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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres




"On November 16, 2014, Arab news outlets flashed a picture of the young ruler of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Al Thani, kissing the forehead of the then-aged monarch of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah. That kiss, a common gesture in the Arabian Peninsula of respect by the young for their elders, supposedly sealed a reconciliation between Qatar and the other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the club of monarchical energy producers in the Persian Gulf that, in addition to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, includes Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Oman. Qatar had fallen out with GCC members over its maverick policy of supporting Islamist groups, encouraging a freer press through its sponsorship of the Al Jazeera satellite television network, and generally putting itself forward as an independent voice in regional foreign-policy issues.
While this erstwhile monarchical spat had important personal and local elements behind it of little concern to the wider world, there were significant policy implications to the Gulf rift. During a time of enormous regional upheaval, the richest players in the Middle East political game were, in many cases, working at cross purposes. Qatar was the major source of aid for the Muslim Brotherhood government that ruled Egypt in 2012-13. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait were and remain the chief funders of the other side—the military regime of Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who overthrew the elected Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi, in July 2013 and had himself elected president in May 2014. Qatar’s foes have accused it of supplying the Islamist forces that form the Libyan government that sits in Tripoli, while the UAE air force has flown missions to support the rival Libyan government in Tobruk, as the two sides fight for control of Benghazi and the country’s oil wealth. While the Qataris and the Saudis would both like to see Bashar al-Assad out of power in Syria, they have backed rival groups in the opposition, encouraging divisions that have bolstered the so-called Islamic State. American officials have publicly charged Qatar with allowing private citizens and residents of the country to raise money to support the Islamic State.Differences among the GCC states have consequences beyond the region, and can also affect the ability of the United States to conduct policy there. For better or worse, the Gulf monarchies are now America’s closest allies in the Arab world. The U.S. military infrastructure in the region is centered on bases in these states." (F. George Gausse)





"Education—as well as its political consequences and place in society—is not a subject about which I know much beyond the experience of working in education. I am to education what a volunteer combat officer is to war (in contrast to an officer who attended West Point to study the art, science, and history of war). I have fought in many types of wars—an appropriate metaphor given the conditions in which education is expected to take place and the goals it is supposed to achieve. What I know comes from the field of battle. What that experience has taught me is that the purpose, challenge, and substance of education in a democracy are defined by two questions: How ought we to live, side by side, not as lone individuals but as citizens? And how can we, through education, help individuals answer that question? Answering these questions is hard, particularly in the United States, where many seem to view citizenship as a burden and even an unfortunate necessity. The rampant distrust of government and the public sector has become overwhelming. We sidestep the question and defend education in purely economic terms, linking education to work and productivity. Nonetheless, citizenship is more than economic; it is a defining political fact of life, one that even in its neglect can’t be dismissed. And active citizenship, embraced with some measure of critical enthusiasm, may be an indispensable foundation of justice, freedom, and civility. Hannah Arendt’s view of education in America was based on an imagined comparison with her own biography. Her generation of European émigrés, who came to the United States during the years surrounding the Second World War, developed a love affair with the political ideal of America, if not with America itself. America was a nation in which citizenship could be acquired by anyone; citizenship (and therefore patriotism in its most palatable form) was defined by loyalty to a form of government and the rule of law, not blood or soil. Among those things distinctly American that émigrés—notably Hans Weil (author of a book on education admired by Arendt) and Christian W. Mackauer, one of my teachers (and that of Anthony Grafton) at the University of Chicago—liked most was the fact that the American public school system, by any reasonable comparison to the systems of their former homelands, was fundamentally not authoritarian." (Democracy)




Click to order “Dead Wake."


