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 

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Wednesday
Jan042012

January 4 and 5, 2012 -- Not-GOP

Let's see if we can get through the day talking about something other than Republican presidential candidates. But do let's talk. (And if you can't help yourself, feel free to break the rule of the day. We're mostly libruls here. We break rules.)

Update: My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on David Brooks' "Real America." The NYTX front page is here. The column is a slight cheat on today's rule in that Brooks mentions one of the GOP candidates, though he is not the star of the column. Also, the column includes a Very Important Point that our friend Kate Madison made....

... AND please consider making a contribution to NYTX, which is doing a very good job of keeping 'em honest over at the Times.

Update 2: We didn't get far yesterday, so let's keep on keepin' on. However, feel free to mention the GOP presidential contenders. I think I can stand it. How about you? Speaking of which ...

... My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on Mitt Romney, the New York Times' favorite presidential candidate.

Reader Comments (15)

OK Marie, nothing about candidates but something learned from them. It looks like I have gone through three political phases in my life. When I was a child to adulthood, racism and bigotry were the acceptable norm in a large part of the US. Then, finally things began to change. As an adult I watched as we, slowly, brought America to its true dream of freedom and equality. Not perfect, but in the right direction. Part of the result of this campaign has been exposure of the fact that a substantial chunk of the US is still dreaming of the 1950's (and maybe the 1850's). A smaller percent of scum, but still there. And to make it OK for them, they use the selective choice of their religious writings to justify, just like their god said slavery was no big deal.
Human beings hide behind their religion to provide blame for their fears and failures.
The good news is that it is possible to make it right. Europe is not perfect, (nothing involving humans ever is) but they have shown that it is possible to move on.( My hypothesis for the European transition is that having lived for 1500 years under religious authority, they have had enough.) And I believe that the majority of Americans are ready to protect their democracy. The question that remains is whether the majority will step forward. My hope lies in the fact that having watched the scum in action, we will wake up.

January 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

Thank you for this site...
I visit every day, after reading the Times...to keep sane.
This era is the new, improved Gilded Age!
Thank you for calling out David Brooks et al.
Mae Finch

January 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermae finch

Marie, to add another view of your NYTX article I find it interesting that Mr.Brooks and other conservatives love the dedication to helping people in 'small town America' but are opposed to helping people in the United States of America. Dedicate your time and money to your community but nowhere else. That's because conservatives don't believe that America is part of their community. Why, because not everybody in the big community is white and belongs to their church.

January 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

If you look at the time period -- which Krugman calls the "Great Compression" -- when American wages were flattest, it was in the 1950s & early '60s, when unions were strong and both business & governmental leaders believed that there was an implicit "social compact" between companies and their workers, and that the government helped level things out even further via its system of very progressive taxation. It was at this same time that the civil rights movement (which admittedly did not spring from the head of Zeus -- it had been on-going through the history of the nation) began to make real gains.

I don't think that is coincidental.

A few months ago, David Brooks mentioned a study which he said showed that American workers didn't want the minimum wage increased. I thought that sounded funny, so I looked up an overview of the study (no link from Brooks, of course) and found that the American workers who didn't want the minimum wage increased were those who were earning just above the minimum wage. That makes sense. People don't want to feel they are at the bottom of the ladder. These workers evidently felt if the minimum wage went up, their own wages would not (& they were probably right about that), so they -- who had crawled out of the celler -- would be back in the cellar again.

The civil rights movement had a similar effect on whites. Those workers who were doing well in the '50s & '60s were mostly white workers. When it dawned on them that people of color were going to be treated the same as they were -- that there would no longer be a guaranteed underclass -- those white workers felt threatened. I grew up in the South, and I don't remember whites being virulently racist. Yes, they used the "N" word, but as a descriptor, not as an epithet. Yes, they would be horrified if a black person used their white toilet (a black toilet is similar to a gay toilet, BTW), but blacks would not do that. That was the way it was.

