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Friday, December 12, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres





"If you take a look at the bill, it does indeed have a bunch of objectionable features. People like me, with nothing really at stake, can bitch and moan about them endlessly. But you know what? For all the interminable whining we do about the death of bipartisanship in Washington, this is what bipartisanship looks like. It always has. It's messy, it's ugly, and it's petty. Little favors get inserted into bills to win votes. Other favors get inserted as payback for the initial favors. Special interests get stroked. Party whips get a workout. That's politics. The fact that it's happening right now is, in a weird sense, actually good news. It means that, for a few days at least, politics is working normally again. I understand that this sounds very Slatepitchy. But it's true. Even at its best, politics is lubricated by venality, ego, and mutual backscratching. And you know what? By the normal standards of this kind of stuff, the obnoxious riders in the current spending bill are pretty mild. Really. The only one that rises above the level of a political misdemeanor is the provision that allows banks to get back into the custom swaps business, and even that's hardly the end of the world. Swaps may have provided a tailwind to the 2008 financial collapse, but they were far from its core cause. So should working politicians avert their gaze from the muck and vote to keep the government functioning? Of course they should. Government shutdowns are immensely costly in their own right, after all. This kind of crass calculus sucks, but that's human nature for you. All things considered, I'd say we all got off fairly easy this time around." (MotherJones)



Vice President Joe Biden will be denied a raise under the new spending measure.



Associated Press

"–The spending bill includes provisions to stop the transfer or release of Guantanamo detainees into the U.S. ... –The Pentagon won funding for 38 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters — nine more than were funded in fiscal 2014. –Banks won a measure easing restrictions on their derivative-trading activities. The change would affect requirements under the Dodd-Frank law that banks spin off certain derivatives-trading activities into units that don’t enjoy access to the government safety net. –Appropriators steered some $619.8 million to Israeli programs, including $175 million for the Iron Dome missile-defense system. That is on top of the $225 million for Iron Dome that Congress approved roughly four months ago. –The measure would make a $345.6 million cut to the Internal Revenue Service budget and provided no funding for the International Monetary Fund. –The spending bill continues a longstanding ban on federal funding for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or endangerment of the life of the mother." (WSJ)




"The executive summary of the report released this week by the Senate Intelligence Committee on the Central Intelligence Agency’s brutal detention interrogation practices after 9/11 offers the most damning assessment of the agency in four decades. In the mid-1970s, the Church Committee, another Senate entity, issued reports that condemned the CIA for spying within the U.S., attempting to assassinate foreign leaders, working with the Mafia on operations, and other abuses.Amid the furor in Washington about how the torture report will affect the agency, the U.S., and even the 2016 presidential elections, little attention has been paid to another impact of the report’s release. The report is likely to have significant effects on politics in several of the countries that were home to the dungeon-like prisons where the CIA, and local intelligence officers, detained and harshly treated prisoners ... In Afghanistan, reportedly home to some of the most notorious CIA detention facilities, the report could be a bombshell as well. After the report’s release, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani reportedly stayed up all night reading it and gave a speech on Afghan national television decrying the CIA’s practices as against 'all accepted norms of human rights abuses in the world.' Ghani’s harsh condemnation suggests that the report could well undermine U.S.-Afghan cooperation, which was beginning to stabilize under the technocratic Ghani after the mercurial Hamid Karzai regime. The revelations may undercut Ghani and his program of political and economic reform, as well. Ghani declared that the abuses happened in an earlier era, suggesting a break between that time and his current administration, yet he served as a senior Afghan cabinet minister in the early 2000s. The report is reverberating in Eastern Europe, too. Lithuanian leaders are publicly calling on the CIA to disclose whether it tortured prisoners at black sites in Lithuania, which appears to be one country named in the report as housing detainees. Lithuania’s former president, Valdas Adamkus, who was in power at the time of the CIA’s detention program and remains a revered figure in Lithuania, maintains there were no black sites in his country. A Lithuanian parliamentary investigation, and the eventual release of more details from the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report, may undermine that claim. Or the investigation may reveal that Lithuanian intelligence agencies worked with the CIA without informing Lithuanian leaders, suggesting a dangerous lack of government accountability, which has plagued Lithuania since the fall of communism. Only in Poland, reportedly home to another CIA detention center, has the report’s release had little apparent impact on domestic politics. Former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, who had previously denied that the CIA ran a detention center in his country, has admitted that he had indeed allowed the agency to operate a site in Poland—yet most Polish leaders publicly announced that the report would not change strong relations between Washington and Warsaw." (BloombergBusinessWeek)













"New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd promised to show Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal’s husband, Bernard Weinraub, — a former Times reporter — a version of a column featuring Pascal before publication.The end result was a column that painted Pascal in such a good light that she engaged in a round of mutual adulation with Dowd over email after its publication. It also scored Pascal points back at the studio, with Sony’s then-communications-chief calling the column 'impressive.' The exchanges were uncovered in a trove of Pascal’s emails released as part of a massive hack on Sony carried out by the group known as 'Guardians of Peace.' The column, published after the Academy Awards earlier this year, lamented how “Oscar voters and industry top brass are still overwhelmingly white, male and middle-aged.' Dowd quoted Pascal as saying women received “paltry” salaries compared to men in Hollywood. Pascal, according to leaked salary data from the hack, is tied for the highest earning executive at Sony Pictures with Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton. Pascal also told Dowd that women directors face an 'unconscious mountain' of rejection. It highlighted Pascal’s role in greenlighting movies by female directors Nora Ephron and Nancy Meyers, but also other Sony movies like The Social Network and American Hustle that had 'impressed the guys in the boardroom,' Dowd wrote." (Variety)


