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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December 5 -- Police State

** Max Blumenthal in the Exiled Online: "Israeli occupation forces ... trained U.S. police for a coordinated crackdown on 'Occupy' protests.... The Israelification of America’s security apparatus, recently unleashed in full force against the Occupy Wall Street Movement, has taken place at every level of law enforcement, and in areas that have yet to be exposed.... The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) is at the heart of American-Israeli law enforcement collaboration.... Through its Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP), JINSA claims to have arranged Israeli-led training sessions for over 9000 American law enforcement officials at the federal, state and municipal level.... Some of the police chiefs who have taken part in JINSA’s LEEP program have done so under the auspices of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF).... PERF gained notoriety when [its director Chuck] Wexler confirmed that his group coordinated police raids in 16 cities across America against 'Occupy' protest encampments. As many as 40 cities have sought PERF advice on suppressing the 'Occupy' movement.... The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has positioned itself as an important liaison between American police forces and the Israeli security-intelligence apparatus." Read the whole article, which Kate M. called to my attention. ...

... See also this Democracy Now! "discussion on policing and the Occupy Wall Street movement with Chuck Wexler, director of [PERF] ... and with Norm Stamper, the former police chief of Seattle." Video & transcript...." ...

... Norm Stamper in The Nation: "US police forces have become increasingly militarized, and it’s showing in cities everywhere.... The paramilitary bureaucracy and the culture it engenders — a black-and-white world in which police unions serve above all to protect the brotherhood — is worse today than it was in the 1990s. Such agencies inevitably view protesters as the enemy. And young people, poor people and people of color will forever experience the institution as an abusive, militaristic force—not just during demonstrations but every day, in neighborhoods across the country." ...

... To your left: what the well-dressed, militarized riot policeman will be wearing when s/he confronts you.

For you masquerade fans, the New York Times depicts more Riot Cop Fashion Design through the Years here. Or what not to wear when attempting to impersonate an officer. It's so outre.

A brief overview by Chi Birmingham & Alex Vitale is here. Even the writers' names sound like those of fashion designers.



CW: Scott Lemieux of Lawyers, Guns & Money elaborates on a point I made on Off Times Square the other day (although I wasn't aware this was a purposeful, oft-repeated practice): "... the Senate ... decided to punt on the question of whether the executive can arbitrarily and indefinitely detain American citizens simply by declaring them terrorists. While dismaying, this is part of an ongoing pattern many political scientists (including yours truly) have identified: legislators deliberately putting contested issues into the courts. Issues like the constitutionality of arbitrary detention end up in the courts not because the judiciary is 'usurping' legislative power but because that’s how legislative majorities want it." ...

... Here's Charlie Savage's underlying story, which is as helpful as it can be under the circumstance that Senators don't agree on WTF they voted for. As Lemieux writes, let the Supremes decide. ...

... Ray McGovern, in a TruthOut essay: "Conflicting legal interpretations of the bill are now more about whether military detentions would be mandatory or would the president still retain some discretion. In sum, the wording appears to create a parallel military justice system that, theoretically, we are all subject to. All that would be needed is an allegation by someone that we assisted someone who in some way assisted someone else in some way. An actual terrorist act would not be needed – and neither would a trial by one’s peers as guaranteed by the Constitution to determine actual 'guilt.'” Should you be worried? Sounds like it. Thanks to Valerie L.T. for the link.

Perpectual War, Con'd. Glenn Greenwald: "Given the theories used to justify Bush/Cheney powers — ones that were just repeated almost verbatim by Obama lawyers when asked about the Awlaki assassination — how can anyone coherently have objected to the Bush/Cheney Guantanamo detention system but support Obama’s assassination powers now?"

     ... The underlying AP story by Matt Apuzzo: "U.S. citizens are legitimate military targets when they take up arms with al-Qaida, top national security lawyers in the Obama administration said Thursday. The lawyers were asked at a national security conference about the CIA killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen and leading al-Qaida figure. He died in a Sept. 30 U.S. drone strike in the mountains of Yemen. The government lawyers, CIA counsel Stephen Preston and Pentagon counsel Jeh Johnson, did not directly address the al-Awlaki case. But they said U.S. citizens do not have immunity when they are at war with the United States."

The Little King & His Enforcer. Alex Pareene of Salon: "The mayor of New York and his police commissioner reveal just how comfortable they are with autocracy."

