The Ledes

Friday, November 27, 2015.

AP: "Malian special forces have arrested two men over last week's attack on a luxury hotel in the capital that killed 19 people, according to a statement distributed Friday morning. The statement identified the two Malians, both arrested in Bamako, but provided no other details on their background or their potential roles in the attack."

The Wires

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

Nearly four centuries after the Mayflower set sail, the world is still full of pilgrims – men and women who want nothing more than the chance for a safer, better future for themselves and their families, What makes America America is that we offer that chance. -- President Obama
White House: "In this week's address, the President wished everyone a happy Thanksgiving, and reflected on America’s history of welcoming men and women seeking a safer, better future for themselves and their families":

The Ledes

Thursday, November 26, 2015.

Guardian: "Sex abuse allegations against priests at St John’s Abbey in Minnesota were revealed in stark detail on Tuesday with the release of confidential documents concerning five priests accused of child sex abuse."

Reuters: "A 23-year-old Indiana man has pleaded guilty to breaking into a medical museum and stealing preserved human brains that he then sold online. David Charles, of Indianapolis, pleaded guilty to six charges including receiving stolen property and burglary in a Marion county court. Magistrate Amy Barbar sentenced him to one year of home detention and two years of probation, county prosecutor spokesman Anthony Deer said."

White House Live Video
November 25

11:15 am ET: Vice President Biden delivers a joint summit statement with President Grabar-Kitarović of Croatia, President Pahor of Slovenia and European Council President Tusk in Zagreb, Croatia (audio only)

2: 45 pm ET: President Obama pardons the national Thanksgiving turkey

Go to


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 -- March 31, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer, delayed thanks to my lousy e-mail, is the second of a two-parter on the New York Times' response to the oral arguments in the challenge to the Affordable Care Act. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

President Obama's weekly address:

     ... The transcript is here. AP story here.

Cecile Richardson, President of Planned Parenthood, directs supporters to this video:

Gail Collins decides that the worst trend this political season is Americans Elect. CW: this pleases me a great deal inasmuch as Collins surely knows her worst-trend pick is a favorite of Tom Friedman.

Prof. Chris Edelson in Common Dreams: "Now, the Court stands poised to rely on the rhetoric of the Tea Party to stand in the way of Congress’s ability to deal with a truly national problem — if tens of millions of people without health insurance who pass on tens of billions in costs to other Americans isn’t a national problem, then what is? When the Court issues its decision, the question won’t be whether Americans might be forced to eat broccoli.... What we’ll really find out is whether Congress has the power to govern a nation, a problem the Framers seemed to have settled long ago.... The ultimate question, in fact, is whether the United States is a nation or merely a group of 300 million people who happen to share living space." Read the whole post. ...

... Into the Abyss. Ed Kilgore of the Washington Monthly: "It is sometimes forgotten that state and local governments do the major work of delivering federally-funded domestic services in this country; the feds mostly cut checks and write regs. If a majority of the Supreme Court begins questioning the constitutionality of this relationship, we aren’t just looking at an invalidation of a Medicaid expansion, or even of Medicaid itself, horrid as that would be. We could be on the brink of having to reconsider our basic form of governing. I hope the Justices who so casually toss around contemptuous references to decades of precedents aren’t so arrogant as to throw us into that abyss." ...

... And so on the nation's highest court, satire replaced stare decisis in a slightly altered version of the Red Queen's jurisprudence in Alice in Wonderland: First the verdict, then the trial. -- Bob Shrum ...

... Read Shrum's post in The Week. It's a well-written & thoughtful summation of this week's high courtroom shenanigans. His speculation that striking the ACA would help President Obama's re-election bid is a stretch. Shrum isn't much of a pronosticator. On election day 2004, he assured us Kerry would win (though, to be fair, he hadn't taken account of the GOP's manipulation of the Ohio results). ...

