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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"'A cock has no shame.' That’s what it said on the little plaque on the door of the espionage instructor. He’d been discovered a few nights earlier going at it with a female junior officer on a pool table in the recreation room at 'the Farm,' the Central Intelligence Agency’s training facility in the swamps of eastern Virginia. The instructor flaunted his defiance, slightly camouflaged in Gothic calligraphy. Among the students and teachers, even among the more straight-laced Mormons, few thought he’d done anything particularly wrong (except getting caught). We were all adults. Some of the female students aggressively hunted the better-looking paramilitary instructors, who welcomed the attention. In the mostly temporary couplings that occurred during training, it was sometimes unclear who was married and who was not. What happened at the Farm wasn’t just the by-product of being stuck in the woods for months in boring espionage and paramilitary courses. During my tour of duty with the operations directorate in the 1980s and 1990s, case officers weren’t exactly models of propriety at headquarters or in the field. Unlike the U.S. military post-Vietnam, where senior officers are supposed to be moral role models, the CIA—that is, the Clandestine Service, the engine room of espionage and covert action that has always defined the agency’s ethos—has been much more relaxed about these things. The drama surrounding David Petraeus’s extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell could change all that. Ever since the agency director’s resignation, a small army of pundits has taken to the airwaves, warning that infidelity could be exploited by foreign intelligence services and used against American officials. The pressure could force new standards for the intelligence world. That would be a mistake. As morally upsetting as it may sound, we should all want the typical philanderer to serve in the Clandestine Service, free from the fear of reprisal. Let me explain. Case officers, the CIA personnel who handle intelligence-collection and covert-action operations, are bottom-feeders. They search the strengths and weaknesses of character in the foreigners they want to recruit and run as agents; few things are off limits. Unlike soldiers, who have each other’s backs in battle, case officers build on both trust and deceit. And they work in a promotion system that often rewards intellectually dishonest operatives for making a mediocre new recruit seem like solid gold. This sort of thing tends to make officers jaded pretty quickly." (TNR)


" Obama has basically erased the Republican advantage on foreign policy, but he hasn’t yet created a clear majority on behalf of a less bellicose and more multilateral foreign policy. The fact is that we simply have a war-weary public. Someday again, in a generation perhaps (one certainly hopes not sooner), we will have a war-hungry public. That’s just the way it goes. But if Obama can pull off something big—bringing Iran to the table, most notably, and resolving that issue successfully without war or bombing—then that majority will form. This traditional idea of Democrats and liberals as appeasers and quislings is just too old now. Mitt Romney ran on it, and it never had any resonance outside the right-wing base. After all, as far as most Americans are concerned, the last time progressives opposed a war (Iraq), they were right. An event like a terrorist attack could change things quickly, but right now, the broad majority’s inclinations are toward a foreign policy that is strong but reasonable, not hopped up on testosterone. If Obama has success in each of these areas, the progressive coalition will expand over the next four years. The broad middle class will support its economic policies; Latinos’ loyalty will grow; skeptical people will see through health care that the government is capable of delivering something useful; and the voters whom the demographers used to call 'security moms' will have concluded that going around the world starting wars is not the best path to safety." (Democracy)


"One night this week, you may be at home, minding your own business, and find yourself on the receiving end of a phone call from John Catsimatidis. Your next brush with him might happen when you’re driving or sitting in front of the television. These encounters will, no doubt, be memorable, thanks to the candidate’s loud squawk of a New York accent and his decidedly distinctive appearance. With an ample gut and a face padded by a prominent second chin, Mr. Catsimatidis looks less suited for prime time than for a caricature by the pioneering political cartoonist Thomas Nast as a mass of jowls and bursting blazer buttons. Over the next few months, the businessman plans to spend several million of his own dollars to take his mayoral campaign to the phone lines and airwaves in an effort to show New Yorkers he’s a more approachable, homespun brand of billionaire than Michael Bloomberg. 'I grew up on 135th Street. I grew up on the poor side of New York. I grew up in Harlem. I was a store owner. I’m still a store owner,' Mr. Catsimatidis told The Observer on the phone from a weekend vacation in the Bahamas. 'I’m not a Bloomberg billionaire. I am a real New Yorker … I didn’t go to Harvard, I didn’t go to Yale … I rooted for the Yankees, I didn’t root for the Boston Red Sox.' Mr. Catsimatidis indeed lacks the present mayor’s patrician polish. While Mr. Bloomberg cuts a sleek figure in designer clothes and betrays his Harvard MBA in his fondness for taking careful, heavily researched, data-supported positions, Mr. Castimatidis and his opinions regularly seem to spill out of his rumpled, well-worn suits." (Observer)


