Friday, December 26, 2014

2014 Corsair Pirate Awards (Will be continuously updated until 12/31)

Another year has passed. What is that line in Abba's "Happy New Year" -- my favorite New Year's song -- "Happy new year/ Happy new year/ May we all have a vision now and then/ Of a world where every neighbour is a friend." Ando so on. And this makes our 11th -- ! -- annual Pirate Awards season. Cannot believe that this blog has been going for eleven years. All this week this blog will be re-hashing some of the fiascos, triumphs, epic fails and political coups that went down this year. The whole process will be a mix of funny, informative and (hopefully) smart stuff that people who have been reading this blog for over a decade are used to.Another Year's End, dear readers (The Corsair sips, Auld Lang Synish, with a touch of romantic melancholy, a Chateauneuf du Pape 1999). For the eleventh year and running -- has it really been that long? -- we present you with The Corsair Pirate Year End Awards (Part I; the rest, my dears, as the last days of December unfold ... stay with this blog). Every blogger/Tumblr worth their salt nowadays has year end awards and 'this thing of ours' is no goddam different.. Just smarter. Basta!

The Niccolo Machiavelli Award, 2014: Tie -- Speaker elect John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. The Corsair is not a fan of either politico, but they navigated between the Scylla of the tea baggers -- a motley bunch of nativists and libertarians -- and the Charybdis of the Chamber of Commerce and the Wall Street Editorial page with what can only be properly construed as extreme finesse. If Niccolo Machiavelli were alive he would note that Boehner exhibited virtu in dispatching Congressman Grimm, an ethical time bomb threatening to undo his majority in the House; if Niccolo Machiavelli were alive he would note that McConnell ran an amazing campaign against the formidable Allison Grimes, and skillfully reacted to the winds of Fortuna in the Republican midterms. Again, The Corsair is not a fan of either, but we do subscribe to the principle of "don't hate, congratulate." Uncle Niccolo would approve.

Oddest Career Move: House of DvF. What the fucketh? Princess, A-Lister, fashion magnate, arbiter elegantiae, wife of billionaire -- all of these things, and more, are the lovely Diane von Furstenberg. So -- why would someone so accomplished and ferociously fabulous want to slum in the ghetto that is reality TV and, worse, live next door to the tasteless Kardashians on the -- omg -- E! "network"? Vanity Fair, in a rare moment of edge, asked DvF if she would have appeared on a reality TV show at an earlier stage of her career. Her answer is profoundly telling. "That’s a verrrry interesting question," she begins, drawing out the answer in search for time. "Yeah . . . I would actually. I would have loved to," she says with only a whisper of conviction. Sure, Diane, suuuuurre (Exaggerated cough suggesting feigned detachment).

Underreported Story of the Year: China Overtakes the U.S. as the World's Largest Economy. Understandably, the press in the united States downplayed this story. Economist Joseph Stieglitz did not. "(t)he United States is confronted with real foreign-policy challenges that will prove hard to resolve: militant Islam; the Palestine conflict, which is now in its seventh decade; an aggressive Russia, insisting on asserting its power, at least in its own neighborhood; continuing threats of nuclear proliferation. We will need the cooperation of China to address many, if not all, of these problems," Stieglitz writes in Vanity Fair. He counsels, "(w)e should take this moment, as China becomes the world’s largest economy, to 'pivot' our foreign policy away from containment." Hear, hear.

Sourest Puss on 2014: Kanye West. Why does this man always look as if he just consumed a bad batch of yogurt?

douchebag says what?

Weirdest TV Space: Sorkinworld. Sorkinworld means people of color in ancillary roles at best, operating on the margins, saying unimportant things; Sorkinworld means women characters always in the wrong, begging the omniscient male characters for forgiveness; Sorkinworld means omnipotent white men changing the world with their optimism, verve and principle. Ah, sweetness and light. Finally, Sorkinworld means never having to say you are sorry about your misogyny.

Weirdest Ideological Space: The bromance between Paleoconservatism and Putinism. Like the many Daddy-fixated "isms" before it -- nationalism and fascism come to mind -- paleoconservatism has found a living, breathing representation in Vladimir Putin, on which to practice that which we only be properly construed as profoundly Brokeback Mountainish. Taki, Pat Buchanan -- all those old paleo bulls -- spent 2014 lavishing Vladimir of St. Petersberg with hot, moist kisses in the form of digital columns. Get a room, fellas! "Is Putin One Of Us?" Patrick asks, almost coquettishly, eyelashes batting and heartbeat racing. One cannot fail to note that the political ideology most obstinately against homoerotic love spent 2014 composing homoerotic love poetry in the key of F Major to noted anti-same sexier, Vladimir Putin. Just saying.

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Most Relevant Print Magazine in 2014: Paper. Paper magazine was, hands down, the most relevant print magazine and their #breaktheinternet campaign was a stroke of media marketing genius. Kudos to Kim Hastreiter and David Hershkovits, who, thirty years in, are still hugely relevant in the digital age.

Hell Awaits: Anthony Marshall. It would appear that you really can't take it with you. "Tony" Marshall, the wastrel son of Brooke Astor ended up in the least "toniest" of places -- the pokey.  All sorts of deliciousness. He had the most privileged of upbringings and did fucking nothing with it all. He died unheralded and unsung in November. Brooke, the mother, hated his wife and made it publicly known. "This knowledge led to the campaign of besmirching Charlene Marshall in the press and among her friends — another blow to Anthony Marshall’s dignity, integrity and lifelong devotion to a mother who never paid much, if any, attention to him until she was an old woman who could depend on that support," wrote NYSD. "Ironically, it was a relationship not unlike Vincent’s mother and her behavior toward her son, Vincent the boy." May he rest in peace; Hell awaits.

Retro Trend: Racism, AKA, Fear of a Black Planet. Racism was the new black, it would appear, in 2014. An African-American President notwithstanding, on social media there was fear of a black storm trooper, fear of a black Annie and -- dare I bring it up? -- lots of fairly fucking disgusting tweets about police brutality. So. Very. Mississippi 1955. Stinking little bastards.

