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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


""Globe-trotting Secretary of State John Kerry was on one of his rare stopovers in Washington, when I caught up with him the other day. 'I’m here a lot more than people think,' he said, smiling but sounding defensive, even before he sat down to begin our conversation in the sunny anteroom of his headquarters on the seventh floor of the State Department. Never mind the 245,000 miles and counting on the old Boeing 757, he insisted; he’s not permanently on an airplane, leaving Foggy Bottom to run on autopilot. Neither is he a cockeyed optimist, promising a Middle East peace that remains as elusive as ever. And yes, he is consulted by the White House—recent evidence of his exclusion from major decisions and policy reviews to the contrary. 'I can call the president anytime and see him anytime I need to,' he told me in what amounted to his first extensive comments on the latest outbreak of second-guessing that has greeted his wide-ranging diplomatic forays. The secretary of state went on to dismiss the 'Washingtonian… political babble' that he is permanently cut out of the Obama loop, protested that 'I’m inured to all of that by now' and just generally told his critics in polite but insistent terms to pipe down. Certainly, there are plenty of critics to answer; everyone, it seems, is taking a swing at John Kerry these days. Just hours before our interview, his old friend and longtime Senate colleague John McCain had called him a 'human wrecking ball,' an insult apparently aimed at the secretary’s penchant for careening around the globe on person-to-person diplomatic missions. Not long before that, the French foreign minister publicly torched his Iran nuclear deal, calling it a 'fool’s bargain,' while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted it as 'the deal of the century'—for the Iranians. And then there was a scathing column by Jackson Diehl in the Washington Post, mocking Kerry for living in a 'dream world' of his own making, a 'delusional' bubble where peace is really possible in the Middle East, the Russians are actually trying to help us end the war in Syria and the Egyptian generals who overthrew an elected government didn’t in fact carry out a coup. Clearly, the harsh words sting, especially at a moment when Kerry has so many diplomatic balls in the air that it’s almost impossible to say whether he’ll end up looking like a negotiating genius—or a secretary with a bad case of overreach." (Politico)


"As Washington was comprehensively transfixed over the past couple weeks with the epic failure of the Obamacare launch, something very interesting was happening in the Senate. With little fuss or fanfare, social conservatives lost their once-iron grip on the modern Republican Party. Up for consideration was legislation called ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. A high priority of the LGBT community for years, ENDA has the support of President Obama and the overwhelming majority of congressional Democrats.But that and $4.50 will get you a breakfast panini and a medium coffee in the Senate, where 60 votes are necessary in the case of most legislation to end a filibuster and proceed to a floor vote. That means even with the unanimous support of Senate Democrats, which ENDA enjoys, you need seven Republicans to go along. And let’s just say that advancing the agenda of the Human Rights Campaign has not exactly been a priority for even a tiny minority of congressional Republicans, including the gay ones (and you know who you are). And yet—the cloture motion passed with room to spare. Seven Republicans (Kelly Ayotte, Susan Collins, Orrin Hatch, Dean Heller, Mark Kirk, Rob Portman, and Pat Toomey) joined 52 Democrats and the Senate’s two liberal independents to produce a 61-30 tally, with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) also in support of cloture but not voting. On final passage, the eight GOP senators were joined by two more, Jeff Flake and John McCain, yielding a convincing 64-32 result. On the House side, Speaker John Boehner has said he sees 'no basis or need' for the legislation. Most observers seem to be betting that he won’t bring it to the floor. Nevertheless, the political ramifications of what happened in the Senate are potentially far-reaching. The 'Defense of Marriage' era of the predominance of social conservatism in the GOP seems to be ending." (TNR)


