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Michelle Obama accepts delivery of the White House Christmas tree, November 27:

Boston Globe: Michael Dukakis loves leftover turkey. A turkey carcass makes great soup, he said, inviting people to drop off turkey carcasses at his home. So they did.

Domenico Montanaro of NPR with everything you never wanted to know about the strange tradition of presidential "pardons" of turkeys.

Frank Rich reviews "Carol," the film based on Patricia Highsmith's 1952 novel The Price of Salt, published under a pseudonym. As usual, Rich goes deep.

New York Times: "Ta-Nehisi Coates won the National Book Award for nonfiction Wednesday[, Nov. 18,] night for “Between the World and Me,” a visceral, blunt exploration of his experience of being a black man in America, which was published this summer in the middle of a national dialogue about race relations and inequality.... The fiction award went to Adam Johnson for 'Fortune Smiles.'..."

Slate: Carly Simon told People magazine that "You're So Vain" is about Warren Beatty. CW: Somehow I think I knew that a long time ago.

Guardian: "Gawker, the gossip website..., is giving up on reporting gossip in order to refocus on politics and 'to hump the [2016 presidential] campaign'. The site, founded by British journalist Nick Denton in 2003, announced on Tuesday that Gawker was steering in a new direction that would “orient its editorial scope on political news, commentary and satire'.”

Washington Post: Actor "Charlie Sheen confirmed on Tuesday that he is HIV-positive, as rumored in recent days by an onslaught of tabloid stories. Sheen told Matt Lauer on the 'Today' show that he is going public with his illness for multiple reasons, including that he’s been blackmailed for upwards of $10 million since he was diagnosed four years ago."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post (October 26): "A research division of the World Health Organization announced on Monday that bacon, sausage and other processed meats cause cancer, and that red meat probably does, too. The report by the influential group stakes out one of the most aggressive stances against meat yet taken by a major health organization, and it is expected to face stiff criticism in the United States."

New York Times (October 20: "The American Cancer Society, which has for years taken the most aggressive approach to [breast-cancer] screening, issued new guidelines on Tuesday, recommending that women with an average risk of breast cancer start having mammograms at 45 and continue once a year until 54, then every other year for as long as they are healthy and likely to live another 10 years. The organization also said it no longer recommended clinical breast exams, in which doctors or nurses feel for lumps, for women of any age who have had no symptoms of abnormality in the breasts."

... For about $880,000, you can purchase Julia Child's excellent little house in Provence; her kitchen is intact, except for the stove.

New York Times: "Archaeologists have over the years cataloged the rocks [forming Stonehenge], divined meaning from their placement — lined up for midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset — and studied animal and human bones buried there. They have also long known about the other monuments — burial chambers, a 130-foot-tall mound of chalk known as Silbury Hill and many other circular structures. An aerial survey in 1925 revealed circles of timbers, now called Woodhenge, two miles from Stonehenge." With slide show.


New York Times: "In an overheated art market where anything seems possible, a painting of an outstretched nude woman by the early-20th-century artist Amedeo Modigliani sold on Monday night for $170.4 million with fees, in a packed sales room at Christie’s. It was the second-highest price paid for an artwork at auction."

Artist's rendering of the main exhibition hall of the planned wing of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. CLICK ON PICTURE TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.New York Times: "In designing its $325 million addition on Columbus Avenue, the American Museum of Natural History has opted for an architectural concept that is both cautious and audacious, according to plans approved by its board on Wednesday. The design ... evokes Frank Gehry’s museum in Bilbao, Spain, in its undulating exterior and Turkey’s underground city of Cappadocia in its cavelike interior. The design, by the architect Jeanne Gang for the new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation, aims to unite the museum’s various activities, solve its notorious circulation problems and provide a multistory showcase for the institution’s expanding role as a hub for scientific research and scholarship.”

New York Times: "... Jon Stewart has signed a production deal with the premium cable channel HBO, the channel announced on Tuesday. As part of the arrangement, Mr. Stewart will work on some digital short projects that are expected to appear on HBO’s apps like HBO Now and HBO Go. Mr. Stewart could also pursue movie or television projects with the network. The contract covers four years."

