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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"In 2008, long before stress tests and Dodd-Frank, then-Senator Barack Obama excelled in the rich enclaves where much of New York’s financial class lives. Obama made staggering gains among one-percenters in the wealthiest areas of western Connecticut, where as many as one-quarter of adult males work in the financial sector. In New Canaan, where Brian Williams owns a home and the median income exceeds $175,000, Obama lost by just 6 points after Kerry lost by 22 points four years earlier. Nearby Greenwich, where you can find Mel Gibson, Regis, and Madoff's kids, voted for Obama by 8 points. The shift among New York executives in western Connecticut was just the most striking example of a broader movement toward Democrats in affluent communities across the northern half of the country. The national exit poll showed Obama winning 52 percent of voters making more than $200,000 per year, compared to Kerry’s 36 percent four years earlier. Obama’s advances among affluent voters underpinned his victories in Virginia and Colorado, where strong showings in the Denver and Washington suburbs allowed Obama to win these traditionally Republican states. After Dodd-Frank and Occupy Wall Street ignited a fight about 'class warfare,' the Republicans nominated an establishment candidate from the northeast with strong ties to the financial industry. Many believed that one-percenters would return to their Republican traditions, even though the polling data suggested that Obama was holding relatively firm among affluent voters. Nonetheless, the elite backlash against the Obama campaign’s attacks on Bain Capital, Romney’s fundraising successes on Wall Street, and the decline of Obama's Wall Street donor base seemed to lend anecdotal credibility to the assumption that Romney would perform well in rich suburbs. Romney's fundraising success on Wall Street was indeed a harbinger of Romney's electoral gains with New York's financial class. This time around, Obama finished worse than Kerry in most wealthy towns in Fairfield County, Connecticut, and especially those closest to New York City. Obama won Greenwich in 2008, but fell 19 points to lose by 11 in 2012. In New Canaan, Obama lost by 29 points last week, even though he only lost by 6 points in 2008. These tiny towns aren't populous enough, however, to move the needle .." (TNR)


"The sex scandal that brought down David Petraeus, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, this week has everything – compromising emails, a relationship with his admiring biographer, a second femme fatale and a shirtless agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Everything but substance. The US has lost a widely admired – perhaps too admired – intelligence and military strategist while General John Allen, commander of US and Nato troops in Afghanistan, has also been drawn into the investigation. And for what? One affair and some flirtatious emails. It is hardly the Cuban missile crisis. Mr Petraeus’s relationship with Paula Broadwell, reportedly after he left the army as a four-star general and took charge of the CIA, did not change how he did his job or was regarded by colleagues (until it was revealed by the FBI). The FBI did not judge it to be a security breach. Had he been a business leader, it would until recently have remained his own affair.
Now corporations are increasingly acting like the military. No matter what their formal policies, they treat executive adultery as prejudicial to 'good order and discipline' and evidence of poor judgment. As this scandal broke, Chris Kubasik, Lockheed Martin’s chief executive-in-waiting, was dismissed for having an 'improper' relationship and Marillyn Hewson replaced him. There has been a rash of such cases since Harry Stonecipher was fired for alleged poor judgment in having an affair as Boeing’s chief executive in 2005, although he hadn’t broken its code of conduct. In May, Best Buy pushed out Brian Dunn, its former chief executive, for becoming overfamiliar with an employee and then Richard Schulze, its chairman, for not telling the board. Perhaps such inquisitions are appropriate in the military, where fidelity and unity are matters of life or death. But they do little for shareholders or customers, and not much for employees, in the corporate world. If two consenting adults wish to have a relationship that doesn’t affect colleagues, let no board of directors put them asunder." (FT)



"One of the questions that always pops up after an election is whether the winning party’s coalition signals some enduring trend that ought to frighten the losing side. It’s usually wrong. As Jonathan Last points out, people were saying something like this in 2004 — Republicans had a kind of hammerlock on the hearts and souls of middle America that turned out not to exist. But I do think the larger trends point toward a future that will tilt the center of American politics leftward for quite a while. Republicans will win elections again, but the heyday of Reaganesque conservatism has probably passed for good Ryan Lizza has a well-timed deep dive into the GOP’s frantic, uncertain response to the rising Latino electorate in Texas, which is Ground Zero in the party’s demographic panic. Nonwhites already constitute a majority of the state’s citizens. Republicans continue to dominate because Mexican-Americans are disproportionately either too young to vote yet or not registered, but both these facts could change fairly quickly. (The Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News crunch the numbers and find that Democrats are shaving five and a half percentage points off the GOP’s margin every four years, and the state is poised to turn blue in twelve years. A comprehensive campaign to register Latino voters could hasten that date.) This poses two problems for the Republican Party. First, while the GOP’s restrictionist immigration policy has particularly alienated Latino voters, they, and nonwhites in general, have more liberal views about the role of government in general. It’s likely that Republicans could defuse some of the outright hostility felt by Hispanic voters by, say, embracing comprehensive immigration reform and putting Latinos on the national ticket. But the growth of the nonwhite electorate is such that Republicans need not just improvement among nonwhites, but continuous improvement merely to keep their head above water." (NYMag)


