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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

Click on the picture to see larger image.... Low Society News. AP: "... Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were among the guests as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin’s) married a Scottish actress. Mnuchin exchanged vows Saturday night with Louise Linton at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington. Mrs. Trump wore a pink blush dress" CW: which, if you follow Reality Chex, you will know was enhanced by some really costly baubles that remind the bride of Grace Kelly or happy times or something.

New Yorker: "In a paper in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers announced that they have pushed back the date of the earliest human remains to three hundred thousand years ago. And the specimens in question were found not in East Africa, which has become synonymous with a sort of paleoanthropological Garden of Eden, but clear on the other side of the continent — and the Sahara — in Morocco." -- 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

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 

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The "New Journalism" -- Fact-Free & Clueless

Paul Krugman descibes Republican Rep. Paul Ryan's "Roadmap for American's Future" as "leftovers from the 1990s, drenched in flimflam sauce."

Once again, the Evil Trolls at the New York Times have deep-sixed my comment on Krugman's column. You'll see why. No doubt you'll also see the irony of the nation's leading newspaper squelching criticism of sorry journalistic standards; to wit:

The Post also tells us that his plan would, indeed, sharply reduce the flow of red ink: 'The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan would cut the budget deficit in half by 2020.' But the budget office has done no such thing. -- Paul Krugman

So where are the fact-checkers at The Post? Without naming any names (David Brooks, Ross Douthat), some of your op-ed colleagues have been touting Paul Ryan's "intellectual heft" & claimed that by following Ryan's "roadmap," "The poor and middle-class get more; the rich get less." (These are actual quotes from the op-ed page of The Times, not stuff I made up.)

Apparently, it isn't necessary for opinion writers to back up their assertions with actual facts, but certainly articles presented as "news reports" or "news analysis" should not be fact-free. I know The Post has had to lay off a lot of employees. It appears the fact-checkers were the first to go. When readers can't trust the reports on the front pages of the major American newspapers, we lose our ability to make reasoned decisions on how to vote & what government policies to support or reject.

The consequence of the new sloppy journalism is the rise of baseless opinionating, demagoguery & voter confusion "balanced" by the demise of reason. The price is our fragile democracy.


A Political Argument Masquerading as Substance

Brady Dennis of the Washington Post: "Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner pushed back hard Wednesday against GOP criticism that allowing tax cuts to expire for the wealthiest Americans could harm small businesses....

In a speech at the Center for American Progress, Geithner called the GOP effort 'a political argument masquerading as substance.' He said letting the top-level tax cuts expire would affect fewer than 3 percent of small businesses, leaving the vast majority untouched.... 'If you actually want to help small businesses get needed tax relief as opposed to using them as a cover for supporting tax cuts for the most well-off,' he said, 'those people should be supporting Senate passage of the Small Business Jobs Act this week.'"

"Trenda," an occasional correspondent of mine who is a principal in one of those small businesses Republicans are so anxious to protect, commented on Dennis' story. Lest you can't tell from Trenda's snarky response to the GOP, he is a smart, sensitive guy whom I have encouraged to run for political office. ...

... Obviously, Trenda has more fulfilling plans:

Hello folks, thought I would drop you all a line on this debate, since this issue affected me VERY personally.

See, I'm one of the $250K+ guys who benefited from George W. Bush's stupid, unnecessary tax cuts for the past years. As a result, I am retiring at the end of this year at the ripe old age of 52. HA HA!

Gonna ride some of my many motorcycles around the country! (See, I collected old vintage motorbikes with the GWB gift to rich people, and since George was SO generous, I bought a bunch of 'em, in ADDITION to socking away funds to retire so early. Man, life is SWEET!).

(Ya gotta ride the Japanese bikes, mostly, like my FJ1100, or my FZR400, or my RZ350. Although my Moto Guzzi runs sweet, too. I try to stay off my Norton Commando -- man, that darn thing breaks down when you just LOOK at it!)

Maybe I'll do a little Habitat construction work, or some volunteer teaching. But mostly, I'm gonna have a lot of fun. Heh heh.

It does kinda tell ya something, though, doesn't it? Did I really need that tax break? HA! No way! I easily coulda paid a little more tax, for the common good, and worked a few more years.

But hey, thanks for the gift, GWB and all you idiot Republicans. I'll be laughing at you fat slobs for YEARS. (Most Republicans look like Rush Limbaugh - 500 pounds of manure in a 200 pound sack.)

Now look here, even though I didn't need all this money, I'm KEEPING all my ill deserved gains. See, you Republicans have so thoroughly sacked this planet, this economy, and this culture, that my two kids will surely need a big inheritance, just to have a shot at a decent life.

So, see ya all out on the highway.

(I have been laughin' and smilin' so much, I had to buy wind screen, just to keep the blasted bugs outta my teeth!!)

So long, suckers!!!!!

(Reposted with permission of the author.)

Okay, so maybe this isn't Trenda with the Yamaha FJ1100, but this fellow sure looks like he could use a windscreen to keep the bugs outta his teeth. Photo by UJMsRule.


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: