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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres






"To gaze back at who has dominated the international debate in America over much of the last 30 years is to see mostly neocons: the old Francis Fukuyama, Fouad Ajami, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol, and so forth. They have outshone liberals in presenting their foreign-policy views by being more prolific, more coherent, and harder-hitting. Outside their clan stand only a small handful of notables like Henry Kissinger, a realist; Zbigniew Brzezinski, hard to peg since the Carter years but certainly a neoconfoe; Samuel Huntington, a conservative Democract; and Fareed Zakaria, a centrist.  For much of this period of neoconservative ascendance, Robert Kagan has been their intellectual tribune. This is why his courtship of Clinton is so interesting. Kagan’s open flirtation with Clinton has been coyly accepted and even reciprocated. While continuing to clutch the liberals’ new priorities like women’s rights, democracy, and climate change in her left hand, she is extending her right hand to the hawks. Few failed to notice when she selected Kagan to sit on her bipartisan State Department advisory group or when she picked his wife, Victoria Nuland, a very accomplished diplomat in her own right, as her spokeswoman. And it’s no accident that the much-admired former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, a friend to the Clintons and Kagans, keeps Kagan on at the venerable Brookings Institution as a senior fellow. Clinton has been increasingly touting her heretofore private record of toughness on Syria (she wanted early military aid to the rebels), Iraq (she urged extending the troop pullout date), and Afghanistan (she advocated a longer U.S. military presence). To be sure, it’s fair game in Washington after stepping down as a Cabinet officer to reveal where one stood on contentious issues, especially if these tough calls look plausible in hindsight. Clinton can’t be condemned for that.  The increasing fervor of her memories of past objections to Obama policies, however, is notable. She raised eyebrows in August when she told The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, 'The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad…left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.' These and other slams at Obama’s liberal foreign policy, since echoed by former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, can only be music to Kagan’s ears. There’s plenty in Clinton’s hard-nosed revelations to make the neocons hopeful, but how far will she go? President Obama himself has been moving rightward in his last years, and practitioners have to be mindful of the fickleness of politicians’ foreign-policy beliefs." (ForeignPolicy)



Vladimir Putin, trying and failing to stare down a currency crisis. Photo: Alexei Nikolsky/Getty Images


"Santa has come early for the American commuter this year, bearing the gift of cheap prices at the pump. The plunge in the value of crude has filtered through to gas prices in the United States, with the average price of a gallon of unleaded dropping to $2.52, down from $3.24 a year ago. That means a lot of money left over in average families’ pocketbooks — especially the lower-income suburban and rural families that spend a disproportionately large amount filling up their tanks. But markets are not exactly applauding. The price of a barrel of oil extended its drop overnight, and the Dow was down at the opening bell this morning. And despite the surge of consumer spending the drop in gas prices should encourage — and during the holiday season, no less — the Standard & Poor’s 500 has fallen about 2.5 percent over the past month. That is because along with these cheap gas prices has come a huge lump of coal in the form of currency and commodities volatility. With the price of oil below $60 a barrel, countries that rely on oil production have taken a massive hit. At these levels, many OPEC producers are officially in the red — even Saudi Arabia is pitching toward a deficit.
Worst off of all is Russia, hit hard by European and American sanctions for its incursion into Ukraine as well as the drop in the price of crude. The ruble has lost about 50 percent of its value this year. Inflation has spiked. Gazprom, the state-owned oil giant, is reportedly contemplating firing a quarter of its staff. The economy is shrinking, and fast. To help staunch the bleeding and keep money in Russia, last night the central bank hiked its main deposit rate to 17 percent. Those are the actions of a country in the midst of a currency crisis, not just a recession, and the problem is that solving one might mean worsening the other. If you offer investors 17 percent to keep their money parked in the bank, what incentive do they have to spend it?" (NYMag)





"One morning early, on my Serbian adventure, I was driven from central Belgrade to the top of Avala, a mountain where my ancestor, King Alexander I of Yugoslavia, commissioned a monument The Tomb of the Unnamed Soldier to commemorate the victims of the Balkan Wars and World War I. Wars he fought in. This tomb would be built over the site of a medieval Fort, which was itself constructed atop the ruins of an ancient Roman city. Plans began, but over time, Alexander’s vision expanded from a modest gravesite to a memorial complex requiring the freeing up of space on the mountaintop. An explosives expert by the name of Schultz was brought along to prepare the area with copious dynamite. King Alexander granted the honor of plunging the TNT device to his nephew and namesake, Prince Alexander, the eldest son of Prince Paul, my grandfather. Whatever the King’s reason for choosing his nephew over his own sons, my uncle Alexander so relished the experience to this day, and he is alive and well and living in Paris, he is known, in small family circles, as Schultz. I’ve known this all my life, but I never knew why." (Christina Oxenberg)




"A new Bill Cosby sexual assault claim could mean criminal charges for the comedian. Chloe Goins, 24, claims the television figure drugged her at the Playboy Mansion in 2008, which puts the claim within California’s statute of limitations for criminal charges, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The multitude of recent allegations against Cosby, including claims from supermodels Beverly Johnson and Janice Dickinson, refer to alleged events that took place decades ago. Goins, who was 18 at the time of the alleged incident, told the Daily Mail she plans to give a full statement to the Los Angeles Police Department. The model-turned-lap dancer says she attended a party at Hugh Hefner’s famed pad with a friend when Cosby, now 77, offered her a drink. 'He gave me a vodka mixer I think,' she told the Daily Mail. 'I wasn’t really supposed to drink because of my age, but I was like, ‘OK, cool,'' she continued. 'I remember the drink being kind of strong but it didn’t taste funny or anything like that. I think I finished most of it. I didn’t set my glass down. I was holding it the whole time.'" (P6)



Steve talking shop with another "photographer," Sir Harry Benson.
 


"Yesterday, I had lunch uptown, and JH went to Michael’s to lunch with Carol Joynt our Washington Diarist who was in town for business reasons. Carol recently became Vice President of Communications at Foreign Policy magazine. We rarely see each other and when she comes to New York she loves the plate of fries at Michael’s. (They heap them on.) Here’s the story as told by JH and his camera.  A Good Time was had by all. Late yesterday afternoon at the old Marcel Breuer-designed Whitney Museum on 75th and Madison they held a memorial celebration for Richard Marshall, the art historian and museum curator who died suddenly at age 67 at his house in La Jolla last August 8th. Richard was highly regarded in his profession. That was evident by the turnout at the memorial – which is exactly what it was – friends and family remembering him. He was one of those remarkable personalities who did what he loved to do, did it very well, and without the kind of fervor that makes life difficult for others. He had a quiet but always present sense of humor. He was a California boy who had an eye for art outside of the New York/Paris art axis. He was easy to work with and even easier to be friends with. The memories shared of him all had a subtext of  the pleasure of his company, his humor and his friendship, and in the context of a life well lived." (NYSD)

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