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

Vanity Fair: "... Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times chief book reviewer and Pulitzer Prize winner, who has been, by a wide margin, the most powerful book critic in the English-speaking world, is stepping down.... Kakutani said that she could neither confirm nor comment. But sources familiar with her decision, which comes a year after the Times restructured its books coverage, told me that last year’s election had triggered a desire to branch out and write more essays about culture and politics in Trump’s America." -- CW 

... Washington Post: "... investigators believe they have discovered the 'smoking gun' that would support a decades-old theory that [Amelia] Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were captured by the Japanese: a newly unearthed photograph from the National Archives that purportedly shows Earhart and Noonan — and their plane — on an atoll in the Marshall Islands.... Gary Tarpinian,  executive producer of the History documentary, told the Today show that they believe the Koshu, the Japanese merchant ship in the photo, took Earhart to Saipan, where she died in Japanese custody." -- CW 

Summer Beach Reading. James Hohmann of the Washington Post suggests Al Franken's Giant of the Senate. Hohmann's column hits some of the highlights. CW: Let us be thankful that Donald Trump is incapable of learning the lessons Franken learned from his team. If Trump were half as bright as Franken, he would be a succesful president & very effective dictator.

Politico: "MSNBC has parted ways with anchor Greta Van Susteren after just six months on air, as her show failed to live up to the network's ratings expectations. An MSNBC executive said the decision to remove the former Fox News host was purely for business reasons, based on ratings." -- 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 

Contact the Constant Weader

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.


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.)

Reader Comments (14)

@ I've written this before; The only way to keep a secret between two people is to have one of the people be dead. There is no international conspiracies. There is no national conspiracies. The mafia can't keep a secret. The Irish Republican Army can't keep a secret. The C.I.A. can't a secret a keep. Bin Ladin couldn't keep a secret. Sooner or later the secret comes out. Even Thomas' English Muffin recipe has been compromised. Husbands have learned over centuries not to reveal their wives secrets by starting with, "Swear you won't tell her...". Wives know their husbands are incapable of keeping a secret so they don't tell them anything of import. But I have a secret and a conspiracy. Honest. Chihuahuas are the masters of the universe. That's it. Not too earth shattering, maybe a little unsettling if you are a cat. Because cats think they are the masters of the universe.

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

@JJG Your position is in slight disagreement of Schwalb's second law.
"A conspiracy can only be maintained if it involves no more than three people unless of course there is the potential for a book deal".
And I don't know what cats think but I do know they are the masters of the house.

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

@Marie Burns and @All--

Unrelated to conspiracies--I think:

It’s 7 o’clock on a cold winter’s morning here in Albuquerque, and I’ve yet to finish my second mug of strong coffee, so perhaps I’m just not thinking too clearly.

But... I’m having a very hard time squaring Paul Krugman’s graph (Debt Is (Mostly) Money We Owe to Ourselves, 12/28) with what I thought I understood about the national debt.

As I understand it, our debt to foreign nations was 28% of GDP in 2008.

This does not even appear to be close to what Krugman shows on his first graph for 2008, which is well less than 25%, so, doubtless, I must be misunderstanding what Krugman means by “ Net foreign debt.” Must be the difference between what we owe them and what they owe us, or something like that. Fair enough.

But just looking at the graph, I know that our total national debt, which consists of securities held in government accounts plus securities held by the public (domestic and foreign), is nowhere near 250% of GDP. If it were, we would be Greece on steroids.

In 2008 the total national debt was about $11.2 trillion, the sum of about $4.5 trillion in government accounts and about $6.7 trillion in securities held by the public, both domestic and foreign.

The U.S. annual gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010 was about $14.5 trillion.

Ignoring the difference between 2008 and 2010 figures--because I can’t find a GDP number for 2008--the ratio of total national debt to GDP is in the ballpark of 0.77 for that time period, or the national debt is 77% of GDP. Not 225% to 250% as Krugman seems to show. What's he plotting on his graph?

The fractions of debt in government (sub)accounts and public (sub)accounts are 40% and 60% of GDP, respectively. Or, what we owe ourselves is less by one-third what we owe to the public. We owe more to the public than we do to ourselves.

So, when Krugman talks of the “Domestic nonfinancial debt”, describing it as “public plus private,” he’s again talking about something that I clearly don’t understand.

As I have said before, I am “economically challenged.” But, insofar as I can understand, something is seriously wrong with Krugman’s graph, or he has failed so badly in his definition of terms as to make it unintelligible to this layman.

Can any of you out there help me out here? Krugman seems to be claiming that the vast majority of our national debt is owed to ourselves, and therefore is simply a future redistribution of wealth.

