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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November 4 -- Have We Failed President Obama? Part 2

This was the question I asked yesterday, and I'm such a crab, I'm not happy with the answers. I asked the question, not rhetorically, but because I really don't know the answer. I felt that for the most part the responses were more reflexive than reflective. That is, if you liked President Obama before I asked the question, you said, "Yes, we have failed him"; if you didn't like him, you said, "Hell, no."

In asking my question, I noted that I have several times compared Obama unfavorably to FDR, who really took the bull by the horns in the Great Depression & did everything his advisors could think of -- much of it innovative -- to try to turn the economy around. I also mentioned the Hooverville which veterans erected in Washington, D.C., The Washington Hooverville went up & came down in 1932, a presidential election year. The Republican & Democratic nominees were then-President Herbert Hoover & New York Gov. Franklin Roosevelt, respectively. Here are a couple of things they said in their campaign speeches that year:

Candidate 1: The government should assume the function of economic regulation only as a last resort.... [We must have] immediate and drastic reductions of all public expenditures..., abolishing useless commissions and offices, consolidating departments and bureaus, and eliminating extravagances..., and [we must have] a sound currency to be maintained at all hazards.... Our industrial plant is built; the problem just now is whether under existing conditions it is not overbuilt. Our last frontier has long since been reached. [Citations from more than one speech.]

Candidate 2: The last three years have been a time of unparalleled economic calamity. They have been years of greater suffering and hardship than any which have come to the American people since the aftermath of the Civil War.... In the soil poisoned by speculation grew those ugly weeds of waste, exploitation, and abuse of financial power. The function of the Federal Government in these times is to use its reserve powers and its strength for the protection of citizens and local governments by the support to our institutions against forces beyond their control. The leadership of the Federal Government is not to be confined to economic and international questions. There are problems of the home and the education of children and of citizenship. [My opponent would] deny the promise of American life...; he offers the counsel of despair. [Citations from more than one speech.]

So which one of those guys would you have voted for? And are some of you still sure that a strong & persistent Occupy movement can't nudge Obama -- and the Congress -- toward doing the bidding of the many instead of the few? 


November 3 -- Have We Failed President Obama?

For a couple of years, I have been throwing darts at President Obama for the Things He Did Wrong. It's a long list. I won't bore you. Several times I've compared Obama unfavorably to FDR, whose radical programs helped turn the Great Depression economy around and who railed against banksters, the Supremes and other old-guard & monied interests who opposed him.

But after watching the video about Hooverville I posted last Sunday, something dawned on me -- something that made me realize maybe I've kinda been giving President Obama a bum rap. That Washington encampment was called "Hooverville" for a reason. Hoover was president. Not FDR. There were some 20,000 veterans (and often their families) in Hooverville at its peak. When Gen. MacArthur brutally attacked American veterans & burnt down Hooverville, Americans saw the newsreels & supported the veterans, not Hoover & MacArthur.

There was no equivalent to Hooverville before Obama was elected. Even after he took office, the only "populist" movement was the astroturfed Tea Party -- angry confused people easily manipulated by Dick Armey, the Koch brothers, and the Usual Suspects. Those of us who supported Obama kind of left the guy on his own. Our message was, "Yay, we won. So save us already." Not very supportive. Worse, not very demanding. So Obama gravitated toward the gang who was demanding -- rich people, connected people, business people, the proverbial coastal elites who are well-practiced in getting what they want.

Maybe if there had been an Occupy Wall Street gnawing at Obama's heels, he would have been another FDR. Maybe he would have done the right thing if we had persistently insisted. (Conversely, were it not for Hooverville, maybe FDR would not have done the right thing.) Instead, we carped, we said how disappointed we were, we threatened to withhold our votes -- like what? we were going to vote for Gingrich (possibly the next flavor after the Cain meltdown). We whined, but we did not demand populist action. Some of us asked nicely, "Why are you doing the wrong thing?" Few said, "Do the right thing. Now. There just has been no serious movement backing radical change. (No, Glenn Greenwald, Jane Hamsher, Michael Moore & Bob Reich do not a movement make.) There is one now. Maybe we had better make damned sure it thrives. And if we do, maybe we'll get our own FDR.

What do you think?

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November 1 & 2 -- Open Thread

What's really infuriating me is Republican racists, and I refuse to give them any space here. So it's an Open Thread day.

Re: a discussion thread Monday, Gretchen Morgenson (a great NYT reporter) & Joshua Rosner talk about their book, Reckless Endangerment, with "Democracy Now!" hosts. I think the bit about Barney Frank comes at about 44 min. in (the segment automatically begins at about 37:30 in), but the whole discussion is interesting:

     ... Here's page 2 of a HuffPo excerpted adaptation from the book that discusses Frank's cozy relationship with Fannie: how Fannie benefitted him & how he paid Fannie back.

     ... Update: contra Morgenson & Rosner, see this very critical review in the NYRB by Jeff Madrick & Frank Partnoy, who say Reckless Endangerment is extremely one-sided, and does not make clear that private lending institutions behaved much more recklessly than did Fannie & Freddie. The reviewers don't substantially dispute Morgenson & Rosner's findings; what they dispute is the lack of context.

On Dodd-Frank, there is so much written for & agin that I can't be much help. My recollection is that Dodd wanted to weaken the bill further & Frank said no. But it's pretty obvious that the markets would have been safer had we returned to Glass-Steagal instead, adding to it the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Would Wall Street have been as profitable? No. But those profits are, for the most part, not productive profits -- they're again being made in short-term paper swaps, & the biggest bonanzas are going to the few. Not much of the recent Wall Street gains is going out into the country to finance new & growing businesses that employ Americans.

Yesterday's Corzine fiasco is a case in point. Not only did Corzine wreck his company, the "wealth" he was creating was for Jon Corzine, & had he been successful, that wealth would have come from his bets on European sovereign currencies, not from the growth of Homemade Products USA. Except for the millions in cash somebody in the company may have absconded with in the last days before Corzine's company collapsed, Corzine's fun & games with European paper were all legal under Dodd-Frank. As Charlie Gasparino of the Daily Beast writes, "MF Global could emulate Goldman's success over the years in trading all sorts of things ... because of a huge loophole in the Dodd-Frank provisions [emphasis added] in which the trading ban only covered large 'systemically important' firms, not midsize players such as MF Global." Meanwhile, "Some 3,000 people stand a good chance of losing their jobs in the coming days. Investors are demanding answers about Corzine's risk controls, and whether the firm's board had any inkling what he was doing."

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October 31 -- Paul Krugman

"Weaponized Keynesians." Paul Krugman: Republicans know government spending creates jobs; they say so every time there's a chance military spending will be cut; they just don't want you "to know what they know, because that would hurt their larger agenda — keeping regulation and taxes on the wealthy at bay."

Write on this or something else.

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October 29 & 30 -- The Candidates

Thanks to everyone for your comments yesterday; they were truly outstanding.

Akhilleus sent me a link to an assessment by the very funny Amanda Marcotte, whose explanation of Herman Cain's popularity amogn the GOP base is, in part:

There's always been a strain of conservatives -- the ones who say, 'I'm really more libertarian' -- who missed out on the 60s and so want to reimagine themselves as dangerous rebels who are out to get The Man, except in this case The Man is ordinary working people who are oppressing the beleaguered wealthy class. You don't know downtrodden until The Man, in his greedy grasping for health care and a humble pension, makes you downgrade to a smaller yacht and reduce your summer house options to a mere two or three. Luckily, the downtrodden rich have 'libertarians' out there who imagine they're being radical and subversive by calling for regressive tax structures. These folks are Cain's base. Who else do you think is buying all those stupid Harleys?

Meanwhile, this probing analysis by Jon Stewart, who looks at a range of candidates, cannot be discounted. Here he is on Mitt:

... AND here on Mitt's competition:

Write on this or something else.

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October 28 -- Tim Egan

Tim Egan: boomer parents don't know what to tell their jobless millennial kids. "For all the efforts to raise hyper-achievers, we didn’t teach enough of a basic survival skill — to find joy in simple things not connected to a grade, a trophy or a job." ...

... OR the Kids Could Incorporate. Andy Borowitz: "... for a limited time, we are offering every man, woman and child in this country a chance to incorporate and become a card-carrying member of Corporation of American Corporations (CAC™). As a newly-formed corporation, you’ll immediately reap the benefits that such other CAC™ members as the Koch Brothers enjoy, such as:

–  Exemption from Federal, State and local taxes
–  Freedom to despoil America’s air, water, and birdlife
–  Exclusive opportunities to sell weapons to Iran

What would you tell the kids? Especially if you are a young person, I'd love to hear what you think about Egan's advice (you'll have to read his column).

Update: here's a link to the New York Magazine piece by Noreen Malone which Egan mentions in his column, and here's the video feature Malone, which the Doktor links:

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October 27 -- The Third Branch

We spend the majority of our effort talking about the President and the Congress, but as we all know, there's a third branch of government: the judiciary. The courts' influence on our daily lives can be as powerful as that of the other two branches, who -- after all -- are subject under the Constitution -- in fact, under the Supreme Court's own interpretation of the Constitution (see Marbury v. Madison) to court review, provided some entity brings an objection to an executive action or law.

