Vanity Fair’s Best-Dressed List Clothed in Irrelevance

bdl-obama-0909-ps01 Vanity Fair has released its 2009 Best-Dressed List. Does anybody care? It wasn’t that long ago that these sorts of lists, from publications like Vanity Fair, were powerful measures of a star’s clout, or their clout-to-be as the case may have been. Vanity Fair in particular had a sharp sense of the zeitgeist and was once very good at plucking young stars out of the mix just before they hit the big time.

These days Vanity Fair’s strength, such as it is, lies mostly in its ability to recap some golden era that is still only available to the public through the TimeLife photo archive. To wit: The best-dressed VF archive that is also now online is far and away the more interesting read! Come to think of it, you know who should really do a best-dressed list? The Sartorialist! That would be a great read.

Anyway, best-dressed! Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni top the list. Okay, I take it back, I am not yet tired of looking at pictures of Michelle Obama. But Kelly Ripa is also inexplicably in there. Along with various, mostly uninteresting European royalty. Also, Brad Pitt, Alicia Keys, Anne Hathaway, oh and the President! Well he is well-dressed, it’s true. Oh, by the way you can vote on these, should you manage to make it all the way through. However, by number 17 or so it becomes clear why TMZ has had such great success. Yawn. Far more interesting is this slide show of the ‘Chosen Ones’ which includes the likes of Babe Paley, and Audrey Hepburn. If VF.com did a slide show like this every week we would come back for more.

North Korea to Free Journos, May Return to U.S. With Clinton

ling_kim_1369100cThis is great news. The New York Times is reporting that North Korea has agreed to free Current TV journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, and that the two may return to the U.S. with Bill Clinton this evening.

According to Reuters, North Korea’s official news agency, KCNA, reported that Kim Jong-il, the country’s leader, has granted two American journalists a “special pardon,” on Tuesday, which releases them from detention, following a meeting with former President Bill Clinton in Pyongyang. Reuters reports that KCNA issued the following statement: “Kim Jong-il issued an order of the chairman of the DPRK National Defense Commission on granting a special pardon to the two American journalists who had been sentenced to hard labor in accordance with Article 103 of the Socialist Constitution and releasing them.”

Well that was a successful 12 hours! Bill Clinton to the rescue! The back story on all this is sure to be good. Apart from rescuing Ling and Lee, there is bound to be a great deal of speculation that Clinton was also there to smooth the way towards initiating some sort of nuclear talks with North Korea. Also, whose idea was it to send Clinton? Hillary? Obama? Rahm? It was a bit of a genius solution when you think about it: the North Koreans wanted a high profile emissary, the States didn’t want to look like their government was kowtowing to Kim Jong-il. If George W. wants a lesson to image rehab he need look no further than Clinton’s last 24 hours.

The White House continues to assert that this was a “private mission” — which obviously it is anything but. Mark Knoller is suggesting the outcome was in the bag before Clinton even took off: “It’s a good bet the fix was in in advance. If Clinton comes, asks nicely, shows respect to “dear leader,” he can leave w- the journalists.” We shall see, a number of cablers have been speculating that the White House just wants to avoid commenting until Clinton, and now the journos, are back in U.S. air space, which could be sometime later tonight.

Happy Birthday Mr….Er, Helen Thomas!

Picture 2Turns out the President isn’t the only person in the White House today celebrating a birthday. Veteran, legendary White House reporter Helen Thomas was also born on August 4th…89 years ago today. Talk about institutional memory! To celebrate Obama made a surprise appearance at the today’s briefing to bring her cupcakes and sing her happy birthday. A side note: Wouldn’t it be great if Helen decided to start twittering?

Afterwards Christiane Amanpour SHOT DOWN any suggestion that Thomas might be compromised in her future coverage of Obama now that he’d not only delivered her cupcakes but given her a kiss on the cheek to boot.





Is Obama/Joker Poster Racist?

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There’s a Barack Obama/Joker poster that’s spreading around the interweb like wildfire. It first surfaced back in April, but is catching on, now, in a big way.

The April Bedlam article noted a “Jim Crow quality” to the poster, and at least one writer has pegged it as being more than kinda racist:

The poster, which bears a very superficial resemblance to Shepard Fairey’s famous Obama Hope illustration, has been pasted on freeway supports and other public surfaces. It has a bit of everything to appeal to the drunk tank of California conservatism: Obama is in white face, his mouth (like Ledger’s Joker’s) has been grotesquely slit wide open and the word “Socialism” appears below his face. The only thing missing is a noose.

I think he’s overstating it just a little.

I don’t think the guy who made this intended to be racist, nor do I think the right wing is spanking themselves chafed over it because they’re racist (just behind-the-times dorks. Dark Knight came out, like, a geologic era ago). I give everyone 100% benefit of the doubt. When I was first writing this up, my 16 year-old son asked me what was so bad about blackface, and what the hell minstrelsy was. If you haven’t been the subject of it, you can be forgiven for not recognizing it.

I’ll even laugh at the guy who says the poster misses the point because the Joker was an anarchist, not a socialist. The premise of the poster is that Barack Obama is a joker because he’s a socialist, not that he’s socialist because he’s the Joker.