All of the above are articles I've linked either today or in days past. Karen Garcia has a good overview of all this, and includes links to Naomi's Wolf's much-panned Guardian essay, which I linked to way back when, along with a pan or two. Garcia ties it together in a lovely bow.

AND for some historical context:

Whaddaya think?


December 2, 3 & 4 -- Outrage, Anyone?

What's irritating you today? I'm going with this:

** Eliot Spitzer in Slate: while telling the public, the market, their own shareholders & the Congress that they were solvent & didn't need TARP money, the big banks borrowed $7.7 "— one-half of the GDP of the entire nation.... This was perhaps the single most massive allocation of capital from public to private hands in our history, and nobody was told.... So where are the inquiries into the false statements made by the bank CEOs?... In addition to the secrecy, what is appalling is that these loans were made with no strings attached, no conditions, and no negotiation to achieve any broader public purpose." The banks made about $13 billion in profits on these near-zero-interest loans. Spitzer suggests some appropriate paybacks to the public. ...

... Judy Woodruff of PBS "News Hour" interviews Bob Ivry, one of the Bloomberg News reporters who broke the story of our $7.7-billion gift to Wall Street. Thanks to Haley S. for the link to the video & to the Spitzer post:

Update: Let's continue in this vein. We've got a good start.

BTW, my New York Times eXaminer column on the New York Times' new comments format is here. It includes excerpts from a few comments by Off Times Square contributors. I heartily suggest you read my column all the way to the end. Or at least read the end. No, sing the end. The NYTX front page is here.


December 1 -- Mistrusted!

CW: The New York Times has rolled out its full "Trusted Commenter" program, and I of course remain among the mistrusted. As my avatar appeared in the comments section of one of the columns -- a new feature -- I made a test comment to see what would happen. Nothing. My comment "is awaiting moderation." Same ole, same ole.

For more info on the program, here's the Times' help page, and here's a note from Jill Abramson, the Times' executive editor on the program.

If you tried to comment, please share your experience, whether you're "trusted" or "mistrusted." (If you got one of those "congratulations, we trust you" letters, I'd love to have you reproduce it.)

Write on this or something else.


November 30 -- Open Thread

Carry on. I have to be away for a good part of the day. -- CW


November 29 -- Fox "News"

Poll of the Month. "Fox 'News' -- Making Americans Ignorant 24/7." Fairleigh Dickinson University: "Sunday morning news shows do the most to help people learn about current events, while some outlets, especially Fox News, lead people to be even less informed than those who say they don’t watch any news at all.... People who watch Fox News ... are 18-points less likely to know that Egyptians overthrew their government than those who watch no news at all.... Exposure to Sunday morning news shows helps respondents on" a question about the Occupy movement. "Listening to NPR also helps, but the biggest aid to answering correctly is The Daily Show with Jon Stewart...."

How could this be?

Update: In our Continuing Education series dedicated to making sure Reality Chex readers are way better informed than Foxbots, we bring you Jon Stewart lecturing on "competitive shopping":


November 28 -- The Pits

AP photo.Christian Davenport of the Washington Post: "For the moment, let’s say we’re not buying the official, nothing-to-see-here story the White House is dishing about the gaping hole being ripped into the lawn outside the Oval Office. Let’s say we suspect the construction crews that have been dipping their backhoes into the most secure soil in the free world are doing something more complex than mere utility work. The feds may claim that it’s just 'upgrades and replacement of utility infrastructure' of a size and complexity that require the excavation of a hole so big it could easily fit the entire Cabinet — and maybe some members of Congress, too. But they’re somewhat vague as to the specifics. And so we wonder.... Much of Washington is down and out of sight." The article goes on to describe a few other underground facilities.

Hmm. What do you think that digging at the White House is all about? Serious answer not required.

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November 26 & 27 -- Open Thread

Your innermost thoughts, please. About politics!

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November 25 -- Black Friday

Prof. Robert Frank, in a New York Times op-ed, on "How to End the Black Friday Madness": "Inspired by the 9-9-9 proposal of the Republican presidential contender Herman Cain, I call it the 6-6-6 plan — an across-the-board 6 percent national sales tax (on top of any existing state and local sales taxes) in effect from 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving to 6 a.m. on Black Friday." CW: Black Friday always reminds me of the film "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" a story (based on a 1935 novel by Horace McCoy) about Depression-era dance marathons. In both, desperate Americans put themselves under extreme stress and complete with other desperate people for a few extra bucks the rich toss out as part of a scheme to further enrich themselves. ...

