Saturday, June 30, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Europe lacks a strategic concept that would allow it to become a superpower and, despite decades of integration, doesn’t have a clear representative for other countries’ leaders to contact, said Henry Kissinger, the former U.S. secretary of state. 'It isn’t really absolutely clear when America wants to deal with Europe who exactly the authorized voice of Europe would be,' Mr. Kissinger said Wednesday in a panel discussion with Poland’s Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski. 'Most importantly, on many issues, there doesn’t really exist a unified European strategic approach.'  Mr. Kissinger, who worked in the administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford at the height of the Cold War, is often credited with saying: 'Who do I call if I want to speak to Europe?' He said Wednesday he’s 'not sure I actually said it, but it’s a good phrase.' European Union leaders in 2009 appointed the first permanent president of the European Council and the top diplomat for the bloc. Each of its 27 member states continues, however, to run independent foreign policy, while the council president merely coordinates summits of the bloc’s leaders. Mr. Kissinger acknowledged that it’s easier now than several decades ago 'to get answers to technical questions' from Europe’s institutions, but the Continent lacks an internal structure — and a joint military force — that would allow it to take a bigger role in world affairs. 'One expression of power status is military capacity. For Europe, it’s preposterously low in relation to what Europe wants to do,' he said. 'The ability of a country to bring about its objectives bears some relationship to its capacity to fight for them.'" (WSJ)

"Is it a coincidence that, on the same day Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Syria a 'rogue state,' he had his picture taken in the cockpit of a jet? Conceivably. The photo-op was a presumably long-scheduled promotion for Turkish Aerospace Industries. Still, here in Instanbul the juxtaposition did not go unnoticed. The front page above--from the Daily News, the English-language counterpart to Hurriyet--was typical of Turkish newspapers today. And for the last several days Turkish columnists have been pondering whether, after Syria's downing of a Turkish jet near the Syrian-Turkish border, the chances of war between the two countries have grown appreciably.It's an important question, because in the event of sustained hostilities Turkey would likely become the leading edge of an invasion of Syria backed by various Arab states and Western powers, including America. And this would make it hard for Russia, which has a valuable naval base in Syria, to stand idly by. The closest thing to a consensus here seems to be that the answer is yes, Turkey is closer to war, but only marginally. The affirmative answer derives partly from Erdogan's statement that "the rules of engagement have changed" in light of the Turkish jet's downing, and that Turkey would now respond aggressively to Syrian provocations that might in the past have drawn a more measured reaction. Even leaving aside what this says about Erdogan's actual inclination, it reduces his political room for maneuvering in the event that there should indeed be another Syrian provocation. The reason for judging that, nonetheless, the chances of war have grown only marginally, is twofold First, Erdogan's response to the crisis has on balance been circumspect. When he consulted with NATO, he did so under Article 4, which sanctions    'consultations' among NATO members, not Article 5, which would have been more of a call to action. (This decision may reflect his perception that other NATO nations are in no mood for war, but, if so, that reality itself militates against war.) And the same headline, above, that has him calling Syria a rogue state has him also conferring with Russia. Turkey, which does a lot of business with Russia, has no interest in reviving Cold War fault lines, to say nothing of starting an actual war in which Russia is on the enemy's side." (TheAtlantic)

"(Reille) Hunter has been lambasted over the years for coming onto Edwards, when he was a married man. She defends that by saying, 'Something electric exploded between us,' about their first meeting. To be fair, this seems to be an effect Edwards had on a number of ladies. Take, for example, the letter that the 97-year-old Bunny Mellon wrote him after their first meeting, in 2008: 'Dear, dear John. Yesterday was the most magic day I have had for 30 years! Something between us gave me the feeling that a dark cloud had suddenly blown away and was replaced by love and understanding and a joy of life.' If Hunter were really introspective, as opposed to just knowing how to play it, she might have examined the role this sad, rich woman played in her life for the crucial period when she became pregnant by Edwards and had his baby. For it was the lonely Mellon who bankrolled Edward's needs as he maintained his mistress and daughter. Not that she gets any thanks from her beneficiaries. Writes Hunter: 'One could actually even say zero dollars of Bunny Mellon's money was ever spent on me, because it turned out that the Youngs had actually sold their house in Raleigh for a large profit, and they did have plenty of their own money to cover all of my expenses until Fred reimbursed them for everything.' See what I mean about reality? 'Do you have any idea what it feels like to get to a mental place where you no longer trust anyone?' asks Hunter, two-thirds of the way through the book. I call this the John Edwards effect. The man is a world-class liar who'd make anyone crazy. After the National Enquirer broke the story of the Hunter/Edwards baby, Hunter was chased through the streets of Los Angeles by paparazzi, eventually ending up in St Croix, in the Virgin Islands (don't ask). Staying in a hotel, with very little with which to take care of her daughter and no means of reliable communication, she switched on the television. Whereupon, "I was met with the most publicly and emotionally devastating night of my life." It was the ABC News interview where Edwards lied and lied and lied about everything, including the fact that he was the father of Hunter's daughter, Quinn. Hunter's explanation for this is that Edwards was temporarily insane." (TheGuardian)
"Ms. Sergeenko, who was recently named by the Russian edition of Glamour as that country’s trendsetter of the year, is nervous about how she will be received in Paris. That is because she was not actually invited by the French to participate in their official couture event, and showing independently is a bit presumptuous. But judging by the increasing presence of Russian models, journalists, stylists and, most important, clients, her unsanctioned show will hardly go unnoticed or unattended. Requests for tickets have already exceeded capacity, and Natalia Vodianova, the Russian supermodel, is expected to appear on her runway. In fact, it would be difficult to overstate the impact that Ms. Sergeenko and this clique of young Russian women, becoming known for their 'unbounded personal style,' as Vogue noted in its April issue, is having on fashion. They include Miroslava Duma, the daughter of a Russian senator, who edits a fashion and style Web site; Vika Gazinskaya, a fashion designer with an eclectic range of geometric hairstyles; and Elena Perminova, a model who is the girlfriend of Alexander Lebedev, a former spy for the K.G.B. and now a billionaire banking magnate and owner of The Independent and The Evening Standard of London newspapers. According to a assessment of the Russian Fashion Pack, as they are sometimes called, no one on the show circuit, with the exception of Anna Dello Russo, 'changes outfits more often or with more look-at-me enthusiasm than this group of designers, bloggers and scenemakers.' With their audacious entrances and conspicuous consumption, they are the most visible new customers for couture in a generation, far outspending clients from emerging economies like India, Brazil and China. Karl Lagerfeld has said that, in a given season, some Russian clients have bought as many as 35 Chanel couture outfits, which typically have prices in the five and six figures." (NYTimes)

