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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"As I write, Al Jazeera is reporting that Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, was killed amid an attack on the American consulate in Benghazi along with three others. Video and screen captures, supposedly of his body, are circulating on Twitter. Libya's nascent government has roundly condemned the assault, and the Libyan army engaged in fierce clashes with an Islamist militia late into the night. According to Al Jazeera, the bodies were flown out of the country. (The State Department last night confirmed a death in Benghazi, but did not mention Stevens.)  This is, obviously, a terrible tragedy and a shocking turn of events on a day when Americans mourned those killed 11 years ago on Sept. 11, 2001. Stevens was by all accounts a popular diplomat, having established the U.S. presence in Benghazi during the war and been an avid supporter of the opposition. Here's a video introducing him to Libyans. What makes the deaths all the more tragic is that they will inevitably become politicized. On Tuesday, conservative websites were highly critical of a statement by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo that came ahead of a protest where demonstrators breached the embassy's walls in a moment reminiscent of 1979 in Iran. Liz Cheney and the Republican-controlled House Foreign Affairs Committee joined in, accusing the administration of issuing an 'apology' for a bizarre and mysterious film attacking the Prophet Mohammed that served as a pretext for the protests. And the Romney campaign issued its own statement. Wednesday will likely bring more finger-pointing.  For me, the embassy assaults are a sobering reminder not only of the deep anger and dysfunction that plagues the broader Middle East, but of the enormous difficulty the United States has in dealing with this part of the world. The level of distrust and fury toward America is not the sort of thing you heal with a speech or two. And to make matters worse, there will always be groups that exploit things that have no connection whatsoever to U.S. government policy, like this anti-Islamic film. The Obama administration must tread delicately during this heated political season. This crude film -- which 'portrays the Prophet Muhammad as a womanizer, pedophile and fraud,' as the Wall Street Journal put it -- may have been obscure before, but it's not anymore." (ForeignPolicy)


"Here’s Romney’s language: 'It's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.' The statement contains three major errors (or can we say lies?). Not only does it attribute an embassy statement to the Obama administration and falsify its timing, but it also ignores the administration’s actual 'first response' to the Libyan violence (a sharp condemnation by Hillary Clinton). As if that weren’t bad enough for a single sentence, Romney also libels the president by accusing him of sympathizing with terrorists. Perhaps stuff like this will mobilize Romney’s base, but its Palin-esque, trigger-happy invective will drive away swing voters he supposedly covets. And keep in mind that Romney rushed to release this statement before the facts were even in — before we learned that the American ambassador and three others were killed in Libya. It’s hard to imagine how Romney’s statement could be more incendiary or tasteless in the tinder-box context of the moment. Even the right-wing blogger Erick Erickson tweeted that Romney should avoid this kind of bluster: 'I think the Romney camp has to be very delicate in how it approaches this issue. Hard for partisans to see, but POTUS is POTUS.' If even a hothead like Erickson suggests that Romney is being reckless, you can see he now has blundered into yet another self-inflicted political mess." (NYMag)


"President Obama travels to Nevada on Wednesday to further his attempt to win the state’s six electoral votes in the face of the country’s worst unemployment rate and a sputtering housing market. The conventional wisdom around the Silver State is that while Obama faces significant headwinds to repeat his 2008 victory in Nevada, he remains the favorite given his slight but steady lead in polls. 'With 56 days to go, basically both campaigns would privately acknowledge that Obama is ahead,' said Jon Ralston, one of the state’s top political commentators. 'The question is, how far ahead? The Obama folks think they’re above the margin of error. And the Romney folks think they’re within the margin of error.'  Both Obama and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney are hoping heavy turnout by key portions of Nevada’s electorate will put them over the top. For Obama, it is Nevada’s ever-growing Hispanic population, which observers expect will make up 16 percent or more of the electorate in November. Romney has struggled to win over Hispanics turned off by his tough position on illegal immigration, according to polls.For Romney, it’s Nevada’s Mormons, who make up about 7 percent of the state’s population." (TheHill)


"I went down to Michael’s(for the first time in a couple of weeks) to lunch with Jesse Kornbluth (HeadButler.com). The traffic was at a crawl midtown. I was fifteen minutes late but Jesse was busy reading a book. He reads more (and about more) than anyone I know. We are never at loss for words since I ask a lot of questions and he has a lot of answers. Michael’s was back-to-autumn busy but we were so engrossed that I saw few. Last night had so much going on even if you weren’t in the fashion business or a fashionista. Designer Betsey Johnson was showing her Spring 2013 Fashion Collection and celebrating her 70th with a Bash afterwards at Espace on 635 West 42nd Street. Ms. Johnson’s still a kid, after all these years." (NYSocialDiary)


"First things first, how insane is it that Betsey Johnson is SEVENTY years old? God bless her and may we all look so amazing when we're her age. The designer threw a massive birthday blow-out last night at Espace with a retrospective of her 50-year career and a performance from her old pal Cyndi Lauper (who really turned on her Betty-Boopy Queens-goil accent a la her She's So Unusual days, much to the delight of the crowd). Models wearing the designer's looks from the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s and '00s came pouring down the runway to a corresponding chronological soundtrack of British invasion, punk, new-wave, grunge and hip-hop. There were mod shifts from the '60s, wizard capes from the '70s, Johnson's classic '80s-era neon floral prints, and bonkers scuba-meets-hula-girl looks paired with rubber flippers. And, in the end, there were lots of fluffy, cupcake-shaped dresses from Johnson's new dress line. Though Johnson's company had a tough 2012, filing bankruptcy in May and closing the majority of its retail stores, the designer has since joined forces with distributors The Levy Group to launch a collection of party dresses that will debut in department stores this spring. And, judging by the huge, pouffy frocks and cheeky 'Guys Heart B.J.' tank tops which capped off evening's runway portion as pink balloons fell from the ceiling, it seems that the Betsey Johnson party won't be over anytime soon." (Papermag)


"'Pay in Blood' is the latest slashing Dylan revenge song, but more graphic and grisly than ever, sung by a man who’s been through hell, warning a bastard who demands respect in a land of ragged beggars and politicians full of piss: 'Sooner or later you’ll make a mistake/I’ll put you in a chain that you never will break/Legs and arms and body and bone/I pay in blood but not my own.' Two tracks later, 'Early Roman Kings' is a caper of rhyming wordplay—featuring city-destroying 'peddlers and meddlers,' 'the lecherous and the treacherous' 'sluggers and muggers”—strung out against the backdrop blues melody most familiar as Muddy Waters’s 'Mannish Boy.' In Dylan’s song, the 'mannish boy' announces (as Woody Guthrie did half a century ago) that he “ain’t dead yet”; and he threatens to break you wide open—with, of all things, his music." (TNR)




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