A party celebrating a 900-page novel by an 81-year-old…

By Ray LeMoine
From the National Book Awards, held at Cipriani’s Wall St (funny locale, no?) , as reported by the NY Observer’s Leon Neyfak and Jonathan Liu:

“I dunno if they did it consciously but it certainly is a lot more glam than it was last year,” said the 33-year-old agent Jud Laghi, while getting a drink at the open bar on the banquet floor toward the end of dinner. As many others did throughout the evening, Mr. Laghi noted the irony of capping this tumultuous year in book publishing at a regally decorated restaurant in the thick of the Financial District.

Hosting the afterparty at Socialista? Grove/Atlantic boss Morgan Entrekin, famous for his 80s Brat Pack cocaine-ing. The party went late, and the long dispatch ends like this:

…a strange sort of tribal frenzy took over. Upstairs and downstairs, an expertly curated playlist turned a place called Socialista safe for the bookish: “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” New Order, “Common People,” “Paper Planes.”

Dancing commenced, on furniture, on bodies, even on the books laid out as party favors by Grove and Weinstein. Things had gotten fun, and as the hour sailed towards 3am, people started talking about how they didn’t want to go home. It wasn’t fiction, but it wasn’t half-bad, either.

You have to hand it to the NBA for choosing Wall St and a club called “Socialista” as their party sites. By unleashing an all-night rager, the book industry basically stuck a big middle finger up bankers’ assholes: “Who’s dancing on tables now bitches?”


The Battle For Foggy Bottom


By Ray LeMoine

Hillary Clinton plans to accept the job of secretary of state offered by Barack Obama, who is reaching out to former rivals to build a broad coalition administration, the Guardian has learned.

A British paper getting an unsourced scoop like this has left many scratching their heads. are “skeptical,” but note the Brits do know gossip.

Every other news organization is writing about Bill Clinton’s sketchy dealings. I understand all the controversy surrounding Bill and his world traveling, billionaire hanging out with, money taking from questionable autocrats style. But had Hillary beat Obama it wouldn’t have stopped her from the presidency, and thus makes all this “vetting” mute. Lil Annie Lowrey writes a great piece defending the selection, also in the Guardian:

Today, managing Foggy Bottom means managing a vast bureaucracy prone to infighting, particularly since the rise of the National Security Council, national security adviser and other executive-branch agents. Hillary ran a rocky campaign, so might she falter in dealing with the other entities and people managing American diplomacy, let alone her department?

Hillary ran a good campaign and runs an excellent Senate office. She surely would consult with Obama as to the next national security adviser, and already works well with fellow foreign-policy leader vice-president-elect Biden. She may not have extensive experience managing a massive bureaucracy, but few members of Congress do. More importantly, she surely possesses the leadership skills to criticise her own work and seek excellent managers within State.

Others complain about the choice highlight O’s and Hill’s differences on Iran and Pakistan policy, and point out the Obama campaign disliked Hillary. Politico:

“The specific policy area at issue seems to be one in which the two of them aren’t all that well-aligned,” wrote the liberal blogger Matthew Yglesias.

During the primary, top aides like David Plouffe and Robert Gibbs developed a particular distaste for all things Clinton, one that filtered down through the campaign.

Yes, early during the primaries, Obama said he’d talk to Iran “without preconditions.” And Hillary called him “naive.” But since then Obama’s position has moved closer to Hillary’s. Also, Obama has said he’d unilaterally attack Pakistan, a policy that’s already in place and is failing to halt the Taliban’s comeback. So shifting that position won’t be hard. On Iraq, both want the war to end, blah.

On the second point, let’s remember that Plouffe is likely not coming to DC and Gibbs is a dick. A more important Obama sage, David Axelrod, has worked with Clinton.

And of course the “progressives” are weighing in:

One writer on Daily Kos called Clinton “too centrist, too collaborationist, too accommodating.”

