Posts Tagged ‘Vanity Fair’

Sympathizing with AIG, Peace with Islamists, Senator Al Franken, Jay-Z, the Newest Lost Generation, and the Future of Journalism

Friday, July 17th, 2009

1. Sympathizing with AIG. Michael Lewis has another piece plumbing the depths of the financial crisis. Except this time he is somewhat strangely sympathetic to AIG. His piece is a useful counter to Matt Taibbi’s angry screed on the same subject – but the lack of outrage in Lewis’s piece is discomfiting – like a writer who begins to sympathize with his serial killer subject. Still – worth reading – as Lewis concludes:

And yet the A.I.G. F.P. traders left behind, much as they despise him personally, refuse to believe Cassano was engaged in any kind of fraud. The problem is that they knew him. And they believe that his crime was not mere legal fraudulence but the deeper kind: a need for subservience in others and an unwillingness to acknowledge his own weaknesses. “When he said that he could not envision losses, that we wouldn’t lose a dime, I am positive that he believed that,” says one of the traders. The problem with Joe Cassano wasn’t that he knew he was wrong. It was that it was too important to him that he be right. More than anything, Joe Cassano wanted to be one of Wall Street’s big shots. He wound up being its perfect customer.

2. Peace With the Islamists. Amr Hamzawy and Jeffrey Christiansen have a thought-provoking, and somewhat discomfiting piece, in Foreign Policy suggesting that America make peace with non-violent Islamist groups – pointing out that many of them actually rely on America’s support for democracy for their success in a region of the world dependent on America and filled with dictatorships, and pointing out the signs that many of these groups are open to such a peace offer.

3. Senator Al Franken. John Colapinto profiles Al Franken in a typically humorous and in-depth New Yorker piece. More important than the piece is that this man is a Senator. Congratulations Senator Franken.

4. Jay-Z, Hegemon. Marc Lynch has written a few pieces this week applying principles of hegemony in international relations to Jay-Z and how he maintains power in the hip hop world – including specifically how he is responding to The Game’s recent attacks on him.

5. Europe’s Newest Lost Generation. Annie Lowrey discusses the problems that are facing Europe’s youth.

6. Shirsky on the Future of Journalism. Clay Shirsky has an excellent post over at Cato Unbound discussing without really predicting the future of journalism. As always with Shirky, thought-provoking and worth the read. He makes a point that I have been ruminating about in a number of posts recently (here and here) – that:

[J]ournalism is about more than dissemination of news; it’s about the creation of shared awareness.

In my posts, I labeled this “shared awareness” the “conventional wisdom.”

[Image by me.]

Must-Reads This Weekend

Friday, May 15th, 2009

Nuclear Porn. Ron Rosenbaum writes about how hard-core our nuclear fantasies have become in an essay for Slate:

I love airport best-sellers because I see them as our Nostradamuses, the literary canaries in the dark coal mines of our paranoia. They sniff out and serve up fictionalized but “realistic” prophecies of coming doom of one sort or another. Perhaps it’s that in their visions of total world immolation they diminish in the mind of said traveler the possibility of something so trivial as a 757 engine malfunction.

The Awakening. David Rose investigates the Sunni Awakening in an article for Vanity Fair. The big news: apparently the initial approach by the Sunni insurgents offering to work with America came in 2004 – but was rejected as a result of turf battles and ideology. 

Happiness. Joshua Wolf Shenk tells the story of the most significant longitudinal study in history (so far). He reveals that one of the participants in the study (all of whom were chosen while they were in college) was John F. Kennedy. The study itself is fascinating – and Shenk’s piece was reflective and probing:

“I’m usually callous with regard to death, from my father dying suddenly and unexpectedly.” He added, “I’m not a model of adult development.”

Vaillant’s confession reminded me of a poignant lesson from his work—that seeing a defense is easier than changing it. Only with patience and tenderness might a person surrender his barbed armor for a softer shield. Perhaps in this, I thought, lies the key to the good life—not rules to follow, nor problems to avoid, but an engaged humility, an earnest acceptance of life’s pains and promises…

Torture and Truth. Ali Soufan testified in Washington – but while he was constantly interrupted by an edgy Lindsey Graham, his written statement is a testament of a man who was there: 

The issue that I am here to discuss today – interrogation methods used to question terrorists – is not, and should not be, a partisan matter. We all share a commitment to using the best interrogation method possible that serves our national security interests and fits squarely within the framework of our nation’s principles. 

From my experience – and I speak as someone who has personally interrogated many terrorists and elicited important actionable intelligence– I strongly believe that it is a mistake to use what has become known as the “enhanced interrogation techniques,” a position shared by many professional operatives, including the CIA officers who were present at the initial phases of the Abu Zubaydah interrogation. 

These techniques, from an operational perspective, are ineffective, slow and unreliable, and as a result harmful to our efforts to defeat al Qaeda. (This is aside from the important additional considerations that they are un-American and harmful to our reputation and cause.) 

A sex symbol for every man who reads without moving his lips

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Maureen Dowd has a pleasant piece in January’s Vanity Fair profiling Tina Fey. Dowd tells the little-known story of how Tina Fey got the scar on the side of her face (she was randomly assaulted by a stranger with a knife who slashed her when she was 5) and the more well-known story of Fey’s transformation into “the sex symbol for every man who reads without moving his lips” in Michael Specter’s phrase.

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