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Saturday, September 07, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"Conventional wisdom says that a weakened Syria would undermine Iran's regional influence, but a U.S. military intervention in the country could actually benefit Tehran. The government there has devised a sophisticated strategy for responding to a U.S. attack. Of course, Tehran would activate its militant proxies in the region, including Hezbollah, in the event that the United States launches an attack, but it would also exploit Washington's visceral opposition to Sunni jihadist and Islamist groups to gain concessions elsewhere. Iran already has engaged diplomatically with many of those involved in the Syrian conflict. Over the past weekend, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the foreign affairs and national security head for the Iranian parliament, led a delegation to Damascus, presumably to discuss the potential U.S. attack. Earlier on Aug. 29, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani over the phone. Their conversation followed U.N. Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman's visit to Tehran, where he and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif likewise discussed Syria. Even the Omani sultan paid a rare visit to Iran, reportedly carrying with him positive messages from the Obama administration for Iran's new government. Notably, the rhetoric from Tehran -- particularly from its military leadership -- has been relatively tame. Typically the government antagonizes Washington when U.S.-Iranian tensions heat up, and indeed the Syria situation has aggravated tensions. Syria is a critical Iranian ally, and the survival of the al Assad regime is a national security interest for Tehran. Iran cannot afford to directly retaliate against the United States, but it is widely expected to retaliate indirectly through militant proxies. Iran's strategy involves more than just activating these proxy groups. It entails the kind of skillful maneuvering it displayed as the United States sought regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq. Tehran cooperated with Washington, and it benefited greatly from the downfall of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein accordingly. The Iranian strategists who helped devise those approaches are once again in power." (STRATFOR)

"This time, with major foreign partners demanding action, the president felt he had no choice. A significant faction pressed him on this in his foreign policy apparatus. There were those, like National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who favored the use of military force in the events of war crimes and human rights violations on a major scale. One would have thought that she would have supported the war in Iraq against Saddam Hussein, the epitome of war crimes and human rights violations, but she didn't, and that's another matter. The point is that, leaving Iraq, this faction felt that the United States failed to carry out its moral obligations in Rwanda, and applauded the intervention in Kosovo.
This faction is not small and appeals to an important tendency in American political culture that sees World War II as the perfect war, because it was waged against an unspeakable evil, and not for strategic or material gain. That war was more complicated than that, but there was an element of truth to it. And the world, on the whole, approved of American involvement there. For them, this was the model of U.S. foreign policy. Secure behind distance and power, the United States ought not be a typical insecure political power, but should use its strength to prevent the more extreme injustices in the world. For them, the suffering in the Syrian civil war was the result of the repressiveness of the al Assad regime. This faction had an interesting perspective. It focused on the current injustice, not always aware, interested or believing that what came later would be worse. I remember arguing with academic colleagues before the fall of the Shah that while he was certainly a thug, we and the Iranian people would regret what came next. There was a romantic belief that the crowd in the street was always more virtuous than the tyrant in his palace. Sometimes they were right. It is not clear that the fall of the Shah reduced the sum total of human suffering. Throughout the Arab Spring there has been a romanticizing of the crowd in the street, particularly when the crowd is seen through the lens of American exceptionalism. A belief was held, especially by those who saw the United States' primary responsibility as promoting human rights, that the majority of those in the streets wanted to create American-style democracy. Ironically, two groups that despise each other -- neo-conservatives and human rights activists -- took the same view: that if you eliminate tyrants, what would emerge would be constitutional democracies respecting human rights. Obama's Rice in 2013 assumed the same role as Bush's Paul Wolfowitz in 2003. Thus the removal of al Assad became a foreign policy goal of the human rights faction deeply embedded in the ideology of the Obama administration. " (STRATFOR)


"For years, observers inside and out had been prophesying the death of WBAI, birthplace of the nationally syndicated alternative news program Democracy NOW!. The station has not turned a profit in more than a decade. The last year has been particularly tough. Millions of dollars in debt, and unable to pay staff or rent, WBAI has devoted a staggering 169 days to pledge drives since October. Quacks and conspiracy theorists solicited donations by dangling gifts like magic water capable of curing cancer and books that claim, matter-of-factly, that the world is secretly ruled by shapeshifting reptilian overlords. Ask the people who have lived through the slow, sad decline, and they will tell you that the very thing they thought would save the organization—democratizing the network—nearly killed it entirely. Fans of 99.5 WBAI still wax nostalgic about Election Day 2000, when President Bill Clinton made the mistake of calling the station to get out the vote for Al Gore and the Senate campaign of his wife, Hillary. Instead of the few minutes of small talk he expected, Clinton spent 28 minutes under fire from WBAI's Amy Goodman and Gonzalo Aburto, defending his presidency. The pair hammered Clinton with tough question after tough question—Would he grant clemency to Native American activist Leonard Peltier? Did he support a moratorium on the death penalty, considering studies that showed it's tilted toward killing black people? Why did he authorize the bombing of the island of Vieques?—before a frustrated Clinton was forced to excuse himself from the call. It was the stuff of WBAI legend, the stuff listeners lived for—holding privileged feet to the fire, demanding answers to questions the mainstream media wouldn't ask. Over the decades, WBAI built a reputation as a beacon of free speech. It's where James Baldwin debated Malcolm X over the power of nonviolent protest, and where George Carlin broadcast his famous 'Filthy Words' show, the monologue that spawned a debate over indecency and a Supreme Court case to boot.
It wasn't just a radio station; it was a countercultural epicenter." (VillageVoice)


