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June 20: New York Times: "You may be hunched over your phone right now, worrying about reports that young people are growing horns on their skulls from spending too much time hunched over smartphones.... Recent articles by the BBC and the Washington Post have cited a 2018 study in the journal Scientific Reports saying that these bone growths have been turning up more often than expected in people aged 18 to 30. The study suggests that 'sustained aberrant postures associated with the emergence and extensive use of hand-held contemporary technologies, such as smartphones and tablets,' are to blame.... Experts give the report mixed reviews." ...

     ... Update. Uh, it seems one of the authors of the "scientific study" is a chiropractor called David Shahar, who used his own patients as subjects of the study AND, according to Quartz, is "the creator of Dr. Posture, an online store that advertises information and products related to forward head posture. One section tells users how to 'look and feel your best in three easy steps,' which include watching a video by Shahar, downloading at-home exercises, and sleeping with a Thoracic Pillow, which Shahar has trademarked and sold for $195." So hunch over, pick up your phones, & call your friends with the good news that the "study" is more likely a marketing scam than a warning about another dire effect of cellphone use. Thanks to safari for the link.


Nick Schager in the Daily Beast: "Premiering on Netflix and in select theaters on July 24, The Great Hack is the most enraging, terrifying and — I don’t use this term lightly — important documentary of the year. Directed by Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim..., its subject is the Cambridge Analytica data scandal—a story that’s galling on the surface, and infinitely more bone-chilling when one considers its far-reaching ramifications. That’s because Cambridge Analytica’s deceptive and criminal relationship with, and conduct on, Mark Zuckerberg’s social media platform had world-altering consequences: helping launch the Brexit movement, and successfully aiding the election campaign of Donald Trump.” 

Guardian: “The businessman Arron Banks and the unofficial Brexit campaign Leave.EU have issued a legal threat against streaming giant Netflix in relation to The Great Hack, a new documentary about the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the abuse of personal data. The threat comes as press freedom campaigners and charity groups warn the government in an open letter that UK courts are being used to 'intimidate and silence' journalists working in the public interest. In a joint letter to key cabinet members, they call for new legislation to stop 'vexatious lawsuits', highlighting one filed last week by Banks against campaigning journalist Carole Cadwalladr.”

AP: "MAD, the long-running satirical magazine that influenced everyone from 'Weird Al' Yankovic to the writers of 'The Simpsons,' will be leaving newsstands after its August issue. Really. The illustrated humor magazine — instantly recognizable by the gap-toothed smiling face of mascot Alfred E. Neuman — will still be available in comic shops and through mail to subscribers. But after its fall issue it will just reprint previously published material. The only new material will come in special editions at the end of the year."

Hill: "The Democrats beat the Republicans in a high-scoring 14-7 win Wednesday [June 26] night in the 58th annual Congressional Baseball Game. It was the Democrats' 10th win in 11 years."

New York Times: "... the Library of Congress has named [Joy Harjo] America’s new poet laureate. She will take over for Tracy K. Smith, who has held the position for two years.... Harjo, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, is the 23rd poet and first Native person to be selected for the role."

New York: "The mass of the metal 'anomaly' beneath the moon’s largest crater is five times greater than the big island of Hawaii, and according to a new study from scientists at Baylor University, it could contain metals remaining from an ancient asteroid impact, weighing in at around 4.8 quintillion pounds."

New York Times: "A skeleton in Siberia nearly 10,000 years old has yielded DNA that reveals a striking kinship to living Native Americans, scientists reported on Wednesday. The finding, published in the journal Nature, provides an important new clue to the migrations that first brought people to the Americas. 'In terms of peopling of the Americas, we have found close to the missing link,' said Eske Willerslev, a geneticist at the University of Copenhagen and a co-author of the new paper. 'It’s not the direct ancestor, but it’s extremely close.'... The DNA of [a group scientists call] the Ancient Paleo-Siberians is remarkably similar to that of Native Americans. Dr. Willerslev estimates that Native Americans can trace about two-thirds of their ancestry to these previously unknown people.”