Wait, isn’t that what people said about Obama when he was a state senator? “Progressives” need to wake up and realize they voted for a guy who is to the right of Clinton domestically. Did they really think he wouldn’t possibly edge to the center on foreign policy as well? Not that it matters. Saying Hillary Clinton is “too centrist” on foreign policy forgets that US policy has remained largely the same for both parties since WWII—containment/Wilsonian internationalism—save a brief flirtation with Bush doctrine. If anything, the Clintons’ legacy is that of humanitarian intervention, which succeeded in ending the Balkan wars. 

I must admit being shocked by this whole thing, however. On the Sunday before the election, Hillary wrote an oped in the NYDN saying Obama would bring “all Americans” health care. That’s a distinct shift from the plan Obama had been offering, which would leave 15 million uninsured. I assumed a deal between the Clintons and Obama had been made, but never thought it involved State.

By Ray LeMoine
You know it’s a weird day when I’m loving George Will but hating on Obama. Anyway, Will writes a column titled “‘Socialism’? It’s Already Here.” On socialism, he says:

America can’t have that, exclaimed the Republican ticket while Republicans…and their administration were partially nationalizing the banking system, putting Detroit on the dole and looking around to see if some bit of what is smilingly called “the private sector” has been inadvertently left off the ever-expanding list of entities eligible for a bailout from the $1 trillion or so that is to be “spread around.”

Then he echoes what I said Friday:

The Depression, which FDR failed to end but which Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor did end…

WWII, first lean lease then our direct involvement, not the New Deal, pulled America from Depression.

Of course, Will closes his column arguing against further government intervention in the private sector. And I’m obviously way more a fan of social democracy than conservatism. But it is nice to hear Will speaking some truths to GOP power.

Obama’s Dr Evil
Parc Grove, a housing project Valerie Jarrett failed at running, is now back in federal hands. Pic by me.

By Ray LeMoine
Chicago power broker Valerie Jarrett has been named Obama’s “senior adviser and assistant to the president for intergovernment relations and public liaison.” Whatever the fuck that means…

Jarrett may have been number three during the campaign, just after the Davids in terms of influenece, but she was barely reported on. On election night, the campaign trotted Jarrett out on every network—the face of the new America.

Yesterday Gawker got all love-y:

Are we about to fall in love kinda like we did with Condi Rice but only for real this time?

…she’ll be a breath of fresh air to the country at large.

Before we worship Jarrett, let’s remember she’s hated on Chicago’s South Side by the local black community. When she spoke at U Chicago on MLK day this year, protesters disrupted the event. Why? Because Jarrett’s long been a controversial figure tied to the real estate crew—Rezko, Allyson Davis, Marty Nesbit—that gave Obama his initial political seed money.

In the mid-90s, that crew pushed Obama to back private-public housing policies from which they reaped tens of millions in federal tax credits. The crew took the money and flipped it into condo and parking lot development. As CEO of Habitat INC, Jarrett ran several housing projects back into federal hands, leaving residents worse off than before.

The Boston Globe ran a 4000 word story about these failed policies this summer, but few others—including the GOP—took note. In all my reading about Obama, the Jarrett-Nesbit-Davis-Rezko nexus were as sketchy as he got. The GOP likely didn’t touch this Swift Boat-style because it would backfire: “Obama f–ks over inner city blacks” is a message like that would’ve actually helped Obama attract Swift Boat-target honkies.

Sure, Obama won, and the glow surrounding the end of the Bush era feels unreal and amazing, but let’s cast off the deification for a moment. Chicago is hardly a town of political purity and insiders like Jarrett demand skepticism.

Behind the News: From Pitch to TV…
Via Google images: Jigga and Obama…

By Ray LeMoine
Here’s a short film about New York’s young blacks on the eve of the elections. I worked on it with my neighbor, Hugh I Gilmore, a British journalist and filmmaker. Growing up, I always wondered how TV news was made. Well, in the case of this film, it began as this pitch I wrote:

6. My President is Black: Young Urban Blacks Ponder a Barack Future
“My President is Black”: that’s the title of the biggest song on New York’s airwaves right now. Next week America’s two biggest rappers, Jay Z and Lil Wayne, are performing in New Jersey. On the eve of the election, how does black America feel about one of their own finally coming to power? We’ll look at the Obama euphoria sweeping the Bronx, Harlem, and Brooklyn, following some Obama volunteers to the show. We will visit Power 105, the radio station sponsoring the show–which right now has an Obama ad in the headlines. We will interview Nas, the controversial rapper who’s recently taken to political activism. And we will go to the Power 105:Powerhouse concert at the IZod Center.

