The Wires

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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 only thing I’d be impartial about is what prison this guy goes to. -- Prospective Juror, Martin Shkreli trial ...

... Harper's republishes some of the jury selection proceedings in the Martin Shkreli case.

Vanity Fair: "... Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times chief book reviewer and Pulitzer Prize winner, who has been, by a wide margin, the most powerful book critic in the English-speaking world, is stepping down.... Kakutani said that she could neither confirm nor comment. But sources familiar with her decision, which comes a year after the Times restructured its books coverage, told me that last year’s election had triggered a desire to branch out and write more essays about culture and politics in Trump’s America."

... Washington Post: "... investigators believe they have discovered the 'smoking gun' that would support a decades-old theory that [Amelia] Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were captured by the Japanese: a newly unearthed photograph from the National Archives that purportedly shows Earhart and Noonan — and their plane — on an atoll in the Marshall Islands.... Gary Tarpinian,  executive producer of the History documentary, told the Today show that they believe the Koshu, the Japanese merchant ship in the photo, took Earhart to Saipan, where she died in Japanese custody."

Summer Beach Reading. James Hohmann of the Washington Post suggests Al Franken's Giant of the Senate. Hohmann's column hits some of the highlights. CW: Let us be thankful that Donald Trump is incapable of learning the lessons Franken learned from his team. If Trump were half as bright as Franken, he would be a succesful president & very effective dictator.

Politico: "MSNBC has parted ways with anchor Greta Van Susteren after just six months on air, as her show failed to live up to the network's ratings expectations. An MSNBC executive said the decision to remove the former Fox News host was purely for business reasons, based on ratings."

Click on the picture to see larger image.... AP: "... Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were among the guests as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin’s) married a Scottish actress. Mnuchin exchanged vows Saturday night with Louise Linton at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington. Mrs. Trump wore a pink blush dress."

New Yorker: "In a paper in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers announced that they have pushed back the date of the earliest human remains to three hundred thousand years ago. And the specimens in question were found not in East Africa, which has become synonymous with a sort of paleoanthropological Garden of Eden, but clear on the other side of the continent — and the Sahara — in Morocco."

Washington Post: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus took a final, bittersweet bow Sunday, staging its last three shows [in Uniondale, N.Y.,] after 146 years of entertaining American audiences with gravity-defying trapeze stunts, comically clumsy clowns and trained tigers."

Guardian: "Pippa Middleton [sister of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge --] has married James Matthews in what has been called the society wedding of the year, in front of royalty, family and friends."

Constant Comments


Recalling D-Day

Constant Weader: I've been listening to my Uncle Frank Waterhouse's war stories for close to 60 years, but the first time I knew he saw action on D-Day was a few years ago, when I took an oral history from him about another war in which he served. His mention of his D-Day service was, astoundingly, sort of an "aside." Frank served in the Army Air Force & Air Force for 20 years, he set at least one flying record (probably more, but he's never mentioned any others) & was a SAC test pilot. He lives in Washington state.

Frank flew four or five missions before D-Day, bombing inside of France.  On D-Day, Frank’s crew took off at 2 a.m. in a formation of 36 B-24s.   Frank, who was the co-pilot, and the pilot, named Beckham, thought they were following the lead element.  But “when the sun came up, we didn’t see anybody; we couldn’t find our group.  We had been following a light, but the light was some other group.  It’s a wonder a whole mess of people didn’t run into each other that night.  We unloaded our bombs after daylight close behind the lines.”  Frank was 19 years old on D-Day. 

 “In later missions, we went to Munich, and to Ulm, which we bombed three days in a row.  On one mission, we started to go to Berlin, but the weather was bad.  One time we hit an oil storage facility – there was smoke and fire up to our altitude.”

 Despite the months of training in the States, it seems the Army Air Force shorted the pilots on some pretty basic training – like how to land the planes they were to fly into combat.  Frank said, “In Boise, they had allowed me to try one landing, which I did with an instructor who had ultimate control of the plane.  I really couldn’t tell who landed that plane – he or I.  That was my only landing before I got to England.  In England, I did some test runs of the B-24 so I could get some landings in.  I made maybe four or five landings on tests.”

Groups who had arrived before Frank’s had a requirement of 25 missions.  The famous Memphis Belle (a B-17) flew with Frank’s group on one mission:  “she hadn’t got her 25 by then.”  As American forces “broke the Germans’ back” and their air defenses “weren’t as severe, they extended the tours to 30 missions.  But the German ack-ack had radar, and when we would make evasive maneuvers the ack-ack would start.” 

The formation of 36 planes had four “elements,” with one flying above, one below to the left, one below to the right and one behind.  “When you’re in the lower left element the pilot couldn’t see the lead, so it was up to the co-pilot to fly the plane and the pilot would relieve me temporarily.  I didn’t have to worry about being cold because I was sweating so much.

“But it was cold.  We wore heated gloves and heated boots.  We called our seats coffin seats; they were shaped like a coffin top facing forward so we could see where to fly.  They protected us underneath and behind, but we wore flak suits on our chests and helmets like ground soldiers to protect us from German ack-ack.  One day we were flying a mission near Paris and I thought I’d been hit.  I shouted to Beckham, ‘I think I’ve been hit.’  But I hadn’t been hit at all.  A heated glove had shorted out.

“The German ack-ack would follow us.  Unless you were the lead ship, they didn’t use a navigator, so our navigator became the lead bombardier.  The others would drop their bombs when he dropped his.  On a mission to Hamburg, the ack-ack was coming within two feet of the nose and I couldn’t tell what was going on in the rear.  I called to Finley, a bombardier, who was a Texan, ‘Are you okay, Finley?’  He didn’t answer, and I kept calling.  Finally I heard, ‘Shut up, Waterhouse.’  Finley was okay.

“I don’t think our plane was ever actually hit.

“After awhile, they upped the tours to 35 missions.  Toward the end of my tour, the rest of the crew went home except Johnson, who was the navigator, and me.  I flew with another crew and a pilot named Bruland.  He was shot down after I left, but I later found him listed as a member of the Second Air Division, so he made it.  In formation, we led the lower left element.  Flying the lead in a lower element was called ‘flying with your head up.’  On my military record there’s a little blurb that says, ‘Element lead on 20 missions.’"


Souter v. Simpletons United

... the Constitution is no simple contract, not because it uses a certain amount of open-ended language, but because its language grants and guarantees many good things, and good things that compete with each other and can never all be realized, altogether, all at once.
-- Justice David Souter

On rare occasions, the Constant Weader is smart enough to let wiser fellows do the talking. In his Harvard commencement address, Justice David Souter explains why it isn't easy to interpret the Constitution. This is a tightly-packed analysis, though Souter makes it as understandable to the layperson as possible. If you want to know what the Third Branch of the federal government is supposed to do, this is as good an explanation as you're likely to hear.

BTW, I noticed some newswriters (like Boston Globe reporter Jonathan Saltzman) characterized the speech as one in which the Justice "defends judicial activism." Well, no, he doesn't. I should say, rather, than he does quite the opposite. Don't believe everything you read in the papers.

Harvard Commencement Speech, Parts 1 thru 3:

Here's the text of Justice Souter's remarks, as prepared.

Update: CW: if you haven't read enough of my marvelling at how smart David Souter turned out to be (admittedly, he benefited from low expectations), Linda Greenhouse, in recapping Justice Souter's Harvard commencement address does the same. I also recommend the reader comments, particularly Nos. 13 & 20.

Update 2: Dahlia Lithwick in Slate: "David Souter finally tells America to grow up."

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