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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"When it comes to winning elections, Team Obama does it better than anyone. When it comes to winning nomination fights, not so much. Act One: Obama wins reelection, thus earning the presumptive right to name to high office pretty much whomever he wants. Act Two: The media report that Susan Rice is his likely choice for Secretary of State, but Obama waits while the Republican flash mob on Benghazi gains strength. Then disaffected Africa wonks begin to gripe. Some off-message liberals chime in. And before you know it, our cool, it’s-just-business president has abandoned the woman everyone thought he really believed in. Act Three: Late last week, the administration leaks its new team: John Kerry for State, Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense. The early stories don’t even mention criticism of Hagel’s views on Israel or Iran. In the Senate, conservative Republicans and Jewish Democrats both responded with praise. Act Four: The 'pro-Israel' right begins to object. AIPAC is said to dislike the choice. Former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block calls Hagel 'well outside the mainstream Democratic and Republican consensus' on Iran. (Block neglects to note that Hagel was also outside that consensus on Iraq, and prophetically so). In the Weekly Standard, an unnamed Senate aide bravely calls Hagel 'an anti-Semite. Act Five: The Obama administration, having just watched a potential nomination die because it allowed right-wing opposition to swell, watches right-wing opposition swell and…does nothing." (Peter beinart)



"When the Arab Spring first rumbled into Syria, it was clear that it would be a different story than the other revolutions seizing the Middle East. At the time, correspondents of all hues were scattered from North Africa to Yemen, covering what in essence were "good news" stories. The narratives were simple: Collective empowerment was breaking down tyranny. The downtrodden were clawing back dignity. Absolute power was contestable after all. It was hard not to soak in the heady scenes of Cairo's Tahrir Square or Tripoli, Libya's Green Square, or to champion the resilience of Bahrain's vocal masses. All three stories seemed enjoyable to cover. But they were curtain-raisers. Even then, Syria loomed large as the main game. As far back as March 2011, when the Syrian revolt began, I sensed that what was about to take place in the heartland of Arabia would come to define careers and potentially reshape the region's geopolitical landscape. Nearly 22 months later, Syria is still doing both. At least seven of our colleagues have lost their lives, along with dozens more citizen journalists. Many more reporters have been captured. Some have been maimed. And at least six remain missing as of mid-December. Early on, the Guardian, like other outlets, determined that there was no substitute for being there -- despite the tangible risks. Ubiquitous cellphone videos and data feeds were useful at times, but were sometimes manipulated to support often irreconcilable narratives rather than clarify what was happening on the ground." (Foreignpolicy)


"We made the case a few weeks ago that the gold price may have reached its choke level and that it was arguably capped from that point on. One good indicator of this, we noted, was the divergence between the gold price — which had been flat-lining for some time — and real interest rates. It’s also hard to ignore gold’s reaction to the latest Fed announcement, which has been intriguingly bearish to say the least. The basic theory we proposed was that gold is now seemingly responding to changes in nominal yield expectations more than anything else. If nominal yields fall, gold pushes higher. If they rise, or are expected to rise, the yellow metal falls. In which case, it’s tempting to speculate that the reason that gold has come to flat-line since the end of last year is largely connected to nominal yields on the short-side having come up against the zero bound. Since they can’t really go any lower, there’s not much potential for the gold price to rise higher." (FT)


"Continuing around the rooms: Wednesday Martin. I don’t know Wednesday Martin, but could you forget her name? And she often lunches at Michael’s on Wednesdays. She was with author Liz Welch. Continuing…nearby, Joan Jakobson was holding forth; so was Sue Perla (separate tables); and the gregarious, garrulous and thorough charming Scotsman Euan Rellie; PR man Steven Rubenstein; Sherrie Westin; the stunning Crystal McCrary with Star Jones; Steven Stolman of Scalamandre with his CEO Louis Renzo and design director Albert Sardelli; mega-agent Boaty Boatwright; another mega – PR guru Paul Witmot with designer Reem Acra; producer David Picker; Jock Reynolds; Patricia Shea; former DA and governor Eliot Spitzer; political PR consultant and political commentator Robert Zimmerman; Robert Wise; Stu Zakim; Bruce Lazarus." (NYSocialDiary)



"One of these days we’ll have another 2000-style election, where the result will be so tight that we will not know the outcome on the election evening — or for many days thereafter. Consider New York State — which a month and a half after the fact still has not certified its election results. (We remember Superstorm Sandy, but New Jersey was hit just as hard.) Even a critical New York state Senate race remains up in the air: George Amedore (R) has a 39-vote lead on Cecilia Tkaczyk (D), who is not conceding and is likely to appeal a court decision that appeared to make Amedore the winner. Our nation now takes two months to vote, and two months to count the votes. This is unacceptable. It is unwise for balloting to start so many weeks before Election Day — before the campaign has truly unfolded and many useful revelations about the candidates have unfolded. Millions of voters are writing their review of a four-act play after the second act. Worse is our seeming inability, a dozen years after Florida, to eliminate problems in the administration of the voting process and the actual counting of the votes. Examples abound, including poorly functioning equipment, the cavalier discarding of absentee ballots with the slightest imperfections, the inability to get ballots to members of the armed forces in a timely fashion, and the refusal to set up enough polling stations for the crowds that inevitably materialize on Election Day. The next time we have a presidential squeaker, we may not be lucky enough — yes, we said lucky — to isolate the recount to just one state." (CenterforPolitics)


"Saul Steinberg was the best-loved nonwriter in the history of The New Yorker. He did cartoons, fake maps, trick diplomas and tinkered-with postcards, a sketchbook from behind the Iron Curtain and another on the road with the Milwaukee Braves. Often he just did the doodles (the “spots,” as editors called them) adorning the columns of spotless prose. He even drew some of the advertisements that appeared in the magazine’s margins, until he got so rich he stopped needing the work. The Romanian-born Steinberg did his first New Yorker drawing for Harold Ross in 1941 and his last for David Remnick in 1999, the year of his death. Along the way, he did 90 covers, a number that continues, posthumously, to rise; Steinberg’s ghost most recently had the cover last week. His masterpiece appeared 36 years earlier, on March 29th, 1976: 'View of the World From 9th Avenue,' his emblem of New York self-centeredness, in which the expanses of Ninth and 10th Avenues give way to a fat strip of the Hudson, the foreshortened flyover states and the tapered specks of far-off Asia. Steinberg was an intellectual who made a big deal of not being too intellectual. With William Shawn, his friend and editor, he shared a lighthearted, no-bullshit style. 'The true lover of art,' Steinberg once said, goes through a museum “on roller skates and is extremely tired after five minutes.'" (Observer)



"It’s the last Wednesday power lunch of the year (or the last one ever if you believe those wacky Mayans), and the usual suspects at Michael’s came bearing gifts to be traded over Cobb salads today. Some regulars (Linda Fairstein) were hosting year-end catch-ups with pals, while others (Steve Stolman) broke bread with their bosses. Of course, even if Christmas is less than a week away, there are those who mean business with lunch. I caught up with Eliot Spitzer while he was waiting for his guest to arrive and asked him how he’s faring over at Current TV. 'Nobody’s watching, but I’m having a great time,' he told me. 'I don’t mean to be facetious, but I am really enjoying myself. It’s like having a cocktail party with friends every night.' Pausing for a moment he added, 'Somebody needs to buy the network.' And perhaps they will, he mused, if for no other reason than to snap up Current’s distribution system. Either way, New York’s former governor isn’t quitting his day job, so to speak. 'I’m glad all my investments are in real estate, not media companies, but if someone can make money at it, great.' Indeed." (Diane Clehane)


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