Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Media-Wore D'Oeuvres

"As a former Washington Post reporter turned historian, I am intrigued by a spat involving two people I greatly respect, Bob Woodward and Ben Bradlee. A new book by a former Woodward researcher named Jeff Himmelman claims that the legendary Post editor once expressed doubts about some minor details in the reporting of his even more legendary Watergate sleuth. To be specific, Bradlee privately questioned Woodward's account of his meetings with his super-secret source, known as 'Deep Throat,' subsequently revealed as deputy FBI director, Mark Felt. An unpublished 1990 interview unearthed by Himmelman reveals that Bradlee was unconvinced by Woodward's description of how he communicated with Deep Throat. Woodward has long claimed that he set up meetings with his source by moving a flower pot around on his balcony in downtown Washington, D.C. They would then meet in an underground parking garage. This was a cumbersome method of communication since it required Deep Throat to keep Woodward's balcony under constant observation. We now learn that Bradlee (at least in 1990) expressed 'a residual fear in my soul' that something about Woodward's story was "not quite straight." (Bradlee subsequently told Himmelman that he does not believe that Woodward "embellished" his reporting but also that he stands by his 1990 comments. Confused?) As I suggested in a June 2005 article for the Washington Post on the Felt-Deep Throat revelation, Bradlee had reason to be suspicious of this particular historical detail. While it might have made sense for Woodward to have communicated with Deep Throat via the flower pot as long as his source occupied a high position in the FBI, it made no sense at all after Felt retired from the Bureau in April 1973. Felt lived in Virginia, on the other side of the Potomac river to Woodward. Without the resources of the FBI at his disposal, it was no longer feasible for Felt to keep Woodward's balcony under daily observation on the off-chance that his reporter friend would request a meeting.  Nevertheless, Woodward strongly implies in his book, All the President's Men, that he used the flower pot system to communicate with Deep Throat one last time after Felt's retirement. 'In the first week of November [1973],' he writes, 'Woodward moved the flower pot and traveled to the underground garage.'" (Michael Dobbs)

"The National Geographic Society building was transformed into a gala dinner venue Monday evening as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted an intimate event for Japanese Prime Yoshihiko Noda and a couple hundred others, including your humble Cable guy.  Chef Bryan Voltagio, the proprietor of the Frederick, MD restaurant VOLT and a finalist on the 2009 season of Top Chef, was brought in to cater the event and he went with a menu of hybrid courses that mixed Japanese themes with locally sourced American ingredients. The appetizer of Peekytoe crab was served wrapped sushi-style in an avocado encasing, and the entrée of Wagyu beef came with a melée of English peas, maroon carrots, and vadouvan granola with smoked golden raisins. The 'Tomodachi' (friendship) chocolate dessert featured dark chocolate ganache with a side of caramelized milk chocolate sorbet.  State Department officials in attendance included Deputy Secretary Tom Nides, Under Secretary Wendy Sherman, Under Secretary Tara Sonenshine, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, Assistant Secretary Tom Countryman, and Assistant Secretary Mike Hammer. Senior Asia hands at the dinner included former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Richard Lawless, former NSC Senior Director Jeff Bader, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Gen. Chip Gregson, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Schiffer, now with Sen. John Kerry's staff, Brookings Institution scholar Richard Bush, AEI's Michael Auslin, CNAS's Patrick Cronin, and many more." (ForeignPolicy)

"Britain controlled about one-fourth of the Earth's land surface and one-fifth of the world's population in 1939. Fifty years later, its holdings outside the British Isles had become trivial, and it even faced an insurgency in Northern Ireland. Britain spent the intervening years developing strategies to cope with what poet Rudyard Kipling called its 'recessional,' or the transient nature of Britain's imperial power. It has spent the last 20 years defining its place not in the world in general but between continental Europe and the United States in particular ... As empires go, Britain resembled Rome rather than Nazi Germany. Though Rome imposed its will, key groups in colonial processions benefitted greatly from the relationship. Rome was thus as much an alliance as it was an empire. Nazi Germany, by contrast, had a purely exploitative relationship with subject countries as a result of war and ideology. Britain understood that its empire could be secured only through Roman-style alliances. Britain also benefitted from the Napoleonic Wars' having crippled most European powers. Britain was not under military pressure for most of the century, and was not forced into a singularly exploitative relationship with its empire to support its wars. It thus avoided Hitler's trap ... Britain has positioned itself superbly for a strategy of waiting, watching and retaining options regardless of what happens. If the European Union fails and the European nation-states re-emerge as primary institutions, Britain will be in a position to exploit the fragmentation of Europe to its own economic and political advantage and have the United States available to support its strategy. If the United States stumbles and Europe emerges more prominent, Britain can modulate its relationship with Europe at will and serve as the Europeans' interface with a weakened United States. If both Europe and the United States weaken, Britain is in a position to chart whatever independent course it must."(STRATFOR)