But my calculations, which seem very straigforward, suggest that we owe somewhat more to the public than to ourselves.

Krugman is either doing something wrong in his calculations, or is not accurately telling us what he has actually done.

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZee

Conspiracy theories, eh? How 'bout this:

In 1963 the young Karl Rove met George W. Bush for the first time. Rove was on a trip with his family to Dallas. While wandering around on his own looking for stray cats to torture, Rove got into a fight with another boy who was also looking for small animals to disembowel. This was the young Dubya. Rove had a hard time yanking a poor cat away from little Georgie since the young Bush had spent most of the morning sniffing glue. After torturing the cat together, they became highly excited and slipped into the Texas Book Depository for some adolescent sexual experimentation.

There they saw Lee Harvey Oswald being handed a rifle by an older man whom Rove recognized (precocious little shit that he was) as a politically conservative actor from California. Ronald Reagan had only recently become a Republican and had just joined the NRA. His membership in this august organization however, required him to assassinate someone. Reagan chose JFK with whom he was furious over his support, however sluggish, for civil rights, something Reagan abhorred. He thought it was every American’s right to discriminate against colored folk. Also Kennedy had once made a joke about Bedtime for Bonzo.

Oswald was strung out on drugs fed him by the CIA, FBI, KGB, and a night of partying with Jack Ruby’s mafia friends. Also at the party were the CEOs of GM, McDonnell Douglas, GE, and Coca-Cola. They all took turns ritualistically kissing the rifle that would be used to kill the hated Democrat from Massachusetts.

The plan was that when Johnson took over, his manhood would be ridiculed by right-wingers in congress. That would prompt LBJ to up the war in Viet Nam, expose him to criticism from beatniks and weirdos from his own party and clear the way for one of their own. They hoped it would be Reagan, a trusty shill for corporate America and well known hater of commies, nee-groes, Democrats, and smarty-pants left-wing intellectuals.

Once it was clear that Oswald was too far gone to even hold the rifle, Reagan, with offers of booze and dirty magazines, convinced Bush and Rove to kill the president. They struggled with the weapon, both being so thrilled with the prospect of killing an actual human being, and accidentally got off a few shots, none of which hit Kennedy who was actually murdered by a pack of gun toting Texas boy scouts fresh from shooting coyotes and looking for a hard target. The gang leader was young Ricky Perry who claims to this day that it was his bullet that took Kennedy’s head off. He was awarded the Decapitation by Bullet Merit Badge. A special award only available to Texas Boy Scouts.

Reagan ran out of the building and took along Bush and Rove and they all took turns pointing out their favorite pictures in the porno magazines then found more small animals to torture. Reagan also plied the young conservatives with hysterical right-wing propaganda and instructed them that lying, cheating, stealing, and starting wars were all okay as long as they did it for Jesus. And right-wing world domination, of course.

After leaving the motel room they had shacked up in, they ran into little Johnny Roberts who was also on the lookout for porn, glue, and small animals. They all became the best of friends!

For his good shooting, Little Ricky became a hero inside right-wing circles and he was well cared for by Texas oil barons but he was, unfortunately, too stupid for anything more than a weak-ass governor.

They all learned that shooting things pays off with lofty political positions and power.

The End.

P.S. Really disturbing to hear about the Thomas' English Muffin recipe!

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus


I was working up a dandy little conspiracy theory! However, after reading yours, I am laughing so hard I cannot think. Besides--talk about an impossible act to follow! Absolutely brilliant and hysterical.

Keep 'em coming, please. I am a fan, and you are obviously on a roll.

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKate Madison

@ Zee. Total domestic nonfinancial debt is "Total credit market liabilities of the U.S. Treasury, federally sponsored agencies, state and local governments, households, and nonfinancial firms," where "Private debt includes corporate bonds, mortgages, consumer credit (including bank loans), other bank loans, commercial paper, bankers’ acceptances, and other debt instruments." The Fed comes up with an official DNFD number.

I really had no idea in the world what percentage DNFD would be of GDP, but it doesn't surprise me that our total debt is two-&-a-half our annual GDP. After all, just look at the federal deficit, plus how many homeowners owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, far more in car loans than the vehicles are worth, have credit card debt out the ying-yang, etc.

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarie Burns

The Whole Story.

@ Akhilleus. Nice try. Your scenario is completely plausible, but I think it's time we let the cat out of the bag. Speaking of cats, the reader should know that the only part of Akhilleus' JFK revelation that is untrue is the bit about the cats, which I believe is either Akhilleus' attempt to refute @Marvin Schwalb's theory that cats rule the world or a subterfuge to throw the reader off as to Akhilleus' real identity. It was frogs, not cats, that young Dubya & little Karl were blowing up. Akhilleus knows that.

