The Wires

Public Service Announcement

July 27: NBC News: "If your information was compromised during the massive 2017 Equifax data breach, you could be entitled to up to $20,000." The article provides info on how you can claim your share of the restitution fund. Mrs. McC: I might give it a crack. I know my personal info was compromised during the period of the Equifax breach, but I'm not sure Equifax was the source of the breach. So I might give this a crack. 

Washington Post: "the 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships were no different — especially Sunday night, the final night of the two-day [U.S. Gymnastics Championships]..., [Simone] Biles aced a skill no other woman (and only two men in the world) has successfully landed in competition — a triple-twisting, double somersault that capped the first tumbling pass of her floor routine like a cymbal crash":


Washington Post: White Southern plantation visitors who pay good money "to learn about the history of life on a plantation" are very upset guides mention slavery. Mrs. McCrabbie's recommendation: put on your MAGA caps & hoop skirts, watch the first 10 minutes of "Gone with the Wind," & practice saying "Fiddle-dee-dee."

Here's one for contributor Jeanne. "Margaret Atwood joins Deborah Treisman to read and discuss 'Corrie,' by Alice Munro, from a 2010 issue of the [New Yorker] magazine":

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.”

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


The Government We Deserve

Frank Rich, in noting the passing of amateur filmmaker Robbins Barstow, writes a Requiem for the American Dream. Barstow's New York Times obituary is here. And here is Barstow's home movie, "Disneyland Dream":

The Constant Weader Comments:

Thank you, Frank, for once again laying out the big picture and putting our newfound smallness in historical perspective. The fact is that we Americans are busy making ourselves small. Who killed the Disneyland dream? We did.

The main problem is that we have become a small-minded, selfish people. Instead of pulling together for progress, we have all becomes members of narrow special interest groups: greedy geezers, anti-choice, pro-choice, immigration reformers, border defenders, gay rights advocates, defenders of "traditional" marriage, militarists, corporatists, unions, anti-unionists, corn farmers, environmentalists, mountain-top strippers, loggers, home-schoolers, religious fundamentalists, non-theists, "real" Americans, intelligentsia. We are now defined by niche greed.

None of us wants to pay for anybody else's niche. Too bad if you're poor. Sorry you're sick. Out of work? Losing your job? Want better schools? Well, those aren't MY problems.

The tax-reduction mantra, and the tax-cut law the President so proudly rammed through Congress, are symptomatic of a great American pathology. Any half-sensible person can see that tax cuts are a sure path to the defeat of the American dream. In the halcyon days of the 1950s, when the Barstow family believed (with good reason) that anything was possible, federal tax rates were nearly twice what they are now, although they were decidedly more progressive; that is, the rich paid a larger share. And the rich were not as rich. Income inequality was exponentially smaller than it is today. The Barstows' dreams were not delusional; they were possible. Not any more.

In the last election, we voted out the only hope for a better American future. Admittedly, it was mostly hope, and not a lot of change. The cartoonist Darrin Bell perhaps put it best: "We're angry nothing's changed so we vote for those who've spent two years blocking change. Is America the only country that votes sarcastically?" Bell asks.

CLICK CARTOON TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.We have a President and Congress who revel in & depend upon the status quo. I don't care what they say they believe in; I've been watching what they do. Not much. We have a large percentage of the populace who likes it that way, too. Every social or public program that doesn't directly benefit ME is "socialism." Like the politicians, the American people say they want change, but the change many want is to return, not to the hopeful 1950s, but to the oppressive 1780s. These voters are not merely catatonic; they are regressive.

Because of the intense interest over the past two years in a Congress that was proposing grand things but doing almost nothing to change the status quo, Americans saw Washington -- and the Max Baucus/Mitch McConnell Senate in particular -- for what it is: a body that is broken, a legislative body that purposely does not legislate.

Now we are about to watch a new Congress that will be even more dysfunctional. However the Senate tinkers with the filibuster rules, it still won't do much. Besides, with a small Democratic majority in the upper chamber and a solid Republican majority in the House, it would be foolhearty to expect any progress. At all.

