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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres




"In the wake of President Barack Obama's change of tack from a strike on Syria, the threat of war has not dissolved. It has, however, been pushed off beyond this round of negotiations.  The president's minimalist claims are in place, but they are under serious debate. There is no chance of an attack on chemical weapons stockpiles. Therefore, the attack, if any, will be on command and control and political targets. Obama has options on the table and there will be force in place for any contingency he selects. Nothing is locked in despite public statements and rhetoric in Washington, London, Paris or Moscow. Remember that all public statements now are meant to obscure real plans and intentions. They are intended to shape the environment. Read them, but do not look at them as anything more than tactics.The issue has morphed into a U.S.-Russian confrontation. Russia's goal is to be seen as an equal of the United States. It wins if it can be seen as a protagonist of the United States. If it can appear that Washington has refrained from an attack because of Russian maneuvers, Moscow's weight increases dramatically. This is particularly the case along Russia's periphery, where doubts of American power abound and concern over Russian power abides. This is not merely appearance. After all that has been said, if the United States buys into some Russian framework, it will not be seen as a triumph of diplomacy; it will be seen as the United States lacking the will to act and being pushed away out of concern for the Russians. The Russian ploy on weapons controls was followed by the brilliant move of abandoning strike options. Obama's speech the night of Sept. 10 was addressed to the U.S. public and Obama's highly fractured base; some of his support base opposes and some -- a particular audience -- demands action. He cannot let Syria become the focus of his presidency, and he must be careful that the Russians do not lay a trap for him. He is not sure what that trap might look like, and that's what is unnerving him as it would any president. Consequently, he has bought time, using the current American distaste for military action in the Middle East. But he is aware that this week's dislike of war can turn into next week's contempt on charges of weakness. Obama is an outstanding politician and he knows he is in quicksand. The Russians have now launched a diplomatic offensive that emphasizes to both the Arabs in the Persian Gulf opposing Bashar al Assad and the Iranians supporting him that a solution is available through them. It requires only that they ask the Americans to abandon plans for action. The message is that Russia will solve the chemical weapons problem, and implicitly, collaborate with them to negotiate a settlement. Obama's speech on Sept. 10, constrained by domestic opinion, came across as unwilling to confront the Russians or al Assad. The Russians are hoping this has unnerved al Assad's opponents sufficiently to cause them to use the Russians as their interlocutors. If this fails the Russians have lost nothing. They can say they were statesmen. If it succeeds, they can actually nudge the regional balance of power. The weakness of the Russian position is that it has no real weight. The limit on American military action is purely domestic politics. If the United States chooses to hit Syria, Russia can do nothing about it and will be made to look weak, the tables thus turned on them." (STRATFOR)


"Before dawn on Friday, April 13, 2012, King Juan Carlos of Spain took a fall while on an elephant-hunting safari in Botswana and was immediately flown home to Madrid, where he underwent emergency hip-replacement surgery the next morning. Were it not for the injury, His Majesty’s African adventure would have no doubt remained a secret, as had almost everything to do with his private life since he took the throne, in 1975, upon the death of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, the long-ruling dictator who had arranged for the restoration of the monarchy. Instead, the 75-year-old King—long accustomed to stratospheric popularity ratings and deferential treatment from the press for his role in securing Spain’s democracy—was confronted with an avalanche of scathing criticism. 'The spectacle of a monarch hunting elephants in Africa while the economic crisis in our country causes so many problems for Spaniards transmits an image of indifference and frivolity,' thundered El Mundo, Spain’s leading conservative newspaper. The country’s largest paper, El País, calculated that a luxury safari like the King’s would cost nearly $60,000 (including $15,000 for the permit and fees to kill an elephant)—twice the average annual salary in a country suffering through the worst depression in Europe after Greece’s. Nearly every Spanish newspaper, TV channel, and online news site ran the now infamous photograph of Juan Carlos standing proudly in front of a dead elephant, which he had killed on a previous undisclosed big-game shoot. Compounding the embarrassment, four days before the King’s fall, his 13-year-old grandson—the son of his older daughter—had shot himself in the foot during target practice at one of the royal family’s country houses, and police were investigating the incident because in Spain the use of firearms by those under the age of 14 is illegal. This in turn had allowed the press to bring up a family tragedy that had occurred 56 years earlier, when Juan Carlos, then 18, accidentally shot and killed his 14-year-old brother, Alfonso. It soon came out that the King’s hunting party had included Princess Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, a glamorous, 46-year-old, twice-divorced German businesswoman based in Monaco, and that she had flown with him on the plane of Mohamed Eyad Kayali, a Syrian-born Saudi deal-maker, who paid for the safari. Although Sayn-Wittgenstein denied any “improper relationship” with the King, it was reported that Queen Sofía, who had flown to Athens Friday, to spend Greek Orthodox Easter with her brother, former king Constantine, was informed of her husband’s fall upon her arrival there, and decided to stick to her plan to return to Madrid on Monday.
The first call for the King to step down in favor of his son, Crown Prince Felipe, came that weekend, when Tomás Gómez, Madrid’s regional Socialist Party leader, told the press, 'The moment has arrived for the head of state to decide between his obligations and public responsibilities and an abdication that would allow him to enjoy a different life.'" (VanityFair)