"The Annual Breast Cancer Research Foundation dinner/Hot Pink Party, this year called 'The Hot Pink Party Celebrates My Fair Evelyn’s Dream.' This was the first year that the BCRF’s founder was not present. Evelyn Lauder departed this world last November. She remains in memory, however, a vital force in our community. What she did in the area of breast cancer research was phenomenal, but what she did for her friends and neighbors and fellow humans, on a daily basis, was the bigger message. I think about this when I think about Evelyn, because she wore her privilege and positioning in a way that sets a good example. We don’t have that much of 'good examples' in our contemporary world. Sorry, but we don’t. The sleeve is often hampered by The Self. As is the face. It’s okay, but it doesn’t grab you in the gut or the heart. Evelyn’s stuff did.She came into this world I’m speaking of  as The Daughter-in-Law. And the Mother-in-Law was a great force – Estee Lauder. She was a self-made tycoon, a force that extends beyond her own mortality. She was Somethin’, as they say; and yes she was. She was also imbued with a certainty and self-confidence that most of us only read about or hear about. People enjoyed Estee’s company too, I should add. And she them. Being the tycoon she was she had an especial fondness for high and mighty in society. And they were charmed. Evelyn was brought into the family business as a young wife with the encouragement of the Mother-in-Law." (NYSocialDiary)

"About a month ago, when Mad Men returned from its long hiatus and the Internet exploded with reviews, interviews, and think-pieces, a colleague I follow on Twitter passed along something one of his friends said, suggesting that Mad Men is just “'Roots for white people.' That’s actually a reasonably astute observation, since a large part of the appeal of watching Mad Men comes from vicariously touring the not-so-remote past, to try and better understand what shaped our culture and the generations before us. And given that the world Mad Men depicts is almost exclusively one of white privilege, then yes, the 'way we were' aspect of the show probably does appeal more (though not exclusively) to the children and grandchildren of the kinds of people on the screen. Still, when I first read that comment, I didn’t think, 'That’s clever,' or, 'That’s funny.' My first reaction was knee-jerk irritation, because that’s probably the hundredth time this year alone that I’ve read the words 'for white people' or 'that looks very white' or 'white people problems' tossed around smugly and reductively, as a way of summarizing the essence of a situation or a piece of art. Granted, it’s not like sneering at Caucasians is a wholly new phenomenon—or even wholly unwelcome. The website Stuff White People Like was a huge success a few years back, and in the ’80s, comedian Martin Mull and writer Allen Rucker did well with the book and HBO special The History Of White People In America. Post-Richard Pryor, both black and white comedians—not to mention Asian, Hispanic, and Middle Eastern—have made blunt jokes about the differences between the races. The 'white people are square and bland' gag is an old one, and for the most part, it’s both harmless and healthy. But increasingly, people aren’t sniping about 'whiteness' to be funny, or even defiant—at least not entirely. They’re using the term as a form of criticism, meant to be dismissive. 'That movie looks very white,' or, 'That sounds like music for white people,' is another way of saying, 'That can’t be any good.' And I do have a problem with that." (AVClub)

"'Is that a real tattoo?' Harvey Weinstein, asked The New York Observer last night at the French Embassy on Park Ave and 78th. The producing legend had just finished trading off speeches with two French officials (including an ambassador who kept noting how cold our hands were…bad circulation, we guess) who praised the Miramax founder for his ability to consistently recognize the brilliance of French cinema. The most recent example cited was not The Artist, though that award-winning silent feature was mentioned several times. No sign of Uggie trolling around the Embassy either, though during our search we did run into Dan Abrams and Dave Zinczenko. Mr. Abrams gently corrected our congratulations on his new site about celebrity chefs after we mistakenly claimed to have read the news in The New York Post.'No, I don’t think so…The New York Times had a story on it, though,' Mr. Abrams said, politely swerving our faux pas. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. So about Harvey Weinstein and this party…Technically, the Moet &Chandon celebratory toast to Mr. Weinstein was being held in honor of his acceptance of the Legion d’honneur, an award created by Napoleon Bonaparte. It was not an an after-party to Mr. Weinstein’s latest oversees acquisition, The Intouchables. But leave it to the entrepreneur to find a way to combine what essentially amounts to a knighthood with a marketing tie-in. " (Observer)

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