The Wires

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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


Campaign Ad Roundup

David Chen of the New York Times highlights some, well, "different" campaign ads that are running around the New York region. I tracked down a few of Chen's picks:

Here's John Orzel, a Democrat seeking a State Senate seat in the Binghamton, New York, area:

Jerry Labriola, a Republican who is challenging Representative Rosa L. DeLauro of Connecticut, thinks he's the Old Spice man:

     ... Here's the Old Spice ad Labriola is knocking off:

Donkeys! Democratic Rep. John Adler of New Jersey, on his opponent's "farm":

CW: I've gone to New Orleans for my entry for weirdest political ads, & what a surprise, it's a spot for parish coroner!  Dwight McKenna is seeking to unseat nine-term incumbent Frank Minyard:


President Obama with Jon Stewart

Here's the intro that the audience saw. It was cut from the show, as aired, because the President ran long:

Dana Milbank gives the President's performance a bad review: "... as in his MTV appearance a couple of weeks ago, Obama didn't try to connect with his youthful audience. He was serious and defensive, pointing a finger at his host several times as he quarreled with the premise of a question. Stewart, who struggled to suppress a laugh as Obama defended [Larry] Summers, turned out to be an able inquisitor on behalf of aggrieved liberals." CW: I thought the President did fine. Decide for yourself.


The Commentariat -- October 28

The middle class doesn't like to get welfare checks, so instead it gets tax credits and deductions for doing things middle-class people generally do anyway. -- Will Wilkinson, The Economist, via Andrew Sullivan

Patricia Cohen of the New York Times: "Harvard historian James T. Kloppenberg sees President Obama "as a kind of philosopher president.... To Mr. Kloppenberg the philosophy that has guided President Obama most consistently is pragmatism, a uniquely American system of thought developed at the end of the 19th century by William James, John Dewey and Charles Sanders Peirce.... Mr. Obama was ultimately drawn to a cluster of ideas known as civic republicanism or deliberative democracy .... In this view the founding fathers cared as much about continuing a discussion over how to advance the common good as they did about ensuring freedom." Princeton University Press will publish Kloppenberg's book Sunday. Harvard Magazine publishes "A Nation Argues with Its Conscience," an adaptation of part of Reading Obama here. A second section from the book, "From Hull House to the White House" is here.

Sewell Chan of the New York Times: "The uncertainty over the legal status of foreclosed homes in the nation could further depress home prices and delay the recovery of the housing market, the Obama administration said on Wednesday.... Most at risk, it appears, are communities in the states with the greatest concentrations of foreclosures — led by Nevada, Florida, Arizona and California — where the turnover of vacant properties could screech to a halt if a joint investigation being conducted by all 50 states, and reviews by the Obama administration and regulators like the Federal Reserve, uncover additional wrongdoing." ...

... It Could Be Worse. You Could Live in Spain. Suzanne Daley of the New York Times: in Spain, mortgage debt is specifically excluded from bankruptcy. "Not only are Spanish mortgage holders personally liable for the full amount of the loan, but throw in penalty interest charges and tens of thousands of dollars in court fees, and people can end up ... facing a mountain of debt.... Spain now has the highest unemployment rate in the euro zone — 20 percent — and real estate prices are dropping.... Many Spaniards [are] no longer able to pay their mortgages...."

Joe Klein of Time: "... this election cycle has exposed [Karl] Rove for what he is: man-servant to the oiligarchs. Rove's most significant activity this year has been raising big, secret donations from the Republican rich and turning them into the ugly, inaccurate negative ads that have been his stock-in-trade forever. ...

Speaking of Rove, here's Rove speaking of Palin: With all due candour, appearing on your own reality show on the Discovery Channel, I am not certain how that fits in the American calculus of 'that helps me see you in the Oval Office....

... Rove also criticized this promo for her show, in which Palin says, I would rather be doing this than in some stuffy old political office.

Sam Stein: "On Wednesday, the president conducted what appears to be the first ever in-person sit-down with political bloggers, hosting a group of five in the White House.... An administration official confirmed that Joe Sudbay of AMERICABlog; Duncan Black ("Atrios"), who runs the site Eschaton; Barbara Morrill, who writes for the DailyKos; Jon Amato, who is the founder of Crooks and Liars; and Oliver Willis, who runs an eponymous site, spoke with the president on Wednesday. ... The Huffington Post has a transcript of the conversation.

