Thursday Reads: Villager Gossip, A Priceless Art Discovery, The Troubled NFL, And The Psychopathic One Percent

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Good Morning!!

All the villagers are talking about the gossipy new book about the 2012 presidential campaign by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, Double Down. I can’t bring myself to read it, but Pat J. said she is reading it, so maybe she can give us more detail on the story of Romney adviser Stuart Stevens vomiting backstage after Clint Eastwood’s embarrassing performance at the Republican National Convention.

Lawrence O’Donnell had Heilemann on his MSNBC show last night. O’Donnell “loved” book and was especially joyful about the anecdote about Stevens. I have to admit, it’s pretty funny. The Washington Post has a lengthy review of the book with some more interesting bits.

On Chris Christie:

According to the authors, Romney and his team were shaken by what they discovered about Christie during “Project Goldfish,” as the hush-hush veep search process was known. His “disturbing” research file is littered with “garish controversies,” the authors write: a Justice Department investigation into his free-spending ways as U.S. attorney, his habit of steering government contracts to friends and political allies, a defamation lawsuit that emerged during a 1994 run for local office, a politically problematic lobbying career that included work on behalf of a financial firm that employed Bernie Madoff. And that’s not to mention the Romney team’s anxiety about the governor’s girth.

For Christie, who is coasting to reelection on Tuesday and already laying behind-the-scenes groundwork for a 2016 presidential bid, the book’s revelations are a Drudge-ready public relations nightmare that will send his advisers scrambling to explain awkward aspects of his record and his personal life just as he is stepping onto the national stage.

Mitt Romney is apparently obsessed with fat people, and even criticized men on his staff if they went out with women that Romney deemed to be too “fat.” You can just imagine what he thought of Chris Christie. From an earlier WaPo article:

Romney initially crossed Christie off his short list. The governor’s vetting file was incomplete, and Romney had been bothered by Christie’s propensity to show up late at campaign events and by his lack of physical fitness, the book says.

“Romney marveled at Christie’s girth, his difficulties in making his way down the narrow aisle of the campaign bus,” the authors write. “Watching a video of Christie without his suit jacket on, Romney cackled to his aides, ‘Guys! Look at that!’”

It brings back memories of the tales about Romney bullying classmates in high school. What a horrible man he is! There’s much more gossip in the Post review if you’re interested.

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Corporate media and talking heads have been busy trying to interpret Tuesday’s election results as helpful for Republicans.  Supposedly the only reason Terry McAuliffe beat Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia and Chris Christie is now on the fast track to the White House–sorry Hillary.

Ed Kilgore at Political Animal: Tell Me Again Who Won in Virginia?

Before we get into any more election analysis, I have to make a preliminary objection to what we are hearing this morning about the Virginia governor’s race. Yes, we all play the expectations game, and Terry McAuliffe only won by two-and-a-half percent, which is less than most of the late polls anticipated. But to read this morning’s spin, you’d think he (and the Democratic Party) actually lost. The results are being widely read exactly as Ken Cuccinelli wanted them to be read: a negative “referendum on Obamacare.” Politico’s James Hohmann, in a piece entitled “Why Terry McAuliffe barely won,” draws bright red arrows pointing to an exit poll showing that 53% of voters said they opposed Obamacare. That’s entirely in line with about three years of polling about the Affordable Care Act, and doesn’t indicate any last minute “surge” against the law.

Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast: The Wrong Election Takeaways From Christie’s Win, Virginia, and More:

The conventional wisdom on New Jersey: Huge Chris Christie win sets him up to steamroll his way to the Republican nomination in 2016, proving that a more mainstream conservative can win in a blue state. The conventional wisdom on Virginia: Ken Cuccinelli’s stinging loss in a purple state in an off-off-year election against Terry McAuliffe, a flawed Democratic candidate, shows not only that he was too extreme but also that Virginia is inching its way into the Democratic column. As the Times put it in its headline, “McAuliffe Win Points to Virginia Changes.”

Well, God invented conventional wisdom so people like me could beat it down. In New Jersey, Christie doesn’t emerge from his victory nearly as strong as he appears to. And the Virginia outcome isn’t really very strong for Democrats, especially down the ballot. No, I’m not buying into the right-wing spin that Cuccinelli’s narrow margin of defeat really represents some kind of loss for Obamacare. It does not.

Read the rest at the link.

Peter Beinart at The Daily Beast: Chris Christie Is No George W. Bush, and 2016 Is Definitely Not 2000:

In the wake of Chris Christie’s reelection romp on Tuesday, the press is filled withcomparisons between the New Jersey governor and a pre-presidency George W. Bush. They’re both Republican governors who appear moderate and bipartisan compared to their party’s zealots in Washington. They’re both beloved by big donors. Each has made inroads among the Democratic-leaning constituencies with whom Republicans must do better. But there’s a problem with the analogy. It’s unlikely Christie can “win” the presidency by running as a second Bush, in part [because] America still remembers the first one.

Lots more at the link.

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In other news…

Did you hear about the priceless art works stolen by the Nazis that were found in a dirty, run-down apartment in Munich, Germany? From NPR:

The revelation Monday that more than 1,000 paintings and prints seized by the Nazis during World War II were found in a Munich apartment has set off excitement in the art world and spurred anger among Jewish groups that German officials didn’t publicize the discovery when it was first made.

With a potential value of $1.35 billion, the trove of art contains previously unknown works by Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall; other artists represented include Pablo Picasso, Auguste Renoir and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

The stash of art was reported by Germany’s Focus magazine Monday, under the headline “The Nazi Treasure” (Der Nazi-Schatz). Tax officials discovered the cache when they visited the cluttered Munich apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, a descendant of a man who was an official in wartime Germany.

Of nearly 1,400 oil paintings, prints and other works, 1,285 had been stacked in a drawer, unframed. They include work by German expressionists such as Franz Marc and Max Beckmann, in addition to a previously unknown self-portrait by Otto Dix. The trove also includes Albrecht Dürer and Canaletto, who worked in earlier centuries — a detail that could make the collection’s origins even more difficult to explain.

The paintings were found in 2011, but the stunning and unprecedented discovery was just announced this week. A couple more links:

Max Fisher at WaPo: Why Nazi-seized art is only now resurfacing – and how it will change the art world.

Bloomberg: Nazi Art Trove Surprises Family Searching for 70 Years.

This will be a story to watch for anyone who is interested in fine art. We still don’t know for sure which paintings were found.

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The NFL is back in the news, and, again, it’s not in a good way. It’s a story of racially charged bullying and hazing at the Miami Dolphins. Reportedly, a veteran player, Richie Incognito was told by someone at the team to “toughen up” rookie Jonathan Martin. Even the GM may have been involved. Incognito, who is white, chose to do so by leaving messages containing racial slurs on Martin’s voicemail. Martin, who is African American, ended up in the hospital for emotional distress and eventually left the team. If you can believe it, other Dolphins players and veterans of the team are supporting Incognito.

Here are a couple of interesting reactions to the story.

Valerie Strauss at the WaPo: If a 6’5, 312-pound Miami Dolphin can be bullied…

Jonathan Martin, the  6-foot-5-inch, 312-pound Miami Dolphin offensive lineman who left the NFL team because he was being bullied by at least one other player, has done a  favor for school kids everywhere.

How can such a big guy get bullied? Because bullying behavior isn’t about physical intimidation. It’s about mind control and creating fear — and no one, not even very large professional athletes — are immune. That’s a useful message for kids and adults working to create safe climates at their schools.

So is the way Martin ultimately handled his problem. After many months of being a victim, he got up, walked away and later accused the Dolphins of creating and allowing an unsafe work environment. He is forcing the powers that be to take a look at the problem. As my Post colleague Sally Jenkins wrote in this column:

Turns out the real tough guy is Martin, whose decision to rebel against a vicious culture in the Dolphins’ locker room has triggered a league-level investigation of [suspended Dolphin Richie] Incognito, and, if reports are true, needs to extend to other veteran players and management as well.

