The Wires

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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

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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December 20 -- Last-Minute Gifts

All right. The discussion yesterday was so terrific, I'm sticking with the theme. Any suggestions for last-minute gifts? Responses can be seriously good ones -- I'm particularly interested in knowing if there are any books -- old or newly-published -- you'd recommend. But serious is not a requirement. And if you want to suggest appropriate gifts for certain political figures, that would be good, too. In case I'm looking to send something besides cash to Newt, or something like that.

Update: speaking of things to read (or not) during the holidays, my column in today's New York Times eXaminer in on David Brooks' "Sidney Awards": "You might think the Sidney Awards are prestigious accolades for literary and journalistic excellence. You might think that, until you find out that David Brooks single-handedly chooses the recipients of the Sidney Awards.... As far as I can tell, the only prize money is the mention in Brooks’ column." The front page of NYTX is here.

Update 2: Love your gift suggestions for the kids (um, except that pink pistol), @JJG. Yes, you can still get Radio Flyers. In fact, that non-union shop Target has more than a page-full of Radio Flyer products, many of which are out of stock today. The classic little red wagon sells for about $75. Or you can get this Radio Flyer product from for $300. Really $300, plus tax & shipping, I suppose. (No links because I don't feel like it):


December 19 -- Gifts for the Kids!

Fred Drumlevitch has assembled a nice toy collection to help you if you're having difficulty deciding on those last-minute gifts for the little kids on your list. The theme here: teach your children well -- so they'll grow up to respect police brutality. Drumlevitch's shopping catalogue is a bit limited, so perhaps you can suggest some more ideas for great educational toys. I, for instance, have been looking for Protester Barbie.

Write on this or something sensible.

P.S. My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on Ross Douthat's amazement that "believers" actually liked Christopher Hitchens, an atheist. Would someone please explain to me why Hitchens' death has been treated to so much hype & remembrance while comparatively little attention has been paid to the death of Vaclav Havel, who, you know, sort of brought down the Iron Curtain?


December 17 & 18 -- Open Thread

Write what you want.

I'm posting this here because people who get paid to make up stuff designed to fool us piss me off: My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on Charles Blow's really stupid piece in today's Times: "The Times employs a brilliant statistician – Nate Silver – but Silver does not have a regular column that appears in the print edition of the paper. Blow does. This week, he didn’t have time to write it. Maybe he was busy buying holiday gifts for the kids. What we readers got was a pre-winter snow job that misinterprets poll results in a way that helps Republican politicians and attempts to make Americans look stupider than we are." If you were taken in by Blow's column, as almost all of the early commenters were, read my column.


December 16 -- "Most Dangerous" List

As I was reading (or trying to read) about Newt Gringrich & Paul Ryan & Barack Obama, et al., I got to wondering who the country's most dangerous politician was. Let's hear who you think it might be and why. There probably is not a wrong answer here unless you pick Al Franken's cat.


December 14 -- "All-American Muslim"

I wish bigots would not inconvenience me. Los Angeles Times: The home improvement chain Lowe's "decided to stop advertising on the show 'All-American Muslim,' on [the]... TLC channel, after complaints by the Florida Family Assn...." Lowe's is the closest home improvement store to my house. Also, I've been avoiding Home Depot for years, ever since I found out they gave their incompetent CEO a huge golden parachute. Now what am I supposed to do?

AND it gets worse. Per Tanya Somander of Think Progress: "The Muslim Public Affairs Council has published a full list of companies that FFA claims it persuaded to pull ads from the show. The list includes Airborne Vitamin, Bare Escentuals, Campbell’s Soup, Capital One, Cotton, Inc., Dell computers, Estee Lauder, Gap, Good Year, Hershey Kisses, Ikea, JC Penny,, McDonald’s, Nationwide Insurance, Old Navy, Pier One, Radio Shack, Sears, T-Mobil, Volkswagen, Wal-Mart, and Whirlpool. Click here to see the full list." I can't buy soup? What is the matter with these corporate honchos? In the spirit of the holiday season, a little kook shall lead them? And they're doing this over a show that probably has 80,000 viewers, of whom I will never be one.

Here's a little about the Florida Family Association, the group that has scared the bejeezus (or something) out of Dell Computers & McDonald's from Zack Ford of Think Progress: "Claiming a membership of 35,000 individuals, FFA’s only paid staff member is its president, David Caton, and it is not affiliated with any national organizations." They've also protested "Gay Days" at DisneyWorld, Miss Universe for promoting HIV/AIDS awareness, & TV shows for including anti-bullying messages. I'd go protest FFA, but it probably is the figment of one man's warped imagination, so I'd be standing out in front of some jerk's garage. Get a grip, corporate America.

THEN there's this from Ben Popken of Adweek: "Should Lowe's need a crowbar to pull its head out of the sand, it can find one in its own aisles. On Saturday, the home-improvement company posted a note to Facebook explaining its decision to capitulate to an email campaign by the Florida Family Association and pull its ads from the TLC reality show All-American Muslim. As of this writing, the post has drawn more than 22,000 comments, a significant portion of which are racist and contain anti-Muslim/anti-Islamic hate speech. (Scroll down to see some of them.) So, why isn't Lowe's moderating its Facebook wall?"

