The Wires

The Ledes

Saturday, March 25, 2017.

New York Times: "Five years after a child sex abuse scandal rocked Penn State, damaging its reputation, exposing a revered coach as a serial predator and sending him to prison, a jury on Friday convicted the former president of the university of child endangerment for failing to stop the abuse. On its second day of deliberations, the jury in Harrisburg, Pa., found Graham B. Spanier guilty of one misdemeanor count, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He was also found not guilty of two felony charges, for his handling of allegations against Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant coach." -- CW 

Public Service Announcement

Safety/Irony Alert. CNBC (December 25): Your new home security system may be an open invitation to hackers to make you, and perhaps many others, unsafe.” -- CW


The Hill: "Arnold Schwarzeneggar says his first season as host of NBC's 'Celebrity Apprentice' is also his last. In remarks Friday, the former California governor cited President Trump, who has repeatedly mocked the ratings of his reality TV replacement, as his reason. 'Even if asked [to do it again] I would decline,' Schwarzenegger told Empire magazine.... 'With Trump being involved in the show people have a bad taste and don’t want to participate as a spectator or sponsor or in any other way support the show. It’s a very divisive period right now and I think the show got caught up in all that division.'" -- CW 

New York Times: "Penguin Random House will publish coming books by former President Barack Obama and the former first lady Michelle Obama, the publishing company announced Tuesday night, concluding a heated auction among multiple publishers. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but publishing industry executives with knowledge of the bidding process said it probably stretched well into eight figures." -- CW ...

Guardian: A statement by the Academy of Motion Pictures said "that PwC – formerly Price Waterhouse Coopers, the accounting firm that has been used by the Academy to handle the voting process for 83 years – had taken full responsibility for 'breaches of established protocols' that led to the error.... On Monday afternoon, the Wall Street Journal reported that ... Brian Cullinan, one of two accountants whose job it was to hand out the winners’ envelopes..., had tweeted a behind-the-scenes photo of [best female actor winner Emma] Stone holding her statuette. The tweet, sent moments before the best picture announcement, raised the question of whether the accountant was distracted, handing Beatty the duplicate envelope." -- CW ...

... Actually, No, It Was Donald Trump's Fault. The Hill: "President Trump is calling Sunday’s Oscar ceremony 'sad,' saying the awards show was 'focused so hard on politics' it led to the epic mix-up over the best picture winner. 'I think they were focused so hard on politics that they didn’t get the act together at the end,' Trump said Monday in an interview with Breitbart News." CW: Because everything is about Drumpf. 

Los Angeles Times: "In one of the most surprising upsets and shocking moments in Oscar history, the poetic coming-of-age drama 'Moonlight' took home the top prize for best picture at the 89th Academy Awards, beating out the heavily favored 'La La Land,' which was actually announced as the winner. The win for 'Moonlight' came in a chaotic and confused moment that played out live in front of an audience of millions, as presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway initially presented the evening’s final award to 'La La Land,' only to have one of the film’s producers announce that 'Moonlight' had, in fact, won." -- CW 

Here's the LA Times' "live coverage" page.

CW: It would have been way better for the world if the Electoral College had admitted, as a body, that "There's been a mistake." Unfortunately, actors & film producers have more integrity than electors.

The New York Times embeds the February 23 late-nite's show responses to the latest political news.

Washington Post: "A newfound solar system just 39 light-years away contains seven warm, rocky planets, scientists say. The discovery, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, represents the first time astronomers have detected so many terrestrial planets orbiting a single star. Researchers say the system is an ideal laboratory for studying distant worlds and could be the best place in the galaxy to search for life beyond Earth.... The newly discovered solar system resembles a scaled-down version of our own. The star at its center, an ultra-cool dwarf called TRAPPIST-1, is less than a tenth the size of our sun and about a quarter as warm. Its planets circle tightly around it; the closest takes just a day and a half to complete an orbit and the most distant takes about 20 days.... TRAPPIST-1 is so cool that all seven of the bodies are bathed in just the right amount of warmth to hold liquid water. And three of them receive the same amount of heat as Venus, Earth and Mars, putting them in 'the habitable zone,' that Goldilocks region where it's thought life can thrive." -- CW 

Here's a Houzz feature on Frederick Douglass's D.C. home. Since it's not far from Donald Trump's new (temporary) digs and is every bit as fancy, the Trumpster might want to pay a visit to someone who's done such "an amazing job" that he's "getting recognized more and more." SCROTUS may be surprised to discover that Mr. Douglass is not at home. Too bad, because if Mr. Douglass weren't dead, he could have showed Donaldo his portrait, which for some time was owned by W.E.B. Du Bois (or DeBois or whatever).

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

Rosie O'Donnell's new Twitter profile pic. Thanks to Unwashed for the link. -- CW 

CNN: "The book publisher Penguin is printing more copies of George Orwell's dystopian classic '1984' in response to a sudden surge of demand. On Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning the book was #1 on Amazon's computer-generated list of best-selling books. The list reflects hourly book sales. The 68-year-old novel appeared on the list on Monday, hovered around the #6 spot for much of the day, rose to #2 by Tuesday afternoon and then hit #1." -- CW 

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Jesus Weighs in on Rekers' "Heaven-Sent Rent Boy"

Frank Rich excoriates Family Research Council co-founder George Rekers for the "significant role...he many of the ugliest assaults on gay people and their civil rights over the last three decades." The "culture wars" in which Rekers was a general have resulted in, among many other ills, the attacks on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.

The Constant Weader throws the Good Book at Rekers
(not surprisingly, the New York Times censors have held back my comment. Update: ah, there it is, at #77!):

With the evidence mounting, it seems fair to assume that every homophobe is either gay or thinks s/he might be. These twisted people are to be pitied, but they are not to be given any credibility whatsoever. It is troubling that the mainstream media gives them any coverage at all, and that major papers like the Wall Street Journal use the "people are saying" subterfuge to air a matter that is immaterial to a nominee's suitability for the Supreme Court.

That so many of the objections to homosexuality come from the Christian right is particularly perverse. The Gospels contain a couple of stories in which Jesus is portrayed as caring not a whit about a character's homosexuality. The most famous one, I suppose, is the story of the centurion who begs Jesus to cure his slave lover, who is a young boy. Jesus remarks on the depth of the centurion's faith & cures the boy.

A Gospel verse in which Jesus specifically says homosexuality is unremarkable is Matthew 19:12 when Jesus describes "eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb." Here he is speaking primarily about gay men. Historian Kathryn Ringrose writes that the the ancients described castrati, celibates, homosexuals and transsexuals as "eunuchs." Since one "born that way in his mother's womb" is not a castrato, & not a celibate (Jesus mentions these two categories of eunuchs next), he can only be a homosexual or transexual. In short, Matthew has Jesus say homosexuality is God-given, a trait, sorta like brown hair or freckles, that precedes birth.

It isn't surprising that homophobic churchmen throughout the millennia have chosen to ignore this verse, but evangelical Christians who claim the Gospels are inerrant should feel comfortable accepting Jesus as the last word on the subject. This should allow them to get over their sad little prejudice against others & their shame in their own sexuality. (The Gospels, BTW, don't give Jesus anything to say about female sexuality. I suspect the Gospel writers didn't know much about it.)

The good news for the rest of us is that we won't have to endure the airing of this vestigial Christian right prejudice, and we can correct the wrongs that prejudice has wrought.


"Arms & the Airport"

Gail Collins is a little worried about making connections at Atlanta now that the Georgia state legislature has "passed a bill requiring the Atlanta airport to let people with gun permits take their weapons into the lobby, baggage claim, food courts — everywhere short of the point where you take off your shoes." In the body of her column, Collins cites Sarah Palin's latest warning against one of the President & Speaker's secret plot to deprive you of your freedoms:

'President Obama and his allies like Nancy Pelosi ... if they thought they could get away with it, they would ban guns and ban ammunition,' Sarah Palin told the N.R.A. convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Friday. It was one of her stream-of-consciousness speeches, dividing the nation into Us (mothers, hunters, the Tea Party Movement, people who love America) and Them (Hollywood hypocrites, animal rightists who are opposed to the swatting of flies, dumb elitist fashion editors, liberals).

My comment on Collins' column is buried at the bottom of page 2, so I've reposted it here:

I'm generally a modest, even self-effacing, person. But all this makes me proud to be an elitist liberal. I wish I were a fashionable Hollywood hypocrite, too, but that is not to be.

I've never understood the mindset of the NRA & other advocates for expansive carry permits, but now I get it. These "real Americans" are JEALOUS of Hollywood hypocrites & fashion editors. They too wish they were among the elite. But they aren't & they know it.

So they crave instead the ability to shoot back, to assert their selfhood via firearms. Some weeks back commenter Kate Madison remarked that guns were phallic symbols, & I'll concur that must be part of the mystique. But the real substitution that's going on here is about more than just sexual power. It's about the need of the powerless to exert SOME power, any power. They're so lacking in originality that it wouldn't occur to them to channel their rage into something constructive. They prefer to strut their destructive impulses.

Doctors -- like elite, liberal psychiatrists & maybe emergency room doctors, too -- should start emphasizing the neurotic or even psychotic basis for gun obsession. Maybe if NRA members were stigmatized as being just kinda sick in the head, their bravado would lose a bit of its edge and they would lighten up on the notion that every fellow doing tequila shots should also be equipped to take actual shots at his fellow bar patrons.

The posture that guns don't kill people, people kill people is both facile & facetious. Playwright Anton Chekhov once said that if you set the first act of your play in a room with a gun over the mantle, you had better use the gun by the third act. People who carry guns certainly understand Chekhov's literary advice. They mean to use the guns they carry. If only lawmakers read more Chekhov.


The Great Googler

A dream is a short-lasting psychosis, and a psychosis is a long-lasting dream. -- Arthur Schopenhauer

Dick Cavett, writing in the New York Times, explores the meanings of dreams.

The Constant Weader suggests:

Like everyone, I have nightmares, but since I am a practical person, I often put my subconscious ruminations to a practical application. When I am having a problem figuring something out, I let my subconscious mind do the work. The problems I give it are usually of a mundane nature -- part of the design for a bookshelf, the next logical step in a story or article I'm working on, the name of someone or something I can't quite remember. So as I lay me down to sleep, I purposely think -- with some intensity -- about whatever it is that's vexing my conscious mind. Very often, tho not always, I'll have the answer when I wake up.

The subconscious is ever so much more creative that the conscious, so much less bound by strict, "logical" connections. The subconscious makes myriad links -- it is, I suppose, the Great Googler of the mind. So the next time you have some seemingly insoluble dilemma, let your subconscious take a crack at it. The subconscious isn't mad at all; it is the artist, the free thinker, the unconventional, the liberator. Celebrate it. And use it to your advantage.


Panic Attacks, Courtesy of the SEC

William D. Cohan, writing for the New York Times, details his difficulties in trying to get the SEC to release documents in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.

My very occasional correspondent Jeffrey Grossman writes a smart, instructive response to Cohan in which he describes a more egregious SEC policy & practice: providing hedge fund operators with the mechanism to game the market, to the detriment of productive businesses & honest investors. You could learn something. I did. Grossman, a corporate advisor whose home base is Caesarea, Israel, blogs at on a wide variety of timely topics. His unique, informed perspective is well worth your checking out. Regularly. His comment on Cohan, which is rated No. 1 among Reader Recommendations, follows:

Mr. Cohan is infuriated by the failure of the S.E.C. to abide by the Freedom of Information Act. Frankly I am more concerned by the indifference of the S.E.C. to daily acts of illegal market manipulation intended to panic small investors (e.g., "painting the tape") and the willingness of the S.E.C. to provide the hedge funds with the mechanism to perpetuate this illegal behavior (replacement of the Uptick Rule with a toothless regulation that does not interfere with the hedge funds' manipulative activity).

The Uptick Rule went into effect in 1938 in response to market abuses that threatened the health of the U.S. economy and prohibited the short selling of securities except on an "uptick". As summarized by the S.E.C.:

Rule 10a-1(a)(1) provided that, subject to certain exceptions, a listed security may be sold short (A) at a price above the price at which the immediately preceding sale was effected (plus tick), or (B) at the last sale price if it is higher than the last different price (zero-plus tick). Short sales were not permitted on minus ticks or zero-minus ticks, subject to narrow exceptions.

The Uptick Rule was cancelled in 2007, thereby enabling hedge funds to short shares, i.e. sell shares they do not own, in almost unlimited immediate quantities and permitting them to benefit from the resultant investor panic in almost any given traded company.

Example: Micro-cap Company "X" has patented a better widget, manufactures cutting-edge wozzles, and is developing a new kind of werble. Recently, the achievements of "X" have made their way into the news, and its shares have risen. Farmer Joe, who attends night school and reads the financial news, decides to buy 1,000 shares of "X". However, unbeknownst to Farmer Joe, Slick Eddy at Hedge Fund "Z", who couldn't care less about the merits of Company "X"'s widgets, has also noticed the rise in the share price of "X". With almost unlimited resources behind him, Eddy borrows "X" shares from various financial institutions and begins to sell vast quantities into the market, causing a precipitous decline in the market price of "X". Eddy then blocks any rally in the share price and immediately sells shares at the bid after any significant purchase. Worried by the huge downswing in the price of "X" accompanied by unusually high volume, and also concerned that at the end of each trading day "X" always goes down (Eddy always sells into the market in the last seconds of trading), Farmer Joe dumps his shares at an enormous loss ("Someone must know something that is wrong at "X"). Having succeeded in panicking Farmer Joe and other small investors in "X", Eddy buys back the shares at a significantly lower average price than that at which he sold them, resulting in enormous profits for Hedge Fund "Z". Eddy's bosses note his "fine" work and reward him with bonuses as the shares of "X" tumble.

Of course, there are those at the S.E.C. who say that the stock market is "efficient", that short selling contributes to market efficiency, and that the price of "X" will recover to an appropriate level. However, in the process we have witnessed the flow of wealth from Farmer Joe and other small investors to Hedge Fund "Z".

Also, consider the damage to Company "X", which, owing to doubt raised by the run on its shares, is suddenly unable to raise additional funds to finance production of a new line of widgets.

Adherence of the S.E.C. to the Freedom of Information Act? It would be nice if they would be more responsive, but more important, it is horrifying that the S.E.C. flouts its raison d'etre and appears to no longer care about boiler room manipulative techniques once used in the 1920s, which have again "come into fashion."