"JH and I had lunch yesterday with Sian Ballen and Leslie Hauge who produce weekly NYSD HOUSE  section on Friday. I rarely see them although Jeff does every week when he photographs the houses of those being interviewed. So it was a little like a reunion. The four of us have worked together on Quest, Avenue and the NYSD for the past 17 years. If you’ve never read the HOUSE section, it runs every Friday and the subjects are people in the worlds of architecture and the decorative arts. That includes designers, artists, gilders, weavers, etc. Jeff photographs their dwellings and workspaces while the girls conduct their interview. To me, and it sounds like obvious prejudice (but as an editor, I don’t think so), the HOUSE interviews are some of the most interesting interviews I’ve ever read about New Yorkers and New York lives at the beginning of the 21st century ... Then last night Tobie Roosevelt invited me to hear a lecture by Erik Larson, about his latest book 'Dead Wake; The Last Crossing of the Lusitania' at the Roosevelt House on East 65th Street. The book came out last week. Mr. Larson’s previous book was 'In the Garden of Beasts; Love Terror, and An American Family In Hitler’s Berlin.' I happened to read about 'In the Garden of Beasts' when it came out and bought it out of curiosity. I could not put it down. Mr. Larson has the unique talent for telling a story in such a way that while reading you feel like you are watching a powerfully compelling movie. Not only do you find out  'why,' but the history gives you the 'what.' Then last night Tobie Roosevelt invited me to hear a lecture by Erik Larson, about his latest book 'Dead Wake; The Last Crossing of the Lusitania' at the Roosevelt House on East 65th Street. The book came out last week. Mr. Larson’s previous book was 'In the Garden of Beasts; Love Terror, and An American Family In Hitler’s Berlin.' I happened to read about 'In the Garden of Beasts' when it came out and bought it out of curiosity. I could not put it down. Mr. Larson has the unique talent for telling a story in such a way that while reading you feel like you are watching a powerfully compelling movie. Not only do you find out  'why,' but the history gives you the 'what.'" (NYSD)






















"Even as the White House ramps up pressure on Congress to stay out of its negotiations with Iran on a nuclear agreement, Republicans are on the brink of veto-proof majorities for legislation that could undercut any deal.  And that support has held up even after the uproar last week over the GOP’s letter to Iranian leaders warning against an agreement. Though several Democratic senators told POLITICO they were offended by the missive authored by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), none of them said it would cause them to drop their support for bills to impose new sanctions on Iran or give Congress review power over a nuclear deal. That presents another complication for the administration ahead of a rough deadline of March 24 to reach a nuclear agreement with the country. 'The letter’s incredibly unfortunate and inappropriate,' said Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, a centrist Democrat who voted for the sanctions bill in committee and is a sponsor of the congressional approval legislation. 'That doesn’t diminish my support for the legislation that we introduced.'The president’s challenge in Congress on the issue isn’t limited to the 47 Republican senators who signed last week’s missive arguing that a nuclear agreement could be revoked by the next U.S. president. In a letter released Saturday, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough implored Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) not to push for a vote on his bill that would give Congress 60 days to reject or approve of any deal. McDonough argued that Corker’s measure, which has nearly a dozen Democratic supporters, 'goes well beyond ensuring that Congress has a role to play in any deal with Iran.' And he asked Corker, who’s sought to maintain a cordial relationship with the White House, to let the administration finish its negotiations with Iran, indicating it may take until the end of June. A framework is expected by the end of this month. Corker shrugged off the request in response. And in an interview late last week, he said he hasn’t lost the support of any Democrats despite the turbulent atmosphere surrounding Iran politics. 'Let a couple days go by. We think there’s going to be really ignited momentum,' Corker, who did not sign the Cotton letter, said on Thursday. 'Nobody’s dropping out. We’ve had reaffirmed commitment' from Democrats." (Politico)



























"Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said March 16 that as long as he is Israel's leader, a Palestinian state would not be established, the Daily Star Lebanon reported. He also said that if re-elected he would build thousands of settler homes in East Jerusalem to prevent future concessions to the Palestinians. Further, he would never allow the Palestinians to establish a capital in the city's eastern sector, Naharnet reported. His remarks appeared aimed at rallying right-wing support a day before Israel's election. Opinion polls show Netanyahu's Likud party trailing the center-left Zionist Union alliance." (STRATFOR)












