The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Safety/Irony Alert. CNBC (December 25): Your new home security system may be an open invitation to hackers to make you, and perhaps many others, unsafe.” -- CW

Washington Post: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus took a final, bittersweet bow Sunday, staging its last three shows [in Uniondale, N.Y.,] after 146 years of entertaining American audiences with gravity-defying trapeze stunts, comically clumsy clowns and trained tigers." -- CW 

Guardian: "Pippa Middleton [sister of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge --] has married James Matthews in what has been called the society wedding of the year, in front of royalty, family and friends." -- CW

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

CW: No idea why the picture is teeny-tiny.

Washington Post: "Two months before Monday’s [May 8] announcement that Sinclair Broadcast Group would pay $3.9 billion for Tribune Media and add to its dominance as the nation’s largest owner of local TV stations, a top executive at Sinclair beamed a short commentary piece to many of the company’s 173 stations.In the segment, which looks like it belongs in a newscast, Sinclair vice president for news Scott Livingston stands before a wall of video monitors and warns that 'some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think.' He accuses the national media of publishing 'fake news stories' — a direct echo of President Trump’s frequent complaint — and then asks viewers to visit the station’s website to share 'content concerns.' The piece was a 'must-run,' meaning news directors and station managers from Baltimore to Seattle had to find room for it.... While partisan coverage is a familiar staple of cable networks — Fox News on the right, MSNBC on the left — it remains mostly unheard of in broadcast TV, where it has generally been accepted that public airwaves should be used in the difficult-to-define public interest.” -- CW 

CNN: "21st Century Fox and the private equity firm Blackstone are in talks to launch a bid for Tribune Media, one of the nation's largest television broadcasting companies, a source with knowledge of the matter said Sunday. The deal currently under discussion would see Blackstone and Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox forming a joint venture. Blackstone would provide the cash for the acquisition while Fox would add all its owned-and-operated television stations to the joint venture." -- CW 

New York Times: "Prehistoric humans — perhaps Neanderthals or another lost species — occupied what is now California some 130,000 years ago, a team of scientists reported on Wednesday. The bold and fiercely disputed claim, published in the journal Nature, is based on a study of mastodon bones discovered near San Diego. If the scientists are right, they would significantly alter our understanding of how humans spread around the planet." -- CW 

If you're curious as to how realistic the New York City apartments of TV sitcom characters are -- in terms of what the characters could reasonably afford -- the Washington Post checks out several of the hovels & dream rentals of a number of shows. Kinda fun. CW: My husband & I (he paid the rent) had a fairly spacious two-bedroom with a galley kitchen (dishwasher included!) & dining room plus teensy closets on Washington Square in the 1980s & '90s. NYU owned the building & helped considerably with the rent.

Politico: "Comedian Hasan Minhaj will be this year's entertainer for the White House Correspondents' Dinner later this month, the association's president announced on Tuesday. Minhaj is a stand up comedian and senior correspondent on 'The Daily Show,' where he has performed caustic bits on ... Donald Trump, liberals and others in between. Minhaj has Washington experience already, having performed as host of last year's Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner." -- CW 

AFP: "After months of uncertainty and controversy, Bob Dylan finally accepted the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature at a jovial, champagne-laced ceremony on Saturday, [April 1,] the Swedish Academy announced. The academy, which awards the coveted prize, ended prolonged speculation as to whether the 75-year-old troubadour would use a concert stopover in Stockholm to accept the gold medal and diploma awarded to him back in October." -- CW 


The Hill: "Arnold Schwarzeneggar says his first season as host of NBC's 'Celebrity Apprentice' is also his last. In remarks Friday, the former California governor cited President Trump, who has repeatedly mocked the ratings of his reality TV replacement, as his reason. 'Even if asked [to do it again] I would decline,' Schwarzenegger told Empire magazine.... 'With Trump being involved in the show people have a bad taste and don’t want to participate as a spectator or sponsor or in any other way support the show. It’s a very divisive period right now and I think the show got caught up in all that division.'" -- CW 

New York Times: "Penguin Random House will publish coming books by former President Barack Obama and the former first lady Michelle Obama, the publishing company announced Tuesday night, concluding a heated auction among multiple publishers. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but publishing industry executives with knowledge of the bidding process said it probably stretched well into eight figures." -- CW ...

