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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April 23 -- Charles Blow

He Might Be a Racist. Charles Blow met newly-minted birther Donald Trump at a party, and here's how it went:

... he immediately started in on a speech about how beloved he was among blacks. He said that everywhere he went, blacks were telling him to run for president and that some hip-hop stars had told him that he was the most popular white man among black people.

Trump probably didn't even notice Blow was black.

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April 22 -- Paul Krugman

"Patients Are Not Consumers." Paul Krugman: "The idea that ... doctors are just 'providers' selling services to health care 'consumers' — is, well, sickening. And the prevalence of this kind of language [coming from Republicans] is a sign that something has gone very wrong not just with this discussion, but with our society’s values."


April 22 -- David Brooks

Brooks Does Broadway. David Brooks sees the musical/satirical comedy "The Book of Mormon." "The religions that thrive have exactly what 'The Book of Mormon' ridicules: communal theologies, doctrines and codes of conduct rooted in claims of absolute truth." He goes on to extol the virtues of "rigorous theology" and "rigorous codes of conduct." We need rules!


April 22 -- Tim Egan

Tim Egan compares Donald Trump to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who currently on trial for a sex scandal involving underage prostitutes:

Hair plugs for Berlusconi, a pricey thatch of some sort for Trump. Berlusconi regularly insults women in public. Trump has also publically called at least one woman a 'fat pig.' Berlusconi brought sexed-up game shows to Italian television. Trump has a silly 'reality' show in which he plays a business mogul. Berlusconi, at 74, socializes with teenage girls. Just shy of his 60th birthday, the thrice-married Trump said that if then-24-year-old Ivanka Trump were not his daughter, 'perhaps I’d be dating her.' ...

The fact-denying block of the Republican party seems to grow daily, thanks to people like Trump.


April 21 -- Gail Collins

Gail Collins writes one of her most affecting columns on the Texas fiscal crisis and how the state legislature plans to make it worse by cutting family planning funds:

... the ... fiscal megacrisis that goes back to 2006, when the Legislature cut local property taxes and made up for the lost revenue with a new business tax. The new tax produced billions less than expected to the shock and horror of everyone except all the experts who had been predicting that all along.

Governor Perry blames the whole thing on President Obama.

Texas’ problems are of interest to us all because Texas is producing a huge chunk of the nation’s future work force with a system that goes like this:

• Terrible sex education programs and a lack of access to contraceptives leads to a huge number of births to poor women. (About 60 percent of the deliveries in Texas are financed by Medicaid.) Texas also leads the nation in the number of teenage mothers with two or more offspring.

• The Texas baby boom — an 800,000 increase in schoolchildren over the last decade — marches off to underfunded schools. Which are getting more underfunded by the minute, thanks to that little tax error.

And naturally, when times got tough at the State Capitol, one of the first things the cash-strapped Legislature tried to cut was family planning.

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April 21 -- Nicholas Kristof

In his column today, Kristof defends his friend Greg Mortenson against charges of misuse of charitable contributions. Here's some background information, beginning with the "60 Minutes" report that brought this story to the forefront:

Lloyd Grove of the Daily Beast reports on the Mortenson scandal.

Julie Bosman & Stephanie Strom of the New York Times have a long report on the Mortenson fiasco in particular & unvetted "memoirs" in general.

Washington Post Update: Mortenson e-mailed a statement to supporters, which includes a claim that "he's having surgery this week for a hole in his heart." CW: not sure surgery is going to take care of that.

CBS News/AP Update: "The attorney general in the state of Montana has launched an inquiry into the charity run by 'Three Cups of Tea' co-author Greg Mortenson." With related video.

CBS News/AP Update 2: "... a memo prepared by external lawyers for CAI warned in January that Mortenson could conceivably be liable for as much as $23 million in back taxes and penalties tied to 'excess benefits' he received from CAI thru 2009." With video.

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April 20 -- Maureen Dowd

Maureen Dowd must have been traveling lately, as she's just getting around to complaining about TSA pat-downs. After recounting some horror stories, she give us some good news:

John Pistole, the T.S.A. chief and 26-year veteran of the F.B.I., said ... they are trying to move past a 'one-size-fits-all' program and implement 'a risk-based, intelligence-driven process' by the end of the year that would have more refined targeting. If passengers are willing to share the same information they give to airline frequent-flier programs, he said, maybe some day they will be able to 'keep their jacket on and their laptop in their briefcase and hang on to that unfinished bottle of water.'

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April 19 -- David Brooks

I think it's wrong to call David Brooks clueless. He knows just what he's doing. Today he "explains" "Why Trump Soars." Brooks claims Donald Trump is now so popular among Republicans (and everybody!) because

... he is actually riding a deep public fantasy — the hunger for the ultimate blowhard who can lead us through dark times. He is riding something else: the strongest and most subversive ideology in America today. Donald Trump is the living, walking personification of the Gospel of Success.

CW: if you believe this, then you believe "the War of Northern Aggression," a/k/a the Civil War, was about states' rights and the Ku Klux Klan is a circle of brotherly love.

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April 19 -- Joe Nocera

Fracking Joe Nocera of the New York Times has dropped his advocacy for natural gas drilling to get back to something he knows something about: "the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency ... is a coddler, a protector, an outright enabler of the [financial] institutions it oversees." 

It has consistently defended the Too Big to Fail banks. It opposes lowering hidden interchange fees for debit cards, even though such a move is mandated by law, because the banks don’t want to take the financial hit. Its foot-dragging in implementing the new Dodd-Frank laws stands in sharp contrast to, say, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which is working diligently to create a regulatory framework for derivatives, despite Republican opposition. Like the banks, it views the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as the enemy.

And, as we learned last week, it is doing its darndest to make sure the banks escape the foreclosure crisis — a crisis they created with their sloppy, callous and often illegal practices — with no serious consequences. There is really no other way to explain the “settlement” it announced last week with 14 of the biggest mortgage servicers (which includes all the big banks).

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