Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Little of the Old In and Out

In: The Fate of Greece. At crucial moments in the history of the West, Greece takes the front and center position. This is one of those moments. There is a lively conversation on -- involving Jeffrey Sachs -- as to whether or not Greece can be saved (he thinks so). Others are more skeptical.
Now, unlike then, the fate of Greece is not in contrast to Persia or the Spartan League. It is about the financial stability of Europe and possibly -- if there is contagion -- the West. Right now world markets are rising on the the Greek parliament' passing of a second austerity bill today, opening the way for the EU and IMF to release a (US $17 billion) loan installment. The vote took place as Greece is perilously close to default.
The parliamentary vote also took place amid scenes of violence and protest around Syntagma Square in central Athens.
This, from the land that gave us Tragedy and Drama.

And speaking of Tragedy and Drama ...

Out: Conan O'Brien.  Things are not all good for Team Coco despite the fact that Conan O'Brien is far richer than you or I. Conan, dropped to 4th place from 5/30-6/26, averaging 851,000 total viewers, though he is still 3rd overall in cable 2Q 2011. But clearly Chelsea Lately, which is now rising to third, averaging 959,000 total viewers from 5/30/11-6/26/11, is gunning to take him out. From a press release via TVBytheNumbers:

Conan” took the third spot across cable late night talk shows in most key demos for the quarter, but the Turner talker was overtaken by E!’s “Chelsea Lately” in June, with “Chelsea” beating the slumping “Conan” for third place in cable among total viewers, A18-49 and A18-34 across a month that saw “Conan” continue its downward slide to finish below a million total viewers for the first time since its November 2010 premiere. For June, “Chelsea Lately” averaged 959,000 total viewers (-6% vs. May 2011), with a 0.6 A18-49 rating (-7%) and a 0.7 A18-34 rating (-10%). ”Conan,” in dropping to fourth place overall in cable, averaged just 851,000 total viewers (down -19% vs. May 2011), with a 0.5 A18-49 rating (down -24%) and a 0.7 A18-34 rating (down -25%). (Source: Nielsen Media Research, most current data, original episodes only, 5/30/11-6/26/11)
Further, the indie documentary "Conan O'Brien Can't Stop" was stopped at the box office this weekend, underperforming. From indieWIRE:
“Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop” couldn’t quite connect with audiences this weekend. The very very well reviewed doc hit 24 screens in its debut frame, and the results were somewhat underwhelming.

The film is being released via a unique multi-platform distribution deal between AT&T, Abramorama and Magnolia Home Entertainment. In the deal, AT&T has come onboard as a P&A and multi-platform distribution and marketing partner, while Abramorama is handling theatrical distribution, and Magnolia Home Entertainment has acquired the remaining Video-on-Demand (VOD) and home entertainment rights. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, the film grossed $104,833, averaging a mild $4,193.
Not the best of times for card-carrying members of Team Coco.

In: Stephen Colbert. The Colbert Report in the second quarter of 2011 was behind only The Daily Show, finishing with an average audience of 1.5 million. Stephen Colbert plans to discuss on his show tonight the fact that the Federal Election Commission gave him the green light to start his own PAC. From the Wall Street Journal:

In its decision involving the Comedy Central comedian, the Federal Election Commission ruled that television networks must make public their spending on campaign advertisements on behalf of political candidates.

Mr. Colbert, as part of his comedy routine, plans to start a political organization to run ads that promote or oppose candidates in the 2012 election.

The satirist hired a legal team and asked the agency a question that it had never before considered: If Mr. Colbert used resources from his show on Comedy Central, would Mr. Colbert have to disclose those costs in financial reports to the FEC.

In a ruling that affects real-life politics, the FEC said that the costs incurred by Comedy Central’s parent, Viacom Inc., don’t have to be disclosed if the ads run on Mr. Colbert’s show. However, if Mr. Colbert’s political group runs the ads on other networks, then Mr. Colbert must disclose the costs of using Viacom resources to produce the ads.
“I’m sorry to say—we won,” Mr. Colbert said in praising the decision.
May we live in interesting times.

Out: Courtney Love and Henry Allsopp. Alas. She was almost "Lady Love," where her eccentricities and imperious nature would not have been entirely out of place among the British upper class. It was not to be. From PopEater:

According to MSN Music UK, the 46-year-old Love has moved out of the London home she shared with 37-year-old Allsopp who happens to be the godson of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

"She had moved in within a month of meeting Henry last November and made herself quite at home," a source close to Allsopp told British paper the Daily Express. "Most of the family were rather alarmed by how besotted he was and feared she had delusions of landing herself a title -- she used to joke about becoming Lady Love."
And so did we.  But signs that the couple might not have worked out ultimately were hinted at in her recent intimate interview -- interviews, really -- with Maer Roshan in TheFix, including:

 I was arguing with some guy the other day—a sober scion of a very wealthy English family. He's always righteously lecturing me about abstinence, abstinence, abstinence. After a few hours of this I got angry and screamed, "Get away from me you dumb British fuck! You probably were just out chasing the dragon!” I mean, abstinence is a nice idea but I don’t know if it’s right for everyone. Especially for someone who was nursed on a steady diet of Valium and Ritalin from the time I was eight, thanks to my fine mother.
Way to cover your tracks, Court! I don't think I'm making a great cognitive leap in guessing that that "sober scion" was Allsopp, and that that difference of opinion is one reason why they never would have worked out.
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"The Axis of Evil may never be the same. A changing of the guard is looming for the James Bond villains of the world, and the bedtime stories with which we scare our children are going to have to go searching for new bogeymen. 2011 is proving to be a bad year for bad men. First, Osama was gunned down in his night clothes while padding around his suburban Pakistani split-level. Now, this week, we have news that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be on his last legs politically, caught up in political intrigue that has brought down his powerful chief of staff and has papers like Britain's Independent speculating that the little Holocaust denier in the homely beige windbreaker has only weeks remaining in his tenure. Maybe less. At the same time, we have the Chavista version of Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? starring Mahmoud's hug-buddy and Venezuela's favorite talk-show host, 56-year-old Hugo Chávez. Chávez went missing a few weeks ago to seek medical treatment in Cuba for what was described as a "pelvic abscess" and since then has been surprisingly silent for a guy who is known to talk for hours on his radio show Aló Presidente about nothing at all ...  Rumors in Venezuela abound. There is speculation Chávez is in critical condition, that he has prostate cancer, that he has had liposuction that has gone terribly wrong. In a country without a clear succession plan, his big brother Adán has already made statements that socialists should not use the military to remain in power ... Elsewhere, D-list bad guy Ratko Mladic got arrested, Kim Jong Il continues to be subject to speculation about his deteriorating health (not to mention his ability to control the weather with his thoughts), Bashar al-Assad is under siege, Robert Mugabe is 87, and both Muammar al-Qaddafi and Omar Hassan al-Bashir have ICC arrest warrants out for them." (David Rothkopf)

