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Monday, January 31, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"As Tunisian President-for-Life Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fled into ignominious exile two weeks ago, democrats around the world found hope in the notion that Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution would spread to Iran. The images of demonstrations from Sidi Bouzid to Tunis reminded Americans of the massive 2009 protests that gave rise to Iran's opposition Green Movement, and as pro-democracy movements inspired by Tunisia emerged in Egypt and Yemen, many observers saw a chance for Iran to be next. But looking closer, it's clear that Iranians -- from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on down to the Green Movement opposition -- view the Tunisia situation as vastly different from their own, and not one that's likely to spill over into a renewed push for democratic reform in their own country. Despite the examples of Ben Ali and Egypt's beleaguered President Hosni Mubarak, Iran's leaders are far from running scared. In fact, Tehran is taking a distinctly more triumphalist understanding of the roots and effects of the Tunisian protests than American commentators would expect from another authoritarian Middle Eastern government -- particularly from one facing its own challenges from opposition forces. In the week following Ben Ali's frantic flight to Saudi Arabia, reactions from Iranian officials and state-supported media were, as always, bold and self-assured. But this is no skin-deep grandstanding designed to force a positive spin on an unsettling example of political upheaval. Where Washington sees an anti-authoritarian uprising, Tehran describes a 1979-style rejection of a U.S.-supported secularist: Ahmadinejad referred to the Tunisian uprising as an expression of the people's will for an Islamic order, and the Iranian Majlis voted overwhelmingly to support the 'revolution.'" (ForeignPolicy)


"It was also reported that Charlie Sheen’s teeth are beginning to fall out because of his drugging, etc., according to the Daily Mail. I’m always reminded of the woman I knew in Los Angeles who worked the nightshift in the bedrooms and hotel rooms of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. She told me – laughing – that Charlie Sheen was her easiest John. He never even so much as touched her. All she had to do was stand at the foot of the bed with nothing on and tell him how fabulous he was over and over again, while he lay there self-responding to the thrill of it all. Until he didn’t need to hear it anymore and she got her money and left. And you ask, is there a Society today?" (NYSocialDiary)


"Chelsea Clinton's husband, Marc Mezvinsky, is taking a break from his banking job to concentrate on being a ski bum. The investment banker is forgoing work at New York-based hedge fund G3 Capital to hit the slopes for a few months in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Sources told Page Six that Mezvinsky, now married into America's most ambitious political family, left his position right before the holidays and took off for Jackson Hole. We hear that he's been there through January and that his wife, the daughter of former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, plans on visiting him every few weeks." (PageSix)


"The White House expects Jon Huntsman, the U.S. Ambassador to China, to resign his post this spring to explore a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, top Democrats said. GOP allies of Huntsman have already begun laying plans for a quick-start campaign should the former Utah governor decide to enter the ill-defined Republican field. While Huntsman has no direct involvement in it, a group of operatives that could eventually comprise his strategy team has set up an entity called 'Horizon PAC' to serve as a placeholder for his political apparatus. The PAC will be run by Susie Wiles, a Florida-based Republican strategist who recently managed the campaign of newly-inaugurated Gov. Rick Scott. Huntsman has avoided publicly discussing the possibility of a bid against the president who appointed him, but he’s sending signals that make clear he’s serious about a run now – not in 2016." (Politico)


"For one brief moment here at the 2011 Adult Video Awards in Las Vegas, America’s porn performers can forget about the Golden Decade of the Teen Wanker and remember when they were stars ... For a decade or so, to the porn industry, the Internet looked like the best thing ever invented—a distribution chute liberating it from the trench-coat ghetto of brown paper wrappers and seedy adult bookstores, an E-Z Pass to a vast untapped bedroom audience. If it was equally apparent that the web would prove as destabilizing as it has for other media, the money was so good that the industry could ignore the warning signs. Now the reckoning has arrived. The chief culprits in the eyes of the porn Establishment are the 'tube sites,' YouTube-like repositories of content that is often free, and often pirated. 'Tubes are going to destroy our industry,' says Sunny Leone, 29, an Indian-American knockout who is celebrating eight nominations this evening. 'Fans don’t understand that if they don’t pay for porn, we can’t make a living. They’ll have to watch crazy European porn.' Farther along the red carpet, as the porn parade navigates the throng of gawkers to enter the Pearl Theater, actor James Bartholet shouts to the onlookers, 'Buy your porn, don’t download it illegally!'" ( NYMag)


"President Obama is far from the first president attempting a tricky rhetorical pirouette with the dictator and his men in Cairo, who are under the impression that Americans need them more than they need us. As the Obama administration considers its approach to the turmoil in Egypt, it might be wise to heed lessons from the approach its predecessor took. The Bush administration’s experience was not exactly a shining moment in the cause of human freedom. George W. Bush prides himself on being the 'dissidents’ president'—a man who has stood courageously to expand the frontiers of freedom across the world. And indeed Bush—particularly early on in his administration—did undertake laudable efforts to aid the cause of dissidents and political prisoners, even taking opportunities to publicly call for their release. But by the end of the administration, his rhetoric had softened notably. And the speechwriters learned that there were limits to how far we would go in that effort. It was easy for U.S. presidents to bash regimes with which America did not have productive relationships—easy marks like Iran, Syria, and Cuba. But when it came to confronting dictatorships with which we shared common interests—China and Russia, for example—the language we used was more careful, our actions more forgiving. This was especially true in the Middle East, where Bush frequently castigated the human-rights abuses in Iran and Syria, but seldom shined a spotlight on Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, or Egypt." (TheDailyBeast)


"In the spring of 2009, as the reĆ«lection campaign of President Hamid Karzai was gathering momentum, a group of prominent Afghan businessmen met for breakfast at the presidential palace to see the candidate. Among them was Khalil Ferozi, the chief executive officer of Kabul Bank, a fast and freewheeling financial institution that had brought together some of the most colorful and politically well-connected Afghans in the country, including one of President Karzai’s own brothers. Ferozi, a banking novice, had a history that seemed lifted from a Saturday-afternoon adventure movie. In the late nineteen-nineties, working for the legendary anti-Taliban commander Ahmed Shah Massoud, Ferozi sold emeralds mined in the crags of the Panjshir Valley and used the hard currency to pay an obscure Russian company to print truckloads of Afghan currency. In this way, he helped underwrite Massoud’s movement. According to a Massoud associate, the commander became enraged when he discovered that Ferozi was helping to print currency for the Taliban as well. Before Ferozi could be hauled in—'Tie his hands, tie his legs, and bring him to me,' Massoud reportedly said—Massoud was killed, on September 9, 2001, by Al Qaeda assassins. Ferozi, who failed to respond to questions about the incident, went on to become Kabul’s most improbable banker and C.E.O. With a body like an oil drum, and a retinue of gunmen around him, he prowls the streets of Kabul looking less like a banker than like a footballer lost in a war zone. 'We’d like to contribute to the campaign,' Ferozi told President Karzai at the breakfast in 2009. 'What can we do?' The President pointed Ferozi in the direction his finance minister and campaign treasurer, Omar Zakhilwal. Two days later, Zakhilwal told me recently, two men identifying themselves as Kabul Bank employees appeared bearing a briefcase containing two hundred thousand dollars in cash. 'Two guys, one case,' he said." (NewYorker)

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