Friday, August 31, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"It's common to complain that presidential campaigns are heavy on style and light on substance. That may be a fair critique, but it's not a new one; just re-read the rather preposterous passage above, from a campaign book about William McKinley in 1896. The same sentiment that animated the pen of Murat Halstead to elevate McKinley to such Olympian heights is the same reason why, on the final night of Mitt Romney's coronation, Republicans rolled out a number of non-politicians -- including actual Olympians -- to confirm Mitt Romney's humanity. One testimonial, from an elderly couple whose terminally ill 14-year-old son Romney befriended in the months before he died, was particularly powerful. Romney worked with the boy on his will, where prized toys were passed along to friends, and he officiated at the young man's funeral. The parents had forgotten nothing, and their unfamiliarity with the convention hall's teleprompter made it all the more real. One of Romney's problems in this campaign is that he just doesn't seem to be all that well-liked by the American people. The ABC News/Washington Post poll pegs Romney's favorability at just 40%. That's the lowest the poll had found in its preconvention polling going back to 1984. (The second-worst was Walter Mondale at 47%.) Anecdotes such as the ones told by non-threatening regular folks from Romney's past should help soften his image. Imagine if the couple with the dying son had introduced Romney in network primetime. Dry eyes would have been few, in the convention hall or at home. Instead, it was campaign malpractice that the Romney managers sent out a dithering, clueless Clint Eastwood. The Romney campaign will be lucky if Eastwood's antics don't linger as a national punch line. Perhaps the person unhappiest with Eastwood is Sen. Marco Rubio, whose dazzling speech to his home state conclave might end up being as nationally invisible as the imaginary Barack Obama sitting in Clint's stage chair. Romney is what he is: A relatively uncharismatic candidate who turned in a workmanlike performance on Thursday night. He's no Rubio, but then again, he's no Eastwood either." (SabatosCrystalBall)

"Billionaire industrialist David Koch, who is helping steer millions of dollars to elect Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans, on Thursday told POLITICO he disagrees with the GOP’s stance on gay marriage and believes the U.S. needs to consider raising taxes to balance the budget. Koch, who is serving as a delegate to the Republican National Convention from New York, spoke to POLITICO after delivering brief remarks at a reception held in his honor by Americans for Prosperity, the political advocacy group he chairs and has helped fund. The 1980 vice presidential nominee for the socially liberal — but fiscally conservative — Libertarian Party, Koch told POLITICO 'I believe in gay marriage' when asked about the GOP’s stance on gay rights. Romney opposes gay marriage, as do most Republicans, and when that was pointed out to Koch, he said 'Well, I disagree with that.' Koch said he thinks the U.S. military should withdraw from the Middle East and said the government should consider defense spending cuts, as well as possible tax increases to get its fiscal house in order — a stance anathema to many in the Republican Party. 'I think it’s essential to be able to achieve spending reductions and maybe it’s going to require some tax increases,' he said. 'We got to come close to balancing the budget; otherwise, we’re in a terrible deep problem.' As for whether military spending cuts should be on the table, Koch said, 'I think to balance the budget, probably every federal department has to take cuts in my opinion. We have to spread it around.'" (Politico)

"Now is the time of sultry August days and nights, with the gift of privacy an added bonus. In summer the village contains the die-hards, the locals, and a few tourists. Bucolic freedom, fresh air, and sunshine were once anathema—foul-smelling, airless dives such as New Jimmy’s were the real McCoy—but now the sound of bells on roaming cows means instant happiness. It’s called old age. I can now walk from my place to the next village and back, a trip of about one hour, before the pain becomes unbearable. The good news is that early next year I’m trying out a revolutionary treatment in Germany, one with a 70-percent success rate, especially among athletes. (Blood is extracted, jiggled with, then reintroduced, and presto, a new, improved Taki emerges and returns to competition pain-free. I hope.) Good old Fatherland. When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, only a German can be counted on. Just ask Wellington. In the meantime, I’m hobbling along getting ready for the autumn judo and karate season. Alas, autumn—a depressing time—is upon us. Why is it that summers lasted so much longer when one was young?" (Taki)

"Southampton's much-loved antiquaire and designer Judy Hadlock teamed up with Scalamandre president Steven Stolman for a buoyant cocktail bash in honor of nothing more than their formidable friendship. Guests packed Judy's Old Town Crossing gallery to sip, schmooze and even shop. It was a fun, buzzy mix of design pros, clients, family and friends... the kind of party you just didn't want to leave." (NYSocialDiary)

"During Yemen's rainy season, which stretches from August to October, the Silah, the cobbled road that intersects the capital Sanaa's ancient Old City, often floods becoming, for a few brief hours, a fast-running river. Over the years, the road has been gradually deepened, with steps built up the side and bridges spanning its width so that the rest of the area does not overflow with water from the surrounding mountains. At such times it is hard for Sanaanis, the residents of the capital, to countenance the idea that their city is rapidly running out of water. But this may happen sooner rather than later: Sanaa province's water aquifers are being exhausted by rapid population growth, demand for the narcotic qat leaf, and the growing threat of climate change. Although the country is probably best known abroad for the uprising that unseated former President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011, and as a haven for al Qaeda, it could soon hold the distinction of being one of the hardest places in the world to get a glass of water. In 2011, it looked like social order in Sanaa was on the verge of collapsing. But regardless of politics, it could soon become a ghost town -- a tourist attraction centered around the Old City as the real estate developments that sprouted up around the city's borders before 2011 are left to rot. In a 2010 report commissioned by the Yemeni government, analysts at U.S. consultancy McKinsey forecast that if water use in the Sanaa basin was not controlled, the area could completely run out of water by about 2020." (ForeignPolicy)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"In a move that is sure to ignite a firestorm of speculation about who would be Secretary of State in a second Obama administration, President Barack Obama has chosen Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) to deliver a key national security themed speech on the final night of the Democratic National Convention. An Obama campaign official told The Cable Tuesday that Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a highly rumored candidate to replace Hillary Clinton in Foggy Bottom when she steps down next year, will headline a special segment of the program on Thursday, Sept. 6, focusing on national security. The Sept. 6 program will take place at Bank of America stadium and will conclude with Obama's speech accepting his party's nomination for a second term. The move is a reflection of the Obama campaign's growing confidence in the area of national security versus a candidate in Mitt Romney who is seen as being light on national security and foreign policy experience and whose campaign has deprioritized discussing national security in an effort to keep the focus on Obama's economic record ... Kerry has always denied he is lobbying for Clinton's job, but insiders say he is on a short list along with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon. Rice is rumored to be the front runner, due in part to her longtime personal relationship with Obama, which dates back to his time as a senator. Donilon's chances are said to have diminished since he became the focus of accusations that the Obama White House has been leaking classified national security information for political purposes. Those accusations could make Donilon's Senate confirmation difficult. Rice and Donilon are not speaking at the convention, but that's not an indication of their stature or chances for promotion. Sitting national security officials aren't permitted to engage directly in election-related political activities. The Kerry speech in Charlotte is also a chance for the Obama campaign to push back against the groups of special operations veterans that are mobilizing a campaign to attack Obama's national security record by pointing to the leaks and accusing Obama of spiking the football after the killing of Osama bin Laden." (ForeignPolicy)

