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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

 
 
"Despite the jihadist blowback the Saudis experienced after the end of the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan -- and the current object lesson of the jihadists Syria sent to fight U.S. forces in Iraq now leading groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra -- the Saudi government has apparently calculated that its use of jihadist proxies in Syria is worth the inherent risk. There are some immediate benefits for Riyadh. First, the Saudis hope to be able to break the arc of Shiite influence that reaches from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon. Having lost the Sunni counterweight to Iranian power in the region with the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the installation of a Shiite-led government friendly to Iran, the Saudis view the possibility of installing a friendly Sunni regime in Syria as a dramatic improvement to their national security. Supporting the jihad in Syria as a weapon against Iranian influence also gives the Saudis a chance to burnish their Islamic credentials internally in an effort to help stave off criticism that they are too secular and Westernized. It allows the Saudi regime the opportunity to show that it is helping Muslims under assault by the vicious Syrian regime. Supporting jihadists in Syria also gives the Saudis an opportunity to ship their own radicals to Syria, where they can fight and possibly die. With a large number of unemployed, underemployed and radicalized young men, the jihad in Syria provides a pressure valve similar to the past struggles in Iraq, Chechnya, Bosnia and Afghanistan. The Saudis are not only trying to winnow down their own troubled youth; we have received reports from a credible source that the Saudis are also facilitating the travel of Yemeni men to training camps in Turkey, where they are trained and equipped before being sent to Syria to fight. The reports also indicate that the young men are traveling for free and receiving a stipend for their service. These young radicals from Saudi Arabia and Yemen will even further strengthen the jihadist groups in Syria by providing them with fresh troops. The Saudis are gaining temporary domestic benefits from supporting jihad in Syria, but the conflict will not last forever, nor will it result in the deaths of all the young men who go there to fight. This means that someday the men who survive will come back home, and through the process we refer to as 'tactical Darwinism' the inept fighters will have been weeded out, leaving a core of competent militants that the Saudis will have to deal with." (STRATFOR)
 

"It has been about two decades now that the two major parties switched roles in Washington. For much of the last half of the 20th century, Republicans dominated the White House while Democrats enjoyed a virtual monopoly on both chambers of Congress. But since 1994, their basic spheres of influence have changed. It is the Democrats that can be considered the 'presidential party' after a pair of clear-cut victories by both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, while the Republicans can best lay claim to being the “congressional party.” Certainly the latter is the case in the House of Representatives, where the GOP has controlled the lower chamber for 14 of the last 18 years. Just as the electoral map has favored the Democrats in recent presidential elections, so has geography and a good bit of crafty cartography positioned the Republicans on the inside track in maintaining House control. Geographically, the starting point for Republicans is the South, nearly as solidly for the GOP now as it was for the Democrats in the century following the Civil War. Republicans hold 108 of the 149 House seats across the region (which by definition here includes the states of the old Confederacy plus Kentucky and Oklahoma). The GOP’s Southern total represents more than 45% of all 234 seats that Republicans currently possess. In many states across the South, the Democrats are barely competitive at the congressional level. In Virginia, they have just three House seats; in Tennessee, just a pair. In five Southern states — Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina — Democrats are down to a single House seat. In Arkansas and Oklahoma, they have none at all. And it is difficult for the Democrats to make up ground elsewhere, because no other region possesses nearly as many House seats as does the continually growing South. The second largest region, the West, has 102 seats, while the once dominant electoral powerhouses of the Midwest and Northeast are down to just 94 and 90 House seats, respectively. As a result, the massive 67-seat GOP advantage in the South in 2012 easily offset Democratic strength in the Northeast and West, and was more than twice as large as the Republican House majority nationwide (33 seats)." (CenterforPolitics)



