Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

" If the timing of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's trip to Israel and the Middle East this week is a 'coincidence,' as White House spokesman Jay Carney asserted on Friday, it's one of the most politically convenient in presidential campaign history. President Obama's Pentagon chief arrived from Washington on Sunday for high-level talks in Tunisia, Egypt, Israel, and Jordan during Mitt Romney's highly publicized visit to Israel between London and Poland. Panetta's visit follows trips to the Middle East and North Africa this month by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, and other administration officials. They're part of an Obama administration blitz designed to demonstrate at home and abroad U.S. support for new democratic governments, in Tunisia and Egypt, and old: namely Israel. President Obama himself cannot wade into the morass with a regional visit 100 days from Election Day; it would only invite a lost week of campaign distractions, and probably sway few votes. But he doesn't have to. After the diplomats and White House advisors comes Panetta, bringing the full-throated, frank-talking, multi-billion dollar support of the U.S. military. In the run-up to Romney's trip, conservatives had slammed Obama's handling of the Middle East as ignoring Israel -- the president has not visited Jerusalem and the administration, Romney argues, has discouraged Israel's threats to use military force to halt Iran's apparent pursuit of nuclear weapons. Obama, the charge continues, is too soft for relying on economic sanctions and international coalition building to stymie Iran, too reluctant to intervene militarily on behalf of Syria's rebels against the hated Bashar al-Assad, and too weak in his inability to stop the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi in Egypt." (ForeignPolicy)

"The American presidency is designed to disappoint. Each candidate must promise things that are beyond his power to deliver. No candidate could expect to be elected by emphasizing how little power the office actually has and how voters should therefore expect little from him. So candidates promise great, transformative programs. What the winner actually can deliver depends upon what other institutions, nations and reality will allow him. Though the gap between promises and realities destroys immodest candidates, from the founding fathers' point of view, it protects the republic. They distrusted government in general and the office of the president in particular. Congress, the Supreme Court and the Federal Reserve Board all circumscribe the president's power over domestic life. This and the authority of the states greatly limit the president's power, just as the country's founders intended. To achieve anything substantial, the president must create a coalition of political interests to shape decision-making in other branches of the government. Yet at the same time -- and this is the main paradox of American political culture -- the presidency is seen as a decisive institution and the person holding that office is seen as being of overriding importance." (STRATFOR)

"I’ve been reading 'Citizens of London' by Lynne Olson. The book was published by Random House two years ago. A friend gave it to me as a birthday present then but I hadn’t yet got around to reading it until a couple of weeks ago when my neighbor Joan Hardy Clark told me she’d just finished it and that it was really good. The cover features the blurb: The Americans Who Stood With Britain In Its Darkest, Finest Hour, along with a photograph of five men on a launch leaving Westminster Pier: Prime Minister Winston Churchill, FDR presidential adviser Harry Hopkins, American Ambassador John Gilbert Winant, American envoy William Bullitt and Lord of the Admiralty A. V. Alexander. After running into Joan, I pulled the book out from under the pile waiting for me, just to see if I could get a glimpse of “why” she thought it was so good.I’ve got another sixty pages to go and it is one of those books that as you get deeper into it, you try to read it faster because it’s so interesting/exciting/emotionally-wrought, as well as revelatory about these characters who are now historical on both sides of the Atlantic. The title is misleading (and unfortunately doesn’t reflect the richly, informative, almost novelistic qualities of the historical content) because it’s not just about the Americans but about the British, especially Mr. Churchill. And Mr. Roosevelt. And that time and that place." (NYSocialDiary)

"Sand castles and SPF? Not at this beach party, darlings! On Friday night, the Cinema Society along with Rent The Runway hosted a midsummer fete for the new film, Robot & Frank, starring Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, and Liv Tyler at the oceanfront maison de Jerry and Judy Della Femina. The notable coterie of Hamptonites and celebs who joined the cast post-rainstorm included John Leguizamo, John Slattery, Barbara Walters, Joy Behar, Judith Giuliani, Zosia Mamet (more girls!), Hilary Rhoda, Nanette Lepore, Fern Mallis, Daniel Benedict, Andrew Saffir, Malcolm Carfrae, Katie Lee, Greta Monahan, Lucy Sykes Rellie, Richard Johnson, Russell Simmons, and Harry and Peter Brandt Jr. who caught up with Tyler amid air-kisses on the tapis rouge." (Fashionweekdaiy)

"I attended fourteen schools in all, but the one I loathed the most was very hard to leave. Trust me, I tried everything. This was a windswept Dickensian nightmare on the south English coast. In the evenings, after Matron had performed her rounds, checking to see we were all in bed, it was time to play. My best friend Gia was fearless and up for anything, her only fear was spiders. After ‘lights out’ Gia and I would hustle fellow miscreants and I would lead us out onto the downs and the white Cliffs of Dover. If we happened across a construction site we would set about removing tools and chucking them about. We dragged planks and anything not bolted down and hurled them over the cliffs. As dawn peaked, after a night’s ransacking, we would return to the school, breaking back in how we had escaped, through the kitchen window. One time, upon re-entry, we heard the sounds of Matron. There were eight of us on that particular excursion and we had just crawled in through the window. Matron was calling out names." (Christina Oxenbrg)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"The death of Osama bin Ladin and the fall of Arab dictators have left al-Qa'ida's leadership in disarray, its narrative confused, and the organization on the defensive. One silver lining for al-Qaida, however, has been its affiliate organizations. In Iraq, the Maghreb, Somalia, Yemen, and elsewhere, al-Qa'ida has used local groups to expand its reach, increase its power, and grow its numbers. This string of mergers is not over. In places as diverse as the Sinai Peninsula and Nigeria, al-Qa'ida-linked organizations are emerging. However, the jihadist world is more fractured than it may appear at first glance. Many Salafi-jihadist groups have not joined with al-Qa'ida, and even if they have, tensions and divisions occur that present the United States and its allies with opportunities for weakening the bond. The role of affiliates is perhaps the most important uncertainty when assessing whether or not the United States and its allies are 'winning' the struggle against al-Qa'ida. If affiliates are really part of the al-Qa'ida core, then the overall movement Zawahiri champions is robust and growing. But if the affiliates are al-Qa'ida in little more than name, then Zawahiri's organization, the core of which has been hit hard in recent years, may be close to defeat." (ForeignPolicy)

"Jonah Lehrer, the staff writer for The New Yorker who apologized in June for recycling his previous work in articles, blogs and his best-selling book 'Imagine,' resigned from the magazine, he said in a statement." (MediaDecoder)

