The Ledes

Wednesday, November 25, 2015.

Attention, Costco Shoppers. E. coli in the Salad Cooler. Washington Post: "Federal health officials are investigating an outbreak of deadly E. coli bacteria that has sickened 19 people in at least seven states, mostly in the west.... Preliminary evidence suggests that rotisserie chicken salad made and sold in Costco Wholesale stores in several states is the likely source of this outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, November 24, 2015.

New York Times: "The American economy turned in a better performance last quarter than first thought, expanding at a 2.1 percent rate, the government said on Tuesday. While well below the pace of growth recorded in the spring, it was better than the 1.5 percent rate for the third quarter that the Commerce Department reported late last month."

Houston Chronicle: "A helicopter crashed at Fort Hood on Monday, killing four crew members, U.S. Army officials said. Military officials said the UH-60 helicopter crashed sometime after 5:49 p.m. Monday in the northeast section of the central Texas Army post. Emergency crews spent several hours searching the area and later found the bodies of the four crew members."

Reuters: "A bomb exploded outside the offices of a Greek business federation in central Athens on Tuesday, badly damaging the nearby Cypriot Embassy but causing no injuries, police officials said.The blast, which police believe was carried out by domestic guerrilla groups, is the first such incident since leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras came to power in January. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.Attacks against banks, politicians and business people are not uncommon in Greece, which has a long history of political violence and has been mired in its worst economic crisis in decades."

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."

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."

... For about $880,000, you can purchase Julia Child's excellent little house in Provence; her kitchen is intact, except for the stove.

New York Times: "Archaeologists have over the years cataloged the rocks [forming Stonehenge], divined meaning from their placement — lined up for midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset — and studied animal and human bones buried there. They have also long known about the other monuments — burial chambers, a 130-foot-tall mound of chalk known as Silbury Hill and many other circular structures. An aerial survey in 1925 revealed circles of timbers, now called Woodhenge, two miles from Stonehenge." With slide show.


New York Times: "In an overheated art market where anything seems possible, a painting of an outstretched nude woman by the early-20th-century artist Amedeo Modigliani sold on Monday night for $170.4 million with fees, in a packed sales room at Christie’s. It was the second-highest price paid for an artwork at auction."

Artist's rendering of the main exhibition hall of the planned wing of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. CLICK ON PICTURE TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.New York Times: "In designing its $325 million addition on Columbus Avenue, the American Museum of Natural History has opted for an architectural concept that is both cautious and audacious, according to plans approved by its board on Wednesday. The design ... evokes Frank Gehry’s museum in Bilbao, Spain, in its undulating exterior and Turkey’s underground city of Cappadocia in its cavelike interior. The design, by the architect Jeanne Gang for the new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation, aims to unite the museum’s various activities, solve its notorious circulation problems and provide a multistory showcase for the institution’s expanding role as a hub for scientific research and scholarship.”

New York Times: "... Jon Stewart has signed a production deal with the premium cable channel HBO, the channel announced on Tuesday. As part of the arrangement, Mr. Stewart will work on some digital short projects that are expected to appear on HBO’s apps like HBO Now and HBO Go. Mr. Stewart could also pursue movie or television projects with the network. The contract covers four years."

Guardian: "Facebook has announced plans to water down its controversial 'real names' policy, after lobbying from civil liberties groups worldwide."

If you'd like to know whatever happened to former NYT food columnist Mark Bittman, the Washington Post has the answer.

Jennifer Senior of the New York Times reviews Notorious R.G.B., by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik: "It’s an artisanal hagiography, a frank and admiring piece of fan nonfiction."

Digital Globe photo, via NASA, republished in the New York Times. CLICK ON PHOTO TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.... New York Times: "Satellite pictures of a remote and treeless northern steppe reveal colossal earthworks — geometric figures of squares, crosses, lines and rings the size of several football fields, recognizable only from the air and the oldest estimated at 8,000 years old. The largest, near a Neolithic settlement, is a giant square of 101 raised mounds, its opposite corners connected by a diagonal cross, covering more terrain than the Great Pyramid of Cheops.... Described last year at an archaeology conference in Istanbul as unique and previously unstudied, the earthworks, in the Turgai region of northern Kazakhstan, number at least 260 — mounds, trenches and ramparts — arrayed in five basic shapes."

