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Saturday, August 01, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



A USAF B-1 bomber aircraft flies over the Syrian town of Kobani, as seen from the Mursitpinar crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in Sanliurfa province, following an airstrike, November 8, 2014


"Turkey’s decision to cooperate with the United States against the Islamic State (IS) has come as a surprise. The Turkish government’s position was that Bashar al-Assad and his regime were the primary threat and also the cause behind the IS’s rise in Syria. Efforts had to be focused on getting rid of Assad. This had led to considerable friction between the two NATO allies, especially over growing allegations, vehemently denied by Ankara, about the flow of foreign fighters, if not also military equipment, to the IS via Turkey. What has provoked Turkey’s 'game-changer' decision? A number of reasons. First, the explosion caused by the IS in Suruç—the Turkish town right across the border from the Kurdish-Syrian town of Kobani, badly damaged by the IS last fall—which killed activists preparing to cross the border with assistance for Kobani, was a stark reminder of the growing IS threat to Turkish security. The rounding up of IS sympathizers had already begun before the explosion. But the carnage made the government’s position untenable in the eyes of a public uncomfortable with the IS presence on the Turkish border, as well as with rumors that Turkey was implicated in aiding the IS. Second, in June, the Kurds in northern Syria, led by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), and their allies defeated the IS at Tel Abyad, a border town. This enabled the PYD to connect two separate Kurdish enclaves. This precipitated fears in Turkey that the next step for the PYD, seen in Turkey as an extension of the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), would be to wrench control from the IS in the only non-Kurdish-controlled stretch along the Turkish border and merge it with another Kurdish enclave. This would have brought the whole Syria-Turkey border under Kurdish control at a time when the precarious ceasefire between Turkey and the PKK was crumbling. The ceasefire had been put in place in 2013 to support the 'Kurdish peace process.' The Turkish government considered the situation a major threat to national security, amid speculation that the United States was supporting the creation of a Kurdish state, stretching from northern Iraq to the Mediterranean. The only way to preempt this seemed to be to cooperate with the United States, clear this territory of the IS and hand it over to the non-extremist Syrian opposition. Third, the Turkish general elections last month left the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) short of a majority. In blatant disregard of the constitution, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had campaigned aggressively in support of the AKP. However, the electorate, in a strategic move, punished him by channeling enough votes to the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), enabling it to cross the notoriously high electoral threshold of 10 percent. The deal with the United States has now given the caretaker government a chance to take on the PKK. The AKP—supposed to be negotiating a coalition—is now banking on Erdoğan to use this insecure climate to reveal the HDP’s “true face” as an extension of the PKK and win back votes in a fresh election to form a government on its own. The constitution requires the president to call an early or repeat election, if parliamentary parties fail to form a government within 45 days. Last, Turkey appears to have reached an understanding with the United States that a safe zone will be created from where the IS will be pushed out. This, Ankara hopes, will help strengthen the regular Syrian opposition and enable the return of some of the two million Syrian refugees in Turkey. Their presence is becoming a financial burden and increasing resentment among locals. The safe zone would also become an area to which future refugee flows could be directed." (Brookings)



"What does a journalistic church-state negotiation look like when the advertising side is not a valuable partner against whom editorial keeps some leverage (in the form of its control over audience) but an entity that is both vastly larger and owns both audience and the means of producing revenue? The new media is becoming a wire service in that it depends on partners for distribution and revenue; the new media is becoming a wire service in that its work solves particular problems in another business’s model. Print distribution created thousands of papers distinguished and limited by geography. Wire services gave these papers national and global coverage that they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford. They were also more powerful than a vast majority of their clients, for whom they solved a unique structural inefficiency. (It’s no coincidence that, for the brief time that Google News seemed inevitable and dominant, it was wire services that got direct distribution deals, in the form of AP Hosted Stories; newspapers became weird middlemen. Also, on a more comforting note, haha, remember Google News?)" (TheAwl)

This abaya is one of five that I wore during my month in the Kingdom, one of many gifts from my hosts. One of the first things you learn about the people of Saudi Arabia is that generosity is built into their DNA.