"Long story short, over the last three weeks, widely ballyhooed author, contemporary thinker, and erstwhile New Yorker writer Jonah Lehrer has been questioned for what one reporter suspected were fabricated quotes from Bob Dylan—of all people—in the first chapter of Lehrer’s new book. The book, ‘Imagine,’ has been promoted everywhere from the Colbert Report to The New York Times and beyond. This morning, the post about Lehrer’s fabricated and re-contextualized quotes was published. Lehrer has since confessed to having fabricated the quotes, and resigned from his job at The New Yorker. His book was put on indefinite hold by its publisher (also, a Fake Bob Dylan Quotes Twitter emerged).  The guy who started all of this? A Tablet contributor, former VICE editor, and Wall Street Journal freelancer, Michael C. Moynihan. The Observer reached Moynihan by phone this afternoon, and spoke with him about how he got started on this story, whether or not he thinks Lehrer is truly remorseful, and why he’s motivated to cover stories like these. Also: What it’s like to cause one of the more stunning turn-of-events in media this year." (Observer)

"Late in the afternoon of Dec. 1, 2010, I got a call from a features editor at Vogue. She asked if I wanted to go to Syria to interview the first lady, Asma al-Assad.'Absolutely not,' I said. 'I don’t want to meet the Assads, and they don’t want to meet a Jew.' The editor explained that the first lady was young, good-looking, and had never given an interview. Vogue had been trying to get to her for two years. Now she’d hired a PR firm, and they must have pushed her to agree. 'Send a political journalist,' I said. 'We don’t want any politics, none at all,' said the editor, “and she only wants to talk about culture, antiquities, and museums. You like museums. You like culture. She wants to talk to you. You’d leave in a week.' A week: clearly my name was last on a list of writers that the first lady had rejected because they knew nothing about Mesopotamia. I didn’t consider the possibility that the other writers had rejected the first lady. 'Let me think about it,' I said. I had written four cover stories that year, three about young actresses and one about a supermodel who had just become a mother. This assignment was more exciting, and when else would I get to see the ruins of Palmyra?" (TheDailyBeast)

"Anything would work, because I was attending Robert Wilson’s 19th Annual Watermill Center Summer Benefit, this year entitled, ‘Big Bang’. Every year, Bob brings together artists of all persuasions, medium and origins, to work, cook, live and create together at his Center. The party presents and celebrates their work. People who look like they understand all, like Christophe de Menil, Beth DeWoody, Maja Hoffman, Hannah Bronfman, Renaud Dutreil, Richard Meier, Cindy Sherman and Tom Sachs, moved in to the tent, spectacularly glowing with a giant jellyfish like orb. Later, Jay McInerney would introduce Bob, who would then spend a contemplative moment in said orb, before bursting forth with characteristic drama, and announcing 'We have to do what no one else is doing!' That included the Mike Kelley exhibition about which, ‘The board said we couldn’t afford to do. We couldn’t afford NOT to do it!' The pace picked up, as the 60 or so artists in residence marched to the jellyfish, surrounding it and chanting ‘TIME BOMB’, in shirts that reflected that message. " (Debbie Bancroft/NYSD)

"With a full schedule of art, shopping, and film events in the Hamptons this weekend, the fashion set made its way out east despite the wet weather forecast. The crowds stayed mostly dry at the 15th annual Super Saturday charity event, which raised over $3.6 million for ovarian cancer research. But just as the likes of Cindy Sherman, Lou Reed, and Rufus Wainwright began arriving at the Watermill Center for its summer benefit, The Big Bang, it started to pour. 'The rain is a little unfortunate, right?' said Klaus Biesenbach as he made his way up a long entryway lit with tiki torches and marked by a large-scale recreation of Paul Thek's work Big Bang Painting. The MoMA curator's favorite installation of the evening—an exhibition of the work of the late artist Mike Kelley—was on view inside, but there were plenty of additional distractions on the the six-acre site. Kembra Pfahler and a crew of other almost-naked women dipped in various shades of paint performed in front of a 60-foot inflatable phallus by Paul McCarthy, and Janice Lancaster Larsen rolled in the mud in what was originally a white wedding gown. 'I hear if you're looking for something to do, you're welcome to join her in there,' someone remarked as Harry Brant, Michelle Harper, and Bob Colacello huddled around the performance artist." (Style)

"Tomorrow evening at their chic Kalorama residence, the French Ambassador, Francois Delattre, and his wife, Sophie, will host a party for one of Washington's most popular men, Roland Celette. It will likely be a fabulous party, but it will also be sad, too, because Celette is leaving his post as the embassy's cultural attaché to return to France. Le tout Washington, such as it is in the depths of summer, will be there to say 'au revoir.' The story below earlier appeared in The Washingtonian (http://www.washingtonian.com/), where I'm now editor at large, but it seemed a natural to replay here on my beloved former home, NYSD. " (Carol Joynt/NYSocialDiary)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

" The U.S. presidential race might be deadlocked, but when Mitt Romney visits Israel on Sunday, July 29, the presumptive Republican nominee can reasonably expect the most heartfelt welcome he'll receive anywhere outside Utah. Israeli enthusiasm for Romney is not necessarily the result of a carefully cultivated relationship -- as a former governor and business executive he had little time for foreign policy. Instead, affection for the candidate appears to be a clear case of ABO: Anyone But Obama. The proof is in the polling. Thirty percent of Israelis surveyed think U.S.-Israel relations would improve under Romney, while a mere 8 percent said the same about a second Obama term. Among the 300,000 Americans living in Israel (half of whom are eligible to vote), support for Romney is twiceas high as it is for Obama.  Romney's two-day visit -- during which he will also meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad -- is his fourth ever to Israel, and it's his first foreign trip since clinching the Republican nomination. The stop is aimed at two constituencies the candidate is desperate to woo: evangelicals -- reliably Republican but leery of his Mormonism -- and Jewish Americans, heavily concentrated in swing states like Ohio and Florida and vexed, his campaign believes, by Obama's policies toward the Jewish state ... The problem doesn't seem to be that Israelis see Obama as openly hostile -- polls show them evenly split over whether he is "friendly" to their country. Instead, many think the president just doesn't 'get' Israel and lacks the empathyof George W. Bush or even his Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton'President Obama never acquired the connection with the Israeli public that President Clinton had,' says Dore Gold, the American-born president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a former advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 'Obama just hasn't managed to have the same 'click' with the man on the street.'
'Many American Jews are very liberal and don't count Israel as one of the top issues in their life,' says Bardash, a New Jersey native who moved to Jerusalem 16 years ago. 'But among those who define themselves as pro-Israel and for whom Israel is important, we believe Obama has lost a lot of support.'" (Foreignpolicy)