Geopolitical Gambler of the Year: Saudi Arabia. The Obama Doctrine vis-à-vis the Middle East has been, in part, to open dialogue with Iran and to de-emphasize the relationship with the hooker-chasers in Riyadh (Averted Gaze; Exaggerated cough suggesting feigned detachment)). Clearly, one of the biggest losers of the Obama presidency has been the House of Saud. Obama's body language with the Saudi royals is ... difficult. Clearly the President of the United States does not like the cut of their jib. They have lost their stalwart ally Mubarak, the price of oil -- their main export -- is int he shitter, and they are in a  deadly position in their proxy war with Iran, which is rapidly gaining geopolitical credibility in talks with the United States and the West at, as they see it, their expense. So what does any smart, small, wealthy nation do? It gambles. Big time. Doubling down, Saudi Arabia is digging in to protect their market share of black gold. They are not cutting production, no matter how low the price of oil drops. The strategy is that many of the smaller oil players -- including the frackers -- will be driven out and in the long run Saudi Arabia will have an even stronger hand than they do now in the grey and greasy River Limpopo-ish oil game. "(Ali al-Naimi, the oil minister of Saudi Arabia) spoke of his role in persuading the 12 member cartel of the reasons to keep production at current levels," writes the FT. “'As a policy for Opec — and I convinced Opec of this — even Mr al Badri [Opec secretary-general] is now convinced, it is not in the interest of Opec producers to cut their production,' Mr Naimi told the Middle East Economic Survey." Play on, Playa.

Worst Politician: Nouri al-Maliki. "To understand why Iraq is imploding, you must understand Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — and why the United States has supported him since 2006," wrote Ali Khederi, who, from 2003-2008, was the longest serving American official serving in Iraq. To call al Maliki divisive would be a tremendous understatement. Our situation in Iraq is largely because of his inept sectrarianism.By the time he resigned, in August, Iraq had become, essentially, a client state of Iran with large swaths controlled by ISIS. So, in fine, he was monumentally inept as a politico.

Best Politician: Joni Ernst. The Natural. It didn't hurt that Joni Ernst was funny, positive and seemed to be having one hell of a time campaigning for the United States Senate in purple Iowa. It also didn't hurt that her opponent -- picked by the increasingly inept, halfhearted and overworked Chuck Schumer -- was one of the most positively horrible candidates in our collective lifetimes. Ernest is a rising Republican superstar.

Trend of 2014: Ass. 2014 is the year that we, as a society, achieved "peak ass." Terminal butt-osity. Anaconda by any other name. It is all about the bass. We are talking, of course, about the booty. Ass -- not pun intended -- was big in 2014. Everyone, it seemed, was shaking it off. Is that a good thing or a decadent thing for the world's oldest democracy? Part of me feels feels that this is wonderful, but the part of me that thinks thinks that this is rather not. 

Coming of Age Award: Vice Media. Shane Smith has come a long way -- or maybe journalism has had to adapt to different, far more competitive media universe. Shane Smith, co-founder of Vice, in 2014 made the move from indie, underground, gonzo publisher to respectable Establishment media figure. He announced in December the Knight-Vice innovators fund at the Knight Innovation Award and spoke in the media sanctum sanctorum the Paley Center in the shadow of CBS.

The mother of Egyptian journalist Mayada Ashraf mourns at her funeral. Ashraf was shot dead while covering clashes in eastern Cairo. (AFP/Ahmed Mahmoud)

Courage Under Fire Award: International Correspondents. Are international journalists brave professionals bringing important information to the light of day from conflict zones or are they simply foolish? Nine out of ten journalists killed this year were local journalists, many of them in global trouble spots. According to CJR, "In total, at least 60 journalists were killed globally in 2014 in relation to their work, compared with 70 who died in 2013. CPJ is investigating the deaths in 2014 of at least 18 more journalists to determine whether they were work-related." Further, journalists all over the Arab world -- and beyond -- are being arrested (see: Turkey; see: Al Jazeera) Fool or brave, they brought us vital information about the Islamic State, they took us behind-the-scenes in Afghanistan, the Phillipines, the Central African Republic and showed us what is happening in Syria and deserve some praise.

Bad TV: There was a lot of bad TV this year -- Bad Judge, Mixology -- but Utopia was, by far, the worst. As Katy St. Claire, of the SF Weekly wrote, "The worst show of the year was Utopia, Fox's attempt at Lord of the Flies that stuck a bunch of uninteresting people on a ranch and asked them to create their own society." Yup.

Best TV: The Night The Wu Tang Weeded Up The Daily Show. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart staff writer Daniel Radosh noted, wryly, on his Facebook page the day after the Wu Tang Clan's now-legendary appearance, "My entire office smells like weed right now." As if to make sure we know exactly what he's talking about, Daniel links to the Wu Tang bio under that statement. Sounds positively herbal. It was, quite frankly, the coolest TV moment of the year -- thank you, Jon Stewart.

Asshole of the Year: Rudy Giuliani. Last year -- 2013 -- the Asshole went to Bibi Netanyahu. To be an asshole is a little like being a douchebag -- to wit: Charlie Gasparino -- but on the larger, national-international geopolitical stage. Giuliani, who has built a career race baiting, is now, it appears, the GOP point man on all things racial-dog-whistling. He was called upon by the GOP to deliver the perfect racial buzzwords speech against Obama at the 2008 Convention ("Comm-yeeeew-nity organizer") and has amped it up as the 2014 pointman for police brutality. Vladimir Putin is an asshole of world-historical proportions, yes -- but he is also pathetically cartoonish. In his own 19th century way, Putin is being a patriot. Kim Jung-Un has obvious mental health issues. Giuliani, however, appears to take a real perverse joy in his pathetic role in the Republican Party -- the hungry man's role of standing athwart the progress of people of color. He acquits this role with great gusto. Star Assy, Mr. Mayor!