New York Times: "In a landmark study, scientists at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands reported that they had conducted an experiment that they say proved one of the most fundamental claims of quantum theory — that objects separated by great distance can instantaneously affect each other’s behavior. The finding is another blow to one of the bedrock principles of standard physics known as 'locality,' which states that an object is directly influenced only by its immediate surroundings. The Delft study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, lends further credence to an idea that Einstein famously rejected. He said quantum theory necessitated 'spooky action at a distance,' and he refused to accept the notion that the universe could behave in such a strange and apparently random fashion." CW: Everything is relative, Al.

Gizmodo: On Halloween, "a rather large asteroid — discovered less than three weeks ago — is set to to fly past the Earth at a distance not seen in nearly a decade.... NASA says that 2015 TB145 will safely pass by the Earth and continue to following along its exceptionally eccentric and high-inclination orbit — which may explain why it wasn’t discovered until only a few weeks ago. During the flyby, the asteroid will reach a magnitude luminosity of 10, so it should be observable to astronomers with telescopes."

For $299,000 you could buy the house where Bruce Springsteen wrote "Born to Run." It looks like a dump prone to flooding every time it rains, but it's a block-and-a-half from the Jersey shore beach.

New York Post: "During his time in the White House, President Richard Nixon — pug-nosed, jowly, irascible, charmless-yet-devoted husband to Pat — was known to awkwardly hit on middle-aged female staffers. In 'The Last of the President’s Men' (Simon & Schuster), veteran journalist Bob Woodward quotes Alexander Butterfield, Nixon’s deputy assistant, about the commander-in-chief’s sad seduction techniques."

The Washington Post thought it would be great journalism to feature Donald's Digs in their weekend edition.  You'll be happy to know that Trump's taste runs to the gaudy & garish. You can take the boy out of the boroughs but you can take the boroughs out of the boy. I'd call Donald's style Early Modern Lottery Winner. Here's a sampling:

... There's much more where that came from. Ugh. Here, by contrast, is the study in Michael Bloomberg's New York City pad. Bloomberg is quite a few $$BB richer than Trump.

CW: I've completely ignored the buzz about the film "Steve Jobs," so this was welcome:

... Sharon Shetty in Slate: "As the latest attempt to mine every last bit of meaning from the life of Apple’s late founder, Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin’s Steve Jobs will probably make lots of money and spark lots of debate. For those preemptively exhausted by that debate, there’s Conan O’Brien’s less controversial take on a tech biopic: Michael Dell":

AND contributor D. C. Clark was kind enough to remind us of Eva Cassidy:

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Off Times Square


This section is kaput. I will leave it up for several weeks or a month so you can retrieve any of your old comments you want to save for your posterity. See the Commentariat for additional information. -- Constant Weader

To return to the Constant Comments Home page, click here or on the navigation bar above.


January 7 & 8 Open Thread

This is the last comments thread on Realty Chex Off Times Square.

"Willard Must Be Destroyed" -- Charles Pierce

Write what you will. I am busy packing my bags to move to New Hampshire where I will live free or die, a state where Republican voters may not only decide who will be the next POTUS, their locally-elected representatives are handily dispensing with all that unncessary folderol in the overly-progressive U.S. Constitution, to-wit:

** You Thought I Was Kidding When I Said The GOP Wants to Take Us Back to the Dark Ages. They're already back to 1215. That's close:

     Karen Langley & Matthew Spolar of the Concord Monitor: Republicans in the New Hampshire state legislature plan to introduce a bill requiring all civil rights legislation to derive from the Magna Carta. You can't make this stuff up. Here's their whole bill:

All members of the general court proposing bills and resolutions addressing individual rights or liberties shall include a direct quote from the Magna Carta which sets forth the article from which the individual right or liberty is derived.

     The bill doesn't specify which version of the Magna Carta must be cited, so I guess there's some leeway. Here's the model -- directly from the Magna Carta, mind you, that women's rights legislation would have to follow: "No-one is to be taken or imprisoned on the appeal of a woman for the death of anyone save for the death of that woman’s husband." Bankers & the Anti-Defamation League will love this one from the 1297 (and more important) version of the charter: "If anyone who has borrowed a sum of money from Jews dies before the debt has been repaid, his heir shall pay no interest on the debt for so long as he remains under age." BTW, -- much as they cherished it -- the Brits repealed most of the Magna Carta in the 19th century. In New Hampshire, the GOP is bringing it back!

