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Washington Post: (August 2): "Federal health authorities on Monday urged pregnant women not to visit a South Florida neighborhood where new cases of the Zika virus have emerged, the first time officials have warned against travel to part of the continental United States due to the outbreak of an infectious disease.” -- CW

... Guardian: "The search for life outside our solar system has been brought to our cosmic doorstep with the discovery of an apparently rocky planet orbiting the nearest star to our sun. Thought to be at least 1.3 times the mass of the Earth, the planet lies within the so-called 'habitable zone' of the star Proxima Centauri, meaning that liquid water could potentially exist on the newly discovered world." -- CW 

Guardian: "A fisherman in the Philippines has kept what might be the largest natural pearl ever found hidden in his home for more than 10 years. The enormous pearl is 30cm wide (1ft), 67cm long (2.2ft) and weighs 34kg (75lb). If it is confirmed to have formed within a giant clam, as has been reported, it would likely be valued in excess of US$100m." CW: Looks like there will be a fight on this: when he moved house, the fisherman entrusted it to his aunt for safekeeping. "With his permission, she offered the pearl to the mayor, Lucilo R Bayon, to serve as new tourist attraction of city." -- CW 

"Giovanni della Robbia’s 'Resurrection of Christ,' made for an entrance gate to the villa of the Antinori family outside Florence." Brooklyn Museum photo. CLICK ON PHOTO TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.New York Times: "One of the most innovative art-as-advertising firms in late-15th- and early-16th-century Florence was the della Robbia workshop, a family concern that prospered for three long-lived generations. Its specialty was a brand of glazed terra-cotta sculpture that was physically durable, graphically strong and technologically inimitable. (The exact methods for producing it remain a mystery to this day.)... The Museum of Fine Arts [in Boston is mounting] “Della Robbia: Sculpting With Color in Renaissance Florence”..., a show of ideal size and scholarly weight that includes among 46 pieces one of the tenderest Renaissance sculptures in existence — 'The Visitation' by Luca della Robbia — on first-time American loan from its Tuscan church."

Michelle & Barack -- The Movie. Richard Brody of the New Yorker reviews “Southside with You,” "a drama about Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson’s first date." Brody calls the film "a fully realized, intricately imagined, warmhearted, sharp-witted, and perceptive drama, one that sticks close to its protagonists while resonating quietly but grandly with the sweep of a historical epic." -- CW 

Washington Post: "Requiring longer passwords, known as passphrases, usually 16 to 64 characters long, is increasingly seen as a potential escape route from our painful push toward logins that only a cryptographer could love."

The New York Times features photos of the exteriors of Bill & Hillary Clinton's residences over the years.

Brian Hickey of the Philly Voice: When Leroy Black died at age 55, he got two obituaries in the Press of Atlantic City: " In the first obit, his 'loving wife, Bearetta Harrison Black' gets top survivor billing. In the second, however, Bearetta is nowhere to be found, but 'his long-tome (sic) girlfriend, Princess Hall' appears in her place. A man answering the phone at Greenidge Funeral Homes told PhillyVoice that the obituaries were placed separately because 'the wife wanted it one way, and the girlfriend wanted it another way.'" ...

... CW: Kinda reminds me of the headstone a widow placed on her husband's grave in the Key West cemetery: "Harry, I Know Where You're Sleeping Tonight."

New York Times: "A surprisingly specific genetic portrait of the ancestor of all living things has been generated by scientists who say that the likeness sheds considerable light on the mystery of how life first emerged on Earth. This venerable ancestor was a single-cell, bacterium-like organism. But it has a grand name, or at least an acronym. It is known as Luca, the Last Universal Common Ancestor, and is estimated to have lived some four billion years ago, when Earth was a mere 560 million years old."