Getty Images


"Peter Ubertaccio, a political science professor at Stonehill College in Massachusetts, who follows (Elizabeth) Warren’s career, said that this week, Warren demonstrated a better feel for the sentiments of her party than her leadership.'If she’s able to succeed in the Senate at the expense of her own leadership team — the team that she’s on — it will have the practical impact of moving the center of power away from folks like Schumer and toward her,' he said. 'That’s pretty significant for a freshman senator that’s been brought into the leadership.' It could also reverberate in the 2016 presidential race, which liberal Democrats are dying for Warren to enter as a rival to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. David Paleologos, the director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, said Warren is now a national figure in a tradition of influential Massachusetts politicians who have run for president such as former Sen. Ted Kennedy (D), former Gov. Michael Dukakis (D), former Gov. Mitt Romney (R), former Sen. John Kerry (D) and former Sen. Paul Tsongas (D).
Warren’s efforts also carried risks, and rubbed some Democrats the wrong way. Critics saw her efforts as a play for media attention ahead of a potential presidential campaign — something that Warren has repeatedly expressed no interest in pursuing. 'I have to assume Elizabeth Warren is running for president. That’s what you do when you run for president. You get out front,' said Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee who backed the spending bill opposed by Warren. Warren exhorted fellow Democrats to defeat the spending bill because it repealed a key provision of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law. The change would allow big banks covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to trade in derivatives, which Warren said would increase the chances of a financial crisis and bailout. Opposition among Democrats built and built after Warren declared war on the measure. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) position appeared to harden to the point on Thursday where she delivered a tough floor speech announcing her opposition and harshly criticizing the White House. Maybe that would have happened without Warren, but lawmakers in the trenches believe she made a difference." (Alexander Bolton)







"When you started your career as a young man in Paris, did you ever think that you would become such a brilliant, internationally recognized legend? Valentino: My dear, when you start it’s quite difficult to dream for everybody. But of course you have aspirations. I did a very important collection in 1968 and I realized that I was quite good. All the magazines and everybody came to visit me. I became quite well known for my glamour and my femininity and women started to love my clothes. Since then the fashion industry has changed a lot. How would you sum that up? Valentine: Fashion has changed every decade very strongly. I like the 60s quite a bit, I like the 70s very much. But I hated the 80s: I think that was something extremely vulgar. Ladies that were crazy to buy clothes but the looks were not beautiful: big shoulders, short dresses, hair like mountains… I never liked it. But I enjoyed the 90s quite a bit. Shortly before your retirement you said a designer nowadays has to be more like a manager than a creative artist. Do you still agree? Valentino: They want to make money now. If you want to make lots of money, you try to make a product that sells everywhere. But then your productivity goes down. The products are cheap because the materials are not really expensive. This is not my world, as you can imagine. How do you get inspired? Valentino: I dream about dresses sometimes. Then I turn the light on at my night table and I draw. I’m also inspired if I go to a museum like the Hermitage in St. Petersburg or if I visit China and see the old costumes of its national theater. I get a lot inspiration from these sorts of things, but never from a woman. I do the dress for a woman, but I don’t take inspiration from them." (The-Talks)


The authoresses Louise Maniscalco and Susan Rudin (Click to order).

"I went to lunch at Michael’s yesterday and Wednesday.  If you’re a regular reader (many thanks) you know I claim I frequent the place for the possibility of something to write about. Sometimes I wonder about that myself. Part of it is I love being around all that energy and the implied drama. After all, we are dramatic, aren’t we?. Last night on my way to dinner, I went down to Bergdorf Goodman where Billy and Ophelia Rudin were hosting a book signing for Billy’s aunt Susan (Mrs. Jack) Rudin and Louise Maniscalco. Traffic on 57th was at an almost standstill going both east and west. I got out at the corner of 57th and Fifth by the Louis Vuitton store. Art is the theme.  It was about 7 p.m. and the pavement was crowded and the avenue traffic was bumper to bumper almost gridlock. Crossing the avenue I took this shot of the diamond and emerald necklace in the window of Van Cleef and Arpels. I went straight to Bergdorf’s since I was arriving an hour and a half into the party. Rudin and Maniscalco have written a novel called 'The Trade Off' about the life of a personal shopper in a store like ... Bergdorf Goodman? You get the picture. It doesn’t matter; it’s a fictional store just like the real thing. It’s about life living in that sphere, that world, that New York phenomenon. A microcosm of the Big Town. Hard, tough, not simple and not always clear, and full of all the politics that occur in such circumstances where money and temptation meet the real world. I know about the book because Mrs. Rudin is a friend and she asked me for a blurb when they were working on it. I said yes. I did think would I ever read a book about a personal shopper in a big luxury department store in New York? No. Although not without being aware that it couldn’t be anything but fascinating. A retail establishment of that kind is world onto itself and The World comes to its portals. So I received a copy of the galleys. I was surprised that I turned page after page to see what was going to happen, and it went on like that to the end. I learned something too, but it’s a rainy or snowy weekend afternoon, or the plane ride to St. Barth’s and you’ll read faster toward the end not just because you’re getting closer to landing but because you want to know ...The Rudin party was the biggest turnout for a book party I’ve ever seen. Must have been a couple hundred. And the co-authors were busy signing." (NYSD)

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