That went out on October 20th. Initial response was positive, but unlike other stories I’ve worked on, it didn’t get picked up right away. Then on Monday, October 27th, it was a go. But the Jay Z and Wayne concert was the next night, meaning we didn’t have much time. We went straight to Power 105 in Tribeca. They wouldn’t let us upstairs, but the publicist came down and said no access unless you go through Universal. We spent the next 20 hours trying to get the ok to film but were denied. But we decided to film the show guerilla style.

A field trip to Harlem came next, where we visited the Obama hq and met some young rap fans. The next night we went to see Murs, a political rapper, at the Bowery Ballroom. That concluded filming. Unfortunately, we never got Nas. Editing was done at Ole Schell’s in-house studio…and took about 20 hours longer than the 4 hours I’d promised him. (Sorry Ole.) The piece was finished Friday and aired Monday, November 3, the day before the election.

And that’s how this news sausage was made.

Lohan in Nylon rocking a NY look that Londoners stole

By Ray LeMoine

UK Haters Forget They Stole Nylon’s NY Style
In reviewing a column by Pecahes Geldof, Bob’s daughter, The Guardian UK says:

Nylon magazine, whose target market is evidently every jaded, self-regarding New York hipster who thinks they’re part of a movement, as opposed to the sort of people with whom you could only bear to have a conversation if speedballs were provided. Apparently Nylon has a really big Klonopin culture — something that may not come as the most awful shock were you to wade into its editorial content at any length — and Peaches is at the age where she thinks it’s totally edgy to tell people this stuff.

I’m not going to defend Peaches Geldof, who I’ve barely heard of. But really, Guardian, you want to try and talk shit on Nylon? The magazine that basically invented the New York high-low style girl? You know, the chick archetype that invaded every corner of the globe? And remember: Nowhere has been more on NYC’s nuts than London over the last seven years.

I remember when the first Marc by Marc Jacobs collection hit in 2001, right around when the Strokes were playing around downtown, before 9/11. I visited London a few times that year and everyone still had a Britpop hangover. When I returned year later, every single person I saw looked like Stroked-out, Marc Jacobsian clone. You Brits stole that shit from us, assholes!!! And no one was more influential in creating this look (vintage/high-design/street look) than Nylon.

Also, I’ve never read a Nylon article trying to get anyone to join a “movement.” Their editorial staff are more intelligent than that. They know they are a fashion magazine. Sure, their fashion editorials sometimes go one or two (or eight) accesories too far, but the photography and styling are both original and trend-setting. Maybe you Brits need to revisit 1994 and remind yourselves when London actually was cool—Liam, Justine and Damon, Jarvis etc.

(And what’s so bad about Klonopin? At least it’s not crack ala London…)

By Ray LeMoine
Obama’s Closing Strategy? Focus on Narrative and Attacks

David Axelrod pic by Chip Somedivilla

David Axelrod, Obama’s chief strategist, is running the finest political campaign of my lifetime. The campaign just raised $150 million in a month, bringing Obama’s total to $600 million, the most ever. Nothing’s been more important in 2008 than “the narrative,” or specifically, the candidates’ “personal narratives.” And no one is better at spinning a “great story” about a candidate than Axelrod, a Chicago Tribune journalist turned ad man cum strategist. Born in New York, Axelrod’s conception of politics comes down to selling the candidate in the final weeks with a barrage of advertising. As TNR reported yesterday (in an ass-kissng, exhaustive profile):

Unlike many consultants, who impose their own messages and buzzwords on candidates–so much so that their clients all begin to sound alike–Axelrod is known for crafting campaigns that are centered on, and uniquely suited to, his candidates’ biographies.

And TNR points out Axelrod’s especially good at selling black candidates, like Deval Patrick when he ran for Mass Governor:

Like most Axelrod campaigns, Patrick’s focused more on the candidate’s biography than policy: Patrick’s most effective TV ad dwelled on his life story–“raised by a single mother,” “worked his way up from poverty to Harvard Law”–while giving short shrift to, as it described them, Patrick’s “honest ideas to lift our state.”

