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Monday, November 25, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres




"Netanyahu has spent the past several months advocating forcefully against an agreement he deems bad; and he deems this one bad. But is it wise of him to continue condemning the deal, now that it has been realized? Or is he closing the proverbial barn door too tardily, in the process damaging his ability to shape future events? For the entirety of Netanyahu’s current term, he has engaged in a sustained game, in public and no doubt in private as well, with Barack Obama, whose presidency began just two months earlier than his prime ministership. The game is this: On Iran’s nuclear program, try to use Israel’s leverage in order to get the United States to go along with Israel’s interests as he perceives them. Netanyahu sees a country fewer than 1000 miles away with an avowedly anti-Zionist leadership developing a nuclear program that sure looks like it has a military component. This was strictly not-okay. In fact, he almost certainly decided that the best thing for his country would be a military strike to cripple Iran’s program. But this game was extremely challenging. For one thing, the United States is differently situated—bigger, stronger, thousands of miles farther away—and hence has different interests. For another, Netanyahu’s bluff could always be called, and the proof of that was the fact that Netanyahu felt he needed to play the game in the first place. After all, if he wanted to bomb Iran himself, he probably could have (particularly back when his defense minister was Ehud Barak, for the first four years of his tenure). But he likely felt he could not, because a strike without U.S. cooperation would have lacked even more legitimacy in the international eye and almost certainly would have done damage not sufficient to justify it. Give
Bibi credit: This was a nearly unwinnable game, and yet for nearly five years he won it. He got a liberal American president not to rule out a military strike and to insist that an Iranian nuclear weapon is unacceptable—that “containment” is not an option. Netanyahu almost certainly created a context in which the weekend’s agreement was less Iran-friendly than it would otherwise have been.
But there was always a fundamental difference, and we are now seeing it made manifest. Neither Obama nor Netanyahu is okay with Iran having nuclear weapons. But Obama is much more okay with Iran’s nuclear program developing, if it means bringing it under greater international control and generally slowly welcoming Iran back into the community of nations. That is how what Netanyahu defines as a bad deal nonetheless gets made (and don’t forget that China, Russia, Great Britain, Germany, and newly hawkish France also agreed to it). Obama likely feels this way due to his interpretation of American interests. (Personally, on these matters I like to trust people like nonproliferation expert David Albright, who says this is a good deal.) This was inevitable." (TNR)


"Saudi Arabia broke with Israel on Monday and offered cautious support for a U.S.-backed nuclear deal with Iran. 'This agreement could be a first step towards a comprehensive solution for Iran's nuclear program, if there are good intentions,' the Saudi government said in a statement, according to the Agence France Presse. The statement leaves Israel isolated as the only outright foe of this weekend's preliminary deal to loosen sanctions in exchange for a freeze on aspects of Iran's nuclear program. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Sunday that Israel would not be bound by a deal he said 'made the world a much more dangerous place.' The Saudi statement indicates the U.S. ally wants to avoid publicly confronting the Obama administration over a key diplomatic objective of the president's second term despite grave misgivings." (TheHill)


"In a cultural context where idealists have linked social media to democracy, egalitarianism, and participation, the tech scene in Silicon Valley considers itself to be exceptional. Supporters speak glowingly of a singularly meritocratic environment where innovative entrepreneurs disrupt fusty old industries and facilitate sweeping social change. But if the tech scene is really a meritocracy, why are so many of its key players, from Mark Zuckerberg to Steve Jobs, white men? If entrepreneurs are born, not made, why are there so many programs attempting to create entrepreneurs? If tech is truly game-changing, why are old-fashioned capitalism and the commodification of personal information never truly questioned? The myths of authenticity, meritocracy, and entrepreneurialism do have some basis in fact. But they are powerful because they reinforce ideals of the tech scene that shore up its power structures and privileges. Believing that the tech scene is a meritocracy implies that those who obtain great wealth deserve it, and that those who don’t succeed do not. The undue emphasis placed on entrepreneurship, combined with a limited view of who 'counts' as an entrepreneur, function to exclude entire categories of people from ascending to the upper echelon of the industry. And the ideal of authenticity privileges a particular type of self-presentation that encourages people to strategically apply business logics to the way they see themselves and others. Taken as a whole, these themes of authenticity, meritocracy, and entrepreneurialism reinforce both a closed system of privilege and one centered almost entirely around the core beliefs of neoliberal capitalism. This does not make technology intrinsically better or worse than any other American business; I’d certainly rather socialize with tech people than bankers. But it does reveal the threadbare nature of digital exceptionalism." (via -- of all places -- WIRED)


