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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 -- June 27, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is a review of today's New York Times op-ed page. It's short. The NYTX front page is here.

"Five Signs the U.S. Is Undergoing a Coup." Jim Fallows of the Atlantic elaborates on a post he wrote (& I linked) last week. Thanks to Dave S. for this link. (Fallows changed the title of his post; I like the more imprudent one.)

Bernie Sanders & Ed Schultz on more-or-less the same subject:

... ** Continuing That Theme. Paul Krugman & Robin Wells review three books & mention a fourth in the New York Review of Books. Bottom line: "President Obama bears some of the blame...; he chose to listen to the wrong people, and arguably missed his best chance to turn the economy around. (Just to be clear, this isn't a suggestion that Mitt Romney would do better.... If he wins, he will make a bad situation much, much worse.) But ultimately the deep problem isn't about personalities or individual leadership, it's about the nation as a whole. Something has gone very wrong with America, not just its economy, but its ability to function as a democratic nation. And it's hard to see when or how that wrongness will get fixed."

Get off the Dime, Ben! New York Times Editors: with politicians refusing to act, the U.S. Federal Reserve & the European Central Bank must step in to rescue the economy.

** NEW. Katherine Eban in Fortune: "AFortune investigation reveals that the ATF never intentionally allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. How the world came to believe just the opposite is a tale of rivalry, murder, and political bloodlust." ...

... Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "The National Rifle Association has joined a Republican push to make Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. the first sitting cabinet member to be held in contempt of Congress, turning a once obscure fight over a gun-smuggling investigation into a proxy war over gun control.... The N.R.A. is pressing to win Democratic votes...." CW: Gail Collins has wondered out loud what the NRA would do now that it has everything it wants. Well, here's her answer -- meddling in stuff only peripherally related to gun laws. Next up, they'll be scoring defense budget votes. And so forth.

The GOP Alternative to ObamaCare = Nothing. Jake Sherman of Politico: "Republicans still have only one thing in mind when it comes to President Barack Obama's health care law: full repeal. If the Supreme Court wholly or partially strikes down the law on Thursday, House Republicans won't rush to pass a bill that allows young adults under 26 to stay on their parents' insurance. They won't pass legislation forcing insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions. And the gap in drug coverage that requires seniors to pay more out of pocket -- the so-called donut hole -- won't immediately be closed." ...

... NEW. The Democratic Alternative. Brian Beutler of TPM: "The progressive activists who put the public option at the heart of the health care reform debate in 2009 and 2010 will return in 2012 to press Democrats to back a single-payer ["Medicare for All"] system if the Supreme Court throws out the Affordable Care Act on Thursday."

Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post: Justice "Alito's ruling [in Knox v. SEIU] struck at the heart of American unionism. By laying the groundwork for creating a right for nonmembers to avoid dues payments, he came close to nationalizing the right-to-work laws that 23 states have adopted.... As [Justice] Sotomayor noted in a somewhat astonished dissent [Justice] Ginsburg and Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan dissented on this point as well), this wasn't the question before the court. Neither side had argued that issue in their briefs or oral presentations.... Knox creates a legal disparity between [corporations & workers]: a worker's free-speech right entitles him to withhold funds from union campaign and lobbying activities, but not the value of his work from the company's similar endeavors." Meanwhile, "In the world according to Nino, Arizona has the rights of a nation-state, but Montana must submit to the Gang of Five. You're sovereign when Scalia agrees with you; you're nothing when he doesn't."

... CW: P. D. Pepe made me read that Janet Malcolm article on confirmation hearings, which featured the loathsome Sam Alito. Service on the Court has not mellowed him; I think you have to read both this and this to understand what's behind Alito's hissy-fit Monday, in which he read his dissent from the bench, on the Court's decision invalidating general and mandatory life sentences without parole for juvenile murderers. The law that so agitated Alito is one that is not even controversial. And Alito more than likely applied the very reasoning that so riled him yesterday to his rationale for striking down the ACA (which we'll know for sure Thursday).