"The girls, so many girls, dressed in pastel-colored wraps that bared shoulders and the swells of their cleavage, clacked their Louboutin heels up a SoHo staircase one muggy May evening. At the landing, visibly breathless and sweaty, their eyes lit up. They had entered the penthouse loft of Edward Scott Brady, the boyishly handsome world traveler, former classical cello virtuoso and 'retired entrepreneur,' who was throwing a 'Welcome Back Bash' to honor his return from his seventh trip around the globe ... As the two stopped to pose for a Guest of a Guest photographer, people in the crowd discussed the size of Mr. Brady’s loft. 'This loft is, like, biggest loft in New York City,' said the impressionable Mr. Astafev. Still, was one loft—whatever its size—big enough for all three men, for their grandiose personalities? The presence of the trio, all in one place, seemed to signal a small if meaningful shift in the city’s cultural history: After a long, dire post-Lehman cold snap, during which ostentatious displays of wealth, social bravado and dandyish fashion gambits were put into deep hibernation, something was stirring. Wall Street was no longer occupied. The impassioned battle cries of the stringy-haired sleeping-bag brigade, fulminating about the ample chasm separating the 99 and 1 percents, had faded. A socially ambitious lad no longer had to hide his Cartier cufflinks or Stubbs & Wootton slippers under a bushel. Suddenly it was okay again to venture into the limelight, okay to aspire to notoriety and social prominence. Not everyone was ready to put it all out there, of course, but this was the vanguard. Call them the Gatsbabies: three dandyish gentlemen—but straight, mind you, very, very straight—who seemed to come out of nowhere. In this, they were not unlike the former James Gatz himself, on whom they unconsciously styled themselves, the emperor of West Egg, the subject of a million high school book reports and any minute now, a glistening slice of Oscar bait starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Baz Luhrmann." (Observer)

"House Republicans in tight races this fall say they are on board with the leadership’s plan to hold a repeat vote to repeal the 2010 healthcare law, even though they acknowledge it won’t go anywhere in the Senate. In an election season when every floor vote is scrutinized for its political impact, the decision by the leadership to forge ahead – with the encouragement of its most vulnerable members – underscores how confident the GOP is that the law remains unpopular with the public. 'My guess is that my constituents would appreciate another vote,' Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) said. The House GOP already voted to repeal President Obama’s healthcare overhaul as one of its first acts in 2011. But in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the law, party leaders plan to do so again on July 11. 'Obviously we all understand that it’s a statement of principle and it doesn’t have any chance in the Senate, but I think it’s appropriate,' Rep. Charlie Bass (R-N.H.) said Friday. 'I think it’s important that the majority in Congress make its position known in light of what the Supreme Court did.' Hoping the high court would strike down at least part of the law, GOP leaders had pledged to try to immediately repeal whatever was left of it. But with the decision to let it stand virtually in its entirety, a repeal vote is redundant." (TheHill)

"The word around television circles is that Armando Iannucci, satirist-in-chief of Britain’s political classes, is one of the most pleasant people to work in a petty and frequently vituperative world. But his writing is designed to hurt. 'His laser-guided humour is deadly accurate,' announced his occasional collaborator Steve Coogan when presenting Iannucci with a Writers’ Guild award last year, before adding his own savage comedic twist. 'Yes, occasionally he misses and hits a school or a hospital. But more often than not, it eviscerates a legitimate enemy target with minimal collateral damage' ...We talk about Iannucci’s latest sitcom success, HBO’s Veep, another political satire but this time based in Washington, where the level of abuse is pitched (a little) less intensely but where dementedness appears de rigueur. The series, which has ended its run in the US and recently opened on Sky Atlantic in the UK, stars Seinfeld’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus as US vice-president Selina Meyer, a figure rendered pathetic by the cruelly contrasting facts of her closeness to the centre of power, and her actual powerlessness. ('Did the president call?' she constantly and fruitlessly asks her PA, not so much a running joke as a callous reminder of her cosmic irrelevance.) There is, very deliberately, no Malcolm Tucker in Veep. 'If you spoke to the vice-president like that, you would be thrown out of the room and told never to come back,' says Iannucci. Selina Meyer’s more subtly drawn antagonist is Jonah, the White House liaison who, despite his gaucheness, derives kudos purely from working in the same building as the president. It is the West Wing effect, says Iannucci. 'One of the guys we were talking to said that as a result of working there, he started dating ‘eights’. [As in out-of-tens.] 'That is how they talk, very openly.'" (FT)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"The Washington Post has run a fewexcerptsfrom Rajiv Chandrasekaran's latest book, Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan. It contains such shockers as the revelation that inter-service rivalry at the Pentagon led to bureaucratically sub-rational outcomes. As Captain Renault said to Rick, 'I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!'  Rajiv gets a few things right. He claims that 'U.S. commanders thought that managing the NATO alliance was more important than winning the war.' A lot of the senior brass seems never to have fully internalized the strategic importance of the war in Afghanistan, despite two presidents insisting that it was a vital American national security interest. When Bush and Obama can agree on something, you have to at least consider they may be right. But much of the book dwells on interagency rivalry in Washington during the early months of the Obama administration, when I served as a staffer on the NSC. Here, Chandrasekaran embellishes, dramatizes, and exaggerates until the story is no longer recognizable.
In Chandrasekaran's telling, there was an epic rivalry between the State Department's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, and the NSC's special coordinator for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Doug Lute. I worked for Lute during some of the period covered by Chandrasekaran's story. There was plainly a rivalry of sorts, but Chandrasekaran blows it out of all proportion and neglects obvious historical and institutional factors at play. The NSC and the State Department have been rivals since the NSC was created in 1947, and the rivalry endures across policy issues and regardless of personalities. Add to the standard institutional competition the fact that the Obama administration decided to have two separate 'special' leads for Af-Pak policy, one at State and one at NSC, and it is unsurprising that the two offices clashed over their confusing, overlapping and unclear roles. That's the natural consequence of the president's poor managerial decisions and the administration's neglect of clear institutional organization." (ForeignPolicy)

