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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"In a post-Iraq, post-Afghanistan, post-Libya world, the White House reaction to both calls illuminates the conditions under which the 44th president is willing to use force, or see it used by others. But it also sheds light on that ill-defined concept that the administration refuses to call the Obama Doctrine. Syria and Iran are hardly unrelated problems. In the minds of many on President Obama’s team, nothing would undercut Iran’s capability to cause trouble in the region faster than if the mullahs lost Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s brutal president, as their only ally in the Arab world. The argument commonly heard inside and outside the White House these days is that if the Assad government cracks, Iran’s ability to funnel weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas will be badly damaged — and its influence will wither accordingly. Similarly, if Iran’s effort to walk up to the edge of a nuclear weapons capability can be set back with a few well-placed GBU-31 bunker-busters, the country’s hopes of challenging Israel and Saudi Arabia to be the region’s biggest power will be deferred. Or so the theory goes ... THE lesson of past conflicts is that while providing weaponry may help overthrow an odious government, the weapons are often later used to settle scores. The weapons provided to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan helped drive out the Soviets and made for great cinema in 'Charlie Wilson’s War.' But some of those weapons were turned on United States troops after the 2001 American-led invasion.  The concerns about providing high-tech arms to the Israelis are entirely different. There is no closer American ally, and its military is deservedly regarded as among the most disciplined and tightly commanded on the globe. But President Obama now faces the same decision that President George W. Bush did in 2008, when the Israelis sought the bunker-busting bombs and refueling capability they would need for a truly broad, sustained attack on Iran’s far-flung nuclear sites. Inside the Bush White House the Israeli request incited a huge fight. Vice President Dick Cheney, who by his own account advocated an American strike on a nuclear reactor in Syria (the Israelis did the job when Mr. Bush demurred), urged that the Israelis be given everything they needed. The majority of the Bush national security team, however, concluded that if the Israelis were given the technology, it greatly heightened the chances they would use it — and risk another Middle East war. The Obama team has come to the same conclusion.        " (NYTimes)


"If a hall of fame were established for contemporary book reviewers—well, why not? There’s one for ad executives, poker players, and probably porn stars—Christopher Hitchens would very likely be its second inductee. (James Wood, of course, would be the first.) About an amazing range of literary and political figures—Proust, Joyce, Borges, Byron, Bellow, Orhan Pamuk, Tom Paine, Trotsky, Churchill, Conor Cruise O’Brien, Israel Shahak, and a hundred others—he has supplied the basic information, limned the relevant controversies, hazarded an original perception or two, and thrown out half a dozen fine phrases, causing between fifteen and forty- five minutes of reading time to pass entirely unnoticed. His very, very frequent political columns have occasionally seemed tossed off, it’s true; but his books about Cyprus, the Palestinians, the British monarchy, and the Elgin Marbles are seriously argued. Though he lives in Washington, DC, and is said to be very fond of fancy parties, he has famously insulted and called for the incarceration of a sitting President and a ubiquitously befriended diplomat and Nobel laureate. And he appears on all those self-important TV talk shows without wearing a tie. How can you not admire someone like that?" (N+1)


"Last night I went over to the CafĂ© Carlyle for the Opening Night Performance of Herb Alpert and Lani Hall making their debut engagement. Ms. Hall and Mr. Alpert are Mr. and Mrs. in real life. They’ve been married since 1974 although they’ve known each other since the mid-60s when Lani was singing with Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66 and recorded their first hit album on A&M Records – the label Alpert created with business partner Jerry Moss. The room was packed. I saw Tony Danza, and also Bill and Judith Moyers who I learned are friends of the Alperts. Bill and Herb Alpert first met in 1965 when Bill was Press Secretary to President Lyndon Johnson. The Tijuana Brass were top of the charts and Bill tried to get them for a performance at the White House. Much to his surprise and pleasure Herb agreed to appear. They’ve been friends ever since ... They played for a solid hour and a half. The room was so at home and relaxed, so carried away by the pleasure of the band and the singer that it could have been in your living room ... Alpert and Moss started their record company in the mid-60s. In all Herb recorded more than 50 albums (and once had four on the top 10 at the same time), and more than 30 hit singles. Someone in the audience asked him who were some of his favorite performers. First thing: Sting and the Police. He loves Sting; couldn’t say enough kind things about him -- intelligent, willing to try new things, committed. In 1987 Alpert and Moss sold A&M to Polygram for about $500 million. The partners have never had a signed agreement between themselves, to this day. The entire career was confirmed with a handshake and so it remains." (NYSocialDiary)


"Olympia Snowe's retirement statement seemed like it dropped a huge hint, and I'm surprised it hasn't received any attention ... This sounds exactly like the kind of rhetoric emanating from Americans Elect, the third-party group that believes that both parties should put aside partisanship and come together to enact an ever-so-slightly more conservative version of Barack Obama's agenda. Moderate retiring senators often deliver lofty, vacuous paeans to bipartisanship on their way to a lucrative lobbying career. But Snowe's statement seems unusually specific ('unique opportunities to build support for that change from outside the United States Senate') about her intent to do something.
I suspect it may not be coincidental that David Boren, the former Democratic senator from Oklahoma and oil industry lickspittle, came out for Americans Elect today. The group is set up so that its presidential and vice-presidential candidates need to come from opposing parties." (NYMag)

"Angela Missoni lives five long floors up in a fine Milan apartment building, but the line for the tiny elevator was so thick before last night's dinner at her place that Charlotte Tilbury, Jefferson Hack, and Tabitha Simmons, in Fall Dolce & Gabbana fresh off her afternoon styling gig, opted to take the stairs. 'We'll see you up there,' Hack called. It was just as crowded inside, especially in front of the buffet table, where waiters were slicing prosciutto and serving up steaming portions of polenta. Suzy Menkes was recommending the bean soup; the family matriarch, Rosita Missoni, discussed the merits of The Artist; and Francesco Scognamiglio was crossing his fingers that the dresses he sent to L.A. would hit the red-carpet circuit." (Style)

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