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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres





"Nuclear talks with Iran have failed to yield an agreement, but the deadline for a deal has been extended without a hitch. What would have been a significant crisis a year ago, replete with threats and anxiety, has been handled without drama or difficulty. This new response to yet another failure to reach an accord marks a shift in the relationship between the United States and Iran, a shift that can’t be understood without first considering the massive geopolitical shifts that have taken place in the Middle East, redefining the urgency of the nuclear issue. These shifts are rooted in the emergence of the Islamic State. Ideologically, there is little difference between the Islamic State and other radical Islamic jihadist movements. But in terms of geographical presence, the Islamic State has set itself apart from the rest. While al Qaeda might have longed to take control of a significant nation-state, it primarily remained a sparse, if widespread, terrorist organization. It held no significant territory permanently; it was a movement, not a place. But the Islamic State, as its name suggests, is different. It sees itself as the kernel from which a transnational Islamic state should grow, and it has established itself in Syria and Iraq as a geographical entity. The group controls a roughly defined region in the two countries, and it has something of a conventional military, designed to defend and expand the state’s control. Thus far, whatever advances and reversals it has seen, the Islamic State has retained this character. While the group certainly funnels a substantial portion of its power into dispersed guerrilla formations and retains a significant regional terrorist apparatus, it remains something rather new for the region — an Islamist movement acting as a regional state. It is unclear whether the Islamic State can survive. It is under attack by American aircraft, and the United States is attempting to create a coalition force that will attack and conquer it. It is also unclear whether the group can expand. The Islamic State appears to have reached its limits in Kurdistan, and the Iraqi army (which was badly defeated in the first stage of the Islamic State's emergence) is showing some signs of being able to launch counteroffensives." (STRAFOR)




"When President Obama first summoned Chuck Hagel to the Oval Office in October, he wanted to know how his Pentagon chief planned to cope with the dangerous new threat posed by the Islamic State that had drawn the reluctant president back into war in the Middle East, not to mention getting a sense of Hagel’s other plans for the final two years of Obama’s presidency. But after several lackluster, low-energy sessions, Obama was so unimpressed by the performance of his laconic, self-effacing defense secretary that he decided Hagel 'just wasn’t the man for the job,' according to a senior administration official. That set in motion the decision that led to Hagel’s decorous dumping on Monday by a president who almost never fires anybody—and never admits it when he does.Hagel, a heavy-lidded former Republican senator from Nebraska with an iconoclastic streak, freely acknowledged his own shortcomings in at least three meetings with Obama. He had signed on to preside over the end of Obama’s wars, a period the president envisioned as a time of downshifting and pulling back for the over-stressed American military. But that was then, after the 2012 election; now, Hagel reckoned, he wasn’t the kind of gung-ho, wartime consigliere Obama needed as he recalibrates his national security strategy to deal with a new round of conflict in the Middle East. But Hagel also fired back: After reports began surfacing of White House dissatisfaction with his performance in the past few monthsincluding an ominous column by Washington Post columnist David Ignatiushe dashed off an uncharacteristically sharp memo to National Security Adviser Susan Rice slamming the administration’s Syria policy as rudderless and ill-defined. 'I don’t think he knew when the axe would fall, but he knew it was time,' said a person close to Hagel. 'He also knows that it isn’t really about him. … It’s hard to find a rationale for getting rid of Hagel that was entirely about Hagel. It has as much to do with the internal politics of the White House, and the larger policy issues, as it has to do with him.'" (Politico)


"Less than 48 hours after President Obama nominated Antonio F. Weiss, a longtime adviser on mergers at the investment bank Lazard and a Democratic supporter, to become the under secretary of Treasury for domestic finance, Senator Elizabeth Warren denounced the appointment and said that she would vote against his confirmation. 'Enough is enough,' Senator Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, declared. She said she was furious that the president would nominate someone from Wall Street. 'It’s time for the Obama administration to loosen the hold that Wall Street banks have over economic policy-making,' she wrote on The Huffington Post Specifically, she took Mr. Weiss to task for working as an adviser on Burger King’s merger with Tim Hortons, which will result in a combined company based in Canada, which she suggested should disqualify him. It is rare to see such ferocious opposition to a nominee for a deputy position in the Treasury Department. It is rarer still when the objection comes from within the administration’s own party. Yet Ms. Warren’s wrath is misdirected, and her understanding of the so-called inversion deal on which she bases much of her opposition appears misinformed. On these issues, as she might say, 'Enough is enough.' Before getting into the details of the deal, let’s start with Mr. Weiss. He is hardly the prototypical banker. He is a protégé of the writer and editor George Plimpton and is the publisher of The Paris Review, the literary magazine, giving it financial support it for years to keep it alive. He works at Lazard, not Citigroup. He never worked at a firm that needed help from the government. He has spent his career whispering strategic advice in the ears of corporate leaders. He has been a staunch supporter — and campaign donation bundler — for President Obama and is considered relatively progressive, especially by Wall Street standards. Oddly enough, Mr. Weiss is one of the few people within financial circles who might have been friends with Ms. Warren." (Andrew Ross Sorkin)



"I went to lunch at Tiffany. Not quite the same as Breakfast but fine by me. It was Tiffany’s annual holiday luncheon. I’ve written about this before. It’s purely a business public relations event. The guest list is editors, fashion editors, fashion reporters, etc. Everybody feels the same way I do. There’s just something very nice about it. It has a bit of a warmth to the way it’s done. It is Tiffany’s way of thanking those who write about their business and their products. 'Products' sounds like a mundane word for what they sell because Tiffany is elegant and refined and classically classy. So is the luncheon. It’s always held in what is an executive meeting room. It’s functional for a large group dining. I notice that this year the room had been redecorated, very white on white as you can see in the photos I took, with a plush, very silken white rug and wintertime murals on the wall.  Waiters were standing at the entrance with flutes of champagne and glasses of white wine, and sparkling water. In my experience most editors don’t get to speak with each other about their work and their interest. At this lunch, however, people have a good time getting to know people they 'know of.' In my conversations the Kardashians came up several times." (NYSD)

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