"I don't know any significant player in the technology industry who does not use a personal e-mail account, nor anybody of any sense in any other kind of job who does not circumvent his or her company's server and e-mail oversight. Putting aside Hillary Rodham Clinton's excuses about convenience, and the burdens of maintaining multiple devices, we can reasonably assume that she did not use her government e-mail account precisely because she wanted to maintain maximum control over who saw her e-mails. Indeed, it is exceedingly likely that before she began the secretary of State job she sought out some careful advice about technological norms. That advice would have been as follows: to whatever extent possible, don't use the company e-mail system. If you don't want your e-mail controlled by somebody else, don't use somebody else's e-mail server. Period. Despite protestations now that maybe she should have used her official address, I'm sure she understood the stakes. Whatever blowback she might get from bypassing the internal system (and, indeed, it was not a bad gamble that nobody would actually hoist her for this), that would in no way equal the certain pain and legal troubles of having random e-mails coming back to haunt her. The issue here may be, as it so often is, about the Clinton lack of transparency — in addition to eternal questions about Clinton's level of entitlement — but it also should be about how we function in a world of inevitable e-mail surveillance. (Corporate surveillance is surely a larger individual threat than NSA surveillance.) Here's a responsibly paranoid thesis: if you run afoul of the company or institution that employs you, or even if your interests merely diverge, and if you've used its e-mail server, those e-mails will be read and used against you. Count on it. If your name is Clinton, and you're a high-ranking public official in one of the most politically polarized moments in U.S. history, it would be impossibly naive not to assume that conflict would arise and that, even if you were cunningly circumspect in your e-mails, that something damaging would not slip through.Why not two accounts? John Kerry surely maintains a personal account as well as his office account." (Michael Wolff)






    


       





"The subject of conversation among those who weren’t talking about the weather and dinner last night (or drinks), was about Hillary Clinton and her emails. I don’t know what the story is there. I have no idea. I’ve followed the Benghazi incident only superficially after it occurred. I read the news on American, British and internet media. The financial internet media interestingly is the most informative about practically everything. The rest of the world is looking at their cell phones. There was a piece in yesterday’s NY Post referring to a recent study that shows that 50% of New Yorkers walking on the street are distracted by their cell phones. No kidding. Only 50%?  They are distracted to the point of neglecting their children’s safety, their own safety, even their neighbors’ safety. Sometimes they even get killed too. Or kill someone else. Or hit by a car or a bicycle (which can happen even if you’re not on your phone) ... Then we have Mrs. Clinton and her emails. Mind you, I’m not enamored of Mrs. C at this point in her career. I had great hopes for her for a long time when her husband was in the White House and then when she became Senator. But of course life changes and she changes and I change, and I don’t quite see it that way anymore. Power, as we’re told over and over and over, changes people. Money does too. Or rather, they are one in the same. Mrs. Clinton is, after all, only a human being and she’s lived in Fat City for quite some time. Try it; you might like it yourself. This is what happens to people when they get up there high enough, or rich enough. And Powerful, as some might think. I don’t mean to say I think Mrs. Clinton is guilty of anything other than deleting 30,000 messages. I’ve probably deleted 60,000 messages on my email over the years. Just because there is so much Stuff sent daily along with the personal messages and the messages that demand response immediately. Ten years ago I thought it was a wonderful new invention. Now I see it is an anxious distraction." (NYSD)





