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Monday, April 21, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"I have maintained a certain agnosticism about Edward Snowden’s relationship with the Russian intelligence services up until now. I noted with interest, but unconvinced, statements by congressional intelligence committee leaders that suggested he was a spy. And I questioned Edward Lucas’s conclusion that Snowden was at least a passive, unknowing dupe of the FSB.Snowden’s appearance on Russian television yesterday in a highly-scripted propaganda stunt for Vladimir Putin does not settle the question of whether he was originally an FSB tool. But it sure does settle the question—at least in my mind—of his role now. I’m not sure why this grotesque display does not move Snowden’s many admirers. Perhaps people may rationalize what he did and say that he’s posing the same question to the Russian leader about which he forced a debate in this country—and that he is thus being consistent. But they can’t actually believe that. These are sophisticated people, after all, many of whom are journalists. They must know the difference between a scripted set-piece appearance with an authoritarian strong man on state-controlled television and asking the tough questions in the context of democratic dialogue. They must know that Snowden either played that role willingly or was, in one way or another, encouraged to do so by authorities who have enormous leverage and control over him. They must know, in other words, that at this point at least, Snowden—by his own volition or against his will—is very clearly working for the Russians. Having said that, let me now make clear that I do not believe this fact should influence overmuch the way we read the material Snowden has disclosed. The authenticity of the documents in question is not disputed. Those documents reveal programs, some of which raise significant public policy concerns, and we need to discuss those, whoever Edward Snowden may be. But I do think we should regard the subplot here of who Edward Snowden really is—a subplot that has been an important discussion in its own right over the last year—very differently in light of yesterday’s appearance. We should stop thinking of Snowden, to the extent that we ever were, as a hero. We should stop thinking of him as a whistleblower. We should think of him, rather, as a man who has actively thrown his lot in with Vladimir Putin even as the latter is working to dismember Ukraine, and who helps a dictator make propaganda videos designed to embarrass his country." (TNR)

"Here's one easy way the Republican primaries could go.  Let's say you've got your saggy Scott Brown, your Rand Paul, maybe your Ted Cruz on the outside… and then up front, your Marco Rubio and your Jeb Bush. I just can't take Mike Huckabee seriously, even though he's polling first right now. (In this hypothetical universe, it's, predictably, all men: Everyone decides Nikki Haley is too young, Mary Fallin never gets any steam, and Sarah Palin sticks her head out and everyone's checkbooks retreat in terror and she goes away again.) ... Jeb is the money leader early out, just because a Bush raises money like a cat hunts a mouse. The machinery is oiled. And all the 'negative perceptions' of a Bush only exist in a Libertarian or liberal mind. 'Four more years of Bush' is soothing to everyone else, for some unknowable reason. There's a brief period where Jeb is the front runner, through Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. Let's say he loses New Hampshire (the kind of state where they get their back up about legacy names). The Republicans are compressing the primary season because it's brutal, expensive and bad for party unity. Totally reasonable, honestly. But it means zooming towards their convention, in some city that starts with a C (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus) or maybe a D (Denver, Dallas) in late June or early July, instead of stupid old August. They need the time on the ground to work against Clinton. Haha, and everyone is losing their minds, because we're about to have a Clinton versus Bush race, which is hysterical, it's like a referendum on America itself. Madness! So then there's probably a reduced Super Tuesday on March 6th, a likely not very impressive Tuesday (2012's super Tuesday had ten states). And right before that, let's say March 5th… Obama drops the hammer and says something really nice about Jeb Bush, and blammo, even though Obama's approval rate is like 8% by then, he's still Obama, and it's over, Republicans run screaming from Obama's semi-endorsement of Jeb and the Republicans are left with whoever's standing, with only three months or so for the rest of the primaries before the convention. Maybe it's Marco Rubio! Maybe it's stupid old Mike Huckabee! Maybe it's… Marsha Blackburn??? " (Choire Sicha)

"A tally of Jeb Bush’s many lucrative board positions and consulting gigs paint a complicated picture of the former Florida governor’s chances at surviving a campaign for the White House. The report, by The New York Times, offers a look at a man who felt his wealth had been diminished by being governor of the country’s fourth most populous state, a perceived wrong he’s been busy righting since he left office in 2007.According to the Times, Bush has worked for or with Lehman Brothers, a soap maker whose books were cooked, and an Affordable Care Act-supporting hospital owner. He has raked in at least $3.2 million from board positions, charges $50,000 for speeches, and is said to be paid more than $1 million a year by Barclays, the firm that absorbed much of Lehman after Bush’s bid to have Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helú save the failing bank.He’s made so much money, in fact, that one Bush supporter went on the record with the paper to cast doubt as to whether or not the presumptive candidate would even want to pause the gravy train to run for president. 'Although he’s been at this for seven years, it’s the last few years that he’s begun to flourish as an investor and build a commendable nest egg,' longtime ally Al Cardenas told the Times. 'Leaving all of that behind, all he’s built, is a challenge and a sacrifice for him.' The Republican picture for 2016 is quite murky, with would-be front-runners such as New Jersey governor Chris Christie embroiled in scandals, and upstart challengers like Kentucky senator Rand Paul scandalizing the party with unorthodox platforms (Paul is unapologetically isolationist, for example). Florida senator Marco Rubio, Texas governor Rick Perry, former senator Rick Santorum, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, and Ohio governor John Kasich have also been rumored to be mulling bids." (VF)