Ian Crouch of the New Yorker: "For a few days, at least, [Stephen] Colbert abandoned the political equanimity that he’d adopted when he started his 'Late Night' job." BTW, here's Laura Benanti's segment:

Washington Post: "Benny" (for Ben Franklin), the mystery philanthropist of Salem, Oregon, has given away more than $55,000 in $100 bills, which s/he hides in odd places like "pockets of clothing, in diapers, in baby wipes and in candy." -- CW 

Jumping Jupiter! New York Times: "Ducking through intense belts of violent radiation as it skimmed over the clouds of Jupiter at 130,000 miles per hour, NASA’s Juno spacecraft finally clinched its spot on Monday in the orbit of the solar system’s largest planet. It took five years for Juno to travel this far on its $1.1 billion mission, and the moment was one that NASA scientists and space enthusiasts had eagerly — and anxiously — anticipated. At 11:53 p.m., Eastern time, a signal from the spacecraft announced the end of a 35-minute engine burn that left it in the grip of its desired orbit around Jupiter." -- CW ...

... Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post has more on the importance of the mission. CW: This, BTW, is another fine example of your government actually at work.

New York Times: "Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” signed off the air for good on Saturday evening [July 2], after 42 seasons, as millions of listeners, many in their cars on a holiday weekend, tuned in via public radio. With the exception of a telephone call from President Obama, the show, which was recorded Friday at the Hollywood Bowl in front of 18,000 people, ambled along the way it always has. There were pretty country-folk songs; an ad for Powdermilk Biscuits; a clippety-clop 'Lives of the Cowboys' skit; a heartfelt version of 'Every Time We Say Goodbye.'”

Washington Post: Gay Talese disowns his forthcoming book, 'The Voyeur’s Motel,' after he learns some of the incidents in the supposed true story are certainly fictional. The narrative “chronicles the bizarre story of Gerald Foos, who allegedly spied on guests at his Colorado motel from the late 1960s to the mid-1990s.... 'I should not have believed a word he said,' the 84-year-old author said after The Washington Post informed him of property records that showed Foos did not own the motel from 1980 to 1988.... The book, which will be published July 12, was excerpted in the New Yorker magazine in April. The story attracted widespread media attention and led producer-director Steven Spielberg to buy the movie rights to the book. Spielberg has lined up Sam Mendes...." ...

     ... Update. CW: For a day, I thought maybe Talese had developed a smidgen of ethics in his old age. Guess not. Here's the story now, from the WashPo: "Upon reflection, author Gay Talese says he’s disavowing his earlier disavowal of his own work."

Dan Shaw of New York writes a lovely remembrance of New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham.

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Monday
May072012

The Commentariat -- May 8, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on Brooks' nonsense of the day. The NYTX front page is here.

Alec MacGillis of The New Republic writes a fabulous post on "Robert Caro and Our 'Great Man" Fetish."

Paul Krugman speaks to Chrystia Freeland about stimulus spending & jobs growth:

Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "After months on the sidelines, major liberal donors including the financier George Soros are preparing to inject up to $100 million into independent groups to aid Democrats' chances this fall. But instead of going head to head with the conservative 'super PACs' and outside groups that have flooded the presidential and Congressional campaigns with negative advertising, the donors are focusing on grass-roots organizing, voter registration and Democratic turnout."

Presidential Race

Steve Peoples of the AP: "Campaigning in the backyard of America's auto industry, Mitt Romney re-ignited the bailout debate by suggesting he deserves 'a lot of credit' for the recent successes of the nation's largest car companies. That claims comes in spite of his stance that Detroit should have been allowed to go bankrupt." CW: That's the lede. Later in the piece, Peoples writes, "Romney has repeatedly argued that Obama ultimately took his advice on the auto industry's woes of 2008 and 2009. But he went further on Monday by saying he deserves credit for its ultimate turnaround. The course Romney advocated differed greatly from the one that was ultimately taken. GM and Chrysler went into bankruptcy on the strength of a massive bailout that Romney opposed.... Romney opposed taxpayer help." It is worth emphasizing that this is an AP story -- one that may appear in many papers throughout the U.S. The MSM -- even in straight news stories -- is beginning to point to Romney's implausible stories. ...