Here's a sampling of the Who’s who that turned up to promote the coming 2013 film Makers: Women Who Make America. This is being backed by PBS and AOL and made by the creative Dyllan McGee. My pal the writer/promoter/fashion plate/mover-shaker, one Peggy Siegal, took me to this event at the charming Casa Lever, owned by one Abby Rosen, just off Park Avenue. The food was super but the 'names' were off the wall.  Just a few: the aforesaid Ms. Steinem ... Diane von Furstenberg, Arianna Huffington, Tina Brown, Katie Couric, Magee Hickey, Deborah Roberts, Veronica Pittman, Faith Ringold, Carolyn Roehm, Blaine Trump. Campbell Brown, Gayle King, Star Jones, Jill Fairchild, Amanda Foreman, Gigi Stone, Joanne Lipman, Geraldine Fabrikant, Jennifer Maguire, Joanna Cowles, and on and on." (NYSocialDiary)

"Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has raised $4.3 million since the Supreme Court ruled that President Obama's healthcare law is constitutional. Romney started raising funds immediately after the decision, and in a message to supporters Friday morning his campaign spokeswoman said he had raised $4.3 million from 43,000 donations. 'As of this morning, we have raised $4.3 million with 43,000 donations online,' spokeswoman Andrea Saul said. 'The Supreme Court may have found ObamaCare constitutional, but it remains just as disastrous for job creators as the day the law was passed. ObamaCare is a job killer — it raises taxes, cuts Medicare and puts government between patients and their doctors,' Saul added." (TheHill)

"This year's Serpentine Gallery summer pavilion was created by Herzog & de Meuron in collaboration with Ai Weiwei, the Chinese dissident artist who was not permitted to leave Beijing for the Tuesday night opening. Inside the semi-underground steel and cork structure was a major exhibition of the work of Yoko Ono. Three generations of Jaggers showed up to take it in—Amba, Jade, and Bianca—the lattermost of whom we found transfixed in front of a video installation of John Lennon's naked (and quite hairy) butt in motion on a rotating spool. 'Utterly fascinating' was her verdict." (Style)

Britain : America :: Aloysius : TED


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. surprised many on Thursday by providing the crucial fifth vote for upholding President Obama’s health care law. To those on the left who viewed him as an ideologue eager to pull the court rightward in a political fashion, this will now begin a re-examination of his style and legacy as it will for those on the right who considered the law unconstitutional and relied on him to make that point. Many scholars have said that Chief Justice Roberts sought to balance his own conservatism with his desire to build faith in the law and the nation’s legal institutions. But it was still striking to hear Mr. Roberts, who arrived on the court in 2005 appointed by George W. Bush, announce the upholding of the central legislative pillar of the Obama administration. He did arrive on the bench asserting the desire to restore the court’s reputation and reduce partisan rhetoric. But he was seen by many, at least on the left, as a right-winger more devoted to conservative politics than the purity of the law. That could change. 'This could be a huge day in the evolution of Chief Justice Roberts as a great chief justice,' Laurence H. Tribe, the liberal Harvard law professor, said. Mr. Tribe, who taught Mr. Roberts, said he had not opposed his nomination because he believed Mr. Roberts was less of an ideologue than many charged. 'I have some sense of gratification,' he said." (NYTimes)

"If the U.S. Supreme Court had wanted to make history, it could have: Striking down the individual mandate in the health-care law would have been the most weighty Supreme Court ruling since Franklin Roosevelt’s first New Deal was ruled unconstitutional three-quarters of a century ago. By upholding the individual mandate -- after honestly acknowledging that making people buy insurance is a tax -- the court chose the more cautious course. In the spirit of Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes and Felix Frankfurter, the court adopted the strategy of judicial restraint. The man most responsible for this comes as a surprise: Chief Justice John Roberts, a tried and tested conservative appointed by George W. Bush to the near-universal plaudits of the right. Roberts said in his confirmation hearings that he believed in judicial restraint. That has become a cliche, repeated by every would-be judge raising a right hand before a Senate committee. When the chips were down, Roberts did exactly what he had sworn to do under oath. He stayed the court’s hand and rejected activism." (Noah Feldman)

"A presidential race that’s shattering records for political spending means the campaigns are casting far and wide for cash — even if they have to leave the country to get it. President Obama’s campaign has put on fundraising events in London, Zurich and Geneva, and next on the calendar is a July 4 event in Paris featuring Obama’s senior adviser and close friend Valerie Jarrett. Meanwhile, two of Mitt Romney’s sons headlined a fundraiser last month in Hong Kong, while the candidate himself will attend his second London fundraiser next month during the Olympic Games. And multiple Republican officials told The Daily they’re exploring the possibility of an event in Israel with a high-level surrogate — something that would appear to be a first in American politics. Raising money from expatriates, Americans living abroad, isn’t a new phenomenon. But leading fundraisers in both parties say the overseas cash dash is more intense than ever before, as the expat community matures as a political constituency and the urgency to leave no money on the table reaches a fever pitch. 'The expat fundraising community seems to be better organized this time than in past races. I think it really has matured,' Wayne Berman, a Republican lobbyist and perennial presidential fundraiser, said earlier this month." (TheDaily)

"If you were up at 2:30 a.m. today, having the night sweats while feverishly awaiting today's Supreme Court verdict, you might have noticed a little story on DealBook that said that the amount of money JPMorgan Chase lost on its London Whale's trades, which were once dismissed as a "tempest in a teapot" by a guy with good cuff links and estimated at around $2 billion, had multiplied to as much as $9 billion. The $9 billion figure, which was broken by Teri Buhl yesterday, is not necessarily the amount JPMorgan has lost as of this moment — it's the maximum amount it could lose, since the Whale's trades are still being unwound. CEO Jamie Dimon has said he still expects the bank to be profitable on the quarter, and a person with knowledge of the situation told Intel this morning that the current mark-to-market value of the loss likely stands somewhat lower, more in the neighborhood of $5 to 6 billion. JPMorgan's stock is down this morning, but it's not entirely clear why. There is no new information about the details of the London Whale's trade, or the market effects of unwinding such a massive CDS position. Even if the loss is $9 billion or more, the same things that made investors jumpy two weeks ago — lax oversight of the CIO, regulators' likelihood to put a crimp on JPM's earning power in future quarters — are still true. What's new, though, is that it seems the CIO got direct orders from someone very high up at JPMorgan, perhaps Dimon himself, to exit the whale trade, stat, no matter how much a speedy exit would cost the bank ..." (NYMag)