Having said all of that, this poster is immediately and strongly evocative of blackface minstrel shows. Hey, it happens, like when some ad guy accidentally snaps a picture of something that looks like a phallus. But, there it is. Care, or care not, ’tis a fact.

Once this was pointed out, however hyperbolically, the right wing was reluctant to give up their new plaything. Both Hot Air and Matt Lewis, among others, immediately went to the “they-did-it-to-Bush-too” defense. While I understand being defensive when someone puts a noose in your hand, this is a really poor analogy. Obviously, Bush didn’t belong to a group of people that had been historically mocked and demeaned through the application of race-changing makeup.

Even conceding that the poster is racially insensitive, I don’t think it should be censored. Art is supposed to provoke, and the as-yet-unknown artist may have intended to tweak the minstrel angle to make a statement about politicians in general, or Obama specifically. Believe it or not, he’s not universally beloved in the black community.

On the other hand, if you wear this as a t-shirt, you might rightly offend some folks. That might be worth the conversation, but it’s silly to pretend that the concern isn’t valid.

Happy Birthday, Mr. President! What The Media Elite Wish Barack On His Birthday

2009-01-17-michelleIt’s August 4th — and if President Barack Obama had a birth certificate, it would say that today is his birthday! (Kidding. HE HAS A BIRTH CERTIFICATE.) It’s his first birthday in the White House, and so far, he’s having a good one.  Will he get a pony? A health-care mandate? More network air time? Heck, he doesn’t need a birthday to get network air time! On this glorious day of celebration, the kind of gift that matters is just this: love. To that end, Mediaite has obtained birthday messages sent to the President  from members of the media and other prominent well-wishers.  Today, as the President turns 48 and a nation rejoices, let’s see how those in the fourth estate want to express their birthday wishes…

Happy 48th birthday! (That’s 12 in Kenyan years.)
L. Dobbs



I hope you fail to blow out all your birthday candles…um, save me some cake, though?
El Rushbo


Jeff Zeleny

Happy 48th! I hope your birthday is surprising, enchanting, humbling and troubling.
Jeff Zeleny, New York Times




Happy racist birthday! JK! LOL!
Glenn Beck


According to their DW-NOMINATE scores, the over-under for how many candles you can blow out on the first try is 27. Just so you know.
Nate Silver

Happy birthday, President Obama! (I can ask about this topic, right?)
Nico Pitney, Huffington Post




sarah-palin-1Have a happy 48th in the Lower 48! I’d send this message on behalf of Alaska, except I think I can be more effective on behalf of Alaska not doing so.
Sarah Palin, via Facebook


How dare you consider having anything other than a happy birthday, sir!

For more of my birthday wishes, please visit Daily Kos.


Keith Olbermann

Take Us to Your Leader! Clinton Meets Kim Jong-il

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This is the picture that is currently running on the homepage of the New York Times. I think it’s safe to say, considering the U.S.’s relationship with North Korea, Barack Obama’s relationship with Hillary Clinton, Hillary’s relationship with her husband, and Bill Clinton’s relationship with just about everyone (oh yes, and Al Gore!) that this picture is worth about 10,000 words. Which is probably approximately how many are going to be devoted to this story in the next 24 hours. Wow. You could pretty much write a history of modern (and recent!) American politics based on this shot. Or just wait for Maureen Dowd to distill it down to short series of bon mots this Sunday. The maneuvering of egos it must have taken to organize this trip boggles the mind.

Obama BusinessWeek Cover Shoot: Sales Pitch or Swan Song?

obama_cover_small-copyPresident Obama has been on an impressive number of covers this week — Time, The Economist, The New Republic, New York Magazine, to name a few). All the newsstand facetime might have something to do with the Executive Branch’s ‘full saturation media habits.‘ Or maybe Obama’s face just sells magazines.

If the latter is true, it would explain why BusinessWeek has joined the pack, and even upped the ante with its cover this week, sending photographer Brad Trent to photograph the president while he answered questions from BW editor in chief Steve Adler and Washington bureau chief Jane Sasseen.

“There are assignments…and then there are assignments,” Trent wrote about the shoot on his blog Damn Ugly Photography:

First we went from half the editorial staff of the magazine wanting to come along, while I would bring two assistants and a few tons of gear for the intense, overly complex formal cover situation. Then, as we learned more details of what kind of access the White House would allow, it appeared that I might have to go in paparazzi style…just me and a single camera bag going into the Oval Office to document the Q & A, with no time to do an extra set up.

Publisher McGraw-Hill has put BusinessWeek up for sale (on the chopping block?), and things aren’t looking so good. PaidContent reported late last week that out of four possible buyers, one has definitely dropped out, and another is “almost certain not to proceed” either. This, before any formal bidding has even begun.

We wonder if BusinessWeek asked the president to save room in his birthday wishes for ad pages — more than 36% behind last year. Otherwise BW might be lights-out like the candles on Obama’s cake.

More images from the shoot on Damn Ugly Photography. Don’t miss Trent’s mosaic of the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room.