... Jonathan Chait of New York magazine: "... the shock of the liberal analysts who expected a landslide does prove they misjudged the case, but their error lies not in underestimating the arguments, which they imbibed closely, but in overestimating the Republican justices."

... Reed Abelson & Katie Thomas of the New York Times: "Although it would be folly to predict what the court will conclude [on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act], policy experts, insurers, doctors and legislators are now seriously contemplating the repercussions of a complete change in course two years after the nation began to put the law into place."

Steven Erlanger of the New York Times: French "methods of combating homegrown terrorism ... are quite different [from those of the United States], stemming from different histories, legal systems and conceptions of the state.... With the largest number of Muslims in Europe — nearly 10 percent of the population, often concentrated in poorer neighborhoods — and closer proximity to the Middle East and North Africa, France has focused more on preventing the recruitment of potential terrorists through a regular infiltration of mosques and radical Islamic networks.

Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: "General Motors ... has confirmed that it is pulling funding from the Heartland Institute, an ultra-conservative thinktank known for its scepticism about climate change. The decision by the GM Foundation to halt its support for Heartland after 20 years underlines the new image the carmaker is seeking to project as part of its social responsibility programme.... The funding cut – just $15,000 a year – is small beer for the institute, which has a multi-million dollar turnover, largely from a single anonymous donor."

Michael Doyle of the Sacramento Bee: "San Joaquin Valley congressional candidate Jose Hernandez flew in space, but his astronaut identity is now under political fire. In a pointed new challenge, a Sacramento law firm is asking a judge to block Hernandez from describing himself as an "astronaut/scientist/engineer" on the June ballot. The lawsuit notes Hernandez has left NASA." Via Steve Benen. CW: Excuse me. After being drummed from his speakership for ethics violations & other stuff, Newt Gingrich is still Speaker for Life, but an astronaut is not an astronaut a year after he leaves the program to run for office? ...

... Here is Hermandez' response to the suit:

Matt Flegenheimer of the New York Times: "Last December, in response to an Op-Ed column by David Brooks, [Charles] Snelling [of Allentown, Pennsylvania] contributed a 5,000-word 'Life Report' essay to, devoting the final section to his wife [Adrienne's Alzheimer's] disease and his role in managing it.... On Thursday..., Mr. Snelling killed his wife and himself...." The essay Snelling wrote is here. Washington Post story here. ...

... Coincidentally -- Susan Jacoby in a New York Times op-ed: "... end-of-life planning is one of the few actions within the power of individuals who wish to help themselves and their society. Too few Americans are shouldering this responsibility.... As someone over 65, I do not consider it my duty to die for the convenience of society. I do consider it my duty, to myself and younger generations, to follow the example my mother set by doing everything in my power to ensure that I will never be the object of medical intervention that cannot restore my life but can only prolong a costly living death."

Right Wing World *

** CW: I hope you all will read this article by Chris Mooney, much of it excerpted from his book The Republican Brain, and tell us what you think about it. Obviously, the country cannot go on like this, with a considerable percentage of the population incurably delusional.

We don’t think the generals are giving us their true advice. We don’t think the generals believe that their budget is really the right budget. I think there’s a lot of budget smoke and mirrors in the Pentagon’s budget. -- Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), Chair of the House Budget Committee

There’s a difference between having someone say they don’t believe what you said versus ... calling us, collectively, liars. My response is: I stand by my testimony. This was very much a strategy-driven process to which we mapped the budget. -- Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

CW: Evidently Ryan figures the Chair of the Joint Chiefs & other top brass are lying to Congress when they cut their own budgets because they are not planning ahead for this:

Alex Pareene of Salon: "When John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman join forces, you can be sure of one thing: It will involve state-sponsored violence. Today, they want us to arm Syrian rebels. Though, you know, what they really wanted to call for was actually bombing the hell out of Syria, until there is freedom. They’re just taking it slow.... Sadly, Joe Lieberman will be leaving the U.S. Senate soon, which means John McCain and Lindsey Graham will need to find a new fake-Democrat best friend to add a patina of “bipartisanship” to their endless demands for explosions and shooting and death."