Political Force of the Year: Libertarianism, Left. In the last few years, the Tea Party has risen -- on the right -- in political opposition to the nation's rising debt and the growth of government. This year, the Tea Party caucus lost key elections. But libertarianism, as a political force, rose up yet again -- this time on the Left -- as police brutality became a major national issue after the death of Eric Garner in July. One month later, in August, Michael Brown was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, further nationalized the issue. By November a grand jury decided not to indict officer Darren Wilson and in December another grand jury decided not to indict Daniel Pantaleo in the choking death of Eric Garner. Riots against the excesses of the police raged as the year came to a close. Proto-Libertarian Rand Paul penned an essay for Time arguing for the demilitarization of the police. Police brutality is now a left-libertarian issue.

Media Flameout of the Year: Matt Taibbi's The Flameout. Ah, hubris. The name, The Flameout, says it all. "Taibbi hired great, voicey, no-bullshit editors like Alex Pareene and Edith Zimmerman," Wired said of the flameout. "The plan was to make an Internet magazine that mixed hard-hitting reporting and in-depth features with wicked, Spy magazine-style satire." What's not to like? Actually satire had a bad year in 2014. We lost The Flameout -- although it never even really began -- and we lost Stephen Colbert, the blowhard, knockoff Bill O'Reilly.

Tune in tomorrow for more 2014 Pirate Awards ....

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

James Toback and Alec Baldwin

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"When the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries failed to cut production quotas last month, the initial investor reaction was: Hallelujah! Lots more savings for energy buyers! Blowout Christmas spending by consumers! The celebrations may have been premature. True, the $1 decline in U.S. gasoline prices since April is the equivalent of a 1 percent rise in consumer spending power. Of course, some of that may be saved and not spent, at least initially. And in countries with fixed fuel taxes, including China, the economic effect will be greater. At the same time, U.S. auto makers may benefit from increased sales of low-mileage SUVs and light trucks, which are highly profitable. Net energy importers, including Japan, South Korea and other East Asian countries, also benefit from lower energy prices. China imports 60 percent of the 9.6 million barrels of oil it uses each day. Other energy importers helped by lower prices include India, Turkey and Western Europe. Pakistan, Egypt, India and other countries that subsidize energy costs will be able to reduce those expenses. Some of the benefit, though, is offset because the euro and other currencies are weak and oil is priced in more expensive U.S. dollars. But the list of oil losers may overpower the winners. Almost immediately, energy companies started to cut capital spending, which equaled 0.9 percent of U.S. gross domestic product in 2013, the largest share since the early 1980s. An index of oil-field service companies is down about 40 percent from its peak. General Electric has acquired more than $14 billion in oil and gas businesses since 2007, and three months ago said its “base case assumption” included Brent crude oil at around $100 a barrel. Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt admitted that, with oil around $60, profits could be lower next year. Also harmed are oil-sands producers in Canada, where a lack of transportation had pushed prices to $48 a barrel by late November, well below all-in production costs of about $85. Canadian Oil Sands, the largest owner of the giant Syncrude oil sands joint venture, plans to cut its dividend by almost half." (Bloomberg)

Documentary confirms Michael Rockefeller was eaten by cannibals

"The public will finally get to see 'The Search for Michael Rockefeller' Feb. 1 when Netflix releases the documentary on one of the most compelling unsolved mysteries of the 20th century. The film confirms what The Post reported in 1968: Cannibals devoured the son of New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. In 2007, filmmaker Fraser C. Heston (son of Charlton) discovered a lost cache of 16mm film shot by Milt Machlin, the editor of Argosy magazine who coined the phrases 'Bermuda Triangle' and 'the Abominable Snowman.' The footage was taken during Machlin’s expedition to New Guinea in 1969 in search of the lost scion, inspired by an eyewitness report that Michael Rockefeller was alive and being held against his will by Stone Age savages." (P6)

Tommy from "Pam & Tommy Lee: Hardcore Uncensored." (Photo: Courtesy of

"The Pam and Tommy sex tape is the most infamous stolen celebrity artifact on the planet, with a wink usually accompanying the word 'stolen.' It wasn't the first time a video of a famous person fornicating appeared in the public realm, and it certainly wouldn't be the last. But it was a porno that appealed to people who didn't usually watch pornos, a voyeuristic dive into the guileless intimacy between two tabloid darlings: Anderson, perennial Playboy cover model and star of Baywatch, and Lee, the hard-partying drummer from Mötley Crüe. Starting in the spring of 1996, as information trickled out about what was on the tape, everyone wanted to see it, whether to gawk at the home life of two superstars or condemn the empty-headed, sex-addicted narcissists who presumably leaked it themselves. The couple already had a reputation for carnal and pharmaceutical indulgence, but peeping on their love play offered an entirely new level of dirty, thrilling violation, as we leap-frogged PR flacks, centerfold photographers and even the paparazzi to land squarely in the most private of worlds. And yet the tape was, without question, physically and illegally taken from Anderson and Lee's home. Recording themselves in the spring and summer of 1995, the couple truly didn't know anyone else was ever going to see this, so their video has none of the self-conscious posturing of reality TV and social media. You will never see a celebrity flash a smile in public that is as genuine as Tommy Lee's after he money-shots all over his wife's chest at her request.This is not gonzo pornography – it's a 54-minute home video, depicting about eight minutes of the sex Americans are most likely to sanction: white, straight, married and in love. 'It's the greatest tape I have ever seen in my life,' Howard Stern said in late 1997. 'What's cool about it is that, like, you get to live their lives with them.' But what the Pamela Anderson-Tommy Lee sex tape taught us is that an unassuming individual could acquire a piece of content, offer it up to the Internet and watch it ricochet around the planet. How, exactly, this footage traveled from a locked safe to screens and store shelves worldwide warns of everything that was coming in the next two decades, everything that would shift in technology and culture and celebrity. Before Kim Kardashian, before TMZ, before RedTube, before the Fappening, there was Pam and Tommy. The tape took two years to go from bootleg to viral, and when it did it made an estimated $77 million in less than 12 months – and that's just on legitimate sales." (RollingStone)