CW: While I'm on my soapbox, there an important aspect of the dissenting opinion that I don't think any commentators have developed. That is Chief Justice Roberts' argument that mandatory sentencing of juveniles can't be "cruel & unusual" because so many states do it. (Here's conservative tut-tutter George Will agreeing with that thinking.) As far as I know (and I well may be wrong), this is the first time a member of the Court has separated out "unusual" as a standard for application of the Eighth Amendment. For instance, FindLaw notes that "No universal definition [of "cruel and unusual punishment"] exists, but any punishment that is clearly inhumane or that violates basic human dignity may be deemed 'cruel and unusual.'" By this standard, the death penalty could never be declared unconstitutional because it is legal under federal and many state laws. What Roberts is doing and Will is popularizing, as I see it, is creating a new definition of "cruel and unusual" which would severely restrict application of the Eighth Amendment. In fact, the best way for states to get away with treating people inhumanely would be to do it a lot. So. Pepper-spraying protesters? Can't be "cruel and unusual" because cops are doing it everywhere! See Fallows above, re: coup.

Juliet Lapidos of the New York Times: "A new study from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy shows what liberals have always suspected: States that don't impose an income tax are not more competitive. No income tax? No boost. Drawing from the study, Bloomberg News reports that 'the nine states with the highest personal income taxes on residents outperformed or kept pace on average with the nine that don't tax their residents' incomes.'"

Presidential Race

Finally, a Public Opinion Poll That Matters. M. J. Lee of Politico: "The majority of Americans, nearly 65 percent, say Obama is better suited than Romney to handle an alien invasion, according to a new National Geographic Channel poll."

Charles Pierce thinks President Obama's stump speech -- and its message -- are not nearly enough.

Jared Favole of the Wall Street Journal: "Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday continued the Obama campaign's attacks on Mitt Romney's business career, saying to a group of union workers that the presidential hopeful is good at creating jobs -- but only overseas, not in the U.S."

Justin Sink of The Hill: "Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney argued Tuesday that if the president's signature healthcare legislation was overturned Thursday by the Supreme Court, it would mean that President Obama's first term was a waste." With video.

Right Wing World

NEW. Orrin Hatch -- RTP, Utah. Dave Weigel of Slate argues, correctly I think, that the Tea Party really won in Utah. Yes, Orrin Hatch won the primary (and will win re-election), but a Freedom Works spokesman boasted of "the 180-degree change in Senator Hatch's votes and rhetoric over the past two years."

Jonathan Bernstein in the Washington Post: "This week in crazy? We have Darrell Issa endorsing a completely nutso theory that Fast and Furious was all a plot to rally people around gun control.... And then Jon Kyl today raised impeachment as a remedy to Barack Obama's new plans for enforcing immigration policy.... This kind of thing did not happen on a regular basis when George W. Bush was president."

Left Wing World

Admittedly, this is a Politico production, but there's definitely some truth to it:

Local News

Iowa, Where Voting Is a "Privilege," Not a Right. Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly: Iowa "is exhibiting one of the boldest exercises in tilting the ballot box, via Gov. Terry Branstad's [R] determination to reduce the restoration of voting rights for ex-felons to a number closely approximating zero.... There's not a question in my mind that these people would reinstitute poll taxes if the courts and Grover Norquist would let them."

News Ledes

Bloomberg News: "Republican and Democratic congressional leaders are weighing whether to delay automatic federal spending cuts until March 2013, according to a House aide and industry officials who were briefed on the discussions."

New York Times: "Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York has begun investigating contributions to tax-exempt groups that are heavily involved in political campaigns, focusing on a case involving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been one of the largest outside groups seeking to influence recent elections but is not required to disclose its donors."

Los Angeles Times: Stockton, California "will become the nation's largest city to seek protection under the U.S. bankruptcy code after its City Council on Tuesday stopped bond payments, slashed employee health and retirement benefits and adopted a day-to-day survival budget. City Manager Bob Deis ... is expected to file bankruptcy papers immediately."

AP: "A stubborn and towering wildfire jumped firefighters' perimeter lines in the hills overlooking Colorado Springs, forcing frantic mandatory evacuation notices for more than 9,000 residents, destroying an unknown number of homes and partially closing the grounds of the sprawling U.S. Air Force Academy." The front page of the Denver Post currently has links to numerous stories about the fire.

