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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"(78 year old Effraim) Halevy is a man of the Mossad serving there for 40 years -- 33 of them in the Directorate, the initial designation for Mossad's intelligence collection unit. He headed Mossad under three prime ministers -- Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, and Ariel Sharon -- and served as deputy director under two more, Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin. He ran a variety of secret missions for Rabin, most notably as key negotiator and confidante of King Hussein during the period leading up to the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty.  The Israeli spymaster has recently made headlines by calling for dialogue with Iran -- thereby joining the burgeoning ranks of former Israeli intelligence officials, notably former Mossad director Meir Dagan and former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, critical of the Netanyahu government's approach toward the Islamic Republic. He was in Washington last week speaking at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. I put 11 questions to him on the vital political issues of the day before he returned to Jerusalem. What follows are his answers:  Aaron Miller: Is a nuclear-armed Iran an existential threat to Israel? Efraim Halevy: 'I object to the use of term [existential] for several reasons. First of all I'm convinced that Israel is here to stay. We're going to stay here for the next couple of thousand years at least, and after that we can meet and talk. It's not just a question of semi-religious or mythological belief -- I believe that Israel is a strong country. I think we have sufficient capabilities to deal with any threat of any kind. Now, I also object to the use of the term because I believe it is a fatal mistake to say publicly that there is existential threat. It means that if the Iranians by one way or another obtain such a capability, you begin to countdown to the end of the state of Israel, and I think that is unconscionable. And the third point is I think it is a terrible mistake to tell your enemy that it is in his power to destroy you. It is wrong tactically, it's wrong strategically, and it's wrong professionally. To come publicly to the Iranians and say, 'Look, you are existential threat to me' only pushes them into trying to prove that what you say about yourself is true. So from every point, I think it's a terrible mistake to use this." (ForeignPolicy)


"While there will be major shifts in the House delegations of many states on Election Day, and while more than a handful of incumbents appear likely to lose, the total change in each party’s net total of House seats will probably not be large. That means it’s good to be the Republicans, who already hold a big edge in the House — an edge that we project them to keep. The Crystal Ball can now project that the Republicans will retain their House majority, although we suspect it will be at least a bit smaller than their current 25-seat edge. While we have been saying the Republicans were heavy favorites in the House for months, this is the first time we’ve said definitively that they will keep the majority. Given the topsy-turvy presidential race, it appeared in mid-September that President Obama was building a lead that might actually, through his coattails, put the House in play. But after the presidential race returned to its achingly close state, it’s become clear that while individual races are fluctuating, there’s not a clear wave building for either side. We will continue to update our ratings until the Monday before Election Day, and it remains possible that Democrats will add a handful of seats to their total, or that Republicans will further limit Democratic gains. A net Republican gain is not impossible, nor is a significant Democratic gain in the double digits. Our modest projected gain for the Democrats is pretty similar to our first hard guess as to the net change in the House this cycle — on July 12, we said Democrats would pick up six seats; today, we’re saying Democrats plus five. If Democrats do in fact net five seats, that would make the House 237 Republican to 198 Democratic." (CenterforPolitics)



"Mitt Romney's standing in the presidential race has added more uncertainty to the roller-coaster ride Republicans have been on in their quest to control the Senate. The GOP began the cycle believing the Senate was within its grasp, given the 23 seats Democrats were defending, many of them in states where the GOP expects to thump President Obama. Hopes dimmed first with Sen. Olympia Snowe’s retirement, which put a safe GOP seat in play in Maine. They flickered again after Obama’s poll numbers rose following the Democratic convention.Then came a dominating performance by Romney in the first presidential debate, which left Republicans pumped that Mitt-momentum would carry Senate candidates down the ballot to victories. Yet polls across the country show Senate GOP candidates trailing or tied with their Democratic rivals in red-leaning states like North Dakota, Missouri and Arizona.And Republicans awoke Wednesday to worries that comments about pregnancy and rape by Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock had endangered that candidate’s hopes of holding a seemingly safe GOP seat. GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak acknowledged the fight for the Senate has been volatile, and that there have been mood swings for Republicans. But in the end, he said the top of the ticket will make the biggest difference in the race for the Senate. 'There was a time when Republicans felt really good about the Senate,' he told The Hill. 'There was a time Democrats felt a lot better, too. Ultimately, the fortunes for a lot of these candidates are going to be dictated by the top of the ticket.'" (TheHill)


