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Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres






"Cuba, the largest island in the Caribbean, has a prominent position at the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico, separating access to the gulf into two choke points: the Yucatan Channel and the Straits of Florida. It is also situated on the sea-lanes between the U.S. East Coast and the Panama Canal, the shortest route for naval traffic between the two coasts of the United States. Cuba thus has been pivotal to the U.S. strategy to safeguard economic activity in the Gulf of Mexico and naval transport routes beyond that. The evolution of U.S. naval capabilities, however, has changed the part that Cuba, and thus the base at Guantanamo, has played. The United States began extending its ambitions into the Caribbean, challenging the classical European colonial powers and arguably starting its ascent to the rank of a global power, with the Monroe Doctrine in 1823. Named after then-President James Monroe, the doctrine sought to prevent intervention by European powers — most notably Spain and Portugal — in their former colonies as the colonies achieved independence. The doctrine largely was a hollow statement at first because the United States did not have the naval power it would need to enforce it and establish the hegemony that it sought to put in place with the doctrine. However, the United Kingdom, which at the time had considerable naval capabilities, supported the Monroe Doctrine and committed to enforcing it because it also secured British access to the markets in these former colonies as long as they were not recovered by their former rulers. Although it was a notable shift in U.S. foreign policy toward the Western Hemisphere as a whole, the Monroe Doctrine did not affect Cuba directly. The doctrine did not seek to meddle in the affairs of existing European colonies, and the Spanish ruled Cuba and Puerto Rico until the Spanish-American War in 1898. At that point, after the Monroe Doctrine had set the stage, U.S. military capabilities were catching up with its foreign policy intent. It was during the Spanish-American War that U.S. naval power entered the global stage and eventually resulted in the United States' taking Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines from Spain." (STRATFOR)





"Saudi Arabia has been trying to pressure President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to abandon his support for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, using its dominance of the global oil markets at a time when the Russian government is reeling from the effects of plummeting oil prices.
Saudi Arabia and Russia have had numerous discussions over the past several months that have yet to produce a significant breakthrough, according to American and Saudi officials. It is unclear how explicitly Saudi officials have linked oil to the issue of Syria during the talks, but Saudi officials say — and they have told the United States — that they think they have some leverage over Mr. Putin because of their ability to reduce the supply of oil and possibly drive up prices. 'If oil can serve to bring peace in Syria, I don’t see how Saudi Arabia would back away from trying to reach a deal,' a Saudi diplomat said. An array of diplomatic, intelligence and political officials from the United States and Middle East spoke on the condition of anonymity to adhere to protocols of diplomacy. Any weakening of Russian support for Mr. Assad could be one of the first signs that the recent tumult in the oil market is having an impact on global statecraft. Saudi officials have said publicly that the price of oil reflects only global supply and demand, and they have insisted that Saudi Arabia will not let geopolitics drive its economic agenda. But they believe that there could be ancillary diplomatic benefits to the country’s current strategy of allowing oil prices to stay low — including a chance to negotiate an exit for Mr. Assad. Mr. Putin, however, has frequently demonstrated that he would rather accept economic hardship than buckle to outside pressures to change his policies. Sanctions imposed by the United States and European countries have not prompted Moscow to end its military involvement in Ukraine, and Mr. Putin has remained steadfast in his support for Mr. Assad, whom he sees as a bulwark in a region made increasingly volatile by Islamic extremism. Syria was a major topic for a Saudi delegation that went to Moscow in November, according to an Obama administration official, who said that there had been a steady dialogue between the two countries over the past several months. It is unclear what effect the Jan. 23 death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia might have on these discussions, which the Saudis have conducted in secret." (NYT)