"We are midway through the first course at Moscow’s best Italian restaurant when I notice out of the corner of my eye that something on my guest’s plate is moving. Sure enough, at second glance, it turns out that one of the fresh scampi that has just been served to Alexander Lebedev, the billionaire Moscow banker and London newspaperman sitting across from me and waxing eloquent about the Russian potato farming industry, is very, very fresh. In fact, it is trying to get off his plate. Lebedev blocks it with his table knife. He doesn’t mention it and, since I am a well brought-up US Midwesterner – conditioned to make polite conversation even if my lunch partner gets hit by a falling anvil – neither do I. Instead I focus on the Russian potato industry. Lebedev spears and eats the scampi. In my defence, I should add that he chose the restaurant. We are lunching at Bistrot, where a meal costs about as much as a round-trip ticket to Rome. A block from the Moscow river’s Savvinskaya embankment and right around the corner from Soho Rooms, which is sort of the Death Star of Moscow nightclubs, Bistrot is run by uprooted Italians from the town of Forte dei Marmi, a Russianised enclave on the Tuscan coast. 'One [Boris] Berezovsky moves to the south of France and a hundred Berezovskys follow him,' Lebedev says, describing the herd instinct of the Russian leisure class, and referring to the notorious London-based tycoon. As he tells it, some executives of a Russian state bank bought villas in Forte dei Marmi a few years ago, and a throng followed them ... He has also come with a printout. In April the FT published a history of “Lunch with the FT”, and Lebedev has zeroed in on a list of the most expensive lunches (the rule is that the FT always pays). At number nine is his son Evgeny, who presides over the Lebedev media empire in the UK, which includes the Evening Standard and the Independent newspapers. In 2009 Evgeny racked up an impressive £196.13 at London’s Sake No Hana. 'Let’s see if I can beat Evgeny,' says Lebedev, unrolling his napkin with a flourish. I take a look at the menu. This is not going to be hard." (FT)

"Democratic political consultant James Carville warned Democrats to expect a tough presidential race in a fundraising email entitled “nightmare” that he wrote on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Mr. Carville, a television pundit and key strategist on President Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign blamed his nightmare scenario on a 'plot to buy the election' enacted by the Koch brothers, 'big-oil' billionaires and Republican super PACs. 'I want to tell you that President Obama has a second term in the bag. I want to tell you that the Koch Brothers are giving up their plot to buy the election,' Mr. Carville wrote. 'But here’s where things really stand: We’re gonna have to go through hell and high-water to win this damn thing It’s gonna be hard. Every big-oil billionaire and Republican Super PAC is throwing the kitchen sink at President Obama.'" (Observer)

" I went to lunch at Michael’s with Tomas Maier and Andrew Preston. Tomas is the creative design director for Bottega Veneta. He and Andrew divide their time between here and Florida, with bon repos in Sagaponack for summertime. The two men also have shops in Amagansett and Palm Beach where they sell all kinds of good things as well as a line designed by Tomas.  Luxury, as defined by Tomas is what used to be known as 'quality.' Quality meant the 'best' — meaning materials, workmanship, utility and design (these are my words, not his). And, Tomas said, the customer who can afford luxury is very sophisticated today. They know how to identify that. Gillian Tett, the US Managing Editor of the Financial Times, was at another table and stopped by for a moment. It turned out that Maier and Preston always read the FT because it’s so good, and so well written, and reminded Gillian that she was the first to write and warn about the Libor mess more than a year ago. She remains the first among mainstream media, in my book to write and warn about that other complications and activities that are wrenching the world’s financial systems." (NYSocialDiary)

"AN hour into her summer of freedom, Tavi Gevinson was stuck somewhere between La Guardia and Degraw Street, inching her way through the rain-soaked traffic in Brooklyn. It was a Monday afternoon in early July, and about 200 teenagers had gathered at Littlefield, the Gowanus performance space, to see the 16-year-old fashion blogger turned online impresario. 'Tavi is on her way — her flight was delayed,' a girl in a floral headband told the expectant crowd, many of them raised on Ms. Gevinson’s offbeat pronouncements over the years ('I strongly feel that daisies are literally the best thing ever'). In the meantime, the audience of mini fashionistas snacked on cupcakes and listened to readings from Rookie, the online magazine that Ms. Gevinson started last fall. The magazine grew out of Ms. Gevinson’s blog, The Style Rookie, which she started at the ripe age of 11. Writing in a spunky, discerning voice, Ms. Gevinson shared ruminations on everything from Proenza Schouler to gym class, and posted unsmiling self-portraits taken at her home, in Oak Park, Ill.
Then, in a whirlwind so sudden it now seems inexorable, Ms. Gevinson became the darling of those she’d revered, like John Galliano, Miuccia Prada and the Mulleavy sisters. Soon she was warping through the celebrity rinse cycle: sitting front row at fashion week, interviewing Rei Kawakubo in Tokyo and drawing praise from Lady Gaga. She even garnered some backlash from old-timers, including a Grazia editor who complained at a Dior show that her bow was blocking the runway.
By the time Teen Vogue named her 'the luckiest 13-year-old on the planet,' in 2009, Ms. Gevinson had appeared on the covers of Pop and Love magazines and starred in a video for Rodarte’s Target line. Later, she was profiled by both The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine. With her thick glasses and dyed blue-gray hair (Tavi was sometimes mistaken for an outré granny), she was a petite tastemaker." (NYTimes

"Bahrain's leading opposition party is looking to revive stalled democracy talks, with the hope that U.S. backing will give the country's crown prince more clout as the Sunni ruling family's representative in negotiations. The party, Al Wefaq, views Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al Khalifa as the government leader most able to reach out to the mainly Shiite opposition, which shook the island with mass protests last year. A security crackdown stifled those demonstrations and strengthened the country's hard-liners—testing ties with the U.S., a longtime ally of Bahrain, where the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet is based. Western-educated, 42-year-old Prince Salman, the king's son and heir to the throne, led talks with the opposition during last year's protests, in which protesters called for political change, improved rights and, in some cases, the downfall of the monarchy. The talks collapsed when the monarchy invited Saudi troops to Bahrain in March 2011 to help silence the rebellion, sidelining the crown prince. Hard-liners in the regime, aligned with the king's uncle, Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, gained ascendancy, analysts say. King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa is believed to hold a middle ground, but he also has been marginalized by conservative factions, analysts say ...Wefaq sees the crown prince as its best possible partner in the royal family. The crown prince offered concessions early last year in a bid to end the Shiite rebellion, and his appeal among the opposition was bolstered recently when he attended a village Shiite funeral in April. In early May, in a sign of support, the U.S. announced it would resume limited weapons sales to Bahrain during a visit to Washington by the crown prince, who held discussions with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other senior officials. 'We wanted to show that he could deliver,' said a senior U.S. official briefed on the Bahrain policy." (WSJ)

