The Ledes

Tuesday, December 1, 2015.

Washington Post: "A former wife of the Islamic State’s leader was released Tuesday after more than year in custody in Lebanon as part of a prisoner swap involving Lebanese security forces held captive by militants in Syria. Lebanese authorities handed over Saja al-Dulaimi, an Iraqi who was briefly married to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the presumed head of the Islamic State. Along with Dulaimi was a group of mostly Islamist detainees, according to officials in Lebanon’s military."

The Wires

White House Live Video
November 27

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

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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."

New York Times: "Kathleen McCormack Durst disappeared from her home in Westchester County nearly 34 years ago.... On Monday, Ms. Durst’s mother, Ann McCormack, who is 101, and three sisters — Carol Bamonte, Mary Hughes and Virginia McKeon filed a $100 million lawsuit against the man who they have long suspected of killing her: Robert A. Durst, her husband. The lawsuit contends that Mr. Durst violated the McCormack family’s right to sepulcher, a rarely used New York law granting family members the immediate right to possession of a body for burial."

Washington Post: "Christmas in Washington" annual TNT special, in which presidents & their families regularly appeared, ends 33-year-run. Ah, must be because of Obama's War on Christmas. Wait, it isn"t!

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."

... 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":

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The Commentariat -- April 27, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on David Brooks' latest attempt to take down Paul Krugman. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here. ...

... Driftglass has something to say about Brooks, too:

Mr. Brooks, in case you hadn't noticed, the government of the United States has been conducting a massive experiment for about the last 30 years. It's called 'Conservatism'. Maybe you've read about it? Its key features radical deregulating of everything, the mass rejection of science, running up staggering debt by throwing money at rich people, gutting our manufacturing base, shredding our social safety net, lying our way into some of the worst foreign policy decisions in our history, slandering, lying and impeaching opponents, voter suppression, mass-distributing firearms as if they were free sausage samples being handed out at the mall....

Paul Krugman: "... something has changed [in Europe] in the past few weeks. Several events — the collapse of the Dutch government over proposed austerity measures, the strong showing of the vaguely anti-austerity François Hollande in the first round of France’s presidential election, and an economic report showing that Britain is doing worse in the current slump than it did in the 1930s — seem to have finally broken through the wall of denial. Suddenly, everyone is admitting that austerity isn’t working."

NEW. Governing by Executive Order. Anne Gearan of the AP: At Ft. Stewart today, President Obama signed "an executive order mandating several new education protections for military service members. Though there is little the federal government can do to shut down diploma mills, the new protections would make it harder for post-secondary and technical schools to misrepresent themselves to military students.... Bills pending in Congress, largely backed by Democrats and unlikely to become law soon, would do many of the same things Obama was ordering Friday."

Thirty-one Republican Senators voted against reauthorization of the Violence against Women Act (see yesterday's Ledes):

Robert Farzad of Business Week: we taxpayers still have a "special relationship" with A.I.G.; Treasury has effectively given them another bailout, according to Elizabeth Warren & is playing numbers tricks according to Neil Barofsky. And A.I.G. hasn't learned a thing -- its CEO can hardly wait to get back into risky business. ...

... Speaking of Elizabeth Warren -- Robert Rizzuto of The (Massuchusetts) Republican: "With Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown set to release six years of tax returns sometime today, the Massachusetts Democratic Party released a new video this morning portraying him as 'a millionaire under that $675 barn jacket" (via Greg Sargent):

The Presidential Race

** New York Times editors: "Mitt Romney has made [Robert] Bork a chairman of his Justice Advisory Committee. As with other Republicans leaders, Mr. Bork's central position in Mr. Romney's legal team says a great deal about the presumptive presidential nominee's approach to the law, none of it good."

E. J. Dionne: "Mitt Romney ... has a utopian view of what an unfettered, lightly taxed market economy can achieve. He would never put it this way, of course, but his approach looks forward by looking backward to the late 19th century, when government let market forces rip and a conservative Supreme Court swept aside as unconstitutional almost every effort to write rules for the economic game. This magical capitalism is the centerpiece of Romney's campaign.... This is Romney’s true radicalism."

Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast: no matter how "moderate" Gov. Etch-a-Sketch becomes on immigration, he won't be able to top McCain 31% of the Hispanic vote because "Romney, like his party, is just too white.... Average Latino voters, men and women who work really hard every day for white bosses, are just going to find that he reminds them too much of the guy who docks their pay when the bus comes late. And they won't be wrong -- he basically is that guy."

John Broder of the New York Times: "The group Americans for Prosperity just went up with a $6.1 million ad buy in swing states that accuses the Obama administration of squandering American taxpayer dollars on green energy projects, asserting that some of the money actually went to foreign entities. The ad is going up in eight states." And it's full of lies. CW: Good for Broder for debunking the ad. ...

     ... NEW. Stephen Lacey & Rebecca Leber of Think Progress fact-check the ad. Oops, no facts! ...

     ... AND. NEW. Steve Benen: "If President Obama has failed as spectacularly as his Republican detractors argue, shouldn't it be easier for them to come up with honest attack ads?"

... Paul Waldman of American Prospect on the "Cool Obama" ad from Karl Turdblossom Rove (see the ad in yesterday's Commentariat): "So once again, we have to wage a campaign of the cool kids versus the squares. This all started in the 1960s, when people like Rove and Romney watched their contemporaries smoking grass, listening to music with electric guitars, and dancing wildly about with adventurous girls in sheer peasant blouses, and thought to themselves, 'Gosh darn it, I hate those guys!'" CW: my thoughts exactly.

Right Wing World *

Russell Berman of The Hill: "House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) sounded a pessimistic note on the prospects of Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) modified DREAM Act proposal making it into law this year.... 'I found it of interest,' he said of Rubio’s proposal, 'but the problem with this issue is that we’re operating in a very hostile political environment. And to deal with a very difficult issue like this … I think it would be difficult at best.'" CW: Hostile political environment: see also 20-foot electrified double border fence with alligator mote. ...

... Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "The Rubio proposal hardly puts Obama in a 'box,' as the Post suggests [see yesterday's Commentariat]. All Obama has to do is endorse the Rubio option as a stopgap measure, say it's the best that can be done for now, and tell Congress to get to work. At that point, the GOP will fling it into a black hole of obstruction, from which neither hope nor light can escape." CW: and if Romney also endorses it, that will leave him once again at odds with the Xenophobe Party. C'mon, Obama, you know what to do.

* Where it sucks not to be white. -- Akhilleus

News Ledes

New York Times: "The economic output of the United States grew at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in the first quarter of the year, largely on the strength of consumer spending and a surge in residential building helped by unseasonably warm weather."

Vice President Oops! Politico: "The Federal Election Commission has fined Sen. Marco Rubio $8,000 for accepting more than $210,000 in improper contributions during his 2010 run for the Senate."

New York Times: "Moments after an unusual fiery appeal from Speaker John A. Boehner, the House voted 215 to 195 on Friday to prevent a doubling of student loan rates and challenge President Obama over a veto threat. The bill, which would strip $5.9 billion from a program within the health care law to pay to keep rates on subsidized undergraduate loans at 3.4 percent, is all but certain to fail in the Senate, where lawmakers have put together their own measure to keep the rate from reverting to 6.8 percent by closing tax loopholes for some wealthy business owners."

New York Times: "The dramatic nighttime escape of a blind rights lawyer from extralegal house arrest in his village dealt a major embarrassment to the Chinese government and left the United States, which may be sheltering him, with a fresh diplomatic quandary as it seeks to improve its fraught relationship with Beijing."

New York Times: "Defying a veto threat from President Obama, the House on Thursday passed a bill that encourages intelligence agencies and businesses to share information about threats to computer systems, including attacks on American Web sites by hackers in China and other countries."

New York Times: "Federal regulators escalated their antitrust investigation of Google on Thursday by hiring a prominent litigator, sending a strong signal that they are prepared to take the Internet giant to court."

Guardian: "Japan and the US have agreed to relocate thousands of US marines from Okinawa in a move aimed at reducing the island's military burden amid lingering anger among residents over pollution, accidents and crime. Under a deal reached in Washington late on Thursday, about 9,000 marines will move from the southern Japanese island to the US Pacific territory of Guam and other locations in the region, including Hawaii and Australia."