"Morocco rarely figures into international news headlines these days, something of a virtue in this restive part of the world. The term Maghreb, which translates as 'land of the setting sun,' eventually came to denote a stretch of land starting in the Western Sahara and running through the Atlas Mountains and ending before the Nile River Valley, encompassing modern-day Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. However, the Maghreb originally meant the lands that define Morocco, where the setting sun marked the Western frontier of the Islamic empire. This evening in Tangier, I watch as ribbons of intense red and orange weave through plum-tinted clouds and settle behind the mountains on the Spanish coastline. Those mountains that almost seem a stone's throw away are where a Moroccan general, Tariq ibn Ziyad, massed his troops for a conquest ordered by the sixth Umayyad caliph in the early 8th century to expand the frontier of the caliphate to theIberian Peninsula. Jebel al Tariq, Arabic for 'the mountain of Tariq,' eventually came to be known as Gibraltar, the highly strategic narrow strait where the Atlantic and the Mediterranean meet. When the light is just right, you can see cerulean waters of the Mediterranean sharply contrasting with the dark moody waters of the Atlantic in a strategic aqua-hued borderland. Tangier and the Spanish-controlled city of Ceuta slightly to the east are the closest Africa gets to Europe. Consequently, this prized tip of the Maghreb was rarely held by Morocco's local inhabitants, who were too weak and outnumbered to compete effectively with the seafaring powers of the Mediterranean that were more interested in building trading outposts en route to Iberia than in venturing into the Maghrebi hinterland. But Morocco is also much more than its coastline. The country is defined by its mountainous spine, flanked by the coastline to the north and the Sahara Desert to its south. The Atlas chain starts south of Marrakech and runs northeast into Algeria, breaking only at the Taza Gap, a narrow access point to the Atlantic. The highlands are inhabited by Morocco's local natives, given the name Berbers by Greeks and Romans who regarded them as "barbari," Greek for 'barbarians,' who refused to adapt to their ways. In contrast, Berbers often use the term "Imazighen," which translates as "freemen," to describe their tribal community that is defined by their fighting prowess and raw, independent spirit. Stuck between entrenched and defiant Berbers in the mountains and a coastline that frequently fell prey to the Europeans, early Muslim settlers focused on the plains and mountain passages in the interior, where the ancient cities of Fez and Marrakech developed as the political and cultural hubs of the Maghreb and linked trans-Saharan trade with maritime commerce in the Mediterranean." (STRATFOR)


"My lunch was canceled and so I did not have to leave the house, except to walk the dogs, and I spent the day at my desk. Sometimes on days like this I don’t get very much done. This happened to me last Friday also. I always think I should be doing something constructive if I’m not working (or sleeping), so on that day I polished and shined six pairs of shoe. Accomplishment/ satisfaction. And I went back to my book that I’ve been reading a few pages at a time -- whenever I have had a moment -- for the past two weeks: Guy de Rothschild’s memoir “The Whims of Fortune.” I’ve written about this before and I’ll do it again until I can tell you why it keeps my interest despite my absence from it. Baron de Rothschild led a life far from my personal experience, and yet he brings us all together in describing his rarefied experience. He lived to his ninety-third year, so his world view covered the 20th century and its trials and wonders. I’ve just finished the part that took place during the Second World War when Nazi Germany invaded Paris and everyone’s life changed instantly, even if they didn’t notice. As a Jew, and as a Frenchman, he and his family were directly affected by the horror. Many had it far worse than he did, including relatives of his, but he’s always levelheaded in his reflections, and so we get a direct, hard look at the circumstances surrounding everybody." (NYSocialDiary)


For Maria Bartiromo, 20 years at CNBC was enough. We don’t know yet where on Fox Business she will be anchoring, but we do know the move, announced earlier today, will re-unite her with many of her former CNBC colleagues, including: Liz Claman joined FBN just after it launched in Oct. 2007. Charlie Gasparino joined in Feb. 2010. Dennis Kneale followed 8 months later. Melissa Francis made the move in June 2012 Neil Cavuto worked for CNBC in the 1990s, and joined Roger Ailes at the launch of Fox News Channel in 1996. Since the launch of FBN in 2007, Cavuto has anchored a show on each of the networks." (TVNewser)



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