"When the great granddaddy of opinion journals, The New Republic, abruptly vanished in a sad, squalid burst of pixel dust and management theory last winter, establishment journalists rent their garments and gnashed their teeth in horror. 'The promise of American life has been dealt a lamentable blow,' a group of former writers and editors associated with the magazine pronounced in a public statement. The New Republic, they said, formerly 'a kind of public trust,' had now suffered 'its destruction in all but name.' In-house disputes over how the august policy organ should adapt to the digital age had claimed the jobs of editor Franklin Foer and literary editor Leon Wieseltier. A mass walkout ensued, with more than thirty writers, editors, and contributing editors forsaking the shop even before Foer’s designated successor, onetime Gawker editor Gabriel Snyder, could fire up his company email account. Chris Hughes, the thirty-one-year-old former Facebook mogul who acquired The New Republic in 2012 amid a round of adulatory press reports hailing the marriage of Silicon Valley largesse and Beltway savvy, now stood contemplating his handiwork in an all but vacant New Republic office, not long after he’d presided over the magazine’s one-hundred-year gala. Happy Anniversary. The extraordinary—and largely portentous—burst of commentary that followed suggested something more was at stake than the bust-up of a magazine long past its prime. A month earlier, similar convulsions had upended the management team at another journalistic concern, one whose digital identity had been settled from the first: First Look Media, the pet project of eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar. There, Rolling Stone muckraker Matt Taibbi and John Cook—another former Gawker editor—had bailed out of their plum positions editing Racket and The Intercept, two much-ballyhooed First Look startups with a roster of top-drawer writing and editing talent. (Racket, indeed, was permanently mothballed after Taibbi fled.) For a few months there at the end of 2014, it was as if the crown princes of digital innovation had become Midases in reverse, repelling experienced journalists in droves, even in the face of one of the most depressed markets for journalism work in modern history. Those thousand think pieces bloomed, all seeking to shed new light on the strange mores of tech-industry moguldom, and on how the inventors of the future had failed to match up to the tough-minded folkways of magazine-style journalism and the notoriously capital-and-labor-intensive work of reporting and analyzing the news.To me, though, the overlapping sagas of First Look and The New Republic were less a dramatic climax of the zeitgeist than a slow-motion train wreck that had already ejected me through the windows and into the woods." (Chris Lehmann)













"Long ago, withering in NYC, I suddenly remembered my friend from high school with her own island in Tahiti. I tracked her down and invited myself. 'Sure,' she replied, screaming down a fuzzy phone, 'All you’ll need is a bicycle!' I was surprised I hadn’t figured this out sooner. I planned on staying the rest of my life. Giddily I resigned my job, gave up my apartment and tossed out my belongings. I invested in a red bicycle and a one way ticket to Papeete. The airline refused... the bike unless I bought an ‘airline approved’ box. Several days later I landed in French Polynesia to warnings of a cyclone. Jubilant squeals as my girlfriend and I met after so long had us howling at the crushed bicycle box where spokes stuck out like buck teeth. We shoved it in the back of her car, along with my bags, and drove to the cove where you can see her island, a sultry emerald headdress as if adorned with peacock feathers. The winds whipped about and we selected only the necessities and canoed across the bay. That night, in a thatched hut filled with bright silk pillows, we caught up. At some point she explained there was the possibility the winds could change direction and the island would be washed over with seawater and essentially vanish, and we laughed louder and toasted the storm and our courage. Next day the menace was traceless beyond broken trees and we paddled to the mainland." (Christina Oxenberg)