"The last time New York's fashion set got together for a day of polo, the main event was people-watching. Hoping to shift the crowds' attention from extravagant hats to the playing field, Nacho Figueras and the Bridgehampton Polo Club decided to relax the dress codes for this summer's season out east. 'The idea was to make polo more about polo and not so much about what was happening in the tents,' the Ralph Lauren poster boy told Style.com at Saturday's match. But despite Figueras' best efforts, the weather gods had a different agenda. 'The field is a little bit wet from the rain last night, so we are actually going to test it now to see if we can play a serious game or not," the polo star said before the match. The crowd got their answer when the game ended after only one period. Instead, the likes of Veronica Webb, Michelle Harper, and Alina Cho sipped Champagne in the VIP tent with co-hosts Peter Brant and Ferrari North America CEO Marco Mattiacci and admired the Ferraris on display. 'Do you think if I show them the giant Ferrari logo tattooed on my back, they will let me take it for a spin?' asked Jenny Shimizu as she checked out the new FF four-seater (the brand's first snow-ready car). 'I actually used to be a mechanic. I really love cars.' As the polo party started to unwind, guests began buzzing about the next event on the agenda, ACRIA's annual Cocktails at Sunset dinner benefitting AIDS research. Held at Ross Bleckner's house in Sagaponack, which once belonged to Truman Capote, the evening kicked off with a silent auction that included work by Julian Schnabel, a hand-cut Waterford crystal bowl, and Francisco Costa's favorite piece, a Barbara Kruger lithograph on wood." (Style)

"Purity in a sport does not mix with popularity, and defending the former is anathema to the hucksters, crooks, and profiteers who encourage the latter. In this I do not include the sportswriters of serious newspapers, with whom I sympathize. They see what’s going on, but they have to report on sports and there are libel laws to protect the guilty. In the birthplace of sports—where else but Greece?—football is as rotten as anywhere on Earth, except in places such as Thailand, where betting comes first and sports second. When my father 'owned' a premier division team during the early 1970s the club’s various agents and advisers skimmed millions off him by bringing in South American 'Greeks' to be sold to the club. The law back then allowed only two foreigners per team, so the rest had to find Greek roots, an easy enough task for the crooked agents peddling them to dear old innocent dad. Some had Greek-sounding names, such as the Mexican Fanis. Others had to invent Greek grandmothers, such as the Argentine Hector Errea. Most of them were incapable of kicking a soccer ball, and some even had trouble running in a straight line. But the experts deemed them on a par with Pelé, and father paid ... Regarding karate, we have always wanted to take part in the Olympics but were never able to unite and were outsmarted by taekwondo. The Korean government appears to have bribed the IOC to allow this totally phony martial art to become an Olympian entry. Compared to karate, taekwondo is like playing American touch football or rugby without tackling. The contestants also wear protective equipment in case they hurt themselves, the poor dears. Every time one touches the opponent a score is counted. If this is a martial sport, I’m Monica Lewinsky’s mother. Taekwondo is now an Olympic staple, and it’s not uncommon for some nerdy guy who is quick on his feet to show off a gold medal. I only hope for his sake he doesn’t try it in some Liverpool dive." (Taki)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"The problems run deeper than the sad status of women and a legal system that ignores human-rights laws passed under pressure from Washington.Young boys are victims, too. For centuries, Afghan men have taken boys, ages roughly 9 to 15, as lovers. Some research suggests that half the Pashtun men in southern provinces are 'bacha bazi,' the term for an older man with a boy lover. Literally it means 'boy player.' The men like to boast about it. But when Afghan men began making licentious approaches to young American soldiers a few years ago, the military found it so disconcerting that it hired a social scientist, AnnaMaria Cardinalli, to examine why this was happening. Her report, 'Pashtun Sexuality,' startled not even one Afghan. But Western forces were shocked — and repulsed. Cardinalli found “a longstanding cultural tradition in which boys are appreciated for physical beauty and apprenticed to older men for their sexual initiation,' her report said. 'The fallout of this pattern of behavior over generations has a profound impact on Pashtun society and culture.' Her report got a lot attention when it was published in 2010. But The Washington Post reported in April that the U.S. Embassy and human-rights workers say the practice is, nonetheless, 'on the rise' today. There’s no single reason for these manifest human-rights abuses. Islam is often the excuse for abusing women. But Islam strictly forbids homosexuality." (Politico)

"And then there were five. After starting out with more than 20 names a few months ago, we can now count our list of Mitt Romney's vice-presidential possibilities on one hand. Leading the list is the man generating national buzz at the moment: Tim Pawlenty. The former Minnesota governor, who told us jokingly that he was 'one chromosome' away from winning a spot on John McCain’s ticket in 2008, would be a credible choice who would offer some regional (Midwest vs. Northeast) and stylistic (blue collar vs. white collar) contrasts with Romney. Pawlenty’s short-lived presidential campaign flopped last year in part because of a mistimed strategic decision -- deciding to go all-in at last August’s activist-driven Iowa Straw Poll just as Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign hit its peak. Pawlenty’s poor straw poll showing, and a nearly empty war chest, forced his exit. Given that damaged candidates who were electorally weaker than Pawlenty had moments in the sun during the primary season -- including Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum -- it’s possible that Pawlenty might have made some progress had he found the money to stay in the race. Whether or not voters do like or will like Pawlenty, it seems clear that one major constituency group -- the media -- mainly does. The press boosted his candidacy throughout the first half of 2011 despite his middling polling. George Will, the conservative columnist, went so far as to conclude 'with reasonable certainty' that one of three men would occupy the White House in 2013: Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels or Barack Obama. (Of course, he still could be right.) While Pawlenty might have some deep dark secrets, he isn’t a blank slate to the national media, which is a mark in his favor. Granted, a Romney-Pawlenty ticket would be ill-equipped to respond to a foreign crisis during the campaign because of their exclusively state-level political experiences. However, Romney’s other seeming top choices aren’t foreign policy experts either in what is likely to be a economically-driven election. What would Pawlenty add? Probably not a great deal in the Electoral College, though he could have an impact in his home region. Romney would probably dispatch him primarily to the Midwest, where Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin could all be hotly contested, and where Pawlenty’s regular-guy background might go over better than Romney’s corporate credentials." ( CenterforPolitics)

