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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Media-Whore D'oeuvres


"The White House took a series of steps Wednesday to make up with the Washington press corps.
The wooing took several shapes and followed a disastrous press briefing on Tuesday at which White House press secretary Jay Carney was torn apart over the Department of Justice’s seizure of Associated Press phone records. To bolster President Obama’s free-press credentials, the White House announced Wednesday it had asked Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to reintroduce a press shield law that would allow media organizations to challenge subpoenas of phone records and offer legal protections for protecting confidential sources. The White House also took the step of handing out records of emails related to the terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which is designed to push back at suggestions it has not been transparent and bolster its case it has been truthful about the attack. Finally, Carney started his daily briefing on Wednesday with a bit of self-mockery, standing before a screen showing a montage of facial grimaces and contortions he made during Tuesday’s contentious briefing. He called it 'The many faces of Jay.' Obama has had a relatively good relationship with the press, which conservatives often complain is a potent part of Obama’s political base." (TheHill)


"Peter Baker reports that President Obama occasionally fantasizes, as many presidents do, of imitating a 1998 Warren Beatty movie about a politician who suddenly started saying exactly what he thought ... You can see Obama’s Bulworth fantasies popping out from time to time, especially when reporters ask him why he can’t force Republicans to pass sensible compromises ...
The trouble is that these answers, while true, don’t actually help Obama. Any political scientist will tell you that the scope for possible legislation in this term is very narrow: The median House member is a very conservative Republican who represents a district that voted for Mitt Romney, and whose biggest political risk is losing a primary to an even more conservative Republican. But most political reporters and analysts don’t pay attention to the political science. They like narratives that revolve around the president as a protagonist. When you confront them with structural analysis that confounds their narratives, they just get upset with you. It serves no purpose. That’s why I advised Obama to use 'less real talk and more bullshit.'A post-presidency Obama who actually spoke his mind, rather than fashion himself a post-partisan eminence, as post-presidents do — now that would be awesome. But the reason politicians don’t go Bulworth is that it doesn’t work. The truth about legislative dynamics is complicated and depressing. People don’t want to hear it." (Jonathan Chait)



"While Daniel Webster died an American in 1852, his political legacy does not belong to just one state, but two: New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Born in New Hampshire, Webster represented the Granite State in the House of Representatives from 1813 to 1817. But he then moved to Massachusetts seeking to improve his legal career, only to wind up returning to the House as a Bay State congressman in 1823. (Republican ex-Sen. Scott Brown is currently pondering the reverse move.) Webster went on to have a lengthy stay in the Senate, becoming part of the upper chamber’s revered 'Great Triumvirate' with Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun. As a transplanted New Hampshirite representing Massachusetts, Webster’s individual case demonstrates how politics can be affected by the movement of Americans from state to state. In the aftermath of the 2012 election, the'demographics as destiny' discussion has dominated political analysis, with the latest data being provided by last week’s U.S. Census report on the 2012 electorate. But one demographic statistic hasn’t received much attention in the conversation: state nativity rates — that is, the percentage of people residing in a state who were born there. Does that statistic tell us anything about the politics of a state? If we order the states by nativity percentage (Chart 1) while also considering which party each state supported in 2012, we find that there are more Blue states than Red states with lower levels of nativity. Yet it’s obvious that high nativity rates in Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin did not keep Barack Obama from winning those states in 2012." (Sabato)


"Donald Trump and wife Melania were among mourners at Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home on the Upper East Side last night expressing condolences to prominent real estate developer Richard LeFrak and sister Francine after the death of their mother, Ethel, who died on Tuesday at age 93. Also in the room filled with white roses were Richard’s wife, Karen, Ethel’s grandsons Jamie and Harry, and close friends Somers Farkas, Dennis Basso and his husband, Michael Cominotto. The funeral for well-known philanthropist Ethel is today at 1 p.m. at Temple Emanu-El. Ethel’s husband, famed housing developer Samuel J. LeFrak, died in 2003." (PageSix)


