorting Owen Wilson around. Edward Tyler Nahem’s booth, featuring a stunning large Sam Francis painting, drew such notables as Diddy, Kellan Lutz, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Marcia Cross and Jane Seymour. Over at Jack Shainman Gallery, meanwhile, Will Smith dropped in with seven bodyguards, who sealed off the booth until he was done viewing." (PageSix)

"However understandable his decision, Mario Monti’s announcement of his intention to resign as prime minister will inflict serious, short-term damage. It means his government will come to an end in a premature, probably disorderly and possibly chaotic fashion. Mr Monti told Giorgio Napolitano, the president, on December 8th that he would step down as soon as the 2013 budget was passed. But it looks as if much else his government had been working on in recent months will now not be approved (or, in the case of measures introduced by decree, confirmed) in parliament. Legislation doomed or in jeopardy includes bills on competition, taxation and the simplification of bureaucracy. Another would have put into effect the new constitutional requirement for a balanced budget. Perhaps most importantly, a package of measures to stimulate economic growth is vulnerable – and particularly so because its ministerial sponsor Corrado Passera, the economic development minister, dared to criticise Silvio Berlusconi’s decision to run for prime minister and has become a hate figure for Mr Berlusconi’s followers. Mr Monti’s unexpected move has also dispelled what faint hopes remained of a new electoral law. So Italians will again vote under the same, deplorable arrangements that rob them of meaningful local representation. (Lawmakers are being chosen from closed lists for multi-seat constituencies.) Compounding the atmosphere of uncertainty, it is highly likely Mr Napolitano will himself resign soon. His mandate does not expire until May, but he has said on more than one occasion that it would not be right for him to appoint the next prime minister and then leave his successor to deal with the consequences." (TheEconomist)