We would certainly call Marbury, decided in 1803, "settled law." And it is in agreement with Alexander Hamilton's view of the role of the judiciary: In the Federalist Papers, Hamilton wrote, that it was the “duty” of federal courts to overturn laws that exceed Congress’s authority, saying that courts must “declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void.” (Fed. No. 78)

Despite the Republican Tea Party's supposed adherence to the "original intent" of the Founders (one of the most important of whom was Hamilton), its members are not happy with "liberal judicial activism," and they are ready to do something about it. After all, Section 2 of Article III of the Constitution says the Supreme Court “shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.”

So, citing Article III as well as the Fourteenth Amendment, GOP presidential candidates are having a field day rewriting the Constitution, as Adam Liptik & Michael Sheer of the New York Times report, "Republican presidential candidates are issuing biting and sustained attacks on the federal courts and the role they play in American life.... Gov. Rick Perry of Texas favors term limits for Supreme Court justices. Representatives Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Ron Paul of Texas say they would forbid the court from deciding cases concerning same-sex marriage. Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, and former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania want to abolish the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, calling it a 'rogue' court that is 'consistently radical.'” (See also this Justice at Stake overview of the candidates' Constitutional interpretation.)

Further, in a post I linked last Saturday, Andrew Cohen of The Atlantic wrote that, "Newt Gingrich has expressed many reckless ideas in his long public life. Here is the latest: He wants Congress to subpoena federal judges whose decisions it disagrees with so that legislative committee members can hector those judges in public for 'dictating' the law to the American people. This, Gingrich concludes, would 're-balance' the Constitution in a way that he thinks is appropriate." This, of course, is "unconstitutional under any reasonable interpretation of the document or its subsequent precedent." ...

... Kevin Burke, President of the American Judges Association, responded to Gingrich: in his "campaign manifesto..., Gingrich calls for using 'the clearly delineated powers available to the president and Congress to correct, limit or replace judges who violate the Constitution.' In support of his platform, Gingrich said that 'President Thomas Jefferson abolished over half the federal judgeships.'" Noting that Gingrich is an historian who should have got his history right, Burke delves into what Jefferson did & why -- and why Jefferson was unsuccessful in his attempt to politicize the Supreme Court. "By rebelling against Jefferson's wishes, the Senate sent a message that the independence of the judiciary was not open to political manipulation. Political manipulation seems to be a central tenant of Gingrich's present views on the judiciary, and that is where his fidelity to history and facts fall short." ...

... This was not the end of it. Gingrich (via an advisor) rebutted Judge Burke's analysis (here) with "a rejection of judicial supremacy." (Remarkably, Gingrich's "case in chief" is a condemnation of a 1958 civil rights decision -- Cooper v. Aaron., which overturned "an amendment ... to the Arkansas State Constitution that prohibited school desegregation.") Burke responded (here). In his rebuttal, Burke notes,

According to the Institute for Justice's Center for Judicial Engagement...,

•    Congress passed 16,015 laws from 1954 to 2003. The Supreme Court struck down 104 – or just 0.6 percent.
•    State legislatures passed 1,029,075 laws. The Supreme Court struck down 455 – or
less than 0.05 percent. 
•    The federal government adopted 21,462 regulations from 1986-2006. The Court struck down 121 – or about 0.5

So. Is the federal judiciary too activist? Should Congress be able to override federal court decisions, or should the courts just butt out of legislative decisions altogether (i.e., it's Constitutional if the Congress does it)?

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October 26 -- Occupy Neatly

Ever since the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street movement, I have felt that the quickest way for Occupy Wall Street to fail is for protesters to behave the way detractors would characterize them anyway: act crazy, be irresponsible, spout loony manifestos, taunt police & other government officials, get drunk, smoke dope & look fringey. To succeed, the movement would have to follow the American civil rights and the Indian independence movements -- through nonviolence. If you want to represent the 99 Percent, you have to act a little like the 99 Percent. You don't have to obey local law necessarily, but you do have to obey the principles of the Constitution, you do have to maintain a certain level of decorum, you do have to stay as mainstream as possible while still pushing the envelope.

This, to me, is the iconic portrait of the civil rights movement:

"Little Rock." By Normal Rockwell. This is why the civil rights movement succeeded and why, for the most part, the Viet Nam protests did not. It was easy to fear violent anti-war activists even when you agreed with their underlying cause. It was impossible to fear that beautiful little girl -- it was the protesters who were scary -- you can see the scrawled racial epithet & the rotten tomatoes splattered on the wall. The contrast between the righteousness of the child & the wanton hatred of the protesters changed millions of hearts & minds.

So now comes this stuff:

... Meghan Barr of the AP: in cities across the U.S., neighbors, nearby workers visitors and city officials are sick of the noise, mess & unsanitary conditions at Occupy campsites. ...