"'I remember when (Prince) Andrew and Jeffrey Epstein first became friends,' someone who knows both men well tells Vanity Fair writer Ed Klein. 'Jeffrey had Andrew put on a pair of sweatpants for the first time in his life. He had him wear blue jeans for the first time. It was Jeffrey who taught Andrew how to relax.' But the source goes on to explain that 'after Jeffrey was convicted, I phoned Andrew and told him, ‘You cannot have a relationship with Jeffrey. You can’t do these things.’ And he said, ‘Stop giving me a hard time. You’re such a puritan.’ From there, our conversation descended into a screaming match, and finally Andrew said, ‘Leave me alone. Jeffrey’s my friend. Being loyal to your friends is a virtue. And I’m going to be loyal to him.’' The prince’s connection to Jeffrey Epstein has inflicted the greatest damage on his reputation. According to a sworn deposition by Juan Alessi, a former employee at Epstein’s Palm Beach estate, Andrew attended naked pool parties and was treated to massages by a harem of adolescent girls. At least three of the girls were questioned under oath about whether Andrew had had sexual contact with any of the masseuses. One of them, Sarah Kellen, refused to answer, citing her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Another, Adriana Ross, was asked, 'Has Prince Andrew ever been involved with underage minor females to your knowledge?' She reportedly replied, 'I refuse to answer.'" (VanityFair)

"Thus on that bright and windy morning last week the crowds gathered to watch the annual Pug’s Club regatta, with enough moolah in that bay to pay off the Greek national debt. The big favorite and defending champion was billionaire Bob Miller in his trans-Atlantic record-setting Mari-Cha III. The evening before the race we met onboard the magnificent 260-foot Talitha, owned by Mark Getty and acting as the committee boat, where Mark laid down the rules, the course, and the handicaps. Just as well everyone was drunk, because the long-shot underdog Tim Hoare threatened to boycott the race after balking at the defending champion’s generous handicap. That is when the president of Pug’s, Nick Scott, deftly changed the subject and brought up club business. The business was easy to deal with but extremely unpleasant. It was about a man’s appalling behavior toward HRH Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece, wife of a Pug member, at Arki Busson’s charity party the week before. Someone who shall remain nameless had the gall to put the man, art dealer Larry Gagosian, up for membership. All 17 of us blackballed him at once, which tied the record for blackballs held by Jeffrey Epstein, child molester and friend of Prince Andrew. What egregious act had Gagosian committed? While looking for his seat he had pushed the Greek princess aside and had failed to excuse himself. Princess Pavlos may look fragile, but she knows how to defend her territory. She called him a nouveaux vulgarian who should learn manners to go along with his billions. Gagosian didn’t know what hit him." (Taki Theodoracopoulos)

"Fire ripped through Larry Gagosian's Hamptons mansion Tuesday night, threatening countless priceless artworks. Firefighters said Gagosian's caretaker rescued two of his most valuable pieces by running out with them after the blaze started around 9 p.m. Amagansett Fire Chief Mark Burnett said works from the dealer's legendary collection suffered no fire or water damage, but there was, 'a lot of smoke damage on the walls,' The Post's Selim Algar reports. The trouble started when a worker was soldering in Gagosian's kitchen. About 50 firefighters quelled the blaze in less than 30 minutes, limiting damage to three rooms. Gagosian was in Europe at the time. 'We saved a flat-screen television,' Burnett said. 'It was the biggest one I've ever seen.'" (PageSix)

"Today was the Wednesday/Michael’s bit. I was surprised to see the place packed, since the long holiday weekend is only hours away for some of us. In the Garden Room there was a special lunch hosted by the cast of Damages, the Glenn Close legal show. Also present were John Goodman, Rose Byrne and Dylan Baker ... I was lunching with an old friend, Peter Gina (Gin-ay) whom I have known since the early '60s in New York. Peter lives out in Aspen (in Basalt actually). He is a New York boy, growing up on East 90th and Madison in a 14 room co-op which his mother and father bought in 1949 for $5300. Peter’s mother died two years ago, and he and his sister sold the apartment at a considerably higher price. Peter went to Collegiate, then Dartmouth, then the Marines, then to work in the family business (Sardi’s restaurant – his maternal grandfather and uncle were Vincent Sardi, Sr. and Jr.), then to Columbia Business, then to Wall Street. By that time the '60s were over, The War In Viet Nam was finally drawing to its ending, and our generation was busy Finding Themselves, with changing lifestyles and directions left and right. I was one of them although I went farther west.   In the early 1970s, Peter decided to leave the canyons of Wall Street. With a Volkswagen bus holding his belongings, a couple of cats, and a girlfriend at the time, he set out for Aspen, Colorado. Aspen was then a popular ski-community but far smaller, more rustic, and simpler than it is today. It was popular with wealthy Texans and the younger social set of New York who had the time and money to spend a few weeks of winter there on the slopes and kicking back. It was just beginning to become a destination for Arab sheiks, Hollywood cowboys and jet-setting snow bunnies with their takeover-artist tycoon husbands. Mainly it was a healthy population of women and men, like Peter Gina, who had opted out of city life." (NYSocialDiary)