"Houston has a problem with Michael Bay, the director of such action blockbusters as 'The Rock,' 'Armageddon,' 'Pearl Harbor,' 'Bad Boyz' and 'Transformers.' The porn star, real name Kim Halsey, reveals in her memoir, 'Houston: Pretty Enough,' how Bay dated her in the ’90s and had sex with her. But when she contacted him in 2009 and asked if he had any stories to share for her book, or quotes to give, he wrote back: 'To be crystal clear, we were never dating. We hung out and went out on one date ... it is a shame you need to create a story of some sort of romance, which is not the case.' Houston writes, 'If he wants to try to paint me as a liar of some sort, then hey, I’ll just be completely honest instead. We went out on a couple of dates. We did ecstasy and we f***ed. I wasn’t trying to create a romance. I was just trying to get a quote from a friend.' And she adds that 'Michael probably could’ve gotten work in porn with how big his d*** was.' The star of “World’s Biggest Gang Bang 3” also tells the story of her bubble bath with the then-unknown Kid Rock and two other porn queens, Coral Sands and Claudia Chase ... Houston also has fond memories of Judd Nelson, Snoop Dogg, Frank Stallone and Scott Schwartz, the kid whose tongue stuck to the frozen pole in 'A Christmas Story.'" (TheDaily)
CNN Fucked Up The #SCOTUS Decision

Fox News Fucked Up Too

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"One of the basic tenets of modern Western warfare, as articulated by theorists such as Carl von Clausewitz, is the desire to destroy the enemy in quick, decisive battles that break the enemy's ability -- and will -- to fight. In contrast, one of the basic doctrines of insurgent warfare, as articulated by theorists such as Mao Zedong and Vo Nguyen Giap, is to decline decisive battle when the odds are not favorable and to live to fight another day. The insurgent wants to prolong the battle and create a drawn-out, grinding war that will gradually wear down the stronger enemy while insurgent forces build up enough strength to fight a conventional war and defeat their opponents. Western military leaders, then, seek to quickly resolve a war, while insurgents seek to prolong it by any means -- even if this means ceding control of territory until they can amass the strength to take it back.  In the modern jihadist context, this strategy was seen clearly in Afghanistan. The Taliban, when faced with overwhelming U.S. airpower in 2001, declined combat and permitted Northern Alliance ground forces to take control of Afghanistan's cities, rather than stand and fight until they were destroyed. The Taliban then launched a classic rural-based insurgency from the mountains using Pakistan as a haven for logistics and training. Iraqi government forces also took this approach when confronted by U.S. forces during the 2003 invasion.Similarly, following the December 2006 Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, Islamist militants from the Supreme Islamic Courts Council -- many of whom would later go on to form al Shabaab -- declined to fight decisive battles and instead took to harassing the Ethiopian army's extended supply lines. This forced the Ethiopians to pull back from key cities they had captured, like Kismayo, and allowed the militants to regain control of large portions of southern Somalia. It is not unusual, then, for insurgent forces to take territory, only to surrender it and reclaim it again later." (STRATFOR)

"Turkey's understanding of how the incident played out has its increased outrage at Assad. The Turkish official told me that the pilots accidently entered Syrian airspace for five minutes, most likely miscalculating their flight path by incorrectly identifying a pair of mountain ridges toward which they were supposed to fly. They were informed of their mistake by Turkish radar station operators and returned to Turkish airspace. The pilots were then asked to correctly repeat their maneuver, which was meant to test Turkey's domestic radar capabilities, the official said. They returned to international airspace, looping around and flying back toward Turkey, parallel to the Syrian coastline, when they were shot down near the Syrian city of Lattakia, according to the official. Turkey intercepted the Syrian radio communications during the incident. There was 'no panic' in the voices of Syrian forces, the Turkish official said. It appeared they had been previously instructed to take such actions and proved themselves aware it was a Turkish aircraft, referring to it as the 'neighbors' plane. There is no denying that Turkey has emerged as a regional hub of anti-Assad activity in the Middle East. In the past year, the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) has established an office in Istanbul, with a section dedicated to military coordination. The nominal leadership of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), along with an estimated 33,000 Syrians who fled the spiraling violence inside their country, are based in 10 Turkish camps in the border region. The U.S. State Department has also established an office in Istanbul to help train activists and provide non-lethal equipment to the opposition. In the past weeks, reports have also claimed that Turkey's National Security Organization (MIT), its intelligence agency, has transported multiple shipments of weapons to rebels along the border. Turkey's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Selcuk Unal deniedthe claims, but one Syrian activist involved in transferring the new weapons from MIT to the rebels along the Syrian-Turkish border confirmed the shipments. 'For myself, it was not my aim,' said the activist, who had previously told me he preferred nonviolent measures to bring down the Assad regime. 'But it's generally what everyone wants. It's sort of a victory.'" (ForeignPolicy)

"The conventional wisdom in the battle for control of the U.S. House of Representatives is that Democrats will pick up at least some seats, perhaps netting somewhere in the high single or low double digits, but won't pick up enough seats to seriously threaten John Boehner's speakership. Indeed, if we had to project the House right now, we'd say a net Democratic gain of less than 10 seats. One possible but highly unlikely outcome -- at least at this point -- is that the Democrats overperform and recapture the House majority by netting 25 or more House seats. And equally unlikely but also possible is this: The Republicans winning their biggest House majority since before the Great Depression. Republicans currently hold 242 House seats, which is their biggest majority since 1946, when a postwar backlash against the Democrats and President Harry Truman gave Republicans 246 House seats. That was the first time Republicans had won the majority since 1928, when, in the election that swept Herbert Hoover into the presidency, Republicans won an impressive 267 seats. Two years later, after the stock market crashed, Democrats narrowly won the House majority and kept it through the Great Depression and World War II. In order to exceed their 1946 majority, Republicans would have to net an additional five seats. But given that Republicans cut so deeply into Democratic territory in 2010, that's a very difficult proposition. It would probably take a Mitt Romney romp, and even then, Democrats might still gain seats because of their many opportunities in states that under no circumstances will go to Romney, such as California, Illinois and New York, where Democrats are hopeful they can net a combined 10 seats or more." (SabatosCrystalBall)