"The Republican National Convention seems a strange place for a press-shy billionaire benefactor of iconoclastic libertarian causes that have vexed GOP leaders — including the anti-establishment tea party movement. Yet there was David Koch sitting on the convention floor Tuesday, smiling broadly, applauding — even clapping to a rendition of the Isley Brothers’ hit 'Shout' after the roll call vote that formalized Mitt Romney’s nomination — and making polite chit-chat with a steady stream of well-wishers. I love the introductions,' Koch said to an old friend named Ron Gidwitz, referring to the short and braggadocios floor speeches by delegation chairs during the roll call. 'I love the sense of humor,' he added to Gidwitz, an Illinois investor and delegate. Even though David Koch’s equally politically active brother Charles has kept his distance from the organized GOP, a number of operatives in Tampa told POLITICO that David Koch’s presence as a delegate from New York here sent a strong message that the Kochs’ expanding political operation is becoming a more reliable adjunct of the Republican Party. 'You most certainly can read that into it,' said one GOP money man, who had previously described the relationship between Koch World and the Rove groups as somewhere between rivalry and collaboration. It’s a shift that has far-reaching implications for national politics in November and beyond." (Politico)

"A lovely warm, sunny Summer day, yesterday in New York. I went down to Michael’s for lunch, and although most tables were occupied, it felt like the clientele had already left for the long holiday weekend. Last night I went with a friend to the Delacorte Theater in Central Park to see the Public Theater’s production of James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim’s 'Into the Woods.' We’re not allowed to take photos in the amphitheatre – unfortunately – so I cannot show you the intriguing set of wood and trees (with the orchestra concealed right behind it). It was a perfect night – with the temperature hovering around 70 degrees and an almost full moon rising – as the show got underway. This moon, the second within the same month, is known as the Blue Moon. It is a rare occurrence (hence the name – as in 'Once in a blue moon ...') that will not occur again until July 2012. Shakespeare in the Park is free although it's "first come, first served": you have to go and wait in line for your seats. By eight o’clock the theater was full with a large contingent of twenty-somethings in the crowd, which is generally unusual for New York theater, although these theater-goers are just as serious and maybe even more receptive. Also in the crowd last night was Mr. Sondheim himself." (NYSocialDiary)

"'We built it.' That’s been pretty much the meme du jour at the RNC yesterday, today, and most likely through the rest of the convention. After going through Baghdad Green Zone-like security procedures to get into the Tampa Bay Times Forum—highlighted by bomb-sniffing dogs—you are met with a ring of bright glowing signs saying 'We Built It' in white type on a red background that encircle the entire convention floor at the.  'We built it,' said one RNC speaker after another, all to resounding applause. 'We built it,' chanted thousands of the delegates. 'We Built It' read thousands of posters. There were even iPhone cases, as reported elsewhere in VF Daily, in a variation on the theme, proclaiming 'Built by US,' and they were flying off the shelves in the convention’s RNC gift shops, at $40 a pop. But for all the hoopla, there were just a couple of problems with the GOP theme. For one thing, who built it? Who was responsible for the “We Built It' slogan? Not the GOP, as it turns out. In fact, it was put together by none other than Fox News. As the liberal watchdog group Media Matters first reported, Fox was the first to pull the line from a July 13th speech by President Obama, taking Obama’s words 'you didn’t build that' out of context by omitting a few key sentences: 'If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.'  On July 17th, Romney repeated the phrase, and Fox itself repeated the 'you didn’t build that' attack on Obama in various forms over the last six weeks. Needless to say, when convention viewers saw the snippet of Obama saying, 'you didn’t build that,' the context was similarly omitted." (VanityFair)

"In 2009, D.T. Max published a long piece about David Foster Wallace, and his suicide, in The New Yorker. The project grew into the biography Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace. In the final months of the book's completion, through a stroke of incredible luck, I had the opportunity to help Max as a research assistant. Biography, it turns out, is complicated, wrenching work, particularly when your subject inspires the kind of devotion Wallace can, and where the end of a life comes in the form his did. With the book's release today, I wanted to talk to Max about the process that went into its research and writing. Granted, it's a strange thing to be interviewed by someone with whom you've worked for several months already—but he was willing, and over the past few days, we had this exchange by email." (TheAwl)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"The planning for the fund-raisers seemed to underline this estrangement. Obama’s first event was a 6 P.M. dinner at the Four Seasons. About forty contributors, many of them from Wall Street, had paid thirty thousand dollars each to dine with him. Some of the invitees were disgruntled supporters who felt unfairly blamed for the country’s economic problems, and they wanted to vent about what they considered Obama’s anti-business tone. But the President did not have enough time to hear them out—or even share a meal—because after only an hour he was scheduled to leave for the second fund-raiser, at the downtown home of Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue. At the Four Seasons, the President could spend about seven minutes per table, each of which accommodated eight donors. This was fund-raising as speed-dating. The President’s staff knew that Obama wouldn’t have a moment to eat properly that day, and that it would be hard for him to do so while being the focus of attention at the fund-raisers. So time was set aside at the Four Seasons for Obama to grab a bite, in a 'ready room,' with Reggie Love, his personal aide, and Valerie Jarrett, his close friend, senior adviser, and liaison to the business community. This arrangement, however, inadvertently left the impression that Obama preferred his staff’s company to that of the paying guests. 'Obama is very meticulous—they have clockwork timing,' one of the attendees says. 'After a few minutes at each table, a staffer would come and tap him on the shoulder, and he’d get up. But when people pay thirty thousand they want to talk to you, and take a picture with you. He was trying to be fair, and that’s great, but every time he started to have a real conversation he got tapped.' The attendee appreciates that such events must get tiresome for Obama. 'Each person, at each table, says to the President, ‘Here’s what you have to do . . .’ At the next table, it’s the same.” Even so, he noted that Bill Clinton—who set the gold standard for the art form known as 'donor maintenance'—would have presided over the same event with more enthusiasm: 'He would have stayed an extra hour.' After that Four Seasons dinner, the attendee adds, “people were a little mad.' Top Obama donors began grumbling on the first day of the Administration. 'The swearing-in was the beginning of pissing off the donors,' a longtime Washington fund-raiser says." (Jane Mayer)