Diane & Woody’s ‘Hall’ of fame date

"There’s at least one person out there who still loves Woody Allen. Diane Keaton waxes poetically about the reunion she had with Allen on 77th and Madison Avenue, a stroll down memory lane nearly 40 years after 'Annie Hall' hit theaters, according to Keaton’s memoir 'Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty' (Random House).Keaton invited Allen out for a stroll 'like we used to' on Madison Avenue before he headed off to France for a shoot in 2011. 'We didn’t hold hands, like the old days, but I swear he wore what must have been one of his beige bucket hats from ‘Annie Hall,’ ' she writes. She paired a Marni dress with a black turtleneck, a big cross around her neck, and “the requisite wide-brimmed black hat,' Keaton’s signature 'Annie Hall' look. 'We looked in the windows of stores, starting with Ralph Lauren complex on 72nd. We passed the Whitney. We took in the people. They took us in, as well.' 'When we reached Campbell’s mortuary, we looked at each other. He was 77. I was 67. Where did the time go?' 'It was almost like it used to be, only sweeter, because I knew it couldn’t last. Paul waved goodbye as we headed back.'" (P6)

Click to order Dying Every Day.

"History Lessons from the Emperor Nero. I spent quite a bit of the weekend catching up on some reading. I’m still moving along with 'Dying Every Day; Seneca at the Court of Nero.' I bought this book half-expecting to lose interest halfway through. It’s one of those preconceived notions of mine that invites ignorance. However, Seneca and the Court of Nero will keep your interest. Although it’s creepy at its roots. A lot of poisoning going on. Agrippina killed Claudius (poison), then his son Brittanicus or Germanicus (more poison), and then Nero had his own mother Agrippina murdered in a botched crime. I haven’t got to what happens to Seneca, philosopher of the ages. So far Seneca is still alive. He was famous in his day and in modern times as a philosopher of note. As the first tutor and then “adviser” to Nero, he becomes ... very rich ... Sound familiar?  Although the Romans were brutal and completely decadent to the point where I wonder if their brains had been toxified. At least the ruling classes. Even the poisoners got rich. We don’t know about the working classes. Until, of course there’s a revolution; and that was a long way off, at the time.James Romm, the author of this history presents his story through Seneca’s writing at the time. Philosopher and all, Seneca was a guy who talked out of both sides of his mouth. Especially as he was amassing his fortune. That’s all I can tell you right now because I’ve got another third to go. But if you like history, it is an amazing experience grasping what life was like and how those people behaved under the circumstances of temptation." (NYSD)

"I leave the Rock so infrequently my world has shrunk to this final bead of coral, the end of the archipelago and sunk in the shallows of the Straits, near the edge of the Gulf Stream and surrounded by predators like sharks, crocodiles, tourists and Bubbas. Key West is a fractal of the world at large, and I love it, but to leave is daunting. Usually I depart from the Key West International Airport,... minutes from my home, reached by a route that parades along the coast with palm trees to one side and the other a scape of wide open dazzling glittering ocean its horizon split with bands of blues.
I almost never drive. Partly because it’s effing loooooooooooooong. Occasionally, for one reason or another, I do motor to Miami or the even chillier north of the Palm Beaches, west or otherwise. To cross the divide and merge with the highway northbound and roll into the mess of rushing automobiles is to enter an alien world, also known as the Real World, and mixed in there is a whiff of something horrifying. Recently I made one such trip and on the way, forgoing the phone, I plucked music discs at random from the center console of my car. Full blast and blaring like a pimped-mobile I relished one great track after another. This was a year’s worth of discs I have happily and sweatily purchased at the end of nights of hypnotic dancing at my favorite bar in the world The Green Parrot which I love because of the reliably sensational bands they book. Groups of searing talent like only the backwaters can produce. I’m there so often I worry they might hit me up for rent money. The drive north and back I zoned out to this music and it helped insulate me from the fray of big city vibes and hectic anguish inducing traffic. The tunes were original and nothing you would find on the radio, especially since radio stations scarecely waver from predictable Billy Joel. Nothing against old BJ you understand, but there’s so much more out there to explore." (Christina Oxenberg)

lindsaydinalohan The Failed Social Experiment of Lindsay

"It turns out, things could get worse for both Lindsay Lohan and her mentor/enabler Oprah, as we saw on last night’s finale of OWN’s terribly-rated, viciously-panned docu-series, Lindsay. As we found out approximately 10 hours ago, in what appeared to be an hour-long coda to a wince-inducing protracted portrayal of a woman on the verge (of her N-th rehab stint), Ms. Lohan admitted to having a miscarriage during the filming of the program. This was teased out before the two-part, two hour finale last night, and apparently caught more than one person by surprise. Even if director Amy Rice hadn’t planned for this last-minute revelation when she began releasing episodes of Lindsay out into the world, the last-ditch opportunism of throwing it in casts an even worse pallor over the entire enterprise, and by extension, Oprah herself. Who knew that Lindsay was going to be her Achilles’ Heel? I would be surprised if OWN didn’t close up shop after this horrific debacle, which wasn’t even good as a narrative story. In fact, the whole timeline of Lindsay seems a bit murky: they were filming the last portion of the series while the first episodes were airing, allowing a sort of infinite mirroring. Lindsay saw Lindsay, then reacted negatively to it, and that happened approximately a month ago. That’s the reason she didn’t get out of bed for what constituted the majority of the show, because she was miscarrying a baby from unknown origins. And despite the fact that nothing Lindsay Lohan has ever done has been kept a secret for more than ten minutes, this story never leaked.
Here is what happened on Lindsay, as best as I could reconstruct it: she missed some meetings, relapsed, came to terms with her mother’s book deal, got yelled at by Oprah, was late to several photo shoots, went to Art Basel, was late to film with Billy Eichner, got her own book deal (maybe?) and had a miscarriage." (Observer)

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