"Before dashing off to their summer cottages in the Hamptons for the long holiday weekend, the media mavens and moguls were at their regular perches at Michael’s today for a bit of last minute networking. It was SRO at the bar and the dining room was jam packed, because the Garden Room was reserved for a party hosted by the cast of Damages, the water cooler legal drama starring Glenn Close as a ruthless Manhattan attorney. Last year, FX cancelled the show after three seasons, but it got a stay of execution from Direct TV which will air the season four premiere on July 13. I caught up with the series’ co-creator and show runner Daniel Zelman (who happens to be Debra Messing‘s husband, in case you didn’t know) before the party to find out what he thought of the move. 'FX was wonderful and terrifically supportive, and Direct TV has been great. We’re thrilled about their commitment to the show,' he told me, adding that Damages will be the first stateside television series to air exclusively on the company’s new Audience Network. (They also aired the beloved but viewer deprived Friday Night Lights, which they shared with NBC.) I asked Daniel what ripped-from-the-headlines news story would serve as the inspiration for the upcoming season. 'The privatization of war industry,' he told me, saying that the new scripts are 'loosely based' on those stories about for-hire firms like Blackwater who are paid to go to Iraq and Afghanistan. 'The stories behind the for-profit companies involved in the war effort are very interesting. There is a lot to explore,' he said." (FishbowlNY)

"Advocates of reducing the power of money in politics thought they had found a champion in the unlikely person of Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert, whose ongoing shtick about forming a political action committee brought more attention to their cause than all their press releases, testimony and legal briefs combined. As part of his effort to highlight — and parody — the impact of a 2010 Supreme Court decision opening new avenues for corporate money in elections, the satirist plans to testify Thursday in front of the Federal Election Commission about a very real legal request he filed that would allow his planned Colbert Super PAC to push the envelope on corporate political spending. But the joke seems to be backfiring. Not only is the PAC joke causing headaches for those whose cause it seemed designed to help — and providing fodder for their opponents — it’s exposing Colbert to rigorous questioning from FEC lawyers and raising ethics questions for his lawyer. 'I think Colbert is trying to dramatize problems in the campaign finance world in the way that he dramatizes other things,' said longtime campaign finance reform advocate Fred Wertheimer, a longtime advocate for stricter campaign finance rules who is president of Democracy 21. 'But nevertheless, the proposals here would potentially open gaping disclosure loopholes in the campaign finance laws.' Wertheimer is so concerned about what Colbert is doing, in fact, that Democracy 21 has joined with the Campaign Legal Center, another advocacy group, to petition the FEC to reject his request because it could result in the 'radical evisceration' of campaign finance rules." (Politico)

"With a giant exclusive said to be going to Vogue magazine, details about the Kate Moss-Jamie Hince wedding this weekend are being as closely guarded as a top-secret mission to take out a terrorist. Nevertheless, here’s some of what’s spilling into view. According to a prominent fashion industry insider who knows Moss well, the bride—who’s always had a refreshing indifference to what’s expected of a celebrity—will indeed be wearing a dress by her friend John Galliano, who’s on trial in France for allegedly anti-Semitic remarks he made in a restaurant this year. The wedding actually will be fairly small, at least by supermodel standards, with somewhere in the ballpark of 150 guests in attendance, and all of them close friends of the bride and groom. Tom Ford? Not going, we’re told. Ditto Karl Lagerfeld and Madonna. But do expect Stella McCartney, Daphne Guinness, Amanda Harlech, and Naomi Campbell. Same for Galliano, in what would be his first major appearance at a fashion event since his arrest. And as has been widely reported, there’s going to be a huge amount of live music, with rumored performances by The Rolling Stones, Shirley Bassey, The Gossip, and Bryan Ferry." (TheDailyBeast)

"Although best known for his It Gets Better project, an archive of hopeful videos aimed at troubled gay youth, (columnist Dan) Savage has for 20 years been saying monogamy is harder than we admit and articulating a sexual ethic that he thinks honors the reality, rather than the romantic ideal, of marriage. In Savage Love, his weekly column, he inveighs against the American obsession with strict fidelity. In its place he proposes a sensibility that we might call American Gay Male, after that community’s tolerance for pornography, fetishes and a variety of partnered arrangements, from strict monogamy to wide openness.  Savage believes monogamy is right for many couples. But he believes that our discourse about it, and about sexuality more generally, is dishonest. Some people need more than one partner, he writes, just as some people need flirting, others need to be whipped, others need lovers of both sexes. We can’t help our urges, and we should not lie to our partners about them. In some marriages, talking honestly about our needs will forestall or obviate affairs; in other marriages, the conversation may lead to an affair, but with permission. In both cases, honesty is the best policy." (NYTimesmagazine)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Why Keith Olbermann  Needs To Throw More Bombs

MSNBC is doing well without Keith Olbermann, five months after his ouster. Olbermann, in other words, has got some heavy lifting to do, but that's not entirely his fault. If anyone is well-suited to be a competitive underdog it is an inveterate sports observer like Olbermann. It should be noted at the outset that Current TV is only available in 60 million households on the digital tier as opposed to the 78 million households that MSNBC is available in on basic cable. Add to the fact that MSNBC spends a lot on marketing ("Lean Forward") in spite of the fact that it already has strong name recognition -- compare that to Current TV, largely known only as "Al Gore's network." How many people one and a half week's into Olbermann's stint even know what channel Current TV is on?

The big three networks grew in the second quarter of 2010 and, in their train, some of the cable networks also saw some growth. From Medialifemagazine:

In addition to growth by the Big Three networks, CNN also saw its primetime lineup increase by 16 percent in total viewers and 28 percent in adults 25-54 with a more newsy focus than its competitors Fox News and MSNBC, which feature opinion programs in primetime.

Fox News was down a bit in both total viewers and 25-54s in second quarter, though it was by far the most-watched cable news network in both, while MSNBC was up, but more slightly, on both measures.
MSNBC's growth is notable because it was the network's first full quarter without Keith Olbermann, who left in January, but it's not completely surprising. Last year at this time MSNBC was showing Olbermann repeats at 10 p.m.; this quarter it filled the slot with original programming.

But Keith's a big bot. Olbermann knew perfectly well he was in an uphill battle joining up with Current TV. In fine,  Olbermann, the underdog in this dirty street fight that is cable news prime time, is going to have to start throwing bombs -- artfully timed Hail Mary passes -- if he wants to remain relevant to the big guys in nightly cable commentary. Otherwise, Keith risks being merely a bothersome gnat, like the underwhelming Conan O'Brien on his increasingly irrelevant show on TBS.