... ** In a comment on this story, Akhilleus offers hope that Willard will be abducted by aliens. (CW Update: to clarify, I guess I should say that by "aliens" I mean extraterrestrials, not those nice young men who used to mow & trim the Romneys' lawns before Willard was running for President, for Pete's sake.)

Beth Reinhard of National Journal: "... it’s hard to see [President Obama's] unwillingness to declare his support for gay marriage as anything other than political expedience. For evidence, look no further than  North Carolina, poised on Tuesday to join the majority of states with constitutional bans on gay marriage." ...

... Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post: No, Obama's positions on gay rights are not just like Romney's. ...

... BUT Greg Sargent: "Some leading gay and progressive donors are so angry over President Obama's refusal to sign an executive order barring same sex discrimination by federal contractors that they are refusing to give any more money to the pro-Obama super PAC, a top gay fundraiser's office tells me. In some cases, I'm told, big donations are being withheld." ...

... NEW. Walter Shapiro, writing for Yahoo! News: "In 2013, either as a second-term president or as a private citizen beyond political ambition, Obama almost certainly will reinvent himself as a supporter of gay marriage." ...

... NEWER. Dana Milbank: Jay Carney didn't have a big enough mop to clean up this mess. A funny, if frustrating, reprise of yesterday's press briefing wherein Carney's briefs were tied in knots.

... NEWEST. Peter Wallsten & Dan Eggen of the Washington Post: "Several people close to the White House said the [Biden] episode has exposed internal tensions within Obama’s team between those who want the president to say he favors same-sex marriage before the November election and others who worry about a political backlash if he does -- not just among conservatives and working-class voters but among African Americans.... About one in six of Obama's top campaign 'bundlers' are gay..., making it difficult for the president to defer the matter. Activists are planning a campaign for the adoption of a pro-gay-marriage plank in this year's Democratic Party platform. And a series of referendums this year on same-sex marriage -- including one in the swing state of North Carolina on Tuesday -- are putting the issue at the forefront." ...

... AND New York Times Editors: "By failing to go the next step and actually say that he supports the freedom to marry as Mr. Biden does and as polls show nearly a majority of Americans do, Mr. Obama risks dampening the enthusiasm of allies without gaining the support of equality's opponents. It's not an unfamiliar place for this president to be, unfortunately."

Dave Weigel of Slate: "New Frontiers in Neo-Swiftboating: Obama Was Ready to Blame the Troops!" The right wing, including former Bush AG Mike Mukasey, goes insane trying -- without success -- to find ways to undermine Obama's success in the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Reid Epstein of Politico: "Faced with a questioner who declared that President Barack Obama should be 'tried for treason,' Mitt Romney calmly answered the woman’s question about constitutional principles and then allowed her a follow-up question.... As the event ended, Romney told reporters on the ropeline [who asked] if he agreed that Obama should be tried for treason. 'No, no, no,' he said, shaking his head. 'No, of course not.'” ...

... Andy Rosenthal: "Why do politicians have this cowardly habit of standing by while their supporters say ridiculous things, without making the slightest attempt to set them straight? Afterward, they say they have no control over their supporters. But presumably they have some control over themselves." ...

... Jonathan Bernstein: "If everything that Mitt Romney, Republican Members of Congress, and the other Republican presidential candidates say about Barack Obama was true, then Obama should be tried for treason. It's that kind of rhetoric that's the problem, not Romney's immediate response to what someone says at a rally."

Brian Bakst & Stephen Ohlemacher of the AP: "Don't tell Ron Paul the Republican primary is over. He's too busy mucking up Mitt Romney's efforts to accumulate enough convention delegates to officially claim the GOP nomination for president. Paul's supporters won control of state GOP conventions in Maine and Nevada last weekend, stripping Romney of delegates in Maine but graciously letting him keep the ones he won in Nevada's February caucuses. Next up: Republican state conventions in Minnesota, Missouri, Louisiana and Iowa."

