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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:

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The Commentariat -- August 6, 2012

CW: my DSL (& my land line) is down, so I am relegated to McDonalds again, which means I'm working only Mickey D. hours. Update: At 1 pm ET, my DSL is still down, but I must leave this place! I'll be back this evening.

CW: With a caveat on his WikiLeaks slam -- and here too he may not be entirely wrong -- Bill Keller has an interesting column this week on government leaks to reporters. As usual, Keller is insufferably smug, but -- to my surprise -- I agree with most of his column. If better-informed writers disagree, I'll be sure to post their critiques.

New York Times Editors: "Senate Republicans regularly promote themselves as the true custodians of national security. This claim seemed particularly hollow last week when they helped block a new measure aimed at protecting America's vulnerable computer networks from attack by, among others, potentially hostile foreign governments.... The cost of inaction is already high.... The Obama administration, including senior military leaders, lobbied hard for the bill, which was three years in the making and the product of a bipartisan effort. In the end, their common sense pleadings could not compete with the Chamber of Commerce, which has funneled millions of dollars to Republican political campaigns."

Fiscal Cliffitis. Nelson Schwartz of the New York Times: "A rising number of manufacturers are canceling new investments and putting off new hires because they fear paralysis in Washington will force hundreds of billions in tax increases and budget cuts in January, undermining economic growth in the coming months."

Azam Ahmed & Ben Protess of the New York Times: "Major banks, which often band together when facing government scrutiny, are now turning on one another as an international investigation into the manipulation of interest rates gains momentum. With billions of dollars and their reputations on the line, financial institutions have been spreading the blame in recent meetings with authorities.... While acknowledging their own wrongdoing, institutions are pointing out actions at other banks that they believe are worse -- and in some cases, extend to top executives." CW: so much for honor among thieves.

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "In courthouses across the country, lawsuits are challenging state laws that dictate who may vote, when they may vote and whether their ballot will be counted once they have voted. There is a special urgency in the presidential election's swing states. Lawyers in Colorado are poised to challenge the secretary of state's proposed purge of noncitizens from voter rolls. A half-dozen suits are aimed at Florida's raft of voting changes. A Pennsylvania judge is deciding whether a voter ID law there violates the state constitution. In Ohio, the Obama campaign has filed suit against a law passed by the state's Republican leadership to shorten the early-voting period. And [a] separate issue ... was whether Ohio must count provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct when the mistake was the fault of a poll worker rather than the voter." ...

... Prof. Richard Hasen in a New York Times "Campaign Stops" post: "I have not found a single election over the last few decades in which impersonation fraud had the slightest chance of changing an election outcome -- unlike absentee-ballot fraud, which changes election outcomes regularly. (Let's face it: impersonation fraud is an exceedingly dumb way to try to steal an election.) ... Pennsylvania is a symptom of a partisan system gone wild.... Unlike impersonation fraud, noncitizen voting cannot be dismissed as a Republican fantasy.... Partisan attempts at manipulation of election rules have become more entrenched and sophisticated."

Jason Felch & Kim Christensen of the Los Angeles Times: "For nearly a century, the Boy Scouts of America has relied on a confidential blacklist known as the 'perversion files' as a crucial line of defense against sexual predators.... A Los Angeles Times review of more than 1,200 files dating from 1970 to 1991 found more than 125 cases across the country in which men allegedly continued to molest Scouts after the organization was first presented with detailed allegations of abusive behavior. Predators slipped back into the program by falsifying personal information or skirting the registration process. Others were able to jump from troop to troop around the country...." CW: excuse me for not being surprised.