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Washington Doesn't Care about Jobless People

Paul Krugman writes that economic "... growth is slowing, and the odds are that unemployment will rise, not fall, in the months ahead. That’s bad. But what’s worse is the growing evidence that our governing elite just doesn’t care — that a once-unthinkable level of economic distress is in the process of becoming the new normal." He worries that the Washington elite will soon declare high unemployment to be "structural."

Constant Weader
: my favorite Times trolls are playing Scramble the Comments again, so here's mine on Krugman:

High unemployment is structural -- the government has been structuring the conditions for high unemployment since the Reagan Administration. In modifications to the tax code, in deregulation of the banking industry, in relaxing federal standards for a host of industries & failing to enforce regulations & standards that remain, in court decisions that favor corporations over workers -- the federal government & state governments have been setting up the current & future high unemployment scenario for decades.

Instead of the government adopting the attitude that we need a strong consumer base to maintain a robust economic environment, federal officials have encouraged regulations & deregulations & a tax structure that have rewarded companies for shipping jobs overseas -- all in the name of "the free market." They have allowed corporations to avoid taxes by establishing bogus off-shore entities. Both the federal & (especially Southern) state governments have discouraged & reduced the number of union members & the effectiveness of unions. Unions, of course, raise wages overall, even for jobs that are traditionally non-union, they sometimes prevent arbitrary layoffs, & they discourage stunts that allow corporations to mistreat workers.

While even Republicans have shown a grudging willingness to throw money at Wall Street, they suddenly froze up when it was time to bail out the all-important auto industry. They treat the encouragement of industry, particularly clean energy industry -- that is likely to produce American jobs -- as some sort of futuristic pie-in-the-sky mumbo-jumbo that could only be contemplated when we for some reason have tax dollars to throw at do-gooder nonsense.

Let's not forget our friends on the Supreme Court, who have turned corporations into "people," but only when that unique concept works to the advantage of corporations. As for ordinary workers, the Supremes somehow find it "unconstitutional" to protect them. Think Lily Ledbetter.

Anyone who thinks the tin men in Congress will suddenly have a heart or the scarecrow leaders will acquire brains & listen to reasoned economic arguments would change their minds if they listened to Minority Leader John Boehner on Fox "News" yesterday. When Chris Wallace confronted Boehner with some actual numbers, Boehner scoffeed, "Well, I don’t need to see GDP numbers or to listen to economists. All I need to do is listen to the American people, because they’ve been asking the question now for 18 months, 'where are the jobs?'" While Boehner pretends to care about jobs, he not only obstructs every effort to create them, he thinks ignorance of the facts & a refusal to take economic advice from experts are virtues. He doesn't want to know what he's talking about, & he's proud of his ignorance. Somehow, the average Joe or Jill who's out of a job knows more about how to create jobs (you know, like the one s/he doesn't have) than do economists & social scientists. Remember, Boehner is not just some pundit; he has what Sarah Palin used to like to call "actual responsibility" to deliver on jobs creation. (Palin quit saying this when she chucked her "actual responsibility.") Meanwhile, Palin herself -- so often mentioned as a presidential hopeful -- was on the same Fox "News" show sporting notes written on her hand to explain how to manage the deficit.

With "leaders" like these & the likelihood that the next Congress will bring us even more of the same, deep pessimism is the only realistic view.

The Silhouettes (speaking of Lily, note that the entire audience is lily-white -- this ain't accidental, folks; it was the law):



Gail Collins notes that fake reality TV "stars" like Elisabeth Hasselbeck, whose national debut came as a "Survivor" loser, have became quasi-real players in the Washington scene. Some, like Linda McMahon -- Connecticut's Republican candidate for governor, & Wisconsin Congressional candidate Sean Duffy -- are hoping to move from fake TV to the Halls of Congress. President Obama's relationship with Snooki figures into the equation.

It's hard to imagine a comment on Collins' column more innocuous than mine, but the Times Trolls evidently considered it abusive, & they scotched it. So here is my subversive observation:

I was sure the Snooki snafu would make huge, ultra-shocked headlines & gasps in the wingosphere, but it turns out to be "news" everywhere: the Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Sun-Times, NBC News, the Wall Street Journal, & my favorite news outlet: Andy Borowitz Reports. (Borowitz reveals that Snooki doesn't know who Obama is, either.)

Why, it's Snooki-gate! As well it should be. It's a little like Obama's position on the public option. First he was for it, then he was against it, then "White House insiders" said he was for it, then they said he was against it, etc. And a lot like his nomination of Dawn Johnsen -- first he was for her, then he forgot about her. So first Obama knew Snooki, then he didn't. Could be just politics as usual.

