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Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"Last week began with certainty that an attack on Syria was inevitable and even imminent. It ended with the coalition supporting the attack somewhere between falling apart and not coming together, and with U.S. President Barack Obama making it clear that an attack was inevitable, maybe in a month or so, if Congress approves, after Sept. 9 when it reconvenes. This is a comedy in three parts: the reluctant warrior turning into the raging general and finding his followers drifting away, becoming the reluctant warrior again.  Begin with the fact that the United States was not the first country calling for military intervention in Syria after pictures of what appeared to be the dead from a chemical attack surfaced. That honor went to France, Turkey and Britain, each of whom called for action. Much as with Libya, where France and Italy were the first and most eager to intervene, the United States came late to the feast. The United States did not have any overriding national interest in Syria. It has been hostile for a long time to Assad's regime. It has sympathy for the Sunni insurgents but has drawn the conclusion that the collapse of Assad is not likely to lead to a democratic regime respecting human rights, but to an Islamist regime with links to al Qaeda. The United States is in the process of recovering from Iraq and Afghanistan, and is not eager to try its hand at nation building in Syria, especially given the players. Therefore the American attitude toward Syria has been to express deep concern while staying as far away as possible, much as the rest of the world has done. What started to draw the United States into the matter was a statement made by the president in 2012, when he said that the use of chemical weapons would be a red line. He didn't mean he wanted to intervene. He set the red line because he figured that it was the one thing Assad wouldn't try. It was an attempt to stay out, not an announcement of interest. In fact, there had been previous evidence of small-scale chemical attacks, and the president had dodged commitment." (STRATFOR)


"It was late summer and the Presidential campaign between incumbent Richard Nixon and challenger George McGovern was at full tilt. Warren Beatty was a McGovern campaign insider and fundraiser. He organized a sensational 'Stars for McGovern' rally at Madison Square Garden. Christopher Porterfield gave the assignment to me. The hook was that some famous former pairings would reuniting for the occasion, including Simon & Garfunkel, Elaine May and Mike Nichols. My editor was the esteemed and renowned Henry Grunwald. Henry was a smart, charming man, who had old-world dash, consummate wit and a mastery of his domain. He was a good magazine editor, too. He circulated with ease in the corridors of power but also gave positive reinforcement even to those of us at the bottom of the ladder. He and his wife, Beverly, were a matched pair kind of couple. They hosted fun parties in their apartment, where everyone danced. After a raucous Rolling Stones concert, a note arrived, slipped under my office door. It was from Henry. He liked my story. 'But why didn’t you take me with you?' For the Warren Beatty fundraiser he suggested we go together. 'David Frost has a car. He’ll pick us up,' he said. I swallowed my excitement. Invitations such as this were de rigueur at Time. Only recently one of the editors invited me to dinner with this 'new fad,' David Bowie. Did David Frost ever have a car! Before stretch limousines were the norm, Frost had a very long, black Lincoln Continental." (Liz Smith)


"Cicero was a wise human being who wrote that a man with a garden and a library has all he needs. He also said that only a man without a brain Tweets. (Well, he would have said it were he around today.) The Oxford philosopher John Gray, a man I used to get drunk with until he gave up the sauce, insists that the pursuit of distraction has now been embraced as the meaning of life. Gray knows what he’s talking about. In his latest book, The Silence of Animals, he portrays man as a desperate creature who twists and turns to avoid acknowledging that he, too, is an animal. The Ancient Greek philosopher Taki calls people that Tweet and spend their time on Facebook the closest thing to subhumans. Cicero, John Gray, Taki—three great thinkers known for their silences and (I can only speak for the latter) not owning a mobile phone. Yes, dear readers, one can no longer read a news report online without one hundred bilious and moronic comments following it. Everyone today has become a commentator, parading his or her idiotic and illiterate musings for the world to see and read. It seems that shame is a word no longer understood by the great unwashed—and even some who shower daily. A British reporter recently broadcast the actual recording of his vasectomy over the Web. What a pity his father didn’t have one before that particular slob came onboard." (Taki)


"NYSD readers may have seen the two re-runs from Ellen Glendinning Frazer Ordway’s great collection of personal photographs taken between the late 1920s through the 1960s this past Friday (edited and organized beautifully by Augustus Mayhew). This great collection is one of the rare personal documents of the history of American society in the 20th century. As it was accumulated purely as a personal hobby, to which Mrs. Ordway was devoted all her life, it achieved a rare sort of authenticity. This past, Saturday, the day after we ran it, we received a message from a reader that one of the women who often appears in Mrs. Ordway’s photos, Lucille Balcom -- always known to her friends and family as Lulu -- had died last Thursday afternoon at her summer home on Fisher’s Island at the age of 100, only two months from her 101st birthday. Mrs. Balcom was born Louise Parsons in Montclair, New Jersey on November 1, 1912. Her father J. Lester Parsons founded the international re-insurance firm of Crum & Forster in 1896. Lulu grew up on the family estate in Orange, New Jersey and attended Miss Porter’s in Farmington Connecticut. When she was 23, in 1935, she married her first husband, George Vanderbilt, the son of Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt Sr. who had died in 1915 in the sinking of the Luisitania, and Margaret Emerson who was widely known as the 'Bromo-Seltzer' heiress. The Vanderbilts had one daughter, also named Lucille. Fifteen years later in 1950, the Vanderbilts divorced and Lulu married Ronald Bush Balcom, a champion skier who had previous attained celebrity when he married Standard Oil heiress Millicent Rogers." (NYSocialDiary)


"The bitter divorce between publishing scion James Fairchild and his estranged wife Whitney St. John has taken an even uglier turn as they battle over possessions worth more than $200,000 including fine jewelry and faux taxidermy from Switzerland. Sag Harbor real-estate broker Whitney was ordered by a state Supreme Court judge to place the marital property in a neutral location by December last year, but James claims she has been wearing some of the jewelry at society events and alleges she sold other pieces to wealthy friends. Now the judge in their divorce case, which has been going on since 2011, has ordered both of them to appear at a hearing tomorrow over their goods, which had been bought in order to start a high-end boutique in Southampton. Fairchild’s lawyer Michael Stutman, the head of family practice at Mishcon de Reya told us, 'Ms. St. John will address the issues raised by Mr. Fairchild in his recent motion to have her found in contempt of a 2012 court order directing her to return the property that she listed as costing $216,000 to a neutral location. The original court order directed her to return [these] items by December 17, 2012, 256 days ago. Instead of returning the items, which include valuable jewelry, she has them stored somewhere except when she decides to wear pieces at the various society events that she favors attending.' Some of the items include: fine diamond earrings and bracelets from Italy worth $15,000; 27 pieces of costume jewelry by high-end designers; and handmade faux taxidermy valued at $30,000." (PageSix)

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