Reformed Reagan-Bush staff economist Bruce Bartlett of the New York Times: "Republicans are adamant that taxes on the ultra-wealthy must not rise to the level they were at during the Clinton administration, as President Obama favors, lest economic devastation result. But they have a problem -- the 1990s were the most prosperous era in recent history. This requires Republicans to try to rewrite the economic history of that decade.... But it is clear from the experience of the 1990s that they can play a very big role in reducing the budget deficit and are not necessarily a drag on growth. And the obvious experience of the 2000s is that tax cuts increase the deficit and don't necessarily do anything for growth. Those arguing otherwise need to make a much better case than they have so far."

Stephen Ohlemacher of the AP: "People retiring today are part of the first generation of workers who have paid more in Social Security taxes during their careers than they will receive in benefits after they retire. It's a historic shift that will only get worse for future retirees, according to an analysis by The Associated Press."

More Climate Change Fallout. Grant Schulte of the AP: "Thousands of fish are dying in the Midwest as the hot, dry summer dries up rivers and causes water temperatures to climb in some spots to nearly 100 degrees." CW: wonder if the fishers of fishes are attributing dead fish to God's will, too. ...

... A Cultural Climate Change Fallout. Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "More quickly than any other place in the United States, the Alaskan Arctic is being transformed by global warming. The impacts of climate change are threatening a way of life. The dilemma for the federal government -- and state and local officials -- is whether to try to preserve, if it is even possible, the heritage of the Inuit villages, their ice cellars, sod ancestral homes and cemeteries ringed with spires of whalebones. Or spend the hundreds of millions of dollars it would cost to move even one village."

Donovan Slack of Politico: "Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor suggests that declining public approval of the court dates back to the controversial Bush v. Gore decision, which decided the 2000 presidential race." CW: but don't think this was an intellectual breakthrough moment for O'Connor. She also "demurred on taking responsibility. 'I don't see how you can say anybody was the deciding vote,' she said. 'They all counted.' O'Connor said she has no regrets about her vote." Not. My. Fault. ...

... Digby adds context:

Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, attending a Washington, DC, party and watching the news networks predict Florida, and thusly the presidency, for Democrat Al Gore, says aloud, 'This is terrible.' Her husband explains that she is considering retiring from the Court, but will only do so if George W. Bush, a fellow Republican, is in office to appoint her successor. -- Jake Tapper (3/2001)

At a November 29 dinner attended by clerks from several justices, a clerk for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor tells the group that O'Connor is determined to overturn the Florida Supreme Court's decision to go ahead with manual recounts of election ballots (see 3:00 p.m., November 16, 2000). One clerk recalls the O'Connor clerk saying, 'she thought the Florida court was trying to steal the election and that they had to stop it.' O'Connor has the reputation of deciding an issue on her 'gut,' then finding legal justifications for supporting her decision. Unbeknownst to anyone outside the Court, O'Connor has already made up her mind. -- Vanity Fair (10/2004)

Joe Hagan profiles Maricopa County, Arizona''s brutal Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Rolling Stone. Notably, the voters keep re-electing him & Fox "News" keep inviting him back on the air.

Presidential Race

Tom Hamburger & Peter Wallsten of the Washington Post: "David Plouffe, a senior White House adviser who was President Obama's 2008 campaign manager, accepted a $100,000 speaking fee in 2010 from an affiliate of a company doing business with Iran's government. A subsidiary of MTN Group, a South Africa-based telecommunications company, paid Plouffe for two speeches he made in Nigeria in December 2010, about a month before he joined the White House staff.... At the time of Plouffe's speeches, MTN had been in a widely reported partnership for five years with a state-owned Iranian telecommunications firm. There were no legal or ethical restrictions on Plouffe being paid to speak to the MTN subsidiary.... In recent weeks, Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney has accused the administration of being soft on Iran." ...

     ... Glenn Greenwald: "The reason the Post sees this as some sort of a scandal and the reason it will resonate – namely: the money Plouffe received is tainted by virtue of a connection to the Evil Persian Regime — is frivolous and cynical, just part of the ongoing Washington fear-mongering orgy over Iran." But, speaking of "dirty money" (see links re: Sheldon Adelson below) read the whole post.