Well, all of a sudden, blacks would use "their" toilet. They would go to "their" schools, get "their" jobs, etc. And all these white people went nuts. Republicans knew a good thing when they saw it, and they played on white fear of "the other" to co-opt the poor white vote. They encouraged the idea that blacks would "take advantage" of whites. Nixon had his "Southern strategy," Reagan had his "welfare queen in a pink Cadillac," etc. The GOP used the goobers to drive a wedge between white working people and working people of color. They blew the lid off the social compact. They created a political climate in which poor and lower-middle-class whites thought Republican leaders "shared their (racist) values." They created a climate in which whites worked against their natural interests -- like demanding fair wages and unionization rights. Republicans are still exploiting that culture of white resentment. So you get Rick Santorum telling lower-middle-class white Iowans that black (or blah!) people are taking "their" tax dollars and "bettering themselves" with money which nice white Iowans earned by the sweat of their brows. It isn't true -- there are more white recipients of social safety-net programs than there are blacks and others -- but that doesn't matter. And, yes, some of this has to do with the fact that the guy these candidates are running against is black (or blah), but if Obama were white as the driven snow, the GOP would still be playing the race game. It has worked for them many a time, and they suspect it will work again. They might be right. People are stupid. And selfish.

January 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarie Burns

The ghost of Lee Atwater is alive and well. There aren't many Republican strategists or politicians who aren't fully aware of the value of calling up the spectre of black rapists running after white women. This was never an issue with Herman Cain because of the stepinfetchit factor. He might as well have been wearing a top hat, white gloves and a giant flower in his lapel that squirted water as he danced and sang for the massas. Not unlike Marie's reference to those just above the minimum wage level who could feel better than those below it, Herman Cain allowed many right-wingers to feel vindicated from any charge of racism (some of their best friends are black! Well, one anyway).

But under the hood the fear and hatred of the other beats like the tell-tale heart.

And oh, the tales it could tell. Let me tell you about this guy Rick Santorum...no..wait, how about Newt Gingrich?

Does this mean all Democrats are pure as the driven snow when it comes to racism? Not on your life. But at least it's not an institutional part of being a Democrat. It's not a requirement to get into the tent. Lee Atwater and those like him and those who still dip into his magic recipe book of cynicism and hatred made racism respectable.

Again.

January 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@All--

Excellent comments today on the sad--perhaps even evil--state of so-called Conservatism in the U.S. You have all provided examples of the Republican brand of conservatism that have forced me to disassociate myself from the Republican party save to vote in their primaries in an almost-certainly futile effort to turn the party around.

Still, I would like to remark on a couple of things.

@Marvin Schwalb--

You are absolutely correct when you say that “Human beings hide behind their religion to provide blame for their fears and failures.” Indeed, “religion” has been a HUGE source--indeed, maybe the primary source--of misery for the human race since the dawn of humanity.

Yet, I believe that many of us find in our religion not an excuse to blame or persecute others, but rather an inspiration to help others. Christ’s simple message to love my neighbor as myself daily reminds me of my duty to others, and shames me when I ignore it. It’s a message that I am determined to adhere to more closely in the future.

And please note that this is not a plug for Christianity as being superior to other faiths, or even superior to agnosticism or atheism. Most faiths have a message of empathy and compassion for our fellow human beings built into them; human beings unfortunately have a knack for ignoring or perverting that message. And being an atheist or agnostic does not preclude also being compassionate.

@Marie Burns and @Marvin Schwalb--

I’ve never lived in small-town America, or, indeed, the “big city.” (Unless you count Albuquerque as “big;” I certainly don’t.)
But whether in rural America or New York City, charity is simply easier when one sees disaster befall someone whom we actually know, like and/or respect. And when one can see--at the “ground level”--that one’s money is being used for the purpose for which it was intended.

It should not be that way, but there it is.

I have said before--and still believe--that Conservative America is capable of much more compassion than Progressives think. But we want to be sure that our money is used wisely and for the purpose for which it is intended.

A huge and patently wasteful government is an enormous disincentive for Conservatives to seriously consider government-sponsored “charity”--a word that I use for want of a better one.
I agree with all of you that America’s social safety net needs to be expanded to include a single-payer health care system & etc. to get us through our current economic mess and put America on the path to economic well-being.

In order to implement such programs, your task--no, OUR task--is to persuade the person-on-the-street that her/his money is not being wasted.

January 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterZee

@ Zee. You're right about "Love they neighbor as thyself," which is an Old Testament (Torah) prescription, that -- in at least two of the Gospel stories -- Jesus repeats when he is acting as a rabbi. He asks a lawyer/Torah expert what the two most important commandments are & the lawyer says, "Love thy god above all else and love thy neighbor as thyself." Jesus says that's right; in fact, "On these two commandments hang all the laws and the prophets." By "all the laws and the prophets," he means most of the OT. These two commandments are often called the "Love Commandments." The second -- love thy neighbor -- is more-or-less a restatement of the Golden Rule. And as you say, most faiths -- and I would argue most cultures -- incorporate some version of the Golden Rule. As someone who is not religious, I think of it as the rule to live by and I think it's the basis for many secular laws.