"Let me explain why this is so revealing. Obama’s lead in the electoral college is persistent, but rests on very narrow advantages. If Romney could close small deficits in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Iowa, while sweeping the states where he’s tied or narrowly ahead, like North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, and Colorado, he can win. But Nevada is almost certainly out of reach. Over the last few years, public polls have underestimated the Democratic vote in that state by large and growing margins. Even in the 2010 Republican landslide year, nearly all the polls showed Harry Reid losing his Senate race, only for him to prevail by six points. And the public polls, which have systematically erred on the GOP side, all show Obama ahead there anyway. Las Vegas reporter Jon Ralston has explained that the polls miss the impact both of Reid’s turnout operation and the strength of the Latino vote. (Most polls don’t ask questions in Spanish, and thus miss the Spanish-speaking vote, which is expanding in size.) About ten days ago, Ralston explained the dynamic in a column, and then, as the early vote has rolled in, has reported on the very sizable Democratic edge, which makes a Romney win in that state nearly impossible."(Jonathan Chait)


"This past Tuesday night at the grand ballroom of the Plaza, the World Monument Fund held its annual Hadrian Awards. This year the Hadrian was given to Kenneth Chenault, CEO of American Express, for his longtime support of historic preservation worldwide. Henry Kissinger made the tribute. The Watch Award was presented by Caroline Kennedy to the Duke of Devonshire for the restoration of the magnificent Chatsworth House estate." (NYSocialDiary)


"Hotelier Jonathan Tisch is having trouble sleeping at night. Ever since it was announced in September that his Loews Regency hotel — the city’s reigning power breakfast spot since 1975 — would close in January for a yearlong renovation, he feels like a hunted man ... Tisch has a right to worry. Two short avenue blocks away, Sirio, the new restaurant at the Pierre Hotel run by power host Sirio Maccioni, is planning to open tomorrow — and he’ll be serving breakfast. With blueberry pancakes, eggs Benedict and frittata mozzarella, he hopes to lure Tisch’s regulars, including Al Sharpton, Andrew Cuomo and media honchos like CBS head Les Moonves, to his place for good. 'The Tisch family are dear friends, but business is business,' shrugs Sirio’s son Mario Maccioni. Meanwhile, 10 blocks south, the Four Seasons is also plotting to offer a morning meal. 'A couple of years ago we wanted to open for breakfast, and now I’m convinced it’s the right thing to do,' says Four Seasons co-owner Julian Niccolini. 'We have a tremendous chance to capture that audience.' Others are circling the carcass, waiting to pick off VIPs. Michael McCarty’s expertise handling a high-powered a.m. crowd is nothing to scoff at. He’s long played host to a cast of media titans at Michael’s, his art-filled restaurant on West 55th Street, where breakfast regulars include Isaac Mizrahi and Harrison Ford. 'I have some customers that have two breakfasts — one meeting after another,' says McCarty. 'People say they do more business over breakfast than in a full day at the office. And chance meetings can turn into deals — if you could see the crowd and watch the dynamic of the room, it’s astounding.'" (NYPost)  

"Reality TV host Donald Trump launched a new publicity stunt Wednesday in which he said he would give $5 million to a charity of President Obama’s choice, so long as the President releases his school and Passport records 'To Mr Trump’s satisfaction.' Trump appeared on CNN’s 'Piers Morgan Tonight' and FNC’s 'On the Record with Greta Van Susteren' to talk about his ridiculous offer. Obama himself responded on 'The Tonight Show' ...Morgan had to begin his interview with a disclaimer, noting that he considers Trump a friend and adding 'I’ve known Donald Trump since I won the first season of ‘Celebrity Apprentice,’ and appear on the show sporadically.' He asked Trump if the offer was a publicity stunt. 'Don’t be ridiculous, this isn’t a publicity stunt, it is a very serious offer,' Trump replied. Well that settles that." (TVNewser)


"There's a good reason why nobody is paying attention to the election this year except the people who, one way or another, get paid to be interested: because for all that's at stake there is no coherent discussion about any of it. By 'at stake' I mean what we are going to do when the major systems we depend on for everyday life begin to wobble and fail. There is zero cognizance even among the paid kibitzers that we are near that point. Rather, a rapture of techno-narcissism holds in thrall even people who ought to know better, and a chatter-stream of infotainment propaganda spreads an hallucinatory fog of national self-esteem-boosting figments ranging from 'energy independence' to 'green jobs.' The truth of our situation is an implacable contraction of the turbo-corporate economy due to remorseless looming energy scarcity. That is, strange to relate, not altogether bad news (if we were psychologically disposed to process it, which we are not). It doesn't have to mean that everything in American life goes straight to shit -- though it might. It could well mean that some of the most destructive corporate actors go to shit (quickly and unexpectedly), making room for some really beneficial transformation." (Kunstler)


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