Thursday, February 28, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"When exactly does sequestration start? It’s a bit of a technicality, but one that makes a big difference, especially for the hundreds of thousands of federal workers waiting on furlough notices. The law requiring $1.2 trillion in across-the-board spending cuts is a bit vague on when the budget cuts begin. It only says March 1. So, the White House Office of Management and Budget has until 11:59 p.m. Friday to actually issue the official sequestration notice that starts the entire process. That’s when OMB will simultaneously transmit a report to Congress detailing cuts in every affected agency’s budget account. President Barack Obama must actually issue an order to trigger OMB’s actions. That means that technically, the sequestration will not have started when Obama meets with congressional leaders at the White House on Friday about possible sequester solutions.Spokesmen for all four Capitol Hill leaders — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — acknowledged in emails Friday that it’s their understanding that OMB does have until 11:59 p.m. to issue the sequestration order. But Boehner’s office also noted that Obama could choose to implement the sequester at any point during the day too." (Politico)

"I went down to Michael’s. It was Wednesday; what else? I don’t think I’ve ever seen it busier. I was lunching with the crew from Quest – publisher/proprietor Chris Meigher; Jim Stoffel the Creative Director, and Exec Editor Lily Hoagland. At Table One doing their Wednesday lunch was the crew – Bonnie Fuller, Editor-in-Chief/President, Gerry Byrne, Vice Chair of Penske Media which owns it; Carlos Lamadrid, the Exec Veep and publisher, and their guests: Jim Fallon, Editor of WWD; Jenn Rogien, costume designer for 'Girls'; USA Digital’s Sandra Hors, Nana Meriwether, Miss USA; Ted Fine of Bloomberg television, Matt Rich, PR Guru, Rachel DiCarlo of American Eagle, and Mike Indursky, president of Bliss ... Around the room: Josiah Bunting; Wednesday Martin; Pamela Keogh; Hugh Freund; Maryann Banikarim and Pattie Seller; media and music PR consultant Susan Blond with Susan Toepfer the Features/Entertainment Editor of More Magazine. More is owned by Meredith Corporation, another magazine publisher with multiple well-known titles such as Family Circle, Parents, Every Day with Rachel Ray. I’d never met Susan Toepfer before, but I had heard recently that Meredith is about to merge or acquire Time Magazine, so I was curious to discuss it with her. I am old enough to remember when Time was the most important news magazine in the world for decades. Brit Hadden and Henry Luce who were classmates at Yale came up with the concept of a news magazine fresh out of college in the early 1920s. Six years later Hadden suddenly became ill with something that brought on septicemia, and three months later he was dead of heart failure. He was 30. Within two weeks, his partner Henry Luce removed Haddon’s name from the masthead and Luce became Numero Uno and retained that title until he retired in 1964. By the 1940s Time had only imitators (although some were fairly close competitors such as Newsweek.) Time was the centerpiece of the most famous and possibly richest publishing empire in the country, if not the world. Time, Life Fortune, Sports Illustrated, People.When I came to New York out of college, one of the plummiest jobs for an aspiring journalist was a job at Time. They started wherever they could get a slot – mailroom, research, it didn’t matter; you were in the door." (NYSocialDiary)

"Disgraced Astor heir and New York social pariah Anthony Marshall turned high society heads this week when he turned up at a black-tie celebration for a new Titanic-like cruise ship wearing John Jacob Astor IV’s ancestral watch — and told guests he hopes to sell it for a fortune. Astor was the wealthiest passenger aboard the Titanic when it sank in 1912, and he died in the Atlantic wearing the valuable watch. Personal effects recovered when his body was found included the gold watch, cuff links and a ring. Marshall — who was convicted in 2009 of defrauding his mother, the late Brooke Astor, out of more than $60 million — was spotted at the lavish bash thrown by Aussie millionaire Clive Palmer at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum to celebrate construction of the Titanic II, which Palmer unveiled in New York this week. Marshall, 88, who’s kept a low profile since being sentenced to jail, was showing off the heirloom at the party. 'He said the watch had belonged to his stepfather [Vincent Astor],' said a spy. 'And that it had John Jacob’s initials on the back, which had been used to identify the body.' The source added that Marshall, who’s appealing his conviction, told guests he wants to sell the Titanic treasure, which could fetch more than $1 million. Meanwhile, Marshall’s wife, Charlene — who was famously dubbed 'Miss Piggy' by Brooke’s nurse, and 'that bitch' by Brooke herself — was wearing Brooke’s jewels at the Titanic fete. 'Charlene was wearing a thick diamond-and-ruby bracelet which she said her mother-in-law gave her. It was a major piece,' said a source. But, 'It was tight on her wrist, like a clamp. On Brooke, it hung gracefully. Brooke must have been rolling in her grave.'" (PageSix)

"Bob Woodward has suggested that the White House threatened him. Many of his colleagues in the press corps aren't buying it. By the standards of this White House, a statement like the one senior White House official Gene Sperling wrote to Woodward last week -- 'I think you will regret staking out that claim' -- is both mild and familiar, reporters who have dealt with the Obama administration say. 'It's not a big deal. You've been yelled at by people in the White House, I've been yelled at by people in the White House -- I'm sure this has happened to a thousand people in Washington,' Atlantic columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, who deals with the White House frequently, told POLITICO.'The whole thing seems like a tempest in a teapot.' 'I get emails like this almost every hour, whether it's from the White House or Capitol Hill,' said Chuck Todd, the NBC News political director and senior White House correspondent. 'For better or worse, flacks get paid to push back.'Since POLITICO published the full email exchange between Woodward and Sperling, journalists from across the political spectrum have voiced skepticism over Woodward's decision to paint himself as the victim of White House pressure. 'If this is it, I think many reporters — and I covered the White House for four years — received emails like this,' Fox News host Bret Baier said on Andrea Tantaro's radio show today. 'It was a cordial exchange for the most part, and Sperling is actually apologizing for a heated telephone conversation they had earlier in the day.' 'I’m not saying the White House doesn’t pressure reporters all the time and put the heat on reporters covering the White House. I’ve heard many, many stories that they do,' Baier continued. 'But this particular incident and this particular email, I’m not sure that characterizing it as a threat -- I think Bob Woodward has a little bit of explaining to do about that characterization.' Harold Maass, the online executive editor of The Week, likewise noted on Twitter that 'the email that scared [Woodward] was sort of cordial.' Outside the Beltway, Business Insider CEO Henry Blodget even wrote a post titled, 'Oh, Please, The White House Didn't 'Threaten' Bob Woodward.'" (Politico)

"Maybe it was today’s dreadful weather (Will this winter from hell ever end?) or perhaps some boldface names can’t bring themselves to leave the sunny West Coast after the Oscars, but the scene at Michael’s today was pretty much a celebrity-free zone unless you count the random sighting of Stephen Baldwin. The more low-key Baldwin made a curiously brief appearance in the dining room (he didn’t even sit down) before leaving, so we never got the chance to ask him what he thinks about brother Alec Baldwin‘s war with The New York Post, but we did try ... I was joined today by Woman’s Day editor-in-chief Susan Spencer and Hearst executive director of public relations Mimi Crume Sterling. Having never met these smart, savvy gals before, we bonded over a talk about our daughters. Susan, like me, is mother to an elementary-school-aged daughter adopted from China ..." (Diane Clehane/FishbowlNY)

Ledbury Dinner at Tiny's Celebrating Paul Trible and Paul Watson

Last night I attended a dinner at Tiny's to celebrate Paul Trible and Paul Watson -- Peter Davis called them Paul Squared -- of Ledbury, the amazing Savile Row-cut shirts that is based in an 1866 tobacco warehouse in Virginia. Euan Rellie, international man of mystery, threw the event and he assembled a crowd as interesting and witty and smart as himself. Aside from Scene editor Peter Davis, whom I finally got to meet in real time, there was the luminous Lucy Sykes-Rellie, style expert Mary Alice Stephenson, investment banker Federico G.M. Manella, Kristian LalibertElizabeth Edelman and many other  witty, brilliant people. 

As befits a very international crowd, the topics veered from the Oscars to the Italian elections and the upcoming sequestration. The reigning mood was political moderation -- Republicans and Democrats in the room all had an aversion to political extremism on both ends of the spectrum. My kind of crowd. As a serious single malt afficionado, I noticed early in the evening that Julia Macklowe had a glass with contents smelling more like whiskey than the Jack Daniels offered at the bar. Julie smiled mischievously and revealed that she had smuggled Macallan's from restaurant downstairs. Rules and conventions seem to evaporate around Julie, who later on in the evening at dinner was observed attempting to fix up a bachelor investment banker seated to my left with one of her friends. This being the digital age, she was showing pictures on her iPhone of a stunning woman. "You'd better listen to her," I told him, hushed; he agreed. Rules and conventions, bending.

After several vodka tonics and some wine and a wonderful dinner with memorable conversations, the Corsair, your humble correspondent, stumbled home, happily.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

David Bowie "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"The shooting clattered on for 30 minutes, residents of this dusty town say, and when it ended, four militants holding a German engineer hostage were dead. So were the engineer, and four innocent bystanders.  In vast West Africa, a new front-line region in the battle against al Qaeda, Nigeria is America's strategic linchpin, its military one the U.S. counts on to help contain the spread of Islamic militancy. Yet Nigeria has rebuffed American attempts to train that military, whose history of shooting freely has U.S. officials concerned that soldiers here fuel the very militancy they are supposed to counter. It is just one example of the limits to what is now American policy for policing troubled parts of the world: to rely as much as possible on local partners. The U.S. and Nigerian authorities don't fully trust each other, limiting cooperation against the threat. And U.S. officials say they are wary of sharing highly sensitive intelligence with the Nigerian government and security services for fear it can't be safeguarded. Nigerian officials concede militants have informants within the government and security forces.For the U.S., though, cooperation with Nigeria is unavoidable. The country is America's largest African trading partner and fifth-largest oil supplier. Some 30,000 Americans work here. Nigeria has by far the biggest army in a region where al Qaeda has kidnapped scores of Westerners, trained local militants to rig car bombs and waged war across an expanse of Mali the size of Texas. Last month, al Qaeda-linked extremists' attack on a natural-gas plant in faraway Algeria left at least 37 foreigners dead.In Nigeria, a homegrown Islamic extremist group loosely called Boko Haram has for years attacked churches and schools. The name translates as 'Western education is sin.'" (WSJ)

"The supremely confident billionaire hedge-fund manager Bill Ackman has never been afraid to bet the farm that he’s right. In 1984, when he was a junior at Horace Greeley High School, in affluent Chappaqua, New York, he wagered his father $2,000 that he would score a perfect 800 on the verbal section of the S.A.T. The gamble was everything Ackman had saved up from his Bar Mitzvah gift money and his allowance for doing household chores. 'I was a little bit of a cocky kid,' he admits, with uncharacteristic understatement. Tall, athletic, handsome with cerulean eyes, he was the kind of hyper-ambitious kid other kids loved to hate and just the type to make a big wager with no margin for error. But on the night before the S.A.T., his father took pity on him and canceled the bet. 'I would’ve lost it,' Ackman concedes. He got a 780 on the verbal and a 750 on the math. 'One wrong on the verbal, three wrong on the math,' he muses. 'I’m still convinced some of the questions were wrong.'
Not much has changed in the nearly 28 years since Ackman graduated from high school, except that his hair has gone prematurely silver. He still has an uncanny knack for making bold, brash pronouncements and for pissing people off. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the current, hugely public fight he and his $12 billion hedge fund, Pershing Square Capital, are waging over the Los Angeles–based company Herbalife Ltd., which sells weight-loss products and nutritional supplements using a network of independent distributors. Like Amway, Tupperware, and Avon, Herbalife is known as “a multi-level marketer,' or MLM, with no retail stores. Instead, it ships its products to outlets in 88 countries, and the centers recruit salespeople, who buy the product and then try to resell it for a profit to friends and acquaintances." (VanityFair)

"The mystery of John Boehner’s sequestration strategy — What are they thinking? How do they imagine it will work? — is slowly coming into focus. Viewed as a plan to accomplish some policy end, it makes no sense. But that doesn’t seem to be its main intent. Boehner’s plan seems mainly designed to keep John Boehner from losing his job. In that sense, and in that sense only, the logic holds. The first thing to understand is how crazy the Republican strategy is as a partywide approach. Sequestration is automatic cuts to spending, but only to the parts of the federal budget that Republicans hate the least. Their least favorite part of the federal budget — anti-poverty programs — is exempt. Their second least-favorite part — broad social insurance programs, meaning Medicare and Social Security — is also exempt. What’s being cut is discretionary government spending, which Republicans dislike in theory but not so much in practice, and defense, which they quite like.
Obama is proposing to replace these cuts with a mix of cuts to social insurance and reduced tax deductions. So break down the deal into two parts. In one part, Republicans would get to cancel out the defense cuts in return for reducing some tax exemptions. Depending on how much a given Republican likes defense or hates making the rich pay more taxes, that trade is anything ranging from a win to a medium-size loss. The second part of the deal involves canceling out the domestic discretionary cuts and replacing them with cuts to Social Security and Medicare. That is a major win for any Republican. Republicans hate social insurance way more than they hate highways, food inspectors, national parks, and the other mundane government functions in the discretionary budget. What’s more, the social insurance cuts are designed to save a lot more money over the long run than they would over the next ten years, which means Obama is offering to cut spending by a far greater amount over ..." (NyMag)

"The Mayflower Madam opened the door to her New York apartment. Inside, it was clearly more Mayflower than madam. Old family heirlooms include an inlaid mahogany secretary, two 18th-century family portraits of children and a Dresden clock. The former debutante Sydney Biddle Barrows, a scion of Philadelphia’s aristocratic Biddle family, has called this rent-controlled, $1,800-a-month, three-room Upper West Side apartment home since before her 1984 arrest for running a pricey prostitution service. Her guest had come early, so she was still wearing shorts and her glasses.'You always expect that extra 20 minutes to get yourself together,' she said pleasantly.
The settee on which the guest perched has sentimental meaning, too. 'My girls used to sit on that sofa,' Ms. Barrows said nostalgically, as if having been in her former line of work were the most natural thing in the world. One cannot but marvel that Barrows still looks remarkably like she did when she burst on the scene at 32 as New York’s best-bred madam, appearing on the front pages of newspapers in handcuffs. When her Pilgrim lineage came to light, the tabloids had a field day. “It was very difficult when it first happened,” Ms. Barrows recalled. 'I was used to people liking me, and all of a sudden there were people out there who didn’t even know me who disliked me.' The Social Register dropped her. Candice Bergen played her in a made-for-television movie.An antique silver chest sits in the living room in front of a marble mantelpiece for a faux fireplace. 'There is no other pattern like that,' she said of the custom-made silver flatware. It was created for her great-great-grandmother by Samuel Kirk, the famous 19th-century Philadelphia silversmith. 'My mother didn’t want it,' she said. 'How lucky is that?' Of a nearby grandfather clock she said, 'Oh that,' waving dismissively, 'I bought it myself.' Like any WASP worth her weight in single malt, Barrows sees buying one’s own furniture as tacky." (Observer)