Guardian: "Facebook has announced plans to water down its controversial 'real names' policy, after lobbying from civil liberties groups worldwide."

If you'd like to know whatever happened to former NYT food columnist Mark Bittman, the Washington Post has the answer.

Jennifer Senior of the New York Times reviews Notorious R.G.B., by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik: "It’s an artisanal hagiography, a frank and admiring piece of fan nonfiction."

Digital Globe photo, via NASA, republished in the New York Times. CLICK ON PHOTO TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.... New York Times: "Satellite pictures of a remote and treeless northern steppe reveal colossal earthworks — geometric figures of squares, crosses, lines and rings the size of several football fields, recognizable only from the air and the oldest estimated at 8,000 years old. The largest, near a Neolithic settlement, is a giant square of 101 raised mounds, its opposite corners connected by a diagonal cross, covering more terrain than the Great Pyramid of Cheops.... Described last year at an archaeology conference in Istanbul as unique and previously unstudied, the earthworks, in the Turgai region of northern Kazakhstan, number at least 260 — mounds, trenches and ramparts — arrayed in five basic shapes."

New York Times: "In a landmark study, scientists at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands reported that they had conducted an experiment that they say proved one of the most fundamental claims of quantum theory — that objects separated by great distance can instantaneously affect each other’s behavior. The finding is another blow to one of the bedrock principles of standard physics known as 'locality,' which states that an object is directly influenced only by its immediate surroundings. The Delft study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, lends further credence to an idea that Einstein famously rejected. He said quantum theory necessitated 'spooky action at a distance,' and he refused to accept the notion that the universe could behave in such a strange and apparently random fashion." CW: Everything is relative, Al.

Gizmodo: On Halloween, "a rather large asteroid — discovered less than three weeks ago — is set to to fly past the Earth at a distance not seen in nearly a decade.... NASA says that 2015 TB145 will safely pass by the Earth and continue to following along its exceptionally eccentric and high-inclination orbit — which may explain why it wasn’t discovered until only a few weeks ago. During the flyby, the asteroid will reach a magnitude luminosity of 10, so it should be observable to astronomers with telescopes."

For $299,000 you could buy the house where Bruce Springsteen wrote "Born to Run." It looks like a dump prone to flooding every time it rains, but it's a block-and-a-half from the Jersey shore beach.

New York Post: "During his time in the White House, President Richard Nixon — pug-nosed, jowly, irascible, charmless-yet-devoted husband to Pat — was known to awkwardly hit on middle-aged female staffers. In 'The Last of the President’s Men' (Simon & Schuster), veteran journalist Bob Woodward quotes Alexander Butterfield, Nixon’s deputy assistant, about the commander-in-chief’s sad seduction techniques."

CW: I've completely ignored the buzz about the film "Steve Jobs," so this was welcome:

... Sharon Shetty in Slate: "As the latest attempt to mine every last bit of meaning from the life of Apple’s late founder, Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin’s Steve Jobs will probably make lots of money and spark lots of debate. For those preemptively exhausted by that debate, there’s Conan O’Brien’s less controversial take on a tech biopic: Michael Dell":

AND contributor D. C. Clark was kind enough to remind us of Eva Cassidy:

Contact the Constant Weader

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The Commentariat -- April 12, 2012

Your Titanic song for today:

CW: The 2nd Rachel Maddow segment I linked below reminded me to link to the 2013 budget proposal of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (or, as Rep. Allen West [R-Fla.] calls them, card-carrying Communists). I haven't looked over this year's proposal yet, but their proposed 2012 budget was the only proposal that made sense.

Here's the Pew News Quiz that contributor James S. mentioned in the comments to yesterday's Commentariat. According to James, it's a breeze; I'm about to find out if I'm as uninformed as the average American. Update: the quiz was a snap. ...

... Here's another "quiz" that I haven't tried yet, but when I find out what our income is I think I'll give it a whirl. The Obama-Biden campaign has an interactive calculator that let's you "see how your tax rate stacks up against Mitt Romney’s — and then see what the Buffett Rule would do." ...

