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November 27

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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 26, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is ostensibly on Charles Blow's uncritical post re: Mitt Romney's "victory" speech Tuesday night. But since Blow totally missed it, my column is most useful, I think, as a rundown of what a bunch of crap Romney's speech was. The NYTX front page is here with links to some great stuff. NYTX is in the last week of its subscription drive, so if you were of a mind to sign up, now would be a good time to do so. ...  

... If I coulda, I woulda defended Krugman in the Krugman-Bernanke brouhaha, but I told NYTX editor Chris Spannos I wasn't smart enough. He contacted economist Dean Baker, who is smart enough. Tho Baker was reluctant, he has weigned in, coming down on Krugman's side. Here's Baker's post. The "debate" started with this article, to be printed in this week's New York Times Magazine, in which Krugman criticizes Bernanke for not sticking to his own principles & doing more to manipulate the economy to encourage jobs growth -- which is half of the Fed's charter. In response to a question from New York Times reporter Binyamin Appelbaum, Bernanke responded that Krugman was "absolutely incorrect." In a blogpost, Krugman replied, "... as I see it, in effect he [Bernanke] declared that he has been assimilated by the Fed Borg." ...

... Charles Pierce's review of Ross Douthat's book about religious stuff is priceless.

Here's an American Crossroads (Karl Rove) anti-Obama ad that just makes me like the President better:

Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone interviews President Obama.

Episode 2 of "Money, Power & Wall Street." You have to play through at the end of the video to see the full episode:

Jared Bernstein enters into the World-Where-Facts-Matter & reviews scholarly research that all shows that raising the tax rate on high-income earners has no negative impact on the economy.

Jessica Silver-Greenberg & Ben Protess of the New York Times: "An increasing number of the nation’s large banks — U.S. Bank, Regions Financial and Wells Fargo among them — are aggressively courting low-income customers ... with alternative products that can carry high fees. They are rapidly expanding these offerings partly because the products were largely untouched by recent financial regulations, and also to recoup the billions in lost income from recent limits on debit and credit card fees."

Nicholas Kristof: autopsies of dozens of veterans' brains show evidence of a disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., raising the question, "Could blasts from bombs or grenades have a catastrophic impact similar to those of repeated concussions in sports, and could the rash of suicides among young veterans be a result?"

Dream Act -2.0. Peter Wallsten of the Washington Post: Sen. Marco Rubio's (RTP-Fla.) "alternate" Dream Act "puts Obama in a box. Democrats are reluctant to see Rubio's efforts as anything other than a political gambit to repair his party's tarnished image with Hispanics and boost his own profile as a potential vice-presidential pick or future White House contender. But if Obama does not at least try to work with Rubio, he could risk losing a centerpiece of his appeal to Hispanic voters — that he is their fiercest ally in Washington and that the GOP is to blame for lack of action on fixing the country's immigration ills." ...

... CW: Obama should call Rubio into the Oval, tell Rubio he knows what he's up to, then green-light the plan, if Rubio ever gets it written down, even tho the plan leaves these kids as 2nd-class noncitizens. This is the only way Obama can one-up Romney's certain embrace of the plan, which Romney says he's "studying."

The Presidential Race

"The Wrong Message." Fareed Zakaria: "Recently the president and his advisers have focused on taxing the rich and tackling inequality. The 'Buffett rule' tax on millionaires has become Obama’s bumper sticker. The proposal is reasonable — but does not deserve the attention Obama is showering on it. It raises a trivial sum.... It adds one more layer to a tax code that is already the most complex and corrupt in the industrialized world. If the president wants to be bold, he could propose comprehensive tax reform and eliminate the hundreds of deductions, exemptions, credits and loopholes, many of which Congress sells in exchange for campaign contributions.... Warren Buffett has said that, in the midst of the economic slowdown, his strategy was to invest in America. That's the Buffett rule Obama should follow."

Gail Collins: "We are now in for six months of Mitt Romney versus Barack Obama, and with the polls showing the race to be very close, you could argue that it is going to be really exciting. Except for the fact that it's Mitt Romney versus Barack Obama."

Jed Lewison of Daily Kos makes the case that, with two exceptions, Mitt Romney hasn't been much of a flip-flopper. On the contrary, he has stuck to his newly-honed conservative guns.

Jamelle Bouie of American Prospect: "In his victory speech last night, the former Massachusetts governor offered a startlingly dishonest take on the last three and a half years of the Obama presidency." Bouie, by contrast, offers a starltingly honest take.

Right Wing World *

"The Wonk Gap." Steve Benen: right-wing experts, even when they know better, will say anything, do anything to score points for their side. Case in point, economist Glenn Hubbard, once a Dubya's economist, now working for Romney, "has a Wall Street Journal op-ed arguing that President Obama's budget plan includes a secret plan to raise everyone's taxes by 11%. Commenting on the piece, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said Hubbard's argument is 'completely made up,' and a 'remarkably hackish observation for an economist.'"