"The most important facts about Iran go unstated because they are so obvious. Any glance at a map would tell us what they are. And these facts explain how regime change or evolution in Tehran -- when, not if, it comes -- will dramatically alter geopolitics from the Mediterranean to the Indian subcontinent and beyond. Virtually all of the Greater Middle East's oil and natural gas lies either in the Persian Gulf or the Caspian Sea regions. Just as shipping lanes radiate from the Persian Gulf, pipelines will increasingly radiate from the Caspian region to the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, China and the Indian Ocean. The only country that straddles both energy-producing areas is Iran, stretching as it does from the Caspian to the Persian Gulf. In a raw materials' sense, Iran is the Greater Middle East's universal joint. The Persian Gulf possesses by some accounts 55 percent of the world's crude oil reserves, and Iran dominates the whole Gulf, from the Shatt al-Arab on the Iraqi border to the Strait of Hormuz 990 kilometers (615 miles) away. Because of its bays, inlets, coves and islands -- excellent places for hiding suicide, tanker-ramming speed boats -- Iran's coastline inside the Strait of Hormuz is 1,356 nautical miles; the next longest, that of the United Arab Emirates, is only 733 nautical miles. Iran also has 480 kilometers of Arabian Sea frontage, including the port of Chabahar near the Pakistani border. This makes Iran vital to providing warm water, Indian Ocean access to the landlocked Central Asian countries of the former Soviet Union. Meanwhile, the Iranian coast of the Caspian in the far north, wreathed by thickly forested mountains, stretches for nearly 650 kilometers from Astara in the west, on the border with former Soviet Azerbaijan, around to Bandar-e Torkaman in the east, by the border with natural gas-rich Turkmenistan." (Stratfor)

"Party Pictures are no longer an instrument of satire or parody (to most of us). They serve many purposes, as noted above. They please the reader, the event planners, the charities, the hosts, the individuals. Or almost. The issue of 'privacy' has emerged in the last couple of years, with many who have had their pictures taken at parties and events, and continue to have their pictures taken at parties and events, yet who later make requests to have their pictures removed after they’ve been published. Sometimes five years after. Even ten. Why? A million reasons like: 'I’ve had plastic surgery and I don’t look like that anymore,' or 'I’m not going out with her anymore,' or 'I’m starting a new job and my boss doesn’t want my picture on the web,' or 'I’m being stalked and I’ve been advised by lawyers to remove my pictures from the internet” (she doesn’t want the person 'stalking' her to be able to 'identify' her?), or 'my husband hates that picture,' or 'I’ve lost weight and don’t want to be reminded,' or 'we’ve broken up,' or 'my girlfriend doesn’t like it' or 'remove immediately and call to confirm.' Many requests are made by people whose images are all over the internet, including of course, on Google, and even more frequently on the various outlets of social media. Some just want to be removed from the digital world entirely and, one presumes, to return to 'privacy.' It’s too late. " (NYSocialDiary)

"Before their secret rush wedding in June, Rosie O’Donnell subjected her new bride Michelle Rounds to eight months of grueling prenuptial negotiations — and she’ll get nothing if she cheats, Page Six can exclusively reveal. Sources say O’Donnell, 50, was so tough in the talks that they didn’t get the prenup signed until hours before the intimate June 9 wedding, which was held in front of just a few people at O’Donnell’s home in Nyack.  While comedienne and talk-show host O’Donnell has been 'extremely generous to Michelle in the prenup,' sources say, her 40-year-old bride 'gets nothing if she cheats.'  Lawyers for the pair had been in talks over the agreement since they were engaged last December." (PageSix)

"After a romantic weekend of wedding-infiltration in Hyannis Port, Taylor Swift was ripped away from her barely legal beau Conor Kennedy to promote her new single, 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,' back in Nashville. However, according to family sources, Swift was longing for her Kennedy arm-candy so badly that she sent a plane to fetch him a few days later. 'He’s been with her ever since, and his family doesn’t know when he will be back,' the anonymous source told Page Six. 'Things have become so serious between them so fast that no one in Hyannis Port would be surprised if they eloped.' Eloping may complicate the education pursuits of Kennedy, an 18-year-old junior at Deerfield Academy, a prominent New England boarding school. To better understand how the potential newlyweds might make it work, we turn to Vanity Fair’s editorial business associate Alex Polkinghorn, our in-house boarding-school expert ... Do private academies such as Deerfield require permission slips for events such as wisdom tooth removals or spontaneous weddings? O.O.T.s (Out of Towns) are required in order to leave the campus overnight. However, one’s parents do have carte blanche. So should the Kennedys decide they would like Conor to marry, they could take him out for the day. Much more than that and he would likely fall too far behind in his sports practices to be allowed to participate in the Saturday afternoon games ... If Swift were to visit aforementioned games, would she be required to register on the campus as an adult visitor?Taylor could roam the campus as she pleases, much like Natalie Portman used to do at Phillips Exeter when she was at Harvard and her boyfriend was still in prep school. However, should she visit his room during nightly visitation hours—also known as 'Vs'—which take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., she will have to check in with his dorm faculty, leave the door ajar at a 45-degree angle, and the two of them must have at least three feet on the floor at all times. Lights on." (VanityFair)

"As you may have heard, New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan will deliver the closing prayer after Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech in Tampa next week. Dolan, as you may also have heard, heads up the male hierarchy’s drive to portray Obamacare as an attack on freedom of religion and is a leading enforcer in the Vatican-ordered crackdown on women religious who regard ministering to the poor and the sick as more urgent and more admirable than railing against contraception and homosexuality. James Carville says that in response to Dolan’s extraordinary eagerness to mount the Republican podium (he elbowed the local bishop aside to get there), the Democrats should invite Sister Simone Campbell to close out their ceremonies in Charlotte. Sister Simone is the leader of the 'Nuns on the Bus' campaign, which toured the country to bear witness against Paul Ryan’s draconian budget plan and to ask Congress for 'a moral budget serves all, not just the wealthy.' Carville attributes the suggestion to his daughter, a senior at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans." (Hendrik Hertzberg)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"We have had, in the modern era, just one truly unlikable president. Dick Nixon, of course. And it turns out that there are points of similarity between Romney’s and Nixon’s campaigns that aren’t instantly apparent but are worth fleshing out. The campaigns resemble each other in that both are built far more around negative than positive selling points. With Nixon, the argument went that you needed to elect him to preserve law and order, which he said was at risk of very survival if Humphrey won; to keep the blacks and the hippies and the pinkos at bay; and because he had a secret plan for quick victory with honor in Vietnam, which turned out to be so secret that he continued the war, even expanding it into Cambodia, for another seven years before we finally lost it. Romney’s arguments just need a fresh coat of paint to keep up with the changed times, but they’re roughly the same. Our free-enterprise system, our very way of life, is at risk if Obama is reelected; he and Paul Ryan are needed to keep society’s freeloaders and moochers at bay. There is no precise analog for Vietnam, I suppose, but it is certainly fair to say that Romney’s foreign-policy offerings, delusional though they are, are once again more about Obamian perfidy (apologizing for America, etc.) than any vision of his own ... And yet, different as they are, their campaigns, their appeals, are undeniably similar: Nixon led, and Romney is now leading, a vengeance campaign against an Other America, an America their supporters despise. Romney’s is a campaign that seeks to win, that can only win, by dividing the country into an 'us' and a 'them.' I confess that I’ve been genuinely shocked by the baldness of Romney’s lies about welfare and Medicare and about the way he’s racialized this campaign. I guess that’s precisely because, whatever he seemed, he did not seem sinister like Nixon. And he may not be. But he is clearly a man who will do and say anything to be president. And when he accepts his party’s nomination this week, and all those general-election dollars are unlocked and converted into negative ads in swing states, we’re going to find ourselves in uncharted waters—a candidate and his affiliate groups with hundreds of millions of dollars to spend, virtually all of it attacking the other guy." (Mike Tomasky)

