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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Medfia-Whore D'Oeuvres




"Whhen the email landed in my inbox late last week, forwarded by a friend in Iowa Republican circles, the subject line—Whose side are you on?—caught my attention. 'You guys see this?' my friend wrote at the top. 'They must be getting scared.' The message itself was a battle cry issued by the libertarian wing of our state GOP. 'The Republican Party, forged in the fire of the American Civil War, is embroiled in a civil war of its own,' it declared. 'Conservatives and liberty activists across Iowa must come together and fight to hold our ground.' The message was signed by Joel Kurtinitis, a member of the Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee, and sent by Liberty Iowa, a libertarian PAC. But I saw A.J. Spiker’s fingerprints all over it. For more than a year, my Republican friends and the party activists I’ve known for years have been complaining with increasing intensity about Spiker, a 34-year-old realtor and former Ron Paul aide who is the unlikely chair of the Iowa Republican Party. It’s been a crazy kind of war, complete with Facebook unfriending, rumors and name-calling. Now, Republican Gov. Terry Branstad’s political team is finally gearing up to try to get rid of Spiker. At the governor’s big birthday bash with special guest Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Saturday night, Branstad’s reelection campaign team asked donors to sign up to serve as delegates at the county, district and state conventions so they can take back the party leadership. Judging from Kurtinitis’s email last week, Spiker and his allies know the fight is coming. 'They’re going to show up to the caucuses and conventions, and run you out of the party,' the email warns in a bold font. It accuses the party establishment of championing 'liberal policies' and engineering 'sellouts.' 'But grassroots conservatives were watching,' it says. 'And now we are fighting back.' 'Never have I seen the Republican Party of Iowa so dysfunctional,' says Bill Dahlsten, who’s been involved in Iowa politics since 1972, organizing congressional races and serving on his county GOP committee. 'A.J. Spiker,' Dahlsten tells me, 'is like Rome’s later emperors—the personification of self-indulgence.' In his short, stormy tenure, he has been accused of abandoning traditional Republican causes in order to promote his libertarian agenda; a common refrain these days is that RPI no longer stands for the Republican Party of Iowa but for Rand Paul, Inc." (Politico)


"I was surprised by my first reaction to George W. Bush in person. Having spent thousands of hours filming Barack Obama in diners, state fairs, and high-school gymnasia, I thought I’d gained some special insight into the character of presidents. But there I was, like any ordinary person watching a White House ceremony on television, thinking, 'Oh wow, look at how gray he’s gotten!' It was 2008, and I was in the Oval Office as President-elect Obama’s official photographer, which was my position during the presidential transition. President Bush was giving Obama a tour of his soon-to-be home ... After my naïve initial shock over Bush’s hair color, I began to wonder about their skepticism of the 'YouTube guy.' Candidate Obama might’ve been the first to have his campaign videotaped 24/7, but George W. Bush clearly shared Obama’s amazing ability—which I’d hung my entire video strategy on—to be the same person on and off camera. As I sprinted up the stairs to the White House behind Bush’s photographer, Eric Draper, dodging the kitty litter in the back stairs, we arrived at the rooms where the First Family actually lives. The president was showing the president-elect a few of his favorite things. 'See this room?' he said, sounding astonishingly like Will Ferrell doing his best 'W' impression. 'This is a good room for sittin’, Barack. I like to do a lot of sittin’ right here.' Americans detest inauthenticity above all things, especially in our politicians. Our electoral history is littered with losing candidates the nation deemed 'inauthentic'–John Kerry and Mitt Romney being just two of the latest. Even though the 43rd president’s approval rating was hovering at 22 percent at the time, I think most of us would’ve approved of how frankly and familiarly the departing President spoke about his end-of-term woes. 'People are pissed, you know?' I remember him saying. Every Presidential transition is a passing of the baton from someone who has been crushed by the grim reality of governance to someone who still believes in its seemingly limitless potential. That the presidency is taxing, grueling, and aging is cliché, but I think one of the most underappreciated parts—and tricky to observe in the veritable flipbook of pool photos of the graying President—is the vast emotional intelligence required to shift between different frequencies for different events, day out and day in, as the schedule veers wildly from a press conference to a major national disaster to a state dinner. When, after the transition, I joined the White House photo department as the official videographer, I grew accustomed to capturing all the dramatic transitions of a president’s day. One minute, I’d be filming a tearful embrace between POTUS and a shooting victim’s family member in the oval office; the next I’d be helping Samantha Tubman, deputy Social Secretary, pep up a drooping sports team unused to standing for hours in suits. When my footage of the Obama Presidency becomes public by law, as all film and photos of the president do, I believe people will be surprised by the sheer volume of these shifts in the president’s schedule." (TNR)
 


