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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres (Cynical Edition)



"According to Barack Obama’s liberal critics, the US president betrayed the progressive cause before inauguration day by selecting a bunch of Clinton-era advisers to run his economic team. Fearing the 2008 meltdown would derail his presidency before it had even begun, Mr Obama called on the most experienced and market-friendly Democratic economists available – starting with Larry Summers, Bill Clinton’s last Treasury secretary, now head of the National Economic Council. Eighteen months later, they argue, the president is a prisoner of the authors of the late 1990s Wall Street deregulation that paved the way for the 2008 crisis. Worse, he is suffering from Stockholm syndrome – a captive who loves his jailers. Far from bringing change to Washington, Washington has changed Mr Obama. As narratives go, it is pretty good. The only flaw is that it overlooks his own, instinctively centrist, beliefs (a misjudgment the left shares with the Tea Party movement on the right). It also paints Mr Obama as a dupe – again, with little foundation. From extensive interviews with all his economic advisers and other key figures within and outside the White House, it is a fair bet the president would have selected precisely the same people had he come to power in much kinder circumstances. In addition, he sought what one friend described as 'validation' through his appointments. 'Do not underestimate how vulnerable President-elect Obama was to the charge of inexperience.'" (FT)



"Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen remains a mysterious, asocial person, despite what looks like a recovery from cancer. On Monday night, he hosted his annual yacht party aboard the humongous Octopus, a boat so large that it contains a similarly massive yellow submarine - yes, a real submarine within a yacht. Every time you boot up Windows, think of this - and the number of girls in micro dresses and very skinny stiletto heels who teeter on tenders that take them to Allen's floating Marriott ...So why were those stars few and far between Monday night? Because Allen had competition: Charles Finch threw a magnificent annual dinner up at the Hotel du Cap, where Mick Jagger was guest of honor - despite the fact that he's staying on the Allen yacht with girlfriend L'Wren Scott and son James. Mick was in deep conversation all night with Glenn Close. Finch, a London publisher and publicist, also entertained Kevin Spacey, French director Bertrand Tavernier, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, actors Dominic Cooper and Luke Evans from the Cannes hit, 'Tamara Drewe,' and many of the key Cannes players." (RogerFriedman)



"America is leaving Iraq. We already itch to forget. The U.S. media gave more coverage to the elections in Zimbabwe than those held in March across Iraq. We award Oscars to films about Iraq, but don't particularly care to watch them. The seventh anniversary of the U.S. invasion passed recently, with little notice. Another regrettable anniversary recently passed, one from which U.S. President Barack Obama might take heed. The fall of Saigon 35 years ago marked the end of the Vietnam War and the beginning of a seismic refugee crisis. An eleventh-hour request for $722 million to evacuate the thousands of South Vietnamese who had assisted the United States went unfunded by a war-weary Congress. What ensued in those early morning hours on the rooftops of Saigon, as desperate Vietnamese clamored beneath departing helicopters, would be the war's final image seared into the American conscience. Al Jazeera rebroadcast these scenes of abandonment throughout 2005, when I worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Baghdad and Fallujah. My Iraqi colleagues who risked their lives to help us were demoralized by the footage, and constantly worried about what would happen to them when we left." (ForeignPolicy)



"Cheryl Cole probably doesn't need any more money-spinning deals after her fortune soared 150 per cent in a year. Still, who would turn down (USD $361,000) for a 30-minute performance? The 26-year-old will make the brief appearance tonight at a Cannes dinner and party hosted by luxury jewellery firm de Grisogono. She is also believed to be receiving jewellery for her effort at the Hotel du Cap, where guests will include fashion figures Naomi Campbell and Margerita Missoni." (DailyMail)



"Insurgents, some of them wearing suicide vests, attacked one of the U.S. military's largest and most populous bases Wednesday morning, the second ambitious attack in as many days and a sign that the Taliban movement might have launched its yearly spring offensive. There are few installations as well fortified as Bagram Airfield, but this did not stop insurgents from staging a pre-dawn assault with gunfire, rockets and grenades. The fighting, which broke out at more than one location outside Bagram, killed one U.S. contractor, injured nine U.S. service members and inflicted minor damage on one of the base buildings, military officials said. The guard force on the base battled insurgents intensely for about two hours, until about 6 a.m., but sporadic gunfire could be heard for several more hours. Ten of the attackers, including four wearing explosives, were killed in the assault, officials said. 'Though it is clear the enemy intended a spectacular event' at Bagram Airfield .." (WashPo)



"I caught a fit of the giggles on my way to the party hosted by Vanity Fair and Gucci for the Cannes Film Festival last night. Partly, I was laughing at the absurd splendor of the setting, at the tip of the Cap d’Antibes, five miles from Cannes as the crow flies, but ten by the road that hugs the Mediterranean coast and winds along the craggy peninsula ... Arriving at unfashionably early hour of 10:32, I had a chance to soak in the surroundings at the Eden Roc bar, perched right above the crashing sea. It was overcast, so the party stayed largely indoors, where the walls were lined with giant stills from The Leopard. But unless you had bare shoulders (which I didn't), the temperature outside was perfect. The only lights at large came from yachts moored 100 feet away. Inland from the party, the stone pines were illuminated in warm hues, through smoke of an indeterminate origin ... Most big names started filing in around 11:00, around the time the DJ transitioned from Glenn Miller to Motown. The first I saw were the festival jurors, including jury president Tim Burton and Benicio Del Toro, and Gael Garcia Bernal, who is handing out the Camera d’or prize. Bernal spent much of the evening with his friend and Y tu mama tambien co-star, Diego Luna, in town for his narrative directing debut, Abel. The two Mexicans formed the hub of the party's young creative crowd, which was later joined by a gorgeous Camilla Belle. They hung out mostly in the outdoor area, which was decorated like a living room, one in which guest of honor Martin Scorsese made himself at home. Elsewhere, cliques formed and mixed. At the 'couples’ table,' Josh Brolin and Diane Lane competed with Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony for the Lovebirds d’or award. (Advantage: Brolin-Lane, for the public displays of affection.) Brolin later made the rounds, chatting with his W. and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps director Oliver Stone, and meeting Del Toro for the first time." (Julian Sancton/Vanity Fair)



"In the decades to come, the most lethal threats to the United States' safety and security -- a city poisoned or reduced to rubble by a terrorist attack -- are likely to emanate from states that cannot adequately govern themselves or secure their own territory. Dealing with such fractured or failing states is, in many ways, the main security challenge of our time. For the Defense Department and the entire U.S. government, it is also a complex institutional challenge. The United States is unlikely to repeat a mission on the scale of those in Afghanistan or Iraq anytime soon -- that is, forced regime change followed by nation building under fire. But as the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review recently concluded, the United States is still likely to face scenarios requiring a familiar tool kit of capabilities, albeit on a smaller scale. In these situations, the effectiveness and credibility of the United States will only be as good as the effectiveness, credibility, and sustainability of its local partners. This strategic reality demands that the U.S. government get better at what is called 'building partner capacity': helping other countries defend themselves or, if necessary, fight alongside U.S. forces by providing them with equipment, training, or other forms of security assistance. This is something that the United States has been doing in various ways for nearly three-quarters of a century." (SecDef Robert Gates/ForeignAffairs)



"Arriving at the Chopard 150th anniversary party in Cannes this week, Paris Hilton looked stunning in a flowing strapless blue Alberto Makali dress. But as she moved on the nightclubs of the French Riviera, the socialite soon realised perhaps a floor-length gown wasn't quite suitable for a night on the dancefloor. Writing on her Twitter page, Hilton said: 'Had so much fun last night at the Chopard Party. Lionel Richie performed and was amazing! Love him' ... Her friend Lady Victoria Hervey said Hilton was on a 'manhunt' in Cannes since splitting from (Doug) Reinhardt after a 12 month on/off relationship. Hervey said: 'She’s on a rampage to find a new hot, rich fella.'" (DailyMail)



"A crackdown on antigovernment protesters launched by the Thai military on Wednesday degenerated into riots, firebombing attacks, looting and street battles after militants allied with the protest movement resisted the army’s onslaught with grenades and assault weapons. As they retreated, protesters set fire to the country’s stock exchange and a number of buildings including a major shopping mall, two banks, a movie theater and a television station." (NYTimes)



"The American Ballet Theatre held its spring gala last night, and even though First Lady Michelle Obama didn't drop by the Met as she did last year, plenty of leading ladies came to help the ballet company celebrate its 70th anniversary. Following remarks by Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and Blaine Trump, the curtain went up on a two-hour program that offered a preview of coming months, including selections from Swan Lake and Giselle and an extra-generous dose of Tchaikovsky's The Sleeping Beauty. A passionate, earthbound pas de deux from Lady of the Camellias, set to music by Chopin and featuring Bruce Weber favorite Roberto Bolle, got Veronica Webb's heart thumping. 'Smoking hot,' she concluded on her way into the dinner tent." (Style)

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