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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 -- February 18, 2012

CW: I submitted my New York Times eXaminer column late, so I'm not sure when it will be published. In the meantime, if you read Joe Nocera's column today, take it with a mountain of salt. I'll be getting back to you on that, sooner or later. ...

     ... Update: here's my NYTX column. It's titled "Fire Joe Nocera." The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute to NYTX here. ...

... Laurence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute explains to New York Times reporter/analysts why we are not "becoming an entitlement society."

President Obama's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here.

Jason DeParle & Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times: "After steadily rising for five decades, the share of children born to unmarried women has crossed a threshold: more than half of births to American women under 30 occur outside marriage."

"Did the Stimulus Work?" Michael Linden of the Center for American Progress:

** Thomas Frank in a TruthOut interview: "... what is really spectacular is how [the 2008 financial meltdown] ... got processed through the right's upside-down machine and came out as the story of how power-hungry leftists tried to 'transform America' by force during a crisis: Rather than Hank Paulson and Co. bailing out their friends, it was Big Government trying to get its fingers around the throat of free enterprise.... Barack Obama had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to take the financial oligarchy apart ... because that was what democracy requires -- and despite the right's perception of him as Robespierre reincarnated, he didn't do it."

"A Better Way to Buy Politicians." Lindsay Mark Lewis, a former DNC finance director, urges repeal of what's left of McCain-Feingold, which would put mega-donors' money under the control of the politicians they back & make politicians responsible for the ads they run. CW: maybe, but hardly a substantial improvement. ...

... CW: Besides, Andy Rosenthal inadvertently points out an advantage to keeping SuperPACS independent of candidates: "... under the law, broadcast stations cannot censor, edit or refuse ads by candidates for federal office.... But ... independent groups are not guaranteed the same access to airwaves as candidates for federal office. TV stations have every right to reject third-party ads." Rosenthal doesn't see TV stations turning down ad revenues, but he says they should "insist on edits for the sake of accuracy." ...

... Here's Annenberg's  One thing you can do is click on "Stations" (upper left) to e-mail your local stations & urge them to stop running deceptive ads.

Michelle Dammon Loyalka, a journalist living in Beijing, in a New York Times op-ed: "... while China’s industrial subsidies, trade policies, undervalued currency and lack of enforcement for intellectual property rights all remain sticking points for the United States, there is at least one area in which the playing field seems to be slowly leveling: the cheap labor that has made China’s factories nearly unbeatable is not so cheap anymore." ...

... Reuters: "Foxconn Technology Group, the top maker of Apple Inc's iPhones and iPads whose factories are under scrutiny over labour practices, has raised wages of its Chinese workers by 16-25 percent from this month, the third rise since 2010."

Via the Wall Street Journal.Prof. Jeffrey Sachs in the Huffington Post: "One of the unshakable myths of the punditariat is that the federal government is going bankrupt because of entitlements spending, especially spending on Medicare and Medicaid.... The most frequently quoted forecast is that of the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO's long-term forecast assumes that health care costs will continue to rise steeply during the next 70 years, though at a diminishing rate.... [But] healthcare costs are already vastly over-priced now compared with what other countries pay for the same services.... New information technologies ... lower the costs of health-care delivery and administration.... Let's therefore fight the right-wing hysteria demanding immediate and harsh cuts in Medicaid and other health outlays." Thanks to Victoria D. for the link. Since the post is in the HuffPo, I never would have found it. ...

... OMG! Even J. D. Kleinke of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute agrees: "... the growth rate of national health expenditures ... has been moderating since 2002." Of course he thinks the way forward is in the "free market" where everybody gets to shop for their own policies. He would. Because, you know, individual insurance consumers have so much power.

VatiLeaks! Boys in Beanies Behaving Badly. Elisabetta Povoledo of the New York Times: "... the Vatican has become embroiled in an embarrassing scandal in which a number of leaked documents have drawn back the curtains on the church’s inner workings. The internal church squabbling, predictably dubbed 'VatiLeaks' by the Italian news media, became public about three weeks ago with the disclosure on television and in newspapers of confidential letters written by a top Vatican official who had denounced alleged corruption and financial mismanagement in Vatican City."

Kathleen Hennessey & Christi Parsons of the Los Angeles Times: President Obama raised $6,000 a minute on his Western trip -- and criticism from Republicans & those inconvenienced by traffic congestion he caused.

Right Wing World

Viva America! Quote of the Day: This sounds like some third-world county governed by colonels in mirrored sunglasses in which he dictates, 'I, the supreme leader, dictate that something will be provided free when we know the cost of that will have to be borne by everybody else in society that's not getting the free good.' -- Karl Rove, on contraceptive coverage (pssst! somebody tell Bush's Brain that contraception saves both public & private money; in fact, insurance policies that don't cover contraception cost more than those that do)

Once again, Steve Benen lists Mitt Romney's five top lies of the week. It is astounding that it is possible, week after week, to find five or ten lies that a major candidate has made during any given week.

Protestants Are Not Christians. We all know that this country was founded on a Judeo-Christian ethic but the Judeo-Christian ethic was a Protestant Judeo-Christian ethic; sure, the Catholics had some influence, but this was a Protestant country and the Protestant ethic, mainstream, mainline Protestantism, and of course we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it. -- Rick Santorum, in a 2008 speech at conservative Catholic Ave Maria University. More here -- this is really remarkable stuff ...

... Charles Blow: in Detroit, the city with the highest poverty rate in the U.S., "Rick Santorum praises income inequality." Blow writes a pretty good takedown of Santorum.

Gail Collins writes about Republicans -- including Santorum -- running afoul of residency requirements. "Rick Santorum’s political career was built on an upset victory against a Democratic House member who, Santorum claimed, had ... moved his family to the Washington suburbs. When Santorum moved his own family to the Washington suburbs, he claimed that promises he made when he was in the House didn’t count for the Senate."

