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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



Joe Biden is pictured. | AP Photo


"Vice President Joe Biden really did get ahead of President Barack Obama on accepting gay marriage in 2012 — and the White House really wasn’t happy about it, despite their many attempts to claim otherwise. That’s the story laid out in Jo Becker’s new book, 'Forcing the Spring,' which documents the past few years of successful efforts to expand the legalization of gay marriage, according to an advance copy obtained by POLITICO. Speculation that Biden’s comments on 'Meet the Press' in May 2012 were meant as a trial balloon, Becker writes, came from people 'not privy to the chaos that erupted inside the West Wing after an emailed transcript of the interview landed in the inbox of the White House press team.' A furious Valerie Jarrett, Becker adds, accused Biden of 'downright disloyalty.' Becker describes the months leading up to that rushed moment as a scramble to weigh the political dangers of backing gay marriage against the expected push to add marriage equality to the Democratic convention platform. And Becker says Obama senior adviser David Plouffe reached out to an unexpected ally: former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, who came out as gay himself in 2010.In a private lunch at the White House, Mehlman advised Obama that backing gay marriage could reassert his character strength from 2008, appealing to young people, Republicans and independents and beyond by seeming to take a bold stand without regard to the political consequences. On November 10, 2011, Mehlman sent Plouffe a full write-up of how the president should announce his support — in a joint interview with the first lady, conducted by a female journalist and 'all 3 should be sitting. Soft lighting'—as well as a full suggested script for the president to use.That script wasn’t far off from what Obama eventually said as he went public with his 'evolution,' and though he did the interview solo, he did do it with as Mehlman advised, with a female interviewer (ABC’s Robin Roberts).But he did it six months after Mehlman sent Plouffe the email, and only after Biden forced him. The first lady and Jarrett, Becker writes, were pressuring Obama to pull the trigger but his own personal and political anxieties held him back. Then came Biden. 'I think you may have just gotten in front of the president on gay marriage,' his communications director, Shailagh Murray, told him on the car ride back from the studio.Reflecting on the moment in an interview a year later, the vice president said, 'I didn’t go out volunteering a position, but when asked a question … I had to respond to it.'" (Politico)





"There are no tank battles or carpet bombings, but war is creeping into Ukraine. When Russia invaded Crimea last month, it was more of a parade—the Ukrainian army put up no real resistance, and the locals were either pleased with the turn of events or apathetic. This time, a nastier conflict is emerging in Donbass, an agglomeration of mining cities and towns including Artemivsk, known in times of peace for its sparkling-wine factory but also home to one of the country's largest weapons and ammunition stores. In recent days, groups of heavily armed men in modern combat fatigues with no insignia have been emerging, as if out of nowhere, in each of these towns and taking over local government buildings. They became known as 'the little green men,' a childish idiom which normally refers to aliens from space. The men are definitely not little, but they are certainly aliens in Donbass. They are unable to find their bearings in these miners' towns, speak Russian with a wrong accent (using words normal for St. Petersburg but not Ukraine), and they carry ultra-modern weapons that are unavailable in Ukraine. Journalists and politicians in Kiev are adamant they are Russian special troops, mixed with Crimean and local policemen who switched sides after losing to pro-democracy protesters in Kiev last winter. People also suspect local 'Cossacks,' paramilitaries who spent years training in 'patriotic' summer camps run by Moscow-friendly organizations. Once the 'little green men' take over a building, a few hundred unarmed supporters pour in to build barricades and serve as a human shield in case Ukrainian security forces decide to attack. These became known as "colorados," after the Colorado potato beetle—a nasty pest that sports black and yellow stripes on its back, same as on St. George ribbons worn by pro-Russian activists. The ribbon, which harks back to a Tsarist-era war medal, has become a symbol of Russian military glory in recent years. Some call it "Putin's swastika." There are more locals among the 'colorados,' but their commanders—always busy talking on the phone with their superiors and giving quiet orders to the protesters—often fail to produce the trademark "gh" sound that distinguishes Ukrainians and southern Russians from Russians who live around Moscow and St. Petersburg. The 'colorados' are not a homogenous group; they are comprised of Communists nostalgic about the USSR, Russian nationalists including outright fascists, and a whole bunch of fringe groups, such as neo-pagans. Some of them favor a federal Ukraine, with Donbass ruled by its own government. Others want their region to join Russia." (TNR)