In schools, the programs that work best in combating bullying are those that teach kids that they can’t stand by and watch bullies go after other students. Bystanders have to get help — and everybody in the school, adults included — have to be on the same page. That didn’t happen in Miami.

Veteran WaPo sportswriter Tom Boswell: Richie Incognito bullying allegations are the latest in long list of NFL problems.

Where are we? Where is pro football? The NFL doesn’t have a PR problem. It has a reality problem. And it may be a grave one. Every month — and it seems every few days — the NFL is inundated by new, barely suspected revelations. What has the NFL become? Or is this what it has been for some time? Is the truth coming out of the shadows?

The list is stunning. Its cumulative effect, not any one particular item, is the true confidence-shaking shock.

The NFL is now the league of murder charges against Aaron Hernandez — gang execution style. The NFL is the league of murder, then suicide, with Jovan Belcher killing his girlfriend and then shooting himself in the head in a parking lot by his stadium as his coach and general manager watched….

The NFL is the league where future Hall of Famer Junior Seau, barely retired, shot himself in the heart so his brain could be studied by science to help prove that chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a core part of football, with risk of brain damage down to the smallest kids who play it….

The NFL is the league of thug bullies such as suspended Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito, who allegedly extorted money, texted racist insults and made death threats to a younger teammate. It’s the league of $15,000 stripper parties in Las Vegas, paid for by intimidated, hazed rookies who don’t make the trip but pay the check even if it busts them.

The article is well worth a read even if you don’t follow sports.

We’ve been talking a lot lately about the studies that show that rich people are more narcissistic, less empathetic, more likely to be dishonest, rude, and thoughtless than other people. Here a long read at Alternet about the top 1% as functioning psychopaths: Inside the Psyche of the 1% — Many Actually Believe Their Ideology of Greed Makes for a Better World.

Do the rich and super-rich tend to be psychopaths, devoid of guilt or shame? Are the 1% lacking in compassion? Does their endless accumulation of possessions actually bring them little to no happiness? To each of these, the answer is “yes”—but a very qualified “yes” with lots of subtleties. Even more important is what these issues suggest for building a society which does not ravage the last remnants of wilderness and rush headlong into a climate change tipping point.

Check out the article to get all the details.

Those are my offerings for today; now what are you reading and blogging about? Please share your links in the comment thread.


Wednesday Reads: It’s a Sin

Good Morning

I’ve no clue what is going on in the world, it feels like I have checked out but still stuck in the same place. It is like I can see things going on around me, but I just don’t give a damn about it.

So for this morning’s thread, I have some links that I have saved along the way. Some of them are from a few weeks ago…anyway…

This first article is over my head…my son has tried to explain dark matter to me and I still don’t get it. Mathematicians offer unified theory of dark matter, dark energy, altering Einstein field equations

A pair of mathematicians — one from Indiana University and the other from Sichuan University in China — have proposed a unified theory of dark matter and dark energy that alters Einstein’s equations describing the fundamentals of gravity.

Sichuan University professor Tian Ma, left, and IU Department of Mathematics professor Shouhong Wang have developed a unified theory of dark matter and dark energy they believe could change our view of energy, gravitational interactions and the structure and formation of the universe.

I will just let you read that article on your own.

Now for something I can comprehend, Pre-Raphaelites as costume drama: Victorians in all their lurid glory

Dante Gabriel Rosetti's Lady Lilith, in Tate Britain's show Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde

Dante Gabriel Rosetti’s Lady Lilith, part of Tate Britain’s exhibition Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde, which runs from 12 September-13 January. Photograph: Guy Bell for the Guardian

Tate Britain‘s new Pre-Raphaelites exhibition is a steam-punk triumph, a raw and rollicking resurrection of the attitudes, ideas and passions of our engineering, imperialist, industrialist, capitalist and novel-writing ancestors. The pistons are pounding, the steam is hissing, cigars are being lit and secret lives once more being concealed. The Victorians are back in town. This is as much a costume drama as a show, jam-packed with heroes and villains and innocent victims, holding up a lurid mirror to the age that built Britain.

