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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"For my purposes, as the United States Military tries to relate the real, empirical fact of widespread corruption in Afghanistan to a population-centric approach to achieving stabilization of security, it may make more sense to take a bottom-up view of the process. Viewed from the perspective of a 30-year old Afghan male head of household, corruption (let's simplify it to 'bribery') is a functional tool. One pays a bribe for one of two reasons: (1) To get something, or (2) To prevent something. A bribe is only useful to our putative Afghan father if he is transacting with an official who has something to offer (public services, for example) or with an official who seeks to do something damaging to him that can be averted with the bribe. For most of Afghan history over the last five centuries the state was not sufficiently powerful to make institutional bribery a very useful, instrumental tool for an ordinary Afghan man. The state offered almost no services (so he couldn't buy much of value from an official) and the state was not actively taking too much (it was not a notable collector of taxes and it was not raising and maintaining a large standing army by conscription). Afghanistan was on the periphery of two great imperial systems that did, in fact, offer a range of public services and possess serious capability to take away goods, land and chattels from their citizens." (Tom Ricks)

"I’m sure by the time someone is able to do a biography of her (my personal choice would be biographer Amanda Vaill) a lot of doors would still be closed. I’ve reported previously that Mrs. Onassis in her last days was said to have burned a great deal of her personal correspondence from friends and close associates, including men she was believed to have had affairs with. She sat before a fire, tossing the bundles tied in ribbons into her fireplace. I was surprised to hear this, having read many times that she claimed great reverence for history. Yet, at the end, destroying it." (NYSocialDiary)
 
 
"ONBOARD S/Y BUSHIDO --- The thickly pined forested hills form a perfect backdrop to the not-so-wine-dark waters off the Peloponnese. Soft greens and blues are Edward Hopper colors—as is the yellowish-white midday sunlight—noon’s inviolate stillness being a keynote of his paintings ... This is the first time after three weeks of sailing with a boatful of friends that I am alone. Isolation can be a beautiful sensation. The onboard saloon where I spend most of my day is spacious and festooned with samurai swords, kamikaze flags, and pictures of my judo, karate, and tennis wars. And books ... I seriously am thinking of leaving everything behind and going on a Flying Dutchman trip, but it ain’t my style. Leo Tolstoy wrote in 1896 that 'Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously, by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that other people are infected by these feelings and also experience them.'" (Taki)
 
 
"Reports from the past few days have suggested that Casey Anthony‘s legal team is already speaking to networks about securing her first interview, which would likely come a few months down the line. Nancy Grace is among those reporting that the Anthony team is seeking $1 million-plus for an interview. As astonishing number. However, just because they seek it, it does not mean they shall receive it. ABC News will almost certainly stay far away from Anthony, even if they were offered the interview for free. The revelation that ABC had paid well over $200,000 in licensing fees to Anthony’s family and legal team during the course of the case is a source of great shame for many inside the division." (TVNewser)
 
 

"Eight months after Al Sharpton signed a pivotal agreement that helped Comcast and NBC secure Federal Communications Commission approval for their $30 billion merger, MSNBC appears poised to reward him with a prime-time news show. While Sharpton is a soundbite success and entertaining TV guest, his three prior attempts at hosting a show have flopped badly, with the most recent, his ballyhooed Education SuperHighway, dying after a single episode last fall. His anchor forays in 2004 and 2005—I Hate My Job and Sharp Talk—ended after seven and 12 episodes respectively, while his 2004 presidential-campaign performance was so widely seen as vacuous and uninformed that it earned him remarkably puny support, even among black voters. In fact, until recently, Sharpton has been a Fox favorite, schmoozing with Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity 16 times in recent years, while appearing on Keith Olbermann’s old show only once.Yet he has now been tapped to displace Cenk Uygur as the anchor of the 6 p.m. show MSNBC Live. In a mystified farewell address last Wednesday, Uygur pointed to a dramatic uptick in his internal ratings for April, May, and June, when his show apparently ranked second overall in total viewers and even exceeded Fox in an 18-to-34 demographic in June, noting that MSNBC had offered him a substantial pay package to do weekend shows and that he had declined. (An NBC spokesman declined to discuss ratings or anything else with us, noting only that 'there is no agreement' with Sharpton to host a program 'at this time,' though The New York Times and many other news organizations have reported it.) Sharpton has a long and well-documented history of leveraging his civil-rights profile for his own benefit." (Wayne Barrett)
 

"Last night I could not turn Howard Stern off, even though it was 1:30 AM and I'd been up since 7 and I was where I wanted to be. Now I'm a bit pissed at Howard. Because he went soft on Gaga. I know, I know, if we were on the phone he'd tell me he had no choice, this is what you've got to do to get A-listers, be nice, not be yourself. But Howard is himself with the B-listers, the downtrodden, the freaks, his metier, and what is revealed is an often fascinating look at the human condition, but yesterday's interview with Crystal Harris, the fiancee of Hugh Hefner who abandoned him, was positively stupefying. Equally stupefying is today's coverage of the interview. All the press focuses on the length of Hef's performance, even though the video posted online belies the notion that he truly lasted only two seconds, Crystal was joking. But she was not joking about being under house arrest. Which made none of today's tabloid stories. That the Playboy Mansion is a glorified cult, run with an iron fist by Hef himself, his dictates enforced by a team of security guards. You see Crystal Harris had to escape. During a film. Via a ruse, stating that she needed to go out and run an errand. There's a fiction, reinforced by the mainstream media, that the rich and famous live a better life than you and me. That they're happier, have better sex, have somehow transcended the human fallacies that trip the rest of us up. But Hef is insecure and controlling and 85. The media doesn't question the Playboy founder, it just goes along with the story. A whitewashed version of the truth." (Lefsetz)

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