Friday, November 04, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"President Obama and his Democratic allies made two key political missteps in recent years, according to former president Bill Clinton in a new book to be released Tuesday. First was not raising the federal debt ceiling in the first two years of the president’s term, when Democrats still had a majority in Congress, and then failing to devise an effective national campaign message during the midterm elections of 2010 ... Clinton also suggests, obliquely, that Obama’s criticism of Wall Street has been too harsh and counterproductive.The 42nd president periodically surfaces with cheerful tips on how he managed the economy and offers these observations in his book 'Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy.' ... But the subtext of the book is that Obama has struggled, both to identify workable economic policies and to outmaneuver his Republican foes.
'The Democrats did not counter the national Republican message with one of their own,' Clinton writes of the Democratic losses in 2010. 'There was no national advertising campaign to explain and defend what they had done and to compare their agenda for the next two years with the GOP proposals.' He compares it with his own congressional defeats in 1994. The very existence of such a book by the former president — which Clinton says was inspired by the 2010 midterm losses — has produced some eye-rolling among senior Obama advisers and is certain to spur a new round of unwelcome comparisons between the 1990s and today." (WashPo)

"VISITORS to Qatar tend to share the same bafflement that Hosni Mubarak expressed when shown the Al Jazeera satellite channel’s news studio in the Qatari capital, Doha. 'All that noise from this little matchbox?', Egypt’s then strongman grumbled, amazed that the station, paid for by Qatar’s rulers, could stir popular passions and big trouble for governments from the Persian Gulf to the Atlantic. Such wonder is not surprising. Until oil and gas made it rich, beginning in the 1960s, this tiny, scalding, pancake-flat peninsula scarcely boasted a settled population, let alone a town of any size. Even now, with a population that has trebled in the booming 16 years since Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani overthrew his father, the emirate holds just 1.7m people. Fewer than one in seven of them is a native-born citizen, which helps explain why Qatar’s army is the smallest in the Gulf.That minority status is also a reason for the Qataris’ feeble appetite for democracy. Their general response, when Sheikh Hamad announced recently that a first-ever parliamentary election would be held in 2013, was a mild nod of approval, even though the emir has dragged his feet on promised democratic reforms for a decade. The bigger reason for such complacency is simply cash. Statistics showing Qatar’s residents to be the richest in the world, with a GDP per person of $80,000-plus at purchasing-power parity, vastly underrate the wealth of a pampered 250,000 or so who hold the privilege of citizenship." (The Economist)

"Elisabeth Murdoch has always had to fight for her father’s attention, never easy in a family that was focused on the sons. Though she was the eldest of the three children from Rupert’s second marriage, Rupert had never taken her seriously as a possible contender to run the company some day. In 1997, he’d announced that in the competition, Lachlan was 'first among equals,' and then, when Lachlan ran into troubles, he seemed to give James, now the deputy COO, the inside track. 'Liz is the most overtly ambitious of the three kids,' a former News Corp. executive told me. 'She was driven to prove to her dad that she could more than hold her own with the boys.' So, over a decade ago, Elisabeth walked away from the family business to venture out on her own, starting Shine, a television-­production company that she built into one of the most successful in Britain. In 2008, she acquired Ben Silverman’s production company Reveille in a $125 million deal, which made her a significant player in Hollywood. She’d loved her independence, the more because it proved her worth to her father. When the elder Murdoch tried to bring her back into the fold, Liz, 43, played a bit hard to get, savoring the moment. Finally, this past February, she agreed to sell her company to News Corp. for roughly $670 million. Liz made more than $200 million off the deal and was promised a seat on the board alongside her brothers. 'The validation was absolute,' a London media executive told me." (NYMag)

"Around 9:40 p.m., a trim man in a red sweatshirt, blue and white checkered shorts and a blue baseball cap arrived carrying a stick and bag over his right shoulder and wordlessly navigated his way through the maze of half-dressed players as he headed toward a private dressing area. Roughly 20 minutes later, that man, the former Representative Anthony D. Weiner of New York, appeared again, this time in an orange jersey with a No. 1 on its back, an image of a jack-o’-lantern taped to the back of his mask. Followed by the other members of his team, the Falcons, he skated to one end of the ice, shielded from a lone spectator by a wall of Plexiglas. Many things have changed in the five months since Mr. Weiner resigned his Congressional post after sending a sexually explicit photo of himself to a college student over Twitter. He and his wife, Huma Abedin, a deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, have confirmed to friends they are expecting their first child in late December. The couple has moved out of Mr. Weiner’s co-op in Forest Hills, Queens, in his old Congressional district, and into a Manhattan apartment. And all talk that Mr. Weiner might run for mayor of New York in 2013, an office that once seemed well within his grasp, has been silenced." (NyTimes)