New York Times: Navy pilots flying along the East Coast of the U.S. spotted UFOs "almost daily from the summer of 2014 to March 2015.... The sightings were reported to the Pentagon’s shadowy, little-known Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which analyzed the radar data, video footage and accounts provided by senior officers from the Roosevelt. Luis Elizondo, a military intelligence official who ran the program until he resigned in 2017, called the sightings 'a striking series of incidents.'” In one incident, the UFO flew between two Navy jets "flying in tandem about 100 feet apart over the Atlantic east of Virginia Beach.... It looked to the pilot ... like a sphere encasing a cube."

Mrs. McCrabbie: This actually seems crazy to me:

New York Times: "A shiny stainless steel sculpture created by Jeff Koons in 1986, inspired by a child’s inflatable toy, sold at Christie’s on Wednesday night for $91.1 million with fees, breaking the record at auction for a work by a living artist, set just last November by David Hockney. Robert E. Mnuchin, an art dealer and the father of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, made the winning bid for Mr. Koons’s 1986 'Rabbit' from an aisle seat near the front of the salesroom."

Might as well just get this -- it's vintage! it's "authentic"! -- and give it pride-of-place in the front hall. Sure, visitors will think you're tasteless & nuts, but in such a vintage, authentic way.

UPDATE: (May 19): New York Times: Mnuchin would not reveal the identity of his client; i.e., the purchaser of Stainless Bunny is. During an NYT interview, "He was near tears when asked about his son Steve and refused to comment about their relationship. But friends said that he is in an impossible predicament, conflicted over his sense of duty about being a loyal father and his concern as a citizen that President Trump is bad for America."

David McCullough Is a Crap Historian. Rebecca Onion of Slate reviews his book on the history -- okay, make that "hagiographic platitudes" -- about the settlement of the Northwest Territory. "Its success (it is No. 10 on Amazon’s best-seller list for books, as of Friday) shows how big the gap between critical history and the “popular history” that makes it to best-seller lists, Costco, and Target remains.” Mrs. McC: Onion doesn't mention it, but I get the impression all the "settling" was done by men; apparently the women's tasks were of no account. Somehow I don't think most of the "ladies" sat around drinking tea & doing needlepoint in their pretty parlors.

Constant Comments


Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. -- H. L. Mencken (probably)

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. -- A. J. Liebling


"Man with a Movie Camera" Redux

This film deserves to win the Academy Award for best live-action short subject. (1) Because of its wonderful quality. (2) Because of its role as homage. It is directly inspired by Dziga Vertov's 1929 silent classic 'Man With a Movie Camera.' (3) Because it represents an almost unbelievable technical proficiency. -- Roger Ebert, written without irony

Here's the Vertov film:

Not that this isn't an artistic classic:


The Commentariat -- December 30

** Paul Krugman & Robin Wells in the New York Review of Books: President Obama has totally fucked up the hoped-for economic recovery: "Democrats need to make it clear that if Obama isn’t going to be the leader of the Democratic agenda — and all indications are that he can’t or won’t — they will advance that agenda anyway, with or without his help. They have to be ready to delink their political fate from Obama, and make it clear that they won’t tolerate further undermining of their goals by deluded calls for bipartisanship."

** Revolving Door. Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: "The president's recently departed budget director is joining Citigroup. The New York Federal Reserve Bank's derivatives expert is joining Goldman Sachs.... The vast overhaul of financial regulations and the renewed intensity of investigations into white-collar crime has been a boon for regulators, prosecutors and financial policymakers looking to cash in on their government experience and contacts. In recent months, prominent officials from the White House, Justice Department, SEC, banking regulators and other agencies, both federal and state, a href="" target="_blank">have been walking through the proverbial revolving door to join Goldman, Citi, other financial companies and top law firms in Washington and New York." ...

... Lisa Rein of the Washington Post: "The federal internship program that President Obama plans to shut down in March has been criticized by union leaders for 'abuses.' ... But what were abuses to some ... were to many managers a welcome system of recruiting the best talent to their agencies. And they say scrapping the program in favor of one geared solely to recent school graduates will leave them at a big disadvantage." ...

