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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"After the Illinois primary on March 20, which signaled the beginning of the end of the Republican presidential nominating process, Mitt Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom discussed how his candidate would pivot toward the general election: 'It's almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.' Several days later, there was President Obama, who told Russian President Dmitri Medvedev that he would have 'flexibility' to negotiate on missile defense after the election. Then there were the comments from Hilary Rosen, a Democratic strategist, who said that Ann Romney (wife of Mitt) "never worked a day in her life.' And last week, after his vice president pushed him into a corner, Obama surprised no one by endorsing gay marriage, a Darwinian evolution from his earlier position of supporting just civil unions. The very next day -- in a bit of timing we'll simply call curiously coincidental -- the Washington Post reported that Mitt Romney, as a prep school boy, cut the hair of a purportedly gay classmate in an act of bullying at his elite boarding school. What do all of these things have in common? They are all, to at least some degree, 'feeding frenzies.'" (SabatosCrystalBall)


"There has been a lot of chatter in intelligence and academic circles about al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) bombmaker Ibrahim al-Asiri and his value to AQAP. The disclosure last week of a thwarted AQAP plot to attack U.S. airliners using an improved version of an "underwear bomb" used in the December 2009 attempted attack aboard a commercial airplane and the disclosure of the U.S. government's easing of the rules of engagement for unmanned aerial vehicle strikes in Yemen played into these discussions. People are debating how al-Asiri's death would affect the organization. A similar debate undoubtedly will erupt if AQAP leader Nasir al-Wahayshi is captured or killed. AQAP has claimed that al-Asiri trained others in bombmaking, and the claim makes sense. Furthermore, other AQAP members have received training in constructing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) while training and fighting in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. This means that al-Asiri is not the only person within the group who can construct an IED. However, he has demonstrated creativity and imagination. His devices consistently have been able to circumvent existing security measures, even if they have not always functioned as intended. We believe this ingenuity and imagination make al-Asiri not merely a bombmaker, but an exceptional bombmaker. Likewise, al-Wahayshi is one of hundreds -- if not thousands -- of men currently associated with AQAP. He has several deputies and numerous tactical field commanders in various parts of Yemen. Jihadists have had a presence in Yemen for decades, and after the collapse of al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, numerous Saudi migrants fleeing the Saudi government augmented this presence. However, al-Wahayshi played a singular role in pulling these disparate jihadist elements together to form a unified and cohesive militant organization that has been involved not only in several transnational terrorist attacks but also in fighting an insurgency that has succeeded in capturing and controlling large areas of territory. He is an exceptional leader." (STRATFOR)


"While we've discussed Ian McShane, Corey Feldman and Milla Jovovich, this series on vanity projects has so far not addressed any album responsible for a major cultural scandal, academic controversy or employment change. This time, though, we're talking about Sketches of My Culture, the first album by legendary academic and all-around super-genius Cornel West. Released in 2001, it became one of the major points of contention in a dispute between West and then-Harvard President Larry Summers that eventually grew so heated West left the university for Princeton. As a concept, the album is appealing: maybe we should make pop music that also educates people about socialist perspectives on race! (It's worked before, at least the socialist part.) But as a piece of music, Sketches of My Culture raises a few questions to which there aren't any easy answers. When does the existence of a work matter more than its quality? " (TheAwl)

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