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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"It was an extraordinary scene: President Barack Obama, sitting impassively in the Oval Office in May as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahulectured him, at considerable length and at times condescendingly, on Jewish history, Arab perfidy and the existential challenges facing his country. What was extraordinary wasn’t the message -- it was not an untypical Netanyahu sermon. What was notable was that Netanyahu was lecturing the president live on television, during a photo opportunity staged so that the two leaders could issue platitudes about the enduring bonds between their nations. That display of impudence left the president and his team feeling unusually angry. Shortly afterward, Obama’s chief of staff, William Daley, called the Israeli ambassador in Washington, Michael Oren, to communicate the displeasure of the White House in a reportedly heated way. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who watched her husband battle Netanyahu in the late 1990s, also expressed anger and frustration about the prime minister within the administration ... But it was Robert M. Gates, the now-retired secretary of defense, who seemed most upset with Netanyahu. In a meeting of the National Security Council Principals Committee held not long before his retirement this summer, Gates coldly laid out the many steps the administration has taken to guarantee Israel’s security -- access to top-quality weapons, assistance developing missile-defense systems, high-level intelligence sharing -- and then stated bluntly that the U.S. has received nothing in return, particularly with regard to the peace process. Senior administration officials told me that Gates argued to the president directly that Netanyahu is not only ungrateful, but also endangering his country by refusing to grapple with Israel’s growing isolation and with the demographic challenges it faces if it keeps control of theWest Bank." (Jeff Goldberg)


"Four years ago, even optimistic Democrats didn't think they would pick up Indiana (11), North Carolina (15), or an electoral vote in Nebraska (which like Maine awards one vote per congressional district), yet all three went for Mr. Obama by small margins. In 2012, Indiana is likely to desert him, as is the one Cornhusker district. To keep North Carolina, the Democrats chose Charlotte for their national convention and will make a big play statewide. As of now, it looks tough for them. Thus Republicans are in the lead to win 26 more electors. Missouri was the sole squeaker that went for McCain; few believe it will be tight next year, so the GOP will likely have those 10 votes, too. Republicans therefore are a lock or lead in 24 states for 206 electoral votes, and Democrats have or lead in 19 states for 247 electoral votes. That's why seven super-swing states with 85 electors will determine which party gets to the magic number of 270 electoral votes: Colorado (9), Florida (29), Iowa (6), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4), Ohio (18) and Virginia (13)." (Larry Sabato)


"TRIPOLI, Libya — The cells are barely large enough for one person to lie down in. There is no water, no toilet. Light falls through a small hole in the ceiling. Most cells don't even have a mattress, just a strip of cloth on the floor, a cut-open plastic bottle, and the naked concrete walls, inscribed with memories of those once held here. It is dark -- claustrophobic -- in the narrow corridors of the cell wings. The entrance is scattered with clothes and medicine; the air thick with decay. Only days ago, the bodies were retrieved from here. After a few minutes the lingering stench grips you at the throat, gagging you. This is Maktab al-Nasser, a dusty compound of a few buildings that stand deserted in the pale midday sun, only a few minutes away from the infamous Abu Salim prison. Many who ended up in Abu Salim would first be swallowed by this office of the internal security agency. Many never emerged. The grim cells of Maktab al-Nasser offer stark a contrast with the painted rooms at Abu Salim prison, with its kitchen facilities and bathrooms that mask the horrors that doubtlessly took place there. The pain and horror of Maktab al-Nasser seem to have penetrated its very walls and steel doors. It looks like a place one goes to die." (Foreignpolicy)

"The city is not quite 'back' from the summer, but they’re tumbling in quickly. Fashion Week is about to begin, and it will dominate a lot of the town’s social activity for the next ten days. Today the Couture Council of the FIT Museum is honoring Valentino at their annual luncheon at Lincoln Center. This luncheon has become one of the biggest draws of the season for the boldfacers, thanks to the Couture Council’s Liz Peek and her merry band of committee members. Last year, you might remember, they honored Karl Lagerfeld and it was pure theatre. This year the presence of Valentino (and Giancarlo) promises spectacle, as that is what those guys are really good at. Everybody knows this and so Everybody will be there.  After that, the runway business begins in the special tents at Lincoln Center as well as all over town. Many designers are moving their shows downtown for a variety of reasons (like, their showrooms, studios, etc. are there). Ellin Saltzman, who will be reviewing the troops daily for NYSD, has pointed out that although this is cool and hip, it makes getting around more and more difficult for those retail buyers who come to town specifically to see the collections (which ultimately is what this is all about) to get from one show to another to another. The rest of us (non-buyers, social-ites) forget that this is all about business." (NYSocialDiary)

