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Thursday, March 07, 2013

Media-Whore D'oeuvres


"NBC News’s Richard Engel was dispatched to cover Syria’s civil war last December when he lived every war correspondent’s nightmare: he and his crew were dragged from their car at gunpoint, blindfolded, gagged, and held captive by the shabiha militia for five days. Engel documented his captivity in April’s Vanity Fair in a journal-like format, of which this is an excerpt ... A group of about 15 armed men were fanning out around us. Three or four of them stood in the middle of the road blocking our vehicles. The others went for the doors. They wore black jackets, black boots, and black ski masks. They were professionals and used hand signals to communicate. A balled fist meant stop. A pointed finger meant advance. Each man carried an AK-47. Several of the gunmen began hitting the windows of our car and minivan with the stocks of their weapons. When they got the doors open, they leveled their guns at our chests. Time was slowing down as if I’d been hit in the head. Time was slowing down as if I were drowning. This can’t be happening. I know what this is. This can’t be happening. These are the shabiha. They’re fucking kidnapping us. 'Get out!” a gunman was yelling as he dragged Aziz from the car.Then I saw the container truck. It wasn’t far away, parked off the road and hidden among olive trees. The metal doors at its rear stood open, flanked by gunmen.
That’s where they are going to put us. That’s here for us. We’re going into that truck.I got out of the car. Two of the gunmen were already marching Aziz to the truck. He had his hands up, his shoulders back, his head tilted forward to protect against blows from behind." (Richard Engel/VanityFair)
 
 
"Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the latest challenge to what many consider the most important civil rights law of the past century — the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The challenge involves Section 5 of the law, which requires nine states — all but two in the South — to obtain prior approval from the Justice Department before implementing any changes in voting laws, regulations or procedures. The Voting Rights Act, including Section 5, was last renewed in 2006. At that time, overwhelming majorities of Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate voted to renew the law for 25 years based on extensive evidence of continued attempts to suppress or dilute the votes of racial and ethnic minorities in the states covered by Section 5.Despite this legislative record, the justice’s questions and comments during last week’s oral arguments suggest that there is a good chance that the court will vote to strike down Section 5. The five conservative justices on the court, including Chief Justice John Roberts, were clearly skeptical about the continued need for federal supervision of the states covered by Section Five. At one point, Roberts asked whether 'the citizens in the South are more racist than citizens in the North.' Roberts’ question goes directly to what appears to be the central issue in the case — the continued significance of racial prejudice among white voters and political leaders in the states covered by Section 5. The officials bringing the suit to overturn Section 5 and their conservative allies claim that racial prejudice has diminished to the point where federal supervision of state and local governments in the covered states is no longer justified. In support of this argument, they cite the victories of numerous African-American candidates for state and local office and increased turnout rates among African-American voters.There is no doubt that old-fashioned racism has greatly diminished over the past 40 years throughout the nation and in the states covered by Section 5. However, there are good reasons to be concerned about how a decision to overturn Section 5 would affect the voting rights of African Americans and other minorities in these states — for reasons that are more political than racial. That’s because regardless of whether white political leaders in these states hold racist views, they have substantial political incentives for engaging in actions to suppress or dilute the minority vote.
In addition to a history of racial discrimination, the states covered by Section 5 are characterized by an exceptionally high degree of racial polarization in voting up to the present day. Whites and nonwhites in these states are deeply divided in their political preferences, resulting in a two-party system in which one party depends overwhelmingly on votes from whites and the other party depends overwhelmingly on votes from African Americans and other nonwhites. This racial polarization continues to provide a powerful incentive for leaders of the party that depends overwhelmingly on white votes to suppress or dilute the votes of African Americans and other minorities.Racial polarization in voting can be measured by the difference in the racial composition of the electoral coalitions that support the two major parties." (SabatosCrystalBall)


"Last night I went to a book party hosted by Christy Ferer, Barbara Liberman and Christiane Amanpour for their friend Cecile David-Weill who has just published her third novel 'The Suitors' here in America. The book was first published in France and is the second of her books to be published in the United States. It was also chosen for the recommended reading list of Oprah magazine. Cecile is a daughter of a very famous and socially prominent French banking family. As a novelist her subjects have included stories of such families — fictional of course. But the reader naturally thinks 'fictional — wink wink.' And why not. 'The Suitors' is the second of David-Weill’s novels to draw controversy in France. Scandale and all that. Because she says it like it is. Rich people at love and play — a situation a lot of us poor slobs wouldn’t mind considering as our dilemma. This one is about the Old Money families and their way of life. It is a sore subject in France. Unlike our culture where a great number of rich people practically take out ads and hire public relations flacks to get the word out, in France the word is always Non. The French — I mean the very rich ones who live like kings and duchesses in their impeccable chateaux and les hotels particuliars — I’ve been told, never speak of money, never utter the word, let alone describe the loot acquired with it. Ne jamais pas! It’s not only considered tres gauche but also politically dangereuses, liaisons aside. Like such talk might just evoke itchy thoughts among les peuples, about M. Guillot and his famously efficient execution device. The author and I are acquaintances through mutual friends. She has a quiet personality, although neither diffident nor shy. She loves New York and chooses to live here in a convenient and comfortable yet somewhat 'funkier' part of town versus Park or Fifth Avenues." (NYSocialDiary)