As for your argument that conservatives are charitable, my recollection was that self-identified conservatives give more to charitable organizations than do liberals. As usual, that turns out to be an "it depends" truism. If you count church-giving, as most who calculate charitable contributions do, conservatives are far more generous than liberals. If, on the other hand, you exclude gifts to religious organizations, liberals are more giving. Elsewhere I've read that the poor give a larger percentage of their income than the rich do -- probably a "there but for fate go I" phenomenon.

The trouble is, charities can't be expected to dole out gifts equitably. If on Thanksgiving eve I had wanted to go pick up a turkey at my local food bank -- instead of dropping one off -- no one would question me. While rules can be changed, right now we would consider it unseemly if a person had to produce his tax returns when he went to a soup kitchen. But we do expect the government to be sure (even if we know it often goofs) it is giving food stamps, Medicaid, unemployment payments, etc., to people who need (or merit) these benefits. That's the main advantage of having the government be the charitable donor of choice.

The other big advantage is that the government can do a better job in hard times than can charities. In a depression or recession, when more people need charity, there are fewer people able to donate. That's not so for the government. It just, as Republicans like to complain, "prints more money." (Okay, the Fed doesn't really print more money, but that's the idea.)

The same is true for community outreach. If somebody in Greenwich, Connecticut, suddenly loses his billions and gets sick, his nice neighbors (remember, tho, the rich are stingey) can afford to write checks so he can get that operation. I'm sure you've read heart-rending stories of children dying because the neighbors in their hard-scrabble towns, as much as they tried, just couldn't raise enough cash to get the children the medical attention they needed. But I, living thousands of miles away, can afford to give a bit via my taxes to help those children. That's a system that works. It works better in a mobile society like ours, too. If you haven't established a 40-year bond with the community, the community might not care -- or even know -- when your kid needs an operation you can't afford to pay for.

And there's this: some people need things that I consider none of my business. I really do not care to know if my neighbor needs contraceptives. If somebody needs psychological help, he may not want to share that information with the community. When is the last time you went around collecting door-to-door for the Neighbor Joe Schmo's Incontinence Fund? Even less personal things -- like a certain financial reversals -- may be aspects of their lives that people wish to keep private. And it's fine with me that they do.

So while you may argue that giving to your church (which may be planning to spend the money to build a bigger, glitzier church) or giving to the Red Cross (which is planning to spend a bundle on paying its executives) ensures that "your money will be used wisely" whereas the government "wastes your money," I would argue that -- generally speaking -- the opposite is true. A government entity is a more dispassionately compassionate and therefore gives charity more equitably. I don't think that contention is really refutable, but you can give it a go.

That doesn't mean I'm opposed to giving money to the church building fund or the opera -- neither of which directly meets the vital needs of the poor (tho some will get some indirect benefits by attending church or a free opera performance). I'm for charitable giving. My husband and I give a lot. But where I choose to give is not necessarily what Americans most need at any given time. I look at my charitable donations as expressions of a personal preference. I look to the government to decide where my tax-paid charitable donations should go. And I expect the government to do a helluva better job at making those decisions than John Boehner & the gang would make for me.

Marie

January 5, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

@Marie--

I don't dispute your assertion, relative to provision of services for the poor, that government "is more dispassionately compassionate and therefore gives charity more equitably." And I agree with you that government can provide such services more evenly through time than private giving.

Nor did I mean to imply the government is wasting our money in providing these particular services. Indeed, I think that we need to expand them.

But, from thousands of wasteful little earmarks to the larger Solyndra debacle and on to hugely bloated, unnecessary defense projects like the canceled XM2991 Crusader mobile howitzer, our government wastes vast amounts of money.

From subsizing the stupid Chevy Volt to "save" GM, to massive bailouts and golden parachutes to "save" the very entities and people who brought about the 2008 financial crisis, the people see nothing but waste.

So even if I believe--as do you--that the government can occasionally do something right, the person-on-the-street probably thinks otherwise, and for good reason.

A smaller and visibly less wasteful government can--I think--go a long way towards convincing the American taxpayer that his/her money can be spent wisely when providing services for the poor.