"Missy a/k/a Madame who is my 12-year-old Shih Tzu has been in heat for the past ten days or so. I never got around to getting her spayed, and she never had a litter. A few years ago I asked her vet if we should, and she said at her age it wasn’t necessary anymore. However. I now have Toby who came to join us from the Bide-a-Wee last August. He has what you could call indefatigable energy. A puppy. He’s a sweet little guy and his fur is so silky I’m amazed. He’s supposed to be a cross between a Shih Tzu and a Maltese. More of the latter although no yapping. Anyway, although he’s been 'altered,' Toby is quite excited about Madame’s current state of grace, and has been at Madame’s backside almost 24/7. In fact he’s obsessed, and of course animals are like porn actors, they do everything right there in the room for anyone present to see. In the broad daylight. And Toby has been just mad for Missy, especially in her current state; and Missy hasn’t minded it. I know it’s the 'heat' because Missy doesn’t ordinarily go for that kind of unrelenting attention from any dog. Yes a little tumble here and there, and then, drop it boy, and she leaves the scene. However, now it’s like she’s smitten. On Friday, when I was out at a lunch, my friend Barbara Preminger, who was here helping me out with my mail and stuff, called me about 2:30 in a state of panic. Toby had been mounting Madame and humping her. She was at his service. I’ve seen this go on before but I didn’t know how far it could go. It seems that Toby in his carnal fervor had penetrated Madame and was doin’ his thing, until he realized that he couldn't un-penetrate himself, and so he started screeching. Madame of course was only trying to help but what could she do ('I think I’ll have a dirty dry vodka martini please ...') while he’s screeching away. Barbara also didn’t know what to do. She tried pushing them apart but ... uh-uh, they weren’t parting ... and Toby kept up the screeching.  So finally she went into my bathroom cabinet and got a jar of Vaseline and applied it 'forthwith' to the poor rake. And with one final screech, they were departed from each other. And the romance was put on the shelf for a few hours. That night I saw the same. They were locked back to back and just standing there like two dogs who couldn’t figure out which direction to move in. I moved them with my hands. He was relieved once again. Today, Sunday, the bloom appears to be off the rose and Toby’s nursing his wounds, so to speak, quietly." (NYSD)

Photograph © HBO/photofest.

"As previously mentioned, this is how you pick up strangers of the opposite sex in polite society. In places like Hollywood, nothing I’ve said counts. La-la land requires its very own key questions that are a sine qua non. 'What are you missing in your life?' is Hollywood pickup 101. The most important of all is 'What can I do to make your life better?' As the famous film director James Toback said to me, 'Anyone not responding to that is not worth picking up.' Being direct in California helps as much as it hinders at 5 Hertfort Street. Anything that doesn’t feel like a pickup line is a very good line. A hint of potential authenticity is a plus, and can sway the lady after a drink or two. As is the enticement by disappearance. Having come on strong on the romantic side, a very polite goodnight accompanied with the wish to see her again is very good. Women are curious and easily intrigued, and what better way to intrigue them than to leave them alone to think of you? Another sine qua non is to never, but never, ask about her boyfriend, husband, or lover. Pretend that she’s never had any of the three. Never give her time to think of him; women, unlike us, have a conscience. This is very important. And don’t talk about yourself. Ask her about herself instead. Her job, her dreams, her likes or dislikes. Always with jokes thrown in for good measure and with plenty of smiles." (Taki)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Yes, the hack was a criminal attack. But I'd be lying if I didn't say I've been laughing over the revelations, while I'm not crying over the racist comments. The truth is these Hollywood mavens think they're better than us. And they can't stop crying about piracy, can't stop bitching that someone moved their cheese, all the while believing they're entitled to their millions because they've been anointed with 'special juice,' that gives them divine insight into America's entertainment wants. Hell, if the entire Sony studio caved in, our culture would be none the worse. But it's the racist comments that bug me. We've got a Supreme Court which declares racism is over, with voting rights laws no longer needed, and then we have the so-called west coast liberals making fun of the President. Makes me puke. I agree we should not be beholden to terrorists. We must not be cowed as a nation, certainly not artistically. But I'd be more upset if the movie wasn't 'The Interview' but something meatier, whether it be 'They Shoot Horses Don't They,' or 'Carnal Knowledge' or a true work of art, like 'Ulysses.' But we don't make those in America anymore. Business is the religion of America, God is second to cash, just ask the evangelists passing the plate, and if it delivers cash, it's all right. Now no one wants their private e-mails revealed. Then again, what kind of nincompoop puts heinous bigoted thoughts on the company server? Do these nitwits truly believe they're untouchable? Can't they at least get a Gmail account for the stuff they don't want to ever go public? Hell, the regular Fortune 500, the Wall Street Fortune 500, the industrial Fortune 500, know that e-mail is forever, that it will be subpoenaed in some case where the corporation skirted the law or someone wants to make the company pay, rightly or wrongly. How come Amy Pascal doesn't know this? Teenagers know this! They know they're building a public record all the while, they self-edit all the time, afraid they're going to lose a job or be unable to get into the educational institution of their choice. But the Sony execs, they're above the law, above public suspicion. And then they hire David Boies to scare the media into submission. As if Boies won all the time. As if anybody should listen to anything these
people say. I think it's great this info comes out. It's great that everybody knows these execs are as bigoted and stupid as the rank and file. You mean you want to influence our culture, whether it be with smoking or the products you place in your films, but we cannot comment upon you? Ain't that an entertainment exec. Criticize the actors, those on stage, while I hide in anonymity. While I keep my gig as the talent fades. If it's all about money, are you really entitled to judge Adam Sandler flicks? No one put a gun to your head to make them. As for making a Steve Jobs biopic, wouldn't it be fine if Sony actually innovated itself, moved the culture in significant ways, but the execs are all about keeping their jobs while they party amongst their brethren, believing, once again, that they're better than us." (Bob Lefsetz)