"Last night I went down to Cipriani 42nd Street to the cocktail reception before the dinner at the Silver Hill Gala. This is not the first annual gala, maybe not the second either. As modern philanthropy goes, this is an interesting situation. Silver Hill is a distinguished, private mental health care facility, or hospital. Those words would not have been used to describe it 50 years ago. Fifty years ago Silver Hill was known as a private sanitarium for the rich. People went there to 'dry out,' the popular euphemism for not drinking booze. Many had the other problems too, like sex and drugs. Others were just exhausted from living high and hard. Or down and out. Truman Capote had been a patient there. People went there more than once or twice. So had Vincent Astor who went there to 'dry out,' and coincidentally first met Brooke Marshall who was volunteering there at the same time ... Silver Hill is a new charity in the New York calendar. Starting new charities is not easy. You can always get something going but being successful and hiring a hall like Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City requires a lot of work and a lot of social networking forces. The Honorary Chairs for this evening, for example, were Dennis Basso and Michael Cominotto ... Last night's Guest of Honor was Carrie Fisher ...  Carrie is looking good at this time in her life. Her mother had the looks in the family, as the world knows. Well, Carrie looks like her mother more than ever, so what can I say? ... She also had her daughter Billie joining her for the dinner. Debbie's granddaughter." (NYSocialDiary)

"Hang on tight, folks, because this is turning into a bumpy ride. North American box office is still unsettlingly weak just as it’s been since the beginning of August. This weekend’s total gross is running a bad -25% behind last year’s. ”The fear is that our total business is in the toilet,” one studio executive sighed to me tonight. Friday’s numbers were too ill-defined for me to declare hits and misses early on. But now, in a big surprise, DreamWorks Animation’s week-old 3D holdover Puss In Boots distributed by Paramount looks like it’s giving Universal’s 2D Tower Heist a run for #1 by Monday morning because of higher ticket prices and more theater bookings. One studio already is counting on the cat beating the cons. Remember, last weekend’s surprise East Coast snowstorm and power outage resulted in the toon’s mediocre debut. The tie depends on Saturday when strong family matinees may swamp nighttime adults at the multiplexes. (Uh-oh: is this another Smurfs beats Cowboys &Aliens situation in the works? But, unlike expensive C&A, the studio claims TH cost only $85M.)" (Deadline)

"Troubled starlet Lindsay Lohan crashed the party for Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie 'J. Edgar' and made such a scene she made A-list attendees 'uncomfortable.' Lohan, fresh from her Playboy shoot and about to go to jail for probation violations, insisted she was an invited guest to the party for the Clint Eastwood-directed biopic about legendary FBI director Hoover, and talked her way past security at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on Thursday night. A source at the bash told us, 'Lindsay was arguing with the security to let her in, dropping every celebrity’s name to get in. She could be heard saying, ‘I have to go and see Leo.' Eventually they let her in, but she made everybody uncomfortable. She was aggressive and random, storming around. She tried to get to Leo, but he was surrounded by his security and a posse of his friends. 'Clint and Leo and Dustin Lance Black were talking, and Lindsay sent one of her aides over, demanding to get a photo with them, but security shooed them away.' Another spy at the party, attended by Ron Howard, Harvey Weinstein, Brett Ratner and actress/producer Christie Cashman, said Lohan kept asking to meet Oscar-winning producer Brian Grazer, who’d already left. The movie, generating considerable Oscar buzz for DiCaprio, opened the AFI Fest at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. It wasn’t clear how Lohan managed to get past AFI security, which sealed off the whole block and would only allow their official limos in. Lohan has to turn herself in to jail by Wednesday to serve a 30-day sentence. But this didn’t stop her from turning up at the Hollywood Roosevelt with her hair and makeup still done up from her earlier Playboy shoot." (NYPost)

"Housing activists love principal reduction because they tend to see it as a just solution to an unjust situation — it’s a way of making the banks pay a real price for their sins during the subprime madness while allowing people to keep their homes. Conservatives, on the other hand, hate principal reduction. They believe that borrowers who made poor decisions by taking out mortgages they could never afford have to take responsibility for those decisions. If that means foreclosure, so be it. Enter Laurie Goodman. One of the country’s foremost authorities on mortgage-backed securities, she is also one of the most data-driven people I’ve ever met; at breakfast, she was constantly pointing me to one chart or another that backed up her claims. 'She’s not into politics,' says my friend, and her client, Daniel Alpert of Westwood Capital. 'She is using data to tell us the truth.' Her truth begins with a shocking calculation: of the 55 million mortgages in America, more than 10 million are reasonably likely to default. That is a staggering number — and it is, in large part, because so many homes are worth so much less than the mortgage the homeowners are holding. That is, they’re underwater.  Her second calculation is that the supply of housing is going to drastically outstrip demand for the foreseeable future; she estimates that the glut of unneeded homes could get as high as 6.2 million over the next six years. The primary reason for this, she says, is that household formation has been very low in recent years, presumably because of the grim economy. (Young adults are living with their parents instead of moving into their own homes, etc.) What’s more, nearly 20 percent of current homeowners no longer qualify for a mortgage, as lending standards have tightened. The implication is almost too awful to contemplate. As Goodman put it in testimony she recently gave before Congress, the supply/demand imbalance means that housing prices 'are likely to decline further. This may recreate the housing death spiral — as lower housing prices mean more borrowers become underwater.' Which makes them more likely to default, which lowers prices further, and on and on. The only way to stop the death spiral is through principal reduction." (Joe Nocera)