"This is the final, lonely resting place of Mary Kennedy, the 52-year-old mother of four who hanged herself on May 16 in a barn on the grounds of her home in Bedford, N.Y., a suburb of the New York City in tony Westchester County. Mary’s suicide took place against the backdrop of a bitter divorce proceeding with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and came after her estranged husband won temporary custody of their children, ages 11 to 18. The Kennedy’s tragedies—the wartime deaths, assassinations, and plane crashes—are well-documented. So are the family’s self-inflicted wounds—Chappaquiddick, alcoholism, drug use, and divorce. But since the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy, himself no paragon of virtue, on Aug. 25, 2009, the family’s problems seem only to have escalated. In Hyannis Port, longtime summer home of the Kennedy clan, everyone has a story about the infamous political family. In the 86 years since Joseph Kennedy built the family compound on the 6-acre lot on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, locals have become inured to reports of drunkenness, drug use, car accidents, fistfights, and tightfistedness. But the disinterment and reburial of Mary Kennedy’s body on July 12 has created a level of anger new to the populace. Twenty feet way from the Shriver family grave is the burial site of Algirdus Dapkus. His widow, who asks to be identified only as Mrs. Dapkus, visits every day. Mary Kennedy’s original plot had 'a lovely cross made of white roses and a small plaque that said Mary Kennedy,' Mrs. Dapkus said. 'People would come by and pay their respects and leave flowers. Then they moved her in the middle of the night.' Shaking her head, Mrs. Dapkus continued, 'People around here don’t want to think about [the Kennedys] anymore. There used to be an aura, but not anymore. There’ve been so many crimes and immoral things done. When you’re rich and famous, you think you can do anything.'" (Paula Froelich)

"It could be argued that the world’s political leaders—unlike, say, Heidi Montag—have a valid reason for using surgery and injectables to keep their faces frown-line-free. When voters look at a leader, the appearance of vitality can be key. But while some politicians have used surgeons to make minor tweaks of the 'light refresh' sort, others (Muammar Qaddafi, anyone?) have gone all the way to 'fire in a wax museum.' We asked Manhattan plastic surgeon Dr. David Hidalgo to tell us whether knife, needle, or good genetics is really behind the spry, ageless looks of these seven world leaders—those most speculated to have had alterations." (VanityFair)

"Charlotte Cowles: Maybe Liberty Ross is trying to say that Kristen was drunk when she made out with him? Sally Holmes: Maybe Kristen and Rob have a TomKat kind of relationship. Sally Holmes: A.K.A. a contract. Charlotte Cowles: Speaking of, where is Rob at this exact moment, I wonder? Sally Holmes: Chartering an airplane to skywrite CIAO BELLA over L.A.? Maureen O’Connor: This seems more and more real to me, because it's so weird. It seems like they're famous people in a panic, using the bizarre avenues available to them (public statements, etc.) Maureen O’Connor: As opposed to normal people sending sad text messages and shit. Charlotte Cowles: They're acting irrationally, like normal people do in these love-triangle situations, except they're doing so VERY publicly. Charlotte Cowles: Which makes everything WORSE. Or better, depending on who you are." (NyMag)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Very warm, sunny day, but bearable. We had some rain the night before,  and the nights have been comfortably cooler. Here in mid-summer my neighborhood is quieter especially since the two  girls’ schools across the avenue and around the corner are not in session, lightening up the sidewalk and road traffic noticeably in midday. Also this is a neighborhood where many are away for the summer or part of the summer, so that contributes to the mainly empty streets by sunset. I went down to Michael’s to lunch with Liz Smith who’s been having her getaway for a few days at a time up in Connecticut. Michael’s was full up. Calvin Klein was at the next table. Across the way, author ('Unreal Estate,''740 Park Avenue') Michael Gross was lunching with the new editor of Avenue Daisy Prince. On the other side of Calvin Klein’s table, Peggy Siegal was enthusiastically reporting on her just-returned trip from a few days abroad, stopping over the weekend in Aix-en-Provence where where Shirin and Frederic Fekkai hosted a dinner at their newly renovated/restored house. Not all of his fans and followers know that Frederic, whose parents were Algerian, was born and bred in Aix, coming to New York in 1979 at the age of 21 to start his career. And some career it has been – Frederic has built an enormous business in haircare, cosmetics and fragrances as well as his salons. Aside from business, he has also made an excellent reputation for himself in the community, participating in a number of charities and cultural events. After lunch I walked with Liz over to Fifth Avenue which was very busy with foot traffic. Liz said to me: 'what are you going to write about for tomorrow?' I said: 'I  don’t have a clue, what about you?' She replied, 'I know what you mean.'" (NYSocialDiary)

"The British public periodically goes ape over silly things such as cricket, Twiggy, the occasional sunny day, the Chelsea Flower Show, Guy Fawkes Night, and the not-so-direct descendants of King James I, whom Guy (AKA Guido) tried to blow up on November 5, 1605. Although James I was a Stuart and Elizabeth II is a Hanoverian, she wins the popularity stakes hands down because old Jimmy believed he was appointed by God. This brought him into conflict with the English Parliament, who distrusted his judgment on most issues. This June, under constant rain, floods, and the threat of a transport strike, the Brits yet again went ape over the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, marking her 60th year on the throne. In four years the Queen will surpass her great-great grandmother Victoria in length of service, something she should easily do as she’s in excellent health and has all her wits about her. Then the Brits once again will go ape and continue doing so for every year of her reign. Watching her going down the Thames—on a barge festooned with gold leaf and all sorts of heralds, shields, crowns, and whatever else the Brits stick up on walls to show that once upon a time they were an important nation—was almost touching. I say 'almost' because it was a show to please the masses, draw the tourists, sell newspapers, and show appreciation for the number-one draw to this wet and gloomy island. There she was, an 86-year-old lady standing for hours on end in the cold, smiling and waving and occasionally sneaking a look at her 91-year-old husband, Phil the Greek, who just as bravely stood up like the man that he is and ended up in hospital soon after.  Except for the Middle East, monarchies today are largely ceremonial. Royals have become the appendix of the body politic. Most seem to exist to sell gossip magazines and keep the fashion industries humming." (Taki)

"'Dowd's clique,' that circle of friends all working at The Times—described by Ariel Levy in 2005 as 'think Heathers, but nice'—hadn't yet quite formed. Dowd's pal, Michiko Kakutani, had been destroying authors in the Times' Books pages for a couple of years. But Alessandra Stanley, a sometime collaborator to whom she’d been close since their Time days, wouldn't show up until 1990, and friend Frank Bruni arrived in 1995. Six weeks before the AIDS story was published, Dowd had gotten her first byline as a general assignment reporter on the Metro desk. Fairly unremarkable, it's about Columbia University's just-completed Computer Science Building, on which $5.6 million was spent. It's notable mostly for the prediction of Arno Penzias, a vice president of research for Bell Laboratories and a Nobel Laureate in physics. 'By 1986, there will be more microprocessors being produced than McDonald's hamburgers,' he told Dowd. 'The Dick Tracy wrist radio is not that far away.' Raised in Washington D.C., Dowd had been working there before she moved to New York for the New York Times gig. As a new reporter, she told me, 'I thought maybe I should look kind of preppy, so I went and brought a duck sweater—you know, a sweater with a duck on it—from Talbot's.' On her way to Columbia she missed her subway stop and ended up in Harlem. 'And they were like, You do not belong here with that stupid duck sweater on. So then I got rid of the duck sweater.' Back then, Dowd filed every couple of days: on a new exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History, Marcus Garvey, Philip Roth ('ROTH'S REAL FATHER LIKES HIS BOOKS'), landmarks ('THE CHELSEA HOTEL, 'KOOKY BUY NICE,' TURNS 100"). Fourteen 'silly features,' is how she puts it. The profile of the Gay Men's Health Crisis, edited by James Gleick, was conceived as a story about the organization’s 'buddies system,' volunteers tasked to comfort dying men. Dowd was not expected to spend much time on it, maybe two days. She ended up taking three weeks. 'You could have done a two-day feature on it,' she allowed. But, she said, 'When you cover a news story like that, at a moment like that, that turns out to be this horrible, you know, plague for one segment of society, it’s just a very gut-wrenching experience." (TheAwl)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Media Veteran Lee Masters Has "Billionaire Party"