"Last week certainly was the apex of this season’s contemporary art events here in New York. This time it had a decidedly New York/London spirit. There was the inspiring source of the Met’s Punk: Chaos to Couture, which was London in the 1970s. There was the fantastic Frieze Art Fair (now in its second year) at Randall’s Island, the satellite creation of the London magazine and art fair that bears the same name. And then, there were the masses of artists, museum professionals and collectors that pack the triennial fundraising dinner thrown for the Tate Americas Foundation, which supports the acquisition of art from the 'new world' for one of the UK’s most important and dynamic institutions — The Tate. I just returned from a month in England so perhaps I felt the British vibe more this year. And Tracey Emin, one of Britain’s best known contemporary artist installed a sculpture, entitled Roman Standard on view all summer at Petrosino Square at Spring and Lafayette Street in Soho as an adjunct to her two-gallery show at the Lehmann Maupin galleries on 26th in Chelsea and on Christie Street in the Bowery.  While I don’t know if he has any interest whatever in contemporary art, we also have Prince Harry in town this week." (NYSocialDiary)


"The cowardly move by the Justice Department to subpoena two months of the A.P.’s phone records, both of its office lines and of the home phones of individual reporters, is potentially a breach of the Justice Department’s own guidelines. Even more important, it prevented the A.P. from seeking a judicial review of the action. Some months ago, apparently, the government sent a subpoena (or subpoenas) for the records to the phone companies that serve those offices and individuals, and the companies provided the records without any notice to the A.P. If subpoenas had been served directly on the A.P. or its individual reporters, they would have had an opportunity to go to court to file a motion to quash the subpoenas. What would have happened in court is anybody’s guess—there is no federal shield law that would protect reporters from having to testify before a criminal grand jury—but the Justice Department avoided the issue altogether by not notifying the A.P. that it even wanted this information. Even beyond the outrageous and overreaching action against the journalists, this is a blatant attempt to avoid the oversight function of the courts. It is not, again, as if the government didn’t have options. The D.C. Circuit (in a 2005 opinion upholding a finding of contempt against the Timess Judith Miller and Times Matt Cooper for refusing to testify about who had disclosed Valerie Plame’s identity as a C.I.A. operative) has held that there isn’t a First Amendment privilege for journalists to refuse to testify before a criminal grand jury, as has the Second Circuit (in a 2006 case in which the government was trying to find out who told the Times about a planned raid on two foundations suspected of providing aid to terrorists). In the wake of the decisions, there was a renewed effort to pass a federal shield law—though the proposed law would not have provided absolute protection in cases of national security—but, with the rise of WikiLeaks, that discussion died." (NewYorker)



"We've all heard the stories. The friend of a friend who wrote a $50,000 check from the maternity ward to secure Junior's spot in the high school graduating class of 2030. The couple that built a library/parking structure/music room as a well-meaning gesture after they toured the school and 'saw a need." Then there's the one about the admissions director who pointed to two stacks of paperwork on her desk and said, "This is the pile of candidates we're considering. Yours is in the other one.' Over the past 18 months these tales have tagged along with me as I toured 12 private schools, attended open houses, and simulated playdates with my five-year-old twins, who on one occasion cavorted in a schoolyard with numbers pinned to their shirts like livestock at a state fair, all in the name of kindergarten admission. We live in Los Angeles, a city where the private school process is just as cutthroat as in New York, as it is in Chicago, San Francisco, and Atlanta. The incessant babble about where little Wolfie or Juniper or Harlow (remember, I live in L.A.) will learn to hold a pencil correctly, to the tune of $25,000 per year, often includes the terms fundraising, development, advancement, and capital campaigns. In a word: money. Money is not my native language, which explains why I'm a writer, not a hedge fund manager. So I needed a crash course in private school economics. What are the real financial expectations of the families applying to private schools these days?" (TownandCountry)

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