... ** Michael Fletcher of the Washington Post: "As they return home to the worst labor market in generations, the veterans who are publicly venerated for their patriotism and service are also having a harder time than most finding work.... While their nonmilitary contemporaries were launching careers during the nearly 10 years the nation has been at war, troops were repeatedly deployed to desolate war zones. And on their return to civilian life, these veterans are forced to find their way in a bleak economy where the skills they learned at war have little value."

Pitchfork & Torches Time. Arthur Delaney & Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post: Glenn Beck advocates for the return of the 19th-century (& before) poorhouse. President Obama seems to like the idea. ...

... Paul Rosenberg elaborates in Open Left: "Barack Obama [is] sleepwalking us back to Grover Cleveland-land, as he articulates more and more of the age-old conservative Republican mindset."

Ruth Simon of the Wall Street Journal: "Some big U.S. banks are starting to increase their lending to businesses as demand for loans rises and healthier banks seek to grab customers from weaker rivals. After declining steadily for most of the past two years, the amount of commercial and industrial loans held by commercial banks inched upward during the past two months, according to the Federal Reserve.... An uptick in business lending is an optimistic sign for the economy...."

New York Times Editors: "... new Republican rules will gut pay-as-you-go because they require offsets only for entitlement increases, not for tax cuts. In effect, the new rules will codify the Republican fantasy that tax cuts do not deepen the deficit."

Tom Jackman of the Washington Post: "A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that noncitizens in criminal cases must be advised of the possible consequences of a conviction has sparked a flurry of appeals by defendants who claim that they didn't know that conviction would lead to deportation.... Judges and lawyers across the country have scrambled to deal with the ramifications of the U.S. Supreme Court's March ruling in Padilla v. Kentucky, which clarified a defendant's Sixth Amendment right to counsel."

Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "The Obama administration is expressing alarm over reports that thousands of political separatists and captured Taliban insurgents have disappeared into the hands of Pakistan’s police and security forces, and that some may have been tortured or killed.... The concern is over a steady stream of accounts from human rights groups that Pakistan’s security services have rounded up thousands of people over the past decade, mainly in Baluchistan, a vast and restive province...."

Carlotta Gall & Ruhullah Khapalwak of the New York Times: "The inauguration of a new [Afghan] Parliament in just weeks threatens to worsen ethnic tensions and instability and to drive an important part of President Hamid Karzai’s political base into the arms of the insurgency, Afghans and foreign officials warn."

David Barboza of the New York Times: why Shanghai students outperform students 65 other countries -- "discipline, rote learning and obsessive test preparation." ...

... BUT Jiang Xueqin, a deputy principal of Peking University High School, wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that the regimentation that produces high test scores also has meant that Chinese students "... cannot work independently, lack the social skills to work in a team and are too arrogant to learn new skills."

Behind the Scenes. President Obama signs repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell:

Crackpot News

David Catanese of Politico: "Former Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell issued a remarkable statement Wednesday night, accusing both political parties in Delaware and the Vice President of the United States of trying to destroy her political career through charges she misused campaign funds." Catanese includes O'Donnell's complete statement. ...

Philip Rucker & Krissah Thompson of the Washington Post: House Republicans will institute new rules that (1) will require opening the Congressional session by reading the Constitution aloud. (2) "And then they will require that every new bill contain a statement by the lawmaker who wrote it citing the constitutional authority to enact the proposed legislation. Call it the tea party-ization of Congress." ...

... I think it's entirely cosmetic. This is the way the establishment handles grass-roots movements. They humor people who are not expert or not fully cognizant. And then once they've humored them and those people go away, it's right back to business as usual. It looks like this will be business as usual -- except for the half-hour or however long it takes to read the Constitution out loud. -- Prof. Kevin Gutzman, a conservative libertarian

... Related: Frivolous News

Republican Presidential Contenders Fight about Flab. Jason Horowitz & Nia-Malika Henderson of the Washington Post: "Sarah Palin has taken to assailing Michelle Obama's anti-obesity initiative on her reality show and elsewhere, while former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, the Republican Party's resident authority on obesity and a potential Palin rival, has been defending it from Palin's salvos. Two other possible GOP presidential contenders, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.), have also praised Obama's efforts.