"That was the big news I learned yesterday morning, as the Republican National Convention was about to get under way here in Tampa, Florida. (Karl) Rove was the guest of honor at a breakfast hosted by Mike Allen’s Politico Playbook in downtown Tampa near the convention center, and, as Tropical Storm Isaac taunted the Republican convention with sporadic torrents of rain and huge gusts of wind, Rove, clad in a blue blazer, a bright-orange tie, and Mercury dime cufflinks he proudly displayed, was his usual dazzling self when it came to wooing the assembled press corps. Herewith are some of his pearls of wisdom: ...•On Joe Biden giving an average of $369 a year to charity: 'I think [Biden] is getting his tips on charitable contributions from Hillary pre-1992. Mark up the underwear and give it away to Goodwill.' •On Obama’s prospects for re-election: 'I think Obama is going to lose. . . . [but if he wins,] it will be an utter disaster for the country.' •On the perilous economic state of the media: 'I’m watching with glee' as it self-destructs. •On the growing importance of the Hispanic vote: 'We can’t be like we are with African-Americans' and allow Hispanics to become 'a Democratic voting bloc.'" (VanityFair)

"This past Saturday in Bridgehampton, equestrienne Stephanie Riggio hosted an evening at her home for horse and animal lovers. The objective: to familiarize people with the HSUS Equine leadership council's efforts to preserve and protect America's horses. New Yorkers already know about this issue which is before us in the presence of the carriage horses used for visiting tourists in Central Park." (NYSocialDiary)

"'The Newsroom' closed out its first season this past Sunday the way it began, with an episode -- 'The Greater Fool' -- that brought back series premiere director Greg Mottola and showed off the precise mix of fiery idealism, incontestible santimoniousness and maddening writing of female characters that have come to define Aaron Sorkin's HBO drama. 'The Greater Fool' was an episode that showcased what Sorkin does best -- tout idealism (come, let us tilt at windmills!) and slam the bad guys (take that, Tea Party!) -- while also demonstrating how frankly juvenile many of the personal dramas have become. 'The Newsroom' has taken a lot of flack from critics and other journalists over its 10-episode run -- to the degree that some have felt the need to point out that people don't have to watch the show, and others have noted it's just such a great series to hate-watch. I fall somewhere in the middle of the watch/hate-watch spectrum, liking the cast and having found the newsroom process segments and sanctimonious increasingly irresistible (really, TV needs more angry liberals) while getting all the more exasperated with the love quadrangles and flat attempts at a screwball comedy vibe. But it's a show I've stuck with and have wanted to stick with, and one that's slated to return for a second season. Here's a wish list of things I'd love to see happen when the show's back next summer." (Allison Willmore)
"Polish national strategy pivots around a single, existential issue: how to preserve its national identity and independence. Located on the oft-invaded North European Plain, Poland's existence is heavily susceptible to the moves of major Eurasian powers. Therefore, Polish history has been erratic, with Poland moving from independence -- even regional dominance -- to simply disappearing from the map, surviving only in language and memory before emerging once again.  For some countries, geopolitics is a marginal issue. Win or lose, life goes on. But for Poland, geopolitics is an existential issue; losing begets national catastrophe. Therefore, Poland's national strategy inevitably is designed with an underlying sense of fear and desperation. Nothing in Polish history would indicate that disaster is impossible. To begin thinking about Poland's strategy, we must consider that in the 17th century, Poland, aligned with Lithuania, was one of the major European powers. It stretched from the Baltic Sea almost to the Black Sea, from western Ukraine into the Germanic regions. By 1795, it had ceased to exist as an independent country, divided among three emerging powers: Prussia, Russia and Austria." (STRATFOR)

Donald Trump's Problem with Women

That Donald Trump is oafish -- stupendously clumsy in his media presentation -- is obvious. His hair, his bluster, his pinkness, his disrespect for the office of President have all been media fodder. Trump has often said embarassing, immature things. Like when he said he picked up pennies. But he has also been profoundly acidic, most notably in three cases, all -- one cannot fail to note -- involving women.

Today's disgusting attack on Arianna Huffington on Twitter is the first example. I won't repeat what he said -- though I am pretty sure all the news shows will tonight. But what Trump said in essence is particularly disgusting in that it is an attack that is aimed directly at her marriage, blaming her. Somehow, embedded in Trump's remark, she was not woman enough; Trump, by implication, being the arbiter of all things womanly. Not that Donald Trump, to be quite frank, should be blaming anyone on the dissolution of their marriage (Averted Gaze). And yet he does, with a filthy pomposity.

And this is not the first instance of Donald Trump way going beyond the pale in a personal attack against a woman. Trump also attacked Rosie O'Donnell. Though Trump recently extended an olive branch, it does not mitigate the spectacularly disgusting language he hurled at O'Donnell during the course of their media feud. That feud began in 2006 after Rosie, admittedly, attacked Trump first on matters of business ethics. This was over his "management" of Miss USA. Trump's response, right around the holiday season of 2006, veered into a scarlet zone. From USA Today:
"Maybe she wanted to put the crown back on Miss USA's head," the real estate mogul said of the openly gay O'Donnell, who has four children with her partner, Kelli. "I think she's very attracted to Miss USA so she probably wanted to put the crown on her head herself."

Insult No. 2: "She is a very, very unattractive woman who really is a bully."
I repeat this only to show how ugly, how utterly gutteral the birther's attacks are against O'Donnell. They are anti-gay and anti woman in the same way as Trump's slimy insinuation that President Obama's birth certificate is false and that he is a beneficiary of affirmative action -- with no evidence -- are racial code words. Charmed, I'm sure.

Finally, we have Trump against Daryl Hannah of all people. The actress disagreed in a depiction as her father, real estate mogul Jerry Wexler, as "The Donald Trump of Chicago" in a December 1993 Harper's Bazzar article. From The Philly Inquirer of that year:

(Hannah) noted that the Deal Artist wasn't even successful in real estate anymore. Well! The Trumpmeister ripped off a letter to the mag noting, ''This has been the best business year of my life" and challenging it to ''pit my real-estate record against (developer Jerry Wexler's) any day."
Trump added: "The big question is: What does (the late John Kennedy, Jr.) see in Daryl, if anything. I have seen her on many occasions, and she is, quite simply, a 'six' - and badly in need of a shower or a bath."
 What is Donald Trump's problem with women? And how much longer can Trump get away with this sort of behavior in public and in the media before he is called to task for it and excluded from grown-up conversation?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Media-Whoe D'oeuvres