AND "The Dog Ate My Birth Certificate." In another interesting presidential election aside, Prof. Janet Davis, in a New York Times op-ed: "Our fears of consuming canines ... have had more to do with moralistic xenophobia and exclusion than with animal welfare, public health or ethical taboo. The flap over Mr. Obama's youthful consumption of dog meat is a resurrection of the birther-conspiracy wolf dressed in dog's clothing."

News Ledes

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Shrugging off millions of dollars spent by labor groups to defeat him, Tom Barrett walked to victory in Tuesday's Democratic primary and set up a more taxing sprint toward June 5 -- a historic recall that will be a rematch of his unsuccessful 2010 race against Gov. Scott Walker."

New York Times: "Richard G. Lugar, one of the Senate's longest-serving members, a collegial moderate who personified a gentler political era, was turned out of office on Tuesday, ending a career that had spanned the terms of half a dozen presidents and had seen broad shifts in the culture of Washington."

AP: "North Carolina voters have approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman, making it the 30th state to adopt such a ban. With 35 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday, unofficial returns showed the amendment passing with about 58 percent of the vote to 42 percent against."

Raleigh News & Observer: "Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney added to his big lead in the race for convention delegates Tuesday by winning Republican presidential primaries in North Carolina and Indiana, inching closer to the number of delegates needed to clinch the GOP nomination."

Yahoo! News: "After learning of the alleged sex tape featuring John Edwards and his mistress, Rielle Hunter, during the 2008 presidential campaign, a former Edwards adviser said he tried to warn the Obama campaign not to consider Edwards for a spot in the administration."

New York Times: "Maurice Sendak, widely considered the most important children’s book artist of the 20th century, who wrenched the picture book out of the safe, sanitized world of the nursery and plunged it into the dark, terrifying and hauntingly beautiful recesses of the human psyche, died on Tuesday in Danbury, Conn. He was 83 and lived in Ridgefield, Conn."

ABC News: "In a stunning intelligence coup, a dangerous al Qaeda bomb cell in Yemen was successfully infiltrated by an inside source who secretly worked for the CIA and several other intelligence agencies, authorities revealed to ABC News." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "The suicide bomber dispatched by the Yemen branch of Al Qaeda last month to blow up a United States-bound airliner was actually an intelligence agent for Saudi Arabia who infiltrated the terrorist group and volunteered for the mission, American and foreign officials said Tuesday. The suicide bomber dispatched by the Yemen branch of Al Qaeda last month to blow up a United States-bound airliner was actually an intelligence agent for Saudi Arabia who infiltrated the terrorist group and volunteered for the mission..."

New York Times: "With a polarized Congress already on the defensive, President Obamaon Tuesday will outline a five-point 'to do' list for lawmakers that packages job creation and mortgage relief ideas he has proposed before, administration officials say." ...

     ... Yahoo! News Update: "President Barack Obama pressed Congress on Tuesday to act on a modest five-item 'to-do list' to fight unemployment, showcasing the tasks on a virtual Post-It note he mockingly said would not 'overload' lawmakers."

There are elections today in Indiana, Wisconsin & North Carolina:

     ... Indianapolis Star: "Polls opened at 6 a.m. today as Hoosiers make their final picks for Republican and Democratic nominees for the November election. Headlining today's election is the Republican race for U.S. Senate between Sen. Richard Lugar and Treasurer Richard Mourdock." ...

     ... Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "The four Democratic candidates Monday rolled into their final day of campaigning before the primary election in Wisconsin's historic gubernatorial recall."

     ... Raleigh News & Observer: "A final poll of likely North Carolina voters conducted over the weekend continues to give a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions an easy margin of victory in Tuesday’s election while the Democratic contest for governor is tightening." The News & Observer election page is here.

AP: "The Senate is steaming toward a showdown on a Democratic proposal to keep student loan interest rates from doubling for 7.4 million students. In a measure of how the upcoming election is driving work in Congress these days, it's a vote Democrats won't terribly mind losing -- which is probably what will happen."

