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Monday, January 07, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"It’s good news that President Obama will nominate Chuck Hagel as his secretary of defense, despite the frantic campaign against him that’s been mounted by certain Republicans. I don’t think that he chose Hagel because of the opposition. It’s generally not Obama’s style to pick a fight for its own sake (cf. Rice, Susan). He’s an issues man, and he faces many fights on other pressing matters. If he thought that someone less controversial could do the job at the Pentagon, he’d have gone with that person in a flash (cf. Kerry, John). The real question is what kind of job Obama wants his next secretary of defense to do. I have no inside knowledge on this, but judging from some of his actions and remarks on matters of national defense, Hagel seems to be the right choice. And that’s what disturbs the most outspoken Hagel-resisters. These resisters have four main concerns. They fear that Hagel will cut the military budget. They fear that he’ll roll over if Iran builds a nuclear weapon. They fear that he’s too reluctant to use military force generally. And they fear he doesn’t much like Israel; the extremists on this point claim he’s anti-Semitic. Let’s look at these points, one by one." (Fred Kaplan/Slate)


"Nominating Chuck Hagel for secretary of Defense may be the oddest thing President Obama has ever done. I don’t mean it’s the worst thing he’s ever done — merely that it’s the hardest to explain, and the most at odds with his general political character. People on the left who hate Obama’s general political character will be happy. Since I’m pretty happy with Obama’s general political character, it strikes me as at least a moderately bad idea. The prospect of Hagel’s nomination has led to conservatives smearing him as an Israel-hater and even an anti-Semite. The smear campaign has been led by Bill Kristol and the fine family of Kristol-affiliated agitprop outlets — the Weekly Standard, the Center for American Freedom, the Washington Free Beacon, the Emergency Committee for Israel, and so on — some of which pretend to be intellectually reputable enterprises, and others of which don’t. That smear campaign has, in turn, been met with a counter-campaign on the left to rally around Hagel. But as David Greenberg has observed, a strong undercurrent of enemy-of-my-enemy thinking seems to undergird the pro-Hagel argument. (See, for instance, James Fallows and Connie Bruck, among many others.) Jill Lawrence’s list of reasons for Obama to appoint Hagel begins, 'Obama does not want to be seen as caving twice to GOP attacks, Rice followed by Hagel.' The rest of the reasons mostly describe qualities that other candidates could fulfill just as easily. Hagel’s status as smear target is the one that sets him apart. But of course getting smeared by Kristol is not really a special qualification. Lots of people have done it. One might argue that Obama needs to establish the precedent that he has latitude to make appointments for himself, rather than let Republicans pick his cabinet for him. That might have made sense as a defense of Susan Rice, a fully qualified prospective secretary of State whom Obama did not select in the wake of utterly bogus attacks linking her to Benghazi, which seemed to stem from John McCain’s cranky grudges.Hagel, by contrast, has supplied his critics with legitimate grounds for opposition in addition to illegitimate ones." (Jonathan Chait/NYMag)


"Everyone knows that traditional media companies are dead in the water, overwhelmed by ad skipping, cord cutting and audience flight. We know that because Chicken Littles (like me) have been saying it for years. Eventually we may be right — the sky will fall and the business will collapse — but for the time being, the sky over traditional media is blue and it’s raining green. In the last year, the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index was up 13.4 percent, which was a significant advance, but legacy media giants like Comcast, News Corporation and Time Warner absolutely surpassed it in terms of share price. Viacom, which has had serious ratings trouble with MTV and Nickelodeon, still managed to be up 16.1 percent on the year. We keep hearing how traditional networks are getting clobbered, but Viacom’s sibling, CBS, was up a whopping 40.2 percent. News Corporation, despite being racked by scandal, was up 43 percent, and fellow global media conglomerates like Disney and Time Warner were up more than 32 percent. And Comcast, which has both the pipes and programming — cable and NBCUniversal — soared 57.6 percent. (Pure cable and satellite providers like Time Warner Cable, Charter, Dish and DirecTV also did very well overall, with an average improvement in stock price of more than 40 percent.)  What is making these dinosaurs dance? I called some media analysts and a few things quickly became apparent. To begin with, the companies collectively did not make dumb choices — consider the past acquisitions of AOL and The Wall Street Journal — and they made plenty of smart moves, including long-term deals that locked up content and a steady stream of fees. 'The era of the media mogul is over, or at least on a very significant hiatus,' said David Bank, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, suggesting that companies would no longer get bigger for the sake of scale and nonexistent synergies." (NYTimes)


"Does any corner of New York society remain untouched by the go-go spirit of the raging tech boom? Apparently not. It seems the culture of optimization has advanced even unto the lofty reaches of Vanity Fair, with this month’s issue containing an exploration of the quantified self by culture critic James Wolcott (not yet available online). And to tee up for his colleague’s column, no less a personality than head honcho Graydon Carter himself opened up the issue with his thoughts on the matter. His editor’s letter begins, 'Not to generalize, but mankind can be divided into three groups.' This’ll be good!
There are those who like to record and share every aspect of their lives no matter how inconsequential. There are those who live lives that are actually worth recording yet don’t. And there are the rest of us, the vast sweep of humanity, who neither record our lives nor live ones particularly worth recording.
We assume Mr. Carter counts himself among the latter group, hence the emphasis." (Observer)



"Shugah Sugah. You may remember, if you happened to read last Monday’s Diary, that I went to a party on New Year’s Eve at Nan and Gay Talese’s and ran into their daughter Pamela who is a painter and I asked her if she had some exhibitions coming up. She sent me an article from last month’s New York Times about 'art' in residential building lobbies. It’s not a new idea. Many residential buildings have some kind of art. 2 East 70th has some photographs by Jeff Hirsch which he took for the Diary. (Almost all of those opening shots are his work.) What’s different about this new 'art in lobbies' concept is the exhibition. Pamela Talese – who was mentioned in the Times article – just had one such exhibition called 'Sugar and Fat.'  This is something of a departure for the artist who is well known and notable for her city portraits which have the well known grit in all that beauty. Pamela sent us a 'virtual tour' of this exhibition. I asked her if we might run it on the NYSD. She was happy to." (NYSocialDiary)

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