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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"I was not as disappointed by the National Security Strategy the White House released last week as were a great many critics on the right and in the center. But I was dismayed to see that the document was larded with quotations from Chairman Obama. The report is obviously intended as a repudiation of George W. Bush's alarmist and bellicose 2002 National Security Strategy, but it was the Bush administration that first adopted this boosterish and hero-worshiping format. ('We fight, as we always fight, for a just peace' -President Bush, West Point. 'We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense.' -President Obama, Inaugural Address.) These quadrennial documents now come surrounded with such a dense carapace of hokum that the reader can barely discern an actual meaning. They are, after all, public documents, and therefore occupy the realm of public relations rather than analysis. Compare either Bush 2002 or Obama 2010 to NSC-68, written in 1950 by a team of State and Defense department officials working under the Cold War intellectual Paul Nitze (and kept secret for the next 25 years). NSC-68 advanced a specific geopolitical claim: Given Soviet ambitions for world domination, 'a defeat of free institutions anywhere is a defeat everywhere.' It constituted a rebuff to George Kennan's proposal for a more modest and less costly form of containment, as first outlined in his famous 'Long Telegram' of 1947. And NSC-68 laid out a strategy to achieve the desired goals: a major increase in spending on defense and diplomacy enabled by a government-sponsored boost to economic capacity. NSC-68 may have been too sweeping -- President Eisenhower ultimately abandoned its costly prescriptions -- but the authors presented their case with great force and clarity. Them were the days." (James Traub/ForeignPolicy)



"... (T)hey are double-teaming me again, this time over a pitcher of lemonade, on the verandah of the vice president’s mansion. The occasion is the formal launch, two days hence, of Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign—and Tipper is sticking up for her mate against charges that he is dull and boring. 'I think it’s ridiculous,' she chides me. 'Tell him, honey!' Al cheers her on. 'Sock it to ‘im!' Then he adds: 'I love that song by Three Dog Night with that line, ‘I don’t have to speak ‘cause she defends me.’ To which Tipper offers a flirty correction: 'Um, I think that was The Band.' But don't they ever drive each other totally nuts? I asked.'No,' Al claimed. 'We really don't,' Tipper agreed. 'I mean, that's not to say it's perfect—of course we have our disagreements.' Al nodded. 'We had a fight once 23 years ago.' 'Which I won,' Tipper said. And then … The Kiss. At the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles, where she has just introduced him, he mounts the stage and has his way with her. Time magazine’s Lance Morrow later rhapsodized about 'the sheer carnality of the kiss—the can't-wait-to-get-back-to-the-hotel-room urgency, the sexual electricity flowing south.' But as I watched in real time from the press gallery in the Staples Center, I felt no animal passion; instead it was, like the Gores’ union, at once personal and political, the comfortable smooch of a middle-aged married couple desperately seeking the White House. Thus the announcement of their separation, a couple of weeks after celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary, comes as a rude surprise. Why now?" (Lloyd Grove/TheDailyBeast)



(image via nysocialdiary)

"...(T)he truth is these are good people who both have a lot of friends in Washington and the general reaction here was surprise. But as the news settled in it changed to less of surprise and more of, 'Well, he is married to climate change. He is on the road all the time. He is a driven man.' And Tipper? 'She’s got her own life, her photography.' Close friends speculated that she would rather not wait at home alone. There did not seem to be any dark secrets, but who knows? If they exist the Gores have kept them well in the shadows. 'I’ve traveled with him dozens of times,' said a friend. 'Believe me, he doesn’t have the time. He’s on a mission and that’s what consumes him.' So, it seems, even the icons of a perfect marriage can fall to earth .. At a party Tuesday night I cornered Washington 'wise man' Vernon Jordan and asked, 'Are you surprised?' In perfect wise man fashion he replied, 'There’s nothing that surprises me.'" (WashingtonSocialDiary)



"General Electric has finalized details of Jeff Zucker's exit deal from NBC Universal, according to sources familiar with the situation. Zucker will leave 'a couple of months' after Comcast Corp. closes its agreement to acquire a 51 percent stake in the media giant from its current owners General Electric and Vivendi -- with an exit package of roughly $30 million to $40 million, under the proposed exit deal, those sources said. The Comcast acquisition is expected to close in early 2011 after regulatory approval. Sources close to the company steadfastly denied yesterday that any exit package for Zucker existed. GE, in a statement, called reports of an exit package 'not true.' Nonetheless, sources tell The Post that Zucker has been telling friends that such a deal has been finalized." (NYPost)



(image via thewrap)

"While the Lakers and Celtics got set to renew their historic rivalry over the weekend, the major movie studios were living their version of the Memorial Day Massacre. Ticket revenue for the four-day holiday weekend totaled just $184.2 million, according to Box Office Mojo, the lowest Memorial Day revenue total since 2001 ($177.8 million). This downer weekend -- which was 14 percent below last year's total holiday gross -- capped a tough May start to the summer tentpole season, with 'Sex and the City 2,' 'Prince of Persia,' 'Shrek Forever After,' 'Robin Hood' and 'Iron Man 2' all underperforming to some extent.As starts to the big summer season go, this is certainly not a good one." (TheWrap)



(image via vanityfair)

"'People often ask me how to make conversation at dinner parties,' began Sally Quinn, star journalist, superstar hostess, and wife of former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee, in what would be her last 'The Party' column for the paper, in February. 'I always tell them to ask about their dinner partner's family—once they get started, they won't stop. Everyone has a dysfunctional family. Ours is no exception.” She needed to set the record straight on a family matter that, she insisted, had become public and messy. As it happened, she had scheduled the wedding of her 27-year-old son, Quinn, on the same day as that of Greta, Bradlee's granddaughter from a previous marriage. It was all one big inadvertent screwup, the column explained—her fault, and, well, kind of her 88-year-old husband's too. 'Greta, the daughter of my husband's son Ben Bradlee Jr. and ABC's Martha Raddatz, planned her wedding last fall and sent Save the Date cards. I gave ours to my husband to put the date on his calendar, and he did not. A warning to wives everywhere!' Surely the woman who literally wrote the book on how to give parties (The Party: A Guide to Adventurous Entertaining, Simon & Schuster, 1997) could come up with a new date that wouldn't conflict, right? Well … that wasn't really the point. As the column went on to explain, 'Over Christmas, Greta's mother and I came to an understanding that, because of existing tensions, it would be best for all if none of us attended Greta's wedding.' She added, 'Happily, we did not have a single overlapping guest.' Suddenly, a matter that no one even knew about got everyone talking." (VanityFair)



"For a decade, the industry has been trying to prop up the CD and the album, when it's clear, like Flash, both are headed to the graveyard, because both have been superseded by digital delivery. Online you buy just what you want, doesn't mean you can't buy a plethora of tracks, but the idea of an album of ten tracks as the basic unit makes no sense. Now we're moving to the cloud, the concept of ownership will evaporate. Don't listen to what Steve says, he likes that iTunes revenue, he likes that everybody is buying their music from Apple, otherwise why fight Amazon and its deep discounts? But he mostly cares about keeping customers in the Apple ecosystem. You don't fight Apple by creating a competitor to iTunes track sales, that's like fighting the 3 1/2 inch floppy with a 1 1/2 inch floppy. If you want to fight Jobs, you've got to come up with a better cloud solution than Apple. And so far, the industry is fighting this, playing right into Jobs' hands. By refusing to authorize Spotify in the USA, by refusing to enable subscription services to compete with Apple, rights holders are insuring we go to a per track ownership model online. Think about that, that's exactly what the cable industry is fighting, they don't want to let you cherry-pick shows, they want you to buy the whole enchilada." (LefsetzLetter)



(image via Asa Mathat/All Things D)

"Is saving journalism a goal for Steve Jobs? The question came up during the Apple CEO’s interview on stage at D8—and the answer was typically Jobsian, stressing his beliefs that any democracy depends on a free, healthy press and in the importance of some news organizations before making a wide statement about bloggers that immediately grabbed the spotlight: 'I don’t want to see us descend to a nation of bloggers myself. I think we need editorial more than ever right now.' He added: 'Anything that we can do to help the New York Times, the Washington Post and other news gathering organizations find new ways of expression so they can afford to get paid so they can keep their news gathering and editorial operations intact, I’m all for it.' That takes getting people to pay for 'hard-earned content.'" (Paidcontent)



"David Cameron’s government, although pulled to the centre by coalition with the Liberal Democrats, seems bent on pursuing a traditional Conservative foreign policy: cosy up to the US while giving Europe short shrift. This approach may be comforting to the Tory faithful, for whom the European Union is a no-go zone, but the effort to reclaim the US-UK 'special relationship' as the foundation of British statecraft promises to leave Britain in a geopolitical no-man’s land and marginalise its international influence. The UK will enjoy far greater sway over transatlantic and global affairs by becoming a leading voice within the EU than by investing in an Anglo-American coupling that has lost much of its raison d’être. Although the government has thus far held its fire on the EU, William Hague, the foreign secretary, had been in office only three days before crossing the Atlantic to meet Hillary Clinton, secretary of state, and affirm that the US 'is without doubt the most important ally' of the UK." (FT)



"The Carlyle Hotel on Monday nights is, like all great Manhattan institutions, a carefully romantic transaction. For sale is a moment in Old New York, a composite of faded glamour too delicate to survive and too perfect to have ever really existed. Beneath the soft, earthy brushstrokes of an original Marcel Vertes mural, amid the soigné murmur of rustling silk and clinking stemware, 90 eager patrons of all ages gather in the Café Carlyle supper club to soak up pristine, antique luxury. They've paid $100 or so apiece mostly to see the musician seated in the perfect center of the room, at the carpeted meridian of this alternate universe—and 'see' is truly the impetus here, as the music he offers is secondary to the draw of his enormous celebrity, as contemporary a fame as the music he loves is traditional. Illuminated in dim, flickering light, the man handles his clarinet with ardor, scarcely glancing up through his ensemble's two-hour performance; he knows the reason we all came, and doesn't need to squint into camera flashes for a reminder. But he embraces his part in it all, because he believes in the romance, too. 'Jazz has a mythological feeling to it—time has done that,' Woody Allen tells me beforehand." (VillageVoice)

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