"The Michael’s lunch. Wednesday busy. A lotta familiar faces and names that mean most to their possessors, alliances, and other people in the room. Remember this is a media/banking clientele at lunch, which you’ve already gathered. Most are unknown to you and even me, dear reader. But one thing you can be sure of is that there was a lot of interesting and serious conversation going on amidst all the clatter and chatter. In the mix: At table one, Catherine Saxton (PR) and Katlean De Monchy with investigative reporter and former NYC detective, John Connolly. Mr. Connolly who writes for, among others,Vanity Fair is one of those guys who really knows the scoop. Catherine Saxton’s long time client list has included Hiltons, Trumps and many of the brighter boldfaced names on the national celebrity trail. I’m sure everyone got an earful. Moving along: CNBC’s Ron Insana; Stan Shuman (Allen & Co.); Harriet Weintraub (PR); Jacques Azouilay with Jennifer Simonetti; Barry Frey and Peter Borish; Tom Goodman; Simon & Schuster’s distinguished editor (Jennet Conant, Doris Kearns Goodwin) Alice Mayhew; Lisa Linden with Beth Shapiro and Suri Kasirer; Andrew Stein with Stuart Sundlin; David Sanford and Lewis Stein; Dawn Bridges and Maurie Perl; Pete Peterson; Ron Perelman with Lyor Cohen, the recording executive who up until ten minutes ago was the boyfriend of retail tycoon Tory Burch, who herself had lunch with Mr. Perelman just a couple of days before." (NYSocialDiary)


"Richard Branson beamed into the Upper East Side’s Explorers Club via Skype from his Necker Island hideaway Tuesday to make a heartfelt introduction for National Geographic film “Battle for the Elephants.” The Virgin mogul 'looked like he was in a thatched hut,' said a spy, 'with a fan twirling overheard in the background.' The film about the illegal ivory trade was hosted by David and Julia Koch for guests including Tommy Hilfiger, Lauren Bush Lauren, paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey and Town & Country special-projects editor Amanda Hearst. Director John Heminway, whose doc will air on PBS, said 80 percent of illegal ivory is sold in China for everything from knickknacks to iPhone cases." (NYPost)


"Theater’s deep disgust for (and fear of) 'the Millennials' reaches a high-water mark with Really Really, MCC’s latest attempt to comprehend the callow Jugend running amok in our cities, bars, and coffee shops. But unlike last year’s The Submission, this affidavit is filed from within the accused demographic: Written by 27-year-old Paul Downs Colaizzo from a first draft he completed at 21, Really Really is a poker-faced twist on the old he said-she said college potboiler. It stars Zosia Mamet (who plays innocent Shoshanna on Girls) as Leigh, a less-than-innocent college senior of modest means, who ends up in a compromising situation with a rich, popular, possibly troubled boy (Matt Lauria) and tries to leverage scandal into advancement. Mamet’s already a generational avatar in her own right, thanks to America’s favorite schadenshow (which fascinates the former Matlock audience), and Colaizzo would very much like to be one, too. He may yet get his wish. Probably not on the strength of this smug, clumsy, dyspeptic opening salvo, but — with his frighteningly palpable ambition, vivid, vicious voice, and stiletto instinct for the epigram — definitely someday. Soon, perhaps very soon, he’ll grow into the sort of playwright who understands he probably shouldn’t conclude a pessimistic dorm-room melodrama called Really Really with a character staring down the audience and saying, 'Really.' J’accuse! I mean, hell, this is Colaizzo’s first play to be produced in New York — and it shows, despite the delicate ministrations of master director David Cromer (Tribes, Our Town) and a sleek, spare stage design overseen by Cromer and the scenic visionary David Korins. (Colaizzo really, really hit the tyro-playwright jackpot with this team.) The young cast is excellent, across the board, and Mamet, especially, is fascinating: From the moment she enters in Colaizzo’s superbly wordless opening scene — a dumbshow of two young girls, one bleeding, entering their apartment drunk, late at night, teetering on 'slutty heels,' all beautifully, unsettlingly orchestrated by Cromer — she finds ways to invite us into the interior of a cipher." (NYMag)


"The G-20 finance ministers’meeting ended on Feb. 16 with the obligatory note of amity on exchange rates. 'We will not target our exchange rates for competitive purposes, will resist all forms of protectionism and keep our markets open,' read thecommuniqué. The IMF’s Christine Lagarde added her gloss: 'We think that talk of currency wars is overblown. People did talk about their currency worries. The good news is that the G-20 responded with cooperation rather than conflict today.'
Of course, targeting the currency for competitive purposes is exactly what many have suspected Japan of doing-- not least because Shinzo Abe, the new prime minister, had previously said that’s what he wanted to do. It’s been left to finance minister Taro Aso to, let’s say, clarify the position. After the G-20 meeting and its emollient declaration, the foreign exchange market decided not much had changed, and the yen continued its recent slide. But when Aso appeared to rule out buying foreign-currency bonds -- which would be a pretty forthright measure to drive down the yen, one that that Abe had previously mentioned as a possibility -- he had a more marked effect. The yen strengthened for the first time in several days. A theme of dissension in the new Japanese cabinet is thus gaining ground. Who’s in charge, Abe the radical currency-manipulator or Aso the monetary moderate? Just as the currency war talk is overblown -- Lagarde’s quite right about that -- so is the idea that Abo and Aso are at odds. In due course, they may be, but not yet." (Bloomberg)

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