To his credit, Olbermann is good at bomb-throwing and, perhaps anticipating his media future, has already begun doing just that. Olbermann also knows how to find the media's G-spot. From David Carr's essay in the Times magazine recently:

In late May, we went to the Saturday night game of the Mets-Yankees subway series. A former ESPN anchor and a lifelong Yankees fan, Olbermann is a deeply knowledgeable baseball wonk. We emerged from the dining club in the new stadium, stepped out into the section right behind home plate, walked down to the very front row and took a seat next to one of his longtime producers, Katy Ramirez Karp. Alex Rodriguez was just a few feet away, taking lazy warm-up swings and nodding at some pals who were sitting behind us. Olbermann looked beyond him, peering into center field.

“Switch seats with me,” he said pleasantly. “I want to be in the Fox Sports shot of home plate. They usually cut it off right here,” he said, indicating the arm of the seat between us. “It’s fun to mess with them.”
The man knows what he's doing. Further, Olbermann's Tweets are incendiary; he goads his opponents. That's a good thing too considering that Olbermann has a Twitter audience of over 225,000 plus followers. And a smouldering Olbermann Tweet, if re-Tweeted, could reach an even far larger audience than that. Clever.
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"It is too late to advise Christine Lagarde to reconsider taking on the job of IMF managing director at what is likely to prove to be the most challenging period in that organization's 65-year history. There's still time, however, for her to avoid taking ownership of the terrible mess her predecessor, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, created for the fund with his ill-considered bailout operations for Greece, Ireland, and Portugal. Indeed, it would appear that Lagarde's interests and those of the global economy would both be served best if she were to take a fresh look at the IMF's failed policy approach to the eurozone sovereign debt crisis. Not to put a fine point on it, but the IMF-EU's 'no default and no exit from the euro' approach for the European periphery is not working. The IMF and the European Union have designed a straitjacket of brutal austerity fiscal measures that are producing deep recessions in those countries, which in turn are undermining their tax bases and sapping their political will to stay the adjustment course. The current program makes no sense. Although it is patently clear that the austerity medicine is not working in Greece, the IMF and EU are about to double the dose with their latest Greek bailout package. The fund is already applying the same failed recipe to Ireland and Portugal." (ForeignPolicy)

"I remember sitting in a meeting at the International Monetary Fund back in the 1980s, debating the meaning of a small annotation in the margin of a memorandum that had just returned from the office of the managing director. It was just a squiggle; yet we debated possible interpretations for a full half an hour! This is a small example of what is well known to IMF insiders – the post of managing director is not to be taken lightly in an institution that operates like a well-disciplined army, with staff looking up to the unquestioned general for decisive leadership. This is why the resignation of Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been so disruptive to the functioning of the IMF. It is also why Christine Lagarde – who following Tuesday’s public backing from Tim Geithner, US treasury secretary, will assume the post shortly barring any legal complications – must move on five key issues in her first few months at the helm. First, she must restore proper separation between the post and the political ambitions of the holder. This separation has been eroded in recent years by Europe’s decision to appoint politicians (Mr Strauss-Kahn and Rodrigo de Rato before him) and, was essentially eliminated by the widely-held view that Mr Strauss-Kahn was using his position as a springboard to the presidency of France." (Mohamed El-Erian/FT)

"Sometime after July 18, ex-IMF managing director and onetime French presidential hopeful Dominique Strauss-Kahn will face off in court against prosecutors who have charged him with sexually assaulting a maid in a $3,000-a-night Sofitel suite. The hype surrounding the impending trial has been immense, fed by leaks from police and lawyers involved in the case. DSK, as he is known in France and now in New York, has been the subject of numerous rumors and conflicting reports, as tales of purported philandering and attempted assaults have flooded in. Ahead of the trial, we've assembled all available evidence, along with the sometimes conflicting rumors, secrets, and trash talk, to help you make sense of the scandal that destroyed the career of one of the most powerful men on the planet." (NYMag)

"The only 2011 movie to do more was The Hangover Part II which opened to $10.4M midnights. By contrast, Pirates Of The Caribbean 4 did $4.7M midnights. Now the comps: Transformers 1 in 2007 opened wide at 8 PM on July 3rd, which was a Monday night, and did $8.8M for all shows. Transformers 2 opened wide at midnight two years ago and did $16 million. If tracking is any indication, this threequel should do box office between the two prior films but closer to Transformers 1. So Paramount expected around $10M total for Tuesday's pre-midnight 3D-only screenings and Wednesday's midnight and later shows. The exact tally turned out to be a bigger $13.5M -- $5.5M for 3D-only pre-midnight Tuesday screenings, and $8M for Wednesday mightnights ... Paramount is expecting this latest installment in the franchise to open less than the last one in the U.S. but play to better multiples. Grosses over the seven days from Tuesday night through the Fourth Of July should hit $200M, though the studio keeps lobbing lowball estimates of $150M-$165M despite the higher 3D ticket prices ... Bring sunglasses and earplugs to Transformers 3 or you'll walk out of the theater like one Paramount exec who told me he was not just blinded by the 3D but also deafened by the battles. I hope he was just kidding, because you don't want to miss those cheap shots at Megan Fox (like the robots who complained that the other girl was mean)." (Deadline)

"Last Saturday, another beautiful summer day in the Hamptons, they held the 4th Annual Reginald Lewis Foundation Gala at the home of the Lewis family in East Hampton. The sold-out ticket drew personalities and figures from business, sports, media and philanthropy. More than 350 attended. Maurice DuBois was emcee. Leslie Lewis Sword, Lewis' eldest daughter, was chair of the luncheon. She announced that this year’s gala raised more than $665,000 toward a $1 million endowment challenge grant from Eddie C. and C. Sylvia Brown Family Foundation, in support of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture." (NYSocialDiary)

"In 2005, Rachelle Hruska moved to New York for six months. Six years later, she's still here, heading up Guest of a Guest, the site she founded along with Cameron Winklevoss. The venture, which has expanded to Los Angeles and Hamptons, chronicles the young, rich, and beautiful in Gotham and beyond. It has become a must-read publication in almost no time, the new Page Six. Hruska leads a glamorous life - she recently married hotelier Sean MacPherson - but it's also full of meetings, trips to the gym, and dog walking (in a dog run that's 'on par with getting past the elevator doors that lead up to the Boom Boom Room.')" (Noah Davis/BusinessInsider)


"Naomi Campbell’s well-practiced snarl has found a perfect new outlet: The Fall ‘11 Givenchy campaign, shot by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott. Campbell is one of the major faces to front spots for Givenchy’s feline women’s collection, alongside Natalia Vodianova, Kristen McMenamy, and house favorite Mariacarla Boscono." (Style)

"What former B list television actor and now, a C- list wannabe who lives off his residuals and what he did before, recently made a bet with his friends that he could have sex with five different women in one day. Hey, when you have nothing else to do with your day, I guess you come up with these things. The sad part is that he had no problems at all meeting his quota. Do women think they are going to be with this guy permanently? Do they want to say they had sex with a has been? Is he somehow going to help their career when he cannot fix his?" (CrazyDaysandNights via Gawker)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

HBO's Finally Gets It: (Digital) Content Is King

Was it Netflix that lit that fire under Time Warner's ass? Did Jeff Bewkes' pas de deux with the brilliant upstart company sharpen his business sense?