Julie Pace of the AP: "President Barack Obama, emboldened by the Supreme Court's affirmation of his health care overhaul, is now embracing the law while campaigning for re-election, just as Republican rival Mitt Romney steps back from it. Obama sees a second chance to sell voters on the issue despite deep skepticism about it from many people. Romney is avoiding answering hard questions about how he would tackle health care, and thus missing the chance to energize voters who oppose the law." CW: about time, Barry.

Reality Check. Glenn Greenwald: "Here we have the political campaign of the same President who, in another moment of trailblazing, has waged an unprecedented war on whistleblowers, and whose top aides secretly met at coffee houses with industry lobbyists to draft bills so as to evade disclosure and record preservation requirements, marching, apparently with a straight face, behind the banner of transparency to demand disclosure of his opponent's tax returns."

Rick Klein of ABC News: "The nation has met Barack Obama's Mitt Romney. If it's going to meet Romney's version of himself, it will happen this month, or not at all. It was supposed to start last month, with picked-up ad spending and a foreign trip built around a choreographed Olympic moment. But the foreign trip fell flat amid distractions at every stop, and Democrats continued to break through with their assault on Romney's transparency and business record."

The Italian Job. Jesse Drucker, et al., of Bloomberg News: "Bain Capital, under Romney as chief executive officer, made about $1 billion in a leveraged buyout 12 years ago that remains controversial in Italy to this day. Bain was part of a group that bought a telephone-directory company from the Italian government and then sold it about two years later, at the peak of the technology bubble, for about 25 times what it paid. Bain funneled profits through subsidiaries in Luxembourg, a common corporate strategy for avoiding income taxes in other European countries.... Romney himself probably earned more than $50 million, and possibly as much as $60 million" while avoiding taxes.

Inventing Controversy. Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post: "A pro-Israel group last week began running ads knocking President Obama for failing to visit Israel.... Then, on Sunday, the Romney campaign echoed this charge with its own ad also calling attention to Obama not visiting Israel as president. Obama visited Israel in 2008, as a presidential candidate, but thus far has not visited the Jewish state during his presidential term.... Only four of the last 11 presidents visited Israel during their presidency, and two -- Nixon and George W. Bush -- waited until their second term to make their first trip. In both cases, they visited in the last year of their presidencies.... Only Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, then, visited Israel in their first term. And of the last four presidents, two never visited Israel...."

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Mitt Romney raised $101.3 million in the month of July, his campaign said Monday, marking the second straight month in which the GOP presidential candidate has pulled in nine figures." ...

     ... Update. Michael Shear & Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "The president's campaign announced on Twitter on Monday morning that his July fund-raising topped out at about $75 million. 'Every bit helps,' the campaign tweeted, noting that 98 percent of the contributions were under $250. Mr. Obama's advisers have all but conceded the money race to Mr. Romney."

Maggie Haberman of Politico: "The Paul Ryan-for-VP chatter has heated up in the past two days, thanks in part to him updating his Federal Election Commission filings for his PAC, suddenly canceling a planned appearance at an anti-Obamacare rally and winning praise from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal as the best pick." ...

... Ed Rendell, former Pennsylvania governor & DNC chair, has his own GOP veep pick:

Screw the Dual Mandate. Kevin Bohn of CNN: "... Mitt Romney said Saturday that he does not support the Federal Reserve enacting a new stimulus program to boost the economy, telling CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger that a previous effort by the nation's central bank did not have a major impact." With video. ...

... A More Honest Assessment. Grace Wyler of Business Insider: "Romney's comments echo those of many of his fellow Republicans, who have raised concerns that any additional stimulus between now and the election would boost the markets, and improve President Barack Obama's chances for re-election.... Romney did tell CNN that he thinks "now is the time for something dramatic," but did not specify what that action should be." CW: he wouldn't, would he?