When I say Akhilleus' account is true, I mean it is true as far as it goes. He leaves out stuff. Some while back, I mentioned in another context that I knew the true identities of some of the commenters here who use aliases. Akhilleus is one of those commenters. @Kate Madison knows who he is, too, and that's why she tried to throw you off pretending she thought Akhilleus' story was funny. She knows better.

No, Akhilleus is not a Greek god. Now it can be revealed: he is one of the original Cuban Watergate break-in bunglers. You remember, of course, that Lee Harvey Oswald also went to Cuba. You think that's coincidental? Hah! Akhilleus himself was in the Dallas Book Depository on November 22, 1963. I have personal knowledge of that because I was there, too.

What Akhilleus doesn't tell you is that Richard Nixon -- who lost to Kennedy of course -- was the diabolical mastermind of the whole conspiracy. Yes, yes, Dubya was peripherally involved, and that explains why Gerald Ford, Nixon's successor, named Dubya's father, a little-known Congressman & failed Senate candidate, as head of the CIA. You think that's coincidence, too? You fool! Nixon would not have named Ford as his Veep, Nixon would not have resigned, Ford would not have pardoned Nixon, & Papa Bush would not have become CIA director if not for the Kennedy plot. Akhilleus knows all this. And you think it's some accident that Reagan -- a co-conspirator, as Akhilleus accurately lays out -- appointed Bush, who had publicly insulted Reagan, made Bush Pere his vice president? It's all tied together. Spiro Agnew was not a crook. The Kennedy plotters set him up, too. Agnew was a Greek, and the plotters, confusing ethnic Greeks with frat boys, had it in for the Greeks. No, Dukakis did not lose the 1988 election to Bush -- he won by a landslide -- he was just another tragic Greek victim. Perhaps you now begin to understand why a Cuban conspirator took a Greek alias! Very, very clever, "Akhilleus."

Oh, and you think I'm really Marie Burns, a lady d'un certain age living in the backwater hamlet of Fort Myers, Florida? Hahahahahaha. You probably also think Marilyn Monroe died of natural causes. No, she too was part of the Kennedy conspiracy (as Akhilleus well knows), & had direct contact with Oswald, as certain other conspiracy theorists have posited. She didn't die of mysterious causes. In fact, she didn't die. She was whisked away and given a new identity as an ordinary American woman named Marie living in a backwater hamlet not far from Cuba. (If you saw a picture of me, you would remark immediately, "My God, that woman looks exactly like Marilyn Monroe [if a little long in the tooth]!") People say that every day.

If you never hear from me again, you'll know why. Akhilleus will have had something to do with my mysterious disappearance, but don't try to find him. Or you'll be next. Viva Cuba! Ole!

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarie Burns

@Today's Assignment;
Well, Well, Well... I see it's finally time to get down to brass tacks as it were....
Obviously the poster formerly known as @Marie was a participant in the top secret CIA mind experiment known as MK Ultra... here's a quote from Dr. Ewen Cameron;
" It is not simply against future conspiracies of evil men from which we have to guard ourselves...
but the weaknesses and faults in our own social order, in our own ways of living...
against which we have to be on continual guard."

The best conspiracies are the ones out in the open, that we just assume have no power because we already know about them...
Take racism for example. Anyone here care to try and explain to me how racism as a conspiracy doesn't exist or is somehow a farout theory only supported by wackos? There is very little outward evidence for it, and yet we all know a priori it fucking well exists. If you want to hear the evidence against it there is a multi-billion dollar industry built just for you- featuring the likes of limbaugh and hannity and oreilly et al...

People have conspired to take advantage of other people and things as long as there have been people, and anyone who thinks otherwise needs to wake up and take a long look at what you think is reality and then try a doctor approved fasting regimen for three or four days.. that's usually all it takes to start breaking down the constructs your brain has built around your bodily survival mechanisms and belief systems. If you can go for 6 or 7 days you'll get as close to an acid trip as legally possible, the main difference being as soon as you start eating you come right back down.
The hijackers on 9-11 really believed they were going to get bodily pleasures even after their bodies were dead.
Fear of hell implies the same foolishness.
Our entire society and every human society is built on conspiracies and myths of all shapes and sizes...
Joseph Campbell did a wonderful series on this topic on PBS back in late 80's I believe... ha ha hahahahaha!

To the question at hand and MK Ultra, watch some of the videos and do a little research (if your anti-virus is up to date) and watch some familiar names pop up... namely cheney and rumsfeld...