New York Times: "... the Secret Service has begun to change its policies after the scandal [in Colombia]. The agency plans to bar employees from drinking alcohol beginning 10 hours before their shift.... The previous cutoff was six hours.... According to a Congressional official, the employees involved [in the prostitution scandal] included nine Secret Service agents and three uniformed officers. None were part of the president's personal detail."

Guardian: "The military judge in the court-martial of the US soldier accused of handing WikiLeaks the biggest trove of unauthorised state secrets in American history has put army prosecutors on notice that they must prove Bradley Manning knew he was helping the enemy or face the possibility that the most serious charge against him be dismissed."

Reuters: "A nearly three-year-long investigation by Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats is expected to find there is little evidence the harsh 'enhanced interrogation techniques' the CIA used on high-value prisoners produced counter-terrorism breakthroughs."

New York Times: Jeremy Hunt, the "embattled British cabinet minister who has drawn criticism for his dealings with Rupert Murdoch's media empire, promised on Friday to hand over text messages and e-mails relating to his role in a failed $12 billion bid by Mr. Murdoch to take full control of BSkyB, Britain's main satellite broadcaster."

Reuters: "George Zimmerman, the former neighborhood watch volunteer who is accused of murder in the death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, has raised at least $200,000 through a website set up to fund his defense, his lawyer said on Thursday."

ABC News: "While U.S. officials say publicly there is no specific threat of a terror attack, behind the scenes law enforcement officials tell ABC News there are plans for a major security surge at airports and transportation hubs in advance of next week's anniversary of Osama bin Laden<'s death."

Reader Comments (4)

The European austerity experiment: Let's see now. If you have less money circulating because you blew up the economy and lost a fifth to a quarter of the world's ready capital, and then you decide to fix the problem by extracting even more capital from circulation by hiding it in (to use Krugman's phrase) the rentiers' pockets, are you wiser or more moral than the great unwashed, hands outstretched clutching their empty begging bowls, or just flat dumb?

Looks like the great unwashed is making its decision. Democracy is such a bother for the rich. Almost as much as a cool President for a Turdblossom.

April 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

Bork is like the horror show villian who, after being thoroughly killed off and we breathe a sigh of relief, pops up to wreak havoc again.
How many years has it been since the Saturday night Massacre?
Mae Finch

April 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermae finch

@mae finch

Don't you know..The entire GOP is populated with the walking dead. Zombies have devoured their brains.

April 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaveS


My mother used to say “Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are.”

If that’s the case, we can tell a lot about how Romney will govern. I don’t care if he and his advisors look at this as a sop to the tinfoil hat Republicans and Teabagger loons. The choice of Bork as your primary legal advisor opens the door for many more questions than answers about a President Romney.

First, even if he’s agnostic about Bork’s views, what does that say about him? That his only concern for the law of the land and Constitutional interpretation is based solely on the chameleonic requirements of the moment? When he was governor of MA, he was much more moderate, but is that what he believed or were those tricks of the trade? More pandering to get what he wanted? Like a hooker putting on a good show for the client(s)?

Let’s remember what Ted Kennedy had to say about Bork when he was first offered for the Senate's consideration by that other model of moderation, Ronald Reagan:

"Mr. Bork...stands for an extremist view of the Constitution and the role of the Supreme Court that would have placed him outside the mainstream of American constitutional jurisprudence in the 1960s, let alone the 1980s. He opposed the Public Accommodations Civil Rights Act of 1964. He opposed the one-man one-vote decision of the Supreme Court the same year. He has said that the First Amendment applies only to political speech, not literature or works of art or scientific expression...Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens."

(Scarily, this description fits exactly where today's GOP wants to take us.)

Conservatives can scream all they want about Teddy Kennedy, but he was right on the money about Bork and the senate agreed with him.

Now Romney’s shills, and the dominant right-wing media echo chambers will scream that this doesn’t mean anything and people are reading way too much into this. That Bork is only an advisor and his selection as such only matters to lame-brain liberals. But it DOES matter.

These same 'pundits' declared Barack Obama's tangential connections to Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers terribly significant but neither of those guys were presidential advisors.

Bork is.

Just don’t forget the prostitute’s code. Never get emotionally involved with a client and never kiss them on the mouth.
Don’t expect Willard to truly care about any average Americans or to pucker up anytime soon. He’ll be too busy putting on a good show, selling himself to the highest bidders, and wearing whatever costume will get the job done.

It does matter.

April 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus
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