Washington Post: "More than 7 million college students could be spared higher loan rates under a deal reached Tuesday by Senate leaders. The agreement would freeze the interest rate for a year, preventing it from doubling from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1.... The proposal's passage will be contingent upon an embrace from the GOP-held House...."

New York Times: Two lawsuits are challenging the lack of air-conditioning in most Texas state prisons, claiming a violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel & unusual punishment.

AP: "Gunmen raided the headquarters of a pro-government Syrian TV station early Wednesday, killing seven employees, kidnapping others and demolishing buildings, officials said. The government blamed terrorists and described the killings as a 'massacre.'"

Guardian: "Anglo-Irish relations took a momentous step forward on Wednesday when the Queen [Elizabeth II] shook hands with Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness. The historic encounter between the former IRA commander - now Northern Ireland's deputy first minister - and the Queen was unthinkable a little over 10 years ago. But the success of the peace process and the Queen's acclaimed visit to the Republic of Ireland last year ... paved the way for their meeting."

AP: "Assailants attacked the offices of Microsoft in Athens, [Greece,] early Wednesday, driving a van through the front doors and setting off an incendiary device that burned the building entrance, police said."

Reader Comments (9)

Jim Fallows has it right. It is a coup, more sophisticated than we're used to seeing.

follow the link

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaveS


I saw your synopsis and didn't follow the link. I have many irons in the fire atm and as much as I try to keep up life gets in the way. I was sent the link and didn't make the connection. Still I'm glad for the result since it appears someone pressured Fallow's to "reconsider". I've lost a little respect.

Hope your basement is dry:)

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

Yes, I, too, hope your basement is dry. Thought of you last night while watching the news and seeing the torrential rains in Florida. Not only in politics are things going awry, but weather wise it's just as crazy––floods and fires. Gosh, if I were a mystical person I'd be getting my herbs and essences ready to fend off the evil ones. Alas, I can only shed tears and bay at the moon.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Paul Krugman may be correct in his estimation of the difficulties of fixing our problems. Perhaps a little history may be in order since the United States has been, for some time now, trudging down a hard road full of teabagger potholes, Republican roadblocks, and road signs full of bad directions written in fundamentalist cant.

One guy we might look to is our old friend Edward Gibbon, chronicler of the decline and fall of Rome and her far flung empire. Gibbon traces the decline to a lack of what he calls civic virtue. In Gibbon’s reading, Rome’s citizens simply forgot how things worked, neglected the social compact they all had with each other and the state. They ripped into the fabric of government and severed the social ligatures that held them together. The Empire was riven by greedy, selfish ideologues and wealthy patricians who no longer felt any responsibility for ensuring the smooth functioning of society. Rome, over the centuries had, for a culture of the ancient world, a remarkably modern approach to social problems. They understood the importance of a strong government that included infrastructure, civil servants, public works employees and was able to collect the taxes necessary to build roads, aqueducts, public buildings, keep an army intact, and provide protection and food for its citizens.

For Gibbon, the dissolution of the social glue, in the form of the government and social and civic entities, signaled the end. Economic enterprises had become so corrupt and so untrustworthy that a series of collapses buried Romans under a mountain of bad debt from which most never recovered. The courts also suffered a loss of public faith due to their reverence for power and riches.

Sound familiar?

And what comes right after a loss of civic virtue and a faith in good government in terms of significantly weakening the empire?

Religion. Specifically Christianity.

Early Christians rejected the social compact in favor of their connection to god. Earthly matters had no import for many of them and that included anything that might aid the longevity and health of the Empire. American fundamentalists may not have completely thrown over social obligations but their incessant and insistent demands that all Americans believe as they do and strike down any laws and customs they deem inconsistent with their belief system has, in its own way, been quite toxic to civility and the concept of a democratic, secular society.

Something else Gibbon points to had to do with a loss of connection to Rome’s past, a lack of interest in and knowledge of history. History had been supplanted with convenient tales and fables spun purely to advance the economic and political interest of various parties. There was no sense of a shared past. Parties battled one another for control of the national narrative. And one other major reason for Rome’s collapse? You’re gonna love this one.