... Los Angeles Times: "Tuesday's pre-dawn sweep of the Occupy Oakland encampment, which resulted in about 80 arrests, came after the diverse community of protesters refused to allow police and fire officials -- as well as at least two ambulance crews -- access to the area to provide services, city officials said. Oakland had issued repeated warnings to the campers over the last week, citing an increase in public urination and defecation, rats and fire hazards from cooking. The greatest concern, however, stemmed from violence." ...

     ... San Francisco Chronicle Update: "Police fired tear gas Tuesday night into a crowd of several hundred protesters backing the Occupy movement who were seeking to retake an encampment outside Oakland City Hall that officers had cleared away more than 12 hours earlier."

... Inevitably this will hurt Candidates like Elizabeth Warren, and other Democrats who support the Occupy movemet:

I created much of the intellectual foundation for what they do. I support what they do. -- Elizabeth Warren, candidate for U.S. Senate, Massachusetts, on the Occupy protests ...

... Greg Sargent: "National Republicans are now attacking Elizabeth Warren for embracing the protests.... The conservative effort to turn blue collar whites and independents against the protesters and their broader populist message — exploiting a traditional cultural fault line in our politics — will now unfold in the context of a high profile political campaign."

What do you think about these recent events?

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October 25 -- Open Thread

Okay, so what's bugging you today?

In case you don't get to today's Commentariat, I'm reposting this video here. Well-worth three minutes of your time:

Manhattan-based brand consultant David Intrator discusses the nature of the Occupy Wall Street movement. TruthDig reporter Alexander Reed Kelly tells how he met Intrator. Share this one with your conservative friends! Thanks to reader Bonnie for the link:

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October 24 -- 7 Billion People

... Prof. Joel Cohen, in a New York Times op-ed, on the exploding world population. The article is chockful of scary statistics. "... we need to measure our growth in prosperity: not by the sheer number of people who inhabit the earth, and not by flawed measurements like G.D.P., but by how well we satisfy basic human needs; by how well we foster dignity, creativity, community and cooperation; by how well we care for our biological and physical environment, our only home." ...

... Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "As the global population reaches the 7-billion mark..., ecological distortions are becoming more pronounced and widespread. Sometimes local needs are depleting water, fish and forests; other times food and fuel needs in one region of the world are transforming ecosystems in another. Under either scenario, however, expanding human demands are placing pressure on resources, particularly on world water supply and fisheries."

Hey, maybe Rick Santorum was right -- Quit having sex, people! Well, no, because like the Roman Catholic Church to which he adheres, Santorum thinks procreation is the purpose of sex. So, are you smarter than Santorum? What to do?

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October 22-23 -- Open Thread

Have at it.

BTW, there's more on Marco Rubio on Saturday's Commentariat.

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October 21 -- Worst Senator

This is Marco Rubio Day at my house. Here's my junior senator, touted as the likely Republican vice presidential nominee (in fact, future presidential nominee Newt Gingrich even promised to pick Rubio), on Fox "News" this morning Thanking America Last (well, okay, not thanking America at all & blaming President Obama for not moving fast enough on the Libyan offensive, even though Obama put together a coalition in record time):

Steve Benen writes, "In the mind of this rising Republican star, the American military that helped drive Gadhafi’s regime from power deserves no credit at all. Marco Rubio is comfortable crediting the French, but not American men and women in uniform. Wow."

Then, here's the blockbuster news story of the afternoon:

Gee, here's Marco Rubio, signing election documents qualifying him to run for the U.S. Senate. Seated next to him is his father Mario Rubio, the supposed "exile" from the horrors of Castro's Cuba. The Post story suggests Sen. Rubio fingered his parents for making up the story of their forced immigration. Right.U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tells a compelling story of his family's immigration to the U.S. from revolution-torn Cuba. Trouble is, it isn't true. Manuel Roig-Franzia of the Washington Post: "He was the 'son of exiles,' he told audiences, Cuban Americans forced off their beloved island after 'a thug,' Fidel Castro, took power. But ... documents show that Rubio’s parents came to the United States and were admitted for permanent residence more than 2-1/2 years before Castro’s forces overthrew the Cuban government and took power on New Year’s Day 1959. The supposed flight of Rubio’s parents has been at the core of the young senator’s political identity, both before and after his stunning, tea-party-propelled victory in last year’s race for the U.S. Senate. Rubio — now considered a prospective 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee and a possible future presidential candidate — mentions his parents in the second sentence of the official biography on his Senate Web site. It says Mario and Oriales Rubio 'came to America following Fidel Castro’s takeover.'"

In fairness to Marco, he swears all his lies are accurate.

BUT PICK YOUR OWN SENATOR. OR SOMEBODY ELSE'S. There are plenty of reprobates to choose from.

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