"Yesterday was mild and misty-foggy and almost warm in New York (if you think 60 degrees is warm). I went down to Michael’s, not because it was Wednesday, but because Julia Reed, Debra Shriver and Joe Armstrong were hosting a birthday lunch for our friend (and NYSD columnist Liz Smith) who will celebrate her 90th officially on this Saturday, February 2nd. The table was decorated with yellow roses (of Texas). The menu for yesterday’s luncheon was entirely Ms. Liz’s favorites, and being a Texas girl there was some native Texan cuisine. She wrote a book about all this a few years ago called 'Dish' which was all of her favorite recipes – leaning toward the fried stuff, including the exotic Fried Milky Ways or Mars Bars (I must be imagining this but I think it’s true). Elvis went in for that kind of thing too ... We sat at Table One, in the Bay and Michael’s was a madhouse and so noisy with conversations bouncing off the Hockneys and the Lichtensteins that I could barely hear Toni Goodale and Debra Shriver who were on either side of me. I couldn’t hear anything Liz said from across the table and I didn’t bother to do my customary 'Whaaaa?' because she probably couldn’t have heard me even though her hearing is much better than mine. At table were the aforementioned: our hosts — Mr. Mayor Armstrong, Ms. Shriver and Ms. Reed, plus Sheila Nevins, one of the original Wow Oh Wow girls, and JH who designs Liz’ column (and everything else) for the NYSD everyday, and Jon Meacham who recently bought himself and his family a nice house in his native Tennessee." (NYSocialDiary)


"Chuck Hagel is a Republican, but he's an iconoclastic Republican, one who turned against the Iraq War as a senator and became one of its most prominent opponents. It was therefore expected that, during his Senate confirmation hearing today, Hagel's harshest questioning would come from members of his own party who supported the war until its very end. During his turn this morning, John McCain — who is not known for being shy about grilling cabinet nominees — didn't disappoint.Despite referring to Hagel as an 'old friend,' McCain was at Peak Crotchety, badgering Hagel for a yes or no answer on whether he was right to call the 2007 Surge "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam.' McCain interrupted Hagel again and again as he tried to provide a more nuanced answer. Eventually, Hagel was allowed to explain that his 'blunder' quote referred to 'the overall war of choice going into Iraq.' (Is that true, though? Here's Hagel's 'blunder' remark in its original context.)" (NYMag)


"'If you asked me back in the day, ‘What do you miss the most?,’ my answer would have been ‘I miss my jet,’' Merv Adelson tells Vanity Fair special correspondent Bryan Burrough in the March issue. 'You know, there was a time I could pick up the phone here, call my pilot, and I could be in Paris the next morning. But not anymore. I won’t be namby-pamby and say I don’t miss all that money. I do. But I’ve learned to do so much on my own. I made my first million at age 24. Since then I’ve always had people do things for me. Now I pay my own bills. The other day I changed to online banking. It’s so great! And easy!' Between 2000 and 2003, Adelson—who was once married to Barbara Walters and, with Lorimar, the company he founded, produced iconic television shows such as The Waltons, Dallas, Knots Landing, Falcon Crest, and Eight Is Enough—saw 90 percent of his wealth evaporate. Adelson sold Lorimar to Warner Communications in 1989 for $1.2 billion in stock. When the Internet bubble burst, in 2000, the newly merged AOL Time Warner’s stock price began to fall, eventually plunging from a high of $58 all the way to a low of $7. Adelson never sold a single share, a decision that cost him $141 million. Adelson tells Burrough he held on because his lawyers advised him that his relationship with Time Warner’s C.E.O. Gerald Levin put him at risk of being charged with insider trading if he sold. “It was like The Perfect Storm,' he tells Burrough of his losses. 'I got hit more than Joe Louis got hit in his entire career. I didn’t know where it was coming from next.' Burrough meets Adelson in Santa Monica, where the former mogul now lives in a 500-square-foot apartment with a kitchenette, a battered futon, and a flatulent dog." (VanityFair)


"Deerfield Academy, the prestigious New England boarding school that counts Taylor Swift’s former flame Conor Kennedy as a student and boasts illustrious alumni including David H. Koch and Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes, is embroiled in a teacher-sex scandal. School officials said on their Web site Monday that retired teacher Peter Hindle, now 72, was allegedly involved in an incident in the 1980s. The statement reads, 'A former student has confided in us that he was subjected to sexual contact, in the 1980s by Peter Hindle, who was a Deerfield faculty member between 1956 and 2000. Mr. Hindle has admitted sexual contact with a student, and we are now conducting a detailed investigation . . . We have retained an independent law firm to assist, and we have informed law enforcement authorities.' The letter asks for any who were affected to come forward with a promise of confidentiality and counseling. The school could give no further updates. Hindle has denied the claims and told the Boston Herald: 'I think it’s all in interpretation. It depends on what you mean by sexual contact. I gave someone a back rub. I don’t even know who it is.'" (PageSix)

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