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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres






"Watching John McCain set-up a fellow senator like a bowling pin is a rare Washington pleasure. Even when he does it in Budapest. A couple of weeks ago, McCain led a large congressional delegation to the Munich Security Conference -- the Davos of defense ministers, international arms dealers, oil sheikhs and angry Ukrainians. Before arriving in Munich, McCain, in the company of a handful of Senate and House members (and three American journalists, yours truly among them), made a four-hour visit to Budapest, to meet with Hungary’s wily prime minister. McCain also decided to hold a press conference with two dozen Hungarian journalists. I can't prove the following assertion, but I suspect that McCain decided to meet the press in Budapest mainly so that the delegation would be asked questions about a woman named Colleen Bell. Who is Colleen Bell? Bell is a soap opera producer -- 'The Bold and the Beautiful' is her masterwork -- who was nominated by Barack Obama's administration to serve as U.S. ambassador to Hungary. Bell, one of Obama’s larger fundraising 'bundlers,' bought this nomination with more than $500,000 of mostly other people’s money. At her confirmation hearing last month, McCain asked Bell an exceedingly simple question: 'What are our strategic interests in Hungary?' She gave the following imperishable answer: 'Well, we have our strategic interests, in terms of what are our key priorities in Hungary, I think our key priorities are to improve upon, as I mentioned, the security relationship and also the law enforcement and to promote business opportunities, increase trade-- '  McCain interrupted her: 'I’d like to ask again what our strategic interests in Hungary are.'" (Bloomberg Views)





"The struggle for some of the most strategic territory in the world took an interesting twist this week. Last week we discussed what appeared to be a significant shift in German national strategy in which Berlin seemed to declare a new doctrine of increased assertiveness in the world -- a shift that followed intense German interest in Ukraine. This week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, in a now-famous cell phone conversation, declared her strong contempt for the European Union and its weakness and counseled the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine to proceed quickly and without the Europeans to piece together a specific opposition coalition before the Russians saw what was happening and took action. This is a new twist not because it makes clear that the United States is not the only country intercepting phone calls, but because it puts U.S. policy in Ukraine in a new light and forces us to reconsider U.S. strategy toward Russia and Germany. Nuland's cell phone conversation is hardly definitive, but it is an additional indicator of American strategic thinking.
U.S. foreign policy has evolved during the past few years. Previously, the United States was focused heavily on the Islamic world and, more important, tended to regard the use of force as an early option in the execution of U.S. policy rather than as a last resort. This was true not only in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also in Africa and elsewhere. The strategy was successful when its goal was to destroy an enemy military force. It proved far more difficult to use in occupying countries and shaping their internal and foreign policies. Military force has intrinsic limits. The alternative has been a shift to a balance-of-power strategy in which the United States relies on the natural schisms that exist in every region to block the emergence of regional hegemons and contain unrest and groups that could threaten U.S. interests. The best example of the old policy is Libya, where the United States directly intervened with air power and special operations forces on the ground to unseat Moammar Gadhafi. Western efforts to replace him with a regime favorable to the United States and its allies have not succeeded. The new strategy can be seen in Syria, where rather than directly intervening the United States has stood back and allowed the warring factions to expend their energy on each other, preventing either side from diverting resources to activities that might challenge U.S. interests.
Behind this is a schism in U.S. foreign policy that has more to do with motivation than actual action." (stratfor)





"It's like Yelp, but for heroin. Jynxies Natural Habitat, an anonymous blog dedicated to reader reviews of local dope and its packaging, has operated largely unnoticed by non-users for nearly five years. But as with New York City's heroin trade in general, the site garnered new attention last week following the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman of an apparent overdose. Among the dozens of glassine baggies of heroin reportedly discovered in Hoffman's West Village apartment were some marked 'Ace of Hearts,' a brand reviewed (and graded a 7.5 out of 10 overall) just weeks prior by a Jynxies reader from Brooklyn. The coincidence could be cause for concern: Following Hoffman's high-profile overdose, the NYPD publicized its search for his dealer, resulting in the quick arrest of four people and increased scrutiny on the subcultures that swirl around the drug. But it's also opened up the conversation surrounding addiction. Daily Intelligencer spoke via e-mail to the blog's proprietor, identified only as Dequincey Jynxie (a literary drug reference), about running the site, shifting public perception around heroin, and the creative marketing techniques of branded stamps.Can you start by telling me a little bit about the blog — its history and your mission with it? I started the blog in 2009 just as a way to sort of keep track of what I was personally coming across in the market at the time. It was private for a while and at some point I opened it up and gained a small readership. I got involved with a harm reduction community online and began to see the wider potential of keeping both a visual record of a unique, taboo market that will indelibly be phased out in future, as well as providing an interactive space through which people can access and share information that might just save their lives. The Internet's shroud of anonymity often brings out the worst in people but in some instances, it can be freeing and allow for positive exchange." (NYMag)









"This past Friday, Creators Connect, an online creative platform that facilitates collaboration amongst artists from around the world, held their second live event -- dubbed Creation is Love -- at The Paper Box art and music space in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Neo-hippie love vibes pervaded as NYC's creative tribes and scenesters descended (some wearing facepaint) on the venue to listen to performances by bands like The Pizza Underground (Macaulay Culkin's pizza-themed Velvet Underground cover band) and Le1f. The night's fun also included poetry, performance art, tarot readings, projections, pizzas, cocktails, and DJ sets by Devendra Banhart, DIIV and Liza Thorn of Starred, among others." (Paper)

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