... Stephanie Clifford of the New York Times: "As the busiest retail weekend of the year begins late Thursday night, the differences between how affluent and more ordinary Americans shop in the uncertain economy will be on unusually vivid display.... Many affluent shoppers will avoid the [Black Friday] scene altogether.... Still, a deal is a deal.... Neiman Marcus sold out of pewter-color Ferraris (luggage set matching the interior included) at $395,000 each within 50 minutes of making 10 of them available through its 'fantasy' holiday catalog late last month." ...

... A statement from Adbusters is here. Related AP story here.

... Update: Karen Garcia has a lovely post on "The Nightmare before Christmas." Don't miss the comparative photos.

... Update 2. Borowitz Report: "In what economists are hailing as a clear sign of economic recovery, Walmart customers across the USA jammed into stores on Black Friday, sometimes killing each other to buy useless shit.... Dr. [Davis] Logsdon said that the increased violence and mayhem at retail outlets across the country was 'a testament to the greatness of the American consumer.”

What are your thoughts about Black Friday?

CW P.S. I owe quite a few of you responses to your comments from the past several days. I haven't forgotten; I'm just always running up against the clock.

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Thanksgiving 2011 Open Thread

One thing to be thankful for -- I'm not going ask you to tell us what you're thankful for. (But you can if you want to.) It's Readers' Choice Day.

From the Commentariat:

On the front page of the New York Times is a six-part video by food writer Melissa Clark with helpful advice on how to cook a turkey. For classic hints on fowl preparation, we turn to this old chestnut from "Julia Child":

... AND here's hoping your Thanksgiving goes better than Loudon Wainwright III's. "Thanksgiving" begins 3 minutes in. Another classic (P.S. If all does not go well, consider your family "normal"):

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November 23 -- "Obama, Occupied"

Shawna Thomas of NBC News: "During his speech in Manchester, N.H. today, President Obama found himself interrupted by members of Occupy New Hampshire. The protesters handed out fliers along with attempting to employ a 'human microphone' to deliver a message of dissatisfaction to the president. They got about halfway through before others in the crowd began to counter-chant with the President’s 2008 slogan of 'Fired up. Ready to go.'”

... Here's how Peter Wallsten & Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post report the story. ...

Here's Karen Garcia on "Obama, Occupied." ...

See also Adam Martin & Alexander Abad-Santos of The Atlantic. Read the comments here, too.

As far as I'm aware, the only thing the White House has said about the use of force against Occupy protesters was this:

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: He’s [Obama is] aware of it, obviously, from the reports. And our position and the president’s position is that obviously every municipality has to make its own decisions about how to handle these issues, and we would hope and want, as these decisions are made, that it balances between a long tradition of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech in this country and obviously of demonstrating and protesting, and also the very important need to maintain law and order and health and safety standards, which was obviously a concern in this case. -- Pool report from Aboard Air Force One, President's Australia trip, Nov. 16, 2011. Via Karen Garcia

In two subsequent press conferences, Carney said nothing. The first was about U.S.-Asia policy, but the second -- held after the U.C. Davis pepper spraying -- was of a general nature, and no reporter even asked about police actions against students and others.

What do you think President Obama should say?


November 22 -- John F. Kennedy

A flyer distributed in downtown Dallas in the days prior to the Kennedy assassination. Via New York Magazine.** "What Killed JFK." Frank Rich in New York Magazine: "What defines the Kennedy legacy today is less the fallen president’s short, often admirable life than the particular strain of virulent hatred that helped bring him down. After JFK was killed, that hate went into only temporary hiding. It has been a growth industry ever since and has been flourishing in the Obama years. There are plenty of comparisons to be made between the two men, but the most telling is the vitriol that engulfed both their presidencies." CW: this is the writer the New York Times let go.

     ... Rich refers to this video in his essay. Here's another, which also includes excerpts from the audio tapes of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.'s 1964 interview of Jaqueline Kennedy:

Today is the 48th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. Write on this or something else.

Thanks to everyone who wrote on the U.C. Davis atrocity. Those who contrasted Newt with the protesters are onto something. Newt is like a Super John Pike coldly planning to pepperspray us all.

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November 21 -- U.C. Davis

If you haven't seen them already, I think you'll have to watch at least part of one of the videos of the policeman pepper-spraying U.C. Davis students. There are two videos posted on yesterday's Commentariat, along with quite a few links to articles. There are a couple of good articles in today's Commentariat, too: by Glenn Greenwald and by Philip Kennicott of the Washington Post. There are also some good comments in the Off Times Square weekend thread.

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