"You know the cliche about how everyone in prison is innocent? Well, if a prisoner is serious about having someone re-investigate their case post-conviction, they send letters explaining their alleged wrongful conviction to their local Innocence Project. If their local Innocence Project thinks the claim is legit, they’ll investigate, and then maybe even bring the case back into court.  While getting my master’s degree in journalism, I worked for the Innocence Project in Pittsburgh, which was run out of Point Park University’s journalism program by one of the best investigative reporters in the country, Bill Moushey. (The university killed its Innocence Project last year—perhaps because there’s no money to be made in prison journalism.)  I took that job at Point Park because it allowed me to get my degree on scholarship with a meager stipend. But I soon became obsessed by the work. Yes, there were legitimate wrongful convictions and those were fascinating and terrifying and infuriating all at once. But while exchanging letters with prisoners and visiting them behind bars, you begin to realize how backward and weird and dysfunctional the prison system itself is. 'Kafkaesque' doesn’t even begin to describe it. The ”no touching” gag from Arrested Development, for example, is a real thing. And rules are followed to an absurd level; paper forms are a part of every transaction, no matter how meaningless. And that’s not to mention the inconsistent sentencing rules, and the absurd racial imbalance, and the fact that it seems easier to bring a gun into a school than a pen into a correctional facility. So I followed prison issues while getting my degree and wrote for City Paper in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh about whatever Pennsylvania state prison issues I could turn into news stories. From there, I had to improvise to continue writing about a topic that obviously fascinates me to this day." (TheBillfold)


"Carine Roitfeld is wearing denim. We’re sitting in an office across from Bloomingdale’s in Midtown, and the decade-long Vogue Paris editor in chief—she left that post in 2011—is perfectly composed, her tan hands crossed gracefully in her lap. And yet she is wearing denim. It’s a more casual look than one might expect from the Parisian vamp, 58, best known for black ensembles, high-slitted pencil skirts and towering stilettos, all of which conspire to make her seem like a Lower East Side seductress. Sultry. Decadent. Dusky. Unapproachable. Not the sort of person who would wear denim, even to do gardening. Not that she would garden. To be fair, the denim is a skirt by Miu Miu—an offshoot of Prada—and it’s paired with Celine sandals, which Ms. Roitfeld claims she’s wearing 'because I broke my foot.' 'It’s this or a cane!' she declares. As for the rest of her outfit, she’s draped in 'this kind of grungy sweater, because it is supposed to be summer.' She does not look grungy. Despite her apparent attempt to prove she’s down to earth, there’s no denying that Ms. Roitfeld, who was recently appointed Harper’s Bazaar’s first-ever global fashion director and has been the longtime muse of folks like Tom Ford, is of another world. This, after all, is the woman who was scouted to be a model at 18, just walking down the street; a woman who, later, as an editor for Vogue, brought overt sexuality to the fashion pages; and a woman who is now the subject of a new feature-length documentary, Mademoiselle C. The film, which opens in select cities next week, chronicles Ms. Roitfeld’s year after leaving Vogue Paris, during which time she founded CR Fashion Book, a biannual magazine of style, and, on the personal front, became a grandmother." (Observer)


"Today here on NYSD we begin our daily coverage of the shows by Ellin Saltzman. I don’t know if I’ve reported this before but Ellin had a long and notable career in fashion retailing for many years at Saks Fifth Avenue and then Bergdorf Goodman. I asked her to do this coverage for us because I knew she could tell the readers what she actually saw and how she would, or would not apply it. I don’t know if I ever reported this other nugget, but many years ago before I became a professional writer, I was in the retailing business and owned a couple of off-price designer sportswear boutiques in Westchester and Fairfield Counties. It was a business that I happened into (by choice and chance) in the long, harried days when I was searching for this road I’m on now. This was back in the 1970s. The clientele was mainly middle and upper-middle income women (everybody likes a bargain), mainly suburban women – many of whom were not 'professional' but rather ran their homes and looked after their families.  It was a very prosperous business, and had I had the passion for it – which I did not – I probably could have made something even more prosperous out of it. It so happened that when I was beginning to rake it in, however, I told myself that if I did continue, indeed, and make a substantial income (formerly known as 'a lot of money'), I’d never be a writer. So, long story short, I sold my business in the late '70s to a woman who worked for me, and I moved myself and my feline and canine friends to Los Angeles. And so it was." (NYSocialDiary)