"It's still early in the election season, of course, and the GOP field looks none too strong. But there's a lot of solid political science research showing that incumbent presidents have a very tough time when the economy is in the doldrums, and it's hard for me to see how Obama can get things moving again, especially when the GOP leadership has every incentive to thwart his efforts, even if it means keeping Americans out of work for another year or so. The prospect of a one-term Obama presidency is bound to have important effects on foreign policy too. I'll bet other countries are already starting to think about the possibility, and starting to factor that into their calculations. The obvious implication is that any governments who have serious differences with the Obama administration are going to dig in their heels even more and hope for better after 2012. It's possible that some governments who fear a more hard-line U.S. response under the GOP might be tempted to cut deals while they can, but I don't think that's very likely because they would also have to wonder if a lame-duck administration could deliver on any deal it made. The absurd length of the U.S. presidential campaign season will compound all these problems, by burning up even more of the president's time and attention over the next year or so." (ForeignPolicy)


"Mad Men’s staggering fourth season featured more than a few memorable episodes, but perhaps none more so than the tour de force, 'The Suitcase.' Written by creator Matthew Weiner and directed by Jennifer Getzinger, the episode finds Emmy nominees Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss's Don Draper and Peggy Olson spending the night at the office, as Don avoids making a phone call that would confirm the death of Anna Draper (Melinda Page Hamilton), the one person who truly knew him.Nominated for an Emmy Award for outstanding writing, the episode—set against the backdrop of the Muhammad Ali/Sonny Liston fight—depicts Don and Peggy dancing a dangerous two-step with one another, as truths emerge, emotions pour out, and the two reaffirm their friendship in a silent and bittersweet moment.The Daily Beast dissected with Weiner and Hamm six of the most powerful and indelible sequences from 'The Suitcase,' the relationship between Don and Peggy, and Hamm’s performance, which Weiner called 'magical.'" (TheDailyBeast)


"I sleep with my iPhone under my pillow or in my hand because I fall asleep reading. Since we start publishing at The Awl by nine, I'm up by seven or seven thirty. So, when I wake up, I immediately turn on the phone and go straight to either email or Twitter or The New York Times depending on what's going on when I passed out. (I usually read the Times Wire version. After breakfast, you can't really look at the front page--it's useless.) Then I'll find coffee and begin a pretty serious Twitter and Tumblr crawl, emailing myself things to create a little reservoir of stuff to either read, think about writing about, or send along to other people. I'll head to the office most days. We publish a little slower in the mornings, because we find that--with some blogs--people don't tend to really kick in to reading them until 10:30 or 11 a.m. for the most part. But then more regular readers start earlier so we always want to have stuff for them too. At my computer, properly caffeinated, I'll sift through email and check Google Reader. I don't use Reader as strongly as other bloggers do or have. But I have fourteen different folders for RSS feeds on a variety of topics. Some of them are just sort of structural (World News, New York City, Arts, Gossip, Gay News etc). The City folder, for example, has everything from EV Grieve to City Room and Gothamist to the charmingly-named New York Shitty.Looking around at my bookmarks, there's a bunch of old school blogs like English Russia, Bad Astronomy, Europopped and The Last Word on Nothing--which is really one of the best science sites out there. One of my more important bookmarks is 'College.' It contains everything from The Daily Bruin to The Whitman Pioneer to The Williams Record--I have all the student papers there. A lot of them are weeklies, so around Wednesday or Thursday I check those. Reading the Harvard and Yale papers every day is actually a huge boon." (Choire Sicha)


"Paramore was in the news a lot late last year due to the very-publicized departure of two members. The band, however, is back with a new lineup, playing shows, and, from the sounds of their tour diaries courtesy of front woman Hayley Williams, feeling stronger than ever. Here's her fourth installment, which recounts the band's experiences playing to their rabid fans in Jakarta" (Haley Williams/Papermag)

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