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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 29, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on Douthat's hand-wringing over Japanese demographics.

Paul Krugman on ABC New's "This Week" speaks about Fed Chair Ben Bernanke That jer at the end there is David Walker, one of the guys Tom Friedman thinks should be President:

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

     ... You can watch more ideologues explaining economics to Krugman here.

President Obama at the White House Correspondents Dinner last night:

     ... CW: For the third year running, I thought Obama was funnier than the professional comedian.

** Edgar Doctorow in a New York Times op-ed on how "to achieve unexceptionalism, the political ideal that would render the United States indistinguishable from the impoverished, traditionally undemocratic, brutal or catatonic countries of the world." Highly recommended.

Martin Amis, in a New York Times essay, remembers his stays in the U.S. in 1958 & 1967.

Annie Lowrey of the New York Times: "The growth of health spending has slowed substantially in the last few years, surprising experts and offering some fuel for optimism about the federal government's long-term fiscal performance.... Experts said not to discount the accountable-care revolution just because it remained small or because the changes implemented by the Obama health care law had not come into full effect yet."

Greg Miller of the Washington Post: "The emerging picture [of Al Qaeda] is of a network that is crumpled at its core, apparently incapable of an attack on the scale of Sept. 11, 2001, yet poised to survive its founder’s demise."

Peter Bergen, in a New York Times op-ed: "Despite countervailing evidence, most conservatives view the president as some kind of peacenik. From both the right and left, there has been a continuing, dramatic cognitive disconnect between Mr. Obama’s record and the public perception of his leadership: despite his demonstrated willingness to use force, neither side regards him as the warrior president he is."

Greedy Bastards. Charles Duhigg & David Kocieniewski of the New York Times on how Apple avoids billions in taxes.

You can listen to oral arguments before the Supreme Court in Arizona v. the United States here. (The audio widget is on the right side of the screen.)

The Presidential Race

** Rick Perlstein of Rolling Stone on how "the ecology of right-wing smears works: Insane horror stories – Clinton is running cocaine out of an Arkansas airport! Barack Obama had gay sex in the back of a limo! -- bubble up from the collective conservative Id at the outset of an election year; professional conservatives in Washington identify the ones that seem most promising and launder them through the suckers in the 'balance'-hungry mainstream media; and presto, before you know it, it's death-panel-palooza, 24/7." Perlstein posits that Obama will be accused this year of trying to establish a state religion in violation of the First Amendment. The religion? Secular Humanism! Want proof? The groundwork is laid, & Mitt Romney is already traveling down the road.

Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: Oh, Romney is a fun guy, too. (See Obama above, at Washington Correspondents Dinner.) Romney makes jokes about firing people. Ha ha and ha. CW: This story about Romney's funny side is, not surprisingly, really short.

Dan Balz of the Washington Post bids farewell to Newt.

Right Wing World

Thomas Mann & Norm Ornstein in a Washington Post op-ed: "We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional.... Today ... we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party. The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."

Vatican Ragout

Maureen Dowd: "It has become a habit for the church to go after women.... Church leaders behave like adolescent boys, blinded by sex. That’s the problem with inquisitors and censors: They become fascinated by what they deplore." ...

... Nicholas Kristof: "If you look at who has more closely emulated Jesus's life, Pope Benedict or your average nun, it's the nun hands down. Since the papal crackdown on nuns, they have received an outpouring of support." ...

... Funny, no word from Ross Douthat on the Vatican's inquisition of American nuns.

Sarah Garfinkel of the Peoria Journal-Star: "Some faculty members at the University of Notre Dame are calling on Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky to renounce statements he made during a controversial April 14 homily or resign from the school's Board of Fellows. More than 90 faculty members have so far signed the letter, which was released Monday to the Notre Dame student newspaper, according to John Duffy, an English professor at the university. Jenky, during his homily, analogized the political actions of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin to those of President Obama." Via Steve Benen.

