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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

 

Editor-in-Chief:
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

Monday
Dec202010

The Commentariat -- December 21

New York Times: "The House of Representatives gave final approval on Tuesday to a long-awaited modernization of the nation’s food safety laws, voting 215 to 144 to grant the Food and Drug Administration greater authority over food production." The bill earlier passed the Senate, which added exemptions for small producers. The President has said he would sign the bill as amended.

Wall Street Journal: "A Senate deal to fund the federal government until early March doesn't include money to enact the health-care overhaul or stepped up regulation of Wall Street, boosting Republican efforts to curb key elements of President Barack Obama's domestic agenda."

Washington Post: "New Internet access rules approved by federal regulators on Tuesday prohibit network operators from meddling with Web traffic into American homes but do not extend to the fast-growing market for smartphones and tablet computers. The regulations passed the Federal Communications Commission along party lines, with two Democratic commissioners reluctantly siding with agency Chairman Julius Genachowski in a 3-2 vote."

Eating or defeating your own is a form of sophisticated cannibalism. -- Arlen Specter, in his Senate farewell speech, or as he characterized it, his "closing argument" ...

... Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "The Pennsylvania Republican-turned-Democrat [Sen. Arlen Specter] berated his colleagues for stripping the 'world's greatest deliberative body' of its collegiality. In a bitter, at times angry, speech, Specter accused leaders of both parties of abusing the Senate's 'cerebral procedures' in the service of partisan rancor and gridlock."

CW: the other day Fox "News"" Shep Smith called out senators for opposing the 9/11 responders' bill but he didn't mention their names, nor did he identify them all as Republicans. Here, Smith gets specific:

... And here's Smith today, identifying Sen. Tom Coburn, who vows to block the first responders' bill, because the sponsoring senators say they have the votes to pass it:

     ... Alex Seitz-Wald has the story at Think Progress. ...

     ... Danny Yadron of the Wall Street Journal: "Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn will not allow a proposal that would cover health-care costs for Ground Zero workers to go through the Senate before Christmas, a Coburn aide told Washington Wire [WSJ] this morning." CW: remember "Dr. No" is a medical doctor.

Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy lets Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) have it in a pretty funny series of questions about DeMint's assertion that it's "sacriligious" for Congress to work on legislation during the Christmas season. Enjoy.

Statistics come to life when Swedish academic Hans Rosling graphically illustrates global economic development & life expectancy over the last 200 years. Thanks to Peter S. for finding this video:

In a New York Times op-ed, Larry David, who is rich, says "Thanks for the tax cut! ... Life was good, and now it’s even better. Thank you, Republicans. And a special thank you to President Obama and the Democrats. I didn’t know you cared."

Dana Hedgpeth of the Washington Post: "Since it was founded in 2001, the TSA has spent roughly $14 billion in more than 20,900 transactions with dozens of contractors.... But lawmakers, auditors and national security experts question whether the government is too quick to embrace technology as a solution for basic security problems and whether the TSA has been too eager to write checks for unproven products."

Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "The Justice Department has shut down a wave of high-profile investigations of members of Congress over the past few months, drawing criticism that the government’s premier anticorruption agency has lost its nerve after the disastrous collapse last year of its case against former Senator Ted Stevens." ...

... Hah! Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: "When the Federal Election Commission voted last month to close an investigation into a $96,000 payment to Senator John Ensign’s former lover, it overrode the findings of its own staff lawyers, documents made public Monday showed. Lawyers at the F.E.C. counsel’s office said in a confidential report in March that Mr. Ensign’s parents and his campaign treasurer appeared to have violated campaign finance law when the parents made the payment to the family of the mistress, Cynthia Hampton, who worked for his campaign."

Dan Roem of the National Journal: "One of Pres. Obama's biggest supporters in the Senate in the past week is not even a member of his own party: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). Murkowski supported the president's position on the Senate's four biggest votes since last Wednesday. She and fellow Alaska Sen. Mark Begich (D) voted in favor of the tax cut compromise and to invoke cloture on New START treaty, the Dream Act and the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Both senators also voted in favor of the final repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell on Saturday. No Senate Republican voted for all four bills other than Murkowski."

Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times: "... while public opinion has changed in favor of gay rights over the past two decades, those attitudes are often not reflected in public policy, because the views of lawmakers, polls suggest, lag behind the public, and not just among social conservatives who have long opposed elements of the gay rights agenda on moral grounds.... Yet the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, first proposed in the Clinton years, remains stuck on Capitol Hill, in part because lawmakers are squeamish about language in it that would protect transgender employees. The 'don’t ask, don’t tell' repeal bill nearly died the week before it was passed." ...

... Jonathan Chait of The New Republic: "The progress of gay rights in the United States ... has been intoxicatingly rapid.... In part this reflects changes in the Republican Party, which is now dominated almost entirely by defenders of the economic prerogatives of the rich and barely pretends to care about the Christian right's agenda any more. In part it's a wildly successful effort by Hollywood to normalize homosexuality."

Hope Yen of the AP: "If government estimates hold true, the closely watched 2010 census will show America's once-torrid population growth dropping to its lowest level in seven decades. In Congress, the steady migration to the South and West should be a boon for Republicans, with GOP-leaning states led by Texas picking up House seats."

Aaron Lucchetti & Sarah Muñoz of the Wall Street Journal: "U.S. regulators are considering whether to require large financial firms to hold onto a chunk of executive pay to discourage the excessive risk-taking that contributed to the financial crisis, according to people familiar with the situation. Giant companies such as Bank of America Corp., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley that are considered critical to the U.S. economy, could be forced to award half or more of their executives' pay in the form stock or other deferred compensation, instead of up-front cash."

David Streitfeld of the New York Times: a new California law designed to protect victims of impending foreclosure from swindlers disallows attorneys from receiving payment prior to obtaining loan modifications; that sounds good, but it has meant that attorneys say they can't afford to take on clients who wish to contest foreclosure proceedings.

I just don’t remember it as being that bad. I remember Martin Luther King came to town, in ’62. He spoke out at the old fairground and it was full of people, black and white.... I was there with some of my friends.... We wanted to hear him speak.... I don’t really remember [what he said]. The truth is, we couldn’t hear very well. We were sort of out there on the periphery. We just sat on our cars, watching the girls, talking, doing what boys do. We paid more attention to the girls than to King. -- Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, believed to be considering a run for President, reminisces on halcyon days of the civil rights movement ...

... The Weekly Standard interview, by Andrew Ferguson, is here. Holly Bailey of Yahoo! News writes a follow-up story. ...

... Matthew Yglesias puts some actual historical perspective on Barbour's remembrances of the Yazoo City Citizens Counsel, "town leaders" whom Barbour credits with kicking out the Ku Klux Klan. Yglesia writes, "The Citizens’ Councils were ... the respectable face of white supremacist political activism." ...

... Jonathan Chait has more on Ferguson & Barbour's profoundly inaccurate depiction of history. CW: they of course get it ass-backwards. I don't agree with Chait's conclusion that Barbour can turn his murky history of race relations into a plus, & if he can, this country is worse than I thought. ...

... This Is Amazing. Conservative Jim Geraghty of the National Review agrees with me. He bases his opinion of Barbour's reported 1982 watermelon "joke."

... To read how really "upstanding" the Yazoo City Citzens Council was, see Charles Bolton's The Hardest Deal of All. The Yazoo City story is highlighted, but scroll down at bit to see all of it. Indirectly, via Ben Smith. ...

     ... Update, via Greg Sargent: After 24 hours of attacks from right & left, Haley Barbour tries to walk back his remarks about those swell fellows on the Citizens Councils. CW: too little, too late.

Monday
Dec202010

So Long to Ya, 2010!

CW: I had intended to save this for next week, but since it made the New York Times today, here ya go:

Sunday
Dec192010

The Commentariat -- December 20

Here's the page NASA sent me to for the lunar eclipse tonight & tomorrow a.m. AND here's an informative AP story.

Richard Cohen, in a New York Times op-ed, provides a primer on the winter solstice.

Check out the Neighborhood. The New York Times posts interactive maps that allow you to "browse local data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey, based on samples from 2005 to 2009," that map four topics: (1) race & ethnicity, (2) income, (3) housing & families & (4) education. The Times warns, "Because these figures are based on samples, they are subject to a margin of error, particularly in places with a low population, and are best regarded as estimates."

** "Top Secret America." Dana Priest & William Arkin of the Washington Post: "... The United States is assembling a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans, using the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators.... The government's goal is to have every state and local law enforcement agency in the country feed information to Washington to buttress the work of the FBI, which is in charge of terrorism investigations in the United States." This page links to other "Top Secret America" stories, published in July 2010. Here's a brief video, which ends with an interactive map locating intelligence agency sites.

John Harwood of the New York Times posts a brief interview of Harry Reid. ...

... Hateful Anti-American Schmucks. Ryan Grim: Two Amigos John McCain & Lindsey Graham take revenge on DADT repeal by rounding up votes against the New START treaty.

Ben Evans of the AP: "For a guy who insists that federal bureaucrats make too much money, incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor sure doesn't mind handing out handsome government raises of his own. Cantor, the Virginia Republican who has led the GOP charge this year to freeze federal salaries, has boosted his congressional office's payroll by 81 percent since coming to Congress in 2001.... Cantor and other GOP leaders are now pledging to cut their budgets by 5 percent when they take over the House in January.... Overall, congressional payroll expenses have climbed much faster than the civilian federal work force costs that lawmakers are now clamoring to freeze. Many of the most vocal federal critics have overseen growth that rivals or outstrips the executive branch's...."

Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times: "In the wake of the Senate vote to end the 17-year-old [DADT] policy..., military officials said they did not yet have a timetable for putting the change into effect. President Obama is expected to sign the bill early this week.... Under the terms of the legislation that passed the Senate on Saturday and the House earlier last week, the Defense Department will not carry out the repeal until [Defense Secretary] Gates, Mr. Obama and Adm. Mike Mullen ... 'certify' that the military is ready to make the change. After that, the legislation requires a 60-day period before the change takes place." ...

... Robert Burns of the AP: "Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos, who had argued against the policy change, said in a statement Sunday the Corps 'will step out smartly to faithfully implement this new policy' and that he would 'personally lead this effort, thus ensuring the respect and dignity due all Marines.'" ...

... Matthew Cooper of the National Journal: "Like African Americans and women, gays will likely find military service a springboard to other rights.... It's probably instructive that the Dream Act failed the same day the 'don't ask, don't tell' repeal passed. The Dream Act would have, among other things, given illegal immigrants who served in the military a path to citizenship.... Were it to pass it wouldn't be at all surprising if it turned out to be the opening of a much larger path to legalization. Such is the power of being able to serve in the armed forces." ...

... Mark Thompson of Time on the integration of women & gays into the military. "In another 11 years, we'll wonder just how 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' ever became the law of the land, and why it was allowed to stand for 17 years and ruin the careers of nearly 14,000 people." ...

... CW: I don't find Walter Shapiro's hypothoses too convincing, but his question wants answering: "Why are liberals winning the culture wars and losing the tax battle? Shapiro blames Hollywood &/or suggests, more plausibly, that "the American people are, at their core, libertarians -- suspicious of both the taxman and the government's attempts to regulate social behavior." ...

... AND Now for the View from the Right on DADT Repeal. Kyle of People for the American Way's "Right Wing Watch" posts extended excerpts from some of the usual suspects: the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, etc. Kyle notes that "judging by the early statements ..., this vote is literally going to mean the end of America."

Peter Walsten of the Washington Post: "In the wake of President Obama's tax-cut deal with Republicans, the White House is moving quickly to mend its strained relationship with the Democratic base, reassuring liberal groups, black leaders and labor union officials who opposed the tax compromise that Obama has not abandoned them."

Paul Krugman: "Free-market fundamentalists have been wrong about everything — yet they now dominate the political scene more thoroughly than ever."

Don Lee of the Los Angeles Times: "Perhaps the most sacred of all the sacred cows in the tax code, the home mortgage deduction has long been seen as crucial to a major element of the American dream — owning your own home.... But nearly a century after coming into existence, the mortgage deduction may face a day of reckoning. Although out of the spotlight while the lame-duck Congress thrashes to an end, the mortgage deduction issue is likely to resurface next year when the new Congress — including a lot more deficit-hawk Republicans — takes over."

There Are No Violins Tiny Enough. Nelson Schwartz & Susanne Craig of the New York Times: "Bonus season is fast approaching on Wall Street, but this year the talk ... is about a new club that no one wants to join: the Zeros... [who] are facing ... an annual bonus of ... nothing.... As a result of the 2008 financial crisis, Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs and banks like Citigroup raised base pay substantially in 2009 and 2010.... Even though employees will receive roughly the same amount of money, the psychological blow of not getting a bonus is substantial, especially in a Wall Street culture that has long equated success and prestige with bonus size."

Justices Sandra Day O'Connor & John Paul Stevens. Newsweek photo.** Justice Sandra Day O'Connor interviews Justice John Paul Stevens in Newsweek. Neither thinks highly of the Citizens United ruling. (Stevens dissented; O'Connor had left the Court before the case came before it.) ...

... Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: the Supreme Court faces the death penalty. CW: okay, maybe that's poorly-worded, but Barnes' article about how the Court decides on whether to grant or deny certiorari in death-penalty cases is interesting.

Republican Takeover of the South, Cont'd. AP: "Another prominent Louisiana Democrat has officially switched his party affiliation to the GOP, giving Republicans a majority control of the state House for the first time since Reconstruction." Via Ben Smith.

A History Lesson. David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post on the 20th Amendment, which was supposed to end lame-duck Congressional sessions. (CW: the history lesson really begins on page 2 -- the Post no longer lets me link to a single page. You can click on "print" to read the whole article on one page.) Here's an interactive timeline of lame-duck sessions, beginning in 1920.