"Statistician Nate Silver was called the breakout star of the Nov. 6 election when his New York Times-based FiveThirtyEight blog accurately predicted the voting outcome in all 50 states. Now Silver soon could be called something else: a Hollywood player. One high-level talent agency source says that Silver, who does not have entertainment representation, is attracting strong interest from the industry. This person believes Silver could try his hand at everything from box-office analysis to a correspondent gig on a television news program, not to mention radio shows and public speaking. Silver, 34, tells THR he has been approached with offers from TV producers, is pondering a follow-up to his best-selling book The Signal and the Noise (which hit No. 2 on Amazon post-election) and has been courted by Los Angeles-based talent agencies. He hasn't made any major new commitments since the election and says his literary agent -- Sydelle Kramer of New York's Susan Rabiner Agency -- is fielding the inquiries. 'I have to make sure that I make good choices and that if I put my name on it, it's a high-quality endeavor and that I have time to be a human being,' says Silver." (THR)



"The big lunch yesterday was Audrey Gruss’s Hope for Depression Research Founation New York 'Hope' Luncheon Seminar at 583 Park Avenue, featuring Chuck Scarborough as main speaker. Mrs. Gruss started this organization a few years ago and it has become a very popular one for the simple reason that Depression afflicts many of us. One for the books. Then last night there were three book signings last night. A unique one was a celebration held at the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The host was Andrew Solomon, the distinguished journalist who writes about politics, culture and psychology. He’s just published 'Far From the Tree; Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity.' On a cold Tuesday evening in the Egyptian Temple of Dendur, built by Petronius, the Roman governor of Egypt, commissioned by Emperor Augustus around 15 BC and now standing in its own wing at the Met, Andrew and his partner John Harbich who are very popular here in New York, drew quite a crowd. And there were drinks, food, music and dancing. The Temple, incidentally was dedicated to Isis, Osiris, and two deified sons of a local Nubian chieftain, Pediese and Pihor. Sons, parents, children; get it? Andrew did, that we can be sure of." (NYSocialDiary)


"It is amazing that gay marriage has become mainstream—and recognized in nearly a dozen states—over such a brief period of time. But it is not that amazing when you consider the power of Witchcraft. According to a mathematician-blogger (and we all believe whatever they say now), the trend to acceptance of same-sex marriage started exactly when two young Wiccan ladies became a couple on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Once Willow and Tara were just a normal part of a California town overrun by demonic forces and trampires, all the "Millennials" suddenly realized (because of the magic spell broadcast on television) that is was just fine to be a long-term witch couple on the teevee. It was the first lesbian relationship to be part of a regular television series, which is weird? And then, again because of the power of sorcery, exactly 12 years later gay marriage became legal on three out of four state ballot measures. It also won the support of the president and vice president, although it will take a more popular television series with more powerful witches to make same-sex marriage legal on the federal level." (TheAwl)



"Today is a day many Wall Streeters have stayed up nights dreaming about since they were 12, wearing pinstripe pajamas while they read Barron's under the covers: Goldman Sachs partner day, the biennial rite in which Lloyd Blankfein and Gary Cohn tap new initiates into finance's most notorious and sought-after high priesthood. The partnership process at Goldman has long been the subject of breathless speculation. The financial press has called it'coveted,''exclusive,' and'one of the most prestigious and lucrative cliques on Wall Street.' And much has been made about the legendarily tough vetting technique known as 'cross-ruffing,' which sounds like an interrogation tactic but is actually a reference to the brutal game of contract bridge. The 70 new partners who were named today are no doubt beside themselves with joy. Those who didn't make the cut, though, should take solace in this: Being Goldman partner is, in most important ways, highly overrated. For starters, Goldman's "partners" are no longer partners, in any legal sense. For many years its partners actually co-owned the business and voted on major decisions. The firm's capital was, in a non-metaphorical way, their capital. But in 1999, Goldman went public, and as a public corporation, control was transferred to shareholders, a board of directors, and a management committee composed of top brass. Goldman's former partners were given the new official title of 'Participating Managing Director,' even though most people at the firm still use the holdover 'partner' term because it sounds fancier. So, what does being a Participating Managing Director get you? First, more money." (NYMag)