"A Lunch gathering where Nora Ephron was to be honored yesterday turned into a tribute to the writer a day after her unexpected death. Ephron was to be one of 12 women feted at Casa Lever for AOL and PBS’  'Makers: Women Who Make America' documentary film series, along with Barbara Walters, Diane von Furstenberg, Gayle King and Katie Couric. But her passing shocked her closest friends. 'We’d known that Nora was ill, we didn’t know that she was dying,' said Walters, who revealed that she and Ephron were members of the Harpies — a close-knit cadre of lunching ladies who’ve met to eat and argue over 12 years at Michael’s, the Four Seasons and ‘21.’ Walters said of the gossipy group, 'We would discuss face-lifts, other people’s. We just met with Nora, and she looked great.' The Harpies’ ranks include Cynthia McFadden, power publicist Peggy Siegal, Condé Nast’s Maurie Perl and Beth Kseniak, former Hillary Clinton press secretary Lisa Caputo and Jennifer Isham.  But, 'Nora was definitely the spiritual and intellectual leader,' Siegal told us, adding the Harpies will continue 'with a heavy heart and an empty seat.'" (PageSix)

"A few weeks ago at Janna Bullock’s Beaux Arts mansion at 14 East 82nd street, site of her politically charged art installation 'Allegories & Experiences,' Janna staged a  'happening,' hosting a question and answer lecture with Jay McInerney. Janna’s installation consists of 24 found images, each of an individual or group from the Russian power elite: politicians, businessmen, lawyers and journalists. Some are tyrants, some are criminals, and some are victims. The 24 images represent 24 frames per second—the standard in motion picture film speed; hence the underlying visual of film in the exhibition’s aesthetic. In the manner of Richard Prince, Jenny Holzer and Ilya Kabakov, each image is accompanied by a provocative title and a story in both English and Russian, written by Janna. Jay McInerney, whose latest book The Juice, Vinous Veritas, was released that week, stated that the exhibition represented the ‘failure of the second Russian Revolution.’" (NYSocialDiary)

"When MTV announced the third iteration of their audacious O Music Awards — which gets underway tomorrow night — they promised they would break the world record for most concerts in 24 hours, traveling across 8 cities in a wired-up bus while giving away an award every hour. When the Flaming Lips were announced as the band that would break the record, we knew we had to be there. In addition to categories like “Must Follow Artist on Twitter,” the OMAs are uniquely a major tent-pole from a TV network where the second screen has become the main screen. We spoke to Lee Rolontz, executive producer for the O Music Awards and Brenna Ehrlich the managing editor for and the social media correspondent for the show. Is it even possible to live stream an entire bus tour from Memphis to New Orleans? According to Rolontz, it is. She described to us in detail the fancy technology that’s being used to pull off this challenge. Also, if all else fails, they’ll cut back to their home base in New Orleans. For a TV network trying to really innovate in digital, they’ve smartly made the main, traditional linear screen, the second screen." (LostRemote)

"Sometimes the most interesting lunchtime encounters at Michael’s happen before the crowd rushes in. Today was one of those days. When I arrived before noon, there were a handful of people already sitting in the lounge. One woman stuck out, because she was dressed in an oh-s0-tasteful head to toe Pepto Bismol-colored sweater ensemble (cashmere from St. John, I’m guessing) on such a warm day. She kept her head down when the rest of us got to chatting. I knew I knew her, but I couldn’t catch her eye. Imagine my surprise when she stood up to go to her table, and I realized it was Cindy McCain. In my defense, a tan, well-dressed blonde woman is hardly an oddity at Michael’s, and her black ‘scrunchie’ threw me. The funny thing is no one seemed to notice when she walked back to her table in the Garden Room, proving that, in New York when your 15 minutes are up, they’re up.
I was joined today by producer Joan Gelman and public relations and marketing executive Robert Zimmerman, who is also a political analyst for CNN and Fox News ... The other topic of conversation that had everyone talking was the shocking news that Nora Ephron had died of leukemia." (Diane Clehane/LunchatMichaels)

"Since joining The New York Times in 2002, David Carr has become America’s most visible and influential writer on the media. His weekly “Media Equation” column is closely followed by people in the industry. Last year, he was featured in Interview magazine (interviewed by screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, no less), and he was the star of the 2011 documentary Page One: Inside The New York Times, in which he comes across as a gruff and indefatigable truth-teller. That documentary showed Carr in the act of reporting his stellar article on the disastrous decline of the Tribune Company under Sam Zell. For the piece, Carr interviewed more than 20 current and former employees of the company. He then described how, under the direction of Randy Michaels, a former radio executive and shock jock chosen by Zell to run the company, the Tribune Tower in Chicago came to resemble a frat house, full of sexual innuendo, profane invective, and poisonous workplace banter. Carr showed how Michaels and other executives received tens of millions of dollars in bonuses while laying off hundreds at the Chicago Tribune and other papers. It was a devastating account of the hubristic destruction of one of America’s top media companies. This is the hard-hitting David Carr—a relentless interviewer, incisive analyst, and gifted writer all rolled into one—and the piece on Zell and company showed the powerful effect he can have when he applies those qualities to an important subject.  But there’s another David Carr, one who is breezy, knowing, star-struck, and insidery, and it’s this David Carr who, alas, more often than not shows up in his weekly column." (CJR)
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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Why I Am No Longer Going To Milk Gallery

I have, over the years, said all manner of good things about Milk Studios. I have even went so far as to calling it "my favorite space in New York." No longer.

In January I attended the Aaron Stern exhibition where Zoe Kravits, Alexa Chung, Penn Badgely, Annie Clark (of St. Vincents), Mazdack Rassi, Devin Church, Nur Khan and Alexandra Richards were in attendance. Last May I attended and blogged -- favorably -- about the Open Rankin exhibition (how many guests did that?).  In january 2010 I blogged asbout the James Macari exhibition of Paz de la Huerta sexy photos, just before she blew up as a cultural wildfire because of HBO's Boardwalk Empire. In December 2011, I attended model Coco Rocha's Letter to Haiti premiere. I blogged about it; I tweeted about it.  And way back in January 2010 I reported on the opening reception for Patti Smith and Steven Sebring's 'Objects of Life.' In short, I have been a faithful fucking friend of Milk Gallery, keeping my blog audience of sophisticated thinkers and tastemakers abreast as to what is going on at Milk for years. My audience has been in essence their audience on reception night. I doubt there is any blog on the planet that has been as faithful a friend to Milk Gallery's New York incarnation with as many readers as I have. So what is this about?

I bring all of this up because for the second -- and last time -- I was denied entry at Milk. Earlier this year an event that I RSVPd for about a month in advance claimed that I was not on the list, though, strangely, my date -- who came earlier in the evening -- was on the lost. The thing is I RSVPd for her so ... dodgy. But I let that slide. I FB messaged Jessica Conatser, we had a friendly back and forth and I left it at that. A simple misunderstanding.