"A Republican strategist said something interesting and revealing on Friday, though it largely escaped attention in the howling gusts of punditry over Mitt Romney’s birth certificate crack and a potential convention-altering hurricane. The subject was a Ron Brownstein story outlining the demographic hit rates each party requires to win in November. To squeak out a majority, Mitt Romney probably needs to win at least 61 percent of the white vote — a figure exceeding what George H.W. Bush commanded over Michael Dukakis in 1988. The Republican strategist told Brownstein, 'This is the last time anyone will try to do this' — 'this' being a near total reliance on white votes to win a presidential election. I wrote a long story last February arguing that the Republican Party had grown intensely conscious of both the inescapable gravity of the long-term relative decline of the white population, and the short-term window of opportunity opened for the party by the economic crisis. I think we’re continuing to see the GOP operate under an integrated political and policy strategy constructed on this premise. This is their last, best chance to win an election in the party’s current demographic and ideological form. Future generations of GOP politicians will have to appeal to nonwhite voters who hold far more liberal views about the role of government than does the party’s current base. The '2012 or never' hypothesis helps explain why a series of Republican candidates, first in the House and most recently at the presidential candidate level, have taken the politically risky step of openly declaring themselves for Paul Ryan’s radical blueprint." (NYMag)

"As oil prices ticked above $115 per barrel last week, a White House leak revealed that President Barack Obama may dip into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), the United States' 695 million barrel stockpile of emergency fuel supplies. The leak might have been a signal that Washington wants Gulf countries to take action to lower oil prices. It might also have been an attempt to wring the risk premium out of current prices by reassuring the market that America won't let a potential war with Iran shut off the spigot. The one thing we can say for sure is that the announcement highlights two interrelated problems with U.S. energy policy: that every president since Ronald Reagan has used Saudi Arabia as his de facto SPR and that there exist no clear standards for when to dip onto the actual SPR. Both problems have the potential to bite us -- badly.
Over the years, the United States has been surprisingly reluctant to release SPR during times of crisis, preferring instead to let Saudi Arabia handle the problem by simply increasing its production. For decades, in fact, U.S. presidents have been able to count on the Middle Eastern petro giant to pre-release oil in anticipation of times of war. For example, Riyadh flooded the market ahead of the first Gulf War and, though many do not remember, it also put extra oil on the market ahead of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Saudi Arabia even increased its oil production after the 9/11 attacks, which badly strained U.S.-Saudi relations. Likewise, this spring, when the Obama administration was debating whether or not to release the SPR ahead of the tightening of sanctions against Iran, Saudi Arabia helpfully boosted its production above 10 million barrels per day, causing oil prices to fall more than $10 a barrel and eliminating the need for the White House to make a firm decision. But relying on Saudi Arabia, while politically convenient, is not without risks." (ForeignPolicy)
Andrew Weissman (Union Square Ventures) and Jason Hirschhorn (Media ReDEFined) Discuss Disruption in Film and Media

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"2012 is shaping up as an election in which the winner may earn victory not by virtue of winning the most votes, but on account of the Electoral College. If one candidate enjoys a popular vote edge of 2 percentage points or more, there’s virtually no chance that the other candidate will achieve a majority of the electoral votes. But given how close the election seems this year—average the six national surveys conducted since mid-August, and you get 46.5 percent for Obama and 45.5 percent for Romney—the final results may not be so clean cut. If the Electoral College does come into play, on what will the outcome hinge? As we head toward to Republican convention, here’s a late-summer assessment—not so much a prediction as a viewer’s guide to the fall contest. Let’s begin with the Electoral College foundation on which each candidate will build. A very conservative assessment gives Obama a base of 201 electoral votes, and Romney 181. These numbers exclude one state—Pennsylvania, with 20 electoral votes—that most observers are putting in Obama’s column, and one state—Missouri (10)—that is likely to go for Romney. Factoring in these probable outcomes, Obama’s base rises to 221 electoral votes, Romney’s to 191. The next tier contains three states that Romney must win and two more that Obama must hold. The Romney 3 are Florida (29), North Carolina (15), and Ohio (18), in each of which Obama’s share of the popular vote in 2008 was well below his national share. No Republican has ever won the presidency without Ohio, and Romney is unlikely to be the first. There’s no road to 270 electoral votes for the Republican ticket that doesn’t run through Florida. And losing North Carolina, which Obama won by only 0.3 percent, would force Romney to flip a major Midwestern state where Obama won by a much greater margin.
Let’s look more closely at Ohio." (TNR)

"Karl Rove on Monday predicted Rep. Todd Akin will lose by the widest margin of any Republican candidate in modern history if he remains in his Missouri Senate race against Sen. Claire McCaskill.'What he said was indefensible and the way he handled it made it worse,' Rove told POLITICO’s Mike Allen at the first POLITICO Playbook Breakfast at the Republican National Convention. 'This is a program that he taped and obviously he saw nothing wrong with it in his tape,' Rove said, pointing out that Akin didn’t respond to the taped interview until two days later. Rove said Akin has no option other than getting out of the race. 'I know Todd. He’s a good man. He has a good heart,' Rove said. 'But he said a real stupid, indefensible thing from which there’s no recovery. And if he really cares about the values of conservatism and pro-life, then he will not go down in defeat with the biggest loss of any Republican candidate for Senate in the modern history.'" (Politico)

"Well, here I am, one week out, and I must admit, my tender nostalgia for the end of summer has turned to an exhausted cry for the respite of the simple, healthy life in Gotham. As of this weekend, I have now seen everyone I have ever wanted to see, at least once. I have consumed every kernel of pearly white corn, every ruby red, bursting tomato, and most taxingly, every last drop of rose. I need to come home to the gentle, peaceful valleys of Manhattan ... Next up, Anne Hearst McInerney and Jay McInerney's Wednesday night dinner. Yes, you have read about them here before, because they are gracious, generous, and exceedingly good at entertaining, and their guests include people as compelling as their fare — Ken Auletta, Ross Bleckner, Roger Waters and so on. This evening, they were welcoming our friend CNN commentator and Democratic spokesman Robert Zimmerman, back from a glam Italian cruise. Jay asked him to begin a non-partisan political discussion, and well ... ain't no such thing. The issue of 'choice' demonstrated there is none — we have all made up our minds, and so we moved on to neutral territory, like food and wine. Le Bernadin's Eric Ripert toasted Jay's wines and cuisine, Jay toasted right back, and we fell in to the happy, full lull that dinners create." (NYSocialDiary)

"Katie Holmes gets to cash in on her marriage by keeping millions of dollars in jewelry and gifts given to her by her ex-husband Tom Cruise, says a source. Following reports of a stingy payout from Cruise, RadarOnline’s source claims that 'Tom was extremely generous to Katie with lavish gifts during their marriage and she will be keeping millions of dollars of jewelry, Hermes handbags and other luxurious items.' 'Tom gave Katie diamond earrings as a birthday gift one year that easily cost over $500k and he had custom design pieces made for her,' says the source.  'Under terms of the divorce, Katie is keeping all of the jewelry, handbags, accessories, and designer clothing.' The source continues that for the time being, the jewels are being kept in a safe place and will likely be given to their daughter Suri once she is old enough. The 'Dawson’s Creek' actress was reportedly uninterested in Cruise’s millions, wanting to settle her divorce quickly. 'Suri has always been Katie's number one priority and concern. During the divorce settlement talks Katie just wanted to make sure that she and her daughter would be taken care of from a financial standpoint,' the source added.The 'Mission Impossible' actor is allegedly paying Holmes $400,000 a year in child support for the next 12 years, or until Suri turns 18. The total payout works out to $4.8 million, which is less than what Cruise makes in a single film." (PageSix)