We are doomed by the choices we have made. Congress is abominable. The President is either a fool or a charlatan. But we narrow-minded, greedy, shortsighted citizens got the government most of us deserve.


The Commentariat -- December 25

Virginia O'Hanlon, 1890s. New York Times photo.Manny Fernandez of the New York Times: the descendants of Virginia O'Hanlon, who wrote to the New York Sun in 1897, asking if there was a Santa Claus, "have quietly become ambassadors of the Christmas spirit, crossing the country to appear at events honoring her, and reading the letter and the response to children in schools and to their own children at home." Here's O'Hanlon's letter, and the famous response, printed in the Sun, and later attributed to newsman Francis P. Church.

One of the New Yorker's most popular articles of the year was "What Did Jesus Do?" by Adam Gopnik. I linked to this story earlier, & my recollection is that Gopnik gets it mostly right in this review of recent literature. If you want the title question answered, however, you will be disappointed.

Perry Bacon of the Washington Post: "... while the president will be working while he is on vacation, it's not a 'working vacation.' Administration aides emphasized that the president wanted real down time after an intense two-month period after Election Day, and Obama started his 11-day trip with several hours of golf Thursday. He spent much of Friday afternoon at the beach with his daughters, Sasha and Malia."

Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times: "Gov. Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, who befriended President Obama’s parents when they were university students here, has been in office for less than three weeks. But he is so incensed over 'birthers' — the conspiracy theorists who assert that Mr. Obama was born in Kenya and was thus not eligible to become president — that he is seeking ways to change state policy to allow him to release additional proof that the president was born in Honolulu in 1961."

A Realistic Christmas Story. Alison Leigh Cowan of the New York Times: "... for patients in state-run mental hospitals [in New York] — people too ill to live on their own and too poor to pay for their care — the state can drain court-awarded damages, effectively deducting the cost of their stays in the very hospitals that failed or abused them."


The Commentariat -- December 24

The View from the White House of the Week that Was:

Stephen Ohlemacher of the AP: "The massive new tax bill signed into law by President Barack Obama is filled with all kinds of holiday stocking stuffers for businesses: tax breaks for producing TV shows, grants for putting up windmills, rum subsidies for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. There is even a tax break for people who buy race horses."

Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times: "President Obama is planning the first major reorganization of his administration, preparing to shuffle several positions in the West Wing as he tries to fortify his political team for the realities of divided government and his own re-election."

Philip Rucker & Paul Kane of the Washington Post on Nancy Pelosi's last full day as Speaker of the House.

This (I think) is Speaker Pelosi's last floor speech:

It is heartbreaking.... That can't be who we are. To have our kids, classmates of our children, who are suddenly under this shadow of fear through no fault of their own. They didn't break the law -- they were kids. -- Barack Obama, on the defeat of the DREAM bill ...

... Yes, Virginia, There Is a Scrooge, Part 1. Shankar Vedantam of the Washington Post: "Congressional Republicans are pronouncing President Obama's proposal that the next Congress overhaul the country's immigration laws as dead before arrival.... Both House and Senate GOP leaders said they would fight any attempt to legalize any of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country before the administration secured the nation's southern border with Mexico." ...

... Yes, Virginia, There Is a Scrooge, Part 2. David S. Hilzenrath of the Washington Post: "Since the meltdown in the housing market began more than three years ago, Maryland and the District have changed their foreclosure laws to give borrowers greater protection. Virginia has moved in the opposite direction.... Virginia ... homeowners can receive less than two weeks' notice that their house is about to be sold on the courthouse steps."

Greg Sargent: "... Harry Reid is in active discussions with his caucus about moving forward with [filibuster] reform in the new year, and is currently devising a plan to do just that...." ...

... Ezra Klein creates this graph from data compiled by on the history of the number of cloture filings, cloture votes & clotures. Klein explains that even this shocking number does not come close to reflecting the number of filibuster threats:

Larry Margasak of the AP: "If you are a college student, teacher or resident of a state that has sales taxes but no income tax, the bipartisan tax agreement this month could mean significant benefits next year."

Sewell Chan of the New York Times: "Economists in universities and on Wall Street have raised their growth projections for next year. Retail sales, industrial production and factory orders are on the upswing, and new claims for unemployment benefits are trending downward."

Bah! Humbug! Paul Krugman: "... there’s a well-developed right-wing media infrastructure in place to catapult the propaganda, as former President George W. Bush put it, to rapidly disseminate bogus analysis to a wide audience where it becomes part of what 'everyone knows.' (There’s nothing comparable on the left, which has fallen far behind in the humbug race.)"

George Warren of News 10 Sacramento: "An airline pilot is being disciplined by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for posting video on YouTube pointing out what he believes are serious flaws in airport security. The 50-year-old pilot, who lives outside Sacramento, asked that neither he nor his airline be identified. He has worked for the airline for more than a decade and was deputized by the TSA to carry a gun in the cockpit. He is also a helicopter test pilot in the Army Reserve and flew missions for the United Nations in Macedonia." CW: do read the whole story of how federal agents came down on the pilot & watch the News 10 video. Thanks to Bob P. for sending the link.

     ... Here's the follow-up story and News 10 video:

     ... AP Update: "A pilot who posted videos on YouTube that were critical of security at San Francisco International Airport is now the subject of an investigation, the pilot's attorney says. The pilot placed several videos on YouTube in late November or early December that showed how ground crew members can enter secure areas by swiping security cards and without undergoing further screening."

Humanitarian Cigarettes & Gum. Jo Becker of the New York Times: "Despite sanctions and trade embargoes, over the past decade the United States government has allowed American companies to do billions of dollars in business with Iran and other countries blacklisted as state sponsors of terrorism.... A little-known office of the Treasury Department has granted nearly 10,000 licenses for deals involving [embargoed] countries.... Most of the licenses were approved under a decade-old law mandating that agricultural and medical humanitarian aid be exempted from sanctions. But the law ... was written so broadly that allowable humanitarian aid has included cigarettes, Wrigley’s gum, Louisiana hot sauce, weight-loss remedies, body-building supplements and sports rehabilitation equipment...." With links to lists of licensees.

David House, writing in Firedoglake, reports on the conditions under which Bradley Manning, suspected of passing U.S. government documents to WikiLeaks, is being held at the Quantico brig. House includes links to several reports on Manning's detention, including those of Manning's attorney David Coombs. ...

... Glenn Greenwald has much more, including Jonathan Capehart's interview of David House:

Dan Eggen of the Washington Post: "The companies that build futuristic airport scanners take a more old-fashioned approach when it comes to pushing their business interests in Washington: hiring dozens of former lawmakers, congressional aides and federal employees as their lobbyists. About eight of every 10 registered lobbyists who work for scanner-technology companies previously held positions in the government or Congress.... On K Street as a whole, by contrast, only about one in three lobbyists has previously worked in government."

New York Times: "The Interior Department reversed a Bush-era policy on wilderness on Thursday, restoring the authority of its Bureau of Land Management to identify and recommend new areas for protection. Since 2003, the department has excluded wilderness as a criterion it applies in managing federal lands for the public benefit.... Environmentalists welcomed the decision but questioned why it had taken nearly two years for the Obama administration to reverse the policy. They also expressed worry that the new policy could prove weaker than the wilderness designation formulas in place before President George W. Bush took office in 2001."

Washington Post: "The Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that it will regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and oil refineries next year in an attempt to curb global warming. The move, coming on the same day the Interior Department unveiled a plan to protect a broader swath of the nation's wilderness, demonstrated that the Obama administration is prepared to push its environmental agenda through regulation where it has failed on Capitol Hill, potentially setting up a battle next year with congressional Republicans."

National Journal: "A day after President Obama signed legislation repealing the 'don't ask, don't tell' ban on openly gay troops, Defense Secretary Robert Gates had a different message for senior Pentagon officials: The restrictions remain in effect, and service members who violate the 17-year-old law could still face 'adverse consequences.'"

Washington Post: "The number of civilians killed or wounded in the Afghan war increased by 20 percent during the first 10 months of this year, compared with the same period last year, according to a U.N. report issued this week."