"Cersei Lannister is a dangerous woman. She is the wicked queen of HBO’s super series Game of Thrones, the would-be power behind the Iron Throne. She is bold, ambitious, and ruthless, and she operates at the heart of power, yet she is locked out by her gender. Cersei seeks to control the driving political narrative of the show, masterminding the death of her husband (the King) and installing her son as ruler in his place with the hope of commanding things herself from the sidelines. But it’s not as easy as all that. If you’re a woman.She's not the only one left out, of course, even in the ruling House of Lannister. Game of Thrones is a show in thrall to outsiderdom, and in the latest episode Tyrion, Cersei’s brother, drops a great line, quippily nicknaming his crew of siblings 'the cripple, the dwarf, and the mother of madness.' To each their own flaw. The middle-generation Lannisters carry marginality right to the heart of power. They are all excluded: the true patriarchs are Tywin and Joffrey, grandfather and grandson (and they, it seems, are on their way out); centrality has skipped a generation. Cersei is the only one of the three who is not considered, by the values of Westeros, to be physically distorted. But she is a woman: her marginality is built into her body even as it conforms to expected norms.Cersei is a mythic reference, a homonym of, and presumable homage to, Circe, Odysseus’ witch-lover in the Odyssey. Circe is a powerful sorceress who turns men into pigs, found living in an all-female household on the island of Aeaea. So far, so threatening to patriarchal order. But then Odysseus shows up. Circe becomes his lover and becomes ancillary to his purposes, kitting him out with a boat for his journey, essential information on navigating the straits of Charybdis and Scylla, and tips for gaining access to the underworld, herself vanishing from the narrative as he departs with the plotline.This doesn’t seem like Cersei. She has her own unswayable desires and intentions, and exists at the heart of the plot, driving it onward." (Hairpin)


There was no money in old TV: Asner


"Journalists should NOT start a career interviewing colorful Ed Asner, who prefers being called Edward. Like the old pro from TV’s old Mary Tyler Moore show says: 'It’s Pesach [Passover]. I’m off to a Seder.' I reply: 'You’re Jewish?' He answers? 'What the f - - k did you think I was?' Ask: 'You rich?' It’s: 'Jesus, no. In TV’s old days we got paid like schleppers.' His lifestyle? 'I live alone in Valley Village, a continuation of Studio City. Been there seven years. I live quietly, just pick my nose, and emit all those noises we make as we get older.'" (Cindy Adams)



The block on the northwest corner of 86th and East End Avenue with the festooning pear trees which seemed to happen literally over night (Sunday to Monday).


"The first pears to blossom in the neighborhood was the row along Henderson Place on the northwest corner of East 86th Street and East End Avenue. They’re in the direct course of the Sunrise. These brick houses were built by a businessman named Henderson in the early 1880s. This part of New York was sparsely settled in those days. Gracie Mansion -- now The Mayor’s Residence -- was across the road, built eighty years before in 1799. It was originally a country place when the city was way down at the tip of Manhattan. The road was known as Avenue B on the grid back then (the straight line of the grid resuming about 79th Street. Mr. Henderson, according to Christopher Gray, the always fascinating architectural historian of the New York Times, intended the houses to be for 'persons of moderate means.' The middle class lived in townhouses in those days, many of which were rentals. The working poor lived in tenements. The wealthier citizens lived in townhouses which sometimes were mansions. East End Avenue which was then Avenue B was almost an outpost from the center of the city.Henderson built 32 houses. The  architects were Lamb & Rich, who designed Sagamore Hill in Long Island, the now famous country house of Theodore Roosevelt. The complex is, according to Christopher Gray, 'one of their signature works, on which they called on all the charming details in their portfolio and lavished them on the complex.' One hundred and thirty years later, Mr. Henderson’s inspiration retains its charm, and is even more beautiful while the pears are flowering. " (NYSD)


Mickey Rooney at the 1982 Academy


"In the 1930s, Mickey Rooney was the biggest star in the world. In April of 2014, when he died at the age of 93, his estate was valued at $18,000. How does that happen to a bona fide Hollywood legend? It depends on which warring side of his surviving family members you ask. Today The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg runs down the ugly feud between Mark and Chris Aber, the sons of Jan Chamberlin Rooney, who married Mickey Rooney in 1978. Though the couple never divorced, the Rooneys remained estranged when Mickey died; as Jan told The Hollywood Reporter, she learned of her husband’s death when 'someone from TMZ called me.' 2011, when Mickey Rooney testified before the Senate Special Committee on Aging about his experience with elder abuse at the hands of stepson Chris Aber and his wife, Christina. A legal complaint alleged that Aber 'threatens, intimidates, bullies, and harasses Mickey,” and the couple was asked to stay 100 yards away from the actor at all times. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, though, Chris Aber says it was all a setup orchestrated by his brother, whom he claims was stealing from Rooney: 'I caught him. And then, in order to defuse [the situation], he got a restraining order on me and told Mickey that I did it. Mark Aber was Rooney’s caregiver for the last year of his life, and Chris blames his brother for their mother’s unfortunate phone call from TMZ: 'My brother, whom [Rooney] died in front of, didn't even have the decency to call my mom [upon Rooney’s death] . . . That's how evil these attorneys and my brother are.' Feuds among family members of the rich and famous are nothing new, but it’s especially distressing to see a family torn apart in this way—not only over money, but accusations of violence and stealing, all with the law forced to take sides." (VanityFair)

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