"Last Thursday night I went down to East Fourth Street where La MaMa was holding its 3rd annual La MaMa DIY Season Gala where they were honoring Patsy Tarr, the dance philanthropist and publisher, and theatre critic Michael Feingold, formerly of the Village Voice and now at Theatermania (www.theatermania.com/). A lot of New Yorkers still don’t know about La MaMa which opened its door fifty-two years ago, founded by a fiercely independent impresario of new theatre, Ellen Stewart. Ms. Stewart’s objective nurtured an entire generation of theatre talent, in all area from acting, producing, directing, writing; everything, and her legacy continues today. There was also a video tribute to Michael Feingold created by Miller and Ben Louis Nicholas – all passages from his writings which were so trenchant and compelling (theatre criticism), not a little of it cracked me up because Feingold is very funny ... This was followed by a video tribute to Patsy by Miller and Nicholas. And then the irrepressible Isaac Mizrahi took the stage to introduce his friend, pointing out firstly that she was a huge fan of Geoffrey Beene and wore a lot of his clothes (which she was wearing on this night). Isaac is the only American fashion designer with a performer’s personality, and he can always leave ‘em laughing." (NYSocialDiary)


"Time Inc. made its initial public filing on Friday afternoon, as it prepares to jettison from Time Warner. Nothing surprising in there: As we already knew, the publishing giant has been watching its revenue flatline — or worse – for years, but it still continues to generate hundreds of millions in profit. But Time’s first filing does contain at least one snippet that gives you a sense of what it has been like to work there for the last few years ... Time did pull the trigger on a deal to acquire American Express Publishing this fall, which let it add properties like Food & Wine magazine, but that was also pretty modest: Because AmEx and Time Inc. were already in something close to a joint venture, Time Inc. will end up netting $20 million on the transaction. That stasis isn’t surprising, given the revolving door at the top of Time Inc. Longtime CEO Ann Moore left in 2010, and was replaced by Jack Griffin, who lasted less than six months. The publisher was left without a new boss for another year until Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes brought in Laura Lang, who made it a bit more than a year before announcing she was leaving, too. New CEO Joe Ripp came in about half a year later. And while Time Inc executives said they were given the go-ahead by Time Warner bosses to pursue M&A opportunities even when they didn’t have a CEO to report to, it’s hard to imagine the company making bold bets or writing big checks during that period." (AllThingD)



"The meet-uncute of Nikki Finke, scourge of Hollywood, and Jay Penske, automotive scion, happened through the matchmaking services of mutual friend A. Scott Berg, the Pulitzer-winning biographer whose brother Jeff is a powerful Hollywood agent. Finke had interviewed Berg, and Berg had written about Penske. This was in 2008, when Finke’s entertainment-news blog Deadline had become an essential, compulsive read in Hollywood, drawing impressive web traffic. Over a two-year period, Finke says, some 25 potential buyers, reportedly including Variety owner Reed Elsevier, the Huffington Post, IFC, and the billionaire Haim Saban, began 'kicking the tires.' Berg and another intermediary, Dani Janssen, the host of a prominent Oscars party, reached out to Finke to tell her that Penske was interested, too. 'Scott said, ‘He’s the real thing,’' Finke remembers.Finke was reluctant to sell to anyone, but her father, stricken with bladder cancer, urged her to seize the moment: It might pass, and here was a chance to become financially secure. He died in January 2009, and Finke spent the next six months negotiating with Penske. She was impressed by his knowledge of the Internet, by what she calls 'one of the most agile, bright, and articulate minds I’ve encountered,' and by what seemed like their shared vision for how to grow the site. 'He was relentless,' Finke says. 'We fought like cats and dogs during the negotiations. I cried. I got mad at him. I called it off at least a few times. It was always, ‘I don’t want a boss. I love being my own boss.’ ' Finke warned Penske she’d be 'the worst employee you’ll ever have.' Coming from Finke, who turns 60 next month, this was not hyperbole." (NYMag)

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