Want more? Think Edison had anything to do with electricity or how we live? Think Marconi invented radio? Here's another video about the man who made the ENTIRE modern world we live in possible and gets virtually no credit for it whatsoever;


December 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Doktor

So much discussion of conspiracies here but no mention of "The Parts That Were Left Out of the Kennedy Book"?

December 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFred Drumlevitch

And there's this:

December 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFred Drumlevitch

@Marie Burns--

Thanks for clearing up my confusion. Once I had an inkling as to what to “Google,” I can see that Krugman’s plot is correct.

For those who are as “economically challenged” as I am, I was able to find this graph, which is quite consistent with Krugman’s:

So yes, the “Domestic nonfinancial debt”--money that we (mostly) owe ourselves--does, indeed, dwarf our foreign indebtedness.

I searched further for the definition of “Domestic financial debt” and the results were a little less clear, but it appears to be the debt held within what I usually think of as the financial services industry, which “...encompasses a broad range of organizations that deal with the management of money. Among these organizations are credit unions, banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, consumer finance companies, stock brokerages, investment funds and some government sponsored enterprises.

As shown in the graph to which I referred to earlier, the growth in the domestic financial debt since 1980 has been huge. Krugman doesn’t discuss this. I wonder why? It seems to me to be every bit as important as the nonfinancial debt, given what we saw happen in 2008 with the investment banks and insurance companies.

As I now understand it, Krugman seems to view the debt that we hold between ourselves as a “very different kettle of fish” vis-a-vis money that we owe to foreigners.

But at the local and personal level, I don’t think that the guy whose American home has just been foreclosed upon by an American bank or lending company will see it quite the same way.

December 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZee

@Marie Burns--

Oops! Once again I've made an early-morning mistake. (More coffee, please!)

There is a very good explanation of what the "financial sector" and "domestic financial debt" are in comment #3 on the very same chart to which I refer in my earlier post:

"...the financial sector is comprised of: Commercial banks, savings institutions, Credit Unions, government sponsored enterprises (GSEs), Asset-backed security (ABS) issuers, Finance companies, REITs to name a few. Second, the debt instruments they owe are things like: GSE issues, mortgage pools, mortgages, corporate bonds, bank loans, open market paper.

It [domestic financial debt] is the debt that the financial sector owes. An example would be when a bank makes a loan to another financial company (say Goldman). It becomes an asset for the bank, but is debt that Goldman owes. Another example would be if Bank of American [sic] issues corporate debt, it would show up in the financial sector debt outstanding."

December 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZee

@ Zee. If you look at Krugman's second post, where he explains the implications of debt, you'll see that he doesn't think the federal debt (or private debt) is "unimportant" because it does have negative impact on investment, productivity, and consequently, GDP.

When you start talking about home foreclosures, you're falling into the trap Brooks (and Obama, BTW) has set for you: equating individual debt with the national debt. As Krugman & Baker explain, you and Brooks are talking apples and oranges. If I lend you $500,000 for a mortgage on your home, you owe me $500K + interest. If you pay me $3,000/month, I have $3,000 a month to spend that you don't have. Sure, that's a hardship for you and good for me, but for the economy, there's no loss and no gain. (Obviously, there are lots of other real-world factors involved -- e.g., who would spend that $3,000 more "productively," you or I.)

When you throw in foreclosure, you're opening yet another ball of wax, but the impact on the economy is, theoretically again, the same. I foreclose on the mortgage, you and your family are out on the street, and I resell the property at, theoretically, no loss (I may experience some loss, but the sheriff, my lawyer and my realtor will gain so they will have "my" money to spend; i.e., contribute to the economy). So, no loss to the national economy.

When you bemoan your family's predicament, Brooks will tell you that you have been "immoral" for foolishly taking on debt you could not repay. He may tell me I'm immoral, too, for lending you money without checking out your ability to repay me, and thus contributing to your personal financial downfall. But the overall economy doesn't have any "morals" here. It has the same $$ circulating today as was circulating six months ago when I lent you the $500K.

(We are not talking here about massive foreclosures which drive down the value of property, force otherwise self-sustaining individuals to go on the public dole, disrupt the kids' education, reduce local revenues because of lower assessed valuations, etc.)

December 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarie Burns


Thanks for the additional clarification. I get it now, I think; there are--and always will be--winners and losers in the domestic U.S. economy, but the money stays within our economy, and to someone's benefit here.

I very much appreciate the education that I am receiving through my participation in Reality Chex, even if Mrs. Zee sometimes complains that I spend too much time at it!

December 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZee
Comments for this entry have been disabled. Additional comments may not be added to this entry at this time.