asshole, in sweet repose

Quite frankly, this is seriously a dick move. When so many people are suffering because of the prolonged effects of this Great Recession (as well as two foreign wars), one would think that the attainment of a billion dollars would be a quiet -- but, obviously, happy -- affair. So much the better for him and his family.

Of course, there is nothing quiet or elegant about the stupid, light-gossipy, Hollywood fawning E! Entertainment television which "Lee Masters" helped create. Former E! executive -- who spent nine years building the channel to over $800 million in worth, among other things -- held a party recently to celebrate becoming a billionaire. It was, apparently, quite the rager (averted gaze).

How incredibly louche; how spectacularly douche. Did he, one wonders, have fucking awful Leroy Neiman portraits to commemorate the occasion of his riches? Worse: he told Howard Stern -- perpetually jealous, he, despite earning $80 million in cash for, under his most recently renegotiated contract, about three days a week of work. Stern, perpetually aggrieved on the subject of his compensation, soon told his audience. From Marksfriggin:
"Howard said he and Robin (Quivers) haven't gotten there with the Sirius stock. Howard said they never got any decent stock. He said that's how these people get rich. It's the stock. He said he gets to that clip and his head explodes. Howard said if you have 20 million subscribers at $12 a month they've got to be making a lot of money. He said he's not even sure what the amount is. He said it must be in the billions.

"Howard tried doing the math with the help of Robin and Gary. Howard said Robin isn't helping. She threw out some numbers that weren't helping him out. Gary told Howard it should be over $210 million a month. Everyone was getting confused. Fred said it's about $299 million. Howard rounded it out to $300 million. Howard then had to multiply that times 12. Robin rounded that off to 10 to make it easy. Robin came up with $3 billion. Howard said he wants to thank every math teacher he ever had. He said he was never taught how to get there.

"Howard said he can't believe the stock isn't worth more than it is if that's the kind of money they're making. Howard said he obviously threw in with the right guys. Howard said he threw in with people who hate when he makes money. He said they get angry.

"Howard said he never gets the right situation. He said he never gets it right. Robin said they're allergic to stock. Howard said they don't go to sleep and wake up rich. He said he went to a party for this guy at E! who had a billion party. Howard said he was worth a billion in a year after getting in on some deal. Howard said his name was Lee Masters but his real name was Jarl Mohn. He said he had a whole story about that. Howard said Jarl told him he wanted him to come and celebrate that he was wroth a billion dollars. "
Leave it to Howard, in a fit of jealousy, to bring out the man's real name. This blogger doesn't doubt that the man earned his money -- through investments, through the dubious E! Channel, through Liberty media, through multiple new media paradigms -- legally. He's done his time and has been rewarded handsomely by a democratic capitalistic system. It is just that throwing a lavish billionaire's party at this moment is like throwing Trimalchio's Banquet during the Great Depression (Or, for that matter, Truman Capote's Black and White Ball at the height of the Vietnam War)!

Is Lee Master's the new Steven Scwartzman? And even Steven, who became as a result of this extravagance one of private equity's villains, showed remorse for the excess afterwards.

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"We vastly underestimated how quickly the nation’s economic elite would consolidate their power and undermine the economic lives of virtually everyone else. The United States is now controlled by the few—the wealthy and the powerful who have become this country’s ruling class. Twenty years ago, middle Americans still had options. If you were a homeowner who lost your job, you could move to find another one. No more, because it may take a year to sell the family home, if it can be sold at all. If money ran short, you could tap the equity in your house. No more, because that equity has vanished, courtesy of Wall Street. If you had savings, you could earn enough interest from bank CDs to create a nest egg. No more, because CDs don’t pay enough to cover a meal at McDonald’s. Today, all those safety nets are gone, dismantled by the 1 percent. What has happened to millions of working Americans is no accident. It’s the result of policies deliberately put in place by the few—policies that determine what taxes you must pay, whether your job will be shipped offshore, and whether you can collect the pension you were promised. This is why the middle class is shrinking, why people who once would have moved up the economic ladder now are heading down, and why fewer well-paying jobs are being created. We were accused of being alarmists 20 years ago, but we fear that the worst is yet to come. After the election, the ruling class will seek to implement policies that would siphon off yet more dollars from the middle class by cutting programs such as Social Security and Medicare to pay down part of the national debt—a debt largely run up by tax cuts engineered for the wealthy." (Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele/VanityFair)

"We have entered the endgame in Syria. That doesn't mean that we have reached the end by any means, but it does mean that the precondition has been met for the fall of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. We have argued that so long as the military and security apparatus remain intact and effective, the regime could endure. Although they continue to function, neither appears intact any longer; their control of key areas such as Damascus and Aleppo is in doubt, and the reliability of their personnel, given defections, is no longer certain. We had thought that there was a reasonable chance of the al Assad regime surviving completely. That is no longer the case. At a certain point -- in our view, after the defection of a Syrian pilot June 21 and then the defection of the Tlass clan -- key members of the regime began to recalculate the probability of survival and their interests. The regime has not unraveled, but it is unraveling. The geopolitical picture is somewhat clearer than the internal political picture. Whatever else happens, it is unlikely that al Assad will be able to return to unchallenged rule. The United States, France and other European countries have opposed his regime. Russia, China and Iran have supported it, each for different reasons. The Russians opposed the West's calls to intervene, which were grounded on human rights concerns, fearing that the proposed intervention was simply a subterfuge to extend Western power and that it would be used against them. The Chinese also supported the Syrians, in part for these same reasons. Both Moscow and Beijing hoped to avoid legitimizing Western pressure based on human rights considerations -- something they had each faced at one time or another. In addition, Russia and China wanted the United States in particular focused on the Middle East rather than on them. They would not have minded a military intervention that would have bogged down the United States, but the United States declined to give that to them. But the Russian and Chinese game was subtler than that. It focused on Iran. As we have argued, if the al Assad regime were to survive and were to be isolated from the West, it would be primarily dependent on Iran, its main patron. Iran had supplied trainers, special operations troops, supplies and money to sustain the regime. For Iran, the events in Syria represented a tremendous opportunity. Iran already held a powerful position in Iraq, not quite dominating it but heavily influencing it. If the al Assad regime survived and had Iranian support to thank for its survival, Syria would become even more dependent on Iran than was Iraq. " (STRATFOR)

"I’m not going to sleep with Darren. I’m not going to sleep with him. I’m not. I am in professional mode, despite the fact that for all intents and purposes I am on a 'date' with a paid escort. Darren, sporting a straw fedora and very tight shirt, met me at a Brooklyn restaurant known for its trendy southern comfort food and politely pulled out my chair. I knew what I was getting, having perused photos of Darren and his colleagues on the website where he peddles himself to female clients. In the pictures, his muscular chest and abs glistened like sweaty chocolate. There were rows of other male models and former athletes to choose from, all shirtless and squinting at the camera. One can rent them for $550 for two hours, $1,000 for four, or $2,000 to stay the night. The owner of Darren’s agency, ‘Cowboys 4 Angels’ interviews clients before a date to find a good match. He fixed me up with Darren knowing that I was a journalist—one without an expense account—but making me promise I’d treat the meeting less as an interview than an … experience. A freebie. A gift.  At the table, Cowboy Darren’s knees graze mine. I begin to I tease him a little. 'Most of you guys can’t actually make money doing this, right?' He leans back in his chair. 'I can tell you what I make a month,' he tells me with fixed eye-contact. 'About $3,000, from only a few dates.' Escorting isn’t Darren’s only gig, he has a steady job working for the city—this is 'fun money,' he explains. Most of his fellow cowboys work in the service industry or as massage therapists. Cowboys 4 Angels is also the escort agency featured on Showtime’s reality series Gigolo. That program, HBO’s drama Hung and the recent film Magic Mike, seem to have accelerated a growth in the M4W escort industry, as have online clearinghouses like Backpage.com and Concierge Du Monde, an online forum where female johns (janes?) can interact with each other and rate various services. But what really seems to be driving the trend is 50 Shades of Grey." (Observer

"Sure, things look bad. The crisis, well into its third year, has forced Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and now Cyprus into various forms of international financial rescue programs, and it shows no signs of abating. After two years of denial and half-measures, market participants have little faith in the ability of Europe's policymakers to reach a solution. Spanish bond yields are frighteningly wide and those of Italy, the continent's most prolific borrower, are following closely behind. This summer's announcement a fuzzy-at-best plan to recapitalize Spanish banks and create new mechanisms to channel pan-European resources to Europe's stricken financial sector relieved market pressure for all of a few hours. Perhaps most alarmingly, no one seems to have a plan, with British Prime Minister David Cameron warning that the eurozone must either 'make up or break up' -- with the implicit threat that the latter is increasingly likely. But before writing the euro's obituary, let's remember: The driving force behind a European currency union was never purely or even principally financial. It was political -- and these binding forces remain strong. After centuries of bloodshed on the continent culminating in the last century's two world wars, the European Union (EU) and ultimately the euro arose from a deep-seated desire to abolish the risk of state-to-state conflict. A slide back to nationalism is a constant fear in the minds of European political leaders and peoples. And so, in spite of growing concerns about the benefits of sharing a single currency across 17 countries, member states and their publics remain highly supportive of the European project and the euro. While the crisis has caused this support to decline a bit, studies consistently show that Germans, French, and Spaniards favor remaining in the euro. Even upwards of 70 percent of Greeks, who are in their fifth year of recession and looking forward to a decade of grinding austerity, claim that they want to stay in the currency union. They may not get their wish (boundless hope can overcome an awful lot, but not the cold mathematics of Greece's debt burden) but their robust support illustrates the basic fact that the political will to maintain the euro remains strong. It's true that Europe doesn't yet have a comprehensive plan to balance sensitive and increasingly difficult issues of national sovereignty, financial resources, and disparate economic models and strength among eurozone members." (ForeignPolicy)

"The Frick Collection held its annual Garden Party on July 11th with cocktails and jazz (by a quartet, the Flail) in the elevated Fifth Avenue Garden next to the newly opened Portico Gallery. Guests also had access to the permanent collection galleries as well as the museum’s special exhibition Gold, Jasper, and Cornelian: Johann Christian Neuber at the Saxon Court. Co-chairs for the evening were Ayesha Bulchandani-Mathrani, Emily Frick, Alexandra Porter, Tess Porter, Deborah Royce, Wesley Royce, Lisa Volling, and Jennifer Wright. More than 400 attended. The evening was sponsored by Edmund Hollander Landscape Architects. Refreshments were donated by Beluga Vodka and wine donated by Schneider Selections." (NYSocialDiary)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Will Susan Rice Be The Next Secretary of State?

David Ignatius dropped a bit of a bombshell on The Chris Matthews Show on Sunday -- hosted by Chuck Todd. The conventional wisdom in Washington is that long-suffering Senator John Kerry, who has been lobbying for the job since the President took office, is the frontrunner after Hillary steps down should  he be re-elected. Ignatius says that there are people in the Obama administration pushing for UN Ambassador Susan Rice to replace Hillary. Let's face it: Kerry has been on a dry run for the job since 2008.

Interesting. Hillary, incidentally, may or may not run for President in 2016 depending on whether her pal Terry McAuliffe wins the governorship of Virginia in 2013. Virginia is, of course, the new bellewether state -- along with Ohio -- after Missouri went for McCain over Obama in 2008.

That concludes this week's episode of political musical chairs, the Democrat edition.
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"The first and probably only overseas trip of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is full of opportunity for the Republican candidate. But the expedition also carries its fair share of risk. Romney hopes the trip to Israel, Poland and the United Kingdom will burnish his stature, and that the Israel leg in particular might help capture extra support from a constituency — Jewish voters — that traditionally leans heavily toward the Democratic Party.The trip is expected to begin Thursday and last for about four days. The schedule has not been finalized. Critics charge that Romney has been less than sure-footed on foreign policy, and even prominent members of the GOP establishment have publicly dissented from some of his positions. That context raises the stakes for this week’s journey. The Israel leg of the trip will be more heavily freighted with political meaning than any other. President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have long had a strained relationship. Romney and Netanyahu, by contrast, have known each other for decades, since working together in Massachusetts in the mid-1970s for the Boston Consulting Group. Romney has in the past criticized Obama for having 'disrespected' Netanyahu. He has been equally emphatic about the president’s policy choices. Obama’s suggestion that a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians should be based upon the pre-1967 borders was tantamount to having 'thrown Israel under the bus,' Romney said. Romney’s vociferous support for Israel raises hopes in some Republican minds that he can hold Obama below the 78 percent of the Jewish vote that he won in 2008." (TheHill)

"President Obama will travel to Israel if he's elected to a second term, a campaign aide said Monday. 'We can expect him to visit Israel in a second term should he be elected,' Colin Kahl, the former deputy assistant secretary of Defense for the Middle East, said on a conference call with reporters. Obama has been criticized for not visiting the Middle Eastern ally since a trip during the 2008 election. Republican candidate Mitt Romney will visit the country during a trip that will begin later this week, and he plans to meet with Israeli leaders including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Romney has also said, if elected, his first foreign visit would be to Israel. On Monday, former U.N. ambassador John Bolton blasted the president for not scheduling a trip during his first term." (TheHill)
"By most accounts, Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, is one of the top names on Mitt Romney’s list of potential vice-presidential nominees. Mr. Pawlenty is liked, though perhaps not loved, by the main pillars of the Republican Party — social conservatives, the Tea Party and establishment Republicans — making him a safe choice for a risk-averse Romney campaign.But if Mr. Romney is looking for a vice-presidential nominee that might also bring along votes from their home state, Mr. Pawlenty might be a poor choice compared to someone like Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, who comes from a state that is a genuine tossup. The home-state effect of a vice-presidential nominee can be overrated in any case, but Minnesota has the longest streak of voting for Democratic presidential candidates than any other state in the nation.Still, like many of the states we have profiled, partisan allegiance in presidential voting can mask a more nuanced picture on the ground. In four elections since 1972, the Republican presidential candidate has come within 4 percentage points of winning Minnesota. And in the early 2000s, Republicans gained ground in the state. Enough ground, in fact, that the Republican Party held its national convention in St. Paul in 2008. 'It’s a mistake to think of Minnesota as blue rather than red, and even a mistake to talk about Minnesota as purple,' Mr. Jacobs said, 'Minnesota is really more polka-dotted.'" (538)
"Books by public intellectuals, pundits, and politicians heralding our imminent collapse have been one of the few reliable growth industries in hard times.  The outpouring traverses the political spectrum, from the apocalyptic hard right (Patrick Buchanan’s Suicide of a Superpower, Mark Levin’s Ameritopia) to the conservative Establishment (Charles Murray’s Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010) to the centrist Washington ­Establishment (Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann’s It’s Even Worse Than It Looks) to centrist liberalism (Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum’s That Used to Be Us) to the classically progressive (Timothy Noah’s The Great Divergence). Depending on the political coloring of the authors, the books have different villains: the tea party, coddled Wall Street plutocrats, coddled welfare-state entitlement junkies, the yapping and trivializing news media, broken schools, a polarized and broken Congress, a politicized Supreme Court, a socialist president. And China Über Alles (with an occasional cameo by India). The books’ pet issues also vary, from the collapse of the family to the debasement of cultural values, the demise of political compromise, the extinction of the 'vital center,' the president’s feckless 'leading from behind' in foreign affairs, the rise of income inequality, the ballooning of the national debt, and unchecked federal spending." (NYMag)

"'... THE STRATEGY in this novel (is) based upon a disturbing blueprint designed to assist in and encourage the destruction of America. This blueprint, entitled ‘Unrestricted Warfare,’ is real .... Many of the vulnerabilities depicted in this novel continue to exist.' So writes thriller author Brad Thor in introducing his new Pocket Books paperback — 'Full Black,' which is on newstands even in places like Walmart. (Well, that’s where I bought mine for about $8.)   THE NIGHT before the Aurora, Colorado killings in the movie theater showing 'Batman: The Dark Knight Rises,' I was actually reading this very frightening fictional scenario. In reality it seems that a lone gunman killed a dozen people and wounded many more. In the book, Islamic terrorists set off a series of murders and bombings in U.S. theaters across the nation. This novel offers a conservative conspiracy view which was meant to launch one terrible scene of chaos and destruction after another, over the nation. (The author offers that Islamic terrorists have stolen a Chinese plan for total warfare and are operating behind the scenes funded by a crazy super wealthy tycoon who eats at places like Le Bernardin in Manhattan. And he has operatives in Great Britain who will do anything for money. Of course, the CIA and FBI and a socialist government aren’t doing a thing about this and it’s up to Black Op veterans to solve everything.) There are subplots about a Hollywood producer and attempts at various love affairs, Russian hitmen, the insertion of agents into terrorist groups, and all the rest of it." (NYSocialDiary/Liz Smith)

"Louis Vuitton powered into Shanghai's iconic Bund last night, not merely to celebrate the 20th anniversary of LV in China, but to demonstrate how much mileage the brand still sees in the country's luxury market. The same fabulous custom-made carriage that arrived at the Louvre's Cour Carrée earlier this year was transported across two continents along the Trans-Siberian railway (as documented by The Selby),demonstrating just how far Vuitton will travel to give the likes of Chanel and Hermès a run for their top-tier clients' yuan. Marc Jacobs masterminded a collection that played to two of the three main aspirations of wealthy Chinese—heritage and workmanship. Descending from the train, models wore this season's elongated silhouette in embroidered brocades and increasingly embellished fabrics, towering over the pint-sized porters who carried the luggage—handbags, portmanteaux, and suitcases made of rarities like python, crocodile, and mink. Afterward, actress Clémence Poésy gushed, 'it had the same magic of a film set, when the train pulled in and the smoke.' Alexa Chung was more direct: 'Fucking phenomenal, it was amazing. There's only a few brands that get the opportunity to put on a full extravaganza. It's more like going to the theater.' Perhaps 'rock show' is the best analogy. After the catwalk spectacle, Lana Del Rey performed. But the runway show and concert were just part of the celebrations. On Wednesday, Chinese stars like Gong Li and Fan Bingbing and It girls, including Alexia Niedzielski and Poppy Delevingne toured the newly opened Louis Vuitton Maison, the largest store in China and 16th Maison worldwide. Guests were led through the Louis Vuitton Express exhibition, a nostalgic multimedia journey documenting the golden age of rail travel, before venturing into the four-story emporium. Then up an opulent gilded onyx staircase to a private 'apartment' where only super-rich invitees are allowed." (Style)

"Harvey Weinstein and Anna Wintour are teaming again to throw a fund-raiser for President Obama. The shindig will take place Aug. 6, in Greenwich, Conn., we hear. The movie mogul and the Vogue editor will co-host, sources said, while other co-chairs remain to be announced. The pair previously hosted an Obama dinner last year at Weinstein and Georgina Chapman’s West Village townhouse. Tickets will go for $35,800 per head. Guests at Weinstein’s fund-raiser last year included Gwyneth Paltrow, Tory Burch, Alicia Keys and Quentin Tarantino. Democratic booster Weinstein’s also supported GOP candidates in the past, including Gov. George Pataki." (P6)