Dirty Harry. Priebus Keeps It Classy. George Stephanopoulos of ABC News: "Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus called Sen. Harry Reid a 'dirty liar'." this morning on 'This Week' for accusing presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney of not paying taxes. ...

... Charles Mahtesian of Politico: Priebus's comment & a similar one by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are indications Reid's own finances will be a GOP target. ...

... Steve Kornacki: "Whatever you think of Reid’s tactics, this really is the definition of taking one for the team."

Dirty Money. Andre Tartar of New York magazine: "Billionaire Romney-backer Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas casino company, Las Vegas Sands Corp., is at the center of a year-long money laundering investigation, The Wall Street Journal reports." ...

Thomas Edsall in the New York Times: "... what was this ever-so-guarded, moralistic ('I want to clean up the moral pollution on TV and the Internet') politician doing at a $50,000-a-couple fundraiser in Jerusalem with Sheldon G. Adelson -- proprietor of one of the largest, if not the largest, gambling and casino operations in the world -- seated in the honored position at his side? Adelson and his company are under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice on allegations of foreign bribery. In addition, the United States Attorney's office in Los Angeles is investigating whether Adelson's Las Vegas Sands Corp. failed to alert authorities to millions of dollars transferred to casinos in violation of money-laundering laws.... At a minimum, Romney could tell us how he reconciles the values he says he stands for with the basis on which Adelson's fortune is built." Edsall reviews some of Adelson's legal difficulties.

Congressional Races

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "As the three Republican candidates [for Missouri's U.S. Senate nomination] battled it out, [Sen. Claire] McCaskill (ConservaD) has had to buckle down as well. Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, David and Charles Koch's Americans For Prosperity, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the 60 Plus Association have dumped as much as $15 million into the state since July 2011 to [oppose McCaskill].... The sustained campaign could become a textbook for future efforts in a new era of anything-goes campaign financing, both Ms. McCaskill and her opponents say. Most of the spending is coming from tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organizations like Crossroads GPS, which may accept large corporate and individual donations without disclosing donors' identities."

Elizabeth Warren, in a Politico opinion piece: "Washington politicians line up 10-deep to claim they support small businesses, but they avoid talking about a harsh reality: The system is rigged against small business. These owners can't afford armies of lobbyists in D.C., but the big corporations can. It's those armies of lobbyists that create the loopholes and special breaks that let big corporations off the hook for paying taxes. While small businesses are left to pay the bills.... If a business makes it big, the reward shouldn't be the ability to rig the system to stop the next guy."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Thwarting controls against money laundering, [British bank] Standard Chartered Bank enabled Iranian banks and corporations to hide roughly 60,000 transactions worth at least $250 billion within the bank, New York state's banking regulator charged Monday."

ABC News: "The gunman who opened fire in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., and killed six people has been identified as Army veteran Wade Michael Page. Page, 40, opened fire outside the temple before entering around 10:30 a.m. Sunday morning and killed six people. He served in the Army from April 1992 through October 1998. Though police have not given any details on the motive of the shooter, but Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms Special Agent Thomas Ahern said Page had tattoos that suggested he had ties to white supremacists."

New York Times: "In a flawless, triumphant technological tour de force, a plutonium-powered rover the size of a small car was lowered at the end of 25-foot-long cables from a hovering rocket stage onto Mars early on Monday morning." NASA's Website is here, with links to numerous stories & pix on Curiosity.

New York Times: "President Bashar al-Assad fired his prime minister on Monday, Syria's official media reported, as activists countered that he defected to neighboring Jordan in what seemed a further indication of disarray among loyalists following a series of high-level defections and a rebel bomb attack last month that killed four of the Syrian leader's closest security aides." ...

     ... Al Jazeera Update: "Riad Farid Hijab, the Syrian prime minister, has joined the opposition, he has announced, after state television reported that he was sacked this morning. The former prime minister arrived in Jordan after being smuggled across the border, Jordanian authorities confirmed to Al Jazeera on Monday."