"What’s next after the Oscars? More Gatsby, of course. 'The Great Gatsby,' featuring Leonardo DiCaprio and coming in May, will be the fourth, or by some counts the fifth or sixth, movie version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel about the illusion created by false wealth in the 1920s. The corollary to the “The Great Gatsby” in the literature of economics is another old 'great,' 'The Great Crash 1929,' by the economist John Kenneth Galbraith. Galbraith’s narrative, like Fitzgerald’s, is subtle, conjuring complex characters. Yet the effect of both books is the same: to display the 1920s as a decade full of false numbers and false people, reckless pilots who caused an economic wreck so catastrophic it necessitated 10 years of Depression. And Galbraith assigns the pivotal role of the heedless Daisy Buchanan to Calvin Coolidge, the 30th U.S. president:'President Coolidge neither knew nor cared what was going on,' Galbraith writes. In other words, the 30th president was the one to fall asleep at the wheel of our economic car. Since Galbraith published 'Crash' in 1954, a series of scholarly works have shown this line of reasoning to be about as substantial as a champagne bubble. As early as the 1960s, for example, Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz posited that monetary policy was the crucial force in the Great Depression. Their 'A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960' mentions Coolidge precisely once, in a footnote." (Amity Shlaes)

"AMID the chaos of Italy’s election night, with projections contradicting exit polls and partial results confounding projections, three facts stood out. The first was the spectacular advance of a movement spun out the internet just over three years ago, which is fronted by a comedian and has no comprehensive plan for running the country. The Five Star Movement (M5S), founded by Beppe Grillo in 2009, secured the ballots of roughly one in four of the Italians who voted, more than went to any other party. It was an astonishing result that will dismay chancelleries and scare markets, all the more so because of the second fact. This was that, because of Mr Grillo’s success, neither of the two main alliances (of centre-right and centre-left) obtained an outright majority in the upper house, the Senate. Though at least one M5S official was not prepared to rule out a deal with one of the other coalitions, Mr Grillo himself however was adamant: there would be 'no stitch-ups and no little stitch-ups,' he declared. This is crucial to Italy’s stability because, unlike many other countries, the two chambers of its parliament have equal powers. Without control of both, a government cannot legislate. The third fact was that, in both houses, Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative alliance ran the centre-left far closer than had been expected. With all but a tiny percentage of the ballots counted, it looked as if the centre-left would win the lower house by less than half a percentage point, and despite a fractionally higher proportion of the vote, slightly fewer seats in the Senate.The likely outcome bore witness to the inaccuracy of the polls (including those conducted on the very eve of the election) and Mr Berlusconi’s brash campaigning skills. But more than anything else it was testimony to the effectiveness of a highly questionable pledge. The former prime minister promised not only to abolish, but give back the revenue from an unpopular tax on primary residences imposed last year by Mario Monti’s outgoing 'technocratic' government. Mr Berlusconi has claimed, improbably, that he can offset the impact on Italy’s public finances with the proceeds of a deal with Switzerland on cash stashed away there by Italians. It is precisely the kind of fast-and-loose approach to the government’s accounts that explains why investors are so wary of Mr Berlusconi and alarmed to see him climb back out of what had seemed like his political grave." (Economist)

"As Iran met in Kazakhstan this week with members of the UN Security Council to discuss its nuclear program, researchers announced that a new variant of the sophisticated cyberweapon known as Stuxnet had been found, which predates other known versions of the malicious code that were reportedly unleashed by the U.S. and Israel several years ago in an attempt to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. The new variant was designed for a different kind of attack against centrifuges used in Iran’s uranium enrichment program than later versions that were released, according to Symantec, the U.S-based computer security firm that reverse-engineered Stuxnet in 2010 and also found the latest variant. The new variant appears to have been released in 2007, two years earlier than other variants of the code were released, indicating that Stuxnet was active much earlier than previously known. A command-and-control server used with the malware was registered even earlier than this, on Nov. 3, 2005. Like three later versions of Stuxnet that were released in the wild in 2009 and 2010, this one was designed to attack Siemens PLCs used in Iran’s uranium enrichment program in Natanz. But instead of changing the speed of spinning centrifuges controlled by the PLCs, as those later versions did, this one focused on sabotaging the operation of valves controlling the flow of uranium hexafluoride gas into the centrifuges and cascades — the structure that connects multiple centrifuges together so that the gas can pass between them during the enrichment process. The malware’s goal was to manipulate the movement of gas in such a way that pressure inside the centrifuges and cascade increased five times the normal operating pressure. 'That would have very dire consequences in a facility,' says Liam O’Murchu, manager of security response operations for Symantec. 'Because if pressure goes up, there’s a good chance the gas will turn into a solid state, and that will cause all sorts of damage and imbalances to the centrifuges.' The new finding, described in a paper released by Symantec on Tuesday (.pdf), resolves a number of longstanding mysteries around a part of the attack code that appeared in the 2009 and 2010 variants of Stuxnet but was incomplete in those variants and had been disabled by the attackers." (WIRED)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"The bill that President Obama signed into law on January 15, the Department of State Rewards Program Update and Technical Corrections Act, was ostensibly about improving the government's ability to combat international war criminals. Obama's signing statement even cited Joseph Kony, the infamous warlord (and subject of a viral video campaign) who faces charges before international tribunals for attacks on civilians, murder, the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and rape. But the importance of the law is likely to extend for beyond the pursuit of Kony. Indeed, the law's biggest impact may be the way it had quietly reset the fraught relationship between conservative policy makers and the International Criminal Court.  Established in 1998 under the Rome Statute to prosecute war crimes, genocide, and other human rights atrocities, the International Criminal Court has never before been recognized by the United States. But under the new law, the State Department is empowered to offer monetary rewards for foreign nationals indicted by any international court for genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity, including the ICC. This amounts to an unprecedented channel of cooperation between the U.S. and the ICC—and a surprising, if tacit, endorsement of multilateralism and international institutions by the conservative lawmakers who fought to pass the bill. The explicit inclusion of the ICC in the text of the law is no small matter given Washington's traditional suspicion of international law. Historically, opponents of the court in both parties have worried about prosecutions against Americans. While President Bill Clinton signed the Rome Statute in 2000, he did so noting that “fundamental concerns” remained and that he would not send it on to the Senate for ratification. The Bush administration then abandoned the treaty entirely in 2002. Later, Bush signed the American Servicemembers Protection Act (ASPA), which shields U.S. and allied personnel from prosecution by the ICC, and generally restricts American cooperation with the court. That proved to be the high point of Washington's unipolar moment; the Bush administration's hostility towards the court faded soon began to fade, at least somewhat. In March of 2005, Bush agreed to allow the UN Security Council to refer the atrocities in Darfur to the ICC for investigation; it also waived the restrictions on foreign assistance to ICC party countries. But adherence to international legal norms was still mostly dismissed by conservatives as a liberal cause." (TNR)