The President Is "Evolving." I am a strong supporter of civil unions.... I have been to this point unwilling to sign on to same-sex marriage primarily because of my understandings of the traditional definitions of marriage. But I also think you’re right that attitudes evolve, including mine. And I think that it is an issue that I wrestle with and think about because I have a whole host of friends who are in gay partnerships. I have staff members who are in committed, monogamous relationships, who are raising children, who are wonderful parents. And I care about them deeply. And so while I’m not prepared to reverse myself here, sitting in the Roosevelt Room at 3:30 in the afternoon, I think it’s fair to say that it’s something that I think a lot about. That’s probably the best you’ll do out of me today.
-- Barack Obama, in response to a question from Joe Sudbay of AmericaBlog

Dina Cappiello of the Canadian Press: "Some of America's largest emitters of heat-trapping gases, including businesses that publicly support efforts to curb global warming, don't want the public knowing exactly how much they pollute. Oil producers and refiners, along with manufacturers of steel, aluminum and even home appliances, are fighting a proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency that would make the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that companies release — and the underlying data businesses use to calculate the amounts — available online."

A Kentucky Democratic Party Ad that's Hard to Watch:*

     * ... Update: Democratic "Party spokesman Matt Erwin said the ad will appear only after 10 p.m., when children are less likely to see it."

Tim Profitt, the man who stomped on MoveOn volunteer Lauren Valle prior to a Jack Conway-Rand Paul debate, has asked Valle to apologize. He calls the incident "no big deal" and says he stomped her because he has issues with his back. Here's the Louisville Courier-Journal story:

Stephen Colbert sympathizes with Profitt:

... ** Sex Abuse, Cover-ups, & Karl Rove's Secret Cash. Matthew Mosk of ABC News: "In the bitter U.S. Senate race in Kentucky, a local millionaire [Terry Forcht] has helped launch a barrage of ads attacking [Jack Conway] the Democratic candidate – a candidate who, as the state's attorney general, is prosecuting the businessman's nursing home for allegedly covering up sexual abuse, records show."

Adam Serwer in the Washington Post: "Voter fraud is a virtually nonexistent problem.... Even if you wanted to steal an election this way, it's logistically unfeasible. Swaying the numbers in any significant way would require such a large number of well-trained co-conspirators that getting caught is a virtual certainty.... [But] voter suppression is a very real phenomenon." ...

... Here's an Example. Molly Ball of Politico: Robert de Posada, "the man behind the controversial ad telling Hispanics 'Don't Vote' ... voted absentee in Virginia on Wednesday." Univision pulled the ad "after Democratic cries of voter suppression."

Joe Miller is a Nightmare on Nome Street, but his Halloween ad is pretty funny:

... CW: Even funnier: Democrat Scott McAdams is now ahead of him in the polls. Shira Toeplitz of Politico: "After several rough weeks on the campaign trail, a new poll out of Alaska shows Republican Joe Miller has fallen to last place in the three-way Senate race. A Hays Research Group poll released Thursday showed write-in candidates, presumably meaning Sen. Lisa Murkowski, in the lead with 34 percent, Democrat Scott McAdams with 29 percent and Miller with 23 percent." ABC News' Jonathan Karl tweets that McAdams could win with 29% of the vote because many write-in votes will likely be tossed. Via Ben Smith. ...

... AND while we're not doing polls, here's a good one from NBC-10 in Providence, Rhode Island: "Democratic gubernatorial candidate Frank Caprio seems to have lost support since telling the president to take his endorsement and 'shove it,' according to an NBC 10-Quest Research poll released Wednesday night.... Caprio lost 12 points since an NBC 10-Quest Research poll released Oct. 12 showed him in the lead with 37 percent, followed by [Independent Lincoln] Chafee and [Republican John] Robitaille."

"End the War on Pot." Nicholas Kristof cites some good rationales for legalizing marijuana.

Bill Adair of the St. Petersburg Times: "After rating hundreds of claims in the 2010 election -- from TV ads, debates, interviews and mailings -- we're giving an overall Truth-O-Meter rating to the campaign. We rate it Barely True. In a majority of claims checked this fall by PolitiFact and our eight state partners, we found a grain of truth, but it was exaggerated, twisted or distorted."