Tim Noah of The New Republic: "House Majority Leader Eric Cantor last week became, I think, the highest-ranking Republican poobah to say, pretty much outright, that we need to soak the poor. More remarkable still, he said we need to do it in order to avoid raising taxes on the rich!" Here's that sniveling little weasel on the Utoobz:

* From which no fact returns unmutilated. -- Akhilleus

News Ledes

Reuters: "The family of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, killed almost a year ago by American special forces in a military town in northwest Pakistan, left Pakistan for Saudi Arabia early on Friday morning, the family lawyer told Reuters. The move ends months of speculation about the fate of the three widows and 11 children, who were detained by Pakistani security forces after the May 2 raid. 'Yes, they're being deported to Saudi Arabia,' said Aamir Khalil, the family lawyer. 'It is a special flight.'"

San Diego Union-Tribune: "Sgt. Gary Stein, the Camp Pendleton-based Marine who made national headlines for his disparaging remarks about President Barack Obama on Facebook, has been thrown out of the Corps."

Washington Post: "A measure that would reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act was approved by the Senate Thursday with broad bipartisan support, despite some Republican objections to key provisions. The battle over those differences now moves to the House, where Republicans are pushing an alternative version of the bill."

New York Times: "The drama of former Senator John Edwards's trial took a few more twists on Thursday as Andrew Young ... admitted submitting misleading financial statements to a wealthy benefactor who thought he was helping the senator hide a mistress." ...

     ... News & Observer: "Andrew Young, the former aide for John Edwards, acknowledged under a rough cross-examination Thursday afternoon that much of the money obtained from two wealthy supporters went into the construction of his $1.5 million Orange County home." The News & Observer's Edwards page is here.

AP: "A military judge rejected a defense motion Thursday to consolidate some of the charges against [Pfc. Bradley Manning].... Col. Denise Lind was still considering a defense motion to dismiss the most serious charge against [him] — aiding the enemy — which carries a maximum life sentence. She said problems with a Fort Meade Internet connection had slowed her work on that matter and might delay her ruling until a later date."

AP: "The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits remained stuck near a three-month high last week, a sign that hiring has likely slowed since winter. The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications dipped 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 388,000. It was little changed from the previous week's figure, the highest since Jan. 7."

AP: "Chrysler followed its strong first-quarter sales with a big profit, sending its 2009 brush with financial death farther into the rearview mirror. The Auburn Hills, Mich., company made a net profit of $473 million, its best quarter in 13 years, mainly on the back of strong U.S.sales."

Washington Post: "The United States has begun launching drone strikes against suspected al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen under new authority approved by President Obama that allows the CIA and the military to fire even when the identity of those who could be killed is not known.... The policy shift marks a significant expansion of the clandestine drone war against an al-Qaeda affiliate that has seized large ­pieces of territory in Yemen and is linked to a series of terrorist plots against the United States. U.S. officials said that Obama approved the use of 'signature' strikes this month and that the killing of an al-Qaeda operative near the border of Yemen's Marib province this week was among the first attacks carried out under the new authority."

New York Times: "Charles G. Taylor, the former president of Liberia and once a powerful warlord, was convicted by an international tribunal on Thursday of 11 counts of aiding and abetting war crimes committed in Sierra Leone during that country's civil war in the 1990s. The ruling, announced by Presiding Judge Richard Lussick of Samoa, said Mr. Taylor was guilty of involvement in crimes against humanity and war crimes including murder, rape, slavery and the use of child soldiers. The court, however, said the prosecution failed to prove that Mr. Taylor had direct command responsibility for the atrocities in the indictment."

New York Times: "The front-runner for the French presidency, the Socialist candidate François Hollande, said on Wednesday that if elected he would ask other European leaders to renegotiate a fiscal treaty in order to promote growth."

Washington Post: "Israel’s military chief said in an interview published Wednesday that he believes Iran will choose not to build a nuclear bomb, an assessment that contrasted with the gloomier statements of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and pointed to differences over the Iran issue at the top levels of Israeli leadership." Here's the interview of Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz in Haaretz.

Washington Post: "Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Thursday convicted Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani of contempt for defying its orders to reopen an old corruption case against the president, but the justices spared Gilani any prison time. The sentence was symbolic, lasting only until judges left the courtroom. But Gilani's political future remains clouded with the possibility that he could still be removed from office."

AP: "Analysts who have studied photos of a half-dozen ominous new North Korean missiles showcased recently at a lavish military parade say they were fakes, and not very convincing ones, casting further doubt on the country's claims of military prowess."