"The Alps are aglow like never before. A record snowfall and an abundance of sun have turned the region into a postcard of long ago. From afar, that is. Up close the cranes are ever present, although during the season building is verboten. For the last few years I’ve been meeting with three Greek childhood friends once a week for lunch in a nearby inn. They are: Aleko Goulandris, my oldest friend (we met in 1945); Karolos Fix, a German Greek who arrived in that tortured land along with my ancestors back in the 1830s with the first King Otto from Bavaria; and Leonida Goulandris, who is the youngest at 52 and whose parents were my friends long before he was born. When the King of Greece is in Gstaad he is the fifth Hellene at the table. It is a male lunch that is transferred to Porto Heli during the summer months. We drink white Swiss wine, eat trout straight off the tiny pool they’re kept in, and talk. It takes place every Tuesday—two days of recovery time—because the weekends at the Palace tend to be rather crazy and confused. (Last Friday was the worst—6AM and counting.) 'Beauty has largely vanished from our civilization in general.' Basically, it is an exercise in nostalgia ... King Constantine is a calming influence. He does not participate in our political discussions and when he’s present even I lower the rhetoric. He is very interesting when he talks about the heads of state he had known as a young monarch, especially de Gaulle and Eisenhower. He does not like President Nixon, my favorite, whom I shall write about next week, so be prepared.
And so it goes. Another week, another great lunch filled with nostalgia and the flickering memories of long ago. A few laughs, too. Last week the mother of my children had some cousins over for dinner. They were all Chernins and Lichtensteins and Schoenburgs, and they all went by their first names with friendly smiles and impeccable manners. That’s when John Preston’s review of Rupert Loewenstein’s book on The Rolling Stones came to mind. 'There are some people with titles who don’t make much of a song and dance about it, and some people who do,' writes Preston. Boy, oh boy, does Rupert baby make a fuss about his." (Taki)

" It may have felt like 54 below outside, but inside 54 Below, tucked beneath the infamous Studio 54, it was HOT HOT HOT. A motley assortment of good time Harrys and Harriets stuffed themselves into banquettes, mingled at the bar and shook their booties on the dancefloor.  The occasion was Michael Musto’s Disco Extravaganza. Resplendent in a black sequined Kevin Novinski-designed jacket on stage (he wore a different, equally splendid jacket to welcome everyone) and backed by Elektrik Company with Tish and Snooky providing additional vocals , Michael belted out a hilariously revised 'I Will Survive', replacing love addiction with pizza addiction, dueted with Elektrik Company’s Lisa McQuade on 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart', and finished his solo warblings with 'Last Dance', after forgiving Donna Summer for her transgressions (the alleged anti-Gay remarks attributed to her when she became a Born-Again Christian, words later denied by Summers). " (NYSocialDiary/Anita Sarko)

"For all of the magnetic bodies that swirl around the Vanity Fair Oscar party—award winners, mega-producers, billionaires—there is one focal point of power in the room. It’s not the person toting the statuette for Best Picture (although Ben Affleck did cause a stir wherever he, wife Jennifer Garner, and Oscar turned up that night). And it’s not even Graydon Carter, the host of the weekend’s most exclusive event and Vanity Fair’s fearless leader. No—the locus of energy is a place, a specific spot exactly twenty paces from the front entrance of the Sunset Tower Hotel, just past the photo booth. It’s just far enough away from the pleading photographers and screaming fans outside, but not too far into the party that a person standing there could miss anyone important as he or she entered the room. It is, in short, where everyone wants to look. Last year, it was on this very spot that David and Victoria Beckham held court for much of the night, with the then-happily married Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes—the latter on one of their last-ever joint public appearances. This year, the spot was occupied by a rotating cast of heavy hitters. In the early evening, Sandra Bullock and her agent Kevin Huvane did a little choo choo train dance across it to get to the bar. It was where Jane Fonda ran into Valentino and—despite the remarkable tightness of her form-fitting dress—performed an elaborate bow to the designer. Graydon Carter stood right there to pose with the only three guest editors to ever have borrowed the reins of Vanity Fair from him (Tom Ford, Judd Apatow, and Bono). And even though Jennifer Aniston slipped in through a distant side door with her beau Justin Theroux, she still managed to assume the prime position shortly after her arrival and greet all comers—including Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, and Sacha Baron Cohen." (vanityfair)

"'When I was a child, Châteauneuf-du-Pape was the wine of major family events: Christmas, birthdays, weddings,' Isabel Ferrando, a rising star of the appellation, told me recently. 'This wine is inextricably associated with happiness in the family, my aunts and my mother cooking, the smell of beef in sauce, game in the fireplace.' Ms. Ferrando grew up in the town of Carpentras, at the foot of Mont Ventoux, not far from the source of these heady wines, and eventually went to work for a branch of the bank Crédit Agricole, in Nîmes, where she frequently dealt with farmers and winegrowers. After her daughter was born, in 1997, she decided she wanted to change her life, and she increasingly fantasized about the life of a vigneron. 'I dreamed of silence, the sound of the wind, the sun on my skin' ... Henri Bonneau is the 12th generation of his family to produce wine in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which acquired its name when Pope Clement V, a wine lover of French extraction, built his summer residence in the village after hijacking the papacy to nearby Avignon. His successor, John XXII, seems to have been the one who planted vines. The popes eventually returned to Rome, but the vineyards flourished, slaking local thirst without attracting wide attention. They did play an anonymous role in beefing up the Pinots of Burgundy, which has a cooler and less reliable climate. In the 19th century, the rakehell Marquis de Nerthe, who owned vines here, raised the profile of the local wines by promoting them as an aphrodisiac, a claim which may have merit given their relatively high alcohol. The predominant grape in the 7,900-acre appellation is Grenache, a hot-weather variety that probably originated in Spain (where it's called Garnacha.) Twelve other red varieties are permitted in the appellation, including Mourvèdre, Syrah and Cournoise, but voluptuous Grenache is the diva in the group, with the others singing backup. The character of the wine is a function of the terrain and the weather; once you've smelled the local garrigue, the fragrant mix of wild plants including lavender, thyme and rosemary, you will swear you smell it in the wines." (Jay McInerney)

"Marc and Lizzie will tell you they are collectors. Lizzie likes to think she has a better eye than her husband, but 'Marc has that dash of rash', she’ll tell you, 'He’s really a genius!' They were obsessed with things and shopped continually. Saturday mornings they were first at every yard sale. They pet and pampered and fetishized their things. They have a storage unit here in town and when they visit they can’t help themselves and they are haggling over the abandoned objects available for purchase at the front desk. In reality they are hoarders. In reality they have supplanted the value of human beings with things, betting on imortality, perhaps. They are old and possibly they hope shopping and amassing will keep them from dying. After all, how could they die before they have had the time to inventory and archive and display all their precious possessions. After a few months in Key West, to get to know his new environs, Marc went on some ride-alongs with the police. The cops whetted his expectations by hinting at the lewd scenes they’d be coming across and he was titilated. He also learned about the Baker Act, a Florida institution whereby the insane are divvied up from regular garden-variety miscreants. Marc will tell you he found the ride-alongs, 'Fascinating.' Everyone who knew them remarked on how well they got along. 'Soul mates', people said, and it appeared Marc and Lizzie had a storybook romance." (Christina Oxenberg)