"I used to see him in El Morocco, the most famous nightclub of its era during the late 1950s and early 60s. He was a very handsome man, beautifully tailored and with impeccable old-fashioned manners, and a heavy drinker. Wine, champagne, and cognac were his drinks, and vodka later in the night. Although invited to sit in the owner’s table where only unaccompanied men were permitted, he was never without female company, and what beauties they were. I had made the cut early on but never had the luck to be at that particular table when he was there, and I was too shy back then to go up to him and introduce myself. He was the author of Im Westen nichts Neues, known to the rest of the world as All Quiet on the Western Front. Erich Maria Remarque was a prolific novelist, a very rich man who collected impressionists and good art as obsessively as he collected women, a man who anti-Nazi writers such as Stefan Zweig and Thomas Mann snubbed, but one whose sister was beheaded by the Nazis because of her loyalty to him. Unlike the snubbers, Remarque had spent three years close to the front, had been wounded three times, and had heroically carried a comrade who was severely wounded to safety, only to discover his buddy was dead on arrival. His fictional hero, Paul Bäumer, does the same thing in All Quiet just before his own death ... Imitation is the poor man’s creation, and I’m about to be poor—I am almost ready to order a new boat—so last week I imitated Remarque and D’Annunzio by going to a chic dinner party at a friend’s house and drinking two bottles of Léoville-Las Cases 1982 followed up by a bottle of vodka. The mother of my children discovered me somewhere in the house bleeding from the head. Knocked out cold. The next morning I never felt better. And I have outlived those two already." (Taki)


"Not many people remain who can tell stories like Lady Pamela Hicks and her big sister, Patricia, Countess Mountbatten of Burma. But, then, few people ever witnessed the history they did. The only children of Louis, Earl Mountbatten of Burma—and great-great-granddaughters of Queen Victoria—the sisters can recall going to tea with Queen Mary, having Mr. and Mrs. Simpson come to one of their parents’ weekend house parties at Adsdean, the family’s estate in Sussex, along with King Edward VIII, and being evacuated from London on the eve of the Blitz to New York, where they were billeted by Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt III at her colossal residence at 640 Fifth Avenue, a vestige of the Gilded Age. Their third cousins Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret served as bridesmaids for Patricia, while Pamela was a member of Elizabeth’s wedding party in 1947. Pamela had to rush back to England for the occasion from India, where her parents were Britain’s last Viceroy and Vicereine, and where she herself would become fast chums with Gandhi and Nehru. In 1952, she set off as a lady-in-waiting on what was to be a six-month tour of the Commonwealth with Elizabeth and Philip, a first cousin. One week out, Pamela was one of the few people with the couple in Africa when word arrived that George VI had died and Elizabeth was now Queen. So while Pamela is 84 (and Patricia is 89), it’s no wonder that her new memoir, Daughter of Empire: Life as a Mountbatten, stops at age 24. There was so much to get in. Yet the ensuing decades continued to be eventful for both sisters. Pamela married celebrated interior designer David Hicks, and Patricia enjoyed a long and fascinating marriage to John Knatchbull, the seventh Baron Brabourne, a movie producer whose credits included A Passage to India and numerous Agatha Christie adaptations. In 1979, their world was upended when a bomb planted by the IRA on a fishing boat off Ireland killed their father, along with one of Patricia’s seven children, her mother-in-law, and a local boy. Patricia and her husband were gravely wounded. Patricia resides in a grand but cozy Queen Anne–period manor in Kent that is called Newhouse. 'Because it was built around 1690, and replaced an older house that had stood here since about the 14th century,' she explains." (VanityFair)



"Yesterday was also the official unofficial opening of the autumn social season in New York with a benefit luncheon for another museum-related project. It was the Couture Council of the Museum at FIT’s 8th annual benefit luncheon on the Promenade of the David Koch Theater at Lincoln Center.
The luncheon now officially and unofficially opens Fashion Week which is centered right next door in the big Mercedes Benz venue set up in Lincoln Center between the Koch Theater and the Metropolitan Opera House. The Couture Council, formed in 2004, is the brainchild of the museum’s director Dr. Valerie Steele to develop support for the museum. Shortly thereafter Liz Peek, then a museum board member had the idea of staging an awards luncheon to raise funds for the museum’s work." (NYSocialDiary)



 

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