"Daily Show weighed in on Tuesday’s election results last night, and celebrated mayoral winner Bill de Blasio’s 'incredibly awesome family'–at one point donning an afro wig to try to be more like Mr. de Blasio’s famous son, Dante. 'Adopt me?' asked host Jon Stewart after playing a clip of the family on victory night doing their signature dance move, 'The Smackdown.' 'You know, somehow after 12 years of captain soda narc, I think New York City might be ready for a charismatic biracial family with their own signature synchronized dance moves, that appear to have been beamed here from their very own 1970s musical variety special. Who is better than this family? Nobody is better than this family!' he proclaimed. He also turned his attention to former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who sneaked into his own not-so-victory party through a McDonald’s to avoid sexting buddy-turned-porn-star Sydney Leathers and departed with a raised middle finger salute to the press. 'It’s not really how it seems a mayoral campaign usually ends. It’s more how an episode of Cops ends,' Mr. Stewart joked. Later, on The Colbert Report, host Stephen Colbert took credit for Joe Lhota’s win, after he endorsed the candidate for his 'pro-crushing kittens' stance." (Observer)


"News reports that deem a gender gap in polling noteworthy — with women as more Democratic and men as more Republican — are falling into a trap described by a journalistic cliché: They’re reporting when a dog bites a man. That’s because it would be far more unusual — akin to a man biting a dog — for there not to be a gender gap in a federal statewide race. First, as most readers surely know, there’s been a noticeable gender gap in presidential voting for the last 30 years. Chart 1 shows how men and women have voted going back to 1972, when the national exit poll started. Remarkably, men and women voted for Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford in precisely the same proportions in 1976. The real gender gap started in 1980, when men preferred Ronald Reagan to a much greater extent than did women. Since then, women have regularly voted 6-10% more Democratic than men — or if you prefer, men have voted 6-10% more Republican than women.
What may not be so well known is how persistent this gender gap is in individual state-level presidential battles and also in Senate contests. We went back and looked at hundreds of exit polls since 2004 in presidential and Senate races and found that 87.5% of statewide Senate and presidential races featured a clear gender gap, which on account of poll error we are defining as the Democratic candidate doing at least three net percentage points better with women than with men.
Of 273 state-level presidential and Senate polls we analyzed from 2004 through 2012, 239 showed the Democratic candidate doing significantly better among women than men. Another 27 had no gender gap, falling within plus-or-minus three net points. Then there were only seven where the Republican candidate actually did significantly better with women than they did with men.Those seven contests were: George W. Bush in Missouri, Montana and Texas (2004 presidential); John McCain in Nebraska (2008 presidential); Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) in her 2006 reelection; Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) in his 2006 reelection; and Cynthia Thielen (R-HI), who otherwise was trounced by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) in his 2006 reelection." (Sabato)


"It was Wednesday and so it was Michael’s. It was a typical pandemonium of a room, as Wednesday often are. A real 'up' day ... Meanwhile Michael’s. The joint was jumping. At the table next to mine, Peter Brown, the international P.R. guru was lunching with New York Post’s distinguished theatre critic Michael Riedel. Next to them it was Joe Armstrong, the Mayah of Michael’s with Dave Zinczenko of Men’s Fitness and ABC  television as a news correspondent. Behind  Brown and Riedel at Table One, ATV Music’s Martin Bandler. Across the way, three of Da Boyz: Michael Kramer, Dr. Gerry Imber and Gerry della Femina; across from them, producer/casting agent Bonnie Timmerman with stage and film producer Fred Zollo; Diane Clehane (our very own Brenda Starr) with Steven Stolman of Scalamandre. Steven, who is assiduously expanding the “brand” of the textiles and fabrics house in to china, flatware, wallpapers, is now writing a book on the long and fascinating life of Scalamandre. Around the room. Nikki Haskell with Rikki Klieman and Eva Mohr;  Desiree Gruber with Marc Graboff, President of NBC Television; Simon & Schuster’s Alice Mayhew and her author, Jennet Conant; Sam Shuman; Sharon Bush and Bettina Zilkha; Michael Mailer; Glenn Horowitz; Nan Talese; Ryan Kavanaugh with Claire Atkinson of the New York Post; Tony Hoyt and Charla Lawhon; Pauline Brown of LVMH with Hamilton South; David Adler, founder of Bizbash." (NYSocialDiary)

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