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

"While it’s not exactly a secret that many Capitol Hill Democrats have a distant — if not dysfunctional — relationship with the White House, rarely has the family feud gone as public as it did with the omnibus spending bill last week. House progressives, inspired by Elizabeth Warren and led by Nancy Pelosi, protested and nearly blocked the $1.1 trillion spending bill, and required frantic arm-twisting from the White House to avoid another round of shutdown brinksmanship next year. Representative Keith Ellison, Minnesota Democrat and co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus, breaks down the progressive revolt and what it portends for the next Congress. Why did House Democrats revolt against the spending bill? We decided to fight the cromnibus because it contained two features that were simply unacceptable, and they took on sort of an iconic status for what’s wrong with Washington and what’s wrong with the way that our country is addressing — or not addressing — income inequality. On the one hand, one part of the bill is rolling back banking reforms and on the other hand it’s lifting caps that the donors can use to give more money to political parties. So they can now give about $320,000 and a couple can give almost $700,000. It’s like.'We’re hooking you up, so give us donations.' What does that do to income inequality and what is the signal we’re sending to the average American watching this, as we’re just past an election where only 36 percent of people voted? Why aren’t people voting? They aren’t voting because they feel no matter what they do, big rich guys will get their way. We don’t have any time to take care of unemployed; they were cut off last December 26. We don’t talk to them. We don’t have time to raise the minimum wage. But we have plenty of time to run the thing to get the banks what they want. Maybe the raise on the caps was debated in the Senate, but I don’t remember any debate on it in the House. There are people who say this will bring more transparency — no, we need less money in politics, not more. It just proves how much power these interests have; they’re corroding the power of our representative democracy." (NYMag)

Lauren du Pont, John Demsey, and Aerin Lauder Zinterhofer

"Last Tuesday a week, John Demsey who is Group President of Estee Lauder Companies, is also the consummate party giver. In his East Side townhouse, he invites an eclectic group of New Yorkers who are industriously doing things. Including a lot of the fashion world. It's one of those places where even if you don't know everyone you feel welcome because John gives that to his guests. Last Tuesday, a week, he gave his annual Christmas party, surrounded by his closest friends and a lot of their closest friends. Hearst and McInerney and Farias give this party. Between the three, they have a wide variety of friends. Their annual Christmas cocktail reception is a big list and the kind of party where people came away delighted that they 'saw everybody' they knew. The truth is, 'everybody' doesn't know everybody, but by the degree of separation with their hosts, all of whom are very sociable individuals, they do know everybody. That's what makes a great holiday cocktail. A chance to feel good, and relaxed, and happy to be there ... at Doubles with Wendy Carduner pulling out all the stops so that the cocktails and hors d'oeuvres were devoured." (NYSD)

Jenny McCarthy and Donnie Wahlberg
Jenny McCarthy and Donnie Wahlberg

"The drinks flowed and the gossip whirled during last night’s launch party at the Daily Mail‘s New York headquarters on Astor Place, celebrating the evolution of MailOnline to the U.S.-friendly masthead and URL. Party host Jenny McCarthy (never far from the side of new hubby, Donnie Wahlberg) was beaming. No doubt in part because of her new gig on SiriusXM, Dirty, Sexy, Funny with Jenny McCarthy, which the former co-host of The View described to FishbowlNY as “amazing!” McCarthy doesn’t mince words on her show and was similarly forthcoming about her thoughts on the recently revamped ABC talk show. 'Um, I’ve seen it… once,' she told us before quickly adding, 'I’m so happy to have my SiriusXM show.' When addressing the crowd, which included Kelly Killoren Bensimon of the Real Housewives franchise and Kiss bassist Gene Simmons, McCarthy aptly lauded the UK tabloid’s shift to a .com, but joked, 'I’m just hoping they never talk shit about us.'" (FishbowlNY)

Diane Rehm Show: Friday News Roundup

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Alec Baldwin Interviews Julianne Moore

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"'The Interview' is an outstanding example of Hollywood's most popular genre: Movies That Should Never Have Been Made. That said, theaters that are pulling the film due to threats of terrorism should stiffen their spines. The movie, from Sony Corp., features Seth Rogen and James Franco as journalists who assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. From the start, it was an obviously bad idea. North Korea, with predictable belligerence, said it constituted an 'act of war.' Sony executives and distributors around the world found the film vulgar, dimwitted and 'desperately unfunny,' which in today's Hollywood is really saying something. Yet Sony pressed ahead, and now it's suffering arguably the worst cyberattack in corporate history, which hardly seems like a coincidence. Although the perpetrators haven't been identified, plenty of signs point to North Korea -- not least that the hackers have expressed an improbably vehement hatred of 'The Interview.' This week, they even threatened violence against theaters that show the movie. Two companies, Carmike Cinemas and Landmark Theatres, have already caved and pulled the movie. Others may soon follow. They're setting an awful precedent. Giving in to such threats only increases the likelihood of more intimidation. And what if, next time, the film in question isn't a dopey buddy comedy but something more serious -- a movie, say, that criticizes another autocratic regime with an enthusiasm for cyberattacks? That's a dangerous road to travel, especially in response to a threat that experts consider deeply farfetched. If the theater companies can't summon the marginal bravery required to show this film, then Sony should stand behind its work. It should release 'The Interview' online, and offer it to the world as a gesture of defiance and artistic liberty. That might serve as a useful experiment in distribution methods." (Bloomberg)

"'CBS Evening News' anchor Scott Pelley and executive producer Steve Capus were among the tvnewsers at last night’s White House media holiday party. Also spotted, Chris Licht, VP of Programming for CBS News, morning anchors Norah O’Donnell from 'CBS This Morning,' 'Morning Joe’s' Joe Scarborough, CNN 'New Day' anchor Chris Cuomo and 'Good Morning America’s' George Stephanopoulos. CNN anchors Candy Crowley and Wolf Blitzer were there, as were Fox News anchors Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Greta Van Susteren, and Greta’s husband John Coale. CNN executives Jeff Zucker and Andrew Morse, MSNBC president Phil Griffin, PBS’s Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff, MSNBC anchor Joy Ann Reid (with her eldest son in tow), Haddad Media’s Tammy Haddad, and DC correspondents including FNC’s Shannon Bream, CBS’s Bill Plante, CNN’s Joe Johns, and NBC’s Chris Jansing and Kelly O’Donnell." (TvNewser)

Click to order "Manners That Matter Most."

