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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"The neoconservative wing of the Republican foreign policy establishment is up in arms about Mitt Romney'sselection of realist Bob Zoellick to head his national security transition team, but the realists have been the Republicans who steered the ship of U.S. foreign policy the best, according to Zoellick's mentor, former Secretary of State James Baker. 'I know where I am; I think I know where Henry Kissinger and George Shultz are. I think we were all pretty darn successful secretaries of state,' Baker said in a long interview Thursday with The Cable. 'I also know something else: I know the American people are tired of paying the cost, in blood and treasure, of these wars that we get into that sometimes do not represent a direct national security threat to the United States.' Baker argued that the George H.W. Bush-led 1990-1991 Gulf War, which was prosecuted by an international coalition Baker himself played a key role in creating, was a more successful model than the wars that followed in Iraq and Afghanistan, wars that happen to have been urged and led by neoconservative officials in the George W. Bush administration. 'That was a textbook example of the way to go to war,' Baker said of the Gulf War. 'Look at the way [George H.W. Bush] ran that war. I mean, we not only did it, we said ‘Here's what we're going to do,' we got the rest of the world behind us, including Arab states, and we got somebody else to pay for it. Now tell me a better way, politically, diplomatically, and militarily, to fight a war.'  Baker rejected, in detail, the four main criticisms neoconservatives both inside and outside the Romney campaign have made regarding Zoellick: that Zoellick is soft on China, insufficiently supportive of Israel, was weak on pressuring the Soviet Union toward the end of the Cold War, and that he didn't support the Gulf War. Baker said the last charge was simply false. 'He was never opposed to the Gulf War. In fact, he was one of my right-hand aides when we built that unprecedented international coalition to kick Iraq out of Kuwait,' Baker said. Regarding the end of the Cold War, Baker said Zoellick played a key role in the reunification of Germany and of Germany's subsequent admission into NATO." (ForeignPolicy)



"Mian Muhammad Mansha, Pakistan’s wealthiest man, has invited me to lunch at his home, an estate outside Lahore he created some years ago by purchasing almost 250 acres from 50 smallholders. There, he and his wife, Naz, have created a lush paradise, with a small lake stocked with fish, and young guava, lychee, peach and pear trees dotting the man-made hills. A yellow sandstone mansion with the dimensions of a boutique resort sits like a fort on the highest hill, its red-tiled roof visible from the road. The effect is rather more luxuriant and well maintained than Emperor Jahangir’s Shalimar Gardens in Lahore, one of the capitals of Mughal India. That garden, like the state of Pakistan itself, has fallen on hard times but this estate – and the wealth behind it – suggest that Pakistan has been kind to the Mansha family ...Mansha greets me in casual attire: a checked grey shirt, V-necked cardigan and denim slacks, with Asics running shoes peeping out below. Although it is Saturday, his day hasn’t been exactly leisurely so far. He has, he says, already received an unnamed general, a former cabinet minister and an opposition politician. In other words, Mansha is a man to whom others, particularly politicians, come, especially as Pakistan gears up for a fierce election campaign either later this year or next. 'The elections could be a turning point for Pakistan, a crossroads, a defining moment,' he says as he ushers me on to a woven cane seat on the verandah and we are served fresh orange juice. 'Good governance is all we need. The rest of the puzzle will come together itself' ... The lunch conversation starts with a reference to Warren Buffett, whom, says Mansha, he has never met but with whom he identifies. 'People like me, whose income largely comes from dividends, should pay more taxes,' he says in his disarming way. 'The problem is that taxes aren’t used efficiently.' (Mansha, like many Muslims, gives away a lot of money.)" (FT)