(image via fishbowlNY)

"Threats of yet another winter storm (We’re begging for mercy!) didn’t keep the faithful from Michael’s today. In fact, the dining room was even more crowded than usual as some of the city’s biggest hot shots cooled their heels at the bar and in the lounge as they waited to be seated among the power brokers and media mavens. There was plenty of air kisses and glad handing among the talking heads (Joe Kernen, Rosanna Scotto), television titans (Matt Blank, Henry Schleiff) and fashionable folk (Julie Macklowe). After all, what’s the point of having a power lunch in this town if the right people aren’t there to see it — or write about it? Happy to oblige ... (Table) 3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and David Zinczenko, whose victorious return to magazines as contributing editorial director at American Media Inc.’s Men’s Fitness and plans for the launch of his own Galvanize Media, are chronicled in today’s WWD. Maybe it’s “Dave’s Health,” after all ... (Table) 14. Gannett’s Maryam Banikarim and journo Michael Wolff, now a columnist for The Guardian, who famously vowed several years ago never to return to Michael’s after being seated at a table other than his then regular perch at Table 5. It seems all is forgiven as the notoriously prickly scribe has been spotted in the dining room about once a month since late last year." (Diane Clehane)


"Last night, Barack Obama bowed to establishment convention and had what must have been a torturous dinner with twelve Republican senators. Before The Washington Post editorial board gets weepy-eyed over this banquet of bipartisan schmoozing, let’s make one thing clear: Even if he were the most prolific, solicitous, all-around charmingest dinner-host the capital had ever seen (think Kay Graham meets Dick Cavett), Obama would not have accomplished much more than he did the last two years, and possibly less. The reason, as many other commentators have spelled out, is that the limits to grand-bargaining aren’t social but structural. They’re the result of the two parties sorting themselves out along ideological lines; of a sharp move rightward among Republicans; and of basic partisan math in the House and Senate. It’s completely delusional to think these factors could be altered by a few more dreary gabfests at the Jefferson Hotel.Having said all that, I kinda think it could work this time. Sure, the country is as polarized as ever. Sure, the Republicans are nuttier than ever. And, sure, they have the numbers to thwart Obama’s agenda in Congress. But here’s the thing: Even with all that, the deal Obama has put on the table is very, very close to the deal John Boehner himself publicly offered last fall,1 and which several Republican senators have supported in the past. Which is to say, there’s no obvious structural reason why a deal couldn’t happen.In fact, pretty much the only major difference between what Boehner has offered and what Obama is offering now is the number of steps it would take to get the deal done. Obama is proposing that it happen in two steps: The first step was to raise $600 billion through tax-rate hikes during the fiscal cliff deal in January. The second step would be to raise several hundred billion dollars more by closing tax loopholes in exchange for two-to-three times that amount in cuts to entitlement programs and other spending. Boehner, for his part, has proposed similar amounts. He just wanted all the tax-rate hikes, loophole closings, and spending cuts to happen in one big push at the end of last year." (TNR)


