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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"There are two points I have been driving toward. The first is that the outrage at targeted killing is not, in my view, justified on moral or legal grounds. The second is that in using these techniques, the United States is on a slippery slope because of the basis on which it has chosen to wage war.
The United States has engaged an enemy that is dispersed across the globe. If the strategy is to go wherever the enemy is, then the war is limitless. It is also endless. The power of the jihadist movement is that it is diffuse. It does not need vast armies to be successful. Therefore, the destruction of some of its units will always result in their replacement. Quality might decline for a while but eventually will recover. The enemy strategy is to draw the United States into an extended conflict that validates its narrative that the United States is permanently at war with Islam. It wants to force the United States to engage in as many countries as possible. From the U.S. point of view, unmanned aerial vehicles are the perfect weapon because they can attack the jihadist command structure without risk to ground forces. From the jihadist point of view as well, unmanned aerial vehicles are the perfect weapon because their efficiency allows the jihadists to lure the United States into other countries and, with sufficient manipulation, can increase the number of innocents who are killed.
In this sort of war, the problem of killing innocents is practical. It undermines the strategic effort. The argument that it is illegal is dubious, and to my mind, so is the argument that it is immoral. The argument that it is ineffective in achieving U.S. strategic goals of eliminating the threat of terrorist actions by jihadists is my point. Unmanned aerial vehicles provide a highly efficient way to destroy key enemy targets with very little risk to personnel. But they also allow the enemy to draw the United States into additional theaters of operation because the means is so efficient and low cost. However, in the jihadists' estimate, the political cost to the United States is substantial. The broader the engagement, the greater the perception of U.S. hostility to Islam, the easier the recruitment until the jihadist forces reach a size that can't be dealt with by isolated airstrikes. In warfare, enemies will try to get you to strike at what they least mind losing. The case against strikes by unmanned aerial vehicles is not that they are ineffective against specific targets but that the targets are not as vital as the United States thinks. The United States believes that the destruction of the leadership is the most efficient way to destroy the threat of the jihadist movement. In fact it only mitigates the threat while new leadership emerges." (STRATFOR)


"... That is all a Hollywood director has to read and presto, he’s got a movie. Throw in the Jazz Age, women in cloche hats and cylinder dresses, great houses with retinues of servants, Park Avenue lockjaw accents, snobbery, and some suggestion of violence, and it’s Oscar time. (Well, almost but not quite.) The Jazz Age still holds us in its sway because the youthful rebels who let it rip between the wars were mostly upper-class and rich. At a distance of 90 years it is difficult to conceive the horror it instilled in parental hearts when they heard their children playing jazz music on their Victrolas. And worse, it was played by…Negroes! In segregated America, this was revolutionary. Scott and Zelda would emerge from the Plaza drunk, then jump fully clothed into the fountain abutting 5th Avenue. Gatsby’s guests would drink and party all night, then drive drunk back into the city. Those were wild, crazy years, and jazz was the anthem of the times. My grandfather called it decadent gutter music. When I said Louis Armstrong was among the greatest musicians ever, he asked me to leave the room. But it’s the world of endless partygoing and high-octane frivolity that still fascinates and always will ... Which is where Hollywood comes in. Out West they can film anything that has to do with wealth and privilege. (It’s always shown in a bad light). Where they get into trouble is when trying to depict how deeply the hero of Fitzgerald’s novel has his roots implanted in the nature of the genteel champion, the creator of romantic dreams. (Dick Diver in Tender and Monroe Stahr in Tycoon, ditto.) Fitzgerald was the last to grow up believing in the genteel romantic ideal that pervaded late-nineteenth-century American culture. Gatsby is an easy short read, but the novel is full of fine-spun patterns and ironies. The wife, at the wheel of her lover’s car, runs down and kills the lover of her husband. Gatsby and Myrtle have a lot in common, and when the latter dies the magic aura departs from Gatsby’s quest. This is very difficult to film; in fact it’s impossible. DiCaprio can mug, but he can’t do Fitzgerald." (Taki)


"President Barack Obama’s longtime strategy guru David Axelrod has signed on for a post-campaign gig as a 'senior political analyst' for NBC News and MSNBC. Mr. Axelrod previously served as a senior strategist for President Obama in the 2008 and 2012 campaigns. During the president’s first term, he was on the White House staff as a senior advisor. Mr. Axelrod joins several other big names in NBC and MSNBC’s stable of political analysts. His counterpart from the 2008 campaign, former advisor to John McCain Steve Schmidt, former RNC Chairman Michael Steele and former Democratic Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell all work as analysts for MSNBC. Mr. Axelrod is the only one in this group who will be working for the NBC’s traditional broadcast news operation as well as the more left-leaning, opinionated MSNBC cable channel. Another former Obama administration official, ex-Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, also signed on to do double-duty as a contributor to both NBC News and MSNBC last month." (Observer)