Vatican Rag

Your Sunday Sermon

The Gospel According to Saint Paul. The work I do as a Catholic holding office conforms to the social doctrine as best I can make of it. The overarching threat to our whole society today is the exploding federal debt. The Holy Father, Pope Benedict, has charged that governments, communities, and individuals running up high debt levels are ‘living at the expense of future generations’ and ‘living in untruth." -- Paul Ryan (RTP-Wisc.)

Your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her call to selfishness and her antagonism toward religion are antithetical to the Gospel values of compassion and love. -- Letter to Ryan from a group of Jesuits & Georgetown University faculty

A just spending bill cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor and vulnerable persons. -- Letter to Ryan from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops ...

... Holy Shit! Now the Pope is an economist. Poor Krugman! Suzy Khimm of the Washington Post: "A small handful of Catholic social justice activists descended on Georgetown University's gothic campus to protest Ryan's speech there this morning, unfurling a 50-foot sign that read, 'Were you there when they crucified the poor?' Organized by Catholics United, a left-leaning advocacy group, members argued that Ryan's proposed cuts to Medicaid and other welfare programs for the poor go against the teachings of the Church to uplift the poor and downtrodden." ...

... Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones: "During the Q&A session that followed, where Ryan fielded questions submitted by students, he insisted that welfare reform had brought down child poverty rates. The claim is false, especially in Ryan's home state. According to the most recent data, the child poverty rate in Wisconsin jumped 42 percent between 2000 and 2010. The suffering would have been more significant but for the large increases in federal food assistance that Ryan wants to scale back. Welfare reform is more likely a contributing factor to child poverty, not a solution to it, making it a dubious model for for combating poverty 'at its roots,' as Ryan said he wants to do." ...

... Dana Milbank: "The moderator asked [Ryan] about 'the moral dimension' of a budget that gives tax cuts to the wealthy and cuts spending for the poor. Ryan’s answer included the phrase 'subchapter S corporations.' ... If government does too much for the poor, 'you make it harder' for churches and charities to do that work. It was a bold economic — and theological — proposition. Even Jesus said to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. Ryan would rather give the rich a tax cut."

News Ledes

New York Times: "The Obama administration scrambled on Sunday to contain a growing diplomatic crisis between the United States and China, sending a senior diplomat to Beijing to discuss the fate of a blind dissident who fled house arrest last week."

New York Times: "If the winds are forgiving enough over Lower Manhattan -- up where workers can see the whole outline of the island's tip -- a steel column will be hoisted into place Monday afternoon atop the exoskeleton of 1 World Trade Center and New York will have a new tallest building."

New York Times: "President Obamapoked fun at himself, Congress, the Secret Service, the media and particularly his rival Mitt Romney on Saturday night, mocking his Republican opponent as a fuddy-duddy rich guy who travels with his dog in a cage strapped to the roof of the family car." Full video above.

New York Times: "Google's harvesting of e-mails, passwords and other sensitive personal information from unsuspecting households in the United States and around the world was neither a mistake nor the work of a rogue engineer, as the company long maintained, but a program that supervisors knew about, according to new details from the full text of a regulatory report."

Guardian: "Concern is growing for relatives and supporters of Chen Guangcheng, the blind legal activist who fled from 19 months of house arrest in a Chinese village in Shandong province and is said to be sheltering inside the American embassy in Beijing. Police have detained four family members and two of those who aided his escape, a rights group said."

New York Times: "Egypt's most conservative Islamists endorsed a liberal Islamist for president late Saturday night, upending the political landscape and confounding expectations about the internal dynamics of the Islamist movement. The main missionary and political groups of the ultraconservatives, known as Salafis, threw their support behind Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a dissident former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood known for his tolerant and inclusive view of Islamic law."

Guardian: Prime Minister "David Cameron has insisted there was 'no grand deal' with Rupert Murdoch over the BSkyB bid in exchange for support for his party....The prime minister indicated he regretted attending a Christmas party at the Oxfordshire home of the then News International chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, in December 2010, and admitted discussing matters with James Murdoch, but insisted it did not involve 'any inappropriate conversations'."