"A few hours into his thirteen-hour filibuster on Wednesday, Rand Paul acknowledged that he can't prevent John Brennan from becoming head of the CIA, saying, "Ultimately I can't win. There's not enough votes." Yet, overall the stunt was a massive success for the Kentucky senator. Aside from accomplishing his stated goal of drawing more attention to the Obama administration's suggestion that it has the right to take out a U.S. citizens on American soil in a drone attack (though Attorney General Eric Holder says they probably won't), Rand drew bipartisan support and ensured that he'd be featured on every news program along with clips from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington — which is definitely a plus for a potential 2016 presidential candidate.After leaving the floor shortly before 1 a.m. on Thursday, Paul claimed that he began the day with no intention of starting a filibuster, but an opportunity to gain control of the floor presented itself. "I hadn't planned on it," he said, according to Politico. "I didn't wear my most comfortable shoes or anything. I would have worn different shoes." (As The Wall Street Journal notes, "For an impromptu filibuster, Mr. Paul appeared prepared, carrying a large binder of articles and background reports on the subject of lethal U.S. force.")Paul managed to gain momentum both inside and outside of the Senate chamber as his energy dwindled and the inevitable bathroom break drew closer. A small group of senators, led by Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, helped Paul throughout the day, but GOP aides tell BuzzFeed that Senate Republicans who initially dismissed the filibuster as a futile effort decided to come to the floor as it gained more attention in the media and on Twitter. Marco Rubio made an attention-grabbing cameo, quoting The Godfather, the rapper Wiz Khalifa, and "that modern-day poet by the name of Jay-Z." Around midnight, Mitch McConnell joined in, praising Paul for his "tenacity and conviction" and announcing that he'll oppose Brennan's confirmation.Though Paul has always been a divisive figure, standing up for a really long time to defend Americans' civil liberties proved to be something both parties can rally behind. Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden joined the filibuster (though he said he planned to vote for Brennan) and Paul also enjoyed a brief reprieve from liberal pundits; Jon Stewart called drone oversight "certainly worth kicking up a fuss for,” and Paul was Rachel Maddow's "Best New Thing in the World Today" (though she wasn't a fan of his "gratuitous Hitler references" on the floor)." (NYMag)


"Hillary Clinton tops any of several top-tier possible Republican 2016 candidates — including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — according to a presidential poll on Thursday.Clinton bests Christie 45 percent to 37 percent, according to the Quinnipiac poll, and she trumps Sen. Marco Rubio 50 percent to 34 percent and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), 50 percent to 38 percent. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would start a 2016 presidential campaign with enormous advantages,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a statement. “She obviously is by far the best known and her more than 20 years in the public spotlight allows her to create a very favorable impression on the American people. But it is worth noting that she had very good poll numbers in 2006 looking toward the 2008 election before she faced a relative unknown in Barack Obama.' While Clinton comes out a winner, other possible Democratic contenders did not fare as well. Christie would beat Vice President Joe Biden 43 percent to 40 percent. But Biden would beat Rubio 45 percent to 38 percent. Biden also edges out Ryan 45 percent to 42 percent.As for Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, he’s tied with Rubio at 42 percent. And Ryan would beat Cuomo 42 percent to 37 percent.Brown’s take for the Republicans: you might to want to take another look at Christie." (Politico)



"And just like that, it’s over. Time Warner has ended talks with Meredith regarding merging Time Inc. with the Iowa-based company. As a result, Time Inc. will be spun off into a separate, publicly-traded company. The New York Times reports that the first casualty of the division is Laura Lang, who will leave once Time Inc. once the separation is complete.Yesterday multiple reports emerged that the deal was almost dead. As much as we joked that the deal wouldn’t get done because of Iowa, that wasn’t the main sticking point. The merger fell through because Meredith didn’t want to take on Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Money because they’re pretty much money pits and don’t fit well with Meredith’s brand. Understandable.So the biggest media combo to be discussed in quite some time ends not with a roar, but a few boring statements. Stephen Lacy, CEO of Meredith: “We respect Time Warner’s decision and certainly remain open to continuing a dialogue on how our companies might work together on future opportunities.” Jeff Bewkes, CEO of Time Warner: “After a thorough review of options, we believe that a separation will better position both Time Warner and Time Inc. Time Inc. will also benefit from the flexibility and focus of being a stand-alone company.”" (FishbowlNY)



"Newark Mayor Cory Booker has fielded criticism for openly talking about running for Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s seat, and spending a large proportion of his time out of New Jersey — but it didn’t stop Booker from heading into Manhattan Monday night and discussing his planned 2014 campaign in the middle of a busy restaurant. Lautenberg, 89, has announced he plans to retire, and Booker was overheard telling guests at Bill’s on East 54th Street about his ambition. One diner told us, “Cory confirmed he is running for Senate, but added he can only say this unofficially at the moment.” Booker also talked about his dramatic weight loss, telling dinner guests he “has lost 40 pounds and has 30 to go.” Booker recently spent a week living on food stamps when he said he lost a lot of weight. But Booker — who also doesn’t drink and is cutting back on caffeine — quoted Abraham Lincoln, saying, “It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.” On Tuesday night in his Newark state-of-the-city address, Booker defended his time spent elsewhere — especially the estimated 20 percent he spends visiting New York — saying, “I am relentless and unapologetic in my pursuit of development for our city.” Reps for Booker declined to comment." (PageSix)

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