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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"There are many sources of fear in world politics -- terrorist attacks, natural disasters, climate change, financial panic, nuclear proliferation, ethnic conflict, and so forth. Surveying the cultural zeitgeist, however, it is striking how an unnatural problem has become one of the fastest-growing concerns in international relations. I speak, of course, of zombies. For our purposes, a zombie is defined as a reanimated being occupying a human corpse, with a strong desire to eat human flesh -- the kind of ghoul that first appeared in George Romero's 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead, and which has been rapidly proliferating in popular culture in recent years (far upstaging its more passive cousins, the reanimated corpses of traditional West African and Haitian voodoo rituals). Because they can spread across borders and threaten states and civilizations, these zombies should command the attention of scholars and policymakers.  The specter of an uprising of reanimated corpses also poses a significant challenge to interpreters of international relations and the theories they use to understand the world. If the dead begin to rise from the grave and attack the living, what thinking would -- or should -- guide the human response? How would all those theories hold up under the pressure of a zombie assault? When should humans decide that hiding and hoarding is the right idea?" (ForeignPolicy)


"Yet like so many things in politics, the congratulatory/concession phone calls persist because that is what tradition demands. 'Those who don’t make the call are often considered sore losers,' said Tom Daschle, the former Democratic senator. Indeed, the calls are the political equivalent of tennis players shaking hands at the net after a tough match. In most cases, the calls are pro forma — good race, good luck — and allow the losing candidate to begin his concession speech a few minutes later by saying, 'I just called congressman so-and-so to congratulate him,' at which point the crowd boos, and the loser hushes his supporters, tells them that it is time to work together, and “walks off stage cursing the other guy’s name,' said Todd Harris, a Republican media strategist. While most intra-candidate phone calls get deservedly no attention, there are towering exceptions — namely, the series of post-election calls between Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore in 2000. It began typically enough: Mr. Gore, the Democratic nominee, called Mr. Bush to concede the race just after midnight on Nov. 8. 'We gave them a cliffhanger,' Mr. Gore told the eventual president-elect according to several accounts at the time. Mr. Bush told Mr. Gore he was a 'formidable opponent and a good man' and sent along his best to the Vice President’s family. And that was that, until Mr. Gore called back around 2:30 a.m. and got all Emily Litella ('never mind') on the governor’s victory party. He told Mr. Bush that his presumed margin of victory in Florida had shrunk to 'too close to call.' 'You mean to tell me, Mr. Vice President,' Mr. Bush said, 'you’re retracting your concession?' 'You don’t have to be snippy about it,' Mr. Gore replied, ensuring that the word 'snippy' would always be associated with election night conversations between presidential candidates." (NyTimes)


"US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Chinese state councillor Dai Bingguo on the southern island of Hainan Saturday after wading into the maritime disputes simmering in Asia at a regional summit. Clinton met with Dai, China's senior-most foreign policymaker, in the VIP lounge at the airport in the resort town of Sanya, a photographer said. Her sixth Asian tour in less than two years aims to pursue what an aide called 'cool-headed, constructive diplomacy' with China and boost US ties with its Pacific neighbours. Earlier in the day, she held talks in Hanoi with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, who called on Washington to avoid "irresponsible remarks" when discussing a disputed island chain over which Beijing is feuding with Japan. Clinton had told an Asian summit that maritime rows should be settled by international law. China wants to handle such disputes bilaterally with its neighbours. The pair also discussed tensions over China's policy on rare earths, a group of 17 elements used to make everything from iPods to hybrid cars. Beijing has come under criticism for its export quotas on the minerals, and Tokyo has accused it of restricting shipments to Japanese firms amid their row over the contested islands in the East China Sea. Clinton said Yang had told her that Beijing -- which has a near-monopoly on the global rare earths market -- had no plans to withhold rare earth minerals from the market." (AFI)


"Speaking of age...Yes, he got this slot because he's hyping a book, but the former President did not stay on message, he did not need to be loved, he spoke his truth. And whether you agree with him or not, it was fascinating to see someone who'd been there and done that reflecting on the issues of the day. Jimmy Carter has not had plastic surgery. I haven't seen photos of him dancing in clubs on TMZ. He's not trying to be young and hip and that's refreshing in a world where those over fifty either see themselves as dead or act like thirty year olds, or even twenty year olds. Why can't we respect and revere our elders? Because they don't blindly consume the crap that America manufactures? That's the main reason the old are ignored. TV's not interested in them. They're not susceptible to advertising, they've seen the ruse, they're no longer impulsive, they want to make an educated purchase and this is anathema to marketers who want your dollars today and to hell with tomorrow. You can't talk about sacrifice. Jimmy put it so well... That too many Americans feel they're entitled under God to consume the world's resources and politicians enable them, afraid to stand up for what's right. There's only so much oil in the ground. We've got issues of pollution and global warming and so many Americans want to do the right thing if only someone would speak the truth and lead them." (LefsetzLetter)