But yesterday, to be quite frank, was the last straw. At an open event, the security staff at Milk -- hereafter they will be referred to as "The Milk Thugs" -- told me "you're not gedding in." As I walked off the line, stunned, a couple of other young men, well-dressed, some white, some African-American, all commisserated. "But I RSVPd," one young man said to a tall, Neanderthalish-looking Latino-American security guard, who duly ignored him. The event was actually an invite only event -- I was invited; I also RSVPd a month in advance -- but was switched to an open event at the last minute. I asked, politely, why I was asked to step off the line, and the Milk Thug repeated "you are not getting in." The wonders of a classical education!

I should add here that Jessica Conatser, the social media director, who I contacted via Facebook chat, assured me, minutes after getting asked off the line, that it was an open event and "everyone is welcome." I relayed that to the Milk Thug who duly assured me that "... you're not gedding in." Vocabulary builds character!

I fault Jessica in the fact that as social media director she remained indoors mingling and was not at the door enforcing the openness of the event. The door was anything but "social," and her job goes far and beyond the digital realm -- especially when it comes to invited press, which is what I was in essence. I feel also more than a little betrayed that after years of writing about them, the arbitrary position of a hired douchebag was held to be more important.

But it is not entirely Jess's fault. The security staff at Milk need a fucking spanking, so drunk are they on their own meager power that they arbitrarily deny entrance to whomever they wish and -- this is the worst part -- refuse to even give a reason as to how those sordid decisions came about. And I blame the choice of security on Mazdack Rassi, the head of Milk Made, formerly of my favorite space in New York.

And so I won't be going back to Milk without an apology and I really don't expect one. Somehow I think I'll survive.
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"In concluding his elegant book On China, Henry Kissinger describes an ongoing debate within Chinese leadership circles. Some of its ruling class believes China should maintain its 'peaceful development' strategy in accordance with a rules-based international order, while others demand that China now adopt a more aggressive posture that directly challenges American primacy. I've just returned from a month in China and experienced some of this debate firsthand. Visits to several cities, and meetings and conversations with Chinese officials, scholars, foreign business leaders, American officials and, yes, taxi drivers produce an amalgam of impressions.The best way to make sense of the current state of affairs in China is to think of not one but several 'Chinas' -- each is real, but none by itself is the full reality. The following are six of the 'Chinas' that exist today; the question is which of these will command the future .." (Foreignpolicy)

"The numbers are close, but new data from key national battlegrounds gives Barack Obama an edge to work with. A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll has President Obama leading Mitt Romney in swing states, including respondents in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin, by a count of 50 to 42 percent. The latest Quinnipiac numbers are also good news for the reelection campaign, showing Obama topping Romney in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania on the strength of his key coalitions: young people, women, and African-Americans. The NBC poll also indicates that attacks on Romney's business record may be working. Among those polled in swing states, where the Obama campaign has focused early ads aimed at Romney's Bain years, 33 percent say what they know about Romney's business record gives them a more negative view of him. Just 18 percent say it makes them think more positively. Romney's lead when it comes to handling the economy has almost disappeared in the Quinnipiac poll, where voters are now split. In Florida, 46 percent said Romney would do a better job, compared to 44 percent for Obama, but in Florida voters lean Obama's way 47-45, while Ohio is even at 44. On Tuesday's Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell, New York's own John Heilemann said the new numbers should quiet Democrats who've been fretting about the Obama campaign's strategy — or, as David Plouffe memorably described them, 'the bed-wetters.'" (NYMag)

"President Obama is exhorting supporters on the campaign trail to avoid rounds of boos or catcalls directed toward his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney. The repeated efforts by Obama — used as recently as Tuesday at an Atlanta fundraiser — are intended to send a signal that he’s heading up a positive campaign even as he runs countless ads excoriating Romney’s business background.
It’s also part of a calculated effort to contrast his handling of the hecklers with Romney’s. The presumptive GOP nominee has witnessed crowds at his events booing Obama but has not sought to quiet them. And, in an interview on Fox News, Romney would not commit to urging his supporters and staff to stop the heckling. 'I can assure you that we do not believe in unilateral disarmament,' he said, echoing earlier comments he made that 'if you’re going to be heckling us, why, we’re not going to sit back and play [by] very different rules.' Like Romney, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the 2008 GOP nominee, faced a slew of belligerent supporters. Those attendees, however, took their Obama criticism beyond booing, including one woman at a Minnesota town hall who infamously called Obama 'an Arab.' McCain faced some initial criticism for not trying to quiet the crowds but, when he later sought to soothe his supporters’ emotions, instructing crowds to be 'respectful,' he paid a price for their outbursts. 'John McCain certainly suffered when, after picking [Sarah] Palin, his audiences sometimes turned aggressive and even violent toward Democrats,' said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. 'This pushed him toward the far right, rather than the center he always thought he could secure, and allowed Obama to fill the void.'" (TheHill)

"'When someone comes into your house and throws shit around, you get pissed,' Anna Holmes told The Observer. She was speaking in metaphor: The house was the Gawker Media women’s interest blog Jezebel, of which she was the founding editor; the someone was the blog’s commenters, a famously undisciplined crowd. 'If you open your front door to people they just act like jerks,' agreed former Gizmodo editor Joel Johnson. Now the managing editor of Animal NY, he has abolished its comments sections altogether. Blog proprietor Nick Denton has a different plan—he’s giving them the run of the place. The commenters are creating content, after all, just like the writers. What’s the difference? 'I want to erase this toxic Internet class system,' he told The Observer in a gmail chat.'Nick has always loved to subtly and not so subtly insult his employees,' said Gawker writer John Cook. 'He thinks of us as glorified commenters.' In some cases, the writers are glorified commenters.For years, the sections served as a farm league for the blogs’ staffs. It’s where Drew Magary (BigDaddyDrew), Richard Lawson (LolCait), and Erin Gloria Ryan (MorningGloria) launched their writing careers. Now, with a new commenting system called Kinja, Mr. Denton is offering a set of housekeys to anyone who wants them. Gone are the old barriers to entry—the invites, the followers, the star-shaped badges—that kept the comments cliquish. Under the new order, the commenters babysit themselves, while a secret algorithm ranks their conversations by relevance." (Observer)