Outsourcing and privatizing. Two of Romney’s favorite schemes, both wholeheartedly supported by everyone on the right.

Rome, by outsourcing many of its most important jobs, including defending the nation by hiring soldiers of fortune (can you say Blackwater?), drained the empire of self-sufficiency and autonomy, it also lost significant connection to important skill sets and ripped apart its own safety net by trusting its protection to outsiders whose only interest in the empire was financial.

One last note on the loss of interest in history. After publishing his masterpiece, a task at which he labored for nearly twenty years, Gibbon was visited by the brother of King George III, the Duke of Gloucester. The Duke, assaying Gibbon’s hefty tome said “Another damn’d thick, square book. Always scribble, scribble, scribble, eh, Mr. Gibbon?” a comment which said as much about the Duke’s enthusiasm for history as it did about Gibbon’s prolixity. Something you could easily imagine coming out of the mouth of Rick Santorum.

Oh, and did I mention, just around that time the Duke’s brother was getting his royal ass kicked by their American cousins? It was the beginning of the end of the British Empire.

Maybe now it's our turn.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Akhilleus, thanks for the excellent post. It is another reminder that religion and politics are dependent on avoiding that annoying thing called history.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

Marie noted that Gail Collins has been wondering what the NRA and its acolytes and high priests will do now that they rule the universe. Why, they can rewrite history for one.
Heavyweight right-wing intellectual (an oxymoron, I know) Joe the Plumber has handed down the results of long seconds of research into why so many millions of Jews and Armenians died in ethnic cleansing holocausts during the last century. And it's not because of Turkish plans for Armenian genocide or Nazi Final Solutions.

Gun control killed them all.

Yup. According to Joe, Turkey and Germany instituted gun control laws and next thing ya know, freakin' holocausts. If those 7 - 8 million people had all been packing heat like Joe and his pals, there'd never have been any death camps. "Eat lead, you stinkin' Ratzi!" Joe has been watching way too much Quentin Tarentino.

If it wasn't so incredibly fucking stupid and insulting, it might be funny. Don't worry though. Fox won't put him on the "too stupid to call" list because Fox doesn't have a "too stupid to call" list.

Guns for everyone.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus


Quite right. History is bloody annoying if you're trying to gull an entire population. Which is why morons like Joe the Plumber can just make shit up for wholesale consumption by the knuckle draggers. Do that a few times and that power rush becomes addictive. Just say whatever the hell you want.

Remember how the right's obsession with Clinton's dick morphed into the most insane conspiracy theories involving murder and real estate scams and alien abductions and who the hell knows what else? The Obama conspiracy theorists are only just getting warmed up. If he's re-elected his second term will be a circus of right-wing mayhem; the cuckoos will descend into heretofore unexplored depths of dementia and off-the-chain derangement. Add to that the already stinking stew of racial hatred and there looms a stomach churning goulash of conservative foulness, the depravity of which has never been imagined.

History, facts, and truth are not their friends.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

After reading you, Akhilleus, I wanted to bring some historical perspective into the conversation re: the British Empire and its demise, but I've got to shuck the corn, make a salad and my gin and tonic is down to its watery nothingness, but I just wanted to let you know I had such a good laugh even though you say re: that lousy plumber guy who masquerades as a credible human being that has a brain, "if it wasn't so incredibly stupid and insulting, it might be funny,"–––YOU make it funny and I thank you for that and for your wonderful way with words which I just love.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe


Aww..thanks. And apropos of the British Empire, I'm thinking watery gin just about describes the state of bulldog in the 21st century.

I wonder what potable will best describe us after Joe and his crew are done with us. Alcohol is right out since fundamentalists don't drink (so they'd like us to believe. But then again they also want us to believe they don't have sex. But if that's the case why the hell are there so fucking many of them?!!).

I guess it would have to be something like New Coke diluted with run off water from fracking sites.

Hmmmm methane cola. Preferred drink of late empire dissemblers.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterakhilleus
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