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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Chuck Hagel probably never thought he’d have to win a popularity contest in the Senate.
Maybe that’s why he wasn’t terribly careful about whom he confronted or whom he offended. He popped off on the 'Jewish lobby' and a gay Clinton nominee. His fellow Republicans will never forget the relish with which he lectured them on the flaws of the Iraq War — after he voted to authorize it. Policy aside, Hagel’s bedeviled by his own abrasive personality. In a chamber known for back-patting and elbow-rubbing, the former Nebraska senator mostly rubbed people the wrong way. Now, on his path to the Pentagon, he has to hope that irritation doesn’t come back to bite him. 'He was respected as a colleague in the normal Senate tradition but was somewhat of a lone wolf and did not forge the deep personal relationships with his fellow Republicans that would translate into a ready reservoir of support for his nomination,'  said John Ullyot, a former Marine intelligence officer who was the spokesman for the Senate Armed Services Committee under Chairman John Warner from 2003 to 2007. 'On top of that, his outspokenness and blunt criticism of several Republican priorities at a critical time, including Iraq and Iran, while sincere and heartfelt, have left him without a natural platform of enthusiasm for his confirmation.'" (Politico)


"Republican foreign-policy realists haven't changed their tune over the years, but some in the GOP have moved away from the realists, such as defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, according to former national security advisor Brent Scowcroft. 'We haven't moved; the Republican party has moved,' Scowcroft told The Cable in an interview. 'I have been a lifelong Republican and I hold to what I are my own beliefs, which happen to be core Republican beliefs, but many in the party have taken a different course.' Scowcroft is one of several senior former GOP officials, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, to back the Hagel nomination in the face of opposition from half a dozen GOP senators and groups associated with the neoconservative and hawkish sides of the Republican foreign policy community. Scowcroft said the GOP is rooted in the realist principles he still espouses. 'The neocons go clear back to the 1970s. They were Democrats, then became sort of Republicans, ' he said. 'I'm who I am. Whether the party wants to desert me, that's their privilege.' Hagel's controversial comments from years past, such as when he once referred to the 'Jewish lobby' or his longstanding opposition to unilateral sanctions, shouldn't bar him from serving as defense secretary, according to Scowcroft. 'He is first and foremost an American and he takes an American perspective on everything he discusses,' he said. 'I'm frankly surprised [by the controversy], because he says what he believes at the time and there is a core in what he has said that makes some sense. Would you rather have someone who has never said anything?' Scowcroft joined with several other former officials in both parties to sign a letter in support of Hagel las month on the letterhead of the 'Bipartisan Group,' a loose association of former officials that includes Hagel.The Cable reported that horse racing gambler Bill Benter paid to have that letter advertised in Politico's Playbook newsletter." (ForeignPolicy)



"‘Just look at this view,'said my guide, as he waved his arm expansively from right to left. We had just emerged onto the sun-drenched roof terrace of a so-called narco-villa in Kabul’s Sherpur neighborhood. Sherpur is the epicenter of an eye-catching architectural style in a district where the gusher of money from drugs and corruption has found full expression. From the rooftop I look out on a jumble of grotesque, garish, candy-colored, multi-storied mansions sitting almost on top of one another. They resemble a mad baker’s window display of bad wedding cakes. These are the fortified castles of Afghanistan’s peculiar new elite. 'Narco-tecture'  takes classic design elements from ancient Greece and then goes psychedelic with them, adding touches from Mexico and Pakistan. Bad money has met bad taste in this former military installation in the suburbs of Kabul. If there were a Narco-tecture Digest, Sherpur could make up a special issue. Sherpur had been army land, the site of an old fort surrounded by modest homes. In 2003, the government evicted many of the local families and distributed the land to cabinet ministers, the mayor, militia commanders, and various warlords. Here in a city where most people live in slums with no running water or heat, the government commandeered a new suburb for high rollers, an enclave borrowing more from Scarface than Scarsdale. According to some, there are about 75 narco-villas now in Sherpur. I had heard that their neighborhood association, so to speak, petitioned the U.N. to pave the streets, but the U.N. wisely refused. Still, the international community, ever the enabler in Afghanistan, has managed to rent quite a few of these monstrosities over the years as homes for news organizations, diplomatic residences, and guesthouses. For the owners, it’s a perfect scheme.I’ve been intrigued by these structures ever since I returned to Afghanistan, in 2007. They just seemed so wrong, so blatant, so out of place. I’d read about the narco-tombs in Mexico—multi-story, pastel-colored, air-conditioned mausoleums built by drug lords there. I’d heard about their narco-wives, too. So I was eager to see these narco-villas." (VanityFair)