Also, New Hampshire is an especially great place to be really rich, as one of my detractors (falsely) claimed I am:

Live Free or Die if You're a One Percenter. Center for Tax Justice: "Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s $6.6 trillion tax plan would give the richest one percent of New Hampshire residents an average tax cut of $125,900 which would be over 90 times as large as the average tax cut of $1,400 that the middle fifth of the state’s residents would receive. Former Senator Rick Santorum’s $9.4 trillion tax plan would give the richest one percent of NewHampshire residents an average tax cut of $219,570, which would be over 90 times as large as the average tax cut of $2,390 that the middle fifth of the state’s residents would receive." (File is a pdf.)


January 6, 2012 -- E.H.C.

On the Day of the Epiphany, I ended up posting quite a few links to stories in the Commentariat that reminded us that Elections Have Consequences, which is an epiphany I wish would dawn on some of our readers. Read these stories -- or at least the links (though Lithwick & Bernstein really are essential reading) -- and tell me if and why you still think voting for Republicans and/or third-party candidates is a good idea.

** Elections Have Consequences. Dahlia Lithwick in the Washington Monthly: "If you care about the future of abortion rights, stem cell research, worker protections, the death penalty, environmental regulation, torture, presidential power, warrantless surveillance, or any number of other issues, it’s worth recalling that the last stop on the answer to each of those matters will probably be before someone in a black robe. Republicans have understood that for decades now, and that’s why the federal bench — including the Supreme Court — is almost unrecognizable to Democrats today."

Pat Garofalo of Think Progress: "... while corporate profits have rebounded to their pre-recession heights, setting a record in the third quarter of 2011, corporate tax revenue has yet to follow suit.... Corporate tax revenue has plummeted for several reasons, but one of the big ones is the growth of deductions, loopholes, and outright tax evasion that helps companies limit, or entirely eliminate, their income tax liability. 30 major corporations, in fact, paid no corporate income tax over the last three years, while making $160 billion in profits." CW: this story also falls in the "Elections Have Consequences" category. These companies aren't paying their fair share because Congress has decided they don't have to. Another good reason to support Sen. Bernie Sanders' Constitutional Amendment drive.

Elections Have Consequences. Brian Beutler of TPM: Mitt Romney's tax plan is a fucking disaster: "... the plan constitutes a major tax cut for wealthy Americans. But compared to today’s rates, Romney proposes effective tax increases for people making less than $40,000." Includes an interactive chart that shows the biggest break would be for those earning over a million a year, & the biggest tax increase would be for those earning less than $10,000 a year. And in case you're the last person in Amurrica who thinks Republicans care about the deficit, "The Romney plan would reduce federal tax revenues substantially."

Elections Have Consequences. If you think Mitt Romney will "move to the center" should he become president, as Nicholas Kristof argued in his wishful-thinking column yesterday (see my rebuttal of one aspect of it here), read Jonathan Bernstein's article in the Washington Monthly. Guess what? "Campaign promises set the presidential agenda, even when they don’t tell you which items will pan out and which won’t.... So as you listen to Mitt Romney and the rest of the Republicans..., don’t assume that it’s all meaningless, empty rhetoric that will be dropped once the campaign is over and governing begins. Don’t assume, either, that ... specific pledges made in the primary season will be left behind...." BTW, you can blame Steve Forbes for the deficit. (Read Bernstein to find out why.)

Write on this or something else. BTW, good discussions in the January 4-5 Not-GOP Thread.


January 4 and 5, 2012 -- Not-GOP

Let's see if we can get through the day talking about something other than Republican presidential candidates. But do let's talk. (And if you can't help yourself, feel free to break the rule of the day. We're mostly libruls here. We break rules.)

Update: My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on David Brooks' "Real America." The NYTX front page is here. The column is a slight cheat on today's rule in that Brooks mentions one of the GOP candidates, though he is not the star of the column. Also, the column includes a Very Important Point that our friend Kate Madison made....

... AND please consider making a contribution to NYTX, which is doing a very good job of keeping 'em honest over at the Times.

Update 2: We didn't get far yesterday, so let's keep on keepin' on. However, feel free to mention the GOP presidential contenders. I think I can stand it. How about you? Speaking of which ...

... My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on Mitt Romney, the New York Times' favorite presidential candidate.


January 2 & 3 -- Iowa Predicitions

Okay, let's hear your predictions on which GOP presidential candidate will will the Iowa Caucuses. No, Iowa is not in the Caucasus Mountains. But it is extremely Caucasian.