"Two elusive legends turned heads at agency William Morris Endeavor’s Oscar party at the home of uber-agent Ari Emanuel. Morrissey, the former Smiths singer, held court with power players while Patrick Stewart chatted to admiring guests. Others at the exclusive Friday bash included Best Picture “Argo” director Ben Affleck, Emma Watson, “Les Misérables” hunk Hugh Jackman and his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness. An on-form Russell Brand worked the room, which was decorated with paintings by Retna (who was part of MoCA’s “Art in the Streets” exhibition that set attendance records in LA). Also spotted were Larry David, “Bernie” star Jack Black and Charlize Theron, looking beautiful with cropped blond hair in advance of her Oscars dance number with Channing Tatum. The stars were joined by industry powerhouse executives including DreamWorks Animation head Jeffrey Katzenberg, Paramount’s Brad Grey, CBS’s Les Moonves and Viacom’s Philippe Dauman." (PageSix)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"'A cock has no shame.' That’s what it said on the little plaque on the door of the espionage instructor. He’d been discovered a few nights earlier going at it with a female junior officer on a pool table in the recreation room at 'the Farm,' the Central Intelligence Agency’s training facility in the swamps of eastern Virginia. The instructor flaunted his defiance, slightly camouflaged in Gothic calligraphy. Among the students and teachers, even among the more straight-laced Mormons, few thought he’d done anything particularly wrong (except getting caught). We were all adults. Some of the female students aggressively hunted the better-looking paramilitary instructors, who welcomed the attention. In the mostly temporary couplings that occurred during training, it was sometimes unclear who was married and who was not. What happened at the Farm wasn’t just the by-product of being stuck in the woods for months in boring espionage and paramilitary courses. During my tour of duty with the operations directorate in the 1980s and 1990s, case officers weren’t exactly models of propriety at headquarters or in the field. Unlike the U.S. military post-Vietnam, where senior officers are supposed to be moral role models, the CIA—that is, the Clandestine Service, the engine room of espionage and covert action that has always defined the agency’s ethos—has been much more relaxed about these things. The drama surrounding David Petraeus’s extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell could change all that. Ever since the agency director’s resignation, a small army of pundits has taken to the airwaves, warning that infidelity could be exploited by foreign intelligence services and used against American officials. The pressure could force new standards for the intelligence world. That would be a mistake. As morally upsetting as it may sound, we should all want the typical philanderer to serve in the Clandestine Service, free from the fear of reprisal. Let me explain. Case officers, the CIA personnel who handle intelligence-collection and covert-action operations, are bottom-feeders. They search the strengths and weaknesses of character in the foreigners they want to recruit and run as agents; few things are off limits. Unlike soldiers, who have each other’s backs in battle, case officers build on both trust and deceit. And they work in a promotion system that often rewards intellectually dishonest operatives for making a mediocre new recruit seem like solid gold. This sort of thing tends to make officers jaded pretty quickly." (TNR)

" Obama has basically erased the Republican advantage on foreign policy, but he hasn’t yet created a clear majority on behalf of a less bellicose and more multilateral foreign policy. The fact is that we simply have a war-weary public. Someday again, in a generation perhaps (one certainly hopes not sooner), we will have a war-hungry public. That’s just the way it goes. But if Obama can pull off something big—bringing Iran to the table, most notably, and resolving that issue successfully without war or bombing—then that majority will form. This traditional idea of Democrats and liberals as appeasers and quislings is just too old now. Mitt Romney ran on it, and it never had any resonance outside the right-wing base. After all, as far as most Americans are concerned, the last time progressives opposed a war (Iraq), they were right. An event like a terrorist attack could change things quickly, but right now, the broad majority’s inclinations are toward a foreign policy that is strong but reasonable, not hopped up on testosterone. If Obama has success in each of these areas, the progressive coalition will expand over the next four years. The broad middle class will support its economic policies; Latinos’ loyalty will grow; skeptical people will see through health care that the government is capable of delivering something useful; and the voters whom the demographers used to call 'security moms' will have concluded that going around the world starting wars is not the best path to safety." (Democracy)

"One night this week, you may be at home, minding your own business, and find yourself on the receiving end of a phone call from John Catsimatidis. Your next brush with him might happen when you’re driving or sitting in front of the television. These encounters will, no doubt, be memorable, thanks to the candidate’s loud squawk of a New York accent and his decidedly distinctive appearance. With an ample gut and a face padded by a prominent second chin, Mr. Catsimatidis looks less suited for prime time than for a caricature by the pioneering political cartoonist Thomas Nast as a mass of jowls and bursting blazer buttons. Over the next few months, the businessman plans to spend several million of his own dollars to take his mayoral campaign to the phone lines and airwaves in an effort to show New Yorkers he’s a more approachable, homespun brand of billionaire than Michael Bloomberg. 'I grew up on 135th Street. I grew up on the poor side of New York. I grew up in Harlem. I was a store owner. I’m still a store owner,' Mr. Catsimatidis told The Observer on the phone from a weekend vacation in the Bahamas. 'I’m not a Bloomberg billionaire. I am a real New Yorker … I didn’t go to Harvard, I didn’t go to Yale … I rooted for the Yankees, I didn’t root for the Boston Red Sox.' Mr. Catsimatidis indeed lacks the present mayor’s patrician polish. While Mr. Bloomberg cuts a sleek figure in designer clothes and betrays his Harvard MBA in his fondness for taking careful, heavily researched, data-supported positions, Mr. Castimatidis and his opinions regularly seem to spill out of his rumpled, well-worn suits." (Observer)

"The Michael’s lunch. Wednesday busy. A lotta familiar faces and names that mean most to their possessors, alliances, and other people in the room. Remember this is a media/banking clientele at lunch, which you’ve already gathered. Most are unknown to you and even me, dear reader. But one thing you can be sure of is that there was a lot of interesting and serious conversation going on amidst all the clatter and chatter. In the mix: At table one, Catherine Saxton (PR) and Katlean De Monchy with investigative reporter and former NYC detective, John Connolly. Mr. Connolly who writes for, among others,Vanity Fair is one of those guys who really knows the scoop. Catherine Saxton’s long time client list has included Hiltons, Trumps and many of the brighter boldfaced names on the national celebrity trail. I’m sure everyone got an earful. Moving along: CNBC’s Ron Insana; Stan Shuman (Allen & Co.); Harriet Weintraub (PR); Jacques Azouilay with Jennifer Simonetti; Barry Frey and Peter Borish; Tom Goodman; Simon & Schuster’s distinguished editor (Jennet Conant, Doris Kearns Goodwin) Alice Mayhew; Lisa Linden with Beth Shapiro and Suri Kasirer; Andrew Stein with Stuart Sundlin; David Sanford and Lewis Stein; Dawn Bridges and Maurie Perl; Pete Peterson; Ron Perelman with Lyor Cohen, the recording executive who up until ten minutes ago was the boyfriend of retail tycoon Tory Burch, who herself had lunch with Mr. Perelman just a couple of days before." (NYSocialDiary)

