blog advertising is good for you

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres




"When the prince was the ambassador he was the toast of Washington, and plenty of toasts there were. Bandar bin Sultan smoked fine cigars and drank finer Cognac. For almost 30 years as Saudi Arabia’s regal messenger, lobbyist, and envoy, he told amazing stories about politicians and potentates, some of which, surprisingly, were true. Washington journalists loved him. Nobody had better access to more powerful people in higher places, or came with so much money, so quietly and massively distributed, to help out his friends. Over the years, Bandar arranged to lower global oil prices in the service of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and both the Bushes. At the behest of the CIA’s Bill Casey, and behind the back of Congress, Bandar arranged for the Saudis to bankroll anti-Communist wars in Nicaragua, Angola and Afghanistan. He was thick with Dick Cheney, and he was so tight with the George H.W. Bush clan—the father, the mother, the sons, the daughters—that they just called him 'Bandar Bush.' Now, the prince is a spy, or, more precisely, the master spy of the Middle East. He is the point man for a vast Saudi program of covert action and conspicuous spending that helped overthrow the elected Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt and is attempting to forge a new “Army of Islam” in Syria. Without understanding the man and his mission, there’s no way, truly, to understand what’s happening in the world’s most troubled region right now. Bandar’s goal is to undermine Iranian power: strip away Tehran’s allies like Assad and Hezbollah; stop the Shiite mullahs from acquiring nuclear weapons; roll back their regional designs; and push them out of office if there’s any way to do that. At the same time, he aims to crush the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni organization that pays lip service to democracy and is fundamentally anti-monarchy. The Bandar program makes for some interesting alliances. Never mind that there’s no peace treaty between Saudi Arabia and Israel, in these parts, as they say too often, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and Bandar has become the de facto anti-Iran ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin 'Bibi'Netanyahu. They are 'curiously united,' says historian Robert Lacey, author of Inside the Kingdom: Kings, Clerics, Modernists, Terrorists, and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia. Bandar has always been inclined to defy conventions and bend rules. 'Bandar is a man with chutzpah,' says Lacey. In recent months, echoing Bibi, Bandar has let it be known that one of the biggest obstacles to his goals is U.S. President Barack Obama. And Bandar reportedly told European diplomats last month that Saudi Arabia would make a 'major shift' away from its longstanding alliance with the United States." (TheDailyBeast)


"This is a column I have put off for weeks, because it makes me sad to write it. And ultimately, it begs an answer, which I am not sure I have. But with the year ending, I can no longer avoid it. After decades of writing about television and media, this is the year that I have lost faith in two TV news institutions in which I have long believed: '60 Minutes' and CNN. Actually, it was more than believed in the case of '60 Minutes.' The CBS newsmagazine was true north on the compass of TV journalism for me — proof that doing good journalism could also be good business in the world of commercial TV. As is usually the case with loss of faith, it didn’t happen overnight. These days, everyone is ripping '60 Minutes' for the Lara Logan report on Benghazi that it had to retract in November, the infomercial-like report Charlie Rose did earlier this month with Jeff Bezos about his drone delivery plans for Amazon, and correspondent John Miller’s in-the-tank piece last week on the National Security Agency. In the case of the latter two, it wasn’t just that they were beneath the usual standards of '60 Minutes,' they were beneath the standards of shows like 'Access Hollywood' or 'Entertainment Tonight,' which will do anything to gain access to people they think viewers will tune in to see. At least, with the Hollywood shows they make no pretense of doing journalism. But the seeds of trading integrity for access were sown long before this year at '60 Minutes.' After decades of celebrating the newsmagazine, which I regularly described as the most successful show in the history of TV because of its long record of commercial and journalistic success, I started questioning it in 2008 shortly after the election of President Barack Obama." (David Zuwarik)

"Some economists dislike Christmas. They allege that it 'destroys value,' which is, in Econoland, the first and only sin. The economist Joel Waldfogel, author of Scroogenomics, goes so far as to contend that the winter holiday season is 'an orgy of value destruction.' Waldfogel’s main concern is that the value of gifts to their recipients is typically far lower than the money that was spent on them. He found that of the $65 billion spent on winter holiday gifts in 2009, about 20 percent was wasted, in the sense that the gifts were worth that much less to the recipient than they cost. And indeed, it is an inescapable fact of life that people who receive holiday gifts often don’t much like what they get. If you’ve ever been presented with a sweater that you would never wear in public or electronic equipment whose purpose escapes you, you will understand what Waldfogel is talking about.
In hard economic times, when both the government and ordinary people are trying desperately to save money, this is a sobering analysis. We don’t propose that Congress should try to solve the debt crisis by requiring people to give holiday season money to the Treasury Department rather than spending it on presents. But mis-giving does no good for anyone, and we have a few ideas about how to make it through the season a bit more easily. IT HAS PROBABLY already occurred to you that the economic analysis of gift-giving reflects an incomplete understanding of the purpose of gifts, which involve relationships, as well as commodities, and which provide value not only to the recipient but also to the giver. Gifts represent messages—'signals,' in social science parlance—from giver to recipient. The signals tend to differ for individual givers and receivers, which explains why there are no simple answers to standard holiday etiquette questions, such as whether it is OK to give cash. Cash is best for some relationships but highly inappropriate for others. If you give your nephew $75, he’ll probably be thrilled. If you give your boss $75, it’s just weird. Gifts also serve as investments in relationships. When interpreted this way, the destruction of value can be part of the very essence of gift-giving. If I give you a $50 gift card for Best Buy and you give me a $50 e-certificate for Amazon, economists would tolerate the exchange, since no destruction of wealth has occurred. However, very little investment has occurred, either. Suppose instead that I give you an expensive sweater that you find loathsome, and you give me a fancy travel case for which I have no use. True, each of us might think that the other has terrible taste. But we will certainly notice the effort and money that went into the purchase. In fact, destroying value in an exchange of overpriced gifts can increase the likelihood that our relationship will endure. If we weren’t committed to the relationship, why would we waste the money? The absurd tension associated with gift-giving begins early in life." (TNR)



"By now, virtually every film critic has offered up a top 10 list surveying the year in cinema. But what about the rest of the film industry? Countless distributors, programmers, publicists and other film professionals see hundreds of new movies each year. So Indiewire has made it a tradition to give them some space in this conversation. Here are some of the most influential indie film people working today weighing in with their favorites of the year. In addition to inviting them to provide their top 10 lists of film and TV, we also asked participants to share their new year resolutions as well as what they're anticipating in 2014." (IndieWIRE)

No comments: