The Wires

Public Service Announcement

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


Burn This Book

Gail Collins writes about a minister in Gainesville, Florida, whom she refuses to name so as not to give him more publicity, who is following "the theory that the best way to honor Americans who died at the hands of religious extremists is to do something that is both religious and extreme." Collins notes that "the candidates running in this year’s elections seem to be superquiet."

The Constant Weader finds some politicians & Gainesville residents with guts:

If you read the Gainesville Sun, you'll find out that many people in Gainesville are rising to the occasion & condemning the crazy Koran burners. Wednesday, 300 people opposing the Koran-burning showed up for an interfaith prayer service at the local Episcopal church. Christian, Muslim, Jewish & Greek Orthodox clerics spoke in solidarity against Terry Jones' planned "protest." Video from the Sun:

Clergy gather at Gainesville's City Hall to speak out against the Koran burning. Gainesville Sun video:

The paper's letters to the editor are pretty much exclusively from Gainesville citizens who are appalled by the Koran-burning plans.

And some Florida politicians are speaking out. The mayor of Gainesville has expressed his opposition from the beginning. Mayor Craig Lowe has also been a victim of Terry Jones' theology of hate: Jones protested Lowe's election because Lowe is gay. The catchy protest slogan: "no homo mayo."

Gov. Charlie Crist, running for Senate as an independent, calls the Koran-burning "offensive" and says he "strongly agrees" with Gen. Petraeus that the Koran-burners are putting American soldiers at risk. Not a peep from Crist's opponents, as far as I can tell.

Some national politicians have spoken out. Ron Paul, who of course is up for re-election to Congress, has blasted Jones. And, oh dear, Sarah Palin calls Jones' plans "insensitive ...  much like building a mosque at Ground Zero." That's a direct quote from Palin's Facebook media outlet. (Oh, and sorry, no link.)

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the Taliban are reading the Gainesville paper & Palin's Facebook page. As long as the media push the story of one Florida nut case & his band of 50 dopey disciples, Jones remains a good sales tool for radical Muslims -- exactly the folks Jones claims he is protesting. Like most crazy people, Jones is evidently incapable of appreciating irony.

Also, see a couple of very good comments from Karen Garcia of New Paltz (#1) & Gemli of Boston (#3).

President Obama talks to George Stephanopoulos of ABC News about the planned Koran-burning:

     ... Washington Post story here.

Reuters, related: "India led calls on Thursday for the United States to intervene to halt a small church's plan to burn copies of the Koran in commemoration of the September 11 attacks and urged a media blackout to calm tensions." ...

... AP, related: "Religious and political leaders across the Muslim world ... have called on the church to call off the plan, warning it would lead to violence against Americans."

... Gainesville Sun Update: "The city of Gainesville's top administrator said Wednesday that he will send Terry Jones, the senior pastor at the Dove World Outreach Center, a bill for the estimated tens of thousands of dollars it will cost to police the area if the church goes through with its plan to burn the Quran on Saturday." ...

** Huh? AP Update: "Pastor Terry Jones said Thursday that he decided to cancel his [koran-burning] protest because the leader of a planned Islamic Center near ground zero has agreed to move its controversial location. The agreement couldn't be immediately confirmed." ...

     ... NBC News Update: "But sources close to the imam behind the New York mosque denied any deal had been struck." ...

     ... New York Times story here. ...

     ... Change of Heart (not to suggest he has one). AP: "An anti-Islamic preacher backed off and then threatened to reconsider burning the Quran on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, angrily accusing a Muslim leader of lying to him Thursday with a promise to move an Islamic center and mosque away from New York's ground zero. The imam planning the center denied there was ever such a deal."

... Gainesville Sun: "A Dove World Outreach Center sign on Southwest 13th Street announcing its 'International Burn a Koran Day' was painted over Wednesday evening by Alachua County sheriff's deputies. The sign was put up on a billboard on property adjacent to the Hoda Center Academy, a mosque and Islamic center, under an agreement between the property owner and church officials."

On Background.
Wall Street Journal: Gen. David Petraeus, "the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said the planned burning of Qurans on Sept. 11 by a small Florida church could put the lives of American troops in danger and damage the war effort.... [He] said the Taliban would exploit the demonstration for propaganda purposes...."

AP: "Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday called a Florida church's threat to burn copies of the Muslim holy book to mark the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks a 'disrespectful, disgraceful act.' Others in the Obama administration weighed in against the proposed burning, including Attorney General Eric Holder, who called it idiotic and dangerous. A State Department spokesman branded the planned protest 'un-American' while other officials warned that it could threaten U.S. troops, diplomats and travelers overseas."

New York Times: "Prominent Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders held an extraordinary 'emergency summit' meeting in the capital on Tuesday to denounce what they called 'the derision, misinformation and outright bigotry' aimed at American Muslims during the controversy over the proposed Islamic community center near ground zero.... Some of the same religious leaders later met with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to urge him to prosecute religious hate crimes aggressively."


"The housekeeper noticed a foul smell coming from the chimney." My friend Lulu Moretti has remarked on media coverage of the Case of the Right Rev. Cap'n Kangaroo. Her observations, in part: "... our media love a good story (though I don't think they spent enough time on the doctor who tried to enter her ex-lover's house via the chimney)." Ah, the Constant Weader pleads guilty as charged. Tardy though it may be, here's a link to a Time article on a summertime Santa story gone awfully wrong.


The Commentariat -- September 9

Glenn Greenwald comments on President Obama's "State Secrets" Victory. (You knew he would.) ...

     .... The New York Times report: "A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that former prisoners of the C.I.A. could not sue over their alleged torture in overseas prisons because such a lawsuit might expose secret government information. The sharply divided ruling was a major victory for the Obama administration’s efforts to advance a sweeping view of executive secrecy powers." ...

... The Times' Editorial Board on the decision: "All too often in the past ... secrecy privileges have been used to avoid embarrassing the government, not to protect real secrets. In this case, the embarrassment and the shame to America’s reputation are already too well known." ...

... Andrew Sullivan: "The case yesterday is particularly egregious because it forbade a day in court for torture victims even if only non-classified evidence was used. Think of that for a minute. It shreds any argument that national security is in any way at stake here."

I'm less concerned about the radicals in American than I am concerned about the radicals in the Muslim world.... If we do move, it will strengthen the radicals' ability to recruit and their increasing aggression & violence against our country
-- Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf speaks to CNN's Soledad O'Brien on "Larry King Live":

     ... Related CNN story here.

... Greg Sargent: "... there's a direct link between public anti-Islam sentiment and public opposition to the construction of Cordoba House.... The evidence can be found in the internals of the new Washington Post poll.... The numbers directly contradict the claim by opponents that public opposition to the project is not linked to broader anti-Islam sentiment, and is only rooted in a desire to be sensitive to 9/11 families or to respect Ground Zero as hallowed ground."

Hey, Hot Dog Guy!

Afghanistan -- Worse than We Thought. Mark Thompson of Time: "a high-powered band of foreign-policy thinkers" concludes that the NATO Afghanistan strategy is not working & is creating more enemies than friends. The report, geared for readers like us rather than for the inside-the-Beltway crowd, offers insights & suggestions on more effective ways to deal with the problems Afghanistan presents. Here's the report index; you can take it from there.

"Legislating to the Lowest Common Denominator." Ezra Klein of the Washington Post on why the filibuster matters. Were it not for the filibuster, the stimulus would have been larger, we would have had a public option to purchase healthcare insurance, & we might even have a climate bill. For starters. Many things don't get done at all because there's not enough appetite for a fight.

Robert Pear of the New York Times: "A new government study says President Obama’s health care law will have negligible effects on total national health spending in the next 10 years, neither slowing nor fueling the explosive growth of medical costs."

John Cassidy of The New Yorker on the President's speech in Cleveland: "Despite being billed as an economic address, his speech was ultimately as much about political strategy as economics." ...

... Here's President Obama speaking to George Stephanopoulos about the economy:

     ... Here's the transcript of the full interview.

Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times: "... those who know [Rahm] Emanuel well ... believe he is seriously weighing leaving the White House in the wake of Mayor Richard M. Daley’s abrupt announcement on Tuesday that he intends to step down next year." ...

     ... President Obama: Rahm Emanuel "would be an excellent mayor."


It Ain't Swan Lake. First Lady Michelle Obama hosts a remarkable series of dance performances honoring Judith Jamison of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater.

... AP, related (sort of): "Women are most attracted to male dancers who have big, flamboyant moves... British scientists say in a new study." The article's lede centers on John Travolta's moves (tho to be fair, Uma Thurman is the real leader of this dancing couple):