"It’s the nature of New York life that change is inexorable, that older buildings get plowed over in favor of new buildings, that yesterday’s Lower East Side pickle stall becomes today’s curtained mixology den, that Girls now tramps gleefully upon the memory of Sex and the City. But New York without Nora Ephron is just plain wrong. I join the V.F. family in mourning, and wishing futilely against, the devastating loss of our friend, colleague, and unfailingly entertaining dining companion, who passed away yesterday at the age of seventy-one. Nora was actually raised in Beverly Hills, where her parents worked as screenwriters, but in adulthood, she was New York incarnate. If you want to take a smart, funny, brisk, real-time plunge into what the city was like in the sixties and seventies, you can do no better than Wallflower at the Orgy (1970) and Crazy Salad (1975), her two collections of the stuff she wrote in those trip-wire years for New York and Esquire, among other publications. The New Journalism movement was largely a boys’ club. Nora didn’t so much push to join this club as stake out her own Nora Journalism turf, doing participatory stories about the burgeoning feminist movement (she belonged to a particularly fraught consciousness-raising group) and crafting essays about food celebrities before anyone else had realized that we as a culture had developed food celebrities. And then, she transcended mere journalism altogether to become this extraordinary polymath. I’ll spare you the full C.V. and list of credits because it’ll be done more professionally elsewhere, but here’s a sampling: Nora the Novelist (Heartburn); Nora the Oscar-Nominated Screenwriter (Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally . . . ); Nora the Movie Director (Julie & Julia, Sleepless in Seattle); Nora the Playwright (Imaginary Friends). By rights she should also have been Nora the Insufferably Smug Over-Accomplisher, but here’s the thing: this was a woman unfailingly generous of spirit, a person who authentically enjoyed making new friends of all ages, every day." (VanityFair)
"Early last evening I went over to Lincoln Center for the opening of the 18th Midsummer Night Swing that is held in Damrosch Park, on the south side of the Metropolitan Opera House. Paul and Daisy Soros started this as part of their philanthropic contributions more than 18 years ago. They wanted to do something at Lincoln Center for the neighbors in the summertime. Daisy thought dancing is something that makes everybody happy. Last night they hosted a cocktail and dinner for about 100 friends in a tented platform overlooking the dance floor and the stage where the Nelson Riddle Orchestra was playing Sinatra, Ella, and the music of the '50s and '60s." (NYSocialDiary)

"What do People Like Us, and people like them, do on a blissfully breezy Monday eve? Hit the Cinema Society and Allure screening of the Elizabeth Banks and Chris Pine flick at Chelsea's SVA Theater, followed by a rooftop shindig blocks away at Hotel Americano. The cast avec writer/director Alex Kurtzman (who based the film on his own experience meeting his half sibs for the first time at age 30) mingled with the Conde beauty glossy's EIC, Linda Wells, along with a mellow and chatty crowd including Girls' Zosia Mamet (The Daily loves you, Shosh!), Coco Rocha, Kenneth Branagh, Gina Gershon, Tyson Ballou, Rachel Roy, and Andrew Wyatt, one of the men behind the genius jams of Miike Snow." (Fashionweekdaily)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Israel on June 25 for his first state visit since retaking the presidency. The visit was arranged in mid-May, and so at least part of the agenda was set, given events in Syria and Egypt. The interesting thing about Israel and Russia is that while they seem to be operating in the same areas of interest and their agendas seem disconnected, their interests are not always opposed. It is easy to identify places they both care about but more difficult to identify ways in which they connect. It is therefore difficult to identify the significance of the visit beyond that it happened. An example is Azerbaijan. Russia is still a major weapons provider for Azerbaijan, but the Israelis are now selling it large amounts of weapons and appear to be using it as a base from which to observe and, according to rumors, possibly attack Iran. Russia, which supports Armenia, a country Azerbaijan fought a war with in the late 1980s and early 1990s and technically still is at war with, ought to oppose Israel's action, particularly since it threatens Iran, which Russia does not want attacked. At the same time, Russia doesn't feel threatened by Israeli involvement in Azerbaijan, and Israel doesn't really care about Armenia. Both are there, both are involved and both think Azerbaijan is important, yet each operates in ways that ought to conflict but don't. The same is true in the more immediate case of Syria, where its downing of a Turkish plane has created an unexpected dynamic for this visit." (STRATFOR)

"'Speaking truth to stupid.' I never watched 'West Wing'. I did religiously view 'Sports Night', but it was never as good as the critics claimed. But then I went to see 'Social Network' and I became an Aaron Sorkin fan. In a dumbed-down world where I have to spell out everything I say I could barely keep up with the dialogue. Sorkin was assuming I was smart. And no one's done that for a very long time. The critics might kill 'Newsroom'. Along with the PR department of HBO. The problem is these old wave companies still think it's the nineties, that if they employ carpet bomb publicity we'll all pay attention and drink from the trough. As if we are as dumb as all the dialogue in 'Newsroom' says we are. I almost didn't watch this show. Because every review said it was so-so. It is. But that's missing the point. Entertainment, when done right, is all about emotion. That's what's wrong with so much of the paint-by-numbers Top Forty ... It's like our whole country has become the Yankees, an overly ripe, overly rich team which tolerates no dissension and frequently plays well but never wins the big one. Because to win big, you've got to question, you've got to be an outlier, you've got to look for the little things that make a difference. Like talent. Aaron Sorkin's got it. Bristol Palin does not. Nor do the Kardashians. " (LefsetzLetter)

"Rory Kennedy never expected to get her mother Ethel’s blessing to make a documentary that would include her first interview in more than 30 years. 'I called [my mom] up and said, ‘I am sure you don’t want to do this,’ and she said, ‘Yes,’ ' the director said Saturday when the doc debuted at the Nantucket Film Festival a ferry ride from the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port. But Kennedy added that Ethel, 84, widow of murdered former Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, still wasn’t crazy about the title. 'She doesn’t like her name, and I called the film ‘Ethel’ . . . Every time I say the name of the film she cringes,' Kennedy said. A cadre of Kennedys were spotted at the screening at the Dreamland Theater, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s daughter Kathleen 'Kick' Kennedy, who stars in HBO’s 'The Newsroom.'" (PageSix)

"A packed crowd of 1,000 VIP collectors and guests attended the opening of Art Greenwich aboard the 228-foot mega-yacht SeaFair. The distinguished crowd was in high spirits despite the less than ideal weather conditions, unanimous in their praise of the inaugural May event. Differing from its returning sister fair in September, which will feature 19th and early 20th Century works, as well as haute and period jewelry, the spring edition boasts 28 contemporary galleries and special installations. Art enthusiasts were not left wanting, with three decks of international artists' works to peruse including works by pop art and post war icons Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist, Robert Rauschenberg, Tom Wesselmann, Robert Indiana, Roy Lichtenstein ..." (NYSocialDiary)

