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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."

The Washington Post thought it would be great journalism to feature Donald's Digs in their weekend edition.  You'll be happy to know that Trump's taste runs to the gaudy & garish. You can take the boy out of the boroughs but you can take the boroughs out of the boy. I'd call Donald's style Early Modern Lottery Winner. Here's a sampling:

... There's much more where that came from. Ugh. Here, by contrast, is the study in Michael Bloomberg's New York City pad. Bloomberg is quite a few $$BB richer than Trump.

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

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

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

Contact the Constant Weader

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.


The Commentariat -- April 30, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on Jonathan Weisman's New York Times puff piece on Paul Ryan. The NYT front page is here.

Thanks to everyone for your brilliant comments over the past week. I'm sorry I haven't had time to participate, but I have been reading & appreciating them. -- Constant Weader

Paul Krugman: "... there;s also a war on the young, which is just as real even if it's better disguised. And it's doing immense harm, not just to the young, but to the nation’s future.... What should we do to help America's young? Basically, the opposite of what Mr. Romney and his friends want."

I'm going to go ahead & post the whole ABC News "This Week" roundtable (I posted a clip yesterday), because it was so bad. After taping it, Krugman wrote a post titled "We're Doomed." He's right:

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... Following up on a point Krugman made when appearing on "This Week" (and elsewhere), Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post writes a well-balanced report: "As the economic recovery has struggled to pick up speed, one of the biggest stumbling blocks has been job losses in state and local governments, which have been on the rise for much of President Obama's term. Early on, Obama fought for aid that saved hundreds of thousands of these jobs, economists say. Yet a year later, when his economic advisers said another large round of aid was critical for the health of the economy, Obama declined to make it a key part of his agenda.... Today..., the heavy job losses at the state and local level remain a significant economic concern. His response at different moments underscores how the president has sometimes fought hard against the political odds for policies he thinks crucial and at other times relented when the chances of success seemed low."

Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times reviews Robert Caro's 4th book on President Lyndon Johnson, Passage to Power. A photo gallery depicting Caro's "painstaking process."

Amy Chozick of the New York Times: "Any shred of hope for a BSkyB takeover [by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.] in the near future appeared to have been dashed last week after e-mails surfaced suggesting that a News Corporation lobbyist and a British culture minister had conspired to get the deal approved.... The events in Britain and the resulting scrutiny have begun to take a toll on the broader empire...."

Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post: "Six months after President Obama ordered 100 elite troops to help capture the messianic warlord Joseph Kony, U.S. military commanders said Sunday that they have been unable to pick up his trail but believe he is hiding in this country's dense jungle, relying on Stone Age tactics to dodge his pursuers’ high-tech surveillance tools."

CW: I haven't yet read this takedown of Paul Ryan by Jonathan Chait of New York magazine, but I'm working on it.

Presidential Race

A Web video produced by the Obama campaign:

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Field workers for President Obama's campaign fanned out across the country over the weekend in an effort to confront a barrage of new voter identification laws that strategists say threaten the campaign's hopes for registering new voters ahead of the November election."

Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post: "Two well-funded Republican groups began running hard-hitting ads against President Obama last week, aiming to spend an estimated $8 million in key battleground states. The spots hit similar themes, attacking Obama on green-energy investments, and even cite similar sources.... Many of their claims -- regarding 'billions' of stimulus dollars going overseas -- had been debunked two years ago by our colleagues at PolitiFact and Yet here the erroneous assertions emerge yet again, without any shame, labeled as 'the truth' or 'fact.'"

Jane Mayer of the New Yorker on Obama's White House Correspondents Dinner performance: "I spoke to a Republican operative who is a veteran of Presidential campaigns. He worried out loud that 'Romney could never do a night like this.'"

News Ledes

NBC News: "A federal judge on Monday blocked a Texas rule that would have excluded Planned Parenthood from participating in the state's women's health program. In a win for Planned Parenthood, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled Monday there was sufficient evidence the state rule barring Planned Parenthood is unconstitutional. He imposed a temporary injunction against enforcing it until he can hear full arguments."

Guardian: "James Murdoch will be criticised by MPs investigating phone hacking on Tuesday, but their assessment of his conduct is expected to fall just short of accusing the former chairman of News International of misleading parliament about the extent of his knowledge of the affair."

The Hill: "The Oklahoma Supreme Court unanimously tossed out a proposed 'personhood' amendment Monday.... The personhood movement supports amending state constitutions to say that life begins at the moment of fertilization -- a definition that would likely impede women's access to contraception and in vitro fertilization."

Washington Post: "The Obama administration formally acknowledged for the first time Monday its use of drone strikes against terrorism suspects, lifting but not removing the shroud of secrecy that surrounds the nation's expanding use of targeted killing operations overseas. Saying President Obama had instructed aides to be more open about the controversial issue, White House counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan offered the most extensive outline yet of a clandestine program that officials had for years refused to discuss -- even as evidence of its lethal toll mounted in such countries as Yemen and Pakistan."