With literally hundreds of millions on hand, Axelrod’s getting to apply his methods virtually uncontested (Obama’s outspending McCain on ads by 4-1).

But the emphasis on personal narrative is not really a good thing, since it removes issues in favor of “great stories.” As Joan Didion writes this week in the NYRB:

For at least some months it had been clear that we were living in a different America, one that had moved from feeling rich to feeling poor. Many had seen a mandate for political change. Yet in the end the old notes had been struck, the old language used. The prospect for any given figure had been evaluated, now as before, by his or her “story.” She has “a wonderful story” we had heard about Condoleezza Rice during her 2005 confirmation hearings. “We all admire her story.” “I think she’s formidable,” Senator Biden said about Governor Palin a few weeks ago. “She has a great story. She has a great family.”

Senator Biden himself was said to have “a great story,” the one that revolved around the death of his first wife and child and taking the train from Washington to Wilmington to be with his surviving children. Senator McCain, everyone agreed, had “a great story.” Now as then, the “story” worked to “humanize” the figure under discussion, which is to say to downplay his or her potential for trouble. Condoleezza Rice’s “story,” for example, had come down to her “doing an excellent job as provost of Stanford” (this had kept getting mentioned, as if everyone at Fox News had come straight off the provost beat) and being “an accomplished concert pianist.”

But in the same issue of the Review, Paul Krugman notes that in the last few weeks Obama’s shifted from rhetoric and narrative to attack:

But all of that has changed in the past few weeks. Part of what has changed is, of course, the intensification of the financial crisis—the fall of Lehman, the panic in the markets, and the Bush administration’s admission that a huge government bailout was necessary—which has focused the electorate’s mind. But some credit should also be given to Obama, who responded to his sagging poll numbers by becoming much more effective at delivering the Democratic economic message. These days, Obama doesn’t try to place blame equally on right and left, he denounces “an economic philosophy that says we should give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else,” and describes the crisis as “a final verdict on this failed philosophy.” He sounds, in other words, a lot like Bill Clinton in 1992.

And that’s a good thing.So the election will be a referendum on conservative economic policies after all. And while nothing in politics is certain, the odds are that this referendum will indeed produce a big victory for Obama and his party. What they’ll do with that victory is another question, but for now, at least, the prospects for a new New Deal are looking bright again.

In the TNR piece, Axelrod’s people and the story’s writer, Jason Zengerle, deny that they’re using attacks to take down McCain:

“There are certain things we’re not going to say in ads,” explains John Del Cecato, a partner in Axelrod’s firm who is a media adviser to Obama’s campaign. “I think sometimes people don’t understand our strategy: They think it’s either go for the jugular or you’re treating them with kid gloves. There is an in-between.”

Again and again, the ads that the Obama campaign has unveiled at the race’s most critical moments–on the eve of the Iowa caucus, in the aftermath of the global financial meltdown–have featured the candidate talking in an informal manner directly to the camera, much like John Street did in Philadelphia. By doing so, Obama has tried to show that he’s relatable and reasonable–not the radical figure white voters may have read about on the Internet and nothing like their worst images of black politicians.

Not so fast guys. Anyone watching TV the last few days, at least here in NY, where we see the prime time buys—NFL, MLB, MSNBC Hardball, etc—knows Obama’s biggest commercial is a direct attack on McCain, tieing him to Bush “90% of the time.” It’s a bold and brutal ad, effective too.

So, which is it? Is Obama using the final to weeks to sell himself, as TNR and Axelrod would like you to believe, or are they going on the offensive as Krugman and reality suggest? According to Tribune reporter David Mendell’s excellent biography, Obama: Promise to Power, Axelrod closes his campaigns with a mix of narrative and attack. Mendell considers both Axelrod and Obama to be at their best in the last two weeks of a campaign. It should be fun to watch it unfold on a national stage…especially in the form of a 30-minute prime time special to air on all the major networks October 29th.

Next Page »