"Last night I had dinner with Mai Harrison at Swifty’s. Mai had just come from a book signing at Nancy and Joe Misset’s for Susan Rudin and Louise Maniscalco and their book, 'The Trade Off.' Swifty’s was packed and there was a party in the back for  another book: 'Manners That Matter Most; The Easy Guide to Etiquette At Home and In the World.'  Researched and written by June Eding, it’s an excellent little book. It’s small enough that it could be a good stocking-stuffer. It’s about exactly what you think. Manners and Etiquette sound old fashioned nowadays. And in a way, they are, it is. Because we’re a mess now. The lack thereof  is epidemic and the result is we aren’t relating to each other as easily as strangers might/should/could/would. I know a book isn’t going to make the difference. I don’t know what will. But it is clear to me at this late age that I’ve only got along in this life with the basics that we call Manners and Etiquette. It’s the only way we can all get along. Eding’s book is comprehensive, serious, easy to read, and actually inspiring on a certain level. She begins each chapter with a 'quote' that is reaffirming of her point. For example: Clothes and manners do not make the man; but, when he is made, they greatly improve his appearance. — Henry Ward Beecher. Or: Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others ... — Marcus Tullius Cicero. Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love. Lao Tzu. Meanwhile, for more inspiration, here are the windows down at Bergdorf’s. Fabulous, fascinating and more fabulous." (NYSD)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"To gaze back at who has dominated the international debate in America over much of the last 30 years is to see mostly neocons: the old Francis Fukuyama, Fouad Ajami, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol, and so forth. They have outshone liberals in presenting their foreign-policy views by being more prolific, more coherent, and harder-hitting. Outside their clan stand only a small handful of notables like Henry Kissinger, a realist; Zbigniew Brzezinski, hard to peg since the Carter years but certainly a neoconfoe; Samuel Huntington, a conservative Democract; and Fareed Zakaria, a centrist.  For much of this period of neoconservative ascendance, Robert Kagan has been their intellectual tribune. This is why his courtship of Clinton is so interesting. Kagan’s open flirtation with Clinton has been coyly accepted and even reciprocated. While continuing to clutch the liberals’ new priorities like women’s rights, democracy, and climate change in her left hand, she is extending her right hand to the hawks. Few failed to notice when she selected Kagan to sit on her bipartisan State Department advisory group or when she picked his wife, Victoria Nuland, a very accomplished diplomat in her own right, as her spokeswoman. And it’s no accident that the much-admired former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, a friend to the Clintons and Kagans, keeps Kagan on at the venerable Brookings Institution as a senior fellow. Clinton has been increasingly touting her heretofore private record of toughness on Syria (she wanted early military aid to the rebels), Iraq (she urged extending the troop pullout date), and Afghanistan (she advocated a longer U.S. military presence). To be sure, it’s fair game in Washington after stepping down as a Cabinet officer to reveal where one stood on contentious issues, especially if these tough calls look plausible in hindsight. Clinton can’t be condemned for that.  The increasing fervor of her memories of past objections to Obama policies, however, is notable. She raised eyebrows in August when she told The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, 'The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad…left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.' These and other slams at Obama’s liberal foreign policy, since echoed by former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, can only be music to Kagan’s ears. There’s plenty in Clinton’s hard-nosed revelations to make the neocons hopeful, but how far will she go? President Obama himself has been moving rightward in his last years, and practitioners have to be mindful of the fickleness of politicians’ foreign-policy beliefs." (ForeignPolicy)

Vladimir Putin, trying and failing to stare down a currency crisis. Photo: Alexei Nikolsky/Getty Images

"Santa has come early for the American commuter this year, bearing the gift of cheap prices at the pump. The plunge in the value of crude has filtered through to gas prices in the United States, with the average price of a gallon of unleaded dropping to $2.52, down from $3.24 a year ago. That means a lot of money left over in average families’ pocketbooks — especially the lower-income suburban and rural families that spend a disproportionately large amount filling up their tanks. But markets are not exactly applauding. The price of a barrel of oil extended its drop overnight, and the Dow was down at the opening bell this morning. And despite the surge of consumer spending the drop in gas prices should encourage — and during the holiday season, no less — the Standard & Poor’s 500 has fallen about 2.5 percent over the past month. That is because along with these cheap gas prices has come a huge lump of coal in the form of currency and commodities volatility. With the price of oil below $60 a barrel, countries that rely on oil production have taken a massive hit. At these levels, many OPEC producers are officially in the red — even Saudi Arabia is pitching toward a deficit.
Worst off of all is Russia, hit hard by European and American sanctions for its incursion into Ukraine as well as the drop in the price of crude. The ruble has lost about 50 percent of its value this year. Inflation has spiked. Gazprom, the state-owned oil giant, is reportedly contemplating firing a quarter of its staff. The economy is shrinking, and fast. To help staunch the bleeding and keep money in Russia, last night the central bank hiked its main deposit rate to 17 percent. Those are the actions of a country in the midst of a currency crisis, not just a recession, and the problem is that solving one might mean worsening the other. If you offer investors 17 percent to keep their money parked in the bank, what incentive do they have to spend it?" (NYMag)