Raleigh News & Observer: "The wife of John Edwards’ former aide Andrew Young testified Monday that Edwards knew of the checks coming from his wealthy supporters and gave assurances that it would not violate campaign funding laws for her to deposit the money in the personal account she shared with her husband."

New York Times: "President Obama on Monday gently prodded China to improve its human-rights record but pointedly declined to discuss the case of a prominent Chinese lawyer, Chen Guangcheng, now said to be under American protection in Beijing. His remarks highlighted the delicacy of an unfolding diplomatic dispute that analysts say may prove fiendishly difficult to resolve."

New York Times: "The Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, said Monday night that the international talks on the Iranian nuclear program do 'not fill me with confidence,' reiterating his hard-line position about all options -- including an independent Israeli attack -- remaining on the table, despite mounting criticism from the security establishment here and a growing sense abroad that a diplomatic solution may be possible."

Guardian: "Documents found in the house where Osama bin Laden was killed a year ago show a close working relationship between top al-Qaida leaders and Mullah Omar, the overall commander of the Taliban, including frequent discussions of joint operations against Nato forces in Afghanistan, the Afghan government and targets in Pakistan."

New York Times: "Benzion Netanyahu, the father of the two-time Israeli prime minister Benjamin, who fought for the creation of the Jewish state by lobbying in the United States and went on to write an influential history gof the Spanish inquisition, died on Monday. He was 102."

Reader Comments (6)

Doctorow. Krugman, and the "this week" round table have convinced me that I am right,"You can't get there from here". I am afraid that we must pay the price and endure the pain of a Republican administraton to get a level fear and hopelessness that will drive the public attention away from the NFL draft to seeing what is happening to them and who is doing it to them.
Like alcoholics, the public will have to hit bottom before it can be reformed. Four to eight years of Republican rule will cause enough hurt for people to ask why America is behind the world in almost everything except the number of prisoners. Of course there will be a lot of protests from damaged citizens but those terrorists will be kept in line with the truncheon, a new political tool.
I expect hunger and despair will drive the public to action. If we are still having elections, a new administration will come to power under new leadership.
It may be harder than that and I hope we end up with at least a benevolent leader.
From here , there is no plan for any action by either party to solve our problem of low growth and under employment and with no radical changes we will diddle along for a decade.
"nor all thy tears wash out a word of it"

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarlyle

Please Mr. Krugman don't say "we're doomed". I went to hear Elizabeth Warren speak today, and I left feeling there is hope to turn things around! One attendee said to EW that the only other time in her life that she went to a political event was to protest the Vietnam war, but that EW had lite her fire. I felt a roomful of hope and inspiration today. I wish Krugman had been in that room today!

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulie in MA

This weekend I watched the American Experience episode reviewing the Clinton presidency. It wasn't Clinton's personal failings that struck me as the most salient feature of his administration, but what Hillary Clinton described, to the unending amusement of the MSM, as the vast right-wing conspiracy. The rise of a reprehensible toad like Newt Gingrich could only have been successful with a acquiescent press. As the right-wing media horror machine in nearly complete control today was gearing up for national domination, the so-called respectable press wrote gushingly about the brilliant upstart Gingrich. Behind the scenes the Scaifes and Kochs were pouring millions into right-wing "think tanks" whose sole reason for existing was to provide some form of ephemeral legitimacy to the machinations designed to bring about Republican control.

The section on the Ken Starr investigations made clear (as it was at the time) that he had no problem with extensive overreaching in his mandate. He gave himself a blanket mandate, like a Grand Inquisitor, to look under every rock for evidence, real or not, with which to tie his victim to the stake. The press sat on their hands and dutifully reported every lie, every misdirection, every insinuation no matter how outrageous. No one denies the personal failings of Bill Clinton, but to accuse the Clintons of dark real estate conspiracies, back-room deals with the devil, and murder went so far over the line as to be laughable. But no one was. Laughing, that is. The press reported all of these incredible lies with a straight face.

In another world, perhaps, people as unsavory and evil as Gingrich and Ken Starr and the rest of the conspirators would long since have vanished from the halls of power, perhaps some of them languishing in jail cells. But not in this world. In this world, Gingrich is still running for president. He's a joke, but he also won a fair number of votes. He should be a laughing stock, considered the criminal, unstable, damaging force that he is in American public life, but still the press writes about him and he's got enough support to have made him a conservative darling once more.

And the loathsome Starr? He has simply covered himself in glory since diminishing life in America for the five--FIVE--years he was an out of control, power mad, independent counsel in charge of destroying a democratic president at the behest of right-wing billionaires. He worked mightily against campaign finance reform. Republicans cannot stomach not being able to take advantage of their billionaire donors. And he fought the good fight against same-sex marriage in California and across the country. For all these crimes against the nation and humanity, he has been awarded, first the position of Dean of Pepperdine law school (a school that benefits enormously from the generosity and control of Richard Scaife), and now is the esteemed president of Baylor University.