"Paper's resident film festival documentarian Henny Garnfunkel hit up the Provincetown Film Festival last week, where indie film movers and shakers including Parker Posey, John Waters, Christine Vachon and Roger Corman gathered to celebrate the best in new indie films, shorts and documentaries. Check out her portraits below and watch Nicolas Jenkins' interviews with Posey, Waters and more .." (Papermag)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"'Show me your papers' is the most familiar provision of Arizona's tough immigration law, but it is not the most consequential. As such, the Supreme Court's decision Monday to allow that provision of the state law to stand is still a victory for the Obama administration. Conservative critics of the federal government's complaint against Arizona had hoped for a wholesale endorsement of the state law. Instead, Arizona got permission to do what local police officers all over the country already do on an ad hoc basis -- check with federal officials about a questionable person's legal status inside the United States. The Supreme Court agreed with the federal government's argument that the three other questionable parts of Arizona's law -- warrantless arrests, ID requirements, and criminalizing work of undocumented workers -- improperly stomped on the federal government's role of enforcing immigration law. 'Federal governance of immigration and alien status is extensive and complex,' the high court held in an opinion written by the moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy. He was joined by four other justices -- Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor. In other words, it wasn't even close with five justices on board and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas only dissenting in part. Justice Elena Kagan did not participate in the deliberations because of her previous work on the issue with the Obama administration." (TheAtlantic)

"Former blogger Cat Marnell, who quit her job because she couldn’t give up drugs, has found a handy new home at Vice magazine. The beauty writer, who famously told us she’d rather 'be on the rooftop of Le Bain looking for shooting stars and smoking angel dust' than hold down a job, will be a weekly contributor with a column called Amphetamine Logic, where she opines on life while under the influence. Vice Editor-in Chief Rocco Castoro said he has no qualms that her habit could get in the way of work. 'We’re not worried in the slightest'' he said. 'In fact, it’s the New York society pages who should be worried. If she blows it, they’ll have to find another writer who’s worth writing about.'" (PageSix)

"Fifth. The Daily News announced on Friday that the house at 973 Fifth Avenue had sold to an undisclosed buyer for $42 million. Houses have always fascinated me since I was a small boy. It was the impact of the design and the size, aesthetically speaking, but even more was my curiosity about Who lived there, and What were they like?  It so happens the little boy grew up to be a man who has had the pleasure of learning more about them, and often first-hand. 973 Fifth has always been one of those houses for this New Yorker – along with its birth companion, 972 Fifth, which was built at the beginning of the 20th century for Helen and Payne Whitney as a wedding gift from Mr. Whitney’s uncle Oliver Payne one of the pleasures of my business is to learn more about them. When I was that little boy with the big eyes, such houses were imagined to be someone’s dream come true, so enormous, so magnificent. Kings and Queens in their castles. Now that magnificence still resonates at times although the enormity and its posture had proved mainly irrelevant, and even at times a burden, when it comes to human life." (NYSocialDiary)

"Forget renting out the upstairs room of the Spotted Pig and/or flying 12 of your best friends to the Turks and Caicos for a spa weekend. The hottest celebrity birthday trend is about as unglamorous as hot celebrity birthday trends get: taking a spin class at SoulCycle. First, back in December, SoulCycle devotee Jake Gyllenhaal inadvertently started the trend by spending the morning of his 31st birthday at a SoulCycle class in Union Square. Then in late March, Star Jones kicked off her 50th birthday weekend with a private group class at a SoulCycle in New York. A few days later Lady Gaga celebrated her 26th birthday with a spin class for her buds at West Hollywood's SoulCycle. Then in May, Lena Dunham also celebrated her 26th birthday at SoulCycle, but in New York, with New Girl's Max Greenfield (pictured at left) and her dad in attendance. Today, we learned that over the weekend, actress Minka Kelly (pictured below) spent the morning of her 32nd birthday at SoulCycle in L.A., and that afterwards she was presented with a cupcake." (Papermag)

"If it weren’t for one or two things, Daniel Shak wouldn’t be such a well known guy. His hedge fund, SHK Asset Management, wasn’t what you’d call a major player. But by investing the $10 million fund in gold futures, then liquidating the position, Mr. Shak set off the largest single day drop in gold contracts traded on the Comex. Some months later, Mr. Shak stumbled upon some hard to find info about his ex-wife, the professional poker player Beth Shak, that has renewed the hedge fund manager’s fame. According to the New York Post 'In the summer of 2011, Daniel became aware that Beth owned and failed to disclose an extensive . . . collection of Christian Louboutin shoes . . . and other high-end designer shoes and bags,' his suit says. A few questions ..." (Observer)

"Washington is in for one of its wildest weeks in a long time, and the stakes could hardly be higher for President Barack Obama. The Supreme Court is expected to hand down its landmark decision on the president’s signature first-term achievement, the 2010 health care law, a ruling with huge implications for Obama’s legacy and his prospects for a second term. A second high court opinion on Arizona’s immigration law will touch on another hot-button campaign issue. Across the street at the Capitol, meanwhile, Congress will confront two critical legislative disputes that Obama has put at the forefront of his campaign lately: student loan rates and highway funding. Obama has taken every opportunity to prod GOP congressional leaders to keep loan rates from doubling and urge them to fund federal highway programs. Laws covering both will expire June 30.As if that weren’t enough drama, the House is expected Thursday to vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to fork over thousands of pages of internal Justice Department documents detailing why federal officials allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. The Fast and Furious scandal has been simmering for months, but it boiled over last week when a House committee voted to hold Holder in contempt of Congress despite an administration claim of executive privilege. If the House approves the measure, it will be the first time in U.S. history that one of the chambers has voted to hold a sitting attorney general in contempt ... Voters head to the ballot box in less than five short months, and the confluence of events this week could alter the course of the campaign for the White House and Congress." (Politico)

"'I love everything Prabal does—every woman wants a piece in their closet,' Joan Smalls told last night at Indochine, where the designer Prabal Gurung and his friends Diane von Furstenberg, Jenna Lyons, and Liu Wen, among others, were toasting his recent Resort collection. And when she said every woman, Smalls wasn't kidding: 'He hasn't given me a piece,' she said. 'I think we need to talk about this' ... Later, after the Brit singer Paloma Faith sang a pair of songs that had everyone saying, 'Wait, she was amazing, what was her name again?' Gurung surprised his pal Zoe Saldana with a birthday cake. 'Now that I'm later in my life, it's about accepting what I need and not what I want,' the actress said." (Style)