Reader Comments (8)

The Romney problem is solved. A study presented at the meeting of the American Psychological Association shows that lies can damage your health.

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

Thanks for keeping on keeping on, Marie. It is truly appreciated.

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack Mahoney

@Jack Mahoney. Amen! Marie, we really appreciate you; BTW, great column on Douthat in NYTEx

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria D.

Re: Marie! Like Jack and Victoria D I say thanks. The absence of Akilleus is explainable; he is racing across the terrain of Mars in a plutonium-powered dune buggy. Nice going, Ak, another planet sullied!

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

@JJG et al.: as luck would have it, one of my sources and I have discovered Akhilleus' undisclosed location, which turns out not to be Mars. I hope he'll be back to contributing at Reality Chex soon.

August 6, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader


Mars is the coolest! To quote Ray Bradbury, "Mars is heaven." I was hoping I might run into the old boy up there. I didn't encounter any of his unsociable telepaths but I think I recall a line in The Martian Chronicles in which he prophesies his eventual relocation to the red planet.

I was also hoping that one of Bradbury's other Mars based stories had some factual basis to it, the one that describes authors from the planet Earth appearing on the Martian surface after their death. Sure enough, I met Mark Twain. We had mint juleps in a small tavern on the edge of a crater and traded witticisms between sips. He was complaining about the fussy decorations recently installed by Edith Wharton. Edgar Allen Poe held court in a corner booth frightening a small crowd with tales of a Romney victory, and a muttering, bitter, wheezy old woman was scrubbing the floors. It was Ayn Rand.

"She tried to convince us that she created Mars and should be made Queen" smirked Twain. "A little humility will do her good. Anyway, she does nothing but mooch" he observed.

Ain't Mars grand?

So my Martian vacation was fun. Nice to see NASA get its mojo back, although I'm sure we'll be treated to some sniffing right-winger lecturing us all about how that money would be better off here on Earth in the hands of decent, freedom loving organizations. Like the NRA.

But now that I'm back on the planet earth I can tell you that the view from 35 million miles is deceiving. Like those pictures of the blue planet rising over the moon sent back a generation ago, our little world looks beautiful and peaceful from space. No borders are visible, no hatred, no gun killings, no racism, no clutching, soul-killing greed, no denial of the kind of science that put us into space, no stinking hypocrisy, no religious intolerance, no fear mongering, no wars, no bellicose sabre rattling by those too cowardly to pick up the sword when it was their turn, no questioning of the honor or patriotism of those you disagree with (no patriotism at all, in fact). In short, no conservative extremism. In fact, no Republicans of any sort.

But now, back in the world, I see that we awaken to bad news from Wisconsin that highlights at least two prominent features of America as forged by the New Republican Party: gun massacres and racism. I suppose I should qualify the racism part in the latest mass killing sans additional information, but it seems reasonable. Even if it played no part in these murders racism IS an essential building block of the New Republican Party.

I see that the FBI are wondering if a terrorist organization might be involved. Have they considered the NRA? Surely one of, if not the most proficient and ruthless domestic terrorist enterprises in our history. Makes the KKK look like bratty kids who painted the school toilet seats with contact cement.

Well, keep on keepin' on, right-wingers. Worse comes to worst, we can all relocate to Mars (there's a very interesting tavern there). They've even got the beginnings of a transportation system. Might as well enjoy it until the Republicans get there. When that happens they'll no doubt impose a "rich and white only" regulation. And Ayn Rand will be promoted to Tavern Owner/Esteemed Entrepreneur.

Can't wait to hear what Twain will say about that.

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Welcome back. Glad your Mars excursion was exciting. Did Ayn Rand have on her Boot Straps?

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanet


Yes. She was trying to convince all the other residents to pull her up by them. Just like she did when she was alive on this planet with the understanding that they were to say that she did it all by her little self.

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterakhilleus
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