"Erik Prince is not whining, he wants that clear. 'However much I had to put up with, in terms of the assault from all sides, from the lawyers and the bureaucrats, pales in comparison to guys who lost their lives, who were maimed, either active-duty military or contractors,' he says. 'I’m just providing a cautionary tale to the next guy dumb enough to run to the sound of the alarm bell. Because the government can drop you on a dime and leave you hanging.' For Prince, who in less than a decade took an obscure military training facility, Blackwater USA, and transformed it, with government contracts, into a billion-dollar company before selling it in late 2010, even score-settling is a public service.In a dark suit and white, open-collar shirt, Prince is sitting warily in a hotel suite above New York’s Times Square. For years he’s been rumored to be working on a memoir about Blackwater (now called Academi), a name linked in the public imagination with the killings of dozens of Iraqis and Afghans. Now, Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror, is published, and Prince is busy promoting it. A private person, he submits to an interview with the enthusiasm of a dog in a shower. And yet he’s been waiting for this, too—to make the case for himself and his company and place the blame where he believes it belongs: 'If I could send a message back to my younger self, it would be: Do not work for the State Department at all' ... The business catered to law enforcement and the military—post-Cold War cuts had reduced training capacity—but struggled to find clients for its first couple of years. After Sept. 11, however, Prince and Blackwater went from training soldiers to finding them work, deploying thousands of vets to guard and transport American diplomats, aid workers, politicians, and CIA case officers through two wars. Forty-one Blackwater contractors eventually died in the line of duty. None of the U.S. State Department officials they were guarding were killed or seriously injured. While running the company, Prince says, he did covert intelligence work for the CIA." (BusinessWeek)


"Whether it’s her Oscar winning turn as the mafia princess in 'Prizzi’s Honor,' the quietly unhinged mistress in 'Crimes and Misdemeanors' or her embodiment of Morticia Addams in “The Addams Family,” there always seems to be an interesting tension in Ms. Huston, a bent toward decorum with the sense that at any minute things may go the other way. It’s hard to recall an actor of recent vintage who is so adept at keeping our attention on-screen without chewing the scenery.  Her public image as a symbol of Los Angeles chic (has there ever been a cooler couple than Ms. Huston and Jack Nicholson in the ‘70s and ‘80s?) belies a gemütlich woman who is funny and eager to please, perhaps the legacy of her father, the director John Huston, who was both doting and intensely critical. She is matter-of-fact (of her shoulder-baring sweater by the designer Donna Karan: 'Karan’s a genius. She says that shoulders are the last thing to go on a woman, and I think she’s right') and something of a fashion historian. Her memories of an enchanted Irish childhood (where John Steinbeck played Santa at Christmas, or the guy jumping out and yelling 'Boo' at you was Peter O’Toole dressed in his 'Lawrence of Arabia' robes) are wrapped in the clothing of those around her, particularly her father’s.'Fashion been important to me since I was very little,' she said. 'Often I can call up my memories of a time and place by what I and the people around me were wearing.'  When I suggested to Ms. Huston that 'A Story Lately Told' is in part a tribute to her father, that he would have loved it, she teared up. 'One of the things I discovered in this book is how my father made me love men who were ...' Impossible? 'Who lived large lives,' she said, laughing. (Although here, too, is a paradox — she may have been Mr. Nicholson’s most enduring relationship, but she found love and marriage with the serious, quiet sculptor Robert Graham.) She also loves men with style, and men who are open to her style." (NYTimes)


"Howie Gordon directed my grade school plays. As a third grader, I vaguely understood that he was qualified for this gig because he had acting experience. I had no idea that much of it was in pornography. It was only a year ago that I figured it out. I was watching 'After Porn Ends,' a documentary about what happens when adult performers return to “civilian” life, when I recognized Howie, the father of my classmate, the guy who enthusiastically taught us how to perform on stage and edited videos of our adolescent attempts at acting. It turned out Howie had an X-rated alter ego in the ’70s and ’80s: Richard Pacheco. My drama teacher, the porn star. Not only that but he’s a prolific, award-winning performer and Playgirl Man of the Year who worked with legends like John Holmes and Marilyn Chambers. He was even inducted into the Adult Video News Hall of Fame.
As of very recently, he’s also the author of a memoir about his days in porn, 'Hindsight: True Love & Mischief in the Golden Age of Porn.' It’s a tale of an overweight boy from Pittsburgh who sheds 50 pounds, starts lifting weights and finds himself doing adult movies. Before long, he’s posing for Playgirl and performing with porn’s greats. The book is appropriately filled with salacious details about his flings, on-screen and off, but it’s also a thoughtful and philosophical read. For him, doing porn was political: 'I foolishly expected the heirs to the Sixties sexual revolution to be there en masse,' he writes. 'They weren’t. And it remained sadly unconscionable that the sexual media for the entire culture of that time was largely relegated to an underclass of amateurs and criminals who mostly created a pornographic world of sexual looting and moral midgetry.' He expected more of the medium. It’s no surprise then that he is both a defender of the industry and a critic. 'Sometimes the domination of male rage in the industry just gets to me,' he writes. 'It comes off as so nasty and mean-spirited that it’s like sex without humanity.'" (Salon via Susannah Breslin)

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