"We live in a world in which wealth is distributed in a wildly unequal way. A tiny few have billions of dollars, while many more have nothing. Though the reactions to this persistent and growing state of inequality span the ideological spectrum, it's fair to say that most people consider it a problem. For the very wealthy—and their sympathizers—extensive philanthropy is often held up as their personal nod to the world's unfairness. These generous philanthropists are considered to be the good ones. But is 'The Good Rich' a contradiction in terms? This question need not immediately descend into a screaming match between Marxists and free market demagogues. It is not an inquiry into the personal character of billionaires. It should not be supported or refuted by emotional appeal to Warren Buffett's appealing cuddliness, or Steve Scwharzman's unappealing grandiosity. It can be examined as a question of what really is—as a simple query of the state of the world. Do the drawbacks of such a vast accumulation of wealth in the hands of any single person outweigh any amount of charitable gestures that person could take on behalf of good causes? Does the very fact that we have a system that allows such vast inequality hurt us all more than all of the billionaires' philanthropy will ever help us?" (Hamilton Nolan)


"Speculation continues and grows about the marital future of Leonard Lauder whose wife, the great Evelyn died a year and a half go. In just a couple of days, both The Daily Mail (London) and the New York Post have run a story about the billionaire chairman emeritus of Estee Lauder is dating Linda Johnson, the president and CEO of the Brooklyn Public Library. There has been a lot of speculation about who was 'chasing after' the billionaire widower ($7.9 billion according to the Daily Mail). I’ve seen Mr. Lauder at lunch and/or dinner with several attractive and interesting women. Aside from his great fortune, he’s a great catch just from the record of his marriage to Evelyn: a devoted partner, diligently supportive, actively philanthropic; a man who likes people, and looks like he sincerely enjoys the social activity as well as the cultural events of the city. The Post pointed out that Ms. Johnson is quite a bit younger although after fifty -- she’s a reported 54 -- almost everyone is 'younger.' So it’s all relative." (NYSocialDiary)


"Jocelyn Wildenstein, who spent $4 million on plastic surgeries to make herself look like a cat, has been fighting eviction from her Manhattan pad after she fell $73,500 behind in rent. The “Bride of Wildenstein” — the 72-year-old New York socialite who famously received $2.5 billion in her 1997 divorce settlement with husband Alec Wildenstein and $100 million each year for 13 years after — was nearly kicked out of her apartment on the 57th floor of the Trump World Tower at 845 UN Plaza for failing to pay the $18,000- plus monthly rent since October. The landlord started eviction proceedings in Housing Court, and the parties were due to appear in front of Judge Sabrina Kraus on Feb. 1. But we’re told Wildenstein wired the full back rent from Europe last night. The source said: 'Wildenstein glamorizes herself as a jet-setter with many homes around the world, but it appears she doesn’t have quite as much money as everyone thinks. Has she spent it all on plastic surgery?' Her lawyer didn’t respond to calls and e-mails last night." (PageSix)
 

"Midday, I went again down to Michael’s. Recently someone asked JH why I went to Michael’s all the time. Answer: for the story. Any story. A diary requires it. Many times there isn’t one but there will be something that I can use that is a taste of New York mid-week, and Michael’s is definitely New York (when it’s in New York, that is). And a big habit. It’s not that it’s a fount of information, although from the catbird seat you can see a lot, and learn a lot, stitch by stitch, for the tapestry. People have a good time there. At least they look like they do. And there’s a lot of serious conversation although that could be very unserious. But business is conducted and the enthusiasm of the guests putting their best foot forward for the moment is catching. There was a photographer there. He looked like Warren Hoge’s twin, and coincidentally/ ironically, he was photographing for the Times (Hoge, if you didn’t know, was a long time correspondent for the NYT). We got a shot of him getting a shot of Michael while we all posed for the birdie. The lunch cast: Wayne Kabak, famous agent (Kitty Kelley is one of his clients), Hamilton South (famous public relations man, knows all the right people and vice versa); Wendy Williams (yes) and Suzanne DePasse (famous Hollywood producer, go-to-girl, now veteran of the great days of Motown and Berry Gordy; Michael Clinton, (major marketing executive with Hearst); Julie Macklowe (no description needed, right?); Jolie Hunt (media marketing exec – FT, Thompson-Reuters, etc.); Steve Greenberg (son of Hank, brother of Alva), Mark Rosenthal (former CEO of Al Gore’s (now Al jazeera’s Current media)" (NYSocialDiary)


"This was always the most difficult Final Five to get into, and some directing titans were bound to be squeezed out. But still! No Ben Affleck! No Kathryn Bigelow! No Tom Hooper! No Quentin Tarantino! A while back, I'd spitballed that Amour's Michael Haneke would make it in for the most Academy-friendly picture of his career, but then shook my head, thinking there was no way he could elbow past those famous names. Whoops! And how about that other surprise in the Best Director category, which indicates …" (Vulture)