"IN THE sweaty heat of northern Mozambique, Vale, a Brazilian mining giant, is digging up coal at its mine near the village of Moatize. A 400,000-tonne mound sits ready to burn. The mine can churn out 4,000 tonnes an hour but the railways and ports cannot cope. Vale is working to improve a line through Malawi to take the coal for export. OAS Construtora, another Brazilian firm, has signed a deal with the miner to build part of a new port at Nacala, 1,000km (620 miles) to the north-east, to do the same. The continent is an important part of Vale’s future, enthuses Ricardo Saad, the firm’s Africa boss. He is not alone in his excitement about Brazil’s prospects. Relations with Africa flourished during the presidency of Luiz InĂ¡cio Lula da Silva. He travelled there a dozen times and African leaders flocked to Brazil. His zeal was in part ideological: he devoted much of his diplomacy to “south-south” relations—at the cost, critics say, of neglecting more powerful (and richer) trade partners, such as the United States. Lula stressed his country’s 'historic debt' to Africa, a reference to the 3.5m Africans shipped to Brazil as slaves. Outside Nigeria, Brazil has the world’s biggest black population. Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s current president, is continuing those policies—though with more emphasis on how the relationship benefits Brazil. There are many ways that it can. Africa needs infrastructure and Brazil has lots of construction firms. Africa sits on oil and minerals in abundance; Brazil has the firms to get them out. Its agribusiness giants are also eyeing up Africa. If the continent’s economy continues to grow as it has in recent years, it will produce millions of customers much like Brazil’s new middle class. Brazilian businesses seem keen. In 2001 Brazil invested $69 billion in Africa. By 2009, the latest figures available, that had swelled to $214 billion. At first Brazilian firms focused their efforts on Lusophone Africa, Angola and Mozambique in particular, capitalising on linguistic and cultural affinity to gain a foothold. Now they are spreading across the continent." (Economist)


"On the Tuesday of this year’s spring-fashion week in New York, magazine editors rushed across the stone expanse of the Lincoln Center plaza for the nine A.M. Tory Burch show. 'It’s so early—she’s sadistic,' said one, clip-clopping past the central fountain, shooting arabesques of water into the sky. In the eight years since Tory, 46, opened her first shop, in a tiny storefront in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood (with a 'very, very advantageous lease,' according to a friend of Tory’s ex-husband Chris), she has become one of the biggest forces in American fashion today—no woman of her generation has created a more powerful brand. For this collection she sent models with a 'prairie girl' look of embellished white crochet dresses, embroidered patchwork jackets, and beaded bags with rope handles and fringes—'American-prep remix,' as she called it—down the runway for a show that lasted only 20 minutes, though she had been preparing for it for weeks, making sure everything was perfect. A devout music fan who currently dates the intense ex-C.E.O. of recorded music at Warner Music Group, Lyor Cohen (an O.G., or 'original gangsta,' in the rap business, he made his name road-managing Run-D.M.C.), Tory is hipper than you’d think. To accompany her show she picked Manu Chao, the mellow Franco-Spanish singer who is considered the Bob Marley of Europe and Latin America. She thought carefully about the models’ hairstyles, gluing messy, loose braids that resembled stalks of wheat onto her prairie girls, and then repeating this sheaf-of-wheat print on the dress she wore when she took a bow. Petite, standing five feet four and weighing 100 pounds, Tory, who has been described without a trace of irony as 'perfectly perfect' by a reporter for The New York Times’s T magazine, has an aquiline profile, a prim smile, and shoulder-length honey-streaked blond hair that she tucks behind her ear. In the wheat dress with a navy sweater and camel-colored pumps with sunbursts of crystals pinned to the toe that jiggled to and fro, she looked perfect, as always: America’s golden girl. As the audience filed out of the show, it was clear that the hour had been too early for Fashion Week’s semi-employed bloggers, lookie-loos, and photographers, in their ridiculous top hats, and shoes with itsy-bitsy ponytails on the heels, and T-shirts that say things like FUCK YOU, FASHION; this was a crowd of staid magazine editors, buyers in ties, and understated socialites. Notably absent was Tory’s ex-husband and the co-founder of her company, Chris Burch, a jovial 59-year-old with a welcoming, casual attitude that includes speaking in a garmento’s patois and losing his train of thought every few moments. With a crown of white hair and a heavy build that doesn’t quite obliterate the debonair good looks of his youth, 'Chris was super-handsome when he was younger, and all the girls loved him,' says a friend of Tory’s. These days, he’s partial to mandarin-collared shirts and pink pants—the 'pink party' he gives every summer at his beach house, in Southampton, draws preppies from around the area—and he adds eclectic touches to his wardrobe, like mismatching Havaianas flip-flops or black velvet slippers with letters spelling out words across both feet, like SM-ILE and HE-ART." (VanityFair)

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