Whatever the case, HBO now gets it. HBO's premium content is increasingly turning to digital in innovative ways of late. It is about time. This blogger believes that the competition from Netflix, far from being a bad thing for Time Warner, will make them a more efficient digital company. Time Warner now realizes that in the future televised content will be indistinguishable from all other forms of digital content in that it will be readily accessible via laptops, mobile devices and tablets.

HBO's sharp response to the challenge all sort of began -- or ramped up -- with Game of Thrones. That was when HBOGo made its debut. A couple of million downloads later some are asking who needs Netflix. Critically adored, HBO bundled all sorts of fascinating interactive features with previews of the next week's show. "Whether it be to showcase a map of the show’s seven kingdoms, give users a look into the family trees of different ruling houses, or a reliquary with interactive pages for artifacts in the show, the pop-ups that run alongside the videos give existing fans some cool toys to play with, while also providing a bit of context for those who aren’t already familiar with the popular book series the show is based on," wrote Ryan Lawler on GigaOm. The move was particularly well-timed because Game of Thrones happened to become a darling of the high-end viewer, leveraging HBO's premium content with its desirable audience.

But now with the return of True Blood, HBO is in overdrive. True Blood, which, like Game of Thrones, is inspired by cult series of books, follows in the HBOGo method. They even have character video blogs! Jessica, the sexy ginger vampire living with a Hoyt, the human being, now even has a v-blog ("BabyVamp Jessica"), lamenting how vampires don't like to cook. It has already drawn 190 sympathetic comments. It is also probably an interesting acting exercise -- to keep in character on a v-blog -- for the actors. Do they ad lib? Is it all scripted on the v-blog?

True Blood fans are rabid. Sunday's ratings were 5.42 viewers for its original broadcast -- not including people that will view it later on and online -- a tremendous number for non basic cable pay TV. True Blood fans have read the books, and now they are tuning in for HBO's take to supply visuals to their imaginings of the characters. V-blogs, forums -- keeping that audience engaged is incumbent on HBO to get maximum value out of its content.

In other words: HBO needs to build a community around each of its properties. Thus far, by and large, communities have sprouted up independently of HBO. The benefits of HBO's premium content has gone to independent contractors. That is HBO's fault for running such a crappy site in the past. Time Warner did not spend money and sustained effort in making a true community and that is a tragedy.

But that seems to be changing, four seasons after True Blood began. Then again, as the old Catholic saying goes "the Church always makes way for late vocations."
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Europe continues to be engulfed by economic crisis. The global focus returns to Athens on June 28 as Greek parliamentarians debate austerity measures imposed on them by eurozone partners. If the Greeks vote down these measures, Athens will not receive its second bailout, which could create an even worse crisis in Europe and the world. It is important to understand that the crisis is not fundamentally about Greece or even about the indebtedness of the entire currency bloc. After all, Greece represents only 2.5 percent of the eurozone’s gross domestic product (GDP), and the bloc’s fiscal numbers are not that bad when looked at in the aggregate. Its overall deficit and debt figures are in a better shape than those of the United States — the U.S. budget deficit stood at 10.6 percent of GDP in 2010, compared to 6.4 percent for the European Union — yet the focus continues to be on Europe. That is because the real crisis is the more fundamental question of how the European continent is to be ruled in the 21st century. Europe has emerged from its subservience during the Cold War, when it was the geopolitical chessboard for the Soviet Union and the United States. It won its independence by default as the superpowers retreated: Russia withdrawing to its Soviet sphere of influence and the United States switching its focus to the Middle East after 9/11. Since the 1990s, Europe has dabbled with institutional reform but has left the fundamental question of political integration off the table, even as it integrated economically. This is ultimately the source of the current sovereign debt crisis, the lack of political oversight over economic integration gone wrong. The eurozone’s economic crisis brought this question of Europe’s political fate into focus, but it is a recurring issue. Roughly every 100 years, Europe confronts this dilemma." (STRATFOR)

"Having covered Hollywood from a New York base for over 20 years, I watched Gotham hold its own because of filmmakers that included Jonathan Demme, Alan Pakula, Woody Allen, Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese and Sidney Lumet. So let's see where that leaves us. Demme doesn't work often enough. Pakula, whose resume includes one of the greatest American movies ever in All the President's Men, died in a freak accident on the Long Island Expressway. Allen has been on an extended tour of Europe that I admit has completely reinvigorated him as a filmmaker but hasn't helped the production scene in Manhattan. Scorsese shoots all over the place, and Lee has had trouble getting his films funded even though he's a voice well worth hearing. Finally, Lumet, the guy who made seminal movies like Network, 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon and Serpico, and continued directing films at such a fast pace that co-workers swore he shot while double-parked, passed away. Now, Lincoln Center has announced a summer series of films made by the great Lumet. It is worth checking out some of his great films. Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for that electrifying new New York filmmaker who'll have the clout to force productions to be shot in his backyard despite the high union costs, and who makes Gotham relevant again on the feature scene." (Deadline)

"'Dr. Doom,' NYU professor Nouriel Roubini, took a break from his predictions of economic calamity to throw one of his famous parties at his sprawling East Village triplex penthouse Saturday. Roubini invited a crowd of models, lawyers and creative types to his pad, which is big enough to hold a world economic summit and boasts a new, giant Jacuzzi on the roof terrace. Guests greeted by an upbeat-looking Roubini at the 14-hour bash -- which started at noon with a dip in the model-packed Jacuzzi -- included Sean Stone, director son of Oliver Stone, prominent lawyers Richard Conn Jr. and David Hryck, former CNBC journalist and MDC Partners' Ash Bennington and Roubini's stunning girlfriend, Micca Wang. While only some got the memo that the dress code was 'Carmens & Matadors,' all were treated to a live performance of the opera orchestrated by Or Movement's Shai Baitel. Roubini told us, 'People know me as Dr. Doom, but as you can see, I really like to enjoy life.'" (PageSix)

