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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Early critics have argued that Dick Cheney’s forthcoming memoir, held under strict embargo until its official release on Aug. 30, is a predictable reprise of old arguments. Like most examples of the genre, In My Time has plenty of those. But a careful reading of Cheney’s narrative, obtained by TIME, turns up quite a bit of new material. Sometimes subtly and sometimes starkly, the vice president’s story takes issue with the public record on pivotal events. One of Cheney’s most surprising claims involves the Bush administration’s internal crisis over domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency. That episode, which came to a head in a 2004 hospital visit by White House aides to a gravely ill Attorney General John Ashcroft, was among the most dramatic in Bush’s two terms. It was notable, if not unique, in presidential history because subordinates forced the commander-in-chief to reverse a high-stakes order in wartime. In Bush’s memoir, he wrote that he had to back down ('accommodate the Justice Department’s concern,' as he put it) or watch 'my administration implode' in 'the largest mass resignation in modern presidential history.' My book on Cheney quotes Bush’s lieutenants, including communications director Dan Bartlett, as comparing the event to Watergate and describing it as a turning point in the Bush-Cheney partnership. At issue was a closely held secret: that Cheney had devised, and Bush approved, an NSA operation to monitor the phone calls and emails of U.S. citizens without a warrant, part of which later became known as the Terrorist Surveillance Program. After more than two years of going along with 'the vice president’s special program,' the Justice Department concluded that parts of it were illegal. Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey later told Congress, and authoritative sources confirmed privately last week, that Ashcroft decided on March 4, 2004 to stop certifying the surveillance as lawful unless the White House scaled it back. That same afternoon, Ashcroft fell ill with a nearly lethal case of pancreatitis." (Time)

"I happened to spend several weeks in Texas earlier this year, while the Lone Star State lay under the pitiless glare of an unremitting drought. After a protracted arid interval, the state's immodest governor, Rick Perry, announced that he was using the authority vested in him to call for prayers for rain. These incantations and beseechments, carrying the imprimatur of government, were duly offered to the heavens. The heavens responded by remaining, along with the parched lands below, obstinately dry.
Perry did not, of course, suffer politically for making an idiot of himself in this way. Not even the true believers really expect that prayers for precipitation will be answered, or believe that a failed rainmaker is a false prophet. And, had Perry's entreaties actually been followed by a moistening of the clouds and the coming of the healing showers, it is unlikely that anybody would really have claimed a connection between post hoc and propter hoc. No, religion in politics is more like an insurance policy than a true act of faith. Professing allegiance to it seldom does you any harm, at least in Republican primary season, and can do you some good. It's a question of prudence. Or is it? Since his faintly absurd excursion into inspirational meteorology back in the spring, Perry has begun to show signs of starting a religious auction on the right, with himself as the highest bidder." (Christopher Hitchens)


"I have been championing Threeasfour -- the amazing and radical fashion design trio comprised of Adi Gil, Gabi Asfour, and Ange Donhauser -- for years now. And their upcoming Fashion Week show, inspired by the Middle East, sounds like one for the record books. Here, I e-chat with them about their Fashion Week preparations, which surprisingly enough, involve headstands. Of course, as usual, they answer with one voice -- much the same way as they design!  Kim Hastreiter: Are you sad or happy that summer's over? Threesafour: Not sad, but not happy it's over. KH: Why? Did you do anything super-fun? TAF: We participated in a super interesting show in Holland: Arnhem Fashion Biennale, and then escaped to the desert of Sinai with our lovely Bedouin friends. KH: Were you inspired by anything in particular this past summer that we might see in some future collection? TAF: 1. Crop circles; 2. The Middle East; 3. The nature of unpredictability and the unpredictability of nature." (Kim Hastreiter/Papermag)


"Babs knows the sting of 740 Park Avenue. Barbara Walters, too. She and Ms. Streisand have been among those rejected by the tony co-op that angles toward old money and away from entertainers.
'Its polished granite entrance reeks of the prospects of satin sheets and the promise of the echoes of fine crystal,' architecture critic Carter Horsley once wrote. Lately, though, the co-op has become bifurcated between the haves and the haves-more. While Blackstone co-founder Steve Schwarzman reigns in what may be the city’s largest luxury apartment, Liz Swig (née Macklowe) faces what is possibly 740 Park’s first foreclosure. The building represents a certain irony of the exiting Great Recession in New York: it was harsh on everybody but the very rich, and the very rich know that better than anybody. Seven-forty Park was developed by James T. Lee, grandfather to Jackie O. (the future first lady grew up in the building), just as the markets crashed in the fall of 1929. Soon after opening, the building struggled to attract wealthy residents in the nasty economic climate, eventually turning into a rental. 'The building was effectively bankrupt three years after it opened,' said Michael Gross, author of 740 Park: The Story of the World’s Richest Apartment Building. The building recovered sufficiently enough to attract John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1936. Other oil families followed suit, and soon several of New York’s prominent names called 740 Park home." (Observer)

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