"It was a lovely weekend in New York; warm and sunny, little humidity and a very quiet town. There were moments on East End Avenue in the middle of the day when nary a car passed by. That is amazing for New York. On Saturday I went over to the West Side to have a meeting with JH. JH and I see very little of each other although we are in frequent communication. He lives and works on the far West Side and I on the East.Sometimes on weekends we’ll meet up to discuss what we are doing, and Saturday we did it during a walk along Riverside Drive in the 80s. JH lives in that neighborhood and knows I am fascinated by the abundance of late 19th, early 20th century architecture in his neighborhood, as is he. Saturday we walked up to 89th and Riverside where the Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial Monument is and where across the street is one of the few remaining separate standing houses in Manhattan. Across from the monument is the Isaac L. Rice house at 346 West 89th Street on the corner of Riverside. Built in 1903, Mr. Rice, who had emigrated here from Germany with his parents when he was six years old, was a lawyer and a private investor. He bought the property the same year the monument went up, for $225,000 (or many many millions in today’s currency)." (David Patrick Columbia/NYSocialDiary)

"IT’S EASY TO FORGET that eight months ago BuzzFeed didn’t even have a politics section. The website was known primarily for posting goofy and/or heart-warming lists created expressly for readers to share on social-media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Among the most popular BuzzFeed articles of 2011 were '20 Alcoholic Beverages Inspired By The Harry Potter Series,' 'Basset Hounds Running,' and 'Scared Bros at a Haunted House.' But Jonah Peretti, the site’s CEO (who, like its chair, Kenneth Lerer, also co-founded The Huffington Post), knew that BuzzFeed would benefit from focusing on politics during an election year. People would be obsessed with the campaign and covering it well would offer a shortcut to respectability, a way to implant the brand in the media elite. And so he hired Politico’s Ben Smith, one of the most talented and admired scoop-mongers in the game. Eight months later, under Smith’s direction, the website’s politics vertical (which is just tech-speak for “section”) draws several million unique visitors a month. Many of its reporters are regulars on cable news, and nearly all of them are central to the political conversation on Twitter. Even The New York Times recognizes BuzzFeed’s power: It will be co-producing videos with the site at both parties’ conventions. 'We’ve been doing thorough reportorial, narrative journalism for many, many decades,' says Jim Roberts, the Times’ assistant managing editor and the person who suggested the partnership. 'The lessons we can learn from BuzzFeed are going to be valuable.' On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Smith strolled across the website’s New York office—STOP TWEETING BORING SHIT, reads a sign on the wall—to chat with McKay Coppins. Coppins was working on an article about The New Yorker’s website, which was reeling from the news that its science writer, Jonah Lehrer, had fabricated quotes. Smith inspected Coppins’s story and noticed that he had buried his only piece of fresh information: An editor at The New Yorker went on record saying that the episode wasn’t going to halt the magazine’s attempt to expand online. Even though it wasn’t a particularly interesting or important bit of news, Smith told Coppins to move it much higher up in the piece, because, as Coppins explained later, 'It’s the tweet'—the tiny morsel that Smith felt had the best chance of getting attention on Twitter.In a sense, all of BuzzFeed Politics’s articles, even the long ones, are spiritually 140 characters or fewer. This is no accident; as Peretti likes to say, 'Twitter is the homepage of politics.'" (TNR)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Some benedictions bestow a bigger blessing than others, and Mitt Romney hit the jackpot by signing up Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops, to deliver the closing prayer at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., next week. The move is perhaps the clearest sign of a more aggressive push by Republicans to win over Roman Catholic voters this election cycle. Four years ago, Barack Obama won the votes of a majority of Catholics, assisted in part by his Catholic running mate, Joseph R. Biden Jr.  But this time the Republicans sense an opportunity to cut into that advantage, at least with moderate and independent Catholics, because of two recent developments: President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage and the standoff between the Obama administration and Catholic bishops over the requirement that Catholic hospitals and schools must provide coverage for birth control in their employee health insurance plans ... Mr. Biden and the Republican challenger, Representative Paul D. Ryan, represent competing factions within their own church: Mr. Biden places a premium on the church’s social justice tradition of caring for the needy, while Mr. Ryan champions church teaching against abortion and same-sex marriage ... Catholics make up about a quarter of the electorate, but they hardly vote as a bloc any longer. The Catholic vote is instead a bellwether that mirrors the general electorate. Exit polls showed that in 2008 Mr. Obama prevailed among Catholic voters by nine percentage points. This time, Gallup’s daily tracking poll, taken from July 30 to Aug. 19, showed Mr. Romney with a slight edge among registered voters who are Catholic. 'Since 1972, the candidate who has won the Catholic vote has won the popular vote as well,' said Robert P. Jones, chief executive and founder of the Public Religion Research Institute in Washington. 'The Catholic vote does tend to be on the side of the winning candidate. It’s the quintessential religious swing group.'" (NYTimes)