Laura Strickler of CBS News: "Billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson plans to give another $10 million to the outside group backing [Newt Gingrich]...."

Katharine Seelye of the New York Times: so they're not through voting in the Maine caucuses. Washington County is caucusing today, & since Romney beat Ron Paul by less than 200 votes last week, his victory could be overturned. "The party’s decision about how to count the vote has touched off a political storm and raised questions about the whole caucus system. Caucuses in other states have been plagued with problems this year, and doubts have been raised about their fairness and the ability of state parties to manage them." CW: Kinda turns the tables on Will Rogers' famous remark, "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat." ...

... Tim Mak of Politico: "Maine Republican Party chairman Charlie Webster has admitted that the state party made numerous clerical errors in counting the state’s caucus results — even omitting some votes because emails reporting tallies 'went to spam' in an email account. However, Webster insisted that the errors did not change the outcome."

Local News

AP: "A judge on Friday denied Gov. Scott Walker's request for a two-week extension to review recall petition signatures, saying the election is likely to proceed. Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess' ruling was a victory for recall organizers who had said there was no good reason for another extension and that Walker's request was an attempt to delay the inevitable." Thanks to Kate M. for the link.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Egypt will begin criminal proceedings on Friday against 19 Americans and two dozen others in a politically charged investigation into the foreign financing of nonprofit groups that has plunged relations between the United States and Egypt to their lowest point in three decades, state news media reported Saturday."

New York Times: "... speaker after speaker at the funeral of Whitney Houston on Saturday afternoon kept coming back to her strong attachment to New Hope Baptist Church [of Newark, New Jersey], where her prodigious talents were first recognized and where the funeral was held."

Washington Post: "Two Supreme Court justices suggested Friday that the court reconsider its controversial 2010 decision that allowed unlimited corporate and union spending in elections. The suggestion came as the court blocked a Montana Supreme Court decision upholding a century-old ban on corporate campaign spending in the state.... In Friday’s order, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer said the upheaval in the world of campaign finance since the Citizens United decision does not bear out the majority opinion."

New York Times: "The full details of recent experiments that made a deadly flu virus more contagious will be published, probably within a few months, despite recommendations by the United States that some information be kept secret for fear that terrorists could use it to start epidemics."

Reuters: "An Egyptian court will start the trial on February 26 of activists from mostly American civil society groups accused of working illegally in Egypt, in a case which has strained U.S.-Egyptian ties. A judicial source told Reuters that the 43 accused, including around 20 Americans, would go on trial next Sunday, charged with working in the country without proper legal registration."

Reuters: "Syrian security forces fired live ammunition to break up a protest against President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus Saturday, killing at least one person, opposition activists said." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Hundreds and hundreds of antigovernment protesters braved scattered gunfire from Syrian soldiers to march through a middle-class neighborhood in Damascus on Saturday, the biggest demonstration witnessed close to the heart of the capital since the country’s uprising started 11 months ago."

New York Times: "Pope Benedict XVI created 22 new cardinals on Saturday, including Timothy M. Dolan of New York, in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica rich in pageantry and resonant with ancient tradition."

New York Times: A new federal law, signed by the president on Tuesday, compels the Federal Aviation Administration to allow drones to be used for all sorts of commercial endeavors — from selling real estate and dusting crops, to monitoring oil spills and wildlife, even shooting Hollywood films. Local police and emergency services will also be freer to send up their own drones."

Washington Post: "A half-dozen members of the House Ethics Committee have recused themselves from the troubled investigation of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and been replaced by a new team, a sign that the stalled probe is set to restart.... Kenneth Gross, an ethics attorney..., said the mass recusal appeared to be 'unprecedented' in a congressional investigation."

Reuters: "China's leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping on Friday swiped away fears that his country's economic growth could stumble, and turned to courting American companies, film-makers and governors hungry for a slice of that growth on the final day of his U.S. visit." ...

... Los Angeles Times: "Before catching a late-night flight to Europe, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping made one last stop in Los Angeles: Staples Center [to watch the fourth quarter of the Lakers game].... The Chinese delegation has been greeted with protests by Tibetans and other groups at virtually every stop of their five-day tour of the United States. The Lakers game was no different."

Houston Chronicle: "About 40 investors who lost savings in accounts with accused swindler R. Allen Stanford packed the courtroom where he's on trial Friday, noting the third anniversary of the government lawsuit that shut down his operations. To date, investors have recovered nothing."

Reuters: "Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is to be questioned next week by police investigating an alleged prostitution ring in Lille, northern France, a police source said."

Los Angeles Times: "Whitney Houston's funeral is invitation-only and attendance will be limited to family and friends, but Saturday's services are set to be seen around the world: They will stream online and be shown on a number of TV networks. Houston's funeral is slated to begin at 9 a.m. Pacific [12 noon ET] at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J. -- the late pop titan's childhood church."

Reader Comments (2)

I love Will Rogers: But Disreali had a better quote and perhaps WIll was riffin on it:

"A conservative government is an organized Hypocrisy."

February 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

Ther is a change in the wind. For several years voters have been electing the lesser knave to offices. That is, the candidates most successful at villifying his or her opponent and successfully deflecting attacks on themselves. Therefore, we have officials in all positions that got there by being the best defamer.
The republicans quest for a candidate may be the turning point. Mitt's PAC has been so strong and has spent so much money that it has attracted too much attention. Destroying Gingrich was easy but brought attention to the PAC. The attacks on Santorum are not so easy and are bringing a lot of attention to the PAC.
Who thinks Americans want a Nasty Man for President?
Mitt is the obvious Nasty Man.

February 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarlyle
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