"One morning early, on my Serbian adventure, I was driven from central Belgrade to the top of Avala, a mountain where my ancestor, King Alexander I of Yugoslavia, commissioned a monument The Tomb of the Unnamed Soldier to commemorate the victims of the Balkan Wars and World War I. Wars he fought in. This tomb would be built over the site of a medieval Fort, which was itself constructed atop the ruins of an ancient Roman city. Plans began, but over time, Alexander’s vision expanded from a modest gravesite to a memorial complex requiring the freeing up of space on the mountaintop. An explosives expert by the name of Schultz was brought along to prepare the area with copious dynamite. King Alexander granted the honor of plunging the TNT device to his nephew and namesake, Prince Alexander, the eldest son of Prince Paul, my grandfather. Whatever the King’s reason for choosing his nephew over his own sons, my uncle Alexander so relished the experience to this day, and he is alive and well and living in Paris, he is known, in small family circles, as Schultz. I’ve known this all my life, but I never knew why." (Christina Oxenberg)

"A new Bill Cosby sexual assault claim could mean criminal charges for the comedian. Chloe Goins, 24, claims the television figure drugged her at the Playboy Mansion in 2008, which puts the claim within California’s statute of limitations for criminal charges, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The multitude of recent allegations against Cosby, including claims from supermodels Beverly Johnson and Janice Dickinson, refer to alleged events that took place decades ago. Goins, who was 18 at the time of the alleged incident, told the Daily Mail she plans to give a full statement to the Los Angeles Police Department. The model-turned-lap dancer says she attended a party at Hugh Hefner’s famed pad with a friend when Cosby, now 77, offered her a drink. 'He gave me a vodka mixer I think,' she told the Daily Mail. 'I wasn’t really supposed to drink because of my age, but I was like, ‘OK, cool,'' she continued. 'I remember the drink being kind of strong but it didn’t taste funny or anything like that. I think I finished most of it. I didn’t set my glass down. I was holding it the whole time.'" (P6)

Steve talking shop with another "photographer," Sir Harry Benson.

"Yesterday, I had lunch uptown, and JH went to Michael’s to lunch with Carol Joynt our Washington Diarist who was in town for business reasons. Carol recently became Vice President of Communications at Foreign Policy magazine. We rarely see each other and when she comes to New York she loves the plate of fries at Michael’s. (They heap them on.) Here’s the story as told by JH and his camera.  A Good Time was had by all. Late yesterday afternoon at the old Marcel Breuer-designed Whitney Museum on 75th and Madison they held a memorial celebration for Richard Marshall, the art historian and museum curator who died suddenly at age 67 at his house in La Jolla last August 8th. Richard was highly regarded in his profession. That was evident by the turnout at the memorial – which is exactly what it was – friends and family remembering him. He was one of those remarkable personalities who did what he loved to do, did it very well, and without the kind of fervor that makes life difficult for others. He had a quiet but always present sense of humor. He was a California boy who had an eye for art outside of the New York/Paris art axis. He was easy to work with and even easier to be friends with. The memories shared of him all had a subtext of  the pleasure of his company, his humor and his friendship, and in the context of a life well lived." (NYSD)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

Army of Spin

"The foreign media image of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish government has shattered over the past 18 months, and in response Turkey has ramped up an aggressive international information blitzkrieg. The campaign is made up of two fundamental elements: condemnation of allegedly duplicitous Western coverage, and a concerted effort to communicate the government’s message internationally. The onslaught is intense and the tone is becoming increasingly bitter. The words of a recent piece by Ibrahim Karagul, the editor-in-chief of the pro-Erdogan newspaper Yeni Safak, reflect the mood: 'What we have been experiencing for the last two years is a global struggle. This is why they have declared war against Turkey and its calculations for the future…. If you have plans to be a great country then you will find the whole world opposing you.' They may sound ludicrously bombastic, but such sentiments are widely shared among senior government officials. Convinced that the foreign media is a propaganda weapon deployed by the West, many call on patriotic Turks to rally behind the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the name of national sovereignty. This sense of embattled defiance is important to understand, and reveals much about the resentful mindset gripping the state. Joel Simon, director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), wrote earlier this month about his recent meeting with President Erdogan, who, he said, surprised him by striking a 'combative posture,' denouncing foreign media coverage as (in Simon’s words) 'biased, intrusive, and tendentious n recent public speeches, Erdogan has repeatedly denounced 'foreign media groups' as well as the local “treason networks' alleged to be collaborating with them. Needless to say, this is a long way from the democratizing, self-confident Turkey that many in the West hoped was emerging just a few years ago." (ForeignPolicy)

Can Power reconcile her ardent human-rights interventionism with the “composite calculus” that must guide American policy?

"On July 17, 2013, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee met to consider the nomination of Samantha Power to be America’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. She was an unusual choice. Although she had been a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and served on the National Security Council as the senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights, she had never been a diplomat. At forty-two, she would be the youngest-ever American Ambassador to the U.N. Power was best known for her book  'A Problem from Hell:' America and the Age of Genocide.' An indictment of what she called Washington’s 'toleration of unspeakable atrocities, often committed in clear view,' it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003. For her conviction that America has a responsibility to halt or prevent the suffering of civilians abroad, she had been caricatured as the Ivy League Joan of Arc. She had written (in this magazine and elsewhere) with unqualified assurance. As a speaker, she was a performer of the first order,' Leslie H. Gelb, the former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, told me. 'No notes, the fingers and the arms always flashing in the air, and a voice going from a whisper to a shout. She was pure theatre.' In a 2002 interview on 'Conversations with History,' a television series filmed in Berkeley, Power described a hypothetical need for a 'mammoth protection force' to police a peace accord between the Israelis and the Palestinians. But after she began working as an adviser on Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign, in 2007, his critics quoted that interview in accusing him of harboring hostility toward Israel, and Power disavowed her comments. In a departure for a journalist, she quietly asked the host of the interview to remove the video from the Web, though portions of it still circulate online. To repair the damage, she subsequently approached Shmuley Boteach, a celebrity rabbi who ran for Congress in New Jersey, Abraham Foxman, of the Anti-Defamation League, and other prominent defenders of Israel, who endorsed her U.N. nomination. She knew that during her confirmation hearing her record, her vision of America’s role in the world, and her transformation from an activist to a political figure would receive intense scrutiny. Tom Nides, a former Deputy Secretary of State, told her that her chance of being confirmed was twenty per cent, at best." (NewYorker)