"Gawker Media founder Nick Denton built a multimillion media empire with a ruthless brand of no-holds-barred tabloid blogging often aided by a wide network of anonymous, mercenary spies and tipsters. Lately, though, Gawker Media's record of protecting those confidential sources has taken a tremendous hit. In the past six months, three tipsters have been outed after talking to Gawker Media editors, victims, perhaps ironically, of the same blend of social-networking savvy and modern reporting techniques that have helped the blog network break numerous scoops about high profile business leaders, celebrities and politicians. Dustin Dominiak is the latest Gawker source to find himself in the harsh glare of the spotlight. This week, Dominiak sold a tawdry tale about a sexual encounter he allegedly had with Delaware senate candidate Christine O'Donnell in 2007 to Gawker editor Remy Stern. Dominiak was paid in the low four figures for his story, and measures were taken to preserve his anonymity, but within a matter of hours he was identified by another blog, The Smoking Gun. Dominiak's story was published by Denton's flagship gossip site, Gawker.com, under an anonymous byline. His face was also partially cropped out of photos that showed him alongside O'Donnell at a boozy Halloween bash on the night of their alleged tryst. In spite of that secrecy, the Gawker article contained enough clues for other journalists to easily identify Dominiak as the writer." (Observer)


"Russian counternarcotics agents took part in an operation to eradicate several drug laboratories in Afghanistan this week, joining Afghan and American antidrug forces in what officials here said Friday marked an advance in relations between Moscow and Washington. The operation, in which four opium refining laboratories and over 2,000 pounds of high-quality heroin were destroyed, was the first to include Russian agents. It also indicated a tentative willingness among Russian officials to become more deeply involved in Afghanistan two decades after American-backed Afghan fighters defeated the Soviet military there. 'This is a major success for cooperative actions,' Viktor P. Ivanov, Russia’s top drug enforcement official, told journalists in Moscow. 'This shows that there are real actions being taken amid the reset in relations between Russia and the United States.' Although Russia has a large stake in the outcome of the war in Afghanistan, the country has not participated in the NATO-led military coalition there and has seemed ambivalent about the American effort in its backyard." (NYTimes)


"On April 1, 2001, an American EP-3E Aries II reconnaissance plane on an eavesdropping mission collided with a Chinese interceptor jet over the South China Sea, triggering the first international crisis of George W. Bush’s Administration. The Chinese jet crashed, and its pilot was killed, but the pilot of the American aircraft, Navy Lieutenant Shane Osborn, managed to make an emergency landing at a Chinese F-8 fighter base on Hainan Island, fifteen miles from the mainland. Osborn later published a memoir, in which he described the 'incessant jackhammer vibration' as the plane fell eight thousand feet in thirty seconds, before he regained control. The plane carried twenty-four officers and enlisted men and women attached to the Naval Security Group Command, a field component of the National Security Agency. They were repatriated after eleven days; the plane stayed behind. The Pentagon told the press that the crew had followed its protocol, which called for the use of a fire axe, and even hot coffee, to disable the plane’s equipment and software. These included an operating system created and controlled by the N.S.A., and the drivers needed to monitor encrypted Chinese radar, voice, and electronic communications. It was more than two years before the Navy acknowledged that things had not gone so well. 'Compromise by the People’s Republic of China of undestroyed classified material ... is highly probable and cannot be ruled out,' a Navy report issued in September, 2003, said. The loss was even more devastating than the 2003 report suggested, and its dimensions have still not been fully revealed. Retired Rear Admiral Eric McVadon, who flew patrols off the coast of Russia and served as a defense attaché in Beijing, told me that the radio reports from the aircraft indicated that essential electronic gear had been dealt with. He said that the crew of the EP-3E managed to erase the hard drive—'zeroed it out'—but did not destroy the hardware, which left data retrievable: 'No one took a hammer.' Worse, the electronics had recently been upgraded. 'Some might think it would not turn out as badly as it did, but I sat in some meetings about the intelligence cost,' McVadon said. 'It was grim.'" (NewYorker)