Michael Shear of the New York Times recalls the most famous refudiations of their earlier positions made by politicians in 2010. P.S. Looks like Sarah Palin can't tell a "p" from a "d." Okay, a "p" is just an upside-down lower-case "d." CW: she's Ginger Rogers. She types upside-down. While wearing heels.


The Commentariat -- December 29

** In all of Mexico, there is only one gun store. -- William Booth of the Washington Post

War and good health are incompatible. -- President Jimmy Carter ...

... Maggie Fick of the AP: former President Jimmy Carter has nearly won his 30-year battle against the guinea worm, having reduced the annual number of cases from an estimated 50 million to a reported 3,190, but the worm persists in the unstable nation of Sudan where "semi-nomadic pastoralists who have little education and low sanitation standards." You can read more about it at this Carter Center site.

Harry Reid. Contour photo. Mark Warren of Esquire profiles Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Mikhail Gorbachev, in a New York Times op-ed, urges the Senate to ratify the nuclear test ban treaty, which must be ratified by all "nuclear technology holder states."

Sean Gregory of Time: unlike New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (who has been sharply criticized for his handling of blizzard cleanup) & New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (who was AWOL in Disney World), Cory Booker, "... the tweeting mayor of Newark, N.J., is now a social-media superhero, able to move towering snowbanks in a single push — or by sending the shovels and plows your way."

David Hilzenrath of the Washington Post: "More banks failed in the United States this year than in any year since 1992, during the savings-and-loan crisis, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Amid high unemployment, a struggling economy, and a still devastated real estate market, the nation is closing out the year with 157 bank failures, up from 140 in 2009. As recently as 2006, before the bubble burst, there were none. Now, there are more on the horizon." ...

... ** Christine Harper of Bloomberg: "Wall Street’s biggest banks, whose missteps caused a global financial crisis and economic slowdown two years ago, were more agile when it came to countering the political and regulatory response.... Lawmakers spurned changes that would wall off deposit-taking banks from riskier trading. They declined to limit the size of lenders or ban any form of derivatives. Higher capital and liquidity requirements agreed to by regulators worldwide have been delayed for years." ...

... David Leonhardt of the New York Times on 2010: the year the economy fizzled. Leonhardt has a follow-up post here.

David Herszenhorn of the New York Times: Team North Dakota breaks up. Sens. Byron L. Dorgan & Kent Conrad & Rep. Earl Pomeroy are "best friends and Democrats who spent the last 18 years serving as North Dakota’s entire Congressional delegation," but Dorgan his retiring & Pomeroy lost his re-election bid. CW: and we are left with Conrad. Eeww.

Jay Millman of The Hill lists the key provisions of the Affordable Health Law that will go into effect January 1.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times: "... the memory of the attempted bombing last Christmas Day hangs over the presidential Hawaiian escape. Mr. Obama and his advisers, still smarting over the criticism they received for the seemingly flat-footed response, have gone into overdrive to prepare for what counterterrorism experts say is a heightened threat this holiday season."

Shai Oster, et al. of the Wall Street Journal: "Foreign companies have been teaming up with Chinese ones for years to gain access to the giant Chinese market. Now some of the world's biggest companies are taking a risky but potentially rewarding second step—folding pieces of their world-wide operations into partnerships with Chinese companies to do business around the globe

A Distinction without a Difference: Earmarks v. "Lettermarks." Ron Nixon of the New York Times: "Though [new Sen. Mark] Kirk and other Republicans thundered against pork-barrel spending and lawmakers’ practice of designating money for special projects through earmarks, they have not shied from using a less-well-known process called lettermarking to try to direct money to projects in their home districts. Mr. Kirk, for example, sent a letter to the Department of Education dated Sept. 10, 2009, asking it to release money 'needed to support students and educational programs' in a local school district."