"She has a spot in Democratic leadership, a swelling alliance of liberals in Congress and a rabid following in the Democratic Party. The question is: What does Elizabeth Warren want to do with all that power? Groups on the left are trying to draft the Massachusetts liberal into the presidential race, viewing her as the perfect populist counterweight to Hillary Clinton in 2016. Warren has steadfastly refused those overtures, and allies take her at her word that she isn’t planning to run. Meanwhile, her influence in the Senate is on the rise, partly due to a new position in Democratic leadership that makes her a liaison to groups on the left who have grown frustrated with the party’s direction.Warren has signaled she won’t be a shrinking violet in the post, last week defying Senate leaders and the White House to lead a revolt against government funding legislation that included a provision that rolled back part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. While the uprising ultimately failed, the fight showed Warren has real clout. 'When she gets involved in issues, she makes a real impact right away,' said one financial lobbyist. 'When she gets involved in an issue, it spooks other members. … It’s just not worth it sometimes to be against her.' Warren was already a rock star among liberals before she arrived in the Senate. She first gained recognition as an outspoken critic of the financial industry at Harvard, and rose to White House adviser when her brainchild, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, became reality in the Dodd-Frank law. Associates and observers of Warren believe she will spend her new political capital on the issues that brought her to Washington in the first place — defending consumers and the middle class and fighting the power of Wall Street." (TheHill)

"It's a wonderful life on Wall Street, yet here is a holiday wish list to make it even better. 1. The financial sector rids itself of anyone with even the faintest reason to believe that he or she is unusually clever.All those who have scored highly on standardized tests, or been invited to join Mensa, or finished in the top quartile of any graduating class will be banned. Most of our recent financial calamities -- collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps on subprime mortgage bonds, trading algorithms that prey on ordinary investors, the gaming of rating companies' models, the rigging of the Greek government's books so the country might disguise its true indebtedness -- required a great deal of ingenuity. Lesser minds would have been incapable of causing so much damage. Of course, it's not easy to prevent clever people from working in finance, or from doing anything else they want to do. Perhaps now more than ever, clever people are habituated to being paid to ignore the spirit of any rule -- which is one reason they have become such a problem on Wall Street. Upon seeing a new rule they do not think, 'What social purpose does this serve, and how can I help it to do the job?' They think, 'How can I game it?' If it pays to disguise their intellects, clever people will do it better than anyone else. Without further regulation, our entire society would soon be operating in the spirit of the Philadelphia 76ers: Kids tanking the SAT, parents choosing high schools that guarantee failure, intellectual prodigies scheming to gain entry to Chico State. No single rule, by itself, is capable of protecting the rest of us from their intellects. We'll need more rules. 2. No person under the age of 35 will be allowed to work on Wall Street. Upon leaving school, young people, no matter how persuasively dimwitted, will be required to earn their living in the so-called real economy. Any job will do: fracker, street performer, chief of marketing for a medical marijuana dispensary. If and when Americans turn 35, and still wish to work in finance, they will carry with them memories of ordinary market forces, and perhaps be grateful to our society for having created an industry that is not subjected to them. At the very least, they will know that some huge number of people -- their former fellow street performers, say -- will be seriously pissed off at them if they do risky things on Wall Street to undermine the real economy. No one wants a bunch of pissed-off street performers coming after them. To that end ... 3. Women will henceforth make all Wall Street trading decisions. Men are more prone to financial risk-taking, and overconfidence, and so will be banned from even secondary roles on Wall Street trading desks -- though they will be permitted to do whatever damage they would like in their private investment accounts." (Michael Lewis)

"What can’t Shonda Rhimes do? She’s the executive producer of the hospital drama Grey’s Anatomy, the political thriller Scandal, and the legal potboiler How to Get Away With Murder, which air in contiguous time slots on ABC. The network hasn’t packed three programs by a single executive producer into one night since 1982, when Aaron Spelling’s series T.J. Hooker, The Love Boat, and Fantasy Island aired back-to-back-to-back on Saturdays. All three Rhimes dramas, including the freshman Murder, are popular hits, which is why ABC recently extended its deal with Rhimes’s production company, Shondaland, to keep her on the hook through mid-2018. She’s a master juggler, subcontractor, and impresario who seemingly has yet to succumb to the kind of focus problems that have bedeviled other multitasking showrunners. She created Grey’s and Scandal and oversees Murder, which is the brainchild of Peter Nowalk, a longtime writer and producer on her other programs. Rhimes is as hands-on as a TV producer can be while keeping tabs on multiple shows and having something like a private life. Each workday, she drops her daughter off at school, then heads back to her house, where she tracks the real-time cutting of Shondaland shows via a closed-­circuit feed of editors’ workstations. She also holds in-person or virtual story conferences, reads and writes and rewrites scripts, confers with network executives, and who knows what else. The notion of Rhimes as an NSA-level master of surveillance — the eye in prime time’s sky — would be intriguing even if her shows weren’t good. But they are good. At their best, they’re proof that brazenly commercial pop culture can be at once silly and serious, entertaining and artful, disreputable and significant. Scandal and Murder, in ­particular, are models of how to make network TV a social-media event, designed to be watched, commented upon, and unpacked as it’s happening onscreen. Every week between 9 and 11 p.m., when Scandal and ­Murder air new episodes, you see normally blasé-snarky Twitter feeds light up with OMGs and WTFs. The shows manipulate viewers like puppet master Olivia Pope yanking the D.C. media’s strings and make old TV formats new again." (NyMag)

Harry Benson, Tatiana Smith, and Hilary Geary Ross.

The city is now really getting into the season. The events on the social calendar are more casual and relaxed (not so much black tie), and smaller (the New York version). Last Wednesday night, for example, Hilary Geary Ross and Harry Benson were doing a booksigning for their new Palm Beach People down at Bulgari on 57th Street and Fifth.

Saturday, December 13, 2014