CW: Let that sink in. Paul Ryan is insisting the Pentagon take more money than the brass calculate they need at the same time he is slashing social safety net programs. So dedicated is he to taking from the taxpayer to give to the defense contractors that he is willing to publicly accuse the nation's top generals of perjury. P.S. Defense expert Ryan has never served in the military. He has, however, been the beneficiary of social safety net programs.

Kevin Drum: conservatives don't trust science. "This is not because conservatives are a bunch of undereducated yahoos.... Conservative elites have led the anti-science charge and the rank-and-file has followed. This is presumably part of the wider conservative turn against knowledge-disseminating institutions whose output is perceived as too liberal (academia, the mainstream media, Hollywood) in favor of institutions that produce more reliably conservative narratives (churches, business-oriented think tanks, Fox News). More and more, liberals and conservatives are almost literally living in different worlds with different versions of consensus reality."

As Rick Santorum fades in the polls & party leaders begin endorsing Romney because he's going to win (and not because they like him), Sam Stein & Jason Cheris of the Huffington Post dump their Santorum stuff. It's a pretty good read.

Pink Bowling Balls. I apologize for not linking this timely. Eric Dolan of Raw Story: "Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Wednesday told a young man not to use a pink ball at a bowling alley in Wisconsin. 'You’re not gonna use the pink ball. We’re not gonna let you do that. Not on camera,' he said.... 'Friends don’t let friends use pink balls,' he added." ...

... Erin Ryan of Jezebel: "... maybe Rick Santorum's aversion to a man bowling with a pink ball is rooted in the fact that Rick Santorum is a genitalia-obsessed homophobe with a God complex and no self awareness clinging for his life to the flimsy idea that in order for the world to continue existing as Santorum wants it to exist, boys must not bowl with pink balls. Is there anything gender or sex-related about which this man doesn't have a complex?"

* Where it's so comfy to live because everything and everyone is predictable -- even the warmongers.

Local News

Bruce Vielmetti & Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "A federal judge in Madison on Friday ruled that portions of Act 10 - which removed most collective bargaining for most public employees - are unconstitutional. Though critics of the law welcomed the decision as a major victory, backers seemed unconcerned since it preserved a main limit on bargaining, and suggested broader restrictions would pass muster if applied to all state workers." ...

... Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: "Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) has made it official — he’s running against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) in this summer’s recall election." Journal Sentinel story here.

News Ledes

The Plot Thickens. Orlando Sentinel: "Tom Owen, forensic consultant for Owen Forensic Services LLC and chair emeritus for the American Board of Recorded Evidence, used voice identification software to rule out [George] Zimmerman [as the person crying for help on the 911 tape moments before Trayvon Martin was shot dead]. Another expert contacted by the Sentinel, utilizing different techniques, came to the same conclusion. Zimmerman claims self-defense in the shooting and told police he was the one screaming for help. But these experts say the evidence tells a different story."

New York Times: "The Muslim Brotherhood nominated its chief strategist and financier Khairat el-Shater on Saturday as its candidate to become Egypt’s first president since Hosni Mubarak, breaking a pledge not to seek the top office and a monopoly on power."

New York Times: "As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton worked hard on Saturday to focus attention on deepening security ties with the Arab nations of the Persian Gulf, she found herself having to deal with a surprising act of diplomatic defiance: the decision by the United Arab Emirates, an ally, to shutter the offices of an American-financed group that promotes democracy.

AP: "Maryland lottery officials announced early Saturday that their state sold what could become the world's largest lottery payout of all-time, but it wasn't immediately clear if that ticket holder would get sole possession of the $640 million jackpot or have to split it with other winners." ...

     ... Update: "Lottery ticket-holders in Kansas, Illinois and Maryland each selected the winning numbers and will split a $640 million jackpot that was believed to be the world’s largest such prize, a lottery official said Saturday."

