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Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

”Turkey is re-emerging as a significant regional power. In some sense, it is in the process of returning to its position prior to World War I when it was the seat of the Ottoman Empire. But while the Ottoman parallel has superficial value in understanding the situation, it fails to take into account changes in how the global system and the region work. Therefore, to understand Turkish strategy, we need to understand the circumstances it finds itself in today. The end of World War I brought with it the end of the Ottoman Empire and the contraction of Turkish sovereignty to Asia Minor and a strip of land on the European side of the Bosporus. That contraction relieved Turkey of the overextended position it had tried to maintain as an empire stretching from the Arabian Peninsula to the Balkans .. a single thread connected both periods: the fear of Russia .. During the Cold War, Turkey was a strategic imperative of the United States. It faced the Soviets to the north and two Soviet clients, Syria and Iraq, to the south. Israel drew Syria away from Turkey. But this strategic logic dissolved in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union. By then, the union had fragmented. Russian power withdrew from the southern Caucasus and Balkans and uprisings in the northern Caucasus tied the Russian military down. Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan gained independence. Ukraine also became independent, making the status of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea unclear. For the first time since the early years of the Soviet Union, Turkey was freed from its fear of Russia. The defining element of Turkish foreign policy was gone, and with it, Turkish dependence on the United States. It took a while for the Turks and Americans to recognize the shift." (STRATFOR)

"In his classic essay Shooting an Elephant, George Orwell describes an experience he had as a colonial police officer in Burma. Under public pressure from a crowd of townspeople, he puts down an out-of-control elephant against his own wishes, describing it as the moment he 'first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man's dominion in the East.' As the people of the town debate the merits and legality of his actions, he wonders 'whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool.' It's tempting to wonder if any similarly penetrating insights or self-reflections have come to Spanish King Juan Carlos as he lies in the hospital, having injured his hip on an elephant shooting trip in Botswana that has ignited a firestorm of controversy. In addition to being about the least politically correct way to spend your vacation (was the baby seal-clubbing junket all booked up?) the optics of this were pretty terrible at a time when more than half of young Spaniards are out of work and Spanish banks are facing yet another downgrade. Plus, it turns out that the king -- who is Spain's official head of state -- didn't inform the government that he was leaving the country and might have used public funds in the process." (ForeignPolicy)

"Just when the Blue Dogs thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did. Two years after the 2010 midterm elections decimated their ranks, the coalition of conservative Democrats is poised to get pummeled again in November — moving the Blue Dogs dangerously close to extinction. Of the 24 remaining Blue Dogs, five are not seeking reelection. More than a half-dozen others are facing treacherous contests in which their reelection hopes are in jeopardy. It’s a rough time to occupy the right wing of the Democratic Party. 'It’s a tough environment out there,' said former Alabama Rep. Bud Cramer, a longtime member of the House Blue Dog Coalition. 'Their numbers are down. Redistricting has not been kind to them.' Cramer nailed it: Redistricting is at the root of the Blue Dog problem. The once-in-a-decade line-drawing has forced some of them to compete for seats that have become even less friendly to Democrats — and those seats weren’t very friendly to begin with. Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, Georgia Rep. John Barrow and North Carolina Rep. Mike McIntyre are among those who have been thrust into deeply Republican territory after being targeted in GOP-led redistricting efforts in their home states." (Poliico)

"And then, last night I missed the great interview Liz Smith had with Bette Midler at the ***** club (it’s one of those crusty private clubs that forbids the use of its name in print, a unique bearing of false modesty known only to those among the well-fixed, or previously well-fixed). I don’t know what Liz and Bette talked about but I do know those two girls could talk up a Broadway show, let alone a storm. Just the two of them. And I know Liz would be happy to break into song and dance anytime she was asked. Plus they both have stories – miles and miles and miles of ‘em and each better than the last. wasn’t there because my friend Elizabeth Stribling (Libba to her friends, families, followers) was receiving the Legion d’Honneur over at the French Consulate at 934 Fifth Avenue from the Ambassador of France to the United States, Francois Delattre. Libba is a Francophile par excellence. So is her husband Guy Robinson, and her daughter (also Elizabeth). As Elizabeth Stribling she is one of the most successful real estate brokers of the last 30 years in New York with three offices and 350 brokers and staff. As Libba, with Mr. Robinson, she has been very active in French restoration both here and there, and in promoting French/US relations, among other civic and charitable interests. The evening began with a (French) champagne reception at the Consulate, a great mansion built in the manner of a Roman palazzo, in 1926 by National City Bank (now Citi) president Charles Mitchell. It was acquired by the French in 1942. Libba and Guy Robinson have a lot of friends including many of whom share their love of France and all things French. Many were there last night to toast Libba." (NYSocialDiary)