... Ezra Klein explains how the Buffett Rule, or more accurately -- the "Paying a Fair Share Act" -- actually works. My eyes glazed over but if your family income is higher than a million a year, maybe you'll want to pay more attention than I did. ...

** ... Win-Win-Win. Prof. James Galbraith in a CNN opinion piece: "Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is pressing for the federal minimum to rise to $9.80 per hour by 2014.... Harkin's proposal would raise the incomes of 28 million American workers. It would make a big difference in the South, where wages are lower. It would especially help younger workers, minorities and women. It would not add to the deficit -- since federal workers all make more than that anyway -- and would likely spur the economy and increase tax revenues -- by a lot more than the Buffett Rule."

David Streitfeld of the New York Times: "The government’s decision to pursue major publishers on antitrust charges has put the Internet retailer Amazon in a powerful position: the nation’s largest bookseller may now get to decide how much an e-book will cost, and the book world is quaking over the potential consequences."

Daily Kos: "The overt and immeasurable influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) over U.S. policy has been well-documented on this site and others. For the most part, little has been done legislatively to change this unfortunate fact. But a Madison, Wisconsin Democrat, Mark Pocan, has been circulating a bill that aims to rein ALEC in:

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) has been circulating the 'ALEC Accountability Act,' a bill that would require ALEC to register with the state as a lobbyist and report the funding sources for the 'scholarships' funding legislators’ travel.

       ... Thanks to contributor Dave S. for the link. 

... Dave S. also highlights this preamble to a statement by ALEC, issued in the wake of the organization's loss of yet another corporate underwriter:

Ron Scheberle, Executive Director of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) issued the following statement today in response to the coordinated and well-funded intimidation campaign against corporate members of the organization.

      ... Yes, it's horrible that Common Cause, Color of Change & similar dastardly intimidators are picking on a right-wing group that spoon-feeds anti-woman, anti-immigrant, anti-poor (voter ID), pro-gun, etc. legislation to state legislators too stupid to write their own regressive laws. Frankly, I don't get why any big corporation would view as beneficial most of the legislation ALEC writes. Here's a bit more from Andy Kroll of Mother Jones.

CW: Oh this is nice. Andrew Sprung of xpostfactoid: "... justices Alito, Roberts and Scalia seemed unaware of a fundamental feature of the Affordable Care Act (and were not disabused during oral argument on 3/27): the ACA has a catastrophic coverage option." Would knowing this have changed any of these justices minds? And who is responsible for their ignorance?

Right Wing World

The New York Times editors do a very nice job of comparing Mitt Romney to his "hero" Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: "If Mr. Romney is elected and a Republican-led Congress presents him with a bill overturning the Ledbetter act, would he sign it, following the path of his hero, Mr. Walker?" Read the whole editorial. The Obama-Biden campaign should jump on this because the editors begin to show how "Romney's electability problem" would become the nation's problem if he were elected. ...

..."We'll Get Back to You on That." Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Mitt Romney’s campaign scrambled Wednesday afternoon to clarify his support for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act after top aides were caught flat-footed by the question.... Top policy aides to the former Massachusetts governor seemed uncertain how to respond when a reporter asked about Mr. Romney’s position on it during a campaign conference call." ...

... This segment of Rachel Maddow's show has the audio (the pause is real). Maddow & Sam Stein do a good job of illustrating Romney's "everything problem" (see also E. J. Dionne's & Greg Sargent's commentary, linked below):

... E. J. Dionne: "Thus the box the primaries built for Romney: He must simultaneously court evangelical Christians and working-class voters who have eluded him so far and also reassure socially moderate women higher up the class ladder who, for now, are providing Obama with decisive margins. It’s not easy to do both." ...

... Greg Sargent shows that Romney's "woman problem" isn't going to evaporate. The campaign's hesitation on the Lilly Ledbetter law was no accident. And it makes Dionne's point: Romney is caught between a rock & a hard place.

Art by "DonkeyHotey" for Esquire.Charles Pierce: "How does Rick Santorum, man of principle, look those wonderful people ... in the eye and now tell them they have to vote for the Governor of the People's Republic Of Gay Marriage And Taxachusetts? The only way to do it is to scare the daylights out of them about what will happen during the second term of Barack Hussein Alinsky. In other words, the only way for Rick Santorum to maintain political viability is to become a towering fake for the next six months. Myself, I think he's up to the job."