Reuters: "The U.S. Secret Service is investigating a major cyber intrusion at an Atlanta-based payment processor that could expose millions of MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover cardholders to fraudulent charges. Processor Global Payments Inc said on Friday it had found 'unauthorized access' into its system early in March and notified law enforcement and financial institutions."

Reader Comments (4)

Re: Ryan and the Pentagon Budget: Here is a perfect example of what Chris Moody addresses (see link above for article). Ryan, not a shlep, is a smart cookie, but when confronted with facts, he dismisses them outright because HE knows best––he is right. How can one deal intelligently with such confirmed opinions? It's one thing to confront stupidity; it's a whole different situation when arguing with someone whose brain is functioning at a high level. Moody gives us Phyllis Shafley's Harvard educated son as an example of someone whose opinions and beliefs are blatant lies and fabrications which he puts up on his website and which are gobbled up like candy by the UNeducated.

March 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

P.S. and while I was stirring my oatmeal, I realized I was exactly the type of liberal Moody describes: outraged at the lies of those darn right-wing deniers, although short of addressing them as ignorant. When trying to understand these conservatives, I always think of money––who's lining their pockets––but understanding the psychology is paramount and I think Moody is correct in pointing this out. I also think that "herd" think plays a part––how belonging to a group can give one strength, comfort, security, etc. And for this we could go back to the playground and find out who was who on the playing field. Was Grover calling the shots back there on the swings? or was he the one left behind.

March 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

The Chris Moody article is interesting but manages to come to no real conclusions. Yes, its a little bit of this and that but I think some pieces are more obvious. First, Moody says intelligence has nothing to do with it. Wrong. Yes there are some smart people who are wing nuts but that assumes there is only on cause. Part of this constitutes the issue of what is intelligence. Well, its a complex mixture of abilities that are not necessarily tied to one another. Is it possible to be able to memorize and not think logically? Also to what extent is your upbringing an influence? Can you be trained to be a fool? Oh yes.
I believe that this brand of conservatism comes primarily from two pieces, fear and ignorance, and they are interrelated. It is a lot easier to not believe in the theory of relativity if you have no idea what it is. And if you do know, then you know that it does not go well with the concepts of your religion. And remember, intelligence has two parts, heredity and homework.
Having been brought up and told that your entire existence is dependent on your religious belief and never been taught anything that disagrees with that is a major piece.
So in summary, I don't think its a surprise that religion plays a very big part of this issue. And my 'conclusions' are also a little bit of this and that. But I believe the central piece is being raised in religion. It is easier if you are not so smart, but a really dedicated mother can screw up a very good brain. Remember, the sun travels around the earth.

March 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

The Mooney piece intersected my morning fulminations about a letter to the editor I had just read. "There's no excuse for this kind of nonsense," I said, a bit surprised I was so indignant at what was no more than a typical anti-Obama screed. After all, the other day I had read another letter in the local paper that denounced a union-organizing effort by hospital workers because the union headquarters had an Obama picture on its wall. I just felt sorry for that writer and her ignorance, but this morning's silliness actually irked.

The difference? This AM's writer had a DR. after his name. He may not have learned much but his years of schooling said he had had a chance to be educated. I was annoyed because he chose not to be.

Sure, there's a psychologic element to the delusions of the right, and Mooney nicely summarizes many of them. But there's also a moral element. When someone who had a chance to learn something and chooses not to, there's a stink of self-serving evil to that choice, and it must be fought as well as understood and pitied.

Most of what the Right denounces as "liberal lies" are simply truths that make them uncomfortable, less important in universal scheme of things, or their enterprises less profitable. As I say, the Right Wing World is ego-centered. It's a big baby, juvenile and selfish and resistant to maturation. That's what makes it wrong.

It also has a lot of money. That's what makes it dangerous.

March 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes
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