I have to say the FFA crazy bigot doesn't piss me off nearly as much as Lowe's does. He's exercising his First Amendment right to be a complete ass (and yes, that's half a word). But Lowe's has a responsibility to evaluate & reject complaints like his, to consider the sensibilities of and fairness to all of its customers, send the guy a friendly "piss off" letter and not drop their sponsorship of what is probably a really mind-numbing (i.e., normal) TV show.

What's your reaction?



December 13 -- David Brooks Is Off Today....

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer begins, "David Brooks is off today...." Before reading the column (or even if you have read it, I don't care), finish the sentence. Or write a column for Brooks in his absence. Or whatever else you choose to write about, work David Brooks into the comment, the way Gail Collins works Romney's dog-on-the-roof-of-the-car into her 3/4ths of her columns. Non-sequiturs quite acceptable.


December 12 -- Bill and Newt's Excellent Idea

Today in his column titled “The Good Newt,” former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller endorses Newt Gingrich's plan to create “a national identity card, including some biometric evidence, such as a fingerprint” as a means to limit illegal immigration. My column in the New York Times eXaminer refuting Bill and Newt's excellent idea is here. The NYTX front page is here.

Oh, and I do refer to this in my column:

Art by Brian McFadden of the New York Times. CLICK CARTOON TO SEE LARGER IMAGE. (It's pretty clever.)If you disagree with my conclusion, I would love to hear your argument. Obviously, not everyone will agree with me.

CW Update: here's a "Frontline" production based on the Washington Post investigative reports I mention in my response to JJG below. For best viewing, supersize it after you start it:


December 10 & 11 -- Open Thread

You're on your own. Sort of. I'll be watching. There's another Republican debate on tonight -- ABC at 9 pm ET. I won't be watching.

Thanks for the commentary yesterday; an interesting thread on two unrelated topics, with a little detective-work finale (at least I hope it's the finale) on one of them.


December 9 -- Plan B

New York Times: "President Obama, who took office pledging to put science ahead of politics, averted a skirmish with conservatives in the nation’s culture wars on Thursday by endorsing his health secretary’s decision to block over-the-counter sales of an after-sex contraceptive pill to girls under age 17." Here's Obama's rationale:

And as I understand it, the reason Kathleen made this decision was she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old going into a drugstore should be able — alongside bubble gum or batteries — be able to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could end up having an adverse effect.  And I think most parents would probably feel the same way.

The President made remarks at a mini-press conference yesterday before the regular press briefing. He begins speaking about Plan B at about 6:15 minutes in:

A few of us discussed this briefly in yesterday's thread. There's room for more than one opinion on this. What do you think?

P.S. Speaking of women's issues, my column in yesterday's New York Times eXaminer is titled "Women Need Not Apply." The front page of the NYTX is here. (My column in today NYTX is on Our Mister Brooks' latest.)


December 8 -- Open Thread

CW: When one of Amurrica's two major political parties decides to hold a presidential clown show, I guess I have a right to be irresponsible, too, & take the day off. (Serioiusly, I can't see hardly nuttin'.)

So you write about whatevuh you want, because I won't be able to see if it wants zapping (I'm exaggerating here. I just can't scan stuff very well; I can still read slo-o-o-owly).


December 7 -- A Populist President?

President Obama in Osawatomie

... The transcript is here.

Here's a straight report by David Nakamura of the Washington Post, and here are a few opinions about it:

Steve Benen: "You want a populist president, putting the interests of working families and the middle class above all? You’ve got it. For 55 minutes, Barack Obama made the case for progressive governance while destroying the foundation for the right’s vision."

David Dayen of Firedoglake, who has been appropriately aggressive in his criticism of President Obama, gives the President mostly high marks for his speech yesterday but notes that Obama is still pushing the "belt-tightening" bit, which is stupid. Dayen is no Obamabot.

Charles Pierce has another good take, calling out the good, the bad & the meh. And Pierce gets the Tea Party to a tee.

Greg Sargent: "Obama’s speech in Kansas, which just concluded, was the most direct condemnation of wealth and income inequality, and the most expansive moral defense of the need for government activism to combat it, that Obama has delivered in his career."

New York Times Editors: "Tuesday’s speech, in fact, seemed expressly designed to counter Mitt Romney’s argument that business, unfettered, will easily restore American jobs and prosperity. Teddy Roosevelt knew better 101 years ago, and it was gratifying to hear his fire reflected by President Obama."

Your impressions, please.

** CW: By the way, I thought the Osawatomie speech was Obama's answer to that flaming billionaire Leon Cooperman, whom a number of you also nailed yesterday. My response to Cooperman is my column for the New York Times eXaminer. (I checked to see if I could find an e-mail address for Cooperman, and I couldn't. If any of you is his close personal friend, do send me his address.) If you read my letter in NYTX, you'll learn Cooperman finagled another $5 million out of us American taxpayers yesterday. All in a day's work for a billionaire.


December 6 -- Letter from a One Percenter

Billionaire Leon Cooperman, a Goldman Sachs alum who now -- thanks to his "hard work" -- heads his very own hedge fund -- tells President Obama to "throttle down" his "class warfare" rhethric. Will youse guys please read his stinking heap of self-aggrandizement, grievance & clueless scolding, then help set this "savvy businessman" straight?

Here's a related story by Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times.

AND here's some more help from Roxpert at Daily Kos.