CW: Yay! We Floridians Have Our Own Personal Baby Joe McCarthy. Jonathan Mattise of the Palm Beach Post: At a local townhall meeting Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) "got in shots at Democrats and President Obama, who spoke Tuesday at Florida Atlantic University. West said Obama was 'scared' to have a discussion with him. He later said 'he's heard' up to 80 U.S. House Democrats are Communist Party members, but wouldn't name names." Via Charles Pierce, who comments. ...

... As contributor P. D. Pepe notes in today's comments, West is not giving up even though the Communist Party says no Members of Congress belong to the party:

News Ledes

New York Times: 'North Korea defied international warnings of censure and further isolation on Friday, launching a rocket that the United States and its allies called a provocative pretext for developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that might one day carry a nuclear warhead. But in what was a major embarrassment to the North and its young new leader, the rocket disintegrated moments after the launching, and American and Japanese officials said its remnants fell harmlessly into the sea."

The Daily: "Rescue workers who raced to Thomas Kinkade’s California home on the morning the painter died were responding to a call of a unconscious, 54-year-old man who had been 'drinking all night' ..." With audio.

Raw video of George Zimmerman being taken into Seminole County jail (Sanford, the town where Zimmerman shot & killed Trayvon Martin, is in Seminole County):

Orlando Sentinel: "Late Wednesday night, [George] Zimmerman — his head covered — was ushered out of a black SUV and into the Seminole County Jail, just hours after special prosecutor Angela Corey announced a second-degree murder charge against him." ...

     ... Update: "George Zimmerman ... faced a judge for the first time this afternoon. Meanwhile, a probable cause affidavit filed in the second-degree murder case failed to disclose much new evidence. The four-page affidavit did, however, does offer a few new pieces of information. It says that 'Zimmerman confronted Martin,' an apparent contradiction of Zimmerman's version of the events." AP story here.

New York Times: "After more than nine hours of debate, the Connecticut House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to repeal the state’s death penalty, following a similar vote in the State Senate last week. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, has said he will sign the bill, which would make Connecticut the 17th state — the 5th in five years — to abolish capital punishment for future cases." Hartford Courant story here.

Washington Post: "An uneasy calm descended on Syria on Thursday indicating that both the government and rebels were keeping their promises to observe a U.N.-brokered cease-fire which went into effect at dawn." Al Jazeera story here. Al Jazeera's liveblog on Syria is here.

Reader Comments (8)

Fighting Back! Got get em Rep. Pocan!

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

Ron Scheberle, Executive Director of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) issued the following statement today in response to the coordinated and well-funded intimidation campaign against corporate members of the organization:

That's Rich...

How's that shoe fit Ron?

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

The Pew quiz, indeed, was a breeze, should have been for any who pay attention but I find at the end only 8% got them all correct as I did. A sorry state of affairs.

The topper to the West story is that the actual American Communist Party wrote a letter disclaiming Allen––"There are no communists in the Congress..." Even this did not derail our idiot legislator from responding that ACP didn't know what they were talking about.

Here's my response to Liz Peek, the financial guru of Wall Street about a year ago when she claimed EVERYONE was worried about the yuan and EVERYONE knew who John Boehner was:


I: Could you tell me, sir, are you incensed about China and its yuan?

M: Am I what?

I: Incensed about the yuan?

M: Some guy named yuan is selling incense in China?

I: So you are not incensed about the yuan?

M: The Yuan can do whatever he wants to do as far as I’m concerned as long
as he’s selling the incense legally.

I: Alrighty, then. Just off the cuff as long as I have you here. Do you know
who John Boehner is?

M: Is that supposed to be a joke? Some guy’s Johnson has a boner?

I: Never mind. One more thing: Do you happen to know who’s running for
governor in your state?

M: Sorry, I don’t pay much attention to politics.

I: But you vote?

M: You betcha!