These style of paintings have always fascinated me, maybe it is because there is something medieval about them?

Pre-Raphaelites: Ophelia by John Everett Millais Ophelia by John Everett Millais. Photograph: Corbis

The Pre-Raphaelites were painting as Karl Marx was writing his revolutionary works in the Reading Room of the British Museum. Marx and Friedrich Engels published the Communist Manifesto in 1848, the same year the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood formed. The young artists who joined this radical band saw through the hypocrisy of the factory owners who bought their paintings. In Isabella, painted in 1848-49, John Everett Millais illustrates a medieval Italian tale about the daughter of a rich merchant family who loved a penniless young clerk. Isabella’s brothers murder her unsuitable lover. Millais suggests these brothers have incestuous designs on their sister: one of them points a white-stockinged leg phallically at Isabella. The foregrounded brothers are creepy in the extreme, but the most villainous faces in Millais’ painting belong to a row of respectable bourgeois types who share their dinner table: they radiate the cold propriety of Poor Law guardians. This is a painting about secrets and lies, and Millais makes it a psychodrama full of resonance with the Victorian period.

Beautiful. Read the entire article at the link above, they have more visual images too…real nice ones.

Monkeys in castles and lettrines of whimsy
Both this image and the one up top come from BibliOdyssey.com.

Now, I usually love to read articles from HNN History News Network, but this has to be one subject of study I would never have thought people would take seriously. Just the title for you, The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies: The Best is Yet to Come | History News Network

Damn, I feel violated, like I need to take a shower, ugh…Ayn Rand Studies? Now that is fucked up.

Here are a couple of articles that are very important, they discuss the War on Women…well, take a look for yourself. And yes, I am quoting the whole thing.

A Question That Should Be Asked of Every Political Candidate | RH Reality Check

As the most extreme anti-choice advocates push to force all politicians to accept “no exceptions” as the default position when it comes to opposing abortions, it’s stories like these that serve as a reminder of how an all out ban would effect real people.

Especially young girls.

Via The News Tribune:

The girl is not yet in her teens. Police say her mother’s boyfriend, who had a history of violent crime, raped her. He was ultimately shot dead by deputies trying to arrest him. She was impregnated. She was 11.

It bears repeating. Eleven.

Forget for a moment a woman’s very personal right to choose, the spark for recent demonstrations at both the Republican and Democratic conventions. Here is a question for those who seem to know what’s best for the rest of the world: Can reasonable people really believe there should be no choice, under any circumstance, even in what happened to this child?

It’s a yes or no question that should be asked of every politician.  Do you believe an 11 year old pregnant rape victim should be forced to give birth if she doesn’t want to?  Because this is what no exceptions would really look like

Ugh…I thought about posting that link on the Banjoville Topix form, just to see what kind of reaction it gets, but I am afraid to read the comments. I mean, I am already depressed about things as it is. But hey, at least there is some “good” news out of Idaho: Idaho Abortion Ruling States Pregnant Women Can’t Be Prosecuted For Having Abortions

An Idaho law that bans the use of medication to induce abortion cannot be used to prosecute a woman who took the pills to abort her pregnancy, a U.S. appeals court decided on Tuesday.

Bannock County prosecutors brought a case against Jennie Linn McCormack in 2011 after she used medication that she obtained online to induce her own abortion. McCormack, a single mother of three, claims that she could not find a licensed abortion provider in Southeastern Idaho, so she had to violate a state law that requires abortions to be performed at a hospital or medical clinic.

An Idaho federal judge dismissed the charges against McCormack in September 2011 on the grounds that the law cannot be enforced. McCormack then challenged the law itself, arguing that it imposes an undue burden on women’s access to abortion in Idaho.