Trevor Curwin, writing for NBC: "With energy prices increases likely as economic growth picks up, the next-generation of nuclear energy could prove to be a cleaner, cheaper solution to keeping power prices down. Several firms are working on new reactor technologies that replace the classic uranium fuel rods with less expensive and less polluting ones, composed of thorium. 'There are no technical hurdles,’ says John Kutsch, executive director of the Thorium Energy Alliance, an industry trade group, pointing out the process itself is already technologically proven." Thanks to reader Doug R. for bringing this to my attention.

Army History, Revised. Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post: "The Army's official history of the battle of Wanat - one of the most intensely scrutinized engagements of the Afghan war - largely absolves top commanders of the deaths of nine U.S. soldiers.... An initial draft of the Wanat history ... placed the preponderance of blame for the losses on the higher-level battalion and brigade commanders who oversaw the mission.... The final history, released in recent weeks, drops many of the earlier conclusions and instead focuses on failures of lower-level commanders." ...

... CW: here's what happens when a state lets incompetent right-wing ideologues write their history & social studies books. Kevin Sieff of the Washington Post: historians have found "dozens of errors ... since Virginia officials ordered a review of textbooks by Five Ponds Press, the publisher responsible for a controversial claim that African American soldiers fought for the South in large numbers during the Civil War. 'Our Virginia: Past and Present,' the textbook including that claim, has many other inaccuracies, according to historians who reviewed it. Similar problems, historians said, were found in another book by Five Ponds Press, 'Our America: To 1865.' A reviewer has found errors in social studies textbooks by other publishers as well, underscoring the limits of a textbook-approval process once regarded as among the nation's most stringent."

Linda Milazzo in AlterNet: "Enough, CNN! Enough! Stop trivializing and dramatizing critical issues and pitting one hack against another.... Report the news. Report the truth and stop whoring your twisted wares in the name of journalism. This isn’t journalism..., CNN, MSNBC, Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS and talk radio. This wretched corporate media cheered us into Iraq. It’s made downtown Manhattan the flash point for xenophobia and racism over the building of a community center intended to unify neighbors. It’s given a platform to birthers. It’s undermined global warming. It’s created the monster Sarah Palin and it craves creating more. It’s desecrating the living and it’s desecrating the dying."

AP: "Federal authorities have opened a criminal investigation of Delaware Republican Christine O'Donnell to determine if the former Senate candidate broke the law by using campaign money to pay personal expenses...." ...

... Crackpot News

Jillian Rayfield of TPM: "The good news is that the right-wing isn't talking about President Obama being a secret Muslim right now. The bad news is that they're now concerned that he's going to use his honorary status as a Crow Tribe Indian to return the United States to Native Americans.... Last week, the 'Director of Issues Analysis' for the Christian conservative American Family Association, Brian Fischer, wrote a blog post claiming that 'President Obama wants to give the entire land mass of the United States of America back to the Indians. He wants Indian tribes to be our new overlords.'"

Because They Might Get Cooties. Brian Fitzpatrick of the right-wing World Net Daily: "Two of the nation's premier moral issues organizations, the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America, are refusing to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference in February because a homosexual activist group, GOProud, has been invited.... FRC and CWA join the American Principles Project, American Values, Capital Research Center, the Center for Military Readiness, Liberty Counsel, and the National Organization for Marriage in withdrawing from CPAC. In November, APP organized a boycott of CPAC over the participation of GOProud."

Leave it to Tucker Carlson to make you feel sorry for Michael Vick:

Local Politics

Karen Hawkins of the AP: "Congressman Danny Davis has a message for former President Bill Clinton: Don't take sides in the Chicago mayor's race - or else. Davis, a longtime friend of Clinton, warned the ex-president on Tuesday that he could jeopardize his 'long and fruitful relationship' with the black community if he campaigns for former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel instead of one of the two leading black candidates running - Davis or former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun."

Public Policy Polling: "It's a well known fact that Sarah Palin is the most unpopular major political figure in the thing that may be less well known is that one of the states where voters have the dimmest view of her is her own home state of Alaska."