"The disillusionment was irrevocable. One day while she was in college, Michele (Bachmann) took the train from Minneapolis to Winona. She'd brought along a copy of Burr, Gore Vidal's fictional portrayal of America's Founders, to pass the time. What she read horrified her. Told from the point of view of Aaron Burr, Vidal's novel makes endless fun of Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton. At one point the narrator says America's first president had a large rear end. 'It was so disgusting to me,' Michele said, 'talking about how he was waddling or something.' She put the book down and looked out the window at the passing landscape. He's mocking the Founders, she thought. That's not who these men were. Then she thought: I don't think I'm a Democrat. 'And at that moment, I became a Republican. I was done.'" (The Weekly Standard via NPR)

"I'm not the only one to notice (Niall) Ferguson's recent bloviations. Last month Michael Lind wrote a broadside against Ferguson in Salon. Lind paints Ferguson as someone who's always been a hack, which is unfair -- he produced some genuinely interesting economic history back in the day. Still, it's genuinely sad to witness the odd decline of Ferguson from premier economic historian to hack commentator. Financially, he's much richer from this move, but his writing has become so impoverished over the past decade that he's writing his way out of the foreign policy conversation. I've frequently bemoaned the ignorance of economic history and foreign economic policy in debates about international relations. Because of this, I must mourn the passing of Ferguson's ability to make informed contributions to important policy debates. The opportunity cost of reading his current hackwork, however, has become way too high." (Daniel Drezner)

"Last night over at Lincoln Center in Damrosch Park, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts presented the annual Midsummer Night Swing Opening Benefit honoring Daisy and Paul Soros for 18 years of generous support. This is the first year the Summer Swing has been a benefit – besides being a great public event. Before that, the Soroses who are and have been very active in New York both socially and philanthropically wrote the check. They particularly love what this does for New Yorkers on summer nights. There’s a live orchestra and everybody dances. Everybody. Even the people who don’t dance. It’s catching. Last night was a beautiful night at sundown. The temperature was right." (NYSocialDiary)

"Bobby Rivers has been seen on a TV near you for decades. Rivers, a genial host, spent time on air in New York at WPIX, WNBC, and WNYW. Rivers, who is gay, gained national fame as a VJ on VH1 early in his career. Later, he had a show on the Food Network. Friday night, New York became the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage. For Rivers, though, it’s bittersweet. 'I wish my late partner had lived to see that historic day and I wish I [had been] in New York City that night,' Rivers admits to FishbowlNY. 'I’m so proud of the state I love.' Rivers watched his partner die from the ravages of AIDS in 1994. During that time, he was reporting for WNBC/Channel 4’s Weekend Today in New York." (FishbowlNY)

"In Robert Altman, The Oral Biography by Mitchell Zuckoff, the late, great director's longtime wife, Kathryn Reed Altman, remembers a time in 1972 when the phone rang and Altman picked up the other extension. 'I could tell something was up,' Kathryn relates. That night, she goes on, 'it all kind of broke that he was having this encounter with Faye Dunaway--and she was on the phone.'She was a real smart assed bitch and I really didn't like her.' Which might not exactly be a minority opinion. After a rocky period, Faye was warded off and the marriage somehow got patched back together like a brilliantly edited Altman film. But years later, Faye found herself at the same Oscar party as the Altmans. Relates the wife: 'Bob didn't acknowledge her. He was like it never happened, which is a good way of handling it. She came around to my side and kneeled down and went through this big apology to me. 'I said, 'You can't take full responsibility. It wasn't just you, Faye.' 'Bob was the one who should have been down on his knees.'" (Musto)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Trump Trumped The Media, Walking Away With a Reported $65 Million

The angry working class got the screw -- yet again -- when the much hyped Trump withdrew his name from the pack of GOP hopefuls.

In retrospect, did we need to know, way back in April, that Donald Trump was the "frontrunner" of the Republican field of Presidential aspirants? Because in retrospect, Donald Trump was never really a Presidential candidate to begin with. Jaded media types like this blogger who have been around the block know that Trump's flirtations with the American Presidency over the years have always served the larger agenda of broadening his brand. In the case of his media dominating pseudo-run for the Presidency, this time Trump may have pocketed a hefty $65 million as a result of his shenanigans. This blogger has yet to see a story in a major media organization on Trump's followers, the one's who believed him when he said that Ron Paul couldn't win and he could.

In the end Ron Paul may not be able to win the American Presidency, but he, unlike Trump, at least runs, putting his convictions above his financial bottom line.

I don't begrudge the pollsters in this debacle. Organizations like Public Policy polling will always poll, no matter how early, because, well, that's what they do. But what about the media. Does the fact that those hasty polls exist make it well and good for media organizations to lead with those polls, discuss them as if they were truly meaningful?

"A latter-day P.T. Barnum with an insatiable appetite for attention and a knack for getting it, Trump has capitalized on two defining and interrelated features of the political-media landscape in the Obama era: the symbiosis between political provocateurs and traffic-conscious news organizations and the rise of a conservative constituency that hungers for voices that will attack President Barack Obama in sharp and unapologetic terms," wrote Jonathan Martin in Politico.

In treating Trump as if he were the presumptive front runner on the eve of the Iowa caucuses or New Hampshire debased our national political dialogue. Airing Trump's snide insinuations about the President's citizenship and -- worse -- grotesque hints of affirmative action in his college years was a low point in the history of American media.

In this digital age where media organizations are in an increasingly hyper rat-race for ratings and pageviews and clicks, there will be profound temptations to give real estate to stories that are sensationalistic. Those stories attract eyeballs. But media organizations should weigh -- carefully weigh -- the consequences of the decision to go with those sensationalistic stories on the commonweal.