”Art world It couple Julian Schnabel and Rula Jebreal have split again — and the famed artist has already moved on with a new partner half his age. After dating for five tempestuous years, Schnabel and Jebreal are over for good, friends say. Artist and filmmaker Schnabel, 60, who won a best director Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,’ is now seeing 29-year-old Danish supermodel May Andersen, a former Victoria’s Secret and Sports Illustrated model. The new couple were photographed at the recent Urs Fischer opening at Gagosian Gallery. And on Friday night, Schnabel was seen leaving new Bowery hot spot Bantam hand-in-hand with the leggy blonde. Schnabel left his second wife after meeting beautiful journalist, screenwriter and ‘Miral’ author Jebreal, 38, in 2007. Friends say Schnabel and Jebreal had an intense and fiery relationship. They fell in love after meeting in Rome, where she was working as a journalist, and decided to make her book into a film directed by Schnabel. Their romance led to a divorce from his second wife Spanish actress, Olatz López Garmendia. We reported in March 2011 how Schnabel and Jebreal got into a heated exchange in front of MSNBC ‘Morning Joe’ staff at 30 Rock, where Schnabel was heard shouting in the makeup room at Jebreal that he didn’t like how the stylists had curled her hair. The couple denied ’any physical altercation’‘ but said, ’We had an argument in a public setting as couples sometimes do.‘“ (P6

“Even in cine-mad Manhattan, where the admonitory ghost of Susan Sontag haunts theaters by night, the new movie that everybody’s talking about is being talked about by a shrinking number of everybodies. It’s seldom the presiding topic of cocktail chat and intellectual quarrel, as it was when critic Pauline Kael led the wagon train. (Her successors at The New Yorker, David Denby and Anthony Lane, might as well be tinkling the piano in the hotel lobby for all the commotion they create.) Movies divide and stratify; television, like sports, is the democratic includer. Mention Breaking Bad, Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime Cleopatra-a-go-­go procession, Abby Lee Miller’s latest volcanic diatribe on Dance Moms, or Downton Abbey and all the birdies start to pipe up, except for the one pill pres­ent (there’s always at least one), who takes pride in declaiming that he or she never watches television—they only listen to NPR. Pity these poor castaways. They must stand there with glassy, uncomprehending eyes while the rest of us tongue-flap about the latest installment of a favorite series down to the last crumb, like Proust scholars. A sophisticated sensation such as public television’s creamy soap Downton Abbey (Upstairs Downstairs with fancier airs and more elbow room) corrals an audience and achieves a critical mass that explodes and expands beyond its actual viewership, the series’s cast, costumes, and signature strokes (most of them executed from on high by Maggie Smith, as if she were a pithy Lady Bracknell Pez dispenser) inspiring tributaries of parodies, homages, fan fiction, fashion shoots, and tweedy commentary. Like Twin Peaks, 24, Mad Men, and The Sopranos before it, Downton Abbey enriches the iconography and collective lore of pop culture. It replenishes the stream. (It also provides the perfect layup for PBS’s next prestige import, starting in April: the BBC adaptation of Sebastian Faulks’s best-selling novel Birdsong, which will once again elegantly chuck us into the W.W. I trenches.) By contrast: for those of us who have fallen out of romance with movies, its franchise blockbusters seem to be leeching off the legacy of pop culture and cinema history, squandering the inheritance with endless superhero sequels and video-game emulations that digitize action stars into avatars and motion-capture figures, a mutant species with an emotive range running strictly in shades of bold.” (VF

"There is a very simple reason why some of Africa's bloodiest, most brutal wars never seem to end: They are not really wars. Not in the traditional sense, at least. The combatants don't have much of an ideology; they don't have clear goals. They couldn't care less about taking over capitals or major cities -- in fact, they prefer the deep bush, where it is far easier to commit crimes. Today's rebels seem especially uninterested in winning converts, content instead to steal other people's children, stick Kalashnikovs or axes in their hands, and make them do the killing. Look closely at some of the continent's most intractable conflicts, from the rebel-laden creeks of the Niger Delta to the inferno in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and this is what you will find. What we are seeing is the decline of the classic African liberation movement and the proliferation of something else -- something wilder, messier, more violent, and harder to wrap our heads around. If you'd like to call this war, fine. But what is spreading across Africa like a viral pandemic is actually just opportunistic, heavily armed banditry. My job as the New York Times' East Africa bureau chief is to cover news and feature stories in 12 countries. But most of my time is spent immersed in these un-wars. I've witnessed up close -- often way too close -- how combat has morphed from soldier vs. soldier (now a rarity in Africa) to soldier vs. civilian. Most of today's African fighters are not rebels with a cause; they're predators." (Jeff Gettleman)

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