*one of Steve Allen's guys

April 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

A reader writes re: the Obama-Biden tax interactive feature,

"I put in a salary of $260,000 just to see what the result would be and it is obvious the quiz is meant to impress those who make less than that and make those who might pay more pay attention to the effect on lower wage earners. A very brief message comes up that you can barely read that says the taxes at that income are significantly based on the nature of investments and other factors. Then it quickly switches to info on how the Buffett rule would affect lower income earners. No problem with that since the majority of people make less than $250,000."


April 12, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

Two questions from a Left Coast ignoramus:

Who elected West? Will they do so again?

Anyone who knows, please enlighten...I'd be grateful.

April 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

I took the Pew quiz as a lark and was horrified that only 8% of the public got all 13 questions right! My apologies to any readers here who did not, but, seriously, this was a quiz? I considered it a "gimme".

April 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercakers

@Ken Winkes. There's quite a bit about West here & here. Although West will run in a different Congressional district (the 18th) because of redistricting, apparently he has a good chance of winning in the new district, which is centered in Port St. Lucie & is overall Republican-leaning. Amazingly, I cannot find a map of the new Florida congressional districts. The 18th did include much of Miami & all of Miami Beach & the Keys. The district has been represented by popular Cuban-American Republican Ileana Ros since Claude Pepper died in 1989, & has generally voted Republican, tho it went for Obama by 2 points in 2008. Ros is running in the newly-created 27th district. Without seeing a map, I have no idea what's where.

April 12, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

That Pew test IS a bit of a joke. Unless you're a moron. Or watch too much Fox. But I repeat myself.

Seriously. These results may partly explain why there are people who think the Titanic disaster was made up by someone in Hollywood. Twenty five percent--a quarter of those taking the Pew test--only got 5 or fewer out of the 13 questions right. Thirteen percent could only get 3 or fewer correct. That is astonishing given the ease of these questions. The thing that scares me even more is the knowledge that a fair number of those at the lower end were just guessing and happened to accidentally get a couple right. That means that perhaps 3 to 5% of those at that bottom are even more dense than the test might indicate. Now consider this: these are figures for people who actually took the time to take this test!!! We're not even talking about a whole raft of potential voters who don't even dare--or care--to take a test like this. At least those taking it thought they knew enough to do so.

But if you're too stupid to realize that the Titanic was the subject of an actual event, you're stupid enough to buy Romney's lies about Obama putting women out of work. And Romney is bad enough. He lies like he breathes. It's automatic. But at least he's smart (read: cynical, manipulative, calculating; see: hypocritical) enough to know he's lying.

Well, he needs to. And even though he's bad at it, like the cheating husband trying to explain away those lipstick marks on his collar, millions still go along with him (CBS morning news dutifully relayed Romney's assertion about women as if it were unassailable fact. At least NPR yesterday put it into context and reported that he was being cute with his math and in fact women have lower unemployment numbers than men since Obama became president).

What truly worries me are the lies propagated by such as Rick Santorum (to quote Charlie Pierce: "...have I mentioned what a dick this guy is?"). Because Santorum, the Savonarola of his day, hands down his cultural, economic, historical, and social solecisms as if they were gospel and millions eat it up. So when he makes his rulings on how little right women have over their own bodies (he being so knowledgeable about such things) and when he makes similarly uneducated assertions about women being in combat situations (because Santorum, yet another of the many, many, many Republican chicken hawks who have never spent a millisecond in uniform but claim to know all about combat and war) and when he declares, without the tiniest iota of proof or support that the Affordable Care Act will cost trillions and TAKE AWAY OUR FREEDOMS, there are millions--MILLIONS--of people out there nodding their heads hard enough to cast the drool in all directions.

And those people vote.

These are the truly scary ones. Because even if they don't have the numbers themselves they cause soulless weaklings like Romney to drift ever farther to edge of the known world, out where 'blah' people are a constant danger and where scores of Democrats in congress are dirty commies and where there is no separation of church and state, plenty of guns and bibles, and no stops on ignorance, racism, fanaticism, or nationalism.

And as George Carlin reminded us, never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups. If you do, I have a couple of deck chairs on the Titanic you might want to try out.

April 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus
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