Hail the Conquerors



"Thick snow is falling hard and heavy, muffling sounds and turning the village from picturesque into postcard-beautiful. I am lying in bed listening to a Mozart version of 'Ave Maria,' with a heavenly soprano almost bringing tears to my eyes with the loveliness of it. This is the civilization of our ancestors, one that gave us Mozart and Schubert and Beethoven and built cathedrals all over the most wondrous continent in the world—and it is now being replaced by a higher one, in which distinctions of ethnicity and religion will no longer be tolerated. The human race has a limitless capacity for self-improvement, and it shows where architecture, the arts, and music are concerned, not to mention literature. You might think me jaundiced, but the Parthenon’s perfection is less impressive than the Trump Tower’s glitz, and Cellini’s Narcissus raises fewer eyebrows than Hirst’s Shark. And what about the 'Ode to Joy'? Can one really compare it to the rap that blasts 24 hours a day among those who are with-it? Nah, of course not; anyone who disagrees must be getting old. Just as 'Ave Maria' was coming to an end, I opened the papers and felt proud to see Prince Charles and David Cameron kissing Saudi ass, to be followed by Obama couple of days later. Oswald Spengler came to mind. What did he know that we don’t? Three thousand years of civilization took an upward swing when TV was invented, and taking drugs became de rigueur, and popping pills and pop music became one and the same. Those ancient Greeks were bores, and I’m not referring to myself but Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, not to mention Aristophanes. So were the wops—the Titians and Tiepolos—and the frogs. The latter built a few churches that now lie empty. Give me Norman Foster any day ... This is Simon Cowell time, as well as Wendi Murdoch. Sodom and Gomorrah is a myth, so stick to Simon and Wendi. Better yet, to the Kardashians. Watch as many reality shows as you can, and try to emulate the accents and the topics they discuss. Ditto for sci-fi and zombie movies. Encourage modern professional athletes to be more violent—nerds like Jesse Owens and Stanley Matthews should have their names removed from memory. Oscar Wilde died in disgrace, and no wonder. He dared say this: 'Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming.' Which means things were getting better even back then. And this brings me to beauty and an article in Vanity Fair about Dudley House in London’s Park Lane. It was written by a man I know and like, Jim Reginato, with pictures by Jonathan Becker, another friend. The house has been purchased and redone by a 33-year-old Qatari by the name of Al-Thani, who, according to the article, is now a leading member of English society, frolicking with its golden youth, and his circle includes the Queen." (Taki)


Amanda Vaill. Susan Fales-Hill.


"I went to lunch at Michael’s with Judy Price who used to be my employer when she owned Avenue magazine (which she started back in the mid-'70s). Mrs. Price sold it after more than a quarter century, and started the National Jewelry Institute. The ultimate objective is to create a jewelry museum. She’s still ahead of her time. But that’s all right because Mrs. Price is nothing if not industrious and focused and hardworking. Actually I discovered Michael’s through her about seventeen or eighteen years ago. Last year at at the NJI’s first annual gala, a dinner held at the Morgan Library, it was announced that NJI had gone into partnership with Parsons on jewelry and jewelry design. This year, the second annual gala will take place in Paris on the first weekend in July. It’s already sold out with guests coming from all over the world. It also marks the launching of the classes in the National Jewelry Institute’s collaboration with Parsons School of Design ... On Wednesday evening (last) the House of SpeakEasy, producer of thrilling and witty literary cabarets that the Wall Street Journal has described as “think-y entertainment for New York’s book-loving crowd,” celebrated its first anniversary with a gala event at SoHo’s City Winery ..Temperatures hovered in the glacial 20s, but SpeakEasy’s founders, historian Amanda Foreman and editor Lucas Wittmann, warmed up the audience of 260, which included Uma Thurman, Gayfryd Steinberg and Michael Shnayerson, Mercedes Bass, Don and Catie Marron, Shelley Wanger and David Mortimer, Waris Ahluwalia, Shirley Lord and Peter Haywood, Leila Strauss, Sir Mark and Lady Sheila Lyall Grant, Vicky Ward and Richard Cohen, Lucy Sykes and Euan Rellie, Marina Rust and Ian Connor, Hugh and Maya Dubrulle, George Lane, Fred Iseman, Danielle Ganek, Samantha Boardman, Lisa Fine, Christopher Mason, Caio Fonseca, Daisy Soros, Nick McDonell and many others." (NYSD)

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