And we should feel shame when we get it so wrong.
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Germany is sitting on top of the world. But the rest of the world thinks it's getting too comfortable up there. The country has come roaring out of the global financial crisis, boasting one of the strongest economies in the West and seemingly poised for years of rising exports ahead. What's more, the better it does, the more the world expects it to do. Europe and the U.S. want Germany to take charge on cleaning up Europe's debt crisis and do more for big causes—like supporting the Arab revolutions and the sputtering global economic recovery. Germany's answer? Business as usual suits us fine. Unlike many other Western countries, Germany has spent years living within its means and building up a deep trade surplus. Now it's reluctant to bail out nations that weren't as prudent. And it doesn't want to get involved in foreign entanglements like Libya. All of which leads to a question with big implications for the global economy and political order: What is Germany's place in the world? German leaders argue that they don't want to tinker with a winning formula, and they're already making significant contributions to the EU and NATO. But critics see it differently. They attack the country for wanting to be a big Switzerland: a trading nation that profits from the business opportunities of a globalized economy but shirks the dirty work of globalization, including international involvement in armed conflicts. Germany's traditional allies even fret that the country is losing interest in Europe and the West." (WSJ)

"After last weekend's disappointing outcome for Green Lantern, Summer 2011 returns with big-time North American grosses. But both Disney's Cars 2 and Sony's Bad Teacher cooled off Saturday after a hot Friday. Expect an overall moviegoing total of $176M, up +6% from last year ... Wow, even Pixar's clunker exceeded expectations, becoming Pixar's 12th straight No. 1 toon. Strange that the special studio parent/kids' tracking was only showing a $50M weekend for Cars 2 even with 3D's higher ticket prices and a very wide U.S. and Canadian release. (Its 4,115 theaters comprise 2,508 3D locations, including 120 IMAX venues.) Other studios at first thought the toon could zoom between $71.5M-$75M for the weekend, but Disney was right to stay conservative with projections of 'just' $68M ... But the real platinum lining here is all that Cars-branded merchandise parents are going to buy for their kids. Disney has put 300 or so products on the market -- Cars Kleenex, anyone? -- and Wall Street expects those licensed retail sales to total $10 billion, making it the biggest movie merchandising ever. (Toy Story 3 made about $2.8 billion.) It's a supremely cynical move -- lousy movie, great crap -- that includes a video game releasing Tuesday, ice and stage shows, and a 12-acre Cars Land expected to rejuvenate California Adventure next year. On the other hand, the Pixar brand may wind up hurt by its first bout of bad PR for a company whose first 11 feature-length animated films have earned $6.5 billion at the global box office and 29 Academy Awards. 'Families (flyover or not) are deciding for themselves and disregarding reviews,' an unconcerned Disney exec replies to me.' 'Critics not liking a movie doesn't seem like it will hurt the Pixar brand in my opinion. It will be their 12th #1 film in a row and will rank near the top for opening weekends. Should I send you a Larry the Cable Guy DVD?'" (Deadline)

"Newspapers and journalists are cashing in on WikiLeaks’ war on secrecy as Hollywood studios scramble to buy the 'life rights' to key characters involved in 2010’s publication of thousands of classified documents. At least five film versions of the WikiLeaks story are in development from groups including DreamWorks, HBO, the BBC and Universal Pictures. This has set off a fight for exclusive adaptation rights to the books and articles published about the saga. DreamWorks has taken the unusual step of buying rights to two books on WikiLeaks, including WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy, by David Leigh and Luke Harding, two reporters at the UK’s Guardian newspaper.  The company has also struck rights deals with other journalists from the Guardian, one of several newspapers to have worked closely with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, its founder. DreamWorks declined to comment on its WikiLeaks project, but a person familiar with the situation said: 'DreamWorks wanted to secure as many rights as possible so it can tell the best possible story.' The deals prohibit reporters and editors from talking about their experiences to producers of rival films. 'The contracts are incredibly restrictive in terms of the details that can be revealed,' said one person who has sold rights to DreamWorks. Both Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, and Ian Katz, deputy editor, have agreed deals with DreamWorks. A person familiar with the deals said they represented a 'nice chunk' of money. Mr Rusbridger denied he had been paid separately for his rights and declined to comment on deals struck by colleagues. 'I’m not earning anything out of it … All [the money] is going to the Guardian,' he said." (FT via MediareDEFined)

"The most fervent discussions of the European leaders gathered in Brussels on Friday, June 24, focused on riots in Athens, unruly parliamentarians in Berlin, disaffected youth in Madrid, and, perhaps, sexual crimes and misdemeanors in Rome. But they also found some time to ratify their choice for the next tenant of a modest office space in downtown Frankfurt, Germany. As expected, Mario Draghi, an Italian economist with a number of nicely tailored suits, but little evident charisma, received unanimous support to follow Jean-Claude Trichet in becoming the next president of the European Central Bank (ECB). It's a less-than-pressing issue for most Europeans, to say the least. As long as countries are considering selling off their airports to make ends meet, the obscure, technical art of monetary policy is likely to escape popular notice.But austerity and riots and bunga-bunga parties notwithstanding, Draghi's appointment may be more important than anything else that's likely to happen in Europe this year. Not that Draghi would give you any way of knowing. In typical fashion, Draghi not only failed to hold a news conference on Friday, he wasn't even in attendance in Brussels as the announcement of his appointment was made. Even when people try to praise him effusively, they end up underscoring this essential boringness. 'Mario was never uncombed; he was always tidy,' one former classmate from the rigorous Jesuit schools where Draghi was educated told Bloomberg. 'Mario has always been very serious.' As one German newspaper put it, the no-nonsense Draghi is the 'anti-Berlusconi,' the polar opposite of the spotlight-seeking Italian prime minister." (ForeignPolicy)

"On the eve of her presidential announcement, Michele Bachmann returned home to the city of her childhood on Sunday to reconnect with her Iowa roots, which she hopes to parlay into an advantage in her quest to win the Republican presidential nomination. 'I need you!' Ms. Bachmann said. 'I came here because it’s all about Iowa. You will be the ones who will determine who will lead this great nation in the future. That’s your choice.' A few hundred people gathered inside the Electric Park Ballroom on the grounds of the National Cattle Congress to welcome Ms. Bachmann, who is set to formally open her candidacy here on Monday morning. She lived in Waterloo until age 12, when her family moved to Minnesota. Ms. Bachmann introduced her Iowa family – many of whom, she confessed, are Democrats – and said that her connections in the state that opens the Republican presidential nominating contest early next year would elevate her above the field of candidates. She said her ascent would begin at the Iowa Straw Poll on Aug. 13. 'It’s a big deal,' Ms. Bachmann said, urging people in the audience to descend on Ames for the Republican event that serves as a test of a campaign’s organization that can make – or break – presidential aspirations." (NYTimes)