Al Jazeera: "The Co-Operative Group, a British supermarket chain, is extending a boycott of goods from illegal Israeli settlements and will now shun any supplier known to source from these areas, a statement has said."

Reader Comments (8)

E.L. Doctorow's piece says it all. It is the end of the United States of America. And since only about 10% of the population will ever read such a thing, it will have no impact. So goodbye America. Welcome to the united states of profit, a corporate entity where people who previously were called citizens are now called serfs.

April 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

If any of you saw Obama and Jimmy Kimmel at the White House Correspondents' Dinner tonight, I think you will feel "less bad" about supporting Obama--a very funny man--and his self-irony is delicious. A real grown up. The faux ad by the right wing PAC praising Mitt Romney for "liberating" dogs (by allowing Seamus to ride strapped to the top of his car) VS. Obama with the spoiled Bo, who is "dependent on Government handouts" and rides in limousines is absolutely hysterical!

I am less and less ambivalent about supporting Obama--although I still cannot bring myself to send money (which I don't have). I think it is that Jimmy Messina "thing!"

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKate Madison

I am fascinated by these religious leaders--followers––who are embroiled in all things sexual, especially the Catholic males in high places dictating the ways of the flesh. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, all politics may not be sexual, but all sex is political so says this illuminating essay and boy, oh, boy does it have the ring of familiarity with our brothers here with the incense, wine and wafers.

I found Doctorow's piece perfect. I'd like to see printed copies sent to every household with that ubiquitous message on the outside envelope "URGENT–-OPEN IMMEDIATELY"

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

@Marvin Schwalb's "united states of profit": Good phrase, that. Once we move discussion away from the particulars of what we like and what we don't like about our witty black President or his buffoonish predecessor, the overall national tussle has long centered on the shifting division between what should properly be public and what private, between what's good for the country as a whole and what might be better for a few individuals.

In the economic realm, Republicans want to corporatize everything, claiming efficiencies that don't exist in pursuit of their goal to maximize profit for the few. Their "freedom" here is absolute corporate freedom, unquestioned and unregulated. Economically speaking, corporate freedom trumps that of the individual and private interest reigns supreme over the public. Anywhere there's a revenue stream, schools, post offices, medical services, retirement savings, Republicans want unfettered access to fish exclusively in it.
It's not enough that most wealth in this country is founded on one kind of government subsidy or another (from mineral, timber or land grants to defense industries) the insatiable corporate appetite wants it all. Hence the shifting line between public and private; I call it corporate colonization of new, unopened territory, only this time around the Native Americans are us.

Ironically, extending corporate freedoms into all this new territory goes hand in hand with limiting the freedoms long enjoyed by individuals. As it intrudes more and more into their lives, the corporate state wants fewer protests from its Natives; hence in the name of national security more restrictions on divergent thinking and action. Here, as in the case of sexual preference, contraception and abortion, strictly private matters are subject to increasing public scrutiny and control. For the corporate state to function, its citizens have to fall in line and if they will not do so willingly, the coercion public power can wield in the form of restrictive laws is just the ticket.

In short, more freedom for corporations means less for individuals. We can see the shadow of the shifting line between public and private in almost every current political issue. My most recent favorite: the Catholic hospitals that want to extend the reach of their "private" morals to those who don't share them, while at the same time taking "public" money for doing so.

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

Hey Ken––don't know whether you saw this in the Times, but it corresponds nicely to what you and Marvin are addressing: Here's the link:

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

"I call it corporate colonization of new, unopened territory, only this time around the Native Americans are us."

Excellent observation.

Manifest Destiny..21st century style

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

Just occurred to me: Is American Exceptionalism also the new Manifest Destiny?

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

@DaveS No. Manifest Destiny existed because of its time & place; American Exceptionalism doesn't. It's a bumper sticker.

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames Singer
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