"Well, the short answer is that for all the brilliance of the Obama campaign, and the kudos earned by Rahm Emanuel for the Democratic gains of 2006 and 2008, these people have played some pretty dumb politics. Emanuel’s recruitment of a whole host of conservative-leaning Democrats in places that normally send Republicans to Congress created an entire class of legislators who, either for reasons of ideology or perceived political vulnerability, felt more comfortable undermining the president’s agenda than supporting it. (Can you believe that the campaign actually considered naming this guy vice president?) When combined with a recalcitrant Republican Party whose leaders held no interest in cooperation but plenty in stringing the White House along until it pulled the rug out from under him, Obama was forced to water down his agenda until the bills he fought so hard to pass lacked the essential elements necessary to make them matter to people." (EricAlterman)


"PASSING through California on a mid-term campaign swing, Barack Obama made a point of stopping off to see Steve Jobs, the boss of Apple. He also hob-nobbed with executives from Google and other Silicon Valley companies. More than any of his predecessors, Mr Obama likes to pay homage to the titans of technology. They, in turn, have lavished him with praise and political donations. But now many tech folk are worrying out loud that his government is not as serious about supporting innovation as it purports to be. The tech crowd thought the latest occupant of the White House was one of their own. An enigmatic politician with strong convictions, Mr Obama in many ways resembled the driven young spirits that venture capitalists love to take a punt on. And during the presidential campaign he wowed Silicon Valley with an elevator pitch that envisaged using social media and other technologies developed there to fashion a new and radical political order. Everything from Mr Obama’s addiction to his BlackBerry to his keenness to see maths and science promoted in schools suggested he would be the most tech-friendly president in history. Small wonder, then, that the techies swooned over him. Nor is it surprising that many of them are now starting to feel badly let down. 'There’s a strong feeling that this government really lacks direction,' says Gary Shapiro, the head of the Consumer Electronics Association. Many of its 2,000 members, he adds, are unwilling to invest in new initiatives while there is so much uncertainty about future policy. That is a familiar refrain." (TheEconomist)


"At last night’s MSNBC 'Lean Forward' launch party (look for the full write-up later) MSNBC president Phil Griffin told TVNewser that of all the talent lined up for election night, the one with the most challenging evening will be Chuck Todd. Todd, who anchors 'The Daily Rundown' on MSNBC and is also political director for NBC News, will be making regular appearances on both the broadcast and cable network throughout the night. In a lengthy profile, Columbia Journalism Review profield the man who 'might be the busiest politico on television.' The juiciest bits involve Todd’s back-and-forth with Salon.com columnist Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald has long been a critic of inside the beltway journalists–of which he counts Todd–accusing them of not being adversarial enough to those in power." (TVNewser)


"Howard (Stern) said it's weird that Charlie (Sheen) was making out with (Capri Anderson) in front of his ex-wife. Howard said the guy is real trash and not classy at all. Howard said no one is defending Charlie Sheen but CBS will. Howard said someone wrote an article about how CBS will never criticize the guy. Howard said what matters is that his show 'Two and a Half Men' is the most watched sitcom in prime time. Howard read the article and they were talking about the big ratings they get with that show even though it's been around for 8 years. Howard read that it generated $155.1 million in ad revenue for CBS. Then you have to add in syndication and DVD sales. Howard said one person did come out and defend Charlie. It was Tabitha Stevens. Howard read a note she wrote about the whole thing and she said that she's known Charlie for a long time and she doesn't think Charlie would do anything to hurt that girl. She said that she thinks Charlie was just partying hard and the girl was afraid. She said she hopes things get better for Charlie. Tabitha said that he's actually an awesome person and he's been nothing but respectful to her. Howard said there are defenders out there. Robin (Quivers) just said 'Wow!'" (Marksfriggin)


"HBO has picked up Veep, a D.C.-set comedy pilot about a female Vice President of the U.S. from British comedian, writer and director Armando Iannucci. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is in talks for the lead in the project, set 'very near the White House' and centered on former Senator Selina Meyer who finds being Vice President is nothing like she expected and everything everyone ever warned her about. Iannucci co-wrote and will direct the pilot as well as executive produce with Chris Godsick and Frank Rich under the New York Times columnist's deal with HBO." (Deadline)

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