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Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Speaking to the U.N. General Assembly last week -- accompanied by his puzzling cartoon bomb -- Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a dire threat not only to Israel, but to the entire world, and he declared that preventing this outcome was the 'duty of every responsible leader who wants to preserve world peace.' In 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said: 'The free world must not accept [a nuclear Iran]. We must all do whatever we can to prevent it.' And, in 2005, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon urged the creation of 'a coalition of democracies who believe in the danger, led by United States, in order to put pressure upon Iran.' In each of these examples, Israeli political leaders engaged in a time-honored diplomatic strategy: telling other states what they should be threatened by, and what policies they should implement to counter that threat ... The modern understanding of threat perceptions emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, when the economist Thomas Schelling developed and popularized a statistical model to describe how adversarial states interact when "communication is incomplete or impossible.' He and others drew heavily on game theory to predict how states perceive threats from one another. As the political scientist -- and founder of the Correlates of War datasets -- J. David Singer wrote in 1958, 'To state the relationship in quasi-mathematical form: Threat-Perception = Estimated Capability x Estimated Intent.' However, Schelling, Singer, and other game theorists never attempted to quantify 'intent.' In 1985, many years before he was a prominent Foreign Policy blogger, international relations scholar Stephen Walt offered four factors for how states perceive the threat level of other states: aggregate power, proximity, offensive capability, and offensive intentions. While the first three are determined by relatively objective indicators, the last is highly subjective. Yet, according to Walt, 'The more aggressive or expansionist a state appears, the more likely it is to trigger an opposing coalition.' More recently, political scientist Randall Schweller argued that states require a consensus among elites about the extent and nature of a threat in order to mobilize the resources to effectively combat it. But recent history suggests that projecting threat perceptions rarely works." (ForeignPolicy)


"The past two cycles of general-election debates have been anticlimactic. Everyone expected the college-debate whiz John Kerry to outperform the aphasic-seeming George W. Bush. He did, but it didn’t matter. For John McCain, the world financial crisis, plus his selection of Sarah Palin, was bringing his campaign down around him before he even stepped on a stage with Barack Obama. The only memorable aspect of their debates was McCain’s short-lived attempt to get out of them so that he could devote his full attention to developing financial-rescue policies. This year’s exchanges have the potential to be different, and more dramatic. Romney is very strong as a debater but has also shown two repeated weaknesses: a thin command of policy details, and an awkwardness when taken by surprise ... Thus the Romney team has the impossible challenge of trying to imagine every question or attack line that might come up in debates with Obama, while the Obama team tries to imagine what Romney’s might have missed. This kind of chess game is always part of debate preparation, but it is unusually important this year, because the gap between Romney at his best and at his worst is so wide. Barack Obama got himself in trouble only once during his primary and general-election debates four years ago. That was in January 2008, just after Obama’s surprise victory in the Iowa caucuses, when a questioner at a New Hampshire debate asked Hillary Clinton about polls showing that people respected her but didn’t like her. She handled the question with perfect comic-dramatic poise and timing. First she feigned a crushed look and said that her feelings were hurt. Then she said, with melodramatic jokey pluck, 'I’ll try to go on!' Finally she said of Obama, warmly, 'He’s very likable! I agree with that.' Then, a moment later, and charmingly, 'I don’t think I’m that bad.' Obama, obviously off balance, said in reply, 'You’re likable enough, Hillary'—a line that was presumably meant to sound light but came across as coldly supercilious, in part because he didn’t even look at her when delivering it. Maybe this was the moment when Obama realized that jock-style put-down banter, common among men in certain circumstances and often associated with both Obama and George W. Bush, comes across very differently when applied by a man to a woman. Or maybe he just made a mistake—one of the very few in his hundreds of hours before cameras during his presidential campaign. Obama got better, steadier, and more relaxed-seeming as the 2008 debates went on. But they were never his strength, compared with formal speeches, and his team surely realizes that many circumstances of this year’s debates will work to his disadvantage." (James Fallows)
 