Those on the right have learned long ago that they can lie, cheat, and steal with complete impunity in this country. The dominant right-wing press will support them unequivocally and if any still living member of the formerly MSM dares to attempt to speak truth about them, they will be eviscerated, their reports made inconsequential.

We may hope for some revival of the press and/or outrage on the part of the general public being bilked by these charlatans and criminals, but remember, it took centuries for the corrupt Roman Empire to fall apart. For a few hundred years the citizens of Rome were ripped and used and demeaned by rulers who gave them bread and circus with one hand while they picked their pockets with the other. NFL draft, indeed.

And like Julie, I too long for a new hope with someone as tough and smart, ethical and courageous as Elizabeth Warren. I just wonder if today's press can even recognize these qualities as virtues anymore. 30 years of toadying to the right have pushed them through the looking glass. Up is down. Evil is good.

And Right is right. Even if it's not.

April 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Marie has posted a link to Jonathan Chait's excellent New York Magazine piece on the Right's poster (that should be "poser") boy for intellectual support for their Draconian economic policies, Paul Ryan.

Ryan is perfect as the Right's idea of an intellectual. One who knows the terminology and can sling the bullshit with gusto and elan, and dare anyone to tell him he's wrong. (Krugman does, but no one listens to Krugman even thought he's right.)

He reminds me of the kids who took the cocktail party courses in college just to be able to impress others with their glib surface erudition. Courses like Fine Arts 13 and Music 1 enabled even the most aesthetically and intellectually challenged preppy to spout off about the luminous qualities of Rembrandt's later works and offer witty asides regarding Schoenberg's twelve tone theories. In reality most of them couldn't have recognized a twelve tone piece from a basic mixylodian mode progression. But it didn't matter. They just needed to get through the cocktail party with their reputation as intellectuals unassailed.

Paul Ryan is a cocktail party economist par excellence. And all he has to do is mystify slack-jawed TV reporters who couldn't tell you difference between micro and macro economics. The last little anecdote in the piece is exhibit number one in the case against both the press as our watchdog (lapdog is more like it) and Paul Ryan as an honest, aw shucks, Jimmy Stewart with a big heart and brain to match.

Just despicable.

April 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

To address Akhilleus' fury first: Re: the Clinton/Right wing conspiracy business. When Jane Mayer was pummeled by David Brock for her Clarence Thomas exposé, Jane came back with a vengeance and some time after David recanted, confessing his lies. He then wrote a revealing book, "Blinded by the Right" which I recommend to anyone interested in how the right worked its magic from an insider's perspective.

Re: Ryan: I am waiting, patently, for the day Ryan gets his just desserts. You, Akhilleus have nailed him beautifully. So much surface erudition, yes, along with something about his delivery––too fast, without the long pauses that reflect deeper thought. I personally don't see him as an "aw shucks, Jimmy Stewart..." but as a brash "Young Gun[ner]" who strides into the saloon ready to take the table with those fake cards up his sleeve.

Bill Keller has a chilling piece today in the Times about North Korea's slave labor camps and he cites Blaine Harden's book "Escape from Camp 14." I happened to catch Harden on Brian Lamb's Q&A last night in which he described the horror. Keller mentioned Emma Donoghue's "The Room," a book I read some time ago but has stayed with me––so haunting, and Keller is right to connect it with the kind of life at the camps in terms of how one can survive in isolation, with the caveat that love was in that room unlike the camps although one could imagine there might be.

If you haven't read Marie's piece on Doughnut––sorry, my fingers just spelled it that way––please do. Remember the B52's song about happy, shiny people? That's what we and Japan would have if we all got religion––Christian, of course–––had more babies and had more scruples on the ball. It's that simple.

One last word about Carly F. When she opens her mouth I want to smack her––why is that do you suppose?

April 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

My take-away from Jonathan Chait's excellent exploration of Paul Ryan's various economic positions is that the idea that Ryan's main interest is in balancing the budget is a myth. During the Bush administration he repeatedly supported Bush's out -of- control spending and tax cuts, justifying it by saying tax cuts for the wealthy produce jobs. He even made fun of "green eyeshade" Republicans (code for deficit hawks). He was a member of the Simpson Bowles committee, which did come up with a plan to address the deficit (whether it was ideal or not is another question). Ryan did not vote for this plan, presumably because part of the deficit reduction came from raising taxes on the wealthy, something he will never do. Depressingly, many seemingly mainstream political and economic pundits seem to fall for Ryan's "charms" and fail to look deeper into his policies and pronouncements. James Stewart of the New York Times, for example, was startling in his lack of critical jusdgment of Ryan's budget.
Ryan seems to be nothing more than an old-fashioned supply -sider who is also in the tank for Grover Nordquist.
But he comes in a pretty package and speaks softly.

April 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria D.
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