"Richard Branson beamed into the Upper East Side’s Explorers Club via Skype from his Necker Island hideaway Tuesday to make a heartfelt introduction for National Geographic film “Battle for the Elephants.” The Virgin mogul 'looked like he was in a thatched hut,' said a spy, 'with a fan twirling overheard in the background.' The film about the illegal ivory trade was hosted by David and Julia Koch for guests including Tommy Hilfiger, Lauren Bush Lauren, paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey and Town & Country special-projects editor Amanda Hearst. Director John Heminway, whose doc will air on PBS, said 80 percent of illegal ivory is sold in China for everything from knickknacks to iPhone cases." (NYPost)

"Theater’s deep disgust for (and fear of) 'the Millennials' reaches a high-water mark with Really Really, MCC’s latest attempt to comprehend the callow Jugend running amok in our cities, bars, and coffee shops. But unlike last year’s The Submission, this affidavit is filed from within the accused demographic: Written by 27-year-old Paul Downs Colaizzo from a first draft he completed at 21, Really Really is a poker-faced twist on the old he said-she said college potboiler. It stars Zosia Mamet (who plays innocent Shoshanna on Girls) as Leigh, a less-than-innocent college senior of modest means, who ends up in a compromising situation with a rich, popular, possibly troubled boy (Matt Lauria) and tries to leverage scandal into advancement. Mamet’s already a generational avatar in her own right, thanks to America’s favorite schadenshow (which fascinates the former Matlock audience), and Colaizzo would very much like to be one, too. He may yet get his wish. Probably not on the strength of this smug, clumsy, dyspeptic opening salvo, but — with his frighteningly palpable ambition, vivid, vicious voice, and stiletto instinct for the epigram — definitely someday. Soon, perhaps very soon, he’ll grow into the sort of playwright who understands he probably shouldn’t conclude a pessimistic dorm-room melodrama called Really Really with a character staring down the audience and saying, 'Really.' J’accuse! I mean, hell, this is Colaizzo’s first play to be produced in New York — and it shows, despite the delicate ministrations of master director David Cromer (Tribes, Our Town) and a sleek, spare stage design overseen by Cromer and the scenic visionary David Korins. (Colaizzo really, really hit the tyro-playwright jackpot with this team.) The young cast is excellent, across the board, and Mamet, especially, is fascinating: From the moment she enters in Colaizzo’s superbly wordless opening scene — a dumbshow of two young girls, one bleeding, entering their apartment drunk, late at night, teetering on 'slutty heels,' all beautifully, unsettlingly orchestrated by Cromer — she finds ways to invite us into the interior of a cipher." (NYMag)

"The G-20 finance ministers’meeting ended on Feb. 16 with the obligatory note of amity on exchange rates. 'We will not target our exchange rates for competitive purposes, will resist all forms of protectionism and keep our markets open,' read thecommuniqué. The IMF’s Christine Lagarde added her gloss: 'We think that talk of currency wars is overblown. People did talk about their currency worries. The good news is that the G-20 responded with cooperation rather than conflict today.'
Of course, targeting the currency for competitive purposes is exactly what many have suspected Japan of doing-- not least because Shinzo Abe, the new prime minister, had previously said that’s what he wanted to do. It’s been left to finance minister Taro Aso to, let’s say, clarify the position. After the G-20 meeting and its emollient declaration, the foreign exchange market decided not much had changed, and the yen continued its recent slide. But when Aso appeared to rule out buying foreign-currency bonds -- which would be a pretty forthright measure to drive down the yen, one that that Abe had previously mentioned as a possibility -- he had a more marked effect. The yen strengthened for the first time in several days. A theme of dissension in the new Japanese cabinet is thus gaining ground. Who’s in charge, Abe the radical currency-manipulator or Aso the monetary moderate? Just as the currency war talk is overblown -- Lagarde’s quite right about that -- so is the idea that Abo and Aso are at odds. In due course, they may be, but not yet." (Bloomberg)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Are The White House Press Corps Insular?

via TVNewser

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

New York Times Company Plans To Sell The Boston Globe

More signs of the toxicity of print assets? From the Gray Lady:

The New York Times Company plans to sell The Boston Globe and other New England properties, allowing the media company to focus energy and resources on its flagship newspaper.

The Times Company announced Wednesday that it had retained Evercore Partners to manage the sale of the New England Media Group, anchored by The Globe,, The Worcester Telegram & Gazette and GlobeDirect, a direct mail marketing company.

Mark Thompson, president and chief executive of the Times Company, called The Globe and the Worcester Telegram &Gazette “outstanding newspapers,” but in a statement he said selling the newspapers “demonstrates our commitment to concentrate our strategic focus and investment on The New York Times brand and its journalism.”

The Times Company has in recent years sold assets unrelated to The Times. In May, the company received $63 million for its remaining stake in the Fenway Sports Group, the company that owns the Boston Red Sox. Last year, the company sold its 16 regional newspapers, including The Gainesville Sun and The Sarasota Herald Tribune, to Halifax Media Holdings for $143 million.

The Times paid $1.1 billion for The Globe in 1993 and for years the Boston daily brought prestige and profits to the company.
This, of course, comes on the heels of Time Inc. being "pushed out the door." Or maybe, more accurately, the Gray Lady is getting back to the core brand?

On the subject, Henry Blodget tweeted: "The issue with Boston Globe, presumably, is unions/pensions/printing shutdown costs."  Michael Learnmonth tweets: "@learmonth Last bastions of pensions: USPS, teachers, large metro newspapers"

Bloomberg stressed the advertising market, which has been bad for print since 2007. "Times Co., controlled by the Ochs-Sulzberger family, is coping with a difficult advertising market as spending on national campaigns continues to shrink industrywide."

Your thoughts?
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"John Kerry on Wednesday ripped his former colleagues in Congress for contributing to public opposition to foreign aid during his first major address as secretary of State. Kerry said many Americans believe that the United States spends 25 percent of its budget on foreign affairs, instead of the real figure of just over 1 percent. He said politicians looking for an applause line have contributed to that misperception. 'Where do you think this idea comes from?' Kerry asked. 'Well I'll tell you, it's pretty simple. As a recovering politician, I can tell you that nothing gets a crowd clapping faster in a lot of places than saying: 'I'm going to Washington to get them to stop spending all that money over there.'  'If you're looking for an applause line, it's about as guaranteed an applause line as you can get. But guess what: It does nothing to guarantee our security. It does nothing to guarantee a stronger country. It doesn't guarantee a sounder economy or a more stable job market.' Kerry said people should 'say no to the politics of the lowest-common denominator and of simplistic slogans and start making real choices that protect the interests of our country.'" (TheHill)

"The Koch brothers’ political network spent hundreds of millions to win the White House and the Senate — and came up empty. So they did what any smart business executives would do: ordered up an audit. But they’re not waiting for the final report for heads to roll. Americans for Prosperity, the Kochs’ main political outlet, parted ways with its chief operating officer, most of its 100-plus employee field staff and several fundraisers. Generation Opportunity, a Koch-backed youth mobilization effort, recently replaced its president. Charles and David Koch’s network also is withholding cash from some groups pending the full audit results, and it has postponed both of its signature donor conferences this year." (Politico)

"Democrats, faced with a daunting set of Senate races in 2012, not only survived but thrived, adding two seats to their majority. The party will face a difficult map again in 2014, however. Twenty-one of the 35 seats up for election are now held by Democrats. Moreover, most the states that will be casting ballots for the Senate in 2014 are Republican leaning: 7 of the 21 Democratic-held seats are in states carried by the former Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, while just one of the Republican seats is in a state won by President Obama. Democrats could also suffer from the downside to presidential coattails. Most of the seats up for grabs in 2014 were last contested in 2008, a very strong Democratic year. Without having Mr. Obama on the ballot, and with an electorate that is likely to be older and whiter than in presidential years, some Democrats may find that their 2008 coattails have turned into a midterm headwind instead. Are the conditions favorable enough to make Republicans odds-on favorites to gain six seats and win the Senate majority?" (Nate Silver)