But it isn't. Here's the smoking gun. It's bad news for the Snooki-gate conspiracy theorists.

If the President tells a joke in May about Snooki & says he doesn't know her in July, the most likely explanation is that in May, the President of the United States did not write his own joke. "His speechwriters write lame jokes" does not seem to rise to the level of an impeachable offense. (Though you probably should ask Darrell Issa -- he might disagree.)

Here's President Obama on "The View," denying he knows who Snooki is:

... And here's Hasselbeck, a right-wing loony-toon, quizzing President Obama on why his jobs programs, which Hasselbeck's favorite lawmakers squelch at every turn, isn't working as well as it should. Naturally, the President cleans her clock:


Brooks Is Not a Douchebag

Douchebags are useful things. Therefore, it would be wrong to call David Brooks a douchebag.

Once again, he writes a column pretending Republicans have some great ideas to improve the economy & re-establish the free enterprise system which Democrats have been merrily dismantling since the Golden Age of Good King Ron. Once again, Brooks' assertions are fact-free. To be fair, Brooks does own that President Obama's idea of building "a context for innovation" has some merit & could be squeezed into a budget plan designed by Wisconsin's Wacko Wunderkind Paul Ryan.

As you might expect, the Constant Weader disrespectfully disagrees:

We could look back on the period between 1980 and 2006 as the long boom. -- David Brooks

Or, we could look at it for what it actually was -- beginning in about 1982 -- a long & still vibrant boom for the wealthiest Americans. The most casual observer knows that in this period, rich Americans have gotten richer & the rest of us have gotten poorer. To pretend otherwise, as Brooks does, is intellectual dishonesty that rises to the level of a crime of conscience.

As for Brooks' touting Paul Ryan's "intellectual heft," I can see why someone who thinks the 1980s began a long boom period would admire Rep. Ryan. As Paul Krugman notes, Ryan's fabulous budget plan "wouldn’t balance the budget, even after two generations. What it would do is massively redistribute income upward, raising taxes and slashing benefits for most Americans, while providing huge tax breaks for the top 0.1 percent of the population." And, "Paul Ryan’s budget plan ... calls for a huge increase in public debt over the near term, offset by hypothetical spending cuts four decades from now."

Prof. Krugman is not pulling these "opinions" out of a hat & he is scarcely alone in his observations. He draws his conclusions from solid economic calculations & plain ol' arithmetic.

Here's another arithmetic calculation for you, Brooks: opinionators on the right should strive to be half as accurate & truthful as commentators on the left.


Obama's Unforced Errors

Paul Krugman, in advocating the appointment of Elizabeth Warren to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency, writes a terrific column summarizing President Obama's failures to live up to minimal expectations:

Threatened filibusters didn’t force Mr. Obama to waffle on torture; to escalate in Afghanistan; to choose, with exquisitely bad timing, to loosen the rules on offshore drilling early this year. Then there are the appointments.... Did all the senior members of the economics team have to be protégés of Robert Rubin? ... Was it necessary to install Ken Salazar at the Interior Department? -- Paul Krugman

The Constant Weader concurs:

Please have this column reproduced on parchment, sign it, "Love, Paul, et al.," have it framed, & send it off to the White House handyman to hang in a place the President will see it every day.

It is hard to believe Barack Obama is as daft as he has seemed to be since November 5, 2008. Anyone can get caught up in a moment of triumph & think he can remold the world (I guess), but Obama's failures during his honeymoon -- principally, the failure to secure an adequate stimulus package -- should have snapped him back to reality. His capitulation to the military & the spooks & the friends of Bob Rubin has been stunning. Even the casual observer has to wonder, as Reagan did of Bush Pere, "Does he stand for anything?"

The nature of American politics has almost always been that the voter is forced to choose between the lesser of two evils. And it's true, as you say, that the nation would be a lot worse off had Republicans been in power during this Congress. But it still seems President Obama doesn't know why people voted for him. It sure wasn't because we wanted him to roll over for the political "philosophies" of the generals & the Yoos & the Boehners.

Yet look where President Obama has taken us. Passing over Elizabeth Warren would be just one more instance in a long line of the President's decisions to act against the best interests of the nation.

On reason President Obama may not nominate Elizabeth Warren: