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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Media-Whore D'oeuvres


"When seeking to place an attack like the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing into context, it is helpful to classify the actors responsible, if possible. Such a classification can help us understand how an attack fits into the analytical narrative of what is happening and what is likely to come. These classifications will consider factors such as ideology, state sponsorship and perhaps most important, the kind of operative involved. In a case where we are dealing with an apparent jihadist operative, before we can classify him or her we must first have a clear taxonomy of the jihadist movement. At Stratfor, we generally consider the jihadist movement to be divided into three basic elements: the al Qaeda core organization, the regional jihadist franchises, such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and grassroots operatives who are radicalized, inspired and perhaps equipped by the other two tiers but who are not members of either. Within the three-tier jihadist movement there exist two distinct types of operatives. One of these is the professional terrorist operative, a person who is a member of the al Qaeda core or of one of the regional franchises. These individuals swear loyalty to the leader and then follow orders from the organization's hierarchy. Second, there are amateur operatives who never join a group and whose actions are not guided by the specific orders of a hierarchical group. They follow a bottom-up or grassroots organizational model rather than a hierarchical or top-down approach. There is a great deal of variety among professional terrorists, especially if we break them down according to the functions they perform within an organization, roles including that of planners, finance and logistics specialists, couriers, surveillance operatives, bombmakers, et cetera. There is also a great deal of variety within the ranks of grassroots operatives, although it is broken down more by their interaction with formal groups rather than their function. At one end of the grassroots spectrum are the lone wolf operatives, or phantom cells. These are individuals or small groups who become radicalized by jihadist ideology, but who do not have any contact with the organization. In theory, the lone wolf/phantom cell model is very secure from an operational security standpoint, but as we've discussed, it takes a very disciplined and driven individual to be a true lone wolf or phantom cell leader, and consequently, we see very few of them. At the other end of the grassroots spectrum are individuals who have had close interaction with a jihadist group but who never actually joined the organization." (STRATFOR)


"House Speaker John Boehner was spotted yesterday lunching with billionaire David Koch at the Four Seasons Restaurant. A spy said the pair were overheard 'talking about magazines.' Koch and his brother Charles are reportedly interested in bidding on eight Tribune Company newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times." (PageSix)


"Presidential hero stories have two archetypes. One is Lyndon Johnson arm-twisting. The Times today hauls out LBJ biographer Robert Dallek to contrast Johnson’s ruthless arm-twisting with Obama’s stand-offishness. Of course, LBJ enjoyed huge majorities in both houses, along with a majority-rule Senate. When Johnson’s majority shrank following the 1966 midterms, his domestic agenda shriveled away, too, despite his presumably undiminished grasp of arm-twisting and legendarily threatening body language. Obama faces a House controlled by far-right Republicans, and a Senate majority not sufficient to break what has become a routine supermajority requirement. And note that despite his national majority, Obama carried only 48 percent of House districts and 52 percent of the states, short of the threshold for passing laws in either chamber, which suggests that even a perfect effort to apply his popularity to any given issue is insufficient to pass a law. (National Review reporter Robert Costa points out that the sponsors of the background check law wanted Obama to stay in the background, which makes sense given the political geography.). The second archetype comes from the Aaron Sorkin myth, a phrase I used two years ago to mock Drew Westen, who seemed to pine for a Sorkin-esque president who would deliver soaring speeches that would change everything. Maureen Dowd took the myth to the next level in her Sunday column by not merely pining away for a Sorkin-esque hero, as Westen did, but actually citing a Sorkin film ... That’s the answer? Charts with the names of the pols they had to capture? I’m pretty sure the administration knew the names of the senators whose votes it needed. Would it really make a dramatic difference to store the information in chart form? You can’t just jot it down on a notepad?" (Jonathan Chait)


"The digital content wars are heating up, with Netflix reporting better-than-expected earnings on Monday. Netflix, along with other distributors, are changing the way they do business by becoming programmers. Original content is their ammunition in a war for consumers. The first quarter was a turning point in the original content battle: Netflix introduced its first original show, 'House of Cards,' as its stock moved more than 80 percent higher. And its first-quarter earnings report stressed that the original content strategy is paying off ... The big bet on original content isn't a one-quarter play: Netflix didn't launch 'House of Cards' to get a one-quarter bump in subscriber numbers. It is part of a long-term plan to convince subscribers that it has the kind of content, like HBO, that can't be missed.
'I think originals are very important for Netflix to get to the point that people forget about cancelling because they feel like there's always something unique and really interesting coming,' BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield said. However, Netflix faces rising competition in the original—digital—content space. Amazon announced Monday that its 14 original pilots, which it posted online Friday, were the most-watched TV shows across Amazon Instant Video over the weekend." (CNBC)


"Many kind and thoughtful readers have written in to inquire about the health of my friend and Shih-tzu, Missy a/k/a Madame who evidently had a bout of gastroenteritis a couple of Sundays ago. After our (costly) visit to the vet, and without giving her any of her prescriptions, her conditioned turned around within hours. I think she’s a little like me: a visit to the doc is sometimes the cure, at least for the head. By evening she was taking little bits of freshly roasted chicken and finally I just chopped some up with rice and she wolfed it down, then looking up at me as if to say: 'Where’s the rest of it?' (with a wag of the tail). When she had her walks later that night, she pulled me down the avenue, as is her wont. When I told her of the NYSD interest in her, she wondered if it involved treats." (NYSocialDiary)


"Great-slash-terrible news: Max Baucus, Democratic senator from Montana and Senate Finance Committee chairman, will not seek reelection in 2014. Baucus, who just last week was one of the Democrats to join with Republicans in killing President Obama’s gun bill, is disliked by many members of his own party; as one of the leading architects of the Affordable Care Act, he is also disliked by many members of Republican party; and as a septuagenarian politician who’s had his job since 1978 and amassed, according to The New York Times, 'a sizable constellation of former aides working as tax lobbyists, representing blue-chip clients that include telecommunications businesses, oil companies, retailers and financial firms,' he is somewhat of an easy target for any potential Republican opponent who wants to paint him as out of touch with Montana. Adieu, adieu, thy plaintive anthem fades, etc. In line to replace Baucus, just maybe: bolo-tie-wearin’, establishment-hatin’, previous-Senatorial-race-losin’ ex-governor Brian Schweitzer. Note that Schweitzer flaunts his power in a much more fun way than simply cavorting with K Street acquaintances. As CBS News reported in 2011: 'Montana Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer has come up with a memorable way to veto bills coming out of his state’s Republican-led House and Senate: By ordering a cattle brand that says ‘VETO’ and then holding a public ceremony to use it on the G.O.P. legislation.'" ( VanityFair)

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