"The Real Estate section of Sunday’s New York Times ran an article about one of the few remaining private mansions on Fifth Avenue, Number 973, which has just been put up for sale. The asking price on the house, which was completed in 1907, is $49 million. It was acquired by its owner, the late Victor Shafferman, in the late 70s when New York real estate was at its nadir, for $600,000. Architecturally the two houses – 972 and 973 – appear to be almost a pair of limestone mansions. Although they were built by two different parties, they were, coincidentally under construction at the same time, between 1903 and 1906. At approximately the same time, just one block south on the northeast corner of 77th Street, Senator William Clark was constructing his massive mansion. (Clark’s last child Huguette died last month. See NYSD 6.23.11)" (NYSocialDiary)

"As the clock ticks down to August 2 — the date by which Congress must raise the national debt limit in order to keep borrowing money to fund the government — don’t be fooled into thinking this is another fight pitting Democrats against Republicans. This battle is Republican versus Republican. It features John Boehner (R-Ohio), the Speaker of the House on one side, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on the other. And right now Cantor is winning big. Cantor outflanked the Speaker last week when he quit Vice President Joe Biden’s bipartisan negotiations to raise the debt ceiling. Cantor, who had previously praised the Democrats in the talks for laying out $2 trillion in cuts over 10 years, decided he did not want the adult responsibility of agreeing to anything that far-right critics might view as a tax increase. So he took a walk on the negotiations without telling Boehner. Incredibly, Cantor first announced he was out of any dealmaking with a call to the Wall Street Journal. Now there is a new and profoundly rude way to announce a political divorce. The bottom line is that Cantor’s decision to abdicate any pretense of being a political leader set a trap for Boehner. The Speaker is now politically exposed to fire from every direction as he goes into the final phase of negotiations with President Obama and the Democrats." (Juan Williams)

"British heiress Jemima Khan has split with hot New York literary agent Luke Janklow, and she's already been linked to  'Restrepo' and 'The Tillman Story' producer John Battsek. Sources say that Janklow, dubbed 'the hottest straight man in book publishing,'  is 'devastated.' One said: "He is upset, but it has been in the cards for a while. Jemima just bought a country estate in England and hates flying, so he would always have to travel to the UK to see her.' Janklow's family is said to be bitterly disappointed, as they hoped he would eventually marry Khan, the beautiful daughter of billionaire Sir James Goldsmith and his wife, Lady Annabel. She once dated Hugh Grant. But Khan appears ready to go public with UK documentary filmmaker Battsek, who produced 1999's Oscar-winning 'One Day in September.' They were spotted together at a gala at Kensington Palace this month. Khan, an editor at The Independent, couldn't be reached. Janklow and Battsek didn't get back to us." (PageSix)

"The invitation to Thursday’s Day of Brotherhood at The Bowery Hotel promised honor, chivalry, and awards given to great men. Manly things! the invitation proclaimed. It delivered amply — taxidermy tigers, platters of lobster in butter sauce, bear-skin pelts, spit-roasted pig, bloody flank steak, floating waitresses offering Chivas neat and Chivas rocks, a fencing match, and the presence of Mr. Big. 'My charity isn’t gonna be happy with me standing next to a stuffed wolf, but they’ll get over it,' Chris Noth said. His charity is called the Rainforest Action Network. There was indeed a stuffed wolf, but also a stuffed fox, as well as a trio of unsmiling Russian woman wearing small tops and small top hats balancing a tray of whiskeys on their palms. The theme, it was explained, was the Scottish tradition of manliness.'Instead of wearing kilts you sit down with the skin of a bear,' Mr. Noth said. He noted that both kilts and pelts were equally manly. Somewhere amid all the carousing Paz de la Huerta walked up to the stage filled with dead animals, stuffed and skinned, and pulled in a crowd as she posed for pictures on an old leather couch." (Observer)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Barabara Amiel Gets The Vapors

in happier times ...

Is Lord Conrad Black's fall a metaphor for the sorry state of neoconservatism at present? His excesses after a fashion curiously mirror the orgy of Empire and materialism that went on under the Bush administration, that we are just now extricating ourselves out from under ...

Lord Black's obnoxiously loud downfall is rapidly becoming a bad operetta. Lord Conrad Black of Crossharbour, who resigned as chief executive of Hollinger Inc after it was found that $32 million in unauthorized payments had been made to him and some of his executives is back in the news.

Everything about this man is outsized and overly dramatic. Even his feuds with outsized public figures (traitorous friends)-- and their children after the principals die! His neoconservatism! Lord Black is a large man, of large appetites, of large friends, of literally large biographies of large historical personalities and, ultimately, of large fall.

From The Independent:

Conrad Black, the Conservative peer convicted of fraud and obstructing justice in the US, was last night ordered back to jail amid dramatic scenes in a Chicago courthouse.
His wife, Barbara Amiel, passed out and had to be revived by medics, as the judge disregarded a 20-minute oration by Black in which he argued that he and his family had already "suffered deeply" over eight years of legal action, including his 29 months in prison.
The former proprietor of The Daily Telegraph was freed last year after successfully persuading the US Supreme Court to limit the scope of potential prosecution arguments in fraud cases, after which two of his four convictions were quashed. Judge Amy St Eve yesterday slashed his sentence from 78 months to 42 months in order to reflect the reduced number of convictions, and his work as a teacher and mentor in prison, but Black will still have to serve almost another year before time off for good conduct.

Of course one could not expect lord Black to go quietly into the night. His wife would have to catch the vapors as he is dragged back to the pokey. Anything else would be uncivilized ...

Black accepted that "a reasonable person could conclude that I am guilty of these two offences. The same reasonable person could also conclude that I have been adequately punished."

The peer's lawyers put his and Ms Amiel's failing health among the arguments for clemency, and Ms Amiel in particular looked frail even as she walked into court. She had put off heart surgery until after her husband's fate was decided, according to court filings.

Of course one could not expect such a large man to go quietly into the night. His wife would be expected to have the vapors as he is hauled back to the pokey. Anything else from such an obnoxiously dramatic jerk would be uncivilized ...