"In an adaptation from his new book, The Finish—first reported for Vanity Fair—magazine contributing editor Mark Bowden reveals that President Obama intended to put Osama bin Laden on trial in the federal court system if he had been captured, rather than killed, during the Abbottabad raid. Bowden had access to key players including C.I.A. deputy director Michael Morell and the president himself. According to Bowden in the story—in November’s Vanity Fair—in the unlikely event that bin Laden surrendered, Obama saw an opportunity to resurrect the idea of a criminal trial, which Attorney General Eric Holder had planned for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. This time, the president tells Bowden, he was prepared to bring bin Laden back and put him on trial in a federal court. 'We worked through the legal and political issues that would have been involved, and Congress and the desire to send him to Guantánamo, and to not try him, and Article III.' Obama continues: 'I mean, we had worked through a whole bunch of those scenarios. But, frankly, my belief was if we had captured him, that I would be in a pretty strong position, politically, here, to argue that displaying due process and rule of law would be our best weapon against al-Qaeda, in preventing him from appearing as a martyr.'” (VanityFair)


"Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter’s plan to relaunch the Beatrice Inn is turning into a brewing battle with a previous owner who, sources say, plans to sue over the hot spot’s vaunted name. Sources tell Page Six that Paul Sevigny — who built the Beatrice into New York’s hottest club for three years till its 2009 closure — claims the Beatrice name was not properly transferred to Carter, and has hired a lawyer. Sources add Sevigny could seek more than $500,000 for the name. 'It’s an intellectual-property issue,' a nightlife insider said. 'The [former owners] could make that amount if they threw three parties [under the Beatrice name]. It’s a name that could launch worldwide. The space, and Graydon, is capitalizing on the club’s reputation.' Carter’s rep confirmed that he’s trying to set up a meeting with Sevigny, who could not be reached for comment, over the dispute... After Sevigny’s Beatrice — a stomping ground for fashion folks and cool kids including Kate Moss, Samantha Ronson, Malcolm McLaren, the Olsen twins and Kirsten Dunst — shuttered due to neighbor complaints, he launched LA’s Smoke & Mirrors and pop-up Paul & André." (PageSix)


"This past Monday night, the Drawing Center held its Ninth Annual Fall Benefit Auction at Haunch of Venison on 550 West 21 Street. The Drawing Center is the only non-profit organization in the United States that focuses solely on the exhibition of historical and contemporary drawings. Each year this auction provides critical support for their programs and exhibitions. Chaired by Stacey Goergen, Merrill Mahan, Rhiannon Kubicka and Candace Worth, the evening drew more than 400 including established and emerging artists, art patrons, and collectors, corporate executives and New York philanthropists." (NYSocialDiary)


"PPP's newest poll of the Missouri Senate race finds Claire McCaskill expanding her lead to 6 points. She's at 46% to 40% for Todd Akin and 9% for Libertarian Jonathan Dine. On our last poll of the race, in late August, McCaskill had led by only a single point. Todd Akin's image is not seeing any recovery even with six weeks having passed since his controversial comments. 33% of voters see him favorably to 55% with an unfavorable opinion. Those numbers are essentially unchanged from our last poll when he was at 33/56. Republicans still give him pretty high marks. 65% see him favorably to 23% with an unfavorable opinion, suggesting that they actually still like him and aren't just voting for him grudgingly. But his reviews from independents (28/59) and Democrats (7/84) are pretty dreadful. One interesting development over the last month in this race is that Claire McCaskill's own popularity has actually improved. 44% of voters approve of her and 49% disapprove, up from a 40/55 spread in late August. The reason for that change is that Democrats are really rallying around her. She now has an 89/8 approval rating within her own party, up from a 73/23 standing last time. And that's where the shift in the horse race is coming from as well. She now gets 91% of the Democratic vote, up from 81% on our previous poll. The numbers with Republicans and independents are pretty steady. Despite McCaskill's lead there's still reason to think this will be a competitive race." (PPPolling)






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