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November 27

11:00 am ET: Michelle Obama accepts delivery of the White House Christmas tree

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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:

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The Commentariat -- April 23, 2012

No column from me today in the New York Times eXaminer. But this post by Peter Hart on how the New York Times has again bungled its reporting on the Keystone XL pipeline is short & to-the-point.

** R.I.P. Rex Huppke of the Chicago Tribune: "To the shock of most sentient beings, Facts died Wednesday, April 18, after a long battle for relevancy with the 24-hour news cycle, blogs and the Internet. Though few expected Facts to pull out of its years-long downward spiral, the official cause of death was from injuries suffered last week when Florida Republican Rep. Allen West steadfastly declared that as many as 81 of his fellow members of theU.S. House of Representatives are communists.... Facts is survived by two brothers, Rumor and Innuendo, and a sister, Emphatic Assertion." Thanks to contributor Ken W. for the link.

"The Amnesia Candidacy." Paul Krugman: President Obama could have done a better job on the economy, but the Bush economy was a disaster, and Romney wants to go back to Bush policies. He just hopes the public will forget how bad they were. In a related blogpost, Krugman charts jobs losses under Bush & Obama. The blue columns are Bush job losses:

CW: Apparently I steered you wrong last week when I linked to an op-ed by former FDIC chair Sheila Bair in the Washington Post. Bair mocked the Fed's "gifts" to banks & suggested they offer the same generous "gifts"/loans to the rest of us. But Joe Weisenthal of the Business Insider writes that Bair is perpetuating a myth (and should know better): "In theory, the pro-inflation camp is the populist one, since a policy of inflation means borrowers see their burdens eased, and those with assets see the holdings devalued. But somehow people keep pushing the idea that it's the opposite, and that its the finance world screaming for higher rates, and that everyone else would benefit with tighter policy and more deflation. It's a very odd myth." ...

... How do I know Weisenthal is right & Bair is wrong? Because Krugman says so: "Quantitative easing isn't being imposed on an unwitting populace by financiers and rentiers; it's being undertaken, to the extent that it is, over howls of protest from the financial industry." ...

... On point: Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times: "... as [Fed Chair Ben] Bernanke prepares to meet the press for the fifth time Wednesday afternoon, after a scheduled meeting of the Fed’s policy-making committee on Tuesday and Wednesday, there are reasons to doubt that the efforts are increasing public understanding of monetary policy."

Alex Pareene of Salon: "The crumbling of once-great institutions isn't to blame for middle-class decline and anger. Politicians are." CW: This short post on the real causes of problems in Real America is pitch-perfect.

Dahlia Lithwick & Jan Rodak in Slate: "Dodging real-world explanations for the state of the economy and high unemployment, conservatives are now attempting a backdoor campaign to chase women out of the workplace and into their proper roles as homemakers. How else to explain increasing moves toward repealing wage-discrimination laws, rollbacks on mandatory parental leave laws, and making it all-but impossible for poor women who work to choose when to bear children?"

Robert Pear of the New York Times: "Medicare is wasting more than $8 billion on an experimental program that rewards providers of mediocre health care and is unlikely to produce useful results, federal investigators say in a new report ... to be issued Monday by the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress." The GAO "urges the Obama administration to cancel the program, which pays bonuses to health insurance companies caring for millions of Medicare beneficiaries. Administration officials, however, defended the project...."

Larry Siems, who edits the Torture Report, in Slate: "I read nearly 140,000 formerly classified documents about America's abuse of prisoners since 2001. Here is what I learned.... Our highest government officials, up to and including President Bush, broke international and U.S. laws banning torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Worse, they made their subordinates in the military and civilian intelligence services break those laws for them. When the men and women they asked to break those laws protested, knowing they could be prosecuted for torture, they pretended to rewrite the law."

CW: This article by Philip Gourevitch for the New Yorker, first published in the magazine last December & made available on line this week, on Nicolas Sarkozy, looks to be interesting, tho I've only just skimmed it. Here's a quote, which is supposed to show how gauche Sarkozy is but which I like:

You've lost a good opportunity to shut up. -- Nicolas Sarkozy to British PM David Cameron, in response to something Camerson said in an E.U. meeting

... Also not yet read, this article by Nicholas Lemann of the New Yorker, briefly reviewing a number of recent books about the politics of inequality.

Brendan Sasso of The Hill: "The House is set to vote on a host of cybersecurity bills next week, but the fate of the legislation rests in the Senate. The House is expected to approve the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which would tear down legal barriers that discourage companies from sharing data about cyber attacks.... But the White House and Senate Democrats argue CISPA is inadequate." ...

... Scott Lemieux in Salon: "Congress is seriously considering a bill called the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). Intended to allow information sharing both between corporations and between corporations and the government, it presents serious dangers to individual privacy."

