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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"Having written a fair bit about the pros and cons (mostly the latter) of a war with Iran, I feel compelled to offer a brief comment on Ronan Bergman's alarmist article in yesterday's New York Times Magazine. I say this even though I think the article was essentially worthless. It's a vivid and readable piece of reportage, but it doesn't provide readers with new or interesting information and it tells you almost nothing about the likelihood of an Israeli strike on Iran. First off, the article is essentially a reprise of Jeffrey Goldberg's September 2010 Atlantic Monthly article on the same subject. The research method is identical: a reporter interviews a lot of big-shots in the Israeli security establishment, writes down what they say, and concludes that that Israel is very likely to attack. Bergman doesn't present new evidence or arguments, pro or con; it's just an updated version of the same old story. Second, the central flaw in this approach is that there is no way of knowing if the testimony of these various officials reflects their true beliefs or not. There are lots of obvious reasons why Israeli officials might want to exaggerate their willingness to use force against Iran, and this simple fact makes it unwise to take their testimony at face value. Maybe they really mean what they say. Or maybe they just want to keep Tehran off-balance Maybe they want to distract everyone from their continued expansion of West Bank settlements and other brutalities against Palestinians. Maybe they want to encourage Europe to support tougher economic sanctions against Iran, and they know that occasional saber-rattling helps makes sanctions look like an attractive alternative. Maybe it's several of these things at once, depending on who's talking. Who knows?" (Foreignpolicy)


"The 1997 attempted coup by House Republicans against then-Speaker Newt Gingrich has been thrust into the spotlight of this year’s battle for the GOP presidential nomination. The topic is sparking questions about what happened 15 years ago, why House Republicans wanted Gingrich ousted, why so few support him now and what role Rep. John Boehner, now Speaker, played in the botched attempt. The story of the secret plot, first reported by The Hill’s Sandy Hume, rocked Washington. And although Gingrich survived in 1997, he was politically maimed, resigning in 1998 after Republicans lost seats in the midterm elections. Boehner (R-Ohio) was also removed from his No. 4 leadership post.  For this article, The Hill interviewed Republican lawmakers and aides who served in the House during that tumultuous time." (TheHill)


"After a 10-day, post-South Carolina slog characterized by relentless attacks on Newt Gingrich from Mitt Romney’s forces, Florida on Tuesday will vote in its 2012 Republican presidential primary.
With Romney and his associated super PAC outspending the Gingrich teams by a nearly 5-to-1 margin and blanketing the state’s airwaves with negative TV ads, Gingrich never found his footing here, careening from one message to another without gaining traction. Here are POLITICO’s five things to watch from Florida as the polls close, at 7 p.m. local time in both the Eastern and Central Time Zones: 1) Mitt’s margin Gingrich needs a close race more than Romney needs a blowout victory. For the former House speaker, finishing a respectable second means he can explain away a loss by arguing that he was outspent and out-organized by a superior Romney organization that was already in place and had a 2008 run under its belt. If Romney wins by a lot — say, 12 percentage points or more — it’s likely to negate Gingrich’s victory in South Carolina, making that win about as useful a yardstick as Rick Santorum’s Iowa caucuses triumph." (Politico)


"Last week, a friend of mine asked me over to watch the season debut of a television show called 'American Greed.' We were interested because the opening segment was based on the life and crime of an accountant named Ken Starr, who had a prosperous business punching numbers until he got too big for his britches and started playing at the Big Casino and making off with a lot of clients’ moneys in nefarious ways. One of those clients was our friend Jane Stanton Hitchcock and her late mother Joan Stanton. And Jane was the one who ultimately put him behind bars. Somebody had to, thank you very much. You may remember the story, which broke about two years ago. I wrote about it here. Jane broke the story because it personally concerned her: Ken Starr had illegally removed millions from Jane’s mother’s portfolio for his own enhancement and poured other millions into highly speculative, junky investments. It’s called fraud, and as you may recognize, it’s epidemic. At one point there was concern that there would be anything left to even support Joan. As it happened, she died as everything was coming to the fore ... In the beginning of his professional life, Starr had been a hardworking, small time New York accountant. Then he made the most fortuitous connection in his life -- meeting Paul Mellon, the heir of Andrew Mellon and one of the richest men in America. Mellon was not only rich but distinguished, and highly regarded as a philanthropist, art collector, horse breeder and venture capitalist. He and his wife Bunny lived luxuriously in several residences. Jane Hitchcock, then married to a cousin of Paul Mellon, Billy Hitchcock, heard about how good he was and recommended 'Paul Mellon’s accountant' to Arthur Stanton. Well .... Great minds think alike. Or would like to think so. That is how it works in the world of money: someone recommends because money was made by someone, etc. That was the whole secret to Madoff’s success. By the mid-90s, Ken Starr had a blue chip client roster through the Stanton connection, and a big Third Avenue office. He was never the kind of guy you’d associate with a grandee like Paul Mellon, ironically." (NYSocialDiary)