Athens Then and Now

"There is a radical new idea going around that tells us most occurrences of the past are of equal interest. In other words, the Greeks’ notion that history meant study or inquiry of important events that saved thousands of lives or provided lessons that transcended time, is the same as an event as trivial as some ugly American feminist back in the Sixties burning her bra. A society that cannot distinguish between the important and the trivial is bound to have such icons as the Hiltons and the Kardashians, not to mention the ghastly Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand. But back to the Ancient Greeks. Just imagine what the world would be like had they not existed. I’ll tell you exactly. It would be the way life is under ISIS in northern Syria and western Iraq. Superstition, fear and violence and repression of women would be the order of the day, with reason, logic and restraint considered capital offences. Mind you, our leaders have done their best to let the powers of darkness in while forcing those of us who love freedom to shut up. Even in America, where freedom of speech is still allowed, free Americans have been enslaved by a more insidious enemy than Jihad, that of the consumer society. Humans, after all, were not created to line up in department stores looking for bargains, but to stride through open spaces like I did last week on hallowed grounds. I went to Athens for my friend Aleko Goulandris’s 88th birthday. This time we were a small group, the Greek royal family, the Queen Mother of Spain, Aliki Goulandris, the birthday boy’s daughter and grandchildren, and poor little me. The first night I got truly wrecked as I had started to party on the private jet that took three of us to Athens from Bern. I stayed up until five a.m. and then trained all day in the foothills of the Acropolis getting ready for the birthday party that night. Another late one was followed by a third one in a row, and by then I was feeling not unlike a Persian invader that had just got off a ship in the Bay of Marathon. I flew back to Gstaad and I’ve been a good boy since. The good news is I saw childhood friends and relived in my mind heroic Greek times. The bad is that the present clowns in power in Athens are enlisting 'casual' tax spies among tourists and other Greeks to pose as customers on behalf of the tax authorities while wired for sound and video to catch tax cheats." (Taki)







NORTH LITTLE ROCK, AR - NOVEMBER 04:  U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and republican U.S. Senate elect in Arkansas greets supporters during an election night gathering on November 4, 2014 in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Cotton defeated two-term incumbent democrat U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR).  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Senator Tom Cotton has been greeted as a liberator on Capitol Hill. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images


"Senator Tom Cotton, whose letter warning Iran that any nuclear deal will not last beyond the term of the Obama administration was signed by 47 Republican Senators, is the future of neoconservatism. His career has been nurtured from the outset by old-line neoconservatives like William Kristol, who turns out, unsurprisingly, to have 'consulted' with Cotton on the idea. And the Iran letter turns out to be a perfect little synecdoche of neoconservative policy.The letter episode contains all the characteristic traits of a neoconservative project. First, of course, is the wild confrontationalism, which in this case was directed not against Iran but against the Obama administration. It may not be treason for the Senate to undermine the president’s negotiations with a foreign power, but it surely represents the bluntest and most hostile possible exercise of opposition to the executive branch’s strategy. Kristol’s advice in any situation, domestic or foreign, is for his side to display maximum belligerence, and the Cotton letter reflected that impulse. Second, the letter was drafted and signed with maximum haste and a total contempt for planning or serious thought of any kind. 'It was kind of a very rapid process. Everybody was looking forward to getting out of town because of the snowstorm,' confessed John McCain. 'Many of the 47 signatories reasoned that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s endorsement was vetting enough,' notes former Bush administration speechwriter Michael Gerson, disgustedly. 'There was no caucus-wide debate about strategy; no consultation with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has studiously followed the nuclear talks (and who refused to sign).' Most people who signed on did so because they assumed somebody else had thought through the details. It was the Iraq invasion of foreign-policy maneuvers. Third, the ploy has failed even by the standards of its own logic. The neoconservative plan for Iran is to undermine Obama’s Iran deal and replace it with what Benjamin Netanyahu called, vaguely, a 'better deal.' The sequence of this strategy requires getting a bipartisan Senate group to impose more stringent sanctions on Iran, thus forcing Iran away from the table, and then securing international cooperation for stricter sanctions. This plan never had much chance of success. But Cotton’s letter makes the chances much more remote. The partisanship of the letter undermines the prospects of any additional Democrats giving the Iran sanctions bill the veto-proof majority it needs. And if Iran does walk away from negotiations, it will argue that negotiations were sabotaged by Republican ultrahawks, not its own recalcitrance. That would make the international cooperation required for effective sanctions even harder to round up." (NYMag)