Guardian: "Rupert Murdoch has admitted to the Leveson inquiry there was a 'cover-up' at News International over the phone-hacking scandal. Murdoch, the News Corp chairman and chief executive, giving his second day of evidence to the inquiry in London, said he was 'misinformed and shielded' from what was going on at the News of the World, adding that there was a 'cover-up'."

Reader Comments (4)

What happened to the Republican Party?

Just scan a few selections here on RC today and you find a microcosm of the mendacious morass that has mired the GOP in an outrageously extreme, unsupportable, and anti-factual alternate universe. The problem for the rest of us is that (for all you fans of Fringe) this cracked mirror fantasy universe and the real universe everyone else lives in are inextricably linked. They are trying to force public policy based on a dismal ideology down everyone’s throat. Our future is a potential wasteland worse than anything T.S. Eliot could concoct:

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

So Eliot wasn’t far off, but I doubt even his febrile imagination could navigate the insanity of the present GOP.

And so today we see Eric Cantor advocating for higher taxes on the poor and indigent in order that millionaires and billionaires can get some relief. Those lucky duckies have had their day in the sun, I suppose, but now, it’s time for that family of four trying to make it on $20,000 a year to quit their moaning and pay up. The Kochs are tired of them not paying any taxes. Get under that rock and stay there.

Intellectually, the right doesn’t fare much better than they do as models of moral intelligence. We see, in the efforts of Ross Douthat cherry picking whatever suits his argument for why we are all bad boys and girls for not bowing down to the pope and behaving like characters in a 1940s Bing Crosby movie, a daftness and blinkered approach to intellectual investigation that would make most high school term papers read like an Isaiah Berlin essay. All you heretics, you get under that rock too.

And this morning I read that John Boehner has decided that the student loan situation can be fixed by borrowing billions from the President’s private slush funds hidden under the sheets of his health care act. Let’s not even mention the fact that Boehner and his party are working with jack hammers day and night to eviscerate this law. But you have to love the slickness of that mention of "slush funds". Whatever for? Why, junkets for the Secret Service to Cartagena, no doubt! Plenty of room for everyone under that rock.

But all three of these guys are considered serious, thoughtful players in the current scorched desert right-wing landscape.

Life under the red rock, I suppose.

Whatever happened to truly thoughtful Republicans, to people like Rockefeller, Eisenhower, Henry Cabot Lodge? Hell, even Prescott Bush. Well, okay, maybe not Bush. There’s that small business of his getting rich by doing business with German companies that supported the Nazi war machine, even while we were at war with them. Oops. At least the other guys, whether you agreed with them or not, lived in the same universe and on the same planet. Actual adult conversation was possible.

Now we’re faced with life under Eliot’s red rock where slither the likes of Cantor, Boehner, Douthat and a vast army of reptiles. Fear in a handful of dust, indeed. The opening question is rhetorical. We know what happened. The problem is that no one (read: the media) seems to recognize that we’ve been dragged under that rock, our new home, by these aliens.

If Obama doesn’t come out blazing against these guys I am gonna be very upset.

April 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Akhilleus, the media is just another business that will say anything to sell a paper or catch a viewer. Getting into controversy is no longer possible. And remember we call it the media, not journalism. Also note that the new Republicans are playing to the human minds of many. The same kind of minds that think that the underwear they wear protects them from evil or that saying the right words over and over again gets you into heaven. It's easy. What I want Obama to say is the real truth, the current Republican party really,really are the new fascists. The approach is exactly that of the Nazis, gain control by making people believe that their problems are caused by others. Even though they have nothing special they are 'exceptional'. So much easier than accepting responsibility.They want to end democracy and create a new state that fits their concept of the 'free enterprise' America. Of course the freedom and the money is only for them.

April 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

@ Akhilleus: I recall what Isaiah Berlin said about what Washington had taught him: that even great political figures rarely understood the history they were trying to shape to their own design, and that politics always had a potential for tragedy because the forces it sought to master were never fully within human grasp.

Today we have some terrific journalists––this site is run by one of them––the trouble is their voices don't reach those under your red rock.

April 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Marvin and PD, both your comments call to mind two different sides of this problem. First, the point that we're dealing with creatures of media empires and not journalists is an excellent one. There are a few good reporters out there but their work is often buried amidst the dreck from outlets like Fox. PD's observation that there are plenty of great journalists at work, just out of earshot or eyesight of most was given ironic energy by some of the comments the president made in a Rolling Stone interview. If a smart guy like Obama can only make room, as Driftglass noted yesterday, for the mainstream outlets, the Times, the Post, the Atlantic, the New Yorker, with never a glance at the scores of excellent sites out there, like this one, whose writers and editors labor mightily to make sense of the senselessness, then we really do have a battle on our hands.

April 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterakhilleus
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