"As we took off on Saudi Arabian Airlines from New York's JFK International Airport, I settled in for a 13-hour flight. I ate the delicious Lamb Kapsa (lamb cooked with tomato sauce, spices and kapsa rice), informed the flight attendant that I was closing my eyes for a bit, and the next thing I knew ... we were landing in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Geologists believe that some 35 million years ago Arabia broke away from the continent of Africa. The split caused a trough, which today is the Red Sea. There is evidence that Arabia has been inhabited since the Stone Age. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is bordered on one side by the Red Sea and on the other, the Arabian Gulf.I stepped off the plane into the surprisingly soft heat of Jeddah. There I was, a New Yorker who ordinarily moves around my Upper West Side neighborhood in Belgian loafers, leggings, and any old soft button-down shirt, setting my foot down on the fabled land that has held me spellbound since childhood. I felt more than comfortable in my abaya. It reminded me of my early school days with Catholic nuns. For me their flowing robes and covered heads represented modest elegance and dignity." (Paige Peterson/NYSD)


"We all agree that a world without manners would make this a pretty grim place to live in. Offensive informality is pretty much accepted nowadays, and manners are at times seen as a superficial activity. But good manners are as much a part of our culture as great books, great paintings, and great classical music. Occasionally, of course, one can carry good manners too far. My friend Timmy, a gent and a gem of a man, has exquisite manners, a couple of titled daughters, and a fondness for beer. He never fails to thank his host or hostess, and makes it a habit to do so in print. Not too long ago, perhaps five to ten years, he persuaded a friend of his, a speechwriter for the Tory party, to allow him to serve as a waiter at an orgy. Yes, I know, it sounds funny, but even Tories like sex and some of them even have orgies. Not to beleaguer the point, Timmy dressed up as a butler and was given a tray and allowed into the inner sanctum of a grand London house where the gig was on. The moment he walked in, however, he burst out laughing, dropped his tray, and was unceremoniously shown the door by a couple of naked men with drooping you-know-whats. When I heard about it, I asked Timmy what the hell was wrong with him. 'I simply couldn’t keep a straight face,' he said. 'Watching a naked man with a huge erection demanding to know the host’s name in order to thank him made me drop the tray.' 'So who was the host?' I asked. Timmy wouldn’t tell me, but I soon found out, in a national newspaper, of all places. He was a Tory speechwriter, and he organized heterosexual orgies on the side, but has since stopped the practice. I know the man well. They don’t come any smarter or nicer. Go figure, as they say.The thing that sticks in my mind are the impeccable manners of the man with the huge erection trying to locate his host in order to thank him." (Taki)_

From Boring to Baffling


"The Japanese company Nikkei has bought the Financial Times, and I wish them well of it. There can be few duller publications in the world, in whose pages, unless one is interested in share prices and the like, one seeks in vain for an item of interest, let alone illumination. I sometimes read it to help me get to sleep when it is handed out free on planes, and very occasionally I buy it and walk down the streets of my small town in England with it under my arm in order to give the misleading appearance to my fellow townsmen of mental and material substance. But, in fact, the FT is earnest rather than serious. The only frivolity it permits itself is its Saturday glossy supplement, How to Spend It (a title of quite outstanding vulgarity), which consists mainly of advising financiers on how to dispose of their surplus millions—that is to say their misappropriations of shareholders’ funds—on expensive trifles. Nikkei has not bought the FT’s sister publication, The Economist, which, however, is also for sale. When I was living in a very remote part of the world I used to read The Economist from cover to cover, though it arrived two months late (communications in those days were not yet instantaneous). It made me feel that I was well-informed, if only in retrospect, despite my isolation. It was my window on the world. Even then, though, I thought that it was dull and self-congratulatory, characterizing itself as of “the extreme centre.” I noticed that its reports at the front did not always coincide with the economic data at the back and that its prognostications were frequently belied by events—as, of course, most people’s prognostications are. Nevertheless, it managed to convey the impression that the disparities, insofar as they acknowledged them at all, were the fault of the events rather than of The Economist, and that the world had a duty to be as The Economist said it was and as it would be. The anonymity of the articles was intended to create the illusion that the magazine spoke from nothing so vulgar as a perspective, but rather from some Olympian height from which only the whole truth and nothing but the truth could be descried. It is the saving grace of every such magazine that no one remembers what he read in it the week before. Only by the amnesia of its readers can a magazine retain its reputation for perspicacity." (Theodore Dalyrimple)

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