Here is the Des Moines Register final poll to help you out: "The Des Moines Register’s latest Iowa Poll shows a surprise three-way match-up in contention to win the Iowa Republican caucuses: Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum." Public Policy Polling results are here:

Ridiculous answers are acceptable, as always. Speaking of ridiculous answers, @Forrest Morris's intrepid investigative reporting on the New Year's Resolutions of seven of the candidates, published in the Weekend Thread, may be of help.

Update: John Cassidy of the New Yorker has some Handy Handicapping Hints that might be more Helpful than Morris's. ...

... AND here's the latest from the super-reliable Nate Silver.

Update 3: All the news is Iowa, Iowa, Iowa, so let's keep at it.


Weekend Open Thread -- When Two Days Seems Like Two Years

¡Felíz Año Nuevo!

                                           --- from a place not far from Cuba

Write what you will. Ridiculous New Year's resolutions would be welcome. Also, if you want the definitive inside scoop on Who Shot JFK, you will find the answer, and tantalizing details, in yesterday's thread....

     ... Update: also from yesterday's thread, do go to @Fred Drumlevitch's links to stories about (and in) The Realist. I'd never heard of The Realist, but it turns out to have been a big influence on all of our lives.


December 30 -- Conspiracy!

James Kirchick of The New Republic in a New York Times op-ed: "... there is one major aspect of [Ron Paul's] newsletters, no less disturbing than their racist content, that has always been present in Paul’s rhetoric, in every forum: a penchant for conspiracy theories.... Paul has frequently attacked the alleged New World Order that 'elitist' cabals, like the Trilateral Commission and the Rockefeller family, in conjunction with 'globalist' organizations, like the United Nations and the World Bank, wish to foist on Americans.... Paul has not just marinated in a stew of far-right paranoia; he is one of the chefs.... Ron Paul is a paranoid conspiracy theorist who regularly imputes the worst possible motives to the very government he wants to lead." ...

Ron Paul Isn't the Only Crazy Conspiracy Theorist Running for President:

Michele Bachmann is up against not only the other candidates, but up against President Obama, who has Facebook, Twitter, Google, and YouTube in its back pocket. I believe that helped him win the last election. No president should have the monopoly of those companies in their back pocket. -- Jonathan, a radio talkshow caller ...

... I absolutely agree, Jonathan. We have seen, whether it is the head of Facebook or Google, it is clear there is an alliance with the Obama administration, as well as with NBC. -- Michele Bachmann

Update: Yippee! Another Bachmann Conspiracy Theory! John McCormick & Lisa Lerer of the Washington Post: "Michele Bachmann pressed her allegations that the former head of her Iowa presidential bid was bribed by the campaign of rival Ron Paul to endorse him, even as one of her own aides denied the charge. The aide who issued the denial later quit Bachmann’s campaign, the candidate said." Bachmann is a gift who keeps on giving.

I don't think it's fair that wingers get all the crazy conspiracy theories. Can you think of any for progressives? (BTW, Kirchick's op-ed is very good.)


December 29 -- Low-Information Voters

Sorry, I'm literally having technical difficulties this morning. My computer crashed and lost quite a bit of stuff. I'll get it back up when I get it back up. In the meantime, here's this thought:

Yesterday, @Marvin Schwalb raised an issue that has vexed me, too: what about the millions of Americans who are eligible to vote but don't? So here's a scenario:

It's late on a Thursday afternoon in September 2012. You have just come home from a trip to the local high school where you have been registering 18-year-olds to vote. You get out of your car, pick up the voter registration material -- including new, unused voter registration forms -- and notice your next-door neighbor working in his yard. He waves you over.

Your neighbor is a friendly guy, you like him, but you don't know him well. You've chatted with him over the year or so he's lived there about family, the weather, sporting events. So he asks what you've been up to and you tell him about your afternoon. "Really?" sez he. "Gee, I've never voted. My parents didn't vote either. Just not a family tradition. Besides, I don't follow the news. Never watch it. I barely know who's running for President much less Senator or mayor or whatever." (Nobody is running for mayor -- the mayoral elections are in April.)

Obviously, you have no idea how this guy will vote. There's no family tradition where he might be a "legacy" Democrat or Republican or independent. He's a complete know-nothing.