"A lot of my personal reading in the past several months has been related to the middle of the last century and the events and personalities in and around the Second World War. It’s a time of which I have no personal experience, just the ancillary knowledge gained by hearsay. So it is all fresh in its impact. And, I should add, deeply depressing. Not that people, some people, many people, didn’t have a good time no matter how brief. Because they did; especially those who had the spirit for it. The words 'hero' and 'heroine' sometimes emerge, however. Not all the time, but sometimes, and more often in times of catastrophe. During wartime in Britain, this quality of character became evident in all kinds and types and types from the lower classes to the Burke’s Peerage crowd. Those who were coming of age at the end of the 1930s were the first entirely modern generation – when the world went from the dark to the light and speed took on an entirely different concept and meaning. Their lives and many of their attitudes had changed radically from just the turn of the last (19th) century. The rules had changed too. When the War came, women of every class went to work in the factories doing the men’s work. It would never be the same again. Pluck and courage was the operative stance. Today we’re re-printing an obituary which recently ran in the Telegraph of London of one such person – Sarah Baring, who died earlier this month at 93. Mrs. Baring was a young English society girl, not yet 20 when the Nazis declared war on her homeland. As you will read, she had no experience of life, of the world, or even much education before that moment. She definitely had that 'inner something' that pushes people in fortuitous and unimagined directions. Mrs. Baring’s life is about that, and, of course the outcome. And the lessons." (NySocialDiary)

"All his life Tommy had diligently followed the rules. Until he turned thirty when he was thunderstruck with wanderlust. Sitting at the kitchen table in the only house he had ever known, sharing cake and coffee with his mother, nervously scraping up invisible crumbs from around his plate, 'I need more!' he declared. His mother picked up the knife and made to cut him another slice of cake. 'I need a life!' he almost shouted, yanking the knife from her hand. He told her of his plans and she broke down and wept. Tommy promised to write, but he was resolved. Before he left, he sold everything, including his truck. He kept only a guitar and whatever else he could stuff into a backpack. Everyone said he had been a cute baby. People fawned over him, occasionally mistaking him for a girl, he had always been slight and what with his shiny pelt of blonde hair and his tiny upturned nose. But he wanted more from life.He had been ‘walking’ for the past few months, which in truth involved many a hitched ride. Most often from women. On Christmas Day, somewhere in Texas, a lady in a silver pickup truck stopped beside him on the interstate and kicked open the passenger door, 'For heaven’s sake!' she yelled at him, 'C’mon! Get in! I’m feeding your skinny ass tonight!' Thanks in part to his still appealing features Tommy was offered space on sofas and guest rooms, but he declined, saying sweetly, 'If I may, I’d rather sleep on your back porch. I have a sleeping bag.' But he’ll make use of the bathroom, and the kitchen, and even another ride to the next oasis. Always maintaining the illusion of roughing it and flexing his imagination Tommy convinced himself he was experiencing freedom. Sensibly, given the weather, he was headed south." (Christina Oxenberg)

"At one of Playboy's first big bashes after going private in 2011, much seemed as usual for a brand that has embodied American hedonism for nearly 60 years. Bunnies and Playmates sashayed beneath black crystal chandeliers in The Palms Casino's Playboy Club in Las Vegas, while men in suits hit the dance floor. One of them was Scott Flanders, 55 years old, Playboy Enterprises Inc.'s first CEO outside the family of founder Hugh Hefner. But the appearance of the uninterrupted good life was largely an illusion. Mr. Flanders was in the early stages of radically reshaping the company, shrinking its staff by 75%, moving its headquarters from its historic home in Chicago to Los Angeles, outsourcing much of its business, and ushering in what many current and former employees describe as a harsher company culture. Mr. Flanders has been building on Playboy's recent strategy of morphing into a licensing company—in the process shedding the seedier aspects of its image. It remains a work in progress. 'Our favorite line is, 'Less sweatsuit, more Tom Ford,'' says chief marketing officer Kristin Patrick. Today, Playboy is both smaller and more profitable. It now has annual revenue of $135 million, down from $240 million in 2009, the year Mr. Flanders came aboard. Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization improved to $38.9 million for the year ended September, up from $19.3 million in 2009, the company said, but it fell short of a 2012 profitability target set by its lenders in loan covenants." (WSJ)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"There are two points I have been driving toward. The first is that the outrage at targeted killing is not, in my view, justified on moral or legal grounds. The second is that in using these techniques, the United States is on a slippery slope because of the basis on which it has chosen to wage war.
The United States has engaged an enemy that is dispersed across the globe. If the strategy is to go wherever the enemy is, then the war is limitless. It is also endless. The power of the jihadist movement is that it is diffuse. It does not need vast armies to be successful. Therefore, the destruction of some of its units will always result in their replacement. Quality might decline for a while but eventually will recover. The enemy strategy is to draw the United States into an extended conflict that validates its narrative that the United States is permanently at war with Islam. It wants to force the United States to engage in as many countries as possible. From the U.S. point of view, unmanned aerial vehicles are the perfect weapon because they can attack the jihadist command structure without risk to ground forces. From the jihadist point of view as well, unmanned aerial vehicles are the perfect weapon because their efficiency allows the jihadists to lure the United States into other countries and, with sufficient manipulation, can increase the number of innocents who are killed.
In this sort of war, the problem of killing innocents is practical. It undermines the strategic effort. The argument that it is illegal is dubious, and to my mind, so is the argument that it is immoral. The argument that it is ineffective in achieving U.S. strategic goals of eliminating the threat of terrorist actions by jihadists is my point. Unmanned aerial vehicles provide a highly efficient way to destroy key enemy targets with very little risk to personnel. But they also allow the enemy to draw the United States into additional theaters of operation because the means is so efficient and low cost. However, in the jihadists' estimate, the political cost to the United States is substantial. The broader the engagement, the greater the perception of U.S. hostility to Islam, the easier the recruitment until the jihadist forces reach a size that can't be dealt with by isolated airstrikes. In warfare, enemies will try to get you to strike at what they least mind losing. The case against strikes by unmanned aerial vehicles is not that they are ineffective against specific targets but that the targets are not as vital as the United States thinks. The United States believes that the destruction of the leadership is the most efficient way to destroy the threat of the jihadist movement. In fact it only mitigates the threat while new leadership emerges." (STRATFOR)