New York Times: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the chairman of the opposition Kadima Party struck a deal early Tuesday morning to form a unity government, a surprise move that staves off early elections and creates a new coalition with a huge legislative majority."

New York Times: "Chen Guangcheng, the blind activist whose escape last month from house arrest and subsequent flight to the American Embassy here triggered a diplomatic crisis, said Tuesday that Chinese authorities have begun to assist him in applying for permission to travel to the United States."

New York Times: "Late last year, fishermen began finding dead dolphins, hundreds of them, washed up on Peru’s northern coast. Now, seabirds have begun dying, too, and the government has yet to conclusively pinpoint a cause."

Washington Post: "U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter announced to his staff Monday morning that he was stepping down this summer after serving less than two years on the job."

Washington Post: "Rick Santorum, who bowed out of the Republican nominating contest after capturing 11 states and some 3 million votes, endorsed Mitt Romney late Monday. In a letter to his supporters, the former Pennsylvania senator said that he was impressed with Romney's 'commitment to economic policies that preserve and strengthen families.'”

Reader Comments (5)

Regarding the belated efforts on the part of the mainstream media to out Romney as the shameless liar that he is, I'm reminded of a famous Twilight Zone episode starring the inimitable Andy Devine.

In it, Devine played a small town's chronic liar who spun out massive whoppers for the consumption of anyone gullible enough to listen. While pumping gas for newcomers to the town he claims to have been the one who told Henry Ford how to construct his cars. The newcomers (like many Republicans) and unable to discern fact from fiction. They are aliens for whom lies are an unknown. They take even the craziest statements at face value and determine, pretty quickly, that Mr. Devine must be the smartest man on the planet and so, abduct him, for removal to their home planet.

We can only hope for a similar fate for Willard, with the understanding that no matter how weird the alien culture into which he is absorbed (the modern GOP), he will be weirder still.

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Oh yeah, I meant to pass this along earlier.

This is a reminder of the glory that used to be the New York Times. Back in 1951, the Times Magazine published what has come to be known as a Liberal Decalogue, written by British gadfly, philosopher, activist, and occasional pain in the ass, Bertrand Russell. Now whatever your personal feelings about old Bertie, you have to at least give the guy credit for coming up with a thought experiment on definite descriptions with an unforgettable name: "The Present King of France is Bald."

Here then is Russell's prescriptions for a better world.

Perhaps the essence of the Liberal outlook could be summed up in a new decalogue, not intended to replace the old one but only to supplement it.

The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows:

1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.

2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.

3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.

4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavour to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.

5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.

6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.

7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent that in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.

9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.

10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool's paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.


The name of Russell's article, by the way, was "The Best Answer to Fanaticism: Liberalism."

Ain't it the truth.

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

CW,
For today's post, take a bow. Not being a learned person,
I could never marshal the words you use to shred the gentleman's column. Thank you doing this site daily.
Mae Finch

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMae Finch

Mr., Ms. Republican candidate please let me know what you think of taxes.
Bachmann : God told me to work at the IRS so I know a lot.
Perry: Uh, duh, what exactly do you mean?
Cain: Sorry, it is now sex time.
Gingrich: This is not important enough for a mind like mind to address.
Santorum: In the year 1200, taxes were a item given by the poor to the rich. Some things should not change.
Paul: Taxes should be voluntary.
Romney: Just tell me what you think, I am sure I will agree.

Welcome to America.

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

@Akhilleus--

I might re-name Russell's "Liberal" Decalogue slightly differently, and call it "The Rational Thinker's Decalogue." I see nothing inherently "Liberal" about it, except perhaps in the tradition of Lockean and Burkeian "Classical Liberalism," which, I think, does not correspond to modern-day conceptions of "Liberalism."

Still, words to live by, especially for one like myself, who values "doubt" as an important character trait in and of itself.

As to whether or not "The Present King of France is Bald," well, I'll leave that important question to philosophers and logicians to parse out, if they can.

May 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterZee
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