"Paul Ryan? Really? It’s a stunning choice. A terrible one too. By making it, Mitt Romney tells America that he is not his own man and hasn’t even the remotest fleeting desire to be his own man. He is owned by the right wing. Did I write a couple of weeks ago that Romney was insecure? Well—Q.E.D. Ryan will immediately become the flashpoint of this campaign. Yes, he’ll get the usual soft-focus biographical rollout. Expect Republicans to talk endlessly about his authenticity, his blue-collar roots, the fact that he once drove an Oscar Mayer weiner truck—and, certainly, his Catholicism. Also, his brains. He’s a smart guy, no doubt of that, although as I’ve written many times, it says something deeply pathetic about the GOP that Ryan has managed to become a star just because he’s bothered to learn policy. So he’ll get some good press, and he’ll generate great enthusiasm among conservative intellectuals. But the introduction of him to the American people will inevitably involve some other things, too. It will involve explanations from the media that he is the GOP’s archconservative theoretician. It will involve explaining who Ayn Rand is. It will involve going into detail on his budget, and in particular his plans for Medicare. Learn that now, folks, if you don’t know it already. It will involve endless interpretations exactly like mine, about Romney sending a signal that he is running an ultraconservative campaign. The Ryan controversy will overtake the campaign. Romney will become in some senses the running mate—the ticket’s No. 2. Think of it: The candidate will be running on his vice president’s ideas! It’s a staggering thought. Ryan might as well debate Obama this October, and Romney can square off against Biden." (Michael Tomasky)
"Carol Joynt, our esteemed former Washington Social Diary ace who abandoned us more than a year ago for greener pastures (and honest-to-God benefits) for the Washingtonian magazine, published a piece yesterday on the Washingtonian web site, on the last hours of Gore Vidal.  At first I thought it was a morbid idea. And then I realized I had morbid curiosity anyway. I daresay Gore Vidal probably would have found Carol’s piece compelling too. The headline says it all:  'Gore Vidal’s Last Words: ‘Stop It'’ His Last Book: ‘The Wizard of Oz.’' But as it always was with Gore, there was More. Seeing that, it immediately occurred to me that it sounded like a character based on the man himself in one of his novels about Washington. 'Stop It!' could easily sum up his decades-long message to the American people about what they should be shouting at their governors. And 'the Wizard of Oz' couldn’t be a more timely reminder of the situation in our current politico-banking system ... Satire, of course; but so’s everything that Gore’s wit touched. You could almost think he was saving those words for his last. He did think about those things. Remember when his peer and contemporary Truman Capote died, his comment on hearing of it was: 'good career move.'" (NYSocialDiary)

"Disheartening news for anyone who does not earn $12,000 per episode of 'working out of a cramped cubicle' each week: TV Guide has released some highlights from its annual 'Television’s Highest Paid Stars' report, and among the relatively predictable numbers—David Letterman and Jay Leno may earn more in a year than you will in 20 lifetimes ($28 million and $25 million, respectively)—there are some shocking figures that may make you want to travel back in time and choose 'television judge' or 'monkey actor' as your undergraduate major. In order of the least to most depressing revelations: 1) Howard Stern earns $15 million per year at his part-time job on America’s Got Talent. It’s also what Bill O’Reilly earns annually for his primary job hosting The O’Reilly Factor.2) Pauly D, spray-tanned beachgoer best known for fist pumping and binge drinking on MTV, earns 350 percent more than Betty White does on her reality show. (Pauly comes in at $175,000/episode on The Jersey Shore, while White makes $50,000/episode on Off Their Rockers.) 3) Two and a Half Men star Ashton Kutcher makes the same as four adult Modern Family stars per episode. (Kutcher's rate is $700,000/episode versus Modern Family's $175,000/episode rate.)" (Vanity Fair)
"STANDING IN THE RAIN with petite, gumbooted Caroline Gon in the middle of the Clos de la Crochette, a gently sloping vineyard composed of very wet clay studded with calcareous stones, I look down on the unassuming little town of Chardonnay, which may or may not be the birthplace of the world's most famous white wine grape. 'This is a special place,' says Ms. Gon, the winemaker for Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon. 'The monks of Cluny first planted here a thousand years ago.' Any early-morning epiphany I might have been expecting is not forthcoming: I'm very wet and very cold, a condition that will persist throughout a day spent in various wine cellars. Yet my spirits rise as the day progresses and I taste an array of incredibly good Chardonnays—or rather, incredibly good Mâcons, as in France the name of the place always trumps the name of the grape, although in the case of whites from the village of Chardonnay they are one and the same. We may never know if the grape was born in the Mâcon region, but in recent years, this former backwater in the far south of Burgundy, which used to be known for cheap whites made by giant cooperatives, has attracted a new generation of artisanal winemakers and become a source of exciting and inexpensive whites. Like many Americans, my first Mâcon was Mâcon-Lugny les Charmes, a pleasant, inexpensive white from the cooperative Cave de Lugny, and the perfect accompaniment to grad school potluck suppers. The first truly inspiring wine I had from Mâcon was from Domaine de la Bongran, made by Jean Thévenet, whose family roots in the town of Vire go back some 500 years and whose wines remain among the region's most distinctive and traditional." (Jay McInerney)

