Monday, March 18, 2013

MediaWhore D'Oeuvres

"A few weeks before, a sniper had terrorized the Washington suburbs. Anthrax attacks had killed five people and infected 17 others. What would come next? In October, I attended a crowded briefing in the fourth-floor auditorium of the Executive Office Building, at which the Secret Service explained its plans to protect the White House against a biological attack. They weren’t very reassuring. Basically, we’d all be dead. Even more disturbing were the small-session briefings by staffers for the new Homeland Security adviser. They warned of simultaneous car bombings at strategic intersections, targeted assassinations of officials as they retrieved their morning papers from their stoops, and poisonous gases released in Metro stations. Like many Washingtonians, my wife and I had prepared an emergency kit in the basement: canned goods, bottled water, flashlights, batteries. We had an evacuation plan, a rendezvous point two hours outside the city, and a stipulated wait time after which she was to presume I was a casualty. These anxieties may sound luridly overdramatic today, but they suffused the mental atmosphere of the government of the United States as President Bush made the fateful decision to launch the Iraq War. Yet it was not only fear that drove the administration’s thinking about Iraq. It was also passionate enthusiasm for a new Middle East. The first time I met Ahmed Chalabi was a year or two before the war, in Christopher Hitchens’s apartment. Chalabi was seated regally at one end of Hitchens’s living room. A crowd of nervous, shuffling Iraqis crowded together at the opposite end. One by one, they humbly stepped forward to ask him questions or favors in Arabic, then respectfully stepped backward again. After the Iraqis departed, Chalabi rose from his chair and joined an engaged, open discussion of Iraq’s future democratic possibilities." (David Frum)

"Renata Adler, whose two seminal novels, Speedboat and Pitch Dark, are being reissued this week by the New York Review of Books, is a fragile, uncertain, and often scattered presence. And yet, as a writer, she has some almost other-worldly fierceness, which has been directed at, among other things, the literary establishment. There may not ever have been as gifted and as lauded a writer who has so bit the hand responsible for feeding the careers of the gifted and lauded. Adler is 74. She is one of the most brilliant – that is, vivid, intense, astute, and penetrating – essayists in contemporary letters, and most contrarian: much of what you think she will passionately undo. And she is a novelist whose voice, even decades after her books were written, seems new and original, and, if you are a writer, one you wish were your own. She was, from 1965 and for the next 15 years or so, a leading light in a particular brilliant period of American writing. She was an "it" girl, complete with iconic look and memorable pictures by Richard Avedon, provocative and fashionable. (I recall my parents, culture vultures in suburban New Jersey, discussing her with great awe.) She was Lena Dunham many times over. In her twenties, she was a favored New Yorker writer – covering civil rights, Vietnam, and war in Biafra. And the New Yorker, then, was the equivalent of something similar to HBO now – you wouldn't have missed it, or her. In 1968, she became the New York Times film critic (the first woman in the job when being the first women was a miraculous transformation) at a moment when writing about film was, arguably, more influential than making them – and when the New York Times was the first and last critical word." (TheGuardian)

"One way that cable news differs from more traditional news providers — newspapers, for example — is cash. They make a lot of it, that is. We hear that Fox News tallies net profits in the range of $1 billion. The comparable number for CNN has been reported as $600 million (the figure includes the company’s various channels and Web sites). Hey, even the dismal-ratings-achieving Current TV, in the words of founder and former chief Al Gore, was “profitable each year” and sold out for a princely $500 million.
With all that money flowing in, cable networks surely are moving to greater and greater amounts of enterprise journalism. They must be stacking their programming schedules with more resource-intensive live coverage and investigating more stuff." (WashPo)

"President Barack Obama’s former top adviser David Plouffe says Hillary Clinton is 'probably the strongest' candidate in either party among potential 2016 presidential contenders. 'She is in both parties right now by far I think the most interesting candidate, probably the strongest candidate. But she has right now the opportunity to take some well deserved and rare time for her with her family and figure things out,' Plouffe said on Sunday to PBS’s Jeff Greenfield during an interview at the 92nd Street Y. He later added: 'I think all of us who went through that primary just have the highest degree of admiration for her. She obviously would be an enormously strong candidate if she decided to run, we’ve got others obviously who will look at it certainly if she doesn’t. But it’s too soon to know.'" (Politico)

"The clearest pattern of news audience growth in 2012 came on digital platforms, and the proliferation of digital devices in peoples’ lives seemed to be a big part of the reason. In 2012, total traffic to the top 25 news sites increased 7.2%, according to comScore. And according to Pew Research data, 39% of respondents got news online or from a mobile device 'yesterday,' up from 34% in 2010, when the survey was last conducted. Some 31% of adults owned a tablet computer as of 2013, almost four times the share recorded in May 2011. Pew Research also found that web-enabled smartphones are even more widespread: As of December 2012, about 45% of adults owned a smartphone, up from 35% in May 2011. Accessing news is one of the most popular uses for the devices, enabling Americans to get news whenever they want and wherever they might be. An August 2012 Pew Research study found that fully 64% of tablet owners say they get news on their devices weekly; 37% reported they do so daily. The trend is nearly identical for smartphone owners – 62% said they consume news on their device weekly, and 36% do so daily. When it comes to news people hear from friends and family, social media are playing a growing role, especially among young people, according to a Pew Research survey released in this year’s report, though it is still far from replacing traditional word of mouth. Nearly three-quarters, 72%, say the most common way they hear about news events from family and friends is by talking in person or over the phone. But 15% get most news from family and friends through social media sites. And it rises to nearly a quarter among 18-to-25-year-olds. Seven percent do so via e-mail. Either way, the vast majority say they then seek out news stories to learn more." (Pew Research)

”The current situation in the British government leads me to believe that this Old Etonian-led cabal that rules the United Kingdom is very, very decayed. David Cameron is the 19th British prime minister to have been sent to school at Eton but the first since the OE (Old Etonian) triumvirate of Anthony Eden, Harold Macmillan, and Alec Douglas-Home in the late fifties and early sixties. He has surrounded himself with products of that famous independent school of some 1,300 pupils aged 13 to 18. Chief political theorist and Minister of State for Policy Oliver Letwin went there, as did Downing Street Chief of Staff Edward Llewellyn, as did Government Chief Whip Sir George Young. What is amazing and unnerving is the concentration of power in that 572-year-old school in rural Berkshire. I went to the same school and same house as David Cameron. I went on to the same university where I studied the same subject. Our fathers even worked in adjacent offices in the same London investment bank. I do not disagree with OEs holding top jobs. Boris Johnson is hilarious and gifted as the mayor of London, Prince William is an excellent second heir apparent to the British throne, and Justin Welby seems fine so far as Archbishop of Canterbury. But I find it a little odd that so many of the top jobs are in the hands of alumni. This is not necessarily a great idea in terms of public confidence.“ (Alexander Fiske-Harrison)

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