"In 1215, King John allegedly spent the night before signing the Magna Carta at Duncroft, a manor about 20 miles west of London. By the 1970s, Duncroft had become an 'approved school,' a stately home with bars on the windows for intelligent wayward girls. It was visited often by the BBC’s radio and TV star Jimmy Savile, Britain’s greatest pedophile. Growing up, BBC producer Meirion Jones would visit Duncroft, where his aunt was the headmistress, and he would witness Savile, the flamboyant M.C. of the music show Top of the Pops, alight from his Rolls-Royce proffering cigarettes, rides, and invitations to the BBC studios in London, where, it is now believed, he violated dozens of under-age girls—as well as boys—in his dressing room. 'My parents would say to my aunt, ‘What are you doing letting a 50-year-old man take a bunch of under-age girls in his car?’ And my aunt would say, ‘Oh, he’s a friend of the school.’ ' (Jones’s aunt has recently said she had no idea Savile was a predatory pedophile.) When Savile died, on October 29, 2011, at the age of 84, having been knighted by the Queen as well as the Pope, he was one of Britain’s most famous personalities, a combination of Dick Clark, Johnny Carson, and Wolfman Jack. The self-proclaimed creator of the first disco, he claimed to be the first D.J. to play records for money, in rough dance halls in Leeds and Manchester as far back as the 40s and 50s. In the early 60s, he counted among his friends the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Savile became so renowned for his charity work that he was literally given the keys to several hospitals and institutions, where he had his own rooms and volunteered as a porter and administrator, all the while cunningly waiting for chances to pounce on ill and vulnerable girls. He was proud of spending New Year’s Eve with Margaret and Denis Thatcher by the fire at Chequers, the British prime minister’s country house, and of acting as a go-between when Diana and Charles’s marriage was falling apart. A senior Health Service official known to one BBC staffer remembers once in the 80s being called to Highgrove House, where Prince Charles introduced everyone to 'my health adviser, Jimmy Savile.' Dan Davies, Savile’s biographer, told me, “He was a very serious confidant to the heir of the throne up until Charles got together with Camilla. Then his influence waned.” (VanityFair)


"The Gov. of New York State was with his astoundingly attractive one and only, the famous Sandra Lee, who was honoree of the night for the (NYC The Bowery) Mission’s 14th year Valentine celebration at the Plaza Ballroom. Ms. Lee, Emmy winner and food famous, is quite something and we quickly understood why they’d chosen to honor her — she never leaves a loaf of bread uncut and unbuttered when it comes to the helpless and hungry. The Mission itself, has been aiding New Yorkers for 133 years and is busy now outfitting two townhouses in Harlem for further recovery programs. The Mission on the Bowery, with its famous red door, was beset and flooded from Hurricane Sandy. But the night before, they had organized for the needs of the aftermath. The morning after, they served hundreds of meals to the displaced and even provided kosher food for those who needed it.  Although the hostess of the Mission’s big night, one Veronica Kelly, was ill from dehydration in the hospital, her famous husband ( and hero in my book) Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, ably took her place. We were quite a table: Ray, the Guv, Sandra, Liz, Arianna Huffington, the Guv’s sister-in-law Cristina, Scott Leurquin of the Landmarks Conservancy, Bowery head Ed Morgan, actress Judith Light. And I got a big kiss from Mayor Mike Bloomberg as I entered and he departed the Plaza.  Both Judith and Arianna went to the podium and spoke lovingly of their friend Sandra and were ably assisted by a ravishingly scarlet clad Maria Bartiromo who emceed with plenty of glamour. (She was wearing some fabulous jewelry!) The Bowery Mission, which does more for New Yorkers than I ever even began to know, raised almost $800,000 on this night ..." (Liz Smith/NYSocialDiary)



"For the first time in more than a decade I did not cover Fashion Week in New York, nor will I write about the upcoming Milan or Paris catwalks. Instead, I’m spending the time usually given over to the traveling fashion circus working on my book about the 1973 Franco-American runway extravaganza at Versailles. I did attend a couple of presentations. I went to Chado Ralph Rucci because the designer worked with Halston — one of the participants at Versailles — and because Rucci is a unique blend of traditional couture technique and American sportswear. I also wanted to see Thom Browne’s first runway presentation for his signature womenswear. Since First Lady Michelle Obama wore his expertly tailored coat and dress to the inauguration in January, I was sure that his work would figure prominently in future storytelling. His collection was indeed a wonder — a dazzling blend of crisp tailoring, dignified menswear fabrics, and romance. Set against a backdrop of a winter forest populated by men in gray suits, who lay blindfolded and tethered to cots with blood-red bandages, the show was erotic, magical, and tantalizingly twisted. But that was it. Two shows. I was invited to a host of presentations and other events but I declined almost all of them. I did New York Fashion Week on my own terms: selfishly and sparingly. As a writer, I went where I had reason to be and I was treated warmly and professionally. Indeed, at Browne's show, I was situated, as usual, alongside my colleagues from the Los Angeles Times. I did not go to any show for pure amusement. I did not go to shop, to preen, to stoke my ego, or to catch up with friends. I kept it professional, not personal. I did not want to be the unaffiliated journalist on a fishing expedition confounding publicists and testing the ability of the individual to transcend the transactional nature of fashion. I dodged the intimacy trap." (Robin Givahn)

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