The Presidential Race

** Frank Rich of New York magazine: "If you want to appreciate what Barack Obama is up against in 2012, forget about the front man who is his nominal opponent and look instead at the Republican billionaires buying the ammunition for the battles ahead.... Whatever else happens in 2012, it will go down as the Year of the Sugar Daddy. Inflamed by Obama-hatred, awash in self-pity, and empowered by myriad indulgent court and Federal Election Commission rulings, an outsize posse of superrich white men will spend whatever it takes to have its way with the body politic and, if victorious, with the country itself."

Alex Pareene plugs his new e-book, The Rude Guide to Mitt. In this excerpt, Pareene writes about Willard's weirdness.

Kasie Hunt of the AP: Mitt Romney wants you to know that his grandfather went broke a few times. CW: which means Mitt knows what it's like to be poor with no prospects.

Right Wing World *

Dashiell Bennett of The Atlantic: Over the past few days, former GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman has been making comments that represent "a repudiation of what [the Republican party has] become in the last several years. He's basically saying that their best candidates are worthless, the American people don't trust them, and they treat anyone who doesn't toe the party line the same way 'they do in China on party matters.'" ...

... Here's the BuzzFeed article by Zeke Miller, reporting on Huntsman's remarks at the 92nd Street Y.

David Sirota, writing in Salon, finds evidence that younger evangelicals are less committed than their Tea Party elders to anti-Christian, right-wing policies policies.

* Where science is just another cracked pot. -- Akhilleus

News Ledes

Orlando Sentinel: "Sanford city commissioners voted 3-2 to reject Police Chief Bill Lee's resignation over the controversial Trayvon Martin investigation."

New York Times: "Wal-Mart's stock fell almost 5 percent on Monday, accounting for about one-fifth of the losses in the Dow Jones industrial average, as investors reacted to a bribery scandal at the retailer's Mexican subsidiary and a report that an internal investigation was quashed at corporate headquarters in Arkansas." ...

... Washington Post: "The Justice Department has been conducting a criminal probe of Wal-Mart for allegations of systematic bribery in Mexico, according to three people familiar with the matter."

Washington Post: "Senate Democrats are making plans to force a floor vote on legislation that would invalidate Arizona's controversialimmigration statute if the Supreme Court upholds the law this summer."

ABC News: "Today, during the opening statements of his trial in Greensboro, N.C., two-time presidential candidate John Edwards was accused of using illegal campaign contributions during the 2008 presidential race to cover up his pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, a videographer for the campaign." The Raleigh, North Carolina News & Observer has a full page of links on the Edwards trial.

Washington Post: "President Obama will issue an executive order Monday that will allow U.S. officials for the first time to impose sanctions against foreign nationals found to have used new technologies, from cellphone tracking to Internet monitoring, to help carry out grave human rights abuses.... Authoritarian governments, particularly in Syria and Iran, have shown that their security services can also harness technology to help crack down on dissent -- by conducting surveillance, blocking access to the Internet or tracking the movements of opposition figures."

AP: "George Zimmerman was released around midnight Sunday from a county jail on $150,000 bail as he awaits his second-degree murder trial for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin."

New York Times: Anders Behring Breivik,"the self-described anti-Islamic militant who has admitted killing 77 people in a bombing and shooting spree last July, told bereaved families on Monday that he had also lost his family and friends as a result of the massacre."

Reader Comments (2)

Thanks for the great link to the Tribune article. I love it.

As I sit here typing and reading with my just-operated-on right eye closed and using my newly improved left eye, thanks to Medicare cataract surgery coverage--I have to comment on the Medicare Advantage link. My state retirement system put us into Aetna Medicare Advantage this year, and so far it is nowhere near as good to work with as our non-HMO coverage was. Plus I suspect they are "using" some of that government windfall to pester us with advice--letters and phone calls to me, for example, informing me about osteoporosis. Wow...I've been on Actonel for several years and just had a nuclear bone scan, but they think "I" might need to be educated on the topic. And after refusing to pay for a recent prescription for Lidoderm, after I fell and hurt my ribs, they sent me a long form I can use to challenge the ruling. By the time that was through, the pain would be long gone. Actually, I paid for it myself.

"Because Paul Krugman says so" is my constant observation as well.

April 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteralphonsegaston

Having read Nick Lemann's article in the New Yorker which is worth reading I found the essay in the NYRB (May 10th) by Andrew Hacker much better. Both authors address Charles Murray and Tim Noah, but Hacker is much more thorough and critical of Murray than Lemann and finds Noah's book, "The Great Divergence" a welcome antidote.

Ditto the "because Paul Krugman says so"––––there's something comfortable in that assurance––like a parent who says the same thing to a child who asks why they have to do a certain thing––"because I said so"–––end of conversation.

April 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe
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