What do you do? Even if he registers, he probably won't vote. And if he votes, how will he choose candidates? He might vote for the side you don't like, and you care about who gets elected. Do you hand the guy one of those registration forms you're holding? Do you urge him to vote for your guy Joe Blow? Do you promise to take him to the polls?

Or do you decide an uninformed voter is a danger to democracy and switch the topic to the autumnal equinox?


December 28 -- American Caste

** Stephen Marche of Esquire: "... a class system has arrived in America — a recent study of the thirty-four countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that only Italy and Great Britain have less social mobility.... In the United States, the emerging aristocracy remains staunchly convinced that it is not an aristocracy, that it's the result of hard work and talent. The permanent working poor refuse to accept that their poverty is permanent. The class system is clandestine.... The majority of new college grads in the United States today are either unemployed or working jobs that don't require a degree. Roughly 85 percent of them moved back home in 2011, where they sit on an average debt of $27,200. The youth unemployment rate in general is 18.1 percent.... The Tea Partiers blame the government. The Occupiers blame the financial industry. Both are really mourning the arrival of a new social order, one not defined by opportunity but by preexisting structures of wealth." ...

... ** "Income Inequality Is a Symptom, Not the Disease." Charles Pierce on how Bill Clinton made you poor and the New York Times and University of Chicago say it isn't so.

Do read Charles Pierce's commentary; it's pretty good. Then add your own.


December 26 & 27 -- Why Vote?

Commenters and I are always writing about why it does/doesn't matter whether or not we vote Democratic, Republican or Neither of the Above. So please share with us at least one reason -- whether or not that "reason" will influence your own vote (its still a secret ballot, after all!) -- progressives should vote Democratic, Republican or neither.

Or write about something else.

Also, thanks again for your comments over the holidays.

Update: My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on Ross Douthat's column, which he titled "The Cratchit Tax Credit." I call it the "Ebenezer Scrooge Tax Break," and I explain why. I guess Douthat is one good reason to vote. Somebody has to cancel out his vote. I just took dibs (though I'll accept challenges from anyone who claims a higher right to be the anti-Douthat voter). God bless us, every one.


December 22 & Etc. (Con'd.)

I can't figure out how to re-enable comments on our continuing thread, so if you want to comment, you can do so here.

Happy Holiday, Everybody! And thank you to every one of you who has contributed here over the past six months. It's been a joy.



December 22 & Etc.

Here's a short post on celebrations of the Winter Solstice. And how will you be celebrating Yule?

Update: let's continue. Besides, I would not want readers to miss yesterday's responses, which were quite beautiful. It is not, however, necessary to try to match them or follow in the same vein. Whatever interests you will be fine.

BTW, my column for the New York Times eXaminer just went up. It's on Part 2 of Brooks' list of best magazine essays -- so the boxed set made in out in time for Christmas. I'd like to box Brooks' ears. Ho ho ho.

Update 2: okay, we've found a place where we all differ. I thought maybe this year, since a number of you had suggested some good Christmas songs, I'd also do a post on the good ones. I listened to several of your suggestions -- they would definitely have fit well into my Worst Songs scheme! There's no accounting for taste, especially in music. So here's one I like (and so do almost 36 million other people):

Then there's this from the 1998 Olympics. I was living in Italy at the time & I watched it live on a little 15" TV with lousy audio. It still gave me chills. As it does today:


December 21 -- Whatever

I'm at a loss. Help me out.

BTW, I'm looking forward to again creating my annual "Worst Christmas Songs Ever" special gift to humbuggers. If you have favorites of the genre, let me know. A link would be helpful.

Also, if you're still shopping, commenters made excellent suggestions yesterday for books for adults and children.

AND I agree with Robert Pear of the New York Times: this part of Tea Party Scrooginess has not gotten enough attention: ""More than three million people stand to lose unemployment insurance benefits in the near future because of an impasse in Congress over how to extend the aid and how to offset the cost. Jobless benefits have been overshadowed by debate on a payroll tax cut, but have become a huge sticking point in negotiations on a bill that deals with both issues. Republicans would continue aid for some of the unemployed, but would sharply reduce the maximum duration of benefits and impose strict new requirements on people seeking or receiving aid." Having to pay a little more in payroll taxes will work hardships on some families; others will hardly notice. BUT. Almost everyone on unemployment insurance needs those payments to survive. And GOP protests to the contrary, people who collect unemployment benefits are not slackers living a life of luxury on the public's dime. They are looking for work: active job-hunting is a condition of collecting the checks.