"Here’s a foodie tip: Do not go into a meal with Travel Channel star Andrew Zimmern if you’re hungry. Even if you’re at such a delectable West Side eatery as The Spotted Pig, and the host of Bizarre Foods provides some of the most interesting dinner conversation you’ve ever had, you will hardly be able to eat a bite. And that’s before he starts talking about Miss Manners dilemma of whether or not to eat human foreskin if it’s offered as a dish of honor in Africa. (Apologies to our very sweet dining companion, who groaned 'This is a publicist’s nightmare!' when the topic was brought up.) Over a dimly lit (and thank goodness for small favors) appetizers of pickled herring, chicken liver toast, and bacon-wrapped dates, Mr. Zimmern boasted of the Spotted Pig’s bravery. “They were on the pig thing before everyone was on the pig thing. They were one of the first gastropubs in New York that weren’t afraid to roast a pig’s head!” the big man exclaimed. (And he is larger than life: Mr. Zimmern stands at 5’10 and is amply wide enough to prove that he doesn’t just peck at those weird dishes we’ve watched him eat over the past six seasons.) Over the course of 100 episodes, Mr. Zimmern has devoured everything from jellied moose nose to cane rat; raw goat scrotum to fresh cow blood obtained by shooting a hollow dart into a bovine during a trip to the Ngorongoro Crater." (Observer)

"It wasn’t Italy’s finest hour. Not even Gabrielle D’Annunzio—poet, patriot, propagandist, and proto-fascist—could spin this into a maritime Titanic-like drama. Once the Costa Concordia hit a rock off the Tuscan coast, the passengers and crew acted like cowards. This much we know. But knowing Italy—a country that successfully switched sides in both World Wars—the truth will never emerge. Human nature’s eternal glories and failings have always played a leading part in Italy’s long and magnificent history. Heroes turn into baddies, defeats into victories, burlesque into opera. They say Italy is more of an idea than a country. Where else would a benevolent dictator’s innocent mistress be shot and hanged upside down by men who pride themselves as protectors of the weaker sex? When I first heard the news of the Costa Concordia’s sinking off an island I have sailed around more times than I can remember, I thought it was a joke gone wrong. Surely the reason was bella figura, the Italian male’s unique style of pride, all show and no substance. Since it is the centennial of the Titanic’s sinking, for one sick moment I imagined some show-off captain had tried an impossible maneuver to impress his friends ashore. As of this writing, it seems that is why he went 300 meters off the mainland rather than the required 1,500. Still, at least 17 people are certified dead. Even in Italy, Captain Schettino risks going down in history as a man who not only ran his boat aground—modern equipment notwithstanding—but one who was in the bar with two female companions and who jumped ship long before his passengers." (Taki)


"This past Saturday, PAPERMAG headed out to Chinatown chic spot Pulqueria, where we celebrated artist Sandro Kopp's gallery opening from a few days prior. Being that this was one of the first soirees we've attended since 2011 came to a close, we wondered if everyone had been keeping up with their New Years' Resolution, or if they, like us, had been spending more time at Rubirosa then the gym (we can't help it, we love pizza). 'I didn't have a New Years' resolution, but I had a resolution I started mid-year,' Bill Powers told us. ' This is really boring, but it was to go to those Apple Store classes.' And how's that working out for you, Bill? 'I'm still going!' What an overachiever -- leave it to the dapper Half Gallery owner to make us feel more lethargic/bloated then usual. It wasn't soon before we bid adieu to Cynthia Rowley's hubby that Terence Koh's all-white-everything aesthetic caught the corner of our eye ... We continued to calmly make our way around the packed party, running into familiar faces like Johan Lindenberg, Waris Ahluwalia and Vladimir Restoin-Roitfeld, but soon enough all hell broke loose as man-of-the-hour Kopp entered the space with the goddess almighty Tilda Swinton wrapped around his arm." (Papermag)


"Sandro Kopp paints his portraits differently: namely, via Skype from Scotland. And perhaps for that reason, his New York friends and famous sitters (often one and the same) have been overjoyed to have the 33-year-old artist in town—although it doesn't hurt, of course, that his plus-one is Tilda Swinton. "It's been, like, Sandro week. I think all of his friends have been throwing him parties," David Maupin said on Saturday night, where his gallery, Lehmann Maupin, hosted a dinner in celebration of Kopp's new exhibition, There You Are, at its Chrystie Street space. 'I think part of it is an extension of his charm and his personality and being an artist—to do this type of work, you have to kind of relate and open up some kind of conversation with your subject,' Maupin mused, as Michael Stipe (who'd thrown Kopp a dinner party of his own the night before) arrived with gold, letter-shaped balloons that spelled out K-O-P-P. Meanwhile, Frances McDormand was taking her co-hosting duties seriously: 'I'm the hostess; do what I say,' the actress said, cutting a swath through the cocktail area. 'We're moving to the back room. My name's Fran.'" (Style)

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