Credit Steve Brodner


"For more than 17 years, 'The View' has been TV’s most dysfunctional family. There have been the squabbling siblings (Rosie O’Donnell and Elisabeth Hasselbeck), the family troublemaker (Whoopi Goldberg, always ready to pick a fight), the wayward child (Star Jones, banished from the fold after she seemed to be caught in a lie about her sudden weight loss), the sister who never quite seemed to fit in (Debbie Matenopoulos, who came and went in a blink of an eye), the provocateur (Jenny McCarthy, with her campaign against childhood vaccinations), the wacky cousin (Sherri Shepherd, who once said that she didn’t know if the Earth was round or flat), the outspoken, wisecracking aunt (the comedian Joy Behar) and the responsible middle child (Meredith Vieira, the former '60 Minutes' correspondent, whose bizarre one-time revelation that she didn’t wear underpants didn’t undermine her news credentials and much-needed voice of reason when discussions veered off into cuckoo-land). And above it all, of course, has been the long-suffering matriarch, Barbara Walters, presiding over her unruly brood with a mixture of affection, bemusement and occasional exasperation." (NYT)


Illustration by James Ferguson of Sang-Hyun Song


"On a sunny day, the view from the Penthouse restaurant on the 42nd floor of The Hague Tower stretches to the North Sea. But this is late February in the Low Countries. The tower stands enveloped in mist, a fitting metaphor for the International Criminal Court, whose South Korean president, Sang-Hyun Song, is joining me for lunch. Established in 2002, after the genocide in Rwanda and ethnic cleansing in former Yugoslavia, the ICC has lofty ambitions: to end impunity by holding countries and their leaders accountable under international law for heinous crimes. The reality is more prosaic: the court is a young, fragile institution in a Hobbesian world where might usually trumps right.
There are many questions I wish to explore with Song. How can illiterate, traumatised child soldiers from Africa be expected to testify against their former commanders in a foreign court thousands of miles from home? Should we take the ICC seriously when China, Russia and the US refuse to sign up? And how about the ICC’s record over the past 13 years, which shows the people put on trial (and the two convictions) have all been black men? Song, 73, is said to be super-smart but bland and sometimes ineffectual." (FT)


Naeem Khan and Princess Yasmin Aga Khan. Along with co-host Carleton Varney, Naeem and Yasmin welcomed an SRO crowd to The Colony Hotel for a luncheon benefit in support of the Alzheimer's Association.


"Palm Beachers gathered to benefit the Alzheimer's Association. The area's AKC owners and handlers vied for annual top dog honors. A reception hosted by Hermès draws attention to emerging young riders. Carleton Varney and Princess Yasmin Aga Khan welcomed more than 350 guests to The Colony Hotel for Palm Beach's first Rita Hayworth Luncheon, featuring a Saks Fifth Avenue-Palm Beach presentation of Naeem Khan's Pre-Fall 2015 Collection. Carleton and Yasmin's efforts are genuinely appreciated, especially by someone like myself who has spent nearly every morning for the past two-and-a-half years with a family member at an Alzheimer/Dementia Care facility. Yasmin Aga Khan has been a tireless advocate, raising awareness and more than $65 million for Alzheimer's support. Bravo!" (NYSD)







Power crowd fête lawyer David Boies at 74th birthday bash


"A roomful of heavy hitters came out to celebrate an intimate 74th birthday for legal eagle David Boies on Wednesday at the St. Regis. Boies was spotted at the 'casual, very impromptu' party thrown by his wife, Mary, huddled in deep conversation with Charlie Rose, while guests circulating in a private room included Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, Steve Rattner, Pete Peterson, Mercedes Bass and GOP operator Ed Rollins. Also toasting Boies — the one-time Al Gore lawyer who teamed with legal foe Ted Olson to overturn Prop 8 in California — were Bob Weinstein, New Yorker scribe Jeffrey Toobin, Paula Zahn, Don Marron and former UK foreign secretary David Miliband." (P6)

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