"... That is all a Hollywood director has to read and presto, he’s got a movie. Throw in the Jazz Age, women in cloche hats and cylinder dresses, great houses with retinues of servants, Park Avenue lockjaw accents, snobbery, and some suggestion of violence, and it’s Oscar time. (Well, almost but not quite.) The Jazz Age still holds us in its sway because the youthful rebels who let it rip between the wars were mostly upper-class and rich. At a distance of 90 years it is difficult to conceive the horror it instilled in parental hearts when they heard their children playing jazz music on their Victrolas. And worse, it was played by…Negroes! In segregated America, this was revolutionary. Scott and Zelda would emerge from the Plaza drunk, then jump fully clothed into the fountain abutting 5th Avenue. Gatsby’s guests would drink and party all night, then drive drunk back into the city. Those were wild, crazy years, and jazz was the anthem of the times. My grandfather called it decadent gutter music. When I said Louis Armstrong was among the greatest musicians ever, he asked me to leave the room. But it’s the world of endless partygoing and high-octane frivolity that still fascinates and always will ... Which is where Hollywood comes in. Out West they can film anything that has to do with wealth and privilege. (It’s always shown in a bad light). Where they get into trouble is when trying to depict how deeply the hero of Fitzgerald’s novel has his roots implanted in the nature of the genteel champion, the creator of romantic dreams. (Dick Diver in Tender and Monroe Stahr in Tycoon, ditto.) Fitzgerald was the last to grow up believing in the genteel romantic ideal that pervaded late-nineteenth-century American culture. Gatsby is an easy short read, but the novel is full of fine-spun patterns and ironies. The wife, at the wheel of her lover’s car, runs down and kills the lover of her husband. Gatsby and Myrtle have a lot in common, and when the latter dies the magic aura departs from Gatsby’s quest. This is very difficult to film; in fact it’s impossible. DiCaprio can mug, but he can’t do Fitzgerald." (Taki)

"President Barack Obama’s longtime strategy guru David Axelrod has signed on for a post-campaign gig as a 'senior political analyst' for NBC News and MSNBC. Mr. Axelrod previously served as a senior strategist for President Obama in the 2008 and 2012 campaigns. During the president’s first term, he was on the White House staff as a senior advisor. Mr. Axelrod joins several other big names in NBC and MSNBC’s stable of political analysts. His counterpart from the 2008 campaign, former advisor to John McCain Steve Schmidt, former RNC Chairman Michael Steele and former Democratic Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell all work as analysts for MSNBC. Mr. Axelrod is the only one in this group who will be working for the NBC’s traditional broadcast news operation as well as the more left-leaning, opinionated MSNBC cable channel. Another former Obama administration official, ex-Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, also signed on to do double-duty as a contributor to both NBC News and MSNBC last month." (Observer)

"In 1215, King John allegedly spent the night before signing the Magna Carta at Duncroft, a manor about 20 miles west of London. By the 1970s, Duncroft had become an 'approved school,' a stately home with bars on the windows for intelligent wayward girls. It was visited often by the BBC’s radio and TV star Jimmy Savile, Britain’s greatest pedophile. Growing up, BBC producer Meirion Jones would visit Duncroft, where his aunt was the headmistress, and he would witness Savile, the flamboyant M.C. of the music show Top of the Pops, alight from his Rolls-Royce proffering cigarettes, rides, and invitations to the BBC studios in London, where, it is now believed, he violated dozens of under-age girls—as well as boys—in his dressing room. 'My parents would say to my aunt, ‘What are you doing letting a 50-year-old man take a bunch of under-age girls in his car?’ And my aunt would say, ‘Oh, he’s a friend of the school.’ ' (Jones’s aunt has recently said she had no idea Savile was a predatory pedophile.) When Savile died, on October 29, 2011, at the age of 84, having been knighted by the Queen as well as the Pope, he was one of Britain’s most famous personalities, a combination of Dick Clark, Johnny Carson, and Wolfman Jack. The self-proclaimed creator of the first disco, he claimed to be the first D.J. to play records for money, in rough dance halls in Leeds and Manchester as far back as the 40s and 50s. In the early 60s, he counted among his friends the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Savile became so renowned for his charity work that he was literally given the keys to several hospitals and institutions, where he had his own rooms and volunteered as a porter and administrator, all the while cunningly waiting for chances to pounce on ill and vulnerable girls. He was proud of spending New Year’s Eve with Margaret and Denis Thatcher by the fire at Chequers, the British prime minister’s country house, and of acting as a go-between when Diana and Charles’s marriage was falling apart. A senior Health Service official known to one BBC staffer remembers once in the 80s being called to Highgrove House, where Prince Charles introduced everyone to 'my health adviser, Jimmy Savile.' Dan Davies, Savile’s biographer, told me, “He was a very serious confidant to the heir of the throne up until Charles got together with Camilla. Then his influence waned.” (VanityFair)

"The Gov. of New York State was with his astoundingly attractive one and only, the famous Sandra Lee, who was honoree of the night for the (NYC The Bowery) Mission’s 14th year Valentine celebration at the Plaza Ballroom. Ms. Lee, Emmy winner and food famous, is quite something and we quickly understood why they’d chosen to honor her — she never leaves a loaf of bread uncut and unbuttered when it comes to the helpless and hungry. The Mission itself, has been aiding New Yorkers for 133 years and is busy now outfitting two townhouses in Harlem for further recovery programs. The Mission on the Bowery, with its famous red door, was beset and flooded from Hurricane Sandy. But the night before, they had organized for the needs of the aftermath. The morning after, they served hundreds of meals to the displaced and even provided kosher food for those who needed it.  Although the hostess of the Mission’s big night, one Veronica Kelly, was ill from dehydration in the hospital, her famous husband ( and hero in my book) Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, ably took her place. We were quite a table: Ray, the Guv, Sandra, Liz, Arianna Huffington, the Guv’s sister-in-law Cristina, Scott Leurquin of the Landmarks Conservancy, Bowery head Ed Morgan, actress Judith Light. And I got a big kiss from Mayor Mike Bloomberg as I entered and he departed the Plaza.  Both Judith and Arianna went to the podium and spoke lovingly of their friend Sandra and were ably assisted by a ravishingly scarlet clad Maria Bartiromo who emceed with plenty of glamour. (She was wearing some fabulous jewelry!) The Bowery Mission, which does more for New Yorkers than I ever even began to know, raised almost $800,000 on this night ..." (Liz Smith/NYSocialDiary)

"For the first time in more than a decade I did not cover Fashion Week in New York, nor will I write about the upcoming Milan or Paris catwalks. Instead, I’m spending the time usually given over to the traveling fashion circus working on my book about the 1973 Franco-American runway extravaganza at Versailles. I did attend a couple of presentations. I went to Chado Ralph Rucci because the designer worked with Halston — one of the participants at Versailles — and because Rucci is a unique blend of traditional couture technique and American sportswear. I also wanted to see Thom Browne’s first runway presentation for his signature womenswear. Since First Lady Michelle Obama wore his expertly tailored coat and dress to the inauguration in January, I was sure that his work would figure prominently in future storytelling. His collection was indeed a wonder — a dazzling blend of crisp tailoring, dignified menswear fabrics, and romance. Set against a backdrop of a winter forest populated by men in gray suits, who lay blindfolded and tethered to cots with blood-red bandages, the show was erotic, magical, and tantalizingly twisted. But that was it. Two shows. I was invited to a host of presentations and other events but I declined almost all of them. I did New York Fashion Week on my own terms: selfishly and sparingly. As a writer, I went where I had reason to be and I was treated warmly and professionally. Indeed, at Browne's show, I was situated, as usual, alongside my colleagues from the Los Angeles Times. I did not go to any show for pure amusement. I did not go to shop, to preen, to stoke my ego, or to catch up with friends. I kept it professional, not personal. I did not want to be the unaffiliated journalist on a fishing expedition confounding publicists and testing the ability of the individual to transcend the transactional nature of fashion. I dodged the intimacy trap." (Robin Givahn)