I’ve got two more links for you, and I have to admit, they are a bit on the selfish side. One is about a medieval woman…The Curious Case of Mary Felton

…the interesting life of a 14th century English lady: Mary Felton was at one point or another during her complex life was married to Edmund Hemgrave, Thomas Breton, Geoffrey Worsley, and John Curson, consectively, though not always exclusively; she was also ‘sometime’ widow, mistress, divorcee, nun, apostate, and mother.

Mary (born circa 1356) was the eldest daughter of Sir Thomas Felton, who was Knight of the Garter and a high ranking officer in Edward III’s armies in France. By the time she was six years old, Mary was betrothed to Edmund Hemgrave, but he died in 1374, leaving Mary as a child widow, but also with some property.

However, Mary did not stay single for long – within a few months she had clandestinely married Thomas Breton. However, this marriage does not seem to have lasted, as in 1376 she had married Geoffrey Worsley in a parish church. Meanwhile, Thomas Breton died in 1380 while fighting on the continent.

The marriage with Geoffrey did not last either, as in 1381 the Archdeacon of Chester granted Mary a divorce, and the the 25-year-old lady entered a Franciscan nunnery at Aldgate, London where she was strictly cloistered.

Over the next few years Geoffrey Worsley remarried, and Thomas Felton died. Although Mary was Thomas’ only heir, as a strictly cloistered nun who had taken a vow of poverty, she was unable to own property. Her mother, Joan, set up several trustees to manage the properties of Mary, with Makowski adding that Joan was eager to maximize the profits from these various estates.

In 1385 the situation changed dramatically, as Mary left Aldgate and made a bold bid to reclaim her secular status. When the crown issued an arrest warrant against Mary for being a runaway religious, she responded by claiming that she was not an apostate because never freely joined. Mary Felton stated that she was forced to divorce Geoffrey and enter the nunnery. She also complained that she was not receiving any profits from the properties being run by her mother.

This case would spend several years in the episcopal courts, and Mary received support from some relatives of Geoffrey Worsley – Geoffrey had died in 1385 but had an infant daughter who would have inherited his estate. By Mary making a claim that she had never truly divorced Geoffrey, this daughter would be declared illegitimate, which meant that Geoffrey’s other relatives would get his inheritance.

In 1392 the episcopal court decided the Mary was indeed a secular person. This allowed her to marry for a fourth time – now with John Curson, who happened to be one of the trustees appointment her mother. Mary never did get control of her properties herself – she died in 1398 and her mother outlived her. When Joan died a few years later, the property of Thomas Felton went to Mary and John’s legitimate son, also named John.

Elizabeth Makowski, a professor at Texas State University, found this to be a very interesting case of matrimonial intrigues and legal entanglements, showing how an individual used canon law to regain her secular status.

Click here to visit Professor Makowski’s webpage at Texas State University

And the other link is about this band I loved back in the day,  Pet Shop Boys: ‘We don’t think about the old stuff’

Pet Shop Boys
The band met in an electronics shop in London, 31 years ago

After 30 years in the limelight, the Pet Shop Boys are tackling an unusual subject for a pop album – ageing and death.

The Pet Shop Boys are sprawled at opposite ends of a sofa in a perfectly white room on the top floor of their record company’s London headquarters.

Neil Tennant, professor of pop and deadpan frontman is on the right, alert and well-groomed.

His partner in crime for the last 30 years, Chris Lowe, is on the left, slouched and sardonic in jeans and a sports T-shirt.

They are here, ostensibly, to discuss their 11th studio album, Elysium.

But, as is often the case with the polymath pop group, the conversation becomes a survey of the entire music scene.

Take a look at that article, you may be surprised at just how active the Pet Shop Boys are…I know I was.  There are many favorite tunes I could bring you now from these “boys” but here is one that sort of “goes” with the medieval theme of today’s post.

So, what’s going on with your sins lately?