"Lindsay Lohan moves through the Chateau Marmont as if she owns the place, but in a debtor-prison kind of way. She’ll soon owe the hotel $46,000. Heads turn subtly as she slinks toward a table to meet a young producer and an old director. The actress’s mother, Dina Lohan, sits at the next table. Mom sweeps blond hair behind her ear and tries to eavesdrop. A few tables away, a distinguished-looking middle-aged man patiently waits for the actress. He has a stack of presents for her. Lohan sits down, smiles and skips the small talk.  'Hi, how are you? I won’t play Cynthia. I want to play Tara, the lead.' Braxton Pope and Paul Schrader nod happily. They’d been tipped off by her agent that this was how it was going to go. They tell her that sounds like a great idea. Schrader thinks she’s perfect for the role. Not everyone agrees. Schrader wrote 'Raging Bull' and 'Taxi Driver' and has directed 17 films. Still, some fear Lohan will end him. There have been house arrests, car crashes and ingested white powders. His own daughter begs him not to use her. A casting-director friend stops their conversation whenever he mentions her name. And then there’s the film’s explicit subject matter. Full nudity and lots of sex. Definitely NC-17. His wife, the actress Mary Beth Hurt, didn’t even finish the script, dismissing it as pornography after 50 pages. She couldn’t understand why he wanted it so badly. But Schrader was running out of chances. His last major opportunity was about a decade ago, when he was picked to direct a reboot of 'The Exorcist.' He told an interviewer, 'If I don’t completely screw that up, it might be possible for me to end my career standing on my own feet rather than groveling for coins.' A few months later, he was replaced by the blockbuster director Renny Harlin, who reshot the film. Renny Harlin! Schrader is now 65 and still begging for coins. Pope, dressed in a checked shirt and skinny tie, looks like a producer. His fingers are constantly, frantically, scanning his iPhone. In the fall of 2011, he connected Schrader with Bret Easton Ellis, whose grisly satires brought him early notoriety and who had lately turned to screenwriting. The three were set to make 'Bait,' a shark thriller, based on a screenplay Ellis wrote, but the Spanish financing vaporized. Schrader suggested they do something on the cheap that didn’t look cheap. Pope worked his connections with Lohan’s agent, and that’s why she is sitting here on this spring day. Ellis is noticeably absent, holed up less than a mile away waging one of his frequent Twitter wars. (He has mounted social-media jihads against David Foster Wallace, J. D. Salinger and Kathryn Bigelow.) He thinks Lohan is wrong for the part, especially if she’s cast opposite the porn star he courted online. But he spent all his capital getting his man cast. Also, his condo is under water. Ellis will give in." (NYTMag)



"Much has been written over the past week about journalists’ favorite topic: the future of journalism. For once, it’s been about the business side of things, coming on the heels of Andrew Sullivan’s decision to strike out on his own with a subscription model and BuzzFeed’s most recent funding haul.
It’s useful to add to this discussion these pieces by Lewis DVorkin, chief product officer at Forbes, and Henry Blodget, CEO of Business Insider. Both men describe a future where the analog-dollars-to-digital-dimes equation is cemented. The idea of that gap closing, in a world of 4 trillion ad impressions, has moved beyond wishful thinking to pure fantasy. The question now for news publishers is what to do about it. Paywalls, meters and subscriptions are one route. And yet in many cases, they’re treating the symptom and not the cause. I recently did an interview with Blodget on why he’s excited for the future of news. The main reason, as he outlines in his presentation, is algorithms can’t make stories — yet. Beyond that, there’s the simple fact that Business Insider has a vastly different cost base than a publication like Forbes. Out of Blodget’s 91 slides, this is the most instructive. During our interview, I summed up his position as: Everyone’s screwed, but some are less screwed. The less screwed are publications that have gotten their cost structures in line with the new economics of digital media. Blodget likes his hand because he isn’t crating around enormous legacy costs like an old-school media company.This isn’t lost on DVorkin. He’s engaged in restructuring Forbes, root and branch, from a lofty magazine for globe-trotting execs to something more like The Huffington Post for business. He calls this “entrepreneurial journalism,” where Forbes rents space out to dozens of contributors. Some of the content from these contributors is quite good. Much of it is dreck. That’s the price you pay nowadays, however, in a world where pageviews are king.The pageview game is brutal. Once on that treadmill, it’s quite hard to get off. Advertisers can find their target audiences online without the publisher packaging together the wheat with the chaff. The “premium audiences” many publications have long touted are both easily found elsewhere cheaper. Again, 4 trillion ad impressions." (DigiDay)

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