"People didn't understand the iPad immediately. No one believed in the form factor. 'Just a big iPhone,' people called it. But it caught on, it took off, and now consumers can't let go of their tablets. The intimate, intuitive interface has created its own use case. People curl up with the device and they read. Publishers and app developers have provided a bonanza of ways to read on the iPad and iPhone. Some are free, some cost money, some require monthly subscriptions. All of them are vying for your attention in that new, valuable hour or two of tablet time in the evenings. But one app, Instapaper, sits in the iPad Hall of Fame on iTunes, pushing forward reader behavior just like the iPad itself. Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper, answered some questions for us about where this is all heading." (ReadWriteWeb)

"For many years, the Bize Savignys have been an insider's secret for budget-conscious connoisseurs. Mr. Bize isn't prone to hype—he doesn't say much of anything as he hands me samples of his '09s from tank and cask, or later when we drink some older wines in front of a roaring fire in his office. When pressed about the 2009 vintage, about which most critics and winemakers are rapturous, he ventures only that "it's a good vintage.' Mr. Bize doesn't do anything cutting-edge in the winery but his yields are always well below those allowed by the authorities, which means more sugar and flavor components in each grape, and makes for wines with more concentration. He's also willing to pick later than his neighbors and risk losing his crop to ensure ripeness. That wasn't really a problem in the warm 2009 vintage, where even the basic village-level wines from less-favored exposures got more than enough rays to ripen, and even Mr. Bize's less-conscientious neighbors managed to produce some pretty voluptuous juice. That said, even in a hot vintage Mr. Bize's wines can be forbidding in their youth—especially the premier crus—and generally need a few years of bottle age after release. (Mr. Bize recommends as much as 10 years for the premier crus.) Traditionally, Savigny was known to produce a light and delicate red wine, and cultivated this image to the point of blending white grapes in with the reds when the wines were too robust, according to importer Peter Wasserman. In recent years, the reds have gained weight, in keeping with contemporary tastes. White grapes, grown mostly on limestone-rich sites, are vinified separately to create some tasty Bourgogne and Savigny blancs—not so surprising when you consider the proximity of the hill of Corton just north of the appellation, source of the majestic Corton-Charlemagne." (Jay McInerney)

"Dia's on the move. Having acquired a space on 22nd Street this year, the upstate art foundation is planning a return to its Chelsea roots, and at its fall gala at Tribeca Three Sixty last night, it seemed as though everyone in art and fashion (from Julian Schnabel to erstwhile designer Helmut Lang) wanted to be there for a sort of preliminary Welcome Back. Parker Posey attended (without her boyfriend, the painter Scott Lenhardt) as a guest of Ingrid Sischy and Sandy Brant. 'I know them from a long time ago, way back,' she said. Ingrid was a big supporter of mine when I was the It girl. Now, I'm not an It girl anymore. I'm a woman!' ... Uptown, the Apollo Circle was fĂȘting another New York arts institution: the Met. Carolina Herrera sponsored the black-tie ball again this year, but she didn't linger to watch Selita Ebanks, Arlenis Sosa, Lauren Remington Platt, and Lily Kwong try to break it down to Kanye West and Jay-Z in her gowns. 'Tonight is about the young,' she told The evening was an art lesson of sorts for the upwardly mobile twentysomethings in the crowd, with works from the Met's collection by the likes of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jasper Johns projected on a wall of the Temple of Dendur.  'Andy was one of my best friends,' Herrera said. 'I love Pop art.'" (Style)

"Despite Herman Cain’s front-runner status and rough week in the news, Mitt Romney has continued to ignore the Georgia businessman and train his fire on Rick Perry, who trails Cain in polls for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. It is the latest sign that Romney is much more concerned about Perry’s millions in cash than Cain’s rapid rise. Romney’s campaign sent out a news release Friday morning touting 'Rick Perry’s tough week,' hitting the Texas governor on his rhetoric and views ... This follows another campaign release from earlier this week titled 'Rick Perry: Wrong for Iowa.' ... Romney has largely ignored Cain, a former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza. Since pointedly questioning Cain’s tax policies in the last debate more than two weeks ago, Romney’s campaign has been radio-silent on Cain, refusing to give him any public attention. Even when speaking on the same stage a few minutes before Cain at Americans for Prosperity’s annual convention Friday, Romney made no mention of Cain. This focus on Perry to the exclusion of Cain is unusual: A maxim of politics is to never engage with candidates who are trailing you in the polls and instead focus on dinging those to whom you need to catch up. The strategy could mean that Romney is letting the media narrative take its own toll on Cain, rather than getting involved in the story." (TheHill)

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