January 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterZee

@Zee Here is reality. The government, run by humans will never be perfect. Everyone wants their money to be used wisely and efficiently. And guess what, for the most part the government does the job. Are there examples where it does not? Oh, yes. Should we try to fix, yes again. But the game is Republicans use the small number of problems as an excuse to deny it all. It's perfect. Government is to blame so let's use that as an excuse to keep the money in our pockets. You want a perfect government? Move to the moon.
P.S. The biggest reason the government is huge is military spending and Republicans can never argue for efficiency there because so much of it is spent in their districts. The second biggest inefficiency is Medicare and Medicaid. See if you can find a Republican that wants to fix it. It is not for healthcare but for profit so which do you think comes first?

January 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

@ Zee. Solyndra? You've been watching too much Right Wing World news. I think the price tag on Solyndra was $500 million -- half a billion. And we're done with it. "The F-22 Raptor program ... had a final price tag of $66.7 billion dollars.... It has never seen combat. It spent part of its life grounded. Now they want to sell you a new one."

Whether some useless project costs $500K or -- like the F-22 -- 133 times as much -- if all of the taxpayer money paid out stays in the U.S., it is partially justified. Remember the "we owe it to ourselves" discussion we had a few days ago. Do I favor boondoggles, which is what Solyndra appears to have been? Of course not. I would rather have seen your contributions and mine to Solyndra and the F-22 stay in our respective pockets.* But in times of high unemployment, even stupid projects -- dig a ditch, fill it up, dig it again -- have some utility because at the end of the day, the ditchdigger will go to the grocery store and pay the rent.

* Update: I should have added, "or diverted to projects that actually help Americans -- infrastructure improvements, educational assistance, medical research, etc."

January 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarie Burns

CW: Comment removed at request of the author.

January 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterName Removed

I have been relentless in my stance that President Obama is not a socialist or guilty of any number of ridiculous smears and foolish accusations he has endured since being elected ( and even before ), and I always countered with a statement to the effect of "I have plenty of disagreements with President Obama, and I'll be willing to discuss them..." today one of my most conservative friends posted this from Professor Jonathan Turley, a worthwhile read and very brief.
The point that Professor Turley so eloquently makes is my number one problem with President Obama and if I don't vote for him would be the first reason I would cite for not doing so.

January 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe Doktor

@The Doktor-
I read the Jonathan Turley article a few months ago. Devastating. I wonder what he will do about voting in the 2012 election--if he thinks that Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum (or both, if they run together) will work to preserve our civil liberties. I think we are back to the LOTE argument, which I know everyone hates. But I must say that Obama's appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Protection Bureau gives him a leg up in my book. And then there is that good old Supremes issue--plus all the lesser court appointments. Read Dahlia Lithwick on the Reality Chex front page today to get more about that. Very, very sobering.

@Zee
Sorry to hear about your friend. As a middle child I have always been concerned with life not being fair. But as my husband has told me for many years, the only fare is when you get on a bus.

January 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKate Madison

@Marie--

Thanks for the link to the column on charitable giving by Nicholas Kristof, “Bleeding Heart Tightwads.”

I think we’ll have to call it a draw as to who gives more to secular charity. As you say, Liberals give a slightly greater total amount to secular charities, yet Conservatives may do a better job of “giving ‘til it hurts.”

This from the Kristof article:

“It’s true that religion is the essential reason conservatives give more, and religious liberals are as generous as religious conservatives. Among the stingiest of the stingy are secular conservatives.

According to Google’s figures, if donations to all religious organizations are excluded, liberals give slightly more to charity than conservatives do. But Mr. Brooks says that if measuring by the percentage of income given, conservatives are more generous than liberals even to secular causes.” --Nicholas Kristof (Bold emphasis added.)

I, too, seem to recall that overall, the poor give a larger percentage of their income to charity than do the rich. And I think that you’re right about the reason: “there but for fate--or the grace of God--go I.”

Truce?

January 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterZee

@Kate Madison--

Thank you for your expression of sympathy regarding my friend's firing. She's a kind, generous and hard-working person, as Progressive as I am Conservative, and I love the discussions that we get into without ever raising our voices. She didn't deserve this.

Still, I asked Marie to remove my earlier mention of this as Reality Chex OTS really isn't the proper place for personal venting unrelated to the topic(s) at hand. More embarassingly, my comment wasn't even rational.

January 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterZee
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