"AL GORE lives alone now, in a 10,000-square-foot colonial in Nashville, where magnolia trees shade the house and geothermal wells, buried beneath the driveway, cool and heat its 20 rooms. Some weeks Mr. Gore heads to San Francisco, where he has a luxury apartment at the St. Regis tower, to work on venture capital projects or visit his new girlfriend. And some nights he checks into the Regency in New York, where three of his children live. At 64, even after accumulating more than $100 million in wealth, Mr. Gore races like a man making up for lost time: blog posts to write, business deals to close, a global climate to save. Tipper Gore lives alone now, too, and at a gentler pace — the pace she wanted when the Gores separated in June 2010.  She divides her time between their $9 million seaside villa near Santa Barbara, Calif., and her maternal family home in Arlington, Va., near her 89-year-old father. She, too, is in New York often and is also working (selling her photography through her Web site) and dating someone new. The couple reunites a few times a year, most recently in June, for summer family vacations and Christmases in the Gore family seat of Carthage, Tenn. They gather at the old farm and lake where Mr. Gore’s father, a congressman and senator, had once dreamed about his son becoming president. Back then the Gores had the makings of a political dynasty, and the paterfamilias, Albert Gore Sr., certainly held that ambition.        But hard times happen. Reckonings occur. And dynasties require both continuity and a next generation. The four Gore children, having been raised in the hothouse of Washington, want nothing to do with it." (NYTimes)
"The previous time novelist Ian McEwan was interviewed by a journalist from the FT for a profile, something unexpected happened. Reader, he married her. McEwan’s wife, writer and former literary editor Annalena McAfee, is, in fact, one of the reasons we are at Moro in central London. She used to be a regular at this chic but informal restaurant in Exmouth Market, known for its Moorish food. Also, McEwan recalls, fellow novelist Julian Barnes 'had a very nice birthday party here'. He apologetically pre-empts any marital hopes. 'I usually marry my FT interviewer but I can’t do it this time.' I had predicted that McEwan, known for his calculated, precise prose, would arrive on time. In fact, he is 10 minutes late. A slight man, who would not stand out in a crowd, he wears a grey Italian suit with a crumpled blue linen shirt, with oddly folded cuffs. He looks straight at me with an air of calm, engaged curiosity; at ease with intimate talk, he asks equally direct questions back. Within minutes we dart from marriage to Barack Obama and The West Wing, from solar power to predicting the fall of the Berlin wall in a novel. 'I was well ahead of the CIA,' he says." (FT)
"August is coming to a glamorous close on the French Riviera, with celebrities and fashion stars packing it in for the end of the summer season. Chanel icon Karl Lagerfeld was spotted driving through St. Tropez in a black Rolls Royce with a silver streak. Giorgio Armani, we’re told, was ensconced at his villa with friends and family. Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn and his blond wife, Andrea, were seen dining at Club 55, while Elton John and David Furnish were also there with a large group of good-looking friends. Meanwhile, ’60s sex symbol Brigitte Bardot was spotted leaving her house in St. Tropez to head to her villa 20 minutes away from the prying eyes of tourists." (PageSix)
" For years, the Japanese sushi chef who spent over a decade working for the Kim family in North Korea lived in dread of a knock on the door by an agent sent to kill him for returning to Japan and writing a tell-all book exposing the rulers’ extravagant lifestyle. That visit came in June, but instead of a gun, the agent who surprised him in a convenience store whipped out an invitation bound in red cloth from Kim Jong-un, the leader he last knew as a pudgy, precocious teenager he had called the Prince ...He said he was immediately embraced by Mr. Kim — unthinkable under Mr. Kim’s stern, standoffish father, Kim Jong-il, who ruled the North for 17 years until his death in December. 'The
 comrade general smiled and told me,‘Your betrayal is now forgotten,’'Mr. Fujimoto said in an interview. Mr. Fujimoto still declined to give his real name or his age, this time for fear that Japanese right-wing extremists might attack him for appearing friendly with a nation that abducted Japanese citizens in the 1970s and ’80s ... He said the most moving moment was his three-hour lunch with Mr. Kim the day after his arrival in Pyongyang. He said the young leader strode into the room wearing a black Mao suit, next to his wife, Ri Sol-ju, who was dressed in a stylish black blouse with red polka dots and a black skirt. They were followed by a retinue of family members and aides. Mr. Fujimoto said he was surprised that Ms. Ri took such a prominent role, because Mr. Kim’s father had rarely taken any of his three known wives to such functions. He said Mr. Kim seemed much more relaxed and cheerful than his aloof father ever was. He seemed clearly in charge, despite being accompanied by his middle-aged uncle, Jang Song-thaek, who some analysts have said may be acting as a regent to the young leader.  As they reminisced about old times, Mr. Fujimoto said, Mr. Kim poured him glasses of red wine from Bordeaux, the leader’s favorite type, and smoked French cigarettes." (NYTimes)
"Kilkare, the ocean-front home of Eleanora and Michael Kennedy, came to life in grand scale last Saturday evening, the 18th of August, as friends came together to celebrate the 135th anniversary of this iconic Hampton residence located in the Georgica Association of Wainscott, New York. The Kennedys have instilled a great deal of life in this family home and added to its history as they welcomed 130 guests. Among the close friends were philanthropists, artists, writers, industrialists, moguls from all arenas, board members of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the Central Park Conservancy, and Georgica Association neighbors ... The clouds parted from rain that had pounded the eastern shore of Long Island earlier in the day and glorious sunlight showed through to a spectacular sunset as guests enjoyed the delicious hors d'oeuvres by well-known caterer Olivier Cheng along with his berry sparkle specialty drink and cocktails galore ... Guests who had homes in the Hamptons or were visiting from Europe, the west coast, Palm Beach and parts of the eastern seaboard included Susan and Tim Malloy (Quinnipiac University journalist in residence and Afghanistan War Correspondent), Jo Carol and Ronald Lauder, Christine and Steve Schwarzman ...Sony's Rob Wiesenthal" (NYSocialDiary)
"Mitt Romney's $250 million fortune is largely a black hole: Aside from the meager and vague disclosures he has filed under federal and Massachusetts laws, and the two years of partial tax returns (one filed and another provisional) he has released, there is almost no data on precisely what his vast holdings consist of, or what vehicles he has used to escape taxes on his income. Gawker has obtained a massive cache of confidential financial documents that shed a great deal of light on those finances, and on the tax-dodging tricks available to the hyper-rich that he has used to keep his effective tax rate at roughly 13% over the last decade. Today, we are publishing more than 950 pages of internal audits, financial statements, and private investor letters for 21 cryptically named entities in which Romney had invested—at minimum—more than $10 million as of 2011 (that number is based on the low end of ranges he has disclosed—the true number is almost certainly significantly higher). Almost all of them are affiliated with Bain Capital, the secretive private equity firm Romney co-founded in 1984 and ran until his departure in 1999 (or 2002, depending on whom you ask). Many of them are offshore funds based in the Cayman Islands. Together, they reveal the mind-numbing, maze-like, and deeply opaque complexity with which Romney has handled his wealth, the exotic tax-avoidance schemes available only to the preposterously wealthy that benefit him, the unlikely (for a right-wing religious Mormon) places that his money has ended up, and the deeply hypocritical distance between his own criticisms of Obama's fiscal approach and his money managers' embrace of those same policies." (Gawker)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

2012: The White Vote

The middle class, of course, is evaporating. From Pew Social Trends:

"In 2011, this middle-income tier included 51% of all adults; back in 1971, using the same income boundaries, it had included 61%. 2 The hollowing of the middle has been accompanied by a dispersion of the population into the economic tiers both above and below. The upper-income tier rose to 20% of adults in 2011, up from 14% in 1971; the lower-income tier rose to 29%, up from 25%. However, over the same period, only the upper-income tier increased its share in the nation’s household income pie. It now takes in 46%, up from 29% four decades ago. The middle tier now takes in 45%, down from 62% four decades ago. The lower tier takes in 9%, down from 10% four decades ago"

President Obama is going to lose West Virginia to Romney even though, economically, the state should be more amenable to his philosophy. That, of course, is arguable, as the President sometimes seems more concerned with the health of the big banks -- at least prior to his 2010 mid-term shellacking -- than with his party base of 99-percenters. Still, very time Romney mentions "welfare," an angel loses its wings (and the race card is dealt from the bottom of the deck). This conversation below took place in June, but it is very relevant as to how the white vote -- which will determine this election -- is being appealed to in both campaigns:

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Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Most of the people closest to the president signed on with Obama before it became obvious he had a chance of becoming president. That core — David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, David Plouffe, Pete Rouse, Dan Pfeiffer, Robert Gibbs — forms an inner citadel inside the Obama camp from which 'outsiders' are largely excluded. It’s an order of battle that proved highly effective in 2008. Whether it will prove quite so effective this time around is very much an open question. When deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter, who straddles that insider-outsider line more precariously than anyone in Obama’s camp, began emerging as a major force in Obama’s Chicago headquarters, many of Obama’s original crew viewed her as an obstreperous upstart challenging Obama’s no-drama order. It probably didn’t help that Cutter can be brutally blunt and asserted her authority outside the 2008 hierarchy, people close to the situation said in interviews for a new e-book 'Obama’s Last Stand,' a joint venture between POLITICO and Random House. Cutter was brought into Obama’s inner circle by one of the founding fathers: Axelrod. She has tackled some of Obama’s toughest problems in the past four years, from Michelle Obama’s image to messaging on health care reform. But when she briefly clashed with Axelrod this spring, several insiders made clear in the interviews that they still regard Cutter as an outsider. When a crisis hits, Obama tends to pull the most trusted members of his inner group even closer to him. That’s why so many Obama insiders are coming back into the fold as the race wears on. Gibbs seemed to be on the outs over a much-hyped feud with Jarrett and a clash with the first lady revealed in Jodi Kantor’s book 'The Obamas' earlier this year. But the president himself never soured on his longtime spokesman, according to several people close to the situation. He was pleased when Gibbs increased his role as a surrogate and adviser this spring." (Politico)

"As Republicans prepared to renominate Richard Nixon for president, journalist Hunter S. Thompson had a moment of clarity inside his Miami Beach hotel room. 'This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves,' Thompson wrote in his classic Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72. 'We are really just a nation of 220 million used-car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.' Now, 40 years later, the Republican National Convention is returning to Florida. On August 30, Mitt Romney will don a sleek suit and flash his Vaseline smile to a sea of pale-skinned delegates in Tampa. He will compliment the city on hosting the four-day, $123 million orgiastic event ... The RNC's return to the Sunshine State is no fluke. For Romney and the rest of the party, Florida is the future. Since Nixon's days, conservatives have transformed Florida into a hellish post-governmental wasteland. Here, Super PACs run wild through suburbs in foreclosure, people trust in only God or their Glocks, and the poor are left to literally cannibalize one another on the nightly news. But hey, there's no state income tax! As in '72, Florida is the template for a right-wing takeover in 2012. Pay attention, America, because this crazy, collapsed state could soon be yours, too ... Under the black lights of the Mons Venus strip club, Monica's eyes and teeth glow like St. Elmo's fire. Six-inch stilettos dangle from her toes as she sits at a waist-high table. Her folded arms prop up her bare, surgically enhanced breasts, nipples staring in opposite directions like a gunslinger's pistols. She smells like mint chewing gum and cigarettes. It's a Monday afternoon. On an octagonal stage, a thin Asian girl grinds her naked hips against a pole as a few customers gaze at the gyrating spectacle. 'It's going to be as big as the Super Bowl,' Monica says of the convention, over the heavy thumps of a hip-hop song. 'Why do you think they are having it here in Tampa? It's the Mons. People have got to see what it's all about, even Republicans.'" (VillageVoice)

"Whit Stillman takes his time. A renowned documenter of the well-educated and self-absorbed, the writer-director has made only four films in 22 years. His layered depictions of the 'urban haute bourgeoisie' are, though rare, singular in cinema, and unique in their dry humor and light irony. Of those four films, perhaps the most influential is Metropolitan, his sleeper-hit debut that premiered in 1990 to critical acclaim and an Oscar nod for best original screenplay. The film portrays a 'not so long ago' debutante scene in the upper-crust apartments of New York, where 20-somethings decked in tuxedoes and drinking champagne discuss Fourier, trip on mescaline, and repeatedly use the word 'tiresome.'  Stillman's script, chiseled to a subtle perfection, is a thing of beauty. Of those screenwriters who depict the lives of neurotic, privileged youth, he's the oft-overlooked link between Woody Allen and Lena Dunham. Metropolitan's entire narrative consists of conversations between outspoken, embittered students bound by a temporary camaraderie; the dialogues are crisp, biting, and imbued with a playful intelligence." (TheAwl)

"If we examine the record from 1964 to 2008 in the charts above, we can make several observations about the nature of post-convention poll bounces: •Bounces are normal but not universal. In all 12 cases, the GOP nominee got a bounce, and the same was true in nine of 12 conventions for the Democratic candidate. Why not all 12? Lyndon Johnson’s polling had already peaked in his landslide year of 1964, so it was hard for him to boost his soaring numbers. George McGovern’s disastrous convention in 1972, when internal disputes pushed his acceptance address into the wee hours on the East Coast, netted him a dead cat bounce. In 2004, John Kerry didn’t budge, at least in the Gallup Poll, from 47% — right around his proportion of the vote in November (48%). Kerry had a high floor, due to opposition to George W. Bush, and a low ceiling as well, owing to Bush’s strong base backing. •Excluding Bill Clinton’s 1992 bounce due to extenuating circumstances (see below), the average size of a bounce has been 5.1% — higher for Republicans (5.9%) than Democrats (4.3%)." (SabatosCrystalBall)

"For the launch of their third collection, Co partners Stephanie Danan and Justin Kern enlisted contemporary Greek artist and longtime fixture in the fashion world Konstantin Kakanias to create a cheeky animated tale bringing his longtime alter ego Mrs. Tependris to life. Tependris Rising (watch the video here) follows eccentric style icon Mrs. Tependris as she forges a fashion comeback on a Co runway with cartoon versions of Carine Roitfeld, Anna Wintour, and Olivier Zahm looking on. 'I fell in love with great fashion through character,' Danan explained, providing a background to the narrative shorts Co releases each season. A previous video starred √Člodie Bouchez, who was in the crowd alongside Rooney Mara and Dita Von Teese at the screening at L.A.'s Soho House last night. " (Style)

"John Bonifaz is a wiry, bespectacled man with graying temples and a hearty laugh that camouflages his seriousness. He’s fought many progressive fights over the years on issues ranging from voting rights (which won him a MacArthur 'genius grant') to Unocal’s liability for human rights abuses in Myanmar (on which we worked together to draft a lawsuit). We’ve been friends for nearly 30 years, ever since we were student activists at Brown University. These days, however, we find ourselves differing vociferously on what to do about Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the 2010 Supreme Court decision expanding the rights of corporations to engage in political speech and campaign spending ... John and I recently debated Citizens United on television, and during our exchange he said something particularly revealing. In discussing some of the legal arguments in the case, he described shareholders as “owners.” In this respect, he agrees with the Court and conventional wisdom. Shareholders own companies and management speaks for them. The reality is different. Shareholders are not really owners, and they exercise little control over corporate political involvement. Employees, communities, consumers, and other stakeholders exercise even less. The reason why corporate political speech is so corrosive to democracy is that the benefits and prerogatives of the corporate form are marshaled to bolster the speech of a tiny sliver of the financial and managerial elite. The fact that corporations speak is not itself a problem; whom they speak for is. This essay urges progressives to cease their efforts to amend the constitution to weaken corporate 'personhood.' Instead, we need to focus on changing corporations themselves so that overturning Citizens United would be unnecessary. We should use this historical moment to nudge corporations closer to what the Supreme Court assumed they are in its Citizens United decision—'associations of citizens.' While the constitutional effort is defensive and palliative, a campaign to redesign the corporation itself would be affirmative and transformative. To cure Citizens United, we don’t have to amend the Constitution—we need to rethink corporations." (Democracy)