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.


Super-Lightweight Open Thread: NBC Offers Matt Lauer’s Job to Anderson Cooper

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I don’t usually follow media gossip, but I’ve been seeing a lot of bashing of Matt Lauer out of the corner of my eye lately; so this is kind of interesting. It’s all over Twitter that NBC has offered Anderson Cooper Matt Lauer’s job on the Today Snow, and supposedly Lauer is OK with it. He’s been somewhat of a media punching bag since he drove Ann Curry off the Today Show.

TMZ reports, MATT LAUER I’m Down w/ Anderson Replacing Me on ‘Today’

Sources connected with NBC tell TMZ … network honchos approached Anderson Cooper about the possibility of replacing Matt Lauer on the “Today” show at some point … not immediately but at some point.

There is a story on Deadline.com that Matt made a call to Anderson to express his disapproval … TMZ has confirmed that is inaccurate and that call never happened.

In fact, sources connected with the network and Lauer tell TMZ that Lauer is actually on board with the idea of Anderson replacing him … and he actually planned to have a meeting with Anderson to sit down and discuss it.

More from Business Insider:

Matt Lauer has been the subject of much scrutiny recently as reports of what really transpired in the Ann Curry ousting come to light and ratings continue to decline.

And it appears the brass at NBC are now looking to possibly replace Lauer.

Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva reports exclusively:

I hear NBC toppers recently reached out to CNN’s Anderson Cooper to replace Lauer on the show before the end of the year. After their initial approach to Cooper, I hear NBC reached out to Lauer to get his blessing about the changeover. But I heard they got pushback from the Today veteran, who contacted Cooper to express his disapproval. I also hear that call caught Cooper by surprise, as he had assumed Lauer had been brought on board before NBC began making overtures. Cooper has been one of the leading faces at CNN, though I hear his contract has an out, and he previously was able to do his syndicated daytime talk show in addition to his CNN program.

If (like me) you didn’t follow the recent gossip closely, Here’s some more detail on Lauer’s treatment of Ann Curry in a New York Magazine cover story. And here’s the gist, in case you don’t want to wade through the whole thing:

In his new cover story for New York magazine, Joe Hagan offers the most in-depth look at the Today show ratings disaster that has created Matt Lauer’s weeks-long attempt at image rehabilitation, and it’s now clear that the defining moment that brought the morning show crashing down to Earth — the exit of Ann Curry — was something of a cross between the fourth circle of Hell and running with the Heathers in high school: Curry got pranked, she got her clothes made fun of, she was prevented from reaching out to Robin Roberts, and her legacy lives on as a punching bag for NBC to defend the man who couldn’t share camera time with her anymore.

For the past several weeks, we’ve seen Lauer, Camp Lauer, and NBC executives trip over themselves trying to figure out how to talk to the media and spin the official history of Curry’s demise as a refresh for Today and especially Lauer. Talk to the Daily Beast‘s Howard Kurtz, and you can come away with a glossy, press release masquerading as an “exclusive.” Don’t talk to The New York Times‘s Brian Stelter, or you’ll find out Lauer is basically Voldemort in the halls of NBC.

Which brings us to New York‘s Hagan, who goes more than 6,500 words deep, with the official blessing of NBC… but also a blessed bit of honest analysis and reporting. On the surface, you can see Lauer and executives stick to the tracings of the NBC script so far — that Curry’s exit wasn’t his fault, that NBC executives made the decision, that Lauer was just caught in the crossfire. But Hagan’s piece digs into the deeper reality that Lauer in some respects failed at the basics of his job, and that those failures slid past executives who were so quick to lower the axe on Curry.

Read the highlights at the Business Insider link above.

The  big question is who will replace Anderson Cooper? Who would want to work for CNN?

Please don’t feel you have to discuss this story–talk about anything you want. I just thought we needed a fresh thread.


Open Thread: Mitt Romney, Busybody

In a speech in Des Moines, Iowa today, Mitt Romney sounded like a fussy old gossip, claiming that President Obama probably has a “beef” with Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Almost a generation ago, Bill Clinton announced that the Era of Big Government was over.

Even a former McGovern campaign worker like President Clinton was signaling to his own Party that Democrats should no longer try to govern by proposing a new program for every problem.

President Obama tucked away the Clinton doctrine in his large drawer of discarded ideas, along with transparency and bipartisanship. It’s enough to make you wonder if maybe it was a personal beef with the Clintons….but really it runs much deeper.

President Obama is an old school liberal whose first instinct is to see free enterprise as the villain and government as the hero. America counted on President Obama to rescue the economy, tame the deficit and help create jobs. Instead, he bailed out the public-sector, gave billions of dollars to the companies of his friends, and added almost as much debt as all the prior presidents combined.

ROFLMAO!! Obama, “an old school liberal?” This guy is a laff riot!

At the Washington Post, Nia-Malika Henderson interpreted Romney’s odd invoking of the good old days of the Clinton administration as another effort to link Obama with Jimmy Carter. Henderson writes:

The strategy, of course, is obvious, if a little heavy handed—paint Obama as more like Jimmy Carter, rather than as a New Democrat in the mold of Clinton.

Clinton has already emerged as one of Obama’s most visible surrogates, appearing in a video marking the death of Osama bin Laden, and will likely be used to gin up support among so-called Reagan Democrats—white, blue collar workers, particularly—and Romney can perhaps mute some of Clinton’s power by suggesting that Clinton isn’t all in with Obama. (It’s a beef, not a bromance, Romney suggests.)

But by invoking Clinton, Romney risks poking the bear in some ways, and perhaps even casting himself as a version of Clinton. Praising Clinton, even in a backhanded way, isn’t exactly a way to solidify support among the religious right.

I don’t know about the reaction from the religious right, but Bill Clinton worked a few digs about Romney into his speech today at the Pete Peterson conference (why Clinton shows up for these things, I’ll never understand, but that’s for another post). According to the National Journal, Clinton said that Romney

shot himself in the foot with the broad tax-cutting budget he suggested during the primary. He said Romney should accept projections that his plan for deep tax cuts would add billions to the deficit while requiring huge cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and non-defense spending.

“If I were in his position I would, I think, use the Congressional Budget Office numbers saying my plan increased the debt and say that no responsible president can pretend an independent analysis of his numbers don’t matter,” Clinton said. “That’s, I think, his his best avenue back to the real world.”

Clinton also offered a few verbal pats on the head to Romney.

“I feel a lot of sympathy for him,” he said. “The whole primary was about finding somebody who was true conservative, but they’re going to vote for him anyway.”

Good one, Bill!