"When I mentioned to friends in France that I was about to go to Morocco to write an article on King Mohammed VI -- for Foreign Policy, bien sur -- their eyes fairly glistened. The French adore Morocco, and a remarkable number of them seem to have lived there at some point. Unlike Algeria, Morocco was treated as a colony rather than an integral part of France, and it parted relatively quietly at independence in 1956. The experience left Moroccans with little in the way of virulent anti-colonial feeling. Mohammed V, grandfather of the current king, chose a pro-Western, free-market path; and the country's dependence on tourism, as well its own cultural diversity, has ensured a very friendly welcome to outsiders.Morocco, in fact, has a remarkable gift for not attracting unwelcome attention to itself. While the Arab world has been turned upside-down over the last 18 months, Morocco experienced a brief moment at the barricades and then embarked on a process of political reform. The daily digest of translated Arab-language news I receive almost never includes anything from Morocco. An "event" in Morocco means, say, a music festival. And Morocco does not meddle in other people's problems. For a country of more than 35 million people, it has very little influence on its neighborhood. Morocco's foreign policy consists chiefly of hanging on to the disputed territory of the Sahara. If Turkey's policy is 'zero problems with neighbors,' Morocco's is 'zero problems with anyone.' The question is: Can it last? Will Morocco remain a happy outlier in the tumultuous Arab Spring? I have spent the last 10 days talking to government officials, politicians, activists, academics, and businessmen. I have heard a lot about 'Moroccan exceptionalism' and about 'the third way' between revolution and inertia. And I hope it's true; I hope Morocco proves to be the one country in the Arab world that liberalizes without a violent convulsion. I will have much more to say about this down the road, but for the moment I would just say that I'm not altogether convinced." (ForeignPolicy)


"If the London Olympics do not go down in history as The Crying Games, I will perform a sex act on a Mae West hologram in Times Square as the clock strikes 12 on New Year’s Eve ... I don’t know what makes grown men and women cry when they win something for which they’ve been training hard most of their lives. The last time I blubbed a bit was after I fought my last judo match one year ago. But no one saw it and I made sure they didn’t. The time before was at age eleven when I lost my first wrestling match at boarding school ... That’s a 1960s legacy I suppose, when Vietnam soldiers returned and then cried while Jane Fonda types abused them for following orders. It’s been downhill ever since. Can you imagine if Jesse Owens had cried in front of Hitler or had clowned around à la Bolt after winning the 100? My favorite was the French judoka who cried when she lost for the final, then cried harder when she received the bronze. It was as if she was being paid to cry ... The one I felt sorry for was the only Saudi female athlete, who looked ill at ease at the opening ceremony and even less so—she’s only a blue belt in judo—when her Puerto Rican opponent threw her almost immediately. The Saudis and Qataris do not produce athletes. They buy them in Africa the way they buy everything else." (Taki Theodoracopoulos)

"Zachary Dell, the teenage son of PC magnate Michael Dell, earned his 15 minutes of Internet fame this week. He appeared on a Tumblr site called the Rich Kids of Instragram in a photo posted by his older sister Alexa. There Zachary sat on the family jet, devouring a Ritz-worthy buffet on his way to Fiji. (Update: Looks like someone took the photo down.) Anyone with a bit of curiosity could see that Alexa had posted the picture on Instagram and pointed to it via her Twitter account. On that same Twitter account, Alexa happily detailed her every move, including the exact days she would arrive in, say, New York, and where she was shopping. She also put up such things as her high school graduation dinner invitation that foretold where (time, date, location) Michael Dell and his wife would be in a couple of weeks’ time. Michael Dell pays about $2.7 million a year for the security protection of his family, according to Dell (DELL) regulatory filings. And so you can imagine how pleased he must have been to see his children’s jaunt to Fiji detailed on a catchy website and his daughter providing an online diary of her life, replete with GPS locations dished out by her cell phone. As of this writing, Alexa’s Twitter account has been shut down. Was it because of security concerns?" (BusinessWeek)

"As you can see, Zakaria does not lift Lepore's passage word for word. He tweaks the language ever so slightly — enough, in his mind, perhaps, that crediting Lepore in any way was no longer required. It's shady. If you're going to rewrite an entire passage, with only the most imperceptible and inconsequential alterations, you might as well just quote the passage and source it to the person who wrote it. Otherwise, you are taking credit for work that isn't yours. This is generally frowned upon.The Atlantic Wire has been 'told' that Zakaria 'will be releasing an apology shortly,' while a Time statement says it 'takes any accusation of plagiarism by any of our journalists very seriously, and we will carefully examine the facts before saying anything else on the matter.' We've asked Lepore for her reaction and have yet to hear back. The best-case explanation is that Zakaria's transgression was the result of sloppiness, as opposed to intentional deceptiveness. But this isn't even the first time that Zakaria has been accused of taking ownership of another writer's work. We hope those are the only examples and that there's no larger pattern of plagiarism here." (NYMag)

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